The Consequence of Saving the World
I wasn’t a fan of manipulating the emotions of others, but guilt tripping Sereya was a necessity.
After her brief lecture on ‘doing the right thing’, I insisted on her taking responsibility for the people she knocked out. Sure, they tried to rob us, but the sun was summoning streams of sweat from our pores. I didn’t want them to wake up—or fail to do so—with a heatstroke.
Of course, despite her ridiculous strength and her reluctance, it didn’t sit well with me to let a disabled person carry five men, so I helped to bring them to a shaded area nearby. The roof over their head and the hay beneath their back were all that we were willing to give to them.
I know I shouldn’t be surprised as they were anorexic, but I couldn’t help but feel that way when I lifted them. They were incredibly light. Far too light, even. She probably didn’t realise this since everything was already light to her, but it was concerning.
Worst of all, in the off-chance that I was able to get the help that this community needed, it would take time. Given their condition, I had serious doubts if they would be able to see that moment come through.
…Heroes cannot save everyone. Sometimes, we are forced to choose who to save and who to leave behind.
A painful pill to swallow, but a pill nonetheless. There was no medicine without side effects. There were no Heroes who could save everyone. The only way to not get bogged down by death and despair we see along the way was to push forward to prevent more.
…don’t you think we’re our happiest when we’re locked in our own cages, blissfully unaware of the real world?
That was the case with the people in the town area. In a way, I could see why the majority would ignore the villagers of Old Breven. Even the Evanists, who offer charity by the temple, raise walls to stop pilgrims from seeing them. If fixing things were so simple, somebody would’ve already done it.
What qualifications did I have to even change the circumstances for others, when I was locked with my own?
It was at that moment, I discovered the answer.
A light, ever so slightly wet kiss on my cheek.
“You look like you needed that.”
Correction—that wasn’t an answer. It was a distraction. Sereya had a bad habit of throwing me off-balance from my thoughts in the most unexpected of ways. Not that I was complaining, though.
Still, experience was telling me that this was her signal to stop beating myself trying to come up with an answer for everything. I may be older than her on paper, but she was still eight years my senior no thanks to the years Hanasuke stole from me.
Plus, who would be better at dealing with hardship? A farmer boy who lived in comfort for all he could remember, or a war hero who was missing a limb?
“Thanks,” I uttered as I placed my hand on my cheek covering up the embarrassment.
“Hmm…this is bad.”
“Huh? What is?”
“It appears that you’re getting desensitised to that. I was expecting a bigger reaction like ‘Waaah?! Why would you do that?!’ but since you had a smaller reaction compared to last time, it might be a sign that I’m losing my feminine charms…”
I knew for a fact that that pout was overexaggerated. Why then was it still so damn effective?!
“We can do more of that when we get back.”
“Oh? Do what exactly?”
Okay, I see, so you wanted to play that game, huh?
I leaned in towards her ear and with the softest, sultriest voice my vocal cords could muster, whispered:
I quickly covered her mouth to prevent the crescendo that was her laughter from escaping. She just defeated five men, and now she wanted to laugh like a lunatic. Please don’t do it in a place where people were starving.
“Oh? That was a bigger reaction than I thought. Could it be that your feminine charms are weaker than my feminine charms?”
“Evam, shtop shtop!”
Her words were struggling to make it past the laughter and the mask that was my hand.
At this point, her face was turning redder than usual. I released my hand to give her room to breathe.
Aaaaand my hand became her muzzle once more.
Sereya was fighting the battle of her life, trying to laugh and stop laughing at the same time. I had a few more follow-ups to throw at her, but I knew it would be a bad idea to escalate her fit any longer. Her current state would be what I could only describe as an ‘asphyxiated donkey.’
Hopefully, the starving villagers nearby wouldn’t think that there was an easy meal to be found here.
After a good minute or so, her laughter turned into deep, long breaths. From an asphyxiated animal to an asthmatic one—I guessed that counted as an improvement?
“Evan, you almost killed me.”
“I love you too.”
Something about the world’s strongest swordswoman saying that I almost killed her did lift my spirits up a bit. In a way, that was the most damage I’ve ever inflicted on Sereya. She really was at her breath’s end.
They said that the best way to a man’s heart was through his stomach. I discovered that it was the same for women, too. It didn’t need to be a meal—a belly laugh would be good enough.
“But Evan, you seriously would want to sword fight…me?”
“Do I look like an idiot to you?”
I glared at her. Did it hurt? No. Was it fun to tease your partner? Hell yes.
“But that is a good thing, though,” she continued. “It means that nobody else would be stupid enough to fall for you, so I can have you all for myself.”
Okay, she won.
Damn, hearing that just made my day.
The best thing I could do was to just shut my mouth and smile like the idiot that I was. It didn’t matter if she relished in her sweet moment of victory, she earned it.
Surprisingly, she didn’t say anything, too.
She didn’t boast or make another quip to rub it in my face. Sereya wanted me to acknowledge it. She was just staring at me as my face glowed.
Of course, I stared back at her too.
As we walked back to the temple, our eyes locked onto each other like the lovestruck lovebirds that we are. It probably wasn’t the smartest thing to do after getting robbed, but to hell with it.
In this empty street where suffering and starvation stretched far and wide into its seams, two idiots were having their own little staring match.
It wasn’t appropriate and neither was it respectful, but it was what I needed. Whether it was escapism or just a form of coping for me, I learned something important from our wordless exchange.
That just because others were suffering, didn’t mean that we had to suffer, too.
We shouldn’t throw away our happiness because others didn’t have it. Helping others was important, but helping to keep our own sanity was equally as important. After all, how could we lift others up when we couldn’t lift ourselves up in the first place?
People like Sereya go through the same questions that I ask myself many more times than I could ever imagine. Being able to behave the way she was, despite all she had been through, made me want to be more like her.
I still didn’t want to be a Hero. I wasn’t cut out for it, after all.
But that didn’t mean that I couldn’t be more like Sereya.
After a few more minutes of admiring each other, our ‘battle’ was interrupted by the sound of a squishy plop.
We both looked down at the source of the sound.
Lo and behold—underneath the sandal of Sereya the Merciful Blade, one of the Seven Heroes who saved humanity from demons—was a fresh pile of excrement.
The look on her face. It was as if she was reliving through all the years of war again, condensed into just five seconds.
She leapt to the side of the street while on her left leg, easily covering about three metres. I had to do a little bit of acrobatics myself, hopping a few inches to the side to avoid some of the projectiles that hadn’t fully fused to her sandal.
I wanted to, but I shouldn’t make fun of her. It could be me in Sereya’s shoes. Literally. Both of us weren’t looking at where we were going after all.
Like a flamingo, she was standing completely still on one leg, looking at me in abject terror.
With a sigh, I walked over to my girlfriend’s side, removed my sandals and offered them to her.
“Are you insane?! What will you be wearing?! There’s shit on the ground!”
“Nothing. We can wash yours by the well near the temple’s entrance. Now hurry up and wear mine. We still have a mission to do.”
Stunned, all she could do was comply. I took the now foul-smelling pair of sandals from her and gingerly held it by its straps.
In a bizarre way, the stench was balanced out by how adorable she looked in my oversized pair of shoes.
Silently, I walked back to the temple barefooted, my left hand holding her hand, and my right holding her dung-stained sandals.