The next day, I maintain my sidearm and other weapons in nearby small mound hidden from the sight of everyone. Beside Mary, no one knows what I am doing. Harold was interested and tried to peek in once but Mary’s barrier stopped him. He rolled on the floor with a bump on his head after running into it.
The sidearm need a considerable maintenance because of the dirt and dust. Some got stuck in the barrel. All other weapons beside my rifle are fine inside the storage. However, since I want to maintain some, it’s much better to just maintain them all.
I disassemble the sidearm and replace several parts with spare part. I also reload more bullets into the empty magazines. After its maintenance finished, I start with rifle.
Because the rifle is on my back the whole time, its barrel and stock are bent with many collisions. I put them back into the storage. It’s a waste of time to replace the parts. I might as well just assemble a new rifle with the spare parts.
......I should have used the rifle to fight that big guy. That way I don’t need to be injured. Ugh... Forget it! Moment of foolishness!
After an hour, I finish the maintenance of various weapons. I have also reload fresh bullets into empty magazines. That includes the sniper rifle’s and machine gun’s magazines. I feel like I need to use them again as my swordsmanship won’t help against the army.
I am going to have a shooting practice again after a long time. I inform Mary about it through the bracelet. The barrier has subtle changes. I am sure that is for sound proofing.
I choose a mound in the distance as the target. After scanning the surrounding of the mound and confirm that there isn’t anyone there, I release the safety and shoot in semi automatic mode. After 15 shots, I change to full auto mode and barrage the mound.
Replacing a new mag, the practice continues for some time. The mound are slowly filled with holes. After three mags, I stop.
“Good. Let’s try other weapons as well. I need to test shooting so I can use it when I need it.”
I replace the mag with a fresh mag and put the safety back on. Putting aside the rifle, I then take out the sniper rifle DSR87A1. It’s a semi auto rifle and effective for use in mid-long range. With an anti material bullet, I should be able to shot through anything in this world. I load one bullet to the chamber and lock it. I aim at the same mound and shoot it.
It’s loud! My ears is ringing... I faintly hear footsteps behind me approaching. I hide the sniper and the ammo box in the storage. Only the rifle is still in plain sight. Mary comes out with anxious face.
“What happened!? Are you hurt!? That’s a loud noise you make there!” (Mary)
“Err... I tried to shoot with the sniper but I never expected it to be so loud. If I know, I won’t try to shoot using it here. So, where are the others? I thought they will come.” (Erwin)
“Good thing that the barrier held up just fine... How are you going to explain it to them if they hear it?” (Mary)
I almost let out a relief sigh but I flinch back when I look at the glaring Mary.
“So-Sorry! I will be careful next time.” (Erwin)
“Go try the other weapon. I will strengthen the barrier.” (Mary)
I take out the sniper again and replenish the mag. After I store the sniper, I take out the squad automatic weapon MG3. It’s a suppression weapon which is capable of unloading bullets quickly.
I try to shoot with a single bullet first to check the sound. The firing sound is a bit loud but it isn’t as much as the sniper. After several shots in full auto, I finish the practices.
The last weapon isn’t something that I want to use so I will store it away. It won’t be nice to see someone’s body get scatter from a single shot of it. While the sniper can also do the same, the designation is a bit different because of different target.
After that, I collected the cartridge. Although it’s bio-degradable, But since I might be able reuse it later, I keep it. The lead would already be deformed so I won’t collect them. Then I replenish the mags with new bullets.
“Let’s go back. The dinner will be ready anytime now.” (Mary)
“Yeah. Let’s go back.” (Erwin)
I go back to the camp with Mary beside me with the rifle locked on my back. The dinner is really nice and I can see more of Mary’s cooking. I can feel it is improving quickly. Let’s eat!
“We have arrived at last.” (Harold)
We squint our eyes at the sight of a wooden watch tower. We can see three people there. One on top while the rest at the bottom. They are watching our wagon carefully.
A girl can be seen on top. Her glossy black hair is a bit unusual around here. I can see she is surprised by something. She keeps staring at us all the way until we reach the tower.
“Halt! Who are you?”
One of the male guards below asks. A bow and quiver can be seen on his back. The other guard has a sword on his waist. I can feel a stare from above at me.
I look up and see the girl. We lock gazes for a moment before she shifts her stare to my rifle. She suddenly nods with a shady grin on her face.
“Erwin, what are you looking at?” (Mary)
Mary calls out from inside the wagon. When she comes out, the two guards who are talking with Harold stiffen up. I shift my sight to Mary then back to the girl.
Mary is looking up at the tower. The girl up there is also staring at Mary. Both of them are squinting their eyes. I heave a sigh and look at the guards.
“Heeeeyyy. Wake up already. That girl isn’t yours. Give it up.” (Harold)
The guards are still in a daze. Harold is smiling wryly at that stupid sight.
“Wait. What are you doing?” (Mary)
“We can’t move if you’re outside. Look! The guards are in a daze.” (Erwin)
I push Mary inside the wagon to hide her from the guards. Mary pouts but she still goes inside. Pulling down the cloth cover, I glare at the guards.
“Anyway. I have told you my business and identity. Let us pass.” (Harold)
“We will check the inside just in case.”
The guards are still adamant at blocking. Harold smiles wryly. He likely knows their purpose. However the ones inside the wagon are all girls. I point up at the girl who is still watching.
“Then, she will do the checking. I refuse to let you check.” (Erwin)
The girl quickly comes down from the tower. With a calm face, she runs up to the wagon. I pull up the cover slightly and she peeks in. The guards are wearing disappointed faces.
