Volume 2 — Chapter 2: The Saint and the Father
Based on the map, the holy city and Edeabelna were the other way. We were closer to the holy city than Edeabelna where we were, but if we went back to the holy city, the lord of Edeabelna would have plenty to mourn.
“Oh, what shall we do…um, how far is it to that inn? Perhaps we could get our horse back if we went…or if not, perhaps we could at least borrow a carriage from the inn…”
“It’s a whole day to the inn. Even if we went, ya don’t got any proof that horse is yours, do ya? If ya still had the carriage then that might’ve been enough proof, but that’s been smashed to bits ’n used as kindling.”
“No,” the Saint was on the verge of tears. The priest stepped in to support her.
“T-to walk to Edeabelna from here…there are many high hills in our way, so it will take us five days!”
“Let us return to the town before. It will take one day, just as it would to go to the inn, but there it is certain that we can get our hands on a carriage. Then, we hurry to Edeabelna.”
“But what if we don’t make it on time…? We are already a day past schedule. To be late an additional day…he is just a child; he will die!”
“We have no time to worry about such things. There is—“
“…If you go through the forest, you can get to a town with carriages in ‘bout half a day’s time. It’ll take you closer to Edeabelna too, so if you go now you’ll get there by mornin’. Then by full gallop, you can get to Edeabelna mornin’ of the day after.”
Wiping away his fake tears with his sleeve, Theo interrupted.
“I can guide you. The way’s dangerous, but with pops…”
The heads of fallen beasts sold for high prices, so I was frequently a target of bandits.
But on the other hand, it was also the case that the average thief avoided fallen beasts, as careful preparation and an appropriate amount of resolve were needed to hunt fallen beasts.
I would draw a few trained thieves to me, but deter most of the small fry thieves. Whether it was appropriate to choose a fallen beast as an escort was dependent on the time and situation—but as for now, it was a wise choice.
Zero probably wouldn’t get herself killed even if left to her own devices, and the priest was part of the escort as well. So the ones needing protection were Theo, the Saint, and her attendant.
Certainly, with me present, we could cross the forest relatively safely.
“We will absolutely not have a fallen beast in our escort! I alone am sufficient.”
Of course this priest would say somethin’ like that.
But if the priest alone was enough protection, then the Saint shouldn’t have been kidnapped by bandits at all.
I saw Zero try to put what I was thinking into words, and stealthily stopped her. This witch’s mouth was too often the source of disaster.
“Theo, you said? May I ask that you be our guide? If this beast has hired you, I will hire you instead.”
Hey there, God’s manservant, watch your mouth a bit there. Even I can feel hurt.
“I can’t go if it ain’t with pops. After all, if thieves appear, you’ll protect the Saint, won’tcha? Then’s the lady over there, and last is me.”
“No…everyone is equal in my—“
“Are you gonna lie…?”
The priest flinched as the child stared at him reproachfully. From the priest’s behavior, even a fool could see that he put the Saint before all others.
The Saint looked toward me in expectation. The argument seemed to have been decided in favor of employing me.
I waved my tail slightly, and pointed at Zero with its end.
“My boss’ that lady over there. I can’t make the decision alone.”
Everyone looked toward Zero. After all, we had come to the Republic of Cleion to investigate magic. And with the possibility that a copy of the Book of Zero had been smuggled out, Zero would not refuse this request, especially not when a reason to stick close to the Saint, who probably had ties to magic, had presented itself.
Despite that, Zero acted as if she was contemplating it with an air of importance.
“Now, what to do…I have my own objectives, so I cannot accompany others so often. I would like to help, but…”
“P-please help us! I will reward you in any way I can, so please…!”
The Saint looked at Zero with hand together, as if in prayer. A smile crept onto Zero’s lips, and she kicked off the ground, landing lightly on my shoulders.
“All right then. I am not one to refuse such a plea. My mercenary and I—we accept this task!”
Zero spoke as patronizingly as possible. As expected of my employer. She was the ultimate witch, and ultimately wicked.
The Saint jumped up and down as if moved, and gazed at Zero and me with dazzling eyes.
“Thank you very much! I appreciate it…truly…! I look forward to working together, um…Mr. Mercenary?”
…Ah. That ain’t really my name.
’Mercenary’’s a job title, not a name, after all.
Well…whatever, names don’t really matter to me anymore.