Sunday, September 4, 2016

In That Moment of Suffering Chapter 45 – Rounding Up the Culprits


Thanks to Sylali for the edits to the previous chapter!



Chapter 45 – Rounding Up the Culprits

In the rear garden of the Royal Palace, every single one of the castle inhabitants is lined up at attention. From adult guards to young servant boys, they quietly stand solemnly facing the royal family. None of them have any idea what is happening, gathering based on their superior’s orders. They want to ask their friends what’s happened, but restrain the urge with the Royal Family standing in front of them. The guards are particularly uneasy at the sudden summons. Many of them have been pulled off guard duty leaving the castle walls and gate completely unmanned.

A few minutes later, Sebastian appears escorting Senna to the gathering. A ripple of worry passes through a few of the servants and guards that have already seen Senna’s first act. Senna calmly walks over to the King and Queen. "Senna, how will you do this?" King Victor asks looking at the large number of people.

"I plan to group them up." Senna replies turning towards Irene and Iru. The two of them stand with four other girls, one of which has paled significantly seeing Senna focus on her. Senna waves them over.

"Senna, I grabbed my friends that can read and write." Irene explains motioning to the girls. The girls bow to Senna nervously trying to make the best impression.

Senna nods to them with a stern expression. "Then I'll get to the point. I'm going to arrange everyone into 3 groups. Please write down the names of people in your group. Since there are six of you, then you can pair up and help each other. And..." Senna turns to look at Captain Lewis next to her. "...Can you get six of your men? One man to follow each of them?"

"What for?" Lewis asks.

"Protection." Senna firmly answers. "Just tell them to be ready for battle and to protect them."

"Understood." Lewis nods and signals for some Men to come over.

"Senna, will it be that dangerous?" Iru asks. The other girls pale hearing that they need protection.

"Not much." Senna hands them a pendant to each of them. "<Barrier magic> It will protect you from any danger, even a dragon would be hard pressed to break through."

The girls feel more relieved as they take the pendants. "Is it really that powerful?" One of the girls asks.

"Yes." Senna replies. {Close enough at least.} The maids have a wry smile at Senna’s answer. None of them seriously believe that this small accessory could seriously protect them from a dragon, but with the assistance of the Royal Guards, it would probably be enough to stay safe. "One group will be exposed to a bit more danger than the others. Is anyone willing to do it?"

The girls tremble and look at one another with uneasy expressions. "Is it safe?" Irene asks. Senna nods. "Then I'll do it."

"Then I'll do it too." Iru also volunteers. The other four girls let out a breath of relief hearing that none of them need to take the job.

"Good." Senna replies. "Then you two are in charge of the third group. You two, the first group. And you two in the second group. Don’t worry about anything and just stay calm."

After some short arrangements, the girls split into three groups with the guards next to them waiting in front of the large audience. "Senna, just what are you trying to do?" Lewis interjects unable to wait any further.

"Mmm. I want to get a list of who is healthy, who is poisoned, and the culprits. I want them separated into groups, so that the names can be easily recorded. If someone new becomes poisoned, then it will be easier to trace the source of the poison. It would be a problem to find out that your water source is full of that poison right? Well I’m anticipating the culprits to attack once we identify most of them, so it won’t go that smoothly. I’ll focus on protecting everyone, so I want the Royal Guards to freely fight and eliminate the spies. Acceptable?" Senna explains just loud enough for Lewis and the Royal Family to hear.

"If there's going to be an attack, then we need to get the Royal Family to a safe place." Lewis refutes.

Senna shrugs. "I figured the safest place would be where I can easily cast protective magic. I'll let you decide." Lewis bites his lip thinking about Senna's proposal. With such monstrous magic, it would truly be possible to do everything without anyone's help, yet she’s planning to take a defensive role when the battle starts. He wants to refuse, but his pride says otherwise.

