Chapter 4: Fair Trade
Later that day a still tired Ranma forced himself awake and trudged through streets of the city. When he had first tried to find this shop he had needed to ask for directions repeatedly. He still didn't read the language (the amulet wasn't that powerful) but he usually remembered how to get to places when he'd been there before. Eventually, he stopped before a small unobtrusive shop. It had only a small picture of an open eye on the sign overhanging the door.
It had taken quite a bit of asking around to find this place. Apparently even in a world disgustingly full of magic, the city was chock full of quacks and loons. This was supposed to be one of the finest shops where items of a magical nature could be found. Soon after he had arrived he had stopped by here to see what was available. In a way he was disappointed, no sign of anything that could get him home was apparent. On the other hand, there were some really amazing things that were available. Even if most were useless to him, he still examined the more common and dangerous items. You never know when these things might be used on you by some misguided soul. He could just imagine Cologne drooling over the things he had seen.
When he went inside the first thing that struck him (as it had on his previous visit) was the size of the room. The room seemed to stretch on for about eighty feet yet still maintained a cozy feel to it. Considering how small the cottage-like building was on the outside, this by itself was a testimony to the effectiveness of the owner's talents. The next thing he noticed was the owner leaning on a staff some ten feet away. He was looking directly at Ranma, and he had the disconcerting sensation that regardless of when he arrived the owner would always be in that same position ready to serve him or any other customer. He somehow didn't feel real.
"Greetings, my son. I am pleased to see you once again," the old man spoke in a creaking voice.
"Hi, Gramps. Do you have that thing I ordered?' Ranma asked cheerily. He actually sorta liked the old man. He could be his normal irreverent self and the old man only seemed amused. He hated being polite, it was so…unnatural.
"Yes, and a very interesting request it was. You seem to have an interest in defective goods. Two pairs of magical restraints, indestructible and enchanted so that even the most accomplished wizard cannot spell himself free, or metamorph into another shape and free himself in that manner. Unfortunately, the locking mechanism is defective on both sets making them useless as shackles. Ha, ha such irony. And all you wanted was the chains removed. I would have given them to you for almost nothing if it weren't for that. Indestructible chains are very hard to get rid of."
"Yeah, whatever, you got my watch, and that was supposed the cover the manacles and gloves."
"Heh, the other defective item. I wish all my customers wanted my failures. Well the claws of the 'Gryphon Claws' may not work, but they are indestructible, I guess I could have sold it to some Man-of-Arms as gauntlets…but that 'watch' of yours was very interesting."
"Yep and it's worth a cool 1000 yen too (about $10). Anyway, I recently 'found' some stuff and I thought I might actually want to buy that speed ring you showed me last time."
"Ah, the 'Ring of Fleetness'. Well, that’s a good 30000 gold. Are you sure you have those kind of funds?"
"I think so," he said nervously as he brought the jewelry, gold and gems from subspace and handed it to the old man.
The little man took the items, giving a low whistle. "I'm no pawnshop boy. If these are stolen goods I won't take them," he stated in a serious tone.
"No really, the people I took them from were breaking the law," it was only after he had said this that he recalled that slavery was legal in the Western Empire.
"Well…okay, but only because I can tell by your aura that you're telling the truth. I am an honest businessman, and wish to remain so." Ranma let out a sigh of relief, he never thought that having a mouth that was faster than his brain would be a good thing. "What you have here it is easily worth 50000 gold. If you think you can get more you can go to a jeweler and I won’t think any less of you."
"No, I'm going on a journey tomorrow and I need what time I have to wrap some things up, I accept your offer. Hey, is that cloak new?"
"Yes, it just came in three days ago."
"It's not something silly like that 'Pit Cloak' you showed me, is it?"
"Well some people have found 'Pit Cloaks' to be useful, but no, this is a 'Cloak of Guises'. The old man immediately went into salesman mode. "It can turn into several full sets of clothing at will. Almost anything you can imagine. If you were a woman you could have any style of dress you wanted at any time. The perfect gift for a girlfriend or spy. I hear they're also illegal in certain countries. Fortunately not much is illegal in our lovely Western Empire," the shopkeeper chuckled. "The only drawback these have is the garments are all the same basic colors and material. For instance, this particular cloak is silk and has a blue exterior with a red inner lining. This means it can transform into any combination of clothing but it must always be some shade of blue or red. Oh, and it will always be silk."
"Hey...yeah, it could work! Um... how sturdy is it," Ranma started excitedly.
"Well it's not indestructible like those other things, but it's not too shabby. Unless specifically targeted it's very unlikely to be destroyed. Minor damage will regenerate over time." He chuckled as he thought of something. "Ha, if you're so worried about it being destroyed, the next time you're caught in a fireball, command it to change into a kerchief and hide under your decorative manacles. Ha, ha, ha." The old man was so caught up in his joke he started wheezing. He abruptly stopped laughing when he noticed Ranma nodding silently to himself. "That was a joke son. If you have a fireball coming after you I think you got other things to worry about than your new clothes."
"Yeah... very funny," Ranma muttered with a distant look in his eyes. "I'll take it. How much?"
"Well, for you I'll make it 20000 gold, after all, you've taken some useless trash off my hands. What do you need this stuff for anyway."
"Well the manacle is for a curse, the gloves are for a training technique I want to eventually try, the ring is for emergencies, but I don't expect to use it that often." He would be a poor martial artist if he came to depend on a stupid magic ring to win battles for him. Then again considering how weird this world was a ring that doubled your speed could come in handy if things got really hairy. "The cloak is just to avoid embarrassing situations." Like being in a dress while in male form, very bad.
The old man simply sighed, "If you didn't want to tell me just say so."
"Oh, by the way, I got a sword the other night. It bursts into flame and throws fireballs an' stuff, but I...er...forgot the magic word."
"I'm sure you did. I recognize the sword type, it's fairly common. Just point and say 'Acba' and instant fireball. Just 'remember' it only works three times a day," the old man winked at him. "Oh, that reminds me 'Acba' is a fairly common magical trigger, be careful what you touch when you say it. Hmm...it's also the trigger for your ring so you may want to wear it around your neck or something if you plan on throwing fireballs and don't want to go into overdrive. Remember the ring also only works three times a day."