Toaru Majutsu no Index:AgneseSS Chapter1
Some fields of work were done in secret.
No one living a normal life would ever need their services and their stories were never told in movies or dramas. But in reality, those necessary evils were crucial for the seen and unseen sides of society to run smoothly.
Such jobs existed in the magical world as well.
A strange figure marched through an old, dark stone street of Barcelona in Spain’s autonomous community of Catalonia.
He stood two meters tall and his long hair was dyed red. His black cassock seemed at odds with the cigarette in his mouth and he even had a barcode tattoo below one eye.
He looked unbelievably bored.
The presence of a predator implied the presence of prey.
The woman looked more gaunt than simply skinny.
She had silver hair and brown skin.
Her navel and thighs were visible, but not because she had intentionally chosen a revealing dress. She wore tattered rags that could not have smelled pleasant.
She recognized the large presence behind her. She knew who he was, but had never actually met him. If she had met him in the field, she would not have survived to tell the tale. The legends she had heard were more than enough to tell her that.
And the ones who had spread those legends were no more.
The entire magic cabal had been reduced to ashes.
So she had no choice but to escape on her own. She could not see anyone else around, whether to ask for help or to use them as human shields.
Assuming her pocket watch was accurate, it was past 11 at night.
At first glance, Barcelona looked like an old historical city full of stone buildings with ages measured in centuries, but it also had a shopping district with an impressive number of bars and nightclubs. No matter the hour, this central area would never be entirely deserted.
There had to be more to it. The answer was found on the old stone walls and the streetlight supports.
A people-clearing field had been established by rune cards engraved with the Opila character.
This had to be him. The bane of all magicians had arrived.
The voice from behind was short.
He called her name.
That alone felt like some kind of powerful curse. The enemy knew exactly who and where she was. That was enough to bind her body with unbearable tension. She lost track of which leg she had just taken a step with, so the silver-haired brown-skinned woman named Isabella tripped over her own feet and tumbled to the ground.
Not that she had anywhere to go regardless.
She found herself at a dead end with thick stone walls in every direction except back the way she had come.
Feeling trapped at the bottom of a well, she placed her hands on the wall and looked up at the moon to check how far out of reach freedom was. The answer was over 10 meters. The wall was made of smooth concrete, so she may have been able to climb it like someone going bouldering, but he was bound to attack her back as she climbed.
She heard a solid footstep.
It seemed to block off the path she had taken here.
Sweet cigarette smoke reached her nose.
He did not let modern etiquette stop him from smoking. In fact, he seemed to use it to announce his presence before he attacked: “You will die here, so this toxic secondhand smoke is inconsequential.”
“Do you know why this is happening?”
“N-no, I don’t.”
“Then again, we no longer bother with that old-fashioned inquisition stuff. It doesn’t matter to us if you or anyone else understands. I was told I could eliminate you on sight.”
“This must be some kind of mistake!! I really don’t know anything!!”
Something spiraled around Isabella. It looked like a colored tornado, but it was in fact an exceedingly long piece of cloth. It was a spiritual item made by sewing together burial garbs obtained through graverobbing.
She was a mere 10 meters from freedom.
In her world, that height might as well have been nothing. The cloth tornado bent down like a powerful spring and then launched the gaunt woman upwards with tremendous force.
The word necromancy might bring to mind techniques of controlling a rotting corpse, but the field was divided into many different factions and schools. For example, summoning a spirit of the dead and having them predict the future was a form of necromancy. So was wearing the clothing of the dead to become one with them.
(This can’t be happening! This can’t be happening!! I’m not letting myself get killed over some stupid misunderstanding!! How in the world did I find myself here!?)
She arrived on the rooftop in a single bound.
And once she was out of that dead end, the rooftops extended around her in all directions as far as the eye could see. She could escape. This would all work out. That guy might be the bane of magicians, but he was helpless to do a thing if he lost track of her.
That imaginary optimism was cut off by a very real explosion.
He was not up there with her.
Instead, all the roofs around her were covered in rune cards that would ignite when approached by someone containing magic power refined from their life force.
Isabella was knocked off balance the instant she set foot on the rooftop and she fell right back down into the dead end. Almost like her pursuer had yanked back on a leash.
She was rejected from the freedom above and dragged back into the darkness below.
She slammed back-first into the ground and struggled to breath while a tall figure stared quietly down at her.
He was Stiyl Magnus, a killer priest of Necessarius, the Anglican Church’s 0th Parish.
“Is that a hybrid created by mixing that indigenous Caribbean religion with the Christian Shroud of Turin?”
Every one of his statements was precise.
And in the magical world, having your trick revealed was akin to a death sentence. Magic was a system of laws and techniques, so a countermeasure could be found once the structure of your spell was divulged.
Clothing was a symbol of one’s position.
A king wore a crown and a priest wore a habit to display the power of their position to themselves and others. Criminals would have such clothing destroyed in public. The same idea applied to the field of magic. For example, some magic could draw out great power by dressing up as the Egyptian or Greek gods and putting on grand plays. It was also said that witches would dress in male clothing to gain special power.
So what would happen if the living stole and dressed up in a cloth wrapped around the dead?
This was an extreme example.
“The Gnostics also believed the physical body was a nuisance and wished to free their soul from that prison, but with no clear definition for the soul, you will have a hard time becoming an omniscient and omnipotent being through nothing more than death. If that was all it took, the losing side of every war would have obliterated the victor in revenge.”
“Y-you misunderstand. You’re making a terrible mistake here.”
The physical damage from the fall was too much for her to get up.
Nothing could be more frustrating for a magician who had tried to solve everything with their magical logic.
“Yes, I did dig up some graves because I needed their burial shrouds for my spell, but necromancy is nowhere near as dangerous as it sounds! I haven’t actually harmed anyone, so this isn’t a job for you!!”
Stiyl Magnus called someone else’s name, seemingly out of nowhere.
“Tellia Harleos, Rinka Sawaue, Jane Balgowa.”
But the list had a purpose.
The priest pulled a rune card from his pocket and let it go.
It attached to Isabella’s right cheek with a heavy and sticky sensation. But it was not alone. Others attached to her shoulders, chest, hips, thighs, and more.
Those were people.
People who Isabella knew better than anyone should not – could not – have been here. The necromancer was surrounded by the illusory presence of those girls.
“Church graveyards have been increasing their security these days. Of course, it’s mostly meant to stop the people who have started sneaking in hoping to earn some clicks after filming their ‘adventure’ on their phone and uploading it to a video site.”
