Translator: Kell | Editor: Ryunakama
“What were you thinking, you idiot?! A mercenary is supposed to protect their employer, not the other way around! Thirteenth! Can’t you do something with a spell from the Chapter of Protection?!”
“Each of the four chapters that make up the Grimoire of Zero requires completely different aptitude. I cannot use spells from the Chapter of Protection. Why did you defend me?!”
“It just happened, okay?! Hell, you’re the root cause of everything in the first place!”
A soft laughter came from Zero. She was alive, apparently.
“Two grown men screaming at each other? Disgraceful,” she said. “This is nothing but a scratch. A magic circle helps protect the caster from their own spell. But since it hit you, Mercenary, it damaged my skin a little… Ow…” Zero slowly rose up. “It would seem that I lost my mind to the power a little. I had no control over it at all. Had you not intervened, I might have killed Thirteenth. This has been a fine medicine for my pride. I will be more cautious in the future.”
Thirteenth’s eyes widened. “You were holding back?” he asked. “Even with that much power?
“Are you shocked by the difference in our abilities? Unfortunately, natural gift has nothing to do with it. It is a matter of who invented the art.”
“Did you know, Thirteenth?” Zero gave a look that could only be described as smug. Her expression spoke volumes. You did not notice? Are you a fool? As expected, I am better than you. “There are errors in the grimoire. Plenty of them, in fact.”
Thirteenth’s jaw dropped. For a guy who didn’t show much emotion, it was probably how he expressed the ultimate shock.
“What…? Errors?! You wrote down the wrong spells?!”
“Of course not. I am a genius. Geniuses commit errors, but they never make mistakes.”
“Then what do you mean by errors?”
“Let us recite the incantation again. From the second line. On three.”
Thirteenth quietly followed Zero’s instructions. On the count of three, they recited the spell’s incantation.
“O’ servant of discord bound by the covenant of flesh and blood, descend upon the feast of the foolish—
“O’ servitor of discord bound by the covenant of flesh and blood, descend upon the banquet of the foolish—
The chanting stopped midway through. Thirteenth looked like a genius who screwed up the simplest problem in the world.
The chants were indeed different.
Thinking back, Albus shouted “my name is Albus” at the end, but Zero always ended the spell with “I am Zero.”
“So let me get this straight,” I said. “You wrote down erroneous incantations, and when you recite them, you end up with a weaker spell?”
“Incredibly weaker. I may be greedy, shameless, lazy, arrogant, selfish, and irrational, but I am an extraordinary witch. I would never forget to ensure my safety.”
She shot a teasing, yet intimidating glance. I looked away. It’s true, though. Don’t hold it against me.
“Most grimoires are written in codes that only the author themselves can decipher. For example, even if a text says “rat’s internal organs,” it might refer to medicinal herbs. The Grimoire of Zero contains such codes as well. The more powerful the spell, the harder it is to cast it, unless you can determine the errors and ignore them.”
“Oh,” I muttered. When Albus said there were spells in the book that did not activate even when she followed the instructions, Zero acted like it was only natural.
“So that’s what you meant by a fail-safe!” I said. “You just wrote down the wrong things!”
“Simple, is it not? In other words, spells from the Grimoire of Zero can never defeat me. And that is why, Thirteenth, I forced you into a contest of Magic. If I started chanting a quick-casting spell, you would have no choice but to counter it with Magic.”
Thirteenth slumped down on the floor with his head in his hands. He let out a heavy sigh. “That explains your confidence,” he said.
Listening to Zero’s cackling, I turned my eyes to the wall facing the cliff. Zero’s spell had torn a huge hole through it, giving a view of the forest bathed in the light of the rising sun.
I climbed the cliff in the middle of the night, and before I knew it, dawn had come.
“Now then, Thirteenth,” Zero said. “Your crafty plan has been exposed. But even now the witches of Wenias are rallying to defeat you. We might see a few large-scale attacks all over the kingdom in a few days.”
