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50 Chapter Fifty - Autumn Harves

    Autumn was once the season of harvest, when the fields were golden with ripe ears of wheat or the green leaves of corn stalks, when certain trees were ready to release their fruits and nuts and berries were abundant in both gardens and wild spaces.  However this year, the fields were marred with weeds, vines or ruined by pests and many of the trees were no longer holding edible fruit but poisonous intentions, however it did not mean that there was not places where a harvest could be obtained.  The army stationed close by to acres of farmland were aware of this and had split into teams in order to take advantage of what might be the last harvest from them.  Soldiers lead civilians that sought their protection to do this and certain so-called 'ability users' were scattered amongst them to help the civilians work diligently, knowing they were safe against the dangers of zombies, mutant animals and vicious plants.

    Possibly they didn't expect to encounter squads from other safe havens seeking to do the same thing, perhaps in their arrogance they thought that they were amongst the only survivors in these parts.  After all, they were a part of the army, trained to command and be commanded, to face adversity and overcome it, to be the peoples last defence.  And ability users amongst the civilians were few and many of them lacked the necessary drive and ambition to train their powers to be of use.  Still, many abilities were weak and useless and even the more effective ones were not as great at dealing with zombies as a gun or blade.

    Chang Min, who had appeared amongst the first wave of survivors, had been an exception.  The higher ups had treated him well, had given him resources, although he remained aloof for the most part.  He'd been asked by them to train the army's ability users, to make them stronger, but apparently, his methods had been received with disbelief and mockery, so he had stopped offering advice.  However, they believed that he would not do them harm, especially as he'd been upon the front wall protecting them against a particularly volatile zombie attack.  So they'd likely look on in shock and horror when he 'betrayed' them for a small squad as one of their teams harvested from the farmlands.

    Chang Min, however, had seen his Master, thus they, who he had long come to see with disdain, did not once enter his considerations.

    Ren Zexian looked fondly at his last disciple with a warm smile.

    *****

    Harvesting was also taking place in the base within the small village, not fifteen minutes drive away.  Upon the grounds of the two other stately places, blackberry bushes had taken root and happened to have not mutated.  While being wary of the thorns that the wild bushes possessed, one small girl and one big girl were happily picking the shiny black clusters and placing them in a basket.  There was an obvious stain surrounding Lucy's lips, despite being chided several times by Autumn not to eat the unwashed berries and she once again took a handkerchief to wipe the sticky lips clean with a sigh.

    "That was probably pointless," Dexter pointed out.  He'd accompanied the girls as despite this land being a part of their base, did not mean it was completely safe.  Mutated plants still cropped up from time to time and the walls and thick hedgerows could not prevent flying monsters from descending and causing havoc.  Already, he had zapped a mutant bird of some carrion type from the sky as it no longer wished to wait until the flesh was dead before ripping pieces off of its meal.  His lightening had stunned it, while its neck was broken by Aslan.  He wasn't sure what happened to its corpse after that and decidedly didn't want to.

    Sure enough, Autumn caught little Lucy stuffing another berry into her mouth.  "But what if she gets sick?" Autumn said, worriedly.  Dexter smiled and kneeled before the small child.

    "Here that," Dexter mentioned, softly.  "You're making Autumn here all concerned about you.  No more berries in case you get a tummy upset."  He pocked her small stomach, causing her to giggle, but he didn't think his words would affect anything.  So instead, as he stood, he gave a sharp whistle and called for her dark guardian.  The hound appeared just as expected, in a smoky puff of air.  "Take her home and don't let her get into any more trouble."  He picked up the child and popped her on the dog's large back.  Aslan acknowledged his words with a sharp nod then vanished, child and all.

    Autumn let loose a breath.  "I'm not sure when I will get used to that!" She exclaimed and distracted herself by picking a few more berries.  "I've never met a more intelligent dog either."

    "Can't say whether he was like that before or just after he mutated," Dexter said, accompanying her in her task.  "We found them in the village not long after we got here.  With the exception of Nathan, there weren't any other survivors here."

    "Poor thing," Autumn truly felt for the little girl.  Even though... even though it was uncertain that her parents were still alive, at least she'd had their love and care until she'd become an adult, as questionable as she'd found that at times.  But Lucy lost her parents already and she was no more that four years of age.  Would she even recall them when she grew up?

