Chapter 179: The Witch’s Forest (4)

It was odd. Ever since she had reached the level of a Master, something like this had never happened before, but more than that, the dream, no, the nightmare itself was strange. It had too much malice and hostility for it to be called a mere nightmare. It felt like it was mentally destroying her by stimulating the deepest and darkest parts of her.

 The proof was that she had swung her sword in order to awaken from her dream. If she swung her sword, that meant she had perceived something as an enemy and felt like she was in danger. When humans are in trouble, they often rely on what they can trust the most. For Marquis Maroon, that was her sword. No matter what enemies were in front of her… Whatever hardships there were… Something or someone that was always on her side and always responded without betraying her. For her, only her sword was it. 

Thanks to that, she was able to wake up from her nightmare. She had a strong mental support and was mentally and physically strong, so she was somehow able to escape from it.

“Why did I dream of something like this…”

As she was muttering to herself, a loud noise suddenly came from outside.

“What’s that? Is it a night attack by the enemy?”

Marquis Maroon quickly grabbed her sword and ran outside. What she saw was something she had never imagined.

“Ahhh! Stop. Please, stop!”

“Please forgive me. It’s not my fault. I really didn’t know it would turn out like this.”

“Die! Die! I’m telling you, die! Disappear!”

It was like a scene out of hell. The military trained soldiers were fighting each other as they screamed and shouted. It wasn’t just the soldiers who were inflicted with madness. With blood soaked armor, the knights were also killing their allies and friends. The few knights that were fine tried to calm them down, but they couldn’t handle the bedlam. 

“What the hell is…”

As Marquis Maroon looked around with a dismayed expression, one of the still rational knights came to report to her.

“Marquis, the soldiers are becoming delirious by the group and many of the Knights are showing the same symptoms…”

The knight was reporting when she was suddenly shocked. Faster than the speed of light, Marquis Maroon was flying towards her. But, not a single hair of her’s was harmed, instead…

“G… guh…”

Another knight had appeared behind her as she was reporting to Marquis Maroon. That knight was the one who fell to the ground. Having saved her with one clean strike, Marquis Maroon turned to speak to the Knight that had been reporting to her.

“Report the situation later. We have to calm them down first.”

“Ma’am? Ah… yes, Ma’am!”

“Immediately gather those who are still rational and sane. As soon as they’re gathered, we’ll be escaping this mad scene.”

“Understood, Ma’am.”

“Quickly. And if someone tries to stop you, cut them down, regardless of their status.”

“Yes, Ma’am.”

After giving instructions, Marquis Maroon pulled out her sword and started to clean up the scene. 

“If this is someone's handiwork… I’ll kill them.”

Marquis Maroon’s eyes held cold anger at having to shed her allies’ blood with her own sword.

***

“Incredible.”

“I agree. Who knew… that something like this would be possible with magic.”

“Amazing. And…”

Considered to be the most reckless amongst all the other Ghost Group leaders, Group 7’s leader swallowed the rest of his words. But all of his men seemed to know what he had wanted to say.”

‘He probably wanted to say ‘and dangerous,’ right?’

Specializing in assassinations and disguise, the Ghost Group 7 were those who were silent and rarely experienced fluctuation in their emotions. But if even they were thinking such things, that could only mean that what Eliza had done was outrageous. 

A large army of 20,000 men were annihilated. Strictly speaking, she hadn’t done it alone. Her magic was powerful, but for such powerful magic, she needed a sacrifice. Not just one or two, but a considerable number of sacrifices. She had needed 2,000 sacrifices to call the heavy fog with her Fantasy Magic and then an additional 3,000 people to make it seem like a large river had appeared. 

Previously, the sacrifices needed for her Fantasy Magic to work had been provided by Siegfried. They were criminals and prisoners of war, but this time, the needed sacrifices were too large to do so.

Once Siegfried had loosen the reins, she demanded thousands of sacrifices at once. When the leader of the Ghost Group 7 expressed disapproval, Eliza had casually stated she could use her allies as sacrifices. For a second, the leader thought he had heard wrong, but Eliza was being sincere and she tacked this on: 

[Using 10,000 to defeat 20,000 enemies is profitable, no?]

There was nothing he could say. War was commonly referred to as a numbers game. How many lived? And how many died? But even so, this was the first time it was spoken of so plainly and explicitly, spoken of so calmly as if explaining the equation 2-1=1. 

Even if it was their commander ordering them, normal humans would have balked at carrying out such an order. However, the Ghosts were those who had been brainwashed to carry out all of Siegfried’s orders, even if he ordered them to die. And amongst the Ghost Groups, Group 7 consisted of those who professionally carried out secret orders such as assassination or having to be disguised. In the end, Siegfried had predicted Eliza would act like this and had made arrangements accordingly.

The leader of Ghost Group 7 eventually agreed to Eliza’s request. Whether it was fortunate or not... The battlefield was the only place where a large number of deaths could be covered up. They divided it so that each team would gather 500 people each and offered them up as sacrifices, then disguised it so it looked like they were killed while on a mission. The Ghost members covered up the fights so it looked like the people they gathered as sacrifices died due to guerrilla warfare. 

