It could’ve been her bewitching looks, or perhaps her inexplicable getup—in any case, at every inn we visited afterwards, the owner immediately began making a ruckus the moment they spotted Zero, screaming, “Get lost, witch!”
I tried hiding Zero and asked an owner to rent me a stable. While it didn’t result in an uproar, he still refused, saying, “Beastfallen are not welcome here.” We were at a complete loss.
Paying a good amount of coin didn’t work. I also bared my fangs to intimidate them, but to no avail. When they threatened to call the Knights Templar, I had no choice but to back down.
Night was falling, and we didn’t find an inn.
Rather than getting angry, all I could think of was, “What’s going on?”
Zero was staring vacantly at the setting sun, her shoulders slumped like me. “We have had some trouble in the past,” she said, “but this is the first time that my beauty, the power of coin, and your intimidation did not work.”
“You sure you have no idea what’s going on here? Like you didn’t attack this city decades ago and forced people to serve you delicious food, or summoned a giant sea creature so you could play in the water? You know, ridiculous shit like that.”
“What kind of person do you think I am? You know that I was holed up in the cellar until recently. It is true that Moonsbow Forest is close, but there is no way that anyone knows about me.”
“Then why do they all scream witch as soon as they see you?”
“Considering that they kicked me out before I had the opportunity to take off my hood and show my face, it seemed as if they were terrified of my hair.” Frowning, Zero grasped a tuft of her rare and magnificent, silver-colored hair, and let it slip between her fingers.
“Well, there aren’t many people with silver hair. If there was once a silver-haired witch that ran rampant around these parts, just having the same hair color would be enough for people to call you a witch.”
“That does not have anything to do with me. I have done nothing wrong. But now I feel like I should do something horrible.”
“I’m sure you don’t mean that, but please don’t. You’re only gonna cause me trouble.”
“You are as self-centered as always.” Zero smiled. “I like that about you.” She took out a cloth from the bag on her waist, tied her hair into a single braid, and swept it down her back. She then pulled her hood low over her eyes.
I could barely see both her hair and face like this. It was hard to even tell whether she was a man or a woman.
“I guess we’re camping out tonight,” I said.
“Camping out? Well, we had a long voyage. Sleeping while wrapped in the smell of dirt does not sound like a bad idea, but…” Zero pointed to the sky.
Suddenly, a single raindrop fell on my nose. It didn’t take more than a few seconds for the drizzle to turn into heavy rain.
We rushed under the eaves of a house and looked up at the sky, feeling grim.
“If my hunch is right,” Zero said, “this rain will continue to fall overnight.”
“Can we trust your hunch?”
“It has not been wrong once.”
“I guess witches’ hunches often hit the mark,” I muttered, heaving a sigh.
I turned my gaze toward the main road. All I saw was a rocky plain dotted with shrubs. There was no place where we could camp out in the rain. We could use animal hide as shelter from the downpour, but there was nothing we could do about the ground getting wet. It was going to be an unpleasant night.
“That explains why you were so eager to find an inn,” I said.
Normally, she would have immediately said, “I do not mind staying out in the open.” Apparently even she wanted to avoid the rain.
“E-Excuse me! Are you looking for an inn, by any chance?” An unfamiliar man’s voice called all of a sudden.
Zero and I simultaneously turned to the direction of the voice and spotted a plain-looking middle-aged man carrying a burlap sack.
Did this guy call us? He didn’t seem like the courageous type.
A normal person would be frightened and run away even if I was just standing there silently. Some might come closer out of curiosity, but they rarely talked to me.
A cloak and hood still covered my body, but if he got closer, he would know I was a Beastfallen. Did he say something about an inn?
“As you can see, we have no place to stay,” Zero said. “Apparently I look like a witch to the people of this city.”
The man gave an awkward smile. “It would seem so,” he said, shifting the sack in his hands. “Silver-haired women are in a bad spot right now. Even old women with gray hair cannot go near any stores. And the lady over there has actual silver hair.”
“You were watching us?” I asked sharply.
Zero’s hair was completely hidden at the moment. The fact that he knew she had silver hair meant he was watching us from somewhere.
The man jumped at the sound of my voice. He then opened the burlap sack to show us its contents. It contained a large amount of cloth.
“I’m a handyman who gets work from inns. And today, I’m doing laundry. When I saw the two of you getting kicked out, I thought you’d be in trouble.”
“Oh. You are going to offer us a room?” Zero asked.
“I heard you mention something about paying handsomely. I thought maybe I could rent out a room from my run-down house. Then I can buy my wife some clothes, and feed the little one some good food. Actually, it’s my daughter’s birthday soon.”
Zero and I exchanged glances, then looked back at the man. He was afraid and wary of us. Even through his clothes, I could tell that every muscle in his body had stiffened. His tight smile suggested he didn’t mean harm, he simply needed money.
After thinking about it for a moment, I stepped out into the rain and reached out towards the man. He took a step back. I took the burlap sack from his arms and slung it over my shoulder. The man fumbled for words.
“Five silver coins, food included,” I said. “I’ll give you two silver coins in advance. If that sounds good, show us the way.”
Zero took out two silver coins from her bag and put them in the man’s hand.
One silver coin would be enough to buy bread, meat, and wine for three days. Soaking in the rain, the man finally relaxed.