I had naturally heard stories of the Thunder Phoenix after living in Sanshiro for many months. It was said to be a divine being that purged everything in its path, paving way for regrowth of those remaining. Like many that lived here, it was a story that was difficult to avoid unless one lived under a rock.
The very country of Sanshiro was believed to have been created after this being was summoned and purged the demons that were here before.
However, I had seen Zhao Lei Dao boldly proclaim that us Electi were demons meant to be purged. As I witnessed the belief held upon his followers who were willing to do anything and sacrifice their lives to achieve that goal, it made me wonder.
‘Who were the actual demons?’
‘Had they just been people persecuted for being different in some way?’
‘Had they been treated as such and referred to as ‘demons’ because of a misunderstanding?’
As I gazed upon the rising form of the phoenix and heard Lady Kaguya’s sense of despair that they would all perish, it made me wonder.
‘Who decided that we were worthy to be purged?’
It had been the will of one man forcing his beliefs onto all. A man who had somehow gained tremendous power and wielded it with impunity. After all, might was right in their minds, so the powerful were the ones to rewrite history.
Something about that ticked me off. It felt like a great injustice. For those around me to be endangered and killed by a being that was merely a tool being exploited, a strange anger seemed to form in the pit of my stomach.
Before I had realized it, I had walked up to Lady Kaguya, determined to do something against it.
“If we can’t escape from a God, shouldn’t we go down trying?” I said, despite having no plan formulated against it. However, my ‘Eyes of Providence’ told me that even that divine being had weak points. Perhaps, since it was the embodiment of the mana of many, my ability to cut through it would still come into play.
Lady Kaguya turned to me in surprise. “Go down trying? Tell me. How do you plan to fight against THAT?” She pointed at the humongous form in the distance. “Even if it is still immature, once you get close, it will start firing off attacks. You won’t even get close enough to strike, even if you can somehow carve it to death with your strange skill.”
“Dodging attacks, huh.” I briefly looked over at Chrys, who was latched onto Yi Long and trembling furiously from the sight of it. It was cruel of me to even briefly consider carrying her for insurance. Unlike the normal attacks that would only hurt a bit if we failed to avoid it, the phoenix emitted a power that made my hairs stand up. A gamble such as that would be fatal if even a single shot hit us during the whole run towards it.
I needed another way to minimize the danger while closing the distance fast.
“Katsys! Portals!” I called out to her, pointing above its head. “Can you send me there?”
Nodding quickly, Katsys shot a pair of connecting portals before asking, “Are you sure about this? I can try to catch you, but that’s still very dangerous.”
“No time for thinking. Just have to do it!” I jumped through the portal without any hesitation, leading to a free fall next to the giant bird-like being. My heart hadn’t prepared itself for the sudden plunge even though my mind committed to it.
“Oh my god! So scary!” Though my heart froze from the falling sensation, my mind was still strangely clear. Furiously searching for the closest weak point, I imbued my knife with mana and swung at it.
Immediately, the knife dug in and slid through its body, a large gash following the path of my fall. The mana from my attack flashed as it disrupted the mana flow of the phoenix. Moments later, the scenery around me changed as I was spit through another portal, tumbling and rolling across the ground.
Katsys had fired a portal under me and situated it such that I would come tumbling out horizontally which would lessen the impact of my fall. Thanks to her understanding of momentum conservation, the result didn’t harm me too bad, just a few scrapes and bruises.
“Man, you are crazy. I can’t believe that actually had an effect.” Wen Lu came over and helped me up. The others watched as the mana around where I carved had distorted and slowed down the awakening of the phoenix. It had tried to attack the perpetrator, but I disappeared before it could react.
“In that case, we’d better fire off as much as we can to help out. Another serving of buns for us!” Wen Zhi yelled. Afterward, someone threw the twins several buns.
Wen Zhi walked over and handed one to me. “Here. You too. Let’s take that baby bird down.”
After the three of us recovered our reserves and let the surge of power kick in, we started attacking the phoenix in tandem. The others stared on with hope, since they had no way to strike from such a distance. The fate of us all were now in the hands of my teleportation strikes that were timed by Katsys, as well as the twins’ ultimate attack. We prayed that this would be enough to take it down.
I appeared before the phoenix via portal, where I slashed it with an even greater mana slice. At this point, it had noticed my assault, so it tried to fire a wave of lightning at me. However, I slipped through another portal before it hit. All it successfully did was overload the portals and caused them to disappear.
In the meantime, Wen Lu and Wen Zhi got close enough to do their Sun and Moon combination attack. Targeting the place that I sliced, the tremendous beam of energy caused the giant bird to howl in pain. It was clearly having an effect.
