He Who Fights With Monsters



Chapter 34: Waving the Flag for Secular Morality


As best as Jason could tell, the delta was a mixture of natural wetlands and farmland that made the most of the ample water supply. There was a much greater abundance of trees compared to the desert, but they were mangroves or narrow palms; far from enough to sustain a lumber industry.

Jason wandered along paved roads that were set atop artificial embankments that divided the delta up into segments. Lush shrubbery and staggered brickwork ran down the sides to work against erosion, while small bridges allowed water and the occasional dinghy to float between sections. The roads themselves were the lifeblood of trade between towns and villages.

The care and time that had gone into the ways the farmland and artificial embankments fit into the natural ecosystem were clearly the product of many years. Jason thought back to what Rufus said about the Vane Estate and how it wastefully violated the existing environment. The delta was the exact opposite; a sustainable arrangement that balanced industry and nature.

The first town Jason arrived at was a farming community. Wandering into town, he experienced a strange confluence of familiar elements. Between the wide main street, the desert stone buildings and the surrounding terrain, it was like someone recreated a town from the American old west in South-East Asia, using North-African materials. Stone storefronts lined a main street where he half-expected old-timey piano music to come drifting through the swinging saloon doors.

Jason was actually able to find a saloon, although with disappointingly ordinary doors. They didn’t swing and, wood being a rarity, were made from woven reeds. It was fronted by plenty of windows, none of which had glass, allowing light and air flow inside freely. Walking in, he saw quite a few people eating at scattered tables, as well as a long bar. A short breakfast menu was chalked onto a board, most of which was fried things he didn’t recognise the name of.

After a pleasant breakfast of rice porridge with nuts and dried fruit, Jason left to meander down the main street. He wanted to look around, and also needed directions to the city. The people were olive-skinned with dark hair, which was normal for the other places Jason had seen. Only Rufus, with his chocolate complexion and Farrah, with her light skin and pixie features had been different amongst the humans Jason had met. As for the aggressively Aryan Anisa, he had no other elves for comparison.

There were a number of people going about their business in the main street, on foot or using carts and wagons. There were plenty of heidels, either yoked to wagons or tied to hitching posts. Like the wagons Jason had seen before, the carts and wagons here used bamboo for their construction, with a few wooden parts to supplement, like the wheel rims.

As he made his way down the street he came across two people standing in the middle of it, talking loudly. It was a young man and a middle-aged woman halfway yelling at one another.

“If you can’t wait until the healer comes through at the end of the month,” the man said, “then take him to the city.”

“That’s what I want to do,” the woman said “but money’s tight, now. Ratlings ate half our crop and we can’t afford a healer in the city.”

“No more loans,” the man said sharply, then his face softened. “I sympathise with your position, but monster attacks are a part of life. Look, I’ll ask my father about extending your terms, but that’s the best I can do.”

The woman was about to keep pressing her case when they turned to Jason who had walked right up to them.

“G’day,” Jason said. “I, and pretty much everyone couldn’t help but overhear. If you’d like, I can give it a go.”

“Give what a go?” the man asked.

“Someone’s crook, yeah? I might be able to sort him out.”

“You’re a healer?”

“I wouldn’t go that far,” Jason said. “I can’t heal injuries, but I might be able to knock-off a disease. I’m heading for the city to sign up as an adventurer, and one of my abilities deals with disease. Full disclosure; I haven’t actually tried it out, yet, but I can give it a go.”

“You’re an adventurer?” The woman asked.

“Prospective adventurer,” Jason corrected. “I’m Jason.”

“We can’t afford to pay you,” the woman said. “Monsters tore up our fields, ruined most of our crop.”

“That’s rough,” Jason said. “But no worries; this one’s on the house.”

“Does that mean free?”

“Sure does,” Jason said. “I can’t promise results, though. I’ve never tried this ability before, but I’ll do my best.”

“This sounds shady,” the man said. “Listen to the way he talks. Look at him. He’s clearly not from anywhere near here, and he doesn’t have any eyebrows. Are you going to trust a man with no eyebrows?”

