Aeterna Saga Chapter 18


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18


“It’s a pleasure to make your acquaintance, Lord Damien. This servant of the Empire goes by the name of Sir Marcus Dawson.”

Damien did his best to remain expressionless. But it proved to be somewhat difficult, especially facing this unexpected guest, now standing opposite of him in the office.

It’s hardly been two days since Derrick and his son, Kain, left for Somerset. The family judged it to be prudent to have the only male heir to the Lomax name away from home, at least for the time being, while the suspicious Agent of Special Bureau was nearby.

But he didn’t count on the man in question, seeking him out on his own accord like this. He got caught off guard, so to speak. What a blunder that was.

Regardless, there was still a matter of keeping decorum. He couldn’t be rude to an official of the Empire. No need to give the opposition an inch, lest he might try to take the mile instead.

“Welcome to the village of Riverfield, Agent Dawson. I do ask for your sympathy in this time of urgency, as I’m drowning in work. Please, tell me of your business here in haste, if you would.”

Damien coldly smiled, studying the demeanor of the man in front.

Even though he was balding on the crown, the aura exuding from Dawson was nothing to laugh about. Although obviously suppressed, this man would’ve been able to easily defeat several higher ranked Adventurers than Damien on the basis of his strength alone.

Even Damien was getting chills, just thinking about it.

Would I be able to fight against him on equal footing? He sure looks like a bad opponent to go up against. Derrick, you picked yourself one helluva scary fella as an enemy, didn’t you.

Damien could only ruefully smile.

“I’ll be brief, my lord.” Dawson smiled thinly, his eyes unreadable. He then slowly reached into his robe, producing a rolled up scroll that had seen some usage. “Sir, under orders, I’m currently in pursuit of one Lady Valette of House du Francis. I believe you are well acquainted with her, Sir Damien.”

“Lady Valette?”

Damien was somewhat surprised to hear that name. Leaning forward, he shifted his focus onto the scroll.

“That’s a name I haven’t heard of, in donkey’s years. Well, at least not since I’ve been charged with the running of this village. That’s over seven, eight years ago.”

“That long? Haha. How unenviable a task I’ve been given.”

Dawson pleasantly chuckled. Again, there was no mirth there.

“I thought she retired to somewhere more scenic. Why are you pursuing her? Is it related to what’s on that scroll?”

The indecipherable smile never left Dawson’s lips as he placed the scroll down on the desk. “It seems nothing escapes your attention, my lord. Indeed, it does. Now, normally I can’t show this to anyone, but since you are a member of the Lucius Lomax….”

Dawson slid this scroll carefully toward Damien as if signaling it was okay to undo the strings and pore through its contents. For some reason, Damien had this premonition he shouldn’t even touch it.

He touched it nevertheless.

Only a single drawing was on it. But it was of something Damien recognized.

“This is…?”

It didn’t take considerable willpower to pull a confused face, as that was what Damien did, after seeing the drawing. It depicted an object, cut into a shape of an octagon, and various unknown symbols were scribbled along its perimeters.

Momentarily confused at just how this Agent from the Special Bureau had a drawing of the mysterious object found in the hidden basement of his own home, Damien only then grasped at possible motives why Dawson was searching for Valette, the previous owner of this building.

Trying not to show any change in his expression, he returned the scroll to Dawson and asked in the best quizzical voice he could summon up.

“What is it? An ancient artifact?”

“Quite. It is indeed an artifact of tremendous value for the good of the Empire. My investigation has led me to your doorsteps, the last persons to see Lady Valette before her inexplicable disappearance.”

“So, you wanted to find out if I know where she might be. Is that right, Sir Dawson? Hoping that perhaps, she’s still in possession of this artifact.”

Dawson nodded, as he hid the scroll away. “That is correct, Lord Damien.”

“Well, it is unfortunate that I can’t assist you. As I said before, it’s been almost a whole decade since last I saw Lady Valette. I do not know of her current whereabouts.”

Damien shook his head as if he was regretful.

In his head, he calculated. Whatever that wooden block was, it must have been rather important. Why else an Agent as highly ranked as Dawson show up on his doorstep after all this time, trying to track it down?

