Ouroboros Record – Chapter 14 – The Fourth Misfit

UPDATE: IT’S EDITED!

I think I already broke my promise (again) if you live in the Oceania or East/Southeast Asia. But on the bright side, I managed to keep my promise to the rest of the world. Yay for timezones.

Thankfully, we’ve got ourselves a good man of an editor/TL checker, Deskie. This chapter have mostly been TLCed and proofread (save for the last part, apparently it’s a busy day in Sweden today). I suppose I’ll just go ahead and post it and let him edit the last part again later.

Though in the future, he’ll be the one who posts the new chapters.  Soon you people can be spared from these silly comments of mine I guess.

P.S. I’m still looking for that co-translator.

P.P.S. Yes, there’s no definite date for the next chapter too. Still overwhelmed by RL. Sorry.

Enjoy

 

Chapter XIV – The Fourth Misfit

“Alright, I’m done with today’s job… Ah, having so little to approve sure feels wonderful.”

As I throw the checked and signed documents on the desk, I, Tullius Shernan Oubeniel, stretch my arms widely.

Light drops of snow flicker outside the window. It’s the beginning of winter.

Seeing as Marlin lies in the inner part of the land, and as the territory has a lot of mountains, winter is tough here. That is what I heard, and I am indeed actually sensing it from the cold drafts in this manor. Let alone petrol or gas, in the Ithuselah continent, where coal hasn’t been put into practical use, the coldness of its winter is a subject of fear by itself. There are cases of people freezing to death just like every other year, and there’s even fear of annihilation among the poorer villages. While these are rare occurrences in the areas near the coast, Marlin is an inland, mountainous area, and thus it’s like being in a direct collision course with General Frost. Of course, I’ve been spending a large portion of the budget to tackle this issue. Though it would be difficult to reduce the number of casualties to zero, at least it would be much better for the people, compared to the years when those three deputies were running the territory chaotically.

“Still, I’m glad that we could employ the new vassals in time. Had we been just a little bit late, we would have been forced to think about winter countermeasures for the people all by ourselves…”

As the thought comes into mind, the chill from the cold temperature creeps even further down my spine.

That older brother of mine would surely attribute any minor faults to my territory management skills, if the number of people that got frozen to death were terribly large. Of course it would be difficult to declass me based on that one fault only, but my stress seems to be piling up just by imagining it.

“Yes, Master. Their work has been truly remarkable.”

So she said, as she added ‘here you are, master’ and passed me a steaming cup of tea.

I lightly made a gesture to thank her, and let the tea’s steam moisten my lips. It sure is troubling that the air is so dry during winter.

“Really, though. Tax collection, bookkeeping, construction, management of people’s petitions… they do handle those matters well.”

Laubert and Victor Delacroix Lorge – the self-proclaimed Lavallée – were especially among the most excellent finds. On one hand I have a well-knowing man who, despite of having led an adverse life of being an unemployed, didn’t neglect to improve himself. On the other hand I have an ambitious man who is eager to have his talents acknowledged, driven by the thoughts of his late mother. Although both of them are lacking in experience, their skills as internal administrators far surpass the likes of me.

Had they been not around, the most part of the increased crop yield that I birthed with great pains would just sit there to rot, as I couldn’t do tax collection satisfactorily, and it would be one hell of a mess.

Apart from the new industry formation, they’ve also been more or less carrying out great deals of the potion business as well.

Territory management is truly a difficult thing. Compared to the personal business I’ve undertaken in the capital, it is as if the attitude of the merchants here are completely different, so I’m done with them. As expected, if one wants mochi, then to the mochi store they should go. While I do my job properly as a noble, there is a limit as to how much a person can handle by themselves. Since I have augmented their brain so that they can absolutely never betray me, let me work them some more.

As for me, I’ll devote myself to my research.

“Well then. Shall we head over to our primary job, shall we?”

“Yes. The arrangements have already been made.”

Like always, with Uni accompanying me, I head to the lab while holding the teacup and saucer.

On my way there, a passing officer gave me a slap on the wrist, “Your manners are bad” he said, but that’s actually the charm here.  I’ll pull myself together outside, so give me a break now.

“Say, I’m just thinking, Uni.”

“Yes.”

“I feel that this residence is steadily getting more cramped.”

“Well, this manor is only designed to be a temporary residence in the first place…”

That’s what it is.

 

Even now that it has come to this, the residence of the Lord of Marlin – my residence -, has yet to be completed.

And by this I mean, I have reorganised my vassals and I have finished my tax collection job, but even now that winter is coming, I still have yet to establish my own territory at present.

“Your vassals have also requested to commence the construction of the principal residence ahead of time as well. After all, it’s a public project to maintain your appearance.”

“Well, seeing as it will be a residence for the viscount to dwell in. As such, I suppose it’ll be quite the large mansion.”

So I said, as if I was commenting about other people’s affairs.

It’s just that I can’t quite imagine myself to live in an excessively spacious mansion. Indeed, before I expanded the amount of my vassals, this temporary residence was satisfactory enough for me. Compared to my extravagant expenditure for Due and Co., I sure am stingy in some strange places, what a laughing material.

However, even if I maintain my queer selfishness, it is currently reaching its limit. Currently, my busy vassals are constantly coming and going through the corridors of this manor. Residences of nobles in this era have dual purposes as both the lord’s official residence and the government office. In my case, there’s an alchemy lab in addition to that. As this mansion is designated only for a baronet at most, of course it’ll quickly cause problems.

 

Once the snow melts, we should start the construction of the new residence immediately.

 

“But still, a public project, huh… we sure have came up with quite the advanced plan.”

I found myself impressed yet again as I said so. In order to solicit able workers, the feudal lord offers a suitable wage in exchange for the levied manual labour. In this continent where feudalism goes unchallenged, it is an eye-catchingly advanced preposition.

I don’t know how it goes in the other places, but the noblemen in this country, extravagant as they are, pay their subordinates poorly. They would put the commoners to work in order to construct their residences, and they would settle it with the words “serving the nobility is the people’s duty.” Explicitly-stated, institutionalised systems of compulsory service also exists as well. In the case of farmers, the system would have their annual land tax reduced in exchange for their participation in large-scaled constructions. But as I see it, I don’t think that systems of that kind would work properly.

After all, on top of the fact that the farmers would be forced to engage in the construction jobs, which would be outside their skillset, the noble’s side would work them really hard in order to get the original amount’s worth of the land tax that would be reduced in exchange for their compulsory service, and a as a result, accidents are a frequent occurrence. If the project would be a big one, like building the new lord’s manor, deaths in the double-digits would be prepared for. Also, since their jobs would be excessively rigorous, there are cases where they would simply turn the spades and picks for the construction into weapons and start a riot there. Even though the facts that the farmers have their tax reduced and the nobles get a lot of workers don’t change, it is possible for the fields to be ruined as a result, ending up as a deficit for both the nobles and the farmers.

‘Eh? Then why don’t you use slaves?’, you might ask. Well, for me who have twenty magic-users among my slaves, it might seem that I won’t hesitate to do so here. However, I’m an exception. Since slaves are basically those who fail to establish themselves in the society, only a few of them would have exceptional abilities.

The reason why my slaves are so competent in terms of magic is because I re-used Uni’s data when I tampered their brain tissues – there’s no chance for talented slaves to be sold so easily. If they had construction skills only, that alone would be a reasonable selling point. The slave merchant would evoke a high price when they sold them, as one can’t always buy them because of them being the rare existence that they are. And even if one were to send cheap, more-or-less mediocre slaves, their incompetence disregarded, to the construction site, what they would get would be the result of a job of amateurs who were insufficiently trained, and it would be worse from what they would get from the farmers’ compulsory service.

Rather, let me put it this way, farmers have a considerably better aptitude when it comes to keeping farms, or undertaking cooperative work. The number of deaths due to accidents will increase further as the construction progresses, rendering them a no longer usable force, and to add to the injury, one cannot buy another farmer to replenish the workforce.

And that is why, most nobles would only occasionally utilise the compulsory service system for provisional construction works. Of course, in cases where they would need to keep long-term labourers, like in mines or the odd fruit plantation, slaves would be worked to the bone instead.

I digressed. Well, in this country where this system is the common practice, the concept of “public project” is unheard of. While Uni said the words herself back then, she still seems to be wondering about it.

