The Hero and the Dead
My name is Leon, and I am a hero.
Or I should say, I was a hero.
I no longer had any qualifications to call myself a hero.
I arrived at the inn, which was decorated with a serene, churchy style. The walls were whitewashed, and they had even installed stained glass like a church. The service staff inside were very neat and orderly. Every movement was extremely regular. They all wore a white service uniform.
“Are you staying here?”
The lady at the entrance counter smiled professionally and warmly greeted me.
“Please take out your identification card and register here.”
“There’s no need. My companions should have already gotten a room.”
“Okay.” She smiled faintly. “Then please go the third floor to eat.”
I guessed that I would most likely find Carolina and the rest on the third floor. I bowed respectfully in thanks then went up.
When I went to the third floor, I discovered what looked to be the beginnings of a high-end restaurant. It was a space carpeted by a red flooring. Imposing black, hardwood tables spoke of elegance. There were plenty of wait staff, but it was like there were fish mixed with dragons [1. A variety of people.]. There was every kind of person here. There was a lady in a red dress, elegantly raising a glass of red wine and also a middle-aged uncle dressed very finely. There was a band playing a long song and a pair of nobles dancing to music. There was a golden-haired youth calmly cutting his steak as well as a fat woman gulping down her food.
I asked for a plate of rice topped with beef brisket and found a remote place to sit.
It seemed that Carolina had not come in. After all, it was a little early to have dinner.
I sat in front of an elderly lady wearing a black armband. She was not eating, but gripping a cross tightly in her hands as she prayed.
I admired the grand crystal chandelier, and the dazzling yellow light.
The surrounding clamor fell on my ears unendingly. I scooped out a spoonful of rice and put it in my mouth. The beef brisket had been cooked until it was soft, tender and juicy. The flavor mixed together with the fragrance of the rice and black pepper sauce.
Even if Ailee had taught me many times how to use a knife and fork, it did not become a habit.
I took a look in front of me at that old woman gripping the cross, her mouth muttering incessantly.
She seemed to be around seventy years old. Her silver hair had been combed into a simple bun, and she was stooped over.
Her face was full of wrinkles, and she wore a sorrowful expression.
Did she lose a family member?
Out of politeness, I planned to greet her.
Just as I had been about to lean closer to her, I heard her last sentence:
“Leon, may you not be reincarnated for an eternity. Not even ten thousand years in hell could wipe your sins clean.”
The spoon in my hands fell to the carpet, making a weak sound.
I could not even have a moment to enjoy a bowl of beef and rice in this world.
In front of that elderly person, I chose to remain silent. She raised her eyes, and when she saw me frozen there, she put down the silver cross in her hand in astonishment.
“You could say that.”
“Sorry, I’m old so I like to mutter to myself. Did I bother you?”
“No, not at all.”
I picked up the spoon and used the inside of my cloak to wipe it clean. The silver spoon reflected back my masked face.
I put a piece of the beef brisket into my mouth and chewed wordlessly.
Feeling my throat gone dry, I couldn’t swallow anything.
Pulling back my cheeks, I managed to swallow my food with a gulping sound.
“May I ask……what sort of grudge you have with Leon?”
The elderly person brushed back the white hair at her temples, and her entire wrinkled face warped. It was hard to imagine this kind of anger on an elderly person. In that moment, she had shown a frightening expression. Her squinty eyes had suddenly grown large and her few teeth ground together and her lips pulled back and seemed like they were going to crack.
In the next second, she recovered her original appearance.
I then understood, what it meant for a well-trained person to be able to suppress emotions that surpassed reason with overwhelming willpower in a second.
“My son died in the ‘Disaster of the Three Hundred.’”
“Disaster of the Three Hundred? Are you referring to the Expedition Regiment members who died in the attack against Scampelier?”
The old lady shut her eyes.
“Don’t you know? Are you a foreigner who came to participate in the festival?… That’s strange.”
“If I could be so presumptuous as to ask, what is your son’s name?”
“Walker. Walker Maylise.”
I recalled that person in the Expedition Regiment.
Fuzzy memories sprung to the surface.
A large and heavy middle-aged man, with short, golden hair and a square face. He was always wearing a soft smile.
He specialized in the great sword and had the passive skill “God Strength.” He could momentarily strengthen his body, and also strengthen the things he touched. On the team he was in charge of damage output and defense. But he had many friends due to his honest and good nature.
