Chapter 3

Jack laid sprawled out on the grass panting to himself in a slow fashion. Today when he had gotten up he had made it an effort that he was going to try and clean up the field. So for the past five hours now, he had taken his hammer, his ax, and his scythe and laid into the field like there was no tomorrow. He hammered the rocks into rubble and slashed up the weeds. He even cut the tree stumps up into lumber and stacked them up near the stables beside the house.

He was starting to regret not listening to Zack yesterday, he really should have tried taking it easy until he got into the swing of things. But luckily all of Jack's efforts had paid off. The field was barren of all rocks, stumps and weeds at long last.

Jack crawled his way over to the watering hole as he didn't feel like standing up. He tossed his blue cap from his head and doused his head into the water. When he came up for air, his hair and face were drenched. He then cupped a handful of water and let the liquid pour into his mouth to quench his thirst.

Feeling relieved for the moment, he stood up and decided that he would pay a visit to Green Ranch about that horse.

He walked down to the crossroads and hung the necessary left he needed to take. He started walking slowly in hopes that he didn't pass it by, which proved later to be unnecessary as the huge sign "Green Ranch" came into view. Jack walked uneasily around the property, unsure whether or not it was okay to just waltz onto someone else's property without permission.

He walked up to a nearby house and knocked on the door, but no one answered.

"Ah Jack, over here."

Jack turned around to see Hall, the ranch owner with slicked back orange hair that served as a pallbearer at his grandfather's funeral, motioning for him to come over to the shop across the way. Upon getting there, Jack greeted the older man with a handshake.

"I heard from the mayor that you're taking over your grandpa's farm," He laughed in amusement, "Well, I suppose you'll be giving our ranch a bit of competition from now on."

"Well, I don't really intend to make this competitive," Jack stated uneasily, "I just want to be able to make enough money so I don't starve."

"Of course," Hall chuckled in amusement, "So what brings you out to Green Ranch? Anything I can do for you?"

"Well, I heard from the mayor that you're looking to get rid of a horse—"

"Ah, I see," Hall nodded understandingly with a glint in his eye, "Well then you wait right here, and I'll see about fetching him up for you."

Jack nodded gratefully as he watched Hall make his way over to the barn. Not knowing what else to do, Jack made his way over near the wooden fence posts by the barn and leaned against one of them. He waited their patiently for a few minutes when a horse came up beside him from the other side of the fence post.

Not sure on what he was supposed to do, Jack just pet the horse across its nose and mane. The horse neighed in satisfaction startling Jack.

"I'm impressed. Cliffguard can be pretty hard to please."

Jack looked over to see a really cute farm girl coming his way. She looked to be around his age, and had the same vibrant orange hair as Hall and Rick. Her hair was put up in a braided ponytail and she had a white bow in her hair as a means to hold it in place. She had the most captivating sky blue eyes that Jack had ever laid eyes upon.

"So do you like horses?"

Jack shook his head to get his barrings back again. Once again, he had been enamored by a woman that was way too cute to exist. "Y-Yeah...well...sort of...I don't really know yet to be honest."

The girl started laughing then gave him a slap on the back, "Well we'll have to fix that now won't we?"

Jack grinned at her tomboyish antics, "I guess so."

She gave Jack a million watt smile, "You seem like a really nice guy."

Jack pulled his head away from her view to hide the growing blush that was masking his face. She was being way too cute...

"Hey...are you listening?"

Jack pulled his head up to see that the girl was an inch away from his face. Jack's eyes bugged out as she looked at him curiously before feeling his forehead with her hand.

"That's weird. You're so red, but you don't feel feverish...?" she stated amusedly.

"I-It's because I've been working all day!" Jack barked out rather loudly and then descended into a stream of laughter to ease away the tension he was feeling.

"I see..." The girl smirked, which was setting off warning signals all around Jack's head. "Wait here one sec."

Jack watched the girl as she walked back over to the barn and called out to somebody inside the barn. Jack let out a breath he didn't realize he had been holding. As he stood there letting the tension ease out of him, the girl came out of the barn with a man also around their age. Like the other inhabitants of Green Ranch he had vibrant orange hair, but he hid it behind a blue hat with a local feed mill logo on it. The man was in gardener's clothes and was glaring at Jack as he approached.

"So what do you think, brother?" the girl asked, "He looks about right. Seems like a good match don't you think?"

Jack felt another small blush come onto his face. 'Just what in the world are they talking about?' he wondered.

"...Not a chance." The man said glaring coldly into Jack's eyes and with that the man walked off again back for the barn.

"Oh, Gray!" She pouted out of irritation.

Jack, for the first time, found himself to be annoyed with one of the locals, "What's his problem?"

"Oh, don't mind my brother," the girl sighed before puffing her cheeks up haughtily and calling out to Gray. "He's a social disaster!"

Gray didn't seem the least bit jarred by the insult and walked back into the barn with no retaliating remarks.

