< Curse Play (Part 3) >
The captain ran out of the guard post, and went straight to where Zin and Leona were staying.
—Bang! —“You son of a bitch!” The captain kicked open the wooden door and appeared in front of them. Zin was cleaning his weapons, and Leona was observing Zin. The captain did not pay attention to the parts of the gun.
“You bastard! What have you done to me?”
“I told you, it’s a curse. And you told me that you don’t believe in such things.” Zin stared back at the captain as he answered calmly. Zin was able to figure out what had happened to the captain by looking at the wound on his cheek.
“Shouldn’t you be thinking that what you experienced is just a coincidence? If you are getting mad at me, I assume that you do actually believe in sorcery?”
“That…” By agreeing to Zin, it would mean that the captain would be admitting his loss.
“It’s one way or the other. You could brush it off as a coincidence, or admit that the curse is in effect. If you are admitting that the sorcery is for real, pay me the chips, and get lost.”
“You… you think I’m going to fall for your hoax?!”
“Ouch!” As the captain kicked the door and walked out, he seemed to have stepped on a nail and yelled out.
Leona started giggling, “Shouldn’t he know that something weird is happening to him? Why is he refusing to admit it?”
“There are different types of belief.” Zin was cleaning his weapons with a cloth, and smiled as he oiled the parts. He had not slowed down with the job while he was talking. In a leisurely manner, he had decided to repair and check all his weapons. He had to efficiently use his down time.
“He strongly believes that sorcery is fake.” Having blind faith meant that someone either believed in something or did not believe in something, without any question. In a sense, the captain was extreme. As Zin finished checking on his automatic shotgun, he reassembled it and put it back into the void storage. Leona was always fascinated with the weapons that Zin had.
“You are not going to show me anymore?”
“We will get busy soon.”
“Hmm? We’re going to get busy? What do you mean? Aren’t we done with our job?”
Zin slowly stood up as he watched the residents passed by the inn.
“I am going to start a small gig.”
“What are we going to do during downtime anyways? We should earn some chips.”
They were not going to be able to leave the castle for the next four days, and Zin was not planning to waste the time doing nothing.
Zin grabbed a spot, laid a mat, and sat down on it. Leona did not know what Zin was planning to do, but she was able to figure it out when a local woman appeared in front of them, looking scared.
“Excuse me… Mr. Sorcerer? Can I talk with you for a brief moment?”
Leona was able to see what was going on, and Zin answered with a nod. “Come on in.”
“Thank you, sir!”
Sorcerers were feared by people. But at times, there were desperate people who needed to visit a sorcerer for help.
The woman brought a young kid with her. With a desperate look, she sat in front of Zin, and started talking about her situation.
“My kid kept on saying that his tummy’s been hurting…”
“It looks like he’s been hurting for a while.”
“Right! How did you know?” The woman was surprised at Zin’s words.
Zin thought to himself, Well, if it’s a minor pain, you would not have come to me in the first place… you must be visiting me because the pain was persistent.
Zin kept on staring at the terrified young kid. It seemed like the kid was going to pee at any given moment. Leona was watching Zin and wondering what he was going to do.
“For the next four days, do not talk to the kid. Only feed him food and let him sleep. Treat him as if he didn’t exist. I will notify the lord, so please don’t bring him to daily gatherings such as the dining hall or the night time roll call. Then the spirit will lose interest in the kid and leave him alone.”
“Will that be sufficient?”
“That will be enough. This spirit is a weak one. And, I need to perform a simple ceremony over the kid, so please stay outside. Stay away from the building and cover your eyes and ears. If you don’t follow my directions, the spirit may get into your body.”
“Yes, yes sir!” The woman rushed out of the inn, and the kid was left alone. The kid didn’t know what to do, and was edging away from Zin.
“Kid. Come closer.”
The kid was about to cry as he slowly walked up to Zin. Zin whispered into the ears of the kid.
“I told a lie to your mom.”
“Don’t act like you are sick.”
“!” As Zin spoke, the kid became frightened.
