Chapter 29 Memories of Free Market and Hans

Translator: Tseirp


Once a month in the square near the royal castle, the Free Market opens. Free Market is a market where ordinary citizens who are not registered with a commercial association can sell whatever they want using a small lot. Anyone can become a store manager for a day as long as they pay a small entry fee.


Free Markets are held not only in the royal capital but also in provincial cities of a certain size. The government also encourages public participation. No wonder it’s called a commercial kingdom.


I bought three delicious-looking baked sweets, handed them to Master Clark and Nonna, and we ate them while walking. After walking a few steps, I looked at Master Clark, who was eating while walking with a nervous face.


(Is this the first time you’ve tried something unrefined like eating while walking? Sorry but life is all about experiences.)


I wondered if there were about 70 or 80 stores. There may have been more. There was a very lively atmosphere with bargaining voices flying around.


The three of us took turns looking around the bakery and confectionery stalls, the vegetable stalls, the second-hand book stalls, the second-hand clothes stalls, the hand-made toy stalls, various dolls, fresh flowers, and accessories stalls in that order.


“Vicky, look at that!”


The stall Nonna pointed at was a walnut button stall. Walnut buttons of various sizes wrapped in cloth were lined up on a black cloth. It was a lovely stall like a small flower garden.


The person selling was a woman of the same age as me. The woman wore a simple, straight gray dress. A row of dull pink buttons sewn to the front of her dress were all small walnut buttons. Fashionable.


“They’re lovely.”

“Isn’t it? Please take your time and look around.”


Both Nonna and I were excited and crouched down to see.


“This button will be cute even as a hair ornament. Something like this would suit this young lady.”


She positioned a large walnut button wrapped in dark blue padding on the side of Nonna’s head and looked at me with a “See?”. The woman, who wore her dark blond hair in a long braid, had no make-up and beautiful translucent skin.


“Vicky, can I buy it?”

“Okay. Which one would you like?”


Nonna pointed at a bright light blue walnut button like the sky on a clear winter day. I see. It might be cute if you sew this button on a white dress.


“Five of these buttons, please. And five of these dark green ones.”

“Yes, thank you.”


We picked up the purchased buttons and Nonna’s gait became a skip. She seemed very happy.

Master Clark surveyed a used book stall and bought two books. I wanted to buy something too, so I looked around.


And found something I wanted so much that I wonder if there was such a thing as a miracle. It was hair. Beautiful long black hair that was sold tied with thin leather straps.


It was hard to get shiny straight beautiful black hair. I bought it immediately. The children retreated with “Ew” and “That’s creepy”, but I could make a black wig with that.


I returned home feeling overjoyed. I would not be inconvenienced when working at night for a while.

Free Market is the best.



During night on that day.

“Vicky! Vicky!”

“Yes, yes yes.”


I jumped up in a panic when I heard Nonna’s voice. Did I oversleep? But the room was pitch black. Eh?


“Are you okay?”

“Why? It’s midnight now, right?”

“Vicky, you were screaming.”

“… what was I screaming?”

“You were screaming ‘Stop!’”


Ah, again.


“I’m sorry. I had a scary dream. You must have been surprised when I screamed.”

“It’s okay. Shall I sleep with Vicky?”

“Will you do that?”


Nonna slipped into the bedding. The two of us covered ourselves with the blanket, but I was awake. After confirming Nonna’s breathing that she was asleep, I got out of bed.


I went to the kitchen, lit a lamp, filled a cup with water, and drank.

I was sweating uncomfortably cold, and my night clothes were sticking to my skin, making me feel sick.


I was praised by a psychiatrist as “Chloe has an extraordinarily resilient heart that is hard to find.’’ but even I have emotional scars from work. If I shouted ‘Stop’, it was probably about that.



I was twenty-two and my colleague Mary was twenty-one at that time. Hans was 15 years old at the time and the three of us were tasked with stealing ‘records of fraud by leaders’ hidden in a certain nobleman’s mansion.


Lancôme spoke to Mary.

“Mary is the leader this time. This is your first time as the leader so take extra caution.”

“Yes, Chief.”


That night.

