Wednesday, June 22, 2022 @

Chapter 137 A Painful Choice

 After that, we traveled through the desert for three days and three nights.
 We could not stop at any towns or villages along the way. After all, the king and his advisors might be after us to capture Shakuna and Ryuna.
 Fortunately, the princesses are well supplied with food and water by magic. They seem to be well prepared for the desert crossing, and it seems unlikely that they will die in the desert.
 The only trouble was the attack of monsters and sand bandits, but this party consisted of me and Shakuna.
 Most of the guards with us were useless fry... but only Hadiss, an elderly priest-knight, was reasonably competent. He was a defensive girder.
 Ryuna, the 'Priestess', is also a reasonably capable healer and aid, and does not seem to be slowing us down.
 And now, we have made it to the tomb of Salomon without missing any person.
 "So, this is the royal tomb...!"
 Ryuna murmured in a hard and tense voice.
 It looked like a pyramid.
 It stood eerily in the middle of the desert, surrounded by an unnaturally empty sandy plain.
 From the entrance in front of the building, there is a series of stairs leading down, and on either side of the stairs are magical torches that never burn out, their orange light shimmering.
 The dark and eerie entrance is like the mouth of a monster.
 Once someone step into it, they may never come out again... such an unexplainable fear is given to those who see it.
 Because of this, Shakuna, Ryuna, and the guards escorting them all look up at the triangular structure with frozen, anxious faces.
 They are cowering nervously, but I call out to them from behind.
 "It's good that we arrived here safely, but... are you sure you want to take on this challenge with this group?"
 "Hmm... What do you mean?"
 Shakuna asked me suspiciously.
 I sarcastically lift my lips, shrug my shoulders and say.
 "I don't think we're good enough. With this group, I don't know how far we can go in the tomb. Aside from Shakuna, Ryuna, and Haddis, the rest of us can barely make it to the tenth floor. Going for the 50th floor is like going to die."
 "D*mn... Don't act like you know anything. You're a stranger...!"
 The guard soldiers in front of the entrance to the royal tombs scrunched up their faces at the blunt assessment of the situation.
 The guards, except Hadiss, glared at me... but their faces showed more frustration than anger.
 They must have been aware of this on the way. They must have realized that they were dragging the others down even though they were the guards.
 Even if all the guards were to join forces, they'd still be no stronger than my one arm.
 "I assure you... even if we dive into the tomb with those young guards of yours, they'll lose their lives on the way. They will never be able to follow up to the 50th floor."
 Hadiss is the only one among the guards here who had reached the higher rank, 'Paladin'.
 Ryuna too, although she only has little experience in fighting monster since she has been in the temple for a long time, she is a healer with enough power.
 But, the guards in the escort are not strong enough to dive up to the 50th floor, after all, they were just fighting desert monsters.
 "Then what do you suggest? You're not going to tell us you're against going into the dungeon now, are you!"
 Shakuna said angrily.
 I shrugged my shoulders at the princess who was angry at me for insulting her friends, and opened my mouth to suggest an alternative.
 But before I could say a word, Ryuna raised her right hand.
 "Then... how about if the four of us, including me, challenge the dungeon?"
 I look at her in surprise.
 What Ryuna suggested is the same alternative I had been planning to propose.
 "Ryuna, what do you mean?
 "Onee-sama, Baskerville-sama, and Captain Haddis. Also, with me as the healer, we will be a party of four, and the other priests and guards will not be in danger."
 Ryuna explained to her surprised sister in an apologetic tone.
 "Well... I'm surprised. You can make a much calmer decision than your sister."
 I nodded, impressed.
 If I had to bring more people, they would have been in the way.
 This must be the best solution in this situation.
 "No... Then there is no point in coming here!"
 "We'll be fine, Priestess!"
 "Please take us with you! We can't stand to be in a safe place while Priestess is going to a dangerous place!"
 At Ryuna's suggestion, the guards protested.
 With a look of impatience on their faces, they appealed to Priestess, whom they should be served.
 "If it is us, we are ready to die on the way!"
 "That's right! Please take us with you, so that we can be used as a meat wall!"
 The priests also offer to join us.
 Their loyalty is real. They must be ready to give up their lives without hesitation for the Priestess whom they must protect.
 A great resolve. A loyal retainer. Even I, a third party, am impressed.
 "But... it would be counterproductive, in this case. A 'liability' is a liability because he's a liability by his mere presence."
 I dismissed their resolve out of hand.
 "If you guys follow me, there will definitely be more injured people. And if anyone gets hurt, it will be a burden on Ryuna, who is a healer. Don't you understand that it's more of a burden if you are following us?"
 "Don't tell me that you all don't need medical treatment...? Do you think Ryuna is a woman who can leave her injured friends alone?"
 If she can abandon her wounded comrades, she can take the priests and guards with her as a meat wall.
 But neither Ryuna nor Shakuna are ruthless enough to accept such a sacrifice.
 If that is the case, it would be better for them to stay behind from the beginning.
 I know it sounds cold, but it is the best and most rational decision.
 Hadiss strokes his beard and lets out a heavy sigh.
 "...I guess you two are right. I do not have any words to respond."
 "If we take you all with us, it will be a burden for Ryuna-sama. Then it's better for you to stay here."
 The priests and the guards glare at me sharply.
 However, there's no point in getting mad at me.
 It's a natural decision to save energy in the dungeon, and that's why Ryuna said that.
 I just hope they don't resent me for it.
 "It looks like it's settled... Shakuna, is there any problem?"
 "...No. In that case, there's nothing I can do. The four of us will face the 'Royal Tomb of the King' together."
 Shakuna looked pained, but agreed to leave her escort here.
 There was nothing she could say to the priest and the guards now.
 She clenches her fists in frustration and remains silent.
 "Don't look at me like that... Dungeons were originally meant to be tackled by a small number of people, weren't they? Trying to outnumber them is the opposite way to go... Hmm?"
 "...Take this. My traveling companion."
 As I tried to offer some kind of comfort, one of the priests handed me a leather bag.
 "It contains food and potions. I want you to use them for Princess and Priestess."
 "...Oh, okay. I accept."
 He handed me a magic bag for storing items. It is not a bag of unlimited capacity like the one I usually use, but one with a limit on the number of items.
 The priests and guards looked at each other with a bitter expression on their faces.
 They must be very sorry that they are not able to keep up with Shakuna and the others because of their lack of strength.
 "...Don't worry. I won't let Shakuna or Ryuna die. After all, I'm with them."
 I clap the priest on the shoulder with my fist and promises clearly.
 I will never allow a depressing storyline in which the heroine loses her life.
 I never wanted to see beautiful women like Shakuna and Ryuna die in such a cruel manner.
 "Well then... let's take up the challenge. Let's go to the royal tomb of Salomon, the world's greatest demon lair!"
 Zenon Baskerville, the Dark Lord.
 Shakuna Maafern, the Magic Dancer
 Ryuna Maafern, the Priestess.
 Hadiss, the Paladin
 Thus, an improvised party of four formed in the desert entered the ruins of the demon's lair.

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