Translator: Kell | Editor: Ryunakama
Yup, saw that coming. Thirteenth heaved a deep sigh. Sighing seemed to be a habit of his.
“It is a long story, and we do not have time for it. We seem to be surrounded. It will be troublesome if more enemies arrive, so I will get straight to the point. I am the Coven of Zero’s founder. In other words, the person you refer to as Him.
Yo, Thirteenth. That was a little too straight to the point. Look at her. She’s about to black out.
“Hold on a sec. What do you mean by—”
“Thirteenth is the mastermind behind everything that has happened, child,” Zero said. “Now he is on our side.”
“Our side? Wait, he’s the founder?! But he’s the sworn enemy of the Coven!”
“His plan was to destroy the very Coven he founded,” I cut in. “It was to give the public the impression that he was good. His plan required good and evil witches. So Thirteenth played the role of both. Apparently, this was all to attain true peace for witches.”
“Th-That’s ridiculous! You expect me to believe that?!”
Albus was getting more and more confused. The first blow was too much.
Thirteenth waved his staff lightly and held it in front of Albus. Our figures were reflected on its bright red gem.
“The stones that the Coven’s members wear around their necks all come from this gem. I am able to watch all their movements through them. I knew everything—about the beast warrior returning to Zero, and your plan to prohibit the use of Magic. And that is how we managed to get here. Is that enough to convince you?”
Albus put her hand to her neck and tore the choker off. She probably felt disgusted, considering she had been wearing it for a year.
Albus regarded Thirteenth with uneasy eyes, still in disbelief. “Are you really Him?” she asked. “Did you steal the Grimoire of Zero from Zero and spread Magic throughout Wenias?”
“That is correct. I taught Magic to everyone, expecting that some will turn rogue. The Coven of Zero would then defeat them and gain the trust of the people as righteous witches. But my plans changed with Solena’s death. The Banquet of Retribution turned the Coven of Zero into a symbol of fear and evil, forcing me to take the side of righteousness.”
As soon as he mentioned Solena’s death, color returned to Albus’s face, and she glared at Thirteenth with eyes full of hatred.
“Yeah, right! You started the plague and set Solena up! Your plans changed? You meant to kill her from the start!”
“That is not true, child,” Zero interjected. “The plague was caused by rogue sorcerers who attempted Sorcery, not satisfied with Magic alone. Thirteenth was not involved.”
Albus snapped. “Even if he wasn’t, it’s his fault for bringing Magic to Wenias! He incited the revolt! If he thinks I’ll let it slide just because he wasn’t directly involved, then he’s dead wrong! Thirteenth killed my grandmother!”
“Calm down, kid,” I intervened. “We don’t have time for this right now—”
“What you say is true,” Thirteenth cut me off, raising his hand. His steady gaze bore into Albus. Frightened as she was, Albus glared back at the man. “I am sorry,” the sorcerer said.
It was a short, yet sincere apology.
Surprised, Albus closed her mouth, frowning as if trying to hold back her tears.
“Solena was a far wiser witch than I am. Her death changed everything. She chose to die in order to change everything. If only I learned of the witch hunt sooner, I could have saved her. Not a day goes by without regret tormenting me.”
Pain and regret marred Thirteenth’s face. It was a rare sight for the mostly expressionless man.
Some rogue sorcerers’ failed experiment created a plague. Solena then performed Sorcery to eradicate it, but the villagers killed her, believing that she started it.
It was Thirteenth’s only and biggest miscalculation. He did not expect that Solena would sacrifice her own life for ordinary humans.
“As Solena’s direct descendant, you have every reason to despise me and kill me. I swear that I will not refuse death by your hands. So please, I ask you. Give me a chance to right the wrongs I have done. I need your help.”
“No,” Albus mouthed, but no voice came out.
There was a moment of silence as Thirteenth waited for an objection. He then straightened the hem of his robe and fixed his posture. He must’ve realized that the matter had been settled. Returning to his usual authoritative self, he asked Albus a question. “How is the Magic circle?”