“If you keep on acting as if you are sick, a spirit will indeed get into your body, and you will get very sick. And remember this. A spirit can easily kill a kid like you.”
“I’m so sorry!”
“You will be able to play freely for the next four days. So go and play as much as you would like. But don’t act like you are sick. If you pretend to be sick, you will actually get sick, and the spirit will put you in pain. And I’m not lying about this. Do you understand?”
“Yes, yes! I will never do it again!”
“Okay. Now go out and bring your mom back.”
The kid rushed outside and brought his mom back.
“The ceremony has finished.”
“What much do I need to pay…”
“Eh, hmmm. Just pay however much you feel like paying.”
It was widely known that one should not talk with a sorcerer without paying the sorcerer their consultation fee. The woman was in a dilemma as she was not sure how much she had to pay a real sorcerer.
She didn’t have much to pay, but at the same time, she was worried that the sorcerer would get mad at the small pay.
However, she wanted to be freed from the terror. The woman left five chips, and after saying thank you several times, she left the inn. It was not possible for individuals to save up a lot of chips in the castle, and five chips was not a small amount.
As the woman walked out with the kid, Leona looked at Zin in disbelief. “Was this a hoax?”
“Yes, everything about it.”
“… Shouldn’t you stop lying? How are you going to deal with the consequences of cheating people?”
“Pretending to be sick is a very bad habit a kid can have. Didn’t I just solve a problem for the family?”
“Well, you are really sneaky… But how did you know that he was acting sick?”
“In Jule, kids also take part in labor.” Zin noticed that while observing the castle. Zin was always aware of small details.
“It’s natural that kids to not want to work. And the only way to be excused from work is being sick.”
“And it was somewhat obvious that he was acting sick based on his behavior in front of me.”
Psychic reading depended heavily on intuition. A psychic would be able to infer the facts based on the past habits and present actions. A psychic would gain the trust of the client, and the client would trust in the fortune telling of the psychic.
Psychic reading seemed to be a hoax, but it was pretty effective in the post-apocalyptic era.
Leona looked at Zin with disgust initially, but then opened her eyes wide and nodded.
“Now that I listen to you… mister, you are so cool.”
“Well, it’s too bad that you are finally admitting that fact.”
“… but you are still act like a punk.”
Leona thought that Zin was amazing to figure out what the situation was about based on different observations.
Zin was not the worst con artist, in the sense that he actually solved problems for the people. Leona was wondering whether she should be calling Zin a real hunter or not.
In the past couple of days, he had cast sorcery which would cause horrific epidemics, and now he was acting as a psychic reader.
There was a reason why Zin was able to still survive even though he had lived for so long!
“It is always hard to get the first customer. Now people will start flooding in.”
At this moment, the guard captain was having trouble with misfortune, and Zin’s credibility had been proven to many people.
After the first resident stopped by Zin for help, people learned that Zin was not a sorcerer that ate humans alive. It was only a matter of time before more people were going to visit Zin for help.
Many residents had to work on a schedule, but they also had free time available. Many of them were too afraid of Zin to come visit the inn. Many were frightened by the eerie ceremony that Zin performed the last night. But after the woman, his first client, came back with a bright smile, they started to ask her about Zin.
After that, many people started to line up in front of the inn during the free time between dinner and bedtime.
“My ankle is sore these days…”
“Grind this black herb and mix it up with water and a chip. Make a paste out of it, and apply on your ankle for a week. Make sure you use that specific black herb.”
“I have been suffering nightmares these past few days…”
“Every night, infuse the water with a chestnut and a jujube, and drink the water before going to sleep. You should eat the chestnut and the jujube right before going to bed. But there should be no light coming into the room. Remember this. No light in the room whatsoever.”
The psychic reading that Zin performed was unique. He talked about folk remedies with sorcery terms. Words such as ‘always’ and ‘never’ represented forbidden acts. Many people believed that such psychic readings were sorcery.
‘It will never work without it.’
‘It should never be done.’
Zin was familiar with how the sorcerers added meaning to their words, and he was able to utilize it to his benefit.
