The next few weeks passed by peacefully. The only ruckus in the vicinity of the barn came from the howls of a half grown man who refused to learn basic education.
Those howls everyday quickly became groans that led to whimpers until finally unacceptable compliance.
“Ming did you bring up those jars here?”
Chu pointed at some large jars that were sitting in a corner.
“Yea, since last time I felt it was better here. Its easier to lob the pellets like last time and we dont have to risk getting it from below.”
“I see, but dont forget to keep in the far corner on the other side. I dont want the heat coming up from the oven to melt the fat.”
“OOps, good thing you told me Chu I completely forgot about that.”
Just like those fictional stories he read as a teen in the past world, the one transported really had it tough. For someone who never killed a chicken in his life, here he was butchering wolves. If not for his mature mind he would have already gave in to fear and disgust from blood.
The only contact with large predators like these, was on his one visit to the zoo. In this world he actually faced down a mad deer and a terrifying bear. If not for Lucy’s actions he was sure he would have done worse than Ming in peeing his pants.
Imagine the kind of fear that actually paralyzed a person from even pissing his pants or a bowel release. Just the though of remembering that scene made him start to sweat. On some nights it gave him wonderful nightmares.
To continue such risky ventures to make money was only going to lead to a tragic end. Now that they were not in a bind for food and shelter he could take his time to decide on the future. First he had to continue to learn about the workings of the world and then make his decision. As a twelve year old surrounded by others the same age, he already had the beginnings of a group that would be loyal and trustworthy. All he needed was to instill the mentality and characteristics of prime subordinates.
Chu made it clear that he would not carry excess baggage along with him. They had made the first step from the bottom of the ladder to the first rung. If they wanted to continue they had to make the necessary sacrifices. Nobody wanted to return to such a life after being sweetened for the past months.
To stay in the village was simply to survive. He wanted to break free into this unknown world. Unfortunately he did not have the means in both financial and strength to achieve this goal. So far he had achieved the trust and admiration of the Trading post manager Griz.
It would be easy to get a job training under a merchant and then build himself up from there. Unfortunately this was real life, such a thing was going to take years to accomplish. It would also mean giving up on these companions he had built up unconditional trust and support with.
What he wanted was the choice of freedom. He was not going to become a pawn in this world. The firm societal bonds that tied him down in the previous world was near non-existent in this one. There was an ocean of choices that lay before him to make money.
Until he created a backing of his own, he was doomed to remain in the pauper position on the ladder.
The major problem was that the village was too far out on the borders. The hierchy was already set in stone, the garrison was headed by a commander sent from the nearest city, the village head was just someone with false authority and a figurehead while the Trading post was the representative of the merchant guild sent from the cities.
The major positions; political, economical and military had all been filled. The supporting positions for these were a small tavern, blacksmith and other little trades. All these were dependent on the hunters and others who passed through on a seasonal basis. Not much room for growth was allowed in the village.
If he traveled to a bigger town it was more worse. Not only did he have to worry about the journey to get there but the cost of living and finding a job. In a way it reminded him of his modern past life. Same scenario, different world.
Most newbies had to pay the cost of joining and then had to find a seasoned veteran to train them. Quest like herb picking was an RPG dream, the herbalist stores grew what they needed to sell. Rookie adventurers were little more than slaves climbing up the ladder slowly through the years. It was not uncommon to see the younger ones sporting the hand me downs in weapons and armor. These things were after all not cheap to buy.
He didn’t have much technical expertise but their were still lots of things he may be able to invent. However this still needed a financial backing. If he came up with something like that to present to Griz, he was confident as someone with business experience that he was going to get the raw end of the deal. In the chest of every merchant beats a heart of greed.
‘How stupid would you be if a poor kid walked into your place and handed you the plans to become rich no questions asked. Best scenario would be to give him a few silver or gold to fool him. Worst would be to dispose of him to shut him up.’
Chu sat half covered with a quilt as he racked his brains for a solution. On the side Sakura was teaching Miki and Ming how to count. Chu gave her a pouch with a hundred copper and silver for them to use.
Given their time together they had all reached a silent agreement that he kept the money. Not a single one of them would dare to steal from the person that liberated them. He still had the girls sew some small hidden pouches that could hold ten silvers.
These were distributed to everyone as emergency money. Only when necessary did they need to keep it on their person. None of them kept it on them, so far they never had any need. Only Ming and Lucy would walk with theirs on the trips to the village, but spending was usually done by mooching off Chu.
Dyna was wrapped in a quilt like an earthworm watching them at the side. She was struggling in her reading, and mumbling to herself.
