Translator: Kell | Editor: Ryunakama
“I formed a contract with Solena. She would turn me into a beast warrior, and I would protect her granddaughter. Before that I was a knight serving the kingdom.”
“A knight of the castle?”
“So you were a noble.”
Pooch puffed out his chest in pride. I resisted the urge to hit him as he might actually die.
“More like the third son of a nobleman, which meant I couldn’t inherit the title. So I reluctantly served at the castle. Duty and all that. I was always extremely resourceful… or should I say I had strong instincts. So when I see a woman, I stop caring about status, or if they’re married…”
“Don’t tell me you got fired for screwing around with a married woman.”
Pooch gave a weak laugh. “It turned into quite a big deal, actually. I almost had to duel a guy. Boy, was he fuming, saying “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife” or some shit. You might not believe it, but I used to be a lady killer. Women wanted my portrait. I’m still a fine-looking man today too.”
How about you grow some fur first before saying that? You’re far from fine-looking right now. You just look stupid. I didn’t want to interrupt his story, so I kept the thoughts to myself.
“You know how handsome men draw attention. So yeah, I had a hard time getting away. I escaped into the forest and collapsed. That’s when Solena picked me up. I always thought she was an old lady, but she was absolutely beautiful! Would you believe that? I begged her to keep me by her side. I said I’d do anything. But she said she was not interested in weak humans. So I asked her to turn me into a monster.”
“And that’s how you ended up becoming a Beastfallen.”
“I didn’t really care much about my human form at that point anyway. Sure, Beastfallen are scorned by people, but at least I won’t get chased around anymore. Also I can do whatever stupid shit I want since they hate Beastfallen in the first place anyway.”
“What about witches, though? You know, Beastfallens’ natural enemy. Solena didn’t attack you, but others witches will.”
“They don’t do that. Normally, at least. Witches can just create their own Beastfallen after all.”
He raised a good point. But the fact is, I had been ambushed countless times before. Albus even came after my head. I eyed Pooch speculatively, and he continued.
“What I’m saying is, amateur witches who can’t perform the Beastowal ritual are the ones who go hunting for Beastfallen. Some bored noble ladies addicted to summoning demons also buy Beastfallen heads from bandits at high prices. Besides, witches in Wenias only started hunting Beastfallen about a year ago, when the conflict was getting worse. When I chose to become a Beastfallen, it wasn’t all that dangerous yet. I can easily drive off bandits on my own too.”
So it wasn’t real witches attacking me, but wannabe witches who spent all their time dabbling in Sorcery. Which meant Zero had no reason to take my head.
“So, moving on… I lived a quiet life with Solena and her granddaughter. Then a plague spread one day, and Solena was killed after being falsely accused of creating it.”
Her granddaughter then vowed to take revenge, but Pooch was against her fighting back. Solena’s last wish was for him to take care of the young lady. Because of that, her granddaughter abandoned Pooch and joined the Coven of Zero. He had been gathering intel on the Coven this past year to find her.
“I used money and force to extract information from the rogue witches,” he continued. “But I don’t know the location of this grimoire you’re looking for. It’s not like I’d been a member of the Coven.”
“What a useless mutt…”
“I’m a wolf, damn it! Get it right already! You want me to show you the difference between a dog and a wolf right here and now?!”
“What a useless wolf,” I corrected. Pooch dropped his shoulders in resignation, letting his ears and tail hang limply.
“It’s highly unlikely that He has it,” he said. “So maybe the young lady does.”
“How can you be so sure?”
“Because no one has actually seen Him in person. Right now the Coven’s members think he might just exist, but aren’t exactly sure of it. However, He does punish members.”
“Punish? How? He doesn’t even show himself.”
“The members swear their loyalty through a witch’s blood pact. If a member betrays Him, they are annihilated. But what constitutes “loyalty” is actually vague. That’s why strict rules were put into place for the Coven’s members to follow.”
Probably so they don’t stray away from their ultimate goal of peace for witches. Then there were those who became rogue sorcerers, leaving the Coven because they couldn’t bear to follow its strict rules.
“Do these rogues get punished as well?” I asked.
“Sometimes they do, sometimes they don’t. What’s clear though is you don’t get punished simply by leaving the Coven. There’s a well-known case where rogue sorcerers occupying a village and looting it were exterminated. Thirteenth went out to kill them, so they took villagers hostage and lay in wait for an ambush. But Thirteenth didn’t even have to fight them. They all got wiped out from His punishment.”
But the witches that attacked Latette were not punished, and instead killed by Thirteenth. Sometimes they got punished, sometimes they didn’t. A vague pact indeed.
Once they knew that simply breaking a few rules wouldn’t get them punished, fools would usually commit various foul deeds until they did. If the blood pact stated that leaving the Coven of Zero was forbidden, there probably wouldn’t be any rogue sorcerers in the first place.
“Solena didn’t approve of the Coven. She said Magic is a wonderful craft, but the way it was taught was wrong. So He had her burned at the stake.”
“Whoa, hold up. I thought it was the villagers who burned her.”
“What if I told you that the plague was created through Sorcery?”
My eyes widened.
“Someone spread the plague using Sorcery,” Pooch continued. “That’s why Solena used Sorcery to contain it. She was framed. It was plain as day. If she used Sorcery at that point, the villagers would think she was the one who created the plague. I’m certain that He was the one behind it, though I have no concrete proof.”
I had no idea if Pooch was right, but if he was, then not only did He murder Zero’s mentor and stole the grimoire ten years ago, He also killed Solena.
“I… couldn’t protect Solena. That’s why I have to find the young lady at all costs. I have to protect her!”
A firewood burst, sending sparks in the air. I haven’t heard of Beastfallen grouping together, but right now, we didn’t have much of a choice. I was a practical man myself. With no clue about His location, Solena’s granddaughter was the next person closest to the Grimoire of Zero. Pooch and I basically had the same goal.
“Do you at least have some lead?” I asked.
Pooch lifted his head.
“Like I said, I’m looking for the Grimoire of Zero. The lady you serve might have it. I’ll help you out, but in exchange, I want the book as soon as we find it.”
What kind of face would she make if I brought the grimoire to her? She would most likely either sulk or be angry. She wouldn’t thank me, that’s for sure.
I’m guessing she’d mumble something like, “I planned to retrieve the grimoire myself. This is my problem. You turned your back to me and had the nerve to return.” Then she would snatch the grimoire from my hand like it was the most natural thing to do.
Would she rehire me if I apologized?
“So where’s that witch you were with?” Pooch asked.
It felt like he read my mind. I gave a start and looked at him.
“That woman smelled a little like the young lady. Witches are hard to track by scent because their body scent usually gets overpowered by herbs and incense. Yet somehow I could smell the young lady’s scent from her. I wanted to check, and you know what happened afterwards.”
Apparently back when I first met him in Fomicaum, he was sniffing Zero because he smelled Solena’s granddaughter’s scent from her.
You didn’t lose your fur because you tried to sniff her, though. You just pissed us off back then. Of course, Pooch couldn’t read my mind.
“I was with her almost all the time, though. You can’t smell her scent on me?”
“Nah, Beastfallen have strong scents. It’s almost impossible to catch others’ smell on them. Although… it feels like… No, wait. I can smell her scent on you.” Pooch’s eyes grew wide. “Where were you this whole time? The young lady might still be there!”
I was in Plasta only for a brief moment, and there was no one in Latette. Before that, the only crowded place I had been to was Fomicaum.
“Looks like we have to go to Fomicaum,” I said. “The person you’re looking for could be around there somewhere.”