The Consequence of Saving the World
“Alright people, gather ‘round and listen up! I hate repeating myself,” as I took a deep breath, I blasted out:
“EVERYONE, GET HERE NOW!”
I could already feel my throat starting to cry with how much I’d raised my voice. Sorry, but you’ll have to endure it longer—this was merely the start.
The pilgrims obliged. Sereya and I stood motionless in the centre as many of them started to huddle around us, wondering what was going on. Despite my best efforts at channelling my inner Remus, I wasn’t as barbaric as he was, which led to several ignorant fellows who disregarded my command. Most of these were the adventurers. This wouldn’t do.
“Are you guys there deaf?” I roared at the group of adventurers sitting outside a tent in the back, “This isn’t a request, this is an order!”
“Why the hell should we listen to you?” one of them shouted back.
As if on cue, both Sereya and I reached under our cloaks, pulling out our ‘symbols of authority.’
Shock and bewilderment filled the faces in front of me. Most stood in complete awe, jaws agape without a single word leaving their mouths. Eventually, I heard a voice in the crowd, uttering:
“N-No way, those t-tags—they’re Dragon-ranked adventurers!”
It was understandable that it took a while for someone to realise what a Dragon-ranked adventurer plate was. Most—myself included—never even saw such a thing until just now. There were only a handful of Dragon-ranked adventurers in the country, their status solidified by the elusive Spectral Ore used to forge their plate.
The dog tag in my grasp shone with an iridescent gleam when reflected under the light of the sun. This rainbow-like radiance emanating from my hand was blinding, so much so that it felt embarrassing for me to do this.
According to Sereya, Hanasuke had a tendency to misplace stuff, which was why she held on to his plate. Still, I couldn’t help but feel that he too, was embarrassed to carry such a ridiculous accessory around.
“I-If they’re Dragon-ranked, does t-that mean—”
“It can’t b-be! They’re part of the Seven Heroes, Sereya and E-E—”
“Sorry to disappoint, but I’m not your god.” I quickly kept my adventurer plate back into my cloak, as did Sereya. Some of the pilgrims were already starting to kneel and prostrate themselves which I found ludicrous.
With that scene out of the way, it felt great to see that the non-compliant ones finally got the message. Everyone has gathered around in a semi-circle in front of the two of us. Our influence was so great, not even the sweltering heat of the sun could stop the pilgrims and adventurers from forming a crowd before us.
“You don’t need to know our names,” I opened my speech with a warning, “In fact, it would be in your best interest if you forget that you’ve ever seen us. Trust me, if you value your lives, it’s best you keep that in mind.”
Rumours were bound to spread. Still, it was better if people kept guessing who we were for the longest time, especially me. It would be a pain if folks were to lay down their cloaks and garments out on the road as I rode into Breven.
Worst come to worst, it was also a way out—in the event that if this doesn’t proceed as planned, at least our names wouldn’t be as tarnished as much.
With everyone’s eyes trained on me, I felt a sense of deja vu. My mind flashbacked to what happened in the Seven Heroes Summit and how I weaselled out of that mess. The difference was, my words at that time was fueled by my hatred towards Remus. Here, I had Sereya on my side. That was more than enough for me to evaporate the cold sweat in my feet.
With renewed conviction, I carried on with my words.
“We were sent here by the Guild to investigate this matter of pilgrims going missing. Honestly, it’s a waste of time for me to even be here, but that’s how serious they’re treating this issue.
After our initial investigation, we’ve determined that it isn’t a monster in the woods that’s behind the disappearances, it’s one of you.”
Surprised gasps and disbelief emerged from the crowd. How could one of them, a devout follower in the name of…ugh, I don’t want to think about it—even consider doing such a heinous act?
“You bastard!” Bernard shouted and squeezed through the crowd. At first, I thought he was referring to me, but he turned around and addressed everyone else instead, “You better come out now and own up for your crimes!”
He was like a cornered beast, barking at everyone in front of him. While the pilgrims no doubt treated him as their leader due to his size and presence, I could see why the adventurers kept their distance from him.
I place my hand on his shoulder. In a soft, but foreboding tone, I cautioned, “You’re not the one in control here.”
That was all it took for him to stand down. He turned from a cornered beast into a dog with its tail tucked between its legs, scampering back into the safety of the crowd.
Even he wasn’t stupid enough to go against someone who could slay a dragon. Thankfully, no one was smart enough to realise I couldn’t, either.
With the interruption gone, I resumed, “As I was saying, one of you is behind it. I understand, if I was the culprit, even I wouldn’t be so reckless as to out myself right here, in front of everyone, but if you were to confess with me in private, I guarantee your safety.
However, if you do not come clean before I catch you myself, you’ll have the honour of being skewered on a pole as a feast for the vultures. A sentence befitting of your crimes, no?”
“You may be Dragon-ranked adventurers, but not even you could decide that!” one of the adventurers in the back blurted that out.
I didn’t even need to give the signal—Sereya reached for the sword at her waist. It lasted only a moment, but the bloodlust she emitted was terrifying. I was reminded by the fact that if she so choose, she could massacre everyone here on a whim. I still couldn’t get used to the idea that such a flirty dork like her could transform into a cold indiscriminate killer at an instant.
“Might I remind you all that this is a quest bestowed onto us not by a person, but by the Guild itself. As this area is beyond the reach of any nearby demesne, we have the authority to decide whatever sentence to mete out.
Also, you incompetent adventurers should be grateful that I’ve decided not to punish the lot of you. Seeing so many of you stand around and do nothing as the pilgrims argue amongst themselves makes me want to puke. If you trash did your job properly, I wouldn’t be wasting my time here cleaning up your mess!”
Seriously Evan, you should listen to the hogwash coming out of your mouth.
“Now, is there anyone else who wants to spoil my mood?”
I scanned the faces before me. All I saw was subservience.
“Good. Bernard!” I called out the burly man to my side.
“How many of you are here right now, including the adventurers?”
“There’s thirty-six of us,” he answered me post-haste.
“I want you to divide everyone into groups of three. It won’t be equal, but try to have one adventurer in each group. This isn’t just to protect you all from going missing—if anyone of you decides to leave this camp of your own accord, I’ll consider you guilty and kill you on the spot. Did I make myself clear?”
With their lives at stake, no one had the courage to retort.
“Bernard, carry on then.”
As I left the grouping to Bernard, Sereya and I walked away from the others.
“Evan, where in the world did you learn to speak like that? You’re like a completely different person!”
“Same goes to you. You transformed into a murderer for a second there.” I clapped back at her.
“As if it was your first time seeing that,” she pursed her lips.
Honestly, I didn’t exactly ‘learn’ how to speak like that. The painful experience of not speaking up when it mattered to me the most during the Memory Dive changed me. It wasn’t so much the courage to speak, but the fear of saying the wrong things that kept me going.
It was bad enough that I had a habit of escalating a lie with another one just to keep the act going. What kept me from crumbling from the pressure was Sereya. May the Goddess bless her soul.
Putting the Memory Dive incident behind me, I asked her, “So, did you find anything?”
“I did as you said, and I could hear the irregular heartbeat of one of the adventurers at the back. The blond archer—his fear was extremely obvious when you said that one of them did it. I think it may be him.”
With a smirk, I replied, “Let’s pay him a visit, shall we?”