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< curse="" play="" (part="" 1)="">
— And how can you be trusting in the power of sorcery? All the sorcerers that I met were fakes!
— Captain, you won't know until you have seen what happened. It was not fake.
— Do you know what? Con artists use trickery or illusions to trick people! They use simple tricks to dupe the people and they take advantage of people!
— There is no way…
"The lord does not seem to have great command of the people in the castle." Zin clicked his tongue, and Leona was looking around in fear.
A guard captain was usually the second most powerful person in a castle. The guard captain was the most likely person to become the lord of a castle.
It was very common for the guard captain to betray the lord and become a lord himself. And even though the captain was not a native of Jule castle, the lord hired him because he had the experience.
It was clear that the captain wanted to become a lord himself. He was yelling and publicly making a big deal instead of talking privately with the lord. He was intentionally trying to convey the message to the people that their lord was incompetent. His primary goal was to point out the faults of the lord, and make the people suspect the leaders.h.i.+p of the lord. He probably didn't care about the chips and the sacrifice of the cow.
Politics... It's everywhere.
As long as society existed, there were politics involved. The guard captain was trying to stir up distrust among the residents. It was very foolish, childish, and obvious act.
Leona asked worriedly, "What do we do?"
"What do you think? We need to head out." Zin stood up.
"We might lose our chips."
This was a serious matter for Zin, and he had to act quickly to get paid. Whether Zin was a con artist or not did not matter for the guard captain. His main goal was to create a rift between the lord and the residents. And as soon as the lord lost her trust of the residents, he would betray her and become a lord himself. But at this moment, the captain had picked on the wrong person. Zin might have been a crafty and sneaky person, but he was not a con artist.
The guards and the residents were staying away from the lord and the captain, and observing the situation. In the middle of the castle square, the guard captain and the lord were staring at each other.
"You will have to talk to me directly about your suspicions."
"How dare you walk out here, you con artist!"
The captain stared at Zin with a fierce look, and the lord was not able to do anything about it. She couldn't side with the captain or with Zin. Regardless of his abilities, Zin was still an outsider, and the lord had the responsibility to seek the welfare of the castle. It would not be wise for the lord to take any side.
Zin knew the situation that the lord was in, so he made a politically correct statement. "It is my responsibility to defend my innocence, what do you think?"
Zin was trying to clarify that his innocence was what was being disputed. The lord nodded quietly, and the guard captain kept on staring at Zin, ready to accuse him.
"Right, you may be able to trick the lord, but you will not be able to trick me!"
The captain was fully confident that Zin was a con artist who had tricked the dumb lord to steal chips and a cow.
Zin wanted to clarify and asked the captain, "Do you not believe in the power of sorcery? Or do you not believe in me? Let us clarify this first."
"Both of them, you con man! If you don't return those chips that you took, I'll kill you and the kid who's with you, you piece of s.h.i.+t!"
The guard captain seemed to hate Zin because Zin had Leona as a companion. Zin had no intention of explaining his situation with Leona.
"Well, then. It sounds like if I can prove the power of the sorcery, I can prove my innocence. Is that right?"
The residents were pretending to work while listening carefully to the conversation of the two.
"Ha, you are talking nonsense! Sorcerers are all con artists, so all sorcery is tricks and lies! Why don't you show it to us right now? Are you going to make it rain? Make it thunder? Go ahead!"
"I don't do those types of sorcery. I have a way to demonstrate easily." Zin pulled out a charm from the void storage. As he pulled out an item from nowhere, the guard captain became slightly nervous. But he was still confident in his belief...
"Ha, I think you are trying to play tricks. I don't…"
"I pity you for regarding this as a trick."
"What? How dare you talk like that to the guard captain of Jule…"
"It's a shame that you are so defensive about your own authority, yet you are rude to your own castle lord."
"You piece of…"
"Enough. I came to prove my powers, not to pick a fight with you," Zin cut off the guard captain. "I am a hunter, but sorcerers always run into the issue of trust.
"There are always people who believe that sorcery is fake. In those times, sorcerers performed this action. I don't know if you have heard about it."
While holding on to the charm, Zin smiled sinisterly. It was the scariest smile that Zin had ever made.
"It's called 'curse play', and it's pretty simple. Nothing too complicated."
"What is that?"
"I put a curse on you, and you accept the curse."
There was no better method to prove the power of sorcery to someone who didn't believe in sorcery. A sorcerer always had to prove his power to unbelieving people. The method was more effective than performing ceremonies that drew rain and thunder.
