Translator: Kell | Editor: Ryunakama
“I will not let it go berserk. I am a Murky Darkness Witch, an extraordinary prodigy begged by demons at a young age to make pacts with them without sacrifices. Even in my current state, I can keep a demon in a receptacle in check.”
“While I love discussions, we do not have time for it at the moment. Let me put it simply, Thirteenth. I will never, ever kill Mercenary. I have a contract with him, after all.” Zero flashed the scar on her thumb to me.
Like she said, we didn’t have time. The witches bound by Thirteenth’s Magic. The smoke signals rising all over the forest. The sound of footsteps approaching. The enemy was coming with full force, intent on stopping the anti-Magic ritual. If we escaped now, riots would ensue all over the kingdom immediately.
The less damage caused, the easier it would be to deal with the aftermath. Now was the only time to perform the ritual.
“I know you are scared,” Zero said. “I know I am being unreasonable.” She looked straight at me, her face as serious as it could get. “But I ask that you trust me.”
My life was on the line. After mulling it over, I roared, “Hell no!”
Zero was taken aback, her eyes wide open. “D-Do you realize what you are saying? Think about our current situation! Even a demon would care more about the world!”
It felt like I heard that line before. Letting out a snort, I looked down on Zero.
“I don’t give a shit about the world. The only one I care about the most is me. And I’m not nice enough to just agree to someone’s request. You know that, right, Master?”
For a moment, Zero just stared at my face, befuddled. Then all of a sudden she started cackling.
“I see. Indeed. I am your employer and you are my mercenary. Allow me to rephrase what I said. This is an order! Trust me, Mercenary. I will never take your life.”
Folding my arms, I turned my head to the skies. I’m a mercenary. Mercenaries followed their employer’s orders, no matter how absurd. So long as I acknowledged them as my employer.
“I can’t really disobey an order, now, can I?” I forced a smile.
I know my face looks stiff right now, but cut me some slack. I’m a coward by nature.
Zero gave a gentle smile, and then her face turned grave. “We will now begin the Magic-sealing ritual,” she said. “Thirteenth! Put up two wards. A small one to protect us, and one to dispel Magic from this land.” Zero turned to Albus. “Child, follow Thirteenth’s instructions.”
“Mercenary, Dog! It seems more guests have arrived. Entertain them. I will put up a small ward that will nullify Magic, but it cannot block physical attacks. Sorcery rituals require precision. If I move even a step, it could fail. We will be completely defenseless.”
Before I knew it, we were surrounded by no less than twenty people. There was no chance of escape now. We just had to prepare for the worst.
Thirteenth clicked his tongue in resignation. Pooch and I readied our swords. Magic incantations were being recited all around us. Yup, I fucking hate sorcerers.
Breathing a sigh, I let out a deafening roar and charged forward with sword in hand.
The ward prevented Magic from reaching the other three, so our target was the bears and wolves being controlled by the witches, rushing towards us. They were more terrifying than humans, but killing them was easier.
“Let us begin, Mooncaller, Zero!” Thirteenth said sharply, then drew a circle on the ground with his staff. Five circles were joined together by one large circle, just as Albus had drawn. Thirteenth then started mumbling, and complex patterns emerged, filling the gaps.
“What? How are you doing that?!” Albus shouted in astonishment. “How can you draw a Magic circle by chanting?!”
I had no knowledge about Sorcery to be shocked like Albus. Even if I did have the groundwork, I wouldn’t be surprised, given that everything the sorcerer did seemed out of the ordinary.
Thirteenth completed the small Magic circle in the blink of an eye. He then struck the center hard with his staff, and the magic circle expanded, turning into a streak of light that stretched far into the distance.
“I have enlarged the Magic circle to its target size. Your turn, Mooncaller!”
At Thirteenth’s command, Albus quickly dropped to her knees and spread her arms wide.
“Don’t let her chant! Get our reinforcements here, quick!”
Witches all around were screaming for backup. Pooch ran up to me, looking around nervously.
“It’s looking bad, bro. The small fries are retreating.”
As the enemy surrounding us receded like waves, my ears caught a sound. A faint vibration shaking my eardrums suddenly changed to an earth-shaking tremor.
It sounded familiar.
“No way… Ebl Boars?! So all of those small fries just now was to buy time for those things?!”
“I hear three sets of footsteps! What do we do, bro? Aren’t mercs experts in scrambles and clever tactics?!”