Moreover, he grew curious as to what it could do, never mind what it actually was.

“What is this mysterious item anyway? I’ve not seen symbols like that before. Could it be…. from the lands of long-eared ones? Or, even beyond that?”

Dawson’s smile became even broader still. “The symbols are letters of an advanced civilization, from a realm higher than ours. That is all the information we have at the moment. However, it is certain that it contains powers capable of changing the world.”

Oi, oi, oi. Changing the world? Now that sounds very dangerous.

Damien had a flash of another unpleasant premonition. If that little octagonal wooden block held such a deep secret, then he couldn’t help but think he was hoarding a potential disaster right under the same roof as his loved ones.

The assault on his family almost five years ago seemed to make sense to him now – the intruder was searching for it, Damien determined.

If so, could it be possible, that it was an Agent from the Special Bureau that night? A lethal poison to commit suicide, infiltration technique that could circumvent the sensitive hearings of a Pantherikin, as well as combat skills to rival a Bronze ranked Adventurer while suffering grievous bodily injuries.

….

It is definitely possible.

Realizing the possibility, Damien felt his long forgotten anger swell up. He didn’t know whether Dawson was involved or not in that incident, but he sure as hell didn’t give a damn either way.

Holding himself back was difficult, but he had to do it. If he acted rashly here, the repercussions would be harsh. For one, he didn’t know who was Dawson’s backer, his superior. Plus, he had no evidence that it was the Special Bureau that night. Other than his gut feelings, he had no basis to form this opinion.

He didn’t show his inner turmoil, remaining calm and nonchalant outwardly. Damien wondered if his little acting fooled Dawson or not.

“I’m well aware that you haven’t had any news of Lady Valette. I’m here for another purpose. When you became the lord, Lady Valette had left the village by then. Records indicate that she left just about every belonging of her behind. It is a long shot, but I’d like to take a look at them if they are still kept here.”

Hearing this, Damien frowned. It was true, that Valette did leave almost everything behind as if she had to leave in hurry. Her collection of armors, prized spears, the expensive jewelry and literature were all left where they were stored as if forgotten.

Over the years, Damien was forced to sell some of them in order to acquire funds for the village. The poor financial situation was mostly because he tried to reinvent the wheel called farming and most of that didn’t turn out as well as he’d hoped. Well, he did learn from his mistakes, so there was a silver lining at the end of it all.

Anyways, the items of Valette weren’t complete. Surely, this would raise a certain amount of fuss – first of all, they weren’t his to freely sell off, and secondly, they were evidence if a foul play was suspected of. And he had gotten rid of more than a few. Some might call that suspicious.

It was natural for him to hesitate.

As if knowing the problem beforehand, Dawson offered some help, with a clear sly smile.

“I’m also well aware of the financial hardships this village had to go through. And so, it’s inevitable that there were… certain concessions made to alleviate those said hardships. It is understandable, truly. I do not ask for much, my lord. I’d be satisfied if it were just the remaining articles.”

Damien didn’t know whether to laugh or frown. He felt like he’s been had, for some reason.

“Fine. I’ll arrange it. You might take some time to go through them all, however. Have you arranged a place to stay the night?”

“Oh, it is quite alright, Sir Damien. I’ve arranged an alternate accommodation for myself and my subordinates. But thank you for your consideration.”

Dawson stood up from the chair and bowed slightly.

Feeling a little relieved, Damien also got up, while rummaging his desks for the keys of the locked storage next to the stables.

That’s when Dawson snuck in the next question.

“Hmm, it is peculiar. I was under the impression that Sir Derrick was staying here with you. But I can’t seem to sense his imposing aura nearby.”

“….He’s out on a personal business. He won’t be back for quite some time.”

“Oh, I see. How regrettable, indeed. Oh, and when I was in Lafayette, searching for clues to the mystery of Lady Valette’s disappearance, I ran into your son. A delightful chap, he was. I didn’t see him today as well.”

Damien’s face grew cold. He stopped his search for the keys and sent out an icy gaze to his guest.

“What are you playing at, Agent Dawson?”

