A splash of water drenches me, forcing me to be awake…
And the first thing I notice is Elras with a smug face.
「 Feeling better now? 」
「 Wh-where am I? 」I respond quickly.
「 At the back of the Sugary Sweet Bar. I can’t believe I would find you in a drunken state and much worse — in a peasant bar. 」
「 W-what happened to me? 」
「 Oh dear goddess… Did your mother ever teach you noble etiquette? 」Elras asks, looking me right in the eyes, and soon withdraws slightly, must’ve gotten his answer,「 You were drunk. Some time ago, I was on my way back home after my border patrol, until a city guard reported to me that a certain noble friend of mine is staying in a shitty peasant bar for a concerningly long time. Being the good friend that I am, I’ve come to pick them up. And I can’t believe what I found that friend of mine is apparently you who passed out on the table; drunk, I bet. I had to drag you out and splash cold water onto you so you can gather your senses again. 」
「 Okay… I understand… 」Then… it hit me, something smells horrid here… like a… 「 horse piss… Why am I smelling horse piss… Oh, fuck. Did you just?! 」
「 As much as I think it would be such a hilarious thing to do, I still have some decency, Renald – unlike a certain person. 」Elras adds, mocking me most certainly,「 oh yeah forgot to tell you, the back of the bar is a horse stable, so of course you’re about to smell something funny. 」
Not believing what he said, I smell the shirt I’m wearing and am thankfully able to confirm it’s just normal water. I look throughout my surroundings and indeed we’re inside a horse stable. Beside me is a bloody horse sleeping which I’m guessing is where the funny odor is coming from, and the place where I’m sitting is littered with hay and straw. The clean one as far as I can see, at least I really hope that’s the case.
「 Ughh fair enough… 」I say whatever comes to my mind, headache, migraine still being a bitch, must be the hangover,「 Well… thanks for waking me up, good night Elras. 」
I get up and soon head towards the stable exit, ignoring Elras as I just want to be left alone.
「 Not so fast Renald… 」Elras says, reaching out, his hand firmly gripping on my shoulder, stopping me.
I want to be mad, but I’m not in a condition to be able to get mad at him. Ughh.. to think this migraine is such a pain…
「 Renald, I’m not dumb. 」Sternliness in his voice,「 A diligent student who’s at the top of his class is now staying in a shithole bar late at night, drinking beer and spirits like the world ends tomorrow. Something happened to you, and I want to find out. 」
「 Fuck off… It’s none of your concern. 」I try to shout, but there’s barely any energy within me.
「 What if it IS my concern? 」
He says, grabbing my shoulder, forcing me to look at him dead center in the eyes.
「 Fine… I’m too tired to go against you… in this pitiful state of mine… 」I say, defeated and tired,「 So, what do you want, Elras? You’ve captured this fool. 」
「 Come, 」Elras walks to the exit of the stable, 「 Let’s talk in a decent place, one not littered with horse dung. 」
By the time we’re out of the stable, his carriage is already in the front with his attendants.
I almost lose my balance and fall down, thank the goddess, one of his attendants is observant and quick enough to prevent my slip…. I guess I’m still a bit drunk.
How much did I drink anyway…
Ahhh I don’t know…
I’ve basically left with a few measly coppers anyhow…
Wait, what… We’ve already arrived at Elras’s place…?
Elras drags me to one of his empty rooms…
I sit down on one of the sofas, still feeling a bit clumsy…
He seems to grab two glasses and a bottle of wine… Nice…
「 Didn’t know you were such a gentleman, Elras.. 」I say, reaching my hand towards the glass.
「 You already drank a lot, Renald. I’ll be the one pouring wine into your glass. 」He says, as he pours wine into the glass, barely enough for three sips…
While he pours his almost to the brim. This fucking bastard!
「 Just drinking fantastic wine is fine by me but what do you have in mind Elras? 」I say trying to distract myself from this obvious unfairness.
「 What have you been up to recently Renald? 」
「 What are you? My mother? 」I reply immediately.
「 Don’t be like that. I’ve been toiling myself inside the walls away from home’s comfort and this is how you greet me? 」
「 Well… Nothing much. Just adventuring here and there. 」
「 And how could a simple adventure cause you to suddenly become an old fart, drinking down his regrets in life. 」
Silence ensues, with only the faint sound of sips between me and Elras.
「 …If you don’t want to answer then that’s fine. But I know something is up with you. 」
「 How about you just leave it at that then?! 」
Just fucking leave me alone…
I just want to be left alone.
A fucking piece of shit like me deserves to be alone.
「 Renald. 」his voice a bit soother this time,「 how about listening to a friend’s old story? 」
「 As long as you pour me more wine. 」
「 Fine… I hope goddess Maria takes pity on you… 」
He pours me another three sips worth of wine. Fuck. I should’ve said the amount.
「 Remember my older brother that I’ve told you before? 」
Why do I have a bad feeling about this?
「 Yeah? What about it? You never told me much about your brother. 」
「 That brother of mine… 」he begins to ponder,「 he was a prodigious man. Excelled in almost anything you can imagine, horse-riding, swordsmanship, magic, army leadership, and even territory management. Devilishly handsome too, even more than me. The perfect Reinhardt. Our parents loved him more than I.
