Who Killed the Hero? Volume 1 Chapter 1 Part 3

Fragment 2
 

 
I’ve been raised with expectations on me since I was young. That’s just how it is as the eldest son of a noble family.
 
My House of Mueller has been a pillar supporting the kingdom, the symbol of its military might, so it’s only natural I be strong.
 
Before I realized it, I was made to practice swinging a small sword with its edge blunted.
 
It’s not like I disliked the sword training. I enjoyed it, and I could feel myself improving the more I did it. My uncle who instructed me, my father, my mother, they all praised me.
 
As a result, the sword itself became my raison d’etre.
 
However, no matter how much of a military family we were, being good at the sword wasn’t everything. In fact, in our family, the one most skilled with a sword was my uncle, but as a second son, he could not inherit the house. In the end, for nobles, bloodline was what mattered. However, the times were changing.
 
The Demon Lord appeared.
 
The Demon Lord and his monsters began invading human countries with overwhelming numbers and power.
 
I was six at the time. A great battle with the Demon Lord’s forces occurred in the south. Our country also sent out an army it seems. However, following orders from His Majesty, my father did not take to the field himself, instead sending my uncle to lead the army in his place. As the head of a noble house, he could not let anything happen to him, or so was the rationale.
 
My uncle went to the rescue of the Malica Kingdom which was being invaded by the Demon Lord’s forces, and fully exhibited his military valor, driving back the Demon Lord’s army. However, by the time they arrived, the Malica Kingdom had already been destroyed.
 
If my father had made the decision immediately and taken the field himself, perhaps the Malica Kingdom could have been saved.
 
That was regrettable.
 
On the other hand, unlike other nobles, I respected my uncle who took the field himself and was active at the front lines.
 
My uncle also had no son, so he doted on me like his own child. My uncle had one daughter, a year younger than me.
 
My cousin also adored me like an older brother, and we practiced swordsmanship together. As expected of my uncle’s daughter, she had good physique. If my cousin had been a boy, he might have become a swordsman surpassing me. Sparring with her improved my swordsmanship even further.
 

 
As time passed, a heavy atmosphere came to pervade the country. While we had driven them back once before, the Demon Lord’s forces continued expanding their domain, and it was believed they would eventually extend their evil hand to our country as well.
 
But when that time came, my power would be needed.
 
“With this sword’s power, I will save the country,”
 
“With this sword’s power, I will save the country,” I thought, and continued to hone my skills. My uncle said “You’ve surpassed me.” By the time I was ten, I was being called a Sword Saint. But before I realized, I had become estranged from those around me.
 
No one around me was serious about saving the country. Everyone around me only thought about how they themselves could avoid fighting. The higher their status, the stronger this tendency was.
 
This is utterly foolish. It is because they are nobles that they should take the lead and fight for their country and people.
 
I thought that by becoming the Hero and saving the world, I would become this kingdom’s king, and correct the nature of the nobles. I never doubted that I was the only one who could become the Hero.
 
But I hoped there was someone else out there with the same aspirations, someone who would devote themselves and fight for the people.
 


 
I turned fifteen and entered Pharme Academy,
 
an institution for nurturing Heroes. It was a place only chosen nobles could enter. I had hoped that there might be nobles here with the aspiration to become a Hero.
 
That’s when I met Ares, an audacious commoner who had the audacity to enter Pharme Academy.
 
Commoners were meant to be protected by nobles; without this arrangement, the very essence of nobility would be lost.
 
Certainly, a Hero might not be selected based on one’s social status. However, if nobles didn’t produce Heroes, we would merely become parasites within our own country.
 
“You have no right to become a Hero,”
 
I found myself saying that.
 
Right? Why should there be a need for a right? Anyone should be able to become a Hero if they have the resolve. But I couldn’t accept it. It was the fear that we would become fake parasite nobles.
 
“Still, I have to become a Hero,”
 
Ares replied, looking straight into my eyes. He was determined. Despite entering the academy, he was different from the other noble children who laughed and acted carefree.
 
I drew my sword, and the others around us collectively tried to stop me.
 
Why stop me? Don’t you have any sense of urgency? If nobles, are being saved by commoners, we would had no value, what was the point?
 
I could assert this much: he was genuinely aiming to become a Hero.
 
///
 



 
///
 
I had never seen anyone like him, except for myself.
 
I had asked a few who seemed promising.
 
“Are you aiming to become a Hero?”
 
Their response was always the same.
 
“Isn’t it obvious that Lord Leon will be the Hero?”
 
They said that with flattering eyes.
 
Why? The identity of the Hero was not predetermined. If one had the determination to save the world, anyone could aspire to it.
 
So, why weren’t the nobles and knights aspiring to it?
 
As nobles and knights, shouldn’t they fight for the people?
 
Of course, I was going to become a Hero. I would save the world and become the king of this country, making the people happy.
 
However, I didn’t believe that this path was meant to be walked alone. It should be a journey taken with many others, honing our skills together to reach the summit.
 
Was I supposed to walk this path alone?
 
Should I go to the wilderness alone?
 
Why didn’t you all have aspirations?
 
The fact that this commoner had finally appeared in that wilderness, of all places, was what bothered me the most.
 
You’re mocking him for saying that he’s aiming to become a Hero.
 
Don’t scoff at him.
 
What right do those without resolve have to mock those with it?
 
