The next morning, we make our way to the edge of the village. Rowan was so passionate yesterday I couldn’t stop him. Currently, he’s moving quite slowly with short steps, cringing with every step he makes.
“Are you alright, Rowan?” I ask, “I think people will understand if I told them you need some rest.”
“No, I’m fine,” Rowan answers, “don’t you dare tell anyone why I’m like this.”
“Alright, you called it.”
Nobu greets us when we arrive. What is he doing here?! I’m quite sure he’s not part of the hunting group. He sees Rowan walking slowly and smirks at him. I bet he’s the reason for Rowan’s strange behaviour last night!
“How was your first night as a couple?” Nobu asks me as if nothing has happened.
“It was… definitely a new experience,” I answer as ambiguously as possible. Sure, I enjoyed myself, and I’m slightly interested in what exactly he did. But I also don’t like the thought of forcing Rowan against his will!
“Is that so?” he says, “if you need to spice it up again, I’m happy to lend a hand.” He puts a little bag in my hand. It feels as if it’s filled with some powder. Is that the stuff he put in Rowan’s drink? He nods and leaves in the direction of his house.
“What was that about?” I ask.
“He probably did that…” one of the hunters answers and sighs, “so who…” he begins asking and stops when he sees Rowan cringing as he moves, “where are my manners? I’m Bob. I lead the hunting group.”
“As you know, I’m Aster.”
The others from the group introduce themselves to me as well. The youngest in the groups are about our age, no, they are all older than we are.
“I should warn you about that powder Nobu gave you,” Bob says.
“Does it do what I think it does?” I ask.
“What does it do?” Rowan asks.
“You should know, Rowan,” Bob answer, “last night, you experienced its effect first hand. There’s a reason people view it with suspicion.”
“That?!” Rowan says while slightly turning red.
“I don’t have plans to use it on Rowan without his consent,” I answer and hand Rowan the bag.
“That’s good to hear. It’s considered a crime to use it without consent, you know. And even if you use it with consent, use it carefully. It’s quite easy to overdose on that stuff.”
“A crime? Then why…”
“Well, let’s say it’s something like a tradition for newly-betrothed couples here in Dewick.”
“So… wait… so everyone in the village knows… we’ve been doing it last night?!”
“In so many words, yes.”
Rowan turns even redder.
“Rowan, you won’t be any use like this. There’s no shame in going back and resting. Don’t worry about your fiancé.”
“But…” Rowan tries to protest.
“We can also carry you home if you like.”
Rowan looks at me for help, but I avert my gaze. Sorry, but I happen to agree with them.
“Fine, I’ll go back,” he answers and walks towards home.
“So how come Rowan didn’t know about this?” I ask Bob after a brief moment of silence.
“We usually tell people about this when they come back from the pilgrimage. But… since you proposed we had to change our plan. The plan was telling you today. We didn’t think you’d end up in the tavern until today.”
So it’s all just bad timing… But would have been better if we had been warned? So I guess it was good timing after all…
“Enough about our nightlife. I hope you’re not expecting too much from me. That boar from before was a complete fluke. I’m actually no good with the bow. Aevita’s blessing helped a lot, but I can’t control it yet.”
“So that’s how it is. Don’t worry, you’ll eventually get a hang of it, both your archery and your blessing. But even if you can’t hit it, just being able to sense them is already a big help.”
Even though Mittens has given me an explanation, it still baffles me they can’t see those animals that are sticking out like a sore thumb to me.
We move out. The hunting group splits into three smaller groups. I’m in the group with Bob and several others. I can’t remember their names… Not soon after leaving the village I spot another rabbit. I knock an arrow and take aim. I want to hit it between its eyes. The next moment, I shoot. So I actually hit it. This time even without the blessing adjusting my shot.
“Nice hit!” Bob praises me.
“Thanks, but to be honest, they seem to have a different colour to me than the snow.”
“Ah, you have winter vision! As the names says, that trait only helps with hunting in winter.”
“Is it common?”
“No, it’s rare, once every decade one person is born with that gift.”
“But it’s good to know what it’s called.”
“If you don’t mind sharing,” one of the other hunters asks, I think his name was Dohal, “what colour is the rabbit to you?”
“It’s slightly blue.”
“Don’t get your hopes too high,” Bob says, “but we can test it, just tell Aster if you see something. He might be able to confirm or deny it.”
We collect the dead rabbit and continue our hunt. Several minutes later, Dohal tugs at my sleeves and points at something. I look in the direction he’s pointing and spot something pink.
“A boar,” I whisper.
Again, I knock an arrow and take aim. I want to hit it between its eyes. I shoot. This feeling — I can slightly feel my blessing adjusting the shot. But the blessing didn’t accelerate the arrow. The boar is not dying, instead, it charges towards me. The arrow still stuck in its head. The others react and start shooting it. They seem to hit it at its chest a lot. It eventually shrieks and dies.
“For those boars you should aim for the neck”, Bob explains, “the head is rather hard. With enough blessing imbued, you may be able to crack it, but even that doesn’t always work.”
“Thanks for the explanation. It seems like a few days ago, I got quite lucky.”
“You are a lucky one. Another boar! We usually only manage to get one per winter. While having another feast would be fine…”
“… it’s been only 2 days since the last one,” I finish his thought.
“It’s still winter, I believe we can store it in the snow for a bit. If that’s a problem, my flying home has a function for that.”
“Can I ask you to store it then? Leaving the meat in the snow only attracts carnivores.”
“There are carnivores out there?”
“Yes there are, they usually don’t get near settlements. So that’s just a precaution, the bigger issue is: spring is coming.”
“What’s the problem about that?”
“Some birds, lime vultures, are returning just days before spring begins.”
“And they eat meat?”
“Yes, they do. They are smart birds, if you are not careful they steal meat you left outside.”
“There’s no problem with storing the meat in the flying home. But credit should go to Dohal. He was the one who originally spotted it. It seems he has winter vision as well.”
“It’s not as good as yours, I have to admit,” he answers, “I believe from the way you’re acting you can see them much more clearly than I can. Unlike you, I can barely make it out, so it might as well be something I just imagined.”
“Hmm…“, I answer, “I have an idea, but I need to check it first. There might be a way to improve your winter sight.”
“I remember something like this, but don’t get your hopes up too much. It’s just a shot in the dark.”
Bob and Dohal quickly dismantle the boar. We meet up with the others and return to the village. Just as discussed, the boar meat is stored in the shuttle.
“Mittens, where is Rowan?” I ask.
“He is at Ruby’s place,” Mittens answers, “and… you might need this.”
A tube appears in the replicator.
“What is it?” I open it and put a small portion of it onto my finger, “this is lube! What on earth… wait do I even want to know?!”
Mittens doesn’t answer. Instead, he puts a face with a zipper for a mouth on the screen. I sigh.
“Never mind that, I wanted to ask you about Dohal.”
“I can make glasses that might enhance the colours outside the visible spectrum I have inferred from Rowan.”
“Thanks, please make it so.”
I’m spent, so I’m going to the bedroom and lie on the bed to rest for a spell.
CC-BY 4.0 Thai “0xReki” Chung