“I am afraid that I’m not quite familiar with the concept. Why don’t we use magic and quickly finish the job instead?”

 

“Yes, there’s that too….”

So I said as I ponder, lowering my pace. I do very, very, much want to eliminate Uni’s doubts here, but unfortunately alchemy is my only expertise. Politics, especially internal affairs, are hardly my concern at all. So I don’t think I can explain it well.

“Hmm, let’s see. This is just my interpretation, but –”

For now I’ll try to explain it. We’re killing time as we walk anyway, and it will be a waste to try to explain it seriously. If I’m wrong here, a kind soul will correct me. Like Laubert, or Victor.

“– I don’t think they’re aiming to mobilise the people of the territory with the expectations that they will make the construction works prosper. I think that they are giving money away to the people, in the form of construction wages.”

“They are giving money away?”

“Yes. After all, Marlin is in the countryside, and the tax rate has been terribly rough on the people until this year. Of course, that means that the people’s purses would be filled with not a single cent. There are no special products here, so there’s nothing worth buying or selling. You would think that there is no way that this is a territory where the merchants would be interested to operate in, yes?

Nope, nope, all sorts of no. Merchants who come here either don’t have a market share in any other places, or they’re just really whimsical, and if that isn’t the case, then they might be among the ones who colluded with the former deputies.

“However, the situation changed this year.”

“Indeed, we changed it, didn’t we.”

We issued a declaration of tax reduction, we treated the fields with alchemy, and we also brought the new business that is the medicinal herb cultivation industry. The merchant traffic should be a lot more active than ever compared to the previous state.

“And with those changes, the people of Marlin will soon be swept into it as well. Think about it, when the merchants come, they’ll bring with them the products that the people might want. And when that happens, what do you think would happen if they didn’t have enough money in their hands? Do you think they’ll just swallow their tears and give up?”

As I asked, Uni thought about it for a little bit,

“No, I suppose not.”

She decisively answered. ‘I thought so as well’, I remarked to return her affirmation.

If we’re talking about this very moment, then of course the people of Marlin are grateful to me. The misgovernment of the deputies was reformed, and their lands, and the irrigation, were restored. They have been saved from the hell they’ve been living in up until recently. And of course they’d be content with my rule. For now.

However, human beings are greedy creatures, there is no way that the masses are sheep that would be satisfied with eating grass alone. As these people have led a life below the standard of living, they will be satisfied with living on that standard line for the time being. Given time, however, they will grow weary of it and start to demand other things. In the old Rome, the words “bread and circuses” were a representation of the masses’ demand. However, they were in fact truthful to the teaching that “human can’t live on bread alone”, and they got tired of the circuses when they kept showing the same thing. In reality, unsatisfied with only bread as they were, they stuffed their stomachs with rare delicacies until they vomited (a peculiar thing), and they didn’t find acrobatics enough either, as they made the gladiators fight in the colosseum.

Well, I’m the only person in this world who knows about that history, so let’s leave it at that. So in short, once the people have a stable life, then they will search for amusement. And providing them with that amusement while keeping that standard of keeping would cost a lot of money.

When that time comes, if they don’t have enough money when they want to satisfy those desires, what would the people think?

In most cases they would express their discontent. ‘It’s the government’s fault’; they would say.

“And that is why they gave the people the opportunity to earn money so they could buy things, Since if we would hand out the money for free, the people would grow to make light of us, and the other nobles would look at me with suspicion. The merchants would never trust people who throw their money around as if they were joking.”

‘If one is lenient with other people, then they will be liked in return’, is a self-serving thought. In most cases, people who do so would not be branded as a ‘good people’, but as ‘convenient people’ instead. If one gives money without something in exchange, it will spoil most people. Since they can eat without having to work, their desire to work will be dampened and and their motivation will be eliminated. And when they have spent all of it, they will demand for more money, and if they don’t get it, they will complain. Like spoiled children, they will throw tantrums as soon as one stops indulging them.

In addition, at that time, even people who didn’t get their share of leniency would start to distrust that lenient person too. It goes without saying that even nobles want money as well. And if one peer of theirs was to start giving out money unconditionally to people with lower status than them, it would be very unlikely for this peer to be seen favourably.

Furthermore, in no way can people trust a person who treats their valuables slovenly. Merchants will never bare their hearts to people with a poor sense of spending money. The merchants would try to open these people’s purses as much as they could, but that would be about it. They would never trust these people in their dealings – they would sell as much as they could sell, and then they would say ‘goodbye’. There is no hope to establish a long-term relationship with them that way.

“And that is why, at a glance this public project is a roundabout way to do distribute money. This way, it will appear as if we were compensating the people for their labour. It is consistent with the concept of the carrot and the stick. While preserving the authority and face of the lord, and without recklessly dampening the people’s motivation, it is a means to distribute money to necessary spots. In addition, various orders related to the project will be the honey that would again lure the merchants to return.”

After I explained it like so, she nodded in comprehension.

“I finally understand. As expected from Master.”

“No, well, in the end it was just my interpretation. I could be wrong here, so if you want to know the exact answer, you can ask Laubert later.”

I attached an acute precaution to my words. What I had said a while back was outside my original expertise. Even though I am a lord, my principal occupation is an alchemist, and my true wish is to realise immortality. I don’t have the motivation to think about home affairs, and that is why I arranged for myself a brainwashed rank of vassals. If she wants a lecture about the pros and cons of public projects, then I suppose she should ask an expert in that field.

As I thought along those lines, she let out a light sigh.

“But still… dealing with politics sure is troublesome. Would it not be better to perform the surgery to all of the citizens?”

“………. Ahahahahah!”

I spontaneously raised my voice and laughed. While her words was a subtle sign of her disinterest, apparently Uni has a sense of humour as well.

“Don’t say unreasonable things now. Surgery isn’t free, and it takes time too. As I thought, performing them on the whole of Marlin is just impossible.”

“Is that so… Please pardon me for my foolish remarks.”

And she apologised with that serious face of hers, so I couldn’t make this any more interesting. Seriously though, she already knew that it was impossible from the start.

Thanks to that, I had no choice but to fervently stifle my laughter until we reached the lab.

 


 

I’m in my lab, which I’ve grown completely accustomed to, as I’ve been here for months after I took the position as a viscount.

But, during when I ‘employed’ the vassals a while back, its capacity was about to burst, and it did trouble the mass-produced slaves a great deal. The lab is the basement of a tiny manor that is smaller than what I had in the main residence of the Oubeniel House in the capital. It has supported my research well until now, but the time to part with it is surely drawing near.

Before anything else, I have to augment and readjust Opus=04.

“O, O, Oubeniel… are my augmentations… not over yet?”

Restrained on the lab’s operating table, is a half-naked young man.

That’s right. I didn’t leave most of my political affairs to my vassals in order to merely spend my time in idle amusement. I have been conducting experiments to gather necessary data to create this Opus-04… I’ve been through multiple trial and errors for my next “masterpiece”.

“Well, please calm down, Charl. The augmentations that will be applied to you are on a larger scale than ever before. It will take some time.”

I spoke with a gentle tone to calm Opus 04 – Charl Franz Schmidt, whose emotions were unstable.

“Ha, hahahaha… I, I’m looking forward to it… Since your experiments have always yielded wonderful results… Surely, I, too, will turn out to be a gre, gre, gre, great ‘masterpiece’…”

And so Charl spoke to me with an intimate tone.

There may be people who are able to discern from our situation what it looks like, but just to make it clear, he is an old acquaintance of mine.

Charl Franz Schmidt. He was a fellow student before I was incited into the duel that got me kicked out of the magic academy in St Gallen’s capital, Gallerien,

That being said, Charl and I enrolled in different departments. As you know, I was in the Alchemy Department. He was from the Necromancy Department, which specialises in Death Magic.

TL Note: original word for death here is “wraith” or “ghost”, but I suppose Death Magic is a more universal term to depict the magic here.

Death Magic. It’s a subject that is as minor as alchemy, and at the same time, a subject people look down upon even more than alchemy. No, perhaps it would be more accurate if I say that it was more hated instead. It is the magic to manipulate the spirits of the dead. After all, because what it does is impure and blasphemous against the dead, a dark image follows it. In fact, fundamentalist elements in the church have recommended that the subject should be immediately branded as heresy and have it eradicated, among other types of stirring around.

