Translator: Kell | Editor: Ryunakama
“Think about it.” The priest waved his arm. “The reason why the damage has spread so far is because their plan is complete. To identify the plotter, I extended my arbitration and did some investigation around Her Eminence, but they beat me to the punch. This is my fault.” He looked up at the moon.
“If I were to return to the Holy City now, I would be assassinated by the mastermind. That said, if I returned to the Church, the higher-ups will deem Her Eminence to be a witch for causing harm to an adjudicator. No matter what I say, the Church will not forgive anyone who harms its God-given authority. Her Eminence will be executed and the person pulling the strings will go free.”
I almost burst into laughter. “We share the same goal, then, Father. We, too, are interested in whoever’s behind this whole mess. I assume we have your cooperation?”
“As much as I despise working with Beastfallen, sacred work takes precedence over everything else. I, personally, would not want that harmless woman to be executed either. So…” He heaved a sigh. “Could you please put that sword away? Can’t you Beastfallen converse normally? You might think I can’t see, but I can still sense what’s going on in my surroundings. You also accuse me of being a murderer.” He sounded exasperated.
I lowered the hand resting on the hilt of my sword. “I’m a mercenary. I don’t give a damn about civility. If you return to the Holy City or the Church, there’s risk of you leaking information about us. I can’t just let you, in that case. But we mercenaries welcome anyone if they’re an asset.”
“My. I appreciate the warm welcome, then.”
“I know it’s a little late for introductions, but would you honor me with your name, Father?”
“Indeed. It’s a little late for that. I have no name.”
The priest spun his staff around to the back of his neck, hooking his arms around it and looking up at the sky.
“I am an adjudicator from Dea Ignis, given the name of Secrecy. That is what they call me in the Church.”
“I thought you were lying about that.”
“That part is true.”
It’s true that he was incredibly stealthy, but calling him with some weird name was something I could not understand.
“You haven’t introduced yourself, either,” he said. “You have no right to complain.”
“I’m not complaining.”
“I know. I’m simply telling you in advance.”
That so? I turned around to leave when the priest called to me, as though he just remembered something.
“Thank you for the food. It had a peculiar taste to it, and to be honest, pig fodder would have been better, but Doctor Tito was impressed. He said all the ingredients were good for injuries.”
“I see. I had no idea. I just stewed some random beans and mushrooms I found in the area.”
“Genuine question: Do you honestly think you’re cool right now? Pretending to be the bad guy and then feeling good about it is only acceptable until you’re fifteen.”
“I now regret not mixing in some poisonous mushrooms in the stew,” I said. “As a matter of fact, I simply cooked what ingredients I had on hand. You don’t need to thank me for it.”
“Whether I express my gratitude or not is for me to decide.”
What a hardcore egoist. Not really surprising coming from his mouth.
“Well, I don’t really care. Just get inside before you catch a cold.”
I left the watchtower.
When I returned to our room, I found the proud Murky Darkness Witch lying on the table, completely drunk. There were plates scattered all around her. Her mug lay on the floor, its contents spilled.
“Looks like a disaster,” I muttered in disbelief.
Cal was rubbing Zero’s back and giving her water. He gave a shrug. “I’ve been telling her to go to bed, but she wouldn’t listen. She said she’s not sleeping without you. What kind of relationship do you have exactly?”
“A bed and its owner. It’s gonna be a cold night, so she wants my fur.” I poked Zero’s cheek with the tip of my claw. “Hey, Witch. Wake up.”
Groaning, Zero opened her bleary eyes and stuck both arms out. She seemed to be saying “Carry me.” I picked her up, and she curled up in my arms. A second later she was sleeping comfortably.
“She likes all sorts of Beastfallen, huh?” Cal said. “I doubt she’d like my feathers that much.”
“She’s more like a kid who wants to sleep on a familiar bed.”
“So you’re just gonna keep denying it. That’s fine. We’ve prepared a bed for you next to the priest’s room. We meet in this room tomorrow at sunrise to discuss future plans.”
After thanking the guy, I carried Zero to her room. However, when I tried to tuck her into bed, she refused to let go of my neck.
“Let me go,” I said.
“No. This is mine!”
“No, it’s not! I own myself!”
She clung tighter the more I tried to pull away, so I gave up, and sat down on the bed with Zero in my arms. Seemingly satisfied, she rubbed her cheek against my neck.
I’m really just a pet to her, huh?
As a man, it made me feel miserable, but if I told Zero, she’d probably just give me a confused look.
“Still better than being scared of me, I guess.”
Not that she needed to be scared of a coward like me who couldn’t do anything in this situation.
For a while, I wondered what to do, then before I knew it, I fell asleep on the same bed with Zero.
The next morning, Cal woke us up then gathered us in one room together with the priest.
“It’s too early,” I mumbled.
“Birds are up early,” Cal said without a trace of guilt. “Besides, you’re apparently the only one who’s not a morning person.” He glanced at the priest.
“We usually start our activities with the sunrise bell,” the priest replied snarkily.
So just because we’re working together temporarily doesn’t mean he’ll stop acting like a dickhead. I knew that already, of course.
Zero, on the other hand, wasn’t even hungover. In fact, she looked completely fine, as if she wasn’t drunk at all last night.
“I like to sleep, but I can stay up for three days straight if I put my mind to it,” she said.
She didn’t seem to mind waking up early either. Not only that, she was already munching on a fruit that Cal gave her.
I raised my hands as a sign of surrender. Then I felt a tap on my shoulder.
“It’s fine. I’m sleepy too,” Tito said, flashing a gentle smile.
It was somewhat ironic that the only person to take my side was an ordinary human being.
“Now, then. Let us begin,” Cal started in a cheerful tone. “Once again, welcome to Fort Lotus. Mercenary, Zero, and Father.”
“Before you go on, being too familiar with you people is not part of my plan,” the priest said sharply.
“I don’t mind,” Cal replied with a broad smile. “I’m not really a fan of priests, either.”
Apparently the priest treated all Beastfallen with the same stern attitude.
“In fact, things would go smoothly if we hate each other. What ties us together is a common goal. As long as it doesn’t fall apart, we can trust each other.”
Cal proceeded to cite our objectives.
Cal’s goal was to enlist the saint’s help to fix the healthcare of this country. Our goal was to find whoever was controlling the saint and stop the spread of Magic. The priest’s goal was to free the saint from the mastermind behind the current crisis and give a formal judgement on the saint’s status.
All our goals shared the same prerequisite: meeting Lia. Due to the assassination attempt, it was unlikely that Lia would be able to get out of the Holy City, so we’d have to go get her.
It all came down to one question: How do we get her exactly?
Cal sighed. “The problem is, it’s only a matter of time before that woman is officially recognized as a saint because of the priest’s supposed death. A saint who is officially recognized by the Church will have tremendous authority. Turning on a saint is the same as turning on the Church. She will be on a whole different level than a provisional saint.”
“But are we not already prepared to fight the Church?” Zero cut in. “I do not think the saint’s official status will change anything.”
“It will change everything, young lady,” the priest said bitterly. “We are gathered here because in the worst case scenario, we might have to kill Her Eminence. And the reason for that is: the lives of many matter more than her own. You understand this, yes?”
Zero nodded. “By worst case scenario, you mean the saint deciding to continue using her miracles haphazardly, therefore taking the lives of many people, correct? Then it makes sense to save many lives while sacrificing only one.”
“But if she is officially recognized as a saint, the values will be reversed. The life of one saint will be more important than the lives of many others.”