Omniscient First-Person’s Viewpoint Chapter 63

Chapter 63 - The Homunculus' Dilemma

The Homunculus’ Dilemma 


  Flesh burned and blood boiled as Shei gazed at the lightning she summoned with a grimace. It was like Tyrkanzyaka’s small body had become a lightning rod; the energy from the dark cloud was flowing through her and into the ground, making it seem as if she was training beneath a waterfall.


  But a waterfall couldn’t compare to the pain she had to be feeling. That torrent of lightning ran through her entire body, not just her skin. Her blood vessels, muscles, flesh, blood, and nerves. The electrical discharge galloped wildly through it all as if it were a straight path.


  Getting stabbed all over by tens of thousands of needles? Not even that could compare. Because a single current of lightning was faster, more minute, and more powerful than a needle.


  “Scream if it hurts! If you keep enduring anymore…!”


  Even Tyrkanzyaka, as accustomed to suffering as she was, would be able to hold out for long. That was how Shei felt as she clutched Chun-aeng, getting ready to sever her magic at any moment.




  “Indeed, I do feel pain.”


  Tyrkanzyaka was impassive. Her flesh burned and nerves seared as the tremendous force of lightning from Chun-aeng passed through her into the ground.


  “But no more than that.”


  Lightning couldn’t harm the vampire. Her bloodcraft, the ability to control blood, had already reached the apex. She had surpassed the point of simply moving blood; she could use it to regenerate her body anew. So long as blood was within reach, so long as a drop of it remained, no one could harm her.


  And the Sanguine Ocean that had accumulated within her wasn’t so trivial as to be affected by a mere bolt generated from a piece of cloud.


  The lightning strike ended, and only remnant, sporadic sparks lingered. But Tyrkanzaka was unscratched. She suffered no lightning scar as she should have, there was no foul stench of roasted flesh, and no charring from scorched blood.


  Tyrkanzyaka had staved it all off before things reached that point.


  “It is certainly more powerful. But something is lacking.”


  She coolly evaluated the lightning that flowed through her as if she were a coach.


  “It does not reach my chest, my heart. I only feel slight pain.”


  Her voice was full of disappointment, which made Shei uncomfortable somehow. Was it because the Progenitor endured her lightning strike? 


  No, that wasn’t it. Shei didn’t exert all her might, to begin with, and Tyrkanzyaka didn’t take any sort of defense. Her discomfort came from somewhere else.


  The vampire spoke as if she had been hit by lightning before as if she was making a comparison. Shei felt something off about her tone.


  “…Did that man do something to you before?”


  “That man? Ahh, you speak of the warden.”


  Tyrkanzyaka sounded unbelievably normal for someone who was hit by lightning.


  “Come to think of it, we do not even know his name. I did not bother asking, what with so few of us being in the abyss, but I suppose it is time to find out…”


  “Don’t change the subject, please. Did you ask him for lightning as well?”


  “How sharp.”


  Tyrkanzyaka gathered darkness into a parasol again, then lightly hung it on her shoulder before answering.


  “Indeed. I depended on him several times.”


  “Several times at that?”


  “He was skillful and delicate. Not powerful, but talented. When he touched my heart with his finger, it would start beating again for a fleeting moment.”


  “…We’re talking about electric shocks right now, right?”


  A second later, Shei realized something from Tyrkanzyaka’s words.


  “Wait, what? Your heart started beating again?”


  “Yes. It was brief but clear, and unmistakably short.”


  “How did he do it?”


  “Mm. It is a tad embarrassing to say, but I suppose it is meaningless to hide anymore after having spoken this far.”


  Tyrkanzyaka proceeded to give a simple rundown of what happened. How she went to the warden after seeing the earthener’s revival, how she asked to have him jolt her heart with lightning, and also how, after that, she asked for that “massage” over and over again because she wanted to feel her heart beat for a moment again.


  Shei understood the full story now.


