“See, I told you so... You should have held back a bit more, Albel! Just try to at least hold on for a little longer, since we’re almost there. Okay...?”
I could feel my stomach practically bubbling, seemingly ready to overflow and erupt from the bottom up. Nauseated, while a migraine staggered me with each step forward as Eru attempted to guide me to the carriage. We had spent our entire yesterday roaming around Firspur, a village that prided itself in its winery, distilleries and aromatic delectables. And after learning first hand, I had come to realize that even the latter contained traces of alcohol. I had been vastly uncertain as to whether or not my inability to handle alcohol had transferred over from my previous world—due to being in a new body and all. Thus, the village's specialties continuously caught my interest the prior night.
An absolute mistake that was! I was even fooled into thinking everything was all fine for a while... To hell with my curiosity! To hell with whiskey marinated steak—regardless of how succulent and delicious it was! Damn you, Firspur...
“Hey! I don’t know what’s going on in that head of yours, but at least try and walk straight!”
“Trust me, Eru... I’m definitely trying...”
It was already almost two months since I had first arrived upon the real world of Aerith, and there were still a variety of new discoveries to be made—including with this body, apparently. In Firspur, I had come to know the beautiful and riveting experience that was a debilitating hangover. My first in Aerith. Thanks to that, I was simply ready to lie down for the rest of my life currently. Yet, we had a carriage that we needed to catch that would finally bring us to Nefra.
“You know... How about you go on ahead, leave one of your stones at an inn, and teleport back here to pick me up, Eru...?”
“Huh? What are you going on about? I’m not going to waste one of my precious gems on something as ridiculous as that!”
“It’s just that...the shaking of the carriage, the swaying of my insides, and all that fun awaiting me during our ride... I don’t really have a good feeling about this...”
I wobbled slightly at the thought, and in response, Eru immediately pulled me in with unconcerned force as her hand was on my side.
“Well, you should have thought about that yesterday when you decided to stuff your face! Accept the consequences of your naivety, as well as ignoring my warnings.”
Ah, such cruelty. I swear, she’s been far more ill-tempered ever since yesterday’s incident with Cruubi...
Shortly after reaching Firspur, on a whim, I had decided to write a letter and send it to Dormou. Or more specifically, to Marna, since I had yet to contact her since my departure. I could have created a separate spectral messenger, but none would have had similar specs to Cruubi who had also gained a few levels due to prior events. Its flight ability was currently unmatched as well, so I figured it would return sometime after we’d reach Nefra anyways. Eru, though, wasn’t too welcoming of that idea—to say the least.
“You’re sending Cruubi to the Outer Region?! By itself?! Are you trying to get it killed or something?! For a letter? No, never, absolutely not! Not going to happen. I won’t allow it as the one who named it! So, don’t you dare...”
I sent it. At the very least, I had assured her that it would be fine. Even Cruubi had seemingly agreed to the trip with a rather vibrant chirp. It then departed swiftly, bringing about a highly strung Eru in the aftermath. The letter was simply composed of an overall update and a few questions. One regarding Eru and her unique title at that. I figured that, since Marna was a bearer of a Heavenly Virtue, she might have some idea of what being a bearer of a Deadly Sin meant. With how little I knew, any hint would genuinely help.
“Okay, and here we are. Just wait right there for a moment while I talk to the coachman. Don’t even think about moving from this spot.”
I held my stomach, side-eying her in a slightly peeved confusion.
“...Just so we’re on the same page, I’m not some child that needs to be babysat...”
“You say that, but with how I see it, your current condition certainly implies otherwise.”
“Hey now, that’s—uuuuuuugh...”
Nausea had further retorted for her as it slammed its embrace over my stomach once more.
“See? Who else do you think is now forced with taking care of you the whole ride to Nefra, hm? So, sit still and listen. With that being said, I’ll be right back.”
Yeah, okay. She wins this one. I really don’t have the guts to even attempt arguing against that... Now that I think about it, though, she was partaking in the food fest yesterday as well, wasn’t she? Does she have a surprisingly high tolerance or something? Well, I guess she did basically grow up in a tavern.
I rested my back against the side of the carriage as Eru walked off to go discuss the trip arrangements. My eyes traced over the town in the distance as we were now at the western edge of Firspur. The town was filled with lush greenery and tall, overshadowing trees, exhibiting a rather peaceful and enshrouded atmosphere. It kind of reminded me of a Dormou without the occasional waves of monsters to worry about. The bulk of central Cretho only held monsters of lower Levels anyways, and you’d have to go out of your way—off the main roads—to usually find them too. And after a few minutes of quietly staring in thought, Eru’s voice then pulled me out of my nauseous stupor.
“I’m back! He said that we should board whenever we’re ready, and that we’ll be heading off within the next half hour or so. Want to board early and lie down?”
The prior moment of silence had put me at my tipping point once more as I silently gave her a slow nod. Honestly, I didn’t have it in me to do anything besides lying down at this point. And Eru had seemingly understood this as well, as she then quietly guided and assisted me into the carriage.
I really do feel like a child right now...
The interior was rather spacious, with enough room to seat around eight people while also including their luggage. Entering from the rear, our seating was on the right and entirely vacant. As we both sat down, I eyed the amount of space available and easily concluded I had enough room to lie down. The second I attempted to do just that though, a voice came from my direct right.
