Chapter 207: The Villain’s Wit
It was early in the morning when the sun started to rise. The location of the meeting was the Sanyo Plains, which spread in front of the Autonomous City of Philos. It was often considered as a fair place.
The feel of the horse’s hooves hitting the soil shook my body. By the time I stepped into the center of the plain, I could already see a shadow in the distance. A human being that wore a gray-looking armor caught my eyes immediately. A familiar big wound was carved into his face.
I waved my hand lightly to stop the troops of Ghazalia who had been following me as escorts. And when I waved my hand, at the same time, the opponent also stopped his escort unit’s feet, and took his horse to the center of the plain. This man was behaving way too well.
「I’m no longer the small kid, old man. 」
Our voices no longer reached the ears of the escort parties. It was no longer necessary to worry about words. While smiling after professing my words, the captain of the enemy’s army…My teacher Richard rang his throat.
「That’s right; it is quite a sight to see. Did you wash your feet from the ditch? 」
With a laughing voice, Richard responded while moving both hands.
I heard the old man Richard’s voice for the first time in a long time, but I didn’t feel any old emotion anywhere. Rather, his tone seemed to be much more fearless than the time when we exchanged drinks in the tavern. Only his face was familiar.
We exchanged words for several times. It was just small talk. Actually, it was not a conversation that had a pattern of recent reports. Our talk just bloomed into the old stories for a moment.
It must be an act of wasting time. There was no chance that something useful would be born in a miscellaneous conversation between enemies.
However, the nostalgic exchange with the old man had eased my mood in a strange way. A meeting with an enemy far way from camp would mean a tense time ahead. It felt funny. After all, the person in front of me was the real enemy, yes; he was the opponent where I could exchange swords at any moment.
The tall grass that covered the plain gave made a loud sound as if being scolded by the wind.
「…But, old man. To become the captain of the Great Holy Church, I do wonder if you drank bad ale.」
The nostalgic stories were cut here. Although it was not a bad nostalgic feeling, if I only repeated the endlessly stupid stories, sooner or later I’d only be drawn to the scheme of the old man. Even thought it felt somewhat hasty, it was better to change it from here.
The old man, with a suspicious easy-going smile across his face, responded to me.
「It’s unusual, that’s for sure. Yet, I cannot help but do something out of the box. 」
His eyes, which went through many years, seemed to run a flash for a moment. The old man stroked his white beard with his fingers.
It was unusual, that’s for sure. The old man Richard wasn’t the kind of person who would step into the front stage. He often pulled the threads from behind the scenes with a wicked smile. That was the human being named Richard. I recalled his teachings, “do not cross the dangerous bridge by yourself, but use someone well, so that only you can profit in a wake of a disaster.”
The old man continued to spoke in a wrinkled voice.
「But, you see, it’s not only me who did something unusual. You did it too, Lugis. Joining the Heraldic Order is not that strange, but becoming sort of a hero, well, that’s a whole different level, don’t you agree?」
I see, so those were the words I got from my remark. That’s right. Considering the time when I was sleeping on a muddy road in the back alleys, the title of hero was something that stood far away from me. Actually, it was not far away, but something unreachable. It was a pattern that did not fit the old me. It was unusual too.
I understood his meaning. I felt something bitter in my expression. The old man smiled, groaning loudly. It was a random laugh, way too cheerful that had nothing to do with it.
「You have a point. I feel like a worm crawling around someone else’s neck when I do something that is out of the ordinary. I am even dressed up as a commander of sorts after it was bestowed to me during a ceremony. It looks foolish, certainly.」
As expected, I was not that different from my teacher. I did not know if we were similar because of our origins, or if we had similar natures, but it seemed there was a similarity between us.
The formal greetings of the ceremony, the letter with plenty of fancy words and the title and position that I’ve got; those kinds of things did not suit me. And it was the same for old man Richard, nonetheless.
