Chapter 18

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[PART 1]    |    [PART 2]    |    [PART 3]

[PART 1]
  1. Artisan

“—Which is exactly why you should pay it back before speaking!” yelled a slender man with a brown bandana in front of the workshop.

“I’m lowering my head like this precisely because I can’t do that!” responded a well-built man with black, frizzy hair who was red in the face.

“You’ve said this before! How many times has it been now!?”

“Then what should I do, starve to death?!”

“There’s other things you can do before starving, right?! Sell your stuff, sell your house! Put in some effort, would you?!”

“I am! I’m trying! But, selling my house is the last thing I’d do! I’m begging you, I’m really in trouble here!”

“I’ve heard that one countless times too! Just go home already!”

“You! Is that how you speak to your senior apprentice!? The well-built man vigorously pressed the man with the bandana in their argument.

Kei and Aileen whispered as they watched.

“Are they talking about money?”

“I think so.”

Based on what they heard, the argument seemed to be them repeating ‘I want you to lend me some money.’ and ‘I’m not going to lend you any.’ Also, from the fed up appearance of the man with the bandana, this wasn’t the first or second time. Nor did it seem like he paid back what was already borrowed. The stocky man tried his best, “I’ll pay it all back next time!” but he didn’t even look confident in himself.

“—I get it! I get it already, I know how you feel!”

The stocky man sat down with his arms and legs folded, stating in a loud voice, “Without your help I’m done for! If I’m going to fall over and die in some alley then I’ll just die right here and now!” He sat as still as a rock.

Aileen’s expression was one of amazement, and while dumbfounded Kei said, “He’s pretty serious…”

“Ugh, enough…” The irritation of the man with the bandana was written plainly across his face as he covered his face with his hand and sighed. His eyes fell upon Kei and Aileen standing on the side of the road. “O-oh. A customer?”

Soon after, the well-built man sitting cross-legged noticed them too—a dirty smile crept onto his lips.

“Ah~… Sorry to interrupt while you’re busy. Would this be Montand’s workshop?” Kei asked hesitantly.

“Yes, it is! This is the marvelous Montand’s workshop! So many customers today that it makes me jealous, am I right?” The stocky man laughed flippantly and cast the man with the bandana a sidelong glance.

“I am Montand… What can I help you with?” The man with the bandana asked as he turned toward them with an ashamed expression.

Kei froze for a moment. The stormy atmosphere kept him from nonchalantly saying, ‘Postal service~.’ Above all, the stocky man that had been smiling unpleasantly toward them bothered him. Kei’s eyes flicked between them.

It was silent for a moment, only a small moment, but Montand understood from Kei’s bewilderment and his gaze. “Ahh, alright… Excuse me, just wait a minute please.” He suddenly turned around, violently opening the workshop door and disappearing inside. It sounded like he was rummaging through shelves. “Here, this should be fine!” Clearly annoyed he reemerged from the shop and tossed a small purse to the stocky man who was still on the ground. A few silver coins spilled out with clings onto the stone pavement. “That’s the last time! I’m not giving you any charity again, not after this!”

As he smiled abjectly the stocky man picked up the coins, not even trying to hide his disdain for Montand, “Heheh… Thanks, thanks. I’m sure something will come from this. I wouldn’t expect less of my reliable junior… I’ll make sure to pay it back eventually.”

Montand snorted, showing his lack of trust as he answered with only a stern look and his lips pressed tightly closed.

The stocky man carefully tucked the purse away in his breast pocket while he quietly left toward the old town.

“Hah…” with a depressed sigh, Montand took off his bandana and ran his hand through his blonde hair before he faced Kei again. “I’m sorry. That was unsightly.”

“Ah, no problem…”

“So then, what can I do for you?” He asked with a refreshing business smile.

Kei’s face stiffened. This atmosphere made it hard to nonchalantly say ‘Postal service~,’ in its own way.

“Actually, I’m sorry. It isn’t that important of a business matter… My name is Kei. Yesterday, we left from a short stay at Tahfu, where the village leader Bennett asked us to deliver this letter to your wife…” Timidly, he showed Montand the envelope in his hand.

