Chapter 11:

Hand in Hand

The Consequence of Saving the World

“So, did watching the duel jog your memory a bit?”Bookmark here

I looked down at my fingertips, still trembling in awe. My heart was still thumping violently even after the bout was over. It was downright amazing. I had never seen people fight and move like that!Bookmark here

“T-That was so cool!”Bookmark here

I could no longer hide my excitement, as embarrassing as it was. Bookmark here

Sereya sighed, “Oh Goddess, help this useless Hero.”Bookmark here

I could care less about Sereya’s insult. The way she moved, the way she fought—I had just been blessed to lay eyes on one of the greatest battles known in the history of man.Bookmark here

Wait.Bookmark here

A shiver went down my spine.Bookmark here

What if the only reason I could see Sereya moving was just because she wanted me to see? She wanted to jog my memory. If I wasn’t there, would she have ended the fight immediately, like Melyeze said?Bookmark here

A warrior who was missing her dominant hand, equipped with a lousy sword and terrible gear was up against a knight armed with a high-quality weapon and enchanted magical armour. Even with those handicaps, Sereya was still able to easily win.Bookmark here

If this was Sereya in her prime—Bookmark here

“You, you used to wield twin swords didn’t you?”Bookmark here

Hearing that, Sereya’s face lit up brighter than the stars in the night sky. Thrilled, she placed her hand on my shoulder and turned me to face her. Luckily, there was no one else on this street for a misunderstanding to occur.Bookmark here

“So you did remember!”Bookmark here

“Not really. During the duel, Melyeze brought up...Sinfall and Humilis? And how you wouldn’t need to block with your arm if you had a better weapon.”Bookmark here

When the names of those weapons left my mouth, Sereya's grip on my shoulder loosened. Her gaze was downcast, like she was purposely avoiding eye contact with me. Something unpleasant must have happened in the past for her to behave this jarringly. Bookmark here

“Well, ” she scratched the back of her head, “twin swords aren’t exactly user-friendly for those with one hand, amirite?”Bookmark here

Nothing’s stopping you from using just one of them, though.Bookmark here

Regardless, her poor attempt at humour made it obvious that she was hiding something. Seeing her behave this way dissuaded me from prodding further. Bookmark here

The world was already saved. She didn’t need to be carrying her full battle gear wherever she went anymore. If she could already beat Melyeze with her trash sword, using a better blade would be overkill.Bookmark here

Still—Bookmark here

“Sereya, raise your arm straight up.”Bookmark here

“E-Eh?” understandably, my sudden request caught her off guard.Bookmark here

“Lift it up vertically, 90 degrees,” to demonstrate, I pointed straight at the night sky above me.Bookmark here

“L-Like this?” she slowly copied my movements.Bookmark here

“All the way up.” Bookmark here

I knew it. From the way she struggled to scratch the back of her head just now, it was clear that the kick from Melyeze did a number on her forearm. She could hide the pain, but her body couldn’t. Her inability to lift her arm straight up proved my point.Bookmark here

“Let’s stop this, I don’t even know why we—”Bookmark here

As she lowered her hand I grabbed it. Of course, I did it gently to not aggravate her injury.Bookmark here

“W-W-Wait, Evan?”Bookmark here

“Follow me.”Bookmark here

Maybe I was sick and tired of having to play second fiddle to Sereya the whole day today. It frustrated me how she was always leading me and telling me what to do. I understood, it was because of my current situation that she was doing this, but she could at least drop the tough guy act for once.Bookmark here

We were originally supposed to return to our inn which we booked earlier in the day, but I took a detour and went to the night market close to where we had dinner. Sereya was awfully quiet, which really contrasted the hubbub going around us.Bookmark here

This was pretty much the only place in Allantheim that was still active at this hour. Street performers, stalls and happy faces were there wherever I looked. Trying to ignore the aroma of grilled snacks was tortuous, but I had bigger fish to fry. Bookmark here

We stopped in front of a less than glamorous stall. In my heart, I silently thanked the Goddess that the old lady who ran this stall hasn’t closed shop yet. It stood out particularly for me, because it was unlike the other stalls which mainly sold food and other unfamiliar things. I was accustomed to the items being sold in this old lady’s stall. Bookmark here

“Hi miss, can I have a bundle of Timetia leaves, please?”Bookmark here

“O-Oh?” the old lady got up from her seat to get a closer look at me, “Are you a pharmacist? Maybe an alchemist perhaps?”Bookmark here

“Huh? No no! I’m—”Bookmark here

C’mon brain, think!Bookmark here

“I’m from Breven, and I was thinking of cooking up a local recipe.”Bookmark here

“Ohh! A Breven man who cooks! Young lady, make sure to hold onto your husband extra tight, ya hear?”Bookmark here

