Chu and Ming finally got good weather the next day to make their trip. After checking up on Lucy and reminding her to rest, they set out. Chu had Ming bring the sled with them.
Dyna and her small wolf cubs saw them to entrance. She didn’t want to let the cubs out for fear they might escape. Only until they became accustomed to her would she then allow them to play outside.
The journey started of uneventful and free from danger. Chu stopped Ming when they reached the ruined house where Lucy was attacked.
“What are we doing, shouldn’t we keep moving?”
Chu placed his fingers to his lips, signaling for the boy to be quiet. He slowly readied his sword and crouched forward. Ming finally understood his intentions and left the sled. He held the spear and moved to the front as a vanguard. They both kept their guard as they approached the ruins.
In a corner partly sheltered from the snow under the broken-down roof lay the body of a wolf. By all accounts it was dead and had stiffened from the cold. The end of a crossbolt was sticking out from its head.
“Crap! She did it Chu. And here I was thinking I needed power to get revenge for her.”
Ming walked up and prodded the wolf with the tip of his spear. By now all of them were well versed in telling the difference between a dead wolf or one still alive.
Chu scanned the area and found something not totally unexpected. In the surroundings small paw prints could be seen. It didn’t take a genius to put the pieces together. Because of the heavy snow yesterday all the tracks in the plains were covered. If wasn’t for this place being partly sheltered he wouldn’t have spotted it.
“Hey Chu I’m going for the sled, you really have a nose for making money don’t you. Hahaha.”
Chu called out as the boy stop and turned towards him. He sighed and continued.
“Help me bury this wolf under these stones.”
“We can’t dig the ground, so lets bury it using the stones around here.”
“What about the money?”
Chu started to move some stones to get the job going.
“Don’t need it. Lets just call it even between us and this wolf.”
He should have considered that in winter, he was not the only one seeking some form of shelter. Because of this Lucy almost died by intruding into the temporary lair of a wolf. Like them it was simply defending its new home and family. Chu was not overly soft-hearted, but he had received some valuable lessons from crossing this beast. Not to mention it was indirectly responsible for his recent gains.
All he had to do was figure out a way to keep these gains as well as his life.
It was in the late afternoon when they stumbled across the village entrance. They had spent the morning in hard labor and the freshly fallen snow made walking difficult and tiring.
The first thing they noticed was the change in mood of the village. The usual lazy guards patrolling the south entrance were now on high alert. On the path leading to the slums, a group of four soldiers were standing and talking in the freezing cold. From the looks of their full steel plated armor, they were definitely not from around the village.
Chu and Ming gave a quick nod to the guards. Changed over into their patched cloaks they displayed the nature conducive to children of the slums.
Venturing into the village, the normally sleepy atmosphere was now bustling with activity. Patrolling soldiers moved in groups along the streets and the Smithy that was usually closed in winter was bellowing heat and smoke amidst the busy clanging noises.
The two boys headed to their destination taking in the unusual activity.
“I don’t think I have ever seen these soldiers before Chu. Normally the shift in the garrison changes at the end of winter.”
Chu gave him a nod. With half of the garrison soldiers killed and the threat of the wolf demon hanging over them, it was understandable for the commander to call for reinforcements.
The Trading post had a few soldiers from the garrison who were negotiation for some supplies or the other. The assistants were busily searching through those giant ledgers calling out prices. The Master was at the counter speaking with two men.
From their countenance and speech, Chu gathered that they could be merchants who remained over the winter in the village. These merchants were normally rewarded for this winter hardship by being the first to choose the pelts caught during the season. White wolf pelts were much more valuable than the normal gray ones in the cities.
“Griz, I told you this was a bad idea. Good thing your term here is nearly over. Still if I had to spend one more year in this hell hole I would cry.”
“Look at you Kim, one little problem and you want to run back with your tail between your legs.”
“Now, now you two. None of us could have imagined this winter was going to blow up to such a problem. We can at least return with the patrols from the town, but Griz has to weather it out.”
“Sigh…you are right Habil. But even if I could leave we don’t know if this demon will ambush those on the road. HAAHAHAHA…I invited you from your home in the south desert. Bet you didn’t know it was not only winter you would have to face…”
“Sigh…not much you can do, it wasn’t your fault. If we knew this was going to happen I would have been prepared. We could have made a killing in this little village.””
Chu stood in the back listening to their conversations. Little by little he pieced together some facts. After a few minutes the three merchants shook hands and left the store. Chu then sauntered to the counter.
“You brat, I saw you straining your big ears in the shadows. What do you need today? I have to warn you though, the village is going to swell in numbers during the next few weeks. I can’t sell anything in bulk to you.”
Chu nodded. Even an idiot would hoard food and supplies knowing such news. When these temporary residents arrive, the little supplies are going to worth their weight in gold. Until the commanders and the merchants decide to take the risk to open and travel on the roads, everything is going to become scarce.
