Chapter 1: Growing Up
This was a joyous season, one that begun after the passing of winter. People could finally start the new year, no longer needing to endure the icy chill. Food became abundant with many types to choose from. And so, as winter departed and spring arrived, the most important holiday took place. Not only humans, other races such as dwarves, beasts, fairies and ogres also placed their celebrations during spring. Naturally, this world was incomparably complex with exceptions to everything. For example, to those in the underground, spring had no meaning to them. For some, this exception manifests into extremes. Such as the snow demons, who hated Spring more than anything. Yet no matter what, a majority of the races viewed spring as a joyous affair.
When the warm and humid crossed over the Coast Mountains, and reached Rusland Village, the villagers knew that spring had come.
Rusland was situated at the base of the Coast Mountains. It was merely a small unnoticeable dot on this giant mountain range which extended for miles and miles. It was also home to tens of thousands of people. This place was the fiefdom of Baron Tucker. It was also part of the territory ruled by the Holy Alliance Empire. Yet even if one drew a straight line across, the distance between Rusland and Tucker’s castle was more than 300 kilometers away. Only every year during the autumn harvest period would the villagers be able to meet the baron’s tax officers. The taxes imposed by the baron were extremely low, only requesting a few local specialties found in the mountains. To the villagers, this tax had almost no effect on their daily life. However, these products were limited, and if taxes were to increase, they would soon prove to be a problem for their survival.
Life in the mountains wasn’t that difficult. By working hard all year round, things would be alright.
When Spring arrived, the land outside of the village had to be tilled, and the crops sown so they could be harvested next summer. Hunters started entering the forest as during this time, demonic beasts gradually started to wake from hibernation in search of food. These beasts became extremely dangerous, attacking at the slightest provocation. However, many of these beasts harbored certain special materials, such as precious medicinal drugs or perfumes created from their glands. So although hunters would suffer numerous casualties every year, they weren’t deterred from entering. With that being said, in the village of Rusland, the belief in the Goddess of the Hunt was the greatest. One must know that apart from the Eternal Dragon, Noland Continent’s deities and religions were as numerous as the stars in the sky.
The Noland Continent, was a land that was rich in resources, advocated the rule of the biggest fist, and split it’s people into several social classes..
Even though Rusland was situated in a remote and tranquil location, it still boasted of a profound history. It’s villagers were simple and honest, but they still respected the strong and despised the weak. Although there were only a few villages around, they still had a hierarchy based around strength.
At this moment, there was a figure standing outside the village. It was a boy carrying a wicker basket as big as him, that was filled with breadfruit. When spring came along, the village would have expended all of their winter stores, and they the crops wouldn’t be ready for harvest. So, this type of not-very-tasty fruit was an important source of nutrition. It was extremely easy to gather, only requiring one to go into the forest ad pick off the ground.
Behind this boy appeared three other kids, each taller than him by a head. In their hands were bows, with short knives bound by their waist. On their backs, they carried deer and rabbit carcasses. Although their ages didn’t pass 10, they were still able to enter the forest and hunt. Naturally their targets weren’t magical beasts, but rather docile animals. Even though their main method of hunting was with traps, even this wasn’t easy. In cities and towns, most kids their age were either learning or training under their parents.
The head of them suddenly shouted,, “Hey Richard, where’s your father? Did he not teach you how to hunt? When I was your age, I could already venture into the forest setting up traps!”
To his side, another kid went along, saying, “Children without fathers can only gather fruit!”
The three older kids were laughing as they passed the boy, hurriedly going towards the village. Their steps were light and relaxed, as if they weren’t carrying tens of kilograms of meat each. The boy ignored their ridicule and simply continued carrying his wicker basket towards the village. Sitting outside of the village was a middle aged man who had seen what had transpired earlier. He waved towards the boy, and called him over, then stuffed a chunk of dried jerky from a magical beast into the boy’s hand, whilst tenderly rubbing his head. He asked, “Little Richard, Peele is always bullying you, do you not feel angry? Later on, uncle will go lecture them. Even if they’re kids, they shouldn’t be too excessive.”
Contrary to his expectations, the boy shook his head and said, “No need, I’m not angry.”
“But…..” The man used his coarse, suntanned hand to scratch his hair, confused. For a second, he suspected that the little boy was scared of the other children, and almost blurted out, “Children living in mountains, can lack many things, but they cannot lack courage.”
But before he could say it, the little boy unexpectedly laughed, “Although i do not have a father, I have the best mother!”
Hearing this, the man could only continue scratching his head, foolishly laughing, “That’s true, that’s true.”
The little boy hummed a tune, and continued carrying the large basket, skipping towards the village. During this time, Richard heart felt a bit depressed, but he quickly swept it away, and turned cheerful once more. Because his mother told him, “No matter what, one must be happy.”
