The warweary villein hated going to Prospit. He hated having to walk around the golden city while trying to ignore the stares of its inhabitants, hated hearing them whisper behind his back and just simply hated it all. Unfortunately for him, he had no choice but to go. He needed new fertilizer for his crops and Derse was simply too far away.
After trying to postpone the trip for as long as he possibly could, the day finally came when he just couldn't afford delaying it anymore. On the dreaded day, he woke up earlier than usual just to prepare himself properly for the trip. He grabbed a medium-sized wooden cart from his shed and began filling it with assorted fruits he had picked the day before. He might as well try and sell some produce while he was at it.
Once he had everything ready, he locked his house and started walking east, towards the station where he could take an airship headed to Prospit. After a rather short trek, he finally reached the station…if it could be really called as such. After all, it only consisted of three large prospitian flag poles planted in a triangular shape.
Surrounding the poles were several prospitian soldiers, all of them glancing warily at WV as he made his way towards the station. Gulping down the urge to turn around and leave, he stood next to the small crowd and tried to focus on his cart and not on them.
How he hated the stupid rivalry between both kingdoms. It was stupid, stupid, stupid.
WV looked up and saw a prospitian soldier running towards him. That was the Careless Warrior, more commonly known as CW. CW happened to be one of the many carapace soldiers WV had offered shelter to during the on-going war and Warrior was Villein's most recurring guest, always stopping by whenever he could.
"You goin' to Prospit, Villein?" asked CW upon joining WV, ignoring the curious looks coming from the other soldiers.
"Yes. I need to purchase more fertilizer."
CW glanced inside the cart and licked his lips. "How much for one of them smaller pumpkins?" he asked, shoving his hand inside one of the pockets of his uniform and taking out a small bunch of coins.
"Twelve boondollars," WV replied, reaching into the cart and retrieving one a pumpkin.
"Here ya go." CW handed WV the boondollars and took the pumpkin in exchange. He examined it for a little moment before finally taking a huge, hungry bite.
By the time the airship arrived, the two carapaces were having a rather animated talk about the child that had appeared in the Land of Wind and Shade. They boarded the ship and settled on the deck where it wasn't too crowded.
"I'm tellin' you, Villein, them fabled kids won't be powerful enough to stop the black king. It's up to us soldiers."
"I am not sure about that. He is the fabled boy."
"Yeah, yeah, but I still don't belie—woah, woah, woah! Will ya look at her?" he suddenly exclaimed, looking at someone on the other side of the deck.
WV followed the prospitian's line of sight and found himself gazing at a tall and very pretty carapace. She was wearing a traditional post office uniform and was busy reading a newspaper. He noticed how cute she looked biting her lower lip, deep in thought, and he couldn't help but gawk a little. After a few minutes, he tore his eyes away from her and back to CW.
"Do you know her?" WV asked, hoping the answer would be negative.
"No…Well, I mean, I know who she is. I've seen her around but I've never talked to her," he explained. "I've thought about askin' her out but she probably already has someone."
WV looked back at the girl and felt his heart skip a beat. Boy, he'd never seen anyone like her before, even back on Derse. If she did already have someone, he couldn't help but be a little jealous of the lucky, lucky carapace that had stolen her heart.
Prospit's airship station was the only place in the entire kingdom where it wasn't all that rare to see Dersites. After all, it was the only place near the battlefield that had airships with destinations to LOWAS, LOHAC, LOFAF and LOLAR.
"See you soon, Villein!" CW exclaimed as he boarded an airship headed to LOHAC.
WV waved him off before finally walking away. Halfway through the station, he noticed an Authority Regulator from Derse talking to another farmer like WV. Judging by the farmer's expression, he was probably being fined over something like forgetting to bring his vending license. WV had heard that the fine could be as much as 20,000 boondollars.
Not that he had anything to worry about because he had brought his license…right?
Just to make sure, he grabbed the little satchel he had brought with him and looked inside. Wallet? Check. Keys to the house? Check. Notepad for doodling in when he got bored? Check. Vending license? Uh oh.
