Translator: Kell | Editor: Ryunakama
I pulled the hood of my beloved black cloak over my head, gripped a knife in each hand, and thrust them at the wall of earth. Pulling myself up, I stuck a knife higher above.
The royal castle was the stronghold of a kingdom. If it fell, so would the whole nation. Therefore a considerable amount of troops were usually assigned to guard it, but if there was a natural defensive wall protecting its back, troops would be deployed only in front of the castle. Even if soldiers were posted at the rear, they would definitely have their guards down.
It was only natural. No one would be foolish enough to attempt to climb such a cliff with two knives, and even if they did, they would run out of steam and fall to their death. Only a Beastfallen mercenary could scale the whole height without running out of energy.
Although, even a Beastfallen rarely took this kind of job.
I was confident I could climb all the way to the top, but it was tough, painful, and if I slipped, I’d be a goner.
As I made it halfway up the cliff, sweat began trickling down my face—which was strange, considering my whole body was cold from being wet. On top of that, the wind chilled my body every time it blew past, robbing me of warmth. As my body temperature dropped, the sensation on my fingertips dulled. I regripped my knife.
“This isn’t a job for a heavyweight like me, damn it. Should I lose some weight?”
I pulled the knife out of the hard-packed earth—it was closer to stone, really—and thrust it again. Dangling with one hand to rest my other arm for a bit, I dared to look down.
“Oh… So high…”
I muttered the same thing from when I was looking up from below, but this time I could actually feel the tension. If I fall, I’m dead. My only choice was to climb. Rather than turning back, continuing upwards looked easier. I set my foot in a dent in the rock, stretched my body out, and repeated the process of stabbing knives onto the rocky surface.
Trying to take back a job that I once lost was a rougher ordeal than I imagined. Who would have thought that I would have to scale a cliff to see Zero again, who I met after falling off a low cliff? Oh, the irony.
I regret it, okay? I’m sorry for doubting you.
I felt my knife hit something hard. It was the foundation of the castle. I looked up to see that the rocky cliff had ended. The castle wall loomed high above.
I couldn’t use my knives from here on out. I pulled out my sharp claws and thrust them into the soft plaster between the piles of rocks.
The moment I put my weight on my claws, I was filled with a sudden sense of dread. It was much harder than using knives.
“Please don’t snap,” I muttered to my claws.
I began to climb the wall. Digging my nails into the plaster and setting my feet on the slight unevenness in the surface of the wall, I gradually worked my way up. The wind grew stronger the higher up. It felt like it would blow me off the wall. There were small windows in the tower, but all of them were only big enough for a human head to poke through. I couldn’t possibly get in that way. It seemed that they took some precaution against infiltrations, at least. I turned my head and looked up.
A little more…
Then I froze. I could hear footsteps coming from a small window nearby.
If they found me like this, I was doomed. I had no escape route nor any believable excuse. If I said something like, “It was such a nice night that I felt like climbing the castle walls,” there was no way they would just laugh and reply “Oh, really? May I join you?”
Holding my breath, I prayed to God for the footsteps to pass. Unfortunately God seemed like a coldhearted fellow. My positioning was bad in relation to the moon. I cast a shadow through the window. If you’re too cruel, you might turn into a demon, God.
Cursing, I stretched my arms wide to the side and shifted my body so it was positioned just above the small window.
Please don’t look up.
Holding my breath, I regarded the situation below. The footsteps stopped in front of the window, but resumed after a few seconds.
I felt the tension leave my body. But as soon as it did, plaster crumbled from under my claws.
My body separated itself completely from the wall. I tried boring my claws into the wall, but they only scratched it, unable to stop my descent. The force broke some of my claws, blood dripping from them.
My flailing arm somehow grabbed the edge of the small window. The impact dislocated my shoulder, but I managed to resist screaming from the intense pain.
“That was close! I thought I was a goner…”
With a few of my claws broken, climbing up would be more difficult. But I couldn’t stop now if I wanted to live. I resumed scaling the wall.
At long last, I was almost at the peak of the tower. I laid my hands on a window frame, considerably bigger than the ones so far, and pulled myself up gently. The window, however, was hammered with steel plates, so I couldn’t see what was going on inside.
A dark room with candles, was it?
Sitting down on the window frame to rest my arms, I surveyed the outer wall of the tower. I spotted a bird’s nest. I gambled and I won. I closed and opened my numb palm several times, then climbed up to the gently-sloping roof of the tower in one go. I tore off the slabs on the roof, crumbling from having been exposed to the elements, and lightly tapped on the foundation beneath it. It was nice and fragile.
The good thing about being born as a monster was the outstanding physical abilities. No one could catch up to me if I ran at full speed. A packed punch could easily crush wood. Breaking brittle rocks was most likely possible too.
Gathering all my strength into my tightly-clenched fist, I smashed through the foundation of the roof. Unfortunately the roof was more worn-out than I imagined and couldn’t support my weight.
I fell into the tower along with numerous slabs and dirt.
I managed to stop myself from screaming, but I probably looked pathetic anyway. I crawled out from under the rubble and looked up at the gaping hole in the ceiling.
It was a beautiful moonlit night. Okay, now’s not the time for that.
“Hey, witch! I’m here to save—”
I was about to get up when I saw a beauty in front of me. The rest of the words I was about to say got caught halfway up my throat and vanished.
Zero was staring down at me with a strange look on her face, as if she was on the verge of crying and holding back laughter. But it quickly changed into a cold, blank expression.
Zero grabbed my face with such force that belied her appearance, forcing me to look upward. In that moment, I understood how a woman assaulted by a thug felt, if only a little.
“What are you doing here?”
“I am asking you why you came here, you fool!”
Zero landed a fully-charged headbutt. This time I actually cried out. It came out of nowhere, and I didn’t have the time to grit my teeth.
“Where’d that come from?! Isn’t it obvious?! I came here to rescue you!”
“Rescue me? How shameless. Who asked you to do this? Who hired you? How can you not realize that this is a set up? Turn back, now! You have fallen into Thirteenth’s trap!”
“Turn back? You make it sound like it’s an easy thing to do. You saw me fall right through the roof! No one hired me to do this. Besides, what do you mean this is a trap?! What’s the point in doing that? Does he want Albus?”
“There is no need to explain, and I do not want your help. If you crawled up the wall, then just go back the same way! You are no longer my mercenary.”
Zero pushed me away. I half-rose to my feet, glaring at her.
“I know! All because Thirteenth tricked me! I regretted it and came back for you. I climbed all the way up here with only two knives! My claws are all broken thanks to that.”
Growling, I showed my bloody claws to Zero. But she wore the same cold look. Her eyes seemed to push me away.
“Yes, it was probably because of Thirteenth. You were being controlled by Sorcery that time. But the cause lies within you. You feared me. Thirteenth only fanned the flames of doubt and fear inside your heart!”
“I admit it! I was scared. I doubted you. But can you blame me?! Did you really just expect me to not be afraid of witches?! You know that’s not possible! And telling a mercenary to trust others completely is like telling them to die! Still, I came back for you of my own will, even climbing that stupid wall! Can we not reach a compromise here, Ma’am?!”
My request for reinstatement turned out to be rather condescending. If she wanted me to grovel and apologize, I would gladly do so. I was willing to until a second ago, at least.
I guess that’s a no.