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Thread: The Adventures of Lord El-Melloi II - English Translation

  1. #1

    The Adventures of Lord El-Melloi II - English Translation

    Hi!

    I have very little to say that isn't already in the title.

    I'm Az, I do the translating, narmbo does the editing and makes it sound nice

    Hope you enjoy reading

    The God Devourer 神を喰らった男
    Last edited by azwhoisverybored; August 8th, 2022 at 01:59 AM. Reason: Posted 2.1

  2. #2
    Lie Like Vortigern Reign's Avatar
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    This is a welcome surprise to be sure. You sure about doing it before finishing CF 10?

  3. #3
    Quote Originally Posted by Reign View Post
    This is a welcome surprise to be sure. You sure about doing it before finishing CF 10?
    Yeah! I'll probably get slower at translating Case Files but I think I can handle both at the same time.

    Also,
    Prologue!
    Prologue:



    The ocean’s surface glittered in the light of the sun like something precious.

    It was far from the clear water you'd see at something like a resort. Even at noon, it was a blue-black color, waves swelling and bursting, writhing like snakes. Hundreds and thousands of ships came and went every day, so this was no surprise. Even though the locals had built an advanced water treatment system, sludge still snuck its way in from the old factories nearby.

    To me, it felt like it was bustling with life. The area continued to thrive, not as a tourist destination, but rather as a commercial area full of various people competing with each other.
    The sea had a strong smell to it, probably because of the flourishing nutrients and seaweed.

    It reminded me of a delicate balance, where the two sides of the scale swung about precariously. In this context, the scales could be a metaphor for the ecosystem. The scales themselves would not be affected if the balance was disrupted, but the tiny creatures that rested on its plates could easily go extinct.

    …But that was enough about the future from a pirate who didn’t have one. “Oi, kid!” Came a rough voice.
    Oil drums covered with grime littered the shallows behind me. The writing printed on their sides had been carefully stripped. On top of one of them sat a well-tanned young man.
    As was typical of the region around the Strait of Malacca, his face was rather racially ambiguous. That was to be expected in a hub of exchange between various countries. Though its history was often tragic, the expressions on the faces of the average passerby were that of great resilience.

    Indeed, as with this young man, he held a great sense of purpose and had a toned body.

    His dirty polyester shirt probably used to be white, but it was now beige, and the stench of sweat came off in a pungent wave. There was a belt at his waist with a pistol and a small bottle of liquor tucked into it.

    "Is something the matter?"

    "Is something the matter my ass. We're about to head off. You gotta be ready to ride."

    I looked to the mangrove trees swaying in the shallows beside us. Those trees were unique to the area, and could grow well even in salt water. Its lush green leaves stretched up into the sky, while its roots expanded into the sand like tentacles below them. Three motorboats had been moored to the interweaving branches.

    Around a dozen people were already sitting there, and they handed me some coffee in a misshapen metal mug as I made my way over. All of them looked like the sort you would cross the street to avoid, and they carried assault rifles and submachine guns across their shoulders.

    The regular person probably associated the word “pirate” with billowing sails and the Age of Discovery, but the pirates in the Strait of Malacca today were no more majestic than a ragtag band of young men with a few highly maneuverable motorboats.

    One of them walked up to me and spat at my feet before grabbing me by the shoulders. My hat nearly slipped off in the process, so I rushed to put it back on before he spoke.
    “You said your name’s Yarg, right?”

    “…Y-yes.” I said, nodding as the young man narrowed his eyes.

    “Are you from the Cafe?”

    In this context, “Cafe” did not mean “coffee shop”.

    It was the codename of an underground casino on Batam Island. Gambling used to be legal here, but the laws were repealed due to security concerns a year or two ago. As a result, those who had managed to escape from the authorities opened an underground casino, which was commonly referred to as the Cafe.

    The criminals gathered here all came from there.

    Of course, there were pirate groups out there with fixed members. But this form of loose organization that would recruit new members whenever they needed it was very common in the modern day. They might even start hiring online soon. Or, perhaps they were already doing so, and I just was unaware.

    The tanned young man before me sized me up, as if I was on sale and he was estimating my price.

    In his eyes, I was a mere child, frail, less than 160cm tall, and with a dirty rag tucked in my collar. Though, he probably didn’t care about my age, as the pirates here all seemed to be teenagers.

    “You’re a spellcaster, right? D’you know how to do ’enhancement’?”

    “…Is that why you hired me?”

    A sour blast of the smell of alcohol hit me as the young man walked even closer. “Answer me!”

    “Yes, I can do that. I inherited some of my family’s magecraft… but not a lot of it.”

    “Hmph, that’s good enough. You’re some third child of the family that no one cares about anyway, aren’t you?”

    “……”

    “Not answering? Eh, whatever, I’m not asking for your life story anyway.”

    “Are the others all mages?”

    “Don’t be stupid. I didn’t know mages can be this dumb. Of course they aren’t. We’re the only ones. I’ll be glad if we meet another one, though.” The young man said with a shrug.
    Mages.

    Even I knew that those fantastical people actually existed.

    As they say, like attracts like. The shadowy parts of the world are often connected. Pirates were closer to mages that hid behind the veil of reality than one may think. Of course, most people involved were unaware of the existence of mages, but as the young man said, mages could find each other if they were lucky.

    “…There’s someone I want to kidnap. I must get my hands on them, dead or alive. …Hahaha, you’re not officially part of us yet, so I can’t tell you their name.”

    “Huh, how important is this guy if you’re hiring a spellcaster for the job?”

    “Well…”

    The young man paused for a moment, as if for dramatic effect.

    “They’re known as the Consultant.”

    “Who?”

    “I don’t know. This guy appeared around here around a year ago and gathered all the local pirate gangs into a giant empire with themself as the leader. They clearly used magecraft to do it, though,” the young man said, gritting his teeth in frustration. “They’ve located a sunken ship, and are manipulating fishermen and local kids to fish up treasure. Some of the treasure has probably been used to bribe government officials. They never show their face, but they’re famous around here. For obvious reasons, no one’s been able to catch the guy.”
    I see, so this consultant person was a force to be reckoned with.

    Places with an abundance of sunken ships inevitably drew in pirates, and it didn’t take much skill to dredge treasure from the ocean floor. The hard part was locating the ships and selling them for a good price.

    The nickname “the Consultant” fit the situation well. I got the impression that this was not just a petty crime, but a business model embedded into the community.
    “But now, opportunity strikes…an infamous Clock Tower mage just came to Singapore.” The young man said, his face suddenly twisting with disgust.

    “The Clock Tower? You mean, the one in England?”

    “Exactly, the Mages’ Association of damn limeys,” he spat.

    The areas around Malaysia and Singapore were former British colonies. Though they had gained independence long ago and experienced significant economic growth, most of the residents still had lingering resentments.

    This was true for the World of Magecraft as well.

    The Clock Tower, based in London, was the most prominent branch of the Mages’ Association.

    “Isn’t the Clock Tower the biggest magecraft organization in the world?”

    “In terms of sheer size… sure, maybe. But in terms of the number of members, the Manor’s probably larger.”

    “The Manor?”

    “It’s a bit like the Clock Tower of the East, in the sense that they’re both magecraft organizations. But other than the fact that they both use Magic Circuits as a basis, they couldn’t be more different.”

    I had heard that many different types of magecraft existed because of the unique history and culture of different regions of the world. For example, I knew that Curse Magecraft was a popular technique in the Middle East. Considering the population of Asia, it also made sense that there would be more people in the East than the West.

    “All kinds of magecraft coexist here near the Strait of Malacca. Thought Magecraft, curses, western magecraft… you name it. But this Consultant person is clearly a western mage. In the West, the Clock Tower’s biggest principle has never changed. They think mystery should never be revealed.”

    “……”

    I was silent.

    I understood this to be true.

    “So, basically, this guy’s being so noticeable with their magecraft that even the Clock Tower’s stepped in,” the young man said, laughing. “Probably because they’re so anxious, the Clock Tower’s network of information's a mess. They haven’t even found the Consultant’s location yet. All the work and trouble we’ve gone through will finally pay off. We might get the chance to sell the Consultant’s whereabouts to the Clock Tower and kill two birds with one stone. What do you think? Sounds like a good deal, huh?”

    The young man had an amused sneer on his face, perfectly fitting into the stereotype of a pirate.

    “So, we’re gonna ambush them?”

    I glanced to the side to see the rest of the pirates yawning and lazing about, probably because they had run out of coffee. Some were even napping on the rocks. It appeared that they had completely adopted this place as their home.

    “What we need to do now is to find strength in numbers. If the Consultant’s not a particularly skilled mage, a surprise attack should do the trick, but I’m glad to have extra men just in case.”

    “…I see.”

    I understood, probably because I had nothing to do with this Consultant person. The young man was fully aware that a spy could ruin the operation before it even started, so he was quite careful.

    “Oh, but. Before that, I have to ask. What’s the Clock Tower mage you mentioned earlier like?”

    “……”

    This time, it was the young man’s turn to be at a loss for words.

