Riley had always liked rain.
He liked rain in his past life, and he still liked it even in the new life.
He loved listening to the sounds of raindrops. With his head resting on his hand, he loved to watch the scenery of the sky with dark clouds while being intoxicated by the mood of the atmosphere.
“Your order is ready.”
Like this, he loved drinking and eating onion pancakes on a rainy day. He loved it very much.
“It’s here. It’s here!”
When Riley came to a city called Rainfield for the first time before, on the first day of the visit, he discovered what appeared to be onion pancake on a menu just like what he used to enjoy in his past life. When he found it, he couldn’t shake himself off from the shock for a while.
There was a time when he ate onion pancakes for all three meals of the day.
“I get to finally eat it!”
Until now, Riley always came here with Sera. So, he didn’t get to eat Rainfield’s rice liquor, a specialty drink that was similar to Riley’s past life’s rice liquor. Now, that was not a problem.
With the food brought to the table, Nainiae just stared at flat shaped food and asked Riley,
“What is this?”
“It’s a flat fried dough.”
“Flat fried dough?”
“It’s also called onion pancake. Well, this world doesn’t have such a name for this. The name is good enough.”
In fact, the menu had it listed as ‘Flat fried dough.’ The food was made of flattened flour dough that was fried with various vegetables and seafood.
“Now, shall we eat?”
Riley gave a piece to Nainiae and also recommended a black sauce that was on the table.
“You could dip on it. You can eat it without the sauce too.”
It was only right that a world had a type of food that was becoming of rainy weather.
This food at Rainfield was exactly that, and it was a famous specialty food from the city.
“In that case, thank you for the food.”
Nainiae carefully picked up a piece with a fork and brought it toward her mouth. The piece had steam rising from it. She started to chew.
Along with the sound, Nainiae’s eyes opened wide.
Not able to wait any longer, Riley asked,
“How is it?”
She was not able to speak because she had food in her mouth, but she nodded multiple times with her face slightly turning red from excitement.
“You are saying it is delicious, right?”
Although Nainiae blew it to cool it down before eating, it seemed the piece was still too hot. She was still not able to speak. Instead, she just nodded once again.
Nainiae swallowed what she just chewed, and explained her impression about the food that she just ate,
“By how it looks like, I thought someone threw up on the table… Unlike how it looks like, it is pretty tasty.”
“Threw up? That’s harsh.”
Riley cracked a smile.
Certainly, the food didn’t look exactly like how it was in Riley’s past life. The version in this world looked rather crude, so he could see how it could look like that to Nainiae.
“It’s really delicious! Especially the crunchy part toward the edges!”
“Hey, don’t go eating just those parts.”
Those edges were Riley’s favorite parts as well.
“The insides are tastier. Eat the insides. They are soft and moist.”
Nainiae wanted to taste more of the crunchiness of the edges, but she had to give in to Riley. So, instead of the edges, Nainiae started to focus on the insides.
“Excuse me. The rice liquor is here.”
“Ah, it’s here.”
It was around the time when Riley and Nainiae had eaten about half of the food. A waiter with a friendly smile brought the drink that Riley ordered with the flat fried dough.
“Young master, this is?”
It was a white liquid. It almost looked like milk. Noticing the mysterious liquid, Nainiae looked at Riley.
Despite Nainiae’s question, Riley omitted a response. Instead, he just drooled while staring at the food and the drink on the table.
On a rainy day, a rice liquor was perfect with a flat fried dough.
The rice liquor at Rainfield was made from the rain, so it was famous for its exquisite taste.
‘Huhu… Sera is not here. Today, I really get to drink it!’
A rainy day, flat fried dough, rice liquor.
The three things were perfectly set. Corners of Riley’s mouth were tilting up on their own.
“Young master. This is an alcoholic beverage…isn’t it?”
After fully preparing himself for the drink, he was about to quench his throat with it, but he flinched his shoulders after hearing Nainiae’s question.
“Excuse me, young master. I don’t believe you are old enough to…”
Riley was 19. He was not yet old enough.
It was not like there was a law about the age limit for drinking, so it didn’t matter. However, Iris had been telling Riley ‘You can drink when you are twenty or older!’ countless number of times to the point there is a nail with that message stuck on Riley’s ear.
