Episode 57

A Quick Reunion
1 week ago
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I suddenly felt the urge to write for the first time in a long while.

An impulse I thought I had forgotten pounded within my chest. Yet, that didn’t mean I was ready to write immediately. Some tasks had to be completed first.

After submitting our report to the guild, settling accounts, and whispering in Selly’s ear that I had abandoned the idea of offering Hans as a sacrifice, our work for the day was essentially finished.

What remained was to deliver the nameless man, who now seemed comfortably nestled in the leather roll, to the temple and collect my reward.

“I don’t wanna go… to the temple…” he muttered.

“It’s already too late.”

Lydia chuckled and gestured towards two guild employees who were carrying the man on a stretcher on our behalf.

Although we had received the payment, it was ultimately the guild’s responsibility to ensure the injured person was transferred to the temple, hence their accompaniment.

The guild also intervened to prevent any incidents involving individuals who claimed to be adventurers found unconscious in the labyrinth after receiving a blow to the back of the head.

In fact, there was a team dedicated solely to such cases, highlighting the guild’s commitment to supporting adventurers.

However, strictly speaking, their devotion was either to their faith or to money.

The goddess created the labyrinth, and her followers established the guild to support adventurers.

How many of its members could boast solely about this fact?

Of course, one didn’t need to be a follower of the goddess of love to work at the guild. They simply had to exhibit a level of professional dedication akin to that of her devotees.

Most failed to meet these requirements, but a few remained with tenacity. For instance, an elf whom the guild’s high salary had attracted…that was why so many handsome elven men crowded the guild’s reception. In a world not governed by gender reversal, they would have been “noonas.”

“Sigh.”

“Stop sighing. You didn’t come all this way to quit now, did you?”

“Ah, I sighed for a different reason.”

“A different reason?”

“I was imagining how delightful it would be if, instead of the hyungs who work at Fairy and Silver Coin, Ellie and Miss Lydia wore the bunny girl outfits.”

“……”

Lydia silently scowled.

“That’s right. I knew you wouldn’t do it because of that disgusted reaction. But I still want to see it… Is there no other way?”

“Why on earth do you want to see a woman half-naked?”

“Ha… Then, why on earth do you want to see a man half-naked?”

For a brief moment, we both shook our heads at each other, and before we knew it, we had arrived in front of a white stone building.

The building exuded a grandeur that rivaled the guild’s headquarters, supported by countless pillars and made of spotless, pure white marble.

A perfect Doric temple…evoking the style of ancient Greek temples. Naturally, this was the intended motif.

Though it was the most conspicuous building due to its size, many other relatively ordinary buildings were lined up around it.

If the central temple had been a place to praise the goddess and proclaim her greatness, the buildings constructed around it were erected later as needed.

There was a clinic created to treat the injured, a free brothel (not for profit but funded by donations) that emerged because too many men were being turned into prostitutes through criminal means, an academy for educating children to become knights or priests, and the free food distribution service that I often relied on, among others.

Facilities not for the goddess but for those living in the embrace of the goddess were arranged like satellites around the main temple.

The place we needed to go to was one of those satellite buildings.

“Miss Lydia, Miss Lydia, how much do you think he will fetch? He looks fine and young, aside from his current state, so I bet he’ll bring in a good amount.”

“…Saying it like that makes it sound like we’re committing a crime,” Lydia sighed deeply and shook her head.

“It’ll be a considerable amount, considering the profits from the first floor. That’s the only way they’d take the risk to bring him in. Plus, we’re receiving all the money he would have earned working there for a few years in one go.”

“So, it’s a lump sum then.”

“Yes. But it won’t be as much as you think. As I mentioned earlier, this isn’t actual human trafficking but rather a fee for the rescue operation. Moreover, the ransom is determined by the person’s abilities.”

“Are you saying he’s worthless because he’s become completely crippled?”

“…Stop choosing words that make people misunderstand. The temple will take proper care of him, so unless he’s under a terrible curse, he will be healed. What I meant is that an adventurer from the first floor cannot repay such money. That’s why they set a low fee.”

“That’s true. The temple isn’t short on money, after all.”

A sum that would tempt adventurers of that floor was sufficient. There was no need to shackle their patients with debt.

As Lydia nodded, we arrived at the clinic. Passing by the long line for general consultation, she knocked on a small door beside it.

Knock knock.

Soon after, I sensed someone moving inside.

