Chapter 37:

The Friend Beside Me

The Consequence of Saving the World

As the cantering of our steed continued, so did the awkward atmosphere surrounding me. Ever since we got on the cart, Ain hasn’t called out “Uncle” even once. This itself is a cause for celebration. After all, even our horse, Zephyr, had a more decent name than me.

While it was soundless music to my ears, the silence did make the air feel heavy. The little girl played with the flounce of her dress, thumb and index finger rubbing against the fabric unendingly. Her gaze will periodically shift from the ground to her side, stealing glances in Sereya’s direction.

Even though Sereya sat by the edge, it was Ain who was on edge. The girl was literally keeping an eye out on the blademaster, fearing that she’ll be up to no good.

The tension in the air aside, seeing as how Ain harboured ill intent toward my partner, I felt the responsibility to do something about it. It would be a pain if someone decided to slander the good name of the Merciful Blade.

“Psst, hey,” I snapped the girl out of her own machinations. A look of shock appeared on her face as if she only just realised that I was in the cart all along.

I got up, trying not to fall as the cart hit a small bump. Scooting over to her side, I became something of a human shield, putting myself between her and Sereya. Thankfully, she didn’t show any signs of discomfort from this pre-middle aged guy sitting next to her.

I whispered, “Why do you hate Sereya so much?”

“She hurt mum.”

Without even a hint of hesitation, her sharp, direct response startled me.

“What do you mean?”

This time, she wavered. The firmness in her reply was missing. After a brief moment of thought, she got back to me, “If I tell you, promise me you’ll keep it a secret?”

There was no need for me to tell anyone else. Sereya’s enhanced senses meant that she definitely knew what we were whispering about.

“I, Uncle, hereby promise that if I told anyone what I was about to learn, the hilt of my sword will be jammed right into my ass.”


Even though Ain tried to stifle her laughter with her hand, the one who failed to do so was Sereya.

“But, you’re close with her, aren’t you?”

Children were a lot more perceptive than we give them credit for, that’s for sure.

“She’s a slave driver. It’ll benefit me a tonne if I could find out her weakness of something,” technically, I wasn’t lying.

Ain’s eyes lit up. She was convinced that she discovered a fellow comrade against the terror that is Sereya the Merciful Blade.

“Okay,” she said as she nodded excitedly, a curve gradually forming on her lips. However, her joy was short-lived as she recalled the events that served as the firestarter that caused her hatred to burn so brightly.

“Mum used to work as a maid for the Bladecrest family. She took care of Sereya.”

Her opening line was a huge piece of the puzzle. No wonder Sereya gave Anita such a warm hug when they reunited. ‘Family friend’ was an understatement.

“I stayed at home. Mum wasn’t allowed to bring me to work, but that’s okay. Before working for the Bladecrests she was a maid for a few other noble families, so I was used to it.

Mum would always come back home and tell me stories about Sereya. She’ll tell me things like, ‘All she cared about was swinging her sword. That’s not how a lady should behave,’ and stuff like that.

I really wanted to meet Sereya at first. Her life sounded so exciting. Not a lot of girls were into sword fighting, so I really wondered how she was like.”

Oh boy, wait till you met Eveline. I pitied Anita—taking care of girls who loved blades more than boys was definitely a chore.

“So how did she hurt your mother? You were interested in her life, no?”

“Yeah, I was,” her mind wandered, thinking about her past, “When Sereya was fifteen, she won the Zethos Tournament, beating Evansmith Mattheld in the finals. People were calling her the greatest swordswoman of all time.”

Wow Hanasuke, thanks for using my name and being a loser. In all seriousness, that was really impressive of her.

I finally knew why when Sereya introduced herself to me back when we were at the house surrounded by the forest maze, she did so with murderous intent. The two of them started off as enemies, huh.

Ain continued, “She was an inspiration for all the girls around the world. Boys weren’t the only ones who could fight. Everyone wanted to be like Sereya, and I felt extra proud because mum was the one who helped take care of her. It also made me pretty popular—all my friends wanted to know what Sereya was like, so they were nice to me.

The Bladecrest family only trained their sons in sword fighting, not the daughters. She trained herself and won the tournament just to prove herself to her dad just so that she could join the military, but because he said no, Sereya ran away with Evansmith to become adventurers.

Because of that, the Bladecrest family blamed mum for not raising Sereya right. They punished her and made her lose her job. Sereya never cared about mum. She didn’t think about her when she abandoned her. Even though mum forgave her, I couldn’t.”

Ain’s eyes were teary as her breathing became ragged. I patted her on her back in an attempt to console her.

“Mum and dad had to work extra hard just to make enough money. The Bladecrest family did everything they can to make it difficult for us. This is all because of Sereya. She saved the world, but she destroyed ours.

If only she talked to mum before she left. If only she did something to stop her family from bullying us. If only she—”

Ain gritted her teeth. On the verge of tears, she stood up all of a sudden.

“If only she cared!” she screamed, pointing at the cause of her suffering. I remained silent. I didn’t have the heart to tell her she was wrong or she had to calm down. Whether or not Sereya was in the right or wrong, Ain was a victim.

“I’m sorry,” Sereya broke her silence, “I made mistakes when I was younger, I won’t deny it. I caused you and your parents a lot of pain and anguish. You have every right to hate me. I’m not asking you to forgive me, I just want to let you know that I really am sorry for what I’ve done.”

The greatest swordswoman in the world bowed before the little girl, her head flat on the surface of the cart. I was at a complete loss for words. Even Ain was caught off guard by Sereya.

“I don’t care! I hate you! I—”

I got up and stretched my arms, “Ahh, I wished I wasn’t stuck here between two mortal enemies. When two sides fight, it’s always the innocent like me that suffers.”

This was getting out of hand. Both Ain and Sereya have already said what needed to be said. Any more and it’ll be overdoing it.

Ain sat back down, embarrassed that she made a scene, “S-Sory, Uncle.”

You apologised, but you hurt me even more with that name.

Sereya also slumped back to her sitting position. With the situation diffused, I also sat back down beside Ain.

“Is anything the matter?” Anita yelled from the front of the cart.

“No ma’am, the matter has been resolved!” I answered.

I glanced at the child beside me, her anger having diminished, “So, do you feel better now that you’ve let it out your chest?”

“Yeah. Thanks, Uncle,” her reply caused me to wince, “But is it okay for me to ask—why are you so nice to me? We only just met.”

“Isn’t it normal to be nice to the people you meet?” I served her a slice of common sense.

“Y-Yeah, but what do you get from doing that?”

Her friends were probably only nice to her just to know more about Sereya. The poor thing.

“I helped make you feel better, didn’t I? And when you feel better, I feel better.”

“But, why?”

Smite me, Goddess—why were kids so inquisitive?!

“Well Ain, just like you, my life also turned upside down because of things outside my control. That’s called life. If you’re gonna be pissed off all the time, you’re gonna grow old really fast and become like me. You wouldn’t want people to call you Uncle—I mean, Aunty now, don’t you?”

“B-But, that’s your name.”

“I know! I was just making an example, okay? Don’t need to remind me about it.”

She giggled, “You’re funny, Uncle. The way you talk sounds a lot younger than you look.”

Exactly, but just because that’s a fact, doesn’t mean you need to say it!

“Hey, Uncle,” her tiny hand tugged on my sleeve, “Can we be friends?”

I sighed. I can feel myself growing older by the minute.

“Weren’t we already now?”

Ain nodded. Her smile warmed me up instantly. Perhaps going through the trouble of making things less awkward wasn’t so bad, after all.

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