The heroes of old had a lovely partner with them. This person was always female regardless of the hero’s gender.
The Saintess. An insurance, guardian angel for the tender-hearted hero. She possessed the outrageous ability to resurrect the dead, so that the hero wouldn’t suffer or feel self-reproach at the death of a companion.
Only, she wasn’t capable of resurrecting herself.
Her Level was extremely low, as becoming of a rear support member. This couldn’t be helped as supportive jobs either had no combat Skills, or they were nothing much to mention, and so they had abysmally few opportunities to defeat enemies and gain EXP. In exchange, they had a special system going for them.
A Saintess, or healers, would receive power(EXP) in return for curing patients of injuries, illnesses and so on. Regardless of their own will, they would absorb EXP from their patients. Patients would lose greater EXP in proportion to their level and severity of their wound; thus, if you fought recklessly, only believing in a healer’s capability, then you would go through the preposterous experience of having your Level dropped instead.
But what if a patient was Level 1, though?
Level 0 equaled death.
The pure-white radiance emitted from Saintess A’s hand, the blessing of healing, quickly permeated the Level 318 mermaid princess’ body.
The first thing Aqua did was cough after waking from the brink of death. Even though her internal organs had been utterly wrecked by my deadly venom, she recovered instantly at the price of her Level.
Lying down on a bed in the inn, she had lifted her torso up with a jerk upon seeing me only to end up collapsing again. No matter how omnipotent fantasy healing arts were, they weren’t so game-like as to make a person who’d just come back to life as good as new. She had no choice but to drag her feet around for a while from the sequela.
There were five people in this room; me, Sieg, Lanuvel, Saintess A, and Aqua. I could easily deal with Saintess A with the slightest touch of my hand—only, there would be too much I’d have to put up with afterwards.
Sieg was extremely attached to Saintess A.
“Yes, Sir Hero?”
“Yes. Please speak, Sir Sieg.”
“Lady Saintess said my name…! Uheheheh!”
“E-excuse me…? Are you okay…?”
Sieg had gone completely bonkers. I should have noticed when I saw the saintess character drawn that guy’s smart phone case, but it seemed he was delusional or obsessed towards the Saintess job. Did they call that a fetish?
It wasn’t like I completely couldn’t understand that feeling.
Saintess A was, objectively speaking, a beautiful person. Hair creamy white like the milk of a benevolent mother, skin pearly without a single impurity and glowing yellow with a slight flush. The features of her small, oval-shaped face that gave off a sense of intelligence, and her outrageous cola-shaped body was extremely advantageous in propaganda activities.
She was a beauty among beauties, and that she couldn’t age was a bonus.
“I am very much okay! Lady Saintess! Can’t you call my name just once more? Please!”
“… Sir Sieg.”
If some grandma with pruny wrinkles had happened to be the Saintess, then Sieg wouldn’t have gone so wild with excitement. In any case… that queer laughter of his was starting to get on my nerves. And it wasn’t like I could kill him because of that.
“Just what crime did I commit in my previous life to deserve…”
He was abnormal no matter how you looked at him, and yet Professor Morals called Sieg an excellent model student. Did I have to follow his example in order to escape from this barbaric world? Merely imagining it gave me the chills.
‘The hurdle’s way too high, isn’t it?’
The problematic Saintess A turned to me to speak.
“Sir Hero. Can you explain why you attacked Aqua?”
“Uh… Mm… I might be lacking in understanding, but has Aqua committed some evil?”
“No. She’s a hostage for the sake of peace.”
The mermaid queen dearly cherished Aqua. By capturing that daughter of hers and threatening to torture or profane her corpse, then the queen would inevitably be shaken.
There was a large army 30,000 strong surrounding this lake. It didn’t matter if matters went off course and turned into a war of attrition. We just had to solve the issue of the drought by diverting the huge water flow blocked by the dykes towards the kingdom, and that would be it.
“And what will the mermaids do then?” Saintess A inquired with a frown after listening to my entire plan.
“What about them?”
“The lake’s water will decrease.”
“They won’t die because of it. They’ll only be a little stifled from having their home down-sized. But many people will die if crops fail to yield this year in the kingdom.”