Mary changed the arrangement just before execution.


“Chloe, Hans and I are going to break in, so you’re going to be the lookout. Hans, you will follow behind me.”


“Wait. This is different from the plan, Hans was supposed to be the lookout.”


When I said that, Mary made a blatantly disgusted face.


“I am the leader. Obey.”

“But this is Hans’ first job. You should make him the lookout.”



Considering the dangerous atmosphere between me and Mary,

“I’ll go. Chloe, I’ll be fine.”

Hans said. Mary and my relationship, which was usually strained, would become troublesome so he accepted the change.


Shortly after the two of them broke into the house, there were loud noises and shouts in the mansion. Then Mary jumped out the window. A little later, Hans did too.


It appeared that the large man who was chasing them decided that he couldn’t catch up, so he threw a heavy-looking sword. The sword pierced Hans’ chest as if it was sucked into it. Hans fell in front of me with the tip of the sword sticking out in front of his chest and laid motionless.


I don’t know what happened inside the mansion. But it was a fact that Mary left Hans, on his first job, behind and ran away first.


Mary and I ran all the way, jumped on the horses we had prepared, and fled. When we returned to the central control room, Mary suddenly confronted me before even reporting.


“Chloe, if you have something to say, say it.”

“Stop picking quarrels with me.”

“You always act like the honor student. It’s really frustrating. Becoming Lancôme’s favorite and getting all the big jobs! Even though you’re his number-one favorite, you still act all self-important! It’s irritating!”

I, who usually ignored that kind of sarcasm, stood up and there was tension among the other members of the room.


“If you’re dissatisfied with Lancôme’s handling, shouldn’t you tell Lancôme? Don’t tell me. You’re the one flattering Lancôme, not me, aren’t you? Know some shame.”


Suddenly Mary tried to hit me.


(Stupid. The one who hits first is subject to punishment.)


I avoided Mary’s fist and elbowed her in the face. Tomorrow her face will be bruised and terrible, but you know what? Hans died after being pierced through his chest. We couldn’t even retrieve his body. It was Mary’s and my fault.

I whispered in Mary’s ear, who was holding her face and groaning.


“The worst kind of leader is someone like you who acts like the leader, but when something happens, be the first to run away and leave their juniors to die.”


The men pinned Mary as she roared and tried to pounce.


“You are easily excitable. That’s why you never get big jobs. Even if I’m your boss, I won’t give big jobs to someone who can’t control their emotions. Why did you suddenly change the positions? Why did you leave Hans behind and flee? Before you take out your frustration on me for failing, place your hands on Hans and rub your forehead on the ground to apologize. No matter how much you apologize, Hans will never come back!”


As long as Mary didn’t change our positions and made me withdraw to be a lookout because she couldn’t stand me, Hans would have remained a lookout. He would have survived. It was over once he died. No matter how much you regret or apologize, the dead never come back. Because of Mary and me, Hans’ future possibilities were lost.




I didn’t think I could sleep anymore, so I started working all night. Making a wig out of the long black hair I bought at the Free Market. Some people just buy them outright, but I make my own wigs.


I washed the hair while it was still tied up and then wove a few strands at a time into a net with ultra-fine crochet needles. I knitted a net that fit my head perfectly, threaded a few strands of hair through it, and tied them. It was a daunting task, but I didn’t dislike it.


As I worked, concentrating on the nerves on my fingertips, my mind gradually became calmer. And memories that I don’t usually remember came to mind.


I was thinking of Hans that night.


Hans laughing.

Hans eating meat deliciously.

Hans, who liked a girl from the same generation.

Hans, boasting that his sister is beautiful.

Hans, saying “I want to succeed in life.”


The fact that I don’t forget Hans is an apology to him whose life ended at the age of fifteen and a warning to myself.



I was brought up by the state to do illegal work and now live to repay that debt. There are things I want to protect as well. I want to prevent preventable deaths. I’ve seen ‘It’s over when you die’ more than the average person.



“Forget all work once they are over. Regret is poison.”


It was Lancôme who said so. I appreciated those words at that time.


But not now. If I forget Hans’ death, I felt like I would lose something important as a person.


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