Translator: Kell | Editor: Ryunakama
What if the Grimoire of Zero was never stolen in the first place? What if Thirteenth left the cellar to spread Magic by pretending to search for the book?
Please don’t tell me the person who murdered the witches in the cellar and stole the book, and Thirteenth who left the cellar to retrieve said book, fighting the witches of Wenias, are the same person all along.
“In order to stop witch hunts entirely, the masses have to believe that there are no more wicked witches,” Zero said. Thirteenth looked down on me in silence, his face expressionless. “To do that,” she continued, “the existence of wicked witches must first be known to the public. They must be given power and opportunity to fan the smouldering coals into raging flames. If these flames are not extinguished before the eyes of the people, they will never stop fearing witches.”
As Zero spoke, the speech that Thirteenth gave at the execution platform rang in my head. He swore to hunt all wicked witches in the name of justice.
“So…” Zero’s voice was trembling. “Thirteenth spread Magic throughout this kingdom as this mysterious person, inciting the Coven of Zero to an uprising. He then joined the kingdom’s side as a powerful, righteous sorcerer who could stop them.”
The book was never stolen in the first place. There can be no good without evil. The Church made people believe in its virtue by denouncing witches as evil. Thirteenth did the same thing.
“He planned everything?” I said, my voice quivering. I wasn’t really asking. I already knew the answer. “The Coven’s rebellion… the rogue sorcerers wrecking havoc… So it was all your doing, you fucking bastard!”
The people of Wenias often turned to witches for help, but never accepted them. It was clearly unfair. Witches couldn’t possibly find that acceptable.
But compared to other countries, witches in Wenias were viewed in a more favorable light. People even felt reassured by the existence of Solena, a person that seemed to come from a fairy tale.
There was a foundation for coexistence. Sparks of conflict flickered. That’s why Thirteenth chose Wenias. He spread Magic to the kingdom, upsetting the balance of power and creating an opportunity for the witches to vent their discontent. He then joined the side of righteousness to hunt them all down.
All for true peace for witches.
Thirteenth breathed out a deep, exhausted sigh. “Indeed, I planned everything,” he finally said. “But it was the witches and the people of this land who made their choices, their decisions. They all acted on their own accord. I did not order them to do anything.” His voice was monotonous, without a hint of inflection.
“Unseen antagonism that has been festering for generations, accumulating deep in the hearts of people, will never vanish unless brought to the surface and resolved. A rebellion would have occured in Wenias in the not-too-distant future. I merely expedited that. It was the witches of this land who wished to fight. They played out the script that I prepared for them.”
“Script, my ass! We call that a fuckin’ conspiracy, you lunatic!”
Unable to move my body properly, I spat the words out with much difficulty. But Thirteenth didn’t seem to care.
“Let me correct one thing, Zero,” the man continued. “I did not instigate the Coven of Zero. I simply spread the knowledge of Magic throughout Wenias. They had a choice to act righteously and coexist peacefully with humans. Yet they chose a scenario that would lead to their own demise.”
“Yes. The witches chose the path of evil, betraying the people’s trust by executing the Banquet of Retribution. As a result, I was forced to take the side of righteousness. I had to save the king from witches, protect him, and played the role of a jester who entertained the masses’s cry for justice. I gave the witches the name of Zero, hoping they would side with righteousness and protect the kingdom. Unfortunately, the opposite happened. Reality is an abominable thing. There are too many uncertain variables that prevent plans from being carried out as expected. As such, I wasted a whole decade just to achieve my goal.”
Hunching his broad shoulders, Thirteenth exhaled, and frowned deeply. “Misunderstandings, retributions, retribution for retribution. The process of creating a new nation through war is always tragic and dirty. Zero, you did not need to know all this. You should have waited for me in the cellar for the new kingdom I planned to create. As the creator of Magic, you could have reigned as a symbol of prosperity and peace in a world where witches were revered as paragons of virtue and Magic was viewed as a noble art.”
