The passers-by turn head to look at me as I cross the street. My ears and my tail are safely hidden beneath my cloak, but my horn is too long for the hood to cover completely. I suppose that’s what earns me so much attention.
There are indeed majin, walking about here and there in the city, but compared to humans, they are few and far between. There is no doubt that the inhabitants here aren’t all that used to seeing non-humans – and when they do see one, they don’t seem particularly pleased about it.
When I approach the doors, the guard on the right raises his arm to stop me. “Girl, this is the High-Sea Verse mercenary group. It’s not a place for children. You should leave now.”
[…I’m not a child.]
The guard flinches heavily when my voice appears in his mind, and he stumbles back a step, almost knocking his head against the wall behind him. His comrade on the other side of the door looks dumbfounded at his strange reaction – I didn’t include him in my answer.
Raising a head to rub his temple, the guard stares at me. There is a wary look in his eyes, now, and I can feel the power gathering in his dantian. His muscles slowly tense, readying for action.
I just look at him blandly.
Does he seriously want to attack me?
Just because I contradicted him?
But I’m really not a child. What else was I supposed to say?
And the people of this world continue to amaze me with the sheer depth of their recklessness. They completely disregard the enormous difference in power and wantonly try to use violence against me. I don’t know what to call this except madness. I suppose I shouldn’t blame people for picking fights with enemies stronger than themselves – that’s what I did for most of my life – but I never had a choice in the matter. They very much do. Yet, they keep behaving this way again and again.
“And what would be your business here, then?” the guard asks finally, his hand tightening around the pole of his spear. I don’t turn my head to look at him, but I know the other soldier’s hand also arrived on the hilt of the short sword hung at his belt.
[…I want to speak to someone named Jasper.]
The guard blinks. Much of his hostility dissipates, replaced by surprise. “Jasper? Why are you looking for him?”
[…I want an identification card.]
The guard’s surprise heightens with my response. “An identification card?! You… You want to join the High-Sea verse? Aren’t you a bit too young to enlist?”
I never said I wanted to do any of that.
What on earth is going on, now?
What does getting an identification card have to do with joining a mercenary group?
Sif didn’t say anything about that.
Well, no matter. Let’s not get sidetracked, here.
[…Are you Jasper?]
“No, no. I’m not. Of course not.” The guard hesitates for a moment, before nodding toward the door. “Jasper’s inside. Ask at the reception.”
[…What’s the ‘reception’?]
The guard looks at me blankly for a few seconds before answering. He points at one of the counters where people are lining up. “This is the reception. Just ask the woman there to call Jasper for you. I’m not sure if he’ll actually come down and meet you, though. He’s a busy man. And don’t cause trouble inside, you hear?”
‘Come down’, is it?
So he’s on the second floor, then?
In that case, he doesn’t really need to come down, if he doesn’t want to. I can just go up to find him.
Without another word, I turn away from the guard and head for the door. The soldier on the other side of it looks utterly confused by the only side of the conversation he heard, but he defers to his comrade’s decision and doesn’t stop me from entering the building.
The smell of humans is thick, in there. And it’s quite noisy, too.
I don’t want to stay here for too long, so I head for the counters in the back without delay.
But there are quite a few people standing in the way, preventing me from reaching the woman the guard directed me to. They’re all just standing there, one behind the other in a neat line, seemingly waiting for something.
I stop behind the last person to wait and see for a minute, but eventually, since nothing at all seems to happen, I simply leave the line and walk alongside it directly to the counter. A few people waiting in the line look at me strangely. I ignore them. When I arrive before the counter, the woman there is already talking to a tall, fat man in front of her. I glance around. There is another person standing behind the counter, too, another line of people waiting in front of him, but it’s a man, rather than a woman – I think.
The guard told me that the woman would call Jasper for me…
“For this task, your handler will be Yyrhin,” she’s saying to the fat man. “Please go see him afterward. He’ll give you the material we have on the target. Remember that the contract is only valid if the target is brought back alive. Additionally, you should… prepare… a few…”
When she notices me staring at her, the woman’s voice slowly peters out. The fat man also follows her gaze and turns to look at me – his whole body turns; his neck seems to be too thick to allow for only his head to move.
“Yes, little girl? Is there something I can do for you?” the woman asks in a gentle voice.
[…I want to speak to someone named Jasper.]
For once, my conversation partner doesn’t seem all that startled to suddenly hear a voice resound inside of her mind. The only sign of surprise on her face is a vague twitch of her eyebrows. “Jasper?”
“I see…” She takes a glance at the fat man, and hesitates for a moment before continuing. “May I inquire as to who’s asking?”
I tilt my head at her absurd question. […I am.]
“Ah, yes. But…”
“Hey, hey, hey!” the fat man suddenly interrupts. His voice is very loud. He glares at me. “My business here isn’t finished. If you want to see Jasper, go stand in line like everyone else.”
I glance at the line. There are six people waiting there, right now. All of them are looking at me. Some are frowning, some look puzzled, some look curious, some aren’t making any kind of expression I can easily decipher.
…So everyone here wants to see this Jasper person?
He’s quite popular, isn’t he?
But how would standing in a line help me see him?
That doesn’t make any sense. Jasper’s not even here. He’s on the second floor. The guard outside said so. So he couldn’t see the line. Unless his magic allows his sight to pass through walls unimpeded? That sounds needlessly complicated, though.
I ignore the fat man’s insane ramblings and look back to the woman.
[…The guard outside said you would call Jasper.]
“Yes, I will. But this is…”
[…Someone called Milenna told me to come here.]
That was the name Sif told me she was called, here. And it indeed seems to have some effect. The woman’s eyes widen, and her gaze flicks up and down over me.
“I see. I’ll call him down now. Please wait a moment.”
“You’ll go nowhere until my business is concluded! This is unbelievable! I already waited in line for nearly an hour, and now I have to wait some more? In favor of a majin, at that? This is still a human country, isn’t it?” The fat man leans on the counter, howling his nonsensical complaints, his heavy jowls jiggling with each word. The woman behind the counter takes a step back just in time to dodge the spittle flying from his mouth. “These creatures are already allowed to walk among us righteous folk, but now they even try to rise above their station.” He turns back to me, looking quite angry, for some reason. “And we get it, you have telepathy magic. Ooooh, big deal! Now, how about you stop showing off and start speaking like normal people, freak?” He takes a step toward me, his hand reaching for the hood of my cloak. “And take that off when you’re talking to your betters. Didn’t your mother teach you to –”
Before his fingers can touch me, my own clamp around his wrist.
In the instant before I stamp down the spark of anger that flashes through my mind, the bones of the fat man’s wrist have shattered, and my foot has lashed out. Before he can even scream, the fat man is blown across the room, into a space where tables are scattered seemingly randomly, a few people sitting in chairs around them and speaking to each other. The fat man crashes into an unoccupied table, upturning it and falling to the floor amidst the clatter of wood.
He doesn’t get back up.
All of a sudden, the babble of voices in the entire building is cut short, and silence falls.
Ah, this is much better, already…
I turn back to the woman, lowering my hood again after it was disturbed by my movements.
The woman doesn’t look flurried in the slightest. She shakes her head toward a few guards who were trying to approach me, their hands on the hilts of their weapons, and says, “Please wait a moment.”
Then, she heads up a flight of stairs set against the wall behind her and disappears into the second floor.