What a shitty day. The crater was far wider than he thought at first glance… it must’ve caught at least 80% of the population in an instant, destructive death… and he wasn’t there to save them. If anything, showing up here of all places, at this time of the day, at this hour, had been a catalyst for just the worst outcome he could imagine… would it have been better if he died in their stead? Why did he even need to choose such a way?
How many people had he saved up until today? How tragic would it have been if he wasn’t able to help them, aid them or just pick them up when they were lying down? What kind of… weak Wizard Saint was he to let this happen? That was what it all boiled down to, no matter how much he thought of it; weakness. That was what caused this to happen – he wasn’t strong enough, it was obvious to him. Look at what his weakness had caused. He knew that he did the right thing, deep inside… the witch’s words were a gross attempt at demoralizing him, and every move of her lips reminded him of people he hated. And yet…
She eclipsed all of them. Just ‘cause.
It was aggravating! After all he had done to get to this point… why wasn’t he able to kill her? His Magic, which had been by his side for as long as he could remember, couldn’t keep up. If anything, it even worked against his favor with the malfunctioning healing – he had been fighting a fight he couldn’t win… w-was he never going to destroy her? Would he stay like this until he crumbles away?
His palms were still bleeding. He couldn’t stop shaking them, despite his exhaustion. If he could still shake them, could he move them? If he could still move them, could he swing them? If he could still swing them, could he stop her? Any desperate attempt to right what had just happened… o-oh no, the Council was likely going to find out very soon. He was, ultimately, a massive failure today. It stung him like nothing else had ever done before.
Ohhhhh, how he lamented himself. It was such a terrible sight to see. “…”
Their souls were only just now beginning to appear in the air around him. This was even worse; now he could actually stand face to face with them, letting them see the failure of a hero who tried to help them out. Why… why were they screaming? As if Mura’s psyche hadn’t already taken a huge dump, the screams of those passed away began to drive him insane. It was excruciating, too much to bear for even the Wizard Saint – he couldn’t handle it anymore! Those sounded like screams of people condemned! Screams of the damned and the losers of the other life! What was happening to them?! He heard the screams of young men, women, as well as those of kids and elders, all letting it out of their lungs in the same, high-pitched elegy. It got to the point where Mura covered his own ears and silently begged them to stop screaming like that… but his words fell on deaf, dead ears.
Please, stop screaming!
He felt so sorry, but would they forgive him?!
Please, he tried his best!
His head shot straight back up in shock, recognizing that shout as Kyuken’s. It felt like a slap to the face, but Mura’s eyes were widened up, revealing the reddening his orbs had taken from the stress of all of this. Kyuken, on the other hand, looked… like he was in haste. “MURA, YOU IDIOT! STOP CRYING! DON’T YOU REMEMBER?! TAIZAN’S CEREMONY – YOU CAN STILL BRING THEM BACK, SO STOP BEING SO BROKEN AND GET TO WORK!”
… Kyuken was talking about a spell that Mura had never been able to use before. What, you thought it would be that easy to bring back the dead without severe terms and consequences? If anything, Mura didn’t even possess enough mana to cast the spell as of now, so what was the point? The moment those poor souls began leaking away, it would already be too late… there was no h-
“HERE! TAKE MY MANA!”
… W-What? What was Kyuken on about? He was a ghost – he didn’t possess magic? Kyuken was never a mage in his past life, and he never cast a spell before… what was he on about? Why was Kyuken constantly submerged in mana throughout their journey? The answer to that led Kyuken to believe that, if he could merge with Mura once more, then the mana would be just enough to at least summon Taizan Fukun. The one who would give them the slight chance of redoing everything.
By merging souls together… perhaps the first spell that Mura ever cast, which would allow him to adapt Kyuken’s physical and mental prowess as his own. But it still baffled him that Kyuken possessed mana, because the whole ordeal had been that Kyuken was an old samurai – not among the new Samurai of Midi who all possessed Magic at this point. Besides… would Kyuken’s mana be enough?
At this point in time, Mura was willing to try it out. With a silent nod, he allowed Kyuken to possess him, and mana began to resurface in his skin. He felt… revived. Had Kyuken… no, it didn’t make any sense! Mura could’ve needed this huge source of mana earlier! How had Kyuken amassed this much mana; w-what the hell?! It was mind-boggling! Mura couldn’t even sense all of it due to Kyuken’s ghostly nature; a form without a solid body itself to channel the magic through often let the mana just spread everywhere. However, Kyuken was able to… n-no, it was too much for him.
