Volume 1 — Chapter 6: Forbidden Spell
“At any rate—“
I poked my head out of the cavern, and saw the indigo-stained sky of twilight.
“First, we have ta get the witch back, or there won’t be any point in plannin’ anythin’ else. This ain’t the case of a damsel in distress, but where in the castle would that woman be locked up?…”
“She wasn’t in the dungeons. I was in there all the way up until my witch burning, and there wasn’t any indication that Zero was there too.”
“Then she’s probably in a tower. It’s pretty standard ta lock up prisoners in the dungeons, ’n nobles in the towers.
“Is Zero a noble?”
“How did Thirteenth treat that witch when she fell?”
Um… Albus tilted her head.
“…He picked her up like she was a noblewoman!”
“That’s too much info. I feel like my last meal’s comin’ back up. But at least that means Thirteenth doesn’t see Zero as someone ta drag ta the dungeons by the hair.”
But this was the problem.
“Towers’re basically used for vision—and for keepin’ people confined. If it’s bein’ used for vision, then there’ll be troops wanderin’ around, and if it’s bein’ used for confinement, it’s pretty likely gonna have a hidden entrance. In other words, it’s hard ta attack.”
“Wow. You do know a lot about this.”
“Fallen beasts’re generally the front lines for armies attackin’ a fort. If ya count up all of ‘em, the number of times I’ve been part of a siege is in the double digits.”
“Of course that’s nothin’ for big bro! You’re like a demon in the flesh! A warmonger!”
“I ain’t like you, ya bastard!”
Dog-face put his hands over his head and shrank back as I yelled. You’re all dog, ain’tcha, ya dog-faced wolf? He acted like a sleazebag at the inn, but with Albus grabbin’ his collar, he was pretty mature.
I really don’t wanna be like that, I thought somewhat seriously.
“But big bro, there’re four towers in that castle, so ya don’t know which one she might be in. Besides, she might not be in a tower, but some other place.”
I inclined my head. I didn’t think there were any other places to imprison people besides the towers and dungeons, though—
“Like, she could be somewhere like Thirteenth’s bedroom—“
I froze. Albus’s mouth was agape, and she was flushing red and turning pale.
Could it be? But Thirteenth was a man and Zero was a woman, Thirteenth was unattractive and Zero was good looking, they were both comrades, which meant the chance that—
No, no way. I wanted to believe that we couldn’t conclude anything yet.
“He…wouldn’t do somethin’ like that…to a woman who’d just fallen ’n puked blood…right…”
“Thirteenth might’ve put her in his bed ta look after her ’cause she’d fallen ’n puked blood, hm? Since Zero’s a special witch ta Thirteenth.”
Oooh, that’s what he meant. I got worked up over nothing.
“Work on yer phrasin’, ya sex maniac.”
“‘Sex maniac’…I do like my women, but…one sec there, little lady. Could ya hide yer disgust? I’m a bit hurt.”
It was true that she might be held in a normal, but still barred, room.
“Hey kid—I mean, lady.”
“Kid is fine at this point. After pretending to be a guy for a year, I’ve gotten used to the rougher language.”
“‘S that so…”
“That is so. So, what?”
“Can ya find out where they’re keepin’ Zero? You said ya wanted ta open up a fortune teller’s, so you’re good at divination, right?”
I hadn’t forgotten that Albus said she wanted to open a fortune telling shop in La Tête, which meant divination should be this witch’s true strength. However, Albus wore a sour look.
“I mean, I can…but I need something deeply connected with the person whose location I’m trying to divine. Something a part of them—like a hair, or a blanket they use, clothing. I can’t just divine them like bang and it’s done, ‘cause this isn’t some pre-rehearsed magic show.”
Of course, we didn’t have anything meaningful of Zero’s, nor had we done anything as distasteful as gathering samples of Zero’s hair. Zero hadn’t had much in the way of belongings in the first place. She’d just gotten her clothes in Foamicaum—
Albus and I cried at the same time, and our gazes met.
“—are in the thrift shop in Foamicaum! That man’s gotta have it framed by now!”
Under the cloak of night, we crept out of the riverside cave and made for the thrift shop at Foamicaum.
It seemed that we had been swept far downstream, as when I checked, our location was very close to Foamicaum. Even while skirting the roads and following trails left by animals, we arrived at our destination while the moon was still low in the sky.
Based on the likelihood that wanted posters were already out for us after our fiasco at the plaza, it was impossible for us to brazenly enter Foamicaum under broad daylight.
That meant we had to make our way into a town whose gates had been closed for quite some time.
Well, we were two fallen beasts and one witch. We could make it through anything.
With that in mind, we made it safely into Foamicaum after much struggling.
And as Albus had predicted, the thrift shop’s owner really had framed Zero’s robes.
With a golden frame and a protective pane of glass, this was treatment worthy of the royal jewels. Sitting on a chair before a table in front of Zero’s robes, the shopkeeper was appreciating them as if he were hearing an angelic chorus. Two fallen beasts and a witch broke into that scene. The shopkeeper’s surprise and confusion were terrible indeed.
To put it into perspective, it was surprise and confusion the likes of which caused him to send his chair and table toppling to the floor, and spill some tasteful wine on his head.
“T-the hell do ya want?! Why’d ya come here?!” The shopkeeper yelled in a shrill voice. I tossed him a bag filled with coins.
“Sorry ‘bout that ol’ man, here’s the money for that robe you bought from us, so we’d appreciate it if you gave it back.”
Without waiting for the dazed shopkeeper’s permission, I shattered the glass of the enclosure, and tossed the robe to Albus. The shopkeeper gave a pitiful cry as I did so.
“Stop! If you take that from me, where’m I gonna find the nourishment ta keep myself alive then?! No, wait, wait, please! You can have anything you want! Just don’t take those robes away!”
His voice harbored grief no one but a mother watching her child be killed could know. It was heartbreaking, but I ignored him.
“Don’t you feel bad for him?”
“Then how ‘bout ya give him yer underwear?”
When I finished my sentence, Albus grabbed my tail and yanked. I couldn’t bear the pain and yelled, glaring at Albus as I collapsed.
“What d’ya think you’re doin’? It’s taboo ta attack a fallen beast’s tail!”
“I know, I’ve done the same to Holdem. —Sir, if you give us the robe, we’ll have Zero give you her socks. How does that sound?”
The shopkeeper stopped breathing for a second, working over the word socks in his mouth. He took it as if it were a divine revelation, but there was no divinity nor holiness in it.
“You’re sure? She’ll give me her socks? She’ll let me watch her take ‘em off?”
His eyes indicated that he was serious. I was a bit taken aback. So it seemed, was Albus.
“Hey, do we really need ta show him this much pity?”
“I’m regretting this too…”
“Little lady, we’re ready for the ritual.”