Chapter 32

 “Are you sure you know how to farm Paige? It’s probably been ages since you’ve last tried your hand at growing things.” Tyler said while sweating profusely. Watching her work was giving him a mini heart attack.

“Of course I know how to farm. My family was farmers, after all,” Paige shrugged while working in the fields. “What kind of Farmer’s girl would I be if I couldn’t even help out around the farm?”

“Umm, Paige. What did you do around the farm, if you don’t mind me asking?” Zenith said, stifling a laugh back.

“Standard stuff. Milk the cows, shear the sheep, gather any fruits, check traps, water plants. Basically everything you need to know.”

“You didn’t say anything about planting Paige. I know you’re doing it wrong.” Nick said with a deadpan voice. “Just look behind you Paige.”

“Hm?” Paige turned, confused as to what was wrong. She thought she was doing a great job.

“Paige, your hacking the ground with your hoe. Your not piling the soil to make rows, and your literally throwing seeds behind you.”

“Nick, Nick, Nick. That’s the problem with watching a Farmer work his fields. Everyone thinks they know better than the one working.” Paige tutted, shaking her head in disappointment. “What you see as hacking the soil, is me making irrigation trenches. With this much foliage on the ground, I won’t need any fertilizer, and we don’t have any specialized equipment or a large field, so there is no need to plant in rows.”

“Paige, I’ve seen rows of wheat before. Even sunflowers and fruit trees are always planted in rows. Why are those Farmers wrong then?” Zenith said with uncertainty, not really believing Paige’s argument.

“They also had a large field and if they have to pay farmhands by the day, then making the harvesting efficient is key. On the other hand, we barely have even an acre of land available to farm on right now. We’ll have to expand that out to at least five acres for us to live independently, but that’ll be hard to do short term wise.” She shrugged and continued on hacking at the land with her wooden hoe.

“So, Tyler. What seeds did Paige ask you to buy?” Zenith asked quietly.

“A little of everything actually. Mostly wheat seeds, but also some corn, berries, clover, potatoes, lettuce. Judging by what Paige is doing though, I think she is planning to plant all of them at once. Look, she’s clearly marking out at least fifteen plots of land. But the main problem is that nothing will be ready for at least a few weeks. Hell, even the wheat will take at least a year to grow.”

“We’ll have to import our food for that long? How will you be able to expand your business if you can’t leave? We need information, but we also need to be sure we can get supplies on a regular basis as well.” Zenith bit her lip as she tried to think of a good solution.

“Paige said she had a way to grow food faster, but skills like that are rare to have. Do you know of any spells that could make plants grow faster?”

“I’m not exactly a druid you know. But my school did cover some of the basics…Nope. I don’t know of any spells that are applicable for farming. Battles sure, but you’d have to fall on pretty hard times as a Mage to even think about spending time on something as inconsequential as farming techniques.”

“You forgot to mention how most spells make food taste horrible. Something about the mages mana mixing with raw produce made plants inedible, even for most animals.” Paige yelled from the field below. “My senses are as good as ever Zenith. You could’ve just asked me.”

Zenith was unsure about Paige’s retained senses. ‘Prim said battle classes had better constitutions than other classes. So how do our new classes affect our senses?’ “So how fast are you able to grow things Paige?”

“You might not believe me, but when I was a Warrior I did garden a bit. There was one skill in particular that I learned from the Royal Gardeners. [Green Thumb]. With the right amount of sun and some luck, I should be able to grow things twice as fast.” She said with a smile on her face.

“Wait, Gardeners isn’t a Class Paige! How on earth do they learn skills? Planting daisies?”

“Heheh, it is a Class. When someone gets serious with a hobby, there is a chance for it to become a Class. Have you ever heard of a Drunken Warrior? That’s a ridiculous Battle Class, and the mortality rate is really high, but I’ve seen people with it. Can’t fight a chicken off with a sword when sober, but give them some alcohol and they’ll fight a dragon with nothing but a tankard.”

Tyler only sighed while Zenith and Paige argued about the validity of what Zenith believed to be fake classes while Paige continued digging irrigation ditches. “Nick, grab the baby. You can teach me about wooden weapons while they argue. I’m not about to sit here and watch Paige farm all day.”

Nick eyed the baby warily. “Are you sure that’s even a good idea? Paige and Zenith are awfully protective of him.”

Tyler waved off his concerns. “All they’ll do is argue. Besides.,I really do need to learn more about bows, and you can tell me what you would like me to investigate.” That got Nick’s attention.

“Fine. Zenith, we’re taking the baby with us. We’re going to get some wood to refill Tyler’s inventory.”

“Sure, just make sure he’s safe! And not too hot! Or hungry!” Zenith called out as they walked into the forest proper.

“What’s this about investigating?” Nick said after they walked for some time. Tyler had modified a potato sack to hold the baby on his back, as his hands were busy moving the heavy underbrush aside.

“I know what Paige said about not revealing ourselves, but I think it will not do us any good in the long term to see what is different. We still have no idea about your circumstances after all. For all we know, you may still be alive in Leit.”

“That’s impossible, Tyler.” Pained, Nick told Tyler what Commander Austin had told him at Castle Patel. “…so you see, if I didn’t go on the mission, there is still a high chance that I am dead.”

“A high chance, yes. But not impossible. Traitors are hard to deal with because they can be hidden in plain sight. There is some risk involved with looking into a different countries politics, but if I have a good enough reason, nothing is impossible.”

Nicks eyes widened at the thought. “The bows. You want to sell bows to the Rangers.”

Tyler nodded. “If it is possible. It won’t be hard to gather information on this Peter person, and I am planning on using some of my…more hidden assets to gather information reliably, and more importantly, quietly. Only information on you will be hard to gather and verify.”

