Chapter 1: The Fifth Match Part 1
|Right before dawn, before even the roosters were up, a boy was sitting on the roof of his wooden house. Cool winds which heralded the coming of winter were embracing him, but that didn't bother him in the least. With his eyes fixated towards the east in the distance he watched in wonder as the sky changed hues from purple to magenta, then a hint of red before exploding with yellows and oranges as the sun peeked just over the horizon. He used to watch the sunrise everyday; it was among the very few things that pumped his heart with a sense of adventure and excitement, that allowed him to push through each day with all his energy.
The roosters were up and the sky was a light shade of blue by the time he came down and for the umpteenth time was scolded by old man Alan,
"You will get sick if you keep doing that young man, just what does this boy get from going up there all the time?" He said pulling on his ear.
The boy managed to get off his grasp and ran towards the door saying, "You will understand if you sit there too, though I wouldn't recommend that.
Alan sighed and went about cleaning up the house. At one point of time the house had belonged to the chief of that small village and his wife. Soon after the birth of their child, the chieftain and his wife passed away leaving a small boy in the care of old man Alan, their servant. Alan had told the boy that Hans was the name his mother had come up with, it was the name of the local deity from his mother's village. It was the deity of wisdom and righteousness.
It was a daily routine for Hans, he would walk out, grab his basket and head towards the forest to collect firewood or some days he would help out around the village by doing various odd jobs or act as a substitute for many of the shop owners when they would have to leave the shops.
It was a small village, the house that he lived in wasn't a big house but it was still the house of a chief. His parents had left him a great fortune, enough that he wouldn't have to work his entire life but he worked regardless for the sake of enjoyment and pleasure that he derived from meeting others and see them smile, if nothing else.
That morning too, just like the other days, he went out, greeted the elders that were out and about, helped the small children get their playing ball out from a tree, noticed Alice, the blacksmith's lass catching him in the act through her balcony, blushing and running back in. He also found himself liking her even more than he did the day before.
Greeting everyone along the way, he finally reached the Gordan's shop. Gordan the owner of an eatery and the only butchery of the village had asked for Hans' help in keeping the shop open just like the dozen times before that when he would have to go on hunts for preparing stock.
The day was slumping by as it normally did, a few customers came to buy meat but it was overall quiet. The shop was located at the very end of an alley so a lot of the commotion of the village didn't penetrate through. With the help of the quiet and gentle winds, Hans was easing himself to slumber when he heard footsteps outside the shop.
He waited but the person outside didn't come in. From the silhouette he could make out that it was a girl about the same height as him. After a few minutes of awkward silence Hans spoke, "You came here to buy meat? We can prepare some grubs too."
Hesitantly, a girl with dirty blonde hair running till her shoulders, wearing a frock that reached till her knees, entered.
"So what would you like?" Hans asked.
"She looked around before saying, "No I am not really hung~"
"Well, looks like your stomach can speak louder than you" Hans remarked with a smirk.
The girl looked down clenching her dress with her fists as her pale cheeks turned a rich crimson.
Hans continued, "Don't have any money? Here I'll treat you."
Hearing those words, the girl looked up with questioning eyes.
"You are not from here and here is quite far away from everywhere else, it cannot be just a chance that you stumbled upon this village, why don't you tell me your story in exchange, traveller?"
The girl sat at the nearest table to the counter and stuffed a spoonful of the stew in her mouth. Hans was amused by the ferocity with which she ate. He started the conversation and the girl was easy to talk to. He came to know that her name was Christine and she was indeed on some kind of a journey but she had no idea of where she'd go next. However Christine also remained silent on questions about the reason for her visit to the village and her parents among other things. Hans assumed the worst and steered away from such topics.
After the meal, Christine got up, said her thanks and was about to leave but before she did, she turned around and looked Hans in the eyes and asked,
"From the way you talked about these villagers, they seemed to love you, do you love them as much?"
Hans was taken aback by that, he chuckled at first and then became silent and spoke, " Sure they adore me, but I know that I'll never be their family, they'd never risk their lives for me, that adoration is as thin and weightless as mist. In this village where nothing happens, its hard to spend my days, I'd do anything for the taste of an adventure, to get away from here."
"Then why don't you?" Christine asked.
"This is the life and the world I have known all my life, I think my body and mind are hesitant to leave this place, even though I really want to. I guess I am waiting for some kind of an opportunity."
"Then it has arrived."
"You said yourself right? That it couldn't happen by any chance that I came to this village, there must be a reason that i came here, met you and had this conversation." Christine said.
"I... I don't know" Hans said with a forced smile.
Christine smiled back and walked out the eatery.
Hans knew that he would regret the refusal but he didn't know that the regret would come almost instantly. He had thought all his life about going on an adventure and now that opportunity had knocked on his door, he had passed it. Among all the people that he had spent sixteen years of his life with, it was a stranger who had truly understood him. He decided that he had been scared long enough, this was the time for him to act. He shot up from his seat, jumped over the counter and ran out to catch Christine.
She turned around hearing his steps and turned around to find Hans as he said, "I'll come with you."