Chapter 2: Meanwhile, in Subcon

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We all know who you're really reading this for, so let's just cut to the chase.
Art above is by me.

...

Somewhere, in the middle of an old, cursed forest, an ancient tree pierces through the canopy of dead branches.

Warm light spills out into the surrounding area from the hollowed-out room at the base of the tree. Inside, the room is decorated with worn, homely furniture, like the kind you might find in a grandparent's home. But this is not the house you would visit during the summer to play in the lawn and bake sweets. The only ones who visit this place are a particular soul-snatching shadow and whoever his latest unfortunate contractor might be.

And there the Snatcher was, reclining in his favorite antique armchair, re-reading one of his favorite books: "How to Kill Kids: Volume 3". For the most part, he was content with his way of life. Shooing away the occasional fire spirit, striking fear into the hearts of trespassers, patrolling the forest's borders, and spending his downtime reading alone. Though there have been a few recent developments that have thrown his routine into disarray.

The first of which was not as much of a problem as much as it was a nuisance. A particularly incessant child calling herself the "Hat Kid" had quite rudely invaded his property, refused to leave, and then-in Snatcher's own words-"aggressively assaulted" him. Despite this, he couldn't be completely angry with her. The girl was one of the most competent contractors he had ever seen, and would pick up work around Subcon just for the sake of helping out.

The next problem was of greater concern. In the past several weeks, Snatcher had noticed a sharp decline in the number of trespassers in his forest. Of course there was always the occasional washed-up nobody or wannabe ghost hunter, but not enough to keep up with his demands for disposable brain-dead servants. This has led him to have to take more time out of his day for menial labor, leaving him with less time to dedicate toward solving his most recent and most intimidating problem.

Simply put, Subcon Forest was freezing over. Slowly.

At first, even Snatcher barely noticed. He wasn't quite sure what it was, but something was off. Did he forget to check his traps? Was there an unfinished contract that he wasn't aware of? No, that wasn't it. It wasn't until he began getting complaints from the residents of Subcon that he started to be on the lookout for any signs of abnormal weather. An ominous chill permeated the air and the already bitter winds began to nip harder. And at the center of it all, the frost-stricken area surrounding Queen Vanessa's manor had begun to slowly creep outward into the surrounding forest.

The worst part is, Snatcher is stuck without any means of combating this new threat. Ever since the cold weather first picked up, anyone he sent to investigate the manor either didn't leave in the first place, or didn't come back. Even Hat Kid refused to set foot in the manor after her first experience with it. This, coupled with a lack of available victims, there's not much that Snatcher can do.

Now you might ask why Snatcher, the stealer of souls and dark ruler of Subcon Forest, doesn't march up to the front door of the manor and take care of the problem himself?

The answer is simple. Her.

He knows one thing that he fears most is lying in wait for him just behind those doors. The one thing that the poor shadow just doesn't have the strength to face. But that's okay, he can play the waiting game, too. He isn't content on freezing to death a second time, and he doesn't have many other options.

So yes, he will wait for now.

Snatcher lets go of a breath he didn't know he had been holding. He reclines in his chair, opens the book to chapter 6, and tries his best to ignore the draft coming in from the opening next to him.

Somewhere, in the middle of an old, cursed forest, a shadow passes the time while worrying about the weather and local job market.

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