A Crow's Dream of Clear Skies

 
 
 

A Crow's Dream of Clear Skies Chapter 8


A Crow's Dream of Clear Skies -- Chapter 8

 

Instead of taking the high road, Jasper made the decision to strut on through the pass.
It was a spectacle to behold.
Tucker pranced like a show horse – all high toed – as they approached.
Before they passed, Jasper nudged his saddle bound companion. “Hey?”
“Hmm?” Diva peered over her shoulder to the red headed boy.
“How about we flaunt them? Our new demon souls that is.” He held an ear to ear conniving grin.
“Sure.” She felt proud of her accomplishment and saw no reason not to.
Like smug aristocrats the two kids held their heads high with equally bright balls of ice blue souls orbiting them.
The guards stood motionless with jaws agape, like children in disbelief.
“There alive?” One of the guards muttered as they passed the post.
When the distance was fair, Tucker naturally returned to a striding pace, making for city.
“So, what’s the plan now?” He instinctively asked, without prior thought.
Shit… I didn’t think through this far… sell the cores? Drop her off at her house? Go test the extent of our new souls in the pit?
He scanned Diva to read her mood. As a result, he realized the two of them were drenched in blood and sweat.
“How about we get cleaned up, then go from there?”
“Cleaned up?” Diva looked down at her blood drenched clothes, cringing in disgust. “Yeah, that sounds good.”
As they approached the gate, Jasper signaled Tucker to take the turn at a fork in the road, leading them to the west of the city.
By this time, Diva had already collapsed from exhaustion – somehow sleeping with her face rubbing against the leather of the saddle. He was practically laying atop her to keep her from falling.
Shortly, they arrived at Crowley manner.
As they pulled up to the stables, Jasper picked Diva from the saddle and slid off the side, holding the sleeping princess.
“Stable boy?” A little kid hopped out from one of the stalls. “Please give Tucker a bath, he’s filthy.”
The Vahl’Drac’ian scoffed in protest.
“Yes, young master!” The ecstatic little boy sped about the stables, gathering the necessary items.
Jasper then turned for the main house, and sauntered up the steps into the foyer where he was greeted by Mrs. Fauna.
“My, my – I’m green with envy.” She eyed the white-haired lass in his arms. “But what in god’s name did you two do?” She eyed the slowly drying blood. “Surely that wouldn’t cause that much blood… as if I’d know.” She whispered under her breath.
“Could you take her and clean her up? I honestly don’t think she’ll wake anytime soon.”
“As you wish, Master Jasper.” She took the girl from his arms, nigh dropping her in the process. “A heavy wench, ain’t she?” She muttered beneath her breath.
“Careful now.” He instructed, watching Diva slightly churn in the housekeeper’s arms.
I suppose I should get cleaned up myself.
He walked down the hall to his room and went to take a quick bath in the self-heated tub – pre-filled with water by the maids.
His armor dropped to the bathroom floor with a clank, followed his blood-stained undergarments being tossed into a pile.
First, he lathered himself and rinsed on the side, then hopped in the heated tub to relax, giving thanks to the simple tier one enchanted tub his many times great grandfather had procured with his long-gone fortunes.  
When he was done soaking, he dressed himself then proceeded back to the stables to gather the sack of cores.
A sack now over his shoulders, he traveled to a neighboring hut that he had several of the laborers construct to use as a workshop.
He sprawled the cores across the workbench in the center and began to move about, bringing various materials to the table and tinkering, using a multifariousness of tools from the toolboxes, all the while deeply contemplating how to use each one.
He drowned himself in thought – thought of how magic itself operated on terms and conditions. His goal was to teach himself a form of arcane craftsmanship. Although he never messed with it in the previous life, he certainly had the knowledge of enchantment writing and magic theory.
Roughly speaking, arcane craftmanship is the creation of items that serve to incite magic without chants or inherent skills. To do this, artificial magic circuits are embedded in the item as a replacement for the caster.
Currently, Stardew is limited to simple items like magic lamps, swords of elements like fire, and simple yet expensive household goods like the self-heating tub.
His specific basis for using the cores was that they could be used as chassis of certain elements, potentially simplifying the needed enchantment for intended result. As such, he began working with the first ice element core, intending to create some sort of cold permeating item like the dwarves used to store food for extended periods of time.
