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Chapter 5

The Guide

The Divine Blessing of the Hero had been suppressing Ruti’s emotions since the day she was born. Even at level 1, she had Immunity to Fear. As such, Ruti had never known what it really meant to feel afraid.

“AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!!!!!!” For the first time in her life, a terrible shriek of terror clawed its way from her throat.

The person she loved most in the world was going to die right before her eyes. She would never be able to see him again. Never be able to hear him say her name again. Never be able to feel his warmth again. She’d finally started growing able to express how she felt and had been looking forward to enjoying an unexciting and slow life with the one she loved. Yet it had all ended before it ever truly began.

Something shattered inside Ruti. The thing that had supported her throughout the living hell that was her life crumbled.

“Yes.” As Ruti stared in a daze, Shisandan swung the four Sacred Avengers at her. “You, not the Hero, are shaken by Gideon’s death. In this one moment, I am stronger than you. It was all for this one moment!”

Even in her current state, though, Ruti met Shisandan’s attack with the Holy Demon Slayer, precisely fending off his strike. The screech of sacred blades clashing resounded throughout the chamber.

“Breaking Ares’s Sacred Avenger with your reproduction was truly an act worthy of praise. You may be the strongest bearer of the Hero’s blessing to ever live. Sadly, that power is not without a price.” As if timed to the Asura demon’s words, Ruti’s Holy Demon Slayer snapped in half. “Your sword was already on death’s door after that attack.”

Shisandan spun his four weapons, slicing the floor around the two of them. Ruti stared at her broken sword with hollow eyes as she and Shisandan fell.

“Kh. Heh-heh. Ah-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha!!!” Ares was laughing uncontrollably. “I won! With this, I can continue the journey with Ruti! See?! I’m superior to Gideon! This is the proof! He’s dead, and I’m alive! The winner and the loser! The Sage and the fool! Ah-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha!!!”

As he cackled gleefully, Ares moved his right hand in an arcane motion.

“Tornado Cutter!”

A vortex made of razor-like air surged to life. Its gales deflected the knives Tisse hurled at Ares, sending them straight back at the Assassin.

“Aaaaagh!!!” Tisse collapsed to the ground in a puddle of her own blood as the shredding wind surrounding her faded.

“Turning on your client? I should have expected as much from an honorless killer for hire,” Ares derided.

“…Why?” wheezed Tisse, her voice growing weak.


“You were in love with Ms. Ruti. How could you do this?”

“What do you mean? She’s the Hero.”

Ares’s reply made it clear that he believed any sacrifice would be forgiven if it was for the greater good of helping Ruti live up to her blessing. That was the best thing for the Hero and the greatest gift one could give to her.

Tisse grit her teeth and forced herself up, even as crimson still flowed from her injuries. Shaking, she drew her shortsword.

“Ohhh, that’s quite remarkable. I doubt I’d be able to stand in your condition. Sadly, you suffer in vain. If you had just stayed down, this could have ended without your death. Assuming you didn’t perish from blood loss,” Ares remarked coldly.

Entrust Ms. Ruti to this man? Never. Even if Demis forgives him, I never will. Even if she is the Hero, she’s my friend first and foremost. She’s really, really strong, but she’s also awkward and just slightly off…and she can fall in love. She’s just a normal girl! I can’t entrust my friend to a man who can’t even understand that much!

Sadly, despite her intentions, Tisse’s body collapsed against her will. Seeing that, Ares smirked.

Tears of regret streaked down Tisse’s face. Watching her sob helplessly, witnessing her in such a state, he rose to stand before Ares.


A little spider leaped out of Tisse’s bag and barred Ares’s way, raising both of his front legs. His enemy was overwhelmingly strong, and he had no comrades to stand beside him. There was no chance he could win.

But what of it?! Mister Crawly Wawly put his small body in the path of the villain who had hurt his friend. And seeing that tiny figure’s bravery, the last person in the room rose, too.

“Grahhhhhh! Piss off!” Godwin roared as he threw the thunderstone and smoke wand. An explosion sounded, and a thick cloud of vapor enveloped Ares.

Godwin had no idea what, if any, meaning there was in this battle. The man had been dragged to these ruins and kept here against his will. There were so many things wrong with this situation that he couldn’t even count them all. Not too long ago, he had been trying to run away, yet now he found himself standing to fight. Internally, he was still screaming “Why me?!” though.

As Bighawk’s right-hand man, Godwin had done terrible things to a lot of people. He had allied with a demon to create a dangerous drug and played a large role in spreading the substance around Zoltan. Villain that he was, Godwin still held a set of principles, warped though they likely were. There were some lines no one was meant to cross!

“I’m a bad guy, but…I can’t forgive a goddamn maniac delusional enough to convince himself he isn’t evil!” Godwin howled. His teeth were chattering in terror, yet he drew a dagger that emanated darkness.

