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Chapter 3

Diverging Paths

My name is Ares Srowa. By all rights, I should have been Ares of Srowa, but my family was stripped of its territory. Thus, I was not Ares of the land of Srowa but merely Ares Srowa. I was the second son of Marquis Srowa. I have two older sisters.

There was a time when I had a brother, the eldest son, but he became a page in the Bahamut Knights to raise his status, and while carrying lances for an elderly warrior, he was struck by a bandit’s stray arrow and died pointlessly.

My brother was born with the Divine Blessing of the Cavalier, but he met his end before even earning a steed. All he did was carry spare lances for those knights who broke theirs. He never had a chance to make use of his Cavalier skills.

My two sisters left our family some time ago—sold off in political marriages. Each was wed to a wealthy merchant’s son to lend an aristocratic dignity to plebeians with nothing but money to their names.

“It’s a blessing that you were born. Ares the Sage will be the hope of our family.”

Growing up, my father said those words to me countless times. They became a mantra to him.

The Divine Blessing of the Sage. It was an incredibly rare blessing that could use both the mystic arts of mage-style blessings and the clerical arts of cleric-line blessings. In matters of magic, it is unmatched.

My father’s blessing was Fighter, a blessing that you could find on any corner in any town. Never had I thought him fit to be head of a noble household. He was quite aware of this inadequacy, too. It was clear from his demeanor that he struggled with his position. That much was to be expected, I suppose. For what proper marquis would lower his head to a peasant contractor to seek work as an adventurer to earn money?

To make up for his own failure, my father wished for my brother and me to become the dignified aristocrats he never could. The world I was raised in was a hopelessly foolish place.

Sage blessing possessed a unique skill, one that could only be accessed by those with either the Sage blessing or the Saint blessing. It allowed the user to appraise another’s blessing.

Though it required significant mental focus, the results spoke for themselves. I could see others’ blessings and levels—their true natures.

The mere ability to use Appraisal was enough to guarantee someone with a Sage blessing a warm welcome in any country. That was why my father, the disgraced marquis, had placed all his hopes on me.

Alas, he misunderstood. I held my family in contempt. It was true that with Appraisal alone, I would be guaranteed a certain level of stature. If I worked thirty years, I could reclaim a land title befitting a minor earl or viscount. However, no amount of study or work could achieve anything befitting a marquis.

I despised my homeland. Throughout my life, I used Appraisal on all sorts of people of varying social standing, peeking into their blessings as I pleased. In doing that, I realized that there were but two types in this country. Those who were energetic and confident in everything they did, and those who dawdled, always made mistakes, and only ever opened their mouths to complain.

As a Sage, I quickly understood the reason for that. Some had jobs that aligned well with their blessings, and some did not. This wasn’t a profound revelation. I had figured that much out long ago, having observed my father.

I understood what it meant to attain happiness. Everyone should live as ordained by God. That was the path to a fulfilling life. Since that was the case, how should I, a Sage, live my life?

The moment I first laid eyes on the Hero, I knew what my calling was. As the wisest man, I would guide the Hero, fight alongside her, and then, having destroyed the demon lord, I would set this irrational world right. All would live in accordance with their blessings. I would manage the world as the embodiment of Almighty Demis’s holy will.

The reason I was born was not to restore the honor of my house—a trivial matter before the scale of the world. No, my father’s dream, that of my brother who died before I ever knew him, both of those were minor irrelevances that held no meaning at all to me.

I was born to rule over this world and become its magnificent emperor.

“I’m a Sage. This is… I haven’t achieved anything yet…no territory, no revolution, no holy war…,” Ares muttered as he blankly stared at his blood pooling around his feet. Perhaps tasting a failure that a Sage should never know had distracted him from healing his wound.

