Sea of Paradise – Part 01

Translator: Kell

“I’m really sorry, but we can’t ask you to do any more work for us.”

This is not good, I thought.

I’d been supporting my family by doing odd jobs for inns, earning a few coins a day, but I’d been turned away at every inn now.

“Can we please work something out?” I asked. “I don’t mind getting half the usual pay. I just made a big purchase and I really need the money.”

But the woman simply shook her head. She was an old friend, and I knew her well, but she couldn’t say yes this time.

“No, no, no! I don’t have a room for you! Get the hell out of here!”

Suddenly I heard the owner yelling from the reception desk, arguing with some people.

“We just arrived by ship today,” one said.

“I am not a witch.”

“We’ll pay you handsomely.”

But the owner was unyielding, refusing to offer them a room. As I was wondering what all the fuss was about, the woman before me spoke. It must have shown on my face.

“That guest is a woman with silver hair,” she said. “I’d love to let her stay, but we value our lives.”

“Oh, no wonder.”

In this town, silver-haired women had difficulty buying even a single piece of fruit. Renting a room was practically impossible. I felt a little bit of relief knowing that there were people who couldn’t get rooms for the same unreasonable reasons that I couldn’t get a job.

“Why don’t you set yourself free already? I can’t believe you’re raising such a creepy child that’s not even yours. They’re big enough already. Let them be independent. Then you might get work again.”

“No. The child still needs a parent figure. My wife thinks the same.”

I left the inn and went around town looking for work. By the time I finally got one laundry job, it was already nightfall, and to make matters worse, it started raining heavily.

As I hurried home, I spotted two figures huddled under eaves, taking shelter from the rain. One was terrifyingly large while the other was of a small build. Both of them were donning hoods, but I caught a glimpse of silver hair from the other person. I realized that she was the customer who was turned away at the inn earlier.

Pay handsomely, huh?

My gaze shifted to the bigger guy, and I saw a tail peeking out of the full-body cloak. A Beastfallen.

“E-Excuse me! Are you looking for an inn, by any chance?”

I hesitated for only a moment before calling out to them.

A fleet of small boats loaded with people and cargo slipped out of a huge sailing vessel one after another, heading for the harbor, driving away small colorful fish swimming among the pink coral reefs dotting the jade-colored sea.

A vast, glistening sandy beach stretched out beyond the horizon in a gentle arc. A number of piers jutted out from the beach, around which countless boats swarmed like small fish. Once the cargoes were unloaded and passengers disembarked, workers loaded different cargo to the boat—and new passengers—before returning to the ships waiting offshore.

“It doesn’t matter what time of the day it is,” said the sailor rowing the boat. “Small boats come and go even at night, carrying cargo and people.”

This was a sailor’s dream harbor. Every one of them set out to sea, dreaming of one day setting foot on this port.

No matter how arduous the journey, the moment they see the port, the hardships turn into a beautiful memory, and the dead-eyed sailors say, “Looking back, it was a nice voyage.”

It was like a sandy beach in paradise.

“So hot,” a white, hairy beast muttered.

A priest with an eye patch covering both eyes frowned. “It’s too bright.”

“Is it too much of me to expect decent impressions from you?” A beautiful, black-robed witch eyed them, wearing a displeased look.

A glittering sandy beach spread before the witch’s eyes. People were having fun playing in the water. Women were collecting colorful seashells to make necklaces, children were chasing fish, and men were roasting freshly caught fish over blazing flames under the scorching sun.

“Mercenary, I too wish—”

Before she could finish her sentence, the beast lifted the witch to his shoulder.

“Let’s find a place to stay and coop in until the sun goes down,” the beast said.

“I agree,” the priest added. “I’ll head to the Church first to give a report.”

They were supposed to be like cats and dogs, yet somehow they were on the same page this time.

The witch flailed her arms and legs. “Do you not have a sense of fun? White sandy beach! Blue sea! How can the glittering coral reefs not move you even a little?!”

“I’ve seen the sea plenty of times already,” the beast said.

“I get headaches as the sunlight penetrates even this eye patch,” the priest added.

Governed by the maritime nation of Telzem, sailors called the jade-colored waters stretching along this dreamy sandy beach the Paradise Sea, and the city that housed Telzem’s biggest port was called Lutra.

People from faraway places often say that the city of Lutra is white because salt from the sea blanket the houses, but in reality, the houses and streets are just made of white stones. The exterior of the houses facing the sea might be a little salty due to the sea breeze, however.

Perhaps a traveler once licked the walls of a house and said, “This city is made of salt!” Then some people, amused by such a rumor, made their houses whiter than necessary. They plastered the wooden parts of their houses and painted the walls and roofs white. As time went by, the city of Lutra became pure white that the sun’s reflection made it difficult to see anything—just like now.

Two black figures were sluggishly walking along the streets of this white city. One was me, covered in a black cloak. The other was Zero, an extraordinary witch and a strikingly beautiful woman. She also wore a black cloak, too big for her size, her face hidden under her hood.

Normally, she preferred riding on my shoulders, but she didn’t want to be glued to me, a ball of heat, in this sweltering weather, so she decided to walk on her own two feet for once.

