2017.06.18 – กุมารทอง (Not for sale)
While your character is browsing through a civilian antiques store/garage sale/etc., they spot a powerful (and potentially dangerous) artifact. Unfortunately, it's not for sale...
He was doing his round of antique stores; every month, a few very sensitive individuals would be sent in a designated city for such a purpose. There was a rotation, so the owners would not become suspicious. This time around, Katsuro had been sent to the heart of Bangkok. Though it wasn’t rare for true powerful artefacts to be found far from their country of origin, via trade or bought by collectors, the most dangerous ones were the most deceptive in look. Those objects that didn’t make it behind a glass display, safety guarded and far from everyone’s hands.
Thailand has been known for its black magic for centuries. Even to this day, one can buy such talismans in antique stores, among other places. Such magic always left a trail, or an aura, that Katsuro was now familiar with. Thus he visited a couple of those antique store before something caught his attention; or actually didn’t caught it. Akin to the spell cast on his sword, there was a little shop he almost passed by without noticing. Now that he knew it was there, he had to wonder how he could miss it, as the concentration of spiritual energy was incredible.
Without hesitation, he entered the building and was greeted by nothing but silence. There was a small shrine, tucked in the wall behind the counter. A tourist would simply have marvelled at it as being part of the decor but Katsuro knew better. It was probably a personal shrine, to bestow good luck upon the store and its owner. As he got closer, the Japanese man had to wonder if really the owner was this blind; a pendant, in the shape of an unbosomed lotus with the figure of a golden baby boy inside, was the source of the spiritual energy.
“Ah! I see something has caught your eyes. Unfortunately, it’s one of the very few things in this shop that isn’t for sale.”
A small Thai man appeared from a side door, with a dirty cloth in his hand and a broom in the other. Possibly in his late 40’s, he had a few long lines on his forehead and at the corner of his eyes.
“Kuman Thong. And a powerful one at that. You don’t seem to be taking great care of it, if you’ll excuse me being so direct.” Katsuro simply replied, pointing at the amulet.
“You seem rather young to believe in such nonsense.” The shop owner frowned. “I may sell antiques, because I know the value of old and historical items, but I never believed in any magic. And before you ask about the shrine, it was my wife’s idea. I didn’t want to start a debate with her so I just added it here. Besides, it seems to be a big hit with tourists.” The middle-aged man shrug.
“Do you even get that much tourists in here? Or... customers at all?” Katsuro inquired, feigning to look at the other dusty trinkets around the store.
“Aren’t you the nosy one? I go by quite fine. Now, are you here to buy or just annoy an old man?” The merchant made a show of being busy cleaning his counter way more than needed.
In answer, Katsuro simply gave a short chuckle before looking back at the shrine.
“I could actually be the person you’ve been waiting for. Sell me the Kuman Thong amulet and I can guarantee your store will prosper. You really have nothing to lose.”
The shop owner seemed to ponder for a bit but then shook his head.
“Sorry, I can’t do that. My wife would certainly kill me if I did. And there’s no point having a shop when you're dead.”
Katsuro frowned in turn but didn’t gave up just yet.
“What about a wager?”
That certainly caught the business man’s attention and he continued.
“Allow me to place a sealing charm on the amulet, because yes, it is what’s causing your store to lack any visitors, and you’ll see. One week. And I’ll return to see if you are willing to sell it to me.”
“Is that the only way to get rid of you? Fine! But make it look nice, you know, tourists and all.”
The man motioned for Katsuro to get behind the counter, an annoyed look on his face. A short incantation later and the amulet was adorned with a small Ofuda charm. Pleased with the result, Katsuro stepped back.
“I’ll see you in a week, sir.” And he was gone through the front door, leaving a perplexed man alone with his antiques.
When Katsuro came back to the little shop, the atmosphere was quite different, and it wasn’t only because of the owner’s bright smile.
“Come in, come in! This week has been crazy! But the good kind of crazy. I’ve never sold so much. I may even have found a partnership with an antique collector from London.”
“Does it means we have a deal?” Katsuro simply inquired.
“You still want that amulet don’t you? Something tells me it may be worth far more than I can imagine… and I usually have a good eye for antiques! “
Both men stared at each other, but Katsuro didn’t flinch nor give any indication he was willing to give more for the amulet. True it was enchanted with black magic, but it was merely an item to be contained and neutralized, nothing more. In terms of material or craftsmanship, it was nothing unique.
“Okay you win! You did keep your promise, in a way. Not that I believe in that stuff.” The shop owner begrudgingly took the amulet from the little altar and was about to snatch the Ofuda from it when Katsuro stopped him.
“I still need it sealed to carry it with me. I do hope this will be enough compensation.”
One swift movement and the amulet was out of sight into one of Katsuro’s breast pocket while the merchant’s hands were closing on a few bills.
“It was a pleasure to do business with you, sir.” And the Japanese man left, leaving the shop owner counting his money.