Side story – Lausanne 3
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Side Story - Lausanne 2

Some time after the orphanage started...

“Where’s the captain? We want the captain.” The boys shout.

“They’re busy today. I’m here to be your practice partner.”

“You’re not a soldier, you're just a little girl, no, worse, you're a noble.” The young boy accused. “You’re one of the nobles, and we don’t want to practice with you.”

“I’m not. And what’s wrong with practicing with me?” She didn’t understand it, she’d never been a noble. Her father may have been the village chief, but he passed away and the village was destroyed. Growing up relatively sheltered from kingdoms and their societies, she’s not too aware about the negative emotions associated with nobility, even though Jura and Laufen did tell her about what nobles usually did in other nations. 

“I know you! You’re a noble, and we don’t want to practice with you. ” The young boys shouted, some of them really unhappy. The rest of the boys didn’t like her too, they all looked at her with a look of disgust, which made her feel a little sad. 

She didn’t expect this. Laufen and Jura asked her to help out at the orphanage, to help teach the other children, those about her age, be their sparring partner for a while. The captains are out on a mission. Why are they so nasty to me? I’m just trying to help.  She wondered, but she didn’t understand their hostility. “Uh…”

“Don’t come here acting all high and mighty because of your mother!” 

What? Where did that come from? Why? She just couldn’t answer. Isn’t mom the one who sets up this orphanage? The boys start going out of the hall. Lausanne started to feel that her presence is unwanted by these boys. 

All she wanted to do is just practice some sword fighting, since uncle Jura’s busy. He said, help out at the orphanage, practice some basic moves with the kids in the orphanage, good heroes do that sort of work all the time. And I agree, I want to be a good hero.

But why do these fellow children, who are just around my age, treat me with such hostility? I didn’t even say much, all I did was walk in, say I’m helping out with the sword practice, and then this huge tirade of insults. 

One of the caretakers at the orphanage, notices the insults and rushes into the training room, the caretaker, an elderly lady walks to Lausanne and pulls her to one side of the room before it escalates into a fistfight. “Forgive them, Miss Lausanne. A lot of them have a lot of animosity, a lot of anger, so when they see a young girl their age coming in to teach them, they… they can’t deal with it. Please, come this way with me.”

“They’re really angry at me.” Lausanne nods, her eyes look at the wrinkled face of the elderly lady. She holds Lausanne’s arms, and leans in to speak to her with a warm, grandmotherly voice. 

“It’s a complicated feeling, these boys, they’ve got things to deal with inside them, and so these boys want, no, they have a need for respect and recognition, a yearning to learn 'real' skills. So when adult soldiers come and practice with them, they feel they… they are respected.”

“Hmmm... so they don’t want to practice with me because I’m a young girl? Even if I have real skills?” Lausanne sighs. There’s nothing much she could do with those kids who are bigger, if they don’t like her. I’ll have to tell uncle Jura and mom about it later.

She looks at the caretakers, most of them elderly women that mom hired to help run the orphanage. There’s about 200 kids in this place, of various ages, and many of them are here because they lost both their parents, mostly during their earlier escape from the slaughter of Salah. The group earlier is around aged 9-12. 

She’s sad, but she did promise Jura to help, so she asks for something else to do. Maybe if there are other girls?  “Uhm… well, Uncle Jura did ask me to help out. Maybe I can play with the younger children? Any girls I can play with?”

“Ah… yes, okay. Girls... girls...” The lady smiles, and she leads Lausanne to another room where there’s about 10 to 15 young girls, probably 4 to 6 years old playing catch. It’s a relatively empty room, they don’t have many toys, so they mostly play with each other.  “Maybe you can join this group?” 

“Hi.” Lausanne smiles, they’re all younger than her, and a part of her feels happy. It’s nice that I’m not the youngest for a change. 

They smile back at her, and they welcome her into the game, ah, this group’s a lot more pleasant, she thought to herself.  Maybe they’re too young to feel much animosity, or perhaps these group is a little sheltered. It’s a simple room, a few chairs, but it’s well lit by natural lighting, thanks to multiple large windows, thin streaks of sunlight filter through the leaves outside. There’s a few wooden blocks here and there, but that’s about all the toys they have. 

