I Became a Ruined Character in a Dark Fantasy-Chapter 38

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Chapter 38

In the inner castle of Orendel, Ian walked down the dimly lit hall. Upon entering the inner castle, his first action was to search the bedrooms of the Marquess and his heir. No one attempted to stop him since they recognized him as a knight of Tir En and also because they were too preoccupied with their own tasks.

Declan was busy undergoing the formalities to inherit the marquess’s title and the governance of the land. Meanwhile, the mercenaries were occupied with sorting the Marquess and his heir's loyalists, identifying traitors, and dealing with them—a de facto purge following the successful coup.

"The smell of blood seems to reach even here," Philip commented as he followed behind.

Ian responded nonchalantly, "It might soon be overshadowed by the stench of decay, which would be preferable, I suppose."

"...However, sir, wouldn't it be better not to delve further today? There's been a battle, and searching the rooms of the Marquess and his heir should suffice for now. The evidence won't run away on its own, will it?"

"That's a possibility, given the castle is swarming with thieves.”

"...Ah." Philip sighed, recalling the mercenaries.

As they entered a spiral staircase leading downward, Ian continued, "Today, everyone's drunk on a shallow sense of justice or duty, but tomorrow will be different. If the evidence falls into the wrong hands, it'll only become a nuisance for us."

"Indeed. Whatever may be hidden, we should collect everything. Honestly, I find it hard to believe it myself." The flickering candlelight cast shadowy figures on Philip's face.

Philip continued, "The idea that Duke Brant is a traitor... I doubt anyone would believe it without evidence."

"Sounds like he has a good reputation," said Ian.

"It’s more than that. He's the one who, on behalf of His Majesty, traveled the lands delivering royal decrees and handling lords' requests. I've seen him a couple of times on the border. He was wise and compassionate. I even heard he opposed the wars...," said Philip.

Philip's gaze flickered somberly, "To think he's the leader of the traitors."

"That only means he's fooled everyone more perfectly. In that sense...." Ian looked around.

They had reached the bottom of the staircase. Ian surveyed the damp cellar that unfolded before them.

"If we let him be, he'll eventually devour the entire kingdom. It's none of my business, but it matters to you, doesn't it?" "...Of course." "Then, cut the distractions and get moving. There's bound to be a secret chamber the Marquess used. If not here, then we'll head to the waterway. Make sure we miss nothing."

"Understood." Philip, taking a candlestick from the wall, led the way.

Ian followed calmly, feeling they were on the right track. The cellar, a perfect place to hide a secret room, soon revealed its secrets. The basement, connecting to shelters and aqueducts, was perfect for concealing a hidden room. Ian briefly scanned every corner with his Magical Detection.

“Hmm.” Ian paused in front of a partially destroyed statue in a secluded part of the wall. Looking around it, he pressed a brick on the wall.


The statue slid aside, revealing a hidden passage. From the staircase, it was a low passage, concealed by the shadow of the statue, barely noticeable.

"You found it again, sir.” Philip, who had hurried over, licked his lips. He glanced at the passage briefly before taking the lead.

"Not even surprising anymore," the sight that appeared after the short passage left Philip murmuring.

It was a secret room devoid of any light. The candlelight revealed dark red symbols carved on the walls and ceiling, clearly meant to evade the gaze of the divine. The moment they entered, Ian's Sword of Judgment rattled briefly before quieting down.

Ian glanced over a desk in the corner of the room, scattered with books, scrolls, ceremonial daggers, and plates, then turned his attention to a central altar. A large orb filled with purple magic rested on an octagonal altar of chest height.

"Collect anything that could serve as evidence. We can sort through it later," Ian said, taking out a sealed box from his pocket dimension. The box that once held Thesia was now repurposed for storing items, including the heads of the Marquess and Mason.

"Yes." Philip approached the desk without showing any surprise at Ian taking out a box from thin air. He had come to think of it as either a trick or magic, no matter what Ian showed.

"Hmm." Ian hummed as he stood in front of the altar. Because the last memory associated with this orb was so intense, his hand didn't move first as before.

"Definitely not a shard of chaos. Nor an essence bead."

Ian himself was different from before. He was now able to distinguish chaos power as a somewhat separate sensation. It was a change that occurred while he harbored a fragment of chaos. The chaos power contained in the orb's tainted magic was very faint.

"Then... shall we take a look?" Ian extended his hand.

The magic inside the orb fluttered as if responding to his touch. The moment his hand touched the surface, purple magic flowed back up his arm.

