“Rumia, have you found it?”
“No, not yet. Sorry Sisti.”
The bookshelves were tightly packed with an impressive assortment of books, with the serene smell of aged wood permeating the air. At one corner of the bookshelf, Sistine and Rumia carefully combed through each row with care.
“I should be the one apologizing for making you search with me.”
Standing atop a wooden ladder, Sistine searched through the top shelves. While down on the floor, Rumia scanned across the lower shelves.
“Do not worry, Sisti. Wasn’t it your important notebook? So I definitely wanted to help.”
Rumia gave a gentle smile to alleviate Sistine’s remorse.
“Are you sure the notebook was lost in the academy’s library?”
“Mmn… I am certain.”
“We didn’t see it on the tables, nor did we find it in the lost and found… Likely, someone thought it was part of the collection and placed it on the shelves.”
“Quite likely. Still, that would mean we have to search through all these books…”
Climbing down from the ladder, Sistine used a light spell to illuminate the dark aisles filled with countless books.
“Perhaps, it is impossible to find the notebook…” Sistine said with her head drooped low in despair, without a bit of her usual enthusiasm.
“We will definitely find it, Sisti. A goatskin book with a leather clip and no title on the cover, just that alone is quite eye-catching. I will definitely help you search for it no matter how long it takes, so do not despair, alright?” Rumia did her best to encourage Sistine.
“Uuu… Thanks, Rumia.”
With Rumia’s kind words, Sistine could not help but feel emotional as tears gathered in her eyes.
“By the way, Sistine, why are you so worried about the notebook? What did you write in it?”
It was a pretty simple and straightforward question. However, for some odd reason, Sistine seemed reluctant to say.
“Ah, it contains… Umm… My thoughts and research on a certain magic formula! Yes! I recently thought of an interesting formula…”
“Oh, I see! As always, Sisti is impressive!” Rumia said as she gazed at Sistine with admiration.
“B-but, the theory is still incomplete. Until I finish sorting out the problems, I do not wish for others to see… S-so…”
“Yes, it certainly is important to prevent others from taking a peek. Do not worry, Sisti, even if I find the notebook first, I won’t look at the contents. I promise.”
“Ah… T-thanks, Rumia.”
As always, Rumia’s angelic kindness and friendship touched Sistine’s heart.
“Then, let us start our search. Since there were quite a bit of rumors circulating about this library…”
“Yes, best not waste any time. Although the rumors are probably groundless, they are still somewhat worrisome.”
“I’ll start from the shelves from over there.”
“Then, I’ll start from here. If we still haven’t found the notebook after thirty minutes, let us meet up back here.”
“Mmn. Good luck.”
The two went their way as they searched for Sistine’s lost notebook.
◇ ◇ ◇
Alzano Imperial Magic Academy, headmaster’s office.
“Huh? Rumors about the library?” Glenn replied with a tone that permeated with feelings of how problematic, sounds boring, and wants to head home, “B-but I need to hurry home today, there is a book that I am dying to read-…”
“Glenn Radars! You bastard, show the headmaster some respect!” Halley, one of the teachers at the academy, loudly berated Glenn.
“Halley-kun, calm down. Glenn-kun, don’t be like that and let me finish first. The situation is worse than you think.” Sitting behind the headmaster’s desk, Rick calmly told the fuming Halley and the indolent Glenn.
“Glenn, have you heard about the rumors? Recently, there had been some strange happenings at the library…” Celica said with her arms crossed while leaning on the nearby wall.
“Mmn… I have heard a bit.” Glenn replied with a sigh, “It was said that during the hours of twilight, the empty library would echo bone-chilling laughter from within. There was also the sighting of a young ghost, and that books would fly uncontrollably in the sky. However, all of it were just unconfirmed rumors, and it all started after the library received a sizable donation of books.”
“Yes. If it was only limited to rumors, then we wouldn’t be worried about it. However, a reliable source has confirmed that the rumors were indeed true.”
Celica’s confident reply made Glenn utterly dejected.
“Regardless, I would like to ask Glenn-kun to investigate the strange occurrences at the library. Would you accept this task?”
“I don’t really want to… Why pick me?” Glenn unenthusiastically replied.
“Because, you seemed to have the most free time.”
“Ugh! It’s hard to counter such sound logic.”
Headmaster Rick’s poignant response made Glenn hold his head in anguish.
“Not to mention, Glenn, you are an ex-‘that‘ right?”
“In case anything happens, you are the ideal candidate to take care of the problem… Such are the reasons why I deemed you to be the most fitting for the job.”
Headmaster Rick looked at Glenn with clear eyes as he held back on the details in Halley’s presence. Understandably, as an ex-Imperial Court Mage, Glenn was among the few in the academy staff who had the experience to tackle thorny tasks.
