Chapter 51:

The Art of Hope

The Consequence of Saving the World

“Uncle! Uncle!”

From the darkness of this large room’s entrance, the voice of a familiar little girl pierced through. The excitement in her voice bounced throughout the cave walls, reflecting her enthusiasm as it reached my ears.

I was still resting on the crude stone throne, my broken arm supported on the arm rest. At this point, I was starting to get used to the pulsating pain. However, it was only when Ain called out to me that I realised—I really felt like an uncle.

Lounging on this glorified seat while everyone else worked, looking around and pondering in deep thought—the only thing I was missing was a pipe to smoke with. Maybe taking a puff would help ease the pain, but I could never get used to the smell.

Perhaps the experience of breaking my first bone made me feel a lot older than I mentally am. Even when Ain calls me “Uncle”, I no longer cringe to death like when I first met her.

“Uncle! Uncle!”

Once again, she yelled my name in pairs.

Actually, now that I think about it—I just happened to get used to her calling me that. As we travelled and bonded together, the name just stuck. It felt a bit weird—sad even—when she mentioned my real name during the whole charade in front of Rolf.

What was once the sound of a fork scratching a plate was now the gentle humming of a seamstress at work. Heck, I think the accidental nickname had already grown on me.


“I’m not going anywhere. Relax, niece.”


As she stepped into the room, her face contorted as a grotesque vomit-like sound came out of her mouth. Her shoulders were raised and her left foot was lifted slightly, almost as if she was trying not to step on dog poop.

Hah! It was gratifying seeing her have a taste of her own medicine.

“Please don’t call me that. You sound like a creepy old man.”

Ouch. I forgot how sharp her tongue was. It was even able to match Sereya’s.

“Sorry, sorry! What did you rush all the way here for?”

“I have something to show you!”

She was hiding something behind her back as she inched closer towards me. Her steps were slow and meticulous, all for the sake of building suspense.

The giddy smirk and exuberant eyes on her face truly melted my heart. Even if she showed me a pile of manure, I’d still say that it was lovely. There was no way I could crush this child’s happiness, especially when she looked like that.

After the dramatic walk, she finally stood before me, ready to spring the surprise. She stretched her two hands outwards, revealing what was in store.


In her left hand was a small vial containing pink liquid. In her right was a paintbrush.

“Oh? What do we have here? A little Henri Étoile?”

“Huh? Uncle, who’s that?”

Wait—she didn’t know who the greatest artist of our era was? His paintings were all over churches and cathe—

Oh. Right.

Evanism rose in response to the collapse of the Church. That would explain why no one was talking about Étoile anymore. They probably thought his work was crap since he ended up on the losing side of history.

Then again, it might be an age thing. I actually met Étoile once when he came to Breven, but that was when I was like eight or something. Holy cow, that was twenty years ago!

“Err, that’s a famous artist. He was all the rage back then. Guess I’m showing my age, haha!”

“Yeah. If you said someone like Timon, then you’ll be a cool Uncle. But now you’re just Uncle.”


That actually sounded vaguely familiar.

My perplexed look probably gave it away, prompting Ain to keep me up to speed.

“What? You’re friends with Sereya, but you don’t know who Timon is? The warrior poet, champion of the people, the troubadour—Timon Taze?”

Ah! I remember now!

That was one of the Seven Heroes who was absent for the summit. Wow, so one of them was actually an artist, huh? Still, that was quite a lot of titles for just one guy.

“Ohh you meant Timon, Timon! Sorry, I got mixed up.”

“So you know him? What’s he like? Does seeing him up close actually drive women mad with love?”

Her eyes sparkled with curiosity as she bombarded me with a rapid sequence of questions. Just who was this Timon, and why did he sound like a sleazy skirt-catcher? Also, why were so many of the Seven Heroes weirdos?

“Sorry, I only know Sereya. And Remus, but I prefer not to talk about him. If you wanna know more about Timon, maybe you can ask Sereya?”


The glitter in her eyes disappeared alongside her enthusiasm. They left through the pout she was making.

Ain walked over to my right side, staring at my broken arm intensely. She uncapped the small bottle and dipped the paintbrush inside before turning my bandages into her canvas. Light strokes of pink were starting to decorate my wrapped arm as slight ticklish sensations emerged from amongst the dull, numbing pain.

It wasn’t uncomfortable. In fact, I found it adorable that this was her way of trying to get me to feel better. Her entire attention was directed towards the creation of her masterpiece.

It felt a bit awkward after a while. She was completely lost in her own world while I just stared. Eventually, I broke the silence.

“So, what kind of paintings did Timon make?”

“Paintings?” she paused briefly, both in thought and in action. Without looking at me, she resumed painting and answered, “Timon’s not a painter, he’s a musician.”

Huh? I thought she said he was an artist at first?

“Wait, what is he—a musician or an artist?”

Ain looked at me with an annoyed expression.

“Musicians ARE artists. Gosh, can you stop being so old-fashioned like mum?”


Another nail right into my ego. Just when I thought it couldn’t be deflated even more.

“My bad. Don’t let it affect your painting, haha,” my nervous laughter was a by-product of hoping she didn’t decide to intentionally vandalise her art.

I corrected my approach and asked, “Then, what kind of music did he make?”

As her hand continued to manoeuvre the paintbrush, she responded with a single word without any hesitation whatsoever.


It was a reply that caught me off-guard, sending me into a deep state of thought. What did hope actually sound like?

“They said that he was the weakest of the Seven Heroes, but I think he was actually the coolest. Evan might’ve been the one who killed the Demon Lord, but in the final battle, it was Timon’s music that helped the human army beat the demons. If Timon wasn’t there, a lot more people would’ve died.”

That was fascinating to hear. Ain’s explanation made me genuinely curious about him.

Music, huh? I heard of armies using drums before to rally troops, but just one guy’s music? I had trouble imagining that.

“Mum said tone-deaf people like me shouldn’t sing, but I can make art, too. What do you think, Uncle?”

She took a step back with a satisfied smile across her face. I wanted to join her in admiring her work, but because of the state of my arm, it wasn’t easy.

I had to crane my neck and turn my head in order to view it with the proper angle.

“Ain! What are you doing here disturbing Uncle? There are still some things that need carrying!” Anita's voice grew louder and louder as she approached the large cave room we were in.

“Oops, I got found out. Catch ya later Uncle!”

Ain ran towards the exit. Was she embarrassed by her mother potentially seeing her painting?

Honestly, I wasn’t some art expert. As someone from a village, I’ve only seen a few paintings in my life. Furthermore, I’ve never seen a twelve-year-old’s painting, so it was definitely hard for me to judge.

It wasn’t an elaborate or professional work by any means—just simple lines and circles, similar to the ones children would draw on mud using twigs.

If I had to interpret it, this was a painting depicting me and Ain as two stick figures holding hands. Both of us had huge smiley faces, but knowing Ain, she just had to include a few lines of wrinkles on my face.

Despite that, there was an inexplicable feeling of warmth that filled me as I looked at the painting. It wasn’t so much the design of the work, but the intention of the artist that spoke to me.

“Oh, and Uncle?” Ain turned around just before she faded into the darkness.

“I’m not gonna cry because your arm was broken. I’m going to smile because you saved my life.”

She may be young and rather rebellious, but the power behind that statement moved me.

Looking at her art once more, I finally understood.

This was what hope looked like.

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