Volume 1 — Chapter 3: The Coven of Zero
Whew, I took a sharp intake of air.
The next moment, I uttered a wordless howl of confusion, and as I was raising hell, I pulled Zero’s discarded robes over her. Waking the prostrate storekeeper, I gathered up the underwear we had picked out, and threw them along with Zero into the back of the store. I roared at her to stay there until she had put all of them on, whereupon she responded:
“That hurt! You are always so violent! A lady should be treated more gently!”
“If that’s what ya think, then look up the word ‘modesty’ in a dictionary ’n take a year ta mull over what it means!”
Albus and the storekeeper were seated behind our shouting match.
“H-holy shit… holy shit…!”
“That was beautiful… I-I c’n die happy now!”
It was clear that these creatures called witches were ignorant of the world’s ways. Among them, Zero seemed to be one exceptionally so.
On her were the length-challenged trousers, the long socks which reached halfway up her legs, and the enormous overcoat complete with a hood. Frankly speaking, Zero didn’t look like an honest to goodness normal person, but she had made huge strides toward that goal. With her face, I felt that the staff of any high-end inn we might visit would be more than happy to lodge us in their best rooms, but considering they’d make a fuss during our stay, I decided to defer that possibility in exchange for a lodging in the boonies.
I had meant to burn Zero’s old robes, but with the storekeeper loudly insisting that he would give us everything he owned for them, I worked out a deal with him to waive our bill in exchange for
the raggedy piece of clothing. It was a cloak which had spent many years in contact with Zero. Thus, it wasn’t hard to imagine the value of such an item in the eyes of a middle-aged man who’d had no encounters with attractive women.
Confirming that she was fine with handing her robes over to the moronic man, Zero declared that it wasn’t her problem how the friend she had bid farewell to would be treated. She’s so cold, I thought, a laugh escaping my throat, although I was probably just as unfeeling.
I was walking along with Zero in my arms when I felt my ears being forcefully tugged. Ow, ya little shit of a witch.
“I smell something scrumptious. I’m hungry.”
I looked over at where Zero was pointing. There was a side street clustered with miscellaneous shops. A row of food carts occupied a section of the street, all of them enthusiastically promoting their foodstuffs to passersby.
Some carts offered peeled fruits, while others roasted chunks of meat. I was the same as her—I was getting hungry. I was about to ask whether they wanted to stop for a meal before heading for an inn, but Albus had already dashed toward one of the carts. Zero leapt out of my arms and chased after him.
“…Wh—you guys, wait a sec! Yer leavin’ one of yer own behind!”
No matter what I howled, my words didn’t seem to reach them. I ran after them, carving a path through the crowd. When I finally caught up, I found Zero and Albus already sinking their teeth into their meals, both having ordered the same thing. Namely, well-done entrails and vegetables sandwiched between two pieces of bread, a dish of the masses.
It seemed, from the cart owner’s self-satisfied expression, that Zero had paid more money than she should have, not knowing the street price. Seeing that I was Zero’s companion, the cart owner pushed an extra-large sandwich with a slab of meat inside toward me.
“The meat is delicious, mercenary. You should try it.”
“These vegetables are so crispy! They taste so good!”
As I looked at the two of them, grease coating their mouths, faces stuffed full of bread, I thought that no amount of reprimand could correct their boorishness. I resignedly bit into my food.
It wasn’t hard to find a place to stay.
In a big town like this one, there was no shortage of inns that were willing to accommodate guests with special circumstances. The old man who ran the reception desk didn’t even bat an eye at my being a fallen beast, and we successfully obtained a room for two and a room for one for the night.
“Yer with me, sonny.”
“Eh—?! Why, I don’t wanna! I’m getting my own room.”
“No you’re not. I can’t be sure yer not gonna run that way. You’re gonna stay where I can see ya.”
“If you share a room with me, there’s a chance you’ll lose your head in your sleep, you know?”
I calmly removed a coil of rope which hung from my waist. For better or worse, I wasn’t one to feel guilty for tying up a kid and dumping them in a corner.
“Z-Zero, help me!”
Letting out a miserable voice, Albus again hid himself behind Zero.
“Do not be cruel to children, mercenary.”
“Then I’ll share a room with Zero! It’s fine as long as I’m not alone, right?”
Still clinging to Zero’s back, Albus made his ridiculous request. The perverted little devil. If he thought that being a pretty boy would make me give him whatever he wanted, then he was in for a big surprise. I grabbed him by the scruff of his neck and dragged his struggling form into our room.
Though Albus had struggled and protested however he could, once I threw him onto the bed and left him there, it didn’t take long for him to fall asleep. He’d said that the stink of animals would keep him awake, but he surrendered to it pretty quick. Sure that he was pretending to be sleeping so that he could take something of mine, I checked to see whether he was awake, just to make sure. It seemed that he really was fast asleep.
“Seriously? That’s a kid for ya.”