Chapter 1:

The Little Toe

The Consequence of Saving the World


Trapped in a prison of fabric, the last thing I wanted to do was leave.Bookmark here

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?Bookmark here

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…Bookmark here

Bookmark here

Bookmark here

...Strange, where was the straw? Bookmark here

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?Bookmark here

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?Bookmark here

With these questions burning in my mind, I propped myself up, back to the land of the living. Bookmark here

“Oh! Evan, did I wake you up?”Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

I frantically rubbed my eyes. The harsh sunlight bothered me for a bit, but it was the least of my worries at the moment.Bookmark here

What laid before me was completely alien. This scene in front of me...this woman...none of it made sense. Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

“Who...are...you?”Bookmark here

Three words were all I could manage with my hoarse voice. These same three words turned her smile into a pout.Bookmark here

“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?”Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

A million questions raced through my mind. However, the only ones that left my mouth were:Bookmark here

“Where is mum? Where is Eveline? Who are you?!”Bookmark here

The woman looked visibly distraught. Bookmark here

“Eveline? Mum? Evan, what—” as she paused, her face turned pale, “why are you looking at me like that?”Bookmark here

“I d-don’t know you,” I muttered in response to her question.Bookmark here

Thud.Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

Her pupils dilated. Her face slowly contorted, revealing a mixture of anger, grief, and confusion. To say that she was upset was an understatement.Bookmark here

“After all these years...after all this time I’ve been waiting and you act like you don’t know me?”Bookmark here

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!Bookmark here

I scrambled to form a reply, but the silence in between that followed her question was unbearable. Bookmark here

“I do—”Bookmark here

“DON’T MESS WITH ME!” she screamed.Bookmark here

“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...”Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

“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?”Bookmark here

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. Bookmark here

“Is it because of this?” her voice quivered as she clenched the stump with her right hand.Bookmark here

“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.Bookmark here

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?”Bookmark here

Demon Lord?! I killed the Demon Lord? Wha—huh?Bookmark here

“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...Bookmark here

“...please don’t say you don’t know me.” Bookmark here

Her desperation, her pain—the immense pressure from her words caused my own tears to well up.Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

She took a quick sharp breath before putting on the worst, most painful smile I had ever seen.Bookmark here

“Since we don’t know each other anymore, goodbye, Evansmith Mattheld, no—Bookmark here

Hanasuke Ryojima.”Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

Killing the Demon Lord? Hanasu-what? Bookmark here

Her words completely ignored reality, yet her emotions were too real. Bookmark here

I didn’t know who she was and what she was saying, but I wanted nothing more than to find out.Bookmark here

As I got up from the bed, I shoved the blanket that covered me to a corner. Bookmark here

“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.Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

“Ack!”Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

With my teeth clenched, I took a long breath. Bending down, I examined my little toe and instantly regretted it.Bookmark here

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. Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

Okay, calm down Evan. Was there anything I could use t—Bookmark here

What.Bookmark here

Wait, WHAT?!Bookmark here

“No—”Bookmark here

The knife that cut me, the reflection from the blade, that was not me!Bookmark here

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?Bookmark here

With my right hand, I yanked the knife out of the floor, using it as a mirror to get a better look at myself.Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

“This, this isn’t me,” my lips revealed my inner thoughts.Bookmark here

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? Bookmark here

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!Bookmark here

“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.Bookmark here

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. Bookmark here

“Please wait!”Bookmark here

“I waited long enough!” I couldn’t see her figure at that point, but I sure as hell could hear her voice.Bookmark here

“I...I…” I summoned all my courage to shout and force her to stop.Bookmark here

“I CUT MY TOE!”Bookmark here

Bookmarked
You can resume reading from this paragraph.