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 < Running Away from the Hero! 159 #18. What did I even do? (8)>

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“Uwaaaaah!”

“Sir Hero, hooray!”

“Please defeat the evil dragon!”

Every citizen living in the capital was cheering on our dear hero.

Yes, spending all that money and diligently spreading the rumour was finally paying off.

What I did after returning to the capital was simple enough – creating a scenario of our dear hero going mano-a-mano with the dragon!

Having too many combatants joining the expedition would only create too many witnesses. That’s why I needed to make sure that only a small team of elites… no, scratch that, I needed to ensure that the hero would have no choice but to fight the dragon one on one.

I worked my butt off to manufacture the public sentiment along that line of thinking. And my rumour had enhanced the hero’s abilities to such a stratospheric level that…

You’d almost think he was the greatest hero in the history of mankind just from hearing the rumours now. Yes, that’s how over the top the rumour had gotten.

Oh, and I also ‘invested’ funds in various strategic points to ensure that my rumour would spread beyond the castle walls and to the rest of this kingdom.

Thanks to my hard work, every citizen of this nation, including not just the royal family but even the nobles, no longer questioned the hero’s abilities!

Of course, there would always be those who dare to harbour suspicions but the thing was, this kingdom didn’t have a single swordmaster and only one archmage. Which meant no one would dare to raise their voices of doubt regarding the hero.

Through intense prep work and utilising just a tiny bit of political connections, I made sure no one would raise rational-sounding objections. And the end result of all my hard work was…!

The dragon raid party was formed in less than ten days.

“Will this really be alright…?” A middle-aged man sitting next to me asked that.

This kingdom’s strongest combatant, Yulkelis the Archmage, was sighing softly in anxiety.

I replied. “Even if we bring a lot of people with us, one breath attack from the dragon would melt them all down, sir.”

“That is true…”

Not only was he the archmage, but citizens also widely acknowledged him as the strongest in the kingdom. As someone charged with guarding the Neidon royal family, he probably witnessed the truth from the closest vantage point.

…The truth about the majestic power of Aruketai the Evil Dragon as it freely flew around the capital and toyed around with the Neidon Kingdom’s populace.

…The wretched sight of the castle walls that stood tall to protect the royal family for hundreds of years melting down from the dragon’s single breath attack!

That’s why he must’ve felt scared. Of course, getting scared would be the normal reaction.

That’s why I said this to him. “Goddess of Nature has sent Sir Hero to save this kingdom, sir. Please believe in him.”

“It seems that I’ve said something unnecessary. My apologies.”

The archmage bowed his head slightly as a sign of reflecting on his actions.

The enemy we were about to fight was difficult to kill even when our morale was at its peak. As such, it was totally unacceptable to say something that could negatively affect the fighting spirit of his allies.

Yulkelis could be considered a commander of this expedition, yet he ended up doing that unacceptable thing. Somewhat surprisingly for a noble, he didn’t try to hide how remorseful he was.

“Over there. That’s the lair of the evil dragon, Aruketai!”

To discover its location, we got the kingdom’s financial support to hire various people.

Anyone could tell that the cavern ahead of us was artificially created.

That… was the evil dragon, Aruketai’s lair!

“The dragon’s lair…”

“Gulp.”

The one hundred or so members of the expedition began swallowing their saliva in nervousness.

The dragon.

The strongest lifeform in existence.

So strong that it didn’t require the assistance of the gods.

The only race in this world that didn’t believe in any gods other than the Creator!

Although, dragons did acknowledge the Goddess of Benevolence and Devotion, who sacrificed herself to save the world from the evil god.

A battle against one such dragon was just around the corner from them.

Post-Great Continent War, most of the northern region was broken up by various minor kingdoms. Neidon was one such minor kingdom.

The majority of our expedition lacked real-world combat experience, so how much pressure would they be under from the prospect of fighting a dragon?

“Everyone, remember. All you have to do is follow the plan. We should do our best to support and assist Sir Hero from the rear.”

“Y-yes!”

“Understood, Sir Sage!”

“Keuh-hmmm!”

The hero punk loudly cleared his throat, but let’s just ignore him, shall we?

The crucial thing right now was the morale of these soldiers who would work as the cogwheels of my plan.

To lighten the pressure on them, I shall freely sell the hero down the river!

Besides, none of you would probably get to fight for real, anyway. Yes, the hero will take care of the fighting bit!

-Even though they would probably need to fight tooth and nail when the hero gets crushed, master?

-That’s why I brought them here, after all.

Sure, this was a trap where the odds of just dying instead of struggling tooth and nail were much higher. Regardless of what, though, they were still fated to fight one way or the other.

The king did have the option of giving up on rescuing the princess for the sake of the greater good. But here’s the thing – the dragon might have kidnapped the princess who was rumoured to be very beautiful, but how long would that last?

The dragon would probably get tired of her looks soon enough and decide it wants something else. And naturally, it would demand that something else from the kingdom.

That’s why, instead of letting the dragon take away this and that until the kingdom was sucked dry, the king was betting on the lone thread of hope called Sir Hero!

