I moved over to the man and helped heal him. My hands glowed as I held them over his wound. As the wound started to heal, he made a noise of surprise.
“Thank you!” He said, and then made a bitter face. “Those men on the wall wouldn’t heal me at all! They said that unless I was going to fight with them, I should just go cower inside the walls! I’m no coward, but I’m just a Merchant Guard! Who said I had to give my life to secure an entire city?”
“You are a coward!” A man in the corner snorted. “Probably left the merchant and his wagons to be sacked by the bandits!”
“As a result, I reached the city gates in time to warn them about the approaching army!” The man shot back.
Of course, he didn’t deny the accusation at all. This only showed as proof that he likely did abandon the merchant as charged.
“And let me guess, you were hoping she’d be around to heal you?” The bartender snorted.
“That doesn’t matter now.” The man shook his head, “You guys didn’t see the size. It’s definitely the Bandit King, and you all know what they want. If a bunch of us grouped together and leave now, we can probably slip through before they finish enclosing the city. This is our chance to get out… who is with me?”
Most of the people in the bar, even the maids, were looking at this man quite rudely. A few of them spat on the floor. I really wished they wouldn’t do that. I wasn’t the one who had to wash the floor, but I certainly felt sympathy for them. As for this man who was cowardly, I was less sympathetic. Admittedly, I wasn’t much different when it came to fear, but I knew you had to stick with the crowd if you wanted to survive. Strength in numbers or something like that.
“You’re seriously all going to choose to die? For her? Just because she healed a couple of us?” The man shook his head in disbelief.
“I think you should get out of my inn, friend.” The bartender spoke darkly.
The injured man’s eyes suddenly turned to me. “You, stranger, you’ll come with me, right? I don’t even live in this city, and neither do you. These people all want to risk their lives for a pretty face. They know what the Bandit King wants, but they don’t want to give her to them. I’ll help protect you. I just ask that you heal me.”
“Ah…” I hated being put on the spot all of a sudden. “Actually, I’m still just relaxing. I haven’t decided one way or another.”
It wasn’t like I was being willfully brave or anything. I just thought that a mad dash was rather inconvenient and I had a feeling this guy would abandon me in a heartbeat if the going got tough.
I had already had an encounter with these bandits, and I felt like they were steadily becoming troublesome and I might have to do something about it. Besides, this posed no risk to me. If push came to shove, I could always portal back to Chalm and be perfectly safe. At least, for now, I was interested in finding out a bit more about what was happening here.
“Get out of my inn!” The innkeeper insisted to the man after it was clear I wasn’t going to join him.
“You’re crazy! All of you are crazy!” The man turned and fled the inn followed by a group of angry stares.
“Stranger…” The bartender turned to us. “Thank you for staying out of that… and healing that man too. A second healer would be good in the upcoming fight. I’m glad you decided to stay, but I’m curious as to why you did so at your own risk?”
I didn’t want to sound pompous by saying something like I was in no real danger and I was just curious, but as soon as I opened my mouth, Miki spoke first.
“Isn’t it because Master heard there is a pretty girl?”
Miki smirked mischievously while Lydia and Celeste looked at me tearfully. Was it my imagination, or were their looks asking whether I felt the three of them weren’t enough? I drank the last of my beer. It looked like there were no more rubs for Deek tonight.
First off, I’d like to say that I’m not the kind of guy who is moved by some pretty face. I don’t simply need to see a hot woman and then come to any thoughts like, ‘she should be mine’ or, ‘I’m going to taste that’. I was a guy who was committed. Although I fell in love easily, I was also very loyal to that love. Lydia, Miki, and Celeste were the only women for me. Just the words ‘hot girl’ would not affect my decisions nor pique my curiosity in the slightest.
Sure, this was a girl whose beauty was supposed to be so great that the Bandit King themselves would come down and ransack a city to have her. Sure, she was supposedly so pure and loved by the town people that not a single person even considered handing her over after receiving the threat of annihilation from said Bandit King. That didn’t mean I wanted to see her, know her, or even talk to her. If I never saw this girl in my entire life, it wouldn’t bother me in the slightest.
After explaining this carefully to the girls, they were still looking at me with suspicious looks. “However… we may want to consider asking about her purely as a means of understanding the situation. If we wish to fight for the city, the least I could do is hear the whole story, right?”
“Mm… hmmm…” Celeste crossed her arms while Lydia puffed out her cheeks.
“That’s right!” The bartended punched his palm and turned to me, who was whispering quietly with my girls. “I haven’t really explained the situation to you yet, have I?”
“No, sir!” I coughed.