But, even when the faculty is currently failing its quota, just like every other year, the subject remains to be offered in the magic academy, scraping along and holding on to its thread of life as it is.

Why, one might ask. Because it’s a useful subject, that’s why.

As you might know, in this Ithuselah Continent, aside from humans and demi-humans, monsters exist here as well. And of course, among them exist the fantasy genre staple, the undead. Zombies and ghouls, skeletons and ghosts, and on top of that, liches and vampires… These eyes of mine have caught their existence several times, and some of them have been made into materials and are now placed in the cabinet of this lab. Necromancers are the experts when it comes to these undead.

As expected, the best kinds of opponents to handle them are the priests with their holy magic, but most of them are needed as healers to treat the people instead, and there are not many combat exorcists around. The Empire of Omnia, which possesses the orders of the Holy Knights and the Warrior Monks is an exception, but there is always a shortage of them in other countries. And so, by the process of elimination, the necromancers, as the superiors in regard of the undead, are useful as a countermeasure against this shortage. As the necromancers are intruding in the niche industry that should have been their field of expertise, the church doesn’t find them amusing, but if they were to eliminate them completely, then they would get themselves overworked. Therefore, the ones that are making noises in the sidelines are only a small group of fundamentalists. The more upright priests, meanwhile, are giving them their half-hearted tacit approval.

Of course, the value of their ability – communicating with the dead – is not low. Since the printing technology is underdeveloped in this world, duplication of documents is also inefficient – when an original document is lost, the valuable technologies and information written on it would also be immediately lost. When that happens, a necromancer may communicate with the spirit of the past, which makes it possible to restore the lost information.

However, this too, isn’t an universal case. After death, there are cases of those who would turn into undead after their soul lapses because of their grudges, but there are also cases of those who don’t, and their souls disappear somewhere. The church claimed these disappearances to be “ascension”, however, I find this claim dubious. It is possible that they may be reincarnated somewhere like in my case, and they may have disappeared with the same sense of loss I felt at that time. After all, I had no idea where I was until my soul was called upon, and after all communications were cut I had no idea where I was going as well, this affair is indeed full of mysteries. Though, the professor that I studied under did loudly criticise me for treating things that I couldn’t understand as things that I could never understand.

Well, bear in mind that this is the reason why there are souls that cannot be called back – or rather, in most cases, spirits can’t be called back. In general, if all souls could be called back, there wouldn’t be a maze of unsolved murders, nor would there be any unresolved mysteries left in history. Living in that kind of world may sound convenient, but it must be a rather dull world indeed.

Besides, the mystery of “so what exactly is a soul?” is what we’re researching from now on so that we may shed light upon it, that’s what I believe.

That aside,

“Of course, Charl. After all, you are the expert in the field that forms the base of my research. Indeed, the one in charge of your augmentation is me, but seeing as I’m giving my all, the result will be special.”

“Yes, yes, yes….. You words s, s, s, soothe me…. I put my t, trust, in your skills, Oubeniel.”

Charl spoke, while stuttering greatly while he responded, during our conversation.

As I said before, he’s an important person for my research.

Immortality.

To realise that goal, it is essential to investigate the soul, which is the basis of intelligent life. However, I am only apt in governing over material substances, whether organic or inorganic. Death Magic is a different matter entirely. Although I may be able to use it to a certain extent if I desperately train, it wouldn’t be much of a use, and if I’m too busy with it, it may impede my principal occupation, as I’m an alchemist. For Uni and Drei too, their kind finds a better use of their magic in battle and exploration instead.

That’s where he, who has majored in necromancy for all this time in the academy, would be a great help to this challenging study of the enigma-riddled concept that is the soul.

“I’ll be the one who will rely on your skills instead. This sure takes me back, Charl. Do you still remember, about the academy?”

“Y, yes… E, even now, I can… still vividly, remember… I helped, y, y, your research… It was, f, fun…”

The professor also held that experiment in high regard.

The experiment to investigate the correlation between the soul and the brain. It was impossible to conduct that experiment without him. Due to the number of experimental bodies consumed and humanitarian issues, it wasn’t a particularly reputable experiment, but the data taken from it occupied a particularly important position in my study of immortality too.

“Well then, let’s wrap up our talk here… Shall we begin today’s augmentation as well? Uni, anaesthetise him and prepare him for blood transfusion.”

“Yes, Master.”

As soon as she finished speaking, Uni quickly injected anaesthetics and put transfusion tubes in. In the past, I used to work around it by using hematopoietic drugs, but now it’s possible to use alchemy-cultured, pre-collected blood, in transfusion. Even though this sort of technology is difficult to realise even with the scientific power of my previous world, it’s available as a cheat since this is a world of magic.

“… Good, night… Oubeniel…”

Carl fell asleep in a clap.

As she gazes upon his peaceful sleeping face, Uni sighs.

“…. He sure has changed a lot. When he was brought here, he cursed a great deal.”

“That’s because I have tampered with his brain so that it works that way.”

I shrugged as I replied her.

Charl held a grudge against me. As to how grudgeful he was, he loathed me as an enemy to the very marrow of his bones. When he arrived here after I ordered Due to haul Opus-04 as a experiment material off, he was putting on an absurdly threatening look.

According to what I heard, after I left the academy, it seems that he was terribly bullied because he cooperated with me in that aforementioned experiment. He also said that he was forced to drop out from the academy himself. That was why he had a grudge against me.

So, if he was to be left that way, there was no way for me to augment him peacefully, so first I let Drei use her evil eye to calm him down, and then I treated him the way I treated Drei. Because of that, he has since become a lot more cooperative, and he’s now gladly receiving the surgery he once hated so much.

I personally think I did something good. Nothing good ever comes out of hatred. In order to create novel things, love and respect are needed first.

“Well then, let us do this carefully. It will be quite the difficult treatment, after all. It’s still effective to use as long as it takes until he’s perfect, so that we may utilise him safely later.”

“Yes, understood.”


 

Almost a month has passed since then.

“—- Final adjustment completed. Recovery from surgical scars confirmed. Master, Opus-04 will open his eyes in a moment.”

I gave my nod to Uni, who had been entrusted to do the finishing touches,

It took a long while. It didn’t take as long as when I worked on Uni, but it’s not often that I spend so much time working on one ‘masterpiece’ only. Indeed, considering that Due’s and Drei’s operation, which focused only on simple ability strengthening, took roughly one or two weeks, it would be easy to understand the amount of time and effort I spent for Charl.

“Finally, 04 is going to wake up, is he? We sure took our time working on him, though.”

“His refinement is different than ours, though, what plans do you have for him?”

The ‘masterpieces’ who have gathered in the lab to meet up have shown their interest in him as well. After all, from now on he’ll be their equal colleague. Of course they’d be interested.

“Well, about that -”

‘You’ll understand when you see him’, is what I wanted to say, but before I had the chance to say that,

“Huh, 04!?”

Uni raised a surprised shriek that was unlike her. At the same time, something cut through the air with a dreadful speed.

How quick was it? Well, when it was moving, a shock wave reverberated throughout the lab, and bundles of papers of written data and surgical instruments were scattered all over.

And in the centre of the lab, with its stretched, hanging hair covering its face, a ghostlike shadow descends.

It’s Opus 04 – Charl Franz Schmidt.

“Hey! Could it be, he’s running amok!?”

“Impossible… Master had him restricted!”

Due and Drei put themselves on guard, Uni and her fellows have already drawn their blades.

As I did not expect this situation, my eyes went round.

…. Interesting.

I’m finally seeing a reaction that I haven’t seen, from when I performed similar brain augmentations up until now, and in addition, from when I created all those prototypes on the test bed as well.

Just what in the world is the cause that is making him running amok like this? Psychological factor? Accidental effect? Or perhaps -?

In front of us, where we are staring at him attentively to observe his next move, Charl’s shoulders are shaking.

“…. Kuh. Huhuhuhu….”

He’s laughing?

Ignoring our bewilderment, his fit of laughter is intensifying.

“Huhuh, FUHAHA—-HAHAHA!!”

“This madness, I know it, he’s running amok….!”

“Master, your approval to dispose of him, please.”

