Volume 1 — Chapter 5: Immolation
“So, I was the third son of an aristocratic family, unable to inherit a noble’s status, and had to serve as an officer in a castle…but my male resourcefulness—or should I call it my animalistic instinct now—was always very strong. How should I put it…’S long as the girl was pretty, I didn’t care a bit about her social status or whether she was married or not.”
“…You’re tellin’ me that ya made a move on someone else’s wife ’n got kicked outta the knights’ ranks?”
Dog-face laughed riotously.
“Nah, it turned into a big deal that ended up just a couple’a inches away from a duel. The kinda rage you’d expect from somethin’ like ‘thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife’. Regardless, I was a guy so sexy all the ladies wanted a portrait of me, ya know? Well, I still am good lookin’ though.”
At least wait ‘till your hair grows back to say that, buffoon, I wanted to spout, but resisted the urge since it wouldn’t do me any good to cut his story off.
“Good lookin’ men stand out, yeah? That made my escape a lot harder. I ran into the woods, and when I fell and couldn’t go any further, Solena came along ’n picked me back up. Can ya believe it? I’d always thought she was an old lady, but she was a crazy looker of a lady! I begged her to let me stay with her, but she told me she wasn’t interested in a weak human. So, I told her I’d do anything, even if I had to become a monster…”
“So, a fallen beast…?”
“‘Cause I didn’t give a shit about my old body. If I turned into a fallen beast, I might get looked down on, but no one would chase me. Besides, I could still do whatever I wanted.”
“Witches are yer natural enemy though. Even if Solena doesn’t attack you, other witches will.”
“They usually don’t. They can make their own fallen beast heads after all.”
—That was interesting. But I’d kept having my own head hunted by witches, Albus being one of them. When I asked dog-face about it, he continued with his explanation.
“The thing is, only greenhorn witches who can’t perform the Beastgranting ritual will hunt for fallen beasts’ heads. The people who buy pricey fallen beasts heads from bandits are noblewomen who have lots of spare time and an obsession with summonin’ demons. Vanias’ witches’ve been huntin’ fallen beasts only for a year or so, when the fightin’ started gettin’ intense, so back when I chose to be a fallen beast, that danger didn’t exist.”
And I could fight off any bandits easy, concluded dog-face.
So it seemed that the witches who’d kept chasing me around for my head weren’t real witches, but mocks who had just started out in sorcery and had too much free time on their hands. So if that were true, then Zero’d have no need for my head.
“’N so, I lived a carefree life with Solena ’n little lady…”
One day though, a plague broke out, and Solena was falsely accused and executed for it. Her granddaughter was bent on revenge, and since dog-face had been told by Solena to take care of her granddaughter, he had naturally opposed the granddaughter’s decision. But it seemed that this ‘little lady’ left dog-face and joined the Coven of Zero instead. Now, dog-face was growing desperate to find her and had spent this year gathering information on the Coven for that purpose.
“With money and strength, I extracted intelligence from wayward sorcerers. —But, I’ve got no idea of the whereabouts of the book you’re lookin’ for. It’s not like there’d be a record of it joinin’ the Coven, after all.”
“That’s a useless dog for ya…”
“Didn’t I just fuckin’ tell ya that I’m a wolf?! Do ya really want me to explain to ya the difference between a dog and a wolf?!”
“That’s a useless wolf for ya…” I said, unaffected. As if dog-face’d given up, his tail drooped and his shoulders slumped.
“Well…the chance that ’that person’ has it is next to zero, so it’s probably Solena’s granddaughter…”
“How can ya say for sure?”
“No one’s ever seen ‘that person’ before, that’s how. ‘That person’ is just someone that’s said ta exist, and has no direct influence over the Coven of Zero… except when dealin’ out punishments.”
“Punishments? How’s that happen if ‘that person’ doesn’t show themselves?”
“Witches sign their statements of loyalty in their own blood. What that means is that if these witches break their vow of loyalty to ‘that person’, then they get annihilated. For some reason they define “loyalty” pretty vaguely.”
Dog-face indicated that the Coven of Zero was bound tight with rules and regulations.
This had to be part of fighting for the just cause of peace and harmony for all witches. The witches who couldn’t take these rules and left the Coven of Zero were the so-called wayward sorcerers.
“So, do wayward sorcerers not get punished?”
“Sometimes they do, ’n sometimes they don’t. It’s true that they don’t get punishment just for leavin’, though. A famous case was when a bunch of wayward sorcerers plunderin’ a town they occupied got annihilated. They tried ta ambush Thirteenth, who’d come to stamp ‘em out, and took some hostages from the town, but every one of ‘em got annihilated by ‘that person’s punishment before they even got to fight Thirteenth.”
But the witches that attacked La Tête, which lay at the heartland of the academy, didn’t receive any punishment and were crushed by Thirteenth. —Sometimes punishment was delivered, sometimes not. It was an ambiguous contract indeed.
Once they found out that they could break the rules a bit without consequence, idiots would do all the stupid shit in the book until they really did get punished. If the contents of the blood contract were something like “destroy this person if he or she leaves the Coven,” then there would be no wayward sorcerers.
“Solena didn’t like the Coven of Zero from the beginning. She said that “magic is an amazing means to an end, but that way of teaching it is wrong.” Then, she got burned to death by ‘that person’.”
“Wait, hold on a sec. Wasn’t it the villagers that were scared of the plague who burned Solena at the stake?”
“What if that plague was caused by sorcery?”
My eyes widened.
“Someone caused that plague with sorcery. That’s why Solena suppressed it with sorcery. Solena was set up. It was apparent that if Solena used sorcery in that situation, the villagers would make the mistake of lockin’ up Solena instead. There’s no proof that ‘that person’ did it, but that’s what I think.”
I didn’t know whether or not dog-face’s hunch was right. But if it was, then ‘that person’ not only killed Zero’s mentor and stole the Book of Zero ten years ago, but likewise killed Solena a year ago.
“I…couldn’t protect Solena. That’s why I absolutely have ta find little lady. I have ta protect her!”
Pop, the campfire crackled, and embers went floating on the wind.
I never heard of fallen beasts gathering together, but we had no choice here. On top of the location of ‘that person’ being a complete mystery, the person closest to the Book of Zero was dog-face’s “little lady”.