Translator: Kell | Editor: Ryunakama
Even if we did avoid falling straight into the water, there was still the disaster of slamming onto the rocks waiting for us. Carrying the priest, I managed to adjust my body mid-air and land on the cliff with both feet, minimizing our injuries. Still my legs hurt like hell.
But that was nothing compared to the priests injuries. He was covered with pieces of wood that shattered from the shell’s impact.
Zero’s Magic should have closed his wounds, but still he looked like a slaughtered corpse as he lay down on the ground. His breathing was shallow, and the occasional pained groans escaped his lips.
“He’ll live, right?” I asked.
Zero shook her head. “That is a tough question. I do not think he is completely out of danger yet.”
“I thought you healed him with your Magic.”
“I did close his wounds, but that is all. I am sure you are aware that stitching up wounds does not necessarily save someone. The same applies to Magic. There is no Magic that can save people for certain. The priest has lost too much blood. His survival depends on his resilience now. In cases like this, proper rest and medicine to supplement one’s recovery is more useful.”
“Well there are no doctors in towns near the Holy City, and taking him to the Church will only result in too many questions that I don’t wanna deal with.”
If we told them that the priest was almost killed by soldiers in the Holy City, Lia would immediately be deemed a witch and killed. Whoever taught her Magic would get away.
There was also a chance that the priest would not survive even if we took him to the Church. If that happened, there was a high possibility that I, a Beastfallen, would be held responsible for his death.
“Thinking just made me depressed. Can the Church just perish already?”
“Shall I destroy them?”
“Please don’t!” I shouted in horror. “That sounds terrifying.”
“I was joking,” Zero said, laughing. “How about we go back to Ideaverna and ask the governor for help? He can probably look after the priest and lend us a hand.”
“That’s a good idea… but it’s gonna be difficult.” I shook my head.
“Why? He told me I could count on his assistance anytime.”
“We’re accused of attempting to assassinate the saint. Most of the powerful people in Cleon practically worship her. It doesn’t matter how powerful that horny governor is, or how he doesn’t like the saint. If he opposed the saint openly, he’d put his position in jeopardy.”
“Then he can assist us secretly.”
“It’s gonna be difficult to secretly shelter a witch, a Beastfallen, and a dying priest. If he isn’t prepared to oppose the Church, the worst-case scenario is that he’ll hand us over to them and we’ll be executed.”
Getting help from the common folk carried the risk of being reported to the authorities. As long as I was under the suspicion of attempting to assassinate the saint, we couldn’t ask for help in ordinary places.
“Besides,” I continued, “Ideaverna is too far away. The priest will be dead before we reach the city.”
“Hmm, yes. I see. To summarize, we need help from someone not too far from here, who is not a follower of the saint, nor a powerful person with status to think of. Furthermore, they have to be prepared to oppose the Church.”
“That’s pretty much it. To add, a place where the priest could get a proper rest would be great.”
“You ask for too much,” Zero said in an exasperated tone. “Even demons demand for less.”
I simply shrugged in agreement.
Even without the problem with the priest, we still needed some kind of help.
To obtain information about the copy of the grimoire from Lia, we had to enter the Holy City first, but the only entrance to the city was a hanging bridge that was destroyed by a cannon just moments ago. Even if they repaired the bridge, the whole attempted assassination case would prevent Lia from leaving the place for a while.
Quietly sneaking into the city with only me and Zero was impossible. The only course of action for a Beastfallen and witch duo was to go ahead and kill anyone who stood in our way. We would then go down in history as the worst villains to ever exist.
And I didn’t want to star in a fairy tale where I was the bad guy.
“Bad guys… Wait a sec.”
There were people who fit all the criteria. They disliked the saint, they weren’t influential, yet also held a certain amount of power.
“The bandits,” I muttered, directing my gaze at Zero.
Blinking, she struck her palm with her fist. “Right. I remember the lot with the Sacrixigs mark on them.”
The day after Theo slammed the carriage into the inn, we found Lia in the forest with the bandits. On their bodies was a tattoo of a goat—the mark for Sacrixigs, a spell that allowed one to take on the injuries and illnesses of others. But too much of it caused death. The bandits must have realized that.
“No, wait. It’s the other way around.” I recalled what Theo said to me when we were in Ideaverna.
Those with goat tattoos become bandits. People with the mark of a goat gather at Fort Lotus.
It wasn’t that the bandits figured it out. They realized the truth and then became bandits.
“Will you ask the bandits for help, then?” Zero asked. “The saint said the abandoned fort near the Holy City is the bandits’ headquarters. I believe its name was Fort Lotus.”
“I’m not sure they’ll lend us a hand after foiling their kidnapping attempt, but we don’t really have anywhere else to go. Distance-wise, it’s not a bad destination for the time being.”
Zero let out a groan. “But the fort is not on the map.” She had pulled the map out of my bag and spread it out on her lap.
Of course it wouldn’t be on the map. I sighed.
“The maps that citizens and travelers use basically only contain the locations of major cities and roads with tolls,” I said. “You wouldn’t want the location of a fort, a structure for defense, to be leaked to other countries, would you?”
“Then how do we get to Fort Lotus? We do not know where it is. We only know that it is close.”
“It’s a standard tactic for mercenaries to attack barracks and take their map, but I don’t wanna go that far. Not like there’s any barracks nearby anyway.”
I was already accused of attempted assassination of the saint. If I attacked a barracks, the whole country would no doubt put a bounty on my head. A lot of people were already after me. I didn’t want bounty hunters added to the list as well.
“I realize it is a little late,” Zero said, “but should we not have brought Theo with us after all? It seemed like he wanted to come with us.”
“A bandit gang’s errand boy became a saint’s maid servant. Who in their right mind would squander such good fortune? Lia can vouch for him if he stays there. Plus she’s generous. She might send him to school if he asked.”
Theo could then become a doctor like he wished. A stranger like me had no right to destroy his future.
“For the good of the child, huh?” Zero said. “You speak like a parent. I have no memories of mine, but parents pray for the well-being of their children more than they do for themselves, correct?”
I wrinkled my nose. “You’re exaggerating. It’s just that being a mercenary’s errand boy is better than being a bandit gang’s errand boy. And being a saint’s retainer is the best.”
To top it off, I couldn’t promise that I wouldn’t abandon Theo. I liked the kid, true, but he was a stranger to me. If Theo stopped being useful, if he got injured and became a burden to me, I would surely abandon him.
If I abandoned a nice kid like him—one who could smile at me casually without even thinking twice—and let him die, I’d have nightmares for a while.
Speaking of parents, Theo mentioned his mother was in Fort Lotus.
Theo’s mother, marked with the brand of a goat, joined the bandit gang. As a result, Theo also became a member, serving as an errand boy.
Theo said he didn’t have to go back to his mother anymore, but considering the fact that a bandit showed up for Theo in Ideaverna, his mother might still want him to return.
Should we have brought him with us then? No, it’s too late for that now. I already left Theo behind.