Translated and edited by Tianic
[dropcap]T[/dropcap]his was a tiny village where scattered shelters stood along a zigzagged river. They were built by refugees. The shelters were askew and ugly but the warmth was guaranteed. The villagers did not care for any artistic looks, which was a nobility thing in their village.
This place was so small, small enough that the landlord didn’t even bother to give it a name. Speaking of which, all kids here have heard of the landlord. He lived in a high castle and was free to do whatever he liked. The landlord was fat, so overweight that he needed dozens of men to carry him to bed before sleep, and he can devour a whole pig for just one meal.
This insignificant village was the place where Moya Jr. was born.
Moya Jr. was the son of old Moya. Naming a child was not worth concerning for the villagers, thus they put a ‘Jr’ after their old man’s name. When a father dies, the son will lose the ‘Jr’, and when he was about to father a child, he became the senior, simple enough.
But Moya had a younger brother, who had posed old Moya a naming problem. Then a knight who passed by gave him an idea.
“Call him Jack! Jack is an ancient hero’s name.” The knight suggested, “It can’t be wrong!”
Old Moya had never dreamed his son to become a hero. Nevertheless, he believed in a knight’s wisdom! Hero or not, feeding him wouldn’t be a problem, he guessed. Then Moya Jr.’s brother was named Jack.
By the time Moya was strong enough to carry Jack up to the hill, winter had come.
They said the lord masters loved snow. They would enjoy their wine while worshiping the god of light, but the snow wasn’t a good friend to the poor.
Now Old Moya was currently leaning by the door anxiously.
Moya was rather strong instead of old. He’s strong enough to carry three bags of wheat around.
He had half a cake stored at home, which could feed two more meals if he rationed. As for winter clothes, Moya Jr. was big enough to wear his clothes, what about Jack? Old Moya can’t let him wear barks.
“Hey, Old Moya!” Ivry the neighbor, who was a tall orc, stamped nearer, “What’s troubling you?”
“My son’s winter clothes.” Old Moya said.
“Well, let me see.” Ivry sat down and began thinking the same thing.
“Fishing season is coming, I can’t let the kids go without a jacket.” Moya said, “What a freezing day.”
“I got it!” Ivry said, “Remember the barn that we cleaned? I had found a rag in it!”
“That!” Old Moya stood up, “I didn’t notice that! But…”
“We could use that rag, so the kids won’t be frozen.” Ivry said, “and perhaps there could be leftover wheat…”
“Yeah.” Old Moya said with a hint of a smile, “Lord master doesn’t need them anyway.”
That afternoon, old Moya got that rag in hand and went to the neighborhood town. There was an old lady who knew needlework. Two jackets for the kids, in exchange for a piece of deer meat.
That lady was so nice to put enough dry grass into the jacket, which could keep warm. Old Moya wanted to say something thankful, but he was not too smart. He blamed himself.
As he watched Jack play with his new jacket on, old Moya was relieved for the time being. The dry grass had made their clothes thick, which looked warm. He considered that he has kept the kids well, as he promised to their mother, who died right after their birth, without leaving a word.
“Moya!” Ivry urged, “Hurry up! Fishing time!”
Old Moya answered and gathered his nets and sticks while shouting to his kids.
Young Moya tied a rope around his waist and Jack’s waist on the other end, this way he wouldn’t lose Jack. His father had told him, he’d die if little Moya lost his brother. He would sell him and marry another woman.
Though Uncle Ivry can’t stress enough that his father was intimidating him. Who would wait to sell any son until another son was lost? But Moya Jr. took it seriously. He never let Jack go anywhere beyond his sight. Even during sleep, he held arms around his brother.
In winter times, ice fishing was a big deal. This ain’t no work that could be carried out by a dozen people. Usually, it had to take men of the whole village.
They needed to make holes on the lake, and sink the net which was borrowed from the lords. Then they had to drag the net to the other end of the lake.
