Rhode turned around and looked at the direction that Christie was pointing.
Both of them had walked to the middle of the market, stopping at a circular flight of stairs. This location was a designated section of the market for shop owners or customers alike to take a break. However, since it was still noon, most of the citizens were still hard at work, leaving only a few people at the resting area. A few children and elderly were sitting and chatting by the side while small street performers There were also street performers preparing for their next act.
Christie pointed to a man that was wearing a green overall with a feather on top of his hat. He was sitting on a chair and drawing on a white canvas in front of him.
"That's an artist."
Rhode identified the man with a single glance.
"They are here to draw sceneries and human portraits. And if anyone likes their art, then they would request to purchase them. Of course, if these artists found someone intriguing to draw, then they wouldn't hesitate to take the initiative to ask..."
Rhode frowned as he explained. In fact, he had been approached by artists several times when he passed the market. And of course, Rhode didn't comply. As these people were only ordinary civilians, he didn't want to be put into a situation where he had to kill them with his sword. If it weren't for Christie being with him today, he would've just avoided this place.
"What's the matter? Are you interested?"
He knew he couldn't avoid it since Christie's eyes were already beaming with curiosity.
"Sigh... then let's go."
Rhode sighed and held the little girl's hand before walking to the artist.
"Oh! Greetings to both of you, it's a pleasant day today."
The artist immediately sprang up upon Rhode and Christie's arrival. He exaggeratedly but passionately bowed towards them. His unusual and overstated tone was as if he was singing, but was severely out of tune.
"May I know how I could be of help to both of you? If it's for a portrait, I guarantee to give my 200% passion, so please rest assured. I, Francisco, am a well-known professional of Deep Stone City, and I have reasonable pricing. Just five silver coins. Five silver coins is all I humbly request, and I can draw you a beautiful portrait of your esteemed self. Customer satisfaction guaranteed! If you're unhappy with the outcome, then you can refund it for free!"
"... Sir... Are all these hand-drawn?"
Christie didn't seem to have any reactions to the self-proclaimed artist's exaggerated words. Her attention was solely focused on the art pieces displayed. It was Deep Stone City's mountain scenery. Other than his bragging, the art that this artist produced was indeed something. Some of the other artists in Deep Stone City were so terrible that Rhode couldn't even make out what they were drawing. Did it resemble an alien or human? The answer was neither. Furthermore, Rhode's standard of art wasn't THAT high. As long he could understand what they were drawing, then that was good enough. Thus, for those abstract pieces, he would rather leave it to the professionals to debate.
"Of course, my lady."
His eyes studied his potential customers, and judging from the laced cloak she wore; he concluded that this girl in front of him should be one of the daughters that belonged to a particular noble family who slipped out to play.
"All these artwork were drawn by me. If you are interested, please feel free to appreciate them."
Christie hesitated at Francisco's warm invitation and eventually chose to stay behind Rhode's back. She held onto Rhode's hand as she curiously peeked from the sides. As she admired the landscape and humans on the canvas, she remained silent in thought. Meanwhile, Rhode kept quiet while he caressed her hair gently and waited for her next decision.
But he soon discovered that Christie was concentrating on a portrait drawing by the side. The portrait was depicted a little girl and her mother. The mother was carrying her child, and both of them revealed a warm smile. This artist's piece was indeed on point. He was able to invoke the emotions of others through his drawing. However, he wasn't sure if it was the same for Christie.
And at this moment, Christie finally spoke.
"... Sir... Can you please draw a portrait of myself?"
"That's not a problem, my lady."
Having acquired a new customer, Francisco passionately moved up a step and quickly placed a fresh sheet of white canvas on his easel. Next, he politely gestured to Christie to come closer.
"Please stand here."
"I... I need to stand there?"
Hearing the artist's request, Christie opened her eyes wide with surprise. She grabbed onto Rhode's clothes with uncertainty. Hearing her question, Francisco laughed as he felt this little girl was too interesting. Could it be that she doesn't know what to do?
"Yes, of course, my lady. I need to have a good look at you so I can draw you. How am I suppose to draw if you are wrapped up in your cloak? I can't possibly draw you like that."
Francisco explained to Christie while smiling and waving his carbon pen. However, the little girl still seemed to possess some lingering hesitation and looked at the crowd with uncertainty. Rhode had already read Christie's thoughts and knew that Christie absolutely wanted a portrait, but she felt uneasy in crowded places. Now that it was bustling with noise and excitement, he could imagine the amount of attention she would receive after removing her cloak. For Christie, it was torture.
"Don't worry, Christie."
Rhode tapped on her little shoulders lightly and consoled her.
"Go ahead. I will be by your side to protect you. Don't worry; no one will do anything to you."