    “It’ll do you no good to ask! That man’s a devil, and he has nothing to do with our operation. Knowing too much is bad for you.”

    His words were not an empty threat.

    Unintentionally “sharing” too many things was like asking to be set on fire. The young man had recruited a nobody from the Cafe for this exact reason. Nothing bad would come of a one-time relationship. Even if I did well in this operation, going forward, we would still be no more than strangers.

    “I’m still curious, though. This has something to do with my job, right? If you don’t want to talk about it, I’ll leave right now.”

    “You…!”

    For an instant, hostility flashed in his eyes. Then, he sighed and relented. “That mage is known as the Plunderer.”

    “The plunderer? So, a pirate?”

    “Don’t compare us to him! We pirates plunder money, treasure, maybe lives sometimes. But that guy plunders things worth more to mages than their own souls!”

    He spoke as if he was describing something that truly terrified him.

    Something more important to mages than their own souls… In other words, something that was destined from birth. It was what differentiated mages from spellcasters, and what mages dedicated their lives to.

    “…That bastard destroys other people’s magecraft, and then takes it for himself.”

    Just as he told me this, the sound of an explosion rattled my eardrums. Two of the three motorboats had been engulfed in balls of orange fire.

    That wasn’t even the strangest thing. Even after such a giant explosion, the pirates around us remained asleep.

    “…What?!”

    The dumbfounded young man exclaimed, springing up in alarm. He reached for the gun at his belt and observed the surroundings.

    “—There!”

    He pulled out his pistol and fired, bullets striking sparks as they came into contact with the rocks on the beach.

    Then, a tall silhouette appeared silently from the shadows of the mangroves. How was this possible!?

    “What magecraft did you use to do that!”

    “…Sadly, nothing impressive.” Said the silhouette.

    It was a long-haired man who might have been some kind of European. He was around thirty years old, his face remarkable if only for his intense expression of distaste. His outfit, which consisted of a linen blazer over a shirt, appeared casual, but his expensive-looking leather shoes kept a subtle balance so that it wasn't too casual.

    “I only cast a simple ignition spell on the engines. I’ve done something similar before. But because my power alone is insufficient, the part of the spell that's meant to delay the fire didn’t function. I planned on having the explosions happen later. …Oh, and as for your friends, it’s just the effect of sleeping pills. I’ve enhanced them with magecraft, of course. It’s one of the only things I can do well.”

    Perhaps because of the fire, the man seemed to wince in pain. It was as if he had encountered a truth that he did not want to face once again.

    “…The Plunderer…!” The young man said, staring up at him as his lips trembled. The mage of the Clock Tower slowly lowered his gaze.

    “I see, so you’ve already discovered the Consultant’s location.” He said, pointing at the leather bag hanging at the young man’s waist. “Penang, right?”

    “How—?!”

    Though the young man looked as if he was about to collapse, the mage continued to point things out mercilessly.

    “You always carry that bag with you, so I figured that it’s your Mystic Code. You used the same kind of magecraft when you gathered reconnaissance about me, right? It’s probably a type of local magecraft. You also pretended to ask me something, but you wouldn’t need to if you’re possessed, like a Tongji or a Dukun. In that case, your bag contains…”

    “Shut up!” The young man shouted, pulling out his bag. “Bite and curse!”

    That was an incantation. A recited phrase to activate the user’s Magic Circuits and manifest mystery.

    Immediately, something leaped out from inside it.

    “…!”

    I froze, forgetting to breathe for a moment.

    Because the thing that had flown out—

    —Was the head of a woman, compressed to the size of a fist and enveloped in resentment and animosity.

    “A severed head…!”

    “…A shrunken head, to be more precise. Human heads are surprisingly small once you remove their skulls!”

    I didn’t know it then, but “Penanggalan” was the word people used in the Malaysian Peninsula to describe a monster or those who controlled them.

    The monster in this scenario was the flying head of a woman, which landed and bit down on the mage’s shoulder.

    He dodged so that it didn't get his artery, but blood still seeped into the fabric of his shirt.

    Despite this, the Clock Tower mage’s did not falter. Or, at least he only winced a little bit.

    “Your magecraft is a type of necromancy centered around this shrunken head. It’s closer to Western magecraft than Thought Magecraft. Is this because of the cultural mixing of the Strait of Malacca?”

    His reasoning made the young pirate’s face grow steadily paler.

    “According to the legend, there are also internal organs attached to this head. Have you scaled down the entire spell, including the process of drying it? In that case, the excess resentment of the corpse will gradually fade as it sheds weight. On top of that, your incantation was in English, so it was probably changed three or four generations ago as a result of colonization. Your spell has roots in tradition and aims to honor the dead while reckoning with their sins. But what you use now is nothing but a cruel shadow of what it used to be.”

    I could see exactly how those words struck their mark.

    In an instant, the pirate’s face turned dark red.

    He must have been humiliated.

    At a single glance, the hard work of generations of people had just been brutally labeled as worthless. It must have hit the mark, as the young man could not deny any of these accusations.

    “Is this… what the Clock Tower Lord who's made countless Prides and Brands is capable of?”

    “There’s no need to flatter me.”

    I couldn’t see clearly against the light, but there seemed to be a hint of sorrow on the mage’s face.

    “Most of my students are from prestigious families anyway, and only one of them has achieved the rank of Brand.”

    “What do you mean ‘only one’? Isn’t one plenty…?!” He complained in a muffled voice. It was indeed an astounding achievement.

    Brand was functionally the highest rank a mage could achieve in the Clock Tower, and Pride was the one beneath it. Normally, these were only achievable with years of hard work and incredible talent.

    However, this mage who was known as the Plunderer taught young people in such a way that his students had overtaken the top rungs of the ladder.
    The young man grabbed a rifle that was resting on an oil drum nearby.

    “But I've heard you yourself aren't that impressive! Your students may be great, but my shrunken head still managed to bite you!”

    “…Unfortunately for me, you’re right.”

    “Then you shoot too, Yarg!”

    As he shouted that, something was launched from the gun in his hand. It was not just a regular bullet.

    As the Clock Tower mage had so eloquently put, the young pirate was a necromancer. The bullet had been coated with the lingering resentment of the dead. Even if the Clock Tower mage used defensive magecraft to defend against bullets, the resentment would still make it through.

    I had to step in.

    “Wha— What!?”

    At first, it was impossible for the young pirate to know what he saw.

    “What the…?”

    The young man’s eyes were wide with shock.

    That was because his bullets had been blocked by a laughing box with eyes inside a birdcage.

    “Yarg! You betrayed me!?”

    “I haven’t betrayed you.”

    The young man raised his bag again. Hidden inside it was another shrunken head, this time with its eyes blindfolded.

    Bite and curse!”
    As he spoke the incantation, the binding around the shrunken head dissolved into innumerable scraps of fabric, revealing the void inside it. Spirits of the dead spewed forth from the rift.
    I heard once that blocking the eyes and mouth was a way to prevent Magical Energy from leaking out in certain types of magecraft. It felt typical of a cautious pirate to have tricks up his sleeve.
    However, in the moment, I was overwhelmed by fear as I faced the swarm of spirits.

    A wave of terror gushed from my stomach to my heart. It was something that I couldn't overcome no matter how many times I faced the dead. Even so, I gritted my teeth and looked up.

    Underneath the rag around my neck, a pendant glowed as it ceased to function as a Mystic Code.

    Of course, it was not my mentor who made it, but a student of the El-Melloi Classroom, Flat Escardos.

    “You’re…just some girl with a hood on?!” The young man shouted in disbelief. At the same time, the box in my hands also changed.

    “First stage restraint, rescinded!”

    The birdcage contorted and transformed into something that didn't belong in the daylight. It had a blade longer than my arm, curved like the crescent moon. Strange eye-like patterns adorned its handle.

    It was a scythe(Grim Reaper).

    The edge of the blade clashed with the spirits as the boats continued to burn around us. It not only cleaved the spirits it came into contact with cleanly, but also eliminated any behind them with the aftershock of the blow.

    It was as if the scythe removed their ties to the world of the living.

    “W-what is that!?”

    I walked slowly toward the dumbfounded young man, unsteady on his feet from what he had witnessed.

    There was no need for me to conceal my identity anymore.

    “…I haven’t betrayed you. I was my mentor’s disciple from the very beginning.”

    Bullets kept on being fired from the rifle, but my enhanced body was capable of matching their speed.

    Out of the twenty-eight total bullets shot, I dealt only with the seven that were close enough to hit my mentor and I.

    I leapt forward, converting the force of the bursts of gunpowder and blasts of flame into my thrust. The young man fell backwards as his rifle was cut in half.

    After confirming his incapacitation, I put my hat back on. Flat's Mystic Code had transformed it into a sunhat, and it'd be preferable not to lose it. This was a dangerous place, after all.

    “So you used large amounts of Magical Energy to reverse the force of energy and knock him unconscious? It’s a bit like the Eastern technique of attacking someone from afar by triggering their vagal reflex.”

    “Please don’t be so reckless again, Sir.”

