705 – A Certain Wanderer and The Desert Land (side: ?)
――The desert land, Harenae.
Having few resources and surrounded by a vast desert where monsters run rampant, travel to and from this country is quite difficult. That Harenae can still survive despite this is entirely due to its reputation as a sacred land where Heroes are born, causing other countries to lend it support.
Other than by depending on the Hero, Harenae has no means to survive. Yet, the Hero whose birth was anticipated for five hundred years lost his life in the defence of the people from the evil dragon that appeared in Harenae.
“…You’re asking about a strange thing, dear sir. Something like the death of Hero-sama after all.”
“Yeah, that’s why I crossed the Harenae desert to come to this country.”
A man with a large build has appeared in a small tavern in Harenae. His face is shadowed by the thick mantle he wears. A glimpse of his face shows his striking brown beard.
“…Are you an adventurer, dear sir?”
The man shakes his head at the proprietress’ words.
“Not anymore. My good arm was gnawed on by a monster and lost most of its movement. Even so, I had been thinking of carrying a sword for self-defence, but I didn’t want to do something unmanly. I’ve discarded my weapon too now.”
“…Hmm. The adventurer who can heal any injury, [Dragon Hunter Volk] seems to have come to this land, but normal people can’t heal like that after all.”
The proprietress glances at the man’s right arm.
“Oh? He really exists? It’d be nice if I could meet him.”
Volk – the legendary swordsman rumoured to be the strongest on the continent – is known to the man as well.
His moniker came about from his slaying of an upper rank dragon by himself. As a man giving off the impression of a monster, there’s countless tales of him doing things like jumping off a cliff for training or chasing after an escaping boat by swimming. It’s also said that he once resorted to using his teeth to kill a monster that broke his sword and left him without a weapon. Naturally, those tales might be embellished, but there’s no denying his renown as a master swordsman.
“Do stop asking around about Hero-sama. The church’s imposed a gag order. If you get unlucky, you’ll be thrown into prison by them at worst.”
“If you’re concerned for my well being, then I hope you can tell me straight up.”
The man places a bag of coins on the table.
The proprietress frowns in apparent annoyance.
Since it’s a poor country, any unexpected income is a blessing. However, more than that, the man seems bent on asking about the Hero no matter what, and the proprietress can smell trouble brewing. If she let things go as is, this man might ask around somewhere else and cause trouble with the soldiers.
“I don’t know much, either.”
“I don’t mind. More than what the truth is, I want to know what kind of information the church has been spreading about it.”
“An evil dragon suddenly appeared in the middle of the country and caused a huge uproar. It was at that time that Hero-sama lost his life. At first, the church spread the word that he lost his life in the defence of the country… But, strange rumours regarding Hero-sama started coming out one by one.”
“That when it looked like he was going to lose against the evil dragon, he used his soldiers as decoys and ran, and cut down townsfolk in the confusion… That on top of all that, before that incident he’d been laying hands on fellow travellers, soldiers, and acquaintances… That the church covered it up and put the blame for those on the country’s previous knight captain… Rumours like those.”
“I don’t know how much of it is true. However, it seems like there’s something to it. The church is now spreading word that he wasn’t a Hero… and that the real Hero is going to appear sometime soon. Those speaking out publicly are thrown in prison, though… Everyone is wondering discreetly if it’s for the sake of preserving Harenae’s status as the ‘Land Where Heroes Are Born’… Are you satisfied with that?”
“I see… No wonder I got mismatched accounts when I asked in other countries. Thanks, I’m satisfied.”
The man takes a swig of his alcohol and heaves a deep sigh.
“As I promised, I’ll stop asking around about it. I met my objective… I’ll leave for another country tomorrow as well. More than that, it doesn’t look like any good will come from me remaining here.”
“…What a thing to say. Certainly, Harenae might seem simple and worthless to you, traveller-san… But even so, it’s our homeland where we were born.”
“That isn’t what I meant… No, I’ve said something rude.”
Suddenly, the tavern door is kicked clean open.
The proprietress lets out a sound of surprise.
Six soldiers come storming into the tavern. Following them, an old man in a holy robe appears in the entranceway.
“W-what is this about?! My shop, why have these soldiers…!”
The robed man looks around, and his expression turns grim upon noticing the man.
“Found you! People have been talking about seeing you around!”
The old man raises his voice to shout.
“The traitorous Hero-killer… The former knight captain, Adofu Ahrens!”
“The former knight captain… That’s you!?”
The proprietress shouts, surprised.
The man… Adofu Ahrens gently gets to his feet, removing his mantle and showing his face.
“It’s been a long time, Priest-dono. However, I should have already been acquitted from that incident. Bishop-sama said as much to me in person.”
“Nonsense! That was done to expedite your reinstatement as knight captain, as you claimed to wish! Yet despite that, you left everything to us and defected to another country! You’ve thrown dirt in the face of Bishop-sama’s clemency!”
The priest shouts at Adofu in anger.
Formerly, Adofu had earned the ire of the Hero, and had false charges levelled against him and awaited the death penalty. At that time, he was helped by the dragon, and managed to get his vengeance on the Hero with its support.
The church had been protecting the Hero, but with his death his evil deeds were leaked to the public one after the other, and the church was in fear of losing its authority by association. They knew about Adofu losing his ability to fight with his shoulder injury, but by denouncing the Hero as a fake and reinstating Adofu to his position of knight captain – even it was in name only – and making him Harenae’s new symbol, it seemed like they would avoid losing their authority.
However Adofu, having already turned his back on the church, led them to believe he wanted a reinstatement and got his name officially cleared of wrongdoing by them, before departing for another country after leaving just a letter behind. After that, he spent his time in other countries, but Harenae would always be his hometown to him. After hearing nothing but strange rumours coming from his homeland, he returned out of worry and an urge to know what happened after the strife with the Hero.
“I’m already leaving. Will you stand down?”
“As if we’d let you go. You know too much about our internal affairs. I’d have overlooked it if you planned on coming back, but we can’t let you go free if you’re not! Arrest him!”
The six soldiers encircle Adofu.
“There’s no need for us to fear a retired soldier like you!”
“Just surrender and don’t make a fuss. We don’t plan on taking your life, Adofu-san.”
“Don’t tell me you think you can put up a fight without your good arm and with no weapon.”
After looking around at their faces, Adofu snorts.
“This is going to be tough. There’s plenty of faces I recognise, too.”
The soldiers leap at Adofu as the priest yells.