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Chapter 14 – I Tried To Help The Feudal Lord, The Count
I left the bench in front of the stage and stopped at the fountain in the center of the square.
Soon Iris, Lily, Surara, and Cal follow close behind.
“Kou-chi, that’s seriously amazing. I’m really impressed… I mean, it’s just so amazing…”
“I think you could make a living as a musician, if not an adventurer.”
“Yeah, yeah, that’s it! That’s really it! Irin, you say the right things! …Oh no, it’s already late.”
Cal looked at the clock near the fountain and sounded panicked.
“I’m back home in Surier, but I promised to have lunch with my auntie. So, Kou-chi, Irin, Lily-chin, and Surara-chan, see you soon!”
Before long, Lily and Surara were also being called by their nicknames.
Come to think of it, when it came to me, within a minute or so of our first meeting, she said, “Can I call you Kou-chi? Nice to meet you!” I remember she said something like that.
Some people may find it overly familiar, but as for me, I don’t dislike it.
I feel that she is easy to get along with as a friend.
Cal says, “Bye-bye!” With a small wave of her hand, she rushed out of the square.
“She was very energetic, wasn’t she?”
“She’s so powerful!”
I nodded to Lily and Surara’s words.
“How can I say this? She’s full of youth.”
Immediately after, a voice called out to me from behind.
“Excuse me. Are you Kou Kousaka-dono?”
Who could it be?
I turn around.
There stood a well-dressed, tall, middle-aged man. His head was bald, but he had a thick beard. His body was slightly thin, and his cheeks were chapped.
He may be suffering from a chronic illness.
Behind him stood a knight, standing straight and proud, who appeared to be a guard.
…The fact that he has a guard of some sort, this man must be of very high status.
“Let me introduce myself first. I am Randolph di Maillard, a count and feudal lord of Maillard. It’s an honor to meet you, Dragon Slayer-dono.”
Speaking of Count Maillard, I believe he is currently undergoing medical treatment in Surier.
The possibility of him visiting the festival in secret is not zero.
However, I was a bit surprised that he would go out of his way to call on me.
“I have already heard of your activities. Besides defeating the Black Dragon in Aunen, you also defeated the Devil Treant in Toue, and yesterday you rebuilt the Great Zard Bridge. …Cough, cough.”
Count Maillard held his throat and coughed in agony. Apparently, his health was not yet fully recovered.
“Are you all right?”
“I apologize for this. There was a great flood in the north about four months ago, and I’ve been taking a hot-spring cure in Surier to heal the wounds from that, but I’m still not feeling well. It’s a shameful thing.”
A great flood is an extremely frightening phenomenon in which thousands to tens of thousands of monsters appear at once and rush toward densely populated areas.
I myself have experienced the great flood in the city of Aunen before.
At that time, it was cleared up in an instant thanks to Dest’s super high-powered magic laser, but if we had fought it normally, the city would have been severely damaged.
“Anyway, Kou-dono is a great benefactor of this Maillard territory. I will pay you handsomely for your past activities, and I will also inform His Majesty the King. If you have any trouble in the future, please feel free to contact me. It is my family’s principle to repay a favor with a favor. I will lend you my wholehearted support.”
Count Maillard said so, giving a broad smile.
Then he holds out his right hand. I responded by offering my right hand, and we shook hands.
──That’s when it happened.
“Cough! Cough! G-guh…!”
Count Maillard coughed violently and fell to his knees on the ground.
He fell on his back, his eyes flashing white, and remained motionless. At the same time, a black mist oozed out from his entire body and extended toward me.
An inorganic voice echoes in my brain.
A super-high curse has been detected. It is blocked by the state abnormality nullification of the [Transmigrator].
The next moment, a silvery radiance flashed around me, flicking away the black mist.
The black mist returned to the count’s body with a sizzling sound and continued to wriggle around as if watching us. It looked like a snake stalking its prey.
The count, on the other hand, was in agony and breathing heavily. He was clearly not in a normal state.
What in the world is going on?
“A curse by a monster, perhaps.”
