The Consequence of Saving the World
On the last morning of the journey back home, I dismantled my tent for the final time.
Beside me was Anita, who was unpegging hers. Sereya was washing the pots and bowls by the riverside—a task she would normally not do, given her lack of limb—but thanks to Ain helping her, it became manageable.
“Uncle,” Anita called out to me.
“Have you ever thought of having kids with Sereya?”
That question echoed in my mind several more times, bouncing within my skull as time slowed down.
My body has stopped moving. Every fibre of my being was spent on deciphering that question.
“Uncle? Are you okay?”
Why would she ask me that? What did she hope to gain from knowing that? How many children should we have? Does Sereya even want that? Should I even have children?
“You look pale. Is such a question already enough to petrify a Dragon-rank adventurer such as yourself?”
It was only when Anita waved her palm right in front of my nose, did my body return to the physical plane.
“You two haven’t had the talk yet, given your reaction.”
“It’s not like we’re already MARRIED or anything, right?”
Maybe it was because I was still recovering from the shock, so I was snarkier than usual.
I quickly glanced by the river. Whew, the two girls didn’t seem to hear anything. The fast-flowing water of the river must have helped to obfuscate my conversation.
“I suppose,” Anita answered with her thumb rubbing her chin in deep thought. “I didn’t discuss children with my husband until after we got married.”
“Then? Why would you ask me that?”
She disarmed me with her smile.
“No need to feel so threatened. If you two ever have children and need a nanny or a maid, I don’t mind working for you. Both of you are busy people, after all.”
“Huh? But you retired already, right?”
“I have. I’m actually thinking of doing it for my daughter. Ain has grown so close with the two of you, I’m sure she’d be lonely once the quest was complete.”
Right. So she took the idea of “making friends” quite literally.
I directed the topic back to her, “Why don’t you have another child then?”
“Let’s just say the production line has closed for me, hehe.”
I thought she was still youthful enough that she had it in her. It would be mean to ask for her age, but it was safe to assume that I was underestimating it.
“Uncle! Mum! We’re done!”
Ain and Sereya were approaching, marking the end of this awkward talk.
“Think about my offer, okay?” with a sly gaze, she winked at me.
“Don’t expect an answer anytime soon.”
“So, what were you two talking about?” Sereya questioned.
“Oh, the topic we were on was making friends for Ain.”
I quietly sighed in relief. She was telling the truth, albeit in a rather misleading manner. Obviously, the only one who took it literally was me, since I had context.
“Geez, mum, I’ll be fine on my own.”
“Said the person who was crying herself to sleep,” Sereya remarked.
“I-I did not!”
Even though Sereya teased the little girl, her comment also technically applied to me. At least it was just out of fun and nothing malicious.
With the extra three hands that we got, we kept our tents and stored the rest of our belongings onto our cart in record time. I double-checked to make sure we weren’t forgetting anything before we finally set off on Zephyr.
In a matter of hours, we’d finally reach Breven.
My heart was pounding in anticipation. How much has it changed after ten years? Logically, it was probably a town by now. My mind could imagine it, but I wasn’t sure if my heart could accept it.
Even though we had our usual banter on the back of the cart, there was a mix of emotions between the three of us. Ain was still a bit sad, as expected. For me, I was trying to hide my anxiousness.
The steadiest of the group was Sereya. What felt like a journey to me and Ain was probably just another ride to the war veteran.
The change in scenery was another sign that we were nearing our destination. From thick, unexplored woods to a wide-open clearing—a sight that was all too familiar to me.
It wasn’t uncommon to see horses roaming these parts. Some of the best horses come from this region. While the more hardy and battle-ready ones were bred at the stables, wild horses were still considered to be superior mounts than those in other parts of Adradia, and possibly the whole of Fallcross.
Yet, I have not seen a single horse besides Zephyr. I’d usually see a few of them by now galloping on these plains, but there was no sign of them.
Perhaps this was the result of human expansion. Heck, maybe Breven doesn’t even export steeds now.
As I was gazing outwards in search of my favourite animal, I was abruptly startled by Sereya’s sudden movements. Without any warning whatsoever, she was standing on her two feet, clearly on edge. Her hand was hovering just above the hilt of her sword by her waist.
Even at a glance, it was clear that something was amiss. Her eyes were darting around, scanning the entirety of these plains.
“What’s wrong?” Ain asked the question in my mind.
Sereya slowly sat back down. However, her position was more akin to a crouch than sitting, like she was ready to spring into action at a moment’s notice.
“There’s an extremely evil presence nearby. I don’t think it’s hostile, but its pressure is immense.”
“Where is it? I’ve been looking around now, but there’s nothing of the sort.”
Sereya’s tone remained soft, but vigilant as she answered my question, “It’s not purposely showing its aura or anything, but I haven’t felt this way since fighting the Demon Lord’s generals. Whatever it is, it’s extremely strong—if possible, I don’t want to fight it.”
There was something this dangerous right outside of Breven? Shouldn’t something be done?
My nervousness transformed into genuine worry. As much as I wanted to express my thoughts, I was certain that Sereya shared the same concern.
“Anita, ride at full speed.”
Without question, Anita flicked the reins, bringing Zephyr into a gallop. The immediate change in momentum knocked Ain to her side and almost did the same to me.
It suddenly occurred to me to look up at the sky. The only thing that I could think of that would make Sereya this unsettled was a dragon. However, the skies were peaceful—not a single hint of danger lurked behind those clouds.
“Look! We’re almost there!”
As Ain pointed straight ahead, what appeared to be town walls were emerging from the horizon. It was not the kind of finishing line I expected, but it was a welcome one nonetheless.
The next few minutes felt extra long as we anticipated the worst. With Breven in view getting bigger and bigger, so too did the drumming of our hearts.
Finally, I could make out the tiny shapes of other human beings. The few dots on top of the wooden fortifications were people standing guard. Forget the wall—Breven didn’t even have its own garrison last time. Impressive, but now wasn’t the time for admiration.
“It’s gone. I don’t feel it anymore.”
Sereya let out a sigh as her shoulders relaxed. Anita brought Zephyr to her normal pace once more. Even though the coast was clear, the uneasiness still lingered.
Regardless, I was thankful that Breven was no longer in harm’s way.
Eventually, we had to come to a complete stop as a long queue of carts, carriages and other vehicles formed right in front of the gate. Gosh, even traffic jams were now a thing in Breven.
After spending about ten minutes or so at a snail’s pace, we finally made it to the front of the gate. There was even a moat surrounding the front of the walls. This was no Allantheim, but Breven was still pretty well-defended.
The four sentries posted by the sides of the gate were decently equipped with brigandine and spear. Their armour carried the coat of arms of House Meisner. So, Breven was still under the demesne of Baron Edmund, possibly one of his family members.
After a few routine questions from the guards which Anita answered, we were promptly allowed through. However, before we could move forward, a knight in full-plate armour stood in our way. His halberd was firmly planted on the ground, determined not to let us pass.
“Pardon me for asking, but I thought we’re cleared to go through?”
One of the guards, clearly nervous, answered Anita’s question.
“Yeah, but he’s not one of us. That knight there is a Dragon-ranked adventurer, so if he has a problem with you—sorry, we can’t help.”
A lot of questions popped up in my head, but they’ll have to be saved for later. If my eyes weren’t playing tricks on me, this knight just raised his weapon, aiming its tip towards Sereya!