134. Zerais’ Goal
Five Magic Stone Soldiers emerged from within the Alchemist Guild’s depths. For some odd reason, they seemed to give off a heavy, intimidating air despite looking like a bunch of armoured gorillas.
They could also be described as golems with elongated arms. Either way, their bodies were made purely of a red and black, crystalline substance.
Their short legs made it so that their longer arms extended all the way down to the ground. A bit of further observation led me to realize that they very much resembled the robotic soldiers that guarded a certain castle in the sky.
None of the five gave off even the slightest bit of life force. It looked like they really were golems as opposed to powersuits or the like.
「Be careful. I can’t appraise these damn things for the life of me. There’s no way for us to tell what they have up their sleeves.」
「All the more reason to attack them before they’ve a chance to attack us!」
Although Colbert kind of seemed like the kind of guy that’d enjoy charging right in, he was experienced enough to understand that running up to and punching an enemy whose abilities he knew little about was not exactly the best idea. Hence, his preemptive attack instead took the form of a skill somewhat similar to sword arts’ Sonic Wave. That is, he fired off a shockwave in the golems’ direction by punching the air.
The shockwave flew straight towards them. I could tell at a glance that it had more than enough power to mangle a hobgoblin and grind it to pieces.
But it had no effect.
Colbert’s shockwave almost seemed to vanish altogether the moment it came into contact with the Magic Stone Soldier standing in front. It hadn’t even taken any damage from the attack.
I couldn’t tell if it’d used a skill or invoked some sort of magic, but in either case, it seemed as if it hadn’t been affected at all. Man, not being able to appraise something is a huge pain in the ass.
Seeing the Magic Stone Soldier’s ability had caused our allies to halt in precaution. Four of our five enemies immediately took note of our hesitation and began swinging their arms in a large arc. It seemed that they were in the midst of gathering magical energy there within.
「Watch out! They’re mounting an assault!」
「Oh Barrier of Wind.」
We setup our defenses the moment the golems unleashed their attacks.
「They’re using composite attributes!?」
「That thing was as strong as a high tier spell!」
We had managed to ward off the golems’ barrage, but the brute force that they came with had left quite an impression nonetheless. The wind bullets they fired had been about as powerful as what you’d expect from Storm Magic, but that wasn’t all. They’d also thrown a few rarer elements into the mix, namely ice/snow, lightning, and lava.
The fact that golems were able to use magic was, in and of itself, a pretty rare occurrence, so seeing them use powerful spells derived from rare elements made the whole situation seem outright unrealistic.
Both Amanda and Gamud had shouted in surprise, and although Forrund refrained from speech, I could tell that he felt the same based on the fact that he’d gone wide eyed.
「So, how are you finding my Magic Stone Soldiers?」
『Is that a hologram? Or is he using illusion magic or something?』
A man had materialized between us and the golems right after Amanda had another one of spells do nothing whatsoever to an enemy golem.
At first, I’d thought that he’d teleported here or something, but I’d very obviously been wrong. His translucent form and the occasional static that seemed to pulse through his body both evidenced that he was obviously just an illusion.
The man was so good looking that it pissed me the hell off. He looked to be about twenty, and had the ever so rumoured blonde hair and blue eyes. His stature was a bit on the smaller side, just enough so that I almost felt the urge to warn him to be wary of pedophiles.
「Oh, long time no see, Master of mine.」
Eugene ended up shouting out the man’s name and revealing to us his identity, but I still had a hard time digesting it. Like, was that seriously him? I really didn’t expect him to be so young and whatnot. I’d always pictured Zerais as an older dude in a lab coat.
「You haven’t really changed much.」
「Oh that? That’s just because I happened to get my hands on a bit of demon blood.」
Ohhh, I get it. If you inject yourself with the blood of a longer living race, you’ll end up looking much younger than you actually are.
「Are you the reason the guild’s alchemists are the way they are?」
「Well yeah. I put them all through my Demonization experiments, but as you can see, they ended up turning into failures. It looks like you need someone that’s really strong, both in mind and body, if you want to actually get something out of shoving a magic stone inside of a human being. All the small fry I tried the experiment on ended up dying because their bodies rejected the magic stones. The ones lucky enough to live all ended up losing their minds. They might as well be zombies with the way they are, but oh well, I guess that’s fine too since they’re pretty easy to control.」
Zerais proudly started to blab about everything he’d done. The look he had on his face pissed me off to no end. He seemed to love attention, so he ended up giving us a bunch of information for pretty much no reason at all.
