”—Then, exchange your permit again in a week. Next!”
The long line slowly moved forward after his booming voice.
“Aaa~… Finally, I’m tired of waiting.”
Kei and Aileen sat mounted together and sighed with dull expressions. In front and behind them, everyone; traders on their carriages, soldiers on their horses, and farmers with their livestock, had the same tired expression.
An hour had passed since they finally arrived at Satyna.
There wasn’t any further incidence after the battle with the plains people. However, the two of them had to wait in the long line at the gate. Traffic was completely deadlocked.
The fortified city of Satyna.
The city had a stone wall on all four sides and the grand Morla River to its east. It taxed the nearby villages and was a large trading hub.
The Morla River enabled transportation, highways from all four cardinal directions intersected with it, and even the land produced good quality lumber. The southern Ri’leir area was a central business hub for craftsmen and merchants alike.
Each of Satyna’s walls had one large gate to serve as an entrance. Excluding the eastern side, which was for private use of the Morla River harbor, the northern, southern, and western gates provided land access to the city.
Kei and Aileen came from Tahfu, to the west of Satyna, and tried to walk through the gates—until the gatekeeper stopped them.
According to him, those with livestock and horses were not permitted to enter without a license. One would have to go to the southern gates and pay a set fee for large animals to obtain a license.
In other words, it was a tax on livestock and mounts.
On the outside of Satyna’s north-western walls were only houses in the slums. The slums wouldn’t have a stable and leaving their horses alone was out of the question, so their only option was to head to the southern gates.
That was when they saw the long queue.
Kei and Aileen behaved and waited in line so they could get the license, but after around an hour of waiting they still hadn’t reached the gates. It was reasonable for the procedure to be complicated, but people trying to cut the line and people that couldn’t pay the tax caused trouble and further delayed the line. In addition, their irritation only grew worse when some privileged class people would ignore the line and receive preferential treatment, letting them finish their business and enter the gates quickly.
However, with patience their time would come, too.
“—Okay, mind what I mentioned. Next!”
The trader with the cart in front of them finished, and it was finally Kei and Aileen’s turn.
Below the gate several strict looking sentinels armed with short spears stood at attention. They all wore the same white leather armor that had a cross over their hearts. The black and red contrast reminded him of the police cars in Japan.
“You… are a plains person?” asked one of the sentinels, an older man with a black beard who looked to be in charge, as he glared suspiciously.
“No, I’m not. My face isn’t like theirs,” replied Kei indifferently, sliding off Sasuke and pointing to his face.
He didn’t have the tattoos that the plains people did, and after removing the decorations on his armor and ignoring the characteristic design, it looked like any other leather armor.
“Hm. It looks like you have quite a lot of the plains people’s arms. What’s with that?”
“We were attacked on our way here, so we turned the tables and stripped them.”
“All of them…?”
“Yep, eight of them.” The black bearded sentinel stared at the two horses loaded with equipment and squinted at the dark blood on it. He snorted. “Well… whatever. Where did you two come from?”
“The village Tahfu.”
“What’re your plans?”
“We were asked to deliver a letter. After that, shopping, something else…a bunch of stuff.”
Kei pulled out the envelope that Bennett gave him from his bag.
“Let me see.”
The man took the envelope and—Kei had no idea about it, but each village or town has its own pattern—lightly rubbed the wax seal before inspecting Bennett’s signature on the wax’s underside.
“Hm, well, it’s authentic. Lastly, we’ll do a quick search of your belongings, alright?”
It was more of a command than a question. Several young sentinels efficiently checked the luggage and lightly patted down Kei as a body check.
“What are you looking for?”
“Narcotics. They’ve become popular here. We’ve been instructed to be stricter with them.” After Kei’s check was finished the black bearded man sighed. “Alright, hold still!”
“Huh? Me too?!”
Next to Kei, a young sentinel sidled up to Aileen. Startled, she reflexively ran away, toward the wall.
“Hey! Don’t run! What are you hiding!?”
“Where am I supposed to hide anything in these light clothes!?” Aileen yelled, her face red as her thin tunic fluttered.
The young man didn’t care, he chased her with his arms out and gradually closed the distance between them. Kei blinked repeatedly in surprise and looked over at the black bearded man, troubled. The man heaved a sigh and said, “Hey, Nick! With that stupid and perverted look you’ve got now of course she’ll think you’re repulsive! Even my mother would think so!”
