Chapter 9:

The Bounty and The Stones

Number#


I jolted in the direction where the boy pointed in hopes of finding this Forest of Offerings as soon as I could. I got insanely lucky with finding out about Coal’s whereabouts so easily. I was barely in this village for even a day but still managed to find out where my prey was located in quick time. Bookmark here

As I dashed through the village passing by several similar-looking wooden houses, lamps, and local businesses, the ground and environment slowly began changing. I was noticing that the further I moved and the further I followed the trail, the more flowers and green life began flowing and popping up. As I ran, the landscape was shifting from the dirt and gravel that flooded the village’s floor to grass, flowers of every kind, beautiful tall green trees, and tons of small animals. Bookmark here

I slowed down and began admiring the robustness of the forest. It was similar to the robustness of the village but differed in that it was completely natural and held countless cute creatures rather than humans. After walking for a couple of minutes trying my best to absorb the beauty around me, I saw ahead of me that there was no longer a trail that could be followed. The path ended with just a giant stone about the size of myself burrowed into the ground surrounded by a rainbow of flowers and green life. There were squirrels on top of the stone and insects flying everywhere around it. I made my way to the stone slowly, and the squirrels quickly retreated back into the flowers that surrounded us as I got closer. Bookmark here

The grey shining stone had an engraving (it was like it was carved with a knife) that read one simple line: “Be wary of your offerings.” I didn’t know how to think of it as it just spooked me out a little, but at least now I knew that I was in the forest where Coal Jenie was supposedly supposed to be since the stone mentioned offerings. I looked around for about five minutes trying to figure out where to go from here, but I wasn’t sure since there was no longer a path for me to follow. There were just trees, large bushes, and flowers everywhere covering every single crevice of this beautiful forest.Bookmark here

I decided that I’d just go behind the stone in front of me and walk forwards/straight. I didn’t want to spend too much time worrying about which way to go when there was no clear path to take. If Coal is somewhere in this forest, then I’ll find him even if I have to search everywhere. And that’s exactly what I did. Bookmark here

The direction that I took at first ended up just taking me to a cemetery that was blistering with more wildlife and nature, but there wasn’t anyone or anything there besides the green life and countless stones marking people’s graves. I made my way back to the initial stone and decided to go left this time since I already tried going straight from it. Upon going further in that direction as I passed tree after tree, the forest took me to a small area where a cluster of stones the same size as the initial one I saw were grouped together. There was a decent amount of space between some of them, but some were very close to each other too, even touching each other. There were even more flowers in this area compared to any of the regions I’ve just passed. There were truly flowers of every kind here engulfing the entire area in a rainbow of beautiful colors. The wind was blowing a slight breeze lifting and pushing the flowers to different angles as they just retracted and pulled back when the wind stopped its force. It was peaceful here.Bookmark here

Every stone had a brief reading/statement on it similar to the stone I saw when I first arrived in this forest. One stone stuck out to me as it held a creepy reading. The stone read, “Those from other worlds belong in those worlds. Remember.” There were a few other weird readings that stuck out to me too, but that one creeped me out for some reason. I was so fixated on the stones that I didn’t even notice a man standing right in front of one of them to my left just staring at its reading. I was perplexed that I didn’t notice the man immediately. It was as if he was immersed in the area itself and camouflaged with the beautiful landscape. He was silent and was just staring at one of the engravings and readings as the wind blew his long messy hair in several directions. I’m pretty sure that this silent man was the man I’ve been searching for this entire time. Bookmark here

To be sure, I took out the bounty from my pocket and straightened it out with my hands so that I could see the picture of the man. On the paper, the man was drawn in black and white so I couldn’t compare colors at all. In the picture, Coal had long hair, and a cloak covering his body similar to what Jack Swivel had (except Jack’s was torn up and ragged). I kept looking at the paper and back at the man right next to me who just kept looking at the stone’s reading silently as the wind blew. Based on appearance alone, the drawing wasn’t good enough for me to confirm that this man in front of me was one hundred percent Coal Jenie, especially since the man in front of me wasn’t wearing a cloak like in the picture. However, the one thing that stuck out to me when comparing the picture to the man in front of me was the long hair which definitely looked similar, and a double-edged long stick on his back (it was like a spear) which had a straight blade poking out from the top and bottom of it. In the bounty picture, there was a stick, but it didn’t have blades poking out from it. It almost looked like the weapon was enclosed in a case of sorts in the picture, but I wasn’t sure.Bookmark here

After comparing the bounty picture to the man for about another minute, I came to the conclusion that this was probably Coal in front of me but that he just didn’t have the cloak on as shown in the picture. The man in front of me was wearing a black long-sleeved shirt and black joggers. The wind was also blowing and carrying the clothing that the man was wearing in all sorts of directions in which they seemed to be slightly big on him. The man’s long hair was black and was parted upwards to the left side of his head (or at least, the wind made it look like this). He was a white tan-skinned man who appeared to be around the same age as me, definitely in his early twenties, and he had a distinct earring on his left ear which oddly looked like it was a steel nail, like one of the ones that construction workers would use. Besides the stick that he had strapped on his back, he also had a medium-sized blade sheathed and strapped to his body on the left side of his torso as well as tons of small empty and full sheathes scattered and fastened around his body in random areas. Some of the sheathes had small knives and medium-sized daggers in them while others had nothing in them. The variety of weapons was astonishing since they all had different designs to them. The man’s coffee-colored eyes turned to face my direction, but he didn’t move his body.Bookmark here

