Chapter 2: Life in the Town
Joren had a good relationship with all of the people so I always joined him when he made his rounds around town. I wanted to be friends with everyone like him. He also got a lot of free things from people which I thought was a perk of being the Protector but after a while I realized it was just because he was nice to everyone. The smell of Barta and Jole’s freshly baked bread wafted past us as we followed the scent like dogs.
“You boys look like you’ve been putting in some work today.” Barta said with a grand smile.
“Oh I was just doing my usual rounds around the zone. Aerith was the one putting in all the work. Is it just me or is he getting bigger?” said Joren.
“Oh absolutely! That cute little face is slowly turning into a big man!”
The feeling of embarrassment now outweighed my desire for fresh buns.
“Here’s a lil’ something for you boys, try some of this honey on it too!” said Barta as she handed each of us a honey roll. As I took the first bite my mind went blank and all I could think about was the sweet taste of the honey roll on my tongue. At that moment nothing else but my taste buds mattered. There aren’t many things that can take my mind off of the entire world but honey rolls were definitely one of them.
“Your kindness is more appreciated than you know.” said Joren as he stuffed the last of his roll down his throat.
“Oh stop it! I’m just glad you boys like ’em.” said Barta with a grin as wide as her face.
“Um, thank you! So much... it’s really good!” I tried to say without sounding weird.
“Hey Joren do you mind giving us a hand over here?”
Our new town center was in the process of being built. Jack, one of the elders, was trying to explain to some of the men that their backs truly weren't "in it". Jack liked to give orders around because it made him feel like he was doing something productive. He never got upset when people didn't listen to him, he liked to just speak for the sake of speaking. Maybe if he rambled on long enough, someone would take his advice to heart and maybe it would help someone out.
Joren was always called over to help with the heavy lifting due to Nature's Vision. He grabbed the four floorboards that two people were struggling to lift and carried them with ease over to the site. Unlike the all the other buildings in the town, this one wasn't going to be made completely out of wood. The floor was wood but the walls were a mixture of this strange powder and crushed rocks that made a paste that hardened when dried out creating an almost rock-like wall. It was smeared over the wood adding an extra layer of insulation and protection. At the time I thought that extra protection was unnecessary since we had never been attacked on our land before but it would eventually prove very useful.
"Are we going to be attacked soon?"
"Of course not, do you see this happy bunch of people? No one would ever have any reason to hurt any of these people." Joren reassured me.
He paused for a second before continuing, "But it's always good to be prepared, it's better to fear the unknown and to be prepared than to always hope for the best."
"I thought you always hoped for the best?" I asked without realizing the effect it would have on him.
"I do... I can't not hope for the best. I just wish that hoping is all I need to do." He said with a solemn look.
"Huge haul today Joren, you missed out on a good chase!" said one of the hunters on his way to the butcher.
"Looks like we're eating good tonight! Keep up the good work!" Joren said as his smile returned.
I wanted to go on hunts with the older guys but I wasn't allowed to until I turned 14. Joren went on hunts somewhat often but he didn't like to. He said that killing the animals of the forest was necessary for our survival, but it's hard not to think about what's necessary for their survival. I once asked if the deer felt sad when one of their own was killed, I was never given a direct answer.
"Quit picking on that poor tree and come help get ready to head out!"
"Why do I need to help gather today?"
"Because with legs like those, you'll never be cut out to be a hunter."
Joren and I stopped and listened to the conversation between a mother and daughter going on behind a house. I knew that house and that voice. It belonged to the most beautiful girl in my class, Myra.
"Oh Joren! Good to see you! How's the construction on the town center doing?" Myra's mother asked.
"It's coming along a lot quicker than I expected, everyone's putting in the extra effort to get it done as soon as possible. It's going to be nice and warm in there during the winter."
"Good, good! You're mother and father would be so proud of you."
"Mom let's go! I don't wanna come home in the dark again. Oh hey Aerith!"
"Hey Myra, going gathering today?"
"Yup, then it's back to training. I'm sure you know how that feels."
"Um, yeah! I mean, I don't go gathering but... yeah I mean I do train a lot, uh I guess." I said trying my hardest not to stutter. Joren gave me a look before he decided it was time to move on. We were almost at my house, it only takes about ten minutes to walk across the entire town.
"Someone's got a crush." Joren said with a little tune.
"No I don't!" I didn't know how to defend myself.
"It's not a problem at all, having something or someone to protect is always a good thing. She seems like she's into you too."
"How can you tell?"
"Well, her mood seemed to lighten up as soon as she saw you. I think that's at least a good start."
"Doesn't your mood lighten up when you see your friends?"
Joren looked into the distance pensively for a moment.
"Maybe you're right, I'm not sure to be completely honest. That would explain a lot."
"Maybe you should give me advice on girls once you've landed one yourself."
"You should treat your Protector with a little bit more respect. Have you seen all I've done around here?" Joren said as his face got more stern.
"I have, I've also never seen you with a girl around here." I said trying my hardest not to laugh. Joren just continued on, defeated, trying his best not to think about his love life.
"Let's hurry it up, you got some chores before dinner!" my mother yelled from the front door.
"Thanks for walking me home, maybe someday you can walk a girl home too!" I said as I skipped along. Joren loved me like an older brother but sometimes I felt like I was a little too harsh on him. If anyone could take it, he could. There really wasn't much to hassle him about anyways. He spent most of his time patrolling the outskirts of the village and near the Edge. When he wasn't patrolling he was helping the people with whatever they needed. Sometimes he would join the hunters for a hunt, his help was always welcome whenever any construction was going on, and he could always help the gatherers out by using his gift to seek our the ripest fruit or berries in the forest. Joren always told me that girls didn't like him because he was too funny or because he was too strong. I wasn't until much later that I would find out the real reason.
"You're classes and training are going to get a lot harder from here on out, be sure to eat up and get a good nights sleep tonight, tomorrow is day one of new training." Mom said as she stirred the soup over the fire.
"I know, I'm going to be Protector one day so I always have to try my best." I said whilst fidgeting with some string and wood.
"Your father would have been very proud of you."
That didn't mean much to me because I don't really remember who my father was. I hear stories but I can't even picture his face. Joren was the father figure in my life even if he was more like an older brother. I couldn't imagine it any other way. All I've ever wanted to do is make him proud.