The Consequence of Saving the World
As much as I wanted to keep admiring Sereya’s handiwork, I had my own role to play. Just like how the star performer steals the show, someone backstage still needs to move the props. Or in my case, stop one from escaping.
I unsheathed my sword, letting the blade hover dangerously close to Talbot’s neck.
“Don’t move,” my stern warning finally served him a dose of reality.
His expression of disbelief warped to one of panic. The inconceivability of our betrayal, the sight of his allies getting neutralised in a single breath—these things happened too suddenly and too unexpectedly. It was my blade under his chin that reminded him that this was all too real.
Talbot’s pupils bounced rapidly in all directions as his mind scrambled for a plan. His breathing halted for a moment once a sharp gasp of air left his throat.
He may be able to take down an ogre, but the element of surprise was enough for me to overcome the gap in our power. If it worked on a Hero like Remus—it sure as hell would work on him.
“W-Why?” his mouth wavered just like his spirit.
I could’ve explained to him, but nah. He had a whole lifetime ahead of him to come up with the answer. In jail, of course.
His eyes were no longer widened. In fact, they looked completely normal, almost as if the scene unfolding before us never happened. I realised a bit too late that this was a sign of someone who had lost all hope.
And when someone had nothing to lose, they’d give everything up.
That brief moment when his eyes met mine, I was shocked. Was he going to drive his own neck along the edge of my blade? I had no intention of actually using it—I just didn’t want him to move!
My entire attention was focused on my blade on his neck, so when I heard a ‘thunk’ beside me on the cave floor, my heart skipped a beat. A small round object rolled beside Talbot’s feet. By the time I recognised what it was, smoke burst out of it uncontrollably.
I cursed my own hesitation as he shoved me aside. The smell of burnt-out fireworks invaded my nose as thick white gas obfuscated my vision. Talbot disappeared into a fog of his own creation.
This wasn’t the time to berate my own carelessness—it was time for action. I couldn’t see Talbot, but I could hear the sound of his boots moving around me to my back. He may be stronger than me, but in close combat against this archer, I still had a chance.
My hearing was sharpened to the extreme, anticipating an attack. Was he going to use his hands? A knife? One of the arrowheads in the quiver behind his back, perhaps? The moment never came.
Instead of the sound of danger, I heard a sound far worse than I could’ve imagined.
My heart crumbled. In my own feeble endeavour of self-preservation, I neglected the safety of the innocent. I summoned all my strength to where Ain and Anita were, but that was my second mistake—Talbot’s footsteps were already heading towards the entrance of this room.
“AIN!” I yelled out.
It was slight reassurance to hear her voice, but the sound of it travelling further and further away as she called out to me was crushing. The rapid, consistent taps of his footsteps as he escaped was a headache-inducing reminder of my own incompetence.
With all my heart, I hoped for the best and shouted, “Sereya! Go after him!”
There was no time to argue. It was impossible for me to match Talbot’s speed and agility—those footsteps were all the proof I needed. The only person who could catch him was Sereya.
A strong gust of wind blew past me, following behind the blurry figure of Sereya. That brief moment when our paths crossed as she was next to me, I could hear her whispering to me as she whizzed past.
That wasn’t a warning—that was a demand. Just like how she obliged my request, I had to do the same for her.
Just like that, she was gone. The distant clashing of swords behind me cemented that fact.
The good news—I didn’t need to worry about those guards on the way here. The bad news—there was a lot to worry about in front of me.
As the smoke finally settled, I could make out the figure of Rolf breathing heavily as his chest moved up and down in a rhythmic manner. I didn’t blame him—he probably thought that he was about to meet his maker as Sereya ran past.
Behind him, the unbound pilgrims were checking on each other, making sure that they were okay. It was a sight for sore eyes. In that brief moment, Sereya not only took care of all Rolf’s lackeys—she also set the prisoners free.
The bandit chief turned to face me, still in a daze. I sheathed my weapon before making eye contact with him. As much as possible, I wanted to avoid fighting this giant of a man. All I needed to do was to wait for Sereya to return.
Both of us didn’t budge from where we stood. Only our eyes clashed. Suddenly, his breathing grew more and more ragged as he grabbed a huge club behind his throne, screaming at me while he charged!
“I wouldn’t do that if I were you,” I shot a cold warning at him, freezing him in his tracks. Truth be told, I wanted to make a run for it myself, but I had to salvage whatever act I had left.
“If I were to go down, let it be known that I’d rather go down swinging against a god.”
I admired his courage. Just like Talbot, he had resolved himself to do the impossible.
This was bad—I couldn’t see any way to discourage him from fighting.
“Anita, stand back.”
I wasn’t going to make the same mistake that I did. As she nodded, she slowly stepped back, putting herself closer to the edge of the wall.
“Aren’t you going to draw your sword?” Rolf asked.
“Sorry, but you’re not worthy enough for me to use it. Would my fists suffice?”
“Heh, too bad for me then.”
Honestly, Exordium wouldn’t make that much of a difference in this fight. I highly doubt I had the strength to even block one of his blows. Might as well put my entire focus on dodging. That, and a sword would make my shivering a lot more obvious.
“Well, here goes nothing!”
Like an elephant charging, every step that he took seemed to shake the earth, a complete reversal from Talbot’s swift cat-like running. As he brought his weapon down for a chop, I leapt to the side, easily avoiding it.
There was no doubt this man was on the level of an Ogre-ranked adventurer. A normal person wouldn’t be able to crack the ground where I once stood, sending small rocks and dust everywhere.
Relief started to soothe my weary heart. I just needed to keep evading these easy-to-read attacks and victory would be mine.
Next, a wide, horizontal swing. Rolf winded his arm back near his waist, but the height difference meant that it was aimed at my head. Again, I took a step back. The only thing that I failed to avoid was the air generated from the force of this attack.
Instead of following up with another wild attack, Talbot completely stopped, opting to stare at me. While I didn’t expect him to suddenly turn so passive, any time wasted was favourable to me.
I couldn’t really tell what he was thinking, but after that momentary pause, he charged forwards again. As he lifted his arm up for another obvious downward swing, I leapt back.
However, the club never came crashing down. It stayed still in the air, almost like a statue. It finally dawned unto me that that wasn’t an attack—it was a feint.
Those words sent chills down my spine. Someone on Sereya’s level would easily be able to discern a feint from an attack.
I clenched my jaw tightly. My cover may be blown, but that didn’t change my strategy!
Rolf rushed at me once more, but his attack was a lot quicker and came at a more unnatural angle. I barely managed to sidestep that swing, only for another one to come from the top!
I rolled to the side and hopped back, trying to give myself distance and breathing room. He was having none of it and leapt towards me as well.
My confidence was eroding. His movements were no longer as wild and readable as they once were. He no longer attacked like a man who gave up everything—he wanted to win.
“At first, I thought you were a lot stronger than Sereya—I could sense her presence, but yours was completely gone.”
I could barely catch his words—my attention was completely placed on avoiding his hits.
“But who knew—I couldn’t sense you because you’re no god, you’re just a mouse!”
My legs were aching as I propelled myself away from that last swing. Even though I was able to dodge all his attacks so far, the tides have completely turned.
Our roles had also swapped—he stood with confidence as he looked at me and all I could do was breathe heavily, trying to come to terms with my situation.
It sure was difficult trying to do that the more tired I got, Sereya.
Catch the audiobook reading of the first chapter of The Consequence of Saving the World on YouTube over on Honey's Anime's channel!