I was about to leave, as I had said what I came to say, but Dalmia had other plans.
She slithered up to me without making a sound, and started to sniff me.
“He-hey…Dalmia. What are you doing?”
“I smell a red rat.”
“A red rat…?”
I didn’t understand what she meant.
No, that did ring a bell.
Before coming here, I had stopped at the nearby Ogre village.
I had been greeted to a hearty welcome, but there something that would occasionally move in the corner of my vision.
When I asked them about it, they told me that they’d been having a rat problem recently. But they hadn’t said anything about them being red.
“I smell…red rats.”
“I stopped by a village on the way here and stayed a while. And since they said they’d been having trouble with rats, that’s probably the reason. Does it bother you?”
“Red rats carry the plague.”
Dalmia nodded slowly.
“The bodies and the droppings of red rats are like clumps of disease. Any who touch them will then carry the plague.”
“Then tell me more about this plague!”
The place that Dalmia and the other Lamias once lived was a pure and mystical place. A place with beautiful rivers and lakes.
She talked about how there was a waterfall near her home.
“But one day, one of my friends died.”
“From the plague?”
His skin had become dry, dark spots appeared all over. He had died saying that he felt a burning pain inside of his body.
Before he had died, the Lamias asked him many questions in order to find out the cause of this disease.
And the only hint they got was this, ‘I ate a red rat. But it was disgusting and hardly edible.’
No one knew what that meant. They had never heard of such a thing before.
However, after some time had passed since this friend’s death, a few others showed similar symptoms.
They were all people who were close to the deceased.
It was an infectious disease. Realizing this, they isolated them.
Since there were no other aquatic races in the area, they moved those who were afflicted to a different water source.
Those who remained were instructed to avoid eating any red rats, and to stay away from them.
“After that, no one else caught the disease.”
A few dissected some of dead red rats.
And as expected, their insides were rotten. It was clear that they had been the source of the disease.
“I’m surprised you were able to learn all of that.”
I would have just stayed away.
“It was necessary in order for us to survive.”
The Lamias would occasionally eat rats. And so they had to be certain.
After inspecting them, they found out that the red rats were normal before they started carrying the pathogenic bacteria.
But once they are infected, all of their fur falls out and their skin starts to swell and become red.
“The red skin is evidence of the festering. So it was no wonder they did not taste good.”
But it had taken them a long time to discover all of this.
When the first person had fallen, they had explained the symptoms to a traveling merchant and asked if there wasn’t any medicine for it.
Apparently, the Lamia were able to make accessories out of rocks found at the bottom of lakes.
They were actually quite skilled with their hands.
Perhaps that wasn’t surprising, judging by the clothes they wore.
And so time passed.
However, until the Lamias found out the reason, not a single traveling merchant paid them another visit. But the Lamias did not suspect anything.
The relief they felt over their discovery was a brief one.
“Things were terrible in the town.”
While the Lamias were trying to figure out the cause, people were dying one after another with the same symptoms in the nearby town.
Of course, the Lamias had no idea, as they had no interactions with this town.
But to their misfortune, the traveling merchant knew where the first person to be infected had come from.
“And so rumors were spread that you brought the disease?”
“Yes. We were living near the water source, after all.”
Their home had been close to the town’s water source.
The Lamias had been the first to be affected, and then the town’s people.
That was all true. However, it wasn’t as if the Lamias actually did anything to the town’s people.
But once hundreds, thousands of people had died, the residents had lost their calm.
In the end, the Lamias were driven away from their home.
By then, the entire town had been infected, and it was starting to spread to other towns, so that no one could enter or leave.
Still, there were survivors.
And they were sure to continue to spread the rumors about the Lamias.
That was why they had to abandon their country and flee.
“…I see. Still, what does the ‘smell of a red rat’ mean?”
“Even if they look normal, it’s possible that they still carry the disease. And so we learned to tell them apart by their smell and not their color.”
The rats only became red towards the end.
And so it was possible that they were infected much earlier.
That being said, it wasn’t possible to live while avoiding all rats all of the time.
And so it had been necessary to learn to tell them apart by their smell.
“That was a good decision… But, that means the rats in that village…”
“They probably have it.”
Have it? They have the disease.
What could be done? It was obvious. They had to be exterminated.
Catch them…no, then the germs will get on your hands.
We could use traps and then burn them.
But there could be other carriers.
“Sorry. But what you told me is very helpful. I’ll have to return to the village at once.”
There was no time to lose. And so I ran back to the village.