Who Killed the Hero? Volume 1 Chapter 6 part 1

Prophet’s Chapter
 

“We may have dealt with Shella, but we still don’t know Zack’s whereabouts, do we?”
 
Having returned to Solon’s mansion again via teleportation magic, we faced each other in the room.
 
“There’s probably only one person in this country who knows his whereabouts,”
 
Solon said, sipping the tea brought to him by his disciple.
 
“Who? I interviewed most of the people involved with the hero, but I don’t think there was anyone closer to the hero than you guys, his former party members.”
 
“…..The prophet. The prophet probably knows where Zack went.”
 
Hearing Solon’s answer, I felt like I’d been hit from behind. The prophet was a mysterious figure of unknown identity. A supernatural being, and in a sense, it would be even more difficult to find his whereabouts than Zack’s.
 
“Wouldn’t it be even more difficult to find where the prophet is?”
 
“No, I have an idea of the prophet’s true identity,”
 
Solon said, drinking his tea.
 
“True identity? What do you mean?”
 
“This is something we investigated after defeating the demon king.”
 
Putting down the teacup he was drinking from on the table, Solon began to speak as if hinting at something.
 
“The prophet is probably the human equivalent of the demon king.”
 
“The human equivalent of the demon king? ….What do you mean?”
 
I didn’t understand at all what he was talking about.
 
“The demon king rules over the demons and is the follower closest to the evil god. Well, the evil god is only seen that way from the human perspective, from the other side, our god is seen as the evil one.”
 
“Our god seen as evil? Solon, you’re saying some outrageous things in front of royalty.”
 
The royal family of this country has deep ties to the temple. Saying careless things could get even the great sage indicted. Of course I don’t intend to do anything like that.
 
“It’s fine. The point is that the concepts of good and evil depend on one’s position. We went on a long journey to defeat the demon king, but the demons also have convictions and sense of justice. In the end, the war between humans and demons has aspects of a proxy war between the gods they each worship. We were made aware of that many times during our journey.”
 
“………”
 
The content of Solon’s story was not something I could readily agree with, but as someone who had never stepped foot outside the country, I couldn’t deny the words of someone who had continually fought outside it.
 
“So then I, in my wisdom, thought – if the demons have a demon king, the humans must also have an equivalent existence.”
 
“And that would be the prophet?”
 
“Yes. Since the hero directly defeats the demon king, the hero himself would be the most suspicious, but we know well that’s not the case. In that case, the prophet who found the hero is the most suspicious.”
 
“I kind of understand what you’re getting at, but…Zack didn’t have the kind of power the demon king had. The prophet only prophesied the hero’s existence and didn’t do anything else…I feel like something is off.”
 
The demons are strong, but the humans are weak. Shouldn’t the god have given humans more power?
 
“It’s probably just a difference in divine authority. One way or another, in the end humans rule most of this world, not the demons, right? The demon king temporarily upsets that situation, but it never becomes a lasting change.”
 
When he puts it that way, it’s true. The demon king has never gained control over the entire world, despite being so powerful.
 
“While not possessing strong powers, the prophet’s role is still large in that sense. Though exactly what he does remains a mystery even to me.”
 
“So the prophet is someone close to god? In that case…Maria? She’s called the holy maiden, so she should feel god’s presence more than anyone.”
 
Given that the so-called holy maiden gives off a somewhat dark vibe, I could believe it if she turned out to be the prophet.
 
“No, she just happens to excel at recovery magic. She does possess power far beyond the average priest, but that doesn’t mean she’s close to god. Personally I feel she has more affinity with the evil god.”
 
Apparently Solon has known Maria since they were children, but he seems to evaluate her quite harshly.
 
“Besides, the prophet’s period of activity spans over a thousand years. It’s not a role that can be continuously filled by one person. There’s one more thing. Though not widely recognized, there are two types of gods in this country – the widely worshipped greater god recognized around the world, and the indigenous god. The common people believe these two gods are the same, but in reality they are different. It’s as if they intentionally treat the indigenous god the same as the greater god in order to conceal its existence. And then there’s the family in this country that has long served that indigenous god…”
 
As he said that, Solon stared straight at me.
 