Montand looked at the signature on the back and raised his voice in surprise, “Oh! My Father-In-Law, it sure has been a while! You came here just to deliver this? Thank you.”

He was unexpectedly happy, contrary to expectation. Kei scratched his head and looked awkwardly away.

“No, I’m sorry. We only came to deliver a letter, so…”

“Hm?”

“Earlier… You had to loan money out because I made you feel rushed…” Kei said as he looked in the direction the stocky man went.

“Ahh,” Montand nodded understandingly. He smiled slightly, looking resigned, “Don’t worry about it. If I didn’t lend him the money then that guy would actually have stayed like that… He’d be in the way of business, so sooner or later I would’ve had to lend it to him anyway. By the way,” he continued, “you mentioned you two came from Tahfu? How was my Father-In-Law?”

“Oh, Bennett looked like he was doing well.”

“I see, that’s good then… If it’s not a bother, would you mind talking with my wife about Tahfu? She hasn’t been back in a long time, so I’m sure she’d be happy to hear about it.”

Kei and Aileen looked at each other.

“I’m cool with it.”

“Sure then.”

They planned to check out some armor and leather shops after delivering the letter, but since Montand was a craftsman, he might introduce them to a skilled leather worker for Mikazuki’s hide.

Kei took up his request, judging it to be better to get along with him.

“Why don’t we head on in?”

Kei and Aileen accepted his invitation and went into the workshop.

The inside was clean and polished.

Kei thought that a workshop would be a disorderly work space, but Montand’s was entirely the opposite.

The stylish furniture was well coordinated with elaborate woodwork and lace. There weren’t any wood chips on the wooden floor, not even in the back. Rather than a workshop, it felt more like a small store. It reminded him of the furniture show room that he went to as a child.

“Heey, Kiska! There’s a letter from your father!” Montand shouted into the back room.

“Coming,” answered a voice. There were the sound of quick footsteps. A young, slightly plump woman came out, wiping her hands on the front of her white apron. “A letter from my father!?
“These two came to deliver it.”

“Oh my! Thank you for going out of your way. I’m Kiska.” She quickly bowed to them. Her evenly cut chestnut colored hair swayed at her shoulders. She had the same chestnut hair as Danny and Cronen. Bennett’s hair had already grayed, so their hair color might come from their mother.

“It wasn’t a big deal. We just happened to stop by…”

Kiska took the letter and quietly asked Montand, “What happened with Borris?”

With a sour look he replied, “I sent him home.”

“Hm…” she nodded vaguely as she broke the seal and began to read the letter enthusiastically.

Kei and Aileen also spoke quietly to each other.

“Borris…?”

“Probably the guy from earlier, right?”

Montand watched in silence as she was engrossed by the letter. A breeze blew in from the large, open window. Kei and Aileen, too, waited silently. Aileen took deep interest in the wooden wind chime dangling from the ceiling—which made a pleasant, high pitched sound like a xylophone when the wind blew in—and touched it. To Kei, it somewhat resembled a cat pawing at a green foxtail[1].

Kei had time, so he also looked around the shop. There was a sparkling clean and varnished wooden table. The rim was smoothed down and had an ornamental ivy engraving that felt good to his fingers. The lace tablecloth worked well with the woodwork. On top was a decoration of a bird on a branch, and it spun around when the wind blew like a weather vane. It was a delicate and elaborate piece. It showed Montand’s skill.

He turned his attention to the wall. It had several empty painting frames, which were also likely made by Montand. Though they were simple, their modest design would probably make the painting look better.

Basically, this is a place for the wealthy, huh…

The workshop was full of works that a normal person wouldn’t buy like ornate, elaborate furniture and decorations with no practical use. He probably has rich, well paying customers, thought Kei when suddenly noticed them decorating the wall in the corner.

—Arrows.

They were decorated with a golden leaf and the arrowheads were a peculiar shape. However simple they were, the manufacturing was sound.

Several different kinds of arrows hung on the wall.

“Did something catch your eye…?”

The voice came from right beside him. Taken aback, he noticed Montand wore a friendly smile.
“Yeah… I was just thinking that you make arrows, too. I got caught up looking at them,” Kei answered with a small, shy smile as he scratched his head.

