Waking up early at seven o’clock, four hours after the reptilian jaguar’s assault, they prepared for the last leg of the trip. Essairyn easily affixed the splintered wood back together. Obscured by the darkness and unnoticed due to last night’s scare, two burnished, midnight black scales, and a finger length, ecru tooth laid in the ankle length grass. Essairyn picked up these demon beast’s remnants and stored them with the bear’s claw. It was instances like these that briefly took her out of reality, falsely giving her an impression of a secure game world in which she could enjoy collecting monster drops. She had to detach herself from relating this world to a game. It was obvious from last night that death could be right around the corner. And she could cause her own death too if she wasn’t careful with her magical abilities. She had to be cautious while making the best of this new life.
On the way to Reisparte, they ate breakfast and were able to arrive before noon. The town outskirts were indeed dominated by a sea of shop tents, stalls, and wagons. The multicolored array was a welcome sight to the motley group, and they stationed the wagon a little ways inside. The buildings further in rose modestly above the marketplace.
“Essairyn. You must take this! We wouldn’t feel right if we didn’t properly express our gratitude after everything you’ve done,” insisted Chona.
Banran nodded in agreement. “It’s the least we can do. You’ll need some money since you just arrived in this world, so please, just accept this and go.”
Essairyn sighed and reluctantly yielded to their kind gesture. She had been saying her goodbyes to the Andelrin family, and they had forcefully shoved the bag into her hands. Inside the bag were small jars of spices, a couple healing potions, a money pouch, and a perfume bottle which held the charmingly clement fragrance that Chona had first showed Essairyn.
“We wish the best to you on your adventure.” Banran smiled.
“It was a pleasure meeting you sweetie. Stay safe and have fun!” Chona hugged the girl warmly. “We’ll be in Reisparte for several days, so you can visit us here anytime.”
“You’re leaving already?” Jerry whined. “I wanted to show you Leia’s candies!” He crossed his arms and gave a little pout.
Despite their brief time together, the Andelrins were fond of and grateful to Essairyn. She had even reloaded Banran’s magic gun. He was sure that her potent magic could last them many more perilous encounters than the magic that had filled it before. Jerry in particular admired Essairyn. Unbeknownst to her, the little boy would forever etch her as a hero in his memories. He was crestfallen that she was leaving so soon. As a mere child, he naturally acted spoilt, so the girl indulged him a little.
She giggled and bent down to the boy. “You can show me tomorrow, okay?”
“Okay! It’s a promise!” Jerry joyfully jumped into Essairyn’s outstretched arms.
After they parted, she waved to the family and disappeared among the droves. She took in the marketplace sights, amazed by the amount of shoppers, sellers, and goods being sold. Akari had left before the group’s farewells to peruse the vendors, so Essairyn threaded through the throng, wondering where the little fox had gone. She suddenly stopped at a booth selling gemstones. A small, bright green jewel in a glass case had caught her eye. The color resembled an emerald’s, and it was the most brilliant hue she had ever seen.
“Something catch your eye, miss?” inquired the shopkeeper, noticing her intense stare.
Essairyn nodded and pointed at the green jewel.
“Ahh, that one’s certainly a beauty,” the man breathed in understanding.
Essairyn bobbed her head enthusiastically. Deep lime green was one of her favorite colors. It had a beautiful richness and mysteriousness to it that reminded her so vividly of life.
“And it’s useful, too,” the shopkeeper continued, “It’s a very rare and special jewel imbued with great magic! Worth fifty eleuars, but it’s not for sale. However, you can buy one of these jewels instead.” He pointed to the shallow basket of dark virescent jewels below the glass case. “They’re the same stone. All these need are a little shining with some magic, and it’ll look just like this one. And once it’s shined up, you can use the great magic locked inside! Just wear it, and the magic off your body will unlock it in no time!”
Essairyn raised her eyebrow. She felt no magic coming from the green jewel or the darker ones below. If they held any magic, then with this large amount of jewels she should’ve felt at least a trace. But despite her suspicions, she still wanted this sparkly stone for herself.
“I’ll take this one.” She picked up a teardrop shape from the basket.
“Good choice,” cheered the shopkeeper. “Just two eleuars, miss.”
