Part 5

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Volume 2 — Chapter 3: Witch or Saint?
Part 5

When magic is used for evil—such as to harm people or to plot the downfall of a government—I could see the need to bring the culprits to justice. But seeing how gentle Ria was, and how she saved people, it just made me feel like we should just leave her alone.

However, the thieves had called her a witch, and it may not be a good thing that her presence was causing a decline in the doctors’ ranks.

I didn’t think that was her fault. It was the same as how if something happened as a result of magic, I wouldn’t blame Zero for that either.

Zero’s lips curled into a faint, troubled smile.

“Certainly…they are not <i>yet</i> causing trouble. Possibly. However, the state of things is always changing. Things may be fine now, but who knows how tomorrow may be.”

“Ya think healing magic’s gonna start a war? Can ya kill a man with ointments?”

She was definitely just being way too cautious, wasn’t she?

“Plus, if ya really thought she was up to no good, couldn’t ya just ‘Reject’ Ria’s magic and be done with it?”

“If I did so, that would likely put whoever taught the Saint magic on high alert.”

“And then we couldn’t get any info on the copy, huh? But weren’t we unsure if there was one in the first place? Then wouldn’t it be nice to just sit tight until Albus’ letter arrives, and be carefree for a while? I think it’d be at the very least better than workin’ with that priest.”

“That’s not what I mean. The Saint is using the magic that I invented.”

“And?” I asked. Zero yanked my tail.

“I must be certain, Mercenary. About how the Saint intends to use magic in the future. About why whoever taught her magic did so. Magic is very useful; but use it improperly, and danger is brought to everyone involved. Even as for the Book of Safeguarding, it can’t be said that every piece of magic within is completely safe. Magic is far too powerful for those who do not understand that.”

“Be certain, huh…”

I folded my arms and gazed up at the moon. Both thinking and being certain of things were outside my wheelhouse.

“Well, just say the word and I’ll obey. That’s my job, after all. —Dawn’s almost here. Ya better get some rest.”

I lay myself down on the branch. As I did, Zero clambered on top of me.

“Hey, go sleep down by the fire.”

“I refuse. The fire’s already gone out, so it’s warmer here.”

“I’m heavier with you on top though.”

“I’m warmer with you below though,” Zero mimicked, smiling.

I thought we were going to make a crash landing for sure, but in the blink of an eye, she had curled up inside my mantle defensively; I had no choice but to simply await the coming of dawn.

 

2

 

As the sun kissed the horizon, we set off together.

We had tied the five bandits to a tree and set some water where they could reach. Theo seemed a bit uneasy, but the bandits said nothing to him.

It may have been better for them to expose Theo as one of their own, but seeing as they were all branded with the same tattoo, they were likely bandits with strong bonds.

Theo and I led, while the priest took the rear. That left the three women to walk between.

As usual, Zero was bemoaning that “walking is such a pain”; still, though we were walking on a trail-less path through the forest, I couldn’t carry her around. I probably could, but I just didn’t want to. —This was further cemented by having to take care of Ria, who seemed to have left her motor reflexes somewhere else.

“Madam Saint, there’s a tree root buried there. Please take care not to trip—“

She tripped.

“Madam Saint, there’s an animal hole there, so please be care—“

She got stuck.

“M-Madam Saint! Please walk slowly near the river lest you—“

She fell in.

—How come Ria couldn’t see the obstacles that the priest, with his blindfold, could? And why couldn’t she avoid them even after being warned? We weren’t even halfway into the trip, and Ria was already too miserable to look at. Her clothes were shredded, dirty, and wet, while she was covered in nicks and bruises.

Even so, she never uttered a single complaint, so she was being brave about it; but whenever their dear Saint blundered into something, the priest and Ria’s waiting lady would make a fuss, so we couldn’t make headway as planned at all.

“To think that someone so dull in the motor capacities could function in society…I must say, I am astonished.”

“That’s a seriously hopeless one righ’ there…honestly and truly hopeless…”

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