The sign was crudely crafted, made out of sticks, vines and a wooden plank.
The words were written well enough to read, somewhat neatly, but before the ink could dry, the sign had been tilted up, causing the ink to drip down.
As the messy ink dripped, it made the words blurry and vicious, like a bloody, wide-open jaw.
"Its not blood. I think its some kind of berry juice. It seems like the person who wrote it was in a hurry. The words were written with their finger, using the berry juice. Their finger must have been strong and stiff. The vigorous writing even penetrated the wooden plank a bit. A normal human being could never have done this!"
After making sure there were no traps around, Kieran went up to check on the sign.
The sourness that his nose picked up allowed him to recognize the origins of the red liquid.
Kieran was unsure what it really was though.
Although he had a Basic Level [Potionology] and he could remember at least 100 types of plants and their stems, root leaves and effects, compared to the number of plants in nature, that was like a drop of water in the sea.
Kieran had already put enough effort into strengthening his Basic Level [Potionology] so he could tell that the liquid was some kind of berry juice.
He stood up from his squatting position and glanced around in hopes of finding more clues.
"When I left, this sign was not here. They must have poked it down after I left, certain that we were coming. Most importantly, there are no traces of footprints or fingerprints left around the area. They approached without casting a shadow and left without a trace. Does that feel familiar, Herbert?"
Kieran looked at the elderly scholar, who nodded at his inquiry.
"The guardians! Isogu Citys guardians!" Herbert said.
"Those manipulative bastards only know how to play pranks and scary tricks! If they really had this kind of power, why not just kill the entire Night Race?" Pierre said in a grumpy tone, looking at the sign.
Kieran knew why Pierre was so upset about the guardians. It was because the guardians had burned down Herberts place.
To Pierre, Herberts place was like his place. In other words, it was home.
No one would be friendly to someone who had burned down their home, no matter their intentions.
It was good enough that he was not cursing out loud.
Pierre was not a mild-tempered man by any means. The reason he was not cursing was because he had other intentions.
Kieran saw it clearly. As Pierre had mentioned the guardians, his hand had never left the hilt of his sword.
Obviously, Pierre had a more direct approach in mind. Kieran agreed with him, even though hed never had a real home.
Still, he knew how to deal with someone who had burned down his house. He would skin that person alive and torture their body and soul a hundred times over.
"Shall we continue?"
Kieran drew a deep breath and pointed at the path that led to Isogu City.
"Of course." Herbert nodded.
Kieran walked in front of the group for the rest of the journey. Compared to the route they had taken on their way there, the forest-covered path could contain even more danger.
It wasnt just the Night Monsters. The guardians, who never showed their faces, might very well be hiding in those woods.
After all, the gold diggers had only carved out a path to Isogu City. That was nothing compared to the whole forest.
The forest was as wide as a sea, so it was easy for the guardians or the Night Monsters to take cover in it.
That was not a wild guess. Kieran was basing his theory on the Night Monsters attitude towards the weapon they were after. However, there were still some doubts lingering in his mind.
The guardians of Isogu City had to know the ancient city better than anyone. They also had to know what was buried inside the city. Everything there had to be like their family valuables.
Including that weapon. If they had the weapon though, why would they allow the Night Race to expand their forces to a substantial size?
"The lineage was broken?"
Kieran thought of a possibility that could reasonably explain the current situation.
Something must have happened among the guardians, and the knowledge and weapon related to their lineage had been lost, resulting in the monsters comeback.
Kieran could not know what had really happened, but he was certain that the Night Race and the guardians were mutually antagonistic, fighting with both open and secret means.
The two sides were each others natural enemies.
The Night Race were abnormal beings once eliminated by the Neegor Dynasty.
The guardians were supposed to be the descendants of Isogu City, and the city had been one of the main fortresses of the Neegor Dynasty.
Even though the Neegor Dynasty had disappeared 1,500 years ago, Isogu City was still there, and so were the guardians.
Kieran could only imagine the fierce battle between the guardians and the Night Race Monsters. It would have been nothing, if not terrifying.
He unconsciously recalled the massacre back in Herl City.
"Was that black figure one of the guardians? What was he after? The lineage of Isogu City?"
Kierans mind was blooming with new doubts, but he did not stop walking. He was also searching around him with extreme vigilance.
After walking for 40 minutes, the group reached the real entrance of Isogu City.
A high wall had appeared before them. It would have looked really tall even to someone from modern society.
The wall was the only thing intact. Beside it were crumbled walls covered with layers of dust.
The high wall itself was no exception. Any dust that fell onto it only added another layer of a withered old feel to it, as if it was a giant tree, The bigger it grew, the greater it got.
Kieran was looking at the 15-meter high wall, imagining what it must have looked like during the glory days of Isogu city.
"Was it a fortress?" Kieran mumbled to himself.
"Yes. During that time, Isogu City had been a true fortress! It was a combination of a castle, a palace and a fortress. The whole city had been built in a pentagon shape. This city wall here is the only part of it thats still intact. Its only the outer rim. There were two more city walls inside and a moat Its all gone now though," Herbert said eloquently before letting out a heavy sigh.
"When I first came here, I spent two years trying to identify the city blocks within Isogu City, but I was mistaken! Those were civilian blocks, not the inner city! The real inner city was where the gold was found! If it wasn't for the war that had broken out at the time, I would have gathered more evidence to correct my mistakes!"
Herbert got carried away as he revisited his old memories. His face was filled with regret.
"Its not too late now. Can you tell me more about this place?" Kieran asked.
He was looking at the notifications that had popped up in his vision.
[Isogu City Exploration +1% through Herberts Narration]
[Main Mission: Explore at least 20% of Isogu City within 4 weeks, Completion 1%]
No doubt, Kierans choice to follow Herbert on the expedition had been the best one.
The best proof for that was the 1% completion thanks to Herberts words.
Kieran would not let that chance slip away, especially not if it made it so easy to increase the mission completion rate.
Similarly, Herbert would not deny Kierans request. He started elaborating even more on Isogu City and his experience.
Pierre, who had heard that story countless times, showed no interest at all. Even the big guy behind them started to yawn.
The four of them shuttled through the streets of Isogu City.
However, as Kieran was listening to Herberts words, his face suddenly turned sour.
Pierre tightened his grip on his flintlock pistol. The big guy was sobbing, making a low grunting sound.
All three of their gazes were locked on the corner in front them. A faint bloody smell was coming from around the corner, as well as a soft rattling noise.
Some thing is there!! Help!