A Moribund Hero
They calmly exited the alleyway, which opened into a crowded and noisy town square. Most of the din was from vendors behind small shop booths advertising colorful and interesting-looking wares. Leon saw the VR view of the square.
The stalls resembled quaint white-marble or polished wood booths, trimmed in vibrant ribbons or banners that advertised the booth's name.
Strung along booth canvas roofs were small colorful rice paper lanterns to make the area sparkle with a cozy, mellow, glow. Although the place was crowded, the atmosphere was leisurely and positive.
"Fresh Rockfish! Catch 'em while the deal is hot. Don't let 'em slip away. Only two copper leura to feed the family!" said a shopkeeper.
Leon glanced at a flapping fish with barnacle-like scales as he passed the booth's shelves. A sea smell lingered about his nose.
The sight was making him dizzy, so he turned off the VR mode. He didn't pause, but continued weaving his way through the milling crowds to keep up with Wolf and Lucy's lead. Rabbit was still hugging his arm. Eager to share her knowledge of the place.
"Breeches! Salty hot roasted Breeches! For a cheap one copper a punnet!" A shopkeeper shouted out his wares.
Lucy raced up to the booth. After a brief exchange with the shopkeeper, returned to them with a brown bag stuffed with something.
"Here." She fished through the bag to pull out a handful and shove it in Leon's free hand.
He blinked at the shelled nuts warming his palm. From his knowledge, they were pecans.
"They're pecans. Why are they called Breeches?" He innocently asked.
Lucy chuckled and showed him by pulling off half a shell of one. It looked like pants were pulled down to show butt cheeks.
"Get it. Tear the shell off the nuts, look like no... Bah. Just eat the nuts." She brushed aside the explanation when it was clear he didn't get it.
He did as he was instructed, and shared some with Rabbit.
They carried on. A few paces ahead, Lucy stopped them in their tracks when she approached a boutique shop nestled in the square's corner.
Many young people, with studs on parts of their faces, heavy makeup, tattooed skin, and similarly styled hair as Lucy's, came and went from it.
Leon was perplexed by the sounds banging out of the shop's speakers. It was heavy and loud.
"Punk rock." Rabbit informed him.
"Why does it sound like a battle is going on? Do people like that in their heads?"
"Expression for the soul. Soul fights to express." She nodded, like that explanation was going to answer his puzzlement on the matter.
Regardless, he shrugged his shoulders and followed the others inside. His lips twitched with question at seeing Lucy eye a shelf of square slips with ballsy artwork on them.
"No way!" She gingerly pulled out one of the slips to see the cover in detail. "Syd Mad's live edition of 'Skanky Hoe in the Back End'."
Her weird tremble and overexcited expression made Leon raise an eyebrow; clearly not understanding why a slip of cardboard would stir up her energies. Curious, he peeked over her shoulder to get a better look at the cover and noticed the cover's scowling male (with his middle finger raised in a passionate pose) had the same hairstyle as Lucy's.
"Five gold leura and it's all yours, Lucy." A store clerk came up next to her.
"Five gold! Oh, man." Her shoulder's drooped with disappointment. She reluctantly returned the slip to the shelf.
"For twenty nickels, we have a copied cassette version." The store clerk casually dropped the alternative.
"Sold!" She eagerly got out her coin pouch.
Wolf sighed as he led Leon and Rabbit out of the shop for Lucy to finish her business.
Leon noticed the neighboring shop booths were less vibrant at this end, and the rockfish looked like more rock than fish, especially with wisps of dust blowing around them. Food was food, he supposed.
"Bloody hell. Just noticed. Where's Rabbit?" Lucy hissed when she stepped out. She glanced around, not seeing the girl anywhere.
"Behind you, I am." Rabbit giggled at her back. She was still hugging Leon's arm.
Leon switched on his VR mode and nodded when he saw nothing on the arm she was hugging. It seemed her cloak was effective in making her invisible within VR crowds.
Lucy sighed with relief. She had forgotten the girl was wearing her shielding cloak. It was likely the reason why she hadn't seen her when Leon was chasing after her trail.
She had only seen the man dash off like he was on some crazed, trippy mission. Luckily, it turned out to be Rabbit who had made him go through that ordeal. Although, the whole situation had her feeling weird. Or more to say, it felt like from the moment she had hunted the mage in the dust bowl, something cosmically big was triggered. She hoped that wasn't the case. Because cosmic big hats and their destinies weren't her cup of tea.