< Evade the Hero and Flee! 164 #19. Life is a continuous escape (5)>
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#5 Their circumstances: A certain hero’s circumstance.
While lifting up a wineglass to lightly clink it with other glasses, I did my best to move my facial muscles to smile graciously.
“To think that I’d get to share a drink with Sir Dragon Slayer. This will be an honour of a lifetime for me.”
A man who looked like a military man said that to me before retreating back into the crowd.
“Oh, my! May I have this honour, sir?”
“Ah, yes. Please.”
Another person walked up to me almost right away and began introducing herself.
Apparently, she was an esteemed daughter of some Count family or rather…
“Thank you for your time, sir. Now please excuse me.”
“Yes, thank you. It was nice talking to you, as well.”
Honestly, it wasn’t nice at all, but I still decided to maintain my business smile since the royal family had been allowing me to relax and have fun without expecting anything in return.
About one month after defeating the dragon, they carefully asked me if I was willing to meet up with the kingdom’s nobles.
I said yes as I had been living in a lap of luxury involving the most luxurious bed and the most scrumptious foods.
Even though I killed a dragon for them, I should still pay the bill for eating all the good food.
And the event held by the royal court was to celebrate the princess’s safe return from the clutches of the evil dragon!
You’d usually try to hold such a celebration right after her return so it was kind of surprising to see them delaying it for one whole month in consideration of me.
That’s why I was under a bit of pressure while participating in the event, but then…
Even that dissipated into thin air about three hours later, the only remaining emotion in me being boredom… And how annoying all this was.
“Sir Hero, are you alright?”
“Well… I’m not really good at things like this, so it’s a little tough for me, yes.”
I got found out by the princess while sneakily sighing in frustration.
“It can’t be helped, it seems. Rather than attending social gatherings like this, Sir Hero has been involved in a more active lifestyle, after all.” The princess smiled gently while talking to me, causing the surrounding gazes to focus on her.
As expected of the most beautiful woman in the whole kingdom, the protagonist of today’s event!
I heard that she was beloved by the commoners, and it seemed that she was also quite popular among the nobles.
“Ah, yes. I haven’t had many opportunities to attend events like this so far, Your Highness.”
I was originally a member of a family where social gatherings were a common sight. However, I must’ve been an unlucky bastard – or my older siblings suffered from a severe lack of humanity or something – since I had little to no chance to enjoy such occasions.
In my younger days spent in the evil organisation, my thoroughly evil instructor often used to beat me up with his bat. After surviving that ordeal, a few things happened in my life that made me somewhat famous. But that caused my siblings to shoot me displeased sideways glares and in the end, I had to run away in the middle of the night to get away from them.
In the past, I figured that my siblings’ lack of humanity was the underlying cause of my misfortune. But lately, I’ve been thinking that maybe, I was just plain unlucky.
“Hmm~, Sir Hero. Do you prefer attending social gatherings like this or sharing glasses with your comrades in a pub somewhere, not worrying about anything else?” The princess asked me while sneakily presenting her own wineglass in my direction.
I expertly clinked my glass with hers. “Naturally, it’ll be my honour to share a drink with a beauty like you, Your Highness.”
“Sir Hero, you really are incorrigible…”
Huh? Why am I getting sudden chills?
Hey, my mouth…? What did you say just now on your own…?
Let’s forget about the fact that my mouth said something oh-so cringe for a second. If I behaved in this manner in front of the princess, who was basically this kingdom’s treasure, then people burning in jealousy would start popping out of the woodwork, you know? Even though I killed a dragon and all!
According to what my instructor taught me, the number of people who say, “How dare a lowly commoner…!” while thinking of poisoning my wineglass will shoot up through the roof now!
Look, look! Look at all these envious, jealous glares!
“I knew it, Sir Hero is…”
“Ah, aaaah… To think that they complement each other so well…”
“Indeed, if it’s Sir Hero, he’s a good match for our princess.”
…Hang on a sec? What’s up with all these warm gazes?
In a situation like this, it’d be normal for jealousy at minimum, and at most, dense murderous intent wanting to rip me apart limb from limb to bombard me, you
Some time ago, while staying in a kingdom slightly bigger than this one, I remarked how pretty an esteemed daughter of a Count family was. And that almost got me poisoned to death!
Could it be that all northern kingdoms were like this?
“Sir Hero, you are making me blush a great deal, sir.”
“Ah, my apologies. I somehow blurted that out inadvertently…”
“Oh, my! Does that mean I should assume that dear Sir Hero addresses any pretty girls he meets in this manner?”
“No, that isn’t so, Your Highness. I mean, it’s just that Your Highness is very beautiful, and I inadvertently…”
“But you seem to be quite well versed judging from your own words…”
The way she slightly narrowed her eyes while replying was quite mesmerising to behold.
Staring at her abundant hair gleaming in blue, and her eyes sparkling in an even deeper shade of blue, it felt like I was slowly sinking deeper into an expansive lake.
Have I been staring at her a little too directly just now? I somehow ended up committing a seriously rude act this time.
