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Thread: Lord El-Melloi II's Case Files Translation, Starting From Book 6

  1. #261
    Chapter 1, Part 2
    Chapter 1, Part 2:

    Tomorrow was probably going to be the longest day of my life.

    I, Reines El-Melloi Archisorte, firmly believed in this. It wasn’t just because of the impending Grand Roll. My brother had also just gone into Albion in pursuit of Heartless.

    It was then that I suddenly realized I was playing with a chess piece.

    It was so childish of me to liken the world to a chessboard, even though mages kind of viewed the world as one. Most people gave up on their delusions of becoming superheroes at a young age. Mages were just sad fools who refused to let go of the delusions they had unknowingly caught hold of.

    I was one of this group of people beyond salvation.

    Every human life is equally stupid. It didn’t matter if we had only caught hold of fragments, it was more interesting this way. Scheming to make others fall, falling to others’ schemes, meaninglessly chasing after the Root, and rolling about in pain and shame— this was the life I wanted to live. I never once wished for a complete, fulfilling life. I’d rather have my heart removed than to have that imposed on me.

    I was only thinking about this because I was alone for the first time in a while.

    Though my brother often went on business trips beyond London, I had never seriously considered the possibility that he might never come back. As a collateral, I had taken away his Magic Crest a long time ago, but I knew he didn’t really care about it.

    However, this was undoubtedly an exception.

    Up until this point, we had experienced all sorts of incidents, but none of them could compare to the arcane depths of Spirit Tomb Albion. In a certain sense, it was quite close to us mages, as it was physically hidden beneath our feet. However, I could not grasp the full extent of its fearsomeness. I couldn’t help but wonder how many mages had entered, never to return. I knew there wasn’t a better way to chase after Heartless, but Spirit Tomb Albion was still too risky for comfort. Some people would probably start yelling at me until my head burst open if I told them of our plan.

    I had already lost most of my cards.

    That was why I kept staring at all the documents I had as the night wore on.

    It seemed that my brother would not make it to the Grand Roll. Even if we had some method of communication, it would still be harder for me if he was not there. My mentor probably wasn’t aware of the true impact of a title like ”Lord El-Melloi II, who has a great influence on the New Age”.

    The Department of Modern Magecraft was in a disadvantageous position to begin with. Now, we had just lost so many cards right before the game was to begin. Our unpreparedness was almost laughable.

    The biggest question of this Grand Roll was whether or not someone there was our enemy.

    Is it too late to surrender to the Democratic Faction? I wondered.

    I can’t believe I actually seriously considered that option for a moment. It was impossible. Switching factions right now would seriously harm the reputation of the largest faction in the Clock Tower, which was headed by the Barthomelois. Doing so would completely wreck the El-Melloi Faction.

    If we took one wrong step, maybe we would be completely wiped from the history of the Clock Tower.

    Simply saying c’est la vie and giving up was like asking to be humiliated. Some other faction would immediately take up the opportunity and grind us into pieces. The Clock Tower’s power struggles were not kind, simple things— every player of the game must continually establish their existence in order to survive.

    “…Ah.”

    After a while, I felt my stomachache worsen. It was my brother’s fault.

    Just as I was about to lean back on my desk chair, a voice came from behind the sofa beside me.

    “—What’s happened so far? Have they already gotten to Albion?”

    It was Flat, who was tired of waiting.

    “I think they’re there.” I answered, frowning. “I used the strongest communication magecraft I can cast, but the connection still cut off. If they reach the deeper layers, I have no way of knowing they’re up to.”

    “I want to ride the Rail Zeppelin too, even though there isn’t an auction this time! I really want to buy all those Mystic Eye thingies! For the money, I’ll just have to go on Van-Fem’s boat again!”

    “If you want money, why don’t you do me a favor and sell your vocal cords?”

    “Oh! That’s not a bad idea! Being mute would be annoying, so I should probably get started preparing new ones! But if I’m going to make new ones, why should I stop at my vocal cords? What if I just remove my right arm? An arm that can shapeshifter and talk would be so cool, don’t you think?”

    “Whatever makes you happy.” I said, looking away from the stupid genius who was now excitedly examining his own arm.

    Usually, it was my brother’s job to deal with him. If he was here, this interaction would be much more interesting.

    I pressed the area between my eyebrows in an attempt to focus. Of course, I could also achieve this by using enhancement, but I wanted to conserve as much Magical Energy as possible so I didn’t die of nervousness during the Grand Roll.

    Speaking of which, I was also drinking iced tea.

    “—Here, Your Highness.” Svin said, handing me a new cup of tea.

    Ah, yes. I was glad to have this honor student around.

    “How are things on your side?”

    “The rest of the students are a little shaken, but they are still helping to rebuild Slur Street. Thanks to Mr. Shardan’s dedication, many teachers have been inspired to return.” Svin replied while organizing the documents I had already read.

    Of course, Flat was also running around to assist in this. The twin jewels of the El-Melloi Classroom were surprisingly well-loved. Even Flat seemed to radiate a feeling that made people want to help. This was my weakness, so I couldn’t help but feel a little jealous.

    “Are you attending the Grand Roll alone?”

    “I’m only taking Trimmau. I wish my brother could be a bit more sympathetic.” I said with a pout.

    Melvin had prepared the Rail Zeppelin, but I had gathered all the members of the team. If I had anyone else that could get things done on my side, I wouldn’t have had to find my brother.

    “I promise to protect you!”

    “Do you think I’ll let you?” I shouted back reflexively.

    The teenager snapped his fingers, bored again.

    I took sip of warm tea before I explained my outburst.

    “…It isn’t actually dangerous to go to a Grand Roll. If someone managed to sneak in, they could topple the balance of the entire Clock Tower. Also, like Mr. Shardan said, you two are in charge of everything up here while the meeting goes on.”

    “Leave it to me! I’m as trustworthy as the Titanic! All the glaciers and stuff will go ka-ching and fall to pieces!”

    “What world’s Titanic is that!?”

    As I snapped at Flat, I considered another unsettling variable.

    …What was Melvin doing right now? I thought.

    I knew he communicated with the Trambelio Faction after preparing the Rail Zeppelin, but I didn’t know where he went after that.

    Did the Democratic Faction get ahold of him?

    That was very likely. After all, Melvin was a member of the Trambelio family, which was at the center of the Democratic Faction. It was atypical for someone of his standing to help us, as we were still technically part of the Aristocratic Faction.

    Although saying that, Melvin was still Melvin. Considering how he valued entertainment more than his own life, he probably wouldn’t give in to power that easily.

    Also, he might not look like it, but that guy was the public face of the Weinz family. He wouldn’t be killed that easily. That meant…

    The memory of the head of the Trambelios flashed across my mind.

    Of course, if Lord Trambelio made a move, Melvin could be easily locked up.

    Originally, Lord Eulyphis had also planned on taking action.

    Lord Eulyphis seemed to represent all of the traditional side of the Clock Tower. Though the El-Melloi Faction was allied with them for the moment, he probably viewed us as a stain to be removed.

    In terms of the other Lord representative, Olgamarie, I didn’t believe that the Department of Astromancy would save us. Our connection was barely existent, so I didn’t expect much from her.

    …Goodness, a phrase like “ being surrounded on four sides” was almost starting to sound cute.

    As I thought of this reference to Eastern history, I tried to stop myself from smiling.

    The most troubling part of this was that I actually felt quite happy. If I was in a position more suited to my personality, maybe I would become a tyrant. Please don’t tell me that I’m already a tyrant. Give me a break.

    “…Miss.” Trimmau said, interrupting my thoughts.

    It appeared that she had received some kind of call from the reception area of the school building. Without giving me time to think, the words that I dreaded the most left her mercury lips.

    “The car from the Secret Autopsy Division has arrived.”

    “The Secret Autopsy Division?”

    “Yes. The Grand Roll will be held tomorrow, so it is time for the attendees to head to Spirit Tomb Albion.”

    My frown deepened. I should probably prepare some kind of magecraft medicine so I didn’t end up like my brother.

    “Typical of them to be impatient. Also, typical of the Secret Autopsy Division to not give Lords preferential treatment. I wonder if they’ll give me some more time to plan if I ask nicely.” I said quietly, biting my lip.

    Unlike the train that had taken my brother into Albion, the vehicle that awaited me did not allow me to do as I wished. Perhaps someone from the Democratic Faction had chosen to take action to avoid muddying the situation. —Damn it, maybe the meeting itself would be moved forward.

    “Your Highness?”

    “Are you okay, Reines?”

    Svin and Flat expressed their concern at the same time.

    I had to concede that these two were undoubtedly worthy of their title when it came to tense moments. Though they were mostly annoying, they made up for it by also being lovable.

    “Yes. Of course. Time to head off with all my dignity. Make sure you two see me off with a serious expression.”

    I drank the rest of my tea in a single gulp.

    Not long after, Trimmau and I boarded the limousine that waited for us in the darkness.

    *

    The old man who called himself Geraff returned after exactly thirty minutes, right when Seigen and Luvia began to impatiently suggest that we head off without waiting for him.

    “Oh, so you didn’t run off?”

    “You’re back!”

    Geraff ignored Seigen and shrugged. I suddenly realized that he reminded me of his disciple, Flueger. It soon dawned on us all that the old man had not gone somewhere random, which proven by the basket that he bore on his back.

    “Alright, now follow me.” He said to us, and then turned to leave again.

    This time, we also enhanced our legs with magecraft. To the outside observer, we probably looked like we were riding on the wind.

    The old man took us to the foot of a small hill in the wilderness.

    It wasn’t much further away than the place where the Rail Zeppelin had dropped us off. However, in place of the lush vegetation from earlier, the ground beneath our feet was full of cracks that resembled dragon scales. Maybe I was being over-imaginative, but it looked like the dead dragon’s tail. Since I couldn’t confirm this suspicion, I decided to just pretend it was regular dirt.

    The dry wind wasn’t like the winter gales of the surface. It carried trace amounts of Magical Energy, exciting my Magic Circuits like needles pricking my skin. Looking up at the luminous dome above us, I couldn’t help but swallow.

    Even if the ground was made of regular dirt, Albion was still unusual. It was as if it actively repelled the modern world.

    “Let’s go in from the usual entrance. This way.” Geraff said, mainly to himself.

    Then, he turned to look at us, placing his the basket he was holding on the rocks nearby.

    “Say, monk,” he called out to Seigen. “How many strides would it take you to reach the top of that hill?”

    “Wha?”

    The monk in question looked toward the hill that the old man pointed at. It was around twenty meters tall, with a summit that stretched out like the head of a giant mammoth.

    “Around two.”

    The monk frowned and prepared to jump. Then, he extended his arms, leaping upward as if he had suddenly grown two giant wings. Though he said it would take two strides, he probably stepped on something as he made his way up the hill. He moved too fast for me to see clearly, and he was at the summit before I knew it.

    “…Not bad. Is that a tengu art?”

    “Yes. It’s the only thing that my father couldn’t help but praise.”

    “That’s convenient. When exploring Albion, get as high up as possible. Shugendo training is very similar to the training you need to survive here. I’ve been in a team with a monk like you before, and his skills were quite impressive.”

    Hearing this, Seigen blinked many times in surprise.

    “Are there monks in Albion as well?”

    “I guess you could say that Albion has a higher concentration of mages and spellcasters than the surface world. You lost an arm, right? Was that the price for using some kind of magecraft?”

    “…Something like that.”

    I looked away, even though I knew I probably shouldn’t. I just couldn’t meet his eyes because his arm had been torn away by my lance.

    “That injury looks recent. Your balance was off when you jumped. You would have used seal magecraft if you still had that arm, right?”

    “Well, there’s no way to get it back. There’s no point on dwelling it, either.” Seigen’s wry smile made me even sadder. “I’ve already given up on trying to count everything I’ve lost.”

    Seigen had headed to the Castle of Separation to retrieve what he had lost, taking with him the Magic Crest that his brother had left behind. As a price for repairing the Magic Crest, the owner of the castle had taken away his original identity.

    This ultimately resulted in our fight, which cost him his right arm.

    For that reason, Seigen decided against explaining how he had lost his arm and opted to say that he had given up, probably so I wouldn’t feel as bad. However, his actions made it even harder for me to look up.

    “Let me see it.” Geraff commanded.

    “Huh?”

    “Roll up your sleeve. Let me see your arm.”

    Faced with the unrelenting old man, Seigen reluctantly complied. Geraff stared intently at the mass of still-regenerating flesh grabbed ahold of it.

    “Owowowowow! What are you doing?! Are you mad!?”

    “Bear with it for a bit.”

    With that succinct response, the old man twisted Seigen’s arm and pressed hard on the exact place where it had been severed.

    Seigen let out a cry of misery.

    “Mr. Seigen!”

    My mentor reached out to stop me from rushing forward.

    “Don’t.”

    “But…”

    As I was about to argue, I saw that my mentor was not looking at Geraff or Seigen, but at the place the old man had just pressed down on. From there, a green sprout that glowed faintly grew rapidly from his flesh.

    “I never knew Spirit Roots can be used this way…!”

    “Gahhhhh!”

    As if it was urged on by Seigen’s cries, the seedling quickly covered the cross section of Seigen’s arm. Leaves appeared on the winding branches, and then withered as quickly as they came. It was as if the life of a tree had been compressed to a few seconds.

    Before I had time to process what was happening, the woody branches that remained shifted into the shape of Seigen’s arm. Though it resembled a regular tree, it appeared that Seigen could move it freely. He used his normal hand to inspect the new one as he tried contracting and unfolding his fingers.

    “Spirit Roots are meant to be for controlling stone statues so that they can move while keeping their original shapes. It also works for things like this as long as the person whose Magic Circuits you’re attaching it on is compatible with it.”

    “…Ah...Huh… Where… did you… get this from…?” Seigen said, kneeling on the floor because the pain had not faded yet.

    “These things aren’t common on the surface, but there are certain ways to get them down here. It’s a good match with your practices, isn’t it? It’s not exactly the same as your original arm, but you’ll get used to it.”

    After he finished speaking, Geraff turned away as if he had just done nothing more than handing Seigen a piece of old furniture.

    “Edelfelt.”

    “Can you please stop calling me by my family name?”

    Though Luvia’s tone wasn’t kind, her voice was missing its usual contempt, possibly because of the events that had just transpired.

    “You know plenty of techniques for using gemstones to automatically search for enemies, right?”

    “…Yes, of course, since mages naturally incur resentment.”

    Luvia was a hunter— that was why they called her the world’s most graceful hyena. In her mind, if someone hurt her, double the retribution was far from enough.

    “Good. It’s useful here, but take care not to concentrate too much Magical Energy in the Great Magic Circuit. Every nook and cranny of this place is overflowing with it. That kind of magecraft alarm will keep going off. It might be less precise, but you probably want to limit its targets.”

    “Targets?” Luvia repeated. The old man seemed to have piqued her interest.

    “Yes. You should be all set if you constantly adjust the attributes it’s looking for.”

    Before he even finished his sentence, the old man suddenly raised his hand. With a woosh, an assortment of things flew out of it and onto the wasteland around us. It appeared to be some minerals mined from Albion. Later, I realized that there was a contraption near his wrist that allowed him to toss things into the air while his hand remained still.

    “How many did I just throw, and where did they go?”

    “Testing me?”

    Luvia took out a blue jewel and uttered an incantation from her lovely lips.

    “Awaken(Call).”

    With a single word from her, the gem changed color from blue to red and then yellow in the space of a few seconds.

    “Seven.” The young woman replied, unfazed by the strange changes that the gem rapidly underwent. “No. There’s one hidden behind you. They’re in these places.”

    Luvia flicked the gem. It flew toward the rocks that the old man had thrown, causing them to rise from the ground.

    “So annoying. It only took you twenty seconds and a single word? I was expecting maybe fifteen minutes. If only my disciples were this talented.”

    “Hey!” Flue complained in a small voice.

    My mentor tilted his head and stepped forward as if he had a question.

    “Do you have other disciples?”

    “Oh, yes. I’m a spellcaster. I don’t need to stick to teaching magecraft one-on-one like proper mages,” Geraff explained, proudly patting the top of his bald head. “But apart from this idiot, all of them are dead.”

    “…What? Why?”

    “It’s just some boring stuff about the past. You don’t have time to waste on it. Take this.”

    He handed us a sheet of what looked like regular printer paper. It probably had a protection spell cast on it, but it didn’t look like a catalyst or a Mystic Code. Fluttering in the wind, it looked anything but reliable.

    However, my mentor gasped when he saw the its contents.

    “—!”

    “This is the latest map of Albion. I asked a friend who’s familiar with the underground to tell me the places where monsters have been spotted recently. With this, Flue can guarantee that you can dive to the bottom layers as safety as possible.”

    At this, Flue’s expression shifted.
    
“Wait, how did you get this?”

    “I’m an old man living at the borders of the Mining City who can’t even use magecraft well. I’ve got to have something like this. If you follow the routes on this map, you can keep fights with Phantasmal Species of the Great Magic Circuit to a minimum.”

    “No, that’s not what I meant!” The astrologer shouted at his mentor. “This map and the Spirit Root… they’re not things you can get at a moment’s notice. If you asked me to get it back when I was in hiding, it would have taken me a year at least!”

    I understood. This place was a giant labyrinth, so any map that showed the areas that the monsters here frequented must be worth a hefty sum.

    “But why are you giving us this…?” I couldn’t help but ask.

    “Just like my stupid disciple said, I died a long time ago.” Geraff said, as if he was tired of explaining. “Dead people don’t need money or possessions. Since I’m not a mage but a spellcaster, I don’t have anyone to pass my belongings to. I always planned on letting go of it some day. Now, the opportunity to do that has come. …Hey, Lord over there.”

