A Crow's Dream of Clear Skies

 
 

A Crow's Dream of Clear Skies Chapter 5


A Crow’s Dream of Clear Skies -- Chapter 5

[Vermilion Square]

“Xīng Xīng!” Jasper hollered over to the old Orangutan while strolling in on Tucker's back – with an embarrassed Diva of course.

The bazaar was crowded with individuals flooding in to see the Black Feather Merchant’s wares and low prices. Men, women, and children, families and couples, browsed about – cheerful of all the good deals.

“The Crowley kid is back!” Xīng Xing yelled into the square.

Every eye turned to the red headed kid.

“Free cheers for Crowley!” Xiong Hao announced.

An energy erupted into the square. Merchants stepped from their stalls and began to cheer his name, “CROWLEY! CROWLEY! CROWLEY!”

Jasper released his hands from the saddle after he made sure Diva had her balance and waved, then motioned for the crowd to settle down.

“So how was business today gentlemen?”

“GREAT!”

“Did we make a killing?”

“YEAH!”

“Well what are you standing around for? Go make some more!”

“YEAH!”

Exhilarated, the crowd happily returned to work – leaving only the three old merchants behind.  

Diva looked in a daze, confused by the crowd and a tinge upset that they didn't acknowledge her.

“Come to show your girlfriend your new business?” Lang Su asked.

“I'm not his g-girlfriend!” Diva shoved Jasper off the saddle from behind her and he landed on his face.

The three men looked concerned as they approached to help him up.

“Ow.” Before they could help, Jasper had already peeled his face from cobble street. He stood up and brushed himself off, “Gentlemen, meet the ice princess Diva Lunacaster.”

“A Lunacaster? You’ve got quite the catch kid.” Lang Su jeered.

“I said, I am not his girlfriend!” She shot a shard of ice at his feet before sliding off Tucker's back.

Tucker turned to her and sniffed her back, giving a “Caw, Caw, Caw!” that sounded too much like a laugh.

He must be smelling her pheromones. Naughty Vahl’Drac’ian… Jasper thought to himself with a smirk.

“What?!” She turned around, ice forming across the ground beneath her feet.

Tucker looked away – acting innocent of the matter.

“Wait, let me guess. You’re not to that stage yet?” Lang Su pressed.

Diva turned with a light blue aura seeping from her eyes and vortexes of ice forming about her hands.

“Friends with benefits?” He slouched down.

“That’s it!” Diva chased after him.

Jasper rubbed his neck at the spectacle then turned to Xing Xing, “Shall we get down to business and let them play?”

“Sounds good. There’s room by the tent for your stead if you'd like.”

“Probably a clever idea.”

“HELP ME!” Lang Su shouted as he dodged icicles left and right.

[Black Feather Tent]

Tucker waited outside, peering in to watch as Jasper, Xing Xing, and Xiong Hao discussed business.

“From what I saw on the way, you took diligent care of the dealings. Was there any trouble?” Jasper initiated the meeting.

Xing Xing stroked his beard, “Without you we wouldn't have this chance. As for problems, nothing notable.”

“What are the profits from the guild tax?”

“After receiving many more merchants during the day… 637,283 stars.”

“More than expected… I'll take 200,000 stars with me today. How much is the land permit for the old hunter’s hall?

“Xiong Hao?”

The old bear had his large arms crossed. “It was condemned and wasn't in the best area for hunters. Since then it's been vandalized, the scene of murders, and a hangout for the unsavory. The city only wants about 30,000 for it.”

“Grab it and start renovations with the remaining funds.”

“Huh.” Xiong Hao seemed intrigued. “Turning it into our base of operations?”

“We’ll use it as a guild hall and manage merchants from there. It will also double as a warehouse for trade.”

“For trade? We’re the only city in The Valley. Trade with who?”

“We’ll get to that later down the road. Will 407 be enough for the repairs?”

“We'll make it work. If not, we’ll invest a little.” Xing Xing nodded Jasper off.

“Thank you both. I look forward to working with y’all.” Jasper popped out of the tent. He noted that a large sack of coins had been tied to his saddle.

Jasper signaled Tucker to follow, then proceeded back to the square to grab Diva.

She sat on the edge of the fountain, arms crossed and in a sour mood. White flocks dancing in a gentle breeze as she mopped.

“Oh, you're back? Who gave you permission to leave me?!” She now stood, yelling at Jasper.

“Princess, calm yourself. I was just taking care of a little business. Let's head to the next place.”