Bookmark here

I could feel the blood rushing to my face. Crap, I just realised that I was holding Sereya’s hand the entire time! Bookmark here

I was about to let go, but Sereya’s grip on my hand was firm, vice-like even. She didn’t want to let go at all!Bookmark here

She was pouting like a child, yet her face was as red as it could be. Seeing her that way and with the word ‘husband’ thrown in the air made my heart beat faster. Bookmark here

Deep breaths, Evan, deep breaths.Bookmark here

This was just payback. Yeah! This was payback for all her teasing and bad jokes. Being put on the spot felt terrible, right Sereya?!Bookmark here

As I thought of that, Sereya finally let go of my hand. I wished I could breathe a sigh of relief but that wasn’t possible, because she was hugging my arm!Bookmark here

She was close, too close! She hooked her elbow around mine. I could feel it pressing against me. Bookmark here

EVAN! FOCUS!Bookmark here

I wasn’t breathing anymore. In fact, my legs felt like jelly, as if my whole body was literally melting. Bookmark here

Despite all that, you’re the Hero! Stand up straight, Evan! There was someone you needed to save, you cannot falter!Bookmark here

“LADY!” my voice was a lot louder than I expected, “H-H-How much is it?”Bookmark here

“A bundle would be three denars.”Bookmark here

I frantically searched for my pouch. With my left arm completely paralysed thanks to Sereya, I had to make the whole transaction with my right. I hoped the old lady didn’t realise how sweaty my hand was.Bookmark here

“Thank you, young man,” a warm smile vanquished some of the wrinkles on her face, “How is Breven like nowadays?”Bookmark here

Uhh...Bookmark here

“I-It’s doing great, I suppose!”Bookmark here

“That’s good to hear. Competition in Breven is so fierce, even selling my wares in the capital is easier! Too many pilgrims these days.”Bookmark here

Pilgrims? Coming to Breven? I hoped the village was still doing alright. Bookmark here

It was hard to think about Breven, when all I could think about was the sensation on my left arm. Even after we left the stall, Sereya still clung to me tightly.Bookmark here

The journey back to the inn was harder than everything I had been through so far. The whole time, I was in a daze. Sereya didn’t want to let go and didn’t want to say anything. Even though I found it cumbersome having to walk with her wrapped around my arm, I didn’t say anything as well.Bookmark here

I couldn’t lie. I wish it lasted longer.Bookmark here

Thankfully, there weren’t many people at the inn’s lobby, just the receptionist who was giving me a dirty wink. Bookmark here

“Please remember to close the windows, I don’t want the other guests to complain that they can’t sleep.”Bookmark here

This damn receptionist! We got our own separate rooms, remember?! Jeez.Bookmark here

I ignored her words as I escorted Sereya upstairs. As I stopped by Sereya’s room, I found myself swallowing my saliva.Bookmark here

Nothing was gonna happen!Bookmark here

I purified my mind of any unnecessary thoughts. The only reason why I was entering her room was to help treat her injury. Nothing more, nothing less. I was simply doing what any gentleman would do. That was it.Bookmark here

In her room, Sereya finally released me from her grasp. I could finally feel the air returning to my lungs again.Bookmark here

Her face was still completely dyed red. She looked like she had a lot more difficulty staying on her feet than me. Immediately, she went to her bed and sat on it. Sereya gazed at me with a blank stare, like she was high or something.Bookmark here

Taking a deep breath, I said, “Sereya, I’m going to have a look at your arm.”Bookmark here

“E-Eh? Oh er, okay.”Bookmark here

It seemed like part of her senses returned to her. I think she completely forgot about her arm.Bookmark here

As I rolled up her sleeve, my suspicions were true. Her forearm was slightly swollen. No wonder she had difficulty raising her arm.Bookmark here

I could still recall Melyeze in her empowered state, eyes burning with magical energy. That roundhouse kick would have blown away any ordinary person’s head clean off his shoulders. Yet, all it did was leave a little bit of inflammation on Sereya’s arm, not even a bruise.Bookmark here

I took the Timetia leaves and started to wrap them around the inflamed area. The leaves were a good choice. A potion would have been a waste of money on an injury as light as this. Bookmark here

Sereya didn’t show any discomfort whatsoever, which surprised me. I could tell that she was silently staring at me as I fixed her arm. Compared to me, she was a true warrior. When she was wrapping my toe, I was squealing like a pig!Bookmark here

I shook my head. Remembering the incident earlier today filled me with embarrassment. Bookmark here

“There, done. By the time you wake up tomorrow, you can take it off.”Bookmark here

I was about to roll her sleeve up, when she stopped me. Sereya was sweating buckets. Oh no, was she allergic?!Bookmark here

“Evan,” her breath was uneven, she seriously looked sick.Bookmark here

“I can’t hold it back any longer. You can do anything you want with me tonight, I don’t care anymore!”Bookmark here

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