Translator: Kell | Editor: Ryunakama
A dry laughter escaped my lips. “I see… So you taught Lia Magic, turned her into a saint, and manipulated powerful people to do what you want. Very clever. You must’ve had a wonderful life!”
A twisted laughter emerged from deep within Sanare. A laughter that got on one’s nerves.
“A wonderful life? You think I went through all this trouble for something so trivial? Serve a woman who doesn’t even think for herself? Don’t be ridiculous!” Holding her sides, Sanare laughed out loud. Then she spoke again, this time as if she was teaching an ignorant child. “I gave food and education to orphanages. Charity to the bedridden, pavement for dangerous roads, and levees for rivers that overflowed every year! I used all the money for those things using powerful people!”
“Are you bragging? You sacrificed the lives of the poor for all that!”
“So? I mean, can you blame me? They were useless.”
“I hate useless people. They consume food and wear down roads without contributing anything. Their existence alone causes harm. What’s wrong with using people like that to help others?”
For a moment, I couldn’t find any words of rebuttal. A part of me said she had a point.
“Helping others? What are you talking about?” I said. “Do you mean driving doctors out of the country so the poor can’t receive medical attention?”
“Doctors?” Sanare stopped laughing and stared at me. “Who cares if we have fewer doctors? Doctors exploit the poor, taking their whole livelihood for treatment. Are you saying they’re more noble than a saint who heals everyone for free?”
Hatred burned in her eyes. But she was probably not looking at me. She had the same eyes as the priest. Bitter eyes that glowered at the past.
“The doctors in this country have always been like that. They’re so busy treating the rich that they don’t even pay attention to the poor. Sometimes they treat the poor on a whim, acting like they were some compassionate god doing a great service. They abandon those who desperately need medical attention just because they don’t feel like it. They drive away kids who cry for help like they were vermin!”
“It’s their fault,” she spat out. “It’s their fault that my mom and dad died! Doctors wouldn’t treat them! But they said it was my fault for being incompetent and useless. That’s right! I was incompetent and useless… But not anymore!”
Sanare held her chest and dug her nails in, as if trying to suppress her raging emotions. Gasping, she forced a smile.
“So I stole their patients! I decided to show them real compassion. A disease that cannot be cured by doctors, but can be cured with divine miracles, and for free. And then what happened? Our noble doctors who wished to save people are moving to other countries where they can earn more! Isn’t that just hilarious?!”
Sanare guffawed. The hatred in her eyes grew stronger. She was glaring at someone other than me.
She hated doctors, despised them for not saving the people she loved. And that hatred alone drove her this far.
“Besides, I told them I would erase the mark if they donated the same amount of money I gave them. But almost no one ever came back to return the money. They said they used it all up for food and their kids. And then they ask me to erase the mark? Isn’t that just selfish? Then they plotted to abduct and assassinate the saint, which is just too funny. The most pitiful ones are the children. Theo, was it? He was planning to kill the saint all this time.”
The moment she mentioned Theo’s name, I glared back at her.
“Are you trying to provoke me?”
“Not at all. Just stating a fact. Ah, poor Theo. He probably lost all purpose in life when he was abandoned.”
“He was crying, you know. Why didn’t Gramps take me with him? He must’ve really liked you. But you left him alone. Oh, he must’ve been so sad and frustrated. He must’ve thought he was worthless!”
“I told you to shut the fuck up! Don’t you talk about Theo!”
“That probably made him want to kill the saint more. To regain his worth. And as a farewell gift to you, whom he thought was dead.”
“Shut your mouth, you bitch!”
Drawing my sword, I struck the bars. Sparks flew, illuminating the dark basement for an instant. I slashed at the bars repeatedly with all my strength, but I could only scratch them.
“I’d appreciate it if you didn’t take out your anger on me. I tried to cheer him up, you know? He was crying, so I gave him a hug, and whispered, ‘You protect the saint.’ I told him he would be alone with the saint when she was in danger. He was happy to know that he would have the opportunity to kill her. And that opportunity came quicker than expected.”
