Translator: Kell | Editor: Ryunakama
“What do you mean by that?” Zero asked.
The priest hesitated, so I took over. “In other words, if we kill the saint, the guards who failed to protect her and the people in the city who allowed the perpetrators to enter the city will be just as guilty. They will be executed.”
Zero blinked repeatedly. Under her hood, her mouth hung open in disbelief, then curved into a smile.
“You are teasing me,” she said. “You can not deceive me, Mercenary. Such twisted logic would not be recognized.”
“I think it’s twisted too, but that’s just how the Church works. Am I right, Father?”
“That is the will of God. Those bestowed exceptional love by God must be protected at all costs.”
“Will of God? How foolish.” Zero scoffed. “Five hundred years since the Church exterminated witches and established dominion of the world and this is the solution they came up with to attain peace? The lives of many do not matter?”
“Enough,” I said. It looked like she was about to say more, so I shut her up. “This isn’t the time to discuss politics, and telling the priest all that won’t really change anything.”
Seeing Zero and the priest silent, Cal continued the discussion. “So yeah, we don’t have a lot of time to waste. Since the bridge is down, it’ll probably take at least seven days before news of the priest’s death reaches the Church. If we include yesterday, that means we have six days left. We have to end it before then.”
“But what do we do exactly?” the priest asked. “Don’t tell me you’re going to use a rope to go down the cliff and enter the Holy City from the lake.”
“No. I’m not that stupid. We can’t get a boat ready, and even if we could, we would have to carry it to the city, lower it to the lake, then someone has to get down and board it. That is plenty of time for guards to spot us.”
“Can we not swim across the lake?” Zero asked.
“I don’t think that’s a good idea,” the priest answered. They set the political discussion aside for now, reminding themselves that they needed to work together. “A species of huge fish called Fulgol lives in the lake. It’s edible, but ferocious. I heard someone foolish enough to take a dive had his foot torn to shreds.”
Akdios was originally built for a king to hole up in. There would be measures put in place against infiltration through the lake.
I let out a groan. “The bridge is down, we can’t get in from the lake, Cal can’t enter from the skies. We’re basically out of options.”
“Come on, now. Let me finish,” Cal said, his voice bright. “Akdios was a king’s safe haven, but there’s no point if he can’t get out. So what I’m saying is—”
“There’s a secret passage that leads outside?!”
The Beastfallen nodded firmly. “I’m not completely sure, though. I haven’t actually seen the passage, but I know someone who knows about it.”
“That is odd,” the priest said. “If there was such a passage, why hadn’t you used it before? It’s perfect for abducting the saint.”
“It’s not that we didn’t. We couldn’t.”
“You couldn’t?” I said.
“The reason’s simple. It’s too dangerous.”
The priest frowned. “And you’re going to make us, people you’ve only met yesterday, travel that dangerous path?”
“Is there a problem?” Cal asked.
That’s an ex-mercenary for you, I thought. No hesitation in using others as pawns.
“I would not call it a problem,” Zero said, tapping the table with her finger. “But I find it vexing.” There wasn’t a hint of emotion in her voice or expression, but that only made her irritation clear.
I let out a sigh. “So we have no other choice but to use the secret passage, right? Just tell us what kind of a passage it is.”
Cal opened his wings a little and closed them. “I’m glad to have a mercenary in this discussion. It’s actually only dangerous for me. Apparently the entrance to the passage is out in the sea.”
“Ah, I understand now. ” Zero said. “You cannot swim, can you?”
“Worse,” Cal said in a pensive tone. “My feathers suck up water, causing me to sink. I drown even in shallow rivers. If I fall into the sea, I’m dead.”
I felt more and more sorry for Cal. They say God doesn’t give more than one gift, but he got it worse. God took a lot from him for his ability to fly.
“Based on how this conversation is going, heading to the secret passage will be my job,” I said.
“Exactly. You don’t need the doctor to tell you that the priest can’t do anything strenuous at the moment.”
“He’s right,” Tito nodded firmly. “Honestly, I’m surprised he’s able to move this much. I’m glad we have a sensible leader.”
“But it doesn’t mean he’s not doing anything. I’ll have a task for him. Oh, and you too, doc.”
“Wait, me too?” Tito’s eyes widened.
“In any case,” Cal continued, ignoring Tito. “You have to do your task first, or we’re not gonna get anywhere. I want you to leave the fort immediately and head to Ideaverna. Our helper will lead you to the passage.”
“Ideaverna?! You can get a fast carriage and make it run at full speed and it’ll still take three days to get there! There’s no way we can make it in time!”
The last time we rode a large carriage, it took four days to travel from Ideaverna to Akdios. This time we had to start by finding a carriage.
There didn’t seem to be any carriages in the fort. I doubted they had horses to begin with.
“Three days if you use the normal roads.” Cal unfolded a map on the table. “This is a map that was used here a hundred years ago. It shows a supply route that leads from Fort Lotus to Ideaverna. As you can see, the distance is much shorter than the main roads. I checked some old logs and found records of soldiers taking only three days to travel on foot from Ideaverna during times of emergency.”
Zero made some calculations in her head and nodded. “Mercenary would take around two days,” she said.
“That’s easier said than done!” I barked.
“I can correct myself if that is too much.”
“Fine, okay?! You’re right!” I cried in desperation. “I can get there in two days if I run at full speed without taking breaks!”
“That’s reassuring,” Cal said.
“Damn it. You guys think you can say whatever you want just because I’m not human, huh? So who’s this helper, and why does he know about this secret passage?”
“I can’t give you the details. Just go to the designated place at the designated time and they will make contact with you. I sent a carrier pigeon earlier to inform him of the situation beforehand. I also told them to carry something that symbolizes a ship as a sign.”
“No offense, but this all sounds extremely dodgy.”
“I know, so you just have to believe me. Do you want me to cut off one of my fingers as proof that I’m telling the truth?”
“There’s no point in that. I know plenty of guys who would chop off their fingers to convince others of their lies.”
“That’s great, then. I won’t have to cut off my fingers.”
He was as optimistic as usual. When he was sure I wasn’t going to say any more, he rolled up the map and handed it to me.
“It’s been a hundred years, so the forest has reclaimed most of the supply route, but I made some marks last time I passed through. I also wrote down the current condition of the route, so you should be able to get to Ideaverna just fine.”
“What happens after we arrive?”
“Follow the instructions of the helper. That map will be proof that you’re a friend of mine, so make sure you don’t lose it, okay?”
“What about you guys? Don’t tell me you’re just gonna be on standby here at the fort.”
“If only.” Cal laughed. “We’ll create a diversion. We’ll pretend to attack the Holy City with Talba and the others, and then retreat immediately. They should be on edge after the assassination attempt. They will send a considerable number of people to pursue us.”
“And that will lessen security in the city…”
“I sure hope so.” Cal tapped me lightly on the shoulder. “We’re counting on you.”
With that, I left Fort Lotus together with Zero.