Ikaris silently accepted the skewer, but he did not immediately bite into it. With a complex look he stared at the meat stick in his hands for a long time.
The first thing that struck him was the smell. Far from reminding him of the intoxicating fragrance of roasted chicken or beef, it was a musky, almost sour smell that vaguely reminded him of rotten meat. Kind of like when one smells a burger a day past its presumed expiration date.
The smell and the appearance seemed okay, and the meat might still be edible if cooked thoroughly, but instinctively one couldn't help but feel a strong disgust that could go so far as to suppress one's appetite.
The second thing that struck him was the visual aspect. The meat was overcooked, almost charred, but what revolted him was especially the dry and stringy aspect of this meat. The khaki green of this flesh did not help, giving the false impression that he was about to ingest a highly toxic and unfit for consumption meat.
"I, I'm not sure it's a good idea for a human to eat this goblin." Ikaris finally refused, shaking his head.
Of course, it wasn't out of weakness or virtue that the teenager refused to try the meat. The skewer might have made him feel like throwing up, but he was hungry. The barbarian's sermon was a bit crude, but his reasoning was sound.
The real reason for his refusal was actually twofold. The first was that the meat looked unfit for human consumption. This goblin had surely drunk the water from that pond and consumed anything and everything to survive. Ikaris clearly remembered how sickly he looked during their fight and he had noticed several infected and purulent wounds on his body.
The second was that he did not want to eat the meat of a sentient species that looked remotely like a human if he could avoid it.
And he could avoid it. These two goblins he didn't intend to eat, but he didn't intend to waste their corpses.
"Can you tell me why you refused?" The aborigine asked with a deprecating frown.
His positive opinion of the boy had flown out the window in an instant. In the end, this Otherworlder was just another self-righteous weakling.
"Everything you said, I hear and agree with." Ikaris acknowledged the warrior's reasoning at first so as not to offend him. "However, I don't think it is a show of strength to give up your standards when there are other options."
"Other options?" The man asked confusingly as he munched on his own skewer.
" Well, tell me...?"
"Krold. You can call me Krold."
"Krold? You' re not from Earth like me?" The teenager was surprised.
"Earth? That's the world you come from, right? No, I am a native of this world. I was born and raised in the Kingdom of Hadrakin north of the Barren Bush. For reasons I don't wish to talk about I was forced to flee my homeland and take asylum here."
"Anyway, you were talking about other options." Krold refocused the conversation in an impatient manner.
A sly smile crept across Ikaris' face,
"Tell me Krold... If I take the second goblin back to the village, what can I trade him for?"
The warrior's gaze livened up upon hearing his question, but it was quickly replaced by a contemptuous sneer,
"Oh, if you bring that goblin back to the village, I'm sure the villagers will be willing to fight and sell their mothers and fathers if they haven't already done so for half a pound of meat. But, sorry to disappoint you, it won't work. Those moronic villagers have nothing to trade you. Any food they find while foraging in the jungle they eat right away for fear of it being stolen."
ραndαsnοvεl.cοm"So it won't work, hmmm..." Ikaris realized as he paced around the campfire. Suddenly thinking of something, he asked, "By the way, what do people in Karragin usually eat? The way you're so passionate about these goblins, I guess this kind of opportunity doesn't come along every day.
"Hmmm, you're right, it's pretty rare." Krold sheepishly admitted. "Goblins usually roam the jungle in groups of 10 to 20 people. Lone goblins like these two are quite uncommon. Because of their fear of being eaten by the other goblins of their tribe, they probably chose to flee their village. Even if you hadn't met them, a Crawler or one of our Guardians would have done them in at night.
"To get back to your question, mostly tubers, boiled roots, insects, flowers, fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds when the opportunity arises, but due to the overpopulation of Crawlers and Demon Beasts in the vicinity, those opportunities are becoming increasingly rare."
"How do Malia and Grallu get their food? Malia is perfectly healthy, but I haven't seen her leave the village even once." Ikaris then asked.
The warrior, who happened to have his mouth full of meat, shot him a scornful look as he continued to chew with difficulty. From the way his jaw muscles contracted, it looked like he was chewing a rubber ball. After a long while, the aborigine swallowed loudly and said,
"Malia does not need to leave Karragin. In order to be exempt from the blood ritual, the villagers always offer her some of the food they find as tribute. Even without it she can get by. If she's hungry, she can just hunt Demon Beasts."
"Demon Beasts?" Ikaris picked up with a raised eyebrow. "I've heard that term a few times now, but I don't know what makes them different from other animals."
"Their Divine Spark." Krold grunted with a grimace, the mere mention of their name bringing back bad memories. " You must have already been told that all the huntable game in the Barren Bush has already been hunted to extinction. The Demon Beasts are the beasts that have survived until now. What sets them apart from other animals is that they intuitively know how to use their Divine Spark. Their talent is superior to humans because of their robust physiques. They don't use their Divine Spark to visualize spells like we do, but they use it subconsciously to move faster, hit harder, heal faster, and so on... Those who have survived in the Barren Bush to this day have become extremely tough. Even the Crawlers scaling the wall pose only a limited threat to them."
Ikaris had plenty of other questions, but he sensed that the man was beginning to lose his patience. As soon as the teenager refused to eat the goblin meat, the aborigine lost interest in their conversation. The boy was aware of this, but there was nothing he could do about it. He had no intention of eating that goblin meat.
Looking up at the sky, he noticed that the blue sky had begun to darken. The sun had also begun its descent and from its low position it must have been 3 or 4 in the afternoon. Suddenly, his pupils narrowed in surprise when he sighted something.
A bird. Or rather birds. This immediately gave him an idea.
"Krold, why don't you hunt these birds?" Ikaris asked as he pointed to the birds circling over their campfire, no doubt attracted by the meat.
Krold looked up as he followed his finger and saw the flock of birds flapping frantically above them. He stared at them hungrily for a moment and said,
"Those are Demon Beasts. They look small from here, but they' re flying several hundred meters above us. Their instinct is not to attack us, but it's best not to provoke them. In any case, no one knows how to craft a bow in Karragin, and these birds are too cunning to fall into a trap."
Recalling how he had killed the second goblin earlier, Ikaris was tempted to try again, but he wasn't sure if it would work as well with so much distance. He would rather ask Malia before taking the risk. After all, he had almost died casting the spell.
"I have one last question Krold. You said the other villagers wouldn't have any food to trade me for that goblin, but you never said if you were one of them. Would you trade me this meat for food? I just want to keep the bones and sinews."
The barbarian stared at him intensely, but eventually he answered in an unequivocal voice,
"I'll trade you the second goblin. I saved you, so I consider the first one to be your repayment."
"Deal." Ikaris shrugged. " All right, let's dry the second goblin's meat before it gets dark. "
The fire had almost gone out during their discussion, but after tossing in another log Krold stretched out both hands at the fire and mumbled,
An impressive stream of orange flames blew over the log and the cooled embers and the campfire regained its former glow. Ikaris froze as he gaped at the flames.
"How is this possible? I thought there were no magic-gifted villagers except Grallu and Malia?" He exclaimed in disbelief.
The sword-wielding aborigine burst out laughing at his comment.
"Is that what they told you? Well, they're not wrong. I have no talent." Krold wiped away his tears of laughter, but a hint of bitterness could be felt behind his smile. "Starting a fire is the only thing I can do, but I can do it better than anyone else.
"It's what the wizards of the Forsaken Lands call a Secondary Spark, or a Skill if you prefer."