“Why? Why can’t the Hero live as she should? The Guide blessing is worthless garbage that should have just stayed behind in the capital… Why have I, a Sage, been forsaken? Left bleeding out here… Fools, the lot of them, fools. People are so foolish. Dammit…dammit…”

Ares doubled over and grabbed his stomach, blood dripping from his mouth as he clenched his teeth and continued to curse all but himself. Even though he knew it was meaningless, he could not stop the hatred overflowing from within.

From the day he had pushed Gideon out of the party, nothing had gone as he’d planned. That fact demanded he acknowledge the worthless blessing Guide as superior to Sage. Ares had disproven his own tenet that one must live in a manner befitting their blessing.

The pillar supporting his spirit had crumbled. In his current state, he was incapable of noticing the shadow drawing near.

“Are you okay?”

Hearing a voice, Ares turned his bloodless, ghostlike visage toward the sound. What greeted him was a young man with dark skin. There was a long, slightly curved sword hanging at his waist, and he wore a cloak with iron scraps woven into it.

“Who are you…?” Ares weakly demanded.

“I’m Bui, an adventurer, as you can see. More to the point, though, that wound looks pretty bad. Do you need help?”

Bui held out an Extra Cure potion. Ares stared for a moment before a spark of life returned to his eyes, and he cast Extra Cure on himself.

“Oh, you can use Healer magic. My apologies for the assumption,” remarked Bui, a cheap smile on his face. Ares narrowed his eyes.

“I see you, Asura demon.” The man had used Appraisal and seen that Bui did not have a blessing. He would have noticed the same if he’d done as much when Shisandan was disguised as Danan, of course, but the skill required focus. Ares was not the type to waste effort on someone he knew unless given reason to doubt them.

This was a different situation. Ares was not so naive as to trust an adventurer who’d conveniently appeared out of nowhere in an ancient ruin.

Seeing that, Bui, or rather Shisandan, curled his lips into a pleased smirk. “That’s the Sage for you. Saw through me, huh?” the demon remarked, subtly appealing to Ares’s pride.

Still, Ares remained on guard, ready to hurl the spell he had queued up at any moment. However, fighting solo as a magic user was not an optimal scenario.

Summoning some help is the first order of business.

Having a spirit beast for protection was the classic move, but Ares was already within the Asura demon’s range. He could feel a chill run down his spine.

This is all because of Gideon!

His blood ran cold, but a scorching hatred consumed his mind. Ares was determined to unleash all that anger as destructive magic, even if it meant dying here. Curiously, almost as though capable of peering into Ares’s heart, Shisandan stepped back.

“I have no intention of fighting you, Sage.”

“What is your aim then?”

“I saw how the Hero cast you aside.”


Infuriated, Ares activated his summoning spell. A spirit dire tiger leaped out at Shisandan with fangs bared, but the demon handily split the beast with a single slash.

“Calm yourself. I’m not here to rub salt in your wounds. What do you say? How about we form a temporary alliance?”

“Huh? Do you take me a fool? Why would I, a member of the Hero’s party, join with a demon?”

“The Hero’s party, huh?” Shisandan’s false form grinned. In his rage, Ares could feel the thump of his heart filling his head. “Tell me, do you know why you were expunged from that little band?”

“Because of a fool named Gideon, who has bewitched the Hero,” Ares replied immediately.

“That’s right.” Not expecting a demon to agree with him, Ares was taken aback by the response. “If blessings are the roles given by Demis, then the demon lord and the Hero fighting is not only destined but just and natural. We in the demon lord’s army desire nothing more than for the Hero to rise up and battle the demon lord.”

“…You mean to say that the demon lord is merely attempting to fulfill their ordained role?”

“Precisely. Because the balance of power between the two continents grows stale, the Hero and the demon lord must clash. The result of their conflict will upset the stagnant equilibrium. After a time, a new Hero and demon lord appear, and the cycle will continue. These wars have helped develop the world. Civilization, like blessings, can only advance through hardship. After all, the capabilities of the people and demons who lead are determined by the level of their blessings. A large-scale war weeds out the weak while the powerful gain levels. And the world advances to a new age on the backs of those chosen by Divine Blessings.”

