1. < Evade the Hero and Flee! 212 #25. Other’s Stories (1) >

 

#1 Their circumstances: the circumstance of Wieref Lil Vereiden, a man who used to be a hero

 

I was always alone since my childhood. By the time I became fully aware of who I was, there was no one beside me. To survive, I did my absolute best every day.
If I got lucky, the local churches provided me with food. On ‘normal’ days, I picked up discarded… things that couldn’t be called food to eat. On those unlucky days, though, I had to do everything in my power to steal food.
Sometimes I got caught. On some days, I didn’t. If I got caught by a nice person, they only gave me a little bit of a lecture before letting me eat the stolen food. On the other hand, not-so-good people catching me meant I’d get beaten up within inches of my life.
Where I lay my head was my bed. Sometimes, I had to sleep in the middle of mountainsides. Living in the wilds wasn’t all that different from where people lived. I could find a little more food in the mountainside, but there were also more dangers here.
Some fruits and mushrooms looked edible but some of them were poisonous. I hadn’t run into any monsters but did encounter many wild animals. And so, when I began to wonder what was the point of struggling so hard to live every day…
“We shall give you a place to sleep and food to eat.” A man kitted out in black showed up in front of me one day to make an offer. “In return, you shall give us your life.”
I looked up at the man and pondered my options.
“Alright.”
However, I didn’t ponder for too long. Rather than keep living like this, I figured that giving up on my life for a slightly comfier time was a fair trade. That’s how I got into the evil organisation.
I found many people in that place. Some of them came from slightly better circumstances than mine, while some were worse. However, our stories didn’t vary that much – we all had roughly a similar-sounding backstory, and most of us had been alone since our births.
We’d sometimes get a member who wasn’t ‘alone’ like the rest of us, but that didn’t mean their circumstances were better than ours. If they had families, that implied that their loved ones had sold them off to the organisation. People like that couldn’t adapt to the organisation’s ways and lagged behind their peers.
In any case, I was now a low-ranking trainee of the evil organisation. Honestly, I was happy. I got to eat hot meals every day and could sleep under a solid roof at the very least. Maybe the best thing about this place was that no one here looked at me like I was a piece of trash.
That’s because we all had instinctively recognised that everyone here came from similar backgrounds. It didn’t matter whether you were old or young. This place was a gathering of those abandoned by this world and those who did their absolute best to survive, after all.
However, no one took pity on each other here. We were brought here to become the organisation’s tool, after all. That’s why we all minded our own businesses and tried our best to survive.
Some time later, I got a neither-bad-nor-good score and was promoted from low-ranking to a high-ranking trainee. And that’s how I got to meet the instructor.
“My name is Naruan, and I shall be your instructor from now on. I took on this job once before, but that was as a substitute, nothing more. As such, this would be my first time as an instructor, and I’m quite nervous about it.” The instructor introduced himself in a flat, not-nervous voice. “I’m still new at this job and don’t know everything about it. That is why I promise to educate you to the best of my abilities.”
And then, he really did train all the trainees to the best of his abilities. In less than half a year, an unbelievable incident occurred. All the trainees besides myself and one other dude had to be ‘retired’. As for me, I wasn’t sure how I made it through that. All I remembered doing was simply enduring and enduring some more.
By the time I regained my wits, only one comrade was remaining standing to my right, while no one stood to my left. My comrade stared at me, then turned to his right to see no one there. And then, we both groaned grandly at the same time.
Our groans contained so, so many emotions, but they could still be summarised in one sentiment: “We are so screwed.”
Even after we found ourselves alone, we somehow managed to survive. It really felt like death was snapping at our heels every day, but our instructor freely dumped the expensive healing potions on us in the name of our education to keep us alive. Honestly, it was so hard for me. I even thought about running away several times in a day.
However, this place was still the evil organisation. It had guaranteed an acceptable level of living standard for me until now so that I could endure harsh training like this. Others were also receiving this kind of training, weren’t they? So, I should just endure for a bit longer, and then…
I used to think that way, but then something weird happened.
“Huh?” I began tilting my head.
“Why are they so weak?” Even my brother-in-arms next to me made a surprised face.
