The heroic legend that was in the making turned into another sort of legend when the Commander put forward one simple question.
“Where is the rest of the body?”
On hearing the facts from Gofart and the soldiers who were present, Commander Fredijak issued the order for the Military to seal the slums. All non-military personnel were to be searched before they left this encirclement.
Without the body, when this news spreads the entire slum will be turned upside down with everyone searching for it. It would be easy for someone to smuggle out the small lifestone and a little blood. Though worth its weight in gold, the value of the wolf corpse itself paled in comparison to those items.
All Military crews were recalled from the search in the forest and informed to make haste to the village.
The residents of the slums were all gathered and questioned individually. For a mere loaf of bread these people were willing to sell their souls. This was fast becoming one of the best winters for them.
During winter most of the residents tended to be at home trying to huddle for warmth. They only ventured outside to beg or hustle for food. Ever since this village was swamped with the Military and others, their suffering during winter had eased considerably.
By hustling the odd jobs for adventurers for cleaning, washing and other services they were able to make a few coppers for food and firewood. The older folks in the slums thus had a relatively easier time rallying out the winter.
At night, once they stayed out of notice from those drunk mercenaries and nobles, they were able to enjoy the warmth of the large bonfire at the south gate. The able-bodied men were even paid some coppers to tend the fire.
The biggest killer of the slum residents during winter was the cold and lack of food. Now some of them even had a few extra coppers hidden in their pockets.
Currently the slum residents were being given a chance to double their fortune through sheer luck.
The Military was rounding up them all and was building a large and more secure place for them to stay. It was handing out food and even coppers for information on what they had seen. During the course of the day, because of Ming’s rantings most of the slum residents were woken up and those nearby had seen what took place from between the holes in their shacks.
As for anything else, long as free food was involved all sorts of tales began to spout out. When the older slum residents were allowed to leave they were faced with even better treatment. All those mercenaries, adventurers and servants from those noble clans freely dished out money for firsthand information.
It was such a bountiful year that most of them wept and cried in joy.
Slowly the rumors of how those young masters acted surfaced.
If not for the rumor having said to originate in the Military, all those of the slums would have been silenced. By the time those involved understood and were aware of what happened, the talk had spread out of control.
There was one group of slum residents however, who did not profit from this turn of events.
Old man Bai and his group of hoodlums found themselves in a predicament. The kind of predicament that makes one cough up blood.
On investigation by the Military it was found that the woodpile the wolf demon head was discovered within belonged solely to them. In fact all the other residents swore on their loaf of bread that old man Bai and his wannabe gangster posse had broken down all the surrounding shacks and beaten any person who ventured near that area.
A thorough search of their lodging had produced a large tome well hidden in a corner. That tome was one normally carried by adventurers and mercenaries that contained a brief description of demon beast. It also had a charcoal marking with a rough letter M etched on a page.
It didn’t take long for that news to leak out from the Military.
A name not familiar to those in the Military but drove fear into the hearts of the villages bordering the forest. They numbered over a hundred and plagued the villages for money, food and supplies. Worse yet, they recruited the young men and abducted the girls who were to their liking.
They had gotten so bold over the years that they even started to harass merchant convoys and peddlers. Only large groups like the Trading Post were still safe from their clutches. Still some disappearances of merchants without a trace was suspected to be their handiwork.
A large group of unknown numbers when gathered together might have somehow been able to trap and kill the creature. Both of them were familiar with the terrain and using ambush methods. Considering those fact, they may have proven lucky.
The wolf demon was obviously killed by them and used. Under torture old man Bai cracked and revealed whatever they wanted to hear. The Mong bandits killed the wolf demon, the head was proof of the deed.
The bandits had a couple of hideouts to the north and south running in a line near the forest border. It was the reason the army never found their main group.
Old man Bai sang like a canary. He sang tunes they wanted to hear.
Since the wolf demon was killed most of the adventuring parties decided to leave. Only some of them decided to stay for a month or two for the arrival of spring. The roads would then be easier to travel before the snow melted and turned it into a river of mush.
There was also the possibility of them finding the corpse of the demon considering that the Mong bandits may have ditched it like the head.
Because the corpse was not a matter relating to a rare talisman and just had a monetary value, it became a free for all hunt. Whoever found it would earn enough money to live a comfortable lifestyle.
