A Dragon’s Curiosity

Chapter 78

 

“Sure, I’ll go and take a look. I haven’t heard of any festivities before, you said it’s about returning divers and fishers? Do they have a guild too?”

“Ah, it’s moments like these where you realize that you haven’t been in the city for long, miss. The seamen are all adventurers. They just happened to choose a different path instead of dungeon raiders or material hunters. Instead, they traverse the wide sea, in tune with the elements and are always at risk to end in a wet grave.

In turn, these brave men also know how to throw a party, so you really need to take part in the festival at least once to truly understand what I mean.”

Sounds interesting enough. I can always go to the dungeon on another day. This event seems to be quite rare.

“They are all adventurer’s then, I take it? Now you’ve got me hooked. I simply have to see it. Greet your wife for me Evan, I’ll be going ahead.”

As the gate had already been opened for the day, the dragon strode along with measured, yet certain steps. With her goal only slightly changed, she still headed for the harbour, only not entering the underground area for today.

Nodding towards a few more guards on the other side, Evan called out behind her, assuring the kind miss from the noble district that he’d pass on the message, a rare sight from the otherwise dedicated and stern guard captain.

The streets alone would have been enough to inform Nisha of an unusual occurrence around the docks. Before she even reached the streets close to the harbor, the density of passerbys increased to an unprecedented level - three cutpurses alone targeted the elven girl before she left the common district and truly entered the haven, making the three commoners exceedingly happy as their wallets containing measly coppers suddenly transformed into small treasure troves holding the combined effort of several robbed citizens, while the thieves unknowingly started to carry around pebbles in their pockets.

All in all, she couldn’t help but start whistling a melody that she had composed together with Henry, drawing some looks from nearby bystanders as she walked through the third gate. Her music penetrated through the hustle and bustle emitted by the crowd.

True to the head guards words, stalls seemingly sprung up out of nowhere, covering the entire district with a festive mood as battle hardened adventurers, radiating mighty amounts of aura and mana, walked amongst the common citizens. No one cared about the difference between their professions for the time being.

Impressive, usually everyone is rushing from place to place, not caring if someone is in the way. Yet, no one is pushing smaller people around right now.

Amazed by the joyous air, the astounded girl made her way to one of the newly spawned shops, flipping a ten copper coin at the peddler running it.

With a huge grin, the man tossed her a fish on a stick, which his stall was selling. Usually ten copper wouldn’t be enough to buy such a huge specimen that the merchant had handed her, however, currently no one thought about bartering or complaining. In fact, the vendor even tossed in a small extra stick upon getting a beaming elven smile in return.

“Say, if you can spare a moment, this is my first time around here. Can you tell me a bit about what this whole thing is about? Or is this not a good time?”

Flipping a new set of fish on the grill, the middle aged man laughed, expertly handling his merchandise.

“It’s fine. I’ve put up a new rack to grill anyway, they’ll take a while to get done.

And with you here, little miss, I’m sure to beat the sales of all the stands around us when we’re done talking anyway.”

Why’d he get customers from me standing around his shop? Well, better ask him the questions before the next batch is completed.

“Uhm, sure. Well, I heard a bit before, I mostly want to know a bit more about the reason why everyone is in such a good mood? I know that the divers and fishermen came back from their voyage, but why is that reason for such a huge celebration? I’m still pretty new to the city, so I don’t know yet.”

Flipping the merchandise again, the man waved one of his hands to appease her, showing his skill in handling the grill.

“It’s actually quite normal to not understand about the celebration when you attend it for the first time. You see, there are a few branches of adventurers, in which they pursue their careers and stick with it. Some roam the lands, others live in the dungeon pretty much and here, in Thurgau, we have a pretty unique branch established as well, unless you travel farther north. While normal adventurers dive for treasure in the dungeons, divers and fisher actually dive for treasures in the sea. Living on small wooden crafts for moons on ends, they always struggle against the elements, beasts, and monsters constantly. Others wouldn’t realize it, but they have their basis here in the capital, so everyone pretty much knows after witnessing the festival. In fact, a lot of the products sold here come from their last haul. If you get closer to the piers, you might even be able to win a few of the rarer treasures in one of the contests! Most of the rowdy folk get quite generous once they have steady land under their feet after such a long trip.

Summed up, the best thing to do is to just enjoy yourself and explore the festival while it lasts, then you’ll be prepared for the next one. Sorry, I’ve got to get back to selling now.”

