Who Killed the Hero? Volume 1 Chapter 4 part 2

Fragment 1
 

“It helps that Zack came along,”
 
Ares muttered after we had walked quite a distance from the village.
 
“But was it really ok for it to be me? Wouldn’t a proper adult have been better?”
 
I gave voice to something I had been thinking all along. Sending two fourteen year old boys to the capital seemed a little reckless.
 
When it was decided someone would accompany Ares to the capital, a few of the single young men in the village were initially suggested. But the one Ares chose was me.
 
Strangely, no one objected to his decision.
 
“Some adult I’m not close to would just make things awkward. Besides, they’d be eager to push me into fighting monsters as the hero yet unwilling to take any risks themselves.”
 
Ares voiced criticism of the villagers that I’d never heard him say before. I winced in surprise at his words.
 
It was true some of the men who had been in the running to journey with Ares were openly relieved when not chosen. They had realized it would be a dangerous trip.
 
Ares rarely spoke ill of others but it seems he harbored discontent towards the villagers’ attitudes.
 
“Well monsters are strong. My parents were killed too. No one wants to fight,”
 
I said, thinking of how my own parents, both adventurers, had lost their lives battling monsters and making a living that way.
 
“But as the hero I’ll have to fight those monsters. And even defeat the demon king. What is a hero anyway? I never wanted to be one. But they say the world will be destroyed if I don’t do it. It’s terrible.”
 
Ares gave a hollow laugh.
 
“I’ve seen my mother crying at night sometimes. She doesn’t really want me to become the hero.”
 
I knew that too. Ares’ parents, my foster parents, doubted the credibility of the prophet’s revelation. They probably hoped Ares would not have to be hero if they could help it.
 
But Ares’ grandfather who was village chief was overjoyed and led the villagers in celebrating Ares as the hero.
 
“It’ll be fine! Ares can do it! He can use the sword, magic, even miracles! He’s defeated plenty of monsters already. No one like that in the capital! “
 
I raised my voice in an exaggeratedly cheerful manner.
 
“Will it really? There are no professional warriors or mages in Talis Village. We’re all amateurs in the end. So who knows how strong I actually am when I boast about it here.”
 
“Ares…”
 
I was taken aback at Ares’ words. I had no idea he thought that way despite always being by his side.
 
“Ah, sorry. Got a little carried away complaining after leaving the village. I’ve decided to do this as the hero yet here I am getting weak–kneed.”
 
After that Ares never voiced such weakness again. But our conversation remained etched in my mind.
 


 
Our journey went smoothly. At the villages we stopped at along the way, Ares competently negotiated like an adult, obtaining water and food in exchange for the meager money we had.
 
When encountering monsters he avoided fighting if possible, only battling when it couldn’t be helped.
 
Even then, he would fight calmly and steadily after ensuring my safety. He used attack magic and recovery magic well, finishing them off with his sword. His conduct was truly befitting of a hero.
 
We’re currently walking down a thickly forested highway.
 
The sky should be blue and clear but the trees stretching to either side are so tall and dense they block the sky, leaving me vaguely uneasy.
 
This road once bustled with people traveling to and from the capital but after the demon king’s appearance, monsters overran the forest and not a soul uses it now. In fact we haven’t seen anyone else in half a day of walking.
 
On the other hand, the number of monsters was indeed large, and we had already encountered them multiple times, but Ares had defeated them all.
 
“You’re really something, Ares. You could have handled it all by yourself, couldn’t you?”
 
I also had a sword for self–defense, but I had never used it. On our journey, it was mostly used as a sparring partner for Ares’ training.
 
“Zack, you overestimate me too much. It’s tough to keep doing things on your own. I can move forward because you’re here. When I started learning the sword, studying magic, and even when I was taught healing magic, it started with everyone doing it together, but when it didn’t work out, people dropped out one by one. In the end, it was just you and me.”
 
“Well, I couldn’t learn magic or divine miracles…”
 
I replied with a smile.
 
“That’s a shame, but you stuck with me until the end. That’s pretty amazing. Continuing to do something that’s not working out is tough. I was fortunate to be good at many things, but if things didn’t go well, who knows what would have happened. I might have quit like everyone else.”
 
“I can’t imagine Ares not being good at something. But I wanted to at least master one thing, too.”
 
That was the truth. I had desperately tried to catch up to my cousin, who was the same age, but things never seemed to work out.
 
“There are things that didn’t work out for me either…”
 
As I started to say that, Ares stopped. I also stopped, sensing something was amiss.
 
It was too quiet. I couldn’t even hear the sounds of forest animals.
 