At the end of practice in the First Division, lots of people would slap him on his broad back and say, “Walker, how about getting a drink?” And he would agree every time. In the excitement of drinking, he would take the golden beer and pour it on his golden hair. Then with the foam running down his face, he would use his tongue to lick it.
Although occasionally he would do some stupid things, he was really quite a reliable person.
But then, in that battle, he died.
In defense, he used his God Strength to strengthen his great sword and his body, but he was so easily pierced through by Scampelier’s hand.
A cavity was opened in his chest and he spurted out a mouthful of blood and died.
HIs death was the first time we realized Scampelier’s overwhelming strength. Thus, when he died he wore an expression of incredulity. HIs vacant eyes were slightly dazed, and without saying anything, his body suddenly fell to the ground like a landslide.
A final line of blood trickled from the corner of his mouth, the cavity in his chest exposing his pink flesh.
With a smile, Scampelier licked the blood off her hand.
Not just Walker, many other good people in the Expedition Regiment were sacrificed.
“Did you know my son?”
Asked the elderly person after I hadn’t said anything for a long time.
“Yes, or I should say….we were friends.”
The elderly person fixed her eyes on mine.
“Really? What kind of person did you think my son was?”
“He could be said to be….a good person.”
I answered simply.
Although I was bubbling with all sorts of objectives, I had no desire to say them. Continuously repeating the outstanding qualities of a dead person to their family member was like adding hail to snow.
“I, am not sad because of Walker’s death. Ever since he entered the Expedition Regiment, I had prepared for him not to return.”
The elderly lady saw my apprehension and smiled bitterly.”
“What I hated was that his sacrifice had no meaning. My son’s death had no worth.”
The elderly lady’s hand trembled slightly.
The beef in my spoon had long gone cold out in the air.
That moment I thought of, when I looked at the elderly person I thought of it.
“Walker’s son, your grandson……how is he?”
Walker was a middle-aged man with a son.
If I recalled correctly, when he died his son was not even one year old.
Walker, holding his son with a happy smile. Next to him was an average-looking woman wearing a white head scarf. That was the scene imprinted into my mind. Behind them was the sun, in a field full of sunflowers. That was when the Expedition Regiment went on a holiday. I also went with Ailee.
At that time, I had told Ailee, that one day we would have our own kid. We would hold him while smiling happily.
Ailee had blushed and lowered her head.
“Died. That shitty woman remarried, and the son was abused by his stepfather till he died.”
“It was just two years……”
“Just? Two years is a long time.”
The elderly woman sighed.
I didn’t know what I should say.
“It’s fine. On earth, every life will come to an end. The only person I hate is Leon.”
“Ah…so it’s like that.”
“If I could, I would personally choke Leon to death, but he has already died. The Expedition Regiment needed to find a scapegoat for the giant casualty of three hundred people, and that person was Leon. Right now, all the humans hate Leon. Several days after the Memorial of the Disaster of the Three Hundred, the royal family took the lead to denounce him. Right now, Leon is the ultimate disgrace of mankind.”
I think that I do not have to explain my feelings.
“Royal family? Duopunuowa’s royal family?”
“No, the royal family of Sheng Qiao Yi.”
“Sheng Qiao Yi?!”
I hit the table hard, rattling the plates. I stood up suddenly, and I leaned in close to the elderly person.
The elderly person was frightened by me and took a moment to reply.
“Afterall, the First Expedition Regiment Division suffered disastrous casualties. The core of Sheng Qiao Yi’s position started to slide. If they hadn’t taken action, their power might’ve taken too big of a hit. For two years, the royal family has gone on an annual tour to support the memorial day for the Disaster of the Three Hundred.”
“Royal family……the royal family’s princesses also went on tour?”
“Of course. Leon’s former fiancée Princess Ailee criticizes her marriage contract partner while crying.”
My heart squeezed.
“Ailee….the princess is coming to the city?”
“Who knows. Every year the tour goes to a different place.”
“Thank you very much…….”
“It was nothing. I am just old. Right now, I have no hope for living. I only want to die quietly. It’s good that I could help you.”
The old lady grabbed her cross and stood up.
I pushed the last mouthful of rice into my mouth and chewed slowly.
Ailee, I’m waiting for you here.
It’s me who has bothered you. I can no longer keep that promise we made in the field of sunflowers.
The present me has been deprived the qualifications to be a human. Even more so, I am not suited to be by your side.
Even if that’s so, I still miss you.
I want to tell you, Ailee.
I love you.
It’s not love from a political marriage, Ailee.
I’ve liked you long before that.
1. Making things worse.