I Work As A Healer In Another World’s Labyrinth City - Chapter 49
Cries ring out in succession from the nearby audience members. The black dots floating in the sky, those are unmistakably monsters.
「Kuh, why are so many monsters...!?」
One of the knights on guard speaks out.
The audience is already in a state of panic. They're starting to run in every direction. All the hectic rushing around conversely makes it harder to escape.
Trying not to get separated from Eris or Yuel, I move a little in order to get away. While we're still relocating, the knights have already started to engage the monsters in battle. And, as the bow-wielding knights are about to fire arrows at the monsters,
「Wait, don't shoot arrows! You'll hit somebody!」
a different knight's voice restrains them.
...With this number of spectators, if they loose arrows upwards, rather than hitting monsters they're more likely to hit people on their way back down.
「Shit, is it a raid targeting Saint-sama!? Protect the audience!」
A portion of the knights fire off magic into the sky, but unfortunately it's not enough to handle the trouble. The number of monsters isn't decreasing at all. Moreover, while the knights are busy facing the bird-model monsters, boar-like monsters charge in from the main street adjacent to this plaza.
「I-Impossible! Flying types are one thing, but even monsters like that have entered the city!?」
One of the security knights cries out. Yeah, where exactly did these monsters show up from? For bird monsters, I wouldn't think much of them crossing over the ramparts, but for those boar-type monsters to be inside the city is obviously strange. I've never heard of monsters from inside the labyrinth coming out, and the city is surrounded by ramparts with knights standing watch. Such a sudden attack by monsters shouldn't be happening.
This attack is happening too fast. It's as if the monsters have been inside the city this whole time, but that's not...
「No, wait... it is. That's right, they were in the middle of the city.」
That's right, I witnessed a monster in the middle of the city. Taking a closer look, I can see collar-like magic tools attached to all of the monsters. As I thought, those are the same as that time...
A large shadow falls upon the ground. When I look up, I see the form of a large-scale monster circling above the plaza.
I remember those colors, that shape.
...Dragon. It's the one we ran into before in the old town, that dragon.
Just now, that knight yelled something about an attack aiming for the saint. And there are those collars controlling the monsters too. No doubt about it, this monster attack is man-made.
That dragon was tied up in the old town in order to hide it. By some chance, were all of these monsters concealed inside the ruins of the old town...?
But even if there was a place to hide them, it'd be impossible to carry such a large number of monsters into the middle of the city.
...Wait, just recently there might have been a chance. The Krankheit Turtle's poison mist incident. At that time, when coping with the panicked citizens, the knight brigade was temporarily unable to carry out its function.
At that time, taking advantage of the chaos, it would've been possible to bring monsters into the city.
「This might be a bit b-bad.」
While I'm still thinking about it, possibly unable to handle the sheer volume of monsters, the defensive line of knights lets a number of monsters slip through. Around 10 of the boar monsters approach.
We haven't gotten out of the plaza yet. Since our way is blocked by the spectators fleeing randomly, we can't get out of the plaza even if we try.
And while we're doing that, the boar monsters come plunging towards us.
「Master, please stand back!」
Yuel meets them by throwing knives, but there are many of them. Her attacks successfully protect me, but the surviving boars are still charging toward Eris.
...This is bad. Eris has no power to fight monsters.
As for what I should do, it's obvious. I'll fight the monsters. I've even faced off with that dreadful Armor Ogre. Monsters on the level of those boars shouldn't scare me at this point.
...On the contrary, this is my chance.
If I risk my body and save Eris in this predicament, her goodwill towards me will no doubt skyrocket. Well, becoming a shield against a boar once shouldn't be enough to kill me. At worst I'll break two or three bones.
Alright, let's do this. Imagining what will happen after I save Eris, I stir up my heart with earthly desires. Preparing my resolve, I take a step forward to drive my mace into the monsters.
And the next instant- a spray of blood rises up.
...That doesn't mean I hit the monsters. Someone wedged themself between Eris and the monsters. In an instant, that person cleaves several of the approaching boar monsters clean in two.
Aria is there, in a suit of knight armor.
「You alright? Onee-chan.」
Aria flicks her sword to remove the blood, smiling at Eris. When she does, Eris comes to her senses and opens her mouth.
「Y-Yes, thank you.」
Seeing Eris' relief, Aria chuckles. Somehow, she looks like a child having mischievous thoughts. And, as if she was waiting for Eris to say those exact words, she responds.