“Divine Blessings and civilization are the same… That…is something I have never considered before.”

Ares was enraptured. Conversely, it was all Shisandan could do not to scowl in disgust at the absurd idea. The philosophy he outlined was that of the former demon lord. To Asura demons that possessed no blessings, the ideology was a wondrous farce and nothing more. By what logic did advancements in fields like farming or construction occur through combat? Asura demons saw the shackles of Divine Blessings as ludicrous.

Still, the debased concept served its purpose, earning Ares’s trust. Shisandan judged that it was about time to get to the main point.

“A relic of the first Hero lays beneath the ground here in these ruins. So what do you say? We can continue our fight after retrieving it.”

“A relic of the first Hero?!”

“If you give that to the current Hero, I’m sure it will make her remember her duty. She will realize that individuality is trivial to the Hero.”

“Individuality? What do you mean? Wait…there is no way that a member of the demon lord’s army like you would just hand over something so valuable,” Ares said, dubious.

“As things stand, the Hero will abandon her role. If she does, the relic will be worthless anyway.”


The outline of Shisandan’s body warped, and he transformed into a six-armed demon.

“One as wise as you may even come to understand why the Hero exists and what you should do upon glimpsing the relic…” The demon’s whispers seeped into Ares’s mind. “Even for an Asura like myself, it will be difficult to proceed any further alone. I need your strength, Sage.”

For Ares, who Ruti had cast aside, those words hit home. There was no way he could refuse.

Ruti and I headed back to the others. It did not take long to reunite, since they had been following behind us. When we mentioned we had run into Ares, Rit looked relieved, Tisse seemed shocked, and Godwin had no clue what was happening.

“Ares being here would explain the spirit drake,” Ruti stated.

Tisse nodded in agreement.

He was undoubtedly the greatest mage in the world, but…

“Ares’s presence concerns me, but I’m more worried about the other person who was supposed to be with him,” I said.

It appeared that Ares had left his anonymous companion behind when he went underground. Anything that befell that person after the split-up was unclear. From what Tisse said, this other person was even more skilled at concealing themself than Ares. Ruti and I should have asked Ares about that when we’d had the chance, but I guess that hadn’t been much of an option.

“Maybe it was Theodora.” Rit voiced the obvious theory.

“Normally, that might be the case, but if it’s her, them splitting up doesn’t make sense. Theodora would never do something so dangerous as venturing through ancient elf ruins on her own, not unless there was some special reason. She’s someone who prioritizes logic over emotion,” I replied.

“Now that you mention it, I did get that kind of feeling from her,” Tisse appended.

Theodora wasn’t the type to act alone in this sort of situation. I’d never been given reason to assume she possessed any knowledge about golems like iron snakes before, either.

Golems did not require any skill to control, but they did demand a high level of intelligence and precise manipulation of magic power. Theoretically, anyone with a blessing that could use magic could command them, but the number of people who could do so well was low.

The mechanical things weren’t exactly cheap, either. Still, the main reason that golems, potentially mass-producible workers who never tired, didn’t end up taking over all manual labor was that they were so difficult to control.

“In which case, did Ares find a new ally after Ruti left?” Rit asked.

“I guess so,” I answered.

We returned to the room with Godwin’s makeshift laboratory. I lit the fire and started making an herbal tea using a pot lying around. Ruti and I would both need a little bit of time to calm down. Everyone fell silent for a few minutes.

“Man, how long am I gonna have to be locked up in these ruins anyway? If it’s just making medicine, there’s no reason I can’t do it in some other town, right?” Godwin muttered to himself as he sipped the steaming tea.

When Ruti turned toward him, however, he frantically corrected himself.

“I-it’s not like it’s even been a month here, so I’m not tryin’ to complain or anything.”

He really was totally terrified of her.

“I’ll consider it.” Ruti seemed remorseful for the situation she had put Godwin in. Not that he was aware of that. Misunderstanding entirely, the man was falling over himself to apologize.

