It was miserable to walk back home from the university with no shoes.
No one had confessed to the crime of hiding them, but Sebastian knew that only his brother was vile and petty enough.
That didn't matter. Years of bullying and misery had made his skin thick and his ability to dissociate peerless. After all, he always had a book in his other hand. Even while he was walking. Sebastian had figured out how to avoid getting hit by Truck-kun even while completely immersed in a fictional world. Sure, drivers honked at him, some even climbed out of their vehicles to curse him and he had been beaten up pretty badly a few times. It was nothing compared to the abuse he faced at the hands of his brother, though, as Roy tended to utilize other, crueler forms of violence than just punches and kicks.
Having spent his entire youth wasting away from a preventable illness, Seb was already okay with not being the strongest or the most muscular in his family. He had two brothers, but Sam was pretty indifferent towards him, mainly concerned with his sports and endless rows of girlfriends.
No, Seb had no problem with Sam. Roy, though, he was a pest. Just like this bastard villain in an isekai novel! Having graduated to reading on his phone, Seb had only started to dip his toes into the world of light novels and true escapism. Already, he found himself cheering for this rags to riches -story and its bookish main character who was so much like him. He even had the same birthmark and a similar name!
The pest of a villain who tortured the main character also resembled his brother so greatly that Seb could not put the book down. In a similar way, the villain pretended to present the peak of masculinity but acted like an absolute hen, plotting, manipulating, and spreading rumors like the vilest possible incarnation of a teenage girl. He was so much like Roy.
Hadn't always been like that.
What hadn't? Roy, and his antics. They had been best friends, doing so much wicked stuff, slashing tires, stealing books, and they had never ratted each other out. The kind of stuff that brothers were for, really.
Then the sickness had taken all of the attention their mom had used to spend on Roy. They all had been worried about Seb wasting away, and for a few months, Roy had been nothing short of perfectly understanding.
But he didn't realize that even though their mother's love for him had waned, the actual affection she had for Seb had not increased.
They both became the victims of fate. Roy's antisocial tendencies got worse, he got bitter.
And then there was that fight between their parents that was somehow still Seb's fault even though he had not been the one to land the blow. The one that gave her the bad brain damage that she would have to live with for the rest of her days. The one that made her leave their father. But Roy didn't see it that way. To Roy, Seb was in control of everything.
The master of everything. The bookish guy who was omniscient and omnipotent. And love turned to envy while envy turned to rage.
Had Seb been reading psychology from a younger age, he might have been able to prevent the toxic formation of this all-encompassing hatred between them.
It hurt even more because of the brotherly bond. Everything was broken now. Roy was 23, and Seb was 21, but they could have been lightyears apart. What had happened had torn them apart, and Roy had let those things do that to them.
"Hey watch out!" someone cried from across the street.
Even though he had honed his reflexes to perfection while dodging punches thrown by his male relatives, Seb had no chance against the bottle of beer that hit him straight in the face.
He saw nothing but stars splattered over a red nothingness for a moment.
Then he felt the pain and realized that he had lost something far more precious than the chip of his front tooth that now rested on the street, covered in blood.
He had dropped his phone. His only escape, especially after his father had confiscated almost every book he owned.
He saw Roy standing near their front door, leaning onto the bike that dad had stolen from someone last week. Roy had his friends over. Even though it was fairly obvious that the culprit was among them, no one said anything.
And for once, Seb the Serene lost all of his self-control.
He ran up to his brother. They shared the same handsome features, except that Roy's jaw was slightly more padded with muscle, they both had a pale complexion coupled with hair so dark that the brown looked black in a dim light. But Seb had been a sickly child until the age of fifteen and the six years that had passed since then had done nothing to change the dynamic. Roy was the boxer and Seb was the punching bag he practiced with.
But now, Seb did not see the connection between his actions and their consequences.
He drew his hand back and curled it into a tight fist. It all happened so quickly for Roy and yet time moved in slow motion for Seb. The light of understanding barely managed to creep in the eyes of the bully.
Seb had hit a person exactly once before this punch. For a second try, this was not bad at all. Blood spurted out of Roy's nose as the young man staggered, seeking for support anywhere, tumbling over and taking one of his friends with him. The humiliation was so complete that it even brought a smile to Seb's face despite the heavy losses he had suffered.
In his ecstatic frenzy of victory, he had not registered the guy creeping up to him with another bottle of beer.
The way the glass shattered against his head sounded sharp and final. His vision went black, and all he could think was…
"Yes, I have read about how hitting someone with a bottle can actually kill them. Interesting to see it in action."
A vast darkness that had no colors, no life.
After he had figured out that he was now some sort of a disembodied spirit floating in a void, he formed his first posthumous thought.
"Just let me avenge. Just let me kill Roy. That's all I want."
The council of pirates was buzzing with life. Tables, sticky from spilling ale, were full to the brim. A warm candlelight lit up the tavern.
Pirate captains had left their crews to wander around while they dealt with important business decisions. There were plenty of brothels on the street to keep them entertained, but even despite its appearance, the Poisoned Grog tavern was no place for such licentious desires.
If anyone looked hard enough, they could see that none of the cheap-looking women in the tavern were getting drunk.
Instead, they tried to coax the bearded, weatherworn men to drink more. Sometimes they succeeded. A pirate's life was an ordeal. Violence. Theft. Stress. Work hard, play hard. But there were important matters to be dealt with.
Captain Bastian Black was sitting near the door, feeling restless. He didn't know why, but the rum in his tankard was not making him any less sick. Something was going on.
Then he dissociated hard enough that a wily, dark-haired beauty near him noticed how his brown eyes turned blue, pale blue like the eyes of Sebastian and Roy Grant.
Seb realized his position probably much quicker than anyone else could have.
"Transmigration, some kind of a tavern, new body, woman looking at me. Literary reference. Or afterlife. At least I'm not naked."