Jack snorted to relieve some of his anger at the guy.

"Anyway," the girl went on, "We have a proposition for you. We have local horse races once every month. We want you to enter under the Green Ranch name, and in return we will give you a free horse."

"Free?!" Jack shouted out in disbelief. "Really?!"

"Really," the girl smiled, "Oh and by the way. My name is Ann."

"I'm Jack. Pleasure to meet you," Jack said introducing himself wholeheartedly.

The doors to the barn opened and Hall came out with a small brown pony in tow. Jack just looked at the pony with awe. The little guy was cool. He had a lot of energy in him, but looked to be extremely well behaved.

"So has Ann sold you on the pony yet," Hall asked in good nature, "We could really use your help in the local horse races. There's some stiff competition out there."

"Sir, I'd be more than willing," Jack said without hesitation. He really didn't have a clue about what went into horse racing, but he was sure that it couldn't be too hard...or at least that's what he hoped.

"Okay then, I'll bring this pony over to your farm now," Hall said pleasantly. With that said he walked off toward Jack's farm with the little pony in tow.

"He's cute...the pony I mean," Jack said rubbing the back of his head.

"Well of course he is," Ann giggled, "He's a baby. He's suppose to be cute. And thank you so much for doing this for us! Do your best to win the horse races.

Jack nodded and pumped up a fist, "Leave it to me!"

Ann nodded happily before asking curiously, "So what are you going to name him?"

"Do I have to...?" Jack asked. He wasn't really expecting to have to name his horse.

"Well of course silly." Ann laughed slapping Jack on the back again, "Otherwise they won't be able to tell which is yours during the horse races."

Jack thought it over for a minute before he finally came up with a name that he liked and replied with his answer, "Pierce."

"Hmm, it's not a bad name. But it's not very creative." Ann said unsuredly.

"Well I never said I was original," Jack shrugged with a slight chuckle.

"Well take good care of him," Ann replied with a hint of worry in her voice, "If you treat him with a lot of love and care, Pierce should grow up to be a big and strong horse."

Jack got the distinct impression that Ann really loved animals. "You know, I could use some help taking care of him until I get everything situated. If you're not too busy, you're welcome to stop by and help,"

Ann's cheeks turned a little pink before she nodded, "Okay, I will! But only when I'm not busy..."

Jack nodded happily and said his goodbyes to the Green Ranch. The evening sun was beginning to set in, but Jack decided that if it still wasn't too late he had one more place that he wanted to visit...

Jack walked up the pathway to the vineyard and breathed in a sigh of relief when he made it to the top. When he finally took the time to look around, Jack couldn't help gawking at the sheer size of the estate. They had an elaborate two-story house unlike many of the other residents of the village and a separate house across from it for the field workers. The field was tucked back behind both the houses and extended in a rectangular fashion all the way back to the white fence in the distance. Jack walked out onto the field and took a look at the nearest plant but frowned when he noticed that not many grapes seemed to be growing from the vines.

"Hey, what's up man? Need something?"

Jack looked back to see one of the vintners of the plantation. Unlike most of the locals, he was of African descent and wore a purple bandana and purple pants. He had on a white collared shirt and a brown over shirt.

"No, sorry, I was just looking around." Jack apologized.

"Hey now, no worries, and in case you were wondering, grape season isn't until the fall," The young man grinned, "The name's Kai. I'm the head vintner working under the master."

"Jack, I'm new in town." Jack introduced himself yet again for the umpteenth time since he arrived.

"Yeah, I know how that's like. If you hadn't guessed by now, I'm not really from around here myself." Kai said as he came over and poked Jack in the ribs with his elbow.

Jack smiled and began conversing with the young vintner. After a good, thirty-minute long talk with the man, Jack decided it was time to leave and Kai walked him back to the exit to see him off.

Just as Jack turned to leave, the front door to the estate flew open and another unknown girl around Jack's age came marching out in a storm of fury. She was wearing brown running shoes and blue jean shorts that went down to her knees. She had on a white shirt and a purple vest to go over it. She had blonde dyed bangs that perfectly complimented her light brown hair, but what really caught Jack's attention were her jade green eyes that were filled with a passionate fury as she stormed past him in the direction of the exit.

Just as she looked to be home free, Gotz, the gruff looking pallbearer from grandpa's funeral, came running out of the estate chasing after her. His face was red with rage and anger. "Karen! Get back here this instant!"

"No!" the girl yelled, turning around to stare at Gotz in defiant aggravation. "Gosh! You're a terrible father! Why can't you just let me live my own life!"

She turned around after saying that and ran off down the hill.

"Karen! Don't be so selfish, Karen!" Gotz yelled after her, but when it proved fruitless he vented his anger out on the nearby fence with a kick, "Grr. What an undutiful daughter!"

Jack and Kai sat there speechless as many people do after witnessing something dramatic play out. Upon seeing the two of them, Gotz lashed out at them, "Well what are you two looking at?!"

