It’s Ko-Fi’s Supporters’ chapter (54/87), enjoy~
When Ain woke up, he found an unfamiliar ceiling.
The room was dimly lit, and if the woman he loved had been there, he might have gotten into a good mood, but ─ well, that’s enough escaping reality for now.
“…Can someone please tell me where I am? Where is this place?”
As he sat up, he realized that he was lying on the couch. At least he knew he was not in a tent.
He looked around and saw all the artistic furniture. The room was carpeted in black.
Suddenly, the door of the room started to open.
What came in front of Ain, who was bracing himself?
“Oya. Are you awake?”
The armor has blue streaks all over its body. The face is also covered by a helmet, so it is impossible to see the face.
“Yes, my body is armor. …Now, please drink this first.”
The mysterious armor placed a single teacup beside Ain and stood quietly away from him.
“Oops, my bad. I’ve just brought you tea made from the leaves of the elder tree.”
As Ain was thinking about this amazing creature, the armor said,
“This is a Huorn that has lived for nearly a thousand years. It is a precious ingredient, but we have prepared it for someone like you. Please enjoy it.”
“…I don’t know what that means, but I’ll take it.”
If he didn’t drink it, the conversation would go nowhere.
Let’s just get on with it. Even if it’s poisoned, it won’t work ── that was just an excuse, though.
The truth is, he didn’t feel like he could escape. Because the armor in front of him seemed to be more powerful than Lloyd. Not only could he not find a single opening, but it seemed as if it could take Ain’s head at any moment.
So, Ain sipped at the cup as if he were giving up.
“I’m glad to hear that. If you can calm your mind, you will be able to return to your knight immediately.”
“I-is that so? Where is this place?”
It was not the time to be relaxed by the taste of the tea.
“If you promise to drink up the tea, I’ll let you know.”
It was unpleasant to be stuck in the middle of it, but it was unavoidable when everything was unknown.
“All right. I’ll drink it, so just tell me.”
“Very well. Now… where should I start?”
“Start from the beginning, of course.”
Then the armor comes a few steps closer.
“The first reason I brought you here is to warn you. It is best not to use Ramza-sama’s or Misty-sama’s techniques in this area.”
“Sorry, could you be more specific?”
“I apologize… I was referring to Ramza-sama the Dullahan and Misty-sama the Elder Lich.”
“Oh, so you’re saying I shouldn’t have used my illusory hand?”
“As you may have guessed, yes. Your vessel is still too unstable. We must prevent accidents from happening.”
Ain nodded his head as he sipped his tea.
“I apologize for forcing you to come with me.”
The first impression of the armor was that he was strangely polite.
Then Ain asked.
“By any chance, were you the one who brought the eight-eyed rabbits?”
“Yes. I saw you in the forest, regretting that you let it escape.”
“Oh… so that gaze at that time?”
“Yes, that was me too.”
Ain understood from this reply.
The mysterious presence that Chris had mentioned before was not the Upashikamui. The owner of that presence was the armor in front of him, and it had never been defeated.
“I apologize for the late introduction.”
The armor straightens its back and speaks in a dignified manner.
“My name is Marco, and I am the vice commander of the Demon Lord’s royal knight, also known as the Black Knights. My race is undead, a Living Armor.”
Every single word caught Ain’s interest.
(That means this place is…)
It’s almost certainly in the Demon Lord’s castle. In other words, Ain has been kidnapped into the Demon Lord’s castle.
It was difficult to find out his true intentions, but he decided to take advantage of the situation.
“No, you can call me Marco.”
“Marco, then. What do you mean I’m unstable?”
“The only explanation I can give you is that your vessel is not fixed. I’m sorry I can’t explain it better.”
“Vessel…? Vessel, huh? Vessel…”
Marco didn’t seem to be hiding anything, and Ain can feel that he was speaking the truth. So, even if he asks more about it, he will not get the answer he wants.
“All right, let’s leave it at that. Well, next. Can you tell me about the accident that needs to be prevented?”
