Gifting the lord of the lake with eternal slumber!
Editor: Adam, Cannongerbil, Xenthur
“Oh Kazuma. Your death was really pathetic!”
<TL note: Classic Dragon Quest game over message.>
A familiar white room.
After opening my eyes with a start, I locked eyes with Eris, who enthusiastically said that line.
This girl might be unexpectedly mischievous.
And she knew about all sorts of things from Japan too.
“… You’re in a great mood, Eris-sama.”
“Sorry. I’ve always wanted to try saying that famous line once.”
Eris squinted her eyes with a naughty look.
When the extremely beautiful goddess acted this way, my heart skipped a beat.
The goddess scratched her cheek with a troubled expression.
“By the way, Kazuma-san, you aren’t frantic at all even though you’re here… Well, the others are safe, they’re far away from the Hydra right now. Your corpse has been retrieved after Darkness let the Hydra swallow her.”
What a competent goddess.
She’d already told me about my comrades’ safety before I even asked her.
“Intentionally letting the Hydra swallow her… That girl’s really reckless.”
Back then, we managed to retrieve Aqua, who was chased by the Hydra, and Megumin casted Explosion.
… Everything was fine then.
“Speaking of which, what the hell was that? That’s cheating, growing back the heads it lost; there’s no way we can defeat that, right?”
I started complaining to Eris.
That’s right, everything was fine up until the point when it took a shot from the Explosion.
However, the Hydra, which lost several of its heads, started regenerating with magic.
And moved as if nothing had happened.
“What happened to my body after I was eaten by the Hydra? I heard that you can’t revive if the damage is too severe…”
Which meant that I’d be dead for good.
“Eh… I-It’s fine! You can revive!! About thirty percent of the body’s lost, but it’ll work!”
I shouldn’t have asked.
Looking at the dejected me, Eris asked timidly:
“After you resurrect, please don’t be blame Darkness, all right? She was the one who wilfully brought it up … But she had her reasons too… She’s blaming herself for your death right now and is taking it really hard. Of course, the one who suffered the most is you…”
Eris said worriedly with a frown as she consoled me……
What a gentle person…
Was there someone like that around me?
No, the two of them were gentle, but Eris-sama made me feel warm from the bottom of my heart and put me at ease.
“Don’t worry, I won’t blame her… Anyway, Eris-sama, you mentioned that you’ll go down to the mortal world occasionally to have fun. How about visiting Axel? It feels lonely to not be able to meet you unless I die…”
When she heard what I said, Eris giggled.
“Actually, we’ve already met plenty of times in the mortal world. It’s about time you notice me, okay? I feel a little lonely too.”
She said mischievously…
“What did you say? We met? Was it in Axel? Hmm?”
Even if she said that, my mind couldn’t keep up.
Met plenty of times?
Eh, did I meet someone like her?
Seeing me falling into confusion, Eris said with a mischievous smile.
“I’ll give you a hint, then. In the mortal world, my appearance is different from now. I’m more energetic, and my manner of speech is different.”
More energetic, different way of speaking…?
“And even though I’m a goddess, I don’t have to be an Archpriest in the mortal world like senpai…”
“Ah, I know! It’s Marise-san who broke Keith’s nose after he teasingly said, ‘I heard the breast size of Eris’s priests are inversely proportionally to their faith, so it’s true after all, wahahaha!’”
I interrupted the hint and shouted with confidence.
Eris said as she continued to smile:
Ah, maybe that person?
“After Dust, who was looking for trouble, said, ‘I heard the goddess Eris wears pads, won’t her devotees get expelled for having large breasts? Are yours real? Or are the two of you wearing pads? If not, let me see it as proof!’, the one who beat Dust up together with Darkness, Celeste-san!”
Eris was still smiling, but seemed a little angry.
Not Marise-san or Celeste-san…?
As I was thinking hard.
“Kazuma! Kazuma! The resurrection’s done, so hurry up and come back! Darkness is smelly and seems very depressed right now! Come back already!”
The voice of Aqua who couldn’t read the mood as usual came.
I was concerned about the depressed Darkness, but instead of that.
“Eris-sama, I give up! I give up, I’m sorry! Please tell me the answer, please! If not, I’ll receive divine retribution if I unknowingly do anything rude to you!”
Seeing that I couldn’t guess correctly, Eris looked as if she was wondering what to do…
“… You’re still talking about rude things and divine retribution now…? Even though you did all that the first time we met…?”
“Nothing. My real identity is a secret.”
Eris placed her index finger to her lips as she said that.
“… Also, please don’t listen to everything senpai says, okay? A-At least right now, I’m not wearing pads!”
Eris snapped her fingers after saying that with flushed cheeks.
A familiar white door appeared before me.
I panicked after seeing that.
She hadn’t told me her identity yet!
With no regards for the panicking me, the white door opened and brilliant light shone through…!
