Polymath Redux Annex
Chapter 19 – That which is the next step
“Gold?!” shouted the blue haired demoness, ‘Rena’. Her voice echoed through the empty lounge of the antique inn. “Even the most exorbitant inns around the capital would charge a few silvers at most! We can’t accept that; you have to return that money!” Of course, the issue of the extortionist fee for lodging was something Mordred already knew of. It would’ve been a very easy matter for him to step in and break up the fight but he chose to refrain. The reason was rather straight forward. It was during these kinds headed fights that people tended to blurt out their deepest feelings and motives. In the end, it had just been another method of gaining information.
“Return the money?! But they’re the ones who willingly paid for it!” protested Yda as she retreated a few steps. The heavy pouch of gold clang around in her palms. Tightly clutched she refused to leg to no matter what. “With this money, we can finally pay off that shitty bishop!”
A smirk flashed beneath Mordred’s breath as his intuition was spot on.
“Yda,” Rena shook her head. Her face cast down by the shadow of a saddened expression. She replied in a softer tone, “if we have to deceive and steal from others to pay him off, then we’d just be no different from him. To hurt and betray others, we of all people should know what that’s like the best… please, Yda. We should do this properly.”
Her honest blue eyes were painful to contest, almost as though one would be looking directly into the sun. Even Mordred who had merely been standing along the sidelines felt a pang of guilt in his heart. His sentiments were more attuned with Yda, in that he had never strove to live an honest life either.
“But… but, at this point, who cares if we’re honest or not!” through guilt and disgrace, Yda wiped away her shame and stood her ground in the matter. Though it was not the light of integrity that was reflected in her eyes, there was a firm conviction behind them. One that believed her actions were justified even if it meant to walk down a darker path. “We’re about to lose this place if we don’t do anything! Rena, you’re just too nice for your own good!”
Perhaps an admittance of concession, those were the final words Yda spouted as she stormed out the inn. Still, there had been enough honor and trust in Rena’s word that she had left the pouch full of gold on the counter before she did.
“Yda…” Rena chanted her name longingly. A heavy and awkward silence gripped the room. Moments passed before her daughter, ‘Charlotte’, tugged at the hem of her skirt and brought her back to reality. “Ah!” she shouted as she just remembered. She turned back to Mordred and Irina and lowered her head as an apologize, “please forgive me for showing you yet another unbecoming scene!”
Mordred held up his hand to stop her, “there’s no need for you to apologize. I understand; somehow or other, I think I’ve gotten the gist of what’s been going on here.” Rena’s face reddened as she turned away in shame. “That reminds me, we’ve yet to introduce ourselves. My name is ‘Mordred’ and this is my companion, ‘Irina’.” Irina nodded without a word.
“Ah, yes… though we’re still inexperienced in the business of keeping an inn, please enjoy your stay. Also,” Rena reached out to the table and handed back the thick pouch of gold. “We cannot accept this much.”
Mordred shook his head, “there’s no need to return it; please keep it as an advance on my stay. I rather like this place and plan on staying for quite a bit.”
“Still, this is too much for us.”
“Then,” his face leaned closer to hers with a smile. “Perhaps we can exchange information.”
“Information? Unfortunately, I merely run this unimpressive inn. Yda’s the one you want for all sorts of information.”
“Just telling me about yourself and this place would be fine for now,” he pressed.
“About ourselves… I’m not sure if anyone would enjoy such a bland story but if you insist,” Rena pondered for a moment to recall her memories. “You see, this place used to be an orphanage. Both Yda and I grew up here with several other children. We were taken care of by the original owners of this place, two caretakers. They were both very kind and supportive of us children.” At first her expression reflected a light melancholy. Her soft icy eyes traced around the corners of the room, smiling as she reminisced about the times she spent here as a child. Suddenly her expression dimmed, “however, one day those two caretakers went out and never returned. We waited for hours, days, weeks and even years. One by one, the other children began to lose hope and left his place. In the end, only Yda remained. I had been… ‘elsewhere’ at the time. When I decided to return, this place had been left in shambles, with very minimal living conditions. Eventually, I met back up with Yda and decided to turn this building into a place of business. However, as you can see, the inn’s business isn’t quite going well as I would’ve liked.”
“I see,” Mordred flashed a wistful and understanding gaze. “You said that you and Yda were in the orphanage at the same time, then…” he shifted his gaze toward the small child hiding behind her mother’s skirt. He didn’t actually speak it out but the question was obvious.
“Umm, the circumstances around Charlotte’s birth… I apologize, but that’s something I wish not to remember.” Her eyes went dark for a moment.
“No, I’m sorry for asking.” Mordred no longer pressed the matter and instead chose to shift the topic, “with how Yda was acting, it seems that something is happening to this place?”
“About that… well, the deed to this place is about to expire. Actually, we’re supposed to have a few more years but the local bishop, who also owns a large amount of land in the area, has been pushing us to close down.” She shook her head, “if we want to maintain this place then we have to pay a rather hefty sum. It’s not just us who’re affected, but a few of the other local businesses have been rapidly closing. Since the bishop is a member of the Clergy no one dares to confront him about the issue. So, while I’m very glad that you like this place, we’re unsure how long we can continue to stay open. It’d really be for the best if you took the money back.”
It was a pattern Mordred had seen many times in stories and fiction. Men abusing their status and power to push around people who cannot fight back. ‘Even in a world of fantasy, corruption is something no one can escape,’ he wryly chuckled to himself. “No, I’ll stay by my word. That money is yours to spend. Then, we’ll be using the rooms upstairs.”
“Ah, yes! Thank you very much! Please enjoy your stay!”
“P- pweeze… enjoy ‘ur stay…” at the behest of her mother, the small girl also added at the end.