Chapter 98 - Acquiring Ingredients I

Not long after the Snow Lions were dismissed by their Senior Instructor, Leon pushed open the doors of the Heaven’s Eye Tower.  He had wasted no time making his way over, though this did mean that he’d had to cancel getting food with his friends.  He’d been looking forward to eating some great food—especially after everyone else had hyped up their preferred food places.

But, Xaphan’s potion took priority.  Leon could sense the demon’s excitement growing during the journey to the Tower.

Despite losing out on trawling for some of the best food in the capital, Leon truly didn’t mind helping out Xaphan.  Especially so since it also meant he could spend more time with Elise, who he found himself liking more and more, though it would take quite a bit for him to admit it to anyone else.

He didn’t need to admit his excitement to Xaphan, though, as the demon could sense it just as easily as Leon could sense his own anticipation.  However, probably out of a stubbornly stoic and childish desire not to admit to each other how excited they both were, neither spoke very much after Leon received the priority message.

Leon had barely stepped a single foot inside the Heaven’s Eye Tower when he made eye contact with Elise.  She had been sitting in a chair by the door reading a book and sipping tea waiting for his arrival, appearing to be the perfect picture of the beautiful and elegant noblewoman that she was, despite her casual clothing and loose-worn hair.

As soon as she saw him, she smiled and rose from her seat, giving her book to a nearby servant at the same time.

“Leon!  It’s good to see you!” she exclaimed as she walked over, a look of delight on her face.

“You too…” Leon said back, a shy smile tugging at his own mouth.

“So, I take it you got our message?” Elise asked as she took his arm and gently steered Leon further inside, toward the magic lifts.  She knew enough about his personality at this point to understand that he didn’t particularly want to stick around such a crowded place as the Tower’s lounge for very long, so she intended to take him directly to the seventh floor where they could conduct their business in relative peace.

Plus, as much as she typically ignored them, she wasn’t too keen on the attention she drew from the other patrons of the Tower who were spending their time in the lounge.

Once they entered the privacy of the magic lift, Elise put aside the pleasantries and got down to business.

“We’ve managed to locate a core from a fifth-tier magma salamander, I trust that should be sufficient for your purposes?”

After a quick consultation with Xaphan, Leon responded, “It should be fine, but I would need to see the core to be certain.”

“Of course,” Elise said with a smile.  “Additionally, we’ve also found a Kagu flower that ought to fulfill your needs.  Unfortunately, we will need to leave the Tower to acquire it…”

Leon’s eyes narrowed in surprise and some slight displeasure, but his personal feelings about being out in public wouldn’t stop him from getting that flower.

“The merchant you commissioned is waiting for us with the core, then after that, I’ll happily escort you to the alchemist who’s currently holding the flower,” Elise said, showing Leon a brief but dazzling smile before turning to face the doors of the lift.  She was fast enough that Leon didn’t notice the faint reddening of her face, despite being a little more comfortable around her after his recent experiences helping to train the Snow Lions.

When they arrived at the seventh floor, Elise hurried them along to a private room where a merchant with a gaunt face and serious expression was waiting.  Off to the sides of the room were a pair of attendants, waiting to facilitate their transaction.

Things went smoothly with Elise doing most of the talking.  The merchant took out the perfectly spherical core and placed it on a waiting cushion.  It gave off a brilliant orange light and filled the room with enough heat to make the attendants start to sweat.  Leon closely examined the core, giving Xaphan a good look at it at the same time.  Once the demon grudgingly admitted that the core was sufficient, Leon agreed to the purchase.  The merchant, being well-versed in the financial matters that took place on the seventh floor, tactfully walked to the other side of the room to fill out a few forms, giving Leon enough privacy to finalize things with Elise by giving her his gold card.

She and one of the attendants left the room for about ten minutes before returning with a pair of receipts for Leon and the merchant.  Elise gave Leon his card back with a glowing smile while the attendant wrapped up the core for him.

Leon smiled a little bitterly when he was handed his card back; that core had cost him over two hundred thousand silvers, and he still had two more rare ingredients to buy!

The merchant immediately took his leave once everything was settled, but both attendants waited by the door as inconspicuously as they could just in case Elise needed anything else from them.

Elise didn’t care about their presence, being far too preoccupied gently smiling and staring at Leon, enjoying how nervous he was getting under her gaze.

“So… uh, we ought to go and get that Kagu flower.  Square that away.  Best not to leave these things for later…” Leon babbled, hoping Elise would stop staring and say something.  But, when she did speak, it was only to tease him more, much to his dismay.

“Oh… So you want to leave so quickly?  Don’t you like spending time with me?” she asked, clearly trying to embarrass Leon.  Fortunately for him, she was keeping her relative distance and not invading his personal space, so he was still able to think clearly enough even if his heart felt like it was trying to break free of his chest.

And then something came to mind that calmed him down considerably, perhaps the only thing that could possibly take his mind off the smiling Elise who continued to take advantage of his shyness.

