Chapter 4 – Becoming Heroes
The Reception Hall was a bit small and bare for a castle this size. Standing next to the high priest Kan Yune was a robust middle-aged man, the Earl of Linestone. Even if he bore a title, he wore no jewels and was dressed in regular clothes that seemed to not fit him quite well. He gave off the air of an honest uncle. However, the devil was in the details; simple clothes but fancy shoes, a humble appearance yet a double chin held high. He wore no rings but ring marks were clearly visible on his fingers.
The Earl bowed and greeted, “Welcome, Mighty Heroes!” It was a stiff bow which made his body fat wiggle. “I am honoured to have you in my humble city of Linestone. We don’t have much, but it is our blessing to be the place where you Heroes were summoned.” He rambled on as crocodile tears pooled in his eyes, “Your presence gives us hope to win this war and remain free. My humble family will carry the honour of serving the Mighty Heroes for generations.”
The greeting was met with a short silence, while the high priest surveyed the twelve people before him with a slight smile hanging on the corner of his lips. How could he miss the inflated egos of these Mighty Heroes? His gaze paused slightly on someone at the back.
“As you already know, Lyres-sama, the god’s avatar, sent you, the Chosen Ones, to help us in our war against the Demons. Those wicked creatures had always threatened our free world and now we are on the verge of unprecedented war. Our power is limited and you are our only chance!” Kan Yune spoke in an emotional high-pitched voice.
“What should we do?” asked an elf with silver locks.
“Your accommodations had been prepared and refreshments had been served to your rooms. For now, you’d be sent to your rooms to rest before dinnertime. There are matters left for us to attend to. The assessment of your Hero statuses will be done tomorrow by a high-level inspector. Unfortunately, we couldn’t hold a welcome banquet in your honour as we’d been wary of alerting foreign spies. We could only stay as low-key as possible for the next two days before we set out for the Capital, where you would be officially recognized as Heroes of the Nation during the grand coronation ceremony. At this event, you’d be given a special rank, power, money, and anything your heart desires. Later on, you’d also be given equipment and training to prepare for the War.”
Power. Money. Glory. The ”mighty heroes” nodded. Their minds ran with thoughts that say, they were heroes, they deserved it all. Kan Yune saw the light of greed in their eyes and fanned the flames even more.
“For now, you’d be assigned a special attendant as well as your own quarters in the palace, where you’d be served by servants… You will be taught by highest-ranking mages and experienced adventurers. During the ceremony at the Capital, you will meet the Royals and Nobles, and your status would only be below one but above a thousand. The fate of our world rests upon your shoulders.”
The smug and expectant faces of these “heroes” standing below him seemed so childish to the high priest, but he kept his growing contempt well hidden within his heart.
“What if I…” a quiet voice sounded. Ran trembled and her face was full of conflicting feelings, as tears lined up her eyes, “I -”
“You have a problem?” Dorian snapped at her. Magic flickered and a domineering aura swirled around him as he spoke.
Rikku stepped forward which was seen as a protective stance. Behind his impassive face, he could barely contain his shock. Why did he react this way? He didn’t know her. He didn’t want to attract others attention so why would he step up for her?
“For a scared mouse, you sure have some good skills,” Nora harrumphed. She had noticed Rikku from the start. This cold and mysterious character was totally her type. She felt vexed seeing how such a useless girl had caught his attention.
“I– No, it’s not like that!” Ran babbled. She gathered her courage and continued, “I can’t be a hero, I—”
“I know it’s scary,” Kan Yune interrupted her, “We understand that our world is unfamiliar to you and we’ve asked you to shoulder a heavy responsibility.”
“No, I can’t–” Ran frowned.
“Chosen One, we–”
“I don’t want to–” Ran insisted.
“Summoning you took all that we had,” Kan Yune interrupted forcefully. “The fate of our world and our lives now depend on you.”
Ran clenched her fists. Kan Yune had pleaded his cause and she had no way to rebuke him any further now. Others glared at her and could barely contain themselves from scolding her, their impression of her sank even deeper. Kan Yune scoffed in disdain. After some chit-chat, he sent them all to rest. Not once did he spare Ran a look but he made sure to keep an eye on Rikku.
Ran stood alone in the reception for a long time. Her eyes were glued to the floor, unexplainable emotions flashed through her heart when a maid came to greet and guide her to her room.
“Ran-sama, I will be your personal maid and confidante from now on. I don’t have a name, so please call me however you wish,” the maid politely introduced herself with her head bowed.
The maid’s light and quiet steps, her cold attitude, and her indifferent expression startled Ran. In the depths of her maid’s eyes, she discovered cold and lingering traces of killing intent.
“Personal maid? I don’t deserve–” Ran couldn’t help but blurt.
“Ran-sama is a Mighty Hero. It is I who isn’t worthy. My only wish and duty is to serve you,” the maid interrupted.
Ran bit her lip. One after the other, they’ve forced her hand to do as they wish. Again and again, they’ve disregarded her choices and opinions, and it has started to get on her nerves. Mighty Heroes here, Mighty Heroes there, the fate of the world, blah blah blah…
She hated it.
She hated it to the core, but she had no choice but to follow their plan for now.