Volume 2 — Chapter 1: The Republic of Cleion
Thankfully, it seemed that no one had noticed. It wouldn’t be good to cause a commotion and draw attention to ourselves.
“Well, this was more or less to be expected. In fact, we have reaped more than expected.”
What had there been to reap in Albus’ letter?
We hadn’t had any reputable intelligence come in, much less knew which reports were false rumors and which were truth. There were even such ridiculous rumors mixed in as that a manual to magic—in truth the Book of Zero in Albus’ possession—was being offered up for sale.
There was pretty much no information to take away from the letter whatsoever, or so I thought.
“The transcript in the making is gone,” Zero said abruptly and in a serious manner.
The transcript—that is, a copy of book made by transcribing from an original work.
If the Book of Zero’s transcript had indeed been completed, then even though Albus owned the genuine text, the transcribed article could still be sold on the market.
Still, Albus had written in her letter that “the transcript was a work in progress, but information on it turned murky during its writing.” Didn’t that mean that it couldn’t exist?
When I asked Zero, she cocked her head in frustration.
“Even unfinished, the book would be more than sufficient to pose a threat to the world. I believe I have already explained to you that simply the first page could destroy the world. Rather, it is the notion of magic introduced on the very first page that is crucial. Once the concept is made clear and unclouded—”
Zero shook her head gravely and heaved a heavy sigh.
“It is only natural to assume someone carried it off. That child is far too optimistic.”
“Yeah…if ya put it like ‘documents on a weapon being developed during wartime all went missing after,’ that’d be a huge problem for the country…but what if someone destroyed it? That’d make sense, they wouldn’t want it ta get out. I think that’s more likely than someone stealin’ it.”
“You are far too optimistic,” Zero stated flatly.
We essentially went where Zero wanted to go and visited the things she wanted to see. However, at its root, Zero’s goal was to solve the problems caused by the magic she had invented.
She probably felt accountable as the person who had invented the technique, and responsible for resolving those issues caused by it.
Seriously—there’s nothing sillier than that.
I didn’t think that the one to invent a method was also the one responsible for the people that misused it. Was it the blacksmith’s fault if a knife he forged was used by a criminal to commit murder? Or perhaps was it the fault of the person who invented the way to refine iron? What nonsense.
Though, when I told Zero what I thought, she insisted that “this is different,” and refused to concede. She was always so nonchalant, yet whenever magic was brought up, she would instantly tense up as stiff as a board.
With that attitude, Zero probably saw talk of a transcript as intelligence that was impossible to overlook.
“I think it’s stupid ta worry about the transcript bein’ stolen or misused when we don’t even have proof it exists. Besides, dontcha think you’re bein’ far too pessimistic?”
“No. One should always consider the worst possible outcome when making a move. Anyone who has seen Thirteenth’s example could imagine that, if one brought the Book of Zero outside of the country, one could form a new Coven of Zero and take over another nation. We know there was a copy in progress, but not its current whereabouts. It is thus appropriate to assume it has been carried off.”
The nectar of power was alluring, and there were plenty of boors.
As long as the copy of the Book of Zero remained in the wild, no matter how many magicians were purged, a new magician would be born somewhere else. Even if the transcript never existed in the first place, there would be those who would journey for the illusory book.
It was an unending situation, whether the copy existed or not.
“This is so fuckin’ annoying. I don’t want ta guard ya anymore.”
“Huh…so will you?” Zero asked with a blank expression.
“Hell no! I’ve made up my mind ta get my reward for the escort work I’ve done. I’ll keep escortin’ ya ‘til the day ya make me human.”
Zero was supposed to make me human as compensation for guarding her in the middle of the mess that happened in Wenias. Until I got that compensation—in other words, until I was human again—I was never going to leave Zero’s side.
Incidentally, Zero had paid me in advance for the guard duty I was doing now, using some of the gemstones she carried around. If I exchanged them for money, I could have enough to live comfortably for many years.
It was a well-paying job, but…
“Even so, you guard me because you want to. In fact, you have no real intention of leaving your job. You want to be at my side,” Zero boasted.
Where did this confidence spring from? Was it from her face? This is why I hate beautiful women. I furrowed my brow, and Zero stopped laughing to look at the plate in her hand.
“Well…though I may say that, I don’t want to bind you to me unnecessarily. I wrote the Book of Zero and brought about chaos in the world. I am responsible for this, and it is my duty to quash it. —It is a heavy burden as it is.”
Always so cocky and proud, Zero now sat slumped and her eyes were downcast. It struck me how diminutive she was.
“This is why I intend to pay my dues without delay. Once I do, you will truly be free. You will no longer need to remain my protector, and you will be able to go wherever you wish to fulfill your dreams. That is why—“
“Woah there, wit—“
“—That is why, before then, I must make you a slave to my charm and have you unable to resist, begging to be my companion!”
So she’s that type of woman, huh. That’s right. I knew she wasn’t the type to be depressed. She sounded like she was making a decision that meant life or death for a nation, but was actually spouting absolute stupidity. I shifted my gaze away from Zero, and took a sip from my glass.
Witches were all utilitarian, and would take actions most beneficial to themselves.
When she talked about responsibility and accountability, even when she said she’d do something about the chaos magic had caused, she didn’t mean she’d do it for the world’s sake. Zero was doing it because she couldn’t help herself.
Seriously, words like “responsibility” and “accountability” were far beyond my vocabulary. From hating to walk on her own on one hand, yet willing to set off on a harsh journey out of something as vague as responsibilityon the other, this was why the lifeforms known as witches were unfathomable to me.
“All jokes aside, we must first reclaim the copy of the Book of Zero. If it reaches the market, it will be nothing less than a vicious cycle.”
“We still ain’t got any idea where it is, though…’n we don’t know if it even exists in the first place.”
“Don’t you trust me?” Zero asked. I gave a noncommittal response, folded my arms, and looked up at the splotched ceiling.
“According to the kid’s letter, there’re things happenin’ all over, big ’n small, that might’ve had somethin’ to do with magic. If there’s really a copy out there, then it’s probably somewhere in those places. Still, it’d take too much time ta visit each one by one.”
“Then the best we can do is to tell the child to begin a thorough investigation of the copy in our reply. If there are reports of it being sold, it should be possible to uncover where and how it was sold, and those involved. At the same time, we shall proceed with our own investigation.”
Here, in the Republic of Cleion, were ports.
If Wenias was the center of routes over land, then the Republic of Cleion was the center of routes over sea. It was child’s play to gather rumors from various lands here, and so we had made it our destination for the time being.
Our goal was the largest port town in the Republic—Edeabelna.
 Pronounced ee * deya * belna.