I normally say that I like Past Life Returner but I have not read it at all, not even the manhwa(comic). But this story is different, I love it. I...
Juan had heard rumors that Lintbloom Knights led by Gerald Gain were in Drugal.
“Gerald Gain had tried to assassinate his majesty but had been chased away. As there were rumors of him having gone crazy because of the cracks in the East, his knights would also have been affected.”
“His knights had suffered and some of them escaped and came here, but Drugal became their final resting place.”
“I heard they fought with each other to death. While some of them insisted that Gerald was innocent to the end, who would believe them?”
“…Are there any survivors?”
“I don’t know, but the corpses that had been discovered were ripped apart. I heard that the curse the Lintbloom Knights placed was the reason that there are so many ruffians around here.”
Mark laughed like he did not believe in curses.
“You don’t believe that story?”
“I would believe magic, but not a curse in the traditional sense. I haven’t gone crazy yet despite living here the longest.”
Juan agreed as he thought the crack residues felt all over the forest would have affected the knights. Mark may be crazy in his own way, then.
“How do you know the story so well?”
Mark answered Swallen’s question with a smile.
“My father, who had fought with the emperor, had discovered site! He saw the scene of Lintbloom knights killing each other in this very room…”
He went rambling on as this was his favorite subject, and Swallen listened to him politely. Juan lowered his eyes at some stains he saw on the floor. Lintbloom had fought alongside him for quite a long time, and he had not imagined they would meet such an end. Mark laughed and shook his head at their response.
“We all have cleaned corpses here and there. Are you surprised at the redness of the floor? Don’t worry, it’s only because our soil is red in color.”
While Mark spoke lightly, Juan’s head was heavy with the connections between this castle, the Lintbloom knights, and the crack. The castle was built in Juan’s time, and Mark’s family had added on to it. Also, the castle had built on a structure made before humans resided here.
Juan thought of his firstborn son, who had been serious, kind, and noble. He had not believed Gerald would betray him until the very last moment and wondered whether he had really fallen evil due to the crack.
Mark cleared his thought and wondered whether he had spoken too much.
“Your name is Juan, right?”
“It’s a good name. Let’s get down to business if you don’t have any more questions. Are you interested in exploring the dungeon? If Miss Swallen also comes, I will pay you more than four peoples’ worth. You two can go even deeper than Jull and may discover something valuable.”
Swallen perked up at the words.
“I support my men well. 30% of the discovered items along with basic exploration fee.”
Mark’s face hardened at Juan’s words.
“Even Jull had agreed to 30%-“
“We caught him, and since we’re risking our necks for you and you have no better candidates, 50%.”
“…All right. I don’t care about the money, but just the artifacts. I have to have things I want. Do we agree that both of you will go and that I will choose my items first?”
While Swallen seemed eager, Juan looked like he was only interested in the information as he agreed. Mark smiled.
“Then I will call you two as soon as the exploration team is confirmed. You two wait in the village. Drink and eat all you want and put it on the tab. I will just remove it from your fees. Enjoy yourselves.”
While Mark offered them rooms, Juan refused as he did not want to remain there. Swallen asked him a question.
“Where are you going?”
“Sightseeing in the village.”
The lord had lied about not knowing the Thorn Chapter, and he either had neglected the crack or have been already possessed by it. While Mark had seemed the same, who knew? If he was connected to cracks, there would be traces in the village. Juan went to look for them along with information on the Lintbloom knights.
While the village was not large, many people walked about at night as many mercenaries walked about. The most popular place was the pub near the red-light district, and Juan was indifferent to a temple being used as one of the buildings.
His attention was on the gravestones next to the temple, and all of them looked old. Jull’s head was hung on a stake at the entrance. The fact that he had been a Holy Knight seemed irrelevant. Juan heard the voice of Mark’s butler behind him.
“Are you looking for something? My master has ordered me to show you around if necessary.”
Juan knew that Mark was worried about Juan running away after seeing the village’s state but did not mind. However, he noticed that the butler’s eyes were well-made artificial ones.
“Can you guide me without sight?”
“You’re the first one to notice so quickly. Don’t worry, I have lived here from the previous lord’s time and know everything about the village.”
The butler did not carry a cane, and Juan liked him having lived long here.
“Is there a place where I can see the remains of the Lintbloom knights?”
The butler spoke after a few moments.
“While no one asks me such old stories, there are a few places. The temple you see there was where they had built their foundation while it has decayed now. I heard a few of them had worshipped the emperor. Also…”
The butler pointed to somewhere in the darkness.
“There’s a windowless building there. It’s a prison where Lintbloom knights had imprisoned their fellow knights who had broken down under stress. We still use it for mercenaries who seem mentally ill.”
“…Are there any survivors there?”
“Not there. However, there are rumors that some survivors still wait for Gerald Gain’s return to complete their history.”
The butler stared at Juan as the younger man clucked his tongue. Juan had heard such stories many times, and it was meaningless unless Gerald really came back.
“Are there any documents?”
“The Lintbloom Knights fell less than three years after their failed assassination. While the previous lord had searched carefully, he had not discovered anything.”
Juan was disappointed but had expected this. Evidence that Gerald had betrayed him was increasing with time, but Juan thought that choosing an area with such a strong crack presence as a hiding place could hardly be a coincidence. He thought of each knight, who had all been brave and noble. Had Juan done something wrong so that they had chosen to side with humanity’s enemy? It was then the butler spoke again.
“You may be interested in a scribble one of the knights had left behind, but it’s getting too cold for an old man like me.”
Juan took the hint and told the butler he would see the scribble with his own eyes. The old man took him to the prison, and its walls seemed to have murmuring voices.
“Do you see what’s written in the center of the wall? While the previous lord had tried to erase it, the writing comes back after the rain.”
Juan looked at the short and straightforward sentence. The unknown writer seemed certain of his words.
-The emperor will return.
Was it madness or desperation? Juan did not know the writer’s intentions.