Translator: Kell | Editor: Ryunakama
“Wait, whaaat?!” The revelation came out of the blue.
Zero grimaced. “I do not mind you screaming, but you need to learn to read the situation more.”
Damn it. I couldn’t say anything back.
“But he’s the captain of the Magic Corps! How can he not use Magic?!”
“Have you ever seen him cast Magic?”
Come to think of it, no. He disappeared in the middle of the Magic match, and he used a sword when he fought the priest.
In fact, Gouda looked like a swordsman from the start. He always had a sword at his waist, and while the members of the Magic Corps donned loose robes, the captain wore armor over his body. He also said that there was no one more unfit to be the captain of the Magic Corps than him.
“Wh-Why are you the head of the Magic Corps then?” I repeated Zero’s question.
Gouda clammed up. He clearly didn’t want to be probed, but Zero pressed him regardless.
“If I am right, you are the king of Altaria. The kingdom’s heir. Am I wrong?”
“Whaaat?!” I had no idea what was what anymore. Who cares about the mood at this point?
Gouda said he killed Altaria’s heir. Thinking back, when I asked him where the heir was, he paused after saying “I…” Perhaps he meant to say, “I am the heir.”
However, he was so ashamed of his position that he lied about killing him. Or did he mean to say that by surrendering to the princess of Nordis, he effectively killed the king?
“You are right,” the princess answered. Gouda’s face contorted bitterly. “Gouda lamented the fact that he had no aptitude for Magic. Going against the will of his people, he proposed an end to the war. It was the best thing he could have done. It wasn’t because Altaria couldn’t win with Gouda as king. We didn’t have the time or luxury to be fighting each other when we had a common enemy before us—the dragon. Ending hostilities was the best option.”
The princess gave an exhausted sigh. “I treated my own people and the people of Altaria equally. If you have the gift for Magic, you can join the Magic Corps. I deemed Gouda to be the perfect person for the position of captain. After all, majority of the corps’ members were from Altaria.”
“Enough with the bullshit!” Gouda raised his voice once more. He glared at the princess. “I asked to be executed. That is the final duty of a ruler of a fallen nation. I wished to keep my pride as king. But you told me to live in shame, or else my people will be treated as slaves. You threatened me! Don’t tell me you forgot!”
“I said that if I executed you, my people would treat your people as slaves. You offered me a truce, which I accepted. And I put you in a position of power. Can’t you imagine how miserable the people of your kingdom would’ve been if I didn’t do that? I told you before, you don’t think things through! You are capable. Why do yo undervalue yourself?!”
“Because in this kingdom, Magic is everything! You don’t get that because you have the gift! Had it. You’re about to find out what it’s like to not be able to use Magic in this kingdom.” Gouda stomped out of the stables.
I watched him go, then turned to the princess. “Sounds like a complicated situation,” I said.
“There’s nothing complicated about it,” the princess replied. “Everything is quite simple and clear. As long as you don’t take emotions into account.”
“Emotions,” Zero said, looking up at the ceiling. “That is the most troublesome part.”
“Yes. Too irrational to prioritize, yet too significant to ignore.”
“Lord Gouda witnessed his father and many of his men get devoured by the dragon,” Raul said, sorrow on his face. “He probably thinks he could’ve saved them if he could use Magic.” He cast a glance outside.
“I know that Gouda vehemently opposed his father’s plan to slay the dragon,” the princess said. “He was ridiculed, called a coward. They said he was afraid because he couldn’t use Magic. Perhaps it’s one of the harmful effects that Magic brought. Gouda has a point.” She hung her head low, fiddling the buttons of Gouda’s coat.
“But even if Gouda was able to use Magic,” she continued, “the result would have been the same. Altaria awakened the dragon, and many lives were lost. An additional Mage would not have made a difference. They still wouldn’t be able to kill the dragon. I couldn’t, in fact.”
Despite going out of control, the princess’s Magic did pierce the dragon. Yet the creature still lived.
The princess looked at Zero with bitter eyes. “Perhaps you are able to slay it.”
“Who knows?” Zero said. “I have never slain a dragon before.” She turned around. “But we have no other choice. You should return to Nordis with those who cannot fight and prepare the copy of the grimoire. Once the dragon is defeated, you will return the two chapters to me.”
“I see. You think Magic is too advanced for us.”
“That is up to you.”
“I will decide what to do with the copies after they are returned to me. I suggest you think about how you can manage, propagate, and control Magic from now on. You can try to convince then.”