The person who asked for proof would receive the curse, and one would prove the power of the sorcery. It was a simple method that asked the unbelieving person to take a risk.
If the curse was fake, the cursed person would be just fine, and the sorcerer would be deemed a fake. If the curse was real, the cursed person would encounter accidents, and the sorcerer would be deemed a true one.
It was a straightforward and simple method, and it was a method that was widely used in areas where the sorcerers ruled. If a sorcerer was able to prove his powers through the curse play, he would gain authority over people. n.o.body would want to disobey the sorcerer.
"Didn't you claim that I was fake? That would mean that my sorcery would be fake as well, and my curse would have no effect on you."
In many cases, a curse play did not take effect. Even if it truly was a hoax, n.o.body was willing to take the curse play upon themselves. What usually happened was that the person asking for the proof would cowardly walk away.
Zin smiled and mocked the captain.
"You said that you came from the wilderness, but you must have left your courage somewhere out there, eh?"
"What? How dare you mock me, you imbecile! I am satisfied serving as a guard captain, but once upon a time, I used to be a hunter wandering the wilderness! Do you even know how many monsters I have hunted down?"
"Of course I don't know. But even if I did, why does it even matter?" As the captain yelled, Zin nodded along with a smile. Zin didn't believe that the captain used to be a hunter, but even he was a hunter before, it didn't really matter.
In front of a devil hunter, it was pointless bragging about how many monsters a person had hunted down.
The guard captain became even more furious at Zin's taunt.
"Why don't you go ahead and perform your curse play on me? I will prove that it will have no effect on me! And then I will kill you for trying to trick us all!"
"Sure," Zin shrugged. "I will put a curse on you. The duration will be four days. If you overcome the curse for four days, you will become the winner of the curse play. And when I put a curse on you, I will also create an anti-curse item that reverses the curse on you. If you give up and come to me to get the item from me, then I will become the winner of the curse play."
"That will never happen, so go ahead right now, you fraud!"
The sun was setting, and the residents sat around the captain and Zin. It had become a testing ground to see if the lord had made the right decision. The captain argued that all the residents had to witness the curse play, and the lord accepted it.
The residents had never seen such a thing, and were interested in watching a sorcerer perform sorcery. Everybody sat far away from Zin and the captain, and watched them. Leona also was watching them from a safe distance.
Zin held the spellstone on his right hand, and had the captain sit down.
"I need to prepare something."
"Don't tell me that you are going to need another cow."
"I am a skilled sorcerer, and I don't need such things to put a curse on a man like you. I just need some bonfires."
The guard captain hated going along with the curse play, but he was happy. Proving that the sorcery was a hoax would cause the residents to lose trust in the lord.
By proving that Zin was a con artist, the captain would be able to take control of the castle. He was excited at the idea that he would become a lord himself soon.
As couple of guards ran towards them and stacked firewood to start a fire, Zin shook his head.
"No, the bonfires need to be placed on the Northeast, Northwest, Southeast and Southwest corners."
Zin place the firewood on the four corners himself and started the bonfires. Zin looked around the castle and saw couple of lamps that were turned on. He then spoke to the guards.
"Turn off all the lamps in the castle."
As Zin was speaking, the captain grumbled. "How annoying. Can't you just get going?"
"A curse is drawn to the light. If there's other light, the curse might jump out and fall upon other people. This has nothing to do with the activation of the curse."
Zin asked to turn off all the lights, so that other people would be safe. Zin looked around at the four bonfires that were lighting up the now-dark Jule, and then up at the sky.
"A new moon. It's a perfect night to cast a curse."
It was a very dark and quiet night, and there were no stars s.h.i.+ning in the sky. In the pitch darkness, with the captain surrounded by the four bonfires, Zin walked around. The bonfires continued burning, and the light coming the fire looked eerie.
The residents who gathered held their breaths and remained silent. Zin was acting as a sorcerer, and the residents were watching the stranger perform an eerie ceremony. Their lord knew what was at stake.
She was concerned about her position as a lord, but she was also wondering if it was okay to perform a dangerous ceremony within the castle. However, she knew that it had to be done, because the guard captain had been challenging her authority frequently. She needed the curse play to work in order to retain her position as a lord.
The guard captain was in the middle of the light, surrounded by the four bonfires. He couldn't see anything else besides the four bonfires.
He felt like he was in the middle of the darkness.
"Before I start, I will explain about different types of curses." At the moment, Zin was not a hunter but a sorcerer, and he was overseeing the ceremony.
"The curse that I will put on you is called 'fortune drain'." It was a curse that utilized two characters on the spellstone.
