“The formation’s been stabilized.”
Gale was kneeling on the floor while a golden spirit stood in front of him with its arms across its chest. A white crystal emitted yellow smoke underneath it, flowing into the spirit’s body. The runes on the floor beneath them were completely golden; there were no signs of the black spots that existed before. The cracks had been repaired and an extra layer of golden light laminated the floor.
“You did well in informing us, Gale,” the spirit said and nodded. “We’ve been too preoccupied with the new king and surveillance in the outskirts of the kingdom.”
“Thank you for the praise,” Gale said, still kneeling. He hesitated before speaking. “If you don’t mind me asking, what exactly does this formation do?”
The spirit sighed. “I suppose you have the right to know as pope,” it said. “Let me ask you a question. What happens to an animal after it dies?”
“It stops moving,” Gale said and nodded.
The spirit blinked. “Obviously! I meant what happens to its soul?” it asked. Gale opened his mouth. “Wait. Judging from your previous answer, I’ll have to start with an even more basic question. What is a soul? What is it made of?”
“The soul is a person’s essence,” Gale said and frowned as he rubbed his chin. “Is it made of mana?”
“Close,” the spirit said. “The soul is the energy that generates mana. Every person’s soul differs in power, which causes different constitutions between people. Now, what happens to an animal’s soul when it dies?”
“It disperses into the surroundings, right? That’s why people level up,” Gale said.
“Incorrect,” the spirit said and sighed while shaking its head. “The education system truly is failing. The residual mana is what disperses; the soul remains intact. How do you think resurrections work if the soul disperses?”
“Never mind that,” the spirit said and sighed. The crystal underneath it dimmed as it released a noticeably lower volume of smoke. “I’m running out of time so I can’t hold your hand all the way to the answer. Listen up! Not all souls are equal. Some get tainted as they go through life, whether by evil thoughts or outside measures. As god, we only accept the purest of souls; however, the tainted souls still linger: some are reanimated as undead, some are eaten by certain beasts, and others are reincarnated and given a chance to become pure again. This formation seals the souls who are beyond hope.” The spirit’s image flickered as wisps of smoke trailed out of its body. “Don’t touch anything and let us know if it weakens again.”
“I understand,” Gale said and scratched his head. “I do have one last question.”
“Speak,” the spirit said. Its feet blurred and turned into smoke, followed by its calves.
“Why do I need a crystal to summon you, but King Vur doesn’t?”
“He summons a powerless version of us. The crystal gives us a medium through which we can apply our strength,” the spirit said. Half of its body was gone.
“Doesn’t that mean you can stop your dispersal right now?” Gale asked and tilted his head. “You’ll just be powerless, but still here, no?”
The spirit cleared its throat as it scratched its nose. “That is… We’re very busy,” the spirit said and nodded as its neck disappeared. “Have to do god stuff, y’know? If every Jack and Jill could summon us at will, we’d never get to have any fu—err, important stuff done.”
Gale sighed as the spirit disappeared completely. The dim crystal on the floor cracked and dissolved into dust.
A man sat at a circular table with three men before him. They hung their heads while looking at their toes. A banner with an eagle crest hung above the four men. A bloody straw-hat lay in the corner of the room.
“What do you mean the poison was ineffective?” the sitting man asked as he slammed his fist down against the table. “How incompetent are you fools? I paid you quadruple the normal costs and you come back with no results. Explain yourselves.”
“There’s not much to explain, Sir Raffgier,” the man on the far left said as he raised his head. “I personally handed the king the goblet with the striped snake’s venom inside of it. He drank all of it in one gulp, but nothing happened. I later applied the venom to a passerby and he died almost instantaneously.”
Raffgier snorted. “Then you should have tried again,” he said as he leaned back against his chair. “Doesn’t your organization guarantee the death of anyone for the right price?”
The man in the middle sighed. “Sir Raffgier, we’ve already helped you reclaim your land and noble title, not to mention the previous deeds we’ve done for you,” he said and rubbed his bald head. “You should already know we’re the best around. The target is just a little more difficult. We’ll need more time.”
“I don’t have time,” Raffgier said and ground his teeth together. “Who knows when that brat will decide to check on my household and find that I’m back in power? I don’t care what you have to do. If you can’t kill him, then turn the people against him. Kill a few bishops and frame him. I don’t care; just get him off the throne. Do you understand me?”
“We understand,” the man in the middle said and nodded. “It wouldn’t be good for us either if we lost our biggest customer.”
“Good. Don’t disappoint me again. Call Julia in here on your way out,” Raffgier said as he exhaled and clasped his hands together. The three men nodded and exited the room.
Raffgier closed his eyes and tilted his neck towards the ceiling. “You called for me?” a female voice asked. Raffgier’s eyes snapped open.
“Yes. I want you to get in contact with all the nobles who are discontent with the king,” Raffgier said as his eyes narrowed, “demons too. Surely not all of them are satisfied with such a young, female demon lord. Rope them in with treasures. Spare no expense on the gifts; we want everyone to cooperate.”
A chill ran down Julia’s spine as she lowered her head. “I understand, Sir Raffgier. It will be done.”