He was more entranced than he realized. He didn’t notice Montand approach him at all.

With a wry smile Montand said, “Rather than making arrows too… it’s actually my main business.”

“Oh, so that’s the main job.”

“I wouldn’t make enough to get by if I just made arrows… Recently it feels like I don’t know which one is my main job.”

“May I feel one?”

“Of course, go ahead.”

With his permission, Kei reached for one of the simple arrows in the corner. “Wow…” The instant he touched it he knew it was high quality. Its dense wood was proof of its sturdiness. Arrows with this much density would make them difficult to break. The slim, sharp arrowhead on it would be hard to pull out once lodged in its target. Its smooth polished surface would reduce the friction of the arrow, allowing it to fire without losing any power, as well as piercing deeper into the flesh of the target. It had a perfect center of gravity, which would reduce the flight deviation to a minimum. From the white feather fletching to the tip, the arrow was without even a slight bend.

“This is… a good arrow,” Kei murmured in admiration.

[PART 2]

There was a saying, ‘A good workman does not blame his tools’—but, at least an archer could choose his arrows.

You can get used to your bow’s unique pull strength and imperfections however you couldn’t say the same for arrows. What you wanted was an arrow that would fly exactly as you pictured it, whether that was flying straight or curving with the wind.

The one in his hand was perfect in that regard. There weren’t any shortcomings in the materials used nor the manufacturing technique.

“I’m pleased that you like it. Kei-san. You are a bow specialist, no?”

“Haha, so you could tell.”

Since they were in town, Kei only wore light equipment, however he still had a longsword at his hip along with Dragonstinger in its cloth case. He carried his bow around even though he didn’t need to. The fact that he did made it seem important to him. At a glance, it was easy to tell he was an archer.

“I only thought so because of your bow. When you grabbed that arrow first, you confirmed it. Anyone interested in my main business always checks that one first.”

Out of the arrows on display Kei chose the most practical one. Of course, the other arrows were of high quality as well, but they didn’t match his preference. He was concerned that the more ornamental ones’ usability would suffer due to their surface. Naturally, an archer would be drawn to the one Kei held.

“It is misleading, but I suppose that most archers buy this kind?”

“That’s correct. Neighboring huntsmen, acquaintance mercenaries… A hunter from Tahfu, too, bought ten-odd of them previously.”

“Tahfu… Was it Mandel?”

“You know him? Yes, it was Mandel.”

“I see, so even Mandel…” Kei mumbled in admiration. His impression of Montand rose even higher.

Montand remained silent as he watched Kei inspect the arrow.

To be honest, Kei had gotten caught up in Montand’s pace, but he didn’t think it was bad.

“By the way… How much are they?” Kei smiled slightly as he asked.

“A set of ten costs sixty copper coins,” said Montand, returning the smile.
“Hoh?”

Each one cost six coppers. A high market price would be two coppers, at a low it would be five small coppers[2]. Compared to that, these were very overpriced. Of course, this level of quality was rare. Taking this into consideration, the price was reasonable.

“Although, if you buy a set of thirty then it also comes with a leather quiver. Kei-san, you ride horses, right?”

“Yeah. I’m specialize in equestrian archery.”

“Is that so? That’s perfect then,” he said as he took a large quiver from a nearby closet. “Here we are. This can fit forty of my normal sized arrows in it. If needed, it can also be fastened to a saddle. A friend of mine came up with the design and I can guarantee its sturdiness.”

“I see, I see.”

Kei took the quiver to look it over. The seams looked well made. Like Montand said, it seemed sturdy. He thought about asking the leatherworker who made this to handle Mikazuki’s hide.
“—Alright, I’ll take it. Thirty arrows, please.”
“Right away, thank you very much,” he bowed, a little surprised at Kei’s steadfastness.
“By the way, could you introduce me to the person who made this?”

“Yes, he’s an acquaintance of mine… Do you have a request for him?”
“Yeah, I have my horse’s hide. I wanted a skilled leatherworker since it’s something I’m attached to.”
“Of course. If that’s the case, there won’t be any problems. I’ll introduce you later.”