「I don't need your thanks, Onee-chan.」
In order to defeat the next monster, Aria turns her back to Eris. And, as if making a declaration, she immediately follows it up.
「'Cause I'm a knight.」
Aria annihilates the nearby monsters with incredible intensity. She slices all of the monsters in half. Forcefully, not to mention quickly, she reduces the monsters' numbers. Even among the knights, her movements stand out as exceptional. It seems as if she's showing off to Eris, too.
Eris covers her mouth with her hands, tearing up as she watches Aria intently. Perhaps she's deeply moved by how splendid her younger sister has become. A beautiful woman doing that really paints a perfect picture.
...But I'm the one who was supposed to be receiving that look after defeating the monsters. She was supposed to swoon over me when I showed her my manly side.
No, well, nothing I can do about it this time, so I'll yield. And Eris seems happy.
And yet, at the same time Aria is acting in front of us.
-The dragon circling in the sky dives toward the stage where the saint is standing.
The sound of the temporary stage collapsing rings out around us, accompanied by a loud shriek.
...This is bad. Ruruka was over there, too. She's not wearing a shred of protection right now either. She could have been seriously wounded by that attack.
「Aria! I'll leave Eris to you! Yuel, come with me!」
If I entrust her to Aria, there's a million-to-one chance that Eris will come to harm. From her fight with the boars just now alone, I can easily tell that Aria has extraordinary ability.
I hurry to the temporary stage where Ruruka is. Over there, there should be a number of injured buxom beauties other than Ruruka. I've gotta treat them right away.
Near the broken stage, there are multiple lightly-dressed women along with the saint and her escort knights. Ruruka is there, too. However, their injuries... there aren't any.
Looks like that saint has already given them treatment. After the dragon attacked, it rose high up into the sky again, and now it's turning around and getting ready to dive at this stage again.
「Shiki! Hey, that dragon... that's the one we saw in the old city, isn't it?」
「Yeah, it's the one from back then.」
「T-That's weird! Dragons shouldn't be attacking people like this!」
Ruruka's expression is frantic for some reason. Oh yeah, Ruruka loves dragons, huh?
Well, this attack has nothing to do with the monsters' wills. Those collars are magic tools to command the monsters. Somewhere, there should be someone controlling the dragon and the other monsters.
「Please be careful! The Earth Dragon uses petrifying breath!」
One of the saint's guards raises his voice. Breath, huh? Although, even if you call it petrifying, I don't really get what that means. But then the Saint herself supplements the guard's words.
「If the breath falls upon you, and it is not treated by EX Heal or personal medicine before your body completely turns to stone, it will assuredly end in your death. Please avoid being hit by it under any circumstances.」
That's some bad breath. In other words, the flying monsters and terrestrial monsters are likely there to distract the knights and keep them busy while this one aims for the real target, the saint.
...The way this is going, we're no doubt going to get dragged into it. We need to get the hell out of here.
「Ruruka, hurry and run. We'll get dragged into this if we stay here.」
I call out to Ruruka,
「The Earth Dragon's weakness is fire magic. Should I shoot it down with a flame spell?」
but at nearly the same time, one of the wizard-looking guards asks the saint for instructions.
「...! U-Umm, isn't there any other way!?」
And Ruruka reacts to the guard's words... she probably doesn't want the highly-intelligent dragon to be killed. It was only for a short time, but she hand-fed it and was affectionate with it. Ruruka might have become strongly attached to that dragon.
「Those collars that are controlling the monsters are often used by believers of the evil god. If the collar can just be destroyed, I believe it will stop attacking, but... please understand.」
The saint explains to Ruruka with a sympathetic face. She's likely indirectly saying that it's hopeless. For the safety of the people on the ground, they can't fire arrows into the sky. By necessity, magic becomes the only means of attacking the airborne dragon. And when using magic, a feat like destroying the collar alone with pinpoint accuracy is impossible in the first place. Moreover, the opponent is a formidable enemy that uses petrifying breath. They likely don't have any room to be concerned about the dragon's life.
「Yuel, do you think you can do something about that collar using your knives?」
「...I'm sorry, the reach isn't long enough.」
I take a shot at asking Yuel, but I guess it's impossible after all. However, Yuel seems to come up with something and opens her mouth.