Chu glanced around the store. The soldiers were gone and the clerks were working feverishly on scribbling down orders of some form of the other.
“Hey Griz, I need to know if you got some time. I need some information.”
The Master checked his store and satisfied that things were idle he beckoned Chu to a corner.
They sat on the stools in the corner of the counter. Chu decided to get straight to the point. The more one tried to beat around the bush the faster they would be caught hunting.
“Are these new soldiers from Frost city?”
“Huh you know about Frost city. Oh yea, Simon told you about it right? No, no these soldiers were sent from the nearby town of Karst. That is the town that oversees these villages. Its only four days ride from here, the messenger went there first and then from the town it would be sent by falcon to the city of Frost and the others.”
“Will these soldiers be able to…”
“Don’t waste your breath, I know what you want to ask. These are soldiers from the town garrison. In front of a demon, they are just fodder. They were sent to help in beefing up the village security so the demon might be spotted faster. Hopefully it would be deterred by the sheer numbers.”
So it was like that, Chu thought. The nearest town was four to five days on horseback. These soldiers would have just made it to the village not to long ago. Now the question was…
“How long will it take for somebody to come who can actually do something.”
He asked in a concerned tone.
“Normally the ones who can actually fight against these demons are located in Frost. It takes about two weeks hard riding to reach us from there. I estimate that within the next two weeks or so those from the Military will be here.”
“I see, but even if they arrive, how are they going to find this thing. By the time they arrive, it may be long gone.”
Griz nodded in understanding.
“In a situation like this I think they are going to send some trackers and scouts. Those people usually employ certain skills to find their prey. Can’t tell you much, even Simon doesn’t know the full extent of the Military.”
“Don’t they have trackers who have a means to pin-point this demon? Otherwise it is going to be hard to track in the winter.”
Griz gave him a look of disdain.
“Brat, if it was that easy to track this demon. Do you think it would have gotten this far?”
Chu nodded. One of the main problems that were nagging him was the ability to accurately find the beast. With such OP skills out of the question, this gave him the assurance that all he had to do was bury the body. The thing was his whole front yard was covered by it scent. Even a dog would be able to track it.
Chu was still hoping he could salvage a profit from this situation.
“What would happen if they even found the demon?”
“That is what is making this thing so huge. The scouts are not the only ones coming here. Those high level mercenaries and Military generals are sending their family and associates. Even the Emperor’s family and nobles from the capital are going to be heading to the cities and towns nearby.
With the enticement of a high level demon and the chance of activating a devastating ability compared to all others, who would not want to be around. This thing is going to become a pain in the a%$”
That was the last thing Chu wanted to hear. Even if they died it would not save them from the wrath of some of these arrogant people. Given the kind of division that was prevalent and the sociality division, the poor were going to be screwed.
“But will all those people combing the area, wouldn’t there be fighting once the demon is found and killed? Nobody want’s to be caught in the crossfire between nobles.”
“Hmmm, you understand the situation well. The only way to stop an escalation that is going to come from all these young nobles is if the demon is gone. Other than that is if some idiot kills the thing and uses the lifestone. If he is successful then the Military and Mage Tower would own his a$$. If he were to fail, well with the kind of people present I don’t have to spell it out for you.”
“I know right, where the heck can you find such an idiot.”
Chu glanced at the boy sitting and drooling in his sleep beside him. He already had the burden of taking care of one of those.
“I say Griz, what is this thing about you having to serve a term here?”
Griz sighed, it was something he did not want to really talk about especially to a kid. He still decided to say something since he treated this boy like an equal when it came to business.
“My family is from the city of Haven. Its located to the east and south of here. We are a small merchant family that holds a minimal interest in the Trading post company. Five years ago my old man finally decided to step down from his position in the Trading post. As such for our family to hold onto our little gains, I had to undergo training within the Company to vie for his position. If I can show sufficient skills in increasing the profits at these border towns, I will be eligible for the Head position in a town. As for the city position, there are too many contenders for that position.”
Chu straightened his back as he stretched. Merchants were really ruthless. As a successful company starts to falter the sharks would begin circling to stake their claim.
As for the rough and scheming city life, Chu had no problem if he ever decided to resettle. Just like in his old life, a country bumpkin moving to the city would learn from his experiences the hard way.
Different world’s same conditions, he had a boat load of grievances to complain about.
A plan was beginning to form in his little mind, but it was too intangible for him to grasp as yet.
Right now though he had an idea that could be milk this situation and make a truck load of cash.
He meant wagons of Gold.
“Hey Griz, I got an idea how you can really impress this company by making a ton of gold.”
Griz stared at the little scamp before him as his heart skipped a beat. Those statements from this brat now had the effect of making him start hyperventilating.
After that Snow bear incident, he learned to expect the unexpected wherever this kid was concerned. The boy drummed his fingers on the counter as he gave him a sly grin and spoke.