Before it could do anything, I had appeared once again, this time bringing a strike down upon its back. As I disappeared into the safety of another portal, Wen Lu and Wen Zhi shifted their beam into the fresh location that I carved.
Strangely, it felt like a rather dull boss fight where I simply spammed one attack until it died. However…
‘There are no such things as cheap tactics in a life and death battle!’ my mind boldly shouted in defense.
The people in the valley stared in awe at this strange combination attack that appeared to be working against the divine being that they had, moments ago, believed would bring their end. They had no words to describe the amazing sight that was before them.
From a distance, it looked like the Sun and the Moon were casting their light down upon the Thunder Phoenix, which was accompanied by a momentary sparkle that was caused by a burst of mana from my attack.
Like a shooting star in the sky, a flash twinkled before the Sun and the Moon chased after it, casting a beam of light from each onto the body of the phoenix. In their minds, it seemed like the start of a new legend was starting to brew, one that spoke of a man that created stars that showered a guiding light to the Sun and Moon against the Gods.
As typical for those who were touched by unbelievable situations, names were immediately thrown out to characterize their thoughts.
“The one who flies with the Sun and the Moon.”
“The legendary hero who guides us against the unjust Gods.”
Unbeknownst to me, these whispers rippled through the ranks. I, on the other hand, was trying my best not to land too hard each time that my body spat out of a portal. I could barely worry about anything but cutting through weak spots time and time again before having to do a fancy dive roll to keep from hurting myself.
Perhaps, I had always felt a strange bitterness against the Gods that sent me here, because for some reason, carving down this divine being felt rather thrilling. I chuckled to myself.
‘Maybe, I have changed a bit. The past me wouldn’t even dare to dream up such a crazy plan, much less throw myself willingly into it.’
However, once I had overcome the initial fear, the familiarity of my knife carving through the weak mana flow, coupled with my enhanced senses from the food boost, had resulted in a more controlled fall, leading to a sense of enjoyment and satisfaction.
“Take that, you stupid Gods! For giving me such a weird skill! What do you have to say to that now?” I screamed out to no one in particular.
Of course, the Gods didn’t answer me back, but they didn’t have to. I could hear people at ground level cheering us on. I had plenty of people here to depend on. And in the same way, they could rely on me just as much. I refused to be a man like Zhao who sacrificed everything for his own beliefs. I would much rather find a solution together.
Pretty soon, the form of the giant phoenix had started to shrink, its mana supply shaved away with each strike of my knife and the continuous blast from the twins. Those around the valley started to celebrate, seeing that the threat had been controlled.
By the time it had shrunk to half its size, I could no longer approach it safely without getting in the way of the twins’ beam. Their attack continued as I waited nearby. When they had finally exhausted their mana supply, the form of the once daunting phoenix had shrunk to the height of two men. Located inside the bird-shaped form was the body of Zhao Lei Dao, the emblem carved on his body still shining.
Lady Kaguya and Lau approached me from behind.
“We must destroy that emblem, or it will continue to draw mana and regain its form.”
Taking my knife, I considered how I would peel the emblem off his body, but then, Lau placed a hand on my shoulder.
“Please, allow me to do this,” he said, a pensive look on his face.
“Sure, be my guest.”
Lau walked over and thrust his hand into Zhao’s chest, where the emblem had been drawn. The hand pierced straight through and out the other side. Judging from the blow, Lau had likely struck him in the heart as well.
“That is for my sworn brother.”
I suddenly remembered. Zhao had been the one who killed Jiro so many years ago. To think that Lau still harbored the bitterness from that time. Even though Zhao had killed him because of the demonification, in Lau’s mind, his friend and partner had been taken from him.
With that, the last trances of the phoenix disappeared. The mighty Thunder Phoenix Clan had literally been eradicated from Sanshiro. Though not everyone had the emblem and was sacrificed, a significant portion of the clan members, particularly from the Zhao family, had perished.
With the involvement of so many families in this attempted coup, the entire governing body used in Sanshiro was in disarray. Now, nearly half of the feudal lord positions that governed the various areas of Sanshiro had become vacant. It would take time for things to go back to normal.
At least, we could all celebrate that we were safe, and that Lady Kaguya would continue to rule the country of Sanshiro for the time being. Those that remained in power had fought with their lives to bring her back safely. All of us held our heads high as we marched back to the castle, where a celebration banquet was held the next day.
And despite his best efforts to stay out of it, Master Lau had been surprised with an announcement by Lady Kaguya, who had declared him to take Zhao’s place as head advisor of the clans. Furthermore, the Kinkou family would be the lords of Haneman from now on. With the sneers of the Zhao family no longer haunting him, Lau relented and accepted the position, letting the regrets of the past blow away like sand in a windstorm. At least, one of the demons of his past had finally been dealt with.