Chapter 554: An Incurable Poison!
Translator: Nyoi-Bo Studio Editor: Nyoi-Bo Studio
The Beastman's headless corpse lay beside the creek. Thick, green blood flowed out of the gash across his neck in rivulets. The rest of his body was covered with terrible scars. Link walked up close and saw that greyish-white hair was growing from the scars like some sort of filament-like fungi.
What was even more astonishing was the fact that while the body was completely deprived of a head, the rest of it was still quite alive. The twitching of its limbs from time to time suggested that it still retained some of its vitality.
As he approached the body, the sense of familiarity that Link had felt before grew even stronger, but still he could not figure out what it meant. Just then, Link heard footsteps behind him. There were other people approaching the scene. It was the mercenaries from the Red Earth Firm. They had probably been dispatched to deal with the corpse.
Link quickly took out a crystal bottle and scooped up some of the dark green blood. He then cast an Invisibility spell, a Levitation spell and a Void Walk spell in quick succession as he retreated from the scene. Without making a sound, Link's body vanished entirely into thin air.
Once rendered invisible, he walked around in the tall grass and came out from another corner, making it seem as if he had just finished answering a call of nature.
One of the mercenaries headed over to where the caravan had set up camp. He announced in a loud voice, "Gentlemen, there's been a change in plans. It may not be safe out here tonight, so the caravan leader has advised all of you to stay close to each other."
The merchants looked at each other, somewhat concerned. This did not sound good. Those who had come with their own horse carriages harnessed their horses to their wagons as they headed towards the Red Earth Firm's resting area. Those without carriages simply walked alongside their horses. Before long, all 300 people came together, forming a temporary campsite where the horses and other livestock formed an outer circle around the merchants.
Link had also followed the group to the resting area. After a few steps, a man with a greying mustache appeared beside him. It was Shallie's father, Olan.
He growled at Link, "You'd best keep your distance from my girl, punk!"
Link replied with an amused smile, "I don't think I was the one who came to her first."
Olan was at a loss for words. A few seconds later, he said, "My girl's not right for you. She's still too young, too innocent. I only have one daughter. I don't want her to get hurt."
Link smilingly asked, "Do I really look like the kind of layabout who entices young maidens with sweet words, only to hurt them in the end?"
Olan shook his head. "No, I'm not talking about your character. I'm talking about your swordsmanship. Swordsmanship is the art of murder. It's either kill or be killed for anyone who practices it."
Link then asked, "And what if she has a talent for it?"
Olan laughed bitterly. "We're all just simple folk. How much do you expect to teach her? Even if my daughter is able to make a name for herself with a sword, will she even be a match for a true master? I'd rather she not learn swordsmanship at all if it means putting her in harm's way. She won't be involved in that bloody world where all kinds of Legendary masters run rampant. She'll live out her days as an ordinary person. Sure, it may sound boring, but at least it will be a peaceful life."
This was the logic of most ordinary folk. It sounded reasonable. Link did not think he would one day hear such a thing from an ordinary merchant. He raised an eyebrow at Olan.
Olan sighed. "Young man, there are two types of heroes in this world: they're either immortal, or they live very, very short lives. The latter number in the thousands. I don't want my girl to be some sort of hero."
It was true. Heroes were notorious for their short lifespans.
Link was finally convinced by Olan. He decided not to teach Shallie much. At most, he would only give her a few pointers. He would only be setting her on a path towards self-destruction if he continued teaching Shallie.
He finally said, "You have my word. I won't teach her anything else."
"Thank you, young man." Olan gave Link a salute, which was usually indicative of a royal upbringing.
Noticing the surprised look Link shot at him, Olan explained to him, "My father was once a knight. When I was young, I always thought he was the strongest there ever was. He died in battle. They never found his body."
Olan then walked past him. Shallie followed behind her father, visibly crossed by the exchange he had with Link.
Link raised his shoulders, showing that he was left with no choice in the matter. Tears were welling up in Shallie's eyes. She stormed off with a humph.
Shortly after, the merchants were all grouped together. Under the direction of the mercenaries, a temporary campsite with adequate protection was finally set up. Within the circle formed by the horse carriages and livestock, the merchants began starting fires and laying out their blankets.
Up until now, everything had been quite peaceful.
Link found a quiet corner in the campsite. He plucked a few blades of grass and spread them out on the ground near a bonfire. He then laid out the woolen blanket he had brought with him on the pile of grass.
The sky had darkened considerably. Link lay on his blanket and closed his eyes. On the outside, it seemed as if he was beginning to sleep. In reality, he was reading his magic book.
This was part of his training regimen. He could not afford to relax at such a critical time.
After reading for half an hour, Link heard footsteps heading his way. He decided not to open his eyes. Most of his attention was still on the magic book he was reading. However, he redirected a small portion of his attention to the approaching figure.
It was one of the mercenaries hired by Red Earth Firm. From the footsteps, Link was able to identify to whom they belong. The mercenary was called Arda. He was one of the three handlers of the mercenaries as well as a Level-4 Warrior.
His footsteps finally stopped beside Link. Arda's voice came next. "Hey, I hear you're quite good with the sword."
"Just a bit." Link nodded. His eyes were still shut.