“Who is it?”

“Someone bringing an injured adventurer.”

“Ah! Please wait a moment.”

Only after hearing some clanking sounds did the side door open. There, a woman with a kind face dressed in pure white priest robes greeted us.

“May your path be filled with love. I am Priest Remilly. Please, come inside.”

“Okay.”

Lydia nodded and stepped inside. I followed, along with the guild staff who were carrying the stretcher.

Inside, a long corridor stretched before us. At its end, there was a large gathering area bustling with patients.

“Hey, you there! Make sure to align the bones before you start the healing on fractures!”
“What kind of poison is this… Pull yourself together, adventurer! The Goddess is with you!”
“Oh no, Ollie! Open your eyes!! The priest will be here soon!”

Priests with dark circles under their eyes fervently recited prayers and summoned their divine powers. Patients, barely clinging to consciousness, vomited blackened blood. Some were on the verge of death.

The scene was reminiscent of a wartime field hospital, filled with the dying and the desperate.

Scratching the back of his head, Remilly spoke with an awkward tone.

“Despite how it looks, very few people actually lose their lives here. We continuously rotate to pour out our divine power.”

Though she looked somewhat weary, Remilly’s eyes and voice radiated pride.

I gave her a broad smile and nodded.

“Of course! Even in a place serving the Goddess of Love, you are those who tirelessly work day and night under the toughest conditions. I trust you deeply, as you must be people of profound faith. And, after all, hearing screams means, at least, that they are still alive!”

“Ho ho. Hearing you say that puts me a bit more at ease! You truly are a worthy companion of the noble Lydia.”

Remilly’s expression brightened a bit as she looked at Lydia with admiration before bowing her head towards me.

It struck me then—she recognized Lydia. It was one thing for me to grumble to myself, but as a member of Lydia’s party, any complaints from me could tarnish her reputation.

No matter how eager I was to leave the temple, it was time to adopt a facade of modesty.

“…Is this what wifing means?”

“Jonah, stop talking nonsense and come over here.”

“Yes.”

Lydia tugged on my arm, noticing that I had fallen behind while lost in thought. After a bit more walking, we reached a bed in a relatively quiet corner, far from the critically ill patients.

Accustomed to the process, the guild employees gently laid the deeply sleeping prisoner on the ground and began to relay to the temple the details we had reported to the guild.

Meanwhile, I started to remove the leather straps wrapped around his body. Now that it was all over, I thought, I’ll be taking these.

Even for a Hobgoblin, hunting Iron Wolves was a foolhardy task, especially when dressed in armor patched together with Horn Rabbit leather and undertaken recklessly.

With this amount of leather, it would fetch a decent price. Alternatively, I could use it as a carpet on the floor of my room.

With such thoughts, I was in the midst of carefully collecting each piece of leather.

A makeshift wall and a single curtain crudely separated the bed next to mine. Through the gap, a familiar face appeared.

“…Huh? Mr. Ian?”

“Who is it?”

Swoosh!

The curtain opened in response to my voice. The person who emerged was Karen, the inquisitor I had seen a few days ago.

My mind froze momentarily, as I hadn’t expected to meet them here.

Splattered on her neat black priest’s robe was red blood, and her face, now free from the dark circles that had marred it before, displayed a mix of self-reproach and surprise.

It was evident to anyone that they were inquisitors who had just been through a fierce scuffle.

However, the blood on the priest’s robe wasn’t solely from her enemies.

When I saw Ian’s entire body, now fully revealed as the curtain was drawn back, it was covered in dark red blood. Thankfully, the wounds seemed to have mostly healed.

But the problem was that he was unconscious.

While I stood there, startled by the severity of the wounds, Karen’s eyes widened upon seeing me. She suddenly grabbed my shoulders with both hands and exclaimed,

“Please, please help!”

“Excuse me?”

“Please…I’m begging you to help Ian!”

“Me?”

“Aren’t you the one who has fully embraced the teachings of the goddess? Surely, you must have a way!”

“I don’t… I mean, I don’t even possess divine powers.”

As I shook my head in confusion, Karen’s face fell.

“Oh no… Then what am I supposed to do about Ian’s curse…”

“Curse…?”

The mention of a curse snapped me to attention. Reflexively, I fiddled with the hilt of the unicorn dagger at my waist and asked, “Is Mr. Ian, by any chance, still a virgin?”

Perhaps, in that case, I might be able to help after all…

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