AN: Don't practice any of this for survivalism. At least not what I write. Most of it is good in theory but practice is different.
It's been a little while. Sorry about that, stuff in the world got me down and I didn't feel like writing. I'm getting back on the saddle again and finished up this chapter today. Consumption, my DxD fic, should be getting an update soon too if any of you read that. I've just got to work out some kinks in my fight scene.
Hope you all like how I've portrayed Magma here at the end. I think that that show really did him justice around the end of it. I'm trying to build on that part of him here. More characterization will happen next chapter and canon should hit as well. Wish me luck.
[ - [- Chapter 7 -] - ]
I made good time towards Ishigami. My wolves seemed a little confused about all the traveling and where we were going if not to search for prey but they went along with it, though they needed breaks every other hour. They weren't built for stamina or being awake during the day. I made sure to keep them out of the sun whenever I could.
As Kashitsu had told me, I just had to go down the coast until I hit a little stream lined with rocks going into the ocean on the second day of traveling. It didn't look manmade but it was actually a canal of sorts. I followed it up until I hit the game path she described and walked up to a hill overlooking the village.
When I looked down onto the village, just a little blotch on two islands, I cried. Two years I had been alone in the world with only my wolves. Human civilization was fucked but the world wasn't dead. It wasn't the apocalypse. I wasn't alone.
Still, seeing it for myself drove it in that I needed to make a good impression. If they didn't like me at first that was fine. I didn't think anything would go wrong but there was absolutely no reason to rush things. I had waited two years. I could wait a night more. With my wolves lying on and around me I slept under the stars one more time looking at the village.
Bright and early I rose up and went down to the lake. I and my wolves washed ourselves off and began the trek around the edge of the lake. It only took an hour and the pack was happy to cool off in the cool waters.
Finally, though, after so long, I arrived at a viewpoint overlooking the village, a much closer one so that I could get a feel for the place. The village was as I had heard it described, two small islands connected by bridges with mud huts built on them. It looked… vibrant. Racks of fish and meat were propped up on one edge of their first island. The second looked like the chief's island, occupied only by a large hut, a tower of some sort, and a dirt field. An arena? Huh.
It seemed a little simple. I had expected more huts. Kashitsu had said that there were forty people in the village but I only counted twelve huts including the chief's hut. Did four people seriously live in those tiny huts? I didn't think that anybody lived in the tower and at least one hut had to be a dedicated storehouse for the winters. If that was the case then my homestead suddenly seemed a lot more comfortable.
Most importantly, PEOPLE! People of all shapes and sizes! Blond people, short people, buff people, big people, fat people, PEOPLE! It was amazing! They were talking, playing, napping, fishing, and… doing a lot of nothing at all. On second look most of the people looked like they were just laying around and talking. I suppose if you had food, water, and shelter there wasn't much more that you needed in life. I preferred a higher standard of living but these people didn't know that standard. They had all they wanted and could spend their days idle. Good for them.
I was about to go down when I glimpsed one more hut on the mainland. No, a tree house! Maybe some kind of… watchtower? I should check that out first.
"Let's go." I told my wolves, holding back my excitement.
There was a little path down the cliff that I took, which conveniently led me right to the treehouse. In front of it a kid was sorting through a basket of rocks. I looked at my wolves and made the 'sit/stay' gestures. They all followed my command silently, each of them staring at the rock kid.
"And these make sparks when you… fire-makers. Uhhh, right, this one is for sun patterns." He muttered to himself.
"Whatcha doing?" I asked him politely. He froze.
"GAH! Who're - Who the heck are you?!" He asked loudly, freaking out a bit. He looked down to my wolves and back at me. I realized that compared to him I looked just a bit messy.
The kid screamed and sprinted to the village. My wolves barked and started to run excitedly. They wouldn't hurt the kid but this was the opposite of a good impression.
"Wolves, HEEL!" I yelled. They all slowed down and looked back at me as the guy ran away. "Come!" I commanded. They walked quietly back to me, sulking a little. I looked up to see two guys with spears at the gate, pointy ends facing me. I didn't have a command for 'face this way' so I walked forwards a little to speak to them. Just in case I took one of my three throwing spears from my back and hid it, the hilt under my armpit and the tip in my palm. It was a last resort. Like, absolute last resort.
