I Work As A Healer In Another World’s Labyrinth City - Chapter 34
Deep Into the Forest.
Flanked by knights, we advance into the center of the forest. Progress has been fairly safe so far. The monsters around these parts don't seem to pose much of a challenge to a knight, and the wizards in the back make short work of them as we march on.
There are a few times when small monsters like slimes slip past the knights' notice, but they can't escape Yuel's sharpened senses and she skewers them with a knife. Ever since we entered the forest, Yuel has stuck close to me, and her ears twitch as she constantly monitors our surroundings. As if she's trying to pinpoint any lurking monsters' locations from the slightest movement or sound. We're safe. No problems.
「Fireba...ahh! Curses...! I almost had it!」
If only this slightly irritable blonde twin-drills weren't next to me, or rather next to Yuel. The blondie, Fran, has been recklessly itching for battle ever since we entered the forest. Seems like she can't wait to slaughter some monsters.
Oh yeah, before we entered the forest, Ruruka was saying something about Fran getting driven out of her house and wanting to stack up achievements in order to return home. She's likely trying to make a name for herself as a prominent magic user even among the knights in the hope that word will get back to the lord. Too bad, but the knights are taking out the monsters before Fran can even finish her chants.
However, how do I say this, personally I find this girl really hard to deal with. There's a precariousness to her, like you can't be sure a magic attack won't come flying at you. Like if you happened to touch her bare skin, your nether region would be reduced to cinders. Now matter how good I am at healing magic, something like that is no joke.
I wish this unstable girl's guardians would keep a tighter leash on her, but right now it looks like Ruruka and Sera are busy deliberating with a male knight over a map. No doubt they're discussing which direction we should go from here.
Also, I don't appreciate the way that Fran is greedily leering at Yuel every time she dispatches a monster. Yuel seems to have captured her interest in some way, but-
「Come now, Yuel, won't you consider joining our party?」
...I really don't appreciate her trying to poach a slave right under her master's nose, either. Although the same thing happened with Ruruka before.
「U-Um, I want to stay together with Master, so.」
「It's unthinkable. You may be fine at the moment, but for a man to procure a female slave, he must surely have wicked intentions. In fact, just now he was eyeing Ruruka and Sera with a most lecherous gaze.」
Nor do I appreciate her unabashedly bad-mouthing me in front of my face. I most certainly was not looking at them like a total lech. I was just glancing at their chests a teensy-weensy bit, that's all.
「M-Master is not that kind of person!」
「...Well, I shall leave it at that. Nevertheless, Ruruka can be rather careless at times, so having a vigilant vanguard such as yourself would be quite reassuring. If anything were to happen, I shall take you under my care, so you are welcome anytime, alright?」
In other words, if I were thinking about selling Yuel? Maybe I would consider it if Yuel told me she wanted to leave me of her own will, but I'm being cautious to avoid it ever coming to that. So I won't be selling her in the first place.
Then, with a single word, Yuel turns back around and starts restlessly moving her ears. She seems to be monitoring our surroundings again. For Yuel it's quite the curt attitude, but she might want to remain vigilant. We don't know where monsters might show up within the forest, after all.
When Yuel cuts off the conversation, Fran turns her glare my way next. I wish she'd cut it out already. As Yuel's master I shouldn't respond immaturely, but I won't be satisfied unless I retort.
「Oi oi, give it a rest. You've sure been running your damn mouth. As for Yuel, I have no intention of doing such things to...」
-And, the instant I mention that.
Yuel, who was monitoring our surroundings with a knife raised, whips her head around.
Then, completely dropping her guard, she stares at me dumbfounded.
Yuel is watching me.
「W-When I say I have no intention of doing such things... it's not like I wouldn't ever? M-Maybe in the future, though?」
At my reassurance, Yuel looks relieved and returns to monitoring our surroundings.
And Fran's face distorts as if she's about to say ’’uwahh’’.
「See, I knew it, I knew it had to be like that! Filthy!」
Of course the abuse comes flying. But I couldn't help it. I couldn't betray that look in Yuel's eyes just now. Even just suggesting that I don't intend to get involved with her made her anxious enough to stop her lookout, so I don't know what would happen to her if I confirmed it.
「What's more, you may not be aware of this, but I am the daughter of the lord of this city. A man like you shouldn't even be speaking to... oooh.」
Fran continues to scorn me. Honestly, if some guy said ’’I'm gonna put my hands on this kid once she's older’’ then naturally he'd be condemned. Even I would denounce him.
But then Fran unexpectedly stops her abuse.
Because Ruruka and Sera have returned.
Sera bops Fran on the head.
「I let you out of my sight for one second and you pick a quarrel with a man. Goodness, Fran, what am I going to do with you...」
With a hint of anger in her voice, Sera admonishes Fran. With experienced motions, she grinds her fists into Fran's temples.
「That hurts! That hurts, I say! Wait, Sera, just listen to-!」
「Hey, how did the atmosphere get so serious in the short time we were gone? Let's all try to get along better, okay?」
Ruruka comes to mediate as well.