“Ranger bows, even longbows, will be a tough sell. Especially if they find out you travelled half the country to sell bows. That alone screams spy more than anything else, even if the quality of the bows are good.”

“Long term goals, Nick. I was the head Guard of the Royal Family, I know how to gather intelligence. It’s just harder to do now since I cannot abandon this identity,” he said as he looked at himself. “Anyways, what are we looking for Nick? We probably shouldn’t go too far with the baby.”

“I’m looking for some young saplings. The bows that I made initially I carved out. But those bows are only good for so long, since the grain of the wood is exposed. Now I am looking for a complete sapling, one that will hopefully be able to withstand constant use. I’m sure we’ll find some berries or something, relax. I filled up my water skin as well, so we can wander at least half the day and be perfectly fine.”

“If you say so Nick. But wouldn’t it be easier to find saplings where the canopies aren’t as densely covered?”

“It would be, but trees growing without a dense cover above them also tend to have more branches on them. This deep into the forest, and they should be growing straight upward, making it easy to create a good, straight bow. At least, that what I remember a Bower saying. I always told them I wanted a good bow, but all I heard were excuses. It shouldn;t be too hard to find good wood.”

Tyler just shrugged, not really understanding the differences between a good wooden bow and a bad one. Nick muttered under his breath as he found good saplings, but none lithe enough for his liking. “Good wood everywhere, but none even halfway decent for a great longbow.”

“Just make a crappy one then. The quality of the ones you made yesterday were fine.”

Nick glared at Tyler. “If I’m going to make Ranger quality bows, I need good wood. It’d be better to know what these woods offer before I start using good wood on subpar bows. We’ve passed by at least thirty different types of trees that would be perfect for regular and army grade bows, but not Ranger bows.”

“If you say so Nick.” Tyler fed the baby some berries he found, after Nick had approved of them. “Did Paige ever tell you that these woods have a certain… reputation.”

“Paige told me these woods were haunted.” Nick said boredly. “Don’t tell me you believe in those stories.”

“Oh good. That saves me the trouble of explaining it. These woods are haunted Nick.”

“Hah! I’ll believe that when I see it.”

“Which story did Paige tell you about? The lake, the merchant, or the town?” Tyler said seriously. Nick looked back annoyedly, but noticed that Tyler was carefully surveying the woods around them. ‘Was she telling the truth?’ “The merchant. Something about an old man.”

“The Queen and Paige had come here multiple times, but eventually Rebecca had enough of Paige bringing her to these woods. Too many strange things happened around here.”

“She said she never came back to find the man though?”

“She never found the man. Paige was furious about it too. Evidently she sold something quite valuable and was furious about the trade afterwards. But by then he was gone.”

“Heh, sounds like a good conman to me.”

“Well, tell that to Paige then.”

Nick stopped suddenly. “What was that about a Lake?”

“Well, she said she found a Lake here one time, but even with specialized birds we were never able to find a substantial body of water here. She just kept going on and on about there being a huge lake in the forest. But based off of her descriptions of the size, it’d be impossible.”

“Well, it looks like we found it.” Nick said as he stared out into an open lake, complete with a waterfall on the far side of the lake.

“These woods are weird. We found a lake here.” Nick said as soon as they arrived back at the settlement.

“Of course you found a lake. There had to be a way the stream was collecting water afterall.” Zenith said frankly. She glanced at the stream to their side. “It should be a relatively large one too, judging by the depth of the stream. The water is moving pretty fast, all things considering.”

“A lake with a waterfall though? I swear, the far side of the lake was practically formed by waterfalls.”

“Hah! I knew I saw a lake here last time. Rebecca hardly believed me when I told her that.” Paige smiled, since she was finally proven right.

“You don’t think that’s strange? At all?” Nick said, flabbergasted at her lack of interest.

“Nick, you’ve never seen the forest from the outside, so you probably would think it is strange. From the outside, it looks pretty flat, but the truth is that the ground dips noticeably close to the center of the forest. Add on three rivers converging somewhere in the forest and only one leaving, I’d assume the lake is real. Just never could find it again.” Paige shrugged her shoulders, making Nick feel dumb about his discovery.

“Was there anything else, or…?” Zenith asked hesitantly.

Nick and Tyler looked at each other. “Nick found some edible berries for the baby. We found some good lumber for bows as well. Nick, do you want to tell them about the animal tracks?”

Nick looked at Zenith. “I remember you telling Isabella that you hunted monsters exclusively for parts. How were you able to do that as a Mage?

“I, uh, may have exaggerated just a bit. I did fight monsters for parts, but only magic insensitive ones. The rarer ones I’d need a team to lure out and distract the monsters. Why?” Zenith said with small blush.

“Well, we did find animal tracks, but from what I can tell, they are all aggressive monsters. Forest elk, wild boars, black bears, timberwolves. I even found some raven nests and sturgeons in the lake, but it seems that a majority of the land and air animals have already left the forest. Do you think the fog caused all the animals to leave voluntarily?”

Zenith frowned. “The fog may mess up their senses, especially if they can sense mana. But that would mean all of them have developed mana cores, which would be unlikely.”

“As unlikely as all of you reviving from the dead?” Paige said as she stopped farming for the day, her wooden hoe practically falling apart.

Zenith shrugged. “Point taken. Just watch out for fresh tracks then. If they all have developed mana cores, it’ll be slightly dangerous for us if they think we are intruding into their territory. Nothing we shouldn’t be able to handle, but just be aware for the future.”

Paige just laughed it off, not knowing how bad a few monsters could be. “That sounds like a good challenge Zenith. Farming and a few monster attacks! Just what I’ve always dreamed of.”

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