    “I put some spirit-repelling incense on my shirt, so it didn’t bite particularly hard.”

    It was common knowledge that fights between mages were won or lost before they even began. However, I couldn’t accept it. No matter how well-prepared my mentor was, he still could have died in the beginning of the fight.

    In the first place, my mentor shouldn’t have let the young man strike first, but this was a bad habit of his. By that, I meant that he couldn’t stop himself from taking apart other people’s magecraft.

    “That’s why they call you the Plunderer, isn’t it?”

    “I don’t like that nickname, but it does scare people.”

    “…Sir, you look troubled again.”

    “Oh.” My mentor muttered, slapping his cheeks. “I must say though, your codename is too lazy. You just used your name backwards.”

    “…Sorry.” I said, awkwardly looking away.

    His name was Lord El-Melloi II.

    And I was not Yarg, but Gray.

    Gray, not black or white.

    For the past couple of years, I had been Lord El-Melloi II’s disciple, though I didn’t really live up to the role.

    Of course, the disguise and fake backstory were to secretly approach them as a fellow pirate. Even though I didn’t look the same with my disguise, I felt like he would still sense something was off as we talked. For that reason, I had gone to great lengths trying to think like a pirate. I was also nervous when I put my mentor’s homemade sleeping pills into the coffee because I didn’t know if I'd been caught or not.

    What had the purpose of all this been?

    “Well then,” my mentor said, taking out a small vial and turning around.

    The blistering fire had gradually calmed down, and the scent of the sea came back to wash over that of the gasoline. Dazzling sunlight continued to shine from the sky, and the foamy waves kept lapping at the shore. He had been right— the sea had nothing to do with a mages’ dispute. It quickly returned to its usual state.

    Compared to what had just happened, the calmness was almost ironic.

    I could hear the sound of crashing waves. First it was distant, and then it was close by. After that, it was close, and then far again.

    My mentor looked down at the young man, dazed from the homebrew of sleeping drugs.

    “Could you please tell us where the Consultant is?”

    *

    —The story of our adventure began several days ago.

  4. #4
    改竄者 Falsifier Petrikow's Avatar
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    Cool, you sure are productive!

    Added to the index.

  5. #5
    Onirique Daiki's Avatar
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    Thanks for putting in the effort, it's appreciated.

    Was secretly hoping you would do the remaining (untranslated) part of Rail Zeppelin first, since we're still missing three chapters and TwilightsCall has been completely inactive on the forums for over half a year.

  6. #6
    屍鬼 Ghoul narmbo's Avatar
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    i hope you guys like lem2 adventures! very excited to get to the meat of the story. as usual i'll be collecting relevant materials from jp. if something adventures-only gets published (like an illustration zine or a drama CD) you can bet i'll be nabbing it.

  7. #7
    Quote Originally Posted by Daiki View Post
    Thanks for putting in the effort, it's appreciated.

    Was secretly hoping you would do the remaining (untranslated) part of Rail Zeppelin first, since we're still missing three chapters and TwilightsCall has been completely inactive on the forums for over half a year.
    I promise I'll get to that one day

  8. #8
    死徒(上級)Greater Dead Apostle All fictions's Avatar
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    I really think we should wait longer to see if TwilightsCall can free up their time to finish Rail Zeppelin since they are the ones who started translating it. It's not especially urgent too.
    Quote Originally Posted by Rafflesiac View Post
    Punching out some nerd doesn't make you a better magus.

  9. #9
    死徒二十七祖 The Twenty Seven Dead Apostle Ancestors
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    It's great to see this starting to get translated. I've definitely enjoyed yourbCase Files translations and I think I'll be enjoying this as well

  10. #10
    Onirique Daiki's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by azwhoisverybored View Post
    I promise I'll get to that one day
    Thanks.

    Quote Originally Posted by All fictions View Post
    I really think we should wait longer to see if TwilightsCall can free up their time to finish Rail Zeppelin since they are the ones who started translating it. It's not especially urgent too.
    Now, there's no reason either to wait for someone who is completely inactive. I'm not one to push for someone to rush things, and I would certainly not ask when the next part is to be translated, but if you're too busy to even show up, chances are low that you're going to be translating stuff on your private time either, hence my post.

    It's not like the translation has to be from TwilightsCall after all. And that doesn't mean that I (or others) are not grateful for the work the original translator provided. Yet, these missing chapters could easily be frozen for years before someone does something about it. Nothing wrong about a project being worked on by different people, plenty of that around here. It's just inefficient if they do the same part at the same time.

    However, if someone is willing to complete what has been on hold for half a year, why should we be waiting? If the reasoning not to see the material translated is because someone else "called dibs" on it, I'm even more against it. That's the main reason Mahoyo remained frozen for so long before someone actually decided that Commiesubs weren't going to translate it.
    Last edited by Daiki; July 1st, 2022 at 09:23 PM.

  11. #11
    Lie Like Vortigern Reign's Avatar
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    it'd be nice to have Rail Zeppelin be complete but there's really no rush since it's the arc the anime covered, so while it's not a perfect solution someone can just watch that to get the missing parts.

  12. #12
    Onirique Daiki's Avatar
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    It just would have been practical to have it completed before part 2, is all.

  13. #13
    祖 Ancestor Alternative Ice's Avatar
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    I'm perfectly content to wait however long it takes for volume 5 to get fully translated before moving on to reading the rest of case files.
    Quote Originally Posted by Nasu
    I don't care if it doesn't make sense. I don't have any intent of making it make sense.

  14. #14
    屍鬼 Ghoul fearboss's Avatar
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    Personally, while I very much appreciate Twilights' work over the years, it's not as though Twilights has sole ownership over translating volume 5. It's possible to simultaneously recognize and be grateful for Twilights' hard work, while also recognizing that Twilights isn't the arbiter of who gets to translate Case Files. Imo, the cleanest way to resolve this would be if AZ did their own translation of vol 5 from the beginning, instead of picking up where Twilights left off. But of course, that's quite a bit extra work.

  15. #15
    祖 Ancestor Kamera's Avatar
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    Thanks for the translation!

    Also wow, there's actually some really precious fluff about Malay and South-East Asian magecraft in this prologue.


  16. #16
    In terms of volume 5, I've asked if I can translate it from where TwilightsCall left off. TwilightsCall said that he's fine with it.

  17. #17
    Chapter 1, Part 1
    Chapter 1, Part 1:

    [Imgur is not working. I'll add the image later.]

    A warm gust of wind blew across my face.

    It hit me again that this place certainly was different from the city I had grown used to.

    The sun hung high in the sky, sending bursts of heat in waves. Even with my hood on, I felt as if my eyes would be burned by the light that reflected off of the streets. Perhaps because they were used to the light and heat, the other passersby were dressed lightly. Some even chatted as they walked.

    In the distance, skyscrapers cut through the skyline beside a majestic mosque, the largest Ferris wheel in the world, and some avant-garde buildings that looked like giant worms.

    In the shadow of these buildings, there was a food court made up of many small stalls, each sending a different aroma into the air.

    I had been told that these places were called Hawker centers. They had once operated freely, but the government had recently put guidelines in place due to sanitation concerns. Either way, my usually-meager appetite was excited by it all.

    The signs that lined the streets were written in a mixture of English, Chinese, Malay, and Tamil, reflecting the diversity of the languages being spoken around us. The streets of this southern country were full of vitality and cheer, yet it also felt like a fight could break out at any moment.

    We were in Singapore, a beautiful city-state near the equator.

    It seemed to be in stark contrast to myself. I couldn’t help but think that I oozed a melancholy shade of gray just by standing in such a lively place.

    “Are you alright, Lady?” Came a voice from behind me.

    A man in sunglasses was walking in step with me. He looked distinctly British, and had waist-length black hair as dark as night. He wore an expensive-looking linen blazer, straw-colored pants, and Blucher shoes. He held a green Dulles bag in one hand.

    “Yes, I’m alright. But it’s rare to see you dressed so lightly, Sir.”

    “I can’t exactly wear Harris Tweed in this weather. I can’t wear just a shirt, either.”

    My mentor took off his sunglasses and wiped the sweat from his face.

    It appeared that his heat tolerance was terrible, regardless of the clothes he wore. His face was pale, and he looked as if he was about to fall over. Perhaps because he hadn’t gotten enough sleep recently, there were dark circles under his eyes.

    “Ihihihi! This look suits you surprisingly well, useless mage!” Said a voice from near my right shoulder.

    “Add!”

    I called his name in warning, but my mentor had already heard his insult.

    “You don’t have to call me useless. I already know that.” He spat, nursing his long-standing inferiority complex.

    Rather than being an apology for his lack of talent, it was more like a complaint. That fact would not change, no matter how much deeper the frown between his eyebrows grew or how many mages feared him.

    In fact, you could probably guess his skill level from how he kept wiping sweat from his face. Supposedly, a proper mage would have no problem adjusting tiny biological processes like this. I wasn’t a mage, so I didn’t really know even though I had some education on the subject.

    “…Should I pull down my hood a bit?”

