It’s Ko-Fi’s Supporters’ chapter (70/96), enjoy~
He easily slips out of the room without the slightest disturbance on his way back.
“Ain-sama! I’m so glad you’re safe!”
“Sorry, sorry. I’ve finished what I wanted to check.”
“I’m glad to hear it. …Is that something you can tell me?”
To be honest, he would love to tell Dill right now. But he couldn’t help wondering if it was the right thing to tell him. He wondered if he should tell him honestly.
“I’m sorry. Now we have to go back to Baltic.”
“Y-you’re absolutely right. I apologize… for my haste.”
Since he could not find the best answer at the moment, Ain shelved the subject for the time being. By the time he returned to the train, he would have to figure out how to explain it, but that could wait.
“Let’s go to the great hall then.”
But before they went there, he had to warn Dill.
“Sorry. Can I ask you something?”
“Yes, what is it?”
“When we get to the great hall, no matter what happens, you shouldn’t interfere. That’s it.”
At least, Ain wants to give him a chance to fight one on one. He was determined to finish the job with the sword he had been taught.
Most importantly, Ramza has asked him to do so.
Dill, who was not convinced, walked closely behind Ain without saying a word.
The castle, which is dimly lit and looks just like the White Knight’s, is so full of its own daily life that Ain feels like he doesn’t need an escort.
──Eventually, they came to the great hall.
Marco stood motionless beneath a beautiful and opulent chandelier.
“Well, well. Have you finished your business?”
It was so quiet that he seemed to be dead, but Marco spun around and looked at him when he heard Ain’s footsteps.
“Thanks to you.”
“That’s great to hear. …Are you going to the Baltic now?”
“It’s almost dawn, so I plan to head straight home. I’ll be leaving soon.”
“Very well. I’ll escort you halfway then.”
Ain was praying. He kept praying that he would be able to leave the former Demon Lord’s territory in peace.
“By the way… may I ask you one question?”
Marco called out to him as he passed by, and Ain stopped abruptly in his tracks.
Marco’s voice, which sounded vaguely cheerful, was eerie.
“Oh… what is it?”
Please ask me what happened at the cemetery. Just ask me what happened at the cemetery; Ain hoped that.
“…about the cemetery? If it’s about the cemetery──”
“No, no! I don’t care about that place! I was just… wondering how the rooms were that those people made. It must have been a wonderful place, right?”
“Hmm, yes… that room.”
He reached for the black sword he carried at his waist. He gripped the hilt tightly, exhaled sadly, and made up his mind.
“I don’t understand the taste of the people who made that place.”
He retorted. Strong as a fighter, with a hatred of the Red Fox.
“…You shouldn’t say that. You may be suffering from some kind of illness. I would like to invite you to my home… There are many medicines in the basement of my home, and I am sure you will be able to use them to recover.”
“Hmm… What kind of medicine is that?”
It’s no use. His heart was aching.
“The only thing it does is cause intense pain, and it will bring you back to your senses. I’ve been using it myself until the other day.”
It was only recently that Marco had reached his limit.
Looking down, Ain regretted that he should have come here a little earlier. Clenching his teeth tightly, he resented this unreasonable situation.
“That’s nice. But I’m fine… so I’m going back to the city.”
Even as they talked, Ain drew his black sword from his waist. He pointed the black sword, made from Marco’s material, at Marco in front of him.
“No, that’s not it. For you… yes, this is for your sakeeeee…!”
A strange voice shook the hall.
Like Ramza, Marco created a sword out of nothing in the air and ran. He swung it wide and aimed at Ain’s neck.
“I won’t let that sword reach me.”
“No, Dill! Stay away from me! This is an order!”
It’s hard to put into words, but Dill will be killed soon enough.
“Why? Marco-dono is out of control!”
“That’s why you can’t! I’ll deal with Marco, no, I have to!”
The momentary exchange of fierce blows ended, and Marco took a few steps backward. Ain let out a dry laugh at the fact that he moved almost exactly the same way as he had in his dream training…
Marco’s gaze flicked hurriedly from side to side between Ain and his own sword.
“It was prevented… and that too is the commander’s swordsmanship? Could it be that the commander is by your side? Then why don’t you say how wonderful those people are? I see! So that’s it! The commander is sick too! So that’s what it means! Oh, commander, I’m coming right away! Please stay home and recuperate, commander! Oh! Wooooo!”
