I Work As A Healer In Another World’s Labyrinth City - Chapter 72
Mixed bathing is not permitted. Or at least that's what Fran started to kick up a fuss about as the knights forced her to leave while the saint headed to the bath. After that, paying no heed to the glances of the nearby knights, the saint entered the dressing room with me, took off her clothes right alongside me, casually washed her body, and submerged herself in the bathwater along with me and Yuel.
Since the water in the bath is cloudy, I can't particularly see anything, but before that she acted completely indifferent about what was visible. In fact I did see quite a bit, and she didn't try to hide anything when I looked, either.
...This saint, she manages to do things with composure that Eris and Ruruka couldn't pull off. Although from the saint's perspective, this too is most likely just another part of her succubus countermeasure plan or whatever.
「Master, this bath is so wide!」
「Y-Yeah, it sure is. Incredibly wide.」
Eris and Ruruka are still in the dressing room. Since the saint entered, maybe they're hesitating over whether or not they should enter as well. The fact that they came along this far may mean that they tentatively intend to get in with us, but in the end they're likely embarrassed over crossing the line that they drew. It seems like they're going to come in, but they aren't actually entering.
As for the saint, even though she was all for getting in beforehand to the point of calling her pushy, she hasn't said a word since we entered. She's done nothing but close her eyes and soak in the water. Since her eyes are closed, I wonder if that means I can look as much as I want? Not like her body is all that much to look at, though.
But... all the same, this is awkward. And look, the saint is more or less a beautiful woman as well. Her damp, glossy black hair which she tied up so as to keep it out of the water, and the nape of her neck which is visible beneath it, are giving off a somewhat nostalgic appeal.
Should I start talking about something? As far as subjects that would get a response from the saint, would something along the lines of the Bible be the best bet after all?
...On that note, I remember one thing that bothered me when I was reading the Bible. For starters, I'll try making that the topic.
「Hey, Philine. Come to think of it, why did the evil god start attacking humanity? I read the Bible, but I didn't really understand that part.」
The saint's shoulders jump with a jolt, and she makes a hysteric noise.
「Nnnnh, y-yes! W-what? W-What did you ask of me...?」
Trying to smooth over the noise she just made, the saint turns back towards me and replies. Somehow it seems like she wasn't listening. Moreover, she looks considerably shaken. Was the sound of her own voice that embarrassing? The saint's cheeks redden.
...By some chance, although she was fine with getting in together, perhaps she's more nervous than expected now that we're actually here. Well, someone with a title like Saint wouldn't exactly have taken many baths with a man. It was her idea, though.
「The evil god, I said, the evil god. It's a question that came up when I was reading the Bible. Why has the evil god been treating humanity as an enemy and attacking us?」
「A-Ahh... is that what it was about...? Well, the reason the evil god attacked humanity is, strictly speaking, yet unknown.」
Once the saint determines the reason I called out to her, she sighs in relief. After that, trying to conceal her shame, she twirls her moist black hair with her finger as she continues to speak.
「You don't know?」
「I am afraid not, however... one theory is that he wanted to destroy the labyrinths, or so it has been said.」
That was a slightly unexpected answer. The conflict between the evil god and humanity. Assuming a reason exists, from the ’’evil god’’ naming convention I figured it would be a religious reason... like ’’The world ought worship my greatness alone, therefore let humanity be destroyed for your belief in other gods!’’ or some sort of reason like that.
「Yes. Shiki-sama, are you aware of what sort of entities the labyrinths are in the first place?」
「Ah... I know they've been called a bunch of different things... a trial given by god, or gigantic living beings, or the remains of ancient ruins. But I heard that actually, nothing is known about them.」
When it comes down to it, I don't know what the labyrinths are. They're a completely separate environment where monsters don't leave corpses when they die. A magical system of drops and treasure boxes with an unknown creator. And so far nobody has reached the bottom of one;that's how mysteriously deep they are.
Even in this world where magic exists, labyrinths are rather bizarre entities. There are rumors about them, but I can't state any of them with certainty. And the same should go for the saint.
「I believe that they truly are a trial presented by god.」
However, the saint looks me in the eye and asserts that.
...A trial from god, huh? A fitting response from the Saint. I'm not really the type to believe in such things, though. If I had to say, I'm more the type to go along with the idea that they're ancient ruins from the height of an advanced civilization.
「A trial from god, hmm... what makes you think that?」
「A few months before the evil god commenced an invasion of humanity, the former Sage-sama was summoned to a certain labyrinth city. Before he was summoned, Sage-sama was supposedly an elderly man, but when he arrived in this world, for some reason it was in the form of a strapping young man, according to records. And the same applies to Shiki-sama as well. I know not your original age, but you were summoned to this labyrinth city a few months before the succubus was revived... isn't that right?」
「Y-Yeah. That's true, huh. Right when I thought I died in my previous world, I was here in this labyrinth city. I don't think my age was any different than it is now, though... but now that you mention it, my wounds from being stabbed by the slasher were healed, and my clothes weren't stained with blood.」
Listening to the saint's speech, I recall the time when I was summoned.