    “What?”

    My mentor turned as he was called on. His expression was still stiff, probably because he understood the value of the piece of paper he had just been handed.

    “Your actions have paid off. Not a single person I knew in the past would believe that a Lord of the Clock Tower bowed to me. It’s already hard enough to believe that a New Ager can become a Lord.”

    The old man began to laugh while the mages around me had not yet recovered from their stunned silence. Who could have known that the old man would give away something so valuable?

    “…Thank you for your praise.” My mentor said, bowing his head again. “If you will allow me one more selfish request, could you please help me pass on a message?”

    “Haha, that depends on what the message is.”

    The old man accepted the note that my mentor handed him. One of his eyebrows rose as he read its contents.

    Why? I wondered.

    This was such an interesting turn of events. This old man had only known my mentor for less than an hour. However, if Flueger was right, he was willing to spend his entire savings to help us.

    Something in their conversation must have moved him deeply. Though I felt something as well, its impact on me was not as deep.

    “—Flue, take these.”

    The old man took out some tools and handed them to Flue.

    “I made some slight adjustments to the tools that are popular right now. I don’t think you’ll need me to explain how to use them. Take this as well. I didn’t get the chance to give it to you before. It’s the knife I once used.”

    “…Are you sure you’re giving it to me, old man? You wouldn’t give it to me no matter how many times I asked before.”

    “I don’t have any use for it now. I only kept it because I was too attached to it.”

    Flue picked up his tool-filled backpack and tucked the knife into his clothes after a brief inspection.

    “Got it. Thanks.”

    “You don’t need to thank me. Oh, it’s getting late. You all better get going.” The old man said, waving as if he wanted to be rid of us as soon as possible. Though his actions seemed to convey distaste, I had trouble interpreting it as such.

    “Live a bit longer, okay?” Flue muttered after a moment of hesitation.

    “Ha, really? Are you sure your time on the surface hasn’t made you forget about who I am?”

    The old man smiled, revealing a mouthful of crooked teeth. His laughter reminded me of Add’s. It was not a nice sound, but it carried an emotion that I could appreciate. As I thought this, I felt a clunk from the box in the birdcage at my right shoulder.

    I turned to see Flue urging my mentor forward.

    “Let’s go, Lord El-Melloi II.”

    “…Is it really alright if we do?”

    “Well.”

    Flue began to walk forward without properly answering the question. Luvia and Seigen also followed him after quickly bidding goodbye to the old man.

    After a while, I heard the distant voice of the old man calling out to us.

    “Flue! Lord El-Melloi II! You don’t have to show me your miserable faces again, but make sure you make it back alive!”

    Though he didn’t turn back to look, the astrologer raised his arm to tell his mentor that he understood.
    —————————————————————————————————————————————————— ——

  2. #262
    Chapter 1, Part 3
    We followed Flue to a hilly area that still lacked vegetation. Instead, there were a few cracked columns beside us. It looked like a giant stone circle, but it didn’t seem to have been built intentionally. Rather, it was like another structure had been weathered and battered until it turned into its current form.

    The old man continued to watch us like a stone statue on the horizon until he faded from view.

    “…That old man is dead to the World of Magecraft. Half of that was his fault, but the other half was mine.”

    “What makes you say that?” Luvia asked, weaving through the stone columns.

    “You heard him say that all his students were dead, except for me, right?”

    Geraff’s disciples. So, they were probably also spellcasters like Flue.

    “He wasn’t wrong, but he wasn’t accurate. All of them were actually killed.”

    “Killed?!” Seigen exclaimed, so startled that he let go of his new arm. My ears perked up as well at his statement.

    “Geraff was already a Survivor of the Labyrinth.” Flue explained.

    This fact was corroborated by what the old man had said when we first met.

    “The Clock Tower above ground is the best place for magecraft research, but Albion is far superior as a place for spellcasters to gain fighting experience. After Geraff went to the surface, he made a name for himself for being smart and capable. Point of fact, he was an incredibly nosy person who kept taking other lonely, similarly unfortunate mages under his wing. I was one such mage.”

    As Flue spoke, I could imagine what the old man was once like.

    I saw him standing under the bright sun of the Middle East, surrounded by a group of young mages. Maybe the El-Melloi Classroom had been like that too when my mentor first took over. With Flue at its lead, the team was probably full of vitality as they interacted with different gangs and groups.

    “He must have done something that upset the Clock Tower.” Flueger said, his voice sinking into the reddish-brown of the ground. “They believe that Mystery must be concealed. He always worked behind the scenes, and he never did anything that explicitly broke the rules of the Clock Tower. Still, he was a bit too carefree and flamboyant. He had a lot of enemies to begin with, and he only made it worse with running his mouth and other bad habits. In the end, I sort of drifted out of contact with him. I warned him several times that he’d better clean things up before he got noticed, but he never listened.”

    According to Flue, the final incident happened when Geraff had been commissioned to sneak into a foreign country. His workshop was raided after he involved himself too closely with regional conflicts. Even so, it was difficult to imagine a group of mages getting killed by normal people with guns, no matter how unskilled the mages were. The bounded fields around his workshop should not have been so brittle that a few bullets could shatter it.

    It was undoubtedly the work of a few spellcasters who hated Geraff.

    When Geraff returned, his workshop had been reduced to ruins. The catalysts and talismans he had spent his life collecting had all been robbed from him. Every disciple that he had asked to guard the workshop had been brutally killed, their bodies bearing evidence of torture.

    “After his disciples died, Geraff was overcome with a desire for revenge.” Regret seeped from Flue’s words, potent and impossible to conceal. Was it because he never witnessed the scene of the tragedy? Or, was it because he didn’t manage to stop the old man? “All the people responsible, along with the people who just happened to be there and the people who instigated the crime— Geraff sought out and killed every single one of them. He was the man who taught me divination, after all. He’s not the sort of man you can hide from. In the two years following his disciples’ murder, Geraff was like a demon.”

    “…”

    It gave me the impression of a shadow.

    Everyone becomes obsessed with something at some point in their life. But the old man's experiences let such a cloud of darkness hang over him, that he and his shadow could no longer be told apart. After all, you don't need to be afraid anymore if you become the thing you fear.

    “…Ah, but there always comes a point where fate catches up with you. Geraff had to pay for his revenge spree. That night, fate came for him in the form of an assassin.”

    “…An assassin?” My mentor repeated. He was struggling to keep up with Flue’s quick pace, sweat beading on his forehead.

    "The assassin was pretty well known in those circles. He was some hotshot from the East, and used some kind of special magecraft to kill mages. I don't know how it worked, but as soon as my mentor was hit by one of his bullets, his Magic Crest and Circuits were trashed."

    “—!”

    My mentor suddenly tensed.

    Maybe he suddenly thought of something. Or, maybe Flue was using this story to test him.

    Regardless, I had no idea what he was thinking. But, I don't think I needed to know. If I had, I know he would have told me. I trusted him.

    “You seem to know quite a lot about that assassin.”

    “Of course," Flue replied, "I formed a temporary alliance with him once.”

    My mentor was not the only one who took interest in Flue’s story.

    “Wait, didn’t you say that you’re responsible for his death?” Seigen asked.

    “Like I said, half of it is my fault. I wasn’t close with him at the time. I always thought that I hated the guy. Maybe I did, but… you know that my nickname is ‘the mentor-killer’, right?” Flue said as we walked up a slope. There was a guilty sound to his voice.

    “Geraff's hitman was talented, and not just as a mage. He was a crazy strategist that knew his target's blindspots and how to exploit them. Geraff wasn’t bad at magecraft, but the assassin never gave him a chance to fight. The bullet went through him, and then it was all over. If I hadn't pretended to finish him off and then hide him in Albion, I doubt Geraff would've been able to survive. ...There's every chance that the assassin knows he's still kicking, actually. Maybe he only left us alone because the old man's practically no longer a mage.”

    “…”

    My mentor was unnaturally silent. Flue continued without regard for his response.

    “I heard rumors that a Clock Tower noble was the one who hired the killers, but because the original hitman sub-contracted someone else, it’s pretty much impossible to find that noble.”

    “That makes sense. People of high standing in the Clock Tower hardly ever commission such tasks themselves.” Luvia commented as she walked behind my mentor. She was probably used to this kind of thing.

    It was hard to imagine spellcaster mercenaries and mages of noble bloodline in the same room, but murder was one of the things that brought them together.

    Flue reached out to touch one of the stone columns. His eyes wandered along its cracks.

    “There was a time I heard Geraff go off about the Clock Tower big wigs. How he couldn't stand them scrambling to take over the world like that. He probably only went into Albion out of spite. After he returned to the surface, he acted even tougher than before, probably for the same reason. In his eyes, he was famous and successful, so why did he need to care about what those Clock Tower bastards think? And so he kept ignoring them.

    “And thinking that way cost him his dear disciples, the workshop he had spent so much time on, and the Magic Circuits and Crest that he was so proud of. He lost everything. Even though he made it down to Albion, I wasn't sure he could keep going. Sure, he wouldn't have any trouble with rough living, but it's not like he had anything left to live for. People don't tend to last long if they're not living for anything."

    “…”

    I think I understood.

    I had never strived to achieve something with that much determination. My heart had never burned with the desire to prove myself. But if a wish that I held close to my heart was granted, my actions would definitely be restricted by it. That was because the weight of a wish was equal to the weight of a soul. In order to achieve a dream, you must be prepared to live a certain way. In that case, the dreams that you spent your life to achieve are not only your wishes, but also your way of life. With all that said, how was a person whose dreams led to the death of everything he held dear meant to live out the rest of his life?

    “That’s why he was so stunned when a Lord bowed down to him,” Flue said with a wry smile. “Geraff’s not the only spellcaster out there who sculpts an entire career around wanting to prove the Clock Tower wrong. The difference here is that he achieved his dream. Then, fate played a cruel trick on him, and the life he created for himself was snatched away. Your actions seem to have reminded him of the dream he once had.

    “Lord El-Melloi II. You bowed to him because you guessed that he was like that, right?”

    “…Oh.” I blurted out. I finally understood why Flue was telling us all this.

    “…Do you think I’m an evil person for using others’ wishes to achieve my own goals?” My mentor asked, his voice melancholy.

    There were definitely people out there who would condemn him for doing so. It was probably one of the ways my mentor had managed to preserve his position in the Clock Tower. He wasn’t good at scheming or handling delicate interpersonal relationships. However, he was able to see the whydunit hiding inside mages’ hearts.

    As long as his target’s goals were connected to the abyss of magecraft, my mentor’s discerning eye could see into the core of their soul.

    —You’ve got a keen eye.
    The old man had said this to my mentor not long ago. Was this what he had meant?

    In response to my mentor’s question, Flue smiled. It was different from the self-mocking smile he had earlier.

    “No, I don’t. Geraff knows that you’re exploiting his wish. But he thanked you anyway. He probably thinks all his hard work has finally been rewarded. In fact, maybe I should thank you.”

    At this, Flue turned around.

    The old man’s figure had disappeared from view, but I couldn’t help but think that his presence was still there, waiting for us at the foot of that hill.

    I felt emotions that I could not control well up inside me.

    Mages were supposed to be monsters who sacrificed their humanity to Mystery. That statement wasn’t false. I had experienced it several times myself. But why did I feel that they were so incredibly human sometimes?

    After journeying in silence for a while, Flue stopped in his tracks.

    “…Aha.”

    I gasped.

    We had entered a hilly region. Strange rocks were scattered all around us; some were spherical, some triangular, while others were even star-shaped. They were all stacked in vertical piles which remained stable for a reason I couldn’t even guess. Rather than looking like the work of an artist, it was more like a giant child with a wild imagination had molded these shapes out of clay.

    Upon closer examination, the rock piles were even stranger. Some stacks seemed to defy gravity, with giant, stony tumors and slanting towers. However, all of them stayed in place, causing me to question my sense of balance. Was this absurd sight also the result of the dead dragon’s power?

    As I marveled at the sight, Flue spoke again.

    “There.”

    “Where?”

    “Over there’s one of many entrances to the main part of the labyrinth. One out of the ten or so groups I was familiar with had their own special entrances. The map Geraff gave us has shows all kinds of useful shortcuts we can take from here.”

    “One out of ten of the groups you were familiar with, you say?” Luvia asked, interested, “You are part of the ten percent, then. How reliable.”

    “It’s all just the result of dumb luck. You know I’m good at divination, right?”

    Flue reluctantly reached for the small knife at his belt. However, just as he was about to take it out, he changed his mind and switched to another one. The first knife he reached for was the one the old man had just given him.

    Lead me.”

    The knife drew an arc as it was tossed through the air. I thought I saw it stop unnaturally for a moment before it went flying towards one of the stone columns. I reckoned that Flue used some kind of illusory magecraft, which he probably learnt from his mentor.

    “…Good, this path’s still usable.”

    “The structure of Albion is constantly shifting, isn’t it?” My mentor asked from behind Flue.

    “That depends on whether we’re lucky or not. Anyway, there’s no way we can get to our destination in twenty hours if we don’t take a shortcut.”

    “You’re right.”

    “Watch your head!” Flueger said, bending down and diving in. Seigen was next, followed by my mentor, then Luvia and I.

    We found ourselves inside a massive cavern.

    “Well then, let’s descend to the Great Magic Circuit.”

    Flue’s voice echoed back and forth in the cave as I peered down into the bottomless depths.
    —————————————————————————————————————————————————— ——

  3. #263
    Chapter 1, Part 4
    Chapter 1, Part 4:

    Light spiraled through the darkness, dancing about like a firefly and flickering like Senko Hanabi[1].

    This light was unlike typical sunlight or artificial light, and more akin to the light of an explosive burst. It came from the Magical Energy surging through the interweaving tunnels violently repelling each other.

    Here, Magical Energy from different sources in the Great Magic Circuit converged.

    This place looked like an ocean with its coral-covered floor. This wasn’t regular coral, of course. Though the corals that thrived in the depths of Albion resembled their surface relatives, they were dyed in mystical colors by the Magical Energy-rich air.

    It was all thanks to the long-dead dragon who had tried to tunnel his way to the Land of the Fairies and had died in the process. Too many things clung to its corpse, eventually forming a labyrinth.

    The power of the dragon had created a space that preserved the texture of the Age of the Gods which was supposed to be lost. For this reason, all the creatures and plants that had evolved in Albion were completely different to their counterparts on the surface. It was the only place where Magical Energy could emit light.

    Calling it the Mages’ Association’s most valuable asset would not be exaggeration.

    Presently, two beings who didn’t belong in this section of the labyrinth had snuck in.

    A lion’s roar echoed through the cavern.

    The source of the cry, though, wasn’t necessarily a lion. Unlike most lions, this beast had two heads, the wings of a vulture, and enormous claws that dripped with a viscous poison. This creature existed only in Albion, not even in legends from the surface.

    Naturally, this beast wasn’t one of the foreign intruders in Albion. There were other silhouettes beside the beast.

    It cried out again, the Magical Energy in its roar catching the silhouettes’ attention. Even a creature native to Albion would probably pass out from the roar and become the two-headed lion’s food.

    “It always makes me sad to see a valiant hunter whose attacks prove futile against a stronger enemy.” One of the silhouettes muttered as a blade was slowly unsheathed.

    The action only seemed slow because it was a logical move. In reality, the weapon traced an arc through the darkness with amazing speed.

    “—Hephaistos.”

    It didn’t matter whether or not the beast heard the silhouette softly chant a god’s name. It still felt the blade cleave cleanly through its two heads, the power of the blade magnified by the silhouette’s invocation of the name of the god of the forge.

    “Ah, what a wonderful place this labyrinth is. If Callisthenes[2] was here, he’d probably be crying tears of joy.”

    Looking around, Faker re-sheathed the Ancient Macedonian short-sword.

    “Don’t you think it’s about time to make a move, modern mage?”

    “…No, not yet.” Heartless said from behind her, smiling.

    Despite his smile, the mage was far less composed than Faker was used to seeing. That was because he had been continuously supplying Faker with Magical Energy since they entered Albion with his Od.

    So far, Faker had used her Noble Phantasm to defeat many enemies that blocked them. Even though she was a seasoned warrior who knew how to conserve Magical Energy, she was an Extra Servant with hardly any support from the Holy Grail. The Magical Energy Heartless had provided would have been enough to drain several regular mages.

    Unlike the situation before on the Rail Zeppelin, Dr. Heartless was suppressing the extraordinary fatigue of supporting Faker, and fighting all the while as well. Of course, he had prepared for this, but he would have collapsed long ago if not for the rich Magical Energy that naturally existed in Albion.

    “For whatever reason, I feel like I’m getting quite used to this. I thought we would have a much more difficult time.” Faker said, raising one eyebrow in admiration.

    “While it has been a while since I resigned, the title of the head of a department of the Clock Tower is not a meaningless one.” With a wry smile, the mage sipped elixir from a flask. Not only was this elixir very expensive, but overusing it could cause one to overly rely upon it. Still, extreme situations called for extreme measures. Even if nutritional drinks concocted by modern scientists were safer and more effective in ensuring movement, this elixir was far superior in activating Magical Energy.

    “I reckon that we’re about halfway there.” Faker said, shrugging and calmly watching her Master.



    “You intuition is impressive. My estimate is about the same as yours.”

    “People with poor intuition are not worthy of following my king’s great conquest. Anyone who has lived through that many conquests must at least cultivate a decent sense of it.”

    “I see. After a certain point, intuition is no different to predicting the future.”

    Heartless took a deep breath of air so humid he might as well have breathed ocean water.

    For a time, Faker was quiet as she walked, her eyes trained up at the darkness of the Great Magic Circuit. But all at once, she broke her silence.