It was sad enough to have worked for free, so it would be troubling to have my reputation fall as well. So troubling, that I just might immediately set off to take the Demon King’s head.
“You can solve the matter with words instead of taking a hostage, can’t you?”
“I intended on talking with the upper hand after catching the hostage.”
Mermaids weren’t citizens of the kingdom. They neither paid tax, nor assisted in national defense. Against these outlaws, I had an obligation and responsibility to achieve a trade that was advantageous towards the kingdom—even if I was working for free!
Saintess A heaved a sigh as she refuted, “The negotiations might become more difficult because of the hostage, right?”
Hero Aqua, who had inherited the blood of a hero, was the only mermaid capable of moving on land without much restriction. Her value was extremely high, even as the most beloved daughter of the mermaid queen. In short, if Aqua was overpowered and the dyke was built, then the Lake of Sad Songs’ freshwater mermaids absolutely had no choice but to surrender. After this, we would be able to procure water peacefully.
“Th-that is as you say, but… Mm…”
Knowing well the circumstances of the mermaids, Saintess A was lost for words.
“Lady Saintess’ argument is in the right from how I see it!” Sieg interjected.
“Why don’t you say why you think so.”
“A righteous hero taking an innocent princess hostage and threatening her, it’s strange no matter how you think about it! That’s something the Demon King would do!”
… Demon King Pedonar using a hostage to make a threat?
That Demon King wasn’t so weak as to have to use such a wretched method. He wasn’t weak, but instead so strong that he brimmed with composure and mercy. He was likely romancing the Elf Queen even at this very moment.
“Sieg. Try saying those very same words before the people numbering ten thousands who are on the verge of dying due to failed crops. I’ll ready a stage for you.”
“Th-that’s a bit…”
“Put a sock in it if you can’t, instead of interrupting like a fool.”
After silencing Sieg, I turned to look at Saintess A.
“Going back to the start, the situation will come to a close within five days of the dyke’s completion. Whether the mermaid queen compromises or desires war, the kingdom’s victory is a fact set in stone. It’ll be fine if only you don’t interfere in this plan, Lady Saintess.”
Saintess A was the representative of the Holy Kingdom, and an army 10,000 strong was on standby near the lake. Things would become complicated if this matter grew to a national scale.
“Is there really no other way?”
“Maybe if somebody discovered some miracle that makes it rain cats and dogs.”
There were none as far as I knew.
“There is,” Aqua interrupted, glaring at me.
“There is? Really?”
“A gigantic catfish lives at the bottom of the lake. We call it the Guardian Deity Ullullu.”
Guardian Deity Ullullu. A being which had been living in this lake before the mermaids settled here. It was said rain would fall if Ullullu cried; however, it was sealed away due to its extremely violent nature, kept in slumber for over 500 years by the mermaids who took turns everyday to sing lullabies…
“It’s the first time I’m hearing this. Lanuvel, do you know?”
Then it was highly possible that lies were mixed in this story and that it was a trap. I also hadn’t heard of it in the 1st Playthrough.
“Sir heroes, we’ve found a way for this to end with everyone laughing. Although the scale of the rain is unknown, you should be able to overcome the drought if even half of the legend is true. And if you subjugate Ullullu, the mermaids of the lake will no longer have to worry about it as well.”
Satiness A quickly summed up the situation.
“Hansoo! As Lady Saintess says, I think this is for the best? Everything will be solved if that one catfish called Ullullu is taken down!”
Sieg, who had been watching out for my mood, spoke up supporting Saintess A’s idea.
After careful contemplation, I asked, “The chances of success?”
I refused to see a repeat of the Oblivion Dragon King incident. Since they said it was born a catfish and so wouldn’t be able to leave the lake, the Five Disasters had even leaped over such species-related limitations—they weren’t called disasters for nothing.
“Truthfully speaking, it’s hopeless,” Aqua declared, having raised her torso up with difficulty. If this longest-term resident could have been defeated by the mermaids’ power, then they wouldn’t have sung lullabies for 500 years without missing a day.
“Hopeless? Then don’t mention it to begin with! You idiotic fish-tart! Should I make sashimi out of you right this instant?”
“You, are you really a hero?!”