Seeing Marco coming at him again, Ain smiles back sadly.
“…Even though you’ve gone through so much, your swordsmanship is still the same, isn’t it?”
“Now! Come, come, come, come! Please don’t hesitate to heal in my home!”
As if remembering what happened in the dream, Ain swung the black sword calmly. He just silently searched for an opening and let out a sorrowful breath.
“Why? What’s the point of defending yourself like that? Isn’t the commander with you? If so, why aren’t you praising the greatness of those people? Isn’t it possible that the commander has become ill as well?”
The gap that Ain has been waiting for arose when Marco cut Ain endlessly while saying the same line as before. It’s the same timing as during training. It’s not hard to see why.
“Kah… hah… W-why…!?”
A hard blow from Ain deeply damaged Marco’s armor.
“This is that! That… Uhh! Not enough faith, faith in those people! Not enough loyalty… loyalty…”
When Marco was about to say the word loyalty, he cut himself. His voice returned to the tone of the man Ain knew so well.
“What’s loyalty…!? What’s… what… Kuh… Haaah…!”
“Marco! Are you back to normal?”
“Hmm? ──Oh, I beg your pardon. I seemed to be a little confused and showed you an unflattering appearance. So we’ll start over, and let’s go to my house!”
Perhaps only a handful of Marco’s ego has survived. It was because of this that he had some remaining willpower that he avoided the word “loyalty”.
“I won’t go. Because… I think badly of the Red Fox; it’s only natural.”
Marco’s movements stopped for a moment.
“…It’s not about healing anymore. I have to devote my body to it! This is such a rude statement! If this is a test given to me? If so… I shall punish you!”
“Marco! I know you were thinking the same thing!”
“Punish, punish, punish, punish, punish!”
“You’ve taught me so much! Please remember that!”
While intercepting the oncoming Marco, Ain spoke his mind out loud.
“I’m begging you… please come back to me…”
If it weren’t for his earlier self-inflicted wound, Ain would never have found hope. Now that he had seen it, he was tempted to bet on the faint hope that it might be…
However, it is the curse of the Red Fox that ridicules that hope.
“Hey… no, no, no! I will punish you and cure you… don’t worry! I will be there for you!”
Marco’s mind has been worn down to the point where his words have become inconsistent.
Suddenly, a voice echoed in Ain’s mind.
“──That’s enough. Please, give him some peace.”
It was a pathetic, painful, clenched-teeth voice.
“Marco… I will be the one to take care of you in your final days.”
Recall the power of Dullahan Ramza to slaughter a sea dragon with a single sword.
With his body and strength, it isn’t easy to manifest his strength. But he could at least imitate it and send Marco off with it.
“I’m coming. Marco.”
He inhaled. The old carpet and the dusty smell are fragrant.
His body becomes hot. There was no discomfort, and he surrendered to the heat without fear. An inexpressible feeling of all-around happiness ran through his body.
“Marco, I think this is the vessel that you saw in me.”
As he gripped the black sword, the streaks on it pulsed loudly.
“The castle is… shaking?”
The Demon Lord’s castle began to shake, albeit slowly. As if reacting to Ain’s breathing, it gradually rises like a heartbeat.
This is a hymn.
It was a hymn to celebrate the birth of a new king.
Dill was concerned about the shaking, but he was even more concerned about Ain, who continued to fight.
When he looked back at Ain, he saw that Ain’s appearance was gradually changing. Ain’s hair was growing so long that it went past his shoulders.
His height, which was supposed to be smaller than Dill’s, had somehow grown to be much more developed. It wasn’t just his body that had changed; his face had changed as well. He became as beautiful as his mother, Olivia, but with a more dignified and masculine face.
His appearance was such that if you were to say that this was how Ain had grown up, it would be easy to understand.
Dill blinked for a moment, and then Ain disappeared from where he was standing, and before Dill knew it, he was standing right in front of Marco.
“My body is still incomplete, but this is the swordsmanship I can do now.”
As he swung his black sword, it was a different way of standing from the usual Ain.
As soon as he had broken Marco’s center of gravity, he attacked him to make sure that Marco could not defend himself.
“C-commander… you’re the commander, right?”
What does he see in his eyes?
Ain just put on a calm face and continued to chase after the surprised Marco.
