「彷徨の賢者」 (Houkou no Kenja)
“The Wandering Sage”
Although Saihate no Paladin is indeed an isekai series that features monsters, magic and sword fighting, it’s pace walks almost a slice of life rhythm. Personally, I enjoy it very much. There are still many mysteries and secrets as of the second episode, however slowly as we go, we’re finally introduced to the City of Ruins, that sits below the temple our small unorthodox family lives in. From what has been hinted, all three Undead parents have a connection to this land, from back when living things breathed amidst the decaying walls.
As Will prepares to set off on his journey, Blood brings him underground to practically test his abilities against unbiased enemies, the demonic inhabitants of the city. In a curious exchange, we are presented with a more shadowy and unclear side of Gus’ personality. At first I found myself confused with Will’s reaction to Gus’ serious attacks. My first thoughts were: “oh, I guess he’ll be testing Will’ skills a bit more seriously than before,” but as the scene escalates, so does the young boy’s distress. I then questioned myself, perhaps there really was a darker aspect of Gus’ behavior the author was trying to communicate.
I mentioned before that every archetype has a shadow/reversed meaning, and in the case of the magician he becomes the master of illusions, using deceit and trickery as his tools. Not to say that’s who Gus is at his core, archetypes are not just light and shadow, they’re not immutable and constant, they are both, just like us. Such a concept resonates with his nonchalant and playful attitude at the end of his ‘test.’ There’s still much we don’t know about these characters, and for one to be called The Wandering Sage and hold as much power and wisdom as Gus, I wouldn’t expect anything less than complex and eccentric out of him. By the end we’re the ones left wondering, what motives does he have to ask Will to willingly lose his fight against Blood?
「約束の日」 (Yakusoku no Hi)
‘Payday’ or the promised day, like many a fateful day, starts the eve before with a shared cup (or cups) of alcohol between Will and Blood. A tradition most common in many cultures around the world to symbolize a rite of passage from childhood into adolescence. To further strengthen this transition, Will experiences his first masturbation (in this second life), blooming into a healthy young man, much to Blood’s amusement.
There are many ways in which an author can relay a backstory relevant to the plot, yet still, after more than a decade since I’ve lost Ned Stark (for some more than two), any semblance of “I’ll tell you about your origin when I see you again,” or “when you’re older, I’ll tell you everything,” has unwillingly turned into a flag for the foreshadowing of death in my subconscious haha. So I rather enjoyed how after Will’s final test, both Mary and Blood sat with him on the hill, like real parents, and shared their stories. I’m personally a sucker for named swords–Brienne of Tarth’s ‘Oathkeeper’ and the Tarly’s ‘Heartsbane’ being some of my personal favorites. Will’s Overeater not only possesses a draconian name, it also comes with a dark, tragic and tempestuous past. 200 years ago Overeater belonged to the High King of Eternals, an overpowered tyrant who bled their continents. And death isn’t the only role that blood played in this purge, through his own blood this demonic High King was able to birth his own soldiers and through the slice of his blade, he was able to increase his life force.
Mary, Blood and Gus were a party of heroes who fought against this king to bring back peace, yet even with their incredible abilities of magic, blessing and fighting, they were reaching a point of failure. As a last resort, Mary and Gus seal the High King underneath the temple they currently inhabit. And thus, the god of the underworld, Stagnate makes his appearance and offers a contract to these three great warriors. The High King of Eternals overstepped his place in the world hierarchy, his blade and power a real menace to the gods and his reign came to an end. At last we learn the truth behind Will’s existence, he was brought to the temple as a babe as a sacrifice to break the High King’s seal–I guess my brain likes to go into dark places, I thought he’d been brought back to life through a dark circle of magic which would be paid by Mary, Blood and Gus’ soul as soon as he left.
Indeed some type of pact was made between these warriors now turned parents and the dark god, for he has come to collect his payment and Gus steps up to protect his family and intervene. I wonder though, if they’ve been kept alive as guardians to this seal, what happens once Stagnate takes their soul? And if the High King is sealed and not defeated, does that mean he will be Will’s final boss? And will that involve his Undead parents in any way? I’m curious to see what will be the outcome of this confrontation with Stagnate. It’s common on a Hero’s Journey for the protagonist to become orphaned or lose their mentor(s) through tragic means. I’m sure one of my fellow colleague writers must’ve mentioned this book at some point, but if you’re interested in learning more about this mythology/narrative, Joseph Campbell’s The Hero of a Thousand Faces is your go-to handbook.