Vyleen’s Cross was Do’r’s largest intersection, nestled in the heart of the city, connecting three major roads -- Merchant’s Weave, Royal Pavement and Martial Road. The intersection was massive, over three miles in circumference, sporting a beautiful, hard-crafted fountain at the center decorated with four statues of faceless women spitting water from their breasts.
The earth beneath was limestone-paved, with intersection sporting further spiraling, isolated corners decorated with benches and gardens, making them a popular spot for young couples.
The intersection’s centerpiece, however, was without a doubt the sole auction house, a fourteen story building made entirely out of glass and steel, an architectural marvel known far and wide. It was slightly bent backwards, giving it even more mysterious appearance. That coupled with the thick, scaled beams at the building’s corners made it not only a hub of large exchange of money, but also a rather frequented tourist place.
The house was most-commonly known as the House of Gold, though its actual name was Chamber of Luster. It only ever held three auctions a year, being closed for everyone for the remainder, and during those three days the intersection surrounding it was banned for everyone but the auction’s participants.
Lino was currently sitting on one of the edges of the fountain, observing the rich and the richer around him who fiddled about with one another, their fake smiles causing quite a stir in his heart; he was, after all, capable of a better fake smile when he was drunk. These people, in his eyes, weren’t even trying.
Most wore rather lavish clothes decorated with either silver or gold, or some or another sort of a precious stone or a gem. Women, especially, wore dresses so extravagant Lino was rather uncertain how they even got them on. They made otherwise beautiful girls look so wide it was difficult to process how it was physical possible to reach that size. Layers upon layers lay folded on top of one another to the point where bottom ends of the dresses were like small domes.
He sat in silence and solace, sipping wine directly from the bottle. For perhaps the first time in his life, however, he didn’t feel left out, as that was the case all around; it seemed almost as if very few believed in existence of glasses around here, making it so they all drank directly from the bottle. In part, he felt quite at home here. In other part, specifically his clothing, he did stand out like a sore thumb; whereas most around him wore clothes that were as extravagant as possible, he stood on the opposite spectrum. He donned a single, white shirt that had seen better days, leather pants cut up to his knees, and wooden sandals on his feet.
Thanks to Vyena, he was quite unrecognizable still; she had managed to dye his hair in crimson-brown, cutting it slightly short despite his numerous protests. All in all, despite being the center of quite unwanted attention, no one seemed to recognize him, despite their best efforts, he imagined.
“Good evening.” a melodic -- and rather strained voice -- jolted him from his thoughts as he glanced sideways; there, stacked neatly, three women stood next to one another. All appeared middle-aged, though it was difficult to tell due to sheer amount of makeup present on their faces.
“Evenin’.” Lino replied with a faint smile, rising his bottle slightly before taking a sip.
“We have not spotted you around here before,” the woman in the center said, smiling as well -- at least Lino assumed; to him it seemed like something else entirely -- leading the charge as she sat down next to him. “Are you new?”
“Ah, we assumed,” the three exchanged brief glances and chortled, startling Lino as the sound was less akin to laughter and more akin to someone choking. “You must not know, then, that there is certain etiquette involved in gatherings like this, no?”
“Oh, I’m aware.” Lino still smiled, taking another sip and seemingly ignoring the three that had approached him once more.
“It is not what you are wearing, however.” one of the women said.
“... no kiddin’?” Lino grinned. “And it’s what you’re wearing, right?”
“Indeed so.” the woman nodded.
“To be frank, ladies,” he said, leaning slightly in. “I’d rather strip myself to my wet bones and dangle my cock around than wear half the shit you’re wearing.”
“.....” Lino got up slowly with a sigh, leaving three women utterly shocked and at a loss for words.
One of the reasons he wore clothes so remarkably ugly was in hopes everyone would stay clear of him. Apparently, that wouldn’t be the case. At the very least, he could guess what each conversation would look like and preemptively kill it before it festers into something more.
The auction was not for another four hours which gave him plenty of time to kill. The problem was that there was nowhere to kill it. All shops around the intersection were closed, and people weren’t allowed to leave the intersection until the auction has ended. Which meant he’d either have to loiter around for the following four hours doing nothing, or take a nap. He settled on the latter as he suddenly felt someone placing their legs in front of his, trying to trip him.