“Hmm.” She snorted, turning her head. “Let us continue on peasant.”

Peasant this, peasant that…

Diva and Tucker followed a man on a mission. Jasper stepped with purpose, taking long quick strides.

As Diva was having troubles catching up, Tucker grabbed the back of her shirt and tossed her into his back.

A brisk walk later and the three arrived at a shabby open-air shop with a blacksmith's forge and arcane table behind tables of various wares.

“Knock, knock!” Jasper shouted into the empty shop.

“Coming.” A female voice shouted from the back.

The two would be customers browsed the wares as Tucker sat just outside.

There were ornate swords, jewelry made from rare gems and metals, and staffs of high tiers mixed with various luxury tools – all of which had price tags well over 200,000 Stars.

“What can I do for you?” A tall cyan haired lady walked from the back room wearing an apron and glasses. Her face had an air of intelligence, but her sleeveless arms said strength.

“I have two things, first.” Jasper pulled out a scroll from his inner jacket pocket and handed it to her, noting her rough palms she accepted it.

She unrolled it and studied it, carefully.

Diva looked up from one of the tables of wears, “Isn’t that one of the scrolls you were doodling on in class?”

Jasper recalled Galle yelling at him.

“Doodle?” The Shop Keeper objected the word. “This isn’t a doodle. These are detailed plans for a second-tier arcane item that can be created at the cost of a tier-one. That’s nearly a third of the price.” She slapped the scroll on the open countertop exposing the intricate arcane geocentric designs.

“I need eight.” Jasper looked her in the eyes.

“Hmm.” She leaned on the table and looked at the scroll. “I generally make shackles with the normal tier two enchantment, if you sell me the rights… 20,000.”

“Deal.”

“What’s the second thing?” He had her intrigue.

“How much for that?” Jasper pointed his finger at a large hunk of metal, almost as big as he, with a two-foot grip at the end.

“You want that?” Jasper nodded at her question. “I honestly created it as a joke and never expected it to sell.”

With awe, Diva looked at its sturdy unshakable nature. “A joke?”

“I once competed with another smith in a competition to make a sword that could kill a dragon in one fell swoop. It had to be heavy enough to slice through steel itself. Sturdy enough to not dull from the swing. His was a simple broadsword made from Xiyu-steel formed in the stomach of fifth stage dragolisks. Mine was…”

“May I guess?” Jasper jeered.

“Okay, a bet? 200K Stars for it if you get it wrong; free if you’re right.”

“Deal.” Jasper pulled out a second scroll from his jacket. “How much to get this on the enigmatic Inconel.”

She started unrolling the scroll, “You- How? If it’s anything like the… last...?” Her breath was taken as she finished unrolling the scroll. “M-my god… Is this right?”

“Should be.”

“I can’t even reliably accomplish third tiers, let alone this fifth tier. This is impossible. I’m the only second tier symbol master in the valley, how did you-?”

“Nah, look closer. It’s only a second-tier. I devised a workaround that allows simplified versions of high-tier magics. Although it looks like a lot, it’s basically just a bunch of chutes and ladders. Plus, the enchantment itself is dumbed down to one use and on or off.”

“This?!” She vigorously scanned the scroll flipping it about, holding it closer and further at sporadic intervals. “Good lord…” She gasped. “This intricacy in a second tier? I mean, use wise, it’d be good to restrain a high-level beast… but are you sure you want it on that joke of a sword?”

“How much?”

She gritted her teeth. “Free with rights”

“Free?” He was thrown off. The average second tier enchantment is 100K. “You’ve got yourself a deal. How soon?”

She pondered the two scrolls for a moment. “Two days, Monday.”

Jasper walked over to Tucker and pulled twenty gold coins out of the sack tied to his saddle. With a large handful of coins, he returned to place it on the counter afore the shop keeper.

With a wave, he said goodbye to the cyan haired arcane smith and continued down the busy street.

“Where now?” Diva whined. She crossed her arms and pouted in disdain.

“Ever been to an auction house?”

“No!” Her temper flourished. “I usually send my servants.”

“Well, if we want good equipment, that’s where we’ll find it.”

[Lesser Auction House, East District]

Nothing fancy, but it was indeed large and busy as individuals walked to ‘n fro’ the doors.

Jasper instructed the Vahl’Drac’ian to wait patiently outside near the horse post with the other steads as he took Diva and the sack of gold coins into the auction house.

Up the anticlimactic steps and into the crowded lobby, they waited their turn with the receptionist.