The sound of the sword fighting that echoed over and over again gradually lost momentum. This meant that the end of this battle… is approaching.
“This is the end. Marco…!”
Marco’s sword was blown away, and his collapsed stance caused him to fall to one knee. The moment he looked up… a black sword swung by Ain was approaching right under his nose.
There was a dull sound of metal slicing through the air.
As he reached out with both hands to his pierced chest, the light faded from the streaks all over Marco’s body.
“Me… me… me, it wasn’t the Commander that pierced me…”
“It was me.”
The strong, staggering voice makes Marco raise his head. Streaks flashed as he looked up at Ain’s face, right beside him, and blinked.
“Yes, Marco. I pierced your chest.”
Marco let out a gentle laugh.
“…You’ve become stronger.”
“Y-you’ve come to your senses! Marco! Have you come to your senses?”
Ain lowered his hand from the black sword and supported Marco’s huge body as he fell.
“I’m afraid… I can’t remember anything about it. Perhaps I swung my sword… at you?”
“Wait! I’m going to get your magic stone now! So be quiet!”
“…There is no need for that anymore. In the end, I was cut down by the commander’s technique. I am satisfied with that.”
As his voice began to fade, every muscle in his body stopped blinking light.
“Wait! This is an order, Marco! You are obliged to listen to my orders, aren’t you?”
“I am at my wits’ end. I’m very sorry, but I’m going to have to ask you to leave me alone.”
Marco’s glimmer continues to get fainter and fainter like a firefly glowing. Just looking at him is painful, and Ain feels like he’s about to burst into tears.
“Your commander is no longer with you. So, please, can you give me a moment of your time…”
Whipping his body into a state of death, Marco desperately squeezed out the words.
The commander, Ramza, is no longer there.
“If… if you have to fight someone who uses the swordsmanship that you just saw, please say this to them for the last time.”
These are the words Ramza had wished upon Ain. He remembers this and holds back the tears that threaten to flow in order to keep his promise.
“…Marco, then I’ll tell you.”
“…yes! This Marco will definitely receive your orders.”
If his body were healthy, he would have made a neat salute with his movements.
Marco can’t do that right now, so Ain took one last big breath and said those words to Marco.
“”…Thank you for your hard work on the centuries-long mission.””
These are the words that Ramza entrusted to him. Now he finally understood the meaning of this.
When he met Marco for the first time, Ain had asked him if he was lonely and alone. At that time, Marco told him that this was an important mission.
Ain had not been told what the mission was. However, after hundreds of years, Marco was finally told that his mission had ended.
“Fu-fufu… I can’t think of a happier gift to receive at the end of my life than this. For the last time, can you tell me your name now?”
It must really be the end.
“…My name is Ain, Ain von Ishtalika. I am the next king of the rightful Ishtalika bloodline and the second of the Ishtalika royal family──”
The words after the second one reached Marco’s ears only.
“Oh… what a… what a dignified name.”
His body trembled with rapture even though he was on the verge of death.
“I was a fortunate knight. Please, Ain-sama, let me be by your side…”
“Rest well, my friend. I’ll take care of all your thoughts.”
Ain looked at Marco when he heard those words, and he seemed to smile with satisfaction.
“May your name resound to the ends of the world… Oh, Ishtalika, glory be to you…”
Marco’s body became hazy like a particle. A gust of wind blew, and he disappeared from the side of Ain.
But just before he disappeared, he dropped a piece of parchment and a magic stone from inside his armor. Ain picked up the stone and absorbed its contents.
The aroma and bitterness reminiscent of coffee ran through his body.
His hand grasped the magic stone with great strength, and soon his chest was pulsating strongly. A number of glow sticks shot out from the magic stone, and the empty magic stone shattered.
Then Ain’s body seemed to glow for a moment, and his hair grew out a little one last time, reaching his waist.
“I was incomplete until a moment ago, but now I feel complete.”
He muttered and then picked up the parchment.
“…I see. Marco has been holding on to this command for hundreds of years, hasn’t he?”
There were not many words written on it.
However, he could sense a lot of thoughts from the command. The old, tattered parchment read as follows.
“I want you to protect the royal capital and our home. Ramza von Ishtalika.”
Marco had been defending the castle for hundreds of years… with nothing but honesty and sincerity.