"This curse will take away your luck. The effect of the curse is simple. Once the curse is upon you, you will become unlucky."
"Become unlucky? What kind of curse is that? Hahahaha!" the captain laughed out in a loud voice, a natural reaction to hide his inner fear.
Zin continued to explain the curse. "You will die in exactly four days at midnight."
Everybody held their breath at Zin's words.
< curse="" play="" (part="" 2)="">
As Zin foretold the coming death of the guard, everyone, including the captain, gasped.
"If you don't believe in sorcery, you can ignore this curse. And I just explained the outcome of the fortune drain sorcery. If you accept the curse, stay seated. If you do not accept it, stand up. Since you don't believe in sorcery, whether you die in four days or not, it's all a lie to you anyways, right?"
Zin was taunting the captain to stand up, but the captain who lived by his pride refused to stand up.
"I will a.s.sume that you have agreed to accept the curse. I will begin the ceremony."
As everybody remained silent, Zin walked around the bonfires and started to cast the curse. The two characters - Fortune and Drain - from the spellstone started to emit dark energy. Zin started to murmur, but n.o.body was able to figure out what he was saying.
The captain was watching Zin, who had appeared in front of the bonfire and then disappeared into the darkness. He would then appear by the other bonfire.
Zin was simply walking, but Zin appeared to be like a devil that was fading in and out of the darkness.
The atmosphere was creepy as Zin continued to murmur the spell. Everybody was still holding their breath and watching the scene.
Many sorcerers turned out to be con artists. Con artists utilized tricks, circus acts, or illusions.
However, Zin only lit up bonfires and was simply walking around the bonfires. Zin wandered like a grim reaper, and he would throw things into the bonfire to light it up. But his actions didn't look out of the ordinary.
Leona stayed silent and looked at the bonfires.
The ceremony was different from the one performed earlier in the day. It was not horrible. There was no gruesome killing, and there were no monsters involved.
But everyone was afraid.
The calmly walking hunter terrified the residents. Even though there were only bonfires burning, everyone was feeling something creepy about the whole deal.
They thought that Zin was performing a real sorcery. Everyone was getting a taste of a real sorcery.
— Zap! —
And all of a sudden, one of the bonfires went out. The fire didn't die down, the light completely and instantly disappeared.
The children who were watching started to freak out, and the adults were also surprised. But no one screamed. They were afraid to the point where they couldn't make a sound.
— Zap, Zazap! —
The remaining bonfires were also put out in a split second. No one was able to breathe. They felt like something horrible would happen to them if they made any sound.
As soon as all the bonfires were put out, the people saw nothing but darkness. It was not the effect of the sorcery. The people had been looking at the bonfires so long that their pupils were constricted. They did not know about this fact, so they felt like they were in pitch darkness. They thought that this was part of the sorcery.
— Thump, thump —
In the complete darkness, Zin continued to walk in circles around the bonfires. Nothing could be heard but his footsteps, the sound echoing in a steady rhythm.
The captain at the center of the ceremony was scared to death.
— Krrrrrrroooom! —
And then a dark mist shot outside of the bonfire and started to surround the guard captain. Everyone was able to sense the rumbling of the ground, and were all shocked.
"Ah, aaaaarggh! Help!!!"
The captain stood up hurriedly, and ran away from the bonfires. As he ran, he lost control, and fell flat down on the ground.
"Aaahhhck! Something is trying to grab me! It's grabbing me!!!" The captain tripped trying to get up by himself, and then collapsed on the ground.
Zin looked down at him, and spoke calmly, "The ceremony is over. You may turn on the lights."
— Zap! —
The guards who were on standby turned on all the lights, and everyone was able to see the guard captain on the floor unconscious.
Leona who was watching the ceremony in the corner started to laugh out loud.
"Hahahaha! What is that? I think he s.h.i.+t on his pants?"
And he had.
The lord shook her head and ordered the guards, "… Please help him and let him rest."
As everyone was still in panic after witnessing the ceremony, Leona continued to laugh by herself.
It was obvious, but no resident came close to the inn that Zin and Leona were staying in. Before even seeing the final outcome, everybody was certain that Zin performed a real sorcery.
The lord seemed to be afraid after witnessing the power of Zin thanked him, but soon walked away from him after delivering his meal.
"Pfft, what's the deal? She's the one who asked for help in the first place."
"Strangers are either exalted or rejected. It's not surprising at all."
Zin and Leona ate the dinner that the lord had brought over. The guard captain was still unconscious without any movement.
