____________________________________________

I opened the door to a certain magic shop, and Freyer greets me from inside. We head to the back room where we first negotiated the prices of my magic stone and on the table lay a small box that Freyer quickly opened. There was gold inside, about fifty large coins of gold as I made the count. She then takes out twenty-two gold from it and made it her own.

“This is for the fifteen percent finder’s fee that goes to me,” she said, and then brings out a second box to show even more gold inside and proceeds to take forty gold, leaving ten remaining inside. “These are for the payment in advance I gave you.”

“Right,” I said, but that can’t be all…

No, it isn’t. She brings out yet another box and sheds a bit of sweat with all the leg work she’s been doing by bringing the boxes over. Gold is actually quite heavy, but there is no way I can lift much in this body of mine, and even after I offered help, she declined.

“Do you have five silver?” she asked, and I take five silver from my chest box and hand it to her.

“…”

“Great, then the rest totals to eighty-eight of the remaining gold here for the stone’s final sale price of one hundred and fifty gold coins. And with that, all steps of the transaction have now been completed.”

It took me a while to really get a feel for the worth of gold in this world, but I finally felt that this was a lot of money that I was getting a hold of. That means that I made about one hundred and thirty gold in profit, or the estimated equivalent to one-hundred and thirty thousand dollars, though I’ve already spent some of it. I kept staring at all the gold in front of me. This is definitely something I can’t afford to lose or have stolen.

I’ve already planned to spend some of it on a new home. Just yesterday I had found real estate to buy in Aria, and arranged for a portion of the payment to be made out to the seller of the house and the rest I will take with Selsie. Freyer understood this and was one to help me purchase a home in Aria, and I’m thankful to her for that. We then walk to the new house that’s waiting for me to sign for.

It is a place south of Aria, a location I made sure was close the college and in a location that isn’t too noisy in comparison to the streets near the main road. It has no lawn and it is a giant white block of stone with two floors. Though it’s much nicer to the eyes inside, it even has a small basement with a safe to store the rest of the gold I have instead of always carrying it around with me or with Selsie.

* * *

The contract has been signed and I now own a house in Aria that cost me about forty gold, a reasonable price if I do say so myself. Meaning that in a good five or so years, this house would have paid for itself from Inn expenses I would have otherwise forked over. This is a cheap house, but it is one that I’ll gladly call home.

After some time I had everyone come gather at the house with all of our belongings. Freyer also helped, and as for someone who sells magic stones, it was more or less expected that she could use magic. We didn’t have much to begin with, except for some sets of clothing, books, and writing utensils. The house was truly vacant. And to make it more pleasant.. one gold for four comfortable beds, five silver for kitchen supplies and a place to cook. One gold for many tables, book shelves, dinnerware, carpets, and whatever else to make this place feel like home.

Now I have fifty seven gold and five silver in total.

* * *

“Here,” said Freyer, handing me three books.

“What are these for?”

“They’re housewarming gifts,” she said. The book on top was titled ‘The Traditions of Talica.’

“…?”

I didn’t take a look at the other two as I struggled to even carry them as they kept weighing my arms down. I placed them on the shelve by the kitchen table, where I invited Freyer to have a seat to chat. I thank her for the gifts.

“Thank you, again..” I said, referring to all the help she’s given me from the first day we met, and even to the point that she gave me gold to help out Aril.

“Don’t expect that kindness from just anyone,” said Freyer.

“I’ll keep that in mind the next time I meet someone,” I said, but now on to the main topic. “And also.. I’ve been thinking of taking a break outside of Aria.”

“If you’re wondering if it’s safe around Aria,” she said, catching on quickly to my concerns, “then you’re just as safe as being in the city itself.” Though I have my doubts to her words. “If it were somewhere far, then I’d recommend taking a guard for hire, but then again, you have Selsie.”

“Are there any creatures I should look out for?” I haven’t gone through much of the animal book I bought, and it would be best to ask a native of Aria.

“Just the poisonous ones,” she said, taking out one of the books from the three I just placed on the shelf. She started turning the pages. “But if you ever spot this one,” she points to a dark creature in the book with white  glowing eyes, a scenery of a forest sometime in the night, and the creature seemed almost lifeless, “Hide.. because you’ll never outrun it.”

“…” I felt uneasy at her serious stone but just as quickly, Freyer started laughing. I shuddered for short moment. She’s teasing me… still, I could feel my heart pumping a bit quickly.

“Ah hahaha!”

“…” I looked on to this cruel woman, who tormented children for a short laugh.

“I’m sorry,” she said, trying to contain her laugh and I could clearly see a tear coming out of her eye, “I really am, so please don’t look at me with that stare. This is a book on mythical creatures.”

“..Well, the ones I know aren’t that intense, but I did believe you,” I said, and I can’t afford not to, since this is a world I know next to nothing about.

“In all honesty,” she said, “about one percent of these creatures have been proven to exist, though what the book details them as versus the real deal, are two very different beings. Exaggerations of stories passed down are what made these creatures frightful.” She points to the same creature from before. “This one, for instance, is called the Reaper of Sharia, and it’s very popular, rumored to be found in the very forests found in this region.”

“What made it so popular?”

“I remember it was used as a tactic in a war long ago to scare our enemies from making camps in our forests. There were other stories created for that purpose, like one of corpses of fallen comrades coming back from the grave and killing the group that slept by the fire, or the one about insects that chewed through skin and bone. No one ever knew it was inside them because of its size, and because it let a small secretion that numbed the soft tissue of the skin.”

“That wouldn’t be enough to keep them away though, would it?”

