Zero Kara Hajimeru Mahou No Sho / Zero Kara Hajimeru Mahou no Sho Volume 2 Chapter 2 part4

“Worry not. Starting fires is my specialty.”

Though she wasn’t allowed to use magic, when it came time to light a campfire, we still relied on her magic.

It was much faster and simpler than if I were to use a piece of flint to do the job. Even at lunch, Zero had quickly lit the fire while Theo was off catching fish.

If I was Zero’s bed, then Zero was something like my piece of flint.

“Sorry, but we ain’t got blankets or anythin’ classy like that. You’re gonna have ta make do with that coat.”

“…Don’t worry about it. I’m not going to have to ‘make do’…this is already suuuper warm,” Theo spoke happily, pulling the coat closed around him; his freckled cheeks reddened slightly.

In the middle of the night, I was woken up by Zero stirring in my arms.

“Mercenary,” I heard a voice whisper. I opened my eyes and looked down to catch Zero’s amethyst eyes gazing back at me.

“—I felt a sign of nearby use of magic, just now.”

“…What?”

I sat up.

“Wait a sec, what’re ya talkin’ about? What’s a sign of the use of magic…?”

“They are the same as movement of the wind, or trembling of the ground. Normal humans cannot sense them, but witches can. —In other words, someone used sorcery, or magic.”

“What?!” My voice was dangerously loud.

After confirming that Theo was still sound asleep, I lowered my voice.

“We’re still a ways off from the Holy City. Ya sure ya aren’t just half-awake?”

Theo had said it would take four days to walk to Arcadius. Converting from the pace of a child, that was in reality probably two, three days or so. Even then, it was too far to call close.

However, Zero shook her head in silence.

“Nearby, I said. —Nearby.”

“Walking distance?”

“No more than half an hour at your pace. I would not be able to sense it otherwise. Do you want to take a look then?”

Together, I assumed she meant. It didn’t really matter what I replied—Zero would probably go by herself. That was Zero’s responsibility, and it was my job to protect Zero.

The Holy City was far, but it wasn’t certain that the Saint was the only witch in the Republic of Cleion. I got my sword and stood up without a word. Fallen Beasts’ heads were the most precious sacrifices to those who practiced magic. There was no such thing as being overly cautious.

“What, something happen…?”

Theo had woken up, but still looked groggy.

“We’re just goin’ ta take a look around. It’s prob’ly nothin’, but just in case, get on a tree. You’ve got your knife with ya, right?”

Theo grabbed his knife, the keepsake his father had given him, and swiftly began to climb a tree.

—This one’s experienced, huh.

He’d probably slept in the trees to escape stray dogs before. That’s promising.

I gathered up Zero, and we stepped into the shadowy woods.

Before long, the smell of a campfire tickled my nostrils.

Mixed in with it was a hint of the scent of blood, and the distinctive sour stench of an unbathed human.

“…They’re almost always bandits.”

“Shall I fight as well?”

“No, it’ll be fine. Your magic will decrease when ya use it, so then ya can’t use other magic, right?”

“Well the amount it decreases by depends on the magic…but I suppose it does decrease.”

“Don’t then. It’ll only be longer ’till I can become a human again.”

If it was just a couple of bandits, I could probably take them on alone.

As I approached the source of the smell, I heard voices. They were male, and there were several.

From the coarse laughter and jeering whistles, it seemed they were in very high spirits. It was as if there was a party or something.

Making sure Zero’s arms were wrapped tightly around my neck, I climbed up a nearby tree. Advancing to the tip of a thick, high branch, I saw five men ringing the campfire.

—As I had expected, they were thieves.

Each had a matching tattoo—probably a goat—and there were what seemed to be two kidnapped women there to boot.

One was a short-haired redhead in cheap-looking clothing, and the other had long, light scarlet hair in a triple braid that hung down to her waist. The triple-braid was wearing quality clothing, so they were probably a lady and her attendant.

The attendant was helpless with a knife pressed against her, and it seemed that her master was in the ring of men.

The lady was trembling in fear, but her cheeks were pink.

—It was no wonder they were in such high spirits.

It was simple to imagine what was going to happen; and as I was doing so, the stock-still triple-braid put a hand on her clothes. The large white feather necklace on her chest quivered, and her brilliant purple cloak fell to the ground.

—I was slowly becoming a peeping Tom, wasn’t I.

Which one of them used magic? I looked at Zero questioningly, and she raised her finger.

It hesitated for a short while, then confidently singled out a member of the group. It was the timid-seeming woman who looked to be about to stripped naked.

“…Ya sure ya got it right?” I asked.

“Yes. No mistaking it,” Zero replied.

Of course, the bandits heard our exchange.

“Who’s there?!”

“Wherever you are, get yer ass out here so we c’n kill ya!”

As one of them yelled that same old worn-out phrase, the bandits stopped moving.

I supposed they were trying to be on the alert—such amateurs. At least make the effort to hide in the bushes or something.

I took throwing knives from my belt, and with my knack for aim, got four of them in the foot.

The final man, noticeably unshaven, yelled out and retreated while using the lady as a shield.

“Shit, I ain’t ever heard a search party be so early…! Come out! Come out, ya cowardly son of a bitch! You don’t want her ta die, do ya…? If ya don’t come out right now ‘n drop yer weapons, I’ll kill her!”

“Stop! I beg of you, please, that’s—! Lady Saint!”

My eyes opened wide at the fallen attendant’s words.

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