The other sentinels erupted in laughter and he poked the young sentinel in the head.
“Sorry miss, but these are rules.”
The black bearded man handled her a little more gently than he did with Kei, as he checked her over. Aileen froze like a mannequin.
“Done, doesn’t look like you have anything suspicious.”
Gentlemanly, or rather businesslike, he quickly finished her search and smiled as he brushed his hands off.
“Let’s figure out how much money yo—“
“Sir, they have something strange here!” The one that inspected the horses shouted.
His smile disappeared and he raised his voice, “What?”
The young man took a glass bottle filled with blue liquid from Aileen’s horse’s bag—a high potion. The realization showed in Kei and Aileen’s expressions at the same time.
“You two… what is this? It certainly is strange.” The black bearded man took the bottle from the younger man and, with a deeply interested expression, lightly swirled the viscous blue liquid and held it up to inspect it under the sunlight. The blue hue was obviously not one found in nature, it really was strange.
Kei’s expression became slightly stiff, “That’s an all-purpose medicine. It’s very valuable, so handle it carefully. Also, try to keep it out of the sun’s rays, they’ll degrade it.”
“Medicine, huh… Medicine… Hm…” He glanced over at Kei, looking suspicious again.
I could just tell him that it’s a potion… Kei thought.
Potions seemed to be scarcer here than they were in 『Demondal』. They had genuine high potions, and while Kei didn’t feel guilty at all, he had a feeling that if he told them the truth that it would bring trouble later on.
Agh… It is medicine! I didn’t lie!
Kei became defiant and stood up straight, “That’s right, it’s just medicine.”
“Hm, I see…”
For a while, he looked inquisitively between Kei and the potion. He placed the bottle next to some papers on a desk and suddenly uncorked the bottle. Kei and Aileen both leaned forward involuntarily. The man sniffed it. He hesitated.
Kei muttered, telling the man to stop. But he didn’t hear it, and tipped the bottle, taking a sip.
Noooooo, old man!!
They protested silently.
The black bearded man spluttered, “What’s with this shitty taste!?” He spat it out forcefully and bent over from the taste.
His strong movements threatened to spill the potion. Both Kei and Aileen raised their voices and shouted, “Nooo!”
“Are you alright!?”
“Was it poison or…?”
“No, no, I’m fine, but the taste! The taste! Blegh!!” The black bearded man threw up and bent over further, tipping the bottle dangerously far.
“Aaah!” Aileen yelled.
“Just put the lid on!” shouted Kei, angry about the waste of a valuable potion.
“Ahh… They say, ‘Good medicine tastes bad.’ And this tastes terrible.”
The black bearded man let the taste leave, and with a disappointed look put the cork back on the bottle. Aileen hugged and stroked the potion when he returned it to her. She lost a mouthful, but it was otherwise intact.
“At least… this isn’t a narcotic. This is some sort of medicine… Seriously, I feel sorry for whoever has to drink this stuff… Oh well. Let’s finally get this license matter over with.”
“Is that okay…?”
“It’s fine. I only took a sip, but aside from its bizarrely bad taste, there’s nothing else strange about it.” The black bearded man shrugged as he answered the young sentinel, “Besides, even if it was some new drug, it wouldn’t be covered under the regulations. Because this isn’t covered we have no reason to confiscate it; in fact, we don’t even have the right… Now then, sorry about the wait. Let’s finish this up… You do have enough money, right?”
Both parties grew tired of waiting, so the process began again.
They had to pay for Sasuke and the other three horses, which brought the total fee for the license to forty-five copper coins. Kei and Aileen signed the ledger and, after some delays, finally got a one week license.
When they steered their horses through the gate, it had already been two and a half hours since they arrived at Satyna.
† † †
Kei and Aileen rented a room at an inn on the business street in the northeastern part of town. They were currently sitting in a pub on the first floor of the building.
Their search for an inn took until the end of the day.
Getting a room sounded easy, but in reality, finding one was rather difficult. The problem was their four horses. Satyna was a town for merchants and craftsmen, so it had inns everywhere. However, it was difficult to find a place that was clean, in good public order, and had enough space in their stable.
Kei’s plan had been to deliver the letter right after getting a room, and then find an equipment store for Aileen’s armor—But, they didn’t actually have the time. After a desperate search, they were stuck with a fairly expensive inn, but they couldn’t sleep outside in the city so they didn’t have much of a choice.