Jack and Kai stuttered for an answer, but it didn't seem Gotz was really looking for one because he trudged back into his estate slamming the door behind him.

Jack gulped as Kai sighed to himself.

"What was all that about," Jack asked hesitantly.

Kai spoke up in a soft tone, "That was Miss Karen. She's the master's daughter. She's been wanting to leave for the city recently, and it's been causing a lot of quarrels between her and the master.

"I see..." Jack said despite himself. He really couldn't understand why someone would actually want to live in the city. "Well this was definitely interesting."

"Welcome to the vineyard. Story of my life," Kai laughed.

Jack walked back down the hill still feeling a little uneasy at the fight he had witnessed at the vineyard, he was so lost in his thoughts that the crossroad came and went, and before he realized it he was once again standing in front of Green Ranch. Jack smacked his head tiredly from having made such a careless mistake.

That's when he heard it. The sound of waves crashing against a nearby shore. Earlier when he had came by Green Ranch, he was so busy conversing with Ann and thinking about getting a horse that the sound must have blended into his surroundings, but now that he was actually listening for it he could hear it plain as day.

He went a little further down the narrow pathway away from Green Ranch and soon found himself walking down a steep slope onto a private beach. Jack's eyes widened in awe as he looked out at the fiery red sunset that cascaded across the waters and sands. It was one of the most beautiful scenes he had ever seen in his life. Words could never begin to express the sunset's beauty.

Jack looked around the shoreline after finally taking his eyes away from the sunset to notice that there was a dock extending out onto the water. As he approached the dock, he noticed that someone was sitting down at the end of it. Whoever it was, she was crying. The last thing that Jack wanted to do was invade somebody's privacy. However as he went to walk away, the stranger got up and turned around making eye contact with him.

Jack immediately recognized the girl from her clothing, it was the girl who stormed off from the vineyard earlier. Karen, if he recalled right.

"S-Sorry," Jack stuttered offhandedly, "I'll just be going now..."

As Jack turned to walk back toward his house, Karen spoke out to him in a calm manner, "...You don't look familiar."

Jack refocused his attention her cautiously. She didn't seem to be irritated that he disrupted her privacy so he decided to answer the question. "Y-Yeah, well I'm not from around here. I moved here to take over my grandpa's farm."

"Where are you from," She asked with a hint of disinterest.

"Well...I'm from—"

"Never mind," Karen replied immediately cutting Jack off. She sighed to herself, "It doesn't really matter to me. Besides, you'll be gone soon enough."

"What makes you say that?" Jack asked now feeling a little annoyed.

The girl just smiled a small smile and walked passed him.

"Hey. Hey! I'm not done talking to you." Jack called out to her to which Karen just waved goodbye. Jack followed her out of aggravation all the way back to the crossroads .

"Stop following me," she finally said stopping and turning around to glare at Jack. Even Jack had to admit that it was pretty intimidating being on the receiving end of her piercing green eyes.

"I just want to know why you said that," Jack sighed, still a bit miffed from earlier.

The girl responded by brushing one of her blonde bangs back over her ear. She then held up one finger and put it up against his lips.

"Don't talk so much." The girl ordered tiredly. "If it bugs you that much then prove me wrong. It's as simple as that. So don't go getting all riled up over nothing."

Jack took a deep long breath and then vented the air out his nose. The girl finally removed her finger from his lips, turned, and walked off toward the village.

"I'm Jack, by the way!" he called out to the girl. "And I'm going to prove you wrong!"

The girl looked over her shoulder for a brief glance, "Karen." She replied back and resumed walking away.

Jack slammed the door behind him and sat down on his bed. He couldn't remember the last time he felt so aggravated. He pulled his diary from the nightstand and skimmed through it to a blank page to blot down his day.

Diary Entry 2

Alright, well I'm just a little pissed right now, but I'll get back to that in a minute. I went out to Green Ranch today and got that horse the mayor was talking about yesterday. I met a wonderful girl today. Her name is Ann. She's a little tomboyish, but she's super cute. I also met a vintner from the vineyard. His name's Kai and we got along pretty well. He's an all around nice guy. Unlike some people I know.

Ann's brother, Gray, ...I don't even know where to begin. I've never even met the guy before but the first thing he says to me is that I have no chance at raising horse that can win the horse races? Well I'll show him! Bastard...

And then there's Karen...she just...I just...grr...she just got under my skin in all the wrong ways. She thinks that I'll give up the farm life and move back to the city. I bet she only said that because she hates it here. Or at least that's what Kai said. God, I'm not even sure how she pissed me off now. She told me to prove her wrong, so that's what I'm going to do.

Jack tossed the diary back onto the nightstand and lied down on his bed to vent out his frustrations. He couldn't even remember the last time he got this riled up about something. One thing was for certain. Tomorrow, 'Operation: Prove Them Wrong' would commence.