The residence of Lord Teirah was unexpectedly not very splendid. However, the good taste in furniture and each of the decorations of the residence instilled life in it. With the airs given off by the decoration being very uniform, it could be seen that there was only one theme being used as a base. There was a good feeling of honesty in it; it was something that wouldn’t be felt from the tastes of the first-class citizen rich upstarts.
“Because my father has the principle of not using much money in material objects, people often say that we are being too much of misers for how we keep our house like that. But even if they keep saying that, I still really like my home.”
William nodded at Karl’s words in his mind. It wasn’t gaudy, but it was elegant.
“I reckon it is very elegant.”
“As I said before, stop with the polite language! It is starting to feel creepy.”
“”Isn’t it obvious that doing that is impossible, retard.””
William got angry at Karl, who was looking at him with dissatisfied eyes, and complained in his mind.
“”Their garden isn’t too big and their walls aren’t that high. If necessary, it will be possible for me to escape from here.””
The garden wasn’t that much wide, but as to be expected, its decoration had good taste. There was a water fountain at its center, and it was surrounded by a pond. Perhaps William would have calmed down a bit by appreciating the beauty of the garder if it wasn’t for the current state of affairs. Right now he didn’t have the time to be doing that.
“”I can’t find anything eye-catching in the structure of the house. Even without having a good look at it, I can already imagine how the corridors are organized.””
It was indispensable that William made his preparations for escaping in case Karl was to go back in his words or if Karl’s father wanted to have William dead.
Perhaps the chance for this to happen was low. However, it wasn’t impossible.
“This way. They should already be done with the preparations for dinner by now.”
Karl signaled William to come with a hand gesture. There were many servants in front of the door. It was possible to notice that they were wearing maid clothes of quality and that they had been well trained in their conduct and even gestures.
William’s expression didn’t change. Since he came all his way here anyway, he was able to set his resolve. Him meeting a noble, an existence he couldn’t even conceive, was an opportunity that came early to him. Yes, this was an opportunity.
“”I… won’t lose.””
His resolve was now completely set.
“Please enter, Karl-sama, Rivius-sama.”
A maid of seemingly old age opened the door to the dinning room. Once the door was opened, the person sitting at the front seat of the table said:
“Welcome to the Teirah residence. I welcome you, Willim-kun.”
It was Lord Teirah. It was the first genuine noble William has seen in his life.
“It is of my deepest honor to be invited by you, Lord Teirah.”
William deeply bowed his head. He had some etiquette imbued into his body. This too was knowledge he acquired from books. It was the first time he put it in practice. This could only be the case since this was the first time he had met with a noble obvious.
“Your hair is really as white as chalk. What I had in mind was a man already getting his white hairs when you told me about him, Karl.”
William turned his eyes to the direction of the voice. At that direction, there was a man that had a wavy blonde hair tied together in one bundle. He looked to be slightly older than both Karl and William.
“I am very sorry, elder brother.”
Anger could be seen in Karl’s response.
“I am being rude to our guest for not introducing myself already. My name is Ainhart Von Teirah. My profession is being a scholar. I am Karl’s elder brother.”
Seeing Ainhart respectfully bow to William, William himself bowed to him in reaction. Seeming as if that scene was amusing to see, Lord Teirah laughed.
“And the one sitting on the other side in front of me is our most beloved little sister, Lutogarde.”
The girl Ainhart introduced bowed in an embarrassed manner. She immediately averted her gaze the moment her eyes met with William’s.
“”…Is it too disgraceful for her to meet her eyes with a commoner?””
William’s expression didn’t change the slightest, but he wasn’t calm in his mind. William couldn’t help but feel that Lord Teirah, Karl’s elder brother Ainhart and even Lutogarde were looking down on him. It was definitely only his imagination he assumed.
“Ahaha, Lutogarde is very shy when meeting new people. Really, you need to properly greet him!”
Karl puffed up his cheeks. Being called out, Lutogarde made an apologetic face.
“M-my name is Lutogarde. Nice to meet you, William-sama.”
“I am from Rushitania. My name is William Rivius. It is my pleasure meeting you, Lutogarde-sama.”
William carefully told his false story. Rather, there weren’t any lies in his story since [himself] was without doubt William, born in Rushitania.
“I guess I am the last in the self-introductions. I am Lord Teirah, Louran Von Teirah. I will be in your care, William-kun, Karl’s friend and benefactor.”
