Volume 1 — Chapter 4: Thirteenth
I felt dejected. But a mere moment later, the tension in the atmosphere was again ratcheted up a notch.
“Do you believe you can, Zero? Our powers are not as they were during our rivalry ten years past.”
Thirteenth was fanning Zero’s flame. The color drained from Zero’s countenance, and a cold smile carved itself onto her lips.
“Then shall we test that claim, Thirteenth? I am just a hair displeased.”
I immediately took Albus under my arm and began distancing ourselves from Zero. As if Zero had been waiting for exactly that, her body erupted in ruby flame. This wasn’t a joke. No matter how many lives one had, it wouldn’t be enough to survive a battle between a sorcerer and a mage!
“H-h-hey kid! Can’t ya do anythin’ about this?! It’s really gettin’ outta hand!”
“I can’t do anything! The highest level magic I can use is Flagis! Against a witch who can summon an inferno at will and a sorcerer who has lightning at his beck and call, just a single touch from either’ll turn you to charcoal! If I had the time, I might be able to do something about it with sorcery, but…”
“We don’t got the time fer ya ta use sorcery! Yer so useless!”
“And you aren’t?! You can’t do anythin’ either!”
“Wha—ah fuck it, I’ll just try whatever comes ta mind!”
Desperate and with nothing to lose, I roared with all my might.
At this point, I had only one thing to say that could possibly get Zero’s attention. It was completely stupid, but—
“It’s just about time for lunch! Settle this after ya eat!”
Zero stopped what she was doing after hearing my imbecilic message. The fire that had wreathed her body dissipated in a flash, and her head swiveled toward me.
“Is that so?” Zero muttered, turning to face Thirteenth.
“We cannot fight on empty stomachs, and it would be unseemly to strike when we are not both at peak condition. We can fight at any time, but that is not so for having a meal. So—Thirteenth!”
“We have some quality cuts of lamb. I shall have a cook roast them for us,” Thirteenth nodded solemnly, as if to express complete agreement. He was no longer in battle stance either. Albus and I exchanged a look and clasped each other’s hands.
“I desire tuber soup.”
“Then I shall have them ready it.”
Zero and Thirteenth—who had just moments before been staring each other down, each radiating magical power so potent as to be visible—had agreed to a truce without a moment’s pause in between.
We had been transported from the church in La Tête to, of all places, the capital of Wenias: Prasta; specifically, a dungeon which had been repurposed for use as personal quarters. I really couldn’t believe it, but I couldn’t find any evidence to support my doubt. Zero’d said that “Thirteenth is in Prasta,” and Albus’d said that “Thirteenth is the king’s sorcerer,” so it was probably the truth. We were really in Prasta.
That meant that we’d moved instantaneously from La Tête to Prasta—well, it sure made travel real convenient. The risk of death was a whole ‘nother story though.
After ascending the staircase which led up and out of the underground chamber, I saw a robed figure, appearing to be one of Thirteenth’s underlings, shuffling toward us. He received instructions from Thirteenth, seemingly about preparing our meal, and shuffled off without a word.
Albus looked like he wanted to shout, but he also seemed to understand that making noise would only worsen the situation. He somehow managed to control himself and sat down at the table set out for our meal. As expected from a sorcerer who’s both a child and a self-proclaimed pragmatist.
The four of us, including Thirteenth, seated ourselves around the dining table.
On the two ends of the rectangular table sat Zero and Thirteenth. That left Albus and I to sit opposite each other. As one would expect, the atmosphere wasn’t conducive to amiable conversation, so everyone just sat in silence.
What could we talk about in those circumstances anyway? Only the sound of Zero cheerfully downing her soup added a bit of liveliness, but it only made the silence more noticeable.
“I could die from how unappetizing this soup is.”
The one to break the awkward silence was, of course, Zero, although this act of hers only made things more uncomfortable. My body went stiff, and I looked at Zero and Thirteenth.
“Even though the soup my mercenary makes is absolutely delicious…a cook’s livelihood is to cook, yes? But then, why, compared to mercenary’s soup…”