We left the stables and followed Gouda to the entrance of the dungeon. He was holding a basket full of food in his hand.
“Oh, the priest’s food.”
The priest we captured last night should have been tied up and thrown into the dungeon. Gouda jerked to a halt and turned around, giving me a blatantly disgusted look.
“What are you doing here?” he asked.
“I’m here to make fun of the Magic Corps Captain who can’t use Magic,” I said.
Zero silently wedged her way between us. “That is not why we are here, Captain.” She turned to me. “You are taking things too far, Mercenary.”
“He said I smelled bad. Just a little payback.”
Gouda clicked his tongue. “You’re ugly both on the outside and the inside, apparently.”
I put my hand on my sword. “Okay, now you’ve said it. Wanna go, you little shit?!”
“That is enough playing around, Mercenary,” Zero said. “We are getting off topic.” She looked at Gouda. “We are here to talk about slaying the dragon. You have not given up on it, yes?”
Gouda frowned. “Of course not. Either we slay the dragon or we’ll be destroyed.”
“Good. I will work you hard.”
“You mean you’ll help us?”
“Do not get me wrong, Captain. You will help me. You are visiting the priest, yes? Let us go. We are actually acquainted with him.”
Prisons are basically built with small entrances and exits to make it difficult for criminals to escape.
We climbed down the stairs, cramped for my huge body, passed through a door so small that it almost caught my shoulder, and stood in front of a row of cells. The priest was in the very first one.
“I thought you were going to let me starve to death, but I guess not.” As soon as we stood in front of his cell, the first thing that came out of the priest’s mouth was a snide remark.
Chains should have bound his hands and feet, yet he was sitting comfortably in a corner. He had apparently unchained himself.
Light poured into the dungeon as we entered, and the priest turned his face away from the dazzling brightness.
The priest could see well in the dark, but not when it was bright. The light seemed to hurt his eyes, so he took out a leather eye patch from somewhere in his black robe and covered both eyes tightly.
“I’m sorry, Father,” Gouda apologized. “I told someone to bring you food and water, but with all the stuff going on, they apparently forgot.”
“You’re lying,” the priest said flatly. “The person who threw me in jail didn’t leave a single light on. I was thankful for it, because I could see in the dark, but anyone can imagine how it feels to be left in the dark, not knowing when someone will come for you. If the person who received the order to give me water and food was the same person who put me here, there is only one conclusion. It was on purpose.” He talked a lot, as always.
Gouda gently pressed his brows, as if supressing a headache, and pushed the basket of bread, fruit, and water through the small window at the bottom of the bars and into the cell.
“You are right. It was on purpose,” the captain said. “I received a report earlier that they did not deliver the food. Members of the corps despise you.”
“Just because you despise someone doesn’t mean you should keep them in the dark without food and water. That is hardly humane. It’s something that parents teach their children even without the guidance of the Church. Or does this book of Magic say you should starve your captives to death? Perhaps.” He pulled the basket of food closer with his staff—his weapon.
It looked like a completely ordinary staff now, but it concealed a blade inside, allowing it to transform into a scythe in battle. Normally it would’ve been confiscated, but the staff was connected to the priest’s rings by sturdy strings, and the rings themselves were fixed tightly around his fingers.
“You have not changed, priest,” Zero said in a soft, emotionless voice.
“So you’re here as well, young lady.” His voice softened a little. “I take it you’re still traveling with the brute?”
“Of course. I am always with Mercenary. And I will continue to travel with him in the future.”
The priest tilted his head, as if to say, “You’re hopeless.” Then, without any caution or hesitation, he bit into the fruit from the basket.
“Shouldn’t you be worried about poison or something?” I asked.
“I can tell if someone is the kind of person who serves poisoned food.”
Come to think of it, he did mention that he was an adjudicator who was good at lying and at detecting lies. Bearing the title of Secrecy, he often blended in with townspeople in a normal getup and gathered information about witches.
I knew the Church wouldn’t ignore an island where a priest was murdered, Magic spread, and a dragon was on a rampage, but I didn’t expect them to dispatch this guy.
When the Church received information that a dragon had appeared on Black Dragon Island, he was probably the closest adjudicator to a harbor.
Something was up, though. The air around Zero felt cold. Witches and the Church are enemies, so it was only natural for her to be wary of the priest, but there seemed to be more to it.
“What’s wrong?” I asked.