There is some rustling caused by small movements here and there.
Current body position?
Lying down on my back.
Soft but I wouldn’t say comfy.
No pain though.
Safe for further observation.
Gradually, I opened my eyes. Instead of seeing the ceiling, what appeared before my eyes was instead another mattress resting on another wooden frame on top of me.
Ah, right. We are still in the Matha Biquadrant.
I got out of the bunk bed that I was just lying on and scanned the general vicinity.
The “sun” was already out and with it came natural lighting that finally illuminated the entire world from the clutches of darkness that was last night.
The other seven guys were already up too and were busy getting ready for something.
If I were to describe the scenario, it would be similar to when you just realised that tomorrow is the start of the new school semester and only began to pack your back-to-school items the very night before.
For those who slept on the lower bed of the bunk bed like I did, they could be seen placing an assortment of items on their bed from their wardrobe as if they were preparing for a yard sale. Once they seemed to have finished accounting for everything that they needed (which was quite a lot), they would shove all the items into their respective large haversacks as if they were about to go on a camping trip.
Those from the top bed like Patches were not any less idle either. Since they could not easily lay everything out nicely onto their beds like those from the lower bunk, they had to empty the majority of their wardrobe items onto the narrow spaces between bunk beds, thereby cluttering the entire room.
...which reminds me, the promise I had made to myself just last night.
No longer a burden shall this Yang be.
Overcome the language barrier.
Monkey see, monkey do.
I should not be standing idly here.
There is stuff to be done!
Without further ado, I began to dig through my wardrobe for the items that the others were packing. There were quite a bit of items to prepare so I decided to make a list of items down first, taking reference from the items that Mono, who slept at the lower bunk bed adjacent to mine, laid out on his bed. We were looking at:A personal oil lantern that everyone else was carrying last night,A leather water pouch that I remember seeing once or twice on travel documentaries covering the desert,A spoon and bowl, both made out of wood,A large mat like the picnic mats you would lay out before a picnic,An extra set of clothes identical to the one I am wearing now which was hardly any different from the change of clothes that the Granharts were so kind to give me.A hooded cloak no different from the one that Hood was wearing. In fact, he is still wearing one while packing. Does he even take off his hood when he is sleeping?A full set of lightweight armour made out of leather. We are looking at a leather chest plate, pants, boots and cap for the whole set. Sidenote, they were the hardest to be packed nicely into the haversack. Pieces of white cloth, square in shape, that I could not quite figure out their true purpose. I could call them handkerchiefs but there were quite a number of them, so much so that a normal person wouldn't be carrying this many handkerchiefs at one go. Their sizes were also slightly bigger than conventional handkerchiefs even when folded. In fact, not only can they wipe the nose, they were big enough to even cover most of the face too.Some sort of brush and cloth that seemed to be used to clean somethingA simple personal dagger that came along with its leather sheath. I think I even saw a portion of the leather chest plate that the sheath would be attached to.And lastly, a cloth that came wrapped around a whetstone which I assume to be for the maintenance of the dagger
All these items did not weigh much individually but when I gathered them all into my haversack, their combined weight began to press down heavily onto my shoulders as I began to carry it. The bag itself had the length of my legs alone which when combined with its weight, made it quite cumbersome to handle.
For the first few steps I took with my haversack on, I nearly stumbled face flat onto the hard wooden floor but thanks to the timely reflexes of Aniki who grabbed hold of my bag and I just before we were about to fall, we were finally able to regain our balance.
By then, everyone had already finished packing their bags and were about to move out. I did not quite notice beforehand but I found myself to be intrigued by how Mono was able to effortlessly move around with his bag with only one leg and crutch to stand on and Bones’s old bones were somehow still intact and not crushed by the weight of his bag.
The only one that seemed normal was Patches who seemed to be the only one to share my difficulties with our haversacks.
Seeing that we are all (somewhat) ready, Aniki began to lead us out of our living quarters and into the back of the cottage/ barn house place.
At the back would be what I would have called the stables which housed two horses and three donkeys. I am no expert in judging the quality of livestock but I think I can get a rough sense just from their eyes alone which were hardly lively even to the seven men here whom I presume to be their owners/ caretakers.
However, our purpose here was not just to check up on the animals. Instead, we made our way to the two horse-drawn carriages at the far end and put down our haversacks on one of them before emptying out the other of its contents. There were quite a bit of things taken out too so here comes another list. The items we took out, of which, I could only help out with a few, were:Three wooden wheelbarrows, Three wooden hammers, Dozen of wooden spars with the shortest one being as tall as I am,Coils of rope,Metal pegs,A large amount of firewood to last for at minimal four days,Some form of dry rations? I could not be sure since they came in a rather strange box and I only guessed that it was foodstuff related when Bones snuck some of its contents and proceeded to consume them whole. Big pieces of cloth, some of them were inscribed with strange lines connecting and disconnecting from each other at weird junctions.And lastly, approximately 40 or so large black bags that were familiar and unfamiliar to me at the same time
The contents here pretty much confirmed the “camping trip” theory, with stuff like wooden spars, metal pegs and big pieces of cloth that served as materials to make a tent.
As I was observing them taking out all these things from the horse-drawn carriage, I could not help but question why. Why couldn’t they just account for the items in the carriage without taking them all out at once? Though I couldn’t exactly sound out my comment to them as well.
Before I could come out with a plausible explanation for their strange way of doing things, they were already done and were busy loading the items back into the carriage again.