    “…That means that you will kill me in half a day.”

    “Yes.”

    Faker nodded to Heartless’ matter-of-fact response.

    “You are using me as a catalyst to summon Divine Spirit Iskandar, after all. I’ll probably disappear from the modern age… You could say that my wish will finally be granted.”

    “…Your wish?”

    “I wish to die for my king. Can you help me grant this wish?”

    To this, Heartless frowned.

    “…Sorry.”

    “Don’t be.” Faker said with a smile.

    It was the first time she had smiled like that since she was summoned.

    Without really noticing, she brought her flask of wine to her mouth, relishing in the aroma of fermented grapes. They had to pack lightly for their trip here, but Faker had insisted on bringing the finest wine.

    “You are a mage, right? In that case, kill me proudly and bravely. Guide your people forward, using the ancient yet new light from the Age of the Gods.”

    At this, Faker suddenly changed the topic.

    “…No. That’s not what you’re doing all this for.”

    For the slightest instant— no, even slighter than the slightest instant— Heartless held his breath. It was such a small change that only a Servant could have noticed it.

    “So you know?”

    “Hey, I’ve known you for two months now. I’ve never been adept at grasping the subtleties of human hearts, but I have a sense of who you are. You are a modern mage, foreign in your own world. You have an uncanny knack for scheming, but because you hate it, it will never come naturally to you. You’re like a skilled chemist who makes neither poison nor medicine, choosing instead to stare idly at the clouds as they pass by. You live your life in such a stupor that you wouldn’t even heed my king’s calls.”

    “…You’re the first one who has ever described me that way.”

    “That means that you are surrounded by unobservant people.” Faker said with a snort.

    After a pause, Faker stopped, and turned to stare blankly at Heartless.

    “Oh, so you do have a sense of humor, then? Or are you unwell? Did the elixir twist your brain?”

    “Hahaha, perhaps. But even I will laugh at jokes I find funny,” Heartless replied, a hint of nostalgia in his voice, “I’ve heard many tales of Albion from my students. Maybe what you said reminded me of the past.”

    Faker tried to imagine the Heartless of the past, as he was when he was still the head of the Department of Modern Magecraft.

    “Your students were Survivors of the labyrinth?”

    “Yes. Their names were Calugh, Asheara, Jorek, Gesell, and Kurou.”

    Heartless spoke his student’s names like the words of an incantation in a long-dead language.

    “Kurou enjoyed listening to those stories most. For instance, I was told that Calugh and Jorek, who were in charge of defending against Phantasmal Species, used interesting techniques to fight. They used incense and flutes to cover for Gesell and Kurou while they dug for minerals in the Great Magic Circuit. I heard that Asheara, the team lookout, made maps of the labyrinth, which must have been a difficult task.”

    “But weren’t they all spies sent into Albion by the Clock Tower?” Faker said, a little confused.

    Faker was not unfamiliar with spies and plotting; they were tools of her age as well. Still, it was perfectly natural for someone to be overwhelmed by a scheme so intricate, that it spanned several decades and factions.

    “Aside from Gesell, Jorek and Calugh caused a lot of confusion with their act.”

    Just as Lord El-Melloi II had deduced, the two brothers constantly switched places. Their motive was also as he had deduced. They did so to steal information from the Secret Autopsy Division.

    “Due to their switching places, I had no choice but to kill Calugh, or perhaps Jorek in the Secret Autopsy Division, even though Gesell could be
    kidnapped
    transported
    silently. I did what I could to deal with the body, but that Grand-ranked mage still easily saw through my efforts.”

    —Whose students are your students?

    Touko Aozaki had asked Heartless this. It had not escaped her notice that his missing students had belonged to other factions prior to their becoming his students. They had gone into Albion so that they would one day be able to help the more powerful people in their factions.

    “Kurou died a long time ago, did he not? So it was only Asheara who managed to escape.”

    “It doesn’t matter that she did. I might not ever return to the surface. I just wanted to rid myself of those attachments.”

    “Attachments?”

    Faker noticed the silver briefcase that Heartless was carrying in one hand. It didn’t look like something one would typically bring to explore a labyrinth.

    “Master.” Faker called out lightly, after having looked at the briefcase for a few moments. “Remember that you are my Master. My wishes do not matter. You do not have to follow this plan to its end. Were it my choice, I would take you from Albion right this moment, to wherever you wanted to go; whether it be to the clinic where that doctor cared for you, or to a distant corner of the world where no one knows of you. Maybe I don’t have enough Magical Energy for that, but I’ll stay with you as long as I can, until the end of the Grail War.”

    “……”

    Heartless hesitated for a moment before he replied.

    “…Would you prefer that kind of life?”

    “Don’t be ridiculous!” Faker snapped, her voice a bit than she had expected. She paused, then, and pondered for a few seconds.

    “…Actually, perhaps I would.”

    Muttering words that carried a few millennia of weight, Faker and Heartless continued to traverse the forest of coral that made up the Great Magic Circuit.

    “When I was still alive, I never stayed in the same place for long once I reached adulthood. My king always had some place he willed us to travel. By contrast, his mother, Olympias, wished I remained caged up in a temple, repeating the same prayers over and over again so I could become a priestess of Dionysus. But I could not call that “life;” it was merely house arrest. The school I attended is the only place I could call home.”

    “School? Do you mean Mieza, the Shrine of the Nymphs?”

    It was the name of the school where Iskandar, along with his future generals, had studied under the great philosopher Aristotle. It was not an exaggeration to call it one of the best-known schools in history. And Faker had studied there as well.

    “Did you spend your time watching the clouds while you studied there?”

    “I did, sometimes,” Faker said, smiling softly. “I wish I had spent longer watching them. I am my king’s shadow, but I was not constantly with him. I only learned half of what the others did. Eumenes and Cleitus always shunned me because they were skeptical of magecraft.”

    “Is that why you can’t forgive the traitors who fought in the Wars of the Diadochi?” Heartless said, his words as piercing as the sword that had killed the two-headed lion-creature.

    “…Maybe.” Faker muttered.

    After Iskandar’s death, his mother and generals had begun a meaningless bloodbath in an attempt to prove who among them was the strongest. It was the reason why she hadn’t heeded her king’s call to join his army and chose to serve Heartless instead.

    “I realized it soon after I was summoned. Even now, thinking of it fills me with hate. …Maybe my brother would have fought as well if he hadn’t died. Maybe we would have thought that we could have come out on top.”

    “Well, I think you’re suited to being covered with blood.”

    “I had hoped you would disagree.” Faker said, pouting.

    It was Faker’s turn to ask a question.

    “How did it feel, being betrayed by your students?”

    “…If only I could answer that question.” Heartless’s voice drifted slowly to the ground like a falling leaf. “If I was able to answer it with a quick, sloppy answer, I wouldn’t be here. For most people, settling for whatever works is the way of life. Suppressing emotions is one of a mages’ most basic skills. But I will never be able to do that. That’s why I summoned you and brought you here.”

    Light from the Great Magic Circuit flickered across Faker’s face, flashing white and red, the colors shifting as though in tune with her emotions.

    “It does not matter that I feel like I would do the same if I was there. I cannot forgive them… It is selfish of me, but I cannot give up on the chance to have my king appear again.”

    …Why could a Servant’s smile so innocent and pure?

    “We’re the same in that sense, aren’t we?”

    “Yes. We are.”

    Heartless nodded. Then, he suddenly recoiled. Faker had pressed her index finger to his forehead.

    “You are a mess. Do not dare show such a weak expression again,” she said. “In truth, though, I do not hate that expression. I would like to see it again, perhaps over a drink.”

    “I’m not as tolerant to alcohol as you are, you know.”

    “Of course I know. Not even my king could outdo me in that sense. I am a priestess of Dionysus, after all.”

    With another smile, Faker took yet another sip of wine.

    “Either way, we have no time for wine now, do we?”

    “Not necessarily.”

    Snatching the bottle from Faker’s hand, Heartless drank the rest of the wine in one gulp.

    The Servant from ancient Macedonia looked on at him, satisfied. But she had one more question.

    “…The Grand Roll will start soon, will it not? Do you think it will go as you predicted?”

    “Who knows? It doesn’t affect our plan.”

    “True.”

    Faker turned to look at the labyrinth before her, sure of the many twists and turns that remained in the forest of coral. It was beautiful in a way that lured unwary intruders to their deaths in the maws of unknown beasts.

    As they forged ahead to even deeper depths, Heartless’ voice was firm and confident.

    “Let’s go. I’ll make sure to give you a proper death.”

    “I look forward to it, Master. I’ve awaited this moment for two thousand years.”

    The two walked side by side down a road woven of light and darkness, as if they walked down a wedding carpet to a guillotine.

    [1] Sparklers
    [2] A Greek historian who accompanied Alexander the Great



  4. #264
    Chapter 2, Part 1
    Chapter 2, Part 1:



    I could hear the sound of rustling leaves.

    The sight before my eyes reminded me of the rainforests I had seen on TV. Ferns blanketed the ground while the leaves of giant trees stretched upward, filtering the light. Even though it was winter above the ground, walking through this forest had drenched me with sweat.

    Strange creatures passed by us occasionally. If any of them were particularly dangerous, Luvia warned us before we made contact.

    “There are two water elemental reactions and one wind elemental reaction at eight o’clock. We should turn around to avoid them.”

    Flue and Luvia had already made us change direction countless times in response to signals received by the five gemstones that floated around Luvia, which each corresponded to an element. Like Geraff had said, it was a type of magecraft well-suited to Albion. Not only were we able to avoid most fights, but my mentor also pointed out that we knew the right way to respond to an enemy even if we encountered one. In the brief thirty minutes that we had been in Albion, the old man’s advice had already proved quite useful.

    If it had not been for his map and Flue’s experience, our trip would have been much more eventful.

    The environment never remained the same for very long. However, two things remained constant, much to our surprise. First, there was so much Magical Energy here that even breathing was enough to make our lungs feel numb. Second, there was always a strange river of light on the ground, made up of many tiny streams that babbled and pulsated.

    Even though I had never seen this magnificent scene before, it felt kind of familiar. …It almost reminded me of the Magic Circuits that circulated Magical Energy through all mages.

    It finally dawned on me.

    “…So that’s why this place is called the Great Magic Circuit.”

    “The dragon might be dead, but its Magic Circuits are still alive with the mystery of the Age of the Gods. That’s why the Great Magic Circuit is also called the Odvena.”

    Luvia’s voice knocked me out of my absent-minded state of mind.

    “Does that mean that the true Ether of the Age of the Gods might still be circulating here?”

    “So there isn’t much a mage can do to damage this place, eh?”

    Hearing Flue say that, I transformed Add into a different state and tried hacking at the band of light on the floor. It wasn’t affected at all.

    “Is the strange ecosystem here also a result of the Great Magic Circuit?”
    “Sure, it’ll do weird stuff to the critters living here, but it’s a headache to talk about. Every part of this labyrinth can shift at any second, although the movements tend to follow a pattern. Still, talking about cause-and-effect relationships is just about impossible when it comes to Albion.”

    As if the labyrinth understood what Flue was saying, the band of light became red, and then green.

    In the midst of the shifting light, something appeared.

    “Watch out!”

    A shadow crawled out from beneath the ferns, shifting from a two-dimensional shadow to a three-dimensional creature before our eyes. Even though it looked like a regular snake, it clearly wasn’t. What kind of snake could jump in the air and shoot purple electricity?

    “Hmph!”

    “Miss Luvia!” Seigen shouted, a little too late.

    One of the gemstones floating around Luvia had absorbed the electricity. Luvia seemed to have seamlessly transitioned from using detection magecraft to defensive magecraft before Seigen could react to the attack.

    Flue sent a knife flying at the creature, slicing it through its snake-like head before it could harm Luvia.

    “Careful,” he warned as he retrieved his knife. “That snake is one such critter who spent too much time here and ended up more like a Phantasmal Species from the Age of the Gods. You could say its innate domain is like magecraft.”

    “What do you mean by that?”

    “Well, the term ‘Phantasmal Species’ means a lot of things. Surface Phantasmal Species evolved naturally, for instance. But the Phantasmal Species in Albion, or ones from the Age of the Gods, have traits that shouldn’t exist. ‘Innate domain’ refers to what they use to bend the rules.”

    “I see. Interesting.”

    Luvia dusted herself off and walked a bit more before she spoke again.

    “Our destination is the Ancient Heart, right?”

    “Yes.” My mentor affirmed. “When the time comes, the Grand Roll will be held there.”

    Heartless’ plan to perform a magecraft ritual right next to the stage of the Grand Roll was extremely bold. Of course, there was a reason behind his choice of location. The Ancient Heart held a concentration of ancient Mystery that was higher than anywhere else.

    “Just to be clear, Heartless wants to bring back the Age of the Gods by summoning Iskandar as a Divine Spirit? I know how strange mages can be, but this is just too hard to believe.” Seigen said.

    “The magecraft from the Age of the Gods allows people to directly access the authority of Divine Spirits. And since Divine Spirits are close to the Root, mages won’t have to search for the Root anymore.” My mentor explained.

    “Do you think that’s a goal worth reaching?”

    “No. Heartless’ solution is nothing more than a dream. Mages have been stuck on the same goal for two thousand years. He’s trying to solve a problem by running away from it, like daydreaming to try and dull the pain of living.”

    Seigen’s next words may have sounded funny, but he wasn’t joking. Seigen looked to his new arm, and then to my mentor.

    For a moment, he stared in silence at the person who had once convicted him of a crime.

    “So that means you’re putting yourself in danger to destroy someone’s dream. That does sound like something you’d do, Lord El-Melloi II.”

    In response to Seigen’s somewhat sarcastic statement, my mentor nodded sincerely.

    “I agree.”

    To be fair, though, sincerity was his only possible response. My mentor was often overly sincere toward the world. Just like how he called himself an evil person, he was likely aware that his sincerity would bite him in the back one day. The thought of that haunted me for quite a while.

    “I also have something I would like to confirm,” Luvia cut in, “The timing of this Grand Roll is no coincidence, is it? Servants cannot be summoned without the Holy Grail, while the dike that separates the Ancient Heart can only be opened for the Grand Roll.”

    “Exactly.”

    “In that case, Heartless must have used his position as someone who is not a Lord but is close to the Lords to place himself in an advantageous position.”

    This was the same conclusion my mentor had reached. In other words, one of the attendees of the Grand Roll was Heartless’ accomplice.

    “Right now, my sister, Reines, is dealing with that matter.”

    “You two really trust each other. Even though it is still unclear whether the accomplice belongs to the Aristocratic Faction or the Democratic Faction, the faction they belong to is now your enemy. What an interesting idea.” Luvia said as we stepped upon the ferns that covered the ground.

    My mentor turned to look at the young woman as she spoke incessantly.

    “You know, it’s very possible that the Edelfelts will be involved somehow. Why are you saying this and still helping me?”

    “Why does my family’s involvement mean that I should not accompany you?” Luvia responded, much to my surprise. “I am a mage. Not many mages today have the chance to witness mystery like this. It’s only for the small price of antagonizing a faction of the Clock Tower, so why would I hesitate?”

    “I see…”

    Luvia was as direct about her thoughts as ever. Her attitude had been the same when she asked my mentor to tutor her. After all, besides being a mage, she was also a noble. Even when Luvia took things from others, she could probably arrogantly say “this is the way I am. I will never change.”

    That was why I found her very beautiful.

    “This is where the supposed shortcut can be found, correct?”

    “Yeah, we’re almost there.” Flue answered.

    Within ten minutes of walking, all the plants around us disappeared, leaving behind a nasty stench that originated from a river that barred our path.

    We had witnessed plenty of strange sights since we arrived here, but this river was far too wide. It seemed to stretch for several hundred meters from one bank to the other. From the way the water filtered the light from the dragon’s Magic Circuits, we could tell that it was also quite deep. Normally, a river of these dimensions could probably be crossed by using magecraft to float or glide across.

    It didn’t take me long to decide that doing so may not be a viable option. I saw a rock roughly the size of a human head tumble down the bank and dissolve instantly upon hitting the water, leaving only bubbles behind.

    “A river of acid—!?” I couldn’t help but exclaim.

    The rock had probably disappeared before it sank to the bottom. A person would probably last a few seconds in the acid. The only reason why it didn’t eat further into the banks was the result of the dragon’s Magic Circuits, which was probably the only thing that could resist the river’s corrosion.

    “This is the shortcut Geraff mentioned. It’s one of the better ones.” Flue said, rubbing his temples.

    “How is this one of the better ones?!”

    “Give it a second. I just scattered some spices. They should be here soon.”

    “Spices—?” Seigen started, frowning.

    He was interrupted by a cacophony of violent fluttering and a strong gust of wind, which heralded the arrival of what Flue had been looking for.

    “What?!”

    I could understand Seigen’s bewilderment. Even though the dark objects that flew toward us were more familiar to me than the other monsters of the labyrinth, I was just as surprised to see them.

    It was a flock of giant beetles, each the size of a person.

    “Yes! Here they come!” Flue said, grinning.

    “…Uh, Mr. Flue?”

    I had similar doubts as Seigen about the beetles, but I was still too shocked to speak.

    “Just hop on up their backs!”

    “How do you expect this to work!?”

    Seigen’s cries were in vain. Flue enhanced his legs, leaping tens of meters into the air and landing on one of the beetles. It wasn’t a perfect landing, but he quickly adjusted his balance and jumped across one after the other.

    Watching Flue jump with ease, I felt my stomach twist.

    “Oh, this is just ridiculous!”

    Though she complained, Luvia followed in Flue’s footsteps, unfazed by the absurdity of the situation. She sailed over the swarm of beetles with the grace of a princess ascending a glass staircase.

