I yelled at the foul waitress to get another drink for my buddy, Hui.
I like this place. The drinks here are decent, the food is good, but the staff is as ugly as the name Stuck Pig implies. Most of the folks who come by are farmers or seasonal workers; just the right types to earn us money. We only need to be careful when the guards come around, but that don’t happen too often. I thought it was going to be another pleasant payday and night of drinking, but Hui was rattled.
For as long as I’ve known him he’s been the skittish high strung type. But he always has a mind for coin and an ample amount of caution. He had just come back from one of those special jobs, the type we shouldn’t talk about too loudly. We worked on lots of special projects like that together over the years. I think today he was out doing his collections, to ensure the safety of the farmers.
The swine faced waitress placed a tall foamy tankard on the table and Hui started to gulp it down.
“So tell me again, what happened?”
Hui slammed the mug down, having almost drained it completey and hollered for another two.
“So I was out doin’ my usual collection rounds ya know? And I was stopping by old man Tadakage’s place. An’ brought knee clubber in case he didn’t feel like pay’n up. It stunk more than usual, so I figure he must have been slaughtering pigs out back again. But when I found him… He was nothing but shreds man. Pigs all dead too. Chewed to death.”
“Must have been Okami wolves,” I mutter, “Did you at least clear out his house before leaving?”
“Yeah, I did a search, found his coin. Did that cuz I am not going back there. So you really think it was the Okami?”
“Fool of an old man. If he was slaughtering pigs during the double moon no wonder the Okami came. Shame to lose a good customer, but at least we got paid one last time.”
The waitress dropped off two more tankards. But when she turned away an angel appeared. No, it was a young woman. Maybe seventeen or eighteen? She has big blue eyes and golden hair like I have never seen before. I couldn’t help but stare as she took a set at our table. An elf maybe? No, her ears were normal. Maybe a halfer?
“So, what’s this about a wolf?” She asked in a bubbly voice.
“The Okami wolf?” I ask as I come back to my senses.
“Mmm, yep that’s the one you were talking about!” She smiled as bright as the noonday sun in this dark tavern.
“We think a pack got one of our friends, don’t we Hui?” He nodded like a dummy.
“What makes you think that?” She asked while taking one of the tankards.
I looked over to Hui, who was still gaping. Then kicked him under the table.
“Yeouch, um, oh ya, why? Well, he was torn to shreds. And, um, there were all these prints. Looked like wolf tracks. Plus all his pigs were eaten. Not much else could do all that.”
“And, he was slaughtering pigs under a double moon.” I nodded with sage wisdom.
“Why would that matter?” She responded while sipping ale.
“Well, the buggers don’t have much for eyesight, but they can smell blood two hills away. And when there’s a double moon they go into a frenzy at the scent of it.”
“Wow, I never knew that!” She batted her long eyelashes at me.
She’s a goddess!
“Oh, well, err, if you’re not from around here, you might not know.” I dug back into the reaches of my brain for anything to impress her with. “The Okami are common out here on the western hills. They’re a bit bigger than regular wolves, especially the alpha. They are dark brown with red stripes. A friend of mine tried to raise one, but had to kill it after it got into the chicken coup and kept eating all the eggs. He hoped to be able to sell pelts, which are worth quite a bit.”
“You are like, so smart!” She smiled at me and drank down her ale.
I have never seen anyone so beautiful, so amazing. I must have you!
“Are you staying here, miss?” I wanted to keep the conversation going, keep her interested.
“Nope! Just passing through. Thank you so much for the information.” I could feel my face burn as she popped up and flittered away to another table.
“Can I get you another drink?” I called out to her back.
Damn it, maybe she didn’t hear me. And she’s talking to those farmers now. I didn’t even get her name.
“Hey, you think she’s a noble or sumthin’?”
“I don’t know Hui, I don’t think I saw her come in with anyone. And she says she’s not staying here. Maybe she snuck away from home?”
