Book 4 Chapter 540

Father's Dedication

The woman's name was Laulice, Annelotte's mother and the only woman Marolyt had ever loved. Even when he was fooling with women behind her back, he still loved only her.

He had lost her. Finally and forever and no regret in the world could reunite them.

He sat, dazed, in front of the altar she'd made of their bedroom for the whole night. When he emerged the next morning, his signature ice-blue hair was silver. He had lost twenty years of his youth in a single night.

He sent Annelotte Lance with Wayerliss before sunset that very day.

He hated the little thing. Her coming into existence was what had pushed his wife over the edge. If she'd never gotten pregnant with the little tumor then he could never have failed to show a reaction, and his wife would never have been pushed over the edge. Her birth was also the final step for his wife to take before killing herself, so everything was her fault.

He'd nearly strangled her a couple times during the night, but he could not do it. As much as he hated her, she carried her mother's blood, the only blood of his beloved that had not yet been spilt coursed through the little tumor's veins. He couldn't bring himself to spill anymore when so much had already stained his house.

He couldn't look at the tumor, however, so he sent her away, as far away as he could. He realised a couple years later how stupid the move had been. His wife had probably left the girl there as a way for him to atone for what he'd done to her, but he had sent her away because she reminded him of his failures as a husband, of his shortcomings as a man.

Sending the little girl away was him running away from his sins. It was him running away from the hurt he'd caused, from the damage he'd done, and from the responsibilities he had to carry as a result. If betraying the love of his life for wenches was his first mistake, then sending his daughter away, his only chance at redemption, was his second.

He couldn't bring himself to act on his epiphany. It had been too long since he'd sent the girl away, she had grown up too much and would wonder where her father had been, why he'd sent her away, what she'd done wrong to incur his hatred and disdain. And he couldn't face being scorned by the only remaining blood of his loved one. He was a coward, he finally admitted to himself. A coward from skin to marrow, from hair to toenail. There wasn't a single brave cell in his entire wretched body.

It took the Eye's actions against his daughter to force him to finally face up to the girl that was his daughter; though he didn't know at the time whether she would ever see herself as such. He certainly wouldn't blame her if she never did. The one thing he feared more than her scorn, however, the only thing, was not having her at all.

She was too much like her mother. He had never seen his wife's proper face, but he just knew that her daughter was her spitting image at the same age. She was several orders of magnitude colder than her mother, but her gaze had the same elegance, the same pride. He'd even mistaken the girl for her mother the first time he'd seen her again.

Luckily his mind rectified the mistake in the few moments before he added 'incestuous' to his character traits list.

When he'd finally decided to get more involved in his daughter's life, behind the scenes as he'd initially planned to do it, he noticed an irritating little monkey clinging to her like an overzealous pet.

He'd nearly killed the little shit on several occasions, but he had the disgusting inkling that his daughter didn't entirely dislike the monkey. He didn't want to risk offending her even on the minute chance she was actually angry at him for relieving her of the pest, so he took the chance of their falling out to take her away, to take her back home. The little shit just wouldn't give up, however, and, much as he suspect it had on his daughter, it grew on him.

The growth was not because of the monkey, however, but because of the little girl that accompanied him, the half-elf called Eirinn.

Laulice's face was continents away from being attractive, but Eirinn was worlds away. She was so disfigured even Marolyt, who'd lived with a disfigured women for several years of his life, flinched when he first saw her. Unlike how he had treated his wife, however, the little monkey couldn't be more tender with the ugly little duckling. When Marolyt had threatened the little duckling, the monkey even dared to stand between the two, despite knowing that he could achieve nothing by the gesture and the outcome would be exactly the same no matter what he did.

The little shit had been courting his daughter, his genius, beauty of a daughter after whom even the first prince of Hocke lusted, but that wasn't enough for him. Even the cute and rapidly maturing Innilis wasn't enough in addition to Annelotte. Marolyt had been closer to killing the tumor when he heard he was courting multiple women in addition to his own daughter, closer than he'd ever admit.

That said, despite having one beauty in his pocket, and another one that he might eventually win over, though Marolyt had initially suspected it would take most of his life to do, if he ever managed it at all, he still remained loyal -- if what he was doing could indeed be called that, and Marolyt had serious doubts -- to the ugly duckling.

As close as he'd been to smashing the little shit into a thin paste and smearing him across the sewers of the imperial capital, he couldn't bring himself to do it, not when the monkey showed more courage, and indeed, more 'loyalty' than he'd ever shown.

The time the two spent together in the subsequent years let the little monkey grow on him. The old man even came to respect the slimy, stinky little monkey.

He was now happy he hadn't ended the little monkey and his ugly duckling. He'd even come to accept, after so many years, that his wife was gone.

I guess things haven't worked out too badly, he thought as he coughed out blood, at least, the kid's much stronger than me, where it counts the most, at least.

"No matter how strong you are, you aren't our match, huh?" Wayerliss mocked as he came to the crater in which Marolyt lay.

But… that kid… he's still too weak now… he can't properly… protect Annie…

"I'm sorry, Marolyt. If you surrender, I can ensure you live," Kevin apologized.

Marolyt couldn't bother with the two fools.

A woman should always have two men by her side: her husband, and her father.

I was neither when it was my time to be. Honestly, even I feel like I'm the scum amongst scum.

He smirked and showed his bloodied teeth. His inelegant smile bloody with ghastly determination. But it was the freest smile he'd ever made.

"Are you finally regretting?" Wayerliss asked, "Too bad the women in your life won't be here to hear."

"I failed Laulice as her husband. I… have lost the right and might to make up for it--" He raised his voice. "--But I'm still a father! I have a daughter! I couldn't have been a worse father, but I still have a chance to make up for it! I will make sure she lives a good life. If I have to throw my life away, then so be it. A husband's life belongs to his wife, and a father's life to his children! This is why I crave power! This is the only reason I continue to exist! Annie is the only person I won't allow you to hurt!"

Wayerliss tossed the weapon in his hand.

"I'm curious whether you can continue to be a father, now that you lost your life…"

"Kevin!"

He ignored Wayerliss and raised his weapon. While his hand was shaking, he had never been braver.

"Today, I'll show you the difference between the two of us! It's not something for which sneak attacks can make up! You have never been my match! You will always be inferior to me!"

"You are a genius of the sword, second to none I've met," Kevin admitted, "Come! Let me show you how far I've improved in 20 years!"

Wayerliss took a silent step back. He would never fight head-on. He would let Kevin do the grunt work while he waited for his chance to end things.

"Improve? You misunderstand!"

He raised his weapon over his head. As if it had felt its master's dedication, Azureflash flashed even brighter than before. Kevin and Wayerliss were forced to squint.

When the light faded, the unstoppable galestorm swordsaint from two decades previous had returned. His hair was once again ice-blue. The change was accompanied by a reversion in his aura. It was sharp like it had not been in decades. The Galestorm Sword was blowing once again.

"You left me because of other women, and I lost the power I sealed in you," Marolyt mumbled, "But now, I undid the seal for another woman. Laulice, if you can hear this, I pray you watch over me. Let us protect our daughter together!"

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