Translator(s): Yomigaeru Editor(s): Yomigaeru Proofreader(s): Yuzuha
Falling Into the River.
I awaken from the sensation of something touching me softly. Something long and thin is stroking my chest. It feels kinda ticklish. Also there’s something heavy.
–When I open my eyes, Yuel is there.
Her ear is poking into my chest as she presses her head into my body. Her expression is somewhat uneasy. Her eyebrows are furrowed, and her eyes are clenched shut.
That sensation just now must have been Yuel’s hair brushing against my skin.
When I’m about to speak out to Yuel, I notice. There was something out of the ordinary about that sensation.
Yuel’s hair touched my bare skin. That’s right, my bare skin.
I inspect myself. How did I end up in just my underwear?
…Strange. Where the heck did my habit go? And why is Yuel clinging to my body?
It’s essential to remain calm at a time like this. One by one, I’ll sort out the circumstances.
First, where are my clothes?
When I glimpse around a little, I soon spot them. They’re folded neatly, next to my head.
Next, where are we?
It appears to be a small cave, a grotto. Our surroundings are dimly lit by a campfire, and I can hear the sound of a river running.
「…Oh right. I fell into the river.」
When I utter those words, Yuel’s eyes snap open.
「Master, are you hurt!?」
「N-Nah, I’m fine n…ow ow ow.」
When I shift my posture slightly, pain shoots through my entire body. I don’t feel like I have any broken bones, but I’m bruised all over. Also, my head aches. I don’t remember very well, but I may have hit it after I fell into the river. First things first, I’ll give myself medical treatment.
「Heal! Are you hurt anywhere, Yuel?」
She stammers a bit. I inspect her closer, and there’s blood oozing from her palms.
「You’re bleeding! EX Heal!」
But man, what happened after I fell into the river?
I was laid down in this grotto by the riverside. Yuel and I are currently alone. And I saw a shadow as I was about to be swallowed up by the river. I think I can piece together the general picture.
At the time I fell into the river, Yuel probably dove in after me. But I hit my head or something soon afterwards and lost consciousness. Yuel somehow rescued me and brought me here. Something along those lines. And there are tracks along the ground from me being dragged in from outside the grotto.
However, I don’t know where this is. I’m unsure how much time has passed since then, either.
First, it’s important that we share information.
Yuel tells me matter-of-factly what happened. To give a brief summary:
It seems that after I fell into the river, Yuel also jumped right in after me. She somehow managed to grab a hold of me, and clung to me so we wouldn’t get separated. Although she did well trying to save me, the river current was fast. And I soon lost consciousness as well, so it was difficult for her to rescue me by herself. We were swept along by the current for some time.
During that time, Yuel frantically thought about ways to save me. Then she came up with one.
She would take out a rope from her item box, tie one end to my hand, and fasten the other end to a knife. Then she would throw the knife at one of the trees along the river. After several failures, she managed to lodge the knife into a tree and pull us onto the riverbank.
So the bleeding on her palms was from the rope burns when she fished me out of the river. After that, she dragged me into a nearby grotto and laid me down there.
As for my clothes, they were soaked so supposedly she stripped them to prevent me from catching a cold. And because she couldn’t retrieve a change of clothes from my item box, she decided to dry them by a campfire. And she only had her head on my chest just now in order to listen for my heartbeat.
The more I hear of her story, the more I’m impressed by how hard she struggled.
I mean, it takes some serious courage to dive into river rapids. And some real cleverness to improvise a way to save me. And some real heart not to blame her pitiful master for falling into a river and losing consciousness right away, but instead to just keep taking caring of me.
What’s with this excellent brat.
Yuel herself is disappointed that she dropped one of the knives she received from her master into the water, though. And she seems pretty depressed about it.
But such a thing is truly trivial. Considering that she successfully extricated me from the river, she’s already repaid me a million times over.
It makes me want to do something for Yuel to make her happy, but she’ll probably be happy no matter what I do. Whenever she defeated monsters in the labyrinth, she was happy just with a light head pat, but… if I only pet her head after all this, she might not be entirely satisfied.
But for now, I’ll start with petting her.
「Yuel, you really did a good job. You saved me.」
As I thank her while petting her head, Yuel shyly presses her head into my hand. She seems thoroughly pleased.
…I guess this is good enough after all.
While I pet her head, I continue talking.
「By the way, do you have any idea how much time has passed since then?」
「…Um, including the time that Master was asleep, I think it’s been about three hours.」
3 hours since then, huh? Then it’s around 7 pm now? I was having quite the power nap, it seems.
「Any idea how far we went downriver?」
「…I’m sorry, I don’t know. But the current was fast, so I think we went quite a long distance.」
Apparently she doesn’t know precisely, but we’ve covered a long distance. Or conversely, it was far enough to make it impossible to tell precisely?
That reminds me, a long time ago I watched a drama with a scene where the protagonist saves a puppy that fell into an overflowing river. In that drama, an adult was able to run in parallel alongside the puppy as it was swept along by the river current. In the present situation, I feel like the river I fell into was flowing at about the same speed.
By my calculations, if we spent say 20-30 minutes floating in the river, as a rough estimate we would’ve moved around 5km. It might’ve been more, depending on how long we were in the river.
I wonder if we can reunite with the subjugation unit. Visibility is poor, and we’re in the middle of a forest teeming with monsters.
Suddenly, the word that Ruruka used previously at the hospital springs to mind.
No, no, it’s fine, we should be fine.
It’s obvious because I fell into the river, but rivers are an easily identifiable landmark. If we follow the river upstream, we should be able to meet back up with the subjugation unit led by the knight brigade.
…If the subjugation unit hasn’t left the river.
