Chapter 6: A Trip to the Market
“Look look! Big Brother, look at all the people! I’ve never seen so many people in one place before!”
I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face when I watched the excited reactions of the little girl pulling on my hands. This was her first time leaving the family estate, so it was a matter of course that Sarah would be astounded to see so many people in one place. The very first place that we decided to check out on my ‘day off’ as it were, was the marketplace. I had told my mother about this, so she had given me some pocket money to buy a present or two for my little sister here today. Unlike some of my father’s other wives, Mom didn’t seem to hold a grudge against the other children in the family. For that, I was grateful.
Regardless, the market was packed with people wandering through, all the while stopping sporadically at stalls to check their wares. In all honesty, I was just as astounded as my younger sister. It was amazing to see all the goods displayed. Food stalls with massive grills set up in the open, hoping to draw in consumers with the smell of freshly roasted meats. Stands selling jewelry of varying authenticities and levels of value. Clothing, weapons, armor, food, alcohol, furniture, services. Anything that you could imagine. I even saw a massive man with wolf ears and a tail flexing in front of a storefront to try and draw in customers. The collar around his neck made it clear that he was the goods. Hmm. Slavery.
Something that I would have immediately condemned in my past life, but was so very commonplace here. One could become a slave for various reasons. The most common reason was debt. One could willingly, or unwillingly sell themselves into slavery to pay off a debt for their families. After that was war slaves. When two nations do battle, it is a matter of course that when land in conquered, there would be refugees at some point, and this seemed to be the easiest way to manage the people of another nation. That said, slavery isn’t necessarily a lifetime imprisoned in this world. Slaves are not so uncommonly released by their masters in this world once they have fulfilled their duties for long enough. That, combined with laws in place to limit the unethical treatment of slaves has made it more akin to indentured servitude than being the property of another. . .
That said, they still owned you, and going against the orders of the master was grounds for harsh punishment. In some cases, even death was a warranted reaction.
Anyway, I moved past the stalls, my hand being pulled relentlessly by the tiny girl in front of me. It wasn’t long before we stopped however. In front of one of the plethora of food stands. This one was selling skewers of some sort. Grease was dripping off the meat almost as fast as saliva was dripping from Sarah’s lips. I let out a little chuckle and rose a hand up.
“Two skewers please.”
The shopkeeper eyed me up and down for but a brief moment before extending an outstretched hand.
“3 copper coins each.”
That was a fair price, so I handed over the coins without reluctance. 6 copper coins wasn’t much money, even for commoners in this world. Almost like the games that I had played in my past life, 100 copper coins were equivalent to 1 silver coin, 100 of which were the same as 1 gold coin. After paying, I handed one of the steaming skewers to my slobbering little sister and guided her to a place where we could sit and eat. Her eyes were glittering as she stared at the meat on a stick, and she let out a squeal of glee after taking her first bite.
“SO GOOD! YOU’RE THE BEST BIG BROTHER!”
I smiled. It was good though. Seasoned to perfection. While the tiny little girl beside me was wolfing down her food, I watched the people strolling by. The most common people to pass us by were of course the commoners that lived in this part of town. Without exception, they stared at us as they passed by. That was understandable I suppose. Two children dressed in expensive looking clothing. One an adorable little girl with long golden hair not commonly seen among the masses, and the other a little boy with a sword strapped to his waist. It would be strange if they didn’t spare a glance for us. I was grateful however, that they kept most of their whispering out of earshot from Sarah. I didn’t want her to feel like she was being isolated. A soft smile crossed my lips while I watched her, oblivious to the surrounding things around her, just enjoying the moment. That said, commoners weren’t the only people walking around. There were a good number of merchants, wealthy or otherwise, as well as nobility of varying levels.
There were a few tables around us where people were sitting to rest while they ate or drank. I leaned back in my seat with my eyes closed and listened to what some of the surrounding people were saying. Maybe it would be interesting.
“Did you hear? The Beastmen up north have been raiding our villages again!”