“Wait, Eris-sama, I’m sorry! You’re angry, right? Throwing a tantrum? No– I’m not really concerned about your breast size!”
“Well then, Satou Kazuma-san! I hope the next time I meet you after your life ends, you’ll know my identity! Fare well! Have a safe trip!”
The blushing Eris didn’t let me finish.
At this moment, probably because her face was red, I noticed a white scar on her right cheek.
“Hmm? Eris-sama, your face…”
Has something on it– Before I could say that.
I was pushed into the door from behind by Eris with a pomf.
“Welcome back Kazuma.”
When I opened my eyes, I found Aqua who was pinching her nose before me.
“Puah! That stinks!”
I jumped when the terrible stench entered my nose.
The stench was coming from…
“Me!? The stench is coming from me?”
Probably due to the short time I spent in the Hydra’s stomach, my body was covered in a horrendous stench.
… I then noticed.
That no one was willing to meet my eyes.
… And from that I realized.
I was completely naked.
“Did my clothes melt…?”
“They melted. Cover up. By the way Kazuma-san, you were digested so much that you became Ms. Kazuma at one point. Your defensive armour is totaled, the only thing that survived is your strangely named katana that was in its sheath.”
“What? I can’t ignore the fact that you said the katana I named has a strange name!”
Ignoring Aqua, who was being pounced on by Megumin, I held the katana that was the only thing left in my hand.
“… And so, why are you so depressed?”
I said to Darkness, who smelled terrible just like me and was hugging her knees some distance away.
When Darkness heard me, she trembled and looked up with an apologetic look.
“Aren’t you angry about me forcing you to fight?”
“I’m not angry at all. You might be the one who wanted to fight, but this isn’t the first time we’ve fought high bounty monsters and generals of the Demon King’s army. I’ve already died a few times too.”
Facing the weirdly straightforward Darkness, I couldn’t find my rhythm.
“Really, this isn’t like you at all. I’ve already heard about it from Eris-sama, okay? In order to save me after I was swallowed by the Hydra, didn’t you allow yourself to be swallowed too? On a closer look, you’re covered in blood. Are you all right? You don’t look melted though.”
Darkness stole a glance at me and said:
“This blood is from the Hydra when I cut open its stomach from the inside after retrieving you. If I were to have spent any more time inside, I would’ve joined you too… It’s fine now, I’m not hurt anywhere else either.”
I said to Darkness who was still dejected:
“Collecting back my corpse was a big help, thanks. Let’s not idle here anymore, let’s go back and shower, all right?”
I said with a smile, showing her that I didn’t mind at all.
“Hey Kazuma. It’s fine if you want to console Darkness, but it doesn’t feel right for you to ask someone to shower in that appearance.”
Speaking of which, I was still naked.
“– Still, I now know why the Knight Corps didn’t deal the final blow to the Hydra. It’s not that they didn’t want to, but they couldn’t.”
On the way back to Axel.
With the awfully depressed Darkness in tow, we thought back about the battle.
“The Kowloon Hydra can use magic to regenerate its lost heads. To defeat it, we’d have to use immensely strong firepower to blow it away beyond any chance of regenerating, or wound it numerous times to deplete its mana before dealing the final blow. Both methods are impractical…”
Megumin made a good point.
The Hydra wasn’t stupid either.
If you kept dealing damage to it, the Hydra would escape to the bottom of the lake to recuperate its mana.
That might be so, but there was no way to prepare firepower that exceeded Explosion.
I turned back and looked at Darkness, who was dragging her feet at the very back.
“Megumin’s right, there’s no way to do it this time. We’ll leave the Hydra to the Knight Corps. They’ll steadily deplete its mana and send it back to sleep. Darkness, you’re fine with that, right?”
She was completely distracted.
… Why was she so adamant about defeating that bounty monster?
At that moment, Aqua arrogantly puffed her chest out and said:
“Eh, it’s not all bad news, all right? Thanks to me, that Hydra won’t leave the lake any time soon! I purified part of the lake, so it’ll think its territory has been invaded, and will focus on polluting the lake with its miasma. The Knight Corps will be here before it’s done, so we can just dump the task onto them.”
“… Did you eat something wrong? You actually did a great job. That’s really smart.”
As the two of us were chatting happily, Megumin, who was on Aqua’s back, said something that might raise a flag:
“Whenever Aqua’s filled with confidence, things will go badly in the end.”
I was the one who usually piggybacks Megumin, but she said I stunk today and asked for Aqua.
“No, no, no, there shouldn’t be any problems this time. And it wouldn’t be our problem even if there is. After all, we actually bought some time for the Knight Corps.”
“That’s right, do you have any problems with my good work? Really, Megumin! If you say anything weird, I’ll let Kazuma or Darkness piggyback you, all right?”
“I apologize, please don’t do that, I beg of you!”
– We then safely returned to town.
“I’ll go with Megumin to report to the guild; the two of you stink, so hurry back to shower. After all, Kazuma’s dressing might make someone call the cops!”