This year, Richard was 6 years old. It was this year, that he learned how to be happy.
The middle aged man was called Bobby. He was the village’s blacksmith. As for the boy’s mother, she was rumored to be a magic apprentice. When she had arrived at Rusland, she was alone save for a tiny little Richard in her arms, still in his infancy. Although her appearance wasn’t extremely beautiful, she was as gentle as water. Upon her arrival, Rusland underwent a drastic change. It was the first time the village had a doctor. The villagers didn’t have to travel tens of kilometers for a minor injury or ache, or endure the pain and naturally heal over time. Her name was Elaine, and she owned a small medicine shop. Although only able to provide basic medicine, within the first year, she had saved the lives of several villagers. Following that, the village chief and elders decided to grant Elaine a plot of land, formally admitting her as an inhabitant of Rusland. In the tiny village of Rusland, most people were hunters. Apart from that, there were only three other occupations. The blacksmith, Elaine who worked as a part-time doctor, and the village chief, who was a retired sergeant.
Life inside Rusland village was both tranquil and slow. Time flowed past unknowingly, and in the blink of an eye, a new spring had arrived.
Little Richard had grown 10 cm and he now looked 8-9 years old. Following Rusland’s traditions, he should have started learning how to create traps to hunt for rabbits and tiny herbivorous magical beasts. In the forest not far from Rusland, these tiny magical beasts were abundant and the larger beasts were rarely see. This was the area that the villagers used to train the children. The hunters would never catch those small beasts, those were reserved for the kids. Instead, they’d patrol around every so often to eliminate the rarely seen more dangerous beasts. But for Richard, every few days, he would carry his large wicker basket up the mountain. This was proof that he was still gathering breadfruits. These fruits weren’t tasty, and extremely abundant in the mountains. So, the villagers preferred the more delicious demonic beast meat. Even if taste wasn’t taken into consideration, this meat was able to make one stronger.
However, even though Richard reached the age to hunt, due to his mother’s request, he still gathered fruit. In addition to fruit, he was also tasked with collecting medicinal herbs. Every season had a different species and after collecting, he had to follow a complex process to handle them. Half of the process was done as he collected the herbs, the other half was done back at home. What Richard didn’t understand was that he had to do a similar process when handling breadfruits, which took a lot of time and effort. The village had never had someone who would act like this. These fruits were incredibly simple to acquire, after they became ripe, they would fall down from the trees within a single day. After that, they could be directly ingested. Yet, his mother said that he couldn’t pick them off the ground, had to pluck them from the tree, with requirements for size and color, and collected with specific techniques. Richard simply didn’t understand the reasoning, and upon bringing the specially handled fruits home, he didn’t find any difference in taste. However, if he didn’t do so, his mother notice, then proceed to scold him. After being reprimanded a few times, he no longer dared to fool around. Instead, he earnestly did as told, carefully following every detailed step. Only when winter arrived and the trees stopped bearing breadfruits, did his mother tell him that this was all meant for him to learn perseverance.
During this year, Richard turned 7. It was also during this year that he learned that when doing anything, perseverance was a necessity. When it comes to a bad memory during his 7th year, it would be the breadfruits he ate every evening. This minor thing became a deep psychological scar, the one childhood nightmare that he could never forget.
Another spring arrived and Rusland was the same as ever. Bobby the blacksmith was still single, and Elaine’s medicine store was still operating as usual. The village chief was still healthy, and would be the first one to rush out and face hard to handle magical beasts.
Richard could finally learn how to set traps. And it was during this time, that Peele and his gang had started to wield bows and follow the hunters into the mountains. After turning 10, one would no longer be considered a child, and in the cities, they would be mistaken as 15-16 year old.
The act of laying down traps was an art. One that needed loads of experience, a pair of observant eyes, a pair of nimble hands, and a decent amount of luck. With only crude tools available, apart from experienced hunters, the rest would often suffer injuries through the process. However, Richard was naturally gifted. The first time, he displayed overwhelming superiority over his peers as he succeeded his first attempt, receiving praise from the adults of the village. The blacksmith Bobby was one of them. After all, he loved Richard like a son. Everyone in the village knew that if Richard were to call him father, he would even be willing to close his smithy.
A few days passed, Richard had grown more proficient towards a few different traps. He started venturing towards the depths of the forests, setting down a few large auxiliary traps along the way. He wanted to test his luck as in this area, where one could sometimes meet larger magical beasts. As expected, Richard’s luck wasn’t bad as a wild boar appeared in front of him and ran straight at the trap. The boar ran through thorns, got caught up in rattan vines, and had iron nails stabbed into its forelegs. Although it was incredibly strong, Richard’s trap was meticulously made and could handle the load. In a burst of rage, the boar tried breaking out, only to find that it was still stuck inside. Off in a corner, secretly observing, Richard’s palms turned ice cold as he found the knife held in his hand to have become unreliable. Upon receiving injuries, beasts became exponentially more dangerous. Facing the boar much bigger than him, Richard felt afraid. After all, he was still a little kid.