That show of insanity seems to have strengthened Uni and her fellows’ thoughts to eliminate him.

However, I carefully signaled them to wait with my hands. If he really went crazy, and is now running amok, I would like to observe what he would do in that insane state of his.

Sure enough, in the next moment,

“…… MAGNIFICENT!”

Charl spread both of his hands, with a thud, his black robe spread out. Naturally, his front bangs fluttered away, and with it, his expression was exposed.

…That face, you would know that it was an ecstatic one, even from a side glance.

“Huh?”

“This overflowing power in my body! This enriched magical power! This is… This is the new me?! Ah, truly magnificent! MAG-NI-FI-CEEEEEENT~~~~!”

With a sideway glance, I look at the first ‘masterpiece’, whose wild speech and conduct is out of rhythm since Due, as he started to speak as if he was singing while he was spinning on the floor using one foot as his axis.

…… He sure is high in spirits. As a result, his speech is turning inside out, and he’s rolling his tongue as he speak, what a mess. Around the “enriched magical power!”, I also heard something about overflowing “soma power!”. What is soma anyway, some sort of a horsepower?

“This is just a guess, but… perhaps due to the excitement associated with the improvement of his ability, he temporarily loses his reasoning?”

Uni muttered in a daze. Well, I suppose that everyone knows that without being told.

 

Over there, his sharp hearing picked up her words to rebuke her, and with a vigorous thwack he pointed his finger,

“OOOH!  HOW CAN YOU NOT BE E-X-C-I-T-EEEE-D!? I’VE CHANGED, THE WORLD HAS CHANGED, EVERYTHING HAS CHANGEED! THIS EXALTATION CAN’T BE HELD DOOOWN!  THIS EXCITEMENT, HOW SHALL I EXPRESS IT? BY A SONG? CAN I SIIIING!?”

“For the moment, calm down.”

“Ah, right.”

He calmed down for now after I ordered him to do so. It seems that there is no problem in the ‘asserting obedience’ part of the brain surgery. But looking at that blown-up state, I feel like I lost a bit of my confidence…

“Say, Milord. For that gloomy bastard to become like this, just how, and what part of his brain did you tamper with?”

Says Due while he looks like he’s trying to endure a headache. As he was the one responsible for securing Charl, this complete change might be a little bit too much for him. No, he probably finds the change to be unexpected. Even I feel so as well.

“… In order to eliminate the enmity that he held against me, I integrated and converted that to vexation towards his self-powerlessness and anger towards his unsympathetic surroundings. Perhaps, now that he has acquired intensified power, it also has doubled his euphoria as well. Technically, what I did to him was the same as what I have done to Drei.”

As I explain this, Drei has an extremely upset look resting on her face. Perhaps she doesn’t want to consider the fact that her treatment was the same as THAT. Though, according to Due, she herself has changed a lot as well.

“But still, this is too much of a change, too suddenly… It’s good that his speech impediment is gone, but he’s far from what I have imagined, and his appearance seems to have changed too…”

So he says while observing Charl.

His previous self was pathologically slim and his cheekbones were jutting out, he looked like an unhealthy young man. There were hollow dark circles around his eyes, and without that timid disposition that he had, he looked like how the world imagines someone like an evil necromancer might look like.

However, it was all changed after the operation. His slender figure remains unchanged, but his body is now compactly well-proportioned, his slit eyes looks completely refreshed, and now his facial features looks like that of a good-looking young nobleman. It’s just that he’s a lot whiter than he was – no, it’s just that he’s a lot paler now.

“Perhaps, it’s a racial effect.”

“Race, you say?”

Drei blinks.

“Since he’s no longer human, you see. Now Charl is a high undead… an artificial Vampire Lord.”

“Buh! Va, vampire lord!? Isn’t that the monster that has the highest rank of risk as a subjugation target, even for a quest circulated to A-ranked adventurers!?”

Due bursts out spontaneously.

To that astonished look of his, Charl snorts in pride.

“That is corrrrrect! With the assistance of my master Oubeniel, I have now transcended from being a lowly human to the side that tramples over it! In other words! THE LORD OF! T-H-E N-I-G-H-T!”

He flutters his black robe each time he emphasises anything. I know that he’s feeling good, but our conversation will go nowhere this way. By the way, even if he refers himself as the Lord of the Night, one might understand from the fact that there’s no “von” attached to his name, while he came from St. Gallen, that he’s actually of common birth. He’s not that much different from Due.

“Sorry, can you tone it down a little bit more?”

“Ah, my apologies, I got too carried away…”

All right, I got him to be quiet.

Drei slips in a word, while holding her temple.

“However, is this fine, master? I’m a dark elf, but my existence is tolerated in the human’s domain as long as I’m a slave, but this thing over here is a vampire… a lord on top of that. What might happen if his existence were exposed?”

Indeed, her apprehension is reasonable.

Even though as a viscount I’m allowed to keep demi-human slaves and magical creatures that humans can tame, vampires are counted among the dangerous monsters, and even a king would not be allowed to keep them around. After all, it is one of the strongest adversaries against mankind. On top of that, they have the ability to rule over a person whom blood they have sucked, and can create kin from that. Of course such dangerous living (or dead?) beings would be suppressed the moment people stumbled upon them. Creating and concealing him, even when I consider the works I’ve done so far, is my absolute heaviest illegal deed, against the law.

But, I’m not bothered by it. I don’t have to be bothered by it.

“Indeed, it would be a problem if he gets discovered. But from where, and how can he get exposed?”

The vassals working for this viscouncy of Oubeniel are absolutely obedient to me. It’s impossible to extract any secret information from them. Rather in their thoughts, I’ve made it so that their instincts keep my interests as their top priority, they won’t talk even if you torture them. This has already been experimented with the slaves.

“But vampires suck blood, don’t they? Human’s blood at that. They might discover him during the process of procuring it…”

So said Due. That opinion was so becoming of him, as an adventurer who had hunted a lot of monsters. In truth, while vampires can hide themselves skillfully, seeing as they sometimes don’t erase the trace after they suck people’s blood, a lot of them get discovered that way.

However.

“Hey, hey, did you forget, Due? What’s in this lab?”

“Hah?… Ah! Now that you say that!”

Yes, there’s an ideal thing in my lab that can conceal the bloodsucking sessions of the vampire.

I lightly tap the thing with pride.

Blood packs for transfusions, with a culturing vessel.

“As you see for yourself, if it’s blood, I can use this to make as much as I want. If it’s only the amount for a vampire’s meal, then it’s as easy as pie.”

“‘Cause I’m a nocturnal, I basically only eat eat at night, though!”

Charl puffs his chest up.

Is this perhaps his attempt to make some sort of kindred joke?

“… And by the way, I mean to keep myself from sending him out as much as I can. His combat capability is high, but his main appeals are his superior aptitude for death magic, and his strengthened magic capacity to cast high-level spells. Basically, both will be utilised in my research.”

“Eh, what? Are you spilling my potential away? Aren’t you being a bit mean, Oubeniel?”

TL Note: original for ‘Are you spilling my potential away?’ is 流すのかい?. Might be erroneous TL here as I can’t be sure, feel free to correct me.

 

“By the way, Master. Putting aside the fact that he’s a necromancer, how did you prepare him so far to the point that he’s a Lord now? Well, so there’s that kind of raw material too.”

As Drei comes to me with a question, I ignore Charl who came with something on his mind and answer her.

“Now that you ask, there’s actually a trick here.”

“Oh?”

To her who seems to be immensely interested, I threw her the documents that had fallen to the floor. They were scattered about when Charl was being hyper a while back. The details of his augmentation is written there.

“Let’s see… Altered skeletal structure step by step to that of a lich’s? Heart and muscle tissue altered to that of a dullahan’s, liver of a kelpie transplanted in order to make the subject resistant to running water…………. This is———-”

“That’s the gist of it. I replaced his body components to that of the undead step by step, and let his body adapt with them over time, and with that I gradually increased his compatibility with a vampire’s blood. It had an immediate effect, as he became a Lord-class upon swapping his blood to that of a vampire’s right away. This is thanks to all the materials that everyone has gathered.”