A panicked WV quickly looked towards the Regulator and realized he was still busy being the law. Okay, there was no need to freak out. Nope, all he had to do was get the heck out of there before the Regulator saw him. Without wasting a single moment, WV took off as fast as he could. Unfortunately, seeing as he was far too busy keeping an eye of AR rather than looking where he was going, he didn't notice he was headed straight for a certain mail-loving prospitian.
Despite not having been going all that fast, the collision was enough to topple her onto the floor, newspaper still clutched in her hands. WV, completely forgetting about the Authority Regulator, dashed over to her and helped her out while spouting a string of hasty apologies.
"Ouch," she complained, wincing a little as she stood up.
"I'm so sorry," WV kept repeating, embarrassed out of his wits.
"It's okay. It didn't hurt that much," she reassured him, offering a pained smile.
WV noticed that some envelopes had fallen from inside her mailbag so he quickly gathered and dusted them all off before handing them back to her.
She put them back inside her bag and looked at the station clock. "Oh no, I'm running late! Sorry, I have to go!" she exclaimed, taking off without another word.
WV watched her leave before turning around and kicking his cart in frustration. So much for a good first impression, Villein.
A little downhearted, he went back to pushing his cart out of the station. If he ever had any chance with her, he must have lost it right there and then…
Not that he was planning anything! He was far too busy with his farming to actually be able to date someone. But maybe if he had been someone more important and with less work, he might have considered asking her out. Maybe he could have taken her out to a nice little restaurant or to a picnic on the battlefield.
Eventually reaching Prospit's main plaza, WV decided to take a little break from pushing the heavy cart. He sat down in one of the many benches scattered around the place and rested for a while. After twenty minutes or so, he figured he should stop wasting time and get going. Just as he stood up, however, he saw her again.
She was on the other end of the Plaza, still engrossed in her newspaper. He quickly looked away and took the handle of his cart. Come on, she was just a girl that he was probably never going to see ever again. He began to walk away, still intent on forgetting about her and minding his own business. But then again, if that would be the last time he saw her…it couldn't hurt to have just one last look at her, right? Just one quick sneak peek and then he would be on his merry-way! Really!
He stopped walking and very, very slowly turned his head to look at her. See? There wasn't anything to worry about! Except maybe the fact that she looked up just in time to catch him looking at her. Oh no, no, no, this was a very bad ide—oh god, did she just smile at him?
He snapped his head back towards his cart because his fruits were suddenly very interesting. Yes sir, what an exemplary model of farming produce! He really had to just admire them because he certainly was not blushing like a maniac and even less was he thinking about the fact that she just smiled at him, no sir, no way, no how, ha ha ha!
After a few minutes of admiring his produce, he glanced around and realized that the girl had already left. He stood still for a minute before taking his cart and walking away, his face still bright red.
By the time he got to the marketplace, it was already noon and the Kingdom was bustling with activity.
WV had been to Prospit's marketplace a few times before and he was a little annoyed that it was just as he remembered it: crowded and loud. Merchants shouting about how delicious their food was, children playing in the middle of the aisles while their mothers tried to haggle prices because "those apples don't look fresh!" and everyone basically trying to push everyone else out of the way.
Taking a deep breath, he stepped inside the chaos and spent a good ten minutes forcing his way through until he finally got to a stand called 'HG Fruit & Vegetables'. The owner of the stand, a chubby and short prospitian called the Humorous Grocer, was in the middle of arranging his fruits when he noticed WV.
"Well, well, well!" he exclaimed, crossing his arms and smiling broadly at WV. "Sweetheart, look who came to visit us!"
A short, thin female carapace appeared suddenly from behind the stand. "Villein! What a lovely surprise!"
HG and his wife had been one of WV's first clients after he abandoned his soldier duties in favor of becoming a farmer. If anything, they were probably the only reason coming to Prospit wasn't so much of a drag.
"So, what brings you here?" HG asked, going back to arranging the fruits. "Ran out of fertilizer again?"
"Yes. I was hoping I could buy some from you," WV explained before remembering his cart. "Oh! I also brought you some produce."
HG walked over to the cart and took out some of the fruits. He examined them for a few minutes before exclaiming, "Looks like you had a good batch this season, Villein! Same price as usual?"
"Same as usual."
