Translator: Kell | Editor: Ryunakama
I sensed hostility from somewhere, but before I could locate its source, my ears caught a strange noise that drew my attention. Zero seemed to have noticed as well as her eyes darted to the woods. Something of tremendous mass was charging straight towards us from deep within the forest.
“Oh, hell no. You’ve gotta be kidding me!”
Toppling down trees on its path, it leapt out of the woods with a thunderous roar and the force of a cannonball. As soon as I saw it, the words on the map I had popped into my mind.
Warning: Wild Ebl Boar live in the forests.
It was a huge wild boar. No, huge was an understatement.
“This thing’s fuckin’ ginormous! It’s bigger than me!”
How could anyone not scream in this situation? The Ebl Boar had, without any exaggeration, a gigantic body. I stood a little over two meters tall, yet our eyes met at the same level. Its crushed left eye and the scars all over its body painted the creature as a veteran fighter that had repelled countless hunters.
The boar appeared to be in a frenzied state, drooling uncontrollably, its right eye bloodshot. It was aiming at me, ready to charge at any moment. The two sharp fangs protruding out of the corners of its mouth could no doubt rip even a Beastfallen’s body in half.
Being a Beastfallen, animals naturally despised me. I had never cursed my body more than I had now.
Should I run? No, I can’t. Judging from its speed, I can never outrun it. All the more so if I had to carry Zero. Looks like fighting’s the only option. I just have to leap to the side the instant it lunges at me, and strike its head.
Crushing its eye would be ideal, but I doubt things would go that well. I drew my sword. As soon as the light reflecting off the blade grazed the creature’s eye, it charged straight at me ferociously. I was about to jump to the side when I noticed Zero behind me standing still. I had no choice but to stand my ground.
“You idiot! Why are you just standing around?!”
I quickly spurred my body into action, pulled Zero, and rolled onto the ground. I felt a sting as the boar’s fang grazed my back. Immediately, I regained my posture. I was about to tell Zero to hide somewhere safe when I found her standing in front of me—in other words, between me and the Ebl Boar.
“This is the perfect opportunity,” she said. “I will show you what Magic is like in actual combat. Without omitting the incantation, as well. Watch.” Zero gracefully raised both her arms overhead. The Ebl Boar prepared to charge once more, pawing the ground. “Meeza Ri Qib!” the witch shouted. “Squirm forth and ensnare! Chapter of Capture, Verse Eight: Caplata! Grant me power, for I am Zero!”
I couldn’t immediately grasp what happened. All I knew was that countless vines sprang from the ground, coiling around the boar’s legs and knocking the creature over. More vines twisted around its body as it lay on the ground. Within a few seconds, it couldn’t move around any longer.
Zero recited the incantation for only a few seconds. What happened afterwards was without doubt Sorcery. So this is Magic. If she’s capable of such a feat, I highly doubt she needs me. My raison d’etre as a mercenary was in serious jeopardy.
“By the way, Mercenary…” Zero turned to me. “Is this edible? Does it taste good?”
I was staring in awe at the Ebl Boar lying there on its back, scrabbling frantically. “Yeah, well…” I muttered without thinking. It was not an affirmation. I just couldn’t find the right words to say.
“Really? That is great,” Zero said with a bright expression.
I gently squeezed my eyes. “I meant no. It tastes good, but hunting it is prohibited. Let it go.”
Zero dropped her shoulders, clearly disappointed, and sauntered towards the boar. The creature’s mouth was foaming from agitation. A snap of the witch’s finger and suddenly the creature calmed down. It stared back blankly at Zero.
“You are one lucky chunk of meat,” she said. ” You attacked me, yet you get to live. Go thank your lucky stars and never show yourself before me ever again. Understood?” While Zero was admonishing the boar, the vines tangled around its body unravelled and retreated back underground. She then watched the creature stroll back to the woods, her eyes filled with regret.
“Now then,” she said, turning her head to the skies. At the same time, my gaze darted to a tree. “There you are!” Zero simulated a nocking motion. She was using Steim. Three arrows of light materialized in her hand and zipped through the air, piercing a tree. A sharp cry rang out.
All right. I’m getting used to Magic. To be more precise, my sense of fear had been partially numbed. I wouldn’t last long if I got spooked every time I witnessed Magic. As I watched the figure stumble out from behind the toppled tree, I snarled, and my whole face furrowed. I recognized the flashy blonde hair.
