I landed on the rooftop of the mall, where they used it as a garage. Scanning the area briefly, I only saw one small group far away that were leaving from a car. After making sure they hadn’t heard my arrival, I quickly darted over to what looked like a stairway and started making my way down to the insides of the building. Only after making sure I was in a blind-spot of the cameras did I finally remove the invisibility spell from myself.
Since I was alone and didn’t have to bother with looking after Clarie, I decided that there was no need for me to use the presence diminishing spell, as I was more than used to being the center of attention. Besides, I admit being curious about how people would react to seeing my human form in this world.
I blame my fox side for that.
Anyway, just like I expected, the moment I came to light all the eyes gathered on me, even for those who weren’t even looking at my direction previously.
Smiling inwardly, I instinctively tried to cross my arms and hide my hands insides the sleeves of my clothes, only to remember halfway that I wasn’t wearing my kimono and quickly shoving my hands into my jacket’s pocket.
Taking in the overwhelming amount of sensations that came from the sheer amount of people who gradually went back to doing their things, I looked around the hall and gazed at the stores around me. Since I didn’t have much to worry about time, I decided to casually stroll around while window-shopping.
“M-miss, is there anything you’d like to buy?”
“Hmm?” I looked surprised when seeing the clerk from the clothing store came to talk to me. Giving a quick look around just to be sure, I turned to her and frowned. “Don’t you usually ask that when i’m inside the store?” I asked confused, seeing how I was still outside.
“Th-That’s… Well…” The clerk blinked and looked away for a moment, noticing her discomfort, I smiled awkwardly as I started to understand her motives.
“Excuse-me.” A second person said while stepping in. I gave the newcomer a look. Wearing the same uniform as the clerk, it was a tall and slightly chubby man with medium-sized hair.
“Ah, manager…” The clerk said surprised.
“Thanks for your work, Julie.” Said manager said while patting the girl’s shoulder. She nodded weakly before going back to the store. “I’m sorry for the inconvenience.”
“It doesn’t bother me.” I said while waving away and putting on a wry smile. To think something strange would happen on the first store I stopped…
“Anyway, I must say that I understand what she was trying to do.” The manager said with a nod, to which I blinked before sighing.
“Well, I kind of understand too, so no harm done.” I replied.
“You understand?” He said slightly surprised, to which I nodded. Not having false modesty, but I do know that I get enough attention, so if a store’s clothes are seen on someone as me, it’s bound to be… “Then i’ll cut to the chase. Would you like to work as a model for our store?”
“M-Model…” Attention grabber senses tingling. Feeling as a urge to instantly accept the chance to become the center of attention started to swell inside me, kind of a bad side from becoming a fox, I had to use all my self control to not accept it instantly. However, accepting it would mean to instantly come to light, become the center of attention and, afterwards, might probably lead to people noticing that i’m not exactly human after keeping my appearance for a few years. “I’m… not… Really looking for work… Right now…” I said hesitatingly. Must… Resist… Trickster… Instincts.
I mean, yes, I knew what were her intentions and all, but I didn’t expect him to come out and say it bluntly like that. It’s bad for my mental resistance!
“I see. I guessed as much.” The man replied with a sigh. I quietly felt relieved that he didn’t press on further. “If someone such as yourself didn’t already have a job like this, it would be strange for you to start now.” Well, not really, as I literally arrived in this world yesterday, though I still felt a bit guilty on seeing his disappointed expression.
“Modeling isn’t really something i’m suited for.” I said apologetically. “Still, thanks for the offer.”
“No problem.” He said with a shake of his head before looking inside of the store for a moment. “Well, since we are already here, might as well ask, but do you have anything you’d like?”
“Not really, I was just window shopping, since I didn’t bring any money with me today.” I shook my head while pulling out the pockets and showing it to him.
“I see…” He replied with a nod and a heavy expression. “Having someone like you wearing clothes from our store would be such good advertising…” He suddenly stopped before frowning and holding his chin on his hand. Sensing that he had an idea, I decided to wait a bit more before leaving, but not before hearing as people around me started to whispers things about me. “Actually… I have another proposal for you.” He said after some seconds.
