A/N: Some exposition on the Dark Lord and the Destined Hero, and some potentially satisfying comeuppance. But also more questions than answers, hmmm~

-x-X-x-

The Dark Lord and the Destined Hero. Two Jobs that had been around for a long, long time. Certainly longer than Marcus was capable of comprehending. No one Marcus had ever talked to had bothered offering up any information in regard to their origins. In truth, his knowledge about the Holy Empires two most special Jobs was rather… generalized in nature.

Still, he knew what pretty much everyone else was taught. The Dark Lord was the greatest evil that the Empire had ever known, bar none. Each and every single person who had received the Job and escaped the Churchs Justice had gone on to cause great calamity, bringing about mass destruction until they were finally put down.

No Dark Lord in recorded history had lasted for long, thankfully, but the damage that they could do before finally being taken care of was so great that they were still considered the largest threat to the Holy Empires safety and security. Or so Marcus and his fellow orphans had always been told. There was a new Dark Lord once every generation, so long as the old one had been slain properly.

If you knew anything about the latest in the line of Dark Lords, you could use that information to get yourself a fortune in reward money from the Church. That was one of the reasons most Dark Lords didn last long. Trust the wrong person, or panic and get caught at your Awakening. That was how quite a few Dark Lords had been dealt with. With barely a whimper.

The other reason Dark Lords didn tend to last long was because of their counterpart. The other side of the same coin… the only other unique Job in the entire Empire. That of the Destined Hero. Once a generation, the Destined Hero was said to be chosen to fight the Dark Lord. To kill the Dark Lord, in fact.

For that was the Destined Heros purpose. They were said to be the ONLY one who could kill the Dark Lord properly. So in truth, Marcus probably wouldn have been cut down by the Paladins if his Job were revealed as the Dark Lord. He would have been captured, however. Tortured, probably. Until the Destined Hero could be found. Until the Destined Hero could be brought forward to slay him.

For it was said that to allow otherwise would bring about just as bad a calamity as the Dark Lord surviving free and unshackled. Marcus didn really understand what that meant. The explanation had been vague, likely purposefully so. But he did understand that as far as the Church taught, the Destined Hero was the one who had to kill the Dark Lord.

So what the ** did this all mean? He knew he was the Dark Lord. He could feel it within himself. He could even feel his first Ability, the dark power calling to him, offering itself up. If he used it, Marcus was sure he would find himself with the strength of at least ten men. He might even be able to make a break for it with such strength. At the same time though… he was sure the Paladins all had their own Abilities steeped in the Holy Light to call upon.

He just didn understand why the Holy Priestess would lie. What did she gain by declaring him the Destined Hero in front of a crowded Chapel, when he KNEW what he truly was?

Looking up at long last, Marcus expects to see… something in Priestess Angelinas eyes or face. Something like a wink, or a smirk. Something that would give away her deception and let him know her true nature. Maybe she was a follower of the Dark Lord! A secret plant within the Church! Maybe she would help him get out of here, even. But if that WAS the case, he wasn sure of how sound her tactics were.

Marcus might have been just an unwashed, idiot orphan, but even he couldn see how declaring him the Destined Hero instead of the Dark Lord would lead to him managing to escape the Churchs attention.

… Except, when Marcus looks up into the beautiful blonde Priestess face, it is not knowing deceit that he sees. It could just be that shes a really good actress, but all he sees in Angelinas gaze is budding awe and abject shock. She is, as far as he can tell, well and truly amazed by him. More than that, she seems to fully believe what she just said!

”Excuse me?! ”

Marcus stiffens as the Paladin from before, Paladin Eric as Angelina had named him, surges forward. Hes still on his knees as the Paladin rapidly approaches, something he finds himself regretting. But when the Paladins hand falls to the pommel of his sword, Marcus freezes, not daring to rise for fear that any action he takes could see him cut down in this moment.

He regrets this a moment later, when he sees Paladin Erics other hand rise up and form the same Holy Sign that Priestess Angelina just made. Shit. Hes definitely been made now. Theres no way-

”I-Its true! ”

The Paladin, a hulking human man that was actually bigger than Marcus thanks to his full plate armor, rears back as if struck, stammering and stuttering like an awestruck maiden. Marcus gazes up at him with wide eyes, even as Eric looks around at his fellows.

