Translator: Kell | Editor: Ryunakama
The princess stopped in front of a door at the far end of the tunnel. All other chamber entrances were covered with cloth, but this was the only one with a lock on it.
“This better not be some kind of a trap,” I said.
“Are you scared?” the princess asked. “Contrary to your apperance, you sure are quite the coward, Whitey.”
“No shit! Brave mercenaries die first! And stop calling me that!”
“I’ll go in first.”
“Stop dawdling, Mercenary,” Zero said. “Resisting at this point is simply shameful. I think you are adorable. You are like a kitten afraid of their first home.” She followed the princess and disappeared beyond the door.
Raul glanced at me. “I can hold your hand if you’re scared.”
Silently clenching my fists, I hit his horse body since I couldn’t reach his head.
“Ouch! Wh-What was that for?!”
“Shut up! Don’t you ever say shit like that again! It’s gross!”
“I didn’t say anything gross… That’s just mean.” Raul twisted his upper body to check his horse half.
“So, what’s inside?”
“The princess seems to want to keep it a secret, so I’ll keep it a secret too. I think you’ll be surprised.”
Then, as if affirming his words, Zero shouted. “Come in quickly, Mercenary! I am certain you will love this too!”
I couldn’t resist at this point. With a big smile on his face, Raul opened the door, and I reluctantly stepped into the room. Pure white steam with a peculiar metallic smell to it smothered me.
“What the hell is this?! Wait, I know this smell.”
“Yes, it’s a hot spring.” I heard the princess’s voice coming from beyond the steam.
I squinted. “Hot spring? Why bring us here—Aaah!”
As soon as the steam cleared a bit and I could make out Zero and the princess’s figures, I turned my body as fast as I could toward the wall, screaming.
They were not wearing anything. If my eyes didn’t betray me, both of them were naked.
“Why? There’s only one thing to do in a hot spring,” the princess said. “To soak yourself, of course.”
“She is right, Mercenary. You should hurry up and take off your clothes too. This hotspring is exclusively for the princess, but she is giving us special permission.”
“Like hell I’m taking off anything! And you want me to enter with you?! No!”
My voice echoed loud in the chamber. I’m a man! An actual, adult man! They want me to take a bath with women?! Am I in hell?! Or wait, maybe this is heaven?
Well, both were in the afterlife. In this world, men and women bathing together was unheard of.
“If you’re gonna take a dip, then feel free. I’m outta here. Like right now! Don’t you dare move. Like, for real. Don’t enter my line of sight!
“Wait, Mercenary. There is no need to be so upset.”
Suddenly, two pale arms wrapped themselves around my waist from behind, and I stiffened all over. The body heat I felt on my back definitely belonged to a human—Zero. In other words, a completely naked woman.
“You absolute idiot!’ I pulled Zero’s arms off and put the cloak hanging from my shoulders over her head.
She struggled to get out of Raul’s coat. “Wh-What are you doing?! I cannot see!”
“No! What are you doing?! How many times do I have to tell you to show a little more decency?!” I shook her body back and forth, and the princess pulled her away from me.
I quickly averted my gaze, to the ground or the wall, any spot I could look at safely.
“What are you so upset about, Whitey? Is a woman’s naked body that unusual to you?”
“Ah, god damn it! First Zero, and now you! This has nothing to do with what’s unusual or not! Women aren’t supposed to expose themselves to men!”
“It was the Church that instilled the concept of chastity to the people,” the princess said. “As someone who practices Magic, I don’t concern myself with such trivial matters. I take it that’s the same for Lady Zero.”
Poking her head out of the cloak, Zero nodded sternly as if nothing happened. “Yes. Being exposed is nothing to fret about. I want to get in with Mercenary.”
It’s no use. Common sense don’t apply to these two!
To my surprise, I realized that I agreed with the concepts of common sense, morals, honorable poverty, and chastity that the Church itself advocated. These two witches made me aware of that.
It felt like I could look eye-to-eye with that creepy priest now. As I was trembling with fear and hopelessness, I heard a rustling sound, like clothes being removed.
What was that? From what I briefly saw, neither Zero nor the princess wore anything. Cautiously, I opened my eyes and looked at the direction of the sound.