“My apologies, Sir Damien. I did not mean to offend you and touch upon a sensitive topic. Please forgive this servant for his slip of the tongue.”

Even though he said that, Dawson didn’t look one bit apologetic. If anything, he seemed untroubled by the cold stare from Damien.

There was a period of silence between the two men. The first one to break it was Dawson.

“If I may be so bold, allow me to offer a small advice, an insight if you will. During my investigations, I encountered a group of men in Lafayette who were, shall I say, quite hostile towards the Lomax household. Out of my loyalty towards the Empire, and for Her stability, I eliminated one or two of these despicable men, but the rest escaped.

My advice to you, sir, is this. My lord, you should seek aid from your family. It isn’t too late for reconciliation.”

“I’ll take that under advisement. Now then, shall we?”

Damien coldly pointed towards the door, signaling that Dawson should start moving.

Ask help from Father, huh? Right, as if. I will never let Kaleena or Kain near that bastard. I’ve suffered enough. Dukakis suffered enough. Mother has suffered, my sister has suffered. Too many went through hell because of him. My kids will not go through that.

Simply recalling his wretched childhood brought another tide of anger and resentment towards his father. He wanted nothing to do with that man at all cost, and that was why he was on the opposite side of the Empire, here in Riverfield.

Although he felt a little bit of guilt, thinking that he’d abandoned his siblings, but in the end, his siblings were grown-ups. They should be capable of wiping their own bottoms. And from what Damien heard, they were doing quite alright.

If he were to seek aid from someone, might as well be that geezer Marquis Phillips. At least the feelings between the two of them were much more amicable, even if they parted ways under a bit of smoke.

As Damien accompanied Dawson out the door, he sensed movement from afar, outside his house in fact. There was a rider on horseback, steaming in towards his residence.

Dawson too sensed the approach and frowned. He couldn’t tell the purpose of this rider, although he felt that it was an incoming message of sorts. As to whom it was intended for, now that roused his intrigue.

The answer came soon enough. The rider arrived at the front door of the house, jumped off in one breath, and produced a sealed envelope that Damien was familiar with.

“An express delivery, for Sir Baron Damien Lucius Lomax, from his lordship Count Dukakis Lucius Lomax!!”

For the third time that day, Damien was struck with another unpleasant premonition.

Receiving the envelope, he checked for the wax seal and felt its weight. A single letter, and nothing else. The seal was genuine too.

Under interested gazes of the rider, Dawson, and Delilah, he slowly broke open the wax and read the contents, only to be stunned into silence by it.

As he expected, it was only a letter, small enough to consider it as a memo. On it, only three lines were written.

Father’s terminally ill. Please return home right away. Dukakis.

Before Damien could sort out his jumbled bag of feelings, a raindrop fell on the letter, staining it. And soon, more drops fell, signaling the beginning of another Monsoon season.

~

Meanwhile, on the outskirts of the village, Lizbeth sat under a cooling shade of a five-hundred-year-old oak tree. Alongside her, Kaleena and Katrina, watched over intently by Rosy.

The family, minus Damien, came out here to enjoy the sun, and maybe get some Invocation practice done. Also, there was another special reason for the sudden picnic.

The night before, Kaleena dropped a bombshell that needed verification.

Apparently, she could see Aeterna’s flow, if she concentrated hard enough.

As far as Lizbeth knew, not a single Invoker alive have claimed he or she could do something like this. Not even those mythical ones who had broke past the rank of Master and soared to a realm no mere mortals ever hoped to touch. She couldn’t remember if there were any mention of it in historical records either.

Yet her daughter said she could, although she also mentioned it was getting harder for her to see the Flow nowadays. From the things she said, it was almost as if her ability to see the Flow weakening recently had some kind of correlation with her growing knowledge in Invocation.

The reason why Kaleena spoke out was due to this. She was afraid something was wrong with her somewhere, and after a lengthy deliberation, she let her parents know.

Now usually, she was reluctant to talk about matters troubling her, and tried to solve whatever roadblock she encountered with nothing more than her own willpower and strength. She was that kind of child. But she told her secret. She was scared that much of this unknown problem.