Of course, Sera and Ian always stopped Riley’s attempts at drinking alcoholic beverages.
Looking at Nainiae worrying about the rice liquor sitting on top of the table, Riley started to complain inwardly.
‘She sure was taught well by Sera all right. Really… Uh?’
With his eyes narrowed, Riley was glaring at her. He quickly changed the look on his face and said,
“Ah, this is not an alcoholic beverage.”
‘If I count the life I had in my past life, I’m way past 20!’
Although Riley had been keeping it a secret from the family or Ian, Riley had been drinking often with Andal.
This was not his first drink.
Having heard what he just said, Nainiae started to look around the other tables.
The atmosphere was loud, busy and full of chatters.
There were others drinking the same beverage that Riley ordered, and they all had the same look on their faces. Their faces were all saturated in red. The looks on their faces were like they were proudly saying ‘Ah? I’m totally drunk!’
“It seems to be an alcoholic beverage?”
“It sure does, right? But it is not.”
“It’s all right. It’s not going to kill me.”
With his eyes narrowed, he glared at Nainiae.
The look on his eyes was somehow looking sensitive.
Without realizing, Nainiae shriveled her shoulders. Not knowing what to do, she pursed her lips.
“It’s not a matter of life or death. It’s just that Lady Iris told me…”
Nainiae thought about the list of things that Iris explained to Nainiae before she departed to Rainfield to tell her to watch out for. Nainiae fiddled with the mask that was hiding half of her face.
It seemed Nainiae was still conflicted about the matter.
‘…That’s good enough!’
If she was conflicted, that was enough for Riley.
To him, it meant there was a chance.
Having thought that way, he reached for one of the two empty dishes and poured the rice liquor to the dish.
“It’s not a drink. Here, try it! You can confirm it for yourself, can’t you?”
Riley calmed the facial muscles on his face that was making small flinching movements. Hoping that this gamble would pay off, he recommended a glass of rice liquor to Nainiae.
“If you drink this and eat that… Kuuuu! It’s the best!”
“Can’t you trust me? I’m serious!”
Having heard what Riley said, not able to refuse, Nainiae grabbed the glass.
“Try it first. If you think it is an alcoholic beverage, then I will not drink it.”
Seeing Riley saying it with confidence, Nainiae raised the glass and took a small sip.
Its first taste was mostly sweet with some bitter tingling sensation.
“Oh? It is…tasty?”
Riley actually ordered an extra sweeter version just in case something like this happened. He was glad he did. Riley sighed in relief.
Alcoholic beverages that Nainiae knew were the ones from Lower Solia that she drank because she was parched.
Nainiae knew them as something that were just really bitter and had terrible taste to them. She judged that this sweet liquid must be not an alcoholic beverage. She tilted the glass up once again.
She finished the entire glass in one shot.
Having finished it clean, Nainiae said ‘Kuuu!’ with satisfaction. Having witnessed it, Riley panicked and said ‘Huk!’
“That’s not water, you rascal.”
For some reason, Riley was breaking in cold sweat. Noticing this, Nainiae tilted her head side to side as if she was wondering if there was a problem.
“It’s just… It’s not water. It’s a sweetened beverage.”
Concerned about being found out, Riley spoke carefully and then poured some into his glass. Riley enjoyed the flat fried dough with the drink.
‘This is the taste…’
He filled his mouth with warm flat fried dough, quenched his throat with the drink, and indulged himself in the sound of the rain. It seemed Riley could not be any happier. With a satisfied look on his face, he started to enjoy it all.
Sound of the rainfall.
Flat fried dough.
“Um. Jup… Kuhup. Jup!”
He could hear sounds of someone chugging down the food.
Relaxed, Riley was enjoying the atmosphere, but the noise was ruining it. Furrowing his brows, Riley looked toward where the noise was coming from.
‘Who is it?’
The noise was coming from the table right next to where Riley and Nainiae were sitting.
“Jup. Um! Jup! Kuhup. Jup!”
It was a man.
He looked rather skinny for some reason. He was wearing a black hooded cape that was soaked completely wet. It seemed he starved for a few days. Instead of using utensils, with bare hands, he was making food disappear into his stomach in a hurry.
“You might upset your stomach. Please eat slowly.”
Concerned, a waiter even brought water for him.
