Volume 1 — Chapter 3: The Coven of Zero
I let a look of scorn creep onto my face as Albus spoke angrily.
“In other words…you guys did it, di’n’tcha? I dunno if ya witches did it outta revenge‘r what, but ya brought the witch hunts on yerselves when ya massacred the people livin’ in that village.”
“That’s…! But…then, did you want us to take the murder of one of our own lying down?”
“That’s not what I meant. But ta burn down a village just fer killin’ one witch? A village for a witch…I see how it is. That’s an equivalent exchange, for sure.”
I sneered as Albus, clearly shivering, let his golden eyes quiver in their sockets.
“Listen here, sonny. Were the dead villagers or their babies involved with the witch hunts? Was anyone who lived in that village a target for revenge? What about the innocent villagers? What about the villagers that just happened to be there? Or, didja pick ’n choose who to kill? I didn’t think so.”
“If it was okay for ya to slaughter the people who lived in that village without distinction, then it’s okay for them ta kill you witches without distinction too. In the end, it’s just them takin’ revenge for yer revenge, so in other words it’s a just war. Against the witches, that is. I don’t care whether the humans or the witches started the conflict…but that’s what turned the skirmishes into war was the ‘Revels of Revenge’. You witches started this fight. There’s no changin’ that reality.”
Albus pursed his lips and glared at me with hatred. Did I go too far? The sorcerer was but a kid after all.
“Still…Soulena tried to save the village…!”
Trying to stem the frantic flow of built-up tears from his eyes, Albus managed to squeeze out a sentence.
Albus scowled doggedly as I repeated the name back to him.
He seemed more hurt than angry.
“The great Soulena…she was the witch who was killed. The witch who became the cause of the ‘Revels of Revenge’.”
“She was the finest witch in the kingdom. The eldest and the gentlest—she was truly a great witch! There wasn’t a disease she couldn’t cure, so every single one of Vanias’ renowned witches received lessons from her. She saved so many people’s lives!”
I see. So she had been the witches’ kingpin. As I came to such an understanding—
“She was known as ‘the witch of the Lunar Chant’.” Zero supplemented.
“The witch…of the Lunar Chant?”
“Witches are divided into different factions with varying approaches toward sorcery. Other than that though, we all still deal in the same currency, and have artisans and blacksmiths all the same.”
It was just like how we mercenaries had different tastes in weapons and battlefields. Even though we were speaking of witches and sorcery, there was nothing out of the ordinary about such trivial divides.
“The witches of the Lunar Chant are a faction which often come into contact with humans and pay heed to their requests. For that very reason, their faction excels at inventing new ways to apply sorcery to a variety of situations and produces many revolutionary practices. These include incense for warding off bad dreams, and stones for rainmaking. So, being the birthplace of the Lunar Chant faction, Vanias is home to many widely renowned witches. The great Soulena was like their patron—I would have liked to meet her.”
“Yeah.” Albus nodded proudly.
“Soulena was a kind witch. A year ago, she visited a village plagued by disease and used sorcery to try and save them. Even so, she was accused of spreading the infection—and killed! Isn’t that unfair?!”
“You can say what ya want, but talk is cheap. Who knows if she did or didn’t do it?”
Hearing this, Albus’ eyes filled with bloodlust.
“How dare you insult—!”
“Calm down, youngster. The mercenary meant no insult. This is simply how the world sees it. The world lives in fear of witches. Killing him out of rage will only serve to promote that fear and cast the rest of us as evil.”
Forming an objection, Albus pursed his lips. He seemed to understand that there was no way to convince me otherwise.
Sorry, but I loathe witches by nature. I don’t feel like agreein’ with a witch.
However, I did manage to grasp the big picture of the conflict. Humans had killed the Vanian witches’ representative, which caused the bottled-up rage of the witches, who had endured witch hunts to that day, to erupt. This then caused the “Revels of Revenge”, which only made the people more fearful toward witches, and in response to the wide-scale witch hunts resulting from that fear, the Coven of Zero rebelled, and warfare against the state began.
“‘That person’ is fighting to bring peace to us witches…to purge this country of witch hunts! That’s why even Soulena’s granddaughter joined the Coven of Zero.”
“…Witches can have grandchildren?”
“Yeah, of course.” Albus gazed at me contemptuously. It seemed that he thoroughly disliked me.
“Witches are human too, so we do have kids and grandkids. So, since ‘that person’ didn’t reveal themselves, she, a direct descendant from Soulena, was entrusted to lead the Coven of Zero. She can’t consult with ‘that person’ so she doesn’t give orders per se, but it’s important to have a leader people can look up to.”
I see—so she was a figurehead. Even so, the dead Soulena’s granddaughter was probably enough to unite the coven as a just cause worth fighting for.
“She’s absolutely beautiful! She’s clever too, and brave. She’s just like Soulena!”
From his sullen mood, Albus made a complete turnaround as he, eyes gleaming, rambled on about the charms of the “symbol of revenge” that he served. In complete adoration, Albus looked as if he had an itch along his spine. This guy wasn’t fighting out of loyalty to ‘that person’—he had ulterior motives toward a certain woman all along!