Translator: Kell | Editor: Ryunakama
The entrance to the basement was completely burned, leaving only a gaping, square hole on the ground.
I took one step inside. It was terribly dark, despite it being daytime. Just like before, the air was damp and filled with the smell of rotting corpses.
“Honestly, I didn’t want to come in here ever again,” I grumbled as I lit up a lantern.
“We have no other choice. We must gather as much information as we can by checking what the attendant left behind.”
At the bottom of the stairs, a corpse was still flailing behind the bars, ramming its body into the iron bars in an attempt to get out.
Zero lit up a flame in her fingertips and touched the corpse’s forehead. A second later, the body burst into flames and collapsed on the spot, motionless.
The smell of burning corpse permeated the basement, making me more and more uncomfortable. When I destroyed the lock, the gate opened by itself, the hinges creaking.
Papers showing the location of a person’s organs lay scattered here and there. Perhaps the attendant was dissecting corpses to study the structure of a human body.
Trudging through the pile of corpses, organs, blood and paper, Zero picked up a book resting casually on the writing table. The binding was ebony polished to the point that you could see your own reflection. There was a human heart engraved on its front cover.
“Here it is. The copy of the Chapter of Protection.” Zero opened the book. After flipping through a few pages, she let out a sigh. “It is a perfect copy. Even my annotations and writing style. I never thought they would separate the chapters and turn each one into a book. I suppose very few people can actually use all the Magic contained in the Grimoire of Zero.”
The first few pages of the grimoire contained commentary on the mistakes and misconceptions about Sorcery, and the theory on Magic.
If you transcribed the commentary and put it at the beginning of each of the four chapters, you would have four magic tomes that could destroy the world.
“All is for the noble goal of Cestum, was it? Does this mean there’s others like Sanare?”
“Most certainly. Cestum means imperfect number, which is the number Six according to the Church. This organization clearly despises the Church. I hope they are not plotting something sinister.”
“I think the chances of them not plotting anything is pretty low.”
“You make an astute point. You are right. As such, we cannot overlook this matter. We need to track them down as soon as the mess here is settled.”
Sanare brought only the Chapter of Protection to the Republic of Cleon. Since the Grimoire was composed of four chapters, there were only three copies left out there—the Chapters of Hunting, Capture, and Harvest.
I was reminded of Albus’s letter. She mentioned a baseless rumor about a book that let one use Magic just by reading it. It was apparently being traded in the market at an outrageous price. But if several copies existed, then this baseless rumor was now an unquestionable fact.
Just imagining the problems that could arise as a result of the books’ circulation in the market was giving me a headache. If two opposing nations obtained different copies, it could lead to a major magical war. Worse, if those Cestum guys incited the conflict, it would be a horrible sight.
“We might need to extract information from Thirteenth first,” Zero said, heaving a sigh.
I blinked a few times. “Sounds like you think that Thirteenth’s behind this.”
“Yes. Circumstancial evidence all point to Thirteenth, but that is why I find it hard to believe that he is behind this. Thirteenth would have tried better to conceal his involvement.”
“Yeah, I see your point. You’re probably right, considering he’s the crafty and sneaky type.”
“If he was indeed the mastermind, he would not let out even a squeak from a little interrogation. But we have no leads at the moment.”
Zero carefully tucked away the copy of the Chapter of Protection into her bag and turned around, as if to say she was done here. I followed her out from the nauseating basement.
The air outside was incredibly delightful compared to the basement. Since the corpses in the lake had burned up along with the mansion, the smell of death in the city had vanished.
When we returned to the inn, the number of sick patients begging for treatment from the saint had increased. There were about twenty of them now. They might have broken through the security at the bridge.
“Why won’t you come out?! Can’t you tell we’re running out of time?!”
“Are you going to leave us to die? Who do you think is responsible for the doctors leaving this country?! So you only want to help the rich, huh? Fuckin’ witch!”
“Drag her out! We’ll force her to heal us!”
Oh, shit. We’re just one step away from a riot.
The guards managed to suppress them somehow, but if they didn’t back down, it could result in a tragedy—the guards might end up killing them.
I stepped forward with my hand on my sword.
“Mercenary? What are you doing?”
“I’ll just threaten them a little. My roar would be a lot more effective than the guards’ yelling.”
“They will think you are a bad guy,” Zero said.
I wouldn’t survive long as a Beastfallen if I cared about my reputation.
Before I could make a move, the place went quiet. A large carriage was charging straight into us. I quickly moved forward to protect Zero. But the vehicle suddenly stopped in front of the inn, skidding sideways, and knocking me away.
“M-Mercenary! Are you all right?!”
I rolled on the ground and slammed into the majestic stone statue standing at the inn’s main entrance. Shocked, Zero came running to me. I had this vague feeling that something similar had happened before, but I had forgotten about it. I just assumed getting sent flying by a carriage was an everyday occurence.
“Yeah. I just got hit by a carriage and my skull probably has a small crack, but other than that, I’m fine.”
I stood up, blood dripping down my head. Zero offered me a cloth, which I used to wipe off the blood. She then quickly took the cloth and shoved it in her bag. I’m not even gonna ask what she’s gonna use it for.
People shuffled out of the carraige, all of them dressed in black. It was a group of doctors. And finally, a man with jade-colored hair, fully clothed in a churchman’s attire, gracefully leaped down from the driver’s seat. His eyes were covered by a leather patch.
It was none other than the adjudicator from Dea Ignis. We went our separate ways back at Fort Lotus.
“Thank you for your efforts,” the priest said to the cowering driver. “You did a great job.” He then turned to the group of people gathered around. “O’ children of the Goddess, pious believers of the Church! I have learned of your desperate situation from the believers gathered at the bridge. Alas, God does not want people to rely solely on miracles and neglect putting in their own effort. Man’s wounds and illnesses should first be healed by man. O’ children in agony, these compassionate doctors here will tend to you. It would be best to confide in them first of all your pain.”
His speech was ostentatious, pretentious, roundabout, and difficult to understand.
“In short, you brought doctors who will look at them for free,” I spat out.
While we were working on our plan to abduct Lia, the priest went to bring back the other doctors together with Tito.
If we convinced Lia to swear not to use Sacrixigs, and then snatched her away from the Holy City, Akdios would definitely need doctors.
The priest turned to look at me. “Please don’t take your anger out at me for being run over by a carriage. You’re even faking your bleeding. You’re hideous both in the outside and inside. Let’s be clear. We have a limited number of doctors. We can’t afford to treat Beastfallen.”
“You did that on purpose, didn’t you? You ordered the driver to hit me.”
“How is Her Eminence?” he asked, ignoring my question.
“Her eyes and legs have been damaged after bringing about a miracle,” Zero replied. “According to some documents I have read in the past, it was not uncommon for saints to pay the ultimate price for performing miracles.”
“I see. Thank goodness. I heard she has never stepped out of her room. I thought you were hiding her death to avoid causing chaos.”
The priest tapped his chest in relief and looked up at the inn’s windows. The top floor with the curtains closed was Lia’s room.