Translator: Kell | Editor: Ryunakama
I studied the letter again. How’s our investigation going? My reply to that would be “We’ve made no progress at all.” Word of what happened in Wenias was definitely spreading to other places, but we hadn’t heard of any incidents happening in other countries that involved Magic.
Magic was a newly-invented craft. While it was useful, it could also be abused in many ways, and only a few had the means to counter it. If those Magic-wielding people that left Wenias caused trouble, no one could suppress them.
That is why we, possessing the means to fight against Magic, were looking into incidents that involved it.
“Hey, Witch. What do you think? Even with the intel-gathering power of Wenias, we got nothing. We can’t investigate on our own—” I lifted my head to find a hooded woman grappling with a huge shrimp’s shell, cracking it with a stone.
Peeling off the shell, Zero—my employer and the royal pain-in-the-ass author of the miraculous Grimoire of Zero—opened her mouth wide and bit into the meat.
She had long, silver-colored hair that reached to her waist, skin whiter than snow, and mystical, bluish purple eyes. Her beautiful features were hard to look at directly. Even I, her mercenary, needed courage just to look her in the eye. Her face was half-hidden by her hood, but you could see her beauty just from her lips alone.
Damn it, woman. You weren’t even paying attention, huh?
The sight of her stuffing her mouth with shrimp and enjoying her food made me slightly angry, so I snatched the shrimp from her hand and tossed the whole thing into my mouth.
Biting down on the remaining hard head shell with my fangs, I savored the sweet flavor of the sea oozing from the soft meat. Hmm, yes. That’s delicious.
After I finished eating it, Zero rose from her seat, her face pale from astonishment.
“My food!” she cried. “My shrimp steamed in kelzas herb and prepared with fruit sauce! Why? Why did you take it from me?! Do you know how long I have been waiting for it to cook? How can you be so cruel?! What did I do to you?!”
“Do I need any reason to eat a shrimp laid before me?”
“Why, you…! You heartless monster!”
“Whoa there. You’re almost crossing the line. There are some things in this world that you can’t just say and that was one of them.”
Zero looked at me with a straight face, and I saw myself reflected in those bluish purple eyes—a beast with the head of a large carnivore, fur covering my entire body, and claws from my huge hands that could rip apart a human being if sharpened.
A half man, half beast—a Beastfallen.
Beastfallen were like symbols of depravity. They were savages and aggressive, feared by the masses. At least that’s the impression the world had of them. It was understandable, though. Who wouldn’t be scared if a monster capable of crushing a human head with its bare hands was nearby?
Even in this mess room crowded with travelers, the tables near me were empty.
To a normal person, it would be like dining with a disgusting vermin. When I entered the dining hall, the conversations stopped completely for a while. After realizing that I was just a harmless Beastfallen who was here to eat, the sounds of conversation gradually resumed. Now the hall was lively again, but still some tension remained.
In the midst of all the noise, I heard someone grumble “Why’s a Beastfallen here eating with us?” but I pretended to not hear them. They probably thought I couldn’t hear them. I would just wear myself out if I got mad at every single thing.
As a matter of fact, I was a mercenary who had killed a lot of people for money. Only murderers would actually like me.
In reality, however, I was an absolute coward. Having been born a monster, I worked bloody jobs all my life, but my hobby was actually cooking, and my dream was to open a small tavern somewhere. A pipe dream, really. Who would even come to a tavern run by a Beastfallen? Not me, that’s for sure.
But Zero said she could turn me into a normal human being. So she and I struck a deal.
Witches were scourges of the world, always in danger of being burned at the stake. In exchange for protecting Zero, she would “someday” turn me into a human.
When exactly was this “someday”? No one knew.
In order to rectify the problem that Zero’s brother Thirteenth caused, Zero had to expend a large amount of her mana. As a result, she didn’t have the power to turn me human now.
Summoning a demon to my body had strengthened the bond between my human soul and the beast’s soul. A little amount of mana would not be enough to restore me.
Zero said she would recover her mana eventually, so I decided to accompany her on her journey. However, I had no idea when that would happen.
I was used to traveling from one battlefield to another anyway. Traveling with a witch didn’t really affect my life in a huge manner. To be honest, I didn’t really mind.
If there was a problem, it was Zero’s severe lack of common societal knowledge. Insulting a Beastfallen to their face could result in bloodshed.
As I rebuked her in the most polite way possible, Zero tilted her head to the side in confusion.
“I apologize,” she said. “I did not mean to offend you.”
“It’s fine. I’m not mad. Just a little hurt.”
“I was simply telling the truth,” she said with a straight face.
“I take it back. I’m mad now.” I shoved Albus’s letter in Zero’s face.
“S-Stop! What are you doing?! I cannot eat!”
“It’s a letter from the kid. No information on the Mages that left Wenias.”
Zero squirmed, bending back a little, then pulled the letter away, distancing herself from my hand.
“You’ve got ink on your face,” I mumbled.
After skimming the contents of the letter, Zero breathed on it casually. The letters crumbed and vanished.
Whoa… Now that’s what I’d expect to see from a witch.
I pretended I didn’t see anything.
Fortunately, no one seemed to witness what she just did. Making a big deal out of it now would only attract attention to us as well.
“It was as expected,” Zero said. “Actually, we gathered more than expected.”
I didn’t read anything useful in the letter. Even if we had actual intel, we couldn’t verify its authenticity. There was only a ridiculous rumor about a magic book—the Grimoire of Zero that Albus currently possessed—being traded.
There was nothing much that could qualify as intel in that letter.
“The copy is currently missing, correct?” Zero said grimly.
If a copy of the Grimoire of Zero was actually created, it could be the one being traded in the market.
But in Albus’s letter, she mentioned that it was never completed. Wouldn’t that mean that a copy didn’t exist at all?
Zero looked puzzled. “Even incomplete, that book could be more than enough of a threat to the world. Did I not tell you that one page alone could destroy the world? In fact, the first part is what matters as it contains the concept of Magic itself. If it disappeared amidst all the chaos…” She shook her head gravely, and exhaled. “It is safe to assume that someone took it. The lass is too optimistic.”
“True… If data regarding weapons developed during a war completely disappeared after the war was over, that would be a major national problem. But maybe someone disposed of it? You know, out of fear of leaking newly developed technology or something. In fact, that’s more likely the case rather than it being stolen.”
“Too optimistic,” Zero said firmly.
Zero basically went wherever she wanted to go and saw what she wanted to see. But at the heart of it all, her objective was to solve problems caused by Magic. As the one who invented it, she probably felt responsible.
I thought it was utterly absurd.
I didn’t think the person who invented a new technology should be responsible for the people who abused it. If a thief killed someone with a knife made by a blacksmith, would it be the blacksmith’s fault? Or did the blame lie with whoever pioneered steelmaking? Of course not.
Still Zero would not concede, saying, “Those are different matters altogether.” She was usually easygoing, but when it came to Magic, she was unyielding. She couldn’t overlook any information regarding a copy of the grimoire.
“I think it’s stupid to worry about the copy being stolen and misused when there’s no proof that it exists in the first place,” I said. “If anything, you’re being too pessimistic.”
“No. We should always assume the worst. After seeing what Thirteenth did, anyone would think that if they brought the Grimoire of Zero outside the kingdom, they could create a new Coven and take over a nation. Thirteenth asked for a copy to be made, but we have no idea where it is. We should assume that it had been leaked.”
“I don’t know about that…”
Power was a sweet nectar, enticing many lowlifes.