Warning: This work has been rated 16+ for violence and mature content.
A glint of delight appeared on Prundel’s emerald eyes while they landed on a vial filled with blood. In his mind, he can still hear the screams of the innocent baby whose breath he took. Despite that, he was still happy as he was just one item away from his goal.
He sat in a large, dimly-lit room filled with everything from books, scrolls to experiment paraphernalia. The faint light coming from the candle danced on his face, revealing his middle-aged feature and his ragged pale brown hair. He was garbed on a dirty and almost smelly white tunic. If anyone saw his attire, he might be mistaken as a beggar. However, if they saw his face instead, admiration and respect might flood their minds as the man in question was the famous archwizard of the Greoral Empire.
While holding the vial, he glanced at an old scroll that he got from a demon when he sold his soul. Prundel tried to stop his mouth from carving into a smile as he saw that he was just one item away from his goal, but the smile protruded from his mouth. Written in the scroll was the ritual for what he considered the epitome of sorcery. Some of the materials listed were rather ominous, like the infant’s blood that he was holding. Although for him, they were cheap sacrifices as the scroll in front of him was the key to achieving something no human can hope to achieve.
When his eyes landed on an item he was yet to get, his smile was replaced with a frown, and a sigh escaped from his mouth.
The heart of the person you love the greatest, who loves you back, and who you killed shall be your phylactery.
“Why does she need to love me back?” he said as another sigh, louder than the former, echoed on the room.
“This might be a problem,” he whispered dejectedly.
If asked, who does he love the most? His only answer would be his daughter. But he had left her six years ago, and he had not seen her since then. He needed to make sure that she loved him before he harvested his material. As such, he thought of various ways to rekindle the good father-daughter relationship they once had.
As the archwizard of the Empire, he understood the price one had to pay if he sought that kind of sorcery, and he was more than ready to sacrifice them. Even though people regarded him as a hero, he certainly was not. What he did to achieve his current abilities and knowledge was far from ethical. He did not even flinch when he carved the infant’s delicate body to get its blood.
Suddenly, three loud knocks came from the door, interrupting his thoughts.
When he heard the first knock, he immediately hid the vial containing the infant’s blood and covered the old scroll with a book, making sure no one saw it.
“Your daughter is in the guest room, Lord Prundel,” said the voice from the other side of the door.
“Perfect. I will be right there, sir Rodrick,” he said eagerly. The last material was right before his eyes, after all.
He was actually surprised that his daughter came. In the last six years, he never bothered to visit his family. He did not even write them a single letter. He dedicated all his time to perfecting different spells and rituals. While he supported them financially, no one can argue that he was a bad father.
Prundel hurriedly dressed in the fine silky blue robe embroidered with gold that hung on his clothes rack. It was the robe that he would garb when other people see him; it was the robe that accentuated his position as the Empire’s strongest caster. Then, he took his wooden staff that rested right behind where he sat and exited his room.
Arundel, the royal capital of the Greoral Empire, was flourishing as it was in the ideal position for trading between different nations. Its most noticeable feature was the large palace in the middle of the city protected by gigantic inner walls. Prundel was allowed to live here because he served the emperor directly, but the biggest motivator for him was the large number of books and scrolls that rested in this castle’s library. Ever since he was young, he cannot satiate his thirst for knowledge, particularly witchcraft and sorcery. So, this palace was the ideal place for him to research various things as he was supported by the emperor.
In front of Prundel was the guest room’s door where his daughter was waiting. The sparkling on his eyes was almost visible; however, a small glimpse of nervousness also appeared on his irises. He was delighted that the material he was looking for was right in front of him. Nervous that the ritual might fail because she does not love him back.
Three days ago, he sent her a letter asking for help in one of his experiments. The purpose that he gave for inviting her was actually the truth. He needed her daughter for the experiment involving the scroll earlier. He resolved himself to get the last material written on the scroll.
Prundel had always been engrossed in his passion for sorcery that he neglected his family. In truth, and perhaps it is the natural instinct of a father, her daughter was the most precious person to him. But, if he had to choose between her and sorcery, that is another question.
As he opened the door, he saw a youthful girl wearing a light green dress who sat on one of the chairs. Reminiscence to his features, her daughter’s eyes shined the color of emerald, and her hair can be compared to the tint of pale chestnuts. Her resolute visage gave her an intelligent aura, which she also got from his father. It was a sight that he had not seen for six years, ever since he was given the title of “Archwizard” by the emperor.
“Delia,” he called with a weak voice full of affection while he sat on a chair across her. It was the perfect performance of a clown.
