Paula’s Resolve – Part 05

The owner of the house, Brinkra, finally appeared after the commotion had settled. She was surprised to see two unfamiliar women, surprised by the smell of blood, and was shocked to learn that Paula had been seriously injured.

Paula was laid down in an inner room. She had lost consciousness, but her breathing was stable, so she should be fine now.

“Hikaru, I’ll stay here with her.”

“…”

“You have to talk to them, don’t you? I can deal with them if you want…”

“I’ll go. Thanks, Lavia.”

“Hikaru… Don’t blame yourself.”

Silently shaking his head, Hikaru left Paula’s side.

It’s my fault, Hikaru thought.

Even though she hadn’t taken off her mask, Sara referred to her as Paula, which meant that Sophie and Sara knew that Paula was the masked Healer. With her identity exposed, Paula chose to end her life so as not to cause trouble for Hikaru.

It wouldn’t have been easy for her to commit suicide in front of the skilled Sara. The fact that she managed it showcased her swift decision-making and strong will. Paula’s mind was consumed by the thought that she had no other option but to do this in order to earn Hikaru’s trust.

I pushed her to a wall.

What exactly had he been doing? He had granted her a level 8 Healing Magic on her Soul Board, a power that might not exist anywhere else on this continent, and then just left her by his side.

If I really think about it, it’s like I was testing her. Whether she would become arrogant with the given power or remain humble… whether she would run away… It seems like I was testing her. I didn’t mean to do that. That wasn’t my intention!

When Hikaru returned to the living room, he saw Sophie and Sara seated in chairs. Brinkra stood sternly in the corner. When he asked Brinkra to leave, she nodded, keeping her grave expression, and went to the back with the materials Hikaru had brought. She had her own work to do.

It was already dark outside.

Hikaru wanted to return before nightfall, so he quickened their pace. Using Mana Detection, he had sensed someone making contact with Paula, so he left their luggage with Lavia and sprinted down the mountain trail alone.

He didn’t want to show Lavia to the women because he didn’t know how things would turn out. So he told her to use Imperceptibility and enter through the back door.

Hikaru felt a lingering fatigue in his body, but he couldn’t rest as long as the two members of the Four Eastern Stars were around.

Thinking about where to begin, Hikaru sat down opposite Sophie.

“Is Paula okay?! If I didn’t do anything, she wouldn’t have ended up like this. I didn’t mean to cause her harm!”

“Calm down, Sophie,” Sara said. “He doesn’t understand what you’re saying.”

Seeing Sophie more upset than himself, Hikaru started to calm down. Indeed, if these two hadn’t come and stuck their noses where they didn’t belong, Paula wouldn’t have been on the brink of death. However, he was well aware that not all the responsibility lay with them.

“I want to confirm something. Where did you learn Flower Face’s name?” Hikaru asked in a hard, hoarse voice.

“Just so you know, we didn’t come here for Paula,” Sara said.

She explained that they had received a commission from Duke Nightblaze, who informed them about Silver Face. And if he was at the Frontier Sage’s place, they wanted to ask about Paula.

“Do you know Cotton-elka?”

“The village near that dungeon,” Hikaru answered.

Sara nodded, then explained the reason why they were looking for her. First, Sophie had questioned how Pia, who had no chance of survival, lived.

“And at the Ruler’s Rumble tournament, Selyse heard you call Paula’s name. We were skeptical, but figured there was no harm in verifying it.”

“…”

Hikaru couldn’t believe it. When the Undead appeared and chaos ensued, Gerhardt was hit by a poisoned arrow, and Hikaru panicked. He recalled calling out Paula’s name loudly—which Selyse heard. He was feeling more and more responsible.

“So, what are you planning to do?” he asked.

Regret could come later. The issue of the Four Eastern Stars had to be resolved first.

“Is there a reason why Paula is hiding her true identity?” Sara asked.

“No comment.”

“If you tell us, maybe we can help in some way—”

“Not necessary. But if you plan on spreading rumors about her…”

Hikaru fixed them with a glare. Sara, who always wore a grin, wiped away her smile and tensed up.

“Sophie here has been saying that she almost killed Paula. She wants to make amends.”

“Stop saying her name. If you promise not to tell your party members either, that’s fine.”

“So he says. What now?”

“We walk the same religious path. I-I want to do something for her,” Sophie said, leaning forward.

Hikaru heaved a deep sigh. “What exactly were you planning to do when you found out Flower Face was Paula?”

“We share the same faith. I was planning on bringing her with me to the Church.”

Hikaru looked up at the ceiling. What? The Church? Did Paula slice her throat for something like that?

“No. For reasons I can’t disclose, she’s under my care.”

“But she—”

“I won’t let her go down the wrong path. I’m… taking good care of her. I trust you have no complaints with that.”

“…No.” Sophie reluctantly backed down. “But please allow her to go to the Church when she wants! Prayers can be offered anywhere, but the Church is a special place for us!”

“F-Fine.”

Her vigor overwhelmed him.

“So you just want us to keep quiet? Are you sure? If there’s anything else we can do, please tell us,” Sophie went on.

“Nothing indecent, all right?” Sara interjected, feeling the tension in the air easing up.

“S-Sara!”

The atmosphere relaxed even more. Hikaru let out a sigh. Then, an idea came to mind.

“Actually, there is something you can do,” he said. “You came here because you wanted to save the Duke’s son, right?”

“Of course.”

“We have all the materials needed to lift the curse.”

“What?!” Sophie exclaimed, exchanging glances with Sara.

This is perfect, in a way.

Hikaru had appeared before Margrave Grugschilt, Commander Lawrence, and even Princess Kujastria. Too much time in the spotlight.

“Lift the forbidden spell placed on Galeicrada G. Nightblaze and take credit for it.”

“What?! Why?! We’re the only one benefiting from it,” Sara said.

“Not exactly. It’s important to us.”

“I see. You don’t want to draw attention to yourself.”

“I’m glad you’re quick on the uptake.”

The lifting of the curse on Galeicrada would lead to all sorts of trouble. Rewards, connections with nobles, and such. Other nobles would flock to the Duke’s mansion, and Hikaru didn’t want to deal with any of them.

In that case, why not just dump all the annoying stuff on others? Brinkra said that lifting the curse required magical power associated with the Holy attribute, but Sophie should be more than capable. Just to be sure, Hikaru checked her Soul Board.

【Soul Board】Sophie Bloomfield
Age: 20 | Rank: 36 | 12

【Vitality】
【Natural Recovery】3
【Stamina】3
【Immunity】
【Magic Resistance】1
【Disease Immunity】2
【Toxin Immunity】1

【Magical Power】
【Mana Capacity】7

【Willpower】
【Mental Strength】2
【Faith】
【Holy】6
【Healing Magic】5
【Support Magic】4

【Instinct】
【Insight】
【Music】3

As he suspected, it was more than enough.

“But I don’t feel good about taking all the credit,” Sophie said. “We’ve caused you enough trouble already.”

“Just so you know, the ritual to dispel the curse is not simple. I want you to take charge of that as well.”

“Of course.”

“Then it’s more than enough. If it still bothers you, you can give us some of the reward. As Sara said, I don’t want attention. I don’t need fame or connections with nobles.”

“Understood. If it makes her happy.”

Sophie only cared about making things right for Paula.

“Of course it will,” Hikaru replied.

The deal was sealed.

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