Ares beheld this latest development with clear exasperation. “Worthless scum. This is why I can’t stand idiots. Force Shot.”

The spell blew away the magic shadow and hurled Godwin into a wall, where he collapsed in a heap. Ares glanced at the motionless Alchemist. After confirming he was no longer a threat, Ares raised his leg and stomped down on Mister Crawly Wawly, who was still waving both of his front legs.

“You never had any hope of victory.”

There was no one left to oppose him. All that remained was to listen to Gideon’s final screams as he was crushed to a wretched pulp beneath the weight of the elevator and iron wall.

The elevator was approaching the bottom floor. In just a few more seconds, Red and Rit would die.


Covered in wounds, the towering man focused his whole consciousness into his remaining arm. An elevator was barreling down toward him, but he didn’t so much as spare it a passing look. In his mind, he envisioned all his strength gathering in a single point, then he forced that power up and out through his arm.

“I don’t get all that complicated stuff—what Theodora was thinking, what the Hero was thinking, what’s right, what’s wrong. I can’t be bothered to understand that crap.”

Danan clenched his fist. Fresh blood began to seep as wounds he’d closed with a cure potion burst open again.

“But I can tell you this for sure!”

Calling upon everything he could muster, a lifetime of training, Danan thrust his fist upward.

“Martial Art: Rising Dragon’s Roar!”

A dragon burst forth from his left arm. It was Danan’s finisher, the technique he had used to blow a hole in a pirate galley and send it to the bottom of the sea. The dragon pierced the elevator, shattered the giant mass of iron, and continued climbing.

“Gideon! Rit! You’re my friends! I’m not gonna let you die on me! That’s a guarantee! I won’t let anyone tell me different!”


When Theodora lost consciousness, the holy chains binding Rit had disappeared, but even with full access to both our skills, we didn’t have a way of escaping the falling elevator. I had just about given up when a dragon made of energy pierced through the floor and blew through the heavy load over our heads.

“Get ready, Rit!” I called, still somewhat astonished.

“Got it!”

Carried by the dragon, we stood back-to-back and used our swords to deflect all the metal fragments raining down around us.

“Danan always comes through when it counts!” Rit exclaimed.

We clung to the dragon as we raced toward the upper floor.

Back in the fight, Rit and I jumped from our unlikely mount out of the shaft that had nearly been our grave.


We’d only been absent for a few moments, but the hall was utterly transformed. Shisandan and Ruti were gone. There was a hole in the floor, so I assumed they’d gone down through it. Theodora was collapsed on the floor near the elevator, unconscious. Tisse and Godwin hardly looked any better. Mister Crawly Wawly lay injured at Ares’s feet. It seemed he had fought, too.

Left arm still bleeding, Ares stared wide-eyed at me, his gaze filled with tangible hatred.

“Why?! How do you manage to survive with that useless blessing?!”

I took off sprinting toward Ares. The only hope I had of besting the Ultimate Mage was getting in close.

“Die! Die! Die, you bastard! Die! Gargantuan Storm Javelin!!!” With an arcane flourish, Ares hurled the conjured electrified lance straight at us.


It’s too fast, I won’t be able to dodge it! I gritted my teeth in preparation. The only thing to do was to meet the attack and push through.

“Spirit of the wind! Grant thine blessing and reject misfortune! Breath of Wind!”

Wind elementals danced in the air around me in response to Rit’s call. The powerful javelin crashed into us, followed by violent thunder and a buffeting gale.


Rit’s spirit magic couldn’t totally counter Ares’s spell, but it had weakened the impact enough to keep us from passing out.

Behind me, Rit was knocked back, and I could hear her roll across the floor. There was no sign of her getting back up. She had poured all her strength into protecting me, leaving nothing to guard herself.

I resisted the urge to tend to her. Doing so would just waste the opening she had endangered herself to give me. However, leaving her was far greater agony than Ares’s attack.

Only three steps separated me from Ares now. Just a little farther, and my sword would reach him. I couldn’t give him the chance to use more magic!

Fool. While he had suffered some setbacks, Ares still felt assured of his victory.

I gained an even more powerful skill after you were gone, Gideon. One that only a Sage can learn. Successive Activation allows me to cast a mystic art and clerical art one after the other using alternate hands. I’ve already got an instant-death spell ready and waiting for you. That pathetic blessing of yours doesn’t have any resistances to instant-death attacks. Without Rit’s spirit magic, you’re naught but a paper tiger! I admit that your guile has proven vexing, but even you can’t deal with a skill you don’t know about! Our battle ends here!

Ares extended his left arm, Tisse’s knife still sticking from it, and prepared to loose the spell that would finally do away with the biggest thorn in his side. However, his pointer finger moved in a way that he had not intended. The magic seal Ares was forming became disrupted, and the spell failed.

