< Extermination Plan (Part 1) >
Leona and the lord did not know what insurance meant, and they were shaking their heads. But what Zin had talked about was a very tempting offer.
One could avoid a huge disaster in the future by investing a small fortune. There was a reason the insurance industry did so well in the past, no one could easily pass up on such a tempting offer. The lord started to ponder again. The hunter’s words were logical, and sink holes were found inside the castle before, as Zin had predicted.
She had to abandon the castle, or exterminate the cave ants. And it would be hard to find a location as good as the current castle.
“Even if what you told me were a lie, we would not lose any more monsters to the cave ants.”
The lord thought out all the possible outcomes, and concluded that it would be better off having the cave ants exterminated. She smiled again and looked at Zin.
“Well then, shall we talk about your fee?”
“I want prepayment of four hundred, and another four hundred upon completion.”
It was a total of eight hundred chips! The lord was shocked at the cost.
“It’s too… expensive...”
“I’m not hunting one or two cave ants, I’m going to exterminate the whole cave ant colony. I think the cost is fair.”
“Hunter, if I were to pay to that many chips, the castle will not have even a week’s worth of energy left. It’s very tough to earn chips these days…”
A castle had fewer chips stored than a city.
Unlike a city where many people visited and traded frequently, a castle did not have much trading going on, and there was less flow of chips.
The Jule castle was located in a deep valley, and the level of chips was diminishing as days passed by.
But Zin shook his head.
“You have nothing to lose from this deal.”
“What do you mean?”
“The cave ants live under the ground, and even if I succeed in exterminating them, I can’t retrieve the chips from the ants. You could pay me eight hundred chips, and you can dig out the cave ants from the underground and harvest the chips. You will be able to collect more chips than what you pay now.”
“… You are not going to harvest the chips yourself?”
“We are in a hurry, and it’ll take too long to dig out all the cave ants. But it will be no problem for you and the residents of the castle.”
Zin guessed that there were more than a thousand cave ants, and if each cave ant yielded five chips, it would add up to more than five thousand chips. If only one tenth of the dead cave ants were dug up, it would be five hundred chips of earnings.
“Hmm… it looks like you are telling me that the cave ants will be killed underground, right? But I don’t understand how you will be able to hunt them.”
“That’s for me to take care of as a hunter, but if you’re curious, you can watch me.”
The lord pondered for a long time. She couldn’t tell whether the hunter was telling the truth or not. She wondered if it was worth spending eight hundred chips for the job.
“I have never seen a hunter approach first and suggest a request to be done. But that’s okay. I believe in you. But I will watch what you will be doing.”
More than anything, she was curious how a single hunter would kill all the cave ants!
“I need some materials prepared.”
“Materials?” The lord was puzzled when he asked for materials, and thought he was asking for weapons. But Zin asked for things that she could not have thought.
“I need some cattle that are sick. I need one chicken, and a pig as big as a cow would be good, as well. And I need cats. To be exact, the bones of cats. If you don’t have them, the bones of chickens will be fine, too. Also I need a handful of seeds from any plant. And I need cotton thread. Threads used for sewing will be good enough, and you should have plenty of that.”
“What… weren’t you going to hunt?”
The lord was surprised at the list of materials that Zin requested, but Zin just looked at her.
“Can you have them prepared?”
“Yes… I can have them ready.”
“Then, please get them ready.”
The lord wasn’t sure what was going on, but she told him that she would have them ready by tomorrow.
Zin and Leona headed back to the inn to rest. Leona felt awkward sleeping in a clean room with clean pajamas on, and was cuddling up in the blanket. She was lying down on the bed for a while, and suddenly she got up and called out for Zin who was lying on the other bed.
“At my hometown, once in a while, merchants came by to sell medicines. They claimed that they could cure any disease in the world.”
“Hmm. Yeah, there are all sorts of people.”
“But whenever I saw them, I knew that they were con artists.”
“And so what?”
“And you looked just like one of them.”
Leona was calling out Zin as a con artist.
“Well, if I take care of all the cave ants, Jule would not get destroyed, so you could say that.”
One would never know the consequences of a disaster, if the disaster was prevented beforehand. Zin’s hunt was like getting a flu shot. Zin told Leona that he could create new requests when there were none. Leona thought that the veteran hunters were all con artists, regardless of their hunting skills.
“But why did you tell her that you need all those materials prepared?”
“For monsters that are not accessible, we need to attack them in a different way.”
Zin didn’t explain the details, and Leona had no idea what the plan would be. Zin laughed and then looked over at Leona.
“You don’t always have to swing swords and shoot guns to hunt monsters.”
“Hmm… I don’t get it, you know?”
There were many methods of hunting monsters, and guns and arrows were not the only possible methods.
What really mattered was the outcome. Zin became happy at the thought of getting his revenge on the cave ants for the stolen red bear, and earning some chips.
