Translator: Kell | Editor: Ryunakama
The sound of Zero playing with the hot water with her fingertips echoed in the chamber.
Raul had been glancing at the hot spring for a while now, a restless expression on his face.
“If Magic is gone, the residents of this land won’t be able to live their lives anymore,” the Beastfallen finally said. His voice was quiet but clear. “Magic was introduced to this island seven years ago. There are children who do not know about the time when there was no Magic. They use it to plow fields, hunt, start a fire, and even cook!”
Raul turned to the tub. Drawn by his sudden action, I turned as well. I was relieved to see that the steam was thick. I couldn’t even catch a glimpse of their bodies since they were submerged to their shoulders.
“There are a lot of people who can’t use Magic, but even they rely on it every day! Even the sorcerer who passed on the knowledge is a very gentle and kind person. How can you think about killing them?”
He was probably trying to say that taking Magic away at this point was basically oppression.
But Zero didn’t yield. “If taking Magic away will cause this island’s citizens to perish, if I think it should be done, then I will do so. That is my answer.”
“That is enough, Raul,” the princess interjected. “This person is a sorcerer by nature. We have fundamentally different ways of thinking. She is extremely logical and pursues what she thinks is best. Just like what I imagined her to be.”
Even though they were in a tight spot, the princess still flashed a smile. “It is just as he said, Lady Zero. In other words, the outcome will be the same.”
Zero cocked her head curiously. “What do you mean by the same?”
“The end of our kingdom. We defy you and be destroyed now, or we agree with you and perish after ten years. The only difference is time.”
“I see.” Zero laughed. “You have no reason to hand over the copy. There is still hope for you if you oppose me.”
“Indeed. I said in the square that I would not be so foolish as to oppose you, but I take that back. Now that I know what you have in mind, I cannot say that going along with your plan and giving up everything is the best for our country. Besides…” Her voice sounded gentle and cheerful. “I genuinely don’t want to let it go. The first time I uttered a spell, the first time a little flame apperead on my finger, I was so happy I cried. My dull and stagnant world suddenly became colorful, and everything started to move. That’s how I felt. I just…” There was a pause. Then in a clear voice, as clear as Zero’s when she said she would take Magic away, she said, “I love Magic so much.”
I glanced at Zero and frowned deeply. What kinda face is that? She was wearing a weird smile, desperately trying to suppress her joy—the joy of a child being complemented by her parent after showing them an awful drawing. It was hard to believe that the ruthless Murky Darkness Witch could make that expression.
“Wipe that grin off your face,” I cut in.
Zero’s eyes widened in surprise, and to hide her expression, she sank deeper into the tub so the water was up to her nose.
No one cherished Magic as much as Zero. Even when Thirteenth warned her that it could destroy the world, she couldn’t bring herself to burn the Grimoire of Zero. She longed for the outside world, dreaming about Magic.
She always wanted someone to say they loved Magic. Like how I wanted whoever tasted my cooking to smile and say it was delicious.
The princess stood up, and I quickly turned my gaze back to the wall.
“If you wish to meet the sorcerer who introduced Magic to us, I will contact them. The sorcerer still lives in the forest located between the two kingdoms. However, it may take some time to get a response from them.”
“You’re aware that we want to kill them, right?” I said without looking at the princess.
“Yes. Which is why it should be up to them whether they want to meet you or not.” She turned to the horse Beastfallen. “Raul, towel and a change of clothes.”
Raul ran up to the princess with a towel in hand.
“You should take a tour of the city until we receive a reply,” the princess continued. “Fortunately, tonight is the eve of a sacred festival. You should have no trouble killing time.”
“Festival?” Zero asked.
“Oh, the coronation,” I said.
If the king was dead and the princess was the only heir, there should be a ceremony for her to become queen soon. It was a festival to celebrate that.
“Yes. In conjunction with that, we are reviving an old festival that was abolished by the Church three hundred years ago.”
“What kind of a festival is it?”
“The Holy Dragon Festival—a festival where we offer a sacrifice to the dragon and pray for peace.”
