Volume 2 — Chapter 3: Witch or Saint?
Once we got going again, with Ria getting a ride from me, we made progress much more rapidly than before.
Theo and the priest already had proven athletic abilities, and though Zero usually creeped along at a slug’s pace due to a lack of exercise and laziness, she was by no means slow either. Even Ria’s waiting lady followed along without a hitch.
Despite having to make up for time lost due to Ria, the trip didn’t take us very long.
Except for having seemingly dropped my knife on the way, no issues of note cropped up. As day broke on the horizon, we made it out of the forest onto a main road, where directions were no longer necessary.
Giving Theo some money to hire us a horse-drawn cart, I sent him ahead into town. By the time we made it to the town gates, we found a cart already awaiting us at the entrance. Splendid execution as always on Theo’s part.
But furthermore, to have found a cart sold by the knights’ order with horses that weren’t afraid of fallen beasts was nothing less than a testament to Theo’s astuteness.
“We’ll be goin’ by cart from here. I let the driver know to drive ‘em horses hard as he can, so I figure we’ll get to Edeabelna on time or just a little later than planned.”
I set Ria down in the back of the cart. For a second, it seemed like she didn’t want to let go of my fur, but then she blushed and jerked away.
“T-thank you very much…I must have been heavy…”
“Kinda, yeah,” I answered honestly. Ria turned even redder. She nibbled her lip and looked about to cry as she beat feebly at my chest.
…What’s up with her? That sure was out of the blue.
I looked dumbly down at Ria. Zero cleared her throat loudly. I turned toward her with a jolt, to see her giving me a cutting glare as she tried repeatedly to push me aside.
“W-what is with you all of a sudden…?”
“I’m trying to get on the cart. You’re in my way.”
I slid myself off the cart’s edge. However, Zero kept glaring at me.
“What? Get on.”
“…Aren’t you going to pick me up and put me onto the cart?”
“Hah, are you a child?” I snorted softly. Zero clenched her hands into fists. Thinking I was going to get punched, I retreated a step.
“…Enough! —Father, lend me a hand.”
Zero gripped the priest’s hand tightly and let him hoist her onto the cart.
—Hey…look here. You didn’t say anythin’ about lendin’ you a hand, didja? What’re ya mad about?
“Hooray! Listen, pops! He said that since we’ve got a fallen beast to escort us, he’ll take us on a riskier shortcut!”
Having just been conversing with the driver, Theo was jumping for joy as he ran toward me.
“I did good, huh? I’m being a biiiiig help!”
“Oh— you did good, Theo. You’re a big help.” I ruffled Theo’s hair, nodding as sincerely as I could.
“Your hands sure are big, pops,” Theo laughed. I picked him up and tossed him in the cart. Seeing the waiting lady just standing around, I sat her in the cart too, and finally got in myself.
“The road’ll be rough, so everyone make sure to hold on,” the cart driver warned. The cart began moving, and began to jolt around instantly. Sure enough, Ria stumbled and started to fall out of the cart.
Panicked, the priest started, but since I was closer, I acted first. I grabbed her arm, pulling her back, and set her between my feet.
“You scum—let go of the Saint this instant!”
“Shut up and grab onto something, Father. I’ll keep the Saint where she is. Sorry about that, Your Grace. I bet it’s not comfortable for ya, but it’s the safest place you can be. With how light the Father is, you two might go overboard together if you aren’t lucky.”
In order to check the Father’s expected protestations, I spoke calmly to the tense Ria. To be honest, I wouldn’t sign up for this duty either. However, if Ria fell from this wild cart ride, she could die.
“It’s alright. Just shush and sit tight. You’ll bite your tongue.”
“Okay,” she murmured, then fell silent. The Father seemed to have begrudgingly accepted the situation as well.
I felt someone looking at me, and looked over at Zero. Our eyes met for only a moment, but it was clear that Zero had flicked her gaze away. …What? Was she holding a grudge because I didn’t help her on the cart?
Are you a child? I had another silent laugh about it. Well, if I just left the topic alone, she would probably forget about it, as always.