As Lewis struggles to decide, King Victor interrupts. "Let's stay here. We wish to see the perpetrators." Queen Helen hesitates, but reluctantly agrees. She quietly stands next to her husband tightly gripping his hand seeking comfort.

"Senna." Princess Liliana walks over to Senna tugging on her clothes. "Is Irene and Iru going to be okay?"

"Yes. Don't worry." Senna ruffles her hair. "Let's get started." Senna looks at the King.

King Victor nods and walks over. "We have learned that someone has been secretly poisoning the Royal Family. Everyone has been gathered to investigate this case." Gasps of shock and surprise ripple through the servants. They all turn and look at one another wondering who the culprit is. King Victor turns to Senna and steps back letting her take the stage. "We have found a Master Healer that is assisting us in these troubled times. She has full authority to manage this investigation."

Senna steps forward drawing everyone's gaze. The servants that recognize Senna shift uneasily worrying if they'll be accused. "My name is Senna, a magician that can use strong healing magic. My main concern is to separate the ones that have been poisoned, so that I can give them the necessary treatment. Some of you have properly misunderstood my previous actions. But that's not the important part right now. You're going to be grouped up based on your condition. Please have some patience as the girls record your names. We’ll start with people that I’ve already identified. First group, please get started." Senna replies turning around.

The maids start reciting names at Senna's signal. In a short few minutes, the girls have exhausted the list grouping up the named people. Senna speaks up seeing that they're finished. "On the Captain's request, I've been asked to group the guards first. All of the guards please step forward."

As the guards step forward, Senna waves her hand. A pale blue light surrounds most of them, but two of the guards are marked with a yellow light. "Those in blue are in group 1, the ones in yellow group 2. For now, just remember your groups, the Captain requires your presence." She projects her voice with <Wind Magic> directing them as the guards start approaching, she steps back towards the Royal Family. "Please refrain from glaring too much at the 3rd group. You're rage is leaking out."

"Sorry." King Victor mumbles an apology. They feel a slight jolt in their heart when Senna catches them without even turning around.

Senna nods and returns to marking the servants. However, the disparity becomes immediately apparent just by looking at the groups. After grouping half of the 150 servants, 17% of them stand with the first group, 75% with the second group, and 8% percent with the third group. As questions about the uneven grouping appear, blatant blood thirst begins to appear in the training field.

Within the third group, the identification of the poisoned servants and their group meant there was nothing left to hide. They couldn’t wait for everyone to be exposed, so the only choice left was to reveal themselves and create as much noise as possible. The male culprits suddenly expand growing two extra meters in height. Their arms and legs bulge tripling in size and shredding their clothes. In contrast, the women sprout talons on their hands and feet. Wings made purely of bone burst from their back as they rise into the air. Their skin begins to rot turning a spotted, sickly gray.

The unidentified culprits follow suit revealing their monstrous form. Everyone in the field gape in shock at the transformation. Senna's expression remains serene as she makes her move. The gray ogremen experience sudden flight as a pillar of earth rises beneath their feet, pitching them towards their comrades in the third group. Pillars rise next to the flying bone harpies and abruptly bend 90 degrees knocking them out of the air like a cue ball. A pale white barrier forms after all the culprits have been gathered in one place.

“Hurry and get away! Captain! You’re up!” Senna yells out. She casts individual barriers around Captain Lewis and his men. The servants wake up and immediately scatter with Senna’s reminder. Most of them escape into the castle extending their heads out of the doorway and windows to watch how the situation develops. Irene and Iru approach the Royal Family and join them, hiding behind Senna without saying a word.  Captain Lewis charges forward with the other guards in tow. A new barrier forms surrounding the entire training field, while the monsters are released from the barrier surrounding their group.

"Senna, don't you have everything under control?" King Victor asks. "Is there a need for the guards to fight?"

"It's...Tch..." Senna starts to reply, but her attention is pulled to the battlefield. One of the bone harpies takes the initiative divebombing the guards. Her flesh starts to expand as the magical power within her body starts to run wild.

