“Two jugs of beer and two pieces of rabbit meat, please!” Zich sat on a chair and shouted. Hans quickly sat down in front of him.
“You can rest in the lodging if you are tired,” Zich smiled while he said this, but Hans shook his head.
Hans’ greatest joy these days was a drink after his training. Just for this moment, he endured sleeping in the mountains and fighting monsters. No matter what Zich said, Hans couldn’t give this up, and Zich chuckled at Hans’ fervent response. Before his order came, he put his arm on the back of his chair and looked around the bar.
Zich heard loud voices in the corner of the room. A large group had connected several tables and were laughing and talking. One member of the group wiped his tears from laughing so much and noticed Zich staring at him.
Zich waved his hand.
“Ohh, is he Sam’s friend?”
“Isn’t he the guy we met in front of the mine entrance last time?”
“Ah, he is the guy who catches monsters and ensures our safety.”
“What! We can’t just leave a man like that!”
“Of course! As a man from the mines, if I don’t serve him a drink, I should cut off my balls!”
The miners talked and gathered around Zich’s table. Then they forcefully attached Zich’s table to theirs.
Dazed, Hans swiveled his head around; in comparison, Zich looked like he was enjoying himself and followed the miners’ movements.
More than ten glasses collided in the middle, and Zich poured beer into his throat. The angle of his beer glass arched deeply, but Zich didn’t break away. Soon, the lukewarm beer disappeared from the glass with one gulp.
Letting out a refreshing shout, Zich slammed the beer glass on top of the table. All the miners laughed at the sight.
“Wow, you look dainty, but the way you drink proves that you are a real man!”
“Of course, he is my friend! Do you think I will just befriend anybody?” Sam shouted while wrapping his arms around Zich’s shoulders. Hans watched the loud and vulgar but vibrant sight in front of him in amazement. Zich laughed and sang with his beer glass raised, fitting in perfectly with the miners. Who would have thought he was the Steelwalls’ successor not too long ago?
“In comparison, look at him. His buddy doesn’t seem to be enjoying himself?”
One of the miners struck up a conversation with him, and Hans awkwardly replied. The man’s reddened face stared at him intently.
“He is no fun. What’s your relationship with Sam’s friend?”
“He is my servant,” Zich answered. “Please understand. He doesn’t know how to match the mood since he grew up sheltered.”
It didn’t seem fitting for an ex-aristocrat like Zich to say this, but Zich fit in so well with the miners that Hans couldn’t say anything.
“Hold up. I thought he was just your companion—he’s your servant? Is Sam’s friend actually someone of high status?”
Although he said that, the miner didn’t really believe it. His voice was full of mischief.
Zich responded while smiling, “Fufufu, maybe. I might be the son of a ‘Great Sir’ who ran away from his home after his feelings were hurt, you know?”
“Hey! That Great Sir must not be a noble. Acting as a noble means capital punishment!” Sam said this while laughing. All the other miners and Zich laughed too. However, Hans, who knew the truth, couldn’t laugh.
The drinking party continued like that for a long time. While they poured and drank, a great amount of beer disappeared. On top of that, because Zich offered to pay a great sum, the atmosphere in the party shot up by several folds. They all talked while feeling tipsy.
Then, someone carefully approached Zich.
Zich stared at the person; it was a familiar face.
‘He must be the miner who admires adventurers.’
“Hello. I met you a few days ago…”
“Yes, I remember. You said your name was Snoc.”
Snoc’s face brightened up.
“Yes, Yes! I am Snoc! You remembered!”
“You said you want to hear about my travels?”
“Yes! My dream is to become an adventurer! I want to wander around this huge world without a destination in mind and travel wherever I feel like! I want to explore mysterious places, meet outstanding companions, find ancient ruins, and…!”
Snoc spat out words nonstop. It wasn’t a very important story; it was just a story without an ounce of reality like those from children’s storybooks, filled with romanticism and adventure. And while Snoc talked, his expectant eyes never left Zich.
However, instead of Zich, it was Hans who asked Snoc a question.
“Why do you want to travel so badly? Traveling isn’t as dreamlike as you say.”
Since he was forced into this journey, Hans’ voice was mixed with low, pent-up anger. Maybe Hans was more enraged because he saw his past self in the man who romanticized traveling around the world.
Snoc couldn’t answer immediately. He looked around his surroundings, and after making sure that no one was interested in this conversation, he confessed his true feelings.
“…I hate the mines.”
He said it quietly, but his tone was laced with several emotions.
“I hate that I have to keep pickaxing in a place without a single ray of light in a stuffy space with clouds of dust flying everywhere. When I straighten my back to look around, all I see is a black, rock wall. When I look around my surroundings, I keep thinking that—” Snoc said all this with gloom in his eyes, “—The pit I dig will be my grave.”
When he thought this, Snoc felt chills go down his back.
“You are saying that again?”
He heard a voice full of discomfort. It was mixed with a bit of drunkenness, but his pronunciation indicated that he wasn’t completely drunk.
