“Don is an asshole...What he said doesn’t matter!” Clover began. “He just said all that to scare me into becoming a Seeker!” Unfortunately, everyone in the Guild knew the real reason why Don spat those words.
“Haha…” Sven weakly laughed with dimmed eyes. “Don’t worry about it, Clover. We all know how Don feels towards Elves...Besides! I’m a tough guy! I can handle whatever that old fart throws at me!” He perked up as his words instilled confidence in himself. “There is no way he’s going to bring my spirit down! Especially not on your birthday!”
Clover smiled at his enthusiastic friend. No matter how much one would attempt to put him down, Sven would always cheer back up!
“By the way, I’ve always been meaning to ask. Why does Don not hate you? You are a half-elf after all!” Sven said as he pulled on Clover’s pointed ears.
“I don’t know. I have thought about it myself on multiple occasions as well! I just assumed that my father told Don to always be on his best behavior around me!”
“That sounds about right. After all, nobody, not even Don, can afford to be on Bastille’s bad side!”
Although it was still early in the morning many pedestrians and carriages crowded the streets as they headed to various destinations. The road that Clover and Sven were on was perhaps the most crowded in the city, as large numbers of wagons and carriages headed to the heart of the city, the marketplace!
Vanden was the largest Adlan trading center this side of the Ga’jong mountains. The cities strategic position on the Golden Sea allowed ships to unload their exotic cargo. Merchants would then sell these inaccessible products to the landlocked kingdoms to the north. Because the enormous Ga’jong mountains blocked trade from the Aleesian continent, those kingdoms had no choice but to trade with the city. This obviously created large amounts of revenue to the city and the kingdom as a whole.
Because Clover had lived in Vanden for his entire life he could easily pass through the cramped streets. He was like a fish in water as he meandered to and fro through the large crowds.
“Man, it's as busy as ever...Isn’t it…” Sven grumbled. However, he quickly perked up again as he saw a pair of cute Adlan women walk by. “Hey, Clover! Do you want to learn the next part of my pick up tactics?” The Elf said with a devious smile.
“What? Now? No way!” Clover smirked. “Besides, I doubt those moves work anyways!”
“Are you doubting my foolproof strategies?! You should know by now that I can pick up any women I meet! No matter who it is!” Sven smiled. “I won’t force you into it...But I can assure you that one day you will meet a girl who you want to pursue. But because you only have learned the first three tactics you will fail miserably, and she will escape your grasp!”
“I’ll take your word for it….”
“Clover!” An enchantingly beautiful voice akin to silver bells fluttered towards the duo, attracting their attention.
The owner of the voice was a cute young lady. She was dressed in the simple white robes of the Adlan Church. She had wavy brunette hair and her clear white face was accented with a light dusting of freckles and a pair of blue eyes. She was in a jovial mood which was clearly indicated by the wide smile that she sported.
H-hello...Heather…” Clover stuttered. After all, this was Heather Lee, the woman he has loved for the past ten years! “What’s up?” He asked while avoiding eye contact all the while trying his hardest to remain as cool and nonchalant as possible.
“Why aren’t you looking at me?” Heather smirked with a teasing voice. She was well aware of his childish crush. But alas! Due to the rules of the Church, she could never marry! Therefore, Clover’s one-sided crush would always remain unfulfilled!
“Ah!” She gasped. “Clover! Are you not looking at me...Because you think I’m ugly?” She whispered while covering her face with both hands.
“I never said that!” Clover yelled. “I would never say that! You are the most beautiful girl in all of the Kingdom!” As soon as he spit those words out, his face immediately reddened. “Wait! I didn’t mean it like that!”
Heather burst out into laughter as she saw the young half-elf’s face become contorted in dismay. Warm tears of joy fell from the corners of her eyes as she struggled to take control of herself. It was while she was struggling that she felt her hand become enveloped in another's.
“Missus Lee...May I have the honor of taking you out tonight?” Sven purred as he took a knee. His fingers gently caressed Heather’s hands before he attempted to place a kiss on it.
Before his lips could make contact with her skin, a sturdy foot slammed into his face, kicking him back several feet! Sven landed gracelessly into a nearby fruit stand, causing the owner to explode in rage!
“Aye! What are you going to do about mah fruit?!” The owner yelled as he ran out from behind his stand and picked up the fallen fruit that was strewn on the sidewalk.
“We’re sorry, Sir!” Heather apologized as she reached into her robes and pulled out a purse. “I’ll pay for the damages!”
“You bet your tuckus you will!” The stall owner said before he paused as he looked at the girl in front of him. “Wait a moment! You are Misuses Lee! The famous healer!” He bellowed out in surprise. “No! Forget about the money! I will not have you pay for any of the damages!”
“No! I must! It's the least I could do! These two boys are fighting because of me!” Heather exclaimed.
