Who Killed the Hero? Volume 1 Chapter 4 part 4

Fragment 3
 

 
In the end, Ares was somehow saved.
 
Thanks to the demon dying, the wound on his neck wasn’t as serious as I thought, and it closed up with a healing spell.
 
However, the wound only closed up, it didn’t completely heal. The area around Ares’ left neck was discolored purple, and looked awful. Also, Ares had used up all his mana healing the neck wound, and couldn’t even stand up alone due to the pain and mana depletion.
 
The abdominal wound he took was shallow, but showed no signs of closing. I applied emergency first aid by wrapping it in cloth, but blood was seeping through the cloth. It was a wound that should have easily healed with basic recovery magic, but Ares didn’t even have the strength to use that now.
 
(Ares is in danger like this)
 
Not only the neck damage, but the abdominal wound could be life–threatening. I minimized our luggage and lent Ares my shoulder so we could walk.
 
I found and picked up the sword Ares had thrown away — he desperately pleaded for me to take it along.
 
“Sorry…”
 
Ares, his face pale, apologized.
 
“Don’t worry about it. Right now I’m trying to save the hero who will save the world. That makes me quite a hero, don’t you think?”
 
I tried to joke around and brush it off, but there was no helping the heaviness of our steps. Our pace was less than half of normal walking speed. At this rate, there’s no telling when we’ll reach human habitation, let alone make it out of this forest.
 


 
Ares’ condition worsened with the passage of time.
 
Either his abdominal wound got worse, or he developed a high fever — in any case, he became unable to walk.
 
I discarded most of our luggage and carried Ares on my back.
 
Carrying another person my size on my back is tough. My strength gives out quickly.
 
I walked while carrying him, then took a break immediately. At this rate, even after a month we wouldn’t make it to human habitation, let alone out of the forest.
 
While resting, I chanted the recovery magic I had learned from the village priest towards Ares. Since I had never succeeded at it even once, as expected, no divine miracle occurred.
 
(Please, just this once! Heal Ares’ wounds!)
 
I desperately prayed to God, pleading, but my prayers did not reach God.
 
Thinking that Ares could die from wounds like this, I regretted that I hadn’t tried harder to learn recovery magic. I was brought to tears by my own powerlessness.
 
Since Ares couldn’t even keep his eyes open, he didn’t see me crying.
 

 
I carry Ares on my back. But we make no progress at all. Worse than yesterday. It’s not just that my body is in bad shape. Apart from fatigue and hunger, most of all we had no more water left. No water left to drink, and no way to wash Ares’ abdominal wound either.
 
There were no signs of a river or watering hole nearby, and the forest was too rugged to venture deeper in. I should have known how precious water is. But the water we had was mostly used up yesterday washing Ares’ wounds, so there’s none left now.
 
“Water!”
 
I try chanting the water magic incantation Ares and I practiced together in the past, but since I never succeeded even once, there is no reaction at all. Ares would have been able to easily produce water with magic.
 
Why wasn’t I the one who got hurt instead?
 
Why can’t I cast even simple magic?
 
“It’d be faster to draw water from a well”
 
That’s what my friends who studied magic together said when they first saw Ares cast the water spell.
 
That may be true. However, there’s no guarantee there will always be a well or river nearby. Let alone during a journey fighting demons, it’s hard to imagine we’d have such favorable conditions. Right now, I was realizing that deeply through my own body.
 

 
Night came, and I couldn’t see anything at all around me. Roars from beasts or demons echoed here and there. Scary. I wanted fire.
 
“Fire!”
 
I chant the fire magic incantation that I only know the words to, but of course nothing happens.
 
A foul smell started coming from Ares’ body. The wounds were probably starting to fester. I was too scared to peel back the cloth covering the wounds and confirm it. If I could use fire magic, I could have cauterized Ares’ abdominal wound and closed it up.
 
To begin with, I didn’t pack a firestarter in our luggage. I thought we wouldn’t need one since Ares could use fire spells. But being in this situation really drove home the importance of fire. The darkness of the forest where even starlight doesn’t reach feels like staring into an abyss, stirring up primal fear.
 