“Well, then! Let us start our plan, everyone!”

“We leave it in your hands, Sir Hero!”

“We believe in you!”

“U-understood.”

“Sir Hero…”

Under the deluge of cheering from the gathered knights and soldiers, the hero could only nod while making a stiff expression.

Only the saint dispatched by the same religious order, Hill Shuttle the King of Heal, was looking at the hero with eyes of pity.

It’s your fault for choosing a profession as annoying as the hero, you know!

The hero profession comes with a risk like this, you say?

What a stupidest profession this was, one where you couldn’t refuse a single thing as long as someone made a damn request!

All the while the compensation you got in return was close to zero!

Let’s say the hero managed to defeat this evil dragon. In that case, the kingdom would no doubt swallow up the dragon carcass for itself. Not a single bit would end up in the hero’s pockets, so to speak.

At most, it’d end up as a sizeable donation made to the Order of Nature, or somewhere thereabout.

Sure, the hero could ask the Order for financial support. However, that money would be coming from the Order’s branch offices and not the headquarters, so the amount would be pitiful at most.

It’d barely cover the meal and the inn rent fees for the hero party and preciously little else.

So, let me ask you, where would you find an even stupider slave profession than this?

When taking all these into account, it sounded like the gods were far more villainous than the boss of the villainous organisation, Howling.

-Master, I get the feeling that gods are feeling very aggrieved right about now.

-But, they can’t even tell what I’m thinking about, right? So, who cares?

There was a time in my life that I was too afraid to insult the gods.

But things were different now.

Now, I believe in neither the gods nor devils!

More correctly, I’ve come to realise that none of those idiots could be of use to the current me!

That’s why, as long as I send that dang hero and his stupid gang somewhere far, far away from me, I should get to enjoy spending a peaceful life with my daughter again!

“We’re ready!”

“Good! In that case…!”

The moment I finished resolving myself, I heard the yells of the combatants, saying they were also ready to go.

Well, then! It’s time to announce the start of the dragon raid!

“I choose you, Metal Bat-a-mon!”

“It’s Aru! Aru!”

This was the moment of the metal bat entering the lair to beat up an elder dragon. The lethal bat that even enjoyed beating up gods and demons, and even a hatchling, too!

 

#6 Their circumstances: a certain evil dragon’s circumstance

 

Day after day…

Meaningless days passed by.

These meaningless days continued to pass by nonstop eventually turning us dragons into a bunch of sloths.

Of course, not all dragons became lazy bums.

Some became obsessed with wealth, some with gaining knowledge, while others became lost in the idle pursuits.

But all of those were nothing more than a temporary distraction.

Even if a dragon didn’t have any talent in making a sword, consider this.

A year. A decade. A century, or even a millennium!

By melting iron and pounding on metal for that long, you’d eventually surpass the level of mastery achieved by the dwarves, who were acknowledged as the greatest blacksmiths alive.

And once you reach the peak of the craft that you’ve been devoting your entire being into…?

Even the dragons that managed to avoid being lazy would end up becoming a sloth.

I’m an elder dragon, a veteran among the dragon kind.

As a matter of fact, I’m a creature that has lived for twenty thousand years. However, death did not want to come anywhere near me.

When I close my eyes, I could easily recall the events that took place in what humans called ancient history spanning a millennium. Yet, how come I was still alive and kicking?

Do you have any idea how maddeningly boring this is?

That’s why I wished to die.

So, I went against my race’s rule to become an evil dragon, then began doing whatever I wanted.

The thing was, the only race capable of ending my immortal-like existence was my fellow dragons!

Honestly? I was looking forward to that day.

I believed that my fellow dragons, also suffering from an extreme bout of laziness, would risk their lives to come together and stop my evil actions.

Yes, I was looking forward to the grand battle against my own kin, a battle of life and death!

But… my own kind left me alone.

They chose to slumber away without a care. They chose to carry on with the meaningless existence of a dragon!

Wasn’t the dragon’s life truly pointless? We were the strongest race that didn’t even fear the gods, so what did we choose to do with such power? We chose to spend the majority of our lives sleeping away!

As such, I decided to bet on humans to come and end my life.

Humans were at the bottom-most rung in the ladder of lifespan and the overall level of strength. But curiously enough, this race could also occasionally give birth to the so-called heroes capable of slaying dragons.

Humans could be found in practically every corner of the world, bar the demon continent. A race of people possessing the most tenacious will to live that allowed them to survive in any environment!

I thought that only they could deal with the extreme boredom plaguing me.

However, humans were among the weakest of all races.

More often than not, they would choose to submit in front of the gigantic power called dragons rather than fighting head-on.

So, what could possibly make such humans choose to challenge me?

I racked my brain over and over. Then I morphed into a human and began gathering information, eventually stumbling onto a certain rumour.

A rumour regarding the beauty of Princess Vera rick Neidon hailing from the Neidon Kingdom!

A stunning beauty with unblemished, pale-smooth skin as befitting a denizen of a kingdom located in the north!