HG nodded and turned around to his wife. "Sweetheart, can you please go fetch some bags of fertilizer?" He then looked back at WV, rubbing his hands together. "I made a different fertilizer this time around. It's a hundred percent organic! You don't know what I had to use for it. Spent days picking worms, getting compost, waiting for the animals to empty their bowe—"
"How is business?" WV quickly interrupted, remembering how sick he got the last time HG described what he used in his fertilizers.
"Business is great!" HG answered, loading the vegetables off the cart and onto his stand. "I'm actually expecting a letter from a big client today. Oh! There it is now!"
WV turned around and felt his heart skip a beat upon seeing a very familiar carapace pushing her way towards them.
"Well, well, well," HG said, crossing his arms. "If it isn't the Parcel Mistress!"
"Hello, Grocer," she greeted, smiling at him. "I've got some letters for you." She dug her hand inside her mailbag and retrieved two envelopes. "Here you go!"
"Another successful delivery for Prospit's top mail-lady," he said, taking the letters and winking at her.
She giggled a little before suddenly noticing the dersite busily looking at everything except her.
"It's you!" she exclaimed. "Hi again!"
"Oh! Hello," he replied, trying to act as natural as possible. "It is nice to see you again."
"Again?" interrupted HG, looking up from the letters.
PM nodded. "Yes, we had a little… incident this morning."
"Incident?" asked HG, throwing WV a look that suggested something not very appropriate at all.
A flustered WV was about to open his mouth to explain just what the incident had been but was interrupted by PM.
"Did you grow these?" she asked, looking at the fruits and vegetables still inside his cart.
She stared thoughtfully at the cart for a few seconds before reaching inside her mailbag and taking out a little bag filled with boondollars. "How much does an apple cost?"
"You can have it for free," he answered without skipping a beat.
"Oh! Are you sure? I don't mi--"
"I insist," he interrupted before blushing a little and adding, "I mean, business has been good so it is no trouble, really."
PM seemed to hesitate before finally smiling at him. "Thank you, then. That's very nice of you!" She looked inside the cart and hovered her hand over the apples before finally picking one. She took a bite and chewed for a little before exclaiming, "This is delicious!"
WV had to bite his lips just to stop himself from sighing like a lovesick puppy, settling instead with nodding appreciatively. Honestly, since when did he become so mushy?
HG opened his mouth to make a very embarrassing remark but was thankfully interrupted by someone else.
They all turned around to find HG's wife walking towards them, pushing a little cart with two bags of fertilizer.
"Hello, dear!" she exclaimed upon noticing PM. "Any mail for us today?"
"Two letters! I already delivered them to your husband," she replied. "Although I'm running a little late, actually, so I think I better go now."
"Off you go, then," HG said. "The mail calls!"
PM said goodbye to the couple before looking at WV. "Thanks a lot for the apple! Maybe we'll run into each other again!"
"Maybe," he replied, offering her a little smile.
She smiled back at him before running off and disappearing into the crowd. WV stared at the spot where she had disappeared, a rather goofy smile decorating his face.
"What a lovely girl," HG's wife sighed.
HG smirked a little, crossing his arms. "Villein sure thinks so…" he remarked before adding, "So, are you going to tell us what that little 'incident' was?"
WV turned around, cheeks red. "It was nothing like that," he quickly clarified. "I accidentally bumped into her with my cart and nothing else!"
HG looked thoughtfully at WV before smirking once again. "Was it really an accident?"
"Now, now, sweetie. Stop teasing him! He's almost as red as a tomato!"
WV really couldn't complain about his day. He had sold all his produce, bought great (and cheap!) fertilizer and, most importantly, he had become acquainted with a very nice gal. Thinking about it, now that they had formally met, perhaps the idea of asking her out wasn't really too far-fetched.
"THE NEXT AIRSHIP TO THE BATTLEFIELD WILL DEPART SHORTLY."
Brought back down from cloud nine, WV made sure the bags of fertilizer were firmly secured inside his cart and quickly made his way to the bunch of carapaces waiting to be let into airship. After a few minutes, the station officers began letting them all in the aircraft and, just as it was WV's turn, he heard someone calling him. Turning around, he was horrified to see the Authority Regulator from before signaling WV to come see him.