Tisse and I just watched, almost feeling bad for him but not quite.

“So then…maybe Shisandan is involved?” Rit murmured.

“Shisandan, huh?” That had totally slipped my mind because of the shock of seeing Ares again.

“But Mr. Ares is a Sage. He would be able to recognize an Asura demon that did not have a blessing,” protested Tisse.

“That’s not guaranteed. Ares never uses Appraisal on a person he has met before. Back in Loggervia, he didn’t notice when Shisandan took Gaius’s form partway through our time there,” I corrected.

“Right. And Shisandan can turn into Danan,” added Rit.

It wouldn’t be surprising at all to learn that Ares was unknowingly in cahoots with the demon.

“So then the iron snakes were Shisandan’s? What for?” Tisse inquired.

My first thought was that Shisandan was searching for Ruti. It made sense that the demon lord’s forces would be after the Hero. Yet even after discovering her via the iron snakes, he had chosen to leave us be and venture deeper into the ruins. And if he had intended to get the drop on us by appearing as Danan, it would have been better not to use the iron snakes and just search for us with Ares.

“If the constructs weren’t for us, then they must have been scouring the complex,” Ruti deduced.

“Yeah, Dreadonna’s forces have been gathering weapons and treasures from ancient sites all across Avalon. It’s possible that plundering has become just another one of their goals, and that might be why Shisandan is here,” I posited.

However, Dreadonna’s pillaging had only occurred in areas already under their control. While Zoltan did not have much in the way of defenses, there were no known cases of the demon lord’s army venturing so from their supply lines. The risk for them seemed high. It still didn’t add up.

“Wait a moment,” Tisse interjected.

“What is it?”

“Mr. Ares is on the move. And it’s faint, but I sense one other person with him.”

“They’ve reunited?” Rit stood up. “Even if there’s only a chance that it’s Shisandan, I can’t just stand by.”

“Facing Ares again gives me pause, but if he’s being tricked, he deserves to know,” I said.

The Sage and I had our differences, but leaving him to an Asura demon was still wrong. Wasting no time, we set out in search of Ares.

Unfortunately, he was no longer on the same floor as us by that point.

“Th-this is…?!” The sight before Ares struck him speechless. Such verdant green was entirely at odds with the cold, hard material that made up ancient elf ruins.

Whatever equipment had originally been in the room had crumbled long ago, and granite caskets lined the chamber. Inside were desiccated wood elf mummies, lying there holding swords that bore no trace of rust despite centuries of age.

“Wood elves believed in the importance of the cycle of nature. Their custom in death was to perform funeral rites and then leave the bodies in the forest to be eaten by animals and return from whence they came. I see… What lays beyond this point was something they wished so deeply to protect that they were willing to break from that sacred tradition,” Shisandan, as Bui, said with a smirk. “The Hero’s relic is near.”

A vague unease swelled in Ares’s chest.

Why had the wood elves hidden an artifact left by the first Hero? Such an object was undoubtedly a symbol of hope. What could be gained by stowing it away without so much as a story that whispered of its existence?

The two proceeded deeper, passing the mummified elves, who stared at them with empty eyes. Shisandan hummed to himself, though he sneered at the corpses.

It almost felt like the room was filled with a churning animosity. Ares shuddered, feeling a sudden chill. Despite his foreboding sense, the wood elves did not rise as undead. They were merely crumbling bodies. It was not as if any number of undead—beings without blessings—was a match for a Sage and an Asura demon anyway.

As Ares and Shisandan approached the exit on the chamber’s far side, the pair suddenly detected an intense hostility. Shisandan reflexively drew his sword. The next moment, an elven blade lanced straight for him. Gripping his own weapon in both hands, he deflected the attack. It was a mighty blow that left Shisandan’s fingers numb after the impact.

“Who’s there?”

One of the wood elves rose with a sliding sound. And then it collapsed to the floor with a thud.

“D-Danan?!” Ares shouted.