The lords would certainly come to see this winter activity by carriage or sleds. They wore luxury fur and leather and had their servants make fire by the lake. Like a show, they watched the village men hunt for fish. The lords talked and laughed, and their sons and daughters would wow and pick the fish they like and have it slaughtered for barbecue. If the fishermen do well to please their lord masters, then there would be plenty of fish left dedicated for winter as a reward.
Moya Jr. and Jack watched while old Moya was digging holes on the lake.
“Fish… big fish!” Jack was copying his father’s movement and smashed his wooden stick on the ice, “I wanna eat you… come out!”
Little Moya blew his nose, then noticed the imminent arrival of the lords.
Several servants began unloading their carriage and placing them by the lake.
Moya stopped looking at them. He was aware that staring at the lords was not right. They might get angry just by being watched by commoners.
Men were dropping nets. Little Moya was excited to expect some meat. He hated to run after Jack every time he got excited at any moving creatures.
It was blowing average snow, men were dropping and tracing nets for the second round. The pile of fish was growing larger and larger. Little Moya, along with his brother and a bunch of other kids were watching aside.
Kids from the village were not different at all. They had drooling noses. Their eyes were as green as hungry wolves.
Men carried baskets of fish and dumped them on the ground. The alive and kicking fishes slipped everywhere.
Half playing, half helping, the kids kicked the fish within a circle. Why kicking? That way meant you were not stealing.
As little Moya was kicking fishes, he noticed one that was rather small. He stepped on it when no one saw him. And moved it far from people.
Then he pretended to play with Jack.
“Brother…” Jack asked, “Are we finished?”
“No! Kick… kick!” Moya whispered, “Open your mouth!”
After he had confirmed again there was no one around, he grabbed the small fish. Using his fingernail, he cut the fish belly and pushed all that’s inside out. Then threw the fish into Jack’s mouth.
“Ah…” Jack popped his chest, “Cool!”
“Jump…” Moya said, “Jump and the cold will go away.”
They were jumping on the ice until a butler stopped them and brought them to the lord master.
“My lord!” Butler said, “Look at these bastards… look, they made their clothes out of your barn curtain.”
“Curtain?” The landlord asked, “What curtain?”
“Master, it’s the curtain from the barn.” The man said, “Fine linen, with your stamp on it! They stole it!”
“Two commoner’s kids, not a big deal.” The Lord said, “Get out…”
“Didn’t you see, my lord!” The butler said, “There was a lord master from the south, who’s as benevolent as you, then those jackasses robbed him! I heard people died during the uprise. You must not indulge them, my lord! Last time when the priest came he mentioned that this year will be rough, you should be careful of the commoners…”
While the butler was talking to the lord master, little Moya held Jack tightly unaware of what was going to happen. He can’t do anything about it even something were to happen.
That night, while old Moya was making smoked fish, the lord master had him and Ivry tied away.
The night was too dark for little Moya to run after them, and Jack was too young to catch up while there were wolves in the field by night.
The next morning, little Moya dragged Jack and ran towards the lord’s castle. They slipped and fell so many times, but they persisted without knowing the pain. Both of them knew everything will work out once they saw their father.
As they approached the castle, little Moya lowered Jack’s head and started tearing. He saw uncle Ivry’s body hanged on the castle gate.
They found old Moya, lying outside the gate. The snow was yet to cover his wrinkled face. Everything below his waist along with his arms have disappeared. Blood was all over the ground.
“Dad… dad!” Little Moya tried to wake him.
Old Moya opened his eyes and stared at his children, trembling.
“Don’t… cry…” He tried so hard to hide the broken arms underneath, “Moya… Jack… look away…”
Little Moya tore and covered his little brother’s eyes.
“Remember… the fish I made last night?” Old Moya asked.
His son nodded, “I counted them, 32 fish.”
“Go… good…” Moya smiled sadly, “Go home… take the fish… and run… take your brother!”
Little Moya cried and shook his head. He didn’t want to lose his father.
