Translator: Kell | Editor: Ryunakama
Flames roared under the crimson glow of sunset. The intense heat emanating from the raging fire was suffocating. A thick column of black smoke billowed towards the sky. The smell of burning flesh filled the air. Someone somewhere uttered words of prayer. Church bells tolled in the distance.
A huge crowd had gathered around the public square, cheering in joy as sacred flames incinerated evil. Standing in the frontmost row, I joined the mob in their frenzy, watching the witch burn as she howled and writhed in pain and agony.
“Remember that heavy rain that caused the river to overflow?” someone from the crowd whispered. “Many died, and half of the fields were destroyed. Apparently, it was all that witch’s doing.”
“My, how terrifying.”
“You murderer! Give me back my family!” another cried. A stone flew through the air, barely hitting the witch flailing in the flames.
“Oh, dear Lord… You only hear about witches in rumors nowadays. Who would’ve thought there was one so close? Where were they even hiding? I heard they kidnapped babies to use as sacrifices. They had a pile of corpses in their house, apparently.”
“The Knight Templars found them. It might look like they just laze around, but you can count on the Church in times of need. Only the Church’s God can stand up against the witches’ demons.”
Before long, the witch had stopped moving, their figure like a black shadow amidst the blazing flames. Serves you right, damned witch, I thought to myself.
“O’ faithful citizens!” the priest who lit up the fire and chanted prayers called. “The evil has been slain! This foul witch used Sorcery to summon demons, sowing fear and chaos among the masses, and now they are no more!”
A cheer erupted from the crowd. “Long live the Church!” they roared, their ceaseless chant sending ripples in the air that fanned the flames even higher.
Year 526 of the Liturgical calendar. There existed beings referred to as witches, studying the field of discipline known as Sorcery. And the world had not yet learned of the existence of Magic.
Chapter 01 — The Witch and the Beastfallen
Today I left the pitch-black darkness. I turned my gaze downward and pulled my cowl low over my eyes to block the blinding summer sun. Unlike the chilly atmosphere in the limestone caves, the heat outside was suffocating. It would take a while for me to get used to sunlight.
Clouds drifted across the boundless, blue sky, and a soothing dampness enveloped the forest. So this is the outside? It looked just like in the books I read, except more vivid, and everything moved.
Walking barefoot, I watched bugs fly, birds chirp, and wild animals prowl about. The damp leaves felt nice under my feet, though the pebbles and twigs hurt a little bit. An oddly soothing fragrance—the smell of wet soil, crushed leaves, and rotten fruits mixed together—permeated the air.
I looked back at the cave I emerged from just now. I felt a tinge of regret having to leave the comforting darkness, but I had waited a little too long. I had read every book I could find, resolved arguments that could never be settled. It felt like I had spent an eternity in there, leaving me a little exhausted. I could not wait any longer.
“I am leaving, Thirteenth.”
I felt relief as the words left my mouth. I then raised my hand, palm facing toward the sky. A flick of my finger and the cave collapsed, reducing it to a pile of rubble. An image of Thirteenth frowning popped in my mind, making me chuckle.
After a while of walking through the forest, I happened across a small stream of water. I jumped over it and continued onward. A little further ahead, I came across a similar stream—rather, it was the exact same one from earlier. How strange. I had been walking straight, yet somehow the same stream blocked my path.
Letting out a groan, I jumped over it like before, then turned around, only to find the stream gone without a trace.
“A barrier, huh? What an utterly nasty fellow. He assumed from the start that I would break my promise.”
I did promise to wait, but it was their fault for making me wait for so long. After spending what felt like an eternity alone inside, I decided I had waited more than enough.
I spent a few seconds wondering what to do. Then with a swing of an arm, I uttered quickly, “Chapter of Harvest, Verse Eight—Kudra!” With a deafening roar, a part of the forest was blown off.
Some time later.
I always found a forest wrapped in the orange glow of sunset to have a certain elegance to it—all the more so during the depths of autumn, when the sun wasn’t as strong. The forest grew darker as the sun sank lower in the sky, trees blocking its light from shining through. Travelers finished setting up camp by the time the forest was bathed in the crimson hue of twilight. All they had to do then was wait for morning to come as darkness gradually blanketed the entire forest.
