The False Shopkeeper

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Fantasy  |  House: House of Ghosts

Chapter 7 (v.1) - Ambiguity, Beige and Piercing Gaze

Submitted: June 09, 2017

Reads: 179

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Submitted: June 09, 2017

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Chapter Seven -  Ambiguity, Beige and Piercing Gaze

 

I stared at the blank canvas above me. A blank ceiling, white as cocaine. (Snow feels overused.) Several days had passed since I set things into motion. Welker had gathered the magus stones, his party of adventurers only suffered minor injuries as a result. Cindy and Winry had lined up potential buyers and were in the process of finalising the deal. Samuel had given me his teary-eyed word that he would take the fall without question. All that was left was to wait but waiting often makes unneeded alliances with contemplation. So I lay there, like a budding philosopher, and I pondered. My very nature was being called into question but interrogating myself was a troublesome task. I had cross certain lines and a bridge the once existed to take me back had disappeared. I was only ever meant to be the joker. Living a pointless but laugh-filled life until I died of old age. Old friends would have a toast in my memory, sharing dumb stories of our youth. That was how it was all meant to go but thinking back, my old man saw this coming. He knew his words would come true?

 

**

 

How old was I at the time? Thirteen, fourteen? Something like that. Either way it the early pubescent years. I read the same old porn mag seven times a day and questioned whether it was alright to think of a teacher in that way. We moved around a lot, it was just my dad and me, mother had run the fuck off the first chance she got apparently. Dad was pure military, born and bred. He served in the special forces in his youth but an injury forced him into early retirement but even then, he couldn’t give it up. He traveled the country as an instructor, dragging me along with him. I had no interest in the soldier's life but he made sure he taught me everything he knew anyway.

 

Sparring was on the training agenda that day so he had me hitting a dummy with a knife. Probably wasn’t the greatest idea to give a teenage boy a sharp object and encourage the stabby stabby but hey, I never said he was parent of the year.

 

“Grip it properly,” dad grumbled. “You couldn’t even cut yer dinner like that.”

 

“Shouldn’t I be like, playing football or something? Not stabbing fucking inanimate objects?

 

“Oi, watch your bloody language,” he sighed. “Listen, son, all this is for your own good. One day there might come a time where you find yourself fighting against the very world. Even so, if you remember what I've taught you then you’ll find mates to fight the world with you. Understand?”

 

“No, not really.”

 

**

 

A knock at the bedroom door brought me back from memory lane.

 

“Come in.”

 

The door creaked open and a motley crew of familiar faces walked in. Greybear, Welker, Cindy, and Winry. All of them with a greedy smile plastered across their face. Well, except Greybear, he looked the same as usual.

 

“Ta-dah!” Welker let out a sound of celebration as he dropped multiple heavy sacks of coin on the floor before him.

 

Circular gold coins rolled out onto the floor. Their rich shine was mesmerizing. “How much did we make?” I asked.

 

“Exactly three hundred gold. Undercutting massively was the smart choice to make. I had no problems finding buyers. Welker has already shared half amongst himself and the adventurers as earlier agreed. I’ve also taken the liberty of taking thirty gold for my own payment. That leaves you with a total sum of one hundred and ten gold.” A money-loving smile gleamed across Cindy’s face throughout her explanation.

 

“There is the little case of this being very illegal,” said Welker. “The Trade Guild is already hunting down the man responsible, so, you.”

 

“They received an anonymous tip earlier. They’ll find a criminal with a very guilty conscience waiting for them.” I failed to hold in my smile. When all was said in done it was clear to me, and everyone else, that regardless of initial hesitations on moral debates, I enjoyed the whole fiasco. There was a unique satisfaction to seeing the results of a plan, even if the aforementioned plan makes you a criminal.

 

“So, what will you do now?” Asked Welker.

 

“I’m not sure,” I sat on the side of the bed. “What will you do, Greybear? You don’t have to worry about your debt to Samuel and you’re welcome to as much gold as you want.”

 

“Greybear go home. To north, family. Furio, shop yours.”

 

Greybear picked up a handful of coins in his furry hands and shoved them in his pockets. Just like that and just like that, he was gone. His exit was just as mind-boggling as our initial encounter over a few weeks prior. I would, however, meet him again but not for quite some time.

 

“We should get going too,” said Cindy. “Feel free to let us know if you’re planning any other unexpected...jobs.”

 

“Bye Furio, don’t miss us too much!” Winry perked up as she skipped beside Cindy on their way out.

 

“What if I told you this was only the beginning, Welker?” I asked.

