I don’t really know what happened afterwards. I collapsed after the adrenaline of combat subsided. And when I woke up, Kyou-san and I were already outside the Ss’rak city. Supposedly we were carried blindfolded by two of the lizard people by the order of the matriarch. Most likely so we won’t know the exact location of their home.
Kyou-san is plainly looking at me, who needed some rest to ease the mental exhaustion. No words, no gestures, just a look. Even eye-contact is seldom.
What might she think? Why isn’t she saying anything? Maybe she’s reached a new level of disgust for me, who seems to have no qualm over killing someone anymore.
That’s right, I can accept the deaths I brought. Maybe it’s because they’re Ss’rak, who are still quite different from humans. Or maybe I’m still in shock. But the feeling of terror I got when I killed the Ss’rak guards, spurred by Muaotef’s presence, is gone now.
I still think it’s a shame, but I can easily live with it, I suppose. Something changed within me when I killed the patriarch, whose name I still don’t know. And I don’t even care, how he was called, he’s dead.
I killed the patriarch and they let me go, as if everything was fine. No retribution, no blaming, it’s their strange sense of honor. It’s anti-climatic, but I like it that way. Boring is the best! Even though the human race lost as a sentient life form.
“I’m fine now. Let’s go.” The Ss’rak who carried us explained the way to the Heißquellen-shrine. It’s not that far off. About two hours from the city to this place and it should us take another hour to the shrine, that makes 3 hours between the city and the shrine. At least for Ss’rak, I felt how they climbed some cliffs while carrying us.
We walk down the path and Kyou-san is still not saying anything. It’s kinda like before, when we were traveling to this shrine the first time. It’s almost as if the time in the chasm never happened.
To think we actually grew closer there. It’s only back to normal.
An hour without any talking later.
We’re at the Heißquellen-shrine. It’s time to end this stupid pilgrimage! We only need the water and go back to the capital. We should probably tell the king about this Ss’rak city and Muaotef or more like, Kyou-san should. Well, I may support her on this, if she asks nicely.
Anyhow, it’s time to fetch some water. The shrine is still laid to waste, but this time, we won’t be disturbed and overpowered by Ss’rak.
“Wait.” Kyou-san is finally saying something, but her voice is suspecting. “Something is wrong.”
“Fine, fine, let me check.” I use my enhanced senses and run every [Perception]-skill I know, but there is nothing suspicious here. “You’re just imagining it.”
“…” I hate that stubbornness. “Why?”
Facepalm. “Look, there is nothing. You might be tense, but as long as I’m here, there is nothing to worry about.” As I turn around, Kyou-san grabs my wrist.
“Phew… Just let’s get over this, OK!? If this makes you feel better, I’ll use my whole [Stealth]-skill repertoire, so you might feel at ease a bit. I’ll be back quickly.” I break away and use [Sneak] and [Hide Smell].
This is so stupid! I’m fully recovered, have all of my equipment back and I’m a high-level character. As long there is no Muaotef, there can’t be anything that might be dangerous for me here.
I sneak into the shrine and now I stand before the spring’s pool. Now I need only to fetch some water with a viol and we’re finished here.
Suddenly, a piercing sound passes through my body and my vision blurs. The pain is splitting my head! I stumble and fall, unable to maintain my balance. I think there is blood coming from my ears.
The HP and SP damage isn’t much, but there are some worrisome conditions. [Deaf], [Stunned] and [Dizzy]. This is a sound-based debuff.
My visions clears somewhat and I see several Ss’rak before me, one of them is over 2 meters. It’s the Voice of Muaotef. Shit, he totally slipped my mind. He leads a pack of five, the other four are bulky and seems quite adept to use these maces they’re holding.
I can’t hear what the Voice is saying, but most likely it’s just a speech about revenge, his greatness and how you could attack me without me noticing. Only the last one would be interesting.
But for now, I should concentrate on staying alive. The four thugs are surrounding me and swing their weapons.
I, Momokawa Kyou, sigh. There is so much, I have to tell, but somehow looking at Ken makes me not saying anything at all. It’s like my desire to tell him just vanishes.