“Now if the basis is to secrete cold, the tier would be that of one... but if I recall the dwarves mentioned that most items need not be frozen solid. So, it must be tier two if I wish to specify control over the rate of secretion… that’s simple enough, but if I want to specify range that’ll bump it up to three… how troublesome…” He used a chisel to begin etching in the enchantment.
When he finished etching, he ended up with a tier two. “Time to concoct the simple circuit liquid.”
He placed a measured amount of copper in a melting pot, added a dash of core powder from one that he earlier ground with mortar and pestle, and a stabilizing agent he had previously bought. When thoroughly mixed, he poured it into the etched-out space of the core – slowly letting it cool as he carefully poured, occasionally wiping away excess.
With all said and done, he looked at his achievement: A disheveled mess of a circuit and core.
“This is gonna need some practice… but let’s see if it works.”
Jasper picked up the item in both hands and circulated mana from his left hand, through the item, and into his right.
Like he intended, the device began to permeate a chill in the room. For a moment, all was well, until the chill turned to a freezing cold.
He looked at the item with an, “Uh-oh…” as it blew up in a fiery explosion, throwing him against the wall of the workshop.
He stood up, thanked his acquisition of the jaded body for saving his life, and walked up to the table –  asking himself what went wrong.
“Jasper?!” A hurried voice leaned on the door frame with an exhausted pant.
He turned to see Diva in a blue summer dress that was a tad too big on her, especially in the chest region – causing the straps to fall down her shoulder. A lone from the well-developed Mrs. Fauna?
She began sliding down the door frame. With quick wit, he jumped over the central workbench and helped her up. An arm under hers, he led her to a char in the corner and set her down. “Are you alright?”
“I’m fine, just exhausted from… WAIT! I should be asking you that! What was that explosion.” She coughed from the excitement.
“Merely my creation blowing up in my face.”
“Why do you sound unfazed?”
“Well, it’s my first time attempting arcane crafting, so… I didn’t exactly expect it to go well. Although, I didn’t expect it to explode either…”
“I’m not even surprised even more. Hell, can I even hold a candle to you?” She sighed from the depths of her wavering mind.
“Hold a candle to me?” He knelt and clasped her hands in his, sincerely looking her in the eyes. “How could I ever hold a candle to someone from the Lunacaster family, masters of the ice element. I am but a mere Jack of all trades, master of none.”
She smiled with doubt and muttered under her breath, too exhausted to muster words, “Sometimes… than…”
“I couldn’t hear you.”
She forced herself into waking up, “You… forgot the other half. It’s ‘sometimes better than a master of one.’ You may not outperform someone in one thing, but when judged in your entirety, you’d always find victory.”
“You’ve only just met me-”
“That’s the first thing I learned.” She insisted, her eyes began to glaze over.
“I can’t very well say no now, can I?” He sighed and collected his thoughts, “Thank you, Diva.”
She smiled with victory in hand and passed out.
Understanding her condition, he transfer the slightest amount of mana in her unconscious state in to ease the pain. When he was finished, he took her home where a butler aided her inside.
When he returned, he continued his trial and error arcane crafting.
“Finally!” He marveled at his first successful creation.
It emanated a slight cold as it sat on the table, stable and functional – although shabby in appearance.
As he stood there, admiring and rethinking the design, he felt something a little off with it.
“That can’t be normal… at least not intended.” He picked up the device and felt the undeniable leaking of ice element. “Sometimes mistakes are improvements in themselves, eh?”
He set the core down and stopped the cycle of mana flow, turning it off.
Now feeling contempt with a creation, he noticed the sun dipping on the horizon.
“Time to head in.” He walked out of the workshop and ended his day on a meal with mother… followed by more training with his cultivation technique, of course.
[The next day]
Sunday, the second day of the weekend.
Jasper sat on the balcony of the Manor. His eyes followed Tucker as he played with a leather ball in the next field over, swatting and chasing it.
He took a sip of freshly brewed tea. “What should I do today? Those items won’t be done till tomorrow… I guess I should check on the Black Feather’s progress. That should do for now.”
He stood and whistled, before setting down the cup and saucer.
Tucker heard his call from the distance and headed in towards the stables.
“Thank you, Olivia.” He turned to the maid who stood behind him, tending to his tea.
