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Chapter: 56


Like always, excluding being woken up by Kaila, the day started off with claiming new territory.

I made my decision quickly this time. Without any other obviously better choices to rush for, I wanted to expand our capital’s territory. I was only able to claim two new tiles before the increased cost came into play, raising every tile to cost eight influence each, and that left me with just enough influence to claim a third tile. In total, the gains for the day were two Obsidian Barrier tiles and one Lava Lake tile. That was a total of two more food, fourteen more labor, and four more science. Gathering more tiles going down along the coast until we were closer to the Leviathan Hunting Grounds sounded like a good idea to me. I probably wasn’t going to go all the way to the Black Crabs feature since I had no idea what would happen if we weren’t able to take them with our Volcano Hounds, but we could still go down enough to grab more science while also bringing us closer to that food-rich patch of ocean.

As for our situation against the Viking Elves, there were only two days left until that ten day limit I gave them. It wasn’t like the limit had much meaning anymore seeing as how I already attacked and conquered one of their settlements before we even reached it, but I still wanted to get as many Volcanic Predator units as I could before attacking. There was surely going to be a difference between attacking a settlement they only just created and a settlement that had been established and kept on growing with proper units to defend it.

As for our research, we were almost done going through the entire first tree and would be done within a few days. Especially if we claimed even more of those Obsidian Barrier tiles to continue improving our research speed. And as soon as we were done with recruiting all of our Volcanic Predators, we could switch back over to building up a population while building other things that would further boost our settlements.

Hylrmenel, unfortunately, was probably going to be lacking in labor production for a decent time. Even if we tried to specialize it by only building labor-boosting buildings and whatnot, it was never going to catch up to the other settlements in terms of labor. It would need a strict labor focus to even be half as effective as them, and that would be at the sacrifice of its potential to be a massive food production settlement. Hopefully, in the near future, there would be a way to transfer work in one way or another between settlements. Or transfer resources. Either let a settlement with high labor help out a nearby settlement with its production, or send the food from one settlement to another. Of course, either of those would only really be needed in the event of not being able to merge all of the settlements together.

It always bothered me in 4X games how there was typically a technology and associated building that could be constructed that would set up roads between settlements for them to travel between one another. They only ever produced gold, typically. But what happened to the goods they sold? What about all the food? Did the items they traded just vanish into thin air or get converted directly into gold? Obviously, none of those were true. The simple answer was that they never existed in the first place and any mention of items being traded was just flavor text.

But considering just how realistic and in-depth our current "game" was, I was hoping that there would be a bit more possibilities in that regard. For example, having workers lend their aid to other settlements, trading food between them, and… that was about it, really. All that I cared about and that would help us, anyways.

And while I was thinking of all of that, I got curious about how the economy would work. I heard some simple explanations about it before, but I wanted a more in-depth answer, so I left the tent and went to see Enna so that I could poke her mind about it.

Also because I wanted to flirt with her. Kaila’s words—I needed to hear them. Most of what she said, except what I had stated my issues with previously, was more or less what I already believed in and what fueled the American spirit.

A true American was one who, no matter their adversary and no matter how much life was throwing at them, would always follow their heart and do what they wanted to do. That was what it meant to truly be free. Yes, there were "important" and "serious" matters that needed to be responsibly dealt with in life. It was impossible to avoid those… legally, for the most part. But just because there were important responsibilities to deal with didn’t mean that one should sacrifice their other feelings and desires for them.

It was like somebody who wasted their entire life working and never doing anything for themselves. What was the point of that? What was the point of working oneself to the point where they never had any free time to pursue their other interests and desires? One might answer that such a thing is done out of necessity, such as to provide for themselves or a family, but—well, admittedly, it was a nuanced situation that I didn’t feel like spending too much time reflecting on.

All I knew was that most people who claimed to never have the time to pursue their passions had more than enough time to do so, they just didn’t. Sometimes it was because they just wanted to relax and be lazy after work, but could it truly be said to be a passion of theirs if the idea of lazing on a couch watching television and scrolling their phone was more enticing than their supposed passion?

Also, I missed seeing ducks.

The brain was always a strange thing. In just the few minutes that I spent walking around looking for Enna, I thought of how people should pursue their desires no matter what responsibilities they had to work with, to thinking about whether people were truly passionate or just lazy, to thinking about ducks.

There was a large pond near where I lived in the city. Had a fountain in the middle and everything, and ducks often floated across the water of the pond. I always liked to admire them from a respectful distance, and it annoyed me whenever I saw kids screaming and pointing at the ducks to disturb the peace.

But as Americans, it was their right to scream and point. It was also my right to want to punch them in their tiny faces for it. I never did, but I wanted to.

As much as it pained me to think of never getting to see those ducks again, they really should have just taken off and flown to somewhere more peaceful and quiet. A nice lake somewhere with more opportunities, more fish, more quiet…

But they suffered from the same thing that so many people did, didn’t they?

They were city ducks that never lived out in the countryside before. The city was all they knew. And that’s without mentioning that there were far more opportunities for them in the city to get easy food from all of the passersby rather than having to hunt for their own food out in country.

Did ducks hunt or fish?

