Walking out of the fish market, Louise felt somewhat queasy. The fleshy smell of fish and blood was something she would have never thought existed if it weren't for Ellis. The most she had ever come close to what she was experiencing now was when she entered the kingdom's kitchen. Even then, the fish would have already been curated or cleaned thoroughly.
Truthfully speaking, Louise was grateful that Ellis was kind enough to bring her around. The stories she had heard from the castles always talked about how dangerous it was to venture out into the den of the commoner. She wasn't sure if it was the truth or made simply to scare her obedient.
Either way. Escaping Rozel kingdom was impossible—no, possible, but ineffably difficult. With so many guard keeping tabs on her and the rational conclusion that many people knew her identity, she would only be able to spend a moment before she was caught. This was something she would always do, like escaping a prison complete with luxurious ornaments, food, throne rooms, study rooms— the list goes on.
With the opportunity to visit another kingdom together with her brother, this presented her an opportunity. An opportunity to run away! Since her parents were not coming together, what could her mere brother do, huh?
Louise was already adept in escaping. Back in Rozel, even under tight security control, she would still come up with facades to escape. The defenses in Haital? They can go to history! It was no different than walking two steps into the courtyard and then taking an indirect detour out. She didn't even need her climbing gear.
With this, she was free. The only problem was, she had no idea where she should go. This wasn't Rozel Kingdom, she was totally clueless about the demographic in Haital. So, in the end, she decided to go find Ellis and Curtis instead by means unknown to them. Interacting with them also served another purpose. One that she would have to properly be careful about.
Ellis brought Louise down the so-called adventurer's street. This was where Ellis and Curtis would stock up on travel equipment. Be it the oil to light a fire, a fire-starter kit (that they didn't need), rations, blue mana crystals, extra food for Whaley, rope, basic weapons, it could all be found here.
Passing them were several carts full of heavy weaponry pulled by giga shrimps. Louise never took her eyes off those magnificent black beady eyes on the large creature until they passed.
Turned to another side, she was mesmerized by the beautifully arranged accessory inside a wooden box. The interior where the gryostone laid was a striking red cloth. These gryostones were definitely not on par with the ones she had seen in Rozel, but the arrangement and way presented was what captivated her attention. Tied around the necklace, were blue mana crystals and subsidiary gryostones with a slight purple shade while others as decorative white pearls. Cut into size, and on their individual tips were hinges that looked as if it was to be part of a necklace.
"Oh, I just remembered something. Curtis' birthday is coming up soon," Ellis said as she looked to the box of blue mana crystals.
"Curtis? When is it?"
"It's about a week from now. 9 days to be exact."
"Louise. Uh, how many day are you going to be staying in Haital?"
"About 2 weeks, though it may change depending on the events."
"Then how about celebrating together?"
"I supposed. Do remind me if I forget."
Passing by a few additional stores, stores that Louise were somewhat familiar with, weapons and armors could be seen arranged in view. Ellis wasn't really fond of buying any sort of armor. It was definitely an essential. Though, with Curtis' auxiliary abilities, she had no need to worry about it. The armor would probably not even last what a single one of his spell could defend against. Moreover, armor would only hinder her movements.
To Louise, all the equipment here were of shoddy quality. Cheap equipment made by skimping costs. Louise, although a princess, had gone through countless classes regarding combat. Knowing most the armory equipments normally used by knights, she could tell at one glance that these weapons sold here were nothing but cheap skates. It was a pitiful sight, she felt.
Next, Ellis was planning to bring Louise closer to the outskirts of Haital where she would see the plantation and the yellow spider lily fields where a lone willow stood. She remembered walking down the narrow winding path all the way to the end with Curtis—with theirs fingers interlocked between each other's.
To get there, they had to walk a while longer.
Louise suddenly tugged Ellis' coat.
What is etiquette again? Wasn't it the basics of being a princess?
Ellis stared as if she had lost her soul, at the Louise who looked like a kid who had never tasted candy. Her eyes shone with an enthusiastic radiance, akin to a bomb about to explode, being unable to restrain herself.
"Ellis, do you want one?"
"Cotton candy? Not really."
"I'll make it square. You had already paid for that weird fish before,"
"Ah... I still ate most of it though."
Louise stood in front of the wooden stall that hung cotton candy wrapped around a thin wooden skewer. There were the choices of yellow, orange, green, blue, pink and purple, all of which she knew not the flavor of. She could guess perhaps the pink one meant strawberry but that might not be the case. Back in Rozel Kingdom, every pink cotton candy had a different taste depending on the seller. Strawberry, raspberry, cranberry, or this one instance where it tasted like apple. It was a gamble.
"Which colour do you prefer?", Louise wanted to see which she would pick first. From there, she'd decide on her choice.
"I'll go with blue then."
"Blue? Do you know what flavor that is?" Louise looked serious.
"Nope. I don't eat cotton candy that much,"
'This princess took it to the point of even considering the flavor—what a cotton candy enthusiast.'
As they were talking, the owner that had just whipped up another set of cotton candy using high speed wind magic asked them for their choices. In the end, Ellis got the blue one while Louise, still feeling a little unsure, chose the pink one, like she would usually do.
'This one should taste like strawberry. However, the sweet scent of wafting off the sugar fibers all had a similar smell.'
But Louise was sure this one smelled more like strawberry.
