After leaving Donovan to his work, Edward started to make his way towards the storage barns. The idea was sound, he thought – help out Dalla and in the process learn a little more about her, and her culture. For a moment his mind drifted to the central themes of Robotech and Super Dimensional Fortress Macross, idly wondering if this is how the Zentraedi felt being forced to live in an alien world and adapt to a culture that was completely foreign to them in every conceivable manner.
I wonder if it is because of my obsession with anime that has actually allowed me to cope with all of this instead of going nuts. This trail of thought inevitably lead Edward’s mind into dark places and before long he was looking at Donovan’s suggestion as being less of a friendly gesture and more like handing him a social grenade (sans pin) that also happened to be cleverly disguised as a good idea. What could she possibly see in a guy like me? I’ve got nothing to offer her…less than nothing even! Edward paused as he noticed a handful of Farming People going on about their business, looked down at his stomach. “Ok, maybe I have too much…”
Edward shook his head, clearing those thoughts from his mind. After all, he helped save their village. He was a hero. That had to count for something. Even if he had no intention of exploiting that fact, he hoped that it would amount to enough so that Dalla would at least give him the time of day.
By the time Edward had finally settled on going through with the whole thing, he found himself almost upon the girl as she worked. Either the village really was that small, or his mind had wandered so far into left field that he completely lost track of what he was doing. Swallowing hard, Edward made his way into Dalla’s line of sight. Just be yourself. That is the best way to go. Nothing bad ever happens when you be yourself and be honest. Don’t freak out like some retarded fanboy who has more Pocky than sense when he sees one of his dreams sitting right in front of him… wait… Don’t be yourself. Be a normal, well-adjusted human being instead.
“Hey. I heard that you were pulling some maintenance. You… ahh… need a hand?”
The Hunting Person looked up from under snowy-white bangs. Yeah, these were Mithra alight, right out of Final Fantasy 11. Except instead of a halter top and loin cloth, she was dressed in a long sleeved tunic, buttoned at the throat and wrist, trousers, and low boots. Ears cocked forward, she saw Edward and smiled. “Maintenance,” she said in a puzzled tone, and then worked the word around for a moment. “Yes! I am maintaining our tools and weapons for the next hunt. Do you want to help?”
"Yeah... I would. I don't know much about the weapons you use, so you may have to show me though. It's ok, I'm a quick study." Edward sat down near Dalla, close enough that he could see what she was doing without making getting in her way or invading her personal space, or, at least what was the personal space of humans. "So...what do I do first?"
“Hmm...” setting down the spear she had, Dalla pointed to a pile of others. “Take one, feel the head, make sure it is tight on the shaft. If it is, we’ll sharpen the blade. If not, we set it aside for Vidar to look at. If the shaft is cracked, we take it to Herger to see about a new one.”
He gave a nod and went to check the spears as she directed. It was easy enough to make sure that the heads were tight, and it was obvious that a number of them needed some work. Instead of coming right back after finding a spear that needed sharpening however, Edward organized the spears according to their needs. Those that needed to have Vidar look at them went over here, and those that needed new shafts went over there, and the spears that needed sharpening were brought with him and set aside within easy reach. "Ok, now what?"
“My, you work quickly.” Dalla flashed him a smile, which had a disconcerting number of pointy teeth in it. “We’ll take the ones that need repairs over later. Now we sharpen. Here, take this.” She passed him a stone and a small bowl of oil. “Wipe the blade, like so,” she demonstrated, “then apply oil. Then, you need to take the stone to the edge, to make it sharp.” Holding the spear in her lap, she stroked the small piece of rock along the edge of the blade. “We want to get all of the nicks and burrs out, so the spear will go in smoothy. See?”
Edward scratched the back of his head and smiled. "Ahh... thanks. I got pretty good at sorting stuff while I was in the Army."
The catgirl gave him a confused look. “Army?”
Edward blinked and mentally slapped his forehead. Baka! “The Army is a group from my home whose job it is to fight.” He paused and thought about the best way to explain it better. “It’s kinda like what we did with the Giant People a few days ago. The Army defends the people from those that want to hurt them when they attack or to keep those people from attacking in the first place. The difference is, is that this is all the time… not the fighting. If there is no need to fight, then they train and prepare for when they have to fight.” He looked at her and gave a half-smile. “That made some sort of sense, yes?”
