Eh, I probably would considering divine beasts are always trying to eat me instead of chase me out of their territory. But that doesn’t mean I plan on tasting myself! …Puppers did say I’d regrow limbs if I lost them, right? Lucia! Stop thinking strange things. Shopping, remember? It’s great that all the stalls form two neat lines all the way along the road. Even without Ilya, there’s zero chance of me getting lost this way.
“What did you see that you wanted to buy?” Ilya asked, grabbing my hand. Was she nervous? Probably not, knowing her, she was making sure I didn’t run off without her. Which I totally wouldn’t have done. Like I’ve said hundreds of times before, I’m a responsible—ooh, acorn stew! “Don’t move so fast!”
Ah, oops, almost ripped Ilya’s arm off. Oh wells. “Give me a bowl, mister.” The person manning the stall was an old man. Above his head, there were two triangular ears. He had a big bushy tail that hung to the ground. It was gray with black stripes, or was it black with gray stripes? How can you tell? The old man smiled at me; some of his teeth were missing. Compared to all the other stalls, his was a bit rundown with shoddy craftsmanship, but it was the only one selling acorn stew! He pulled a wooden bowl out from under his counter and ladled a generous helping of stew into it from the pot in front of him.
“An extra portion of meat for the beautiful young lady,” he said, taking another scoop from the pot.
“Thanks!” I knew I was beautiful! I took a sip and looked at Ilya. “Do you want a bowl?”
“I thought you had to eat like a tiger to become a tiger,” Ilya said and rolled her eyes.
“Even tigers drink acorn stew!” Huh? The old man and I looked at each other. We both had said the same thing at the same time. This is fate! I grabbed the old man’s hand with my free hand, retrieved five gold coins from my interspacial ring, placed them into his palm without letting anyone else see, and curled his fingers around them.
“Live a good life, mister. You deserve it.” No wonder why people of the same race stick together. They think alike! Humans are so emotional and greedy. Demons are so cold and logical. But beastkin, beastkin are generous and kind! Only another beastkin could understand me. …Disregard the fact my family tried to drown me before selling me to slave traders, and the fact that Durandal and Ilya can read me like an open book. Well, maybe with the gold I gave this man, he won’t have to drown a future grandchild.
The old man cautiously lifted one finger before closing his hand even tighter than before. “Thank you, beautiful miss,” he said and pocketed the coins in a flash. “Your kindness, I’ll remember it forever.”
Mm, this stew’s delicious. I haven’t had it in so long. While training, who has time to pick up enough acorns to make a stew? And no one sold acorns either because humans and demons can’t appreciate fine dining! Well, demons had hot chocolate which comes from miniature black acorns that grow on trees, so I guess they’re alright.
“What’s that?” a voice asked from behind me.
“Acorn stew, a meal fit for pigs and cows,” an older voice said. Mm, happy thoughts, Lucia. It’s been so long since you had good tasting stew. Don’t let some ignorant men ruin it for you. One sip at a time. Savor the taste. Swirl it a bit with your spoon.
“Then why’s the expression she’s making saying it’s the greatest thing in the world?” the voice asked. Okay, what does this person look like to have the qualifications to sound so arrogant? Oh, he’s a lion-man. Beside him, there was a grouchy fellow with black feathers, a beak, and a pair of wings for arms. Behind him, there was a neat formation of guards. The lion-man tilted his head and stared at me before sniffing the air. He slapped the crow person’s shoulder. “Fetch me some.”
The grouchy crow or black bird person’s face cramped. “Your Highness, this meal isn’t suitable for you. If your father finds out—”
“Are you going to tell him?” the lion-man asked, glaring at his companion.
The crow person flinched. “N-no,” he said. “I just—”
“Then do as I say,” the lion-man said with a growl.
“Right away, Your Highness,” the crow person said and glared at me before approaching the stall. What was his problem? And why am I meeting so many princes in a single day?
“You,” the lion-man said, turning his gaze onto me. “You look familiar. Where have I seen you before?”
Probably on a poster put up by Snow. But I’m not going to tell him that! “Maybe you’ve fallen in love with me at first sight?” I am a beautiful young lady after all.
The crow person coughed and nearly dropped the bowl of stew that he had just received. The lion-man furrowed his brow and looked me up and down. Don’t tell me he was seriously considering it. “No. That’s impossible.” You don’t have to be so blunt either!
“Your stew, Your Highness,” the crow person said and handed the lion-man the bowl. Then he turned around and glared at me, drawing a line in front of his neck with his wing.
I ignored him and stared at the lion-man instead. He brought the bowl up to his face and sniffed it. I could sense Ilya and the old stall owner behind me tensing. Wait, why was Ilya tensing? The lion-man frowned before bringing the bowl to his lips. Ilya and the old man sucked in their breaths. The prince took a sip. His brow furrowed as he spat into his bowl. He tossed the bowl onto the ground. “This tastes like shit. Break the stall down and bring me the owner’s head.”
Wow! What the fuck? Killing someone for such a nonsensical reason!? If I killed people based on the quality of food they made, Ilya, Durandal, and Puppers wouldn’t be alive right now. I placed my bowl of stew down and drew my sword, but the old man grabbed my arm. “You, you don’t have to be involved in this,” he said. “This old man doesn’t have many years of life left. There’s no reason for you to die with me. No beastkin can disobey the tyrant.”
The lion-man’s formation of guards stomped towards us. The surroundings fell silent as everyone turned their eyes towards the show, none of them intent on stepping in.
“Is this how beastkin nobility treat their people?” Ilya asked, stepping in front of me. She’s so brave! “No wonder why you animals are the weakest amongst the fae.” Hey. Rude. No need to make things personal. “Ice, I know I don’t use you often, but listen up! Let those who oppose me learn the meaning of cold. Frost nova!”
A bright white light engulfed the soldiers in the formation. When the light disappeared, they were frozen solid. Or at least their armor was. Chilled breaths and banging sounds came from inside as the soldiers struggled to break free.
The lion-man’s eyes narrowed. “A fifth circle spell cast within a few seconds? You’re a sixth circle magician. Who are you?”
“Ilya Pentorn, daughter of the Duke of Tristam.” Ilya snorted and tilted her head up. Compared to her dad’s domineering pose, Ilya’s looked cute, but at least she was trying.
The lion-man’s face fell. He walked up to the armor sets and knocked on them with his hands, breaking the ice. “How long are you buffoons going to keep embarrassing yourselves? Let’s go.”
Whoa, Ilya scared them away and I didn’t even have to lift a finger. …That probably was her plan, wasn’t it? I vaguely recall something Ilya said about not fighting random people at the Godking’s Brawl…, but that was such a long time ago—at least a couple of days. It wouldn’t be my fault if I forgot.
“Thank you, Your Grace,” the old stall owner said and fell to his knees while lowering his head.
“Don’t thank me,” Ilya said and gestured towards me. “You should thank her. I only did that because there would’ve been a huge mess if she killed a prince over a bowl of stew.”
“A bowl of acorn stew! Acorn! If you say I killed someone over stew, people would think I’m crazy. That’s why you have to specify acorn stew, so people know I’m perfectly sane.”
Ilya rolled her eyes and ignored me. Wow. “Though I don’t think the prince would care too much about you, you should probably pack your stall and lay low. If you need a new place of employment, you can come work for the Pentorn family.”
The old man nodded before rotating on his knees towards me. “Thank you,” he said and lowered his head.
“No problem!” It’s not like I had to do anything. And the conflict was resolved peacefully. There’s no way a war would start between the demons and the fae because of some incident over acorn stew, right?