After Aqua said that to Darkness and me, we prepared to return to the mansion.
I was covering myself with Megumin’s cape right now; a stinking man in a cape looked really shady.
“Let’s go Megumin, we’ve got to exaggerate our actions as much as possible! That way, even if we can’t get the bounty reward, we can still earn some consolations!”
“Leave it to me, I’ll tell them just how powerful my Explosion is!”
I was a bit worried, but I still left it to them and returned to the mansion with Darkness.
After coming home, I let the depressed Darkness bathe first, then I carefully washed my body to get rid of the odor.
“It’s really scary how I can get used to such things. I died just now, but I’m not panicking at all.”
I muttered to myself as I entered the water and looked at my body that was thirty percent lost at one point of time.
Aqua said I turned into Ms. Kazuma for a while– Is the size back to normal?
As I was observing the part that was lost at some point.
“… Kazuma, you’re bathing longer than usual; does it hurt anywhere? Or have you not recovered your strength because you just revived?”
Darkness’s worried voice came from the direction of the changing room.
“N-No problem, I’m fine! You see, it stinks really bad, right? That’s why I’m carefully cleaning myself!”
I couldn’t tell Darkness who was seriously worried about my health that I was concerned and carefully checking my size.
But Darkness didn’t leave after hearing what I said.
She probably had something to say and just stood there.
“… Hey Kazuma. Erm, it’s my fault this time for being willful. Maybe things have been going too well recently and I got too impatient. But I want to defeat that Hydra no matter what…”
Darkness bitterly said in the changing room.
“Well, we won’t meet that thing again, so it’s fine. Anyway, Aqua and the others are really slow. They must be eating something good in the guild. Let’s go too.”
“… Ugh. Yeah… You’re right…”
After hearing my reply, Darkness made a dejected sound I’d never heard before.
… Did this girl have some kind of history with that Hydra?
Or maybe it had something to do with that rude butler who visited yesterday?
“All right, I brought you a change of clothes. I’ll leave it here, okay? I’ll be waiting in the living room…”
I said to Darkness who was going to leave the changing room.
“Do you have a hard-to-talk-about reason why you have to defeat that Hydra?”
Seemed like there was.
I didn’t know what to say to Darkness who fell silent.
Normally, I would reject challenging an opponent that killed me.
However, the young lady who was obviously depressed made me want to say that I’d challenge it again.
“… It didn’t work today, but let’s come up with a proper plan to take on that Hydra next time, all right?”
I teased Darkness when I heard her surprised gasp:
“What, you got on your high horse and talked about the safety of the people, but you are just going to give up on subjugating the Hydra?”
“What the hell are you talking about? Who do you think I am? Protecting the people is the duty of the Dustiness house! I’ll get that Hydra next time!!”
That usual violent speech made Darkness feel a little more like how she usually acted.
– After washing off the stubborn stench, the two of us went to the adventurer’s guild.
Aqua and Megumin should’ve finished their report.
When I opened the door to the guild…
“Why are you people always doing unnecessary things?”
“That’s right! When Aqua-san changed the water in the fish tank into pure water last time, all the fish caught from the sea died, isn’t that right?”
“I-I thought it would be better if we did that! It was the same for the fish shop, the poor fish were living in a cramped tank, so I wanted to at least make their water cleaner!!”
“What should we do? We can’t handle a big shot like the Kowloon Hydra!!”
“Mama, I want to go home!”
“Wanted posters, post more wanted posters! Spread the posters to all the adventurers in town!”
Whispers could be heard everywhere as the adventurers and staff shouted.
Aqua, who was being accused in the center of the commotion, started wailing.
“Ah! Kazuma, Darkness, you came at the right time! Help me take care of this scene!!
Megumin caught sight of us and rushed to our side amidst the chaotic guild.
“No, what’s happening here? Why are things so bad? I can see Aqua’s getting blamed, but we didn’t do anything wrong this time, right?”
“T-That’s right! The Hydra would’ve woken up sooner or later even if we didn’t do anything, so there shouldn’t be such a commotion, but…”
Megumin wasn’t good at dealing with a crisis, so Darkness grabbed a nearby staff big sister and asked:
“Hey, what happened? The subjugation failed, but it’s not that bad, right? Isn’t this a subjugation that won’t be a big deal since the Knight Corps are coming?”
“W-Well, a big incident happened recently… The Knight Corps are busy dealing with it and didn’t have the time to come here…”
A big incident in the capital?
“Hey, what happened? A crisis in the capital? Is my cute sister in danger?”
“S-Sister? No, the incident happened quite some time ago and was sort of resolved without any major repercussion. The Knight Corps were sent to restore order in the chaotic capital and search for the criminal who instigated the incident…”
I was relieved after hearing what the staff said.
I was seriously considering charging straight to the capital for a moment there.