Skill with magic did not necessary translate to skill with science.
Especially when a powerful barrier had been constructed between the two sides.
That security may have been put in place for a silly non-magical reason, but if traditional methods could not break through, the magic side was shut out just as well. Much like a thoughtlessly placed concrete structure could cut off the path for salmon to swim upstream, thus destroying the ecosystem.
“So tell me, Isabella. Where did you obtain those burial shrouds? Or was sneaking in too much trouble, so you started burying people yourself to make your own graveyard?”
“Was the Armada cabal’s ideology really so attractive you were willing to bury people alive to pursue it? Were you that dedicated to reclaiming Spain’s lost naval superiority to remake the world with Spain in the center ‘as it should be’? Well, Spain is a crossroads for several different cultures, so I can see how you had the groundwork to include everything from the Christian Shroud of Turin to Voodoo zombie powder.”
“Detach the Ti Bon Ange and place it within me!!”
The collapsed and supposedly incapacitated woman used the strength of her jaw to break open her own canine tooth.
Or rather, the zombie powder capsule hidden there.
An invisible explosion followed.
Even Stiyl Magnus was forced to take three steps back.
The supposedly unmoving woman stood back up. Unnatural creaks and cracks came from the joints and cartilage of her beautiful brown body. As abnormal as it looked from an anatomic and biological perspective, only someone who could see her life force and magic power could see the full extent of it. The ordinary circulation was entirely ignored and her body moved on its own – her own will had nothing to do with it. But that was no surprise since someone other than her was moving it.
“You have guts to accept that when the soul is so poorly defined.”
Stiyl Magnus narrowed his eyes a little.
When he opened both hands and closed them again, red and blue flames erupted from them. Those violent flames took a straight path like a blowtorch. They both functioned as swords containing a tremendous force.
As a priest, he had a standard line when it came to witches.
“No woman who uses magic can be left alive.”
He did not even allow it to come to an exchange of attacks.
First, he let the right sword collapse into a deluge of flame to stop her as she tried to leap at him. Once she flinched back, he used his left flame sword to slice horizontally through his own flame wall and the target’s torso.
He gave the briefest of glances to Isabella’s upper body as it spun by overhead.
“Hm, so not even death is enough to stop you.”
He once more slashed at her supposedly dead form. This time, the sword entered at her shoulder and sliced diagonally down across her torso. Octopus or squid tentacles had started to emerge from the bottom of the severed torso, but this attack burned the entire upper body away in an instant. At the last second, the back of the skull burst open and something soft frantically leaped out. Surrounded by a transparent shell and supported by countless tentacles, the disembodied brain looked something like a giant jellyfish.
By stealing the clothing of the dead, a necromancer could become one with the dead and draw out their power.
In a way, necromancy was a technique of controlling humans, living or dead. After all, some necromancers would take a summoned soul (or what seemed to be a soul) and sealed it inside their own body, so they had to understand how a living body worked as well. Using that knowledge, they could also begin to experiment and see how much could be eliminated from a human body while still remaining themselves.
(Since she modeled herself after a poisonous animal in the very end, did she also store her prized zombie powder in thousands and thousands of microscopic cnidocytes?)
“You put up a good fight. You really did.”
She may have tried to shout something, but the disembodied brain had no speech organs.
Red and blue.
The priest raised his two flame swords and approached the magician who finally had nowhere left to run.
“But it is time you slept. Forever.”
“Soooo was that good enough, Stiyl?”
“The point of the training is to prepare them for anything that could realistically happen. If we do not keep it somewhat realistic, they cannot develop the skills they need, Isabella.”
“What kind of training is this, you morons?”
A short nun was terribly frustrated.
Blood and gore were splattered everywhere.
If the Anglican magicians did not clean up all of that red and black before it was seen, it was sure to cause an international incident. This was the Roman Catholic nation of Spain, so things worked very differently than in the English capital of London. They could not leave behind any chance of trouble.
Agnese Sanctis had originally led a team of Roman Catholic nuns, but they had since joined the Anglicans instead.
“Even so, this is honestly impressive.”
A taller nun in an identical habit sighed next to her. Sister Lucia was something of a clean freak, so she viewed the mess with obvious disgust while repeatedly crossing herself.
“This is very high quality for an imitation. What did they say they did? Rearrange pig and cow bones and organs to match human anatomy and then treat them with chemicals?”
“AEDs and epinephrine are apparently off limits. Trying to revive this could cause the soulless doll to get up and start moving.”
A Necessarius magician could conceivably make something like that.
The nuns were here for training, but not against Stiyl Magnus or Isabella Theism. Their task was to clean up afterwards. The combat magicians were not going to hold back, so the logistical support nuns had to show up after the fact and erase anything that risked an international incident. That was why those two Necessarius members had traveled to a foreign country, fought an imitation of a real battle, and left a fake corpse splattered all over the scene.
They had of course not informed Spain of this and the corpse was so realistic even the average magician would mistake it for real. In other words, a real international incident was still very much a possibility.
“Wh-what do you think he meant when he said this could ‘realistically happen’, Sister Agnese?” asked Angelene, whose hunched back made her look even shorter than she really was.
The answer to that was obvious enough.
“I imagine he meant exactly what he said. A magic cabal called Armada probably really does exist here.”
The Anglican Church, and especially Necessarius, were second to none when it came to eliminating magicians who had strayed too far. They never stopped gathering intel on existing threats and they could easily create identical models for training purposes.
Agnese pointed her thumb at the red splattered on the walls and ground.
“Anyway, we need to get to work. Let’s get this over with already.”
“I would rather not. There isn’t much I would like to do less.”
“B-but they’ll be mad at us if we don’t. And we need to meet our quota if they’re going to keep us around.”
A clattering sound came from Agnese’s feet.
They already had all the necessary tools: buckets, mops, spray bottles, rags, etc.
“Let’s do everything we can. I can’t wait to see the looks on their faces when they see our Catholic thoroughness .☆”
This kind of work was known as forensic cleanup.
It had begun as a service for real estate owners. When a mummified or rotting corpse was discovered inside an apartment or hotel room, every last trace of the corpse – including any stains on the floor after it was reduced to a stew – had to be removed lest it bring down the value of the room. Even though forensic cleanup often required handling a dead body, no special license was required and it was done by cleaning professionals (for an extra fee) instead of by the police or fire department.
When magic was involved, the cleanup job had to include some more unseen areas.
