The Consequence of Saving the World
“Aaaaand there! What do you think?”
The barber held up a small round mirror right in front of me. As I was inspecting my new sideburns, Sereya’s pretty face appeared right next to mine.
Right as she laid eyes on my reflection, her eyes lit up like lanterns. Her lips formed a circle as pleasant surprise popped all over. Her astonishment lasted for a fleeting moment as the barber almost immediately pulled the mirror away.
“I’m asking him, not you.”
She hissed back, “I’ll be looking at it every day. I get to decide.”
“Not after you tried cutting his hair with that ridiculous sword of yours, oh no you don’t!”
He clearly wasn’t having any of it, pointing his scissors at Sereya as if it were a knife.
“I was making a few tiny adjustments. You missed a spot.”
“You nearly killed us! I don’t care if you saved the world or not, miss. This is my shop, my rules! GET OUT!”
My heart nearly leapt out of my chest. I thought Sereya was actually going to draw her weapon. Turned out she was just pouting while folding her arms, but since she only had one, it looked like she was awkwardly drawing her blade.
On the other hand, the barber couldn’t care less that he was shouting at someone who could easily bisect the entire store with a single slash. I wasn’t worried for his life, since I knew Sereya wasn’t easily provoked. Though, I was worried for his hair, since I finally found out the reason why it was balding.
“I think it’s great!”
I got up from my seat, boldly announcing my lie to lower the barber’s blood pressure. It wasn’t that it look bad—I honestly felt indifferent about my hairstyle.
Hearing my words, the barber’s complexion lightened up, from blood red to tomato red. His anger was still there, just not as much as before.
“Keep the change. Bye!”
With both of my hands on Sereya’s shoulders, I pushed her out of the shop. Once we were out, she escaped from my grasp with a quick twirl before carefully scanning my hair from top to bottom. If I was a passerby, I probably would've thought she was looking for lice or something.
“Hey, it’s the boss!”
To my surprise, a bunch of passersby did notice me, but I recognised them, too. Barely.
“Oh hello there!” Sereya smiled and waved back to them.
It was the same group that she knocked out when we first explored the old part of the village behind the temple. Days have passed since then, and after meeting the new baron and sharing my plans to integrate the villagers into town society, I was able to get some of them to “clean up”, some even getting jobs!
Of course, I wasn’t able to pull this off alone. Thanks to Timon’s connections and a bit of “persuasion” from Sereya, we were able to secure odd jobs here and there for them. Considering how rapidly Breven was expanding, it wasn’t a surprise to see how many places were hiring. Hopefully, this economic boom from peacetime will last long enough for everyone’s lives to be stabilised.
As for this group, they’ve probably changed the most. Sure, they were skinny, but at least they weren’t stick-thin like last time. What really amazed me was how much they changed mentally. With a little bit of food, encouragement, and a makeover courtesy of that cranky barber, they went from nihilistic mob to positive, hardworking people.
“Wait, is that new hair?”
“He’s standing under the barber, of course that’s new hair!”
“Looking slick, boss!”
All five of them joined Sereya and started swarming me, scrutinising what was on my head.
“Shouldn’t you guys go back to work? Also, I’m not your boss. You have an actual boss now.”
“Don’t you think we look alike?”
“Nah, the boss is way more handsome than you.”
Just like that, my concerns went into one ear and left through the other.
While having a chat with them would be great, I had a job to do. I pointed to the wagon that the group was pulling that was now left unattended.
“W-Wait, thief! Stop!”
“Crap! Our deliver—”
With just three words and a pointed finger, slipping through the group with their heads turned was a breeze. By the time they realised, I was already on the other end of the street.
“Hah! Cheap prank, boss!”
“Damn, you got me.”
I waved to them as I jogged away. The long-forgotten childish excitement from pulling a stunt like this coursed through my veins momentarily. All things considered, I wished they paid better attention to their wagon. If their delivery did get stolen or went missing, I’d also be in trouble.
“Your tricks always seem to land, no matter how simple.”
Even though I was prepared for it, Sereya’s sudden reappearance always spooked me. A few seconds ago, I swore she was with the men. Her voice just popped up beside me as if she was there all along.
Making things even spookier was that despite me clearly running. She was keeping pace with me by just walking. Really fast.
“Care to share with me your secret?” she winked.
“Hmm…fear, I guess. Of course, timing’s important, too.”
“Fear?” How so?”
“I’ll put it this way. We’re all afraid or worried about something. If I brought it up or point it out, it’ll naturally div—Sereya! Poop!” I suddenly screamed as I looked at the ground.
Case in point: the traumatised Hero instinctively leapt a mighty leap back. It didn’t matter how strong someone was or how honed their senses were—as long as they were human, falling for a cheap trick like this, even for a quarter of a second, was a given.
Sereya’s groan of frustration was still audible behind me when her voice came from beside once more.
“Don’t do that.”
I should say the same to you. Teleporting mid-conversation is bad for my heart!
I merely shrugged at her reaction as I continued my jog towards the heart of town.
Eventually, we arrived at the new tent set up by the temple. I danced a happy little jig inside once I saw the line of people stretching from the tent all the way past the corner of the block.
Sereya and I got a few angry stares as we skipped the queue and headed straight in. Protest as they may, it would not be a good idea for their image as an employer.
A young, high-pitched voice broke the soft murmurs in the tent. It was aimed at me specifically, and I couldn’t be more pleasantly surprised.
The litter girl tackled me, throwing herself into my arms. For once, I was thankful to Hanasuke for leaving me with a fit, toned body. If it weren’t for that, I’d probably be flat on the ground.
Sereya’s surprise matched mine, and just like her daughter, Anita walked over and gave the swordswoman a warm hug.
“We heard that the two of you are helping the temple now, so once we finished our pilgrimage, we came straight to volunteer at the recruitment centre as well.”
“Uncle! Uncle! You’re working with Timon Taze right? I wanna meet him!”
Well, it was true that having him make shout-outs for the centre at the end of his performances was the biggest reason why we have so many employers, but I’d definitely wouldn’t want his eccentricities to corrupt her.
“Ain! You here to help or just here to use poor Uncle to see Timon?” reprimanded her mother.
“Shoot! Make sure you play with me later Uncle!”
The girl scampered off to the back, helping two other Evanists sort through documents.
Sereya continued conversing with her former maid, “When we heard that the temple is sending us a manager to help, I didn’t know it was you!”
“I’m just doing what I can.”
She was being modest. Despite the wait outside, the efficiency of the volunteers manning each of the counters was a lot better. There were also those who were tending to the people waiting inside and out, answering any questions and delivering a reassuring service.
At the rate we’re going, we’d definitely solve the poverty happening behind the temple!
Before I could take the sorted documents and bring the good news back to Old Breven, another familiar face cut the queue and appeared behind me. “Familiar” may be stretching it though, since I never saw what was under that helmet.
Phalanx walked in behind me. If it weren’t for the distinct, spiky shadow that his armour cast on the ground, I wouldn’t have known.
“What’s up big guy?”
I asked in a casual tone, trying to defuse all the nerves and unease from the volunteers and employers around.
As usual, there was not a sound from the knight. His presence here definitely meant that Timon needed to see me, but how exactly was he going to communicate without speaking?
My curiosity and even all my tasks for the day were cut short when he held up his metallic gauntlet. In his hand was the exact same necklace around my neck.