~ Chapter 102: The village abandoned by all (Part 2) ~
Since we were heading up in the mountains, we offered all of them a coat to keep themselves warm, and I also turned on the heat in the car. I had no way of spreading the engine's heat all the way to the back car. It didn't even produce that much in the first place because it wasn't based on internal combustion, so what I used instead was a Thermal Power Crystal that raised the temperature around it.
To keep them from getting bored on the journey, Shanteya gave them several card sets to play with and those who could read received a story book from Ayuseya. Only two of them knew, which brought up the literacy concern.
Back on Earth, not knowing how to read or write was something rarely seen and those people were often looked down upon. This was mostly because the majority of them simply never learned out of their own stubbornness. It wasn't as if it was impossible for most of them, even blind people knew how to read and write. They simply didn't wish to nor asked for help from those who could lend them a hand.
For the sake of my Magic Academy, I had to get rid of this problem as well. That was why, I was thinking of making an interactive dungeon through which all those who didn't know how to read or write would be able to learn these two basic skills. It was going to be aimed at kids and the cost for it would simply be a tiny bit of their parent's Magic Energy. If they had none, then they could supply their own or they could write down an 'I Owe You' for when they grew old enough and could repay me in some other way.
Initially, I wanted to make it free of charge, but powering up the pseudo-traps turned into learning materials as well as the Light Power Crystals and other things would require a constant supply of Magic Energy. Running back and fourth to power it up felt like a nag, not to mention the fact that many would probably use it in the beginning. Maybe once I built a settlement there as well, it was going to become automatic and free of charge.
I had many plans for my Magic Academy. There were many things I had to focus on, and I was 100% certain that many of my so-called fail-proof plans were going to need a few more tweaks in order to account for many new variables.
The Academy's safety was another of my concerns, but I planned on using monsters and deadly traps for this. Basically, if someone were to kill another person on my territory, I would know immediately. After I determined WHO it was, I just had to turn his status from Ally or Neutral to Enemy. The whole Magic Academy was going to be an actual dungeon, so the many hidden traps and wandering monsters were going to immediately jump on them.
Just imagining a rude noble of level 200 ending up getting chased down by a crazy boot humping imp of level 1000 made me shudder.
It was around six o'clock in the evening when we finally saw the smoke trails rising up from the chimneys in the village. I was curious about what sort of greeting we were going to receive as well as in what state we were going to find this settlement.
There were no guards at the entrance to the village, so I pulled the MCV all the way until we reached what appeared to be the main well. I stopped and got out of the car.
No one came out to greet us, despite the fact that we were a rather curious sight to behold.
“This is very strange...” said Ayuseya after she got out.
I walked up to the well and looked down.
“There's not even a single drop of water here...” I pointed out.
“That's bad news. A village like this can easily meet its end without a well.” she said.
Looking around, I noticed that there were several houses with smoke coming out of their chimneys. I walked up to one of them and knocked at the door.
No one answered.
This is unsettling... I thought.
Without further ado, I expanded my Dungeon Territory to the full size of this village and then I began to look for life signs. There were around 48 villagers still alive here, but they were all hiding inside their houses.
Are they scared of us? I don't think they know who we are, but... AH! The MCV! They must have thought we were some kind of monster! I thought and remembered that a vehicle like mine was something quite out of the ordinary for the people of this world. Even back in the Krestan, the people were looking at the MCV with curious eyes and a bit intimidated by its sheer size and the sounds it made. While it didn't have the hum of a modern diesel engine, it did give off a purr from the contact between the inner gears.
“Hello? I know you're inside! We come in peace! We're just travelers passing by!” I shouted at the front entrance.
If the people inside this house weren't going to answer, then others in the village would have heard me. It was rather improbable that not even one of them was going to make a move or still think we were some sort of monsters in disguise. Then again, there was another possibility... one that Nanya mentioned.
The villagers could have died off a long time ago and the ones we were going to encounter would be outlaws and bandits who chose this place as a hideout. It was a good location for this. The village wasn't that far away from Krestan, especially if they knew the woods well and traveled in groups. The only problem was that it was going to be hard for them to find any suitable prey.
I knocked again at the door, but this time, I sensed someone approaching.
With a loud creak and a slow movement, the door was cracked open just enough for the person inside to peek outside.
“Y-You... W-Who a-are you?” he asked in a trembling tone of voice.
It was an old man with grizzled white hair and face covered in wrinkles.
“Hello there! My name is Illsyore, just an average traveling adventurer. My group and I were on our way to Kantor, and we decided to stop by this village.” I replied with a smile.
“A-adventurer? Here? In Ils? It must have t-taken you q-quite a while to g-get here.” he replied.
He was stuttering a bit, but the gap between the door and its frame increased.
“Erm, you could say that.” I showed him a wry smile and peeked back at the MCV. “Anyway, what's happening to this village?” I asked.
The old man looked down and then opened the door. I thought he was going to invite me in, but instead he was the one who came out.
“L-Life in our l-little village had a-always been simple. L-Last year, h-however, the well ran dry. I-It wasn't such a big p-problem, a-at first, b-but then n-no matter where we dug... we c-couldn't find a-another source of w-water.” he began his story with a small stutter, which when combined with his low tone of voice, it sounded as though he spoke out of fear. “T-Then t-the m-merchants stopped c-coming here. W-Without them, we c-couldn't b-buy or s-sell our wares. You see, w-we are mostly h-hunters, f-foragers, a-and t-tanners. O-Our crops are... little.” he said and looked to an open field on the other side of this village.
