15 Chapter 15 – Plague

Year 1, Fall, First Month, First Week.

“This way, Chief...”

“No... this... Call grandma Marlen!”

The boy left running and Omero stayed behind looking sorrowfully at the black stains on the wheat stalks.

.........

Lew looked back at the disappearing walls and breathed heavily in regret. He wanted to enjoy some time in the most beautiful Eastern City. Unfortunately, his party left Sound City the day after he arrived.

Forgetting about the lost opportunity, he decided to focus on his party. The group was well suited for their task. However, Lew couldn’t help but twitch his lips awkwardly thinking about how much had cost to set this operation.

The most prominent figures were the Enchanter and the Life Invoker. Compared to his five gold coins payment, they would probably earn at least 100 gold each. Adding 30 gold for each of the four regular Invokers and five gold for each of the 20 Fighters, their party cost would be around 420 gold coins.

He wasn’t even counting the cost of resources and extra costs. The whole thing wouldn’t cost much less than 500 gold. Only the Powerhouses or the City Lord Maynor could afford this amount.

.........

“We could start harvesting it earlier...”

While considering Bill’s suggestion, Marlen and Omero could only look down in sorrow.

If the plague took even a small part of the harvest, a lot of villagers would starve. Winter was too cold to plant anything and even if they started to plant as soon as the snow melted they wouldn’t have enough food.

To make things worse, the plague was spreading very quickly. Two days ago, Omero cut down the infected plants and the ones that surround it. However, the plague continued to spread.

By the speed of the plague, if they started to harvest the crops now they would still lose at least another tenth of the crops. It wouldn’t be impossible to survive with eight-tenths but a lot of the harvested grains would be too green. Effectively they could lose around one-third of their available food.

“Maybe we should talk with Karl! He might have a solution...”

“Omero, you’re putting too much on him. He’s just a boy...”

“I know but, what else can we do... I promise not to pressure him for a solution.”

.........

“Humm...”

Karl was so busy reinforcing tools and trying to create new ones that he didn’t hear about the plague problem. When he realized the scope of the problem he was terrified. After the magic tools, he thought that their lives could only improve, but now their survival was threatened again.

As usual, Master AI came to his help.

The back and forth took almost five minutes. The solution wasn’t ideal, Karl was at the same time hopeful and afraid of it. He considered for a moment if he should tell Chief Omero about it, but in the end, he decided that the Chief should decide.

“Chief, there’s a way to eliminate the plague from the plants. Although the village would probably lose the crops that are too infected, we might save the rest. There’s only one problem... The materials I need to craft the tool are in a very dangerous place... To save the infected crops, I need a crystal from inside the Forest...”

Chief Omero started to cough, the solution was too dangerous. Only Adventurer parties or the Army would dare to enter the Forest. He looked at the two other elders. Bill was lost in his thoughts and Marlen shook her head in disagreement.

The last time the team went hunting, they had problems with first rank LT beasts. The beasts in the outskirts of the Forest would have a higher rank, they wouldn’t survive it.

For the first time, Karl saw the Chief lose his composure. He couldn’t endure it, so added:

“In our current situation, is impossible to go there. But, if we improve our weapons and prepare for it, we might just be lucky enough to get it and come back.”

Chief Omero took a breath and considered what they should do. Until now, he had taken risks allowing the young to go hunting, even allowing his granddaughter to go. He did it because he knew better than to let a good chance go wasted. For many years, he prepared for this moment. He would rather grab it and fight for it.

“What would you need?”

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.........

‘Can I use the Extract Properties Array to give elemental properties to the weapons? ‘

‘-- It is a valid idea. If you do not use the Direction Array to move it, the extracted property would be concentrated in the weapon. However, you would need to match the elements and weapons properly --’

‘So... The earth crystal could be used with the shield, increasing its defense. And the wind crystal... The wind crystal could be used in the arrows, making it faster. The water crystal... I can’t think of a weapon to use it on...’

***Image in the comments***

.........

Two weeks later, at the southeastern border of Caiset village, just before dawn.

Practically all the villagers were present to send off the hunting team. Karl was hugging his parents and promising to come back. A similar scene was happening with the other members. Finally, Diana looked at Karl and nodded.

“It’s time, let’s go!”

.........

The new formation was like several circles with Karl at the center.

Forming the outer layer, there were four boys on different sides, all holding shields. The second layer was formed by the twins, another attacker, and Diana at the front. In the next layer, four archers held their bows ready to shoot anything that moved. In the middle of the formation besides Karl, four teens were carrying two LCs (light carriers).

The three fighting layers were arranged so that each member could move forward or retreat without getting in the way of others.

***Image in the comments***

For the last two weeks, they trained extensively for different situations, prioritizing defense and movement. If a member was to attack, they would have to move to the position in the front to reduce the chances of friendly fire. At the same time, the beasts would be blocked by the defense before they could attack the inner members.