Initially, she thought her hypothesis was right. The moment the candy enter her mouth, it melted into a sweet honey liquid. It tasted like strawberry! Ellis told her that it was most probably star berry flavored, the red kind. Besides the gentle mellow taste, it had a crisp sourness at the that was almost impossible to feel unless you ate a lot at once. Louise did just that out of curiosity, and it did taste that way.
'Perhaps it was just a trick to get me to eat mine faster!'
Ellis was halfway through when Louise had already finished hers. She didn't ask for another but felt like she was cheated.
It was then they reached the open view of the plateau.
On one side of the flat plain was where all the agricultural activities were being carried out. Rice plantations, tea gardens, starberry yards, fish culturing farm, so on so forth. The land distributed for agricultural needs were about 30% out of the entire peninsula, and that was not including most of the other smaller pillars and floating islands surrounding the centre pillar.
On the other end was the marigold coloured patch of spider lily fields that Ellis mentioned. With a small stream meandering through, slicing the yellow world in half, a bridge connected by a clean dirt path could be seen connecting the two splits. This was where memories were created—the place where Ellis confessed to Curtis.
Ellis felt a whiff of nostalgia. The mellow smell of the flowery aroma wafting in the air in it's pristine clarity. She remembered how Curtis blushed quite excessively the last time they were here, and how he was nervous and tense at times.
"This is beautiful indeed, a magnificent sight," Louise exclaimed.
They were walking down a stone broadway located on the berm where one side overlooked the yellow valley, the other side was strewn with wondrous houses and cafes built with a similar vibrant colour scheme. The path was wide and elevated above to provide a picturesque view. One could see couples clinging to one another with sashaying down with love in the air.
It was a rather pleasing atmosphere, where it wasn't as crowded as the places they visited before.
"So what do you think? How was the experience so far?"
"I wouldn't trade it for anything else," Louise said honestly.
They sat down at a bench built on the ledge, facing the view.
"Do you want to go down and walk to the bridge?"
Louise shook her head, "I think this is enough as it is, I prefer to rest here while taking the sight in."
For a moment they sat in silence. The gentle breeze blew by, carrying an earthy scent, the soft chattering of couples passing by, the rustling of grass. Few lofty sky islands hovering in the distance. Louise could mindfully feel all these elements with a lot more sensitivity, the serenity and tranquility that she had wanted.
"Ellis, how about I bring you to the inner courtyard of the castle?" Louise suddenly shot a look at Ellis.
Ellis was shocked, for a while she tried to calm herself down from the intense gaze sent by Louise, which was totally unnecessary! Enter the inner grounds of Haital? Why would she not like to see what it looked like inside!
"Is that even possible? Won't you need to ask for permission?"
"I'll just help you sneak in, how's that?"
Ellis looked at Louise in dismay. She was akin to a person who broke out of prison and she now wanted to bring another inmate in? What kind of logic was that?
"Erm, If I get caught?"
"I'll regard you as my friend. It's not like the guards here could order a princess around right? Forcefully ushering you out of the castle is perhaps the only worst thing that could happen. Regardless, don't you think it's worth a shot?" Louise made a smug. One with a hint of ostentatiousness.
"What kind of princess are you...." Ellis had lost count how many times she had repeated that phrase. Whatever it was, something like this was a chance she wouldn't want to pass up. "Is etiquette a word in your dictionary?"
"Etiquette? Is that something you can eat?" Louise spoke in a surprised tone. She had grasped Ellis' joke and returned another, causing Ellis to laugh hysterically. Princess Louise was indeed an open-minded person, similar to Guild Master Dean.
Louise got to know Ellis and Ellis got to know Louise. Luckily Ellis didn't reject her request initially as it turned out to be quite an enjoyable experience.
The presence of an unknown entity appeared and shrouded them in a cast shadow.
"Excuse me, are you Ellis," a stern voice came from behind the bench they were sitting on, sounding hoarse and unfamiliar.
Ellis and Louise turned to look at the man who stood 6 feet tall, square burly body that showed from underneath his white tank top. His face had an imposing scar on his right cheek, he was fortunate he didn't lose his eye.
"Yes?" Ellis felt something unusual about the situation.
Looking past the man, she could see another 6 other people that accompanied him. The scene was like thugs sent by loan sharks straight out of a movie. Almost all of them had buff bodies and a scary aura coming out of them.
"I would like to talk about some matters with you— " he said with a smile that belied a gaze filled with malevolence. He was up to something, and it had to do with Ellis. The temperature around them seemed to drop.
"She's booked by me for today. Please do not interrupt our time together," Louise said in defense. Louise could tell that Ellis' safety was under compromise right away. Her voice was strong and direct. Different from her usually gaily tone, it was one held superiority and confidence.
"I understand, but this matter isn't of any concern to you. I only want to talk. Stand or aside or we'll.." The man looked at his other men which nodded at his gaze, "have no mercy," his canine showing when he said that. He seemed to have not noticed that it was the princess speaking time him. The other men readied themselves at the signal.
Louise instinctively reached for her back which she would keep her bow, but that wasn't there. She bit her lips in secret.
"What's your ordeal?" Louise demanded. She backed away a small distance holding Ellis close to her. The men reacted by instantly blocking their escape routes.
The passerby and couples that were nearby saw the scene and fled away quickly. The workers at the cafe nearby observed from the safety of the building. Those that were having their tea time or brunch and had not finished their orders looked in horror.
"We're only following orders," his eyes glinted like a malicious beast.