Barfight — Part 1
Editors: Sebas Tian, Speedphoenix
“Whaddya say to using this bar as our meet up spot?” I asked. “’The food was pretty damn good.”
“That’s a great idea,” said Nell. “I really liked it too.”
Nell and I finished discussing the details of our arrangement over an amazing dinner. I ended up giving her two orbs of correspondence, magical items that facilitated long-distance communication. Unfortunately, they weren’t capable of something as complex as enabling chat. The orbs came in pairs, and each orb’s primary feature was to cause the other member of its pair to glow whenever magical energy was channelled through it. In other words, it was more of a remote doorbell than it was a cellphone.
They were, however, still far superior to other forms of communication. Quickly relaying large quantities of information over a long distance was a field the world I had reincarnated into had yet to really explore. A part of their relative convenience stemmed from their size. The orbs were slightly smaller than tennis balls, which made them easy to carry around.
Moreover, it was possible to compensate for their lack of an ability to send and receive messages or make calls through other means. The reason I had given Nell a pair of orbs was because I wanted to make sure we could send different types of messages. That was why the two orbs I had given her were different colours. One was white, and the other was red. Making the white orb glow indicated that we just wanted to get in touch. The red orb, on the other hand, indicated that there was an emergency.
Obviously, there being an emergency meant that we probably wouldn’t be able to head all the way to the bar just to figure out what was up. That was where the enchanted device’s secondary function stepped in. Each orb was able to vaguely denote the location of its pair, which meant Nell and I would be able to come running to each other’s aid if one of us was to ever find ourselves in trouble. Neither of us had many allies in the demon realm, and thus, we agreed to help each other out as much as we possibly could. Heh. The hero’s power is mine! This’ll probably help a bunch with the whole safety issue. Nell’s probably thinking something similar. Now this, this is what we call a win-win situation.
There were two minor problems with the whole orb system we had going on. The first was the fact that the orbs had to be kept out at all times. I couldn’t just shove them in my inventory and forget about them like most of the other junk I had in there. But again, it was much more convenient than having to go through the trouble of tracking each other down every single time we needed to talk.
The second problem had less to do with the orbs themselves than the people using them. Nell’s court mage friend started to mess around with the pair that I had given them with bloodshot eyes. Dude. Chill. I don’t mind you fiddling with them, but like, can you please at least try not to break them? They cost a good bit of DP, and I really don’t want to have to spend any more. Speaking of curious people, Ms. Incarnation of Philomathy over there is looking pretty damn calm. But only because she already had her fill of messing with it earlier. That said, she still seems pretty interested in them so I guess I’ll just let her hold onto ours or something. So yeah, Leila. That whole don’t break them thing? Totally goes for you too.
“Oh and… uhmm… about that ring you’re wearing…” said Nell in a questioning tone.
“Oh, that?” I paused for a second in order to contain my embarrassment. “Lefi gave it to me.”
“Does that mean what I think it does…?”
“Yeah. Lefi and I got married.”
“M-m-married!?” stuttered the hero.
“That’s a bit of a weird reaction.” Seeing her act all flustered and confused led me to force a smile.
“W-When did that happen?”
“Shortly after I got back from the capital, so it was actually a pretty recent event.” I said.
“I-I see…” She stared fixedly at the accessory for a good bit before continuing to stutter. “I-I knew you two were close, but I didn’t know you were that close.”
Her voice seemed to be tinged with a sad air of loneliness and despondency. I didn’t quite get why, so I opened my mouth to ask—only to be interrupted by a loud bang right before I could.
The bar’s front door had been kicked wide open by a bunch of mean-looking men. They strutted right in as if they owned the place, one after another as they cackled in a manner that no decent person could. I had a pretty good view of the entire establishment from my seat, and as a result, I could easily see just how much attention the group grabbed. Every single pair of eyes turned towards them the moment they made their way through the door. Someone sure seems popular.
“Is that who I think it is?” asked a customer.
“Aye, it’s Gej and his guys,” replied another. “They’ve been pretty active lately. The bastards do whatever the fuck they want and act like they own every place they visit.”
The bar’s clients were speaking in whispers, but my sharpened senses allowed me to easily overhear their conversations regardless. It turned out that my initial assumption was correct. The guy in question was infamous. He was the kind of person everyone knew for all the wrong reasons.
