Volume 1 — Chapter 3: The Coven of Zero
After finishing off most of the roast bird, we set off along a small path through the woods and made it to a main road paved with sandstone. Our destination was the hideout—er, “academy”—where the Book of Zero was being kept.
Albus told us that it was two days away if we took a direct path through the woods, but we decided to go to Foamicaum first.
Albus wanted to bypass the city entirely and head directly for the academy, but I had some things to take care of in Foamicaum.
Foamicaum was a required stop for travelers heading for the capital, Prasta. Vanias’ border guards had told me that I’d be checked to see whether or not I went to Foamicaum when I arrive at Prasta’s fortified city walls.
In short, if I didn’t get proof of entry from Foamicaum before I got to Prasta, they’d think me suspicious for wanting to avoid a major city, whatever the reason.
We were heading for Albus’ academy for the time being, but our ultimate goal was to go to Prasta and search for Thirteenth, so we needed to take this detour. Although I was already leading around a witch, I still wanted try and stick to the straight and narrow by minimizing abnormalities.
Zero and I strolled along in single-file while Albus walked alone far ahead.
He looked like a complete kid as he stopped to pluck grass and stuff frogs into his bag, but when Zero explained that “he seems to be collecting offerings”, my impression of him took a complete turnaround. He might look like a kid, but he’s really an untrustworthy sorcerer. We were making a sorcerer like that take us to the witches’ stronghold.
Seriously, that’s depressing. Zero was probably planning to infiltrate the Coven of Zero and take back her book, but I wondered if things were going to go that smoothly. If things went well, would my head still be safe?
I may have let my inner thoughts show in my expression.
“Why the long face? Witches would not lay a finger on the possessions of another. As long as it is known that you are my manservant, none will attempt to behead you.”
“That’d be great, but…it’d be all over if a group of ‘em tried to take my head.”
“Even if something like that were to happen, you would have nothing to fear. I will protect you.”
“Do you think I am lying?”
“Do ya think that I think you’re tellin’ the truth?”
Zero paused for a second as if in thought and smiled cheerfully, saying: “no, I do not think you would.”
“A hundred years of loneliness and a hundred betrayals—those alone make a truly tough warrior. To trust and rely on someone leads to reduced self-sufficiency, which leads to negligence, which leads to death. That is why I shall not ask that you trust me. I will protect you of my own volition. You are necessary to me.”
Without meaning to, I let my true thoughts leak out. Returning my gaze to what was in front of me, I scratched the back of my head.