Here come all the comments from the nobles saying that I didn’t know a lick of etiquette and that I was the perfect example of why commoners were no good!
“It seems that Sir Hero is deeply in love with Her Highness.”
“They suit each other so well, don’t they?”
“My daughter won’t lose out to anyone, but even so, she’s still a little lacking compared to Her Highness.”
“Fella, let’s be honest, it’s not just a little, is it?”
“It’s still better than your orcish daughter, though!”
“You son of a b*tch?!”
Excuse me, dear aristocrats? I can only hear you so I can’t tell much about you, but…
Uhm, why are you arguing like that over there…? Aren’t you supposed to be too busy grinding me down to fine pebbles or something right now?
No, before all that, why does it feel like you’re already used to associating me with the princess waaay before today?
“Here, Sir Hero. Would you like another glass?”
“A-ah, yes. Thank you.”
This warm, gentle atmosphere that I never got to experience before in my life caused me to stutter inadvertently.
This atmosphere, it… It was like they were approving of me and the princess’s interaction. N-no, hang on. It’s like, they have already approved it, isn’t it?!
Now that I think about it, lower-ranked nobles and even some higher ranked ones should be sending me marriage proposals by now, but… Nothing like that had happened so far.
Even the esteemed daughters of noble houses just politely greeted me before going away! They should’ve been intrigued by the situation at the very least and tried to approach me by now, you know!
“Here, Sir Hero.” The princess handed over my empty wineglass to a nearby servant, received a new one and pressed it in my hands. “Should we knock our glasses together to commemorate Sir Hero, the saviour of my life?”
“I will gratefully accept, Your Highness.”
Our glasses lightly clinked, causing a clear sound to ring around us.
While listening to the pure, clean sound, I inwardly prayed for this weird atmosphere to dissipate as soon as possible.
…Without realising that it was far too late by then.
#6 Their circumstances: A certain saint’s circumstance.
“As for the matter of the dragon, we received the help from Neidon Kingdom’s side and managed to deal with it.”
“Indeed. Thankfully, the empire has paid a handsome amount, allowing us to enjoy a good amount of benefits in the end.”
“The empire did? How surprising. With the firepower the empire possesses, hunting a dragon down wouldn’t have been an impossibility…”
“No, I disagree. Even if it’s the empire, it’ll be asking for too much trouble by making enemies out of dragons, I believe.”
“Well, Sir Hero originally hails from the empire, so…”
“Ah, that’s right. As expected, the empire…”
I was listening silently to the discussion of the high-ranked priests while sipping on my tea.
Normally, I’d be working outside, granting the blessings of the Goddess of Nature to the citizens of this kingdom. But the high-ranked priests came to visit me, leaving me no choice but to attend the meeting as one of the representatives of the hero party.
That’s because Sir Hero was too busy dealing with the matters in the royal court while Selena, who was no doubt our comrade, wasn’t a member of our religious order.
“Well, then. Can you please tell us what happened, Sir Saint?”
The priests finally finished discussing the matter of the dragon’s carcass and how to divide it along with the kingdom, then turned their attention in my direction.
“Of course. This is what has transpired so far. First of all…”
I started the tale of how Sir Hero ended up catching up to his instructor from when I received an oracle to head north.
The high-ranking priests were stunned to hear about the infiltration of the demon races to this part of the continent but expressed their relief after learning that we worked together with the former Sword Star to defeat the invaders in the end.
“What in the name of…!”
“A unique aspect, you say… And not just any, but something that no one has ever heard about, too.”
“A human who has escaped from the will of the gods…”
When I began explaining the situation with Sir Hero’s teacher, Sir Naruan, the priests began voicing their shocks and opinions even in the middle of my explanation.
Which was rather emotional of them considering that they had been quietly mouthing things like, “Hmm…” or “How unfortunate…” when I talked about the appearance of the demon race.
A priest asked a question. “Could he be… you know, ‘that’?”
‘That’, he said.
Even though no one dared to mouth the name, everyone present knew what ‘that’ was supposed to be.
“Gods have told us to monitor him, but there was nothing about eliminating him, everyone.”
The ‘name’ that threatened the whole world…
Since the creature was called the ‘Demon King’, many people simply assumed it to be the king of the demon race. But those occupying the top seats of various religious orders should know the actual truth.
“If Sir Hero’s teacher Naruan is the next Demon King, then gods wouldn’t be staying their hands, that’s for sure.”
The Demon King. The ‘vestige’ of the evil god that threatened the world. This existence was not the same as the actual king of the demon race, nor was it a ruler chosen by the demon god. As a matter of fact, this incredibly dangerous existence could come from just about any race.
Just its birth alone would wipe out a single kingdom off the map. It then would give birth to demonic creatures far more dangerous than regular monsters.
Despite possessing a functioning ego, it solely acted for the sake of destroying the world. As such, a Demon King posed a significant threat to not just humanity, but even to the demon race, as well.