“This is the type of thing that’s contagious to those nearby… Kou, are you okay?”
“I’m fine. No problem.”
I nodded to Iris.
“Count, please stay strong!”
The knight who was guarding him seemed puzzled by the suddenness of the situation, but eventually, he regained his composure and tried to run up to Count Maillard with a loud shout.
As if to block his path, Surara leaped out of the way.
As soon as he landed, he became a huge, fluffy thing.
“Don’t get too close! There is something dangerous about this!”
Before the knight could stop, he was caught by Surara’s plump body.
It was a comical sight, but now was not the time to laugh. We needed information to understand the situation.
…As I thought about that, I heard the inorganic voice.
The first analysis has been completed.
The curse name “Curse of the Black Death” is a lethal and contagious curse.
As it has the potential to cause tremendous damage to the surrounding area, it is recommended that you use a Yggdrasil branch to carry out the suppression process.
Does the first analysis mean that there will be a continuation of the second and third? I am not sure of the details, but it seems that Count Maillard is under the curse of the Black Death, which seems to spread to the surrounding area.
In my case, I was safe thanks to the [Transmigrator], but if the curse turns on Iris and Lily, it would be irreversible. It would be better to hurry up and deal with it.
I opened my [Item Box] and took out the Yggdrasil branch.
“I saw that branch in my dream…”
Lily looked surprised.
Come to think of it, one of the images in the [Foresight] was me holding a branch near the fountain. That’s exactly what I’m doing right now.
Now, how can I use the branch?
In response to my question, I hear a whisper from [Full Assist].
According to it, all I have to do is point the tip of the branch at the source of the curse. The source of the curse, in this case, would be Count Maillard.
“…Let’s give it a try anyway.”
I hold up the branch and point the tip at Count Maillard.
Then, a greenish glow poured out of the branch and enveloped the count’s body.
It was a warm, soft light.
Little by little, the black mist faded away as if it were melting.
The count’s expression was still pained, but his breathing had somewhat calmed down.
He seemed to be… conscious.
In my mind, [Full Assist] reported the results to me.
According to it, it seems that I succeeded in weakening the curse by using the branch’s power.
“Perhaps you were able to break the curse?”
“No, not yet.”
I shook my head.
“I’ve only suppressed the curse temporarily. But it shouldn’t be contagious for a while.”
The fundamental problem has not been solved, but for the time being, I guess the emergency has been overcome…
As I breathed a sigh of relief, I heard the inorganic voice again.
The second analysis has been completed.
Would you like a fast install of the information up to this point?
Apparently, the analysis has progressed.
I gave a small nod, and there was a feeling of something flowing into the back of my head like a whoosh.
I understood the situation reasonably well.
I would like to share the information with everyone, but I noticed that there were onlookers gathered in the surrounding area.
It’s not a very calm atmosphere to talk.
And it would be a problem to leave the count lying on the ground like this.
I made a suggestion to the guard knight.
“Why don’t we change places for now?”
“Y-you are right, sir. There is an inn called “Shadow Cow Pavilion” nearby. This inn has a long relationship with the count’s family, and if we enter through the back door, we won’t be seen by anyone. Let’s head there.”
“All right, I’ll carry the count; you show me the way. …Everyone, let’s go.”
* * *
We left the square and headed for the “Shadow Cow Pavilion,” guided by the guard knight.
We entered the inn through the back door in the shadows.
The “Shadow Cow Pavilion” was a cozy but elegant and comfortable inn.
Although there was a villa of the count’s family in Surier, it is said that the count sometimes stays there in secret to hold a small drinking party or to have a secret talk with other nobles.
“Oh, Count-dono, why…”
The innkeeper was a short, elderly man who seemed to be deeply saddened by the count’s situation.
He said, “Please use this room. If there is anything I can do, please let me know. Now, if you will excuse me.”
We were shown to a large room at the back of the first floor, which was divided into a bedroom and a reception room.
After putting Count Maillard to bed, we sat down on the sofa in the reception room.