“From what I’ve heard, a duo calling themselves the Silver-Haired Thieving Group infiltrated the castle…”
Darkness and I sputtered at the same time.
The staff didn’t notice and took out a slip of paper.
“With just the two of them, they defeated the knights in the castle and powerful adventurers and boldly stole several treasures…”
As she said that, she handed the paper in her hand to us, which was a wanted poster for the ‘Silver-Haired Thieving Group’.
On it was an illustration of a suspicious masked man and a silver-haired youth.
The bounty was two hundred million eris.
How can this be? The bounty was only second to the generals of the Demon King’s army…
“Two hundred million eris…. Two hundred million eris…”
“Hey Darkness, why are you looking at me like that?”
Darkness, who was usually uninterested in money, looked at me with red eyes with the wanted posters in hand.
The staff was baffled by our actions.
“Eh, in summary, the Knight Corps that were supposed to be dispatched here won’t be coming any time soon.”
Oh no, didn’t that mean we stirred up serious trouble?
I wasn’t sure if she understood the troubles in my heart.
“However, there’s still hope. The knights from the capital specifically made a trip to the Crimson Demon Village and asked a highly skilled diviner to determine where the culprit had gone to… And the divinations showed that the main culprit’s right here in Axel! And so, the adventurers are zealously searching for the criminal right now!!”
I started sweating bullets.
“Anyway, I’m looking forward to Satou Kazuma’s team’s performance. After all, your team runs into bounty targets frequently! If you can capture the criminal, the Knight Corps can rest easy and dispatch a team over here!”
After replying emotionlessly, Darkness hit me with her elbow, as if to ask me to act casual.
“Sigh, it’s only a matter of time before the culprit’s caught. We have a diviner even more powerful than the Crimson Demons’ diviner here in Axel!”
She must be referring to that fellow who wore a mask that looked similar to the masked man in the wanted poster. I know him too.
Oh no, even though we were business partners, that devil who wanted money badly wouldn’t hesitate in selling me out.
Beside me, Darkness quivered with a stiff face.
The staff clenched her fists in expectation–
“In summary, please give us a hand too, Satou-san!”
She said with a face full of smiles.
– Naturally, I stayed home.
“One day~ In the forest~ I met a~ Dragon~”
Aqua dragged the couch to the window and knelt on it, singing a song while looking at the rain.
She was cradling the egg in her hands as usual, a warm light from her palm covering its shell.
According to Aqua, she was performing prenatal education for the fetus inside the egg through song.
Right now in this living room, Megumin’s clamoring was overwhelming Aqua’s singing.
“Kazuma, revenge! I want to get my revenge against that Hydra!”
She said amidst heavy breathing as I brushed the fur of Chomusuke, who was on my lap.
It’d been three days since I escaped from the adventurer’s guild.
After I knew I was wanted by the kingdom, I stayed near Aqua to guard against Vanir’s precognitive powers and shut myself in the mansion.
The stingy devil couldn’t divine the fortune of people around Aqua very well.
Fortunately, Aqua was busy incubating the egg, so she was also staying put in the mansion.
Megumin probably couldn’t stand the stay at home lifestyle and kept urging me to take revenge.
“You might be saying that now, but how are we going to defeat that monster? I thought about it a lot, but I can’t come up with a good plan.”
When Megumin heard what I said, she hugged her staff tight and grit her teeth.
“Firepower! Use stronger firepower to blow its face up! If one Explosion isn’t enough, use consecutive Explosions to blast it to bits! Just like the time we fought the Destroyer, with Aqua’s mana and Kazuma’s Drain Touch, it’d be possible!”
After hearing Megumin’s passionate speech, Aqua stopped her song.
“Don’t wanna. Why must I suffer the dirty lich skill, Drain Touch? I won’t ever do it again. That’s right, even if Kazuma threatens me, Darkness coaxes me, or Megumin acts strangely, I won’t do it. My holy mana isn’t meant to be carelessly used by others.”
I combed the fur on Chomusuke’s tail gently and said:
“And what’ve you been doing with that holy mana all this while? You don’t need to keep cradling the egg, just warming it before the fireplace will be good enough, right? If it overheated, just treat it as a snack and eat it.”
“Hey you, I’ll give you a taste of my God Blow if you keep saying snacks or whatever… I’m injecting mana into a dragon egg. Dragons are the crystallization of mana, so they will be stronger if they have more mana. This child will rule over the dragons from the peak. As the parent raising this child, I want to do whatever I can for it.”
… Ignoring Aqua who stubbornly insisted that was a dragon egg.
“By the way, why are you thinking of revenge, Megumin? Aside from Darkness, who displayed an abnormal obsession over the Hydra, do you have some history with that thing too?”
“Well, I’ve been thinking too. It killed Kazuma once before. Won’t I feel really happy if I defeat such an opponent?”
“Eh, oh… I-Is that so…?”