In front of us were over one hundred fellow members of the organisation, collapsed to the ground and unmoving. They were trainees under a different instructor. We had to fight them because a certain high-ranking operative of the evil organisation suddenly paid a visit to our instructor.
That operative seemed to be even higher ranked than our instructor. He was stunned to learn that only two trainees were left in our dormitory and scolded our instructor that this training was far too inefficient.
Our instructor looked straight back at the senior operative and replied with the following words: “I believe raising a hundred operatives to do a job of one person is too inefficient, sir. Wouldn’t training two people until they are as good as a hundred people far more efficient?”
The senior operative flew off his handle, accusing our instructor of talking utter nonsense. And we got dragged off to the nearest neighbouring training centre and forced into an everything-goes melee in the name of evaluation. Against one hundred trainees, no less!
Of course, my comrade-in-arms and I freaked out and tried to talk reason to our instructor. This so-called duel was a real battle where we’d be using real swords and even magic spells. It was only logical that two people would be more advantageous than one, three against two, etc, etc… The more people you had on your side, the better it’d be for you.
If two people were to fight against one hundred, the logic dictated that you didn’t even have to ask who’d win. However, our instructor evidently didn’t think that way.
“Each of you is a match to a hundred men. In that case, what’s the problem with the two of you facing off against less than a hundred opponents?”
But, instructor? There are over a hundred of them, you know?
We were left dismayed and flabbergasted by the sight of our instructor complaining away.
Really?! We’ll be the ones fighting here, you know! And it’ll be a fight against a hundred people, too! And you will be doing nothing but spectating from the sidelines, so what the heck?!
Unfortunately, we couldn’t win against our instructor and had to fight a hundred opponents in the end. The result? We beat down our opponents way too easily.
That’s when we realised something. These trainees, their skill level… They were only a tiny bit better than lower-ranked trainees. And that their level was the norm, and the training we received was the abnormal one.
We weren’t the only ones who thought that, either. We were promoted from high-ranked trainees to the official operatives and were put into active duty right away.
While going through our blood-soaked missions, our realisation had gotten even firmer. Our instructor always told us that the actual missions were tougher than training, but…
“…Hey, isn’t this way easier?”
That’s right, the actual missions were easy for us! Our enemies were weak while we were strong. We only needed to complete a few missions for our abilities to be acknowledged by the higher-ups. As a result, we began getting more and more solo missions.
Eventually, we only got solo missions, and that naturally led to my brother-in-arms and me meeting up less and less. And by the time we haven’t seen each other in years, I heard the news of my brother-in-arms betraying the evil organisation and becoming a hero of a religious order.
Now that was funny. That guy became a hero? He was definitely not the type, so how? I mean, he cared about himself more than anyone else, so how could he have become a hero?
“I guess the Goddess of Nature really isn’t trustworthy, then.”
Didn’t our instructor say it to us before? A person shouldn’t take on a job as thankless and worthless as being a hero. That’s what he told us. He also said that a hero was always exploited, and people strongly ‘expected’ heroes to sacrifice themselves. Being a hero was a job only fit for morons, he said.
He even told us that, in case the organisation went under for some reason, we should just work as regular soldiers or become a farmer instead. I agreed with his advice wholeheartedly.
That’s right. A smart person shouldn’t become a hero. But now…
“Good sir, please take my hand and become a hero. Let us save this world together!”
Why couldn’t I yank my hand out of the smiling woman’s grip right now? How?
“E-excuse me?” When I stared at her weirdly…
“Ah, no! Please wait! I’m not some random crazy weirdo, sir. I’m a priest belonging to the Order of Struggle! I even have the identification issued by the Order, sir!” The woman hurriedly took out an identification token with the symbol of the God of Struggle stamped clearly on the surface.
“Hang on, that’s not what I meant, miss…”
My hand was finally freed from her grip when she took out her identification token. Even then, I found myself unable to run away from her. This was so strange.
“Well, then. Sir hero… No, wait. I mean, sir provisional hero! Allow me to explain why you were chosen by the God of Struggle…” The woman put away her token and clung to me while making friendly smiles.
She proceeded to diligently explain how wonderful God of Struggle was, how much good work her religious order did, and all the nice benefits the hero chosen by the God of Struggle would receive.
“Excuse me, miss. I told you, I don’t want to…”