 

“Well, I fucking hope it is. Been some time since I’ve met a bastard as crazy as you.” Some of Welker’s thug persona slipped through the cracks. It was nothing to be surprised about. His looks had forced him to play that thug role for most of his life but in some ways, it wasn’t all an act.

 

“Oh? I’m crazy now?”

 

“Aye, you are. You just helped pull off one of the biggest crimes this town’s seen for a while and ya framed it on your enemy without breaking a sweat. I don’t know where the hell you came from but it certainly wasn’t a normal place.”

 

“Eh, compared to this I lived a fairly normal existence.”

 

“Hard to believe.”

 

“This wasn’t my original intention,” I said, “but, I have a plan. No, perhaps it’s better to say that I have a goal? Something unexpected has awoken. Let’s call it a fire, yes, a fire has been lit and it’s burning away past delusions, past ideals. I don’t want to lead the same old existence that I did over there.” I spewed forth some exaggerated images that felt mildly appropriate for a protagonist preparing to go down a questionable path.

 

“Over there? Fire? What? Well, guess it don’t matter if I understand you or not, I’m willing to place my bets on your crazy ass for the time being.” Welker replied.

 

“Good, always wanted a right-hand man. I have something to take care of but when I get back I want you to tell me everything you know about the inner workings of Avirah. What goes on in the city’s underground, who owns and runs what. Anything you think might be interesting. I’ll meet you back at the shop by nightfall.”

 

I found myself hiding from the judgmental glare of the sun as I ducked in and out of the shadows along the street. The giant ball of gas, at least I assumed it’s natural construct to be like my own world’s long-life light bulb, seemed to know where I would step ahead of time. Always cutting into my refuge of shade, forcefully trying to make me walk in the light. An overly dramatic metaphor sure, but how else am I meant to fill time without abusing scene-breaks?

 

I had come to the northern centre of the city, the area housed several official buildings and government entities, including my destination; the Mayor’s office. Greybear had left behind a deed to the shop but some paperwork had to be done before the shop could become my own, as learned from my previous perusing of the nation’s laws and regulations.

 

It was a grandiose building, towering higher than any other building in the town. It looked like the very definitions of a misuse of public taxes. The security was surprisingly light at the entrance. I could see a couple of guards posted at the entrance and a handful patrolling the square itself. As I waltzed up to the entrance I was half prepared to hand over two forms of ID but this world was not under the grasp of paranoia-induced security, for better or worse. They gave me a brief nod as I walked passed them, without giving so much as a single thought as to who I was or what my purpose in coming was.

 

I was greeted by a charming reception area that felt far less pompous than the building’s exterior. They had opted for the universally boring but always safe colour; beige. The assorted furniture was simple but welcoming. They seats were comfortable but not to the point that you lose the will to stay awake. However, all of that was totally unnecessary detail that you and I will forget by tomorrow anyway.

 

Behind the receptionist desk stood, you guessed it, a man so large that he could probably fit a protein shake between his toes. I was surprised, mostly because it was the first time this world hadn’t urged on my unhealthy libido but also because the muscles did not match the welcoming aura of beige that surrounded us.

 

“Welcome to the Mayoral Office, how may I be of service?” His voice was stereotypically booming, each word rolled off his tongue like a catapult.

 

“I want to register my name against a deed of ownership, and if possible I’d like to see Hayley Griffon.” A smart criminal would not have approached the deputy mayor so soon after committing a crime but a smart man would say fuck it and chase the girl of his dreams anyway.

 

“What business do you have with the Deputy Mayor?” The potential pro wrestler at reception gave me a cautious glance.

 

“I was hoping to meet her for pleasure and not business if I’m being honest. If you just tell her it’s Furio then she’ll probably agree to see me.”

 

Pro wrestler reluctantly agreed and picked up a strange, tablet-like device. My best guess was that it was a magical tool which served the same purpose as a phone.

 

“Miss Griffon, I have a Mr. Furio here to see you. He’s here for a deed registration but requested you specifically.” There was a pause while he listened to her reply. “Understood, I’ll send him up.”

 

Pro wrestler led me up the stairs, directly to Hayley’s office on the third floor. “You may enter but please do mind your manners.”

 

“Sure thing, like a shepherd minds his flock I shall guide myself into her loving arms.”

 

I could hear a hint of hatred coming from pro wrestler’s mouth as I closed the door behind me. Likewise, I could hear a heavy sigh from Hayley as I entered.

 

“Furio, why are you here?” Her casual dismissal of my existence was oddly exciting.