If she puts it that way, it makes me feel a little guilty…
“Recently, I’d been going after the Hydra together with Darkness. Darkness would draw the Hydra out with taunting skills and we’d escape after casting Explosion. Even though we’re challenging it this way… Could there be a better strategy?”
“I was wondering why I didn’t hear the familiar sound outside the town recently; so you’d been doing that? It’s not showing any intention of attacking the town, so don’t aggravate it! And what are you doing, Darkness? Shouldn’t you stop her at a time like this?”
“Ugh, erm… But I want to defeat that Hydra no matter what… And this will deplete the mana of the Hydra too…
Darkness who was polishing her armor on the rug muttered softly as she averted her eyes.
This girl wanted to personally subjugate the Hydra no matter what.
I didn’t understand the reason though…
“It’d be inconvenient to make a move in this heavy rain, so it can’t be helped. The opponent lives in water; it’ll have the advantage if we fight in the rain. I’ll show my true strength after the rain stops.”
But honestly speaking, I want to hide at home until my wanted notices die down.
“It’s the rainy season right now, right? The weather diviner said that the rain will go on for quite a while.”
“… I’ll show my true strength when the rain stops.”
“This guy! So you won’t be motivated any time soon, right?”
“Ah, what are you doing, stop! Don’t vent your anger on Chomusuke!”
Only Darkness was working hard on her armor with a serious face.
She ignored Megumin, who was grabbing Chomusuke’s tail and obstructing me from brushing its fur.
The rain didn’t stop for the next few days.
While Aqua and I shut ourselves in, Darkness and Megumin visited the Hydra every day.
Of course, today too–
“We’re back! Sorry, it’s a little inconvenient for Darkness, so can you please prepare the bath?”
Darkness who was piggybacking Megumin came back with a smelly stench.
“… So you got eaten. Didn’t you two escape right after casting Explosion? It’s dangerous, so don’t go there anymore.”
Darkness put Megumin who couldn’t move after depleting her mana onto the rug, then took off her armor as she breathed heavily.
The armor she was so proud of and polished a few days ago was covered in scratches and stained with the red blood of the Hydra.
“That fellow probably had enough of the daily Explosion and struck preemptively before I could use my taunt. Megumin was chanting Explosion the moment it attacked, it was a close call… After we got out, Megumin shot it with Explosion and we escaped as it was regenerating its head… It isn’t so simple after all.”
Darkness sighed deeply as Aqua came to her side to heal her. After taking off her armor, Darkness thanked Aqua and dragged her feet into the bath.
“… Hey Kazuma. Can’t you think of an easy way to finish off the Hydra? The strong point of the weak Kazuma’s your numerous half-baked skills and your ability to use despicable means to solve any problems, right?”
“Oh, I thought of one. We’ll bind you up with chains and throw you into the lake. When the Hydra eats you, we’ll gather all the adventurers and pull the Hydra to shore. We’ll then gang up on it and give it a good beating before it can escape back into the lake… How about it?”
As Aqua pounced over, I grabbed the egg from her and shooed her away, using the egg as a hostage.
“Well, personally, I have no complains about casting Explosion on strong enemies… But Darkness seems weird recently.”
Megumin mumbled softly as she watched Darkness walk to the bath.
“– Phew… Kazuma, what are you doing with my armor?”
After finishing her bath, Darkness tilted her head at me as I was squatting before her armor.
Megumin was watching me as I worked.
“You really damaged your armour today, so I’m fixing it up for you. It’s been raining these few days and I’ve got nothing to do in the house anyway.”
I knocked on the dented areas with a wooden hammer and activated my crafting skills that I haven’t used in a long time to repair the armor.
Darkness said a little shyly in reply:
“Speaking of which, you also fixed my armor when we went to the hot spring… I want to go on another hot spring trip with everyone one day.”
“I don’t wanna, I hate that city. There are too many people with their screws loose like Megumin.”
“Hey, say that again!”
I shoved Megumin who was hindering my repairs away. Darkness looked at us happily:
“Even so, I want to go again…”
She said in a soft voice that seemed to harbor deep meaning behind it.
– Some time after that.
“Kazuma, she’s not here! She was already gone when I went to her room to wake her up!”
“That girl! I already told her not to go, why won’t she listen?”
Darkness, who told Megumin that it’d be dangerous, had been challenging the Hydra on her own these past few days.
She disregarded our advice and kept on returning with wounds all over after making a trip to the lake.
To stop Darkness, we took turns keeping watch…
“Why did you doze off!!”
“Wahhh! It’s tiring to incubate Emperor Zell! Raising a kid’s hard work, so be more considerate toward me!”
“Stop kidding me about raising a child! Hand that egg over! I’ll cook that damn thing nice and fresh!”
“Stop! I’ve already warmed it for so many days, so something terrible will happen if it cracks now! You’ll regret it if you look inside!
In the face of Aqua, who curled up like a turtle, I angrily roared.