“Nonsense!” Zero cried. “Did you truly think I wished for that?! All I wanted was for you to return!”
“You once said you wanted to see the sky.”
Zero gasped sharply. “The sky,” she mouthed.
“You wished to see the world outside the cellar. You wanted a nation where everyone could lead easy and happy lives by using Magic from the Grimoire of Zero. I told you Magic was a craft that could destroy the world. Still you held on to the book like it was a precious child’s dream. I decided, then, to make your dream come true.”
He did it all for peace for the witches. And to make Zero happy.
I get it now, Thirteenth. You’ve gone completely mad.
“Now is the time to build that kingdom, Zero. It will all be over soon. The seeds had been sown. All of it. Those witches who heard the words of Solena’s descendant and chose to fight will come to slay me. Me, the founder of the Coven, who they swore allegiance to through a witch’s blood pact.”
A witch’s blood pact. Those who breached the contract were summarily annihilated. What Pooch said suddenly clicked.
Rogue sorcerers tried to kill Thirteenth, but they all got exterminated by the founder’s punishment. Thirteenth didn’t even need to lift a finger.
I see. It all makes sense now.
To learn Magic, you had to join the Coven of Zero and pledge allegiance to Him through a blood pact. The rogues themselves learned Magic from the Coven.
In other words, almost all witches who could use Magic swore loyalty to Thirteenth. That’s why the witches who took hostages and tried to kill him were annihilated by the power of the witches’ blood pact.
The same thing was about to happen again, but on a much larger scale.
I could see the Coven members and the rogue sorcerers, two opposing forces, gathering somewhere, teaming up to take down Thirteenth. The moment they launched an attack on Thirteenth, every single one of them would be exterminated, destroyed before the eyes of the witch-fearing masses. Only Thirteenth would remain, cementing himself as a righteous man.
That was the script that Thirteenth prepared.
“You would not dare!” Zero screamed as she shook the cage. “No! No! No! Are you really planning to kill every witch in this land?! The old and wise… The young and hopeful… They will all die because of me?!”
“Only those who choose to fight will perish. Only those foolish enough to devote everything to a dubious character who does not even show himself. They are but rats, unworthy of the power bestowed upon them. The old and wise witches are in hiding, waiting for the storm to pass.”
They chose to fight and die. They only had their own shortsightedness to blame, and now these witches had to take full responsibility for their own actions.
Sure, those guys don’t need sympathy. But Thirteenth, the facts that you so strongly believed in aren’t always favorable to you.
“What about Solena?” I put as much intensity in my voice as possible, despite being immobile. Thirteenth regarded me with cold eyes. “Was she a shortsighted and foolish witch? Did she wish for conflict? Who triggered the Banquet of Retribution to happen? Who spread the plague?! Solena only used Sorcery to save the village!”
“I told you. Everything that has happened is a result of the witches’ choices. Some of them who just learned Magic became interested in Sorcery itself, and conducted an experiment in plague Sorcery. It was clear that performing a conspicuous ritual when the backlash against witches was rising would only fan the flames of the people’s rage. Yet Solena still chose to perform the spell.”
Yo, Pooch. Your hunch was wrong. It wasn’t Him who created the plague, but a band of rogue sorcerers. Not that it mattered much. Ultimately it was Thirteenth who created the opportunity.
Regardless it was Solena who made the choice. She saved the village, fully knowing that doing so would subject her to a witch hunt. Indeed, that might have been shortsighted of her.
“Then what about Albus? She chose to fight. She’s shortsighted, yes, but she’s just a kid! Her parents were killed, and the only family she had left, her mentor, was taken away from her wrongfully! So just because she went astray, you treat her like some kind of a tool to be burned at the stake?!”
As I poured strength to my whole body, my upper body rose slightly. A glint of irritation flashed across Thirteenth’s eyes. Anger dulls the mind, was it?
Aw, don’t get mad, Thirteenth. You don’t like me spitting facts and sound arguments?