The Master of the Brave - Chapter 62
Chapter 62 – Rumors
She walked beside her father, who was pulling a cart loaded with luggage, looking down at the ground with a depressed look.
Her father spoke to her many times and smiled as if to encourage her. In those moments, she hid her own insecurities and smiled back.
Her mother also held tight her hand to encourage her. As with her father, she held it back.
As they walked through a group of villagers they knew, they soon saw horsemen.
At first, they were happy to see them, but as they approached, the faces of the villagers and her parents were frightened and horrified, and the next thing she knew, her father and the cart had been pushed out of the way by an approaching rider.
Moonlight and cold air came in. Panting loudly after the nightmare, Seri Torque got up from the blanket she was wrapped in. She had been crying while dreaming, and her pillow was wet.
A dream from the past, one she had seen many times since the attack on his hometown.
Once outside the shed where she was staying, she drank water from a jar, moistened her throat and washed her face, which still had remnants of tears. Then she went back inside and adjusted her clothes, wrapping her hair in a thin cloth to cover her ears. Her ears, which were longer than those of a human, were proof that she had elf blood. The half-breeds were not hated in the imperial capital, but anything, even if slightly different in the group was likely to be expelled. Back in her village, thanks to his father’s ability to use magic, they hadn’t been mistreated, but in the city of Nest, where she went about her business, she felt a little avoided. Even when it was an elf village, she had been caged in a stone prison. Because of this, Seri lived in the imperial city, hiding her ears.
“Good morning, Seri-chan.”
The one who responded to Seri’s greeting was Randall, the owner of the Wandering Bird’s Nest, where she lived. More precisely, she lived in a small shed in the courtyard of the inn. She had been given the opportunity to live and work here by a knight named Wynn, who also used to live in the shed (Seri did not know the difference between a normal knught and an apprentice knight).
When she was given it, it was a battered shed that could be compared to a hut, which also had a draught that came in at will, but somehow it had been restored and made as good as new thanks to the “Great Wise” Tiara, a High Elf who came to visit.
For Seri, who was of mixed race, it was incredibly amazing to live in a shed created by the Great Wise herself, a kind of noblewoman for the elves and a hero for humanity.
I cannot thank Wynn enough.’
“Can you fill the barrels as usual and then wash and peel the vegetables for me?”
Following Randall’s instructions, Seri held the small empty jar and as she poured its contents into the barrel. Then she closed her eyes and cast a spell.
“I, who understand the way of water, create a stream of water. Grant me the blessings of life.”
Then the water gushed out of the jar in a copious flow and filled the barrels. After filling all the barrels in the same way, the vegetables were rinsed and then quickly peeled.
“Now it is ready. Do you want me to go shopping?”
“You work fast, Seri-chan. Sorry Wynn, but in terms of efficiency, Seri-chan is better than you.”
Randall laughed. The speed at which she finished her work was the same as Wynn’s, but Seri was more efficient, for one thing only: she could use magic. That’s why she didn’t have to come and go to the community well.
“Oh, Seri. Give me a minute.”
Hannah, Randall’s wife, who worked with the customers, stopped Seri, who was about to go to the market to stock up on food.
“Our costumer here wants to go into town. Please show her around.”
A tall woman in her twenties with short red hair extended her hand to Seri with a wild smile.
“Hello, are you Seri-san? I am Zinnia. Zinnia Reg.”
“I am Seri Torque. Good morning, Zinnia.”
Was she a mercenary or an adventurer? She was dressed in a worn-out leather armor and had a sword at her waist. As she held the hand that was offered to her, she felt that her palms were hard.
“I just wanted to replenish my medicine for the wounds and other things before going to work. I could go to a store like that, but if there’s a place in town that has good, cheap medicine or something like that, can you let me know?”
“That’s very good. The store I’m going to now also has cheap medicine that works very well.”
“Really?! That’s lucky. I made a lot of money at my last job, and I’ve been very lucky lately. So, do you think you could show me around?”
After picking up her shopping cart, Seri escorted Zinnia out of the Wandering Bird’s Nest onto the main street where the morning mist filled the air.
The morning market was held in the square in front of the east gate of the imperial city wall and the square in front of the south gate.
“Oh, Seri-chan, you look beautiful today!”
“What do you think, Seri-chan? Isn’t the fish cheap today?”
“Good morning, sir. I have a customer asking me to show her around today, so I’ll stop by next time.”
