༺ Fanning Snuffed Embers ༻
The undying’s body was practically a corpse. Although no blood spilled out—a trait of their kind perhaps—no aura of life could be sensed from his abnormally twisted and dismembered limbs or unmoving chest. His right arm moved, but I wasn’t sure about that. Why was the muscle moving autonomously?
I stared at the corpse, wondering aloud.
“Do you think spraying some water will make it get up?”
The vampire shot down my idea.
“Oh please. Do not act in vain. The life of eartheners is different from yours. They possess infinite force when touching earth, and that is why he will never wake in this place that is so far detached.”
But according to the Regressor’s thoughts, that undying had witnessed what happened within Tantalus. He couldn’t have become a witness if he couldn’t open his eyes.
Hmm. Shall I use that method? It’d be meaningless to try if his life force was completely depleted. A fire wouldn’t start without firewood, after all.
But the undying had devoured so many beans over the past few days that the State’s logistics division was wondering if it was all going down a hole somewhere. If he didn’t have enough life force despite receiving a “boon” at the level of embezzling military supplies, then he lacked scruples, not life.
I felt that a spark would be enough to get the fire in him going.
“Now, everyone. I’ll try a mysterious magic trick today.”
“Indeed! And that is, the magic of heart revival! I’ll try to resurrect this person!”
I spread my arms for dramatic effect, only to hear an incredulous snort from the other side. I looked over and found the vampire wearing a disbelieving smile.
After laughing at me all she wanted, the vampire curtly dismissed my words.
“Do you think of yourself as some god? Or is the heart your toy? How do you suppose to make a stopped heart start beating again?”
“A mystery that can never be achieved with the lacking imagination of the common people. That is what I call magic tricks.”
“If that is so, then I am sure magic can raise even the dead.”
The vampire propped her parasol over her shoulder and straightened her back as if she had lost interest and there was no need to listen further. At the same time, I felt an unusual feeling of unease. A foreign sensation, like a bone stuck in the throat.
This wasn’t something I felt. The vampire’s feelings were being conveyed to me. Discomfort like a piercing pain inside. Irritation and glaring displeasure.
Even when she was talking to the Regressor about Azzy earlier, the vampire was quite tolerating albeit defensive. Yet she showed hostility now? Strange. Honestly, from the perspective of someone from 1200 years ago, wasn’t it more shocking to hear of a man liking men than a stopped heart beating again?
Moments like this called for some mind-reading. Let’s see, then.
I narrowed my eyes, focusing on the vampire’s thoughts.
｢Heart beating again? What drivel. If that were so easily possible, all vampires would have their own hearts by now. No matter. I do not need to pay mind, for that is an impossibility.｣
She was sure it was impossible. What was this? Rigid thinking? The obstinacy of a geezer?
Or perhaps, sour grapes? A blind fury toward a fruit she had tried countless times to attain but ultimately had to give up?
｢I wandered for a thousand years apart from the first two hundred. I experienced innumerable lives, caught sight of everything in the world, unraveled the darkest and noblest of secrets, and witnessed so-called gods and demons. However, as irrevocable as time is, none of my discoveries could grant new life to those passed on.｣
Or perhaps, this was how a child felt to have lost something precious too early, hating and yet missing the parents who abandoned her in childhood.
Hmm. Now this was a fresh feeling. Normally, the background related to one emotion was clear, but maybe because her life was so long, it was hard to pinpoint anything due to all sorts of events being involved.
Then again, a tower built over twelve centuries could hardly be made up of a couple of stones. It must have tens of thousands of small rocks and sands sharing burdens big and small.
｢Revive the heart? How ridiculous. It is impossible. Utterly. No one has ever found a way. If, by some mystery, a great being gifted such a method to a human… it could not have come so late. It must not have. Not after all the good things have frittered away to time.｣
Still, if there was one thing certain, the vampire wished for her heart to beat again. She hoped to regain the life she had lost too young.
｢… I lost myself. So much regret for one who has lived over a thousand years. It is all earthly desires, all greed.｣
Greed… could it really be called that? I didn’t agree.
The desire for life wasn’t called greed. It was instinct or natural law. A foundation, or base. The categorical imperative which supports people under everything.
I smiled. Probably because I had read enough of the vampire’s mind.
Resurrection. Something she denied for a thousand years and believed absolutely impossible. What sort of face would she make if it actually happened? What if an ordinary man like me performed that miracle, right before her eyes?
Would she appreciate her thousand years of failure in the face of a single success that came like a coincidence? Or would she despair?
The curiosity rising in me was unbearably enjoyable. So, I opened my arms and cried out loud.
“Very well! To achieve the impossible against the belief of everyone else, that is what it means to be a magician! Trainee Tyrkanzyaka’s wholehearted denial is giving me strength! Alright, if that is your will, then as a magician, I shall try and make it happen with all my power!”
The Regressor frowned at my words.
“A-aha! My nickname in the State was Magician!”
“What did you do to get that nickname?”
“Trafficking government posts! The magic of making money through high positions! That’s how my concept popped out!”
｢He has to be… kidding?｣
Yikes, I should be careful. I’ll draw suspicion by getting too excited.
“Now. First, there is proper origin and history to things in the world, unless they drop right out of the sky, yes? I’ll go into the explanation step by step from the beginning.”