And it also scared Lizbeth as well. As a mother, she wanted to help but didn’t know how. Seeing the Flow of Aeterna was something out of her scope. Even more so, if this ability was slowly eroding away for some reason or the other.

She wrecked her brain overnight but nothing came. Besides worrying about her son going on a distant journey for who knows how long, there was a small matter of her feeling rather unwell for the past couple of weeks.

She was familiar with this sort of sensation, the one coming from her belly, as it had happened to her twice already.

She was certain, that another seed of life was growing inside her. Thinking this, she was happy but at the same time, slightly miffed at Damien for being unable to temper his wild ways. Well, he did hold it back this long so, it was bound to erupt sooner rather than later. The fact that he held on for so long was a miracle in itself.

Under the pleasant summer sun, with a rather thick and dark clouds mushrooming over yonder, Lizbeth was trying out various methods to see if there were anything she could do. What she excelled in, were always Light Elemental Invocations. She could reattach severed limbs, piece together smashed bones, and repair broken blood vessels. So, whatever Kaleena was going through, if she looked hard enough, Lizbeth thought she could fix it. Or at least, figure out the cause.

She could do neither, after spending the whole morning under the shade. In order to utilize Light Elements to its fullest, it was always better under the direct sunlight, or a bright light source. This was a given. Hence them being outside. A picnic too, to help relax the minds while they were at it.

But nothing she tried worked. She couldn’t really tell what’s the matter with her daughter. She was a perfectly healthy seven year old girl. Physiologically, she was as well bred as any parents could hope their children to be.

So, the other possibility remaining was that Kaleena was not being truthful. That she was making stuff up.

This was unlikely. Kaleena was not that kind of a child. So that left Lizbeth at an unenviable crossroad.

Ignore this heaven-sent opportunity and let it die, or do everything to grab hold of it and reach for glory, so to speak?

The answer was simple but the road leading to it was not.

“Anything?”

Kaleena asked, after she saw Lizbeth frowning. She swiped the beads of sweat on her forehead with a handkerchief.

She have cast one more spell but it was still a failure, and Lizbeth finally ran out of ideas. Leaning against the tree, she sighed in defeat. She was mentally exhausted from worrying too much and trying too hard.

Seeing this, Katrina sneered softly from the side. “Well, at least it’s nice outside. Chasing after a non-existent shadow is a complete waste of time anyway.”

Sensing contempt in the words, Kaleena shot her cousin a sharp look. “Are you accusing me of lying?”

Faking a mortified expression, Katrina brought a hand over her mouth. “Heavens, no. I would never dream of such a thing!! It’s just that, cousin Kaleena is lagging behind this magnificent me, so, it’s only natural you would try anything to hog the limelight.”

“What?! I wasn’t trying anything, you know!! It’s all truth – I really do see the colors when people cast Invocation!”

“Oh, sure.” Katrina pursed her lips. “And no one else can. How convenient.”

Kaleena angrily gritted her teeth. It was true that she was not as good as Katrina was, but the reason for that was their age difference. The older girl had more time to study and practice, so she held an advantage in that regard.

“Enough, both of you.”

Lizbeth rebuked the two quarreling girls with stern words, and returned to resting her weary shoulders. To help with that task, she picked up a cup full of scented herb tea and quietly sipped the light green liquid.

Delilah packed a picnic basket before the departure so they weren’t short of snacks or drinks. If it weren’t for the search of her daughter’s mysterious illness, it would have been a pleasant day out.

“Oh?”

Rosy’s ears perked up, as she sensed an approach from an unknown presence.

Whoever it was, the movement wasn’t concealed, so she figured it shouldn’t be someone out to harm the mistress and the kids, but it paid to be prudent. She couldn’t recognize this presence at all, implying that it was most likely not an acquaintance of hers.

In the distance, a cloaked figure on a horseback slowly came closer to the small hill and the oak tree, where Lizbeth and her family were. A warm breeze fluttered the light gray cloak, momentarily revealing the fine, embroidered tunic underneath, the kind of apparel not worn by common folk.

The second person to notice the figure was Lizbeth. She sensed someone familiar approaching, and stood up from the ground, her eyes studying the aura of this rider. There was a bag of luggage slung over the rear of the horse, alongside a simple but solid-looking longsword tied to it.

