Translator: Kell | Editor: Ryunakama
“I underestimated you a little,” the priest said. “I should have expected nothing less from a warrior.”
Calmly, the priest popped his shoulder back in and swung his arm around to check its condition.
As I staggered backwards, my back hit the wall of the mansion. I reached into my pocket to check what blocked the priest’s scythe, only to be disappointed.
I had forgotten about it. The pin I bought for Zero was still in my pocket.
“Ah, damn it. It’s broken now.”
It was a silver pin with delicate craftsmanship. Part of it was damaged from the priest’s attack.
“Fuck you, man. You’re really pissing me off now. Here I am, minding my own business, but you keep picking a fight with me.”
Rummaging through my bag, I ripped open a packet of hardened gunpowder with my claws, scooped out a small amount, then rubbed it onto the tip of my sword.
“I made up my mind,” I said. “I’m gonna give you a good thrashing.”
“I’d love to see you try!”
The priest leapt forward. I raised my sword, slamming the tip at the stone wall behind me with great force. The gunpowder ignited on impact, and for a brief moment it flashed.
That was all I needed. The priest’s eyes were sensitive to light. Grunting in pain, he lost his balance. I then thrust my elbow into his stomach and used my weight to slam his body onto the ground. Pressing down on his neck as he tried to get up, I clenched my fists tight.
“Now brace yourself.”
Smiling, I brought my fist down.
“What are you two doing?!”
But before my fist could deform his skull, a completely unexpected interruption occurred. The lady attendant’s ear-piercing shout stopped my fist right at the very last second.
Strangely enough, the modest, red-haired lady standing tall and glaring at us, possessed an air of authority and pressure that made me regain my composure.
I stood up, letting go of the priest.
“What are you thinking, fighting on the premises of Her Eminence’s residence?! All the noise is scaring her. Both of you, put your swords away. Now!”
“But this brute is planning to hurt Her Eminence!” the priest protested.
“Her Eminence will be devastated if you kill him! She will be sad if you are killed too!”
I sheathed my sword. Slowly, the priest rose to his feet too, and with a swing of his scythe, the blade retracted.
The attendant rushed towards me and took my bloody arm. She tried to wipe the blood from my arm with her apron, but the wound from the priest’s strings was so deep that the blood just kept dripping. Biting her lip, she stared at the apron soaked with blood.
“This is horrible! We’ll have Her Eminence heal your wounds. We can say you both fought off some thugs.”
“Thugs that could damage both our arms?” I said. “Must be some terrifying guys. Besides, that would mean we let them escape.”
“I’m sure she’ll accept the explanation.”
True. That woman’s too simple-minded.
“I’m good,” I said. “I’m a Beastfallen. I’m sure these injuries will be healed by tomorrow. Just keep this a secret.”
I turned on my heel and walked away.
“Please wait!” The attendant ran up to me. “Um… You saw the corpses, didn’t you? We had no other choice. We’re thinking of doing something about them. Her Eminence doesn’t know anything about it.”
She had no idea, even when she lived right here? Something was happening because of Lia, and the priest and the attendant were hiding that from her.
“Her Eminence is fainthearted. If she knew about all the people she couldn’t help, her gentle heart would not be able to bear it. But the people who are alive and suffering now need her help. I ask that you not call her a witch. She relies on you.”
“I don’t really care if she’s a witch or a saint.”
I had no idea how she interpreted my words, but the attendant let out a sigh of relief.
“Please come to Her Eminence’s room later. She will be glad to have you as her guard. Let’s talk about it in detail.”
“Sorry, but I’m Zero’s mercenary. You’ll have to find someone else.”
It felt like a wake-up call. It didn’t matter if Lia was virtuous, or if she was ignorant. What mattered was her using Magic was causing problems. And what Zero and I should do to solve them. That was all.
Nevertheless, I still didn’t want to kill Lia. That feeling had not changed. But the country was suffering because of her. She was not fulfilling her duty. I finally understood the meaning behind Zero’s words.
Ignorance was no excuse. As long as Lia reigned as a saint, she must know and take into account the effects of her existence. Lia failed at that. Good intentions, when spread without consideration of their negative effects, could be harmful.
If the attendant was lying about Lia not knowing anything, that she was aware yet chose to ignore the problem, then we must deem her to be a witch that required extermination.
There wasn’t enough to go on. I really wanted to talk to Zero right now.
I walked towards Zero’s room, blood dripping from my arm. Blood stained the corridor, but I thought about just letting them think it was the priest’s blood.
The hallways were empty. Or so I thought, when I saw a figure leaning against the wall, arms crossed as though they were waiting for someone. As a matter of fact, they were probably waiting for someone—me.
“You are badly hurt, Mercenary,” Zero said.
“This is nothing, Witch,” I replied, acting tough.. It actually hurt quite a bit, and would probably hurt more as time went on.
“Do you plan to ask the saint to heal you?”
“You waiting here means you were watching from the window.”
“You were recruited to be the saint’s guard.”
“Yeah, and I refused.”
Zero’s mouth quirked into a smile. “Indeed. And then you came back to me. You chose me.”
“Well, aren’t you delighted?”
“That I am. You are my mercenary, and you belong to me. You became so by your own will. I will heal you, then.”
“No need. I can handle it. The more you use Magic, the longer it’ll take for me to become human.”
“Delaying it a little is fine.”
“No, it’s not!”
“You will have a reason to stay with me forever. You tend to lose your way without contractual relationships to guide you.”
“Even after our contract is complete, you’re gonna use your charm to make me your slave anyway.”
Zero told me that the day Theo crashed the carriage into that inn. She said she wouldn’t use a contract to forcibly bind me to her. She wanted me to stay by her side out of my own will.
Zero gave a smile, perhaps remembering her own words. “Yes. I will captivate you. I will make you want me and only me. You will think there is no one else in the world like me. That aside…” She looked at my arm and frowned. Pulling my arm, she dragged me straight into the room and made me sit in a chair.
“What are you doing?”
“With your recuperative powers, your wounds will be healed by tomorrow, but we need to stop the bleeding.”
Zero took off her cloak and tossed it aside. Apparently she was going to treat me physically, not magically, and by using a human method at that. I was taken aback. I didn’t expect Zero to go through all the trouble. Genuinely interested in what she planned to do, I sat there quietly.
She lay her hands on her clothes to rip it apart. She probably wanted to use it as a bandage, but seeing as it was a short shirt to begin with, tearing it up would be a bad idea.