“What?!?!” Furious, Ares whirled to find Tisse lying in a puddle of blood with a grin on her face.

“Don’t underestimate my friend!”

Mister Crawly Wawly had spun a thread around Ares’s finger, and Tisse had pulled it. Red hadn’t known about Successive Activation, but she had. She had been waiting for this moment.

Mister Crawly Wawly was no common spider. He and Tisse had grown stronger and closer together. He possessed the Divine Blessing of the Warrior. While one of the lowest-tier blessings, capable of nothing more than simple physical buffs, it was enough to keep the arachnid alive after being stepped on.

Mister Crawly Wawly had not leaped out without a plan. He had endured Ares’s boot to wind that thread around the man’s finger.

“B-but I couldn’t possibly have missed that!”

Usually, Ares would indeed have been able to sense what Mister Crawly Wawly was doing since he was so much weaker relative to the Sage.

“Heh, heh-heh…” Godwin laughed listlessly from where he lay. “…Riskin’ my life for a damn spider… Damn, this is a low point for me…”

The thunderstone, smoke wand, and his seemingly futile resistance had all been a distraction so that Ares wouldn’t catch wise to Mister Crawly Wawly.


With Red closing in, Ares desperately tried to cast another spell.

Tisse, Godwin, and Mister Crawly Wawly had risked themselves to buy time, yet all it had won was a single extra second. Regardless, the three of them believed that brief moment to be enough. They trusted that it would be enough time for Red to win.

My Thunderwaker severed Ares’s right hand midway through it preparing to cast a spell.


Ignoring Ares’s screams, I lopped off his left hand, too.

“Forming a seal with your hand is a fundamental requirement to activate magic! Your magic is useless now!” I declared.

“Ahhhhhh! Arrrrrrrrrrrgh!!!”

Two strokes of my sword was all it took to rob the man of everything that defined him as a Sage.

“It’s over now, Ares.” I raised my weapon. There was just one final blow left to deal.

“S-save me! Shisandan! He’s going to kill me! Theodora! Give me my hands back! Someone! Someone save me! Please, help!” Ares slumped to the floor, writhing and begging for aid. But there was no one left to answer Ares’s call. “Wh-why?! Why is it always you?! I’m stronger! Wiser! Why did everyone choose you?!”

“You really haven’t figured it out?” I asked.

Ares looked at me, eyes filled with despair. “P-please, spare me. I—I was just trying to be the Sage, Gideon… I was… I was just…”

“No more.”

Thunderwaker sped down with all my strength behind it. The sword cleaved down from one shoulder through to the opposite hip, splitting Ares diagonally. He coughed up blood.

“M-my…dream…” Ares’s words burbled through his bloody lips as he stretched his still-bleeding limbs toward the ceiling, as if reaching after something none but he could see. Godwin, Mister Crawly Wawly, Tisse, Rit, and I all watched in silence. With a gruesome sound, he hacked up more crimson liquid. “…Father…”

There was an almost childlike innocence to his voice as he went limp.

Ares the Sage was dead.

Danan shuddered feebly. He had used up all his strength. Seeing that, Albert frantically moved from outside the elevator shaft to support him.

“Are you okay, sir?”

Danan took the Extra Cure potion Albert offered, his last one, and downed it in a single gulp. The wounds covering his body closed back up. Massive, grotesquely colored bruises dotted Danan’s body. He had suffered incredible internal trauma that Healer magic alone would not be able to resolve.

“I’m just a little tired ’s all,” said the Martial Artist.

“Any normal person would have been long since dead. And cure potions can’t bring back the blood you lost,” Albert remarked.

“It’s just blood. All I’ve gotta do is eat some meat to get more of the stuff.” Danan reached into his cloak and pulled out some jerky, but Albert anxiously stopped him.

“You can’t! Your organs are all shredded, remember? Look, the elevator is here. We should head up.”

The central elevator had been thoroughly destroyed, but the left and right ones were still functioning. While Danan was busy saving Red and Rit, Albert had been frantically messing with the control panel and had somehow managed to call an elevator.

“Tch, normally I’d just run straight up a shaft like this.”

“…Without any magic…?”

Albert helped Danan into the elevator.

“I don’t get what Theodora was doing at all. She chose to side with Ares and Shisandan but still wants you to save me. That woman’s all over the place. I thought she was just bluffing to keep my surviving a secret, but I don’t think that was it.”

Back in the casket room, Theodora had inconspicuously confirmed that Danan was still alive and then promised to help Ares and Shisandan. The declaration had surprised Ares, but he was happy that someone finally seemed to understand his grand designs. It was Theodora who had suggested he and Shisandan head for the hall.

While that was happening, Albert, who Theodora had made invisible via magic, had waited until they were all gone and then given Danan a cure potion and administered some basic first aid.