    “I would be glad if you did. Try to cover your face as much as possible. I don’t want to see it.”

    Even though we were in a foreign place, his cold response was as usual.

    I tugged down on my hood, concealing my expression.

    Out of consideration for the weather, I wasn’t wearing my usual cotton hood. My clothes had all been selected by Reines. The sheer hood kept out the sun, and the looseness allowed the hot yet refreshing wind to blow in.

    If only this wind could blow away the clump of gray clogging my heart.

    My mentor gave a gentle cough as I straightened my posture. I took notice of the sunburn growing on his fist, impressed.

    “It’s just about noon. Why don’t we have lunch?” My mentor said, a finger pointing toward the Hawker Center we had just passed.

    *

    The Hawker Center was bustling with people, as if it was a giant mess hall.

    My mentor and I sat across from each other with two trays of food from the nearby stalls. The plastic chairs were simple but practical, supporting us comfortably. The speakers played music that seemed to be in Hindi, but I couldn’t be sure.

    “How was the conference?”

    “It was very interesting. I still have a lot left to learn about the magecraft here.” My mentor replied as he ate a steaming plate of stir-fried noodles with a plastic fork. It was a popular Singaporean dish whose name had been written on the signboard at the entrance of the Food Center.

    I had ordered a bowl of bak kut teh[1]. Translated literally, the name meant “meat bone tea”. It was a pork rib dish stewed in broth with both a striking appearance and a rich aroma. The smell of pepper and cloves tickled my nose and reminded me of the ancient spice trade route that once existed here. It made you appreciate why people of the past valued spices to be worth their weight in gold.

    I didn’t usually have a large appetite, but the different scents wafting about the food court made it difficult to suppress the urge to order seconds.

    “There are types of magecraft you don’t know about?”

    “Of course there are,” my mentor said with a wry smile, rubbing his temples. “Singapore and the area around it historically have been a place where cultures mingled and fused.”

    He used his fork to stir the noodles in his plate, combining it with the sauce.

    “For example, the mie goreng that I’m eating now is a Malaysian dish, while your bak kut teh is a dish made by homesick dock workers from Fujian, China. It's said that the dish was originally made because the poorly-paid laborers wanted to use meat stuck to the bone that had already been thrown away.”

    My mentor’s words were cold and clinical in stark contrast to the lively music that was playing.

    However, I felt that my mentor looked almost happy when he was teaching people. Or maybe I just wanted him to be.

    “The same applies to magecraft. No matter where certain types of magecraft originated, they must have been affected by the culture around them over the course of their existence. History and cultural legacy are indispensable in order to create the confidence that enables us to cast magecraft,” he said, using his fork to form the noodles in his plate into a circle.

    The chatter of the people in the food center seemed to harmonize with the music. The emotions of this group of people laughing and resonating with a familiar melody could probably be considered as some kind of magecraft.

    “In terms of the results, the Mystery in Singapore was affected in the same way as the food here. It is a combination of the Western magecraft represented by the Clock Tower, the Thought Magecraft of Asia, and the Curse Magecraft of the Middle East. The influence of each organization is kept in a delicate balance, so the presence of a Lord is likely to cause disturbances.”

    
“I… hear some rumors about you from time to time as well.”

    “Yes. I’m only here for a little visit, but my actions will naturally be under careful scrutiny and constraint.”

    If I were to summarize my mentor’s existence, I would probably call him a heretic in the World of Magecraft.

    His magecraft skills were only mediocre, and his family was not worth mentioning. However, due to a remarkable combination of coincidences, he had not only become one of the twelve Lords of the Clock Tower, but also an extremely talented teacher whose students all went on to achieve great things. That was also why he had been invited across thousands of kilometers to teach at the Singaporean branch of the Clock Tower.

    To the people around him, he was like a hurricane of unclear origin. He looked average in every way. Compared to other Lords, he was as inoffensive as the eye of a storm. And yet, he had the incredible ability of leveling the obstacles in his path. Sometimes, this destruction also ended up hurting himself.

    “…So that’s why you sent me first, right?”

    “I think you’ll be more useful to help the situation cool down.” My mentor admitted, somewhat embarrassed.

    The act of constantly sending me, his only disciple, headfirst into danger could be considered extremely shameful. However, I knew that it wasn’t a selfish act of self-preservation. I knew that he made every effort to be sincere in order to achieve the best outcome for everyone. Even people who could not understand his methods had to accept it.

    That was how he chose to live— as someone who searched for the ideal solution, no matter how difficult or unpleasant the journey there was.

    In my opinion, this was a noble ideal.

    I had come to Singapore first to confirm my mentor’s schedule and communicate with the people involved. More busywork probably meant they actually trusted us, so I couldn’t help but feel a little proud of myself.

    “All the trouble’s over for now, right?”

    “We can’t let down our guard completely until we get back. As fascinating as this country is, it has its fair share of problems.”

    “Problems...?”

    A strange image appeared in my mind. It was a bit like balancing plates on sticks, only more complicated. All kinds of items and weights were suspended on them in a delicate balance.

    My mentor lent me a hand just as I wracked my brain in search of an example.

    “Like pirates, for instance.”

    “Pirates?”

    “It’s not a word you would expect to hear in the modern day, is it? From an international perspective, the word comes up quite often. After all, this region of the ocean sees twenty percent of the world’s maritime traffic and thirty percent of the world’s oil trade. In contrast, the straits are quite narrow and connect to hundreds of rivers. As you may estimate, the ships here are easy to attack, while escape routes are numerous. This place is the perfect hunting ground for pirates. The earliest records of piracy here can be traced to the twelfth century.”

    My mentor twirled his fork, gathering up his noodles like spaghetti.

    “And anything that stretches into the past is bound to involve mages.”

    “…!”

    For a moment, I forgot how to breathe.

    He suddenly changed the topic from one world to the next, almost revealing the existence of Mystery.

    “Pirates have varying systems of belief. This is only natural when you consider that the prosperity of this place relies on shipping. People who spend their lives in a place as dangerous as the sea tend to live by their own rules. In any case, it isn’t strange that mages managed to find their way into these groups. For people who deal with Mystery, it is incredibly convenient to associate with powerful entities that operate outside of the law.”

    I felt my throat tighten at the thought of people who refused to bow down to authority.

    “And so, the beliefs of pirates found their way into magecraft. Did mages become pirates, or did pirates become mages? The more time passes, the more ambiguous the answer becomes.”

    I saw a whirlpool in the noodles that my mentor had twisted together. The sauce that sat in the cheap plastic plate was the vast blue sea. In its center, there was a giant swirling vortex, creating something tiny rooted amidst all the carnage.

    “Everything in our world originates from the sea. It isn’t wrong to call the land ‘Mother Earth’. People just jump ahead of themselves. You could say the mother, or maybe father of the world is actually the ocean.” My mentor said, narrowing his eyes.

    Maybe this was another figment of my imagination, but I heard an echoing noise. It was like the waves of the ocean crashing onto the shore, even though I was too far from the beach to actually hear it. It was almost as if I had found a point where the gravitational pulls of the moon and the earth were perfectly in balance.

    “Just as we came to this world from the ocean, our beliefs and gods did as well.”

    As my mentor put a forkful of noodles into his mouth, my illusion disappeared. The cheerful Indian music returned. I was still inside the food center.

    I sighed.

    “Is something the matter?”

    “No, I just realized that it’s been a while since I heard you lecture, Sir.”

    “It’s only been a week.”

    Though my mentor said that, I could feel relief in his words, which was a little embarrassing.

    A performance had begun on a nearby street that was separated from us with glass. A dolly for guests had been set up beside it with bicycles instead of taxis. Even though it had fallen out of fashion, it still provided a means of transportation for many tourists in Singapore.

    “…It’s already time.” My mentor complained, glancing at the clock that hung in the center of the food center.

    “Time for what?”

    “Oh, an old friend of mine sent me an email this morning. We decided to meet up here, but…”

    My mentor frowned as if he noticed something strange.

    At this, the music suddenly changed. The Indian music was replaced by the tolling of a bell. Then, the high twang of string instruments sang out. Just as I was trying to process the sudden appearance of the fast-paced Chinese-style music, a silhouette appeared between the booths.

    The young actor had makeup painted around his eyes and nose. The ribbons on his magnificent hat and his glittering costume fluttered elegantly through the air, combining with the scent of spices and creating the image of an ancient battlefield.

    The actor stomped on the ground in beat with the ringing bells, swinging the spear in his powdered hands in an arc.

    “…What’s this?”

    “Wayang[2].” My mentor explained. “It’s a Singaporean variation of traditional Chinese opera. It’s often confused with the shadow puppets of the nearby island of Java and Wayang Kulit.”

    My mentor couldn’t look away from the actor as he spoke.

    The actor performed multiple backflips in quick succession, each without a single centimeter of error. Most well-trained gymnasts probably wouldn’t be able to pull off something like this. Not only were the acrobatics stunning, but the actor also managed to survey the rest of the stage between each jump.

