I Work As A Healer In Another World’s Labyrinth City - Chapter 74
「Ah, Onee-chan! Someone said they saw you and Shiki-san go into the bath together, so I hurried over...」
As we come out of the dressing room, several knights who seem to be looking for us show up right in front of it. Among them, Aria appears as well.
「I kind of thought they were just talking about Saint-sama and other girls going in together, but... looks like it was true...」
What allowed them to immediately specify this location was the fact that, apparently, us getting into the bath with the saint has become a rumor. Eris is blushing in embarrassment over being seen coming out of the dressing room together with me, but it's not like anything in particular happened between anyone. And Yuel was there too, but ultimately it was interrupted halfway through by the succubus this time as well. She did save me, though.
「Hahh, if you're fine with that, Onee-chan, then I won't say anything...」
But it's embarrassing explaining those things one by one. For the time being, I decide to ignore her and let it go.
「A-At any rate, good job moving around in this darkness.」
It's already getting dark outside. The knights are going around with torches, although if they carry something like that, those Light Eater or whatever monsters are likely to come over right away.
「Light Eaters approach lights. Like this, when they get close you can just take them out in a single stroke. You can do it too, Shiki-san.」
No I can't.
But right on time, the knight next to Aria strikes down a Light Eater as it approaches the torch. I guess for a knight, a feat like this is par for the course. If I were Yuel, I'd probably say something like ’’As expected of Knight-sama!’’. Although I'm afraid that Yuel herself could do it too if she tried.
-All of a sudden, the succubus' shriek resounds throughout the mansion.
...Most likely, the other knights are already back in fighting shape. The succubus may even have eaten a direct hit from magic or an arrow. The succubus seems like she more or less uses her head, but in the end as long as the saint and I stay in this mansion, she's not likely to get near us so easily.
「It would seem that the succubus is being driven towards the west side of the mansion. Let us hasten over as well.」
As we're standing around relaxing, for some reason the saint urges us onward.
「Is it okay for us to go?」
「The succubus must no longer be allowed to escape. If Shiki-sama is there, the succubus will not likely flee so readily. In the event of an emergency, Shiki-sama can be held down with brute force. I see no issues.」
...Looks like the saint has decided to use me as bait, trying to reduce the chances of the succubus escaping. Although rather than brute force, I'd prefer a development such as Eris triumphing over the succubus in a battle of seduction, for instance. I very much want a fair fight against the succubus in her own arena. Well, it'll be no laughing matter if I actually get carried off, so I guess there's no helping it.
「Master, I will definitely protect you! Since I am Master's Hero!」
「Hero... the one from the Bible? Such a cute hero you are. But knowing Yuel-chan, you may very well become one.」
Aria responds to Yuel's enthusiasm. Well, if Yuel and Aria are there, we certainly won't fall behind against the succubus by herself, I figure. And there will be a bunch of other knights as well. Letting the succubus get away here and having the saint lose her standing would probably be worse.
「I'm not looking forward to fighting the succubus very much, though...」
Eris alone looks at me and mutters that in embarrassment.
「T-The windows are frozen! T-The windows are frozeeeennn!?」
The large conference room in the lord's mansion has a wide-open construction, perhaps to accomodate a large number of knights. The succubus has been confined within it. The windows are all blocked off by magic, and the only exit is swarming with knights.
I can tell from a glance. This should already be checkmate. As expected, the knights have no intention of letting her get away a third time.
「Fire, fire! She can't run anymore! Aim carefully and shoot her down!」
「Oi, go fetch more arrows! Shoot through those wings! Hinder her mobility!」
「I-Iyaaaaa!! Lemme out, lemme out of heeeeere!!」
Maybe because the room is reasonably large, their attacks don't seem to be hitting the succubus that much as she flies around, but she can't get away any longer. A substantial number of arrows must have been shot already;the ceiling is starting to look like a pincushion. Numerous holes are beginning to open up on her wings. WIthout much combat ability, the succubus can't break through those iced-down windows. The rest is just a matter of time.
There might not have been any need for me to come here. Whether or not the succubus loses her desire to run, she has no means left to escape in the first place.