He didn’t have the nail earring in the picture which began confusing me a little. I gave up on the picture and just buried it back in my pocket ready to say something, but the man said something first as we just stood there near each other.Bookmark here

“Who and what are you?”Bookmark here

There was no point beating around the bush with this guy. I responded promptly, “My name’s Spade White. I’m a bounty hunter.”Bookmark here

The man continued eyeing me, but not necessarily in a cautious manner, as I now began to gaze upon the stone that he was looking at and its reading. The stone read, “A soul’s essence is required to bring about a soul. This is the way.” The man glared at me for a couple more seconds, but just turned back and continued looking at the stone in front of him.Bookmark here

“So, you've been looking for me. Just in case you're still wondering, I’m Coal Jenie.”Bookmark here

I wasn’t too surprised because even though the picture didn’t completely match, this seemed to be the only man in the forest, and he had a bunch of weapons on him so he didn’t exactly look innocent. Bookmark here

“Yea, I've been looking for you. Listen. Why don’t you just come with me and we won’t have to fight or anything like that, okay?”Bookmark here

The man waited a couple of seconds and just sighed, refusing to turn from the stone in front of him.Bookmark here

“Fight? How’re you going to fight me with just your fists? And there are all those bandages too which are definitely not completely healed yet. You listen to me. Forget this bounty and just go home. I have nothing to gain from a kid who’s never even killed someone.”Bookmark here

I was beginning to get a little nervous because I didn’t exactly know how I was going to force Coal to come with me, especially if he had an ability like Jack did. That’d be a big problem for me.Bookmark here

“Yea, yea. I’ve heard about this ‘gaining’ and how you murderers get your abilities, and it still doesn’t exactly make much sense. Listen, I'm going to drag you to the Bounty Hunter Association even if I have to force you to come.”Bookmark here

I was now ready for any sudden moves that could come from this guy. He turned around and revealed the front of his body to me which revealed some more weapons that he had on him that I didn’t notice while looking at him from his side. He had what appeared to be hatchets strapped to his upper legs on both his quads. There was definitely pressure in the air, or at least I thought there was.Bookmark here

“You're the one who cut off that one guy’s arm aren’t you?”Bookmark here

Coal took his time responding as if this was all so annoying. Bookmark here

“Yes, I’m the one that did that.”Bookmark here

I asked him both cautiously and affirmatively, “Why did you do something as cruel as that to a regular village man?”Bookmark here

Coal glared at me with tired and aggrieved eyes as if he was sick of explaining himself to people. The wind continued howling as it fluttered the countless flowers around us.Bookmark here

“He’s a pedophile you know. He was groping a lost child in this forest with his disgusting hands, so I thought it’d only be fair if he lost at least an arm. Also, I needed the arm, so there was that too.”Bookmark here

I clenched my teeth. Damn. This guy is crazy after all. This is going to be hard.Bookmark here

I responded, “Bullshit. Besides, if he was doing something like that, no sane person would just jump to the conclusion that he should lose an arm.”Bookmark here

Coal continued the conversation playfully now like he enjoyed messing with my thoughts.Bookmark here

“Sane person? Oh, I promise that I’m completely sane. I cut his arm off pretty good so that he’d lose lots of blood. I actually wanted to kill the man in case you couldn’t notice. I was hoping he’d go into shock from the pain or have a dissociative seizure from the blood loss, but the sick bastard managed to run pretty far huh?”Bookmark here

Damn. This guy really turned out to be a maniac.Bookmark here

“Yea, well he actually did have a seizure right in the middle of town. Are you happy to hear that?”Bookmark here

Coal grinned as if he was relieved. Bookmark here

“Yes, Spade White. Yes, I am happy about that. That means that he’s probably dead now which means one less piece of shit in this world for us to worry about.”Bookmark here

I responded quickly, “For ‘us’ to worry about? Don’t lump me in with murderous maniacs like you. Oh, and just so you know, I’m not worried about people like that. You see, I’m not interested in doing the world any favors.”Bookmark here

Coal was still grinning like he truly just received some great news. He reached his hand out to his left stretching his long arm out completely revealing some relatively defining muscles through his long-sleeved black shirt. I was gazing at him curiously. Is this guy crazy? What the hell is he doing? Is he stretching or something? Bookmark here

“Let’s see what I gained…”Bookmark here

He seemed to grab the air like something was there and all of a sudden, something was there. A small knife appeared out of thin air right into his palm where he was grabbing the sky. His grin quickly faded and turned into a frown of disappointment.Bookmark here

“Damn, only a knife huh? This guy really was a weak piece of flith. I guess you can’t expect much from child molesters in this world. Well, at least this proves that he’s dead now which is definitely a good thing.”Bookmark here

