Volume 1 — Chapter 6: Forbidden Spell
Civil war was destroying the kingdom, seeing as how the devastation of being attacked was common knowledge. Internal conflict couldn’t be quarantined besides and neighbors were doubting each other, creating a deadly quagmire.
Even though Albus had laid out his plans to end the war, there was no guarantee that things would go accordingly.
The one who betrayed his comrades but nevertheless wanted to stop the fighting—Thirteenth.
The one who, to bring about a witches’ era, shattered peace and killed others to steal a secret technique—‘That person’.
And the one who dreams of an ideal and peaceful resolution to the conflict—Albus.
If I had to cast my lot with one of them, I would choose Thirteenth. My opinion hadn’t changed, despite how filthy Thirteenth’s methods were. Not that it meant much coming from the person who’d stolen Albus away from Thirteenth’s clutches, but…
“I know it’s a pipe dream.”
Albus muttered out of nowhere, hugging her knees.
“I’m Solena’s grandchild…but that’s it. I’m still in the process of learning sorcery, and I can’t even perform the Beastgranting ritual. Thirteenth’s incredible…to be honest. He managed to get to where he is now in just one year. He earned the king’s trust on his own, and fought all the witches on his own. I’ve heard that Thirteenth’s even teaching people in the castle to use magic. But the difference is, Thirteenth would never create wayward sorcerers. There’s no way someone like myself could defeat Thirteenth…”
Thirteenth fought alone, and Albus had the power of the Coven of Zero.
Theirs were different cases, Albus was saying. Though Albus kept floundering about and wishing for an ideal situation, she didn’t have the power to make her dreams into reality.
Albus was being cornered by both Thirteenth and that which was called reality.
If Albus was as powerful as Thirteenth, then the situation would most likely be different. But no matter if one wished for or did not wish for something—things would stay as they were.
Even so, Albus wouldn’t give up. Compared with her lack of strength, Albus’s heart was exceedingly steadfast.
“Come here, Holdem.”
Albus beckoned at dog-face. Holdem—was that dog-face’s name? Well, even though I knew his name now, I didn’t really have a reason to call him by it.
“Show me your back.”
Albus slipped off my lap, and crouched near dog-face’s back. She breathed a small sigh as if to calm herself.
“Iia, do, kuuha—Blood, restore this missing flesh!”
The surrounding air became immediately warm. Lukewarm light gathered around Albus’ hands, dancing around them. It must be magic, I observed, but much gentler than the likes of Staim and Flagis. It seemed that it would feel pleasant to the touch.
“The Book of Safeguarding, verse one: «Codia». Sanction this; my name is Albus.”
When Albus touched dog-face’s back, the light was sucked into his body.
Huh, I let out a noise of surprise.
The smell of blood—more specifically, the smell of bared flesh—disappeared.
Dog-face blinked, and when he went to unwrap his bandages, his back had been completely healed from its appearance of an overripe fruit.
“Little lady, this—“
“It’s magic. The Book of Protection—magic for healing wounds and protecting people. I like the magic of this book the most, and it’s my strong point. I can use pretty advanced magic from this book, you know?”
“There’re four books, Hunting, Capturing, Harvesting, and Safeguarding, yeah?”
“You know a lot about it, mercenary.”
“‘Cause I heard all this from the one who wrote it.”
Right, Albus laughed bitterly.
“Zero actually…she actually wrote the book for it to be used like this. For it to be helpful to people. I’ve read the Book of Zero, but stuff like making it easy to hunt, stuff you use to get fruits from high places; I thought it was strangely written…it’s funny how useful Flagis is to burn only what you want to burn. It’s like you can hunt and cook at the same time. Two birds with one stone.”
In my mind’s eye, I saw Zero laughing as she wrote the Book of Zero.
“Magic to give kids who have nightmares a good night’s sleep. Magic to catch robbers when they sneak in. Zero wrote it for those purposes—but no one uses magic like Zero’d meant it to be.”