“How may I help you kids?”

“We’d like to sit in on the next auction.” Jasper held the back beneath the counter.

“Is that so? I’m afraid the auction house isn’t a place for kids.”

Incoherent mumblings came from Diva’s lips. Her facial expressions said it all – she blew a lid.

“Is something wrong, little girl?”

“Little girl…? Little GIRL!? Listen here, Bitch! I am Diva Lunacaster! Let me in this damn auction house before I have your fired for disrespecting a VIP!”

The lobby fell silent.

“Ma’am. Sorry Ma’am! What can I do for you, Ma’am?” The receptionist froze, from her expression it wouldn’t be farfetched to assume she pissed herself.

“Take care of the rest.” She passed the baton, snorted, turning her head in disgust.

“H-how, can I help the two of you today?” The receptionist started shaking.

Jasper sighed, “Relax. We’ll be taking a card with 380,000 and I’d like to enter in an item for the auction.”

“M-money, first please.”

Jasper handed her the back of 180 gold coins. “Diva, your share?”

“Here.” She waved her hand and two green metal bills appeared – Stardew’s privileged currency. Jasper looked closer and noticed the special ring on her right middle finger.

The ‘card’ side of Stardew’s currency is much like it’s coin side, except that it represents values at drastically larger amounts. Simple four-by eight-centimeter thin metal cards of varying colors with different prints. The colors are from lowest value to highest: green, yellow, red, purple, black. Green represents 100,000 Stars, yellow is 150K, red is 200K, purple is 1million, and black is one billion stars.

After receiving the money, the receptionist handed Jasper a Red card.

This is reserved for VIP’s yes? Ice Princess’ status?

“And here’s the item I’d like to auction. One small jar of high-level, bone healing quality salve.” He set the tin on the counter. “Enough to heal a single limb in three days’ time.”

The lobby gasped.

They’re still standing around?

“A salve that can heal bones? Are you certain?”

He leaned on the counter with a smug look, “I should be, I created it myself.”

“Y-you… you’re an Asclepiusian?!”

Like a bad soundtrack, the audience gasped again – one pedestrian muttering, “My god.”

“One might call me that.” He rolled his eyes, growing impatient with the whole thing.

“If you’ll excuse me, I’ll have this appraised momentarily.” She walked into a back room.

With a bored sigh, Jasper turned to lean against the counter and look to the lobby. Patrons still gathered in around, standing shoulder to shoulder in anticipation.

He looked to Diva who began tapping her foot, exponentially faster. “What are you looking at?!” She turned and belted at the crowd.

Within seconds, men and women cleared the lobby with due haste.

“Damn peasants…” She bit her lip in frustration.

“How scary.” Jasper jested.

All she gave was an excessively irritated look.

“Your turquoise eyes really do shine beautifully when you're upset.” He gave an honest smile before turning to face the counter just in time for the receptionist to return with a man in toe.

“Head of the Montoshiba branch, Chief Hide. For what do I owe the pleasure?” Jasper greeted the man.

“Ha-ha, so you recognize me?” The man chuckled approaching the counter with tin in hand. As he got closer, one could make out a large scar across his right eye and the burn marks that on the hand that held the tin; running further than the long sleeves of his suit jacket would allow sight.

“I may be young, but I’m not uneducated.”

“Ha, you’ve got spunk kid, I like it. As for this medicine, I personally appraised it. Since it can heal bones, it’s no less than a third tier. Yet due to its salve state and mana influx, I’ll vouch it as a lower fourth tier and set the base price at 500,000, but I suspect It’ll pass a million stars. What amazes me is that there has been no Asclepiusian above tier three in the past thousand years.”

“Fourth tier effects, low tier methods… A million?” He weighed the pricing. “Okay, but I’d like you to move the medicinal items before equipment so that I may put my money back into the auction.”

“Switching around the placements so you can spend what you make? Huh, no problem. Anything for an Asclepiusian. I’ll make you a member, what’s your name?”

“Put me down as the Divine Crow.”

“Understood.” Chief Hide handed him a black membership card. “A grade above VIP for the Asclepiusian. Head upstairs to the largest set of doors on the left. The room is already prepped for two.”

“Thanks, Chief.” Jasper nodded and proceeded through the lobby and to the large ornate white and gold door with Diva gloomily trailing behind.

