Chapter 69: The Mannerheim Line Welcomes You XI
Maji brought Zhang Heng to meet the logistics guy responsible for the firearms. He was an old hunter with a pronounced limp. At the same time, he doubled as the resident chef for the base camp as well. The breakfast that Zhang Heng had earlier? Yeah, that was him too.
Maji gave the old man a quick hug and spoke in Finnish, telling him about the newcomer. As they talked, Maji passed him half a pack of cigarettes. The older man then stared at Zhang Heng and nodded his head, albeit somewhat unwillingly. He flipped his remuneration into his pocket, turned around, and entered the house behind him.
“Oher will show you later how to use the machine gun. He’s one of the most accomplished hunters over here. His tens of years of experience are more than good enough to teach you everything you need to know about a machine gun. Don’t worry about the language barrier. I’ll be your translator. If you have any questions, feel free to voice it out,” said Maji.
Zhang Heng was surprised at how Maji was so helpful all of a sudden. She did not seem like the kind of person to stick her nose in the business of others.
“The girl requested me to help you. My hands are tied. She’s the reason why I can still continue to smoke. So, it’s hard for me to say no to her. I consider this favor as repaying her back.”
It was apparent that Maji was in no intention to hide the truth. She then paused and stared at Zhang Heng in a suspiciously.
“Sebor told me that you and the female sniper were…”
Zhang Heng blushed, not knowing what to answer. During that perilous time, Zhang Heng was left with no other option if he was to keep her alive. Considering the nature of how it ‘happened’ though, it would be hard for anybody to believe him even if he was telling the truth.
Luckily, good old Oher saved the day, coming out from the house in the nick of time right after Maji asked the question. He then handed a machine gun to Zhang Heng.
“This machine gun that you are holding is an M28. It is an improved version of the M1891 Mosin-Nagant and is way more accurate when it fires. Weapons are scarce here. You better not lose it!”
Maji translated everything to Zhang Heng, and he was thankful he could finally find common ground with these people.
“Besides the gun, Oher has given you 70 rounds as well. You need to know that these bullets are not just for shooting practice. You will need them when you go on your first mission. I would advise you to use ’em wisely.”
Maji paused for a while before continuing, “Now… you can claim 40 rounds here before you go on a mission. If you run out of ammo, you can get it from the dead Soviets that you killed. Alternatively, you can exchange something valuable for bullets. I’ll give you an example. Guns and medicines are precious at the base camp. Bring home some if you can. And if you manage to get your hands on a T26 tank and drive it back to the base camp, you will have my heartiest congratulations. That is because it will grant you full access to your arsenal!”
While Maji was talking, a few guerrillas brought over a Maxim Heavy Machine Gun, looking like they had just got back to the base camp not too long ago. And they had won the battle. Some of them were even bold enough to whistle at Maji when they saw her. Seeing the colossal cannon-like weapon rolling by, Zhang Heng jumped aside and let them move the lumbering gun into the armory. Then, Oher jotted something down on his notebook.
Only after did the excited guerrillas leave the armory did Oher finally started explaining how a machine gun was used. Zhang Heng made sure as well to pay proper attention to every single word he said. After all, Maji would not be there every single time to translate for him. Not like she would be in such an elegant mood every single day anyway.
The next day, Maji brought Zhang Heng to visit a guerrilla that was really good at snowboarding. The small favor she asked had cost her half a pack of cigarettes, buying Zhang Heng one snowboarding lesson for half a day. Zhang Heng had gone snowboarding a couple of times back home. With the added guidance, he managed to perform a lot better than yesterday.
After two days, Maji finally grew impatient and left Zhang Heng to do whatever he wanted to do. Luckily, Zhang Heng had learned everything that he needed to learn to keep himself alive while he was out on a mission.
So, he searched for a secluded place and started practicing everything he learned for the past two days. Snowboarding shouldn’t be too tall of an order for Zhang Heng since he had done it before. Shooting, on the other hand, was a totally different story. When it came to the theory, he knew almost everything about weapons. All he needed to do right now was to familiarize himself with it.
He needed to make sure that his fingers would become accustomed to pulling the trigger at living enemies. Right now, he had only 70 bullets with him, and though he tried to spare as many as possible, he still spent 40 bullets in two days. If he was shooting in real life, going through 40 bullets would take him a mere two minutes.
After the shooting practice, Zhang Heng was flabbergasted, realizing that his shooting skills barely scraped the level of zero. And Zhang Heng did not know what to do anymore. He now had to conserve the bullets for his next mission. To survive in his upcoming mission, he expected that he would need to have 30 rounds with him. At most, he could only afford to spend another 10 bullets. Any more than that and he would turn into a corpse on the battlefield.
Quite frankly, ten bullets wouldn’t make much of a difference.
There was nothing Zhang Heng could do about it, and since he could not leave base camp to look for more ammo, he could only exchange for them with Oher. Unfortunately, his valuables had been confiscated by the other guerillas. On top of that, Zhang Heng had no intention to get it back from them because he knew that it was pointless. Those weren’t the types to return something they came into possession of. Finders keepers.
With that being said, his shooting practice had come to an end.
On the third day, Zhang Heng went back to where he first practiced shooting. To his pleasant surprise, he found three boxes of bullets under the white birch, a total of 45 rounds! Now, who could it be? Zhang Heng was the one who picked the location for the shooting practice, and no one else knew about it.
This was located some distance away from the base camp. Until now, he still had no idea why the gunner that he met in the forest was still acted hostile towards him, suspecting that the others might have felt uncomfortable as well. He realized he was now stuck here for some time. In the interest of avoiding prying eyes and to stay out of trouble, he thought it best to look for a more covert spot.
He was delighted, never expecting to find so many bullets here. Admittedly, that solved the huge problem of the lack of ammunition. He wondered who had the generosity to leave him such handsome bounty.
In truth, it was not that difficult to figure out who left it here. There was only one person in the base camp fond of Zhang Heng.
As it had been left there, finders keepers, he thought and used all of it for the shooting practice.
The next day, three boxes of rounds were being left under the trees again. This time, his cellphone, wallet, wooden sculpture, and Rabbit’s Foot were laid beside as well. Except for his inner coat, all of his personal belongings had returned to him!
Instead of carrying on with his shooting practice, he knocked on the Maji’s door.
“What’s going on?” groaned Maji with a yawn. Her sleepy voice proof that she had just woken up.
“Good morning, Ms. Maji. I’m here to look for someone.”
Zhang Heng knew that the female sniper stayed together with Maji in the same wooden cottage.
“Oy! Your bloke’s here to look for you! Should I tell him that you are here?”
Chilly winds were starting to close in, causing a shivering Maji to tighten the neckline of her nightgown.
Half a minute later, Maji stood aside and allowed Zhang Heng to enter. The sniper was lying on the bed and had her back facing the entrance with a blanket wrapped like a burrito around her. Zhang Heng could only make out half her head. It seemed like she was still sleeping.
Maji then walked over to her bed and pulled the blanket away. The neatly-dressed blond-haired sniper was presented before Zhang Heng.
“Simone! You can’t avoid your partner forever, right?”