My sleep didn’t last long as Zhou woke me up before the sun had even risen up. The same goes for Aura. As soon as we got ourselves ready for the day, still with tired eyes, Zhou had us do laps around the village. He didn’t let us stop to rest even if we had reached our limit. He pushed us harder, even if our legs were about to give.
After roughly running around the village for about 10 times, we were finally asked to stop and do some short stretching and breathing exercises. Zhou explained that morning runs like these as a routine would help us build stamina, allowing us to efficiently handle up and coming sword-trainings.
It wasn’t long after that we noticed that the sun had risen. It was then Elka called us over to their home for breakfast. Our breakfast that day was scrambled eggs, bacon, potato salad and a cup of warm milk. Needless to say, the dish was delicious.
After we had finished our meal, Elka and Zhou invited Aura and I to properly introduce ourselves to the village. Since it was also a good time to get to know this village a little more, we agreed.
Apparently, this village had a name after all, even though it was technically a nomad’s village, not registered under any map. Zhou had named it ‘Huun-gra’. A mixture between the word ‘Huun’ that means ‘mix’ or ‘blend’ in a language from his homeland and ‘Tengra’ which is the country we were in. He said that he wanted his village to be a place where people from all around the world were able to live in harmony together.
Even so, the village had only a population of less than a hundred. There was no proper education centre or healthcare. Most of the people here were people who chose to escape from reality and decided to have a slow and peaceful life. The guards here were apparently mercenaries hired with a lifelong contract from the ‘Adventurer’s Guild’.
According to Elka, trading mercenaries would occasionally drop by their village to trade materials such as household utensils and clothing, sometimes even food ingredients. Elka said that she would prefer to keep her ears hidden at all times because the trading mercenaries come and go without warning. To keep her from being the centre of attention, she would always keep her ears hidden.
Zhou then brought us to their local farm that was located further north from the village, where most of their food ingredients come from. The farm was huge, almost as big as his village. It was all green as far as the eyes could see. The sky was wide open, away from the thick forest, allowing the crops to absorb proper sunlight. It was a sight to behold.
The farm reared their own animals and planted their own crops such as rice and vegetables. Zhou said that a few years ago he had a friend who worked in sea trading to help him get some rice and vegetable seeds so he could make their own here. Thus, allowing us to have sufficient food for our daily needs.
After the simple tour, it was time for our class with Elka. Since Aura and I were still new, we were taught basic knowledge and common sense of this world. For the first day, we learned about basic measurements for time, distance, volume etc. There will be a lot of headaches and according to Elka, the headaches meant that these are most likely knowledge from our previous life. It was definitely a lot to take in but I guess we had no choice but to move forward, I guess.
We were then thought about how different age was between us and the people of this world. Elka said that because they had no idea how old we were supposed to be when we arrived here hence we were given a different measurement of age. Even though based on looks we look to be around 14-16 years old, there wasn’t any concrete evidence to support the exact measurement of our ages. Thus as a new ‘Traveller’, I was to announce my age as ‘1 Traveller’s Year’ to the public for now.
And then we learnt about the time and date system. The year was C2-036. ‘C2’ stood for ‘Calamity 2’ which signified the second world war. ‘36’ stood for how many years had past since the 2nd World War. According to Elka that during wars, the entire world was in chaos and people described it as ‘the time, time stood still’. Having a new year to start off from that significant event would be to remind ourselves that a new world has arrived and it would be a day to move on from.
There are a total of 4 seasons in a single year. Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter. A tree located in the centre of the world called ‘The Tree of Beginnings’ would be the first tree to signal any chance of seasons. For example, when the first flower to bloom from the tree, that day would be the first day of Spring. The tree always showed its effect consistently and on time. Thus, the people here would use it as a measurement of time in this world.
With that, it was the sixteenth day of Summer in the year C2-036.
After the class, it was lunch.
After lunch, it was time for the main event. Combat training. Zhou brought us out to an open field near the farm where it would be an ideal place for us to swing a sword without interrupting the village. Zhou handed us a brand new sword since my old one broke.
