Chapter 334

A strange rumor started circulating, beginning with the villages and territories along the coast of the mainland. No, rather, it could not be called rumors. You could not write off actual events as rumors.

One day, people suddenly started to get sick. It was not limited to just one or two people. Entire villages would get struck with a mysterious sickness at the same time.

The disease did not discriminate between children and adults. Some seniors and children, who were relatively weaker, started dying as well.

At first, it was thought to be an epidemic, but that was not it. After some time, the affected people would be completely cured and returned to normal as if they had never been sick. It usually lasted two or three days. In other words, an entire village would be struck with the sickness for a few days before everything returned to normal as if nothing had happened.

It was truly a mysterious event.

But there was something even more bizarre. After the incident occurred in a village, the same thing would happen to a nearby village after a few days.

The phenomenon gradually spread inland.

It was as if the sickness was a wandering traveler.

People became terrified and started calling the phenomenon a ‘divine punishment’, visiting the local temples and monasteries to pray that the event would avoid their villages. 

Although the vast majority of people recovered without fault, it resulted in casualties as well. No one wished for something so mysterious and possibly fatal to happen to their villages.

But the people did not realize because they were stricken with fear.

The mysterious phenomenon, which they called ‘divine punishment’, only occurred in one village at a time. If they spread open a map and looked at it, they would have noticed that all the affected villages or cities were located near the road.

And… that the events had a certain directionality to them. The phenomenon was moving towards a ‘specific area’.

*** 

“Everyone on the carriages, get out! Special inspection! No exceptions!”

The people lined up to pass the gate murmured as a soldier shouted in a loud voice. He was dressed in circular plate armor engraved with the symbol of the dragon. The soldier appeared very powerful, and he had an oppressive gaze. The passengers of the carriages began to descend one by one, including the wealthy merchants and nobles.

The merchants were usually amicable and obedient to the soldiers, but those of noble origin would never have obediently followed the words of the soldiers in normal circumstances.

But things were different now.

Even a high lord of a territory would have to be respectful while passing through the gate. This was Bellint Gate, a critical entry point into the heart of the Pendragon Duchy.

“Sir Londo, let us get it started.”

A middle-aged man spoke to the gate’s knight. Unlike the other soldiers, he was equipped in leather armor, which looked relatively light and sleek in comparison. Although Londo was a nobleman and a knight, the man in front of him was not someone he could take lightly. The knight named Londo responded with a nod.

“All right, Sir Jody.”

He was none other than Jody, the leader of the trio who fought alongside Raven in Sisak. After deciding to serve Raven as lord, he came with Gus and Scylla to the Pendragon Duchy. They had worked hard behind the scenes to secure information networks and solved related matters. There was a reason why he was at Bellint Gate.

“Please take a close look, lord priests.”

“We will.”

At Jody’s words, two high-ranking priests of Illeyna stood in front of the gate. Both of them were dressed in blue robes.

“Line up in front of the priests one by one!”

The people moved at the knight’s shouts.

“Please give me your hands.”

The crowd did not know the reasoning behind the priests’ actions, but all of them, regardless of status, obeyed the words of the gentle priests, who had warm smiles on their faces. A priest held the hands of the person he faced and stared at their eyes for a moment before nodding.

“It is all right. The blessing of the goddess be with you…”

“Ah, yes.”

“Pass!”

Contrary to the soldiers’ tense attitude, everyone passed through the checkpoint without trouble. They tilted their heads with confusion before climbing back into their carriages or passing through the gate.

However, since Bellint Gate was the gateway to the heart of the duchy, it was inevitable that it took quite some time. There were just too many people standing in line.

“Hmm, I think this will go all the way until the end of noon…”

“There is no helping it. These are the strict commands of Sir Vincent. For the time being, we will need to do this every day.”

Jody smiled and responded to the words of the knight.

“Well, there is no harm in being extra careful. From what I heard, a few people in some villages of the Seyrod territory died because of the divine punishment.”

“That is correct. Though most of them were older and past sixty, it is true that someone who could have lived longer died. Most importantly, since we do not know what is causing such a phenomenon, we have no choice but to do this.”

Jody and the knight took turns looking at the two priests, who were holding people’s hands and gazing into their eyes.

An unidentified phenomenon that everyone regarded as a punishment from the gods.

However, Vincent, the duchy’s advisor, did not think so. There was a definite cause for everything, and he was convinced that a punishment from the gods would never take such form. In addition, Vincent realized that the phenomenon known as the ‘divine punishment’ was moving along the road and that it was gradually heading towards the Pendragon Duchy.

Vincent concluded that in order to prevent the divine punishment, which came without warning, weakened the people but had no particular indication, one had to rely on divine power. That was why he asked for the cooperation of the temples and sent priests to Bellint Gate along with Jody.

