The market's as crowded as always - many shops line the street, bursting with cards of incredible rarity and cards as common as dirt. Many a hired poster-girl walk up to strangers, asking them to visit their employer's shops with fluttering eyes and cooing voices. The voices of intense haggling sessions continue ceaselessly, making it difficult to hear oneself think. A clock that somehow grants time is as precious as one's life here. Without the constant presence of the patrolling Gustavs and Monas, muggings certainly would be carried out in broad daylight. Ever since the city began utilizing the heavily armored infantry and magical knights, crime has been reduced to an uncommon occurrence. Even so, it never hurts to carry a blade of steel as a deterrent to would-be thieves.
As you wander through the market, you nearly trip as a cat chasing a rat sprints across the street. As you turn your head to watch them go, you barely catch sight of one of the smallest stands you've ever seen. And no wonder: it is squeezed between a very popular store (its bright sign advertising "Auctioning rare Limited Edition cards from all events in history!") and, to your disgust, a rather large dumping site for overflowing trash. It certainly hasn't been emptied in a while, considering you can't even approach it without holding your nose. You can imagine a sizable invisible sphere forcing all except insects away by power of smell alone. The plain wooden structure offers little reason to notice it, as well – if it wasn’t for the pair of animals, you never would’ve noticed it. A man was pacing back and forth inside – until your eyes look into one another. You hurriedly turn your head away, but it is too late. He hurries over, and before you can react, he drags you inside with both arms. Perhaps because you were preoccupied with the smell, you couldn't exert the force to escape and before you know it, you're seated inside the store.
The interior is quite modest, consisting of a bare minimum of goods. You can probably count the number of summoning cards he offers in two hands. The scented flowers inside the store fight a losing battle against the dump. However, what catch your eyes are the various hanging illustrations and posters of various females. There seems to be no relation between them, save that nearly all of them exhibit a particular animal feature. Most prominently behind the single table and its shabby register is a large scroll of a singing girl with wings; another with a 9-fox-tailed woman which would have been a serious piece if not for the single piece of tofu she is holding in her mouth; and you think you even spot what seems to be a girl entirely made of slime, without any clothes on. The girl is clearly embarrassed and is trying to cover herself, but being made of some sort of transparent liquid, this act fails to have any effect…
“Here, please have some tea.” You quickly bring your attention to the voice as the shopkeeper pours you a cup of tea and offers it to you. You hold it but do not drink. "Welcome to my humble store," the fellow says, as he turns on a nearby fan. "I do apologize for any discomfort you’re feeling, but the rent for this place was very cheap, and I’m sure you can smell the reason. One gets used to it after a while, I can hardly tell anymore.” You idly wonder if he really did get used to it, or if his sense of smell got destroyed before that happened. “I know my store does not have much, but I can’t just bring myself to sell all the cards I have. I suppose I’m just attracted to some of the cards. Weird, isn’t it? They’re only cards that summon unfeeling warriors, archers, and mages of the past, whose mere purpose is to battle the continual threat of monsters, and yet… They seem almost human to me… It’s hard to explain. I suppose I’m a strange one, aren’t I? As a result, I’m not even selling half of the cards in my possession, even if they will easily turn a profit for me…”
You make a show of looking over his common selection of cards before politely telling him he doesn’t have what you need. A brief moment of disappointment shows on his face, but it quickly disappears, and he smiles while thanking you for visiting. He thrusts some snacks in your hand, but the smell permeates everything, and you think even stray dogs won’t eat them. You feel as if you’re going to need to soak in a bath for an hour afterwards.
You hurriedly wave goodbye to the shopkeeper and walk as fast as you can away from the area, taking several deep breaths as soon as you don’t smell anything anymore. You swear to yourself never to get close to the place again, but as you reflect on the experience, ignoring the smell it wasn’t so bad after all. The shopkeeper was friendlier than most, and sure his inventory was small, but he seems like a hardworking guy, capable of expanding it over time. You silently wish him the best as you leave in an unusually untroubled journey all the way home through the normally dangerous roads.