I felt a bit of relief that he had managed to swoop in at just the right time and redirect the conversation. The girls’ silence seemed more cutting than their words.
“Yes… Master is very curious about her!” Miki declared.
Nope… I was wrong. The words were very sharp. I had forgotten during the silence but it was all coming back to me now. Fortunately, I didn’t have to bear it long, because the bartender launched into the story. I found myself wishing there were murals. At least I got pictures in the dungeon. No, that wasn’t important, I should listen.
“About a year ago, a woman stopped at the village. Her name is Carmine. She’s a healer.”
“A healer? You mean, like a priest?”
“She never mentioned her job, but she seems to have the ability to heal people. Our town has faced a lot of strife over the last year, and she’s prevented any casualties and has really been a godsend.”
“Really?” My eyes widened immediately
This girl could possibly be another White Mage! They were supposed to be exceptionally rare, but it seemed like I was already meeting a kindred spirit and I only just started on my journey.
Ah… the staring from the girls… I immediately took the interested look off my face. “I mean… yeah… whatever…”
“Anyway, we don’t know when she met the Bandit King, but they fell in love with her. You see, the Bandit King has a certain… um… reputation… for enjoying beautiful women. Surely, Carmine is just another in a long line of women they wish to defile.
“At first, they just sent a few bandits in. Tried to snatch her right out of the city! Fortunately, some friends were nearby and were able to protect her. However, they have been getting bolder and more threatening. It looks like you guys came at the wrong time. I am truly sorry that you have been wrapped up in all of this.”
The man bowed at the end. I could tell he really meant it. He reminded me of the people from Chalm a bit. Generally good-natured, but at the same time slightly headache-inducing.
“I think I’d like to meet this Carmine,” I said, and then coughed. “Just to make sure I’m clear on the whole story.”
The innkeeper remained in his inn, but many of the guests were adventurers like me. They took off to see if they could do anything to help prepare the town for this siege. One guy stayed behind to take me to visit Carmine. I just explained that I was a healer too so that if we were both going to heal, I needed to coordinate with her so it was more efficient. For the most part, everyone accepted that as a valid reason. It certainly had nothing to do with me being a bit curious.
As it turned out, the location that Carmine was at was the village orphanage of all places. For some reason, I was imagining a sexy Mother Theresa considering how this girl seemed to like to spend her time. As we reached the orphanage, there was a man there at the door flailing his arms as he spoke excitedly. He was talking to someone who was inside the house, but I couldn’t see them at all. As we approached, I could pick up some of the words he was saying.
“Are you mad? We couldn’t possibly… besides… it’s only a legend. No one really knows what is down there.”
“We have guests, Mayor.” A gentle and smooth voice came from the doorway.
Only then did the Mayor turn his head and realize we were there. He let out a noise of surprise as he turned to see the five of us right behind him. The one who brought us there smiled awkwardly.
“Ah… Mayor, you’re here as well. These strangers are willing to help the city stand during this upcoming siege by the Bandit King. This man’s a healer like Carmine, so I thought they should both meet.”
A woman stepped out onto the porch. She was tall and had a small pair of glasses on her angelic-like face. She actually really was pretty, and a subtle atmosphere about her made her feel very approachable. I actually recognized it. She must have a charm up status or two. Perhaps she was a hero? No… she should only have one job, and that should be White Mage.
“Welcome to the orphanage. I am truly sorry you were in the city when this all happened. I fear this really is all my fault!” The girl curtsied low, dipping her head until I just got a hint of cleavage.
I’d almost swear it was calculated, but before I could dwell on it the Mayor tried to stop her from curtsying. “Now, now… I said you need not apologize to everyone, especially these strangers. Who are you anyway? A slaveholder, I see? Perhaps some adventurer looking to claim the title of a hero? Well, I’m sorry, our dungeon has been closed for years.”
The man who brought us looked flustered like he was embarrassed by the Mayor’s attitude. This mayor held himself in a way that reminded me of Chalm’s mayor… but he also held a tinge of haughtiness, like he was owed everything in life that he had.
“Mayor… you should be nicer when guests offer their assistance,” Carmine softly chastised.
“Of course…” The man immediately bowed his head. “I apologize. I am busy now, though… so I’ll be off.”
It was clear he only conceded because of some strange dedication to Carmine, and he really didn’t like me at all. She had only been in this village a year, but he was infatuated with her. Meanwhile, I was being treated like chopped liver. The discrepancy was really unfair.
Carmine blushed. “Do you want to come in, then? You’re staring!”
I wasn’t staring at her! I was lost in thought. Ladies behind me, stop trying to put a hole in my back using only your glares. It seriously stings!