The Consequence of Saving the World
After turning a haul of three rabbits from field to food, it was time for an age-old campfire tradition—storytelling. I took my time collecting my thoughts, letting the smoked flavour of the meat seep into my tongue then to my brain, stimulating it.
Anita and Sereya’s eyes followed me with anticipation, waiting for the moment I tell my tale. As for Ain, my newly-made friend was already fast asleep. Casual conversation would no longer be able to drag her from the depths of her slumber. I just had to avoid moving my lower body—her little head had marked my right thigh as her pillow.
“There’s nothing too interesting about it, really. I used to live as a farmer in Breven back when it was just a tiny village until one day, I realised I wanted to see the world. That’s when I decided to be an adventurer. Then the rest is history.”
Judging from Sereya’s lack of expression, it appeared that my partially true story was convincing enough. Instead of going for something grand or epic, the safest lies to tell were the shortest after all. So much for a story.
“Ah, so you’re Breven-born. Is that why you took up this quest with Sereya?”
“That’s right. I’m planning to retire from adventuring and settle down back home. This quest is killing two birds with one story for me, really.”
Sereya added, “Yup, poor Uncle ended up with a nasty wound that ended his career early, haha!”
I joined in her laughter with a half-hearted one of my own.
“So that’s why you two Dragon-ranked adventurers decided to take on such an easy quest. It must be fate that brought all of us together.”
“So why are you and your daughter going back to Breven, if I may ask?” I passed the storyteller hat to Anita.
“We’re making our pilgrimage to Breven. We missed the earlier convoy because Ain was having a fever. That’s why we submitted our need of an escort to the guild. Just a mother and daughter travelling alone for such a long distance is not exactly safe, even in these peaceful times.”
The old lady who sold Timetia leaves back in Allantheim said something about pilgrims going to Breven, but why?
“It’s been years since I’ve last visited Breven. What’s happening there that’s drawing so many pilgrims like yourself?”
“You haven’t heard?” Anita raised her eyebrow, “That’s the birthplace of the Hero, Evansmith Mattheld.”
“O-Oh, what a coincidence,” hearing my name caused my eye to twitch. I rubbed it to stay inconspicuous.
“My husband and I are Evanists. I’ll be meeting—”
The words that left her mouth made me choke, my lungs violently tried to expel whatever pieces of meat that fell into the wrong hole. I thought I woke up Ain for a moment as she turned, but thankfully she stayed dormant.
No! Hell no!
They made a religion out of me?! Was this a cult or something? For heaven’s sake, I was the furthest thing from a god!
“Uncle, are you okay?”
“Oh, don’t worry about him,” Sereya came to my rescue, “Your cooking is so good, he just bit more than he can chew. Right, Uncle?”
As I tapped my chest repeatedly to clear the blockage, I gave a thumbs up with my other hand, signalling that everything was okay.
As if she read my mind, Sereya asked, “I’ve heard of Evanism before, but you’re actually the first Evanist I met, Anita. Could you tell me more about your faith?”
“With pleasure,” she smiled, “Unlike the Vilmari, we’re still part of the Great Faith—we still believe in the Goddess. The difference is that in Evanism, we believe that Lord Evansmith is the Son of the Goddess, descending to Fallcross in human form, ushering in an age of light after slaying the Demon Lord.”
I thanked the Goddess and every other real minor god out there that I stuck with my Uncle persona. This situation was a million times worse when compared to Melyeze passing out from meeting Sereya. My gratefulness for listening to Sereya’s advice was immeasurable.
“P-Pardon me for asking, but what’s the Church’s stance on Evanism?”
If it were me, this definitely sounded like heresy. Heck, your ‘Lord Evansmith’ himself viewed this as one!
Both Anita and Sereya stared at me like I’ve spoken nonsense.
“Uncle, just where in Fallcross did you travel?” the latter chided, “The Church has been destroyed for years. Not the building I mean, the organisation itself!”
