Chapter 23 – The Great Tree’s Drops
The water in the spring just below the great tree is so cold it feels like it pierces your skin…
but once you jump in, you realize it’s so cold you feel like you’re dying! Now, where was that cave in the side of this thing…
The gap from the edge of the spring to the Great Tree in the center was about 10 meters. I reached the Great Tree in no time, and dove down to the roots after holding my breath. The expanse of rock on the wall sparkled in the light. It was lovely, as if small specks of gold were embedded into it, but I didn’t have time to get into that now. Almost immediately, I noticed a gaping cavity just below the great tree.
I see, so is that the place?
The time it took me to find it and proceed inside was maybe thirty or forty seconds. Just as the Shop Fairy had said, it was very narrow, and it seemed impossible for two adults to pass through it side by side. After a short distance, the passage gave way to a slightly wider space. Since there was light shining from the surface of the water, this was probably the exit.
It was much easier to get here than I’d expected. I surfaced in the cave and took a moment to catch my breath. “That was painful…” I sighed. This place had the same limestone rock as a dungeon, and it made a good foothold. When I crawled out of the water, I found the great tree’s drops right in front of me, just as Pino said.
A vine with golden leaves grew from the ceiling, suspending a rock which had become the vessel. It looks like the drops have been accumulating here for quite some time. Its rarity is extremely obvious just from looking at how it gently glows.
“Thank goodness… Now we can lift Ren’s curse.”
I slowly approached the Great Tree’s Drops. All I had to do was collect some carefully, seal the bottle tightly, and put it back in my pocket, and we’d have successfully gathered all of the ingredients for the curse-cleansing potion.
Then I felt an impact when I thought such a thing.
Something missed, followed by another four impacts. No one would have been watching for an attack under these circumstances. My shield had quickly been destroyed by a flurry of surprise attacks. If I took any more hits, I’d be helpless.
I put my Shield back up reflexively, and looked for what was attacking me. It must be a strong monster which I can’t avoid with my evasion, and that could avoid Ruri’s search―
I couldn’t have been more shocked to see who it actually was.
“You… Shop Fairy? Why…”
She probably came through the spring, in the same path I did. She was soaking wet, and squeezing water out of her robe.
“Well well, I was waiting for an opportunity to find you alone.”
“Me…? So you said the inside of this spring was narrow just so I’d come here alone?”
Certainly, the path itself was very narrow, but the endpoint, this place, was more than sufficient for several people to fit. At my question, the Shop Fairy pursed her lips in a frown. Apparently that was exactly right, and I felt a chill run down my spine.
Does that mean she was monitoring me this whole time, and that’s why I kept running into her…?
I thought before that the Shop Fairy wasn’t that strong, but it was clear I’d have to change that perception. Just in case, I used Regeneration on myself and slipped the bottle back into my pocket. I didn’t have the ability to fight back, but even so, I don’t think it’s possible to slip past her and get away through the spring.
“You’re the commander of your little party of four, aren’t you? [Accuracy Enhancement]! [Physical Strength Enhancement]! [Attack Power Enhancement]!”
“What the ― strengthening skills!?”
I thought she’d use something like spatial-type skills, but apparently that wasn’t the case. The Shop Fairy took out a knife and started slashing.
“Damn it, [Shield]!”
“Now, now, that’s useless! I can break that shield again and again!”
“Why me?! There’s no reason for you to try to kill me!!”
The only guy who’s after me is the king who summoned me. But when I think about the way the Shop Fairy is talking ― Lusha, Ren and Ruri were also her targets. If Ren and Ruri are being targeted, the king can’t possibly be behind this.
I started racking my brains to think of a strategy against the unimaginable attack power coming from such a pretty-looking Shop Fairy. I put up a Shield, but I have no experience at all in personal combat. Finally, the Shop Fairy’s attacks broke through the Shield’s defensive layers, cutting my arms and flank.
“Damn it… [Shield]…” I was breathing hard.
“My, my, I was wondering what I needed to do to you because you had such great evasion, but even this much attack power will be enough to mortally wound you.”
The Regeneration gradually worked to heal my injury. The Shop Fairy just looked at me calmly, knife at the ready. It was easy to guess it was a rare weapon because it emitted a brilliant glow when I actually looked at it.
“You put up a Shield before Healing! I think that’s a very good decision! Most Healers choose to recover themselves first.”
“…I guess. [Heal].”
“Not many healers face me alone. Usually, they try to escape somehow.”
It’s certainly better to escape, if possible, but the exit is behind the Shop Fairy. It’s entirely possible that I can only escape by rushing and jumping into the spring as fast as possible. I don’t know what will happen, but I’ll have to take a chance. I can repeat Shield and Heal for a while, but the Shop Fairy seems to have a lot of rare equipment.
To be honest, I don’t want to be involved in a long, drawn-out fight, and I doubt I’ll have the strength to keep going for very long. If I had more evasion, I could have avoided it…
I threw caution to the wind and rushed toward the Shop Fairy. If things go well, I’d be able to jump into the spring and run away. However, reality wasn’t so kind.
“My, my! [Space Barrier]!”
I crashed face-first into a transparent wall before I could reach the exit to the spring. Damn it, this is ridiculous! Why do you have such a bullshit skill!
“For a Healer, I think you’ve fought pretty well, haven’t you?”
The Shop Fairy came over to me, crouched down, and put the knife blade against my cheek. She told me exactly why she had attacked me.
“Hey, if you came here to kill His Majesty the Demon King, I won’t forgive you.”
The phrase ‘Demon King’ convinced me. It’s true that we were originally summoned to defeat the Demon King, so it’s not surprising that the demon side would be on the lookout for us. I scolded myself for not thinking about that possibility at all until now.
The human king is a terrible person, so the demon king could easily be a good guy ― and there were one or two moments where I idly thought about that before.
“Wait, it’s a misunderstanding!!”
“It’s true that you seem like a nice guy, but I won’t allow anyone to go after His Majesty!!” She said forcefully, as she slashed at me five to seven times. The shield was quickly torn through, and a line of blood flowed from my cheek. She raised her knife high, as if about to give me the final blow.
“I won’t allow the hero’s party…!”
“Wha…!? Silence is a high-level skill that can only be acquired by a Priest! Weren’t you supposed to be a Healer?!”
I panted from exertion. “[Shield], [Heal]… Sure, I didn’t say I was a Priest… not even to the human king. I don’t know where you got your information from, but shouldn’t we talk this out first?
The Shop Fairy seemed to be considering what I said carefully. I couldn’t see her expression behind that hood, but her head was moving a little, so she wasn’t just doing nothing.
“You… aren’t trying to go after His Majesty the Demon King?”
I answered immediately, “I’d rather be his ally!!”