“I don’t care about that egg; Darkness is the priority!! What’s she thinking? Did she talk about how the obligation of a Crusader and the duty of the nobles is to protect the town again?”
“Now’s not the time to determine Darkness’s intentions. The Hydra’s also learning, and Darkness’s injuries are getting worse every day! It’s getting really dangerous for her!”
Megumin, unable to handle unexpected situations, awkwardly said as she hugged her staff.
That might be so, but Darkness probably left before dawn.
“Hey Kazuma. Is there no way to take out that Hydra? I’ll drop the egg off at Wiz’s shop, then chase after Darkness with Megumin to lecture her… You probably have a phobia against an opponent that killed you once, but, Kazuma, do you want to come along?”
Despite hating fighting, Aqua maintained her balled up pose and said something that was seldom heard.
Even this girl was showing her drive.
Being the only one hiding at home would be a little…
… Ahhh, damn it!
“I’m going out somewhere, so the two of you go and try to bring Darkness back. Even if you encounter the Hydra, don’t engage and run straight back, all right?”
After hearing what I said, Aqua and Megumin nodded seriously and went out.
Now that I was home alone, I pulled out some eris’s notes from my room and stuffed it into my wallet.
“That girl’s really a handful!!”
I made up my mind for that stubborn young lady too.
– The next day.
I set off for the lake early in the morning.
In the end, Aqua and Megumin met with the injured Darkness as she was returning from the lake.
Darkness told me with a wry smile about how she was lectured on the way back after Aqua healed her wounds.
That girl had no intention of stopping her campaign against the Hydra.
I stood before the lake, waiting for Darkness who’ll probably come with Aqua and Megumin.
When it was almost noon, Darkness, who appeared with Aqua, was stupefied when she saw us.
That’s right, she saw the adventurers of Axel sitting behind me.
“Oh! You sure took your time, Lalatina!”
The adventurers I brought along started teasing Darkness as she stood stiff on the spot.
“S-Stop it, Lalatina! Those guys were just calling your name, don’t silently start strangling me like that! Stop… Please stop!”
Lalatina, who was being teased by the adventurers, grabbed my collar with tears in her eyes.
“Hey Kazuma, what’s happening here? If this is your new way of harassing me, I’ll give you a piece of my mind too.”
“That’s not it! Why would I gather so many people to do something so stupid? I just told everyone that you’re challenging the Hydra alone here every day and asked if they’d help you!”
Darkness released my collar and frantically looked at the crowd.
“Oh, even Lalatina can get embarrassed.”
“Don’t say that. Lalatina-chan might look like that, but she’s actually very delicate, all right? To defeat the Hydra, Lalatina-chan’s strength is needed. What if you make her cry and run back?”
“Kazuma has been treating us to food and drinks recently; he even bought us the most expensive drinks yesterday! It’s only natural to return the favor. Let’s go along with Lalatina’s willfulness!”
The adventurers said out loud.
“Take a good look, Darkness. I merely told them that you were doing something silly every day and managed to gather so many adventurers. I can’t do anything about your muscled filled brain, but don’t make others too worried.”
The flushed face Darkness replied in a soft voice:
“Hmm? What did you say?”
Darkness glared at me as I asked her to repeat herself, but she still looked at the adventurers around her shyly.
The adventurers who met Darkness’s eyes either got embarrassed or smiled.
Darkness smiled too when she saw their reactions.
“Everyone, I’m very–”
“Waaahhhh–! Kazuma, Kazuma–!! The Hydra woke up earlier than usual for some reason!”
Aqua, who had gone into the lake before I noticed, interrupted Darkness’s words of thanks and started shouting.
At the same time, Megumin was preparing her spell near the lake and yelled.
“Like I said, it’s better to wait for Kazuma’s signal before waking the Hydra!”
“But, but!! I want to go back earlier to witness Emperor Zell’s birth…!”
Having made up her mind to thank everyone, Darkness was cut off at the worst moment, and she started quivering with her face red from embarrassment.
The Kowloon Hydra that was chasing Aqua appeared with a huge splash.
“Why do you people always do that? This emotional scene is totally ruined!!”
The battle began–!
It started a little early, but that was how a battle should be.
“All thieves, did you bring your steel wire? Archers, standby with your grappling hook arrows!”
“Waaahhhh, hurry up! Hurry up!”
Step one was to let Aqua wake the Hydra and draw it to the lake side.
“Tough adventurers, protect the backline! Stand by as human shields!”
Next, vanguards wearing armor will protect the backlines from the Hydra’s attack.
“Mages, prepare to fire off your magic and stand by! Use the most powerful spell you have! Don’t worry about saving for the next attack; use all the mana you have in one shot!”
“Leave it to me! I’ll blow that damn Hydra away with my Explosion this time!!”
I made the mages prepare their attack to deal the last blow to the Hydra.
“Darkness, use your Decoy skill right in front of the Hydra! Your toughness will be the key to this fight!! Don’t die too easily!”
