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Noble Darkness 3

The battlefield shook with the vibrant cheers of everyone.

Thanks to Conroy's quick actions in getting doctors, the fatally wounded received rapid first aid and were taken back to the city first.

The total number of casualties on the ally's side was a mere 30 from the 100 that started the war and the 50 that provided backup with Ace.

Although the casualties were below half. The allies still grieved the death of the others. It was one thing if they were only soldiers, but some of the citizens volunteered to join the war. 

"They fought valiantly for their freedom." 

"Their sacrifices were not in vain. That's what's important." 

The enemy side suffered a whooping casualty of 300. The soldiers were taken, prisoners.

"We'll have them all lend a hand in rebuilding the districts."

Reginald, Jake, and Kaz having suffered the most from being stabbed spent three days in the infirmary.

"Hihi. Regi's awake guys!"

Ace called out to his friends as they peered into the tent containing Reginald. 

"Word spread quickly of the defeat of Khan. This led to a rebellion in the other districts. Even most of his remaining soldiers were either wounded or have given up from hearing about his demise. We did it, Sir Reginald." 

"You've been out cold for three days, welcome back to the land of the living." 

"Hehe. Now what?" He said with a smile on his face as he looked at his teammates.

They all briefed him on the current situation

Kaz had awakened few hours before Reginald.

The captive soldiers were spread to the different districts to help rebuild. A new King was appointed on the throne of Ernia. New district commanders will be appointed a week after the king's coronation.

"What about the old man?"

"Sir Adacus returned to Black Seed."

"I see..."

"If it wasn't for him, our current growth won't have been possible."

They all nodded

"Something tells me our paths will cross again soon."

As for Rohan.

"You've done more than enough for Cronoa as well, thankfully only the Capital faced destruction due to the coup."

He added that different factions across the region will make a move for the empty throne.

"Cronoa needs a king."

"Well... it's a good thing they have you?" Jake, who like Reginald and Kaz had just recently woken up.

He nudged Rohan's elbow.

"Me? I don't qua-"

"Shush!" Rhea intervened.

"You fought in the battle that avenged the death of the previous king. Although he was also a jackass, at least he wasn't war-hungry like Khan."

"Cronoa needs a king that listens. I'm not saying you're perfect, Rohan. But you have a grasp as to what's right and what's wrong." Falkner said as the swordsman struggles to speak.

"I w*-"

He was once again halted before he could finish what he was saying.

"Think of the kids at the orphanage, Lexi added as Chase nods his head. 

"They need you." 

"..." Rohan pictured the kids. Their smiles as they run around the playground. And the dreadful look of despair on their faces when Rada Khan launched his attack on the Capital.

They were right. Cronoa needs a king that will lift the oppression of relic users. A king that will rule with kindness and honesty.

But...

"You wanted to follow us didn't you?" Everyone looked at Ace.

Ace seemed to have grasped what Rohan was hesitant to say. A while back, Ace had made a deal with Rohan.

He would help him find his brother and in return, Rohan would join Aegis.

After a series of clashes between the Aegis and Enders clan, Rohan found his brother but riddled with guilt and tempted by Jake, he decided to kill him.

Ace halted him saying he didn't want someone whose resolve is easily shaken in his clan.

"What in the world do you think you're doing!?"

"Tsk, it's none of your business."

"Justice? You think killing him is justice?"

"Why were you trying to kill the very person you risked your life to save?"

"It's none of your business what I do with him now, I plan on keeping my word."

"I want nothing to do with a guy that would easily lose his resolve. I don't want you in my clan anymore."

"What was it you said? Justice? If you truly sought justice you would have brought your brother back with you to Cronoa and have him pay for his crimes the right way. At the same time absolving Rhea."

Rohan ended up developing a lot of respect for the ex-assassin At first he was going to join the clan as part of a deal. Unfortunately, Ace rejected him.

But now, they someone met again in Regrah.

Rohan knew that it was his second chance. 'Opportunity comes but once.'

When he met Ace back in Regrah, Rohan made up his mind. 

He was ready to beg his way back in. 

But now these responsibilities were shoved in his face. 

"Rohan. You can join our cla-"

Reginald felt relieved that Ace would let him join Aegis. He almost forgot about the biggest issue here. 

"B-but Cronoa?" 

"You didn't let me finish... You can join our clan. But after you set up a system in Cronoa that'll work without a King."

Ace was referring to a style of leadership that was only common in certain parts of the world.

"Become king, change the rules. Appoint someone worthy to be the first President of Cronoa. And then, only then can you join us."

By that time, Cronoa would have become stable.

Ace offered Rohan a hand. As everyone around them had smiles and joyful expressions on their faces.

"As expected of my Ace." 

"Ace... How much you've grown." 

"I've got so many things to write in my journal, starting with my training... To the rise of a new king."

"Demon spawn, you are cunning whenever you want to be ." 

Rohan smiled as he accepts Ace's handshake.

