10 – Sicilia
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Soldiers flooded the streets of Denia City.  Their presence calmed the residents' anxiety caused by the recent sound of an enormous bang. Though, residents were still concerned by their ambiguous answers when asked what was going on.

At an inn in the residential area, a grim-faced man hurriedly climbed to the inn's second floor. Once he entered one of the rooms, that man, Rhino, wasn't sure whether to be amazed or annoyed by the owner of the room's ability to still sleep soundly despite all the commotion.

"Oi, Clara! Wake up!"

"Nggghh… another five, minutes…"

Rhino tried various methods yet that little girl still refused to get out from her warm blanket.

"This brat..."

"Let her sleep," said a woman from the doorway, Shina. "After all, the situation is still unclear."

Rhino let out a sigh. "Ha… yeah you're right. I will go out with that bastard to check the situation."

"Hm, be careful."

Rhino finally gave up then returned to the downstairs while Shina stayed behind to accompany Clara.

However at the stair, Rhino tilted his head in confusion. "Is she always a heavy sleeper...?" whispered him.

Well,

Of course not, duh!

Clara is a light sleeper due to her illness.

However, there is no way this Clara would wake up even if the world ended because under the blanket was just a substitute doll.

Hah? What do you mean, you say?

I mean, the real Clara was sneaking out of the inn thanks to the drunken trio of bodyguards downstairs. 

There is almost no way someone would distinguish the real and fake Clara because the substitute doll was made by Grand Magician Henry and has been modified by the mysterious being Raph. The only downside is that the doll currently just has a sleep mode. Yeah, as long as she comes back before sunrise, she will be fine.

Then the next question is, why did she slip away and where did she go?

Well….

 ****

In the commercial district, there is a pub called Lauren that has been inherited through six generations. Its location is a bit hidden and far from the main road. 

Unlike the usual pubs, the atmosphere in this place is very peaceful. The combination of calm music and top-quality wine makes this pub one of the best drinking places in Denia. No wonder many big merchants consider this place as their favorite.

Carrado Gonzales is one of them. He looks like in his 40's and has tanned skin due to sunburn.

Along with him were his two sworn siblings, Bernardi Gonzales and Verga Gonzales. The three of them were executives of the Sicilia family, one of the top three organizations that ruled the northern region market.

"Something is wrong. I can feel it," said Carrado.

"Definitely. Earlier this afternoon, I got information about armed forces sneaking through the trade route," Verga replied. 

She has black hair, tan skin, and a long scar on her face, but what really stood out about her was her different coloration of eyes; brown-blue.

"The lack of information in a situation like this worries me."

"Why bother though? Just drink already and everything will be alright when you wake up the next day," Bernardi said cheerfully. Just like his name, Bernardi has a huge body like a bear.

"Happy-go-lucky as always, don't you? Hope I can be like you, but unfortunately I can't."

The entrance opened as Carrado was struggling with his emotions.  A person dressed like a bard entered the pub.

"Master, milkshakes, please."

After making an order, he approached Carrado with a bright smile.

"Do you mind if I join?"

The young man sat across three Gonzalez's without waiting for the response. 

Meanwhile, Carrado appraised him nonchalantly. This young lad stands about 145 centimeters tall which is quite short and has an androgynous face.

After the young man's order came, Verga began to shuffle and distribute playing cards.

"How has business been lately, Mr. Carrado?" The young man opened the discussion.

"Nothing special."

Carrado won the first round. The young man then took out a gold coin with a red spot and handed it to the merchant.

Carrado asked the young man with his eyes that looked like the night sky. "On behalf?"

"Henry. Pragdina."

"Ah. A nostalgic name…"

"He is my father," the young man continued.

Verga glanced at the coin and nodded, hinting at the authenticity of the coin.

Sicilia always returns the favor. It's a famous slogan among people in Denia.

They would give gold coins bearing a blood mark of the current family head to the person they consider friends. One day, when the coin owner needs assistance, the Sicilia family member is obliged to help them. However, it's still vague whether they were obliged to help the owner's relatives. 

Carrado narrowed his eyes. Obviously, he is in doubt.

At the time, the carefree Bernardi embraced that boy with a wide smile.

"Friend's enemy is our enemy, friend's problem is our problem too! We will be happy to help!"

Carrado facepalmed so hard because of his idiot brother's action. With this, they have to be bothered to solve this boy's problem.

"By the way, how is boss Henry doing lately?" asked Bernardi.

"I don't know. One day he's gone and never returned."

Bernardi lowered his head with a saddened face. "Oh… sorry. It must be hard for ya."

The young man immediately denied, "No, no, no. It is still dubious whether he died or not-"

"Oho, don't worry. Here, pour out all your emotion. Let's cry together." Bernardi hugs the young man gently while the boy displays a stiff face.

