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92 Save the Children

 When the villagers finally peeked out to see what had happened, they found Jom and Terry rummaging through the snow. The once calm snow-covered mountainside was now covered in craters and dents, patches of the ground were now uncovered revealing strange marks and bloodstains. It looked like it had been the site of a huge war.

But the strange thing was, there were no bodies.

Aside from the two young men still alive and well, the scene was completely devoid of a single chocobo or mountain bandit's corpse.

Did not a single enemy die? Then what was all that clashing about, and what happened to the ground?

Was that just a mock battle?

"Don't worry, we just have a special way of handling corpses." Jom could guess the villagers' concerns, standing up and handing the village elder one of the items that popped out of the chocobo. "See? This is the meat left from after we dealt with the chocobos."

The village elder stared blankly at the slab of bird meat in his hands. 'So what exactly did you kids do to have this be the only remains of a large chocobo...'

"No need to thank us, we don't help others for the glory, but if you have some sort of enchanted blade you wanted to give us, well we would be glad to take it off your hands!" Jom could see the many questions churning inside the minds of the villagers, so he decided to lay down his terms and conditions.

Had a question you wanted answers to? No problem, just hand over the good stuff first. If you don't have anything to give, I'd suggest you save your breath.

The village elder let out a long sigh. "Now you've gone and done it." He passed the cold bird meat in his hands to the middle-aged hunter next to him, not waiting for the hunter to say anything before entering 'Cutscene mode' with Jom and Terry, explaining to them what they had done, "Those scavenging mountain bandits aren't too difficult to deal with, we have the best huntsmen in our village, even beasts like the Dragonfang aren't a problem for us let alone a few bandits. No, the problem is that these bandits are part of something bigger..."

"Something bigger? Like the Society of the Secret Eye?"

Hearing what the elder had to say, Jom was instantly excited.

If this went on, maybe he could activate a new quest!

"The Society of the Secret Eye? What's that?" The old man just looked at him in confusion, he let out a dry cough. "No, nothing like that... The story starts two years ago, back then the mountain bandits got lucky and made a deal with a Barren Giant on the brink of death. It was a massive earth-elemental monster, after the Barren Giant had healed, he became the protector of the mountain bandits, traps couldn't bind him, arrows couldn't pierce its skin, even the Holy Corps of the Garden of Grains were no match for it..."

"With you two killing so many mountain bandits, it will surely come to seek its revenge." The elder let out a long sigh before continuing, "We must seek shelter in another village for the time being. How about this, you two can come with us. With us here, the people in the other villagers will accept you as well."

That was what he said, but Jom knew what the village elder was implying-he wanted the two of them to act as their free bodyguards.

"You guys are the victims here, so why is it that when your home is threatened, you choose to run away instead of fighting back?" Terry blurted out before Jom could respond.

Terry looked at the other villagers, but none of them had the bravery to step up and protest, he was more than displeased.

"You don't understand," the elder said sadly, "Our neighboring village had tried to fight back against the mountain bandits, but the bandits just came back with that Barren Giant in tow. Everyone in that village was utterly decimated, the village itself was burned to the ground, the fires raged so brightly that we could see it from here... When we rushed over, the only thing left of the village was a dog hiding in a water tank..."

As the elder told his story, the people of the village silently parted, giving Jom a clear view of the village entrance.

There slept a sickly gray Shar-Pei dog.

He had thought that it was just a stray, who knew that it had such a harrowing backstory.

"Then you guys run, Terry and I will stay here and buy you guys some time." Jom offered.

He wasn't interested in being the bodyguard of these villagers, compared to that, facing off against those mountain bandits was much more suited to his tastes, even dying in the hands of mountain bandits would be better than having to chauffeur these guys.

"You..."

The elder just let out a sigh and shook his head, he figured that the two kids would do what they wanted to regardless of his advice, so he didn't say anything, turning to lead the villagers back into the village so they could pack.

"Jom, I get where they're coming from, but this sucks," Terry said in his frustration, sitting down onto the snowy ground.

"Just kill another bandit later and let it all out," Jom replied.

"Do you think we'll be able to beat that giant?" Terry asked, his mood seemed to brighten up while talking about the giant, "I've never seen a giant in real life before!"

"I haven't either, but we probably can't beat it. After all, we can't even beat the Black-Robed Bishop in the raids, this giant's definitely gonna be stronger than that guy."

Terry scrunched up his face again, letting out a whine, "So I'm gonna have to lose the experience points I've just gained?"

"I think it's a little late to go get reinforcement from town... Oh? Speaking of which, I remember hearing something about a system update..." Jom muttered 'O Master of Games, grant us new life' and opened up the system's menu to check, "Here it is, the new Player Forum!"

"What does it do?"

Terry huddled over, but found that he couldn't see Jom's system's menu.

"I think you can use it to communicate with other players... Hmm? Is this a tutorial from the great deity himself? Let me see, first I need to create a new post... and I have to title it? Terry, what do you think we should name our post looking for help?" Jom asked the opinion of his best friend.

"My Butt's Cold."

"My Butt's... No duh, your hot drink's effect has worn off and you're sitting in a pile of snow, of course it's cold! Give me a serious one!"

"What about 'Bandit Problem'?"

"It sounds too formal... Plus if there isn't any reward, people might not come to help." Jom sat cross-legged in the snow and thought for a moment before a stroke of inspiration hit him. "I've got it, we'll call it 'Save the Children'! You can upload photos here too, you go lie in that ditch and look like you've just been defeated, I'll take some photos of you."

"But it's so cold..."

"After we're done I'll treat you to some fish soup."

"Deal!"