“Ah… wait, wait. At least let’s get things straightened out first.”
Loren didn’t say this to anyone in particular, but if he hadn’t said it out loud, he would feel so confused that he wouldn’t have known what to do.
Thrusting his greatsword into the ground, Loren scratched his head. First of all, they needed to confirm how many things they needed to think about in the current situation, then they would need to solve them one by one, or they would be confused forever.
Loren decided to start with the ones most familiar to him.
“Okay, Gula and Lapis. First of all, put on some clothes.”
Thinking that he should start from where there was relatively little confusion, Loren instructed Lapis, who was wrapped in a cloth and in his arms, and Gula, who was watching the two of them from a little distance with a cloth wrapped around her body.
Gula followed the instructions without saying a word, but Lapis was a little dissatisfied.
“Hey, Loren! You mean to say that you don’t feel anything in this situation?!”
“Lapis, normally it’s not like I won’t consider letting myself get carried away by the momentum, but… This time the impact of THIS is too strong for me to consider that.”
Loren pointed at the half-human half-fish creature lying at his feet. Lapis puffed out her cheeks in frustration, but she did remove herself from Loren’s arms and began to put on clothes as instructed, though somewhat regretfully. She changed a little distance away from Loren so that he could not see, but as she stepped out of his arms, he caught glimpses of various things that made his mind wavered, and he lightly slapped his own cheek with his free left hand to clear his head.
“Well, Ange, Leila, and Laure, you guys should also put on something. Ange, stop shaking Klaus. He can’t see anything anyway.”
Loren’s words made Ange, who was still violently shaking Klaus’ body back and forth, realize her own state. With a blush on her face, she threw Klaus to the ground and ran to hide behind the trees with a small scream.
Laure watched her, then looked down at Leila, who had crashed into a grove of trees and was lying naked, with a troubled look on her face that seemed to say ‘What do I do with her?’.
“Can’t you carry her?”
“Leila works out, so… She’s a bit too much for me. And I’m like this too.”
Laure, who had just a piece of cloth wrapped around her slender body, shyly said. Aside from her not having the physical strength, it was true that it would be very difficult to carry Leila while holding down the cloth wrapped around her body.
“There’s no choice then.”
“Do you consider releasing me?”
Klaus, who was now lying on the ground again after being thrown down by Ange, raised his voice, full of expectation. Loren ignored him and called out to Gula and Lapis, who were probably changing on the other side of the grove.
“Lapis! Gula! I’m sorry, but I need you to carry Leila.”
“Please wait a minute.”
“Coming… Uwa?! Sis’ naked and lying spread-eagled?!”
Gula had finished dressing earlier than Lapis, who was still putting on her priest robes, responded to Loren’s request and came out from the shadow of the grove to carry Leila. But upon seeing Leila lying on the ground, she exclaimed somewhat hesitantly.
“I heard that the blonde beauty is naked and lying spread-eagled?!”
“Shut up. Talking will complicate things, so take a nap.”
Hearing her voice, Klaus half sprang up only to be silenced by Loren with a casual kick to the back of the head.
“Well, here’s done. Now it’s this one’s turn…”
Loren cautiously crouched down beside the unidentifiable creature that had fallen on its face and would not move. Wavy light blue hairs covered its head and a good portion of its upper body, which, combined with the fish-like appearance of the lower body, gave it a rather eerie appearance. However, as he observed the creature, which did not move at all, Loren began to wonder if the light blue hairs that seemed to cover its upper body were actually hair. Although there was a fair amount of it, they all seemed to grow from the head.
To confirm his guess, he reluctantly picked up the prone figure and leaned it against a nearby grove of trees, then brushed away what appeared to be hair covering its face and body, revealing the upper body of a naked woman.
He combed the wet, tousled hair with his hand and wiped off the dirt and filth with a cloth, and there appeared a so-called mermaid he had heard about in fairy tales, with long wavy light blue hair and an upper body of human and a lower body of a fish.
Loren looked down at the figure, which seemed to be unconscious, and turned his gaze toward the lake. The orange glow of the setting sun was certainly a beautiful sight, but before he could let his mind be captivated by that sight, he had something else to confirm first.
“Mermaids in a lake of hot water? Won’t she be boiled?”
“Loren, sorry to keep you waiting… Is that what I think it is?!”
As soon as Lapis, who had finished dressing, stepped out from the shadow of a grove of trees, she exclaimed in surprise upon seeing a mermaid leaning against a tree.
“Huh… It’s what surprised you guys.”
“Eh, that creepy fish is a mermaid?”
The unconscious mermaid’s hair was wavy and very long. When Lapis and the other girls encountered her, that hair was wrapped around her upper human body, covering the face, which apparently caused them to recognize it as some kind of creepy fish. So, they jumped out of the lake in a panic. Loren thought that it was understandable to be surprised if something with a hairy upper body and a fish-like lower body had suddenly jumped out of the lake.
“Eh? But… This lake has hot water, right?”
“Only the person herself knows why she’s not a boiled mermaid.”
The sun was setting. Thinking it would be best to avoid dealing with such incomprehensible matters after dark, Loren lightly slapped the mermaid, who was leaning against a tree, on the cheek. He did it because he thought that no matter what, they would not be able to talk with the mermaid until she regained consciousness, but Lapis looked at him with a somewhat reproachful gaze even though his slap was not so hard.
