The Consequence of Saving the World
There was no feeling in the world like the feeling of being caught red-handed. The shame, the shock, all mixed into one slow-acting poison which made the heart beat at an uncomfortable pace.
I may be able to hide my expressions well, but Sereya? Not after choking on her tea, that’s for sure.
If the priestess already had the body, then—
“Why do you have the quest up in the Guild? You like trolli—”
“To show the higher ups that I’m working. Just like you, they didn’t know that the Holy Corpse is already in my possession.”
That had to be a bluff, right? She was just making this up to see my reacti—
“You’re not the first person to try and extort money from me. Though, you are very fascinating. I can tell you’re less interested in the money, but you’re far more interested in what I’ll do with the body, yes?”
Don’t you dare—
“Ah, it seems that I’m correct. The mask that you’ve so desperately tried to maintain is slipping away.”
Her entire persona was fake. From the pouring of tea to her frequent apologies, everything was carefully constructed to appear as innocent as possible.
No…the most dangerous thing wasn’t that it was fake, but the fact that it was who she was. She was indeed polite, that much was true.
But as for her innocence…
“You haven’t answered my question. Why did you come all this way to lie to me, Mr. Adventurer? Your answer may or may not determine what I do with the body.”
Leaning close to me, Sereya whispered, “I think we should leave.”
“Oh why the need to whisper? It’s okay, I won’t judge. That right is reserved for Lord Evan.”
This priestess was seriously pissing me off! I just wanted to wipe away that smug look on her face so badly!
Yet, the most aggravating thing about this was Sereya was right—the right decision was to leave. My words would just be digging the grave deeper at this point. Best to cut the losses, admit defeat, and go home.
“If you’ll excuse me,” I muttered as I got up from the sofa, my eyes glued to the floor in shame.
“Oh? You don’t want the body?”
She was just dangling the bait in front of me. I knew for certain that it was a trap, but…mum…
Damn it all!
I sat back down on the sofa, hoping that she didn’t see me grinding my teeth out of frustration. Sereya looked similarly uncomfortable, but I knew that her concern was for me, and not so much on the topic at hand.
“And for what reason am I inclined to believe that you’ll give it away?”
My facial expressions were a mess, but at least I was still able to vocalise my thoughts properly.
“I have a feeling that you and I might be on the same side. Please, introduce yourselves to me. I’d appreciate it if you don’t resort to lying this time.”
That’s right! If she knew that I was Evansmith Mattheld, the literal god, that she worshipped, then she’ll have no choice but to—
At that instant, I felt Sereya’s hand on my wrist. She knew exactly what I was thinking, and based on how she shook her head, she wasn’t too pleased with that line of thought.
Still…this was a huge opportunity. I could always clear up the misunderstanding later. Right now, the most important thing was to get mum’s body back. If they started worshipping me, then that’s on them.
Also, even if they didn’t, this was my mother that we’re talking about. They had to respect my right to bury her as her son, whether they like it or not!
With a deep breath, I steeled myself for what was to come.
“My name is Evansmith Mattheld, son of Farhana Constantine, and I demand to bury my mother’s body with my own two hands!”
Looking at the priestess’ face, I was hoping for a look of utter shock. Heck, maybe if she started begging for forgiveness for her insolence, that would be the cherry on top, too.
She did, indeed, had a brief look of surprise as her eyes widened. However, she quickly returned to her usual, relaxed gaze as she quietly sipped on her tea. After a momentary pause, she looked at me and said:
“Is that all?”
What do you mean, “Is that all?” Was she pulling my leg? I just declared myself as the god that she worshipped!
“And why should I belie—”
I heard a snap.
Thankfully, it was nothing physical.
That was the sound of Sereya’s nerve snapping. In an instant, her blade was right against the priestess’ neck. This was something that she felt like doing for a while now, and I sure as hell was glad that she was here.
“Because I said so,” my partner said with death in her eyes.
Because there was no better person to verify who I was than Sereya Bladecrest, one of the Seven Heroes and ally of Evansmith Mattheld. Seriously, what would I do without her? Even though she didn’t like that I revealed my identity, she backed me up anyway. At this rate, she had all the right to nag the hell out of me later on.
But beyond all my expectations, the priestess didn’t even budge! Her hand was completely steady, holding the teacup without the liquid inside making an oscillation.
How, just how was she this composed?!
“This isn’t the first attempt on my life, and neither would it be the last. I’m honoured to finally meet the One-Armed Angel in person, but please, have a seat.”
So she’d recognise Sereya, but what about me?! Hello?!
Thankfully, Sereya kept her blade against the priestess’ throat, exactly where it should be. That witch knew exactly who I was, so why was she behaving this insolently?!
“I’m afraid this negotiation can’t continue with the blade against my neck. Could you please ask your companion to stand down, please?”
“Do you not know who’re talking to?!”
For the first time in this conversation, I raised my voice, revealing how I really felt.
The priestess, on the other hand, kept silent, shifting her gaze between her reflection on Sereya’s sword, and me.
Why, just why was I feeling so powerless in front of this woman?!
With a sigh, she sheathed her weapon.
“Now then, we can proceed. To answer your question, yes I’m fully aware of who you are. I’m also fully aware of what you are. You’re not the god that I believe in. He’s currently residing in inner heaven. You’re the Vessel He left behind, just a bag of flesh and bones.”
What?! Did she just—
“Watch your tongue, priestess. My patience is running thin,” Sereya warned.
“My apologies for speaking the truth, but I’m sure you’re aware of that yourself. Which is why you actually have the strength to intimidate me, as opposed to the man seated in front of me here.”
I’m also aware that despite your strength, all your threats are empty. Strike me down if you wish, but that wouldn’t help you get the Holy Corpse, neither will that help what was agreed upon in the summit, no?”
Sereya’s anger was on full display, but the priestess was right. Due to my error, we had no choice but to play by her rules.
The priestess continued:
“I can see why you’re so reluctant to share your identity. After all, we’re both the same—there are many people who would be interested in taking our lives. We’re weak, powerless humans who rely on others for protection, isn’t that right?
Of course, the difference is that unlike you, I’m replaceable. Even if I were to die, another would take over my place. Yet, if the leader of the Seven Heroes were to pass, that would most certainly spell international conflict, if I’m reading this correctly.”
I hate that all I could do was keep quiet. Everything she was saying was dead on the money. However, the long pause indicated that it was my time to speak, and reluctantly, I opened my mouth, asking:
“Why do you regard yourself as replaceable? Aren’t you the pillar of this community? If you’re gone, who will perform miracles and heal the sick?”
“I’m touched that you’ll be so concerned about me, but anyone could do it really. All I need to do is to stand in front of the crowd, say some words, and have actual healers do the deed in the background.”
She just admitted to fraud!
“Go and tell the whole world if you wish, but why would they believe you? They’d much rather believe the testimonies of those who’ve actually been healed. At the end of the day, is what I’m doing not beneficial to the people around me?
Whether it’s as a priestess who couldn’t heal or a Hero who couldn’t fight, you and I have our own roles to play. Sadly, I’ve yet to see how handing you the Holy Corpse benefits me, or you for that matter.”