Extra chapter thanks to John, Stephan and Fanuel~ 😀 Enjoy!
Chapter 42: The end of a man who tried to be a hero
The South Marsh residents who gathered at Big Hawk’s mansion were in a flurry.
Al saved Ademi, who was apparently sheltered by the Guards, and another different man kidnapped them.
Big Hawk anxiously retreated back into his mansion and one of Big Hawk’s subordinate told them to wait at the spot but it had been quite some time.
The people’s anxiety rose the longer they were made to wait.
Soon, quarrels over trivial matters started everywhere and it was a situation in which it wouldn’t be strange if a brawl happened.
At that moment, a man at the back shouted.
The sound of countless footsteps, of ringing metal armor and a battle line made of dazzling halberds that reflected the setting sun.
“I-it’s the Guards! They are in full gear!”
They surrounded Big Hawk’s mansion in the blink of the eye and the Guards arrayed themselves with their halberds held facing up.
They were not dressed in the light gear they wore during patrols.
They wore heavy armor called a half-plate, with steel breastplates that covered their upper body only and chainmail that protected their arms and feet, along with long swords and crossbows on their waists.
In addition, they had halberds, two-meter-long pole weapons, in their hands.
These were the Guards’ full gear only used in emergency situations such as war or riots.
Versus the South Marsh residents with not a single proper weapon.
There were some who did have some degree of gear like knives, short clubs or short swords for self-defense and light leather armor but the fact that they were familiar with equipment caused many of them to be appalled at the difference in their combat ability compared to the fully equipped Guards, as they felt the premonition of defeat.
Over half of the setting sun that illuminated the South Marsh district had sunk below the horizon before I realized.
“Do you understand the situation now, D-rank?”
Albert said with his sword pointed at me.
I had my copper sword drawn and ready as I listened to him.
” … Do you recall that I invited you to join my party previously?”
“Of course, that happened just recently.”
“At that time, you intentionally tried to act incompetently. I knew my judgment wasn’t wrong.”
” … Maybe, so, what now?”
“I’ll ask you once more. Become my companion, Red. You are a person who can become a hero … just like me.”
Albert lowered his sword and gestured like he was reaching out with his hand.
The distance between us was about 15 steps. It was a distance where we could clash stances and strike if we attacked at the same time.
Our discussion was still ongoing but there was blazing tension in between us.
“Red, I do not know the reason why you are trying to hide your strength. But those with the ability have the duty to utilize their strength. My Divine Protection of The Champion and the Divine Protection residing in your body shouldn’t be the kind that should rot in a border town like this.”
“It’s not something so impressive though.”
“Give it a break! Your strength is the real deal!”
Albert shouted loudly.
“Make your choice, D-rank! Join me and become a hero who fights the Demon Lord! Or defeat me and become a hero who saved Zoltan! Choose one option!”
“Yes, a hero! Your choice will determine the fate of Zoltan! You might even be deciding the fate of the world! Isn’t it exhilarating! At this very moment, the center of the world is in this remote region called Zoltan!”
While he was shouting, Albert started grinning unconsciously.
He could finally become an existence that he wished to be. Even if it was just self-satisfaction with no substance to back it …
“It’s about time huh?”
“What do you mean!?”
Countless running footsteps approached us.
Albert’s expression distorted with astonishment.
“Yo-you … why? Shouldn’t this fight lead to a deciding battle between us heroes …”
“I do not wish to become a hero.”
That was not the location to settle the incident.
And the hero was neither of us.
Even though they understood that they had no chance of winning, using their hatred toward the Guards fanned by Big Hawk as a weapon, the South Marsh residents wanted to let Zoltan know the wrath of South Marsh even if they were to lose and showed that they would put up fierce resistance until the very end.
In reality, most of the instigation was done by Big Hawk’s subordinates that he had mixed into the crowd beforehand so the majority of the crowd just picked up the weapons passed to them from Big Hawk’s mansion and had nervous expressions.
Guard Captain Moen observed their state.