“My pleasure, Master Jasper.” She bowed.
Walking down the steps, he passed his mother in the study, mulling over business statements in frustration.
You won’t have to worry much longer.
He continued out to the stall where the stable boy had already secured Tucker’s saddle.
He hopped up and thanked the stable boy as he set out for the city.
[Vermillion Square]
The square was bustling with people, fifty-fold the presence of the other day.
“Xing Xing!?” He hollered for the Merchant man, sliding off the saddle.
“Right here!” The old Orangutan came out of the woodworks.
“How fairs business?”
“If you follow me to the old Guild, I’ll explain.”
“Very well.”
Xing Xing had one of his understudies attend to Tucker.
When Jasper was satisfied with Tucker’s care, they walked and talked as they exited the crowd and down the street.
“In the past two days, merchant selling their stock through us has increased by seven-hundred percent. I’ve gone ahead and expanded to Turquoise center, but truth be told that venue is about to overflow with stalls.”
“Have we made a dent in the Carnitine’s sales?”
“Their sales have procured a three percent loss since Friday.”
“That’s good to hear.” They walked around a shady street corner and a diamond in the dust appeared, the old guild hall was being fixed up at an alarming rate.
The massive building stood three stories tall with extensive brick work and paneling. A single man stood on a scaffold, painting the billboard of a sign. [Black Feather Trading Co.] It even had a black feather painted at the end.
“I never expected it to be at this stage.” Jasper studied its stature.
“Well, when we announced it to the merchants, many offered to help with the repairs and material acquisition. They even pulled strings to get us some discount specialists.”
“Impressive.”
“My thoughts exactly.” Xing Xing led him into the main hall where Lang Su’s Cayote face directed the construction.
“Lang Su, how’s progress.” Xing Xing raised his voice over sawing and hammering.
The Coyote kept his face in designs, pointing to a couple of men across the table and ordering them around. “It’ll be done by next Sunday.”
Jasper nodded, impressed. “So soon?”
Xing Xing walked over and started inspecting the plans.
Hairs stood up on the back of Lang Su’s neck as he immediately turned to face Jasper. “He-he, Boss? Haven’t seen you in a couple days.”
“Relax. No need for formalities. I’m younger than y’all, after all.”
Lang Su took a deep breath.
“I was actually busy acquiring a Demon Soul”
“Oh?” Xing Xing turned from the table. “How’d ya’ fair?”
“Better than I hoped for.” He released the suppressed version, measurable at 7,000 years like the prince.
“So young, with such a strong Demon Soul.” Lang Su ogled.
“Well, this young one owns an entire Trading Company, is in the top of his class, and is privileged with countless information.”
“I- well yeah. That’s true… isn’t it?” Lang Su choked on his own words.
“All I’m saying is that it’s hard to measure me by normal means.” He shrugged his shoulders with arms out. “It is what it is.”
He took another look around the hall.
“On another note, where’s my share stand?”
“Excellent question.” Xing Xing took over and Lang Su returned to work. “Your share after the past two days as reached 3 million stars.”
Jasper froze, “Did I hear that right?”
“Three million stars.”
He locked up, placing his hand over his face. Taking a deep breath, he tilted his head back and his hand slid off, dangling at his side. “THREE MILLION?”
“Y-yeah… Is that so surprising with your creation of a self-sustaining Trading Company?” Xing Xing felt confused, raising a brow to the boy.
“Huh?” Jasper looked down. “Oh, well if you put it that way, I guess not. Though I never thought it would boom like this.”
“Was that Crowley I heard?” Xiong Hao leaned on the second-floor banister.
“Xiong Hao, good timing. Bring Crowley his share.”
“Wait.” Jasper stopped him. “Bring me half.”
“You got it, boss.” He turned from the banister and walked off.
“Put the other half towards the Trading Co. Provide better stalls, expand to better venues, and get this place looking like it was meant for royalty.”
“Understood.”
“Also, find someone to make a pastry slash refreshment shop in the lobby. It’ll be good for moral and socializing. Of course, they’ll operate as a Black Feather employee with seven percent rates.”
“Not a problem, though it doesn’t sound like something that should be in Trade Building.”
“Ah, I guess I should revise how operations are met.”
“Go ahead, shoot.”