Pharme Academy was an institution for cultivating Heroes. If you enrolled here, you should aspire to become a Hero.
 
Nevertheless, there was nothing more despicable than mocking someone who was striving for it, without aspiring to it yourself.
 
Ares remained unfazed even when I drew my sword. He was the real deal. But I couldn’t acknowledge it.
 

 
I was a noble, and he was a commoner. That’s why.
 

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Classes at the academy began, and mock sword battles became a common practice. Ares challenged me to a duel when the time came.
 
The people around us tried to prevent it, saying,
 
“How audacious for a commoner to ask Lord Leon for a duel.”
 
However, I accepted the challenge.
 
It was a simple matter. If Ares didn’t duel me, there would be no one else to challenge. Whether he was holding back or didn’t want to fight due to a significant difference in skill, I didn’t know, but no one else challenged me.
 

 
And so, the mock battle began.
 
Ares squared up in a straightforward manner. His movements were forceful, lacking finesse and giving off a sense of roughness. Those in our class snickered.
 
Perhaps he hadn’t received proper training. His style resembled that of adventurers and mercenaries who had real combat experience.
 
At this point, it was evident that he lacked considerable skill.
 
I kept my sword lowered with no stance, my body light and flexible, ready to respond instantly to his movements by relaxing my grip.
 
“Heeya!” Ares shouted as he swung his sword, taking a big wind-up and lunging forward.
 
His preparatory movements were large, and his distance was too great. There was no need to even defend with my sword.
 
I barely avoided his strike with minimal movement and lightly adjusted my sword to make contact with Ares’s neck.
 
“First point for me. Shall we continue?” I asked.
 
“I want to continue!”
 
Ares adjusted his distance and quickly resumed his stance. This time, he cautiously closed the distance between us.
 
Staying within my reach, he made a lower-level attack. It was a feint, but Ares, taken in by it, took a dramatic defensive stance. I then readjusted my grip with both hands and delivered a strike to his shoulder from above.
 
A dull sensation reverberated through my arm, although it was just a practice wooden sword, so it wouldn’t cut. It should have inflicted some damage, though.
 
“Ugh!”
 
Ares let out a groan and dropped to a crouch.
 
“Wow!”
 
Admiring voices came from the onlookers. The technique I used was relatively straightforward, but executing it smoothly required a fair amount of practice and skill. Ares seemed to understand that.
 
“Do you want to continue?” I asked.
 
Ares, clutching his right shoulder with his left hand, grimaced.
 
“…I want to continue.”
 
Quite the determination. He would make an excellent sparring partner for the cleric class students later on.
 
Ares, considering the lessons from his first two rounds, began to move more cautiously with smaller motions.
 
Moreover, he got into my space, but this time I let Ares take the initiative. Since he was already damaged, his movements were dull, so I didn’t have to do anything.
 
And when Ares raised his sword, I seized the opening and landed a blow on his torso.
 
With a “Gofu” sound, as if all the air was coming out of his stomach, Ares collapsed.
 
That was the end of it. He may have broken a rib or two, but there are plenty of guys who are eager to try recovery magic, so it’s not a big problem.
 
“You should leave the academy soon,”
 
I told him. But in Ares’ eyes as he looked back at me, there was no sign of discouragement.
 

 
In the mock battles after that, Ares kept challenging me.
 
To be frank, Ares was one of the weakest in the class.
 
His form was self-taught, with a lot of unnecessary movement. However, he seemed to have real combat experience, possessing a certain intensity and killing aura that other students did not have.
 
I didn’t know what he might do next. Even though it was a sword fight, he would kick or let go of his sword and grab at me. He didn’t care about his methods as long as he won, and was condemned by the other students as “despicable.” But he didn’t care at all. He was absolutely determined to win.
 
However, that alone was not enough to win. There was too big a gap in our sword skills.
 
Every time Ares came at me, I beat him to a pulp.
 
“You should leave the academy soon,”
 
I told him every time after beating him until he couldn’t move. Hearing that, the others around apparently thought I was seriously trying to drive Ares out.
 
Of course I was serious. Since Ares was a rival aiming to become the hero, it was natural for me to try to kick him down. But you guys weren’t even worthy of being targets. I couldn’t get serious against those who didn’t even stand on the same ground as me. And no matter how many times I beat him down, Ares stood up again.
 
As if to show me that’s what those aspiring to be heroes are like.
 

 
Before I knew it, I had started to watch Ares closely. However, he didn’t even glance my way. It wasn’t that he was ignoring me; he was dedicating all his time to training. Any spare moment he had, he would review textbooks, and whenever he had a substantial amount of time, he would swing his sword. In other words, he had no time to waste on other people.
 
When all the academy classes were over, he would be in the schoolyard behind the building, practicing with his sword.
 
He would repeat each movement meticulously, as if to ingrain what he had learned in class.
 
I watched him do this almost every day. Perhaps it was to confirm that there was at least one other person walking the same wilderness as him.
 
“A desperate commoner,”
 
the nobles around me would say.
 
Of course he was desperate. We’re fighting the Demon King. If you have that resolve, naturally you become desperate.
 
However, Ares’ efforts were exceptionally obsessive. He never tried to rest. It was as if he was chased by something, and kept running without stop.
 
He was undoubtedly experiencing something in order to become the hero. I didn’t know what it was. Not something I could just ask about.
 
Maybe it was something I was lacking.





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