Rather, I feel like it was actually unwise, given the possibility that I could be manipulated. I entered the room in order to prevent the succubus' escape, but since she's been completely shut off in here, on the contrary it's safer for me to get out.
「If it's like this, it'd be better for me to leave.」
Then, as I try to leave the room right after I entered,
「...! There's still, there's still hoooooope!」
the sharp-sighted succubus detects my appearance and looks at me with her red pupils.
...Oh crap. The moment I think that, there's a slight impact on my leg, and I instantly lose my sense of balance.
「Shiki-san, it's alright. I absolutely won't let you get manipulated. You're my future Onii-chan and all.」
No sooner do I wonder what happened than I'm pushed down to the ground before I realize it. I manage to turn my neck to take a look, and Aria is sitting on my hips, keeping me pinned down. Even if I try to move, she's completely immobilizing my arms and I can hardly move. It's the same posture as a suspect arrested by the police, but I definitely won't be manipulated like this.
But this is dangerous in its own way. Having my desires manipulated by the succubus means that I'll end up becoming incredibly sensitive to the touch of a woman and things of that nature. Currently, Aria is literally lying on my butt. This is no good. Little sisters are dangerous. Harboring lust for Eris' little sister would seriously not be good. I must clear my mind of impure thoughts. My eyes wander around in search of material to distract my mind.
「Master, are you alright? Doesn't it hurt?」
As my desires are being manipulated, Yuel plops down right in front of my face. Then she begins to peer into my face from point-blank range. She's likely worried over me being pinned down and having my arms restrained. The young Yuel's uneasy expression is almost entirely filling my field of view.
-I close my eyes with all my might.
「Y-Yuel, don't worry about me. The succubus, keep an eye on the succubus for me.」
But this time, although the sensation of my desires being manipulated is there, for some reason my reason is still relatively intact. Most likely, it's because the succubus isn't able to concentrate. Even now, an incredible number of arrows are in the midst of being shot at her.
「E-Evil God sama! Until I revive Evil God-sama, there's no way I'll die...!」
As I'm being restrained by Aria, I gaze at the succubus.
...Man, she sure is tenacious, that succubus. She's been continuously slipping through the storm of arrows fired by the knights for several minutes already.
The sole apostle of the evil good who's been revived in this era is the succubus, resurrected by D'arnaud. No matter how much she perseveres, reinforcements won't come to save her. But it seems like the succubus very much wants to revive that evil god.
「Master, I sense something!」
In the middle of that, Yuel cries out. At the same time- there's a thunderous roar. I shut my eyes once again from the force. When I open them, one of the windows has had its frosted panes blown off, along with the entire frame.
Aria releases me and draws her sword. I take a standing posture as well.
「W-What is it!?」
「That just now... was that magic!? Why the hell...!」
「T-This is bad! Hurry, the window! Block the window! The succubus is gonna escape!」
The succubus looks bewildered for a moment, but it doesn't seem like she intends to let this chance slip away.
「N-Now she's gonna get away!」
She makes a beeline towards the window.
「F-Fire! Absolutely do not let her escape!」
Arrows from the knights fly at the succubus, but she skillfully twists her body, evading them by a hair's breadth. And escapes outside through the window at full speed.
「What was that explosion!?」
「F-Follow the succubus at once! Go now, and there's still a chance to catch up!」
Up until then, the succubus had been perfectly cornered, but a single blast of magic turned everything around. Perhaps frustrated over how close they had been, some of the agitated knights rush out of the room in order to pursue her.
...But leaving the room now is most likely a mistake. Yuel's gaze is fixed unmoving on the broken window. The succubus certainly did run away. There's no question that she needs to be followed.
...However, there's also no question that on the other side of that window, someone is there who allowed the succubus to escape.
「Master, they're coming!」
From the broken window, several black shadows come leaping into the room.
There are three shadows. The moment they enter the room, all of them race towards the saint in a straight line.
...Assassins. That term crosses my mind.
Perhaps due to their agitation over the succubus, the knights' reactions are delayed. Three women with daggers in hand approach the saint with a speed that my eyes can't follow.