Right. I almost forgot about that. Albus’ failed execution only fueled the witches’ desire to take down Thirteenth even more. It wasn’t over yet.
“As Mercenary suggested earlier, I plan to join forces with the great Solena’s descendant to seal the use of Magic and put an end to my blunder—the Grimoire of Zero. Because of some short-sighted fool, the situation has become bigger and more troublesome than expected.” Zero raised the corner of her mouth. “Thirteenth, what do you plan to do?” She seemed to be provoking him.
Thirteenth slowly lifted his head and looked at Zero. His staff was launched to one corner of the room. He didn’t show any signs of picking it up, suggesting that he had completely lost the will to fight.
“Well…” he replied as he got up to his feet. “I tried to take this kingdom for you. I thought that was what you wanted. If not, then I have no desire or interest in this kingdom.”
That’s all you have to say after all the chaos you incited in Wenias? His self-centeredness—or rather, Zero-centeredness, was rather impressive.
Thirteenth raised his hand a little, and the staff lying on the floor floated and returned to his hand. Blood was dripping from his hand, torn from his fight with Zero. He seemed composed, nevertheless, reaching his hand out to help Zero up.
“Zero, whatever you wish is my command,” he said.
Although Thirteenth had been defeated, the situation had not actually improved.
Albus’s speech had spurred the witches to rally together, and they would come to kill Thirteenth soon. A massive war that could destroy the country from the inside out, and the witches’ total annihilation by the witches’ blood pact were just around the corner.
Albus and Pooch were busy running around to stop all of this from happening.
By acquiring Magic, the powerless could finally stand toe to toe with the powerful, and Albus was trying to get rid of the source of their power. As one would expect, they couldn’t agree to that. If someone tried to eliminate Magic completely regardless, they would no doubt try to stop them.
While I was climbing the sheer cliff for what seemed like an eternity, Albus, who was working on the anti-Magic barrier, found herself in a dire situation.
The effects of Albus’s encouragement had reached its peak. The members of the Coven of Zero and the rogue sorcerers, eager for the upcoming decisive battle, were furious after learning of Albus’s treacherous actions.
They decided to put Thirteenth’s case on hold, and kill Albus, the one trying to steal the future of Magic and the witches. Yesterday’s ally is today’s enemy. When it came to working together toward a common goal, witches and soldiers didn’t seem all that different.
Needless to say, Albus wouldn’t just sit back and let them kill her. But she was outnumbered. At the very moment when she thought it was the end of the line for her, that she had no other choice but to die a noble death, an unbelievable scene unfolded before her.
“Chapter of Capture, Verse Eight: Caplata!”
In response to the resonant voice, countless ivy plants shot out from underground with great force, entangling the witches attacking Albus and binding them to the ground.
Albus, down on the ground protected by Pooch, nervously opened her eyes to see a large man extending his hand out in silence.
Appearing gallantly with his back to the sun, he looked like the very image of an evil sorcerer.
“I am here as well.”
Albus was close to screaming and running away, when Zero and I appeared. Her mouth quivered in confusion.
I understand. If I were her, I’d feel the same too.
Just moments ago, Zero defeated Thirteenth in the royal castle, and the latter decided to help Zero. I had no idea how it worked, but Thirteenth had the mysterious ability to sense the movements of the Coven of Zero’s members in detail. He asked a rather stupid question then. “Solena’s descendant is about to be killed. Are you fine with that?”
I didn’t even waste time yelling at the guy. I bolted out of the castle at once, found a carriage, and used the fastest horse in the kingdom to pull it.
Now back to the present.
We arrived just in the nick of time. We were in the forest not too far from Latette, the town that housed the entrance to the campus. Albus’s assistance was necessary to end this war peacefully. Zero was in a hurry too, for a change, while Thirteenth was so cooperative, it was terrifying.
From the point of view of Albus, who was unaware of the circumstances, it meant that her greatest enemy and her only comrade arrived together. Anyone in her shoes would have been utterly baffled.
“Why are you with Thirteenth?! And why would he help me?!