Reminiscence of the Unfinished Wine

September 2022 seasonal permanent event; banner characters Shylock, Murr, Bradley; 2022/09/11 - 2022/09/19 JST

Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Chapter 5
Chapter 6
Chapter 7
Chapter 8
Chapter 9
Chapter 10

[Location: Manor hallway, night]

Akira: Phew, I really feel like I gave it my all today.

One night, I was taking a walk through the magic manor after finishing my work. As I was walking, I overheard voices having a cheerful conversation.

Akira: (….Hm? It's pretty lively in Shylock's bar.)

[Location: Manor bar, night]

Arthur: It truly is such an adult atmosphere at night. Someday, I hope to have a drink with Master Oz in a place like this.

Rutile: A bar does make you feel a little more grown-up, doesn't it? Mitile has also said he was looking forward to having a drink with me at a bar one day.

Shylock: Then, while we await that joyful day, let us toast with a non-alcoholic cocktail for tonight.

Murr: Let's do it, everyone! Cheers~!

Oz: …..Cheers.

Faust: Cheers…

Nero: Ch- cheers…

Nero: I didn't expect Oz to be here too… Man, you don't get a toast this tense very often…

Arthur, Oz, Murr, and Rutile were all seated at the bar. In addition, I spotted Nero and Faust.

I had just thought to myself, "what a strange group", when Murr's face popped up in front of me.

Murr: Welcome, welcome! Come on in!

Akira: Waah…!

Murr grabbed my arm, and I was tugged into the bar.

Faust: Sage?

Nero: What, now you're showin' up too?

Akira: Ah, I'm sorry for intruding. I just heard a lot of excited voices, so I wanted to see what was going on…

Shylock: Excellent timing. I was just serving a prototype non-alcoholic cocktail. Please do try it, Master Sage.

Akira: Thank you very much. Um, are you all having some sort of meeting tonight?

Murr: Nope! Arthur and Oz were the only ones in here at first.

Arthur: When I mentioned that I wanted to experience the adult atmosphere of a bar, Master Oz offered to escort me.

Oz: I was already intending to come here tonight. I simply said that if you wished to follow me, you could do as you please.

Akira: I see. Then, everyone else…

Faust: Murr invited me to the bar earlier today. He said they were going to serve some great wine, so I thought I would see for myself.

Nero: Besides that, he was talkin' about a rumor that they had somethin' rare in stock.

Murr: Yessir! I said that we would treat 'em to some Bacchus wine, and they all decided to follow me!

Rutile: Yep, and I tagged along too!

Rutile: I heard that Shylock gets many bottles of that delicious wine delivered around this time of year.

It seemed that the three of them were all hoping for a drink called Bacchus wine.

Leaving aside the ever-sociable Rutile, it was a little surprising that Nero and Faust - who seem to prefer quiet evening drinks - had apparently accepted Murr's invitation without much of a fight.

Akira: (I guess it's some sort of special drink…?)

Arthur: What kind of beverage is this "Bacchus wine"?

Shylock: It was created by a wizard named Bacchus.

Shylock: Since I receive many bottles every year, it's become something of a tradition to proudly share it with my patrons.

Shylock: That's why I was discussing it with Murr - we were talking about how we would be delighted to share this year's vintage with everyone in the manor.

Nero: Huh. So you became buddies with a guy, and now ya just get tons of valuable booze delivered for free every year?

Shylock: Indeed. But it's not quite that simple.

Shylock: He sends the wine not only as a token of our friendship, but also as a personal challenge.

Murr: Because Bacchus wines are the product of the spirited rivalry with Bennett wines!

Akira: Huh? A rivalry?

Shylock: Bacchus is a wizard who has fully devoted his life to wine. He has spent so many years making wine that the very aroma of it envelops him, almost seeming to seep from his skin.

Shylock: But connoisseurs still agree that, when it comes to wine, Bennett remains superior.

Shylock: It was many years ago, now, that the Bennett family owned vineyards and produced wine. However, its impeccable reputation did not fade with time.

It must hurt Bacchus's pride to always be outdone by the sheer legacy of Bennett wine. That must be why one day, as Shylock told me, Bacchus had come into Bennett bar.

Murr: He was like, "What the hell is the big deal about Bennett wine? I'll settle this once and for all, so get me a drink!" I remember, 'cuz I was there!

Akira: You remember a story from your past?

Murr: Sure feels like it!

Murr: At first, Bacchus was super noisy and arrogant. But as soon as he tasted the wine that was served to him, he went all silent and still.

Shylock: Because he had dedicated his heart and soul to the art of winemaking, Bacchus must have understood at once why Bennett wines retained their widespread renown.

Shylock: As he took another sorrowful sip of his wine, he declared to me this: "Someday, my work will surpass this wine."

Shylock: Ever since that day, Bacchus has sent me cases of wine every year, requesting that I evaluate their performance. And every year, I kindly do just that.

Rutile: Huh…! So for Mr. Bacchus, Mr. Shylock is definitely a rival, isn't he?

Faust: Now that you mention it, Bacchus wines do have a reputation for improving in taste by the year.

Nero: I guess I get how it feels to taste somethin' so mindblowing that some part of ya changes.

Arthur: I think it's a wonderful thing to thrive off the spirit of defeat and pride, and then use that ambition to work even harder to make wine.

Arthur: Master Oz, have you ever tasted Bacchus wine?

Oz: …I think I have heard that name before, but I do not recall. I may have had it once.

Shylock: "Then, tonight, let us indulge in this delicacy once more." …Is what I would like to say.

Shylock: Unfortunately, we have yet to receive any wine from Bacchus this year.

Murr: Huuuh? Really? Normally, it would have arrived ages ago!

Akira: Maybe he's behind schedule in his winemaking…?

Shylock: If that were the case, I would have been alerted well in advance, but I still haven't heard a peep from him… It is certainly puzzling.

Bradley: --CHOO!!

Akira & Rutile: Waugh!!

Just then, with a loud sneeze, Bradley suddenly appeared before us.

Bradley: …..Hah? Looks like I'm back. Ugh, and of course Oz is here…

Nero: Heh, got blasted off again?

Bradley: Mithra decided to pick up some shitty plant, and its pollen went all over the damn place.

Bradley: Well, at least the place I landed at was just some boring shithole, so I made it back safe n' sound this time.

Rubbing at his nose, Bradley clutched a bottle of wine in his other hand.

All the gathered wizards' eyes quietly settled on the bottle's label, then went wide.

Arthur: Could that be…

Murr: That's the one! Bacchus wine!

Akira: Eh!?

I couldn't read the script on the label, but apparently it read "Bacchus".

To our shock, Bradley tipped the bottle upside down and shook it while making a dubious face.

Bradley: What, were y'all hopin' for a drink too? Sorry, but ya missed out. Polished it off myself. 

As it turns out, Bradley had been sent off to a rural town in the Western countryside, where Bacchus happened to have a vineyard.

Bradley: It was loud as hell around there, so I wanted to see what all the ruckus was about, but it turns out they were just preppin' for a harvest festival or some shit.

Bradley: There was a ton of wine sitting around, so naturally I went ahead 'n grabbed myself a little souvenir. 

Chapter 2

[Location: Manor bar, night]

Rutile: Are you saying you took that without permission? That won't do! You have to go back and pay properly.

Bradley: Payin' the price would make me a pretty shitty bandit, though, wouldn'it? Here, tell ya what. Y'all can keep the empty bottle.

Bradley tossed the bottle over the bar, and Shylock gracefully caught it in a swirl of his pipe's smoke. Furrowing his brows, he quietly examined the label.

Shylock: The date inscribed here… This is certainly this year's wine.

Shylock: The harvest festival seems to be proceeding apace, and production delays or mishaps are not to blame for the wine's absence..

Nero: Ya think he just, uh, forgot to send it?

Shylock: It's difficult to imagine. For as long as this arrangement has stood, Bacchus has never failed to send his wine for my review, even as the years marched steadily onwards.

Shylock: Even in the throes of illness, at a time when he was on the verge of turning to stone, he still made sure to send me a letter - one wherein he passionately described his confidence in that year's work.

Shylock honestly seemed to be at a loss as to why he hadn't heard a word from Bacchus. As he explained the situation, I tilted my head in thought.

Akira: (If it's really such an important exchange… then why hasn't Bacchus sent any wine this year?)

Shylock: …That said, waiting for wine that will never arrive is no way to find the truth of the matter.

Shylock: Tomorrow I shall go pay a visit to Bacchus myself. For this would be a most troubling, abrupt way for a long-standing tradition to come to an end.

