Translator: Kell | Editor: Ryunakama
“That is enough, you fool!”
A loud shout shook my eardrums. Something hit my back hard. My fingers loosened, and Lia sank to the floor.
Whimpering in pain, I turned around to find Zero glaring at me with a solid oak chair in her hand. Apparently she struck me with it with all she had.
“Wh-What the hell was that for?!”
“That is my line! If you killed the saint, all our effort would have been for naught! What matters is not whose fault it is, but who we need to defeat to end all this! Remember our objective!”
Throwing the chair aside, Zero pushed me away and helped Lia up. She was coughing wildly, her hands clutching at her throat. Her chest convulsed, and she vomited.
“That’s…” I glowered at Lia. “That’s exactly what I was trying to do! If she’s the one behind all this, killing her will solve everything!”
I had already envisioned this from the start. I had decided that if Lia was evil incarnate who had no intention of rectifying Cleon’s current state, then I would kill her.
Zero, however, shook her head. “I told you,” she said. “The Saint knows nothing. Theo’s death is something incomprehensible to her.”
“How can you be so sure?”
“Because she herself has the mark.”
My head cooled down all of a sudden. Completely at a loss for words, I looked at Zero.
“What was that?”
“I found it while examining her body. The Saint is yet another pawn to be used as a substitute. Kill her in a fit of rage, and then what?! Would that make you happy?!”
It didn’t make any sense. Confused, I staggered backwards, leaning against a nearby wall.
“Wait a minute… Isn’t she the one using Magic? Why does she have the mark on her?!”
“That is exactly it, Mercenary,” Zero said. “We are here to find out who made this ignorant woman a saint.”
Lia curled up in Zero’s arms. There was terror in her wide-open eyes. Her whole body was shaking, tears streaming down her face. The way she clung to Zero made her look like a child rather than a saint.
Would killing her make me happy? Did I really believe killing her would solve everything?
I picked up Theo’s bloody body, lay it on the bed, and pulled a blanket over his face. It felt as if he was about to push the blanket off while laughing, saying “I got you!”
As my anger at Lia faded, the sense of loss and helplessness grew stronger. It was as though someone was squeezing my heart tight. When I sat down on the bed, Zero’s eyes, watching me warily, finally drifted towards Lia.
“Saint,” Zero called, and Lia gave a jerk. “Who gave you this mark?” Zero touched the area around her chest. “Do you know what this mark means?”
Staring at Zero with frightened eyes, Lia shook her head. “I don’t know,” she managed in a hoarse voice. Rather than an answer to Zero’s question, she probably meant she had no idea what was going on.
“Why… Why did Theo try to kill me? He was so nice. He said he liked me! He said it was all my fault… I was stabbed, but how am I still alive? Why did Theo do this?!” Why?!” She screamed, as if throwing a tantrum, her fingers digging deep into Zero’s arm.
“It is your fault,” Zero replied, her expression as still as ever. Shocked, Lia lifted her head. Her face stiffened in horror, gaze fixed on Zero’s face.
“The healing power you use is not some kind of divine miracle. It is Magic brought from the kingdom of Wenias called Sacrixigs. You are a witch wielding the power of demons, not a saint loved by God.”
For a moment, Lia’s face went completely blank, then a stiff smile formed on her lips. Her mouth opened and closed a few times.
“You’re lying,” she finally said.
But Zero continued with a cruel response. “What would be the point of lying in this situation? You were stabbed by Theo, yet you are unharmed, while Theo himself died. A spell was cast on the child, one that would make him take your place should your life be in grave danger.”
“Lies! You’re lying! I don’t believe it! Never!”
“The same spell has been cast on you, as indicated by the mark on your chest. One day you will die in someone else’s stead.”
“Stop!” Lia screamed. Slipping out of Zero’s arms, she scurried away to a corner of a room, hugging her knees and covering her ears. “This is proof of my bond with Sanare! It is not Magic!”
The name sounded familiar, but I couldn’t remember who it was exactly. Sanare took Lia in from the orphanage, the institution who only saw her as a burden. They gave her food that didn’t smell rotten, clean clothes, and patiently taught her to read and write.
“Don’t be afraid. This is proof of my bond with you.”
When Lia was branded, she cried out in fear. So Sanare pressed the brand on herself first and smiled.
“I will not make you suffer alone. I will support you.”
“The two of us will help a lot of people. You have the power to do it.”
“Because you are…”
“Sanare and I have the same mark! She said we will do our best together, and this is a symbol of our promise!”
“The counterpart to Sacrixigs. It is called Amluxigs,” Zero said with certainty. “It is a spell that allows the bearer of the Amluxigs mark to transfer injuries or sickness to the one bearing Sacrixigs.” She turned to me. “Mercenary, do you remember? When you were hit by Steim, I bore the injury.”
“Uh, yeah. I remember.”
Zero drew an invisible pattern on my body and said, “It is Magic to protect you.” As a matter of fact, it saved my life.
“Wait, so Lia has both Sacrixigs and Amluxigs?”
“She probably only had Sacrixigs at the start. When she was about to be officially recognized as a saint, her mentor decided to guarantee her safety as well.”
“You’re wrong!” Lia said. “Why won’t you believe me? Sanare and I are not witches! I’ve never been to Wenias!”
“But I am certain Sanare has. She remembers learning Magic in the campus. Magic requires compensation. And in your case, it was the lives of many starving people. That is why people want you dead, and why they call you a witch.”
“No! No, no, no, no, no! Sanare said I’m a special being with miraculous powers! So she took me in, and…”
“And then they taught you Magic. Did they not tell you to memorize the mark of the goat in detail? They made you recite the same words over and over. A prayer to bring about miracles.”
Lia’s eyes snapped wide open. “You’re lying,” she murmured.
“If you do not believe me, I can recite those words right here and now. I am certain it will be exactly the same prayer you know.”
“Stop! I don’t want to hear it!”
Zero was probably right. Lia turned pale fast. She covered her face with her hands and started crying.
“How can you say that? I just wanted to help people! I wanted to be useful! Why are you making me look like a bad person?!”
She did not know anything. No. She didn’t try to know. She just did as she was told and performed miracles. Revered as a saint, she thought she was doing a lot of work, believing she was saving people.
When I looked at her, I felt frustrated and sorry.
Then, I heard footsteps running down the hallway. I stood at the ready immediately, thinking it was guards. The door flung open.
“Your Eminence! Is something wrong? What’s with all the ruckus?!”
It was the attendant. Her gaze swept across the room, from Lia to Theo’s body, then finally rested on us. Her face stiffened.
“Sanare!” Lia cried.
Then I finally remembered. Sanare was the name of Lia’s attendant.
“Sanare! What do we do?! Theo tried to stab me, but he was injured instead… Sanare, you don’t know anything about Magic, right? They’re saying you’re a witch from Wenias. It’s not true, right?”
Lia got up and scampered towards Sanare, arms outstretched like a child crying for their parent’s help. But Sanare shook her hand off.
“Useless woman,” the attendant said.
Without a moment’s hesitation, Sanare turned around and rushed back where she came from at full speed.
“Huh?” Standing still, Lia stared at her hand with a look of disbelief. Sanare abandoned her. Clearly and quickly.
“Mercenary, we have to chase her!”
“I know! I’ll go after her. You stay here with Lia! Don’t let anyone in until I get back!”
I bolted out of the room.