64: Hot spring without mixed bathing


We entered the hot spring after we had finished the meal.
Of course, there's no mixed bathing.
The men went in first because the women will stay longer.


It is an outdoor bath above the clouds.
You can see the ground through the gaps between the clouds.
Above is a starry sky that I've never seen before.
The hot spring is larger than a swimming pool, probably for the dragon to get in. My feet won't reach the bottom at its deepest part.
It would be the greatest, if the three girls would be here with me instead of us four men.

However, it was exceptional enough, to enter a hot spring while looking at such a magnificent scenery.
Then a strange voice rang out and Tilt came running toward the bathtub. He has the slender body of a youth, but he is also well equipped with muscles.
"Yippee--!"
With a *zabaan*, a column of hot water rises.

Dark, who is hit by the splashing water, that is dulling his glasses, pushes Tilt's head underwater.
"*Gulp*, *Gurgle*! What are you doing, Dark!"
"Playing in the bathtub is a breach of etiquette."
"Shut up! The dragon said that I could swim!"
"What you're doing is far from that"


I speak to them.
"I already thought so during the time in the dungeon, but you two are quite close, huh."
"Just where" "No way!"
Dark and Tilt shouted in a chorus.
Just from that alone you can infer, how good their relationship is.

Leo talks to me. I thought of him as a slender youth, but his chest is surprisingly sturdy. His body is toned like steel.
"Keika-san, you're going to the west after this, right?"
"Yeah, to find the saint and safeguard her."
"And we are looking for the eggs. Is there something particular that you want us to look for?"
"Can you find out the whereabouts of the Four Heavenly Kings from your demon friends? Then I'll go and defeat them."


Leo looked at Tilt.
Tilt hangs his head with a gloomy face.
"One is at the World Tree"
"So that's how it was. Then--"

Tilt shakes his head.
"You mustn't go there. Neither magic nor physical attacks work. Neither you nor the girl can defeat him."
"Heh. Was he strengthened with some kind of physical nullification?"

"Probably. Barrier Muuk is a monster that was created through the Demon Lord's research... he's an extremely sick guy who lets everyone who challenges him first attack three times. And after he easily receives the attacks, he tortures them to death."


"Then won't poison or gas be effective?"

"We elves aren't stupid. We tried every method. Poison, paralysis, sleeping pills, drugs, fire, earth, thunder, freezing. He even endured the hell fire of the Spirit King. No matter what we did, nothing worked. I doubt that even the Demon Lord or a hero could defeat him."
"Heh... there seems to be no way to win when fighting upfront, huh"
I have some things in my mind, but disregard them for now.


"We can still worry about that later on. So, let's look for the other eggs instead."
"Other than the ones that Lapisia, the saint and those two of the Four Heavenly Kings have, where could they be?"
"Greyhades might have had one. Although I heard from my friends among the demons that he died."

"Ah, he didn't have an egg when I killed him."
"Eh!? Keika-san, you even killed Greyhades...!"
"But I didn't know of the eggs at that time, so I didn't really look for it. Maybe it's still somewhere in the great forest at the northern border. Your friends might be able to tell you whether the Demon Lord's army recovered it or not."

Leo brushes his wet, blue hair upwards.
"Yes. And I'll try to find it if they haven't taken it back yet. Otherwise I'll look for the other eggs. Should I report to you if I find one?"
"Please do so. It might become troublesome if you got too much attention and your identity leaked out."

--Well, I also won't be able to sell my name and gather believers if Leo does too much. That's the main reason.
But there's no way I could say such a personal motive.
Of course, it's also true that he might get in trouble if his identity would get exposed.

Leo, who doesn't know of my inner thoughts sincerely lowers his head.
"Thank you.--Where should I report to if I find something?"
"Either to Kynmerick's inn at the capital or to the village to the north of the capital. You can also leave a message with the Naga of the high speed transportation if you're in the south."
"Understood."


After that, we left the hot spring and switched with the female group.
I glimpsed at them with "Clairvoyance" as they leisurely stretched out their arms and legs, exposing their nude bodies under the starry sky.
Although all of them are slender, Celica has the most prominent curves in direct comparison. Especially around her chest.

Minya speaks while she lunges at Celica's breasts.
"What do I have to do... to make them this big?"
"Eh!? ...I don't know"
Minya rubs her own, gently sloping chest.
"I want them to be big... because Keika-oniichan, likes big breasts"
--I want to think that this is not the case.

"You are cute enough just as you are"
"Hm..."
Celica stroked Minya's head. It seemed to feel pleasant as Minya purred.
Lapisia is swimming in the deeper part with flutter kicks.
She looks like she enjoys it.


There seemed to be no danger, so I stopped watching them and wanted to go to bed.
But the dragon spoke to me.
"Keika, can I ask you, how you broke through the dungeon?"
"Ah--, sure..."
I talked about everything from the first to the 15th floor.

The dragon sighs.
"So there was such a way. Even though I painstakingly prepared the ship."
"The idea was good. But it was bad that you put the floor with the snake first."
"I see. ...I should have polished it more. Because it'll be difficult to get the same monsters, I have to come up with new ideas now."
"Is that so."