「I still need just a bit more work on the Demonization end of things, but those Magic Stone Soldiers I’ve got over there are pretty much complete already. How are you finding them? Strong, right? I figured out how to make them when I was doing research on demons. I couldn’t really get things to go the way I wanted at first, but one of my collaborators gave me a bit of a hand and helped me push them towards completion.」
「That’s right. Oh wait, I’ve got a pretty good idea who you are. You’re that adventurer girl, Fran, right?」
「Rynford? Who’s that?」
Hmmm, I see, so Eugene didn’t even know Rynford existed.
「He’s one of the Evil God’s servants, and the guy behind this whole mess. Though, I can’t really say I didn’t lend him a hand or two. He taught me Evil Arts and several methods for handling evil energies, so I paid him back by teaching him all about alchemy and magic stones. Anyway, I know the night’s been a bit of a rowdy one, but why don’t you join in on all the festivities? Oh yeah, I just realized I lied a bit. I think I did end up participating in planning tonight out, since I did need two or three thousand souls, you see.」
Zerais’ smile was so pure and serene that it almost seemed like his actions hadn’t caused him to feel even the slightest bit of guilt.
「W-Why would you…」
Eugene narrowly managed to squeeze out half a question as he stared his disciple down. The half insectman’s face had clearly gone pale.
「Hmmm… Well, to sum it up, I guess it’s cause I wanted to leave proof of the fact that I existed.」
「What? I don’t understand what you’re saying.」
「I guess I’ll remove a step’s worth of abstraction then. My goal is to become so famous that my name goes down in history. I’d like for people to remember me, even a thousand years down the line.」
「Are you serious, Zerais…? You’re willing to throw away people’s lives for that mundane a reason…?」
Eugene’s face stiffened. He took on a much more teacher-like air despite the fact that didn’t seem to be able to comprehend the fact that his former disciple had gone mad.
「When was it…? When was it that you were first led astray…?」
「When? Well, I was always like this. The only difference is that I used to be a bit better behaved is all. You know, Master, I really do appreciate all you’ve done for me. Your lessons are the only reason why I’m even starting to get close to accomplishing my dream, you know?」
Eugene was honestly a pretty good, down to earth guy, but as a result, he couldn’t understand why his apprentice was acting the way he was. He failed to comprehend his malice, no, his outright lack of concern for anyone but himself.
In other words, I was trying to say that Eugene was far too kind and naive. Though it sounded like I was kind of shitting on the guy, I really meant it as a good thing. Eugene’s kindness and naivety seems to have been what’s gotten him to where he is today. My guess was that he had believed that Zerais had been somewhere out in the world atoning for his sins with his day to day actions.
The way I saw it though, Zerais hadn’t even the slightest desire to repent. He was more like a rotting apple. In fact, he’d gotten so rotten that he started draining the life of the other, healthier apples around him. At this point, I’d say it was even fair to start calling him a mutated apple. He seemed pretty normal from the outside, but his insides were a total mess of toxic sludge. Anyone that tried to eat him would probably instantly die of food poisoning, so it’d be best to throw him out altogether. Yup, we needed to seek him out and eliminate him right away.
「Besides, what’s so abnormal about wanting to get famous anyway? I’m pretty sure it’s a normal thing pretty much everyone wants.」
「You’re right, Zerais. Fame is something commonly sought after, but that does not mean that you can just go around doing whatever it is you want. You cannot simply trod on the lives of other human beings! Are you truly satisfied with leaving behind a name soiled by a legacy of infamy?」
「Like I care. I don’t mind being infamous at all. In fact, I’d rather be infamous than just famous, you know?」
「Why? Demanding Reason.」
「Well, Fran, why don’t I put it this way? Have you ever heard the tales of King Yvel and Saint Myurell? If not, then what of Dragonslayer Sigmund?」
「See? That’s exactly my point. All three of the people I just mentioned were outstanding individuals famous for their accomplishments. The first had worked with a group of knights to hold back a horde of goblins 1,000,000 strong. In his time, he was known as The Heroic King. The second was a wandering saint, she travelled the lands and spent her entire life healing its people. The third was an adventurer that threw away his life in order to free the continent of Khrome from a Dragonic Lord that would’ve otherwise brought about its destruction. Their achievements were all quite amazing, don’t you think?」
「Yeah, but despite that, you didn’t know about them until just now. In fact, few do, their names are unsung. But, what if I ask you about Trismegistus the Rebel? You know him?」
「Of course you do. Pretty much everyone knows him. And now you get it, right?」
Wait, who the hell is Trismegistus?
『Hey Fran, who’s Trismegistus?』
（Famous alchemist. Really bad person. Destroyed continent of Goldishia.）
Fran quickly briefed me about the guy and his deeds.
