After meeting with Chu, Thomas decided to rush to Karst and prepare for the move. Since he had to return to his farm, he could only estimate about just less than a month before he came back. If he could beat the weather, he may return even faster before the roads become near impassable.
Chu introduced him to the new Trading Post Master, the young man called John. This time, to Mr Thomas’s shock the man did not have his head in the clouds. The Master listened attentively to whatsoever the boy said.
Thomas was surprised when the boy negotiated with the Master for a room at the Lodge. This was in preparation for his wife and daughter who would stay there until the work at the farm was completed.
The ex-Military man left the small village in a daze. He was beginning to understand what his friend Simon talked about. The kid was not as simple as he seemed.
Chu had one last thing to sort out before Thomas’s return. At the end of the next week his family were ready to depart.
The move was kept a secret by the family. Chu spread the gossip that they were heading out as workers on an outlying farms. Such occurrences were not uncommon for villagers, some actually surviving this way.
Most of these people were those who could not earn money hunting or willing to risk gathering firewood. Pay from the farms were meager at best, they provided two meals and a few coppers at the end of harvesting.
After harvesting it was back to the village to hunker down for Winter.
With the true reason concealed Chu could now use the house in the village without having to worry about neighbors taking dibs on seizing the property. He did not want to have his house sold because it was now empty.
With the little help from the Trading Post during Winter, no villager would be brave or stupid enough to try to accost the girls who would still be living there. The boys would rotate after work started in the barn. This would serve as a deterrent to any drunkards who gained courage.
The other reason he kept their move a secret was to prevent excess ‘baggage’ from tagging along. If the village found out about this lucky break by the Song family, no shortage of friends, helpers and companions would suddenly surface.
Chu’s impression was that nothing was impossible for these villagers.
A man was willing to sell his wife for a few coppers, a mother willing to abandon her family and girl children were treated terribly. All this to ensure survival in this rural village. Desperate people would do desperate things.
Once they left, Chu and Ming would move in back to the house. Their room at the Lodge would be available to the Thomases’ when they arrived.
On the day of departure, the farewell was held amidst weeping and wailing. Even Chu had some tears streaming down his face.
‘Thank god and good riddance. Now I have another house to call my own!’
He tried to comfort himself with such thoughts but failed. He could not monitor them as he would have liked, but his intentions of getting them to a better place came from the heart.
“Yin when you learn to write don’t forget to send some letters ok.”
“One day I will be able to write just as well as Sakura.”
“Yin remember the beads, only the polished ones will do.”
“Mr Song I will take good care of your axe. I will have it polished and oiled regularly.”
“Mrs Li don’t forget to look for the threads, please send them for us.”
“Yin, Yin. Don’t forget the beads.”
They said their final goodbyes when the convoy was ready to depart. Chu received hugs from all his family members. Hi s family were seated in the last wagon besides the driver. They continued to wave to each other until the wagon disappeared from sight.
Chu looked at his companions who had all gathered at the entrance.
“Lets go home.”
Mr Thomas was true to his word. In just over three weeks he had returned with a carriage full of his belongings. His wife and daughter were sitting beside him covered under a layer of clothes. Spring was here, but the temperature was taking its sweet time to rise.
A guard from the Trading Post brought Chu the message of his return. He pocketed four coppers in return for this deed.
Chu met Thomas at the Trading Post. He made sure his family was settled until they started to discuss their plans.
“The ground is still hard, the grasslands have not begun to thaw out completely. Tomorrow at daybreak we will take the carriage out to the barn and unload it. Clod will drive the other wagon with our supplies. In one day we should get the barn doors replaced.”
Thomas looked around confused.
“Yes, he is our farm-hand. He will be the one doing most of the work around the farm. You will meet him tomorrow. Please have a good rest, our work depends on us beating the weather.”
The last few weeks did not pass Chu idling. He purchased lumber that was stored at the Trading Post and stocked up on tools and supplies. He used this time to milk as much out of John.
The next day the two wagons set out across the grasslands to the barn.
Chu jumped down from the wagon when they arrived.
“Well, this is it. Our new home.”
Thomas was speechless. He knew it was a new piece of land but the barn surprised him. The house at the side was in ruins and would probably take the best part of autumn to repair.
‘Were they going to live in the barn?’
The boy seemed to have read his mind.
“Hehe…I take it you are not convinced. Follow me and I will show you our plans. When we are finished you are going to be very, very happy with our accommodations.”
Chu showed him the well and the surrounding grasslands and not to distant forest.
He then took him into the barn and pointed out their modifications and secrets.
Clod was ready to get the doors up and bolted. Chu and the others wasted no time in helping him with this task. It was in the evening when they had finally secured the barn. The main work to be done was the re-installation of the fence under the platform.
They had emptied out Mr Thomas’s wagon and placed his items safely in a corner under the platform. They were now resting and having a light meal.
“When Simon came and talked about coming here I was a skeptical at first. That day when I met you I nearly exploded in rage thinking I had been tricked. Only because I was at the end of the rope did I decide to listen.”
Chu swallowed a piece of bread before talking.
“I know it was hard for a grown man to talk much less take instructions from a little child. We are a group of children who were cast aside by the Empire. I think all of us have found ourselves in the same predicament. Instead of trying to face this hardship on our own, its better to face it with a group.”
“Ha, ha, ha…well said. You really do not know how much this means to me. This new start has to work out. I am at the end of my line so to speak. I do not know how much you might understand what I am saying, but Simon did say you were mature for your age.”
Thomas stared up at the blue sky outside.
“Like I said, we are in the same boat. Slowly we will build up together. This farm will be our starting point and we will slowly expand from here. All we need is the face of a man to represent us. Nobody in their right mind will listen to a bunch of kids after all.”
During the ride and their little interactions for the day, he had a good impression of the man. Mr Thomas was a little younger than Simon but he was still in the late years of his life.
The man seemed to have made up his mind, an imaginary weight lifting off his shoulders. His bent back slowly started to straighten out. When he came he was skeptical.
“I have decided to throw in my lot with you young kids. Lets see how far we can go together. I am not that senile yet. From what I can tell you are smarter than most. I know that what you want the most from me is my experience. Why else would some young boys try to rope in an old man.”
Chu gave him a wry grin.
“If you were not sharp to figure that out after this time, I might have overestimated you. Like I said, we are all together in this venture. I think we will do fine together, I am sure that within five years we will make this place one to be proud of.”
Chu believed that he made a good choice. After five years or so, they should be strong enough to travel on their own. If he could turn this place into a successful business of some sort, they would have unlimited funds and a steady source of income.
The next few words busted that wonderful bubble.
“Oh so you plan to stay here that long? I guess someone like you would have already made plans to deal with those Goblin raiders then. I was a little worried when I first saw the village location but I guess it should be fine.”
“Yep we plan to stay here…Eh? What you say there man? Goblin who?”
What the Frick is this?!NEXT PAGE