The Consequence of Saving the World
The side of my neck felt like it was a piece of dough, stretched and malformed out of its original shape. This dull, aching sensation underneath the right side of my jaw woke me up.
It wasn’t excruciating, but the stiffness of my neck was too uncomfortable. Even before I opened my eyes, all I could think about was my head permanently locked into this unnatural angle.
When I tried moving, that was when reality hit me.
Trying to turn my neck was a strenuous task, but at least I could move it. However, my entire body couldn’t move!
This was when the soreness enveloping most of my body started to kick in. I was lying on top of a cold, hard surface, probably made of some sort of stone. Yet, I wasn’t unable to shift my position at all no thanks to the rope wrapped around me.
My heart started to go into overdrive, fueling my mind in its quest for answers.
What the hell happened?
How did I end up here?
Where was I?
My eyes flickered open. Glimpses of the answer that I was looking for entered my view. When my eyes fully opened, the dread in my system started to multiply. This space or room I was in was extremely dark, bar the moonlight shining on the spot right in front of me through a hole in the wall.
It was still at night, which meant that I didn’t pass out for too long. Wait, what if I was gone for over a day, or maybe even longer?! The possibility was unlikely, but I did magically wake up ten years later, so this concern rooted itself at the back of my mind.
In my panicked thinking, some of the pieces started to click together. I was able to recall that I was drinking beforehand, but this clearly wasn’t the case of intoxication. My suspicions immediately fell on the person I was drinking with—Remus Whiteaxe.
The image of him drenched in the blood of Breven’s villagers resurfaced in my mind. This gruesome memory, even though it only flashed by for a second, triggered something in me. I wasn’t able to breathe.
It felt like it was drowning; my breaths were large and rapid, desperate for air, but it didn’t satisfy my lungs. The ropes around my chest made the process a million times more harrowing.
My body was breaking down in this panic attack. Squirming, wriggling like a caterpillar was the most I could do.
“Lucky me! I went out for a piss and boom! You’re awake.”
Remus’s voice confirmed my fears, causing my body and my mind to deteriorate even further.
The realisation I could die at any moment was too much.
I wasn’t able to beg for my life—the gate in my throat was shut, causing a traffic jam of words.
My neck felt it was being torn apart each time I shook my head violently. The soreness it once had wasn’t enough to stop my body’s natural responses.
But above all else, I didn’t want to die.
All this while, I was acting like a Hero when I was not. I was holding it within me, trying to act tough when I really wasn’t.
I tried. I really did.
When the peace enjoyed by the world was at stake, I took over Hanasuke’s responsibilities because I didn’t want anyone else to suffer. All this while, I thought that I was amounting to something, that even if I was taking baby steps, I was getting one step closer to Sereya.
Yet, at the threat of losing my life, I reverted to what I really was—a helpless peasant.
This wasn’t the Memory Dive where I could live out a fantasy.
This was reality.
This was the consequence of saving the world when I couldn’t even save myself.
In a bizarre yet morbid way, I was able to calm down somewhat from coming to terms with my own uselessness.
“Strange, aren’t you gonna beg for your life or ask why I did all this?”
“You’re gonna kill me anyways, right?”
I wasn’t acting tough when a smile naturally found its way to my face. That smile belonged to a man who had given up hope.
“Relax, I ain’t some murder-happy maniac. Drinkin’ with you actually put me in a good mood. I got a lot outta my chest. Depending on how you answer my questions, you might live.”
I wasn’t falling for it.
The last time mum believed you, you slaughtered everyone like animals, even your friends.
“So spit it out. Where is the real kid? Why was a fraud like you at the summit?”
“I wished I knew that too. You think I signed up for this?!”
Remus yanked my collar, lifted me up and pushed me against the wall. I was finally able to see his face as the moonlight shone on his face.
Good mood my ass. He had murder in his eyes.
“You better fess up. I think you know already that patience isn’t exactly my strong suit.”
“If you don’t believe me, you can ask Ordis. We tried to get Hanasuke back from my body, or at least, whatever power he left in me, but it didn’t work.”
Remus’s pupils widened. Was he in shock? His grip definitely loosened.
“Hanasuke...that was the kid’s name in his old world.”
He contemplated a bit, before continuing:
“What do you mean? What happened to the real kid?!”
“He’s gone, Remus. His soul disappeared. You’re talking to the guy who’s the original owner of this body—Evansmith Mattheld.”
“THE HELL ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT?!!”
“I woke up just two days ago in a house I didn’t know and in front of a woman I never met. She told me that I was the one who killed the Demon Lord. I thought that was a load of crap, until I saw my face.
I’m twenty-eight. I’m twenty-eight years old, Remus. Twenty-eight!
I’m supposed to be a teenager. Ten years of my life just disappeared and now I have to act like a Hero because if I don’t this world will go to hell.
Do you have any idea how that feels?”
I couldn’t control the tears falling down my face. It wasn’t from fear—it was from the huge burden on my tiny shoulders.
I was just so, so tired.
Remus looked at me with a pained look on his face. It reminded me of my initial meeting with Sereya—that face of sheer disbelief when they realised that the companion whom they shared blood, sweat and tears with, was gone.
Remus’s arms were still holding me up, solid and unmovable like a huge rock. In contrast, his face was unsteady; he couldn’t find an answer to my question.
“At least you’re strong, Remus. Even if you don’t wanna be a Hero, you can kill demons and people with ease. But me?
I’m just a normal guy.”
“Shut up! Shut up shut up shut up!”
Was he—was he actually crying?
“YOU’RE LYING! THE KID AIN’T GONE!”
That wasn’t an accusation. That was denial.
“The kid ain’t gone...he can’t be. He’s the strongest human in the world. He can’t—”
Remus’s hands finally lost his strength, causing me to slump to the floor.
“—He made a promise to me. When this is all over, we’d go back on one more adventure, just like the old days.
You’re tellin’ me I’ll never have a chance to pay him back?! That I’ll never be able to save his life like he did for me?”
Remus was a man in his forties, but he was just standing there, crying and asking me questions I couldn’t answer.
If I had to guess, his friendship with Hanasuke turned him from the monster I knew in the Memory Dive to the human I see crying in front of me.
Remus fell to his knees. He looked at me and started screaming:
“This, this, this ain’t true! All this ain’t true! Ordis just didn’t try hard enough! You’re still in there somewhere! Come out kid!
...Please don’t leave me.”
Ordis raised his hand slightly. In it, was a peculiarly shaped silver object that I had never seen before.
“Remember this? You gave this to me before the final battle. If it weren’t for this, I would have died.”
“I’m sorry, Remus. I really don’t.”
Gripping the handle of the object, he showed me the side of its upper half. Its top part had a long metallic cylinder.
“This is a revolver. It’s stronger than any bow or crossbow. You said that it was really hard to make, but you gave it to me because you believed it’ll make me stronger than ever. See?”
A deafeningly loud explosion blasted my hearing into oblivion. My ears rang like crazy and my heart felt like it burst.
Smoke was rising from the tip of the revolver in Remus’s hand that was pointing towards the ceiling.
The moment he pulled the trigger, I witnessed a flash of fire and that ear-shattering sound.
I had never heard a sound so terrifying in my life. I was only when I looked up to the ceiling and saw a new hole which let more moonlight pass through, that I realised—
—I wet myself.
“You don’t remember this?”
I could only shiver and tremble. This weapon was an instrument of the gods. Humans shouldn’t be using something like that.
“Maybe if I played Russian Roulette with you just like last time, you’ll finally remember.”