“They have the advantage in numbers but they have neither weapons nor armors.”
While frightened, the crowd of front-liners holding long spears glared at him.
Despite being the very first row, half of them weren’t even wearing armor.
“I guess it’s natural, they are not soldiers and this is not a battlefield either.”
” … Yeah.”
Moen responded with a slightly tired voice after his subordinate said that. They were not soldiers, just regular citizens.
The reason they came in full gear was to make the opponent lose their will to fight.
In actual fact, it had quite a visible effect but it had not reached the stage where they threw down their weapons.
They needed a push from some other source.
At that moment, an out-of-breath Guard ran up.
“It’s regarding Young Master Ademi!”
“What!? Have you found him!?”
After a short while, two youngsters were brought over by a young man with dark skin tone.
It was Byuui.
Even though Moen had seen most of Zoltan’s residents, he had not seen that man before but he had no time to bother about it at that moment. He quickly forgot the faint sense of discomfort he sensed from that young man.
The two of them happily hugged each other.
“I’m sorry, father … I …”
“It is all right as long as you are fine. If there is anybody you must apologize to, I will apologize with you; if there is anything you must compensate for, I will compensate for it with you. You don’t have to apologize to me as you are my son.”
“I’m sorry for interrupting the touching reunion but.”
Byuui interrupted them, looking like he was not actually sorry.
“Let’s settle this.”
Moen and Ademi nodded with slightly red faces.
The Guards and South Marsh residents were facing off in a confrontation that was on a hair-trigger.
There was a clear difference in equipment and proficiency but the South Marsh side had a fort in the shape of Big Hawk’s mansion surrounded by a fence.
That made them believe that it might actually be possible to win.
“Tch, what a terrible situation.”
A man from South Marsh holding a spear complained.
Unlike those behind, staring at the armors of the Guards at the frontline reflecting the setting sun, he totally could not see any chance of winning.
He was trying to think of how to escape from that place but he was completely surrounded. Even if he wanted to surrender, he had the other South Marsh residents directly behind him.
“What can we do, I was an idiot for believing the words of that pig-face.”
“You’re right on that.”
The men wished for some opportunity as they said that.
An opportunity to throw down their weapons before the equilibrium collapsed and before the fight could no longer be stopped.
Children’s voices echoed out.
The frontline of the Guards split into two and two youngsters stepped out.
The two of them had nervous complexions but their eyes were shining with a clear purpose.
“Oh my, isn’t that Al!? And beside him is that bastard Ademi!”
The South Marsh side stirred.
Byuui used a spell to grant the two youngsters invisible magical wings to fly into the air.
The two of them floated up and moved to a height where everyone could see them.
Al shouted once more.
“Al! What happened! Did the Guards capture you!?”
“No, I am here of my own intent. It is the same for Ademi.”
“Yes, I am here of my own intent.”
The crowd stirred without understanding the situation.
(Before coming here, I thought of all kinds of things to say.)
Al and Ademi’s roles were to prevent the fight there from occurring.
The two people involved in the incident should be able to stop the fighting. Byuui told the two of them that.
(Tell them the truth? Have Ademi apologize? Exclaim that Big Hawk had tricked everyone?)
Just in case, Al had the draft that Byuui passed to him inside his pocket.
The lost Al stretched his hand into his pocket and touched the draft …
He crushed it in his hand.
And touched his prided shotel on his waist.
He closed his eyes for a little while …
“Let’s go home, nothing has happened here yet, nobody has been injured, so let’s just go home.”
“I am friends with Ademi. I plan to play with him again tomorrow as well. So let’s go home.”
“Don’t speak nonsense! That Ademi tried to kill your family!”
“No, that was not Ademi but a demon in Ademi’s form. If everyone continues to drink that medicine, you will end up as demons who will hurt your important friends so let’s go home before that happens.”
Al said and took Ademi’s hand.
Looking at the two of them, Moen quickly raised his right hand to give the signal.
The Guards moved and opened a path of return on which the setting sun shone upon.
