The Consequence of Saving the World
Trapped in a prison of fabric, the last thing I wanted to do was leave.
To my delight, mum hasn’t kicked me out of bed yet. Instead of her nagging me to feed the animals, I was instead greeted by the lovely chirping of birds. As my ears adjusted, the rhythmic tune of a knife hitting a chopping board filled my mind. Was mum already prepping lunch? What time was it?
The thought of opening my eyes vanished. The soft, heavenly texture of my bed made getting up an impossible task. I just wanted to sink into it and let it take over. This bed...I wanted to become one with it…
...Strange, where was the straw?
If mum didn’t wake me up, the irksome sensation of loose straw poking into my skin usually did the trick. I could not feel even a single strand. Was this even my bed?
That’s when I realised—the birds were singing a different melody, one that I never heard before. The sound of chopping vegetables was far too fast for mum. Since when could she dice vegetables at the speed of a woodpecker’s drumming?
With these questions burning in my mind, I propped myself up, back to the land of the living.
“Oh! Evan, did I wake you up?”
The hairs at the back of my neck shot straight up. It was the sweet voice of a woman—a woman, that was not my mum.
I frantically rubbed my eyes. The harsh sunlight bothered me for a bit, but it was the least of my worries at the moment.
What laid before me was completely alien. This scene in front of me...this woman...none of it made sense.
Standing about a flagpole’s length away from me, her eyes met mine. Light blue hair draped over her forehead as a gentle smile painted across her face, not a single wrinkle in sight.
Three words were all I could manage with my hoarse voice. These same three words turned her smile into a pout.
“Jeez, this is why trying to wake you up is a lost cause. The first thing you say to me is, ‘Who are you?’, What am I ever gonna do with you?”
The familiarity in her pleasant tone terrified me. I have never seen this person in my life. Our village never had someone that looked as stunning as her. If there was, I would never forget this face. One glance and it was clear as crystal that she had to be a noble or from the wealthy part of a nearby city.
A million questions raced through my mind. However, the only ones that left my mouth were:
“Where is mum? Where is Eveline? Who are you?!”
The woman looked visibly distraught.
“Eveline? Mum? Evan, what—” as she paused, her face turned pale, “why are you looking at me like that?”
“I d-don’t know you,” I muttered in response to her question.
The knife from her hand fell to the unfamiliar wooden flooring, its blade sticking straight up like the spear of a city guard who was standing at ready.
Her pupils dilated. Her face slowly contorted, revealing a mixture of anger, grief, and confusion. To say that she was upset was an understatement.
“After all these years...after all this time I’ve been waiting and you act like you don’t know me?”
Should I have told her to calm down? No...it would definitely piss her off more but, I really had no clue who she was!
I scrambled to form a reply, but the silence in between that followed her question was unbearable.
“DON’T MESS WITH ME!” she screamed.
“You think I stayed with you just for you to pull this stunt on me? I cried with you, fought with you, laughed with you for all these years and you treat me like a stranger? I stayed with you, I stayed with you even till now...”
Her words pushed my brain to work even faster. I was desperate to find something, anything that could help me find meaning in what she said, if not to placate the tears that were starting to form in her blue eyes.
“Our years fighting and bleeding on the frontlines, does it mean nothing for you? Does this,” she lifted her left arm, “mean nothing to you?”
It wasn’t the ‘fighting on the frontlines’ that startled me, it was her arm, or what was missing from it. Below her left elbow was nothing, nothing except for the sleeve of her shirt that hung loosely over the ‘stump’ of her arm.
“Is it because of this?” her voice quivered as she clenched the stump with her right hand.
“If this bothers you, then tell me! If I’m bringing you down in any way, then I want you to tell it to me right to my face! I waited, I waited so long for you to tell me how you really feel, I fooled myself into thinking that, maybe if I humoured your idea of spending this ‘slow life’ in the middle of nowhere, maybe, just maybe, you’ll respond to my feelings.
Evan, you’re strong enough to kill the Demon Lord, strong enough to save the world, but you’re still not strong enough to be honest...with me?”
Demon Lord?! I killed the Demon Lord? Wha—huh?
“If my confession to you the night before Steiner’s Plains means nothing to you, TELL ME! If you hate me, SAY IT! But please, please...
“...please don’t say you don’t know me.”
Her desperation, her pain—the immense pressure from her words caused my own tears to well up.
It was taking her everything she got just to keep standing. I had never seen someone look so anguished in fighting back the never-ending tears.
She took a quick sharp breath before putting on the worst, most painful smile I had ever seen.
“Since we don’t know each other anymore, goodbye, Evansmith Mattheld, no—
The name that followed mine was completely foreign to me. Before I could say anything, the woman ran out of the house in a hurry, leaving the main door wide open and a trail of tears on the ground.
Killing the Demon Lord? Hanasu-what?
Her words completely ignored reality, yet her emotions were too real.
I didn’t know who she was and what she was saying, but I wanted nothing more than to find out.
As I got up from the bed, I shoved the blanket that covered me to a corner.
“W-Wait!” I yelled as I gave chase to the woman. If I knew her name, this was where I would have called it out.
Taking my first few steps out of bed, I dispelled the thought of putting on some sandals. My bare feet would have to do. I was not even sure where the sandals were kept in this house, anyway.
As my mouth let out a sudden cry of pain, I looked to the source of my injury. My little toe ran over the kitchen knife that she left sticking out of the floor.
With my teeth clenched, I took a long breath. Bending down, I examined my little toe and instantly regretted it.
The more I looked at it, the more queasy I felt. There was not a lot of blood (thankfully), but my skin—part of my little toe was left dangling! My whole body tensed up as a response.
It was painless, but what if the wound festered? What if they chopped my leg off? What if I died?! Yeah sorry lady, me killing the Demon Lord was not the biggest priority anymore.
Okay, calm down Evan. Was there anything I could use t—
The knife that cut me, the reflection from the blade, that was not me!
My trembling fingers touched the tips of my hair. Why was it white? Since when was it white?! It had always been brown! Not only that, it felt too soft—why did it not feel greasy at all?
With my right hand, I yanked the knife out of the floor, using it as a mirror to get a better look at myself.
My fingers slowly and cautiously caressed the side of my cheeks. My face—no, this face vaguely resembled mine. This wasn’t how an 18-year-old teenaged boy looked! If anything, it looked like me, but probably around five or six years older.
“This, this isn’t me,” my lips revealed my inner thoughts.
The words the woman spoke earlier suddenly had a bit of logic to them. Was I—was someone using my body or something? Maybe some sort of magic or spell perhaps?
She said that she was waiting for years—okay, nevermind, let’s say I did, in the most unlikely scenario, kill the Demon Lord. Wait, she called me Hanasook Ryo-something, maybe that was the guy behind all this!
“Wait! Lady, please wait! This isn’t me!” I yelled at the top of my lungs. To my neighbours, if there were any—I secretly apologised from the bottom of my heart.
I got up, but my toe prevented me from running. The best I could do was hobble like a pregnant woman about to give birth.
“I waited long enough!” I couldn’t see her figure at that point, but I sure as hell could hear her voice.
“I...I…” I summoned all my courage to shout and force her to stop.
“I CUT MY TOE!”