Wind blew across the camp. As it did, it made the dead silence of the eerie campsite even more obvious.
The silence made Kieran's brow furrow.
Especially when he walked through the campsite gate. He gripped his gun handle hard, preparing for any potential danger.
However, nothing happened as he ventured forward and reached the end of the campsite.
Kieran had carefully checked all the tents as he went on, but just as he'd thought, there was not a single soul around.
However, the tents were filled with all kinds of supplies. They were not lacking a single thing.
Personal belongings, weapons, everything was casually placed inside, as if the owners were still around.
Kieran even saw a bowl filled with food in one of the tents. The food had been left behind half-eaten.
The bowl had not been toppled or finished by any means. It had just been left there to rot, as if the person eating it had vanished into thin air.
"Vanished into thin air?"
Kieran's heart instantly shivered. He quickly entered his [Tracking] mode, but it had been far too long ago. Time had swept the place clean of any traces.
"Everyone vanished at least a week ago!" Kieran speculated based on his experience as he squinted.
He had started his journey from Herl CIty exactly one week ago.
The similar timeframe made Kieran come up with a couple more theories about what was going on.
"If that's really the case"
Kieran's expression turned serious all of a sudden. He quickly headed towards the end of the campsite and the road leading to Isogu City.
Isogu City was a historical place covered by a huge forest. However, ever since an explorer had discovered gold inside the ancient city, Isogu City had been relieved of its green cover and exposed to the eyes of the world.
A path had been carved out from the end of the campsite, leading straight into the city.
Kieran's position already allowed him to see a corner of the ancient city clearly.
As he walked along the path, Keiran saw lots of axes inside the woods and on the ground. It seemed like the gold diggers who had carved the path out had not been satisfied with it and had wanted to expand it even more.
Yet before they could finish the work, they had vanished.
Kieran paused where he stood for a while, and then went back without venturing inside the ancient city.
He thought he should inform Herbert and Pierre about the strange scene on the campsite first. Herbert was a scholar after all, so he might know something.
Herbert was shocked when he heard Kieran's statement.
"That's right. Their things are still intact, but everyone is gone. It's as if they vanished into thin air!" Kieran explained with a furrowed brow.
"1,500 years ago, after the Neegor Dynasty united the whole world, they also vanished in one night. It was as if they disappeared from Earth" Herbert mumbled softly to himself.
Kieran and Pierre exchanged looks, noticing each other's frightened expression.
Although Kieran had heard this from Herbert before, he hadn't connected the disappearance of the gold diggers to what had happened 1,500 years ago to the Neegor Dynasty.
Pierre had heard about it even more times, but habit made him focus more on taking care of Herbert rather than on legends.
"We should head back, Herbert. The things happening here are way out of our league! You have enough evidence to prove that the Neegor Dynasty existed. There is no need to risk this anymore!" Pierre said.
As a warrior, he would not mind taking that risk, but as Herbert's butler and bodyguard, he needed to put Herbert's safety first.
Kieran remained quiet. He had been hoping that Herbert would help him explore Isogu City, but he could not force him to.
Not only would this violate his principles, but Kieran also knew that if he pushed Herbert too far, the way Herbert might react could result in the opposite outcome.
"Fret not, Pierre. The Night Monsters could never cause the Neegor Dynasty to vanish. Otherwise, they wouldn't have been eliminated by the Neegor Dynasty's troops in the first place! The situation before us is the same!" Herbert comforted his butler and bodyguard.
"This is still dangerous!" Pierre reminded Herbert.
"We can't go back now! The Night Monsters have blocked our way back. The only way for us now is to move forward!" Herbert said with a smile. He was free from any nervousness or anxiety now. He actually looked extremely relaxed.
"We still have to try! It's better than pressing forward like this!" Pierre insisted.
"No, no! If we continued, it would be safer for us. We had speculated that the Night Monsters would strike before Isogu City, but now it is unfit for a battle. The gold digger campsite was the best option, but 2567 told us the site is empty, free of any souls or monsters! This is our chance!" Herbert shook his head.