Essairyn retrieved the money pouch from her gift bag and peered inside. There were eighteen coins of six different engravings and sizes. Three were white, four were golden, nine were silvern, and two were coppery. With all these types of coins, Essairyn almost wished she had asked the Andelrins how much each coin was worth. But since she had felt it would be impolite, she was stuck learning the money values herself. Even so, she couldn’t let the shopkeeper know that she couldn’t count money. She also didn’t want to be ripped off in case the man suspected she wasn’t from around here. So, she cooly held up the largest silver coin and presented it in front of the shopkeeper. He gave a disgruntled look at the sight of the coin and crossed his arms.
“I said two eleuars, miss. But fine, I’ll give it to you for a hathe eleuar, okay?” he stated gruffly with a sigh and waited for the girl to produce the coins.
Essairyn blinked, wondering if this shopkeeper had been trying to cheat her after all. Nevertheless, she still didn’t know what an eleuar or hathe eleuar was or if she even had one. The only thing she did know was that the coin she was holding wasn’t either. But as she hastily devised a plan to both haggle and learn, a hooded man appeared on her left. She nearly flinched at the man’s sudden approach. Essairyn hadn’t perceived his presence at all when he came near. His steps and aura were silent and natural like air impalpably drifting.
“Imbued with great magic?” the hooded man addressed the shopkeeper, “Certainly when these stones are purified, they can hold great magic, but they hardly hold any of their own. And to even purify one to that state would require an enormous amount of magic. Two eleuars?” He scoffed. “It’s not even worth a pynce.”
Indeed, the displayed jewel had taken the shopkeeper several years to purify, and that was after he received it partially purified from a trade with an adventurer. He originally thought he was scammed. But after purification, he acquired many more not yet purified, and it soon became his scam.
The hooded man gestured to the coin Essairyn was holding and turned in her direction. “Do you have an eythe pynce, princess?” he inquired gently, extending his hand gracefully.
Essairyn scrutinized him with baffled eyes. Who the heck are you?! She exclaimed internally. Princess? Ehhhh?!? She subtly tried looking at his face underneath the hood, but strangely enough, the hood concealed everything in darkness except for his softly smiling mouth and sharply defined chin. She knew that there was no sun, so shadows weren’t casted unless there were other light sources, but it bothered her that he was basically faceless except for under his nose. Despite his anonymity, the tone of his voice and presence felt like déjà vu. Essairyn couldn’t pinpoint why she felt this way. She figured it must be from someone familiar that she had met back on Earth. But since he had spontaneously helped her, she was grateful and didn’t pry into who he was.
She placed the silvern pynce back into her bag and saw that she had five of them. She also saw four smaller silver coins, and two even smaller copper ones. Since the pynce was silver colored, she figured it might be an eythe pynce. So, she took it out and placed it on the man’s open palm. The man gave a suppressed snort when he saw the coin.
“This is hathe pynce, princess.”
Essairyn’s eyes widened in embarrassment, and she snatched the coin back from his palm. She returned it to the bag and retrieved the copper coin.
“There you go, princess.”
She snapped her head toward the man and glared at him as she handed the coin over to the shopkeeper. She then turned to the stunned shopkeeper, curtly thanked him, spun on her heel and left the stall. It was a good thing that the money system here followed the value of metals from Earth; otherwise, she would’ve felt very foolish if the copper coin was yet another missed guess. She also really didn’t understand why the man kept calling her princess. A flirt? Tsk. She disliked playboys, but truthfully, deep down, the epithet made her inwardly blush.
The hooded man easily jogged after her. “As a newcomer, you should be careful with these vendors, princess. They’ll spin all sorts of stories to sell something,” he friendly advised.
Essairyn flicked her eyes up at the man for a second and continued speed walking. “Thanks, I will,” she replied curtly.
“You’re welcome, princess.”
“I’m not—” Essairyn began to retort but then cut short when she saw that the man had disappeared from her side. He had left just as suddenly and mysteriously as he had came. She felt an odd ambivalence rising up from her chest. On one hand, she wanted to swiftly flee the embarrassing scene, but on the other, she wanted to properly thank the man and make his acquaintance. Even though their meeting was fleeting, he felt uncannily familiar. The more she tried to grasp the impression, the more enticingly it danced away. Just who are you? Why did you help me? She almost wished to chase after him for a name. But pridefully, she stood still for a moment in the middle of the street. Then slowly, she turned and left the market.