“… W-When, how-“
“NO TIME TO EXPLAIN! SUMMON TAIZAN, NOW!”
Almost frightened at the harsh command by his old friend, Mura clapped his hands together and began a rather simple Summoning Ritual. With the blood in his palm, he wrote down Taizan’s name in Midijin on the dusty floor and began reciting a secret sutra. He had to hurry, and so did Taizan… but as Mura finished the sutra, the world turned pitch-black. There was nothing but him, Kyuken and a ray of light in front of them. It appeared that Taizan took on the form of a ray of light when being summoned, and to think that Mura’s spell succeeded with Kyuken’s mana alone was… insane. Kyuken had a lot to explain later on.
“I believe to know what you desire, young Onmyōji… no, you’re a Dai-Onmyōji, if you were able to summon me successfully. I commend you for your efforts. You can rest easy.”
“... Bring them back, Taizan. All of them, the people of Shirotsume... it’s my fault they died like this. You’re free to take... whatever you want from me, in exchange.”
“Then so be it. Your life will be the price for what you request, so do you comply?”
His life... without having said goodbye to anyone? Just like that, huh? Mura’s cheeks began revealing rivers of tears once more, knowing what he had to do... but would that... that wench just undo his efforts? His life... no, it was worthless at this point, but... surely, it was a dumb idea, wasn’t it?
“Be a little kinder to him, Taizan! This is why the priests never make use of this fantastic incantation!”
That wasn’t Taizan, that was another voice that the shaman didn’t recognize. Suddenly, not one, but two rays of light appeared on each side of the first one, making three. Were those other priests of old? Who were they?
“Taizan, haven’t I told you countless times? All life is sacred. Those who take lives do not have lives themselves, don’t you agree?”
Mura... silently shook his head. He had killed people before, that was certain. These priests were very radical in their beliefs, but that was only to be expected. They were older than Kyuken.
“Huh, really? Then so be it... but you are a man who robs people of lives all around you-“
“That’s because I’m too weak... to do otherwise.”
It felt like Mura’s entire life was being questioned, so he sort of snapped. “We’re not gods, priest. We do not recover from all injuries... as powerful as we become, some scars will never disappear from me. And I’ve learned plenty of times that you can’t value all life equally... that, too, I was reminded of today. Are you to tell me that her life... should mean anything to me? After all of this?”
There was no longer any whitening on his eyes. He was fuming. “If you want to lecture someone, go haunt her for the rest of eternity if you can! I only have one request, and that’s to bring Shirotsume’s people back to life! Their souls are screaming, and I’m afraid they’re going somewhere horrendous... hurry up, before it’s too late!”
“But... without a proper sacrifice, I cannot channel the required authority-“
“Oh, my senile friend, I will take care of that – you, Daionmyōji. I will allow you to get off with a discount – your left arm will do. I lost mine in my past life, and I’d like a proper replacement.”
Left arm... deal! That was acceptable, since it was Mura’s non-dominant arm. It felt like a steal, honestly, and his eyes began widening up in a sliver of what he had just lost – hope. The three lights began gathering together, and a beam of light cut right through his shoulder and siphoned his left arm away from the rest of his body. That sutra was unknown to him... but it was burning. Burning.
When he came back to conscience again, Shirotsume looked like the crater had been raised to- wait... no, it looked like... what?
The civilians themselves were baffled and lost for words at the sight. Taizan hadn’t just brought them back to life... it looked like time itself had reverted back. The moment Mura thought of that, his senses shot up! If time had reversed, then he didn’t have time to stay here! She would return! Without looking back, he began running in the opposite direction, missing out on the joyful cheers and cries from the people behind him who saw the fleeing shaman as a birth of hope...
... The field here hadn’t reverted. It made sense, since Mura was still stinging from his injuries... and his left arm was gone. In its place was a seal, a contract. Was that a seal to prevent regeneration? Honestly, Mura might as well faint where he stood – he was... he was...
Not happy. Not at all. He was broken.
(100-Year Quest WC Reached!)