Chu sat down next to Clod and Ming. Together they surrounded the half-frozen corpse of the wolf demon. The two boys had wasted no time in hacking across the chest with an axe and breaking the ribs for a view of the heart.
This was shocking in its own way, since the skin of this creature was previously impenetrable to their cross-bolts when alive. These bones and muscles that were supposed to be as hard as steel was now easily cut and broken.
Chu was thinking it was easy, but it was still very hard and near impossible for Clod to have reached this far. With a sharpened dagger he couldn’t even cut through the fur. Only by using the axe and by repeated chops was he finally successful.
As butchers they failed miserably. The chest of the wold demon was like a car window being smashed with a bat.
In relative terms however, it was now easier to inflict a wound on the creature than when it was alive. At the moment nobody had the time to sit and contemplate why and how this was so in the grand scheme of things.
“Ming hold the bowl for me. I am going to cut the heart. If any blood comes out try to catch it with the bowl.”
They all took a deep breath and exhaled in unison. In-spite of all the slaughtering, none of them had ever butchered an animal. As for Chu, his experience in these few months that centered or had some dealing with animals and blood was hundreds of times more than when he was on earth. Picking up a package of seasoned chicken in the supermarket was a stark contrast to killing and dragging around a wolf.
Now he was venturing deeper into the rabbit hole.
Chu made an incision near the bottom giving Ming enough space to squeeze the small bowl underneath. Blood squirted out when he removed the dagger. He reinserted the dagger and made the hole wider. He then started to cut open the heart at the top as the little pressure subsided. Even though the body and the internals were freezing and halfway thawed, the blood was remarkably warm.
Chu hands shook like any first timer as he inserted his fingers into the heart cavity and started feeling around.
The d@#! was empty!
He was about to let out his anger with a stream of expletives when he remembered something.
He made another cut and dipped in his fingers forcing apart the muscles.
‘A heart has more than one cavity you stupid clown’ he chided himself. It was his first time seeing a heart in its natural state. He had no idea if this heart was normal, big or small. It was the last thing on his mind at the moment.
He repeated the step when his fingers came up empty. The third try was also a failure since the cut placed him back to the same chamber as the first. The fourth try was the same at first. He was removing his fingers when the index finger came into contact with a rough object stuck to the otherwise smooth heart wall. A gentle prod and it came loose between his middle and index finger.
Taking it out of the cavity it had a silver sheen to it. The blood was not even sticking on it, causing it to glow eerily in the flickering light.
Chu drained some more blood and left Ming with another bowl to milk the heart dry. If he needed he was going to make sure he had enough. Questions on how the heck all this was possible from a corpse long after death could wait on the next person whose soul transferred over.
Right now he had important things on his mind to worry about.
“Sue, get some torches lit and I want you and the girls providing light. Sakura, I want you on my side for help.”
He never forgot to try to get this girl to render some assistance that would make her feel appreciated. After the previous events he had taken it into account to try to get her actively involved in some way.
This was what makes a team leader. If you didn’t pay attention to those working around and with you. There was only going to be one end result.
Chu rested the bowl on the table. He had the talismans, the blood and the stone.
Now all he needed was the luck.
He moved the covers from Lucy’s arm exposing it from the shoulder to the elbows. It was the perfect place for a tattoo in his former world. According to Simon, persons who have talismans tend to hide it and not display it unless for verification. This was to prevent others from getting an idea on the kind of ability you might have.
The tattoos left by the talisman vary according to the demon beast used. For sharp minds and sharper enemies this can be detrimental to a person. A boar demon has a strength characteristic. The boost in abilities would center around such kind of skill making his trump card known to all.
“Sakura pass me one of the talismans.”
Chu took the talisman with his bloodied hands. He dipped his fingers into the bowl and gently coated the paper with the blood until it was completely covered. Using the blood as a substitute for glue he wrapped it onto Lucy’s arm.
“Sakura hand me the stone.”
The talismans were covered in mystical drawings and writings on both sides. The instructions were to place it on the intended person and then touch the lifestone at the point marked in the center.
Chu received the stone and followed the instructions. He held the lifestone and gently pressed it on the talisman.
Gasps of surprise echoed all around from them. The lights flickered as the ones holding the torches made a small jump at the unexpected noise.
Just like that.
With a soft sound the talisman simply turned into dry dust. The only thing on Lucy’s arm showing their effort was the blood stains.
Chu sighed to himself, but kept a brave face on display for the others.
“Sakura get a wet cloth to clean and dry Lucy’s arm. We will try again.”
The blood in the bowl refused to coagulate and remained like it was just drawn from a live creature. Maybe that was why this type of procedure could be done for at least five days after a demon beast killing.
Chu quickly repeated the steps. He didn’t know if Lucy could hold on for even five hours. Holding his breath he attempted the operation again.
Taking a rest he opened the book and read over the instructions. Satisfied he was making no mistakes he continued.
Was it just not meant to be? He checked and turned over the pages for anything he might have missed.
His hands trembled as he placed the lifestone on the table. He sat down as his vision became cloudy.
Over. It was over.
He dropped his head on the table as a host of emotions swept over him.
The others gave him room while holding the torches and standing silently.
He was out of talismans and nearly out of chances.
Did he have to drag Lucy across the snow to the village tomorrow?
Would she make it?
Will they be able to help her?
His mind raced across numerous questions and self answers as he slowly gave in to despair. He regretted not paying more attention to those healing aids that were available in this world.