Among the guards, one of the magicians fires a stream of <Fireballs> intercepting the bone-winged woman. However, Senna interferes in their battle. She casts another <Earth Spike> destroying the woman's momentum. Senna’s spell quickly rises pitching the woman high into the air. "Cover your ears!!" She turns back to yell at Royal Family and the servants.

In the state of panic, the servants obediently oblige without complaint. King Victor and the others obediently listen also covering their ears. As they begin to wonder why they near to cover their ears, the bone harpy self-destructs. An ear piercing explosion rocks the castle grounds. Senna's <Barriers> contains the destructive force of the explosion and stifles the sound, but doesn't prevent the ground from rumbling. Everyone behind Senna gapes at the large explosion from a single suicidal attack.

The guards are unhurt from the explosion, but shiver at the thought of taking the attack at point blank range. "Listen up!" Senna yells at them. "I'm expending a lot of magic to protect your bodies! The damage you take from them will be minimal, but I can't do a thing about the shaking! It will be your responsibility to figure out how to manage your footing every time one of them dies! So battle without reserve!"

The guards stand in place with trepidation. They are still trying to process the unexpected changes happening in front of them. During that time, the ogre men charge forward making use of the opening to attack the guards. The bone harpies attack Senna's barrier trying to take it down. Captain Lewis, Vice-Captain Hertz, and a few other guards draw their weapons, but don't immediately move forward to meet the enemy. They look to the side, unconsciously expecting Senna to interfere in the battle again.

Senna clicks her tongue watching them. She reforms the boundaries of the barrier creating a bottleneck to only allow one of the ogre men through. On the other hand, Lewis' group can freely battle two on one with the new arrangements provided they don't attempt to circle around. "Hurry up! And do something!"

Lewis and Hertz reluctantly move forward and engage the ogre man. Thankfully, the ogre man is a purely physical fighter only able to use magic to amplify its destructive force. It charges at them throwing a large punch. They dodge the strike evading to both sides and counter with a probing strike. They strike the orge man's shoulders cutting deeply into its flesh.

Senna watches their fight with an apathetic expression. "Haaah...You asked why I'm not interfering... There are a few reasons, why I'm not doing so. I can't cast that many spells at once. I'm focusing on protecting everyone and mitigating the damages. The situation will break down if I try to cast more spells than necessary." Senna bitterly laughs watching the battle play out. They look at the wide arrays of barriers that she's casted and can only nod their head realizing they are asking too much of Senna.

Hertz distracts the ogre man lightly cutting its neck. When it turns to defend against Hertz, Lewis slips in striking the chest and piercing through into the heart. "The second is because I've been taking a bit too much control of things. I'm sure there's a bit of built up resentment having me handle protecting you during the trip, while they stand on the sidelines watching. Even if it isn't intentional, it's surely a blow to their pride to let a young girl do a better job than them. I figured it would be a good chance for them to flaunt their prowess."

As Lewis retracts his sword, the ogre man’s body begins to inflate as the core reaches its critical mass. Lewis and Hertz kick the ogre man back as they fall back themselves taking their distance. It detonates creating a blast that draws both sides into the explosion.

The bone harpies flap their wings blowing away the resulting plume of smoke. The other ogre men are the first to be revealed beneath the dust plume. At a glance, the ones closest to the explosion experienced the most damage. Severed body parts and exposed bone can clearly be seen, but the thought of victory does not appear in the spectators’ minds. The ogre men’s flesh begins to stitch together at a visible rate showing their incredible recovery rate. As the dust clears, a large crater forms nearly 20 meters in diameter.

As the guards begin to worry, the dust cloud completely clears revealing Captain Lewis and Vice Captain Hertz. Not only the spectators, but also the monsters are completely stunned at the sight of them. The two of them are completely unscathed with a glowing white light surrounding their bodies. The two of them stand up from their defensive position and look at their bodies. Even closely examining the shields they hid behind, they are unable to find a single scratch.