A small girl with a short bob-cut walks up to Lausanne, “Hello, elder sister. I’m Jien.” She’s shorter than her. Lausanne smiles and give her a hug.  

“I’m Lausanne. Can I play?”

“Okay. What do you want to play? We usually play catch. Or we throw the blocks back and forth.” 

“Okay, let’s do that.” 

They played together for the rest of that afternoon, until it was about evening, and she learnt their names. The biggest girl there is Sammy, she’s about six. She doesn’t know when her birthday is because her parents both passed away when she was still a baby, and that’s actually fairly common among those who live there. Because the girls don’t know who’s the eldest, thus, they go with the biggest. 

Jien is probably a year younger, like the rest of the girls, their parents died. Or maybe somehow got separated. Most of them aren’t very sure whether their parents died or somehow got lost, but this detail doesn’t bother them much. 

Lausanne felt happy after an afternoon of playtime, and felt, maybe she should help them out. I should ask TreeTree for some more wooden toys. I remember we have a lot in the playroom.

-

“Did you practice with the other kids?”

“No mom. They didn’t want to fight with a girl. They wanted the captains.”

“Oh.” Laufen nods, she puts down the reports that the other employees prepared. She’s got a lot of assistants these days, as the head of the public services. She honestly didn’t like paperwork all that much, but there still needed to be reports, to tabulate spending, income and these are still made by actual administrators, or the priests. “Why?” Laufen squats to look at Lausanne eye-to-eye. 

“One of the ladies said it’s because they want to fight with an adult.” Lausanne sulks. “Maybe it’s because I’m not good enough.”

Laufen gives Lausanne a hug and then starts to pat her daughter on her head. “No, no. I’m sure it’s not like that.”

"The ladies told me so. The boys said they want the captains."

"Lausanne, my dear, they don't mean it. I am sure they like you."

Lausanne shakes her head. "Mom... They don't."

"Really?"

"Really." Lausanne's face is serious, and a bit sad. 

"Well, they will like you someday."

Lausanne shakes her head. "Hmph." She leans in and gives her mom a kiss on the cheeks. "Good night, mom."

"Sleep well, don't let it bother you."

Lausanne shakes her head. Maybe it will bother her that night.

-

Some time later... 

"Thank you for practising with me, Lady Yvon."

"Welcome. I always look forward to sparring with such a talented young girl."

They both give each other a quick bow, and they start their practice spars. Simple swings and strokes, moves meant to warm the body and ready for the real thing. Yvon is still leagues ahead of Lausanne in terms of skill, but Lausanne's growth is outstanding as she is almost level 30.

"How's things?" Yvon asks casually, ducking a horizontal slash, and then parrying a follow-up horizontal slash. 

"TreeTree's starting a small class of students. He calls them his chosen warriors."

"Huh?"

"Yeah... he says he plans to train them, and maybe give them special powers like mine some day, but before that he needs to prepare them."

Yvon blocks a flurry of slashes, and retaliates with a body slam. Lausanne though activates [Evasive steps], and manages to avoid it. 

"He says maybe he'll have to fix them if they're not compatible later on. Like how he uses his powers to cure Uncle Jura's curse..."

"Really, why does TreeTree want to do something like that?"

"Hmmm... he didn't tell me a lot, but maybe, maybe he just likes us to grow? He says he wants to watch our growth closely, though, as he'll be using some kind of 'essence' on us though."

"Essence? Isn't that like condensed energies?"

"I don't know, Lady Yvon. But TreeTree says he has a lot of essences and some other things like his minerals and mana that he wants to use."

"On the girls?"

"Yeah. He told me it'll be good for them."

"Did you get those as well?"

"Uh... I think so? I frequently have dreams where I am training, or where there's someone teaching me things. And TreeTree tells me to dip into the pod every week too."

"And your mom is fine with it?"

"Mom thinks TreeTree knows what it's doing. She says its how I get so good at fighting."

"Wait. You are not naturally talented at fighting?"