“Thanks.”

Since the deal was made, Montand started off toward the back room to retrieve the arrows, but Kei called out to him.

“Sorry. One more thing, I have a question.”

“What would that be?”

“Earlier, you said, ‘normal sized arrows,’ does that mean you have longer and slightly larger ones?”

“Longer arrows, is it?”

“Yeah. I’d like you to take a look at this.”

Kei took Dragon Stinger out from the cloth case with its bowstring detached. Without the bowstring it bent itself backwards in the shape of the letter ‘C’, so it was a little more compact. However, Montand knit his brow after Kei stretched the bowstring back on and he saw the whole picture.

“It’s a large bow, isn’t it…? I suppose the arrows aren’t long enough?”

As expected of a craftsman, he realized what Kei was trying to say from just a glance.

“It’s not exactly that the arrows aren’t long enough. This bowstring is pretty powerful, so using it normally with normal arrows isn’t a problem. But, for argument’s sake, if I wanted to use its full potential—“

“—You would need to pull the string back more,” Montand finished Kei’s line, nodding.

“May I feel the bow?”

“Sure.”

The moment that Kei handed Dragon Stinger to him, Montand’s hand shot up and he let out a surprised, “Woah.” Just like with Mandel the lightness caught him off guard.

“This is a very light bow, isn’t it… Rather, what the hell is this resistance?!” Montand’s amazement was clear in his expression when he tried to pull back the bowstring.

“I told you, it’s a strong bow.”

Montand ignored Kei’s smug face and tried his best to pull the bow back, groaning with effort, “Guh, hng, hng…”

Kei watched contently for a little, but Montand was unexpectedly determined and didn’t look like he was stopping soon. Kei became worried and decided to stop him, “You should stop before you hurt yourself…especially since you’re barehanded. You might hurt your fingers.”

“Damn… What a bow!” Frustratedly, he said, “Oww…” as he shook his right hand. In the end, he was only able to pull it back to his elbow. ”I must say, this is an amazing bow. For my work, I know how to use bows to an extent… However, this is the first time I’ve dealt with such a bow. I’m sorry if this is rude, but Kei-san, do you use this in actual combat?” he asked, looking a little doubtful.

Kei smiled boldly and suddenly drew Dragon Stinger back to his ear.

“W-wow, that easily…!” His eyes widened.

Kei became even more smug after Montand’s refreshing surprised reaction.
“Oh my… Well, now I understand the situation! I have a few different larger arrows, please wait just a moment.”

Montand didn’t wait for Kei to answer as he whisked off toward the back room, looking a little excited. They could hear him rummaging through shelves and drawers, and after a short time, he came out with a large bundle of arrows and a sparkling expression.
“I’m sorry for the wait! The truth is I’m researching various new types of arrows. I brought some of the prototypes too.”

“Oh, isn’t that something?”

“Firstly, here is a larger arrow. I originally made it for a longbow, but it might be good for yours.”

Kei took the arrow from him. It had blue dyed feathers and was moderately longer than what he had been using. He nocked the arrow to test it and was able to draw the bow back to his ear. The strain on his arms made his body creak. Holding it ready was difficult even for Kei, he wouldn’t have much time to aim. But, in exchange it seemed like it would have incredible power.

“This one is good too. Although if I were to be picky, I would prefer a narrower arrowhead. For me, the piercing strength is more important than the impact force.”
“A narrower one… Perhaps, something like this?”

“Ah, yeah, the arrowhead on that one looks good.”

“Great, I have more. If time isn’t a problem, I could change it out for you?”

“Perfect, then please do… By the way, how much is the exchange fee?”

“It’s on the house.” Montand bowed courteously.

They looked at each other and smiled. Both of them were in high spirits.

“Alright, I’ll buy these ones too. How many do you have?”

“Including that one, there are twelve.”

“Sold. I’ll take them all.”
“Thank you very much.”

“So… Do you have others? I can’t imagine this is all you’ve got.”

“Of course not. Please, take a look at this one.”

