Author’s note: Some descriptions are graphic, so be forewarned.
“There is that, but I still haven’t asked the pri—Miss Marie why she called on me today.”
Master Julius smiled with difficulty.
It was easy to tell from his slightly stiff expression that he’d brought this on himself. Since he was always so courtly and calm, it was actually refreshing to see him uncomposed—but now was not the time to sit back and enjoy the show.
Miss Bianka nodded seriously, as if to say, You’re right, that’s of utmost importance; but I eagerly cut her off and asked him, “What do you mean when you said the ships can’t leave?”
“Huh?” he said, looking at me in confusion.
Which was only natural, since I haven’t had the chance to tell him I wanted passage on his ship. I probably should have done it in the correct order, but it was a little too late now. What should I do, I wondered in a fluster.
Seeing my confusion, Sir Leonhard came to my aid.
“Pardon me,” he said. “We would like to hear what you have to say as well.”
“I don’t mind, but will it be of any service to you?”
“Please. Allow me to explain afterwards.”
After a moment of thinking, Master Julius agreed. “Very well.”
He began to tell us of a ominous rumor that originated from a single ship.
About a month ago, a ship from an island to the far southeast of the continent entered a small port town in the neighboring kingdom of Grund.
Three of them died at entry. Of the remaining 15 sick people, six more died without a cure. After a look at the ship’s log, a rumor began to spread among the sailors: “Those who stay at sea at length will be haunted by the dead.”
“It’s not a disease?” asked Sir Leonhard.
“I wonder myself. So far, I’m not really sure.” Master Julius neither confirmed nor negated his question. “But even if it was, it doesn’t seem like it’s directly transmitted from person to person. None of the symptoms have shown up in the people of Grund. That includes those who buried the bodies, the caregivers, as well as the physicians.”
Thankfully, it didn’t seem like the illness was spread through droplet transmission or contact, but if more than half of the people on the same ship were suffering from it, then there was cause to suspect other sources as well. For example, the water or food could have been contaminated.
As I silently listened to their conversation, I turned possibilities over in my head.
At first, I was preoccupied with getting a ship, but if this disease was infectious, then it must be top priority. A hypothesis inferred from the game was still just a hypothesis, after all. It didn’t mean the time the disease emerged as an epidemic or the kingdom it spread in wouldn’t change.
“If it was a disease of unknown cause then the fears of the sailors aren’t unwarranted,” said Sir Leonhard. “But it’s becoming a bit farfetched.”
Expression full of disgust, Miss Bianka chimed in. “Exactly. How did it become some ridiculous story about the ‘dead’?”
“What was written in the ship’s log?”
Master Julius pulled out a piece of paper with what seemed to be a summary of the contents and began to read it. “It was nothing out of the ordinary at first. Normal records of the weather, the sea state, the state of supplies, the conditions of the sailors, and the like. However, after a month or two of recordings, something unusual gradually began to appear.”
“The worsened condition of the sailors?”
“Yes. About a month had passed when the sailors began to complain about languidness in the body and pains in their knees. ‘Probably a cold, sleep should cure it’ was written in the log. However, contrary to expectations, not only did their physical conditions not improve, the men’s spirits also became dejected.”
Fatigue and joint pains were indeed symptoms of the common cold. Unless it worsened, rest should be enough to recover from cases like the common cold or pneumonia. However, when there was still no improvement even after sleep, then there was a high chance it was something else.
“Next, it was written that large bruises appeared on their their thighs.”
“Bruises? They didn’t get those from crashing into something somewhere?” Miss Bianka asked suspiciously as she scrutinized Master Julius.
“Several people had the same symptom. I find it rather difficult to believe that they all hit their thighs at the same time,” he responded coolly. “Furthermore, after even more days had passed, their mouths and skin began to bleed. Eventually their teeth fell out, old sores opened up, and those bloodied sailors died.”
A silence fell over the group.
Listening to these unimaginable symptoms, I also felt the blood drain from my face.
“It’s a bit late now, but I’m beginning to question your judgment for telling that story in front of Marie.” Miss Bianka glared at Master Julius coldly.
“N-no!” I shook my head quickly. “I wanted to be here, so please don’t worry about me.”
She didn’t look satisfied, so I put on a smile for her. It was probably strained and I’m sure my complexion was terrible, but I hoped she wouldn’t pay attention to it.
It may not have been a pleasant story, but I truly believed I needed to hear it.
“Is that how this story was tied to the dead, from these horrible deaths?”
“If only that was all. There are many among the sailors who have experienced the initial stages of the symptoms. The longer a ship is out at sea, the higher the count. The sailors are afraid it will be their turn to die next if they’re stuck on a lengthy voyage.”
Since the appearance of the symptoms corresponded to the number of days on-board, the rumor must have manifested there.
“By initial stages, you mean the fatigue and joint pains?” Miss Bianka asked. “That’s not unusual.”
Master Julius sighed. “It may be nothing more than hysteria, but without a reason or a cure, persuading them is difficult.”
“Nevertheless, you can’t keep the ships docked forever. It will hurt your business as well as the livelihoods of your sailors.”
“I am aware of that.”
As Miss Bianka and Master Julius conversed, I sorted through the information I had at hand.
“Mm?” I made a small noise.
“Miss Marie?” Sir Leonhard queried in a low voice so that the other two wouldn’t hear. He looked at me with concern, but I was desperately trying to put my thought together so I couldn’t even manage a decent response.
Fatigue and joint paints in the initial stages.
Their spirits became unstable… and after falling into depression, bruises appeared on their thighs.
Furthermore, after more days have passed, there was bleeding of the gums and skin.
Their teeth fell out, old sores opened, and eventually they died. A sailor’s disease.
Why was I being hit by déjà vu?
As soon as I asked myself, the answer came to me.
I’ve never actually met anyone who suffered those conditions.
But I was certain I knew what it was.
It wasn’t the vivid memory of firsthand experience, just plain knowledge.