"Excuse me!" I called loudly. "I'm sorry about that, your friend screamed and ran. My wolves thought he was pretending to be prey." The two men stopped and muttered to each other for a moment. I took the moment to observe them. One was tall and had brown hair, the other had long blond hair and was short. The taller one looked much more threatening judging by muscles. The other might be faster, though.
"Who are you and why are you at our village?" The tall one yelled.
"I come with gifts! And trade! I have delicious foods and drinks with me and I would like to buy some of your rope and the services of your artisan, Kaseki." I was so glad I had rehearsed this. I would be a nervous wreck otherwise. The two looked at each other and muttered again.
"We need to talk to our chief! Stay here and keep hold of your beasts!" The tall one shouted. He pointed his spear upwards and planted it's butt in the dirt. The shorter one sprinted back across the bridge while the other glared at me. I shifted awkwardly and waited in the silence.
A minute passed before I couldn't take it anymore. I thought that was pretty good. "So what are you in the village? A hunter?" He didn't answer. I sighed and continued waiting. I heard a whine from Yrsa, who was still mostly a pup. I growled at her and she was quiet. They were cowed for now.
I was brought back when a big guy with a ponytail and a killer beard came walking down the bridge with four other people. A tall guy with grey hair, the rock kid from before, a really big guy with bulging muscles, and the short kid who had run to fetch him. When they reached the edge of the bridge he quietly gave some orders and the group of six fanned out to a V pointing at me, the chief and the grey haired guy at the front next to each other. Each and every one of the villagers had spears.
"Who are you and why are you here?" The chief, the big guy with the ponytail, demanded harshly.
"My name is Alex. I know that's not a name one of your villagers would typically have but it's mine. I'm here to give a gift in the name of friendship between us and to trade if you're interested in what I have to sell." I said in as friendly a tone as I could muster.
He grunted. "What kinds of goods? And where are you from?"
"I have honey, some dried food, my own blends of teas, and a few other supplies I produce myself. I am from my homestead about three days trek away. Just go to the beach and take a left. You'll find my shore house."
"We've had people travel down the beaches before." He said. It didn't seem like an accusation.
"I'm new. I've been in the area for about two, nearing three years." I explained. The chief nodded.
"How do you know about our village?"
"One of yours, a girl named Kashitsu, took-"
"Kashitsu is alive?!" The rock kid exclaimed in surprise. The tall kid put his hand over his mouth angrily. Muscles on muscles looked like he was forcing words down himself. Was he that 'Magma' guy Kashitsu told em aboutThe chief nodded at me to continue.
"She took shelter in my fishing hut to hide from the blizzard," I said a little slowly. "I found her when it was over and nursed her back to health. I have a knife of hers in my rucksack if you're alright with me taking it out." The chief nodded and I slung it over my shoulder. Finding the knife was easy and I showed it to the chief before I put it back in my sack.
"Your story is plausible," the chief said. "You brought a gift?" I nodded and took out a jar of honey.
"Honey. I harvested it from a beehive. It wasn't easy, I assure you, but I did it. I, however, have too many. It's deliciously sweet, like nothing else you'll find. I have two jars of it with me. I'm offering one as a sample and a symbol of good faith. If you'd like the second I'd be happy to trade.
"Walk forwards. Keep your beasts back." He said distrustfully. I looked at my wolves.
"Stay." I told them ominously. They looked at me and I bared my teeth and growled a low tone. Loree and Dyla whined in sync and I nodded. They got it. I walked forwards and set my clay jar on the ground at the halfway point between us before returning to my previous position. The chief looked at it and walked forwards. He picked it up and opened the lid. He stuck one finger in and put it in his mouth. Some sort of gurgling sound came from him and I tensed.
"Are you alright?" I asked worriedly.
"Yes, yes, I'm… fine." He said, sounding strained. He cleared his throat. "We are interested. Leave your beasts outside for now and we'll bring some goods out."
