Who Killed the Hero? Volume 1 Chapter 4 part 5

My words made the three of them stare wide–eyed.
 
“What foolishness are you saying, Ares? We finally defeated the Demon King didn’t we? We’ll return together! Then you can marry the princess and become king! If you become king, I’ll be happy to serve under you!”
 
Leon paused for a moment, then continued after some consideration.
 
“Are you perhaps uncertain about becoming king? It’s true that even if you’re a hero, there may be nobles who oppose the idea of a commoner ascending to the throne. But if that’s the case, I’m here to support you! The Earl’s family will back you with all our might. We won’t let anyone raise objections.”
 
When we first met, Leon had nothing but insults for me as a commoner with lowly birth, boasting “I’m the one who will become the hero and next king!”
 
Compared to back then, he’s changed considerably. No, his core hasn’t changed.
 
Leon always lacked self–interest, and sincerely considered the good of the country — he was a noble and knight of high moral character.
 
“That’s right, Ares. Becoming king is another trial for the hero. Giving up here isn’t like you at all.”
 
Maria smiled gently.
 
“Once I have control of the church, we shall grasp power together.”
 
…how she said were gentler than it’s content.
 
“Ares, why? Tell us your reason.”
 
Solon questioned me calmly.
 
“Sorry, I’m not Ares. I wasn’t really the hero.”
 
I could finally say what I always wanted to.
 
“What are you saying? If you aren’t Ares, then who are you?”
 
Leon looked bewildered.
 
“I’m Zack. Zack is my real name. I’m sorry for deceiving you until now.”
 
I bowed my head to the three.
 
“Zack? Why did you use a false name?”
 
Solon continued questioning.
 
“Because Ares was the real hero’s name.”
 
Then, I started talking about the past. How the prophet appeared in our hometown village and I set out on the journey as Ares’ companion. How we were attacked by a demon on the way, Ares was wounded, and I delivered the finishing blow. And how I went to the capital alone, entered the academy…
 
“Defeated a demon at the age of fourteen? I can’t believe such a man exists…”
 
Leon was in awe of Ares’ valor.
 
Indeed, Ares was remarkable. To accomplish so much at the age of fourteen was astounding. If he had continued to live, he might have been able to defeat the Demon King much earlier.
 
“I understand Ares’ story, but why did you need to assume that name?”
 
Solon leaned against a nearby tree, as if he thought it might be a lengthy conversation.
 
“Because I killed the hero. So I had to take on the responsibility of becoming the hero. That’s why.”
 
To take responsibility for killing the hero, I had come this far.
 
“Ares died because of the demon. It’s not your fault”
 
Maria said.

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“No, Ares died because of me. I still feel the sensation of piercing Ares with a sword in my hand. Moreover, I didn’t defeat the Demon King as Zack. I defeated the Demon King as Ares. If I had remained Zack, there’s no way I could have done it.”
 
“But Ares is already dead, isn’t he?”
 
Solon crossed his arms and tapped his arm with his fingers, looking frustrated.
 
“Ares’ mother… the woman who raised me, Shera, is a very kind person. I can’t tell her that ‘Ares died without becoming a hero.’ Truth be told, she didn’t even want Ares to become a hero. That’s why I attributed all the achievements to Ares, and I’m leaving.”
 
“Are you planning to leave all the credit that should have belonged to Ares and just go?”
 
I could sense the anger in Solon’s words.
 
“That credit should have belonged to Ares from the beginning.”
 
“Are you an idiot, you?!”
 
Solon finally began to raise his voice. He was originally a short–tempered and foul–mouthed guy.
 
“You are the hero! Ares fell halfway on the journey! That’s the truth! Besides, I also know the words of the prophet. [The hero who will save the world from this village will appear.] It doesn’t necessarily refer to Ares. From the beginning, you were the hero!”
 
Being a sage, Solon’s observation was correct. I knew that too.
 
“I’m just an ordinary person who couldn’t use a sword or magic. I’m not fit to be a hero. Besides, for me, Ares is the true hero.”
 
Yes, I wasn’t worthy of being a hero. I had only been chasing Ares’ shadow all along.
 
“Yes, you’re just an ordinary person! You were probably the least talented person at the academy! And it was you who defeated the Demon King! We know how much effort you put in and the sacrifices you made, the sleepless nights, the relentless pursuit of progress even when it wasn’t enough. Certainly, you may not have had the qualities of a hero. But you saved the world! I won’t recognize anyone but you as the hero.”
 
Solon, his face covered by the hood, said. Despite his strong tone, it was a kind word.
 
“Thank you, Solon. I’m more than content just to hear you say that.”
 
My efforts, which I thought would never be rewarded, have finally borne fruit, and I have three friends who acknowledge it. That’s enough for me.
 
“Are you really going to leave, Ares… I mean, Zack?”
 
Maria, not wearing her usual saintly facade, but showing her true feelings, seemed genuinely worried about me.
 
“Don’t go, Zack. I’m stopping you. Refusing my wish would be blasphemy against God.”
 
“Thank you, Maria.”
 
Maria’s true face, which she rarely showed, was undoubtedly the most beautiful in the world.
 
“If you say that, my resolve might weaken. But I have to go. If I continue on this path, I’ll meet someone sooner or later, and then they’ll discover that I’m alive. I want to avoid that at all costs. I had planned to part ways a bit sooner, but I wanted to continue traveling with all of you for as long as possible.”
 
It had been a challenging and harsh journey, but the days spent with my companions were precious memories.
 
“Where are you planning to go?”
 
Leon asked.
 
“First, I’ll return to the village, report that Ares defeated the Demon King, and return this sword to Ares’ parents. After that, I’ll leave this country and embark on a journey.”
 
I had intended to meet Shera for the last time and leave this country. If I stayed in this country, my hidden secret might be revealed someday.
 
“His Majesty the King is not yet of an age where we need to rush to choose the next king. Come back at any time. I’ll be happy to welcome you.”
 
“Thank you, Leon. I believe you could be a great king.”
 
“Of course.”
 
Leon chuckled.
 
“I’m a man worthy of being a king. But I haven’t fallen so far that I would yield all the credit that should have belonged to you.”
 
He was indeed an honorable man. It was a pity that he had no intention of becoming a king.
 
“So, I’m off.”
 
I turned my back on my friends.
 
“Wait.”
 
Solon spoke up.
 
“What am I to you? Or rather, what am I…?”
 
He hesitated for a moment.
 
“You’re my best friend, of course.”
 
We had been friends for a long time since our days at the academy, sharing joys and sorrows. There was no other word that fit better.
 
“I see. You’re as cheeky as ever to call a genius like me your best friend. But, maybe I could have been more than a friend.”
 
Solon smiled a little.
 
“That’s good. Solon. You, you never had a friend since you were a child, right?”
 
Maria teased him. Solon responded by giving her a reproachful look.
 
“I will find you wherever you go and bring you back. You’re my friend.”
 
He said.


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