I pulled back a little. “Now that’s really old-fashioned. Are you gonna offer prisoners on death row as sacrifice or something? Wait, you really think that will quell the dragon’s rage?”
The princess smiled. “I like your straightforwardness. Anyway, with this I will be crowned queen. This is the best way to unite the two kingdoms that have yet to open up with each other.”
Soon after, the princess was standing by the bathroom door, wearing a loose dress. Looking back at Zero over her shoulder, the princess said, “There are many people in this town who use Magic like you imagined. Wouldn’t it better to make your decision whether to take away Magic or not after you see them? Hopefully, you will help us.” She started walking, but before she was completely out of the bathroom, she added, “After all, you cannot leave the island unless the dragon of the forbidden land is slain.”
There were no ships on Black Dragon Island, and no ships came here either. There was no way to leave the place.
The solution was simple. If we wanted to call a ship to the island, we needed to kill the dragon first to ensure a safe voyage. The logic was perfect.
“So if we don’t kill that monster, we’re staying here for the rest of our lives? Fuck that!” I couldn’t hide my horror and shock.
“Why are you surprised?” Zero asked, still comfortably stretching herself in the tub. There was no hint of tension in her tone. “You knew that when you washed up on the island. There is no point in panicking.”
“So what? You want to settle down and live on this island permanently?!”
“That is not a bad idea. I like this underground city. My life will certainly be enjoyable with you around.”
I glared at Zero instead of answering. I had a goal: to avenge Theo’s death. Until I accomplished that, I would not allow her to end our journey.
“Do not look at me like that. I was simply making a dull joke.”
“Well, it’s not funny.”
“It is a dull joke because it is not funny. There is no need to be so pessimistic. We simply have to slay the dragon.”
“You’re making it sound easy.”
Dragons were symbols of power, fear, and death. It was said that a flying dragon presaged a calamity. Some even said that the Church did not eradicate the religious worship of dragons and instead incorporated it into their doctrine because they were too powerful to be taken down.
“Whether it is difficult or not, it does not change what we need to do.”
“That’s true, I guess.”
Before we could do anything, we had to kill the dragon first. I let my shoulders, ears, and tail drop, and shook my head in resignation.
“Now, then.” I heard the sound of Zero climbing out of the tub, and I quickly averted my gaze. “Towel and clothes, Mercenary.”
“Don’t you immitate that stuck-up bitch! You can wipe yourself and wear your clothes all on your own!”
“Why the princess only? Unfair,” she grumbled. “You should treat me more nicely. Thirteenth did so.”
I reached for a towel nearby and threw it at her with all my might. She yelped, and for a while I heard her squirming about. Then she wiped her body down and put on some clothes.
“You all dressed up?” I asked.
“Good question,” Zero replied. “You do not have to ask if you simply turn around.”
“You keep messing with me and I’ll leave.”
“There is no need to be so irritated.”
I jumped as I felt a tap on my back. I turned around to see Zero standing there with a robe wrapped around herself.
Okay. She’s actually wearing something.
“Do you want me to take them off?” she asked.
“I didn’t say that nor am I even thinking about it.”
“No need to hide it. I have learned that you are a healthy, mature man on the inside.”
I had said those words countless times myself, but now that she said it, it made me want to deny them.
After a moment of silence, I pushed the door open. Then an unfamiliar frown greeted me.
“You are too close. Step back. You smell like an animal. And you should open doors more gently. Otherwise, you might hit people outside.”
I couldn’t help but literally take a step back when the man bombarded me with both an insult and an extremely reasonable lecture.
The man, still wearing his frown, cleared his throat. “Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Gouda, Captain of the Magic Corps. The princess has ordered me to be your guide. From now on, you will be under my supervision.”
It was none other than the princess’s bodyguard who got his ass handed to him by Zero. He stood there wearing a full body armor, his hand resting on the sword on his waist.
“Don’t do anything stupid,” he added. “I do not fear death. I would kill you to protect our people, even if it costs me my life.”