[ - [- X -] - ]
"Hey, you!" I looked up from my place in the dirt, Dylah's head resting on my lap. A short old guy with a long beard was looking at me, the first to approach me since I had arrived. The others were staring at me and either uninterested in talking to me or, in rock kid's and the short one's case, too afraid. "The chief said Kashitsu's alive and that you have her knife. Mind if I have a look at that?" I nodded and fished it out of my sack.
"She's been living at my homestead. She seemed interested in some of what I was using as construction. Apparently I live well compared to you all. Seeing your village up close I have to agree."
"That an insult, boy?" He growled, looking over the knife.
"Not really. I'm not a craftsman. The only thing I'm good at is bonding with animals. Everything I built was copied from somewhere else."
"Hmph. At least you're humble. And this is definitely Kashitsu's knife. You're no liar, not that anyone's expecting it. Frankly I didn't think she'd… well, how is she? I'm her grandfather, Kaseki."
"She's been alright, busy apparently. There's always a lot to do when you've got two people keeping things working. Lots of fixes and food to catch and… everything. She doesn't really like my wolves but she's getting better." Come to think of it, this old guy just walked right past three of my wolves, all of which were staring at him.
"And what have you got that's got her so interested?"
"I'm not telling unless you offer me something equally worthwhile in exchange," I could be a merchant at this rate. Maybe I already was. "I've got some ideas for fishing that would be better than what you use, though I don't really need many fish. I've got working knowledge of a material stronger than the mud you use for houses, the knowledge of leatherworking, which I don't think you use. See this material?" I patted my clothes, more specifically the leather on them. "It's stronger than hide. It's harder to pierce, last longer, and works like a flat rope if it needs to."
"Mhm. Well you've got my attention, kid. Any other theoretical knowledge you've got?"
"I know a lot of stuff. We can talk later, though. I've got business and don't want to keep the chief waiting." I nodded towards the chief and the big muscled guy from before. Kaseki grunted and wandered back to the chief and the others. Someone had been thoughtful enough to set out a flat board of wood planks lashed together for us. The chief knelt over it and I did the same on the other side.
"So, first thing's first, you seem to want the honey?" I asked.
"We're interested." He said neutrally. Not giving much away, hm? I was pretty sure that I could see in his eyes that he was interested, though.
"Mhm. I'm willing to give this jar for three quarters a year of work from one of your villagers." I was thinking that he'd bargain it down to half a year. Honey was frickin hard to come by.
"Work, huh?" The chief raised an eyebrow. That clearly didn't seem fair to him. "Explain."
"I spend a lot of my time on my homestead doing routine chores. I don't mind feeding, clothing, and generally taking care of someone if they're willing to do some work for me, which is why I'm valusing this honey so much. I'm also providing for the person I'm borrowing. Catching the day's fish, tending my garden, cleaning the wolf's cave, and a few other easy tasks are time consuming but generally easy, minus the fishing perhaps. If that time is spent over a year with breaks to visit the village that's fine. Three quarters a year of labor for a jar of honey and what I provide my tenant, being lodging, ."
"I see. Anyone interested?" The chief looked back at his people.
"I wouldn't mind much. Seeing little sis again would be nice." Magma said, trying to act uninterested.
"Fine. But nine months? Too much by far. Make it three."
"Seven." I countered.
"Let's call it even with six and I'll take care of them for the harsher months without complaint."
"Deal." I couldn't believe I actually got away with that. Honey for half a year of service from mister muscles over there?! I just robbed these people and I was pretty sure that the chief was hiding a grin as he set the jar of honey near him.
"I've got some other stuff too." I took some things out of my rucksack. Jars of dried meat, teas, and dried herbs. "Be careful with some of those. They're filled with liquids and you're paying if you spill them."
"I'll take that under advisement. What are these liquids?" The chief opened one jar filled with preserved venison. Then a second filled with sea salt. Pure salt in a jar. I was certain that his eyes flashed when he saw that jar. Empires had been built on salt in the past. I didn't think it was that interesting since the village was by the ocean but maybe I was wrong.
"Teas. I infuse water with herbs and plant materials I'm not telling you about to give it flavor. It's not too hard to make but bringing so much water over here is difficult. I'm willing to give you a jar of tea for fifteen yards of rope."