「Ah, but if I throw the knife from that rooftop, it may possibly reach. And because it's a high place, if I use a corded knife it won't hit anyone below either.」
Yuel is pointing at a 5-story inn. Certainly, from there it seems like it could reach. And the dragon is apparently continuing to aim for an opening among the saint's group, circling at a low altitude.
「Yuel, I'm counting on you.」
When I tell Yuel, she takes off toward the building at full speed. Slipping through the gaps between people, jumping off of people's shoulders, at full speed. The building is right in front of the plaza. The way she's going, she should reach it in no time.
Well, I don't know whether the saint's guards will kill it first or Yuel will get a direct knife hit on the collar first, but I've done what I can for the time being.
From here on, I should get the hesitating Ruruka to run away with me. Either way, being near this saint is unpleasant. Like I said, I don't want to get involved.
「Ruruka, enough already. Let's get out of here!」
-Then, the moment I pull on Ruruka's hand in order to run over to Aria and the others.
A giant lance of flame appears over the head of one of the saint's guards, and flies toward the dragon. The dragon avoids it, but another flame lance appears above a different guard and flies off to shoot down the dragon.
And the second flame lance pierces the tip of the dragon's wing membrane.
The next moment.
Seemingly enraged from being shot at, the dragon swoops down toward the ground. It drops at an angle that looks like it will impact the ground, then beats its huge wings to suddenly decelerate. It hovers a few meters off the ground and opens its jaw wide.
From its mouth, a gray breath comes billowing out.
...This is bad.
The ashen breath blankets my field of vision. I try to get some distance right away, but I don't quite make it. I'm going to be hit by the breath.
-Then, when the breath is about to reach me, somebody pushes me down.
I fall face-first on the ground, pinned under someone. I can see red hair hanging down onto my shoulders. There's a soft sensation on my back. Looks like Ruruka is the one who pushed me down.
「O-Oi, are you okay...?」
I raise my body and look at Ruruka. When I do,
「A-Ahaha... it got me.」
there she is, with her feet turning gray, feebly laughing. Apparently she just barely got caught by the breath. I take a look at the petrified parts of her body, and the gray color is gradually spreading over time.
Moreover, the dragon is opening its mouth in our direction in order to emit a second blast of breath. This is unpleasant.
Something even worse comes into view.
On the rooftop of the building that Yuel went into. She just jumped off of it. Literally, Yuel just dove from the top of a 5-story building with no lifeline.
With her knife pointed downward, Yuel is dropping from above onto the dragon that lowered its altitude in order to use its breath. She's probably trying to destroy its collar.
But those acrobatics are way too dangerous. Maybe she lost her patience when it looked like I was going to get hit by the breath, but she's going overboard. I didn't tell her to go that far.
...The dragon suddenly beats its wings, and moves out of Yuel's downward trajectory. This is hopeless. If Yuel falls down like this, she'll pass beside the dragon and crash into the ground. A fall from a 5-story building won't end in just bone fractures. This is beyond reckless.
Even if I try to get to Yuel's drop site at this point, I won't make it in time. My heart tightens in my chest.
However, Yuel doesn't drop down. Throwing her corded knife at the dragon's neck, she uses her falling momentum to swing around up onto the dragon's neck.
Then, she plunges her knife into the collar and the two of them plummet together. Using the dragon's body as a cushion, Yuel neatly dampens the impact of her landing.
...All I can say is she never fails to impress.
The second breath won't be coming anymore. My safety is guaranteed.
「I am sorry, my mana... is no longer...」
However, after the saint treats the 3 people close to her with Ex Heal, she falls to her knees. Seems like the first shot of breath encompassed an area with 10 people in it. And Ruruka wasn't among the 3 that the saint treated.
Ruruka's face warps in despair.
The petrification doesn't advance that quickly. All of the people who received the breath are still alive. I have no choice but to do it.
This isn't the time to be concerned about whether or not my true ability will be discovered. Ruruka's life is irreplaceable. When I gather mana in order to invoke EX Heal towards Ruruka first... that very instant,
「W-What was that!?」
「This is... smoke!? Are there more enemies!?」
All of a sudden, white smoke begins to billow out and cover us. For a moment I wonder if it's another monster attack, but that's not it.... this is Yuel.
-A smoke bomb.
Now that I think about it, she said she was buying them in order to run away from formidable opponents, huh...
Also, there's what I told her. That my healing magic was ’’my secret with Yuel’’.