Leona was thinking about the notion that the strangers were either exalted or rejected.
In fact, she was familiar with the att.i.tude of the residents. The despising looks of the residents were exactly the same as the looks of the Mok-Gol people.
People were afraid of Leona, and they hated her.
"What does it mean to be exalted?"
"It means that people regard them as important people. Dangerous sorcerers gain great status in a village. Wouldn't people rather have someone powerful on their side?"
"Hmm… if I had power in my hometown, would I have been exalted?"
"Hmm." Zin looked at Leona and said, "Then you would have not been suspected of being a witch."
Leona slowly nodded. A witch was feared by people, yet people imposed that name on weak people. People have been using that name to harm those who were not witches at all.
Leona had hard time understanding what he was explaining to her. But she was curious about another matter.
"So, is the guy who was cursed today going to die?"
There would be nothing scarier than that. Leona was afraid how a ceremony would cause someone to die within four days. Listening to Leona's question, Zin laughed.
"Of course not. That type of curse is called 'death wish'. It is not a curse that someone like me who performs sorcery occasionally can easily activate. The curse that I activated today simply makes the man become unlucky."
"Can you give some examples?"
"I can't give you the specifics, but for example, he will bite small stones while eating food, he will b.u.mp his toe on a chair, or bugs will enter his eyes or ears."
"… it doesn't sound that serious."
Leona was a bit disappointed that the curse would only have minor effects on the person. But Zin smiled.
"However, how would you feel if those misfortunes happened consecutively?"
Leona became horrified to think that one would always bite stones in every meal, and b.u.mp his toes on the chairs every single time.
"Okay, I take it back. It sounds horrible."
It would cause great fear if misfortune happened many times.
"The ceremony was a gimmick, and if I had such powers, I would have laid the curse on the devils."
Zin had created a scary atmosphere utilizing visual effects, and he gave out a death sentence in order to scare the captain. Leona laughed at Zin.
"Then why did you even say that the captain was going to die in four days? What would happen after four days? Wouldn't he come after us?"
Leona couldn't understand why Zin lied.
"How will he feel when misfortunes happen every single moment? And how will he feel about the death sentence?"
"He won't last more than two days."
The threat that the captain would die in four days acted as a countdown, and the captain would end up giving up under pressure.
It became clear that Zin had deceived the people.
"Remember this. It is okay for a hunter to lack skills, but it's not okay for a hunter to give up his reward."
Zin was determined to get the reward at any cost. After eating the dinner, Zin started to chisel a wooden block near him.
"What is that?"
"Now that I have activated a curse, I need to create an anti-curse item."
"Anti-curse? Does that stop from the curse from happening?"
Leona was able to figure out the meaning of the words that she didn't know. Zin kept on chiseling the wood after Leona went to bed.
The captain did s.h.i.+t on his pants, but when he woke up in the morning, he seemed to be fine. He acted as if nothing had happened and he started the roll call.
Given the fact that the effect of sorcery was unpredictable, Zin was not able to predict the outcome. The guard captain did not bite a stone while eating breakfast. Instead, he bit down on a c.o.c.kroach.
"What the h.e.l.l…"
A c.o.c.kroach could be a valuable for someone else, but it was not the case for the people of Jule. As he stood up to put away the dishes, he tripped himself and fell on the floor.
Everybody laughed when they saw the captain fall down. They all forgot about the horror from last night. The guards laughed out loud.
"Captain! You are unlucky today!"
"What did you just say? Hahaha." The captain joked around and started to lead the guards out on patrol. And strange events happened where the chair's leg broke off, and the captain hurt his finger while using tools.
The captain and the guards started to feel that something was not right, but they laughed it off.
Zin simply stated that the captain will become unlucky, but it was an understatement.
One of the guard's crossbows had fired accidently. The arrow grazed the cheek of the captain and struck the wall.
n.o.body was laughing at that point.
"Um, uh… captain… it fired by itself…"
The guard whose crossbow fired started to explain what had happened, and the captain became frightened as he swiped his bleeding cheek. He yelled at the guard, "You crazy b.a.s.t.a.r.d! We are not in the middle of the battle. Why did you load the crossbows!"
"It was the time to check the weapons…"
"… d.a.m.n it. Put your weapon down, put it down!"
At the captain's command, all the guards laid their weapons down. n.o.body was smiling. If the arrow had flown a couple of inches to the right, the captain would have been killed on the spot.
There were too many bizarre events happening to call it a coincidence.
The luck of the captain was getting drained with every pa.s.sing moment. The sorcery was invisible, but it was certain that it existed.