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In the realms of life, there can only be one Best. Only one can rise above mediocrity and claim that revered title. All others, no matter how close or distant in ability, are forgotten and become a mélange of ordinariness, incomparable to The Best. In this mélange, there floats the hopelessness and reluctant acceptance of those who are not The Best. Yet, there is one poignant desire present, the desire to overtake and assume the title of being Best, especially from The Second Best. It is the doomed destiny of The Second Best to always fall short to The Best and put in tenfold the effort, yet receive none of the recognition. So close are the two in ability that each time The Best overtakes The Second Best, as he always does, The Second Best becomes a little more resentful, a little more vengeful, and, most dangerously, a little more irrational. These emotions build up, lying dormant for many years, like a volcano, with no one suspicious of their power, until the moment they erupt. This is the silent, one-sided battle between The Best and The Second Best.
No more perfect representation of this battle exists than the tale of Delano and Andrion. Friends since the womb, Delano was born a single minute before Andrion. Within the fortified chateau village of St. Malo, their home, they were perceived as a single entity as they were inseparable. Both were blessed with intelligence, charisma, charm, athleticism, and beauty. However, by some strange coincidence of universal events, perhaps the one extra minute of life, Delano managed to surpass Andrion in all of those traits. It’s true that the twosome were the most celebrated and able of all within the village, but if a choice were mandated, Delano would be The Best. Many a weaker man would forfeit much of their livelihood to match in ability with Andrion, but he, being The Second Best, was never content.
As children, they participated in competitions of all sorts, from running to sea shell collecting to shooting. Of course, Delano always won, followed by Andrion. Under the naïve shroud of childhood, Andrion never complained and always supported his best friend. Delano lived for glory, for his moments in the spotlight, and drowned himself to sleep every night with waves of egocentrism. Andrion patiently dealt with Delano’s narcissism, optimistic that one day he would find something at which he would be The Best.
The years passed; Delano and Andrion grew into young men and became the most eligible bachelors in the village. However, again, it was clear that Delano was the preferred choice of the young ladies. As the lasses flocked to Delano, Andrion continued to be pushed to the side, only acknowledged as a tool to gain access to Delano. This was when Andrion’s optimism began to break down, replaced by a growing possessive desire to, for once, be The Best. Yet, the evolution of this beast was never perceived; Andrion possessed great self-discipline and Delano was too deeply self-immersed to notice the rising resentment within his lifelong friend.
Fate would have it, in their seventeenth year, a new damsel appeared within the chateau. Her name was Aurélie and although alone she would have been perceived as striking, amongst others, she was lost amongst the swishes of petticoats and lace and silk. Thus, Delano, surrounded already by a bounty of women, paid no attention to this new presence. Andrion, however, noticed her and remarked her reticence. He took a special interest in this new mademoiselle and in his eyes, she became the most beautiful being he had ever laid eyes on. His heart doubled in beat every time he sensed her aura near him, every time her sweet scent invaded his nostrils. As young love does, Andrion and Aurélie quickly became enthralled in each other and words of marriage soon began to be spoken.
It was right at this precise time that Delano had one of his rare exits from his cloud of self-absorbance and he noticed that Andrion was becoming more distant from him. Deciding to investigate, Delano discovered the sweet romance between Andrion and Aurélie. The very first thought that entered his mind was not one of joy for his friend’s happiness, but one of annoyance that there existed a maiden who was not desperately bidding for his attention. Not wanting to let a single girl escape his grasp, Delano decided that his reputation and honor were at stake and he had to defend his title as The Best. He did not for a moment consider the feelings of his friend.
So, Delano dedicated all of his charm to wooing Aurélie, and being only human, she quickly fell for his trap. Her talks of eternity and love with Andrion were soon lost amongst the sweet sonnets Delano wrote for her. Andrion watched in silent rage as Delano’s words invaded Aurélie’s brain like a poison. He waited in patience, ready to reclaim Aurélie after Delano’s attention waned, which it always would, and he moved on to his next prey. However, what he, or anyone else, did not anticipate was Delano actually falling in love with Aurélie. To the surprise of the whole village, the two soon announced their engagement. The announcement was greeted with a stunned surprise, followed by shouts of congratulations from the men and wails of despair from the women who could now never have Delano. Amidst the chaos, no one noticed as Andrion slipped away. He headed to his home, a magnificent structure inherited from ancestors of noble affiliation. Once there, his rage exploded. The years of pent up frustration and resentment from being passed over for Delano and always ending up Second Best exploded. Irrationality pervaded his sensible mind and no longer was he recognizable as the demure and pensive young man known to St. Malo. It was at this moment that Andrion realized that he would never be The Best as long as Delano breathed. In order to finally have his moment in the spotlight, Delano had to be removed from the scene. This was when he began plotting for Delano’s demise.