Happily, this place is separated from the battlefield between the knights and the monsters. The smokescreen probably won't interfere with their battle. Honestly, I was thinking that I had no choice but to reveal my ability, but if I don't have reveal it then I don't have to deal with the consequences. Well played, Yuel.
Before the smoke disappears, I need to get this over with. First I treat Ruruka, then I systematically take care of everyone else in the extent of the breath.
Then, when I finish treating everyone,
I hear Ruruka's frail voice. There's no power in it.
...Don't tell me the treatment failed? I have no experience treating petrification, so it's possible. I hurry back to Ruruka's side.
「W-what's wrong!? Are you hurt anywhere!?」
Maybe I wasn't able to treat her petrification somewhere. I look over every nook and cranny of Ruruka's body.
Her pretty red hair. Beneath that black bikini, her large breasts shake softly, her abs are nice and tense, and her feet stretch properly.
...Yep, she isn't petrified.
「Ah, Shiki, thank goodness. I can see your face in the end...」
However, when Ruruka sees my face, she says that. I check her body again, and nothing appears to be petrified. The exposure is erotic though.
...Don't tell me she doesn't realize that she's already been healed?
Well, since the smoke from the smoke bomb is so thick, it may be difficult for her to ascertain the condition of her petrification by sight.
「...Shiki, I'm sorry for suddenly running away back then.」
I lock eyes with Ruruka.
...Having our faces close together like this is making me kinda embarrassed. And we left things off the way we did last time. If that inn hadn't been full, it might've meant we would cross the line.
And when I avert my gaze, I feel a warmth on my cheek. Ruruka's hand is touching it.
「I was never able to tell you this, but... Shiki. I, I...」
Then, Ruruka tries to tell me something while gazing straight into my eyes. What's with this? Could it possibly be that? I wonder if it's that?
But if it is that, her timing is extremely awkward. Ruruka is probably under the misapprehension that she's about to meet her fate from petrification. The saint who can use EX Heal declared that she's out of mana. And Ruruka has no idea that I can use EX Heal.
It must be the kind of that that she can only say because she's dying. That's no good, Ruruka. You can't do that now. No mistaking it, you're in perfect health. You're absolutely going to be embarrassed after the fact, so...!
But, my prayers don't reach her.
「I... love you, Shiki.」
With her hand on my cheek, Ruruka speaks in a frail voice. There's no reason for her voice to be frail, but she's likely under a strong misconception.
...Man, it was that after all? Somehow or other, I did get the feeling she was fond of me. It's just that I don't understand her reason for it. Perhaps noticing my state, Ruruka continues speaking.
「Even though I can only use shields, I became an adventurer on my own. I wasn't great at killing monsters, so until I joined up with Fran and Sera I couldn't earn any money. Weapons and armor took money, and receiving attacks from monsters just caused the injuries and scars to add up.」
Oh yeah, I feel like Fran was saying that they only joined up with Ruruka just recently. Ruruka only has shield skills. It's not like she can evade enemy attacks like Yuel can, so yeah, she must constantly be taking equipment damage and getting wounded.
「The first time I met you was around four months ago, Shiki. I don't think you remember, but at that time, my body was full of bruises, it was painful, and even though I'm a girl my skin wasn't fit to be seen by anyone. I've had a complex about it for the longest time.」
At Ruruka's words, a certain scene springs to mind.
At my first meeting with Fran and Sera. even though I healed her wounds when Ruruka begged me, she got angry and said ’’I didn't ask you’’. Up until now I thought that was due to her man-hating, but maybe that wasn't it. I see... the nuance wasn't that I did it on my own, but that Fran had no choice but to accept the treatment because Ruruka insisted on it. After all this time, it finally makes sense.
「But you healed all the wounds and scars on my entire body. You didn't even take more than the price of a single Heal... that was definitely High Heal, right? A single Heal wouldn't normally heal all traces of wounds on my entire body.」
Ruruka's monologue continues. But that probably was just Heal. She's likely talking about the time when I had just come to this world, and I had no experience controlling mana. I simply screwed up my mana manipulation and accidentally fired off healing magic.
「Sorry Shiki, for telling you this in my last moments. It must be troublesome for you.
...Ahh, your face is getting dim.」
That's the smokescreen.
It's not from the petrification. Ruruka has no wounds or scars anywhere. I guarantee it.
But I can't say it. Yeah, telling her now would be too cruel.