“In any case, let’s just celebrate that we found a place…”
Kei and Aileen sat opposite of each other at the table and, with huge smiles, smacked their wooden mugs, full to the brim with ale, together.
They drank deeply then put their mugs down with difficult expressions.
“It’s not cold…”
“It’s not cold…”
Lukewarm. It was lukewarm. It was cooler than the air in the room, but it was definitely not cold. There was no refreshing feel to it.
“Well, we should’ve known…” Kei shrugged lightly.
“What were we getting our hopes up for…?” said Aileen with a distant, but serious look.
Refrigerators didn’t exist in this world. At best, they only had cool cellars.
It would be possible if they had a high-ranking Thermal magician, but that was something they couldn’t even hope for.
“Can’t your Siv do something about this…?” She looked his way with a little bit of hope.
“How much do you plan to use just to cool some ale?” Kei said with an amazed expression and jingled the chain around his neck. He needed catalysts to activate the magic, and he only had one emerald left. Even if he had several of them, using them like this was out of the question. “But it would be difficult to get Siv to chill it, how do we even say something like ‘Stop the movement of the molecules in the air,’ in Esperanto?”
“Hmmm. That’s a tough one…”
“Even if we did say it, who knows if the spirit would understand…”
“Yeah… Too bad, it’s impossible.”
A waitress carrying a tray came to their table while they were talking. “Sorry for the wait. Here is a sausage and three cheese platter, soup for two, and some bread~.”
The waitress skillfully placed the bowls on the table. She poured the soup into the bowls. Aileen was caught up in the savory smell of the sausage. Kei’s eyes were drawn to the waitress’s cleavage when she leaned over in front of him.
“Enjoy~!” She winked at Kei and waved before heading back to the kitchen.
“Let’s eat, let’s eat, Kei!”
Kei gave a half-hearted reply to her urging, “Yeah…” as he stared at the waitress’s swaying butt.
“Itadakimasu~!” Aileen clapped her hands together and started to eat. “Mm, this is good!”
Kei suddenly came back to reality and quickly reached for a fork.
After they filled themselves with as much food and drink as they wanted, they went back to their room on the second floor.
They had the luxury of using a four-person room for just the two of them. The inn they were staying at, Bluefish, was aimed at the wealthy commoners. Unlike a high end inn for the nobles or wealthy merchants, this one didn’t have any private rooms. They only had three options; two person rooms, four person rooms, and general lodging (sleeping together in one large room).
Even though it was just Kei and Aileen, all the equipment they took from the plains people took up too much space for a two-person room, so luckily they were able to get a four person room.
“Haah, today was tiring, wasn’t it?”
When they entered the room Aileen dove onto the bed on the left. The mattress springs weren’t effective and she landed with a hard thud and then moaned in pain.
Kei smiled wryly and hung the lamp they were given on a chain dangling from the ceiling while Aileen writhed in pain on the bed. The flickering flame lit the room with a dim light. Their luggage covered the floor and the other bed. They could see the dark sky and the sun, which had almost finished setting, through the small gap between the closed shutters. The noise of drunk patrons and the songs of the minstrel carried into their room.
Kei placed his sheathed sword and Dragon Stinger, still in its cloth case, next to the bed on the right and sat down with a thud. He felt a sense of security as all the stiffness in his body faded. He murmured, “What a trip it was…”
He thought of all that happened along the way. Even though they left Tahfu just this morning, some ten odd hours ago, it felt like something from long ago.
“Yeah…” Aileen moaned back and rubbed her face in her pillow, clearly sleepy.
“Guess we should go to bed then?”
“Yeah… I’m tired. I want to shower, but there isn’t one… Even a cold bath here is a little…”
“Ah, I guess.”
The Bluefish was a square, three story building made of stone. The center was an open area with a well and the bathrooms, so baths would have to be taken there. However, you would be entirely visible from the windows on all sides. If it were someone from this world it’d be fine, but it must be hard for Aileen since she still hadn’t acclimated. As far as Kei knew, she wasn’t okay with being exposed.
“Well, whatever… I’ll just sleep for now…” Aileen pulled up the sheets, ceasing to resist sleep. Her posture suggested she was really asleep now. Even after finishing her ale she drank cup after cup of wine, becoming only tipsy, as expected of a true Russian. Of course, she was tired, but her breathing instantly slowed to the rhythm of sleep.
“Heey, Aileen… Is she asleep already?”
She didn’t react at all.
In the quiet, away from the hustle and bustle, time slowly passed.