“I’m all ears.” I said curious. It’s not like I was in a hurry anyways, so might as well hear it.
“Let’s do this, i’ll give you one of my store’s shirts that have our name on it, then all I ask is that you wear it as often as you can.” I blinked surprised. “I’ll need to talk with the owner, but I think I might be able to pull this off.” He said briefly. “I might even get him to pay you for a bit if you do that.”
Wait, did he really just say that he was willing to pay for me to use his clothes? No need to be a model nor anything like that, just use them? I should probably tone down the charm effect a bit more.
Sighing in annoyance at myself I quickly shook my head and said.
“I… Don’t think I should accept that.” I said awkwardly. As much as I liked being a trickster, cheating is something i’m not particularly fond of, and receiving free goodies from stores thanks to a skill is something I consider cheating.
“Are you sure? I mean, you have nothing to lose.” He said confused.
“Just some personal reasons. Besides, couldn’t have you get into trouble for giving such a weird idea to your boss.” While saying so, I had to use a weaker version of the charm spell, suggestion, to make him more likely to accept my words.
He blinked for a moment and I immediately knew that it had worked. Different from charm that had an absolute type of control over the target, suggestion couldn’t have any extreme effects, but it’s much harder to detect and the target would never notice that he had been affected.
This spell is easily the one most used whenever there are political situations. Since i’m a bit more sensible to magic, I know when it’s being used, and the one time I disguised myself as a maid during a social party, it was a lot more lively than when I saw a duel of high class magicians.
Well… At the time I wasn’t entirely sure of the difference between the two spells, so I kind of ended up making everyone charmed under me and instead they ended the party in a brawl while trying to see whom I should serve next.
“Oh well, looks like today isn’t my day to luck out on work.” He said while scratching his head awkwardly. “Well, since business talk are over… Think I could invite you for lunch later?”
“No. Sorry, but no discussion there.” I said blankly.
He once again made a disappointed expression, but I didn’t feel guilty this time.
By the way, a similar scene happened another three times before I finally managed to get the passive charm effect under just the right amount.
Well, while I could simply shut it off entirely, my pride as a fox refused to let me simply shut it down completely.
Being a fox demon is a lot more trouble than what people give it credit for.
Well, back to window shopping.
Okay, now I kind of remember why I didn’t care much about shoppings. First, most of the stores here seems to only sell clothes, and while amusing at first, it quickly became dull thanks to one serious problem.
THEY. DON’T. SELL. KIMONOS!
I looked on the entire upper two floors of the whole mall, and as many clothing stores they had, not a single one had kimonos! I mean, come on! How the hell do you run something this size without a single kimono in the whole building? I mean, yeah, they are expensive, I get that, but seriously!
And I was so looking forward to what they had to sell in this world… Such a shame…
While grumbling angrily at the Nth store I passed by without a single sight of a kimono I decided to finally get through with what I had come here for. Following my ears, after a brief moment of concentration, I went to the ground level and wandered around for a couple more minutes.
Well, at least the non-clothes related stores still had some amusing trinkets. Mostly games and some decorations to put on the house, while the bigger ones sold everything a person might need for their house, like televisions and beds.
But, this wasn’t the time for me to wonder about these things, as I soon reached the place where so many beeps, boops and thousands of other more variated digital sounds were coming from.
Hearing the soft buzz of electric equipments, smelling the sweat from the more active games and taking in the thousand of different colored lights. An arcade.
Since I had reigned in my charm effect, I didn’t cause the whole everyone turning to me scene, but it was still just enough that the ones who actually saw me would do a double take in surprise.
How long ago has it been since I last played a videogame? While wondering about this, I entered the facility and strolled around while spying on the other people who were playing the games. Most of them were either around my apparent age or younger, but thanks to the time of the day, the store wasn’t as full as one would expect.
Giving a brief glance at the plaque with the price, I made sure that the coin I had was enough for one game token.
Better make sure it counts. After quickly exchanging the coin for a token, I walked around while looking at the way people were playing the games. If my memory doesn’t fail me, there were some that I could keep playing for a really long time if I manage to be good at it.