  “Then, the two of you meeting in secret until now was…”


  “To ask him for a massage. Badgered him, I did.”


  “Argh. That’s something…”


  Shei clutched her head, finding it hard to tell where she should begin to explain.


  Even if she was a vampire, how could she show her heart to someone who was both an alchemist and a mage? How oblivious to danger was she? It was to the point that Shei could understand the warden going on about that lesson on awareness…


  But then there was that warden. How could he do something like that, even if it was a request? It was taboo to control someone else’s body by magic.


  He didn’t seem to have done anything bad yet, though. Besides, level 0 magic was barely excluded from the taboo, and she didn’t think a being as powerful as Tyrkanzyaka could be beaten easily.


  Still, Shei couldn’t completely trust the warden because the terrible event that must have occurred in the future had yet to occur.


  “Tyrkanzyaka. If you meet the warden next time, ask him this.”


  That was why Shei had to test him. At present, the warden of Tantalus was the closest to the Progenitor’s heart. She needed to know whether he meant ill or simply meant well.


  “The Homunculus’ Dilemma. Ask if he knows this.”


  If he readily gave an answer, Shei thought it would be safe to say he had at least some conscience.


* * *


  “… You show up out of nowhere, and what, you want to know the Homunculus’ Dilemma?”




  The Homunculus’ Dilemma. It was a story that was like a warning of sorts. Why did the Regressor want me to tell the vampire when she could tell it herself?


  Either she shifted the task to me for lack of confidence in fun story-telling, or she was sending me a warning.


  Hmm. The old me would’ve taken it as a warning and lain low, but for some reason, I felt myself slightly leaning toward the former now. The girl sucked at talking, after all.


  Now this is why first impressions count. Yep.


  “Well it’s not a very pleasant story. It’s like an urban legend that no one even knows the origin of. Do you still want to hear?”


  “I can hardly be choosy as the listener.”


  “If you say so. Well then. I’ll tell you.”


  I hurled Azzy’s disc into the distance and began to explain.


  There was a father with a sick child.


  The father traveled about the city in search of a skilled doctor, but no one could accurately diagnose his child’s sickness. It was a rare disease, as people commonly called it, but also known as a curse at the time.


  If there was a difference between the two, it would be how the doctors reacted; with perplexity or fear. Even the most reputed of doctors slammed their doors in the father’s face, and each time, he would hang his head helplessly.


  The child’s symptoms worsened with age. Unable to bear watching his child sobbing from pain every night, the father sought out the mage in the forest against the objection of everyone he knew.


  The path to the mage was long and harsh, crammed with trees jostling for space and thickets that were less like plants and more like meshed walls. He suffered scratches all over his body with every step he took.


  The father through the thickets with his axe as he carried a small lamp and continued in the direction where smoke was blowing. He went on for hours on end.


  And then, a tiny hut appeared beyond a dense grove of trees.


  Having found the mage’s abode, the father knocked on the door at once.


  The mage fell silent upon learning of the father’s miserable situation. When he opened his mouth, he told the father to bring the child in a sinister voice.


  Perhaps because it was his last straw of hope, the father didn’t suspect the mage’s claim of returning his child to him healthy and quickly nodded.


  The father returned home, carried his sick child on his back, and went back the way he came. He set out on that long, arduous path yet again for the third time, while carrying a child groaning from fever at that. It was a grueling trek, but despite his exhaustion, all that came to the father’s mind was the relief of having passed this way once already.


  Had he not cleared the twigs on his way back and forth, his child would have been the one to suffer the scratches on his body.


  The father carried the child and arrived at the mage’s abode. On that dark night, the mage laid the child to bed. Then he told the father to come back in three days before closing the door.


  The father dragged his tired, worn body back home, clearing the remaining twigs on the way.


  As promised, the father visited the mage’s abode three days later. The moment he stepped into the hut, he witnessed something unbelievable—his child came jumping into his arms with a lovely smile. Gone was the child’s pallid complexion and contorted face of pain.