She nodded. “So, you were like Jarl Thorkell’s húskarlar.”
He gave a slight nod. “Yeah, I guess you could say that.” He would make it a point to find out who this Jarl Thorkell was, as well as what a húskarlar was. For the moment though, he was content to leave it at that. She at least got the idea, and that was enough for him.
As Edward watched Dalla work, a few things made sense to him...mostly revolving around the fact that he never could properly sharpen a pocket knife. He gave a mental shrug to all of that as he took up the oil and stone and mimicked her actions. He didn't get it right on the first try, but he did get the hang of it eventually. "Like this?"
“Yes! Exactly.” She gave him another grin. “We’ll make a hunter of you yet, Giant Killer.”
He blinked at that and stammered “Giant Killer? I…I didn’t kill any giants. That was… pretty much everyone else but me.” He looked down at the spear in his hand then and worked the stone over the blade as she had shown him.
A sigh greeted his correction. “I didn’t really see any of it. When I tried to follow your lead, I stepped on... on something in the water. Cyan says I hit my head pretty hard on the stone. Which is why she has me here, doing repairs. She doesn’t want me walking around for a few days.”
He looked over to her then and offered a half-smile. “You didn’t miss much. I gave that one I was fighting a couple of scratches and then it punched me.” He started to laugh. “I don’t know what in the hell came over me. I mean, I saw this fist the size of a tire coming right at my face and I just stood there like an idiot. After it hit me, I don’t remember much. Apparently the others had to force me to sit down and take a load off because I wasn’t having any of it.” He smiled a bit. “Well, at least you’re ok. That’s what matters.”
Her response was to laugh. “Edward, you’re funny, do you know that? I have no idea what half of what you say means, but I don’t care. You stood with us against the Giant People and that’s enough for me.”
For a moment he sat there with a stupid look on his face. It took every ounce of willpower to keep from going into geek-mode and explain it all to her; before she could think that she may have said something wrong, he smiled. “Oh…well, I’m glad that I made you laugh then. And I was glad to stand with you. It’s the least I could do for you helping us in our own time of need.”
“It is good to help travelers,” Dalla said with a nod. “They bring tales from far away places or things to trade.” She produced a glittering line of colored glass beads on a thong around her neck, “Like this. I was able to get it last harvest festival.”
Edward smiled at her reply. He had heard a similar mindset during his tour in Iraq, or at least that was the ideal mindset. "Understandable, I'm sure you've heard all sorts of interesting stories." When she produced the string of beads he nodded in understanding. In comparison to many of the trinkets and baubles one could get back home, these were nothing, but the simplicity here, wherever he was, made them far more interesting. "Those look nice," he said of the beads with a smile, which was followed up by a mental note for later. "So... what kind of stories do you like? I think it will help make the work go faster."
“Ahhh...” Dalla sighed. “I’m not one for stories. Vilgerthr knows all of the good ones. Like where the sun goes behind the mountains and what it must do to rise very morning. Or how the Leaping People burrowed out of the ground to come up into the light and air. Or...” she stopped and almost blushed, punching Edward lightly in the arm. “You don’t want to hear this stuff.”
Edward grinned as she punched his shoulder and then offered a genuine smile "Actually... I would very much like to hear them. Where I come from, we have a lot of stories... some of them true, but a lot of them are just for fun." He paused, thoughtful for a moment. "Tell you what, if you want, I can tell you one of the stories from my home and you can tell me a story or a little bit about you...I mean, your people." He gave a silent prayer that Dalla did not catch that slip of the tongue.
“Okay.” Dalla turned the spear she was working on over and started sharpening the other edge. “Just make it a good one. Not one of those silly love stories Guthny likes.”
He chuckled at her reply. "That works for me. I don't know many stories like that anyway." He thought for a few moments of a good one. "Alright, the story I am going to tell did not actually happen, but it is a good story anyway because of the lessons in perseverance one can take from it... and it is one of my favorites."
Edward then his throat and began telling his tale. “The story begins in an underground village much larger than Fyrkat but also plagued with a number of problems. The worst were devastating earthquakes that would strike at random. Because of this, the village was always looking to expand to find a place that was more stable or to relocate as areas became blocked off. The surface, to the villagers did not exist, or it was forbidden. One young man named Kamina was always trying to get to the surface and more often than not, he would talk his friend Simon into helping him in these mad schemes often saying such things as ‘kick reason to the curb and do the impossible!’, but the village chief always stopped them in their tracks.