She was a bit frail of the constitution, but her forthright nature combined with her looks meant that it was not an exaggeration to call her the most beautiful woman in the north!

The moment I heard that, several long-forgotten stories began rearing their heads inside my memories. Stories of humans choosing to fight dragons instead of submitting, that was.

‘A kid from the Red Dragon Tribe was apparently killed by humans recently.’

‘That’s surely a disgrace from their tribe’s point of view.’

‘A youngling only around 1,700 years old lost its life after colliding against fifty thousand humans, at least from what I hear.’

‘What? Only 1,700 years old? Wait, did its tribe really abandon such a young kid to die?’

‘It seems that that idiot kidnapped a human princess first. And they couldn’t do anything as a result.’

‘Hmm… So, he was the instigator, then… There’s the pact among the tribes to consider, after all.’

‘Right. If gods get involved, things will get mighty annoying for us, too.’

‘Besides all that, though. Fifty thousand, you say? That’s a fairly sizeable army, isn’t it? I thought all the human nations possessed armies of similar scales to each other? Was there a kingdom capable of mobilising such a force?’

‘Ah, no, it wasn’t an army per se, but a temporary gathering of hired combatants.’

‘But, is such a thing even possible?’

‘Apparently, the princess in question is very pretty. And her father, the king, put her up as the prize. The one to rescue her from the clutches of the evil dragon would get to earn her hand in marriage! That’s what he said.’

‘Kyah~, just her looks alone was enough to raise an army strong enough to hunt down a dragon? Now that’s amazing.’

That’s right… the princess!

Not just any, but a beautiful princess, too!

The moment I kidnap such a princess, crazed humans would come running at me like a swarm of bees!

On one side, an evil dragon that kidnapped a beautiful princess, and on the other, brave warriors risking their lives to rescue her!

Through countless life-or-death battles, these warriors would accomplish great feats and become recognised as heroes!

How many would jump at the chance to cut off my head?

Just how many would taste defeat by my hands and die?

And after going through so much death and destruction, which great hero would stand tall atop my corpse?

Just imagining it kept me entertained.

This could very well be the single greatest entertainment in this pointless existence as a dragon!

I already had so much time on my hands, to begin with. My life wouldn’t end just because time had passed me by, after all.

Decades. Centuries. Millenniums!

A span of a time long enough for humans to call it eternity, but they were not even remotely lengthy from my perspective.

In any case… I informed the Neidon Kingdom ahead of time that I’d be coming to kidnap their princess. I told them to seek out strong humans capable even of defeating me!

But when I got there, the Neidon Kingdom proved to be far too powerless.

Maybe they didn’t take my warning seriously enough?

In that case… To show that I was dead serious about this whole thing, I really went ahead and kidnapped the princess.

Then, I left behind the princess’s lady-in-waiting on a deserted mountain road. I took her along for the express purpose of delivering my intention to humans, after all.

And so, if I wait for a little while, the desired rumour should spread all over the kingdom.

The rumour that said, [Our beautiful princess has been kidnapped by the evil dragon!]

And soon, the real heroes, and even the self-proclaimed heroes, should charge straight at me in order to save the beautiful princess.

Until that day comes, I should wait while sleeping away. Oh, and I cast sleeping magic on the princess, too.

I cast several magic spells in various spots of my lair, so I should be instantly alerted to the presence of humans when they come inside the cavern.

And so, I closed my eyes and began snoring away in my temporarily constructed lair, but then…

“Kuwaaaaaaaaaaahng?!”

An unbelievable pain suddenly shot through my whole body, one severe enough to wake me up from my hazy sleepiness.

“Kkuwaaaaahk!”

A loud scream exploded out of my mouth.

I was born as the strongest race in existence, a dragon, and had never screamed once in my life, yet this?!

“Kuwaaaaaahng!!!”

Even a single drop of tear trickled out of the corner of my eyes.

That flustered me so much.

Me, crying? A tear that usually comes out when I’m yawning?

Humans supposedly shed tears in pain, and that seemed to be true all alo…

“Kkuwaaaaaaahk!”

It hurts. It hurts! It hurts, hurts, it hurts so much!

I screamed and howled at the continuous explosion of pain.

I, I must somehow end this damn pain!

Just who?! Just who dares to inflict so much pain on me!

“…Over there?!”

I sensed the ripples of magical energy for a moment there.

Currently, the only other lifeform in this space was the princess.

It seemed that the culprit who hurt me so much used a teleport spell to flee from here.

“I shall rip you to tiny pieces!”

I’d rather have chosen to die instead of this! To think that the bastard inflicted pain of such brutality on me!

I shall personally rip the evil human into bloody pieces, find the kingdom that sent him, then burn that place down until not even a rat can survive!

“Was it you?!”

I chased after the teleport spell’s trace and discovered a lone human standing at the arrival coordinates.

I glared at this small human with blonde hair and roared in pure rage. “DIE!”

The vile human listening to my roar made a face of a wrongly-accused man and muttered this. “It wasn’t me, though…”

His expression really looked tearful at that moment.

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