"Lower and middle-tier monsters can be bought with money or summoned with magic, but I have to catch high level monsters myself."
"That's quite arduous. Can you make a floor that provides instant death when entered?"
"You'll lose your qualification as Dungeon Master if you make an impenetrable dungeon. You won't be able to use the convenient abilities entrusted by the gods."


Suddenly I remembered the Tower of Trials and asked about it, because it somehow gave off the same feeling.
"Is the Demon Lord also a Dungeon Master?"
"No. It's something that can only be bestowed by the gods. And the registration examination is quite strict."
"I see. Because I thought that the Tower of Trials was under the patronage of the Demon Lord."
"The Tower of Trials should have been registered as a property of the Vanus Church."
"Is that so. The upper echelon really might be undermined-- it shouldn't have been impossible to conquer, if they had acted on behalf of a god."

"I guess so. It should only be wicked enough to not let the people act rashly, but we can't really make evil things on a Demon Lord's level. It's an art to us. We are also holding dungeon contests every ten years to compete with our skills."
"I see. So that dungeon was for the contest, huh. Well, I have some ideas. They involve puzzles and simultaneous battles. Also submerging and other stuff"
"Can you give me an example?"

"How about something like this?"
You have to press buttons in separate rooms at the same time but when the buttons are pressed, the doors close and strong monsters appear. Especially for a party of two, it'll be a really hard fight and certain death if one of them is left behind.


The dragon's eyes lit up when I gave several ideas.
"Oh, that's interesting! Let me do this-- I'll work all night!"
"That's fine with me, but please take us to the border tomorrow."
"I know. You don't have to worry, I can do without sleep for about a year."

The dragon went somewhere else.
She probably went to mess with the dungeon core. I don't know how the dungeons in this world are created though.


After that, I lied down and closed my eyes.
From tomorrow on I'll look for the saint.
I'll quickly safeguard her and then return to the village.
And then I should start to gather believers in earnest.
I'd like to build a foothold in the country to the west while I'm at it.
While I was thinking that, Celica and the others returned and slept next to me.

======

The next day, we mounted the dragon and flew to the western border.
She quickly returned back to the mountain. It seems that she is eager to make the dungeon.

We headed to the checkpoint that was along the way. Next to the large gate were two buildings.
One was the soldier's dormitory and the other was a place to pay taxes.

Soldiers, who checked whether there are goods to declare, were standing at the side of the road and calculated taxes and fees.
This road is the largest trade route and an important source of income to the countries, so they are looking into it quite diligently.
Also, the country's permission is required if you wanted to import a large amount of goods. Otherwise the goods will be confiscated.


--But, this is irrelevant to heroes.
I pass the gate while showing my "Proof of Hero". The other person is a young soldier with some remaining acne.
"I'm Keika, the hero of the Daphnes Kingdom. Let me pass through."
"Eh!? Hero-sama? Please wait a moment...uh, yes. It's genuine! The three women are your party members... do you have other luggage?"
"No, this is all."

"Is that so, then please go through-- welcome to the Fabrica Kingdom."
"Thank you. By the way, heroes don't have to pay any tolls up to one carriage, right?"
"Yes, that's correct. You can freely go in and out, and you can stay as long as you want.
"So that's how it was. Thank you."

--Demons or the Demon Lord might be able to escape, if you had to apply for crossing the border each time. The preferential treatment was made for that.
The preferential treatment seems trivial, but you could make a fortune just by fully loading a carriage with spices.
It's a preferential treatment that merchants would give their hands for.
I won't do it because it's troublesome.


I asked.
"Oh, right. Did you see a woman who wears a white habit and is known as the saint? She's amazingly beautiful."
"Eh... no... why do you ask?"
The soldier suddenly averted his gaze.
--He definitely knows something.

I took out the "Proof of Hero" again and put my arm around his shoulder.
I whisper to him.
"It doesn't have anything to do with me if you are accepting bribes and let people pass without permission. But the saint is targeted by the Demon Lord and needs protection as soon as possible. Should you know something and hide it, I'll have to dispose of you as an underling of the Demon Lord. ...Do you get it? Then, speak."

"Ah, yes. Hero-sama. The woman you are looking for has passed through here five days ago."
That was about the time we started our dungeon exploration.

"Did she say where she went?"
"No, not particularly... ah, but she asked where she can buy equipment to cross the desert. I told her about the town that is three days to the northwest."

"Is that so. Thanks for the info"
"So, will I be punished?... Please help that woman if she's chased by bad people. I've been given money to not tell anyone..."

"No, my priority is only the protection of the saint. There's no problem."
"Thank you very much. It is a privilege to be of help to you."
The soldier had a pale face and was soaked in cold sweat.
I heard everything I wanted to know, so I tapped his shoulder and released him.


I look back and speak.
"We'll head to the town in the northwest. I'd like to catch up to her before she crosses the desert, so we'll hurry a little. Are you okay with that, Celica, Minya?"
"Yes, the town in the northwest is Fores, isn't it. Let's go"
"I'm okay."
Minya nods while she carries lots of food and materials. The special bag was about three times as large as usual.

It looked like I'd somehow abuse her, but when I asked her whether I should carry something as well, she declined, saying 'This is my job'.
She doesn't seem to have any problems because Beastfolks are stronger by nature, so I leave it as is.

Then we left the crowded checkpoint and headed northwest.