“Where the fuck do you think you’re looking?”
One of the men who everyone’s eyes were on began shouting the moment he noticed that he and his buddies were getting attention. Getting involved with the group seemed like a suboptimal choice and most of the customers didn’t quite seem interested in trouble, so they turned their heads away and forced their gazes elsewhere immediately.
“Tsk…” The man clicked his tongue before turning towards the guy the group was centred around. “I think the place is ready for you now, sir.”
“As do I,” replied his boss.
The boss’ appearance was weird, to say the least. He was muscular, but in a way that made his body almost seem unnatural. He almost looked like a prop, specifically the kind people left in laboratories and classrooms in order to aid newcomers in the study of muscle groups and other aspects of the human body—just with a thin layer of skin on top. I wouldn’t have been surprised to find out that he was actually just a mass of muscles with a consciousness doing its best to emulate the human form. And that wasn’t even the strangest thing about him. Oh god, what the actual living fuck!?
Bossman and his lackeys moved through the bar, waltzed up to the second floor, and plunked their asses down in their seats without a hint of grace.
“Where the hell is the waitress!? Woman, get the fuck over here and stop wasting our fuckin’ time!”
“R-right away, sir!”
A waitress with fiend-like horns and a fiend-like tail dashed over the moment the men started shouting for her. I couldn’t help but pity her. Poor girl. Man, the service industry fucking sucks. I know exactly how it goes. Most people are at least decent, but you’re pretty much guaranteed to run into entitled assholes like them at least once a week. Feels bad man.
“If my memory is to be trusted, Gej is the son of one of this country’s dukes.” My maid relayed me a few key bits of information via whisper as she continued to direct a cold glare in the group’s direction. “His authority is further backed by a significant degree of personal strength. And as such, he has the tendency to follow his whims while disregarding the desires of those around him. He is not exactly the type of man the average citizen considers well-liked.”
Oh, I totally know that trope. It’s the whole retarded son born with a silver spoon shoved up his ass and whatnot. Though in his case, it might have a little more to do with his uh… personal circumstances than his upbringing. He must have turned out the way he did because people were too afraid to say anything about it given his authority and whatnot. You know what, I almost pity him, ‘cause this looks to me like it’s pretty much a textbook case of the Emperor and his “new clothes.” I mean, I know it’s totally not any of my business, but I feel so bad for him that I kinda want to point out the fact that he may as well be parading around the town with his junk hanging loose.
After a bit of internal debate, I ended up coming to the conclusion that someone needed to speak with the kid before it was too late. And since no one else was going to do it, that someone had to be me. With that in mind, I got to my feet and slowly started moving towards the man and his buddies.
“Huh? W-Wait! Yuki!? What are you doing!?”
Nell seemed to think I was planning to start a fight, so she started shouting in an attempt to stop me. You got it all wrong, Ms. Hero. I’m not hurting. I’m helping.
“Hey,” I called out to the men as I approached their table.
“What do you want?”
One of the poor, pitiable man’s lackeys responded to me in an obnoxious tone the moment I voiced my presence, but I ignored him. I looked right past the underling and made eye contact with his boss before stating my business.
“Dude, you, me, we’re both men. I get it. I totally know how you feel.” I spoke in the most compassionate, concerned, and inoffensive tone I could muster. “But some things are just beyond saving. You really need to get yourself some wax or something.”
The man clearly didn’t seem to understand me. He was so confused I could almost see a group of question marks floating right above his head, so I stopped being as vague and started speaking in more concrete, easy to understand terms.
“I’m talking about your hair, man. I’m a man too. I know the struggle. It sucks. It stresses you out, and the stress only makes it worse. It’s an endless cycle where all you ever do is slowly lose. But it’s time to let go. You don’t have to just keep desperately clinging to what little bit you have left. Sometimes, you just have to accept the inevitable. It’s okay, bro. It’s okay. I understand. We all do.”
I continued to focus my eyes on the crown of his head, the source of my pity, as I spoke. The reason I couldn’t help but feel bad for the man was one that all men could understand. Though he was still young, the duke’s son was already balding. Chronically. He had already lost all the hair that was supposed to go on top of his hair. It was gone, gone with the wind and never to return. But for some odd reason, the hair that grew on the side of his head was still thick and bushy.
