We slowly make our way towards Ise, the next village. I thought having the prisoners would slow us down quite a lot. But we’re moving at the same pace as before. And somehow, the prisoners seem quite afraid of Alfred. So they’re moving faster than I expected.
«Did you do something to them, Alfred?»
«Nothing special, I just want to be scary so they don’t touch me.»
“Alfred seems to be able to use Intimidation,” Pat says.
“I figured as such,” I answer.
“But that doesn’t explain why they are in such a hurry,” Kat says what I think. “Not that I mind. It just means we’ll actually reach Ise today.”
“Maybe it’s about that…” Sobe mumbles.
“That?” Matt, Pat, Kat and I ask. As expected, Luna doesn’t seem to be interested.
“I only know this by hearsay. Several weeks ago, a wannabe tamer tried getting his hand on a rare Plumel. His attempts for making contracts failed. In his anger, he insulted the Plumel, which then kicked him in the nuts out of spite. They say he was unconscious for several days.
I’m not a tamer, but isn’t that common sense not to insult whatever you’re trying to tame? Anyway, I’d like to meet that Plumel. It seems quite a good fit for me!”
We finally reach Ise. As Lecarvi and Sobe need to take the prisoners to the prison, they recommend us to stay at the Kitten’s Purr. We promise to meet later. They go with the guards. Our group goes along the street. Even though it’s the late afternoon, some stalls are still open.
“Barrier crystals for sale!” an old man advertises his wares.
I stop and have a look at the said crystals.
Item: Barrier Crystal
A Mana Crystal enchanted with a spell that connects with other crystals with the same enchantment to form a barrier that is impenetrable by monsters. Certain configurations make the barrier stronger. This crystal can also be used individually, creating a short-time barrier around the user.
Yes, those are barrier crystals, the same kind as I used before.
“Barrier Crystals make you impotent!” a nearby stranger yells.
“Are you sure?” I ask him, “Why would that be?”
“A recent study showed couples that use barrier crystals are less likely to have offspring the following months,” he answers.
“Of course they would have fewer offspring!” Matt answers, “people…”
“See?” he interrupts Matt, “Barrier Crystals make you impotent! Save your money so you can pamper that stupidly shiny plumb bird of… Owww!”
Alfred went ahead and kicked him. In the nuts. He holds his balls in pain and collapses. I feel sorry for the vendor. The other guy? Not so much.
“I’ll take a dozen please,” I give an order.
“Sure. I’ll give you some extra crystals as thanks to your Plumel. That guy was getting annoying,” the vendor answers as he hands me the products, “you see, Ise is the last town on the route I can sell those. Over in Cogen they actually believe that nonsense that he spouts. I just want to sell out so I have an excuse for not going to Cogen.”
The guards arrive and question the bystanders. I can hear a nearby villager saying: “He insulted a Plumel. Again. And yes, he spouted his usual conspiracy theories. If he had a Barrier Crystal, he wouldn’t be out now.”
The guards break out in laughter. “You heard it. It’s his own fault.” They carry the unconscious man away without even questioning us.
“You mentioned Cogen,” Matt addresses the vendor. “have you heard about other conspiracy theories going around in Cogen?”
“The biggest one is ‘The vaccine against the Mad Cow Disease is just a ploy to weaken magic affinities of the villagers.’ I have seen some villagers mixing the vaccine with powered magic crystals and selling it as Mana Potions.”
“How long have they been doing it?”
“It must be like several years now. It’s crazy! The Mad Cow Crisis is barely one generation in the past! Without the help of the followers of Nature’s Bounty, we would have all starved! I wouldn’t be surprised if the crown were to ban cattle farming after the next outbreak.”
“You think there will be an outbreak soon?”
“Yes, just as last time, the animals and monsters are leaving the area. When I was travelling from Farry, I noticed there were a lot of animals leaving. There are still animals here in the area, so I think this town is safe.”
“Does the army know about that?”
“I don’t know. Even if I were to tell them. Why would they listen to a random old man like me?”
“You’d be surprised. Anyway, thanks. Bye!” Matt turns to the party. “Let’s go to the inn and check-in.”
We move to the inn. I’ve been wondering: Why hasn’t there been any announcements by the temples? I hear a ringing sound — it’s mail! I discreetly open the mail.
Subject: Mad Cow Disease
Since we’re still debating I can’t tell you much. I’ll tell you some historic things about it, instead. The outbreak one generation ago was a biomagical weapon accident. Thus it’s something resulting from the actions of mortals. Back then, we didn’t intervene.
All I can say is: listen to the elderly.
We arrive at the inn and check-in. I think I heard something about dinner being served soon. Instead of going to the hall, Matt immediately drags us into his room upstairs and locks the door. He places a crystal orb on the table and let’s magic flow through it. After a few seconds, the face of Timon, Matt’s father, appears in the orb.
“It must be urgent if you use the orb.”
“I have reason to believe there will be a Mad Cow Disease outbreak in Cogen soon.”
“On what basis is this?”
“According to the peddler I questioned, Cogen seems not to have used the vaccine we provide for several years. Animals and Monsters are leaving the area just like before the last outbreak.”
“Those are quite valid points. But if something of a big scale like you think will happen. Why haven’t the gods sent us an oracle?”
“Pardon me interrupting,” I calmly start explaining. “According to the knowledge I received as the Keeper, the gods consider the Mad Cow Disease a mortal-made biomagical weapon. Thus, if it were to return, the gods are bound to neutrality and are not to act. With that being said, I believe the peddler we talked to has a point.”
“Did you receive an oracle?” Matt asks.
“How did you…? I’m supposed to say no, you know?!” I answer with noticeable bad acting.
Timon gasps, “I… I’ll send troops under the guise of training.”
Timon’s face fades and the crystal shatters.
“I was about to tell him the oracle only contained historic information,” I continue.
“I don’t think that changes anything,” Matt answers.