The Martial Artist fearlessly grinned as he emerged from his hiding place in the casket.

“You sure took your time, Shisandan. I even managed to beat you here.”

Ares was at a loss. He had come to the ruins with Danan, so his presence here didn’t seem too impossible. However, this Danan was very different from the one that Ares had happened upon earlier. The burly man before him was missing his right forearm. Yet even so, he exuded a powerful presence that left Ares with no doubt that he was the real Danan.

It was then that Ares finally understood what had happened. The man he’d taken for Danan earlier was an Asura demon that had eaten Danan’s flesh and assumed his form. The very same Asura demon that had approached him in the ruins.

“So you managed to survive. You’ve got the tenacity of a cockroach. I’ll grant you that,” Shisandan remarked.

“Ha-ha-ha. You probably mean that as an insult, but I respect their resilience. The way they cling to life is just another type of strength.” Danan thrust his left arm out and slowly began inching closer. “Oy, Ares. This one’s mine. Don’t you dare butt in.”

Shisandan’s expression tensed as Danan approached. The man was practically emanating the thrill of battle from every pore.

The numbness in my hand won’t disappear… A Martial Art?

That hurled sword had been thrown knowing that Shisandan would block it. The demon’s fingers were trembling, keeping him from gripping his blade correctly. That left him unable to perform more than the clumsy swordsmanship of a beginner who had just picked up a weapon for the first time.

He got me. Letting both of my arms get disabled was foolish. Even if I change back to my original form, I won’t be able to control them any better.

An Asura demon’s natural shape had six arms, but damage taken while transformed didn’t simply disappear if the creature reverted back. If one of Shisandan’s arms was severed while he was Bui, it would be the same as having three of his actual arms cut off.

But he doesn’t have his right arm, either. Can he really fight like that?

The moment Danan stepped into Shisandan’s range, the one-armed Martial Artist and the Asura demon kicked off the ground. Shisandan brought his sword down, but Danan deflected it with his left hand. The next moment, Danan’s arm whipped through the air, catching Shisandan straight in the face.


The demon stumbled backward several steps. He tried to ready his weapon again but slipped to one knee as if the strength had left his body.

“Oh yeah, before I forget,” Danan said as he looked down on Shisandan. “I’m not gonna forgive you. In fact, I’m gonna beat the shit out of you till you’re dead. But I do have to thank you.”


“You made me realize that I had been neglecting my left hand. I never knew I could use it so well if I just put my mind to it. It’s made me even stronger than I was before.”

Having seen Danan fight during their time traveling with Ruti, Ares could tell that was not a bluff.

Illogical as it was, this fighting fool had become even more powerful after losing his right arm.

The battle continued, Danan keeping the lead all the while. Shisandan loosed one attack after another, but his movements were sloppy. Both of his arms had been half-paralyzed because of the Martial Art: Horn-Breaker Fang-Smasher that Danan had sprung on him.

“Orahhh! You’re full of openings! Trampling Kick!” An intense, energy-clad roundhouse slammed into Shisandan’s stomach. His body flew into the air from the Martial Art’s impact before slamming into the wall behind him and collapsing on hands and knees.

“Take this!”

There was ferocious grin on Danan’s face as he unleashed a fearsome kick without giving Shisandan a chance to stand back up. It was all the demon could do to defend himself. He couldn’t even manage a counterattack.

“Ares!” Shisandan shouted the Sage’s name. It was clear what he wanted… He was asking for help.

“…” Ares did not aid him, however. At present, his thoughts were in complete disorder. Me attack Danan, a man I have traveled together with for so long—one of the Hero’s comrades? I can’t do it, I can’t, I can’t…

“Ares!” called Shisandan again.

Ares wanted to cover his ears and curl up into a ball. How lovely it would have been if he could forget everything around him.

Think! Act! Press forward and don’t stop! You are wise. The choices you make are correct because you are the Sage.

