Black Iron's Glory - Chapter 56

The days passed one after another as the weather gradually warmed. The school uniform Claude wore changed to a brown short-sleeved linen shirt and a pair of long black pants. The high leather boots he usually wore also got swapped out with a flat-soled one. Uniforms for female students in middle schools weren't that much different from those of males; the top of the uniform was the same brown linen shirt and the girls wore long black skirts instead of pants.

As a result, many male students would flood the corridors during the 20-minute class breaks and stare into the girls' classrooms, hoping that some of them would come out to show off their figures.

Claude had been feeling in a rather annoyed mood as his mother had been lectured by his father about the leather shoes in the morning. For some reason, Morssen behaved far stingier than usual. As Claude was only 16 and was still growing, his mother bought him a pair of new shoes only recently to accommodate the growth of his feet. But the weather suddenly warmed a week later and the school had them switch to flat-soled shoes. Claude's were already too small for him, so his mother bought him a new pair straight away.

Morssen had exploded with rage that morning for some reason and believed that his wife didn't budget their spending properly. He complained that his mother had neglected to notice a huge problem: she bought Claude a new pair of high-soled boots some ten days before they would be switching to flat-soled ones, causing them to have to buy another pair right after that. But that wasn't the main problem. Claude was still growing, and if the seasons changed again, the high-soled boots he bought the previous winter would probably be too small for his feet by then.

Morssen believed that buying those shoes just to be used for ten days was a huge waste of money. He said that if Claude could endure it for a bit and wear his old shoes for ten more days, it would be just in time for the season to change and he would only have to buy one new pair.

Claude on the other hand stood on his mother's side, telling his father that those shoes only cost four riyases anyway and there wasn't a need to be that stingy, only to be rebuked once more by Morssen, who complained that Claude hadn't brought any of his catch from the hunts he went on even though it had been more than a month since he got his new gun. "You could at least catch some prey to sell and help out with the finances. Even if you can't catch goats, at least bring a hare or two back," he complained.

Speechless, Claude left for school with a belly filled with anger.

Borkal did know something about this. He revealed to Claude that their fathers were going to push their plan of establishing a maritime trade route from Whitestag to the Tyrrsim colony in Nubissia and were gathering the starting capital. According to what his father revealed, many people didn't have faith that the venture would succeed and fund raising went rather slowly. It was no wonder Morssen was angry about it, given that he was the main guy behind the plans.

Sigh, who asked me to transmigrate into the body of Morssen's son? I guess being lectured by him is somewhat of an inevitability.

However, Claude felt really dissatisfied when Morssen chided him for his hunting skills. While he didn't find any goats in the area, there were definitely hares. Even though they were rather shifty, he didn't believe that he wouldn't be able to hunt a single one of them.

Currently, Claude was practising with his target a hundred meters away into the forest. He had no choice, as there was no way he could get within 50 meters range to hunt a hare. At the very least, the hares wouldn't escape so quickly if he shot from a 100-meter range. The only downside to that strategy was that the hares were nigh invisible from that range, being only about the size of a pea. Claude had to sharpen his gaze well for the hunt.

After practicing for three days, he could hit the bull's eye seven or eight out of ten times and believed himself ready for the hunt. He got Borkal Welikro to hunt with him during the afternoon.

He couldn't ask the others to come along as Eriksson was still busy with his fishing boat while Borkal was busy doing business, trying to market Claude's targets. It sounded like the business was going well and the four's investment of four thales had already doubled. The carpenters taking orders from Borkal's family firm were already making the third batch of products, consisting of 80 targets and 300 target papers in total.

Currently, Welikro was using Borkal's aubass mark 2 without the sights.

After the first period during the afternoon session, Claude and Welikro didn't attend the horsemanship period. They left school and went to Claude's house first to pick up the two guns beneath the bed and other things they needed before calling a carriage to the hills in the south of town. The two of them then hiked up the hills.

Welikro said that the best place to hunt hares was in the forest and hills. Even though there were many farms and orchards there, animals like hares and turkeys weren't rare. Those were places were carnivores didn't dare to come to as many of the land owners there were nationals who were armed with their own guns. They also hunted as a hobby, ridding of the smaller animals of their natural predators and allowing them to thrive and multiply.

The reason their hunt there the last time wasn't fruitful was because Borkal insisted on tracking down larger prey. They circled around in the forest nonstop and all the small animals that heard them either ran or hide. It was no wonder they didn't get even a single catch.

Claude asked, "Didn't you guys say that the watch dogs here are expert hunters of smaller animals?"

Welikro explained, "The reason these landowners have dogs is to guard their property as well as their crops from the little critters. Usually, they won't let their dogs out of their land. All we have to do is to go deeper into the forest and find a good spot to wait for hares to show up. Patience is the key to hunting."

After a short walk, Welikro and Claude climbed up a small hill where the greenery was spares. The trees and shrubs were far apart and there were a few patches of tall grass.

"Alright, this spot will do," Welikro said with satisfaction, "Let's set up our guns and their rests here. We'll light our slow matches in advance while we wait for the hares or turkeys to show up. Let's use the long ones. When we have a target, we will be able to fire right away. And if the match burns out before we get any, we switch out for  anew one. Also, let's not talk from now on. Those critters have sensitive ears and should the wind carry our voices there, they will run and hide."