「I won't let you near her!」
The one who moves first is Astel. She slashes at one of the assassins' legs. The assassin immediately tumbles down, stopped in her tracks.
Following that, Yuel slashes at another assassin. The assassin seems to rapidly lose her balance and topples over sideways. Most likely, she even applied fast-acting paralysis poison. The second one is rendered helpless.
One of the knights jumps at the final remaining assassin from the side. The assassin is swiftly tackled to the ground. That makes three. All of them have been incapacitated. I was stunned for a moment, but in the end it's not like an assassination could be pulled off so easily under such heavy guard.
However right before the last assassin fell.
I saw her hand make a noticeable blur. Reflexively, I stick my own hand out between the saint and the assassin.
After a mild impact, a burning sensation runs up my arm. When I check, there's a knife lodged deep into my arm.
...Looks like that assassin threw a knife at the saint as she was falling.
「S-Shiki!? A-Are you okay!?」
Ruruka panics, and Eris casts antidote magic. Eris was probably wary of poison. I immediately pull out the knife and cast EX Heal.
...Maybe it's because I got all beat up before at the church, but I feel like the sight of blood doesn't bother me anymore.
「Shiki-sama, are you unhurt!?」
「Yeah, I'm fine. No problem.」
The saint looks into my eyes with an astonished expression.
...There's some surprise over having a knife thrown at her as well, but this expression is astonishment over the fact that I took the attack for her.
「I-I never thought that Shiki-sama would have a reason to protect me...」
「The former Sage was such a hero that he protected all of humanity, right? Something of this level isn't worth acknowledging. More importantly, who the hell are those guys? Seems like they were definitely aiming for Philine.」
Actually, I just had a bad feeling and my body moved on instinct. Also, please acknowledge it a little. It was quite painful and all. But I'm in front of Yuel, so I have to act cool.
For a moment, the saint makes a startled expression. She's got a fantastic poker face, so I'm pretty sure this is the first time I'm seeing this expression. However, the saint quickly changes it.
「Indeed, there is almost no mistaking that they are assassins aiming for me.」
Then the saint approaches one of the paralyzed female assassins, delicately strips her clothes, and begins to grope around her chest.
「O-Oi, what are...!」
My eyes are instantly drawn to her bare skin... and there's something familiar there. A red, glowing geometrical pattern. I recognize it.
...That's a slave crest. The fact that it's glowing must mean that it's still active even now.
「...As I thought, a slave crest. Those movements... most likely, they are criminal slaves with past assassination experience, brought from elsewhere. It would seem that they have been given orders to seal their lips.」
Given orders. Which means that somewhere out there, there's a person who ordered them.
「W-Who in the world would do such a...」
Eris mumbles to nobody in particular.
「There are many who would target me, but... these methods, and moreover to aim for me with this timing... the Slave Merchant Union, perhaps. They might have decided that I will be an obstacle to their exploitation of Shiki-sama.」
Come to think of it, the saint was telling me to avoid doing anything to benefit the slave merchants. For a slave merchant who wanted to make use of me, certainly, the existence of the saint would be a hindrance. Who would have expected them to come with this timing, though.
「...Ultimately permitted to escape again as a result.」
The saint mutters. As for what she's talking about, it's probably the succubus. Thanks to those assassins, the succubus ended up getting out. Most likely, if she was that close to dying, she won't consider approaching this mansion again even as her petrification progresses. If that's the case, it'll become difficult to subjugate the succubus. Even if we try to track down the fossilized succubus after a few days, when we don't even know where she'll go, it will likely take a lot of time. Being unable to confirm the death of the succubus means that the saint will continue to be in danger of losing her position. Oh man, this could be a very unpleasant development.
If the saint is overthrown, the safety of her body can't be guaranteed. Besides, I'm relying pretty heavily on this saint right now. I was planning on loaning myself out to the lord here and the saint, making allies of the church and the knights of this city. If the saint loses her status, I'll have issues ensuring the safety of my own body as well.
As I'm working through those thoughts, the saint comes and asks me with a contemplative face.