“Indeed… If I had to guess, I’d say Ms. Theodora doesn’t understand it herself, either. Her actions were contradictory because she was conflicted and didn’t know what she wanted,” Albert stated.

“Nothing makes any sense!” Danan scowled, conveying a deep dissatisfaction. “If she really did stand against the Hero, then she’s already dead.”

“Really? Ms. Theodora is exceptionally capable, though,” replied Albert.

“She is. She, Ares, and I are all strong enough to take on a few thousand soldier demons alone and win. But the Hero is leagues past us.”

“…She’s that strong?”

“If they fought, Theodora would have no chance of winning. Even if it was me, Ares, Theodora, Yarandrala, and Red, we’d still lose outright.”

Albert looked uneasy. He realized the reason Danan was so bothered was that he was certain Theodora was dead.

Perhaps sensing Albert’s tension, Danan whispered, “Sorry, if I could move just a little more, I could have carried you with me up one of the shafts. We’d have been there in no time.”

There was a metallic clang.

Ruti, clad in armor, slammed into the floor without so much as an attempt to control her tumble.


Shisandan landed nimbly, but Ruti was unconcerned with the creature. She blankly stared up at the hole in the ceiling above her. The Asura demon readied his four Sacred Avengers.

“So how do you feel, Hero?”

“Why? All I wanted was to live in peace with my brother.”

“So the ego is still intact.”

Ruti was not looking at Shisandan. Were she the Hero, her gaze would have been fixed on the demon, ready to smite him.

“Ruti the Hero, you truly are a grievous threat. As an Asura demon, I must slay you here.”

Shisandan gripped his weapons tight. The glow of the Sacred Avengers intensified as a powerful strength flowed into Shisandan.

“You are strong. But the Sacred Avengers were holy swords created to slay beings like you. And with an Asura wielding them, there is no way they will fail!”

Though his opponent was an unarmed girl, Shisandan made no effort to hold back. He leaped forward, all four of his blades poised to strike. However, Ruti slowly rose to her feet and fended off Shisandan’s attack with her broken holy sword.

“Grahhhhhhhhh!!!” Shisandan roared, and the brilliance coming off his weapons intensified. Finally, one of his strikes found purchase on Ruti’s left arm. The girl pulled black, bleeding from the cut.

“…Is it really such a crime for me to live a normal life…?” she asked.

“How ironic that the blessing designed to prevent this very sort of situation ended up fostering the mental fortitude needed to endure its impulses. Yes, you must live as the Hero. Such is what the world demands.”

“The world?”

“Admittedly, we Asura bear some responsibility for your current situation. I won’t deny we’ve done a terrible thing to you. We had no choice but to defeat the previous demon lord and take the throne. No one, including God himself, will accept the Hero abandoning her duty and living in peace.”

Ruti could not understand what Shisandan was saying. She threw her broken sword down with a clatter. “I never once asked for this. I don’t want this strength.”

“Pick up the sword,” demanded the demon.

Ruti’s left hand hung limp. She shuddered as if cowering from the very air around her.

Shisandan tossed one of his blades before the young woman. “Take up your sword, Ruti the Hero.”

However, she didn’t so much as glance at it.

“This terrible feeling in my chest. It’s thanks to you that I’m able to remember it after so long. Wrath… Rage.”

Shisandan steadied himself. Readying his three holy blades, he charged Ruti, intending to sever her head from her neck the moment he was close enough.

That power… Even if Devil’s Blessing was the impetus, to think she would have manifested it so clearly. I have a duty as an Asura and as one who wields these swords. She must be stopped now.

Long ago, Red had taught Ruti the Bahamut Knights’ style of swordsmanship. Using that as a base, she had developed her own form—a way of fighting unique to the Hero. However, practiced stances and motions were the furthest things from Ruti’s mind at present. She wanted nothing more than to vent all the savage emotions swirling in her heart.

Slowly, she pulled her right hand back. “Give. Me. Back. My. Brother. And. My. Life.” Ruti put her burning fury into her words, verbalizing the feeling that had driven her into such a blind frenzy. All that remained was to blow everything away.

From Shisandan’s point of view, the girl vanished.

How can she move so quickly?! The demon hurried to assume a defensive position. Swift or not, she’s fighting bare-handed. I need only meet her attack with my swords and cut her down!

Shisandan crossed his swords in front of him to catch Ruti’s incoming attack.


For the first time in her life, young woman let out a battle cry. The ever calm and collected Hero was gone. This was Ruti.


In an instant, it was over.

Strength drained from Shisandan’s arms, and the swords in his hands slipped to the floor. Ruti’s fist had completely shattered all three of the holy blades bequeathed to the first Hero by God.


Thick, red liquid spilled from Shisandan’s mouth. He pressed a trembling hand to his lips.

This is…a fatal wound…

Typically, the Asura demon would have pressed a hand against the injury to help staunch the flow of blood, but even with all six of his arms, he wouldn’t have been able to cover the giant hole blown through his stomach.