Zero walked slowly behind me, still regretting not being able to play at the beach. “White sand, the blue sea. Freshly caught fish roasted to perfection. We are at the sea of paradise that everyone dreams about, Mercenary. I cannot believe you would ignore it and look for a place to stay first.”

“A Beastfallen like me strolling nonchalantly on this paradise would only create chaos. You might not know this, but there’s a cathedral in Lutra. In other words, this place is crawling with Knight Templars. And you’re a witch, so you best stay away from the eyes of the public.”

Churches are places that worship the Goddess, where believers pray and priests preach. Weddings and funerals are also held in these sacred sanctuaries. The larger structures are called cathedrals.

The Goddess that the Church worships have seven followers, each one having their own cathedral, and one of them is located here in Lutra.

The cathedrals were heavily guarded, with many important people coming and going. Cities that had cathedrals also have the Knight Templars’ barracks. Thousands of them could be wandering around the city.

What if they found out Zero was a witch? She would either be killed, or she would kill all of them.

“A cathedral, huh?” Zero murmured. “I have seen two on my way from Moonsbow Forest to the kingdom of Wenias. They were both magnificent structures. Since we are here, I say we go see this one.”

“Hell no! Are you stupid?!”

“How could you treat me like I am an imbecile? Surely even the Knight Templars would not deem me a witch simply because of my stunning features.”

“No means no! I’ve decided that once I kill Sanare, I’ll become human and open a tavern in the countryside. If you get caught by the Church before then, all my plans will be ruined.” I poked her forehead repeatedly with the tip of my claw.

Holding her forehead, Zero pouted. “No cathedral, no sea. You are such a grouch.”

“I’m not a grouch. You’re just too easygoing! Try playing in the water half-naked. People will drop dead left and right.”

“Why would they die?”

“The captivated will drown.”

“Is that a compliment?”

“It’s an insult! I find your conscpicuous and deadly good looks annoying as hell!”

The disgruntled expression on Zero’s face vanished, and she chuckled. “But my good looks have served us well, have they not? Especially when searching for a place to stay.” She wore a smug look.

I couldn’t refute her. When I told innkeepers that I had a female companion, they usually wouldn’t even rent me a stable, but when Zero told them she had a Beastfallen bodyguard, things went smoothly. They sometimes even gave us decent rooms.

Casting Zero a sidelong glance, I nodded at an inn I spotted. “Well then. I would appreciate it if you could get us a room with your good looks this time as well.”

“Leave it to me,” she said. “What about the priest’s room?”

“Why should we care about that bastard? We didn’t ask him to tag along. No need to get a room for him. He’s a member of the Church, you know.”

What’s more, he was an adjudicator from Dea Ignis, tasked to kill witches.

I recalled the sequence of events that led to the priest accompanying us.

Ten days ago, on Black Dragon Island. The priest waited for us on the ship, and said:

“I have decided that from now on, in the name of the Dea Ignis, you will be under my supervision. Magic is a powerful force that could slay even a dragon, and it can no longer be overlooked. If you are willing to disclose any information about Magic and be of use to the Church, I will defer your execution to some extent.”

It was quite the roundabout statement, but to sum it up, he was saying that he would execute Zero after extracting all information concering Magic from her. Indeed. He declared such an outrageous matter directly to the witch’s face.

“Even people of the Church need a place to sleep,” Zero said. “It is not right to discriminate against the priest simply because you do not like him.”

Scratching my head, I bellowed, all my hair standing on end, expressing my anger and frustration with every fiber of my being.

“It’s not about me liking him or not! He’s trying to kill you, for fuck’s sake! Why the hell are you even worrying about his room like there’s nothing wrong?!”

And you call yourself a witch?!

Zero laughed it off. “I am used to having my life threatened. Above all, it will be easier to move around with him by our side. The pass issued by Wenias may not be as effective this far from the center of the continent. However, the Church’s authority reaches the whole world. Having the priest around will be useful.”

“Yeah, yeah. Very logical. But I hate it!” I grimaced.

Our goal is to prevent the uncontrolled spread of magic. For that, we had to recover the copies of the Grimoire of Zero, a book that contained instructions for the use of Magic. In addition, we needed to investigate and eradicate Cestum, an organization that created the copies and whose goal was to spread Magic everywhere.

If I may be so bold as to mention my personal objective, it was to kill the Necromancer who murdered my friend: Sanare.

In other words, the priest’s—and by extension, the Church’s—and our interests aligned. The Church wouldn’t want Magic, a technique that allowed people to instantly perform Sorcery, to propagate everywhere.

That said, I couldn’t think well of the priest when he basically said he might kill Zero depending on the circumstances.

Zero shrugged. “Is it because he is good-looking?”

“No, it’s not!”

That’s a part of it, though.

Even though I didn’t voice my thoughts, Zero cackled, as if reading my mind. “Two rooms it is,” she said, and entered the inn.

“Get out of here! There’s no room for you here!”

A woman’s shrill scream and a terrified man’s curses drove Zero out of the inn. As I stood there puzzled by the situation, Zero rushed back to my side, shielding her head from the firewood and figurines thrown at her.

“What’s going on?” I asked.

“I am not sure.” Rubbing her head, Zero regarded the inn incredulously with a frown. “It would appear they assumed me to be a witch at first sight.”

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