Murr: You're not goin' anywhere without meeeee!

Boing! Murr leapt up and stood on one of the barstools along the counter.

Murr: Did you even hear a word our buddy Brad said? The town where Bacchus lives is having their grape harvest festival!

Murr: It'll be super duper fun! During the festival, along with tons of high-class wine, there'll be tasty grape treats and even grape-stomping events! C'mon, let's all go together!

Rutile: Wow, a grape harvest festival sounds like so much fun…!

Akira: Erm… but is it really okay? Shylock, this errand is important to you, and I wouldn't want us to interfere.

Shylock: Of course, you are more than welcome to accompany me. You referred to it as an "errand", but I feel that it's closer to meeting up with a dear friend.

Shylock: The festival will only get more exciting with an energetic, bustling crowd - and, most importantly, I would be truly happy if you all came along.

As though beckoning to our very hearts, Shylock's impossibly enticing smile had Rutile and I nodding excitedly.

Akira: Thank you very much, Shylock. If that's the case, then I would love to go to the harvest festival…!

Rutile: Count me in too, please! Mr. Faust, Mr. Nero, will you two be joining us?

Faust: I can't say I'm not tempted by Bacchus wine, but considering it's a wine festival in Western country… It sounds like it'll be rather hectic. Er, lively. 

Nero: Yeah, but it's not every day ya get the chance to taste real-deal Bacchus wine…

Faust & Nero: Hmmmm…

Akira: (They both look so deeply conflicted…)

Arthur: Can we really do grape stomping too? I feel as though I've read about the tradition before. I think it was something to do with stepping on grapes while singing…

Murr: Yeah, I've done it myself! I don't remember any of the songs we sang, but I remember jumping and stomping and squishing up the grapes aaaall night!

Arthur: As expected, the well-traveled Murr has had an impressive variety of experiences. So when you step on the grapes, are you barefoot?

Murr: Naturally! And then the soles of your feet get all purpley wine-stained! It feels like I'm turning into one of the grapes!

Arthur: That sounds amazing! I used to enjoy making mud footprints when I was a child, but I have yet to experience making wine footprints.

Arthur: Master Oz, I would be very happy if you were to join us. It sounds like a unique, exciting experience that doesn't come about very often.

Oz: If you wish to go, you can go on your own.

Shylock: If I may add, there is a Bacchus wine cellar in the town. Over time, countless rare and delectable wines have accumulated in Bacchus's own archives. In that way, along with enjoying fine wines, you may revel in the sublime time you spend making your choice.

Arthur: Oh, and Master Oz…

Arthur: I'm not old enough to drink wine yet, but… I would really like it if you would help choose a wine for me to drink when I grow up.

Oz: ……

Oz: Okay.

Whether they were attracted by the promise of wine, excited by the thrill of a festival, or just being tugged along by the momentum of the group -- the number of people in our party steadily increased.

Then, Murr suddenly focused back on Bradley, as if remembering something.

Murr: By the way, Brad -- how's this year's Bacchus wine?

Brad: Oh, ya want my opinion? I really think it was --

Shylock: --Shh.

Shylock pressed one finger against his own mouth, his lips parted as though they still carried the taste of something sweet. His deep red eyes, the color of late-summer fruit at the height of ripeness, narrowed teasingly.

Shylock: For the moment, please keep your answer secured in your heart. We have yet to see if my tongue reaches the same conclusion.

Bradley: …….

For an intense moment, their gazes intertwined. Then, after a silence as meaningful as if they were sharing an unspoken secret, Shylock let his fingers slowly drift away from his lips.

Seeing this, the corner of Bradley's mouth pulled into a grin.

Bradley: Interesting. Guess I'll be goin' with ya tomorrow.

Bradley: I look' forward to hearin' yer thoughts on this one, barkeep.

The next day. 

After a scenic broom ride from the Western elevator tower, we arrived at our destination in the countryside.

[Location: Western wine town, daytime]

Akira: Wow… the air smells amazing.

Oz: Yes. Because of the grapes.

The town was small and rural. Quaint brick buildings were clustered cozily together, and lush vineyards stretched out in every direction.

The main street was lined with shops, and decorative grape vines twisted up the walls and over roofs. The atmosphere radiated simplicity and pleasantness, and the aroma of sweet grapes filled the air.

Akira: Ah, and these matching outfits are perfect, too.

Shylock: These garments are in the traditional style of this area's harvest festival. We Western wizards prepared them to help immerse everyone in the thriving festive spirit.

Rutile: Thank you very much, Mr. Shylock. The vibrant colors are so enchanting!

Murr: Around here, adults and kids alike wear burgundy shades for grape harvest festivals. 'Cuz then if you spill wine or get splattered by the flying grapes, the clothes won't show the stain!

Nero: Uh, can ya run that by me again?

Faust: Flying grapes?

Bradley: At ragers like this, once yer drunk off yer ass, folks always start peltin' eachother with grapes. Mr. Barkeep was tellin' me about it yesterday.

Bradley: Squishin' up the runty fruit after the harvest is apparently s'posed to make for a killer crop next year. Some kinda superstition.

Bradley: But I guess, bein' shitfaced 'n all, they can't tell if the grapes are bein' thrown or if they're flyin' on their own.

Arthur: Ahaha!

Rutile: That sounds like a blast!

Just like Bradley said, the town was bustling with preparations for the harvest season.

Residents were all working hard, doing things like putting up flyers, hefting around casks of wine, and so on.

Akira: (It's chaotic and lively, like pre-festival activities in my world… It kind of creates its own unique sense of excitement, doesn't it?)

Just then, an older gentleman crossed the street before us, carrying a heavy-looking tray of glassware. 

Before I even thought to offer him assistance, he stumbled, and the precariously tray of glasses tipped over.

Akira: Oh --!

Chapter 3

Rutile: <<Orotonik Setomaouge>> 

Arthur: <<Pernoctant Nixzo>>

Before I could react, Arthur and Rutile came to the rescue. The glasses, which had nearly fallen, were lifted up and returned safely to the tray.

Seeing this, the man’s brows furrowed and he opened his mouth.

Man: Hey, are you guys wizards?

I braced myself for the worst, but then he broke into a smile.

Man: Well, thank you! You’ve been a great help! I dropped a glass yesterday, too… any more accidents and we wouldn’t have had enough left for the festival.

Shylock: I am glad to hear that we’ve been of assistance. But, in the future, please take care when carrying the glasses.

Shylock: After all, you may not always be able to rely on the presence of such kind and gentle wizards in your midst.

Perhaps overhearing our conversation, two women passing by stopped and called out to us curiously.

Woman: Oh, you’re wizards? Then you must be friends with Bacchus.

Murr: Yup! We’re here to visit him!

Woman: Ah, is that so? Bacchus should have told us such charming friends would be coming by.

Woman: We’re still getting everything ready, but since you’re here, please enjoy the harvest festival! There will be plenty of alcohol, as well as tasty snacks and sweets.

Arthur: Thank you for your hospitality.

Rutile: We’re looking forward to the festival!

The Western country sometimes harbours prejudice, and can reject wizards. But in this town, I can hardly sense a trace of that attitude.

Akira: People in this town are quite friendly to wizards, aren’t they? Everyone was talking to us as though we were already friends.

Shylock: Thanks to Bacchus. He has lived here for many years, and worked with generations of humans through his winemaking.

Shylock: The residents of this place must have grown used to the presence of wizards since times they feel are ancient.

Akira: So the townsfolk are so friendly because of their trust and familiarity with Mr. Bacchus.

Akira: (To make wine in the same place for so long, while maintaining enthusiastic and kind relationships with the humans around him… I wonder what kind of person Mr. Bacchus is.)

As I wondered about the mysterious Mr. Bacchus, I overheard chattering from people in the street.

Resident: To be honest, I was worried that the Great Calamity may have harmed our harvest this year, but now I see I had nothing to be afraid of.

Resident B: Yeah! The grapes are even tastier than usual, the wine is fantastic - it’s our best year ever!

Hearing this, the wizards looked at each other.

Faust: Best year ever…?

Bradley: ……

Murr: If the wine is really the best ever, Bacchus would have wanted Shylock to taste it before anyone else, and try to blow his mind once and for all!

Murr: Curiouser and curiouser~!

Shylock: I suppose this leaves me no choice but to ask him in person, after all. Let’s go pay a visit to his wine cellar, shall we?

[location: vineyard, daytime]

On the way to Bacchus’s wine cellar, I noticed a vineyard that I had been told he owned. The grapevines were lush and vibrant green.