“Residual thoughts are our top priority. Make sure you eliminate any readable impression of who did this or what happened here.”
“That rune freak put those cards everywhere around here, but does he expect us to collect all of them!? How many thousands is that!?”
“U-umm, Sister Lucia? Don’t some of those explode when they sense magic power nearby?”
Now they had to play the bomb squad as well. If you were not familiar with the magicians who fought on the scene, you could run across some unpleasant surprises while cleaning up. They didn’t want to be cursed while dragging the corpse around, and triggering an explosion while removing a card would create lots more material evidence needing to be cleaned up.
They needed to be careful so that did not happen.
The trick to cleaning was to “loosen up” and then “wash away” the filth.
If you did not know what was filthy and what was dangerous, you would miss something.
Thus, Agnese started by clapping her hands together in front of her flat chest.
She kept her eyes open but focused them on some unseen place while speaking under her breath.
“Apas of Prithvi, you are a silver crescent moon shining within a yellow square. Open the door of otherworldly afterimage and provide us with the eye that perceives the unseen realm.”
A buzzing groan ran through the space around her and the objects, bloodstains, and anything else with traces of human-altered magic power glowed with a faint light. The rune magic with a faint blue and the necromancy with a faint red. Angelene groaned like a young wife who discovered a clump of wet hair in the drain of her brand-new home.
“Ugh. Y-you can’t get away with anything, can you?”
“This is what you get with the short-term memory of something that happened less than an hour ago. Now, we need to clean all this up so it doesn’t become long-term memory and soak into this location.”
If Agnese could do this, so could other magicians.
To prevent that, they had to erase all hints leading back to the Anglicans and then make themselves scarce. Of course, they also could not let anyone see them in the process of cleaning it up.
Lucia stuck a mop in a bucket and sloshed it around.
“Are we using water for this?”
“92% water, 6% protein, and then some salt and other minerals for flavor.”
“Th-that isn’t the recipe for holy water.”
Stoop-backed Angelene was right.
The Roman Catholic Church would add salt when sanctifying water, but this included more than that.
“Basically, we are making artificial human blood. Although it will be transparent since it won’t have any red or white blood cells. Wipe up the bloodstains with this to eliminate any residual information before the cleaning begins. It’s the same idea as adding a decoy stamp over the addressee’s name on a letter so that personal information is no longer readable. Even if someone catches on that this place was cleaned, they won’t be able to recreate what was cleaned up. Once that’s done, we can get to the actual cleaning.”
“We also have to worry about that zombie powder and the rune cards, right?”
“The Haitian toxin can be decontaminated with heat of 1000 degrees or higher and that isn’t enough to melt the stone walls. But Stiyl’s cards are resistant to flames, so that method won’t work. Still, it would take all night if we tried to manually remove them all, so would acid be the best way to deal with them all at once?”
“What makes you think that?”
“Runes were originally carved into stone and I hear acid rain is a real threat to cultural preservation. Something made from nitrogen oxide or sulfur dioxide would probably be best.”
That might sound awfully ordinary for this kind of work, but that was normal. Almost anything found in everyday life could be used for magic. In particular, things used for cleaning and sterilization could be used for purification and things that led to pollution and decay could be used for curses. Good examples of the former were water, salt, and fire. Good examples of the latter were mud and animal blood.
“Well, it’s a pain, but let’s get started on this thankless work.”
Magic could seem all-powerful, but all the preparation and cleanup it required were actually a pain in the rear.
And every field had annoying tasks that were traditionally left with the newcomers. A top-rate stage magician would carefully check over the stage and props that could kill them if not properly set up, but they would not clean the theater bathrooms themselves.
“Umm, Sister Agnese? Am I imagining things or are the clumps of flesh on the ground moving? Ah! I’m not imaging it! They’re definitely throbbing!”
“Argh! We need to gather those up before they run off and form a globster!! Everyone, prepare the tarps. We’ll wrap up these stubborn Iberian pigs and roast them in the incinerator!!”
“Plastic tarps don’t burn, Sister Agnese.”
They were left filthy and disgusting.
But now Agnese Sanctis wore a thin pink fabric with surprisingly cute frills.
She groaned while laying on a sofa bed in her underwear.
From the outside, this looked like a plain metal container, but from the inside, it even had a bathroom and kitchen. Basically, it was a mobile home, but unlike the commercial models, this one had removed all unnecessary decorations, such as the windows and doors, to make it indistinguishable from a cargo container.
Her right leg slipped from the bed and hit something.
She barely had time to realize it was a silver staff leaning against the wall before…
“Ow!! Do you not know how to look after your own spiritual item, Sister Agnese!?”
“Why are you sleeping on the floor, Sister Angelene?”
It had apparently fallen over and hit someone on the forehead.
The staff had an angel carving curled up at the head, but it was known as the Lotus Wand. That magical item functioned as an all-purpose Symbolic Weapon in modern Western magic.
They had finished the work shortly before 4 AM – or just barely before dawn – but their struggles had not ended there. Necessarius was being excessively thorough for some simple training, so the nuns had showered and showered to no avail. The stench of death, that unique scent reminiscent of rust mixed with rotting eggs with a few drops of vinegar added as a special touch, still clung to them. They had somehow avoided being cursed, but that meant it was closer to midday than morning when they finally climbed into bed.
And they had a good reason for not using an ordinary hotel.
They were in the Anglican Church’s care for the time being and their former home of the Roman Catholics had more than 2 billion followers around the world. If they were seen working outside of England, it could easily develop into something more than mere training. They had no idea who would be watching or listening in, so they could not leave a paper trail by renting out a hotel room.
“Sister Lucia, aren’t you on cooking duty today? Whip us up something. Something filling but kind on the stomach and something tasty enough to make me forget all about that curse-ridden corpse.”
“You need to dial back your demands unless you’re trying to set me up for failure. Or better yet, let’s go out to eat.”
Agnese, Lucia, and Angelene donned their habits and left the container together.
It was 10 AM and Barcelona was still caught in the middle of the morning rush hour. No one expected the trains to arrive exactly on time in Europe and people generally had a more relaxed view of time, but Spain was especially that way. They were even the country that had introduced the concept of the siesta to the business world. The handwritten boards in front of the cafes tended to say morning business hours ended at 11.
Agnese’s group entered a random restaurant and sat at a table in a corner.
Spanish food differed greatly between the coastal areas and mountain areas. On one side you had seafood paella and on the other you had spit-roasted Iberian pigs. Barcelona was a coastal city, so this place naturally served a lot of shrimps and shellfish. Spain had the distinctive trait of being a European country that regularly ate octopus and squid.
