"I didn't realize you could keep pigs in a swamp."
That is a lot of swine. Their skin looks kind of shiny, like they are well oiled.
"You just got to pay attention to your drainage and embankments. Daddy taught me a lot of that."
Moso gives a wistful smile; oh no, I feel the waterworks coming on!
"And you cleared enough land for some fields?"
It looks like he has several dozen acres penned in by this enormous bamboo thicket. How is he keeping animals out? How is he working all this?
"Yeah, I grow enough for me and some people I know."
That wistful smile again! I can't pry, that is not something for me to inquire about. But stop with the wistful smiles, please, Moso.
"Well, what can I help out with to earn my keep for the night?"
Repay favor with favor, that's my motto.
"Pull out several pounds of drake meat, I'll teach you how to make a few different kinds of sausages."
What followed was a hellish three-hour course under Culinary Instructor Moso, who kept me at making sausages, working the crank on a grinder, seasoning, mixing and shoving them into a casing of intestines.
Finally, he said
"And now we can relax while they smoke."
"We're done? Wahoo!"
Sweet, sweet respite
"Yup, just need to flip them in an hour and a half and keep on like that till dawn."
Wait wait wait, when do we sleep? Isn't this bad?
"We'll take turns getting up and flipping it so we can get some decent naps. For now, we can have some leftover rice and gumbo I have in my fridge."
Fridge? Could it be that this world has modern appliances?
"And then to bed?"
It's been An Official Big Day™, and I am tired. I mean, I am still getting skill ups in multi-casting! How many skill ups does casting a few octillion spells at once get a guy?
"Nah, we're playing cards and drinking through the first couple flips." The Culinary Instructor's hellish mask grew only more frightening.
"You got any money?"
How shameless can this guy be!
"Um, I think I have some copper coins I could play around with..."
I lay it on thick with my dubious tone as I pull a coin out; really, what's with trying to fleece a cursed amnesiac! Fie on you!
"Coins? That works, just put them in the middle of the table, and-"
A bright light shines, and the copper rises up into the air, glowing, and then reshapes itself into a little girl, wearing a thick silken dress, folded ornately around her like a doll.
"This is the spirit of this land that I am contracted with. She needs something from a person as an offering for them to see her."
The little girl delicately bows to me, then abruptly turns around and speeds away. "She's getting the gumbo and rice ready."
Blessed Spirit, I apologize for doubting your honored servant's intentions.
"What was with that dress? It doesn't look much like what I would expect someone in a swamp or around a farm to wear."
"She's influenced by the Bamboo Wall, since it's so much of my territory. Tomorrow I might introduce you to it, but today it is too late, the light is bad."
"The Wall is something one can be introduced to?"
"Yeah, the Wall is kind of like a big dog, all curled up and asleep."
For some reason, I just do not trust dogs. I find his assertion unsettling at best, but I think he means it as a positive, so I will go with that mindset instead.
Our conversation settles into discussion of the night's rotation for smoking the meat, as well as eating an amazing gumbo and drinking wine. Finally, Moso throws a particular log on the fire and says when that log has burned away, it is time to wake him and then we can rebuild the fire and turn the meat before I get my nap.
After Moso has gone to bed, I finally have a chance to find a setting menu in my UI, but when I try to open it, an error message pops up, telling me an administrative lock has been placed on the settings menu. But this window looks kind of different from the rest. Are those scroll bars? Hey, I why am I scrolling through what feels an enormous amount of blank space? I imagine resizing the window, and... Oh, wow. That is a truly large window. If I imagine seeing the bottom right corner... Sure enough, there is a couple of buttons, and a prompt asking if I would like to unlock the settings menu. I click 'Yes' immediately, and the gigantic wall of UI shatters in a glowing field of tiny shards. Reality has some pretty good graphics.
Now there is a tiny square, almost impossible to see. I imagine it growing larger, until it is large enough for me to see a reasonable amount of the window at once. What is this? Difficulty? Huh, that one might be interesting if I find myself up against someone I think is especially dangerous. Aha, system notifications! I definitely need to turn that off, and finally I have respite from my skill increasing. I should look at my status now and see what changed over the course of the day. Wait, my status window now has a Skills tab? Well, I am level 0, so I probably shouldn't expect too much.
This... This is too much. I have so many skills. I have skills in things of dubious value. I have a rope-braiding specialization. What? I have a skill in tending a bird's nest? Mastercraft beekeeping? I keep expecting to find underwater basket-weaving among my list, but, alas, I shall not be imprisoning fish on the fly with a bundle of reeds. Did I seriously just see forensic paleontology in that list? There's no way I could do something like that. Toycraftmanship? That's not a real word!
There's a search field at the top of the window. I input 'Cooking'. There it is. I open the cooking menu, and it shows I am currently engaged in smoking sausages. Huh, I can spend mana to speed up the rate? Yes, I would like to do that. It only took one mana? Economical. *DING* Wait, what did that ding mean? Are they done? Yes, the window says they are. Maybe Moso will accept it as a new magic if I wake him up and tell him about it?
After rousing him, I explain the situation, and Moso checks the sausages.
"These are perfectly done! Awesome!"
"So now we can go to sleep?"
The road may have been a long one, but I have finally earned a night of solid rest.
"Yup, right after we let these cool and then wax them. So in maybe an hour or two."
That night, I shed tears under the guidance of Culinary Instructor Moso.