The Regressed Son of a Duke is an Assassin chapter 196

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The Regressed Son of a Duke is an Assassin

**Chapter 196. True Follower (1)**

“……”

Just when it seemed the old man would start off with something boastful, he quickly shut his mouth. He appeared a bit flustered by my indifferent reaction to his introduction.

“I thought you would at least show distrust, but this is unexpected. Weren’t you surprised by my introduction?”

“Not really.”

“What an unusual young man.”

With an uncomfortable cough, the old man continued his story.

“I’m not one to brag, but from a young age, I had certain expertise with the sword. At twenty, I joined the Imperial Knights, and soon after, I was called up to the Order of Light. This badge is proof of that.”

He proudly lifted an old, faded badge that he had placed on the table.

“Back then, even though it’s well-known now, I simply followed them because they needed me, without even knowing what they did. Right after joining, they took me somewhere and immediately began ‘indoctrination.’”

“Indoctrination?”

“Yes. A saintess by the name of Nephrodite appeared and said we must subjugate the followers of the mist who disturb the order of light. That it was God’s will, and only the almighty knights of light could carry out this divine mission. Ridiculous, isn’t it? They didn’t explain what these followers of the mist had done wrong, just said that they had to be eliminated because they had defied humanity…”

This wasn’t a story I was hearing for the first time, so I wasn’t particularly surprised.

“So, what do you think I did?”

“You did as you were told.”

“Exactly! Honestly, what sort of thoughts could a young person like me have had at that age? I thought obedience was the right way.”

The old man snickered and filled his empty glass as if to toast with himself, then gulped it down.

“I listened to that tedious preaching for about a week, and when I received news that they had appeared, I grabbed my sword and rushed to the scene. My first impression of them was fantastic; it was nothing like I had imagined!”

“Were they dancing naked or something?”

“It would have been better if that were the case! At least I could agree they were insane. But what I saw was different! They were doing something mundane yet great. Charity, that is!”

“Charity?”

“Yes, charity! They were distributing food and relief to those suffering from hunger and cold without asking for anything in return! Giving unilateral kindness without any compensation!”

[……]

An inscrutable smile formed on Ceyram’s lips as she quietly listened.

It wasn’t that the old man’s story was funny; it was a sardonic smile naturally born from some less than flattering feelings.

“We had to kill them. They were falsely accused of seducing people with unidentified relief supplies. That was the first time… my sword was stained with human blood, not just beasts or demons…”

A small tremor was visible in the hand of the old man holding his glass, though he didn’t show it on his face and continued speaking.

“I still remember their faces, crying out in innocence that they had done nothing wrong. Not that I particularly regret it – had I not killed them, I’d have been branded a heretic and been executed myself.”

It seemed like an excuse because he had no choice but to survive.

I didn’t particularly want to acknowledge it, nor did I feel any urge to blame him. After all, it was nothing more than the powerless response of those without strength.

“After one horrific event, they gained enlightenment and returned wielding sharpened blades. Whereas before they had been freeing people suffering from agony, now they were eradicating the source of that agony itself through assassination. You’ve heard of them, right? Mist, the infamous assassination group.”

I silently affirmed.

“Unable to sit idly by, we went after them once again. The second time I saw them, they no longer appeared human. Not that they weren’t real people, but there was something different about them. More curiosity than repulsion arose, along with a rising sense of expectation—the desperate revenge of heretics rejected by the world.”

Assuming the old man was telling the truth, one thing was certain to me.

The expectation he mentioned had gone unfulfilled.

“Regrettably, my hopes never came to fruition. They disappeared without a trace. It’s publicly thought the Order of Light brought them down, but that’s not true. You and everyone else were deceived.”

The old man refilled his empty glass.

“It was empty. Feelings of utter disillusionment consumed me. I wanted to know the truth. I wanted to see their real presence, labeled by the world as evil, but without providing answers, they simply vanished. And so their traces were eradicated, while the uncaring years simply kept on flowing.”

As the old man stared at the filled glass, his gaze stealthily shifted toward me, now with a peculiar atmosphere.

“Do you know why I came to the monastery? Because I wanted to confirm. I wanted to see if those ‘followers of mist’ circulating among the youth were genuinely the ones I had seen. But they weren’t. The monks were mere fake followers. The true followers of mist I had seen… they weren’t like that.”

“On what basis do you claim such certainty?”

“Even though memories become hazy with age, the senses of the body aren’t easily forgotten. But do you know?”

The old man’s eyes flickered eerily as he let out a cryptic smile.

“Your gaze right now closely resembles those of the Mist assassins I saw 60 years ago. So similar it’s almost uncanny. The eyes embodying the spirit of death! Why do you think that is?”