The new sword didn’t have the same design as my old sword. It had a smaller blade and the crossguard was round. According to Zhou, it was an eastern sword known as ‘Ken’ that focused more on slashing rather than stabbing. He said it would fit my style a lot more based on my performance during my battle with the demon wolf.
The training lasted for about 4 hours, right till sunsets. The training was nonetheless tiring and tough. However, Zhou’s training was thorough and very easy to understand. It wasn’t just about the strength we put in our sword but every swing and step we take must have a reason. If we did any extra swings or steps that were useless during a battle, it could be a fatal mistake.
It had only been a day but the training felt very fulfilling and I could feel my strength had improved. Zhou told Aura and I to always check our ‘Status Card’ before we sleep to keep track on our skills. That way, each day we would have a rough idea on how we would like to grow as a ‘Traveller’.
Right after training, we went to the well and had a quick bath. And after that, it was dinner time. Dinner was definitely the time where Elka’s cooking truly shined. I couldn’t forget the taste of the succulent meat cooked with the right amount of heat and the freshness of the vegetables boiled with the right seasonings. It was also the day where Zhou dropped the bomb that cooking was also a skill within the countless number of skills a ‘Traveller’ could receive.
After dinner, our day came to a close and it wasn’t long till we all crashed in our own tents. That was more or less summarizing the schedule of my daily life, living among the people I could consider my new family.
The next day was the same schedule…
And the next day…
And also the next day…
With that, 3 seasons had passed.
And I still didn’t have a name for myself yet.
“Alright! Good work. Time for a short break.”
Zhou said as he watched Aura and I panting and sweating vigorously. The training was as tiring as it always was. It was enough to have the both of us immediately dropping down onto the ground and just laid there even when the sun was shining brightly.
It was 3 in the afternoon, mid-spring season. The weather was surprisingly hot that I was sweating already before I walked out of the tent. That didn’t stop Zhou from going easy on us during our sword training. “The sun only makes things better!” was what he would say whenever he had such weather.
Within the past few seasons, Aura and I had gotten used to the folks around the village. Eventually, we got the opportunity to spend time with them and they slowly accepted us as one of their own. We also had a celebration in the village a few days ago to properly welcome us. I guess it did take a while for the village to warm up to a couple of new mysterious kids. It was a lot of fun nonetheless.
We eventually got to join the other villagers in their hunt and we learnt a lot about the techniques of capturing a live animal and also about familiarizing ourselves in an unknown environment. It was both educational and rewarding as we get to learn more skills.
Once in a while during rainy days, our sword training class was replaced by indoor magic training. As much as it was called that way, it was really just mostly about the knowledge of different forms of magic and mana channelling. During these training sessions, Elka would be around to teach us as she was more knowledgeable and more magically adequate than Zhou.
However, until now, Aura and I didn’t go as far into magic ourselves other than learning how to control and channel mana. Elka and Zhou didn’t want to push us into any form of magic and wanted us to choose for ourselves. And because neither of us were sure about what we would like to master in the future, we both decided not to invest our skill points in any of them yet.
As days passed, Aura and I eventually got ourselves into ‘Level 10’, or first entry into the double digits. Our skills allocation didn’t change very much and wasn’t too different from each other. Both of our ‘Sword Wield’ skills had ranked up from D to C and our ‘One-Handed Sword Mastery’ skills ranked up from E to D. Our ‘Concentration’ skill had ranked up from E to D, along with our ‘Mana Channelling’ skill, we were able to channel mana outside of our body, making it visible for the naked eye.
Our mana was dark blue in colour. We couldn’t feel it physically but visually they are glimpses of light glowing out of our bodies. However, when we channelled it, the colour was rather faint and it looked very fragile as it floated around us. But for Elka, her mana was yellow and it glowed brightly as if she was a being beyond our realm. We weren’t sure why the colour was different or what use it could do but the only information we ever have gotten was when Zhou said it would be useful in the near future when we can use magic skills.