After some time of looking around and having more than a few cat calls that ended either with an amused giggle or a threat to rip their reproductive organs through their mouth, I finally stopped before one that had around five or six person standing before. Thanks to my short height I couldn’t quite see what was happening as they all huddled around the screen, but after pulling a small bench and climbing on it (I couldn’t go around levitating inside a crowded place, could I?) I finally got sight of what they were playing.
“Looks difficult.” I commented out loud.
While looking at the screen, all I could understand was that there were a ton of flashing spots flooding the screen while moving in different complex patterns. I think I could see what looked like dragons coming from the top of the screen while another one from below kept shooting them down with a barrage of fireballs.
My voice caught the attention of the guys, who besides the one who was playing, all turned to look at me. For a moment they simply stared in silence before they finally started making smug faces.
“What’s up? Think you have what it takes, kid?” He asked me in a taunting tone. I blinked surprised for a moment before frowning.
“Just for your information, but i’m probably older than you.” I said bluntly before turning back to the screen. “So, what’s the game about? Been a long time since I been in one of these.” I said before he could recover.
“It’s a bullet hell game.” Another guy said from my left, gathering my attention. This one was probably the oldest of the group with around twenty and something years old. “This cabinet came straight from Japan since two days ago. You die in one hit, but your hitbox is a lot smaller than usual, so you can somehow weave between the bullets.” He explained to me, to which I replied with an ‘Oh!’.
“This is not a game for newcomers.” Another one said. “We are all long time regulars here and still can’t get past level three.”
I nodded amused. If what these guys here spoke is true, I guess this game is a bit harder than usual, so while wondering about that for a moment, I saw as the player’s dragon exploded in a thousand little pieces and he shouted infuriated.
“Goddamnit! And I was only a few points away from a new bomb!” The player said annoyedly before sighing and turning back. “So… Who’s next?” He said while running his eyes around the group, only to stop surprised once he saw me. “Don’t think i’ve seen you around here before.”
“Yeah, I just arrived yesterday at the city.” I said briefly before looking at the game over screen. “Sooo… Mind letting this newbie have a go at it?”
At my words, all the guys in the group became surprised, staring at me for a moment before having varied reactions. Some put on a smug smirk while others looked worried. The guy who had been playing until then simply raised an eyebrow in doubt.
“Are you sure? I mean…”
“The game is hard. Yeah, I heard about it.” I quickly cut him off. “Still, this ones looks interesting.” Noticing the doubtful glares I was receiving, I quickly fished out the game token from my pocket and showed them. “Anyway, I only have this one token, and if this game is as hard as you say, it shouldn’t take long for me to lose anyway.”
These words marked it. As soon as I said that they opened some space for me to approach the arcade. Smiling proudly to myself, I inserted the token in the machine and started the new game.
First, I guess I have to get a feel for the game. Let me see, there’s two sets of one stick and three buttons. Probably for player one and player two? Anyway, if my memory doesn’t fails me, the stick is probably so I can move the character around, right?
While thinking so, I gave it a try and saw that the red dragon on the bottom of the screen moved around a bit. Proud at my deduction skills, I looked at the three buttons under my right hand. One was probably for shooting, so which one was it?
I briefly pressed one of them and looked at the screen, smiling satisified as I saw a single fireball.
Then, it exploded in a thousand small pieces.
“T-This is embarrassing…” I said awkwardly. While I was experimenting around with the buttons, an enemy appeared on the top of the screen and killed me.
Hearing some snickers coming from the guys behind me, I felt my eyebrow twitch slightly before taking in a deep breath and calm myself down again.
Okay, Inari. You still have two lives left and two other buttons to test. You can do this! While I prepared myself for my second try, the sound of explosions once again echoed from the machine, and when I looked at it, I saw that I was down to one life.
“…I WASN’T DONE GETTING PUMPED UP YOU STUPID MACHINE!” I shouted in annoyance while hearing the guys behind me burst in a loud laughter.
You know what? Fine. This means war.
Cracking my knuckles while eyeing the screen, this time I decided that I wouldn’t let myself get distracted again.
(AN: Welp, this and the next one seems to be a bit on the shorter side. But there was an MMG release earlier this week, so i’m safe, right? Right?)
(AN2: Hey! Inari is in an arcade! What could possibly go wrong?)