Chapter 528 Existing Disparity, First Contact?
Izroth inwardly shook his head. He held no ill sentiments towards the man, regardless of his less than friendly words. Being dealt a hand that never stood a chance of winning seemed to be a harsh yet absolute reality of this dreamworld. Still, Izroth never expected the elements of despair to be so apparent and authentic here.
'An orphan, huh..?'
Izroth was aware that this young girl was just one of the many manifestations of the dreamworld. If he knocked her hand away and continued onward, it would likely change nothing in the story. Nevertheless, a part of Izroth found it troubling to walk away.
"Well, for now, let's see if we can find you something to stave off your hunger," Izroth sighed helplessly.
The young girl lowered her hand and released her grip on Izroth's clothes as if understanding his intent.
Around ten minutes later...
Izroth proceeded deeper into the heart of the town. At the moment, he was searching for a local inn to see if he could gather some additional information, among other things.
But, he had company. Trailing behind him was the same young girl; however, there was a look of fatigue on her face as her pace slowed considerably. They had only been walking for roughly ten minutes, and yet she was already out of stamina.
Without warning, the young girl's feet left the ground as she was swept up by Izroth and perched onto his right shoulder. She was light—ridiculous light! Even if she was underfed, this should not have been possible. She was quite literally, lighter than a feather. Unless Izroth's dreamworld body was just unnaturally strong, this young girl was virtually weightless!
The child appeared somewhat startled at first, but she quickly returned to her previous state.
"My name is Viselo. Do you have a name?" Izroth questioned.
'Is she really incapable of speech?'
Izroth assumed that she understood him earlier, but perhaps she was merely following her instincts.
"It's a bit inconvenient to lack a name. Let's see... Until you can tell me if you have a name or not, I'll call you Selene. How's that?"
Izroth did not have the best naming sense; however, he tried to ensure that the name, at the very least, resembled those of this dreamworld; otherwise, they would stick out like a sore thumb.
'Though I suppose it's a bit too late to worry about standing out.'
Everywhere Izroth walked by with the young girl on his shoulders, he garnered the townsfolk's stares. If they held thoughts similar to the man who perished a while back, Izroth could only imagine what was going through their minds. A noble carrying a commoner on his shoulders and parading around the streets? A sight like that was presumably unthinkable to the townsfolk!
As Izroth explored the town, he realized that it had no actual marketplace. There were two or three tattered stalls along the roadside with scanty scraps of stale bread and spoiled vegetables. The people at these stalls appeared slightly more fed than those littered throughout the town; however, it was not by much.
'A kingdom on the brink of demise—it's nothing like the magnificent scenery painted of it in the tale.'
The story that Izroth read using Dreamer's Knowledge described the palace as a beautiful paradise with brilliant displays of wealth and prosperity. Excluding some of its inhabitants' actions, it came off as a utopia with an ideal society.
'Now that I think about it, there was no mention of anything that existed outside the palace walls. Besides the brief note of the king paying a visit to the small kingdom and Venare's return from the weekly hunt, the entire story takes place solely on the other side of those towering walls. Then, does this mean that everything out here does not influence the overall tale? Or, can this starting point be key to changing its outcome?'
Izroth had numerous questions but little to no answers. However, he had a gut feeling that the solution to altering the tale's gruesome ending lay not on the inside of the palace walls—but out here!
A few moments later, Izroth and Selene stopped in front of one of the few wooden buildings still in decent condition. There were parts of it that were worn or damaged, but compared to the other buildings in town, it might as well be a luxurious mansion.
A sign hung on the building's wall that had a mug symbol with a dagger stabbed through it, and three blue hearts curved around the handle. This place was one of the last persisting establishments in the outer palace town, the Blue Heart Inn.
Izroth walked through the door of the inn and was welcomed by a strong odor of booze. The interior was not the cleanest, but it was surprisingly well put together.
The first thing to enter Izroth's view was the bar less than ten steps away from the entrance. There were precisely eight tables in the room, and each had patrons that occupied them. These people were different from the average townsfolk as they were all well built and had a battle-hardened exterior.
Suddenly, the inn went quiet as everyone's eyes fell on Izroth and Selene. Some were giving him death glares, while others silently observed the newcomers.
Izroth approached the bar and placed Selene down onto one of the barstools as her legs dangled in the air. The bottom of her feet was caked in soil with several cuts and calluses from walking around with no footwear. She could barely see over the bar's countertop.
Izroth sat on the barstool next to Selene as he said, "Two orders of whatever you have to eat and something to drink."
The bartender sized up Izroth as he responded, "Twenty bronze coins. Six for the two meals, and the rest for dirtying my bar with your street rat. With such nice clothes, you should be able to afford it—right?"
"Hehe... Hahaha..." The sound of faint laughter and mocking chuckles could be heard coming from the bar tables.
Izroth narrowed his eyes as he reached towards his waist. This simple action caused the laughter to die out. Simultaneously, everyone inside the inn placed their hands onto the handle of their weapons as the atmosphere became heavy.
Izroth unfastened the leather belt around his waist that held the sword he was given by the dreamworld and set it onto the bar counter. The sword itself was rather plain, but it seemed to be created out of decent materials that should fetch a reasonable price.
"I want a room for three nights and two meals delivered to the room per day. This should more than enough to cover the expenses, right?" Izroth said as his gaze turned sharp.
Once Izroth removed his hand from the sword, those in the inn did the same with their respective weapons as the atmosphere calmed down.
While a sword had its uses, Izroth was not by any means dependant on it. To him, the sword was a mere extension of himself. If he were incapable of functioning without it, his comprehension of the sword could only be considered superficial.
The bartender's eyes lit up when he saw Izroth's weapon. Its quality was better than 95% of the swords available outside the palace walls. To receive it for a handful of meals and renting out one room was a bargain unlike any other!
"I don't usually make exceptions, but seeing as how you're so genuine, I suppose I can do so this time." The bartender said as they reached for the sword.
Out of nowhere, a throwing knife soared through the air and stabbed into the bar counter. It landed right between Izroth's sword and the bartender's hand, preventing him from picking up the weapon.
"Taking advantage of someone in broad daylight... Have you no shame?" A voice sounded near the entrance of the bar as a hooded individual stepped inside.
"What do you think you're doing?! Learn to mind your business!" The bartender shouted angrily. He gave a meaningful look to a group of individuals sat at the table closest to the bar.
Izroth glanced back to see the new arrival removing their hood, and when he saw this individual's face, he discovered that it was one he had seen before. Not in person, but with the assistance of Dreamer's Knowledge!
'This appearance is... Hunter Venare?'
Without a doubt, Izroth was positive that it was Hunter Venare! However, according to the story, Venare should be preparing to sneak back into the castle later tonight. At that point, he would be caught by the Nobleman Fraun's men. What was he doing outside of the main town behind the palace walls?!
Of course, more importantly, this was Izroth's first contact with someone who possessed a role.
Now, the question remained—was this person friend... or foe?