It was late in the night when the shadow of a wolf approached the tree. Chu was sitting on a branch while Lucy was standing on another stretching her legs from cramp. Ming was on the other tree sitting holding a log.
The wolf made a quick search like last time and from the way it moved it seems to have eaten the pellets. Chu realized that during the night they had no way of actually knowing if the animal ate the pellet or just simply sniffed and left it.
Making some noise as he climbed down to the lower branch cause the wolf to become startled but then it gave the usual snarl and tried to climb the tree. As it growled and snarled Chu steadied himself and reached for the makeshift spear that Lucy handed him.
“Get ready Ming!”
Chu shouted and constantly baited the wolf with his spear.
After a few minutes the wolf seems like it was ready to leave. Chu baited it again and even dangled his feet down from the branch. Although the wolf came after a few snarls it started to seem disinterested.
Chu stabbed at it a few times and then enticed it by pretending to fall. He kept it by giving the impression that he would fall at any time. About an hour after this play the wolf started foaming and stumbled on the snow a few times. The posion seemed to have started to work.
At first he was in doubt fearing the animal was simply trying to use his own tactic against him. If that was the case and he fell for it, that shame even in death would be unbearable. After seeing the wolf swaying like a drunkard he was convinced otherwise. It deserved an award for such a stellar performance if it was simply acting.
“Lucy keep and eye out for us. Ming, we are going down.”
Chu took a good look around the area before jumping down. Before winter the majority of the wolves were still moving as loners. Only after the snow covers the ground would they begin to form packs for easy hunting of larger more formidable prey. Unlucky travelers, farmers and villagers were high up on that menu.
The wolf rushed him but stumbled halfway. He moved as a seasoned veteran of watching countless nature documentaries. This along with the recent heroic kill had him envisioning himself as a hunter.
Unfortunately the scene showed a different story. A scrawny figure of a boy, body trembling with a crooked tree branch spear both shaking in oscillation. Like a person in an epileptic seizure he jumped unevenly around the wolf like a small child playing hopscotch.
Seeing the wolf stumble gave him confidence. Chu used this time to stab the wolf in the chest. He missed and instead pierced the neck. Ming was down from the other tree and using his spear he stabbed at the back legs. He missed completely and the force sent him sprawling. Luckily for him the wolf senses were so dulled that it was having trouble keeping up with the ‘hunter’ in front.
Ming jumped up, spitted out some soil and leaves and gave Lucy a wave before continuing his ‘deadly’ attack. Chu was busy at this time fending of the wolf. Even under hallucination and poison the large beast could place him on the defensive in sudden burst of aggression.
Ming finally launched a successful strike that pierced its belly. This hunter was actually aiming at the ass. With a howl the wolf switched enemies, allowing Chu to waste no time into attacking. With blood boiling and flowing, it was like an epic battle between stoned adversaries.
Under this combined attack the wolf finally ended up receiving a fatal wound and died. Chu and Ming quickly climbed up the trees to their previous positions. Only when they were safe did they breathe easily.
Lucy was shocked how the two boys could take down a grown wolf. It was even more impressive since they obviously had no idea how to fight. She had mixed feeling when Ming ‘tested’ the wolf if it was dead by stabbing it where the sun didn’t shine. In her mind the trill of success was eventually won over by the mask of shame.
Like their first kill, the morning came quickly especially since this fight started late into the night. On the sounds of the woodsmen starting their activities they took time to investigate the surroundings before jumping down. Chu and Ming quickly organized everything they needed to leave. Once they were ready Lucy who was still keeping watch joined them.
The three stumbled and hastily made their way to the forest edge. Hiding the spears, they once again sneakily headed to the Trading post. Only when they hid the carcass in the same spot near the post did they sigh in relief and unison.
“Holy crap Chu did you see that! I was better this time. We actually am getting better.”
“I know right! Did you see my first attack, I actually struck the neck.”
Either without shame, or completely ignorant of how they actually looked from a third person’s view the two began to boast.
“Better my foot, you guys are lucky to be alive. Any more sober and that wolf could have killed you”
The one to douse the cold water was Lucy. She had a good view of the ‘epic battle’.
“We need to figure out how to deal with that weak point. I was impressed that it didn’t take so long for the wolf to be poisoned. Three of the new pellets are strong.”
Chu was contemplating making some more of these mushroom poisons.
“Huh? what do you mean three. Didn’t you say thirteen?”
“You said thirteen so I put thirteen. when I checked this morning seems like the wolf ate it all. Must have been hungry”
Chu stared at the idiot who had poised in his philosophical stance. The one that made him look like a sage.
Smack smack smack.
After venting on Ming’s face with some well deserved slaps Chu made his way to the Trading post. This time there were some hunters haggling over prices. Chu remained in the back listening to them. From the conversations he understood that the majority of hunters and adventurers scoured the forest to the north. This gave them more chance to run into the beast coming down from the north.