“What? There is no way the Duke will stand for that. Sigh. . . . Looks like there will be more skirmishes. . . .”
“I hear the Demon’s are starting to stir once again!”
“What? Don’t make things up. There is no way that would happen. They haven’t moved in hundreds of years.”
“No no no! I’m telling the truth! Didn’t you hear? The [Swordsman] has appeared once again! And what’s more, it’s the son of the king!”
“What? He’s only a child still isn’t he? How could anyone tell at that age?”
“Apparently on his tenth birthday, there was brilliant flash of light, and the [Sword] appeared on the back of his right hand! That’s the same place his ancestor had it. It’s said that he is a once in a lifetime genius with the sword too!”
“Wow. . . . If that’s true, then maybe the demons really are stirring again. I sure hope not. Hmm. Maybe the [Knight] will come from our territory! Wouldn’t that be amazing?”
“Probably. . . . But I haven’t told you the best piece of news yet.”
“Oh really? What could be better than the return of the Heroes?”
“The Flower Palace just got a new girl! Let’s go check it out after this!”
“. . . . Yeah, I suppose. . . “
I opened my eyes slowly. The [Swordsman]. I remembered the story that my father told me many years ago about the Heroes. If they really were coming back, then maybe my time was coming! I had long been wondering for what reason I had been brought into this world. If not to be one of the legendary Heroes, then what else? But which one? I was unlikely to be the [Elementalist], due to my rather. . . Poor form with magic. Maybe the [Knight]? After all, I was from the same bloodline as the original. My mind stopped its wandering for a moment when I remembered to glance over and see the tiny little girl staring up at me, befuddled. Her head was cocked to one side and her eyes were questioning.
“Big Brother, what are you thinking about?”
I could only laugh and rub the back of my head, playing it off.
“Nothing, nothing. Just trying to think of a gift to give you today.”
In an instant, her eyes were filled with stars once again and she pounced on me in an oh so familiar fashion. I smiled as I patted her head. There were many eyes on us, watching this strange scene of family bonding, but I paid them no mind. Obviously Sarah didn’t either. After a short while, we stood and departed once more.
We spent the better part of the afternoon wandering around the marketplace, stopping at every stall that caught my little sister’s eye. It was fun, and a welcome break from the relentless grind of training day in and day out. Frankly, I was grateful that I could do this. Spending a day relaxing with family wasn’t something that I had taken advantage of in my past life. I could still remember all the times that my parents had something fun for us planned, that I bailed on at the last minute, only to laze around and do nothing. It was something that I couldn’t make up to my family now, but I could ensure that I didn’t make the same mistake again.
While I was lost in my thoughts, I felt a thud as my body collided with a slightly smaller figure. I nearly tumbled back, but the other person was knocked clean off their feet.
“Watch where you’re going you moron! You’re lucky I don’t have your entire family wiped off the face of the map!”
My head was spinning from the statement passing through my ears. I looked down at the downed form, to see a beautiful girl. She was likely around my age, with long black hair that was complimented by a red and black headband. Her rage filled face contorted while she was scrambling to her feet. I quickly stopped Sarah from charging forward at her to defend my honor, and finally managed to take my eyes off her while she was patting the dust from her red and black dress. Behind her were. . . A crowd of children. They all seemed to be around the same age, give or take a few years, but there was definitely one outstanding feature of them. They were all boys.
When she finally cleaned off her dress, the young lady placed herself firmly in the center of the crowd of children with her hands on her hips. Her eyes were filled with disdain and scorn, as though she were looking at something beneath her.
“Now that I take a good look at you, you seem to be nobility as well. As such, I will let you off with a warning this time. Just know that if you dare so much as leave a speck of dirt on me again, I will have my father make your family wish you were never born.”
Her words were laden with pride and satisfaction. It seemed as though her father was rather high up among the ranks of the nobility. Not that it really mattered to me. Unless she was a visiting princess, there was no one in this entire territory that outranked my own father. Instead of correcting her however, I thought it would be more fun to play along a bit. I bowed my head, but could not keep a bit of a smirk from crossing my lips.
