A Dragon’s Curiosity

Chapter 79

 

Basking in the sun, it's warm touch heating her skin akin to the days she lazed around on top of her small hill, her scales turning soft under the gentle rays, Nisha elected to heed the stall owner’s advice. His aura blazed in her secret sight, his power was a decent cut above the general level of those around them.

Fighting him might prove to be worthwhile … I likely won’t win, but the battle itself could be a reward in itself.

He had given her the [Deep Sea Gold Pearl], which she had already stashed away in her [Soul Space]. While walking, the white luster of the pearl drew gazes from reality towards the small pond where she placed the cultivation resource in. Keeping it above water just hadn’t appealed to the dragon, it’s radiance much more apparent once the item had been submerged. Calling it an instinct of sorts wouldn’t be wrong. The pearl itself glowed practically to approve her decision.

Of course, the elven girl couldn’t just stare at her new treasure all day long, since she had a goal in mind. The last line of stalls stretched in front of the water line. Somewhere in this place, according to the sailor’s recommendation, another treasure might be waiting for her. Or maybe not, since it also depended on her luck. Deciding to mind the chances at all, she just decided to go with it. Amidst such fine weather, what could go wrong?

Sashaying among the masses, the attraction from the various spectacles drew in many times more onlookers than the first rows of stalls, Nisha kept an eye out for the so called lottery that was recommended to her. It wasn’t easy to stay focused as well, as the prizes offered in hard games all around her almost always either shined with mana or aura, be it a weapon, relic, or treasure found buried deep inside the sea. Some of them called out to her weakly, at least it appeared so to the perceptive girl. However, that was the full extent of it all. She felt neither desire nor excitement for any of the displayed goods. The pearl excluded itself from that, won in a challenge direct from a powerful warrior. Comparably, these kinds of trinkets … she’d rather spend her time trying her hand at the lottery.

And her patience was rewarded, as a decrepit stall soon entered her view. While other booths had been crowded to the point where the wood they were made with already creaked from the onrush, the orange stall with the sign board ‘Lucky Lottery’ held no popularity at all.

Rather than that, it appeared possessed instead. While going from one attraction to another, the eyes of passerbys openly gazed at it - and then swept right past it, not even pausing for a second, aside from a single exception.

Staring for a while to figure out why only a select few were deemed worthy to approach, the elven girl soon found no excuse to keep standing around in the middle of the street.

Radiating neither a baleful aura, nor making the hair on her neck stand on edge, her instinct didn’t react to a single thing about this stall, despite the obvious oddness it innately possessed.

It’s odd. The only thing that’s screaming ‘danger’ louder than anything else about this little stall, is that there’s not a single dubious thing about it at all. This …

In the end, her curiosity won out. Approaching the vendor, a sailor, akin to the stall owner she had met earlier, she lightly called out.

“Hello. May I ask what you’re selling?”

With her light hearted tone, the man glanced up, running his eyes up and down her figure for a second, a dangerous twinkle in his eyes.

“Ah, o’ course, young lass. Ask away, ‘n this old man will try’n ‘nswer to the best of ‘is ability.”

Lifting his bottle to toast her, the question why he slurred his speech immediately answered itself.

Leering over the appearance of his newest visitor, the drunk man downed another big gulp of whatever alcoholic concoction that was hidden inside the tinted green glass.

With Nisha’s keen sense of smell, she soon discovered this fact, wrinkling her nose slightly. She had been allowed to take a small sip of a similar smelling drink back at a camp fire with her sisters and her grandfather, back at the cottage inside the hunting grounds.

Annabelle and Lydia were terrified because of the events that happened after that, yet they refused to tell me what exactly took place. Eldrin and other adults sometimes drink something that smells faintly similar, but none of them had quite the same intensity as this scent.

This man should be fairly dangerous if he can drink such scary stuff.

