Chapter 157 – Visual Effects
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The Ogre was so heavy that it took the help of the Paladin squad to move him into the ritual circle.

The smell of the decaying Ogre was worse than Sofia could have ever imagined. But the ritual worked as advertised. After ten minutes, it left behind a clean, if putrid, skeleton with loose skin around it and in a pile of dirt.

Sofia had to plug her nose and hold her breath just to avoid fainting. She got the Paladins to bring the bones out and washed them with copious amounts of summoned blood.

“Now it’s all you, no? I can try to improve your ritual, but I’ll need you to draw it on paper first. You said you already modified it, no?” Zerei asked. Her actual field of expertise was enchanted items, but she was still confident enough to tinker with a necromancy ritual.

“It would be nice if you can improve it, especially if I can change the conditions for it to work, like being able to merge bones from different races. Should I draw the basic ritual or the one I revamped?”

“It’s better if you can draw both. I can maybe start from where you left off, but it would make things easier to see the base as well, yes.”

“Alright, give me a minute…”

Sofia dumped some bones from her storage and shaped them to form a table and two chairs. I’ll be able to empty my ring of all the useless furniture, no need to bother when I can make it myself. I should keep the bedding, though. Sitting at her table, she carved the ritual circles directly in it with her fingertips. I love this.

Sofia started with the unchanged ritual from the grimoire, Zerei commented as she saw it take shape.

“Many complementary modules, yes… Interesting. Recursive puppeteering modules… I can already see some things you can get rid of. Pareth is always the same soul, yes? No need to keep the soulcrafting array then; that will make the whole thing much simpler, yes.”

Sofia gave a piece of charcoal to Zerei so that she could draw over the white table. She immediately started crossing out whole modules and connections between them, and Sofia hadn’t even started drawing the main module at the center.

“Do you need to give orders like with a golem? It doesn’t look like it, no?”

“No need; Pareth can fight even if I give no order.”

“Oh, good. Yes, very good, we can get rid of all this whole part then,” Zerei enthusiastically said as she crossed out a good quarter of the modules Sofia had drawn up until then. She explained, “These parts were essentially golem-making puppeteering modules, no need for them, yes. It was exciting new ideas but also, in your case, very useless, yes.”

So she’s discovering new things right now? Well, this was written by Scripture. I suppose he could have come up with a thing or two. A piece of shit god is still a god, uh.

Sofia refocused on finishing the small modules, but Zerei had stopped paying attention; instead, she approached Pareth. “Can I have a bone, yes?” Pareth didn’t answer. “Sofia, can I have Pareth’s bones?”

“Sure, but why?”

“I’ll show you something interesting, yes!”

“Go ahead…”

“Ah. Uhm… Give me your femur, please, yes!”

Pareth sat down on the grass and plucked out his left leg, handing the femur to Zerei while the lower leg and foot bones fell like a bunch of debris. Sofia was busy carving the ritual but still sent some healing Pareth’s way to regrow the leg.

No longer attached to Pareth, the bone had returned to a human bone's relative strength, which Zerei could easily slice open with her hands’ small claw-like nails. She split open the femur following its length, revealing the cross-section of the empty bone. Proudly, she brought it up to Sofia.

“I already knew they were empty if that is what you’re trying to say…” Sofia reacted, confused and having lost her focus on the ritual drawing.

“That’s not it, no! Uh… Do you have smooth high, quality paper?”

Sofia took out her notebook, which was probably the highest quality paper she had.

“That will do. Give me a page, yes!”

Zerei rubbed a knuckle on the charcoal she had used to draw. She delicately smothered the inside of the bone with it and pressed the paper tightly against the blackened area. Then she handed the paper to Sofia.

That’s… Squiggly lines? No… Are those all small ritual circles and lines of runes? Of this scale? And it’s been inside Pareth the whole time? Is that how skeletons work? “What is it? It looks like tiny ritual circles.”

“That’s what it is, yes! Necromancy is a clever association of Soul magic and Golem magic! What you are seeing are the many coherence sub-rituals allowing it to function! It’s extremely advanced runecrafting!”

That… Makes sense, I suppose, though it was never explained like that. I thought that it had more to do with the concepts of life and death, but this is a more practical way to animate a skeleton. Sofia took a closer look directly at the inside of the femur, but it was hard to discern anything; the lines were too narrow and shallow.

Zerei left the bone to Sofia and returned to the table, walking around it and sometimes bending over the ritual circle with her hands on the table to examine the modules.

Wha- I can so so deep inside her cleavage… Why does it look so indecent when she has clothes and not at all when she doesn’t?

Do I look like that when I bend over with the princess dress?!

Maybe I should try to wear tighter clothes…

Then again, I can’t really hide; it sticks out so much even when I wear the armor, so yeah. It’s the whole reason I’m using the whip more than the sword, too; pretty annoying…. Ah, whatever; I better get back to drawing…

Sofia finished the outer circles of the ritual and started drawing the inner module. Zerei explained that this should be the part responsible for the engraving inside the bones, which were much too complex to be inscribed only by the sub-modules.

However, the more Sofia carved into the table, the less confident Zerei looked.

“Say, Sofia, this… You’re sure this is correct, yes?”

“Uh? Yes, it all looks correct for now… I’ve drawn it so many times I cannot mess it up anymore.”

“I see. Well, continue. I will explain when you’re done, yes.”

Zerei paid renewed attention to every line Sofia carved now, frowning more and more often until. When Sofia traced the last few lines, Zerei reeled back in shock, a hand on her forehead, and started laughing.

Is there something funny? “What is going on?”

“Ahahah! Let me explain! I’ve never seen this. This is a masterpiece!”

Zerei colored a series of lines inside the busy central module. Amidst the mess of runes and lines, the grooves colored in black formed the image of a closed book and a lit candle. I’ve never seen this! How!

“This,” Zerei exclaimed pompously, “Is Knowledge’s rune!” She said before breaking into laughter again.

“Is Knowledge, the God, doing all the hard labor of the ritual?!” Yet again, Scripture taking shit that isn’t his? I cannot say I am surprised. But Knowledge, out of all Gods? Not Death or Life; Knowledge?

“Pretty much, yes. If you wanted the main module to do it, it would have had to be fifty times finer and more detailed. This is nowhere near the level of complexity such an advanced array of magic requires, no!”

“So, can I erase everything else? Does that mean the ritual can’t be improved substantially because the main module is inaccessible?”

“Well, yes to both questions, but you might be interested in knowing what the rest of the runes in there do. Yes?”

“They actually do something?”

“Yes! Theatrics! Sound, light, choreography! They make the ritual look pretty!”

“So it’s a waste of mana?”

“Yes! But a pretty waste of mana!” She insisted on the word pretty.


I don’t feel like drawing my own version anymore…

“I’ll show you what I changed on the side… You tell me what you think…”

Zerei nodded along as Sofia explained her changes, and she devised a complete plan to ‘enhance’ Pareth’s ritual.

“So, you can remove the theatrics from the main module. It’s all about Knowledge’s rune anyway. But you cannot add anything there relevant to the ritual's real long-term effect. That has to all fit in the simple outer modules. Do you follow so far, yes?”

“I get it, so we remove the useless stuff and change the outer modules. How much can we fit in there?”