The serene view was like something out of a painting. However, something unusual soon caught my eye.

Akira: …? Why are there still so many grapes on the vine?

Arthur: That’s strange. The town had such a bounty of grapes ready to go, and lots of wine prepared…

Shylock & Oz: ……

Rows and rows of grapevines were hanging heavy with fruit, as if they were still waiting to be harvested. 

Akira: (They did say this year was a bumper crop, but this is a bit much…)

Lost in thought, we all continued on our way past the vineyard.

[location: wine cellar]

The wine cellar was dimly lit, with no windows and only a few lights here and there. 

Barrels and casks of wine were neatly stacked along every wall and shelf of the closed-off space, like a storeroom.

???: Urghh… Haah, motherfucker…

In the middle of the aisle, a man sat all alone on the floor, surrounded by empty bottles.

He opened one bottle after another, and drained the last drops desperately from each one, as if he was parched.

Shylock: Bacchus. It has been some time. Please forgive me for taking the liberty of letting myself in.

The man jumped at the sound of Shylock’s shoes clicking on the stone as he approached, and looked up.

Bacchus: Shylock!? What are you doing here…! And Murr, too…

Murr: Wahoo!! Here I am!

The man was clearly startled by the sight of the two people before him. His eyes, as richly purple as a pair of red grapes, opened wide in surprise. Seeing this, my eyes widened in surprise, too.

Akira: (Huh…?)

To my shock, Mr. Bacchus was much younger than I had imagined. I would guess he was only a little older than Arthur.

His chestnut-colored hair was pulled into a ponytail, and he was wearing baggy trousers rolled up at the ankles, held up by suspenders. He looked like a teenage farm boy.

Arthur: Is this Bacchus…?

Rutile: You’re surprisingly young.

Murr: Eh, really? I’m pretty sure he’s around 1000 years old.

Akira: A thousand–!

Akira: (No matter how many times I’m reminded of the difference between a wizard’s age and appearance, it still surprises me…)

Shylock: Bacchus. Since you didn’t deliver wine to me this year, my patience ran out, and you have forced my hand. That is why I have come to see you.

Shylock: If this is a tactic in our ongoing battle, I should surrender this very moment. You’ve become quite good at this

Bacchus: ……

Bacchus didn’t respond to Shylock’s lighthearted tone. Instead, he turned his head away, and his voice sounded pained when he spoke.

Bacchus: I have no wine to send you this year. Or next year, or the year after that, or any more to follow.

Bacchus: Because I’ve stopped making wine.

Everyone: !?

Shylock: …Stopped?

Shylock blinked at the unexpected response.

Shylock: May I ask why? You love wine more than anyone else. So why…

Bacchus: – Yes, I loved it dearly. And that’s exactly the reason why I stopped.

The corner of his mouth turned up in a cynical smile. With eyes as glazed over as frosted glass, Bacchus began to tell his story.

Bacchus: The cornerstone of my winemaking has always been my grapes, grown with my own two hands. Without them, I can’t make Bacchus wine.

Bacchus: So naturally, on that fateful night when the Great Calamity struck, I fortified wards, readied my magic, and risked my life to defend the vineyard.

Bacchus: But the moon only got nearer and nearer, so much closer than I had ever seen it… Before I knew it, I got overwhelmed and lost consciousness. And when I woke up, I saw…

Bacchus: See, it should have been far too early for the harvest, but the grapes were all ripe; there were tons of them, and they were all plump and magnificent.

Akira: Eh…?

Oz: …That was the Great Calamity’s impact?

Bacchus: Yes, it was. I know it sounds unbelievable. I first thought the Great Calamity had damaged my crops… Obviously, I was going to prune out and remove the affected fruit right away.

Bacchus: But the grapes were so marvelous that my curiosity was piqued, and I wondered what kind of wine they would make.

Bacchus: It was just a stupid impulse, but I still put the grapes in a barrel, let them ferment, and then crushed them. Then…

– The wine was delicious, Mr. Bacchus explained.

He said it was a fine, high-quality wine, with a flavor like none other he had tasted before.

Bacchus: Can you believe it? Even though it hadn’t been aged yet? Everything about this wine is unbelievable.

Arthur: But the wine was made with grapes that were affected by the Great Calamity, right? Is it truly safe to drink?

Bacchus: I was worried about that for a minute, too, but I didn’t feel any ill effects or discomfort even days after drinking it. It’s a perfectly ordinary… or, rather, extraordinary wine.

Bacchus: When I asked some townspeople what I should do, they were all kind of scared and thought it sounded ominous, but soon enough they wanted to try a sip.

Nero: So their curiosity was stronger than their fear.

Faust: That sounds like Western country, all right.

Apparently, the townspeople insisted that Bacchus let them sample this curious wine.

When he did, everyone raved about it. Dreamily, their cheeks flushed rosy as they gave their compliments.

Everyone was captivated by the taste, and word of the wine spread quickly throughout the town.

Bacchus: Everyone immediately showered me with praise. Saying it was almost a shame to give any away to customers, or that it would sell like hotcakes at the harvest festival.

Bacchus: I was so happy that, at their request, I continued to make wine with the affected grapes for a while.

Bacchus: But one day, I realized it. This was not my wine.

His voice wavers and weakens, as if a fire in him had been extinguished.

Bacchus: That damned wine born from a single night’s anomaly was more praised and celebrated than anything I had devoted my entire life to creating.

Bacchus: So, what the hell have I been doing this whole time?

Bacchus: Every day, I check on the vineyards to determine the right time to harvest; I’m particular about not only which grapes I use, but the barrels I put them in; I even agonize over how long to age each barrel…

Bacchus: Since I realized this, though, every day I spend doing it feels more and more hollow.

Mr. Bacchus hung his head and sighed. A strong scent of wine wafted off him.

I couldn’t tell if it was coming from Bacchus himself, as Shylock had mentioned before, or from one of the empty wine bottles strewn on the floor around him.

Faust, Rutile, Nero: ……

Shylock: …Is that what those are?

Following Shylock’s gaze, we saw a large pile of fresh wine barrels. Bacchus spits, disgusted. 

Bacchus: I can make as much of that stuff as you want, whenever you want it.

Bacchus: It’s convenient. It takes no time, no commitment, no skill, no nothing. Just pick the grapes, squeeze ‘em, and you’re done.

Bacchus: And to top it all off, thanks to the Great Calamity, no matter how much we harvest, the fields regrow their fruit in the blink of an eye!

Akira: …Is that so.

I’m reminded of the peculiar scene we saw earlier. A lush vineyard full of grapes that looked ready to harvest.

Bradley: Yer talkin’ about that one field, right?

Akira: (So it was due to the effect of the Great Calamity…)

Bacchus: If I keep making wine with those grapes, I’ll corner the market. My name will be known far and wide, and in no time at all, my reputation might even surpass that of Bennett’s.

Bacchus: But no matter how much people love it, and how much it’s sought after… it’s just someone else’s wine with my name on it.

Bacchus: There’s no value in that.

Arthur: That's…

Rutile: But, to stop making wine after so many years of doing it…

Bacchus: I used to be proud of my wines, which were produced with a lot of hard work, not to mention centuries of trial and error. But I don’t feel that way anymore.

Bacchus: What if now, no matter how hard I try, people only ever say that Bacchus’s masterpiece wine was that from the year of the Great Calamity’ influence? 

Bacchus: I just can’t handle that…

Mr. Bacchus looked frail, hunched over where he sat on the floor. Though he looked like a young boy, his expression was exhausted and worn-out like a threadbare piece of cloth.

I only knew from Shylock’s stories how many years of thought and care he put into his winemaking. 

However, just imagining the sense of despair and helplessness that wrapped around his heart, it felt as though there was something caught in my throat.

Akira: Mr. Bacchus…

At that moment, an exasperated voice rang out.

Bradley: Damn, just listenin’ to your whining is makin’ my ears hurt.

Shylock: Bradley.

Bradley: So the second a convenient story popped up, ya didn’t waste a moment throwin’ away everything you’d built 'till then.

Bradley: That’s cool and all. But what’s the end goal here?

Bradley: Don’t get so caught up in yer unlucky streak that ya start feelin’ like you’re doomed to be a loser.

Bacchus: …I don’t feel like a loser. The truth is that I already lost.

Bacchus: I lost to the taste of that wine, made with no effort, no passion, and no love.

Bradley: Oh, I get it now. Then I guess ya won’t mind if I stake my claim on that vineyard then, right?

