An extra story in the point-of-view of Ruth’s older brother, Clark.
Taken place around 1- 2 years before Alec departs on his journey (That’s why Clark is referring to his fiancée as his “girlfriend”).
This is a story about… how others see Alec and Ruth’s relationship.
I am Clark Brau, the eldest son of the family inn located in the center of a peaceful village square and I'm currently a peddler. My family is relatively well-off, my parents and younger brother are kind, and I even have a girlfriend-- I’m a pretty lucky fellow.
However, I am concerned about one thing. To be honest, it’s about my cute little brother.
“Welcome home, Clark.”
The one who said that while giving me a soft smile is my younger brother, Ruth. At first glance, one would be unable to tell Ruth apart from male or female with his glossy black hair, pure white skin, a refreshing pair of eyes, and tinted pink lips that resemble our mother’s. But, my younger brother who’s cleaning the front of the inn with a broom while wearing an apron that strangely fits him, is a full-fledged man.
Despite his semblance, Ruth is very physically strong and his tolerance and restraint when dealing with people shows off the manly side of his personality. Nevertheless, my younger brother has one fatal flaw. I can even hear it perfectly from here.
“Mira, you’re beautiful today too. Do you want to go eat lunch--”
“Nadie, there’s a famous spot in the village with a beautiful view. This time--”
“Corinna, there’s a wonderful hat that would fit you--”
That all happened within roughly a minute. In one minute, my younger brother holding the broom got rejected by all three of them and dropped his head. By the way, Mira is a resident of this village but the other two girls are adventurers staying at our inn. Though, I do want to praise him for having the guts to talk to them.
“I wonder why it never works out… I dressed up today and I don’t think the way I invited them was bad either. Or, maybe, I might be exuding something weird…?”
Ruth loves girls. So much so, that he would flirt with them ten times in a single day. It seems like he’s constantly thinking about having a girlfriend and he’s exceedingly assertive towards girls but-- unfortunately, I haven’t seen a girl who has ever accepted his invitations.
“Y-Y’know, Ruth, as your older brother, I think…”
I turned around to the voice behind me and there stood Mira from earlier, who had rejected Ruth's invitation in a heartbeat, looking up to me while blushing.
“Clark! Please accept this!”
She then pushed a bag of homemade cookies into my hands while I was caught off guard. Just like that, Mira left in a hurry from embarrassment.
My face stiffened up at the present being forced onto me despite how I already have a girlfriend and the feeling of someone staring at my back. When I slowly turned around, there was my younger brother who had a fleeting smile on his face and looked so worn down as if he’ll crumble into dust at any moment. Looking at that sort of face, I ended up feeling quite guilty.
“It’s okay, big brother. I like how I currently look… it can’t be helped that the villager girls like more bear-like faces…”
“Wa-Wait, R-Ruth? Bear-like faces? First of all, what’s a bear?”
“I’m going to go chop some wood… big brother, please finish cleaning up the front of the inn for me.”
Ruth gave me a weak smile and pushed the broom onto me as he went behind the inn. After a while, a clang sound could clearly be heard from afar. He’s definitely venting out his inner troubles by chopping firewood with a single strike. By the way, because the logs were cut just a while ago, the thickness is about the size of my chest.
“...But Ruth, it’s not like I think you can't be popular.”
Although my younger brother is like this, I think he’s fairly good looking. Even if he inherited more of our mother’s delicate appearance, that is not a bad thing. It should be easy to like him because he has a kind personality, a strong sense of justice, a dependable attitude from dealing with bullies, and an honest character. Men with overflowing masculinity might indeed be more popular, but it’s not a necessary trait that will make girls fall for you. My younger brother might have misunderstood, but even I don’t particularly think that our father and I are popular just because of our appearance.Women have diverse preferences, after all.
“But, you see…”
Nevertheless, as his older brother, I think there are all sorts of problems with the way my younger brother behaves towards girls.
While I don’t know the reason why Ruth is being impatient over, it’s like he’s flirting with any girl that he can lay his eyes on. The moment he realizes it’s hopeless after he calls out to a girl within his line of sight, he would immediately move onto the next one.
Ruth...I, as your older brother, think that’s something you shouldn’t do.
"If you do that, isn't it the same as saying that you're fine with anyone…"
It’s natural to think that someone, regardless of whether they are a man or woman, wouldn’t want to accept an invite from such a frivolous person. It wouldn’t matter much if it was in a big city, but in this village among the mountains, such fickle people are a taboo. On top of that, my younger brother had just tread exactly on that part of the minefield himself. Thus, no matter how good his other aspects are, girls are bound to avoid him. Moreover, because he’s been like this since he was young, his reputation among the village girls is extremely bad by now. The only one who doesn’t have such a bad impression of him and somehow the only person that my younger brother doesn’t flirt with is his childhood friend, Marianne.
