Chapter 5:

Looking Forward With Baggage on Your Back

The Consequence of Saving the World

On this particular merchant’s horse-drawn wagon, the unfamiliar yet intoxicating fragrance of oil was a stern reminder of my predicament. Bookmark here

In this strange, unrecognisable body, I carried with me influence and renown that could hold kingdoms at bay. Yet, just like the jars of oil which took up most of the space in this cart, one wrong step and mankind will burn in the fires of war.Bookmark here

In my heart, I prayed. I prayed that the day would never come to pass. I prayed that the Legendary Sage could figure out what was wrong with me. Bookmark here

Sitting opposite me in the wagon were Sereya and Melyeze, the latter still soundly asleep. Looking at the sleeping girl, I couldn’t help but feel envious. I too, wished I could also fall into a deep slumber without a care in the world. Bookmark here

This creeping feeling of dread—it was too much. In a way, my life was a lot more peaceful yesterday, or according to Sereya, many years ago. In the village of Breven, far away from the demons in the north, I was still able to sleep with mum and Eveline by my side.Bookmark here

How I wished I could just wake up from this bad dream.Bookmark here

“Is everything alright back there?” asked the merchant at the front.Bookmark here

“Yes. Thanks for the concern!” Sereya answered.Bookmark here

In this time of peace, business was booming everywhere. Merchants and traders were more active than ever. It wasn’t an uncommon practice for them to pick up travellers like us along the way. While some still desired coins in order to be persuaded, Sereya mentioned that there were a fair bit of good-hearted merchants, like the one chauffeuring us.Bookmark here

From my seat in the wagon, my gaze frequently fell on the side of the clearing where the forest maze was supposed to be. Bookmark here

There were still people lost there.Bookmark here

At first, I wanted so desperately to help them. It was the right thing to do, after all. If I couldn’t get back my power or memories, would they be stuck there forever? Bookmark here

At the same time, I wanted to go back to Breven. I just wanted to hear my mum saying ‘welcome home!’ again. I just wanted Evelynn to pull my hair and annoy me. Bookmark here

I wanted to go back, back to my life in the village. Bookmark here

“Jeez Evan, if you’re just going to stress yourself out, I wouldn’t have told you all that earlier.”Bookmark here

Sereya’s words snapped me back to the present. It was scary how well she could sense how I felt.Bookmark here

“Is it that obvious?”Bookmark here

“Yeah, at this rate, you’re going to turn into an old man thanks to all that frowning!”Bookmark here

O-Old man, huh.Bookmark here

“Sereya,” I steeled myself, “how old am I again?”Bookmark here

“Oh you’re—”Bookmark here

Sereya froze. She looked like she was about to tell me at first, but the mischievous, naughty grin that followed didn’t really help my mood.Bookmark here

“Nah, forget it,” I shot her down. Didn’t really feel like indulging in her antics.Bookmark here

“Hmph.”Bookmark here

She made her annoyance clear with her obvious display of moping. If anything, I did find it adorable how a woman of her standing can still behave like a child at times. She even stole a few peeks at me, studying my reaction. Bookmark here

Next, she scooted over to my side, which irritated me. I knew you were trying to make me feel better, but must you treat me like a kid who just threw a temper tantrum? Getting close to my face and acting innocently worried didn’t help.Bookmark here

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...Bookmark here

...?!Bookmark here

T-This, this soft and slightly moist sensation on my left cheek. Oh no, Evan calm down. Calm down! Damn it, Sereya, where did all this come from?Bookmark here

Time felt like it slowed down to a crawl. My heart was banging on my ribcage, trying to force its way out. A hot, super strong lady took the initiative and gave me a peck on the cheek. I didn’t know whether to be happy or embarrassed. Bookmark here

The urge to bury my face into my knees kicked in. I could feel my cheeks burning up. Thank the Goddess that Melyeze was asleep. If there were others looking, I think I might have died!Bookmark here

I—urgh, I couldn’t take this silence anymore!Bookmark here

“What was that for?!” I cried out as I turned to face the culprit. My left hand instinctively covered up my cheek.Bookmark here

