Translator: Kell | Editor: Ryunakama
Sanare flashed a sneer. I thought there was a secret passage that led outside, but she was standing still. Then she opened her arms wide, puffed her chest out, and gently closed her eyes.
“Everything I have is here. No one but me can enter this place, and no one can get me out of here. Warm and safe, in the belly of my dear mother. And today, from this room, I will be born.”
What the fuck is she talking about? Did she just lose her mind?
The cat stiffened. “Mercenary,” it said. “Look at the floor. There are grooves carved into it. That is a Magic circle!”
“What? But she said she can’t use Magic.”
A loud, shrill laughter erupted, echoing throughout the basement. I covered my ears.
Holding her sides, Sanare stuck her hand into a small pouch hanging from her waist. “Do you know what this is?” she said.
It was a vial filled with red liquid. I had no idea what it was.
When I said nothing, Sanare grinned from ear to ear. “It’s your blood, Mercenary. Do you remember? You fought the priest in the back yard. After that, I wiped your blood with my clothes. A lot of it.”
“This is horrible!”
She tried to wipe the blood from my arm with her apron back then.
“You know that the head of a Beastfallen is the best sacrifice you can offer for Sorcery and Magic, right? But it’s actually not just the head. Even a drop of their blood is valuable for the practice of witchcraft. The moment I saw you, I wanted you so bad. I wanted your head, your blood, your claws, and your organs… I wanted every bit of you!”
I remembered Sanare’s face when she looked at her apron dripping with blood, biting her lip. I shuddered. She probably bit her lip to stop herself from laughing. The reason she wanted me to be the saint’s guard was because she wanted my body as a sacrifice.
“But you just said you can’t use Magic!” I bellowed. “You had no aptitude for it, so you joined the Coven as a transcriber!”
“You’re right. I can’t use Magic. Magic from the Grimoire of Zero, that is!”
Raising her arms, Sanare slammed the vial to the floor. Blood poured from the broken glass and flowed into a narrow groove carved into the floor.
Zero gasped as she watched the circle of blood quickly coming together.
“An owl that governs resurrection, and a symbol of the immortal dragon?! It cannot be! Are you going to use Necromancy?!” The cat’s fur stood on end.
“Necromancy?” I asked.
“It is a highly advanced Sorcery that calls back the souls of the dead from beyond. It is theoretically possible to convert it to Magic, but it was never perfected. I never wrote about it in the grimoire either. She might have the Magic circle and the sacrifice, but that is not enough.”
“Correction,” Sanare said. “Magic circle, sacrifice, and Magic potion.”
Zero’s jaw dropped. There were small bottles placed on all sides of the red circle.
I thought only Thirteenth could create Magic potions.
“The Grimoire of Zero is composed of four chapters: Hunting, Capture, Harvest, and Protection. I didn’t have the aptitude in any of them, but what about Magic that’s not in the book? Perhaps I’m much more proficient in them than you, Zero.”
Blood filled all the grooves, completing the Magic circle.
“Zero. It’s an honor to have you here. As a witness to my Magic experiment!”
This is bad. I can’t just stand around and do nothing.
Before Sanare could begin chanting, I pulled a throwing knife and hurled it. But before it could reach Sanare, it lost momentum and fell to the floor.
“It’s no use,” Sanare sneered. “I told you. This basement is my domain. It has multiple layers of wards to prevent interference from the outside. I was never afraid of you!”
“I thought you couldn’t use Magic!”
“No,” Zero said bitterly. “The attendant has potions. It no longer matters whether she has the aptitude for Magic or not.”
“Can’t you negate her spell from the outside?”
“I can only negate Magic spells that I created. I cannot interfere with unknown Magic.”
Then all we can do is wait and watch what happens?
Sanare pulled out a slender knife and, in a ritualistic motion, pointed it at the middle of her chest. The bottles resting around the circle shattered simultaneously, and Sanare began her slow chanting.
“Darz Duse Reigedum Worg. O’ King of Despair, who lords over the crossroads of desire and longing. Hear the cries of regret of the hateful dead writhing in the eternal flame!”
A dark red mist billowed from the Magic circle, surrounding Sanare, and drifted towards the corpses scattered in the basement. The moment it touched the dead bodies, they started wriggling about.
“What the hell… You can’t be serious!” I took a step back.
Zero gasped. “I am surprised she can command the same demon as me.”
