Mercenary’s Contract – Part 01

Translator: Kell

Interlude: A Gift

The adjudicator known as Corruption walked around with a bunch of wannabe bandits and mercenaries, people whose only redeeming feature was their propensity for violence. She scornfully called them dogs.

The dogs were always given various jobs to do. From guarding the carriage that Corruption rode, to transporting goods, doing odd jobs, and gathering information. It was custom for Dea Ignis to not possess any personal assets, but for some reason, Corruption had plenty of funds, which she used to tame her dogs.

After finding the lair and eradicating the witches, Corruption angrily ordered the dogs.

“Get me information. Anything that has to do with the silver-haired witch.”

A special prize would be given to whoever brought back valuable information. Enthused, the dogs set out to gather intel using the authority of the Church.

One of them caught wind of a rumor. Someone reported a house that provided accommodation to a silver-haired woman, but when he led a priest there, the priest claimed that she was his companion.

There was no better intel than that. Delighted, the dog headed for the ramshackle house located on the outskirts of the city. Gathering his friends, he broke into the house, where he found a creepy monster.

Who wouldn’t be horrified at the sight of a giant white rat?

He threw a chair at the frightened rat as it tried to scamper away. The rat squeaked and fell to the floor. As he was about to finish it off, a man jumped out and covered the rat.

“Don’t touch my daughter!” the man shouted.

A woman came out of the back of the room, screaming. “Credo! Lily! Who are you people?! Shouldn’t you be breaking into rich people’s houses?! You got the wrong place!”

“We’re not burglars. We’re here on a sacred mission from the Church. Two days ago, you let a witch stay here. I thought you were pretty crazy to do that, but I get it now. Your kid’s a Beastfallen. Makes sense that you’re fucked up.”

“And it’s a fucking rat!” one of the dogs spat out. “Disgusting. I fucking hate rats!” He kicked the man on the side.

“Dad!” the rat shrieked.

When the dogs realized that the man would not budge, they all ganged up on him, beating him up, spitting and cursing at him. A blow from a club split the man’s forehead. Blood dripped on the rat’s white fur.

“Stop! Dad… Dad’s going to die!”

“What are you doing to my husband?! What is wrong with you?! You just barge in here and call this a sacred mission? The silver-haired woman was the priest’s companion! The priest assured us that she wasn’t a witch!”

“It’s not our job to make that judgement. You can explain yourself to the adjudicator.”

The woman turned pale as a sheet. It was well-known that if you were taken to the Gravedigger, you’d be tortured to death, regardless of whether you knew anything or not.

“Quit playing around already! Tie these guys up and load them into the wagon. Leave the rat behind. If the adjudicator lays eyes on that thing, we’re goners.”

One of the dogs grabbed the limp man by the hair and dragged him away.

“No! Dad!” The rat clung to the dog’s arm, desperate to stop them from taking her parents away.

“Don’t you fucking touch me!” A fist landed on the side of the rat’s face.

Her small body was sent flying and rolled on the floor. “Ugh…”

“Go hide, Lily! We’ll be fine!”

“No! No! Don’t take them! Mom! Dad!”

She crawled on the floor, trying to cling to her parents, but the blow on her head made it difficult to stand up.

The dogs dragged the couple out of the house, leaving the little rat in the shabby house.

Left alone, the rat—Lily—cried alone for hours. Her Beastfallen eyes were incapable of shedding tears, but her body shook, her claws digging on the floor.

“Why… why… Why?!”

Why is it always me? Why am I always the one who survives?

If her parents ignored her when the dogs broke in, they could have escaped. Why did Credo jump in to protect her? They weren’t even blood-related. Why would he help a rat Beastfallen?

Weren’t they planning to abandon her soon? Didn’t they intend to throw her out since they had raised her enough?

After a long day of crying that no one could hear, Lily finally stood up. She wandered to her parents’ room and found something—a small box tied with a ribbon. There was a letter attached to it.

Lily’s birthday was tomorrow. She couldn’t remember her real birthday, but the whole family decided it to be the day she met Liza.

After reading the letter and opening the box, Lily was stunned.

“A necklace…”

It was a gem that her parents planned to give her to celebrate her safe upbringing.