「 He also used to have a very beautiful fiance — Ayla Girtz, from the Girtz duke family. My words couldn’t express just how beautiful she is. With the hair of the finest gold and radiant emerald eyes. The size of huge melons that carries men’s biggest wish. Before I even knew the concept of lust, at such a young age, she was my biggest desire. And for her to be owned by that brother of mine. My envy grew to the limit. If given the chance, I wouldn’t have hesitated to kill him. 」
「 Seems to me you were able to explain her extravagant beauty just fine. Didn’t even know you could be this poetic. 」
「 This is because of the great wine, Renald, 」he boasts, 「 then out of nowhere — as you know — he died from an unexpected elven ambush. At first, I was very happy. I mean the root of my deep hatred was gone, anybody in my shoes would be happy right? But things changed. His fiance heavily grieved for the loss of my brother, I still remember how loud she cried at his burial. But, somehow, in just a week, her attitude towards me changed. Before, she ignored me, but after his death, she started approaching me confidently to the point of teasing me relentlessly. I felt disgusted by how easily she changed.
「 It was the first time I felt great sympathy for my once hated brother. To think his fiance would go after another man so quickly. The noble circles then followed suit. The once-neglected me suddenly became heavily prominent everywhere, invitations for gatherings rose, and many more. I was disgusted by them. They only started bothering or noticing me after my brother died. 」
「 But no man lives alone, so I still accept their approaches, knowing full well they only see me as the next-in-line successor of the Reinhardt Marquis family. 」
「 And one of their approaches includes me huh? 」I interject.
「 No Renald, No… Most nobles I encountered are always two-faced. They love spouting sweet words and shower me with expensive, yet soulless gifts. You and Aaron however, are very different. I’m used to men approaching me for business favors, women seducing me in the hopes of becoming my concubine or even wife — their eyes set on the Reinhardt Marquis family status and treasury. You on the other hand, just want to get into《Dyron Temperament》guild. Which is weird I must say — but your motives are very direct, something I’ve never experienced before and what I’ve come to appreciate. 」
「 Why are you even telling me all of this? 」
「 Because I appreciate our friendship. And your current state reminds me of my past self. 」
Past self huh…
Nothing has changed between my past and my current self.
I’ve always been destined to be alone. And I won’t be able to change that. I should accept that and not bother changing the inevitable.
「 Life is a bitch, Renald. 」Elras adds,「 A priest once told me “To live is the same as to suffer” and to this day I hold that saying very dearly. 」
「 So why bother living then? 」
「 Noblesse Oblige, Renald… Noblesse Oblige. 」He says, drinking big gulps of wine,「 Us nobles with our wealth and status, have an obligation to fulfill, to the people. I’m the only son left in the family, and I don’t want my sister to live her life inside the walls or on the battlefield. So I live for the sole purpose of continuing the Reinhardt Marquis family. 」
「 Easy for you. 」I sneer at him,「 I don’t know if you noticed but I’m basically a bloody bastard child. 」
「 Yeah I know. Your sword gives it away. A hand and a half sword, or the more popular term, the “bastard’s sword”. Most noble uses either a saber or a longsword. So I have my suspicion and was proven correct shortly after I did some research on your family. 」
Wh-what? Hand and a half sword? Is that why when I grip it with both of my hands it feels too tight?
「 On the bright side. 」Elras continues,「 you’re not tied to Noblesse Oblige. You can do whatever you want. Pure Freedom. Although, a man without responsibility or purpose tied to him is the same as a wandering animal. Living on pure instinct alone. 」
「 So what you’re saying I should find a goal, a purpose in life? I don’t believe in such bullshits. 」
Not after finding true love is such a delusional one.
「 That might be your answer. But think about it more for a while. Especially when you’re fully sober. I know for a fact, finding a goal or purpose in life is a daunting task. Noblesse Oblige is the easy answer for me. 」
「 A purpose in life huh…. 」I say those words out loud, pondering over them, trying to make sense of such a spiritual and abstract concept.
「 That reminds me… When are you supposed to depart on that archaeological expedition or whatever that is with that boring professor? 」
「 Yeah… Professor Meyer told me to find a ship named “Gloria” in the morning, at the end of the month, so around two and a half weeks from now on… 」
「 Well how about you focus on that trip for now? A change of pace is what you need the most. And perhaps… you’ll find something new over there? A grumpy old professor for sure though! 」He says, laughing at his own weird joke.
「 I would need to depart tomorrow morning now that I think about it. 」
「 That means, tonight is our farewell meeting then. Make sure you stop drinking, you already got drunk beforehand anyway. 」
I nod in agreement, although very hesitantly with the way he keeps pouring wine from time to time. How can you stop somebody from drinking when you’re still drinking yourself? Wait, didn’t he already drink like three glasses of wine…. Elras is a heavy drinker, doesn’t he…
But he’s right. I should get away from this land as soon as possible. Away from my foolish actions. But to find something over there? Yeah, I wish…..