They gathered together and sat in silence. Chu was still digesting this newfound threat, while the others were stiff from fear. The only sound around them were the small drips of water plopping from the top of the well to the bottom.
The atmosphere remained heavy like this until late evening. Chu realized that even as children who had experienced much, this was something way beyond them.
For him it was so sureal. It was like one minute you were reading fantasy books about demons and other terrifying creatures battling powerful heroes and MC’s. Then the next you decided to step outside and see one casually tearing apart the pedestrians in the street.
Worse thing was to actually make eye contact with such creature who was busy wolfing down a meal. It was similar to the side glance a dog gives you if you try to interrupt its dinner.
Chu left them in the passageway and sat on the small step at the cellar trapdoor. This was something that input from the others would be non-existent. He expected nothing more from them than to try and wait out this time, or resign to their fate when caught.
The cellar was originally planned by him as a retreat against a situation such as this. They were well stocked and had no shortage of food or warmth. The problem was it was meant to be a simple hideout for a day or two and not a long-term siege.
Given the intelligence posed by the creature, sooner or later it was going to find them. This thing was not a common wild animal that would leave after not finding them. It was a hunter that took pleasure in its kills. That much was obvious in how it treated its prey before.
Chu felt from the flashback from his eye contact that it would relish this hide and seek game. Just as much as it would take pleasure in ripping them open alive. Even now he still felt he saw that beast smirking face up close.
The chills that ran through his body at the thought didn’t come from the cold.
The barn above was as quiet as a mouse. In the face of such terror he suspected that even if he was a mouse he would have died from holding his breath. He leaned against the wall and closed his eyes trying to think.
Chu didn’t know how long it was when he heard some noise. He was only certain that it was now night-time as the faint light from the passage was now gone. Listening through the trapdoor he heard the sounds of the floorboards creaking from the upper level of the barn. The slow movements were followed by the tinkering of broken clay like a jar being broken.
He strained his ears to listen, but the noise died down into silence. With the knowledge of only a wooden trapdoor separating him from a sure death, Chu remained alert as he listened and peered into the darkness above from the peephole.
It seemed like days, but it was actually only two to three hours after when he heard grunts coming from above. Listening carefully, the grunts came more frequent until he heard a solid bang like a huge rock being thrown off the platform.
Chu perked up his ears as the adrenaline began flowing. That loud bang was obviously the sound of the creature jumping down heavily from the top platform onto the solid barn ground.
Something strange was definitely happening above! Did some other party approach the barn?
The grunts turned to satisfied low sighs and then switched back into grunts. Lewd thoughts began to seep into his fear-stricken mind.
Did another beast appear? What the heck was going on up there?!
Eventually those grunts and well-meaning sighs changed into raging growls that escalated into howls. After one such ear-splitting howl the sound of wood splintering like dry branches being broken sounded from above.
Not long came the booming sound as if a car had crashed through the side of the barn, followed by an eerie silence.
No matter how he listened only faint sounds like ‘a cry from far away’ came. It was the best way to describe it. As Chu digested this latest development he was satisfied that at least the monster had left for the time being.
If it’s plan was to cause a ruckus and leave, intending to bait and catch them off guard, it was sorely mistaken. They were not going to run out panicking like headless chickens.
Fatigue washed over him as the adrenaline rush came to an end. Tiredness and sleepiness crashed over him. Now that the immediate threat was no more Chu slumped to the stairs for a quick rest. With all the anxiety of being on edge he crashed into a deep sleep.
“Chu. Hey Chu…”
Chu woke up groggy with the accompanying pain from sleeping in a bad position. The recent memories flashed across his mind jolting him up and making his already stiff body moan in pain. He sat down grimacing as he stifled the scream.
In between his pain he signaled for Ming to be quiet. Light was streaming from the passageway indicating the sun was now up. He could barely make out Ming in the partial darkness.
“Am, the thing is Chu, the demon is not in the barn anymore.”
Chu retracted his hands that were about to cover the others mouth in a fit of panic.
“Last night we heard growls and roars coming from the outside at the well. I came to find you but you were sleeping so I just placed a blanket over you. Me and Clod were listening for the rest of the night till early morning. The roars keep coming from the outside and not in the barn.”
He followed Ming as they squeezed across the others to the well entrance. Clod was on the ropes and skimmed down to meet them. With his body toned from years of farm work, his movements on the rope were fluid.
“The sound is still coming from outside but its fainter now.”
Chu looked at the puzzled look that Clod was giving him.
“Whats the problem?”
Clod shook his head helpless as he replied.
“I can’t place it but its seems to be cries of pain?! As if in agony?”
They looked at him as he tried to explain.
“I know it sounds crazy but I worked at a farm, animals in pain tend to have a general sound to them”
Chu took the ropes and climbed up to listen. He returned after some time with a puzzled look on his face.