“I apologize. I will be careful in the future.”
“Big Brother! Why are you saying sorry!? It’s this mean lady’s fault!”
Before I could stop her, Sarah blurted out these words. It took all my willpower to keep myself from laughing in the faces of the mob of children, but with great effort, I managed to maintain my cool demeanor. That is not to say that no one reacted to it however. One of the boys in the mob stepped forward and shouted.
“Shut up you brat! Do you even know who you are insulting? This is Elise von Leyen, daughter of Marquis Leyen! You’ll watch where you tread if you want to live peacefully in the future!”
I almost laughed in his face. I was right, she was an upper ranked noble, but I did not expect her to be from the house of Leyen. They were one of the most trusted families in the territory, and served honorably for my father. It was no surprise that they didn’t recognize me, as I had not been officially announced as the heir to the dukedom in public yet. So instead of being angry, I merely found it amusing. I bowed once more.
“I apologize once again for my sister. She is young, so please forgive her.”
Instead of responding, the girl in black merely snorted and turned on her heel to walk away. The crowd of boys scrambled to follow after her, looking panicked that she hadn’t given them specific instruction. Just as she was about to leave earshot however, Elise called over her shoulder.
“See to it that it doesn’t happen again.”
I merely smiled and nodded back.
After they were gone, I exploded. Laughter poured uncontrollably from my lungs, and I just couldn’t stop. It really was hilarious to me. They were so much like the stereotypes that I had read about in my previous life that it was almost jarring. I was just grateful that I had managed to keep a straight face most of the time.
It took a little while, but eventually I managed to stifle my laughter. I glanced over to Sarah to find the little girl glaring at me with her cheeks puffed out. It took every ounce of willpower in me to not explode once more. Instead, I just patted her on the head.
“Big Brother, why did you let them talk to you like that? You’re so important!”
I chuckled to myself and continued patting her head until she finally stopped pouting.
“Because it’s more fun this way. Just imagine their faces when they find out who I really am.”
Sarah looked confused until she finally understood what I meant. At that moment, she started giggling without end. Letting myself loose a bit more, I laughed with her. It really would be funny to see after all. We couldn’t just stand in the streets and laugh to ourselves though, so I took Sarah’s hand again and pulled her along. It was starting to get late, so I decided that now was the time to buy a present for my little sister, and get going home.
It took a bit of searching, but eventually I found a small stall out of the way that was selling jewelry. It didn’t seem to be too expensive, but was very pretty looking at the same time. I spent a moment considering whether this was the right place, but those thoughts were blown away when I saw Sarah’s eyes glittering. Seeing her excitement, I knew that my choice was right. As such, I started coming through their wares, looking for something that would fit her.
“How much is this one?”
I held up a necklace with a single sapphire hanging from the chain. I thought that it would be a beautiful match with Sarah’s clear blue eyes. The merchant eyed me up and down before smirking.
“That one is eight gold coins. The finest gems this side of the continent, and a chain to match. I see that you are buying it for a pretty girl, so I’m giving you the best deal I can.”
My eyes turned cold. It was obvious that he was trying to scam me. I didn’t know the exact price, but it was obviously not that high. The fact that I was young, combined with my obvious nobility likely made him think that I was going to be an easy target.
“Tch. Eight coins just for this? Please don’t treat me like an idiot. Let’s see what that vendor over there has to say about a fair price.”
His eyebrows lifted in surprise. He clearly didn’t expect me to bargain. He didn’t panic however, and instead smiled, shaking his head and placing a hand firmly on his forehead.
“Ah, just my luck to get the one young lord that doesn’t throw money around. Alright lad, four gold coins is the lowest I will go. If you think you can get a better price elsewhere, just go do so.”
That sounded much more reasonable, so I handed over the coins and claimed the necklace. When I turned to hand the necklace to Sarah however, she was nowhere to be seen. Panic filled my heart. Where was she? After jerking my head to and fro to scan the area, I spotted her. The tiny form was entering an alleyway where there were very few people around.