The Consequence of Saving the World
“I swear, when I grow up, I want to be one of the Seven Heroes, just like my dad!”
“What? Your dad is one of the Seven Heroes?”
“No. He also wants to be one of the Seven Heroes.”
I was worried for a second when I heard that, but I guessed something like that was a common thing to hear in a bar full of people getting sloshed. Still, the conversations and even the patrons were a lot wilder than when I was here.
The saying, ‘liquor loosens lips’ was on full display in the bar. As a person with far too many secrets to keep, it was a no-brainer that I should turn down Remus’s invitation. Besides, I wasn’t so magnanimous that I would share drinks with my enemy.
I turned around and left. Sereya was probably back at the inn by now.
Remus was the bar’s problem, not mine. Besides, he cannot harm unarmed civilians anymore, so—
Great. I couldn’t even take more than twenty steps away from the bar before Remus caught up to me.
“Sorry, I’m busy.”
“You’re looking for the princess, ain’t cha?“
Even though his gloved hand was on my shoulder, it felt as if he was clutching my heart instead. How the hell did he know?!
My body was rebelling against me. Sweat, paleness, panicked breathing—these were the natural human reactions that I was trying everything in my power to suppress. Remus must not discover any sign of weakness from me.
Still, what tormented my mind the most was the thought that something bad might have happened to her. I knew Sereya was unbeatable, but against another one of the Seven Heroes, I wasn’t so sure anymore.
Calm down, Evan. Don’t let your emotions get the better of you.
“I could tell the moment you entered the bar, it was written all o’er yer face. Lovers’ quarrels. Ah, if only I was younger again.”
When his hand wrapped around my other shoulder, I resisted the urge to squirm. His repulsive stench was transferring to me. This creep was just too close—his damned armpit was rubbing its sweat on my shoulder!
“Where is she?”
“Join me for a few rounds, and I’ll tell ya. Don’t worry, it’ll be on me, aye?”
Honestly, that was one of the last things I wanted, but my concern for Sereya was too great.
The trek back to the bar was utter torture. Having to hide my urge to elbow him right in the nose was bad enough, but having to walk back with his filthy arm around my shoulder was pushing it.
The bar’s door swung open before Remus even reached it.
“Sir, please don’t run off without paying!”
The cheerful waitress who served her customers with a smile had a panicked look on her face.
“No no! I wasn’t running away! I brought you another customer! Hahahaha!”
“O-Oh! We hope you have a great time!”
With a bow, her smile returned to her face. Just like that, she was off, blending in with the jolly atmosphere once more.
Since there wasn’t really much space in the bar, Remus finally let go of my shoulder. As he went back to his seat at the bar counter, I finally let out a sigh of relief. My shoulders no longer feel violated.
Squeezing my way to the counter, I sat on the stool next to the ageing drunkard. It was pretty much just the two of us. The nearest person to us was the barkeep who was too absorbed with setting up the next keg.
On the counter in front of me, there were already seven mugs, three of which were already empty.
“Just take whichever you want, they’re all mead. More are on the way.”
Seriously, how big of a boozer must he be to order so many mugs in advance?
I took the mug closest to me, the condensation on its handle mildly jolted my hand from its cold. Looking down into my cup, the liquid was clear. I guessed mead didn’t have the same frothy surface as beer, huh?
Remus raised his cup, beckoning me to clink our drinks together.
Reluctantly, our mugs met with a muted ‘ding’, the sound of a hollow, one-sided friendship.
The table behind me was getting rowdy. Two adventurers were hopping in circles, their arms locked between each other elbow to elbow. All the while, they were giving toasts, thanking the Seven Heroes for ushering an age of peace.
It seemed ironic to me, that two of those Heroes were right behind them, trapped in a sour mood over drinks. The two of us sitting at that bar counter were probably the least heroic to be Heroes.
“Kid, you still owe me sake.”
The hell was Remus making up?
“Heh, you ain’t wiggling yourself outta this one! You promised to let me have a taste of that ‘Japanese rice wine’ of yours, so cough it up.”
Oh, so Remus was that friendly with Hanasuke. I was getting more and more disappointed at this otherworlder for being so close to him.
“Sorry, I didn’t have time to make it.”
“Meh, figures. Some other time then. Being a dad is tough business, huh?”
Wait, I had no idea where this conversation was going at all. Was this an age gap thing?
Remus stared blankly at me, took a gulp of mead, and resumed staring.
“You haven’t made any moves on the princess yet! Ahaha—ah, my liver.”
Part of me wished he died instead of suffering an ache from laughing too hard.
“So you two hid away in the middle of nowhere, and for five months, you guys didn’t even do anything?! Kid, was this some of your weird training or somethin’? Here I was, thinkin’ that you two were planning to pop out Super Hero babies or somethin’! Bwahahahaha!”
“What about you? What have you been doing these past five months?”
I threw the ball back to him, just in time before he caused my vein to burst. A few sips of my drink did little to calm me down. It was surprisingly sweet—almost like honey.
“Damn, it’s already been five months since the big battle, eh?”
He took another big swig before continuing.
“Felt like years, kid. I ain’t sure if it’s ‘cause of age, but I just don’t have that energy anymore. Business has been crap. Barely anyone wants to hire mercenaries these days. Even my men have been leaving one by one.
And now, thanks to that cursed count in Ostura, those that were still with me were dead.”
Just like the innocent lives you took.
“Like I said, I don’t really blame ya. I did lose my temper when the count used my crew as a scapegoat to fake the death of some princeling. Trashed the whole town. By the time I calmed down, all that’s left was blood and rubble.
I felt empty. I thought I’ll feel happy or liberated, but I felt nothin’.
Part of me wished we were back as a party, y’know? Going around hunting demons and saving lives was fun. But I knew from the start I wasn’t Hero material. I just tagged along for the excitement, but today I realised, that ain’t gonna happen again.
It ain’t just you, we all changed.”
I hated the fact that I was able to understand him. He was still a murderer, but seeing his human side—the side of him yearning for things to be like how they were—was something that I completely agreed with.
I wanted my old life back. Being annoyed by Eveline, getting nagged my mum, pouring my heart out to the cows—things were so, so much simpler.
“How ‘bout you, kid? Besides failing to nail the princess, anything else happened?”
“Nothing special, really. There was nothing to do back in the forest. You wanna tell me where Sereya is now?”
“Kid, don’t be too sad, alright?”
I steeled myself. Please Goddess, just let her be okay.
“Our princess is in another castle. Bwahahahahahha!”
Eh? Why is he laughing?
“Kid, lighten up, will ya? That’s the joke you told me back then. I got it right, right?”
Hanasuke had a bizarre sense of humour.
“No, I’m serious. Where is Sereya?”
“The hell if I know?”
So this bastard was lying to me the whole time?! I felt like an idiot, wasting my time getting the stench of alcohol on my clothes for nothing.
“Drink, kid, drink! No point mopin’ around just for one woman. There’s definitely a line of ladies queuing up for you if you told them you killed the Demon Lord!”
This had nothing to do with that sort of relationship. I was just concerned for my companion.
Also, I didn’t want anything to do with this damned liar any further.
“No thanks. I’m taking my leave now. Thanks for the drinks.”
“Nah kid, you’re stayin’ with me.”
I got up from my seat, but the sudden change in height immediately sent my butt back to the stool again. My head weighed like a tonne; it was difficult to keep it upright.
Was I drunk? No way, I didn’t even finish half of my mug.
It was strange. Hearing the other customers sing and cheer with so much life and vigour as my consciousness slipped away.