“My innards went cold l when I heard that Raconia had fallen.”
“Yes, yes. Kail was so nervous.”
“And you were crying.”
“I wasn’t crying.”
It has been a bit more than a week since Raconia had fallen. Al, who had assumed the identity of William Rivius, came back to the capital of Arcadia, Arkas. After the order of retreat was given, Al and also the other soldiers of Raconia were sent back to the places they lived at in order to reorgarnize the army and also to resupplying their armament. Of course, Al would eventually need to return to the battlefield eventually.
“Either way, cough*, it looks like you had bad luck. Well, since it’s you we’re talking about here, your skills should soon be recognized.”
Al smiled at Kail.
“Bad luck? Don’t joke, this was so lucky of me to the point that it is scary how well all went.”
“Lucky? Weren’t you caught up in a defeat?”
“Yes, it was quite the hopeless battle. And because of that, the people that used to despise me also died. There will be vacancy in the military positions since they lost many soldiers. Well, the positions that will be freed up aren’t really that much great… but it is still true that I need to get the people on those positions to step aside so that I can have them.”
Al spread his arms.
“I won’t be promoted by having fought a lost war. However, this is much better than the shitty drawn out method of building up achievements day after day. Do you know why, Kail, Havella?”
The two immediately shook their heads. It felt a bit disappointing to Al because of how they didn’t feel like trying to guess it.
“It is because after that defeat, the wars I will be sent to will be ones that will happen for the sake of winning. This is a matter of honour to them. Now that the balance of the contest for Raconia was broken, Arcadia will do all it has to take it back.”
Kail clapped his hands together after coming to an understanding.
“I see. So this means you will get to go to wars that you will definitely win.”
Al wagged his finger to Kail, who had jumped into conclusions.
“It is not like we will be definitely winning those. I said it before, didn’t I? It is a question of honor. Ostoberg too will definitely be preparing its forces for the war so that they can win. Now that Raconia was captured, it will become the so called classical war between Arcadia and Ostoberg contesting for Raconia from here out.”
Though there was no way for the lowly part of the populace such as Kail and Havella to know about this, the fact is that the true show really only begun after Raconia would get captured by one of the two powers. According to history, it has been close to ten years that Arcadia had maintained its control over Raconia. Capturing and recapturing the territory was a rivalry between the two kingdoms based on the honor as fellow kingdoms that were part of the great “seven kingdoms”.
“It will be a war both won’t give up on. It will become a huge war. If we lose the war, everything will go down the drain. However, if we win… there will be a bunch of opportunities for me. This is an once in a lifetime chance.”
From now on, any of their moves will happen in a large scale. Even if Arcadia is to lose, the war will still be a great one. Considering how many positions will be opened up, this will become a opportunity for the survivors of the war. Though the gains outweighed the risks if Arcadia was to win the war, the possibility Al could die still wasn’t zero.
“Going hunting after some grimming small fries won’t be of any use. It’s heads that I need. I have to take the heads of big shots. Only then I will get promoted!”
“Well, I don’t know well about war. However, you should still take care.”
Kail said in a warning tone to Al, who was starting to get excited.
“It will be that much of a big war. There might be guys that are stronger than me. No, there will definitely be. You will be fighting guys of that kind.”
“Even if you say that, there is no way for me to tell them apart.”
Being warned about the war, Al lost his excitement. Kail showed a wry smile.
“That’s right… There should be people you would feel this kind of shiver from.”
Suddenly, Al felt a chill in his back. Al’s skin became full of goosebumps. It was the same feeling he had felt at that time…
“Don’t go. You should be able to understand that. One day you will become strong ennough to win against guys like that. You can’t win against them with your current strength.”
What Al was feeling right now wasn’t something rational. It wasn’t something that made sense. However, Al understood what that feeling was. He could feel the disparity between him and the man in front of his eyes. That man was the one warning him about the war. He needed to take those words in account. Not only that, Al’s own instincts were also telling him that he wouldn’t be able to survive a fight against these kind of people, which confirmed what Kail had told him.
