“There’s not much time left… I need to find that person in a week or else…”
Rudy winced in pain as he stared at the black spots on the skin of his right arm. As days passed by, he could feel the curse getting stronger. And even though he had searched for three weeks now, he still hasn’t found the person that gave him the curse.
The curse of death…
That was the name of the curse that a certain love rival had placed upon him. The curse of death was a malevolent curse that would kill its victim in just a month. Moreover, as the symptom of the curse would only appear after a week later; Rudy wasn’t even aware that his love rival had casted a curse on him during the duel.
Yes, Rudy was sure that it was during the time of the duel that the curse was put on him. After all, as deadly as the curse of death was, one needs to physically touch the victim for the curse to have an effect.
“I should never have accepted that handshake,” Rudy cursed angrily.
After Rudy won the duel, he spared the life of his opponent as his sense of honor prevented him from harming an opponent that had already conceded defeat. In response to his mercy, his rival offers him a handshake of which he readily accepts.
Since his opponent removed his leather gloves before offering the handshake, Rudy did the same and removed his. It’s probably during that time that the curse was put upon him.
It could be said that beside his rival’s malice, it was his hubris, and quite possibly, his naivety, that had led him to his current predicament. But what could he do? He can’t just refuse the handshake, right? After all, his lover, Lydia, was also present during the duel and he could not help but show off his gentlemanly demeanor in front of her.
“Lydia… When could I see you again?” Rudy questioned in a voice filled with longing ...and regret. “And to think that this would happen after you finally agree to marry me.”
Rudy still remembered the feeling when Lydia accepted his proposal that day. His happiness could not be explained with words alone, and he even felt like he was walking on clouds. It was such an unforgettable feeling. Unfortunately, his love rival, Manfred, had to ruin everything.
“I swear. I’m going to tear that guy to pieces after I find him!”
His rival, Manfred had been in hiding since after the duel and Rudy knew finding him with the clues he had gathered wouldn’t be easy. But Rudy didn’t plan on giving up. After all, his life is literally on the line.
Fortunately, Rudy was a renowned adventurer with lots of connections that he had built over the years. And Rudy had made good use of said connections to get clues on Manfred’s whereabouts.
Unfortunately for him though, he seemed to be always one step behind his target as Manfred would have already fled before he could even get to him.
This wasn’t really surprising as Manfred was a noble knight and has connections of his own. If not for the fact that using the curse of death on other people was a taboo, and therefore, considered a very serious crime in the kingdom; Rudy would be in trouble if the news that he’s hunting down his rival got out.
Of course, that only means that he won’t be breaking the law no matter what he does to his rival. But if he’s expecting help from the nobility, he would be very disappointed. Rudy didn’t mind not getting the help of the nobility though.
In reality he’s already thankful for the fact that they’re not causing trouble for him because if they did, things would become more complicated.
Rudy let out a sigh before resuming his journey. According to the latest information provided by one of his connections; Manfred fled to a monastery in the northern part of the kingdom. With his current speed, it should take him two days to reach his destination. Of course, that’s only an estimate as it could be longer depending on the circumstances.
Unfortunately, the road to the monastery was not suitable for carriages and even horses to travel to as not only was the road treacherous, it’s also filled with danger as monsters lived in the area.
He really couldn’t understand why somebody would build a monastery in such a place. But upon further reflection, the monastery was indeed a perfect place to hide from pursuers. Could it be that the monastery had been built for such a purpose?
Rudy encountered plenty of dangers from monsters on his way to the monastery but nothing he could handle. After all, his title as one of the guild’s best adventurers wasn’t just for show. And after two days of journey; Rudy finally found the place.
“So this is the monastery in question…,” Rudy said to himself as he inspected the monastery in front of him.
The monastery was made of both stones and wood and was as large as a noble’s mansion. That being said, it’s not as impressive-looking as a noble’s mansion due to its simple design. Beyond the wide open gate; Rudy could see some monks tending to the crops or chatting with each other.
“Manfred… I hope you haven't escaped yet,” Rudy whispered to himself as he touched the sword on his waist with a grim expression on his face.
But before Rudy could even take a single step to the gate of the monastery, an old monk suddenly approaches him from his left.
“Greetings, stranger. What brings you into our humble abode?” The old monk questioned.
Rudy was momentarily stumped by the old monk’s sudden appearance. But since he felt no animosity or ill-intent from the old monk, Rudy didn’t panic.
