Who Killed the Hero? Volume 1 Chapter 5 part 3

Fragment 2
 

 
When I met the hero in the throne room, he was a completely different person than I had imagined.
 
I had pictured an idealistic knight or a crude but powerful adventurer. But he was neither.
 
He was just an ordinary, gentle-looking man.
 
(Why is this person the hero?)
 
That’s what I thought. Then he said to me:
 
“Princess, I promise. I will definitely defeat the demon king.
 
But I won’t return here. So please, marry whoever you love.”
 
I couldn’t understand at all what he was saying.
 
If he’s not coming back after defeating the demon king, it means he wants no reward.
 
So what is he fighting for?
 
For the first time, I became interested in Ares Schmidt.
 


 
I heard Ares was training at the academy so I secretly went to watch.
 
He was fighting with Leon.
 
Since I’ve studied swordsmanship, I understood to some extent. Leon was overwhelming with the sword. Strong, fast, refined technique. As expected of the sword saint. His sword skills would make any swordsman aspire to be like him.
 
On the other hand, Ares’ sword skills didn’t compare to Leon’s at all. But he was somehow fighting evenly. I guess because he was using magic too. His sword skills weren’t bad.
 
But I didn’t sense any talent. It seemed like anyone could reach that level with enough effort. However, no matter how much Leon attacked, Ares never faltered. He had a sturdy, unshakable strength like a thick tree trunk. I could feel the accumulated training behind it.
 
He’s tenacious, or maybe stubborn is a better word. “He should just give up already,” I thought, but somehow I found myself cheering for him.
 

 
In the end, the mock battle ended in a draw.
 
Leon still had energy to spare, but Ares collapsed where he stood.
 
After making sure Leon had left, I spoke to Ares.
 
“I was watching,” I said.
 


 
After talking with Ares, I realized he truly believes that as long as he can defeat the demon king, that’s good enough. He has no interest in becoming king or marrying me. In fact, he doesn’t even care about his own life.
 
(Will he be alright?)
 
He did promise to come back alive, but still I felt uneasy.
 

 
After that, whenever Ares was at the castle, I started checking up on him frequently.
 
And every time I did, he was training in some way.
 
Sword training with Leon, healing magic with Maria, attack magic with Solon – he was always working so hard I wondered when he ever rested.
 
But the people watching his training at the castle gossiped that his swordsmanship and magic were nothing special. They all looked down on Ares.
 
I wonder why? To me, someone who can work that hard is incredibly rare.
 
Even though I’ve studied academics, swordsmanship, and horsemanship, I could never push myself like he does.
 
On the contrary, I’ve been praised for having “talent” and learned so many things that I thought it was fine to slack off a little sometimes.
 
But Ares always gives it his all. You can tell just by watching. There is no deception in him.
 
He’s not amazing, but he’s going to defeat the Demon King, so it must be an amazing thing.
 
They say he’s not that great, yet he’s going to defeat the demon king. That should mean it’s an incredible feat.
 
If they think Ares is not great, then they should go defeat the demon king themselves!
 
I wanted to say that to everyone.
 
But I couldn’t say it. Because I couldn’t do something like that either.
 
No matter how skilled the sword saint, saintess, and sage are, going to the demon king’s land with just the four of them is scary. We want someone else to do it.
 
We are all weak and cowardly. We expect things without doing anything ourselves, get disappointed on our own, and say selfish things.
 
So I decided I would be the only one to cheer on Ares. I prayed for his safe return.
 


 
The day came when Ares and his companions would depart.
 
Early in the morning, they quietly left the castle. The reason was that a grand send-off might alert the demons. Ares apparently wanted a discreet departure after they were attacked by demons in the Rozolof Forest.
 
“What a cowardly hero,” someone said.
 
What’s wrong with being cowardly? If any brave man could become heroes, the demon king would have been defeated already. The truth is, aren’t we the cowardly ones for leaving it to others and doing nothing ourselves?
 