    Though there was only one actor, it felt as if soldiers crowded the stage. The general on stage persisted although he was cornered many times, charging to the center of the battlefield despite being wounded.

    The actor’s flexible body moving to the music seemed to symbolize the entire city-state’s culture. The essence of history that existed in people’s hearts was constantly shifting, just like the dance itself.

    At some point during the performance, the actor had put on a mask.

    I gasped, covering my mouth with my hands to silence myself.

    The mask depicted the face of a monkey.

    “The Monkey King, Sun Wukong? So he’s a popular folkloric figure in Singapore as well.”

    Even I had heard that name.

    It was the name of the stone monkey in the Journey to the West, known as the Great Sage Equal to Heaven for his many abilities, such as turning into seventy-two different forms and wielding the golden-adorned staff Jingu Bang[3].

    “I didn’t expect the same actor to play two roles. In that case, was the general just then Nezha?”

    The actor in the monkey mask shouted something that was probably in Chinese. I didn’t understand it, but it seemed as if he was shouting that he had finally met his sworn adversary. I also understood that the adversary in question was the unmasked character that had just been on stage, Nezha.

    The two fought to the rousing melody of string instruments, crossing blades seven times. The lance flashed even more fiercely than before until it finally pierced its target. Shockingly, I could see a splash of blood.

    Which side had won? I didn’t know.

    The performance ended with the actor performing a sword mudra[4], raising his index and middle fingers.

    After a few seconds of stunned silence, the food center erupted into thunderous applause.

    The actor bowed humbly and then moved with the musicians behind him to pass out peonies[5] to the audience. I happened to receive one.

    “Th-thank you.”

    “You’re welcome.” The actor said, winking at me mischievously and sauntering away.

    Though he disappeared from the stage, the food center had not returned to its normal state. The audience members, the chefs in the stalls, and even my mentor stayed still for a moment. Some of them only regained their senses after their food began to burn.

    “That was captivating.” My mentor exclaimed.

    “Yeah…” I said, nodding blankly. I couldn’t help but keep thinking back to the performance just then, but I drank another spoonful of soup and tried to organize my thoughts.

    “I’m really glad I watched it with you, Sir.”

    “Why?”

    “I feel like you’ve been troubled by something for the past couple of months.” I said, finishing another bit of bak kut teh and confessing my thoughts as my mentor tilted his head.

    My mentor’s response to this was quite strange. He blinked several times and reached toward his temples. Then, he paused to look down at the plate of nearly-finished noodles before him and cleared his throat.

    “So you’ve noticed.” He said, looking bashful.

    “I think it’s actually quite easy to guess what you’re feeling.”

    “Well… In that case, you're not wrong.”

    My mentor smiled wryly and closed his eyes.

    It was incredibly strange. I had seen my mentor look troubled in so many different ways, in agony at his own inadequacies and failings, but I had never seen him like this.

    “…Actually, Lady,” he said after much hesitation. “I want to quit my job as a teacher.”

    A few seconds passed as I struggled to process his words. While the performance had been impressive in many ways, the weight of what he had said painlessly crushed the core of my being.

    “I’ll still be a Lord, of course, because of my deal with Reines. But both the Department of Modern Magecraft and the El-Melloi Classroom are sufficiently staffed. You could say that the significance of me standing up front during a lecture has dwindled. Hardly any of the Lords teach their respective departments anyway.”

    My mentor spoke with a casual smile on his face. However, such hollow comforts went in one ear and out another. The first words he had said on the topic still weighed impossibly heavily upon me.

    “Sir…” Finally, I found my voice. It was a rasping, terrible sound, but I managed regardless. “But—”

    “I haven’t decided yet,” my mentor said gently. “But I’ve been considering this for quite a while. If the El-Melloi Classroom is already at the level where it can survive on its own, maybe I should consider working on my own magecraft… or something.”

    “…I…”

    I wanted to say something, but the words got stuck in my throat.

    Naturally, I was silent again. Probably because of my reaction, my mentor did not continue to speak.

    The bak kut teh in my trembling spoon lost its flavor.

    I’m sure the food center was as crowded and full of the smells of spices as it had been, but I had my own secluded corner to be just as lonely as ever.

    Suddenly, my mentor stood up.

    “That performer just then—”

    “Sir…?”

    Looking around to no avail, my mentor sat down again with a frown.

    “He left this note behind tied to the flower's stalk.”

    “What does it say?”

    I looked at the note in my mentor’s palm. The paper was of a high quality, and something had been written on it in crowded handwriting.

    “The email from your acquaintance is a fake. Allow me to give you a bit of advice.”

    “—!”

    What shocked me more was the content that followed.

    “Lord El-Melloi II, one of your students has been kidnapped by pirates in the Strait of Malacca. Seek the one who is known as the Consultant.”

    My mentor’s fingers trembled as he held the note.

    “…One of my students has been kidnapped by pirates?”
    —————————————————————————————————————————————————— ——
    Last edited by azwhoisverybored; July 9th, 2022 at 06:22 AM.

  18. #18
    Chapter 1, Part 2
    Chapter 1, Part 2:

    —And now, back to the present.

    It was midnight.

    Waves the color of ink slammed into the rocks beside us.

    We stood on a tiny, sandy island at the center of a waterway wound with lush mangrove trees. The island wasn’t marked on any maps, lying to the southwest of Singapore. The currents often caused ships to crash into the rocks, so cargo ships and fishermen hardly approached it.

    Tonight, however, a small boat floated in the water. It was so old that I was surprised the engine still functioned. The hull rattled every second the engine was on, threatening to come to pieces. Several people caught notice and came to take a look, but it was overlooked considering the abundance of abandoned boats and the sad state of this particular one.

    After the guards left us, we hurriedly surfaced.

    “...Ugh…hurrgh…”

    My mentor lay dripping wet on the ground, looking as if he was going to die. I myself was fine after a few gulps of air, and began to survey our surroundings.

    “Are you alright, Sir?”

    “F…Fine… but… Let me… rest a bit… first.” My mentor said, gasping for breath.

    Just to clarify, my mentor had come up with this plan.

    Even underwater, sufficient enhancement can keep a mage from running out of air. For this reason, we pretended that our boat had drifted over with the tides. Then, we hid near the motor underneath the boat so we could infiltrate the Consultant's headquarters.

    It made for a good hiding place, thanks to the low clarity of the water. The problem was that my mentor was terrible at enhancement. Even though he had a sufficient supply of oxygen, maintaining a supply of Magical Energy in these circumstances drained a person’s life force, Od. If my mentor spent too long in this state, he would eventually pass out and die.

    Of course, my mentor was aware of these risks. His fatal weakness happened to be the most important thing for a mage-- Magic Circuits capable of generating Magical Energy.

    —“I want to quit my job as a teacher.”
    —“…maybe I should consider working on my own magecraft… or something.”

    My mentor’s words from earlier echoed in my mind before wedging into my heart. I knew that my mentor would still be the same person, no matter what job he had, so why was I so shaken?

    I looked down, enduring the cold air on my wet skin.

    At the same time, my mentor finally wiped the water from his face and gazed into the distance.

    “…So this is the Consultant’s headquarters.” He said in a soft voice.

    We had found this place with help from the information we had beaten out of that pirate. However, the island looked more like a small fishing village than the fortified pirate base I had imagined.

    With my enhanced vision, I could see a few shabby wooden buildings peeking out from behind the mangroves. It seemed that wooden bridges had been built so it was at least possible to walk between the waterways. Several old boats not unlike the one we just hid in had been lined up near the widest waterway, probably so the pirates could salvage items from the sea.

    “It doesn’t look much like a pirate base to me…”

    “…So some thought clearly went into this place.” My mentor said, before I could finish my sentence.

    “What makes you say that?”

    “This base was converted from an abandoned fishing village. It probably took less than a day to set up. Since their main business is small-scale salvaging, they don’t need large equipment either. If they are ever discovered, only the people who live here will know the escape routes. Compared to a proper stronghold, which do you think is more effective?”

    “Oh, I see…”

    I thought I understood.

    “This fortress is temporary anyway. They can abandon it whenever they want to. …So that’s why the Consultant has never been caught.”

    It had taken us a significant amount of time to find this place according to the pirate’s directions. That proved that stealth was more important than defense.

    “I don’t know which student they kidnapped. There are quite a few in this general area who I've been unable to get in touch with,” my mentor said with a serious expression. “However, I can’t be sure about the authenticity of the note. Either way, a proper mage ought to solve any problem they're involved in, right?”

    Though his face was still pale, my mentor spoke as sensibly and calmly as usual. His attitude also proved his point that mages should protect themselves.

    “But why would someone kidnap your student?”

    “This time, Lady, I believe that I’m the target,” my mentor sighed. “In that case, I need to find out what I have done to warrant this. If a student were to be harmed because of my mistake, it becomes my own personal matter. Even if the note might be a trap—” said the person who sent his disciple into danger to test the water.

    Typical of my mentor, his words contradicted his actions.

    Cowardly and timid, yet sometimes surprisingly bold— that was my mentor.