"Are we just going to keep our guns trailed here like this while we wait?"

Welikro nodded. "That's right. To hunt these little fellows, we need to be patient."

Welikro stopped speaking. He set up his gun and the rest before he soundlessly observed the shrubs located downhill. Welikro had told him that turkeys love to move about around the shrubs. Claude definitely preferred turkey soup to hare soup.

As time passed, Claude felt his legs numb. There wasn't the slightest movement in the surroundings. Nothing could be heard apart from the sound of the breeze blowing through the forest.

Just as he was about to stretch for a bit, Welikro pointed his finger in one direction. Claude turned to the left where Claude pointed and saw a patch of grass out of which two ears poked, twitching left and right. A grey hare was chewing the grass nonstop.

Welikro stretched two fingers out, pointing at Claude and himself, before pointing at the hare, and then back to their two guns. That was his signal for the two of them to fire at the same time. That way, they would still be able to get the catch if only one of them missed.

Claude nodded and attached his slow match above the flash pan before he took aim.

The hare was around 80 meters away from their location. What delighted Claude was that the hare remained static on its location. Even though it poked its head around nonstop, it didn't move its body in the slightest.

When Claude was confident he had the shot, he pulled the trigger. Even though they were almost a hundred meters apart, the hare seemed to pick up a sound, as was apparent from how its ear twitched as it listened for any movement in the surroundings.

However, it noticed too late. Two consecutive bangs could be heard. Welikro and Claude had completed their shots at almost the same instant.

The hare in the distance seemed to jump up high before falling into the shrub, out of sight.

Claude said disappointedly, "I didn't hit it. It escaped."

Welikro on the other hand sat up. "I hit it, it's still there. Let's reload our guns first before going over there to pick the hare up. It should be in the vicinity."

The two of them reloaded their guns, clipped the lit slow match on before they used their walking sticks to carefully go down the hill.

"It's a shame that we didn't bring a hunting dog with us," said Welikro out of the blue.

"A hunting dog?" Claude had heard that Welikro kept three hunting dogs at home. They were said to be of a mixed breed between wolves and the common watchdog. They were slightly larger than normal watchdogs and were intelligent and fierce. They help his father a lot during his hunts.

"Why would we need a hunting dog?" asked Claude.

"If we had one here, we wouldn't have to go down to the shrubs to pick up the hare ourselves. The dog can do that for us. Then again, if we brought one here, we wouldn't need our guns. My house's Senior, Junior and Little would scour the area clean of hares and turkeys," said Welikro.

"You're bragging, right?"

"I'm serious. No joke," Welikro said, "The three hunting dogs we have are trained to deal with large beasts in forests. They can even keep a wild boar busy to give my father a chance to kill it with one strike. Catching turkeys and hares is child's play for them. We can't even find any hares anymore in the woods near our house as our dogs got them all."

"You said that the watchdogs down the hill can catch hares and turkeys too, right?"

"Watchdogs can hunt, but they are only restricted to do so within the confines of the orchard of farm they're guarding. It'd be lucky if they manage to get a catch or two. However, without proper training, it would be a nigh futile effort. Their barks would scare all the nearby animals away before they get a chance."

"Usually, what do you use to catch those animals? With traps or snares?"

"Hmm, let me think..." Welikro said after some thought, "For catching hares and turkeys, apart from using hunting dogs, all we can do is to shoot them from afar. However, many hunters prefer using hunting bows or arbalests for these critters as the accuracy is higher than that of a gun and it makes far less noise. The enemies nearby won't run away after hearing the shot.

"As for traps, we only use pitfall traps to deal with large animals. I've never heard of traps being used on smaller ones before. I don't know what you mean by snares, but I've heard of someone scattering grain soaked with strong liquor in the shrubs. The turkeys would faint after eating them and all you need to do is to pick them up. Some people say that turkeys will freeze when they see a torch or a lantern and you can catch them with your hand just like that. It ried it out but it didn't work. It ran before I even got close."

The hare they shot was collapsed in the shrub. It had a bullet wound through its back and had stopped breathing.

Welikro said that he had aimed for the head, so the shot that hit should've been Claude's. Claude however couldn't be certain that he was the one who made the shot, but he still accepted it gladly. Now, he finally had something he could show his family all the while satisfying Morssen's craving for hare.

Welikro said, "We should look for another spot. The gunshots just now will have driven the other animals away already. We won't get another prey here unless we wait till the night."

However, Claude ignored him. He was busy picking a vine to make a snare with from the shrubs.

"What are you doing?" asked Welikro.

"Setting a trap." this was a skill he had picked up in his childhood when he lived in a village near the hills. The feral children there were skilled catchers of turkeys, hare and fish. Fortunately, Claude still remembered how to make one. "This is a snare, a trap designed specifically to catch hares or turkeys."

"Can this contraption really do that?" Welikro squatted down and helped make some doubtfully.

"Yup. Just set these up in the shrubs and grass. We'll come back tomorrow to check we got any," said Claude.


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