“Hmph! I always feel you overestimate this man’s ability! After all, he is only a mere third-ranked magician and a third-rate teacher! I have reservations about his ability to complete this task!”
However, both the headmaster and Halley agreed that Glenn was too laidback. Although it was said his lessons were of decent quality, Glenn’s attitude toward magic remained the same as always. As such, most of the senior teachers at the academy held a poor opinion of him.
“I agree! Ha-…something-senpai is completely correct! How could I possibly be up to such a difficult task? Senpai, help me convey that to the headmaster!”
On the other hand, Glenn himself did not mind what the other teachers thought of him, and his thick-skinned response only served to further amplify other teacher’s disdain for him.
“…B-bastard, I’ll remember this!”
As usual, Glenn did not mind Halley’s insults and attempted to use him to get out of the time-consuming task.
“That reminded me! If you are talking about someone who is capable and still have the free time, don’t we have Celica? Why not have Celica take up the task?”
“If I gave it to Celica, we would probably find the library a smoldering crater by tomorrow.”
“Ugh! It’s hard to counter such sound logic.”
Headmaster Rick’s poignant response made Glenn hold his head in anguish.
“Hahaha! Rick, now you are wrong about me there. Even I wouldn’t destroy the entire library. At most, I would only leave the interior beyond repair.”
“Oh, in that case, headmaster, just leave it in her able-…”
“S-stop, you problematic pair of mentor and pupil!” Halley finally couldn’t sit still anymore, and interjected into the conversation, “Please be serious for a moment! That is a historical library you are talking about here! Do you know how many precious books are in its vast collections? They served as the cornerstone of research for over four centuries, from the time-…!!”
“Halley, don’t be overdramatic. Isn’t it just a room filled with old moldy books? I have always thought those old books as particularly bothersome.”
“Umm… Celica, here’s a thought…”
It was hard for Halley to believe the one standing across from them were the same magicians who sought after the truth of the world. At their subsequent discussion, Halley’s face turned deadly pale.
“Speaking of which, it is a good opportunity. Once we take care of the problem, let us bake some sweet potatoes.”
“I see, it would not only take care of the old books, but also allow us to enjoy a wonderful meal. Certainly, two birds with one stone.”
“What ‘two birds with one stone’?! The loss would be astronomical! Do you plan to make all the magicians on the continent into your enemies?!”
“I will head to town to buy some fresh sweet potatoes.”
“Hmm… Where did I keep the fuel whose fire could even melt steel?”
“Hey! Stop, you two. Please don’t do this…!”
Unable to convince the two from their preparations, Halley finally broke into tears.
“Of course we were joking, Halley-kun. How could you possibly think we would be capable of something like that?”
“That’s right, Hard-gay-senpai, it was nothing more than a light joke.”
“Y-you bastards!! Also, Glenn Radars! Even if you have to mess up my names, at least avoid the insults! Do you really hate me that much?”
Just as the trio erupted into a chaotic banter, the door of the headmaster’s office slammed open with a bang.
“T-teacher, help! R-Rumia… S-she’s-…!” Breathless and pale, Sistine dashed into the headmaster’s office.
◇ ◇ ◇
At dusk, Glenn briskly walked down the path dyed red by the setting sun, with a worried Sistine in tow.
“…Have you carefully looked? Are you sure she hasn’t lost her way in the library? After all, the library is quite large, and some parts of it are as complicated as a maze.”
“I have already looked, but I still cannot find her!”
“…And she hasn’t returned to the dormitory by herself?”
“Rumia’s book bag still remained in the locker room. Not to mention… We had an agreement. She wouldn’t have abandoned me and head back first.”
“…I see. Darn it, this is certainly an annoying confirmation.” Glenn said as he clicked his tongue in frustration.
Between the strange occurrences in the library and Rumia’s disappearance, Glenn could not deny that the two were related.
“W-what could we do, teacher? I-if something happened to Rumia… I-…”
“Calm down, White Cat. Let us first investigate the library before jumping to conclusions.”
As Glenn paused his footstep to ease the worries of the tearful Sistine, he looked up at the old building standing before them.
The Alzano Imperial Magic Academy’s library, an ornate and aged library complex composed of the main building, the nearby annex, and an extensive underground repository. It has served as the cornerstone of the magic academy and has helped to fuel magic research for centuries.
With a vast collection exceeding fifteen million books, the library was second only to Holy Elizareth Church’s underground archives in the neighboring Kingdom of Rezalia. Among its collection were countless archaeothaumatology papers, tablet translations, ancient magic tomes, and rare books not found elsewhere, books both scholars of magic and non-magic disciplines treasure beyond life itself. It was a bastion of knowledge.
“Have you heard about the strange occurrences in the library?”