I met Raul’s gaze. He was smiling. Now that he had taken off his tunic and underwear, I could see clearly the part where his human half and horse half met.
Oh. It really looks like he was just stitched onto it. Then I quickly remembered something more important and stopped him.
“Wait, you fuckin’ horse! Why are you entering the hot spring too?!”
“Huh? Because it’s my job to help the princess with her bath.”
“Outrageous! Absolutely outrageous! O’ God in heaven, this kingdom indulges in debauchery!”
“The floor is quite wet,” Raul continued. “If you want to get in, please put your clothes in the basket there so they don’t get wet.”
Ignoring my agony, Raul made his way to the water, his hoofstomps loud on the ground. I grabbed his body firmly and forced him back towards me.
“Wh-What are you doing?!”
“I should be the one asking you that! My employer is in there as well, not just your princess. You can’t look!”
“I can’t wash her body without looking.”
“So you’re gonna touch her too?!”
“You two are free to frolic about, but do it in moderation,” the princess said. “Raul. Since we have guests today, you don’t have to assist me that much. You can keep Whitey company.”
So there we were, two women soaking in a hot spring, and two men glaring at the wall while standing in attention.
“Don’t worry,” Raul said. “I’m not going to look at your significant other in an obscene way.” He flashed a gentle smile.
“Significant other, my ass! That’s not the point. It’s about common sense!”
I started explaining the concepts of shame, chastity, and the like to Raul. He nodded as he listened. In the end he arrived at the conclusion that if there were people who didn’t like some things, then he would follow them. He clearly didn’t get what I was trying to say. Heaving a sigh, I gave up on trying to make the guy understand.
“Besides, why are we in a hot spring anyway? Pretty sure there’s plenty of other places where we can relax.”
“The princess says that this hot spring has the power to restore magical power. So when she gets exhausted after using Magic, she rests here for a while. There’s been too many problems lately that she hasn’t been sleeping well. This is the only place where she can relax.”
“Was it all right to bring strangers here, then? Wait, we were talking about the Grimoire of Zero. Also give me back my knife!” I made sure the princess heard the last part.
“I can’t hear you,” the princess said. “Can you come closer?”
Damn it. She knows I can’t turn around! I can do it if I want to, you know. I don’t care about your slightly red cheeks or your sweaty pale skin… I don’t!
“I didn’t know you have a lecherous side to you,” Raul said.
“Shut up and mind your own business!”
All three of them laughed.
“All jokes aside,” Zero said, exhaling.
The steam around me seemed to shimmer, and I gave a start for no reason. Fuck. I’m getting dizzy despite not being in the water.
“Let me hear about the Grimoire of Zero, princess. As I mentioned before, it has been wrongfully distributed. I am traveling to retrieve it and to obtain information about the sorcerer who spread it to the public.”
“What are you going to do with that information?”
“Retrieve the grimoire and kill the sorcerer responsible for the Magical war on this island,” Zero said flatly.
Since the original Grimoire of Zero was with Albus in Wenias, the one in this kingdom had to be a copy written by the bitch who killed my friend Theo in Cleon. Whoever brought the copy to this kingdom was no doubt Sanare’s accomplice.
I felt my spine crawl. Sanare vanished with a knife pierced through her heart, blood dripping from her body. I found it hard to believe that she was dead. After all, she managed to perfect Necromancy. If she was dead, then I wouldn’t be able to rest easy until I ripped her corpse to shreds and feed it to dogs.
“I see,” the princess said. “So you’re trying to get rid of Magic? Do you think inventing Magic was a mistake?”
“No. But you said a lot of people died in the war caused by Magic. The technique I created left my hands and is being used in a different way than I imagined. I cannot stand it.”
“But it’s impossible to have complete control over any invention. You should have expected Magic to be used differently the moment you created it. Now that it has happened, shouldn’t you be tolerating it, rather than taking it away?”
“Tolerance is not an option. Deviating from a path is inevitable. But if it cannot be fixed, I will take away Magic from this world, even if it costs me my life. I do not care if I go down in history as an enemy of the world.”
“That sounds like despotism.” The princess’ voice was low and criticizing.
“What is right does not matter to me. I will simply act as I wish. If you want to call it despotism, then so be it.”