At this point, Marco’s voice changed to a serious tone.
“It could cause your core to go out of control as Her Majesty did.”
The one that came to Ain’s mind when he said that was the Demon Lord.
“You mean I might lose my mind and go berserk like the Demon Lord Arche?”
“That’s correct. The curse of that beast has not completely disappeared in this land yet. So please forgive me if I speak of it.”
He wondered for a moment, but as soon as he recalled the purpose of his investigation, it clicked into his mind.
“I guess you get the idea.”
“Yeah, I’m afraid so.”
Just in time, Ain gulped down the remaining tea.
“The leaves of the elder tree have a calming effect on the mind. It also has a psychic defense effect, which is especially good in a case like this.”
Marco said, folding his knees beside Ain.
“Why? Why did you bother to warn me that I was going out of control, and why did you protect me?”
What’s the point of caring about him like this? A question arose in Ain’s mind.
When the Demon Lord ran amok, they were enemies, so why should he go to this much trouble to help him?
“Is that what you were thinking? It is only natural for a knight to serve the royal family.”
“You’re not wrong, but I’m royalty of Ishtalika.”
So there is no need to stand up so much; Ain thought he had said so.
But Marco opened his mouth in a strange way.
“Y-yes. So, I will serve the royal family of Ishtalika. I think it’s a natural thing.”
“…That’s a wonderful chivalry spirit.”
Or should that be other countries? He can be polite even to the royalty in such a different position. This is a chivalrous spirit that can only be described as brilliant.
But again, Ain thought that the two people who dwell in him must have an effect on Marco.
In any case, Dullahan, who was a member of the Demon Lord’s entourage, and the Elder Lich. It is more likely that Marco, who was the vice commander of the Demon Lord’s royal knights, would have welcomed Ain graciously and given him advice.
“I am honored by your praise.”
At any rate, it’s safe to say that Marco is not an enemy.
“You need to be extra careful. That beast has been waiting for you to return, after all. Your presence was essential for it to settle its grudge against the royal family of Ishtalika.”
“Waiting for me?”
“Yes. The other day, it was the same with the Upashikamui. It was originally the lord of this area. But the curse from that beast caused it to lose its mind, and it hid in the mountains until you came along. Originally, I would have come to defeat it, but… I’m sorry. I can’t leave the castle for a long time for some reason.”
“W-well, you’re a knight of the Demon Lord’s castle, after all… Yeah. But, do you mean it about the Red Fox? Does this mean that all of this was aimed at me, even the manipulation of Sage in Ist?”
“…I don’t know what that beast is planning to do now.”
“But it’s after me and the royal family? That doesn’t make much sense.”
“I think it was all inevitable.”
While he avoided saying it explicitly, the words strongly shook Ain’s mind.
“You are still too unstable to know much. Please be strong. And you have to know everything.”
Oh, it’s the vessel again. It’s a word that he is quite familiar with these days. But what exactly is a vessel? The word is too abstract to understand.
“You seem to be much calmer now, so let me show you out.”
Without answering, Marco opened the door and invited Ain to follow him.
When he stepped outside, the sun was setting, and he could tell that not much time had passed.
It’s not exactly the Demon Lord’s castle that Ain was in. It was a room in a kind of training center for knights in the royal capital, probably the room used by Marco, the vice commander.
“I think it’s best not to go into the castle yet. You should not enter the castle until your vessel is mature.”
His mind had been read, and a look of embarrassment appeared on Ain’s face.
“If you want to find out more about that beast, I suggest you go to the south of the continent. They are targeting you and the rest of the royal family of Ishtalika, but in order to find out how they will reach out to you, you will have to move by yourself.”
“To the south?”
“Yes. After the great war, they went south and sailed from the human’s port there.”
The story connected a little. It reminds him of the case in Euro, where the Red Foxes are regarded as guardian deities on that continent.
And the human port in the south is definitely the port city of Magna.