“First floor will be for dealing with new merchants and accepting taxes and records of business. Second floor will be used for affairs and large-scale trades. Third floor will be where the upper echelon operates. Savvy?”
“I’ll make it happen.”
“Crowley.” Jasper turned his attention to Xiong Hao who had just arrived. “Here you go, Boss.” He extended a hand with 2 cards, 1 purple and a red. Purple weighing at 1 million stars, and red weighing 500K.”
“Thanks.” He received the heavy hand of stars. “Say, what’s the Carnitine’s yearly worth?”
“About 12 trillion, why.” Xiong Hao queried.
“I plan to over throw them eventually.”
“Big ambitions, I like it.” He laughed, smacking Jaspers back, nearly knocking him over.
Jasper coughed, then proposed the next question. “Also, what’s the average income of a merchant?”
“Huh? Before you came… about 150K. That’s on par with the farmers. Now…. It’s about 800K a year for Black Feather merchants. And, if you want another comparison, the average noble makes a 500 million a year.” Xiong Hao gave a detailed explanation.
“What about me?”
“360 million a year, but exponentially growing.”
“Meaning?” Jasper sighed.
“Tomorrow, that number will grow. By my calculations with the rate of increasing merchants under us… 500K By Tuesday, maybe more.”
“Okay, I’d like to enact a new principal. Half of whatever I make goes back into the Guild for expansion.”
“That’s not a problem.” Xing Xing retorted.
Xiong Hao rubbed Jaspers hair pulling a few strands from the ponytail, “What, too much money for you to handle?”
“More than I need, but it is advantageous to invest into my own business, is it not?”
“Fair enough.” He gave a manly chuckle.
“Well, with this, I guess I’m off.” Jasper said his goodbyes waiving with the cards before shoving them in his pocket. He then thanked them for their continued efforts, and left the guild building.
As he stood on the corner of the street in the shady side of town, he pondered his next move.
“Hey, Kid!” A gang of thugs walked up to him – six in all. Among the six, the only one who was fused looked to be a wolf of sorts
“Hey, what’s up?” Jasper turned and jeered.
“Yo, looking for something?” One of the thugs questioned with good spirit.
“Me? Yeah, I was just thinking of what I should do next. Y’all know where I can have some fun?” Jasper joyfully asked.
“Some fun?” One of them pretended to think. “I know just the place. Come on, we’ll walk you there.”
“Really? That’s so kind of you.”
A thug walked up on either side, gripping Jasper’s shoulders. The wolf followed behind as they led him down the street into an empty alleyway and pushed him in.
“Wait, wait. Can I say it?” Jasper turned, facing the thugs with a devilish grin and an aura of frightening proportions, “Give me all ya’ got.”
They faltered for a second, but quickly pulled out knifes and shives, followed by the wolf giving the command. “Get em boys!”
From the alley way, you could hear screams and yelps with flashes of purple light. Shorty, Jasper emerged unscathed with an extra 50K in hand, pocketing it.
“Pathetic.” He sighed, walking up the street and heading to Turquoise center.
[Turquoise Center]
A large shopping area with ironically turquois colored shops. The stalls were well maintained venues presumably occupied by Black Feather merchants. The stalls were filled with fashion and food – the ideal place for young women who filled the center with laughing and cheering.
“Seems like a hotspot for school girls.” He recalled a few faces from his previous life as he scanned the crowd. Two of which popped out to him: Mimi and Kanzaki Aoi.
He stood between a rock and a hard place. Should he make up with Mimi or start the arduous journey to get Kanzaki to open the box?
“Gnome girl!” He jogged up to Mimi.
The short statured girl was wearing a green dress, ever so slightly worn at the base. It twirled along with her periwinkle pigtails as she turned to see who was calling for her. When her face made full circle, he could see her pissed of expression under her adorable bangs.
“That’s not my name!” She declared in utter frustration.
It took him back for a second, but he well knew he deserved her malice after the first day of school. He’d avoided contact altogether, whether intentionally or subconsciously, not even he knew why. “I want to apologize for the other day. It was wrong of me to act that way.” Sincerity rained through his voice, unwavering.
“You want to apologize?” She quickly changed her stance – no longer guarded, but empathetic of his words.
“Will you forgive me for the way I acted and for not apologizing sooner?” Jasper bowed his head, apologetically.
