Translator: Kell | Editor: Ryunakama
“That idiot,” the leader cursed, as if talking to himself. The bandits hated the saint, so it was only natural for them to be angry at Theo for working for her.
“Unlike him, I was forced to leave the Holy City for the crime of plotting to assassinate the saint,” I said. “A false accusation, of course, but they didn’t really give me time to explain myself. I wasn’t sure I’d make it out of the Holy City alive, so I couldn’t bring Theo with me.”
So I left him behind. I wasn’t lying or exaggerating. What I said were hard facts. But I doubt they’d believe me. After all, I ruined their almost-successful kidnapping attempt.
“Shut up, you fucking bastard!” Sure enough, the bandit hiding behind a tree started spouting profanities at me. “Did you really think we’d buy your bullshit?! Theo’s working with the saint?! Yeah, right. He’d never do that!”
“I’m sure you can verify what I said if you ask around. A white Beastfallen tried to kill the Saint. I don’t work for her, and I don’t want to go toe-to-toe with the guys in the fort. So if you’d be so kind as to allow me to sit in front of the fireplace and discuss this matter in private, I’d appreciate it.”
“Don’t listen to him, Boss! Sect died because of him! He saved that fucking witch!”
“Just drop it already, Talba!” the leader said sharply. “He wouldn’t have made it either way.”
The bandit shut his mouth. Gnashing his teeth in rage, he spat out to express his frustration. Then I heard the sound of grass rustling, and the air froze. Everyone’s gaze darted to the direction the sound came from, where a small figure emerged, pushing through the bushes.
“I hear people arguing. You seem to be having fun, Mercenary. I wish to join you.”
It was Zero. I didn’t even need to hear her voice to know that it was her.
“What are you doing here?! I told you to wait!”
“Calm down,” she said. “I have an excellent idea to settle this dispute. Take a look at this.”
Zero pulled something out of the bushes. A bloody human—the priest.
“You idiot!” I barked. “The guy was working for the saint! You’re making things complicated by dragging him out here!”
“Complicated? This makes it easier, if anything. Those who plotted to abduct the saint can testify that this man was indeed the saint’s bodyguard. But he was nearly killed by the very same saint he was supposed to protect.”
“What?” A gasp came from the trees.
“After saving him, we fled together from the saint. In other words, we, including the priest, are the saint’s enemies. Just like all of you. Any objections?” Her voice was firm and calm.
The bearded bandit, Talba, crawled out from behind the tree and gulped at the sight of the priest. “There’s no doubt about it,” he said. “That dark, green hair, and a staff that turns into a scythe. He’s an adjudicator from Dea Ignis!”
“Is he dead?” the leader asked.
Zero shook her head. “Not at the moment, no. But he will die eventually. I do not think I need to explain how much impact his loss would bring. If you can take us in and save the priest’s life, we can extract information about the saint from him. You might even get the Church’s cooperation. What do you think? I believe this makes the situation less complicated. A simple transaction.”
If you want to get information out of the priest, work with us. A very easy deal, indeed.
I could almost hear the priest criticizing us for using an injured person as a bargaining tool, but there was no point in talking about morals to a mercenary and a witch.
The leader was silent for a few seconds, thinking over Zero’s proposition. “I suppose it would be insensitive of me to ask why you didn’t take the priest to the Church and instead brought him to us. We both have our reasons. But I don’t understand. You were with the saint until recently, but were driven away from the Holy City. Now you still wish to get involved with her?”
“It is a bit complicated,” Zero said. “Well, to put it simply, I was conducting a little investigation. And when I got close to the core of the matter, I was driven away. I am not the type to abandon a task I already started.”
“I see,” the man muttered. “Very well. It’s not a bad deal.”
Talba looked up and screamed. “But Boss!”
“Think about it, Talba,” the man said. “When I shot the arrow, that guy didn’t use you as a shield, but rather pushed you behind a tree and let you go. At that point, we can tell that he means no harm. Above all, if that guy was serious, he would have rushed in without even bothering to take a hostage.”
I blinked a few times. He was speaking as if he knew me well.
Sensing my doubts, the leader added. “No offense, white guy. I’ve heard rumors about you.”
“You stand out, after all. A large feline, with white fur and black stripes. What kind of animal you are is unknown. You’re a celebrity on the battlefield.”
I had been to many battles in my life, so it wasn’t surprising to know that I was famous. There was a good chance we had met as well, considering he was a bandit and I was a mercenary.
I had a pretty good idea what kind of rumors were spread about me. I slaughtered enemies without taking hostages. Or I killed everyone in sight, whether they were friend or foe.
I had gotten some unappreciated nicknames for my violent fighting style, though I hadn’t heard much these days.
“The Black Beast of Death, they call you. You got your nickname from annihilating an entire unit alone, your body dyed black from the blood of the enemies. Blood turns dark overnight, after all.”
Ah, fuck. Someone knows about my embarrassing past. I would’ve loved for my past and nicknames to be buried forever. The embarrassment made the hair on my neck stand.
“The Black… Beast of Death…” Zero gave me an incredibly awkward look.
Stop. Don’t look at me like that. I didn’t come up with that name.
“I-I think you got the wrong guy,” I said. “I haven’t heard such a cringy nickname before.”
“You’re a rare Beastfallen. It’s also that scar on your nose. It has to be you. I haven’t heard much about you lately, but you’re still alive, huh?”
Zero chimed in. “I-I should call you the Black Beast of Death from today on—”
“Nooooo! Please, god! No! You better not! I won’t answer you!”
I was only seventeen that time. They sent me to the front lines because I was a Beastfallen, left me alone on the battlefield, and amid all the panic, I ended up killing an entire enemy unit.
It was a shameful experience for me, and that’s why every time someone brought it up, I would feel extremely uncomfortable, as if they were saying, “You were such a naughty kid back then.”
Man, why’d you have to mention that in front of Zero?
“Hey, you!” I shouted. “How dare you dig up people’s embarrassing past! Show your face! Get down here so I can kill you!”
A chuckle shook the tree. The sound of a huge bird’s wings echoed, and the owner of the voice descended from the top of the tree. When he finally made an appearance, I was astounded.
His wings were wider than two arms outstretched, his claws planted on the ground firmly. White feathers fluttered as soon as he landed. His figure looked magical under the lantern lights.
A white, hawk Beastfallen.
“Whoa… It’s my first time seeing a bird Beastfallen up close.”
“Pretty uncommon, right?” The hawk Beastfallen spread his wings. “Sorry for attacking you earlier. I had to be cautious since I sensed two other people besides you. Now that I know it’s a woman and an injured person, there’s no reason to turn you away.” He turned to the bandit. “Talba. Go ahead and tell the guys at the fort that we have guests coming.”
“You’re gonna believe them?! It could be a trap!”
“I don’t believe them. It could be a trap too. But the priest is clearly dying. If we turn them away, he’s gonna die for real. Have I ever abandoned the sick and injured who come here?”
“Besides, we attempted to kidnap the saint. It’s only a matter of time before some big shot comes to take us down. If we’re doomed to fall anyway, I’m willing to bet on these guys’ help. Now go.”
Keeping an eye on us, Talba ran towards the fort.
The hawk Beastfallen let out a small sigh as he watched him go.
“Sorry about that,” he said. “His friend died, so he’s on edge. He knows it’s not your fault, but he has to vent it out on someone.”
“I don’t really mind,” I replied. “I’m used to people spewing shit at me.” I wagged my tail lightly.
“Thank you,” he said in an incredibly honest tone. “Come. I’ll show you where Fort Lotus is.”