Twilight was settling on the forest I was in, the red hue of the surroundings prickling my eyes. And I was running for my life. The forest at sunset looks elegant? Who gives a shit about that?! Mowing down shrubs, I slipped behind a huge tree to catch my breath for a second.
“Chapter of Hunting, Verse Four—Redaest!”
The next moment, the tree burst with a loud bang, sending me rolling on the forest floor. Explosives? No. It’s odorless. I was being attacked with some unfamiliar weapon. Not knowing what it was, my only choice was to run away. God damn it! Just my luck!
Sounds of footsteps and high-pitched shouts came from behind. Quickly, I got up to my feet and bolted. The explosion had ruptured my eardrums, disrupting my sense of balance. Every bit of sound seemed to come from afar, and I stumbled with every step.
But I had to stay on my feet. If I stopped for even a moment, I’d be dead—killed, no doubt. They would peel my skin off and put it on display. I had no idea if it was bandits or muggers after me, but one thing was certain: negotiation was not an option.
The soft forest floor and the protruding tree roots made it difficult to run. I felt a mass of heat fly past my cheek like an arrow, piercing a tree trunk before vanishing. It was then that I finally realized who was after me. Damn it all!
“Fuckin’ witches! Go to hell! I hope you all go extinct! I wasn’t born to be used as a sacrifice in your rituals!”
I had heard rumors of witches in this land using never-before-seen Sorcery. I didn’t believe them, of course. But witnessing an arrow of light penetrate a tree trunk and disappear dispelled any doubt I had.
What made matters worse, I was up against a witch. So I found out the identity of my pursuer. That did nothing to ease my fear, however. In fact, it just made it worse. I ran even faster than before.
Then my foot tripped over a tree root. My body lurched forward. There was no ground up ahead, only a cliff. Please let it be a short fall, I prayed to a God that I didn’t believe in. If not, then I hope there’s a river down there.
My body rolled across the ground and off the cliff. Fortunately, the ground was close. Unfortunately, my landing spot was not a river, but a traveler stirring their dinner pot. Really, how unlucky can I get?
No. If anyone was out of luck, it would be the cloaked traveler who was about to get crushed under my weight. I could see their frail figure underneath their cloak. In contrast, I had quite a huge build.
Sorry. Forgive me. I’ll make a grave for you. I mean, if I even get the chance. Sharp pain jolted from my back to my stomach as I crashed hard on the ground.
A voice filled with despair came from a short distance away. Apparently, the traveler managed to get out of the way as I was falling through the air. But not without a price—their pot. I’m really sorry.
As I staggered to my feet, groaning, the traveler lunged at my neck and started shaking it back and forth.
“Why, you…! I worked hard on that soup and you knocked it over! Do you know how much time I put into making it?! It is not as simple as just roasting meat! How dare you!”
“C-Calm down!” I said. “I’m really sorry, but there are more pressing matters at hand!”
“What did you say…? What could be more important than my soup—”
“Watch out, you idiot!”
I quickly pushed them to the ground. A mass of heat flew past overhead.
“I see. This looks more important, indeed.”
“I’m glad you’re quick on the uptake. Let’s go!”
I carried the traveler on my shoulder and started running. It wasn’t until a second later that I wondered why I even picked them up.
“Why are you carrying me?” the traveler asked.
The same thought ran through their mind, it seemed. We might just get along, traveler. I pondered over my answer for a moment.
“It just happened, okay?!” I gave them my honest answer. Perhaps using them as bait to escape was the smarter choice. Is it too late to just do that now?
“Is someone after you?” the traveler asked in a leisurely tone, oblivious to the despicable thoughts running through my head. They had already adapted to the outrageous situation of being carried on a stranger’s shoulders.
“Isn’t it obvious? They’re out to kill me!”
“What did you do?”
“I didn’t do anything!” I roared, quite literally. “They probably want a Beastfallen as sacrifice!”