Chapter 186: Source of Infection
Telaranea must’ve shared part of the information with its other flesh in advance before it arrived at the Withered Castle. Nemo saw Sonia Ramon’s name in the research project on the Trent Plague, but the file was marked "under investigation".
As for the Trent Plague itself, the investigation of the Sage of the Abyss was probably clearer than anyone else…
This kind of plague appeared about eight hundred years ago, and as soon as it emerged, it swallowed nearly one-tenth of the human population in one fell swoop. If no means were taken, depending on the individual’s physique, the patient would die within three or four days or seven or eight days at the latest.
The healing magic of eight hundred years ago was still imperfect. Top healers of various kingdoms worked hard to find the source of this ferocious plague— The blood-red Croydon Blood Tree, a plant that originally grew in the depths of the Abyss.
Because of the mysterious and strong odor of the tree trunk and leaves, it was brought to the surface by humans on the expedition. The expeditionary force at that time brought up a few saplings and planted them carefully. The Croydon Blood Tree was competitive by nature. As long as the light wasn’t strong and the condition were suitable, the roots and branches could survive. Its fragrance was non-toxic and harmless, and the smell was as wonderful as a dream.
The smell of the branches was particularly strong, while the leaves had a lighter smell. People grinded the bark and tree trunks into powder, boil the leaves with grease, held the wonderful fragrance in their hands, and then sell the prepared incense powder and balsam all over the world.
No one could resist such a wonderful aroma, and croyden incense was in short supply for a while. A fresh twig was almost more valuable than the same amount of gold and planting the Croydon Blood Tree had become a trend in small circles.
That was until it bore fruit.
More than 20 years after the first Croydon Blood Trees were brought to the surface, they bore fruit without blooming. The lower part of the Abyss was pitch black, dangerous and chaotic, and it was difficult to observe the motionless plants in the darkness accurately. The people chasing the fragrance failed to find its flowers, and never thought that this kind of tree could bear fruit.
The tragedy began with the merchant family who originally planted a Croyden Blood Tree.
The maid who took care of the trees took off the strange fruit. The thing was the size of an egg, squirming slightly, with an unpleasant pink-brown soft skin. The surface of the fruit was covered with dark holes and didn’t emit any aroma.
The merchant, Mr. Trent, picked up the sticky and weird fruit, observed it carefully for a few minutes and lost interest. He asked the maid to keep it safe and drove to the city by himself to attend an important meeting of the Chamber of Commerce to which he belonged.
Then his eyes began to feel uncomfortable, as if they had sand toss into them. He closed his eyes tightly, cursing the servant for not cleaning the carriage in a bad temper, while wiping away the steady stream of tears from the corners of his eyes with a handkerchief. Fortunately, after a long day, when Mr. Trent checked into the inn in the city, his eye pain was cured. Thus, he participated in the meeting of the Chamber of Commerce according to the arrangement, and then went to the best tavern in the city to have fun.
Then he fell ill.
First, his limbs were weak, and he was unable to walk. Following that was a terrifying high fever, accompanied by disordered thinking and gibberish. Within a day or two, Mr. Trent couldn’t even make a sound, but opened his eyes wide without blinking. The Trent family called the best healers for him, but the healers were also helpless.
In the last few days, his breathing was extremely difficult, and his entire expression was haggard. Mr. Trent completely lost all reaction to the outside world, was completely incontinent, and he soon died. The Trent family were enlightened businessmen, so his family was willing to donate the body for the healers to study, trying to figure out the cause of this strange disease.
But the healers only found the cause of Mr. Trent’s death— The patient’s brain had rotted into a pool of muddy mucus.
Mr. Trent wasn’t the first victim. Soon, a large number of patients appeared in the city. People first had pain in their eyes, which would soon heal itself, and they would continue to move around in good health for a day and night— After that, death would quickly wave its sickle.
The weird plague that quickly swept across the surface was officially named Trent Plague. After a lot of sacrifices, the healers finally discovered the source of this plague.
The fruit of the Croyden Blood Tree was the source of infection. When a creature stares at it for more than six seconds, there was a high probability that it’ll be infected by the cruse and the infected person won’t get sick immediately. They often feel discomfort in their eyes— That is, the curse was transforming their eyes.
The day and night after the pain disappears is the contagious period. During the infectious period, anyone who looks directly at the patient’s eyes for more than six seconds was at risk of being infected. After a day and a night, the patient’s brain begins to rot, and they would quickly fall ill and die. It was safe to look at the person during the attack. This strange way of infection was only discovered by plague masks. The masks of the plague healer had thick cleansing magic crystals, thus almost no healers who wore them fell ill. The infection rate of those who wore glasses was also very low.
In addition, mothers who were sick while giving birth to a child would also pass it on to the child who would quickly die from the Trent Plague. Besides this, there was no other form of transmission of this vicious disease.
With the route of infection known, there were many ways to fight the plague. Following the idea that scarcity leads to things becoming more valuable, the planting of the Croyden Blood Trees wasn’t common. Although many businessmen tried to hide them, they were caught by specially train wolfhounds. All the Croyden Blood Tree on the surface was destroyed, leaving only some old and dry trunks and leaves circulating on the black market. The few fruits were taken away by sworn scientific institutions for research purposes, which meant the Alban royal family shouldn’t have own one.