"Then get to it!" Senna reminds them to focus on the battle. The barrier bounces back to the normal shape allowing both sides to freely fight. Morale surges as the guards draw their weapons. Senna turns around to look at King Victor. "The last reason is just a worry of mine. Even if the castle is completely flushed out, who knows if there are any more in the city? It's best to let everyone gather some experience now while they have the chance. After all, I won't be here in the future, so everyone needs to fend for themselves." Senna kindly explains. King Victor's throat clenches hearing that there might be more of these monsters hidden among the people.

"Ehhh...Senna, you aren't going to live here?" Liliana whines tugging on Senna's clothes.

"I can't. I need to go and find my family. After that, I have things I need to do." Senna answers patting Liliana's hair.

"Then come back when you're done." Liliana pouts trying to convince Senna.

"Haha. I can't." Senna laughs. She turns around and looks at the rumbling battlefield. With the assurance of their safety, the guards directly charge forward. They use a berserker’s style of fighting completely disregarding their defense. One knight receives a direct punch to the chest causing him to be lifted up and sent flying. When the other guards turn to look, they see the barriers catch the knight stretching to cushion the impact. The wall bounces back like a slingshot launching him back into the fray and eliminating two of the harpies with the charge. Outnumbering the monsters 3 to 1, the field is quickly swept clean, killing all of the enemies. "I guess that's it then." Senna mumbles dispersing the barrier.

"Senna." Sebastian speaks up.

"Yes?" Senna turns around.

"If there really are more monsters hidden within the town, shouldn't they find out quickly with all of this noise?" Sebastian asks. The King and Queen pale at the thought of the damages within the city if those monsters choose to self-destruct.

"No. They won't find out." Senna rejects his theory. She lets her words sink in before continuing. "I isolated the castle with a separate wide scale <Barrier>. All of the noise and vibration can't be felt from the outside. The only thing to be concerned about is their disappearance. You didn't think that I would be preoccupied with the <Barriers> you saw, did you~?" Senna mirthfully laughs as she explains. Their eyes bulge hearing her reasoning.

"Excuse me for a bit. No need to follow me." Senna flashes a quick smile as she walks over to the guards.

"Oh Senna. Thanks for the support. We would have experienced much greater losses if not for your help." Captain Lewis signals his men to stop cheering and greets Senna.

"It's no problem. I instigated the issue anyways. Your men should fall back since I'm planning to pull out the last one." Senna nods looking at the destroyed training grounds.

"There's another one?!" Captain Lewis accidentally yells out. The guards look at their bodies, but see no trace of the light from Senna's <Barrier> remaining on them. They immediately back away drawing their weapons poised to attack.

Senna waves her hand raising the grounds to its original height. As the ground rises, they immediately note the section rising at a slower rate. Gripping their weapons tightly, they see an unconscious ogre man firmly bound with vines. Senna casually walks up to the monster and opens its mouth. She pours a bottle filled with the tumor antidote down the ogre man’s throat. "Let's see what happens~"

Second tick by, but nothing happens. A minute later, the ogre man’s eyes open and bulges. It opens its mouth to scream, but only foam leaks from its throat. After releasing a fair amount of bubbles, it hangs his head and remains motionless. The guards quickly back away seeing it die. Even Lewis takes the chance to position himself behind Senna. However, the expected explosion doesn't occur. Senna lifts the ogre man’s head and shakes her head. "As expected, it didn't work."

She walks over to Lewis and pats his shoulder. "He's not going to explode, so relax~" She walks past him to speak with the Royal Family.

"Are you sure?!" Captain Lewis quickly chases after her.

"Positive. His core is gone." Senna replies. She stops in front of the King and Queen to explain the situation. "I tried giving it the antidote to see if he could return to a normal human, but it didn't work. His body has been transformed too much, so he died."

"Is that so?" King Victor mutters looking at the Queen with concern.