At that moment, Sieg, who had been lying low until now, bravely shouted, “Hansoo, you won’t know until you fight!”
“Alrighty then. You’re the vanguard.”
It would be a complicated matter for me to kill him, but there would be no negative influence to my reputation or character if Sieg ended up dying while fighting by his own will… Mm?
‘… This is a better idea than I thought?’
This alone gave meaning to hunting the unidentified catfish—to trade Sieg for achievement and reputation. A wonderful equivalent exchange.
“I, I’m still Level 3 so that’s a bit over my head…”
“I’m still Level 15 as well.”
It was an already decided matter; there would be no backing out.
Archaeologist Lanuvel, who was always thirsty for new knowledge, raised her right hand up high as she acted cute.
“Lanuvel will also participate in taking down Ullullu!”
“I didn’t ask you.”
And thus, the hunting of the Lake of Sad Songs’ longest-time resident, Ullullu, was decided.
… But putting that aside, I fulfilled all my duties as the actual ruler of the kingdom.
“Your Majesty the Mermaid Queen. Sign here, while this hero here, yours truly, is talking nicely. If you don’t want to witness the beautiful scene of your daughter being served on a dining table for humans, that is.”
“H-how can it be so…”
The mermaid queen, who had caught wind of her most dearly beloved youngest daughter ‘Aqua’ being caught by the great hero, had come above the waters of the lake. Upon reading through the contract I had prepared before the start of the journey, she began to tremble violently. Perhaps she was still struggling inside.
“If you don’t like it, then it’s war starting now.”
“It’s not a bad deal, is it? Come under the kingdom’s flag and follow its laws. Although you’ll have to offer up three among your princesses as embellishment for the palace garden pond, you can receive the protection of the kingdom and the hero in return.”
Of course, the mermaids could be mobilized for military purposes if they came under the kingdom. Their daily work would be to keep in check the Holy Kingdom on the other side of the border line. Even if tax wasn’t demanded from the mermaids, this alone would be able to greatly cut down on national defense expenditures.
This was the optimal scenario I had pictured.
“We have maintained a neutral stance until now…” the mermaid queen said as if squeezing out the words, her beautiful face frowning.
“Then the time to make a choice has come.”
“… You are much too different from the hero I had loved.”
“That’s only natural.”
I was different from the previous hero. By no means would I be defeated by Demon King Pedonar.
“Haah… Here. I pray that your judgement will turn out correct.”
I rapidly checked the contract the mermaid queen had signed.
‘Hm. There’s no problem.’
“Good. I hereby announce the mermaids of the Lake of Sad Songs as members of the kingdom! Hero Sieg of the kingdom will protect you all.”
“Uh? Wait. Me?” Sieg asked, startled, having been quietly listening by the side.
Knitting my brows I responded, “I shouldered everything for free, from mobilizing the military to negotiating. Sieg, if you’re also a hero, then take care of at least one matter.”
“I’m just Level 3, though…”
It was in that moment when Sieg was persistently trying to back out.
“Kya! Run away quick!”
“Everyone hurry to the shore!”
“The guardian deity has awoken!”
It seemed things had begun already.
Hundreds of mermaids, wearing not a single thread of clothing, swum ashore in a mob and rushed out of the lake.
The tails of the mermaids became covered in special bubbles and transformed into the slender, bare legs of humans. That was all, however—unable to stand on their two feet, the mermaids crawled on all fours along the ground like toddling babes.
Nevertheless, they didn’t stop.
It was because of the gigantic being which had woken up, letting loose a roar from behind them. I had always thought since the 1st Playthrough that this was a lake greatly abundant in water, but it appeared that was my misconception.
The moment the thing stood up, the water level of the lake fell.
“It is a catfish indeed, but…”
That idiotic fish-tart hadn’t told me properly—Guardian Deity Ullullu only had the head of a catfish.
Boom! Boom! Boom! Boom!
The earth shook violently with every step taken by that super-sized giant who had lived from ancient times, Ullullu.
He walked onto the lakeshore and then, ignoring us, began to ran at a crazy speed—
—towards Dumpling Kingdom territory.
“Bro! You can’t~! Come back~!”
It looked like my reputation and achievements were about to go up in flames entirely.