Using my Dungeon Territory, I saw that they had indeed tried to grow something there, but to no avail. The ground wasn't all that fertile or it was too cold to grow any crops at all. Pests and diseases could have also stopped the growth of the plants.
“A-At l-least the t-tax c-collector d-didn't show up e-either.” he said.
“I see. That's unfortunate, but why are you all hiding inside?” I asked him.
The old man showed me a wry smile and then looked behind me, at the MCV.
“As I said... that's not a monster.” I nodded.
“Y-You c-can't blame us. W-We are s-simple folk here... W-We never saw s-something a-as fancy as t-that.” he replied.
“Can you please tell the others it's alright? If you have wares to sell, show them to my wives. Maybe they will be interested in something. Meanwhile, you can show me a place where I can set up camp?” I asked him.
“Y-You c-can use the b-barren fields. Or t-the house of the l-late farmer. He died t-two months ago.” he let out a sigh.
“Old age?” I asked.
“N-No...” he shook his head. “H-He was young... H-He slipped and fell w-when he was out, c-collecting wood. Poor f-fellow hit his h-head on the only r-rock in that a-area. Bad l-luck.” he nodded.
“Accidents do happen...” I nodded and showed him a sympathetic smile.
“I-I will go tell the o-others... Y-You can go and s-set up y-your camp.” he said.
“Very well.” I nodded and then went back to the MCV.
After I told my wives what the old man told me, I started the engine and traveled on the small road leading to the barren fields. I parked right in front of the farmer's house. While Nanya went inside to see if there was anything of interest, I summoned the building where we were going to spend the night and made a fire for Tamara to cook us some food. Since this village looked a bit lacking in resources, I thought about being generous and asked her to make something for them as well.
This time it was Ayuseya who went to hunt in the forest. Using her Over Supreme speed, she dashed off to an area that would have been outside of the reach of the villagers here. We didn't want to hunt any of the potential prey of the hunters here.
While she was taking care of this, I also decided to create a small temple for Zoreya to pray to Melkuth. Rather than a temple, it was better to simply call it a shrine.
When Nanya walked out of the house, she shook her head and said “There was nothing of interest inside. The villagers must have scavenged the place of any useful items.”
“Considering their current situation, I wouldn't be surprised.” I nodded.
After half an hour or so, Ayuseya returned dragging back several dead deer and a big wild boar. I think that one was a monster or something like that because it had spikes protruding from its back.
“Oh my! What happened here?” I suddenly heard a woman's voice coming from behind me.
When I turned around, I saw the villagers who gathered to greet us. Some of them were bringing their wares, including carvings and such.
“Just a bit of magic.” I showed her a wry smile.
“You have magic that can summon buildings?” she asked surprised.
“Erm... yes?” I replied.
Technically speaking, that was what I was doing. Practically, I was pulling prefab stuff out of my Inner Mind.
When I took a closer look at the group of villagers and their wares, I noticed not only the scarcity in items but also how poor they looked. Compared to the new clothes of my slaves and the armor we were wearing, it looked as though we were coming from two different worlds, one of the rich and one of the poor.
“W-We have l-little w-ares, b-but... p-please, take a l-look.” the grizzled old man said.
Nanya was the first to look around at their items.
“We don't mind to trade for food... or tools.” one of them men pointed out while she was looking through the items.
“Speaking of food, if you all don't mind, my wife cooked a little extra, so you can all join us for dinner. There's plenty for everyone in the village.” I told them.
When they heard this, they were all looking back at me with gaping mouths. It was hard for them to believe the generosity of a stranger like me, but if it was free food, I doubted they would refuse it.
“A-Are you s-sure?” the grizzled old man from before asked.
“Yes.” I nodded and showed him a smile. “But a fair warning to all of you, I will be eating at the same table together with my wives and slaves, who are of different species. I would appreciate it if you warned those you know might have a problem with this not to make any rude remarks. I wouldn't want to believe that my generosity was misplaced.” I told him with a subtle hint.
“O-Of c-course.” the old man nodded.
“Most of us won't have a problem with it... We're simple folk, but we know quite well what it means to sell one of your family into slavery because you can't pay the taxes or buy food for the winter.” one of the men said while looking down.
Villages in a country that valued the slave system like Paramanium did had it rough during tough times. Now, when even the tax collectors abandoned them, they had it the worst from the looks of things. If they didn't make a miraculous comeback, they were destined to end up as either dead from starvation or in the chains of a wandering slaver. Resorting to thievery and becoming bandits was also a possibility.
While I saw them explaining their wares to Nanya, a wild thought crossed my mind: Should I try to help this village survive? I won't gain anything from it, but a good deed from time to time doesn't hurt.
Note from the author: Thank you for reading this chapter, I hope you enjoyed it! Oh, and be sure to check out my other stories too!
Seeing how things have been a bit hard for me lately, I will try and focus around posting only at the end of the week, during a Friday or Saturday(ish). I'm going to try the weekly chapter dump version of the schedule to see if this fits me better.
Merry Christmas to you all! And a Happy New Year!
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