It was pitch black; no light entered whatsoever. A deep darkness, terrifying on a primal level.
“Damn this—!” Christian was covered in blood, and he couldn’t tell if it was his or not.
Something hooked onto his foot.
“It hurts… It hurts, it hurts, IT HURTS!”
Christian clutched his holy blade and grit his teeth. These things looked just like a human, but they were anything but.
He knew his Master needed to know everything he had seen and heard here—especially the thing clinging to his ankle. The Master Battle was irrelevant now; this information would consume all of Igrant in a bloody wind.
“...If this is the meaning of your revelation…”
Christian cast his gaze about him and ran for the stairs. After some consideration, he began scratching at the wall with his blade.
“Anyone should be able to recognize this, so…” He finished his scrawling and quickly moved away. His footsteps were quiet, but his body was fast as a rocket. He had to get to the exit on the ground floor.
I need to get out of here and smash this place in half.
But his way was blocked—a figure in a black cloak, the same entity that resided in the basement, awaited him at the doorway.
A calm hush pervaded the area as the figure gently turned around, and they locked eyes. The figure’s two ruby eyes glowed like a flame in the night.
Christian felt his heart freeze. Now he knew what that thing was.
“Why are you here? What are you trying to achieve? Surely you understand you could cause a war?”
The robed man slowly lifted his hand. As if on signal, a faint metallic noise came from both ends of the corridor, but Christian was unable to tear his gaze away.
Eventually, two figures materialized before Christian’s eyes.
They looked almost identical to the one that was already blocking him, but Christian could just barely make out the details of their jet-black armor in the faint light.
If I had to differentiate them, the one in the door looks like a wizard. The other two feel like knights.
Their presence flooded the area with a powerful spirit of death. Even without drawing their blades, their speed, their magic, and the anticipation made him struggle to breathe.
“Don’t tell me…” Christian’s back dripped with sweat. These creatures—these demons—were in the top tier of undead. The number of these monsters that had appeared in the long history of Igrant could be counted on one hand. Monsters created from the body and soul of a B-Class knight at minimum.
A formidable showdown.
This was two days before Joshua arrived in Rev, the residence of the late Count Rebrecca.
Wherever they went, there was always a group—one member and one non-member.
“I’m the only one working because everyone is so timid here.”
There was always that guy, even in the mercenaries.
“Hey! This is awesome, totally awesome, I’m telling you!”
“Yeah? What the hell is your deal, Beo?”
The group of four was a familiar bunch.
Greg cocked his head at Beo, who was panting.
“The Empire.. . The Empire’s three beauties—”
“What about them?”
“Beo, take a deep breath and calm down. What’s going on with the three beauties?”
“One of them is here! Right now!”
The mercenaries boggled at him.
“What did you eat, dumbass? Did that awesome newbie make you go crazy?”
“No! It’s true! I saw her with my own eyes!” Beo thumped his chest.
“Are you dreaming—”
“Don’t.” Greg held up his hand. It was clear he was their tacit leader. “Speak, Beo. I don’t think Princess Sersiarin would be in this kind of place, nor would Young Lady Charles. You’re not talking about…?”
“Right, right!” Beo nodded vigorously. “It’s her!”
“Bullshit! She’s been gone for years, why would she show up here?”
“Hmm. I can only speculate.”
“What? What do you mean, Greg?”
“Where are we going?” Greg asked them.
“We’re going… to Baron Dubwi, right? To bring relief supplies to the locals…”
“Right, but you’re overlooking one important detail.”
“It’s so obvious—do any of you know who the client is?”
“Branch Manager Aiden is the only person handling this task. Unless he’s gone insane, he wouldn’t try something on his own; top-rank mercenaries never do anything unless it makes them a profit. So there must be a customer. Why didn’t he tell us who?”
“Because he doesn’t need to? If it’s handled at the guild level, we don’t need to worry about losing money.”
“This has nothing to do with money.” Greg clicked his tongue. “This is a matter of trust. Why would you be in a rush if you don’t even know your client’s name? It might be a matter of their identity. Treason, for instance.”
Greg waved his hand dismissively.
“Let’s just say that’s what it is. Why would the guild take a request like that?”
“I’m not sure, but I can guess. Baron Dubwi is obligated to maintain this estate by His Majesty the Emperor, but he appears to be uninvolved here. So wouldn’t it make sense for the request to be motivated by concern for the people of the former County of Rebrecca? And think: out of nowhere, a high-ranking magician has appeared.”
“A mystical genius born with the blessings of mana. A lady renowned for her skill in ice magic, one of the three most beautiful women in the Empire: Iceline jean Rebrecca, said to have vanished.” Greg’s lips curled into a smile in the deafening silence. “It has to be her.”
“Yikes! If I hadn’t known, I’d’ve done something stupid. Maybe they’re planning on recruiting?”
“What recruiting?” Greg smirked wickedly. “I have a better idea.”
“Did you forget? Marquis Crombell put a ten thousand gold bounty around her neck a few days ago.”
“Think about it. How far can we go as mercenaries when we could die tomorrow? You don’t get a chance to completely change your life very often.”
The mercenaries fell into a solemn silence.
Beo squeezed his eyes shut regretfully. This might be a chance for him to have the most beautiful women in the Empire in his hands.
“Why not, right? We’re just giving them what they want. It’s not like we’re doing something bad.” Greg giggled.
The mercenaries gulped and swallowed nervously.
“Hey, it’s not like that! And I don’t want any part of it!” Beo opened his eyes and ran away.
“That coward.” Greg shrugged. Nothing I can do if he doesn’t like it, no matter how amazing it is.
“So, Greg. What’s the plan?”
“Wizards have flaws, no?” he whispered. “They’re weak in close combat. And as far as they know, we’re allies, yes? If we use that to get close…”
The mercenaries were so caught up with their plans for the three beauties that they were deaf to the rest of the world.
They shouldn’t have been.
“There’s trash like you everywhere.”
A tall, robed figure stepped out of the darkness.
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