Still, she touched the Sacred Avengers. At the very least, that is a victory. A satisfied smile crossed Shisandan’s face as he collapsed. The Asura demon did not move again. He was dead.

“That should do it.”

I fished the fragments of Theodora’s armor out of her wound and then had her drink a cure potion. That was enough to stabilize her.

“Why are you helping her?” Godwin asked in annoyance.

“Because she’s my comrade.”

“Huh? Even if it was indirect, she was trying to kill you.”

“Yep, but she’s still my comrade.”

“I hate bad guys who don’t realize they’re evil, but I don’t like this kinda saintly act, either.”

I could only manage a wry smile at Godwin’s anger.

“It’s not that at all. I’m not saying she wasn’t the enemy. She was. It’s just…” I glanced down at my still-trembling hand. “Whether she was a foe or not, I don’t want my sister to suffer the feeling of having killed someone she traveled with for so long.”

Ares was our enemy. I didn’t regret killing him. However, I wasn’t able to simply discard him as some faceless opponent. We’d spent a lot of time together.

“If that’s all, then okay, I guess…” Godwin looked a little bit ashamed and just dropped the matter.

“More importantly, we need to go help Ruti now,” I said.

Everyone had downed a cure potion, and Rit had used her spirit magic to heal Mister Crawly Wawly since he couldn’t drink one. Even so, it was evident that we were in pretty rough shape.

“Are you going to go, Red?” asked Rit.

“Of course,” I replied.

“Then I’ll go, too,” Tisse stated as she stood up.

Mister Crawly Wawly was resting in Rit’s hands, but when Tisse stood up, he raised his leg to indicate he would come as well.

“I’ll be all right. You just focus on recovering, Mister Crawly Wawly,” Tisse said to the spider.

“Sorry. If I could only focus my magic better…,” Rit apologized.

“You’ve done more than enough considering all your injuries. Thank you for healing him.”

Out of everyone, Rit had been hurt the worst. She had taken a direct hit from one of Ares’s spells. There were still gruesome burns and cuts all over her body. The wound on her leg hadn’t fully closed, either, forcing her to sit awkwardly on the ground.

“Taking out Shisandan will put an end to this. After that, we just need to find Danan and get out of here,” I affirmed.

No sooner had I done so than a scream reverberated up from the hole in the floor. An intense crash accompanied the cry.

“Ruti?!” I exclaimed.

It was unmistakably my sister’s voice, but she never shouted like that, even in battle.

I rushed over to the aperture, Thunderwaker in hand, ready to jump. However, a figure leaped nimbly up out of the hole before I had a chance and landed right in front of me.

“Ruti! I’m so glad you’re safe.”

It was indeed my little sister, but there was no expression on her face. One of the Holy Demon Slayers Shisandan had been wielding dangled loosely in her right hand.

“Ruti? Are you okay?” Something wasn’t right. I started to approach her. “Huh?”

Suddenly, Tisse violently grabbed my shoulder, pulling me back and putting herself between Ruti and me. Then there was a terrible sound and a streak of blood.


Crimson dripped slowly from the Holy Demon Slayer. Tisse dropped to the ground. Thankfully, I managed to catch her, but a scarlet stain began to spread across her clothes before my eyes.

“No…Ms. Ruti…he’s…your brother…don’t…hurt him…”

Ruti had attacked Tisse. Her gaze remained fixed on us, face still utterly blank.

“Th-the murderous impulses from the medicine!” Godwin shouted.

He was referring to the Devil’s Blessing’s side effect. Memories of what had happened a while back in Zoltan flashed through my mind.

Could it really have affected Ruti?!

Swords met, and a metallic screech echoed through the hall.

“Rit! Godwin! Take care of Tisse!” I set the wounded girl down and put all my strength into my arms, locking swords with Ruti. Wasting no time, Godwin grabbed Tisse’s limp body.


The moment I spared a glance away from her, Ruti kicked me in the stomach. My body howled in pain from the violent shock. Immediately, she followed it up with a slash that I caught with Thunderwaker.

My ears caught a distinct fracturing sound. I sprang backward several paces to get some distance from Ruti. Once I did, I looked down at Thunderwaker.

“…Thank you for everything…”

The weapon’s blade was dotted with deep fractures. It was barely holding together after blocking Ruti’s attack. Thunderwaker would probably never fight again. If it hadn’t survived that slash for me, I would have been split in two. To the very end, that sword had been a true masterpiece.

I gently set Thunderwaker on the floor and placed my hand on the hilt of the bronze sword hanging at my waist. I assumed a stance, ready to face Ruti.

“A-are you crazy?! You really think you can fight with that shitty thing?!” Godwin shouted from behind me.

His outburst certainly wasn’t without merit. A bronze sword was a cheap little thing not remotely comparable to Thunderwaker.