The impulses of Ares’s blessing drowned out his own feelings. Ares had no right to leave a decision to someone else. No matter the situation, he must think and act for himself, even if his blessing would not tell him the correct choice. The blessing screamed at him to behave in a manner befitting the Sage.

“Help me, Ares!” Shisandan cried for the third time. A flurry of blows rained down on the demon, drawing blood with every strike.

The shape-shifter will die before long, thought Ares. With that, he realized that if Shisandan met his end, Ares would never again be able to return to the Hero’s party. Well, I suppose there’s nothing left to consider, then.

“Gargantuan Storm Javelin!”

Danan was a simple man. He believed that Shisandan had deceived Ares just like the demon had deceived him. Thus, it seemed obvious that Ares would stand against the demon once he knew Shisandan’s true identity. There was no doubt in Danan’s mind. For as much as he disliked Ares, Danan still believed the Sage was a good person deep down. He’d been one of the Hero’s comrades, after all.

“Wha—?! Ares?! The hell?!”

It was as if a storm large enough to cover an entire country had been compressed to a single black spear. The spell was of the highest order. Only the greatest Mage blessings had access to it.

Danan was slow to react to the unexpected attack, but he managed to twist his body with his supernatural reflexes, avoiding a direct hit. Unfortunately, even the electricity crackling around the javelin was enough to bathe Danan’s body in energy that would have been enough to split a giant, centuries-old tree.


The beefy man’s body locked up as tongues of lightning licked him. His vision went dark for a moment between the tremendous flash of light and intense pain. And in that split second, blood was spilled.


Shisandan’s sword was buried deep in Danan’s side.


With that word, an explosion erupted from Shisandan’s weapon. It tore the wound wide open, and the heat and explosive force shredded Danan’s body from the inside.

“Even you can’t survive a blast from inside your body.”

However, Danan did not fall.

As if heedless of his own blood dripping to the floor, Danan clenched his fist and silently assumed a stance.

“Humans are truly fascinating. I’ve never seen a Martial Artist like you before. Your strength far surpasses the role of your blessing.”

Shisandan stood slowly, signing a seal with his left hand. His body expanded, growing to almost two and a half meters tall. He had six muscular arms. His dark face transformed into that of a fanged Asura demon. Shisandan drew the five other swords at his waist, one after the other. This six-sword style was Asura demons’ traditional combat style.

Danan took a single big step back, planted his right leg firmly, and faced the attack head-on. His eyes were hollow, but he had not lost the will to fight. The sextet of swords swirled like a tornado, crashing down in rapid succession. Every swing contained the strength to split Danan’s enormous frame in two. Yet even covered in wounds and half unconscious, Danan met the cascade of blows with just his one arm and shattered each weapon.

It was said that Danan could tear steel with his fingers, and even on death’s door, he lived up to that.

“You truly are a monster of martial arts, but—” Shisandan twisted his right leg like a snake. Danan was occupied blocking the storm of steel with just one arm, leaving him open as Shisandan’s leg slammed into his chest.

“Gah! Hah…”

Pain coursed through Danan’s chest. When Shisandan’s leg pulled back, the broken tip of a sword was protruding from where he’d kicked.

“I’m quite skilled at hand-to-hand combat myself. Though to you, it may seem little more than mere acrobatics,” Shisandan remarked with a grin.

As he was kicking, Shisandan had grasped the broken sword point flying through the air with his toes and slammed it into Danan’s chest in a single flowing strike.

“N…no…that was…real… It’s my…loss…” Danan’s lips cracked ever so slightly as he stared Shisandan down, bearing no grudge for Ares’s intervention.

Finally reaching his limit, Danan collapsed.

Ares was surprised at how calm he felt after seeing Danan slump to the ground. He had raised his hand against a comrade, betrayed him. It seemed odd to Ares that he was not more shaken. Why did he not suffer from guilt?

I know why… I’m used to it. Because this isn’t the first time I’ve turned on a comrade. Gideon’s face flashed in the back of Ares’s mind. We really were together for a long time.