Lausanne smiles. "If you ask Uncle Jura, he'll tell you I was absolutely horrible at it when I started. But TreeTree's been helping me by giving me these... dreams."

Lausanne blocks a few more slashes from Yvon, and tries to land a kick. 

"Dreams?"

"Yah. It's like I'll take a nap at home, and TreeTree's feelers will somehow touch my forehead, and I get the dreams."

"Tell me... more." Yvon charges, and unleashes a flurry of slashes. Lausanne tries to parry them, but fails to parry a few, so she takes a hit from the wooden blade.

Lausanne staggers back from the impact. It hurts but she has pain resistance. "Oh... it's different every time. Sometimes, it's like there's a voice in my head, and we would talk. About things, about a topic. Sometimes its language, like I'll get a lesson on it. Sometimes it'll tell me about people, about places..."

Yvon listens intently, they take a break. 

"Some dreams are really really fun. It's like all these colors, and all these images, of really strange things,  weird monsters-like things and shapes, but they don't attack me. It's like I'm on top of a mountain and fell down."

"That's like a vision. A.. hmm. A hallucination."

"A what?"

"Never mind, continue."

"Oh, then like last week, I had a dream where I was fighting a giant demon. I had really strong powers, and I had to use those powers to fight the giant demon."

"Fighting demons doesn't sound like a fun dream." Yvon shakes her head, and takes a drink from her bag of water. "Anyway, continue?"

Lausanne nods, and they both step back into the ring. "Well, I think TreeTree's trying to teach me something."

"Sounds like he's making elite warriors."

Lausanne smiles. "Well, he's just helping me be a hero."

Yvon frowns, Lausanne ducks, and jumps sideways to avoid a bunch of slashes. "Is it? I'm not aware he did so much to you."

"Oh, he's been fixing my body too, like repairing a bone here, a bone there. And he's got like this thing which can help strengthen the bones and muscles too. It's all in the green pod."

"I am starting to think the green pod isn't all that it seems..."

"That pod is amazing, Lady Yvon. It sustained a hero suffering from a demonic curse."

"It did?"

"Did Uncle Jura not tell you? One of the previous generations of heroes was afflicted with some kind of curse, and TreeTree kept her alive until a cure was found."

"Before we came..."

"Yeah, yeah! I was still a tiny toddler then. But I do vaguely remember a lady constantly being in the pod."

"Alright, let's stop." They had some more basic exercises just to cool their bodies down. "How are the girls receiving this news?"

"They're excited. It's the first time they get chosen for anything, so they are thrilled when they got the familiar contract. They'll need to sleep in a special tree, and have regular dips in the pod. It's like they're going to be transformed into something amazing, so all of them really, really want it."

"They should be careful. Tree Spirit probably has his own plans for them, and may not be what they think it is."

Lausanne smiles, "We believe in TreeTree. He'll help us."

Yvon sighs. "I... I'll need to speak to TreeTree."

Dreams, physical alterations. Hallucinations. Need to consume strange liquids. It all sounds a bit like what tribal shamans give to their warriors to whip them into a war frenzy, or the work of some alchemist testing out strange potions. She had heard rumors of creatures that give strange mind-altering substances to enslave minions, though it didn't seem like TreeTree is doing it, she needed to be sure. 

Yvon's one of the modernist elves, who have a rather defensive, cautious view of Tree Spirits, that Tree Spirits aren't exactly domestic animals that can be tamed, unless one happened to be a hero who focused on spirit control.

The modernist elves believe the benign, friendly myth of the tree spirit is actually a unique characteristic of the Great Tree Spirits of the Elf cities, and one should not assume all wild tree spirits to be similarly benevolent. Like the dryads, faeries and other forest spirits, these avatars of nature share a common trait, that they are occasionally ephemeral, flighty, fickle, and manipulative. Though often their goals are aligned to what most elves desire, they should also be treated with caution, for the fury of a tree spirit is often not apparent, subtle. 

Lausanne though, didn't think that way. To her, TreeTree is friendly and all he is trying to do, is help.

In their own ways, both of them are right. 

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