Snoc lowered his shoulders, and Sam turned around. As if he had listened to the whole conversation, Sam looked like a mom who found her children making trouble.
“Didn’t I tell you to stop your nonsense? How could you be an adventurer?”
“I-It doesn’t matter what I do!”
Snoc resisted, but his voice lacked strength.
“Yeah, I wish that was the case. I wouldn’t have cared about what you did with your life if it wasn’t for your parent’s request.”
Sam placed his hand on top of Snoc’s head and turned it around.
“Ah, stop it!”
Snoc flung his hand around and struggled, but he couldn’t escape out of Sam’s firm grip. Sam was ten centimeters taller than Snoc, and he was also much stronger.
‘They are like brothers.’
Zich thought that they looked like a pair of siblings, in which the older brother tried to stop his younger brother from acting impulsively. According to their conversation, it seemed like they weren’t related by blood but had grown up like brothers since they were young.
“So, you want to listen to stories about my travels?” Zich said.
Sam tried to cut off Zich’s words, but in contrast, Snoc’s eyes sparkled.
“I can tell you at least that much.”
“Of course. It’s not even that hard. And I place importance in other people’s dreams.”
Zich’s eyes curved. By his expression, it seemed like Zich would explain his story in detail and even reenact some parts, but for some reason, Sam felt a chill on his skin.
“But you will have to take responsibility for it too.”
To Snoc, whose face hardened a bit, Zich stressed his words.
“You can achieve what you want in the world outside: beautiful scenery, blue sky, and freedom. If you are lucky, you will save people from bandits or monsters and get treated like a savior. You can even meet a beautiful lady in the middle of it too.”
It was a dream that everybody dreamed of at least once in their lifetime.
“But that’s only if you have the skills. In addition to freedom and dreams, the outside world is full of danger. Although it may sound a bit harsh, you don’t seem to have that kind of power.”
Snoc’s arms looked firm with muscles. However, they were made through hard labor and weren’t adequate for battle. Moreover, it wasn’t a dream that he could achieve with just muscles.
“Even so, I don’t want to tell you to do this and that with your life. Stories about traveling outside? I can tell as much as you want. It’s not that hard. You could go on and be an adventurer after the stories I tell you, but that’s none of my business. It’s also none of my business if you become a monster’s meal on a nameless mountain road. That will just add to all the common things that happen somewhere in this world.”
Zich smiled widely, but nobody, including all those who stopped to listen to Zich’s words, smiled with him.
“Okay then, should I start my stories of travel? Don’t worry. Even though it hasn’t been long since I began my travels, some of my stories may interest you.”
Zich fixed his posture to begin telling his story, but Sam stopped him.
“That’s enough, Zich.”
Then, he approached Snoc with a stern look on his face.
“See. That’s what a traveler who has really gone out of the city says. Haven’t I always told you? The adventurers you dream of only exist in storybooks.”
Snoc hung his head. Seeing his dejected face, Sam's expression softened. Then, like a brother facing his younger sibling, he began to comfort him quietly.
“Besides what you say, the work we do is vital to the Kingdom. It isn’t inferior to any other job. Even the pay is plenty for commoners like us. Your father also did mining. So, don’t think about anything else—”
It was barely audible, but there was firmness in his voice.
“I am going out of the city no matter what happens. I don’t want to keep doing this work even if it kills me. I don’t want to live like my father!”
Snoc slammed the table and stood up. His chair made a loud thud as it rolled on the floor, and Snoc ran out of the bar.
“Hey, Snoc!” Sam called, but he couldn’t stop Snoc. The bar’s door creaked and answered for Snoc who didn’t come back.
“Seriously, that guy!”
Sam abruptly got up as if he was going to chase after him, but he sat down again. Then, he let out a big sigh.
Zich commented, “He is quite stubborn. Most people will give up after they realize the truth. And even if they don’t, they’ll just repress it in their hearts and not respond like that.”
“I apologize. He is still like that even after I scolded him many times.”
“No need for you to apologize. I can’t say that I didn’t intend to, but it’s not like I said anything I didn’t mean. I don’t care what happens to him.”
Sam made a bitter smile. Although they were on the same wavelength sometimes, Zich said many cold words like this.
‘Is it an adventurer—no, a traveler’s trait?’
If that was the case, Sam couldn’t let Snoc hang onto his dreams even more. However, there was a corner of his heart that wanted to defend Snoc.
“That’s enough, Sam,” Zich cut him off. “Even if I know Snoc’s situation or background, it doesn’t change my response. So, there’s no need for you to say anything. I wasn’t even interested in the first place.”
“…Are all travelers like you?”
“Let me see. I’m also not interested in other travelers, so I don’t know. Well, they probably won’t all be the same. I mean, just look at the miners. You and Snoc are two people with completely different thoughts.”
Even though they were both miners, Snoc and he had completely different thoughts; this must also be true for travelers.
“But since you are my friend, don’t worry. It can’t be helped if you get punished after committing a crime, but if you die an unjust death, I will avenge you.”
“Thank you for that.”
Sam smirked and clinked his beer glass with Zich’s glass.Previous Chapter Next Chapter