”The Holy Priestess is not mistaken… he IS the Destined Hero! ”

Until this moment, the Chapel has been eerily silent. Marcus hadn noticed, so caught up in his own thoughts and panic… but after Priestess Angelina spoke, everyone had stopped talking. Only Paladin Eric has broken that silence so far, but now that hes confirmed it, the murmuring starts. It begins among the other Paladins that line the halls, their eyes staring at Marcus with a reverence that makes him want to squirm.

It only grows from there however, finally sweeping over the remaining orphans and Matron Gertrude as they realize whats being said and what it means. Not all of Marcus chief tormentors are still waiting to get their Jobs, unfortunately… but enough are that Marcus finds himself taking a sort of vicious satisfaction in watching the horrified realization spread across their pudgy, dirty faces.

That vicious satisfaction lasts until theres suddenly a gauntleted hand on his arm, strong as it grips him and lifts him soundly to his feet. For a moment, Marcus tenses, almost winding up to take a swing at the unknown assailant… before realizing its just Paladin Eric, the man in question giving him a broad smile.

”No more of that now, Hero. You kneel for no man nor woman. Not any longer. ”

Marcus gapes at that, feeling a strange sensation welling up in his chest. A choked feeling rises in his throat as well. Hes… hes overcome. This might literally be the first nice thing anyone has ever done for him, ever even SAID to him. And its all… its all based on a lie.

”O-Oh! Im so sorry, Hero! I can believe I left you kneeling for so long! P-Please accept my sincere apologies! ”

The Priestess Angelina bows rapidly to him, a motion that does interesting things to her chest, kowtowing as though… as though hes suddenly someone special. Its too much. Its all too much. Especially when Marcus KNOWS its a lie. Theres no way hes the Destined Hero. He was taught the same as everyone else. You knew your Job instinctively from the moment of your Awakening.

There was no such thing as a false positive. Or at least, Marcus had never been told such a thing could be possible. You were supposed to understand the path that the Holy Light had laid before you right off the bat. It was supposed to be immediate.

And… it was. It had been, even for him. He had known immediately that he was the Dark Lord. He had understood the path that the Holy Light had so callously and cruelly laid out before him. It was everyone else who had apparently gone mad. It was everyone else who didn know his true nature.

”Well, at least one of this lot turned out worth something. Hmph, always knew that boy had hidden value to him. Always said it. ”

Marcus flinches as the old Orphan Matrons words reach his ears. He twitches and finds himself hunching inward, his hands curling into fists. How dare she. How DARE she?!

Only years of tightly bound self-control keeps him from lashing out. Only an entire life of holding himself in check for fear of the consequences keeps him from rounding on the old bat and roaring at her for every injustice shes ever dealt him. Gertrude was not a monster; Marcus could acknowledge that in the back of his mind… but she wasn a good person either. She did nothing to rein in his tormentors. She did nothing to lessen his suffering.

She didn add to it either, but Marcus did not consider that something worth being grateful over. She was the damn Matron of the Orphanage. Inaction should NOT be the best he could have hoped for, for **s sake!

But no… no, Marcus can ill-afford to expose himself as a monster now, just to yell at an old woman. He doesn know whats going on, or what all this business with being the Destined Hero even means, but he knows if he flies into a rage, hell most certainly cease being the Destined Hero in all of their eyes and immediately become just another orc to be put down.

… So he stays calm. He stays calm and-

”Its ain right. Greenie ain no hero! Hes a **ing monster, just look at him! Bastard born o savagery! They did the sign wrong o-or somethin! ”

Its the boy who threw the tomato earlier. One Marcus few remaining tormentors still waiting to receive his own Job. Hearing his whiny voice should have filled Marcus with a certain sense of pleasure, but it honestly just made him angrier. Maybe because deep down he knew that the bully was right in spite of what the Priestess and Paladin had said.

Before Marcus can act, however, Paladin Eric surprises him.

”You there! What did you just say? Did you besmirch the honor of not just the Church, but also the Destined Hero?! ”

What? What was going on?