    “Be careful though, Sir. If you get shot, you’ll die.”

    “…That’s where I’ll be counting on you.”

    I couldn’t help but feel it was unfair that he got to say this with such an apologetic expression.

    “Don't get too far from me.” I said, exhaling with a smile.

    “You don't need to worry about that.”

    My mentor nodded, taking out a test tube that was sealed with wax. He poured a few drops of a cold, sticky substance onto our hands. After he whispered an incantation, I felt his presence fade slightly.

    It was invisibility magecraft.

    Even though my mentor’s magecraft was useless against mages, it was probably enough to deal with regular people. It also didn’t hide things like the sound of our footsteps, so we could only shuffle forward carefully.

    A long time ago, this kind of skillset was unknown to me, but I had grown used to it in my time with my mentor. At any rate, it was good not to make ourselves known to our enemies too quickly.

    Even though the village gave the impression of being abandoned, I saw several misshapen crates that were full of fish. Possibly because they just had dinner, the scent of cheese and spices remained in the air.

    As we snuck across the island, we carefully took note of the inhabitants. One thing they had in common made us both frown.

    “They’re all so young… almost children.”

    “…Yes. Considering the nature of their work, pirates tend to be quite young, but these are a little too young.”

    Even my mentor sounded surprised.

    Of course, child soldiers were not uncommon in this area. However, the children here all looked surprisingly cheerful. Most of them spoke Malay, which I could not understand, but they seemed to be happily chatting about everyday topics.

    They were also dressed surprisingly lightly, with most of them only carrying knives and pistols. Some people had assault rifles, but they were older and dressed like mercenaries. Of course, it wasn’t uncommon for pirates to be in possession of weapons like rocket launchers, but I found it hard to imagine in the hands of these children.

    “The Consultant and the kidnapped student should be in the heart of the island, right?”

    “…Probably.”

    We didn’t have enough time to check every room. Instead, we crossed the mangrove forest on platforms made of wires and wood, and headed toward the beach.

    As we passed a teenage boy who was suppressing a yawn, a spark of realization flashed up his body, and his eyes snapped open.

    “A Bounded Field—?”

    “Ihihihi! All that work and you’ve still been discovered!”

    I sent a flying kick toward the young man as he tried to pull out a gun, knocking him to the ground. It wasn’t the nicest thing to do to a kid, but I was able to induce confusion in him by sending out a wave of Magic Energy.

    It would have been nice if that was all, but the Bounded Field had already sent out an alarm. A group of pirates approached and were now pointing their guns at us.

    “Gray!”

    “First stage restraint, rescinded!”

    As I shouted my incantation, I took my birdcage from the hook at my right shoulder, in which the box inside began to coalesce into a scythe.

    The Magical Energy released by the transformation sent out a blast of wind. I used it to leap ten meters into the air with my mentor in tow, blocking two bullets that approached us before we landed in the sand.

    I hadn’t been able to do this before.

    In the past, I had only learnt enough to be a grave keeper. That profession required self-defense techniques, not the ability to fight against modern weaponry. How many specially-trained mages would need to know how to dodge bullets, anyway?

    “Are you hurt, Gray?”

    “No, I’m perfectly fine.”

    Trying to suppress the burst of emotion in my heart, I raced toward the buildings ahead of me.

    Suddenly, a person appeared from beside me. They had a rough linen cloth covering their head, like a headscarf worn to keep out the sand in a desert. It was probably so I couldn’t see their face. Even though they were around my height and build, alarm bells rang in my head. My senses should have been enhanced, but I hadn’t noticed them at all—!

    The person who had suddenly appeared slid up to me so quickly that I did not have time to react. They planted one foot on the sandy ground and then hurled their elbow at my chest.

    I was knocked into the air like a leaf in a strong breeze. I tumbled across the beach a few times before I could regain my balance.

    My opponent probably realized that I had pushed my mentor into the shadow of a building at the first sign of trouble. After glancing over to see if he was safe, I turned to face my unidentified opponent once again.

    “…Add.”

    “Ihihihihi! This one’s tough!”

    Suddenly, eyes appeared on my scythe.

    It seemed to shock my opponent briefly. However, they quickly regained their composure and pointed a finger at me.

    “—Anfang!”

    Along with the incantation, a magic bullet was fired at me.

    I blocked it without even really paying attention, but to my surprise, the spell remained.

    It was a simple action that only needed a single word, but it had a significant amount of Magical Energy. While I wouldn’t have been bothered if my arm had been hit by a regular bullet, this strike left it numb. I hurriedly dodged to the side as another Magic Bullet struck the beach beside my feet.

    “Ihihihi, Gray! This isn’t any old Magic Bullet! It’s a compressed curse with no physical form!”

    “So, like Miss Luvia’s Gandr?”

    That was the name of the most graceful mage I knew, who was also one of my mentor’s best students.

    By now, I was sure that my enemy was none other than the Consultant. Not many mages could compete with Luvia’s skill. Just as I prepared for an attack, my mentor called out my name.

    “Gray!”

    “—!”

    For some reason, this made the Consultant freeze. I took this opportunity to leap upwards, dashing between the mangroves to distract my opponent. Even so, the mage’s curses managed to follow me. I raised my scythe as quickly as I could, preparing to swing it with all I had. I could not show mercy in front of an opponent like this.

    I saw the surprise on the Consultant’s face. But it was too late.

    I didn’t have time to back down. The scythe in my hands absorbed my Magical Energy and grew larger.

    Right before it could hit its target, a young man rushed out from the group of shocked pirates and mercenaries.

    “—Wait!”

    Came a voice in somewhat awkward English.
    
In an instant, both me and my scythe froze in midair.

    How? I wondered. There hadn’t even been an incantation. If it was a form of modern magecraft, I should have been able to free myself by releasing a little Magic Energy. However, the binds around me did not budge.

    Worry ran circles around my mind. Was it not magecraft? I frantically thought.

    One second of being frozen was enough to cause my death. Two seconds, and my mentor’s life would be gone as well.

    However, the Consultant did not fire another curse.

    Instead, they removed the cloth covering their face.

    “…What are you doing here, Sir? Why did you sneak into my base?”

    She growled like a volcano on the verge of eruption.

    The first thing I saw under the linen cloth was glossy black hair, unfurling like the night over the sunset, not unlike the sky above us.

    By her facial features I could assume she was Eastern. But despite that, she had vivid blue eyes and full, bright lips. She was probably around twenty years old. Like a stalk of a flower just about to bloom, she stood firm, and it was almost like the lovely scent of a flower wafted around her, her presence made tangible.

    I was suddenly reminded of a painting by Delacroix which depicted the goddess of liberty leading people during the French Revolution.

    However, this goddess might not need people to lead.

    (Imgur still isn't working for me. There's supposed to be an image here.)

    “…Rin?” Lying flat on his back in the sand, my mentor spoke, blinking in shock.
    ——————————————————————————————————————————————


    Chapter 1, Part 3
    Chapter 1, Part 3:

    The tide chose this moment to crash into the beach.

    The situation had changed so rapidly that the pirates that surrounded us froze, stunned.

    This silence lasted for about ten seconds before someone walked up.

    My first impression of the young man was that he was kind of… fluffy, like a well-mannered dog. The sea breeze blew his long, red hair in strange angles. He looked like a teenager, but I couldn’t be sure of his race or nationality. Rather than looking ethnically ambiguous, like many other people I had met around Singapore, he had an ethereal look about him that made me doubt his humanity.

    “Um… Rin?” The young man said timidly to the dark-haired woman named Rin Tohsaka.

    “Oh, don’t be scared, Ergo. This man is my teacher,” Rin said, gesturing in my mentor’s direction. “The one from the Clock Tower. Didn’t you say that you wanted to meet him?”

    “Oh… yes, I remember.” The person named Ergo said, slightly more confidently.

    “That’s the situation. Can you let the girl down first?”

    “Sure.”

    Ergo nodded, and I landed gently on the beach. I didn’t know how he achieved the feat, but it had been too incredible. Even though I had experienced all kinds of Mystery, this was still surprising.

    Ergo and the young bandits gathered in a loose circle around me and conveyed their apology.

    “Uh… Sorry?”

    “…It’s alright…” I said, a little shaken by their responses. But now wasn't the time for that.

    Behind me, my mentor stood up and dusted the sand from his pants. He took several deep breaths and turned to the woman.

    “Rin, does that mean…”

    Before he could finish his sentence, he coughed a couple of times.

    “Are you the Consultant?!”

    “……”

    The woman’s eyes wandered for a moment before she raised her hands in surrender.

    “Yes, that’s me, the pirate consultant. Do you have any questions for me?” She said as if nothing was strange about it.

    “What!?”

    “It’s none of your business! It’s kind of a long story, I don’t want to waste your time telling you about it.”

    What kind of events needed to transpire for someone to become a pirate consultant? I wondered. Regardless, I now understood that this woman was my mentor’s student.

    “Um… We heard that you were kidnapped by pirates…”

    “What? Kidnapped by pirates? Who told you that?” Rin asked, tilting her head in confusion along with all the young pirates.