“They’ve even secretly prepared a ship for them ── They’re so well prepared, they’re really a wonderful race.”
“Wonderful, you say? The Red Fox?”
Ain tilted his head at the unconnected words of praise.
“It’s a strange thing to say, but they did mess around with the Demon Lord. I think they’re like the plague gods that plunged Ishtalika into chaos.”
“That is…! You should never say that!”
“They watched over you closely and supported you with their brilliant minds! I do not love them… love, love…”
Suddenly, Marco fell to his knees. He pulled out the dagger he carried at his waist.
He stabbed the leg armor once, twice, and then more than ten times.
“Hah… hah… Did you see that?”
Marco looked up at Ain, out of breath.
What happened just now is probably the curse.
It’s a cursed power of the Red Fox, which makes one lose one’s ego and go berserk.
(Even the Demon Lord went berserk, but who could resist that curse?)
While calmly analyzing the situation, Ain gulped at the change that had just occurred.
At the same time, he understood. This Marco is a stronger individual than the Upashikamui.
“I also understand now the danger of losing my ego; thank you for saving me.”
The curse that caused the Demon Lord to run amok had also affected her subordinates.
“Hey, don’t you feel lonely being alone in the Demon Lord’s castle?”
“That’s very kind of you. But don’t worry about it. I have a very important mission.”
“I see… Well, there’s one last thing I need to know.”
“…Whatever you want.”
“I think several people have been investigating this place over the years. How is it that you didn’t harm those people?”
From Marco’s point of view, it was not surprising that they felt like thieves.
It’s not like they came with the power of Dullahan and the others, like this time, and he wondered how he overlooked those who stepped into the former Demon Lord’s territory with their feet on the ground.
“There is one promise that the citizens of this place must keep.”
Marco thought about the past. He seemed to be in a lighter mood, almost like an old man, calm and gentle.
“What is the promise…”
The promise was a very nice and smiling one.
In the end, Ain smiled and expressed his sincere gratitude for the encounter with Marco.
When they were parting ways, he said, “This way. This was mine in the past, but it would be good if you make a sword with it.” He was given a small wooden box, which Ain curiously held in his hand, and left the Demon Lord’s castle.
◇ ◇ ◇
The sky was already just before sunset.
After walking for a while, Ain saw Lloyd and Dill.
Both of them seemed to be looking for Ain, and they rushed over to him with a devilish expression.
“Ain-sama! Are you okay?”
“I’m sorry, Dill. I was taken away for a while.”
“Anyway, I’m glad you’re okay. I’ll take my punishment accordingly, so… where have you been?”
“In the grounds of the… Demon Lord’s castle.”
He continued to tell them about what had happened and what he had encountered.
“I think it’s because of the two people that live inside of me. That’s why he welcomed me and helped me.”
“…I suppose you’re right.”
“He also gave me some souvenirs and was a chivalrous monster. I think he deserves a lot of respect.”
“B-but, Ain-sama! If that’s the case, why didn’t he attack the investigation team so far? Since Ain-sama wasn’t present, it wouldn’t have been surprising if he had attacked them, would it?”
“I’ve also asked him about the reason for that, but it seems he was just following the Demon Lord Arche’s words.”
This is a cute reason why Ain smiled when he heard from Marco earlier.
“He said that he had been told that he had to get along with everyone.”
For a moment, Lloyd and Dill had serious faces, but the next moment, they couldn’t help but smile.
“It’s very similar to His Majesty the First’s “no invasion” policy. Huh? That might mean we were following the Demon Lord’s orders as well.”
It was a strange thing for the Demon Lord to say, but he couldn’t help but feel a connection.
On the way to the tent, Ain rebuked the two, who kept apologizing for the fact that Ain had been taken away. It was something that could not have been prevented in the first place.
Marco, who was an executive in the Demon Lord’s army, was definitely strong and could be expected to be from a different dimension.
But it was an unusual encounter.
Ain looked up at the sky, where the stars had begun to appear, and steeled himself to do his best again tomorrow.