Marcus can only watch owlishly as the Paladin steps past him. Finally turning around, though in bewilderment instead of the anger and raw fury he was feeling moments before, the young half-orc watches the armored man stomp over to the other orphan boy. Immediately, said young man begins quailing in response.

”A-Ah… ah… n-no sir! M-Meant nothing b-by it, s-sir! ”

Marcus watches in fascination as Paladin Eric grabs his tormentor by the scruff of the neck and drags him over, past Marcus to in front of Priestess Angelina. The boy is forced to his knees somewhat like Marcus had done, but with a lot less of his own will behind the act.

”You think the Holy Priestess got it wrong, do you? Think maybe you
e the real Destined Hero, hm? Go on, Angelina. Lets see this boys Job. ”

Marcus stands there, off to the side, feeling rather awkward as he watches the scene before him. The look Priestess Angelina gives his bully is that of someone looking down at a particularly loathsome bug. She does the Awakening Ceremony perfectly, but with a note of scorn in her voice. The blinding flash of life comes before the minute is up, and Paladin Eric is quick to perform the Identification Sign, though the boy begins blubbering even before then.

”Hmph. Thug. Unsurprising. Pure dumb muscle is all you are. What a waste of my time, the Priestess time, and the Churchs time. Apologize to the Priestess! ”

”I-Im sorry! Please, Im s-sorry, can we do it again? I p-promise, Im not a Thug! Thats not who I-urk! ”

Yanking him around by his collar, Paladin Eric spins the boy away from Priestess Angelina and over to a somewhat shell shocked Marcus.

”Apologize to the Destined Hero! ”

For a moment, their eyes meet. In his tormentors gaze, Marcus sees nothing but raw fear and utter humiliation.

”Im s-so sorry. I didn … I didn know! I didn -! ”

”Enough! Out of our sight, Thug! ”

Paladin Eric all but bodily throws Marcus bully a dozen feet towards the Chapel doors, and after a harsh landing, the boy rises with a groan and races away. Marcus watches him go… but feels nothing. Thug wasn a bad Job, but it wasn a great Job either. He was destined for a life of work bouncing for bars and taverns and maybe guarding warehouses down by the docks. Hed also be watched closely by the Church, to ensure he didn fall into the wrong crowds.

Not that it would be expected of him to get into too much trouble himself just as a simple Thug, but they were notoriously easy to convince to get up to no good by smarter criminal folk.

Marcus knows he should be immensely satisfied by everything that happened, and vaguely he thinks a distant part of himself is. However, at the same time… its all overshadowed by the knowledge that the boy is right. There was a mistake. He is the Dark Lord. He-

”Whats all this commotion then? Ahh, Awakening Day, is it? ”

Marcus blinks as a new voice enters the fray. He turns and watches an incredibly fat, bald, bearded man totter on out into the Chapel. Dressed in more ostentatious robes than Angelina, he looks imminently important to Marcus eyes. Immediately, every Paladin in the place turns and bows, including Paladin Eric… and Priestess Angelina beside him. Marcus… does not bow. Maybe if hed been more aware of himself he would have, but he honestly feels like hes having an out of body experience at the moment.

As a result of standing there like a dumbass, he sees something hes not sure hes meant to see. Theres an expression of pure, honest delight that spreads across the bald mans fat face as he gazes around at all of the bended backs. Theres something… decidedly wicked about that expression in Marcus humble opinion. Especially in the way the bald mans eyes linger on Angelinas upturned posterior.

Then, those same eyes arrive on Marcus himself, and turn hard in response to Marcus lack of deference. However, while the eyes turn hard… the jovial attitude remains.

”Oh? And whos this young man, hm? Did he receive his Job yet? ”

”Bishop Archibald, sir! Thats what the commotion is about, sir! ”

As Paladin Eric comes out of his bow, everyone else also rises. The newly named Bishop Archibald makes a show of stroking his beard in a show of looking wise.

”Oh-ho… something heinous, perhaps? ”

Marcus can help but flinch. He stiffens when he realizes the Bishop definitely saw him do so. But before he can act, Priestess Angelina pipes up.

”A-Actually B-Bishop, s-sir… its quite the opposite! T-This is a wonderful day for the Church a-and the Empire… weve f-found the next Destined Hero! ”

Marcus is treated to what he feels might be the most honest expression hes seen from the rotund Bishop yet. The bald mans eyes go wide and his mouth drops open in shock for a moment, before he quickly recovers himself.