Giving the friendly peddler a spirited wave, Nisha happily chomped on the fish snacks, settling her need for breakfast. With an increased density of people flooding the street, inevitably the number of wicked hands aiming for her pockets - hoping for some spare change or a small coin pouch - increased many more times than just the three times it happened in the common district. However, the good mood was contagious and she let the various wandering hands off with a simple slap on their back or simply snatching her purse back without retaliating. With the sun rising to shine on the busy scene, no one, not even a thief, should suffer grievances.

As the elven girl advanced further towards the salty smelling water of the sea, the stall’s natures started to change. Instead of selling possessions or food, many of the owners displayed prizes, advertising their rarity and how the challengers just had to throw a set of rings onto stands, or hit an enchanted platform to send a small weight flying towards the bell on top of a pole.

Seeing as children and adults alike were baited into playing at the booths, soon Nisha’s bell like laughter freely mixed into the merry atmosphere. The scenes of people trying, failing, and winning were simply too humorous for her. Despite that, no one minded losing and the stall owners often gave out free tries as well.

“Little Miss, how about you? Would you like to give it a try?”

A call from a particular game caught her attention. The exclamation was obviously meant for her as he even waved at her.

“Me?”

Assuring that he really meant the dragon, Nisha curiously came closer, taking a closer look at the stand.

“Certainly! You’re dressed like an adventurer, so surely you can prove your mettle here with a small game! And lo and behold, not only can you awe us with your abilities, at the same time there’s also prizes at stake! During our long journey, I found quite a few of these beauties, now I’m looking for worthy owners, befitting these beauties. How about it? Three throws, I’ll give them to you for free since you match my treasures!”

With his rough speech, long hair, a stubbly beard, and worn out clothing, the large and bulky man embodied the rough spirit of the sea. There was even a slight aroma of adventure and sea salt hanging in the air around him.

His booth sported several sized targets hung at the back, rings drawn on them from the center. On a shelf to the side walls, pearls of various sizes glimmered, the smallest as big as her eyes and the biggest slightly smaller than her fists. A total of a dozen were scattered around.

Why’s everyone talking to me? Is it because it’s a festival? Normally I don’t get bothered that much in the city, even if someone is looking. Well, I can give it a try at least.

Albeit Nisha was slightly freaked out at the sudden amount of attention she received, she had still been schooled in the arts of etiquette and rhetoric.

“Oh, thank you very much. How could I decline such a generous offer? I will try my best then.”

“Ahahaha, that’s the spirit. Come, I’ll explain the rules to you. The game is called darts. You’ll get three of these little arrows, then you have to throw them at the targets. If you manage to hit bull’s eye - that’s the black point in the middle - I will gift you one of my finest pearls, a treasure to match a treasure!”

The last sentence caused an uproar amongst the spectators, while the dragon frowned. Her leather gear simply wasn’t valuable enough or well crafted enough to be called a treasure, nonetheless, she picked up the three darts the sailor offered her.

Noticing her actions, the gruff man did his best to mimic a bow used in higher society, grinning broadly.

“Lad got spirit, gather around people! Let’s see if the lass can seize one of the treasures from me!”

Advertising the booth and drawing the audience in at the same time, the ship mate laughed, already counting the jingling coins the fellows from the audience would pay to try to obtain the  pearls, lured by the display of a young elven maid competing for them.

Sadly, he had miscalculated slightly. As a person of noble personage, the tutelage of Eldrin, the head butler at the Dharnas’ estate and her sessions at court already taught her many lessons about intrigues. The small plot of the merchant was quickly seen through, therefore she certainly needed to make a big show out of it! Her pride wouldn’t allow any less.

Without taking much aim, she raised one of the darts with her left hand, sharply throwing it at the target. The whole motion was fluid like a whip, astounding many spectators. The booth owner, on the other hand, grinned, seeing as the dart barely hit one of the outer rings.

Frowning slightly, Nisha raised the second dart, this time with her right hand. Groans could be heard from the spectators as the projectile missed all of the targets, embedding itself in the wall.

“Don’t be too discouraged, missy. Many tried earlier, most of them failed. Already hitting one of the outer circles can already be considered good skill with the darts. Everyone, please feel free to purchase some tries as well. 5 darts only cost a single silver, so don’t miss out on your chances to win a [Deep Sea Golden Pearl], a rare third grade cultivation resource. Growing at the bottom of the ocean, the guild absolutely guarantees the authenticity. I had all of them checked earlier. Come, come, when will you ever be able to win a third ranked aura cultivation resource again, for the low price of only one silver only?”

