Translator: Kell | Editor: Ryunakama
“If only we had some sort of article from Fort Lotus, I could use my divination to locate the place,” Zero said. “Do you have anything?”
“Why would I have something from a place I’ve never even seen before? Wait, you can use divination?”
“That is like asking an archer if he can use a bow. Why would you assume I cannot use basic Sorcery?”
“Because I’ve never seen you do it before.”
“It is a surprisingly tedious process. I decided not to use it unless absolutely necessary.”
Albus told me that finding things and people required an object deeply connected to the target. In fact, in order to find Zero, we had to use her cloak that she had worn for years.
Wait a sec. My mind was telling me something. A thread that connected me to Fort Lotus.
“Hey, Murky Darkness Witch. If you can find the owner of an object, is the reverse possible? Can you find an object owned by someone?”
“Searching for a lost item? That is what witches do best. But now is not the time to look for something. Or do you perhaps own a treasure that holds the power to destroy the world and you want to go get it now? I do not ever wish to search for something so troublesome.”
“Of course not! What fairy tale did you pull that from?!”
“There are apparently legends of treasures all over the world, so I cannot narrow which tale it is from that easily. Is that information absolutely necessary?” Zero tried her best to look perplexed. “Then I need to go into meditation and try to recall which one it is exactly.”
Gently, I raised my hand in front of her face, stopping her from saying any more. “Mind if I go back on track? I don’t have time to be playing games with you right now.”
“Go ahead. I will not stop you. You may return to the topic at hand. You can humor me some other time.”
Letting out a sigh, I continued. “Actually, a bandit showed up back in Ideaverna to get Theo, and he was clearly not one of the guys we tied up. Do you know what this means?”
Zero thought about it for a moment, then nodded. “Someone let the tied bandits escape. They returned to Fort Lotus and told their companions that Theo was in Ideaverna. Then someone came for him.”
“Smart. That’s a witch for you, all right. Theo was originally the bandits’ errand boy. He said he felt bad for them, so he secretly handed them a knife.”
“So he could not knowingly abandon his companions. We could have seen him leaving the knife, yet he still took the risk. Impressive.”
“Now, here’s the important part. The knife Theo gave to the bandits was my favorite knife that I’d been using for years. What if the bandits still have it?”
Zero lifted her hood slightly and looked at me.
“So if we searched for your knife, we would locate Fort Lotus. Or at worst, find someone who knows where it is.” Zero smiled. “In that case, leave it to me.” She puffed out her chest proudly.
“Let us begin.” Zero looked at me and said something so outrageous like it was nothing, as if she was simply asking to borrow my coat. “Do you have a rope used for executions?”
Magic had been around for a thousand years, and there were many different types and methods of divination alone. According to Zero, every last one of them was sinister.
“You need a rope used to hang convicts for divining objects?” I asked.
“An item that has been involved in the death of a person has magical powers. Of course, any kind of rope will do. I am not very much particular with tools.”
“Then just say you need a regular rope!”
“I simply want a better tool to make up for performing what is a simple ritual. Do you not long for your beloved knife when you carry out difficult tasks?”
“I don’t long for ropes that hang people, though.”
“But your beloved knife has certainly killed many, no?”
I went silent. She was right. The tools I had with me for a long time were, in one way or another, involved in someone’s death.
A rope, huh? I searched my bag.
“Is a rope that’s been used to strangle someone good enough?”
“Oh, so you do have a fine item with you.”
I highly doubted you could call a killing rope a “fine item,” but there was no point in questioning a witch’s sense of values. I cut the rope I’d pulled out of my bag to about the length of my elbow, unraveled it, and handed Zero a thin cord.
Zero tied one end of it to her middle finger and the other end to a sharp, transparent gem that, upon closer inspection, was finely engraved with symbols. I could tell at a glance that it wasn’t an ordinary gem.
“Not another one of your strange tools,” I said.
“This is a simple pendulum, with a little Sorcery added onto it. I was unable to use it properly because I did not have the right string, but I brought it with me on my journey anyway. I assumed I would eventually get my hands on a rope that was used to hang people.”
“So what are you going to do with that pendulum?”
“Hold it up over the map. Then the pendulum swings in a big circle at the place where the thing we seek is located.”
“Oh. Sounds easy.”
“The practice had become obsolete due to the Church’s suppression of witches, but I heard it used to be such a common tool for divination that there was one person in every village who could use it. Now unfold that map and place it on the ground. Then take my hand and picture your stolen knife in your mind.”
I did as I was told and held Zero’s hand. She then held her other hand over the map and relaxed her shoulders. The pendulum string dangled completely still over the map like a metal rod.
Zero mentioned that complete accuracy was fundamental to Sorcery, and complete accuracy always came from complete stillness. Like the pendulum, Zero was unmoving. She looked like an intricately detailed sculpture.
“Mercenary, you are always welcome to admire my beauty, but for now, close your eyes and think about the knife.”
“Oh, uh… My bad!”
I quickly apologized and closed my eyes, then realized it probably wasn’t anything worth apologizing for. Anyway, the knife comes first. I pictured the object in my mind.
It had a small blade suitable for delicate work, but a huge grip that made it easy to use even for a Beastfallen. You wouldn’t find it in ordinary stores.
I didn’t expect Theo to steal it at all. I never noticed it was gone since the boy did all sorts of chores himself. Letting down one’s guard around a child was a huge mistake that a mercenary should not ever make.
One of the five bandits who kidnapped Lia must have my knife. I couldn’t really see their faces in the darkness of the night, but there was one man I remember, the group’s leader. With more than half of his face covered in facial hair, he looked like an actual outlaw.
“Do not think about anything else,” Zero said. “Focus on my hand and the knife.”
“You are not,” Zero said sharply, as if reading my mind. “If you do not focus, the pendulum will be off its mark, unable to narrow down the location of the object we are searching. While the process is simple, it is not a highly precise divination.”
I focused on the knife. Its familiar grip that fit perfectly in my hand. The comfortable weight. It looked crude, with no ornaments, but it had a smooth, curved blade. There was not a single rust or chip on it.
Knives lasted a long time. You became familiar the more you used it. Proper maintenance made them durable. I sincerely wanted mine back.
“I found it,” Zero said.
I opened my eyes. The pendulum was spinning in circles around a single point on the map—on top of a mountain southwest of Akdios.
“It appears you can draw a straight line from Akdios to the fort and then Ideaverna,” Zero said as she wound the string around the pendulum and marked the map. “Although it seems to be closer to Akdios.”
“The map’s not precise,” I said. “We probably can’t count on that alone.”
“As long as we know the direction, that is enough. Considering what fortresses are for, building them on top of mountains is the best.”