It didn’t take long, before she finally confirmed who this cloaked figure was. A radiant smile spread on her lips as she stood up greet the person.

“No, it can’t be?! What are you doing here?”

Lizbeth’s excited voice surprised everyone present. She never sounded like this before, at least not recently, so it startled Katrina the most, who had never seen this side to her aunt.

“Why can’t it be? Is there a problem with me coming to visit my favorite pupil?”

The cloaked figure chuckled, and lowered her hood. The face of an attractive woman in her late forties appeared. Her light blonde hair, almost pale silver in color, wrapped tightly behind in a bun, and a pair of deep green eyes sparking with health and humor.

She was smiling quite happily as she dismounted from her ride.

“It’s been too long, teacher.”

Lizbeth respectfully bowed her head.

“Yes, too long indeed. Ten years, no? Time flies.”

Receiving her teacher, Michelle Matis Banovsky, in an open field like this, Lizbeth felt slightly unsatisfied. She should have greeted her important teacher in her home instead.

“Do not mind it, girl. It was a sheer luck that I run into you like this. I was on my way to meet you at your home, but this is just as swell.”

Michelle laughed, and waved her hand.

Lizbeth introduced the kids to her teacher. “Kaleena, Katrina, this is my master, Michelle Matis Banovsky of the Invocation Academy I attended a long time ago. Please, offer your greetings.”

“Greetings, I am called Katrina Septima Lomax. A pleasure, miss.” Katrina smartly curtsied, raising the corners of her dress.

On the other hand, Kaleena greeted with less sophisticated bow. “Kaleena Lucius Lomax. Good day to you, miss.”

“Oh my. Suddenly, I feel rather inadequate, seeing my young disciple having a family before me. I should’ve found a good partner and settle down when I had the chance.”

Michelle showed a mixed expression at the two girls in front of her. A hint of regret flashed past in her eyes. It passed by too quickly to be noticed by others, however.

“What brings you here, teacher? Last I heard, you were promoted to the position of an Elder in SOIR.”

Lizbeth asked as they all sat on the picnic cloth.

Thanking Rosy who offered her tea, Michelle waved her hand again, this time rather dismissively.

“I’ve decided to retire. Not as an Invoker, but as an active member of SOIR. I wanted to leisurely travel around the world, now that the Sky Arks have gone operational. So, here I am.”

“Wait, teacher. You did inform the Academy and SOIR properly, yes? Please tell me you have…”

Lizbeth’s cheek twitched. She remembered one very unpleasant incident when she was still a student under direct tutelage of Michelle. Just thinking of that day made her shiver from apprehension unlike any other.

“Hohoho. Of course I have. What do you take me for? I wrote the letter of resignation and left it by the Administrator’s desk. Surely, that old fart have seen it by now.”

“You didn’t receive the approval?!” Lizbeth frowned.

“What’s the point? They can’t refuse me anyway. I’ve done more than enough for the Society. As for the rest, let the fossils masquerading as men do something for a change.”

Michelle snorted derisively, and picked a cookie. She bit down on it with gusto, and exclaimed “it’s good!!”

Such mannerisms deeply shocked Katrina. To her, someone capable of teaching a lady as refined as Lizbeth should also be a refined lady but, right in front of her, there sat an individual that were boorish and totally not lady-like. If it weren’t for the luxurious clothing, she’d think this older woman was a commoner.

Before Katrina came to Riverfield, she was supposed to enter the Academy when she turned eight. That should have been this year. But that plan had long thrown out the window.

It was fine to enter the famed school for aspiring Invokers when one was aged a bit, provided she was still a teen, but there would be some disadvantages with that – comparing someone who received a formal education from a group of dedicated masters to a person who got home schooled, there would be a large gap present, the longer this status continued.

Katrina was unhappy at this. All those smug faces of her peers, sneering at her from the sidelines came back, haunting her ever so irritatingly. She had mostly forgotten about them while living this idyllic village life, but seeing this woman reminded of her past, of the pressure cooker life she lived in, from the moment she was born.

