Translator: Kell | Editor: Ryunakama
“You mean the stone bouncing back and hitting me?”
“Yes. When a beast warrior dies, the beast’s soul returns to the witch. But if the witch has already passed on, the soul will instead go to the being closest to the caster. In most cases, it is the witch’s descendants. The soul will then reside inside the belly of a woman, and a beast warrior is born. This is the truth behind what you refer to as Beastfallen.”
“So I’m related to a witch, and their death resulted in me becoming a Beastfallen? What the hell’s that? I’ve never heard of that before!”
“I am simply telling the truth. Whether it is common knowledge or not is irrelevant. I am a witch. I do not lie when it comes to Sorcery.”
According to the Church—and this was the prevailing opinion everywhere—those who committed evil deeds in their past lives attracted demons in their bodies, and eventually transformed into beasts. They said that was the reason why Beastfallen were violent, aggressive, and spent every day of their lives fighting.
Fuck the Church. I always knew that was a load of bullshit. I wasn’t violent or aggressive. I sincerely wished to live a peaceful life. Most people believed the Church’s lies, however. Now their prejudices were being directed at me as well.
“I-I can’t believe I’m related to a witch.”
“Witches are basically outcasts and live very long lives. By the time you forget you were related to a witch, the spell comes back.”
The witch breathed a sigh of disappointment as she regarded her now-empty bowl. “Do you want to become human?” she asked.
“Can I become human?”
A smile tugged at her lips. “I can turn you into one easily. What do you say, Mercenary? I will undo the spell if you work for me.”
I had a dream—to open up a tavern in the countryside, settle down with a pretty woman, and live the rest of my life in peace. If she really spoke the truth, my wish to live as a normal human being—a wish I had long given up on—would come true. I wouldn’t have to constantly hide my face under a hood, run from witches, or scare away hookers. Can I really trust a witch, though?
“Don’t witches find my head valuable?”
“Just because I find it appealing does not mean I want it. Besides, I do not have much desire in general. Most of all, I want the whole you. A headless body cannot possibly do its job as a bodyguard.”
“Or you’re just saying that so I would let my guard down, giving you the chance to cut my head off.”
“Preposterous. If I wanted to cut your head off, I would have done so from the start. I would not even ask you to be my bodyguard.”
She made a compelling argument. The fact that I was still alive in the presence of a witch suggested she was someone worthy of trust—not completely, perhaps, but there was no need to be that wary of her.
A part of me wanted to believe her, but a part of me harbored doubts. What if she’s lying? She’s a witch.
“Do you want to form a contract?” the witch asked out of nowhere.
“Yes, one sealed with blood. A witch contract. You will be my bodyguard, and I will turn you into a human. We use our blood to write down the stipulations. Those who breach the contract will perish, without exception.”
“P-Perish?” I shrank back.
The witch smiled softly. “No need to be so scared. All you have to do is not breach our agreement. Give me your hand.”
Before I could say a word, she grabbed my hand. I gave a start. So soft. As if that wasn’t enough, she brought her lips close to my finger and held it in her mouth without hesitation. I shuddered, all the hair on my body standing on end, as her slimy tongue crawled over the furless skin.
“H-Hey!” I grunted in pain as I felt my skin rip open. Watching the blood drip from my finger, the witch nodded in satisfaction, and proceeded to bite her own finger as well.
“I will create a contract in mirror writing using our mixed blood as ink. Once it is burned, the contract is finalized. We are both bound by it unless either of us dies, or both parties expressly acknowledge the completion or abandonment of the contract. Unfortunately, I do not have any paper with me. But a piece of cloth will do.”
Without even thinking twice, the witch ripped the bottom of her cloak. Her already tattered cloak looked even more ragged. Calmly, I watched the blood trickle down both our fingers.
“Tell me something, witch,” I said. “Why did you choose me? If you wanted to maintain a low profile, wouldn’t it be better to choose someone less shady? Traveling with a Beastfallen would only draw attention.”
“My companion standing out means less attention drawn to me,” she answered nonchalantly.
I see. Yes, that makes sense. If a Beastfallen like me was walking out in the open with a witch, I’d be the one drawing attention.
“Also you smell like the cellar.”
“Smell like what?”
“There is a huge limestone cavern in Moonsbow Forest. It is dark and damp, yet comfortable. We call it the cellar, a sort of code that we witches use to refer to our lair.”
I sniffed my arm. Tumbling through the forest made me smell like mud and grass mixed together. Above all, I reeked of animal scent.
“Did you raise livestock or something?” I asked.
“Livestock…? We sure did. We kept all sorts of animals. And plenty of snakes and spiders.”
Livestock, snakes, and spiders, huh? I should find an inn soon and wash the stench away. Then I found myself smiling. Here I was, talking about witches, bloody contracts, and my potential demise, and I was thinking of taking a bath. I realized I already had my answer. From the start, my instincts believed this witch wouldn’t do me any harm. Relying on logic was foolish. My instincts had helped me sense countless dangers before, allowing me to survive until now.
Rubbing my nose, I snatched the cloth away from the witch’s hands.
“What are you doing?! The contract is not yet—”
Ignoring her words, I ripped it to shreds and scattered it in the wind.
“Do you know how much effort it takes to write on cloth with blood?!”
“There’s no need for such a shady contract,” I said. “Give me your hand.” This time I took her hand. So beautiful. And so small that I could crush it in my own hands.
Blood trickled down the finger that she bit. I pressed my wound to hers, mixing our blood together. The witch turned her gaze at me, her eyes glistening.
“I know this one! A blood pact, right?” she said, her face flushed from excitement. “We interlace our fingers like this.” Smiling, she pressed both our thumbs even harder.
“Better than a witch’s contract written in blood, don’t you agree? This is how humans and mercenaries do it.”
Feeling awkward, I pulled my hand away. The part where our blood mingled felt oddly warm. What if something awful happens if the blood of a witch and a Beastfallen are mixed together? However, my worries went out the window as I watched the witch squeeze her bloodstained thumb tight, as if holding something dear.
“I swear I will not take your head, Mercenary,” she said. “You can relax.”
“Is that so? I sure hope you don’t. So, what’s your name?”
“My name is Zero.”
That’s a number, not a name. I felt like saying something, but I kept it to myself. There was silence for a brief moment.
I regarded the witch. “You’re not gonna ask me my name?”
The witch shrugged. “I have no interest in your name.”
“The only ones I call by name are my retainers—in other words, my servants. Names are important to witches. You tell me your name, and I might use it to bind you and turn you into my humble servant.”
She smirked and raised both hands, pretending to be a monster about to devour me. She looked both like a child playing around and an elderly scaring kids.
“Spoken like a real witch.” I smiled.
“I am a real witch.” She smiled back. “Terrifying, huh?”
And so a bizarre relationship began, in which both parties didn’t refer to each other by their names. Not like we knew each other’s names. This would probably only last for about a month anyway. For a short-term relationship, it was just the right distance.