“It proved to be effective… and the story goes from travelers.. they say that the reaper, for example, followed you at night,” said Freyer, lowering her voice as if preparing to tell me something I should have not asked for. “It stays in the shadows of the trees, always making sure you are in its sight, no matter how fast you are running from it, be it on foot or on horse.”

“…”

“The first sign many people would notice is the temperature dropping quickly to the point that you could even freeze in place… then in attempt to warm themselves, many people would turn the campfire and burn themselves to death because the fire could not provide even a hint of warmth.”

“…”

“Of those that keep themselves alive by not giving in to the fire… once that same fire they gave up loses its last bit of warmth, they face the hardest part of the myth.”

“…”

“That’s when the reaper comes for the ones alive that in the mean time are practically frozen in place because of the freezing temperatures. It’s then close enough for your ears to hear its words. Some are even less lucky because they could not shut their eyes from looking straight at its lifeless face that expressed no emotion”

“….” I kept listening, and then Freyer placed herself near me and started whispering words close enough that I could feel her breath hit my neck.

“…Give me your warmth… and let us share tonight the last time your heart pumps that blood through your veins,” whispered Freyer. “… And that’s where the myth ends.”

“I get the feeling you don’t want me to enjoy myself at the lake…” I said. “I hear Crater lake isn’t that far either, but there is still a long line of forest along the path from what I remember first coming to Aria.”

“No, no,” she said, “You should enjoy yourself. I’ve been to Crater Lake myself before, many times in fact, and even once with Zeyl.”

“You’ve gone with Zeyl?” I asked. Aril walks into the room and brings us some very warm tea to drink. We thank her.

“Yes, it wasn’t that long ago,” she said,  “about four years back when Zeyl came to visit Aria more often because she didn’t have as much obligation to her military.” Freyer takes a sip of the tea. “I even tried setting her up with someone!” Freyer laughed and smiled, and in doing so, she destroyed that eerie atmosphere she created before.

“And…?” I said, and found myself grinning without meaning to. Freyer sighs when she looked to the clock. We’ve already spent more than enough time chatting, not to mention the time she lent us to move in. She gets up.

“I have to get back to my shop before I’m greeted by an angry customer.” She smiles again and we head to the door, where Aril stood in waiting and she opens the door for us and bows to Freyer.

We then wave our guest goodbye.

* * *

Then I went upstairs to check up on Kahl and Sophie, who were now in their new room. This was the room facing the back of the house. Aril also insisted that she take the middle room and I in turn take the largest room facing the front.

“Because you are a young noble, a Prince,” said Aril just a day ago. We were picking out rooms when we first found this house. I would have been fine with the smallest room, since I am practically the youngest and so I don’t need that much space apart from where I want to keep my growing collection for books.

I went to my room and I saw Selsie had her head down, practically sleeping away the day for help bringing in most of the heavy items. I’ll have to give her a treat later. I looked back at the door and saw Aril waiting there. She walked inside with scissors on hand and kept quiet. Then I notice how long my hair’s gotten and any longer and I’d probably look like a girl.

“Wait!” I yelled, and Selsie lifts her head to look around, and placed it back to rest after seeing that there was no danger. Aril just smiles. I haven’t seen this playful side of her in a long while, starting from the time she found out who I was… who I am in this world.

“It is believed, Master Lee,” she said, “that Talician boys should cut their hair and keep it short until they have come of age.”

“But we’re in Aria!” It’s not that I have a problem with getting a haircut.. but because it’s fun to play along.

“If you wish not to be found out, then we should make sure that you look just like any other young Talician child.”

Now I understand why Freyer gave me that book from before. I should understand Talician traditions to not stand out from others. Though I’ve rarely seen others from the same country as I am, they definitely exists in Aria, like Professor Krum for example. Then the problem is, that because they are rare, people are that much more interested in Talicians living so far from their country. We are foreigners.

* * *

It was early in the next morning. My hair was shorter than usual, and I must admit that Aril did a good job with it. Afterwards, we had our breakfast and we quickly headed out to a spot near the city gates, where we could rent a horse and carriage to accommodate all of us. I made sure to leave all our gold back in the house and in the safe on the basement floor, all except for five gold coins. We made sure to buy swimming trunks and a swimwear for the two girls of the group, whatever they wanted. Plus some towels, and we also brought some cooking utensils, spices, and vegetables.

“That will be four hundred copper,” he said with hand on the horse we were looking to lease.

The trip will only be for five days, but the horse will be leased for a week. Two days to and from, and the three to enjoy the lake. At the end of trip, as explained to us about this leasing, whatever days we didn’t use, we will be compensated whatever time we do not use.

We picked a black horse. I say horse, and I’ve heard the word used before in this world, but in reality this was a different breed from what I’ve seen travel the streets of the city. It has scales that almost reflect today’s light, and as I touched it, it was as hard as steel. It was like their natural armor, but if that were the case, then there would also be an evolutionary reason for growing scales, perhaps a way to assure its survival from predators?

With that in mind we climb on the carriage and head out the gates with Aril as our driver. The wall that surrounds aren’t so visible because of the buildings that are in the way, that, or because I was just too short to really see them from where I was in the city. Walls are made to protect, to defend, to keep unwanted things away.

Selsie barked. She was walking next to the carriage at the same pace we were going. We pass the first minute on the road and I look back at Aria from inside the carriage. There were gates to a city that haven’t closed in over a hundred years as I’ve read in the history book. And since then, the city has been thriving. I’d like to read more on Aria’s history. I’ll make note of that.

 

End.

 

<< Previous Chapter  I  Next Chapter >>