Ian wasn't startled. It was somewhat intentional since he was holding a handful of chaos power, thinking it might connect him to the Duke behind all this. Visions unfolded before him. It seemed like a void, but the scene was different from what he had seen before. The space was covered in purple and crimson, fluttering.

A different region of the void...? Or, is the void not just one? Well, it makes sense since there isn't just one black hole, thought Ian.

Knowing the void was the inside of a massive black hole allowed for such thoughts. Suddenly, he felt someone's gaze. It wasn't a transcendent being. A very blurry silhouette, similar to a human form. Despite seeing it, he felt no intimidation or thrill. Ian guessed this was the consciousness of another corrupted being peeking into this void. Perhaps the Duke.

— Who are you?

The following thought was unexpectedly non-hostile. Rather, it was the opposite.

— As an apostle of whom, have you stepped into the abyss without notice? Perhaps, are you an apostle of chaos?

What is this guy talking about? Ian chuckled involuntarily at the persistent thoughts. The thought of the corrupted being, whose age and gender were indiscernible, flinched.

— If you are displeased... I ask for forgiveness...

— Why did you think I was a messenger?

Didn’t expect this to actually work, thought Ian, surprised that his thought was transmitted.

The corrupted being's consciousness hesitated before cautiously responding.

— Well... naturally...

The vision began to blur, like a radio with its frequency misaligned.

— With the chaos of the void... to merge...

The thought mixed with static disappeared. The purple magic that had covered Ian's eyes evaporated in an instant.

"...." Ian blinked. The magic that had filled the inside of the orb was now empty.

Ah, right. It was an expendable, thought Ian.

Philip's voice followed from behind, "What was that just now?"

"I'd like to ask that myself. How did it look?"

"The magic from the orb enveloped you and flickered. It seeped into you little by little before disappearing."

"Ah, is that so?" said Ian.

Seeped in, Ian mulled over it as his eyebrows twitched. The fragment of chaos in his mind had grown slightly, almost imperceptibly without focused attention.

A smirk crossed his lips. It seemed he had acquired a special ability that, in the game, could only be obtained by becoming corrupted. He had no idea that the total amount of chaos power could be increased in this way. It gave him another reason to hunt down and kill the corrupted.

"...Sir, are you alright? Surely, you haven't been seduced by the tainted magic?" Philip asked.

"If you're still alive, it seems not. Pack up the things. It looks like we've seen everything." Ian said casually, with his gaze lingering on the empty orb.

An apostle of chaos..., thought Ian. After all, it wasn't entirely the wrong thing to say.


The next morning,

"Is that really going to be enough? “ Declan asked as he walked. Dressed neatly and cleanly, a noble dignity emanated from him despite the simplicity of his attire.

"It will be enough." Ian nodded.

It wasn't just a talk, thought Ian. New gloves and boots, a thin chain added to the shoulder armor, and bands made of unidentified leather were all part of his attire. Each was a high-quality item with accessible information.

Philip, following him, was also wearing several new pieces of armor. They had chosen practicality over uniformity. It was a typical mercenary's armament.

"Well, if you say so. Here, I've put it in generously. I'd like to give more if I could, but as you know, I now have to consider the finances of the domain." Declan shrugged as he handed over a purse.

"...This is also enough."

The purse was quite heavy contrary to his words. Ian smiled as he pocketed the purse. They had stepped outside the inner sanctum and headed toward the stables.

It was then that Declan suddenly said, "It's a pity you're leaving just after breakfast."

"I must complete the mission, so it can't be helped. Besides, you have much to do starting now, don't you?" said Ian.

"That's true, but..." Declan's voice trailed off. He signaled to the new stable master and suddenly stopped.

"Ian... is it alright if I call you by your name?" asked Declan.

"No problem. Marquess Burchard." Ian responded, stopping in his tracks.

A smile briefly crossed Declan's stiff face, "It feels odd to be called that. Anyway... as you said, I have a lot to do from now on. A lot to think about. My position, my situation, everything has changed."

"So, what are you trying to say?" Ian asked.

"Would you return after completing your mission? I won't ask you to stay forever. Just until I become proficient in handling all these matters. I need a competent and trustworthy right hand." said Declan.

Ian chuckled softly. His smile was dry as usual, but it didn't seem unpleasant.

"You must need a right arm that communicates well," said Ian.

"Of course, that too," said Declan.