Akira: Huh?

Shylock: ……

Nero: Oi……!

Bradley: You heard the guy. He quit makin’ wine, which means he won’t be needin’ the vineyards anymore.

Bradley: Go ahead n’ drink yer sorrows away, Bacchus. I’ll be puttin’ the vineyard to good use n’ makin’ a killing on wine.

Murr: Count me in too!

Arthur: Murr!?

Murr: A vineyard bathed in the power of the Great Calamity, right? It sounds fascinating! I want to study it!

Bradley: That’s fine. If I’m gonna make this a real powerhouse, I’m gonna need help. I’ll give ya a piece of the action.

Bradley: Man, it’s been a long time since I put my money on anythin’ but bettin’ on fights.

Murr: Yay! Starting today, I’m the owner of a vineyard!

Bradley: Hold it! I’m still the owner. Don’t be takin’ advantage of my kindness 'n then immediately blowin’ it, dude.

Faust: Oi… you can’t leave those two alone. They never know when a joke’s gone too far.

Oz: One is cunning and calculating, and the other is completely nonsensical.

Nero: Hey, you. At this rate they’re gonna end up taking it for real.

Bacchus: ….Ugh…. I don’t care anymore. Do whatever you want.

Though he looked upset for a moment, Mr. Bacchus gave up completely.

Shylock: Bacchus…

For a moment, Mr. Bacchus and Shylock’s eyes met. But Mr. Bacchus simply got up and made his way out of the wine cellar, without saying another word.

(Location: Bacchus’ vineyards, daytime)

Bacchus: …Why even bother looking at this?

Bacchus: Ironic, isn’t it? We’ve been praying year in and year out for a bountiful harvest.

Shylock: Are you certain about this?

Shylock: You’re letting go of everything you’ve nurtured, everything you’ve accomplished.

Bacchus: …Shylock.

Bacchus: It’s fine. I don’t need it anymore. Just leave me alone.

Shylock: …Is that so. I understand.

Shylock: Then, if you’re sure, then I wish to claim this vineyard in my name.

Bacchus: …Huh?

Shylock: I so dearly anticipate receiving your wines every year.

Shylock: But if that is no longer possible, I would like to have control over your fields; that way, when you wish to make wine again, your vineyards will be in excellent condition for you to resume use.

Shylock: Now, if you’ll excuse me. I have some preparations to attend to.

Bacchus: Hey, Shylock…!

(Location: Bacchus’s wine cellar)

When Shylock returned, he surprised us all with his declaration.

Bradley: A game?

Murr: Us against Shylock?

Shylock: Yes. I challenge you both to a game for the Bacchus vineyards.

Murr: Motion dismissed! The vineyard is already ours.

Shylock: Objection. If Bacchus threw away the rights to the vineyards, I have as much a right to pick them up as you do, do I not?

Bradley: Big words from someone who’s bargin’ in late. Well, no harm in hearin’ ya out, I guess.

Instead of thanking him, Shylock smiled thinly.

Shylock: Oz. I have one small favor to ask, if I may…

Shylock leaned close to Oz and whispered in his ear. Then, Oz cast his spell.

Oz: <<Vox Nox>>.

Immediately, many bottles of wine appear in front of them.

Akira: Ah?!

Rutile: Tons of wine…!

The wines were all different. The shapes of the bottles are all varied, and the style of the labels all give different atmospheres. Each one was elegant, but somewhat old-fashioned as well.

Peering at the bottles, Murr piped up.

Murr: This must be Shylock’s collection!

Nero: Seriously?

Faust: I’ve only heard rumors…

The older wizards all seemed awestruck.

Apparently, Shylock’s collection is legendary among older wizards for the rarities he has amassed over the years.

Shylock opened his mouth leisurely, well aware that his wines were attracting attention.

Shylock: Now, let me explain the game I proposed.

Shylock: At the harvest festival in town, you two will sell the Calamity-influenced wine. I will sell wines from the collection you see before you.

Shylock: Whoever sells the most bottles of wine will be crowned the victor.

Shylock: …What do you think? You’re both men who enjoy playing the odds, aren’t you?

Shylock smiles, tilting his head with a provocative look.

Bradley and Murr both smiled equally fearlessly, their eyes twinkling and alight.

Murr: Alright! It’s a deal!

Bradley: Don’t come cryin’ to us when ya get stomped, though.

Subsequently, Murr and Bradley declared a strategy meeting and left.

Faust: I’m not sure if it’s appropriate, a game like this.

Akira: It seems that Shylock’s wine collection is really valuable…

Shylock: You’re right, each wine in my collection is very valuable. But the wines Bacchus creates are of equal importance to me.

Shylock: If it’s to preserve and return my old friend’s vineyards, I will fight and sacrifice whatever I must.

Akira: Shylock…

Arthur: Shylock. Please, let us help you in this competition.

Arthur: If this is something that our friend Shylock truly values, it’s valuable to us as well.

Rutile: I agree with Prince Arthur. Let us work with you to protect the fields.

Rutile: Let’s all pitch in to get Mr. Bacchus’s vineyards back!

Shylock: …Are you sure?

Akira: Of course. Please let me help you. Will you all lend a hand as well?

The Eastern wizards and Oz all nodded.

Oz: If it is what the Sage wishes.

Faust: I may not be much help, though.

Shylock: Thank you all from the bottom of my heart. Your presence alone reassures me. Our opponent is the leader of an infamous band of thieves, after all.

Nero: That guy is crazy smart in these kinda battles. But he still ain’t a mind reader, and we got a shot if we play our cards right. Let’s give ‘em hell.

Rutile: Mr. Nero, you seem to know a lot about him. It’s like you’ve known him for a long time…

Nero: Ah, not really, I’ve just heard rumors along those lines, or somethin’…

Akira: A-ah, well, let’s not waste any more time and start preparing for the competition.

Shylock: Yes, I agree. Let us begin with a discussion about how to run a storefront.

And so, we began our preparations for the festival in earnest.

(Location: Wine town plaza, daytime)

Before we knew it, the day of the harvest festival arrived.

The small town was packed with tourists who had come for the wine.

Murr: It’s this year’s most desirable wine! One sip and you’ll go to heaven! Or maybe you’ll drown in it and go to hell!

Murr: Come one, come all! You’ll regret it forever if you don’t buy it! We have tastings, too!

Tourist: What’s all this crowd for? Is this wine that good? The bottles don’t seem to have labels…

Tourist: It’s the best wine I’ve ever had! It just has a bit of an unusual name - “Calamity Wine”!

Tourist: “Calamity Wine”?

Murr: A special, exceptional wine, born from the influence of the Great Calamity itself! There’s nothing else like it in the world!

Tourist: This one…? Mmmm… Ah! It truly is excellent!

Tourist: I’ve never tasted anything like it.

Bradley and Murr had removed Mr. Bacchus’ label from the bottles, and began marketing it as “Calamity Wine”.

It seemed to be a strategy to attract attention using the fact that it was affected by the Great Calamity as a thrilling sales pitch.

Bradley: In any other country, folks would steer clear of it, but I know this Western crowd can’t resist curiosity and stimulation. They ain’t gonna pass up a drink named after the Great Calamity. 

Akira: A-ah, I see how it is…

Still, some people were hesitant.

Tourist: If it’s “Calamity Wine”, that means it was made with some kind of calamitous influence, right? Wouldn’t that make it dangerous to drink?

Murr: Maybe! It could be super dangerous! What if you drink it and grapes start growing out of your body? Or all your blood turns into wine?

Murr: Doesn’t the mere thought of it make your heart race with excitement? What a treat to be terrified and tipsy at the same time!

Tourist: Huh, is that right…!? Okay, I’ll have a drink! Give me a bottle!

Murr: It never fails!!

Murr used his skillful storytelling to win the hearts of one customer after another, sparking their interest and sometimes even provoking them, resulting in a steady influx of sales. 

Bradley, on the other hand, sat at the storefront and drank his Calamity Wine without saying a word to a single customer.

Bradley: Man, drinkin’ in the daytime is the best. There’s plenty'a wine to go around.

Akira: (I wonder if it’s okay for him to leave everything up to Murr, and not be serving customers at all… Maybe he isn’t taking this seriously…?)

Nero: Huh… is that how he’s gonna play this…

Brad: Hah… Damn, that’s good! And I can drink as much as I want.

Tourist: …Seeing that guy is making me want to stick around and have a drink.

Tourist: Ah, me too…! Do you want to get in line to try and buy what he’s having?

