Volume 1 — Chapter 3: The Coven of Zero
—Things were progressing at an uncomfortable pace. I’d never had anyone tell me anything like “I’ll protect you” or “you’re necessary to me” before.
Ahead of us, Albus seemed irritated as he stopped and waited for us to catch up. Unfortunately, Zero stubbornly walked at a snail’s pace.
“…You should be worried ‘bout yerself; ‘re ya gonna be alright?” I asked.
Zero cocked her head strangely and looked at me questioningly.
“I know yer a strong witch ’n all, but we’re talkin’ about a group of witches who’ve learned magic from the Book of Zero. You ain’t gonna be beaten at yer own game, are ya?”
“Ho…are you concerned for me?”
“Ya want me to explain?”
“What, that you are infatuated with me?”
“That ain’t it!” I yelled.
Zero laughed loudly.
“If you are worried that I will die without fulfilling my end of our agreement, then worry not. There is not a one in a million chance that I will be defeated. I have also thought ahead to a worst-case scenario. Even if I alone am not sufficient, mine and Thirteenth’s power would be a force with which none of the masses of mock witches can compete.”
“Thirteenth ain’t here,” I muttered. Sure, they were fellow students, but Zero seemed awfully trusting of him.
No—it wasn’t a matter of trust. Either way, it was obvious that they shared a bond, although what kind of bond they shared was beyond me. My train of thought stopped there, and I shook my head, disconcerted.
Zero and Thirteenth shared a bond—what of it? That’s got nothing to do with me.
I should be thinking about other, more meaningful things. Right, for example—
“Hey, if there’re men who can use sorcery, why’re you guys called witches?”
Uwah…I just asked that stupid question aloud, didn’t I?
Even so, Zero answered my dumb question without hesitation.
“You misunderstand the order of events. In the past, female magic users were termed witches in order to differentiate them. So, in other words, witches were originally few in number.”
“Huh…first time I’ve heard that.”
“You see, my mercenary, sorcery is, at its roots, a branch of learning. And branches of learning are always created by men. But of course, even if men were the creators, that would not mean that men in particular excel in the field, yes?”
“Hm, seems right.”
“Well, the same can be said for sorcery; many women made great progress in the field, and the men did not like that one bit. They mocked skilled female sorcerers by calling them ‘witches’. Driven away, witches settled across the globe, and this diaspora led to sorcery being introduced to the wider world. This means that most of the world learned of sorcery from female sorcerers. Thus, the word ‘witch’ became synonymous with the word ‘sorcerer’, according to what I have heard. Because of such a sequence of events, there are many more witches nowadays, although male sorcerers certainly exist. And that existence sometimes yields, for better or for worse, dreadful power.”
“Correct,” Zero nodded. Her voice sounded strangely sleepy and sweet.