In other words, he’s an undead chimera that was built from a human as the base material. Well, a kelpie is a monster that’s closer to a magical beast than an undead, though. Among other things, it was good that we were able to procure the lich bones. Vampire blood can be increased by using the culture machine for blood transfusion, but bones can’t. The fact that I could procure a lich bone this superior in quality was a windfall in itself.

As expected, Drei begins to sweat as she skims through the document.

“How can you come up with all these… no, how can you actually execute what’s in here…”

“That’s a late remark. If it makes me closer to my goal of reaching immortality, I’ll twist my head around no matter how much, I’ll do everything too.”

“Oubeniel has always been like that, even when he was in the academy.”

Charl nods.

“But thanks to that, I’ve become beautiful now! And I’ve become strong too! And with the power of the kelpie’s organ, I’m not obstructed by running water like normal vampires do! By the way, how tolerant am I against the sunlight?”

And he said such a thing. Though I thought that that point was already explained before the operation.

Could it be that he wanted to let Due and Drei to hear about it?

“On the basis of estimation, you’ll be a bit weakened, but it’s still possible for you to do activities even in the sunlight. In addition to the Lord-class durability and resilience, you have physical fitness that exceeds common vampires. Though I couldn’t do anything about your resistance against holy magic. After all, you’re a number of undead jumbled together. I guess this is where the magic equipment comes in.”

“Thank you for your explanation, Master! THAT MEANS! I! EVEN AMONG THE VAMPIRES, AM THE ELITE OF THE ELITE! NOT ONLY FOR MY ABILITIES, BUT MY LACK OF WEAKNESSES AS WELL, YOU SEE!”

Sure enough, he boasts, as he grows even more energetic.

Well, even among my ‘masterpieces’, Charl is the one I have made most changes to. The power he has obtained is huge, so it can’t be helped that he gets excited about it.

“So, do you understand what exactly is he now?”

“Ah, yes… in a lot of different ways.”

“Truthfully, if it goes on like this I’ll get tired. Master, when you create the next ‘masterpiece’ please make it so that it’ll be a bit more quiet.”

Commented Due and Drei from the actual condition. It’ll be exhausting to interact with Charl. For me as well. Considering his personality before his augmentation, I thought that he’d be a bit quieter, it was unexpected that he would change that much.

And I,

“Well, deal with it.”

I limited my answer to that, and dissolved the meeting.

 


 

“Master, about Opus-04……”

As soon as it’s only the two of us, Uni begins to talk.

Well, I suppose, considering what kind of person she is, she would definitely have a problem with Charl.

I answer her proactively,

“Because of the instability of his mental state, you can’t tell whether the ‘obedience’ part of the surgery is working properly? Wouldn’t it be dangerous to put my trust to him? ……….Is your question along those lines?”

“I see that you have already noticed. My apologies for my impertinent remarks.”

“Not at all, your concern is understandable. The bodies of the previous opus series were kept as humans or demi-humans, according to what they originally were. Now that Charl is classified as a monster instead, how far will the methods go beyond this? Of course one can’t help but to think about it.”

Transforming humans into monsters. That would mean that there would be a lot of change in quality of the soul… Say, for an example, that Villager A was bitten by a vampire, they would turn into a Lesser Vampire in an instant and it would come to harm people. It may be said that the change in quality of the soul, to that of a monster’s can be attributed to the loss of its human ethics.

Even in this world of magic, the thing called soul is still an existence shrouded in mystery. No matter what kind of effect it might cause, it still wouldn’t be a strange thing.

And more so, the monster he has turned into is a vampire. Vampires can raise soldiers under their control by their own will by sucking the victims’ blood. Leave him unchecked, and there’s the fear that he will catch me off guard while I’m sleeping, and this is where the other ‘masterpieces’ are not a match to him.

But knowing that, I still turned Charl into a vampire.

“As for me, I see that the possibility for him to betray me is minimal. The result of the trial assigned to the slave specimen before him indicated that almost all of their functions went under the brain augmentation surgery. I suppose that the principal cause of this exception was also after the operation to turn him into a vampire. His behaviour is a tad queer, but among the expected pattern of personality change, I think his case counts as a moderate one.”

That means: the data says that the risk is low.

“By the way. Uni, do you still remember the experiment I did with him back in the magic academy?”

“Yes, I believe it was ‘The correlation between brain functions of an organism and its living soul’?”

Basically, you treat a slave’s brain, and you kill them after that, what will become of their soul postmortem? It was that sort of experiment.

“And that result of the experiment was, that the cognition of the brain changes in line every time the soul changes in quality. So far, ever since the time when I captured him to the final point when I treated him in order to change him into a vampire, I have always induced obedience towards me when I tampered with his brain, every single day.”

“…….”

“Also, from the result of the experiments conducted on the slaves on his test bed, we understand that a vampire’s regenerative ability is derived directly from the soul. The body restores itself according to the information regarding that body that is engraved on their souls. Then, we understand that the point of reference for that matter generally is largely dependent to the immediate state before and after their vampirisation.”

Basically, this is what I mean. Cut the limbs of Slave A and turn them into a vampire after that, Vampire A will then start to restore their body according to the carved information on their souls, and their limbs will be restored.  On the other hand, cut the limbs of Slave B, let them heal and turn them into a vampire after that, in that case, their limbs will not be reattached upon their vampirisation, nor will they grow back from the cut surface, it will simply be a limbless vampire.

It appears that the difference between those two was caused by the state their own limbs was supposed to recognise. Immediately after their limbs was cut, slave A still thinks “they’ll grow back when it’s healed” upon the vampirisation. Whereas in the case of B, it is recognised that the limbs “have healed without them growing back” upon their treatment.

Such was the evidence that a vampire’s paranormal self-healing ability was caused directly by the self-awareness that was affixed to their soul. The same thing can be said for Charl.

“And that means, that Charl was augmented with absolute obedience towards me fixed in his head. It is highly possible that his brain tissue remains at it is after his vampirisation. Obedience towards me has been functionally imprinted in him.”

Uni should have already understood if it’s only about that. Hasn’t she been my assistant for the last ten years?  Which means, there’s another reason behind her concern that was beyond that.

Indeed, she makes a rebuttal for herself,

“But I still think that there’s a lot of unknowns, in regard to his transformation to a monster. In fact, in the case of Opus-04, there have been changes beyond his physical appearance that were not intended in the treatment.”

That’s correct, there is still little data in regard of transforming a human into a monster. Since the consumption of body and other materials is something that isn’t insignificant, the numbers of experiment in regard to this matter is limited, and the data outside my experiment can only be classified as anecdotal lore that can’t be relied as a reference. Even though we have done a number of experiments beforehand, and even if a hundred of experiments yielded no problem, it may not necessarily be the case for the 101th time. In order to avoid that, it’s necessary to repeat the experiment a thousand or a ten thousand times to increase the accuracy of the data. Moreover, the changes that happened to Charl were dramatic. His looks and personality have been completely changed. It would be impossible to not be alarmed against these irregularities.

However.

“Say, Uni.”

“Yes.”

“Do you think I trust uncollared slaves?”

At the end of the day, that’s my situation. I don’t want to die. Even if the chance is only one out of ten thousand, I still don’t want to die. That’s why I’m studying immortality. And for me, there’s no reason to leave any room for betrayal in the ‘masterpieces’ that are ultimately my tool.

And to that,

“…. No. I think such would be impossible.”

My magnum opus sure understands me well.

The Opus Series and the brainwashed vassals are just highly capable slaves. At first glance, they seem to possess free will – after all if you perfectly turn them into a doll, their ability to make decision will decrease. It would be a vexing thing to have the number of instructions necessary to direct them multiplied, so in the end it’s only a matter of efficiency. Also, in case that I make a mistake in my judgement, if their point of view becomes too uniform, there’s the risk that there would just be a chain of failures after that, and so there’s also the purpose to prevent that from happening. I have said this many times before.

In Due’s case, I basically removed the function that may cause him to oppose or defy me from his brain. I’ve also made similar adjustments to Uni.

In Drei’s case, she was made obedient after I reattributed the subject of her sense of belonging from her clan to that being a slave of mine. As an additional safety measure, I also kept her collar intact.

Then, what about Charl?

“In his case, in addition to the psychological surgery that was similar to what I did to Drei,  I’ve incorporated several fail-safes as well.”

“And what are those?”

