When they finished the crude process the total number of pellets were over twenty. The new ones were supposed to be more potent than the first batch. Chu kept some of the mushroom paste to re-coat their spears they left hidden in the forest.
Ming made a trip to his shack and returned to sleep in the shack. It was not that he didn’t trust Chu with the money. He had already gotten a pouch filled with half of the copper coins to spend as he liked. Chu warned him about spending and creating attention towards them. He also showed him the belt he made containing the silver coins.
The main reason Ming was adamant not to leave was that this was the first time he encountered someone like Chu. This boy smaller than him caused him to jump from extreme poverty to being under a rain of coppers. Most impressive was that he could stand up and actually negotiate with the bear like Griz. The Trading post rotated their managers every couple of years and Griz had the reputation of being one of the fiercest and scaryiest.
Chu just made himself comfortable on one side of the coals while Ming was on the other. He had a wry grin as Ming was still demanding that he not leave him out.
When Chu woke up in the morning he was alone in the shack. His hands reflexively moved towards his waist. The belt was still there and when he looked over near the fireside both pouches of copper were there. Having experienced the cut throat world of society, Chu knew he had found an honest guy.
He restarted the fire and begain making some dumplings for their breakfast. In the middle of this preparation came a banging on the shack side.
“Hey Chu wake up, I have someone with me!”
“Wait you idiot! I’m coming outside.”
Chu scrambled to hide the items and supplied he purchased and covered the breakfast he was preparing. Grabbing his cloak he stepped outside under the chilly morning sun.
“Hey Chu, I got somebody for you.”
Saying that Ming pushed forward the person at his side.
“Morn’ig, Ming say you need some help with something?”
Chu looked at the person wrapped and cloaked. Only the eyes were visible. He looked at Ming wondering if he just picked up the first person he saw. Didn’t he tell this idiot he needed someone they could trust? What if they were robbed? or even killed? Such things have happened in the slums before. One hundred coppers would mean no begging in the village during winter for scraps.
“Lucy is very dependable Chu. I had to put in some real begging for her to come over and not head out for firewood collection.”
Switching over from the over confident smug face, Chu looked at Lucy. She was just one of the many of them in the slums. Unlike Ming who was known because of being a resident for over two years, Lucy was a new addition like him. Her story was probably the same as most of the young girls left here.
Chu decided to be as straight forward as possible, last thing he needed was for unwanted bickering. He certainly did not need his escapades beings known to alert the ruffians of the slums.
“I will be honest with you. What we are going to do is dangerous. We are going to be spending the night in the forest hunting beast. Either we make money or we die. You need to listen to everything I say, if not then lets part ways here.”
He looked into the eyes of the girl in front of him as he spoke. Without batting an eyelid her response was quicker than expected.
“Agreed, but I have a request. If anything happens to me I need to make sure my two friends get some help to last through the winter.”
Chu gave Ming a glare.
‘This fool actually brought me someone with baggage!’
His mind raced thing how to respond, last thing he wanted was to be palmed off with some elderly. If something happened he was not sure how ruthless he could be to abandon people to their deaths. Maybe he might be able to kill someone who totally deserved death but can he lie to this girl in the event she dies?
Seeing his hesitation, Lucy piped up once more.
“My friends are younger than us and are really weak now. If you take care of them then next year they will be able to carry firewood to earn you money.”
From her begging it seemed that her friend were not elder family but young children like them. Well from what Chu needed was at least to build up a solid base if he wanted to succeed. He wanted to avoid too much grown persons since they were set in their ways and had a high chance to back-stab him in the future. Children his age should be easy to mold into what he wanted.
“Deal. Follow me.”
Chu returned into his shack with the others. While continuing to prepare the food, he told Lucy a summary of their plan. Lucy left them after begging for two extra dumplings for her friends. Chu gathered the supplies they needed in the two bags he purchased. He then hid the remainder of their items.
He sent Ming to deliver the two coppers for his mother and to make a purchase at the inn. The village inn was one of the few places where rock bread was sold fresh. This bread was a favorite of mercenaries and hunters. It had a long shelf life the only problem being that it got harder as the days passed by hence its name.
When Ming returned Chu and Lucy were waiting. Chu gave Lucy a loaf to leave with her friends. The gratitude in her eyes could not be faked. It should be noted that one rock bread was worth eight coppers. One bread could feed a grown man for two days. In the slums that was the meal for nearly two weeks when turned into gruel!
They made their way to the forest. Lucy joined them soon after, her eyes beaming.
“Are we going to the same spot Chu?”
His loyal henchman questioned.
“No, this time we are going further into the forest. We need to be very careful this time since we don’t know if their may be beast stalking us. I think the safest thing would be to get everything we need and make one push to set up quickly.”
“Ok, usually hunters out trapping would be on the outskirts so the dangerous animals keep a distance or are asleep during the day.”
Chu agreed with Ming especially since it was still before noon. He wanted to use this time to rush things before nightfall.
“Remember we have to be low key. Showing this equipment as slum children would attract unwanted people.”
Lucy voiced her opinion. Chu agreed since it would be awkward explaining the stuff in their bags. None of them wanted to be killed for what they had.
First thing in the forest was to get their spears back. Ming showed Lucy how to coat the spears with the poison while explaining. Even though they didn’t know if it wold have the same effect as eating, it was an added comfort.
“Lets go in while exploring at the same time. If attacked use the spears to defend until we get a tree to climb.”
Chu took out a small machete he bought and started to make marking on the trees as they walked. In the late fall all the trees looked the same. No wonder it was easy to get lost in a forest. Finding a little stream they followed it keeping their eyes out and always remaining on high ground.
“This is a good spot. I can still hear the sounds of the woodsmen. If we need we can always find our way back listening to them.”
Chu found a tall tree that had some long branches spreading out. It was also some distance from the others. Lucy was a good climber so Chu let her do the work he wanted on the tree branches he wanted. Ming was made to climb the highest he could to keep watch. With hardly any leaves on the trees it was an easy task.
“Lucy I need you on that other tree to tie the rope. When you climb up throw the end for me. Ming scatter the blood and leave three pellets.”
“Chu is that branch really safe for us?”
“Yes, thats why I made you stand while I finished it off. It can more that support you and Ming together.”
“Chu I am done. How many times do we need to swing this log. Do you have any idea how heavy this is to pull back?”
“What do you mean how heavy? Don’t I always have to help you reset it. Your job is to remain there and focus on the spot. Remember what you need to do.”
Like that they finished before sunset. Drenched in their clothes they had a meal of dry bread and water. Readying themselves they prepared for nightfall.