The three of them went back to fetch Myka and took her to the Duke’s mansion. Although Darke thought it was strange, he also knew the relationship between Myka and the Duke of the Tulip Family. However, he felt something strange from the way Myka was looking at the man named Rody.
The first meeting between Nicole and Myka inside the Duke’s residence was not as awkward as Rody imagined it would be. Nicole looked tranquil, while Myka was also very calm.
Nicole had long expected Myka to be an outstanding woman. When she actually saw Myka standing in front of her, she could not help but have a strange feeling.
Nicole felt that the woman in front of her looked extremely beautiful. Her satin-like long hair gently stick to her cheeks, making her look extremely gentle and charming. The most enchanting thing about Myka was her personality. Her beautiful face had a faint quiet look. She looked like she would be indifferent to everything around her. Nicole’s first thought was: She is such an exceptional person; how could her little brother abandon her so easily?
However, Nicole would not say all that. After a sigh, Nicole pulled Myka’s hand as she smiled and said, "Follow me inside."
Myka glanced at Rody. After Rody nodded, she smiled and followed Nicole in.
Obviously, Rody only let out his held breath after watching the two women leave. On the other hand, Diane had a complicated expression. From the start until the end, she quietly bit her lips and gently stepped on the tip of her toes.
The three of them spent the rest of their time preparing some tools. Following the guidance of the two jungle experts, Darke and Diane, the three prepared all their required tools and then rode out of the city.
The various roads, large and small, leading to the hunting grounds had already been blockaded by the army but Rody and his two companions were naturally unimpeded on their way there. A small barracks sat the periphery of the hunting ground. There were three hundred Imperial Guards stationed there. Rody ordered for them to wait outside while he brought Darke and Diane into the hunting ground.
The hunting ground was quiet at night. As the hunting ground belonged to the Tulip Family for centuries, some small roads were already constructed in the hunting ground. Although they were simple, they managed to enable the horses to run quickly. However, the three of them slowed down their horses when they entered the forest.
When the horseshoes trampled on the grass and the ground, they gave out a rustling sound. Rody rode in front while Darke and Diane rode side by side behind him, forming a triangular formation. All three of them were on alert, their hands on their weapons.
Occasionally, some wild rabbits and other animals that came out at night to forage for food were frightened and sprang from the roadside. Darke and Diane carefully looked around. Their expressions became more serious the closer they got to the lake at the center of the forest.
All along the way, it was quiet and peaceful. When they arrived at the central lake, they saw remnants of the damaged camps and the fallen trees from yesterday. They also saw the corpse of the huge monster killed by Rody.
Darke suddenly whispered from behind, "Wait!"
Rody immediately held the reins tight and turned around to look. Darke was sitting on his horse with his eyes closed. It was as if he was perceiving something. He then started sniffing vigorously.
His expression became even more serious. He immediately turned and dismounted from his horse. Clutching the bag of tools that he had prepared earlier, he slowly approached the carcass of that monster.
Rody and Diane also dismounted from their horses and conveniently tied the horses’ reins to the trees beside them. They then followed Darke to the lake.
Darke suddenly climbed a tree. He squatted on the tree trunk and stretched out his hand to touch a tree branch. He then brought it to his nose to sniff. Later, he jumped down from the tree and once again approached the monster’s corpse and carefully searched the surrounding area.
As the cold wind blew at night, Darke looked serious as if he had noticed something wrong. Diane who had been looking around also knotted her eyebrows.
Rody asked, "Did you find anything?"
Darke took a deep breath. He then turned around and replied, "There is something strange…" He then looked at Diane and asked, "Did you notice it as well?"
Diane nodded and slowly said, "The trees here are strange. Did you notice? All the trees near the lake are tall and sturdy. They grew excellently! This is very strange. Based on common sense, in the jungle, the places with water sources would be infested with animals. The vegetation here should quite often be trampled by animals, but if you were to look around, there are very few animal footprints!"
Rody thought for a moment and replied, "That seems to be the case. When we came here hunting yesterday, we only found some prey on the outer parts of the forest. The further we ventured into the forest, the less prey there were. Towards the end, those wild boars we hunted were also found at the edge of the forest. We actually drove them into the forest before killing them. It seems like really very few animals appeared at the lake."
Darke nodded and said, "That is the strange part. Generally speaking, water sources would usually have animals around, unless these animals like to divide their territories. This is especially true if the animals are very big. Perhaps, there is a large creature here and has marked this place as its territory and does not let other animals approach."
Rody shook his head and replied, "Not possible… This may be a forest, but it is also a private hunting ground. At most, there are some bigger size animals, like wild boars. There are no powerful creatures. This is a hunting ground for nobles. If there are such creatures, the nobles will get hurt."
Diane suddenly said, "Listen!"
"Hm?" Rody froze for a moment and asked, "Is there a sound?"
Diane gave Darke a glance and replied, "There is no sound! That is why it is strange!"
Darke softly agreed, "That's right! This is such a large forest, yet, not even the sound of birds could be heard." He shook his head and continued, "I have looked at a few trees. There is no bird’s nest or even any animal tracks..."
The two people’s words made Rody aware. He remembered when he was in the Southern mountains, the birds were chirping even at night. He also remembered that on that day they went hunting, other than the chirping of the birds on the outside of the forest, the lake was completely silent even during the daytime — not even a bird call.
