Translator: Kell | Editor: Ryunakama
Argentum pointed at Zero with an ink-stained fingertip. “I taught Magic the way you meant it to be used. I taught Magic to the people as a hunting and harvesting tool. Magic would eventually be accepted by the nations—your dream come true. But priests would naturally resist the spread of Magic. People would then see priests as their enemies and kill them. As Magic became more widespread and prosperous, wars would break out. Discrimination against those who could not use Magic would also be rampant. What would’ve happened in the next century, this island experienced in only seven years.”
Argentum let out a forlorn sigh as he gazed at the ceiling. “This old body of mine can only survive for ten more years at most. Even if the dragon did not wake up, I would not be able to leave this island. I was hasty. I wished to observe Magic as much as possible before I passed. That is why I accepted their invitation and imparted Magic to this island.”
“Who is this person you are referring to?” Zero asked. “Have you ever met them before?”
“No. They never show themselves. I have never even heard their voice. They’re unobservable. They come to me in dreams in the form of nightmares. That is why I don’t know how many members Cestum has, or who they are. Nor am I interested.”
“Then who gave you the copy of the grimoire?”
“I’m certain you know. A miserable woman named Sanare wrote the copy.”
At the mention of her name, I felt every hair on my body stand on end in hatred and disgust. Argentum looked at me and sighed as if he knew everything that happened.
“Like me, Sanare received an invitation from them in a dream. She had no gift for Magic, yet she tried more than anyone else to understand it. It took her a year to make a perfect copy of the Chapter of Hunting, and another year to write down the Chapter of Harvest, both of which she entrusted to me. She told me it was the Boss’s instructions. She was frustrated.”
Argentum looked up at the doll hanging from the ceiling. It swayed with the wind blowing in through the window. Before I knew it, it was looking at us.
“She worked hard for two years to write down two chapters and ended up handing them to a stranger. One can only imagine how she felt. I then took the copies to Black Dragon Island, while Sanare finished transcribing the remaining two chapters and traveled to the Republic of Cleon. She obtained funds by selling the last chapter.”
Apparently the rumor about a book of Magic circulating in the market was true. Albus mentioned that in her letter before. When we learned of the existence of the copies, we assumed the rumor was real. Now that we have actual confirmation, a sense of gloom filled my heart.
“Sanare stabbed her own heart in Akdios and invoked a spell from the Chapter of Death,” Zero said. “Her body was then forcibly summoned somewhere else. Where did she go? Is she even dead? Those are my final questions, Argentum.”
Letting out a long sigh, Argentum poured water into his goblet and quenched his throat. “Her body was sent to a place I cannot observe,” he said. “But her soul has not perished. It is wandering, searching for a new vessel.”
“So she’s not dead!” I exclaimed.
That’s great news. I would thank God if I could kill her with my own hands.
“That is all I have to say,” the old man said. “There is nothing more you can get out of me.” He turned to the princess. “Amnil, you should leave.”
The princess’s eyes opened wide. She must have understood the meaning behind Argentum’s words. In fact, the old man told us everything knowing that we would kill him.
“I don’t want to,” the princess said. “This is the one order I can’t follow. I don’t understand. Why do you have to die?”
“That is what it means to be an administrator. A teacher mediates and judges between a children’s quarrel. I spread the knowledge of Magic and now the Murky Darkness Witch has come to judge me. I will accept whatever punishment I receive.”
“My dear pupil. Since joining the Coven of Zero, I have been dreaming of the day when I would be able to argue with the witch of the Murky Darkness. If she wants to kill me, I welcome it. You would understand. You’re just as fascinated by Magic as I am.”
Argentum clasped his ink-stained, blackened fingers together to his chest. He then closed his eyes silently.
The princess’s face twisted, and she bit her lips so hard that they turned pale. Suddenly she clung to Argentum’s neck then left the room in a hurry.
“Murky Darkness Witch.”
“I have one last request before I die. It might be shameless of me, but please take care of that girl. She’s been smarter than anyone else since she was a child. She is gifted, but that in turn made her lonely. Until I came to this island, the only one she could talk to as an equal was Raul.”
“I can imagine.”
“I can’t protect her anymore. She will need help soon, and you will be involved.”