“As a matter of fact,” he began, “there is something I would like to do before we set off, and I would be honored if you were to join me.”

Leon spoke with such clarity and poise that Elise was completely taken aback.  She was stunned almost speechless by the sudden change in Leon’s demeanor and was only able to say, “What… did you want?”

“I only had a light breakfast, which was a terrible mistake; it’s left me rather famished.  However, this place has some fantastic food!”  Leon’s eyes lit up with excitement as he spoke, but they quickly turned bashful again as he continued.  “Besides, this could give us more time… to, you know, talk…”

Elise giggled at his behavior, especially at his complete earnestness when talking about food, then happily agreed.  The two attendants were immediately sent off to bring them some food, which Leon was fairly confused about.

“What’s wrong?” Elise asked, seeing his raised eyebrow.

“We can eat here?  I thought we’d be returning to the ground floor lounge…”

Elise giggled again at his remark, before remarking with a look of pride, “We don’t have to.  Since my mother is the Tower Lord, I can reserve any room in this entire building to eat in.”

“Wait, what?  Your mother is the Tower Lord?!” Leon asked, the surprise and incredulousness evident in his tone.

“Hmm?  Oh, haven’t I mentioned this before?” Elise responded with a carefree attitude.

Leon sighed, and the two continued to chat while waiting for their meal.  They filled their time by talking about what had happened since they had last seen each other.  Leon actually did most of the talking, telling Elise all about his experiences with the Knight Academy.  By the time their food arrived, he had managed to relax enough to speak with barely a hint of nervousness.

Their meal didn’t last long; Elise hadn’t been that hungry so her plate had been quite light, while Leon devoured his food as quickly as he was able without forgetting what few table manners Artorias had taught him.

“Oh my, you really like the food here, don’t you?” Elise said half-teasingly.  Leon’s face went a little red, but he answered quicker than he would have only a month beforehand.

“There wasn’t much of any spice—or any other flavoring, really—in the Northern Vales.  Everything this far south tastes better, even the bread!  Even the Greenhand produce would taste bland in comparison!”

“Greenhand?  What’s that mean?”

“Oh, well the Vale I was in before coming south was ruled by the Brown Bears, but they weren’t the only tribe around.  They were—or, I suppose are—the strongest tribe, but there are several other smaller subordinate tribes that live there as well.  The Greenhand tribe is one of them, and they’re the only tribesmen who have any sort of knowledge about nature magic.  Most of the wheat, potatoes, and silkgrass that are grown in the Vale are grown by them.”

“I see,” responded Elise, being fairly curious about what the politics looked like where Leon had been raised.  She had a few more questions which Leon answered to the best of his ability, but they couldn’t delay much longer.  It was time for them to get that Kagu flower.

“We just need to head over to the Alchemist Forum.  Almost all the ingredients that are bought by every alchemist in the city goes through there.  There’s a certain merchant who runs a store there who is holding the Kagu flower you asked for, so that’s where we’re going.”  Elise set off through the door of the room holding Leon’s arm, leaving the two attendants in the room to finish cleaning up.

“What in the name of the Ancestors was that about?” whispered one of them to the other.  “An ingredient merchant merely holding something Heaven’s Eye wants?  Not a chance.  They would, without a doubt, bring it here for the sale.”

The other man was an older and far more knowledgeable attendant, having worked at the Tower long enough to have seen Elise grow up.  “The merchant in question actually offered to bring it here, but the Young Lady refused.  She insisted that she and the client would come to pick it up personally,” he explained.

“Huh…” said the first attendant, an odd look on his face.  “Why would the Young Lady do that?  It’s not a good look for her to go and meet a merchant at his own place rather than have him come here…”

“I… can only guess,” said the other attendant, almost without thought.  After a moment of silence, though, he said, “Actually, never mind.  It’s not for us to speculate as to the motives of the daughter of our Lord.”

The first attendant frowned and stared at the other man.  “Really?  There’s no one else here, why the hesitation?”

“Mmmmm,” mumbled the other attendant, trying not to give in to the temptation to show off his insight, for it would be very bad manners on his part.

“Well that’s just no fun…”

The first attendant continued muttering good-natured insults about his partner ‘acting smart’ for a while longer, but the other attendant wasn’t paying any attention.  Instead, he thought about how warm Elise seemed to be with Leon, as opposed to the usual sensual-but-distant atmosphere the Tower Lord had raised her to have.  Had she been interacting with anyone else, she would’ve adopted a seductive attitude, but she never would’ve gotten too close to anyone, an odd combination of her mother’s lessons and her own youthful rebelliousness constantly contrasting with each other.

‘It’s good to see her letting her guard down around someone that isn’t a close friend,’ thought the second attendant.  He’d correctly guessed that Elise simply wanted an excuse to take Leon on a date without actually calling it such.

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Chapter 99 - Acquiring Ingredients II

Chapter 97 - Introspection