Volume 1 Chapter 6
“Not long ago, before I came across you, I was here buying food. I accidentally heard a rumour in this bar. People say that a month ago, an odd man came to town, donned in a thick wolf leather coat.”
“A thick coat when the weather’s so hot?”
“Don’t interrupt me!” Karile rolled her eyes.
“Ah, sorry. Go on.”
“Underneath the leather coat was a set of chainmail armour. The person covered his face with bandages and a hood, thus no one was able to get a good look at him. However, people remembered a special characteristic that the man had, and that was the strange rune he had on his arm. No one knew anything about the rune, nor was it recorded in any known language.
“It was the things that happened afterwards that made things scary. At night, when the moon was up high, a person would disappear. No matter who and where the victim was, the corpse would be a dried mummy devoid of any hydration. What’s worse was that people saw the odd man near one of the victims. Feeling scared after hearing about it?”
“So,” I picked up a cup of ale and drank it all before continuing, “We’re looking for that masked man?”
Karile had an annoyed expression which clearly showed that she wanted to eat.
“How are we gonna find this masked man?”
Right after I finished my sentence, the roast turkey we had ordered was placed onto our table. Karile’s eyes glowed.
“I have a plan. Let’s talk about it after we eat.”
She immediately tore a drumstick off and gobbled the meat down. If I had not known her beforehand, I would have thought she was an adventurer who had just returned after days of not eating anything.
“Oi, slow down a bit, you’ll choke.”
“Cough, cough… Water! Water!”
“It’s right in front of you.”
Karile grabbed the cup of ale and downed the whole thing. This girl, how the hell did she manage to survive till now? Just like that, we finished our dinner. The boss busily refilled Karile’s cup with ale the entire time.
After we finished eating, Karile told me about her plan. It was simple enough; we would wait for the man to strike again, then follow his tracks. Somehow, Karile had learnt about the pattern of the masked man’s actions. The victims all carried a piece of obsidian, but the obsidian would disappear after they died, meaning someone picked the stones up after killing them. This way, it would seem that the victims were all random people without any connection, but Karile knew that the man was aiming for the pieces of obsidian.
“So, where did you get all that intel?”
“Well.” Karille pointed at the counter. “The boss told me.”
Oi! Just who the hell is that boss? No, this is not the time.
I cleared my throat and said, “I don’t think your plan will work.”
“Hm? Why not?”
“How about we wait for the next victim to appear, then immediately rush over to pick up the piece of obsidian? The man’s aim is those obsidian pieces, right? He’ll come after us that way.”
“Ahhhh!!!” Karile exclaimed. “Who would’ve thought you’re quite smart!”
“That’s for certain, so now the thing is…”
Before I could finish, someone shouted at the front door. We dashed over to the door, and we heard that the man was shouting something about a dried corpse. A crowd was slowly gathering. Karile forced her way through the people as I followed behind. After pushing our way through the crowd, we finally saw the corpse. Rather than a dried corpse, it looked more like the man had his soul and life essence forcefully drained away, leaving nothing but a mere container behind. The victim’s expression was a fearful one.
Karile quickly searched through the victim’s pockets and found the piece of obsidian she was looking for.
“Found it, let’s go.”
Karile held the obsidian in one hand and my hand with the other, then started to run towards our room. Just when we ran past the counter, I had a bad feeling. I turned to look at the boss, and he was looking at us with a warm smile, the kind of smile you make after seeing a young couple sharing a sweet moment. This is not the time for this dammit!
Just like that, we ran back into our room. We lit the lamps, and Karile placed the piece of obsidian onto the table. The obsidian was six-sided and as large as my palm. It was finely polished, seemingly done so by a well-known craftsman. In the centre of the obsidian was an engravement that looked like a Greek letter.
“Do you know this rune?”
“Yes.” For someone who has been dealing with Greek for a long time as a student, I knew Greek quite well. “This is Beta 【β】, a rune ranked right after yours, Alpha 【α】.”
“You know a lot, don’t you. So, this Beta rune, what meaning does it carry?”
“Hmm, let me think… In our scientific world, Beta can be a particle and a type of decay.”
“Decay, how to put it…” Alarms suddenly rang within my brain. “Decay… Decay! This thing is radioactive! Karile! Get away from it!”
“Eh? Radio… Fine, fine.”
Both of us took a few steps back immediately.
“So, what does that decay and radio… radioactive thing you talk about mean? Is that what made the victim dry?”
“To put it simply, decay is the process in which radioactive elements give off particles and become another element, and the particles that the elements give off are radiation. How should I put it, the victim was not sucked dry. Instead, it was the radiation from the obsidian that affected and assimilated with the victim’s cells, causing the cells themselves to decay.”
In physics, there was no such thing as assimilation, but for some reason, it seemed like I had witnessed this situation many, many times before. It was like a switch flicked inside my head and I suddenly had memories I do not recall experiencing myself.
Anyways, we had no protective suit to block the radiation, nor did we know the range of the radiation. However, if we let the masked man escape, it might be hard to catch him next time.
Just when we were pondering what to do with the obsidian, Karile pointed at the window.
“Witsen! There’s someone outside the window!”