"Yards?" The chief looked confused.
"Sorry, fifteen meters."
"Hm. Water is heavy but as nice as it tastes it's still just a luxury. Five."
"Fair enough." I agreed. I was hoping for more but it really was just leaf water. Nice to have but not as good as rope. The tall kid handed the chief a length of rope and they measured it out before cutting it to fifteen meters. I lost all three of my teas.
"And the salt?" I had to come to a price quick.
"I'd be happy to give you that for a selection of your paints. Kashitsu mentioned that you had some that you weren't often using?"
"True, but those are Kaseki's paints." The chief looked at the old man.
"Fine with me," he shrugged. "Ginro, go get them, would you? They're in my hut." The blond kid nodded and ran off again.
"Last is the meat. You all don't look too famished. I was told that you mostly eat fish, though. It could be a nice change of pace."
"About that, I noticed three jars yet the meat smells different in each. What kinds of meat is here?" I grinned.
"I'm glad you asked! I have venison, rabbit meat, and something special. Boar."
"Boar?" He seemed impressed. "You took down a boar?"
"My wolves and I did. Spears slow them down quite a bit if you hit their leg. Sometimes I lose one but it's worth it. They're delicious. Try a little if you like." He opened the jar and tore off a small strip. He made an impressed noise.
"It's good. What do you want for it?"
"I've got most of what I want. I'll give you all three for some dried fish. I didn't think you'd want this, really. I just didn't want my main trade good to be honey."
"Quite kind of you." He seemed happy that I was willing to part with the meat so easily. "If you come by next time bring more. We're always interested in meat. Fish gets dull."
"The trek is long but I'll send some with Magma if he visits." He shrugged at me.
"I think that's everything." I said. I felt good about this. I got another person at my homestead to help out, if just for half a year, and got paints to pretty up my place. Best of all, the people at the village seem to like me. Generosity makes anyone like you, I guessed.
"Not so fast," Kaseki interrupted. Everyone looked towards him. "You said that you have better material for houses than we do, not to mention this leather of yours. How do you make that?"
"What are you offering?" I asked, grinning at the old man.
"Peh, I'll just come for most of the year. Three days of hiking for you is a week for me. Need the services of a master artisan?"
"Kaseki, we need you here at the village for-"
"No you don't." He scoffed at the chieftain. "Sagan knows enough to keep things from leaking and you've got two spare shields in my warehouse. If the bridge breaks do things the old way before you come get me! People used to have to walk down to the bottom of the cliff and back up the island! I sit on my bum nine days out of ten. If I can see my granddaughter again and learn something new I'll visit this 'homestead' and make some improvements when I get back. How about that?"
"Works for me." I agreed. The chief didn't look happy to be undercut by his craftsman but nodded.
"Fair enough. I can't say that anybody's ever wanted to go out of the village before but if you want to I won't stop you."
"Great! When're we leaving, kid?"
"Today, I suppose. Mind if I have a look inside the village before I go?" The chief looked between me and his village.
"The beasts stay out."
[ - [- X -] - ]
I didn't hum or anything as I hiked, and I did a lot of hiking. I liked the quiet, just the crunch of sand under my feet and the soft crashing of the ocean. It reminded me of my home and I was eager to get back and see my pack again. The half I had with me seemed excited as well, somehow knowing that we would be back soon. Eventually the silence was broken, though. I never expected it to last forever.
"So… how do you end up taming wolves anyways? At the village they just steal kills until somebody yells them away." Magma spoke up, looking at Yrsa closely. She ignored his looks.
"I gave them some food and they followed me home. I showed that I wasn't a threat and used their body language. Meeting eyes is a challenge in the wilds, you know? I can do it now since I'm basically the alpha of the pack but just beating them into submission would never work."
"Isn't the strongest the leader?" He asked with interest. The old man, Kaseki, was listening too but he was huffing a bit too much to ask his own questions. He was a short old man and Magma and I were big, strong guys. We set a hard pace for him, even carrying as much as we were. I was just impressed that he could keep up at all.
