I couldn’t even run away this time, because they also somehow got around behind me. In front of me, down the corridor, Bea and another girl awaited me. They shared a faint resemblance to each other, leading me to believe that this was Bea’s sister, who she had talked to me about several times before.
And, as soon as I turned around, I noticed that there were three people further down the hall from where I had come—it was the Second Prince, Princess, and that boy Joseph.
This is all Bea’s fault, isn’t it?
“Kai! I brought some people with me this time—let’s go to dinner together!”
I glanced from side to side, trying to find a door, window, something to enable a clean getaway. Of course, there was nothing.
They had thought this through.
I looked at Bea warily, while frantically trying to think of a way out of this.
“Bea, I just had a long day. Can’t I just have some peace and quiet?”
Bea shook her head.
“No—you’ve been cooped up in the palace since you got here. I think it’s time you got out and saw the city itself. Joan also agreed with me on this, and even suggested that we bring along a few people your age.”
“We can visit some of the cities’ weapon shops, after eating dinner.”
“Fine” I begrudgingly replied. She knows my weak points all too well.
“Just let me get changed first.” I grumbled, looking down at my stained and worn work clothes.
Bea agreed, but still followed my all the way back to my room—probably to make sure that I didn’t run away or something. Please, I’d already said I was going, didn’t I?
Back in my room, I changed into the Sage’s clothing, as I’d come to call the clothing I had gotten from Ascension Island. They were currently in a nondescript style, with dark trousers, a white-layered shirt, and my typical long-coat over that. I grabbed a long rectangle of cloth, and tied it around my waist multiple times to use as a belt. I slid the Wakizaki into my new belt, and slung the Nodachi across my back.
I had debated leaving my new weapons behind, but ultimately decided against it, for a few reasons. They would afford me a good amount of security against the others going to dinner with me, as well as deterring any unwelcome advances towards me from strangers. Also, I felt a somewhat unreasonable attachment towards them, since I had lost my last nodachi in such a traumatizing way.
At least I had been able to reattach my arm, though there’s a small scar encircling the spot where it had been lost in the first place. The sword had not been so lucky, and I had ended up having to reforge it into a smaller weapon. Couldn’t that damned lich have gone easy on me?
Anyway, I swept out of my room, nearly running headlong into Bea, who was waiting outside my door.
“Oh! Ready this so…What are you wearing, Kai?”
“What, these?” I said, flashing a smile. “My normal clothes, why?”
“Normal clothes? …But, don’t you normally wear dresses and the like?”
“No. Normally, I am forced to wear dresses by the maids. When I have a choice, this is what I wear.”
It seemed Bea was not happy with my choice of clothing. I could hear her mumbling something under her breath, of which I caught snatches of her words.
“…no dresses….not cute enough….get maids to….”
Yeah, I think I’ll be avoiding all contact with people after this.
I don’t even know what her issue is. After all, isn’t her little sister wearing something quite similar to me? Not to mention that Bea’s own clothes consisted of a loose blouse and long trousers. The only one wearing something dress-like was the Princess, who had donned a simple—if well made, green dress.
And, I wasn’t the only one that was going out armed. Bea, Joseph, and the Prince all had swords belted onto them, and while the Prince’s was a cut finer than the others, they all looked within the realms of practicality. Bea’s, in particular, looked brutally simple.
Both the Prince and Joseph were staring at me oddly, while the two girls had an emotion remarkably similar to hostility in their eyes. They were also watching me like a hawk does a little mouse—thoroughly convincing me that this whole dinner thing will turn into something superbly annoying for me.
Bea seemed to be the only one oblivious to the atmosphere in the hallway, either due to her typically blunt character, or from an intentional disregard towards it. And, as the only one seemly unaffected by the tenseness and silence, she was the one that spoke first, as if dispelling the atmosphere.
“So, where do you guys want to eat? There’s a good mercenary bar near the half-way markets, or there’s a more upscale tavern closer to the palace.”
I, in a fit of amusement, suggested that we go to the mercenary bar.
