The group was tentatively searching around the statues. They all looked old with moss and vines growing on them. The ones in the front had confused looks on their faces while the ones in the back were more of a mix between angry and terrified.
"This….is definitely creepy. Right?" Julio asked, looking at his friends to make sure he wasn't the only one creeped out.
Erk and Charlotte nodded their heads. "Definitely creepy." Erk agreed.
"These used to be people, right?" Charlotte asked, looking at a statue of a man with a bow raised and a face full of fury.
"Yeah." Erk said back, walking up next to her. "The first hunting party that got turned to stone…I feel bad for the guys."
"Uh, hey guys? Maybe we should check that out."
The three turned to see Reese pointing at the cabin nestled near the trees. It was old that much was certain, with the wood rotting in some places. There were curtains blocking all view inside it. Oddly enough, none of the curtains were matching. One window was blocked by dark blue curtains with white stripes while another had yellow and pink polka dots covering it.
But there was smoke coming out of the chimney, but instead of flying off into the air, it got caught in the branches of the trees overhanging the house. That meant someone lived there.
Julio gulped nervously as they met with Reese just a few feet away from the building. "You don't think that's where the monster lives, do you?"
Erk rolled his eyes. "Right. The monster lives in a little cottage in the woods." He sniffed the air and he almost drooled at the smells of something sweet wafted through the air. "And apparently bakes cakes."
Reese rubbed his head. "Popper never said anything about someone living out here though." He eyed them warily. "So…you know." He sweat dropped and gestured them forward with a nervous smile. "Guild wizards first."
Charlotte couldn't help but giggle while Erk and Julio blanched at him. "Sure, sure." Julio complained. "You talked big over at Popper's place, but when there could actually be some danger, you're skipping out on us."
Reese glared at him. "Hey now, you're the one that kept saying you could handle all the monster killing. I'm just here for backup support. Not much good in a straight fight."
Erk just shook his head and stepped forward. "Why doesn't that surprise me?" He muttered under his breath.
Then Charlotte stopped him with a nervous tug on his sleeve. "M-Maybe we should prepare first? Just in case?"
Erk couldn't exactly say no to her. So he slapped his goggles over his eyes. "Better?" He asked, raising an eyebrow.
Charlotte smiled. "Almost." Then she looked down at Nico in her arms. "Time to go back now, Nico."
The little spirit just raised a paw in understanding. "Pun pun." Then it vanished in a puff of smoke. Charlotte smiled as she pulled another sliver key out of her pocket. With a flourish, she pointed the key directly in front of her. "Open, Gate of the Big Bear! Ursa!"
The key began to shine with light as a chunk of the ground broke off and lifted into the air. Then, with a roaring battle cry, the chunk burst apart, revealing Ursa in his combat boots. The grenades were still wrapped around his chest and he held his club in his hands.
"Who do I get to hit?" He demanded, looking around eagerly. Then his eyes landed on Reese. "You! Prepare to meet your doom!" He raised his club threateningly and swung it with all his might towards the younger boy.
Reese was rooted to the spot in fear, sweat pouring off his body. "Wait, wait, wait, wait! Hold ooooooon!" He screamed as the club hurtled towards them and brought his arms up in a meager attempt to protect himself, closing his eyes.
But the club never made impact. Instead, Reese hear Charlotte scolding the giant bear. "Ursa no!" She reprimanded. "I didn't bring you here to fight him."
The club halted just a few centimeters from Reese's head. Ursa snorted in dissatisfaction and hefted the giant bar of metal onto his shoulder. He glared at Erk and Julio, who froze as they made eye contact. "Then is it these two? They don't much more dangerous than the other guy. No challenge at all!"
But before he could even swing his club, Charlotte grabbed him by the ear and pulled him away from them. "No. Not them either."
Ursa yelped in pain as he was dragged away, but then he growled and tore himself free. "Then why was I summoned? You're only supposed to bring me here when there's something to hit."
"I know." Charlotte agreed. "But there's a monster around and we're about to go investigate some place suspicious. So I wanted you here just in case -."
But then Ursa cut her off. "A monster, eh?" His eyes gleamed with excitement, causing the three boys he previously threatened to sweat drop. "Where is it? I'll crush its skull with my club!"
Charlotte laughed nervously but she pointed to the cabin. "We think it might be in there but -."
Again she was cut off as Ursa went charging towards the cabin. "Come out, vile beast, so I can cave your head in!"
"Ursa, no!" Charlotte shouted as she chased after him, but he was stomping so loud that he didn't hear her.
Erk, Julio, and Reese just stared after the battle crazed bear. "You know" Erk said plainly, "if it turns out to be a normal person living in there, we're going to be in a lot of trouble." The other two boys simply nodded in agreement as Ursa broke the front door of the cabin and ran in with his club raised high, Charlotte trailing after him.
They immediately heard a scream, a girl by the sound of it, quickly followed by Charlotte's own scream. They couldn't hear Ursa anymore.
The boys didn't hesitate for a second. They rushed off towards the cabin, jumped over the broken remains of the door and ran to where they saw Charlotte standing inside a doorway with her hands covering her mouth. Her eyes were wide with a mixture of fear and disbelief.
They hurried up to her, Erk jumping in front, ready to fight if he had to while Julio and Reese checked over Charlotte. "Okay!" He shouted. "Who….what the hell?"
Off to the side of the room stood Ursa, his club raised with a ferocious look on his face…completely turned to stone.
And in the corner next to the spirit was a girl. She was shaking and had her hands covering her eyes. She had blonde, curly hair and she looked around Erk's age. She wore a simple, spaghetti-strap white dress with black shorts. Her back was turned as she tried to hide from them.
Erk could only say one thing about the scene. Just one word. "Shit."