Wariness dancing over her expression, the dragon approached the counter, peering inside the shabby stall. What exactly was special about this lottery, to warrant the advice of such an upright sailor as the one that gifted her the large pearl?

“Mhm, dun’ be like tha’. Come closer, closer, take a look at ma’ treasure. It be the finest of fine stuff. Ah’ve hadden had many buyers, n’ will give ya special service. Come, come.”

Licking his lips, the man stood up surprisingly fast, moving towards the wooden counter where Nisha rested her hands. Just based on this action, one wouldn’t think that he was drunk.

Withdrawing them before he had a chance to grab them, Nisha recoiled slightly. It just felt wrong, letting her touch him, even when she didn’t know why he wanted to do that.

“So, uhm, what exactly do you sell here? It’s called a lottery, but what does it do?”

Apart from a large jar and several boxes and crates littering the interior, there was nothing remarkable about it. No game, no challenge, no interest.

“Ah’m glad ya asked! ‘s called a lottery because ya can buy sum tickets ‘ere, for tha low price of one gold per try. Of course, there ‘s hits ‘n misses, if ya pull a number, you get what’s ‘n tha box with the number ya pull. About six times ‘s many misses than ‘its, though.”

Tossing his bottle onto a heap of shattered glass, proved how he passed his time before the dragon’s arrival. The shop owner picked up the jar, holding the opening in her direction, showing many little scraps of paper.

“Since ya’re here for tha first time, ah’ll give ya one free try, but ev’ry pick after that, yah’ve gotta pay like everyone else.”

Nisha hesitated to get closer, now that he had discarded the glass, she noticed that it wasn’t just the liquid inside that reeked of the dangerous substance. His breath was quite bad as well, laced with that same thick stench. Resolving herself to just get it over with, the elven girl snatched one of the scraps out of the jar, unfolding it while doing her best to ignore the leering eyes wandering over her frame.

When I get back home, I really need to ask the others what kind of poison is inside those bottles. Luthais and Grandpa Galan also drink from them from time to time, but never in this quantity or concentration. Maybe they also know of a antidote.

“I’ve drawn the number 17. Does that mean I’ve won something?”

Obtaining a prize ought to make her happy, but instead Nisha’s brows scrunched together. Dealing with this shop owner made her feel queasy and hesitant instead of joking around like she did with the other sailor earlier. While both of them had run their eyes over her body, a thing she already learned to observe from repeatedly being subject to it, their intents had inherently different qualities.

As if sensing her thoughts, the drunken sailor rushed in closer, trying again to take advantage of the situation to hold her hands and take a look at the paper she held.

“Ain’t ya pretty lucky, lass? Jus’ one try an’ ya already won somethin’. Alright, box sev’nteen it is. Here ya go.”

Rubbing her hands a last time - which made Nisha shiver inside - he moved around for a bit, tossing boxes around without a care until he found a case with the large number seventeen on its surface.

Carelessly throwing it towards the elven girl, he motioned for her to take off the cover.

Inside, a shiny piece of metal rested on red velvet.

“Thank you, I guess? What is this and what do you use it for?”

The silvery ore shimmered similarly to the [Deep Sea Golden Pearl] in her [Spirit Sight], the only difference was that it glowed stronger and seemed to hold mana instead of aura.

“‘S a good question. Tell ya what, you give me a small peck on mah cheek, and ah’ll tell you what it’s good for. How’s that sound?”

Beaming as if he had heard the voice of a god himself to help him with this stroke of geníus, a bearded cheek was presented to the elf, the booth owner waiting for his target to comply.

Akin to a cold breath of air running down her spine, goosebumps ran along Nisha’s arm and neck The current situation caused all of her alarm bells to go off.

Anna warned me about this. How did she even know a situation like this would happen? At least she told me what I need to do now!

Depositing the box in her [Soul Space] without caring who might be around to see it, the elven girl bolted away, fleeing from the scene according to the instructions of her older sister, leaving the booth behind in large strides.