William was slightly troubled at how a noble had lowered his head to him.
“Now, have a seat. Albeit it is a meager one, let’s have dinner.”
The arrangement of the seats was made so that Louran, the head of the house, was at the front of the table, Ainhart and Karl to the left, and Lutogarde to the right. As for William…
“…Uhm, is it fine for me to sit here?”
“Ah, yes, by all means.”
Lutogarde answered in a very meek voice. William sat down.
“You may plate fill your plate with anything of your desire to eat. Now then, let’s have our dinner.”
On Louran’s call the dinner has started.
“”I don’t recognize this taste. What am I eating right now?””
Every single one of the cuisine lined up in the table were tasty food William had never eaten before. Despite that, he was having trouble with the table manners, was worried about how the conversation would go, and in addition to that, had to talk about Rushitania, the home country he actually had never been to. Because of the extreme feeling of tension caused by all that and the too tasty of a food he normally wouldn’t ever be able to eat, his tongue became completely numb of taste.
“…But it seems William-kun has been studying very well.”
“No, this is nothing to be that proud of.”
Putting his elbow on the table, Louran smiled.
“No, it is quite something. For you to be that much fluent in a language of another country, and also even paying mind for learning the etiquette of another country, and the intelligence that you have demonstrated during our conversation. Not only that, though at least as far as I heard from Karl, you are also strong.”
William was scared of that smile. It was obviously a smile that was different from the one Karl was doing. Louran’s gaze was one that was analyzing him. He had been thinking there was something strange with William since a while ago.
“”Is this man testing me?””
It was an act for the sake of making William delve inside more detailed subjects regarding Rushitania. Thinking about that now, perhaps all the self-introduction from before had also been something for the sake of examining the man called William.
“Despite not being very knowledgeable about it, I desperately studied about Arcadia after deciding I was going to come here.”
“This is incredible. Studying the language of a country so distant from your country Rushitania should be something you can be proud of.”
William’s back was soaked in sweat. The other three were listening to their conversation as they ate their food; they couldn’t even begin to understand the tension William was feeling right now.
“But why Arcadia? It could have been Ostoberg, which is also one of the seven kingdoms. The closest to Rushitania of the seven kingdoms is the kingdom of Estaado, and going a bit further in should be the kingdom of Nehderks. If the choice is to pick the strongest of the kingdoms, it should be the superpower, Garias. Not to forget the developing kingdom of Arkland by crossing the sea. I don’t see any particular reason for you to have chosen Arcadia.”
William also used to have the same doubts about this question. Why had William chosen Arcadia. William wasn’t someone to leave such a question that would eventually be asked to him unanswered.
“…My explanation for that might sound a little rude, however.”
Louran uttered, with his increasing interest being revelaed on his voice as he looked at William’s humble face as he explained.
“The superpower, the kingdom of Garias, is suboptimal for raising your fame. There aren’t many countries that would pick up a fight with them. Because of that, there aren’t many opportunities to get achievements there. Even if I raise my name at the developing country of Arkland, I will still have my doubts on whether I would be able to go back to my homecountry. Besides that, the kingdom of Estaado had been known for having invaded my country a long time ago… The remaining choice is either Arcadia, Ostoberg or Nehderks. But between those three… there is a decisive difference that sets it all.”
William was smoothly giving his explanation. Everything was the pure truth William had heard from the [person himself]. There weren’t any reasons to be anxious about that. There was no doubts all this was the truth.
“The difference would be on how foreigners are treated. Compared to Arcadia, who consider foreigners as people of their own country, giving them the title of third-class citizens, Ostoberg and Nehderks treat foreigners as immigrants at best. I left my country to make a name for myself. Hence, I reckon it is inevitable that the place I need to enlist myself in is Arcadia.”
He didn’t include even a single lie. If one was to declare that he was saying any lies, the one claiming that would in the end become the one to be lying. After all, to begin with, the identification documents made all lies into the truth…
“You seem to be quite an ambitious one.”
“I am grateful for the compliment.”
William bowed his head to Ainhart.
“Hmmm, perhaps it is as you say. Arkland if one wishes for new opportunities, and Arcadia for the varied benefits… Ah, sorry for having asked you so many things. Our dinner would end up getting cold this way. Now then, please eat to your heart’s content.”