There's no escaping that 20,000 boondollar fine now, he thought as he made his way to AR.
"Can I help you, Regulator?" asked WV, hoping with all his might that he had just been called over for something really trivial and silly.
"I need to ask you some questions. I'm in charge of the dersites entering the Light Kingdom, " AR explained. He then looked around for potential eavesdroppers before whispering, "Don't want any illegal merchandise making its way to Prospit via Derse. You understand."
"Yes, of course."
The Regulator took out a little notepad and began writing down something. "Designation?"
"Place of residency?"
"On the northern part of the battlefield."
"Reason for visiting Prospit?"
"I needed to buy fertilizer for my crops."
AR wrote another thing down before walking over to the cart and looking inside. He read the information on the front of both bags and scribbled down something. "All clear," he finally said, still looking down at his notepad.
WV's shoulders relaxed as he realized that he had avoided trouble. "Okay, then, I will be on my way," he announced, taking the handle of the cart and starting to stroll away.
"One last thing."
WV slowly turned around. "Yes?"
AR looked up from his notepad and handed out his hand. "I need to see your vending license."
AR nodded his head towards the cart. "I saw you earlier today and that cart was filled with merchandise. I'm assumin' you sold it to someone in exchange for the fertilizer."
WV felt the blood drain from his face. "Well, you see, I…"
AR crossed his arm and stared expectantly at WV. "Yes?"
"Uhm, well, the thing is tha—"
"There you are!"
Both dersites turned around to find PM running towards them.
"Hello," WV greeted, not really understanding what the heck she was doing.
"I've been looking for you!"
PM looked at AR. "Excuse-me but is there a problem?"
AR looked at her suspiciously before finally answering. "He forgot his license," he explained, glancing at WV. "Didn't you?"
WV tried to defend himself but was once again interrupted by PM.
"I'm sorry, Regulator! I'm afraid that's my fault. He's helping me with some deliveries and since he's technically collaborating with Prospit, I didn't think he would need to bring his license to sell here. I should have been more careful," she explained with complete and utter confidence.
AR narrowed his eyes, looking back and forth from PM to WV. "Well," he finally said, "I guess you're free to go, then."
PM smiled brightly at him. "Thank you and sorry for the inconvenience!"
AR's cheeks went a little red. "Yeah, yeah," he said before looking at WV. "Just don't let me catch you again without it!"
Before WV could even nod, PM was already pulling the cart away with one hand and WV with the other.
"Bye! Thank you!"
Once out of the station, PM stopped running and turned to look at WV.
"I think we're safe now!"
WV, a little out of breath, rested against his cart. "I can't believe he bought it," he said between huffs.
PM crossed her arms and looked in the general direction of the station. "I don't think he bought it, to be honest," she admitted. "I think he just let you off the hook just this once."
"Thank you for helping me with that, Miss."
PM grinned at him. "Not at all! You did give me a free apple, after all," she replied. She was about to say something else but got distracted by something in the sky. "Uh-oh…"
WV looked up and saw the airship headed to the battlefield flying off in the distance. "Ugh," he groaned, slapping his hand over his face. The next airship to the battlefield wouldn't depart for at least another six hours meaning he was now stuck in Prospit for another five hours with nothing to do.
"What will you do now?" asked PM.
"I am not sure. I suppose I can go find a restaurant and just wait there until the next departure," he said half-heartedly. "Well, thank you again for everything!"
"O-Oh, wait, don't go!" PM she said, grabbing his arm. Realizing what she had done, she blushed and quickly let go. "Uh, I mean, my shift will be done soon so if you want you can help me deliver some letters and then I can keep you company until you have to leave?"
Well, well, well! That was certainly a nice twist and he sure as heck wasn't going to turn it down.
"I would very much prefer that."
Once they had taken care of her last deliveries, PM had suggested she take the dersite on a little tour of the golden city. After all, she knew the place like the back of her hand and she could show him the secluded spots visitors never went to. After leaving WV's cart in the post-office, they decided to go to the main plaza first and decide from there where to go next.
"What would you like to see first?" she asked WV, both of them sitting down one of the plaza's benches.
WV scratched his head thoughtfully. "Hm… I don't know? I had never really thought of what there is to see here. I usually only go to the marketplace."