As I remain silent with my eyes transfixed on Ruruka's, a wind blows through the plaza. Gradually, the smoke clears.
Looks like the monster commotion is already wrapping up. The dragon fainted after its collar was destroyed, and the other monsters were exterminated by the reinforcements that rushed in. I'm guessing they're the participants from the martial arts tournament. Perhaps through the actions of Aria and the other knights as well, there are few casualties or seriously injured people. Looks like that dragon whose collar was destroyed really was aiming for the saint.
While I'm still confirming the state of our surroundings, Ruruka seems to notice the incongruity.
Ruruka's eyes turn to my face, then to her own body, then they stop. She freezes for a few seconds, then looks back at my face once again, then at her own body.
Has she realized everything now? Ruruka's face turns a deep crimson.
「Eh, w-why!? The petrifying breath should've hit me!?」
Ruruka loses her composure. Well, the number of people in this world who can use EX Heal is truly limited. In her wildest dreams, she wouldn't have expected that I could use it.
It should be obvious that somebody within the smokescreen did it, but thankfully there are many people gathered here. It shouldn't be possible to narrow it down to a particular person.
「You must've just barely avoided it?」
「Eh, but... h-huhhh?」
Ruruka tilts her neck and starts to brood. However, she stiffens with a jolt when our eyes meet.
...Then she seeks my reaction.
「A-About those things I said just now...」
「Yeah, about that... there's something I need to tell you.」
I softly clear my throat and speak.
「My control over my healing magic was just poor. The fact that I used High Heal on you was purely an accident.」
I need to clear things up for her right now. The fact that she bears such goodwill towards me is due to a misunderstanding.
When I say that, Ruruka mutters ’’...I see.’’ and gently hangs her head.
...Ah, maybe I didn't have to tell her that. I was feeling a little conflicted so I suddenly blurted it out, but the more I think about it, maybe something like that doesn't matter. With this, Ruruka's good impression of me will come to nothing.
「Ah, no, what I meant by that...」
And, when I try to explain my previous statement,
「...But you know, I'm sure that when you noticed my scars, you healed them without a second thought. You like to se*ually harass and you lie all the time, but... you're extremely kind.」
Ruruka gazes into my eyes as she speaks.
「I really do love you, Shiki.」
Then she says it again. Ruruka's face is red, but mine probably is too. W-What do I do? Maybe it's because all I've done so far is se*ual harassment, but when I'm struck head-on with appreciation like this, on the contrary I don't know what I should do.
「I-I see. That's, what should I say to that, errr...」
Then, when I try to put it into words for Ruruka somehow,
-I feel something pulling tightly at my clothes.
At the sensation I feel on my back, my consciousness that was completely focused on Ruruka returns all at once.
It's Yuel. Without me noticing it, she was right behind me. I wonder how long she's been there?
...It's Yuel we're talking about. After she set off the smoke bomb, it wouldn't be strange for her to cling to my back in order to guard me.
Not to mention that further behind Yuel, Eris is there too.
When Eris' eyes meet mine, she reflexively turns away. I don't know what mental state she's in, but seeing me being confessed to by a girl can't possibly lead to a rise in her goodwill towards me. This is bad.
Pinching my clothes with an uneasy expression, Yuel stares right into my eyes. She must have heard the whole thing after all. This is really bad.
Then Ruruka seems to notice the two of them as well. She pulls an overcoat out from her item box and drapes it over her body to hide it. Then she rises to her knees and extends her body-
and her lips softly touch my cheek.
「...S-See you again.」
After that she whispers into my ear, and runs off without showing her face.
...She was probably embarrassed. I sure am.
But what do I do?
Timidly, I glance toward Yuel and Eris.
Eris is looking down and doesn't attempt to raise her face,
「A-Ahh, M-Master was, Mas... ter was...」
and Yuel is staring at me on the verge of tears.
S-She left me with an unbelievable mess! This is worse than anything that's happened in the past. I can't possibly think of getting out of this with mere words.
I look around our surroundings for something to cling to, some way to escape.
When I do, there's that saint 10 meters away. My eyes suddenly meet Philine's. And then she says something to me.
She's too far away, so her voice doesn't reach me. But, somehow or other, I can tell what she said.
My elevated temperature due to Ruruka quickly chills. Yuel's voice too goes in one ear and out the other.
I don't know how to lip-read or anything. I could be mistaken. But I get the feeling that her lips definitely moved in that way.
I'm certain that's what she said..