Just how did Zero feel when someone went to her cave and killed all of her companions, just for a book that she had written to be of benefit to others? Was she sad? Or perhaps bitter?
I would think she cried. For all of ten years—there was no one to hear her weep.
“Everything’d be so simple if magic didn’t exist.”
Techniques meant to be convenient had sown the embers of war. Those embers had become an inferno, and many witches and humans were dying as a result of it. I didn’t think Zero was the kind of benevolent person who would take possibilities like these into account. She was a cold witch. But she had, in all seriousness, admitted that she “should not have written that book”.
I had indeed heard pain in her words when she said so.
“Are you saying to wipe out all witches? You hate witches, dontcha?”
“I ain’t sayin’ anythin’ of the sort. If we didn’t have magic in the first place, then all ‘em idiots causin’ chaos wouldn’t exist, and neither would Thirteenth’s purgin’. Basically, Thirteenth wouldn’t have a bunch of magic users causin’ trouble under Zero’s name ta worry about.”
“Sure, you can say that, but there’s nothing to do about it. At this point—“
Albus’ head shot up.
“…Get rid of magic?”
“Yeah. Not witches, but the root of it all, magic. If ya did that, ya wouldn’t need ta kill witches anymore. If they couldn’t use magic anymore, those witches who’d learned magic from the Coven of Zero would just go back ta bein’ normal people. If only the Lunar Chant faction’s sorcery got used in the first place, then there wouldn’t be a war right now. What I’m sayin’ is if we could go back ta before they got their hands on the Book of Zero. Well, it’s only if that’s possible anyway—“
“It’s possible! We can get rid of magic without having to kill any witches!” Shouting, Albus leapt at me and began shaking me by the shoulders.
“W-wait, wait, stop shakin’ me!”
“Look, remember when Zero used Rejection on my magic when we first met?”
“Well…yeah, she did. I remember.”
“All of the Book of Zero’s magic is under the control of high-ranking demons Zero’s summoned, since they borrow from the powers of lower-ranking demons. That’s why if Zero was to have these high-ranking demons Reject magic used by the witches of Wenias, then no one’d be able to use what’s written in the Book of Zero anymore! Just like that, magic’d vanish everywhere!”
“J…just like that?”
“Yep. Just like that. The concept of “using sorcery without summoning demons” wouldn’t disappear just because the magic in the Book of Zero is rendered unusable. If a fork breaks and you know how to make one, then you could just make a new fork, right? Essentially, if someone were to make a new form of magic, you could just use that.”
“Then there’s no point, is there?”
“There is! At least we can get all of the inexperienced wayward sorcerers with one blow. For people like them, who hadn’t learned sorcery, making a new form of magic would be impossible.”
“And these confused, magic-less witches will seek a new leader. A leader who can let them use magic again. That’s where I come in! I couldn’t do something like bringing about magic, but I would seem extraordinary enough to trick those novice witches. Besides, I am the great Solena’s granddaughter!”
When she put it like that, it really did seem possible. Albus, as the granddaughter of the most renowned witch in this kingdom, surely knew lots about sorcery. With dog-face as her guard, the naïve novice witches would be happy to recognize Albus as their leader. This kid meant to cause confusion, and then ride the resulting chaos to a place of influence. She’d be a frightening witch in the future.
“Can it be done? It’s impossible ta go around ‘n use Rejection on every witch in the kingdom.”
If it wasn’t, Zero’d have done so a long time ago.
“That’s why we don’t do it person by person, but on the land itself,” Albus explained, picking up a tree branch and drawing numerous small circles on the ground. Those small circles were witches, I supposed. And finally, a larger circle was drawn which encircled the smaller ones.
“We use demonic seals to construct a large bounded field and every witch inside the field will be made unable to use magic from the Book of Zero. Zero can’t do it alone, but with my help we should be able to! Thirteenth put a bounded field around my witch burning back there to suppress any witches too.”
