It had been a few hours of hunting after joining back up with Mahara and Minamoto and we’d made it down to the twentieth floor.
I’d say that it’s gone well so far.
The demons we’ve been encountering are Wight and Wight Lancers.
Wights were monsters that are corpses that turned into skeletons. Wight Lancers were, as the name suggested, Wights that wield lances.
Although they have a slightly higher resistance value compared to the others, the troubling part about them was that all of their attacks had the added effect of being poisonous. Even a scratch meant you were down for the count.
Since it would cause you to be poisoned, you’d have to ingest a remedy that could cure it.
Minamoto had taken one of those attacks head on and was currently being treated. Her fatigue had built up to the point that she couldn’t evade the lance in time, causing her to get hit.
“Minamoto, here, please drink this.”
Hayase gave Minamoto a drug specifically made to counter the poison, boiled Yanu Leaf. Taking it from her, she drank it straight away.
Once she did so, her complexion improved remarkably quickly. It appeared as though the poison was neutralized.
“You’re awesome, Hayase.”
The person to respond was Tamaki. Behind her was Mahara, looking thoroughly discontent.
That guy, seriously.
“Hayase read a ton of documents about medicine in the palace, so she’s never wrong with the dosage. That’s why we’re able to keep fighting without having to worry about special conditions!”
Tamaki struck a pose with her finger up in the air. Look’s like someone’s in high spirits.
But it looks like Hayase’s worth more than I’d thought.
This world’s medical care is still in its early development. There are potions for things like stamina and mana recovery, but there are many items treating other status conditions still to settle.
To use that Yanu Leaf as an example, while it is effective in treating the poison, it will have a harmful effect on the body if taken in too large a dose and may itself become a poison to the body. Such is the risk.
Which is why people have no choice but to make it on the spot.
“Oh? Hayase’s a pretty important person for this party then.”
“Th-Thank you very much.”
Hayase seemed to be shy after being praised by me. Or maybe it’s just her nature to be shy?
“Minamoto, are you alright now?”
“Yeah, I’m good.”
She stood up and moved about to stretch her body and check her senses, but it didn’t look there was anything wrong.
“You should drink this potion too just to be safe. Here, catch.”
I threw a test-tube-like vial with a potion in it over to Minamoto. She caught it with both hands.
“You’re our guard, so don’t expect a thanks.”
Only saying that in response, Minamoto walked off.
“H-Hey! Seriously… Tamaki, Hayase, let’s go too. We can’t let her go off alone.”
Hayase stood up and quickly started gathering her luggage together. Tamaki’s lack of a response was due to her being pulled on by Mahara.
With that, the our formation spontaneously turned into Minamoto in the front, Mahara and Tamaki in the middle, and Hayase and I following up the rear.
Keeping Minamoto in my field of view, I kept a constant distance behind the others and talked with Hayase.
“Yuuji, why did you become an adventurer? I mean, adventurers have to fight monsters…”
“Hmm, I never really had a reason in mind. I guess it’s just that my parents did it, so I did too.”
“Y-You’re doing something so scary for that!?”
“I don’t have talent for anything else, so it’s not like I could just stop. Besides, it’s not so bad once you get used to it… Wait, Hayase, are you scared?”
Her body shook slightly as she looked at me looking as though she might cry.
Bulls-eye, huh. Rather, it was pretty easy to tell.
“… Yeah. I mean, I don’t have any abilities that let me fight like you guys. I just get in everyone’s way. And I feel like I’m going to die right off the bat whenever we get attacked by monsters. Dying is… is scary.”
Dying is scary.
That’s something everyone can agree on.
I find it scary too. Even if I can revive, there’s still the pain I have to go through, the strange cloudiness in my mind, and that strange woman in my dream.
There might be a limit to that ability too, so it’s not like I’m sure I’ll revive indefinitely. There’s lots of things about it that I just don’t get.
But nothing’s going to change if I just stay afraid of it. I know that firsthand.
“Th-That’s a bad thing, I know. For a hero like me to be so weak… I’m sorry, please forget I said anything.”
“I wasn’t thinking that at all.”
I placed my hand on top of Hayase’s head and gave her a pat.
“Everyone starts at the same starting line. Scary things are scary. There’s no helping that feeling. It’s proof that we’re alive.”
“… R—… Really?”
“Yeah. Hayase, it’ll be alright. Just do your best from here are. It might sound cheap, but your effort won’t be in vain. Just keep moving forward at your own pace. If you keep with it, you’ll turn into a great hero someday. I’m sure of it.”
She thought of something, rubbed her eyes, and patted down her robe. The next time she raised her head, the feeling Hayase gave off was entirely different from the Hayase Fuuko of before.
“Thank you, really. I feel like I can have courage now, too.”
“Yuuji, it’s all thanks to you. So, umm…”
The girl started to fidget about with her fingers. Clenching her fist with all she had, she then clapped herself on the cheeks to rouse herself and took my hand.
