Dante’s Immortality – Chapter 91
Dante continued to walk down the streets of Sloria’s outer chamber.
Despite coming to Sloria so that he could shop, he wasn’t in a hurry, and decided to enjoy his free time. The city was far nicer than he had thought, and despite the crowded residential areas, traffic wasn’t a problem at all. It seemed that the entire city was created with great forethought, the width of every road in the main districts were far larger than necessary. It gave everything a spacious feeling where it should have felt cluttered.
He walked past several vendors and small shops, a vast majority of them tended by women. It made him wonder if all of them were owned by the first lady that he had heard mention of.
Most of them were actually selling food. There wasn’t much variety, but occasionally he would walk past someone who was selling cooked meat. Just the smell made his mouth water.
The others sold a variety of wares, mostly things that would be considered necessities. There were cheap plain clothes, pots, pans, and fabrics being sold among other things.
The overall atmosphere of those around him was cheerful, which was strange. He had never been in a place that was so full of optimism. He didn’t dislike it though.
As he walked, Dante also strained his senses outward, trying to pick up on key pieces of information from those around him. It was somewhat pointless though, almost all of the conversations were rather frivolous, and those that weren’t didn’t provide much.
He did pick up quite a few interesting pieces of gossip though. A girl named sally was rather notorious in the district he was currently in. All the older women talked about how she was leading on three different men, none of them having any idea about each other.
There was also the scattered talk of a fight taking place later that day in a place called the Combatant’s Hall. Someone popular named Ferris would be taking part, and most of the conversations on the topic were focused on him. There wasn’t much to go on from that, but Dante deduced that the Combatant’s Hall was in the second section of Sloria. It was definitely worth checking out.
After walking for a few hours, Dante veered off the path of the road, following the mouth watering smell that was assaulting his nose until he came to a stall that was selling freshly made sausages. The woman working the stall looked rather comely. She was turned to the side, tending a fire and rotating the meat so that the sausages were cooked evenly.
Dante had a hard time tearing his eyes away from the meat. It had been a long time since he had eaten something that smelt so delicious. “Excuse me. Could I purchase a few of your sausages?”
The woman tending to the fire turned to face him. Seeing his eager expression, she smiled amiably. “Of course, they are 20 coppers each.”
Dante’s eyes widened slightly. 20 coppers for one sausage was an astronomical price, still worth it though. “I’ll take two.” He fished into his pockets as he pulled the coins out of his storage. He used the larger coins that were worth five coppers each, then handed them to her.
The woman handed him two sticks, each had a sausage on it. “Here you are, dear. Careful, they are hot.”
Dante grabbed it and bit into one carefully. He sucked in a sharp breath, the were hot indeed.
The woman laughed cheerfully at his visible irritation. “Don’t say that I didn’t warn you.”
Dante looked up from the sausage and tried to regain his composure as he cleared his throat. “Thank you, it is delicious. Is this stall owned by the first lady by chance?”
The comely woman tended to the sausages that were suspended over the fire before answering. “Of course. The first lady owns almost all of the businesses in Sloria.”
Thinking back to all the small shops and vendors he had seen thus far, this first lady’s influence should be far greater than he initially thought. “Isn’t that a bit problematic?”
The woman looked at him with genuine confusion. “What do you mean?”
Dante waved his hand, indicating the entirety of their surroundings. “It all seems somewhat exploitive. The first lady invites you here and offers you free housing, but you have to work her shops. Don’t you feel a bit controlled?” His question was probing. It was something he was genuinely curious about. With the setup in Sloria, completely controlling and oppressing the women and children they invited would be beyond easy.
The comely woman let out a good-natured laugh. “You haven’t been in Sloria long, have you?”
Dante shook his head. “I just arrived this morning.”
“That would explain it. You may not have realized it, but not everyone who comes to Sloria works. There just aren’t enough jobs. Due to the kindness of the first lady, even those who can’t find a task for themselves are provided with shelter and enough food to survive.”
He didn’t even want to think about how much food so many people would consume. It also now made sense why so many people were eager to bring their goods into the city. To support such a large population, all of their goods would immediately be bought up at premium rates. “If you could eat for free, why would you work all day?”
The comely woman lightly snorted. “You call this working? You should have seen my last job. Before I got promoted I was working as a seamstress. You can’t imagine how many times I poked myself with those damn needles.” She held out her fingertips, as though showing him the torment that they endured.
“You were promoted from a seamstress to a cook?” The two tasks didn’t seem to have any correlation.
The woman nodded happily. “It’s because I distinguished myself at my last job. After taxes and upkeep are taken into consideration, I take home half of my sales as profit. This is the best job in the third section of the city, and if I do it well, I’ll be promoted to a shop in the second section next.”
Thinking about how much he had just spent on the two sausages, he realized that the woman in front of him was quite wealthy, and all she did was cook meat over a fire all day. “You are doing far better than I had imagined. Thank you for the food, I wish you well.”
Dante left the stall, munching on the sausages as he paced down the road. Sloria was a far better city than he had imagined. Actually, from what he could see, it might have been the nicest place he had ever been to.
Dante began to make his way to the second district, eager to see what it had to offer, when a young boy that couldn’t be more than eight ran up to him and tugged on his shirt.
The boy spoke quickly between massive gasps of air, he looked like he was having a panic attack. “Sir, it’s my mother. Please help, she’s been hurt.” The boy was rugged and had plain features. Everything about him looked dirty and rough, as though he had been living on the streets. Which didn’t make much sense when children were provided free shelter. He also seemed to be well fed.
Dante took another bite out of his sausage. “Your mother is hurt?”
Tears began to leak out of the boy’s eyes and he began to whimper. “Please sir…”
Dante shrugged. “Let’s be off then.”