Coal took the knife and forcefully stuffed it into one of his empty sheathes as if he had a collection going. Damn. That was definitely not a normal thing. This guy definitely had one of those abilities that Jack described when I was fighting him. This could be a big problem for me.Bookmark here

I asked curiously, now getting into a stance ready for a fight, “Is that your ability or something?”Bookmark here

Coal responded like he both hated and loved his ability, “Yup. I guess I'll tell you. You knowing doesn't really change anything. As you can see it’s a pretty simple one. I gain a weapon every time I kill someone. It could be any sort of weapon of any kind. I don’t really have a choice in the matter. It kinda just appears out of thin air.”Bookmark here

I looked at him more focused now. He eyed me menacingly now but continued his explanation.Bookmark here

“One thing I learned however is that the stronger the person I kill, the better the weapon is that I receive. So maybe I’ll receive something cool from killing you? Or maybe you’ll wake up and see that you can’t beat me, and you’ll screw off as a result.”Bookmark here

I responded, “Yeah, some other guy told me that the other day. I still kicked his ass anyway.”Bookmark here

Coal was smiling again as if he thought what I said was funny.Bookmark here

“Listen… Spade right? You know anything about the numbers?”Bookmark here

Numbers? What? Wait, I remember Jack Swivel saying something about numbers.Bookmark here

“No, I don’t, but that guy I was telling you about who’s ass I kicked was talking about them too. What’s that about?”Bookmark here

Coal answered my question, “There are thirty people in this world who wear numbers on their bodies. The lower the number, the stronger the person is.”Bookmark here

Thirty numbers? What? People wearing numbers? What’s this guy talking about? Is this what Jack was talking about?Bookmark here

Coal continued, “Nobody knows if there’s a leader to this group or if they’re a group at all. I’ve spent my whole life searching for these guys and collecting information. You see, the guy I killed who I told you was a pedophile is definitely garbage, but these numbers… they’re the real scum of our world.”Bookmark here

I was confused, so I asked, “Why’re you telling me this? What’s the point? I’m not going to join your quest to kill ‘numbers’, alright you freak?”Bookmark here

He laughed a little.Bookmark here

“Well, I guess the saying is right. We’re all bound by our own individual knowledge and awareness. And you’re clearly not aware of who the real bad guys are in this world. I feel bad that you think people like me are the bad ones.”Bookmark here

I responded, “Oh, so what you’re saying is that you’re not the bad guy here? Ohhhh, okay then. So how do you explain the fact that you're literally a freaking serial killer buddy?”Bookmark here

He rapidly took out the double-edged thin spear that he had behind his back gripping the handle in the middle and pointed it towards me with one hand.Bookmark here

“Are you stupid? Can’t you tell that I’m trying to avoid fighting here? I’m trying to give you a reason not to fight you idiot.”Bookmark here

I wish there was such a thing in this world. A reason not to fight. I’m here for money. Nothing more, and nothing less.Bookmark here

“Yeah, well, there’s no way you're going to convince me not to take your ass back to the bounty hunters. I’m here because I need the money, not because you're a shit-bag, although the fact that you are a shit-bag definitely makes it easier for me. Tell me Mr. I’m-not-the-bad-guy, why are you out here in this peaceful town and forest? What brings a psycho like you over here? What? Do mental people like flowers?”Bookmark here

As soon as I said the word psycho, his eyes flared, and he stabbed the ground with his spear which made me jump a little. He instantly took the knife that he stuffed into his pocket earlier out of its sheath and launched it at me aiming right for my head. I barely dodged it as it even managed to cut a piece of my hair off. The blade stabbed a tree behind me and was now sticking out of it. Coal seemed pretty mad at me after I called him a psycho. He made the face and everything, and he had some words to say.Bookmark here

“What brings me out here? I’m here to revive someone I need. He was the only man I’ve ever seen who was strong enough to take out a number! And not just any number, the strongest number out there, Number One! That’s the real psycho!”Bookmark here

Revive a guy? What the hell? I’m actually starting to believe for real that this guy’s got a screw loose in his head. I looked at him confused.Bookmark here

Coal continued, “Yes, you heard me correctly. I’m here to revive a man from the dead. Don’t you know the name of this forest?”Bookmark here

The Forest of Offerings. Okay. That makes sense I guess, but how the hell are you supposed to be able to revive someone? You can’t bring someone back from the dead. Coal looked at me like he knew exactly what I was thinking.Bookmark here

“Yes, you can bring someone back from the dead Spade White. I’ve spent the last five years trying to figure out how to do it, and now I finally know how, and you’re not about to get in my way. I need to revive Arsenal and have him join me to take down the numbers.”Bookmark here

I looked at him for a minute trying to see if he was actually serious about what he was saying. Bookmark here

“Yeaaaa, I don’t think I’m going to allow you to create a zombie and kill a bunch of people. And like I said, I need the money, so I don’t care about your intentions. Stop talking so much and for god’s sake let’s just get this over with already!”Bookmark here

Coal looked at me in annoyance as he simply uttered, “Very well.”Bookmark here

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