The Imperial Capital of Heartland was the most populated human settlement on the entire continent. Trying to find a specific person was similar to looking for a needle in a haystack, only worse. It was divided into ten districts called Raions. Since each Raions were as big as a large city, it would take hours to travel from one Raion to another on foot.
“Let’s split up. We’ll have more chance of finding our target if we do that.”
Alina couldn’t see Mila’s face, courtesy of her parasol. But she knew the librarian enough to notice how bored she was based on her voice alone. Probably. She wasn’t sure about that. Compared to her usual tone, there wasn’t any real difference.
“Wait. We have a change of plan. I’m tired. I think I’m going to rest here for a while.”
Tired or not, Lyudmila’s voice still sounded the same to Alina. It retained its calm and delicate quality that made people less likely to panic. Even if they were on the path of a catastrophic outbreak including but not limited to earthquakes, meteor showers, and the Princess breaching containment.
“Walking is tiring, right? You should learn how to float.”
“I should have unequipped my shoe ages ago. High heels aren’t built for running.”
“That’s why we have a different kind of shoes for different purposes. Do you want to wear my shoes? It can float,” offered Alina. Everyone could use enchanted items as long as it wasn’t cursed.
“No, thanks. No offence, but the colour is terrible. I don’t want to be caught dead wearing that.”
There was nothing wrong with Alina’s shoes if not for the fact that it was coloured in the brightest shade of pink possible known to mankind. Second only to pinkest pink. It was made from a special volcanic glass that was mostly used to create durable and lightweight armours and weapons. Better be safe than sorry.
“Do you have any idea where the Princess could be?”
“You have been asking me the same question for ten minutes. Sorry to disappoint you, but the answer is still the same. If you can use your magic to copy my appearance, why couldn’t you use it to teleport behind the princess?”
“I can only teleport to places I’ve already been to.”
Teleportation wasn’t an easy feat. It took an enormous number of stamina and concentration to perform successful teleportation between two towns. Also, it was almost impossible to perform safely without a fixed destination in mind. People could get stuck inside a wall or worst obstacles.
“You don’t have any tracking spells that is working?”
“All the tracking spells I know need an organic sample to work. Something like a hair or a tooth.”
“...This is why you need to study Divination and Mysticism more. Give me your shoes, let’s do this the old-fashioned way.”
Lyudmila took Alina’s shoes and spun them around until they stopped moving. The result was satisfactory. Both of them were pointed in the same direction toward a circular building that served as an entrance for the Royal Guard’s training facility.
“The Training Tower? Let’s go inside. After you.”
The heavily fortified, reinforced gate built into the side of the main building made the structure more daunting from a closer distance. Other than that, everything looked normal. Even the occasional guards who would shout, “Weakness is a sin!” at a seemingly random interval during their training.
“Welcome, visitors! We have a sword tournament today. The entry fee is one gold,” said the receptionist who looked identical to the one who worked on the public library, sharing an easily forgettable appearance. Poor girl.
Just like spirits, humans came in various shapes and sizes. However, some humans possessed a lack of notable features that distinguished them from other humans. As a result, most commoners have only about seven or eight distinct body types. Unlike nobles who have unique designs. Genetics were weird like that.
This mean that wherever Alina went to, she will see the same people over and over again. Although that wasn’t necessarily meant that they were the same person. The human race was a descendant of a couple who lived 10.000 years ago, after all. Every commoner shared the same ancestor. They were all cousins. Contrary to popular belief, there wasn't some massive cloning conspiracy going on.
“What if I don’t want to enter the tournament? I’m looking for someone.”
“We’re sorry, then you shall not pass.”
“I’m interested. What are the rules?” Lyudmila said. It was hard to tell if she was truly interested or not. She kept her face hidden under the shades of her parasol as she spoke.
“Just be the last one standing. Easy, right?”
“Okay. Here’s a coin. But I won’t be the one entering. My sister needs the experience more than me.”
Alina should have known that altering her colour scheme to match Mila without her permission would land her in trouble. Especially if the librarian didn’t like what she was wearing. Or rather, their colour composition. Fashion wasn’t all about wearing appropriate clothing for the occasion. It was also an aesthetic expression. Mages and fashion didn’t mix.
“What have you done, Mila? I thought we were friends.”
“I’m a Cadre of the Stylist Association. I have an image to uphold. Think of it as a punishment for ruining my public image.”
“Before you go, please sign this form. Don’t die. It’s not good for the paperwork,” somehow, the receptionist sounded more worried about the paperwork than contestants dying.
“Just kidding. But seriously, don’t die. We’re using wooden swords for the tournament. Wooden swords. Unless if you’re deathly allergic to woods, it would be embarrassing if it becomes your cause of death.”
“Alright, I understand. I promise I won’t die in this tournament.”
When this is all over, Alina would start to learn more about fashions. Apparently, every colour has the power to evoke a different type of feeling. The colour of her clothes was completely capable of communicating her status and level of intelligence to other people. Green and pink were not made to be worn simultaneously.
“Good luck. You’ll need it. The previous champion is participating today. Don’t underestimate her just because she is shorter than you. Even Prince Raimond is no match for her.”
Unbeknownst to them, luck was truly on Alina's side. The person they were looking for was here. And she was waiting for any of her brothers to show up.
“Wait, I know you! My stupid brother keeps talking about you. What's up with the paper-thin disguises?”
“I can say the same about you.”
“You’re entering this tournament too? If I beat you, will you just marry my brother already? If you win, I will convince him to stop bothering you. Is that acceptable?”