Translator: Kell | Editor: Ryunakama
“Of course not! That is a terrible joke, Miss Zero. Try calling the person whom a priest of the Church calls a saint poison, and you’ll get burned at the stake immediately.”
“I sense poison in your words. You sound as if you are bemoaning the fact that the Church is hindering you from saying saints are poison.”
“Did it sound like that? What do you think, Your Eminence?”
“I, um… I don’t know…” Somehow managing to squeeze out an answer, Lia hung her head down. The sight of her holding a fork, unable to bring the food to her mouth or put it down, was too pitiful that I couldn’t just sit around.
“Thanks for the food,” I said. “Let’s go, Lia.”
She lifted her head abruptly and stared at me. “But…”
“You look terrible. You’re gonna collapse if you don’t rest.”
I grabbed her arm and forced her to stand. Her attendant also stood up to support her.
“You don’t mind, do you, Your Grace?”
“I can’t ask her to stay when her bodyguard says she should rest. Truly admirable, merc. You’re actually thinking of Her Eminence’s well-being, unlike the priest who simply dismissed himself.”
“I’m not the saint’s guard. Circumstances just dragged me here. That woman right there is my employer.”
“I see… In that case, I take it back. You’re not in the least bit admirable.”
He flashed a charming smile that could make even men swoon.
“I have prepared the finest room,” he said. “Thank you for responding to my unreasonable request, Your Eminence. Please rest well.”
Lia couldn’t even answer anymore. She struggled just to stay on her feet, so I picked her up. The complexion of her face as it rested on my shoulder grew worse and worse. She had pushed herself to the limit to get here. It wasn’t a trip that a young woman with no experience traveling could withstand.
Yet after all that, this is what she got. I shot a glare at Zero. Too far. Even if she was suspected of being a witch—even if she was one, this kind of treatment was uncalled for.
I genuinely felt sick.
Zero returned my glare. “I forgot you were my bodyguard,” she said sarcastically.
“What is wrong—”
“Just go. Take the saint with you, and let her rest.”
Zero ended our staredown herself. When she suddenly averted her gaze, irritation bubbled inside me.
What’s her problem? She’s getting mad at every single thing.
I exited the room, and Theo followed not long after.
“What’s wrong?” I asked. “You can still eat if you want.”
“Nah. I can read the room.”
I listened to the voices spilling out of the room. I heard the governor’s whisper. If I weren’t a Beastfallen, my ears wouldn’t have caught it.
“We are finally alone, lovely witch.”
Frowning, I turned back to the door.
“Gramps? What’s wrong?”
While I wasn’t looking, Zero must have revealed to the governor that she was a witch. Or perhaps she hinted at it, and the man noticed it.
It was no wonder then that the he wanted the priest and Lia out of the room. He wanted to talk privately with Zero from the start. Most likely about Lia. Or more precisely, about witches.
He succeeded in driving us all out of the room.
“Wait. Please, don’t go!”
I was about to leave after laying Lia on her bed, when she suddenly grabbed my tail. I didn’t scream, as her grip wasn’t strong.
Pulling my tail back quickly, I turned around. “Your attendant will be by your side. I don’t think it’s a good idea to have me around while you’re resting.”
Lia shook her head wildly. The attendant silently bowed and left the room without a sound.
Whoa, are you sure about leaving the saint to a Beastfallen? Not that I mind.
“Theo’s waiting for me outside,” I said. “I can’t stay long.” I dragged a chair right next to her bed.
“I’m sorry for being selfish,” Lia said.
“I wouldn’t say you’re being selfish. But anyway, you’re exhausted. Get some rest.”
“Can you… tell me a story?”
She sounded just like a child. Unfortunately, I didn’t know of any bedtime stories.
“Lia, why are you so…” I paused, trying to think of the appropriate word. “…fond of me?”
It seemed to be the most fitting word. Lia gave the impression of a child tagging along with grownups or a kid that liked big dogs, and she acted way more childish around me than the priest or her attendant.
“I’m sorry,” she muttered. She must have read my mind. “I’m an orphan. My mother died of an illness, leaving me alone. There was a Beastfallen child in the orphanage I was in.”