    I didn’t know why, but I felt as if I had entered a scene from a kids’ bedtime story written by a person of terrible taste.

    “…”

    Sure, it was hard to believe. But considering the physical capabilities of mages, it was not impossible. Either way, it must have taken so much trial and error for the excavation teams to figure out a mind-boggling technique like using bugs as stepping stones.

    I heard an awkward cough beside me.

    “Sorry, Gray, but I’ll be counting on you if I fall.”

    “Of course.”

    I nodded, steeling my resolve.

    Both with courage and fear, we began to make our way to the other side of the river.
    —————————————————————————————————————————————————— ——

  5. #265
    死徒(上級)Greater Dead Apostle
    Join Date
    Feb 2019
    Posts
    591
    Thanks for the TL

  6. #266
    Chapter 2, Part 2
    Chapter 2, Part 2:

    I felt a twinge of dizziness as I walked through the
    portal
    rift
    . Phase shifting always resulted in this, as if my soul were a fraction of a second slower than my body.

    It had been a few hours since I headed out from the Clock Tower. After being subjected to a security check by the Arcane Dissection Division[1], I was finally deep inside the earth near the meeting room I had been invited to.

    The scene that I saw from the towers connecting to the rifts was far from what I imagined. This place resembled a giant altar.

    Some types of magecraft can only work at a certain height because mystery can only prosper when separated from the regular world, so I wasn’t surprised by the towers in the least. I wasn’t surprised by the dimly shining dome above me, either.

    What unsettled me was the constant deep rumbling noise, like the growling of a giant monster.

    That metaphor was actually not that far from the truth. This city was basically a giant organism, made up of an endless sea of buildings that resembled a modern architect’s remix of a beehive. Magecraft was probably the only reason why it wasn’t constantly collapsing.

    Was this place also an academic city like the street of the Department of Modern Magecraft? I wondered.

    Apart from the first department, Mystile, which sat in the heart of London, every other department was scattered in the surrounding area like satellites. So was the Mining City of Albion one of them as well, not just an underground fortress like I had imagined?

    I suddenly realized that I would probably need more than reports to get an accurate sense of what I was about to deal with.

    “…So, it is… your first time… here.” Leaning on his cane, the old man stared at me unblinkingly.

    His voice was accompanied by the clinking sound of his three necklaces bumping against each other. There were two diamond rings on each of his withered hands. All of these trinkets were encrusted with gems that probably cost several fortunes. Even so, it didn’t feel like the old man was showing off his wealth.

    The glittering jewels framed his aged body, making it more like treasures buried along with a corpse.

    If the old man dozed off on his own, he would probably be mistaken for a mummy that walked out of the British Museum, but his jewels surrounded him with a strange golden glow.

    He was Rufleus Nuatha-Re Eulyphis, the Lord of the Department of Spiritual Evocation. Unlike my brother, he was a tried and true member of the Aristocratic Faction.

    I nodded.
    “While I haven’t had many opportunities to deal with matters relating to Albion, it’s not as though I’m completely ignorant about it. I’m aware that this was the original form of the Clock Tower, for instance.”

    “One could say… that time has stopped here… If one considers mages to be beings who face the past… this underground labyrinth should be seen as our home…”

    As he said this, the old man walked away at an amazing speed, despite the fact that he had to rely on his cane.

    I turned in place, taking in the sight of the other structures littered about the area.

    I was standing in a room about the size of a gymnasium, and filled with workers milling about. Everyone here appeared to either be a mage or a golem. The golems were of a better caliber than the ones you could see walking around the First Department. Really, that just goes to show how special Albion really was.

    But there was something here that caught my eye even more.

    “—Is this a composite workshop?”

    I blurted out, my voice escaping my mouth.

    It was a phrase that could surprise anyone even vaguely knowledgeable about magecraft.

    Usually, mages didn’t reveal their workshops to others. The only exceptions to that rule were students or disciples. Some might reveal a small corner, but never the inner workings. The core of a workshop contained the essence of one’s own magecraft, so it was only reasonable to be so secretive.

    I couldn’t help but wonder what secrets my brother could reveal if he was here as well. If he conducted his usual unflinching dissection of the magecraft here, I’d be sure to hear a good cry of despair. Maybe it would also help our standing in the Clock Tower, but I didn’t care about that half as much as I cared about making my brother despair at his worthlessness.

    “…Ah, Composite Workshop
    クリエグラ
    Cliegra
    .” Came a hoarse voice beside me, as a grand scene unfolded before my eyes.

    An enormous machine was pouring a bubbling liquid from a flask twice the size of my body into several similarly-sized beakers. It was followed by a truck-sized container that was carried on rails to a distiller. All the while, different catalysts were being poured into the liquid to cause reactions.

    These contraptions were not the core of the workshop. I could count at least several dozen. These machines were the source of the deep bellowing noise.

    Eventually, the vat of liquid was transformed into a small golden prism the size of my finger. Even though I was a mage, I had no idea what processes had occurred to make this possible.

    I was tempted to call it a waste of time, but I couldn’t help but be moved by the spectacle.

    Yes, this was magecraft was meant to be.

    Though equal exchange was the basis of magecraft, depletion was also an essential part. Rather than receiving an equal amount to what you give, magecraft sometimes involved diluting something into nothingness. By stretching something limited into something infinite, mages believed that they could create miracles.

    The more I thought about it, the more stupid I realized we were.

    “This is concentrated spirit ore, right?”

    “…Only Albion contains concentrated spirit ore of this quality… In the past, the distilled block could be the size of a fist…”

    “That’s why Lord Trambelio brought up his request, isn’t it.”

    Of course the Democratic Faction would bring up a request like redeveloping Spirit Tomb Albion. The resources mined from Albion were evidently decreasing in quantity. Mages were already an endangered species. What would happen to us if Albion ceased to provide us with materials?

    Even though it sounded like a good solution, I couldn’t easily comply.

    The rewards were indeed great, but what about the costs? Considering the scale of mining operations in Albion now, it was plain to see that redevelopment would be expensive. If the redevelopment failed, all our hopes and dreams would evaporate quite magnificently.

    It was a catch-twenty-two situation with no way out.

    Why were mages such fragile creatures? I wondered, inadvertently feeling happy at the thought.

    “…Any thoughts on witnessing a composite workshop…for the first time…El-Melloi princess?”

    “Don’t think so highly of me. I’m quite impressed that we, as mages, can actually work together.”

    “For someone who claims to dislike the nature of mages… you seem quite happy.”

    “No, not particularly.”

    “I feel relieved either way… This way… you can hold your own.” Rufleus said, patting his cane. The composite workshop was reflected in his murky eyes.

    “Everyone in Albion fights to survive, and everyone here is a mage. This is the only place where a composite workshop could work without violating the rule of secrecy.”

    Neither the secretive nature nor the pride of mages mattered here. No mage could survive by trying to hoard their magecraft. The underground dictated that mages had to dedicate their work to the common cause.

    Many mages from the surface would be disgusted by this. Others might even die from anger, but this was the way of life in the Mining City of Spirit Tomb Albion.

    “You’re not just here to be a tour guide, right?”

    “Of course not… Look there…” The old man said, pointing with his chin to a silhouette that stood between the giant machines.

    That person had probably arrived before us, or taken a different portal.

    It was a girl who was even younger than I was, who was currently waving and staring indignantly at us.

    “Come on! We don’t have much time.”

    She had silver hair, and her amber eyes held shadows that didn’t fit her young face. It was a sign that she was a proper mage, well-soaked in the evils of our society. The more unfortunate the color reflected in someone’s eyes, the more vivid they were as a mage.

    That was simply how our world worked.

    When I was even younger than she was, I had been dragged into conspiracy upon conspiracy. Countless attempts had been made on my life. If a weak or maladjusted person is suddenly given a great deal of power, it’s only natural that hordes would rush forward to seize that power for themselves. It might seem contradictory, but warding off these hordes as one grows up makes for the best mage. A mage’s spirit is best completed with a struggle.

    Thanks to my past, I could emphasize with the wounds inflicted on her soul with a helpless authenticity.

    “Hey, Olgamarie.”

    Her full name was Olgamarie Asmleit Animusphere. She was the daughter of the Lord of the Department of Astromancy, making her the other representative at this meeting.

    I couldn’t help but find this matchup ridiculous.

    “Sorry that your teammates this time are two little girls. I hope we don’t burden you too much.”

    Oh no, my terrible personality was extending to my elders as well. I didn’t care about the old man’s opinion of me, but I’d rather not have him hate me just yet.

    “Do not fret…” Rufleus said, a disgusting smell wafting out between his yellow teeth. “Simply watch in silence from your seats…”

    These words did not come from the bottom of his heart. Someone like Rufleus wasn’t capable of saying something of that nature and meaning it.

    Instead, he meant that he would win as long as he had the votes.

    That was the old man’s usual way of speaking. He had the pride befitting a member of the Eulyphis family, one of the oldest and most prestigious families in the Clock Tower.

    I felt something cold slide across the inside of my throat, as if I had been stabbed by a well-sharpened knife. It was too easy to forget your place and fall prey to the truly powerful people in the Clock Tower.

    “You may not be experienced… but at least you did not run away…”

    …Of course he took the chance to criticize my brother.

    “No, no, I think my brother gave this chance to me because the experience will be valuable for a future Lord.”

    “Hm…”

    I decided to defend my brother this time, even though the old man probably didn’t believe a word I said. I wasn’t sure if Rufleus knew what my brother was doing now, but it wouldn’t be hard for him to figure out.

    My situation was actually better than my brother’s.

    I may have been from an insignificant branch of the family, but I was still an El-Melloi. Rufleus, who considered bloodlines to be the only way to measure the value of a mage, probably thought me to be at least human. My brother was only a New Ager— A maggot in Rufleus’ eyes.

    Well… I wasn’t sure if that was exactly what he thought, but it didn’t matter.

    In front of my brother, I tried to control myself, but I was a mage through and through.

    It was important to remember that I derived joy from other people’s pain. Since Gray and the other members of the El-Melloi Classroom weren’t here, I could reveal my true self. No matter how I tried to put up appearances, my core would not change.

    The old man shifted his gaze from me.

    “Come with me… Miss Animusphere.”

    Oh, ‘Miss Animusphere’! How fancy.

    She was the heir, after all, so it made sense for Rufleus to be polite. It was clear that she got preferential treatment, but I wasn’t angry. Maybe I should apologize that my family’s succession battle eventually ended with the crown being placed on the head of such an insignificant person.

    “Understood.” Olgamarie said, nodding.

    The old man then turned to look at me again.

    “Reines.”

    …And I was just being addressed by my first name. Fine. I had expected that.

    “There is half a day until the gate to the Ancient Heart opens. Feel free to rest so that you do not faint during the Grand Roll.[2]

    “Thank you for your kindness, but I’d like to take this chance to explore the Mining City some more.” I said, curtsying with as much grace as I could muster.

    I didn’t have much time. I needed to collect more information. There probably wasn’t much a newcomer to Albion could do, but I figured I’d try my best.

    “In that case, let us meet again in the Ancient Heart.” Said Olgamarie.

    I felt the scent of faint perfume as I passed her. In ten years, she would probably grow up to be a beautiful woman with many suitors. I hoped that at least one of those suitors would be a decent match for her.

    Upon leaving the composite workshop, I squinted in the blinding light and stopped a few meters away.

    “…What a girls-school way of doing things.” I muttered to myself. But I had to admit that it was the safest one, as I had no way to tell what magecraft Rufleus was capable of.

    I slowly opened my hand, revealing a crumpled note. Olgamarie had written something on the edge of the piece of paper.



    [1] Why didn’t I change this earlier?
    
[2] I think Lord Eulyphis says this, which means he managed to say two sentences without ellipses!
    —————————————————————————————————————————————————— ——

  7. #267
    Chapter 2, Part 3
    Chapter 2, Part 3:

    There was nothing before my eyes but a vast expanse of gray.

    I stumbled around for a moment before I realized I was surrounded by gravestones.

    Even though the gravestones had been regularly cleaned, erosion had still worn at them. I could imagine the engravings of the names of the dead being blown to pieces by the wind.

    This was a dream.

    I was in Blackmore Graveyard, a place that always reminded me of the raspy voice of a certain person.

    —“That is what you must destroy! That, and only that!”

    I had heard this countless times from Bersac Blackmore, the man who had taught me secret arts of grave keeping.

    Thinking back, he probably wanted to give me strength to call my own, regardless of whether I was to become the vessel of King Arthur or my own person. But it wasn’t like he would have ever told me that.

    “I…”

    I staggered about in the thick mist. There seemed to be nothing beyond the graveyard, as if the place that made me so nostalgic was actually a prison. No, it was actually more like I would be safe from disaster as long as I stayed here. But eventually, I would rot and die here anyway.

    “Hey, we don’t have time for you think stupid things like that. This is an emergency, not nap time! Wake up.”

    A sarcastic voice struck my eardrums.

    “Add...?”

    No. It wasn’t Add.

    A hazy figure appeared beside me. For some reason, this figure seemed familiar. It dawned on me, finally, that the voice I heard had also belonged to a knight. But that knight was a shadow of the past, and should have disappeared after the incident in my hometown.

    “…Sir Kay?”

    “Don’t get too close to fairies, or else you’ll mess up reality. It’s even worse in dreams, thanks to that court mage, Merlin.”

    Though I couldn’t see his face, he seemed to be smirking.

    The sudden appearance of this man made my head whirl, as if I had been tossed into a hurricane. It wasn’t like I expected to ever see him again, after all.

    “U-um…”

    The figure continued to speak without pausing to acknowledge my feelings.

    “Time and space seem fuzzy here… You’re probably here because that kid’s getting close. That also must be why your dream was set here, in the graveyard.”

    “‘That kid’…?”

    In response, the figure shook his head.

    “I guess you could call her my little sister.”

    Sir Kay’s little sister…?

    …That must mean the great king who my body was supposed to belong to. What did it mean if she was getting close?

    The ground beneath my feet began to shake, as if my dream was about to be torn apart. This, at least, seemed to finally get the attention of that figure.

    “Alright, you have a place you need to go back to. You shouldn’t be wandering around here.”

    The figure waved his fingers, drawing a shining line in the darkness.

    “Is that…?”

    The line’s light grew, taking over my vision like an approaching star.

    He was right. I couldn’t stay here anymore.

    “Have some faith in yourself. It’s almost over, so I hope fate goes easy on you.”

    The knight’s voice was low. I wrapped my arms around myself, and my dream shattered around me.

    *

    “Gray. Gray?”

    I heard a worried voice and felt the weight of a hand on my shoulder.

    Through the leather glove, the hand felt gentle and warm, as if handling something fragile. On that note, my mentor had changed gloves before we came down here. The soft smell of cigars and leather tugged at my consciousness, and I slowly roused from my haze.

    Above me, the Magic Circuits of the dragon shone with brilliant light. In my half-awake state, I recalled that Flue had suggested that we rest for a bit. I had been so tired, I probably fell asleep immediately.

    “Sir...”

    My senses came back to me all at once, and I was immediately aware of our current situation.

    My hair was stuck to my forehead with sweat. I probably hadn’t slept in a very flattering pose. Thinking about it was enough to make my face heat up in embarrassment.

    “S-sorry. I just had a strange dream.”

    “A dream?”

    “I-It’s nothing.”

    In any case, I couldn’t admit that I had dreamt of Sir Kay. I hurriedly wiped the sweat from my face and looked down.

    “Sorry. You don’t have to tell me if you don’t want to.” My mentor said, smiling gently.

    “Heheh! What a worrywart! You don’t have to worry about how Gray’s doing as long as I’m here.” From beside me, the box I kept in a birdcage chimed, metal creaking as it moved its mouth.

    I wanted to ask if he had seen my dream of Sir Kay as well, but I found it too difficult to ask.

    Instead, it was my mentor who asked Add a question.

    “Are you alright as well, Add?”

    “…Oh, yeah.”

    It was rare to see Add close his carved eyes so quickly without making any unnecessary jokes. Though he didn’t say it outright, his intent was clear. I would not be able to use Rhongomyniad again.

    It was as the director of the Atlas Institute had said back in my hometown. Ever since I released the Seal of Thirteen during the fight on the Rail Zeppelin, Add had begun to break apart. Though its self-repair abilities meant that it was not eternally asleep, it would not withstand another use of the lance.

    Even though I had kept this a secret from Add and my mentor, they already knew. Briefly, I wondered how bad I must have been at hiding things.

    For this reason, there was something else I had to say.

    “But Sir, you’re still going to continue onward regardless, right?”

    “Well…” A frown formed between my mentor’s eyebrows.

    “I don’t think inconveniencing other people will stop you from going, Sir, because Mr. Iskandar’s…”

    I couldn’t finish my sentence. It didn’t seem right for someone like me to try and summarize my mentor’s relationship with the king who was about to be transformed into a Divine Spirit. I was the only one that needed to hear my thoughts. All I had to do was witness his journey.

    Scratching his head, my mentor gave a troubled sigh.

    “I feel like I keep getting scolded by you on this trip.”

    “That’s because you’re usually the one doing the scolding, Sir.”

    Strangely enough, I also smiled at that. Still, my happiness didn’t last very long.

    “Sir, are you…”

    “I’m fine. It’s nothing in comparison[1].”

    Though his face bore a slight smile, it wasn’t only pale because of the illumination by the light of the dragon’s Magic Circuits. Still, that was no longer a reason for him to stop in his tracks. At this depth, the labyrinth would take a toll on us no matter how careful we were. Even though we had avoided direct conflict, the dense Magical Energy of Albion churned inside us. Since my mentor had the worst resistance to Mana among all of us, it was only natural that he would feel the effects first.
    “Not to embarrass you, Lord El-Melloi II, but can you still walk?” Flue asked for precisely this reason.

