Chapter 36:

The Man Called Uncle

The Consequence of Saving the World

I hate you.Bookmark here

The only time I could recall uttering these three words was the first time I had chicken. It was only after I realised that ‘Matilda’’ was no longer in the coop, did it dawned upon me that the new, delicious meat I ate last dinner was her. I stormed into mum’s room crying, “I hate you! You’re a murderer!” among other things. From that point onwards, my childhood was lost and I swore off chicken meat.Bookmark here

The difference between that incident and the one happening in front of me was the way “I hate you,” was said. Mine burned brightly with anger, but the flame fizzled out as quickly as it ignited. The same three-word declaration from the little girl, however, was ice cold. It was the type of hatred that harboured in one’s heart for years. Bookmark here

I found it hard to believe that Sereya could warrant that kind of contempt from a small child of all people. Then again, her past was a hidden stash of mysteries to me. Looking at her expression, it seemed that she too was completely baffled to hear that statement. It appeared to me that she didn’t know who the child behind the lady named Anita was.Bookmark here

Kneeling down and placing her hands on the child’s shoulders, Anita rebuked, “Ain! What are you saying?! Apologise immediately!” Bookmark here

Ain swiped off the lady’s hands while yelling, “Mum she’s the one who—”Bookmark here

Before she could finish her sentence, Anita silenced her daughter with a painful sounding slap.Bookmark here

“Go to the cart right now!” she scolded as she pointed in my direction, “Wait next to that uncle!”Bookmark here

Ack—even though Sereya was on the receiving end of a hostile declaration, I was the one who suffered injury. Look, I was trapped in a twenty-eight-year-old body, but I was still mentally eighteen! You could’ve said “that guy,” or “that man,” but nope, you just had to go to “uncle” territory Anita. I didn’t even know you!Bookmark here

My self-reflection on the connection between my age and my appearance was cut short by the next act of the dramatic theatre show in front of me. Even onlookers were stealing glances at this display. Bookmark here

Ain looked exactly like me when I was slapped by my own mother—hand on cheek, eyes teary and in disbelief. If it was me, I would’ve started bawling. The reason why she didn’t was because the physical pain of the slap didn’t hurt as much as the emotional one. The act of her mother siding with the object of her hatred was a lot more damaging.Bookmark here

She shot Sereya a murderous glare as Anita lowered her head and apologised on her daughter’s behalf. Sereya was waving her hand, gesturing to her not to mind it, but the swordswoman was as confused as I am.Bookmark here

Ain stomped towards me, her twitching eyes met mine. Damn, maybe I should have acted busy or looked somewhere else. Since there was eye contact, if I turned away, it’ll make things even more awkward.Bookmark here

She didn’t say anything. I wouldn’t be surprised if she hated all adults at that moment. As she stood beside me, a heavy cloud loomed over us. The poor girl probably felt more alone than anyone else—a feeling no child should experience.Bookmark here

“Hey,” I mindlessly blurted that out. No response. After quickly rearranging my thoughts, I commented:Bookmark here

“You’re the bravest person in the world, you know that? There’s no one alive who has the balls to say that to one of the Seven Heroes.”Bookmark here

A cold silence followed. She could probably sense what I was trying to do and wasn’t exactly buying into it. However, I was caught off-guard when she asked, “Are you one of the Seven Heroes, too?”Bookmark here

“Nope! Just an ordinary guy,” I recalled Sereya’s words. Not gonna invite trouble by impersonating an overpowered fellow, nope. I followed up with, “I’m a weakling. If my mum hit me like that, I’ll be crying like a baby. Uwah! Uwah!”Bookmark here

Success! That little giggle helped to mend the tattered atmosphere somewhat. Though, I could feel myself cringing inside as I performed my horrible rendition of a crying infant.Bookmark here

“Thanks for trying to cheer me up, uncle.”Bookmark here

Arghhh! That blasphemous word! Hearing that from a child was even worse. I could feel my ego getting run over by a carriage. It was such an immense mental blow, I even physically winced a bit. Bookmark here

“N-No big deal,” I had to mask the pain. I prayed that Sereya and Anita would finish their conversation quicker so we could leave.Bookmark here

Ain threw another unexpected question in my way. This time, it was even more challenging.Bookmark here

“I’m Ain. Uncle, what’s your name?”Bookmark here

Crap.Bookmark here

Sereya and I hadn’t come up with a fake identity for me. The unpleasant sensation of sweat sliding down my forehead didn’t aid me in my thinking. Bookmark here

