A Stroll Through the Capital — Part 2
Editor(s): Speedphoenix, Joker
The road that led to the flea market was slightly less busy than the city’s main street, but that wasn’t to say that it was barren. Businesses still lined both sides of the road with their fanciest products put in their display cases for all to see. There were even all sorts of stalls and carts set up along the side of the road. Unlike the stores, they mainly featured different kinds of food and attracted customers through their unique aromatic blends. It was precisely one of these smaller businesses that happened to grab our attention and momentarily distract us from our flea market-centred expedition.
“Hey lovebirds, come try one of Alshir’s most famous dishes?” The clerk waved at us right as we passed by the store. “It’s roasted boar, the best in the city. One bite is all you’ll need to make this date more memorable than any other.”
“…He called us lovebirds.” Nell’s fingers fidgeted in joy and embarrassment as she repeated his words under her breath. His silver-tongued sales pitch had struck home.
“Sure, why not? Give us two.” I did admittedly find it to be a pretty good pitch, so I paid the man his due. “Actually, on second thought, make that three. Two for here, one to go.”
“Thank you kindly, sir. Do come again,” he said as the goods and coins exchanged hands. “I promise you it’ll be just as good next time as it is this time.”
I chucked the one he’d wrapped up in my inventory, took a bite out of mine, and put the final skewer in front of Nell’s mouth as I gave her a smirk.
“And here’s your share.”
“O-oh, u-uhm… Thanks.”
She hesitated a bit, but eventually ended up taking it from me with her mouth, as I’d intended.
“Is the one you put away for Enne?” she asked, after transferring the shish kebab to her hand.
“Yeah. You know how fond of eating she is, right? She’d probably sulk if we ended up hogging all the food to ourselves.”
The sword in question wasn’t with us, and not just because she was trying to give Nell and I a day to ourselves. This time, she wasn’t even standing by in my inventory. She was instead having herself a play date with none other than the country’s highest ranking child. It was a situation that in part stemmed from carelessness, my carelessness. The room we were allotted was a private area, so I was under the impression that she wouldn’t be discovered if I allowed her to do as she pleased so long as she stayed within it. Evidently, I was wrong.
Iryll had, during an instance in which the two of us were lazing about on the couch, entered the room without any prior warning. It was an incident that led me to introduce the two to one another, and despite my concerns, they ended up getting along incredibly well. Enne’s doll-like appearance had the other girl instantly enamoured. This, when paired with Iryll’s lack of similarly aged friends, led the princess to be as excited as a fangirl meeting her favourite celebrity. She was so lively, in fact, that she’d caused even the taciturn, expressionless Enne to open her eyes wide in surprise. Heh. That made for a pretty good laugh.
Though we were being stalked, I wasn’t actually concerned about my lack of a weapon. I couldn’t exactly swing Enne around in the city’s borders given her size anyway, and I was glad to see that she had made a new playmate. I’d be more than happy if the two ended up as good friends.
“Now that you mention it, she really does like eating, doesn’t she? She doesn’t normally make many expressions, but she always starts smiling happily as soon as dinner makes its way to the table.”
“Pretty much, yeah. Super cute, right?”
“Mhm. She certainly is.”
After another minute or so of walking, Nell froze up the same way I did back at the intersection. I could tell that she had to actively stop herself from looking in the direction of the person stalking us.
“Hey, Yuki? Have you realized we’re being followed?” she said in the most nonchalant tone she could muster.
“Yeah, I’ve known for a good while now,” I said.
I was by no means surprised to find out that Nell had realized we were being tailed. It was only natural, given that our pursuer had gotten closer so as to not lose us in the crowd. His skills were fairly impressive, given how long he had eluded her detection—he had started following us shortly after we departed the castle. But being in close quarters meant the jig was up.
“Geez, you could’ve told me,” she said with a frown.