Well, for one, bars full of warriors usually lead to all kinds of fun situations, and I like to watch chaos happen. I could also imagine the discomfort that these privileged children would go through, surrounded by so many scarred and battle hardened bodies. Thinking about that quickly turned this dinner from something annoying into something that I might even find amusing.
Bea looked at me closely.
“Are you sure you want to go there? I just mentioned it casually—that doesn’t mean that you have to go there.”
“Yeah. I’m sure. Let’s go to this mercenary bar of yours, Bea.”
“Right. Just don’t complain to me later, ok?”
Bea lead the way, since she was the only one who knew where the bar was located. The guards saluted the Royals as we left, and doffed their decorative caps to Bea as well. They looked at Joseph with respect as well, likely due to that Paragon thingy. When they looked at me, they…blushed?
Or, they did until they caught my glare, and looked away shyly. It’s like they’ve never seen a cute girl before or something.
Past the palace gates, the stately manors of important nobles dominated the skyline, their walled estates leaving a distinct impression of isolation and loftiness. A few of them had their lights on, and there were faint sounds of laughter and music coming from within. The majority of them were dark and silent, however.
Past the noble’s manors, another wall rose, in order to separate the nobles from the common sectors of the city, most likely. A few more city guards were stationed at the gate leading out of this gate, but they let us through with no trouble at all. They probably had orders to simply let everyone from the noble sectors of the city through—since they guarded that gate against those that would enter the noble sectors illegally.
As soon as we past outside the wall, the city brightened considerably. Many of the streets were still lit up, the night just beginning. As we walked down the main city through-fares, I saw many people walk into their local taverns in order to unwind at the end of a long work day. There were also many shops that were open and accepting customers. Many of them would still be open in a few hours, after we had finished our dinner.
We continued walking almost to the outer city walls, where the houses had lessened in quality quite visibly, and where everyone seemed to be carrying a weapon of some kind around.
“Is the public order here particularly bad or something?” I asked.
“Hm. Not really—how do I explain this? Most of the cities mercenaries and adventurers live around this area, so weapons are a normal sight? They tend to get into a lot of fights, but they also clean up after themselves, so everything’s alright here.”
I nodded. I could see what Bea meant, since everybody seemed to be going about his or her business with a life-filled vibrancy. If anything, fights probably occurred for fun—or for the so-called ‘comparing techniques’.
We made our way into the thick of things, diving straight into one of the larger crowds here. Somehow, we managed to emerge on the other side more or less intact, with the whole group still together. Though, there were a few members who were beginning to look a little intimidated by the people here. No matter what, being physically dwarfed by other people is never a good feeling, especially when you’re in the middle of a large crowd filled with tall, burly men with scars crisscrossing their skin. There were other body types, of course—as well as a few women. However, they simply didn’t stand out as much as the walking mountains of muscle.
We finally reached the mercenary bar a little later. A weathered sign hung out front, with a sailboat carved into it and the words ‘Aft-end Bar’ below that. The bar itself looked like it was leaning to one side precariously, and would have fallen over long ago, had it not been for the fact that it nestled up against the main city wall.
Inside, the sounds of laughter and loud voices dominated the auditory landscape, while the long booths set up held good-sized groups of beastkin. Many of them seemed to recognize Bea, and called out good-naturedly to her. The rest of us went largely unnoticed, though I felt a few keen-eyed looks directed towards me, and the weapons I had.
Bea quickly directed us to a largely empty and quieter booth, were we sat down. Soon, a young and pretty waiter came over to us, to take our orders.
I got some beef stew and a loaf of bread, along with a tankard of water. Everybody else got more or less the same thing; though Bea, her sister, the Prince, and Joseph got some beer with their meals. The Princess did the same thing as I, and got water.
There was some conversation between the four beer drinkers, while the Princess mostly just listened with a faint smile on her face.
My attention was elsewhere, planning my next steps.
This, however, was interrupted by someone stopping right in front of me.
