Green hair, the same color as a vibrant leaf, flowed past her pale shoulders. However, the most noticeable features on her head were the long, pointy ears that poked out of her hair. Anyone could recognize that she was an elf; and now, this elf named Leona was striking the reception desk angrily with her palms. The receptionist displayed great professionalism by responding to Leona without losing the smile on his face.
However, the security guards in their surroundings watched her with stern eyes. They approached the reception desk and watched over the situation. They planned to intervene if the commotion got any bigger, but as if Leona didn’t notice the guards or ignored them, she continued to raise her voice.
“I told you to return that immediately!”
“I deeply apologize, dear customer. I’m not sure what you are specifically talking about, but everything in this place has been given to us by our clients to exhibit at the auction house. Since nothing belongs to us, we are not authorized to make the decision of giving anything away.”
“Then tell me who this client is!”
“Miss, it’s our auction house’s strict policy to keep our clientele’s identities a secret—especially to angry customers like you.”
Dissatisfied by the response she got, Leona began to shout again. “You can’t do this or that! How can I find it then! That’s our clan’s treasure!”
“Can you prove your claim, miss?”
“We are an auction house that doesn’t hold stolen goods, but that’s only after it is proven that the good to be stolen. We also aren’t the ones who will prove that a good was stolen or not.”
“What can I do then!”
“I don’t know, miss. I’m just someone who provides service to the auction house.” The receptionist maintained a polite smile on his face—his tone and attitude were still welcoming. However, everyone could tell that he was belittling Leona.
The people watching the situation from close-by began to murmur amongst themselves, but they weren’t supporting Leona. Words like ‘country bumpkin’ or ‘uncultured’ passed between their mouths. Leona’s face reddened. An elf who had excellent hearing like her obviously heard everything, and she was deeply embarrassed. However, she still didn’t move away from the reception desk.
“…I must bring that back no matter what.”
“Would you like to participate in the auction then? Our Tyroul Auction House is open to everyone.” It sounded like a repertoire said to gain more customers, and the receptionist added, “Of course, if you have enough money, miss.”
Leona wore a simple elf’s traditional clothing. She wore light armor on top of that, but overall, she didn’t look like she had much money at all. Besides, there weren’t many cases where a non-human species had a lot of human money, and this was especially true for the elves. Thus, it was obvious the receptionist was sneering at her. Spectators began to laugh even louder, and Leona’s face became redder. Her tightly clenched fists trembled on the desk. Just in case, security guards inched closer, but fortunately, what they feared didn’t happen.
Leona turned around and stomped outside of the building. The lobby was noisy with laughter that ridiculed her, but soon, people began to focus on their own issues again.
“What are you going to do?” Lyla stared at the place Leona left from. “Are you going to help her?”
“Um…,” Zich murmured to himself. Since he thought there was a low chance that he would meet her in the first place, he hadn’t decided what to do after he met her.
“Shouldn’t you help her? Isn’t that also a kind act?”
“I don’t even know the details of her circumstances. How could it be a kind act?”
“You can just tell right away, though.”
It was a guess that anyone could think of: someone had stolen the treasure of Leona’s clan and placed it in an auction.
“Since she was one of the Hero’s companions, it’s unthinkable that Leona Pearl in Droud is lying. Wouldn’t the situation be exactly how it appears?”
Unlike his usual self, however, Zich hesitated and didn’t move. Lyla could guess why he was like this.
“Are you hesitating to help her because if you make a connection with her, you’re worried that you might get pushed into becoming Zich Brave?”
“You’re trying to make me associate with her so that I won’t become Moore.”
Their eyes met, and then they sighed simultaneously and stared at the building’s entrance.
“Should we try following her for now?”
The two came out of the auction house and trailed behind Leona.
* * *
It wasn’t difficult for them to find Leona again since Zich had been tracking her presence. She was not too far away from the auction house, kicking a stone wall and heaving madly. The people around her glanced at her because of her wild behavior and great beauty, which was a normal characteristic of all elves. However, nobody approached her since she looked furious from head to toe…except Zich and Lyla.
Zich came closer to her and said, “Hello, miss.”
Leona flicked her head around. She wasn’t planning to hide her emotions as her fiery eyes shot towards Zich.
‘It’s almost like I’m dealing with a wild dog.’
“What?” She sounded like she was in a foul mood. Her response to Zich was unpleasant as feelings of discomfort mixed with wariness. Lyla was worried that Zich’s nasty temper would be activated and was about to step forward when—
Zich said, “We were wondering if we could help you in any way.”
Lyla turned her head swiftly. ‘Did I just hear him wrong?’
Zich’s voice sounded calm, gentle, and friendly—all characteristics that had no connection with him. Lyla carefully searched Zich’s face. His expression looked as if he wanted to advocate to do every good deed in the world.