Glancing sideways, he spotted a young woman donning a normal-looking dress -- which nearly brought a tear to his eye -- grinning at him. Though her black hair had grown out slightly, it still appeared more boyish than girlish, with the pair of purple eyes remaining the same as he remembered them.
“’bout time,” he groaned. “You should have arrived two days ago. What took you so long?”
“... what? No ‘nice to see you Seya’, ‘good you’ve survived Seya’, ‘that dress really brings out your amazing body Seya’... straight to business, huh?” Seya frowned and quickly growled at him as the two departed to one of the isolated gardens.
“I was worried sick--”
“It’s too late.”
“Eh,” Lino shrugged, taking a sip. “I knew you could do it. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t have sent you in the first place. So?”
“It’s impossible,” Seya shook her head. “The only land route is through the Great Divide, and even without guards, good luck. The entire eastern coast is locked within an interlocked formation of arrays, making the sea route even less likely.”
“Air?” Lino questioned as the two sat down.
“Unlikely,” Seya shook her head. “Though dormant officially, the Great Wall Formation is always up-and-running, actually.”
“Oh? How do you know that?”
“Eos told me,” Seya said. “And showed me, really. Unless you feel like being splattered, I don’t recommend flying over there.”
“... that leaves underground?” Lino mumbled.
“... still nope!”
“... then what?” Lino asked.
“I talked with both Lady Ella and Hannah,” Seya said as she suddenly whipped out a crude-looking map of the Holy Continent. “Perhaps the easiest way to approach the Sanctified Grounds is through its far eastern waters, Endless Sea. We would, however, either have to go all the way back to the Western Continent and make the voyage west no one has made before, or we’d have to skid by dangerously close to the Dragon Isles.”
“... I planned on visiting the Dragon Isles anyway,” Lino said after a short thought. “So we may as well do it like that.”
“Uh-uhm, so when did you start feeling suicidal? Talk to me. I’m a great listener.”
“Shut up peacock,” Lino grinned, ruffling her hair. “The moment I start feeling suicidal, I’ll give you a dagger and help you shove it in my gut.”
“Tsk, as though I’d need your help. Anyway, why did you want me here? I could have told you all this through the talisman, or we could have met after the auction.”
“I needed some eye-candy.” Lino said simply.
“... you’re impossible, aren’t you?” Seya grumbled, yet a smile escaped her lips. “We are more than your eye-candy, you know!”
“That’d sound way more convincing if you could wipe that pride-stained grin from your face.”
“Yep, I imagine it would, he he...”
“How was it?” Lino asked suddenly.
“How was what?” Seya asked back.
“Coming so close to home... and turning back.”
“... what are you talking about?” she suddenly smiled warmly. “My home is all the way on another continent. I haven’t been this far from it in a while. Except that time you dragged my ass to the godforsaken mass of floating ice where I watched you fight a Dragon.”
“That was pretty cool, wasn’t it?”
“It really was.” Seya chuckled, leaning onto Lino’s shoulder and heaving her legs up on the bench. “Do you plan on buying anything?”
“If it catches my eye,” Lino said. “Do you want anything?”
“I could use some [Mirva Chants] to re-inscribe my Martial Art and increase its grade.” Seya said without hesitation.
“Oh, look at that, what a coincidence. I just happened to have planned on buying [Mirva Chants] out of sheer curiosity.”
“... how things work out, eh? By the way, why did you dress as a Lord of Horseshit? Wasn’t the plan not to stand out?” she asked.
“I’m way too handsome; I would have stood out either way.”
“What? You don’t think I’m too handsome?”
“No, no I don’t. As the matter of fact, I personally have met at least twenty dudes that were way handsomer than you.”
“... ouch.” Lino sighed lowly. “That cut deep.”
“But, you’re still the most beautiful, you know?” Seya grinned, glancing at him. What met her was an expression of utter disgust, however.
“To think my own kid would call me beautiful... what a wretched world do we live in?! Who taught you that word?! Show me! I’ll slap either some sense or some death into them!”
“Did you pick that from Hannah?” Seya asked, chuckling.
“Oh, now that you mention it...” Lino mumbled, smiling and slowly getting up. “Come on kiddo, let’s go get rich and buy a thing or two.”