"Welcome to Aegis, Rohan."

"Ace, no, Captain! I promise you. Cronoa will be in good hands."

Just then, the faint, barely noticeable markings on the hands of the Aegises glowed in synch together as the same marking appeared on Rohan's hand.

"Huh?"

"Oh yeah, you don't know."

Ace holds up his hand as his clanmates did the same

"A mark resembling the emblem belonging to the clan that clears a zodiac crypt appears on the back of all the member's hands. Along with a much smaller mark of the symbol of the zodiac crypt cleared." He pointed at the mark of Aquarius which resembled a mermaid's tail that was sitting atop the Aegis clan's emblem. 

"It's still confusing to me how clearing a crypt magically creates a tattoo of our clan. And the puzzle pieces were actually marks. It's one of the mysteries of the world." Reginald added.

Rohan nods as he caresses the mark and the glow deemed down.

"It's like an identification of some sort."

"There are two conditions towards the markings." Maggie raises her hand.

"The first is that at least two other clan mates must consider you a member," Conroy added with a smile.

"The second is for you to also consider yourself as part of the clan wholeheartedly."

That was the case.

"Don't worry, I'm still confused about these kinds of stuff just as you are," Reginald said. He pondered for a bit before gasping.

"Wait! If that's the case, how did Kaz have our emblem when you were the only one that knew about him, Ace?"

"Come to think of it. Sir Reginald is right."

"Unless."

The Aegises all glared at their Captain who laughed sheepishly.

He looked at Kaz who waved his hands as if to say "Don't look at me, this is on you."

"I, Kaz, and another, Ernie, founded Aegis."

"Ehh!!!?"

"Hihi nonetheless." He brushes them off and throws his hand in the air. "Let's party!"

They tilted their heads. Reginald and Kaz burst into laughter.

"What? Banquets are very important in an adventure."

"He's right ya'all." Chase wrapped his arm around Falkner and jake. "We just saved two Nations and probably the entirety of the Western Continent from certain peril. I mean we deserve to blow off some steam."

That night, the streets of Kondo were filled with music and the skies glimmered with the combustion of firecrackers.

They drank, ate, and danced all night l"Gantala! You bastard, what have you done!?"

Gantala had stabbed Jake in the back. He didn't pay heed to the voices of Rohan, Rhea, and Chase who were calling out to their friend.

Ace had just arrived. "What in the world is going on?"

Gantala pushed Jake with his foot to withdraw the sword as he scrambled back to the side of Rada Khan.

Rohan glared at the two. "You two were in this together, from the very beginning."

"I'm afraid so, Roro. But you don't worry not one bit. I'll have you and all your friends here follow Jakey soon enough!"

"Then... When you said that Axel and Mel betrayed yo-"

"Those fools chose to die with their king. I chose to live with my emperor!"

"Gantala!"

Driven with rage, Rohan charged at the former General as their swords clashed.

"Rhea, please give up. Surrender and all this will stop, if I say a word to my liege he will show mercy."

Rhea stood silently as Kira urges her to surrender.

Kira might have been following the wrong leader, but she has no malice towards her opponents.

"You saw what just happened. I'm sorry Kira, I've been holding back thinking you weren't like them, thinking that you might choose a different path."

Rhea's eyes glowed brighter than usual. Her body shaking with rage as she tightened the grip of her scythe.

'I'm going full power with this one.' She jumped back to create a bit of distance between themselves and begins to spin the scythe around her head.

"Reaper's storm!"

A red violent rotating current of her aura was created that grew by the second as it devours Kira.

"There's nothing you can do, but get shredded to pieces in Reaper's storm."

'It's an ability I hate using as I have to pour in a bit of my soul energy.' Rhea's vision began to blur away. As she looks at Ace.

'With you here now, I don't have to worry about not being able to fight.'

She, just like Adacus, Reginald, and all the others that have fought bravely since the beginning of this war, plopped to the ground from exhaustion.

Ace looks at his unconscious allies. "Jake... Rhea... Kaz."

He balls up his fist as he stares down Rada Khan.

"It's just you and me now."

"Let's do this thing."

Ace leaped forward as he summoned his daggers. 'I don't have much energy left within me.'

"Gold Spears!"

He maneuvers his way around the golden spears not slowing down as he keeps reducing the distance between his target.

'Khan... For everyone's sake, you have to die!'

He had finally closed the distance between them as he jabs his dagger forward. Then Rada Khan blocked with a golden sword he just created.

"With this relic... I am invincible!"

He launches a series of relentless attacks on Ace which the latter manages to block. He parries the last attack and leaps to the sky.

"X Black!"

"Gold Shield!" A giant shield emerged and blocked the slash wave attack from the assassin.

The two were evenly matched with one blocking the other's attack. They traded blows and countered each other's attacks only for the other to block the counter-attack in the end.

Jab, blocked.

Swing, parried, blocked.

Neither side was ready to take any damage.