The short-range attackers were positioned in the second layer, so they could easily attack any beasts while enjoying the protection of the defense layer.

Since they were positioned between two defenders they could easily move forward or backward. This was the same for the archers.

Each of the three battle layers had four members for all four sides. Therefore, there were only three people on each side and thus they could move more freely.

The team was very distributed gender-wise. While there were only boys with shields, three girls were responsible for the short-range attacks and three others for the long-range.

This time around, Carion had his way and was fighting with a stone knife instead of a shield. The other veterans were in their same positions.

The plan was pretty straightforward, the team would move in their usual path until the water stream and follow it to the Forest. When Chief Omero’s approved the plan, he brought forth an old and crude map.

He asked them to keep it a secret but didn’t reveal its origins. Karl and Tael started to suspect that chief Omero wasn’t a simple villager. However, they could only let it go for now.

The map showed the Eastern Forest, the sea, and the big cities of the eastern part of the Serion Kingdom.

The Chief pointed to a red cross and told them that it was the village position. Comparing the distances on the map, they guessed that the forest was located 20 km down the water stream. Since they decide to go to the stream and then following it, they would walk for 28 km approximately.

Considering that the team would take one day to go from the village to the Forest border and one day to get the crystal, the total estimated time for the expedition was three days.

As usual, they didn’t meet any beasts on their way to the stream. Although they heard some noises coming from bushes and other hiding places, the weak beasts wouldn’t take risks against a big group.

The team was short on time and could only let these beasts go. However, they made small detours to collect materials, especially energy crystals. Getting to the forest was their priority, but the extra energy crystals would help them succeed on the mission.

.........

After drinking some water, the team followed the stream in the direction of the forest.

Approximately midway to the forest, the team encountered a group of grey wolves. The five wolves were drinking water from the stream and eating something that looked like their prey. The wolves also noticed the team and bared their fangs trying to intimidate them.

Unfortunately for the wolves, the team had experience fighting gray wolves and knew that they were coward and when at a disadvantage they would run. Even so, Diana stopped the team with a hand signal. Then, she signaled Tael to prepare the arrows.

Diana was very greedy. She knew that the wolves would probably run but she wanted to take down at least a couple of them. Tael was already prepared for this move, so he quickly arranged the shooting pattern with the other archers.

The hand signal indicated that he would shoot the middle wolf, while the right and left archers would shoot the right and left wolves respectively. The archer at their backs should hold his arrow for any unforeseen attacks. Finally, he signaled for them to attack in five seconds.

Tael breathed slowly and felt the direction of the wind. He pulled the arrow and slightly touched the Arrays in the arrowhead, energizing it with the crystal in his left hand. The air around the arrowhead changed and in the exact agreed time, Tael let the arrow loose.

The arrow drew an almost straight line and arrived at the middle of the wolf’s head in less than two seconds. The other two arrows also flew in the wolves’ direction but only one hit the right front wolf on its back.

Without delay, the wolves started to run and only Tael could draw fast enough to shoot another arrow. The second arrow flew and hit the wounded wolf in its back near the head. The wolf dropped to the ground crying.

Only took ten seconds for Diana to reach it and finish its torment.

Even missing an arrow and letting three wolves escape, their performance was good. The difference from the previous shooting was also noticeable. Previously, Tael’s arrow wouldn’t fly so straight. But after Karl modified it, his arrows were faster and stronger.

For improving the arrows, Karl added one Array to the arrowhead. Actually, the arrowhead only had space for the Sharpness Rune plus one more Array. To make good use of this space, Karl added an Extract Properties Array.

When drawing it he focused on the physical properties of the wind element, agility and movement. Consequently, the sharpened arrow could fly faster and straighter than before.

***Image in the comments***

Before shooting the arrow, Tael had to pay attention to his hands’ positions. The crystal on his right hand, which was used to draw the arrow, would have to touch the Extraction Array, drawn in the straw fletching. The Array would extract energy, transfer it through the shaft, and power the Sharpness effect and Array in the arrowhead.

While the wind crystal on his left hand, which would hold the bow, would have to touch the Extract Properties Array, offering the wind property reference. Matching the movements in both hands while trying to give a good shoot wasn’t easy.

However, Tael had trained the matching movements hundreds or even thousands of times. He was able to do it, without paying much attention, freeing him to concentrate on the shoot.

Unfortunately, the other archers weren’t this good. They failed to activate the Rune and Array in the recent confrontation. Since it was their first time in real fighting, it was understandable.

The team moved to secure the perimeter while Karl collected the blood from the beasts and used herbs to mask the smell. Since the wolves' prey was already half-eaten the team chose to not collect it. Fortunately, they found one LQ earth crystal inside the preys.

With the two wolves’ bodies and the other materials on the LC, the team resumed their journey towards the Forest. However, they didn’t get far before encountering more beasts...

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