Seri’s face, which mixed the features of the beautiful elves, was very well defined. The men who were setting up their stalls called Seri one by one. Seri smiled back at them and greeted them as she walked by Zinnia through the market at the south gate.
“Seri-san, you are so popular!”
Zinnia told Seri, who had been approached quite often, in surprise.
“I am a frequent buyer in this market.”
“No, it’s not just that. It’s because you’re beautiful.”
“No, that’s not true.”
She laughed slightly at Zinnia for saying such a thing and dismissed her words.
“Zinnia-san, that’s the store, over there.”
Seri pointed to a woman in her thirties who was arranging vegetables and other items in a blanket.
“Good morning, Seri-chan. What will it be today?”
“Good morning, ma’am. Could you show me your vegetables today? Also, she would like you to show her some of your medicine.”
“I need to get some medicine for the wounds and something for the stomach pain. I’d like to have something I can keep for a long time, if possible.”
“Then how about this?”
While Zinnia and the owner of the stall talked about some medicines in the form of pills that she had taken out, Seri collected and examined each of the vegetables that she had been asked to buy.
The vegetables of the lady who grew them with her daughter on the outskirts of the imperial capital were very popular because they were very fresh and left a slight sweetness in the mouth. If you didn’t get there early enough, they often ran out.
“Thank you for everything.”
“No, thank you for the vegetables. They are very fresh.”
“Thank you for your help, Seri-san. I got such good medicine for so little money.”
Zinnia, who had paid for the medicine before Seri, said with a big smile.
They were able to get the medicine they wanted for less than their budget. Seri also put her chosen vegetables in the basket and paid for them.
“You seem to have gotten used to life in the Imperial City.”
“Yes, thank you.”
“But be careful. There are many ruffians in the Imperial City, you know.”
The store owner looked around as she gave Seri her change. And the young people around who had been stealing looks from Seri, looked around somewhat annoyed.
“Yes, I’ll be careful.”
With a chuckle, Seri accepted the change. Although she felt very sad about her home village, she sincerely believed that she had met many kind people since she had arrived in the Imperial City.
“As I walked with Seri-san, I was surprised to see the eyes of all the men gathered together.”
“Seri-chan is the princess of all the men in this city, you know? There are many of them who admire this girl.”
“I don’t think that story is true.”
“But they’re not saints either, although it’s been a little hectic around here, so you should be very careful, okay?”
The store owner said quietly to Seri, who in turn smiled a little embarrassed.
“There is a war about to start, so there are a lot of people coming in. Yesterday I was almost attacked by a thief too.”
“What? Are you okay?”
“A very strong swordsman passed by. I was lucky.”
“Now that I think about it, I feel that our clients are more and more like mercenaries and adventurers like Zinnia-san these days.”
From the conversations she had heard among the clients, it seemed that the nobles who had territories on the border were fighting for mercenaries and adventurers. They would gather information from their respective guilds in the imperial capital and look for the boss who would offer them the highest price, or they would join a group of mercenaries. As the number of such people increased, fights and disputes increased in taverns and other places. This was no exception for the Wandering Bird’s Nest.
“I have heard that there have been many abductions of young girls and things like that. I’m worried about my daughter, too. You should avoid the streets with as many people as possible, Seri-chan, I suggest you stay away from crowded roads.”
“Your daughter is a very pretty girl, isn’t she?”
“When she is a little older, I think she should work in some store in town. I don’t know if there is a shortage of labor in many places today, or if it is only in some of the poorer areas that they are hiring on a large scale.”
“I wonder if it’s the war that’s selling. It’s complicated because a lot of things go up in price, but it also makes the goods sell better.”
The store owner said with a chuckle.
“Ma’am, and you’re not worried about me?”
“I think you could easily turn the tables on that kind of situation.”
“Hahaha, maybe! It’s more like, if you mess with the bull, you get the horns.”
‘I need extra income,’ said Zinnia.
“What about kidnapping?”
“I’ve heard that several people have disappeared in the last few days, one after another. Most of the victims seem to be children from the slums, or people from outside.”
“In places like this, there are a lot of people shopping and kidnapping, right?”
As a mercenary, Zinnia knew a lot about the situation in the slums. Because of the fact that it was a place where people did what they wanted, sold and traded children. Some kidnapped them and sold them to the slave traders and others.
“They say it’s happening more often, especially these days, that it’s already a rumor.”
“Well, besides the mercenaries and adventurers who belong to a legitimate guild like me, there seem to be a lot of criminal savages as well.”
