"First of all, we need to stealthily scour the insides of the castle. We must make absolutely sure the enemy remains ignorant. Otherwise they would turn the castle upside down to look for the spy. They might even kill innocent servants. Since even though the castle has been occupied, that doesn't mean everyone inside is hostile. There are commoners. There might be merchants who were passing by too. We cannot allow them get killed helplessly."
"So now we're sending food and weapons to the captured ally. Little by little over time, in secret so the enemy doesn't suspect anything. Then once the time comes, we're going all out exterminating them at once and retaking the castle."
"Very well understood. So, when are we mounting the counterattack!"
"I can't say yet at this stage. Once we know the situation inside the castle in one or two days, we can hazard a guess on the outlook. Be prepared for a protracted battle, it might last ten, twenty days even."
"Acknowledged, tactician-dono! Riol-sama I shall immediately deliver tactician-dono's words to townlord-sama."
"Umu. Do so."
"It's midnight. Even if you send people now, it'll have to wait until daybreak. Now then, in order to determine the cause of the patient's illness and to erect a plan for his treatment, I must ask some questions. First, how old is the patient?"
"What does that have to do with the treat--"
"That will not do, Riol-sama. It is tactician's duty to measure their allies' strength. She deems knowing the age a necessity. It is better if you answer her. I realized that they are no sham after witnessing Eda-dono's skill with <Recovery>. I believe these folk are capable of executing the plan to recapture the castle in one swift move."
"Eh? I got to meet Zack-san when he was still healthy last year, even then he didn't look that old though?"
"Zack-dono had always taken good care of his health. He employed outstanding medics such as Aterna-dono, took red potions and health-related medicines regularly, as well as receiving <Recovery> every once in a while. He also bought up all kinds of items to strengthen his life force and prolong his life span. He is not your ordinary 81 year old."
"When did the illness begin showing symptoms?"
It seems to be something that shouldn't be talked about, Riol turned around and exchanged glances with knight Jakof.
"It began around 15 years ago. It might even went as far as 17 years ago if we include periods with indefinite symptoms."
With a slightly stumped expression on his face, Riol turned to look at Aterna who said that.
"What kind of definite symptoms first showed up?"
"What kind of hallucinations?"
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"That has nothing to do with this treatment!"
Riol suddenly shouted out loud.
"Ah, no I mean. As that would touch upon highly sensitive political matters, I'd be grateful if you don't probe further."
Norma looked at Riol quietly.
"Feel free to only disclose what can be told. Please tell me what the hallucinations were about, and how the patient reacted to them."
"The hallucinations were the kinds about receiving the comeuppance of his deeds. Zack-sama's reaction was intense. He seemed enraged outwardly, but it almost felt like he was terrified on the inside."
"Did those hallucinations affect the reality in any way?"
"Nothing actually happened in reality. However, Zack-sama might be believing what could happen in the future. I'm not too sure on that myself."
"What happened after a hallucination struck?"
"For a few years, right, about for four to five years, he would often hallucinate as if he was recalling something, but then it stopped. At the very least, Zack-sama stopped trying to order around or brush away invisible objects in empty space, nor would he shout things like, 'disappear!', 'those are mine now!', to those invisible objects anymore."
Riol protested, but Aterna continued on with a hard to read expression on her face.
"In exchange, Zack-sama lost his appetite and weight. He was originally someone who had a hearty appetite. He turned gloomy, taciturn, distrustful and quick tempered. His decline started to become obvious during the past ten years."
"Fumu. Do continue."
"He would occasionally turn rigid and pass out."
"Did that happen often?"
"At first it would only happen twice a year. It gradually got more frequent, by last year it happened seven, no eight times."
"What did you do when he passed out?"
"We first cast <Recovery> before proceeding with a variety of treatments, then after four to five days, he would get well enough to stand up."
"From your perspective, what illness caused all those?"
"I had researched many documents and prescribed all kinds of medicinal plants, trying to pin down the disease. As a result, I have concluded that this is no illness."
"Eeeh? But if it isn't an illness, then what?"
Medic Aterna looked at Eda with a doll-like expression and replied to her.
"It's a curse."