“Huh? You don’t mean…the royal family is the prophet?”

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I never could have imagined the royal family would come under suspicion.
 
“That’s right. The royal family of this country originally has its roots in the indigenous god’s shrine maidens, and the female lineage has continued unnaturally long. And the role of shrine maiden is always passed on to the next princess, continuing unbroken as they offer prayers at the temple. In other words, the current prophet is likely none other than the current queen.”
 
“That can’t be! My mother is a kind person! There’s no way she would do anything suspicious like be the prophet!”
 
I recalled my mother in my memories. She looked beautiful, kind and wonderful even to me as a child.
 
“How long has it been since you’ve met that mother of yours?”
 
Solon ignored my objection.
 
“…..Since she inherited the role of shrine maiden from my grandmother the queen dowager, so more than ten years. You know that contact with others is severely restricted once one becomes a shrine maiden, right?”
 
“I know that. But I don’t know what the shrine maidens do in the temple. We’re told they offer prayers to the god, but what specifically does that entail? What does offering prayers to god amount to?”
 
I was at a loss to answer. When my mother passes away, I will become the next shrine maiden, but I haven’t been told specifically what I will do.
 
“You don’t know, just as I thought.”
 
Seeing my expression, Solon seemed to grasp that I knew nothing.
 
“The temple of this country is a divine domain. Entry is severely restricted, even for royalty it’s not easy to get in. They probably thoroughly restrict information. Not even teaching the princess who will be the next shrine maiden anything until she enters the temple is proof of that. What is it that they have to conceal so thoroughly? Why does the prophet only appear in this country, and why are heroes only born in this country? If you think about these things, it’s imaginable that the royal family, or rather the queen’s lineage, are the prophets.”
 
“That’s…”
 
I couldn’t readily deny it. I didn’t possess anything myself that could refute his claims. And since the one arguing was the great sage, I couldn’t dismiss this story as delusion either.
 
“Let me make this clear. The reason I reveal Zack was the hero is because you are the princess. I thought that as princess you could enter the temple and find out Zack’s whereabouts.”
 
It seems he intended to use me from the beginning. But considering I was using Solon to find Zack, it was mutual use.
 
“…..Why do you think the prophet would know Zack’s whereabouts?”
 
“There must be some kind of connection between the prophet and hero. That’s why the prophet finds the hero. In fact, the heroes up until now married the princess and became king of this country. The current case is the only exception.”
 
I didn’t know how to argue back.
 
“What do you want me to do?”
 
“I want you to go to the temple and meet with the queen, the shrine maiden. That’s all I ask.”
 

***.
 

 
The temple was underground beneath the royal castle.
 
Not that the temple was built beneath the castle, but that the castle was built where the temple was – that is more accurate apparently.
 
As if to protect the temple, or conceal its existence.
 
Descending the stairs leading to the temple. The white marble floors and walls shone faintly in the dim torchlight.
 
It was all so inorganic and orderly it seemed to reject human entry.
 
I began to feel the mirage I was descending into a bottomless pit when finally the door leading to the temple came into view.
 
In front of that door were two shrine maidens dressed in pure white, with veils covering their faces.
 
Only women can enter the temple, so both attendants are women, but they have swords at their waists.
 
Their indistinct ghost-like forms were honestly creepy.
 
They too came from a family that served the shrine maidens for generations, swearing absolute loyalty not to the royal family but the shrine maiden lineage.
 
They undergo harsh training, and are said to surpass even knights in swordsmanship.
 
“Please let me through to see my mother…the shrine maiden. Tell her Alexia is here.”
 
I said to the priests, who did not move an inch when I came.
 
The priestesses moved to the left and right, and the door began to open slowly on its own.
 
“We have received word from the shrine maiden. Please enter.”
 
I couldn’t tell which one spoke. Or maybe they both spoke simultaneously.
 
Contrary to expectations, they did not seem intent on stopping me. It appears they knew beforehand I would come here.
 
Beyond the door was an even longer hallway, and after passing through that, I was enveloped in a light unthinkable for an underground space as an expansive cavern utilizing the cave opened up.

 


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