The guys from Fort Lotus stormed the Holy City, resulting in less security. All alone with Lia in the understaffed mansion, Theo stabbed her.
“I thought it would be the most moving tale if after the adjudicator’s death, a child died protecting the saint. It would be a great excuse to get rid of the anti-saint people. Am I smart or what? I’m so competent!”
Hatred raged within her. Hatred from being oppressed and exploited in the past. And it made Sanare who she was today.
I clenched my fists even tighter and pressed my forehead against the bars.
It was too much.
I hated Sanare for killing Theo. I wanted to kill her. To make her suffer the same fate he did. But it felt like all those emotions affirmed her actions, and it made me sick.
They were simply weak. Both Sanare and Theo. So hopelessly weak. Oppressed, they let the hatred in them grow strong.
Cursing herself for being weak, Sanare joined the Coven of Zero in search of power. When she found out she couldn’t use Magic, she looked for someone who could use it for her. Her quick-wittedness and ability to take action was the power she found.
“Theo knew what it meant to have the mark,” I said. “How did you get him to agree to be branded?”
“I told him it was a requirement for being the saint’s errand boy. He couldn’t refuse. He probably thought he wouldn’t die immediately. As long as he could kill the saint before he died, he was fine with it. He didn’t think he’d die an instant death!”
Sanare shook with laughter, laughter that seemed to come from deep within.
“He must have really hated the saint,” Sanare said. “I wonder if his parents died from the mark. How pitiful, if that was the case. But that’s not really the saint’s fault, is it? Is there a difference between working hard to earn money then dying from exhaustion, and dying from taking on someone else’s injuries and illnesses with the mark? None!” Her face twisted.
“You know how people blame the dead for overworking themselves? If those who bore the mark didn’t want to die, they should have strived to get it erased! If they don’t repay me, they die. If people stop working and don’t earn money, they die. Same thing. Then why blame the saint and call her a witch? That’s why I hate useless people who only rely on miracles and pity!”
It sounded like she was saying the words to her oppressed past self.
“They take for granted what’s free. They don’t try to put in the effort. They don’t even understand the concept of fair exchange. Don’t you think such useless people should at least offer their health to those who are working hard and contributing to society?!”
I couldn’t refute her. Perhaps she was right. The absolutely useless bunch should at least serve as nourishment instead.
But it was too cruel—incredibly animalistic, and not humane at all.
Suddenly Sanare looked behind me, and with a dismal air to her, she narrowed her eyes.
“The star has finally arrived,” she said. “You sure love taking your time.”
It was Zero’s voice. Startled, I turned around.
“You idiot! I told you to look after Lia!”
A small black figure jumped and gently landed on my shoulder. I stared at it, lost for words. It was a black cat with neat fur. For some reason, it lay on my shoulder. Small animals usually stayed away from Beastfallen.
The cat tilted its head and wagged its tail gracefully.
“There is no need for concern. My body is with the saint. If something goes wrong over there, I will notice it immediately.”
The cat spoke, and it had Zero’s voice. No doubt about it.
This would be the second time I had encountered a talking animal. The first time was a mouse that Thirteenth used to summon me to his chambers.
“I get it. A familiar!’
The cat’s pupils widened in surprise. “So you know about them. Impressive,” the cat said. “I was wondering how you were doing, so I borrowed the body of a cat walking around the area. As expected, you are having a hard time.”
“As you can see, I’d love to blow up the bars with explosives, but killing that woman would kill Lia too.”
“Do not worry about that. The saint cast a spell on herself. All I need to do is negate the Magic, and its effect will disappear.”
“Did you do it?” I asked.
“After learning everything, the saint herself gave up her Magic,” the cat replied, wagging its tail gracefully.
“Then if I kill her…”
“Only she will die.” The cat turned to Sanare. “What will you do now, Attendant? Amluxigs has lost its effect. The saint has joined our side. There is no point in barricading yourself here, is there? If you provide us with the information we want and return quietly to Wenias, we will spare you.”
Sanare regarded the cat on my shoulder—Zero—with a look of disinterest. After a long silence, she let out a long and deep sigh.
“Are you stupid? You think I came down here without a plan?”