As if the questioning had ended for the time, Loulan declared that William could go back to eating his dinner. William nodded in response. Now everyone at the dinner room could now focus on eating their food.
“Ah, could I ask you one last thing?”
William had finally been able to take a break just then. But that was until Louran called him once more, just as if he had noticed that William calmed down from his anxiety and was only waiting for the timing.
“Isn’t Karl a nuisance for you who is so ambitious?”
In an instant, the mood of the room became petrified. Karl loudly stood up from his seat.
“…What are… you saying?”
William was at loss for words. It was obvious. There was no way he could answer that question in his current situation. It was inevitable he would get Karl’s dislike by that. In result of that, as far as the influence Karl had as the son of a noble, it would an easy feat for him to have some foreigner dead.
“Yes, please don’t mind about that. It’s just that I don’t like very much that Karl is going to war. As Ainhart mentioned before, he is a scholar, and won’t accept becoming the heir of the family because of that. Thus, Karl must be the one to succeed the Teirah household. I want him to learn things about the business we do. If he is to give up on being my successor, it would be better if he does so early on.”
Karl was about to glare at his father, but because Louran’s gaze was by far much sharper, he was suppressed without even having the chance to say any word. As to be expected, there was no comparison between the two.
“I am well aware that Karl doesn’t have talents that suit the military. Let’s put an end to this hopeless dream. I will entrust my son to you. If it is by your words, Karl might be able to wake up. Could you make him give up for me?”
Karl was looking at William with eyes that begged for help. William swallowed the saliva in his mouth.
This was an extremely difficult situation for William. If he was to stand for Karl, he wouldn’t be able to appease Louran, and if he was to stand for Louran, he wouldn’t be able to appease Karl. In terms of power, it was clear the Louran was the one most powerful. In that case, it was only logical that William had to stand for Louran.
“”However, resentment from that will remain. The feeling of trust that Karl has for me right now will be destroyed. The moment that turns into hatred, that blunder I made before will only become the foundation for his hate. If that was to happen…”
William had commited blunders. The fact he was about to leave Karl to his own death. He might not mind about that at the moment, but it was inevitable that he would change his mind about it if William was to betray him now. For all the trust he had, his grudge would only worsen.
“”To begin with, is there even any necessity for me to stand on Louran’s side? If he really wanted to have Karl stay away from the battlefield, my opinion on that would have been unnecessary. It is possible that he is just making all this up. Even so, that’s nothing more than an assumption. It doesn’t matter. If that’s how it is, then will make it so I can take both sides!””
William looked at Karl for only an instant. Karl was hanging down his head. He was biting his lips, with his clenched hands trembling and a frustrated expresison on his face. Karl was aware. He knew that he didn’t have any talent. He ended up becoming aware of that ever since he fought in the war…
William let out a small sigh; it was as if he was making sure of himself whether it was really fine to do what he was about to.
Karl became surprised in reaction. Louran looked at William with a composed attitude.
And then, William said…
“Karl-sama. No, Karl… I need you!”
William had set his resolve. Karl became moved by those words.
“At that time I still didn’t know you were from a noble family, I was about to betray you. Being in the middle of the battle, I didn’t have the time to spare even for myself. There were many of our companions were in danger too. I was hesitant whether it was fair for me to just save Karl despite everyone else; I’ve averted my eyes away from you. Even if I saved you in the end, the fact that I had been about to leave you to your death still remains. The fact I hesitated to save you is an undeniable truth.”
Because of the sudden confession, not to mention from Ainhart and Lutogarde, even Louran had his eyes open wide.
“Karl told the me who had abandoned him at that moment that I was his friend. He forgave the stupid me who had been about to leave him to his death; a simple foreigner and third-class citizen like me. He even called me his friend. To my eyes, Karl is a friend that is irreplaceable. It was the first bond I was able to make in this country.”
The first one to become surprised after hearing William’s confession was Karl himself. William continued his speech. He didn’t give Karl the time to reflect on what had been said.
“Indeed, Karl might not have talent to be in the military. However, I believe that Karl has an even more important talent. It is the power to bond people together, the power to have people open themselves, the power to gain the trust of people. This power perhaps might not be of any use to a solder; however, how would this fare for someone that commands? What if he was to stand above people? This definitely would become the most powerful talent to have over any other. Therefore, I absolutely need Karl!”