    “…To be honest, breathing is getting difficult, but I’ll be fine.”

    “Take this.”

    Flueger tossed him a bag of vials.

    “You can think of it like magical altitude sickness. It’s water off a duck’s back to someone with strong enough Magic Circuits, but you’d probably be better off with these.”

    “…Thank you.”

    My mentor downed the contents of one of the vials with a miserable expression, only to look three times as miserable when he was finished.

    Next, Flueger packed up the Mystic Code that we had used to camp. Along some more incense, it created a Bounded Field that warded off monsters. Flue had warned us that not all monsters would be deterred, but luckily, we had been spared that unfortunate fate.

    We had just finished our second rest after being in the maze for nearly half a day. Every twist and turn of the Great Magic Circuit that we encountered along the shortcut we were taking brought a new type of terrain completely different from the last. So far, I had seen a lush jungle, a misty tundra, a field of bubbling lava, and hills illuminated by constant lightning. Even though I thought I had seen a lot, Flue insisted that we hadn’t even seen one percent of this place.

    Our journey was surprisingly peaceful, no doubt thanks to Geraff’s map and Luvia and Seigen’s efforts. Seigen was incredibly sensitive to subtle changes in the environment thanks to his training, a skill which he hadn’t had the chance to use in the Adra incident, due to his being the culprit.

    Now, we were probably around the twenty-seventh floor. Although saying that, we hadn’t been descending one floor at a time. The dark passageway that Flue had led us through had deposited us on the fourth floor.

    “The top ten floors of the Great Magic Circuit have all been scraped clean of resources. Nowadays, mining starts from the thirtieth floor, while the sixtieth floor is about the deepest skilled teams are willing to go. Where we’re going is the Ancient Heart, which is on the one hundred and fiftieth floor.”

    “…So there’s no way we’re going to make it in time.”

    Instead of getting mad at me for the thoughts that escaped my mouth, Flue nodded dejectedly.
    “Of course not. Most of the time, breaching the hundredth floor is accomplished by a bunch of teams working together. They set up campsites and roads along the way, forming a path that can last a few months or a year. No matter how many shortcuts you take, this is as far as traveling half a day’s gonna take you.”

    Before I came here myself, I never could have imagined that people would go that far to mine things. Now, the idea felt a little more likely.

    “…So, in order to reach the Ancient Heart in half a day, we gotta take a different approach. A path that no excavator in their right mind would take.”

    With this, we left the place where we had just camped and walked for another half an hour or so.

    Eventually, we came to a stop before a vast expanse of nothingness, and we all stood, shocked into silence.

    “You wouldn’t think it, but the entrance to the thirtieth floor still has some stuff in it. More experienced teams typically pass right by it, but the uppermost floors are the best place for the greener excavators to find talismans if they’re too scared to go any deeper.”

    Flue’s words were met by the low buzzing of the maze, as we were all still struggling to process the sight in front of us.

    Finally, Seigen spoke up.

    “…Is this what Geraff mentioned before?”

    “He calls it the
    Naru Pit
    Pit of Oblivion
    .”

    The pit in question was the giant circular hole that we currently stood at the edge of.

    I tossed a pebble into it, but even with my enhanced hearing, I couldn’t hear it strike the bottom.

    “…The Ancient Heart is approximately tens of kilometers under the Mining City. In regular reality, that would be deep enough to reach Earth’s mantle, so of course you can’t hear it hit the ground.”

    “But Albion doesn’t sit on the same coordinate plane as reality, right?”

    My mentor nodded in response to my question.

    “As far as theories of reality are concerned, we should have run out of oxygen long ago. Although magecraft can distort the laws of physics, creating things from nothing is not simple. The only thing that is keeping us alive is the fact that Albion exists in a fissure between here and there… However, such a nature also has a negative effect on us,” my mentor said, looking down into the giant hole. “…The Pit of Oblivion. What a fitting name. Is it really deep enough to reach the Ancient Heart?”

    “No one knows, because nobody who’s gone in has come back alive. All I can guarantee is that my teacher is an astrologist. When he discovered this hole, he supposedly felt that the flow here connected to the dragon’s heart. It’s worth a bet, right?”

    “Nonononono, that’s not the problem here at all!” Seigen interrupted, his gaze darting between the two people. “I know we’re mages, so we can survive jumping down from buildings. But tens of kilometers?! Also, the Mana here is peppered with holes. What’s there to stop us from going splat if the spell fails?!”

    The situation had been similar in the Child of Einnashe, a forest that had appeared to obstruct the Rail Zeppelin. If it wasn’t for the support provided by Melvin, we wouldn’t have been able to use enhancement properly. I probably would have died there.

    This situation was even more dire.

    “We can’t use a rope, because they don’t make ropes long enough. So our only option is gliding down with Mystic Codes. You only need a pinch of Od to operate these.”

    Flue took out several Mystic Codes that seemed to be made of small pieces of cloth. They looked more like bird wings than gliders.

    “Are those Icarus’ Wings[2]? They must not have been easy to find.” Luvia commented.

    “You can’t fly with them, but it should be enough to glide down there.”

    “I suppose we’re not going to fly too close to the sun from here, after all.”

    Though Luvia looked surprised, she still acted composed. Even so, I was sure that she must have had her doubts.

    “Seems like a risky gamble…” Seigen said, shuddering and shaking his head.

    “This entire trip is a risky gamble. The Ancient Heart is the deepest part of the Clock Tower that can be reached. If you go down even further, you’ll reach the Realm of the Fairies, a place where no human has ever set foot.”

    My mentor’s words reminded me of the map that Svin had drawn. Beneath the Mining City, the Greater Magic Circuit, and the Ancient Heart, was the Realm of the Fairies. Albion did not end there. Rather, it was just that humans did not know what lay there.

    Flue continued to explain as he passed out the Mystic Codes.

    “Everything from here is unknown. Even if this hole is directly connected to the Ancient Heart, it doesn’t mean that our work is done once we get down. Remember, we’re here to find Heartless. We ought to take any rests we can as we head down.”

    “Rest? As we glide down the pit? That doesn’t sound like a good idea.” My mentor said, putting on the Mystic Code. I followed his movements and clumsily put it on myself. It appeared that I only needed to activate my Magic Circuits to activate it as well.

    “I want to test this a little before we jump.” My mentor said, touching his shoulder, which was now covered by the wings.

    “No, we should probably jump right now. I was just wondering how a hole of this size was made. Now I get it.” Seigen said, leaning over so my mentor could hear him whisper.

    “So what made this hole?” Flueger frowned.

    One of Luvia’s eyebrows shot upward as one of the gemstones floating around her began to shine with a faint light.

    Suddenly, the ground a few meters behind them burst, revealing the things that had been hiding inside.

    “…An earthworm!?”

    It didn’t seem right to call this monstrosity by the same name as its tiny surface counterparts. It was the same size as the Rail Zeppelin, less like an animal and more like a storm cloud. What made it worse was that it was not alone.

    “Move it!”

    At Flue’s instruction, we dove into the Pit of Oblivion.

    However, the giant earthworms pursued us ruthlessly, like predators that finally tricked some prey. They twisted their way in behind us and began to close in.

    “How are they catching up!? We’re basically in a free fall!”

    “That means they’re not as stupid as they look! This is Albion, after all!”

    “This is truly ridiculous!”

    The wings on Luvia’s back unfolded, allowing her to glide with the grace of an angel even though this was her first time trying it on.

    “Call!”

    Together with the short incantation, a magic bullet tore through the darkness.

    *

    The Mining City also had places to buy food and drink. The food was from cultures on the surface, which made sense considering the city above it was quite multinational. The mages and spellcasters here had created something like a compressed version of London.

    Though saying that, the cafe described in the note didn’t belong in London at all. I felt more like I was in a Western amidst the old wooden tables, dust-covered blackboards with the menu scrawled on, and sparse guests.

    In this environment, a girl in a hood blended right in.

    Just so you know, most of the people here wore hoods, possibly so they wouldn’t breathe in too much dust. I had also heard exciting tales of parasitic plants in Albion that took root in people’s lungs if they breathed in its spores.

    “So? Why did you call me here, Olgamarie?”

    “You came. I thought you would stand me up.” The heir to the Animusphere said with a smile. Her silver hair peeked out from her hood, giving her an ethereal look in the dim light. I take back what I said earlier. It’d take much less than ten years for people to start vying for her affection. Of course, that was assuming mages weren’t too twisted for that.

    I closed one of my eyes and shrugged.

    “The last time I received an invitation like that was before I was named as the heir to the family. There’s no way I could ignore something that reminds me so much of a girls’ school.”

    “Are girls’ schools like that?” Olgamarie asked, tilting her petite head. “I’ve never been to school. I was taught by tutors my father hired.”

    “They must have been excellent tutors, then.”

    “…Yes, they were. Especially Trisha.”

    I couldn’t help but take note of the expression on Olgamarie’s face as she said that. Trisha was the name of her attendant, who had been killed on the Rail Zeppelin. I could sense the importance of her presence from the way Olgamarie mentioned her name.

    After a few seconds, Olgamarie tossed aside her sadness and looked to me again with her amber eyes.

    “I have something to ask you,” she said, as if she was telling me a secret. “I’ll get straight to the point. Is the El-Melloi Faction opposed to the redevelopment of Albion?”

    “Oh, that was sudden.”

    I lifted a hand in amusement, which only made her gaze harden. It seemed I couldn’t get away with levity this time.

    “Isn’t it the best opportunity for you to rise to the top?”

    Olgamarie’s question was aimed straight at the heart of the matter.

    I never expected to hear this question in, of all places, this dingy little cafe. I immediately worried that other people would hear our conversation, but no one looked toward us. It appeared that Olgamarie had created a tiny bounded field just then.

    I deliberately paused for a few seconds before speaking again.

    “It won’t matter if we’re deposed before that, though. If a weak faction like us dares go against the will of the powerful ones up top, our heads will roll. Literally.”

    “Yes, but the redevelopment of Albion has never been the true goal of either faction, hasn’t it?”

    It was a sharp observation. If Lord Trambelio brought up the redevelopment of Albion again, it would doubtlessly become the subject of the meeting. However, it had nothing to do with the major goals of the Democratic or the Aristocratic Faction.

    “In addition, the Barthmelois sent us a letter from the previous Lord saying that the redevelopment of Albion should be stopped.”

    “The previous Lord? That means…”

    That meant that there was no changing the Barthmelois’ minds, even if you ignored the letter.

    Gosh, what kind of scary things was this little girl thinking about?!

    Since it was from the previous Lord, the Barthomelois must have anticipated that people would object. This letter ensured that they would not lose face.

    “In that case, all we need to do is claim that [this is no longer a matter between the Aristocratic Faction and the Democratic Faction alone]. That evens the playing field so the Animuspheres are not inferior to the Eulyphis’. If our votes are the only metric, the two of us can overturn the entire Grand Roll.” Olgamarie announced, strong intent shining in her amber eyes.

    I wasn’t given an opportunity to say something in return. Now came the intermission.

    Olgamarie looked away, and the bounded field around us shattered. A waiter walked up and served us a few dishes.

    Although I wasn’t really hungry, I took a bite of the oddly crunchy sandwich on one of the plates. Perhaps to hide less savory tastes, the meat had been overly seasoned. I couldn’t even tell what kind of meat it was. How exhilarating! (TN: Reines, please never change.)

    I thought back to what Olgamarie had just said.

    “…I see. You’ve grown up.”

    “I hope you can tell who I learnt it from.”

    To be honest, I found her backtalk quite cute. However, it was a bad habit for her to be so direct. She couldn’t go around telling people things without grasping their weaknesses first. It was good for me, though, as I wouldn’t have to run around in circles trying to understand her true intentions.

    “…What? Do you have a problem with being on the same team as me?”

    I knew I was just picking at a quarrel at this point, and I couldn’t help but smile.

    “Don’t mind me. Being ‘studied’ just reminds me of the past. Unlike your tutors, my housekeeper was truly good-for-nothing.”

    The housekeeper in question left a long time ago. One day, I would get him to pay for turning me into this kind of person.

    But for now, it wasn’t the time to think about that. Back to the issue at hand.

    The Aristocratic Faction was powerful, but it was far from stable. It was made up of a bunch of egotistical pieces that had differing goals and morals, liable to fall apart at the slightest disagreement. This made the Barthomelois and the Department of Law ever more important.

    If the faction did break into pieces, it would never piece itself back together.

    This was probably why the faction at the very tip of the Aristocratic Faction, the Barthomelois, were always so slow to make a move. It was in their style to keep a plan in action for decades at a time.

    Having said that, it wasn’t like the El-Melloi Faction was united, either. We had fallen, only to fall even further down since the death of the previous Lord El-Melloi. The impact of his death still corroded us to this day, making our resurrection a distant dream.

    At this, I sighed again.

    “I can’t answer your question right now, but I’ll keep it in mind.”

    “That will be enough.” Olgamarie said with a nod.

    With that bombshell out of the way, her expression immediately cleared. She evidently had the guts to be a future Lord. Obviously, though, I didn’t need to be shown that right now.

    I finished my cup of suspicious-looking tea and left my seat.

    What a troubling situation, I thought. The trouble was that I couldn’t be sure whether you were Heartless’ accomplice, Olgamarie.

    Stepping out of the cafe, the light from the dome in the sky caused me to squint once again.

    I only had half a day left. Considering that there was a limit to what tricks I could pull in a place like this, all I could do was wish my brother a safe journey and try and enjoy my time here.

    “I don’t have the know-how to gather information in the Mining City, after all.” I muttered to myself, starting to feel tired.

    Just as the words left my mouth, I heard another voice behind me.

    “Reines El-Melloi Archisorte, yes?”

    Damn it! How had I not felt anyone approach? If the person behind me wanted to assassinate me, there was no way I could escape. I didn’t have the time to call Trimmau to my side from the place where she was on standby not far away. It had been a while since I made mental preparations to die.

    At a crucial time like this, I couldn’t believe that the only thought in my mind was Flat’s offer to protect me.

    “Don’t worry, I’m not your enemy.” Came the raspy voice.

    I could tell that he was doubtlessly experienced from the way he noticed my alarm. Unfortunately for him, I was experienced in dealing with experienced people.

    I allowed myself to be lured into the alley, where I turned to meet the person who had called out to me.

    “…And you are?” I said, just as the wrinkled, smiling face of the short old man came into my view.

    “Geraff. Just an old man who isn’t even a spellcaster.”

    ——

    [1] (to the situation with Rhongomyniad, probably)
    [2] Isn’t calling them Icarus’ wings like calling a ship the Titanic II?


    Chapter 2, Part 4
    Chapter 2, Part 4:

    We were falling at an incredible speed.

    Even in a bizarre place like this, gravity was working as usual.

    Though we were plummeting downward, the distance between us and the giant earthworms chasing us did not change. Neither Luvia’s magic bullets nor Flue’s knives were able to deter them from barreling towards us.

    “This isn’t going to work—!”

    I was the only one in the team who hadn’t gotten used to the Mystic Code yet. Though I was passing as much Magical Energy through it as I could muster, I was still tumbling around while everyone else was gliding, including my mentor.

    There were currently three earthworms chasing us, generating a shift in pressure equal to a hurricane. With their terrifying speed, they were like moving mountains.

    In the next instant, however, I gasped for a different reason. Something on the head of the earthworms chasing us opened, revealing crystals that didn’t belong on them.

    —Eyes? I thought.

    No, they were not simply eyes. The moment those crystals appeared, I felt a shift in the Magical Energy around us. For some reason, the shift felt familiar.

    “W-what?!”

    “They have Mystic Eyes!?” My mentor exclaimed as I felt myself freeze.

    I couldn’t even begin to imagine how earthworms managed to get Mystic Eyes. It was something that could only exist thanks to the labyrinth.

    The Mystic Eyes themselves were fairly basic, being only capable of low-level suggestion. However, it was impressive enough, considering that we never expected earthworms to be capable of using magecraft. Except for one person, we all froze in the air in various states of shock.

    “Look over here!”

    Seigen used his wings to flip himself around and reached out. The Spirit Root in place of his arm extended, turning into a hook that pierced the head of the earthworm closest to us.

    “It’s kind of gross, but it sure is convenient!”

    Using his other arm, Seigen lifted his eye patch. In an instant, Magical Energy gathered into something that surprised me again. The earthworms were probably similarly surprised as fire flared from their Mystic Eyes.

    “—Gray!”

    “—!”

    My Mystic Code finally began working. I sent as much Magical Energy as I could muster, reversing the direction I was moving in.

    “Add!”

    “Gotcha!”

    My scythe unfolded, and I slashed at the earthworm. The earthworm was too large to be seriously injured by such an attack, but it was enough to make the monster retreat.

    [IMAGE]

    “What was just that then, Seigen?”

    Seigen smiled triumphantly, covering his eye again.

    “I was just wondering how I was meant to get on that train,” he said. “Before we met there, I had a little surgery performed on my eye. I’m not famous in the World of Magecraft, but I have plenty of money from Ashbourne.”

    “Right, his inheritance.” My mentor muttered to himself.

    I was also reminded once again of the incident at Adra, the Castle of Separation.

    “I almost forgot what that incident was originally advertised as.”

    “…’The person who captures the angel will gain the inheritance’…” Seigen said nostalgically.

    Adashino Hishiri had taken care of the inheritance on behalf of the Department of Law. It appeared that she had done the right thing with it. Though there was some debate at first, Ashbourne’s son, Granide Ashbourne— that was to say, Seigen— was eligible to inherit his father’s estate.