"Rody… Yesterday, did anybody get on the tree to check?" Darke suddenly asked.
Darke gloomily replied. "There are footprints on the branches!"
Rody’s face discolored and frowned, "Footprints?"
Darke sighed and whispered, "I saw those footprints just now. Those traces looked a little strange. Although I do not dare confirm, I suspect... maybe they belong to the vampires!"
The moment these words came out, Diane felt a chill. She instinctively leaned onto Rody’s side. After that, Rody asked, "Vampires? Are you certain?"
Darke shook his head and replied, "No, not certain... The scent is very indistinct. If it was really a vampire, it has to be of the lowest rank. It was only vampires, those little bats that could fly and rest on the branches."
Rody frowned. To think, this actually involved vampires.
Darke slowly walked towards the side of his two companions and whispered, "There must be a special reason that there are no birds here. Most likely, there is something strange here."
Darke then thought for a moment and asked, "Did you really not notice anything during the day?"
Rody shook his head and replied, "No."
Diane thought for a moment and then asked, "Is it possible that it is something that only appears at night? After all, this hunting ground had been abandoned for a long time. Normally, the people from the Tulip Family would not enter this place. There were so many people here yesterday. Even if there was something, it would not dare approach."
"Let’s test it out!" Darke suddenly laughed.
Darke went over and untied the reins of two of the horses. He then whipped two of the horses, causing them to run out of the forest in pain. Darke then calmly led his horse over. He removed the saddle and the other things off the horse before leading the horse towards the trees at the edge of the lake.
Darke gently patted the horse’s neck and whispered, "It is cruel, but I am forced to sacrifice you."
He then pulled out his knife and cut the two front legs of the horse so deeply that the bones in the legs were even visible. The horse instantly neighed painfully. It struggled violently for a while before crashing to the ground.
Darke sighed and turned back. He then pulled Rody and Diane to the back of a tree.
They watched the horse struggling under the moonlight. The injured horse was kneeling on the ground, struggling to stand up with its two hind legs. It neighed sorrowfully as the blood from the wounds flowed to the ground.
Diane seemed to be unable to bear it and could not help but gently pull Rody’s clothes. Rody remained calm as he had already killed many on the battlefield. Rody noticed Diane’s emotion. He gave her a smile and patted her gently on her shoulder.
Darke then took out a black bottle. He poured out some strange liquid and carefully sprinkled some on his body and pants. Diane looked at Rody’s surprised expression and laughed, "This is used for hunting. The noses of beasts are more powerful than the noses of humans. This is to cover up the scent of his body and make it harder for the animals to detect him!" At this moment, Diane also took out a bottle. She smiled and said, "This one is used by the hunters of the Silvermoon Clan. Take it."
Rody imitated them and sprinkled the liquid onto his body. The liquid smelled like grass.
"Is it useful for us to wait here?" Rody asked with a frown.
Darke shook his head and replied, "I do not know… I hope this bloody smell would attract something." After thinking for a while, Darke whispered, "It is not good to stand here. Let us climb a tree and wait there."
The three of them climbed up a big tree. However, intentionally or unintentionally, Diane stood together with Rody. They calmly watched from above the tree branch.
Darke had already taken out his longbow from his back. He twirled a sharp arrow with his fingers as he looked around with his sparkling eyes.
As time passed by, the injured horse was still struggling on the ground. It was unable to stand as its injury at its front legs were too severe. The sorrowful neighing gradually stopped. Its breathing also became more helpless and it did not seem to have any more strength.
Rody started to feel restless, but he saw that Darke and Diane were still calm. He could not help but laugh as they were so much more experienced than him in this matter.
By the middle of the night, that horse had gradually stopped moving. It was on the verge of death from too much blood loss. Rody had already stopped talking since Darke had given him the hint. He just waited quietly.
Finally, he suddenly saw Darke gently wave his hand. There was movement! He looked at where Darke was pointing. There was a light rustle at a distance, near the lake. The sound was extremely soft and was almost covered by the wind. However, Rody’s eyes were sharp and he could see a black figure in the trees with just a glance. It seemed to be waiting quietly for something. There were three green dots like ghost fire faintly flashing.
Darke gave Rody a restraining signal. Rody nodded, but he could not help but gradually clenched his fists. Diane leaned against Rody. She seemed tense.
The rustling sound came from the trees again. Soon after that, the grass separated as the black figure slowly moved out...
Although it was far away and it was night time, Rody could clearly see that the figure looked similar to a wolf.
The reason why he said 'looked similar' was because it had many different characteristics despite being having the shape of a wolf. Its size seemed larger than the most robust wolf Rody had ever seen. It had black, glossy fur and pointed ears... And its eyes...
Rody finally realized what the few green dots of ghost fire were. Those were the monster’s eyes.
The monster actually had three eyes. In addition to its normal eyes, it had an eye on the center of its forehead. In the dark of the night, these eyes glowed with a scary green light.
It carefully came out from the bushes. Its steps were very slow and its body drooped very low. The more surprising thing was that it was dragging two large broom-like tails.
With each step it took, the monster’s tail gently swept and erased its footprints.
What a cunning fellow!