Although not widely known, ancient records showed that humans and demon races formed partnerships to defeat Demon Kings of their eras. That’s how much of a threat a Demon King was. Its danger level was high enough to not just threaten individual races but the entire world itself.
“In that case, we have no choice but to patiently watch him according to the will of the gods.”
“It seems that you’ll have to work extra hard now, Sir Saint.”
“But if it’s you, I have no doubt that you can pull it off, Sir Saint.”
The high-ranked priests looked at me with eyes full of trust. I nodded slightly at them as a sign of my affirmation.
“And the events that happened afterwards…”
As additional information, I told them about Sir Naruan’s daughter being a half-blood offspring between a demon and a human being.
I clarified that we were heading to Ruibella the City Alliance to deal with the girl’s matter. And that was when Neidon Kingdom’s prince requested us for our aid, and that’s how we came to battle the dragon.
We then followed Sir Naruan’s perfect plan and prepared a stage so that Sir Hero could fight the dragon one versus one, which eventually earned him a much-deserved victory. That’s where my report ended.
“Honestly speaking, I’m truly stunned by this report, Sir Saint.”
“He was evaluated as the greatest talent in history, yes, but to think that our champion has become strong enough to defeat a dragon this quickly…”
“Among the current crop of heroes, the only one to achieve a feat of a similar level is Weref, the Hero affiliated with the Order of Perseverance. No one else besides him.”
“Unsurprising, considering that besides Sir Weref, no heroes among the current generation has managed to best a dragon yet…”
“Weref also battled an elder dragon, but don’t forget that our hero defeated a dragon that’s over five thousand years older!”
“Hold on, I don’t see a reason to publicly boast that point…”
The high-ranked priests began chatting among themselves with various side talks. I could only sigh softly at that and settle back down on the chair.
That’s because I knew that once they started, it’d be another thirty minutes minimum before they stopped.
“Ah, that’s right. While on our way here, we heard that Sir Hero is scheduled to get engaged to the princess of this kingdom.”
“I beg your pardon?!” However, I couldn’t help but interject after hearing that sudden announcement. “W-what do you mean by that, sirs? A marriage between our hero and Her Highness?!”
“But Sir Saint, the rumour regarding this matter is already widespread throughout the kingdom.”
“Ah, right. I heard about that story, too.”
“And it’s even known in the neighbouring kingdoms, as well.”
“Ah, that’s right. There was that rumour, too. Did you hear that once he gets married, the hero will have to retire from active duty?”
“Uh-huh… I haven’t thought about that. Most heroes usually fall in love with one of their party members so even if they did get married, there’s no need for them to retire. But this situation is a little more unique, isn’t it.”
“Indeed, it will be too dangerous to let a princess of a kingdom join the hero’s party, so continuing on will be difficult.”
“Huh-uh… An excellent individual has become a hero but to lose him so soon…”
Things I had not heard of before were jumping out of their mouths right now. That couldn’t be true, though? Sir Hero and Her Highness the Princess were already enjoying such a relationship?
Wait, could it be that I was the only one who didn’t notice it?
Then again, Sir Hero was being summoned to various social gatherings recently, preventing us from sitting down and chatting at length. Even so… there were just too many suspicious points to this rumour.
“Sirs, can you tell me the details of this rumour?”
“Were you not aware?”
The high-ranked priest who brought this story up first looked slightly surprised while saying that.
“I heard that both you and Sir Swinn are really busy lately. I guess it’s understandable in that case.”
“Even so, the two of you are the hero and the saint from the same order, aren’t you? Please do try to pay more attention, Sir Saint.”
“Don’t chide him too much, gentlemen. I’m sure that his busy schedule was at fault here. In any case. From what I heard, two people brought together by the hands of fate were…”
One priest after another…
These high ranking members of the clergy began telling me the various love stories between our Sir Hero and the Princess that required much shedding of one’s tears to get through.
Listening to all the tales also required some considerable length of time but fortunately enough, I got to realise something important in the end.
The originator of this story was someone with intimate knowledge of the events in question!
Details of the love story between the hero and the princess, as described by various priests, differed slightly from each other but the part that came before that remained fundamentally the same.
Even the regular citizens had some basic knowledge of the events with the kidnapping incident. So one could explain why the first half of the stories were largely similar. However, this went beyond that. The nitty-gritty of the first half was the same across all stories!
Which could only mean that someone directly involved with the incident was behind spreading this story.
But who could it be?
A political manoeuvre by the royal family, hoping to tie down Sir Hero to their kingdom?
If not, could it be that a soldier or a knight participating in the expedition had loose lips?
“Could it be…?”
One person’s visage brushed past my mind at that moment, but he seemed completely unrelated to this incident.
On the other hand, he also knew about this incident better than anyone else out there.
If I was right about my suspicions, then… Then, all this was simply a part of that man’s plan!
“I shall go and confirm the truth directly with Sir Hero right now!”
And without a doubt, that plan was about him escaping from our watch.
I quickly left the meeting while thinking that to myself. After reaching the royal castle, I directly headed to the suite where Sir Hero was staying, but…
It was too late by then, and… there was nothing I could do.