Chapter 1 Part 1
‘They had their hearts removed. Everyone of them…’
It was an unreal sight. The holes and severed tissue in the chest were clean, as if they had been removed by magic.
I had never encountered such horror before. I had witnessed quite a lot of the horrors of war since my death in my previous life, but now it was different from those things.
These were the traces of forces that defy nature. The bizarreness it contained.
When my whole body was chilled, Kwanach , who was standing beside me, held my shoulders. I could feel his body heat in his firm embrace.
“What in the world was he doing ….”
When I heard Kwanach’s voice, the muscles near my heart that had been tightened relaxed. I felt a faint sense of relief.
“Are you all right?”
Kwanach asked softly, staring at me. I closed my eyes and opened them again. My slightly clouded vision returned.
I grabbed hold of my shaky spirit and said,
“Yes, I was a little surprised. It seems that Roman experimented with them…. I wonder if there are any relevant documents left here.”
“We will have to search first. You stay outside. Me and the knights will look into it.”
I tilted my head slightly and looked behind me. I saw the knights who had followed us.
Everyone looked stiff. The young and inexperienced knights hesitated.
It was the same for both me and them to feel terrible and frightened. I did not want to appear weak here. I did not want to run away in disgust at the evidence of evil placed before me.
I gently took hold of the back of Kwanach’s hand, which was wrapped around mine, and said softly.
“No, I will take a look at this place with you. I also want to know what kind of magic happened here.”
Kwanach’s lips quivered with a worried expression, but he nodded quickly.
It was now my turn to explore the hellish space in earnest.
* * *
When we emerged from the underground cave after our search, a dim morning light greeted us. Dew had formed on the branches of the forest trees and dawn was rising in the sky. We stayed up all night.
I walked out of the cave with the help of Kwanach. I went up from the suffocating underground and inhaled the scent of the forest, which seemed to revive me a little. There was no stench of rotting flesh underground, but there was a strange, nauseating aroma.
Kwanach stared at me with a grim look on his face.
“At dawn, I sent a knight to the royal palace and told them to bring a carriage. Get some sleep on the way back.”
“I am fine.”
I was not sleepy at all. Rather, I was more awake than ever. As I looked around the cave, the anger that had been slowly building up was sharply rationalized away. I was in a state of complete arousal.
I stared at the pile of parchment in my hand. I had found it after a search. The records of Roman’s experiments.
Kwanach gently wrapped my shoulders, which had been straining.
“No, it can’t be all right. You must rest. Even if you don’t want to rest.”
“What good is it if you collapse? The fight is not over yet and we have a lot of work to do, so take care of yourself.”
As I discovered what Roman had done, my anger seemed to make me even more sensitive.
I looked at Kwanach and relaxed my body. Then I leaned against him.
Kwanach sighed deeply and hugged me tightly. When he wrapped his arms around me, the nerves that had been tingling around my eyes seemed to break.
Kwanach’s body heat and scent were good. I calmed my mind as I exhaled slowly. It was then that exhaustion finally overtook me.
Kwanach picked me up. We headed for the carriage that was waiting outside the forest.
At the entrance to the forest stood several carts and additional soldiers from the royal palace. Additional men had been called in to remove all the bodies piled up in the underground pit. Roman’s experiment was so huge and organized that so many men were needed to pick up the bodies.
I rode in the carriage with Kwanach. Then I reread the experimental records that we had read several times.
Roman’s plan was ultimately to challenge God. He would disturb God’s realm, the boundary between death and life.
The first step in this process was to spread the sclerosis disease. Roman cleverly placed a curse in the river, the black magic of which was only invoked on those with a small amount of internal magic. He needed a body that could respond to magic. The more, the better.
The cursed magic that spread on the waters of the Fahar River killed many people. Roman sold the cure at a high price to make money, and the bodies of those who could not afford the cure were collected.
These were the ones who had no one to grieve or worry about even if a proper funeral did not take place. He secured a large number of such bodies and experimented on them in the underground cave.
It was a kind of dark magic that was said to have been lost a long time ago. It seemed that Roman had transformed it in his own way. The records detailed the formula, but since it was mostly in ancient script, I was not able to decipher it immediately.
However, Roman wrote in rough handwriting about how the technique worked. His excitement was evident in his handwriting.
