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Chapter 102: The Appraiser

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Author: TypeAxiom Original Source: Scribble Hub

Camilla took a few breaths to rid herself of the last of her bad mood from her earlier encounter with the hooligans. Although she knew that such people were also a product of their environment and their circumstances, especially when she saw how thin most of them were, and how worn out the clothes they had on were, she still hated how they went about trying to fix that problem.

There were so many people in the slums in their exact same position. However, they worked to try and better their situation, often foraying out into the rest of the city to work odd jobs. On the other hand, these people…no, scum of humanity, resorted to robbery and extortion.

While she risked her life to fight for the betterment of humanity, what these people did went completely counter to her ideals.

She couldn’t accept that.

Not only did they rob outsiders that wandered in, they preyed on the people that were just as poor as they were. The people they stole from most were those in the slums that chose to work in order to live instead of fighting for it.

So what if ransom money from Kagriss could feed their gang for weeks? It was ill-gained money and it wasn’t as if the money went to feeding good people. Instead, it fed the dregs of society that would then use the new life breathed into them by the money to sink to even deeper levels.

Perhaps some of those gangsters had people relying on them, and while Camilla felt sorry for those innocent dependents, there was nothing she could do. At least, not before, when she was still a proper, human templar.

Now, there was no code binding her except her own moral code, and as far as she was concerned, the very existence of these dregs of society was detrimental to humanity.

In other words, these people were enemies to be eliminated.

However, it wasn’t time yet. She was still weak, both personally and in manpower. She’ll tolerate them for now since she had more things to do. Once she expands her power, she’ll begin her plan.

The first part of expanding her power was the procurement of funding. Pulling on the rope hanging from the ceiling in a specific pattern, Camilla let the person inside know that she was an old customer.

Soon, the door opened and a severely hunched old man standing just a bit taller than her walked out. Despite his small stature and unassuming looks, Camilla smiled cordially at him. Now that she was an undead, she could sense that aura of a high mage from him.

He was special.

The man wasn’t an archpriest, but he was a high mage nonetheless, being able to cast powerful holy spells. If Camilla hadn’t strong-armed Pavlor into healing Fleur, she would have hired this man to do it.

But his holy magic wasn’t what made him special. No, this man was one of the only people that Camilla knew who possessed a double affinity. Not only was he a high mage in holy magic, this man was a war mage with his fire affinity.

Despite his hunched back and thin limbs, Camilla knew that he could still beat a good portion of the Cloud Knights in single combat barehanded.

“Leland, nice to meet you,” she said, curtsying respectfully.

“I don’t recognize you. How did you know?” the old man asked, tilting his head slightly toward the string. If Camilla hadn’t been looking for it, she would’ve missed it thinking it was just the result of an old man’s failing muscles. “Did someone tell you?”

“No, of course not. It’s just that my appearance changed slightly as a result of some…circumstances.”

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Leland snorted. “Of course it did. And I don’t suppose you can tell me now, eh? Inside later. Who’re the others?” he asked, glancing suspiciously at Kagriss and Lucienne. “New?”

“No, they’re just accompanying me. Kagriss is with me, and Lucy here is—”

“Hey! Don’t call me Lucy!” Lucienne interrupted, slamming her hand on the table before shrinking back while holding her hand in pain, tearing up.

Camilla winced. “That table is enchanted. I wouldn’t do that again if I were you.” She’s never made that particular mistake, but she’s seen others.

The templar didn’t answer her. She just continued to cradle her hand.

Shrugging, Camilla turned back to Leland. “As I was saying, Lucienne here is just to have fun. Well, Kagriss is as well, but I eventually plan on introducing her to you if things go right.”

“If things go right, huh? How right?” Leland asked, stepping on a stool and leaning over the table at her in interest. However, Camilla kept her mouth shut, smiling slyly.

“That’ll have to wait until later. First, we talk business,” Camilla said. She began to lift the bag containing the valuable bits from the stag when Leland held up a hand to stop her. She lifted a brow.

The old man pulled back her hand. “You do know the rules, right? You were told?”

“No, I really am…an old customer. The original one, or I used to be…”

“Yes, and I’m a young man. Anyways, it wouldn’t hurt to go over them again since they’re not particularly lo—”

Camilla interrupted him before he could begin. “I know, I know. Hard money only, half in advance to buy, full to sell. You dictate the price, no bargaining.”

In any other shop, Camilla would have walked out if no bargaining was part of the rules of transaction, but Leland was pretty much always fair when it came to pricing. He pretty much just aimed to break even with a little to spare to live a comfortable life, and as far as Camilla knew, it’s worked out pretty well for him.