Upon closer inspection, more and more people on the street were stopping and gathering around, interested in what Bradley was enjoying so heartily. 

Akira: (Or maybe this is what he was aiming for the whole time…!?)

I found my eyes drawn to Bradley, and he smiled at me wryly.

Bradley: There’s more than one way to do business, kiddo.

Meanwhile, Shylock, who had set up shop in the stall next to Bradley and company, was not about to be outdone.

Tourist: This is amazing…! So many fantastic wines…

Tourist: There are even wines from a winery in the Eastern country that closed down a long time ago. Are these really for sale?

Shylock: Yes, of course. And they are only available for today, so please don’t miss out.

Tourist: Oh… this wine was my grandfather’s favorite, back when he was still alive.

Shylock: My, your grandfather must have been quite discerning. Compared to the others, that wine is rather young, but it is a marvelous drink that is said to carry a hundred years’ worth of enjoyment in one glass.

Shylock: The flavor is soft and elegant on the tongue… If you decide to try it, I hope you can enjoy the taste of your grandfather’s memories.

With an extensive collection of rare wines that would make any wine connoisseur swoon, and Shylock’s elegant and masterful service, the wines were selling like hotcakes.

The other wizards and I were helping as well, contributing to the overall sales.

Nero: Here’re some complimentary snacks. It’s just simple seared bacon and cheese, but it would pair well with a glass of wine.

Tourist: They’re even serving snacks? That’s very thoughtful.

Tourist: Over here, please, sir!

Faust: More and more people are showing up… I think it would be a better idea to leave the cooking to you.

Nero: Then you’d have to take over the customer service, Teach. You’ll be the first face the customers see, so you gotta be friendly n’ approachable, got it?

Faust: Approachable…?

Nero: Don’t gimme that look. Even though it’s customer service, it’s still just a festival stall, so you can be casual about it.

Faust: I’m no good at that kind of thing, no matter how casual. 

Nero: It’ll be fine. You’re a quick learner. Look, here’s a customer.

Tourist: Excuse me.

Faust: ……

Nero: Welcome. If you’re lookin’ for snacks, my friendly colleague over here will be happy to serve you.

Faust: …Here you go. Please enjoy.

Tourist: Oh, you’re a pretty good cook, aren’t you? Alright, I’ll dig in.

(fade to black and back)

Rutile: Thank you very much. But are you sure it’s okay to spoil me like this?

Tourist: Watching you drink is so refreshing that it’s making my own wine taste better. Here, drink, drink.

Rutile: Okay, if you insist! …Hah, it’s so delicious!

Tourist: How does that young man do it… He downed it all in one go, and his face is hardly flushed at all…

Tourist: How many bottles have you gone through on your own, now?

Bradley: …Huh?

Bradley: …Oi, Murr. Bring me ten bottles of Calamity Wine. I can’t be losin’ to that pipsqueak.

Tourist: Wow, this guy is amazing too…! The empty bottles are piling up around them!

Rutile: Wow, Mr. Bradley, you can hold your alcohol very well!

Bradley: Naturally. I can drink this kinda booze like it’s water.

Rutile: That reminds me of something Dr. Figaro told me! He said that newborn babies are sometimes bathed in alcohol instead of water! …Pwah. I’d like another bottle, please~!

Bradley: I gotcha. Here.

Tourist: Hey, who do you think will win? My money’s on the blonde one.

Tourist: I’m gonna go with the sexy, scarred one!

Before long, a betting pool had been started for their drinking contest, and the crowd was abuzz with energy.

Rutile: It feels bad to be the only one drinking. Please have a drink as well, Lord Oz! Mr. Shylock said you should try some.

Oz: Shylock said…

Rutile: Mr. Shylock said that, even though you’re serious and won’t talk much about how something tastes, you still have a discerning palate.

Oz: I have lived a long time, and had many opportunities to speak. I don’t feel the need to take them all.

Rutile: I’m sure there are subtleties that only someone with your experience can taste. Can you tell me what you think about this wine?

Oz: ……

Oz accepted the glass of wine, and brought it to his lips.

Oz: …It is thick and heavy, like a pitch-black night. It is a taste that should be savored over time, not consumed in one swallow.

Rutile: Wow, that description is perfect for this wine…! It definitely tastes heavy.

Rutile: As expected of Lord Oz, your words are perfectly chosen to say exactly what you mean. How about this wine over here?

Oz: …It has a unique aftertaste. The fruity aroma lingers even after it’s gone down your throat. It’s a sensation that will only be understood by people who have experienced it.

Tourist: Ah… What thoughtful sentiments… Perhaps the less time you spend talking about a wine, the more compelling its flavors become.

Tourist: Hey, is that guy a wine critic or something? You see, he has a certain dignified air.

Tourist: Oh, no doubt he is a well-known expert in his field. I can tell just by watching.

(fade to black and back)

Tourist: Haah, it gets kinda boring just drinking wine all day…

Arthur: Are you thirsty? Here, have a drink.

Tourist: Hey, this is wine, right? Aren’t you a little young to be drinking?

Akira: Please don’t worry. It’s a wine glass, but the drink is only grape juice.

Arthur: Drinking juice from this glass makes it look like I’m drinking wine. It’s a little cool, isn’t it?

Tourist: Yes! It makes you look much more grown-up…

Tourist: Man, now I want some grape juice too. I’d like a glass!

Mother: Oh, something that isn’t wine. Excuse me, do you mind if I bring my kids over?

Akira: Sure, go ahead! Anyone is welcome.

Arthur: Madam, you seem to have a lot of bags. If you aren’t in a hurry, I can get you a chair so you can rest your feet.

Mother: Well, thank you, that would be lovely.

Child: You’re so cool! You look like a prince from a storybook!

Arthur: Haha, what an honor.

Akira: (You’re saying that to someone who’s an actual prince…!!)

Thanks to the efforts and cooperation of all the wizards, the flow of customers was steady, and both shops were thriving.

Because the two shops were side by side, customers who stopped at one shop would move along to the other, and so on.

Akira: (For now, the amount of wine sold appears to be about even… but…)

Faust: This is no good. The wine should be here by now…

The prepared wines from Shylock’s collection were quickly running low.

At this rate, we would have no wine left to sell.

(Location: Western wine town market, day)

Arthur: Bradley’s team seems to have plenty of energy to spare.

Nero: ‘Cuz they can make as much wine as they want with their magic. As long as there’s still customers, they’ll keep rakin’ in the cash. We don’t have that luxury.

Even if customers come, we won’t make any sales if we have no wine. When it comes to sheer numbers, the odds are against us.

As we quietly absorbed the facts, the few remaining wines were steadily selling out.

Rutile: At this rate, Mr. Bacchus’s vineyards will…

As the atmosphere grew tense with anxiety, Shylock’s calm voice got our attention.

Shylock: We have yet to play our final hand.

Shylock: <Inviebelle>.

As soon as he recited his spell, a bottle of wine appeared in his hand. The dark bottle was polished to an enticing shine.

Akira: A new bottle…?

Before I could even ask what it was, Murr’s eyes narrowed at the bottle.

Murr: Ah, that’s Bennett wine.

Akira: Uh…

I almost couldn’t believe it. I looked at Shylock in shock.

Akira: (Bennett wine? But, that wine is…)

Akira: Aren’t there very few bottles left…?

I had been told that by none other than Shylock.

He had explained that there was a limited amount of Bennett wine left, and as no more was being produced, what remained was very precious.

Shylock himself was greatly looking forward to opening and drinking those last bottles; he anticipated seeing who it’s with, when he does it, and under what circumstances.

My face went pale, but Shylock simply nodded elegantly at me, as if to confirm that I was correct in my “no way!” response.

Shylock: Indeed, this wine is very dear to me.

Shylock: But if this is not a special occasion on which to use it, then what is?

Shylock: Besides - haven’t you learned this of me by now? I hate to lose.

Saying that, he glanced sidelong at Murr. Although his voice was languid, his unfaltering smile was like a blade pointed at Murr’s throat.

Murr narrowed his eyes coldly in return, like a cat facing off with its prey.

Murr: Of course. I can still read ya like a book, Shylock.

Bradley: Ahahaha!

Raucous laughter interrupted the moment. Bradley sidled up and clapped his hand on Shylock’s back, looking thrilled.

Bradley: Looks like you’re gettin’ pretty heated too, huh? What a damn treat. Ya don’t see this very often.

Akira: Shylock…

Faust & Nero: ……

The gathered wizards all seemed to be at a loss for words. Shylock hadn’t said much, but he didn’t need to - he had made his proposition clear.