We were up against three Ebl Boars. To make matters worse, each one of them came from a different direction, heading for the three people performing the ritual. We had to take the fight to them, but if Pooch and I left our spots, the three witches would be completely vulnerable.
“I’ll kill two of them,” I said. “You stay here to guard them and intercept the last one!”
Without waiting for his response, I darted towards the sound of footsteps. Climbing up the nearest tree, I waited on the branches for the footsteps to charge past me. When the time was right, I jumped near the Ebl Boar’s snout. It tried to shake me off, so I tied a rope around its mouth and pulled on it with all my might.
“Stay put and go somewhere else!”
Screeching, the Ebl Boar reared wildly and changed course. Up ahead was the other Ebl Boar. What would happen if an Ebl Boar, a creature capable of toppling large trees with its charge, rammed another Ebl Boar from the side?
Right before the collision, I jumped off the creature’s snout and rolled on the ground. A loud boom echoed, like a boulder crashing on another boulder, followed by silence. I picked myself up. The two Ebl Boars had fainted, foam bubbling around their mouths. Although they didn’t suffer fatal injuries, they would be out cold for a while. Their fat must make them incredibly tough.
“I don’t have time to finish them off.”
They looked delicious, but now was not the time to think about food. I hurried back to the Magic circle, where I crashed into Pooch as he tanked the Ebl Boar’s charge.
“That fuckin hurts, you fucking mutt! You can’t even deal with one boar?!”
“Cut me some slack! They may be amateurs, but there’s at least twenty of them! There’s no way I can deal with them and the Ebl Boar at the same time! I’m not a fighter, okay?!”
Is this all a former knight is capable of? Shouldn’t have expected much.
The last boar was a seasoned fighter. Judging from its crushed left eye, it was probably the same Ebl Boar that Albus sicked at me and Zero.
It’s been a while. It didn’t bother waiting for introductions. The creature charged straight at us.
“Go for the leg! I’ll take the right one, you take the left! Go, Pooch!”
“I’m a wolf, for fuck’s sake!”
Albus’s voice echoed in the sky at the same time. “Earth, water, fire, wind, and heaven. O’ blessed rulers of this world, o’ the ever-changing, the constant, and the flowing ones.”
Her voice was warm and relaxing, holding a sense of solemnity that was out-of-place in this field of battle.
I didn’t know she could sound like this. She always talked with a high-pitched voice.
Lowering my body, I darted forward and severed the Ebl Boar’s leg. The creature fell on its back, squealing. A Beastfallen’s raw power and the Ebl Boar’s forward momentum were enough to cut through hard bones. I put my sword to the boar’s heart and thrust it deep. The tip cut through the thick fat and hard muscle, reaching and piercing its beating heart.
After a long and resounding screech, the Ebl Boar drew its last breath.
“For as long as I live, as long as his strength lasts, accept our power unto you!”
Albus prostrated herself. After a beat, something terribly hollow and blurry appeared around her. It appeared to be human.
“What is that?” I asked.
“A spirit that rules the land of Wenias,” Pooch answered, wiping away the blood from his sword. “Well, sorcerers call all supernatural creatures demons. Anyway, we successfully fended them off. We won, bro.”
Relieved from the ritual’s success, Albus looked at Thirteenth, her face beaming with pride. Thirteenth, who had been protecting her and Zero inside the circle, held her gaze, his face expressionless as always. But he did give a nod, which was probably his way of showing the greatest compliment.
Zero raised her arms and shouted. Compared to Albus, her voice was much more firm and intense.
“O’ king of demons, descend upon the body of this beast, and heed my call!”
Zero’s voice echoed in the back of my head. My blood burned, as if boiling, followed by a headache so excruciating I couldn’t keep my eyes open. I crumbled to the ground in pain.
“I hereby declare! From now until eternity, with all my power, I negate the use of every kind of Magic to anyone who steps foot on this land!
There was silence for a moment.
“Grant me power! For I am Zero!”
My breathing stopped. I clawed the ground, writhing in intense pain. A ferocious beast rushed past me, charging towards Zero with fangs bared.
Shit. Zero’s in danger.
I somehow managed to turn my head, and what I saw was the beast being crushed and blown away.
The pain suddenly receded. My senses were dulled. A thick, viscuous sensation washed over me, and I couldn’t see.
My consciousness faded. Far away. Somewhere.
“Granted. It has been too long, my beloved—” said a voice.