Sometimes, Camilla even got unexpectedly good prices for things she wanted to buy and sell.

“So you were told!” Leland accused, pointing at her.

“No, I keep saying…oh, never mind.” Camilla gave up. Leland had a great memory and because of that, he’s got it in his head that Camilla was here after someone told her about the place.

Despite her respect for his strength, age, and integrity, he was still a stubborn old man. She’ll just have to convince him otherwise. Leland would be a great ally as well.

“Anyways, I know the rules. Can we begin?”

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Although the old man scowled at her, he nodded. “I’m making an exception for you so this had better be good.”

No you’re not, Camilla muttered in her head, but didn’t voice out. Instead, she hauled the bag onto the table, undoing the drawstrings. The contents spilled out.

The huge skull of a stag. The antlers from the same creature. A complete though damaged pelt of, again, the same creature.

Leland’s eyes grew as big as coins as he beheld the animal parts. Camilla heard a gasp from Lucienne as well.

“Good heavens, where did you get this?” he muttered, picking up an antler, turning it around in his hands.

“We—Kagriss and I—came across it while out in the wild in the south. We tricked it into killing itself, so it was an easy victory. So, what’s your price?” Camilla asked.

Leland didn’t answer. He was too busy admiring the other parts as well, running his fingers over the bones of the cleaned skull and the surprisingly soft fur on the pelt. All the while, he muttered his observations under his breath, loud enough for all to hear.

“Amazing…lightning structures on the antlers. At least advanced magic. Quick absorption rate, maybe around third rank? And this bone! Pity about the shape, but resistance to lightning magic as well as…”

He went on and on while Camilla listened to his appraisal, forming her own idea on the cost. Leland went into depth about the condition of the materials, possible uses, and projected popularity among buyers, holding no information bad.

He did it as much for Camilla’s benefit as her own, so they were on an even playing field regarding information. Since his price could not be bargained, any seller’s only option if they wanted to affect the pricing was to contest Leland’s appraisal. As for Camilla, she had already long admitted defeat.

Every visit with Leland was a learning experience.

It was a while before Leland came to a stop, wheezing slightly from talking so long without even a pause. Finally, he took a deep breath, about to say his price. Before he could, Camilla cut in front of him.

“So in total, about forty thousand?”

“Forty-one thousand for all. Hmm?”

Camilla sighed, bumping her head against the table in defeat. Kagriss patted her on the back and hugged her to help her cheer up. Kagriss’s touch did indeed do much to lift Camilla’s spirits.

However, it didn’t change that once again she got the value wrong.

Not only did she get it wrong, she underestimated the value, which meant she would’ve gotten scammed had she taken it to another shop.

When she looked up again, Leland was staring at her, rubbing his beard. “You…remind me of someone.”

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“I probably am that someone, or I used to be. Like I said, my appearance changed,” Camilla retorted. “Forty-one thousand is fine, but I also want to buy some things immediately if possible. But before that, we should go—”

A hacking cough from Leland cut her short and Camilla looked more carefully at him in worry. Was his age finally catching up to him?

Recovering from his cough, Leland straightened, or at most his bent spine allowed him to. “You damn youngs go too fast. Slow down, one at a time! So you’re selling, but you also want to buy. And then what?”

“Not then,” Camilla corrected. “Before. I want to have that talk inside you mentioned earlier. With Kagriss.”

At the mention of the name, the old man squinted as he looked toward Kagriss, no doubt sizing her up. He rubbed his chin. “Now you said she helped you take down a mana beast of that caliber?”

Camilla nodded. Leland only accepted the exceptional, so she had to make Kagriss sound as good as possible. As for Lucienne, who she had also brought along…apparently Leland didn’t see much in her.

However, Lucienne was still a young templar with a lot of room to grow, so perhaps one day Lucienne will come back here again by herself and be acknowledged by Leland, assuming the old man didn’t kick the bucket before then.

Finally, the old man sniffed and snorted again before he nodded. He walked over to the other end of the long table and lifted a segment of it up, rotating it on brass hinges.

“Come on over to the back, then,” he said, beckoning to Camilla and Kagriss. Then, he pointed straight at Lucienne, who was looking bewildered by everything this whole time. “And you. If anyone comes down, tell them to not bother me. Defend that string with your life.”

Then he followed Camilla into the room in the back, slamming the door shut behind him.

Axiom’s Note

Insert Author’s Note here. I don’t really have anything relevant to say about the story, so I’m just going to say that I love Touhou! Everything about Touhou is good, from the characters to the music. Especially the music and their remixes!

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