    The will from back then stated that the estate belonged to the person who captured the angel. When asked for the angel’s name, my mentor had responded. In that case, had Seigen captured the angel, or had the angel captured him?

    My mentor touched the Mystic Code covering his shoulders as if he wanted to rid his mind of pointless associations.

    “It’s time for us to go down.”

    Each flap of our wings brought us deeper and deeper into the depths, closer and closer to the bottomless darkness of the Ancient Heart.
    —————————————————————————————————————————————————— ——
    Last edited by azwhoisverybored; August 16th, 2022 at 06:44 AM. Reason: Now it's formatted better, but I still can't get Imgur to give me the direct link

  8. #268
    アルテミット・ワン Ultimate One asterism42's Avatar
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    "Icarus's wings" probly refers to the fact that they're fake wings for people to fly with, like the wings Daedalus and Icarus wore.

    Also worth pointing out that they worked just fine until Icarus ignored the instructions.
    Quote Originally Posted by Sandstorm77 View Post
    He's just putting the bone of his sword into other people until it explodes and lets out parts of him inside them.
    Quote Originally Posted by AvengerEmiya View Post
    Genderswaps are terrible, but I think I and other people would hate them less if Fate didn't keep ignoring actual heroines throughout history and folklore. Like, why bother turning Francis Drake into a woman when Ching Shih and Grace O'Malley exist?
    Quote Originally Posted by Five_X View Post
    Fate Zero is just Fate Stay Night for people who think Shirou is too girly

  9. #269
    Thank you for the TL, you're the goat !

  10. #270
    Chapter 3, Part 1
    Chapter 3, Part 1:
    (Imgur still refuses to give me the direct image links. https://imgur.com/lo6jij7)

    Magical Energy surged like ocean waves in a way that was rare even in Albion.

    It was extraordinary both in quantity and quality. Some in the modern day might even say that it was close to True Ether. Others would probably argue that it was completely different from the True Ether of the past.

    It wasn’t clear which side was correct.

    Regardless, the name of this place was carved into the mind of everyone who knew of Albion.

    The Ancient Heart.

    It was a place where the belt of light present elsewhere in the labyrinth coalesced into a spiral of white and aqua, signaling that it was separate from the Great Magic Circuit.

    It was much smaller than the Greater Magic Circuit, which was made from a hundred floors stacked together. That meant that the Mystery here was more condensed, as the waves of energy had just demonstrated.

    Although the dragon’s heart should have stopped beating long ago, the great hall still seemed to pulse. It was as if the room wanted to emphasize that it was no more than a single cell carrying out its duty.

    “…My plan ends here.” Heartless said, exhaustion seeping from his voice. In reality, it was not over yet, though he had just completed a large-scale spell. He glanced to the silver case he clutched under his arm.

    “But of course, I’ll still need your help.” He added, stroking its surface and removing the Mystic Lock. He then reached in from the opening and took out the contents.

    “The magecraft of the Emiya family is a refined technique that allows the user to accelerate time within their body or a Bounded Field, where the spell cannot be interfered with. Even though Bounded Fields aren’t meant to be copied, Spirit Tomb Albion is a place where usual rules are bent. I believe your magecraft can reach its full potential here.”

    Heartless took out a large jar full of sticky liquid. Floating inside it was a damaged brain with nerves attached, along with a pair of eyeballs.

    Sealing-designated mages were stored in this way, so few mages knew this method of preservation. First, the target’s brain, nervous system, and Magic Circuits were immersed in a special kind of liquid. The jar containing this liquid would then act as a body or an exoskeleton. Of all the projects Heartless had undertaken in the past ten years, finding the mage responsible for sealing away other mages had been among the most costly.

    “…Well then,” He said, taking off his watch, which had already stopped. It had been connected to his spell, precisely calculating time across tens of thousands of years in units of centuries. It was indispensable to the success of this operation.

    “Is this where I die?” The person standing across from Heartless asked.

    “There is no guarantee that our goal will be reached. Both of us are currently defenseless. Don’t you think this is too risky a gamble?”

    “Well…”

    Faker did not reply. However, her thoughts were made clear by the slight tremble of her lips. She had already completed her task as a crucial component in Heartless’ plan.

    With a troubled smile, Heartless gave a nod.

    “Hopefully we will make it,” he said, placing his hand to where his heart should have been, “Hopefully your wish will be granted.”

    He spoke as if uttering a prayer, or singing a low song of praise.

    “Hopefully my wish will be granted.”

    Heartless watched as Faker was slowly swallowed by a pillar of light. Accompanied by the glow of the ancient dragon’s Magic Circuits, the Ancient Macedonian warrior who had seen countless battles closed her eyes as if she was gently settling into a nap.

    “Goodnight, Faker.”

    “Goodnight, Heartless.”

    Heartless was the only one to hear her final words before the hands of the clock above her began to turn, signaling the beginning of her transformation.

    *

    We fell for what felt like an eternity through patches of meaningless emptiness.

    Apart from the walls of the hole, everything was darkness. It almost seemed as if the world had evaporated away. Though my ears had already stopped registering the whooshing noise of the wind and my skin had become dull to its chill, the fear I felt coursed through my veins. Without it, I would have lost my sanity in minutes.

    Of course, it was all very strange. Since Albion didn’t exist within the coordinate planes of reality, it could extend tens of kilometers underground. But would such a fall really take this long? My body told me that we had already been descending for several hours now.

    Out of fear of hitting the ground, I constantly enhanced my vision. Even though the Wings of Icarus could control the speed of our descent, it couldn’t possibly last this long.

    “……”

    I could tolerate this thanks to the grave keeper training I had underwent and my brief stay at the Clock Tower. Luvia, Seigen, and Flue were also fine, of course. Even my mentor was doing alright because this task didn’t require much skill at magecraft. All it required was the willpower to endure a seemingly endless free fall into darkness.

    Our descent was mostly uneventful, except for the times when the Pit of Oblivion suddenly changed direction or became narrower. Having to control the Mystic Code every time a change in course happened was the most nerve-wracking part.

    “Don’t waste your stamina,” my mentor advised. “Try and automate the process with your nervous system rather than using your brain. It might be easier to relax and leave it to your instincts and Add.”

    “Are you okay with that, Add?”

    “Ihihihi! Of course! I can’t get tired, after all!” Add said from the hook at my right shoulder.

    For now, I wouldn’t question him. The fatigue that had built up as we trekked through Albion was indeed eating away at my body. Though they hadn’t said anything about it, it must have been the same for Luvia, Seigen, and Flue.

    Even if I used my Magic Circuits to automate the gliding process, the cold air still ruthlessly tore away chunks of my stamina. It was even more tiring than usual because of the strange Magical Energy present in Albion. Though it was possible to regulate body temperature with magecraft, we all chose to conserve as much Magical Energy as possible.

    “…Speaking of which, I wonder if time actually passes here.”

    My mentor’s words reminded me of what Sir Kay had said in my dream about time and space being fuzzy here.

    Either way, we needed to reach our destination in time for the Grand Roll.

    Suddenly, my mentor fell silent.

    “Sir?”

    “…No. That’s not right.” He muttered, shaking his head as he descended. “Maybe…”

    “What have you discovered, Sir?”

    “I think I’ve finally found the piece that I was missing.”

    I didn’t understand what he meant by that. I didn’t really mind, though. I couldn’t always see the same truth as he could. I was satisfied with being able to help even the tiniest bit.

    Dr. Heartless.

    The recounts of his students and past acquaintances painted the picture that reminded me of my mentor. It was something beyond his being the former head of the Department of Modern Magecraft; I found the two of them similar in a more fundamental way. Though they lacked the proper mentality of a mage, for instance, they both acted in a bizarrely magecraft-like way.

    Would my mentor really be able to stop someone like Heartless?

    Even if he couldn’t, I hoped that meeting Heartless would help my mentor resolve some of his internal conflicts. Surely this journey to Albion was also for this purpose.

    After falling some more, Luvia broke the silence.

    “…The air has changed again.” She reached out to the five gems that floated beside her. “My gemstones tell me that we are entering a new region of Spirit Tomb Albion.”

    She looked down, tossing her gaze into the depths.

    “We are about to reach the Ancient Heart.”

    That was our target, the deepest part of Albion where Heartless would be performing his magecraft.

    At this, my mentor let out a low moan.

    “…Are we too late?” Said Flue, looking over to him.

    “I’ve just established a connection with Reines. It’s starting a few hours earlier than I expected. This is terrible.”

    His response sent us all into a momentary silence.

    Luvia was the first person to recover from the shock.

    “That means the seal separating the Ancient Heart has been broken.”

    “So—”

    Before I could finish my sentence, I noticed it too. My mentor had told me that the deepest part of Spirit Tomb Albion was sealed away by an incredibly strong lock in order to keep away all outside interference. The dam was only breached when a Grand Roll was being held.

    A sudden change in the air could only mean one thing.

    “—The Grand Roll is about to begin.”
    —————————————————————————————————————————————————— ——

  11. #271
    Chapter 3, Part 2
    Chapter 3, Part 2:

    I could feel my heart thudding in my chest as I walked through the portal in the Mining City again. If it weren’t for the Grand Roll, I would never have set foot in that place again.

    Though I hated the Mining City, I had to admit that it was special. The air made it so that my skin was numb, and my bones felt like they had been punctured. To be precise, it was because of the strange “pressure” here. Although no scientific instrument would be able to detect the source of this “pressure,” any regular scientist to set foot here would have the same fate as a finch in a mine full of poisonous gases.

    Even I was at danger of being crushed by it. To the people of the modern age, Magical Energy from the Age of the Gods was basically a poison. Unfortunately for me, the Magical Energy here was infinitely close to that of the Age of the Gods. Ever since I arrived here, my Mystic Eyes had been burning with pain more intense than I had ever felt.

    There was more to this place than its age, though. It was also like a separate history unaffected by the texture of the human order. Had humans not separated from the gods, then perhaps the rest of the world would have looked like this, too.

    I was now approaching the Ancient Heart of Spirit Tomb Albion, the greatest asset of the Clock Tower.

    I had never actually thought about whether or not it was the shape of a heart. After the dragon had died, its corpse had become many times larger, so how big was this area?

    I couldn’t tell what the walls that surrounded me were made of. I only knew that they were black and shiny in a way that was unlike metal or organic matter. The floor and ground were also made of the same material.

    Yes. The time had come.

    I felt a slight tingle in my Magic Circuits.

    (—Reines.)

    (—Oh, so you really made it!)

    I took great care to stop my face from reflecting my thoughts. Up until now, I had still been in doubt about whether or not it was possible to get here in time for the Clock Tower to unseal the Ancient Heart.

    However, even though the dam was no longer in place, the Ancient Heart was still a bastion meant to shield us from outside interference. The only reason why I could communicate so clearly with my brother, despite his second-rate abilities, was that he was close by.

    (—Unfortunately, we were still too late. At least we’ve reached the Ancient Heart.)

    (—I got all excited for nothing. You know that the meeting has been moved forward by four hours, right?)

    (—I predicted that that would happen. I’ll try my best to work around it.)

    My brother’s thoughts made his worries clear. I felt the exact same way. Ah, if only I could go home now and drown myself in pillows! Of course, if I allowed myself to do that, I would have to accept an early death by poisoning or suffocation.

    Anyone unfortunate enough to be standing downwind in the Clock Tower would become the target of a rain of arrows. I had no desire to return to the state I had been in following Kayneth’s death, before I named my current brother Lord El-Melloi II.

    (—Did you meet Geraff?)

    (—Yes, he gave me your note.)

    That old man had passed my brother’s message to me. It would have been so much more interesting if he was present at the Grand Roll, but he had adamantly refused my offer.

    (—Reines, from now on—)

    (—Yes, yes, I know. My job is to buy as much time as possible until you stop Heartless, right? I’ll try my best as well.)

    I momentarily silenced the telepathic link between us and walked along the fissure in silence, with only my shadow for company.

    The presence of a shadow implied the presence of a light. Here, that light came in the form of the Magic Circuits of the dead dragon. It was said that the Greater Magic Circuit were like the blood vessels in a human body. In the Ancient Heart, however, the circuits formed a helix.

    Soon, the space widened into a spacious room lit by a pool of the same spiraling light. Its magnificent glow ebbed and surged, telling me that I had arrived at the chosen place. It was uneven as it spread, pooling in some places and meandering away from others. In the darkness of the deep abyss, the light was like stars in the sky of a new world.

    In the center of the room was a round table, also made of an unknown material. Evidently, it had not been brought here from the surface. Since the day the Clock Tower was formed, how many Grand Rolls had been held here between the darkness and the light? How many mages had drank from the goblets of victory because of the results while others cried out in despair?

    The meetings attendees had all arrived. To my left were the Lords of the Democratic Faction, Inorai Valualeta Atroholm and McDonell Trambelio Elrod. To my right were the Lord and Lord representative of the Aristocratic Faction, Rufleus Nuatha-Re Eulyphis and Olgamarie Asmleit Animusphere. No members of the Neutral Faction were in attendance, so the seats across from me remained empty.

    In this situation, facing an empty seat was just as scary as facing a Lord. The Neutral Faction’s absence did not indicate their disinterest. Rather, their so-called “neutral stance” meant that they tended to stay put until an opportunity arose. Instead of actively fighting for dominance, they usually stood on the sidelines, pulling the strings of the other factions under the pretense of research.

    Of course, I had to sit on the right. Disregarding Olgamarie’s suggestion for now, we were members of the Aristocratic Faction. If we chose to switch factions, no number of lives would be enough to keep me alive.

    “The preparations are complete.” McDonell spoke first with a smile on his face. As the leader of the Democratic Faction, even attending a Grand Roll wouldn’t make him drop his dominant attitude.

    “It’s good to see some new faces. I’ve gotten bored of seeing the same old attendees every time. Although we are mages, it’s good to replace the old with the new once in a while…By that logic, Rufleus and I should be the first to go.”

    The thought of Inorai retiring was funnier than her joke. I couldn’t imagine anyone less likely to back down than her. Lord Valualeta had taught Touko Aozaki, the Grand-ranked mage; that alone was proof that she was not just any mage.

    “Hmph…”

    Came the response of the oldest among us, an old man with wrinkles only rivaled in depth by the marks carved into his soul. In fact, considering that he was the Lord of the Department of Spiritual Evocation, it wouldn’t be out of the question for him to actually have spells engraved upon his soul.

    Inorai and Rufleus. From the perspective of their departments, Inorai and Rufleus were on equal standing.

    “—My father entrusted me with the votes of the
    Animusphere
    Department of Astromancy
    . I hope that does not offend you.” Olgamarie said, curtseying.

    Oh no. She was probably more comfortable here than I was. I felt the situation become even less favorable for me as I was robbed of my privileges as the youngest member.

    The Lords all turned their gazes towards me.

    This was why I hated going last. Even if it was just a coincidence, I would have to be extra careful with what I said.

    I took a deep breath.

    “I am honored to have the privilege of being here. Please excuse my immaturity.”

    I kept my salutation short and took a seat with as polite of a smile as I could muster.

    Ouch– my stomach ached. Alas, the affliction had spread to me as well. My blood was ice cold, and I felt like my nerves were being filed. I couldn’t tell whether all of this was due to my anxiety or a curse.

    All I could do was try to swallow my fear and enhance my brain as much as possible.

    “Well then, let the Grand Roll begin.” Announced McDonell.

    To be honest, my tactic was horrible, for a very simple reason. The data on mining operations in Albion had been released by the Trambelios, which made their accuracy questionable, to say the least. This made it harder for me to predict and delay his actions.

    I would need to chase after and wrangle over every claim he made. I needed to latch on to even the tiniest foothold. If I lost my footing here, I would never be able to stand up again.

    Before I could do any of that, however, McDonell spoke again.

    “Actually, I have someone I would like to introduce before we begin.”

    McDonell looked to the side, and a dark-skinned woman walked into the light. I had known that there was a person standing there, but it had been too dark to see her face.

    “I an Asheara Mystras, from the Materials Branch of the Arcane Dissection Division.” She said, introducing herself with a courteous bow.

    Though I tried to stay silent, a gasp still escaped my mouth.

    She was Heartless’ last student, who had gone missing after either Calugh Ithred or Jorek Kurdice was killed.

    “I’m sure everyone is already aware that the subject of the meeting is the redevelopment of Spirit Tomb Albion, yes?” McDonell said, steepling his hands. “I have called her here to represent the Arcane Dissection Division, as its opinion is indispensable. Also, to avoid further confusion, I’m telling you all that she is my adopted daughter.”

    “Wha...!”

    Olgamarie silenced herself before she could finish her exclamation.

    This was also a surprise for me. McDonell had an adoptive daughter in the Arcane Dissection Division?

    (—What the heck?)

    (—It just gets more and more complicated. I’ve heard that McDonell has tens of daughters.)

    Both of our anxiety was made clear through our conversation.

    “Haha. Of course, the Division doesn’t exclusively provide me with information. That would only overcomplicate things, wouldn’t it?”

    McDonell looked happy, but I found it hard to sympathize with him. There was simply no chance for us to win like this.

    Then again, that was probably the impact he wanted his first attack to achieve, especially since Olgamarie’s attachment to the Aristocratic Faction was not very strong. If he broke through from there, he could easily end the meeting.

    I started seriously considering using flattery to attempt to prolong my life as I peered at Rufleus, who was clenching the arms of his chair with his withered fingers.

    This was a problem. If I turned my back on the faction I belonged to now, he might explode and kill me without regard to the meeting. I didn’t trust the others to protect me at all, especially since they could be Heartless’ accomplices.

    “If the topic is truly the redevelopment of Spirit Tomb Albion, as I have heard…” Olgamarie started. She probably also felt the tension rise. Even if she planned on betraying Rufleus and agreeing to redevelop Spirit Tomb Albion, she couldn’t ignore McDonell.