It probably counted as hunting. Anyways, I needed to remind myself of that sometimes. Even though I was reminded by thinking about ducks, it was still a good reminder that people weren’t just lazy or stupid for not always making what might sound like the best choice for themselves. It was easy to tell people to just get up, move somewhere cheaper where they wouldn’t have to devote all their time to work, and to live a more natural, relaxed life free of all the day-to-day stress that accompanied living in a city or any major population center.

Not everybody wanted to live out in the country. Plenty of people loved living in the city despite how much more expensive it was due to all of the opportunities and conveniences it afforded them. Not to mention that not everybody was willing to abandon the place they were born and raised. It was their home.

I was the kind of man who could easily pack up and leave to go live anywhere else in the country, but not everybody was, and that was fair. It was their right to live wherever they wanted.

Sometimes, it was hard to emphasize with them because I could always see so many obvious ways that they could fix their problems, but those answers required solutions that would uproot their lives and force them into situations they didn’t want to be in.

What was better? To live a life with what one knows and prefers even if it means rarely ever having time to do anything else they are interested in, or to abandon everything one knows in hopes of a better-but-not-guaranteed future elsewhere?

Even though I did try to relate to those who chose the former option… I thought of the immigrants who originally came to America having chosen the latter option. While people had the freedom to choose the other choice if they wanted to, I doubted I would ever believe it to be a superior choice over uprooting oneself in search of a greater future.

It reminded me of an old comedy skit I watched about a woman with a nail in her head. Rather than solve all the problems it caused by removing said nail, she just wanted her boyfriend to listen to her about removing how the nail made her life better. It was her choice to leave the nail in her head if she really wanted to, but it wasn’t the American choice.

Everybody was free to deal with problems however they wanted to, but I would always admire more those who actually put in the effort to fix their problems instead of maintaining the status quo despite being unhappy with it.

"Clay!" Enna called out, her voice raised as she stood in front of me.

"Oh, there you are," I replied. "I was looking for you."

"I—I’ve been standing in front of you for a couple of minutes now saying your name…"

"Oh."

"What were you thinking? You had an… intense look on your face, and you kept on tilting your and looking in different directions."

"I was thinking that I favor those who help themselves over those who don’t, even if the act of helping themselves might make them uncomfortable in the short term. It’s hard for me to emphasize with people who don’t put the effort into helping themselves even if I can understand why they make the choices that they do. Even if they’re ducks, ducks choose to live the easy city life where there are always scraps to eat and people willing to share their food with them rather than live freely out in the country where they don’t have to deal with everything that the city comes with."

"Du… ducks?"

"Cute, feathery little creatures with delicious, juicy meat. They’re cute to look at and even better to eat. Anyways, I have no doubt that the ducks which leave the city in search of better, and real, lakes elsewhere where they can hunt for fish all day are far happier than those who stick around in the city, even if the idea of leaving might be scary and intimidating at first."

"Ducks sound cute…"

"Maybe we’ll find some and raise them."

"For—for pets, right?"

"For livestock. But you can play with them and pet them and all that until it’s time to butcher them."

"But that would make it even worse! I don’t want to get attached if they’re just going to die and end up on my plate!"

"Trust me, once you taste them, you won’t feel bad. And just like my old man used to say, ‘The deeper your bond with the animal, the greater it tastes to eat. Because if you have a bond with it, that means you’ll raise it up right proper. You’ll take care of it, give it a good life, make sure it eats health—do all of that, and you’re going to have some of the finest tasting meat you’ll have in your entire life."

"That… that sounds so wrong…"

"But it’s true. Raising animals in poor conditions stresses them out and, that combined with a poor diet, will significantly worsen the taste of meat. If you’re ever going to raise livestock for the slaughter, you should give them the best possible life you can so that they: one, enjoy it while it lasts; and two, so that they taste even better once they’re on your plate."

"I really don’t know how to feel about any of this… I mean, I… guess that it’s true enough, but… at the same time… it just doesn’t feel right to give something that much love and care if your only intent is to kill and eat it in the end."

"What do you think I’m doing with you?"

Enna tilted her head and looked confused for a few moments before the panic overtook her face. "You—are you planning on eating me?! I—I’m not livestock! And that—that would be cannibalism! Well… maybe not… but it would be close to cannibalism! Are—are you humans secretly cannibals?! Did I miss that fact about humans?!"

I poked my finger against her forehead and kept it there. "I’m just teasing you. As delicious as you look, I have no intent on ever killing and eating you. Well, maybe eating you, but not in the way we’re talking about."

She let out a sigh of relief as if she was actually worried about it at first. That made her even more adorable… if not surprisingly gullible. "What… what other type of eating are you talking about?"

"Come on. You don’t know what I mean?"

Enna shook her head. "N-no?"

"Have you even had a boyfriend before?"

"I—I had one… during school… as a child… but he broke up with me when another girl in our class offered him her snacks…"

"I guess even demons have it rough with childhood romances, huh?"

Another sigh left her lips as she sadly nodded.

"Then, should I be subtle with what I’m talking about, or should I be blunt?"

"Bl-blunt, please, so that I can understand you better."

"Alright. What I’m talking about is eating you out, as in going down on your pussy with my mouth for the sake of making you cum by using my tongue."

She had to think about it for a few moments again before her face slowly, and then rapidly, turned bright red as her mouth hung open, only stuttering noises escaping her lips.

The blunt answer might have broken her, but she did ask for it.

She did ask me to be blunt.

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