“One day Simon found something strange as he was digging new tunnels to expand the village; a drill.” Taking the tip of the spear he was working on, he drew a basic image of what Simon had found for Dalla’s benefit in the dust. “Now, at the time he thought very little of it until the next day when he found something that he could really only describe as ‘a large face in the rock’. When he went to tell his friend about his find the village suffered a sudden, massive earthquake but this time the cause of the earthquake was revealed. From the surface a large metal man with the face of a cruel monster fell onto the village.”
“When the monster looked to attack the villagers, Kamina stood proud and tall and told the creature that it must leave his village or be destroyed. The monster of course laughed at this, because, well Kamina was just a man, but the monster well, it was much, much bigger and it had weapons. Without fear, Kamina stood firm and said ‘Who in the hell do you think I am? I am the mighty Kamina!’ Now, Kamina really did not have much to fight the metal monster with except for his will, determination and wits, but he didn’t care, for he knew what he was doing was right and he would never run away.
“While Kamina was shouting his demands to the monster, Simon had discovered that the face in the rock he had discovered was also a metal man, but much much smaller than the one attacking the village. He also figured out that the drill he had found earlier could bring the metal man to life and that he could operate it like one would operate a wagon. With this, Simon joined the fight against the invader and eventually slew the monster.
“During the battle, the way to the surface was opened. Now, for Kamina, this was a dream come true! Nothing could stop him now. Simon on the other hand was a little reluctant, but Kamina gave him the courage to make the journey to the surface as well.” Edward paused then. He felt guilty about butchering Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann like that, but he knew already that much of it had likely gone over her head. Still, it certainly could have gone worse. “There is more to that story though…much more. Kamina and Simon made a many friends and had many more adventures.” He smiled a little. “But I think it’s your turn now.
Setting her spear aside, Dalla crossed her legs under her, set her hands on her knees, and then rocked back. She closed her eyes and looked up toward the ceiling of the workshop. "It is said," she began, in a tone far more solemn than Edward was used to, "the Hunting People once lived in a great forest. It stretched as far as the eye could see and then further, beyond that. The world was the forest and the forest was the world. The Hunting People lived in the branches of the trees and hunted among the roots. They made homes from the wood and the leaves, to shelter them from the rain and dangerous animals of the tree tops."
She paused and glanced over at Edward. "Are you sure you want to hear this?"
Edward nodded. "Of course I do. If I wasn't sure, I wouldn't have asked." The last said with a smile.
"Okay." Closing her eyes, she continued. "Life was good and the Hunting People lived without care. Then, one day, a great fire swept through the forest, driving all before it. The trees burned and fell, bringing down the homes of the Hunting People. They fled before the fire, crossing rivers and streams, until they entered a land unlike any they'd seen before. It had no trees, just grass that stretched stretched as far as the eye could see and then further, beyond that. There were people there, like the Hunting People but without tails or claws.
"They took the Hunting People in, gave them shelter, food, and water. Unlike the Hunting People they farmed the land and knew little of hunting. The Hunting People showed them how to track prey, to hide in the tall grass, to carve meat. In turn, the Farming People showed us how to till the ground, how to make things grow, how to cook our food.
"Thus, the Hunting People and the Farming People became as one. Each helped the other, each supported each other in times of need. And so, when the time came, the Farming People and Hunting People set off together, to find new lands to settle." Opening her eyes, Dalla looked almost sheepish. “There's more, but I can't remember all of it. Like how we met the Leaping People, and how we battled the Giant People and drove them up into the hills so we could safely farm the land." She paused, and thought for a moment. "And there's a story about a Farming Person named "Hunter of Bees" who fought with an monstrous Water Person to make a lake safe for travelers. He also befriended the Burrowing People and learned how to work metal, used his knowledge to forge a great hunting spear out of metal that came from the sky, could cast lightning from his fingers, and made the earth quake by stamping his foot."
Edward blinked at the hints of the stories she knew. "Wow, I think we could go back and forth exchanging stories for some time." A pause. "...I... mean of course if you want to that is."
Picking her spear back up, Dalla returned to her sharpening. "Certainly. It is like the riddle game. It passes the time and makes the work seem less bothersome."
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