“What were our plans for the day again?” asked Lucia while using her fork to poke at a large salad with plenty of seafood piled on top.
“Don’t ask me. That brokenhearted barcode arsonist insists on making it a surprise, so he’ll probably show up with some kind of training at some point.”
They were still seen as outsiders within Necessarius.
The work they were being given seemed entirely pointless, but it was possible they were actually completing some special task without their knowledge. For example, 99% of their late-night forensic cleanup work may have been done on imitation scenarios, but it was possible the last 1% had some real evidence mixed in. The on-site workers had no way of knowing what role they played in the big picture.
The Anglican Church – and Necessarius in particular – was a monstrous system created to efficiently kill, so they likely had worked out long ago how to get people to do horrific things without guilt.
“Clams, clams, delicious claaaams.”
Stoop-backed Angelene was chowing down on some elliptical shellfish.
Agnese was munching on some pizza toast flavored with sliced olives and anchovies.
“Well, as long as they’re still telling us it’s training, the situation can’t be too serious,” said Agnese. “I imagine the danger level is between yellow and orange. We need to be cautious, but nothing is about to happen.”
“Are you sure that’s not being overly optimistic?”
“Upsetting your superiors by digging deeper for no good reason is not a good way to live a long life. So until something happens, I say we enjoy some sightseeing here in Spain. The sunny side of this city looks so much brighter after experiencing that shadowy mess of curses, death, and blood.”
She said it herself, but Agnese could not shake a sense that something was wrong.
“Something isn’t right about this restaurant.”
“Hwut dho you mwean?” asked Angelene with her mouth so full her cheeks swelled out like a squirrel’s.
Lucia tugged on her ear as an expressionless punishment and responded to Agnese.
“Yes, it’s too clean. I can’t sense any naturally-occurring magic here.”
Magic was not known to the ordinary people living their ordinary lives, but that ignorance often led them to unwittingly stumble into it. For example, few people knew the shushing gesture of holding your index finger in front of your lips had its roots in an Ancient Egyptian ritual. Amateurs performed those ordinary actions all the time, so there was no need for anyone to wipe all trace of it clean.
Small jinxes could be found in the greetings people exchanged on a daily basis without knowing a thing about the magic world. Even when you did not know how to actually refine your lifeforce into magic power, you could still gather some power as a faint margin of error. It was a lot like leaving behind invisible fingerprints.
But this restaurant contained none of that.
They could only assume that someone with enough knowledge to notice those slight risks had wiped everything clean.
Agnese glanced around the restaurant.
“Did someone perform magical forensic cleaning here?”
That question came back at her and inspired a further question.
For example, there were ways of erasing blood stains. It was hard to do so completely, but if you only needed to avoid a luminol reaction, special oxygen detergents available for purchase online would do the trick.
Of course, washing a spot clean with that was a sign that there had been a bloodstain there. There was no reason to go to all that specialized effort to wash a spot clean if there was nothing suspicious there in the first place.
And this was the magic side’s forensic cleaning, which was designed for situations where a dead body might just stand back up all on its own. Only someone familiar with their world would even know that needed doing.
So why had the restaurant been wiped so clean?
Had something happened here requiring it?
“Well, we just stumbled into some trouble,” said Agnese once they were back in the mobile home.
They had not contacted Stiyl and they did not know if they should tell him about this even if they had. Again, they were still seen as outsiders within Necessarius.
They could think of two broad possibilities.
“First, this is a continuation of last night, making this a part of our Anglican training. If we do nothing, we might lose a ton of points.”
“Ugh,” groaned Angelene who was already growing tearful. They had spent all night cleaning up a mess that made cleaning up dog poop seem more appealing, so it was distressing to think all that effort could go to waste because of some second round.
Also, there was no chance some other group was being tested in the same area. If the two teams ended up interfering with each other due to a failure on the supervisor’s part, the entire training session would be for nothing. If they were told all of this had not counted because they could not be graded properly, they might just murder the grader.
However, the real danger was the second possibility.
“Second, something real is happening. That would mean this isn’t training and this really is something Necessarius should be dealing with. I don’t know what it could be, but this hint is enough to know the culprit is aware they’re up to no good.”
Unfortunately, actions taken to hide evidence did not immediately work as evidence of misdeeds. Just because someone thought they had committed a crime did not mean they had. Some people were overwhelmed by fears that they had done something truly terrible even though no crime had ever occurred. It fit the same pattern as someone taking in an abandoned puppy on a rainy day and later fearing that counted as theft because they did not have the original owner’s permission. In that case, the original crime was entirely imaginary, yet the actions taken to hide that they had taken in the puppy would be all too real.
They did not know enough to say in this case.
If they overlooked this, it might lead to some otherwise avoidable disaster, but if they made a fuss about it, it could turn out to be nothing.
“Whichever it is, you know what we have to do next, right?”
“Gather enough information to make an informed decision. We need to know if this is simple training or a real battle and, in the latter case, we need to know whether or not we need to intervene. We need more information before we can hope to figure any of this out.”
She had hoped to reach a different conclusion, but nuns tended to be diligent. The odds of this being wasted effort were around 75%, but they had to go to the effort regardless.
After all, if this was the remaining 25%, someone’s life could be hanging in the balance. Those odds were too high for them to irresponsibly pretend they had not noticed anything. When the odds were even worse than a game of Russian roulette, they could not just let it slide.
So they had a plan.
“Okay, everyone, I hope you’re ready for some more thankless work☆”
The unnaturally-well-cleaned restaurant was the location of interest, so they first had to look into the identities of the owner and all the workers. If any of them was a professional magician, the danger level would immediately rise.
“B-but what kind of magical ritual could you even do at a restaurant? Ah!? Th-this doesn’t mean there was a corpse hidden below the floorboards where we were eating, does it?”
“What would they gain from that?”
Angelene began to tremble, but Agnese responded with obvious exasperation. Lucia took a more businesslike view of the issue.
“So, Sister Agnese, where do we begin the investigation? We should be able to find information on the people at the city hall and the restaurant at the labor office.”
“Let’s go somewhere we know better than that,” casually replied Agnese. “Namely, a church.”