“So, you better watch out when a young, beautiful girl like Seri-chan is around.”
“I understand. Thank you very much.”
She thanked the store owner for her concern and took the basket full of vegetables. She needed to get home soon, or they wouldn’t be able to make lunch.
“I’m still going to look around the market a little bit. I found a stall that sold some knives that looked great.”
“Well, I guess I’ll go back to the inn first, then.”
After saying goodbye to Zinnia, who still wanted to look around the stalls, Seri started heading back to The Wandering Bird’s Nest.
On the way back home, she paid close attention and saw that there were many men in the town who were armed and who said they were fighting for a living. They were probably here to replenish their weapons and needs, like Zinnia.
Suddenly, she noticed that some people were looking at her body in a lewd way. They were a trio of men dressed as mercenaries or adventurers. When their eyes met Seri’s, they smiled.
When she noticed the kind of look they were giving her, she turned around and left at a brisk pace. Some of the customers who visited the inn were like them, but to tell the truth, she was not good at dealing with them. She was not afraid of men, but of men in armor. After all, they made her relive memories of Torque Village.
‘Huh? Is someone following me?’
When she turned around, she saw that the three men who recently were looking at her in a lewd way were walking in the same direction as her.
‘I’m sure they’re just heading in the same direction.’
She thought she was overthinking things, but she increased her walking speed anyway. She pretended to look at the stalls a few times while looking behind her.
‘They’re still there.’
The trio had also stopped on their way. Like Seri, they pretended to be looking at the stalls, but occasionally turned their eyes to her.
‘…Oh no, I’m scared.’
The anxiety of being followed almost brought her to tears, and she hurried back to the inn as soon as possible. But it was early in the market. It was not easy to walk because of the crowds. Even normally, the Seri who had grown up in the countryside had not yet become accustomed to crowds.
The distance between Seri and the trio was slowly shortening.
When she finally passed the market, she rushed down the street. But the market was starting early in the morning, earlier than most people start to get up. Although it was a main street, there were very few people on it. The sound of footsteps behind was getting closer and closer. Seri’s body tensed with fear and she felt that she was going to burst into tears.
At that moment…
“I knew it was Seri-san, good morning!”
When called from the front, Seri looked up with a sigh. The knight who brought her out of the elven stone prison in front of Seri, Wynn, was waving to her as he ran. Seri ran towards him in a small dash with relief.
“Huh? What? Is something wrong?”
Wynn stopped in front of Seri, who ran towards him with tears in her eyes. Then, when he saw the three men running behind her, he instantly realized what was happening. He hid Seri behind him and looked at the trio. When they also stopped, they confronted Wynn.
“Tsk, let’s go.”
The trio quickly turned around the way they had come, perhaps not wanting to get into trouble. Behind Wynn, Seri breathed a great sigh of relief.
“Seri-san, are you all right?”
Seri’s body almost collapsed from the relief, and Wynn reached out in a hurry to hold her body.
“Th-Thank you very much.”
In the end, Seri returned to the Wandering Bird’s Nest with Wynn, resting her on his shoulders.
“I see. Maybe we shouldn’t let Seri go shopping alone for a while.”
“The situation near the border is becoming quite unpleasant. And there have been reports from city guards to the Knights that they are concerned about the deterioration of public safety.”
After stopping his morning training and sending Seri to the Wandering Bird’s Nest, Wynn decided to eat breakfast as it was. When he told Randall that Seri was about to be in big trouble on the street, Randall nodded and looked around the inn’s dining room. Besides Wynn, there were other customers eating breakfast, but more than half of them seemed to be mercenaries.
“They say the war is about to start, so the influx of people and more clients after dark will give us money, but I don’t want any more crime. Speaking of which, Wynn, will you go there when the war comes?”
“Hmmm, I’m on a logistical mission, so I don’t think I’ll go.”
“I see. Letti-chan will be relieved by that!”
Randall laughed and went back to the kitchen. Seri went to Wynn to thank him.
“Thanks for your help earlier.”
“It is natural for a knight to protect the citizens. Rather, I feel I owe you an apology.”
“No, not at all!”
Seri’s voice grew louder. The eyes of the customers who were drinking and eating in the vicinity turned to Seri for a moment. She, who had attracted attention, turned red up to her neck, but still bow to Wynn.
“I was very frightened. Thank you so much.”
“Yes, be more careful next time.”
Seri smiled at Wynn’s response.