Christie finally nodded after listening to Rhode's comforting words. She stayed silent for a moment before summoning enough courage to walk forward. But before she took her third step, the little girl suddenly stopped walking. She stared at the portrait once again and turned around, pulling on the hem of Rhode's clothes.
"Can you do it with me?"
Hearing Christie's request, Rhode's heart dropped. He suddenly realized he had jumped deep into this pit that he dug for himself...
In any case, Christie was a girl, and people would say: 'What a beautiful and sweet looking little girl!' Which, in her case, was a compliment for a female.
But for himself?
'What a beautiful and sweet looking man...?"
Thinking of this, Rhode had the urge to draw his sword and kill anyone who said that.
If it was anyone else who requested Rhode for this, he would never comply. But as for Christie, Rhode could never reject her. Similarly, just like Christie could only truly be at ease with Rhode by her side. So, Rhode could choose to reject everyone else, but he definitely couldn't reject Christie. He didn't know why it was this way, just like how Christie didn't understand why she would be fondly attached to Rhode. Perhaps the similar appearance might be one of the reasons, but there was probably another deeper connection between them which they themselves can't understand yet.
In the end, agreed to Christie's request.
Rhode's worries were indeed reasonable. After removing his cloak, both of them received quite a lot of attention. The elderly and children that were resting on the stairs started flocking over curiously. Even the workers who were busy also noticed the crowd surrounding Rhode, which piqued their curiosity. After all, it was no surprise as both of them were beautiful, and looked almost identical.
After Francisco saw both of their faces, he was also inexplicably over the moon. As an artist, of course, he wished to retain beautiful things. Francisco wanted to compliment both of them again, but Rhode's deathly gaze brought him back from fantasy.
As everyone stood in a circle and watched, Christie became increasingly nervous. She inched closer to Rhode's side and clung tightly to his clothes with both hands. Rhode stroked the girl's long hair, and at the same time, shot daggers at the surroundings with his cold gaze. It proved useful, as some people within the crowd started moving away. Although Rhode didn't like his face, his special features were actually useful for making announcements. All the bullies and rogues knew about the incident when Rhode killed someone outside the Mercenary Association. Due to his distinctive facial features, everyone could recognize him.
After dispersing the crowd, Rhode and Christie finally could relax for a while. Francisco also started to display his artistic flair as his fingers flicked left and right on the canvas with incredible speed.
Francisco's speed wasn't slow at all, which was to be expected because he did this for a living. If he needed a few hours to complete a portrait, then it would be questionable if any model would want to stand there for that long. Also, Rhode's killer eyes subtly forced this artist to increase his speed to ensure his customer's satisfaction. Francisco didn't think that this was a bad deal either. He felt lucky that both of them had outstanding traits, unlike his other customers who required necessary touchups which took up some time.
So, without letting both of them wait for too long, Francisco quickly finished his artwork.
"Both of you, please enjoy."
Rhode took the canvas and carefully examined it. He had to admit that this artist was well versed in his profession. He captured a very sensitive motion between the two of them as the theme of his art. On the canvas, Rhode was caressing Christie's hair gently with his head lowered, revealing a warm smile. Whereas the little girl lifted her head, both of her hands were clinging to Rhode's clothes, and her slightly dilated eyes were filled with intentions to never part with him. Anyone who viewed this portrait would lament to the harmonious and beautiful relationship between the two of them. Even Rhode who had experience with photoshopped pictures on the internet exclaimed in admiration after looking at the final product.
"The time is limited, so this was all I can do."
Francisco revealed a helpless smile.
"If you would grant me the pleasure, I wish to spend more time to touch up on..."
"That's not necessary. This is good enough."
Looking at the portrait in his hands, Rhode nodded his head with satisfaction. Later, he handed it to Christie and tossed a gold coin over to Francisco. Francisco, who was shocked at the gold coin on his palm, tried to bite it with his teeth as if he couldn't believe his eyes. Then he exposed an excited, smiling face.
"Thank you for your kindness, my esteemed customer. You are too kind. To be honest, I had actually decided not to charge a fee. As an artist, to preserve eternal beauty is my pride. It is my honor for you to give me this chance, and I..."
Rhode nodded his head without any interest to listen to what he had to say and immediately pulled up his cloak with the intention of leaving. However, suddenly, a female voice sounded out.
"Never did I expect to see such a beautiful little girl here."
Followed by this voice, a woman who was exceptionally well-dressed, appeared in front of Rhode and Christie. She smiled as she looked at the little girl and extended her hand.
"Come, little one, let this older sister take a good look at you."
Facing the woman's extended hand, Christie was a little terrified. She moved back and shrunk her lower body. And at this moment, Rhode grabbed onto the woman's wrist.