But the owner was not having any of it. “Young miss! If I accept your money I will face the wrath of Saint Adlan and the Goddesses!” He said with a tint of fear in his voice. “Besides! When my daughter was sick, your church provided the medicine free of charge! Consider this me paying back my debts!” He yelled out one last time, ignoring any more words of protest.
“V-very well…” She muttered before she bowed her head and thanked the man. Turning back to the duo, she began to rebuke them.
“Clover! You shouldn't hurt anyone! No matter how big of an idiot they are!” Heather declared. “And you of all people should know that I hate using my status in a way that causes others to treat me differently!”
“I’m sorry…” Clover mumbled as he gazed at the pretty woman. Heather grimly stared at him for a few seconds before curling her lips into a smile.
“Clover! Why would you do that?!” Sven shouted aloud as he held his nose. A faint trickle of blood dripped from each nostril.
“Tch…” Clover clicked his tongue as if to say, “Yea, you deserved that.”
“Clover! What did I just say?!” Heather said as she pinched his cheeks. “Ah! I can’t stay angry at you!” His face blushed a deep scarlet as Heather’s face was only a few inches away from his own..She ignored his embarrassment, however, and turned to face Sven.
“Come here, Sven.” She said as she beckoned him over with a finger.
A warm ray of light washed over Sven’s body as he scrambled over to Heather. A look of relief entered his face as Heather’s magic took effect. In less time then it took to take a single breath, the stream of blood that trickled from Sven’s nose stopped flowing. Pulling out a handkerchief, Sven wiped away the rest.
“Thank you, my angel.” Sven hummed as he flashed a pair of provocative eyes her way.
“Of course! It's my duty to heal and protect all of Lady Heaphin’s creations.” Heather said while ignoring Sven’s inappropriate actions.
“So you can woo any girl...Huh?” Clover shot a mischievous smirk towards his friend.
“Haha! You two are always goofing around, huh?” Heather smiled. “Well, I’m heading towards the Cathedral. And I am in need of two strapping bodyguards. Would you two care to escort me there?”
“Yes!” The duo replied simultaneously as they each took positions beside her.
“Heather, you have the rarest of all magic! The church really should protect you better!” Clover growled. “They know what shady people do to light magic users in other parts of the world!”
Heather merely smiled at this. “I appreciate your concern, Clover. But I have never felt safer inside the city’s walls! Besides, I can always rely on you to protect me. Right?”
“Of course you can!” Clover shouted.
“Good! It feels nice to know that I have such a dedicated bodyguard!” She replied before pulling a small packet from her pocket.
“By the way, Happy birthday!” Heather smiled while placing him in a warm embrace. “This is for you. I made it myself this morning!”
“Thank you!” Clover said as he took a large bite of the warm, icing covered bread. The flaky golden outer pastry tasted faintly of honey while the inside was filled with a rich and creamy center that coated his mouth.
“This is delicious!” He mumbled with a mouth filled with delicious sticky bread.
“Haha, I’m glad you like it!”
The three of them walked and talked for a couple minutes before they reached their destination. The Cathedral was a masterpiece to behold. It was a monument in itself as it appeared to be completely carved from marble. Its large frame was adorned with dozens of sculptures of angels, Spirits, and the holy Seraphim! But the centerpiece of the structure was the large statue in the front that depicted the twin Goddesses, Heaphin and Herengle, as they stood over the kneeling Saint Adlan.
The walls held large, glass stained-windows that depicted important events within the holy scriptures. And a single large spire jutted out from the top of the Cathedral which was topped with the insignia of the church, a sun with a hollowed out circle in the middle.
Shortly after they arrived at the Cathedral, Clover and Sven bid their farewells and the two of them headed towards their destination.
“Here we are!” Sven exclaimed as they stood before an elaborately designed store called, ‘Ian’s Ingenious Instruments’. The store itself was located on the outer rim of the bustling marketplace, proving its pedigree as only well-established stores had the right to own property this close to the city center.
“Let's go inside already...:” Clover mumbled. “You know how much I hate being near the Gateway…” He looked over to the city center where a large black Gateway stood. Ever since he had first stepped foot near it, Clover always felt a bad feeling in his stomach whenever he was close by.
“Jeez...I will never know why you are scared of the thing!” Sven muttered before they walked inside.
After stepping into the store, Clover opened his mouth in amazement. The store floor, which was much bigger inside, was covered by a variety of different instruments. Elaborately decorated woodwinds, like flutes and clarinets, lined the shelves, while heavier and just as decorated brass instruments dotted the store floor. There were many exotic instruments that Clover had never seen or heard of. Such as a large glass tube that had many holes in it, yet no mouthpiece. He couldn't even begin to comprehend what kind of noise would come from such a peculiar monstrosity. And to top off the aesthetics of the store was a grand piano made from a perfectly clear crystal in the center; allowing the strings and inner workings to be seen. On top of the piano was a sign that said.
