48 Hours a Day
Chapter 71 - The Mannerheim Line Welcomes You
Chapter 71: The Mannerheim Line Welcomes You XIII
Though Zhang Heng spent most of his time brushing up his shooting, he made sure that he would not neglect snowboarding as well. Unfortunately, training on the snowboard didn’t go as smoothly as the shooting practice. Simone’s snowboarding skill was decent, but it didn’t come close to her shooting skills. Besides, as she was still recovering from her injuries, it was a terrible idea for her to do such vigorous exercise. Hence, she sat it out most of the time and watched Zhang Heng practice instead.
Maji stayed with them for only two days. After that, she grew impatient and bored with the translator job. Before they even realized it, Maji had already made a quick escape, running to deal with other more pressing matters.
Luckily, Zhang Heng and Simone only needed to communicate with each other during training. Though they did not share a common language, hand signals were sufficient for Zhang Heng to understand most of her instructions. Most of the time, there was an awkward silence between them.
Simone would watch Zhang Heng from the side when he practiced shooting. It was almost always freezing, up here in the north. As a snowflake landed on her nose tip, she could not help but sneeze.
Along with that, Zhang Heng found out that Simone had started to learn English from Maji. Ironically, the first sentence that she learned was, ‘can you kiss me?’.
So, the next morning, as Zhang Heng was brushing his teeth, he suddenly heard Simone’s first English words.
Shocked and taken aback, he almost swallowed the toothpaste in his mouth when he heard Simone asking him to kiss her! Later on, he discovered that Simone actually intended to say ‘good morning’ to him. Undoubtedly, only Maji could fool around with her in such a silly way.
Zhang Heng himself wanted to learn Finnish as well. After all, it was never a bad idea to learn a new language. Besides, he could communicate with the people around him.
However, there were very few consonants in Finnish. Instead, it had long words, rich vowels, and very complicated grammar, little wonder why it was considered as one of the hardest languages to master. With all things considered, this seemed to be the wrong time to learn a new language, a very hard one at that. In order to survive the war, he first had to improve his shooting and snowboarding prowess.
Of course, it wasn’t impossible for him to learn if he put his heart into it. He soon realized that there were some crucial words that had to be acquired instantly. Words like ‘open fire, ceasefire, retreat, and, cover’ were critical on the battlefield.
So here he was, trying to learn some words that were frequently used daily. Although such a short time would prove impossible for him to come up with full sentences, a single word would surely help a lot to express what he was trying to say. Maji naturally became the busiest person in the base camp, having to teach Simone English and Zhang Heng Finnish at the same time while being the doctor as well.
The good thing here was that Zhang Heng was very productive by nature. He transformed from a man who had never held a gun in his life to a lethal mercenary that could shoot accurately. At the same time, he snowboarded well now, swiftly sliding through the icy lands like a white phantom.
He had undoubtedly improved by leaps and bounds during this period. Though he still couldn’t be compared to a full-blown Finnish guerilla, most members, including Maji, were secretly impressed by his rapid improvement.
Simone’s good teaching contributed most to his improvement. As Zhang Heng had previously spent a great deal of time honing his archery skills, he had a good grasp of the basics of aiming. Regretfully, his goal of getting his shooting and snowboarding to Level 1 seemed impossible to achieve.
On his 13th day here, something that was bound to happen finally took place.
Simone had almost fully recovered from her wounds. If it was not for Zhang Heng, she would have left the base camp three days ago. In order to make sure he received the best training, she elected to stay behind for a few more days.
Today was the day that the guerilla troops received a message from the villagers nearby, informing them that a platoon of Soviet soldiers rushing somewhere had been spotted. Immediately, Ah Ji summoned all the available guerillas to discuss taking out the troops. Predictably, every single one of them concurred. Simone, too, had asked for approval to join this mission.
Zhang Heng did not attend the meeting but sensed that the guerilla members were filled with excitement. All of them were cleaning their weapons, checking their backpacks, and discussing strategies. Clearly, the atmosphere at the base camp had changed. Even lunch was a lot better than the usual.
Simone then told Zhang Heng in English that they were about to go on a mission. In turn, Zhang Heng replied to her in Finnish. Both of them looked for Oher, managing to claim four days’ worth of ammunition and supplies. As a bonus, Zhang Heng was presented with a set of camouflaged attire as well. He no longer needed to wear that rather unsightly khaki-colored Soviet uniform.
It would be a lie to say that Zhang Heng was not nervous. After all, he was about to enter an active warzone.
He was different from all those guerillas, having nothing against the Soviets. Whether he wanted it or not, though, he would soon be dipping his hands into a lake filled with Soviet blood. Wars were merciless. Everyone involved in such brutal acts against each other would eventually be forced to do something they never intended to.
Zhang Heng stuffed the toiletries and a roll of bandage into his backpack. These items were separated from the dried meat and vegetables. Simone was worried about his mental state. While packing, she kept peeping at him, worried that the rookie would somehow break down and desert the for.
However, it seemed that Zhang Heng was strangely serene; his mood no different from going for a training session. Her worries slowly subsided.
This place was no cozy study room.
This place was not a quiet library that was flooded with sunlight.
Zhang Heng wished he could comfortably sprawl on a sofa in some quiet place to prepare his mind for the rigors of war. Unless he shared the same fate with Desmond Doss, most people would only get one of two endings on a battlefield.
To kill or be killed.
This had nothing to do with moral codes. Survival was the priority here.
Zhang Heng slung his snowboard and the M28 at his back. Simone was waiting at the entrance when he opened the door. As she saw him, she hesitated before mustering enough courage to give him a one-second hug.
“Don’t worry. I will protect you,” said Simone.
A strange sensation overwhelmed Zhang Heng, this being the first time a girl had said such a thing to him. And the weirdest part was, he found it really hard to refuse her. In the end, he nodded his head and replied, ‘me too.’
Both of them did not leave for the mission when the other guerillas did. This was only because Simone was used to acting alone. In her younger days, she was trained to hunt by herself. Even after joining the guerillas, she never wanted to partner with others as well. To ensure Zhang Heng would survive till the end of this war, she broke her lone-shooter chastity for the first time and requested him as her partner.
Still, she was not used to being with someone else. While they were on the road, Simone walked briskly and was ahead of Zhang Heng. Soon, a one-meter distance drew between the two of them.
Night had fallen, and the temperature had fallen by tens of degrees.
Before long, Zhang Heng notified Simone that it was time for dinner. After living desolated on an island for a year and a half, Zhang Heng’s cooking had improved a lot. When it came to the simple ingredients that they had, he could transform them into something delicious. Hence, he volunteered to start the fire to cook for the two of them.
As she stared at the hynotizing flames, Simone zoned out. Suddenly, she thought of something and her face turned red. Initially, she had just sat there quietly, but right now, she found it really hard to sit still. Fumbling, she showed Zhang Heng a hand signal, indicating that she should check out their surroundings first.
Clearly, it didn’t seem like a valid excuse as they had just left the base camp not too long ago. There was still some distance between them and the Soviets. Other than trees and deer around them, there were no other living beings along a ten-mile radius. Perhaps this strange silence was the reason Simone felt so uneasy.