“Now’s not the time to be impressed!”
“How can I not be impressed? “King of Despair who lords over the crossroads of desire and longing” is the name of a high-ranked demon that controls death. I wished to create resurrection Magic as well, so I appealed to the demon, but I only created Segtor Metis, a spell in which spirits and the dead devour each other. I sealed it away in the Forbidden Chapter and did not include it in the grimoire.”
“To the ashes of rotting bones, deep in the dregs of death, I offer my flesh and blood so you may breathe once more!”
The red mist converged around Sanare’s chest.
“Chapter of the Dead, Page One: Damwita! Grant me power, for I am Sanare!”
She thrust the knife deep into her own heart.
“Idiot! What are you—”
The swirling mass of mist around Sanare burst forth, rushing from the basement and out to the surface.
Silence descended. The corpses now lay still. I thought Sanare’s Magic failed, but I was immediately proven wrong.
The corpses, with their decayed flesh and rotten bones, rose to their feet. How they could stand up was beyond me. Moving like puppets controlled by an amateur, they slammed themselves onto the bars separating us from the chamber, moaning and groaning.
I took a step back, and a cheerful laughter, unbefitting this repulsive scene, echoed in the basement.
“Yes, they’re moving!” Sanare exclaimed. “How wonderful! Corpses are walking!”
Sanare was laughing, face down in the middle of the Magic circle. She was bleeding profusely with the knife still in her chest. The wound should have killed her instantly. Seeing her laugh was more eerie and sinister than the moving corpses.
“Why did you create such a spell?!” Zero said. “Look at them! They do not have a will of their own! They are nothing but wooden puppets fueled by hatred!”
“Why? That’s a silly question,” Sanare replied. “Because I can. The theory was there, so I created it. Now I’ve demonstrated that I can cast the same Magic that the Boss created.”
The members of the Coven of Zero referred to their founder as the Boss. In reality it was actually Thirteenth hiding his real identity.
“Magic potions and the Boss?” I said. “Is Thirteenth actually behind all this?!”
“That is absurd! Thirteenth returned to the cellar,” Zero said. “What is the point in sowing seeds of chaos in Cleon?!”
Then who was Sanare referring to?
Sanare breathed a sigh. “It’s not that I didn’t have any aptitude in Magic. I just couldn’t use the spells contained in the Grimoire of Zero. It’s exactly as the Boss said. Now I’m a Mage too! I can help them. I can be by their side.”
The floor began to glow again. A faint, dazzling light enveloped Sanare’s body. It was a familiar sight. I had been inside that light before.
“A forced summoning?!”
Zero was shocked. The only people who could use forced summoning were Thirteenth and Zero’s master, and the latter was killed by Thirteenth.
Then who could possibly summon Sanare except him?
Sanare was completely wrapped in a blinding light. I couldn’t see her anymore. Yet she still spoke.
“As thanks for the Beastfallen blood, I’ll give you some good info. The Grimoire of Zero is composed of four chapters. Of course, I transcribed all of them. But the only chapter I brought to Cleon was the Chapter of Protection. Do you know what this means?”
“It cannot be.” Zero’s voice quavered. “You divided the grimoire? Did you create four separate books? Why?! Where are they right now?!”
Sanare chuckled. “All is for the noble goal of Cestum,” she said. “I wonder if Her Eminence is all right. I just hope she’s not under attack by moving corpses.”
The light from the Magic circle vanished, and so did Sanare. Her parting words filled me with inexplicable fear and repulsion.
Necromancy. What if its effect was not limited to this basement?
“Oh, no. Saint, run!” Zero shouted all of a sudden. “Mercenary, return immediately. Theo is—!”
The cat stiffened and fell off, but I quickly caught it mid-air. Slowly it began to move. It hissed when it saw me, then scurried up the stairs.
I followed it out of the basement. When I made it out to the back yard, I froze. Something was there.
It took a step forward, making awkward, puppet-like movements. Next I heard water splashes, like a wet rag slamming on the ground.
A shiver ran down my back.
What if the effect of Sanare’s Necromancy was not limited to the basement? What if all the corpses in Akdios started moving? I knew very well just how many bodies lay submerged in the lake behind the mansion. Not just ten or twenty, but countless rotting corpses.
I raised my head. The scene I saw would probably give me nightmares for a while.
Decaying corpses were swarming the walls that separated the mansion grounds from the outside.