“You’re that fucking witch from last night!” Realizing this was my perfect chance while they were still shaken, I drew my sword.
“Wait!” Zero said. “It is just a child.”
“What? A child?” I carefully examined the blonde grovelling on the ground. Indeed, they possessed a small stature. So I was running for dear life from a kid?
I felt miserable all of a sudden. Quietly, I let go of my sword. Zero gestured me to stay where I was and strode toward the little witch.
“That was quite the vicious tactic,” Zero said. “You were the one who set that boar on us, yes?”
“Why… Why do you interfere?! You’re a witch too!” Still on their knees, the witch scowled at Zero. They didn’t even bother answering the question. “You of all people should know how valuable Beastfallen heads are! I must have his! Why are you getting in my way?!
“Because he is my mercenary, laddie. He is no good to me dead.”
“You stole him from me! I found him first!”
I gave a start, surprised. Did she just say “laddie”? I assumed every Sorcerer out there was female, but apparently this one was a young boy. Now that I think about it, Thirteenth is a man too. I guess sex doesn’t affect aptitude in Sorcery or Magic.
“Who found him first is irrelevant. What matters is who has him now. I will not hand even a single strand of hair from his tail to the likes of you. Even if you had his head, I doubt you could make use of it anyway.”
“I am saying a witch like you who cannot even cast one Steim properly would find using a Beastfallen’s head to be beyond your capabilities. I suggest you give up. With your measly power, you cannot kill my mercenary, let alone me.”
They were arguing about my head like I was some sort of property. It pissed me off, but the mood prevented me from interjecting into the conversation. I essentially valued my own safety over my pride.
“I know…” The boy clutched dirt with his fists. “I know I’m weak! That’s why I need his head!” he yelled as he got up on his feet. “I must do whatever it takes to get stronger!”
He took something out from the bag on his waist, crushed it, then scattered it around him. For a moment, the boy’s hair and clothes fluttered as though blown by the wind. A high-pitched noise rang out, making the air vibrate.
“Bag do gu Racht! O’ Flame of the end, come forth and incinerate!”
An incantation. He’s casting a Magic spell. I gripped my sword tight. It’s kill or be killed.
“Oh, Flagis? Interesting.” Zero’s faint whisper stopped me from moving. Her slightly-open eyes and mocking smile—the same face she made last night—froze my body on the spot. As if dancing, the boy opened both his arms wide and embraced the air. Then a flame serpent slithered up his body and settled on his hands.
“Chapter of Hunting, Verse Six: Flagis! Grant me power, for my name is Albus!” the boy shouted.
Zero drew a small breath. “Negate. Grant me power, for I am Zero.” Her words were faint yet clear. The flames, which seemed like it could burst any moment, vanished, leaving the boy confused as he stared down at his hands.
“No… How?!” the boy screamed. “I cast the spell right for sure!” It sounded like he’d burst into tears any second. His shoulders shook as Zero approached him.
“Do not underestimate me, lad. That is mine. My Magic, my knowledge, my power. Wielding it against me is utterly absurd.”
“What… do you mean by—”
“The art of using the power of words and offering sacrifices to wield demonic power without summoning them. Last night you mentioned you learned it from the Grimoire of Zero. Well, I am that Zero. I wrote that book.”
The boy took a step back, as though overwhelmed by Zero’s presence, and sank down on the ground.
Hold up. She wrote the book? The one that could destroy the world?
“Mercenary,” Zero called.
“Yeah? Oh, who? Me? What’s up?” I quite literally jumped to my feet when she called me all of a sudden. I was probably just as dumbfounded as the boy, if not more.
“I want to talk to this child. Would that be all right?” she asked.
“Why are you asking—”
Me? I paused. Zero knew I despised witches. Now she wanted to talk to the one who was after my life. She was probably being considerate.
If she went ahead and ignored my thoughts about all this, I would’ve grumbled and complained. But now I couldn’t possibly flat-out reject her when she was actively asking for my opinion.
I roughly scratched the back of my head. “Suit yourself,” I said curtly. “But he’s not getting any food,” I added.
“Of course. I do not intend to give him any either.”
Zero snickered, and the boy’s stomach rumbled. Zero and I exchanged glances and turned our gaze at the boy whose face was bright red.
“I mean it. No food for him.”
Needless to say, a few minutes later, I was watching Zero and the boy eat the well-roasted bird with an empty stomach.