...I was stabbed by a slasher, thought I was dead, then ended up here in this labyrinth city. But back when I arrived in this city, my clothes weren't dirty and I didn't have a fatal wound. Judging from the saint's words, the godlike being who summoned me most likely summons their Sage in the prime of his youth. I was already around the age that could be called the prime of my youth, though, so my outward appearance didn't change.
「I think of the labyrinths scattered around this world as points which god uses to interfere with the world... perhaps even to turn back time, an apparatus for the sake of sending in the Sage-sama when the world is at the peak of a crisis.」
Points which god uses to interfere with the world. Assuming there really is a godlike being watching over the world, that means they're some sort of gates in order for the will of that god to influence the world?
「At the deepest depths of those countless labyrinth floors protected by monsters, there is surely something there. I presume that if one were to surmount the trial known as the labyrinth, perhaps they would be able to make contact with god.
...The evil god, in the course of his advance into the territories of mankind, invariably destroys each and every labyrinth city along his invasion route. For humanity, labyrinths are one of our important resources. There is also the theory that he lays waste to them out of a desire to deal a blow to humanity, but... I believe that the evil god is attempting to strip away god's contact with this world;that is the impression it has given me.」
「To strip away god's contact with the world, huh...」
「...Well, to this day, after hundreds, even thousands of years, none have ever reached the depths of a labyrinth. I have no means of confirming it.」
As expected from saint, I suppose;she comes back with an original point of view which I've never heard before. But I could do without all the god talk and the profundity;she's going off in a direction that's a little difficult for me to wrap my head around. Honestly, it reeks of suspicion. Yuel is listening and nodding with great interest, but my interest has already shifted over to the silhouettes of Eris and Ruruka in the dressing room.
「Thank you, Philine, you've been a great source of information.」
「I was under the impression that Sage-sama did not hold much interest in the Bible... that is to say, I am quite pleased. If there is anything else you do not understand, please, feel free to ask me anytime.」
When I thank her, the saint says that and smiles pleasantly.
...Being that she's the saint and all, maybe she enjoys discussing the Bible like this. It's the kind of smile that makes me want to apologize for not properly listening.
Also, I wonder if this is because the saint is immersed up to her shoulders in the cloudy water, but by concealing her lack of chest, it gives off the illusion that there's something there. Talking to her face-to-face like this, I'm starting to get like that a little.
...This has become somewhat unnecessarily awkward.
「Y-Yeah, next time there's an opportunity...」
Let's temporarily clear the stuff about the saint from my head. And there are other things to be concerned about. Look, like the other side of the dressing room that's vaguely visible through the frosted glass.
...But man, to think that my second chance would come in this form. The saint is really doing something nice for me. And now that I think about it, the saint was the one who told Eris and Ruruka to stay by my side as well.
She also ordered the knights to remove Fran when she tried to prevent us from entering the bath. The knights seemed unsure over whether to obey Fran or the saint, but in the end they listened to the saint. Fran, who was shown their difference in popularity, made just a bit of a wounded face as she submitted to being carted off to her room. I felt a little sorry for Fran, though.
「Master, I wonder why the water in the bath here is cloudy?」
As I'm recalling that, Yuel speaks out to me. Looks like she's taken an interest in this clouded water.
「Yeah. Doesn't look like there's a hot spring coming out, so... they're probably using bath additives or something.」
Is she not familiar with those? Yuel tilts her head. I may as well give her an explanation.
「...It's a little slippery, so probably something in the alkaline group. Yuel, bath additives are things you dissolve in a bath to...」
-Then, the moment I decide to explain, from the direction of the dressing room, there's a noise like a sliding door opening.
Reflexively, my head turns in the direction of the dressing room. It's Eris and Ruruka. The two of them have come into the bath.
「I-I wonder if it isn't a little too early for this sort of thing after all...」
「B-But Saint-sama got in too, so we can't afford not to enter.」
Eris has a towel wrapped around her body to conceal her voluptuous breasts. Ruruka, perhaps feeling my gaze, lowers her head in embarrassment.
This huge bath is spacious. Because it's a bath, there's steam in the way and the area around the entrance isn't very clearly visible. But if I can't see, I can just keep watching until they come into view. At this point, no matter how much I look there's no problem. This isn't peeping or anything. It's consensual mixed bathing. Looking won't make them mad and it won't be called se*ual harassment either.
Eris and Ruruka lightly wash themselves while covering up, and enter the basin. Then, perhaps relieved due to the cloudy water, they come closer without hesitation.
The two of them are silent, perhaps feeling ashamed. But this distance is close enough that if I just reach out a little, I could touch their skin. I wonder if touching would be okay? It's fine if I end up touching them, right? They said they love me and all.
As I'm considering it, within the cloudy water, I feel the soft sensation of something touching my hand. A thin, gentle finger. Timidly, someone's hand comes into contact with mine.
When I glance in the direction the hand came from, I meet eyes with Eris. Eris looks at me and cracks a small smile, then tenderly strokes my hand from above. After that, she shyly turns her eyes away from me.