The first to open his mouth was the guard knight.
“Thank you for carrying the count here. By the way, what is happening to the count now? It’s all so sudden and confusing, to be honest…”
“Surely, it’s time to get things straightened out.”
With the completion of the second analysis, I now know a lot about the curse of the Black Death.
I want to share this information with Iris and the others, and now is the time to explain.
It seems that the curse of the Black Death is an extraordinary power possessed by a monster called the Elder Lich.
In the beginning, there are no symptoms of the curse, and the subject is unaware that they are cursed.
After an incubation period of three to four months, the curse is triggered when the subject visits a place where many people gather, such as a festival site, for example.
The subject will die within three hours or so, and in the process, the curse will also spread to the people around them, taking their lives.
It is like a vicious epidemic.
However, the effects of the curse are currently being suppressed by the sacred power of the Yggdrasil branch, and the lull should continue for another half day or so. There is no need to worry about spreading the disease to others.
I explained the information to everyone briefly.
“Kou, you really know everything…”
Iris muttered in admiration.
“I’ve heard of the Elder Lich, but I didn’t know about the Curse of the Black Death. Lethal and contagious, that’s really a tough one…”
“I totally get it.”
I nodded and then turned to the guard knight and said.
“The incubation period for the curse of the Black Death is three to four months. Do you have any idea what it is?”
“…Could it be?”
The knight looked aghast.
He seemed to have an idea.
“Tell me about it, if you please. It might be a clue to help the count.”
“Yes, sir. …It was four months ago, during the great flood in the north.”
The knight then began to talk about those days.
Four months ago, during the great flood, Count Maillard had a fierce battle with a “skeleton monster wearing dark-colored vestments.”
Perhaps the skeletal monster was Elder Lich.
Count Maillard was deeply wounded but somehow managed to fight off the skeleton monster.
Yes, he repelled it.
It had not been defeated yet.
Just before the skeleton monster fled the scene, it pointed at the count and spoke rapidly, apparently in a language that is impossible to pronounce with a human mouth.
“I am sure he was cursed with the curse of black death at that moment. If only I had realized it earlier…”
The knight looked regretful, and his eyes were downcast.
But even Iris, who was familiar with monsters, did not know about the curse of black death, and it was probably inevitable that the knight was unaware of it.
Lily raised her voice with a serious expression.
“I have mastered the highest level of light magic. May I try to break the curse?”
Of course, there was no reason to refuse.
The third analysis is underway, but it is unclear when it will be finished, and we should try things over here as well.
“Well then, could you please?”
“Yes. I’ll do my best…!”
Lily nodded, got up from the sofa, and headed for the bedroom.
Me, Iris, Surara, and the guard knight followed behind.
In the bedroom, the count was sleeping peacefully.
Although I could hear the occasional groan of “Ugh…” his breathing was generally calm.
It seems that the power of the branch has tightly suppressed the curse.
“──I’ll do it now.”
Lily stood by the bed and extended her hands, pointing them at the count.
A sense of tension fills the room.
“O light, purge the curse before my eyes and purify all things… Clear Light.”
As soon as the chanting ended, a flash of silver flashed. But the count’s appearance did not change.
He continued to sleep with a nightmare-like expression on his face.
“I can’t believe the Clear Light didn’t work…”
Lily mutters in astonishment.
“What kind of magic was that?”
“It is the most powerful of all the light spells. It is said that there is no curse that cannot be broken by this spell.”
But as a practical matter, Clear Light could not break the curse of the Black Death.
…Could it be that it is a type of curse for which there is no way to break it?
If so, we would be out of options.
Just as I was pondering this, I heard an inorganic voice.
The third analysis has been completed, and all the information on the “Curse of the Black Death” has been acquired.
Would you like to perform a high-speed installation of the information?
Apparently, this time all the analysis has been completed. I hope they have found a way to break the spell, but perhaps they have concluded that it is “unbreakable.”
I nodded my head in a small, anxious nod, and the information poured into my head.
In conclusion, there is only one way to break the curse.