    “You are not mistaken. Asheara?”

    “Yes, Father— Pardon me, Lord Trambelio.”

    At McDonell’s instruction, Asheara placed a few sheets of paper onto the table before us. Though she was technically a representative from the Arcane Dissection Division, she acted more like McDonell’s secretary. Of course, it was to remind us of their relationship. It was also why she deliberately called him her father and then corrected herself.

    “Lord Inorai Valualeta, I have prepared detailed information on Spirit Tomb Albion as per your request.”

    “Thank you, McDonell.”

    Inorai picked up the files and inspected them carefully.

    While the rest of us followed suit, McDonell scanned the room. His eyes rested upon Rufleus for a while, before passing over Olgamarie and myself. It was appropriate, given our difference in age and prestige. I couldn’t find a single flaw in his actions, which annoyed me.

    “Forgive the fact that it is written on modern printer paper. That is the Arcane Dissection Division’s style.” McDonell said, uttering the opening line. “As the data indicates, the amount of talismans excavated from Albion has continued to decrease in recent years. If we are to continue to maintain the Clock Tower, this fact must be taken into consideration. At this rate, mystery will decrease along with the possibility that we mages will reach our goal.”

    By that, of course he meant the Root, our purpose, the proof of our existence, and our final destination.

    “In other words, we will lose the purpose of our existence if this trend continues.”

    That sentence demanded to be taken seriously, especially since it was being said by one of the most important people in the Clock Tower, Lord Trambelio. Lord Eulyphis was probably the only person in the world capable of contending with its power. After all, he was the central figure in opposition to the redevelopment of Albion.

    McDonell’s stocky build was reflected in the old man’s dark, glassy eyes.

    “Maintaining the Clock Tower… you say?” Came a raspy voice, as we all turned to face its source, “What exactly… are you trying to maintain?”

    “Our future as mages, of course.”

    “…Ha…how foolish.” Rufleus said in response, not concealing his disappointment. “The Clock Tower… is our domain…”

    He tapped his knuckles on the gems on his chest. Though he acted arrogantly, it seemed well-justified.

    “If we do not have enough talismans… we should reduce the number of New Agers… If we still do not have enough… we should dispose of useless branch families… There was never a need to spend so many resources on… the redevelopment of Albion… The others do not matter… they will never reach the essence of Mystery… Your wasteful plan will harm the entire Clock Tower… I will not allow us to be known for such stupid acts…”

    From his perspective, this was the obvious solution. To the Aristocratic Faction, everyone else was subservient and replaceable.

    Though I saying that, he wasn’t wrong. The Democratic Faction also valued people based on inborn talent. They accepted New Agers not out of kindness, but because there weren’t enough mages in the modern world to provide them with human labor. The old man was simply advocating that we ought to carry through with this philosophy.

    “If we are discussing… our future…”

    Just as he was about to continue, he looked to the side. Though he didn’t look shocked or even mildly surprised, neither him nor Lord Trambelio would have been able to predict this turn of events.

    “What’s... going on?” Said Lord McDonell.

    It didn’t take long for the interruption to show itself.

    “Apologies for interrupting your meeting.” The new arrival, a woman dressed in an elaborate furisode, said as she adjusted her glasses. I was reminded again of a beautiful snake that watched over the Clock Tower with ice cold eyes.

    “Adashino Hishiri?”

    To my surprise, Inorai was the one who had called her name.

    “It has been a while, Lady Inorai.”

    “I didn’t expect someone from the Department of Law to be here. Are you here to represent Lord Barthmeloi?”

    “No. This time, I am acting as a guide.”

    “A guide?” The old woman said, her frown shifting to a wry smile.

    Someone else appeared behind Hishiri. It was another person who did not fit in among Lords. On second thought, considering that this was a Grand Roll, it made sense that she would be here.

    “Oh, you’re here as well, teacher. It seems like I wasn’t too late.” The East Asian woman that Hishiri led here said with a slight nod.
    —————————————————————————————————————————————————— ——

  12. #272
    Chapter 3, Part 3
    Chapter 3, Part 3:

    “Hasn’t the meeting already started?” The woman asked again, breaking the silence.

    “…Touko… Aozaki…” Rufleus said, his voice like the scraping of rusted metal.

    I didn’t know exactly what she had done to make Rufleus hate her, but I knew that the Grand mage was particularly skilled at gathering hate and jealousy.

    “…Someone like you… has no place here…”

    “Haha, is that your way of greeting people, Lord of the
    Eulyphis
    Department of Spiritual Evocation
    ?” Touko smiled. “Sorry, but I have the right to be here today. I know you might have a hard time accepting it because of your age, but my presence is in accordance with tradition.”

    [IMAGE: https://imgur.com/ThSrZGn]

    “…Right? What right…?”

    At this, the old man froze.

    Touko was holding an old piece of parchment with a signature on it. Rufleus understood its meaning immediately.

    “It seems that you understand that I am here to represent a Lord.”

    “On behalf of the Department of Law, I can vouch for its legitimacy.” Affirmed Hishiri.

    A moment of heavy silence ensued, not because it was impossible, but precisely because it was the opposite. Everyone present could grasp that the Grand Puppeteer was capable of something as frightening as this.

    “You always get hired for the strangest jobs.” Inorai said, frowning.

    “Isn’t that because of your influence, Ms. Inorai?”

    Though Touko was her student, Inorai had been the first person to agree to her Seal Designation. That was the nature of student-teacher relations among mages.

    Rufleus spoke again, this time sounding like a pot of boiling water.

    “…Which family…did this…?”

    “The
    Zigmarie
    Department of Curses
    . In fact, you could call me the representative of the entire Neutral Faction,” Touko said. “I have the authority to vote in this Grand Roll. Don’t worry, I only have the vote of one family, not the entire faction. Even if I were given so many votes, you still wouldn’t approve of it, would you?”

    Touko leisurely took one of the chairs beside her. Though it had been made for the Lords, the Grand Mage sat down as if it there was nothing special to it.

    (…You actually did it?) My brother said telepathically after being briefed on the situation.

    (Of course I did.) I replied after taking a second to calm down. (In any case, we needed an element of uncertainty – someone who had absolutely no chance of working with Heartless – to figure out the identity of his accomplice, don’t we?)

    Before I departed from Slur Street, I had requested something from Touko— or rather, the faction which had commissioned her in secret. Though the Neutral Faction usually chose to watch from the sidelines, even they found it hard to ignore the fact that Heartless snuck into Spirit Tomb Albion using a portal hidden beneath the Department of Modern Magecraft. That was why they had given in to Touko’s taunts despite their usual attitude toward politics.

    Even so, I hadn’t expected them to send Touko as their representative.

    After a moment of silence, my brother communicated to me again.

    (…How long have you known that Miss Touko was searching for Heartless’ students at the request of the Neutral Faction?)

    (Actually, half of it was my intuition.)

    It would be nice if I could look good as well as be right, but I’d have to worry about that later. Evidently, it hadn’t been the work of the Aristocratic Faction. Though the Department of Law could commission Touko at the cost of not giving her another Seal Designation, she wasn’t trustworthy in the least. If it had been McDonell or Inorai, their request would have been more discreet. They would have avoided contact with us at all costs for fear of leaking information. With such a delicate balance of interests, Touko wouldn’t have been set free to do whatever she wanted.

    By process of elimination, that left only the Neutral Faction. Even though they didn’t want to directly interfere in the Grand Roll, they still needed information. Touko was a reasonable choice, considering that she had already been involved with Heartless in the Ilsema case.

    (…I see.)

    (I didn’t expect Hishiri Adashino to be here as well, though.)

    As I thought this, the mage behind Touko smiled. She then moved to stand behind Lord Trambelio in a similar position to Asheara, Heartless’ last student. It was a place where she could stay hidden and wait for the perfect moment to strike.

    “……”

    I thought I heard a deep rumbling noise despite the fact that there should have been silence.

    As a freelancer who did what she wished, Touko Aozaki held no power in the Clock Tower. From one perspective, her presence was worthless because she had no one to back her up. From another perspective, however, she was a formidable opponent even among the elites of the Clock Tower. Most of the Lords gathered here only achieved the rank of Brand, one rank below Touko.

    As Albion related so deeply to the future of mages, all three factions held a stake in it. As such, it would be hard to dismiss Touko’s opinion.

    Touko disrupted the premise of this meeting. Basic politics could not be applied to this Grand Roll anymore.

    As I considered what dynamics Touko changed with her presence, McDonell spoke up.

    “Let us continue the conversation that we were having just then, Mr. Rufleus.”

    With a wave of her pale hand, someone interrupted before Rufleus could respond.

    “Enough of the stuff that will make me fall asleep!”

    “What!?”

    Touko shrugged as Olgamarie stared up at her in disbelief.

    “This is just another boring fight between the Aristocratic Faction and the Democratic Faction, isn’t it? Another argument about whether or not the Clock Tower should expand and allow in more New Agers. I’m sick of hearing your two opinions over and over again. I went all the trouble of coming here. I want to hear something new. —You must nearly be ready by now right, El-Melloi?” She said, abruptly directing all the attention at me.

    “What are you talking about?”

    Touko failed to hold back a laugh at my response.

    “Don’t play dumb! Since you’re here, and you still have a refreshing look of determination in your eyes, you must have reached one of the truths.”

    (—Hey, brother!)

    (—Yes, I know.) My brother replied agitatedly. (—Back at Slur Street, she told me that she was looking forward to the denouement.)

    What an arrogant thing to say. She had essentially told us that her own enjoyment should come before the fate of the entire Clock Tower.

    I had no doubt that she thought this way. Touko Aozaki was not the kind of person who would be interested in political drama. The trends of the World of Magecraft over millennia failed to pique her curiosity. She wasn’t here to represent the Neutral Faction, but to find out the truth about the case that she had become involved in.

    (—You probably also noticed that she was addressing both of us.)

    (Of course she knows we’re communicating using magecraft.)

    I wasn’t trying particularly hard to conceal it, but it still made me a little unhappy that she saw through it in a single glance. What could I say? This was Touko Aozaki, after all.

    There was a limit to how much I could joke around. I must reiterate that Rufleus was perfectly capable of killing me if he wanted to, even though I was technically part of his faction.

    (—Should I use Trimmau to create a scale model of you again, like last time?)

    I had put Trimmau into a briefcase so she wouldn’t attract so much attention. Since my brother was the detective, he should be the one doing the grand reveal.

    (—No. How am I meant to convince the other Lords of my reasoning like that, especially since I’m already missing from the Grand Roll?)

    That made sense. The Grand Roll was only held in a place so hard to access because its authority had to be indisputable. Several Greater Magic Formulae had been performed here before. Though they might not have involved actual magecraft, the repetition of anything on such a large scale was essentially a curse. For example, while the Catholic Pope is being elected, all of the candidates are not allowed to leave the Sistine Chapel. That made the selection process dangerous, as many Cardinals were incredibly old.

    Why? Because “tradition” and “authority” were just different words for restricting people.

    (—What should we do then?)

    (—How about you do it?)

    I froze at my brother’s words.

    “…Huh?!”

    Though I was trying to keep myself from crying out, something still slipped from my mouth.

    (What? What do you mean, brother?)

    (You should do it, Reines.) My brother repeated.

    (—You’re not joking, are you?)

    (I’m serious.)

    “What’s the matter, El-Melloi?” Touko called out with a bemused expression.

    I had no doubt that she could tell that something had just been imposed upon me.

    “Nothing. I was just thinking about how I should explain the situation.” I replied, trying my best to look confident. Of course, I was a hundred percent bluffing. Bluffing while standing on a tightrope was a subject I graduated from when I was in kindergarten.

    (—I’ll provide you with my deductions in the right order. You can say it in your own words as you sort them out.)

    (—What the hell are you thinking!?)

    I wanted nothing more than to cover my ears and yell my heart out right now. If it weren’t for the people around me who would relish every mistake I made, I would have done exactly that.

    No matter how I phrased it, not all the people present would pay attention to my brother’s reasoning. They would doubtlessly try to intervene to make the answer more beneficial to themselves. Though Heartless’ students were related to this Grand Roll, it wasn’t meant for tracking down a perpetrator.

    Even though I couldn’t make them all listen, I needed to make at least half of the attendees interested. On top of that, I needed to thread my brother’s reasoning into a logical story that would make the identity of the culprit clear. You might as well have asked me to shoot down a fighter plane while performing acrobatics.

    (—Have you caught up with Heartless yet?) I asked, holding back a sigh.

    (—Not yet, but soon.)

    (—I don’t want to give you any extra pressure, but please hurry. Even if I manage to smoke out his accomplice, it won’t matter if you don’t stop him.)

    Revealing the identity of the accomplice could cause the Grand Roll to fracture, sending the Clock Tower into chaos. It wasn’t unlikely that people would rush to support him. Stopping Heartless was our goal. This meeting was just a mountain we had to climb to reach it.

    I clenched and unclenched my hands, making up my mind.

    “I suppose I should start from here.” I said slowly, surveying the room. “Does everyone present know of Dr. Heartless, the former head of the Department of Modern Magecraft?”

    “…Unfortunately, I’ve only heard of him because he left the Clock Tower before I was old enough to remember him.” Olgamarie said with a frown.

    I didn’t know why his name would appear here, or if Olgamarie’s frown was genuine. Either way, I continued speaking, carefully choosing my words from the thoughts that my brother passed to me.

    “In the past few months, his students have been disappearing one by one. Ms. Asheara, you already know this, especially since your colleague, Calugh Ithred, was murdered not long ago. Hishiri Adashino can testify that such a murder occurred.”

    Hishiri nodded. I couldn’t be sure of her motivations, either. Did it have something to do with the fact that Heartless was also an adopted child of Norwich?

    “I believe that Dr. Heartless was the culprit.” I continued, not waiting for my audience to finish processing what I had just said.

    “Oh, really…”

    It was Inorai who spoke.

    “…Is something the matter?”

    “No, I was just a little surprised. I thought he was quite close with his students.” Said Inorai with a shrug.

    Great, another troublesome testimony was just what I needed. I knew nothing about what Heartless was like ten years ago. Back then, I never could have dreamt that I would become the heir.

    “Did you know the former head of the Department of Modern Magecraft well?” McDonell asked. Then, he turned to the other Lord. “What do you think, Rufleus?”

    “…Why would I waste my time… on a department head who wasn’t even a Lord…”

    The old man answered his question tersely. His way of thinking had probably stayed constant for the past century. The Department of Modern Magecraft back then was not part of the Aristocratic Faction, so he had no reason to care about it.

    “Why would I know anything…about pointless fights between New Agers…? Are you trying…to waste our time, El-Melloi…?”

    “No, Lord Eulyphis. I promise it’s related to the topic at hand.”

    I finally understood my brother’s thoughts on him. Damn this old idiot. I wanted to feed him to some dogs. He wasn’t even trying to understand what I was saying.

    Regardless, there was no use trying to avoid it.

    It was time.

    I struggled to keep a smile on my face as I spoke.

    “Someone at this meeting is Heartless’ accomplice.”

    *

    “Hey, how’s the meeting going over there?” Flue asked as we continued to glide down the Pit of Oblivion.

    My mentor was too busy to reply. Though I didn’t know the details, I could tell that it wasn’t going well from his ever-deepening frown.

    Seigen approached my mentor.

    “Lord El-Melloi II, do you mind if I connect to your Magic Circuits?”

    “Feel free.”

    With a nod from my mentor, Seigen gestured with his fingers, creating a sigil the shape of a wing that shone like Magic Circuits. The situation in the meeting room suddenly came flooding into my mind.

    “—What is that?”

    “Ashbourne’s intelligence sharing magecraft. I guess you could say it’s mainly about manipulating Magical Energy, but his technique also involves the sharing of magecraft.”

    I think I could understand this. The mage of the Castle of Separation, invented a way to fuse many Magic Crests together to overcome the problem of incompatibility. From the way Seigen’s personality was eroded by the Magic Crest, I had the impression that this technique was dangerous and invasive. However, he was saying that it was actually about “sharing.”

    “His magecraft lives on inside me.”

    Though Seigen sounded a little sad, we were all preoccupied with the information that we had just received.

    “…I never expected Touko Aozaki and Hishiri Adashino to attend the Grand Roll.” Remarked Flue.

    I was similarly surprised. Though I knew the Grand Roll was no ordinary meeting, even the Lords seemed to be surprised at the presence of the renowned Touko Aozaki, who I had met before. The thought that she was in the same room with others who were to decide the fate of the Clock Tower sent shivers up my spine.

    “Hey-” Luvia called out. Her face was filled with a tension that I had not seen on her before. Was she nervous because she was the only one here who could understand the true gravity of the situation?

    I was a second slower than her to realize that one of the gemstones surrounding her had found something.

    “The time has come.”

    Lead me!” Shouted Flue, reacting instantly. He threw a knife into the darkness. It was not meant to pierce the enemy but rather to divine the safest future. We immediately understood, staggering in the direction of the knife.

    A heartbeat later, we were hit by a truly terrifying shock. Like a hammer through tissue paper, black lightning tore through the defenses we had carefully prepared, and sent air whooshing upward. It burned away the darkness, sending us spiraling out of control.

    “Flue!” Seigen shouted.

    “I’m alright…!” Answered Flue, clutching his injured arm. He had used it to protect his Mystic Code. If he lost the wings now, he would fall to a fearsome death.

    “A dragon!?” Exclaimed Luvia, looking up at the thing that had just attacked us.

    It was the skeleton of a dragon— No, it was more than that.

    My mentor’s eyes were wide as he stared at the chariot pulled by two skeletal dragons. There was familiarity in his expression, as if he had rode in the chariot before.