“There’s no other choice?”
“She has the face of a woman, so please be a bit gentler.”
Although her facial features were certainly that of a woman, she was still within the ‘unidentifiable being’ at the moment, and Loren wondered if it was necessary to be so concerned. But he nodded vaguely, thinking that it would be meaningless to try to protest.
With a small moan, the mermaid woke up. Her slightly-opened eyes were light blue, just like her hair.
“Are you awake?”
“I… Eh? Ah, ah!”
The mermaid suddenly rose up and grabbed Loren, who was looking into her face, and held on to his arm tightly.
“Please help me! I want you to help me!”
“First of all, let me go. Then explain what’s going on. You can’t just appear from the bottom of the lake and ask me to help you.”
When Loren harshly shook her off, the mermaid looked a little sad, but she let go of his arm and looked at him squarely as if she could understand his point of view, and began to explain the situation as requested.
“I am a spirit who lives in this lake.”
Loren wondered what he was going to say from the beginning of the conversation, but he gave up the spot, thinking it would be better to let Lapis proceed with this kind of talk.
“You are a spirit? Not a mermaid?”
“If I have to say, I am more like an undine. I’ve just lived a few hundred more years.”
Loren could not understand what the difference was, but the spirit of the lake began to talk about something that had to do with the anomalies at the hot springs that they had come to investigate.
“The lake has been fine for a long time. Then, not too long ago, one of the outlets supplying hot water to this lake began emitting brown, sludgy, boiling water.”
“I don’t suppose this has much to do with a spirit?”
After saying this, Loren suddenly remembered an efreet, a fire spirit he had met before. That spirit had become so angry about various things being thrown into the crater where it lived that it began to attack any being that approached the place. If the same thing was now happening in this lake, it would make sense that the spirit would come to ask for help.
“It may look like no creatures live in this lake, but there are actually organisms living at the bottom that can withstand the heat to some degree.”
The spirit of the lake, whose face turned sad, joined her hands in front of her chest and appealed to Loren and Lapis.
“The brown water is too hot compared to the water that has been flowing in so far, not to mention its odor and toxicity. Right now they are taking shelter at the bottom of the lake where there is still water that is just barely cooler, but if nothing is done, they will all die.”
“I understand that you want us to help, but we are adventurers, and we are on vacation. We can’t afford to work for free.”
As Lapis told the spirit this, next to her, Loren was instructing Gula and Laure, who had finished getting dressed, to drag Klaus, who was still tied up, a short distance away. After all, if even the primitive beastmen clans couldn’t deter Klaus, the fact that this spirit’s lower body was of a fish would not be enough to stop his passion for women, and he might even accept the spirit of the lake’s request for free.
The fact that Klaus was indiscriminately unable to refuse a woman’s request was both his strength and weakness, but in a situation like the one Lapis was currently negotiating, it could only be considered a weakness. The idea was to remove him before anything happened.
“Money? If it’s the case… How much do you want?”
“You have money? Why does a spirit have money?”
Lapis was surprised by the spirit’s answer, even though she herself was the one who wanted to fish out that information.
The spirit thought for a moment about how to answer, then replied to Lapis’ surprise in a whisper.
>”Actually, over the past few days, I’ve had quite a few people come in who say they’re adventurers like you…”<
Loren nodded, remembering that the. Lord of Karlovy had mentioned something like that. The spirit continued in a whisper as if it was something embarrassing.
>”Those who had been killed in the surroundings of this lake…”<
“Were they killed by bears? And… The money you’re carrying, could it be what those adventurers left behind?”
>”It was not a bear, but some kind of large goblin. A black-ish one. And dead people can’t use money.”<
The spirit calmly declared, but what caught the attention of Loren and Lapis was something else she had said.
“Big, black goblin?”
“Yes, from its appearance, I could only call it a goblin. But it was very strong, and it took no time for most adventurers to…”
The spirit shuddered, perhaps remembering what happened then, but Loren and Lapis were more concerned about something else than the spirit’s reaction.
“Big, black goblin…”
“I have a bad feeling about this. I think we should just go back to Karlovy.”
“P-please help me somehow! I’ll also give you this!”
Just as Loren and Lapis, who had heard the story and decided that it sounded bad, were about to leave, the spirit hurriedly pulled a rather large colorless gemstone out of nowhere. Lapis’ eyes widened slightly when she saw it.
“I picked it up at the bottom of the lake a while ago. You must be pleased with this kind of thing, right? I’ll give you this as well, so please help me.”
Loren whispered softly to Lapis, whose eyes were glued to the jewel offered by the spirit.
“Could it be ‘that’?”
“Well… Yes, it probably is.”
There were certain things Lapis was always looking for. They were the limbs and eyes that Demon King Judie had taken away from her when she left the demon realm in order to suppress his power as a demon. Both arms had already been found and returned to Lapis’ body, but the legs and eyes were still being searched for. These body parts were not found in their original forms, but as colorless gems of considerable sizes.
When Loren saw the gem offered by the spirit, he wondered if it was what Lapis was looking for, and from her reaction, it seemed that it definitely was.
“I guess that means we no longer have the option of refusing.”
“I apologize for the trouble, Loren.”
Lapis apologized, and Loren waved his hand at her to tell her not to worry about it. Loren began asking questions to get more information from the spirit, who were waiting for their answer without knowing what the exchange between him and Lapis meant.