Under the pretense of a dinner to celebrate his friend’s engagement, Andrion invited Delano to his abode. He entertained Delano with a never ending supply of the finest wine as they reminisced over their long friendship and the memories they shared from childhood. Filled with spirits, Delano said, “Andrion, my dear friend, I must thank you. If it wasn’t for you, I would have never noticed my lovely soon-to-be bride.”
“I am happy to always help you,” Andrion said, with extreme silkiness, bidding his time until he could murder his best friend.
“There is not a better friend than you in this world, I declare. You, Andrion, were always the first to congratulate me on my triumphs.”
“I thank thee for the kind words, Delano,” Andrion replied. ”But – “
“I only wish I could do more of the same for you, my dear friend. If only you would accomplish more and give me the opportunity to return that kindness.”
Andrion’s eyes flashed a dangerous gleam of pure hatred. “Oh but my dear Delano, you will soon have that opportunity.”
“Really? And what endeavor have you conquered?” Delano inquired.
Andrion smiled as he brought out a small, crystal flask from his pocket and began twirling it. “You see, my friend, I have always been second to you. In everything.”
“And what a glorious duo we make,” Delano said, quick to interject.
“But I realized, you see, that being Second Best isn’t one of life’s greatest pleasures.”
Delano, in his drunken stupor, didn’t notice the sudden change of tone from friendly to hostile in Andrion’s voice. “I’ve decided that I actually want to be The Best,” Andrion continued. “So I sat and pondered about all the possible ways to become The Best. I came up with one option. Would you like to venture a guess as to what that option is?”
Delano, still amused, replied, “I don’t know, what is it?”
“Well I came to the conclusion that no matter how much I travail, I will never be The Best because there is an obstacle blocking my path to success. You.”
Now slightly offended, Delano said, “What are you insinuating?”
“Why it’s trivial. You must be removed.”
“Removed?” Delano gulped more wine and forced out a choked chortle. “Humor me. How exactly do you plan to accomplish this?”
Andrion grinned sinisterly, twirling the flask faster and faster. “I already have.”
In the long seconds it took for the meaning to register in Delano’s wine filled mind, his face began to turn a ruddy color, more than what would be induced by the alcohol. The ruddiness turned into a brilliant shade of purple, like that rare shade that is detected in the sky at dusk. The purple shifted into a pale blue as the poison constricted more and more of Delano’s trachea. The wine glass slipped from his grasp and shattered against the floor, followed swiftly by Delano’s body. He convulsed against the stoned tiles, slick with spilled wine, clawing at his throat, desperate to obtain oxygen.
All the while, Andrion tranquilly watched and talked to his best friend with a placid voice, as if his friend wasn’t dying right before his eyes. “My dear, oblivious Delano. You see, this poison that is coursing through your veins came from a distinct spider from the heart of the Amazon.” He wiggled the flask before Delano’s bulging eyes. “This poison first works within your mind, hindering your thought process and releasing your inhibitions, much like the effects of alcohol. As more is consumed, it begins to constrict your trachea, obstructing air flow, the stage I believe you are experiencing right now. Then, of course, there is the final stage when the poison reaches your heart and paralyzes it, killing the victim immediately.” Andrion bent down close to Delano’s ear and whispered, “So you see my cherished friend, I do care about you. I could have chosen a wide variety of other poisons to give you a long and drawn out death, but no, through great trouble on my own part, I acquired this very specific poison. I hope you enjoy my efforts and please, do find it within yourself to congratulate me on my accomplishment.”
In the last gleam of his eyes before the poison paralyzed his heart, it was clear that Delano finally understood. He comprehended how his actions had driven Andrion to irrationality and in his soon-to-be still heart, he felt remorse.
Andrion saw the emotion in Delano’s eyes and was hit by a wave of guilt and regret. But it was too late. The poison had already run its course and Delano’s twitching body was as still as the formidable stone walls of the chateau.
Having no other option but to follow through with his plan, Andrion lifted Delano’s body unto a cart and took it up to the walls of the chateau. There, he watched as the moonlight shined upon the rippling ocean waves. His ears perceived two sounds: the sound of the waves crashing against the walls and the sound of Delano’s body hitting the water as it was tipped from the cart. The moonlight caught a single tear streaking down Andrion’s cheek before he turned away.
With Delano gone, Andrion was heralded as The Best. He finally enjoyed the same victor’s spoils as Delano had. But he was never happy, as he thought he would be. That final look in Delano’s eyes continued to haunt him, in his waking hours and whilst he slept, until it drove him to lunacy.
Two months to the day of Delano’s death, the moonlight again caught Andrion on the chateau walls. It reflected his body as he plummeted towards the crashing waves. His head pierced the surface and never rose again.