“I understand. I won’t go after those.”
Al took a pose of resignation. Seeing that, Kail smiled.
“By the way, Al, where will you be living at? Do you have somewhere to stay?”
Al lost the rights of the house he used to own together with his identity as Al, a freed slave that [died in a fire]. Right now, another person was living there. Al also didn’t feel like returning there either. If he was to do that, the fact that Al, who he was able to have killed after many troubles, was still alive would get exposed.
“I can let you stay on my home if you don’t have anywhere to stay at. I live by myself, so there is nothing to worry about.”
“”No, I would be worried about it. For many reasons.””
Both Al and Kail had the same thoughts in their mind. Although the three were best friends, they were soon going to be adults. There were many things that could happen between a man and a woman.
“It has the space for three people to live in. It isn’t that big though.”
Havella indirectly revealed that both her parents had died, but neither Al nor Kail became that much worried about it. To Havella, her parents weren’t an existence she was supposed to love. There has never been once she felt that way to them. They only raised Havella so their lineage wouldn’t die out, and except for that, they didn’t want much to do with her. For all the affection she lacked, Al and Kail made up to her with their friendship.
“Sorry for having you guys worrying so much about me, but for now I already have a place to stay.”
Havella dropped her shoulders in disappointment. But even so, as to be expected, her expression didn’t change even the slightest at that time.
“Where is it?”
“I will be staying at the house of an acquaintance. Even though I tried to decline… I was pressed on to.”
The instant Kail heard that Al had an acquaintance, his face became bright, and Havella frowned. It was rare for Havella, whose expression wouldn’t ever change, to have an expression so different to her usual face.
“Is it a friend of yours!?”
Kail’s eyes were sparkling. After hearing those words, both Al and Havella spat out the saliva in their mouth at the same time. (TL: Kind of like when people spit out their drink when something “surprising” happens while they are drinking it, but in this case without any drink.)
“Spare me from jokes. You are the only ones that are my friends. That guy has nothing to do with me. Although he is not one of us, I just don’t want to get on his bad side. I’ve had many problems at Raconia for rubbing people the wrong way.”
It was just like his superior at Raconia. In the end he was able to get him killed by using him as a meat shield for himself, but despite that, the annoyances in his surroundings still continued. Al still had a long way to fix this problem.
“I see, I see~. Then take care on your stay there. Become good friends.”
Kail pushed Al’s back all smiley. Havella started kicking Kail on his back.
“He-hey, but I still have time left to hang out!”
“Don’t worry about it. Just go meet with him already.”
Kail ignored Al’s remark. Havella continued to kick Kail.
“Fine! Well, let’s meet again one more time before I leave to the war. See you then!”
And just like that, Kail was able to push Al away from the place. By that time, Havella was out of breath.
“It hurts if you do that, Havella.”
“It’s Kail’s fault.”
“This will be a good thing for him.”
Kail was smiling. Becoming annoyed at that face, Havella once again kicked him.
“Ouch! Don’t kick my jaw!”
“Shut up! It’s because Kail is stupid!”
Saying only that, Havella disappeared from the place.
Kail, the only one left, sighed.
“Both of them rely on each other to live their lives… I guess I can’t say much about it myself though.”
Now by himself, Kail spoke out his thoughts as he scratched his head.
“”…Why is he already here?””
There was still time left before the time they agreed to meet. But even so, Karl was already waiting for him. But there was one more very important detail in that…
“You came very early!”
“Ah, yes. Well, I didn’t have anything pending on me, so I had nothing to do.”
The reality that he too also has come early was too difficult to accept for William. It was extremely annoying how Karl was looking at him as if he was for some reason having fun just because of that. Even if one were to ask him how something like that was supposed to be annoying, the only answer he could in the end was that annoying things were still very annoying.
“Follow me, I will show you the way. It might be a bit of a long walk though.”
William glanced around his surroundings.
“”Arkas is separated in four districts. The slums, the merchant’s district, the residential district and the noble district. The lifestyles of people in the same district will vary depending on the person’s assets and social standing.””
