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Short Story [Unit Story]
[020] Regurgitation from the Underworld

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I am the Inheritance Maiden, Hendrina, and I am angry.
I’m so angry the petals on my sleeves and in my hair are raised.
I give up!
I should disembark at the next stop!
I pack away my luggage, close my mouth, and settle down on the bow of the Flying Ghost Ship Regrain. I picked up the winter clothing I’m wearing currently at the last port. They were not for me– after all, bioroids don’t need protection–but for the flowers that cover my body.
The light rain that always surrounds this ghostly ship continues to fall, ghosts and other dead bodies wander around in the dim daylight, and the skeleton crew carry on working tirelessly. All lightly dressed.
“Why did I bother taking on this job…?”
I slump my shoulders.
Just as I feel myself becoming excited, my mood–and my flowers–droop once more.
All I see in every direction is more of that frigid sea. The air is so cold it stings.
Great white figures appear in the mist. As we get closer, I see that they’re icebergs.
We are at the South Pole.
Here in the middle of the ocean there’s no sign of civilization, or even any life at all. And of course, we’re miles from the nearest port.

“I won’t give up. It should have been you.”
It was yesterday that I heard the Mysterious Rain Spiritualist, Zorga, utter those words.
The next morning, the Regrain approaches a ship sailing through the South Pole and captures it.
“Capture” may be the wrong word. We’re not pirates. My contract stipulates that we don’t get involved in any illicit activities.
The ship does not respond to our hails and doesn’t even react to the warning shots from the Hydrolic Ram Dragon, my master, who is lurking in the depths.
It appears Zorga has a plan. As I continue staring…
“This is where things get really tough. You don’t have to come with me.”
He walks the plank over to the other ship and disappears.
Having been given permission by the captain I happily spent time conversing in the ancient tongue with Master Hydrolic Ram Dragon, who has surfaced now.
He still hasn’t returned. It’s been too long.
I decide to follow him onto the ship.
Twilight. The evening sun dyes the surface of the ocean a deep blood red.
I immediately regret following him.
There’s something on this ship. Ghosts, dead bodies, a skeleton crew.
And yet it doesn’t seem like the ship was always crewed by the dead. It appears that the captain used Spiritualism to raise the spirits of the deceased one by one and put them to work.
And then I hear that voice as I reach the captain’s quarters.

“I won’t give up. It should have been you.”
Drawn in by the first human voice I’ve heard in the better part of a day, I look into the room.
And once again I regret following Zorga.
Zorga is seated at an enormous table and is in the middle of replacing a soul into a dead body.
As the mist, which I admit has even obscured my own vision so far, clears, I see the body of what must have been a young man in life stand up, whisper something into Zorga’s ear, and then leave the room.
“I thought I told you not to come,” Zorga then says.
I’m not going to let him win. I didn’t like the look in his eyes when he was casting that spell.
“I waited for you. It’s nearly nightfall.”
“My apologies. It takes a lot to bring a ship back to life… Let’s head back.”
Zorga makes as if to leave the room, so I call out to him.
“That man over there looks like the captain. Why not bring him back?”
“He was the victim of a mutiny. It’s better to leave him be.”
Damn, that’s harsh. I’ve never seen anyone so cold. Even in my warm weather gear I start shivering.
“He was killed by that last guy, the young one. It wouldn’t do to have them start fighting again now.”
Zorga starts making his way back to the Regrain.
But I still have questions I want answered.
“Hey! What will you do now that you’ve revived the crew?”
“You’ll find out soon enough.”
“Don’t we already have enough crew members? To disturb these souls from their rest…”
“How do you know they were resting?”
“You are violating the laws of nature! This is something all Stoicheians know. You are desecrating the dead!”
“Hmph, for a Spiritualist that is high praise.”
There’s no getting through to him.
I have decided to leave the Regrain; talking to Zorga is getting me nowhere.

Lying there stewing in my furs, it seems I must have fallen asleep.
It’s night now.
The Regrain, which can skip along the surface of the ocean as quick as a bullet, has come to a stop on the calm Southern Ocean.
“Why have we stopped?” I ask no one in particular. The only one in earshot is Zorga.
So much for the silent treatment I promised I’d give him.
“Because we’ve reached our destination.” Zorga points with his stick.
The Regrain slowly makes its way forward as though guiding the once captured, now ghost, ship.
“In a remote region of the ocean…” Zorga mutters to himself.
“There are certain phenomena known to occur. An old sailors’ tale is that it’s a portal to another world, or the resting place of a great treasure…”
A maelstrom strikes up in front of the ship, and a strange light starts shining from its center.

Illust: 山宗

“A place we Spiritualists are connected to… The Regurgitation from the Underworld…”
“The ship…!” I can’t help but cry out.
Almost as if drawn in by some invisible force the ship disappears into the light shining from the maelstrom and is swallowed by the sea.
“That ship came all this way seeking the treasure from the legends. All they found was death.”
A huge number of souls fly out from where the ship had disappeared, shining so brightly that even I can see them clearly. The faint light emanating from the souls aboard the Regrain illuminates the ship. The Regrain is quickly becoming like a real ghost ship.
“This place naturally converts the dead into living spirits. And now I can use them in my spells and to help man the ship.”
“Is that all you can think about? Have you no empathy? Stop for a moment and pray for the departed.”
I’m a little impressed in spite of my dismay.
Zorga shrugs and turns away.
“By the way, you said something about rest…”
“Those who die before they accomplish their life’s dreams shall never find rest. Never.”
As Zorga walks away his staff, his hair, and his entire body is bathed in the souls’ light.
They surround him like an unholy robe.
“As long as a soul has unfinished business, they are unable to move on.”
He’s not making any sense, but perhaps this is his way of mourning?
Until now I had been a bit stunned, but Zorga’s words snap me back to reality.
“Of course, I won’t let you breach your contract either. Not that there’s anywhere for you to go.”
He seems to find something amusing about that last comment. He appears to laugh… Or is it a sneer?
I suppose it doesn’t matter. Either way, he’s getting on my nerves.
I, the Inheritance Maiden, Hendrina, stand angrily on the stern of the ship Regrain.
We are floating in the middle of the ocean, surrounded by icebergs, bundled up in warm weather gear.

The End


<<Notes about Terminology>>
A magic user who studies the nature of life and death, and who uses souls to power their magic. One of Zorga’s names.
It is a school of magic that is often reviled and feared as it utilizes dead bodies and souls.
Spiritualism is known to be a powerful form of sorcery on its own, but Zorga has found a way to combine it with other schools of magic to create extraordinary new spells. It is unclear whether this powerful magic is a secret held by all master Spiritualists, or a unique ability developed by Zorga.


Story: 金子良馬
Supervising Editor: 中村聡