"Who knows, perhaps it was inevitable. Societal strife was destined to reach a boiling point. Maybe short-term pain is better than long-term suffering." Han Xiao shrugged.
The Battle of Andrea set the post-unification landscape of the planet in stone.
Andrea was the name of a continent, once home to several nations. As the war developed, Andrea had, for some reason, became the proxy of the conflict. It was as though all the countries had agreed to settle things there once and for all, as though they were trying to contain the scale of damage inflicted onto the planet. However, billions of lives were lost as a result.
By the time the war ended, all that remained of Andrea was a desolate land of scorched earth and withered trees. Its rivers were left blighted, and the once fertile, lush landscape was no more. The Six Nations simply packed up and left as soon as the battle ended, ignoring the destruction that they had caused.
Han Xiao noticed an old blister on Hu Xuan Jun's palm.
"You used to be a soldier?" he asked.
"Yes, for over ten years."
"I thought that remnants like yourself would choose to join the Germinal Organization."
Hu Xuan Jun shook his head.
"My home country was peacefully annexed by Stardragon. Soldiers like me didn't have any say. We simply follow the decision that our leaders made. I do detest the Six Nations, but the Germinal Organization is no better. They popped out of nowhere to take advantage of our hatred for the Six Nations. Sigh... I'm a simple man. All I want is to escape war."
"War is cruel. My eyes were blinded by a flash grenade. My husband and I fled tirelessly before settling here. Even though life as a wanderer is not easy, it is better than war," An chimed in.
As she finished speaking, the smell of meat filled up the tent, causing Han Xiao's mouth to water.
"How do you cook without being able to see?" he asked.
An puffed her cheeks.
"Don't look down on me! I might be blind, but I can still smell, hear, and feel! It's not like I don't have any limbs."
Hu Xuan Jun smiled.
"She has a strong character. Won't even let me take care of her."
"I don't want to be your baggage," responded An meekly, prompting Hu Xuan Jun to scratch his head in embarrassment. He hurriedly changed the subject.
"Oh right, I'll let you take a look at my baby."
Hu Xuan Jun opened a storage box beside him to retrieve an old-fashioned gun.
"Let's see if you know your guns," he said proudly.
Bayonet Musket (Old Era)
Fire Rate: 0.9/s
Magazine Capacity: 20
Range: 200m Range
Power Output: 25
Stat Bonus: +1 Dexterity
Additional Effects: Accurate
Remarks: This weapon has accompanied its master through countless battles.
"It is a fine gun," praised Han Xiao. "Even though it has been used for so long, you still keep it well polished. The barrel is perfect. Truly a well-made gun."
"This gun is my partner. He's been with me for close to ten years," laughed Hu Xuan Jun. "It only looks new because I frequently oil it. The truth is that its workings have aged. It can't be used anymore."
The pair continued to chat until the sky darkened and An had finished cooking.
An had cooked a gigantic pot of creamy soup filled with tender meat and wild vegetables. Not only was it extremely fragrant and flavorful, it was also visually appetizing, and Han Xiao couldn't help but drool.
Han Xiao gulped at the sight of the meat. He had had nothing good to eat for the past seven days! His closeness with Hu Jun Xuan was skyrocketing on the spot. +1! +1! +1!
After dinner, Hu Xuan Jun asked Han Xiao to stay for the night.
Han Xiao decided to stay since he did not intend to travel at night anyway. They laid a mattress for him and set up a partition.
"Your bag is too big. I'll put it outside," said An.
"I'll do it myself."
Before bringing his bag out, Han Xiao dismantled all the guns in his backpack to take out their triggers. He wrapped them in some animal skin that he got from Hu Jun Xuan and set the package in a corner.
Han Xiao also loaded up his 73-WASP and placed it under his pillow. Of course, he was not being weary of his warm hosts or anything like that. It was simply important always to be prepared and alert.
As soon as Han Xiao's head hit the pillow, he instantly fell asleep.
His snoring could be heard through the curtain. Hu Xuan Jun laughed as he shook his head.
"Looks like he's beat. Let's not disturb him."
An nodded and proceeded to take the cutlery outside to wash.
"Uncle, uncle! I'm famished!"
Suddenly, a disheveled young man entered the tent. His entire face was covered in mud, and there was a swollen bump on his head. It was none other than the young man that Han Xiao had encountered this afternoon.
He was Hu Xuan Jun's nephew, Hu Fei.
"Where have you been all day? I didn't see you at all," questioned Hu Xuan Jun.
"I I went out hunting," stammered Hu Fei.
Hu Xuan Jun could tell that his nephew was lying. He pulled Hu Fei's ear and began to scold him in a strict but soft voice, "Are you up to your pranks again I told you that I would fucking chop them off if you took that broken shotgun to scare people again, didn't I?"
Tears began to flow out of Hu Fei's eyes as he filled up with indignance and pain. "Your nephew not only got bullied today, he was even tied to a tree for the entire day! I'm so tired and hungry, uncle, give me a break," he thought.
"Please, uncle, don't chop them off," he bawled.
"Which leg do you want me to chop?"
"J-just don't chop off my balls..."
"You and your dirty mind! Don't worry, I'll chop them off for you since that's what you want!"
Hu Xuan Jun was about to raise a hand to slap Hu Fei when he remembered that Han Xiao was sleeping. He let Hu Fei off with a warning.
Noticing that there was someone else in the tent, Hu Fei peered beyond the partition to see who it was. When he saw Han Xiao, his jaw dropped.
'Isn't that the devil from this afternoon'
"What are you looking at? Tonight, you sleep outside," Hu Xuan Jun suddenly whispered from his side.
Hu Fei gave a start and fell backwards. He quickly scrambled out of the tent on all fours, leaving Hu Xuan Jun bewildered.
'Is my face that hideous?'
"Why am I running away from my own home? This is the perfect chance to get my revenge!" realized Hu Fei as he stopped in his tracks.
He proceeded to turn back to return to the tent, instantly changed his mind at the thought of Han Xiao's scary face.
"Hu Fei, ah, Hu Fei, show some guts!"
As he began to formulate a plan he recalled that there was a package in the tent that he had never seen before.
"It must be his!"
Hu Fei waited until midnight, when everyone had gone to bed. He tiptoed into his own house and picked up the package.
"Hehe. What do we have here?"
When Hu Fei unfolded the package, his eyes widened in disbelief.
High quality guns!
"I can't take them all..."
Hu Fei picked out two 73-WASPs.
"Forget it. Since my uncle is playing host to you, I'll only take two as compensation!"
He wrapped the remaining guns up and returned the package to its original position.
"It's only two guns. He probably won't notice."