It was a male lion beastkin, built in the typical mercenary way. He seemed courteous enough though, something that seemed quite odd to me at the time, since mercenary’s in general tended to have…difficult personalities.
I would later realize that he was being courteous because I was in Bea’s company.
Anyway, he stopped in front of me.
“Excuse me, young lady—I’d like to know where you had picked up your weapons?”
He spoke in a gruff, but kindly manner, making me feel inclined to actually answer him with the truth.
“They were made in the palace smithy.”
“Oh. Never mind then. You have quite the luck then, little lady, to get weapons from the palace.” He said, visibly deflated. Likely, he had been hoping that I had gotten my weapons from a more accessible place.
Now, some of you might be chastising me for misleading him. However, it would have been much too troublesome to let him know that I was the smith who had made them. And, I didn’t lie to him, exactly.
All throughout dinner, I was approached several times in the same manner—to inquire about my weapons. Everybody else at the table seemed slightly confused about the whole thing, except for Bea, who might understand why all the better mercenaries were so enamored with my exotic, but plain looking weapons.
You see, all the best weapons have a sort of feeling about them, and a beauty that even the ugliest sheath could do nothing to hide. The best mercenaries picked up on this, and understood that the weapons I carried were of the best possible quality. They wanted to know how to get such weapons, and I didn’t fault them for that.
We finished dinner, and hit up the shopping district, which was still doing a flourishing trade even after the sun had gone down. Everybody got to look at what they wanted to see. In other words, the Princess got to look at dresses for a brief moment, before everyone else converged the nearby weapons and armor shops.
I took a quick look at what some of them had to offer, ruling out those that only sold decorative goods meant for fat nobles, or inferior products. A few of them took their weapons seriously, and approached them from a practical standpoint—and these were the types of stores I was interested in. Even though I knew that none of them were likely to have anything like what I could make, I could still draw inspiration from the smallest details, or designs.
One of the shops even ended up pleasantly surprising me with the quality of its goods. It was a small shop, but sold what would easily be the best weapons in the city, were it not for the palace smithy. And, there was practically no one in there, besides a middle-aged beastman sitting lazily behind a counter. Eventually, while browsing the few goods displayed, he looked up and finally noticed me.
“Sorry kid, but if you want a weapon from here, you’ll have to pay for an appointment in order to discuss…Wait. What in the seven hells is that on your back?!” He said, flipping from a listless type guy into an energetic one with fire in his eyes and stomach.
Yeah, he must be a fairly good blacksmith to have that sort of reaction towards my nodachi.
“Hm, this?” I asked, pulling the still sheathed blade off my back, and holding it in my hands.
“Yes, that! Quick, tell me who forged that blade!”
I smiled at the man sweetly, and shook my head.
“No, don’t want to.”
“Please! If not that, then can I at least hold it? I’ll pay you for the privilege!”
“Fine, but only for a moment.”
The smith gleefully took the nodachi, and unsheathed it. He marveled at it’s white blade, and the craftsmanship in it. I felt quite proud in that moment, like a cook when their food is complimented.
The man handed the sword back to me, and bowed down low.
“Thank you for this opportunity. How much do you want?”
“I don’t need money. Just having someone appreciate my work is enough.” I said over my shoulder, while walking out the door. I felt that the smith should know that I had made the blade, even though I had said I wouldn’t tell him earlier. I had thought him a kindred soul as soon as I had seen the expression of pure wonder on his face as he held the nodachi. to let him know who smithed it, was only right in my books. Besides, he didn't try to chase after me, which was a huge plus for him in the end.
I met up with everyone else again in the middle of a square, and we headed back to the palace. The guards let us in with no troubles, and I made it back to my room having made a resolution.
I had been wondering what I should do next, since I had learned everything the library had to offer, and made some nice new weapons in the process.
I think it was about time I moved on, and continued to try and find a way back to the Continents.
Kai may find lots of things 'annoying', but she's really just a big pushover, isn't she? I think that part of her personality comes from her distinct lack of feelings towards most things.
Nest chapter should end this arc.