After multiple large offerings of sacrifices, Eliza’s magic showed a powerful effect. She had been able to develop a powerful Fantasy Magic that could dazzle a large army of 20,000. Tonight was the final blow.

Besides asking for sacrifices, there had been something else Eliza had requested — poisonous plants and mushrooms that cause hallucinations. She hadn’t asked for a specific type, but had instructed that they procure as many drugs as possible, both those used for hallucinogens and anesthetics. Of course, she also asked for 5,000 humans to be used as sacrifices as well. 

Once all the preparations were completed, the plan proceeded. They figured out which direction the wind would blow for it to go towards the enemy’s position and burnt the hallucinogenic herbs and mushrooms. The hazy smoke slowly spread towards the enemies and once the drugs took effect, Eliza offered the sacrifices and cast her magic. She danced and sang on the magic circle that was covered in a red light. 

Let’s play together. Let’s play together. 

Let’s play together in the witch’s forest.

I’ll brew you a fragrant black tea,

With a young girl’s blood.

I’ll bake you a delicious pie,

With a young boy’s flesh.

Let’s eat and drink together.

Let’s play together in the witch’s forest. 

She looked both beautiful and horrific as she sang and danced. At first when she had used her magic, they weren’t sure what effect it would have. However, after the ritual was over, the Ghost members who observed the enemy saw truly astounding results. 20,000 deranged troops were running around. Although it hadn’t affected everyone, over 80% of them were insane and were killing their comrades. The enemy had lost control of their army.

“I said it didn’t I? It’s profitable.”

When Eliza said that proudly with her shoulders thrown back and head held high, even the heartless Ghosts felt terrified. They routinely experienced the greatness of magic, after all, the elixir they took was a product of magic. However, even for them, they had never thought magic would be this powerful.

“What kind of magic is this, Ma’am?”

Recognizing the dangers of magic, the leader of Ghost Group 7 asked Eliza a question in order to find out more information. She gave him a bright smile as she answered.

“It’s nothing much. It just stimulates the trauma deep inside of humans, causing negative emotions and destroying their reasoning.”

“……”

There were some words he didn’t understand in the middle, but the leader of Group 7 basically interpreted as:

[It can cause people to go crazy.]

‘If this woman wanted…’

Eliza smiled innocently when the leader began to stare at her.

“I know what you’re thinking… but don’t worry. This kind of magic is useless against Master Siegfried.”

“…Really, Ma’am?”

“Of course. In the first place, trauma is a human’s weakness. It’s a painful memory. A shameful past. This is a magic that stimulates the accumulated wounds and destroys reason, but…”

Eliza shrugged.

“Unfortunately, this doesn’t work on everyone. Perhaps they’re a virtuous person? Or they’re a truly wicked person that doesn’t feel guilty over what they’ve done. Those people aren’t caught up in this magic. And those who have abnormally strong willpower or mental strength can overcome it even if they do get caught up in it.”

The leader of Group 7 nodded at her words as he understood.

“Is that why there’s some who weren’t enchanted by your Magic, Ma’am?”

“That’s right. Is it Marquis Maroon? That pretty girl was probably like that.”

Only then was the leader reassured. Siegfried's past was unknown and he wasn’t sure if Siegfried was good or bad but he didn’t doubt that Siegfried’s mental strength was stronger than anyone else in the world. So, Eliza’s magic would not pose a threat to Siegfried.

“Now that you’re relieved, let’s quickly get to work. Quickly. I made it easy for you, you can’t possibly be losing your chance, right?”

“Don’t worry, Ma’am.”

The leader of Ghost Group 7 turned to give orders to his men.

“We’re going after the enemies that escaped.”

“Especially Marquis Maroon. You can’t let her escape.”

When Eliza butted in with that comment, the leader responded.

“I know, Ma’am.”

“You can’t kill her either. You have to catch her alive.”

He frowned at her unreasonable order to bring a Master back alive.

“…why is that, Ma’am?”

“Hmm…. ‘Cause it’s an order?”

“……”

“I can do that right? Me? Master Siegfried said I could do whatever I wanted.”

Once she brought up Siegfried’s name, the leader’s face hardened. 

“If it’s an order, I accept. But please keep in mind that we might fail, Ma’am.”

“Naw, don’t worry. You guys will do fine.”

“The enemy is a Master, Ma’am. We might be able to kill her, but it’s unreasonable to expect us to bring her back alive.”

Eliza let out a sigh.

“A guy who isn’t confident is going to be popular. I guess it can’t be helped.”

Eliza sighed again as she took something out of her breast pocket. 

“What is that, Ma’am?”

“Something precious.”

“……”

Giving an impish smile, Eliza continued.

“If you use this, you’ll be able to catch her alive. You know how to use it right? You just have to throw it together with a smoke bomb. It’s really easy.”

“Hoo, I see.”

The leader sighed as he accepted it.

‘Right. An order’s an order…’

He thought it was something like poison or anesthesia. 

Just as they were about to move out, Eliza said one more thing.

“Ah! I’m telling you this in advance, but if you fail even with this, then…”

Eliza smirked.

“I’ll get mad.”

The moment he saw her smirk, he felt himself getting cold. She said it like a joke, but he knew she was being serious. 

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