The residents of the farm did not have the luxury to rest during the summer. They constructed buildings, toiled in the fields and took part in mandatory archery training in the evenings. At night the women and girls did some knitting and sewing near the fireplace while the men and boys gossiped about some rumor.
"Chu didn't I eat Snowbear meat once?"
"Yes, yes for the umpteenth time you ate Snowbear meat."
"See Rugol, I told you so! Remember our bet, you need to fetch water from the well for the next two weeks!"
Slap, Slap, Slap.
"Stop trying to scam others to do your chores!"
Rugol and his wife Stavia became permanent residents of the farm since they moved over from the village home. Both once worked in the village tavern but lost their jobs when it burned to the ground.
Stavia had gotten burned on one of her hands trying to help out the fire. Rugol ended up with a broken arm trying to stave of a drunkard from stealing a barrel of mead. By the time both recovered they lost their jobs.
Rugol had long blond hair he kept tied and possessed a muscular tall body. In spite of his recently broken hand, he helped Clod with the toughest task.
His wife Stavia, by contrast, was a short rounded woman with blue eyes and long blond hair. Despite her size, she zipped across the tables and kitchen making short work in serving food and clearing dishes.
In the hot summer nights, everyone practically lived in the open workshop. Only when it was time to sleep did the women and girls return to the barn.
Until he could provide suitable lodging, Chu allowed the married couples and girls to live in the barn. Bachelors like him had no problems 'roughing it out' in the workshop. Plans were in place to harvest enough lumber from the forest before the autumn harvest.
That way he could finally realize the completion of the log houses inside the walls for the older couples and 'guest' like Doug and company. The family assimilated the younger girls like a Borg mother-ship. In a household where the sky seemed to be the only limit, this became like heaven to them.
Sally and Brella were nine years old, while Yin was seven. It was easy to fit in among the rest of girls of similar age.
If you wanted to read and count, you could join Sakura and big Sis Amanda during the evenings. Learn archery using a crossbow with Miki during training, or spar and become skilled with a sword like Rose. If you ever wanted to walk freely in the grasslands and forest without a care, then you just accompanied the 'little boss'.
"Big Sis, can you help me with this word?"
"Hey Yin, your Big Brother is right here whenever you need anything okay! Go full a barrel of water for me."
"Miki, I need help with resetting the crossbow."
"Let Big Brother help you Sally, in the meantime go get a bowl of soup from Sue for me. Remember to add an extra helping of meat, if you say it's for you she will do it. "
"I'm ready boss, I have the canvas bags you wanted."
"Hey, hey little Brella. You should listen to Big Brother and stay away from such bad company. Why don't you come here instead and help me wash these clothes."
Slap, slap, slap.
"Stop forcing others to do your chores, they certainly do not want your help. You should focus that one brain cell on your training, otherwise Rose is going to beat your sorry behind. And no more meat for you for a week!"
"Nooooo! Chu I'm so sorry, I won't just put the clothes to dry in the sun, I will really soak and wash them this time."
"I knew it you dirty bastard, Lucy!"
Jim gave Chu a rundown of the kinds of traps occasionally used by hunters. They ranged from the commonly used snares and deadfall traps to the least frequented pit traps. Trappers hardly used pit traps because of the time constraints. Additionally, animals in the forest tended to avoid or be wary around them.
Since no one wanted to be the food of a wild animal when caught digging a trap, it fell out of favor. They used cage traps but for smaller creatures. It was very hard for a hunter or trapper to construct these types of traps quickly in so little time. Fear of the forest after all literally slashed their income.
Chu understood the problems for the most part faced by the old trapper. Technology in this field after all, never really progressed. Except by some modifications with materials used in construction and baiting, trap basics remained the same. He did get some ideas from conversing with the old man.
With Lucy's help in 'seeing' animal trails, it would be very easy to make cage traps to attract and capture large prey like deer and boars. He preferred to concentrate on edible meat for now. Not to say that if they had a chance to bag a wildcat, he certainly would not refuse.
He also remembered something he long forgot. It was the standard trap shown frequently in outdoor type movies. The trap they called a bear trap, or otherwise known as a leg-hold trap. He remembered it was inhumane to use it against wild animals but he never planned to do so in the first place.
Such metal trap was beyond the scope of the present technology, but if he created it the uses were endless. Tinkering to reinvent this device might just be worth it.