「It really seems unusual as if I’m forging a forbidden pattern. I think so too. If there is a front and a back in the world, I don’t think that I can walk on the front. However, it’s on that front that people feel the most alive. The nature that people are born with, the air, the water, everything fits no matter the place. The same happens for both fish and birds where they have a vast ocean and sky to roam free. It seems that humans also have a place to live no matter where it might be.」
I spilled those words. Then, I wondered what the old man would say in return. For what purpose did he set up this meeting?
A slight sweat engulfed my hands holding the horse’s reins. The sound of the horse’s hooves kicking the soil was heard on the spot.
「What about you, Lugis? Do you think that, from the bottom of your heart, the place where you are now is where you should live?」
What a blunt way of saying it. He was once my teacher, that’s right, so why the sudden interest? Did he care about me? No, actually, I wondered if I had been caught in the scheme of that old man unknowingly. What was he thinking about?
However, it was a fact that my heart sounded loudly for a moment upon hearing the words of the old man. A slight sweat fell from my forehead.
「What does that mean? 」
I spoke while narrowing my eyes. I noticed that the wound carved on the old man’s face was greatly distorted.
「Don’t be silly, Lugis. 」
The old man opened his mouth without hesitation.
「You are the same as me. Being a hero is not the path that people like us must be forging, nor is it our nature to walk on the front road. Such things are illusions for the foolish. 」
The old man Richard’s eyes had a melancholy color, as if I were seeing something nostalgic. I even felt a strange feeling after hearing the words that spilled out of his mouth.
In the old days, I heard a peculiar story in a tavern. It was the story of old man Richard’s past, the days where he once stood on a stage bathed in light as an adventurer.
The old man stepped into that big place where he could grasp the status and honor with his own hands. He certainly had talent, luck, and ability. It would have been possible for him to reach an almighty height despite his upbringing.
But the old man threw it all away. Instead, with disappointment in his heart, he threw himself into the back road.
I didn’t know how much of it was true. I didn’t feel like confirming this story told in the tavern with the old man, and he didn’t even try to talk about it. However, at this time, the words released from the old man’s mouth were overflowing with a strange feeling and weight. That was certain.
「Then, what? Do you want me to step back and pull the threads? It will feel just like a villain who smiles in the shadows.」
I spoke aloud while interrupting the old man’s words. There was a feeling inside me that upset my stomach. Wrinkles naturally appeared between my eyebrows.
「That’s right. That’s the only choice. 」
The response was short. Those words must have been the purpose for calling me here. Whether it was from his heart or to deceive me, I did not care.
My eyelids blinked for a few times.
「Gharast is a ridiculous country. It’s all about the bloodline and pride. Yet, that people have empty heads. But strangely enough, it’s those idiots who write the script in that country.」
I hated it, such disgusting words coming from a man like that. Strangely, those very words easily got into my ears. It felt as if they bit into my brain.
「If you want to get on that script, it’s always better to pull the threads from behind the stage. That way is always the right choice. 」
The old man’s expression swayed for a moment as if he remembered something. However, he raised his eyes and pierced me straight with that gaze.
It was rare for the old man, who often smiled frivolously at all times, to have that kind of expression. The easy-going expression disappeared from his face on that moment. Slowly, with heavy weight, the wrinkled voice of that man echoed in the Sanyo Plain.
「…Lugis, don’t you want to come with me? After I heard about your rumors, I gathered some information. That’s how I found your talent.」
I wanted to thank him for the compliment. I wanted to raise my hand and rejoice, however, it was not the right place to act happy.
「Of course, it’s not your talent as an adventurer that caught my interest, but your sword technique that makes you special.」
The old man Richard’s words reached my ears. My eyes were wide open and stiff. The shape of the shadow changed slightly, conveying the sparkle of sunlight.
「You are willing to incite, attract, and use people with your tongue. So, in fact, all of that doesn’t matter at all except for that purpose. It’s not something I know about. In fact, whether a person dies or lives is all because of her or his own fault. Lugis, you are…」
…An unmistakable villain.Just like me.
Before I knew it, the old man Richard’s voice was already grabbing my heart.
Ohhh Lugis a villain…I think Richard is clearly mistaken…
Thank you to the Patrons for the continued support!