“I… I can’t walk…” Old Moya said, “Promise me, Moya, take care of your brother…”
“Remember…” Old Moya said again, “Run to the south… keep warm… walk along the river… you’ll have food…”
“I can catch fish, moles, I will feed Jack!”
“Good! Remember, we owe that lady a deer… remember…” Having said that, Moya lost lights in his eyes, “Go… leave me… don’t let Jack see me!”
Little Moya knew that his father never changes his decision. Step by step, he walked backward, hands covered his brother’s eyes.
As they returned home, little Moya packed all of the smoked fish and roped his brother to his waist. They were ready to run.
Then he turned back and looked around thinking he needed to at least to carry a weapon. There was nothing except for bare walls in their home, so he packed another wood stick.
They left. Moya Jr. knew they will starve to death if they didn’t run. When Moya Jr. and Jack once again crossed the castle, people started to call him Moya.
Someone told him, his father’s body was thrown to god-knows-where.
It was painful news but Moya knew he had to hold back tears. He carried his brother and walked, walked. He needed to leave this place and travel afar. He’s never coming back here again.
Moya has been growing, so has his brother.
They both required more food, thus they kept traveling and searching for warm places. Moya will find food for his brother.
The rope between the two had gone. They could run faster this way. Jack had learned how to follow his elder brother. Now the brothers knew where they were without even talking to each other.
Moya sharpened that stick for Jack and found himself a bigger one made of metal. He begged for a blacksmith to sharpen both ends. Don’t underestimate that stick, he had killed a wolf with it. And Jack’s stick killed countless fish.
The two brother fed their way traveling through mountains and rivers, from land to land, until they met their first leader.
That day, Moya and Jack caught an animal, ate its meat. The creature’s skin looked fine but they had no idea how to tan it. They kept walking then a small town appeared on the horizon.
It was their lucky day. A piece of beast skin for a piece of cake!
“Yummy!” Moya sniffed, then passed it under Jack’s nose, “Right?”
“Yeah!” Jack asked, “Is it our dinner?”
“Nope, we are not having this tonight.” Hardship had taught Moya how to ration, “This cake will last for long. It could last until you feel hungry.”
“En! OK!” Jack was smart, he never asked too much, “Let’s find a mole!”
They walked out of town while talking, then Moya discovered that the cake was gone.
Cake’s gone! This was big! Moya got all sweaty.
“That guy who bumped into you earlier.” Jack reminded, “Perhaps…”
“Right!” Moya held his cane and started to search for that guy who’s about the same age.
Finally, they found that boy around a corner. However, the cake was already swallowed down.
“Cake? I ate it. You can’t take it back even you kill me.” The boy named Marfa clapped his hands, “Are you hungry? Follow me!”
Moya was speechless.
Marfa told Jack to stand around a food store, just stand there and look at the owner.
If you were a store owner and spotted a boy stared at your food with eyes green, what would you do?
Of course, you’ll have other affairs to attend, but you need to keep looking at the boy in case he stole anything.
Jack froze there for a while and left. Because Marfa tucked a sizable amount of food in his jacket.
In order to stay full, they did it many times. They came to know Marfa’s an expert by looking at his movements.
Searching for food has become easier with three kids working together. While they were at roughly the same age and got along, they became inseparable.
Marfa was the most cunning one. Jack was pretty good at stealing too though he’s too young. Then Marfa became the boss.
The three wandered about and traveled to the south.
Whenever they reached a city, then Marfa will plot a theft for food. Then they run away to the field, or along the river and lead a few days hunting.
Things went well like this, however, one day, they met another orphan.
He was strong, stronger than Moya, gray-haired and nose crooked, looked tough.
But they have to be tough on him because they have trouble with the attribution of a wild rabbit.
Moya spotted it, Jack hit it with a rock then it was killed by the gray hair anyway… so they argued.
“We saw it first!” Marfa said, “It belongs to us!”
“Nice one, you saw it then you own it, who taught you that?” The kid looked down, “I saw you, and should I own you?”
“Whatever, give it back!” Moya’s a bit annoyed after being starved for a whole day, “We’ll beat your ass if you don’t!”