Zero cocked her head. “You speak as if your death is certain. Do you really wish to be killed by me that badly?”
“The future is set in stone. It is a prophecy resulting from observing many phenomena. I’m going to die here today.”
“I see.” Zero Nodded. “I give you my word, Argentum. I will take your pupil under my wing.” She then turned to me. “Mercenary.”
“I leave the rest to you. I am heading out.” Zero turned her back on us, her cloak flaring behind her.
“What? Hey, wait! This guy’s a member of Cestum!”
“Was, but not anymore. He is nothing but a half-dead sorcerer who has been expelled from his circle. Killing him now will not change anything. The rest is up to you. This is a personal matter.” She then left.
I stared at the old man sitting in his chair. He said his death here today had been predetermined. But if Zero didn’t kill him, that would leave only me.
I put my hand on my sword and gripped the hilt. Suddenly, I felt a tug on my arm, like someone was trying to pull my hand away from the sword. Theo’s face flashed in my mind. He was saying that this old man wasn’t the one who killed him.
I felt laughter welling up within me. Unable to hold myself back, I chuckled.
“Are you sure about this?” Argentum asked in a hoarse voice. “You have a grudge against Cestum, don’t you? I was a member of the organization. My actions might have resulted in deaths as well. There’s no need to seek meaning or intent in revenge. If it makes you feel better, go ahead and behead me.”
His philosophical blabbering was starting to annoy me. “Unfortunately, my goal is revenge, not venting out anger,” I said. “Sorry about this, gramps. I guess your prediction was off. You’re not dying here today.”
I thought about killing Sanare. I wanted to crush Cestum. But Argentum was not Sanare. Killing him would not change anything.
I was a mercenary, and killing was my job. The thought of working for nothing was more horrifying than I imagined.
I stepped out of the house to find Zero standing right by the door.
“Are you certain about this?” she asked.
“You’re just copying the geezer!” I barked. “Certain about what? I didn’t have any reason to kill him. Besides…” I touched Theo’s knife. I wondered if she would laugh if I told her.
“Besides?” Zero urged.
“Promise me you won’t laugh.”
“I swear to God, I will not laugh.”
How was I supposed to believe a witch’s words sworn in the name of God? I didn’t really mind if she laughed, though.
“It felt like Theo was there watching,” I said. “I, uhh… didn’t want to kill a defenseless old man in front of him, you know.”
“You fucking laughed! I know, it sounds silly! A bloodthirsty mercenary like me talking nonsense!”
“No, you misunderstand,” Zero said. “I was simply reminded of why I like you.”
“Okay, you’re just making fun of me now!”
“Why can you not take my word as it is? When I say I like you, there is no other meaning behind it. If I do not like something, I say so. Or do you think that I am a tender-hearted witch?”
“Not in the least,” I said flatly.
“You could have hesitated a little. I am somewhat kindhearted, if I do say so myself. Far more so than Thirteenth or any other witch.”
I looked around. “So where’s the princess?”
Zero gestured with her chin to the back of the house. “She is at the back, crying like a child.”
Weaving through the knee-high grass, we made our way around the lake to the back of the house. Raul turned around. He was the only one who noticed us.
His expression was calm. He seemed to have already guessed that I didn’t kill Argentum.
“Princess.” Raul said, placing his hand on her shoulder.
Hiding her face from us, Amnil rubbed her eyes. She then washed her face in the lake and stood up. “So, how did it go?” she asked.
Despite her arrogant tone, her face was haggard. I wanted to mess with her by saying I killed the old man, but I immediately lost interest.
“I don’t kill for free,” I said.
“And I avoid killing as much as possible,” Zero added. “It is too bothersome.”
The princess blinked a few times. The next moment, tears streamed down her eyes.
“Of course you didn’t kill him! You had no reason to. If you killed Master, I would never have forgiven you. You’re lucky.”
Her words would’ve had more impact if she said them in her usual cold voice, but there was no trace of the ironhearted princess when she was bawling out like this.
Raul stroked the princess’s hair, but she brushed his hand away.
“How many times do I have to tell you to stop treating me like a child?!” she bellowed. “Let’s head back. We have some preparations to do for the festival. I have a duty to slay the dragon.”