    “Someone passed me a note that said you were kidnapped. Well, that was clearly fake.” My mentor said, clutching his head as if he had a headache. “No, no. Since your name came up, I had to do something about it! Also, I know you applied for summer vacation, but I never knew you were going to the Strait of Malacca!”

    “I know. But Sir, isn’t independence one of the core principles of the El-Melloi Classroom?”

    My mentor had no response to this.

    Later, my mentor told me that no mage should aspire to have others clean up their messes. I still had no idea how she became a pirate consultant, but at least she took responsibility for her own actions.

    In a certain sense, she had taken my mentor’s teachings to heart.

    Rin turned to the young man I had felled, and gently picked him up.

    Stone heals(?)
    Blut der Erde, Lebenskraft.


    Along with the short incantation, I saw her hand glow as it touched the young man’s back.

    Soon, he opened his eyes.

    “…Rin?”

    “Are you alright? I’ll have the doctor take a look later.”

    Rin gave him a pat on the back as he stood up.

    “Oh, also. Who is she, Sir?”

    “Gray, put your hood on.”

    Though I thought that I was already wearing my hood properly, I followed his instruction nonetheless.

    “Gray? You called her that earlier. Is she your disciple?”

    “Well, yes…”

    “She’s been with you in all the classes I’ve been to. Everyone else in the class knows her already besides me. Are you trying to leave me out?”

    Though she sounded polite on the surface, her perfect English was prickly. Each word was like a rose’s thorns, beautiful and pointed.

    “…Uh, there are some reasons for that…”

    With a sigh, my mentor gestured to me reluctantly.

    “Well, I'll introduce you properly, then. This is my disciple, Gray. Gray, this woman is my student, Rin Tohsaka, who is from Japan.”

    “Nice to meet you.”

    I looked down at my feet.

    She stared at me incredulously, as if she had seen a ghost.

    Another voice called out from beside my arm as if to divert her attention.

    “Ihihihihi! Nice to meet you too!”

    My scythe, Add, had reverted to his usual form. Like a robot in disguise, he had transformed into a box inside a birdcage.

    I hesitated for a moment, but ultimately decided to introduce him to everyone present.

    “And this is Add.”

    “It’s rare to see a Mystic Code emulating such a strong personality.” Rin said, nodding.

    As expected of a Clock Tower mage, she understood what it was immediately.

    Then, she took a deep breath.

    “Alright, can we go inside first? Get back to work!”

    After issuing this command to the group of young pirates, she pointed to a building deep at the center of the base.
    —————————————————————————————————————————————————— ——
    Last edited by azwhoisverybored; July 11th, 2022 at 11:56 PM.

  19. #19
    Chapter 1, Part 4
    Chapter 1, Part 4:

    The building was crudely furnished. The woodwork that made up the walls and furniture resembled a popsicle stick art project, yet even so, it was one of the better houses in the abandoned fishing village. Though I was inside, I could still feel the wind. I had expected more mosquitoes or pests, so maybe magecraft or spices had been used to ward them off.

    We sat down on some chairs made from scrap wood.

    My mentor sat across from Rin with a serious expression on his face. He took out a cigar from its waterproof case, cut off its tip, and lit it with a match. Soon, the unique scent of his cigar's smoke filled the room.

    “So, were you here last year as well?”

    “Salvaging isn't a job that requires me to stay here all the time. All I need to do is plan the work out beforehand and make regular calls.” Rin explained like an honors student giving a presentation. But what kind of honors student would become a pirate…?

    “…Dr. Benoit did say that the internet is more efficient to use, though.” She added.

    My mentor took a long drag on his cigar.

    “I see. So you’re here to salvage items from the sea floor. I have heard that some pirates in this area prefer to do that over robbing and pillaging.” He began. “But I’ve also heard rumors that the Consultant has been anxious ever since I came.”

    “Well…” Rin said, averting her gaze.

    “It seems like someone wants to hide something from the Clock Tower.”

    “I mean… Fine! You're not wrong! But this doesn’t violate the principle of the concealment of Mystery! The people here are pretty superstitious, so they don’t question my magecraft much. The media only reports the salvaging. I just didn’t know that the Clock Tower mage who came to Singapore was you, Sir…”

    “You could've made a worse mistake. If your situation does end up reaching the Department of Law, I can help delay their investigations,” my mentor sighed. “So? What are you here to do? ”

    “Some of the things down in the ocean interest me, so I contacted the pirates here. You could say I made a little investment.”

    “…Are you trying to scam the pirates?”

    “No, of course not. This is a beneficial trade for both sides! I provide the pirates with useful information. In return, the pirates help me do the actual salvaging!” She spoke indignantly.

    That was probably why she was known as the Consultant. It was a nickname that completely went against the Clock Tower’s most important principle.

    Rin Tohsaka.

    Even I was familiar with this name.

    In the past few years, she and Luvia Edelfelt had been notorious for causing incredible property damage whenever they were in the same place. However, the money spent by the Clock Tower to fix the holes they had blasted into classrooms was made up for by the innovative ideas they came up with in the papers they published.

    Not only that, she was an Average One, with elemental affinities for five elements instead of the usual one or two. This alone was enough to qualify her as a person of great talent.

    However, for some reason, I had never met her until this day.

    “I understand where you’re coming from now,” my mentor said, nodding. “I’m not sure if the note about my student’s kidnapping was a fake or a misunderstanding. Can you tell me what you’re trying to salvage from the sea floor?”

    “…Actually, I want to hear your opinion on it, Sir.”

    “Hm?”

    My mentor frowned, holding his cigar between his fingertips. Across from him, Rin thought for a moment, indicating that she didn’t yet have a concrete grasp of the situation.

    “Originally, my plan was to look for Zheng He’s sunken ship.”

    “Zheng He?” I tilted my head, confused.

    “Zheng He was a Chinese explorer who led the world’s largest fleet and completed the furthest voyage at the time, when Europe was in the Middle Ages. His journeys left a great impact on history. It is said the ships under his command were as tall as one hundred and forty meters, with more than twenty-seven thousand crew of all sorts of professions, from actors to craftsmen. You can almost consider it to be a moving country.”

    Hearing my mentor’s explanation, I found it difficult to imagine his ships’ scale. How had he managed to transport tens of thousands of people with the technology of the time? The great powers that Asia had historically were, indeed, as amazing as they had sounded in my mentor's lectures.

    “Did Chinese fleets reach Singapore, then?”

    “They went far further than that. They even reached the eastern coast of Africa. The region around Malacca has always been a place where the East and West have blended together. For instance, the first king of the Malacca Sultanate was rumored to be a descendant of Alexander the Great[1].”

    Hearing the ancient king’s name, I gasped.

    My mentor smiled wryly.

    “That’s because he’s a troublemaker that can be found in history books all around the world. To get back on topic, Zheng He’s landing here was properly documented. The ships were said to carry large amounts of treasures from the emperor of the Ming dynasty, which governed China at the time. If the records are correct, parts of that treasure lie beneath the ocean in the Strait of Malacca.”

    “Yes! That’s exactly what I wanted to hear you say!” Rin exclaimed, clapping in joy.

    It was too easy to guess her intentions. Her eyes sparkled with desire, like stars, or perhaps dollar signs.

    “Last year, I got a strange map from an antique dealer I know. When I figured out that there was treasure here, I bought a plane ticket and rushed here straight away! Don’t you think dredging treasure from the bottom of the sea is a perfect plan?”

    “You know, there’s a high likelihood that you’ll come across magecraft-related items. Since you are currently affiliated with the Clock Tower, digging those items up without permission can land you in trouble.”

    “Yes, so I originally planned on doing it by myself, in secret.”

    “That’s not the point!” My mentor snapped.

    The scene reminded me of a regular day in the El-Melloi Classroom. However, contrary to the light-hearted impression the conversation could give off, its contents could not be laughed off. My mentor had always been considered a heretic in the Clock Tower. If the jackals that constantly hunted him managed to use the Clock Tower’s first principle as an excuse to corner him, his stomachaches would be the least of his struggles.

    “It’s just that we’ve discovered something a little different to what I originally planned.”

    What could it be? I wondered.

    My mentor was probably about to ask a similar question when we were interrupted by a gentle knock of the door.

    “Is something the matter, Rin?”

    “Wait, you don't mean—”

    The person who opened the door was the young man named Ergo, whom we had just met.

    I hadn’t paid attention earlier when he locked me into place using magecraft or something else, but he was even taller than my mentor. His wild red hair covered his eyes, making him look like a stray animal. What caught my attention was not his hair, but the strange clothes he wore. It had a strange texture, completely different to the clothes that the other pirates wore. It also fit him perfectly, not even wrinkling when he raised his hand.

    “What is he wearing…?”

    “It’s what he was wearing when we found him.”

    “No way…”

    I looked to Rin, who nodded in confirmation.

    “He’s what we salvaged from the sea. We found him floating atop a wooden board, with no memory of how he got there. While he was unconscious, he kept repeating the same word over and over again.”

