Chapter 5 – Dull Coins
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The Black Rain. A rare phenomenon in the Gravel District where black, corrosive water would rain down from the mountain ceiling, burning people's skin if they stood out in it too long. Almost everyone wouldn't be caught unprepared however, as the days where Black Rain happens are generally predictable. I had my cloak but it would be better to take shelter in a building. Fortunately i didn't have to search long and hid in the husk of a stone building on the first floor. Seemed like an abandoned storehouse, as there were boxes of junk and useless rocks scattered about. I decided to sit down in the back of the room and study while the rain pours. Then Licht spoke up with his usual musing.

Licht: Acid rain huh? Given the predominant usage of steam for everything, I wonder if all the excess vapor gets trapped on the ceiling of the mountain, collecting there and mixing with toxic metals and smog before finally coming back down onto the city.

Licht is a very curious and thoughtful man. Maybe he simply had nothing better to do, but he always collected the details in my surroundings and sounded out his thoughts and theories. I didn't mind as I learned a lot from him. Despite our souls having become connected, all of our knowledge hadn't perfectly settled in eachother's heads. Rather we only had bits and pieces come to us as we thought of them, but for example, I couldn't call upon Licht's knowledge and experiences as though he were an encyclopedia. Sometimes bits and pieces simply came to me. While Licht was musing about magic and the strange weather, I was reviewing my financial knowledge by comparing the coins we had. The smallest and most plentiful coin, Lime. It was a round limestone donut-disc that represented the smallest amount. A penny, if it was a country's currency from Licht's world. Then came Granite, the same size as Lime but without the hole, making it a flat disc. It was worth 5 Lime coins. The currency of this country was Mou, so a Granite would be 5 mou and a lime is 1. After Granite was Marble, it was worth 20 mou, or 4 granite, and was double the thickness of granite. Then we had Bronze, which shared the same size and shape as lime, but was worth 100 mou. In the same vein we had lead, worth 160 mou, then Iron, worth 300 mou. Yet it didn't end there, there was then Copper, which was as thick as Iron but twice the length with an oval shape and a mountain carved into it. This coin was 500 mou, and after that was Brass with the same shape and size, but worth 800 mou with a bridge carved into it. And finally we had Silver, worth 1800 mou, it was a perfect rectangle with an ornate castle design. For scale, sand bread was 40 mou, Wheat Bread was 160 mou, proper pure bread was 200 mou. Meats ranged from 240-460 mou, while nutritious vegetables were 380-500 mou, depending. Then licht piped up while I was parsing my financial knowledge.

Licht: Why the hell are vegetables more expensive than meat? Surely there are agricultural districts that grow vegetables for the citizens right?

Maybe licht was focusing too much on other topics to have thought about it so far. Finally a chance to teach him instead.

Iris: That's because vegetables are hard to grow in these environments. Foliage that grow inside the mountains typically arent edible or are actively hostile, and there's not much fertile land on the outside that's safe. So the places that can grow them are closer to middle and high class residential districts, and the cost of export raised the value dramatically. Hunting for meat is dangerous, but at least edible meat is plentiful and easy to find.

Licht: I see, that does make sense. If its like that, then... Wheat is easy to produce and has a plentiful harvest, and the cheaper breads don't use much flower. So the price is rock bottom. Truly a dystopic world, i cant believe humanity got this far.

Licht seemed impressed, mostly by humanity. It wouldn't hurt to praise me. Anyway, from the diary and books I hear there's two more coins made of gold and then Magic Glass, but we didn't have those either. What we had was 23 granite, 10 marble, 4 bronze, 7 lead, and 5 iron. The rest of the coins that man didn't have, except 2 silver he must have been saving for something expensive. Almost all of the coins up to some of the metal ones were completely dull with no shimmer. After reviewing our finances I scooped up the coins into the bag and started studying, is what I planned, before I heard a pair of foosteps hurrying inside my shelter. I hurriedly took out my stone-flail and peaked up behind the box. What I saw was a young boy and girl, younger than even me, without protection rushing in from the Black Rain which was pouring down by now. The young boy was groaning in pain, but it seems he shielded the girl from the rain because she wasn't in nearly as much pain as she held her brother who collapsed on the floor.

Girl: "Shale, you got hurt far too much! We shouldn't have gone out today, I told you!"

Shale: "I know, but- uurgh... W-we were out of food, and you were hungry, I could tell..."

I guess the boy ignored her warning to go and get food for the two of them, even though they didn't have protection. He gambled and lost. I'm impressed that the girl could sense the black rain though.

Girl: "Uuh... Even if I was hungry, we should've stayed inside today... It would've been fine... Just rest brother, don't strain yourself any more than this!"

Shale: "Ugh... I know, I know, Dior. I'll be okay, so don't look so sad"

They still hadn't noticed me behind the boxes, but it seems like they were just taking shelter in an emergency. The boy was out of commission and the girl looked weak. I lowered my stone flail and tied it around my waist. Fighting wasn't necessary but I should show myself so they aren't surprised if they discover me later. I stepped out from the shadows with my arm's raised a bit and called out to the two

Iris: "Uhm, hello there. I was also taking shelter from the rain."

The two jumped out of their skin as I called out and they looked at me, the brother turning and getting on one knee infront of his sister. The sister was stunned, so the boy responded first

Shale: "H-how long were you there for! Are you dangerous?!"

That's rude. I wont say I'm not, but not to you. Unless you become an enemy. Maybe the pain and surprise are making him jumpy, the girl still seems surprised but responds before I can, attempting to calm him down

Dior: "Brother, she's clearly also taking refuge... I'm sorry for him, um..."

Iris: "My name is... Emer, pleasure to meet you"

Dior: "Its nice to meet you too, Emer! I'm sorry we intruded on your shelter without noticing, we'll go as soon as the rain stops..."

Iris: "No don't worry, this place was abandoned and I took shelter from the rain too. Rest until you're feeling better, you two."

The two looked relieved, though shale was still a bit apprehensive as he relaxed. Dior spoke up again after a moment.

Dior: "Ah, I'm sorry again, my name is Dior, and this is my brother Shale! We don't have last names because we were abandoned, but we still have eachother!"

How sweet. She smiled brightly while sitting by her brother, and I was sat up against a box a few feet away from them.

Iris: "It's good to meet you two."

I avoided too much idle chatter and kept it brief and quiet. Dior didn't seem to mind though and kept chattering away about herself and her brother as I listened. These two children somehow shimmered brighter than the dull coins I was counting earlier.

Iris: Maybe we'll have a relationship like that.

Licht: Rather than siblings, we might be more akin to teacher and student.

I suppose he was right. Either way, there are still some bright spots in this twisted world.

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