After which, Aniki, Futsu and Basil could be seen attaching a pull cart to each of the three donkeys present before leading them out of the barn house and into the open. Bones and Mono took up positions as the respective coachmen for the two horse-drawn carriages, which left only Hood, Patches and I not assigned to any specific roles.
Seeing that Hood climbed out onto the carriage with our haversacks and made himself comfortable there, Patches and I chose to follow suit.
Now, the horse carriages also began to move and departed from the cottage/ barn house place which served as our living quarters.
Eventually, our small group of eight joined up with a long line of caravan from the back, though I wasn’t sure what was present in the other carriages.
It was quite the sight to behold seeing the training fields slowly passing by our carriage as we made our way to wherever it was we were going. Although, the two other passengers beside me would not share my fascination. Hood was sleeping with his hood down and Patches, sitting at the far corner of the carriage, exhibited this aura that narked himself as someone who refuses to talk to anyone.
Sometime later, we were out of the City of Tawouest. I thought so since we were passing through some walls that were similar to the outer walls of the Sagar Biquadrant, though significantly thicker, two times thicker specifically.
That was also when the training grounds ended and the grass fields of the world outside began which seemed to stretch on as far as the eye can see.
Yang: [This really is beginning to seem like a true adventure, wouldn’t you say?]
I don’t know who I intended that question to but I did not get any responses in the end.
It started off as a fun road trip but I didn’t know any better.
The slight shaking of the carriage against the uneven and unpaved ground? I was never good with long-distance travel on vehicles but now I know, motion sickness might be my greatest enemy yet.
The impossible mansion? The A. Records?
Move aside, there is a new menace in town!
The best thing for me to not think about the stomach juices that were about to reach my oesophagus was to try to force myself asleep which was thankfully less than hard since I had barely gotten any sleep in the past two days.
Though a part of me, the playful part that behaved more like a child than a teenager, really wanted to continue admiring the scenery of this other-world, the more logical part took over and prioritized my health against the ever-growing nausea.
One uncomfortable sleep later, I think we finally arrived at our destination. We began to disembark and unpack our belongings but the caravan that we were following was no longer in sight.
The last time I checked my pocket watch was before we were packing our bags back in our living quarters, which showed a timing just slightly after seven in the morning i.e. just after daybreak. Now, it was four in the afternoon.
If the first day of being in the Matha Biquadrant taught me anything, it was that night comes at around seven in the evening. That would mean we would only have three hours to do whatever we needed to do before the blessings of natural lighting left us for the day.
As if everyone already knew that fact, we all began to work swiftly and efficiently.
We had to set up the massive tent that had to house all eight of us with the large pieces of cloth, poles and metal pegs. I was quite the amateur in terms of camping but thankfully, the rest of the guys, mainly Aniki and Basil, were very willing to show me the ropes.
Mono was seen tending to the horses and donkeys, our invaluable comrades that transported us along with our stuff. I’d rather be carriage-sick than to walk the whole distance carrying my haversack and all the additional items on the carriages. I could only hope that the three that were leading the donkey carts only needed to lead them on foot in the beginning.
Patches and Hood were busy starting a campfire. That leaves Bones and Futsu. I had not seen them ever since we first got off.
While helping out to set up the tent, I also noticed that the large pieces of cloth with inscriptions were gone too.
Before long, our “campsite” was completed and ready to be occupied but then it dawned upon me:
Yang: [WHY COULDN’T WE JUST SLEEP IN THE CARRIAGES INSTEAD!]
Feeling betrayed that my now-advance level of knowledge of tent pitching was rendered somewhat redundant in the face of this new possibility, we began to have our dinner.
It was no Michelin Three Stars, in fact, it was nothing more than bread, but after the entire day of work, I don’t think any of us had the energy left to sound out our complaints. I’m sure that even if it was a true Michelin Three Star course that I am having right now, it would be a complete waste for someone with as tasteless a tongue as I do
Our meals were had in a serene quietness. No one would talk or chit chat but all were merely focusing on our respective food.
You might think that the silence would be unbearable and awkward but not to me. Ever since arriving in this world, I had been hearing a lot of things but most of them were beyond my comprehension.
They just formed a cacophony that would refuse to leave my ears alone.
However simple times like this, just sitting together under a starless night, listening to the crackling of the campfire as we consume our respective dull dry rations:
It was the first time in a long time that I felt something like this.
By then, Umbra was already upon us but our night was illuminated by our small campfire. Though it was minuscule and barely brightened our eight-men tent and the small area beside it, it was all we had against the endless abyss of the night in this other-world.
There was nothing more to be had after dinner. The majority of the guys took out their mats from their haversack and were preparing to hit the hay. I was about to do the same until I noticed Aniki and Mono sitting outside the tent in front of the campfire with their daggers in hand.
Aren’t they going to sleep like we are?
I remembered asking that question myself but I could not muster the courage to ask them the same question. Not because of the language barrier, I believe I could somehow gesture out the question.
Instead, it was the shadow of their backs against the backdrop of the campfire that prevented me. On paper, it sounded like nothing to be afraid of but somehow, be it their lonely shadows that seemed like they were about to be absorbed by the surrounding darkness, or the invisible tension in the air, the general atmosphere was not apt for me to go up and ask them anything.
Instead, all I could do was to lay out my mat onto the grass fields sheltered under the large tentage and try to force myself to catch some shuteye as my second day with the guys from the Matha Biquadrant came to an end.