Volume 1 — Chapter 6: Forbidden Spell
I could do nothing but sit there with my arm hanging in midair and Zero clinging to me.
The room was devoid of light, save for the illumination of the moonlight. There was a large accumulation of books and who-knows-how-many flameless candles. Atop a comfy-looking chair was a pile of cushions, forming a bed of sorts.
The cave Zero talked about was surely something like this.
Is this—your feelings for Zero, Thirteenth? I could feel the painful intensity of his feelings toward Zero. This room was like a mother’s womb. It was dark and confined and sheltered, almost sickeningly soporific and dull.
Thirteenth—are you serious? While most witches and sorcerers aren’t what you’d call normal, you’re just on a whole ‘nother level.
“Hey. When’re you gonna stop cryin’, Miss Witch? Hate to be like this, but I don’t got time ta keep your cryin’ company. Just go back ta your regular ol’ sharp self, please.”
Zero turned her head upward as if something had surprised her. The snot and tears streaking her face defaced beauty that even the moon would envy. I felt relatively sure of my own appearance, but seeing how she looked was enough to make me rub at my face with my cuffs. Then I lifted her onto my shoulders, and slowly, her expression returned to normal.
“You are prioritizing your own affairs…even though I am so evidently hurt! There’s a limit to how unfeeling you can be! Sympathize with me some more, comfort me some more—“
“I ain’t a mercenary by name only; I’ve had ta eat my meals in front of my dead comrades. Besides, you said somethin’ ‘bout a trap earlier, but—“
What did that mean?
The moment I opened my mouth, the floor broke apart around us. Light and sound faded instantaneously, and I was assaulted by the floating sensation like my guts were rising up to my throat. The tower had collapsed. No, wait, this was—
I see. A trap, was it?
When I looked up, we were in the same place we had been summoned to before—the chamber underneath the castle. A distance away, Thirteenth stood exactly as he did last time.
And behind him was a birdcage, seemingly made to order, with Zero locked inside.
“Stop. Make no further movement. Get on your knees.”
Having just begun to run, I was the next moment following Thirteenth’s orders to the letter, prostrating myself on the ground.
“Wha…how is this—“
“I did say that the mentally superior could manipulate animals. Humans are also animals, and this chamber was built to amplify my mental prowess. This is my sanctuary.”
“Mercenary, are you alright?!”
“‘Sides lookin’ like a fool, I’m still healthy as an ox…but dammit…!”
Desperately, I managed only to move a finger to claw at the stone tile. My body would not obey my command. My limbs hadn’t fallen asleep, nor had I lost feeling in them, but I couldn’t get up for the life of me.
“You’re wasting your time. Those with anger in their hearts will fall to the mind of every other.”
That’s true, eh? But even so, I was enraged.
Thirteenth took a step forward. Toward me. Zero cried out.
“You…Thirteenth—I will not forgive you! That is my possession! My mercenary, who has come back to me! Return him this instant!”
“Your words are pointless, Zero. There is a bounded field about that birdcage of yours. Even you could not possibly escape it—you will be hurt if you try, so stay put.”
“Don’t order me around, Thirteenth!”
“Then how about I put it this way: please, I beg of you. Until I kill him and set your spirit free, close your eyes and cover your ears for me. Then I will seal away your memories regarding this man.”
“As if! I will never allow that, Thirteenth—Thirteenth!”
Zero shouted and banged against the iron bars, rattling them and causing a clamor. Though there didn’t seem like there was anything she could do inside the doorless birdcage, unable to use sorcery.
I really didn’t want to, but I decided that perhaps I should try reconciliation. I clicked my tongue, and struggled to bring my face up to face Thirteenth.
“I’ve got to say this even now, Thirteenth. There’s a way ta get rid of magic without killin’ all the witches! The ones you’re tryin’ ta purge, like the Coven of Zero’s rebellion and the wayward sorcerers’ chaos, can all be stopped if ya just use ‘Rejection’ on ‘em!” You’ll be able ta get the Book of Zero back, and get rid of all the witches who’ve been causin’ trouble under Zero’s name!”
And then when Albus uses the resulting confusion to organize the novice witches under Solena’s memory, Wenias’ witch troubles would finally come to an end. The existence of magic wouldn’t be forgotten, but with Albus’ efforts perhaps magic could be used as Zero had hoped it would be. I talked on, always glaring up at Thirteenth’s emotionless visage.
“I came here to take her away so we could achieve that. So with all due respect, you must send us off as quickly as possible…Thirteenth!”
“Regrettably, I must refuse. Zero will not leave this place, and nor will she be using the magic ‘Rejection’.”
I was stunned. —Was my explanation not good enough? I thought Thirteenth wanted to get the Book of Zero back and get rid of those who’d been misusing the magic Zero’d thought up. I assumed we were after the same things, so he had no reason to refuse. Thirteenth also wasn’t petty enough to decline just because he disliked me or some shit.
“You want the Book of Zero back as soon as possible, too, don’t ya? This way’d—”
“That would solve nothing. Indeed, it would bring a temporary halt to the conflict and return this nation to how it was. The witches would hold their breaths and return to the half-hearted coexistence of the past. But they would bear a new aggravating wound: that of a witches’ uprising.”
Thirteenth dispassionately cut over me.
It would solve nothing. They would simply return to the former state of things, nursing new wounds.