709 – As a Soldier (side: Adofu)
Five days have passed since the ancient Hero Ares attacked Harenae. Over these five days, Adofu has been running through Harenae, organising those who can fight, and escorting the people they save to a building at the northern edge of the city.
Fortunately, Ares doesn’t seem to have taken an interest in their activities. He has stayed holed up in the cathedral, apparently content to be worshipped by the people he has captured, not having made any flashy moves since the first day.
“Adofu bro… Is there any point in what we’re doing? Each monster we kill is replaced twice over.”
In the shelter fake Volk, also known as Dylan, asks Adofu.
Having been persuaded by Adofu, and because Adofu saved his life, Dylan ended up staying to assist with the rescue operations. But, he holds doubts as to Adofu’s plan.
“Ares said that he’d keep up that ridiculous ritual for seven days and nights. That’s got to be why he hasn’t come out in person, right? So once those seven days are over, don’t you think he’ll come and find us…?”
“Dylan, just because you want to run away, you would lower morale by saying such things…!”
One of the present soldiers points his sword at Dylan.
“N-no, that might be part of it, that’s not it! Gathering people at the edge of Harenae will be pointless if Ares comes! Once that happens, we’ll all be wiped out!”
Dylan exclaims, refusing to stay quiet. Seething with anger, the soldier stalks closer to him.
“H-hey, Adofu bro! Not everyone is as noble as you! There must be some soldiers who want to flee too! The people we’ve saved have got to be the same! They don’t say it, but they’re thinking it! Why won’t you let us escape already!”
“That’s why you’re all so insistent on denying what I say! I’ve fought a bunch, so it’s not like I’m saying it because I’m desperate to save my life! It’s common sense to run away from an unwinnable fight! But at this rate, we’re all going to die for nothing! We should get away from this place entirely! I’m saying this because I owe you, Adofu bro! Is anything I’m saying wrong!?”
“Nothing but grumbles from you….! You just want to drag us into your desertion because you can’t bear the guilt of running away by yourself! We are all oathsworn soldiers of Harenae! You’re just a drifter and a fraud! If you want to flee, then you should run away by yourself without making such excuses!”
“F-fraud!? You dogs of a minor country! Adofu bro is one thing, but I’ve no intent of losing to the rest of you! You want to fight!? Huh!?”
Dylan responds with threats of his own, his hand moving to the handle of his sword.
“Stop, all of you. Dylan is right… If we miss our chance to leave, we’ll all die.”
Adofu admonishes the soldiers.
“B-but that would mean abandoning the people!”
“Ideals alone won’t save a person. We can’t afford to let our stubborn pride as soldiers bring harm to the people.”
“…I suppose so.”
“From what we’ve heard from the people we’ve saved, defeating Ares is impossible. He doesn’t eat or sleep. There are none of the openings that any living creature would normally present. His speech is chaotic too, so holding a dialogue seems impossible, let alone persuasion.”
Adofu glances towards the cathedral. Currently, Ares is deep inside it, and has gathered people from the surrounding area to worship him.
“This was what priest-dono said, but the Ares we saw is probably not the Hero of antiquity in pure form, but rather a puppet made from binding that Hero’s soul. The Saints are said to posses a technique that renders monsters into a similar state.”
The priest of Harenae has some knowledge of the Saint’s [Spirit Servant] skill. Those bound by the [Spirit Servant] skill lack the need for sleep or food, and are entirely unable to rebel against their master. Their actions are limited, and any thoughts or that would get in the way of fulfilling the orders are chipped away and distorted.
Ares has had his desire for conquest twisted by the commands of God’s Voice, and everything else has been cut away. The Harenae priest could not know that much, but he was able to infer the similarities between Ares’ condition and the [Spirit Servant] state.
“This is the limit. We’ve lost many soldiers, and morale is fading with each day. Today, we’ll take the people we’ve rescued and cross the desert.”
The soldiers look down.
They were aware of their situation. It was because of the need to deceive themselves that they so fervently denied Dylan’s claims.
“Cheh, when I say it you all mock me, but when Adofu bro says it, you’re all so meek. After all, the person speaking is important. That was why I took the name of the Dragon Hunter.”
Dylan complains, causing all the soldiers to glare at him.
“I-It’s the truth and you know it! Rather than blaming me, blame the weakness of your own hearts! I’m not going to apologise this time!”
“Adofu-sama, you might be right. But, my family is still in Harenae…”
One of the soldiers says.
“…We’re going to be passing through monster-infested desert on foot. We can’t disperse our fighting strength. As one who pledged an oath to Harenae, please understand.”
“But if I abandon them now, my family is dead for sure… I’ll have as good as killed them myself. Even if it’s just me, please let me stay behind…”
The soldier begs, lowering his head.
“No. Don’t drag the people into your stubbornness as a soldier.”
Amidst the gloomy atmosphere, Adofu looks at the cathedral.
“However, even though I took command, I am ultimately a traitor who turned his back on his country. Sorry, but I don’t intend on serving Harenae any longer.”
“Adofu-sama…? What do you mean…?”
“I’m going to go to the cathedral by myself and challenge Ares to a fight.”
Shocked, the soldiers all stare at Adofu.
“This is my stubbornness. If the death of the Hero Irushia was the reason that Ares was sent here, then it is my responsibility to bear. As a swordsman, too, I’ve always wanted to go out in a flashy battle. If my opponent will be an ancient Hero, then I could ask for no better.”
The soldiers can all tell that Adofu’s justifications are empty wordplay. Adofu simply could not leave the remaining citizens to die.
A soldier must not involve the people in their stubbornness. But, a soldier also cannot abandon the people who are still trapped. Should one soldier go into battle, the others will follow, which would disperse the strength that is needed to escort the people across the desert.
Adofu’s answer was to challenge Ares not as a soldier, but as a swordsman.
“You should complete your mission as soldiers and escort the people to safety.”
Adofu made the decision to remain for the sake of the soldiers who could not abandon those who would be left behind. None of them could muster the words to interfere with his determination.
“Wait, Adofu bro. By that logic, there’s no reason I can’t stay too, right?”
Dylan steps in front of Adofu.
“You…! Didn’t you want to leave the most?”
Adofu looks at Dylan in surprise.
“I’m not going to work for a minor country any longer. The one I owe a debt to is you, after all.”
Having seen true righteousness in Adofu’s majestic figure, Dylan has chosen to stake his life with him.