Hunting in the south side of the woodsman area had less probability of running into hunters. But it also meant that the beast would be scarce.
When the customers from before left Chu hailed Griz.
“Hey Mr Griz I got a wolf to sell.”
Griz had long notice the scrawny looking kid that gave him a good impression.
“Morning. What do you want today”
“Morning. I got a gray wolf to sell, hasn’t turned white yet. I take it the price is six silvers from the conversations before. Deal.”
Griz just shrugged. This kid left no room for negotiation and just jumped at the price.
“Thats only for a quality carcass you know.”
“Oh the one I got is in pristine condition. I also overheard that a white wolf sells for twelve silvers but I won’t gruge you. You won that battle. I’ll just take the six silvers and throw in a bunch of those rags clothes and two sewing kits with four extra thread reels.”
“You got gut kid. two thread reels”
“Deal. Let me get the wolf.”
This time an extra kid popped up when he returned. Griz glanced as he inspected the wolf. Just like before the fur was free from large holes and cuts that were normal with hunters. It looked like it was killed with a spear which was strange. Hunters usually carried axes or swords. These could be used for other work like cutting branches and were a more versatile weapon. He looked at the new kid completely covered in a rag wrapping like a mummy.
“Hey kid, you recruting or something. Every time you come here your numbers keep growing.”
“No business is slow. Need to build some foundation before I expand again.”
Chu shrugged and slipped out a causal statement. Griz gave a sigh and completed his inspection of the wolf. His mind was still on the boy though. This one was hard to read, he never encountered a kid like this.
Understanding how to secure a solid foundation by finding the best help was usually the first rookie mistake in any profession. Only by experience would those who had been bitten by some form of betrayal would know this was important.
“OK good quality. Lets go into the shop to square off.”
“Ok, pleasure doing business. Ming, Lucy grab as much of those rag clothes you can carry. Choose out the better ones. Meet you back at the shack.”
Chu pelted out an order and followed Griz. The bear like man didn’t mind since those clothes were gotten free from the cities. They were sold in batches to the villagers for bedding and stuffing. Older ones were used at the trading post as cloth rags.
Chu collected his earnings and bought some more supplies at the Trading post. After some inquires he then left.
When Chu returned he found his shack was starting to run out of space. With the three of them plus their new belongings, the stick shack was running out of room.
“Hey move over, I need to boil some water.”
“Quit pushing me.”
“Chu. I’m hungry and tired. Feeeeeed me”
Under that bickering they finally ate a late breakfast. Lucy then left them to sleep, staggering her drowsy self back to her own shack. Chu told her to get her friends to wake her in the afternoon. He wanted the three of them to make a trip into the forest to bring out a load of firewood each, for their own use.
Lucy didn’t press them for money. She had realized that those two had some bigger plan. As long as she gained enough to take care of herself and friends she was happy. Seeing her friends with smiles on her return instead of the usual worry was a comfort. Since moving to the slums this was the first time she slept well.
It was late evening when the three ran to the forest to hustle firewood for their own use in the slums. For a shack to actually be stocked with firewood was a luxury in the slums. This was because the residents were too busy working to make ends meet. A load of firewood was a step closer to earning money to feed themselves. Most survived on heating coal and charcoal. One extra log was enough for this when returning with their bundles to sell.
“Hey hurry up. I want to leave with the villagers. You remember what happened last time we left late?”
Memories of the child being dragged away by a wolf returned to Ming. He rushed about in a frenzy stacking the firewood while Lucy and Chu finished tying a bundle with tree bark. Without the poison and their makeshift spears, they were just like a free buffet for a hungry man. Any wolf could have them for a snack.
“Thats enough for now lets go. Hurry we need to make it back before the rest of the people from the slums.”
Last thing Chu wanted was for everyone to know that they had this much firewood in their possession. With winter on their doorstep lost of people would kill for this simple item. Villagers were even known during hard times to gang up and forcefully break apart slum residents houses.
In a world where might was right, such actions were tolerated. Unfortunate souls had to brave the element and find a new home or wait for death. Given this thinking it was logical that the weak children pay the price first.
“Stack them on the side. I’m off to the trading post to take a bath. Lucy bring your friends with you before dark. We need to discuss our next step.”
After finishing their job Chu dragged Ming to the Trading post to take a bath. He went into the village and deposited the two coppers before returning to the shack. Ming was starting the fire from the coals when Lucy returned. She banged on the door and waited outside. Only when Chu told her to enter did she do so.
“These are my friends, Dyna and Sakura.”
The two girls Lucy brought were probably barely seven. Cast away by their family because of poverty or new born boy child. Chu was slowly starting to understand the social workings of these rural villages. Ming closed the door as the five of them sat around the fire.
This was beginning to be the classic case of creating something from near nothing. According to his literary knowledge it would lead to them soring the skies, or an epic crash and burn.
Chu felt he was going to have an endless headache.