Black Iron's Glory - Chapter 17
Claude crouched as low as he could as he approached that part of the roof like a cat.
Their voices cleared as he approached. Arbeit and Christina sounded like they were arguing, and the latter sounded quite mad. Arbeit, on the other hand, spoke in a gentle tone. It even sounded like he was begging.
What were they arguing about?
"...You said three months, but it's been half a year and I'm still in this cruddy attic! Where's my suite?! You always said you'd get me a suite! You always forget after you get off my bed! I warn you, Arbeit, if you don't get me a suite by this month's end, don't even think about getting into my bed again! I'll even tell your father you promised me a suite to trick me into sleeping with you! We'll see who has more to lose then!"
"My beloved Christina, my dearest, I've never lied to you. Didn't I say that, as long as there is a free room somewhere downstairs, you can move in? I can't possibly chase the tenants away, though, right? Come on, be nice and let's stop arguing. I'll make sure you get your suite as soon as possible. I swear--"
"--Swear my ass! Wasn't Mister Leklin from the second floor going to move out? People moved into his vacant room in three days! Did you even try to get it for me? I was even happily anticipating my move! I only found out I wasn't getting it when the new tenant, Madam Alika, came to give me desserts! How do you explain that?!"
"Sigh. That wasn't my fault. I told my parents to not rent a suite out because I had a friend who wanted to rent it. Mister Leklin didn't cancel his contract, however, he transferred it to his cousin instead. I can't do anything about that. And after she moved in, my mother signed a proper contract with her and even upped the rent. There's nothing I can do about it."
"You always come up with all sorts of excuses! I've been too blind until now! You're completely unreliable! You couldn't even get me a suite!
"Summer's just two months away and the attic will be boiling. There's only one toilet bowl here and no bathtub. I have to go to the corridor on the second floor just to wash my face! People get water from there to mop the floor, and I'm using it to wash my face! I've had enough!
"I will only give you two more months. If I'm still living here then, I will spill everything I know! At worst, I'll leave this stupid town. There's lots of places in the kingdom I can move, but when I do, I'll leave you with a ruined reputation!"
"I promise! I promise! I'll get you a suite in two months. Even if there aren't any empty rooms here, I will rent one in town for you."
"You make it sound so easy. Do you think the rooms in town as good as these are empty? Rooms with clean toilets and running water are always occupied! You promise me all sorts of things just to get into my bed and forget everything after you pull up your pants. If you don't get me a good room, I'll spill <i>everything</i>!"
She put a venomous emphasis on the last word.
"I will, I will. I'll get a decent room for you. Trust me. I already have something planned. You'll be surprised, I promise."
"Really? What about the rent?"
"I'll pay for it. You don't have to worry about anything. Just pack up and wait for the move. Look, this is a lucky bracelet I got from the moon shrine for you. The priest said it was blessed by the goddess of the moon and will bring you good luck if you wear it. It cost a lot, you know..."
"Forget it. Don't think you can trick me with this worthless thing. I'm not like those 17 or 18-year-old girls who'll believe such stupid things. Even all the lucky bracelets in the world won't wipe out my bad luck for sleeping with a useless man like you. When will you get me proper jewellery?"
"Don't say that. I didn't get you jewellery, but I bought you two dresses and a coat. That cost me almost all my salary..."
Claude finally knew where all of his elder brother's money had been vanishing.
"What's the point of nice dresses if you don't have jewellery to match? It was so embarrassing the last time I attended the ball without a single accessory. Do you know how it feels to have to bare your neck like that?"
Claude heard Arbeit swearing he would definitely buy her jewellery.
Things inappropriate for children followed. What can be said about it, was that clothes rustled, lots of kissing was involved, and Arbeit and Christina's voices were very active that night.
As he tried to quietly sneak back into his attic, Claude wondered how Arbeit had gotten involved with that woman. It appeared their relationship went back a fair while, half a year at least.
The Claude before transmigration had met Christina a number of times. They didn't talk, but she left a deep impression on him. She was unnaturally voluptuous in all the right places, and quite tall for a woman as well. Her red lips were as luscious as the other places, and she had milky skin and blonde hair. She turned all the right, and all the wrong, heads whenever she went about.
