23 Back on the road
After spending the night in the lovely inn, trio swiftly packed up and went to the military post at the western outskirts of fortress. After showing their papers, Evan acquired six fine horses for his group to use. But something like that could be called strange in highly organised military structure!
They were able to do this because of very simple yet complicated thing. At first glance, one could say it was just a small small badge showed to the quartermaster, after which he just calmly given his signature on the order. If one were to dig deeper into this, he would get to know that this small item was a military issued resettlement claim! This small piece of parchment in the hands of young officer meant that he temporary retires from service at the front to obtain lands in extremely sparsely populated Nova Avi!
Depending of how much merits did someone obtain during their service, one could exchange it for various bonuses like resources, set amount of settlers or number of troops one could keep while retiring, for his own use in the newly opened settlement. The most detrimental matter to take care of, was gaining personal or noble land claim, to either own a place as personal property or control an area as local noble.
In the end, those strange tickets allowed them to obtain two horses each, what meant that their journey would be a lot easier and faster. After stockpiling some commodities like food or clothing, they exited the fortress and swiftly approached second gate, separating small town at the edge of the fortress with the rest of the open plains of eastern Nova.
"The view is so beautiful!" - Evan muttered under his nose, while gazing at the rays that sun was throwing at them across vast, greenish flatlands. Magical, thin fog was only adding another tone to exhilarating image of mostly empty steppe, that could be made into vast farmlands if only there were enough workers in the empire!
"It is indeed" - As if frozen in place, Bruno voiced his astonishment in silent voice. His usually stoic face were filled with clarity like if he just solved his greatest moral problem that trapped him for years in doubt. At this moment, a shout resounded.
"Come on guys! Let's move on!" - While rushing her horses from behind them, she rapidly speeded up towards the interior of the Empire.
"You were in such a hurry yesterday, and now you just stare at the sky? Move!" - Strangely, despite all the energy that radiated from her, Celeria looked rather… Tired? Bags under her green eyes, red hair in a mess… And to top it up, barely hidden anger and annoyance!
"Looks like someone got a bad night" - whispered Evan to his friend, while trying to hide his accomplished smile from girl. Even if she had her annoying sides, she still brought a stable supply of their daily dose of fun! Without any evil thoughts in mind involved, slightly bullying her became somewhat a routine for them.
But all said and done, her action still woke them from their faze, and forced whole group to finally set on. While she still harrumphed on the side after few short exchanges, even a fiery girl like her started to admire this atmosphere present in the area. Fresh air was filled with the slight moisture from evaporating morning dew. Gentle breeze on the face, chilling warmth of the sun on their backs. Despite all this distance they had to cover, they were just enjoying their moment in the calm and majestatic lands.
As they were riding onwards, the last sign of civilisation with the exception of the road, was slowly fading behind them. A while later, they were completely surrounded by vast and unending green ocean, sparsely broken by lone tree, small stream or insignificant hill.
"If you ask how far are we ever again, then despite all those years i took you as a friend, I will have to force my hand against you!" - gravelly serious Bruno loudly exclaimed, pulling his brows together and pointing his finger at Celeria.
"And You were so eager to depart! Where did your spirit go?" - continuing his oppressive words, massive man stared with his dead fish eyes at her.
"L-like I care what you say!" - Even if she had lived through countless battles on the front, this kind of gaze still startled her.
"It was you who set the time for so early! We have weeks if not months of travel to one side and then almost double this amount back to where are actually heading! It's not like few hours or days makes any difference!" - Celeria tossed the ball back at Bruno.
"It's exactly this kind of slows that will make a difference in the long term!" - Replied man with annoyed voice. As he started to explain, his face was full of resignation and conviction that even if he attempt to explain, It will fall on deaf ears,
"If we lose our tempo now, then we will lose our speed again. If we start slacking off, we will have an excuse to do it continuously!" - while slowly accenting every word, Bruno replied. "One more day of rest now, few more in this place, that place… In the end, rather than losing one day or just a few hours like you said, we would be behind one month or even more!" - added burly man. When he wanted to continue, Evan suddenly cut in.
"It's not like we can't rest for a bit longer. First point is already pictured by Bruno, if we lose speed once, we will keep losing it. It's not like if we can't afford doing it. We have enough funds to just live for about ten years in comfort and peace. But what then?" - He asked silently while looking at his friends.
"We need to establish our new home and grow it to the point where it can sustain itself. What we secured up to today, can only serve as foundation for our future. Or maybe you want to go back there?" - he pointed at where the fortress vanished some time ago. After shaking his head with resignation he straightened up and continued.
"Every day we lose on the road is one more day we will be behind others. Developing a land is not any easier than fighting in line, it's just about different things. Back there…" - Evan pointed behind his back again-
"... we were fighting for other people interes. I believe that's what we observed already. But in our destination, everything we will do will be for ourself!" - finished Evan with massive energy in his voice. It was easy to read excitement and anticipation on his face.
Just as the group was about to regain it's positive energy, silent whisper of horses run could be hear. As everyone immediately turned silent, they quickly localised source of the noise. From their side, there could be seen about forty people strong group of raiders, closing in on the interception route. While they were still too far to discern the details, this could only mean trouble! No one was delusional enough to think that this was army - they were traveling offroad after all. No noble would be rushing like that through this place either. No matter who in the end was coming, Evan and his friends cut their talk. Now they had to focus on current events!