Volume 1 — Chapter 6: Forbidden Spell
The heart of the kingdom was its capital. If it were to fall, then the rest of the country would soon follow. This was why, even though the capital employed no more guards than a normal town would, thanks to the cliff serving as a natural rearguard, they were all deployed to the front of the city to defend from attack. So even if there were soldiers temporarily stationed here in the back, they would most likely be lax in their patrolling.
Of course they would be, as there wasn’t anyone alive stupid enough to climb this cliff with two knives, and anyone who attempted to would lose their grip due to exhaustion and fall to the ground far below. But, a fallen beast mercenary would have sufficient strength to make it up without dying.
Still, even a fallen beast wouldn’t do something this suicidal—
I had confidence that I could get all the way up, but death was certain if my hand slipped from fatigue or discomfort.
Halfway up the cliff, I was dripping with sweat. What was strange was how I was freezing from my dip in the river, yet sweating at the same time.
On top of that, my drenched body would only get colder every time the wind blew past, the warmth in my limbs being slowly leeched away. As that happened, the feeling in my fingers grew duller and duller, which was a very bad sign. I readjusted my grip on the knives.
“This ain’t somethin’ a heavyweight like me should be doin’…shit, maybe I should lose some weight?”
I extracted one of the knives from the compact earth—it was closer to stone, actually—and thrust it in once again. I dangled by one hand for a while, resting my other arm, when I couldn’t help but look down.
“Oh—I’m real high up…”
I had imagined what it would be like up here, but looking down now, it was very much the real deal. Falling meant dying. I had no other choice but to keep going. It seemed easier for me to keep up my progress rather than turn back the way I came. These thoughts occupying my mind, I lodged my foot in a crevice on the cliff, reached as far as I could and sank my knife in the dirt, repeating this routine over and over again.
Seriously—it was taking effort beyond my imagining to get back the job I’d lost. I’d met Zero when I fell off a small cliff, and now I was climbing up an actual cliff to get back to her.
Well, even so, it was still my fault for doubting her.
Clang, I felt my knife bounce off something. It was the foundation of the castle. I looked up, and saw the walls of the citadel rise solemnly beyond the cliff’s edge.
I couldn’t use my knives past this point. I instead used my claws, digging them into the soft mortar between the stones of the wall.
I felt chills the moment I put the full weight of my body on them. They felt far less solid than the knives.
“—Don’t give out on me now, claws of mine.”
Praying, I began scaling the ramparts. Pushing my claws into the mortar and finding footholds in the few faults in the wall, I made my way up inch by inch. As I got higher and higher, the wind became stronger and stronger, and I felt more and more as if I would be blown straight off. There were small windows in the towers, though since a human’s head could barely fit through them, they weren’t very useful for an intruder. It seemed like had taken some precautions, more or less. I tilted my head back and looked up.
Just…a bit further—
But as that thought crossed my mind, I heard the sound of footsteps from the window next to me.
I had nowhere to run to if I were seen, and of course no way to talk my way out of this mess. Something like “It was just such a beautiful night out that I couldn’t resist a climb up the castle walls” would probably just earn me a laugh and a “Ah, then may I join you?”
I paused my breathing, and prayed to God that the footsteps would pass by uneventfully.
But God was an uncaring fellow. The moon’s position was very bad news for me.
My shadow fell—right in the middle of the window. Any less sympathy and you’d be the devil, God.
I cursed under my breath, and reached my arm out parallel to the ground to position myself directly above the window.
—Don’t look up, please.
I waited with bated breath as I kept a careful watch on the window below me. The footsteps stopped before the opening. After a few seconds, however, the heavy footsteps set off again and faded away.
All the exhaustion of the climb suddenly hit me all at once. When it did—the mortar crumbled, and my claws left the castle wall.
I was falling. I clawed at the wall, but my claws merely scratched the stone surface, not doing a thing to stop my fall. A few of my nails broke from the shock, and blood began to drip from my fingers.
My desperately outstretched arm caught the bottom ledge of the tiny window opening. The impact with the wall dislocated my shoulder, though I was somehow able to bear the agony and refrain from crying out from the excruciating pain.
“T—that was way too close…! I was aboutta die…!”
My claws were messed up. Inching my way up was far more difficult now, but I needed to keep going, otherwise I was going to die for real. I started up the ramparts once more.