I asked Uni to inquire me of the matter. But she’s a clever one. Perhaps this is just a measure of modesty towards her lord.

So, first, I’d like to hear her answer first.

“Well then, take a guess, Uni.”

“…There would be re-augmentations to ensure complete restraints on a regular basis.”

“Oh, then?”

“The interior of the lab is Master’s absolute territory. So to deduce whether it is possible to entrust everything to the restraint that has the ultimate power over him or not, we will test his loyalty, and measure his degree of obedience at a regular interval. In addition, in order to ensure that he will not make unintended movements within such periods, a magical equipment have been attached to 04’s vitals to track his location, and there’s a kind of a magical tool that can be activated remotely inserted inside his body as well.”

‘Was that correct?’, asked Uni, and wondered whether it was true or false.

I loosened my cheeks.

“Correct. As expected from Uni, you sure understand well.”

“It’s an honour to have you praise me. However, this was all due to Master’s guidance.”

She gently bows as she says so.

That is how it is. No matter how much I tamper with the insides of his head, there’s no way I would leave the man who held a grudge against me until a while ago with his powers unchecked. He will be my dog for the rest of his life. Even though I had kept him, what would happen by the time he could stand it no longer? At that time, since he’s an undead, he will turn into a mere corpse. No, since he’s a vampire he’ll turn into ashes instead, I guess?

“Well, that’s how it goes. As long as he behaves as I have intended, you can calm down. But in the case that he deviates from that criterion—”

“Understood.”

That means that Uni will eliminate him without hesitation. Although Charl’s ability seems to be considerably high for a Lord-class vampire, on the flip side, that is all there is to him. Originally, he was just a student in the academy. Uni, who has accumulated a lot of combat experience, is still superior in battle potential, as one of my pieces. In addition to that, his specific weak point as an undead against the holy attribute remains still in place. Though, in addition, I have covered that with the magical equipment I’ve mentioned before… After all, to be frank, I have no obligation to give him a perfect magical equipment. It is easy to have him to self-destruct, should I will it. In addition to that, the remotely activatable tool against the undead that Uni considered, has already been inserted in his body as well.

“Though it would be the best if it didn’t come to that…”

I said as I took a seat to take a break.

“Well that’s that. While he might be an undead, he’s not perfectly immortal as he can be killed if I feel like it. Moreover, he has already made most of the world his enemy just by existing. Though he will do well as a secret piece of mine…”

“If that’s how it is, he’s still far from the point that Master desires.”

 

“—– Right. I might have no other choice to do so to myself, should death approach me. For that reason, I had you remember the surgery method as well.”

“… Hopefully, your wish to attain the perfect form will be granted. I too am willing to commit all I have for that.”

Of course, that’s what I hope too.

As I reply to her, I tap the armrest of the chair with my fingers.

She promptly grasped my intention and brewed me a warm cup of tea.

 


-NOT A PART OF THE STORY-

Cor blimey, you’re annoying Charl

Sigh.

EDITOR RAMBLE

Holy tapdancing Christ, this took forever. My most sincere respect to Sychev for being so patient, and for translating this behemoth of a chapter. I do hope that I won’t delay the releases further.

Delay Notice

Hi. Unfortunately I’m having a lot of stuff going on in RL right now. I predict that I can only resume the translation for the upcoming chapter by this week’s Saturday. That said, I can’t give you an estimate for this chapter and the next one (I’m not sure if the situation is going to settle or not). But rest assured that the TL process will continue.

If you wish to see how the TL process is going on, I’m happy to share you a link to the google document, just drop me a message in NU.

Also, if you’re at least an N4 in Japanese and are loving the story, you might want to check this out.

 

Thank you for your patience.

Ouroboros Record – Chapter 13 – Gleaning (Latter Part)

TL: Sychev

This chapter was one of the easiest chapters to translate… But, I might need a co-translator so I can get a second opinion for the chapters ahead. Please consider applying. Thank you.


 

Chapter XIII – Gleaning (Latter Part)

>Insert my obligatory screw you bloodsucking aggregators c–ts here

“Good afternoon. I am Tullius Shernan Oubeniel.”

In a certain office that was the interview venue. The impression of the person— Tullius Shernan Oubeniel— who was expecting Jean there was more mediocre than Jean initially thought.

He was several years younger than Laubert. Probably he was not twenty yet. All his facial features were in order, but, perhaps it would be easier to understand if one were to say that there were no ugly aspects there instead of the other way? Like a bland bisque doll, such was the only impression his cold face left on him.

If there were indeed a beautiful aspect in his look, then the maid who was attending beside him would be far more superior in that matter. Her face looked like that of a doll’s as well, but it was more like a sculpture carved by a chisel which a master artisan put all his soul into, her mould had that feeling of exquisiteness. This maid was also fitted with a silver collar, the proof of slavery.

But the most curious presence there was the person standing on the other side of the maid and the viscount. The person was dressed in a thick robe, their face hidden by its hood. From the protrusions on the person’s chest, Laubert thought that the person might be a woman, though for what purpose did this person who wasn’t showing their face to be there waiting besides the noble as well?

While burying such question, for the time being Laubert lowered his head.

“It’s an honour to be in your presence, Lord Viscount. I am examinee number twenty, Jean-Jacques—-“

“Ah, wait, wait! You don’t have to introduce yourself. I can see the number in your name tag and with that I can look your name up in the document I have here. At any rate, since we have a lot of people at this time, I have to save time here.”

And so, he was interrupted by the viscount.

How outrageous. To a nobleman, their name is like a face, or like their tools of trade. It must be treated with due respect. He regarded it not in the slightest, and in addition he spewed that it was because he didn’t have the time for it!

As he thought, as a nobleman his lacking points were conspicuous. Taking up on the young man’s offer was the correct choice. So Laubert thought as he glanced at the young man who was summoned to the room as well. He also had this somehow astounded face.

There were six candidates, including himself, currently in the room. They were all sitting on chairs that were lined up in a row. There was a considerable gap between their position and the viscount’s desk, about three metres. It was indeed wide, but that was a reasonable distance in a landed noble’s office.

“Well, shall we get over with this quickly?  Stand up.”

““Yes.””

“Three steps forward.”

““… Yes?””

“You didn’t hear that? Take three steps forward.”

It was a strange instruction. ‘What is his intention?’ Laubert thought as he couldn’t surmise anything from it. Did he want to see the way they walk? Or perhaps their conduct? If that was the case, then it was Laubert himself who was wondering whether this viscount could understand proper conduct or not.

Nonetheless, the highest-ranked person in the room was the young viscount. Thus confused as they were, all of the candidates took three steps.

Viscount Oubeniel let out a smile filled with satisfaction.

“Right, thank you. Well then, don’t move…. Do it, Uni.”

“Yes—- ‘Earthbound’”

Heavy pressure.

With that all six of them were floored at once.

“Wh–!?

“Th, this is!”

“What is the meaning of this!?”

It felt like being held down by a giant palm of hand from above.

… Heavy. His whole body was heavy, and he couldn’t stand.

Something was crushing his body down, for someone powerless like Laubert it was something unbearable, not even for a short while. He couldn’t move a muscle, and he couldn’t understand what was happening as he fell into a state of confusion.

“Im, impossible… this can’t be!”

He heard the young man painfully cried.

At that, the viscount went, ‘good grief’ as he shook his head.

“If you’re like that, as I thought, did you bring a protective amulet with you, I wonder? Because if you have one, it’ll be difficult for the brainwashing magic to take into effect. I struck ahead and I have prevented you from stirring about, so I’ll be taking that away.”

“What… did you say…?”

While still being nailed to the floor, he could somehow still say that much.

‘Does that mean he had expected that someone among the candidates were trying to set him up from the very beginning?’

All the more bewildered as he was, the young man said,

“Th, then… just what is, this magic…? To think… the amulet… didn’t, react…!”

“Yes, about that, you’re probably wondering. You’re the second person who asked me that. The other one asked me a while ago too.”

Viscount Oubeniel let out a stifled chuckle.

“Well then, I’ll explain it with a simple lecture. Take the fire magic as an example. “Fireball”, a spell used by those with low magical power. If you try to stop the spell from hitting you using that amulet, what would happen? Of course, before it hits you, the amulet will trigger a barrier and the spell will be rebuffed. However—-“

The viscount snapped his finger as he said so. Immediately after that, the chair where the young man just sat a while ago burned—- no, it exploded. That was a chantless fire magic. All of a sudden the heat wave generated from his back started to attack the young man. Of course, its force was averted by the amulet.

