Chapter 78: The 『Sage』‘s choice
The battle progressed with Danan holding the advantage.
Shisandan delivered strikes one after the other with his talwar sword but his movements were dull.
The ‘Collapsing Angle Fang’ martial art that Danan released as his surprise attack caused both of Shisandan’s arms to be in a half-paralyzed state.
“Ora! You’re open! ‘Rampaging Demonic Kick’!”
A strong back kick wrapped in Ki was thrust at Shisandan’s stomach.
Shisandan’s body flew into the air along with the shock from the martial art, slamming into the wall behind him and he supported himself with both his hands as he fell to the floor.
Danan showed a ferocious grin as he continued his onslaught of violent kicks without giving Shisandan time to stand up.
Shisandan who had collapsed on the ground could not retaliate at all and could only defend one-sidedly.
Shisandan called out Ares’ name.
His plea was evident … he was asking for aid.
” ……. “
Ares did not move.
He was asking him to attack Danan, a member of the Hero party and someone he traveled with?
Impossible, impossible, impossible … Ares’ thoughts were in a mess.
Shisandan called out to Ares once again. Ares crouched down and covered his ears. He wanted to forget everything. He didn’t want to think about anything.
『Think, act, do not idle, advance, you are the Sage, your choices are always right, precisely because you are the Sage.』
Ares’ own emotions were painted over by the impulses from 『Sage』. Ares did not have the freedom to let others choose. He always had to think for himself and act accordingly. Even when his Divine Protection does not tell him which choice to make.
To act like a『Sage』. That Divine Protection called out to Ares.
“Ares! Help me!”
Shisandan cried out for the third time. He was bathed in countless blows from Danan and was desperately defending as his blood flowed freely.
The battle will come to an end soon. It held the meaning that Ares, who has been banished from the Hero party, would never be able to return to it.
That’s right, so there was no need to think about it after all.
“Gargantua Storm Javelin!”
Danan is a simple man. Similar to his own experience, Ares was trick by Shisandan as well. That was why, once he knew the true identity of Shisandan, he would naturally be hostile toward Shisandan.
That was all he thought about. Regardless of how much he hated Ares, he believed in the goodness within Ares as a member of the Hero party.
“Wha!? Ares! You bastard!?”
It was a black cloud spear that was the condensation of a huge storm that could cover an entire country. An advanced spell that only superior spell-user Divine Protections could utilize.
In an instant, Danan, whose reaction was delayed, reflexively bend his body to avoid a direct hit.
However, huge electric shock from the power of the lightning that wrapped around the spear which could rend a hundred-year-old tree ran through Danan’s body.
Danan’s body stiffened from the lightning strike. Danan’s vision blacked out for a brief second from the pain and flash of light.
During that brief moment, fresh blood splattered across the air.
Shisandan’s talwar cut deep into Danan’s flank.
When Shisandan muttered that, his talwar exploded.
The explosion ripped the wound open and the heat and shock destroyed Danan’s body from the inside.
“I believe even you won’t be able to survive having your insides destroyed.”
Nevertheless, Danan did not collapse.
Disregarding the blood that spilled to the floor from his wound, Danan wordlessly ready his clenched left fist.
“Humans are so interesting. I have never seen a 『Martial Artist』 such as yourself. Your strength surpasses your Divine Protection.”
Shisandan slowly stood up and formed a seal with his left hand. His body swelled greatly and returned to his original large frame of about two and a half meter tall.
Six well-trained arms. His tanned face returned to that of a demon with fangs.
Shisandan drew the five swords he had on his waist one after the other and displayed the original six sword martial art style of the Asura Demon.
Danan lowered his posture to meet his attack. His eyes were hollow but he had not lost his will to fight.
The six swords assaulted him consecutively like a tornado. Every single blow was filled with enough power and killing intent to split even a large elephant in half.
However, despite having wounds all over his body and partially losing consciousness, Danan could still respond to the murderous tornado with only his left hand as he broke the swords one by one.
Danan was still able to skillfully execute his martial arts which was said to be able to rend steel with just his fingers even in his current half-dead state.
“You martial artist freak. But.”
Shisandan’s right feet twisted like a snake.
All of Danan’s efforts were put into defending against the sword strikes so Shisandan’s right feet slammed into Danan’s chest.
“Gah, bu ….”
Danan felt an intense pain in his chest.
When Shisandan pulled back his right feet, a broken sword tip could be seen protruding from Danan’s chest.
“I specialize in martial arts too. Although you might only see it as acrobatics.”
Shisandan said with a laugh. Before he kicked, he grabbed a broken sword tip that was in the air with his toes and thrust it into Danan’s chest using the momentum of his kick.