But selling this precious wine would be on a whole different level from those in the now-exhausted collection.

Shylock: Don’t go pouting, now. This is my game, and I intend to win.

Akira: But…

Oz: This competition was Shylock’s decision.

Oz: As long as the person involved has made up their mind, there is no point in interfering.

Akira: (…It still doesn’t feel appropriate…)

Something that Shylock had dedicated his heart and soul to, carefully guarded, and loved so dearly, was going to be given away.

Just the thought of it made my heart ache.

???: Wait, please!

– At that moment, someone rushed towards us.

Shylock: Bacchus?

Bacchus: I have wine! Here, sell this!

He breathlessly recited his spell, and many cases of wine appeared.

Rutile & Arthur: …!

Oz: This wine…

Bacchus: These are vintage bottles from my archives that I’ve made over the years. If you need wine to sell, sell these!

Keeping up his desperate momentum, Bacchus rushed up to Shylock and bowed his head deeply.

Bacchus: Shylock, I’m sorry…! I apologize for causing you so much trouble.

Bacchus: You even sold so much of your precious collection to try and get my vineyards back. 

Bacchus: So I can hardly get away with sitting around and sulking any longer…!

Shylock: ……

Shylock didn’t offer a word of comfort nor reproach to Mr. Bacchus, whose body trembled as he continued apologizing.

Instead, Shylock narrowed his eyes and put his hand on Bacchus’s shoulder, as if to calm him.

Shylock: Come, then. The true competition has just begun.

(fade to black and back)

Rutile: Everyone! We have Bacchus wine over here!

Arthur: Please take this chance to taste the history of Bacchus’s magnificent winemaking!

As the Sage’s wizards worked, Mr. Bacchus himself reached out to guests at the front of the shop.

Bacchus: Even though there’s no new batch this year, we are re-releasing many wines from previous years! Older and more recent wines alike are available!

Tourist: Bacchus wine?

Tourist: Wow, they’re right. So many discontinued wines from past years…!

As soon as we set the new  stock out on the storefront, rumors of Bacchus wines spread throughout the market, and guests began to gather in no time.

Tourist: Is this really the rumored Bacchus wine? I wanted to try it for the first time this year.

Tourist: You’re going to love it. …Ah, this wine! I’ve been looking for it for ages, and couldn’t find it anywhere!

Nero: Whoah, that must be a new record time for pullin’ in new customers…

Akira: (Bacchus’ wine really is famous, isn’t it…!)

People who were buying Bacchus wine for the first time. People who had tasted it countless times before. A wide variety of customers from all walks of life were flooding the shop.

Among them, there were some folks who seemed to be regulars, and they eagerly made small talk with Mr. Bacchus.

Tourist: Bacchus, the wine from the year before last was delicious. My wife asked me to see if I could bring more home.

Bacchus: Eh? Th-thank you!

Arthur: Bacchus. I can’t find any wines from that year. Are there any left, or have we sold out?

Bacchus: There should be some in this case over here. Give me a moment, I’ll dig it out.

Tourist: Excuse me! Can I get one of these?

Tourist: May I have two bottles of this wine?

Akira: Yes, coming right up! Oz, I’m sorry to ask, but I need a hand… Could you take their payment, please?

Oz: Very well. …Give me your money.

Tourist: Uhh…

The word spread quickly from person to person, and the store was soon bustling again. Even local townsfolk sometimes stopped to lend a hand at the shop. 

Resident: You guys seem busy! I’m free right now, so I can help you out a little.

Faust: My savior. We were just in need of more manpower.

Tourist: Ah, isn’t this nostalgic… this is what my deceased father used to drink.

Tourist: Oh, here’s the wine from ten years back! I’m so happy. I missed that year’s vintage.

Rutile: You’re in luck, then! We have plenty of bottles in stock. Feel free to take a look.

People flocked to peruse Bacchus’ wine, and many seemed to have gotten their hands on something they had been searching for. 

Each customer’s face was aglow with joy, as if they had been reunited with an old friend.

Shylock leaned over and whispered to me, in a voice so soft that only I could hear.

Shylock: Although this scene seems to have made you speechless, it has helped you to understand what I meant, hasn’t it?

Shylock: You can feel how beloved Bacchus wine is, and how it has made a home in the hearts of many.

I was sure that Bacchus, too, understood what Shylock was saying. Bacchus’s voice and expression only continued to brighten as he sold his wine.

Bacchus: Thank you! See you soon!

After some time, the crowd began to settle down. An elderly guest with thick glasses walked up to the shop.

Guest: I heard that Bacchus himself is here… Oh, you must be him.

Shylock: Unfortunately, I am not. Bacchus is this gentleman over here.

Surprised at Mr. Bacchus’s youthful appearance, the guest’s eyes widened behind the lenses of their glasses. 

Nero: Hah, I’d be surprised too. That guy is actually way older than me.

Guest: Wow… Even long before my grandfather was born, Bacchus was making wine here!

Faust: He was probably making wine before your great-great-great-grandfather was born.

Bacchus: Well, can I get something for you?

Guest: No, I just wanted to offer you my gratitude.

Bacchus: Gratitude?

Guest: My family has been enjoying Bacchus wine for generations. I have looked forward to it year after year.

Guest: It’s a shame that there is no new wine this year, but I look forward to tasting the next one. Hopefully, I’ll be sharing it with my children and great-grandchildren.

Guest: Your wine is one of the greatest pleasures of my lifetime. Thank you for continuing your work for so long.

As he spoke, the guest reached out for a handshake. 

Mr. Bacchus gratefully grasped the guest’s wrinkled hand, squeezing it like a lifeline.

Bacchus: …Thank you so much.

With that, the harvest festival came to an end.

And, naturally, the results of the wine-selling competition were tabulated…

Bradley: 60, 61…

Shylock: 59, 60…

The empty wine crates were counted, and compared with the sales records from the day. Together, they formed a final count of each booth’s sales.

Shylock: …How satisfying. We sold exactly 400 bottles.

Rutile & Arthur: … …

Faust & Nero: … …

Bradley: …398.

Bacchus: …We won!!

Rutile & Arthur & Akira: Hooray!!

The sales at both booths had been steady, and it was an intense competition. However, in the end, it seemed there was a surge in sales, allowing Shylock to pull ahead by a slim margin.

The wizards on Shylock’s team each let out sounds of joy and relief.

Faust: Whew…

Nero: Man, that had me on the edge of my seat.

Akira: Shylock, congratulations!

Shylock: Thank you. But I really owe this victory to Bacchus, for providing his marvelous wines.

Shylock: And above all else, I offer my greatest thanks to you all for your cooperation. Even Sir Oz performed his role as salesperson most elegantly.

Arthur: Lord Oz. Your customer service was definitely wonderful!


Akira: (That was definitely a unique sight… Oz taking payment kind of felt more like a shakedown…)

Shylock: And you two? You have no complaints about this, I trust?

Bradley: Hah. If it can’t beat out Bacchus’s wine, there’s no point in even havin’ the field. I’ll hand it over.

Bradley: But the profits from this li'l game are still all mine.

Nero: Yer pretty shrewd, even though ya lost.

Bradley: Cost a’ labor, naturally.

Murr: I’ve gotten enough data from my research on Calamity Wine. I’m washing my hands of the fields!

Murr: And besides, it was super fun to see Shylock get all serious about winning!

Murr: How about it, Shylock? Didja have fun, too?

Shylock: Hmm. I think I’ll leave that to your imagination.

Akira: (Well, it seems like he enjoyed himself…)

The tension from earlier had completely melted away. In its place, a feeling of relief and pleasant fatigue washed over us.

Looking like a weight was lifted off his shoulders, Mr. Bacchus walked up to Shylock.

Bacchus: …Shylock. You saved me today. I can’t thank you enough.

Bacchus: But… did you really have to go that far? Even though you wanted to win, you didn’t have to give up such a valuable wine collection for a game…

Shylock: Because to me, it was a very serious competition. I gave it everything I had. That’s all there is to it.

Shylock: And I knew you would have a change of heart, because I know you.

Shylock: Truly, thank you for your help today.

Bacchus: Shylock…

Shylock: Now that we have braved the storm, let us celebrate the newfound sunshine.

Shylock produced a bottle of wine, twisting the cork out with a well-trained hand. 

Bacchus: Hey, that’s Bennett wine…

Shylock: Indeed - the very wine that you protected. If you don’t mind, I would like to share a drink with you.


Bacchus chewed at his lip, glancing hesitantly between Shylock and the offered glass of wine.

