The distance from Morko Castle to the jungle had taken about four hours to travel, excluding resting time, when Kieran and co. had escaped.
However, when Kieran had to return to the castle, it took him a whole morning and afternoon to get there.
He was slower on foot than on a horse, and he had to carefully avoid any potential patrolling soldiers looking for him.
The soldiers would be more dangerous on the way back to the castle than when Kieran and his friends had escaped from it, and he had zero intention of bumping into any of them.
When darkness covered the sky, Kieran finally saw Morko Castle.
He looked at it from afar, and saw torches lighting up its sides. Most parts of the castle were blurry and covered in darkness though.
Whenever the torches flashed by, they only revealed the hard gray color of the castle.
There was still a faint smell of blood in the air when the wind blew, as if the air was trying to tell bypassers that a fierce battle had taken place there.
Under the dark sky, the castle looked like a beastly titan that had finished devouring endless blood and flesh and was just waiting for its next meal.
Kieran silently reached a hidden spot and halted. He was planning on resting for two hours before resuming his journey.
He had no intention of entering the castle.
Although security would have weakened tremendously after the fierce battle, the remaining guards would only be more vigilant after that bloody fight. Theyd be filled with sorrow and rage.
It was not a good idea to try to infiltrate the castle under those circumstances.
Plus, the hanging bridge had been lifted again. If Kieran wanted to enter, he would have to climb the walls from the outside of the inner courtyard, starting from the bottom of the cliff.
Since he did not have the necessary skill to climb that almost vertical cliff, Kieran wisely gave up on that idea.
He leaned on a dry tree trunk in the darkness and slowed down his breathing, closing his eyes and seemingly dozing off, although he actually still had his guard up the whole time.
The most dangerous place was also the safest place.
Kieran could not deny that, but at the same time he also understood that the more danger there was, the more vigilant he had to be.
Therefore, when his ears picked up a series of light steps approaching, he quickly turned around and hid behind the trees shadow.
His Musou Level [Undercover] allowed him to become one with the shadows.
As the steps got closer, soon a human figure appeared in Kierans line of sight.
Under the dim light of the moon, Kieran was able to make out the figures face. It was a familiar face. Kieran quickly identified the man with just a glance.
It was Gradon! Morkos Knight and the Western Area Commanding Officer.
Gradons sharp senses had made a strong impact on Kierans mind.
He unconsciously held his breath, getting ready for an ambush.
If Gradon really searched the area, Kieran had no confidence that he could avoid those sharp senses of his.
However, Gradons injured arm was covered in a cast, and bandages were hanging around his neck. It was a surprise for Kieran, even more so when Gradon walked over to the dry tree, looking around only from time to time.
Gradon stood there with his back facing Kieran. It seemed like he had no intention of searching the area.
His actions did not match the sharp, vigilant impression Kieran had of him.
"What happened? Not only did Gradon leave the castle right after the uprising, but he also seems to be waiting for someone! Has he lost his mind? Who could have possibly made him do that?" Kieran asked himself silently.
Gradons unusual actions filled him with curiosity.
He silently stayed in the shadows, overseeing the situation.
After waiting for a while, another black figure appeared on the path Gradon had come from.
The figure was moving in a suspicious way, and it was covered in a black mantle, its face hidden under that hood.
Only the chin was exposed, but it was covered with a face mask.
The black figure had appeared out of nowhere. If Kieran had not been focused on his surroundings, he would never have noticed it.
He only looked at it from the corners of his eyes, observing Gradon and the black figure while staying hidden.
"Its you! Why? Why did you do it? You cant carry on with this mistake anymore! Tell me what really happened! You are not someone who would do something that reckless! Surely there must be someone forcing you to do this! Am I right?" Gradon said with an agitated expression.
His words sounded like gibberish. They escaped his mouth too fast. He had started questioning the figure the moment it had arrived.
The black figure remained silent against Gradons questions, seemingly guilty of those accusations.
Gradon seemed to sense its guilt and suddenly grabbed the black figures arm, trying to persuade him again.
Out of nowhere, the sudden flash of a blade slashed Gradons neck.
Gradon held onto his neck with an incredulous expression as he fell down.
Until the last second of his life, the Knight of Morko and Western Commanding Officer had his eyes wide open.
It seemed like he had not expected the black figure to raise his blade against him.
"Im sorry, Gradon, but theres no turning back for me now!" the black figure said in an apologetic tone, his voice echoing around the tree.
The figure bent down and shut Gradons eyes, carefully checking his body before leaving.
Kieran, who was hiding behind the trees shadow, had not budged during the scene, although his heart was raging with waves of doubts.
Judging by Gradons manner, he was sure he knew who the black figure was, but he still thought it was impossible.
There was no reason for the man to do what hed just done.
Kieran understood why Gradon had died with so many questions.
If he, whod had so many years of loyal service, had not been able to understand, then how could Kieran, who was an outsider?
"What is really going on?" Kieran furrowed his brow hard.
However, when he heard footsteps again, he collected his thoughts and concentrated on the situation at hand.
The black figure had returned to search the area.
"Sh*t!" Kieran shouted in his mind.
The black figure seemed to have noticed how agitated Gradon had been and realized he had not searched the area before. He was just going back for a safety check.
Kieran was in awe of the mans vigilance, but he was also saving his power, waiting for a chance to strike.
He had discovered the mans secret, so the two of them would not be able to make peace now.
Kieran might as well strike first rather than wait to get discovered and dragged into a fight.
After a quick inspection of their surroundings, the black figure locked his eyes on the tree.
The man was approaching step by step, getting closer and closer.
Just as Kieran was calculating the best attacking range for him to strike, the figure halted abruptly when he entered his optimal attacking range.
"Did he see me?"
Kierans heart skipped a beat.