Chapter 38: Lute Search

The city market was a breathtaking experience.
From textiles to food, it was a kaleidoscope of colors and variety.

Due to the warm climate, people in the market were seen quenching their thirst with bamboo tube water and there were wells placed throughout the area for easy access to water.

A standout feature of the market was the roofing of the stalls.
The framework was covered with thick cloth that was brightly dyed in hues of orange, yellow, and green, but not black or blue as these colors tend to absorb too much sunlight.

“We dye the cloth to protect the goods from the sun.
Black and blue attract too much sunlight, which is why you don’t see those colors here.”

“The colors are beautiful and vibrant! I’d like to explore both the market and the shops.”

“Shall we hold hands so we don’t get separated? We already know what kind of person Claire-sama is.”

As anticipated, I wandered aimlessly between one store and the next.
I assume they knew I would run out of time searching for instruments if they left me to my own devices.
I engaged in a chat with the shopkeeper, but I was pulled away prematurely.

As we walked through the market, we held hands to stay together.

At last, we made it through the bazaar and I was finally released.
We had already consumed a significant amount of time by this point, but it was entirely my own fault so I couldn’t complain.

After exiting the market, I came across a stylish cityscape.
It was constructed of either baked bricks or wooden beams blackened on the surface.

The scorching of the wooden beams prevented moisture from causing decay over time and made it more resistant to rain.

The bricks were also well-fired, providing protection against rain and maintaining their strength even if they absorbed water.
They also cooled the air.

I couldn’t spot any buildings made of stone.
The cityscape was charming.

“When constructing with stone, we employ steel frameworks.
Due to its proximity to the sea, it is susceptible to salt-filled winds and tends to become brittle.”

“The castle sits at a higher elevation and, instead of utilizing steel frameworks, it employs stone for the entrance columns, ensuring its stability.
The walls of the castle are painted on the exterior and have multiple layers of wood on the interior, making them sturdy.”

It’s more cost-effective to fire bricks than to carve stone.

In places where long-term preservation is crucial, such as a castle, and fire safety is a concern, the city is built as economically as possible but with longevity in mind.

As I wander through the shop, I realize this is a learning experience.
After visiting a few instrument stores and having tea at a café, I circled back to the shop, but I couldn’t find what I was looking for.

While I was searching, I noticed a person with skin similar to Gauche had set up a street stall on the outskirts of the city.
You must obtain a permit as the market is restricted and requires registration in the population registry to establish a stall.

Just taking shelter in the shade of the tree, it wouldn’t be considered setting up shop.

Melissa and Gwenna expressed reluctance towards the stall, but I was drawn to it upon spotting a musical instrument.

The person with a brown complexion, a long beard and eyebrows, was difficult to recognize by appearance.
He was dressed similarly to Gauche and had cloth wrapped around his head.

“Excuse me, sir, is this instrument a lute?”

I gestured towards the wooden circular string instrument, which was placed beside handcrafted dolls and ethnic costumes that were sold as souvenirs, and asked.

The old man raised an eyebrow in surprise and confirmed, “Yes, that’s correct.”

“I’d like to buy it.
How much does it cost?”

“Sure thing.
Since you know the name of the instrument, I’ll sell it to you for five silver coins.”

To give some context, five silver coins would be enough to sustain a couple for a month.
Despite finding the price steep, I paid without hesitation, while Melissa and Gwenna appeared to be bewildered.

“Thank you.
I’ll make sure to take good care of it.”

“See you again.”

I was pleased with my purchase, but I was puzzled when Melissa, who was holding the lute in one hand and clasping my hand with the other, left the stall.

“Claire-sama, did you really like it? It was quite an expensive purchase, you know.”

“Actually, it’s a gift for a friend.
Can you keep it a secret from His Highness? I’ll explain everything when the time is right.
My friend hates being in the public eye.”

The two of them, exchanging awkward glances, reluctantly nodded in agreement.

I feel sympathy for both of them and for His Highness Auglia as well.
But to have a friend from a foreign country, especially a friend without any relationship to that war is a precious thing for me.

If only my friend was a female or someone who didn’t mind standing out, it would have been easier.
But as I pondered these thoughts, I purchased hairpins that would suit both Gwenna and Melissa at a shop that caught my eye.
I also bought small pendants that His Highness and I could wear discreetly under our clothes.

The pendants were a pearl pendant that matched the color of my hair and a ruby chip pendant that, while not as valuable as a piece of jewelry, was similar to His Highness’s.

(Shopping with the intention of making someone happy is a delightful experience.)

I had only ever shopped for dresses and jewelry to fulfill my duties in the castle.
Although I understand the value of money, this was my first time actually shopping in the city.

After a day of enjoyable shopping, we traveled to the meeting place in a horse-drawn carriage outside the city.

However, after leaving the market and with no one in sight, we were surrounded by unknown individuals.




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