It could seem strange to the Japanese since most of them celebrated Christmas and then visited a Shinto shrine a week later, but churches contained plenty of personal information. After all, in Christian cultures, children were brought to the church to receive a baptismal name shortly after they were born. The local church would generally have all the information you could want on the local residents. Agnese’s group were part of the magic side and they would prefer to sneak into a place that operated under familiar rules. It especially helped that Spain was a Catholic country.
They needed to visit the church’s record storeroom.
“Th-that’s a Catholic church.” Angelene was nervous. “If we’re caught there, our lives are over.”
Magic was supposed to be a noble thing and not a tool to fulfill one’s immediate worldly desires.
Yet there were an awful lot of spells to hide your presence, sneak into places, or transform into the opposite sex.
“I swear these spells must have been developed by peeping toms and panty thieves.”
“Sister Agnese,” chided tall and fastidious Lucia.
Agnese had just undergone a transformation.
She did not need the Lotus Wand for something as simple as this.
Specifically, she had constructed a spell by taking the familiar Christian ritual of death and rebirth and rearranged it based on the story of a goddess from a different mythology. The Golden magic cabal, said to have once been the world’s greatest, had researched how to gain a mythology or religion’s power using a stage performance. Part of “getting into character” for those performances was to dress up as a god.
“While supported by the holy tetragrammaton of YHVH, we don the clothing of Isis, goddess of the lunar hexagram, so we might be resurrected from death and ascend here as new beings altogether.”
A change came over them.
However, they could not see the change themselves since they were on the inside of the spell. Just like someone in a mascot costume could not see the costume they were wearing.
Lucia was a clean freak on the mental side of things as well.
She considered herself a nun who served the one true god, so she looked extremely displeased with this.
“Dressing up as Isis, huh?”
“Deal with it. It’s only a symbol.”
Instead of disguising themselves as some specific person, they had turned themselves into “nobodies”. They would not stand out in the crowd, but no one would remember what they looked like after taking a few steps away.
“But it isn’t perfect. If someone sees you six times, they’ll see through to your true face, so no pacing back and forth on the same road and no doing anything suspicious enough to earn a double take. Just focus on our goal and keep walking.”
They slipped through the main double doors to enter the church.
The documents they wanted were further in than the public chapel.
“(There sure are a lot of people here.)”
“(Eh!? Are they doing a wedding!?)”
That was perfect. A wedding might seem like a solemn occasion, but there would actually be a lot of people running to and fro behind the scenes. With so many unusual people in the church, fewer people would think to stop a few nondescript “nobodies” on their way to an off-limits room.
“In sickness and in health.”
They glanced over at the happy couple while quietly walking along the chapel wall to remain as inconspicuous as possible.
The priest continued the vows.
“May your bond be a strong one, never to be broken even by a curse.”
“(Hey, that’s not the usual vows, is it? Is the priest really allowed to adlib here?)
“(S-Sister Agnese, I bet he forgot the next line and is stalling until he can remember it.)”
They made their way to the back.
The place was fairly cluttered. The chapel items not needed for the wedding must have been stored back here. It was kind of painful to see the silver candlesticks and the glass container of holy water just sitting there on the floor. The scent of that water consecrated with a pinch of salt reminded the trio of home.
Once inside the actual document storeroom, they instead smelled musty old papers.
You could call up a church pilgrimage map on your phone these days, but churches still tended to rely on analog data.
All four walls were covered in drawers, with just barely enough room left for the door. The place was a treasure trove of personal information on all the people who had been baptized at this church.
Angelene grew unnecessarily nervous about being in here.
“Um, where should we start looking? Actually, do we even know the names of all that restaurant’s workers?”
It did not matter how much information a search engine had at its disposal if you did not know what name to type in. Similarly, they needed a name to look up anything in here.
Which was why Agnese decided to cheat.
“Tejas of Vayu.”
With a buzz, the space around them shook. The drawers containing the information they sought began to faintly glow and they opened those to find the necessary pages giving off light as well. Handwritten documents had their advantages. With residual thoughts soaked into them, you could perform a search like this.
There were 24 workers in all.
That might sound like a lot, but with three shifts, that was just barely enough for everyone from the waiters to the cooks. Although that was probably normal enough for a privately-owned restaurant.
“Benito, Juan, Cecilia, Pablo. Hm, they use part-timers for everything that doesn’t need special qualifications. Only four of them are full-time employees: the cooks and the accountant.”
It might seem unusual that a list of baptismal games given to newborn babies had so much information, but churches also had confessionals where people revealed their daily worries.
Angelene seemed disturbed by the level of detail found here.
“This always seems like a type of profiling to me.”
“They prefer to call it factually-supported fortunetelling, Sister Angelene.”
The ruling class had been indiscriminately gathering personal information long before the term “big data” was ever coined.
Gathering everyone’s hidden worries could help predict misbehavior before it happened or resolve local troubles. When a priest or fortuneteller seemed to see right through you, it did not necessarily mean they were using some supernatural power.
And they found another notable entry.
“Let’s start at the top with the owner: Nihili Padpois.”
“Um? I don’t recognize that last name. Is that what Spanish sounds like?”
“You need to learn some Latin, Sister Angelene. Spanish and our native Italian both come from it.” Agnese sounded exasperated. “He must not be from around here. He never received a baptismal name here because he moved here later in life.”
“Where did he live before?”
Lucia and Angelene tilted their heads at yet another unfamiliar term.
“That is the capital of Haiti, located between the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean.”
Also, the restaurant was privately owned yet none of the four full-time employees had that same last name.
“Is Mr. Padpois single?”
“He hasn’t always been.” Agnese tapped at a point on the document and read off the red text there. “His move from Haiti to Spain was the result of a certain event. He originally had a family of three, but his wife passed away and he apparently did not want to continue living somewhere so full of painful memories, so he moved to Spain with his daughter.”
That alone would have been a tragedy.
But Agnese’s group had come here to investigate the possible use of illicit magic at his restaurant.
“How did his wife die?” asked Lucia with a frown.
“No one knows.”
Someone had definitely died and the cause would have been thoroughly investigated, yet that was Agnese’s answer.
But some people did have their theories.
“She died a seemingly supernatural death when several coincidences coincided with seemingly astronomical odds. It was apparently rumored back in Haiti that she had died of a curse.”
Restaurant manager Nihili Padpois had supposedly lost his wife to a curse.
Even after leaving his hometown and moving to Spain with his young daughter, there were signs of someone cleaning up all signs of magic in his restaurant. That suggested he was still using some kind of magic.
“Hmm,” groaned Agnese while lying back onto the sofa bed.
After getting the information they needed at the church, they had returned to the mobile home.
