Translator: Kell | Editor: Ryunakama
A mismatched group of six people gathered around the flickering bonfire. A Beastfallen, a witch, a little kid, a saint, her attendant, and a priest. Their destination: Ideaverna, a port city in the Republic of Cleon. The saint said she needed to go to Ideaverna as soon as possible to treat a child in critical condition. Walking through the forest at night, however, was no easy matter. It wasn’t that the path was dangerous; there weren’t even any paths to begin with. Without any proper light, accidents could happen.
On top of that, they haven’t had a decent rest since they were attacked by the bandits. They all needed a break, the priest included.
“We’ll leave once the sky starts to turn white,” I said. “Until then, get some rest.”
There was still some time before dawn, and if we arrived in town early in the morning, we might not get a carriage right away.
The priest and the saint opposed my decision for a while, but when the attendant calmly said, “We need to take a break,” the saint gave in. The priest automatically followed.
And so we ended up camping for the night. Who would’ve thought that a Beastfallen and a witch would be traveling with a priest? I glanced at Zero, warning her not to reveal her identity, but she seemed detached as always. Whether she understood what I was saying or not, I didn’t know.
Pretending to be an ignorant girl, she repeatedly asked questions to the priest, who was trying to preach the Church’s teachings. The priest himself didn’t seem to mind Zero’s eagerness to learn, even answering questions that could be taken as criticism of the Church.
A beautiful woman and a handsome man. Watching the two of them made me feel awful. Above all, I wasn’t comfortable with having too many people around me.
I decided to let the priest guard the camp while I climbed a tree a short distance away to watch for wild dogs and bandits.
I wasn’t sure if you could call lying down with my legs and tail hanging down “watching.” Whatever. I’m sure I can notice people approaching as long as I’m awake.
As I listened to Zero and the priest’s discussion, and the banter between Theo and the saint, I took out a small knife and sharpened my overgrown claws. Too sharp and they would rip through my bag and clothes, so I made the tips more rounded.
The sounds of conversation ceased when I was on my ninth claw, and the fire went out. It was finally quiet. After I finished sharpening the tenth claw, I put away the knife.
Then I heard the sound of footsteps crunching over dry grass slowly approaching me. My nose caught a whiff of the sweet scent of flowers.
“Go do your business somewhere else,” I said. “There’s someone here.”
I made my presence known just in case. I didn’t want to be accused of being a peeping tom when I was here first. The priest would probably kill me on the spot.
The saint jumped and looked around frantically, searching for the source of the voice.
The saint bent her whole body upwards and found me lying on a branch.
“Sir Mercenary. I’m glad I found you.” She smiled.
I told her my name wasn’t Mercenary, but since there weren’t other options on what to call me, she settled for Mercenary. As long as Zero didn’t give up on turning me into her servant, revealing my name was basically taboo.
“I couldn’t find you anywhere so I was looking for you,” she said. “Do all Beastfallen sleep on top of trees?”
“I’m on lookout duty,” I replied. “I’m a guard, after all.”
“I see,” the saint muttered weakly.
There was silence for a moment, as though she was thinking of a subject. It looked like she wanted to say something, but lacked the courage.
“Um… I’m sorry about the Father,” she said finally.
“He’s not a bad person. He’s actually very earnest and kind. I was shocked when he treated you like that.”
“Why are you apologizing? He’s the one who treated me like an animal, not you.”
“It didn’t really bother me anyway. I am, in fact, a beast and a monster. I stopped getting pissed at stuff like that a long time ago. I especially wouldn’t get mad at what a priest says.”
“You’re not a monster! I… never thought of you like that.”
I sneered. She was too nice for her own good. It actually gave me the creeps.
I lifted my body up and jumped down from the tree. The saint yelped as she took a step back.
“You’ve never thought of Beastfallen as monsters? Well, isn’t that nice?” I took a step forward. She looked at me with fearful eyes. “That’s only because you’ve been blessed so far. You were lucky enough to not have been attacked by a Beastfallen before.”
“D-Did I… say something offensive? I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to offend you…”
“I ain’t mad. This is just how I am. You’re free to show off how virtuous you are, but unfortunately for you, I’m a murderer. Please don’t drag me into your games of make-believe. It’s not like I took this job out of goodwill either. I want the payment. Now I suggest you get back to your priest, saint. And don’t ever try to approach a Beastfallen in the middle of the woods, at night, with no one else around. I’m not kidding. They’ll eat you alive.”
Her eyes—pale scarlet just like her hair—widened, but her gaze was fixed on me. She didn’t look away. She always had that anxious look in her eyes, but it held no emotion right now.
“Hey, are you listening?”
A broad smile suddenly blossomed on her face. This woman really just smiled. In this situation.
“What’s so funny?!”
“I’m sorry. It’s just someone I know said something similar.”
Chuckling, she tucked her braided hair behind her ear. It gently swelled as it unraveled, coiling around her finger.
“You warned me not to approach Beastfallen alone to keep me out of danger in the future, didn’t you? You even went as far as making yourself look like the bad guy.”
“Don’t say any more, you idiot! You’re making me sound like a good guy! It’s disgusting. Yuck.”
The saint stopped giggling and burst into laughter.
I completely lost.
I relaxed my tail and ears and held my head in my hands. First Zero, and now the saint. It felt like all the women I’d met so far had me in the palm of their hand. Even Albus had me wrapped around her finger.
“Go back and get some rest,” I urged. “Your stamina’s the most important.”
“Are you… worried about me?”
“You collapsing means more trouble for me, okay?!”
The saint laughed once more. Realizing she was poking fun at me, I turned my back to her. I’m done humoring her. I dug my nails into a tree trunk and put my weight on it.
“Miss Zero asked where I learned about miracles.”
I looked at her over my shoulder.
“Why did she…. Why did she think I learned them from someone?”
I was about to open my mouth when I spotted movement at the direction of the campfire.
“Your Eminence!” called a man’s voice.
“The priest’s up,” I said. “He’s looking for you.”
What a careless guy. It took him this long to notice that the one he was supposed to guard snuck out of their bed.
I returned to the top of the tree and let my tail and legs dangle down.
“My name is Faelia, but please call me Lia, not “Saint.”
“I’m pretty sure the priest would be furious if some lowly Beastfallen called a saint by their nickname.”
“Oh…” She looked downwards. “You’re right. I’m sorry for causing you trouble again…”
I let out a sigh. Why am I even feeling guilty? Darn it.
“Go back, Lia. Or the dude’s gonna start yelling.”
The saint—no, Lia’s expression clearly brightened.
“Good night,” she said happily, then shuffled back.
I let out a sigh once again and looked at the moon. What was that just now? It’s almost like…