The deep red wine swirling in the glass matched the color of Shylock’s eyes. Bennett’s legacy, the history of its rise and fall, was crafted into this drink.

Bacchus: …Of course I’ll drink it. Thank you.

Mr. Bacchus accepted the glass of wine. Expertly, he turned the glass in his hand, appreciated the aroma, and then took a sip.

Then, after he swallowed quietly, a sob escaped his drawn lips. His face crumpled, and he started to cry.

Bacchus: …Uu…. It’s delicious…

Bacchus: It’s the most delicious, and the most frustrating…! This is the impeccable flavor that haunts me, that I want to surpass more than anything…!

He groaned to himself, tears streaking down his cheeks. His voice wavered, nearly breaking from the pain and passion contained within his words.

Words of love, seeping out like blood from a beaten heart.

Shylock looked at him softly, his dark eyelashes lowering.

Shylock: …It’s good to hear you say that.

Murr: Hey, Brad - from the moment you drank the Calamity wine that first time, you must have known it was a losing fight, right?

Murr: If you’re a true connoisseur, I doubt you would have put so much faith into an inadequate wine. You could probably taste that the wine wouldn’t hold up.

Bradley: There’s no foolin’ ya, huh?

Bradley: Yeah, it was no real Bacchus wine. ’S a shame there’s no real batch this year, I’ve got a real hankerin’ now.

Bradley: But at least we made that poor bastard quit his snivelin’. His cowardly face was so infuriating, I wanted to slap that look right off'a him.

Murr: I see! Even though you lost, you’re still taking it as a victory!

Murr: Well, I for one loved the Calamity Wine! Especially the name!

The day after the harvest festival competition. We once again visited Bacchus’s vineyards.

Rutile: The vineyards have safely been returned to M. Bacchus’s care. They’re his again, but…

Nero: There’s still the issue of the mutant crops.

Bacchus: I tried destroying the Calamity vines and replacing them with my own crops several times, but they came back in full force each time. If this keeps up, I won’t be able to make my own wine.

Bacchus: Since you all went to such lengths to get my field back, I’m hesitant to beg for another favor, but…

Bacchus: I would like to make a formal request of you, Sage’s Wizards. Please, do something to fix my fields.

Arthur: Of course. In order to truly return the fields to your control, I’ll give it my all.

Faust: In order to purge the Calamity’s influence, we’ll need to ascertain the extent of the abnormalities. Before we can do anything, we’ll have to do some research, and look at…

Murr: Ooh! I did my research! I was super careful, and looked over every last leaf of the vineyard!

Bradley: This guy, seriously. He was fully skippin’ meals to investigate it.

Shylock: Well then, Murr. Did your investigations yield any insight?

[Location: Bacchus vineyards, day]

Murr: As evidenced by the fact that Calamity Wine is harmless, then while the Great Calamity’s influence is extensive, it’s not super serious. 

Murr: If all of us cast purification magic on the vineyard, it should be a breeze to clear up!

Akira: Really?!

Rutile: That’s fantastic! Then, let’s not waste time…!

The air was abuzz with anticipation, and Bradley caught Bacchus’s eye with a piercing gaze.

Bradley: We’ll be purifyin’ the corruption, but don’t get yer hopes up for much more.

Bradley: Got it?

Bacchus: … It doesn’t matter. Please, just do it.

The wizards all raised their hands towards the affected fields.

Shylock: Then, let’s begin.

Shylock: Inviebelle.

Bacchus joined the other wizards facing the fields, and they all followed Shylock’s lead.

Murr: Eanyu Rambul!

Bradley: Adnopotensum.

Faust: Satillquinart Mullcreed.

Nero: Adnodus Omnis.

Oz: Vox Nox.

Arthur: Pernoctant Nixzo.

Rutile: Orotnik Setomaouge!

A gust of wind swirled up from the ground and tore through the vineyard. The vines swayed in the wind, then started to shine with bright white light.

When the wind settled, all the lush, fruit-bearing grapevines from mere moments ago had vanished.

Oz: The purification is done.

Just as Murr said, the Great Calamity’s influence hadn’t been too difficult to remove. But despite that, nobody could celebrate.

Akira: The fields…

Faust & Nero: ………

The field before us was desolate. 

It was as though the Calamity had frozen time to preserve the endless harvest, and with the successful purification of its influence, time had moved ahead all at once. Vines withered, branches snapped and littered the ground, and the whole field became overgrown with weeds.

Shylock: Because of the Great Calamity’s influence, the crops did not need tending for quite a while.

Shylock: Now that the abnormal fertility has been cleansed from the fields, they have simply returned to their natural state.

Rutile: So that’s the end of it… Such an important vineyard…

Arthur: …….

Akira: (And right after Mr. Bacchus had rediscovered his motivation to make wine…)

Everyone’s gazes gathered on Mr. Bacchus. 

To be faced with the devastated remains of his fields - it must be heartbreaking. Of course everyone was worried about him.


Bacchus: I’ll just have to start over from scratch, then. Now’s a good opportunity to revise my approach.

Bacchus: I’ll adjust the composition of the soil, and find improved fertilizer. Oh, and it’s a good idea to look into starting new grape varieties!

Bacchus showed no signs of feeling hopeless. In fact, he was glowing with excitement.

He was brimming with idea after idea about how to improve his fields, making plans with the enthusiasm of a daydreaming child.

Bacchus: …Ah, I’m just so excited. A wizard’s life is long, but I still feel like it isn’t enough.

Bacchus: There are still so many things I want to try – so many challenges I need to overcome if I want to improve my winemaking.

Bacchus: With this fresh start, I will definitely surpass Bennett wine!

Shylock: Hm, I look forward to seeing it.

Mr. Bacchus faced the vineyard. Today, his gaze fell on barren fields, but his words shone with enthusiasm for what awaited him in the future.

His grape-colored eyes were no longer dull nor hollow. Now they shone like a vibrant, juicy fruit - full to bursting with beloved passion.

[location: Bacchus’s wine cellar]

With the field’s abnormality cleansed, the rest of the post-festival cleanup went smoothly.

Then, Bacchus invited us back to his wine cellar.

Arthur: This really is a stunning amount of wine. There’s so much of it…

Rutile: And to think Mr. Bacchus made every bit of it…!

Barrels of wine from many different eras were packed into the cellar.

This was a testament to a man who had dedicated his entire life to wine. It was almost overwhelming to see such a large cellar packed to the brim with many, many years of his efforts.

Bacchus: I’ve been storing things here for hundreds of years. The long-term storage is maintained with magic, so everything is preserved perfectly. That’s pretty much the only involvement magic has in my winemaking process. 

Bacchus: Other than that, I don’t use magic at all. If you take shortcuts to cut out labor or time, the wine will taste rushed and lazy.

Nero: I feel that. ’m pretty picky about that kinda thing, too.

Mr. Bacchus guided us through the wine cellar, and we followed him down the long aisle.

Bacchus: As you can see, the barrels are all in chronological order. And though some of the barrels might look the same, they’re all crafted with slightly different materials, not to mention a lot of ingenuity.

Bacchus: Once it has aged enough, the wines are bottled. That means that whatever barrels I keep in here are my own archived reserves.

Bacchus: Younger wines are closer to the entrance, and the further back you go, the older the wines are. This area is around… four hundred years old.

Akira: Eh, four hundred years…?

Faust: This wine is as old as I am…

We looked over the crowded shelves of wine barrels in wonder. Suddenly, Oz’s eyes landed on one barrel, and he stopped.

Oz: ……

Arthur: Master Oz, is everything okay? …Huh, this wine barrel has some sort of special mark on it, doesn’t it?

The barrel had a big red “X” slashed across it in red paint. Mr. Bacchus grimaced awkwardly.

Bacchus: Um, that one is – Listen, I had a surge of childish inspiration. I decided to ignore my usual process and make something totally different.

Shylock: Fufu. The wines from that year were certainly unlike any other.

Bacchus: Not another word out of you! It was terrible, and that’s the end of it. Gaahh! Just remembering it is so humiliating…!

Akira: (I get the feeling that’s a dark time in his history…)

Bacchus: Don’t worry about it, okay? Here. Each of you, please take a glass.

Bacchus’s magic floated a wine glass in front of each of us. It was a simple, casual glass, like the ones that were used at the harvest festival wine tastings.

Once everyone had received a glass, Mr. Bacchus smiled and clapped his hands together.

Bacchus: Now we get to the fun part! Help yourself to whatever you’d like. All-you-can-drink wine, from any year you want!