“Mr. Padpois did make a pretty extreme decision, didn’t he?”
She understood the general idea.
If the one person in the world you had decided to spend the rest of your life with was unfairly taken from you, it had to feel like your heart was torn in two. Although Agnese was nowhere near the point of even considering marriage, so she found that part hard to imagine.
Still, would that really be enough for him to cross the ocean to a new country?
Where would he have found the money for that?
“Just because you can cook doesn’t mean you can immediately start a restaurant. I mean no offense, but Haiti isn’t exactly a wealthy nation. Even if he worked his ass off and saved up everything he could, it might not be enough to overcome the price differences between countries.”
There was an extremely simple solution to that problem.
She sighed as she spoke it.
The term had an unavoidably dangerous ring to it here.
When someone died, you were handed an opportunity along with the loss. There was nothing wrong with using that to move to Europe, but they also had reason to suspect he was still using magic – which could mean a curse.
“How is the restaurant doing financially?”
“Why not check it out for yourself?”
They had slept in too late. After taking the time to investigate and return here, it was already late evening.
The trio left the mobile home and walked to that restaurant again.
They were on a serious mission, but something occurred to Agnese on the way there.
“Wait! You haven’t cooked a single thing today, Sister Lucia! You’re supposed to be on cooking duty!”
“You must be imagining things.”
They checked inside the restaurant to see a fair number of customers at the tables and counter, but it was not so crowded you would have to wait for a table if you showed up without a reservation. They took a seat and looked around to see the place maintained its focus on food over alcohol even at this later hour. The only alcoholic drinks they served seemed to be mass-produced beer and cheap table wine.
Angelene was soon staring at the menu.
“They have a bunch of options that weren’t offered this morning! I want to eat this ajillo! And these skewers!!”
“You need to specify what kind of ajillo and skewers they are.”
The focus on seafood meant anything cooked in oil or on skewers was probably shrimps. Sea bream and salmon were also likely options. Despite having had them that morning, Angelene went ahead and ordered a bunch of clams. All of the alcohol had been cooked off, but the beer and wine were apparently primarily stocked for cooking dishes like that. The customers were probably drinking the extras that the restaurant ended up with because the minimum order with the distributer was more than they needed.
The spicy and garlicy ajillo came with bread. You were supposed to tear off pieces of the bread and dip it in hot bubbling olive oil, so it presented a fairly high hurdle for those girls.
“It’s delicious, but what kind of bread do they use in Spain? Spanish bread?”
“Work on your vocabulary, Sister Agnese. This is focaccia and it’s from our native Italy.”
Agnese felt someone looking at her, so she looked over to find that someone much closer than expected. A brown girl of about 5 was clinging to the edge of the table with both hands. She looked a lot like someone peering over a fence.
And for some reason, she looked extremely proud of herself.
“Do you like it?”
“You do? You actually like it?☆”
She began wiggling side to side like Agnese had complimented her.
There were a lot of races around the world, but she did not appear to be of purely African descent. She did have the dark skin, but her facial features and hair seemed more like the nuns. Agnese belatedly realized the girl was probably mixed race.
She was reminded that a lot of the beautiful gods and goddesses in Voodoo were depicted as mixed race.
“You chose a good day to eat here. This chef is really good.”
(So is this the daughter?)
“Solène, come here please,” called a deep adult voice.
The girl immediately turned around, so that had to be her name.
“Coming! Why does papa have to interrupt me when I’m letting the world know how great he is?”
She vanished into the back of the restaurant while grumbling some kind of complaint.
Agnese watched her leave.
“The restaurant seems to be doing fairly well. Based on the ingredients and prices, he seems to be running such an honest business I can’t imagine the profit margins are great, but he shouldn’t be in the red either. This place is definitely beloved by the local populace.”
“This location is, yes,” nonchalantly began Lucia. “But he expanded to a second location and that one is apparently struggling. Without the founder around to watch over things, the work has gotten sloppy.”
“How bad are we talking about here?”
“I don’t know the actual numbers, but I would guess they get only about a third the business this location does.”
That was devastatingly bad.
So bad it would honestly be best to immediately shut down that location and focus on this one. Did he have some reason why he could not do that?
Once they had finished eating, Lucia paid their bill.
She coldly continued the conversation as they left the busy restaurant.
“Let’s say this location really was started using life insurance money and now he’s run into more financial troubles. When someone manages to solve some crisis via criminal means, it can apparently start a cycle of criminality. A mugger will start mugging their way out of any future debts and a burglar will start burgling their way out of any future debts.”
“Wait, what are you suggesting?”
Angelene seemed confused at first, but Lucia’s meaning gradually dawned on her and her face paled.
“Th-then this is an emergency! I mean, that restaurant already showed signs of hiding magic use. If he needed another life insurance payment, he would only have one possible target…but, but that’s too awful to think about!”
“Voodoo is most well-known for its zombies, but it has many more curses to offer. Of course, the actual Voodoo zombies are nothing like how they are generally depicted,” explained Lucia. “The most horrific of those curses involves making a deal with a demon. Your every wish is granted as long as you kill and sacrifice someone once a year. Worse, it has to be a family member or lover whose loss will tear your soul asunder. And if you fail to deliver, you yourself will be sacrificed. The deal doesn’t sound remotely worth it to me, but it wouldn’t be so well known unless a fair number of people decided to use the spell. I also don’t know if what they call a demon is the same thing as our demons.”
Who was in harm’s way here?
And what would the culprit gain from it?
When spelled out like that, it was a very simple situation. Enough so that they wanted to remove that brown girl from the restaurant immediately.
Agnese Sanctis brought a hand to her slender chin.
“This is troubling.”
It was the middle of the night, but the church still had its lights on. Did they believe they had to show their willingness to welcome in any lambs no matter the hour?
Agnese walked right into the chapel and saw a small room built in one corner. It was only the size of two phone booths attached side by side.
The two spaces were separated by a thick latticed window to allow the occupants to speak secrets without seeing each other.
When Agnese set down a heavy bucket, entered one side, and rang the handbell, someone entered the other side.
“What brings you here at this late hour?”
“Something I didn’t feel like I could discuss at any earlier hour.”
That could not be too unusual.
This was a confessional, a place prepared for people to confess their own sins. If someone was not worried about other people seeing them, their problems could not be all that bad.
The unseen person on the other side must have grasped that this was a serious discussion because he cleared his throat.
“You may share anything here. This is a seat of forgiveness provided by god.”