“I don’t have a lot of choices,” the woman said.

She moved to a nearby cart, Jason and the other man following. The inside of the cart had been filled with bedding, to give as soft a ride as possible to the sick old man laying in it. His skin was clammy and pale, beaded with sweat.

“You shouldn’t have brought him here,” the healthy man said.

“Makes it convenient for me, though,” Jason said. “G’day, old bloke. I’m Jason.”

The old man tried to speak, but only managed a wracking cough.

“No worries, mate,” Jason said. “You just hold on a bit.”

Jason held his hand out over the old man and chanted a spell.

“Feed me your sins.”

Ability: [Feast of Absolution] (Sin)

  • Spell (recovery, cleanse)
  • Cost: Low mana.
  • Cooldown: 20 seconds.
  • Current rank: Iron 0 (00%)
  • Effect (iron): Cleanse all curses, diseases, poisons and unholy afflictions from a single target. Additionally cleanse all holy afflictions if the target is an ally. Recover stamina and mana for each affliction cleansed. This ability circumvents all effects that prevent cleansing. This ability cannot be used on self.

The blood-red glow of life force light emerged from the old man’s body. It was far less potent that what he had seen from monsters, even dead ones, wavering as if ready to collapse. Inside the red light were flashes of unhealthy green, like algae in a stagnant pool. There were other colours, although not as prominent; a dirty white and a bleak, pale purple. Jason’s aura sense could feel them tainting the life force. The unhealthy colours immediately started moving, rising up and out of the red glow to be absorbed by Jason’s waiting hand.

  • You have cleansed all instances of disease [Green Mud Fever] from [Human].
  • You have cleansed all instances of disease [Arthritis] from [Human].
  • You have cleansed all instances of disease [Osteoporosis] from [Human].
  • Your stamina and mana have been replenished.
  • Stamina and mana cannot exceed normal maximum values. Excess stamina and mana are lost.
  • Cleansing afflictions has triggered [Sin Eater]. You have gained an instance of [Resistant] for each instance of affliction cleansed.

“I can cure arthritis? Is osteoporosis actually a disease?”

The glow of the old man’s life force was still unsteady, but clearly more vibrant after Jason’s efforts. The other colours were gone, leaving only vibrant red. As the spell faded, the glow retracted into the old man’s body.

“There we go,” Jason said. The old man pushed himself down to the end of the cart to get out.

“Dad, don’t push yourself,” the woman said.

“Don’t worry,” the old man said in a croaky voice. “It’s like a fresh breeze has blown through me.

Weak, but smiling he got himself out of the cart with his daughter’s help, then shook Jason’s hand. It was a hard, calloused hand, reminding Jason of his great uncle who worked mines his whole life.

“No worries, mate,” Jason said.

Although his spell only took moments, it attracted the attention of several people, and a short time later Jason found himself inundated with requests for healing. Soon after, a man wearing a badge pinned to his shirt arrived to see what the commotion was. This turned out to be the solitary town constable, who helped Jason get things in order.

“Alright,” the constable said to the growing crowd. “I’m going to take this man over to my office, where he has agreed to heal everyone that turns up for the rest of the day, just like when a regular healer shows up. So go home, bring in your sick. He says he can get to everyone, but he can’t heal injuries, only sickness.”

“Also poisons and curses,” Jason told the constable.

“And if anyone got bit by something venomous,” the constable continued, “you can go ahead and bring them in too.”

The crowd didn’t disperse until the constable took Jason inside his small office, where he took a bottle of juice from a magic cooler box and poured them a glass each.

“You sure you’re good for everyone?” the constable asked.

“No worries,” Jason said. “I could do this all day.”

“You will,” the constable said. “Half of them we’ll be turning away, though. I may have said you don’t do injuries, but they’ll bring them in regardless. You from one of the churches?”

“Definitely not,” Jason said.

“Then why are you helping all these folk for nothing?”

“Well,” Jason said, “since the gods are apparently real, here, I feel like I should be waving the flag for secular morality.”

“Friend, the gods are real everywhere.”

“That’s what people keep telling me.”


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