That is to defeat the monster… that put the curse on the count, the Elder Lich.
So we can cut off the nuisance at its root, huh?
I immediately informed everyone of this.
But then a big problem arose.
“Where is the Elder Lich…?”
Looking at the guard knight, he shook his head apologetically.
When we asked him for more details, he told us that the Elder Lich had apparently escaped from the flood four months ago, blending in with the rest of the monsters.
It has not been seen since, and its whereabouts are completely unknown.
“…That’s a problem.”
I don’t know how long it would take us to find it if we had to start looking for it on foot now.
My skills that would be useful are… That’s right.
“Maybe I should try [Auto Mapping].” “How about using your map skills to find it?”
My words and Iris’s were almost simultaneous.
We looked at each other and smiled a small smile.
“Master-san and Iris-oneesan are buddies, after all!”
“I suppose so.”
I nodded and activated [Auto Mapping].
A blue-white window floated before my eyes.
There, a city map of Surier was displayed.
The guard knight asked with a surprised look on his face.
“It’s a skill that produces maps of the surrounding area. And while at it, it can also help you find what you’re looking for.”
I replied, then turned to the pale blue window and said,
“Search for the whereabouts of the Elder Lich.”
Then I heard a voice in my mind.
The analysis of the “Curse of the Black Death” has been completed, and the curse can be traced.
The reverse search will now begin.
──The reverse search has been completed. The result will be reflected in [Auto Mapping].
Not a second has passed from start to finish.
That’s pretty fast.
The blue-white window displayed a city map of Surier, but it quickly zoomed out and switched to a wide-area map.
In the upper left corner of the map… a red light spot was marked at the back of a mountain northwest of Surier.
It seems that the name of the mountain is Mount Tris.
“It seems that this is where the Elder Lich is.”
“I think I know where it is.”
“Yeah. Now we can deal with this.”
I nodded to Iris.
The guard knight turned to my right in a panic and peeked into the window from there.
“That skeleton is right there…!”
The knight’s words were filled with a strong fighting spirit. He must be very angry with the Elder Lich, as his master, Count Maillard, had been injured.
He was about to run off on his own right now… when the count made a shuddering movement.
Apparently regaining consciousness, he slowly raised himself from the bed.
His face is pale, and his voice is hoarse. He looks like an old tree on the verge of breaking.
“I heard your talk halfway through. Was I cursed by that monster?”
“Yes, it appears that there is no solution other than to defeat the Elder Lich.”
When I returned my agreement, the count looked thoughtful.
Then, he began to talk stammeringly.
“…The great flood four months ago dealt a heavy blow to my family’s knightly order and has almost completely destroyed it. The security maintenance in the territory has been left to the Adventurers’ Guild. It will take several years to rebuild.”
I remember hearing that story from Milia before.
Count Maillard’s knights had no real strength left, which was why the city of Aunen had no choice but to respond to the great flood and the Black Dragon on its own.
“The heir is still young. If I lose my life here, Maillard territory will be in great turmoil, and the situation will be out of control.”
I understand what the count is saying.
The problems are already piling up, and if the top guy is lost, the operation of the count’s territory will completely collapse.
The count looked at me formally and bowed his head deeply.
“I know I may be asking too much, but would you be willing to help me defeat the Elder Lich? I promise you a suitable reward and honor. …Please, I beg of you.”
“I ask you to do the same.”
So said the guard knight.
He kneeled with both hands also on the floor and hung his head. It is a complete dogeza posture.
“Please save the count. If there is anything I can do, I will do it.”
“…What do you want to do, Kou-san?”
Lily asked, looking up at me.
Of course, the answer was obvious from the beginning.
Abandoning the count at this point would be half-hearted and would leave a bad aftertaste, and eventually, the effect of the branch would wear off, and the curse would spread to the surrounding area. The people of Surier would then be the victims.
Cal, who should be enjoying her return home, and the young guard with his [Magic Trick], will also lose their lives.
There is no way I could overlook such a thing.
So I nodded.
“Understood. Count, I accept your request.”