“Y-yes, I have heard the rumors, but I do not think of them as anything more than rumors.”
“Now that is your mistake. With the sheer amount of magic tomes, forbidden tomes, and unofficial records, it would not be farfetched to have strange occurrences from time to time. After all, the process of writing books taps into the collective subconscious of humans and magicians in order to construct an understandable model of the universe, who knows what effects that would have on the physical world.”
“H-how could that be…”
“From the rumors, it seemed the library had attracted some sort of malevolent spirit, although we do not know of the specifics.”
“…M-malevolent spirit, is it?” Hearing the term ‘malevolent spirits’, Sistine could not help but repeat it in confirmation, “In other words, are you suspecting that a malevolent spirit hid Rumia?”
“My intuition tells me such is the case.”
Glenn has honed his intuition during the years at the Imperial Court Mage Corps, as such, his statement held a certain weight to it.
“If we are unlucky, we may even have to fight against the malevolent spirit. Hey, White Cat, have you learned the exorcism spells?”
“White Magic [Purify•Light], Right? Yes, we were taught it in class.”
“As expected of an honor student. The spell will only affect malevolent spirits, so do not worry about the safety of the surrounding books. If you feel even slightly threatened, use the spell to protect yourself.”
“Ah, got it.”
“Now, are you ready, White Cat? Let us go and rescue Rumia! Don’t fall behind!”
Sistine gave a strong nod in reply before following Glenn into the library.
…Although I know the risks involved, I do not feel even the slightest nervous.
With Glenn willingly marching into the danger for Rumia, Sistine could not help but feel a slight tightness in her chest.
The two walked through the front door, and Glenn walked over to the receptionist to confirm that Rumia remained missing. Afterwards, Glenn and Sistine arrived at the floor where Rumia was last seen.
By that time, the library had just closed for the evening, so the two were now alone in the entire building. To keep its vast collections safe, the library had few windows to let in sunlight. Now that the library was closed, the lights were also turned off, leaving the entire building in pitch darkness.
Glenn and Sistine quietly walked down the complex and confusing network corridors with light at their fingertip.
Step, step, step.
The vacant halls echoed the footsteps of the two, creating an eerie atmosphere where even a pin-drop could be heard.
Behind Glenn, Sistine looked particularly nervous. If it weren’t for the light at their fingertips, the endless darkness would have consumed them. Not just malevolent spirits, the darkness made Sistine imagine unforeseeable terror hiding in ambush within, as if at any moment, a monster would leap out at the unsuspecting pair.
“Hey, are you scared?” At that moment, Glenn asked in a sarcastic tone as he turned to Sistine, “What happened to your usual vigor? Your face looks surprisingly pale… If you are afraid of ghosts, feel free to head back.”
Just as Sistine felt he looked somewhat reliable, Glenn reverted to his usual insensitivity.
“Seriously, I would be lying to say I am not afraid. However, I am not afraid of ghosts or malevolent spirits.” Sistine replied with a sigh, “What I feel is the innate fear of the darkness. It is not something to be ashamed, but rather, it is something that I could easily overcome as a magician.”
“Hehehe… Such brave words… I bet you are just afraid of monsters, right?” Glenn said as he let out an irritating laugh.
Perhaps he wanted to clear up the atmosphere, or perhaps it was just another display of his usual lack of tact around girls, either way, his unsavory remarks had irked Sistine to no end.
“Not to mention, with modern magic theories, ghosts and malevolent spirits no longer held the same enigmatic existence as they did in the past, and methods to deal with them had been developed accordingly. Why should I ever be afraid of them?”
“Tsk… You are no fun. Why can’t you act at least a bit afraid?”
Seeing his attempt to poke fun at Sistine fell through, Glenn could only respond with a click of his tongue.
“Maybe teacher is the one who is actually afraid?” Sistine said as she went on the counterattack, fully aware that her actions were somewhat childish, “If you are afraid, just head back and leave the rest to me!”
“Hmph! Stop saying nonsense. Who do you think I am? Let me tell you, I am the most brilliant genius of the entire world – The Amazing Teacher, Glenn Radars!”
“…I am absolutely speechless. What sort of person would call themselves ‘amazing’?”
“If I were to teach it, the whole class will obtain a perfect understanding on the theories behind ghosts! After all, I am too familiar with the material, so much so that I would end up feeling bored whenever someone shared ghost stories!”
Glenn shrugged his shoulders with a smile, completely ignoring Sistine’s interjection.
“Should I set it as the topic of our next class on White Magic? This way, I could show you how pointless it is to fear ghosts?”
“Haa… Got it already, you are not afraid of ghosts.”
As their verbal jousting slowly cleared up the tense atmosphere, Glenn suddenly stopped his footsteps after noticing something peculiar.