Just as Richard confirmed his prey couldn’t escape the trap and was about to charge out, something behind him ruthlessly pushed him away. Falling to the ground, he felt the sky spinning, his nose filling up with the smell of blood. He heard the wails of the boar following the sound of a bow. Afterwards, a few cheers could be heard. Their voices were incredibly familiar.
Richard slowly crawled back up, not knowing when Peele and his gang arrived. Just now, one of the children pushed him down and in one Peele’s hand, a bow could be seen. At the moment, he was feeling extremely satisfied as he looked at the pitiful boar. A single arrow pierced the beast’s neck. To have enough force to piece that boar’s vital point wasn’t easy, and even if traps were surrounding the beast, the boar was still wildly thrashing around.
“You stole my prey!” Richard angrily shouted as he finally realized what had happened.
“Everyone here can testify. This boar was shot dead by me. How could this be called stealing? Even if you set a trap, experienced hunters know that this type can only be used to catch rabbits” Peele slowly said, looking at Richard with disdain.
He was taller than Richard by a whole head and his body looked a lot stronger. Moreover, compared to his peers, Peele’s strength was excellent, almost matching the level of adults. This was due to that fact that Peele was the village chief’s son. As a retired sergeant from the military, he was able to enter the mountain and hunt down large beasts. These beasts’ meat was extremely useful in improving one’s strength.
“Then why would you come here to hunt beasts?” Richard retorted, leaving them lost for words. Although they looked down upon Richard’s strength, they had to admit that he was extremely intelligent. It was rumored that he was even able to write many words. However, Peele and his gang didn’t respect Richard regardless. After all writing wouldn’t hunt beasts, so what was the point in learning it?
That said, Richard’s question did make enrage Peele. He signalled with his hand, and a lackey went behind Richard then ruthlessly pushed him down again.
Richard once again got up, his face turning red as he firmly gripped the hunting knife. At that moment, the aura that he had given out made the teens feel an indescribable chill. But in the end, the knife wasn’t used. When he was hesitating, Peele had rushed forward and disarmed Richard.Then, the crowd surrounded Richard and started beating him up. Peele continuously stomped on his head, pushing his face deeper and deeper into the soil!
The bones of the children contained immense power, and this beating was indeed not light. Richard did not resist,. Instead, he endured, without letting out a single sound. The more Peele hit, the angrier he became. The angrier he became, the heavier his hits became. From Richard’ silence, Peele felt that he was being looked down upon.
“Still not giving up? Want to continue?” the teens continuously raised their strength and Richard felt himself losing control of his body, allowing them to do whatever they wished. Soon after, Peele became afraid that he had seriously injured Richard. Returning home, he was sure to suffer a good beating. The village chief’s temper was just like his strength and Elaine’s reputation within the village had always been good.
The teens gradually stopped, and only after a good while did Richard slowly get up. Peele threw down a few harsh words, then carried the boar and swaggered off. Only after they left, did Richard drop down and rest by a tree. After what seemed to be ages, he struggled to stand back up. Then, he walked back home.
At night, Elaine saw the countless scars on Richard’s body, and her eyes flooded with tears. On the contrary, the boy started comforting her, saying that it only hurt a bit. After applying some medicine, the boy asked his mother, “Must I still not fight back?”
“Yes!” Elaine gritted her teeth and nodded.
“Alright, i won’t retaliate then. However, i won’t surrender either.”
The following days, Peele kept picking on Richard. Each time, was nothing less than being furiously beaten. The worst one, was when everyone used up all their strength beating Richard to the point where he couldn’t get up. Peele didn’t even wait for him to surrender, or even say a word. Yet every time they became tired, and ready to leave, Richard would slowly crawl back up, calmly looking at Peele. Every single time, that peaceful gaze made Peele’s heart feel endless chills. That gaze was like looking at a dead person.
From the start of this year, Peele started having nightmares. Whenever they attacked Richard, the nightmares would come and stick around for a days on end. Richard had never resisted or struggled. Even though the gap in their bodies and strengths grew wider and wider, whenever Peele saw his gaze which was as calm as water, nightmares would plague him for a few days. There was also something Peele didn’t understand. That was why didn’t Richard report this to an adult. If the boy did so, no matter what Peele said, he would’ve gotten a beating too. Yet, from the start to finish, Richard had never raised this issue to any member of the village.
And as time passed, the number of times the teens looked for Richard gradually decreased. One time, when the corner of Richard’s mouth started bleeding, the smile on his face managed to frighten away all of the teenagers present. That was the last time they picked on him.
When he turned 8, Richard learned how to be tenacious.
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