In times of trouble such as a goblin raid, he could lay the traps out like a minefield in the grasslands outside the walls. Dyna's wolves were much smarter than most people so it did not affect them.
He might have to keep an eye out for Ming though...
Mr Thomas continued the weekend trips to the village. Mrs Thomas and some of the girls sometimes tagged along. Whenever that happened, it usually meant a trip to Farmer Hoyle's farm.
Now that farm had a new resident, a healthy granddaughter that received affection even from Rose.
"That new girl must really be something, so as to melt an ice queen like that."
Ever since Rose bested him once during a training session he remained sour for days. Chu had to bear the foul mood and gloomy comments for the guy stuck to him like a leech. Because of this everyone now avoided him like the plague.
"Clod is going to the village today to get some supplies. Take this letter and go with him, Merchant Kim will return soon and we need to have his cargo ready."
"Why can't I stay here with you, Clod can drop it off for you."
"Because I can only count on you. Since you are the best and most skilled fighter in our camp. You know I only trust you for important matters!"
"Well, if you say so Chu. You're right, I AM the best."
Chu rolled his eyes as he saw him off. He had some important designs to finish and show to Mrs Thomas and the other women.
Just before the end of summer merchant, Kim arrived at the farm. Chu had him and his guards' bunk in the workshop. The old miser showed no displeasure in his lodgings, especially when he saw the bulky cargo ready for him.
Because time was of the essence, Kim did not relax at the farm. He had a chat with Chu to understand the plans and dropped off a chest for him. The wagons were loaded the same night, and in the morning Kim departed.
As planned most of his cargo, this time was destined got the Capital. By the time the other merchants there could gain some understanding of the product, Griz would arrive bearing another new invention as well as plans for a favorable contract.
Chu had Ming lug the chest over to the barn. He discreetly handed over a small ledger and a sack of coins to Amanda for safekeeping. In the evening they gathered around the chest.
"Open it Chu, what did you buy for me. It's high time you recognize this warrior's skills and worth!"
Chu opened the chest and removed one of the cloth bundles. When he loosened it there were gasps all around.
On the cloth laid a small leather strap that had five thin daggers the length and width of two fingers sheathed. The strap could be buckled onto one's leg, arm or wrist. Chu opened another bundle revealing some six-inch daggers made of metal and pure white handles.
He ended up with five of the six-inch long daggers and ten sets of the smaller 'kunai' like hidden weapons. He really made those smaller weapons for Miki. When he once saw here throwing a knife accurately onto a training dummy he became intrigued. Later he found out that she actually hunted in the grasslands using this method.
Whenever she sneaked up onto the hares or pheasants, she used the knife throwing skills. She had learned through experience that using it accurately prevented the creature from alerting others.
These daggers were light to carry and best for medium range combat.
He also wanted Lucy to begin training with them. Considering her speed and strength, those small daggers in her hands would make a lethal weapon. Of course, not everyone could see the benefits of these weapons.
"But what the heck is this? You mean we got robbed again!"
Toll and his wife Shine were the last of the three couples from the village. Both of them usually made their money working on farms for the summer. Because he had fallen ill in the winter the year before, they lost their income from the farm. Hence the move to the slums.
Toll had a get-up and go attitude. Under his thin frame was a body primed to work in the fields. Most of the time his short black hair was the only thing seen among the corn. Clod and he always carried out some of the most animated conversations around.
Shine had the same mentality as her husband, but she excelled in handling all the chores around a farmhouse. She was a friendly woman who had slivers of gray hair growing among her long brown hair.
Both were experienced farm hands and fitted perfectly into Chu's plans. Added to the fact that the new men had basic skills in construction, he did not foresee major problems ahead. Shine was especially good at sewing and knitting. Chu used her skills to help him complete his task.
He considered recruiting more personnel from the other villages to expand his manufacturing base and production but he squashed the thought. It was in his best interest to mold this group first and acquire absolute trust before he ventured forward.
That way whenever he decided to expand, not only could he do so in quick time but he would have loyal and experience followers to man the top positions.
On the last day of summer Chu had a large table set out under the tree. This time he made all the favorites, plus some jam filled pastries. The food contained fried vegetables and an assortment of meats seasoned and cooked in different ways.
Mrs Thomas and the women also brought out an assortment of different stuffed animals made of cloth beads and buttons. Chu had spent an entire evening drawing up the best kinds he could remember. The looks on the faces showed his work was not in vain.
"But what the heck is this? Chu, I did not even get a doll!"
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