"But unfortunately, I cannot accept that request. I am not one to settle in one place," said Ian.

"I thought you might say that." Declan nodded with a wry smile.

"It was a wishful thought. You're the first person who seemed to see right through me," said Declan.

"Perhaps because we have something in common. Like you, I'm accustomed to deceiving those around me." Though spoken calmly, it was enough to surprise Declan.

"Neither the mercenaries nor the people, you don't actually like them, do you?" Ian smirked under his gaze.

"...How long have you known? No, how did you know?" Declan asked.

"Well... just had a feeling," said Ian.

"Good. Your insight is sharp then. I'm relieved. I thought my acting was terrible. That would be a problem. I have to keep doing it." Declan sighed in relief, prompting Ian to chuckle.

"Worrying about your acting skills."

"Since it's already out, can't help it. It's not wrong, after all. In fact, I'm worried even now. Now that the rebellion succeeded, the mercenaries will start to rot from the inside. "It was a valid concern. Ian had given him the opportunity, but his arrival had messed up Declan's original plans.

Initially, Declan intended to solidify his control over the mercenaries by fighting alongside them on the battlefield. Those who couldn't be controlled would be eliminated, and the rest would be well-trained. With that plan gone, Declan needed to find another way to leash these unruly mercenaries.

"If you're worried about wild dogs, you could bring in hunting dogs to fight them instead." Ian blurted out.

"Hunting dogs?" Declan's eyes sparkled.

"The ones abandoned by their original owners, waiting only for death," said Ian.

"...Ah!" Declan let out a short exclamation, realizing Ian was referring to the commanders and bureaucrats who survived the purge.

"If the new owner personally puts the leash back on, wouldn't they be grateful? Trying to look good for their owner, they might even fight the wild dogs," said Ian.

"All I have to do is sway both sides' leashes depending on the situation. ...As expected, you're amazing." Declan genuinely admired and looked at Ian.

Thought that having Ian by his side might allow him to dream even bigger dreams than now emerged. However, he didn't voice this thought. Bringing up a proposal already declined might extinguish the faint hope that remained. Then, the stablemaster brought out a glossy black horse.

"Your horse is coming." Declan turned his gaze.

"...That doesn't seem like my horse," said Ian.

"The ones you rode in on were too scrawny. I picked one that suits you better. It was my brother's favorite," said Declan.

"I won't refuse, but..." Ian trailed off.

"It's also a bribe. Tell His Majesty that the new lord is very loyal to the kingdom," said Declan.

"It won't be difficult. Whether that's true or not doesn't concern me," said Ian.

"Really, I can't lie in front of you," said Declan.

"Well, as long as you don't become corrupted. Remember, if you're ever tempted, you might meet me again," said Ian.

That meeting would likely not be as friends or allies.

"Such a frightening thought. I'll remember that. I don't even want to imagine encountering you as an enemy." Declan laughed.

"We'll meet again someday, Marquess," said Ian.

As Philip bowed and ran to receive the horse, Ian also started walking. Watching him skillfully mount the horse, Declan asked, "Can I ask one more thing?"

"After such a generous bribe, by all means.”

"With all these plots within the kingdom, do you think His Majesty will still go to war?" "Treating me as a prophet now?" A peculiar smile appeared on Ian's lips.

"But probably, it will happen."And after that, perhaps something even worse. It's such a messed-up world, after all."

"Do your best. It's all up to you now for this place." Ian shrugged and turned the horse's head.

Ian drove the horse away. Philip bowed once more and ran to grab the reins. Across the stable, through the castle's back gate, the mercenary and his squire disappeared without looking back, seemingly without any regrets. Declan watched them for a while before turning his gaze. Patton was approaching.

"Have they left?" Patton asked.

"Yes, they've left, Sir Patton," Declan said with a smile on his lips.

Patton, seemingly embarrassed by the title, added, "Let's go. The townspeople are all gathered at the front of the walls, waiting for the young lord’s, no, the governor’s speech."

"And on the walls?" Declan asked.

"The mercenaries... no, our hundred men and the spared bureaucrats and commanders are all there," Patton asked.

"Good. Let's go," said Declan.

"Like this? Maybe you should change your clothes," Patton replied.

"It's fine. This looks more natural." Declan turned around.

I need to prepare a plausible reason for holding both leashes. I don't want to start being hated from the start, thought Declan.

Mulling over the advice as he walked, he suddenly looked back. Ian and Philip were now nowhere to be seen.

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