Part 4

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Volume 2 — Chapter 3: Witch or Saint?
Part 4

—What was all that just now? It’s almost like…

“You seem to get along very well with the Saint, don’t you, Mercenary?”

A voice came from the branch before me. I jumped up from my branch.

Searching, I found Zero on the part of the branch shrouded in darkness, and my eyes opened wide.

She had her hood off, with face completely exposed. I hurriedly looked away, as the fine moonlight brought out the beauty of her visage.

My sanity couldn’t last through ten seconds of looking at her face. Her charm was almost a deadly weapon.

“How long have you been there…?”

“I saw the Saint get out of bed and came to see what she was up to. Then I found you two flirting with each other.”

“What made ya think we were flirtin’ with each other…?”

Rather, I thought that Zero had been flirting with the priest, so it was no big deal anyway.

“The Saint told you to call her Ria, didn’t she? Théo told me that in the Cleion Republic, nicknames are meant as a token of friendship.”

“F-friendship?” I croaked.

“The Saint offered, and you reciprocated. As ‘Mercenary’ is not your true name, it could be seen as a nickname as well. You’ve become friends with the Saint…now you are no longer friends solely with yours truly.”

“Stop it. It ain’t at all fittin’ for the Saint and I to be friends.”

“…It doesn’t seem that the Saint thinks the same, however…” Zero muttered in a very un-Zero-like, apathetic tone, quiet even for monologue.

“Hey… you all right? Want to say something?”

“You…” She began to say, then her demeanor suddenly changed as she closed her mouth.

“…It seems that someone taught the Saint to use magic, doesn’t it?”

She abruptly became all business.

As I struggled to cope with the sudden change of topic, Zero crossed the gap between our branches and settled next to me.

“I asked the Saint if she was taught her skills by someone, but she instead asked me why I would think that someone had taught her. So, someone taught her magic, and in a way that did not betray that it was magic that was being taught.”

When Zero sat down, the branch groaned and sagged slightly. A browned leaf that had been barely clinging to the branch before lost its grip and fluttered toward the ground below.

“I don’t know what manner of magic it was that the Saint used. No doubt something from the Book of Safeguarding, but she required no spells, no offerings, no gestures in her magic at all. No matter how talented she may be, that’s not a feat that could be accomplished so rapidly by simply learning and trying on her own.”

“Can’t it just be a real holy miracle?”

“I thought about that possibility too—and about how miracles could occur in the first place.”

“Can ya explain?”

It was amusing that Zero, a witch, was talking about things such as miracles. As I chuckled, Zero offered a vague “probably”.

“This is nothing but a theory I constructed from listening to what the priest had to say. If Thirteenth were here, he would probably tell me to speak nothing but certain fact, but…”

“Prithee honor me with your thoughts, O Witch of the Muddy Black.”

“I dare say,” Zero prefaced, growing quieter.

“That miracles and magic—the two are essentially the same.”

“That’s… a theory that could get us in real trouble if the priest got wind of it.”

“Magic is the art of proffering sacrifices to demons, and through them, using words of power to reshape reality. But through practice, it becomes enough to simply recite the spells in one’s mind. There is much magic that requires special sacrifices to perform, but there is also much magic that only requires the expenditure of magical power. We witches believe that the Goddess, the one Church worships, is also a kind of demon.”

Demons, and spells.

Gods, and prayers.

Their phrasings are of course different, but they are structured the same.

“Therefore, miracles are, in other words, coincidental successes in the magical harnessing of their God to reshape reality, or so I believe. So there is most certainly the possibility that the Saint’s miracles are not among the magics described in the Book of Zero—that is, there was.

However, Ria’s response that “why would you think that someone taught me to beget miracles?” had removed that possibility.

Ria had, with certainty, learned to use magic.

It was ten years since Thirteenth had taken the Book of Zero from its author, Zero, and traveled the kingdom of Wenias. And on average, it took roughly five years to learn magic.

Counting backwards from when Ria had learned magic, that meant five years ago someone had brought magic to the Republic of Cleion and taught it to Ria.

“But…that’s cuttin’ it real close. Even if someone with talent picked it up quick, could they really pull off learnin’ it in five years, then instantly turnin’ around and teachin’ it to others?”

“That is very unlikely…but not impossible. An already famed witch could learn magic rapidly, and, if focusing, could make one practiced pupil in a short amount of time. That means there is already someone in this nation who excels in magic.”

The same someone who taught Ria magic.

We would need to find them, if they still resided in the Republic of Cleion. They might have the replica grimoire with them, and if not, might still have some information to be obtained.

But, there was something bothering me.

“…Hey, Miss Witch. Ria and the person that taught her…they ain’t causing any trouble, are they?”

“Trouble?”

“Ria’s only usin’ magic to heal people, so the person who taught her magic can’t be all bad either, right? Can’t we just leave things the way they are? Isn’t this how ya always wanted magic to be used, to help people?”

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