The Consequence of Saving the World
With my belongings and my thoughts in a better place thanks to Sereya, we were ready to make our way to Breven Temple.
Before I could show myself out of the door however, the imposing figure of Phalanx suddenly appearing before me easily meant that the exit was locked.
“Halt! I understand if you elect not to bid me adieu, but at the very least, announce your farewells to Genevieve,” Timon’s voice peered around a corner as he slowly entered the foyer.
“See you later, house,” Sereya rolled her eyes as she wished Genevieve farewell. “There, you happy now?”
As Phalanx stepped aside, Timon erupted into a peal of pompous, eardrum-bleeding laughter.
“Hohoho! I jest, I jest,” the jester took a deep breath before continuing. “Goodbyes to an old flame is entirely optional. ‘Tis no one’s right to force others to move on. I simply wanted to offer a parting gift to the two of you. Fal, if may.”
As his bodyguard went to grab something from the nearby table, my desire to leave had never gotten stronger. Was it so hard to say, “Take this before going,” huh?
Why? Why did he need to be so extra? What does he get out of it? Why?
Before I could ask myself any more questions, a piece of paper was placed into my hands. My eyes followed Phalanx who gave it to me. A similar-looking piece was passed to Sereya from him as well.
I tried to understand what was written on the paper, but the font used was so cluttered and unnecessarily serpentine, it was indecipherable. I wouldn’t be surprised if Timon wrote this.
Timon declared, “In your hands is the Iter Carta—proof that you’ve made nine rounds around the Mattheld family farm that is required to complete the pilgrimage. It should make it easier for you to visit your old home without having to bow down and pray to yourself every five seconds.”
“Aren’t you already doing that, though? Praying to yourself every five seconds?” Sereya asked.
“How rude. I’ll have you know that I’m but a humble servant of love.”
Their banter was the least of my worries.
To be reminded of its fate as a damned tourist attraction was painful, but I had to swallow it. Now wasn’t the time to whine—I had to dig out whatever I could about mum.
“The pleasure is—”
His voice was cut off by me shutting the door. How immature of me.
My steps picked up speed. I wanted to see how they’ve perverted my house into their ridiculous form of idolatry. I wanted to yell “GET OUT!” and kick every single one of those strangers out of my—
The familiar touch of a small hand on my shoulder brought me back to my senses.
“Evan,” the sound of my name soothed the pain slightly. “I’m here with you.”
I turned to face Sereya, who had a gentle expression on her face. She could’ve told me to relax or to be patient, but no. She was willing to share in my frustrations and anguish.
That’s right. Sereya was on my side. Regardless of what came ahead, we’ll make it through as one.
I placed my hand over hers, signalling that I was okay. We both nodded at each other at the same time in silence.
I took her hand off my shoulder, before placing my fingers in between hers and lowering it to our side. It felt just right. Despite the difference in size, our hands felt like they bonded the same way a key would fit snuggly into a keyhole.
Sereya’s face was ablaze in red for a brief moment, before she forcefully shook it off.
Determination fuelled her voice.
As much as both of us wanted to enjoy the moment with each other or stroll blissfully along this empty road, we had a goal to accomplish. Hand in hand, we walked with a brief pace back into the bustle of the main street.
Looking for the temple proved to be a simple affair. The pilgrims coming in by the droves served as mobile sign posts, telling us exactly where we need to go.
As we travelled further into the western part of Breven vill—I meant, city, the buildings and scenery gradually began to change. The houses no longer looked as new. Sadly, none of them rang a bell, but it did mean that we were getting closer to the Breven that I remember.
Before I could see any straw houses or huts that were familiar to me, stalls and vendors littered the street before us. The sea of people turned this into a second commercial district. At the end of it all was the edifice that was Breven Temple, its spires reaching high into the sky.
Despite its designation as a “temple”, it clearly looked like a church. Considering that Evanism was essentially still a part of the Great Faith, I guessed that made sense that the places of worship looked the same.
Still, was the inside of the place even open with so many people flooding its vicinity?
Sereya and I attempted to weasel our way in, paying no heed to the tempting deals and handmade goods being advertised every inched of the way. These traders already had enough customers crowding in front of their stalls.
As we got closer, the huge doors that were shut meant that we were probably out of luck. Cementing that fact was a crier, ringing his handbell and shouting:
“Hear ye! Brothers and sisters! The next service begins at six! Latecomers will not be given entry!”
We walked over to the side where it was less crowded.
“So we still have a few more hours. What’s your plan?”
I wasn’t interested in attending the service at all. We just needed to meet with this Priestess Imelda that Anita mentioned when she isn’t busy leading the service. That meant that we had to grab a hold of her in the time between this service and the next.”
“Let’s explore what’s behind the temple first,” I answered Sereya.
We could also check out the pilgrimage site that is my home, but if we could locate where Priestess Imelda or some other high-ranking Evanist stayed, that’ll be great.
Making our way around the temple made me realise just how much work went into its construction. It really begged the question—how did they build such a structure this quickly?
Something didn’t line up. Evanism only really started gaining traction after Hanasuke killed the Demon Lord, which was around six or seven months ago. This building had to take years to be built from the ground up. Furthermore, even if the process was accelerated by renovating or converting a pre-existing building, there was no such structure in Breven that was suitable for this purpose.
Just how in the world did this place spring up, and why wasn’t anyone questioning it?
As I stressed my brain in an attempt to come up with a logical answer, the stress on my body grew less and less. This was due to the sea of people that was becoming more and more shallow, making it easier to navigate and breathe. There just weren’t as many people behind the temple.
Instead, people who were in robes and vestments were a lot more obvious, scurrying in and out of the temple’s side entrances. Some of them were also busy about in front of the buildings on the other side of the road, which I would assume are their living quarters.
While I initially wanted to pay these “monks” a visit, my eyes were instead drawn to a long queue of people stretching outwards from a series of tents set up behind the temple.
I soon realised the main reason why there was a lack of people here—those who were queuing up were beggars, homeless, or diseased. The destitute were lining up to receive rations, many of whom who already received their share were having their lunch further down the road.
“What a contrast.”
Sereya’s observation was spot on. While the front of the temple was alive with activity and the exchanging of coin, the back was littered with the sick and the starving, barely scraping by with the charity of the Evanists. If only the people singing and praying inside realised the hypocrisy of their actions, perhaps Breven’s poor would be better off.
Back when I was still here, there was no poverty in Breven. All of the villagers lived and shared in whatever meagre wealth we had. This was the consequence of capitalism—the price that was paid for progress and expansion. A few would go ahead in life, while most will suffer and fight for the leftovers.
Walking further down the street, the sheer number of these underprivileged folk was staggering. The entire area beyond this point were the slums of this new Breven, rundown and forgotten.
However, what made my heart sink the most was the fact that I recognised those huts and straw houses.