The place they were right now was an area that was prosperer in comparison to the rest of the residential district. Could it be that Karl was a spoiled kid of some rich family just as William had expected?
“”He probably is a first-class citizen. There shouldn’t be any second-class citizens living here.”
Even though both the two were considered citizens, the first-class citizens had the privilege of getting a big part of the the paid tax. At least in the overall quantity, the privileges they had were close to the ones nobility had. Of course, there was still a great gap between them and nobility.
“You know, my father said that he wanted to meet you after I told him about you.”
Karl talked nonstop, spewing words nonstop. William continued to be silent.
“”I’ve never been that far into this section of the district. Seeing how rich the people that live here seem to be, it should be possible for them to hire common slaves and servants, and even buy the whole slave company.””
The feeling of grandeur the buildings gave off started to increase. Since the buildings followed the suit of the prosperity of the place, the people that lived there naturally could only be fittingly wealthy as well.
“”Wait a second. This guy… Could it be that he is actually absurdly fucking rich!?””
William looked at Karl’s eyes. Karl gave a puzzled look to William.
“It seems you are very wealthy.”
“Yes, but the other houses around mine are even more awesome. My house isn’t that much of a thing.”
“”Did they forcefully pay their way into living in here? But they should still be well-off just on how they are able to do that. This guy…. It seems that he will have some utility.“”
William’s thoughts were dripping in malicy. William started to imagine the many ways he could use Karl, who was far-off much richer than he expected.
“Are we arriving there soon?”
“Just a bit more.”
William made a puzzled face. Right ahead, though still part of the residential district, only the truly prominent rich people lived there. If Karl really lived there, then he was of one of the richest families.
“It is right through that gate. Please, wait a bit for me, ok?”
“Thr-through that gate!? He-hey, wait a second!”
William’s face became grim the moment Karl walked to that gate. He had a great amount of sweat on his back. His breathing started to roughen. His heart started to beat like an alarm.
“What is the matter, William?”
Karl had a completely gullible expression on his face. That was what it was the most scary right now.
“At the other side of that gate… It was definitely supposed to be the place the nobility lives at.”
“Ah, you know really well. It is really incredible for a foreigner to know that!”
Karl happily said. However, some praise like this didn’t matter at all to William. Something like that didn’t matter at all. The most important thing right now was…
“Are you… a noble?”
“Yes. Well, I am a fifth-class noble; it is the ranking of a baron, so it is not that much of a thing. I wouldn’t really be considered that much successful of a noble either.”
Karl declared the shocking reality as if there was nothing special in doing so.
The instant William heard that, he became pale and immediately fell to the ground. His head hit the floor with full force and he completely fell prostrate.
“Eh, William, what happened!?”
Karl became surprised seeing that. This was what one would commonly refer to as a “Dogeza”. His trembling body didn’t give any impression of his usual firmness. (TL: Dogeza = OTL Prostrating)
“Nonetheless the fact I was unaware, I am extremely sorry for all the acts of rudeness I have committed!”
Noises of chattering started to appear on the surroundings. To William, the noble district was a place that could mean life and death. If he acted the wrong way, or if he misspoke something, he would be immediately executed.
“What’s the matter William! Aren’t we friends? You are my benefactor who saved my life! There is no need for you to lower your head!”
Karl said to the prostrating William.
“No, it is indeed the truth that a third-class civilian like me has overspoken too much to the son of a noble! I will do anything possible to compensate, and I will also accept any light punishment! Therefore, please, somehow spare my life!”
There was no way William would accept dying in a place like this. There was no reason at all to believe in Karl’s words. The moment Karl, who William used to think as a worthless individual, was to want his life in a whim, his life would then be dealt with. Just like his sister….
“Like I said before, you are my benefactor, so…”
“I was thinking of leaving you to die at that time!”
Yes, William could use this as an opportunity instead if only he didn’t commit any mistakes. However, William did commit one single mistake. It was a mistake he would definitely not have done if he knew Karl was a noble. His mistake was that he had been about to leave Karl to his death. Karl, who had seen it happening with his own eyes, should be very well aware of that happening.
