Chapter 1 Part 1
Along the riverside that crossed the capital, a business district related to art and culture was formed.
Theaters were crammed into the area, competing with each other across the river. Poor painters could often be seen standing in the streets.
There were many ferry boats floating on the river. We were told that if we paid, the boatmen would take us on a pleasure cruise.
Even though it was early winter, it was still a warm southern day. The river was overflowing with various beauty and vitality.
I was here today because of sclerosis, but I would really like to visit here for sightseeing someday.
The banks of the river would be even more spectacularly colored in the spring when the flowers would be in full bloom.
Kwanach and I walked pretending to be a couple on an outing.
Of course, not far away, several of the Kingsguard, including Jaxor, were watching us.
Kwanach glanced at me and held out his arm.
The unusual name caught my ear.
“We can’t call each other’s names when we’re undercover, so……”
It was the normal way husbands call their wives, I was told, but I was somewhat embarrassed to hear it from Kwanach’s smooth lips.
I hesitated and held Kwanach’s arm. He walked slowly to match my stride and whispered with a low voice.
“There doesn’t seem to be anything strange about the river water on the outside.”
All kinds of pollutants from the city must have flowed into the river, but the water was clean, despite being downstream on the edge of town.
This was also a blessing from the Goddess. The river with the power of the Goddess was capable of purifying.
To the naked eye, there seemed to be nothing wrong with the cleansing power of the Fahar River. Kwanach leaned toward me and whispered .
“I’m going to sip the water first and then take a look at it with Oslin.”
“There are a lot of people fetching water. It won’t look strange.”
The water from the Fahar River was also used for drinking, and there were water pipes connected to the river that allow people to drink from drinking fountains in the city at any time.
‘The water from the Fahar River passes through other parts of the city as well. If there’s a problem with the river water, it’s no wonder there’s been an epidemic of sclerosis across the country.’
We gradually made our way down the river bank, walking closely together like a couple on a walk. Kwanach pulled out one of the small glass bottles from his pocket, pretending to be thirsty and fetching drinking water.
I glanced over the riverbank and said.
“May I sit down and rest for a moment?”
Kwanach’s forearms, which I was holding, flinched significantly.
“Are you sick?”
Actually, wanting to rest was my excuse. I wanted to talk to the grass that covered the river bank.
Fortunately, when I interact with plants, it doesn’t show that I’m using my powers, but if my hands stay in contact with the plants for so long, it might look strange. I wanted to be alone when I used my power.
“I’m a little tired.”
Kwanach led me to a nearby bench and spoke in an urgent voice.
“I knew I shouldn’t have brought you with me. Did you strain yourself? As soon as we get back, we’ll have a checkup.”
“Oh, no. I’m still glad we went out. It’s really beautiful here. When you’re free later, we can go sightseeing.”
Kwanach flinched his shoulders this time. I could see his face, half hidden by his hat, immediately turn red.
“If you ask me to go, I can go anytime you want.”
Before I knew it, Kwanach was red up to his neck. He was a shy and touching man. He was not what he seemed.
I nodded, chuckling faintly.
“Let’s go when it’s more beautiful. Spring would be nice.”
“Okay, we’ll keep all the traffic in this area under control when we come. So that you can walk around comfortably.”
“Oh, you don’t need to do that. It would be fun to watch the people milling about.”
“I see. But safety is ……..”
“Why don’t we just come out in disguise again next time?”
“Well then…… I guess.”
I sat down gently on a bench by the water and nodded.
“Stay here for a while. I’ll look around a bit while I get some water.”
“Yes. Don’t worry, take your time.”
“I won’t go too far out of your field of vision, but if anything happens, the man in the green jacket will come to you.”
“A green jacket?”
I surreptitiously looked around the riverside and saw that there were many men in green jackets.
“These are the Imperial Guards. You can follow their instructions. There should be an imperial pattern engraved in gold thread on their collars, so make sure you follow them.”
“Yes, I understand.”
I thought that since the Emperor went undercover, he would have had quite a lot of guards in addition to Jaxor, but I didn’t think he had prepared this much.
‘I don’t think anything will happen..….’
Who would dare to target the Emperor with the Imperial Palace guards? And since he was undercover, there were very few people who knew that he was here.
He was more cautious than I thought. That’s why he’s created the myth of being undefeated on the battlefield.
Kwanach glanced at me as he went to fetch some water. I smiled awkwardly and waved my hand at him.
Then I lowered my left arm lightly to my side and touched the grass by the bench. Immediately, the voice of the grass popped into my head.