Ruti slowly raised her weapon. I focused every bit of myself on her. This was undoubtedly going to end quickly.

Bronze swords were weak, and their blades dull. That was because bronze was a more pliable material than steel. That malleability meant it would never be as strong as steel, but I had no other option.

Matching my timing to Ruti’s strike, I drew the sword not from the hilt, but from beneath the cross guard, holding it by the blade.

This was called Bahamut-style cross-guard reversal. It was not a martial art granted by a blessing. Just an ordinary technique one had to practice to learn. A defensive maneuver where you drew the sword by the blade and used the guard and hilt to catch the opponent’s cut. It was a technique that only worked with equipment like the steel longswords the Bahamut Knights used where the blade, grip, and guard were all forged as a single piece of steel. Thankfully, my bronze sword had similarly been cast in a single mold.

Typically, the reversal demanded you be wearing gauntlets. You were gripping an edge, after all. However, with a dull bronze sword, I wasn’t going to lose any fingers doing it bare-handed.

Ruti’s vertical slash sped down. This was a Holy Demon Slayer, a weapon that had already destroyed a renowned blade. A bronze sword couldn’t hope to meet it on even terms. Fortunately, because of the extreme difference in hardness, the bronze sword didn’t snap outright. Instead, the Holy Demon Slayer cut into it like a knife into butter, moving from the hilt down into the blade itself.


At that precise moment, I gripped tight and twisted with every bit of strength I had.

Ruti’s weapon was embedded in the bronze sword, so when I rotated the bronze sword, the holy blade’s momentum was added to the turn. The combined force of it all wrested the Holy Demon Slayer from Ruti’s grip.

There was a clatter as both blades fell to the floor.

It was almost like using a wooden shield to steal an opponent’s weapon, but this was the first time I’d ever done it with a sword. Thankfully, it actually worked!

While Ruti was without an armament, so was I, and she still had magic and boundless raw strength. My loss was guaranteed.

“…” Ruti stopped moving. She didn’t rear back to unleash a deadly punch.

“I’m so glad we asked Godwin about Devil’s Blessing before all this,” I muttered.

Devil’s Blessing’s violent urges were brought about by the demon blessing it imbued. But the drug Ruti took was different. The blessing it manifested was one born from within Ruti. Thus, there was no reason for it to drive her to murder, since there was no way she would ever want to go around killing people. As her older brother, I was confident in that.

Since it wasn’t the medicine, the source of her sudden outburst had to be elsewhere. By process of elimination, there was only one other source.

“Her other blessing. The Hero’s blessing.”

It was the blessing’s last stand in the face of Ruti’s determination to walk her own path. Perhaps Shisandan’s strange swords had somehow spurred it on. The Hero had intended to kill any who had dared to allow Ruti to abandon her quest.

A single teardrop fell to the floor. I moved closer to Ruti and gently pulled her into a hug.

“Kh… Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaggggghhhhhh!!!”

Words couldn’t express how terrible being forced to attack her best friend, Tisse, and me had been for Ruti. She screamed in a swirl of rage, grief, regret, and relief, bawling as I held her in my arms.

There was a clank as the elevator’s brakes engaged.

“Hn? Guess things really have resolved already.”

Danan and Albert stepped out of the lift.

Huh? What’s Albert doing here?

“Theodora!” Seeing the Crusader collapsed on the ground, Albert turned pale and sprinted over.

“She’s okay. The wound is deep, but it’s not life-threatening,” I assured.

“…Thank God…”

Evidently, he had been with Theodora. There was a lot that needed clarifying, including things with Ares, but the time for that was later.

Danan seemed shocked to see the Hero crying.

“I owe you for earlier, Danan. Thank you,” I said.

“I don’t need your thanks. Sorry I was late,” replied the burly man.

“And I don’t need your apology… Shisandan is dead… Ares, too. It’s all settled.”

“I see.”

Danan and I glanced over at the Ares’s lifeless body. Neither of us was entirely pleased about the victory.

“Red! Ruti!” Rit suddenly cried. “I can’t heal Tisse wounds with my magic! Hurry!”

Ruti immediately left my arms and rushed to Tisse without even bothering to wipe the tears from her face. Danan and I hurried after her.


The girl’s face was pale, and she was unconscious. Her clothes were stained a deep-red shade.

“She’s stopped breathing, and there’s no pulse!” Rit was on the verge of tears, realizing that her magic and potions wouldn’t be enough to save Tisse.

“Leave it to me,” Ruti stated, holding out her right hand. The Hero’s skill Healing Hands was capable of restoring someone’s body even from the verge of death. It was an entirely different process from the typical Cure spell. It was an incomparable ability that rivaled the most powerful clerical arts, even at level 1. Not only that, but its effect also increased dramatically as the skill level grew. Even if Tisse was beyond the help that Rit could provide, Ruti would save her.

