89 Part 2

Reluctantly, Rhea surrendered the passenger’s seat and went to the back seat with her leaves looking all droopy and sad.

“Karen, just making sure… But don’t use any magic while we’re in Asahikawa, okay?”

“Sure. Ah… But how about–”

“Not even secretly.”

Maybe she was planning to try to use magic only when there was no one around.

Akane seemed sad after being warned against it before she could even ask about it.

It was okay to use magic when no one was watching. However, at that place, only “maybe” no one would be watching, so “maybe” someone could be watching as well.

No matter how hard you check, there’s always the risk of overlooking someone.

Haruki, who had worked for a printing company, knew this very well.

First proofreading, second proofreading, sales, production, the customer, the editor… How many times would typographical errors be found after multiple checks and printing?

Human judgment is not absolute.

Even if you wrack your brain thinking “How could something like this ever happen?”, they could very well happen later on.

Using magic under unknown circumstances was a dangerous thing.

“But wouldn’t that make me a bit useless…?”

“Aw, come on, don’t say that. It’s not like that.”

Haruki denied the disappointed Karen’s words.

Until recently, Karen had been fighting on the 15th floor of the garage dungeon. She usually fought using magic, but her physical abilities were on par with the 15th floor of the dungeon, which was not a bad thing at all.

Besides…

— There’s something I’ve been wanting Karen to try, so this is a perfect chance.

If “that” were to work, then she definitely wouldn’t feel useless anymore.

Before the first Stampede, the travel distance between K-Town and Asahikawa was about 100 kilometers. By Hokkaido residents’ standards, it was “just around the corner”.

Asahikawa is the second-largest city in Hokkaido, and was considered a “core city”.

However, the population quickly declined after the first Stampede, by a mix of a declining birthrate and an increased population of senior citizens.

Now all one could feel were the remnants of a bygone prosperity.

Still, the number of people living in K-Town cannot be compared to that of that city.

Shops that sell materials brought back from the dungeon, restaurants, furniture stores, and so on are scattered all over the place.

After four hours of traveling on a rough road, Haruki found the inn he was looking for.

The inn was “Kamui Springs”, a hot spring resort that drew its hot water from the dungeon.

While Karen procured their room at the counter, Haruki cried as he held the luggage.

— Even though I’m standing right here at the counter, nobody notices me…

The room was split in two, one side for men, and the other one for women.

Rhea and Esta weren’t included in the number of people, so they rented a single room for all four of them.

The interior seemed pretty basic, but it didn’t matter because their purpose wasn’t to do sightseeing or be extremely comfortable, but to get healed via their hot springs.

After taking their luggage into the room, Haruki immediately took his yukata and towel and headed for the hot springs.

It had been quite a while since he last visited a hot spring.

He was getting all excited about it.

There used to be a hot spring in K-Town.

However, after the first Stampede, it became difficult to maintain the pumping equipment, so the hot spring facilities in K-Town were closed at the moment.

There were many hot spring facilities across the country that had to be closed since they couldn’t be properly maintained.

However, since “Kamui Springs” drew its waters from the dungeon, it was still open as a hot spring facility.

A natural rock bath with a free-flowing water source.

Small sulphur flowers floated on the clear water.

A beautiful board hung from the wall of the open-air bath. The effects of the hot spring were written there: “Heals bruises, joint pains, muscle pains, low back pains, helps recover from fatigue and motor dysfunctions, and makes your skin more beautiful”.

— I wonder how effective this actually is.

In the past, in a more peaceful time, Haruki would have thought those effects listed there were kind of suspicious. Or at the very least he would have paid no mind to such a board.

But now, Haruki’s eyes were fixed on the “motor dysfunction” written on the board.

“So these ‘Kamui Springs’ can actually heal such conditions, huh? Amazing!”

It was the complete opposite of what he would have thought otherwise.

At this point, Haruki could be talked into drinking detergent under the premise that it would make him feel better.

Desperate times called for desperate measures.

Haruki was by himself in the open-air bath. He had reserved it exclusively for himself.

It was really luxurious.

The spellbound Haruki soaked into the hot springs all the way up to his shoulders.

“Ahhhh…”

A blissful voice leaked from the back of his throat.

The hot water was at just the right temperature and permeated to the core of his body.

Haruki closed his eyes and entrusted himself to the comfortable hot water while listening to the sound of the hot springs flowing in.

After a while, he felt something was going around his body.

It was the feeling of blood flowing through recently opened vessels, warming a body that was as if it had been frozen solid.

“Could it be that the energy my body couldn’t absorb had hardened up, and now it’s being melted by the hot springs and starting to circulate…?”

Haruki scooped some water up and drank it.

The hot water had a slight acidity and a refreshing aftertaste. It entered Haruki’s body and warmed his stomach from the inside.

Haruki once again focused his attention on the changes in his body, but he couldn’t feel any further changes.

Even if he drank the hot water, there was no sign that his recovery would be accelerated.

If it had accelerated his recovery, he would have drunk the entire hot springs…

But it didn’t make much sense to drink this water.

Haruki leant against the rocky wall of the bathtub and soaked his shoulders.

The long bathtub stretched in front of him.

“…”

He could see a red thing in the bathtub –it was Esta.

With nothing but his little feet emerging from the water, he used them dexterously to swim about.

“… Hey.”

Esta was surprised as Haruki grabbed the side of the bathtub.

After realizing it was Haruki, he made a gesture and laughed as if he was embarrassed.

“What do you think you’re doing?”

— Like, how did you get here?

Esta, who was flustered at Haruki’s gaze, tried to make excuses using its tiny feet.

“I’m worried about you, you know? I mean… what are we going to do if someone sees you here?”

No matter how tame he was, Esta was still a monster. He would cause a great uproar in the eyes of the general public.

People could even try to hunt him down.

Even more so since they weren’t in their hometown of K-Town, but in the completely unfamiliar Asahikawa. The worst was more likely to happen.

“Don’t be doing as you please from now on.”

Scolded by Haruki, Esta shrunk disheartenedly.

He looked a bit cute, but he couldn’t make Haruki feel pity for him.

If he were to lose Esta here out of sympathy, he would never be able to forgive himself.

Perhaps Esta had been sent in to make sure Haruki didn’t do anything rash.

Both Karen and Rhea were girls, so they couldn’t get into the men’s section. Esta would be the one to rely on for that purpose.

— So I can’t just be here and do whatever I like…

Haruki let out a sigh.

However, Haruki didn’t think badly of Esta, Karen, and Rhea for being worried about him.

No one would be worried about him if there was no one around him.

Even if they are worried or depressed…

Even if they are stripped of their free time…

Those feelings were hard to come by those days, and that’s why they were precious.

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