Ares had joined the party after Ruti’s arrival in the capital. He had been in the party the longest after Gideon and had adventured with Gideon more than anyone other than Ruti. They’d fought and survived countless battles, had flirted with death more times than could be counted, and had saved each other on more than a few occasions.

Ares hated Gideon, but he had also trusted in his ability. He may well have been the one who best understood just how amazing Gideon truly was.

Which was why I got rid of him.

With Gideon there, Ares could not live up to his blessing. Ruti would never come to trust him, and the other party members wouldn’t rely on him. Gideon, even without skills, had been a far wiser man than he.

Ares finally understood the reason he had pushed Gideon away.

“Thanks for the help, Ares,” the giant Asura demon remarked.

Ares had made his decision. He would walk with Shisandan, choosing the path of betrayal to reclaim the Hero who had been stolen from him. There was no more turning back.

“Let’s keep going. It’s up ahead, right? A relic of the Hero?”


Ares left Danan on the ground there and continued farther into the ruins with Shisandan.

A powerful trap had been set just before the entrance to the deepest chamber. However, Shisandan pulled the heartstone from his cloak and sent his magic power into the ancient elf control board beside the door. In only a few minutes, the perilous device was disabled.

Ares could not imagine so powerful a trap being so easily controlled. Folk likened the precise magical control needed to operate the controls of ancient elf technology to hitting a fly’s eye with an arrow, and for a good reason. Such thoughts immediately left Ares’s mind when he saw what lay in the room, though. A golden box that had likely been made by wood elves.


Five longswords rested in the radiant container. Ares immediately recognized them.

“Th-the Holy Demon Slayer?! B-but there are…”

The artifact-tier longsword that Ruti wielded—the Holy Demon Slayer. Bequeathed to the Hero by God and passed down to each subsequent bearer of the mightiest blessing. It was an invincible, sacred blade that had slain countless demon lords.

Somehow, there were five of this previously unique weapon in the golden box.

“No,” Shisandan corrected him. “The Holy Demon Slayer is a replica of these swords. These are the first Hero’s blades, taken from their grave. They are the original weapons bequeathed by God.”

“Th-then these are the genuine articles?”

“Correct. To distinguish, perhaps I should call these True Avenger—no, Sacred Avenger.”

Shisandan slid four of the five blades from the box into the empty sheaths hanging at his waist. The final one, he handed to Ares.

“At a fundamental level, the Hero blessing is as one with the replica Demon Slayer; they are God’s reproductions of the first Hero’s soul.”

“Reproduced? Soul?”

“To make the current Hero fulfill their blessing, there are two things that must be done.”

That was Ares’s goal. He grasped the hilt that Shisandan held out to him. “And they are?”

“The first is to have her take the Sacred Avenger in her hand. Just as with the Holy Demon Slayer, these weapons have a power that magnifies the Divine Blessing of the Hero. If the blessing is boosted, the impulses will also increase. It should be enough to restore the urges suppressed by Devil’s Blessing.”

“Th-then Ruti will return to my side, right?!”

“No. That alone is not enough. At a fundamental level, the Hero is merely a vessel that serves as the manifestation of justice. The Hero experiences no fear, no doubt, and no hesitation. That is why those who bear that blessing experience impulses so powerful that they subsume the vessel’s ego.”

“Then what is the second requirement?” Ares pressed.

“Why has the current incarnation attempted to live life as ‘Ruti’ rather than ‘the Hero’? It’s because she has a desire that cannot be fulfilled unless she remains Ruti. She clings to a wish she longs to achieve, even in the face of suffering under her blessing’s urges. It is necessary to remove the pillar of support to which she clings.”


Hearing Ares’s whisper, Shisandan nodded in satisfaction.

Meanwhile, Gideon, or rather, Red, was with his comrades, chasing after Ares.

“I sense someone fighting in the distance.”

Heeding Tisse’s warning, the group quickened their pace. Not even Red could guess the path Ares had chosen.

Their confrontation could no longer be avoided.

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