"In truth, it was a long shot that I didn't expect to work. One body is made up of disconnected body parts that have been severed from multiple people. It would be amazing if a destroyed corpse could revive after such terrible treatment." Senna sighs.

"Then..." King Victor's eyes shine hearing that there's hope.

"There should be no problem for most people that have been poisoned with that yellow tumor. There is one thing though that I'll explain to everyone." Senna continues. She turns to the servants waiting by the inner castle walls and whistles loudly. "Everyone! There should be no more attacks. Please gather again because we still need to group everyone!"

While everyone reluctantly groups up, Senna recites the names of the members in the 3rd group to Irene and Iru. The process ends quickly with only 12 names being listed. Senna starts by addressing everyone's concern first. "I'm sure you have a lot of questions, so I'll start with the thing on everyone's mind. The ones that were marked in the third group were monsters that infiltrated the castle and have secretly been poisoning many people. The Royal Guards have been investigating how far their roots go and are still digging up the truth. Part of this gathering has been a rushed effort to flush them out before they realize that their most valuable target, Princess Iris, has been cured of their poisoning." A collective gasp is heard at Senna’s news.

Senna interrupts them before they go off discussing Iris' recovery. "This is news that you can find out more about later. At the moment, what's most important is dealing with the situation before us. Even without the 3rd group, there is still the need to group everyone between people that are not poisoned and those that are poisoned. Please be patient so that we can identify everyone that needs an antidote." Senna motions to Iru and Irene to help with writing the names for the remaining two groups. "The six maids will still be going around writing down the names of everyone in either group. We need to keep track of anyone that develops the poison after this to track down any remaining sources."

Senna takes a deep breath before resuming the grouping process. 30 minutes later, Senna browses through the fully recorded name list. Once she fully memorizes the names, she gives them back to Sebastian for safekeeping. “Okay. Those in first group have no poison and do not need to worry about the next portion. If you wish to stay is fine too. Second group, I’m going to group you once more into minor and severe cases. Whoever’s lit is severe. Please separate yourselves.” Senna addresses the 100 or so servants in group 2 and identifies 42 severe cases.

"I'm sure everyone is wondering what the poison does. It causes this thing to grow inside your body and ultimately kill you." Senna uses an <Illusion> spell to create an enlarged image of the yellow tumor. "The end result is the mastermind defiling your body to become those things." Senna motions to the pile of monsters to the side. Gasps and whispers erupt as her diagnosis sinks in.

She claps her hands loudly. "Okay. Stop. Listen to the end. The antidote has already been prepared." Senna waves her hand bringing forth 200 bottles filled with the antidote. The sudden appearance of all the bottles causes everyone to go silent. "These antidotes have been prepared personally by me and I have tested it multiple times to confirm it completely cures the poison. I have no interest in charging you for it. The question is if you can trust the diagnosis of an unknown person like me?"

Senna ends her talk with a slight giggle. She walks over to the pile of bottles and sits down. She grabs a bottle and pops it open. A sharp fizzing noise is released as it’s exposed to air. She starts to drink the antidote without worrying about the gazes around her. The servants murmur thinking about what they should do. Senna's words were very direct and seemed to be very honest. However, she brought up herself that she is an unknown person with a questionable background.

After drinking half of the bottle, Senna calls Princess Liliana over. The Princess obediently walks over with Irene in tow. The King and Queen also walk over to talk to Senna. Senna grabs two bottles and holds them out to the Princess. "Would you like to drink one?"

"Senna! Am I sick too?!" Princess Liliana tears up looking at the bottle.

"Silly. I told you earlier you weren't." Senna laughs ruffling Liliana's hair. "The antidote ended up being a sweet drink. You like eating dessert all the time, so I'm giving you one."

"Then..." Liliana glances at Irene and receives a nod. Irene takes a bottle and pops it open. She intends to take a small sip, but the sweet bubbling sensation on her tongue makes her unconsciously tilt the bottle even further. Irene ends up drinking the entire bottle in one go. Liliana gasps and shakes Irene. "Irene! That's supposed to be mine!"