The next day...
Zin and Leona washed up in the morning and changed clothes, following the rules of Jule. When it came to hygiene, the rules of Jule were strictly enforced. People who refused to wash up were arrested by the guards, and people were advised to keep themselves clean.
The residents of Jule had to change their clothes at least once every two days.
In the morning, the guards gathered and started the roll call of the residents. After the residents finished their breakfast, they were sent to work based on their schedules.
“It’s very… orderly.”
Leona and Zin ate with the residents in the building that was used as a dining hall. After they finished eating, they moved into the designated areas.
“Castles always operate this way.”
The residents conformed to the lifestyle of an army, and the guards controlled the residents.
“I would never be able to live in such a place.”
Leanz was horrified at the idea that someone would be watching over her all the time to control her. Their breakfast was beef broth with mashed potato, and it was a pretty good meal. And of course, Zin and Leona had to pay for the food with no exception.
As the cooks moved around to clean up the dining hall, the residents started to move as well.
The lord ate with the residents in the same dining hall. The residents greeted the lord, and the lord greeted them courteously.
The lord did not have a lifestyle different from the residents, and the guards and the residents were friendly to her.
The lord washed her hands with soap, dried her hands with the apron, and approached Zin and Leona.
“We have prepared all the materials that you requested last night. I still don’t get why you need them, but…”
“We will need to ask the guards to move them outside the castle. The farther away from the castle, the better.”
“Okay, got it.”
Zin was wearing the uniform that the residents of Jule wore – cotton shirt, leather pants, and a pair of sandals. Leona was wearing a white one-piece dress like yesterday. Leona was not going to be involved in the hunting much, but Zin did not look like a person going for a hunt at all.
“I hung your washed clothes. They should be all dried by the afternoon.” She pointed to their clothes hanging on the clotheslines. She mentioned how she had to use two bars of soap because the clothes were so dirty.
“Were my clothes that color before?”
As Leona saw the original color of her clothes for the first time, she was tilting her head left and right.
Some of the guards who were on standby started to take the materials away at the lord’s command.
One of them was a cow that was bred in Jule. However, it was a sick cow that lost most of its fur, and was struggling to walk properly. The cow had a pouch tied around its neck, and the pouch had all the materials that Zin had asked for… including one sick chicken inside the pouch.
“All these look so random. Why did you need a sick cow? I mean, we did have a sick cow on hand…”
“It didn’t have to be a sick cow. But it’d be a waste to sacrifice a healthy one.”
At Zin spoke, the lord’s face became gloomy. Zin was planning to have the cave ants take the sick cow. Zin had deliberately asked if there was a carcass, or sick cattle.
“I asked you to bring one because you cannot consume the meat of a sick cow, and there is no use for it.”
Zin figured that the residents of Zule would not eat the meat of a sick cow. The lord smiled bitterly and swiped the back of the cow.
“What a pity. It has worked really hard for us.”
She didn’t say no, and she was willing to sacrifice the cow for the safety of the castle.
Zin, Leona, two guards, and the lord walked out of the castle, and went past the fields to the bottom of the mountain. The sick cow was having hard time walking. After Zin arrived at a location that was a good distance from the castle, he had the cow sit down. He had the guards, lord, and Leona sit back away from the cow.
“Now listen carefully to what I’m going to explain.” Zin started to carefully explain the hunting process to persuade the lord because she wouldn’t understand what was going on if he went on with the hunt.
“As you may know, all cave ant tunnels are connected to each other.”
“I am going to put a curse on this cow.”
“A… curse?” At the word “curse”, the lord as well as the guards and Leona became terrified.
“Yes. And I am going to have the cave ants take the cow that is cursed with an epidemic. The epidemic will spread through the cave ants that share the meat of the cow, and it will spread even further as the cave ants come in contact with others.”
“Ah… so you are saying that…”
“The effect of the curse will kick in after the cave ants spread the epidemic to their food storage, eggs, and the queen. Once the epidemic breaks out, all the cave ants will die.”
The cow would be shredded by the cave ants, and the curse on the cow’s meat would infect the food storage of the cave ants. During the incubation period, the whole colony would have eaten from the poisoned food in the storage.
The lord thought of something and asked, “Wait, is there any danger of polluting the soil?”
“The land will be fine, but don’t dig too deep for about two months. The curse is not there forever, and once the effect of the curse fades away, the epidemic will disappear. It would be better to dig up the ground after about two months to retrieve the dead bodies of the ants and chips.”
It was not possible for Zin to stay for two months to retrieve the chips from the cave ants. The colony of the cave ants were so big that it required a curse that lasted for two months.
“Can I start now?”
The lord hesitated for a moment, and then nodded. She was going to follow Zin’s plan as she decided to trust him.