Also, I think it’s pretty bad to flirt with the female adventurers that come here to earn money. My younger brother’s androgynous appearance doesn’t look like the strong and reliable type of men that those girls like and because he looks like he hasn’t had any experience, it doesn’t feel like one can discuss adult topics with him. Not to mention that, because he’s just the son of an innkeeper, it doesn’t seem like he’s very wealthy either.
"I might seriously have to go out and find a wife for him."
"Huh, well, for Ru--"
Just as I was about to say my younger brother’s name, I quickly shut my mouth.
"Who will you be finding a wife for?"
The one standing behind me was a handsome young man with blond hair and green eyes. While he’s around the same height as my younger brother, his body thickness and muscles were distinctly different and he’s clearly well built if one were to take a closer look. Despite that, he has long arms and legs and he's the type to look skinnier with clothes on without looking ill-fitting or awkward. As a result, if I had to say, he seems like a fine gentleman at first glance.
The name of that man is-- Alec Gala.
Alec has been friends with my younger brother since they were young. They are, what you call, ‘childhood friends’. Nowadays, after growing up together as best friends and being acknowledged as such, those two are almost always stuck at the hip. He’s also a celebrity in this village and has fans from the young to the elderly. In a sense, he’s a formidable man.
I just ended up meeting him at the worst timing.
I’m a little--no, quite bad at dealing with Alec. I don’t think he’s someone evil, but he becomes quite troublesome when concerned with my younger brother.
"Clark, who is it for? Please tell me."
At first glance, Alec had the smile of a gentle young man without any ill will. However, in my eyes, behind that smile, there is a sinister aura Alec exuded without reservation. Even though everyone in the village makes him out to be like a hero, I knew that this man is not someone that pure.
After many years of experience from being Ruth’s older brother, I knew that the reason behind that sinister aura was because of my statement from earlier. After all, I’ve always looked over my younger brother as he was growing up, so I also watched Alec at the same time.
Alec adores my younger brother, Ruth, to the point where it’s strange. Since the time they first met, Alec has always wholeheartedly liked my younger brother. Well, I knew that the recent direction his affections have been going is amiss but I’ll pretend that I haven’t noticed for the time being.
However, up to this point, I still think it's admirable that Ruth wants to reciprocate his feelings and treat Alec with the same kind of devotion.
“N...No, it seems like my friend’s little brother missed his chance of marriage, so I thought I might go and find someone for him when I’m out peddling~”
“Is that so? But I think you should just mind your own business with that sort of thing because being overly meddlesome is a problem in itself. Maybe they are dating someone and they’re just simply keeping it a secret.”
Even though we were only doing small talk, sweat ran down from my forehead for some reason. Alec is the strongest person in the village. My father is quite strong, but Alec is on a completely different league. Just thinking about not letting Alec’s sinister aura crush my spirit already exhausted me.
"...Is Ruth here?"
"I-In the back."
"Then, I'm going to go see him."
Alec gave me a freshly sweet smile and headed to the back of the inn.
The moment Alec left, I crouched down on the spot. It’s pathetic, but I’m reduced to this state just by being glared at by him.
My dear younger brother, I wonder if you can properly train this beast a little bit more.
“...Ah… possibly one of the reasons why girls don’t approach Ruth has to do with Alec…”
An unpleasant thought accidentally came up in my mind. I felt shivers and a chill go through my body.
Nevertheless, I’m certain that Alec wouldn’t let any trouble approach my younger brother.
“He became Ruth’s bodyguard, huh….”
Unfortunately, my younger brother isn’t popular with women, but he’s popular with men. Not to mention, in a very improper way too.
Because the person himself isn’t interested in anything else besides women and is quite thickheaded, he’s completely unaware of the lecherous stares he gets sometimes from adventurers and people of the same age as him in the village. But it can’t be helped with his sort of appearance.
However, the one to save my younger brother from that is Alec.
Everyone in the village knows how close Alec and Ruth's relationship is. Thanks to that, there are no men in the village that would even lay a hand on Ruth. If something makes Ruth cry, everyone with experience knows that Alec would not stay quiet about it. But Ruth isn’t the type to cry anyway.
Somehow, whenever Alec senses any signs of adventurers doing that sort of thing, he would keep them in check himself. How he does it… I’ve forgotten but in any case, Alec really doesn’t let anyone lay a hand on Ruth.
“That’s why I have no other choice but to leave Alec as he is….”
As an older brother, I know Alec is also "dangerous", and I probably shouldn’t let him get too close to Ruth. However, if Alec wasn’t there, then Ruth might have gotten into trouble and… I wouldn’t even have noticed it. And Alec would probably sincerely respect Ruth's will.
