Volume 2 — Chapter 1: The Republic of Cleion
Thankfully, no one seemed particularly concerned about the child, and I doubted anyone would try to demand reparations for the inn from an injured child.
Off to the side, the owner of the inn was carefully leading the two horses that had drawn the cart into his own stable. They seemed like good horses from a cursory glance, and they would probably fetch a price well in excess of what was required to fix up the inn.
Why in hell did this kid come crashing in on that cart? They were probably asking themselves, but the answer they were going to get would, without a doubt, be unsatisfactory.
The charcoal-black cart looked expensive, and the pair of horses were young, robust stallions both. There was no way a kid wearing dirtied rags was given permission to drive such a classy transport.
Truth be told, once they learned of the inconvenient circumstances, the owner of the inn and the travelers would no doubt want to avoid any trouble.
In fact, once the owner realized how things looked, he would probably be forced to relinquish the horses he’d gone to the trouble of getting his hands on.
A shrewd businessman would deny all knowledge and responsibility, and simply carry on with his sale of the horses.
Sure, there were still rubberneckers to deal with…but with a fallen beast such as myself protecting the kid, there wouldn’t be anyone brave enough to raise any objections. Afterward, we would just have to come up with a suitable excuse, and then we’d be home free.
I picked up the unconscious child and, before anyone could speak, promptly left the dining hall.
Though they were called “rooms”, what fallen beasts got as “rooms” were, in reality, the stables.
Crowded inns treated their stables just as they did their rooms, but when it came to the poor and fallen beasts, we were almost always regulated to the stables, no matter how many vacant rooms remained.
Since I had Zero with me, I had tried hard to get us a normal room, but Zero had said “I find the stables more agreeable.” Now, we usually spent our nights sleeping in the stables.
It seemed that for Zero, my fur was enough, regardless of the location.
I had left the child on the straw of the stable, wiped my fur clean of residual food, and begun writing a reply to Albus.
“Huh, you can write,” Zero mused as she pressed herself onto my back.
There was a considerable height difference between us. Even with Zero standing and myself sitting, I was still taller. Thus, when Zero tried to peek at what I held in my hands, she put pretty much her entire body weight onto my back.
“Watch it, witch, you’re heavy.”
“Would you like your ears pulled?”
“Aren’t ya a bit too light? Ya gotta eat more, y’hear?”
Panicked, I took back my remark. Zero stopped pinching my ears and removed her fingers.
My life had flashed before my eyes in that moment. My mouth was going to be the end of me.
Zero, fingers now free, snatched my paper away from me.
There were only two sentences written on it.
“—Rumors of magic in Arcadius of the Republic of Cleion. Requesting further investigation into the copy. …That’s it?”
“I can read ’n write, but it ain’t a strength of mine. I just swap words into a template, ’n at best I can make it seem pretty authentic. That’s enough, right? What else’re ya even gonna put there?”
“There’s plenty, isn’t there? Like ‘how are you’ or ‘I love traveling with Zero’. Maybe ‘Zero’s always so breathtaking’ or something about how you wish to sleep with me, and how you’d like to kiss me.”
”Let me tell ya somethin’ important, witch. Men lose interest when ya come on too strong.”
“Even if they lose interest, so long as I’m able to keep making advances, then I win in the end.”
“It ain’t about winnin’ or losin’! It’s about what men want! Ya gotta act shyer, or weaker, so that people wanna protect ya…those’re things you can do without comin’ on so strong!”
“Don’t be foolish. Thirteenth treated humans who were weak in their advances as weak-willed rubbish.”
“Ya shouldn’t be makin’ Thirteenth the standard! Your brother doesn’t think like a human!” I yelled. Suddenly a shiver run down my spine. I felt as if Thirteenth’s cloudy, inky, sticky-like-muddy-dregs gaze was creeping up my spine like a slug.
I cringed at the thought.
“What’s wrong, Mercenary? Are you shaking?”
“No, nothin’s wrong…just thought of somethin’ disgustin’, that’s all.”
I just couldn’t force myself to like Thirteenth.