Was that so? I had wondered why there wasn’t any magical retaliation. If magic could be used in that area, then of course the Coven of Zero wouldn’t let Albus be killed before their very eyes. The only one to use magic was Thirteenth, but that was because he himself set up the field.
“We learned magic for the power to fight, but if we get rid of the flames of war then there’d be no need for power. Even returning to the farce of coexistence would be way better than the conflict going on right now. I’m still just a kid, but I’m also directly descended from a witch of the Lunar Chant. I won’t lose to anyone in anything involving seals. Not even in sealing magic within the earth!”
“So basically…you’re gonna draw a huge magic circle ‘round all of Wenias?”
“Yeah. By putting together many magic circles, I can combine them into one big magic circle. There’s a bit of accuracy involved, but it isn’t that difficult.”
Right. At least, I didn’t think it was possible. Zero’d told me how flawlessly magic circles needed to be drawn.
“Then, Zero’d tell the demons to “Reject the use of magic on this land,” and I’d seal that declaration into the magic circle. At the very least, the demons forming the basis of the Book of Zero’s magic won’t respond to attempts at using magic within the field. That’s why—“
Albus’ sunny demeanor quickly turned to gloom.
“we need Zero…”
“…Well, that’s it then.”
There were ranks of demons. Rejection was like having the high-ranking demons order the lower-ranking ones to “stop lending humans your strength”. The one with the power to have those high-ranking demons do so was Zero.
Without Zero, there wasn’t anything we could do.
“The problem is, Thirteenth’s got Zero locked up…”
“Thirteenth’s got Zero locked up, eh?!” I exclaimed in a hysteric tone. That was why Albus had told me to ‘save Zero’.
“It was the night I was imprisoned by Thirteenth. I was in the dungeon, and Thirteenth was telling me to work for him. That’s when Zero came—and she was really angry. She said something like ‘so you stole away my mercenary, hm?’”
I pursed my lips. This was after I had left the castle.
“And that Thirteenth had betrayed her. Zero looked ready to kill him. But just then, Zero coughed up blood and collapsed.”
“What?! Did Thirteenth actually get her?!”
Probably, Albus nodded. Probably or not, there wasn’t any other interpretation of events.
“Thirteenth got mad too, and said ‘you were foolish, weren’t you? You shouldn’t have left the cave. Going outside and getting involved with the likes of that mercenary is why you now suffer the burden of such a wound.’…”
Albus glanced at me. It’s better not to look, kid. I’m a jaded warrior of hundreds of battles, but my face has got to be looking petrifyingly scared right now..
“Zero lost consciousness then, and was taken somewhere else…”
“—Is she okay?”
“I don’t think she’s dead. I could feel her magic.”
“Uh, just a sec…little lady? Big bro? You guys lost me a while back…”
Albus and I turned to look at dog-face at the same time. We had completely forgotten that he existed. For dog-face, who didn’t know how things led up to where they were now, this had to be extremely confusing. So—
“Isn’t Zero big bro’s name?”
He just revealed a dreadnaught-class misunderstanding.
“When I was runnin’ away with little lady, I heard Thirteenth yell somethin’ about Zero, so I wondered if it was big bro’s name or little lady’s alias or somethin’…”
“This kid’s alias is Albus. Zero’s the devastatin’ beauty who taught you a lesson that time.”
“T-that one. She was a great one. I wanna get a taste ‘a her—“
Before I could give dog-face’s daydreaming face a good wallop, Albus had already done so. Gah, dog-face yelled, clasping his face in pain. Nice job, Albus.
“But…why did Thirteenth say that then?”
“‘Stop, hold your fire! —You’ll hit Zero!’”
My eyes went wide open. —Thirteenth had said that. But Zero shouldn’t have been there, so there was no way their shooting could hit Zero. I frowned and turned to Albus.
“What’s this mean? Why would shootin’ at us cause Zero ta get hit?”
“I dunno about that. I was basically unconscious, after all.”
“I didn’t see anyone but little lady.”
How useless are these two?! But—it isn’t like I’m any better.