  The father was happier than ever upon seeing that child-like pure smile. He paid for the cure with the money he had procured by selling everything he owned, and walked back home holding the hand of his recovered child.


  Then one day, a year later, the father gazed at his healthy child and decided to revisit the mage. He wanted to tell the mage how the child he cured had grown so well, how everyone was grateful to him. So just like before, he took the child’s hand and went to visit the mage’s abode.


  It had been a year since he took the forest path. The impeding twigs had grown thick again as if mocking his past efforts. But the father didn’t worry. Unlike then, the child was healthy enough to handle a few scratches.


  Perhaps because the father took the lead, the child didn’t get harmed in the least while passing through the thickets.


  Upon their arrival, the mage happened to be away. The father chose to simply wait at the door. But when the sun went over the western mountain, he grew anxious. The child was as lively as ever, but worried that his child was exhausted, the father entered the abode despite knowing it was rude.


  At that moment, the father heard a thin groan. He wondered if there was another patient, but then suddenly, his face froze as an ominous premonition struck him.


  Sadly, such ill omens tended to be remarkably accurate. Life is more sensitive to danger than other things, after all.


  That groan was too similar to the sound of his child sobbing in pain a year ago. If there was a difference, this time it sounded even weaker and in pain.


  The father searched for the sound as if possessed, and came upon a thick iron door in the basement. He opened the door and saw it—his child, hanging on a few strands of thread, quivering in agony without the strength to even scream.


  The child that the father so dearly loved had been sloppily sawed and cut apart as if to take parts to be used elsewhere…


  “And that’s how it is, just your average urban legend. Later on, those mages who like to name things claimed this story contained the truth of magic and gave it a fancy title.”


  Azzy came back with the disc in her mouth. I dryly took the disc and threw it far again before continuing.


  “Magic is a manifestation of self-will. It’s about releasing your world, your own ideas into the world. That’s why it has to be extremely personal.”


  I could read minds, but the magic I could use was only level 0 spells that were allowed to anyone. Not even mind reading could help me reproduce magic that was cast through personal experience, after all.


  “That’s why you can’t fix someone else’s body with magic. If you do, then just like in the old story I told you, it’d be the same as discarding your old body to create a new homunculus…It’s with that meaning in mind that people teach the grand principle called the Homunculus’ Dilemma.”


  I trusted this was enough to explain everything since the vampire was no fool.


  Or on second thought, maybe she is? Who the heck asks to be struck by lightning? That sudden thunder made me hunch down in fright, damn it.


  I watched the disc come back again as I brought the subject to a close.


  “You’ve got a good disciple. I’m sure he is worried about you, Trainee Tyrkanzyaka.”




  The vampire agreed and went away without a word. I watched her back for a moment, only to be urged by Azzy into throwing the disc again.


  Mm, strange. Is this disc really good? It doesn’t feel like anything improved exactly, except that my working hours have increased.




  Well, building favor with her now might come in handy someday. I should put up with it a little for when that time comes. This is my installment savings.


  Although I don’t know if it’ll ever mature.


  “Huh. Now that I think about it, she didn’t ask for a massage today.”


  What got into her? She seemed a bit sullen after yesterday’s lesson, so I was going to make it up to her before she held a grudge…


  Hope she won’t get any strange ideas after being cooped up alone in her room. But I guess she’ll be fine? No matter how stupid a person can be, they wouldn’t do something dumber than showering in lightning, right?


  The disc returned. I stared quietly at the disc, then just rolled it on the ground.


  Azzy barked unhappily.


* * *


  “I have made my decision, Finlay.”


  “O Progenitor…”


  A thrilled voice echoed in the darkness. Finlay uttered a cry of teary awe. If he weren’t a vampire who couldn’t cry, he would’ve already been dripping with tears.