Trismegistus was apparently a man that existed long in the past. He was a king, but not just any king. The kingdom he ruled over was so vast and powerful that it effectively had control over an entire continent. Yet, he wasn’t satisfied. He had tried to birth an almighty magic beast for the sake of achieving a single goal: world domination. And of course, his ambitions weren’t ones that could be achieved through normal means. Hence, he unsealed the Evil God’s heart and attempted to use its power.
The magic beast that resulted from such a decision was immensely powerful, so much so that it ended up obliterating an entire continent and almost all its people. Said magic beast continued to grow in strength by eating the very land itself. It got so large that it became capable of engulfing every last bit of landmass that remained in a single, fell swoop. The people despaired, but the Gods descended and offered them salvation. They created a massive barrier and entrapped the continent sized magic beast, the Abyss Eater. It’s said that the Abyss Eater continues to thrive within the barrier to this day.
On a side note, the Gods cursed Trismegistus in order to force him atone for his sins. Specifically, they provided him immortality while also leaving him within the barrier, hence forcing him to suffer as the beast consumes his flesh in perpetuity.
I’ve no real way of knowing whether or not the story is a factual depiction, especially seeing as how it’s used a bedtime story in order to discourage kids from misbehaving. But still, holy shit that’s terrifying. Like, damn, that is one hell of a curse. Gods, you scary as hell.
「Boy am I jealous of Trismegistus. Must be nice to be him!」
「What are you saying, Zerais!? That’s ridiculous! Wait…Don’t tell me you plan on undoing one of the Evil God’s seals…?」
「You know, that’s actually exactly what I had in mind. Don’t you worry though, I’m not planning on doing something as drastic as freeing a piece as major as its heart.」
「Are you trying to say that you think you can take control of it!?」
「In fact, yeah, yeah, I am. I can do it you know? I mean, just look at me! The only problem is that my little old collaborator had to end up dying on me before we actually got a chance to take a stab at it. I haven’t gotten enough souls either, and I can’t actually undo the seal myself. I mean, I may be gifted, but I’m not actually capable of using the Evil Arts.」
「But you see, the thing is, I’m starting to get real annoyed with Fran over there, you know? First she takes the package I was having shipped over, then she got in the way when I tried having a few of my employees deal with the orphanage and whatnot, and now she’s even helped kill Rynford and his merry little friends.」
The orphanage? Wait, so he was the one after Io’s recipe?
「Want recipe why?」
「Nothing special. Just a bit of idle curiosity, you know?」
「Yup, curiosity. At first, it was because Bluke wanted to know about it and wouldn’t stop nagging me, so I started by embezzling all money that normally would’ve been used on the orphanage’s operating expenses. You see, it costs money for me to get my hands on magic stones and equipment and the like, so I didn’t see any reason for me not to. I figured that they might start selling off the children if they didn’t have enough money to get by, and I was definitely in need of extra lab rats. It was totally a win win situation, right? I decided to pay the orphanage a quick visit in person a bit later on so I could start checking out the children ahead of time, but I then ended up realizing that the dishes that they served there were really quite strange, you see.」
「I mean, look at their ingredients. The stuff that they served there was obviously way better tasting than it really should’ve been. I thought that they might have access to some sort of technology that’d let them inject mana into their ingredients or something. Turned out that I was completely off the mark though.」
Zerais lightly laughed as he recalled his mistake.
Holy shit, this guy’s a huge fucking asshole. We can’t actually get to him, or even find him right now, but that didn’t really seem like too much of a problem at all. Amanda was giving off an incredible amount of bloodlust, so I figured he’d probably just made it to the top of her hit list. No mistaking it, he was totally in for a fate far worse than death.
「Anyway, this conversation’s dragged on for a bit too long already, so I’m going to be heading out. Oh yeah, and, just in case you were still wondering, I’m not actually at the guild anymore.」
「Yes I am. My plan’s a total failure now that Rynford’s dead. I’d been planning to have his mass produced Evil Beings kill a bunch of people so I could use their souls to summon a piece of the Evil God’s flesh. It would’ve worked too, especially if Rynford had managed to draw from the Evil God’s power. Oh well, there’s always a next time. Have fun playing around with my Magic Stone Soldiers. Buh bye.」
Zerais’ projection gave a quick wave and disapeared immediately after he finished speaking.
『Seems like he was telling the truth. I can’t sense anyone in the guild at all.』
（Urushi. Can’t chase?）
『Tsk. God damn it.』
『Oh uh… whoops. My bad Urushi, I wasn’t trying to say it was your fault or anything.』
Oh well, can’t be helped I guess. Let’s deal with these guys for now and figure out what to do about Zerais later.