On a busy street of southern Veron, the marketplace; stalls of varied colors were filling the roadside up to each end. Two women were sitting on short wooden stools and crates were placed in front of them. They were polar opposite, one thin and the other fat. They were exchanging cautious glances, looking left and right before speaking. Under the hubbub and chattering noise of the market, the thin woman leaned close to her friend.
"Mely. I heard that your neighbor Toro the woodcutter got mentally deranged. Is it true?" murmured Chai, her skinny fingers sorting out vegetables and fruits atop the wooden crates.
The fatty woman who was selling fish hushed, "Yeah! News flies fast indeed . I was about to tell it to you but it is only half of the story."
Chai paused, "...d-did they mention about *that*?"
"Yes! They said that he kept it a secret from his family. Before he became like that , he found out that his wife was ill. It wasn't incurable, but it needs a huge amount of tokens for treatment . His earning from selling woods couldn't keep up with the daily medicinal herbs. Do you know wanna know what happened afterward?" Mely leaned in closer to Chai. The sharp smell of fish and vegetable swirling around the two.
"Say it! Don't keep me waiting ." chided Chai.
Fatty nodded, "...while he was cutting woods in the forest, a shady person gave him *the jade slip*. He to-" yet Chai interjected before she could finish , "...but isn't that only learned by Aur--!!"
Mely covered Chai's mouth with a filthy fish. "Don't say it out loud! You'll harm us both! Let me continue first." After seeing Chai nod, she took the fish off. She frantically looked around,then put the fish back at the stall. She cleared her throat and went on, "So he accepted the jade on the condition that *they* bring her wife to a great healer. When he practiced the mystic arts, he was quite successful on his first attempt." She wiped the trickling sweat on her forehead with the back of her hand. "The next day, he was able to jump as high as a horse! I bet it was karma from a cricket. You know, like what the Au - they call... hmm, what was it again?"
Chai replied, "Resonance. They bind a karma thread or take inspiration from a lesser intelligent creature."
"That one. And then, with his super strong legs, he had to *serve* the king when needed. With his ability, he was able to work more, carrying logs and delivering them became easy. His wife was also tended by a healer and was medicated for the illness..." Mely as if she had seen a ghost, stopped talking and made herself busy over her crates and piling up the fishes into a triangle with trembling hands.
"W-why did you stop?" Chai stammered.
Mely glared at Chai, and her round eyes shot at the tall iron gates of central mansion. "Shut up! *They* are going out!"
Thus said, Chai also stiffly sorted out her stall full of vegetables and fruits.
Striding out of the gates are three men draped in long robes made of dry ash and dull brown fabric. For some reason, only a slit on the head where their eyes can see. They seemed out for 'patrol' and started to trudge.
The people at the market hurriedly quiet down. Their heads slightly bowed down to the ground. The passerby cleared a way for them to pass through. The street was straight and at the end, was the outskirts of the city.
The Aurions eventually passed by the area of the two women. One with the dry ash clothes stopped and stared at them.
Mely and Chai's heart galloped like horses. Still, they tried to maintain their calm. They could feel an ominous aura coming from that person. Both of them felt like a heavy force made them unable to breathe. All of a sudden, the muddled voice of a woman startled them.
"Cerio, do you want to buy vegetables or not? Hurry up."
The one with the ashy clothes caught up to the other two who were already far ahead, "...I'm sorry. I was thinking of cooking for us tonight but changed my mind."
"Good to know. Your cooking disgusts me." Their voices becoming distant.
After who knows how long, the two women felt that heavy pressure leave them. When they raised their heads, the three Aurions are almost out of the city gates.
"What!? He had gone crazy, that's it! I'll never talk about *them* anymore!" She angrily cut the head of the fish in a ruthless move of the butcher she held
Glancing between the fish, the gates and then Mely, Chai Chai felt cold. She shivered and her neck grow itchy "I agree. I agree. Better not talk about anything. Just sell."