Montand handed Kei an arrow that had red feathers and was not quite as long as the previous one. The focus of this one was its thickness. This arrow’s diameter was larger than a normal one. The arrowhead was cone shaped and had many holes in it, reminding Kei of a needle.

“This… Is it hollow on the inside?”

“Yes. This one is meant for big game. The holes in the arrowhead are connected through the shaft to the holes in the back.”

“I see… Even left in the target it’ll make it bleed!”

“Precisely. I suppose it goes without saying. However, since it’s hollow its weight is comparatively low. The wind can push it around easier and with a normal bow it lacks power… But, if it’s that bow then maybe…”

“Interesting. How many of these do you have?”

“Three, since it’s only a prototype.”

“Sold. I’ll take all three.”
“Thank you very much. Now then, please look at this…”

Kei went along with Montand’s flow energetically saying, ‘Sold!’ or ‘Cool!’ as he took out arrow after arrow. The two of them got more and more into it, heating up the prototype sale.

“Sorry, this is another bad habit of his…” Kiska put her hand on her cheek and sighed, having finished reading the letter long ago.

“A-ah…” Aileen smiled stiffly and vaguely nodded next to her.

The first long arrow and the hemorrhage arrow were one thing, but the prototypes after that only seemed like a waste of money. For example, the arrow he was showing now played a melody of whistles as it flew, but it clearly had no practical use.

He really shouldn’t be wasting so much money… Aileen wanted to warn him, thinking ahead, but the silver he would use to pay came from him fighting bandits. It wasn’t her place to tell him how to use the money. Actually, he rarely ever buys things on impulse…

Kei was hardly ever this into buying anything.

Maybe the stress is getting to him…? Aileen couldn’t say anything to him now.

“Mama-, I’m hungry,” a child’s voice came from behind Aileen.

A ten year old, cute little girl came out from the door behind Aileen.
“Oh, Lily. You’re home already?”

“Yep! I got out earlier than usual today,” Lily happily nodded to Kiska.

“Uhh….?” Aileen bent her head to the side slightly.

“Ah. This is my daughter, Lily. Go on, say hello to the customer,” she urged Lily on.

“Nice to meet you, my name is Lily. I’m ten years old,” she said as if it were rehearsed, and quickly bowed.

Aileen, who loved kids, smiled at her cute bow. She crouched down to Lily’s level and gently said, “Hello. I’m Aileen, it’s nice to meet you, too.”

Lily smiled bashfully.
“And now I’d like to show you this arrow!”

“What is this!? It looks like a complex mechanism…”
“Fufufu, I have confidence in this one. It’s meant to suppress many people with just one arrow!”

“What!? How in the world does it—“

Paying no heed to the others, Kei and Montand got quite lively.

“Once he gets like that, there’s no stopping him… Lily, how about a snack? If you’d like, Aileen, would you join me for tea in the back?”

“Sure, I’d be happy to…” Aileen gave a strained smile and nodded.

—In the end, the excitement of those two carried on until the sun set and it became dark out.

†          †         †

[PART 3]

North-western Satyna, the slums.

The area followed along the sewer line from the city and acted as a den for the outlaws that couldn’t enter the city and those who were discriminated against.

The sewers had slate enclosing them, however it did nothing to prevent the smell from leaking out. It was a terrible environment; in some places the water leaked out with a stench nauseating enough to make one sick.

A man walked down the dirty road. His black hair was frizzy and unkempt. The color of his clothes was deeply faded from wearing them for a long time. His eyes were a little restless and he hunched his stocky body over as he quickened his pace.

The man’s name was Borris.

In the city of Satyna—he had been an arrow craftsman.

He quickly navigated the complex slum streets. On either side there were only rundown shacks, making the roads like a maze. He continued even farther west and came to a small, desolate alley.

He leaned against one of the shacks, still hunched over, and sighed lightly while he gave his legs a break. There were only a few people around.

An old woman with a suspicious air around her sat in a small chair. Lined up on her beaten up desk were some animal bones and a crystal shard. She seemed to be a fortune teller, but the small copper coin in the plate next to her made her look like a beggar as well.

Even though Borris stood next to her, she hung her head and didn’t move a muscle.