-The scene from this morning plays back in my mind.
When Eris told me that she loves me. When she endured the heckling from the knights, and said she wanted me to choose her.
And even now, Eris is still touching my hand beneath the cloudy water. Without anyone else noticing, she's continuing to tenderly, affectionately stroke my hand.
...Hell, shouldn't I just push her down now? I feel like it would be rude not to, that's the kind of situation we're in. I mean, it was already like that just from taking a bath together with Eris, so in this state of being touched by her, I can no longer endure. The walls of my reason are rapidly crumbling. Like the time when I was manipulated by the succubus, my head feels like it's simmering to a boil.
Currently, Eris isn't wearing anything. As it is, if I grasp her hand as it strokes mine and pull her out of the bathwater, I'll see her naked as the day she was born.
That reminds me, back during the battle with the succubus, Eris was saying ’’I will do whatever you want’’. Isn't now just the right time for her to fulfill that promise? Together with Eris, we'll get out of this cloudy water and...!
-The term ’’cloudy water’’ makes me remember.
My gaze turns to the place where Yuel was a while ago. When it does, Yuel is still there, looking at me with the same expression as before. Seems like she's been watching me this whole time. Hold on, I'm pretty sure my conversation with Yuel got cut off halfway through and I ended up watching Eris and Ruruka for a while.
...Has she noticed the fact that I've been staring blankly at them? I'm a bit uneasy.
「Master, umm... may I sit on your lap?」
When I search Yuel's expression, she suddenly blurts that out.
...By some chance, from watching me look at Eris and Ruruka, Yuel may have gotten a little lonely. She's fine with a harem, but to have me cut short my conversation with her, not to mention completely stop looking at her, it likely made her sad.
If it's just sitting on my lap, that's not a problem. I've let her sit on my lap before while I washed her hair, too.
-But it's impossible right now. Absolutely impossible.
I'm currently in the bath with Eris, Ruruka, and the saint. The saint has taken a little distance, and the water is cloudy, so I can't see any of her important parts. But Eris is stealthily brushing my hand with hers beneath the cloudy water, and as for Ruruka, she's close enough that our shoulders could touch.
What's going to happen when a healthy young man gets thrown into such a situation? That goes without saying. Since the water is cloudy, nobody has noticed. Not even Yuel.
But if she sits on my lap, without a doubt she'll find out from the sensation.
Both of us are only covering our fronts with a towel. I mean, just having a towel in front isn't going to hide it. And it's not like she's wearing panties, nor does she have pants on. We're in a state of extremely low defensive power.
What's going to happen when Yuel lowers her waist onto my lap in its current state? Imagining it, that's all the more reason not to let her sit there.
「Pardon me, Master.」
Perhaps taking my silence as a positive response, Yuel, slowly tries to lower her waist down onto me. No good. She's on the wrong course. An accident will occur.
When I call her name, Yuel's movement stops for a moment. But I don't know what to follow it up with.
...Thus far, I've always listened to Yuel's requests on the level of ’’I wish to sit on your lap’’. I've never declined her modest wishes, and after she sat down I'd repeatedly pet her head. Yuel must be thinking ’’he'll let me sit there’’. So in order to stop that, I need to give her some sort of valid reason. If I don't, she might misunderstand that I've come to hate her, and feel hurt. But what, what should I say...?
As I'm at a loss for what to say next, Yuel tilts her head and begins to lower her waist again to sit down. Thus far, I haven't denied one of her requests. Silence is permission;perhaps she decided that.
Yuel's tiny tooshie dips into the cloudy water. This is bad. There's no more time. Only a few dozen centimeters left. At this rate, if Yuel's body traces an accurate trajectory in accordance with the laws of physics, then its point of impact will without a doubt be...!
But I can't come up with a diplomatic reason to get Yuel to stop. And since I took too much time deliberating, I may not even make it in time to stop her body by physically catching it. It's no good, I worried too much about my dignity.
The scene of Yuel submerging her body into the basin plays out in slow motion.
Once Yuel's body finishes sinking deep into the bathwater, it's the end for me. As a human being, as an adult, it'll all be over.
-She might foster some doubts, but all I can do is stop her with physical strength.
I may not make it in time, but I have to try somehow. I quickly move both of my hands to support Yuel's hips.
-However, Eris' hand on top of mine obstructs it a bit.
I hesitate for the slightest moment over whether or not I should shake off her hand. However, it's a fatal delay. One which could spell the difference between life and death.
My hand won't make it in time...! Yuel's body is sinking into the cloudy water...!
It's hopeless now.
...I know I was just thinking that all that god stuff smelled suspicious and that I don't believe any of it, but at times like these, everyone prays to god. Somebody, anybody, help me. In my last few moments, I sincerely pray to god.
-And, my prayer is answered.
「It's the succubuuus! The succubus has coooome!」
A knight's rough bellow resounds throughout the mansion. Yuel's body immediately freezes just a short distance away from mine. From the bottom of my heart, I thank the evil god!