Sue was by the oven with Clod heating water for his leg. Every now and again it acted up in the cold making the pain unbearable. Only by applying this type of temporary hot pack did he gain an ease. It was just the stiffness in the joints reminding Chu of the old people with arthritis and their battle with bad weather.
It was late evening already and the place was a little chilly. They had stopped lighting the bonfire in the middle and relied on the oven for heat. Sue always kept it going so the heat permeated through the platform above keeping the cold at bay. Only the tower was freezing but with enough people to exchange shifts it was a small price to pay.
Chu shook of his half dazed self and looked up to the sound. The excited red face of Lucy could be seen. Ever since they came to the barn this girl had stopped cloaking up like she used to. He constantly had to remind her about wearing a scarf when up in the tower. It was half open to the outside elements.Mumbling in his mind he climbed to the platform.
Chu followed her hands pointing to the forest.
Why did this feel like de ja vu? He was thinking something like this surely happened before. AND it was not a good thing at the time.
On the northeastern end of the forest a man was running out. It was like watching a half dead drunk man trying to run down a bus. The person would run stagger and then fall clumsily in the snow. He would then lurch up and scramble forwards his hands clawing the air like he was swimming in water. Understandably it didn’t affect his speed just made him look more desperate..
Lucy voiced out the thoughts traveling in Chu’s mind.
“He’s running from something…”
The man was now well out from the forest. A little more distance and he would be near quarter mile from the forest. He looked around and headed in the direction of the village. Chu squinted as he focused in the man. The setting sun reflected of the person time and time again. He finally understood why the uniform looked familiar.
This man was someone from the garrison!
Weather it was made from Iron plate, scale or chain-mail armor. The light was reflecting off the armor giving them a first hand view. Only the garrison could afford to be decked out in such attire in these parts. The question was why was he alone and not on horseback like they were usually on patrol. And why was he in the forest in the first place.
Was it another wolf pack? Impossible, the odds of two large packs being sighted in the same area a few weeks apart was close to nil. Given the cunning of wolves, not even they were that stupid. That was like serving up themselves to the patrols and mercenaries. Hungry wolves will risk their lives, but only if easy prey wasn’t found. There was still the slums and farms to present cheap food alternatives.
Then ‘IT’ came out.
Chu who was still watching the man felt Lucy tugging his arms. One glance at her revealed a frightened expression. He saw this once, it was in the forest when she gave the warning about the Snow-bear. Her other hand was firmly clasped over her mouth obviously suppressing a scream. He followed the hand that released his arm and was now pointing like if she refused to extend it all the way out.
Slowly stepping out of the forest was a beast from the legends. It casually walked out on two feet as it raised its head looking in the direction of the fleeing man. Long hairy arms hung down on its side ending in clawed hands. It raised its head and howled as it stared at the escaping man. In the blink of an eye it lunged forwards and started sprinting on all four limbs closing the distance in a flash.
The man only had time to turn around once only to see the creature already on him.
The following scene was like out of a horror movie resulting in the fastest beat down he had ever witnessed. The man didn’t have time to scream before his throat was ripped out by sharp, wicked fangs in that pouted mouth. In a split second it was all over, no time to beg, dodge or counter. Within that short time-frame, the overwhelming disparity between the two combatants became abundantly clear.
No, it was a lie to say combatants.
Thus was actually like a tiger fighting a baby chicken.
The beast raised itself back on its hind legs and used a clawed ‘hand ‘ to grab the victim by the leg and slowly begin its trek into the forest. If not for the horrifying scene from before he could swear it was like a farmer trotting out to kill a chicken for dinner and causally strolling back to the house with it.
Resisting the building fear, Chu turned to Lucy. All that was in his mind at present was to get them all into the cellar. Before he could signal her his thoughts…
“Noooo! I was sure I counted the money correct! You guys are cheating me!”
The shouts came from the idiot down below as the sound rippled outwards.
Chu and Lucy who had just locked eyes saw the same fearful expression being reflected on the others face. Slowly their heads turned to the place that ‘forced’ their attention. If they could, both of them would close their eyes hoping to become invisible.
In the snowy white plains before the forest the sharp contrast of a black as night figure stopped. A trail of bright red blood was the testament to where it was coming from.
The beast paused and raised its head turning in the direction of the barn. Maybe it was his mind playing tricks with the heightened fear. He was sure he saw it break out in a vicious grin.
Chu didn’t wait to see it lunge on all fours and race towards the barn. He was gone already.
F^%# A $#@% Flag!