“If she was some noble’s daughter, she might be worth a hellova lot…”
It took me a moment to register Hui’s intent. He was thinking with his wallet and I was thinking with something else.
“Your right. Even if she isn’t a noble she would still fetch a huge price. Especially with those eyes. You still got the tools?”
“Keep um handy in my travl’n pack. Jus’ in case.” Hui slapped the large bag at his feet.
“Ok we nab her, head back to the hideout, and you give me two. No, three days alone with her. Then we sell her.”
Hui gave me a look.
“Fine, you can keep seventy-five percent. If I get three days.”
“Make it eighty. And just don’t damage the goods too much.”
We laughed and clashed out drinks together. I watched as she talked to the farmers, and then the bartender. Then, just as suddenly as she appeared she popped up and flittered out the door like a songbird.
I’m glad she didn’t leave in a hurry because I didn’t want to stand up right away. Plus, we didn’t want to look like we were chasing after her. Just in case she was some rich kid.
Hui spotted her first; he always had good night vision. She had already gone a ways up the road and would soon be around a bend. We rushed after her, not wanting to lose sight. It shouldn’t have been hard to catch up, but when we rounded the bend she was gone.
“Hey Hui, did you see where she went? Hui?” I turned, and there was Hui collapsed on the road. “Hey man are you ok?”
Something hit my face and I opened my eyes with a scream. My head hurt worse than a night of day drinking. My eyes couldn’t focus and I couldn’t get up. Everything was fuzzy. Then slowly swinging golden hair came into view.
“Oh, well hello boys. You were sure slept a long time!”
“What the hell happened?” I struggled to sit up. Hui was across from me and naked. Something was attached to his ankles. I demanded my eyes to focus, but I still couldn’t believe them. His legs were chained to mine; we were spread eagle on opposite sides of a sterling oak.
“Wait, what did you do to us?” I struggled to ask as things became clearer.
“You know the best thing about coming backwater shit world?” She asked.
Hold on, did she just say she came here? Was she really an angle? Or a devil?
“All my senses have gone crazy. I can see in the darkness, smell flowers in the distance, and hear whispers behind closed doors.” She leaned in close and I started to sweat, naked in the cold night air. This was it. She was going to eat us. She was some monster and we were going to die. Hai started to sob.
She knew, she knew! This is bad but, Hai, come on man get it together, you’re seriously freaking out. And that’s freaking me out!
“As you upstanding gentleman can see, your manacles have been put to good use. Oh and don’t worry with trying to pick the locks. I’ve smashed them.”
Shit shit shit. She’s pulling out a knife. We are dead. We are so dead!
“And now I present you with your freedom!” She swung around the knife a few times and buried into tree between Hui and me. What is she playing at?
“Unfortunately, only one of you will be walking away from this tonight.” She burst out in a bought of deranged laughter.
“You can’t mean…” I muttered.
“Oh, but I do! And to help your speedy decision may I present you with a dead chicken and a basket of eggs!” She spun around and held the dead bird from its broken neck.
What the… Where did she even that that from? Hell, even Hui is confused enough choke back his sobs.
She threw the basket into the air. Eggs rained down. I got hit by a few, it was kind of disgusting but didn’t really hurt. Hui got hit by more. I just glared at the bundle of crazy.
Maybe if she got close enough I could grab the knife and do her in. The hell with any reward. Then we figure a way out of this.
“And now for the final garnish!” She yelled out, before popping the head off the chicken. With her bare hands.
Seriously, what the…No wait, she’s pouring the blood on us. Are we a sacrifice? Is she going to try and summon a netherbeast?
“While I would like to stay and watch the show, I really must get back. But, from the sounds of things, you’ll have lots of friends to play with soon!”
The girl just skipped off though the woods, between trees and out of sight. I looked at Hui who was scraping blood out of his eyes. His anxiety had calmed down. Or he had been pushed over the edge.
“What are we going to do? he asked.
“I don’t…” My thoughts were interrupted as a chorus of howls shattered the night.
Hui and I looked at each other, our eyes wide. He lunged for the knife.