How about some Soluna Oranges?
“Alright, next carriage…”
The soldier said unenthusiastically. And the carriage started to move again. It was quite late in the afternoon now, and the entrance was busy with people either preparing to leave the town or enter.
The clothes here were similar to what they had seen Chouze wearing. Inlanders had not been influenced by the saintesses much in terms of fashion, and the clothing was quite western. The men tended to wear dark pants and plain, undyed shirts and vests. As for the women, they generally preferred one-piece dresses with fluffy skirts. Maki and Chiharu watched a man, who had rolled up his sleeves since it was summer, talk to the soldier.
“How long is this going to continue?”
“At least until Princess Chouze arrives.”
“But it wasn’t like this last year. And there were many more members of the royal family last time.”
“We lowly guards don’t know anything about that. Anyway, are you carrying anything suspicious?”
“Of course, not. What are you trying to say? Even dwarves wander around in this town. The only people you should be suspicious of are elves and beastkin.”
The soldier and the man started laughing. Apparently, they knew each other quite well. It seemed like they felt this couldn’t be helped if it was for Princess Chouze. It reminded Chiharu and Maki of how Edwy and Arthur were adored in the town of Tram. However, that didn’t match with their impression of the proud royal family. And Chiharu tilted her head with a puzzled expression.
However, they were also curious about this talk of dwarves. And it sounded like it was not unusual for them to be around here.
“Alright, next. Hmm, now here’s an unfamiliar face.”
“Yes. We’re merchants from Lowland.”
“Ah. You’re the most suspicious person of the day.”
The soldier said happily. The townspeople that were nearby started to laugh.
“Now that I think about it, your hair and eyes do seem like they are from Lowland.”
“Yes, that’s where I was born.”
The soldier must have been incredibly bored, because he now looked at Aaron with interest. Then he looked at Edwy and whistled.
“Well, I’ll be. Your brother is quite handsome. You better keep him away and hope that Princess Chouze doesn’t see him. She’ll force him to talk with her, and he won’t have any time to conduct your business.”
“You make it sound he’s the only one of us who is handsome.”
Aaron said with annoyance. Everyone laughed.
“Yes, of course. So, what will you be selling or buying? I must warn you, we have no fish to sell now.”
“No, we’ll just be selling. We have lots of rare Soluna oranges. Also, I want to show my younger siblings Highland while we’re here.”
Aaron gestured toward the carriage. Maki and Chiharu poked their heads out from under the tarp and bowed. The soldier saw them and nodded. Then he took a look at the cargo and put a hand on his chin.
“I see. Soluna oranges, huh? That’s mighty thoughtful of you. Are you going to sell them at a specific store?”
“No, we have no connections. I was thinking about selling them at the market, if there is one.”
“Ah, then you should go to the merchant guild.”
“I see. Thank you. And by the way…”
Aaron suddenly thought of something.
“Why are you doing this? Is there a criminal lurking about?”
“Oh, not at all. Though, there have recently been some odd stories. Something about the merfolk and other things like that. We’re just being extra cautious for Princess Chouze’s sake.”
“Merfolk? So deep in the mountains?”
“That’s what they say. Oh, also, some Midland folk came a few days ago to sell merfolk scales.”
Should he really be saying all of this? Chiharu wondered. Weren’t soldiers supposed to be a little more tight-lipped?
“Huh, merfolk scales? You almost never see them in Lowland.”
“In Highland as well. And the person who was selling them had hair that was a rare ash-color.”
“That is unusual.”
“Well, don’t cause too much of a commotion while you’re here.”
The soldier said as if a final warning, but he then let them go right through and even gave directions to the merchant guild. Chiharu waved at the soldier as he saw them off, and he smiled and waved back. Then Maki stretched her hand out to the cargo and called out.
And then she threw two of the oranges at him. The soldier caught them.
“Consider it a bribe!”
Maki shouted, and everyone laughed. The soldier smiled and waved the oranges in the air. Maki waved back and then muttered,
“This sure is a nice place.”
Yes. It’s no different from Midland.”
While the people who walked around the town looked busy, they also looked calm and friendly.
“But the miasma is still thick.”
“And there are apparently merfolk.”
Maki and Chiharu looked at each other and nodded.