Lyla instinctively stepped backward, but Zich paid no attention to her and continued to talk in his kind and gentle voice.
“I saw the commotion in the lobby just now. Really, there are so many mean people. They could have just explained it to you if you didn’t know about the system.”
Zich let out a big sigh, but Leona still didn’t let down her guard.
“I wanted to first talk to you because I didn’t want you to think that those people you just met were the standards of all humans. Would you be able to tell me about your situation? It could be something I can help you with. Ah, I haven’t introduced myself. My name is Zich.”
With a smile, Zich looked at Leona whose eyes furtively glanced back at him. She seemed to be wondering if she should believe in him or not, but she soon made her decision and replied, “Leona. I’m Leona Pearl in Droud.”
“I got it. Then may I call you Ms. Leona?”
An elf’s last name came from the name of the forest they lived in. For that reason, they didn’t usually call each other by their last names, but by their first names. This was different from humans.
“Ms. Leona, let’s go to a nearby restaurant. I will pay for it. You can tell me your story there.”
Leona cautiously nodded. Watching everything unfold in front of her, Lyla thought of a word closest to Zich’s current appearance.
A swindler that conned naïve people from the countryside. He looked exactly like them.
* * *
Zich, Lyla, and Leona all entered a restaurant. It was a fairly expensive restaurant with private rooms so that people could be by themselves. Zich brought his company to a private room, and they sat around a circular table and looked at the menu.
“Ms. Leona, what would you like?”
“W-well…” Leona awkwardly lifted the menu up. Even though she tried to look calm, it looked as if it was her first time ordering in a restaurant.
“I can help.”
Zich stepped forward to help again. He read the menu and explained what each of the food was. “Since Ms. Leona is an elf, you don’t eat meat, right?”
“Then how about this?”
“Okay, let’s go with that.”
Even though Leona nodded, she probably didn’t understand half of what Zich said. Leona looked nervous and stiff from coming into unfamiliar territory. However, Zich continued to be attentive and kind to her. Lyla saw that she was slowly lowering her guard. ‘A wild dog that lets her guard down when fed’—that was the image Lyla got from her.
The food soon arrived, and they began eating. Leona seemed pleased by the vegan food in front of her and clearly enjoyed her meal.
“Then Ms. Leona, would you be able to tell us your story?”
Leona was thoroughly chewing her food before she swallowed everything at Zich’s words. “Okay.”
Leona quietly began her story. Leona and her tribe, like usual elves, were living a quiet life in nature. One day, an incident that completely turned their tribe upside down occurred.
Their treasure was stolen.
“What kind of treasure was it?”
“It’s a jewel called the Lake’s Tear.”
“Just by hearing its name, I can tell that it’s a very precious item. How did it go missing?”
“A human merchant came to us.”
People had the stereotype that elves just stayed in their forest and made no contact with outsiders, but they actually traded with merchants from other species. Moreover, they even let trustworthy merchants into their homes.
“Like usual, that merchant traded with us and left our forest. A few days later, we found out that our tribe’s treasure was missing.”
Of course, all the suspicions moved towards the merchant. The elves formed an investigation team and sent them to the human world. The team went to find the merchant who traded with their tribe. However, they weren’t able to find the merchant anywhere. The shop that the merchant owned was already sold to a different person, and the merchant’s whereabouts were nowhere to be found.
“He thoroughly planned this out.”
“Yeah.” Leona gritted her teeth. She even let out murderous intent at the grudge she held against the merchant.
“But how were you able to find out that the treasure was in the Tyroul Auction House?”
“I heard from humans about this auction house. Since they said this auction house has all sorts of valuable things in this world, I thought that there was a good chance that the thief might have put up our item for auction.”
“And your predictions were right?”
“Yep. The Lake’s Tear is definitely in that auction house.”
“How do you know for sure?”
“It’s because I can sense it.”
“Yes, I believe you.”
Zich continued to listen to her words. “Ms. Leona, the auction house won’t easily believe your words. They won’t just give you the treasure called ‘Lake’s Tear’.”
“Then I have to take it back! Since it was stolen from us, it doesn’t matter if we also steal from them!”
‘She’s thinking such dangerous thoughts.’
Before Zich’s regression, this was probably the reason why people said she caused a commotion at the auction house in the past.
“That will be very difficult. The auction house is maintained by the city, so if you try to take something from it, the city’s military force will come down upon you. Will you be able to handle that?”
“Hmmm.” Leona was not able to easily reply.
“Then what should I do?”
“As the employee said in the lobby, a possible way to get the treasure back is to buy it back. So that’s why, Ms. Leona…”
Zich put a slice of steak into his mouth and asked Leona, “How much money do you have right now?”
Once again, Lyla looked at him as if he was a swindler