Marcus knew he was free the moment Rome was trapped.
Roman Republic or Empire... It did not matter. It is still Rome. It comes down to one city – the heart of it all. Marcus' heart. It was weak and the Empire strengthens them. They fight and fight and only through fighting is there success. Glory. Survival. Approval. Marcus has always known how to live. Rome agrees with him. Or agreed.
Past tense. Marcus remembers this as everything fades. Past tense. Was, not is. Came, not come. Fought, not fight.
Marcus is free now. He is dying. And this is all that is left.
Rome coughs out blood. He is panicking and Marcus tries to reassure him because he does not like the feeling of panic. Don't give in! They do not panic. They should not panic. It does not make sense.
This is not the way he wanted to go. He is a warrior and he should go out in battle! He will be remembered, they will be remembered... They will leave this world in the glory of battle! It is the only thing Marcus asks for, even whilst Rome struggles to remain the power of the world.
The struggle. That was what happened. There was a struggle.
Don't lie, Rome. There was no struggle right now.
They have been struggling, though. Marcus did not even see it coming. Rome staggered with what he had. They allotted everything to others so they could remain standing. Marcus never looked at his scars like Rome did.
Maybe this is why Rome spent all that time thinking about his grandchildren recently. Maybe Rome saw it coming. Marcus had not.
He had just spoken with Ludovicus the other day.
"This is the life, my friend!"
Ludovicus stayed silent, but Marcus knew it was him. He had always been able to tell when it was Ludovicus. Ludovicus was his friend. Germania was a concept, like the Roman Empire. Ludovicus was a Human. Just like Marcus.
"I should introduce you to her, she is well worth it even if she is not as... dour as you like your women~!"
Ludovicus listened to him. There was the difference. Ludovicus was not just standing there and dealing with it, he was listening. Ludovicus was quiet, sure, but he listened. If Rome distracted himself, if Germania was ensconced... if their minds left them alone for even a moment they could look each other in the eyes.
My friend, Ludovicus.
Then Germania (Ludovicus Ludovicus Ludovicus?) stabs them.
Marcus coughs out blood. Or is this Rome? Where is the line? There has always been a line? Marcus has always known where he stood between himself and his Nation. Marcus knows.
But now he does not.
Except for one unchanging fact that follows him into oblivion.
Rome was killed by a rival. Marcus was killed by a friend.