    “…The word was ‘Ergo’.” Said the young man.

    “Ergo? What do you mean by that?”

    The young man stared intently at my mentor, who looked confused. The latter’s frown was reflected in the former’s mysterious gray eyes.

    “I don’t know. It’s the only word I remember, so it became my name.” He said with a serious expression, as if that nature was the only thing he had managed to retain.

    “…It’s probably from the phrase ‘cogito ergo sum’.” My mentor muttered.

    “‘I think therefore I am’? It’s a quote from Descartes, right?”

    “Yes. It seems you don't need an explanation. It’s practically the foundation of modern Western philosophy. What remains after one doubts everything that is visible to the naked eye.”

    “…I don't believe I understand, sir…” I said, raising my hand, embarrassed. My mentor seemed glad to explain.

    “As Rin said, it’s a way of thinking proposed by a philosopher named Descartes, centered around anything and everything being plausibly deniable other than your own existence. He posed that everything we perceive with our senses could be false, and that the world might not actually exist, but that you yourself must exist to think and perceive so. One thing is certain— as long as ‘I’ am able to question existence, ‘I’ must exist.”

    This I could understand better.

    I constantly wondered if the world around me really existed. But if I didn’t exist, what was doing the wondering? That must be what
    cogito ergo sum
    “I think, therefore I am”
    meant.

    “It isn’t necessarily a magecraft term, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s the name of a magecraft organization. It seems like something the Baldanders would do...”

    The name that my mentor mentioned was one of the three organizations that made up the Mages’ Association.

    One was the Clock Tower, which my mentor was a part of.

    The second was the Atlas Institute.

    The last one was the Baldanders.

    I actually hadn’t heard the last name very often. It wasn’t just because I was ignorant about magecraft. The three organizations hardly communicated with each other.

    “Ergo, show them.”

    “Understood.”

    The red-haired young man nodded. Something appeared on his back that almost made me cry out.

    “Translucent… arms?!”

    Now, I understood.

    Several luminous limbs extended from his back. They looked as if they were made out of light blue glass, strange engravings on their surfaces. Were they the things that had held me in midair?

    Considering that I was far better at enhancement than most mages, these arms must have at least had the strength of an armored vehicle, and the ability to extend more than ten meters.

    “You only have six of them? Eight arms would be closer to the legendary three-headed, six-armed warriors[2]… Excuse me, can I touch them?”

    “Oh, sure.”

    Ergo’s translucent arms sparkled with purple electricity at my mentor’s touch. However, they didn’t seem to shock him.

    “Miss Tohsaka ran all kinds of tests on them, but she doesn’t recognize this kind of magecraft.” Ergo said as my mentor carefully examined the patterns.

    “Do you not know either, Sir? Does that mean it’s the work of the Atlas Institute?”

    “I’ve witnessed the magecraft of the Atlas Alchemists. Their magecraft is like a fusion of modern technology and magecraft. This is very different from what you and I are used to, but I believe it’s closer to Clock Tower magecraft.” My mentor explained.

    He may not be good at magecraft, but his skill at analyzing other people’s magecraft was nothing you could scoff at. This skill had won him the nickname of the Plunderer. It seemed he always reserved his abilities for when his opponents deserved to be humiliated. And yet, even though it was my mentor’s specialty, he could not discern the nature of Ergo’s translucent arms. Actually, maybe “phantasmal limbs” would be a better phrase to describe them.

    “How fast did these arms move when they captured Gray? How much Magical Energy does it take to use them? Why have they been designed to be translucent? No, rather than magecraft, this seems more like something from the Age of the Gods…”

    After muttering things like that to himself for a while, my mentor turned to the young man.

    “Can I ask you a few questions?”

    “Go ahead.”

    “You say you’ve lost your memory, but you seem to have no trouble speaking to me in English. Do you know what your native language is?”

    “Oh, I only learned how to speak by talking to other people.”

    “…You only learned how to speak by talking to other people?”

    That reminded me— Back when we were fighting, his voice carried a foreign accent. That meant that he had grasped my mentor’s speaking habits and accent in the space of several minutes.

    Hearing this, my mentor frowned.

    “The other children here talk to each other in Tamil and Malay. Can you speak those languages as well?”

    “Yes. I can also speak Chinese.”

    “I can vouch for him. He learned to speak all of those languages instantly after I took him on a salvaging trip. His abilities put Schliemann to shame.” Rin added.

    According to their conversation and what I had witnessed, this young man had extraordinary learning abilities. I couldn’t help but feel stunned at the irony of someone like him losing his memory.

    “If you also forgot how to speak, it can’t be generalized amnesia. Rin, did he not know how to speak at all when you first discovered him?”

    “Yes. It took him around half a day to start speaking Singaporean English.” Rin confirmed.

    A brief silence settled in the small pirate hut before my mentor broke it with another question.

    “In day to day life, does anything trouble you?”

    “I get hungry sometimes.” Ergo said, rubbing his stomach embarrassedly.

    “But I’ve given you plenty of food! Are you calling me stingy?!”

    “No, not at all! I think the spiced fish dishes here are very tasty,” the young man laughed at Rin's aggression, smiling in a fluffy way that reminded me of a puppy. “But I feel like nothing is enough to satisfy my appetite. My stomach is constantly rumbling.”

    I caught a glimpse of his eyes from between his veil of red hair as he spoke.

    “Oh, right. There’s something else I forgot to say!”

    “Hm?”

    The young man put his hand back on his stomach. His eyes began to wander. I was inexplicably reminded of an abyss. I saw Ergo creeping about in the darkness, holding something in his hands.

    “I feel like I’ve eaten something. Something very sweet, bitter, but also sour. It was like meat, fish, and also fruit… It made me feel full.”

    Simply bringing it up seemed to make him salivate.

    “…Could it be connected to the underworld, like Persephone’s kidnapping?” My mentor muttered to himself.

    Unlike Rin, I had no idea what he was talking about.

    “How about you just bring him back to the Clock Tower and make him your student, Sir?”

    She probably meant it light-heartedly, so she couldn’t have anticipated our reaction. Me and my mentor immediately froze and stared at her.

    “What? What’s up with you two?”

    “No, nothing’s wrong.”

    I felt a lump of some kind growing inside my chest, but I didn’t know what it was.

    “Miss Tohsaka,” My mentor said, changing the topic. “Could we stay here for a little while?”

    *

    There was darkness as far as the eye could see.

    This was because it was a place no light could reach— the bottom of the ocean. Because they could not photosynthesize here, plant life was scarce. However, plenty of deep-sea fish thrived here in the mysterious depths.

    Today, one thing diving down to the seabed was completely different to a deep-sea fish. Even in the absence of light, it was possible to discern its color, which was a pearly white.

    Many people were quite familiar with this specific shade of white, as it was the color of bone.

    The thing diving was covered by an exoskeleton with a texture similar to bone, too. It was over two meters tall and around two hundred kilograms. As it stepped across the ocean floor, sand swirled in little gusts around its feet.

    One could call it a giant made of bone.

    The giant raised its trunk-sized arms, and then smashed them onto the floor before him with a clang.

    “…Good job, Tangere.” Came a voice.

    Something that was even larger than the bone giant appeared in the darkness. It looked like an incubator that contained a giant egg.

    The bone giant rubbed against the metallic surface of the incubator-like thing, revealing a decaying pattern.

    “Ah… the coat of arms of the Door of
    Guénon(?)
    Preservation
    .”

    The coat of arms resembled a long ribbon that twirled into a triple helix, making the ovoid object seem trapped in a coffin instead.

    This way, it was a vessel for both arrival and passing, as if it wasn’t already strange enough.

    The bone giant examined it for a while before it gave a low moan of despair.

    “…Its contents are missing.” It said mournfully. However, it quickly issued itself another command, as if it wanted to get over its grief.
    
“Stay hidden, Tangere.”

    “Yes, My Creator.”

    With this, the giant’s figure faded into the ocean’s current.
    —————————————————————————————————————————————————— ——

    [1]
    The founding ruler of the Malacca Sultanate was Parameswara, also known as Iskandar Shah. He founded the Malacca Sultanate after the place he originally ruled, Singapura/the island of Temasek was attacked by the Javanese. Parameswara was the last king of Singapura, which was founded by Sang Nila Utama (who may not have actually existed?). Sang Nila Utama was either the son or grandson of Raja Chulan, the ruler of the Chola kingdom in South Asia, who was supposedly descended from Alexander the Great.

    I found this article interesting:
    https://www.researchgate.net/publica...a_16_2_58_-_64

    [2]

    Translated more literally, it should be “eight arms would be closer to the supposed three-headed, six-armed.” 三頭六臂 is a metaphor for magical abilities of Buddhist origin, but some legendary people actually had like three-headed six-armed war forms, such as Nezha, I think. I need to double-check this information.

  20. #20
    死徒二十七祖 The Twenty Seven Dead Apostle Ancestors
    Join Date
    Mar 2011
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    33
    Posts
    3,998
    "Baldanders." I assume that's the Sea of Estray?

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