“Hm? What’s up?”
“Yuuji… umm, are you dating anyone right now?”
What crossed my mind was Shuri and her smile. I think that our relationship counts as that, but saying that would be embarrassing since it’s like saying I want to be with her.
So I answered no. When I did, the girl’s face lit up in a very unusual smile for her, a smile similar to a sunflower blooming in the summer.
“Th-Then… when I become a hero! W-We can—”
“You two are pretty lovey-dovey over there!!”
Having been looking out for a chance to escape Mahara’s grip, Tamaki took advantage of the mood where we were and came over.
She spoke loudly so that she’d make her intention to join our conversation rather understood.
“Wh-Wh-Wha–!? Tamaki, what are you talking about!? I wasn’t saying anything like that! I-I was just—!”
Hayase blushed deeply, shaking her hands in front of her head in denial.
… … Oh.
Sorry, but I’m not some thickheaded protagonist. I already understood, I just decided to not notice.
“So, whadya think, Yuuji? What’s it like having such a cute girl interested in you?”
She prodded me with her elbow. Come on.
“I’m so envious, Hayase. Yuuji’s treating you so nice, I want him to treat me nice too~”
Tamaki took my arm with hers to further show what she meant.
This doesn’t make me happy at all.
I get the gist of her strategy, she doesn’t have any goodwill toward me at all. She’s not even making my heart throb.
Besides, it’s all going to end with a certain calamity in a bit.
“… … Hey, guard.”
Ah, here it is.”
But the timing’s great. It’s about time for it.
Let’s make use of this guy’s emotions while we’re at it.
“Get away from Tamaki, it’s disgusting.”
Mahara’s eyes darkened. Is this that love makes you blind thing?
“Yeah, sure. I agree.”
“You catch on quick. Then hurry up and—”
“You are disgusting.”
Mahara glared at me like a demon. I probably would’ve shriveled away if it were the past me, but now that I’ve seen what’s basically a real demon, I couldn’t see him as scary at all.
“Give it a thought. What did Tamaki look like when she was listening to you talk and what about when she’s with us?”
“Huh? She was obviously happier with me. Right, Tamaki?”
Tamaki forced out a smile and looked away, averting her eyes.
Understanding what that meant, Mahara’s face dyed red in anger.
“… You bastard!”
Why am I the one he’s mad at?
I guess he figures I stole Tamaki from him. It was a very unjust, selfish interpretation of the truth.
The mood was tense.
Minamoto came back calling out into our stalemate.
“Hey! I found the stairway! There’s a Monster House here too!”
“”” —!? “””
Of all the things it could have been, that was the worst possible thing any of the three wanted to hear.
Each of them reacted in their own way, but Mahara was the first to recover.
“Just you watch, Tamaki! I’m gonna go beat those f*ckers up!”
Mahara ran off, ignoring Tamaki calling after him.
I guess he was desperate to show off to her. It’s great that he’s so easy to understand. Thanks to that, I won’t even have to do anything.
“You two wait here! I’ll go rescue them!”
“No! I won’t be able to guard you inside the Monster House as well as get them out. Besides, you’ll be playing the important role of treating their injuries. Wait on standby here.”
“Tamaki, stay here and defend Hayase. You two should be fine if you stay here.”
“I’m relying on you!”
Emphasizing her role’s importance, I took off after them.
I’d be troubled if Tamaki and Hayase were to die already. I haven’t worked them as hard as I can yet.
When I picked up my speed so that they wouldn’t get away from me, I saw Minamoto and Mahara stopped in front of a door.
Mahara’s shoulders were heaving up and down, so I guess he’d just arrived too.
“See this pattern? If I recall, this is the same as the one back then.
What Minamoto said was correct.
This was definitely the same magic formation as the one back when we encountered the Monster House in Rigal Den.
It wasn’t something that just anyone could form.
Not unless you were the lord of a dungeon, that is.
“What should we do? Head in?”
“Of course. Nothing about a Monster House is scary if you already know about it beforehand.”
Mahara stood by with his magic and, hearing him, Minamoto took out her weapon.
“Hey, you better not interfere. Only help if you think it’s getting dangerous.”
Mahara gave his warning.
“Sure. Let me see you flounder about as you try and show off to Tamaki.”
“Tch…! Minamoto, let’s go!”
“I got it I got it, don’t order me about.”
Mahara enthusiastically opened the door.
With that, the two stiffened.
What they was something very different than what they’d imagined.
Humans were weak to sudden changes and unexpected events.
Impatience, indecision, doubt.
Those things affected one’s ability to take action.
So I pushed them into the room from behind.
With that, they were inside the room.
Within the red devil’s killing range.
There weren’t many monsters.
Just a single devil.
“—Kill them, Leadred.”
The devil smiled wickedly upon hearing my order and responded.