” … Al, are you forgiving that boy?”
“I forgive him.”
A clang of metal. The man at the very frontline threw down his spear.
The man walked out with a tense expression.
“This fight was to avenge Al, well, he’s not dead though. If he has forgiven him then I have no reason to fight too.”
The man directly behind him tried to reach out to stop him but,
Clang, clang, clang clang clang …
The sound of discarded weapons rang out one after the other and the people started walking back to their own homes.
The fighting had ended.
The South Marsh residents themselves looking for an opportunity to escape was a large factor. If Red, Lit, Moen and the others did not set the stage from the beginning, it would not have reached such a conclusion.
However, it was also the truth that Al and Ademi prevented the fight before it happened.
Al and Ademi lined up to see off the figures of the South Marsh residents passing between the Guards anxiously before returning home with relieved expressions.
Albert screamed with a voice that made me wonder if his throat would split apart.
His bloodshot eyes were wide open and he tore at his hair.
Albert and his group were surrounded by the Guards.
Even though there were nine intermediate-rank demons, Stalker Demons were assassins. They were strong in circumstances where they held the advantage but fighting in direct confrontational situations like this where the opponents held the numerical advantage was disadvantageous to them.
“You have underestimated our town quite a bit.”
A tall man stood in an imposing stance with his hands crossed in front of his chest as he looked down at them.
A member of Zoltan’s once strongest adventurer party, the Adventurers Guild’s executive, Garadin was there too.
The Contract Demon in Big Hawk’s appearance could not hide his disappointment.
He asked Red with a feeble expression.
“Red, are you fine with this method? There will be sacrifices among the Guards, you know? Even though nobody would be injured if you had fought instead.”
“I am a D-rank adventurer. Furthermore, I just run an apothecary … it is the Guard’s role to arrest you guys, not mine. They have trained for this very task.”
The force of it caused the Guards surrounding him to unconsciously take half a step back.
“You could have become a hero, you know!? It was supposed to be a fight in Zoltan with fate on the line! Despite all that, why! Why do you throw it away even though you possess such power!”
” … I’m actually not concerned about becoming a hero or not. I am content with staying with Lit and running a small apothecary.”
“I hate it! At least! At least give me a foe that only a hero can defeat! Give me a reason for my life! I am The Champion Albert! I-I will not accept an end where I am captured by Guards like a filthy criminal like this!!”
“Stop it, Albert!”
The Contract Demon called him to stop but Albert raised his sword and charged straight at me.
Albert swung his magic sword Vorpal Blade down, aiming for my neck.
I drew my copper sword and brandished it once.
The sound of a sword crashing to the ground. The magic sword had fallen behind me.
Albert stared in a daze at his right arm where his magic sword up until his wrist was missing.
“I knew it.”
” …… ”
“I knew you could defeat me whenever you wanted to …”
Red tears flooded Albert’s bloodshot eyes.
“You could have destroyed our conspiracy in an instant if you wanted to, couldn’t you? This is too much … this is way too much …”
Albert fell to his knees and covered his face with his remaining left hand.
“Albert, a hero is not someone with just the strength for it.”
“Are you planning to preach to me as well?”
“No. I wasn’t the one … Albert. I wanted you to be the one to save Zoltan from this crisis. You, the person who has been aiming to be a hero more than anyone else in this town and has always been suffering for it. Not me, you.”
I spoke the truth.
I was evaluating Albert. Of course, he had plenty of flaws. His personality was bad too. In the first place, he lacked the ability too.
But exactly because of that fact, I was evaluating Albert who struggled despite his lack of ability, who pulled his unreliable companions to become better, who worked hard to gain an identity befitting himself while forced into an undeserved position.
“To me, no matter how many faults you had, you were Zoltan’s hero.”
I could not tell what Albert thought after hearing those words. After all, I did not possess a skill to read people’s heart.
Albert just hung his head feebly and allowed himself to be arrested by the Guards without giving any further resistance.
And so we’re reached the end of the stage.
We should be able to return to the slow life with Lit!