William declared. To be fair to himself, Willian didn’t have the confidence that this kind of path was even viable. Whether it was the correct answer for him to choose Karl’s side, or whether he should have chosen Louran’s side, or whether he should have dropped all the pretense to begin with, he didn’t know what he was supposed to do. The situation he got himself in now wasn’t one he could make all of it off as a joke after all he said. The person he was dealing with also wouldn’t allow him. Louran Von Teirah wasn’t soft to that point.
“But if he dies as a soldier, there won’t be any meaning to it.”
Louran’s cold words pierced through William.
“I will protect him. No matter what may happen, in the name of my motherland, and more importantly than anything, in the name of our friendship, I will protect him.”
Now that William had gone all the way through, Karl would definitely keep his stand on that even if he was to die. Even if William rubbed lord Teirah in the wrong way because of that, he could just escape from the residence. Since he was sitting close to the door, it would be possible for him to make his getaway. He memorized the way outside the house. He had already gone through the way to outside the kingdom before too. It wouldn’t matter even if he was to get all covered with human shit as long as he was still alive.
Karl’s voice resounded through the room. Louran turned his frigid eyes away from William and now was looking at Karl.
“!?”(TL: Imagine a gasp SFX)
Karl has pretty much never gone against his father’s words, nor has he ever received such a cold gaze from him before. But even so…
“I-I, indeed am weak. I became aware of the fact fighting the war. I am weak. It is a fact that won’t change. However, I have the feeling I will be able to become stronger as long as I together with William. I will become stronger and be able to stand alongside him. I want to become a man worthy of being his friend. That’s why there is no way I can run away now! In the name of my friendship with William, the one who said that I was necessary to him!”
Karl has for the first time gone against his father. This was different from a child that had been spoiled by his father and was now sulking about his selfish desires. It was a firm opposition. Ainhart, his brother, was surprised. Those were sharp words that he would have never imagined coming out of Karl’s mouth.
“…Hmm. I suppose I was beaten. Well, I wasn’t really that serious about what I said however.”
Before one’s notice, Louran’s eyes became mild. It was as if his cold gaze had been blown away, and that now it was the usual Loulan the one sitting there.
“It’s fine, do as you wish. Sorry there, William-kun. I ended up having you caught up with our family affairs. But it was really fortunate that I asked you that question. Thank you for becoming Karl’s friend.”
Karl blushed. He was giving glances to William. Becoming embarrassed, William averted his eyes from him. And due to that, Karl made a happy expression.
“Only, you should think about the family’s business a little bit more. Karl, since our company has many employees, please keep in your heart that we mustn’t allow that they are thrown to the roadside unemployed. Moreover, you definitely mustn’t die. Can you promise me that?”
Becoming satisfied with Karl’s response, Louran turned his eyes to all the people in the room.
“Oh my, I am really sorry. Now then, let’s once again proceed with our dinner. The housemaid will get angry at us if we let the food cool down.”
With a clap of his hands, although with a few difficulties, they went back to eating their dinner.
The strange mood from before faded away to its last pieces, but even so, Willian still couldn’t feel the taste of the food after all.
“You can use this room.”
After finishing the dinner, Karl guided William to one of the rooms of the second floor. At the moment, both were standing right in front of it.
“Thank you Karl.”
William extended his hand for a handshake. Karl happily took his hand.
“Don’t worry about it, William.”
Their friendship had been accepted by Karl’s father. If that hadn’t been the case, it would have been impossible for them to have gone against the will of the head of the family. It was exactly because this would have normally been impossible that this friendship became one of trust.
“Then, see you tomorrow.”
“Yes, see you tomorrow.”
The hands that were firmly holding each other now broke off. Both looked at the position the two hands were holding each other with regretful eyes. Noticing that, Karl showed a happy smile while William showed a wry one.
“Good night, William.”
“Good night, Karl.”
The two of them went their own ways. Karl would turned his head back a few times as he waved his hand.
On the other hand, William just waved his hand for a little and he went inside the room that was given to him.
Leaning his back at the door…
William gave a very long sigh.
“I pulled it through, I guess.”
A feeling of coldness gradually started to embrace his back, which was now dry from all the sweat.
“The room next to mine has nobody living at. Because my room is at the corner, there is no need to worry about someone hearing for now. All should be good with that. It was definitely the right choice, myself.”