On the other side of the street sat a group of dirty men with a dangerous look in their eyes. Their faces were black with tattoos. They held their rusty swords preciously. Grassland people turned vagrant after losing their homes in the war ten years ago, or perhaps—

They glared sharply at Borris, who quickly turned his gaze away.

The city sounded far away, here. The stagnant atmosphere weighed heavily. The breeze that blew through the alley contained a trace of nervousness. A disturbing silence prevailed.

Tap tap, tap tap tap, tap, Borris tapped his feet, as if trying to get rid of the silence. Tap tap, tap tap tap, tap. He looked like a kid that was killing time.

“You… Over there.” The old woman moved for the first time. Her movements were slow as she turned to Borris and gave him a yellow stained smile. “Have you seen a crow? A crow…”

Borris answered her question slightly tense, “Yes, I have.”
“Is that so. So have I. A black crow… Gegege,” she laughed eerily.

Her eyes were white and clouded over. He wondered what she saw with those eyes.

“Sit down… I’ll read your fortune…”

Borris did as she instructed and sat down across from her. The chair quietly creaked.

“Give me your hand.”

Without a word he put out his right hand.

Her arms were like withered branches. She smoothed down his hand, “It’s… white,” she said, “White… feathers. Beware of him. He brings death with him…”

Borris swallowed audibly at her ominous words. “If I avoid the white feathers will I be okay?”

“Yes…”

She nodded slowly and pulled her hands away.

A small metal case sat in the palm of his hand.

“Now… Go. There is not much time left…”

Borris stuffed the case in his shirt. Without a word, he stood up and quickly left.

He felt the stares of the men with the swords all the while—

He simply took the same route back.

The walls of Satyna came into view after walking along the slightly dirty road in the evening light. The gate that connected the slums and the Old Town, while not as bad as the southern gates, had a line of people waiting to get in.

Borris quietly got in the back of the line. It looked like they were inspecting people in groups of five. The guards all had short spears and strict expressions. Unable to keep calm, Borris tapped his feet, tap tap, tap tap tap. He was like an impatient child. One of the guards looked at him dubiously. The line proceeded slowly but steadily.

“Next! The next five, step forward!”

Borris’ turn had come. There was one person in front and three behind. The group entered the gate.

“Alright, everyone take off your shoes! Put your hands behind your head!”

Unlike the others, this one had a metal breastplate. Upon his helmet was a white feather—proof of his status as commanding officer. Borris’ body stiffened for a moment and it looked like he was going to make eye contact with the guard, so he quickly looked down.

“Hm…?”

Borris’ mouth was completely dry. He prayed desperately to not stand out, even though he was sinking into muddy waters.

“You! What are you hiding?!” The guard said in a threatening voice.

The blood drained from Borris’ face, however the guard wasn’t directing it at him. It was at the person behind him.

The woman, who wore what looked like beaten up rags, was punched to the ground by the guard.

“Sir! This woman had this in her shoes…”

One of the guards held out a small leather bag to the commanding officer. With a harsh expression he took it and opened it up. White powder poured out smoothly. He poked it with his fingertip and licked it before spitting it out.

“Drugs…”

“I-I don’t know what that is! It’s not mi—“ she shouted in a shaky voice.

“Shut it! Don’t struggle!”

The guards further beat her with batons.

“Stop!! Don’t hit her anymore!” said the commanding officer. He forced his way in between the woman and the guards, stopping the assault immediately. He jerked his chin at the gate’s inner door while the woman’s gaze clung to him, “Take her away.”

Two burly guards grabbed her from either side and forced her to stand.

“I have a few things to ask her. Be polite… Don’t kill her yet.”

He looked at her like she was a worm. Her face turned white and she started to tremble under his cruel gaze.
“N-no! You’re wrong, I really know nothing! Save me, anyone, anyone!”

“Damn it, don’t struggle!”

“Get her out of here!”

The woman, half-crazed, resisted in vain as she was taken to the guard station in the city wall.