Oblivious to her cousin’s dark thoughts, Kaleena innocently asked Michelle.

“Are you an Invocation teacher? Which Element are you specializing in?”

“Oh, I’m pretty good at almost everything. But my specialty is in erecting barriers.”

“Barriers?”

“Yes. I used to teach how to erect the most sturdy barriers to save lives. Among other things.”

“But no attack spells?”

“Hohoho. Of course, those too. It wouldn’t be much fun without knowing how to kick butt, am I right?”

“Teacher, please don’t teach the children unnecessary phrases.” Lizbeth swiftly tried to rebuked Michelle.

“Oh well. Fine, fine. No sweat. I’ll be staying by your place, if you don’t mind. You don’t, right? I’ll reimburse you for the lodging, obviously. I’m not that shameless, you see.”

“…Yes, you can stay with us, teacher. It’d be an honor to host you.”

“That’s good, ’cause now then I can take a good look at these two. You seem to have gotten yourself very good pair of eggs here, Lizzie.”

Michelle slyly leaned closer and peered at the girls. Kaleena felt uncomfortable at the intense gaze, while Katrina brushed it off as if it didn’t affect her in the slightest. Of course, it did. She just chose to not show it.

Lizbeth felt helpless at the sight. Michelle was always perceptive at finding Invocation geniuses with a simple glance. Her ability was legendary among Invokers the world over. It was a great deal to be chosen by her – it indicated there were huge potential sleeping within a person. All sorts of doors would be unlocked after that kind of acknowledgment. Like how it was with Lizbeth.

Suddenly, a thought occurred.

“Teacher, may I ask you about a confidential matter, involving the matters of Invocation and Aeterna?” Lizbeth quietly asked Michelle in a serious tone.

Raising an eyebrow, Michelle nodded solemnly after recognizing how serious her former pupil sounded. “Speak. I swear my lips will remain sealed.”

Taking a deep breath, Lizbeth seized this opportunity and told her teacher about Kaleena’s issue. She deeply trusted Michelle, a trust born out of respect and recognition of skill, and further tempered by years of friendship they shared. She knew her teacher would never betray this trust, no matter what.

Plus, Michelle had researched a great range of topics regarding Invocation and its apparent Elemental dependency. The breadth and scope of knowledge possessed were unparalleled in SOIR’s corridors. If there were unanswered questions on all matters Aeterna, it was not a bad idea to consult with her.

“Is there such an ability? And if so, is there a way to slow down the process, maybe even reverse it?”

Lizbeth desperately asked, as she gently squeezed her daughter’s hands. If her teacher didn’t know, then she was really out of ideas. If this condition were real, and it affected Kaleena in some negative way, she feared it might permanently damage her in the future, even threatening her life. She’d give anything to prevent that, of course.

Michelle showed a surprised reaction, then it turned into one of more serious, contemplative mood.

Digging through the maze of her memories, Michelle carefully raised her voice.

“…By the sound of it, it seems your daughter is born with a certain condition. It doesn’t have a name yet, as the condition itself is exceedingly rare. I can only recall two other cases that are similar to hers.”

“Oh? Then, is there a cure? Something to help Kaleena with?”

“Mmm. In both of those cases, young children were born with abilities to discern the flow of Aeterna with their naked eyes. But as they grew older, this ability disappeared, leading to speculation that either those kids were lying their butts off, or as their body ages, something inside changes and they can no longer see it.”

“Meaning…. there is no cure?” Lizbeth asked, her face falling a little.

Michelle patted Kaleena’s head and smiled reassuringly. “No, do not worry. Those children lived their full lives, with no complications. I don’t think this little girl will be harmed in any way.”

Hearing this, Lizbeth felt deeply relieved. It felt like a heavy weight was lifted off her shoulders. “If that’s the case…. Even though it’s a loss, as long as my daughter will be fine, then it’s fine.”

Michelle nodded, then suddenly, began to leer at the mother and daughter with an evil-ish smile. “Hohoho, aren’t I the luckiest person alive. I decide to come and see my favorite disciple, and behold, I run into an interesting case straight away. Lizzie, you don’t mind me taking a closer look at your child, maybe prod her here and there? I promise I’ll be gentle.”