“Yeah, but on second thought, maybe this isn’t a good idea. Ah ha ha. Maybe I’m overthinking this and it isn’t a big deal at all. And to be entirely honest, it really isn’t any of my business.”
“I learned something.” Agnese paused for a moment. “I happened to learn the truth behind a certain crime. It’s an extremely grave issue that could mean someone’s death. But on the other hand, it might be a bad thing for some people if it goes public. I’m trying to decide if I should share what I know or if I should stay quiet, but first I wanted to hear the opinion of the priest who protects the peace and safety of this part of the city.”
No actual statistics were known, but it was said to be surprisingly common.
Confession was only meant as a ritual for eliminating the guilt for the little things people did during their daily lives and it was not designed to unconditionally forgive actual kidnapping or murder. Nevertheless, people would sometimes hint at what were obviously serious crimes. Whether or not the priest would contact the police depended on their personal religious beliefs. But either way, they would prefer to not have that burden thrust upon them. This priest may not have looked happy about the discussion, but Agnese could not see him through the latticed window.
Finally, the priest whispered back in a heavy tone.
“As a servant of god, I must not alter my response based on the type or severity of your troubles. Similarly, you should not bend the truth. God shall purify all of your worries through me, so speak and get this great burden off your chest.”
“If you insist.”
Agnese sighed quietly.
In a way, hearing those words had removed a burden from her.
“How dare you speak like that after using professional techniques to frame an innocent man. Scum like you is an insult to the priesthood.”
With a great crash, the Lotus Wand burst through the latticed window from Agnese’s side and a golden sword did the same from the priest’s side. The two glittering weapons entered the inviolable territory on the other side.
But only one of them groaned.
“I felt that one land.”
The golden sword passed by a few centimeters to the side of Agnese’s cheek, but the head of her Lotus Wand jabbed accurately into the center of the man’s chest.
“I was suspicious from the beginning. I can buy just about anyone learning to use magic, but the skills to clean up all trace of the magic afterwards are much more unusual. Plus, the exact technique used was identical to our Roman Catholic style of forensic cleanup.”
She had been the first to notice something was off.
Only they used a liquid made by adding blood-like substances to water consecrated with a pinch of salt.
Anglican and Russian Orthodox holy water did not include salt. Only the Catholics allowed that impurity.
Noticing the familiar cleanup method had been enough for them to figure out the rest.
“That clear bottle looked like it was simply moved into the back to make space for the wedding, but that wasn’t ordinary holy water, was it? It wouldn’t look so muddy in the light if all it had was some salt.”
Everything else they discovered suggested this was Haitian Voodoo, without Catholicism playing a role. Even though she had originally assumed something had happened in the city requiring a priest or nun to exorcise a ghost or something.
“So the restaurant owner from Haiti couldn’t have been behind it. Yeah, there were signs of someone hiding magic use at that restaurant, but no one ever saw any signs of the magic itself. So it’s just as likely someone cleaned up an already clean location to frame someone else.” That must have been what happened.
She did not know what happened to the owner’s wife, so maybe someone back in Haiti really had cursed her. But that family fell squarely into the victim category and they hadn’t done anything wrong since arriving in Spain. It had only looked that way because someone had used that unnecessary forensic cleanup to make things look suspicious.
Even though there was nothing to be found there.
The owner had simply grieved his wife’s death and used the money he would have preferred never to receive to start a small restaurant in the hopes of getting a fresh start while bringing some happiness into his young daughter’s life.
What would have happened if the suspicion of that man had continued to grow?
He had already lost the person he loved most in the world, so what would have been taken from him next and what crime would he have been framed for?
The Roman Catholic Church had 2 billion followers worldwide, so was this any way for one of their priests to be acting?
“Why do this? I doubt it was simply anti-immigrant sentiment which has been on the rise recently. Or have you really forgotten that Christianity is meant to save all the peoples of the world, regardless of race?”
She badly hoped he was not so far gone he did not even believe in that basic principle.
During the Renaissance, Europeans had proclaimed that all peoples were equal even as all the angels and saints in their religious artwork were still depicted with lily-white skin, but Agnese saw no need to be so narrowminded in the modern era.
“He is cursed.”
“No, you tried to frame him for being cursed.”
“I did, but Nihili Padpois really has come in contact with a real curse!!”
The priest howled so loud his chest swelled out from within.
Agnese frowned, but he continued shouting.
“I don’t know how exactly it happened because I have no way of investigating something that happened across the Atlantic, but his family really was cursed and that’s all that matters!! I cleaned up this town. I kept this district of Barcelona so clean you can’t find even a hint of filth!! But…but those efforts are meaningless when a true source of impurity moves in. Everything I did was for nothing!! I had to get rid of the cursed one, no matter what it took!!”
“So you’re a clean freak.”
This fear may have been what had originally motivated him to get into theology and choose the path of god.
He feared curses.
He wanted a way of fighting them. And if he could not fight them, he at least wanted to push them away.
He must have decided such things could not reach him if he worked in a church, the house of god.
Sneaking into the church to check the baptismal name records had been Agnese’s idea, but even she had thought those records were unusually detailed. However, the priest had not been so thorough because he cared deeply about protecting the people in his part of the city. No, he was simply afraid, so he made sure he could pick up on the earliest sign of a curse and set up a trap to protect himself. He would frame the cursed person, intentionally have someone – such as the witch hunting specialists of the Anglican Church – discover it, and use those strangers to indirectly eliminate the “threat”.
Agnese Sanctis sighed.
And she gave her response.
“What the hell is wrong with you, you petty villain?”
“You’re like a living curse yourself, you asshole. Mr. Padpois was devastated by the loss of his wife and decided to cross the sea to Barcelona to grasp at any hope he could find. He could have gone anywhere in the world, but he chose your city. I would expect you to be proud of that, not fear him and try to get rid of him. Remind me again what your job is. Not only did you use divine miracles for your own selfish ends, but you decided to pick and choose who is worthy of salvation. No one that despicable is fit to defend the house of god!!”
“Say what you like, but I will protect my own little world.”
With the sound of scraping metal, more gold revealed itself.
Around the globe, that precious metal held great value because it did not rust and retained its shine forever. That may have been why it was so often used to repel impure curses.
“This is my sanctuary. I spent many long years creating the perfect paradise for myself!! I refuse to let anyone contaminate it. My world needs only the things I want in it!!”
It looked like he had sprouted golden wings, but in fact countless swords had fanned out behind him.
