Chapter 58 – Hero

No matter how much I disliked Ryuu Kowa, I had to give him credit. He had been facing the enemy head-on. He stood in a square stance, his improbably large sword raised over his head, in the middle of another clearing a hundred paces from Graham’s position, doing his best lightning rod impression. From the wide-open-mouthed grimace on his face, he’d clearly been in the middle of one of his shounen-style battle howls when the enemy got him.

Brigitte, on the other hand, had been taken with her back to the enemy. But I’m not going to criticize her for it. She was a huntress and thief, not a fighter. Guessing from the positions and the nature of the people, the battle started where Ryuu stood, then the enemy forced Graham and Brigitte back to Graham’s position, then poor Brigitte, now facing a basilisk(?) on her own, had to flee.  No one could expect her to stand alone against a foe that had already felled a hero and a warrior.

Running out of room to run, she attempted to scale the outcropping. The thing caught her from behind at that spot. Petrified, she had fallen from the rock face, to end up in what had to be the most embarrassing pose a girl could wind up in. her hands and feet were spread out and sticking up in the air as if she was still clinging to the vertical surface.

Her head was turned, trying to see behind her, and the horrified look on her face said everything about her last moment. I really felt bad for her, seeing that wide-eyed fear.

Brigitte is no hero, but she has wonderful confidence, and I’ll bet up until the moment she looked back and saw whatever made her grow that expression, she believed she would still escape.

Technically, the three weren’t dead. Petrification involves using miasma to glue together a crust of matter. People on Huade don’t understand physics or chemistry the way people on Earth do, but my guess is that the matter in question is some sort of gas, sticking to the epidermal layer of the skin, although the resulting crust is harder than diamond. The matrix of miasma also penetrates throughout the body, resulting in a sort of flash-frozen condition, despite not being freezing temperatures.

That crust prevents the flow of pneuma, causing the living being inside the crust to simply go on hold rather than die. These three spent a horrifying second or so in which they might have been aware of their imprisonment, but then they stopped knowing anything, as their cells simply suspended activities. If the crust could be removed quickly enough, they would live.

Because part of Healing involves eliminating matter that is not part of the identity of the life, when the petrification gas is removed, the petrification falls apart. Purification is still needed to remove the miasma, for best results, but the major effort is in the massive dose of healing to break down the petrification and keep the body from dying while the petrification is only partially removed. During that critical time, the body can’t function properly and the patient may die of suffocation or heart failure.

As Bruna had said, it would normally take the power of ‘dozens of healers’… but I had almost uncontrollably powerful healing. Arken had suggested my power equaled ‘quite a few more than twenty healers’. Did that mean I could risk trying it myself?

Bruna was contemplating the same Ryuu statue as me. We had found Brigitte first, then walked back past Graham to locate Ryuu, bringing us to where we stood now. I thought she might be having the same thought, having experienced the force of my healing herself, but her mind was on a different thing.

“He came from a different world. Like, completely not from our world at all?”

I had gone ahead and told them the whole story. Well, not about my own transmigration and the vampire stuff. All I told them about my expulsion from the party was that he and I weren’t compatible (which was, frankly, the truth), and he fired me. But Ceria and Bruna were now among the few people in the world who were aware that Orestania had exercised the ancient Hero Summoning ritual that brought Ryuu Kowa here.

“From what he described to us, the place is nothing like our world,” I answered.

“Well, he certainly looks like he knows how to fight. I guess they summoned a real warrior, didn’t they?”

He was an unemployed dropout spending his inheritance to support a 24/7 MMORPG habit.

Of course, I only knew that part now. Although, to give him credit, Ryuu had been honest and tried to explain to them that he was no soldier.

But, when he had tried to explain what he was, what they had heard was, “I constantly fought wars, using a different body than my normal one, in a different kind of battlefield than the normal world. I’ve never fought in my normal body.”

