Chapter 18 (A market of clues)
Jekor pushed his way through the expanding crowd. Why were there so many people out and about after sundown? Were they still celebrating Kkaj’s match? Jekor spat then glanced over his shoulder at Iiffar. “Can you still see that woman?”
“No.” Iiffar shoved past him and ribbed an old man with her elbow. “Let me take the lead.”
The old man glared at her.
She punched him in the nose, and he crumpled to the ground. Thud.
A gasp flipped through the crowd, and the press of sweaty bodies lightened.
Jekor groaned. “We’re supposed to keep a low profile. Not stand out.”
“Sorry,” Iiffar said. “He was staring at my breasts.”
Glad she hasn’t noticed me doing it then. “He was?”
“Yeah. The old pervert looked like he was about to grope me.”
A burst of laughter left Jekor’s mouth, and he stepped over the prone old man. “Anyway, let’s try not to stand out anymore.”
She nodded, staying close to Jekor’s side. She placed her hand on his arm. “So, you’re from this city, right? What do you know about this woman?”
“I can’t remember what her name is, but from her physical description, she is Kkaj’s girlfriend.”
Iiffar clutched onto his arm with an iron grip.
He bit off a squeal.
Her steps turned into stomps. “So she’s important to him, huh? Then we should take her hostage.”
Jekor started then shook his head. “No. Not a good idea.”
“I can do it on my own.”
“That’s not the problem. If we alert Kkaj of our intentions too early, he may be able to have the guards restrain us. And if we take a hostage, they will most certainly help him capture us.”
“So, Kkaj will be hard enough to deal with on his own.”
“I doubt he’s that strong.”
Jekor swallowed the sharp lump forming in his throat. “That’s because you’re not from around her and weren’t old enough when he was fighting on the circuit.”
Iiffar scoffed. “We’ll see.” She pointed to a stand down the road.
The woman — Saffer, wasn’t it? — stood in front of a dried food vendor pointing at different things. The man behind the wooden stand nodded then shouted something into the building behind him. Probably her order. After writing something on a piece of paper, she pulled out a fist-full of black bills. Did people really carry that kind of money around?
“Look at how she just throws around money. She has to be doing something for him.” Jekor grinned and patted Iiffar on the back. “There’s no way he would leave without her, so as long as we keep her in our sights, we’ll be fine.” Because I’d rather not camp outside the city, waiting for him to leave.
“What could cost so —”
Saffer glanced in their direction.
Jekor grabbed Iffar by the hand and pulled her up to a clothing stand. “We should blend in, and you need new clothes anyway.”
In the current fashion of JimKar, every skirt was only long enough to cover one’s underwear, and the pants cut off just below the knees. The shorts were no longer than the skirts, but that would probably fit Iiffar better than a skirt. The sleeveless shirts would probably also show off her beautifully tanned skin.
Jekor patted her on the back. “What colors do you like?”
Iiffar shrugged. “I don’t —”
“Just pick one you like.”
As expected, Iiffar chose a pair of shorts and a violet shirt.
“And two traveling cloaks too. The light ones.” Jekor pulled out his wallet and paid. Good thing he stole some of the king’s engraved picture frames before getting kicked out of the royal library.
Saffer strode away from the food stand.
Moonshine! He clapped his hands, and the shopkeeper rushed to fill his order. Once bagged, he handed it to Iiffar, and the two of them ran off down the street.
Saffer bought liquor this time. A large amount. She even picked out three new sets of flasks.
Iiffar gritted her teeth then pulled on Jekor’s robes. Was she still planning to kidnap Kkaj’s girlfriend? No. She pointed towards a food stand. Just hungry.
Jekor nodded and strolled to the dried food stand. First food. Now liquor. Is Kkaj preparing for a party? He bit into his lower-lip and ordered a bag of dried beef for Iiffar to munch on.
She shook her head. “This kind of food lasts for a while. We should get some more.”
“We should have enough time to do —”
Saffer strode across the street to a craftsmen’s shop. One that specialized in making sturdy travel carts.
Jekor’s eyes grew wide. His heart fell into his stomach, and he wanted to vomit. “Moonshine.”
For a brief moment, Iiffar gaped at him. Was she shocked by his profanity?
“We’ll need more than food if we’re going to travel into the wastes.” He tapped the counter with his index finger. We need two months’ supply of travel rations delivered to the northern block of the city within the hour.”
The clerk started. “Within the hour?”
“Yes.” He dropped a hand full of blue bills on the counter, overpaying in his estimation then sprinted over to the liquor stand. “I need a bottle of each liquor, four extra bottles of tequila and two travel skins of water. Deliver them to the northern block of the city within the hour.” He payed before turning to Iiffar. “You get us two horses. I have to get some things from the library to help us survive in the wastes.”
Iiffar shook her head. “But I don’t —”
Jekor burst into a run towards the library. “Ask someone,” he shouted behind him, “they should be able to tell you where a stable is.” His arms and legs pumped, his thoughts vanishing in the run.
Next: Chapter 19