That was an angel’s weapon.
(He wasn’t just hiding those under his habit. Has he fused them with his body?)
Becoming one with something allowed you to take on its traits. He may have thought of it as an extreme form of defense against curses, but at this level, he was not that different from a necromancer digging up a grave and stealing the dead’s clothing.
(Swords are also a symbol of separation. And not just in religion and mythology. A story used to introduce the concepts of chivalry includes placing a sword between a man and woman sleeping next to each other as a way of severing the connection between them.)
Countless pieces of metal strained as they gathered strength.
Getting hit by this at close range would concentrate all that damage onto a single point, much like a shotgun blast at point-blank range, so it would be horrifically destructive. Agnese would be reduced to mincemeat. While he was not morally fit for the job, this man was still a Catholic priest and he had demonstrated enough skill to pull off forensic cleaning, so he was bound to have some combat skill.
However, that only mattered if he could actually hit her.
“Tejas of Prithvi, you are a red equilateral triangle shining within a yellow square.”
This was a form of meditation normally done using cards.
It was a technique used to see and learn things.
It was a simple method, but the Golden cabal had warned that you must not take it lightly or lose sight of your objective when using it. According to Mathers, pressing the card to your forehead in a misguided attempt to strength the image in your head would trigger a malfunction in your mind during the meditation.
Or to put it another way, if you slapped that card against someone else’s forehead, you could force them into a state of confusion or hallucination.
A golden explosion erupted within two meters of her, but it all passed by to her left. She had not swiftly sidestepped it. After being dragged into a meditative state with the wrong method, the priest had messed up his aim and attacked the empty air.
This time, the outer wall of the confessional was reduced to splinters and blown away.
Agnese Sanctis showed no fear on her face.
In fact, all the cowardice here was found in her opponent.
She sang a profane lullaby as she dragged her target into a living nightmare.
“One piece of advice.”
“While pure gold is used as a symbol of the incorruptible, it’s also a popular choice for gathering curses. For example, the Norse Andvaranaut, the Greek golden apples, and even Egyptian Tutankhamun’s sarcophagus. Its rarity has a tendency of leading people astray. It often becomes a source of resentment and jealousy.”
It was too late for him to catch on now.
He had been in her grasp from the moment he failed to hit a target within two meters of him.
“Yes, yes. Its meaning changes drastically depending on what interpretation you use. And no matter what I say, you can’t fight it for the next thirty seconds or so thanks to the failed meditation I placed you in. The thoughts are already crawling up from the back of your mind, aren’t they? It feels disgusting, doesn’t it? Yet that spiritual item is supposed to be what protects you from all curses, isn’t it?”
Goose bumps spread from the priest’s hands and up his arms to his torso with such intensity she swore she could hear it.
His eyes rolled around wildly.
He had effectively developed an allergy for curses. And people with serious enough allergies could sometimes show an allergic reaction from simply seeing photos and videos of the thing. In the same way, there was no escape for this priest now that the doubts had started to grow in his mind. At this rate, he might just start to claw into his skin and tear out the precious metal that was attached to his skeleton.
“I happen to have a ‘battery’ right here. So how about I charge up that gold of yours?”
Why was Agnese here in Barcelona in the first place?
It may have only been for training, but the magic used there had been very real. She could think of far too many disgusting things that would continue to stink even if you worked at cleaning it up throughout the night.
She put on a truly sadistic smile as she spun her Lotus Wand around.
Before entering the confessional, she had set down a bucket full of a sticky substance, so she lifted its handle with the end of the wand.
“This right here is supposedly a corpse infected with an authentic Voodoo curse, courtesy of Necromancer Isabella Theism. You know your stuff, so I know an imitation wouldn’t be good enough for you. This is a stain that will never, ever come out, so I hope you enjoy it☆”
A pathetic scream followed, but Agnese ignored it as she made full of use centrifugal force to dump the entire bucket of rotting flesh and gore on top of the priest’s head.
They had a saying in a distant Eastern island nation: curse others and prepare to be cursed yourself.
“Eh heh heh. So how are they doing, Stiyl?”
“They’re a busy bunch, that’s for sure.”
This conversation was held atop a tall building giving a view of the city’s night.
“Are the other two stationed outside?”
“They are. Lucia is maintaining a people-clearing field and Angelene is setting up traps to prevent his escape in case he tries to flee. Although their positioning suggests they trust Agnese’s ability to win this battle.”
The gaunt, silver-haired, and brown-skinned woman named Isabella Theism was using a natural drinking straw to sip at a handmade drink made by squeezing lime juice into colorless carbonated water. She was an eccentric woman who chose to wear the tattered clothes of the dead, but she was an expert at creating lumps of flesh and Necessarius would occasionally have her create a corpse to inspire fear and confusion in an enemy.
Nothing affected the human psyche more than a dead body.
She was a powerful ally since she could design a corpse after an enemy or an ally and leave it at some crucial location. If she created the corpse of a nation’s president, it was possible she could even start a nuclear war. And yet she only used cows and pigs to make them. Other magicians might produce better results, but she was nigh untouchable when it came to cost-performance.
She was the queen of doubts and confusion.
Necromancer Isabella Theism was the type of magician who could win without actually fighting, but that did not mean she could not fight if she had to, which made her very difficult to deal with. On several occasions, Stiyl had seen her casually cut down a magician just as they escaped that labyrinth of doubts and thought they were finally safe again.
It might be simplest to think of her as the master of a spiderweb.
A butterfly could not defeat the spider just because it had managed to slip past the unseen threads.
“They have a bad habit of goofing off too much on the job, but I suppose it’s within the margin of error,” said Stiyl.
“It’s not like we get paid all that well. If you can’t find enjoyment through something other than money, you’re not going to last long here.”
“Did you think a priest would choose his job based on the pay?”
“Yeah, says the guy who brings his personal feelings to the job more than anyone else I know☆”
He could only clear his throat in response.
“They’re such cute girls,” said Isabella with a laugh. “They didn’t have to do that job and they even chose to leave without visiting that restaurant again. Ah ha ha. They’re just like the gunman from a Western! Oh, but they’re Italian, so would that make it a Spaghetti Western?”
“Based on this, I say we can let them handle it.”
These two had been running a test.
If the test subjects had failed to meet their standards, they would have immediately had that trio leave.
But Agnese, Lucia, and Angelene had passed.
Which meant they could no longer quit this job.
The female Necessarius magician gave a bewitching smile.
“They are about to be very busy indeed.”