Volume 1 — Chapter 6: Forbidden Spell
Dog-face was calling Albus over to a small circle he had drawn, just wide enough for a person to stand in, that circumscribed a complex pattern of intertwined glyphs and numerals. The shopkeeper seemed satisfied by the promise of Zero’s socks, repeatedly asking Albus, “when is she coming?” Pushing him aside, Albus and I approached dog-face.
“You really can draw magic circles, eh?”
“Just so ya know, my fifteen years as a witch’s servant weren’t just for show.”
“Alright. Go ahead, kid.”
Albus stood in the center of the magic circle, with Zero’s robes at her feet and a candle in her hands. At that moment, the pervert snapped out of his trance of Zero’s socks, turning pale.
“Wait, what’re you planning on doing? Put that flame out, ya hear?! No—no, don’t do it!”
“Calm down, pops. We’ll be careful with the fire—“
“Don’t burn those robes! That’d just be cruel!”
The shopkeeper overrode dog-face’s pacifying voice with a shout. It’s not up to you, I silently retorted, with the feeling that I wasn’t the only one thinking so. We shouldn’t have shown this pervert any clemency.
The shopkeeper made as to grab at Albus, so I held him down, stopping his movements. Ignoring the tantrum he was throwing, I nodded at Albus.
Sorry, ol’ man. But it was your choice ta give us the robes because ya wanted her socks.
And we’re free ta do what we want with ‘em since they’re not yours anymore, yeah?
Albus took a deep breath—and dropped the flaming candle onto Zero’s robes.
A dark room. Candlelight. Birdsong. Stone walls. The stench of blood.
We had exchanged the thrift store shopkeeper’s sustenance for all this. This was what Albus’ divination had gotten us. So the results of a divination were fundamentally very fuzzy and vague things.
Divination was also a form of sorcery, and though I had heard that it took the summoning of a demon to perform, I could neither see the figure nor hear the sounds of a demon.
“Little lady summoned a demon into her own body. Not the demon’s whole body, mind you, just its soul. It’s called ‘speakin’ with the dead’ and ‘demon invocation’, but it’s the oldest, most basic type of sorcery.”
Dog-face attempted to explain, but I couldn’t see past how Albusstood stiffly in the middle of her magic circle, wearing a blank expression and murmuring to herself.
“So, where would ya say the witch is at?”
“Seems to be the Daybreak Tower. It’s the tower closest to where the sun rises in the mornings. Birds made a nest there in the past, ’n every time it gets ta this time of year, the birds return.”
“You got confidence in that answer? Sir former knight of the castle?”
“Nah. It’s been fifteen years since I’ve been in that place.”
“So we’re still gamblin’ huh…”
We could hear the breeze and birdsong, which meant it was a quiet place.
Places of quiet would be limited in a castle with plenty of foot traffic, meaning that Thirteenth could not have imprisoned Zero near the royal quarters.
Besides, he himself lived in the basement of the castle. But since there were the sounds of birds, Zero could not be underground. So, probably in a tower. When I told Albus about my findings, she very insightfully offered that “the results of a divination do require proper analysis to be made clear,” with a very sorcerer-like expression.
And so, I left Foamicaum in the dead of night and headed for Prasta, the imperial capital.
Taking a wide path around Prasta’s walls, I ended up at the foot of the cliff jutting out from behind the castle. It sounds quite simple, but of course I ran here at full speed. I had to get this done at night, as the stroke of dawn would bring increased alertness to the city. As for any operation, speed and accuracy were what would bring victory.
“Well then…’bout time ta infiltrate the castle.”
Prasta was based around the clifftop castle, with the rest of the city forming a fan shape down the gentle slopes. The king’s castle was built atop a precipitous cliff, with no ground behind the fortress.
In addition, at the bottom of the cliff upon which the castle rested, was a fast-flowing river serving as a natural moat.
This meant that there were three obstacles on my way to the castle. The first was the rapids of the river before me. The second was the sheer cliffside past the river, leading up to the castle. The third was the fortress walls surely with patrolling soldiers upon them. If I were a human I would give up immediately upon hearing of these challenges. This would be an extremely difficult endeavor. I really did not want to, but I had to do it.
Breathing a single sigh and gathering up my fighting spirit, I leapt into the rapid flow of water. Swimming against the current and toward the opposite shore, I sank a knife into the riverbank to stop myself from being swept away. I crept up a narrow foothold along the bank and made it to shore. I had passed the first challenge.
Pressing myself against the cliff holding up the castle, I could gauge the height of the castle, and even higher up, the soaring tower that I was heading toward.
“Oh…that’s really far up.”
I could see the rough veins of rock on the cliff and the chiseled stone of the castle walls. And even further beyond, made difficult to see by the moonlight’s glare, was the tower’s peak looking like the needle of a timepiece.
“Shit, how could that Dog-Face be so calm—“
—Big bro can get up there no problem, yeah?
He had said that this was the only way to reach the tower from the outside.
I had said goodbye to Albus and Dog-Face at the thrift shop. Those two had preparations to do for the bounded field, and I couldn’t help with that. Albus had donned a wig and a dress, assuming the looks of a woman, to throw off their pursuers. My job was to secure Zero. Was she really being kept in this tower?
“Please, Albus—Witch of the Lunar Chant.”
I drew the hood of my beloved black cloak over my head, and at the same time gripped two knives in my hands before thrusting them into the earthen cliff. I hoisted myself up by one, and stabbed the other into a higher location on the incline.