Moya didn’t expect that boy was this fast. Before he’s ready to fight and got hit in the face.
Seeing his brother being beaten, Jack rushed forward and grasped the gray hair’s legs, Marfa kicked his ass.
Four boys fought… until they were exhausted, then they continued their argument.
“How about…” Marfa said, “We share!”
“OK!” That boy said, “Half and half!”
“NO!” Moya shouted, “We are three! You are only one!”
“So what? You wanna fight again?”
“Yeah nobody’s gonna be full if splitting it into four.”
“I don’t care!” Jack said, “I’m hungry, aren’t you? Beat it?”
Since all kids are hungry, then they called a truce.
While preparing, Maya sighted another rabbit and it wasn’t going to wait for them to finish arguing. Everybody rushed out except for Jack who was setting the fire.
For these kids, rabbit chasing required cooperation and it wasn’t an easy job.
Since the three were cooperating, they listened to the gray-haired, because he looked like a veteran.
It took a while for them to catch the rabbit, in the meanwhile, an extra rabbit brought them a chance to settle down peacefully.
Not weird at all, kids were able to become friends easily.
Half rabbit for each child, everybody’s happy.
“I’m Wilder! I’m alone.” The gray-haired introduced himself, “Yourself?”
Moya said something about themselves.
Because they were wanderers, sticking together seemed to be a good idea.
Wilder was a hunter’s son, and he had been hunting since a boy. Only one day, his old man disappeared after going out on the market. Then Wilder went out.
Wilder had the nerve to do what other people don’t, and he’s not afraid of fighting, boy he’s a dirty fighter. He would make mistakes sometimes, but Wilder knew when to do the right thing. He paid very special attention to Jack, not letting him do anything dangerous… naturally, he had become their boss. Moya was fine with this since his only purpose was to feed Jack. Marfa was not, but he’s one against three, then that’s it.
Wilder knew the place he wanted to go. It was a city called Darkmoon. People said it’s easy to find food there, and the climate was warm.
Then after a long while, four kids have reached the city.
“You know…” Wilder turned and declared by the city’s gate, “I heard this is a good place.”
“So then, we’ll be living here since?” Jack asked.
“Anyway, let’s go search for some food!” Marfa put his hand on his stomach, “I’m hungry!”
“OK!” Moya agreed.
Then they started hunting for food.
Very often they went over to the large garden outside the city, though they got caught every time by an old red-nosed man. They had never got beaten up, scolded at most. However, at least the old man will give them some food when they in the end.
However, having fruit daily can be a pretty big deal. When that came, they would go into town and search for fat sheep in order to improve today’s meal.
Today, Wilder decided to try his luck along with the other three. And he spotted a black-haired kid who looked hellish rich.
Wilder wouldn’t know that his decision had changed the lives of four, and much more in the future.
Once there were people who showed keen interest in several of Cohen’s subordinates. There were two generals, a high justice officer, and a liaison officer whose job description remained a secret till today.
The two young generals were well recognized fine men. One is capable of attacking, Like wildfire, his fearsome reputation will scare off any opponents to the end of the world. The other one excelled at airtight defense. It had to take an enemy’s life to break through.
As for the justice officer, he was cunning, second to none. Men or women from corrupted officials to local gangsters would flee when he showed up.
Of course, to speak a few about the last officer, though he was the head of all liaisons under Cohen’s command and he seemed boring and lazy day by day. No one knew what’s his job. However, whenever Cohen was planning an operation, he’d be there. And if he wasn’t, then Cohen would wait, wait until he showed up. From this, he’s also one of the VIPs.
Many people think that those four people have made Cohen’s career. Without them, Cohen would not be capable of defeating his enemies. They were excellent friends, extremely loyal, and cannot be bought off. As Cohen has said, “They are friends, that’s all…”
“So-called friend,” Cohen commented once, “They will care, comfort, and help each other with great love and without condition. People who take advantage of their friends are morons, they have lost their precious things.”