“What are you doing, Albel?”
“Hm...? I was going to lay down for a few...?”
“You can’t just use up the extra space we have without knowing whether or not there will be more people boarding. So, here...”
I twisted my body her way as I then heard a short series of pats coming from her direction. My eyes were met with Eru, gesturing toward her own lap with her hands. Dubious, I took a gander at her expression, and she actually seemed quite serious about the invitation. I remained a tad bit cautious due to the whole Cruubi Incident and still, my decision came rather quickly as my nausea outweighed everything else.
“...I’d rather not look a gift horse in the mouth and all that, but are you sure...?”
“Mhm. Besides, the shaking of the carriage would feel uncomfortable with your head against the seat, wouldn’t it? And if I’m going to look after you, I’m going to do it correctly.”
She had a point there. I then shifted my body toward her and unblushingly took her offer, laying my head sideways and upon her lap while facing the other side of the carriage. My cheek rested against the soft fabric of her brownish-burgundy skirt. It had been part of a specially designed linen set given to her by Torrel the night before we left. One created by Torrel, but named and blessed by the Spirit of Enheim, called the [Regalia of Temperance]. Negotiated payment for dealing with the Undead army, the rampaging Giant, and visiting the mountain ruins.
I still can’t believe that it’s a Mythical ranked set of gear despite how it looks... That being said, I also still can’t believe Torrel went ahead and negotiated the reward for my accomplishments without even saying anything to me about it first as well!
I turned slightly toward Eru, as she then stared down at me with a quizzical smile. Her outfit definitely didn’t seem like anything worth the gear rank of Mythical. She wore a white, long-sleeved button top that was covered by a dark beige and sleeveless cardigan-like wear. The top was buttoned, meeting her neck with a red ribbon neatly placed at its center. It suited her well, sure, but it seemed more like casual clothing rather than near “end game” equipment.
Well, at least she’s better protected now.
“Is it uncomfortable, Albel?”
“Not in the slightest...”
“That’s good to hear. Try and rest while you can, and maybe it’ll help ease the nausea a bit. I’m going to start working on my trinkets in the meantime. Just let me know if you need anything, okay?”
Returning my head back sideways, I closed my eyes in hope that I would begin to nod off sooner than later. Above me, Eru immediately began focusing on her work. As several minutes went by, I was amidst a state of drowsing, and yet—a voice from the outside then caught both of our ears and attention.
“I really hope you’re in there like you said you’d be, Astrid! Or I’m going to...”
A sudden opening of the rear doors now greeted us with a renewed brightness inside. With now opened eyes, I then took in the appearance of a sage green-colored hair man. A large horizontal scar sat across his face, while another short one occupied his right cheek. With the glint of a dark red earring dangling from his right ear, he seemingly wore standard leather armor—and for some reason—a large sword was strapped to his back. It felt like a weird combination on first glance.
“...know better not to believe a single word you ever say again... Why can’t she ever just listen for once?!”
After scanning the interior, he was a bit distraught as the palm of his hand met his scarred face. His eyes then drifted back to both Eru and I, and an awkward smile came across his face.
“...Sorry to interrupt the two of you, but I’m in need of a bit of help. Have either of you seen a red-haired woman, anywhere, this morning...?”
Unfortunately, I could barely remember anything from the past few hours besides my own internal struggles. In thanks to that, I simply waved him off, leaving only Eru’s response left. A few seconds of silence came between us as Eru remained lost in thought. Then suddenly, I could feel her come to an answer as her legs made a short jolt that was accompanied by her lively voice.
“Oh! Now that you’ve mention it, I do recall seeing someone like that while passing by the Ginswald Distillery back in the village. I can’t say for certain if it’s who you’re looking for or—”
“No, that’s definitely her! Thank you for the help, truly!”
And just like that, the scarred face man quickly shut the doors and darted back toward the village. It seems we now had an idea of who else would be boarding the carriage to Nefra. Surprisingly, we hadn’t seen anyone else besides the previous man either so far. In any case, we simply resumed our prior activities—or another attempt toward inactivity for myself. Yet, once again, as I arrived at that door of dormancy—I was suddenly awoken by the sound of two people arguing outside of the carriage this time.
“What...does it matter if...we miss the ride back, hmmm, Lukos? This place is heaven! Heaven! We should just stay here instead~”
“Because this is now our fifth attempt at trying to catch a ride back to Nefra, since we’ve missed every other chance thanks to you constantly running off. We’ve yet to report back to the Old Palisade after all this time too.”
“Who cares? No one~”
“You’ll definitely start caring once you’ve run out of money...”
The rear doors were then opened once more, as the scarred face man from before had returned—this time—alongside a red-haired woman holding a giant bottle. Without saying anything more, or even glancing in our direction, she immediately leapt into the carriage. Embracing the bottle in her arms, she curled into a ball as she laid down on the opposite side of us. She was truly without care as the scarred face man joined her, sitting near her with a slight gap. He then sighed loudly and directed another awkward smile our way.
“My apologies in advance for my companion...”
“You guys ready back there? We’re heading out! We should reach Nefra within the next few hours—so sit back and relax.”
With a sudden apology from the one across from us, another voice from the front of the carriage revealed that it was time to depart. With only us four as the passengers, we would be finally heading to Nefra.