Do Not Touch...Or Else
“Ah! Sven!” Squeaked a voice from behind them, causing the two of them to jump in surprise while panic glittered in their eyes as they stared at the perpetrator.
It was a very short man, around four and a half feet. His head was sparsely covered in bald spots, with the rest being covered in three different colors. Some of his hair was graying, while another side was completely white, and the rest was a youthful black that seemed to be fighting time itself. The dwarf was wearing a multicolored suit that was offensive to the eyes, and his long and pointy shoes were like swords that threatened to stab their shins. His face was adorned with large orange glasses.
“Hello, Ian…” Sven muttered. Before they walked into the store; Sven had informed Clover how quirky and strange Ian Ios was. And although the little man was an absolute genius in everything related to music, he lacked in memory and sanity. Sven had even attempted to study music under him for a week before deciding to abandon him. This was due to the fact that Ian would constantly forget that Sven was his pupil and that he would get furious whenever Sven tried to prove that he was his student. Not to mention that Ian would scream at random moments before running into the backroom, and lock himself inside for several hours at a time.
However, Ian Ios had the best instruments around, so Sven could only grit his teeth and politely greet him.
“So how is my fantastic failure of a pupil doing? I have been quite well without you!” Ian huffed as he walked around them to get behind the counter and jumped onto a stool so he could view them at eye level.
“What!” Sven shouted. “If you knew I was your pupil all that time, then why did you give me such a hard time!” Fury crisscrossed his handsome face, as a large vein wriggled across his forehead.
“Tut-Tut! I was merely testing your dedication! And you failed with flying colors!” Ian cackled.
At this instant Clover believed in all of Sven’s warnings, placing them into his heart.
“You bastard!” Screamed Sven as he turned beet red and nearly launched himself over the counter before Clover stopped him.
“Sven! My instrument…” Clover muttered nervously while glancing at Ian. This glance brought Ian’s attention over to Clover for the first time, as his bizarre eyes scanned him from top to bottom.
“What is this?! What is this?!” Ian exclaimed as he peered over the counter, nearly bashing his forehead with Clovers. “Hmmm...You couldn't possibly be Clover, could you?”
“Y-yes, I am Clover…” Clover stuttered, unable to keep some nervousness out of his voice. He also couldn’t help but glance everywhere around the room, besides Ian.
“You are the Clover that wants an instrument?! Haha! How laughable! A casual glance at you is all I need to understand that you have no business putting my instruments anywhere near one of your putrid orifices!” Ian screeched like a monkey while pulling away from Clover's face while swiveling around his stool to stare at the wall behind him.
Clover continued to stare at the little man’s arrogant back, his eyes and mouth wide in astonishment. How childish could a grown man be!
“You can’t possibly tell that just by looking at me!” Clover fired angrily at Ian. His face starting to resemble like that of his companion’s.
“Oh! But I can! For I! Am a master musician!” Ian bellowed, producing a loud noise that should not be possible from such a small body while he struck an odd pose.
Clover gnashed his teeth in fury as he stared at the obtuse little man in front of him. Sven was faring no better, as his face was still beet red from Ian's previous antagonisms.
“No, you will not be a musician,” Ian said, glancing back at Clover. “I sense something else…” Ian quizzically said as he turned his head, pondering what he just said. “Humph. No matter! Perhaps my instrument will help guide you to your true path!” He cackled once more, as excitement filled his beady little eyes
Sven, now forcefully calming himself down, spoke up. “Look, you said his instrument would be done today.” He ground his teeth as he forced the words out as a large blue worm-like vein continued to bulge out of his forehead.
“Yes.Yes.Yes.Yes.Yes.Yes...Of course, it's done! How dare you question my schedules!” Ian roared before he strutted into the backroom. In less than a single breath, he reappeared, with a small package in his hand. Ian unraveled the protective cloth that covered it. Inside laid a pristine looking flute that looked as if it was made out of silver with light green decorations that spiraled all over it.
“Harrumph” Ian coughed before putting his hand over his heart. “This is my newest instrument! It is made out Linzinian steel, and adorned with Gelic glass! As you can see, the quality of the Gelic glass is phenomenal! Of course, I would have used real silver instead of this ‘fool’s silver’...But someone was a cheapskate!” Ian emphasized the word cheapskate as he looked at Sven before handing the flute to Clover.
“Here, why don’t you try it out?” Ian suggested while carefully passing it over to Clover.
“Alright,” He said while pressing the flute to his mouth. Covering one of the holes with a finger, he let out a strong breath.
A sharp piercing noise echoed throughout the store, forcing Sven and Ian to cover their ears at the offending noise.
“Haha…Well, you learn how to play eventually” Sven laughed. “It took me a couple of months before I could confidently play a tune at the Guild!”
“Ugh,” Ian groaned. “Just as I thought! No talent whatsoever! Now then, I have important customers waiting in line, so you two must leave…Now!”
The duo looked around the empty store in confusion before Ian began to push them out the store, not giving them any time to protest!