I got on my horse.
 
“I’m going out for a bit,”
 
I told my attendants, then rode off without waiting for a reply.
 

 
I caught up to their carriage just outside the capital.
 
The coachman was surprised to see me and stopped the carriage. Ares and the others came out wondering what was going on.
 
“Princess Alexia…”
 
Ares looked shocked. Leon and Solon had interested expressions.
 
Only Maria looked annoyed. Well, I had halted their departure after all.
 
“Don’t die! You don’t have to defeat the demon king or anything!”
 
The words just tumbled out of my mouth. Hardly fitting for a hero.
 
“Thank you, Princess Alexia.”
 
But Ares looked very happy.
 
“Thank you, Princess Alexia. Somehow, just knowing someone thinks that way makes me feel so relieved.”
 
Saying that, he returned to the carriage. Leon and the others followed.
 
Before long the carriage started moving again, and Ares waved to me until he disappeared from sight. I waved back until I could no longer see the carriage.
 

 
When I returned to the castle, I was severely scolded.
 


 
For a while after Ares and his companions departed, we continued to receive word of their progress.
 
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It sounded like they were steadily headed towards the demon king’s territory, and their exploits were praised in other countries too.
 
But the further they traveled, the less frequent the updates became, until at some point we stopped getting any information at all.
 
We didn’t know if they were safe or not.
 
I thought we should send people for information gathering and support, but
 
“But they say it’s fine because the prophet has guided the hero.”
 
It’s quite a selfish reasoning. Then we blame the prophet if the hero fails?
 
Shouldn’t we do what we can ourselves?
 
Who are they really fighting for?
 

 
I turned fifteen during this time and entered Pharme Academy.
 
I joined the warrior class and also took priest and mage lectures.
 
I was told “The princess mimicking the hero,” “How eccentric of the princess,” “Has the princess gone mad?” But this is about all I can do.
 
To learn the same things as Ares, so that if he falls midway, I can take his place.
 
I didn’t want to remain a coward who only relies on others. I am royalty of this country. We should be the ones to become the heroes.
 
But learning swordsmanship and magic at the same time was harder than I imagined.
 
I didn’t seem to have any talent for magic. My attack magic and recovery magic all failed completely. I heard Ares didn’t succeed for over a year either.
 
But this is painful. Continuing something when you don’t know if you can do it or not is more difficult than I thought.
 
Then in the summer of my second year, the news spread all over the world that Ares and his companions had succeeded in defeating the demon king.
 
Everyone praised Ares and the others profusely.
 
“I believed in them,” “I knew they could do it,” “Long live the heroes!”
 
They probably did believe. But for their own sake, not for Ares and the others.
 
Of course I was overjoyed. I wept with joy. Ares had finally been rewarded, I thought.
 


 
However, on their journey back, we received word that Ares had died. Ambushed by demons lying in wait, he died fighting them.
 
Then while mourning his death, a slightly relieved atmosphere spread through the kingdom. The higher the social status, the stronger the tendency. Some even said to me bluntly:
 
“How fortunate for you, Princess.”
 
What was there to be relieved about?
 
They should be ashamed.
 
But I knew. I knew that Ares never had any intention of returning from the start.
 
I’m certain he’s alive, keeping his promise to me.
 
I became convinced after seeing the faces of Leon and the others who returned. They did not seem so sad. During their stay at this castle, Ares and his companions had undoubtedly become comrades. If Ares had really died, Leon and the others would not have such calm expressions.
 
I’ve been made a fool of.
 
I am Princess Alexia of this country. I hold a certain level of importance.
 


 
After graduating from the academy and working in public service for two years, to honor the late hero, I launched a project to compile his feats into literature. My father showed reluctance, but the country had stabilized, so I insisted this was only natural.
 
Of course, I would take command of the vanguard.
 
I will find him no matter what.
 
To make him fulfill the promise we made back then.

 


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