Unfortunately, nothing happened.

“Why?! …I can’t connect with my blessing!!!” she exclaimed.

“What? Did it temporarily stop responding after that rampage?!” I asked frantically. Then I recalled something I’d heard when I had spoken with the wild elves about their hidden medicines. Frequent use of substances that manipulated blessings could lead to blessings falling into slumber. This was how they referred to a temporary loss of power.

The cause was different, but the end result seemed the same—Ruti had temporarily lost access to the powers of the Hero.

“Why?! Why?! …You’re the one who was always dragging me around, pushing me into battles I never wanted to fight… You’re the one who hurt Tisse…so why are you shutting up the only time I actually want your help?!” No matter how much Ruti tried to access the Hero’s abilities, regardless of her tearful pleadings, the blessing did not respond.

“Ruti…” Tisse was dying before our very eyes, and there was nothing we could do.

Mister Crawly Wawly tilted his head as he tapped Tisse’s hand with both his legs over and over, trying to wake her up. When she saw him, she didn’t smile as she usually did.

“H-hey… You guys are all heroes, right? Isn’t there anything you can do?!” Godwin shouted as he watched on.

Neither Danan nor I had any way to save Tisse now.

“Nooo! I finally…made a friend…and I…I…with my own hands!!!” Ruti wrapped Tisse in her arms and started crying.

There must be something…something I can do! If only my blessing hadn’t been Guide! If I could just use magic!

“Let me see what I can do,” called a voice from behind us. Theodora, supported by Albert, was staggering over.

“Theodora…,” Ruti whispered.

“My role is to heal my comrades.”

Danan and I stepped aside to let her through.

“C-can we really trust her?” Godwin asked nervously.

As far as he was concerned, the woman was an enemy who had appeared out of nowhere and pushed Rit and me to the edge of death, so his doubt was understandable.

“Yeah, it’s okay,” I replied. My faith in her had never wavered.

“Thank you for trusting me, Gideon.” Theodora smiled weakly and had Albert lower her down next to Tisse and Ruti. “Regenerate.”

The high-level clerical art spell enveloped Tisse’s form in a warm glow. Her massive wound gradually closed, and the color returned to her face.

“Her pulse is back!” Rit was crying as she held Tisse’s arm, her face filled with joy.

Ruti placed her cheek right next to Tisse’s lips. “Her breathing, too,” she managed hoarsely.

Tisse was saved!

“That should suffice.” Having finished her work, Theodora exhaled deeply, losing strength and collapsing against Albert. “My apologies for setting such a pathetic example,” she said to him.

“Don’t worry about it. Now you should focus on tending to your own injuries! I used all of the cure potions on Danan. I don’t have any left!”

Yet Theodora made no attempt to heal her own wounds. Instead, she looked listlessly at Ruti. “I won’t ask you to forgive me. I still believe that I had no choice but to do what I did.”

“…Even if that meant killing Big Brother?”

“It was for the sake of saving the world. You have no more intention of continuing as the Hero, right?”


“Of course not. Out of all of us, you alone were forced into the fight. No one has the right to judge you for finally living as you please.”

“I never would have expected you to say that,” Ruti admitted.

Theodora’s voice was spiritless. She claimed she’d had no other choice, but her eyes betrayed regret.

“Why didn’t you chase after Gideon when he left?” the Crusader asked Ruti.


“Because finding him was not important to the Hero’s journey? That doesn’t seem right to me. Our party crumbled without him. You had to have recognized that, too.”


“So your blessing should have allowed you to chase after Gideon, then. His absence was disrupting the quest. Still, it didn’t let you go to find him. For the longest time, I pondered why that was.” A self-deprecating smile crossed Theodora’s lips. “The answer was that Ares, Danan, me…even Gideon…not a single one of us was necessary to the Hero anymore. Even if our party dissolved, you could keep going alone, pushing ever forward without any need to sleep, eat, or drink. It was only kind mercy that kept you with us. Am I right?”

“…Yes,” Ruti whispered softly.

So that was how it was. I had thought I was holding the party back, but from Ruti’s perspective, every one of us was already nothing more than a burden.

“If you had continued, you would have reached a point where you were just pressing onward all alone, without ever stopping. Who would ever wish for such a life? Endless travel alone across the harsh lands of the dark continent would drive anyone into misery. But the Hero experiences no fear, no despair… As dull as I am, I realized one day just how lonely and cruel a fate it is to be you,” said Theodora.

“Then, why?” Ruti pressed.

“Because you had to continue. Naturally, you questioned why it was your responsibility to safeguard a world that forced you into such a terrible role. However, I trusted that the Hero was the only one who could save everyone. I believed this world was something worth protecting, even if it meant sacrificing a young girl or dirtying my hands with the blood of her beloved brother. That is why Almighty Demis created the Divine Blessing of the Hero, and why I was born with the Divine Blessing of the Crusader. As a member of the clergy, that was my conclusion. Regardless of the erasure of your free will, I accepted that you had to live as the Hero.”

