As we walked downtown, there were folks wearing thicker clothing, some were even using umbrellas to shelter themselves from the morning snow. A few business owners had also set up their stalls early, with temporary roofs for the weather.
Taking interest in one of them, an old lady who seemed to be stacking up flowers, Ruru glances up at me with eyes that seemed to ask for my permission.
Of course, I didn’t refuse.
Holding hands side by side, we walked closer to the stall together.
The old lady is selling quite a variety of flowers, potted plants and herbs. There were also flower wreaths, and flower bracelets. The prices of each item were displayed on a sign hanging on a wooden rack. This seems to be some kind of souvenir shop.
“Master, that is?” Ruru looks on with curiosity.
“Ah…” She was referring to the palm-sized bottles strung on the rack. These bottles contained a single unbloomed flower in them.
“Buying something for your girlfriend?” The old lady continues to arrange her wares without giving us a glance.
“Girl… friend...” Ruru’s face boiled up like an octopus. She really seemed to be the type that falls for compliments really easily. Though, the old lady wasn’t wrong. Even if it was lip service, my little bit of ego was fulfilled too.
When I noticed that each bottle of these shrivelled-up flower buds went for 4 copper coins each, I felt that buying them was a waste of money. If I were to buy flowers for Ruru, wouldn’t it be better to get the more beautiful ones?
Yet Ruru seemed to be fixated on one of those bottles.
...Well, I did say I would accompany Ruru and let her experience the outside life. As long as she's satisfied, I'd buy them for her.
The granny gestures to me casually, as if giving me the go ahead for Ruru to take a look.
She's more accommodating that the other merchants around here. This old lady must have had experience dealing with customers like us before, I thought.
After Ruru had sought permission from me, she carefully picked up a bottle and peered at it curiously through the glass.
I similarly took a bottle from the rack and appraised the item. For it to be worth 4 coppers, it must have some special property.
〚 ♦ Primosial Flower ♦ Uncommon Grade ✠ Material 〛
⤷ A flower that grows rapidly under dark and cold environments. When it is fully in bloom, its petals produce a fluorescent effect.
“-These flowers are called Primosial Flowers.” The old lady explains as she watches me looking closely at the bottle.
“These Primosial Flowers may not appear as pretty as the others right now, but its true beauty will be revealed on the day of the Moonhalo.” The old lady stacks up another wooden rack on the table as she gave a brief introduction to the flower.
Moonhalo? Ah… so that’s why. The Moonhalo definitely is a suitable time for these flowers to grow. The color of the folded petals was rather faded, probably because it was still not fully grown. But I could see hues of lapis blue on them.
Blue lights in the dark sky, huh. I could see why the old lady was selling these. The bottles seem to be keeping the flowers at room temperature deliberately, so that they could bloom simultaneously when taken out during the Moonhalo. No wonder it's priced so differently from the other flowers. There was an undeniable charm watching flowers bloom brightly under the dark.
Ruru who had been listening intently from the side had her eyes lit up. She seemed to entertain the idea very much as well.
When she turned to me again, I knew that Ruru had come to a conclusion. I didn't say anything more and spoke to the old lady,
“...Uhm, I’ll take two of them please.”
As I prepared to pay for a pair, the old lady suddenly holds up a palm towards me.
“Take them, it’s on the house.” “Eh?”
The granny stares right at Ruru for a moment, her eyes lay on the collar on her neck.
I looked over behind her back, where I imagined her tail was. But I no longer needed to worry anymore, right? The Ruru right now looked just like an ordinary human girl. Ruru holds my hand tightly by my side nervously.
The granny suddenly tells me to come closer and whispered into my ear,
“Be careful not to let your girlfriend catch a cold. Look, the lass is so lightly dressed.
If you have the money to buy flowers, go get her a scarf or something first. Got it?”
“...Ah… uhm… T-Thank you…”
The old lady leans backwards and shakes her head.
“Honestly… kids these days…” Saying her fill, the old lady turns to the side again and begins unloading her wares from a crate.
...Was she trying to tell me to hide the slave collar? ...I guess even human slaves are kind of looked down upon, huh.
I didn't doubt the old lady's words and I nodded slightly to thank her for her advice, before leaving with the two Primosial Flowers in Ruru’s handbag. Ruru looks rather pleased with them, and I thought her smile was all worth it.
"Master... flowers, can't wait. Ne~"
I rubbed her head softly, feeling the furry texture of her invisible ears.
A few minutes later, the two of us are taking a small break by the center of the city square. We sat on a bench by the water fountain.
“How is it? The outside.” I asked Ruru, who’s looking at her reflection by the water surface.
At my question, Ruru turns towards me and smiles.
“...Anywhere… happy, with Master.” The girl was touching the scarf wrapped around her neck, pleased by the gift that I had bought her.
“I-Is that so…”
Ruru holds the muffler and takes in a deep breath, and I gazed at Ruru’s enamoured expression blankly. If only time would stop right now…
This is… a date right? A date with such a beauty who loved me this deeply. None of this still felt real to me. But this closeness, her heartbeat, her warmth that I feel right now… this was real.
Although I had intended for Ruru to gain some independence by going out with her, it still felt like I was the one who actually needed this.
...Maybe... It's just self-satisfaction.
"No... It's nothing."
We’ve gone through a few stalls in the morning, so I decided to continue the itinerary for today.
Of course, visiting stalls alone wouldn’t be good enough if I wanted Ruru to get better. So it was natural that I decided to get her to interact with other girls close to her age.
That is why, I've planned for her to do that today.
“There’s some time left. Let’s have breakfast.”
I decided to have Ruru meet one of my close friends, Evie-san.