Arda asked patiently, "Did you also see the Beastman just now?"
Link nodded again.
Arda explained, "There were actually two of them just now. One of them was killed by us. However, the other managed to escape us. We suspect that they were scouts, and it's possible they may attack us tonight. As it turns out, their blood is quite poisonous. Our leader, Milo and some of our best men were poisoned by the Beastmen's blood. We need all the help we can get to guard the place tonight."
Arda probably assumed that Link had a lot of experience surviving the wilderness, considering the fact that he had just traversed the plains on his own before joining the caravans. As the mercenaries were now short on manpower, Arda naturally sought Link out for his help. Of course, Link was not the only one Arda had asked. Those who looked physically competent had also been recruited by him to keep watch tonight.
Incidentally, Link was also curious about the two mysterious Beastmen himself. He nodded at Arda and said, "Alright then, what do you have in mind for me?"
Arda did not expect Link to agree to his request so easily, since he had noticed that Link had been extremely quiet throughout their journey. Relieved by Link's answer, "It's like this. We're kinda short on people on the eastern side. If you don't mind, could you take the first shift there?"
"No problem." Link rolled up his woolen blanket and headed towards where Arda had indicated.
Along the way, he observed his surroundings. He noticed the solemn expressions on the mercenaries' faces. Through the crowd, he could see their brethren who had been poisoned.
Three of them had been poisoned. The mercenary who had been blinded in one eye already had the blood on his face cleaned up, but there was the same greenish hue on the man's face that Link had also seen on the Beastmen. His body was trembling uncontrollably while his mouth muttered unintelligible gibberish. Beside him lay the mercenaries who had slain the Beastmen. One of them was the leader of the mercenaries, Milo.
Milo's condition seemed a lot better than the other two. His face was not as green as the other two. He could even move, but from the way he moved, Link could see that his condition was still severe. Milo might only be able to use half of his strength at the moment, but his condition would only worsen if left untreated.
If those two Beastmen were really scouts, there's a high chance we'll be ambushed tonight. I can't really do anything about that now. I'll just have to wait and see what happens, Link thought.
Right now, he needed to do some research on the poison that had flowed through the Beastmen's veins.
Link noticed that the place he was assigned was an empty space cleared out among the merchants' cargo, which shielded him from the night breeze. He was the only one standing guard there tonight. No one would be able to see what Link was up to there. It was an ideal location for him.
Link spread out his blanket on the empty space and sat on it. With one ear strained at the noises from the campsite, Link took out the bottle of blood he had collected back then and began experimenting on the poison contained within.
According to the principles of alchemy, each type of poison had a certain attribute which in turn had a corresponding neutralizing agent. Some poisons had multiple attributes, but with the proper alchemical procedure, Link should be able to identify the type of toxicity in the Beastmen's blood.
Of course, understanding the nature of the poison itself did not equate to actually finding a cure for it.
The reason why some forms of poison proved difficult to cure is due to the fact that they contained multiple attributes which intersected with one another in a sophisticated manner. As a result, antidotes for these types of poison were usually hard to find. There were even some that had remained incurable for a long time.
One might liken this to a mathematical formula. It might look like an innocuous arrangement of numbers and alphabets to the naked eye. Eventually, to your frustration, you realized that there was absolutely no way to solve it, despite knowing what each of the numbers and alphabets meant.
At that moment, no one was paying any attention to him. Link began his experiments. Ten minutes later, he finally stopped.
There was no sophistication to the poison's toxicity. Its attributes were clearly laid out. All five elements, which comprised gold, wood, water, fire, and earth, intersected with each other according to a specific order. But the way it was concocted was of some interest to Link. He had gone through 20 different methods of detoxification, none of which had any effect on this particular poison.
This was the first time he had come across such a poison ever since he mastered alchemy. Link was up against a highly skilled poisoner devoid of all sympathy for his victims.
Link frowned slightly. Can it really be incurable? What kind of person would concoct such an insidious poison?
With no cure in sight, those poisoned would surely meet a slow and painful death. Link raised his head up from his hiding spot and looked at the three poisoned mercenaries pitifully.
Before, the leader of the mercenaries was still be able to move. But the poison had spread deep into his body. He now looked even weaker than before.
He seemed to have sensed that his time was up. The mercenaries tending to him now leaned down over his body as he muttered something to them. Link listened to what he said. The man was already making arrangements for his death.
There was no fear or sorrow in the mercenary leader's voice. It sounded level and impassive, as one would expect from someone who had constant brushes with death in his job.
Link grew even more sympathetic for the man's plight. What a shame to lose such an excellent mercenary. If only he was infused with Sunlight Power... With his talent, he may even make it beyond Level-8, he thought.
As he lamented on Milo's condition, there was sudden heavy breathing coming from the campsite, followed by strange groaning sounds. Link quickly located where the sounds were coming from. They had come from the mercenary who had been grievously poisoned the most.
He was taking in huge gulps of air. There was a hissing sound from the depths of his throat. The whites of his eyes were gone, and in their place was complete darkness. White patches of the filament-like fungi began sprouting on his face.
Those were the same symptoms Link had seen on the Beastmen that had been poisoned!
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