“Yeah…” Her demeanor turned soft, almost disheartened. “I will.” She spoke with heavy heart. “I’d also like to apologize.”
“You do?” He turned his gaze to see her regretful expression.
“I was in the wrong for calling you out like that, I wasn’t myself that morning.”
He finally remembered her telling him of the first day of school when she went off on a student. She had been beaten by the orphanage headmaster that morning. It was always like that for her. She was alone in a world that wanted nothing to do with her. Used as a means to an end in childhood. It wasn’t till her academy years that she found the strength to stand on her feet.
“I accept, whole heartedly.” Jasper returned to his upright position. “So, this time, without being rude… Might I ask the name of this pretty little lotus?” He gave a heartfelt smile.
“S-sure.” She was thrown off again, although this time she blushed – completely forgetting about her depressed state. “My name is Satori Machiko.”
“You may already know this, but my name is Jasper Crowley.” He gave a curtsy bow. “Please, call me Jasper.”
“Then call me Machiko.”
“Sure thing.” He smiled joyously. “So, what brings you to Turquois center?”
Now past their regrets, he looked to become friends once again in this life.
“I heard that it was recently occupied by a new band of merchants called the Black Feather Trading Co. I was curious what all the recent commotion was about.”
How ironic… So, I’m the reason she’s here today?
“How about we go grab a snack at that pastry shop over there and talk a bit. I’d like to get to know my classmate a bit.”
“Okay.” She suppressed her shyness as best she could.
They walked into the little shop and up to the counter. Jasper asked for a scone and a cup of tea, “… and whatever the lady would like.”
Machiko looked to him, “No, I couldn’t.”
She’s always been reluctant with accepting kindness she knew she could never repay.
“I insist, have whatever you’d like. Call it self-retribution.”
“Really?” She wished for confirmation and he nodded. “Then I’ll have this, and this… and that, and this… a few of those, and that… Oh! Also, a cup of lady gray tea.”
Yeah, this little gnome is slightly gluttonous. Pfft, slightly? As if – extremely I’d say. 200 stars worth is ridiculous, but not like I don’t have a mere 200.
He paid with two silvers from the thugs and they sat at a table nearby. Shortly, the shop owner brought the two teas, Jaspers scone, and Machiko’s massive assortment.
They merrily talked, getting to know each other in this life as she stuffed her face with pastries when it was not her turn.
“So what rank are you?” She asked innocently.
“You first.”
“13.”
“Well, I’m somewhere there about.”
“What, you’re not gonna tell me? I was there at the pit. You’re at least 10, right?”
“Promise not to tell anyone?”
“Yeah, no problem.” She took a bite of a raspberry tart.
“20.”
“What? No way.” She sounded ecstatic, spitting crumbs across the table.
“Way.” He peered into her eyes and they both chuckled.
“I’m not surprised.”
“No?”
She was always levelheaded with things like this.
The laugh and jeered till Machiko finished her plate, then they left, browsing the shops outside and enjoying the day away.
He noticed her eyeing a set of earrings, lotus’ ironic enough. When she walked to the next stall he broke away for a second and bought them, returning before she noticed he was ever gone.
As the day became late they stood on an empty street corner with a single lamp overhead, isolating them in what seemed like suspended time.
Jasper looked down to Machiko as she looked up.
He smiled, knowing that he’d once again made a friend in this girl – one he knew he could stake his life on.
The delicate and slight chill of twilight crossed his lips as he took a breath.
“Machiko, might I do the honor of walking you home.” He said this, knowing the answer would be no.
“It’s fine, I’d prefer to walk home by myself.” She averted her gaze for a moment, returning with a cheerful façade. “Besides, I like the lonely walk home. It’s fun.”
Such lies filled her tongue and Jasper felt a tear at his heart. He knew she would not waver and that revealing his knowledge of her predicament would harbor ill tidings.
“Then, at least let me give you this before you go.” He pulled the lotus shaped earrings from his waistcoat and placed it in her palm. “I saw you eyeing these earlier. A memento to our new-found companionship.”
She gripped her palm tight and wrapped one hand over the other, pulling it towards her chest. “Thank you,” was all she said before turning around and walking out of their suspended time, returning them to cold realities.
“I’ll see you tomorrow.” He muttered solemnly to her fading silhouette.