And even if I say something, he just don’t listen. I really have a bad feeling in this shrine, it’s different from the first time, where the signs were obvious, it’s more like there’s something in the air, a malicious feeling, directed at us.
But he went, after all. Stubborn. Obstinate. Always doing what he wants, instead considering others.
I don’t want to get into another danger, so I waited, but the least I could do to confirm my suspicion is to observe his status. Even though it’s a curse, this one feature can come in handy. While the rest is a nightmare for the most part.
A bit of damage, three conditions.
Ken’s in the building of the spring, so I can’t see him. But I should normally hear something from this distance. So it’s a silent danger.
Maybe I should just run away. The curse might be horrible, but it got me some levels. I should now be able to take on most monsters on my own, when I return to Esse. I could rejoin Masahiko-kun and my other friends, my level now should be enough.
There is no gain in helping Ken, it’s only an unnecessarily risk. There will be most likely no compensation, only more of his constant whining.
There is the curse, but who knows how it work out, if he dies.
But there is another thing. A sense of responsibility.
Ken and I are partners in this undertaking and in the end, most of the things I did so far was healing and cooking. Well, I did kill that Ss’rak back then, but that was a spur of a moment and I’m not keen to repeat that.
And Ken? He protected me, he gave me advice and when I was sick of everything, he took charge and brought us through the chasm. Even though protection and advice was part of the deal, he took most of the burdens.
I… own him.
But let’s not be crazy. I check on him and if there is no reason to get involved, I won’t be. If it’s too dangerous, then I can still flee.
Slowly I tiptoe into the building. In times like these, I wish I had the [Stealth]-ability.
Still no sounds. Most likely I just have to go straight through the building to get to the spring.
I slip through an open doorway and suddenly, like a flip of a TV-switch, voices can be heard: “-wiz magick, to zeal the zound!”
I know that voice. . The Voice of Muaotef, or more like the lizardman who’s called that. Ken really shouldn’t have hit him. Another of his rash, illogical actions. He probably just snapped for a silly reason.
I carefully look around a corner. There is the exit to the spring, which is enclosed by the shrine-building.
There lies Ken, who’s on the floor, obviously unable to move. Four lizardman are surrounding him, all of them are wielding club-like weapons with an iron head.
I think these were called maces. But the name beside, they’re surely able to break bones with ease.
I don’t know, how the hero-system works with broken bones. Would it downgrade broken bones as just HP-damage or add a [Broken Limb] condition? If it’s the latter, I won’t be able to remove it. She doesn’t have a spell for this.
Most likely the Voice used some magic to make a certain area soundproof from the outside and since Ken relies too much on his skills, he fell into their trap. This would be his fault for not obeying me, so I have no reason to help him out.
If he dies, this curse on me may be undone.
I roll my eyes and looks through my backpack. Both of us have a [Shared Inventory], so there may be some item of his, which will prove helpful.
There are still those bombs, Ken used against the patriarch. I stuff my pockets with them. They should prove useful.
I’m about to do something really stupid, aren’t I? Just let’s get over it.
I charge in, only looking at my target. Then I kick it, right into the stomach and it’s enough to let it fly a short distance, right into the spring water. Is this my higher [Strength] or am I just that good?
The target is Ken, by the way.
You gain 3 WP.
Even if you saved your husband’s well-being, your methods are quite questionable.
While the lizardmen are still wondering what happens, I throws a bomb right into the face of the Voice. Uh, what a nasty smell, even at this distance it gives me headache.
The Voice, on the other hand, is coughing and wailing.
I evade a swinging mace, draw my lizardman-dagger and thrust at the arm, who was attacking me. I cut it, but it’s too shallow. Like I thought, with my classes, there was no way, that I can seriously hurt them at this level.
But it’s still going better than I thought. So this happens, if you gain some levels. I was already a more athletic type, but my body is so light and moves so well, that I’m feeling like I’m walking on air.
So this is what being a hero feels like.
