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He used his lighter to create a flame and then concentrated on the small burning flame in his hand. He repeated the question he wanted to ask in his mind.
'Which of these mouths belonged to a preacher?'
The flame from the lighter showed an image that seemed to appear right in someone's mind. It was the desk that Graham recognized as his own office desk and there were two severed mouths on it. The mouth on the right, which looked to have belonged to someone old and was closer to the candles, glowed red. That was the mouth that had belonged to a preacher. The image then disappeared.
Graham put away his lighter and picked up Valentine's knife. He needed only the tongue of the preacher, so he had to chop it off the mouth. He had to do the same with the grave keeper's mouth, only the difference was he needed the mouth, not the tongue.
He moved the frozen mouth closer to him and forced it open with some difficulty. It made a cracking sound as if something just broke open. The flesh felt cold on his skin and the teeth even colder. Graham made a sawing motion with his knife instead of chopping it because of the shape of the mouth. After some back and forth movement with his sharp knife, the tongue got severed from the mouth and he set them aside.
Graham did the same action one more time with the other mouth that looked younger than the previous one. He cracked it open and the frost got broken. He then started sawing off the tongue and one done, set them aside. Now he had the tongue of a preacher and the tongueless mouth of a grave keeper.
Once everything was ready, he looked at the time. The watch on his wrist showed fifty-three past midnight. The ritual could only be started at one o'clock after midnight, so he had to wait patiently for seven minutes.
"Val, I can't believe this is already my second ritual. I became a Contractbound just a little over a week ago," he spoke calmly.
"A lot of things have happened in just one week. Our lives have definitely changed. This power brings great opportunities, but also great dangers."
"But we need to keep powering up to survive once we made a decision to step on this road. Our next move would be getting your second scroll and then getting the book that appeared in my divination. Only by getting strong enough do we have a chance to defend ourselves against that Pravitatem killer."
Graham went quiet and his mind wandered. He was thinking about many things. And then, he looked at his watch and it was one minute to one o'clock. He got ready to do the ritual right away.
Graham got up from his chair and picked up the vial of Jasmine oil. He opened the lid and sprinkled it around the room and on the desk where he would put the ritual scroll. The pleasant floral smell penetrated his nose and made him somewhat yearn for love. His mood was elevated and his mind was clear.
Next, The scroll on the desk was unrolled, and on it, he could see the complicated sigil resembling a trumpet. He put it flat on the desk and set the four violet candles on each corner. The big votive candles needed no candle holder to stand, so it was quite convenient for him. The candles also served as a holder to prevent the scroll from rolling up by itself.
The next step was to redraw the sigil using his blood. It was a very annoying step, and can even be dangerous because a lot of blood is needed to completely redraw the sigil. The blood would always magically seep into the scroll, leaving no trace, so new drops must be applied right away to draw a small section of the sigil. That was also why to conduct the ritual, someone must be physically healthy because losing that much blood could potentially threaten a physically-weak person's life.
Graham slit his wrist and his blood dripped on the sigil. He drew the outline of the left-facing trumpet first, which took him much blood. After that, he drew the four circles adorning the inside of the trumpet and the line that looked like the 'handle' of it. Once he was done, his wound magically healed, but he felt weak because he had lost a lot of his blood. As soon as he had finished redrawing the blood sigil, he placed the tongue and the mouth on it.
The step after that was lighting the four candles. Graham weakly brought his lighter over the wick and lit the candles one by one starting from the one pointing the cardinal direction north, followed by east, and then south, and lastly west. Once all the candles were lit, the electric light in the room suddenly went out, leaving the candle lights as the only source of lighting.
In the dark, Graham started chanting the summoning incantation.
"Thee I invoke, the One born from Fire,"
"Thou art the master of Conveyance,"
"Thou art the master of Oratory,"
"Thee, that didst speak to the Dead,"
"Thee, that didst bring Eloquence"
"Come thou forth, and accept my offering,"
"And grant me your power, worthy of thy name!"
Right at the moment he finished the chant, everything turned pitch black, and the candle lights seemed to have been hidden by a curtain of darkness. Graham had experienced that before, so he stayed calm.
Suddenly, fire came out of the sigil and consumed the sacrificial materials that he had prepared. The flame quickly spread around him but it still failed to illuminate his surroundings. Graham, who was somehow not sitting anymore, braced himself for what was to come next.