"Hah! I'm sorry Princess. It was sweet and delicious that I..." Irene blushes. She pops open the second bottle intending to take another sip.

"Be careful~ That one has a different taste~" Senna teases Irene with a large smile on her face.

Irene's hand freezes. She looks at the bottle expectantly, but the Princess tugging on her shoulder forces her to stifle the desire to drink it. Reluctantly, she hands it over to the Princess without tasting it. She hangs her head sighing at the loss of such a delicious drink.

Liliana happily takes the drink and raises it to her mouth with both hands. The sweet, bubbly taste instantly captures her as she inclines the bottle even further drinking it in one go like Irene. She has a forlorn expression when she lowers the empty bottle. "So tasty. Senna, seconds please!"

"No~" Senna immediately rejects her. "It's going to make you ill." Liliana's smile shatters after hearing Senna's rejection. She hangs her head dejectedly.

"Senna, this is a really amazing drink. What is it called?" Irene asks looking at the bottle.

"It's a soda. Red berry flavored~" Senna laughs.

"Soda, soda." Irene and Liliana engrave the name of the drink in their mind.

“Senna…” King Victor speaks up.

“I know what you want to say, but I advise waiting. The Queen, Iru’s sister and the other two will be specially treated later.” Senna interrupts his question first.

“…Then that’s fine.” King Victor answers stepping back.

“Um, we would like the cure… Please help us.” Three maids walk up to Senna and sincerely ask for her help. With these three as a trigger, a line of servants quickly forms as they queue for the soda.

“That’s fine. There’s one more thing to say to the ones that are severely poisoned though.” Senna stands back up and projects her voice. “So one last thing, whoever was marked with severe poison needs to keep something in mind. I would advise you to avoid drinking the antidote all at the same time. Arrange a schedule of some sort for a certain number of people to drink it at one time. The antidote will remove the danger from the poison, but doesn’t completely eliminate it. It will end up like an unused clump food that needs to be removed from the body. It isn’t so bad for the minor cases, but the severe cases will surely suffer from stomach pains in the lavatory. Wouldn’t it be the worst to have every toilet in use when you need it most~?” Senna ends with a light tone, but most of the servants end up unconsciously clutching their stomach imagining the pain later. After a few minutes, the sodas are given out and the extras are stored away. Senna lets out a heavy sigh after all of the servants disperse.

“Thank you for all your assistance Senna.” King Victor shakes her hand.

“Mmm. If you’ll excuse me, I need to rest a bit. I’m exhausted.” Senna replies weakly.

“Oh yes. Of course. We’ll have an empty room prepared for you.” King Victor nods realizing how much she’s done since she first entered the town.

“Yes. Please follow me.” Iru volunteers and leads Senna inside. She walks over to the bed and collapses completely exhausted from the excessive use of magic. Her consciousness snaps as all the exhaustion washes over her body.


Author’s Note
Another chapter completed and a bit of a fast reveal of some of the minions hidden within the castle. Answers will slowly filter in with coming chapters, but the leader won’t pop up for now. I made soda the antidote as a bit of a gag, but decided to roll with it. The carbonated bubbles mess with the tumor and dissolve it in a harmless way, so that it loses grip on the infected person’s magic core. Then they just have to a number 2 to get it out of their system. Is the pretty much the summary of the curing process. XD

Apologies if anyone was anticipating Senna to trounce on the culprits directly. I wanted the Royal Guards to get some ‘experience’, so that they could resolve any future stuff outside of the chapters. I do have Senna seriously battling in 2-3 chapters, I think…My chapter estimations are always a bit wonky since I end up writing more than I expect. Lol!

Next chapter in two weeks.


 

2 comments:

  1. Somehow I don't think the cure for that would just be carbonic acid, but you did say it was a summery.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Lol. I did originally choose it to just mess around. XD
      Thanks for reading!

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