Chapter 138: Regret of the Times
Time was like a river.
It is said that after the Shang dynasty fell, Jizi, a loyal subject of the ancient Shang kingdom, passed by the former capital in ruins and lamented, “The old palace grounds are abundant with barley, and the rice and millet fields are ripe .”
Although there were certain things one hoped time wouldn’t change, the relentless march of time always altered everything. Even the things we thought would last inevitably faded.
The new era called it revival instead of downfall, but those who mourned the loss of the past expressed their nostalgia for the places that evolved and changed.
Crockta was no different.
As he headed to a corner of ‘Oppa, Where Are You Going?’ he encountered a scent he hadn’t expected to smell at that grungy pub. As the sharpness of the newly sprayed top note stung his nose, he detected a feminine perfume with floral and citrus notes.
Laughter seeped out from every corner of the pub and surrounded him.
A waitress approached him and asked, “Hello, may I take your order?”
Crockta looked at her. She was a young, bubbly woman. She handed him a menu, and he saw a list of various dishes he was unfamiliar with. It even had combo meals or ‘couple’ meals intended to be shared by multiple people. Amid the investigative confusion, Crockta desperately searched the top of the menu for a dish he recognized. But then a realization washed over him, confirming that he had not been mistaken.
‘Oppa, Where Are You Going’ was no longer the place he knew.
Crockta’s mouth refused to budge, but he forced himself to make an order without even verifying whether the item was on the menu.
The waitress didn’t bat an eye.
With a warm smile, the waitress cheerfully replied ‘got it’ and walked away.
Crockta raised his head. No one was laughing at him. Crockta, dumbfounded, slumped down in his seat as if he had gone limp. The sound of laughter erupted from the couple sitting at the table next to him. Behind him, he could hear the murmurs of young men and women getting to know each other.
He didn’t know where he was supposed to look. For some reason, he felt embarrassed and ashamed of his current state. Shame and betrayal intermingled and weighed down on his shoulders.
Oppa, Where Are You Going? pub had become a fusion pub with a lively atmosphere targeted at young people.
“Here’s your cream spaghetti. Enjoy!”
The chopsticks that came with the cream spaghetti were neatly aligned on top of a stand next to the dish.
Crockta gazed at it. Even the chopstick had its pair and a designated spot to hold them. But what about him? He picked up the chopsticks and stabbed the cream spaghetti with them as if he was aiming with a sword.
Notwithstanding his hostility, the noodles softly coiled around the chopsticks. Crockta slowly chewed on the spaghetti. It was good, which made him even more sad.
‘An orc eating cream spaghetti... What a clown.’
Suddenly, he flinched and turned his head. He looked around him, but he couldn’t see who said it. 𝑙𝒾𝒷𝘳𝑒𝑎𝒹.𝑐𝑜𝓂
‘I thought cream spaghetti was something only women ate? Hahahah.’
He tried to suppress his memories that seemed like they had just happened yesterday and continued moving his chopsticks.
‘Why don’t you order strawberry juice and kiwi parfait while you are at it? Haha.’
Now, those voices just echoed in his head. Instead, he heard mundane conversations like: “that cream spaghetti looks delicious,” “oppa, should we get that as well,” “I didn’t know they had that on the menu,” and “that dish goes really well with wine.”
‘The old palace grounds are abundant with barley, and the rice and millet fields are ripe.’
Crockta loudly chewed the cream spaghetti and quickly finished it. He then used the last strand of cream spaghetti to form an inverted triangle and waited in silence.
It was the voice from his memory. Crockta got up from his seat.
The man who was both the owner of ‘Oppa, Where Are You Going?’ and the manager of the Maillard branch of the Information Guild had arrived.
The two did not greet each other. Crockta wanted to blame him, but he couldn’t bring himself to say anything when he saw the melancholy look in the man’s eyes.
He could tell that they shared the same feelings just from the look in his eyes.
The man led Crockta away from the scene.
Although the interior had changed, the secret passage was the same as last time.
They went past the door located inside the pub and entered the basement. The lighting on the ceiling was covered to darken the room, which resembled an interrogation scene.
The two sat across each other. At least this place hadn’t changed.
“Even though not much time has passed, you’ve become so famous since the last time we met,” said the owner cheerfully.
Crockta replied with indifference. “A lot of time has passed. Enough for certain things to change.”
The owner smiled bitterly. He quickly changed the subject.
“Well, anyway... Aren’t you here because of your enemy, the Haedong Balhae Clan, the group cursed by the stars? Since we’ve received enough information from you, I will hand you what we know without holding back. As the Conqueror of the North, you are a valuable connection for us.”
“How did you know about that?” asked Crockta.
“A divine message came to the temple. All of the gods whispered your name and said that you prevented a terrible war from happening and conquered the north. Crockta, the hero of the north, who killed the mad chieftain.”
Crockta nodded. ‘Makes sense.’ The continent probably had beings like the Ashen God, the World Tree, or the Chaos that he killed.
His achievements had become known to players through a system-wide message, and to the citizens of Elder Lord, via a divine message.
The man handed him a document. Crockta scanned the information.
As expected, the remaining members of the Haedong Balhae Clan had joined the Heaven and Earth Clan. The master of the Haedong Balhae clan and the traitor Grom—no, Hyun-Chul, had become leaders of the Heaven and Earth Clan. The clan was achieving their victories by combining the combat abilities of Rommel, Choi Han-Sung, known as the genius of war, with their political maneuvers and cunning tactics.
