Translator: Kell | Editor: Ryunakama
Until we recovered the copy of the grimoire, purging countless Mages was pointless. More Mages would just keep popping up. If there was no copy in the first place, we would basically be on a wild goose chase.
We had our work cut out for us, whether the copy existed or not.
“Man, this whole thing’s a pain in the ass. I wanna quit.”
“Will you now?” Zero asked with a look of amazement.
“Of course not! I’m gonna get paid for the job I did! So until you turn me human again, I will not quit.”
All this talk about turning me back into a human was payment for guarding her during all the chaos in Wenias. Until I receive that—that is, until she turned me human—I would never leave zero.
As for the payment for my current job, I received a few gems that Zero possessed in advance. If I converted them into coins, I could live an easy life for several years. So yeah, it was a profitable job.
Zero chuckled. “Yes, you are guarding me out of your own will. Deep inside, you do not want to quit. You wish to be with me.”
Where does she even get this confidence from? I frowned. Her looks? This is why I don’t like beautiful women.
Zero suddenly stopped laughing, and looked at the plate before her. “That being said, I am not forcing you to be bound to me. I wrote the Grimoire of Zero and brought chaos upon the world. I alone am liable. To contain it is my duty. And it is an important one.”
Zero was always arrogant, but when she slumped like this, I became aware of how small she actually was.
“So I will not make you wait long for your compensation. Then you will be free, in the truest sense of the word. You will not need to escort me. You can go anywhere and fulfill your dreams.”
“So until then, I will use my charm to captivate you and make you beg to stay with me!”
Of course. I should’ve expected as much. I knew she wasn’t the kind to get depressed. She spouted trivial matters in a tone that sounded like she was about to determine the fate of a whole nation.
Averting my gaze from Zero, I took a sip of my cup.
Witches were fundamentally pragmatic beings, acting in their own best interest. Zero mentioned duty and responsibility, but she probably wanted to suppress the chaos caused by Magic not for the sake of the world, but because she would not be able to sleep soundly at night.
Duty and responsibility were words alien to me. I really couldn’t understand witches. They were willing to set out on an arduous journey because of some “duty,” when they were so lazy they couldn’t even be bothered to walk on their own.
“All jests aside,” she said, “we must first recover the copy of the grimoire if we were to restore order. We will be running in circles otherwise.”
“But we can’t even locate it. Hell, we’re not even sure if it actually exists.”
“You do not believe me?” Zero grumbled.
“Whatever.” I folded my arms, and looked up at the stained ceiling. “Judging from the kid’s letter, incidents that might involve Magic, big or small, are happening in many countries. If there is a copy, it’s probably in one of those places, but checking them all one by one will take too long.”
“I suppose we will have to ask the lass to continue with a detailed investigation into the copy. If it is being traded, we can probably find out where, how, and by whom. In the meantime, we can proceed with our own investigation.”
There was a port here in the Republic of Cleon.
If the kingdom of Wenias was the central hub of land routes, then the Republic of Cleon was the central hub of sea routes. News from all over gathered here, so we chose this country as our current destination.
Our next stop: the Republic of Cleon’s biggest port city, Ideaverna.
“We can take a shortcut to Ideaverna through the forest. That is, if we don’t get lost in the woods.”
Just then, amidst the din of the messroom, my ears caught the sound of carriage wheels and a horse neighing.
It was already dark outside. Even a drafty inn like this seemed like paradise to travelers on the verge of camping outside. The carriage, however, sounded like it was running too fast.
I looked outside the window.
The next instant, the carriage rammed through the flimsy wooden wall, sending me flying through the air. Helplessly I rolled across the dining hall floor, crashing onto customers and tables alike.
Am I dead? Warm liquid was pouring out from somewhere, drenching my body. Is this my blood? Man, that’s a lot.
Well that was a surprisingly short life. I’ll die without ever becoming human. Come to think of it, all I did was fight in wars. I had a little bit of fun in the end, though.
The warm liquid entered my mouth, filling it with the aroma of rich milk and the taste of melted vegetables. Ah, this isn’t blood. It’s the cream soup that another customer was eating.
“Mercenary! Are you all right?!” Zero, who managed to avoid the carriage, came running to me. “Oh my, you look delicious! Is this what they mean by having a meal prepared before you?”
“Hell no!” I shouted.
My senses gradually returned. I only suffered a minor bruise. That’s a Beastfallen for you, beings known for their toughness.
Zero sighed in relief. She was still holding her plate and wooden spoon.
She probably got out of the way the moment the carriage rammed into the wall, protecting the plate of food. I didn’t really have any right to criticize her, but it somehow made me furious.
Then a scream echoed throughout the messroom.
“It’s a child!”
Hearing the word “child” in this situation sent heavy tension in the air. Forgetting the pain, I raised my body up and looked at the carriage lying on its side.
A child lay sprawled near the vehicle. He looked no more than ten years old, with a small body and long, slender limbs. There weren’t any children around me, which meant he was in that carriage. Blood specked the boy’s sun-tanned skin. His body twitched, his fingers scratching the floor.
There was an agitated horse nearby, however. If he stood up and provoked it, he’d get kicked to death.
I started running at once. Only me, a Beastfallen, could save the child without fear of the horse.
As I picked him up, the horse, getting more and more agitated from the presence of a Beastfallen, reared. I ducked, but its hard hoof grazed my head. Blood splattered on the floor. I rolled away from the horse, then checked the child’s condition. He was limp and unmoving, bleeding from his head, and a piece of shattered wood was stuck on his shoulder.
“Is there a doctor here?! The kid’s severely injured!”
I looked around the messroom. But no matter the situation, a carnivorous beast raising its voice would scare just about anyone. No one came forward.
I messed up. I shouldn’t have butted in. Maybe he’ll make it if I just leave him here and bail. Someone would probably tend to him then. For a moment, I considered that option, but it would be faster if we did it ourselves.
I only had my own personal first-aid kit to work with, but it was definitely better than leaving the kid and doing nothing.
“Get me a chair’s leg!” I told Zero. “I’ll stop the bleeding.” I lay the child down gently on the floor and ripped his bloody clothes to make a bandage.
Zero came running over with a stick, which I took and fastened to the kid’s injury with the bandage. He screamed from the intense pain as I twisted it.
“I’m gonna carry this kid to a room. You can save him, right?”
Zero’s Magic should heal all his injuries. The witch nodded.
“It will delay your returning to human form,” she said.
“I don’t mind. I have time, but this kid doesn’t.” Slipping my hands under his knees and neck, I lifted him up.
But then a man jumped out from a group watching us from afar. He wore a black cloak that covered his entire body, and carried a battered black bag. The pinky and ring fingers on his left hand were missing. Judging from the awful scar, an animal probably tore them off.