“Theodora…but I…”

“I failed, though. God and the world will decide whether I was right or wrong, but I will not interfere any longer. I pray you have a free and happy life.” With that, Theodora averted her eyes. “Thank you for everything, but this is enough. Please kill me. I betrayed you. I tried to murder someone precious to you, a man who was a precious friend to me. It is unforgivable.”

Tisse stirred slightly in Ruti’s arms. Seeing that, Theodora smiled ever so slightly.

“I’m glad I was at least able to save your friend… I was always a burden, but perhaps this means I managed to fulfill my duty, if only slightly.”

Ruti looked at her, remaining silent.

“Please, wait!” Albert shouted. “I—I know this is probably not something someone as mediocre as I has any right to be saying! But please, forgive Ms. Theodora!”

“Albert…,” I muttered.

The once-haughty and prideful man was now lowering his head for the sake of another. I never thought I’d see the day.

“I always dreamed of becoming a hero. The kind who could change the fate of the world. I dreamed of being like all of you. But I never understood how terrible that life could be. Ms. Theodora didn’t know what to do. She was always struggling with it. Though it seemed she sided with a demon, she turned around and protected Mr. Danan. Her actions were inconsistent. But that’s because Ms. Theodora couldn’t reconcile Demis’s teachings and her own feelings for her friends. She may have been mistaken, even foolish, but she was a true hero. She fought for the world as best she knew how. So please, I beg you, spare her life!” Head still lowered, Albert was pleading desperately with Ruti. It was something that only he, a man who’d wanted more than anyone to become a hero and failed, could say.

Ruti gave no reply, her gaze fixed on Albert for a few moments. After a bit, Tisse finally opened her eyes.

“Ms. Ruti…you’re okay…”


While not nearly fully recovered, the Assassin was looking much better. After some proper rest, she would be able to move again. Seeing her open her eyes, Mister Crawly Wawly joyously leaped onto her shoulder. Watching him dancing so happily brought a smile to Tisse’s face.

“Yes, I’m sorry for troubling you,” she managed.

“Please don’t. Me worrying isn’t something you need to apologize for… I’m glad you’re safe now, and I’m sorry for hurting you.” Ruti gently embraced Tisse, relieved.

I was glad, too, of course—we all were. Grinning, Rit took my hand.

Ruti faced Albert and Theodora with a soft expression. “It’s okay. I can’t forgive you for trying to hurt Big Brother or Rit, but it’s because of you that Tisse is alive. So I can leave it be.”

Ruti glanced over at Rit and me.

“Tisse is my friend, too. And besides, the only wounds I have are from Shisandan and Ares,” I said.

“She’s mine as well. She risked her life to protect me. I’m just glad she’s okay,” Rit added.

Ruti nodded. “No one holds a grudge against you, so I won’t do anything, but…” She glanced down for a moment before continuing. Although her voice sounded apologetic, it carried a clear determination. “I am going to live my life as Ruti.”

“I see,” replied Theodora.

My little sister was silent for a moment, as if she was pondering the best way to express her feelings.

“I never once thought of myself as a hero. And I’d say that, if anything, you were the real hero. You’re the one who struggled, fought, and bore so many wounds for the sake of the world.”

“Me? That’s absurd…,” Theodora refuted.

“You’re the one who tried to save the world. Even though you’re wounded, you still agonize over what is right. I think perseverance is the true proof of the hero.”

Having said her piece, Ruti passed the broken Holy Demon Slayer to Theodora. The woman stared at the blade, taking in Ruti’s words, trying to wrap her head around it.

“Theodora, I think the real hero is meant to be lonely,” I said.

“What do you mean?”

“I’m not talking about someone who just happens to have the right Divine Blessing, but a person who sets out to help because they chose to do so. They wouldn’t be nearly as strong as the Hero, but they would draw a group of heroes to them who all sought to save the world. Working together, they could even defeat the demon lord in time. True heroes are those who fight for others because they want to, regardless of what a blessing commands.”

Theodora sank into thought for a little bit. Gradually, her expression relaxed. Finally, she placed her hand to her own wound and healed herself with magic.

“Gideon… No, Red.”


“Do you think I can become a guide?”

“I don’t have any inherent skills. So if you wanted to, I’m sure you could do it.”

“I see… Searching out and instructing the kind of people you described sounds a lot better than turning my spear on my comrades for the sake of heavenly law.” She glanced down at the broken Holy Demon Slayer, looking at the face reflected in the blade. What met her gaze was a woman at peace.

And with that, the battle in the ancient elf ruins drew to a close. Everyone rested there for a day, and the following morning, we made the trip back to Zoltan.

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