“Don’t be like that, and please listen a little more. When you become a Hero of Struggle, you will receive special privileges such as…”
Maybe I didn’t make my refusal clear? This woman continued to stick to me like glue. “Miss, listen to me for a second. I’m not…!”
“Sir hero! Sir hero~!”
“Hah? You are already leaving out the ‘provisional’ part?!”
The woman tried to cling on to me like a leech, but I managed to push her away and run away. I was scared that I might really become a hero (?!) if she was allowed to continue.
“Seriously now, how the heck does someone like me even become a hero?”
That woman didn’t know anything about me, and that’s why she could say nonsense like that. An evil organisation’s operative becoming a hero? Something like that was…
“…a possibility, huh.”
I became speechless after recalling the face of my brother-in-arms, currently acting as the hero of the Order of Nature. That dude used to rebel against our instructor often, yet he became a hero. Maybe that’s what the old-timers meant by the world going to the dogs?
“Or, maybe it was the disposition of a hero that helped him to push back against a devil like our instructor,” I smirked softly while reminiscing about my brother-in-arms. Even though I didn’t have much leeway to leisurely remember the dude who has taken over the No.1 spot in the organisation’s must-kill list.
“Okay, so. Today’s mission is…”
The strange woman might have delayed me for a bit, but my goal remained the same – to carry out the mission assigned to me by the evil organisation.
“What a funny notion that was.”
My mission this time was the same as before – robbing the fortune of some other person. It was a standard practice to kill witnesses if there were any, and I was planning to set the mansion on fire to erase all the evidence, too. How many people would die from my actions today? And how many people would be hurt by it, too? Yet, that woman wanted me to become a hero?
I’d never meet that woman again after tonight’s mission, so might as well stop thinking about her, and…
“As expected, you’ve come, sir.”
“But, how?!”
That was my plan, but I found the woman waiting for me when I infiltrated the mansion.
“Sir, it’s the divine oracle from our god! I was told I’d get to see you again here, sir hero!”
“Hey, I’m not a hero!”
That’s right! I’m actually a villain, an enemy of heroes!
“Sir, anyone can become a hero. All you need is a little bit of courage.”
She’s a witness. Therefore, I must kill her. Such thoughts danced around in my head, but I couldn’t stop her from approaching me.
“Sir, anyone… can become a hero.”
My softly-trembling hand was once again held in her grasp.
“Even if your hands are stained in blood, you can still save people in need. Sir, with your hands…”
…You can save the world.
I could only stare dazedly at her smiling face. But then, I suddenly sensed clear killing intent.
“What is the meaning of this!” Someone cried out.
At the same time, a dagger flew in my direction, but I instinctively deflected it.
“Kkyack!” A beat later, the woman screamed.
That stealth technique that the target couldn’t see through right till their final moments! That perfect throwing technique! That dagger thrown in my direction was a commonly-found weapon, not a specially-manufactured treasure blade, too! This could only mean that an elite from the organisation had shown up here.
“A religious order…? I heard that your fellow trainee became a hero, but I didn’t expect you to be thinking of joining in on the fun!”
“No, I do not…” I needed to clear up this misunderstanding, but my words got caught in my throat for some reason.
“In that case, kill that woman.”
That was an obvious thing to do, yet I couldn’t respond to it as expected. This woman was trembling pitifully in fear while leaning against me. And I…
“If you can’t take care of her, then I will do it.”
Even though the elite assassin and I belong to the same organisation, the woman wasn’t scared of me in the least while she couldn’t contain her fear of him. Seeing her like this, I… I couldn’t abandon her.
“Yup, it’s over.”
A groan escaped from my mouth on its own. Partly because of the blood sticking to my blade, and partly because of the woman screaming away while staring at the dead evil organisation assassin.
“Do you still think… I can become a hero? When I’m like this?” I asked the still-sobbing woman that question. Internally, I was feeling quite melancholic about becoming the new No.1 on the organisation’s must-kill list.
“Sniffle… Without a doubt…” The woman did her best to wipe her tears away, then tried to smile back at me. But her expression only looked weird to me. “…You will become the greatest hero ever.”
I stared at her totally-unconvincing smile and recalled what my instructor told me once upon a time. He said that…
‘In romance, the one who falls first will be the loser. That’s why you must not fall first. You will end up as an even worse idiot than a hero.’
While recalling those sage words, I looked up at the ceiling and muttered quietly. “Instructor. If a hero falls first, how much of an idiot would he be?”
I thought I could hear my instructor scolding me, telling me to just jump in the lake already.

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