Next stop, as planned: the library.
The day was noon.
A gargantuan building erected in the center of the plaza. Walking paths surrounded it in a circle with the road branching out like spider webs. The building had a large stair connecting the the main entrance. The outer structure resembled a Cathedral with ivory colour walls painted with various shades of the same colour. The multi-layered roof slanted in various angles; supporting pillars that held the high overhang at the front, etched with carvings of historically powerful people or deities. Some of them even represented the Gods of the past that Curtis didn't really pay attention to.
This behemoth sized library was where most mages would come to practice or study magic. Most spell repertoires or other resources required in learning magic could be found inside. Then again, it wasn't like the library itself was limited to only mages. It was a library after all.
Close to the library, a few buildings away, there stood the learning institution for mages. Due to the close proximity, the professors would just bring their students to the library whenever they felt like it, coming in flocks. During off times, mages that were serious about ramping up their game would cram themselves inside and practice all day.
Curtis and Ellis walked up the wide stairs present that grandly arced towards the entrance above.
"You don't remember how you studied magic?"
"For some reason, I think I know but forgot how," Curtis shook his head. "How come I've never thought of this before?"
"That explains why your so good at it. You're probably a prodigy just like Tia," Ellis cracked a hollow laugh.
Curtis made a complicated expression,"I don't think that's it. There something about this that's weird..."
Ellis replied with a blank expression. A hundred knives struck her heart. Just like Tia, Curtis had to be playing it off too. Their proficiency in their respective fields were on a level that seemed to reach the heavens. Compared to little Ellis, no, more like there was nothing she could compared to. She was no different from those mobs in the novels she would read, where they would always follow the main character around wherever they went. Well, she was, or at least felt like the heroine in the story— or had to be.
Ellis looked at Curtis, then raised an eyebrow. His complexion looked off. Was it such a serious issue?
She wanted to query further when a sweet effulgent voice boomed behind them.
"You.." Ellis knitted her eyebrows.
They both turned around to see— that princess.
"Sir Curtis, Miss Ellis, I'm back!" she bounced up the stairs.
"Princess?" Curtis blurted while Ellis gave her a deadpan look.
"Where are you two heading off to I suppose?", unlike the day before, Louise wore a light red dress with multiple ribbons flowing down from the joint at her waist. The dress was the kind which would exposed much of her cleavage. Luckily she had draped over a grey caplet in gold embroidery.
"Why are you here princess?" Curtis said in a slack voice.
"Why else? To see where the two of you are headed to," Louise stopped two steps in front of them.
"Why is that?"
"Why is that why? Is there anything inappropriate about such a thing?"
This princess was really peevish. Now wanting to follow them around.
How did the princess find them anyways? Moreover, didn't the guards the day before drag her back to the castle?
"How did you find us,"
"That's a secret," Louise harrumphed.
"What's next?" Curtis eyed Ellis.
"Princess, what do you want from us?" It was Ellis' turn to interrogate yet she sounded like she had given up a long time ago.
"I see this kingdom of yours has some jewels I have yet to unearth, and it won't be easy to do it alone. So I though maybe the two of you could perhaps bring me around," Louise made the sweetest pleading smile that held absolutely no shamelessness.
"We're headed to the library so..."
"Curtis, I think I'll bring her around,"
"Ellis? You sure about that?"
"You need to do your research right? I'll act as her tour guide so she doesn't bother you," Ellis let up to his ear and whispered.
Curtis merely nodded in understanding. Though, there had to be some other reason behind her actions.
"Help me put this back thank you," Ellis searched through her small pouch hung around her shoulder and took out a book. It was the novel she read during the voyage.
Usually, while Curtis acted busy studying magic in the library, Ellis would dig out a novel from one of the shelves and binge on them, else, practice casting magic using a prototype fusion crystal created by Curtis. To Ellis, waiting for Curtis to finish up whatever he needed to finish was something quite enjoyable. It was an opportunity for her to read stories uninterrupted. At times, she would borrow the books while some other times, forget to return it.
"Ok, I'll be your tour guide princess," Ellis announced.
"You can address me as Louise, directly," Louise nodded, stressing the last word.
"Urm, then remove the 'miss' from my name too?"
"Then should I call Sir Curtis by using his name directly also?"
"I'm fine with that. Adding a 'sir', I find feels a little weird. You're doing me favor by just changing that,"
"Then, Erm. Curtis, I'll come back here again when it's close to sunset?"
"I think more or less about that time. Enjoy yourself then."
They parted ways. A final wave goodbye and it was Ellis' turn to figure out why this princess had followed them.
"Louise, what kind of place do you want to go first?", first Ellis needed to establish a bond as not to be suspicious.