“I think Clod is right. Something is definitely wrong. Ming and I will go up to investigate. The rest of you will remain here.”
Lucy simply gave him a pathetic look and grabbed a crossbow to make her way to the trapdoor. The others slowly did the same while still shivering in fear. After having survived by a thread in the slums, these companions valued loyalty as a miser with his gold.
Who in the slums or even in the village enjoyed a living like they did for the past few weeks. Hell, even in some towns there were people hard pressed to have a meal three-times a day. And solid food at that to boot!
Not to mention being kept warm and even learning to read and write. Such privilege was only afforded to the noble and high-class citizens. Chu didn’t understand that education was not like in his past world. Here it was a privilege of the few. Especially to girls and women.
Here these slum children were living better than most. And it was due to this companion of theirs who rescued them from hell. Even if they had to return after winter to that harsh life in the slums, this would be an unforgettable memory.
Which ingrate would allow such a friend to face known danger alone!
Chu could only shake his head and follow. As a recent inhabitant of this word, he did not truly understand the impact he had on these companions.
“Lets go then, but you have to listen to everything I say ok”
Clod moved the trapdoor open while the others held spears and aimed the crossbows at the opening. Acting as the bait Clod peered out and confirming all was silent he clambered out.
“Clod remain with Dyna and Sue here to be prepared to close the trapdoor if we need it.”
Chu listened for the faint sounds coming from outside. After being convinced there was nothing lingering in the shadows of the barn he and the rest moved onto the upper platform.
“Miki will remain here for support. Sakura stay and keep her company as a lookout. Shout if you encounter any dangers.”
He didn’t want Miki to climb to the barn roof. If the beast returned she would be trapped at the top. On the platform she and the others behind still had a chance to scamper back into the cellar.
Chu and Ming were armed with spears, Lucy had her crossbow and a small dagger on her waist. They ventured down the ladder into the barn and crept towards the ripped wall of the barn.
Here the thick wooden planks that made up the sides were ripped and slashed apart as if something was tearing through it like paper. They gingerly peered out of the hole unto the sun filled snow-covered scenery.
The intermittent howls became clearer from the outside as they came from far away.
“I think its coming from the plains near the forest. Somewhere around the front side of the barn?”
Lucy listened and gave her verdict.
Ming was busy scrunching up his nose and face at the side.
“What is that smell. I didn’t want to say anything, but Chu you need a purge. You have been smelling like a horse’s ass since we opened the trapdoor….”
He gave Ming a glare making him cower back. Come to think of it the entire barn had a foul-smelling stench.
“Chu look over there”
Lucy shook his sleeve and pointed on the ground.
In the pure white snow, lumps of black ‘coal like’ substance could be seen. Chu turned around and in the dim light made out similar small heaps in the barn. His eyes followed the ‘heaps’ that dotted the snow at intervals no less than twenty or thirty feet.
Those lumps as they moved further out from them turned from solid to a slick tar that painted on the snow and then gradually turned red in color.
As they ventured out a strange sight greeted them. Below in the distance halfway between the barn and the forest border crawled the demon. Behind it lay countless red and black splotches on the snow as if a cup of paint was thrown out randomly as it crawled.
By now any idiot could tell what type of affliction this demon was suffering from.
“Wonder what’s wrong with that thing, don’t look as scary as before”
Chu turned around and gave him a glare.
“Can’t you see its suffering from serious diarrhea? What the hell did that thing eat?”
Chu thought back to the previous night.
‘Is this the result of the poison mushrooms? It can’t be, the effect on the wolves were never like this’
Those thoughts were interrupted by a sound from the side.
Ming suddenly smashed his fist in a palm. His face was lit up like a bulb.
“Dammm…. I think it ate some of my pellets Chu. Remember the time in the Trading post when they had the seeds that didn’t work? I bought them wholesale cheap and melted them down into pellets. I stuffed them into some deer fat to make it enticing.”
Chu vaguely recalled the conversation back then. He also remembered that those seeds were mighty potent according to Griz. A different type of fear began to creep into his mind.
A question was slowly and softly asked.
“Hey, how many did you use?”
“I used all during the process, didn’t you say the more the better?”
Ming continued talking as they watched the pitiful demon on the snow.
‘Remember how you did the poison? I ground all the seeds into a paste and used little water. I then got the water out by slowly warming it up like you showed me.”
OMG! is this guy a blessing or a walking time bomb.
@#$%! This Ming was too unpredictable.
Chu made note not to let this idiot be in charge of any major experiments in the future. He had to doubly make sure Ming was not around less the fool decided to copy one and kill them all.
They watched as the demon crawled and stumbled in the snow below them in the distance.
“What do we do now?”
Lucy was the first to speak
Chu looked down at the opportunity that literally screamed gold coins back at him.
“Gol….cough,cough. I mean, Kill it”