Turning my head to look at Ain was a mistake. Her eyes had brightened up a little, but the pressure they added was a lot. Think, Evan, think!Bookmark here

“My n-name is…” even my saliva was panicking—I almost choked myself on it.Bookmark here

“My name is Uncle!”Bookmark here

Ah confound me sideways. At the worst moment, my tongue betrayed its master. The mental torment was made manifest. I just introduced myself with the worst possible name in existence.Bookmark here

“Pfft,” a tiny noise was released beside me, followed by a snort, followed by, “Hahahahah! Wait, are you serious? your parents named you Uncle?! So do I call you ‘Uncle Uncle’ like Uncle Chris or Uncle Adam?”Bookmark here

“Y-Yes,” I conceded. I gave her happiness at the cost of mine.Bookmark here

“Hahaha! Oh, I’m so sorry, Uncle Uncle! I didn’t mean to laugh at your name! It’s just the way you said it was so funny!”Bookmark here

Please send me back to the hospital already. I was pretty certain all my organs were bleeding.Bookmark here

Unbeknownst to the girl, her fit of laughter has drawn the attention of Sereya and Anita, who walked towards us. Bookmark here

“Aw, look at you,” As Sereya addressed me, Ain quickly suppressed her laughter, but was failing miserably. She escaped by hopping onto the back of the cart.Bookmark here

Sereya continued, “I didn’t know you were good with kids.”Bookmark here

“Yeah, me too,” I acknowledged weakly.Bookmark here

Sereya suddenly bit the side of her lip as she muttered, “Not gonna lie, but that is kinda hot, Uncle.”Bookmark here

Done. I. Was. Done.Bookmark here

Forget the hospital, just dig a hole and bury me already. Life was a mistake.Bookmark here

Her words materialised an ethereal sword that flew and pierced me through the sternum. I dropped down to my knees as I felt invisible blood leaking out of all my orifices. The only thing that refused to shut down was my mind, burning and suffering in the flames of humiliation.Bookmark here

“Are you okay, sir?” Anita questioned as I felt her gaze land on the downtrodden me.Bookmark here

Unable to answer, Sereya voluntarily assisted on my behalf, “Don’t worry, Uncle will recover in a bit.”Bookmark here

That wasn’t assistance. That was betrayal.Bookmark here

I forced whatever was left of me to stand up. I ignored Sereya’s smug face to greet Anita.Bookmark here

“Thank you so much for helping to cheer my daughter up,” she bowed.Bookmark here

“It’s fine. Can I go and drive the cart now?” I didn’t want to sit at the back of the cart and get abused any further.Bookmark here

“No, how could I trouble a Dragon-ranked adventurer with that? Please, your presence is already enough.”Bookmark here

Wait—I was a what now?Bookmark here

“Thanks Anita,” Sereya then whispered to me, “You being in the cart with Ain and me will help to make things a lot less awkward.”Bookmark here

I surrendered to my fate and let Anita take the reins for us. As she headed off to the front, I asked Sereya:Bookmark here

“What’s a Dragon-ranked adventurer and why am I one?”Bookmark here

“That’s our rank. Back when Hanasuke was inside of you, we were adventurers. Sorry, I mean we are still adventurers. A Dragon-rank license lasts a lifetime, y’know?”Bookmark here

My only knowledge of adventurers were the occasional few that came to visit Breven, but I wasn’t aware of any ranking system.Bookmark here

“Out of curiosity, what are the adventurer ranks?”Bookmark here

She explained, “There are five in total—Goblin, Ogre, Basilisk, Chimera and Dragon—each monster represents the approximate strength and ability of the adventurer.”Bookmark here

Wonderful. So I was registered as someone who’s as strong as a bloody dragon of all things. Great. Just great.Bookmark here

“I’m ready to go whenever you two are ready!” Anita exclaimed from the front of the horse cart.Bookmark here

“Don’t worry Evan. If for some reason you needed to wield your sword, just say that your old injuries made you extremely weak.”Bookmark here

“Right.”Bookmark here

As the two of us got on the back of the cart, Ain was tucked at the corner. Sereya nudged me to sit in front of her, while she sat at the opposite end, near our belongings. She probably found out from Anita why her daughter hated her, so sat further away to avoid aggravating the child.Bookmark here

I was stuck with a girl who’d call me Uncle Uncle. Goddess help me. Couldn’t have asked for a better start to our journey.Bookmark here

You can resume reading from this paragraph.