“You have often experienced anomalies. Many times gates graded as intermediate mutated into advanced or high-level gates with ancient or never before seen monsters pouring out of them. And those creatures are unusually regenerative with repeated and rapid rebirth and divisional offspring. In summation, a gate to hell.”
I remember. How can I forget?
Howell recalled, gritting his molars, recalling the gate that had allowed him to meet Dahlia 17 years ago.
Indeed, as the Archduke said, it was a gate to hell. Did that mean the Archduke had also faced such monsters that devoured his men and drove them to the brink of insanity?
A thick vein stood out on Howell’s neck.
“Yes, I have faced such a thing before.”
“Then it will be easier to explain.”
With a stern smile, the Archduke, who put down his teacup, leaded forward.
“Such gates are not created naturally. It’s an ‘abnormal gate’ that is created when a ‘Plum’s’ failed experiment goes awry.”
Coolness filled Howell’s golden eyes. No one in the Empire was ignorant of Plum’s existence. Plum’s notoriety floated like a fearful myth not only in the central great empire of Marcania, but also amongst those in the west and east.
There were whispers of them kidnapping children for all sorts of bizarre experiments, and even turning a whole village into a ruin after an experiment. But people could only guess what it was they were testing. So most people had heard of them, but didn’t believe in them. Like a boogeyman to scare unruly children into compliance.
“If Plum actually existed … .”
“Plum exists. Their tests are very bizarre. They seem to be trying to create a different race by combining the powers of guides and sentinels in one body. They kidnap full-term pregnant women and use their newborn babies for experiments.”
Unwittingly, Howell smashed the table and got up.
“Ridiculous! Merging the forces of guides and sentinels!”
“At first, I had the same reaction as you. But… . it’s true They will deal with the bodies of children who failed their experiments by dumping them inside the gate. The beginning of the discovery started with a Sentinel discovering the body of a baby who had not yet been eaten by demons while he was subduing the gate.”
Bodies of children.
Fare for demons.
Howell felt his head go white, and closed his eyes tightly.
17 years ago, at that gate.
Where Dahlia was found.
In the place where the gate used to be… .
All kinds of disturbing imaginations involving baby Dahlia corroded his mind.
Howell slumped into his chair like a shocked man, clenching his fists as his shoulders shook and grew stiff.
“Those… . What are you planning to do with them? They shouldn’t exist, they are worse than scum! They have given up on being human.”
“Yes, that’s why I came to see you.”
Howell had a foreboding.
Lester Edelred sat cross legged and met Howell’s eyes with a solemn smile.
“I am in the process of creating an order of knights made of only sentinels at the command of His Majesty the Emperor. Resembling an army. The Mascanian Empire will declare war on Plum.”
Howell’s dark eyebrows twitched. Archduke Edelred, who thought the Count was interested, found his opportunity and made a proposal.
“I want you to be a part of my team managing the Sentinel Knights, Count Howell. In addition… . I heard you have a daughter. Wasn’t she granted a rank of Advanced Sentinel at the age of only ten?”
“Let that child join the Sentinel Knights. Shouldn’t your son and heir stay on the estate to protect Tezeba? It’s His Majesty the Emperor’s order that all noble families are to participate.”
Howell’s eyes lost focus. After a moment he wiped his distressed face.
It didn’t matter who ordered it, he could not have Dahlia join the Sentinel Knights Order. Two powers coexisted in her body. If people found out… .
It would not go well. The situation would already be grim if her guide energy was discovered. She would be dragged to the temple without hesitation.
The Archduke continued, clutching Howell’s shoulders with a sympathetic heart:
“I also enlisted my one and only son into the knighthood. The territory was entrusted to the Etna Knights. We can no longer sit back and watch them devour the continent any longer.”
“But, Archduke. Dahlia is a girl. Soon— she will make her debut and find a good marriage. She has the powers of a sentinel, but she wants to live a normal life… .”
Howell’s gaze quivered, and his breathing became uneven.
“I understand your heart, Count Howell. A good marriage… . But since she was born with the power of a sentinel, she can’t live a normal life, can she? So please deliberate over it.”
The Archduke rose from his seat. When the door opened, the waiting attendants greeted and guided the guests. Perhaps the servants overheard the conversation between the two for their expressions were grim.
Then Yvon, who was supervising outside, pounced on and hugged her heartbroken husband.
“Damn it… !”
The Count embraced his wife, around her waist and buried his face in her nape. Perhaps because of the shocking news, his condition was not good.
Yvon ordered the attendant to bring a guide. Shortly thereafter, a young-faced guide knelt in front of him. Then, holding his hand, he commenced guiding.
Gradually, Howell’s frantic energy began to stabilize. His brightly shining eyes found their hue and sanity, and his grip relaxed.
Recovery rate is 38%.
Normally, guiding was conducted through a more primitive contact. But Howell had never kissed anyone other than Yvon.
“Get out of here.”
After dismissing the guide, he closed his eyes tightly, pulled Yvon’s hand, and placed it on his lap.
She took in a breath she had been holding back and began stroking her husband’s face. She kissed his forehead.
“Sometimes I wish I was a guide.”
“You, as you are, are enough.”
“When we go to the capital, make sure to stop by a temple and get proper guiding. Promise?”
Nodding in compliance, Howell sighed, burying his face in Yvon’s chest.
“Honey. Dahlia’s wedding… we have to hurry. Let’s look into noble families without power or political ties. It needs to happen soon.”