I throw a smoke bomb, I want some concealment, so that the guards won’t be able to attack me as a team. The henchmen aren’t important, the Voice is. How did Ken called it… boss-mob? Somehow it’s important to get rid of it.
The Voice is still stunned from the stink bomb and with a quick motion, I’m standing before it. Then I stab with my knife. A deep cut is right in its stomach. Ah, these knifes are good when you attack immobile foes.
It’s not pleased: “Yuu daaare!” And inhales.
“[Speedthrust]!” The region of the Voice’s lung is pierced by a spear. “No more sound-magic.” Ken, wet from the spring water, is standing right next to me. The coolness of the timing and angle negates his usual disgustingness. So he can look plain, when he works hard.
You gain 2 WP.
With perfect timing, your white knight on a horse arrives and slays the monster. You sure are lucky, to have such an reliable husband.
Well, there isn’t much of a knight there. But at least he’s less Ken than usual. Maybe he could earned a positive impression, if he had actually said something cool. Like ‘You won’t harm my companions!’ or ‘It’s ungentlemanly to hurt a girl.” No, with the last one, his disgusting-level would go through the roof.
“You’re late.” It’s irritating, that I’m is feeling a sense of relief that now Ken is here. He’s full of faults and won’t make anyone feel safe, but somehow he really became reliable. At least a bit and only until he does something stupid, which happens quite frequently.
“I’ve nearly drowned.” He kicks the impaled Voice from his weapon, the lizardman is breathing stertorously on the ground, out of combat. “But thanks.”
I kicked Ken into the spring well, since it has healing properties. And several other reasons, I have a lot of stress, which needs an outlet and Ken is responsible for all of it.
Maybe the healing factor was the thing, which let him recover or maybe his conditions just ran out, but in the end, he was in time. Let’s say that it was intentional. Yes, definitely. There is no doubt about it.
From out of the smoke, the four guards are approaching, but Ken knocked them back with a [Whirlwind] and follows with a [Speedthrust] to impale a single one, rendering it unable to fight. So two down, three remaining.
But this is enough. If Ken takes out one more, it’ll be hard for them to retreat, since they can’t carry the wounded. “Ken, wait.”
He gives me a baffled look. “Why?”
“If we kill his servants, Muaotef might be displeased. Let them go.” A shudder goes through my body as I mention the dragon’s name. Muotef is like a primal force, reminding us that there are things outside our control.
Ken is shivering, too, but clenches his spear, as if he wants to assert, that he’s still in power. “But they might come back!” He’s not thinking as clearly as usual.
“Listen to me, I’m in charge.” It’s too stupid to try to argue with that idiot.
“Since the beginning.” He’s too stubborn. Ignoring him, I talk to the lizard people, who are observing us with a heated expression. “Listen. We don’t want to kill you, so you may go with the wounded. Then we part ways forever. Your boss needs medical attention, so you should decide fast.”
Something changes within the attitude of the lizard people. It’s strange. The hostility recedes, and the three of them nods to each other. “Agrreeed.” I already saw something like that, back when I asked some other lizard guards, if they would disregard killing Ken and me and bring us to the Voice.
There is something, which makes them act like that. I need to know what. Maybe it’s also part of the hero-system and can be used at-will.
But the lizard people don’t leave it at this: “Yuu killed heeeero of Great One. Iz honorable fight, but Ss’rak will no forget! Yuu dangarous!” Ken’s face is shocked.
The patriarch is Muaotef’s hero? This doesn’t make any sense. Why are they telling us such obvious lies?
I keep watching Ken, so I might be able to stop him, before he does something stupid. Again.
The three able-bodied lizardmen carry the two others and climb up a cliff, from which the spring comes from. Ken is looking at them with hostility, but doesn’t attack them. “This feels wrong.”
“You can’t eliminate all of your problems. This was just payback for your actions.”
“Phew…” He avoids eye-contact. So he might feel a bit guilty about it.
I also sigh, in relief. I surely hope that I will never see reptilian monsters again, be it lizardmen or dragons.
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