Kaleena’s face paled in panic, and withdrew quickly. She hid behind her mother, shaking her head. “Mommy, the old lady is scary.”

A vein popped up in Michelle’s forehead, while a chilly smile remained on her lips. “Old… old lady?! Listen here, girl. I’m not that old. Hear me? Besides, I’m not going to hurt you. I only want to help you. You see, there are variety of special medicine refined from rare herbs that helps with illnesses related to Aeterna. I think one or two of them might be the cure you seek. Let me take a look at you, and maybe I can find out what’s what.”

Lizbeth’s face brightened even more. “Ah, yes! Indeed, there are potions and elixirs that could help with Aeterna Pool depletion, addiction, and poisoning of internal organs. It’s possible there is a medicine that should help Kaleena retain her ability.”

“And that’s where I come in. I know most of those herbs and where to find them. And on top of that, I know the skilled potion makers.”

Michelle bit on another cookie, a hint of smugness spreading on her expression.

On the side, Katrina was listening attentively, but was feeling a bit more irritated than before. She still thought her cousin was lying through her teeth to gain attention but it seemed no one would believe her now. She wished someone would raise her voice and stop this nonsense from going any further.

Oblivious to her thoughts, Lizbeth and Michelle continued on with their conversation.

“Which herb should be the most effective in your opinion, teacher?”

“Hmm. Let’s see. There’s a herb called Firegrass, found on Northern territories. When refined into a potion, it stops any damage accumulated from Aeterna addiction and poisoning.”

Aeterna addiction was a condition known to happen to regular people who were not Invokers, or haven’t received formal Invocation training. Once a strand of naturally-occurring Aeterna enters a person’s body without going through one’s Pool, it momentarily produces an ecstatic sensation.

Most who experience it feel sick afterwards, but a small percentage would be addicted to that moment of bliss. Obviously such an activity would damage the internal organs, turning the victim into a crippled vegetable within years.

The cure for such illness was rather costly. However, as most Aeterna addiction sufferers were wealthy to begin with, the high price was not an issue. The reason why the wealthy suffered the most was that the only way to absorb Aeterna without receiving training was to come in direct contact with Aeterna-rich Invocation Tools, and they were expensive to procure.

The Aeterna poisoning was much rarer. It happened to a handful of battle hardened Invokers who have been in an environment thick with the air of death. The researchers at SOIR deduced that such air’s Aeterna were polluted by endless blood-letting and loss of life. A pure, unused Aeterna would be harmless most of the time, but in order to cast a spell, it had to be manipulated into forms Invokers wanted, and that process slightly corrupted it.

< Property of Fantasy-Books.live | outside of it, it is stolen.

When such corruption continuously stacked on top of another, then it inevitably led to Aeterna poisoning.

It was just a theory, however. It haven’t been fully proved, or disproved yet. Still, those inflicted by the illness suffered a great deal of pain before withering away in agony. The only way to cure it were to consume rare elixirs and not cast any Invocation for a time.

“Firegrass, is it? Honestly, I’ve never heard of it. But it does sound promising. I should speak to Damien about this.” Lizbeth nodded. Then she caught on to that one part in her teacher’s words. “….Did you mention Northern territories?”

Michelle nodded, while sipping the tea.

Lizbeth sighed, shaking her head. “Damien’s family is from there. He doesn’t have a good relationship with them. Not for a long while. If we were to find a rare herb like Firegrass, then his family might get involved in some stage.”

“Hah. If your hubby knows what’s good for his kid, then he’d jump through flaming hoops to find help. What’s some bad family relation compared to that of his child’s health? And, there’s no guarantee that they have to talk to each other. Just ask an Adventurer Guild or something to find the herb for you. Simple.”

Lizbeth agreed with her teacher. Indeed, it should not be so complicated. Just by hiring a group of Adventurers to procure the herb would be enough.

A drop of rain fell on the cloth laid out on the ground. The dark clouds had gathered above their heads while they were conversing. From a distance, turbulent roars of thunder rang repeatedly.

“We should go back,” said Lizbeth, shielding her face from the falling rain.

The picnic was over.


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