Translator: Kell | Editor: Ryunakama
As we entered the city, residents rejoicing at the return of the saint crowded the streets, making it difficult to walk. Every few steps, they begged Lia to heal their illnesses and injuries. It was getting out of hand as Lia tried to answer all their requests.
The priest and attendant rebuked Lia, while the guards kept the residents away from her. It seemed like an established routine.
The guards were actually waiting for Lia at the bottom of the stairs, and even now a few of them were positioned around her. They prepared a carriage, but Lia said she wanted to walk. She probably just wished to come in contact with the people. The guards, however, would’ve found it extremely inconvenient.
Security’s too tight. Is Lia’s life in danger even here in the Holy City?
“Your Eminence! I have come from a neighboring country. Please help my daughter.”
“Wait, please! Heal my brother!”
“No, no, no! Her Eminence is exhausted. Wait for the gates to open tomorrow.”
No, that’s not it. They were not protecting her from threats to her life, but from the unreasonable people clinging to her miracles.
After all, it was a matter of life and death. If they didn’t receive treatment now, they might be dead tomorrow. The only people who wouldn’t be desperate in such situations would be the half-dead who had already given up on life.
“Too many rich people in this place,” Theo muttered.
I surveyed the streets once more. The people crowding around Lia ranged from the ragged poor people to rich merchants. But the residents of this city indeed looked like the wealthy kind.
“They’d gladly throw away their riches if it meant they could live in a city with a saint.”
Something was wrong, though. I wrinkled my nose. There was an unusual smell mixed in the air of this otherwise refined cityscape—the smell of death.
“I changed my mind,” Zero mumbled quietly. “It does not seem to be as beautiful a city as I thought.”
I was expecting the priest to say something like, “Letting a Beastfallen stay in Her Eminence’s residence is outrageous,” but he readily agreed to it. He said he could keep an eye on me easier this way, which made me want to refuse instead. But I couldn’t possibly reject the head of this city’s offer.
“You can rest in your room until supper. If you want to look around the town, you can go out. I’ve informed the gatekeeper that you’re guests. There’s also a bath in your rooms, so you can wash away the exhaustion from the long journey.”
Lia left us in a good mood, perhaps because the priest didn’t object to her wishes this time. Naturally, Zero and I were given separate rooms—though hers was just across the hallway—while Theo disappeared somewhere with the lady attendant.
Apparently, they were going to introduce Theo to the butler and officially hire him as a houseboy. It was a huge promotion from doing odd jobs for a bandit group. This would also mark the end of my escorting Theo to the Holy City.
“I really don’t know how to feel about this.”
As I entered the guest room, I felt so entirely out of place that my head started to hurt. Embroidered silk couch. Shaggy rug. Countless candles illuminating the room. A canopied bed. To be honest, I felt like a stone that had been mistakenly thrown into a jewelry box.
All of the furnishings on display looked expensive. The thought of accidentally scratching them with my nails made me restless.
“I prefer the stables…”
Unfortunately, I couldn’t say, “Show me to the stables and I’ll sleep there.” Lia might cry, and then the priest would get mad.
I unpacked my luggage, removed my tight gear and put them all together in a corner of the room. There wasn’t a place for me, however. What am I supposed to do? Sullying the silk couch and the pure white bed sheets with my dirty body was out of the question.
It was almost as if I was being forced to take a bath. I didn’t mind taking a hot bath, but it was a pain to dry my body. I could ask Zero to dry me off with a spell, but going to her room with my body wet didn’t sound right. Telling her beforehand that I was taking a bath and asking her to dry my body after I was done seemed improper as well.
As I trudged toward the bathroom, the dazzling marble tub—already filled with water—made me feel dizzy. It was almost as if they were expecting their guests to take a bath right away.
Where do these people get their water from? There was only seawater around, with no river in sight. I guess they dug a well. The king sure built a city in a strange place. It was supposed to protect him from enemy soldiers, but he was basically holing himself up. He would’ve eventually ran out of resources.
I soaked myself in the steamy bathtub. In an instant, the water that was once clear became completely black. Yeah, fur tends to suck in dirt.
It wasn’t every day that I got the chance to submerge my entire body in warm water. I could only do it whenever I happened upon hot springs with the right temperature, so I was genuinely grateful for this luxury.
I breathed out a long sigh and closed my eyes. Looks like I was pretty tense there. Once I started feeling relaxed, I became sleepy. I was just about to doze off when I heard the sound of a door opening. I opened my eyes slightly and listened carefully to the direction of the sound. It sounded close.
“There you are, Mercenary!”
Zero threw the door open and stepped into the bathroom. Her sudden intrusion caught me off guard, and I let out a scream, all the hair on my body standing on end.
“I knew you were taking a bath,” Zero said. “I have already finished, while you are taking quite a long time.”
“How can you just stand there and talk like it’s nothing?! Apologize for your rudeness and get the hell out of here!”
“Rudeness? This is not the first time I have seen you taking a bath. Why are you angry now?”
“I was washing up outside back then…”
“Where you do it does not matter. You are doing the same thing. I can wash your back if you wish.”
“Fine, fine. My bad. So what do you want?”
I gave up. She made a good point. She had already seen me taking a bath before. Even without clothes, Beastfallen didn’t feel that embarrassed naked since we had fur.
“I was thinking of taking a look around town.”
“Yes. I have my own business to attend to.”
She was probably planning to ask people around some questions to help her determine what kind of Magic Lia was using, who taught her, and whether she was a witch to be eliminated.
“There. I have informed you about it.” Zero turned around.
Dumbfounded for a moment, I hurriedly called out to her. “Wait! You came here just to say that? Why?”
“Though it is possible that you take the saint’s side, I am still your employer at the moment. You always reprimanded me, telling me that I should inform you where I was and what I was doing. So I came here to do just that.”
“However, I also feel a little uneasy about giving too much information to someone who might change sides and become my enemy in the future. Therefore, I will not ask you to follow me.”
“Ch-Change sides? You’re being overly dramatic. I just think Lia can’t be a bad person.”
“So you do not want her to be annihilated, correct? But I believe, although temporarily, that she should be destroyed. We are in disagreement on this point, and you could turn into a knight protecting the saint at any moment. You will deem me evil for trying to kill her, a virtuous saint. It sounds like your typical epic story.”
I couldn’t say anything back. Indeed, I’d heard plenty of stories about a servant serving an evil witch switching sides once touched by the saint’s pure heart.
“I can understand your uncertainty. Though I wonder how a Beastfallen like you, who is feared by people, could gather information on your own? If you want to get the information you need to decide whether or not you should protect the saint, I suppose you will require my help then. But that is none of my business. That is all. See you later.” Casting a sidelong glance at me, Zero strutted out of the bathroom.
I jumped out of the tub. “Hey, wait! If you know I’ll need your help, then don’t leave me behind! I’m coming with you! Is this your way of getting back at me for what happened in Ideaverna? If you wanna leave me here anyway, at least dry me off first!”