Translator: Kell | Editor: Ryunakama
Taking control of the saint was the same thing as taking control of the healthcare of the entire Republic of Cleon. There were those who thought that Lia was actually a witch, and it would be more convenient to have a hold of her secret. After all, having dirt on her was easier and quicker than sucking up to her.
Quite diligent, are we? He even protected Lia from such tactics. Unfortunately his suspicions were entirely misplaced.
“How can I, a conspicuous Beastfallen, take a job that involves snooping around? I’m a mercenary who’s currently serving Zero. I don’t have any will of my own, and only do as Zero wishes. Like you said before, I’m just following humans’ orders like an animal.”
Saying it myself pissed me off that I practically spat out the last part.
“What exactly are you doing?” I asked. “I only arrived in Cleon recently, but I can tell that the saint is suspected of being a witch. I thought the adjudicators from Dea Ignis killed anyone suspicious. Aren’t you neglecting your duty, then?”
“Suspicions on Her Eminence? How ridiculous,” he spat out. “Whether she is a saint or a witch is for me to decide. What I need is not gossip or the suggestions of scheming persons of power. I make my own judgment based on God’s teachings and my beliefs. Animals like you who delegate responsibility to others and let them decide your own actions cannot possibly understand.”
“I see… Beliefs, huh?” I sneered.
Belief. Responsibility. Judgment. None of these things were relevant to me. I couldn’t help but be extremely pissed as he uttered the words firmly.
“But as I recall, didn’t you mistakenly kill a saint? The woman you determined to be a witch based on your beliefs was actually a saint, right? Oh, wait. My bad. I guess it was the Church that got it wrong. I heard the Church claimed she was a saint, when in fact she was a witch. But then that would make your precious God, the Church, and your beliefs just a bunch of bullsh—”
I shivered. The staff he pressed against me didn’t have its blade out, yet I could feel its icy touch.
“My eyes were made to see through Sorcery disguised as miracles. To see through evil that masquerades itself as good. Instead of seeing the world in the light of day, they can see the truth hidden in the darkness. Exterior beauty, fake smiles, and smooth talk mean nothing to me. If I judged you to be dangerous to Her Eminence, I will cut off that foul head of yours, even before her eyes.”
The priest lowered his staff. So he’s not gonna kill me right now.
“I warned you. Your best course of action is to decline Her Eminence’s favor and leave tonight.”
He then turned around and disappeared without a sound. Once he was completely out of sight, I could finally breathe properly.
“Damn it. This is getting tricky.”
Lia and the one who taught her Magic. The woman who called her a witch. The mark of the goat, which also happened to be the saint’s crest. The governor’s accusing behavior. Was Lia a witch to be eliminated or not. If she was, what would I do?
We had to solve all these issues while under the priest’s venomous eyes.
It bothered me, however, that the priest didn’t just kill me despite his desire to get rid of me. He hated me, but he wouldn’t kill me for that reason alone. He was still a priest who followed God’s teachings. As an adjudicator from Dea Ignis, he killed witches, but was forbidden to commit murder out of personal feelings.
Put another way, he couldn’t find a legitimate reason to get rid of me. In that case, he could simply let me escort them to the Holy City and then send me away once the job was done. Use me like an animal, as he would put it. It felt like he was trying too hard to eliminate me. Why was that?
“He doesn’t want me in the Holy City?”
Was there something there he didn’t want anyone to see? Like proof that Lia was indeed a witch. Perhaps he already had the proof, but for some reason, he was trying to hide it.
“I guess that’s too far-fetched.”
Keeping my dejection in check, I stroked the back of my neck. I immediately froze.
“You’re kidding… How?”
My fingers were sticky and warm. Upon checking, it was red—no doubt my blood. Considering that I didn’t notice any pain, I must have been cut with a very sharp object.
But when and by whom? I didn’t even need to think about it. There was only one person who could’ve done it: the priest. The first time I engaged him in combat, a blade that I should have blocked cut me on the neck.
But the priest didn’t even bring out his scythe’s blade this time.
I knew what he wanted to say: “Why are you still here after I warned you? Do you want me to cut off your head right now?” The priest’s gaze bore into me from behind his eye patch.
I spent the rest of the days looking out of the carriage. Theo quickly got bored by the same scenery and was now sitting on the roof of the carriage, waiting for us to arrive in Akdios.
All of a sudden, the boy banged on the roof.
“I can see it! The Holy City of Akdios!”
The scene outside the window was still the same boring, serene forest. Zero leaned out of the window. I had to quickly grab the hem of her cloak so she wouldn’t fall. She squinted in the direction Theo was pointing.
“Oh!” she exclaimed.
The Holy City of Akdios.
The moment the carriage crested the hill, I was greeted by scenery so unreal. The first thing I saw was the strangely-shaped cliff deeply gouged to the inside of the land. The force of the water must have scraped away the land to create the shape over the years. Surrounded by the cliffs, a huge lake spread out, its edge far off in the distance. I could vaguely make out the cliffs on the opposite bank through the mist.
An island floated in the middle of the lake. A single suspension bridge extended straight to it.
“It looks like a round vase with water inside, doesn’t it?” Lia said. “It’s high tide right now, so the water level is high, but when the tide recedes into the sea, the water level also goes down. They say the lake is connected to the sea.”
The perfectly calm water surface mirrored the deep blue of the sky, and the scales of the fish swimming in the lake glistened in the sunlight. It was so bright that it was hard to look at the surface directly.
I heard that Akdios was a small island on a huge lake, but its sheer vastness beggared the imagination. It took a while before my jaw returned to normal.
Even Zero’s usually sleepy and dull eyes were sparkling.
“Marvelous. It is my first time seeing something like this.” Zero’s cheeks were flushed.
“Isn’t it beautiful?” Lia said proudly. “I love Akdios.”
Zero nodded eagerly, to my surprise.
“I like it as well. I have come to like it. It is beautiful. Do you not think so too, Mercenary?”
“I do. Surprised me, that’s for sure.”
“It is lovely. I want—”
“Stop. Please. Not another word.”
Things tend to get out of hand when you want something. I could easily imagine a horrific witch conquering the Holy City and turning it into a gruesome hellscape in one night.
Even if Zero didn’t do it, her overprotective brother Thirteenth might. He was the perfect example of an evil sorcerer, throwing a whole country into war simply because Zero said she wanted to see the sky. His familial love had no bounds.
“I hope you haven’t forgotten that your brother has a criminal record,” I said. “Listen! From now on until eternity, you can’t wish for something without thinking about it!”
“You are too strict! I cannot even genuinely wish for something? Do you not feel sorry for me?!”
First things first: please don’t say you want a city. It’s crazy to begin with. I didn’t want to see her brother’s gloomy face ever again. Like hell I would be at his mercy ever again.
I glared at Zero, and she pouted.
“If the water level drops when the tide recedes, does that mean the island is actually bigger?” I asked.
“Yes. At high tide, more than half of the island is submerged. The only habitable place for people is the top part of the island, which you can see now.”