Translator: Silver Editor: Namorax
「The Hot Spring’s Effect」
When I opened my eyes, I saw a few tree branches through a collapsed ceiling as sunlight shined down on my body.
I remembered having a nightmare, but the details of the dream were vague at best.
I took a deep breath and exhaled the discomfort that had settled within my chest. When I was fully awake, I remember passing out shortly after entering the hot spring.
Raising my stiff neck, I took a look at my surroundings.
I was resting on some sort of stone pedestal. The nearby remains of a cooking stove was leading me to believe that this place had originally been a kitchen.
In that case, this pedestal must have been a counter.
My body was wrapped in one of those fur sleeping bags I’ve seen at our campsites.
It seemed like I was inside the residence near the mountain top.
Most of the interior had decayed and the weeds growing through cracks in the stone floor blurred the boundary between the outside and the inside, but I could see the walls were still in good shape.
The counter I was resting on had been cleaned up a bit so that it could be used as a substitute for a bed.
Next to me was a curled up, lightly snoring furball that would occasionally wag its fluffy tail.
My movements made the furball stir and it focused its sleepy eyes on me before it started to bark happily..
Ponta jumped on my face and began licking me with her small tongue.
“Hey! Stop it, that tickles.”
When I managed to tear the overly happy Ponta from my face, I caught sight of my current appearance.
“Uhg, I’ve turned back……”
The body I had regained entering the hot spring had now reverted back to that of a skeleton.
I was also stark naked, like I had been when I entered the spring.
I wouldn’t feel all that embarrassed if my skeletal body was seen by someone else, but I was worried about my armor, so I started looking for it.
That’s when Ariane threw open the room’s entrance. She went wide-eyed when she saw me sitting up.
“Arc!? You’re awake!!?”
Ariane dropped the basket of wild plants in her hands and ran towards me as she called out my name.
When I saw a small tear in the corner of her eyes, I scratched my head because of how uncomfortable it made me feel.
…… I seem to have made her worry.
“Ye-Yeah. I just woke up a little while ago…… How long was I unconscious?”
Though I’d been thrown off by her behavior, when I asked her how long I’d been out cold, she started looking as if she was remembering something before nodding once.
“It’s been seven days seen you fainted, Arc. Chiome-chan and I were thinking about asking Williahsfim-sama fly us back to the village so you could receive proper treatment.”
“I’ve been unconscious for seven days!?”
I wasn’t able to hide my surprise at her response.
It didn’t seem like more than an hour had passed since I had fainted, so I couldn’t believe that days had passed.
……I think now I know how Urashima Taro must have felt.
While I was lost in thought another person entered the room and called my name.
“Arc-dono! You’re awake.”
Chiome had appeared in her usual ninja garb, holding a basket of wild plants and nuts like the one Ariane had been carrying, and her cat ears were also restlessly twitching on her head.
“Ah, Chiome-dono. Sorry for making you guys worry.”
Ariane crossed her arms ad looked a bit irritated when I finished speaking.
“Really. Arc, we couldn’t even check if you had a heartbeat or not, and you looked like nothing but remains as you slept.”
In other words, it had been uncertain whether I would return or not. It wouldn’t have been strange for them to assume I had died and bury me.
“Sorry, Ariane-dono. I never intended to make you wait for seven days…… Speaking of which, why you did wait seven days to see if I was alive or not?”
If it had been me, I wouldn’t have had the patience to watch a mysterious set of bones for seven days. I’d have given up after the second day.
When I asked Ariane about it, her golden eye bulged for a moment before she turned away,
“I-It wasn’t that big of a deal……”
While I was confused by Ariane’s reaction, I began to wonder how someone could possibly judge if I was alive, dead or unconscious. Ariane then said ” Oh, yeah……” and quickly changed the topic.
“Arc, you did say that you were human, right? But when the spring removed your curse, why did you appear to be an elf!?”
I was reminded of my appearance before I passed out when Ariane asked that question.
Of course, that body hadn’t been my original one. However, that elven form was familiar to me……
It was my avatar’s appearance before I equipped the skeleton skin.
I had made it look like a dark elf in the game, but its long ears, brown skin, black hair and red eyes were completely different from dark elves in this world.
Ariane’s golden eyes were staring directly at me and were demanding an explanation.
I averted my eyes and stroked my chin as I tried to come up with something to say.
“……Well, I thought I was human……”
All I could manage was a vague response.
“It seems like my memory isn’t all that reliable.”
Although I know the true reason behind everything, I doubted that they could understand it even if I told them.
So I wouldn’t say anything else on the matter.
Ariane and Chiome shared and look and simultaneously sighed in defeat and showed no interest in pressing my any further.
While I was thankful for this, I sighed and looked down at my own body.
“Though I was sure that he was an elf, given his ears, everything else about him was just too different to be certain. And the person himself doesn’t even know……”
As Ariane voiced her complaints Chiome simply turned her eyes on me.
I was a skeleton in a knight’s armor, a dark elf when the curse was lifted, and I had the mind of a human. It was like this body was a nested doll…… I shook my head to clear away my worries.
“Why did I pass out after I entered the hot spring?”
Before I passed out I remembered a torrent of negative emotions I haven’t felt since I came to this world assaulting my mind like a storm.
I voiced my worries about why that had happened to me.
“Probably because of that curse of yours reacting to the spring’s effects.”
I suddenly heard a familiar voice from above my head.
Both Ariane and Chiome looked up when they heard the voice, so I followed their example.
What I saw was a creature I’ve never seen before floating and looking down on us.
