Translator: Kell | Editor: Ryunakama
The next thing I knew, nighttime was fast approaching.
We ended up turning back to the harbor to get a gift for Zero. I thought I bought a decent item. It looked useful and would probably look good on her as well.
“Gifts are good, aren’t they?” Theo looked happy for some reason. “My dad loved giving my mom a gift because it made her happy.”
With Theo on my shoulders, we hurriedly made our way back to the castle. I gave the boy half my attention as he talked about trivial matters, giving him the appropriate responses, while I thought about the goat branding. Behind us the setting sun dyed the sea a blazing red.
It probably wasn’t pure coincidence that the bandits had the crest of the saint tattooed on their bodies. Is Zero aware of this? She should’ve noticed it for a while now. Lia’s attendant always wore the crest around her neck. Zero would’ve definitely noticed it.
No problem had occurred yet, but there might be one someday. Zero saw the connection between the tattoos and the saint’s crest.
“You said that those with the mark of the goat would gather to the gang. Do you know why?”
“No idea. My mom said it was for a grate coz. She said that anyone with the mark of the goat knows what that is.”
Grate coz? Oh, he means great cause.
“She said it was to make the country better. Apparently bad things are happening because of the saint, so she needs to be captured. I don’t think so, though.”
Their great cause was to kidnap Lia? Did they think that it would solve this country’s problem—the shortage of doctors? If anything, they would be severing their last remaining lifeline.
I thought people wouldn’t die from salves, but apparently people could very well fight over them. But Lia was not to blame for that.
Nevertheless this was definitely a problem caused by Magic. Even Magic from the Chapter of Protection could cause similar problems in other countries. And that was something Zero couldn’t overlook. She needed to find whoever taught Lia Magic.
As Zero’s bodyguard, I had the obligation to follow her. Since I became Lia’s guard, I had very few opportunities to be alone with Zero, let alone talk with her. Once I realized that, I suddenly felt the need to hear her out.
Perhaps buying her a gift was indeed the right choice.
When we made it to the castle gate, I showed the gatekeeper the saint’s crest. As soon as we were granted entry, I saw a horse galloping out of the castle in a hurry. Judging by the vivid maroon vest, it was most likely the governor. But why was he in such a hurry this late?
Racking my brain, we passed through the servants’ gate. Our bedroom was the room where we had the feast. But before we returned to our room, I needed to find Zero first. Now where in the world is she?
Soon after I slipped through the side gate, I bumped into something and stopped in my tracks. I looked down and saw silver hair bathed in the crimson light of sunset.
“Hey. Great timing. I was just—”
“Where have you been, Mercenary?” Zero looked up, a cold, expressionless look on her face. She was clearly angry.
With smile on my face, I flinched and took a step back. “I went to town…”
“Can you blame me?! You were talking with the governor…” I trailed off, then went silent.
I couldn’t take Zero with me to buy her gift. I didn’t want to tell her I was out to get her a gift either.
“Uh, oh.” Theo whispered in my ears.
“I thought you were my mercenary. Is it not your job to stay with me at all times?”
“It is, but even bodyguards need their own free time.”
“Free time?” Zero lowered her gaze. “I see. You are right. Free time is necessary. I apologize for interfering with your free time. I simply…” Her voice became a whisper. “I simply wanted to go with you.”
Zero turned around, her long cloak flaring, and disappeared into the castle. I missed the chance to call out to her, so I simply stood there blankly, watching her go.
What was that just now? She’s not acting like herself.
Theo slid off my shoulder and slapped my back as hard as he could with his tiny palm. “Hurry up and go after her! Zero was lonely! I’m sure she was waiting for you all this time so you could go out together. I’m such an idiot! We should’ve returned sooner!”
“Go after her? And then what?”
“Apologize, what else?! Now is the time to give her your gift! Apologize like you really mean it, okay? My dad said that if you made a woman mad, then you apologize.”
Can we really trust your father’s words?
I couldn’t just let her go, so I went after her.
Zero was marching down the long corridor, her footsteps resounding loudly. I caught up to her and tried to talk, but she didn’t answer and kept on walking.
“Hey, wait! Hear me out for a sec! I’m sorry I left you behind. Theo begged me to go, so I had no other choice. I also had some business I needed to attend to downtown, and you were with the governor…”
“Yes, I was talking to the governor. Alone. What were you doing during that time?”
Zero scoffed. “You lent the saint a gentle hand and left me behind. The priest told me you stayed by her side, doing indecent things. I have learned the true meaning of the phrase ‘not eating the meal set before him is a man’s shame’. Did she not serve herself up to you? It would be a shame on you if you did not accept her invitation.”
“Hold up! That absolutely did not happen! While I’d like to give you props for learning the phrase, it’s all a misunderstanding! It’s a lie! The priest’s scheme! Do you actually think I have the guts to do that?!”
Saying it myself made me feel a little awful, but it was the truth.
“Besides, I only ended up with Lia because you and the governor kicked us out of the room.”
“You are mistaken. I wanted to have a meal with you. I knew that the governor wanted to talk to me, so I made it so the feast would be prepared in your room. Yet you chose the saint and not me!”
Oh, shit. So that’s what it was.
The governor only wanted Lia and the priest out, and I just happened to follow Lia.
“Uh, yeah. That was my bad. But you saw how Lia was. The priest left her, and her attendant alone couldn’t—”
Zero still kept on walking. “You are always like that. You only care about the saint because she cannot do things on her own, because she is weak, because you are worried about her. You pay attention to all her needs. Then how about you become a servant to your beloved saint? You do not have to worry about your payment. I will compensate you as promised. Stay here, and as soon as I recover my power, I will come visit.”
“Can you cut that out already?! Saint this, saint that. This isn’t like you! It sounds like you’re jealous of Lia!”
“Jealous?!” Zero turned around and glared at me. For a moment she was at a loss for words, then lost all energy rapidly. “I am not jealous…”
It sounded more like she was talking to herself. Her gaze wandered to the floor, her mouth gaping open and shut.
“I simply… This makes me look like a fool… Indeed, this is not like me…”
Zero dropped her shoulders and exhaled. Finally, Zero looked at me directly, wearing a puzzled expression. Without the usual transcendental air to her, she seemed like a child.
“I simply felt extremely unpleasant. When I see you being so nice to the saint, I cannot control the stirring in my mind, even though I know your actions are reasonable. Is this some kind of a disease?”
Zero brushed her forelocks and shook her head. Bewildered by her own emotions—emotions that everyone had—she was at a complete loss. She wasn’t sick. If anything, she was perfectly healthy. She just hadn’t felt such emotions before. That’s why she was being swept around like a child.
“Or is this jealousy? I am jealous of the saint?”
“Uh, I-I don’t know… Probably…” I found it difficult to answer despite me bringing it up.
Saying she was jealous was like telling her she liked me. In hindsight, me, a Beastfallen, telling Zero, a beautiful woman that every man would be head over heels in love with, that she felt jealous, was rather presumptuous.
“Mercenary. There is something I have always wanted to ask you. I thought hard about it, but I could not understand it. Would you hear me out?”
“Wh-Why so formal all of a sudden? If I can answer it, then sure, I will.”
“Do you prefer big breasts?”