“Oh, did you notice? Truly living up to the name of a hero.”
 
With a smirk, someone emerged from behind a large tree ahead. They looked human, but their skin was purple, they had a robust physique, ears twice the length of a human’s, and bright red eyes.
 
“Run! It’s a demon!”
 
Ares shouted. Upon hearing that, I immediately ran back.
 
Demons. They were the minions of the Demon Lord, and while they appeared human–like, they were significantly stronger in both power and magic than humans.
 
The reason I immediately ran was not only because of my fear of demons but also because I didn’t want to hinder Ares.
 
I soon heard the sound of clashing swords. Ares had started fighting the demon.
 
I ran into the forest and kept a safe distance, watching the battle from behind a tree.
 
The demon swung a massive sword I had never seen before. It moved with the force of a gale.
 
“Heh, I heard a hero was chosen by a prophet, but you’re still just a kid. If I kill you before you grow up, it’s nothing special.”
 
Ares was purely on the defensive against the demon’s attacks, which could not only wound him but also potentially be lethal.
 
Ares calmly dodged the attacks that he could and parried the ones he couldn’t with his sword.
 
Ares endured, and time passed slowly.
 

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Initially, the demon displayed confidence in the face of Ares’ defensive strategy. However, it eventually grew frustrated.
 
“Your defense is admirable. But what about magic?”
 
The demon, who was unable to land attacks easily, stopped using its sword and extended its left hand forward, attempting to cast a spell.
 
Ares didn’t miss this opportunity.
 
“Ha!”
 
He stepped forward with the force of a released breath and delivered a swift strike to the outstretched hand of the demon, who had tried to invoke magic.
 
Several of the demon’s fingers danced in the air.
 
“Gi***aah! You little brat! “
 
The wounded demon quickly regained control of its massive sword and attempted to counter–attack Ares.
 
However, the sword didn’t have the same sharpness as before.
 
(“His fingers are injured, so he can’t grip the sword properly!”)
 
Had Ares aimed for this? If he did, that was amazing!
 
From that point, Ares went on the offensive, and the demon was forced into a defensive stance.
 
Ares didn’t aim for a powerful strike but instead targeted the enemy’s vulnerabilities with precise attacks.
 
“Ugh, take this!”
 
The demon, covered in countless small wounds, gradually began to weaken, even to the untrained eye.
 
Victory was within reach, but Ares continued the fight methodically.
 
Then, the demon, having missed Ares’ sharp attack, finally dropped its sword.
 
With a loud crash, the demon’s sword fell to the ground.
 
Seizing the opportunity, Ares swung his sword toward the demon’s neck.
 
However, the demon deflected the blow with his unarmed left hand. Although the blade dug into his arm, it didn’t cleave it in two. Instead, the demon’s arm looked like it had swallowed the blade, as he flexed his muscles to stop it.
 
“I can’t pull it out! “
 
For the first time in this battle, Ares shouted.
 
“You can have my left hand.”
 
The demon grinned and, with his right hand, sprouted large claws, then lunged at Ares.
 
Ares released his sword, attempting to dodge the attack, but his abdomen was cut slightly.
 
Despite the continuous pressure from the demon, Ares began to chant a spell.
 
“Wind!”
 
He unleashed a wind–based magic toward the demon’s eyes.
 
“Tch!”
 
The demon evaded the spell, but Ares stepped backward to widen the gap between them.
 
The demon pulled the sword that was embedded in its left hand and tossed it into the woods behind. Its left hand hung limply. It probably couldn’t move it properly anymore.
 
Ares muttered something. It was likely an incantation for magic. However, the magic he knew was all basic, and it didn’t seem like it would be effective against the demon.
 
(Oh no!)
 
With that thought, I dashed toward Ares from the forest, holding my own sword.
 
The demon started to move. Ares had managed to draw the enemy’s attention, and he unleashed a fire spell.
 
The flames enveloped the demon’s head, but it charged forward without hesitation.
 
Ares managed to evade, but his movements were sluggish. Could it be because of the wound on his abdomen from earlier?
 
“Ares, catch!”
 
I threw my sword toward Ares.
 
The demon raised its right–hand claws.
 
Ares deftly caught the spinning sword and, without hesitation, dove into the demon’s chest, thrusting the sword deep into its belly.
 
“We did it!”
 
I couldn’t help but shout.
 
However,
 
“…I’ll give you… my life… but you… will go down with me…”
 
With the sword piercing through its body, the demon clamped its massive teeth from its mouth over Ares’ neck.
 
Blood spurted forcefully from Ares’ neck.
 
“Ares!”
 
My scream echoed through the forest.


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