“Yeah, but I didn’t want him to know that we were onto him,” I said. “You can be a bit silly at times, so I was thinking that you’d probably end up overreacting and giving it away.”
Allowing ourselves to be surveyed was a much better option than chasing the spectator away, as his job likely involved either figuring out my identity, keeping an eye on Nell, or both. Whatever the case, he would likely end up observing me for an extended period of time, which in turn meant I was effectively sure to draw his attention at some point or another, especially given how much I was intending to flirt with her. Heh. It’s time for Operation Who The Fuck is the Guy Hanging Out with the Hero?
“Wow, that’s mean,” she huffed. “I wouldn’t mess up like that. Staying calm in that type of situation was something I was given formal training for. Besides, you’re the last person I’d ever want to hear call me silly!”
“Alright, my bad then,” I said. “Either way, I think we can just leave him. I doubt he’s going to be doing anything beyond just keeping watch.”
“…Mmk.” She nodded, her face tinged with a shade of pink from the realization that our date would be subject to a third party’s eyes.
“Wow. This place is massive.” I stared into the flea market from its entrance. The bazaar that the street had become was so packed with merchants and their wares that I felt like a child thrown into an emporium, overwhelmed but simultaneously excited by the sheer volume of content my curiosity would soon prompt me to explore. There were, quite literally, more shops than road.
This wasn’t my first time at a flea market. I’d gone just once before to a large scale event that took place in the heart of the Tokyo metropolis. But not even that was enough to match what I saw before me. What I found even more impressive was, according to Nell, Alshir’s flea market was this busy all year round. The capital’s people were so filled with entrepreneurial spirit that the market had become one of the city’s most prevalent tourist hotspots.
“Some of the things that get sold here turn out to be really valuable. People have taken their purchases to traditional merchants, only to find them worth many, many times the amount they paid. And it happens all the time,” said Nell. “But you also hear a lot about people losing large amounts by buying things that seem expensive, but turn out to be far from worth the cost.”
“Oh, you mean like that vase?”
“That one.” I pointed at one of the articles on display in a nearby shop.
“Is there anything wrong with it? It looks like a normal vase to me.”
“Well, it’s basically cursed. It’s enchanted to plague its owner with endless nightmares.”
Though I’d used the term cursed, it didn’t mean it was anything like Enne had been back when I first got her. Technically speaking, it was just a regular enchanted item with a ridiculously detrimental effect.
Why the hell would you even make something like that? I thought, as I stifled a laugh.
“Oh, uhm, wow,” said Nell, after blinking a few times in surprise. “I know I was just telling you about all the crazy things you could find, but I never expected you to find something that weird right off the bat.”
“Yeah, me either, but I happened to spot it out of the corner of my eye,” I said. “Though with a place this big, I’m pretty sure we’ll find stuff that sketchy all over the place. Hell, I’m pretty sure that just barely scratches the surface of all the shit we’ll find. There might even be something possessed by a malevolent spirit, you know, the bloodthirsty kind that’s out for revenge.”
“S-stop that. Y-you know how easily I scare.”
“Oh, right, my bad. Then I’ll just keep my mouth shut, even if we do end up running into something that’ll haunt you.”
I responded to her pout with a grin. It was a familiar interaction, one that sent both of us into a fit of laughter.
Once we both recovered, we walked into the flea market, hand in hand, and went about enjoying our afternoon with little to no concern for the stalker at our heels. We wandered up and down the street, visiting everything that happened to catch either of our eyes. As Nell had explained, there was a lot of junk to sort through. A surprising number of the items we inspected happened to be labeled with prices that did not by any means reflect their true worth. The true values lay on both ends of the spectrum. Some, like the vase, were entirely detrimental and not suitable for purchase lest one happened to be in a very specific set of circumstances.
Speaking of that vase, I actually just saw someone buy it. F. Though I felt bad for the man, I knew there was little point in warning him about his purchase. I was almost convinced that he would soon be returning to the market in order to open his own shop and pawn the defective article off to its next victim.