As Ace was focused on his opponent, Rohan was duking it out with Gantala.

Clank!

Rohan grits his teeth as they also fought evenly.

"Why?"

He dodged a slash wave attack from the former General.

"Why would you betray us. I thought if there was anyone... Anyone who would call out my brother it'd be you."

"You had no idea how wrong you were haha."

"Tsk! Was our bond so bleak that you could easily betray us?"

"Bond? Haha, Roro, it was never about that. I am merely looking out for myself."

He said as his sword darted past a blade that sort to parry. The two jump back to create some space between them.

"Betrayal is a conscious choice for cold indifference, to take a personal gain instead of a loss that would have saved the other. What I did was shatter into a million shards as I broke, all the while trying to hold onto you... while you stabbed and swung vile words as weaponry. What I did was survive when I realized that was my only chance to save myself!"

The fight was not easy for Rohan as he was beginning to get pushed around.

"Don't go around thinking that being 'The strongest swordsman in Cronoa or the mad swordsman' means you can win that easily. You might be more skillful, but talent is nothing against the face of strategy."

Gantala kicked the sand at Rohan and continued his assault against the blinded swordsman.

He cut deep at his knees and shoulders not aiming for a vital spot yet as he licked the blood off his sword.

"Yes."

He wants to savor every moment as he thrusts forward to draw more blood. Rohan cried in pain as he scrambled to the back.

"Not so fast." Gantala knew that allowing his opponent to get a breather will be a fatal mistake. He plants his foot to the ground and sprung towards his dazed opponent.

"Gotcha!"

Rohan parried the attack as his opponent loses his balance.

"Dai Style: Dragon Thruster."

A large portion of his aura was imbued into the new attack as his aura took the shape of a dragon and charges at the former General.

"It's over, Gantala."

Rohan wipes his eyes clean as he plops to the ground having reached his limits as well.

'Ace, I leave my brother to you.'

He sits up and stares at the unconscious sight of the man he once revered with respect. It was becoming of a trait now. The people he respected ended up changing into their worst versions.

That was the case with Rada Khan who was clashing with Ace.

"Gantala fell."

"Give it up Khan! It's over, you've lost!"

"Oh, but it has only just begun."

His aura swirls around him as he presses his hands together.

"Divine Armor!"

Rada Khan became clad in golden armor as he leaps forward at his opponent.

Shredding through his defensive blocks, Khan was ready now... He was ready to take his head.

All he aimed for was the head of his opponent.

He didn't care about refining his sword's techniques. Footings, parries, blocks, he didn't bother about any of that anymore. He felt invincible as his armor shielded him from all of the ex-assassin's attacks.

Kill Switch, X Black. He fired repeated attacks but could not lay a dent on the golden armor. The mad King led out a burst of malevolent laughter.

"Hahaha! Are you not going to use that power from the last time we fought?"

He was speaking about the Shadow Apex, an ability where Ace trades his life force for more power. He had decided not to rely on that as it keeps shredding his life. 'I want to live long. I want to live long enough to solve the primordial puzzle. I can't do any of that if I fall dead because of my relic.'

Ace ignored the statement and continued with his desperate flurry of attacks.

Clank! The sound of the armor deflecting all of Ace's s attack ran throughout the battlefield as his friends regained consciousness to witness this confrontation.

'Ace...'

'Do it!'

"Why do you even fight? Why bother fighting for the likes of them?"

"It's because I'm selfish! I don't quite care about what you go off doing with the rest of the world. Heck, kill whoever you want, I won't judge you. But... You sealed your faith the day you decided to harm my friends. I stood there silently as Vorus and Conroy wept and grieved the death of their loved ones... And Khan, that is your biggest crime against me. Touch my friends... And you shall face my wrath!"

Ace was tired and worn out but he seemed to have gathered his strength from the sheer determination in defeating the opponent that stood triumphantly in front of him.

Crack! Ace smirked noticing a dent on the armor.

He swept his opponent off his feet and slams him hard on the ground.

"Your body might be shielded, but not your face!"

He got on top of him and started pounding at him. With the crunch of knuckle against bone, Ace didn't ease up on his assault as the Mad King groans in pain.

"Ho-how?"

"I took an oath never to take the life of an innocent. Khan, you are no innocent being!"

Ace pulls out his dagger and thrusts it through the crack he created earlier.

"Begun, Rada Khan. Kill Shoot!"

Aura compressed around the tip of his shadow dagger. Merging together, it transformed into a new attack that further cracked open the armor and pierced through the chest of Rada Khan.

"You will hurt no one again!"

The mad king was defeated. The allied army has won.

"We won." The allies that have regained consciousness cheered.

"We won! It's over! Ernia and Cronoa have been liberated!"

Rohan walks up to the ex-assassin who was panting heavily.

"Thank you. For bringing an end to all of this."

Ace plopped to the ground.

"Zzz."

He had fallen asleep.ong without a worry or doubt in their minds.

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