“Please let me know if you become tired. We have others waiting as well.”

“It should be fine. Brother Jon and I will take care of it until noon.”

Jody spoke politely. The two priests shook their heads and smiled before taking the hands of the people next in line. The knight breathed a sigh of relief while looking at the two priests.

“Anyway, I am glad. There does not seem to be any particular indications for now.”

“Well, for now.”

Even while smiling, Jody observed the people standing in a long line with keen eyes. According to the words of his superior, Vincent, the divine punishment was being intentinoally caused by someone. And according to his calculations, it was likely to reach the Pendragon Duchy within a few days.

“Huh?”

Jody narrowed his eyes while scouring the crowd. Two people, one man and one woman, were trudging from a distance on the road leading to the gate.

“Hmm…”

Jody tilted his head.

It was not strange for a young man and woman to be accompanying each other. However, something was unusual about the two who were walking toward the gate. The woman was wearing a dress full of dirt and caked with dust. As an experienced mercenary, Jody instantly recognized her as a noble. The man by her side was clearly a skilled mercenary or a knight. He was keeping in step with the lady.

In other words, the relationship between the two would be a noble lady and an escort protecting her.

“That is strange.”

“What is?”

The knight asked back.

Jody answered while pointing at the two people.

“Over there. It must be a noble lady and her escort, but is it not strange that they are walking here without a horse or a carriage? Besides, they look as if they have been through a lot.”

“I see. Hmm…”

The knight showed interest, then became alert. The two were ignoring the long line and walking straight to the gate.

“Stop.”

A guard stepped out and stopped the two people.

“I would like to see the one in charge.”

The soldier flinched at the man’s strange voice, which was similar to a crow’s cry, but soon shook his head.

“Get in line. No exceptions.”

Nevertheless, he spoke again with an expressionless face.

“My name is Gus Plain. I am a knight of the 7th regiment. And this lady is…”

He turned around, then continued with a perfectly polite voice.

“Lady Serin Reiner, whom Sir Elkin Isla is engaged to.”

“Huh?”

As soon as Isla’s name was mentioned, the soldier became shocked. It was true of the other soldiers around him as well.

“P, please wait a moment.”

The news of Isla’s decision had already reached the Pendragon Duchy. As such, the soldier hurriedly rushed to the side of Jody and the knight.

“Captain, they…”

Jody and the knight’s expression changed as they listened to the soldier’s explanation.

“Do you think it is true?”

The knight spoke with shock, and Jody nodded.

“True or not, we need to hear them out first.”

“Yes. Escort them inside first.”

“Yes, sir.”

“The two people soon entered the gate under the escort of the soldiers.

*** 

“Hmm!”

Jody and knight Londo shared a stiff gaze. The identity of the man who claimed to be a knight of the 7th regiment was verified. The identification token he held out was exclusively given to the imperial knights, and the woman’s identification token was clearly inscribed with the symbol of the Reiner family.

Most importantly, the ring that the woman held out could not be refuted.

It was an object engraved with the symbol of a dragon and a griffon. It was definitely a token of the Pendragon Duchy. Something as precise and beautiful as this could not be made just anywhere.

“What in the world happened?”

Jody asked hurriedly after being convinced of their identities.

“We were attacked by unidentified enemies on our way here. The accompany lady elven warrior died fighting them, buying us enough time for me to lead the lady away from there.”

“How could that be!”

The two people were shocked.

After regaining his composure somewhat, Jody turned to Serin, who was sitting quietly.

“Are you hurt anywhere?”

“...I am fine.”

“.....!”

Jody involuntarily flinched. It had been the case with the 7th regiment knight as well, but Serin Reiner’s voice was a little strange. Rather, it was somewhat normal compared to the knight’s voice, which was akin to a crow’s cry, but it somehow felt cold and artificial.

‘Her impression is very gentle and soft… This is weird.’

But Jody quickly shook off his thoughts. It was only natural for her to be in shock after all that had happened to her. He stood up.

“This is not the time for this. Let us hurry to Conrad Castle. The duchess had been worried because Lady Reiner seemed to be a bit delayed. Sir Londo, could you give us a carriage?”

“Of course. I will send some soldiers along just in case.”

She was none other than the future wife of Elkin Isla, the Knight King. Apart from the duke himself, Isla was the most admired knight in the entire duchy. They could not neglect his future wife, since even the duchy considered her to be an extremely important figure.

“It would be better to take a few days off at the gate, but with how things have turned out, I will escort you right away. Would that be all right?”

“Yes.”

She answered with a stiff face. Jody imagined the shock she would have received and responded.

“Let us go, then.”

“Prepare the carriage and the horses.”

“Yes, captain!”

The soldiers began preparing at Londo’s words.

“......”

Serin Reiner and the 7th regiment knight observed the busily moving soldiers with emotionless, dead eyes.


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