The merchant started his sales pitch. It was true that each and every one of the pearls were cultivation resources that he was given to him by the collected amount of the divers. With a high class item as bait, they expected high returns, easily amassing a few gold for each pearl. Resources of the third rank were certainly not bad, although the true treasures never even appeared on the market. Simply speaking, almost no one on a ship capable of truly sailing the seas had anyone below the fourth level on board. These pearls were rather useless to them, so they wouldn’t be able to extract enough aura to cultivate with compared to the gold they would make by putting them up as a prize.

Nonetheless, there were always certain variables that influenced the outcome.

“Mister Trader, I still have a dart left. Please watch closely to see if I hit something.”

Nisha sweetly called out, instantly capturing the attention of the audience and the seller again. He didn’t know why exactly she caught his eye in the first place to put out the pearls after gambling a few even lower ranked materials, but his instinct warned him to watch closely.

Then here I go!

Closing her eyes, the onlookers gasped. Surely she wouldn’t attempt to throw with her eyes closed and her vision blinded?

Truthfully speaking, there was a certain reason for the dragon’s confidence. The first dart she threw was the true challenge. Unfamiliar with the weight, design, and purpose of a dart, the elven girl tried to get as close as possible to the middle of the target.

Throwing once, she could gain the necessary experience to attempt an accurate throw.

Throwing twice, the second time around was already useless. Feeling the dart dance in her hand, cutting through air and then the board, it was enough for her to adjust.

Throwing thrice, this was the true climax of her little show. Then again, closed eyes weren’t enough. Twisting to the side and bending her knees at the same time, the dragon pushed off of the ground, sailing into the air for a moment while spinning around her own axis. In the same motion, the projectile flew from her left hand again. For the audience, it was impossible to say when exactly the dart had left her hand.

Completing a full turn, Nisha softly landed on her feet, barely bending her knees to absorb the remaining momentum, her smile turning so wide as to let her eyes appear as thin lines, who knew if she still had them closed or not.

“Did I win anything, Mister Merchant?”

Her words fell on a small area of silence, the passer bys were  too astounded to formulate any sort of response while the sailor suddenly squinted at her sharply from the display of ability and how she had changed his title from peddler to merchant, she apparently saw through their ruse to collect money by gambling.

Confirming the last dart had struck dead center of the centermost target plastered on the wall, the tall trader hastily approached one of the shelves on the side of the booth. He himself had entered the fifth aura rank not too long ago and therefore knew what concise control and precision such a throw required. Sadly, he had no idea that the dragon’s [Spirit Sight] supplemented her trained aim from firing countless arrows in the forest.

“As promised, for winning the game, I present you with the prize, and for showing me a feat I didn’t think possible, I will give you the largest one I have. Certainly there won’t be any more shocking performances on this day anymore. Take this [Deep Sea Golden Pearl], esteemed miss. If you ever consider the path of becoming a diver or fisherman, I will personally extend an invitation to have you join our fleet.

Now, if you excuse my rude request, would you consider letting me know your exact aura rank? After this stunning display, I simply can’t suppress my curiosity.”

Extending her hands to receive the large white mass, Nisha truly felt a surge of aura dwelling inside, enhancing its golden luster and occasionally leaking out the tiniest tendrel of rank three aura. Pretending to place it in her backpack, the elven girl actually stored the pearl in her [Soul Space].

“Hmm, there should be no problem after you gave me such a large gift. Then, to satiate your curiosity, my aura should be around the middle of the second rank. Does this satisfy you?”

Although his eyes widened for a moment, Nisha mused that he had considerable self control, not showing his true feelings when he responded.

“Of course! It is a great honor to consider you will use the pearl to advance yourself.

To show my goodwill, I’ll even give you a hint, even though it depends largely on your luck. Head towards the stalls closest to the water and look for the lottery, I think some of the things might interest you there.

Enjoy the festival and feel free to come and find me as long as we are in the city. You’ll be able to find me in the harbor most of the time.”

“I have to thank you again then …”

“Say no more. It was my honor.”

Towards the end of their conversation, the onlooking people naturally started chattering among them, rendering them unable to hear what exactly what was said.

Contrary to that, the acrobatic display fit right in with the lively festival, soliciting cheers for Nisha and requests for a repeat.

In the growing mass of people, an elven girl quickly slipped through, occasionally flickering as the crowd lost sight of their target.

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