However, if the subjugation unit hasn’t given up on my survival, there’s a possibility that they’ll follow the river downstream and come searching the perimeter.
Nevertheless, before the battle with the Krankheit Turtle, Sera showed me a map. If I recall correctly, this river leaves the forest and follows along the highway that connects to the city of Merhatz. If we follow the river downstream, we’ll eventually reach the highway. I don’t remember exactly how far it is, but it probably shouldn’t take an entire day.
What’s our best option?
First we could go upriver and aim to reunite with the subjugation unit. If we don’t meet up with them by the time we reach the location where we fought the Krankheit Turtle, we’ll turn around and follow the river downstream instead, out of the forest and onto the highway. That approach might be better.
As I’m contemplating, Yuel calls out to me. I guess I was thinking too hard and stopped moving my hand.
「Yuel, as far as what we’ll do next, I’m thinking of following the river upstream to try and meet up with the subjugation unit. It’s possible that they’re searching for us too. What do you think?」
「Yes. I also think it would be better to meet up with the knights sooner if possible. It’s very dangerous outside the city.」
「Well then, shall we get going as soon as the night is over?」
「…Master, it might be safer to move at night.」
Yuel makes a serious face as she speaks.
「Inside the forest, the scariest situation is getting surrounded by a large number of monsters. At least at night, the monsters that can’t see in the dark will be sleeping.」
「No, but, it’ll be dark, right? We can’t see either, so how could we fight with monsters?」
「I can see clearly at night. Since I’m a dark elf.」
Yuel sure is high-spec. She even comes equipped with a night vision mode.
We spend ten-odd minutes ascending upriver. The sky is fairly clear, and moonlight shines along the riverside. There’s moonlight, but this is a forest rampant with monsters. There are truly terrifying things out here.
As Yuel twitches her ears to detect any signs of nearby monsters, we advance little by little. And then, perhaps noticing something, she abruptly breaks into a run.
For an instant, a knife glimmers in the moonlight.
I creep closer, and there’s a corpse there of a demihuman-type monster with a doglike face. Its neck is sliced open from a single slash.
Moving discreetly and always attacking preemptively as soon as she spots a monster, it’s an aggressive style. Almost like an assassin. I’m seeing a talent in Yuel that should not be nurtured.
Nah, it may be that in Yuel’s case there was a reason that she had to take up such a style. Her body is tiny, and it’s not like she has any skill with shields like Ruruka does. Her physical features aren’t suited to protecting another person. So she might have had to adopt an offensive style to prevent anything from getting close to me and becoming a threat in the first place. It’s perfectly logical now that I think about it.
As I’m rationalizing, Yuel suddenly stops moving. Then, with her ears prickling, she restlessly observes the surroundings.
「Master, up ahead there is most likely a Kobold village.」
「You can tell?」
「Yes. There are indications of many monsters. A very large-scale group… there might be more than a hundred. That Kobold just now was probably a guard for the village.」
「Do you think you can win?」
「…I’m sorry, I think it would most likely be impossible for me on my own.」
Of course. That was an absurd suggestion.
「Could we get past them without being noticed?」
「…Kobolds can see in the dark too, so it would be risky. If we go any further, I think there’s a chance that we’ll be surrounded before we know it.」
A large-scale Kobold village, huh. What should we do?
For a moment the thought occurs to me of sending Yuel charging in on her own while I continually cast EX Heal on her from the trees, but no, that would be a waste of resources. Or rather I should say, I don’t have the least bit of interest in enacting such a strategy.
So then, a detour? Kobolds can see at night, and from the looks of it their hearing and sense of smell are sharp too. If we’re spotted and have to battle a large number of Kobolds, it’ll become gruesome. We should take a significant detour.
No wait, taking a detour means moving further away from the river. In this vast forest, losing sight of a landmark such as the river would be painful. And there’s also the chance that we’ll pass by the subjugation unit without noticing.
What to do.
Yuel watches me as I think. And then I notice it.
The fact that Yuel is making a slightly tired, sleepy expression.
I feel a cold sweat drip down my back.
–That’s right, what will I do if Yuel falls asleep?
This is bad. I didn’t put in enough thought.
There’s nobody else here but me and Yuel. Yuel can both search for enemies and fight, but I can’t do either very well. I can’t perceive any wild animals that approach silently, nor would I be able to protect Yuel from sudden attacks while she sleeps.
…Maybe there’s no need for us to continue upriver.
Even if we do, if we can’t meet up with the subjugation unit, getting back to town would take twice as long, or maybe even longer.
Under normal circumstances, just from rescuing me from the river and nursing me, Yuel would be pretty exhausted. I may have gotten some sleep, but Yuel likely spent that entire time on high alert keeping an eye out for monsters.
If we take a detour around the Kobold village now, continue upriver and don’t meet up with the subjugation unit? I don’t know if Yuel has the stamina for that. No, she may have great combat skill, but her physique isn’t much different from a normal girl’s. She likely couldn’t hold up.
As soon as she hits the limits of her endurance, she’ll fall victim to the monsters.
If we head downriver immediately, and at least make it out onto the highway, there’s a chance we could meet up with a knight patrol or some merchants. In terms of sheer distance, we should be able to return to the city in a shorter time than if we tried to meet up with the subjugation unit. And there’s no guarantee that the subjugation unit is coming downriver in the first place.
For a moment I consider staying in place and waiting patiently to be rescued, but there are monsters in this forest. A prolonged struggle is out of the question.
Fortunately, it hasn’t been 20 minutes since we started heading upriver. The loss is small. We can still turn back.
「Yuel, let’s give up on going upriver. We’ll head downriver and aim for the highway back to town.」