“Na … h … that was … martial arts …”
Danan did not seem to care about Ares’ spear as he glared at Shisandan with a slight grin on his lips.
And finally, Danan exhausted his energy and collapsed on the floor.
Ares found that he was surprisingly calm when he saw Danan collapse.
Ares felt that his own psychology was bizarre as he imagined that he would be a lot more shaken and be stricken with guilt for attacking his companion and betraying him.
(No, that’s not it, it is because I am used to it. This is not the first time I betray a companion after all.)
Gideon’s face appeared in Ares’ head.
(We go a long way back.)
Ares joined the party when Ruti came to the Imperial Capital. In the current party, he was the most senior member after Gideon. He had also adventured with Gideon the longest if he excluded Ruti.
The two of them survived through life-and-death battles many times and had saved each other from death countless times.
While Ares hated Gideon, he trusted Gideon’s ability. Ares was most probably the person who best understood Gideon’s greatness.
(That is precisely why I chased Gideon out.)
With Gideon around, Ares can’t be the 『Sage』. Ruti will never trust him and his companions will never rely on him. Even without skills, Gideon was still a lot more sagacious than he was.
Ares finally understood the reason he chased Gideon out.
The huge Asura Demon thanked Ares.
The choice, once made, can never be reversed. Ares chose the path of betrayal to proceed with Shisandan and regain the 『Hero』 that was snatched from him.
“Let’s proceed. It is ahead, right? The Hero’s relic.”
“Yes, I believe so.”
Ares disregarded the collapsed Danan and continued deeper into the ruin along with Shisandan.
Elaborate traps were set directly in front of the room at the deepest parts of the ruin but they were easily disarmed when Shisandan channeled magical power to the Ancient-Elf control panel next to him.
It was unthinkable that the control panel for such powerful traps could be operated so easily. Just operating the Ancient-Elf ruin control panel required immensely delicate magical power manipulation.
However, the items placed within the golden box which was likely made by the Wood-Elves blew all other thoughts from Ares’ mind.
There were five long swords. Ares recognized those long swords.
“The Holy Sword of Demon Vanquishing! Bu-but this.”
The artifact-class long sword Ruti held, The Holy Sword of Demon Vanquishing. A sword passed down from God to successive generations of Heroes, a sacred and invincible sword that had slain many Demon Lords.
There were five other such swords even though there should only be one such Holy Sword in the world.
“No, that’s not it. These are not Holy Sword of Demon Vanquishing.”
Shisandan denied his claim.
“The current Holy Sword of Demon Vanquishing is a forgery of the previous generation Hero’s sword that was taken out from his grave. These are the original that were bestowed by God.”
“The-then, these are the real swords?”
“Yes. To differentiate, let’s call them the True Avenger, no, the Sacred Avenger.” (TLN: Holy Sword of Demon Vanquishing = Avenger)
Shisandan discarded the empty sheathes on his waist and extracted the Sacred Avengers one by one from the box and hung four of the swords on his waist.
Then, he passed the last one to Ares.
“In the first place, the Hero Divine Protection is similar to the Imitation Avenger that the Hero is carrying now. In other words, it is a replica of the first generation Hero’s soul made by God.”
“There are two tasks in order to make the current generation Hero become the 『Hero』.”
“Two … “
That was Ares’ goal. Ares gripped the handle of the Sacred Avenger.
“The first is to pass this Sacred Avenger to this generation’s Hero. The Avenger is similar to the Proof of the Hero in that it has the power to strengthen the Hero’s Divine Protection. Once the Divine Protection is strengthened, the impulses will similarly be strengthened. The impulses weakened by the Devil’s Divine Protection will probably recover as well.”
“Th-then, that means Ruti will return to my side!?”
“No, that alone is not sufficient. Originally, the 『Hero』 is an apparatus that embodies justice. It feels no fear, no confusion, no hesitation. For that sake, it was given a strong impulse that would override the host’s ego.”
“Then what would the second task be?”
“Why is the current generation’s Hero not the 『Hero』 but Ruti? That is because Ruti has feelings that she can’t fulfill. It is because she holds a desire that she wishes to accomplish even at the cost of the pain from the impulses.”
” … In other words, Gideon.”
Shisandan heard Ares’ mutter and nodded with satisfaction.
Around that time, Gideon, or rather Red and his companions were advancing forward to chase after Ares.
“I sense somebody battling far away.”
Red and party quickened their pace after receiving that warning from Tise.
However, at that time, Red still had no idea that Ares had already chosen a completely different path.
Their confrontation was inevitable.