He suddenly felt an agonizing pain in his mouth. It felt like his mouth was melting! His teeth fell off one by one from his gum that was no longer solid, and the nerves all burst one by one. Pieces by pieces, his flesh fell on the ground beneath him and vanished into bubbles; his blood boiled right in his mouth. He instinctively held his mouth back and felt that it was still there intact, but the pain didn't go away. It got worse with every pa.s.sing second. He couldn't even let out a scream through the pain of his mouth melting away.
Once he felt the last drop of flesh from his mouth touched the floor and bubbled away, he felt a piercing cold around the area that felt melted away, and then there was a lot of cracking. It was like something solid forcefully grew back from his flesh and formed a new mouth. His skull was broken and reshaped with torturous pain accompanying it. He touched his face in agony wishing it would stop.
Then the next round of pain came. His mouth was pried open by something hot and its burning hand held him in place. His tongue was pulled violently until it reached the limit. It kept being stretched and Graham could feel the root of his tongue slowly breaking apart. It was an unbearable kind of pain that he had never felt before. The pulling continued until the last muscle tore off.
His tongue was gone just like that. He writhed in pain on the ground with blood flowing from where his tongue had been. It felt like hours for him before finally, the blood that was flowing from his mouth solidified and formed a new tongue. The pain went away just like that as it had never happened in the first place.
The room gradually turned normal; the electric light was shining again and Graham was sitting in his office chair. His body was full of cold sweat, however, which meant that what he had been through was real.
He quickly collected his mind; he still needed to end the ritual properly. Graham put out the candles one by one in reverse order, and when done, he rolled the scroll back and sealed it with the copper wire. Once it was sealed, the scroll burst into flames and the ashes entered Graham's body through his nose.
Graham had finished his second ritual successfully.
"No matter how many times I experience it, I don't think I will ever get used to that kind of pain," he said while breathing heavily.
With his ritual being finished, he got the knowledge of his new powers. Graham concentrated on the new piece of knowledge that he got and found out that The Deity of the Tongue had given him two new abilities.
The first ability was to speak to the dead, but not all creatures of the underworld. Graham could use a medium to talk to a lingering spirit for a duration of time if there was any in the area. He remembered that Mirjam had used a Ouija board as her medium, but since he was a Fire Divinator, he could use fire as his medium to talk to the dead, which would result in much better communication than by using the board. Now he understood what the book writer meant by the Deity's powers would complement each other.
His second ability was to issue commands using the Deity's power. Unlike his persuasion power, this was more direct and could make the target do more complex actions. He could chant his Deity's name and issued the command. Anyone spiritually equal or weaker would obey it, as long as the command didn't directly cause them to harm themselves. And different from his persuasion power, the target would notice that they were doing something against their will if the command seemed forceful. However, he could combine the command with his persuasion to make it more subtle.
Besides his two new abilities, he also got a pa.s.sive one that enabled him to learn languages more easily. With his already good memory, it would make it even easier for him to learn a foreign language.
He a.n.a.lyzed his new abilities thoroughly.
"I'll call the ability to speak with the lingering spirits Séance. It sounds very useful, especially for gathering information. The problem for other people might be finding out if there are any lingering spirits in the vicinity. For me, I can just use divination to determine it."
"The second ability is to command people. I'll call it Command for ease. Does it have to be humans? I should experiment with this power. Perhaps it was like Luuk's, where it also works on inanimate objects. The limit is ten times for Séance and Command for now, but I bet it will increase once I please the Deity of the Tongue."
"The third one is a pa.s.sive ability. It makes it easier for me to learn new languages? It should be very useful should I need to travel abroad, although most people in the world should speak at least basic Tulpan."
"Val, with this, I've gotten stronger. We can now try to get your second scroll. Since it's an a.s.sa.s.sination mission, we need to gather intelligence on the target. It's convenient though that Contractbounds don't leave behind dead bodies when they die. I think it's precisely because of that fact they don't feel as remorseful killing each other."
"Our next mission after getting the scroll will be obtaining the ancient book in Oostelijk Bos. The book can probably help us determine our next step," he said thoughtfully.
Graham then cleaned up his desk. He also needed to get rid of the severed tongue and mouth safely. Valentine had placed anti divination on them, so he didn't have to rush.