“Father,” Delia replied with a stern voice devoid of any emotion– Or, perhaps, her only feeling was anger.
‘Father? She had not forgiven me after all,’ he thought. Before he left their house, she had always called her “dad.” It was a distinction that showed how far are they from each other now.
“How are you? How was your mother?” Prundel asked.
“We’re fine, father,” she murmured. It was like she was only answering out of obligation, without any enthusiasm.
For a while, their conversation about her and her mother’s life continued with two contrasting emotions– one was happy; one felt anger. Of course, Prundel knew and expected that.
There was a time when he had to choose between them and the title of archwizard. Delia begged him to stay with them, but his desire for more knowledge helped overturn his decision. In the end, Prundel picked to be an archwizard and left their home to live in the royal capital.
“Thank you for coming here today. We can finally spend time together like before… after so many years!” Prundel exclaimed as he sensed the anger that rested on Delia, trying to look for the opportunity to apologize.
“Mother forced me to come,” she answered.
Seeing the rift between him and Delia, her mother wanted to reconcile them. So, she urged Delia to accept Prundel’s invitation and see him.
Emilia, Delia’s mother, understood Prundel’s decision. Even though it hurt her, she did not bear animosity to him because she knew and loved Prundel. Her mother knew that sorcery was more important for him than anything.
“I see,” he replied with a wry smile.
“Anyway… Let’s continue our conversation to my room?” Prundel said, looking for Delia’s confirmation. She nodded and followed him. Deep in her eyes, there was a mix of longing. Longing for the specific happiness that she felt six years ago, longing for her father’s attention.
A room littered with old scrolls, books, various vials filled Delia’s vision. It was a sight that brought her a nostalgic feeling. A feeling that she missed in the last six years.
“Leda jehu jiha,” recited Prundel after they entered his room, closing the door using sorcery. It was a spell that manipulates an object’s position by infusing mana around the target. The mana temporarily hardens the oxygen and nitrogen molecules surrounding it while decreasing other forces that affect it, such as gravity and air resistance. The hardened molecules can be used by the caster to control the object; as such, it had many applications in battle and daily life. It was a complex spell that required tremendous control on the user’s mana and understanding of the underlying principles behind it.
Delia’s eyes widened as she saw what Prundel did. She had a lot of interest in magic, and she never encountered a spell similar to this, so she was curious about it.
“That was called force manipulation. It was a new spell that I recently learned. Want me to teach it to you later?” he said as he saw the reaction in her face.
Of course, he knew she was interested in sorcery. She had always liked sorcery ever since she was little. So, he utilized a spell to close the door instead of closing it physically because he wanted to get her interest and lighten the mood.
“I-is that okay?” she inquired with a voice that oozed excitement.
“Of course. Just don’t share the spell’s secrets to everyone, okay?” Prundel said with a grin.
“Okay,” she replied with a slight smile. Compared to the expression she displayed earlier, it was a significant development.
‘Now is my chance,’ he thought. He wanted to reconcile with his daughter, the person he loved the most. He wanted to rekindle her love for his father because the ritual might fail if he did not.
“… Delia, I’m sorry… I’m sorry for leaving you and your mother,” Prundel said with a calculated gesture of a remorseful father.
A gloomy silence erupted in the whole room as she stared straight into his eyes for a while.
“W-why only now, father?” muttered Delia with a tone that was mixed with anger and sadness.
He could see some moisture on her irises appearing and gradually building up. Her fists were closed as she kneaded her anger on them.
“You did not even bother writing a letter…” she said with a weak voice, a voice that was longing for someone.
“…are we not important to you?” she continued as the emotions that she had locked in her heart for the last six years suddenly burst. Her tears were now heavier than the capacity of her eyelids, and they began to fall from her eyes.
Delia had been closed to her father when she was young. She did not really get along well with other children her age, and most of the time, she was alone. As a result, her father would take her on his adventures and teach her different spells. That built her interest in sorcery. But, all that changed when Prundel opted to live in the Greoral city.
“Don’t cry, Dalia,” he urged. He lifted her right hands into her eyelids and gently wiped her falling tears.
After wiping all of her tears, he hugged her and caressed her head with familial love.
“You know… you are important to me. You are my daughter after all. Of course, I love you,” he replied with a gentle tone.
“It hurt me to leave you and your mother but being an archwizard is important to me as well. I grew up pursuing this. I was traveling around the world as an adventurer, looking to learn more spells and knowledge about sorcery... until I met your mother. When I met Emilia, I learned to find happiness in something other than magic and I settled in one city with her. Then she gave me you, our beloved daughter.” he narrated while still hugging her as she cried.