“Wow. Hello! Welcome to Arn Village.”
The girl cheerfully greets the people inside. The little girls cheerfully greet her back. The girl turns back to the guards.
“It’s fine. The wagon is safe.” (Girl)
“Well. You can pass.” (Guard)
“Oh right.” (Girl)
The girl suddenly turns to me. She flashes a smile.
“What’s your name?” (Girl)
“Hmm? Erwin. Why?” (Erwin)
“Alright, Erwin. Come find Yuni after this. That’s my name. I want to talk.” (Yuni)
Without answering, Yuni quickly climbs up the tower again. She hums her way up. Harold gives a meaningful smile. The guards have sour faces.
“I haven’t done anything. Ouch!” (Erwin)
A jab suddenly comes from behind the cover. It hit my spine, causing pain all over my body. I look back, only to see Mary’s staff going back inside. I can only smile wryly while holding back my tear.
“Come. Come. Let’s not waste more time here.” (Erwin)
“Alright. Alright. Calm down.” (Harold)
Harold laughs quite a bit. The wagon starts moving again. A sturdy wooden wall and gate spreads out in front of us. It is just fifty meters from the tower. The tower is likely for an early warning.
“Isn’t it unusual to have a wall for a village?” (Mary)
Mary has once again pulls up the cover. The little girls are watching curiously at the wall. Harold replies to Mary’s question.
“It’s because in this region there are a lot of bandits. For a big village like this, it is necessary to build a wall to guard the villagers. Villages this big aren’t many.” (Harold)
“What about small villages?” (Mary)
“They don’t have walls. At best they have fences to fend off wild beasts. They are much easier to raid but there aren’t many things in those villages so they aren’t targeted that much.” (Harold)
“There aren’t many small villages around in this region as well. It’s because it is near the border. Villagers will usually group up and form a large village such as this. It’s much safer with numbers.” (Nina)
Nina chips in from the side. She is holding on to Jenny so she doesn’t fall down. Mary is holding Alishia as well.
I look up at the wall. It is eight meters tall and two meters wide. The sturdy wooden gate is four meters square. On top of the gate there is a word “Arn”.
The guards on top of the wall are talking with each others. Occasionally there are guards who glance at our wagon. Well, no need to explain that they are all staring in a daze.
I have underestimated Mary’s beauty. Coupled with Alishia, it is hard to not be astonished. Especially when they line up with each other.
There is no way I can push Mary back inside the cover again. Alishia and Jenny will be dissatisfied. Harold urges the horse to bring us into the village.
The village is more lively than Ashator. Shouts of merchants, bantering of villagers, children running around. With just a look, this village is a much better place to live in for children.
Our wagon passes through the only wide road in the village. In front of us is a large building. A bell is attached on top of it with a clock right underneath it. The building looks different among the simple houses in the village.
“That’s the village hall. It is the main building in this village. All parties, celebrations, and greetings are conducted there.” (Harold)
Harold answers my inner thought as he sees my interest on it. I look at the plaza in front of the hall. There are a lot of stalls. Every now and then children can be seen running around between them.
Some of them are peeking curiously at us. Alishia and Jenny wave their hands at them. They answer back with another waves.
“My father’s house is on top of that small hill behind the village. We are staying there.” (Harold)
I look up to the hill diagonally behind the hall. An impressive mansion stands there. A large front yard is filled with a flower garden and a vegetables field. An old man can be seen watching us from there.
“That’s my father. He is already too old to work so we are going to take care of him.” (Harold)
“Your mother?” (Erwin)
“She has already passed away. Her tomb is over there in the cemetery.” (Harold)
I look over and see a small church. Beside it is a cemetery ground. Even though it is often a scary place, it is a peaceful looking place here. There are a lot of flowers planted there.
“Those flowers represent our impression of them. It means they have left beautiful memories just like the flowers. They can rest peacefully. It is a custom around here.” (Harold)
“I see...” (Erwin)
I look over to Harold. His eyes gaze far away. He is staring at the cemetery yet not at the same time. I look around for a change of topic.
I spot a white building and a blue building near the gate. There aren’t a lot of people there. Beside the blue building is a large field. Young men can be seen there training their swordsmanship.
“What are they?” (Erwin)
I tap Harold’s shoulder while pointing there. Harold quickly recovers and looks over.
“The white one is a clinic. There is a doctor in this village and he works there. The blue one is the guard house. It is also the place for youths to train themselves.” (Harold)
“So those young men are going out of village?” (Erwin)
“No. They are training to protect the village. Sometimes a draft from the country will come and some of them will answer the draft. A few girls also train there too.” (Harold)
“I see. What is that place?” (Erwin)
I point at the slightly larger building than the surrounding. A lot of girls are coming and going.
“It is a place where girls learn. Though it can’t be said that all of them are girls but most of them are. Sewing, cooking, massage and a lot of other things.” (Harold)
“That place?” (Erwin)
There is a large field at the bottom of the hill near Harold’s house. A short wall blocks our view inside. The gate to the side is open but we can’t see the inside from here.
“Archery range. Hunters and archers will train there. They also teach how to use traps.” (Harold)
While we talk, we have arrived at the bottom of the hill. Harold urges the horse to go quicker. A while later we reach the mansion.
The old man is still standing at the gate with a walking stick in his hand. His back straight though he is a bit skinny. Wrinkles on his face increase as he smiles at Harold.
“Welcome home son.”
“I am home, dad.” (Harold)
Harold smiles back.