The man with the cape seemed like he didn’t hear the waiter at all. Instead, he was busy with hurriedly putting food in his mouth.
‘Tsk. He is ruining the mood single-handedly…’
Riley was attaining the peaceful state of mind from having the sound of cool rainfall, crunchy fried food and sweet rice liquor. However, with the unrefined chewing noise that was shattering the peace, Riley was cringing.
The man’s mouth was full of food. His both cheeks were ballooned up. Despite that, the man was mumbling.
“More… A lot more…”
Riley, who was cringing, decided to listen carefully to what the man was saying.
It was because Riley became curious about why he was eating in such a disturbingly disgusting manner.
“More… I need to make a lot more.”
‘More? Make more? What? Is he saying he need to make more poop?’
Riley had a glass of rice liquor in one hand, and his head resting on the other. He took a sip from the glass. With an uninterested look on his face, Riley lowered his gaze.
Riley was staring at the man’s soaked cape. Watching the water drops falling to the floor from the cape, Riley decided on the next destination.
‘Once we finish eating, looks like we should go there.’
Riley figured that, once he get the must-have item in Rainfield, he should check in at a hotel or go to a library for a good book to read.
Riley, who was planning what to do next with a vacant look on his face, heard a stretched out voice coming from the other side of the table. He looked at Nainiae.
“My head is spinning and spinning. It is dizzy for some reason… Is this…. By any chance…”
Nainiae’s face was pretty much saturated in red. While Riley had his gaze turned away, Nainiae had been drinking the rice liquor as if it was water. Riley was certain of it.
He had no idea when it happened, but he just realized that the rice liquor bottle was completely empty. There were only few drops of the liquor left in the bottle. Looking at the empty bottle, Riley looked at Nainiae as if he was just robbed.
“Hey! I told you not to drink it like water!”
As if she was proudly advertising that she was drunk, she faltered left and right a few times. Soon, Nainiae suddenly…
She brought her left hand to her mouth.
Riley complained as he covered his face with his palm.
* * *
It was not certain how long it had been.
It was around the time when the man’s soaked cape, which was dripping water when he first entered the restaurant, was about to dry completely.
The man, who was putting away the food on the table into his stomach in hurry, stroke his tightly full stomach and leaned on the back support of the chair.
“Have you finished the meal?”
Noticing that the man was finished with the food, a waiter came and asked carefully.
“Ah, ah ah… Ah! They were delicious! Um!”
Waving his hand around, the man said he was satisfied with the meal. The man with the black cape tightly closed his eyes.
“It was a feast! It was absolutely…delicious!”
“Is… Is that so? Haha… Well then…for the food…”
Rubbing his hands together, the waiter brought up the matter of the bill for the food.
The amount of the food that the man ate was beyond anyone’s wildest imagination. If he paid for it, it would have been enough to the point that the restaurant didn’t need to open the next day.
“Oh? The bill? Um. Ah ah! Bill!”
The man opened his eyes and murmured as if it slipped his mind.
“Of course. I should pay the bill! I can’t be ungrateful and commit a crime!”
“Ah, yes. The total is…”
“By the way.”
The waiter already counted the number of dishes, so he was going to tell the man the amount right away. However, he was interrupted.
“Where are the other customers? There were a lot of them a while ago?”
The waiter had a petrified look on his face because the man who was staring at him had a haunting look in his eyes. The waiter smiled amicably and answered,
“You are the very last customer. It’s pretty late.”
“The last? I am?”
The man’s face was crumpled when the waiter nodded.
“This is… This is no good! I was too indulged in eating!”
“Ah ah. It’s too bad…but I guess I could only make ‘one’ here.”
When the man murmured, the waiter started to step back with a pale face.
The waiter felt something tightly grabbing onto his ankle. He looked down.
‘A-At my ankle…there is something…’
Shaking in fear, the waiter looked down. What he saw was a tree root that penetrated through the restaurant’s wooden floor.
It wasn’t an ordinary root. It was exuding dark smoke.
“Hey, Mr. Waiter?”
Having heard the man with the black cape, the waiter said ‘huk!’ and tried to look at him. However…
“I’ll pay here.”
The waiter’s eyes were saturated in black as if someone put ink in them. The waiter’s head was already on the floor.