"Ber-nard-di. Let's get down to the business first," said Verga while she once again distributed the cards. 

Bernardi looked reluctant before eventually releasing the boy from his huge hands.

"What do you need, boy," asked Carrado.

The young man then said, "Give me a ride to the North. More precisely, the Night City."

"Why to?"

"It's none of your business…"

Carrado slightly raised his eyebrows. People who are interested in going north are either fugitives or those seeking a new start.

However, it is difficult to get a permit for traveling to the northern regions. In this city, only the mayor, the Migration and Population Department, and the Adventurer Alliance can publish these kinds of permits. 

Those who cannot obtain a permit usually hitchhike by approaching merchants or someone who has it. 

Sicilia itself refused to accept such a request, largely due to its potential to cause unnecessary trouble. What if the one they smuggled is a criminal? That would be problematic.

Regardless, it's a different story if this is the request from Sicilia's friend.

They continue to play cards. Of the five games, that young man won four before Carrado finally won again in the sixth round.

"Deliveries are due this week," said the young man.

Carrado takes a sip of his wine then sighs. "No deliveries this week… huff. Looks like I need to rearrange my schedule."

"Yes, please… oh, one other request. Can you find me these materials…"  

The boy then took out a note and a pouch of gold coins worth one thousand royals each, he passed them to Carrado.

As soon as Carrado read the notes, his heart skipped a beat. The materials listed here are extremely rare and invaluable.

Take phoenix ashes as an example.  Looking for a phoenix alone is already very difficult. Plus the ashes can only be taken when the bird is at the limit of its lifespan.  If that wasn't enough, the ash obtained from this method was usually not much and people would be covered in blood-fighting for it when it appeared on the market.

In this note, line up a list of materials that are similar to phoenix ashes such as dragon bones, white tiger fangs, and many others. Most likely the imperial treasury itself doesn't have all of these materials either.

"I'm not going to ask what these materials are for, but I'll say one thing, don't get your hopes up."

"Yeah, it's not like I have the money to buy all of that. My only request is that I will be given priority if anything on it appears in the market." 

"Understood."

The young man finished his drink in one gulp and then stood up.

"Pleasure doing business with you, Mr. Carrado."

The young man was about to leave but was stopped by Bernardi. His big, bear-like body was in stark contrast to the boy.

"Okay! Because the business is over, let's drink now!" shouted Bernardi before getting yelled at by pub owners. "Sit and relax! It's time to let loose all these pent-up emotions! This Bernardi guarantees that the wine here is of first-class quality!"

The girl frowned slightly. "But I'm underage."

"Who cares? This Bernard has been drinking since seven!"

"Bernardi, don't force him," Verga warned the big guy, but it turns out Clarina accepts the offer.

"It would be my first time."

"Nice! After ya taste wine here, cheap beer elsewhere will not be able to satisfy you again! Old Man! Bring out William of yours!"

"How many times have I told you not to scream in here, big boy!" yelled the pub owner.

The pub owner's son then came with a barrel of wine. He skillfully poured wine into an empty glass and distributed it to the four people at the table.

Clarina took a sip of her drink and her expression became strange.

"Gahaha! Drink slowly, you'll get used to it."

The boy takes another sip. "By the way, how do you know my dad?"

"That's a long story. When we still live in a slum area, I mean Carrado and me, a suspicious man comes and teaches us various tricks of stealing, cheating, and trading-"

"Bernard, I don't think that's something you should tell the person's child."

"That's fine, that fine."

"Yeah, that fine. I was already well aware of my father's nickname," said the boy. "Henry the Trickster, isn't it?"

"He was very famous because he fooled many people in the past. But don't get it wrong, people he fooled are either corrupt governments or underworld organizations…"

They drink and play cards, reminiscing about the past until late at night. So peaceful here. Hope it goes forever… yeah, this world doesn't work that way.

.

.

BOOM!

The sound of explosions is heard even slightly shaking the building.

"Wh-what that?!"

"... Ah, shit. Something really happens."

Everyone in this pub became alert, yet there was no panic. This is because most of the people in this pub are big merchants who have experienced bittersweet moments in their lives.

"Stay here." Vega then goes outside to check the situation.

"Be careful."

In a moment like this where people are alert, two drunken dancing and singing happily ignored what was going on on earth.

One is his sworn brother while the other is son, no, the daughter of his teacher in the past. Drunk has totally ruined her disguise.

"Reckless and immature… lucky for you we are all gentlemen."

Carrado then kicked the Bear-like man really hard.

"Wake up. Something bad happens."

"Eh, huh, hah?"

He then slapped Bernardi several times before his brother was fully conscious.

Bam!

All eyes immediately focused on the pub entrance. A bald, bloody-covered man makes a grand entrance and then says something really ridiculous.

With a huge grin, he said, "Everyone… Please die for me."

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