I’m looking for someone,” Rudy answered with slight agitation in his voice. “And according to my source, the person I’m looking for should be in this place.”
“Is the person you’re looking for one of our monks or maybe, a guest?” The old monk asked another question.
“He shouldn’t be one of your monks,” Rudy responded.
The old monk nodded his head after hearing Rudy’s question. “The only guest we had these few months was you and a noble named Manfred. Could he be the one you’re looking for?” he asked.
Hearing his rival’s name causes some agitation to show on Rudy’s face. “That’s him!” He blurted out. “Where is he now?” Rudy questioned.
A complicated expression appeared on the old monk’s face after seeing Rudy’s agitated face.
“I’m afraid; you came too late, stranger. The man you’re looking for is no longer with us,” the monk said in a sad voice.
“He’s no longer here? You mean he left already?” Rudy’s expression suddenly turned grave. His biggest worry seemed to have come true.
Fortunately for Rudy, his fear was unfounded because Manfred didn’t flee the monastery. That’s because he…
“No, sir Manfred didn’t leave. He died a day before your arrival.” The old monk clarified.
“He… he died? How did he die?"
Rudy was greatly shaken by the news. Although he wanted to finish off his unscrupulous rival with his own two hands, he still didn’t expect that he would die before he could get to him.
“He died due to the backlash of a powerful curse,” the old monk explained. “Apparently, he had used the death curse which was considered a taboo on someone. But since both caster and victim would suffer immense pain through the period that the curse was active; the one with the weaker will would succumb first. Since sir Manfred died due to the backlash of the curse, it only means that his will was weaker than his victim. As for his victim, he should be able to survive.”
After talking so much, the old monk finally stopped but then stared at Rudy for a long time as if he had realized something.
“Are you perhaps… the person he had cursed?” he asked.
Rudy, who was momentarily stunned by the unexpected news, nodded his head in reflex after hearing the old monk’s question. He then removed the bandage covering his arm and saw that the dark spots which were a symptom of the curse, were now gone.
“…I see. So it was you,” the monk said after seeing his action. “If you don’t mind, could you tell me what happened?”
Rudy stared at the old monk for some time before nodding his head. Since he has nothing to feel guilty about, he has no reason not to comply. Not long after, Rudy narrates his story. He told the old monk of the duel with Manfred; the curse; his journey and so on.
“You have suffered a lot, my child,” said the old monk after Rudy’s retelling.
Rudy was a little miffed being called a child by the old monk. But considering that his age might be thrice or more than that of his, Rudy just let it go.
“Are you certain that Manfred really died of the curse’s backlash?” Rudy asked after calming himself.
It’s not that Rudy doubted the old monk’s words. He just found it improbable. After all, Manfred was a very selfish man that treasures himself more than anything else. So why would he use a curse that would also kill him at the end? No matter how Rudy thought it through, it just didn’t make sense to him.
“Are you perhaps wondering why a selfish man like sir Manfred would even use a curse that could backfire on him in the end?” The old monk asked after seeing his expression.
Rudy suddenly turned at the old monk after hearing his question: “Do you know the reason?” He asked.
The old monk shook his head before saying: “I’m not sure but I might have an idea. Before sir Manfred succumbed to the backlash of the curse, we would often say ‘I was tricked’ again, and again as if in delirium. So we figured that someone had tricked sir Manfred into using the death curse on you,” he explained.
“Someone tricked him into casting the curse on me? Who?”
Rudy felt his heart shudder after hearing the old monk’s explanation.
If what the old man had said was true then both him and Manfred were simply used by someone. No… that’s not right. Only Manfred was used by someone; he’s just collateral…
The person who had tricked Manfred must want to kill him without dirtying his hands. So instead of directly killing or assassinating Manfred, he would make Manfred “kill” himself.
Rudy could feel his body turning cold not because of the weather but because of the evil in humanity’s hearts. He’s also furious that someone would include him, an innocent bystander to such a sinister plot, but knows better than to stick his nose on someone else's business as it might cause him to lose his life if he investigated further.
So with a heavy heart, Rudy says his farewell to the old monk before going down the mountain with his back looking despondent. The curse is now gone with the death of his rival and would therefore, no longer concern himself to whoever it was that plotted Manfred’s death.
Right now, all that Rudy wanted was to return home; back to Lydia…