With the rhythmic sounds of steps gone, an eerie silence descended upon the pair.
“T-teacher, w-what is it?” Faced with Glenn’s odd behavior, Sistine asked.
“Huh? W-what is strange?”
“Hey, White Cat. The place where Rumia disappeared that you mentioned. It was around section ‘G-8’, right?”
“Are you certain?”
“W-what are you getting at?! What have you noticed?! Stop beating around the bush!”
At that moment, Glenn pointed to one of the shelves. Near the top of the shelves was a plate with the etching ‘G-1’.
“Ah? That’s strange…” Sistine muttered as she noticed the inconsistency as well, “Why is it still section ‘G-1’ here? Didn’t we already gone past G-1 a while ago? Given how long we walked, we should be somewhere near section ‘G-8’ by now… So, w-why?!”
“Just so you know, the sign for section ‘G-1’… This is the third time I have seen it.”
Sistine froze at Glenn’s words.
“I thought I was mistaken when I had seen it the second time… But it seemed I wasn’t wrong.”
“You’re joking… R-right?”
“If only I was…”
Glenn carefully surveyed the surrounding with an anxious look on his face, bereft of his usual indolent attitude.
“Ugh, then that would mean… W-were we…?” Sistine nervously asked as the colors drained from her face.
“Yes, we have been walking in circles. In other words, we are currently trapped in a closed-loop.”
Without the sound of footsteps to break the silence, the ringing of Sistine’s ears felt incredibly loud.
“Y-you’re lying! I’m certain it was all just a mistake!”
Sistine stubbornly rejected the painful reality and broke into a dash.
“Ah, hey! I-idiot! Don’t go running off by yourself!”
Glenn worriedly chased after Sistine.
Sistine recalled the layout of the library as she ran between the shelves, making a turn at the large intersection before continuing her sprint down the aisles.
“N-no way…” Sistine muttered in despair as the plate with ‘G-1’ appeared in front of her once more.
“…Seriously! White Cat, you need to calm down! It would be problematic if we get separated!” Glenn shouted as he caught up with the dumbfounded Sistine.
“Haa… We really ended up back here. I did feel that the direction was a bit off when I was chasing after you. At least this explains why Rumia did not return.” Glenn grumbled as he glared at the plate with furrowed brows.
“T-teacher, w-w-what should we do?! A-are we trapped in here for the rest of our lives?!” Sistine loudly cried as she became awash with anxiety.
“White Cat, calm yourself! This is not like you at all. What happened to your usual confidence?”
On the other hand, Glenn remained surprisingly calm when faced with the problem.
“Recall your lessons! How is a closed-loop explained by the prevalent magic theories? It does so by isolating the space and connecting its two ends, but the equations for such a complicated magic is usually full of discrepancies. We will be able to escape the moment we find one of the discrepancies. Don’t forget the second law of magic!”
As expected of our teacher.
Sistine let out an appreciative sigh at how Glenn was able to remain calm.
“Then, let us start the search for a discrepancy in the closed space.”
At that moment, an unnatural sound caught their attention.
“…What is it?”
The pair held their breath as they listened.
“T-the books… are shaking?”
“W-what?! What the heck is going on?!”
All of a sudden, the books flew off the shelves at terrifying speeds.
“Kyaa! T-teacher! The b-books are flying!!”
“Calm yourself! Couldn’t flying objects be easily explained by prevalent magic theories?”
“I guess you really are afraid of ghosts~”
“Wh-…?! O-of course not!”
Just then, the countless books in the air lunged themselves at the bickering pair.
Faced with the malevolent attack, Glenn quickly scooped up the nearby Sistine with his arms and ran. Only moments later, the torrent of books smashed into the spot where the pair had just stood.
“Wait-…! T-teacher?!” Sistine, held in Glenn’s arms, shrieked as the scenery turned to a blur, “Ahhh! L-let me down! Let me down n-now!! Kyaa! D-don’t grab there!”
Sistine was beet red as she tried to struggle free from Glenn’s awkward carry. However, Glenn was too focused on their escape to care.
“D-darn it! I knew nothing would come out of work!!”
Along with brisk footsteps, Glenn’s outrage echoed loudly in the abandoned hall.
◇ ◇ ◇
“L-looks like there are no more flying books…”
Remaining ever vigilant of his surroundings, Glenn gasped for air at a place flanked on three sides by shelves.
“D-darn it… Looks like we are completely caught up in the events foretold by the rumors.”
“Umm… Teacher?” Sistine said with a voice tinged in anger.
“So… If everything is fine, could you please let me down?”
At that moment, Glenn realized that he still had Sistine in a princess carry.
Sistine had her slender body scrunched together, with her face turned away from Glenn. Likely seething with anger for being forced into such an embarrassing carry, Sistine’s ears glowed bright red even in the darkness.