PM crossed her arms and looked at the floor. "Well…I could take you to see the river on the southern part of the kingdom. It's a very pretty view. Or I could take you see the castl—"
"Oh no, that is okay," he quickly interrupted. "I am not really interested in seeing that."
"Oh. Well, then, we could… Oh, I know! I have just the place!" she suddenly exclaimed, clapping her hands together and jumping up.
"What is it?"
"It's one of my favorite places here in Prospit!" she said. "I think you'll like it."
They left the main plaza and entered a secluded road a few blocks away from the plaza. As they went further inside the maze of streets, PM decided it was the perfect time to bombard the farmer with questions. Why did he decide to become a farmer, was it difficult, how many visitors did he get, how often did he come to Prospit, what did he like about it, was it similar to Derse, had he visited the la—
"Wait, wait," he interrupted after the fifteenth question. "Now it is my turn to question you!
"Let me think… Okay, I know. why did you become a mail-lady?"
"Oh, that's easy," she said, crossing her hands behind her back. "The mail is a way for people all over the medium to be connected!" She uncrossed her arms and began moving her hands.
"It's the one thing that will always defend free communication, knowledge and the exchange of ideas! There's nothing better than delivering a letter and knowing that you have helped civilization move forward! That you helped two beloved friends still be in contact with each other despite the distance and the tria—" She suddenly stopped and coughed awkwardly, cheeks red. "Uhm, I think I might have gotten carried away a little."
WV chuckled. "No, I understand. It is not only toting the little papery conduits citizens send but it is also a duty to deliver them for they are the foundation of free expression and equality for all— it is a little bit like democracy."
"Exactly!" she gushed, unconsciously moving a little closer to him. "Everything is civil and organized! It's perfect."
Now it was WV's turn to gush. "Yes! Everyone is happy because there's respect and freedom for all! Everyone has a right to do and say what they want and there are no problems!"
As they both began to ramble on and on about the perfection of democracy and the mail system, they slowly began to walk closer and closer to each other. They eventually noticed this and the blushing duo quickly jumped apart.
"Anyway, that's why I wanted to work in the post-office," concluded PM, once again crossing her arms behind her back. "Oh, look! We're here!"
WV looked up and saw they had reached a little restaurant. There seemed to be quite a few people inside the place but the tables on the outside of the building were all unoccupied.
"Is this your favorite restaurant?" he asked, recalling hr mentioning she was taking him somewhere special.
"Yes but that's not why I wanted to show you."
PM smiled. "My very first delivery was a box of glasses to this very place," she said. "To be honest, it was a complete disaster. I got lost and found the place after hours of wandering around."
"Ah, Parcel Mistress!"
A carapace had come out of the restaurant, a wet glass and towel in his hands. "Did we get mail?"
PM shook her head. "No, no! I just came to visit with a friend!" she exclaimed, not noticing the smile that had appeared on WV's face the instant she referred to him as her friend.
"Oh! Sit down and I'll be right with you, then!" the carapace said, going back inside the restaurant.
They took a seat on one of the tables outside and WV put his satchel on the table. He opened it up and started taking stuff out while looking for his wallet.
He looked up and saw PM was looking at his notebook.
"It's nothing," he replied, looking back at his satchel. "It's the notebook I draw in when I am bored."
"You like to draw? Can I see?"
Uh-oh. He looked towards his notebook on the table. He…really didn't like showing his drawings. They were silly and not very good. She probably wouldn't even like them. "Uhm…"
"It's okay if you don't want to, though!" she quickly added, noticing his hesitation.
WV shook his head. "No, no. You can look at them." His fear that she might think badly of him for not showing her was greater than his aversion to showing his doodles.
He watched as PM carefully took the little notepad and opened it up. Please like them, please, please, please.
"Oh wow, these are great," she exclaimed. "This is your farm, isn't it? And this…Oh, this is one of the houses from the village in LOWAS!"
Relief flooding through him, WV nodded. "Yes. I have a drawing of all the places I've visited."
"Oh, this is the clock tower from Prospit!" she said with excitement. "But… these are all landscapes and buildings. There aren't any carapaces or consorts."