The drunken sailor could only stare as his target got away, his plan failing even when he thought the demand had been innocent enough.

As soon as he realized what had just happened, he had a different reaction though.

“Hey ya witch! Git back here! Dun’ just run off with yer gold as soon as ya get it!”

Shouting similar expletives, which were far less favorable after her disappearing back, the man finally settled back into the darkness of his stall, pulling out another bottle as he grumbled to himself, cursing his luck to have let such a chance slip by.

After the elven girl fled from the shady stall, the remaining attractions scattered throughout the festival fell somewhat flat for her. Every time she approached a booth, the putrid stench of the poison in the green glass flared up in her memory, dampening her desire to search for more prizes among the games and traders. Wandering aimlessly, she only bought a few more food items, sampling some delicacies only found in the harbors and fishing villages.

Enjoying the sun shining on her bare skin nonetheless, the sun had risen well above the horizon and warmed her entire body. With nothing left to do in the harbor, Nisha followed a whim and changed her plans. Originally, she aimed to test her new skill in the dungeon, looking for some easy targets and maybe stock up on some provisions in her space, then the festival interrupted instead. Now, she wasn’t in the mood to hunt either, it was one of the few activities she usually enjoyed with an almost childlike intensity, reminding her of the time she lived in the forest with her siblings and with Eldrin. Tainting these memories with a bad taste like the one that was left in her mouth simply wasn’t worth it.

Guess I’ll just head over to the [Eel’s Park] to play some chess. Though there aren’t many people left that want to play against me. I wonder why? I even tell them where they went wrong … but they aren’t learning anything from me, but it should be a nice distraction.

Speaking truthfully, it wasn’t just her strong game play which scared the other players away. The elven girl had built somewhat of a reputation in the park among the players. In the beginning, only a few others had noticed the appearance of a new player among them. They humored her and had offered her a match with the intent of holding back - her young appearance coupled with her natural charisma evoked well intentions especially among the older players.

Very quickly, however, a sensation had appeared. A young elven girl had beaten young and old, seemingly effortlessly. Only when the major contenders stepped in to preserve the honor of their little community did the winning spree end. And even then, they had only managed to block her path for a while, every time the mysterious girl visited the park, her skills apparently grew and opponents that had troubled her the last time she came now struggled or outright lost.

Thankfully, no one minded losing to Nisha too much, especially after they saw her beating even the elite players among their little group. She had also always acted courteously and talked amicably with every opponent she had faced, giving them respect and asking about their playstyles. Of course, the way she took apart their playstyle bothered them slightly. However, young children often couldn’t quite express themselves in a way that did not offend others, and since she was pleasant enough otherwise, no one held it against her. Still, her quiet nature coupled with her prickly comments caused some distance, otherwise she’d likely have made quite a lot of friends already.

Unfortunately, the time Nisha spent recalling the place she was walking towards, she was somewhat neglectful of her surroundings. When she focused back on the street she was walking on, several figures stood out. Certainly not figuratively, as they were blending into the masses, nothing about them out of place.

Naturally this was part of their profession, as they had had their purses exchanged by Nisha before. All of them were pickpockets she stole from, they worked together with several burly figures nearby, more or less discreetly observing and following her.

What’s their problem? Why are they following me?

If the dragon hadn’t been distracted, she’d have sensed them gathering long before they surrounded her in sufficient numbers and could have easily slipped into the crowd as well to make her escape.

Currently, she still might be able to pull it off and vanish from their sight.

However, she was also interested now, to find out the reasons for them seeking her out.

Let’s see what you want then. I’ll play with you.

Neither of the glows in her [Spirit Sight] exceeded her own, even when they worked all together, they would be hard pressed to defeat her. After all, this was not any different from fights she had fought in the Wilderness.

With a feral grin forming on her face, Nisha led them towards a dead end nearby.

It was time to play!

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