“I see. That’s why you weren’t scared of me.”
“Yes.” Lia closed her eyes as if remembering fond memories. “You know how I’m slow, right?”
“Can’t deny that,” I answered honestly.
Lia smiled. “Meanie,” she said. There was amusement in her voice. “The matron used to scold me a lot. She called me useless. Every time she did, that child would defend me. He had an unusual way of doing it, though. He would pick a fight deliberately, or break things.”
“Maybe he was just a mischievous brat.”
“No. He was usually very well-behaved. He would sit alone in a tree, hiding from the others. But if someone messed up or broke something, he’d appear and take all the blame to himself. The matron would then scold and beat him instead.”
Before I knew it, Lia’s was gripping my fingers. I didn’t shake her hand off.
“I see him in you. You look completely different, but you have similar auras. I couldn’t help but feel you would protect me like he did. I know it’s silly. I’m sorry.” Her grip tightened. “When he left the orphanage, he promised he would come for me one day. He said I was slow, so I wouldn’t be able to work decent jobs. He gave me this feather then.”
Lia gently touched the white feather necklace she always wore around her neck and looked down, sadness on her face.
Everyone relied on the miracles of the Saint of Akdios. People revered her, creating their own image of her in their minds, and when reality turned out different from their fantasies, they became disillusioned and accused her of being a witch. Lia lived her life under that intense pressure.
“But there’s many people who would protect you,” I said. “Like the priest and the lady who’s always with you.”
“Father is only protecting me while he figures out if I’m a witch or a saint… and Sanare is a bit strict.”
I kinda recalled the priest and Lia calling the attendant by that name. She didn’t leave much of an impression, but she wasn’t overbearing either. She must be a capable woman.
“Sanare is an orphan just like me. She knows what it means to suffer, so whenever I felt down, she would remind me that there are more people in the world who are suffering. She says complaining when I could eat delicious food and wear pretty clothes is offensive to those who are actually miserable.”
Theo’s words flashed in my mind. He said being strong was nice, that being discriminated against as a Beastfallen would be okay since they had the power to kill those they despised.
The powerless didn’t care if others acquired their power willingly or not. Having power meant they were blessed, and were not allowed to complain about some little hardship.
Ever since Lia became a saint, she had no one to show her weakness to. She had no one to rely on. I understood how she felt a little, if not more.
“So where’s this Beastfallen friend of yours now? I’m sure he’d be glad to be your guard if you asked him. He promised to get you, didn’t he?”
Lia shook her head slowly. “I don’t know. Maybe he’s forgotten about his promise. But I’m sure he’s helping others.”
“Beastfallen helping people, eh?”
“There are many kinds of Beastfallen. He would always get hurt because of others. I always bandaged him, but I couldn’t really do it well.” She giggled. “I wanted to be useful to others too. So when I found that I could perform miracles, I was really happy. I thought I’d be like him, helping others.”
Her hand tightened around my fingers. She was trembling.
“Does the governor think I’m a witch?” she asked.
“Who knows? He doesn’t seem to have a good impression of you.”
Yet he was nice to Zero, who he knew was a witch. The governor didn’t have ill feelings about witches in general. He just didn’t trust Lia.
“Why? Did I do something wrong?”
“You have any idea what his deal is?”
Lia buried her face in the pillow and shook her head in denial.
“No… but both Sanare and Father said I shouldn’t come. They both said I shouldn’t leave the Holy City because it’s too dangerous… There are people out to kill me lately.”
The bandits who attacked her, the woman who jumped out in front of the carriage, and now the governor. There were definitely quite a few people who didn’t like the saint.
Doctors, especially, couldn’t make a living by practicing their profession anymore because of the saint. Those who relied on them could very well go to the extreme and say that killing the saint would solve the problem.
When a new technology was born and old technology became obsolete, assassination attempts occurred with high probability.
There is someone else in this country who is proficient in Magic.
That’s what Zero thought. But why didn’t they become the saint themselves? Why make Lia the saint?