Chapter 59:

Shopping in Qu

The Nonpareil of Resh (Act 1)

With Odell's timetable confirmed, the rest of the group set out to buy some needed supplies in the City of Qu.

Harlan and Hal were tasked with purchasing medical supplies, while Gwyn and Rheba were tasked to buy ration food. Fiona remained at the garage in case Odell needed assistance.

Since Fiona knew Odell would never ask for mechanical assistance, even if he needed it, she opted to fall back asleep.

The group of Harlan and Hal turned left as they left the building. The path was straight, with stony and ornate buildings dotted along either side.

Neither of the duo said anything to the other. Hal walked with his head high and his shoulders held firm. His face had a slight frown, and he only kept his eyes on the path ahead.

Harlan, on the other hand, walked at a slower pace. She stayed a step behind Hal primarily due to an unwillingness to match his serious stride. Her green slitted eyes looked shyly at the path before her, paying no mind to the scenery formed to fit the Aqueenian sense of beauty.

Several times Harlan considered conversation topics. She could ask about Hal's past, his family and siblings, even the weather. None seemed like good options to the Zenotote scientist. She looked over to the green-haired Netzian soldier several times, but when no words came out of her mouth, she settled on looking back to the ground.

Silently, Harlan wished she was back in her lab, running a test on some animal subject. She had no issues talking with subjects since they could not talk back.

They did not exchange any words as they gathered supplies and returned to the garage.

Gwyn and Rheba, on the other hand, were engaged in conversation as they continued their walk.

"Wow, look at that one!" Gwyn said as he pointed to a random building on the street. It was painted blue and looked something like a stony tornado with its design.

The duo walked shoulder and shoulder, though Rheba's towered above Gwyn's. Each had their Needaimus riding on their shoulders, and many passing Aqueenian's stopped to look at the odd pair.

"Gwyn, with all due respect, I don't see the appeal to the buildings," Rheba answered.

"I guess it wouldn't seem that interesting, but I have always found looking at architecture a fascinating way to learn about a culture."

"Do you enjoy learning about cultures?"

"Our Nonpareil here is a big fan of history! He probably is wondering how certain sensibilities formed with the design of buildings!" Mem chimed in from Gwyn's shoulder.

Rheba didn't reply to Mem but instead cleared her throat before addressing Gwyn again.

"We will have to be careful about what food we buy. Aqueenians prefer bitter preservatives for their long-lasting foods, as you found out in the rations."

"Can't we get some dried meat or something like that to last?" Gwyn asked.

Rheba made a brief face of disgust, though Gwyn did not see it.

"Dried meat is... not an option. Ahem, anyway, Aqueenians only eat meat on ceremonial days.

"Really? Has it always been like that? What brought it on...." Gwyn was about to bombard Rheba with questions, but as he looked up to her face, he could tell she did not know the answers, "Never mind, I'll try asking Fiona about it... or maybe Hermina. Would go into more depth...." Gwyn began to ponder to himself as he talked.

They stopped in front of a shop as Gwyn quietly wondered to himself. The shopkeeper's eyes grew wide, even more so for an Aqueenian, and he looked up and down at the odd duo that greeted him.

"What can I do for you?" he hesitantly asked as he eyed the Bentulousian military patch on Rheba's shoulder.

The shop was set up, so a counter faced the outside. The counter had a clear glass with various foods set up on display, and the owner stood behind it. It was typical to any deli Gwyn had seen before with a particular Aqueenian spin on the sides. Over the owner's head hung what looked like meat at first, but on closer inspection seemed more like a type of bread.

"Excuse me, good sir, we are requiring some food that is long-lasting for a trip," Rheba explained.

"I see; I have some umaread that should be good for a couple of weeks," The shopkeeper explained. He held up what looked like a loaf of bread as an example, and Rheba leaned in slightly and took advantage of Bentulousians superior sense of smell. She was not a hundred percent sure on the umaread, but she decided it was probably the best bet.

"That will do, thank you," Rheba answered, "I'll take several loaves."

The shopkeeper quickly prepared the food and handed Rheba several bags. Then the duo went back to the garage.

Rheba pulled off a small piece of the bread to taste test it. She frowned as she chewed, then made a slight nod.

"Is it okay?" Gwyn asked.

"It will suffice," Rheba answered.

"That means it's bad, but she won't complain compared to the rations," Mem added.

Rheba made a deep sigh but didn't say anything. She pressed forward, and without realizing it, sped up her pace. Coupled with her impressive stride, Gwyn was forced to jog to keep up with the Bentulousian warrior.

It took a few minutes before Rheba realized Gwyn had trouble keeping up. She slowed back down to better match his pace.

"Apologies, I sped up without realizing."

"No problem," Gwyn answered.

Their conversation fell into a silence that remained until they returned to the garage. Odell was outside, standing next to the Ali with the group's remaining members. He waved to the duo as they approached.

"Do you want the good news or the bad news?" Fiona asked in a low tone after the newly purchased food had been placed inside the vehakul.

"Good, I guess," Gwyn answered with a confused expression painted on his face.

"Fiona, I told you it would be okay," Odell interrupted and began to explain, "I was able to repair the Ali well enough, but we are going to break down again by the next town. They were missing some parts in the garage that come from a small mining village in the mountains.

"So, we will continue to break down like this?" Rheba asked.

"Is there any chance the next town will have the parts?" Gwyn added.

"Dant, they will not have parts in the next town; however, we can take a detour through the mountains to get to the village that makes them," Odell said.

"That is where I told him that was a bad plan; we shouldn't cut through the mountains," Fiona interrupted.

"Why is that Princess Fiona?" Rheba asked, "The mountains should be suitably laid out with roads for us to travel on."

Fiona sighed before she explained.

"Those are the Calii Mountains; there are many stories about groups entering those mountains and encountering trouble. Like the one about the adventuring party that perished there...." she explained.

"Those stories are just legends; we should be fine," Odell said with a casual tone.

"I agree with Odell. We should not have to worry," Rheba agreed.

Fiona looked around for an ally, but the others seemed okay with making the detour. Her purple eyes settled on Gwyn and made a pleading expression.

Gwyn rubbed the back of his golden-red hair before speaking up.

"Legends usually are made to offer some wisdom; we should be cautious if we trek through the mountains," he said.

The others seemed to nod in agreement, save for Fiona, who realized they were going to make the detour. She gave up and followed as the others entered the Ali to continue the trip.