"It might be a bigger trap! There are too many coincidences!" Pierre said.
Kieran raised his right index finger, staring at Herbert and Pierre as he stated his own theory, "One week. The people in the gold digger campsite vanished one week ago. Coincidentally, that was when we started our journey. This got me thinking about something. One week ago, when we resumed our journey, we were ambushed. It only happened once though."
"Maybe the strength we displayed exceeded their expectations or something happened between the Night Monsters themselves, but in the end, they altered their original plan, which had been to prevent Herbert from reaching Isogu City. Instead, they moved forward with Herbert, heading for the ancient city themselves. They are looking for that thing!" Kieran deliberately emphasized the word "thing".
"So the Night Monsters are relying on our knowledge to help them find that thing inside Isogu City? Does this means we will be safe until they get their hands on that thing?" Herbert agreed with Kieran's theory. Pierre nodded too, not raising any further objections.
After a while, Herbert sorted some things out in his head.
"Maybe the Night Monsters will even shield us from other threats! If we use this as a starting point, the people in the gold digger campsite may very well have been the monsters' handy work! Of course, it might be something else altogether, but the way I see it, the Night Monsters wanted to remove that distraction to allow me to locate that thing for them! After all, that thing is too important to them! That's our chance!"
Herbert lowered his voice at the end, so only the three of them could hear.
What was that "thing"?
Everyone except the big fellow knew.
It was the weapon! The weapon that could easily eliminate the Night Race.
At the beginning, the Night Monsters had wanted to prevent Herbert from venturing into Isogu City. They had to stop him from discovering that weapon, as it would threaten their very existence.
However, they had obviously changed their plan and approached it with a more radical method. They wanted Herbert to locate the weapon inside Isogu City for them, destroy it and end their troubles once and for all.
That was why they'd had a smooth journey to Isogu City.
Herbert also had another idea about the weapon. He wanted to use it to eliminate the monsters before they could destroy it. That would not be easy though.
"If the Night Monsters are allowing you to search for it freely, this means they must have prepared themselves! Don't forget, no matter what methods they use, they managed to vanish at least 1,000 gold diggers from that campsite! We shouldn't underestimate them!" Kieran said as he drew a deep breath.
"I will need you and Pierre's help!"
Herbert looked at Kieran and Pierre seriously.
[Sub Mission Unlocked: Finding the Lost Monument]
[Finding the Lost Monument: The Neegor Dynasty's greatness was undeniable. The item left behind by them was enough to strike a chord in any being's heart, including the Night Monsters'! The Night Monsters could not solve the riddle of the Neegor Dynasty, so they needed an expert! Herbert is the one. Help him find the lost mystical item!]
"Just find it? Not use the weapon to destroy the Night Race as a whole?"
The Sub Mission had not come as a surprise, but the description had. Kieran went through it carefully. He had to decipher each and every word, since he had made a mistake in interpreting the previous Sub Mission. He still accepted it though.
"Of course!" he said with a smile.
"I am your butler and bodyguard. Wherever you go, I go!" Pierre said helplessly.
The big fellow grunted, signifying that he would follow Herbert as well. Just like when the group had separated into two, the big guy grabbed the edge of Herbert's clothes, unwilling to let go.
The group resumed their journey again. As usual, Kieran took the lead.
Although they had speculated that they would not be in harm's way before they located the weapon, this was not an excuse for Kieran to lower his guard.
Soon, the group reached the gold diggers' campsite.
Despite Kieran's descriptions, Herbert and Pierre were still in awe when they saw the empty but intact campsite.
They jumped down from their horses and checked around, just like Kieran had earlier, hoping to find more clues.
The result was the same. They found nothing in particular.
In the end, they gathered some food and water from the tents and moved to the end of the campsite and the path that led to Isogu City.
However, as Kieran and co. approached the path, they saw a wooden sign stuck in the middle of it.
On the sign was a warning message written in fresh blood.
Who wrote the sign!?