“Ah! S-sorry about it. Umm… Could we save the lecture until later?”
“I’m… not particularly angry.” Without turning toward Glenn, Sistine replied as her foot returned to the ground.
Haa… I’m done for. There is definitely a lecture waiting for me afterwards.
Although Sistine was right to be mad, the lecture would nevertheless be painful for Glenn. For now, Glenn suppressed his worries and forcibly turned to the more pressing matter at hand.
By chance, Glenn caught a glance at the plate on the nearby shelf, with the words ‘H-9’ clearly etched in.
…Hmm? Somehow we got out of the closed-loop? Strange. It was a one-way loop rather than the usual two-way loop. If then, why couldn’t Rumia simply return?
Not to mention, most of the rumors did not result in any lasting damage, which is why the occurrences did not surpass the level of being mere rumors. Then, why only Rumia ended up disappearing?
Just as Glenn was trying to make sense of everything, Sistine suddenly reached out and tugged at Glenn’s arm.
“…What is it?” Glenn scoffed after having his train of thought derailed by the interruption.
Glenn turned his attention to the direction Sistine was facing and froze.
It was neither a hallucination nor an illusion. At the end of the dark hallway, a white silhouette slowly floated toward them – a real ghost.
“It has appeared.”
“So it has.”
Their voice sounded surprisingly calm.
“…It really has appeared.”
“…Yes, it really has.”
Their voice continued to sound surprisingly calm.
For a moment, an uneasy calm remained between the two as both stayed silent.
All of a sudden, Glenn tugged on Sistine’s hand as he broke into a dash toward the opposite direction… And smacked headlong into the shelf behind him.
Bang! Glenn fell down onto the ground after a loud slam.
“Hey, teacher! What the heck are you doing?! Now’s not the time to be fooling around!”
“Ugh… I forgot that it was a dead end behind us.” Glenn coolly stated as red marks in the shape of books covered his face.
While Glenn acted indifferently as he dusted off the dirt on his shirt, the white silhouette continued to approach them.
“H-hey… It’s getting closer!”
“Tsk… You are utterly helpless.” Glenn calmly said toward the panicking Sistine, “Either way, it’s a rare opportunity, so let us practice combat against malevolent spirits.”
“Ah… Huh?! A-are you meaning to say…”
“Yes, White Cat. Hurry up and use White Magic [Purify•Light] to take care of that malevolent spirit.”
“Hey, didn’t you say you aren’t afraid of ghosts? Or was all that a mere bluff?”
Glenn’s words had forced Sistine into a corner.
With her face covered in cold sweat, Sistine stepped forward and raised her left hand toward the white silhouette as she began the chant.
“‹O-oh M-merciful… L-light•C-cleanse-…•P-purify… L-land›!”
For chants with complicated runes, a magician must maintain good control over the intonation. However, the current Sistine could not seem to perform the chant correctly with her poor concentration and inaccurate intonation. As such, her chants could not properly activate the spell.
“‹O-oh… M-merciful… •C-cleanse t-the…›!”
Yet the result remained the same.
With the repeated failures, Sistine quickly descended into silence.
“White Cat, why are you stuttering in your chants? Don’t tell me you really are afraid of ghosts?”
“Seriously, what was with that ‘Why should I ever be afraid of them’? Serves you right!”
“S-shut up! I-I am still just a girl! Even if I know the theories, they are still scary!” Not able to refute, Sistine shouted with tearful eyes.
“I think that is enough fun for now. Stand back and let me show you how it is really done.”
Glenn raised his left hand as he took a large step forward and began to chant with a dignified pose.
“‹Oh Merciful Lighaaa•Cleanse the Fuwaa•Purify the Laaa›!”
Of course, nothing happened.
All of a sudden, Glenn tugged on Sistine’s hand as he broke into a dash toward the opposite direction… And smacked headlong into the shelf behind him.
“Wait. Teacher, could you be…?” Sistine confidently concluded as she looked at Glenn, who was rolling on the ground with his hands in his face, “…Afraid?”
“Huh? H-hey, care to say that again?”
“Stop pretending! You are definitely afraid, right? I am sure you are absolutely terrified of ghosts!”
“H-how could that be true? S-seriously…”
Ah, that’s it. We are done for.
Sistine felt a wave of dizziness wash over her.
“Speaking of which, you had an almost uncharacteristic calmness earlier, but I bet you were really just scared stiff, right?! When you told me not to get separated, you probably were just afraid to be left alone, right? Right?!”
“S-stop it!! There are some things that shouldn’t be said out loud! Why must you demolish my self-esteem like this?! Are you trying to make me cry?!”
“What happened to ‘feeling bored whenever someone shared ghost stories’?! How shameless could you be?!”