I was about to take out a chalk stick, but then realized I had forgotten all about getting a new one since I was busy teasing the Regressor earlier. Not that it mattered. The story was the important thing here, so I turned around and started talking.
“Lightning is the punishment of the Sky God, a pure power that comes down from heaven! But after that famous lightning thief incident, the Sky God adored humans for returning lightning to the skies and allowed them to use his power. Which is none other than this.”
I raised my finger, where I had gathered mana while talking. The others focused on my finger and my smiling mouth behind it.
Yellow sparks flashed as a densely volatile force dispersed into the air, as powerful as it was quick to disappear. I flicked my finger and scattered the lingering energy as I continued.
“The power to produce electricity. Since then, humans have been able to wield electricity… Although its usage is very limited due to the power itself being so intense and short-lasting. It is mainly used for lighting lamps, starting various devices, or removing soot or rust from iron.”
Meanwhile, I quietly took out my skewer. Gripping the sharp stick, I assumed the warmest expression I could manage to reassure the others.
“… Or, to frighten unnecessarily tight-lipped people, knocking on the doors of their firmly shut mouth, I suppose? Well, there is a similarity in the way of removing soot from the heart and bringing out honesty, don’t you think?”
Even though I worded it as euphemistically as possible, the trainees got the underlying message. They were incredibly good at noticing bad things.
The Regressor and vampire made faces at the same time. The vampire frowned slightly as she lowered her parasol, while the Regressor gripped her desk hard. I could hear the steel plate of the desk being crushed. Hot damn.
Figuring the need to quickly move on, I hastened my words.
“Now then. The State’s Public Safety Division carried out electric tortu—I mean peaceful interrogations with electricity against some people. And in the process, they made a very unusual discovery! They applied electric shocks to people whose hearts had stopped, and—will you believe it!— they experienced many cases where their hearts started beating again!”
I felt disbelief from the vampire and pessimism from the Regressor. Well, it was fine. Better than not feeling anything. Now then.
I held my skewer in a reverse grip, crouched beside the undying’s still-cold body, and carefully aimed the skewer at his heart.
“I shall test that method on this undying. Watch.”
Then I slammed down the skewer near the undying’s heart without a whit of hesitation.
Putt. Is this how it feels to stab a barrel full of cement? My skewer only managed to dig half a finger joint into the undying’s chest with a weak sound. His body was strange. Why was it like hard concrete? It looked impossible to even stab through his chest with my strength using this skewer.
I put away the skewer in a pocket and held out a hand to the Regressor.
“… Ahem-hem. I think I’ll hurt myself if I try with the skewer. Trainee Shei, could you lend me that sword you keep floating by your head?”
“Chun-aeng, what a pretty name. Yes, I’ll return it to you nice and clean.”
The Regressor measured me with appraising, narrow eyes.
｢That skewer must be blunt. There’s no way that man would ask for a sword because he can’t get through a lump of flesh.｣
But it was. It was sharp. I kept it nicely whetted so it was ready for use whenever.
｢I guess he wants to borrow mine because using his full strength might break the undying’s body to pieces? Well, whatever the case, it also benefits me to know how the undying woke up.｣
No, that was my full strength. I only managed to stab through a couple of inches with all my might.
It looked like I couldn’t be careless about even showing my strength in front of the Regressor. I might end up breaking her illusion of me.
｢It would be stupid to give my only weapon to a guy who may be an enemy, but… Hmph. It’s also ridiculous to be unnecessarily wary and not lend it. Only I can control Chun-aeng anyway.｣
The Regressor readily flicked her finger, and her invisible sword shot into the ground near my feet. Chun-aeng dug about three inches into the concrete before stopping with a judder.
“Fine. Your skewer does seem lacking. Go ahead then.”
“Thank you. I’ll use it well.”
The one small relief in all this was that the Regressor’s weapon was outstanding enough to be useful even in the hands of someone like me. It would’ve been terrible if I failed to cut the undying even with a sword like this.
“Now then. Scalpel.”
The blade smoothly split flesh. The undying’s blood was like living slime, so it didn’t spill out even with his chest cut open. In fact, it seemed to hide deep inside the body.
I carefully pushed apart the flesh and spotted his heart far behind his black ribs. At this point, instead of forcefully digging in, I stuck my skewer in until it reached the middle of the heart that was down there.
“The State didn’t go this far for electric torture, but since I’m going to try, it’s better to do it closer to the heart. There’s a chance of the magic scattering if I cast it outside the body, after all. Anyway. Shall I apply electricity to this stopped heart, like so?”
I tossed Chun-aeng aside and performed the somatics I learned in the past. I cast the State’s standard magic, one of their few practical inventions, that could force out your mana without needing mana aptitude.
“Set, Thema, Ket, Obeli.”
But this spell was an improved type. I slightly extended the magical power that would have normally channeled through my fingertips, stretching it out so that the mana could reach the end of my skewer, the steel needle that was like another hand of mine.
The mana field penetrated the undying’s body through the tip of the skewer. Once it reached his heart, I lit the mana and finished the spell with more power than usual.
The undying’s body jumped as the flowing lightning of the spell spread through his body and stimulated his muscles. My hand shot back from the recoil of mana, and I felt a tingling shock. The magic itself had succeeded. Now I just needed to get the result.
And a moment later.
The undying opened his eyes.
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