Daniela turned around as she spread a cloth on the floor to sleep on.
“I’m sensing something strange out there…”
“Hmm…ah, so you have come far enough to detect such things then.”
Daniela nodded with a pleased expression. As for me, question marks were popping out of my head.
“It is the flow of magical energy. Just as there are veins of water in the ground under our feet, there are also rivers of magic flowing here. There is an old name for it, the dragon vein. You must have stuck your foot in it just now.”
“So, are we inside of the stream right now?”
“In a way. You might say that we are far from the mainstream, but close to tributary streams.”
Hmm, dragon vein, eh? The power that flows through the earth. I wonder who called it that first? It’s a name I had heard in some novels before…hmmm, I wonder…surely, not.
“Will there be any effect on us when we are in it?”
“Perhaps. I do believe there would be some effect if you are inside long enough.”
“Like a reservoir of magic?”
“No, not really. Magical reservoirs occur when the dragon vein deposits its excesses into the surface. It is a negative energy. But these dragon veins are a positive energy. There should not be a negative effect on us. At least not any time soon”
“I see… It’s like how medicine can be poison if you overdose. Let’s not stay here for too long then.”
Of course, we still had to take our rest here. We would stay here tonight, and tomorrow we would finally reach the bottom of this dungeon and do what we can. And so under Daniela’s watchful eyes, I fell into a deep sleep.
□ □ □ □
Daniela woke me up and we switched places. But nothing strange happened, and things were quiet until Daniela got up in the morning. We had a light breakfast and continued our trek through the tunnels. At first, the dragon vein would merge with the presence of other monsters in my head, but I got used to it after a few hours.
We put down many monsters on that day as well. They had increased in number to such a degree, that I half expected them to start flowing out from holes like a fountain. We pushed the corpses to the side and continued on our way. I was starting to have my doubts, but we couldn’t allow this danger to affect Spiris. For now, we could only go deeper, deeper.
And then I suddenly noticed something. It just came to me. I was enjoying this killing of monsters and moving forward.
It was to prevent a stampede of monsters. To save Spiris from this possible danger. Or so I told myself, but I found pleasure in it nonetheless. Once I acknowledged this, my legs stopped moving.
“What is it Asagi? An enemy?”
“Hey, Daniela…is there something wrong with me?”
She approaches me and peers into my face. I didn’t want her to do that. I didn’t want her to see the face of someone who enjoyed doing what I was doing. I thought, and looked away.
“Hey…I, I can’t help but enjoy this right now. In this time, in this place. There is a part of me that enjoys killing the monsters. That first night. There were kobolds who were approaching our camp. I froze them with magic and killed them. Even while discarding their bodies…I felt nothing. It makes me feel like I must be a rotten person.”
Daniela listened to this quietly.
“And today. I thought I was emotionless at first, but now I see that I enjoy it. I acquired such good armor, good weapons and…kill and move forward… I feel almost like this place has broken me in some way…all the killing and moving has become entertaining.”
I managed to say all of this and looked up anxiously into Daniela’s face. How would she react?
Would she look down on me…
But instead, she smiled gently.
“Asagi, you are a kind person. Perhaps the kindest I have ever met. You are kind enough that your heart aches because of the monsters that you have killed.”
I look back at her. Her words reach my ears, but they do not fit my reality at all. I just could not believe them.
“And you are a person fit for being an Adventurer. Just as I am, no?”
“You as well?”
“Aye, even I am enjoying it. I enjoy moving forward. It brings me pleasure to know that the death of these monsters will bring comfort to those in the city who I owe a debt of gratitude. But more than anything, I love you for being able to confess this to me. For not losing yourself in this place that reeks of blood and for being able to see what is in your heart.”
And then she embraced me tightly. A gentle embrace that seemed to cover the blood that was all over me.
“Asagi. What we are doing is killing. It makes no matter that they are monsters. There is no doubt about it, it is a slaughter. But it is necessary. The lives of those who live in the city must be saved, and it is up to those with weapons to carry this out. You have not been an Adventurer for long, so it is no surprise that you should have doubts. Up until now you have only killed what was required. For yourself. It is easy to have doubts when you are doing it not for yourself, but for people you cannot see, who you do not know.”
My heart trembles at the sensation of her hands slowly caressing my head.
“Enjoying the job is just part of the character of an Adventurer. What lies beyond this place? The desire to fight stronger enemies. These are emotions that will inevitably occur in any in our profession. And so, you and I, Asagi, are enjoying the present. It is only normal to do so. I am confident that whatever we see at the end, it will be highly interesting. Did I not tell you? I do not want to leave. I am having too much fun now.”
Daniela chuckled. My quivering heart finally began to melt.
“And yet, you should not learn to feel pleasure in the act of killing itself. Unnecessary killing is wrong. The Asagi that I love would not be like that, would he?”
“Of course not… No, surely the man you love would never be like that.”
“Hehe. Good. I love you, Asagi.”
She gave me a tight hug. I had feared the coldness in my heart those two nights ago. I felt like I had become cold and emotionless. But Daniela had warmed me. Told me that I was a kind person. That we weren’t killing in some thoughtless excess. And those words saved me.
I was overwhelmed by an emotion that I didn’t understand, and having no place to go, they came out as tears. But I wanted to understand them, and so I stared at the ceiling to prevent them from falling away.