Lily was illiterate. She could not read the words on the letter that said, “To our beloved daughter. Sorry it’s a little late.”

But she could imagine how hard her parents must have worked to get this for her. They were struggling. Even their jobs were dwindling. Since her parents had been secretly talking to each other away from Lily, she was prepared to be abandoned.

Lily gently placed the necklace around her neck. She always envied her parents’ necklaces that signified their bond. They cared for each other, and she thought she was an obstacle to that.

She decided that she would never doubt them again. Once they returned, she would tell them the secret she had been keeping.

Clenching her teeth, Lily lifted her head and bolted out of the ramshackle house.

How did it end up like this? I wondered.

There must have been a different way. Something better than revealing to the Knights Templar that she was Zero, which could only be described as a suicidal act.

“Why would she let herself be taken to the Church? There’s no guarantee we’ll get the book back that way. What’s she gonna do if they decide to burn her at the stake? That’s probably what’s gonna happen. Does she expect me to save her then? Right under the Knight Templars’ noses? That’s impossible. They’ll kill me.”

“Mercenary, are you done with your endless, pessimistic monologue? It is irritating me.”

“How about you look at the situation first before you speak, you rotten witch! Do you realized what you’ve done?! Those guys from the Church are beasts that thirst for the blood of witches!”

“A beast calling the Church beasts? My, how they have fallen.” Zero gave a carefree laugh.

Breathing a sigh, I clutched my head.

When Zero revealed that she was the leader of the Coven of Zero, the Knights Templar turned pale, and before I knew what was happening, her hands had been chained.

And of course, the chains that the Church used against witches were no ordinary chains. The cuffs that bound her arms were inlaid with four blue gems, and every inch of the chains were filled with letters.

“The blue gems are lapis lazuli, which weakens a witch’s power,” the priest said. “On the chain are words of contempt against demons and praise for the goddess. The chains are also burned with incense that demons despise. While bound by these chains and cuffs, the connection between a witch and demons is severed.”

“Gems, words, and incense. Are those really enough?” I asked.

“Sorcery and Magic use symbols, letters, words, incense, and sacrifices that correspond to demons, Mercenary,” Zero said, looking uncomfortable with the chains. Her affirmation actually surprised me. “If something hinders any of them, you will not be able to use either. Even if you could, you are highly likely to cause a life-threatening disaster. The Church has fought witches with everything they have since ancient times. Their technology is nothing to scoff about.”

“If the Church didn’t have a way to prevent the use of witchcraft, it wouln’t have won the war five hundred years ago,” the priest said, appalled. “And we wouldn’t be able to take our time in burning a witch.”

“I guess that makes sense,” I said.

Public execution also served as a platform for the Church to show that it had the power to completely incapacitate witches. The Church wouldn’t take countless witches alive and burn them in front of the public if they didn’t have the ability to make them powerless.

In other words, we were in deep shit.

Somewhere in the back of my mind, I thought Zero would eventually be able to do something with her Magic, but if she couldn’t cast any spells, then she was doomed.

Zero was glad that she was being taken to Lutra Cathedral like she planned, but my gut was aching. I was sweating profusely, and it had nothing to do with the heat.

“When push comes to shove, I’ll just have to abandon you, huh?” My worries formed into words that spilled out of my mouth.

Zero cackled. “You will never abandon me,” she said. It sounded like a curse. She still thought I was some kind of a saint.

Our trip back to Lutra was on foot.

The Knights Templar had one horse to pull their carriage, but it was sent to Lutra to report the witch’s capture.

Half of the knights were left to help the villagers, and the other half were to escort Zero along with me and the priest.

The end of the iron chain stretching from the shackles that bound Zero’s arms was fixed on my arm. No one complained. The priest’s offhand comment when we passed by yesterday made the knights think I was actually the priest’s servant.

The priest and I walked on either side of Zero, while two knights were in front and two in the back. We were far enough to hear each other if we shouted.

So I quietly asked the rotten witch and the homicidal priest to explain the situation. Zero and the priest seemed to have reached some sort of understanding, while I was clearly the only one out of the loop.

Leave a Reply