"Oh. I don't usually draw living beings."
"Why not draw someone you like?" she suggested, closing the notepad and handing it back to him. "That way you'll always have a friend with you."
WV took the notepad and looked at it, deep in thought. A few seconds later, he grabbed his satchel and took out a little piece of carbon. "That is a good idea. Stay still, please."
"Oh! Oh wait, I didn't mean—You don't have to draw me!" she stuttered, completely flustered.
"But we are friends, right?" he remarked, smiling. "Didn't you say as much a few minutes ago?"
PM shifted her eyes. "Yes, of course! But… should I pose?" she asked, straightening herself. "Or should I be natural? But it won't really be natural because I'll be acting natural and ahhh…" She dug her face in her hands and looked at him from between her fingers. "I'm sorry," she said, giggling into her hands.
She took a deep breath and straightened herself. "Okay, I'm ready!" she announced, folding her hands on the table and trying (but failing) to look serious.
WV rolled his eyes playfully and opened the notepad to a blank page. As he began to sketch her, PM found herself forgetting all about "posing" and instead watching with fascination.
After a few minutes, he turned the notepad around and showed her the finished drawing.
"I love it," she said before handing him back the notepad.
WV looked at the drawing before suddenly taking the page and carefully tearing it out of the book. He then handed it to her. "I want you to have it."
PM took the drawing and looked at him. "Are you sure?"
WV nodded, prompting PM to take out an empty envelope from inside her mailbag and putting the drawing inside.
"Thank you, Villein!"
"Not at all, Parcel Mistress."
"THE NIGHT-TIME AIRSHIP TO THE BATTLEFIELD WILL DEPART SHORTLY."
PM and WV watched as carapaces began to line up in front of the airship.
PM looked at WV. "Well, I guess this is where we say goodbye."
"Yes," he said. "Thank you for everything," he continued, holding out his hand and offering her a smile.
"Have a safe trip," she said, shaking his hand.
WV let go and grabbed the handle of his cart. He started walking away but stopped quite suddenly. It was now or never.
"Is something wrong?" she asked when he turned to look at her.
"No. I just wanted to say that… well, if you ever go to the battlefield… you are always welcome to visit. We could could have a picnic? If you want," he asked, trying his damnedest not to blush.
"Well, I have to go run an errand on LOWAS tomorrow but I have to go to the battlefield in a few days so I think I'd like that picnic very much!"
WV grinned and began walking away. "See you soon!"
"I wonder what's takin' her so long…"
"I should go check on her."
It had been merely a week since the Wayward Vagabond had been in the company of the Peregrine Mendicant and the Aimless Renegade. Out of his two companions, the Renegade was the one he had talked to the most. Maybe it was because both were dersites and had more to talk about or maybe it was because the Mendicant had been somewhat distant and private about herself.
"I think she's up on the ruins, Vagabond," AR said, glancing at the huge frog head perched atop the stone tower.
WV nodded and set off towards the ruins. After a ten minute climb, he indeed found her inside the ruins, looking out in the distance.
"Miss Mendicant? Is everything alright?"
PM turned to look at WV. "Hello, Vagabond. And yes, everything is fine. I was just thinking, that's all."
WV took the liberty of approaching her. "Of Prospit?"
"Yes," she confessed. "I miss it terribly. And I don't have barely anything left from it except for my clothes and a drawing."
PM nodded and took out folded piece of paper from in between her wrappings. "Here," she said, handing it to WV.
As he unfolded the piece of paper, he noticed it looked worn-out, as if it had been looked at often. Once unfolded, he felt his heart almost stop upon recognizing the worn out sketch of a certain parcel mistress.
"A friend did it for me," she explained. "A dersite, actually. I was going to meet him again a few days after he drew this but I had to go to LOWAS and… I never saw him again," she finished, her voice barely above a whisper.
WV folded the paper and returned it to her. He then looked towards the horizon and said, "I used to go to Prospit a lot."
"Yes. I did not really like it much until one day when my trip to Prospit took an unexpected turn."
"What do you mean?" she asked, her interest piqued.
"Well," he began, crossing his arms, "I never really liked going to Prospit but, one day, I ran out of fertilizer for my crops and Derse was simply too far away."