But I don't say anything to Ruruka about the fact that Fran was scolding me for saying I would put my hands on Yuel. Please just ignore that.
After that we proceed a bit deeper into the forest, when suddenly there's a cold sensation on the tip of my nose. I try touching it, and it feels damp. It's rain.
「Huh, is that rain?」
「It does seem that rain has started to fall. The weather has taken a turn for the worse since before we entered the forest.」
Looks like Ruruka and Sera have noticed it too.
「Well then, should we take a break and wait for it to let up?」
It's around the late afternoon. About 3 or 4 o'clock, roughly. We've taken a number of breaks so far, but seems like it's not gonna be possible to get the subjugation done in a single day.
「Mmm, it probably won't anytime soon, according to the knight I was just talking to.」
「Shiki-san, this is something I just heard from the knights, but the Krankheit Turtle supposedly loves water. It usually makes its dwelling along the river, but it's been known to migrate elsewhere during periods of heavy rainfall. We should probably hurry.」
As I thought, their conversation with the knight earlier was about the Krankheit Turtle's whereabouts. It migrates during rainfall, huh? As expected for a monster with Turtle in the name, its ecology must be similar to a tortoise's.
「Following the river upstream on this map, there's a good chance that it will be somewhere around here. We're less than an hour away, so we might be able to subjugate it before it moves.」
Sera takes out a map and comes to show us.
「Besides, I think the subjugation will be easier when it's raining. Y'see, the rain will weaken the poison mist.」
Ruruka has a fitting perspective for an adventurer.
Is Fran sulking? Having distanced herself from Sera and Ruruka, she's currently prodding Yuel's ears and fiddling with her hair. She's being a real nuisance. I can only see the back of Yuel's head from here, but I can easily imagine the dissatisfied expression she must be making. I wish Fran would stop.
The rainfall is getting more intense. All of a sudden, the knights halt their march.
「Just now, we received a report that one of our scouts has discovered the Krankheit Turtle. It's reportedly dead ahead along the riverbank, in a small clearing. We will now conduct a brief strategy meeting. Everyone, assemble!」
One of the knights issues instructions.
The Krankheit Turtle is in a clearing along the riverbank. It's lying in a nest-like structure that it built right next to the river.
Its appearance is that of a tortoise with a somewhat distinctive shell.
But it has a fiendish, monstrous face, and its body length is close to 5m. It's probably bigger than the Huge Slime.
There are a number of spiny protuberances along the shell, with holes at their tips. Those holes are...
At which point the Krankheit Turtle looks in our direction. It must have noticed us approaching. Perhaps because the knights' armor was making noise? Should've gone with bikini armor.
As soon as the knights fan out, the Krankheit Turtle spouts fog from the holes in its shell. That must be the poison mist.
It's coming out with a lot of force. But the rain is obviously erasing it significantly. Visibility is poor, but it's not like we can't see.
「Alright, I'm counting on you to counteract it.」
Ruruka calls out to me as well, then plunges into the mist.
My job is to counteract the poison by treating Yuel, Ruruka's party, and the few other knights assigned to me.
The Krankheit Turtle's poison is slow-acting. However, if you approach it within melee range, it apparently takes effect in less than a minute. That's why the healers were each assigned a group and instructed to periodically cleanse the poison to ward against its effects. I move close enough to avoid missing, and cast Heal and Dis-Poison on the knights and Ruruka's party.
Yuel doesn't leave my side. Well, she probably understands that her tiny knives won't do anything against that giant body. Or maybe she prefers to be my personal bodyguard.
The attacks from the Krankheit Turtle that we need to be cautious of are supposedly a charge attack and its bite. Its movements aren't particularly fast, but it seems incomparably heavier than the Huge Slime. It wouldn't be possible to stop its charge. As for its bite, I'm not at the front lines so that's none of my concern.
The details of our strategic plan are straightforward.
The Krankheit Turtle's charge isn't fast but it can't be stopped. So, the tanks attract its attention, the rear guard encircle it and barrage it with magic attacks and the healers periodically cleanse poison and treat the injured. With this many healers, it probably won't be that difficult to handle the monster. That poison mist is the main concern.
Actually, the knights on the front line aren't getting injured. They skillfully avoid its attacks and draw aggro by slicing it with their swords. The knights' movements are quick, but more importantly the Krankheit Turtle's movements are slow. Maybe that slowness is precisely why it evolved to use poison to weaken its prey.
At the strategy meeting, I was only told to avoid its charge at all costs, and to dodge away from other people, but so far it hasn't given any indication that it's ever even going to charge. Rather, the Krankheit Turtle doesn't look like it's even attacking all that much. It's remaining fixed in place, as if it's just trying to endure.
I easily deal with the poison using Area Dis-Poison as magic comes flying at the Krankheit Turtle from the rear guard. Sera also fires her bow at its exposed sections outside the shell. And Fran's magic... hasn't gone off. She's reciting some sort of extremely long chant.
I'm surprised at how smoothly this is going. The Krankheit Turtle has gotten all beat up without offering much resistance. It should go down easily.