“Ugh!”

A piece of the chair debris that was broken by the spell hit his forehead.

“—- In this case, the amulet could not defend you from things that were moved by magic….. Ah, I’m sorry. Did it hurt? I’ll patch you up now so you’ll forgive me for that.”

He snapped his fingers again, and the wounds on the young man’s forehead quickly faded away. But the pressure that restrained him was still there.

“So offensive magic can’t pass through the barrier, but recovery magic can, how odd….. Anyway, let us return to the original topic. So, the “earthbound” spell isn’t like those spheres of fires that were conjured by “fireball” spell, as it wasn’t meant to restrain you directly. It only used the gravitational force— which is keeping you on the ground—- that was there in the first place, and doubled it. Thus, you won’t be able to avert it by using a simple magical tool, because the force exists already, and it already affects you, and we’re just strengthening that force with magic….. you understand now?”

‘… Of course the answer would be no. Grevitesienal force? What is that, some sort of terminology in alchemy? Just who would understand that load of nonsense?’ Others looked similar as well. There were either the colour of confusion or hatred in their eyes, but none had the light of comprehension in them.

But one thing could be understood. This mad alchemist certainly had a malicious agenda.

“Now, Uni. Disarm these men.”

“As you ordered, Master…. Excuse me.”

After she received her master’s order, the slave-maid who casted the spell approached the men.  She patted them down and confiscated their magical armaments.

“Then!…. Gah!?

The young man, who was trying to do something, was overpowered by the maid at a speed unperceivable to the eyes.

“… It seems he was going to make the amulet self-destruct.”

“I see. So if he were to return alive but with his amulet destroyed, it’d mean to his superior that he received some sort of ‘treatment’ here. Did he manage to do so?”

“No. It’s safe.”

As she said so, she retrieved an amulet that was fashioned as a rosario from his chest.

“Well, even if he managed to do that, I’ll just simply repair it. But since you saved me the labour and resource for doing so, this is better. Well done, Uni.”

“It’s an honour to receive your praise.”

Then, the maid bowed reverently.

It was unbelievable. From what Jean saw, this unknown pressure was occurring in a scope that enveloped all six of them. Its effect should’ve been indiscriminate, as there was clear indentation on the surrounding carpet.  But still, the maid moved around without difficulty, and quickly confiscated their magical equipment.

“Oh, there’s a communication device here.”

“Hah! How foolish… did you think… I wasn’t… that prepared…!?”

One of the candidates who wasn’t well-acquainted with Jean proudly said so while still gasping from the pressure.

“I’ve heard of… your crooked dealings… from the count…! The conversation in this room… is already…”

“Ah, it’s already been interfered with.”

Oubeniel casually declared so.

“……………… Huh?”

“Where do you think you are? You’re in my stronghold, you know?  Soundproof to jam communications, impact disabler, teleportation magic barricade, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. Of course we are prepared at least to that degree.”

While saying so, he toyed around with the communication device in his hands,

“…. Hmm. This size, the minimal amount of material, I suppose this device’s effective communication distance is limited only within the mansion’s premises. I suppose you have a friend among the other candidates too? Surely they began to move as soon as the communication was cut off, but I’ve stationed Due there. There are not many people who can get away from him, not even top-notch adventurers. Too bad, huh. Though, you do have a good perception.”

—- If they were to reach the capital— or even if they didn’t, assuming there were other collaborators in their vicinity— it would’ve been dangerous.

He concluded his evaluation as so. Although, he thought that such a scheme couldn’t be done in the first place. Laubert didn’t know much about the variety of magical tools, but at least he knew that one would need a large-sized device had they wanted to communicate long-distance. It was impossible to bring such a thing without being seen.

Even so, the examinee changed completely as colour was drained from his face.

“You, you’re bluffing… there’s… just no way…”

“It’s not like I’m asking you to believe me. There’s no inconvenience for me even if you don’t…. Well then, Drei. I’ve kept you waiting, huh. Time to do your job.”

“Yes, master.”

With a short reply, the woman who was standing beside the viscount took off her robe.

From what was exposed, there were long silver hair, brown skin, unworldly beautiful face—— and a pointed long ear.

Within Jean’s knowledge, there was only one kind that met all such characteristics.

“Da, dark elf…..!?”

Someone among the examinees raised their voice in surprise.

Dark elves, known with their other name, dark fairies. For its ties with demons, They were officially recognised as an enemy of mankind by the church, all citizens had been notified to neutralise them, dead or alive, if they were to run into one.  Barely a single one of them were living in the areas inhabited by humans, as all of them had fallen into slavery, a damned race they were.

However, it was said that their magical latency and the prowess of their arts were not inferior to the forest elves.

“You have this… kind of thing… too….?!”

In addition to the maid who casted the restraining magic without a chant, a literally inhuman magus— a dark elf, appeared as well.

As Jean and his fellows were squirming in despair, the woman named Drei let out a dark laugh.

“Kuhuhuhu…. I find it troubling if you were to mistake this body with the lot of my former brethren…”

As she said so, she put her hand on the eyepatch covering the upper left portion of her face.

Eyepatch. Yes, she was hiding her left eye.

Why did she hide it? And why was she going to reveal it now?

And as he saw her unblemished face after the black eyepatch was removed, he knew the answer to those questions right away.

Clearly, the violet-coloured iris on her left eye differed in colour from her right eye. There was a dangerous magical power swirling in there, it was enough for Jean who wasn’t even a magus to perceive so.

“De, demon eye……….!?”

It was mentioned in an illustrated book he had read once in the library to kill time. Gorgon, Catoblepas​, Basilisk, Gazer…. It was said that the devilish eye, which a lot of dangerous monsters inherently possess, could inflict a spell to others just with an eye contact.

TL Note: If you’re not familiar with the name “gazer”, it’s the Japanese equivalent to the D&D monster, “beholder”. Credit to sancturillore for bringing it up.

The woman named Drei snorted.

“Hmm. Even among the lowly apes, it seems that there’s someone who knows a bit too, huh? Indeed, this eye is a demon eye bestowed to me by our master. The extent of its effect— I shall let your body experience it for yourself.”

‘I can’t’, but there was no time to think so.

Even when Jean knew that it was indeed a demon eye, its effect was getting into him just by seeing it.

For Jean, who only had the magical capacity of an ordinary person, there was no avenue for him to resist.

“Ah… gah!?”

His consciousness was dyed in the violet colour.

His thoughts were diluted and his reason was melting, as if he were getting drunk from a bad alcohol.

Meanwhile, Tullius Oubeniel smiled in satisfaction.

“In the past, Uni picked up the body of a young Gazer in the dungeon. I preserved it and later, I transplanted its eye to her. There’s a lot of subspecies of the demon called Gazer, and the effect of their demon eyes is also vastly different.”

“Ah….. u……..”

“Igh…. geh…”

‘My head is fuzzy’.

‘Every voice is distant’.

‘What is this place?’

‘Who am I?’

“So, what I transplanted in Drei was a kind that’s specialised in brainwashing. Apparently they get their food by manipulating the other party to hunt it for them. There are sure some strange creatures in this world, right?”

“No matter how many times I see it, I still find its immediate effect to be wonderful. As long as she’s here, we won’t need the brainwashing incense anymore.”

“No, it’s hasty to conclude so, Uni. While rare, warriors who can fight off the eye’s effect do exist, and in the other hand, no men can keep themselves from breathing. Besides, the effect of the demon eye is limited to things within Drei’s line of sight. The incense would be better if we wanted to brainwash even more people at once.”

‘I can hear a voice eloquently explaining something’

‘So?’

‘So what should I do?’

“Please, someone, quickly, quickly tell me’

‘Otherwise, my thoughts will go insane.’

“In addition to that, in exchange of its high power and immediate effect, it eats away her magical power to a ridiculous extent, hence the eyepatch acts as a seal. When its power gets too strong, cases like the self-destructing amulet that almost occurred earlier may happen as well. My point here is, put the right person in the right place.”