  The Progenitor Tyrkanzyaka sat quietly, watching him. Solemn words came from her pale lips.


  “The two could not show the way. They only deemed it impossible. In the end, it is clear they cannot achieve what I desire.”


  “It is because they are not nobles of the night. What can peasants tied to life know?”


  “I also do not believe the possibility. How can one who has died once regain a freely beating heart? That is why I doubt your claim of my retainers knowing a way. How can you children, who move by my power, revive me?”


  She made a reasonable point.


  Faced with the Progenitor’s question, Finlay bowed his head once again.


  “O Progenitor, time has passed. The world has changed, and people have found their own ways. Blood magic has become far more powerful than it has ever been. Unlike ordinary magic, it is sorcery weaved by life and blood. With this power, which ignorant peasants do not and must not know, it must be possible to revive your heart.”


  He was lying. Finlay uttered falsehood forbidden to retainers without a single change in expression.


  He felt no tension or excitement because he was also a vampire whose heart had stopped. Of course, he did feel the guilt of deceiving the Progenitor, but he thought that could be settled by death later. Besides, Finlay was convinced that this lie would be able to lure the Progenitor outside.


  And who knew? The elders and ancillae of the Duchy of Mist, those powerful and wise vampires, might be able to discover a way to recover the Progenitor’s heart.


  How could a peasant dare to know the secret meaning of bloodcraft? They knew nothing. It would be a hundred times better to go out and be with the vampires than to stay here with them. Therefore, this was loyalty. Finlay may have deceived the Progenitor, but he remained loyal to her.


  That was how he fooled himself.


  The Progenitor gazed quietly down at Finlay, then belatedly responded.


  “I shall trust you this once. Use that method, and revive my heart.”


  “Understood! So long as you climb to the surface! I will take responsibility and—


  “Right now.”


  “…Pardon me?”


  Finlay’s voice turned dumb.


  “Try that method you know. I do not mind failure. I am the root of your brethren, and my power is greater than all of theirs combined. If it is feasible with your blood magic, I should be able to recognize that possibility.”


  Finlay was in trouble. If he could sweat, he would’ve been drenched by now. She wanted him to try right now? To demonstrate?


  That was impossible. His words were a half-baked lie, after all. And that flimsy lie was about to bare its unsightly body before the eyes of actual proof.


  Finlay hung his head lower and started pleading.


  “However, O Progenitor. I have no special attainment in blood magic. I worry that my incompetent magic might harm you.”


  “No matter. Did I not say I will only observe the possibility? If you witnessed that magic, you must surely be capable of imitating it.”


  The Progenitor’s word was absolute. Finlay had to obey. But he had lied, and therefore, he was incapable of fulfilling his claim.


  What was he to do? Confess the truth, late as it was, and pay for his deceit?


  No. If he was going to do that, he shouldn’t have lied from the start. There was no choice but to go on. Finlay had already climbed onto the back of a tiger. All that remained was to keep sprinting to whatever end.


  His eyes flashed insidiously in the darkness.


  “As you will, O Progenitor. However, due to my lacking ability, I cannot exert any strength if your power is intact. As such…”


  In fact, Finlay was deeply versed in blood magic. His specialty lay in domination, the power to control something with his blood by engraving a Sanguine Mark.


  Although he was nothing but a trifling neonate, if… if the Progenitor allowed a slight opening.


  “I ask that you put down all your power for a moment, and reveal your heart to me.”


  It was blasphemous, but not impossible. As the Progenitor desired, she would gain a heart that was free of her will.


  Indeed, it would not beat as she wished.





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Omniscient First-Person’s Viewpoint

Omniscient First-Person’s Viewpoint

Status: Ongoing Author:
I, a mere con artist, was unjustly imprisoned in Tantalus, the Abyssal Prison meant for the most nefarious of criminals, where I met a Regressor.   But when I used my ability to read her mind, I found out that I was fated to die in a year…   And that the world would end 10 years later.


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