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Ruti the Hero Was Alone

“Get it together, Ares! How many times has it been now?!” growled Danan, a member of the Hero’s party and bearer of a Martial Artist blessing.

“If we’re out, then we can just go back and buy more, can’t we?” Ares the Sage responded, seemingly unperturbed by his companion’s anger. His lips trembled slightly despite the rebuke, a clear indication that he, the Sage, felt humiliated at being scolded like a child by an uneducated man like Danan.

Currently, the Hero’s party was in the Desert of Bloody Sands searching for a weapon that had been left there by the previous demon lord. Their goal was to either get their hands on it or destroy it before the current demon lord’s army could make it their own. However, this was the third time they had needed to return to a settlement because they had run out of food and water. Part of it was just that they did not know where the weapon was, and searching took time, but there had also been a clear increase in the number of times they had run out of supplies in the middle of their journeys ever since Gideon—Red—had left the party.

“How much time do you think we’ve wasted in this desert going back to the same place?! The reason we couldn’t get the help of the desert people is because you screwed up the negotiations!”

“It’s a legendary weapon. It’s not something anyone could find by just spending a day or two looking. And I did my best with the negotiations, but the desert peoples were no better than thieves who wouldn’t even obey the king of their land. If you’ve got complaints, though, then feel free to do it yourself next time,” Ares said with a shrug.

Ares’s confident and dismissive attitude only served to further aggravate Danan.

“You’re the one who said you’d take care of gathering supplies and doing the negotiations in Gideon’s stead! Where’s that big talk now?!”

“Unlike Gideon, I can’t spend all my time doing odd jobs,” Ares responded casually. To him, Danan was getting angry over inconsequential details, but when he noticed Danan’s expression turn dead serious, a danger signal flashed in the back of his mind. By then, it was too late.

“Screw it. I’m going to go find Gideon. We won’t get anywhere at this rate.”

“Wait a minute! We’re headed to the previous demon lord’s secret facility! If you leave now, we’ll be down a man should a fight break out!”

“At this rate, we’re just going to get wiped out anyway. I only joined this party because I thought it was the most direct route to beating the demon lord. If that’s no longer true, then there’s no point in me being here.” Danan was serious. Or at the very least, he looked that way to Ares. He glanced at the Crusader, Theodora, looking for some help, but she just closed her eyes and crossed her arms as if it had nothing to do with her. Tisse, the assassin who had joined in Gideon’s place, was faithful to Ares, since he had hired her, but she would not be of any help in a situation like this.

“Pushing Gideon out was a grave mistake, Ares. You were too hasty.”

“Like I’ve said every time now, I didn’t push him out. He said it himself.” Ares’s excuse did nothing to change the sneer on Danan’s scarred face.

At that moment, though…

“Are you going to go look for my brother, Danan?” a cool voice rang out. One cold enough to freeze Danan’s sneer.

“Milady, I…” Danan, whose body was encased in the armor of his own muscle, shrank back, as if cowering before a single little girl. It was a similar response to the panic that prey might experience when a mega-predator it had no chance of defeating or escaping was staring it down.

The Hero, Ruti. Her small body was wrapped in platinum armor, and the Holy Demon Slayer sword hung at her waist as she looked up at the bear of a man, expressionless…

She was the strongest being chosen by God. The Hero who had been granted supernatural strength in order to save the world. Even a martial artist like Danan, who could tear steel apart with his bare hands, understood instinctively that he could not win against her.

Danan swallowed nervously.

“I-if we leave things to Ares any more than this, the party will fall apart. We need your brother, Gideon. Even you…”

“Even I, what?”

“N-no, nothing…” It was no good. Danan’s knees started to buckle. It was all he could do to resist the impulse to break eye contact with her. Even just that was enough to grind down the mental fortitude of a man who had lived through hundreds of life-and-death battles. It was only a brief silence, but to Danan, it may as well have been hours.

“I’ll allow it. Go.”


“Danan, go in search of Gideon. We will continue the journey.”

“W-wait, that’s…”

“That is all.” With that, Ruti retired to her personal tent.

She alone had a personal tent because she was the party’s leader, but the real reason was because not even Ares could endure being in a cramped tent with her. Excepting for when they were adventuring, Ruti generally just did things on her own. The only exception to that had been Gideon.

“P-please, wait a minute, Ruti!” Ares desperately chased after the young woman.

Danan breathed a deep sigh and sat himself across from Theodora, who still had her eyes shut.

“So what will you do?” Theodora asked.

“There’s nothing I can do but go,” Danan responded with a shrug. “Even though I prided myself on being the cornerstone of the party’s attack.”

“Second to the Hero, you mean.”

“Well yeah, she’s on a whole other level. I can’t believe there was really a time when she was weak.”

“Everyone starts out weak when their blessing’s level is low… But I agree. Though Ares might know more about her from back then, since he was in the party from the start.”