“Who do you think I am? Other things aside, my defense won’t lose to anyone!”
Darkness attracted the Hydra’s attention and blocked it from the front!
“Hey, Kazuma! What about me? What should I do?”
“After casting support spells on everyone, you don’t need to do anything unless someone gets injured! Go and cheer them on, and don’t get in my way!”
“What? Let me play a big role too!!”
After that, as Darkness was blocking the Hydra’s movement…!
“Darkness, I’m leaving it to you!”
“You can count on it! Your opponent’s me! Decoy!”
Darkness took a stance by the water and activated her decoy skill.
When all the heads of the Hydra were focused on Darkness, I used Lurk to erase my presence as much as possible and charged at the Hydra.
Darkness was frowning, but still managed to withstand the fierce attack from the eight heads that’d send anyone else, including me, to Eris in just one hit.
The instant the Hydra turned all its eight heads to the same spot, all the thieves used Bind on the long necks and tied it with wires.
At the same time, the archers shot out grappling hooks.
Although the hooks were deflected by the hard scales of the Hydra, they still managed to get entangled with the wires binding the necks.
After confirming the hooks were secured, the adventurers grabbed onto the other end of the ropes and pulled as if they were competing in a tug of war.
We dragged it far from the lake, preventing it from escaping.
At the same time, I erased my presence and drew near, climbing onto the back of the Hydra, whose heads were still focused on Darkness even after it was bounded. I touched the hard scales up close.
“If you won’t go down unless your mana dries up, I’ll suck you dry!”
The moment I used Drain Touch, the Hydra started to thrash about wildly.
As expected of dragons that were known as the crystallization of mana; it was sensitive to the fact that its mana was being absorbed.
“Great! It’s working, it’s working… Woah?”
Realizing its mana was being siphoned, the Hydra started struggling in an attempt to break the bindings on its necks. But the bindings held and the eight heads couldn’t reach its back.
At this moment, one of the adventurers screamed:
“Get out of there Kazuma! Are you dumb? What the hell are you thinking, going way up there?”
“It’s fine, watch me use my secret skill to weaken this big fellow! Tell the mages to get ready to bombard once its mana’s depleted…!”
As I was saying that, the Hydra twisted its body in an attempt to rub its back against the ground.
“Waaahhhh, I’m going to get squashed!”
“Moron! What are you doing?”
Darkness, who was in front of the Hydra, grabbed onto me as I was thrown off the back of the Hydra and pinned me under her.
Despite the situation, my face was beet red because of how close I was to Darkness’s face.
The Hydra’s colossal body rolled on top of us and Darkness protected me from being crushed by propping herself up with her arms.
“As expected of Lady Dustiness, your arm power and endurance are marvelous.”
“Is this the time to say that? Ugh, I can’t, hold on…!”
If we get crushed like this, leaving Darkness aside, I’d suffer a horrible fate.
While I was pinned under Darkness, who was pushing up against the ground with a flushed face, I reached out for the Hydra that was right on top of us.
“Darkness, not yet! Endure it and don’t let up! Stay in that position!”
“? You’re going for abandonment play now? N-No, I really can’t…!”
Darkness challenged the Hydra every day despite being wounded all over, grinding away its mana slowly and steadily.
How could I give up this chance and put this girl’s efforts to waste?
I used Drain Touch with all I got despite the situation and started lecturing Darkness.
“You’ve always been useless! When your chance to be of use comes, are you going to let it end like this? Aren’t you planning to defend your title in the endurance tournament this year too? If you can’t even endure this thing, can you even win? How spineless! Can you show your shameful appearance before all the adventurers here?”
“Ugh, the Hydra’s heavy play and the verbal abuse play from this demonic man, what a reward this is…! Of all days, why does it have to be now…?”
Darkness’s face was red and trembling, her neck was full of sweat, and her eyes were tearing up a bit, but she still hung on.
As I sucked out the mana of the Hydra at full force, it swung its bound necks, struggling as it laid on top of Darkness.
“Pull, pull now!”
The heavyweight adventurers who’d been serving as the human shields of the backline pulled hard on the ropes entangling the Hydra.
They were probably trying to rescue Darkness, who was trapped below.
Darkness had a satisfied smile as she said softly with her voice breaking intermittently.
“I-I… Can’t… K-Kazuma… Don’t worry… We’ll die… Together…”
“How will that stop me from worrying? Don’t give up! In the end, I’ll be the only one who’ll die! You even received magic buffs and won’t die just by being crushed by the Hydra a little!!”
All my gear except my katana were melted, so I was still wearing my casual clothes.
If I get squashed in such a situation, my weak defense won’t even buy me any time before I kick the bucket.
I’d rather not die twice in such a short period of time!
“I-If I give up, Kazuma will die… Ahhh, what’s with this situation…? Even though you’re ordering me to hold on like a master, your life’s in my hands, how contradictory…! Who’s the master in such a situation? This is a new feeling, a new feeling, Kazuma…!”
