Chapter 556: Things Were Becoming Complicated
Translator: Nyoi-Bo Studio Editor: Nyoi-Bo Studio
The night wind blew fiercely across the plains. There were clumps of grass as tall as a person-anyone would have a hard time finding their way through the grass.
However, Link was no ordinary person. The poisoned Beastmen who had escaped had left plenty of clues in their wake for him to follow.
From their smell, auras, footprints, to stains of the dark green blood left on the grass, Link could see it all.
Half an hour later, Link finally followed their tracks to a low-lying valley.
The valley was filled with a faint green mist. There was a tree with a thick canopy growing on the valley. Around the tree was a large plot of land, on which stood at least 30 grass huts.
The huts surrounded the tree. There was an empty space in the middle where a bonfire burned bright. However, the fire burned with a peculiar green light, painting its surroundings in an oily green hue.
Through the green light, Link could see a lot of Beastmen either standing or squatting on the empty ground. One of the Beastmen stood out to him. His huge body was covered with white stripes of fur. His eyes also twinkled like a cat's.
The Beastmen who had escaped were now kneeling before the towering figure of this Beastman, who was holding a knobby hammer-like staff in his hand. He was waving it about as the poisoned Beastman mumbled unintelligible gibberish to him. The latter was speaking in his native tongue. His words were indistinct, and he swallowed from time and time, possibly due to the poison wreaking havoc in his body.
Hidden in a dark corner, Link listened closely to the Beastmen's words. He was barely able to understand what they were saying.
"No, there's no such thing as a miracle..." said the tall Beastman.
One of the poisoned Beastman began doing charades before the tall Beastman. He said firmly, "Chief, I saw it with my own eyes. There was a brilliant light in the sky. It shone on the humans, and the poison in their bodies was completely neutralized."
"No, this must be the work of a Magician," said the tall Beastman. Seeing that his subordinates were about to insist otherwise, he immediately dismissed them with a heavy wave of his staff. "Enough. This Magician was strong enough to dispel master's power, very strong. I need to tell master about this."
Ignoring his subordinates' further attempts to convince him that what they had seen was an act of god, the tall Beastman turned away and strode towards the largest hut in the valley.
Link, who had listened to their conversation from afar, quickly cast an Invisibility spell on himself. He then noiselessly made his way through the valley.
Poisonous air permeated the valley. Though the place was basically uninhabitable to any other living being, it did not pose a problem to Link.
He stopped his breathing completely and sealed off all the pores on his body, essentially terminating all material and energy exchanges between his body and the outside world. His body was now running only on its internal energy reserves.
Link stealthily circled the valley. After walking 50 feet around the huts, he suddenly stopped. He then stooped down and carefully picked off some mud from the ground. After digging through ten inches of mud, he finally found something. It was a piece of a white rune tablet.
The tablet was big. It had a diameter of more than 20 inches, and magical runes were etched across its surface. Link squatted and took a closer look at it.
It's a simple detection barrier, but the way these runes were etched... it must have been done by a human Magician, thought Link.
Every race had their own unique style of runecrafting. The Dark Elves' had a more insidious aspect, the High Elves emphasized intricacy, the dragons' runes were ancient and cavernous, and the humans preferred minimalism and practicality in their craft.
The runes on the tablet were etched out plainly. Ordinary Magicians might not be able to make out any distinguishing features, but a master like Link, who had already seen much in the realm of magic, was able to identify aspects of the runes that alluded to the race of the Magician who had crafted them.
Link was confident that the rune tablet was made via the Magician's Hand spell.
"The mastermind behind all this is a human? No, there's something wrong with this picture." Link sensed that there were still certain details of this matter that contradicted with each other and that they required further deliberation.
For instance, the poisoning that had happened back then did not seem to be a human's handiwork. Any human Magician who had wanted to carry out a villainous deed would usually do so with a curse or other form of black magic. Poisons were rarely found in a human Magician's magical arsenal. Even if a human did resort to using poisons, he or she certainly would not use this kind of poison. This seemed like the kind of thing the High Elves would do.
Things were looking even more complicated. Link was in no hurry to come to any conclusions. He believed that the answer would reveal itself to him in time.
A detection barrier had been set up around the valley, probably as an attempt to keep ordinary Magicians out. However, to Link, the spell was child's play. He made a slight adjustment to his invisibility spell and strolled casually through the barrier.
The detection barrier did not react to Link's intrusion. It was as if Link did not exist at all.
Link crept noiselessly towards the biggest grass hut in the valley. Ten seconds later, he stood outside the building. There was a small window on the hut. Link walked towards the window. He then channeled Dragon Power into his ear, which amplified his hearing in an instant.