Officially it was gossip, but everyone also knew about her… dubious, tendencies. She had a… complicated relationship with the director of the company for which she worked, and the only reason she was in a place like Whitestag Town was because her… proprietor's wife got uppity.
She did not, in general terms, behave as a cultured woman, either. That said, however, his brother had impressed him in all the wrong ways even more. He couldn't understand how the fool had gotten himself tangled up with such a woman. She was several years his senior, but still young enough that her looks had not yet begun to fold. Most men could only dream of catching someone of her appearance, if not her character.
Christina was almost 27 and Arbeit had only just turned 20. As far as Claude was considered, his brother either had an oedipus complex, or Christina was a cougar, likely both.
Claude, for all his inexperience in this life, had been quite the player in his previous one. Arbeit's careful verbal manoeuvring was not lost on him. The young man had expertly, if not elegantly, rebuffed all his woman's rebukes and outbursts and still gotten what he wanted in the end. He was only 20, so where had his expertise come? He'd made a lot of promises, but he'd not committed himself to anything too substantial. Most importantly, his promises were verbal only. As for the money he apparently spent on dresses and other benefactions, such was the game. Women cost money. Only gigolos wanted women to pay for everything.
<i>Whatever,</i> Claude shook himself, <i>It has nothing to do with me. Who cares where Arbeit learned how to sweet talk? Everyone has strengths and weaknesses. Maybe hooking up with women is his only true talent.</i>
Claude's thoughts wandered again. Knowing about Arbeit's relationship wasn't beneficial at all. He would at most threaten him with it during one of their arguments to see whether the man would flip out so he could have a good reason to beat him up again.
He had thought about threatening him with the secret to pay off his debt, but he quickly dismissed it.
Given Arbeit's stingy personality, he cared more about his money than his reputation with his parents. There was no way Claude could get any money out of him. Instead, this exposed farce would cause him to lose his parents' favour for intentionally ruining his brother's prospects.
Additionally, only his parents stood to lose face if this really got out. While they would care about their reputation, Arbeit wouldn't. He might even bath in the envy other people showered upon him.
<i>Whatever, I'll let that brat off for the sake of mom and dad. They gave birth to this body, after all. Even a transmigrator has to show filial piety, right? There's no need to trouble and anger my parents over that useless fellow.</i>
The hookup didn't matter to Claude, so he quickly forgot about it as he concentrated on decoding the cookbook's secrets. The study was empty, and the carriages had left, so he could finally get his hands on the Hez dictionary. He could decode at least two pages of the book.
He climbed down the stairs barefoot. Though he had lightened his steps, the stairs still creaked slightly.
Fortunately, Morssen had drunk a little too much and was more than worn out. He was already asleep. As for his mother, she had been working the whole night and had also gone to dreamland.
Arbeit wasn't on the first floor, obviously, so no one could stop Claude as he opened his bedroom door and went downstairs. He filled his lamp with oil, retrieved the dictionary, and snuck back to his room like a burglar in his own house.
He shut the door and lit the lamp before stuffing his blanket under his door. The worst of the light was thus stoppered, and he didn't have to fear being discovered too easily.
He prepared to open the dictionary, but stopped as a thought suddenly occurred to him. He had only gone through ten pages properly before blacking out last time, roughly half an hour. If he really took to decoding the book, he might get a single page done in the same time at most if things went well. Also, though he felt normal after bathing in the moonlight, he couldn't be sure how much of his energy he'd actually recovered.
He'd learned his lesson the hard way, and he had no interest in learning it again. He was also certain mental power could not be recovered that quickly.
He paced around in his attic room for a while before inspiration finally came to him and he slapped himself for his silliness. There was no need for him to decode the text directly from the cookbook. Couldn't he just copy the text on another piece of paper? Each page only had a few rows of words, so he could finish copying it in ten or so minutes. He should have enough mental power for that.
Thus, he started copying the words one one, page by page. He took a short intermission between each page to conduct a short bathing session on the roof before moving on to the next.
It took him several hours to begin to feel his fatigue this time, and bathing in the moon had stopped relieving it. He put his stuff away, put out his lamp, and went to sleep.