“But with this, if Alec were to ever leave the village then whole lotta trouble would stir up around Ruth~ Hahaha, it’s a good thing that he’s here.”
I let out a laugh at the ridiculous thought of an unlikely future that suddenly popped up in my head. There’s no way that Alec would leave Ruth behind and depart from the village. For something like that to happen, it would definitely need to be because of something paramount, like orders from the king. Well, there’s no way something like that would happen to this village found in the middle of nowhere.
But…for some reason, it feels like I said something I shouldn’t have. I quickly let out a slightly exaggerated laugh.
After I finished cleaning, I went to the back of the inn with the broom to put it back in the storage with the other cleaning tools. Alec and Ruth surely must be there too, but there shouldn’t be any problems if I just pass through without bothering them.
I’m a fool for thinking that.
When I turned towards the back of the inn, I felt my face stiffen at the scene I accidentally walked into.
"...Alec, don't get in the way. It’s hard to polish the axe this way.”
"I'm not getting in your way. I'm just watching."
"If so, then don't move your hand. My stomach feels ticklish.”
"Okay. I won't move it."
When Alec said that, he had his hand placed on my younger brother’s stomach.
“Oh, what sort of situation is this…”
I unconsciously mumbled that as I was in hiding.
The two of them in the back were sitting on a large log and Ruth was talking to Alec as he was polishing the rusted axe. Well, it’s okay to that extent. Surely, Ruth noticed that the axe used for wood-chopping had rust on it and wanted to polish it.
But the problem here is their positions. Somehow, Alec is sitting right behind my younger brother with his arms encircled around his stomach and his chin resting on the top of his shoulder, peering over at my younger brother polishing the rusted axe. To say it another way, it looks like Alec is cuddling Ruth from behind.
...My dear younger brother, even if he’s your best friend, no matter how you look at it, wouldn't one think that position is a little odd? If I was told to do that with my male friends, I would definitely hate it. Just imagining it makes me feel gross.
“Alec, I told you to not lean against me. Also, don’t put your nose so close to my neck. It tickles.”
“I had to make a round-trip to the river while carrying a sandbag by myself today. Just let me rest for a bit.”
“Eh, I thought there were several people ready to help with the maintenance at the back of the church?”
“They were there, but they were useless, and I had to do almost everything by myself in the end. Those guys were wheezing just by trying to lift and stack things, and yet they had this smug ‘Worked hard’ face at the end.”
“... You had it rough, huh… rest up.”
“Right? That’s why, lend me your back, please.”
“Well, it can’t be helped…”
My dear younger brother, that’s definitely not something "that can’t be helped”. On top of that, Alec is most definitely not tired at all.
However, even if I want to say that, I don’t have any courage to walk into that weird atmosphere between those two without making a strange face. Actually, it’s more like if I entered, the one who’s happily leaning against my younger brother is going to kill me for sure.
“...Just like that, Ruth has been trained well by this guy…”
Most likely, Alec has taken advantage of my younger brother’s tolerant nature (especially towards himself) over the years to make Ruth believe that this unnatural behavior is actually reasonable.
In the first place, Alec doesn't have the aura of an ordinary person and has the power to make whatever he does seem correct. It’s like even if he broke a vase in someone else’s house of his own accord, he has this strange power to make them believe that doing that has an important meaning to it. Generally, I think that’s how he deceives most of the villagers here.
“...The most dangerous one out there is him, huh…”
--My dear younger brother, I take back all my thoughts about you corresponding to Alec's actions. His thoughts aren't pure at all and have all sorts of dark things lurking in there. In fact, your older brother is scared of it. So scared that I can’t face it. Sorry. I’ll be praying for you.
In the end, I left the broom behind on the spot, pretended I didn’t see anything, and returned indoors.
Whether my Ruth will find a girl who returns his affections or Alec decides to give up on my dense younger brother-- as your older brother, I'd rather not predict which is going to happen first.
I’m begging you, don’t drag me into this.
- 爪の垢を煎じて飲ませて refers to following in the footsteps of someone you admire/desire to become like them. In a literal sense it's referring to wanting to follow them enough to "drink the boiled dirt under their fingernails". Pretty wild.
MARY: Heya! Thanks for reading! As usual, let me know if you see any mistakes. I got the LN version of THWISE and the illustrations are so beautiful... PLEASE support the author by buying it! You can get it here and it does ship to the US!! (I'm not sure about other countries but it's worth seeing if it does ship there).
On another note, I feel super bad for Clark... I want to give him some calming scented candles and a good shoulder massage.
Next chapter will be the start of Arc 2, I'll see you guys in the next update! ^_^)/