He was now dependent on luck for Lucy to pull through. If it was anything like the success they just had, they were doomed.
He raised his head as he finally realized he was being called. He quickly rubbed his face. It was his responsibility to keep things in order.
“Hey Chu, I think this is one of those talisman thingies. It’s in the back of the book so maybe its a dud.”
Chu looked at Ming who was apparently flipping through the book just now. He looked at the page the boy was pointing. On the page before was some writing and a larger sized talisman was seen at the back of the following page. This talisman was nearly two times larger than the ones used before and was vaguely covered in faint symbols and lines.
It was easy to miss because unlike the others the drawings were only on the back of the page and so faint that it looked to be blank under the lighting. He would have never thought this page was anything but blank.
Chu read the two faint words scribbled at the top.
He didn’t say anything to the others, it was best to just go through the routine again. The odds against them were staggering.
He took the newly teared piece of paper and started to rub the blood on it. Slightly startled he placed it on Lucy’s arm. The ancient talisman was placed with the writings facing outwards. He then pressed the stone on the center half expecting it to shatter.
Five times and this stone would be rendered useless.
He felt it start to break down as he pressed it into the paper. He let go of the stone and sighed. The only option was to carry Lucy to the village and hope for the best. He turned his head to Sakura at the side to let her start cleaning up the place.
“Sakura, get the cloth and cle…”
The eyes of the girl was glued to the spot where his hand came from just a moment ago. He slowly turned around to the sight that locked her gaze.
The lifestone was slowly breaking but not like what he imagined. It was instead slowly being absorbed into the talisman. Like if a very viscous liquid was slowly dangled and allowed to fall on a solid surface. It was very slowly spreading out at the point of contact.
The barn was now dead silent. Even the breathing of its inhabitants seemed like it was halted. All eyes were focused on that piece of paper stuck on Lucy’s arm.
The lifestone continued to ‘melt’ into the paper. Defying gravity it moved like a liquid uniformly across the talisman without interruption.
After about one hour this movement was finally finished. The talisman was completely covered in a silver-colored liquid. If Chu didn’t witness the previous movement he would have thought it was mercury.
During this time Chu was busy reading all the information pertaining to this talisman. Unfortunately this type of talisman was included as a reference and not really to be used in the field. Most of the information was geared to the benefit for scholars and researchers. He didn’t even know which step was considered a success or if it could fail at some point towards the end.
All they could do was watch and wait until the process was completed.
“What is happening now?”
“Did it stop?”
“Is Lucy ok, does it pain?”
Chu confirmed that Lucy was still looking the same as before. He had no idea if this process was going to be painful. The book gave no information on such things for either talismans and their procedures.
“The paper is disappearing, the silver color is starting to disappear. Ahhh it looks like its going into her skin. Chu! its running into the skin.”
Chu pushed away the excited boy from the front and scrutinized the arm.
“Sue, I need the lamp closer.”
He looked at the rectangular tag on the arm. Previously it was like a brightly polished silver tag wrapped halfway across the arm. Now the shiny surface slowly and uniformly grew dull. The boy was right, it was getting dull as the silver began to move into the skin through the pores.
It didn’t look like the process was splintering or dissolving the skin, it was just like if it was actually draining into the skin as if it was made of sand. He glanced at Lucy’s face. Her complexion was like a person not experiencing massive pain and trauma. Instead it was like a person whose face looked like they had an itch they just couldn’t scratch.
“Ming hold her arm, don’t let it move to interrupt the process. Clod hold her other arm in the event she try to unconsciously use it to touch the arm. Keep her as still as possible.”
The boys had just done what Chu instructed when Lucy tried to do exactly that. She was subconsciously responding to the imprinting. Luckily they held her down firmly.
After another hour facing this type of intermittent burst from Lucy, the silver liquid had now disappeared. Even the stains from the blood used to hold the talisman on her arm was gone. In front of their eyes was only her smooth pale skin.
Chu got a lamp and peered closely. It was as if nothing was ever done, the arm was clean. Just when he was about to raise his head he saw part of the skin starting to turn black.
Like a fairy waving a magical wand in those children movies, black lines weaved and painted themselves across her arm. In a few minutes an exquisite tattoo was formed the size of a playing card. Looking closely it was like the lines formed a near rectangular border with the ones in the center crisscrossing and melding to form a shape.
“…wolf…it looks like a …wolf… head…”
The gasps and the whispers on the side confirmed his similar thoughts.
Lucy was looking a little disheveled from the unconscious struggles that had taken place. Her breathing did seem to be the same if not slightly better. At least so it seemed to Chu.
He moved away and fixed himself on the bench.
“Ming help Clod bar the trapdoor and fence. We are going to remain here for the night. Sue get a fire going to keep us warm. I want the rest to tidy up this area.”
“Two person on watch, I want everyone to have weapons close by and ready. If Lucy remains the same I will carry her to the village tomorrow.”
As the children grew busy Chu slumped down on the table close to Lucy. Tired as he was, his mind refused to sleep as he kept checking on Lucy every few minutes. It was at dawn when he finally felt she was breathing much more peacefully and stronger than before. He didn’t know when he fell asleep for about an hour after. Panicking he went over to the bedside. In the event of emergency the ones assigned on watch would have awoken him.
Nobody however slept during the night, just like him they were all forcing themselves awake.
He stopped in his tracks on the voice.
Slowly he approached the makeshift bed as the others made way for him.
There, half lying, half sitting was Lucy staring back at him.
She had awakened.