And most of all, it’s cold. Ares has a high fever, but only in parts of his body like his head and around the wounds — his fingertips feel lifeless and icy cold. Huddling together doesn’t warm us up at all.
 
I wish I could use magic to make even a small fire.
 
(If I get another chance, I will definitely learn magic)
 
Shivering in fear in the darkness, I swore that in my heart.
 

 

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Morning came. I couldn’t really sleep at all. Ares had been delirious all night. His face was drained of color, practically lifeless already. I myself had no rest at all, and didn’t have the strength or willpower to carry Ares and walk.
 
“What should I do…what in the world should I do…”
 
In despair, I unintentionally let my voice slip out.
 
“Kill me…”
 
Ares moaned out.
 
“I’m done for. If this continues, Zack will get caught up in it too. And I’m suffering so much. It’s terrifying how my body is rotting away. Please, Zack, please end me with my sword.”
 
///
 


 
scene transition
 
 


 
///
 
In a whispering breath, Ares spoke.
 
“There’s no way I can do that! You’re my brother, my best friend, we’ve always been together! There’s no way I could do something like that!”
 
Ares and I grew up like brothers. Killing him is unimaginable, something I can’t even consider.
 
“That’s why…you should understand how I feel now. Zack has no choice but to go on ahead without me. But if you just leave me here, I’ll just be eaten alive by bugs and beasts. So please, let me die. Then go on alone.”
 
Ares’ eyes were closed. He only kept distorting his face as if to endure pain.
 
“What am I supposed to do alone in the capital? You’re the hero, aren’t you? If the hero dies, the world is finished!”
 

“But the truth is…I wasn’t the hero after all. The prophet only said [the one who will save the world will come from this village]. He never said anything about me. And when I heard the prophet’s words, for some reason, I imagined not myself but you, Zack.”
 
“That can’t be me! I can’t even use magic! If I could use magic, I could have healed your wounds too! And I’m not even that good with a sword…”
 
I broke down crying.
 
“I don’t really understand why, but that’s how I felt.”
 
Ares’ face warped in great pain.
 
“Ahh…my whole body hurts like it’s being stabbed. I’m suffering. Please, Zack, please just end it quickly.”
 
I could see Ares was truly in agony. I realized I had to do what needed to be done.
 
Crying, I drew my sword.
 
I placed the tip at Ares’ chest as he lay on the ground.
 
With his eyes closed, Ares made a smiling expression. He was in pain yet forcing a smile.
 
He’s doing that for my sake.
 
My hands shook. After a short moment, when Ares’ face distorted in agony again, I thrust the sword into his chest.
 
After a feeling of impact, the sword was sucked into Ares’ chest.
 
Ares’ mouth moved faintly. A final word too soft to hear.
 
“Mother.”
 
Is what thought I heard him said.
 


 
Eight years have passed since then.
 
This forest hasn’t changed at all. The overwhelmingly huge trees covering the sky, the vague unease this atmosphere evokes — nothing has changed.
 
Although we defeated the Demon King, demons are still numerous, there are no travelers, and the roads through the forest are overgrown.
 
Relying on my faint memories, I searched for the place I left Ares’ body, but couldn’t find it.
 
I didn’t have the strength or willpower to dig up the earth and bury him, I only covered the body loosely with a cloak to hide it, so even if I remembered the exact location, there would probably be nothing left now.
 
“What are you doing, Ares? This is no time to be wandering around. Hurry back to the capital and report on the Demon King’s defeat. I hear many remnants still remain, so we still need your strength.”
 
Leon called out to me as I had wandered off the road into the forest.
 
He’s in a hurry to return. As the next head of a count household, he achieved great deeds. He must want to proudly report at the royal palace. Only natural.
 
If Maria and Solon return, they will be guaranteed status as well.
 
“Leon, Maria, Solon. This is goodbye. Tell them the hero Ares died.”


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