Their next destination was the Raberry village, where Darius got off the bus the previous day.
The journey from the cottage took about half an hour.
“To move through the forests, you should be able to protect yourself. There are certain anomalies that are appearing, like animals being overly aggressive and attacking humans without reason. I have already heard four reports about it in the last two weeks. And this is only the beginning,” said Beru while leading Darius through the village.
With a finger, he tapped a scabbard on his back where a shotgun was stored.
“You will learn to use this one. We also have a rifle in the cottage, a beautiful and precise thing, but you are too green for it and I need a weapon too, you know.”
“So, where are we going now? Some shooting range?”
“Yes and no. Firstly, we are getting you some practice bullets and some basic shotgun introduction. Don’t worry, the place we are going to has a good instructor.”
“How are the prices? Even practice bullets must cost something,” asked Darius, openly concerned about his finances.
“Boy, that is a good question,” said Beru and pointed a finger at him.
“So tell me now, where are you serving now?”
“Hunter division?” answered Darius, not really sure what was Beru trying to say.
“Correct. And that is under what?”
“Um, the army.”
“Exactly. Do you think the soldiers are paying for bullets before each of their shooting session? Well, its not free and they have to work for it. But you are doing that with your patrols and reports for Hunter division. Just treat it as job expenses and send the bills to the higher ups.”
Darius raised an eyebrow at Beru.
“And that really works?”
“Of course! Being a Hunter is not so bad, the army tries to recruit everyone and creates good offers. Many hunters join Hunter division because it covers their expenses. It is also said that there will be severe restrictions soon, for example that only army personnel will be able to enter wild nature due to safety reasons. The other side of joining Hunters is that we are dogs listening to orders..” sighed Beru lightly.
Darius nodded, seeing why the newly created division was filling up.
The two of them stopped before a one story building. Beru confidently opened the door, there was a sound of a bell ringing, and immediately greeted the shopkeeper. She was a woman in her forties, with long dark hair put into ponytail.
“Ey, Beru. I see that you bring someone new with you. Welcome lad.”
“Oh look, and he has manners. Don’t you corrupt him, you old thing,” said the shopkeeper with a playful smile.
“Oh please Amy, you know me. Darius, this is Amy, expert on guns and annoying people. Amy, this is Darius, a new colleague of mine.”
Amy and Darius shook hands firmly. Darius knew from the start that she was going to try to crush his hand so he resisted from the start. Still, the woman was really muscular and his hand survived only so-so.
“Good, he is not a dead fish,” commented the crushing machine 3000. Then she nodded at Beru and asked for the purpose of their visit.
“Shotgun and a newbie huh. Well, certainly better than rifle or something. Alright young man, look here. This one is a double barreled shotgun.. see, this is how you open its break action.. its two barrels are over-and-under.. there is no need to cock the hammer in this one.. after two shots, you need to remove the cartridge before reloading, this means that you only have two shots before your target gets to you.. the good thing is that you can shoot two shots rapidly after each other so even if the animal is close to you, and you miss your first shot, you still have time for the second one…
you will need to learn how to aim but this is a lot simpler that with other guns.. “
Darius listened to the Amy for more than half an hour. She repeated the parts he forgot about and asked him precise questions to determine if he really understood.
After the basic introduction came gun cleaning. Next was ammunition.
“You will be using slugs. It’s mostly against bigger animals. The birdshot that is less lethal wouldn’t be able to stop a rushing animal. Buckshot may but its not hundred percent.”
Darius wished that he wouldn’t need to come back the next day and say that during his sleep he forgot everything she said and if she could repeat it. He was glad when she handled him three ammunition boxes.
“This one is for your patrols. These two are for your training, they are less lethal, costly and the recoil is lower too. Come to me after you use them all, I will get you new ones and send the bill to army.”
“Thank you. For the lesson and all these things.”
“Oh don’t ya worry, I am not charity, I have my sweet money and also making a connections with future customer,” she said with a wink.
Beru waited for Darius before the shop. Apparently, he left midway during Amys explanation and bought himself a light beer.
“Want to get one too?”
“Nah, I don’t really like to drink alcohol,” shook Darius his head.
“Where to now?”
“Well, you still need to buy a lots of things since the Hunters did not equip you properly. You transferred too fast and they are currently in a bit of chaos….as everyone is.”
“We sending new bills to higher ups?”
“I think they might not be happy about it too much...”
After another round of shopping that Darius did not even know he needed to do, he got a pair of tight fitting gloves (“Yeah sure hold that gun in -10 Celsius for hours in your bare hands, I will peel it from you afterwards..” -Beru), some scarfs, skin creams against cold, some water absorbing oils and other things.
It started to get dark when they finally arrived at the training place outside the village. Beru taught Darius how to move between the targets ( empty tins ). Then, Darius loaded a gun with training bullets. Beru told him that soon he will be able to load it even if he was in total darkness, only through his touch.
While shooting his first shots from shotgun, Darius was careful and kept a steady posture so he could handle the recoil. Thankfully, the training bullets were a bit weaker than the normal ones so the recoil was still manageable. He took his time with aiming, not completing the shooting cycle for speed but to acclimatize himself. After the first cycle, they put the tins back into their positions and Darius went for a second round which was also his last one for that day.
“It’s getting dark, I don’t feel like having myself shot by you because you can’t see where I stand,” commented Beru.
The way through the dark forest was less scary than Darius imagined. Maybe it was because he was not alone, maybe because of the gun. Nonetheless, he was happy when they arrived to their cottage.
“Heat up the rations after you unpack your things. The reports will be in two hours. No need to prepare yours. During the first week you are still in training, I will be doing a report for both of us. You just listen so you will be able to make one yourself after this week.”
“Alright!” said Darius like a student who forgot about the test he was supposed to prepare for only for it to be postponed..
After a quick dinner.
“Um, Beru? Is it possible to recharge phone in here?”
“It is, we have power banks for that. We recharge them in the village. Just bring the empty power bank to the general store when you are in village, give it to the shopkeeper in there and take a full one from him.”
“Don’t worry, the power bank lasts for two to three days if you use it normally. And you will need to visit the village to get your training bullets, to bring the paper reports, etc. “
Darius nodded. He started to feel more like a delivery boy than a Hunter..
Silence. The dancing flames from fireplace illuminated the whole room with a warm light and filled it with heat.
Darius closed his eyes. It wasn’t so bad to be in the nature, sometimes an animal howled somewhere, but there was no sound coming from cars, no laughing or shouting of people. No ringing phones..
“OH, I forgot to phone my family. I will do it before the report otherwise they might go to sleep.”
“Still half an hour.”
“I will go to.. my room,” it was weird for him to call it like that since his real room was many kilometers away from him at that moment..
The talk with father and mum was relaxing. Darius didn’t even know that there was some weight on his shoulders but after the talk with his family he felt lighter.
The reporting was successful too. The operator even congratulated Darius on joining the Hunters.
“So, what is next? What are we going to do tomorrow?” asked Darius before going to sleep.
Beru only smiled at him and answered that he will learn when the time comes.
Darius made a sound of disapproval and closed the door on his room. Then he changed into another set of clothes, which were a bit more comfortable but still provided enough space for movement in case of emergency situations.
Darius lied on the bed, feeling a pain rising from his whole body. The feet were the worst, of course. Next were the hands and shoulders from the shotgun shots.
“And the cold will be even worse. I hope I will be able to get accustomed to this quickly. I haven’t even done anything..”
He then fell into wild dreams, in which he accidentally shot the two shots from shotgun right after each other and the recoil sent him flying into the space…