The only main difference between Aura and I were our non-combat skills. I had learned the ‘Cooking’ skill from Elka while Aura learned the ‘Fishing’ skill from Zhou. I decided to learn cooking because I wanted to show appreciation for Elka who had been cooking for us almost every day by being the one to cook sometimes. Also if I decided to join a ‘Traveler’s Guild’, I would be living alone eventually. So I would like to be prepared when that day arrived.
Aura wanted to focus on her mental strength as she was very keen on improving her initial shy nature. She used to be very quiet and would shy away from strangers but eventually grew to be a cool and calm girl. Sometimes she would walk out into the forest on her own and hunt animals on her own. She might not be a gracious lady like Elka but she was nonetheless a very respectful person.
Speaking of Aura…
I looked to my left and faced Aura. She had changed her outlook and looked very different from the first we met. She decided to cut her hair short and kept it slightly above her shoulder-length, making it a bob cut. She also had a fringe that swept towards the left.
Her new look made her much fresher than she used to be and along with her new cool and calm nature, she had the charm of a proud tomboy.
“We sure changed a lot since the first time we met, haven’t we?” I said as I continued to lay on the ground.
“Whoa, where did that come from?” Aura said in disbelief.
“Nothing much. Just talking to myself, I guess.”
“Look at you two,” Zhou said as he sat on the ground with his sword placed beside him. “All chummy and friendly. It was as if it was just yesterday that you two couldn’t even hold a proper conversation.”
Aura and I eventually sat up straight. As we looked into each other’s eyes, we couldn’t help but laugh. It was definitely a huge change since we first met. It was thanks to our new everyday life that we spent together for the past couple of seasons that we could get close.
“I’ll tell you what didn’t change.” Aura said as she looked at me with a smug smile. “His name.”
“Oh yeah! You still haven’t gotten yourself a name, kid? You gotta think about it quickly. I can’t keep calling you ‘kid’, ya know?”
Both of them said as they continued to tease me. They were right, I still haven’t had a name for myself. There wasn’t a name that stuck to me as of then. There was even a day that the three of us just sat together and brainstormed a name for me. Sadly, it proved to be fruitless.
‘Hunter’ wasn’t much of a name but it was a nickname the villagers decided to call me. It all started because I was known as the one who dealt the final blow against the demon wolves’ pack leader. And thus, the title, ‘Hunter’ was given to me. I had no issue being called it but it wasn’t a name I would want to have for the rest of my life.
Sadly, the title wasn’t listed officially on my ‘Status Card’.
“Which reminded me, why did you call yourself ‘Aura’?” I said to Aura, trying to change the topic.
She then looked towards the bright blue sky and said, “The day when we first met, the night sky was filled with bright stars and the colours were beautiful. It was as if the sky had a magical aura around it. The word ‘ Aura’ just stuck to me that day and so I just decided to use it for my name.”
“That’s kinda hasty of you, don’t you think? I can’t understand how you could just think of a name on the very same day you got here.”
“Better than a certain someone who hasn’t thought of one after 3 whole seasons had passed.”
Before we could further pick on each other’s bones, Zhou interrupted our ‘chat’ with a single loud clap.
‘Alright! With that, let’s talk a bit about battle capabilities so far. Both of you had more or less gotten the basics drilled into your head. However, there is one key difference between you two. Aura. You tend to let your instincts do the work during battle. You don’t think but feel the flow of the battle in the heat of the moment. That is indeed a strong skill but you definitely would fall flat if the opponent decided to use an underhand tactic.”
Zhou then looked at me and gave me his assessment.
“While you, kid. You prefer to think before engaging in battle. You choose to analyze your opponent’s strength and weakness and decide on what is your best course of action. You definitely would be a core member in a raid or party but if you were ambushed or alone in the battle, your chance of survivability would be close to zero.”
He then looked at the both of us and came up with an idea. He leaned closer towards us and said with the evilest smile I had ever seen coming out from him.
“So, let me see how you two would fair up in a duel, against each other.”