༺ Tellon Academy (3) ༻
It was a room with an odd ambience. A large room cluttered with various reagents and objects of unknown purposes were scattered here and there.
If he had to make a comparison, he’d say the room had a similar vibe to Annalise’s underground lab in the Aurillac.
As Vera walked into the room, he scowled at the skull tower in one corner and asked Miller.
“Huh? Oh, those are skulls for my class. I was going to put it somewhere else, but the Headmaster was horrified by it and warned me not to put it outside.”
As Miller chuckled, a deep sense of disapproval washed over Vera’s face.
However, he didn’t want to make it obvious.
Vera, who was not familiar with the concept of sorcery, overlooked it by thinking that ‘he must have collected it out of necessity’ and reacted passively to Miller’s grumbling.
“…You went through a lot.”
Miller, of course, was ready to concoct a long answer to counter his short response.
Vera shuddered at the prospect and quickly changed the subject.
“Can you take a look at the dagger first? I have a lot to do afterwards, so I won’t be able to stay around for long.”
Let’s part ways once our business ends.
At the words imbued with such meaning, Miller licked his lips and nodded regrettably.
“Oh, it can’t be helped.”
When Miller started cleaning up the table in the middle of his office, the accessory on his suit began to clatter loudly.
Another minute passed, and before long, a big map and a flask of transparent reagent were on the table that had been tidied up.
Miller tapped the flask’s lid with his fingertips and went on to explain.
“We’ll begin by restoring the dagger. There’s no need to go through complicated steps… just enough to make it appear close to its original form.”
Miller reached out his hand. It was most likely a signal to hand over the dagger, so Vera took it from his waist and handed it to Miller.
“Does it take a long time?”
“It shouldn’t take more than a few hours. Making it reveal its original shape is a piece of cake.”
Miller’s hands were moving busily while he was speaking.
The entire process of pasting the filter paper to the glass funnel, mixing the liquid in separate flasks into a large beaker, and so on was done pretty neatly.
I guess he’s still a professor despite his appearance.
As Vera raised his eyebrows at how expertly he got the job done, Miller, who had just finished, dropped the dagger into the beaker.
“Well, then, let’s just wait half an hour like this.”
Miller said, flipping the small hourglass. As Vera nodded, he belatedly noticed the map on the table and examined it. Then his eyes widened.
“This map looks a little different from the common one.”
“Hm? Ah, it’s a map of the Age of Gods.”
Miller’s face lit up. He seemed thrilled to have something to chat about. Vera could have simply shut him off, but he chose to listen to what Miller had to say.
‘I have to know about the Age of Gods,’ he thought.
It was mainly because he got involved with them a lot ever since he left the Holy Kingdom.
Terdan, Aedrin, and Orgus. There was also the unidentified ancient species who owned the serum.
‘…And the Demon King.’
There was an odd conviction taking hold of him that perhaps he would be able to discover the identity of the Demon King, whose origins and identity had remained hidden until the end of his previous life.
Vera was certain.
‘The Demon King isn’t a foreign existence.’
It wasn’t a being that fell from the sky one day, but it had to have existed on this land all along. Therefore, its traces had long been visible throughout the continent.
And the most fitting explanation for the Demon King was that they were an existence from the Age of Gods.
Perhaps it was an existence from the Age of Gods that had long since ended…
‘…or it could be an ancient species.’
There was a possibility that it was an ancient species.
It might sound ridiculous, but he couldn’t dismiss the possibility because there were more unknowns regarding the ancient species than what was known.
“Isn’t the terrain quite unusual? There are canyons here and there, and since it is set in ancient times, there should be plenty of unaltered lands, but these two locations are more artificial than they are now. The academic world claimed that the creatures in the Age of Gods must have had superior construction techniques than we are now. Well, it could have been just the ancient species that went on a rampage. Still, when it comes to construction techniques…”
Miller went on and on about things that didn’t interest him, but Vera listened.
Based on his experience from the past few days, Miller had a habit of slipping crucial information amidst his rambling.
Fortunately, Vera didn’t have to wait long.
“…Doesn’t that line up with reality? We already have evidence that building technology from the Age of Gods was far superior to what we currently have. The Queen of the Dark Season. Her fortress is located in the north, and if you get close to it, you can clearly see its unique style of architecture. That is why there is no disagreement among the scholars at all~”
Vera’s eyes glistened.
“There must have been quite a lot of research on Nartania.”
“Huh? R-Right? After all, she is the most active ancient species known to date.”
Miller, taken aback as Vera abruptly cut short his flow of explanation, nodded lightly.
Vera, looking at Miller who was blinking blankly, realized that now was the time to ask the question he’d been meaning to ask the Academy’s scholars.
“There’s something I’d like to ask the professor.”
“What is it?”
“Is it possible to make an ordinary human gain the power of an ancient species?”
It was a question about the corpses he’d seen in the Empire.
Miller may be wondering why he raised this question when they were discussing Nartania… But weren’t the Followers of the Night the most plausible explanation for the corpses? And didn’t Annalise, who created the corpses and researched the serum, already know about the Demon King?
If the ancient species and the Demon King were related and the corpses were the result of that research, then Nartania would be the ancient species most closely associated with the Demon King. That was the speculation that came to his mind.