In the south, they were instigating more wars by conspiring with nobles and aiming for more profits.
As expected of an Information Guild, they had collected a lot of information while he was in the north. There were several documents. Some of them included predictions about the clan’s future activities.
“It’s a shame,” muttered Crockta.
The owner tilted his head in confusion at Crockta’s comment. “Shame? Is it not enough? You can’t get information like this anywhere else.”
“I’m not talking about the information. The information is great.”
The owner became quiet. He knew fully well what Crockta was referring to.
“Let’s continue doing business together. Thank you for the information,” said Crockta.
They rose from their seats. The branch manager of the Information Guild rubbed his chin and called Crockta again. “Wait, one more thing.”
He pushed his hand inside the small hole in the wall behind him through where the guild members handed him information. From there, he pulled out a new document and handed it to Crockta.
“A gift?” wondered Crockta.
“It’s for the orc warrior who saved the continent.”
Crockta took the single-page document labeled as ‘uncertain.’
“We don’t distribute uncertain information, but I will make an exception this time. We aren’t certain yet, but you should know just in case.”
As Crockta skimmed over the information, his eyes widened in shock. The contents of the document were shocking. The Heaven and Earth Clan was not only sweeping through the continent but was preparing for a huge war, and their target was none other than the orcs of Orcrox and the continent.
Humans and orcs didn’t have a good relationship. From the age of Leyteno, the renowned ‘Master of the Greatsword,’ they had been in combat, and their adversarial relationship passed down like tradition.
The clan planned to exploit the poor relationship between humans and orcs and instigate a huge war by sowing discord between the two species. It wasn’t enough that they killed Lenox. They planned to completely snuff out orcs. This would be just another quest or game content to them.
Crockta gritted his teeth. He now had another reason to destroy the clan. “Thank you.”
The owner extended his hand. Crockta extended his as well, and they shook hands. The two exchanged looks and then went up to the pub.
Even at a second glance, the scene looked unfamiliar to Crockta.
‘Oppa, Where Are You Going?’ had been created to hide the Information Guild, but it had now exceeded its simple purpose of disguise. As the business went under strain and underground organizations grew increasingly mainstream, the Information Guild was forced to pursue profits to keep afloat. Now, the pub was no longer just a front but a legitimate business.
Crockta knew that the owner had come to such a decision after much thought, but he couldn’t help but feel saddened by the changes
“...The pub has changed a lot,” commented Crockta
“It couldn’t be helped. We fell on hard times.”
Amid the lively atmosphere, Crockta saw crowds of happy couples and young folks exchanging glances with flushed faces and enjoying their youth and acknowledged that times had changed.
‘Even the moon waxes and wanes.’
Perhaps the age of real men didn’t last because their hearts were overflowing with male vigor.
“Hey.” Crockta looked at the branch manager of the Information Guild— no, the owner of the pub, with sorrowful eyes and asked, “Do you still serve whole roasted suckling pig?”
“I’d like to have a whole roast pig and chow it down like a real man...”
The owner’s eyes twitched. He couldn’t look Crockta in the eye and dropped his head. He hesitated as if something was stuck in his throat and then managed to utter, “That dish...” He smiled bitterly and continued, “That dish is no longer on the menu.”
Times had changed.
The stories of real men who mocked cream spaghetti, showed contempt for sweet drinks, swallowed greasy meat with hard liquor, and proudly exposed their ample chest hair by unbuttoning their shirts had truly come to an end.
“I see,” replied Crockta with a nod. “Just whiskey then. By the bottle.”
The owner handed him a bottle of whiskey, and Crockta paid him and unscrewed the cap. He then took a sip straight out of the bottle.
“Oh my, look at him...!”
“God, what is it? You mean that orc?”
“He’s drinking it straight from the bottle. Wowww. Even though it’s hard liquor.”
Crockta smirked. ‘Young lads. There was a time when you would be the subject of ridicule if you couldn’t do this. It was the age of real men.’
Crockta decided to get going. Step by step, he went past the bright lights of the pub and saw the bright faces of young couples entering the pub. As he saw the smiling faces of men and women smiling at each other with affection in their eyes, he suddenly realized that this wasn’t too bad after all. It could even be a good thing.
Crockta pushed open the door of the pub and walked out. As the door closed behind him, a cold gust of wind greeted him. He was now completely out of the world of the pub.
In the streets of Maillard, the wind continued to rustle past him. He saw Maillard’s nightlife in the distance. Somewhere amid the iridescent lights, drunkards wandering the streets, and people heading home as they hoped for a better tomorrow, Crockta knew that the men from his memories were continuing onward with their lives.
“There’s no reason to be sad.”
The transformation of ‘Oppa, Where Are You Going?’ into a vibrant fusion pub didn’t mean that their spot had vanished entirely. Under the nightlife in the distance, they were still walking the path of real men.
“I’m just a bit nostalgic.”
Crockta raised his bottle of whiskey. The liquid sloshed inside because he hadn’t finished it yet. Crockta tilted the bottle and poured it down the street. The liquor began to slowly drench the streets of Maillard.
“For the real men who are no longer here.”
He poured all of the contents of the bottle down the street as he mourned the past.
As he remembered the beautiful times he shared with the spirited men, he offered a toast to bygone times.
1. Jizi is a Chinese sage described as a relative of Di Xin, the last king of the Shang dynasty ?
This chapter is updated by 𝑙𝑖𝑏𝓇𝘦𝑎𝒹.𝑐𝑜𝓂