“Ares, huh…?” Perhaps because he had finally calmed down, Danan reverted to his usual insolent tone. Rubbing the scar on his cheek, Danan lowered his voice a bit. “Do you think there’s anything to the idea that he killed Gideon for getting in his way?”


“I don’t think there’s any question he wants to marry the Hero. He’s the son of a failed duke, and the family is clinging to what status it has left. I’m sure he has dreams of reviving his family’s title. If the Hero and the Sage who saved the world became a couple, they could rally a lot of support. He might even be able to parlay that into carving out a duchy all his own to rule… There might be something to what Yarandrala was saying.”

After Gideon had disappeared, Yarandrala, a high elf, had pushed Ares on the matter. Her blessing was the Singer of the Trees, which allowed her to control plants. Right after Gideon disappeared, she had used that to investigate any traces of his whereabouts but turned up nothing.

In truth, Gideon had known of her ability and had taken steps to disappear without her being able to find him. To Yarandrala, it just made the situation feel all the more unnatural. She suspected that Ares had attacked Gideon for blocking his way to glory. When the elf grabbed the Sage by the collar and hounded him about it, Ares broke his promise to Gideon and even went so far as to say that Gideon had deserted them.

High elves were not known for being short-tempered, but they were passionate. They would not get angry over nothing, but when they did, it was a blazing rage. After hearing Ares’s words, Yarandrala did not hesitate in the least, slugging him in the face then and there.

Ares was incredibly prideful. When she punched him, he flew off the handle and immediately fired back with his magic, and Yarandrala fired back with her own. It was a battle between two blessings at the pinnacle of the mage line. The Sage and the high-level spirit mage blessing of the Singer of the Trees. Ares brought a meteorite crashing down with his Meteor spell, and Yarandrala called forth a Tyrant Spirit, summoning a wooden giant that could shrug off the incoming meteorite. If Danan and Theodora had not cut in to separate them, the local geography would have been drastically altered, for sure.

“I can’t understand you people” was the last thing Yarandrala had said before leaving the party.

“Yarandrala was crying,” Danan muttered, thinking back to the day the high elf had left.

“…She was.”

After Yarandrala left, Danan and Theodora had blamed Ares’s short temper. Both for pushing Gideon out and for getting into a fight with Yarandrala. Because of him, they had lost two comrades. But Ares had merely tried to brush it off as Yarandrala’s personality having always been a problem. That evasion pushed Danan beyond anger, dumbfounding him.

If Yarandrala were with them, their search would be much easier thanks to her ability to control plants. But that line of thought just started stoking Danan’s anger again. He quelled the fury with another sigh.

The man thought back to what she had said at the time. Since he was going to be looking for Gideon now, he could not help but consider that possibility. Ares had said that Gideon ran away, but it was not as if there was any proof that Ares hadn’t killed him. Danan recalled the menacing look on Yarandrala’s face. If Ares had actually admitted to killing Gideon there, either he or Yarandrala would probably have died in the ensuing fight. It was possible Ares just said what he had as a desperate excuse. Had he really killed Gideon, then Danan’s new journey would never end.

Faced with the unusual sight of Danan’s troubled face, Theodora smiled slightly.

“Sir Gideon is truly skilled at battle. I’m amazed he could fight at the level he did with nothing more than common skills.”

“I feel the same. I always thought he was a tactician worthy of respect.”

“That didn’t seem to stop you from always criticizing him for mistakes in combat.”

Danan shuddered with a start. The insolent man’s shoulders drooped as if ashamed of himself.

“I… That’s just the sort of personality I have… I can’t settle down if I don’t call a mistake what it is… But I can swear on my Divine Blessing, I never once thought Gideon wasn’t critical to our party, let alone that he was anything like a burden holding us back.”

“Then maybe you should have actually let him know that.”

“…Which means you think Gideon left on his own?”

Theodora snapped the stick she was holding in her hands and tossed the two pieces into the fire.

“Sir Gideon is a man that both you, the greatest martial artist of our times, and I, the assistant instructor of the temple knights’ style of spear wielding, have acknowledged. No matter how skilled a magic user Ares may be, would a swordsman respected by two of the pinnacles of physical combat really be so quickly overpowered in a one-on-one versus a mage?”

“That’s right!” the martial artist exclaimed.

There had been a bit of an inflection in Theodora’s words, as though she was trying to convince herself, too. Danan could recognize that.

Gideon must still be alive. He was a comrade we trusted with our backs countless times, in dozens of do-or-die situations. If we’re still alive, then he should be, too.

There was no way he would die on them.

“Tch, if that’s how it was, I should have gone looking for him sooner. Then we wouldn’t have had to deal with this pain-in-the-ass desert.”

“Yes, if I had said something sooner, I could have been the one to go out looking for him.”

The two of them looked at each other and exchanged smiles.

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