"Nope. The oldest is. Dyla, the bigger one with no scars, is the denmother, the closest thing to a singular leader. The only wolf in the pack she's not related to is Dyson and he's a dick but the only one suited to be her mate. I had some troubles training them at first. Giving treats when they got my orders right and ignoring them or growling at them when they got them wrong worked well. Following me meant getting food so they followed me."
"I get that. But you seriously didn't have to hit them?" Magma frowned disbelievingly.
"Well not hit them. Loree here," I patted the girl trotting beside me with a lolling tongue. "Used to be terrible. She wouldn't follow orders, she'd snap, and more. I had to wrestle her down and choke her until she got more submissive. Now she's as friendly as Dyla. I've had to use force a few times, like when Boris tried to act like his father around me or when Justin kept stealing from my traps, but I would never hit them. Just show that I'm bigger and stronger than them."
"Huh, so like wrestling?" He sounded almost like he was taking notes, maybe in his mind.
"Exactly. But that's just to show that I can. Wolves respect kindness and the spine to not be taken advantage of. They're my family so they respect me like family. A family can't normally be led by a tyrant so I wasn't one. Ever heard of the carrot and the stick?"
"Is that like 'feed the kid when they're good and scold them when they're bad'? We call that fish and rod. I think I get what you mean."
"Planning on trying to tame your own pack?"
"Nah. I'm going to lead the village one day. Besides chief Kokuyo you're the only other leader I've met."
"I'm not sure I'd call taming a wolf pack leading."
"It's not. Close enough, though." We paused at that, our conversation dying out. I slowed to a stop near some flat rocks.
"Want to take a break here?" Kaseki laid down flat on the rocks, his breaths deep, and Magma shrugged as he dropped off the rucksack he was carrying.
"Could you kids slow down next time?" Kaseki huffed.
"You seemed to be doing just fine," I said nonchalantly. "If you need a break just ask. We're not in much of a hurry."
"Pah! I want to see my niece again! I'm all for a hike but sow down your steps a bit."
"We'll work on it." I said, not feeling too sympathetic. Yrsa walked to my feet and fell down on the sand, panting heavily. Then the sympathy hit. Not for Kaseki, though.
"Either of you excited?"
"Heck yes I am! Some new building material stronger than stone? Boy, I'd travel months to so much as look at that sort of stuff! This is nothing!" For a man still gasping a little bit he sure was fired up about concrete.
"I've never been outside the village before now. I'm going to be chief next year and helping out the village like this can only be good for me. It's also good to know that little sis is doing alright."
"What, are you next in line or something?"
"Next in line? Don't know what you're talking about. No, I'm gonna kick the sorry asses of anyone who stands in my way at the village games!" He grinned scarily and clenched his right hand eagerly. I frowned.
"Games to become chief? What, like strategy? War games?"
"Battle! Fighting! One on one matches in the arena to prove who's the strongest! A chief's gotta be strong to lead his people and I'm the strongest around!" Magma looked more determined than I had ever been in my life. Being chief seemed like it was really important to him.
"So you need to be the strongest to be chief but you also need the support of the people?" I scratched my chin and noted that I needed to shave my beard again soon.
"What? No, you just gotta be the strongest. But what's a chief if everyone hates ya? Being chief means being the best, being the strongest. I'm the first to hunt, the first to take a stand. I'm going to be the chief because I'm willing to do what the other villagers won't. Going out to your little hut in the woods makes people grateful to me. It'll make things easier when I become chief."
"So you're using this as an opportunity to make an example for yourself, display yourself as somebody willing to sacrifice themselves for the village and adhere yourself to the people." I mused.
"If that means make people grateful to me then yeah."
"I always thought you were just good at fighting, Magma. Color me impressed, you've got a good head on you!" Kasaki praised him. Magma looked aside. Was he embarrassed?
"Yeah, well… I'm not the smartest… but I'm not stupid." He muttered. I smiled. I liked this guy.
"I'm a bit tired right now but when we get to my homestead care for a wrestling match? I've never used a spear outside of throwing them before, unless spearfishing counts, but I'd bet that I could take you down a peg." I smirked challengingly at him.
"What? You're going down." He cracked his knuckles and we swapped grins.
"Kids." Kaseki shook his head.