However, hundreds of years had passed, and times have change including the things that "should have been". Nemo sighed.
"Ollie, do you remember when I asked you about Trent Plague… When we were in the confinement room of Clementine Academy."
"Yes." Oliver was following after he calmed down as the three of them headed in the direction of Princess Delia’s lounge.
"Now I probably know what’s going on." They nestled behind a thick carve stone pillar and watched the patrolling soldiers pass by. Nemo whispered softly and glanced at Ann who was walking not far ahead. "Your mother died of illness when she was five months pregnant with you. It was either an ordinary illness or the Trent Plague."
"But you just said that it can be transmitted through childbirth…" Oliver was startled for a few seconds and frowned.
"Yes." Nemo sighed. "That means Uncle Ramon, no, Flint not only save you when you were just five months, he somehow suppressed the Trent Plague in some way to keep you alive."
"…How do you know?"
"The Withered Castle. Telaranea told me." Nemo grabbed Oliver’s arm and wrapped it around him. "I wasn’t absolutely sure of the situation before, so I didn’t want to tell you a subjective guess… but now it’s different. Now everything is linked up. According to Telaranea’s research data, there should be three places where the pathogenic fruit still exist on the surface— Clementine Academy, the headquarters of the Mercenary Guild, and another research facility of the Gatekeepers. There’s a research sample in these places, but there’s no recent record of theft. No matter which institution it is, there was no reason to use it to attack your mother."
Oliver didn’t stop moving but his brows frown tighter. "You mean…"
"Your mother was sick, but it didn’t spread. It’s exactly the same as Delia’s situation now." Nemo brushed away a strand of black hair the fell in front of him. "Do you remember when your father suddenly cut off contact with his brother? Our speculation at that time should be correct. This matter is indeed related to the Alban royal family."
"The royal family used the fruit to make my mother sick to kill her, and my father discovered this. In order to not complicate things with his younger brother, Emanuel, he cut off contact with him and disappeared. He loves my mother so much, so how could he give up— No, Nemo. If the original royal family really had this idea, why did they use this… roundabout way?" Oliver tired his best to keep his voice calm.
"In order to get rid of suspicion and ensure the success of the murder."
Nemo grabbed his lover’s hand placatingly. "After all, even for Telaranea who’s fanatic about seeking knowledge, it was only recently that it realized the Alban royal family might have this disease-causing fruit. Although Flint was powerful at that time, he’s only a mercenary with a civilian background. He couldn’t expose this kind of secret."
"Your father is well connected and powerful. He must have many enemies. Your mother was pregnant with you at that time. Flint would do his best to take care of her, right? Ordinary poisoning and accidents would be difficult to succeed. Even if other pathogenic substances were used, your father can save her as long as there’s time, but the Trent Plague is different. It had disappeared from the world for too long… Before your father finds out what Sonia had, she was likely to…"
Oliver was silent for a long time. Their movement speed slowed down and they almost completely lost Ann who was walking in front.
"Why?" After a long time, Oliver said blankly. "Flint Lopez, this person, should have never done anything detrimental to the interests of the royal family. Why did the Alban royal family attack my mother?"
His father has never mentioned his mother’s affairs… Was this to allow him to grow up carefree and not let his childhood be overshadowed by "revenge" and "hatred"?
"This is what we have to determine." Nemo sighed. "Only this, I can’t figure out how. but I think we have an entry point."
"What are you two muttering back there?" Ann, who was running at the front intently, turned her head and asked them humorously. "We’re running out of time, boys."
"Coming!" Nemo raised his voice, then lowered it back. "Ann must be in contact with the royal family… When she finishes talking to Her Royal Highness Delia, I think we can have a good talk with her."
Delia Alastair was sitting in the wide lounge. Her eyes were still tightly closed, and she was slowly touching the delicate brace that was clinging to her legs with her hands.
Her limbs were soft, and she was no longer able to walk on her own strength. The young princess sat motionless with a cold face. All kinds of easy-to-eat diced fruits and snacks were neatly placed on the table, all within her reach, but Delia ignored them indifferently.
She knew that the room was full of soldiers guarding her, and countless eyes were locked on her, which made her nauseous.
But she couldn’t spread this terrible plague. Now, in order to suppress the disease entrenched in her heart, she has to take a special potion nine times a day. She had to be dragged up and fed three times in the early hours of the morning to barely maintain this current state and not die immediately.
Only when the sun was about to set, and her garden was empty could she open her eyes and look at the world again.
But today was different. The door was gently opened, and the guards were talking to the people outside— In an instant, a dozen guards fell to the ground together and the sound of their armor touching each other resounded through the room.
"Well done, Nemo. Don’t worry, heartbeat-level surveillance spells aren’t easy to cast and using them on soldiers would make people suspicious. One Rosa is enough for Eldric to worry about."
The door sounded as if it was closed making a soft squeak before a clicking sound was heard. Then the temperature in the room seemed to drop a few degrees out of thin air.
