Chapter 136:

Shopping Center 1

The Nonpareil of Resh (Act 1)

Hal continued to lead Fiona and Odell through the noisy city streets. They had spent more time walking by places than getting to know the city, and the royal pains had begun to grumble.

“Hal, we’ve been at this for hours, and nothing has turned up! Shouldn’t we take a break?” Fiona complained.

“I agree; we should at least stop to eat something!” Odell added.

Hal stopped and sighed. He looked around the busy street. They had walked into a section of the town littered with small shops. The arrangement was functionally the same as an outdoor mall, but the buildings had not been built with ease of travel between them. Each shop had been built on top of each other, with stairs going up and down and platforms making bridges between them. It looked like a giant and elaborate Jungle Jim, born out of the wildest childlike imaginations.

The Netzian soldier had no idea that he laid eyes on the South Nun Shopping Center, a famous section of the city that attracted many tourists. He focused on the businesses and large crowd and figured they might be able to find something that could be carried and eaten.

“We shall procure food then,” Hal said as he pointed to the shopping center.

Fiona and Odell laid eyes on the elaborately built center.

“That looks fun!” Fiona said

“I bet they have a store for mechanics!” Odell added.

“Shopping is not the objective; we shall find sustenance and continue,” Hal said. His last few words were only heard by the wind as the other two made their way into the crowded shopping center.

Sort of remind you of home? I can think of three others that run off before you finish talking! No.5 echoed into Hal’s mind with a sound that resembled a chuckle.

“I find offense in your comparison,” Hal muttered as he made his way into the shopping center.

As his yellow eyes darted back and forth, he quickly realized that neither of his companions was nearby. Both had run off into the crowd. He grumbled to himself and began to walk through the center. Should he try to find them or leave them be? The two choices ran through his head.

After a short moment of debate, he gave up and got a protein bar out of a nearby equivalent to a vending machine. He began to walk through the center while eyeing the other customers.

Hal had been focused on charging through the city and not paying too much to the sights around him. Now that he was forced to slow down and examine everything, it was plain that there was far too much to look at.

The citizens, all dressed in their over-the-top and gaudy clothing, moved from store to store with vigor the Netzian soldier would not have expected. Each seemed preoccupied in their own world and paid no mind as they pushed past each other.

Hal found a bench that sat up against the outside wall of a store front and watched as the people walked past.

He did not like talking to others much, but he enjoyed watching them. He took in all the small movements and little ways each person would move as he thought.

After a while, he came to a simple conclusion. They would not find any information just by walking around the city blindly. There was too much going on for the team to approach the investigation without a plan. Fiona and Odell had been complaining along those lines, but Hal wasn’t about to admit that to them.

A billboard across the street was playing the news. A Hobusian was talking about the weather forecast in the city for the next day, though much of the other noise made it hard to hear. Once the reporter finished, it switched to an Aqueenian and Zenotote set of anchors. They began to cover the Beauideal news for a sports segment. A picture of Dia flashed on the screen. Hal focused as best he could. No.5, noticing what the Netzian soldier focused on, began to filter out extra din so Hal could hear.

“The beauideal Dia Mond is scheduled to appear for the event tomorrow at the grand arena in center nun. After allegations of her killing a foreign king emerged, the popular star has been largely elusive for the last couple of days. Any attempts to speak to her have been difficult as she has only shown up for matches and disappeared soon after,” the first co-host said.

“Of course, such allegations are nonsense,” the second host chimed in. “It is simply another attempt for an aggressive nation to start something with us,” the second co-host added.

“But we have gotten word that the sitting Aqueenian king, Jalen Wittstock the Fourth, had a recently held funeral ceremony,” the first co-host said. It was worded as if she was challenging her host, but it was clear to Hal that she read from a script. The second host shook her head.

“Obviously, their king was offed by others in the royal assembly. This story is just a cover-up to put all the blame on Nun!”

Hal shook his head and turned away from the report. He jumped immediately as an unexpected face was close to his own.

An Aqueenian girl his age had stopped and leaned in near the soldier as he was fixated on the Dia report. After he turned her way, they were a hair length away from their noses touching.

She had aventurine green skin and cheery blue eyes. Her silver hair flowed from atop her head into a long ponytail down to her legs. Her clothes were a bright red dress that seemed as wavy as her hair, and on her back, she had a long and skinny bag with a simple strap draped over her shoulders. Hal couldn’t help but find her very beautiful.

“You must really like Dia if you are focusing that much,” the girl said with a pleasant laugh. Hal collected himself and stood up straight. His face felt a little warm, so he looked off to the side to avoid the strange girl from seeing if it was flushed or not.

“And you are?” he asked.

“Sabia!” the girl chirped a response.

“Why is it that you have entered my personal space?”

Sabia shrugged.

“I don’t know; you just seemed interesting!”

Hal shook his head.

“I must go; companions are waiting for me.” He made his way deeper into the jungle jim shopping center. He had been thrown off by an attractive girl appearing suddenly, which frustrated him. ‘A soldier ought to be focused on the task at hand,’ he thought on loop to himself.

“Oh, I have nothing to do for a while; I’ll help!” Sabia replied. She followed after the green-haired Netzian into the crowd.