When he got close enough, Link was able to sense a magic aura coming from within the hut. It was a normal Mana aura, which was around Level-7. The aura belonged to a Level-7 human Magician. He or she was strong, but not strong enough to be able to produce such toxicity in the air. Of course, there was the possibility that the human Magician did not make the poison himself, but rather bought it from a black market. It might have been excavated from an ancient site.
Suddenly, a thought occurred to Link. Is he not afraid of the poisoned air in the valley? Does he actually have an antidote for the poison?
Just then, sounds came from inside the grass hut. The tall Beastman and the Magician were now talking.
"This poison is extremely potent. Only masters of tremendous skill could hope to neutralize it, and there aren't that many that fit that description. You said he wielded a power like moonlight? How strange." The voice seemed to belong to an older person, but he enunciated every word clearly. He must be the human Magician.
"Master, what should we do now?"
"Let's not mess with the traveling merchants for now. Gudo and the others have been poisoning the Green Stone Creek for five days. A lot of the people in Mara City downstream have already been poisoned. It's time we head over to Mara City."
Hearing this, Link's brows furrowed. The poison being carried by the Beastmen was certainly unique. Not only was it difficult to concoct an antidote for the poison, but it was also extremely infectious. They simply needed to poison a hundredth of a city's population to bring the whole city to its knees. If the water had already been poisoned, it was only a matter of time before the people of Mara City were transformed into these poisoned Beastmen. If these Beastmen were under the Magician's control, the Magician would bring about a mass poisoning across the Golden Plains never before seen in history.
This was a catastrophe.
Link decided to take matters into his own hands. He pressed a hand against the window. A rush of Realm Essence boiled up from his body.
Space, time, seal!
With a soft hum, Link sealed up both space and time within the grass hut completely with those three words. The hut inside had gone silent.
Link marched straight towards the hut. As he walked, he silently activated a spell that he had recently acquired, Permeate.
Support-type Legendary Spell
Description: Gaps exist in everything. The caster is able to phase through these gaps once the spell is activated.
(Note: Permeate through everything.)
Link had mastered the spell to such a degree that one could not even tell exactly when he had cast the spell. His body passed through the wall of the grass hut like air and into the hut's interior.
Inside the grass hut, there was an ordinary oil lamp. Under its faint flickering light, a human Magician with a mat of white hair was sitting on a chair. There was a magic book beside him. The tall Beastman from before stood before the Magician as he reported on the situation.
Space-time had been frozen by Link inside the hut. The only thing that was still able to move was the teardrop-shaped candlelight in the oil lamp that flickered in the darkness.
Link's eyes swept the inside of the hut. He then spotted a wooden shelf behind the Magician. Ten crystal bottles were arranged on it, and they contained various kinds of liquids.
Link walked towards it and began examining each bottle. The last bottle he tested contained a pale red liquid. Link soon realized that the liquid was able to neutralize the poison in the air.
"So there is an antidote after all!" exclaimed Link.
He quickly extracted a few drops of the red liquid into a crystal bottle of his own. When he was done, he put everything back where it belonged. Finally, he walked to the human Magician and gave a few taps on him. Realm Essence flowed out from Link and onto the Magician's skin, forming a well-hidden curse on it.
With this curse in place, Link was able to tell where the Magician was at any given point in time. He could even end the Magician with just a thought if he felt like it.
When he was finished, Link exited the hut and whispered, "Release!"
Space and time inside the hut returned back to their original states. None of its occupants realized what had just happened. They resumed their discussions on Mara City.
Link continued eavesdropping on their discussions outside the hut. He was now aware of all the arrangements they had made across Mara City. Without alerting anyone to his presence, he quietly departed from the hut.
He could feel that there was much more to this than what met the eye. The real mastermind was still out there somewhere. But Link had already gotten what he had come for: the antidote's recipe. There was no real rush to smoke the mastermind out right now.
Who exactly was pulling the strings behind all this? The thought lingered still in Link's head.
When Link left the poisoned valley, a mission message appeared across his vision.
Mission: Strange Beastmen completed.
Player has received 50 Omni Points.
New mission triggered: Mara City
Description: Stop the poisoning of Mara City.
Mission Reward: 100 Omni Points.
The reward offered was low as before. The mission did not seem to present a challenge to Link, so he accepted it. After thinking for a bit, he decided to head back to where the caravans were.
Mara City was just 40 miles away, and the caravans were heading there as well. He decided to enter the city as a merchant himself.
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