Miller hummed to himself.
He tapped his fingertips against the map as if in deep thought. A few moments passed before he shook his head.
It was a firm answer. Vera furrowed his brow. Watching him like that, Miller smiled and added an explanation.
“I think I understand what you’re saying, but that’s a common misconception. Nartania’s kindred does not have Nartania’s ancient species power.”
Vera tilted his head.
To his knowledge, the only way to become Nartania’s kindred was to drink her blood and gain immortality through that.
Miller read that in Vera’s expression and added.
“The Followers of the Night bears the ‘curse’ that flows in her blood. In other words, the power the Followers of the Night use is based on the grudge imbued within the curse. That’s what it means.”
Miller’s fingertips moved to the map’s northern part.
“Have you heard why the Citadel of the Dark Night was built?”
“…Nartania built the citadel in order to establish her own army.”
“Yes, she made her own army. It was to kill Locrion, the first dragon who placed a curse on her body, so she could break the curse and conquer the continent. She created the Citadel of the Dark Night because she required an army to kill Locrion’s children, which she couldn’t accomplish alone.”
It was a well-known story.
A feud between two ancient species from the distant past. In the end, Locrion cast a curse on Nartania. The fortress was built in the wake of the fight and to exact revenge.
“In that sense, her kindreds are pitiful as well, because they have been plagued by Nartania’s evil beliefs and are living to break her curse, right? They are aware that they will die when the curse is lifted, but they are unable to stop themselves. I suppose it’s a small price to pay for eternal life.”
Miller chuckled and then summed it up.
“In any case, the power of ancient species is beyond the grasp of any other creature. I’m sure you’ll understand if you consider what happened to previous scholars who attempted it. Therefore…”
Miller tapped his fingers on the map, then raised his hand to point at Vera and said.
“If I must draw an analogy, the ancient species’ power is similar to your power.”
He was referring to Vera’s Apostle’s power.
“Sir Vera, can you share your powers with anyone?”
“…No, I can’t. “
“Right? It’s the same thing. Both your power and the ancient species’ power are based on the Gods’ blessings, so you can’t give them away arbitrarily because it’s not yours in the first place.”
As Miller finished with a shrug, Vera’s face turned even more grim.
‘Then they are…’
How do I explain those corpses?
How do I tell him about the research on using an ancient species’ serum on humans?
How do I explain Annalise, who had seemingly succeeded in her research in the end, who took the serum and exuded extraordinary power?
His head was muddled with confusion.
As he realized that the answer he thought he had come close to was so far off the mark, he felt an unknown sense of emptiness from having to return to square one.
Miller, who may be oblivious to Vera’s expression, had his face beaming with excitement before delving into his endless chatter.
“There’s another story that goes along with that, and it’s a rather amusing perspective, but it’s been suggested that the ancient species may have been the first Apostles! Of course, it’s hardly a happy story from the perspective of the Holy Kingdom…”
“It’s all done.”
A few minutes later, Miller said that while pulling the dagger out of the beaker.
Vera nodded, a look of exhaustion spreading across his face.
Miller’s chatter aggravated his irritation and headaches.
“…Thank you for your hard work.”
“Gosh, this is nothing.”
Miller said while waving his hands, which caused Vera to frown.
Miller, who was still oblivious to Vera’s expression, wiped the dagger’s blade with a cloth, causing the rust to fall off from the inside.
“Now just engrave right here and we’re done.”
“Then will I get the mystery?”
Vera and Miller exchanged glances. Their gazes locked. Miller was blinking with a dumb-looking face while Vera frowned.
At that time, Miller said.
“Wouldn’t I already be an ancient species if I could get all the mysteries simply through engraving?”
Vera shut his mouth, unable to refute.
Miller chuckled at Vera’s reaction and added.
“It’s impossible to explain how the mysteries work. Even if you engrave it this way, the chances of uncovering one out are infinitely slim. Each mystery has a different element that resonates with it.”
The dagger glistened in the candlelight.
“Some mysteries resonate with happiness, some with screams, and some just hang around for no apparent reason. I’m not sure if you can gain a mystery or not… it all depends on what Sir Vera does with this dagger in the future.”
In the end, it was ‘figure it out yourself now’.
Vera sighed, feeling frustrated and nodded before continuing.
“How do we resonate?”
“It’s easy. Just feed the dagger with blood.”
Miller handed over the dagger.
Without the slightest hesitation, Vera slashed his palm with the dagger.
In a growing irritation, he put more strength in his grip, which resulted in the blade going quite deep. When Vera frowned, Miller, who was watching from the side, said with a horrified look.
“Uh… just one drop is enough.”
Vera jerked his head up.
He wanted to say, ‘Why did you say that only now?’ but it was an ambiguous situation since he did it on his own without asking.
With a terribly crumpled face, Vera used healing arts to treat his palm and opened his mouth.
“I’ll come to see you again if I have more questions.”
“Ah, yes. Anytime.”
Miller waved his hand awkwardly. Looking at Vera’s crumpled face, Miller suddenly recalled the content of a book he had read recently.
‘If you scrunch up your face like that, you’ll get old quickly.’
He wanted to say it, but he held himself back.
He had a strange feeling that he would be punched in the face if he said that.