The boy took off at a dead sprint, which he could keep pace with leisurely. They were headed toward the section of Sloria that was closest to the outer wall. That section of the city was the most densely packed residential area to the best of his knowledge.
He was still somewhat surprised that he had been targeted. It was probably his appearance, it had been nothing but a burden after it changed. The way he gawked at every new sight in Sloria likely didn’t help his case either. Given his appearance and demeanor, others likely saw him as some sheltered merchant’s son who was taking a stroll in the poorer section of Sloria.
Either way, it wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. He could always use a few more coins.
This type of mugging setup was pretty common in Alazel, usually used on travelers. Not many people fell for it though. Someone would basically need to be an idiot to not see the ambush coming. That worked out well for the muggers though, it was a good way to assess the competence of a target.
They only ran for around a minute before the streets started to become more narrow and less populated. Because the city was roughly circular in shape, the layout was a bit uneven in places, and more than one of the alleys they passed led to a dead end.
Dante heightened his senses. Even if he was confident in his ability to escape in any situation, a moment of carelessness could still cost him. The people who set up this trap were quite bold. If they were willing to target random strangers who could potentially be strong combatants, it was likely that they would have a few methods up their sleeves.
The boy that was leading him abruptly turned into an alley and Dante halted. To his surprise, the alley didn’t lead to a dead end. It was dark though; a large shadow was cast by the building to the right. He barely made out a figure in the shadows, it looked like a woman who was clutching herself in pain.
Those things didn’t make him stop though. It was the fluctuations that covered the alley’s entrance. Those fluctuations were like a shimmering wall that covered every inch of the entrance until they reached the roofs above, and from past experience he knew it was mana. When the boy ran past a gap opened, but he was pretty sure the same wouldn’t happen for him.
Whatever skill it was, it was interesting, and something he had never come across.
The boy ran to the woman and placed a hand on her in reassurance. “Don’t worry mother, someone came to help.” The boy looked up at him, his eyes pleading. “Please hurry sir.”
The acting was so good that he almost wondered if the boy and his mother were just being used, but that was unlikely. Such a setup would take too much effort to pull off and would also be hard to repeat.
Dante ignored the boy and Blinked twice to reach the rooftops above him. He was greeted by the sight of two archers that were close to the edge of the rooftops, one on each side of the alley, and a third person who was standing a short distance away.
Dante drew knives, throwing one toward each bowman before controlling them with Manipulate Blade. He didn’t aim to kill, instead taking each archer through a shoulder with the weapons. Thanks to his element of surprise, each weapon found its target.
Several groans of pain sounded out as he stepped to the final person, who he assumed to be the person that used the skill on the alley’s entrance. He pulled another knife from his boot as he did so, then smashed the back end of the weapon against the mage’s skull.
From the far side of the alley shouts of alarm arose. Clearly there were others, and they had been alerted. The archer on his side of the roof drew a dagger, but he wasn’t too bothered by them. Without a bow or crossbow most ranged fighters couldn’t even activate their skills. The other one did try to pull his bow back, but it was a bit challenging with a knife sticking out of their shoulder.
Dante knelt by the mage he had downed, slipping the mage’s glove down to check the Classification. His eyebrows rose upon seeing the symbol on the man’s wrist. It was one he hadn’t come across before.
“Elric, he’s up here!” Dante ignored the archer’s yell.
He was more than just a little tempted to take off his glove and test out the Blood Essence Absorption skill. Dante glanced at the two archers, they were still hesitating. If he used his new skill they would have to die. Not only was his hand too eye catching, but he also didn’t want to draw the attention of the guards by killing someone and leaving survivors.
One of the archers on his rooftop shot forward with his dagger, and Dante effortlessly knocked him away. He then leaned over the edge of the roof to check the situation below. The boy and woman were still there, but they were hiding behind the two men that had just shown up. One was large and carrying a two-handed axe, the other lean with narrow eyes. He was holding out a sword. Both of them had their eyes locked on him, their expressions quite ugly. They clearly realized what kind of situation they were in.
Dante stepped off the roof, falling to the ground and executing a practiced roll to reduce the impact. The time he spent jumping down from trees was finally showing its worth.
He came to a stop directly in front of the two new arrivals and smiled. “Which one of you is Elric?”
The lean man tightened the grip on his sword, he didn’t seem optimistic. “That’s me.”
He looked at Elric disdainfully. “And you’re the leader of this little group?”
Elric nodded, this time far more hesitantly.
Dante’s smile widened as he pointed to the ground between them. “Great! All of you empty your pockets and I’ll let you live.” He looked up at the two archers on the roof. “Make sure you pick up the fellow I knocked out before you make your way down.”
They were all reluctant to comply, but seeing the smile that didn’t slip from his face, they began to pile all their belongings into a pile in front of him. Dante watched over the entire process, demanding more no matter how much they gave. He didn’t need their miscellaneous belongings, but it was the principal of the matter. Even the person he knocked out and the boy weren’t spared.
By the time Dante stepped out of the alley, he was marginally richer, and the people who tried to mug him were all half clothed. He had taken everything, only leaving enough for them to be decent.
The smile on his face disappeared when he walked back out to the populated streets. Thinking back on it, he couldn’t help but think that the way he acted was a bit much. He was toying with different ways to deter people with confidence after his experience with the last caravan, but the cockiness he had just exuded was too different from his regular personality. It felt unnatural and annoying to display.
He would need to think it over and try a different method in the future, hopefully in a way that felt more natural.
It was also a bit of a shame that he didn’t take the blood of that magic Classification, but there would be plenty of similar opportunities in the future. There was no need to take a risk now and potentially ruin his trip before he finished buying everything he needed.