“It was in the middle of the battle, so it can’t be helped. Besides, didn’t you help me in the end? You helped me without knowing that I was a noble…. This made me really really happy. That’s why please, raise your face. Please, be your frigid self just like before.”
William was afraid of raising his face. If he was to raise it only to find out there was a smile of contempt in Karl’s face, it would definitely be his end. He would have died in with much left unaccomplished just because of some random encounter that suddenly plunged into him.
“”Like I am going to die. As if I am dying in a place like this!””
William raised his face. What he saw was Karl’s smile of relief. But even so, Willian’s anxiety still wouldn’t go away. He [himself] knew of people that could smile despite planning on killing you. He [himself] knew it to the point of hating it. There was nobody that could say for sure Karl really wasn’t this sort of person.
“Now, stand up.”
William slowly held the hand Karl extended to him. He didn’t lower his guard. He was vigilant. But even so, he had no choices other than taking that hand.
“Ahaha. In the end, even you are troubled about me being a noble.”
“That is correct. There is the possibility I could get killed by displeasing you.”
“Ah, there is no way I would ever kill William! Besides, nobility can’t so easily have people killed like that.”
“”You say that even though nee-san got killed like she was some piece of trash.””
William was anxious, but he didn’t do the foolish thing of letting it show on his face.
“Now, polite speech is prohibited from now on!”
“That is… impossible.”
No matter how much Karl was to reproach William, it was impossible that he would be able to change his speech. There were other eyes watching them from the surroundings. There was no way for him to know whether there would be other nobles that would look at his lack of manners towards a fellow noble and find a fault in it.
“Muu, well, let’s fix it up step by step then. For the time being, let’s get to my home first.”
William and Karl once again started walking. William was walking a bit behind Karl.
“Using -sama is not allowed!”
“However, adding honorifics to Karl-sama’s name is only appropriate.”
“In either case, it is prohibited for now!”
William showed a troubled face. He felt scared from Karl’s sulky face, but he knew that he would have to face many other nobles from now on. William could easily be done in just with the blow of any of them; he needed more than cautiousness to be able to make it through.
The two of them stood in front of the gates.
“It is Karl Von Tirah.”
“You should be Lord Teirah’s son, correct? Please, make your way.”
The guard threw a glance at William.
“It is my friend.”
Karl immediately declared. Since the noble has spoken, a lowly person such as the gatekeeper didn’t have the rights to have a saying on who was and wasn’t supposed to go through. That was what it meant to be a noble. It meant being privileged from the time you are born; if a noble wanted black to be white, the black would become white.
“Please, make your way.”
The gatekeeper didn’t stop being suspicious of William. There was no way he would.
William was feeling out of the place. He was being overwhelmed by the place; he was being overwhelmed just by the buildings standing there.
“This way. It is a bit embarrassing that my house doesn’t really amount to much, but you can treat it as your own home.”
William’s senses were paralysed. If he had seen this house before going through the gate and having a look at the houses inside, he would probably have been overwhelmed by it. However, now having gone through the gates, he was able to touch a bit of the air of this [world]. And because of that, the house indeed felt a bit lacking.
““No, I am stupid. It is obvious. The owner of this house is a baron. It is the lowest class among the fifth-rank nobility.””
To begin with, the people that lived here were of a different level. Here was the perfect world. It was too much of a lack of sense to be comparing this place to the lower world. William could understand a bit of Karl’s feelings of embarrassment. In this world, that house was indeed lacking.
But William would never forget…
““I… wasn’t supposed to even have the qualifications to be standing in a place like this.””
The whole world denied William’s existence; it denied Al, who used to be a slave.
“”However, I will definitely eat up all of you.””
Saying this was still just a bluff at the moment. His strength, knowledge, experience; everything was insufficient.
But even so, Al advanced forward. That was all he could do. That was the only type of life he could live; he didn’t wish for anything other than that anymore.