"You can open your eyes, Your Royal Highness Delia. We know your physical condition. It doesn’t matter."
The young princess opened her eyes with a small slit, and then squinted because she was not used to the light. She saw a flashing wall of ice in front of her. The ice wall was flat and transparent, with three figures standing behind it.
She opened her mouth, but couldn’t make a sound, so she could only smile palely.
"A silence curse. Why am I not surprise?" Ann said angrily as she lifted the curse.
Delia then turned her attention to Ann.
She was startled, but the shock quickly disappeared. Delia didn’t ask for help, she sat quietly in an armchair; the metal brackets on her legs gleamed in the swaying candlelight.
"Everyone, what can I do for you?" She stared at Ann’s face, and there was even a little vigilance in her voice.
"I only have one question." Ann didn’t answer directly but continued to ask questions in a disguised voice. "Do you want to leave here?"
"No," Delia replied firmly, showing an increasingly cold smile. "Since you know my physical condition, why do you ask such stupid questions?"
Nemo looked at the petite girl sitting in the armchair in surprise. Delia’s eyes were very similar to Ann’s, both of which were clear amber.
"What if you didn’t have the Trent Plague?"
"I don’t want to make meaningless assumptions. Now I have to drink medicine nine times a day to survive. That’s the medicine that is only available here. Which side are you from, Salter’s side? Salter should be in the army now. Does he want to get me out of the way first… Unfortunately, he’s a step too late."
Delia’s hands were trembling slightly, and her heart was beating extremely fast. These details couldn’t be concealed from Nemo’s probing, but her face still remained extremely calm, and she didn’t talk like a sixteen-year-old child.
"To be honest, whether Eldric sits on the throne has nothing to do with me. You just need to give me a ‘yes’ or ‘no’, Delia." Ann clenched her fist tightly.
"Unfortunately, whether he can sit on the throne is related to me," Delia said unceremoniously. "Well, I don’t think my dear uncle would play such boring tricks. Mercenaries won’t take this kind of job… Black Chapters, right? Since you said, ‘Whether Eldric sits on the throne’, I assume you already know the truth about the emperor."
This little girl was talking for them.
"Only the Salter family will know this. Although I don’t know why your focus is so strange, I want to answer you— Don’t worry, I have my own plans. Tell Gallagher that now is not the time."
"How can Marshal Gallagher believe you?" Oliver stretched out an arm and crossed in front of Ann. The female warrior took a deep breath and nodded at him in silence. "You are too young. To be honest, your ideas are probably not mature enough."
"Is there anything unusual at Clementine Academy recently? If you ask me, Old Salter should have locked down Clementine Academy and taken the heirs of the nobles as hostages, while Marshal Gallagher is preparing his army. He will use the pretext of wiping out bandits to control several towns first. With the time bought by Old Salter, there will be no other nobles who would intervene in this matter for the time being."
Delia grimaced and tapped her slender fingers on the wooden armrest. "Look at Eldric’s haste. He must be racing against time. Just watch, after today’s ball, he’ll soon have the ‘Emperor’ order additional troops to Marshal Gallagher side. Just convey these words and my physical condition to Marshal Gallagher as they are and ask him to respect my opinion."
She had guessed almost everything.
"…Who taught you this?" Ann couldn’t help but speak. The princess of Alban didn’t have the opportunity to come into contact with the strategies of the upper echelons.
"My mother," Delia said softly. "She is a genius, no, she used to be a genius. Aren’t you curious why I don’t want to leave? This disease is one of the reasons, but the other… If my dear uncle really sits on the throne, I will do my best to make him sit very uneasily."
Ann looked at her strange niece in silence and her eyes became a little red.
The princess’ pale cheek was flushed with anger. "So please, go back."
"Balthazar Medes," Nemo said suddenly. "At present, the Trent Plague isn’t incurable. This person has been studying it. He successfully found a solution more than 20 years ago and there have been cases where people have successfully survived. He should have made more progress now. If we can cure your illness, would you like to come with us?"
This time Ann and Oliver looked at Nemo together.
They had never heard Nemo mention the name, but they all knew who it belonged to.
At that time, two members of the Tin Soldier Mercenary Regiment didn’t participate in the expedition. One of whom was Flint’s mentor, Talbott Vance, and the other was Balthazar Medes. Nemo’s expression was calm, and his tone of voice was serious, not at all like he was lying.
"If you can come up with conclusive evidence, I will go to Salter." The princess straightened her back. "You should go, someone will come to deliver medicine soon— Before you leave, remember to clean up this mess."
She pointed to the guards who had collapsed on the ground, and then closed her eyes.
Ann didn’t leave immediately.
"Although this question may be a bit rude, please tell me." She asked bitterly, "Her Highness Annabelle, was she…in pain in the end? Because you look very…" Very angry.
"She drank poisonous tea. According to Alban’s tradition, she has the right to have a wish before she dies, and she did have a wish."
"She said, ‘Call my daughter and let her witness my death with her own eyes."
"’Let her see for herself the end of those who have lost themselves."
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Trent Plague, a plague that is very friendly to social fear (×