 

“I need to register a deed of ownership.”

 

“And what is it you now happen to own?”

 

“A shop, Greybear’s shop to be precise but he returned home to the mountains or something like an hour ago.”

 

Hayley gave me her signature blank stare of disbelief. “I can never tell if anything you say is actually true.”

 

“Well it’s true that I love you,” I said, leaning in close.

 

I felt a hand against my chest warding me off with a gentle shove.

 

“You act awfully familiar with some you hardly know.”

 

“I like to think that we’ve bonded on a spiritual level.”

 

“A spiritual level huh? Maybe you’re right,” she paused for a second. “Furio, do you have regrets?”

 

Her abrupt question hit me like a soap-bar-filled sock. It was unexpected, hard and didn’t make me feel cleaner at all.

 

“I mean everyone has regrets, right?”

 

“I’m talking about recent regrets, Furio. I’ll be honest with you; I find everything about you suspicious. You turn up out of the blue and then suddenly a major crime occurs and then you find yourself in possession of a shop? A little too convenient, no?”

 

Hayley had doubted me from the moment we met. I could tell back then at the library that her instinct would prove to be troublesome. Even so, I couldn’t view her as a foe for as childish as it may sound I truly was smitten. That fanciful crush put me at a disadvantage. The smart thing would have been to distance myself from her completely, yet I had walked straight to her door instead.

 

“I guess I’m just fortunate. Greybear came into some money through investments and managed to clear up his debt. Guess he decided returning home was his next move but decided to leave me the shop.” The lies formed so easily in my mind and I said them with enough conviction to fool an ordinary onlooker. It did little to appease Hayley’s doubts of course but saying nothing would have put me in a worse position.

 

Hayley leaned back in her chair, rolling her eyes as if to say ‘nice try.’

 

“Another oddity, Furio, is that there are no records of your existence. I’ve asked every records office in Procrast about the man called Furio Leonhardt and well, you just don’t seem to exist.” Her piercing blue gaze eroded my mental defenses. There I was getting unofficially interrogated by the deputy mayor and all I could think about was asking her to dinner.

 

“I’m from out of the country, like, really far out of the country.”

 

“Furio, I can’t prove anything right now and honestly, I’d rather not have to prove anything at all. Unfortunately, I take my job seriously. The current Mayor is a great woman, there is no one else suited to lead this city and I will do everything in my power to ensure her continued role.”

 

Hayley Griffon may have held the title of Deputy Mayor but her actual job role left little time for politics. She coordinated the city guards and personally resolved disturbances and disputes. To compare her to my own world she was kind of like a detective of sorts, one who was exclusively employed by the Mayor.

 

“Having such zeal for your job is admirable but I’m not sure what it has to do with me.” I tried to avoid her not-so-subtle inquires.

 

“I can see you’re not willing to make things easy for me so I’ll make you a deal. I will approve your deed of ownership if, and only if, you submit yourself for magic interrogation.”

 

“I hope that’s as kinky as it sounds.”

 

“Only if the idea of being forced to tell the truth is appealing to you.”

 

“Ah, so, it’s some sort of truth magic? You’ll have to forgive my ignorance, I’m not well versed in the application of magic.”

 

“You will go through various tests while under the influence of a truth spell. It compels you to speak the truth and works better against those who have no magic defenses.”

 

“So, me, essentially.”

 

“Pretty much, now, do you agree? There should be no problems if you have nothing to hide.” Her words wrapped around me like a noose. Perhaps I had been overconfident. My debut success as a self-titled criminal mastermind had gone too smoothly. I had deluded myself into thinking that I was somehow special, that my being from another world would just automatically make things work in my favour. I was still treating my life as a game due to the odd circumstances but that naivety had just put me in her sights, and not for the reasons I was hoping.

 

“I guess I have no choice but to agree in order to appease your doubts. I’d prefer for us to be on good terms.” That was no lie this time.

 

“The same goes for me too, Furio.” It was slight but the beginning of a hopeful smile was unfortunately forced to the back by lingering suspicions.

 

“Well, I’ll come by tomorrow then. I have something to do tonight.”

 

I parted ways with Hayley, saying little more than a casual goodbye upon leaving. Honestly, our relationship was not developing in the way I had hoped. That was mostly due to my failure to understand just how sharp she really was.

 

The existence of magic in this fantasy world was my biggest weakness. As far as I could tell I had no aptitude for it due to not being from this world. Thus, Hayley’s plans were sure to work. Well, I had one escape route. I would have to find a countermeasure to magic overnight but what were the chances of that happening?

 

 


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