「Pray tell, Shiki-sama, how do you think of me? ...You do not hate me, I trust?」
What's with this all of a sudden.
...But I'll give it some thought. A strong-willed priestess who's acting in order to rescue the weak. As a descendant of the Sage, her sense of responsibility is strong. She's kind to orphans, and adored by Astel who actually is a former orphan. Originally I wanted to keep my distance from her when I was hiding my own ability, but now that she knows about it, that's not particularly the case.
「I don't particularly dislike you... what's the matter?」
「...Is that so. I did not wish to impose upon Shiki-sama, or to exploit you overmuch... but it seems that I will need to use you as insurance. I am terribly sorry.」
...Insurance? I tilt my head, not understanding what the saint is getting at, when I notice a slightly skinny, balding man come into the room. He's wearing a characteristic priest outfit, like the saint's.
「...Bishop-sama. At a time like this, what sort of business could you have here?」
I wondered who it was, but apparently this guy is the bishop from the royal capital. For sure, this guy is the one she mentioned who's suspected of having connections to the Slave Merchant Union and stuff. The succubus ran away thanks to an attack by assassins who we believe to be connected to the slave merchants. And speaking of people who would profit if the saint loses her standing because the succubus got away...
I wonder if this guy might not have had something to do with the earlier assassination attempt as well? Most likely, the saint is thinking the same thing. It doesn't seem like she intends to say it when she has no proof, but she's looking at the bishop with a cold expression.
「I simply had to see Saint-sama, and I was given lodging in the mansion not too long ago, but I was wondering what could be causing all this noise... ohh, might you be Sage-sama? As a priest of the Church of Medine, it is an honor to meet you.」
The bishop greets me reverentially. But man, his timing sure seems deliberate. To come here right after the succubus got away. Just a little later, and the saint might have been able to silence the knights and pretend the attack by the succubus never happened. Like, saying it was training for capturing the succubus or something.
「Goodness, has there been a commotion?」
Looking at the collapsed assassins, the bishop says that. Is it my imagination or is he being kinda transparent? The bishop glances at the saint, as if demanding an explanation.
「Yes, but a moment ago, there was an attack by the succubus... and assassins.」
「Oho! So you were finally able to subjugate the succubus! How marvelous!」
As if being able to subjugate her is only natural. With that kind of atmosphere, the bishop returns the saint's words. A slight frown appears on the saint's face.
「...No, the succubus was ultimately allowed to flee.」
「G-Good heavens...! Why, that is...!」
The bishop feigns surprise towards the saint, who shuts her eyes and lowers her head as she answers.
「This will not do.
...That the succubus would be suffered to escape numerous times in this manner, why, I daresay there may even be some who claim that Saint sama is in truth an ally of the succubus;an evil god adherent.
...Nay, I do not mean to say that I believe so, simply that those who make such claims may appear.」
「Y-You bastard... to S-Saint-sama...!」
When the bishop makes a statement that could be taken as an abusive remark, Astel loses her temper at the saint's side. However, the saint stifles her with a glance. The bishop ignores Astel's existence and continues talking.
「And how do you intend for responsibility to be assigned for this?」
He's likely implicitly telling her to take responsibility.
「We are currently investing all of our efforts towards the succubus' subjugation.」
「Saint-sama, in that case there will still be those who do not agree. How does this sound? Why not consider leaving the subjugation of the succubus, and the care of Sage-sama, to me temporarily? At this rate, your credibility may be affected.」
「I shall be looking after Sage-sama for many years to come.」
The saint responds to the bishop's inquiry with a stubborn attitude. It looks like she has no intention to compromise with him. Well, I'd hate for her to give in and have this baldy looking after me, though.
The bishop takes a deep sigh.
「Saint-sama, such selfish statements are...」
The bishop uses an admonishing voice. It seems like the bishop's aim is to use this opportunity to extract some sort of concessions from the saint. -However, the saint interrupts the bishop's speech.
「Sage-sama and I are already intimate enough to bathe together. In fact, I have arrangements to be engaged to him in a few days. As one of Sage-sama's wives, that is. ...Therefore, I should think it only appropriate for me to look after Sage-sama. For the subjugation of the succubus as well, of course I shall continue to bear responsibility.」
With a shocking statement.