    "Luckier than some," Dexter mused, his mind flashing over the other discoveries within the village at that time.  Autumn didn't say anything in response and Dexter couldn't help but glance at her beside him, only to find two large tears rolling down her rounded cheeks.  "Hey, what are you crying about?"  Despite the harshness of the words, his flustered tone was not belittling.

    Autumn wiped them away quickly.  "Sorry," she mumbled.  "I don't normally cry.  It was just... I didn't appreciate my parents... well my mum that much towards the end.  I felt annoyed with her.  But now... Lucy won't even get a chance to be annoyed at her mum, will she?"

    "We don't know what we had, until we lose it," Dexter said, tucking his thumbs into his jeans pocket, trying to not look as uncomfortable as he felt.  Not that he hadn't had women cry in front of him before, like his old girlfriend who wept as she blamed him for her cheating.  Or his shameless grandma, who used to pretend to cry whenever she didn't get her own way.  But genuine tears?  How was a guy meant to handle those?  He rubbed at the sweat trickling down his neck as he added; "Still, she has the chance at getting all annoyed at us when she grows up right?"

    Autumn laughed through her tears and nodded, brightly.  Seeing her cheer up a bit, he awkwardly tapped her shoulder, then sighed in relief as they were interrupted.  "Hey!"  Shaun called out as he zoomed towards their location, pouring his ability into manipulating his wheelchair.  "Jonah and the others are back!"

    "Come on," he suggested to Autumn, not wanting to leave her over here and vulnerable.  "Let's go welcome them back."

    "Okay," Autumn agreed.

    The truck drove through the metal gates and the weary squad exited the vehicle to be greeted by expectant faces.  "Where's my babies?" Jonah called out gruffly, causing a peeking face to flinch and look inward, questioning himself.

    "You little wife is taking a nap," Eraj mentioned from where he leaned between the railings of the metal fence.

    Jonah nodded and commented; "I'll check in on her in a bit then."

    "Master, you live here?" Came the voice of an unknown man from behind the truck, causing those not in the know to hesitate.

    Harry and Winston, who'd been locking the gate securely, glanced at each other as that person followed Ren Zexian towards the fence of Nathan's garden.  Like Ren Zexian, he was clearly of oriental descent and as well had an abundance of long, silky black hair, though his was loosely tied into a bun.  He also did not wear robes like the man he called Master, but comfortable jeans and a white t-shirt.

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    "Ah, that's Chang Min," Patrick advised them.  "It turns out, he came from the same place as Ren did!  We found him with soldiers from the army base."

    "Soldiers?" Harry questioned.

    "Long story," Patrick said, with a wave of his hand.  "Still, he left them and came with us, because of Ren!"  Those arrogant soldiers already understood Chang Min was not to be trifled with and could only watch as he abandoned them and the armfuls of wheat that the squad had already grabbed was taken away too.  Patrick grinned, before running back to the truck to use his abilities to help unload it.  A series of random things began to float towards the fence and up the drive way with the cheerful man walking along with them.

    Liquid, blue eyes also caught sight of the man trailing behind Ren Zexian and fell down cast.  Nathan's feet came into view, but although he watched them for a bit, they did not begin to move.  Suddenly they were joined by pale, leather boots, which were obscured for a moment by the hem of silken robes.  "Nathan," Ren Zexian said softly and the younger man gazed upward, meeting Ren Zexian's obsidian eyes briefly before he couldn't maintain the link anymore.  "Nathan, I'm back."

    The youth's lips curved at the ends, not much, but Ren Zexian's sharp eyes caught it and his own smile became warmer.  Chang Min was not his Master's apprentice for nothing and naturally noticed the gentle aura forming about the pair, which only increased as they walked side by side along the path towards the side of the large property before them.  He couldn't help but become curious.  Who was this delicate looking young man that had caught his Master's eye?

    Tyler was also curious about something as he took note of the inventory, adding the newer supplies to the ones they already had accumulated, minus Autumn's small alterations over the past few days.  "Where the hell is all the wholegrain rice?"
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