    “Gordian Wheel… No, Hecatic Wheel.”

    It was the chariot that Faker had used on the Rail Zeppelin, which had once been used by her king. A Noble Phantasm whose name echoed proudly in ancient battlefields.

    “So Heartless knew of this place too, huh? I reckon I should thank the old man for finding a path that takes us to the Heart.”

    That made sense. Since Heartless hadn’t taken the portal in the Clock Tower meant for taking attendees of the Grand Roll into the Heart, he could have taken the same shortcut that we used. Moreover, if he anticipated our pursuit, it was only natural that he would place traps.

    However.

    I noticed something strange, not about the dragons or the chariot itself. The Noble Phantasm was missing something that was required for it to activate.

    “There’s no one riding it…?”

    The rider who should have been holding the reins was nowhere to be found.

    “It’s Faker’s… magecraft!” My mentor cried out, his voice full of anger.

    Even though I was face to face with the riderless chariot, I still found it hard to accept.

    “—The Noble Phantasm is driving itself!”

    *

    “The dam has been opened…” Heartless murmured. The hand he had over his eye shone red with the light of his Command Spells, marks that indicated how many absolute commands he had. Having used one during the incident aboard the Rail Zeppelin, two remained.

    “So he’s come. If only I hadn’t guessed correctly. —No, actually, there’s nothing that calms me more than the thought that he understands me.”

    Without removing his hand from his eye, he looked to the pillar of light beside him, where his Servant was undergoing ascension.

    One hundred years of compressed time had passed. It was not enough. Not even close. It took hundreds– no, thousands of years to turn a Servant into a Divine Spirit.

    He had dubbed this process “Shadow Ascension”. It was a practical application of the ritual used by the people under the domain of the grave keeper, intended to recreate King Arthur from her body, mind, and soul, combined with the Initiation of the labyrinth.

    If his magecraft succeeded in creating a god for mages, the people of the Clock Tower would be able to use the same kind of magecraft as the mages of the ancient past. Of course, certain requirements also had to be fulfilled for the Age of the Gods to continue, but magecraft infinitely close to the Age of the Gods could be revived.

    The last thing that stood in his way was the person who could not allow his plan to succeed.

    Heartless made up his mind.

    “—It’s time to settle this fight for once and for all, Lord El-Melloi II.”

    Then, he turned again to look at the woman floating inside the pillar of light.

    “Faker.”

    She had come here to be killed, so her king could be revived as a Divine Spirit. She was a selfless person, willing to sacrifice herself after Heartless had told her his goal.

    Heartless couldn’t help but think that she was so similar to himself.

    “For your sake, I will keep my promise.”

    With his uncovered eye, he looked at the clock once again. It had not been long since they said goodbye to each other, but he already missed her.

    And then—

    “By my Command Spell, I order you.”

    As the light from the Command Spells grew brighter and brighter, Heartless uttered his command.

    “For my sake, please wait two thousand years.”
    —————————————————————————————————————————————————— ——
    Last edited by azwhoisverybored; September 3rd, 2022 at 12:54 AM. Reason: Ugh imgur still refuses to give me the image share links

  13. #273
    Chapter 4, Part 1
    Chapter 4, Part 1:

    “Hahaha…hahaha….”

    Lord Eulyphis, the Lord of the Department of Spiritual Evocation, laughed. It made me feel as if the gates to hell had opened, letting a foul wind blow onto my face.

    In a certain sense, it suited the labyrinth which we were currently in.

    “…A culprit, you say…? You must be eager to show off…girl from the Department of Modern Magecraft…It is too late now to take back what you have said…”

    “That’s alright, because I don’t plan on doing so.” I retorted, confident.

    The confidence was fake, of course. I was desperate to act like I knew what I was doing. No one would listen to what I said otherwise.

    “……”

    Lord Eulyphis glared at me for a few seconds.

    “…It is not worth my time…” the old man said, turning back to the Lord across from him. “Continue, McDonell… This is no place for someone to amuse themselves by playing detective…”

    He doesn’t want me to speak at all. I thought, biting down on my lip. I had expected things to go this way, regardless of whether or not Rufleus was the accomplice. Though it was infuriating, Rufleus’ dismissal was perfectly in line with the laws of the Clock Tower. By that, I meant that there was no law forcing people to listen to a detective’s reasoning. No matter how excellent of a theory my brother created, it became meaningless if I messed up over here. I had to admit that this was an effective move.

    “We should not care…about the death of a member of the Arcane Dissection Division. The same applies to Heartless’ students…How can we waste the Grand Roll on such trifling matters…”

    However.

    “There is meaning to this.” Came a dignified voice.

    It came from the only person present who was not seated, the woman standing behind Touko Aozaki.

    Rufleus turned to face her, grinding his yellowed teeth.

    “Hishiri Adashino…”

    “In the name of the Department of Law, I request that the Grand Roll discuss Heartless’ students.”

    “What are you trying to do…!”

    “I am simply doing my duty,” Hishiri replied.

    With pale fingers, the woman dressed in an elegant furisode nudged her glasses and scanned the Lords and Lord representatives before her with ice-cold eyes.

    “We are obligated to make the greatest effort in maintaining the order of the Clock Tower. That applies to the Grand Roll as well.”

    She was right. That was why the Department of Law was different from the other twelve departments. Rather than devoting itself to mystery, it existed to make sure the Clock Tower could operate peacefully.

    “And what meaning do you think it has?” McDonell asked.

    “Naturally, I believe that it will impact the outcome of the meeting.”

    Despite being questioned by two Lords, her face betrayed no emotion. Even among other members of the Department of Law, it was rare to see someone as courageous as her.

    “On top of that, this meeting should also aim to gather as many testimonies as possible, except for the testimony of Heartless himself.”

    “…Testimonies..?”

    Though he had just been complaining about how stupid we were, Rufleus faltered when Hishiri asked him her first question.

    “Lord Eulyphis, are you familiar with the name Makiri Zolgen?”

    “Yes… that is the name…of a mage who loved to dream.”

    “I believe the Clock Tower has kept records of his essays on Ghost Liners.”

    “…So you visited my home not to pass on Barthomeloi’s message… but to ask me to find his essays…?”

    This was the first time I had heard of Hishiri visiting Rufleus’ home. It was likely she had gone there to prepare for the Grand Roll.

    “Heartless summoned a Ghost Liner named Faker. That raises the question: where did he find the requisite formulas and information? Makiri Zolgen’s essays are a powerful piece of evidence in that regard.”

    “Interesting. I see,” McDonell said, nodding his large head, “I have also heard of the attack on Slur Street. The Ghost Liner in question has been summoned using methods different to the Department of Spiritual Evocation’s Partial Access. Such an event doesn’t happen often in the history of the Clock Tower. We must hear your opinion, Rufleus.”

    Yes! He’s hooked now.

    Of course, that was also because Hishiri helped. With the introduction of a paper on Ghost Liners, the conversation became difficult for Rufleus to shut down. Even if he tried again, the other attendees were also interested.

    Light from the ancient dragon’s Magic Circuits drifted sparsely down from the ceiling, settling on the backs of Rufleus’ wrinkled hands.

    “Such an essay does exist…in our secret archives… yes, the essay that told of the ritual…where seven Heroic Spirits fight to the death…to win the Holy Grail. Though I do not know this man named Heartless…perhaps he was also drawn in by this fantasy… much like the previous Lord El-Melloi…”

    Rather than discussing whether Noble Phantasms and Ghost Liners actually existed, they were only talking about the essay.

    While I analyzed that this was a good solution, I tried to hold back a burning question. Had Kayneth also read that essay? Rufleus was shifting the suspicion onto the previous Lord El-Melloi by suggesting that the deceased Lord had leaked the information to Heartless. Ugh, he just kept on getting more annoying!

    (—Hey, brother.) I called out across my telepathic link with my brother, telling him to start giving me information.

    (—We’re in the middle of a fight over here!) My brother snapped back at me, nearly causing another cry to escape my mouth.

    How far along was he now, I wondered. I had prepared for the possibility that we would have to deliver the verdict while we investigated the identity of the culprit, but I had never considered the possibility of combat.

    Although, to be honest, it did cross my mind, but I had just forced myself to stop thinking about it, and prayed that it would never happen.

    But this was just the mess that we were in. No matter how difficult our predicament was to accept, it was the truth. We had to juggle a meeting, a battle, and an investigation at the same time; a task as dizzyingly complex as a carousel at maximum speed.

    Rufleus then turned, ensnaring me in his murky gaze.

    “As that despicable puppeteer said…enough of the tedium…If you have something to say that is more valuable than the Grand Roll…give us a conclusion…What do you mean when you say… that Heartless’ accomplice is at this meeting…”

    “……”

    I needed to prepare myself to throw away some cards.

    In the worst case scenario, I might become lifelong enemies with half of the people in this room. In that case, what should I give up? If I do give something up, what should I give it up for?

    “I have an answer,” I said as I studied my audience’s reactions. “Right now, Heartless is preparing for a ritual in a corner of the Ancient Heart.”

    Hearing this, Touko smiled wryly. Hishiri coldly observed. McDonell and Inorai both looked intrigued, Rufleus miserable, and Olgamarie stiff-faced.

    Each reaction was unique. If Heartless’ accomplice was really among them, they must have been quite the actor.

    One reaction stood out.

    “He wants to use this labyrinth to create a god for mages.”

    I did not miss Asheara’s sharp inhale as I said this.

    *

    “Are you okay, Sir?”

    “…Sorry, my focus was dragged over there for a moment.”

    My mentor’s faltering gaze returned to normal. He pressed his temples as if he was trying to suppress a headache and turned to the battle happening in the air.

    “…Fuck! It isn’t being operated from a distance – the chariot is being automatically steered! It’s with a level of coordination he could never pull off[1]!”

    My mentor’s voice contained unconcealed fear.

    “Faker won’t be able to fight once the ritual to turn her into a Divine Spirit begins. That’s why he prepared this trump card!”

    “Only a mage from the Age of the Gods would be able to control dragons auto and an automatic Noble Phantasm at the same time. I see. So this is how magecraft was, back then.”

    Luvia’s words were justified. It went without saying that Noble Phantasms and ancient dragons were special. Though the chariot was right in front of me, I found it hard to believe that Heartless was willing to throw away something so extravagant just for the sake of trapping us.

    “However!” The young woman shouted, standing tall as best as someone gliding could. “Even though it is ancient mystery, it must have been conjured by modern magecraft!”

    The gemstones around Luvia multiplied. Soon, a swirling vortex surrounded her, made of countless catalysts she had prepared to conquer the labyrinth. Magical Energy surged through the tunnel, resonating with the gemstones and rivaling the chariot’s lightning.

    Lead me!”

    Luvia aimed a One-Count incantation in the direction of Flue’s glowing knife, which promised to lead us to a better future.

    Call!

    The gemstones surrounding Luvia glittered like a kaleidoscope, creating a beam of light that shimmered in a thousand colors.

    At the same time, Hecatic Wheel charged toward us, releasing streaks of black lightning. It collided with Luvia’s magecraft in the darkness, filling the cavern with magical light.

    “Add!”

    I removed Add from its hook. It instantly transformed into a shield, which I used to scatter the shockwaves so we wouldn’t be knocked from the air.

    Luvia’s attack had succeeded in causing the chariot to stray from its intended path, but it was far from enough to damage it.

    “……”

    I was suddenly reminded of the difference between the Age of the Gods and the modern age.

    While the Age of the Gods was like an eternal cycle, the modern age was transient. In a certain sense, the jewels that Luvia had expended and the mages that entered Spirit Tomb Albion to find remnants of the past were emblematic of the age that we lived in.

    “Servants are restricted by the abilities of their Masters, right? This chariot won’t be able to operate on its own indefinitely…” Flue muttered to himself.

    I also thought about this.

    “…I think it’s less powerful than it was on the Rail Zeppelin.”

    Since Faker wasn’t here to unleash its true name, these were only the chariot’s normal attacks. Though it was hard to defend against it, it wasn’t impossible. It was just that the odds were stacked overwhelmingly against us.

    “…Lord El-Melloi II.”

    After the space of a breath, Luvia spoke again.

    “Why do you think we rode the Rail Zeppelin here to help you?”

    “I’m not sure why, but I’m grateful for your kindness.”

    “I am grateful for your appreciation. Now forget that you heard me say that,” the young woman said with a smile, “Because I am very angry.”

    If I didn’t know Luvia, I would have thought that I was hallucinating.

    “The revival of the Age of the Gods would be like a miracle to generations of mages. Reaching the Root would no longer be an unattainable dream. This new form of mystery would be far more efficient.”

    That was what Heartless hoped to create: a god that existed for mages, one who would revive the Age of the Gods. Though his plan sounded absurd, it would provide salvation to so many people. My mentor had said something similar not long ago.

    “Even so, allow me to say this. —To hell with him.”

    Though it was a normal insult, Luvia spoke as if it was a shining banner to rally behind.

    “That is an act which betrays our ancestors, who willingly bid the gods farewell and chose modern magecraft. It is an act that asks us to abandon two thousand years of progress.”

    I recalled learning about this a long time ago.

    Modern magecraft began when the Age of the Gods ended. The goal of magecraft became attempting to return to the past. Over two thousand years, mages had spent enough talent and resources to make someone pass out from astonishment, all so they could reach the Root, the shining ideal in the distance.

    A mage from the Age of the Gods must find this act incredibly foolish. Reines had told me that not even a monster like Touko Aozaki stood a chance against Faker.

    However, this decay was exactly why Luvia refused to give in.

    “I will not regret my choice, even if I will be hated and cursed by my descendants for making it. My anger will not dissipate, even if the mages around me judge me as a criminal.”

    Though each of her gemstones shone with dazzling light, none of them shone brighter than her eyes.

    “If you wish to ask why, my rage will be my answer.”

    There was no other way to describe her. Though she was a mage, she refused to give up her integrity. She was not surrounded by darkness, but by light, where her righteousness would persist.

    I couldn’t help but marvel at the beauty of her anger.

    “You should proceed without us.” Luvia said with a fearless smile.

    “What?”

    “Like I said before, we can withstand these attacks. You are running out of time. The Grand Roll has already begun. Every second is precious.” Said Luvia, making her point clear, “Now that I think about it, automatic control is rather quite convenient. There appears to be a restraining spell that stops them from acting of their own will, if dragons made of bone have any will to speak of.”

    “Wait, do you mean that…”

    My mentor was silenced by another radiant smile.

    “By the name of Luviagelita Edelfelt, I pledged to help you reach your goal. We will take over here so you can continue pursuing your target.”

    “Well, the circumstance demands it.”

    “It’s too late to give up! I’ll be disappointed if we came all this way for nothing.”

    Flue and Seigen also voiced their support.

    “—I’ll leave it to you, then!” My mentor decided instantly.

    He maneuvered his Mystic Code, accelerating further into the darkness.

    “I will as well!” I called out, following after him.

    Gemstones continued to batter the chariot like hailstones. Around us, the walls of the hole closed in until it became just narrow enough for the chariot to fit through. It had probably tunneled its way here, which meant that it would be hard for it to chase us.

    Sounds of a battle echoed in the air above us. Most of it probably came from Luvia’s jewel magecraft. Though I could only wonder what was going on up there, with Luvia, Seigen, and Flueger involved, I was sure that it was a grand battle. They were strong enough to keep the Noble Phantasm at bay, but that alone was not enough to set my mind at ease.

    We continued to fall through the Pit of Oblivion in the flickering light of the dragon’s Magic Circuits.

    My mentor called out to the attendees of the Grand Roll, resisting the force of the wind.

    “—Can you hear me, Reines?”

    ——

    [1] Alternatively, a more literal translation would be “…even if he stood on his head”, which is a saying in Japanese that I quite like.
    —————————————————————————————————————————————————— ——

  14. #274
    Low-key Rockxas's Avatar
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    Thank you very much for the continued translations, chapter 3 part 3 is blessed Touko content I didn't know I wanted.


  15. #275
    Does anyone know how many chapters are in book 10?

  16. #276
    世はまさにパンテオン Comun's Avatar
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    6.

  17. #277
    死徒(上級)Greater Dead Apostle All fictions's Avatar
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    I have also heard of the attack on Slur Street. The Ghost Liner in question has been summoned using methods different to the Department of Spiritual Evocation’s Partial Access.
    Huh, I don't think we ever got the actual name of the magecraft for borrowing/mimicking Heroic Spirits' power, it has always just been mentions of a spell of Spiritual Evocation. Though Rin does mention ''Trance Mediumship'' in FSN.
    Quote Originally Posted by Rafflesiac View Post
    Punching out some nerd doesn't make you a better magus.

  18. #278
    世はまさにパンテオン Comun's Avatar
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    Access is the proper name for the connection, and "partial" is a regular adjective being thrown to point how Access doesn't give you the whole Heroic Spirit. Think of how it's "true Magic", not "True Magic". This line not filtered through JP-to-CN-to-EN would go like:

    “Interesting. I see,” McDonell said, nodding the large head over his bull neck, “But the rumors I've been hearing tell that Slur was attacked with a Noble Phantasm. While limited and fragmentary Access is a staple of Department of Spiritual Evocation, a Ghost Liner being summoned to its complete form, with enough quality to enable the use of Noble Phantasms, is a rare occurrence even if we take the Clock Tower's entire history into consideration. We must hear your opinion, Rufleus.”

  19. #279
    The Long-Forgotten Sight Rafflesiac's Avatar
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    “…Huh?!”
    Cute, I can hear Minase saying this.
    Quote Originally Posted by Arashi_Leonhart View Post
    canon finish apo vol 3

  20. #280
    Quote Originally Posted by Comun View Post
    6.
    thanks

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