“S-shut up! I-I am still just a boy with a maiden’s heart! Even if I know the theories, they are still scary!”
“Bleh! What a nauseating remark!”
Just as the two were in the middle of their exchange, the white silhouette made its way in front of them.
“…Leave this place.”
The translucent youth had an expressionless face, yet its eyes gave off a bottomless hatred.
The screams of the two echoed in the abandoned library.
“N-nooo, d-don’t come closer!!”
As the ghost reached out its hands toward Glenn, Glenn instinctively grabbed Sistine and leapt.
With a second boost off the right shelf, Glenn was able to reach all the way to the ceilings. High up in the air, Glenn made a somersault before bouncing himself off the ceiling with his foot and landing directly behind the menacing ghost.
Now that a path had opened up to him, Glenn bolted away from the ghost at top speed.
Glenn had pulled off an almost impossible maneuver, with an agility that could only be described as inhuman. It was essentially the reaction of a cornered beast.
However, Sistine, who was forced to endure through this painful maneuver, had suffered tremendously.
With the entire scenery turned to a blur and receded around her, Sistine could only struggle helplessly in Glenn’s arm.
Just then, the surrounding books began to rattle once more.
“T-teacher! T-The books are c-coming!!”
“Daaarn it!! Why won’t it leave us in peace?!”
The fear had seemingly exceeded Glenn’s ability to reason.
“V-very well, let us end this!”
Glenn suddenly stopped his footsteps, dropped Sistine onto the ground, and turned around. Pulling a crystal out from his coat, Glenn gripped it tightly with his left hand and then covered it with his right.
“T-teacher… Is that…?”
“Modified Black Magic [Extinction•Ray]’s Initiation Medium.”
“Hahaha! With Celica’s ‘spell that could even fell gods’, mere ghosts are nothing to it!!”
“W-wait! Spells like White Magic [Purify•Light] which does not affect the physical world aside, won’t we risk the spell blowing in our faces if you chant a highly dangerous spell like Modified Black Magic [Extinction•Ray] while mentally impaired?! Given the magnitude, won’t the entire library go up in smokes?!”
“Enough! It should still end if everything, including those annoying books, gets obliterated, right?!”
“W-wait! You’re being too hasty!”
As Glenn began the chant for Modified Black Magic [Extinction•Ray], Sistine desperately urged Glenn to reconsider.
“Huh? Teacher… Sisti… What are the two of you doing?”
Just then, a familiar voice came from behind them.
The two turned around and saw Rumia looking at them with a tilted head.
“Why are you here…?”
Then, a second voice came.
“Ah? Are you two friends of Rumia-san? If so, I deeply apologize for my earlier actions.”
The ghost of a white youth, without the same malevolent air as before, gently floated next to Rumia.
“Ah, Leitz-san. That reminded me, was this the book Leitz-san was searching for?”
Having noticed the white youth, Rumia showed him the book held in her chest.
“Oooh! Y-yes! That’s the one! So… Umm… Have you taken a peek inside?”
“Do not worry, I didn’t look.”
“T-thank you very much, Rumia-san! You have my most earnest gratitude!” The youth exclaimed with tearful eyes.
Glenn and Sistine were completely lost by the scene before them.
◇ ◇ ◇
Glenn let out a sigh after hearing the explanation from the ghost named Leitz Nich.
“In short, you are a spirit who had possessed that book in Rumia’s arms, and the one behind the recent strange occurrences in the library. Your reason for causing havoc was to prevent people from reading the book. Does that sound about right?”
“Yes… It is my earnest wish to not let anyone read that book.” The ghost replied with an apologetic voice, “After the library received a new shipment of books last month, they performed a massive reorganization of their collection, and I became separated from the book. As such, I could only patrol the entire area and scare away anyone who came. For my actions, I am very sorry.”
“T-that aside… How did you get so close to Rumia? Did you do anything to her?” Sistine inquired with a tinge of anger.
After all, more than anyone else, Sistine was worried about Rumia’s safety.
“About that… I had originally planned to scare her away with the closed-loop, the flying books, and my own personal appearance. However, she was not the slightest afraid and was obstinate in her search for her best friend’s lost item.”
Leitz’s words left Glenn and Sistine speechless.
“Since it was pointless to scare someone that was not afraid, I decided to instead explain the reasons for my actions, and we agreed to both help in each other’s search.”
“Ehehe, it really is nothing~ After all, closed-loop, flying books, and even the appearance of the ghost could all be explained by the modern magic theories.” Rumia said as she let out a chuckle, “Given how familiar teacher and Sisti were with the theories on ghosts, I’m certain Leitz-san wasn’t able to scare them as well.”
“T-that is true.”
Faced with Rumia’s unwavering conviction and brilliant smile, Glenn and Sistine was at a loss for words.