A feeble flame in the lamp. Inside a dimly lit room.
However, Kei could see Aileen clearly.
Her slender body lay on the bed. The sheets showed her supple feminine curves. Kei knew the soft feeling and lightness of her body from having held her back. Gently, an alluring scent tickled his nose like a flower. Her face had a hint a red as she slept, probably due to the alcohol. He glanced at the nape of her neck, as white as porcelain and exposed beneath the ponytail she forgot to take out. Her bangs fell across her cheek and wavered when she exhaled. Her lips. They were pink and charming, sweet like a flower petal and—
“Mmhm…” Aileen mumbled and turned over in her sleep.
About to brush away the hair on her cheek with his finger, Kei snapped back to his senses and put some distance between them.
He realized he was entranced by her, like a moth to a flame.
“Not good…” He smacked his forehead and looked over her with a troubled expression. He whispered in Japanese, “You’re way too defenseless…”
Kei sighed and rubbed his temples and then chanted, “Andrei, Andrei, Andrei, Andrei, Andrei… Okay. Time to sleep.” After he blew out the lamp he jumped straight into bed. He squirmed and turned his back to Aileen, slowly closing his eyes in the darkness.
Kei, too, was tired after all.
Before he could worry about anything, before something could make him worry, he slipped into a deep sleep.
The next day.
Unaccustomed to the tires of travel, Kei and Aileen indulged themselves in doing nothing until almost noon, but since they couldn’t just sleep the day away, they began to do something to cheer themselves up.
They had brunch at the first floor bar and set out into the city. There was plenty they had to do, such as finding a craftsman for the hide taken from Mikazuki or looking for armor or a shield for Aileen, but they first decided to deliver the letter that Bennett entrusted them with.
Inside the walls the main street ran crosswise, acting as a divider for Satyna’s four large sections.
On the right as you entered the southern gates, the south-eastern part of the city, were the residencies of wealthy merchants and nobles. The lord’s sturdily built mansion stood near the corner inside the wall. On the outside was a defensive tower in the middle of a lake created by drawing water from the Morla River. If an enemy were to attack Satyna, it would be extremely difficult to advance on the lord’s home from the east without taking the tower on the small lake first.
To the left of the gate, the south-western area, was the business street which contained rows of shops. It was the liveliest area of the city with shopkeepers managing stores of all kinds.
Closest to the eastern gate and the harbor, the north-eastern area was the center for craftsmen. Although it was a place where craftsmen displayed their skills in workshops, there were also breweries, storehouses, and restaurants that gave the quiet district its merry atmosphere.
Lastly, the north-western area, deemed the old town, was where apprenticeships and other work could be found. Maids or even public servants lived here, and it was considered the most disorderly place in the city. The sewers ran outside the north-western wall, embedded into the ground, where the slums were. Compared to the other parts of the city, the public order of this area was lacking.
According to Bennett, Kiska married a wood-worker, so Kei and Aileen headed toward the craftsmen’s district.
“This city sure has a lot of guards, huh.” Aileen said out of admiration as they passed a group of three patrolmen on a quiet road.
In the center of the city it was common to see groups of three in white leather armor. They were groups of patrols that were meant to keep the peace. All of them wore the same white leather armor as the guards at the gate. They also carried a baton and rapier at their hip, and they stayed alert while surveying their surroundings.
The uniformity of their equipment showed the wealth of the city, and their brisk behavior showed their thorough training. It was just one part of Satyna’s show of power.
“Excuse me, you there, we’re looking for a woman by the name of Kiska…”
“Ah, ojii-san, do you know of a woman named Kiska around here?”
Kei and Aileen kept asking the people around them in that manner and came to find out that Kiska married a craftsman called Montand, whose home was on the western side of the district.
They started off toward the west side.
“Uhh, it’s the first right off the main street, right?”
“It’s Parody Street. Ah, there it is. It’s that one.”
“12 Parody Street, 12…”
After they followed the numbers on the wall they arrived at their destination.
It was a light brown two story brick house. Outside the front was a rectangular sign carved with three arrows—
It was definitely the place. The symbol matched what they had heard of Montand.
“Well, looks like we’re here…” Kei waved the letter in his hand, but stood in front of the workshop looking uncomfortable.
“They’re… you know? Fighting?” Aileen cocked her head to the side a little, summing up the situation.
In front of the workshop, they saw two red-faced men arguing.
Here begins the fortified city Satyna arc.