Translator: Kell | Editor: Ryunakama
“You fucking mutt… You sold me out!”
When a witch attacked him, he probably begged for his life, offering to help capture a much rarer Beastfallen so he could be spared. Dog Beastfallen have keen senses of smell. He tracked my scent and led the witch all the way here.
I let out a ferocious roar, but went quiet the next second. A similar arrow of light pierced Pooch’s abdomen. His face contorted, his smile replaced by an expression of pure anguish. He fell down to his knees and coughed up darkish blood.
A howl of pain came right after. He tried to sell me out, but he too was targeted in the end. Ain’t that funny, stupid mutt?
“I missed. He’s still up!”
A voice of surprise, belonging to a woman, came from behind a tree not too far away. Should I run or fight? It only took me a split-second to make my decision. I can fight. I can take them down. Perhaps because I had witnessed a witch and a sorcerer squaring off with each other, I wasn’t all that terrified.
I pulled a knife from my waist and threw it at the direction of the voice. A scream rang out, followed by the sound of someone collapsing on the ground. Closing the distance immediately in one long stride, I pinned down the witch, pulled the knife from her shoulder, then pressed it against her neck. I felt extremely reluctant hurting a woman, it made me sick to my stomach, but against a witch, holding back wasn’t an option.
“H-How dare you… You’ll pay for this…”
“The fuck you on about?” I snarled, scowling. “You’re the one who attacked me.”
I didn’t bother asking why she was doing this. She was a witch, and I was a Beastfallen. That was all there was to it.
But this seemed to be different than usual. At this point I didn’t really care much about being attacked for my head. However, I felt… “displeased,” as Zero would put it.
I could see her face in the darkness of the night. She was glaring at me, eyes full of fear and hatred. But I could only see an ordinary human. People say not to judge a person by their looks, but their features actually change depending on what they do for a living. Bandits, for example, looked exactly like what you would expect a bandit to look like. Real witches like Zero, Albus, and Thirteenth, possessed a particular air to them.
However, I could feel nothing of the sort from her. She struck me as a battered woman, seemingly in her mid or late twenties, who sold well-used clothes in the market.
Albus mentioned the Coven’s founder taught Magic to anyone who wanted to learn it. This was what he meant.
In terms of resolve, there was a big difference between a dyed-in-the-wool bandit coming for my life for money, and people who had never hit anyone, going for my head for power.
“Tell me, lady. Did you attack me fully knowing that you might die in the process? What did you think would happen if a young woman like you ambushed a Beastfallen?”
“Don’t give me that. I don’t wanna die either, you know. Listen here. You shouldn’t try to kill someone unless you’re prepared to get killed yourself.”
Those who were not prepared usually said the same shit when they were about to die.
“Please don’t kill me! I didn’t mean to do it! This wasn’t supposed to happen! I finally gained power… I’m supposed to lead a fun life after this!”
Yup. There we go. This kind of pleading always made me lose interest.
“Get lost,” I said. “Try this shit again, and you’re dead.”
I pulled the knife away and got off her. Screaming hysterically, the witch fled into the woods. I hoped she would learn from this and stay put. I might not actually survive if she returned with backup.
“That’s one point for Thirteenth, I guess…”
I turned my gaze to the moon and dropped my shoulders. They were out of control. The problem didn’t lie with the long-time witches, but the once-ordinary humans who suddenly gained new power. Not used to possessing power, they became slaves to it.
A mercenary group that lost a leader would turn into a gang of bandits. If a country fell, even a knight could become a thug. They must be purged, rounded up, and controlled, in order to restore order.
This applied to Magic as well. Laws must be placed for those who practiced it. Those who break them must be punished. Personnel must be appointed to carry out the punishment.
Guilds existed not only for mutual aid, but to keep an eye on members as well. Permits and licenses were created to prevent the collapse of civilization.
Magic was too powerful a craft, yet there were no systems in place to regulate its use. It didn’t matter if the Coven of Zero had rules; if they could not be enforced to those who left, they were pretty much useless. Unfortunately Magic had already spread.
