Translator: Kell | Editor: Ryunakama
Her red hair disheveled, Sanare dashed through the corridor, then down a flight of stairs, skipping a few steps at a time.
“Help! Somebody, please help!” she yelled. “Someone’s attacking Her Eminence!”
The mansion was Sanare’s territory, and there were many twists and turns, which made it difficult for a chase. To top it off, I had to beat up every single one of the remaining security guards inside. It didn’t take long for me to lose sight of the woman.
My mind worked incredibly quickly. It was calm and calculating.
Sanare must have known that Zero was a witch. The attendant was listening nearby when Zero asked Lia where she learned Magic.
She knew that if people found out she was the mastermind behind everything, her plan to use the saint would not work anymore. If Zero showed the same miracles to the public and claimed that it was Magic, the world would know that Lia was a witch.
That’s why Sanare tried to get me to their side, but when she realized I wouldn’t budge, she tried to frame me for the saint’s assassination. That plan, too, had failed, so now she was trying to escape.
But where was she planning to go? She could leave the mansion and the Holy City, but then what?
I heard people running in the distance, and I looked out the window. Outside was the back yard with a small shed in one corner. I saw Sanare unlock the door and rush inside. Without hesitation, I jumped down from the window and followed Sanare into the shed. But there was no one there.
The shed was filled with countless crates stacked on top of each other.
“You think you can hide? It’s useless. Come out!”
There was no response. I wrinkled my nose. It was night time now, and the stench of death from the lake drowned out Sanare’s smell.
No, it wasn’t from the lake.
“It’s coming from this room?”
The strong smell of death wafted out from somewhere and surrounded me. Then I heard a lock clicking, followed by footsteps running downstairs.
I pushed some crates aside and found a wooden door on the floor. I quickly lunged into it. It seemed to be locked from the other side. I tried pulling on the handle, but it would not budge.
One of the best things about being born a monster was the monstrous strength. I could smash a boulder if I put my mind into it—though it would probably result in a broken fist as well. A wooden door was nothing.
As I pulled on the handle with all I had, the wood securing the lock broke and the door flung open, revealing a staircase that led to the basement. The smell of corpses drifted out, somehow different from the ones on the lake.
“Did she stash away corpses in the basement?!”
I shrunk back for a second, but quickly gathered myself. I couldn’t turn back now. I scurried down the stairs. The sound of metal clanging echoed from below. As soon as I reached the bottom of the stairs, I realized what the sound was.
Firmly locked iron bars prevented me from entering the room beyond it. The walls were made of damp stone piled on top of each other. Shelves and a desk cluttered the room. There was a lot of blood on the floor, and corpses lay stacked in one corner.
It looked like a torture chamber. In the middle of the horrifying room stood Sanare, breathing heavily.
“Holing up?” I said. “If you’re planning to wait for the guards to come and rescue you, I suggest you give up. If I want to, I can use explosives to blow this room up with you in it!”
“Explosives? Oh, how terrifying. But you’d be wise to reconsider. If you kill me, the saint dies.” Sanare rolled up her sleeve and showed me her wrist.
On her arm was the Sacrixigs mark—or rather, from the way she spoke, it was the counterpart to Lia’s Sacrixigs, Amluxigs. I froze on the spot, and Sanare’s grating laughter rang out, reverberating in the chamber.
“By the looks of it, I don’t need to explain,” she said. “I expected nothing less from the mercenary of a brilliant witch.”
A brilliant witch? That can only mean one thing.
“You know Zero?”
“Of course.” Sanare rolled her eyes.
I found no trace of the quiet attendant from before. I never knew a change in facial expression could change a person so much. The impression I had of Sanare as a “plain and composed attendant” had vanished.
“A witch of the Murky Darkness who finds meaning in meaninglessness. And the prodigy who wrote the Grimoire of Zero! Doesn’t that sound wonderful? I’d like to be called that someday, too.”
She looked enraptured as she put her hands on her cheeks and sighed like a woman talking about her dreams. Her behavior made me sick.
“Unfortunately, I can’t use Magic, so it’s nothing but a pipe dream.”
Wait, she can’t use Magic?
“You need a better joke, ’cause that’s not funny.”
“It’s true. I’ve never used Magic, not even once. I just found a gifted girl, taught her Magic, and made her use it.” Sanare looked at me with pity. “Your employer would have noticed if I used Magic. After all, witches can sniff out other witches.”
“Bullshit! You gave Lia and Theo the mark! Amluxigs too…”
“Oh, you really know your stuff. But I only did the branding, which is more like a necessary step before the spell is cast. The parts that require magical power were all done by the saint, and for the Amluxigs mark, all I had to do was engrave it and have the saint cast the spell afterwards.”
I was reminded of the time when Pooch drew a Magic circle for Albus. If the mark was similar to a circle, then it didn’t matter who did the branding.
“I actually wanted the saint to do the branding herself, but you know what she’s like. I doubt she can actually do it. The branding involves some fine details. Not everyone can do it. That’s why I did it. I didn’t want to draw attention, so I hid my face and dressed as a man. So if something happened, I could just say I believed in the saint’s miracles.”
Cal said that it was a masked manservant who did the branding. I realized then that it was a disguise to stay away from the spotlight.
“Are you saying that Lia cast a spell that put her life on the line without even knowing it? How do you even know about Magic?!”
“Good question, but I’m not obliged to answer. I mean, what’s in it for me?”
I punched the bars. The metal rods embedded deep in the ceiling and floor produced a low, dull sound that reverberated throughout the basement.
“If you think you’re perfectly safe just because you have Amluxigs, think again. If Lia dies, you will have no substitute anymore. Which means if I stab you in the heart twice, you’ll die too.”
“My. You’re going to kill the saint just so you could kill me?”
“Do I look like a saint to you?”
Everything will be solved if this woman dies. I’m sure it’s fine if Lia’s sacrificed. It’s for the greater good. The thought urged me to take action.
But Sanare showed no sign of fear. Instead, her lips curved into a smile.
“Are you sure about this? If you kill me, you will never know where the copy of the Grimoire of Zero is.”
“You’re searching for it, right?” She smiled as if she saw right through me.
“Wait, there really is a copy?”
“Of course. I was the one who wrote it.”
I tried to say something, but words would not come out. We weren’t even sure if the copy really existed, but what if it really did?
“I’ll tell you something about myself. I have a natural gift for transcription.”
“Oh, you don’t know? Transcription is making a written copy of something. I was able to join the Coven because of my talent. So I was able to teach the saint Magic, even though I didn’t have the ability to use it myself. Oh dear, I ended up answering the question. Silly me.”
Lia learned Magic from someone else, which led us to believe that there was another person in this country who was proficient in Magic. But it seemed like we guessed wrong. Even if you couldn’t use Magic, you could still teach it. That’s why Zero couldn’t tell that Sanare was the mastermind. The attendant wasn’t a Mage. She was simply a powerless human with knowledge of Magic.