Chapter 23: The Boundary (1)

Dark silhouettes navigated through the night.

The goddess of night had veiled the forest.

The race of the galloping hooves added to the silence that had settled on the land.

The sleeping animals had to endure the illusion of the world turning upside down.

The sound of ten horse hooves was as sudden and threatening as thunder in a clear sky.

Even if there were any humans nearby, they would have thought an army was moving and cowered in fear.

They were all dressed in black.

Masks covered their faces, and hoods draped over them. The men seemed to blend completely into the night.

In reality, it was no different.

They only moved at night, even outside the forest.

Those who hid from the moonlight under the cover of deep darkness.

Professionals in the art of taking lives without anyone knowing.

In the underworld, they were called “Crescent Moon,” a name not easily spoken aloud.

“There’s a monster approaching from the right. It seems to have been provoked by the noise. What should we do?”

“Deal with it. Two should be enough?”

“That’s plenty.”


It didn’t take long to deal with the monster.

If they were so weak that they couldn’t kill a mere monster or two, they wouldn’t have been chosen as subordinates in the first place.

How long had the men in black been disturbing the deep night?

The leading man relied on a crude map and abandoned forest paths to navigate.

The guiding tools were inadequate, but the man had confidence.

He was sure they were following the correct path.

He could see traces that others couldn’t.

Very old wagon wheel tracks.

Traces of people coming and going a few times.

Judging by the time the traces were left, they roughly matched the time his client had mentioned.

Following those wheel tracks should lead to the cabin where the target was supposed to be.

He was a former ranger. He had an affair with the wife of his unit commander and killed the enraged commander when he was caught.

Honestly, it was a despicable thing, but he enjoyed it.

For those who needed someone to handle “discreet matters,” that fact wasn’t a flaw.

Rather, he saw his crime as a kind of badge of honor.

Deserting a ranger unit was generally impossible.

Rangers were strict in their discipline and equally strict in their punishment.

So killing the unit commander and deserting implied something else entirely.

It meant he had killed all the pursuing unit members and erased his tracks completely.

His outstanding skills and clean handling of the aftermath were acknowledged in one go.

This time, too, his skills were navigating smoothly.

A smile curved on his lips as he extended his right arm and gave an order.


They had arrived.

An artificial scene unfolded before their eyes.

A circular clearing in the middle of the forest.

In the center of that clearing was a cabin.

His eyes quickly scanned the surroundings.

There was a pile of burnt logs around the cabin.

Such an arrangement of logs was a trace of a cremation ceremony from the Grand Duchy of Eilencia.

A little further away, bodies that seemed to belong to adult men were scattered.

They were incompetent predecessors.

“This is the cabin the client mentioned. Search this area thoroughly. I’ll check inside the cabin.”

“When do we regroup?”

“In fifteen minutes.”

“Yes, sir.”

As if they had planned it, the subordinates dispersed.

He rode his horse up to the cabin, tied it nearby, and immediately began searching inside.

For an old place, it bore the heavy marks of use.

First, he headed to the basement.

The items in the underground storage were meticulously organized, as if someone had taken great care.

So, he only needed to check the disturbed items.

There was no need to look too closely.

Most of what had been taken were preserved foods and emergency supplies.

It seemed they had wisely taken what they needed for a long journey.

They weren’t completely clueless, it seemed.

It made the chase more interesting.

While the four of them lived here, they hadn’t seemed to rely much on preserved foods.

The consumption of other ingredients and preserved foods was markedly different.

The preserved food probably tasted bad. With other options available, there was no reason to eat the preserved stuff.

He knew from his ranger days how awful preserved food could taste.

Excessively salty, hard, and tough—it was never appealing.

He could surmise that the preserved food had been taken for the journey ahead.

For a group of four, it seemed enough for only a day or two?

It was woefully insufficient.

‘For a group of four, the number of items taken is too few. Probably two of them died. There were traces of a funeral, so the exact number should be confirmed by the subordinates.’

His eyes caught sight of scattered boxes. The contents seemed to have been rummaged through haphazardly.

If the person who organized these boxes had been alive, they wouldn’t have allowed such a mess.

It was clear who managed these boxes.

Nobles’ children wouldn’t have organized the storage themselves if a maid was around.

‘If two died, one of them must have been the maid. At least one of the siblings must have left here alive.’

This was very fortunate for him.

If both siblings had died here, it would have been difficult to retrieve “evidence.”

His client promised additional payment depending on the outcome. Bringing back at least one of the siblings’ heads fresh would be a matter of pride.

He continued to search the cabin.

On the first floor, dried bloodstains were visible in several places.

The bloodstains were inconsistent in location and quantity.

Sword marks were scattered everywhere.

He concluded that the fight here must have been a brawl.

In such a fight, both sides are bound to get hurt.

Out of the four, only two seemed capable of fighting.

At least one of the two must have died or been severely injured. And in such a remote place, a severe injury was practically a death sentence.

Even if they were alive, they would be a walking corpse.

There were quite a few blood-stained bandages and scraps of cloth scattered around.

It seemed they tore their own clothes to use as makeshift bandages, with torn pieces of fabric lying around.

It looked like it belonged to the maid.

It appears that the situation was critical.

In this case, it would be more correct to assume death rather than serious injury.

‘One of Eilencia’s young lords or the Viscount Berthus must be dead. It’d be better if the Viscount survived.’

His client had mentioned that this forest was quite dangerous.

And the Viscount was supposedly quite skilled with a sword.

He was advised to consider him to be of a higher caliber than most knights.

Having at least one capable protector with them was better than imagining two clueless youngsters wandering into the forest.

This way, they would stay alive until he arrived.

It would be even better if the surviving direct descendant of Eilencia was a girl.

‘That seems like the most likely scenario. Very satisfying.’

He was very fond of his job.

Given the nature of his work, he often found himself shedding the blood of nobles.

Every time he killed those who lived in luxury without a care in the world, a thrill boiled deep within him.

Especially when it was women who were revered as noble ladies.

Seeing their pretty faces stained with tears was exhilarating.

He wanted to sever their crying necks and preserve them as trophies.

What must it feel like for those who looked down on commoners all their lives to die by the hands of one?

How miserable must they feel as they die?

Relishing the emotions of his victims was the joy he found in his work.

And this time, it was the daughter of the Grand Duke of Eilencia.

A noble among nobles whom most people would never see in their lifetime.

Would a girl with such noble blood shed tears when in pain?

Would she beg for her life?

Would she lick his boots if he promised to spare her?

If there was a protector, he hoped the Grand Duke’s daughter was fond of him.

The despair when a trusted knight dies is very particular.

‘Well, I’ll get to meet her soon enough. Let’s see each other soon, Grand Duke’s daughter.’

Just as he finished gathering the necessary information, his subordinates returned at the appointed time.

By then, he had already memorized even the smallest habits of the fugitives.

Comparing it with what the subordinates found, his predictions were mostly accurate.

Two had died here. Judging by the skeletons, one was a woman and one was a man.

As he was being briefed, the most satisfying news reached his ears.

“We found tracks of the escape. There are two sets of footprints.”

“The composition?”

“Not much different from our expectations. One is a woman, one is a man. They seem to have headed northeast.”


A sinister smile crept up his face. A deep-seated killing intent smiled menacingly.

“Keep pursuing. We’ll see them soon.”

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