That alone was enough to make me feel sorry for the poor kid, but it wouldn’t have been enough to prompt me to give him the talk. My problem with the scenario was how he was wearing what little bit he had left. I didn’t know if it was because he was desperate, or if it was because he felt like he needed to do something out of a sense of rebellion, but either way, the oddly muscular young man had intentionally done his best to show off the bits of hair that he had left. He was so desperate that he had the long hairs that decorated the sides of his head french-braided into pigtails. His hairstyle reminded me of the Chinese queue. The only difference was that he had two of them, and they were on the sides of his head as opposed to the back.
It was a terrible, hideous sight to behold. I was convinced that the man’s hairstyle had drawn more eyes than his rude, flashy entrance, that his notoriety must have at least in part stemmed from how dumb he looked. A single glance at him was enough to justify any number of chortles and spit takes. The only reason I hadn’t broken into a cackle was because he had taken it so far it wasn’t even funny anymore. It almost looked to me like an expression of self-harm, like he was using his hair to tell the world that he was running a knife across the street a few times each night. Exaggerated self-harm jokes weren’t funny. Taking suicide-related gags too far made them nothing but cringy.
For a while, the man continued to stare at me with a blank look on his face. There was an awkward pause as he tried to process the combination of my pitiful gaze and the words I voiced. And then, only after a long moment of silence, did he finally understand what I was trying to say.
He slowly turned red and his veins began to bulge as he slowly rose from zero to his boiling point over the course of a few seconds.
“How dare you! Men, kill him! Lynch this impertinent peasant immediately!” he shouted indignantly.
“Huh?” I blinked a few times as I was overcome with surprise. “Wait, what? Why!?”
What the hell!? All I did was point out the fact that his hair’s fucked! Is it really that much of a sore spot!? Like, come on, he has to know already! I wasn’t even trying to make fun of him! I literally put it as nicely as I could!
As I was unable to get through to the bald guy, his lackeys immediately sprang up and began demonstrating their loyalty by coming at me. Although I was fairly panicked, I managed to evade their strikes and slowly retreat back towards the table I had been sitting at while raising my hands in a display of nonaggression.
“Hold on, hear me out,” I said. “I wasn’t trying to make fun of you or anything. Just, looking at you makes me real sad. I couldn’t help but try and help you.”
“Do not let him escape under any circumstances! I’ll have you fed to the arena’s monsters if you dare!”
“Wait, why’d that make you even angrier!?”
Understanding these youngsters and their short fuses is beyond an old man like me! Not that I’m actually old enough to really be justified in saying that kinda stuff, but whatever.
“Geez! Why do you always have to be like this!?” shouted Nell.
“What do you mean!? How was that supposed to be insulting!? I was literally trying to help!”
“My Lord, I believe a… quick lesson is in order,” said Leila. “The man you addressed is a member of the muskle demon race. The helmets their ancestors wore in combat mandated such a hairstyle, and as such, it has been passed down as tradition. Many amongst them still wear it to this day.”
“Bruh. You serious?”
“As unfortunate as it is to say, My Lord, I am,” replied the maid. “Or as you would put it, ‘I’m totes serious bruh.’”
Though modern slang wasn’t exactly what one could call prolific given the less than modern nature of the world I had reincarnated in, my frequent use of it had long allowed Leila to pick it up. Wait, so you’re telling me that he did that to himself because he wanted to? He actually wanted that cringy ass hairstyle? And he’s not balding!? You’ve gotta be fucking kidding me! Though, now that I think about it, topknots used to be a thing a few hundred years back. I mean, me and most other modern people would find them weird as hell, but samurai rocked that shit all the time. So yeah, with that in mind, french-braided twin tails on a balding man might not really be all that weird after all, huh?
Only after a moment’s delay did I realize that I may or may not have done something that I shouldn’t. Yeah uhh… my bad. I’d totally be willing to apologize, but uh… he looks a biiiiiit too fired up for that, huh? Well, whatever the case, I can’t be backing down. It doesn’t look like he’s going to forgive me. I can’t just give up and let them do whatever either, since Leila’s here.
The only choice I had left was to help the agitated group “calm down.” Yeah, I’mma do just that and uh… slowly “resolve the misunderstanding” once they’ve regained their cool.