I’d spotted a fair number of items on the opposite end of the value spectrum as well. While I very well could have purchased them and spun a profit myself, I’d refrained from doing so. As someone that lived in the middle of a forest, I had no need for money. Going out of my way to procure it was a waste of effort. And even if I did want money, I could very easily obtain as much of it as I needed by stepping into the adventurer’s guild and selling some of the corpses I had stored in my inventory. The monsters I possessed were ones that thrived only within the Wicked Forest’s territory and were sure to fetch a hefty price.
There were a few profit-friendly items that had functional purposes beyond being traded for more cash. They consisted mainly of accessories and pieces of armour enchanted with magical effects. But I didn’t see any purpose in actually procuring them. The enchantments were so low level that they bordered on being completely irrelevant. I wouldn’t have made any purchases even if I didn’t have the ability to enchant my own gear.
“Hey, Nell? How do you feel about these earrings? I think they’d look pretty good on you.” I picked up a handmade set of earrings from a nearby stall and held them up to her face.
The design featured a heart suspended from a pair of interlocking rings, one of which served as the clasp to secure the accessory to one’s ear.
“Did you make this yourself?” I asked the shopkeeper.
“Y-yes I did, sir!” She didn’t quite seem used to dealing with customers yet. She stuttered and fretted about nervously as she attempted to make her pitch. “I-it looks really good on your d-d-date, sir! I-I’m sure s-she’ll like it! W-would you be i-interested in making a p-p-purchase?”
“Yeah, sure,” I said, chuckling at her antics. “Gimme a pair.”
“T-thank you very much!”
After handing the girl her payment, I raised the earrings to Nell’s face.
“Do me a favour and turn a bit so I can help you put them on.”
She nodded, bashfully, before turning to the left. Carefully, I opened the accessory’s latch, and attached it to her before doing the same to the opposite side.
“Heh. See, I knew they’d look good on you.” I smirked in the same cocky way I usually did, as to not let on that I had just told a fib. The truth was that I had no idea how the earrings would look on Nell before actually seeing her wear them. I’d only picked them out because I noticed her shooting glances in their direction; the fine tune senses that I possessed as a demon lord then allowed me to pinpoint the exact pair she had her eyes on. I feel as if I may have strayed a little from the intended use of my powers, but whatever.
“Thank you, Yuki,” she said with a giggle.
“No problem,” I returned her smile before speaking in an overdramatic manner. “Anything for you, oh adorable fiancée of mine.”
Again, we exchanged smiles and began proceeding through the flea market. But this time, not all went exactly as planned. We heard the shattering of glass come from afar, followed by a series of angry shouts. As it’d come from nearby, the people around us reacted with a start, frightened by the sudden act of aggression.
Likewise, Nell was also put on guard. She immediately lowered her center of gravity and put a hand on the holy sword at her waist. A moment’s notice was all she needed to draw her weapon and engage whatever danger might be lurking in the shadows. Her actions were more reflexive than conscious and served to demonstrate that her training really had served its purpose; she was able to react as a hero should.
Looking towards the source of all the noise led me to find a restaurant, one whose newly removed windows allowed us to hear all the angry screams coming from inside of it.
“It looks like there’s been some sort of incident,” said Nell. “I’m sorry, Yuki, but the rest of the flea market is going to have to wait. As a paladin, it’s my duty to intervene if things like this happen while I’m nearby.”
“You know, you pretty much spent the entirety of last month being lazy and the sloppier parts of your nature were coming out full bloom,” I said, teasingly. “I’m honestly surprised you’re able to put on the whole hero facade the moment you need to. The discrepancy between how you normally act and how you’re acting now is honestly kinda crazy. And awesome, in a way.”
“Yuki, I’m about to attend to a serious matter. Could you please not go out of your way to say things that you know will distract me?”
Fiiiiiine. Have it your way.