William’s exhaustion coming back to him all at once. His expression was a weak and completely exhausted one. It was an expression he wouldn’t show in front of anyone. William sluggishly walked towards his bed, and then he fell with his back onto it.
“I am much more tired than at those times in the battlefield. This shitty hellhole…”
His abusive language lacked its usual force.
“Those nobles… Are all of them jerks like that?”
William remembered about Louran’s surveying gaze and the conversation between them. Thinking back about it now, it was possible to imagine that their whole conversation had been a test to see whether he could be trusted. This was the disparity in experience by the difference in age. Compared to all the people he had seen until now, lord Teirah was at another level.
“So that is how a baron, the fifth in class, is like?”
The summit was feeling even more distant to William.
The stairs were a bit far from his room. Despite that, he was able to hear footsteps from someone going up the stairs. That same person was headed towards his room and was now standing right in front of his door.
Making sure to correct the posture of his body, William turned his head to the door.
“You don’t need to open the door, William-kun.”
The owner of the voice was Louran. William’s feeling of tension increased.
“You are very smart. At that time, you were deciding which side to take: whether to take Karl’s or mine. Even before that you’ve been choosing the most suitable words and actions all the time. You are smart, so very smart. But you might be a bit too much smart.”
William wasn’t able to find any words to speak. Who in hell was the one that was now standing at the other side of his door? This was different from everything he had experienced until now.
“I don’t know what you were thinking by coming to this kingdom. I will be considering the story you’ve told us a bit ago with a grain of salt for the time being. However, I am not softhearted enough to believe you just like that. Isn’t it obvious? For a person like you that is so strong and intelligent, because of how excellent you are, there isn’t any reason for you to go to another country to begin with, or even for you to name yourself as a simple foreigner. The risk of making a name in another country makes doing that illogical. There is no reason for you to even consider doing that.
A cold feeling was going through William’s skin. That feeling was similar to what he felt when fought against Kail.
“That’s why I cannot trust in your story.”
Forgetting even to gasp, William could only continue to stare at the door.
“However, I will recognize that you are very capable. While you are occupied being [good friends] with Karl, I believe you and I are going to become good friends.”
William was clenching his teeth. He had already been seen through. What was even the reason for all the acting he had to do back then…
“Please be good friends with Karl. That child is too gentle and too simple-minded. I sincerely wish you won’t betray him. Alas, I don’t want to become your enemy.”
His opponent was too strong. With his current strength, there was no way William compete. In the end, all he was able to protect was the lie called [William]. All the rest had been exposed.
“Sorry for having you act your way in that old grampa talk. It must have been very tiring for you, right? You should have a good rest.”
The presence at the other side of the door vanished.
“Ah, that is bad. I can’t win against him.”
His complete exhaustion was showing in his face. Even so, there was a smile.
“What a man. That Lord Tirah.”
William was acting very cautiously. However, Louran was able to clearly see through his overcautious attitude. There was no doubts that Willian’s actions at that time must have seemed very funny to him.
“”There was no meaning to all the cheap drama I engaged with Karl. No, perhaps there is a meaning to it for Karl.””
The response that inspired Karl. In result of that, William was able to win his trust, but the problem was on how Louran interpreted that. That was where the scary part lied.
“”Could he be implying that as long as I am protecting Karl and as long as I am being useful to the Tirah house, all that scene from before will be overlooked? Perhaps he wanted to confirm whether I was going to protect Karl without giving much interest to all the cheap drama.””
War had value to the nobility. If one’s own son was serving the army, people would look at them in a different way. William didn’t know what was Louran’s opinion in regards of that, but there was no mistake that he wanted to draw in a win-win situation for the two of them.
“”Well, this is definitely not a bad condition to me. He shouldn’t pursue the matter of me having abandoned Karl once. Besides, it is very nice to be under a noble family for a foreigner like me. I will be making use of you as much as I can.””
The main the reason why William decided to inspire Karl was because he had useful qualities in him now that he himself also aimed for the top. Based on what William had seen at their time in Raconia, it was definitely not a lie that Karl was necessary in other to make up for what William himself lacked. Because it was a win-win exchange, both would get the benefit. William believed in benefits: that was all there is to it.
“”Today’s defeat was a complete disaster. But one day I will definitely win against him.””
William extended his hand to the ceiling of his room.
For now, he needed to first reach that ceiling. Reaching out his hand to the skies was something for later on.