“S-speaking of which, what exactly is written in that book? So much so that you could not afford others to see?” Glenn asked while looking at the book in Rumia’s arms.
“It’s a novel.”
“Yes, it is a novel I wrote when I was young.”
“Ah! Now that you have mentioned it, the binding of the book does look more like a notebook than a published novel…”
“Oooh!” Suddenly, Sistine interjected with a loud shout, “Novel! Leitz Nich! C-could you be the famed fiction author Leitz Nich-san’s ghost?!”
“Ah? Who’s that? Someone you know?”
“How could you be so dull? Leitz Nich-san was a critically acclaimed fiction author, and the genius behind popular works like ‘The Seeker of Romance’! In addition to the memorable plots of his novels, he was best known for his descriptive power, through which he could breathe life into a purely fictional setting. It was after reading his works that I-…”
All of a sudden, the excited Sistine abruptly stopped talking.
“It was after reading his works that you… What?”
Glenn stared blankly at Sistine’s inexplicable silence.
“To think even in the current era, there is still a fan of mine… I am very thankful that fate has brought us together.” Leitz said with a slight blush, “But as far as being a critically acclaimed fiction author goes, it was only attributable to my later works. When I was young, about the same age as my current appearance, the novels I wrote could only be described as ‘terrifying’…”
“Oh? So even a professional author had such a dark past?”
“Yes. For example, a protagonist with countless cheat powers and, despite being anti-social and aloof, somehow ended up with a harem of cute and beautiful girls waiting on his every whim. In another instance, no matter how much conviction the antagonist held, with the slightest persuasion by the protagonist, the antagonist will be shaken in his belief. In time, the antagonist will end up defeated both physically and psychologically by the protagonist, ultimately capitulating to the protagonist in atonement. For his achievement, the protagonist was showered with praise wherever he went.”
“I agree… the plot does sound sketchy.”
Glenn’s face turned somewhat stiff upon listening to the outline.
“When I was close to death, I had instructed my wife to have this novel burned. However, the novel somehow escaped destruction and ended up as part of the library’s collection. If anyone reads this book, I would die of embarrassment!”
“Aren’t you already dead?”
“Therefore, as long as this novel exists, I will never find rest! Ah, what could I possibly do?!” Leitz lamented as he held his head low.
“Yet, we could not simply burn the book.” Rumia said with a complicated expression as she turned to Glenn.
“I agree, although its literary value is low, but from your words earlier, it is a famed author’s personal sketchbook. Beyond its value as a collectable, it serves as an important historical reference into the society of the time. As a scholar myself, it pains me to see the book destroyed.”
“It’s rich coming from the guy who wanted to vaporize the library just moments ago.” Sistine poked fun at Glenn’s surprisingly reasonable statement.
“Then, Leitz-san…” Glenn continued, brushing off Sistine’s remarks in the process.
“What is it?”
Glenn pulled a bound book from within his coat and handed it over to Leitz.
“This book is?”
“Never mind that, just read it and see.”
Despite being unsure of Glenn’s intentions, Leitz nevertheless opened the book and began to read.
Soon, the originally pale ghost turned beet red, all the while mumbling “Wow…” and “This is too much…”.
“Teacher? What is that book…?”
“Just wait and see.”
Upon Rumia’s question, Glenn gave a confident nod in response.
◇ ◇ ◇
In the end, Leitz finished the entire book and let out a long sigh.
“T-that was incredible…”
With that said, a ray of light suddenly descended upon Leitz.
“Ah… It really was incredible… Compared to this book, my childhood novel could be considered a literary classic.”
“That’s right, Leitz. Just remember, there is always someone beneath you.”
“Ahaha! I had always felt such thoughts as improper. Nevertheless, I feel liberated and no longer have any lingering attachments to this world.”
“Ah… Is that so?”
“Mmn… I think this is goodbyes. Everyone, although we had only known each other for a short while, I am glad fate had brought us together.”
In the end, with a face filled with bliss, Leitz disappeared into the light.
With the last flicker of light, only the book that Leitz had read remained.
“Spirits trapped in the mortal worlds are not limited to malevolent ones. There are those that are simply tethered to the world of the living by lingering attachments. Therefore, it is possible to exorcise them through a simple conversation. I think this will work great as the topic for our next class~” Glenn proudly declared with a smile as he picked up the book left on the ground.
“To be tethered to the world by a dark past… Still, this light novel is impressive in its own way.”
Glenn smirked as he quickly flipped through the pages.
“Even on a second pass, it is still terrible! The protagonist is a complete Mary Sue!” (1)
“Teacher… What is that book?”
“This? It is a novel that I found during the lunch break on one of the library shelves. Although I usually don’t read stories like these, I found this novel particularly fascinating… and not in the good way!”