To my surprise, Sereya looked more likely to self-implode than me. Her face was already buried in her knees! Not the reaction I expected from someone who initiated the kiss, but a very satisfying scene for me to witness.Bookmark here

“S-Sereya?”Bookmark here

I fought hard to resist the urge of teasing her back. Bookmark here

“Gosh, the things I do just to make you feel better.”Bookmark here

It was hard catching her words as they were buried into her knees, but she kissed me just to make me feel better? On one hand, I felt blessed. On the other hand, I felt like the lowest of the low.Bookmark here

“I know, I know it’s hard, when you have so much on your shoulders,” she said as she gradually lifted her head up.Bookmark here

“I know how it feels. It’s hard to look forward, when you’ve got so much baggage on your back. That’s reality.Bookmark here

Honestly, part of me wished that I didn’t tell you about Ordis—that we could just stay together in our home, isolated from the rest of the world. I even thought to myself, ‘hey, even if you forgot everything, as long as I could have you all to myself, that’s fine, too.’Bookmark here

But sooner or later, those screams in the forest? They’ll haunt you. The world will catch up to you. Whether you’re a Hero or just a peasant, that’s life I guess. Bookmark here

I know they’ll be times when you feel small or alone, but hey! That’s what I’m here for, y’know? Unfortunately for you, you’ll have to bear with me being a bit more aggressive because honestly, if your memories and old personality did come back, I’m not sure if I’ll get another chance anymore.”Bookmark here

Hearing her open up to me really helped to calm me down. I didn’t know that Sereya had so much on her mind, too. Her personal feelings—I wasn’t sure if it was good to ask, but I needed to know.Bookmark here

“Sereya, the person you Hanasuke, right? This ‘me’ right now—aren’t you confusing me for him?”Bookmark here

She took a deep breath. I could feel the burden and the dilemma in that one, long breath. Bookmark here

“Hmmm, perhaps we can save that topic for another time. A maiden must keep a secret or two, no? Unless…Bookmark here’re telling me that you’re keen on winning my affection?”Bookmark here

Damn it, why must girls always speak in circles? Whatever, no point digging up each other’s love lives when we had bigger fish to fry.Bookmark here

“Beats me.”Bookmark here

Maybe that wasn’t the ideal response that she was looking for, but her satisfied smirk told me that it sufficed for now. Sereya might’ve been a handful, but I was glad that she was on my side. That pep talk was really what I needed.Bookmark here

Instead of worrying about the future, maybe I could take a page off of Melyeze’s book. The heavy conversation earlier suddenly made me feel tired. A little shut-eye would’ve been nice.Bookmark here

The horse wagon came to an abrupt stop, nearly causing the jars of oil stacked next to me to fall. Luckily, nothing broke, Unluckily, something did break out ahead of us.Bookmark here

“I’m sorry!” The merchant lifted part of the canopy as he spoke, “There’s a wagon in front of us, but it’s blocking the whole road!”Bookmark here

“I’ll go check it out,” Sereya exclaimed as she hopped off the back of the wagon.Bookmark here

“I’ll go with you!” I declared. However, Sereya raised her arm to obstruct me.Bookmark here

“It’s safer if you stayed with Melyeze.”Bookmark here

I looked at the sleeping sir, and while I had doubts how safe it was staying by the side of an unconscious swordswoman, I believed in Sereya’s judgment. However, there was one thing that she probably didn’t know about the current me.Bookmark here

“I’m quite familiar with carts and wagons. Back in the village, I helped to repair quite a few, so I might be able to tell what’s wrong!”Bookmark here

Sereya failed to hide her surprise. At the same time, her arm began to lower, and her usual, gentle smile appeared over her face.Bookmark here

“Well, I guess that’s a strength that you possess of your own right. I’ll be relying on your help then, my Hero.”Bookmark here

“And I’m counting on you to watch my back,” I said as I got off the wagon.Bookmark here

“Oh, be careful, you two!” Bookmark here

“Don’t worry about us, mister,” I flashed a grin at the merchant, “Just watch over sleeping beauty here.”Bookmark here

I may not possess the power or skill of a Hero, but with Sereya by my side and my own abilities, it was time to help those in need!Bookmark here

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