It had sounded bizarre and surreal to the king and his people, but what they had grasped from the description was that the inhabitants of his world battled each other constantly for mere amusement, thinking nothing of killing each other over and over again. It seemed obvious to them that the gods had chosen to send us a warrior from his world for this reason.

Fortunately, he seemed to have received some sort of growth cheat. It was the only explanation I had for how he had quickly grown in a mere six months from an out of shape and slightly pudgy NEET to the powerful warrior standing in front of us.

I answered Bruna with the understanding possessed by the old Tiana, lacking the knowledge that I now had of that same world. “It seems he never had a moment of rest in his old world. In that world, people fight each other constantly, just for fun, traveling on purpose to special battlefields just in order to fight.”

Bruna had the same reaction to that as Tiana had, when she first heard it. “What a dreadful life that would be.”

Keeping the irony off my face, born of the knowledge that Japan and the US were both peaceful paradises in comparison to this Kingdom of Hamagaar, I nodded and answered with the old Tiana’s words. “It sure sounds like somewhere I wouldn’t want to live.”

She looked around, once again searching for clues to the battle. It had been quite a struggle, as could be seen by the signs of multiple dead monsters. The carcasses had since been largely consumed, but we had found considerable remnants.

“Hey… Lady, I’ve been thinking, that wasn’t a basilisk or a cockatrice. I know what you said, but…”

Tiana FBM had already come to that same conclusion, and I voiced it. “I agree. Neither of those two would have chased down Brigitte and followed her up the rock face to petrify her. They’re both stand-and-fight types.”

I should mention that petrification is not executed by the monster looking at the victim, or the victim looking at the monster. There are no such attacks, at least not here on Huade. Petrification is a kind of venomous breath attack. The miasma is breathed out in a black cloud which surrounds the victim and condenses into a crust. It’s fast, too. Nothing like the slow growth of stone gradually taking the body over while the victim keeps talking, like they show in anime.

Bruna nodded. “Yeah. So what could it be?”

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It was just a theory, but I gave it. “There’s a demonic magic that imitates monster attacks. At least, there are a few reports of it. It seems to be a rare skill. My instructor during knight training called it ‘monster mimicry’.”

“And you and your friends believe that the demons are using Carael as a base?”

“That was the theory when they came here, but I don’t personally think this place is the base that they’ve been launching their raids from. I haven’t seen evidence to support that idea. But I think some demon has something else going on here, and Ryuu’s party stumbled into it earlier. It’s big enough that the demon tried to divert us when we came this direction by sending us an actual dragon.”

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“Wait… you mean the dragon that was attacking villages over in Tavital?”

Tavital is the barony where the village where I first came to Huade was located. “Yeah. We’re the ones who killed it. It was right before he made me leave.”

Her eyes grew wide. She looked back at Ryuu. “This guy killed a dragon?”

I wondered, Did she mean by himself? That’s not what I just said.

Suspecting that the jerk had just added another member to his ever growing harem, and she was having selective hearing issues just like other women I had seen before, I gave a wry smile and answered, “Well, Uncle Arken says it was my attack that fatally wounded it, but Ryuu apparently landed the coup de grace.”

“Wow,” she said. Her eyes seemed to glow a little as she stared at him. I didn’t quite fully suppress the snort that escaped me. I made a mental note to make sure she let him fully recover from de-petrification before she tapped his mana.

Ceria had been keeping a lookout so we could concentrate on the investigation, but it turned out her detection wasn’t necessary. I could feel the approaching enemy before she spoke. From the woods, another strong enemy was approaching.

Without saying a word, I dropped my backpack at Ryuu’s feet, unlimbered the crossbow I had retrieved so I could set it and sling it over my shoulder again, then drew my sword.

- my thoughts:

Programing note to free readers. I'm putting this same announcement into the next locked chapter to post. I will be increasing my number of locked chapters from three to six, which will give premium readers a roughly two week advance on chapters.

I think I'm going to write Ryuu's summoning as a side story of its own. It should be fun.

Check out my other novel: Tales of the ESDF

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