Translator: Kell | Editor: Ryunakama
“I would not go that far, of course,” Zero said. “But no matter how hard she tries, the saint has to choose who to treat. Now what happens if you seize that right to choose?”
What would you do if you held the right to choose who Lia would treat?
“If, for example, endorsing me as the next head of state would give me the chance to be prioritized by the saint, would you not strive to make me win?”
The right to have priority when it came to healthcare was too enticing, especially in a country where new diseases frequently came in from outside.
Fewer doctors and a centralized healthcare system. Controlling that system would give you the power to run the entire republic’s healthcare.
“Those under the grace of the saint will have the opportunity to become the head of state. If that is the case, they will all try to take possession of the saint. How would they do that?” Zero paused. “Did you know? The person who presented the town of Akdios as a Holy City was a wealthy female merchant notorious for seeing the poor as mere slaves. Apparently the saint is very fond of her as a tea drinking companion. The governor said that the saint is not well-versed in politics and is unable to judge those who approach her whether they are good or evil.”
Donations, contributions, bribes, and brown nosers. In other words, it was a battle to see who would be most liked by Lia. It would not be an exaggeration to say that Cleon was ruled by the saint. She had a strong influence on the future of the country precisely because the republic had no absolute ruler.
“But that’s not Lia’s fault, is it? If the problem is that bitch slithering up to her, then just deal with her instead! It’s even possible that she’s the one who taught Lia Magic, right?”
“Yes, I suppose.”
“Lia is just saving people. Sure, she has to choose who to treat as a result, but if asked, she’s willing to heal anyone. In fact, she does just that. She healed me and even offered to heal the bandits. Can you still say that she’s someone who needs to be eliminated?!”
“I have heard other stories as well.”
I didn’t want to hear Zero questioning Lia’s intentions any more.
“That the saint is a horrible witch who hunts and gathers the souls of the poor and gives them to the rich.”
“And you just believe that?!” I roared, grabbing Zero by the chest and pulling her closer.
Her slender body was extremely light, the tips of her toes rising slightly above the ground. Zero’s beautiful features and bluish purple eyes were right before my eyes. Her somewhat disdainful, blank expression sent a chill down my spine.
I just threatened my employer. I threatened someone who I couldn’t even defeat in a fit of rage.
“Sorry.” I somehow managed to voice an apology from my dry mouth. I let Zero down.
After quietly straightening her clothes, she looked straight at me. “Did you fall in love with the saint?” she asked.
“No! I’m just….”
I just remembered the sensation of her hand desperately holding on to my fingers. I couldn’t believe that such a frail woman who only knew how to save people was a witch that must be annihilated.
She was clueless, yet people called her a witch, an evil incarnate, simply because of the things happening around her. It was unfair, and I hated it.
It was the same as being told that people around me were dying because I was a Beastfallen. It was like telling Zero that innocent humans were dying in witch hunts because of their existence. I know you don’t mean any harm, but if only you didn’t exist, things would be better.
“Sympathy and pity,” Zero said. “You are afraid of cornering the people who adore you. You feel that helping to drive them to a wall is betraying them.”
Zero let out an exasperated sigh. I felt terribly pathetic.
“Rest assured. I will not kill the saint without being certain that she must be eliminated. I will not take the information I received from the governor at face value either.”
I know that. Zero was simply talking about the information she got. She simply stated that Lia could be a witch that must be eliminated based on the intel from the governor.
“But whether she is aware of it or not, this country is suffering because of her. The number of doctors is dwindling and people are dying without receiving treatment. Lives that might have endured had the saint not appeared are gone. I must make things right. Any blame for lives lost because of Magic, even indirectly, lies with me.” Zero lifted her head and looked me straight in the eye. “I will kill the saint, if I have to. That is my—”
“Your duty, right? I know! And it’s my job to help you with that. If you’re going to kill the saint, I’m going to follow your orders.” I let cold, thoughtless words escape my lips.
Zero’s expression softened. “If this was not part of your job, what would you do?” she asked.
“Would you violate our agreement and protect the saint? If it were not for your obligation, if you were to act according to your own will, what would you do?”
My own will. Unable to come up with an answer on the spot, I tried to dodge the question.
“What are you talking about? I have a contract with you, and you already paid me in advance. I don’t get the point of your question.”
“You are a mercenary, someone who puts their own best interest first, correct? You have double-crossed employers and chosen a different one who offered a better deal. Am I wrong?”
“Well, yeah. That’s true.”
Money-driven mercenaries had no loyalty or any moral code.
The reason I was still working with Zero was because she could turn me human. But even if I stopped being her bodyguard, she said she would still return to me and fulfill her end of the deal.
As though seeing through me, Zero, wearing a soft expression, suddenly reached her hand out. Her fingers touched my cheek, moving gently as if she were caressing a cat.
“I told you before, Mercenary. I will not force you to be by my side. If you wish to stop being my bodyguard, then you may do so. Still one day I will come to fulfill my end of the bargain. We are together right now because it is what we want. It is our will. There is no contract here that binds us together forever. I find this arrangement pleasant, yet at the same time I am afraid of it falling apart.”
Wasn’t that what I said to Theo before? It’s not that you can’t, it’s just that you don’t. It applied to me as well.
As I stood there unable to say anything, Zero chuckled.
“It is strange. Until a moment ago, jealousy made me lose my composure. But now that I know and admit that I am jealous, I feel calm once more. I wait with great anticipation for you to choose me instead of the saint. It will surely be very painful yet very enjoyable.”
“But didn’t you say before that you would use my name to bind me and make me your servant?”
“If you tell me your name.”
So in the end, it all comes down to my own choice. What exactly do I want?
“I like the look on your face,” Zero said. “The face of someone perplexed and distressed is extremely attractive.”
“Are you making fun of me? I actually feel quite down right now.”
“Me as well. After all, I was about to be betrayed by the first friend I made in my entire life. For the second time, in fact. You betrayed me once when Thirteenth tricked you.”
I couldn’t offer any words of rebuttal. Zero smiled at me as I covered my face with the palm of my hand and fell silent.