“Damn it. Why’d you have to write such a book?”
For a moment I thought I saw Zero scowling at me.
I wiped the blood off the knife, returned it to its sheath, and approached Pooch. I kicked his head lightly. He let out a groan and glowered at me. His lack of fur only made him look stupid.
“How are you alive?! I saw the arrow hit you!”
Oh, right. I should’ve been hit by Steim, but there wasn’t any wound.
“They must’ve been a horrible shot,” I said.
“Well as you can see, they fucking hit me!”
“Then you’re just as bad as them. Sick those bastards on me, will you? I hurt a woman because of you, stupid mutt. They got you too though. Now that’s some funny shit.”
“Like I said, I’m a wolf, not a fucking dog! I’m pretty sure of that, since Solena herself gave me the soul of a wolf.”
He howled then coughed up blood. His stomach must’ve been punctured. It wasn’t enough to kill a Beastfallen, but the pain should be almost unbearable. The issue right now, however, wasn’t about his well-being. Did I hear that right?
“Solena gave it to you?”
Pooch’s mouth curved into a wide grin. His apparent sense of superiority got on my nerves. A savage thought crossed my mind. Maybe I should kill him. Like, right now. But I thought better of it.
“I’m guessing you also believe Beastfallen are born ’cause of past sins and whatnot,” he said. “What a load of crap. If committing evil deeds will give me a fine body like this, then I’m gonna do all kinds of fucked up shit in this life too.”
“You already did.”
“No, I didn’t!”
“Tell that to those girls you kidnapped.”
“They were more like something I picked up along the way while looking for someone. People handed them over, so I brought them with me. That’s all! I admit, I did have a little taste, but I was gonna let them go later…”
“Shitty excuse from a shitty guy. Besides, that’s not even what I wanted to ask. Did Solena turn you into a Beastfallen?”
He gave a pained smirk. Without fur to latch on to, his sweat dripped to the pool of blood on the ground.
“She didn’t. I became one of my own will. I received the soul of a proud wolf from the great Solena. Surprised? Bet you didn’t expect that one—”
Pooch squeezed his stomach tight and collapsed on the ground.
“P-Please do something about my wound. I’m gonna die from blood loss.”
“I don’t really care if you die. Your death will hardly bother me.”
“I care! Come on, man! I’m sorry for selling you out, okay? I can’t die just yet. Solena asked me to look after the young lady! She disappeared, and I’ve been looking for her all throughout the kingdom. For real!”
“That’s right.” Pooch lifted his head with a smug look on his face. “I’m looking for the person the Coven of Zero serves. Their symbol of vengeance. The one who carries out His will. Solena’s granddaughter!”
What a strange twist of fate. Albus mentioned how Solena’s granddaughter led the Coven of Zero in His place. She should be connected to the Grimoire of Zero as well.
I wanted to meet her and now I had the perfect excuse. Before I knew it, I had my sword on Pooch’s arrogantly pointed nose.
“Let’s hear what you have to say, Wolf.”
He smiled what he probably thought was a bright smile, but on his furless face, he only looked pale as a sheet.
I used a hot knife to burn his wound. Then with a sewing kit that every mercenary should have, I stitched him up. It should be enough to close a Beastfallen’s wound. Pooch complained about my rough stitching, so I gave him alcohol used for cleaning, and after chugging down a mouthful, he heaved a long sigh.
Then he began to talk. Pooch called Solena’s granddaughter not by her name, but “young lady.” I tried asking for her name, but he glared at me, saying “I can’t just casually utter a witch’s name!” so I gave up. If anything, it lent credibility to his story.
I hadn’t forgotten what Zero and Albus said about witches taking great care not to reveal their names. That meant the name “Solena” was an alias, and that’s why it spread without any problem.
I was reminded how bizarre and complex witches were to hide their real names, opting instead to call each other using aliases.