“It would be nice to have someone like Zinnia-san with me all the time.”
“She’s one of the customers staying at the inn right now. She seems to be a mercenary, and a very strong woman.”
“Speaking of which, she’s late.”
The morning market was already over.
“I wonder if she went to the stores or showed up at the guild, or something.”
“…I think so.”
Maybe it was because the lady at the stall told her about the kidnappings. Finally, after finishing breakfast, Wynn left the inn, and Seri went back to work as well.
Even while working, Seri was somehow worried about Zinnia. Because of his own fearful eyes, she felt something like an unknown anxiety growing in her chest.
“Miss, just for your great beauty, I’ll give you a discount!”
“That’s what I wanted to hear, old man! Now we’re getting somewhere!”
Zinnia’s attitude was cheerful, as she was able to get the knife she had in her sights while walking with Seri, and at a quite reasonable price.
The old man, who had a stall, had a workshop that dealt with pots and pans, and apparently made knives as a hobby. To handle swords in the workshop, you had to buy a diploma from the artisans’ guild, but it wasn’t necessary to sell at the morning market.
“It’s something I do as a hobby,” he said humbly, emphasizing that his work on knives was not as good as on his other pieces, but even from the perspective of Zinnia, who had a lot of experience as a mercenary, it was quite a satisfying item. In addition, she was also comfortable with the old man’s words when he told her “great beauty”.
Mercenary women remained few and far between, and because Zinnia was also reasonably attractive, she was often praised by the men around her. However, this morning, to replenish the medicines she had run out of during her trip, she asked the maid at the inn where she was staying, a girl named Seri, to guide her to the market, and it was partly because of her popularity in the market that her feminine side was sometimes stimulated. However, Seri was a beautiful and charming girl even in Zinnia’s eyes, but that was not as interesting as it seemed. A woman’s pride was satisfied when she was told, “For your beauty, I’ll give you a discount”.
“I’ve had such good luck lately!”
She had been able to keep her expenses lower than she had planned.
‘Maybe I’ll splurge on breakfast with the money I have left over.’
Humming to herself, she walked around the stalls, buying and eating skewers and barley beer.
“Huh? Where am I?”
She walked randomly through the crowded city and apparently got lost.
She had no urgent business to attend to. When she left the square in front of the south gate where the city was open, the hustle and bustle of the previous day had disappeared, as if all of the above were a lie. The church bells announcing the morning’s arrival to the citizens had not yet sounded. Moreover, it seemed that she had gotten lost and gone down the back street somewhere, and although the bustle of the morning market could still be heard in the distance, not a soul was in sight.
“But wow. I can’t even ask for directions, and there isn’t a single person around here…”
As she left, Zinnia walked away, knowing that she would eventually reach the main street. The Wandering Bird’s Nest was a good inn in a good location, opposite the main street. If she could get to the main street, she could return without hesitation.
The only steps that resonated around her were the ones she made. However, her intuition, which had been trained in ten years of work as a mercenary, told Zinnia that something dangerous was coming. An unpleasant feeling ran through the back of her neck.
‘…Am I being followed? Is it a robbery? No…’
She wore leather armor and a sword, which made her look like a mercenary or an adventurer. In addition, with that leather armor you could see the muscles of Zinnia’s bare arms and thighs, which had been trained with the flexibility of a predator. If it was a common thief, even if she was a woman, she was definitely a very dangerous opponent.
It was then, that Zinnia remembered the conversation between Seri and the lady of the store that she heard when she was buying the medicine in the morning market.
“I have heard that several people have disappeared lately, one after another. Most of the victims seem to be children from the slums or people from outside.”
‘Are they the kidnapper of the rumors? Hey, you’ve got some nerve. Trying to get to me…’
With her left hand, she casually checked the sword tied to her hip.
‘After all, I’ve been very lucky lately!’
She took a path into a narrower alley.
If it were the kidnapper who had been causing a stir in the imperial capital of late, she would be rewarded for fighting and handing them over to the guard’s office. Even if it were not the kidnapper, she would get some money if it were a thief or a thug. And she didn’t intend for it to be delayed to the point that the city would be in chaos.
If it was only what she thought…
Soon the church bells announced the arrival of morning and the residents flooded the city, and the Imperial City was engulfed in a bustle of activity, as if the silence of the night were a lie.
Even from the narrow alleyways, the residents of the neighborhood could be seen coming out into the streets.
But no one saw the tall mercenary appear again.
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