”Is… is that s-so? Well, well have to confirm it, of course. ”

As the Bishop begins walking forward, Marcus tenses once more, only to relax when Paladin Eric clears his throat.

”Ahem, Ive done so myself sir. There is no mistake… both mine and Angelinas signs send back the same information. This strapping young lad is in fact the Destined Hero. ”

It probably says something awful about Marcus life that strapping young lad might just be the nicest compliment anyone has ever paid him. Still, hes grateful that the Paladin has stepped in. Hopefully the Bishop will-

”Ah, well, you can never have too much confirmation, now can you? ”

Marcus stiffens, the Bishop speaking while already raising one pudgy hand up into the air. He performs the Identification Sign with sausage-like fingers before Marcus can even blink. Its too late for Marcus to say or do anything, and the Holy Sign that Bishop Archibald is using looks MUCH more intricate than the ones used by the Holy Priestess and the Paladin. This is it. This is where Marcus gets found out, isn it?

Damn it all, he should have used his moment of fame and status better. Instead of standing around like a dumbass, he should have started spouting orders and bullshitted his way through this mess until he could run. He was a **ing awful Dark Lord. Did they all have it as bad as him? Dimwitted Orphans whod never done anything or been anywhere of note? No wonder most of them got caught almost immediately.

… At least the Bishop would probably be a better hostage than Angelina. Better both for Marcus conscience and the fact that the man was higher ranking and thus presumably more important. Marcus would only be slowed down by his hostages bulk though, and he would need to move fast if he-

”Well, Ill be. Its true. ”

What? Marcus blinks, realizing that the Bishop has finished the Holy Sign he was crafting and is staring at Marcus in just as much surprise as Priestess Angelina showed. However, where the Holy Priestess was quickly overtaken by awe and reverence… Bishop Archibald has a calculating look behind his shock. Marcus only has a moment to match the overweight mans gaze before he suddenly spins away, however.

”Most joyous news, everyone! The Destined Hero has been found! To think that our Chapel would be the one graced by his presence… oh, this is most glorious! ”

At hearing his happy, jovial tone, everyone cheers, the Paladins and Priestess Angelina first and Matron Gertrude and the remaining orphans right after. The Bishops next words, however, do not invoke further cheering. His tone takes on a somber quality, like that of a grandfatherly figure.

”This does mean the Dark Lord walks amongst us once more, however. And seeing how the Church has had no reports of a Dark Lord Awakening at any of our Chapels… they are likely already outside of our control and gathering their forces as we speak. ”

Silence falls over the Chapel. The Bishop swings his gaze back and forth for a moment before turning back towards Marcus… and smiling a benevolent smile.

”But it matters not! For Im sure our Destined Hero is MORE than up to the task! Lets hear it for the… strapping young lad! ”

More cheering erupts in the Chapel, even as Marcus stands there, frozen. Not in terror, truth be told. Though at the same time, hes taking no courage nor strength from the cheering. It does not bolster him as those cheering might intend for it to.

How can it? Even though the Bishop has confirmed what Priestess Angelina and Paladin Eric have already said, how can Marcus believe it? They claim hes the Destined Hero and that the Dark Lord is out there just waiting for him to find and defeat.

But Marcus knows beyond a shadow of a doubt… HE is the Dark Lord. The very same entity that Bishop Archibald was forewarning them of. The very same entity that the Bishop had just declared he would be the one to vanquish.

… Hed really like it if things started making sense sometime soon.

-x-X-x-

A/N: Holy shit guys! The response to the first chapter of this story has been amazing. Im so excited to see where we go from here.

Please continue to speculate and provide feedback in whatever form you want, be it a comment or even a simple Like/Favorite! It all means a lot to me and Im very eager to see your reactions as we continue on.

Chapter 3 comes out on Friday and will be our first perspective chapter not told from Marcus POV. There will be lots of these, though unlike MNL and BO, I intend to also have LOTS of Marcus POV chapters as well!

Also this novel remains six updates ahead on my P atreon at all times, so if you want to read all the way to Chapter 8 right now, consider hopping over there!

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