“……”

“You have a scent about you! Not the stench of an inferior fake, but the genuine aroma of one who has spilled blood. It’s been wafting this way since the entrance of the tavern!”

A hint of madness seemed to linger in the old man’s gaze.

I sat up straighter without a hint of emotion and addressed him.

“Hey, old man. If what you’re saying is true, shouldn’t you not be sitting in front of me?”

That is, if he hadn’t given up on life.

The old man shrugged his shoulders as he replied.

“I’ve lived my life as much as I could. What’s there to fear? When you reach my age, everything in life seems meaningless. That’s when you wonder, whether the life you lived was the right one.”

“That moment of contemplation might not come, though.”

“You have a remarkable confidence, youngster. Age is but a number, after all. Was it about seven years ago? A boy barely thirteen slaughtered the empire’s senior knights and vanished without a trace… I wonder what that boy is doing now.”

That boy is now listening to the ramblings of a strange old man in an ordinary tavern.

“Ah, I see. I didn’t tell you my name, did I?”

“Do I need to know?”

“Even mindless beasts are named to be known. Considering the valuable time we’ve spent together, shouldn’t we at least know each other’s names? Maybe for when we meet again someday.”

The old man straightened his clothes and lifted his head with an air of announcing something grand.

“My name is…”

“……”

“Jereon. Call me Jereon.”

-Clash!

A loud noise rang out as metal struck metal.

In my hand was a dinner knife, with one sharpened edge, while the old man gripped a fork with bread impaled on it.

“It seems my story was quite captivating, given your abrupt reaction.”

How long do you think it took for me to attempt to stab the old man in the throat with a knife?

One second? Half of that?

I dare say, at a speed that no human could perceive with their sluggish senses, I stabbed.

But the old man stopped it.

Not with ease, but he stopped it without trouble, as if he had anticipated my movements from the start.

“Did the retired leader come here to engage in charitable acts for the future generations?”

Jereon.

In this land, very few could confidently carry that name – a former leader of the Order of Light and before that, known as an executor, a knight praised for upholding the so-called order of light.

Why an executor?

Because it was he who led in the slaughter of the followers of the mist more than any other knight.

“Didn’t I tell you? I came just to uncover the truth.”

The old man did not deny his identity.

“Knight of light or whatever, it’s all in the past. It’s not my concern anymore. And you see…”

Sweat suddenly dripped down the old man’s forehead.

“You don’t need to be on guard. I’ve already been standing at the crossroads of life and death from the beginning.”

At his words, my gaze shifted toward Ceyram, who had been sitting beside the old man.

Her stiff gaze and folded arms hadn’t moved an inch. However, the sharpness of her fingers was shrouded with an invisible cloud of might.

She had been on guard against the old man long before I had been.

“Miss. Were you hiding a dreadful blade behind that lovely face?”

[Don’t get cocky, old man. If you don’t want to look at your vital organs through those wretched eyes, that is.]

Ceyram sharply countered the old man’s seemingly benign question with a menacing smile.

“If ending my life at the hands of such a beautiful lady is my fate, then there’s nothing wrong with that.”

Her glare sharpened even further in response.

“But sadly, I haven’t decided to end my days here.”

The old man’s gaze returned to me.

Conversely, my gaze wasn’t on the old man, but somewhere else.

-Swish

The tipsy customers who had been quietly enjoying their drinks moments earlier, now stood up and started moving towards me.

A few others from downstairs seemed to be making their way up as well.

It wasn’t particularly alarming.

I had already sensed a change in the atmosphere around our table from the moment the old man joined us.

“Don’t get me wrong. I wasn’t targeting you from the start. Didn’t I say your scent wafted over from the entryway? It’s a mere coincidence.”

This wasn’t simply arrogance bred from numbers.

Even by their strides, it was evident.

These weren’t novice knights or amateur mercenaries.

They were all seasoned warriors who had wielded swords and shed blood for decades.

Soon, they encircled my table.

“Let me reiterate just in case, I didn’t come here to harm you. I simply want to know. If you wish, we can change venues. This time, to hear your story…”

“Look here. Old man.”

I cut off his words, and an eerie silence followed.

“What’s with this unwarranted nonchalance?”

“Heh. Nonchalance? I’m truly trying to understand…”

As the old man chuckled, his eyes suddenly shifted, not to me, but to the side.

Where Ceyram had been sitting just seconds before, now, only trivial dust fluttered in the air.

The old man’s gaze soon returned to me.

“Didn’t you underestimate the true follower of the mist too lightly?”

In my hand was no longer a dinner knife, but Ceyram’s original form, her essence imbued with a deadly aura.

(To be continued)

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