Translator: Kell | Editor: Ryunakama
I woke up and found myself on a bed. My body felt heavy, as if I was tied down, but I somehow managed to lift it up, and the first thing I saw was Zero seated deeply on a chair, reading a book.
“I see you are awake,” she said. “Good. How do you feel?”
“Feels like a demon possessed me.”
Zero laughed. “I think your body was highly compatible with the demon, but it did return it quite willingly. You were asleep for three days. The people have already learned that the evil witches have been purged from the kingdom, and a national festival has begun. You should have seen the look on those rogue sorcerers when they lost their Magic. It was marvelous.”
I see. Must’ve been a tragic sight.
“Some desperate people must have gone wild,” I said.
“Struggle as they might, they are mere ordinary humans. Dog was surprisingly helpful, too. The problem is the smart ones who will realize that they can still use Magic outside of Wenias. Those who will discover that they can simply create their own Magic and start studying will become headaches as well.”
Right. The disappearance of Magic was only temporary, and limited only to Wenias. From now on, all kinds of witches from around the world would use all their knowledge to create new Magic spells.
It sounded like a total pain in the neck. Wenias had Thirteenth and Albus, but the world was a big place, most of it defenseless against Magic. What happened in Wenias might happen everywhere, perhaps even more tragic.
“The child is going to train a subjugation force to handle the troublesome bunch. She will select those with aptitude on Magic, teach them Sorcery as a formal branch of learning, and then Magic. Wenias will support the education as well. In the end, Thirteenth’s plan came to fruition: the world’s first nation of sorcerers has been born.”
“A nation of sorcerers, eh? Has quite the terrifying ring to it. Where’s Thirteenth right now?”
“In the dungeon, waiting for his execution.”
I looked at Zero in shock. It was too much of a joke for someone who just woke up.
“That is what it will look like, at least. Of course, it will only be for show. It will be his final performance as the jester who played the role of a righteous sorcerer and instigated the war between the witches and the kingdom. The citizens have learned that Thirteenth was the mastermind behind everything that happened. The official story is that the child defeated him.”
“I see… Creating a common enemy and setting up a stage for coexistence.”
Letting out a sigh, I turned my gaze to the ceiling. By knowing that Thirteenth planned everything, that they were all deceived by a single person, it would be easier for the humans who burned the innocent Solena to death and the witches who rebelled to take that first step to reconciliation.”
“Thirteenth the evil sorcerer, and the great Solena’s granddaughter who thwarted his plans. What a beautiful story. It will go down in history for sure.”
“The child had mixed feelings about it, though, considering Thirteenth helped quell the chaos.”
Chuckling, Zero quietly closed the book and offered me a cup of water. As I gulped it down, she sat down on the bed.
“Good morning, Mercenary. I am glad you are safe.”
“Anyway, we have a problem… I finally retrieved the grimoire.”
“That’s great. Now you can make me human—”
“I cannot do that anymore.”
Did I just hear that right? Probably not. Please tell me I got that wrong.
“My battle with Thirteenth, and my banishing Magic in a wide area completely consumed my otherwise endless pool of mana. It will take a while for it to recover.”
Aw, shit. I wasn’t hearing things. I buried my head into my hands.
“If you were like Pooch, who willingly accepted a beast’s soul into his body, I could turn you into a human easily even in my current state. But for those who are born as beast warriors, the fusion between the human soul and the beast’s soul is strong. Separating them requires a considerable amount of power. On top of that, summoning a demon unto your body had strengthened said fusion.”
“Strengthened?! Is that all you have to say about it?! Who the hell do you think summoned that damned demon into me?!”
“I, too, am terribly disappointed. While you were asleep, I tried various things, but at best all I could do was remove your fur. That was a nightmare. I hurriedly put it all back.”
“What the fuck did you do while I was out?!”
“It was not on purpose. I asked Thirteenth as well, but he has used up most of his mana too.”
“Okay. All right. Let’s be realistic here. How long will it take for your mana to recover? A month? A year?”
Zero averted her gaze and looked the other way, as though feigning ignorance, then gave a strong nod.
“I do not know,” she said.
“Bullshit! What about our contract?!”
“I did not say I will not pay you. I am simply asking you to wait a little.”
“Even the most honest lender wouldn’t agree to that!”
“Calm down. All you have to do is be my bodyguard for a little while longer, which is easier to do with your current body. I find your current form adorable as well. It feels nice and warm to sleep in your fur. Above all, in your current form, you will not have anyone to talk to but me. That way, I will not be lonely as well.”
Wow. The audacity. Not even guilty at all.
I glanced at Zero through the gap between my fingers.
Such a stunning beauty had been sleeping here in this room, waiting for me to wake up. There were blankets and such scattered around the chair she was sitting on. Damn it, me. Stop feeling happy about it!
“You said bodyguard? Are you going somewhere?”
“I plan to. I have lived in the cellar for too long. I heard about a tree made of gemstones, a river that flows through the skies, fish swimming in the sand, birds that eat lightning. I wish to see such things. But it is dangerous for a witch to travel alone, times as they are.”
The familiar line made me laugh. Damn it. How stupid.
Well… Mercenaries were soldiers of fortune. We worked for anyone as long as we got paid. Being a witch’s bodyguard should be a little better than going around killing people on the battlefield. Above all, the contract between me and Zero was still in effect until she turned me back into a human—even if the wounds on our thumbs were completely healed. There was only one answer.
I scratched the back of my head. “So, what do I get in return?” I asked.
“Mercenary! Zero!” Albus called. “Thirteenth is so fussy about the “performance”. Like what to say when he’s being burned, or something about the setting.”
I was asleep for three days, so naturally I was extremely hungry. The dish prepared for me was none other than the huge Ebl Boar, roasted whole at that.
Much bigger than the average human being, the roasted meat sitting at the center of the table was nothing short of spectacular. Me, Pooch, Zero, and Albus dined around it. Thirteenth was in the dungeon, still as authoritative as always, it seemed.
I dug into my food while listening to Albus’s complaints and Zero’s laughter. As expected from a high-class ingredient, the meat was incredibly tender, the sweetness of the fat filling my mouth as I bit into it. The meat around the bone was exquisite and rich in flavor.
“No need to be so annoyed,” Zero said. “When it comes to manipulating the hearts of men, there is no one as good as Thirteenth. He is trying to hand over Wenias to you in the best way possible. Think of it as a lesson in how to seize people’s hearts. You will, after all, carry this kingdom on your shoulders as a Mooncaller witch.”
“What? If I took lessons from that guy, I’ll turn into someone crafty and gloomy.”
“You’ve always hated studying,” Pooch said, reminiscing about the past. “Solena didn’t know what to do with you.”
Then he suddenly yelped and fell from his chair. Albus apparently pulled his tail. He got his fur back, thanks to Zero’s Magic, but he was still as pathetic as always.
Chuckling, Zero nibbled away at some ribs, just like I did.