“Stupid woman… She’ll probably become a slave…”

“No… It’s been even more severe recently…”

“Carriers are beheaded without exception…”

“If they don’t die during the ‘cross-examination’…”

The people waiting in line whispered to each other, but the moment the commanding officer cleared his throat they fell silent.
“Alright, stay still.”

One of the guards stepped in front of Borris. He began the body check from his feet and roughly worked his way up. Borris stood still and stared at the commanding officer’s white feathers. Finally, the guard’s hands felt the metal case in his shirt.

The guard hesitated. He felt all around the case, confirming its shape and cast a glance at Borris’ stiff face. Then, the guard took his hands off of him.

“Nothing strange here,” said the guard nonchalantly to the commanding officer behind him.

The guard had stared at Borris earlier when he was fidgeting.

“Okay, then let him through.” He nodded deeply and pulled his gaze away from Borris.

Borris exhaled a long, thin breath as he put his shoes back on and slowly went through the small gate.

“—Next five, step forward!”

He ignored the commanding officer’s voice behind him, only letting out a sigh of relief after he had turned down a couple alleys.

That was close…

His face was gaunt. In the dusk light he dragged his feet down the alley, which was much cleaner than the ones in the slums.

Eventually, he came to a small pub with faint light leaking from the door. He took a seat at the counter and in a monotonous voice ordered from the bartender, “Ale…”

The bartender filled a wooden mug with amber liquid from a barrel and violently placed it in front of him.

“Yo, bro. How’ve you been?” The man next to him casually spoke to him and pressed his mug to his lips with obvious practice, and drank as if it were glued to his mouth.

“Great…” replied Borris gloomily as he took the case out and slipped it to the man under the counter.

He took it without missing a beat.

“Good to hear. How’s the wife?”

“She ran off a long time ago…”

“Hahahaha, that’s right. My bad, my bad, I forgot.” The man put away the case with a nasty smirk. In exchange, he placed a small leather bag in front of Borris. “Your bill’s on me as an apology, so drink up. See ya,” the man stood up from his seat and left the pub.

Borris sluggishly checked the contents of the bag. A large handful of copper coins glimmered faintly.

It was a little short of equaling one silver. The bag was a little bulky, but it wasn’t worth all that much.

“Just this much…” he muttered.

This is how much your life is worth. That’s what it felt like.
“Shit!”

He threw back his mug and washed down the rest of his ale. The cheap alcohol tasted bad, but he couldn’t leave it undrunk. Not even a silver. It paid better than a regular job, but it wouldn’t earn him enough to pay his debt back for a long time. He would possibly have to do it over ten more times.

“Ale…” he said, holding his empty mug in front of him as he glared at the swaying lamp that hung from the ceiling.

Borris couldn’t even imagine how much the contents of the metal case he’d had were worth if it were sold on a large scale. However, if he went by the street price then it’d sell for no less than ten or twenty silvers.

Even so, he didn’t even get one silver.

“Shit!!”

He downed the rest of his ale, feeling sad and empty. He didn’t even know the man’s name that took the case. Today had gone well enough, but one wrong step and he could’ve been at the end of his rope, just like that woman. He was just the tip of the lizard’s tail. His worthlessness made him feel nauseas. While he lamented the unfairness of the world, some good times crossed his mind. Times of when he was still a successful craftsman.
“Those were the good days…” As he muttered to himself, Montand popped into his head. “Why is he like that, yet I’m—!” He gripped his mug vigorously. “You’ll see what it’s like…”

The taste of this cheap alcohol.

The rotten man’s venomous words died out in the faintly lit, small, and shabby pub on the outskirts of town.

 

 

Afterword

By the way, the currency system works as follows:

1 coin = 10 small coins

10 copper coins = 100 small copper coins = 1 silver coin

10 silver coins = 100 small silver coins = 1 gold coin

 




TRANSLATOR’S NOTES

[1] Green foxtail: This is an annual grass with decumbent or erect stems growing up to a meter long, and known to reach two meters or more at times. Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Setaria_viridis

[2] small coppers: 10 ‘small’ currency = 1 currency and 100 currency = 1 higher currency. ie: 10 small coppers = 1 copper and 100 silvers = 1 gold

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18 thoughts on “Chapter 18

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