The missing blood and lifestone was a different matter. For the Military it was akin to an unknown threat.
‘Were they successful? And if so where were they now?’
Before anyone left the village the Military who had quickly recalled all their search parties did one last check.
All able-bodied persons, men or women were searched. Their luggage was checked and they were subjected to a full body investigation for any tattoos.
Mercenaries who already had their awakening were acknowledged and left alone. It was common knowledge that a person could only experience one awakening. To those awakened, even the Military was courteous. Those people were after all the best help in the North.
These checks were held at the south gate. The Trading post had kindly donated their building for use by the Military. It was for a fee of course, in the eyes of a merchant nothing in this world was for free.
During the first day of checks curious onlookers from the village were present. In the midst of these were two boys.
“Wow Chu look at that! Those soldiers are really taking advantage of that young woman. I could only imagine what goes on inside the sheds.”
Ming sighed and looked on in admiration.
“That is a man you idiot. He just has long hair tied in a pony-tail. Not all men look like some beefed up muscle man you know.”
Chu and Ming had escaped the encirclement that day. Since then they had laid low and watched the developments that occurred. For these instigators whatever happened after was not their concern. The bait and trap had been successfully laid and sprung.
They were among the first ones who had approached the investigators with the story of how they were heading out for firewood. Their interaction with these guards turned out to be very, very brief.
“What are you two here for?”
“We are from the village, the talk is that we need to be searched.”
“Are you going outside?”
“Did the soldiers check your homes?”
“Get the %$# out from here and stop wasting our time you little punks!”
Both of them were unceremoniously kicked out onto the snow back nearby. Now they were simply standing among the spectators.
“I still think that soldier was very rude to us Chu. One day I am going to make you get even with him for me.”
“Why do I have to do that for you. Shouldn’t you do it yourself?”
“Nah, too much work. After this I just want to relax and eat some of Sue’s cooking.”
The Military had searched the village and already screened the villagers. After a week the lifestone and blood would be rendered useless. As for the checks, it was mostly done on those men who were fit and seemed strong.
Some of the more passable women were also subjected to checks. As for the children they were overlooked. Nobody in their right mind would waste a lifestone of such importance on some slum kid.
Chu’s parents house was passed with ease. Once the Military saw the banner of the Trading post and the guard sitting out front, everything went smoothly. They searched the house, complimented the nice dogs, and let the woman and the kids return to the house.
‘Really? Like some old lady struggling to support so many useless children(because they were girls who obviously did not have a future) would kill a demon and have money to buy talismans.’
‘Is the Trading Post raising these girls to be of sale in some town or city? Nothing less from such a large company that has its hands in everything. I wonder if they could strike me a deal?’
With thoughts like that clearly reflecting on the faces of the soldiers, the searchers moved on quickly.
After a week of checks everything returned to normal. The fête was still on at the south gate but much smaller than before. Most outsiders had left along with the majority of the Military. They were on their way to flush out the lairs of the Mong bandits.
One proclamation was issued out though. It was from the Trading post that had raked in a fortune in the past months. They would be willing to purchase the wolf demon corpse for a reasonable price.
This declaration served as an enticement to keep some of the adventurers and mercenaries who were not under order from any houses back in the village. It also served to keep the money flowing into the Merchant company’s coffers, albeit at a slower pace.
Gofart the Dullard, and Weak bladder Tochus joined the rest of the Military as they moved on. Hopefully they may be able to salvage some reputation against the bandits.
Two weeks after the incident in the slums the once hectic lifestyle gradually toned down. It was now the last few weeks of winter, Spring was just around the corner. This year the villagers would be spared the usual tribute to the unfortunate Mong bandits. With the additional income most had earned, it would be a better time in the village.
The Trading post was busy, but not as much these days. Now there were times it was empty for hours. Griz had racked up so much profits and his reputation was now through the roof. He used this time to reminisce and plan for his future goals.
It was at this time the clatter of footsteps sounded at the entrance disturbing his thoughts. He was now at the sweetest part- counting gold coins.
‘Damn, who could be so inconsiderate, making a ruckus at this time in the morning.’
Looking up he was greeted with a smiling face.
“Hey Griz, I have a deal for you.”