The collection bay was empty of customers at this time of the day. The clerk in charge was in the back helping out the hired hands. The end of autumn was a busy time for the Trading post. This was the last opportunity for merchants to buy goods and bring in supplies before the roads became near impassable by snow.
The bear like man in charge of this post was called Griz. Chu felt like it suited him even though there were no bears in this world with the name grizzly. Although Griz came over when he saw Chu, his countenance darkened when he realized the kid before him didn’t have the usual firewood bundle.
As someone not new to business, Chu at once picked up on that. In a busy time as this who would have time for a kid. A lazy child has no value. Chu already had a feel for this person since he was the one who provided the animal fat yesterday.
“Morning Mr Griz. I am not here to waste your time. I have a wolf carcass to sell, what’s the selling price?”
Griz looked at the small kid in front of him. The child was malnourished and thin that a single blow might break him in two. Yesterday this same child deposited a load of firewood and asked for the waste materials from processing the animal pelts. Now he came today with an absurd question. Griz was sure he didn’t hear correct.
“What did yo…..”
“Lets not waste time mr Griz I know this is a busy time. How much for a wolf?”
Griz subconsciously answered. The tone was like he was dealing with a merchant.
“Wolf buys for five silver.”
“And a grey wolf whose coat has turned white?”
Griz looked at the boy and gave the same reply
Almost immediately came a retort.
“Come come Mr Griz. I said we shouldn’t waste each others time. We both know that a white wolf sells for much more on account of the pelt. Otherwise why would some hunters risk their lives to take a chance in winter.”
If it wasn’t for the sorry state of the child that his eyes were registering in front of him, Griz was sure he was talking to some old well oiled merchant.
“You have a wolf?”
“A gold nugget is coveted by many. How much for a white wolf.”
Griz understood the meaning behind the kids words. What he didn’t understand was how some backwoods illiterate child could rattle them out his mouth like normal. The child didn’t even show fear. Instead this feeling was like two merchants haggling.
“White wolf sells for six silvers.”
“Twenty silvers, or I sell it to a merchant on the outside.”
What the Heck! Griz looked like he swallowed a slug. This kid had the gall to bargain?
‘Seven silver. And if you don’t sell it to me, I will make sure not to buy a piece of firewood from you.”
“Eighteen silvers, or I sell on the outside and just leave this village. A homeless bum like myself has nothing to lose in this dump.”
‘Eight silvers. Most of the merchants belong to the Trading post nobody is going to buy from a kid. Who is going to believe you killed a white wolf.”
“Twenty silvers, I will sell it to a Merchant not affiliated with your Trading post. I can always say my dad killed it.”
Frick the kid just jacked back up the price!
“Ten silvers then. No higher.”
“Deal! Give me some time to get it. Won’t be long”
The kid bounced out the post and Griz didn’t even have time to think what had happened when he returned with another friend dragging a white wolf between them. Griz stepped across and inspected the animal. It was obviously killed not to long and the pelt was in great condition with only some holes at the back and neck.
“Good good. When did you kill this.”
“Last night, you can tell the body hasn’t even gotten stiff yet.”
Griz made the usual thorough inspection glancing every now and then at the boys. The slightly larger one had a dumb face typical of the village children. His knees rattled every time Griz sent him a stare. The smaller boy was as calm as could be, the bearing like a seasoned merchant selling his wares.
“Good condition. Sold for ten silvers.”
Amidst the noise from the large boy dropping to the ground in shock the younger one remained standing stroking his chin with his hands. He didn’t even both sparing a glance at the racket caused by his companion.
“Very well. Throw in some of those rag bundles you have on the side and we got a deal. I need two silvers converted into copper coins. Lets step inside the shop for this transaction I want to buy some supplies as well.”
Chu turned and headed into the supply shop on the side. Griz just shook his head and followed. Once inside the shop Chu purchased some items and collected the remainder of the money. At this time it was only him here, so he was free of any prying eyes.
“What would you have done if I just said I wasn’t going to pay?”
Griz looked at the boy standing over the counter. He seemed interesting compared to the others from the slums. Even the village children didn’t give off that aura.
“I take you for a merchant. No matter where you go merchants are the same. They know when to take advantage and when a good deal is smacked on their faces. You offer your water well for the slums and gain cheap and free labor in return. But you know the limits. You won’t rob me because I am the same as you, we bring benefits.”
Griz narrowed his eyes and gazed at the ragtag boy in front. Is this boy really from the slums?
“Hey do you have books here?”
“Yes but not much here. Why?”
Griz gave him a reply surprised by the question that came out of the blue.
“Can’t read, need one to learn.”
Yes. This little guy was definitely from the slums.
Chu and Ming returned to the slums loaded with items. Avoiding contact with the few who remained during the day they dumped everything in Chu’s shack which was the closest to the outskirts. Getting a fire going in the middle to warm up the place he took out a new pot and boiled some water. He then made some dumplings from flour for them. Ming returned with some bowls of his own and after the meal they spread out the rags they got and went to sleep.
When Chu woke up it was late evening. He was careful in eating too much since this body had survived on a near liquid diet. It would take time for them to return to normal. He woke up Ming who was still sleeping and sent him out on some errands. After last night Ming didn’t mind following Chu’s instructions.
When Ming left, Chu got an old rag and made it into a tight belt that could be worn under his clothes. He then took a needle and sewed in the three silvers that remained into individual pockets. Only by using a knife could you open one pocket to get the coin. The coppers that remained were separated into two small money bags that could be kept in the sleeves or hidden in the clothes.
Ming returned with a pot filled with the same kind of liquid like yesterday. Showing him what to do Chu left and went home to drop of the two coppers. When he returned Ming was still concocting in the old pot. Chu started slicing up the remainder of the mushrooms. This time he used all of them since he wanted a faster acting poison.
Chu believed he did pretty well for someone who spent the latter part of his life in a city. It was fortunate that the mushrooms followed the rules of brighter and boldly being untouched in the open means danger. What he didn’t understand at the time was that poisonous mushrooms here were tens of times more potent than the ones on earth.
Ming grunted in reply as he stirred the pot.
“I want to get another person, someone who can climb as well”
Chu didn’t know he was opening a sore spot until it was too late.
“What do you mean another person who can climb. Are you trying to get rid of meeeee! Chu I can climb, next time I wont need to step on your back. I wouldn’t try to grab you when I fall. It wasn’t out of spite, I really wasn’t thinking that I was going to take you with me!”
I pushed the snot covered face that was latched onto my legs tighter than a barnacle.
“So you admit it you bastard! I know you wanted to drag me down when you nearly fell!”
It should be noted that both were narrow-minded individuals.
After they settled down, Chu laid out a new plan.
“Selling firewood will only give us so much. We are going to have to risk it to make money. The plan is the same but we need another person to help us move faster. We need to set up in the forest so the animals come to us. Then we need to make sure that we can kill them safely. Only then can we make enough to leave this place.”
“So we can get a place in the village?”
“No. So we can leave the village.”
Ming finally realized he was mistaken. Chu didn’t want to just leave the slums. He wanted to be able to walk out from the village into the world.