"Perhaps somewhere that I'll least expect? I've always wanted to go on an adventurer,"
"The responsibilities of a princess are hard to bear aren't they?"
Louise and Ellis strolled the pavement, passing the buildings and stalls line around both sides. There were people who would glance over to their side every now and then. Though, most of them didn't really pay any second guesses. This was probably due to the style of clothes Louise wore, it was something that people would rarely see. An elegant dress that matched her steady gait, unorthodox to the normal citizens. They also probably didn't recognize her as a princess because the expectation was that people like her would usually coop up in the inner grounds of the kingdom. Speaking of which...
"Did you sneak out here?" Ellis there was something about her presence, and how the guards the day before were reprimanding her.
Louise concocted a laugh. It wasn't one that exuded exuberance or glee, rather, a very soft, gentle, effulgent chuckle. It was something to be as expected from the likes of someone who was standing at the apex of the political hierarchy.
"You have a keen guess."
"Aren't the guard trying to find you about you right about now?"
"Presumably," Louise shrugged.
"What kind of princess are you.."
Ellis brought Louise to a market, the kind that sold fruits, vegetables, or anything related to food. A lively din and chaotic atmosphere full of novelty refreshed Louise. This was the sort of experience she would not be able to have every day.
Rather than visiting the bell tower, the bazaar or the museum, Louise wanted a different experience, one of a normal commoner. Hence, Ellis decided that it was better this way, though she should also seriously consider bringing her to the plaza even though she declined saying that it was a tourist attraction.
"So everything in the castle is already prepared before hand, even your meals right? You don't get to cook or anything?"Ellis was curious about how things worked inside the castle walls.
"Unfortunately not. We follow a fixed routine when it come to those matters. How we spend time in between is usually up to us, though, most of the times, they have strict standards and expectations," Louise raised a curious glance around her surroundings. From the speech, clothings and actions of the people around her to the method which items to-be-sold were presented on the shelves and stalls. Everything looked alien to her, it was different from the places she had ever ventured to at Rozel Kingdom. Undeveloped in a sense, yes, but quite exquisite in its tradition.
"Do you want to try something bizarre? Since you're always stuck up in the castle and have not experienced what most of us commoners experience."
"I wouldn't mind," Louise said with an amiable smile.
"Just you wait, hehehehe," Ellis made a creepy laugh. A little revenge wouldn't hurt right? Louise felt a little uncomfortable at the reaction.
Turning at on of the corners, they enter a section of the market that sold seafood. Wide tanks could be seen with few commonly eaten fish, mollusks or crustaceans. Krill, shrimp, sea bass, red hearing, salmon, sea slug, sea snail— were sold either alive, dead or half-dead. The smell of fresh blood and slime perfused into the air which stung Louise's nose. This smell was to her, something unprecedented. She had thought to stop Ellis, but maybe it was best to not do so. She wanted to really experience the so-called, life of a normal citizen in Haital. What they did and how they lived.
That was until she saw the store Ellis stopped before.
"One set of Angler fish sashimi please."
"A...Angler fish?" Louise shuddered. "Wha.. what is that. Is it that thing? Is that even edible?"
"Some people call it angel fish, I'm not too sure why," Ellis purposely made it up. She was deciding between smily raw slugs or angler fish and chose the latter.
Louise stared the dried preserved carcass of the angler fish sitting on the counter. It looked to be some sort of decoration. But behind the counter, she could see the same fish, looking like it was freshly slaughtered on the board just beside the sink.
Angel fish? This represented nothing in semblance to an angel! Large gelatinous eyes, wrinkled black leather looking skin, a skinny protrusion from the forehead, ugly sharp fangs that grew past its chin and an insidious gaze of death. Large body small tail, the size of a basketball.
"Here you go miss," the guys wearing a white apron with a square physique passed Ellis a paper plate of 8 thin slices of angler fish meat that had a chlorine-white translucent look. A side of soy sauce, wasabi and multiple toothpicks poked into the flesh.
"Thank you," Ellis paid for it then turned to Louise, "Here, princess first,"
"Al..alright," The flesh of the raw fish didn't look too bad. Louise took a piece and nibbled on in.
A sharp odor pierced her taste buds, eliciting her the sudden intention of vomiting. She quickly swallowed it, chewing it no further. To vomit at this place was unacceptable. She held her urge to belch.
However, after the strong taste came a light sweetness like candy that lingered in the mouth. A rather amazing change in tone and quality. The mild sweetness washed over the pungent odor in the mouth.
Ellis popped the fish into her mouth as if it were nothing special.
"So what do you think?"
"I think it's not bad..." Louise slurred.
"Want another one?"
"I'll decline," without question.
It was quite risible.
Maybe Ellis should have her try some blob fish sashimi but— she gave up the thought otherwise.