<What, what is it? Are you human?>
‘Hello. I’m one of the people who were blessed by the Goddess.”
<Ah, Goddess…….. >
The grass soul was quite discouraged. I could feel the emotions of all the grass connected to the roots all at once. All the grass on the riverbank was in a frightened state.
I knew something had happened here.
“Has something happened to the Fahar River recently?
<Far, Far, Fahar River…in the river water……………>
‘You don’t have to tell me directly if it’s too hard. Do you mind if I take a look at your memories for a moment?’
The leaves of grass trembled and tickled my skin.
Eventually I was able to approach the memory that held the soul of the blade of grass. I closed my eyes and concentrated on the images in my mind.
The first thing I saw was a dark night. Then there was a man standing by the river.
The man’s face was covered by a dark hood and only his eyes were visible. Even in the dark night, I could see that the two eyes were bright red.
‘Bright red eyes…That’s unusual.’
It was an eye color that was rarely seen. The man with the red eyes stuck his hand in the river. Then his lips started to move up and down.
‘Is he casting magic?’
There were many kinds of wizards.
And those with innate special abilities, like me, were rather rare. That was why we were called awakeners instead of wizards.
On the other hand, most wizards were born with only the ability to sense magic. Of course, very few people even possessed these qualities.
They used magic through the process of casting spells, learning magic as an acquired skill.
In fact, they were close to being scholars, and this was where the acquired knowledge was trained through the various wizard clans and guilds. Over the past century or two, however, their numbers had gradually dwindled.
The man in the grass’ memory seemed to be one of the few wizards left on the human continent.
As he casted, a bright red energy began to flow from his fingertips.
The red energy was absorbed by the river water. Like a drop of red ink, the energy spread out like a wave of water.
Eventually, after a few seconds, the red energy disappeared completely and the river water returned to normal. The man stood up as if he had done his work.
After peeking at the fragmented memory, I gasped.
‘What did he do to the Fahar River?’
It was definitely something magical. I don’t know what kind of thing it was, but the blessing of the Goddess that dwelt in the river could not cleanse what the man had poured out.
‘Could this have something to do with sclerosis?’
My heart began to beat faster. My anxiety rose and my neck stiffened.
I steeled myself and asked the grass
‘Do you know what this man did?’
<Well, I’m not sure…….. But it’s very bad. The Fahar River is polluted. We can feel it. >
There seemed to be something about natural beings communicating with each other. Plants never lie.
‘I see. Is there anything more you can show me about this?’
<I didn’t get to see it, but the tree that took root there told me that it saw a scene like this again many years ago. >
‘Ah, thank you for letting me know……’
I took my hand off the grass and grabbed my forehead.
‘I can’t believe it’s been here for many years.’
I think it’s clear that the water in the river was contaminated in any way possible. And if my hypothesis was correct, polluted river water caused sclerosis.
‘Maybe it won’t harm everyone. Because then most of my people would have sclerosis.’
Naturally, some people were immune to this pollutant, or only certain people reacted to it and got sick.
‘Either way, why did he do it?’
It was around three years ago that the disease started to become noticeably more prevalent across the country. Not that sclerosis didn’t exist before, but it was an extremely rare disease.
Recently, the speed and aspect of the disease’s progression has changed in the direction of becoming more and more intense.
Could it be that the plague was intentionally spread? Who on earth would do that?
Perhaps someone who could benefit from it. I was able to immediately think of a suspect.
The only one who knew how to make the cure for sclerosis, and who had a monopoly on distributing it for a large profit.
I grabbed the hem of the dress tightly with both hands.
‘No way. The Guilier is plaguing the empire to make profits……?’
This was when my whole body chilled from the horrifying speculation.
Kwanach, who seemed to have been looking around along the river for a while, walked broadly towards me.
Kwanach’s face was full of worries.
“Is something wrong?”
Kwanach hugged my shoulder with his hand as he sat next to me on the bench?
“No, nothing… ….”
Contrary to what Kwanach was worried about, no one was seen as suspicious nearby.
All the people were busy enjoying the romantic atmosphere along the Fahar River. I gazed at the surrounding scenery with trembling eyes.
A ferryboat drifting slowly along the river. Lovers sitting on a ferry and dipping their hands in the water happily. A child, probably thirsty from playing around by the river, fumbling to fill his hands with water……
A wave of blessing that has penetrated deeply into people’s lives.
But what if this was actually a wave of pollution that was killing the people of this land…?