“It was our Lord Evansmith himself who exposed the corruption within the Church—such a filial Son who upheld the sanctity of His Mother’s name!”
No Anita, don’t clasp your hands in prayer! That idiot can’t do anything for you! I know him better than anyone else!
Okay, maybe except the whole Hanasuke period of my life. Seriously, why must you go and make people think that I’m some sort of god?! What did the Church do to get destroyed? Every organisation is corrupt anyways, why destroy the Church?
“Ah, I’m sorry,” when I was actually not, “I must’ve spent too much time at the fringes of civilisation! Hahaha!”
After my bout of fake laughter, I continued, “I’m genuinely curious about your beliefs, ma’am. How do Evanists view the other Seven Heroes, for example, the one sitting over there?”
As I tilted my head to the side, poining at Sereya, she shot me a menacing glare, irritated that I tried to drag her into my mess.
“We view them with great respect,” Anita solemnly lowered her head to her former charge, “as should all of mankind.”
Sereya sneaked in a sigh of relief.
Anita smiled once more, the wrinkles on her face vanishing due to her joy, “I’m touched that you’d inquire so much about Evanism!” Our faith is only several months old, but we’ve been spreading far and wide. There’s even talk about reforming the Church under the banner of Evanism to guide all those of the Great Faith!”
“And it’ll be headquarted at Breven, I suppose?” I asked with dread filled in my heart.
“I’m not too sure myself. While Breven would be perfect, it’s still a rather small, developing town. The Patriarchs are still discussing that. Maybe you can pay the temple at Breven a visit—I’m sure Priestess Imelda would enlighten you!”
I felt like I was being evangelised to. Crap, why did that word have to contain my name, too?!
“Is there anything else you’d like to know?” Anita looked at me with wide, expectant eyes.
“Actually, Anita,” Sereya beat me to asking, “is your daughter a believer, too?”
Ain continued to snore on my lap, oblivious that she was now the focus of the conversation. Her mother’s eagerness changed to dejection, “Sadly, no. We can’t force others, even our own children to be Evanists. Lord Evansmith despised that practice of the Church. Hopefully, one day, she’ll see the truth in our faith.”
Well, it did make sense. She was older than this new, alien religion. It’ll probably take time before it became the norm, which I hoped it wouldn’t.
“Tell me more about the pilgrimage site at Breven. What do you do there?” I prayed that my imagination would be wrong.
“Besides gathering at the temple, we’ll be visiting the home of our Lord, of course! Did you know he used to be a humble farmer? We’ll prostrate ourselves and pray at the various locations our Lord used to frequent in his childhood, from the Mattheld family farm to the fields.”
No no no! This couldn’t be happening! My house! What the hell have they done to my house!?
“Didn’t Lord Evansmith have a family or something? I couldn’ve sworn I’ve heard he used to live with his mother and sister.”
I tried my best to hide it, but I could feel something boiling inside of me. Anita probably hadn’t realise it, but Sereya did. She was gesturing for me to calm down—something that I found to be extremely challenging at the moment.
“A sister? That’s the first I’ve heard of that. But records and accounts surrounding Lord Evansmith’s early life is heavily debated amongst the Patriarchs at the moment. What we can confirm is that his human mother has passed away, but we’re still looking for where she was buried.”
“Ah, I s-see.”
NO! I refuse to believe that! Mum…
With whatever control that I could still muster, I gently picked up the sleeping Ain. Every step that I took felt heavier and heavier. I laid her down on her mother’s lap, fighting against the emotions that were about to burst inside of me.
“Eh, where are you going?” Anita asked.
“Oh, I’m going to relieve myself. Just carry on talking, you two.”
As I turned around, I could feel my cheeks getting wet. I wanted to scream so badly, but I had to wait just a bit longer.
As I dragged my feet, it was getting harder and harder to control my breathing. Even with my back turned towards Anita, I still had to keep up the act. I had to get far away enough.
With bit lip and clenched fists, I headed deep into the forest where I could be alone.