Translator: Kell | Editor: Ryunakama
“Wait. If you’re going to make a bandage, use this instead. It’s already a mess anyway.”
Keeping my composure, I took off my clothes and shoved them at Zero. I couldn’t keep wearing a shirt stained with the priest’s and my own blood anyway. Nothing was more menacing than a Beastfallen wearing blood-stained clothes.
Zero nodded. “That is true,” she said, taking my shirt. Any piece of cloth would have been fine.
I felt a surge of relief as I watched her rip it apart. I didn’t care if she was indifferent to exposure, but she needed to realize soon that others would actually mind. Otherwise, I wouldn’t last long.
“Here, give me your arm.”
I held out my bloodied arm. Zero wiped the blood on my fur with some leftover cloth and began wrapping the makeshift bandage around my arm. She was surprisingly good at it.
“So, how in the world did you end up fighting the priest?” she asked. “Did he catch you sneaking into the saint’s bedroom?”
“Why do you keep on insisting that I have the hots for her?”
“But you do like her, do you not?”
“Well, I like Theo too.”
Zero turned pale. “That is, uhh… He is still a young boy, and—”
“Say more and I’m gonna knock you out.” I shot her a glare. “I don’t care if you’re joking.”
“You cannot take a joke?” She laughed.
“I’ve told you before. There are good jokes and bad jokes.”
And it wasn’t me who couldn’t take a joke, but society, and the priest. I’d be in trouble if they took her words seriously. Worse than if I tried to sneak into the saint’s bedroom. I shook off the chill that ran down my spine.
“But you are oddly nice to Theo. You even went downtown in Ideaverna without me.”
“You’re still hung up on that?”
“Of course! I was really looking forward to it. In the end, I saw very little of the city. The governor offered to show me rare goods found only in port cities, but I turned him down. I went around searching for you.”
“Okay, that’s my bad, but I had my reasons.”
I quickly realized I shouldn’t have said that. My main purpose of going to town with Theo was to buy a gift for Zero, but the gift got crushed in the fight with the priest.
Zero’s eyes drilled into me as I sat there quietly, unable to give an answer. Letting out a sigh, I searched my pocket, then showed the silver pin to Zero.
“I went to buy this,” I said.
“A pin? It looks, um… girlish.”
“No shit! It’s not for me. I, uh, got it for you.”
At a glance, it clearly looked like an accessory for women, with its silver fretwork and bluish gray gem turned into a flower. It would look weird on me, for sure.
“Is it mine?” Zero studied the pin, then my face.
“Theo said I needed to give you a gift since I apparently did something horrible to you. But I’d never given anything to a woman, and a Beastfallen like me can’t even get close to jewelry stores, so the boy helped me out.”
But I couldn’t possibly give something that was broken. It was all too awkward, so I pulled my hand back.
“Hey! Why are you putting it away?!” Zero yelled. “It is a gift for me, is it not? What is the point of buying one if you are not going to give it?!”
Zero reached out to take the pin, so I stretched my arm back as well.
“I can’t give it. I told you, it’s broken.”
“But it is a gift for me. Then it is mine, and I will decide whether I want it or not. J-Just hand it over. It does not look too damaged. You should take good care of things.”
Zero stood up to snatch the pin, but I was still taller than her even when sitting down. We struggled over it for a while, and eventually it became ridiculous. The instant I lost focus, she snatched the pin from my hand.
“I got it!” she cried in joy. “It is now mine. You are not getting it back. You gave this to me.”
You mean you took it from me. Recalling the time she tried to catch fish from the river with Theo, I decided to keep my mouth shut.
Zero regarded the pin happily, smiling like a child who received their first toy.
I felt somewhat uncomfortable. “It’s not really worth much,” I said. “I just bought it from a random stall. Sure, the design is unusual, but it’s broken.”
“It is fine. I can still use it even if it is a little broken. I am happy. This is the first time someone has ever given me something. I am even happier because it is from you. I will treasure it.”
Surely it wasn’t anything that grand, but if she liked it, then good.
“So? If you did not sneak into the saint’s bedroom, why did the priest attack you?” she asked, pulling her satchel and sticking the pin onto it.
Finally we were back on track. I cleared my throat, composing myself.
“The smell of death suddenly got stronger at night, so I went to look for the source.”
“Indeed. It must be tough for a beast’s sense of smell.”
“Yeah, I feel like throwing up. So I went through the woods out back and down to the water’s edge.” I held in the wave of nausea surging in me as images of the rotting corpses flashed in my mind. “There were bodies… a hell lot of them. The priest ambushed me when I returned.”
“I see. So the priest knows about the bodies?”
“By the looks of it, yes.”
“Since you found out about it, he tried to kill you.”
“A pile of corpses in the back of the saint’s mansion would clearly ruin her name. In fact, she could be accused of being a witch.”
“Sick people gather here. It is not strange for there to be many dead bodies.”
“The Church is number one in the world when it comes to using even the tiniest excuse to label someone a witch.”
The pile of corpses would be more than enough evidence to declare Lia a witch. But the priest didn’t do that. On the contrary, he tried to kill me, someone who could expose her.
He clearly wanted to make her a saint. Perhaps he was being cautious this time, since he took the blame for a mistaken judgement in the past. Or maybe he wanted power just like the priests who forced him to take the fall.
“If they did not want anyone to see the bodies, they could have dealt with it sooner rather than later.” Zero cocked her head curiously.
It was one of those things that Zero could not wrap her head around. Humans were surprisingly incompetent, chaotic, and unorganized. Forestalling important matters was common for them.
“Probably didn’t have enough time. It was most likely the residents who dumped the bodies. The priest only noticed recently when the corpses piled up too high up to the water’s surface. Before they could dispose of the bodies properly, I found them.”
The governor’s call for help must have delayed the disposal.
“Bodies…” Zero muttered. She seemed to be deep in thought. “How did the corpses look? “Did you notice anything unusual?”
“You should check them out yourself. Much more certain that way.”
“No. Too bothersome.”
I knew she would say that. Her immediate reply kinda pissed me off, even when I saw it coming.
“Nothing really stood out. I guess there’s the goat tattoos.”
“Goat… the emblem of the saint?”
“I didn’t examine them closely, but as far as I could tell, all the corpses had the mark. Then again, everyone who comes to the Holy City wants to be healed by the saint’s miracles, so it’s not really strange for all of them to have goat tattoos. Come to think of it, some had two or three tattoos. Does the healing become more effective with more—”
“I knew it. Sacrixigs.”
“Sa… sacri… what?”
“I figured out what Magic spell the saint is using,” Zero said. “It was only conjecture at first, but now I am certain.”
“I see. That’s great.”
“Every corpse you saw had their life sucked out of them by the saint.”
I see. That’s awful.