For the person complained about the soreness in his ankle, Zin was simply suggesting that the person should apply a patch that contained pain relieving ingredients. As for the person who complained about nightmares, Zin was suggesting the person drink warm water to calm down, and close the windows before going to bed.
Zin knew that the guards turned on the lights during the night to help patrol, and assumed that the man’s sleep was interrupted by the light.
Zin knew many folk remedies that utilized different types of herbs, and the knowledge came in very handy for Zin.
People paid Zin in many different ways. People who did not have any chips paid with grains and cotton fabric. Zin started storing all the payments in the inn. As more people started showing up, Leona started to direct traffic for Zin. As the sky was getting darker, Leona went outside the inn and shouted at the people in line. “We’re done for today! Please go back home!”
As the people started to complain, Leona shouted at them, “Don’t make mister sorcerer angry. Go home when I tell you!”
“Can’t you just take me as the last client?”
“I’ve been waiting for so long!”
Leona was starting to get upset at the people’s complaints.
“Crap! Go away when I tell you now! You people! Come back tomorrow!”
As Leona yelled out angrily, the people were surprised and ran away. Some of the residents were whispering and thinking that Leona was not a normal kid.
“You know what? I think the little girl is possessed.”
“I see. That’s why she was so rude… It must be a nasty spirit living in her.”
“Wow. They are no ordinary sorcerers.”
Watching the residents of Jule walk away, Leona was speechless about their reactions. The people were interpreting her rude behavior in an interesting way…!
“Damn. Psychic reading is not a bad gig at all.” Leona wondered if she was better off becoming a psychic reader instead of a hunter as she walked into the inn. “What is all this…”
Zin had started organizing all the payments on the floor. “I think we are benefitting from the guard captain’s actions today.”
“I think so, too! We will probably need a wagon to carry all this!” Leona saw that Zin had collected grain, and a good amount of chips as well!
“I don’t think all this will fit into a junk wagon, either.” Zin sighed, “We need to stay here for four more days.”
Zin was able to collect so many things in one day, he couldn’t imagine how much more he would collect in the next few days.
Ironically, as the guard captain got into more accidents, more people came to visit Zin. In fact, the captain was notorious among the residents.
“He only speaks lies, and it’s killing me. I have no other option but to obey his words because he’s the guard captain… Man, curse him.”
“I understand that he’s a talented guard, but I wish he would stop talking about his past glorious days in the wilderness… It’s annoying.”
“Well, he hasn’t been living at Jule for very long. The lord appointed him as the captain because of his fighting talent. But lately, the lord seems to be regretting her decision.”
The residents were speaking ill of the guard captain as soon as someone brought up the topic.
“I don’t know if I should be talking about this. But he asked the lord if he could have one more wife, and he was scolded by the lord. Ever since then, I think he’s had a grudge with the lord. Oh well, I think only some people know about this…”
Zin learned of all the misdeeds that the captain was getting away with. The lord was preventing the captain from doing anything else, but it seemed that the captain had no respect for the residents.
“Thinking about it, he deserves to be cursed.”
The residents were happy that the captain was going through accidents and pains. Many residents seemed to be thanking Zin for his acts, and they were probably visiting Zin to thank him.
By paying a visit to the sorcerer who had placed a curse on the captain, the people were displaying hostility towards the captain. Similar to how the captain was putting political pressure on the lord, the residents were expressing their dislike towards the captain. It was a passive, yet clear expression of will.
Zin felt strange whenever he was in the middle of a power struggle.
“So, last time, it was really dangerous. He was picking a fight with a soldier… If the lord had not intervened in time, it would have been disastrous…”
The speaker was the last person to visit. He was initially talking trash about the guard captain, and then he talked about the soldier. When Zin heard the word ‘soldier’, he became abruptly serious.
“A soldier? Can you explain in more detail?”
“Oh, a Wargrave soldier passed by our castle… let’s see… it was about two weeks ago, I think?”
Zin immediately thought of Charlotte.