Ponta wasn’t all that cautious towards that being, instead she wagged her tail and called out to him as if she knew him.
The floating being shook the ground as it descended to my eye level like a Demon King.
I couldn’t understand the nature of this person, but Ponta didn’t seem too worried about him. As I struggled to figure out how I should react to this person, Ariane spoke up and revealed his identity.
“This is Williahsfim-sama. Once Dragon Kings reach a certain age, they gain the ability to take on a human form.”
A let out a shocked shout and snapped my head towards him.
The creature seemed humanoid with its arms and legs.
This form wasn’t nearly as large as his bulky thirty-meter long body for sure.
However, could that really be called a human form?
His body was covered in the same majestic blue scales as his dragon form, his head resembled a dragon’s more than human’s, as he smiled I could see that his mouth was full of fangs instead of teeth and he had two horns growing from the side of his head.
His body was covered in a set of armor the same color as his scales, a small set of wings were folded against his back and there was a long tail connected to his waist that reached the floor.
In this humanoid form, Williahsfim stood well over four meters tall, a giant compared to regular humans.
Instead of a human, it would be better to call him a giant lizardman. I stared directly at Williahsfim as I processed all of this.
While I still had questions about his appearance, my current situation came first.
“Williahsfim-dono, what do you mean by that?”
Williahsfim nodded his head at my question and narrowed his reptilian eyes at me,
“From what I’m seeing, this boy here is originally from another world. When the spring temporarily returned his body to its original state, he received a backlash because of that. Though even I don’t understand how he can function in such an incomplete state……”
Williahsfim wound up speaking a troublesome phrase in his explanation.
“Hmm. It’s a little difficult to explain to others, but there are other worlds that overlap with this one and the rest of this boy’s being has been left behind in one of them.”
Worlds overlapping one another…… or alternate realities, I turned to Ariane and Chiome to see how they felt after learning my origins.
However, the two of them were looking between Williahsfim and me in confusion.
When Williahsfim saw the state they were in, he tried to find a better way to explain it.
“How should I put it…… Well, there exists a world composed entirely of energy without any physical form, that world is where spirits in this world originate. There are also other worlds that are tangentially connected to this one.”
The two of them scratched their chins and nodded several times as if they understood what Williahsfim said to some extent.
“I see. So when the hot spring restored my body the shock was too much for me to take and the mental fatigue knocked me unconscious…… or something like that?”
The shift from a skeletal body to a dark elf body being too much for me to take was something I could understand.
What I was more concerned about to the explosive storm of emotions that had hit me.
When I asked Williahsfim he slowly ran his eyes over my body before he began speaking again.
“I suppose it should be called a curse after all…… Boy, when you’re a skeleton, are you capable of feeling deep emotions?”
I thought back to all that I had done since I came to this world when he asked me that.
I was continuously bombarded with various surprises nearly every day since I’ve been here, yet I never was too upset or even sad about what I’ve experienced.
When I learned about the circumstances of the elves and the People of the Mountains and Plains, I didn’t hesitate to offer my strength, but it wasn’t out of a sense of justice.
I acted so indifferently to what I experienced in this world because I still considered all of it a game or a dream. I thought my standing in life here would improve if I helped the people living here so I did.
“When you regained your body, all of the pent up emotions from your time as a skeleton poured into you. The burden of that experience caused you to faint.”
Ariane and Chiome stared at me in amazement when Williahsfim finished speaking and I myself looked down at my boney body.
I guess that explained why I passed out.
“Williahsfim-dono, how do you know so much about this matter?”
As much as I could accept that a long-lived Dragon King would have amassed more wisdom than me, but I had to question how he could spout knowledge about the universe so easily.
Williahsfim smiled at my question before he answered.
“Dragon Kings are entirely different beings from the dragons that live in the mountains. That is to say, we are powerful spirits that created our current bodies.”
My gaze unintentionally traveled to Ponta as she let out a large yawn.
Williahsfim realized what I was thinking and quickly corrected me.
“We’re different from spirit beasts. Spirit beasts are just animals that assimilated elemental spirits into themselves, I crafted my own body before I entered this world. The power to take human form is an extension of that ability. I simply shrunk my dragon form into what you see before you.”
Williahsfim stood a bit taller as he said that.
Despite the oppressive aura of their normal bodies, Dragon Kings were rather spiritual beings.
“I see…… Still, if I’m going to have that reaction every time I enter the hot spring, then it just isn’t worth it for a temporary solution……”
When I lowered my head after saying that, I caught Ariane looking at me as if she had something to say about the matter.
However, this was a rather personal issue for me……
At that moment, Williahsfim spoke up once again to explain the situation with the spring.
“You’re wrong, boy. Even if you can’t maintain your original body in the future, it should be fine to enter the spring as long as you keep your emotional distress to a minimum. It could be considered a miracle that you survived the experience this time.”
I looked up at him the second I realized the meaning behind his words.
It’s barely been a month since I entered this world as a skeleton. All this time, my negative and strong emotions had been accumulating.
If it had been a year or even two months before they were allowed to flood my mind, then I doubt I would have been out of commission for just seven days.
My life might’ve been at risk.
If I was to live in this incredibly harsh world, then the emotional limiter that came along with my skeletal body would certainly be a useful tool, but the price for using it is truly worthy of being called a ‘curse’.
I could never have imagined that a simple choice in a game would have so much of an effect on my life, but now was not the time or place to grieve over it.
Right now I needed to determine how long I could stay in my elven body and the time limit I could endure being a skeleton.
“I think I need to experiment with the hot spring for a bit……”