“Indeed, I feel a little fatigued. But it’ll be enough to deal with everyone.”

“Right. There’s the factor of Drei’s body too. Let’s do this quickly then. Uni, you may release their restraint.”

“Yes, immediately.”

As he said so, Viscount Oubeniel stooped low in front of Jean and the other men. The pressure that nailed them on the ground had already disappeared.

‘—- Instruction, please give me instruction, quickly.’

Jean’s thoughts were stained in one colour only. Something like escaping didn’t even cross his mind.

“Alright then, first of all…. Among you, who cheated during the exam? —– this includes, stealing other people’s answers, and bringing unauthorised note into the exam venue.”

““………””

Everyone shook their head. Of course, Jean too denied it without delay.

His mood was superb. To have everything to be dominated by others, what a wonderfully comfortable feeling.

“Next, is there anyone among you who dishonestly filled out the papers even after the test was declared to be over?”

“…………………..”

“……………”

“…….. Me.”

One person raised his hands as he said so with a small voice.

“Examinee number twenty five, disqualified.”

Viscount Oubeniel crossed out one of the documents with a feather pen.

“Well then, let’s move on to individual questions. Examinee number twenty three.”

“Yes…”

The man answered back as his number was called.

“Who are you?”

“…. Victor Delacroix Lavallée. Youngest son of the Marquis Lavallée’s house.”

‘That’s strange’, Jean’s consciousness declared so in suspicion.

He, he himself, should’ve identified himself as being the youngest son of a Count house.

“In my document here, you’re from a Count house, and your family name is different, though?”

“It was a lie…. to keep my cover intact…”

“Who is this Marquis Lavallée to you?”

“My father…..”

“Riiight…. I haven’t met with Marquis Lavallée in person, but isn’t he supposedly quite aged?”

“From what I heard from my mother, my father sired me when he was fifty two…”

“Ah, I see. By now I probably can figure it out.”

As he said so, Viscount Oubeniel scratched his cheeks.

“Were you possibly put out for adoption? And the house that adopted you is the Count house written here, correct?”

“….. No…. I am….. one of the proud Marquis house’s…..”

“Was your mother a concubine?”

“No…. my mother was betrayed…. my father went over to his second wife…”

“And still she was passed to the Count house while she was still harbouring you. Though on her way there, you were born.”

“……………………. Yes.”

“Does Marquis Lavallée acknowledge you as his own son?”

“… He does not…. even though…. I have the same birthmark… as him… on my back….”

“Why do you insist that you’re one of the Marquis’ house? They betrayed your mother and cast her away, right?”

“My talents…. will stagnate… in a pathetic Count’s house… like passing a woman over…. in addition… my mother’s honour…. my mother…. didn’t have a place…. even in the Count’s house…”

“That was why you participated in the plot to set me up. If you were to succeed, you’ll be appointed to an appropriate position for you, and your mother’s honour will be restored too. Did the Marquis say so?”

“…. Yes.”

‘I see’, Oubeniel said so as he shrugged.

As his thoughts were still paralysed, Laubert couldn’t figure out the meaning of that question and answer session.

“That Marquis Lavallée person played quite the vulgar hand here. If Victor were to grab a hold of my weakness, then all’s good. If the covert operation were deemed to be exposed, he could accuse me of killing his estranged son. So no matter what the outcome was, I would still be driven into a corner, right? Crap, I just got a troublesome opponent to keep tabs on me. To drag the marquis into this is a blunder, huh……”

TL Note: Remember that it was Tullius that notified the marquis (though indirectly) about the vassal recruitment first.

“But we still learned something good, Master. It was a blunder, but there’s enough room to recover.”

“Oh well. This time it was due to my blind adherence to the theory that stated that the enemy of an enemy is an ally. I’ll be sure to make the best out of this contemplation from now on.”

“Besides, the marquis also made some mistakes. First that he underestimated master’s skill. And while this one was disposable to him, he just relinquished his son from right under his nose.”

“Let’s work on that later. For now, I have to go through this quick interrogation and administer provisional treatment on them.”

Laubert still couldn’t think of anything. While remaining under the influence of the demon eye, he kept his silence as he waited for an instruction.

“Then, you’re next. What is your name?”

“……… Jean-Jacques Laubert”

 


 

“———Oi, Laubert! Jean-Jacques Laubert!”

“Yes!?”

As his acquaintance struck his shoulder, he came back to his senses.

He looked around his surroundings, then he realised he was in a hallway of the lord’s manor.

It seemed that the audience was over before he realised it.

“Why did you space out? …. Hahaa, were you that tense?”

That laughing face of his acquaintance, he sure was carefree. Laubert sighed.

“It’s an interview that will determine my life from now on, alright? There’s just something wrong with people who aren’t nervous when it comes to this.”

“Don’t say that, it’s not like I’m relaxed… I didn’t score that well in the military officer exam… So it’ll all depend on the next interview.”

“Ah, is that so…”

Finally, he realised that his acquaintance was sweating a lot. In other words, if he didn’t tease Laubert here, it’d mean that he was driven into an unprecedented extent of mental strain.

“Yes, that is so. And for that reason, I’d like to take a peek into some of your responses, because you finished the interview earlier than me.”

“Even if you say so….”

To tell the truth, what he said in the interview was all vague.

It was a hazy memory, and no matter what he did he couldn’t grasp it for certain.

At that hesitation, his acquaintance thought,

“Ah, is that so…. So you didn’t respond well too, huh?”

That kind of oddly grave thought.

Now that he said that, Laubert felt that perhaps he didn’t do well at all.

“Might be so…. For some reason my mind went blank, and I can’t recall what I said…”

“Hey, Laubert, don’t put that face like you’re going to vanish somewhere now… Ah, that’s right! Let’s sneak out from the inn tonight, and have some drink in the town’s bar! Yes, it’s a gloomy countryside, but there should be a place where we can get a drink.”

Perhaps because his face was so grievous, his acquaintance did so to encourage him.

“I also called that Victor guy out, but he said he was feeling ill so he passed on that.”

“Victor…”

It was the young man whom he got acquainted with in the carriage.

He felt like he made an important promise with him…. but he couldn’t remember that too.

“Well, let’s just go to our customary self-pity party, just you and me. There were so many applicants, and the viscount paid for traveling and lodging expenses. There sure were a substantial amount of applications. It’s impossible for people who have been unemployed for ten thousand years like us to be accepted. Yes.”

He wondered what the acquaintance picked up from his remarks, so that he was now saying all these sorts of encouragement in particular.

Laubert did have a problem with his acquaintance’s pessimistic response, but going out for a drink might be a good idea. Regardless of the results, he felt like he couldn’t help but to drink.

(“Tonight, be sure—-”)

‘But isn’t something already scheduled for tonight…..?’

(“— to come to my place to receive your surgery”)

……..

That’s right. In any case, he couldn’t go for a drink tonight.

“…. Sorry, to make merry before the result comes out is a bit…”

“Tch, what is that? How cold.”

“Hahaha. Don’t sulk like that. As I said, I’m not confident whether I did well in the interview, so if I was right on the line between being accepted and rejected, my behaviour tonight might be the determining factor. At least that’s what I think.”

‘That’s right’

‘So I can’t see anyone tonight.’

‘And when the time comes—- what to do?’

“Well, there’s that way of thinking too, huh. I guess I should keep my behaviour in check too.”

“Yeah, do that. Surely, you’ll do well that way.”

He cut off the thoughts that he couldn’t put into words, and then he spouted an unfounded encouragement.

Laubert’s self-awareness was there, but he couldn’t find anything else to say but that.

At that time, the doors of the office used for the interviews were opened. From it, examinees were coming out, their faces were pale.

“………. Next batch, please come in.”

The collared maid invited the next round of people to enter.

“Errrr, next batch’s examinee numbers will be—- that’s our number. Still, why do you look so scared? Is it because of that rumoured viscount? Those guys who just went out now, you guys too, all of you had the face of a dead man.”

“Yeah, that’s right….”

Laubert nodded.

…. Viscount Oubeniel was dreadful. All his memories about the interview were hazy, but at least he felt that such was certain.

Even as he held on to his vague fear, for some reason he legs wasn’t moving to take him to his escape. And so, Jean-Jacques Laubert silently watched his acquaintance as the door swallowed him in.