Murr: Yahoo! An open bar!

Bradley: Aren’t you a generous fella? Well, if ya insist, then it would be rude not to.

Faust: For real? That’s quite a big-shot move…

Bacchus: It’s a small price to pay. You reminded me of why I love winemaking, and renewed my passion for wine. Consider it my thanks.

Nero: This is kind of crazy. I never thought the day would come where I’d have unlimited access to Bacchus wine.

Rutile: Thank you so much, Mr. Bacchus!

Bacchus: Don’t be shy - help yourself to as much as you’d like. And for those who don’t drink alcohol, we have grape juice as well. There are a couple excellent varieties - ones that are only served on special occasions.

Akira: Wow, they sound delicious…! I would love to try them all.

Arthur: If Bacchus made it, then the grape juice should be just as exceptional as the wine. 

Bacchus: …Oh, and there’s some Calamity Wine left, too. If you’re curious, I guess you could try a bit.

Bradley: Wow, y'sure lost yer sparkle real quick there.

Nero: Well, you can’t really blame him…

At Mr. Bacchus’s insistence, we all took our glasses and decided to enjoy the feast of wine to our heart’s content.

Rutile: Where should I even start? Even if I only have a small glass of each, I don’t know how I’ll be able to try all of them - there’s just so much!

Bradley: Oi, South big bro. Let’s pick up where we left off on our li'l drinking competition from earlier. Y'know, since I didn’t get the chance to whoop your ass properly.

Rutile: Okay, that sounds like fun! But since this wine is so fancy, let’s take our time and savor it properly.

Bradley: Agreed. It’s too good to waste by chuggin’ it like a madman.

Nero: Ahh… It’s fantastic… Since this one is so rich, it would pair well with a nice cut of meat.

Faust: It’s good, but I usually prefer something a little lighter.

Bacchus: Oh, then I think I have just the thing. Here, a little bit before that year we had…

Shylock: Ah, yes. The wines from that period were delightfully refreshing - I’m quite a fan of them, myself.

Nero: Huh, really? Which one was it? I wanna try a glass too.

Shylock: Here, this is the one.

Nero: Heh. It’s the one that’s as old as Teach.

Faust: Do you have to keep bringing that up?

Nero: You’re the one who said it first…

Shylock: If we look further back, there’s most likely some wines that are the same age as Nero. Shall we have it later?

Faust: Oh, good. He won’t be left out.

Akira: Drinking wine that’s as old as they are… it seems like a nice way to have fun.

Arthur: I agree. I imagine that it’s quite a moving experience to taste a wine that has aged alongside you.

Arthur: If it was possible, I would have liked to have found wine from around the time Oz was born…

Akira: (That would make the wine at least 2000 years old…)

Oz: …… This wine is from the year of your birth, Arthur.

Oz: You had asked me to pick out a bottle of wine for you. Even if you cannot drink it now, you can keep it as a souvenir for when the time comes.

Arthur: Yes…! And when that day arrives, I hope you will be there with me, Master Oz.

Murr: Hey, Sage, are you drinking too? I’ve sampled so many different kinds that I ran out of fingers to count ‘em on!

Akira: Um, doesn’t that mean you drank a lot? Are you going to be okay?

Murr: It’s fiiine! Even if ya run out of fingers, you still have plenty of toes! But isn’t the Sage having juice tonight?

Akira: That’s right. It’s really delicious, so I’m happy I get to have as much as I want. But your drink is wine, right? Which year is it?

Murr: This one! The barrel with the big cross slashed on it!

Akira: Ah.

Immediately, Mr. Bacchus came flying over.

Bacchus: Hey…! Did you drink that wine?! I told you it was a failure!

Murr: How exactly did you fail, though? You won’t know until you try it!

Bacchus: Well, yeah, I suppose that’s right, but still…!

Murr: Everybody! Have you tried this one yet?

Rutile: Huh? Which one does he have?

Nero: What, is it somethin’ super good?

Bacchus: Hey!! Cut it out! Murr, you’re unbelievable!!

True to the rumors, Bacchus’s wines and juices were all extremely tasty. The wizards all drank heartily, refilling their glasses again and again.

It was fun to compare them and discuss the difference in taste and feeling - even if the opinions only ended up settling on “delicious” and “more delicious”.

We were all talking, arguing, and bantering, and before long, the wine cellar had taken on the lively atmosphere of a bar.

Nero: Oi, Brad …ley. I think you’ve prob'ly had enough to drink.

Bradley: Don’t gimme that. If anythin’, go nag at the Southern kid here instead.

Rutile: Bacchus wine is really the best! Every single one is so yummy…! Hey, isn’t that right, Mr. Faust?

Arthur: Rutile, you’re talking to Master Oz.

Maybe it was because they had been drinking plenty of Bacchus wine, but everyone seemed more cheerful than usual.

At one point, at Arthur’s request, Murr and Mr. Bacchus kicked off their shoes and began to demonstrate grape-stomping on the spot.

The two began to sing as they stomped happily on the empty floor. Their voices didn’t quite match, and they were making up lyrics on the spot, but just watching it made me feel exhilarated.

Akira: Ahaha, this is so much fun. I think everyone is more drunk than usual.

Shylock: I suppose they are all in the right mood to get pleasantly intoxicated. It must be due to the exceptional taste of today’s wine.

As Shylock and I took in the peaceful scene, Bradley approached us with a bottle of wine in hand.

Bradley: Oi, pipe-guy. Yer glass is lookin’ way too empty.

Without waiting for Shylock’s approval, Bradley took the glass from his hand and poured him some wine. 

Shylock: Are you going to serve me my drink? My, what an honor. …Oh, this wine.

A familiar bottle, with the label removed - Mr. Bacchus had only offered it as an afterthought. Calamity Wine.

Bradley: I still haven’t heard your opinion on it.

To be honest, I was curious, too. What would Shylock do with such a troublesome thing - the wine that had fascinated the hearts of many people, and broken the heart of his friend Bacchus?

Shylock brought the glass to his lips and took a sip. Then, he took a few more sips, as though he wanted to be sure. Finally, he opened his mouth.

Shylock: ……It is certainly a beautiful drink.

Shylock: However, I don’t think I would like to serve this wine at my own bar.

Akira: …Why not?

Shylock: Because it is too complete. There is no evolution, and no development. 

Shylock: Regardless of the time that has passed, this wine may retain its exact taste.

Shylock: But…

Shylock looked up through the crowd, and watched Bacchus sing.

Shylock: Bacchus wines will change. Every year, without fail, the flavors and aromas will intricately, delicately transform.

Shylock: I love to unravel how his effort, ambition, and affection are reflected in these subtle changes. He doesn’t have to say a word, for his wine will do it for him.

Shylock: To allow a life’s drama to stain your tongue, though its source is absent… That, I believe, is what it means to taste wine.

Bradley: …I knew you’d say that.

Bradley didn’t say anything else, and returned to the group, looking satisfied.

The glass in Shylock’s hand was once again empty. This time, he filled it with some sort of Bacchus wine.

Shylock: This is the wine that Bacchus gifted to me earlier.

Shylock: He told me that this was the very first wine he made at this winery. It was one of the few that he stored with magic, preserving it indefinitely.

Akira: That must make it very precious…

Shylock: Indeed, it is a wine to treasure. Bacchus insisted, saying that since I had been willing to give up Bennett wine, he would give me this in return.

The color was rich and beautiful, like liquid rubies. It swirled leisurely against the rounded bottom of the glass.

The depth of its color was astonishing and vivid - although it should have been made a long time ago, it appeared fresh, as if it had just been born.

I could tell, now, that it harbored the single-minded and devoted passion that the creator had for his work.

Shylock: No matter how much time has passed, and how much the world around him has changed, he will continue to make wine. And I will continue to eagerly await it…

Shylock: I’m looking forward to finding out what it will taste like this year. Just the thought of it makes my heart dance.

Shylock lowered his arm, his voice barely a murmur. As if harboring a deep love for a yet-unseen future. As if soaking in the imagined flavor of a treasured fantasy.

After a moment, his long eyelashes fluttered, and he opened his eyes with a smile. He stared at me with eyes more deeply red than even the wine.

Shylock: Sage. Please, toast with me - to celebrate our continued fortune and happiness.

Akira: Yes, of course…!

What will the next wine produced by Mr. Bacchus taste like? What kind of dramatic tale will it tell?

We raised our glasses, each filled with new hope for the old wine.

That shared moment was warm and luxurious. Smiling at each other, we took a sip.

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