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The streets are lined with merchant stalls from nearly every part of the known world. Normally, the number of foreign vendors leaves much to be desired because of the kingdom’s strict border policy. However, to bolster the local economy, the current monarch has issued a royal decree to allow outsiders travel and trade in the city of Gateway once in a year. This event is known as the Trade Fair.

In exchange for rare materials that come from monsters, we receive items from distant lands such as exotic weapons and such. You see, the Frontier region is notorious for its harsh climate, brutal local tribes and lots of monsters compared to the more civilized Center. For centuries those lands were untouched by the authority, remaining a lawless backward province, but after the last Demonic War was won, new troubles arose.

After the global conflict like that, a number of people trained only to fight and nothing more became too much to handle safely. Since leaving them unattended would have resulted in a bolstered number of bandits, mercenaries, and other undesirable elements, the royal family started generously giving those who distinguished themselves during the war unoccupied lands and noble titles.

In reality, this was done to both keep the strongest warriors of the land in check and to start the settlement of the lands that remained wild for too long. The local tribes were, of course, not happy with giving their ancestral lands to the invaders, but they stood no chance against the seasoned veterans like Lord Albrecht and his knights. As such, the barbarians were forced to flee or swear their loyalty to the new land-owners.

In other words, a definitive win for the royal family. Not only did they manage to pacify the rowdy upstarts, but secure their northern borders, too. That is to say, the official explanation that the “righteous” soldiers that showed “merits and honor of true nobles” were “gifted” with “privileges.”

Well, that was mostly me reading between the lines. In truth, I may be delusional and all those theories were byproducts of my bored mind. After all, boredom became my eternal companion those days. I researched some magic here and there, but things like revolutionizing the world were impossible since I had no idea how to create machines and such.

Yeah, only my imagination. Fat chance. If were to meet the current monarch, I would have given him nothing short of my absolute respect. He played humans like puppets, and if the rumors that came even to the backward province of steel and blood were even partly true, the heir apparent was both handsome and intelligent.

“Come! See my wares! Silks from the East! Clothes from the West! Feast your eyes upon the treasures of mine! You, young miss in a hat!”

Huh? Was he referring to me? I looked around and saw a brightly-painted stall with all kinds of exotic goods demonstrated proudly. The owner himself, a tall man with a short goatee and tanned skin, was gesticulating wildly, catching the attention of all bystanders and mine as well. “Me?” I asked silently, pointing at myself.

“Yes, yes! Do you like jewelry, milady? Amir has pearls! Amir has emeralds! Amir has even diamonds! All for a fair maiden like you! Now, now, don’t stand so far away! Come closer!”

Jewelry? I had no interests in such things. To me, they were too impractical and flashy. The thing I was more invested in were more magical in nature. Things like enchanted rings and amulets. Unfortunately, diamonds were a poor substitute for monster-produced materials. Of course, I wasn’t wearing any right now.

“We must haste,” Alfred whispered into my ear. “If we leave my liege to his own devices for too long, the damage will be too much to handle. Think of all the bills to pay.”

Apparently, that was enough for that Amir person to bite into. “Ah, I see! A young love! Say, lad, how about putting a ring on that finger? I have some and more!”

The nerve of some people! Not wanting to amuse this blabbermouth any longer, I took Alfred’s hand and pulled him someplace either. If his face was as red as a tomato, it didn’t matter to me one bit. And besides, on the outside, I was a rather attractive girl. Yes, I knew how attractive I was. Sadly, I am a man! The outside might be a goddess, but there’s your ordinary salaryman on the inside, you know?

As I marched through the market, the painfully familiar voice resounded somewhere from an alley. There, facing a pair of thugs with dangerous swords, was my childhood friend and the source of my prolonged misery, Barnett, a gullible smile on his face.

“So, about this cool thing, you wanted to show me?”

Gods, is there a limit to his stupidity. As the obviously not-robbers unsheathed their weapons and not-asked-for money, we rushed into action. Well, Alfred did. With his set of heavy armor and the momentum he gained from running straight, mixed with the fact that the alley was quite narrow, he was like a human freight train, crashing into not-thugs with a roar of… “My liege!”

Damn, I couldn’t test my new spell… I mean, help my friend! So, when we were about to threaten those unfortunate wannabe thieves, something even more outrageous happened. A real weirdo appeared.

“O-ho-ho-ho! Not bad, kittens! Not bad, indeed!”

He was short, or so I thought, since the person himself was standing on a wall, and was wearing some kind of a carnival costume. Some kind of a domino mask on his face and an outrageously garish hat with a bright red feather plucked in it. And a flowing cape of all things. This person was hard to look at.

“You may have defeated my underling, but the Prince of Thieves, Noir, will be your end. To me, my friends!”

From all directions, men and women with all kinds of weapons flooded. Whoa…

“Behold, the power of friendship and eternal bonds we share will defeat you!”

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Savoyarde

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