Glenn handed the book over to Rumia as he tried to suppress his laughter.
“It felt like a novel written by one of the female student, something about a forbidden love with a teacher. The plot is absolutely terrifying, and shows that author does not have even a shred of literary talent.”
“Is that so?”
“The drama is overly exaggerated, with the entire story feeling contrived, and the plot lacked any coherence. Then, there are the characters… Pfft!”
Glenn could barely hold his laughter as he began the summary.
“The story opens with the female protagonist’s point of view. She was both beautiful and intelligent – the perfect female in every way, and, despite having many hot guys falling for her, she did not show the slightest interest. Then, there was this teacher, who also fell for her. The teacher is usually just a worthless man, but would go to incredible lengths for her when the time calls for it. F-finally, the protagonist would c-cap it off w-with ‘Ah, I am such a sinful woman’.”
“Uwa… To have a reliable and mature man chasing after her… Isn’t this the perfect fantasy romance for every young maiden?” Rumia replied with a wry smile.
“Hmm? Do you also enjoy this type of fantasy?”
“Ahaha! I am also a girl you know! Of course I am interested in this type of fantasy.” Rumia said as she turned to Sistine, “Isn’t that right, Sisti?”
For some reason, Sistine looked deadly pale as she stood in the darkness, with sweat pouring out of her forehead.
“Speaking of which, I wonder who actually wrote this book. There was no title on the cover, nor was there the author’s name.”
At that moment, Sistine started to slowly wobble over, as if possessed by something.
“The book’s binding was also quite curious. It has a goatskin cover with a leather clip, so it is closer to a notebook than a novel. Now that I had a closer look, the paper seemed new and the ink doesn’t seem completely dry, so the work looks recent. Huh? The book is blank halfway through? Was it only written so far? Strange, how did a book like this find its way into the collection?”
Glenn continued to mutter as he examined the book. Without him noticing, Sistine had already gotten behind him as he reached the final page of the book.
“Oh? The last page seemed to have the author’s name! Let me see… Sisti-…”
Strangely enough, Glenn felt a sudden wave of exhaustion flow over him as he lost consciousness, accompanied by what could only be described as the pain of a thick book landing on his head.
◇ ◇ ◇
“Hey, Glenn, are you awake yet?”
A few light slaps on the cheek brought Glenn back from the murky darkness.
As he opened his eyes, Glenn first saw the inverted face of Celica and the starry night sky behind her. On the back of his head, Glenn felt the softness of Celica’s thighs and realized that he had fallen asleep on Celica’s lap.
“W-where am I…?”
Glenn slowly sat up to check the surroundings. Apparently, they were in the field outside the library.
“I have heard from the two girls. Congratulations, Glenn, for wonderfully bringing Rumia-chan back.”
Rumia and Sistine stood behind Celica, looking at Glenn with worried eyes.
“To think you had resolved everything before we charged in with our exorcism gear. As expected of my pupil. It was truly a feat worthy of praise.”
“Alright, you can stop now.”
Glenn shyly pushed away Celica’s hand that was patting his head.
“Still, I have to say that you got overconfident in the end. I heard from the girls that you were knocked out by a book that fell from one of the shelves. Best take care in the future.”
“…Is that so?”
Glenn turned to the two girls behind Celica.
“Exactly, teacher! R-really, to think you messed up in the end! Ehehe!”
Rumia laughed with tearful eyes, while Sistine seemed oddly suspicious.
“Either way, the book bruised your head, but I had taken the liberty to heal you up.”
“I see… Tsk, so I got overconfident in the end.”
With that cleared, Glenn began to look around.
“Speaking of which, what happened to that book? Hey, Rumia, White Cat, do you know where that book went? The one I had earlier?”
“Huh? Ah… T-that… W-where could it possibly have gone?”
“T-to think it disappeared! Really, where did that book go? H-how curious…”
Rumia laughed with tearful eyes, while Sistine continued to seem oddly suspicious.
“…? Forget it. Still, to have books unnaturally fall off shelves or disappear, I wonder if it was all just a coincidence… Either way, I hope it was not caused by some unresolved mystery.”
Glenn did not delve deeper into the matter. He simply stood up and stretched his tired bones, before turning to the library.
“I guess anything this ancient is bound to be a lair for spirits… Best not visit too often in the future.”
“T-that’s right. The library is quite the terrifying place. Ahaha~”
Sistine’s awkward laughter lightly echoed in the vast night sky.
Later on, new rumors arose in the library of a young ghost that gave a bone-chilling laughter as she wrote in a suspicious book. However, that is a story for another time.
(1) A Mary Sue is an idealized and seemingly perfect fictional character. Often, this character is recognized as an author insert or wish fulfillment. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mary_Sue)