The Nonpareil of Resh (Act 1)
There were several businesses on the street that led to the sandy beach. A small restaurant, a bookstore, and many more shops were placed in what was clearly the tourist trap section of the city. On the particular corner where the street leading to the beach ended, a small swimsuit shop sold all manners of beachwear. Fiona happily led Gwyn inside this building.
The sight the unsuspecting Nonpareil was greeted to was rows upon rows of minimal covering fabric. He picked up a small piece of black cloth, exchanged a confused look with Mem on his shoulder, and turned back to Fiona.
“Don’t they have anything… with more cover?” he asked. Though he was not aware, Aqueenians often used the beach as a way to show off their colorful, perfect skin. The day-to-day clothes offered protection, but the beach was one of the few places the species would show off. Finding swimsuits with more fabric was possible but usually were only worn to hide imperfections or blemishes.
“Sure, you just have to look,” Fiona answered as she moved down a row of suits. There wasn’t much to look at. Each swimsuit was black, grey, or white with minimal decorations.
Gwyn sighed and settled on a black swimsuit comparable to a speedo on earth. He quickly paid for it and pocketed the small piece of fabric.
Fiona kept looking up and down the rows while muttering to herself. Her purple eyes darted all around as she examined everything on the shelf. When she was done, she moved to the next shelf.
Gwyn walked up next to her and looked at the row the blue Princess was examining. It was full of fairly standard bikinis compared to what was on earth, but she passed by and moved on to another row.
“Is the selection that important?” Gwyn asked while wondering if he should have taken longer to look as well.
“Yes,” Fiona answered in a short tone as she focused intently on the suits. She picked one up with a bit more cover and examined the back. She showed it to Sun on her shoulder, and the yellow Needaimus shook its head to indicate ‘no.’
“I’ll go wait outside then,” Gwyn told her. She nodded, and Gwyn left.
The Nonpareil stepped outside and looked at the buildings on the streets. He opted to lean back against the wall of the swimsuit shop and relax in the cool ocean breeze. He leaned back and took a deep breath. His bad arm began to itch, and he scratched at the spot. At that moment, he felt something like a brief heaviness in his chest, but he ignored the feeling and stared at the blue sky.
Eventually, he grew tired of waiting and looked across to the other stores. The bookstore, in particular, caught his eye, and Gwyn made his way across the street.
“Shouldn’t we wait for the princess?” Mem chimed in from atop Gwyn’s shoulder.
“I’ll just look at the books outside.”
In front of the shop, there was a display for several series with bright and catchy colors that might draw readers in. It looked like a popup bookshelf with the books in question and a cardboard cutout standing to the side.
The forms on the cutout quickly grasped Gwyn’s attention as he got in close. What was pictured was a cartoony depiction of a well-endowed elf and bearded dwarf straight out of the fantasy he had encountered on earth. Between the two stood what appeared to be a Netzian-Aqueenian hybrid that had a dejected expression.
“Mem, what’s that?” Gwyn asked as he stared at the cutout.
“Some story characters that appear to be different variations of Netzians. Are you interested in this sort of thing?”
“No, I mean these two… they are an elf and dwarf, aren’t they?” he asked.
“I’m not familiar with those words, partner. They seem like something the author may have made up to have unique species in the story,” Mem replied from atop Gwyn’s shoulders.
Mem pulled one of the books off the display and looked at the cover. World Exchange! was the title of the novel and the characters appeared to do battle with some dragon on the cover. The elf had her bow drawn back, the dwarf had a large hammer, and the Resh native had a blue Needaimus on his arm. Gwyn curiously flipped through the book and skimmed over some sections.
“Oh, are you interested in that book?” a voice came from behind the Nonpareil. He jumped and spun around.
The person who greeted him was unlike anyone Gwyn had encountered on Resh. Her skin was blue, but unlike the bright blues seen on Aqueenians, the stranger’s tone was more of a grey-blue. She had something resembling the Hobusian crown on her forehead, but the bony ornament went from her forehead down and wrapped around her pink eyes like a masquerade mask.
A set of grey spiral twintails danced from her head down to her shoulders. Her clothes were a red and black dress that looked more proper for a fancy party than walking through the streets of the coastal town. A grey Needaimus that resembled something like a monkey, at least to Gwyn, hung from her shoulder.
The stranger smiled at Gwyn. He stared back, unsure of what to say. After a minute, the stranger frowned. She slid her hands behind her back and leaned forward slightly.
“Hello, sonny? Is that book interesting?” she spoke in a playful tone.
“Oh… I just saw something that caught my eye, is all,” Gwyn said as he flipped through the book. He landed on the about the author page and stopped. From what he had gleaned of the story, it was an isekai tale that depicted a fantasy like seen on earth. The Nonpareil was interested in at least committing the author’s name to memory.
The book gave a blurb about a K.A. Natos with a picture of her. She stood in a flirty pose with her head turned to view the camera in the photo. Gwyn looked up at the stranger with a blank face. Upon seeing he was looking at the about author page, she opted to strike the same pose as the picture. Gwyn looked back and forth between the picture and the stranger. Upon each pass, he confirmed another comparison between the two.
After a moment, the human jumped back and shouted something unintelligible.
“Well, it took you long enough,” K.A. Natos said in a nonserious tone as she broke from her pose.
“You… where did you come up with these ideas!”
“Oh dear, that’s the first thing you ask?” K.A. Natos said while pressing a finger to her chin, “Well, I just sort of made it up one day!” she answered with a flirty smile.
“You just made it up?” Gwyn asked.
“Indeed, but more importantly, why don’t you tell me about yourself?” the author said to Gwyn. She took a step closer to get a good look at his face. “You’re that Nonpareil that’s been all over the Aqueenian news, aren’t you?” she said with her face uncomfortably close to his.
Gwyn took several steps back. He shook his head for a moment before responding.
“You’re well informed… Ms. Natos….” Gwyn replied while eyeing the book cover for her name. She laughed in reply.
“Just call me Kako, my dear,” the author said through her giggles.
“Gwyn, I found one!” Fiona happily shouted as she exited the store. The others turned in the direction of the blue princess as she made her loud declaration. She held a small bag in her hand, which contained the swimsuit.
“Well, I wouldn’t want to interrupt you two. We’ll run into each other later,” Kako said with a smile and a small wave. She walked away before Gwyn could say another word.
“Who was that?” Fiona asked as she walked up to him. Gwyn held the book up.
“Apparently, the author of this book,” he replied as he held the cover up for Fiona to see.
“Huh, are you into this sort of thing, Gwyn?” Fiona asked as she eyed the cartoony elf girl depicted on the cover. Her tone made it clear she was teasing.
“It seems our Nonpareil has an interest in long ears… or perhaps…,” Mem added while picking up on Fiona’s intent.
“Let’s just go to the beach,” he said as he slid the book back on the shelf. Fiona and Mem chuckled as they walked to the sandy coastline.