[Sclerosis contaminated the magic of the experimental subject, and the contaminated magic was mainly concentrated in the heart. The black film clinging near the removed heart tissue seems to be the very residue of that magic power.
[…… contaminated hearts are dug out to produce concentrated ether according to the mixing method. When the ether is applied to the body of the experimental subject, the decomposing action stops and the subject appears almost like a living person.
Then, when I give my magic power directly to the body through an ancient technique, the experimental body wakes up. The body, hardened by the sclerotic disease, becomes flexible again.]
[…… some individuals will reject and rapidly oxidize. I don’t know the reason for the side effects, but they probably don’t deserve to be revived.
[Most are able to move their bodies as if they were alive shortly after waking up. If they are injured by the power of the ether, they are quickly repaired and their bodies are not destroyed. They do not have the ability to speak, but they recognize the owner of the magic that has entered their bodies.
My children, those born in the same place as me.]
I did not understand what Roman meant when he said that they were born in the same place.
What followed was a lengthy description of various experiments on the resurrected bodies. (*Like zombies. Roman’s father had made the same experiment with the dead bodies in the past. His father even sowed his seeds in the zombies to make babies. That was how Roman and Jaxor were born.)
Roman subjected them to all sorts of training to make them move as he wished. Experiments such as capturing a bear and throwing it at them and seeing how many seconds they could subdue it continued.
Those who returned from the dead jumped at the command of their master without looking back and forth. Their bodies were sturdy. It was said that their muscular strength exceeded that of an ordinary human three times over. They tore the bear apart and skinned their stomachs with their hands.
Roman even called them his experiments, called them his brothers, sons, and daughters, and cherished them.
But that was only for a while. The corpses, which had been moving animatedly, at one point began to collapse one by one, losing their pulse.
[My children collapsed. What is wrong? No matter how much magic power I inject into them, they do not move. It seems that the power of the ether has run out. It was extracted from the hearts that have already exhausted their vitality, and it appears that the efficacy will not last long. What should I do?
But what if I pull out the hearts of those who have not yet died and make ether? When the heart still beats.
Yes. Then my children may live forever. This is not a failure. My children have just fallen asleep for a while. They just need to wake up.
Once I have dealt with that bothersome woman who was trying to pry.]
The record was broken here.
Roman had been preparing to change his methods and re-experiment when his experiment to overcome death failed. But then I came and tried to find out about his experiment.
‘That’s why he tried to kill me because I was curious about him.’
What would have happened if this experiment had really been completed?
‘Diaquit must have known Roman was doing this experiment. That’s why he was so elated when he said he would win the war.’
Roman created the undead. These were soldiers with monstrous strength who would not die.
If Roman had really succeeded in this experiment, the chances of winning the war would have tilted to the North.
I tried to imagine the dead bodies with dented hearts, rampaging across the battlefield. It made my heart swell.
‘But even if he had tried the experiment again…would he have succeeded?’
I had never heard of the emergence of the undead in the long war that had been going on from my previous life.
‘You were doomed to fail anyway, Roman.’
But Roman’s attempts made the continent sick. The Goddess’s power weakened.
I wanted to undo all this as soon as possible.
Perhaps it was because I had been in a strong state of concentration for too long, but suddenly my eyes seemed to be turning.
I laid the experimental record down with a low groan. Before I knew it, the carriage had departed. A weak vibration occurred inside.
I made eye contact with Kwanach, who was sitting across from me. He seemed to be watching me silently so as not to break my concentration. There was a hint of concern on his face.
Kwanach let out a small sigh and said,
“I told you to rest in the carriage. You don’t listen, and you read it again as soon as you sit down.”
“Oh, I’m sorry.”
“Do not apologize. Come here.”
Kwanach extended his hand toward me. I quickly took his hand. He pulled me close and sat me on his lap.
I curled up like a child and leaned against his chest. It was comfortable and firm. Kwanach murmured in frustration and rubbed my neck with his hand.
“Your muscles are stiff.”
“I just …… thought about it too much.”
“What do you think?”
“I’m scared…. I wonder if my brother knows all this.”
“Do you think so?”
I tried to imagine Diaquit’s face in my mind. There were times in my previous life when I loved and depended on him with all my heart. He was the only brother I had in my little world. He was the one who took the place of my late mother and my sick father.
But he was the man who returned my trust with a despicable betrayal.
“If indeed Diaquit took part in this experiment…. He must pay for his sins. Even by death.”