The bishop raises his voice in surprise. I'm surprised too. With a flustered expression, the bishop looks out over the surroundings. Did he consider the possibility that the saint is bluffing?
「Come to think of it, I did hear that she went into the bath together with Sage-sama.」
「Somebody saw him rubbing Saint-sama's bare breast, too.」
「Sage-sama hits it off quick, huh. But if he's going that far with Saint-sama, he's going to take responsibility, right?」
The knights are gossipping. Even though the saint did it on her own, for some reason it turned into me doing it before I knew it. Why is that? I wonder if this is that difference in popularity thing? Wait, responsibility? Do I have to take it? No, if it's as one of the members in my harem, well, there's not really any problem with that, though. Plus the saint is a beauty and all.
...The saint was saying ’’insurance’’. I get the feeling I finally understand the meaning of her words. This saint plans to use my existence as a shield, forcing the church to acknowledge her own existence. My overwhelming healing power. With this absolute power, if I go all out it's enough to throw the reason for the existence of the church into question. For example, if I made a pilgrimage to every city in the country, going around casting healing magic on the entire city, the church would lose most of its work. Moreover, the church can't disregard the name of ’’Sage’’. Because the sage is an apostle of god;his very existence could even be called the will of god. The saint, by making herself the pipe that connects me to the church, is likely trying to make her position unshakable.
Did the bishop hear the knights' gossip and believe the saint's words to be the truth? His face reddens and he curses at the saint. I wonder if it's okay for someone with a position like bishop to be using such words?
But well, it's only been about a week since the succubus was revived. Excluding our conversation before the beauty contest, I've only gotten to know the saint since then, too. So for us to take a bath together to mean we're also considering getting engaged, it's definitely too soon for that. All the more so for someone in a position such as priestess where purity is demanded.
「Say what you will.」
The bishop must not have expected the saint to get so close to me this quickly either. His face has turned red and he's groaning in vexation. The saint glances at him in that state, then looks at me. And, making a slightly apologetic face, she whispers into my ear.
「I am terribly sorry for imposing on you. But I do not dislike Sage-sama either. I am fine with becoming one of your wives, Eris-sama and the others included.
...Therefore, though I may be inexperienced, please treat me well.」
...While I was worrying over how to marry both Eris and Ruruka, somehow it turned into me marrying the saint. This is certainly outside my expectations. Wait, if I think carefully, back when the saint chased away the succubus, she did say she'd be fine with offering herself as a reward. That proposal might have been targeting this development from the beginning.
「M-Marriage...! Shiki is, getting married...?」
「She got us...」
Ruruka is in a daze. Did Eris understand the saint's aim? She holds her hand to her head and sighs. But if I say ’’there's no such thing’’ about my engagement to the saint here, the saint would lose her standing, and I would lose my supporter on the church's side. I can't disavow this marriage. And I did end up telling the saint that I'd do whatever I could to help. Unsurprisingly this was beyond my expectations, though.
「A-And me!? What about me!?」
「Certainly, she did say that she would be fine with being one of his wives...」
Ruruka freaks out, while Eris seems to be ruminating over the saint's words from back when the succubus was repelled.
For a moment I feel like the saint could be deceiving me too... but she did say ’’as one of your wives’’. And yet I don't get the feeling that marrying someone with status makes it easy to broach the subject of a harem. This, in its own way... could be alright. After I try thinking back over today, this is an option. If I had to choose between Eris and Ruruka, I wouldn't be able to do anything. Rather, Eris has most likely already realized my intentions. She's looking at me as I inadvertently make a bit of a delighted smile, and sighing deeply. Most likely, she's guessed that I'll use the fact that I ended up having to marry the saint out of necessity, and force a compromise between Eris and Ruruka via bigamy. I avert my eyes from Eris' scornful gaze.
...When I glance outside the window, for a moment, in the distant sky, I feel like I can see a black shadow. However, it melts into the dark of night, so I'm unable to confirm its true identity.