Albus let out a low grunt. After a long hesitation, she muttered, “It’s not done. I think the circles we’ve drawn so far have been erased too. No one wanted to help! They were all for killing Thirteenth, but when I mentioned getting rid of Magic, they all got mad…”
“Well it took years for them to learn Magic,” I said. “Of course they wouldn’t agree if you brought it up out of the blue without even prior consultation.”
“I know, but…” Albus pouted.
If possessing gunpowder was suddenly banned, I’d probably oppose it too. It took me a good amount of time to learn how to use it properly. It was quite handy to have as well.
“But unless Magic is eradicated,” Thirteenth said, “the witches who will come to kill me will be annihilated by the blood pact.”
“In that case, why don’t you just leave the kingdom?” Albus said in a daring tone.
Thirteenth let out a heavy sigh. He acted like he was facing a poor student. But unlike Zero, who happily explained things, Thirteenth seemed deeply annoyed.
“Who would protect Wenias from the witches if I disappeared?” he said. “Many helpless people will be killed by the witches. With no one to stop them, they will succeed in taking over the kingdom, venting their pent-up hatred while enraptured by power. Do you believe you have the power to lead them?”
“I don’t…” Albus murmured bitterly. Albus previously admitted that Thirteenth was much more powerful than her. She wasn’t stupid enough to say “Yes” here.
“Then our only option is to extinguish Magic,” Thirteenth said. “Make a detailed drawing of the Magic circle on a piece of paper. I will then draw it on this land.”
“How are you going to do that?” Albus asked.
“Through an application of summoning. Compared to summoning people, sending out diagrams is nothing.”
“Hey, witch,” I said. “He’s quite, uhh… How do I put it… reliable, isn’t he? If I were a woman, I’d have fallen in love with him,” I muttered without thinking.
Zero nodded. “He is a dependable man, if you can trust him. But he is fundamentally untrustworthy.”
Thirteenth looked at Albus’s drawing, and pondered matters over. After a while, he raised his head.
“Wenias is a country surrounded by mountain ranges. We will place five smaller Magic circles in a way that surrounds the whole kingdom. They will then be linked together to form a composite Magic circle. I will draw the circles, but you, Mooncaller witch, will be the one to control them. The task requires considerable effort. As with other witches, you will not be able to perform Magic or Sorcery properly afterwards. Keep that in mind.”
“I-I know that!” Albus said.
“Zero’s negation is the key to the spell.” Thirteenth turned to the witch. “Zero, we need the head of a beast warrior.”
I froze. Pooch’s face also went stiff.
“In order to have the demons from the Grimoire of Zero acknowledge the negation, we must summon a high-ranking demon who oversees them. But Zero and I spent too much mana in our earlier fight. Without a high-quality sacrifice, we will not be able to control the demon.”
“Now wait just a damn minute! You say that like it’s nothing!”
“Yeah!” Pooch exclaimed. “I won’t let you use bro’s head as sacrifice!”
Hey, Pooch. Did you just casually throw me under the carriage? How about I cut your head off right here and now instead, you stupid mutt. Thirteenth, however, was looking at me as if to say, “So what?”
No. They all want to use my head.
“Numerous witches and ordinary people will die. If we do not banish Magic in the next few days, the witches that gathered to defeat me will commence their attack, causing significant chaos. Unfortunately, mana is not something that can be recovered in just a few days.”
“So you want us to die?!” I yelled.
Zero tapped my shoulder. “Calm down, Mercenary. I will not kill you. But I do wish to borrow your body. With your head still attached, of course.”
“M-My body?! What are you gonna do with it?!”
“We need only an acknowledgement. Simply summoning the demon to a body and negotiating with it will suffice. This also puts less stress on me. As mentioned, of course, a beast warrior’s body is required.”
Summoning a demon to my body? You make it sound like it’s no big deal.
Albus once summoned a demon into her own body to locate Zero. Is that what they’re planning to do? If this is a joke, I’m not laughing.
“That is absurd!” Thirteenth cut in. “A demon might gladly enter the body of a beast warrior, but if you fail to control it, it will go berserk and destroy the whole kingdom!”