Another bright day, another quiet morning at the store. It’s been a week since the last customer entered the store, and for some strange reason, the details of that individual are lost to the shopkeeper. “Maybe some magic was at work,” Myst muses to himself as he unlocks the door. Dropping the keys into a drawer, he deposits the latest bouquet of flowers in a nearby pot and places it next to the register. The flower girl smiles as she hands him his latest purchase – the local storeowners joke about the worst location to set up shop in the shopping district, but treats the poor sap kindly and he runs errands before the day starts.
The day is mostly uneventful, save for a ball that rolled into the store in the early afternoon. The shopkeeper looks around outside for a child that may have kicked it in, but sees nary a child that could have done it close by. What he doesn’t know, is that the child who kicked it in could not even approach the store and quickly retreated. It is impossible for any child to come close to the invisible sphere of the stink, powerful enough to physically repulse a small person. Some of the bolder ones make dares to get close, but all inevitably fail. Shrugging, he places the ball next to the door, in case somebody comes to claim it.
As the sun begins to disappear behind the town walls, a rough shaven man, simply known as J-Y, steps up close to the store. Born to a farming family, J-Y rose to the call of duty to defend his country, but he yearns for a time of peace and wishes to return home soon. He is very cautious with his finances, but always treats those he meets with kindness. While not very skilled in battle, he demonstrates cautious decision making to insure minimal losses and casualties.
Being no stranger to bad smells, he walks straight into the shop and looks around. Though slightly surprised by his sudden welcome intrusion, Myst gathers himself and offers this shopper a cup of tea (his motto being “the customer comes first”). He accepts it and takes a sip. “How can I help you today,” Myst asks.
“I’m looking for a place selling cheap cards. My funds are running short, but I heard you have an unusual attraction to these Fantasica cards, so I’m hoping you would be willing to haggle a bit.” Out from a pouch comes a portable album, issued by the kingdom to all people who summons warriors to battle monsters. From this album he pulls out a single 4-starred card, mutters a short incantation, and tosses it forward in one smooth motion. In a flash, a blue-haired, half-armored girl appears, standing at guard. A smaller sword, useful for simultaneous quick strikes and defense, is sheathed at her side. She briefly reacts to the nearby odor with a face, but the disciplined warrior hides it quickly. “Oh wow, Tanith, right? Quite a skillful warrior, I see you’ve trained her quite a bit. By reducing the armor and sword size, her mobility is noticeably increased, and she is much better looking as well as a result… Oh, excuse my comments,” the shopkeeper says.
“Not at all,” replies J-Y with a smile. “I’m actually looking to purchase Hildegard; I’ve heard that her dexterity with firearms ranks highly. I’m hoping to trade you my Tanith to reduce the costs a bit.” Myst, unable to resist such a proud beauty, agrees to take her and negotiate a lower price.
Before departing, J-Y notices a door in the back with a sign hanging on the door, reading “Albuming.” Upon inquiry, Myst explains, “It’s one of my indulgences for my hobby. I’ve spent some of my funds obtaining a photo-capturing device, and I use it to document all my findings. If customers permit me to borrow their cards, I would take them in that room and accurately album them as best as I can. The process only takes 15 minutes at a time, and I would compensate their owners for the privilege. In fact, just the other day an incredibly kind individual let me borrow a half-dozen of his cards to photograph. Have you seen Walpurgis before? Even though she is a witch, she’s quite a fit individual, and the floating talismans add an unearthly quality to her. Adalina is also incredibly playful, and the way she waltzes with daggers is a sight to behold. ” The former farmer declines the request for albuming, but promises to consider it in the future.
J-Y holds his album open, and his card disappears inside. Shaking hands and wishing Myst luck, he walks back out into the hustle and bustle of the street. Myst decides to close shop early to prepare the process of albuming his latest acquisition. Things are looking great, he thinks to himself, but I’ll have to work harder to keep my stock attractive to any potential customers.