She looked up at the door as Jasper held it for her and they entered the room, cursing its existence. “Bloody mother fucking room. Not even the us Lunacaster’s are allowed into this room of this lesser auction house. Yet they let this boy…”

“Ice Princess.” The door gently shut behind her.

She looked up at Jaspers sincere amethyst eyes – dazzling like the very gems they resemble, “What?” She responded coldly.

“I did not ask for such things.”

She pouted, looking away.

“Diva, let this experience be my treat as I intend to fully use both our combined ‘allowances’ and the funds of the salve to acquire adequate equipment that will be useful throughout our spirit trainee cultivation.”

Diva acted as if she expected this, but Jasper could see behind her façade.

“Diva. I’m sorry if I offended you.”

She turned as he warmly smiled at the snow-haired heiress, causing her to lose composure and blush through all attempts to restrain herself.

“Shall we have a seat at the veranda and wait for the auction to begin?” He turned Diva’s attention to the gold-plated, velvet-cushioned loveseat sitting next to the marble balcony.

She became even more flustered at the thought of sitting directly next to Jasper, her cheeks turning from a pastel to a rose red.

Clueless – or just stringing her along – Jasper sat on the right side without acknowledging her embarrassment.

She watched in bewilderment as Jasper watched individuals pour into the action houses luxurious theatre seating.

A knock caused the heiress to flinch.

The door opened with a smiling waitress carrying an ice bucket of drinks. “Good evening, Divine Crow and Miss Lunacaster. I’ve brought a pale of beverages on the house at the request of the Chief. There are both alcoholic and nonalcoholic beverages present. I’ll set them on the side table.” She hastily shuffled over to table next to the sofa that Jasper sat on and bowed to the two. “If there is anything I can get the two of you, I will be in the hall tending to various VIP’s.”

“Thank you, miss.” Jasper nodded.

Without delay the waitress walked out of the room and shut the door behind her.

Diva still stood motionless in the middle of the room indecisive as of what to do.

“Let’s see, what do we have here?” Jasper rummaged through the bottles. “Ice Princess, won’t you join me?” He patted the cushion next to him still trying to pick a drink.

Timidly, she walked around and sat to his left – in the stiffest pose one could have. Her hands were balled in her thighs, legs glued together, and leaning forward looking at her feet.

Jasper glanced at her biting her lip.

“You’re old enough, right? Would you like some wine, sake, beer? Or would you prefer a regular drink? They have various sodas too. Root beer?”

“I… Uh…” She hesitated. Looking between the bucket and her feet in quick succession. “What kind of wine? It better be the good stuff.” She began to regain her vigor.

Jasper smiled, happy that he broke her shyness. “Red or white?”

“White.”

“Juniper Frostbitten Spider.”

“Really?! There’s only ten bottles made a year! My Grandmother makes it but it’s so treasured that I’ve never had any.”

He grabbed the neck of the bottle, pulled the corkscrew from atop the ice, popped it, and filled one of the chilled crystal glasses that resided in the pale.

As she reached for the glass that he extended, Jasper pulled it back, taking a sip, then handing it to her.

“That’s not bad. A little sweet for my tastes, but it burns like hard liquor so I give it four-point-nine stars.”

Diva held the crystal glass in her hand, staring at the rim where Jasper’s lips sipped from.

My god. Is this heiress serious?

Jasper placed two fingers under the base of the glass and Diva looked over hesitantly. He slowly pushed the glass up to her lips and tipped it back for her.

She took a sip, a bit trickling over the rim.

He took the chance to lean in closer, using his other hand’s index finger to wipe the wine from her face before it dripped, then licking the wine from it.

She set the empty glass down to her side and was frozen in place.

Jasper used his index finger to push her hair behind her ear and slowly brush the rim moving his finger down her neck as she shuttered, to her shoulder and finally her arm where he gave her a real jolt of electricity by releasing his affinity by means of condensed mana.

“Ow!” She barked at him. “What was that for? Are you shameless Jasper?”

“So, you chose to use my first name? And you didn’t insult my position?”

“I… uh…” She was yet again at a loss for words.

“How about I reintroduce myself. Since we actually know each other now.” He smiled. “It’s a pleasure to meet you miss, my name’s Jasper. What’s yours?”

“Ah, uh… I’m Diva.”

“I hope we can be friends.” He extended his hand.

She extended hers and he grasped it, bringing the soft skin of her knuckles to his lips. “And perhaps more?”

“LADIES AND GENTLEMEN!” The announcer shouted using sound amplifying magic. “IT’S TIME TO START US AN AUCTION!”