This girl was enjoying herself, huh? Her stubbornness and serious expression when she challenged the Hydra alone were gone.
… When I was just a step away from death.
“Look, the Hydra’s becoming really weak, right? And it can’t move, either! I’ll take the head of the large bounty target, the Kowloon Hydra! The one who scores the last hit can collect the entire bounty, I don’t want to share it with anyone else!”
“W-Wait, what are you talking about in this situation? And even though it’s immobile, if you let down your guard because its necks are tied together… Ahhh! Dust! Dust!!”
I heard a familiar scream and the pressure on us suddenly let up.
It seemed that a brave soul had drawn the attention of the Hydra.
We crawled out from under the struggling Hydra and ran toward Megumin.
“Light of Saber!”
After hearing that spell plenty of times in the Crimson Demon Village, I looked toward the source and saw the Crimson Demon Yunyun join the fray and cut off a head of the Hydra.
It seemed like someone was eaten and Yunyun saved him.
… Speaking of which, I finally noticed that Yunyun, who had a weak sense of presence, came with us.
No, wait, I remember someone chatting to me timidly on the way here, but because my mind was occupied by Darkness… At that moment, someone from the adventurers shouted.
“Hey look, the head that was cut off didn’t regenerate!”
I looked over when I heard that shout and saw that the Hydra only had seven heads.
The Hydra wanted to escape back into the lake, but the heavyweight adventurers pulled on the rope, not letting it go.
When they heard my yell, they all focused their mana and prepared to cast their strongest magic, waiting for the signal with sparkling eyes.
On my mark, large number of spells flew toward the Hydra.
Amongst the flying fireballs and lightning, the two Crimson Demons showed their might.
“Light of Saber!!”
After chopping down at the Hydra with a brilliant light, Yunyun showed a smug expression at Megumin.
Megumin raised the corners of her lips, pointing her staff at the Hydra with light shining from her vermillion eyes.
“Explosion’s coming! Everyone near the water evacuate!”
“Cover your ears!”
After living in Axel for so long, the adventurers who’d gotten used to Megumin’s spell covered their ears in a practiced manner.
“Kazuma, I’ll avenge you now! A bouquet for the one in heaven…!”
Hey wait, avenging me is fine, but I’m not in heaven, I’m right here.
The brilliant light from Megumin’s palm pierced the Kowloon Hydra, which was on the brink of death after taking hits from numerous spells.
The large bounty monster that turned the area around this place barren all year round didn’t even scream before falling into eternal slumber–
“Admit my victory! I blew off six of the Hydra’s heads! Yunyun only cut off two! It’s obvious who has the upper hand!”
“W-What’s that Megumin, you were just waiting idly until the Hydra was pushed to the verge of dying! I even saved someone who was bitten by the Hydra, that should count too!!”
“Saving a delinquent who wanted to hog all the bounty should only count for one point. You’re a Crimson Demon too, so you should understand the importance of stealing the limelight!”
After subjugating the Hydra, we and all the other adventurers returned to Axel in high spirits.
Megumin forcefully asked Yunyun to piggyback her and they’d been bickering beside me all this while.
Even though the opponent was a large bounty monster, we only had a single casualty.
And that person was resurrected by Aqua.
“Seems like we’re more capable than we thought! Ara~ But we wouldn’t have made it without Kazuma’s party.”
“That’s right, Kazuma’s great as expected! Even though we agreed the bounty for the Hydra would be shared equally, Kazuma’s group should take more. There’s a moron who said, ‘The one who scores the last hit can collect the entire bounty’, so you can take that share with you too.”
Keith and Lynn, who I’d partied with in the past, told me.
However, this raid only succeeded because of everyone.
“Well then… Everyone must be tired after the intense battle with the Hydra, so let’s rest for today and drink our hearts out with the reward tomorrow!”
“Are you kidding me!?”
I thought I heard someone scream, but I shifted my eyes to Darkness, who was happily walking beside me.
While she had been looking anxious and sad recently, she now had a refreshing expression, as if her burden was all gone.
“Hey, how does it feel to defeat the Hydra you were so obsessed over? You can sleep soundly from tomorrow onward, right?”
“Yeah, thanks to this, all sorts of things seem trivial to me now. I think brooding over it by myself is silly. But that isn’t because we took down the Hydra.”
I saw Darkness smile for the first time in many days.
“I learned once again how much I like the people in town. Thanks to them, I found my way again. There’s nothing to be afraid of, nothing to regret.”
“You say some really embarrassing things sometimes.”
Darkness elbowed my side a little angrily after I teased her. And then…
“I’m really blessed.”
She openly said something embarrassing again.
“Really, show more reverence to me! Say that you’re very grateful to Aqua-sama for granting you a new life, compliment me more!”
“Hey Kazuma! I’m thankful for being revived, but the priestess from your party’s really annoying!”