“When you came into this world, it was the happiest I had been. It will never change, I will always love you, Delia.”
“Then the invitation came… It reignited the passion I have for sorcery… I just knew I had to accept it, Delia.”
“I’m sorry,” Prundel said.
For a while, she cried in her father’s arms, unleashing her sorrows. Prundel did not answer her question because the only answer he had was not the one Delia wanted to hear. She knew all that, but she was still willing to forgive him. Ironically, even though she was interested in it, she felt anger at ‘sorcery’ that took her father away from him.
Once she was done crying and had rested for a bit, he smiled and asked her, “how about you? Do you still love your father?”
“Yes,” she said with a smile, just like a smile that he would give to her father six years ago.
Hearing her response, Prundel was filled with happiness for two different reasons. One was because she had forgiven her, although just a bit. The other was because the material he needed to achieve his goal was completed. A grin filled with happiness escaped his good father's façade as he thought of the latter reason.
When she saw his smile, Delia was bothered by it. There was something within that smile she was not able to distinguish.
He moved across to where Delia was standing, removed a book that covered an old scroll, and pointed his index finger at the scroll’s title.
“This is what I wanted help with,” he pointed out while still wearing the smile that bothered her.
“Ascension to Lichdom?” she read the title of the scroll.
“Yes, Delia. I can be an immortal! Can you imagine that?! I can live forever! I can pursue sorcery forever!” he exclaimed with his eyes sparkling– he was genuinely happy. Tears were protruding his eyes, coming out as if to show his eagerness and joy.
Her swollen eyes widened, and her hands grasped the hem of her dress as she saw Prundel’s reaction. Not even once had she seen his father this joyful. She wanted to be happy for him, but she was not. There was something about her father’s behavior that felt so unnatural. It was like the person in front of her was not his father all along. She felt a chill run through her spine.
‘A lich. It was an immortal skeletal monster that reached the highest peaks of sorcery. A once-powerful wizard who sold his soul to Marbas, a demon that grants knowledge. It was a monster who sacrificed everything for the eternal seeking of sorcery. Why does my father wa–' As she thought of them, she could feel that she might puke any moment as her stomach was churning.
“But, you see, Delia, I need this,” he changed the direction of his index finger to the last item on the list of materials on the scroll. She was afraid at his sudden shift of tone. It now felt chilly and distant.
As soon as she read what Prundel pointed, she felt a firm grip on her neck. She could feel his forceful fingers slowly crushing her delicate neck. Seconds after seconds, the uncomfortable pain that she perceived was gradually increasing. Tears began to fall into her eyes, matching the pain she felt to the stranger strangling her. With all her might, she tried to escape his grasp, but her father’s strength was clearly superior.
Even though Prundel was reluctant, his passion for sorcery overshadowed the father inside his human body. If this was the payment for his everlasting pursuit of magic, he would gladly offer it all to the demon Marbas.
“Do you understand Delia? I have no choice,” spoke the man intoxicated with ambition.
She was struggling to escape the monster that was holding her neck. She threw several kicks and punches, but the demon would not bulge. Her strength was slowly vanishing as her vision was turning black. Despair filled her heart while she thought that her life would end here. However, relief also mixed with it as a few more seconds, her suffering will end.
At her final moment, she looked at his father’s face. She felt extreme sadness to see that he was joyful while strangling her. It was the face of the sorcerer who found himself a rare material. She missed his father, who was once on that body, the one from six years ago.
After confirming that his material was dead, Prundel laid her lifeless body at the table and grabbed the dagger that he hid in his robe. Slowly and gently, he punctured her chest, taking care not to damage her heart. As the tip of the knife protruded his daughter, her blood flowed through his hands.
“Y-You still love f-father, right??!” he asked, shouting with a shaking voice, afraid that the ritual might fail.
Numerous times, he nodded his head in an attempt to convince her lifeless body. It was like a gesture of someone who was convincing a child to listen to him.
“I really do not want to do this. You see… I really love you, Delia.”
Prundel slowly sliced the flesh that was protecting her heart. After that, he savagely removed the bones that were on his way. The smell of his daughter’s blood was all over the room. The blood and internal organs clung hard to him, like how Delia hugged him while she cried earlier.
“But if it is for sorcery– My dreams! My everything!”
Finally, after removing the flesh, muscles, and internal organs that were enveloping her heart, he finally took it. As he gripped the heart gently, he could feel its warmth. It was the final warmth he would feel from his most beloved person.
“It can’t be helped,” he said as he saw his daughter’s lifeless body.
That day, he achieved the epitome of sorcery. A feat no human can hope to achieve.