In a few minutes, the Krankheit Turtle won't be able to move at all. As if it's just trying to endure, it's steadily huddling in that one spot. Such one-sided torment doesn't really sit well with me, but it can't be helped. This monster is harmful. Just by being here, it's driven the monsters in the forest out onto the highways and closer to the town, not to mention there's the possibility of it approaching the town itself. If that were to happen the consequences would be dire. Right now, with only the knights here, we have enough healers to outpace the poison, but if the Krankheit Turtle got near the town with all of its residents... the treatment couldn't keep up. It would surely become a catastrophe.
Wherever the cures fall behind, I expand the range of Area Dis-Poison to cover any gaps.
But man, tortoises sure are sturdy. It's not going down easily. I think it's only a matter of time though.
-In the middle of all that.
Fran, who has been reciting some sort of long chant ever since the battle began, approaches the knights. Then, she whips her cane into the air.
「W-Wait, step back! Everybody fall back!」
When Ruruka sees that, she urges the knights to evacuate. I have a bad feeling about this. Perhaps sharing my apprehension, the knights distance themselves from the Krankheit Turtle as well.
「I shall put an end to this! Thunder Rain!!」
There's a flash, followed by a thunderous roar.
For a moment, my eyes are dazzled.
When my vision returns, smoke is rising from the Krankheit Turtle. And, for a few meters surrounding it, the ground is burnt pitch-black.
「...Fu, fufu. Do you recognize my greatness now, I wonder?」
Fran mutters to nobody in particular. That must have used a considerable amount of magical power though;she seems lightheaded.
But man, that spell just now was amazing. I bet it'd be powerful enough to evaporate the Huge Slime in a single hit.
It's over. That was unexpectedly quick. The mist disperses from around the Krankheit Turtle. One last poison cure, and my job here will be done.
「Master, not yet.」
At the same time Yuel mutters.
There's a resounding roar.
With black smoke rising from its giant body, the Krankheit Turtle stands up. Even that spell didn't finish it off.
Ignoring the nearby tanks, the Krankheit Turtle locks its gaze onto Fran and plunges straight towards her. I thought it was defeated. Evidently the knights thought the same, as even they are surprised.
「Rear guard, fall back! Evade it!」
One of the knights promptly slashes at its legs. However, it doesn't stop.
One of the knights stabs its head with a sword. Even then, its direction doesn't change.
It steadily closes in on Fran. There's something almost vindictive about it.
As for Fran... she's fallen on her butt. Maybe due to the sudden roar she received while she was lightheaded. Or perhaps she just can't move from expending too much magical power on that spell just now.
Because I'm the one in charge of curing Fran's poison, I'm the closest to her. And the Krankheit Turtle is still far enough away.
「Don't get mad.」
I lift Fran into my arms and distance myself from the Krankheit Turtle.
I was surprised at its sudden charge, but tortoises are slow after all. I run to an area free from bystanders while carrying Fran. She's unexpectedly light, maybe because her chest doesn't have much weight on it? It's a little heavier than Yuel's, I guess. Even though I'm running while carrying her, I manage to avoid the charge. I'm a little worried that the ground is so slippery from all the rain, though.
「Master, here it comes!」
Or so I thought, but it seems to have adjusted its direction. The knights are trying to somehow put an end to it by repeatedly attacking it, but it still doesn't go down. Perhaps thanks to the knights' attacks, the Krankheit Turtle's speed is falling compared to the initial charge, but it would still be better to create a bit more distance.
But man, why did it suddenly charge like that? Even though before that point it was huddled up and couldn't move very well.
-When I quickly glance at the place where the Krankheit turtle used to be, there's something burnt sitting there.
Something blackened, cracked, and round.
It's- an egg?
Was the Krankheit Turtle protecting that? And that's why it couldn't move? That last area-of-effect spell from Fran must have broken it.
But it seems the Krankheit Turtle is at the limits of its endurance, too. As a knight delivers one final sword stab to the head, it shudders with a jerk, and its movements become dull.
Then, the Krankheit Turtle falls to the ground with a huge, thudding impact. It's not moving anymore.
This time, it looks like we finally won.
「...Hey, w-wait, let go of me! Where are you touching!?」
Fran seems to become aware of me again, and blushes furiously as she starts to struggle.
「Look, I'm setting you down now, so don't struggle.」
-At that moment, I hear an awful snapping noise.
Looking towards the sound, countless cracks are running through the ground below me.
A few meters away, Yuel cries out.
I didn't notice.
While I was avoiding the Krankheit Turtle's charge, and carrying Fran to a vacant area, I ended up coming right up to the edge of the river.
Originating from the Krankheit Turtle's corpse, countless cracks - no, fissures - are spreading in all directions. The ground at my feet is about to slide into the river.
Due to the downpour, the soil is loose and the river is high. When the Krankheit Turtle fell, it sent out a huge shockwave.
The color quickly drains from my face. By reflex, I fling Fran in the opposite direction of the river.
My foothold slides away, and I fall towards the river.
Yuel and the knights come rushing over, but they don't make it in time.