Chapter 4-44 : Epilogue (part 2)
「The hot spring is in the forest, but… Lorea, you’re going too, right?」(Iris)
Lorea-chan glanced at me as if asking if she could go with us or not.
「Of course. I won’t let her be left out this time.」(Sarasa)
「Sarasa-san, are you sure…?」(Lorea)
「Yeah. I will close the store for a while so you can go with us. Don’t worry. There are not many Collectors working in winter anyway, so I think no one will come.」(Sarasa)
There are not many alchemy materials that could be collected during winter. Moreover, accidents were more likely to occur in winter. In addition to the cold wind, you can’t move fast in the forest due to the snow.
Collecting materials in the forest during winter could be risky especially if you stay overnight in the forest. It could even endanger your life if you make mistakes while working.
For this reason, there are not many Collectors who work in winter. They usually stay at inns, enjoying beers with their friends all day.
If they run out of money, they will find a job in towns or move to warmer regions and work as Collectors there.
「But, Sarasa-san, you have spent a lot of money recently. You even owe your master money, don’t you?」(Lorea)
To rescue Iris-san and the others, I made a few artifacts that I thought could be useful for the rescue mission.
First, I made some Homunculus-related artifacts.
In order to find a rescue method using Kurumi, I created all the artifacts related to Homunculi which were listed in the Encyclopedia of Alchemy volume 5, and tried them one by one.
I spent a lot of money buying materials to make them.
Because the materials are quite rare, I asked Master to buy them for me. Of course, I told her that I would pay her money back.
By the way, the instruction to make a Homunculus was also written in volume 5.
Other than that, I also make potions for emergencies even though I knew that Iris-san and the others had potions and medicines in the emergency box.
However, In the end, we didn’t need to use any of the potions, so it was a bit of a waste of money. Still, I’m glad that they were not injured or sick.
「D, Don’t worry, Lorea-chan. I’m sure it’ll be fine…」(Sarasa)
After I said that, Lorea-chan glared at me as if saying, “Reeeally~?”
Suddenly, Iris-san stood up, left the kitchen, and returned while carrying a leather bag.
「Store Owner-dono, please take this money.」(Iris)
「Ah, I see! Iris, good idea! Store Owner-san, this is the money we got from Nord-san. He paid us a lot. Please accept it.」(Kate)
「Well, I don’t think it’s enough to pay back the money you spent to rescue us, but we will pay the rest later. We promise.」(Iris)
The leather bag that Iris-san put on the table looked quite heavy.
It made me think once again that Nord-san was a generous person.
Of course, I’m happy that Iris-san and Kate-san were trying to pay me back.
「Umm, I really appreciate it, but… to put it bluntly, it’s not even half the amount of money I spent…」(Sarasa)
「Just… how much money did you spend…?」(Kate)
Iris-san and Kate-san looked at me with worried eyes and swallowed their saliva at the same time.
「All I can say is… I spent quite a lot.」(Sarasa)
The money Iris-san and Kate-san offered was far from enough to pay all the expenses and my debt to my master.
Imagining the huge amount of money I had spent, Iris-san and Kate-san were looking at each other worriedly.
Honestly, I don’t think they have to worry about it. Saving them was my own decision. In the first place, I have no intention of charging them for the money I spent to save them.
「Alright, this conversation is over. We’re going to the hot spring, right? Let’s forget about debt for now and let’s get ready! Lorea-chan, I know you’re worried but you’re going with us. Of course, Kurumi, you’re going too.」(Sarasa)
Kurumi, who was sitting in the middle of the dining table, cutely raised her hand.
「Alright… Honestly, I also want to try to bathe in a hot spring. Hehe…」(Lorea)
「Hahh… You should be more honest with yourself.」(Sarasa)
Lorea-chan replied to me with a nod as her cheek turned a bit red.
After finishing our breakfast, we packed up, closed the store, and went into the forest, heading to the hot spring.
◇ ◇ ◇
「This is my first time taking a bath in a hot spring. Aaahh~~ It feels so good~… 」(Lorea)
「Right~? It melts your fatigue and worries away~」(Sarasa)
A couple of days later, we arrived at the hot spring.
The four of us were relaxing in the hot spring, enjoying heaven in the middle of the snowy forest.
「It feels so different from the underground hot spring~」(Iris)
「Yeah~ Because it’s an open-air bath, we can feel the cold, fresh air and see the scenery around~ I think it’s a bit luxurious for us.」(Kate)
「Well, normally, only rich people can experience bathing in hot springs after all.」(Iris)
In some regions far away from here, it seems that people normally bathe in hot springs, but only rich people can go there.
「Store Owner-dono, this hot water came from the underground hot spring, right? But somehow, I feel like this hot water is more calming than the one in the underground even though they’re the same hot water.」(Iris)
「Hmm, it’s probably because you have nothing to worry about now unlike when you were still in the cave.」(Sarasa)
「I see. You’re right.」(Iris)
「But Kurumi looks as happy as she did when we were bathing in the underground hot spring back then. Fufu.」(Kate)
「Gau Ga~uu ♪」(Kurumi)
Kate was looking at Kurumi who was swimming briskly in the center of the hot spring while being surrounded by the four of us.
I used some Salamander scales and Hellfire Grizzly eyeballs to create Kurumi, so you can say that her main attribute is fire. That’s probably why she looks energetic while swimming in hot water.
「By the way, this hot spring bath is very well-made. Store Owner-san, I bet you put a lot of effort into making it.」(Kate)
The base of the bath was hardened with cobblestones and plaster.
There were solid stone walls surrounding the hot spring that prevented wild animals from entering.
Those walls won’t be able to stop Hellfire Grizzlies, but since those bears have left this volcano, we don’t have to worry about that. Monsters of their level don’t come out that often, so we can say that we’re safe.
Even if dangerous monsters appeared, I think Iris-san, Kate-san and I would be able to fight them.
Bathing in an open-air bath in the middle of the forest like this can be dangerous for most people, but not for those who can fight like us.
「It was indeed not easy, but Andre-san and the others helped me build this bath.」(Sarasa)
I hired Andre-san, Gil-san, and Gray-san to help me rescue Iris-san and the others.
They stayed with me to protect me from danger while I was concentrating on making artifacts and while I was synchronizing my mind with Kurumi’s.
However, the level of danger around here wasn’t that high, so the three of them helped me build this hot spring bath whenever they had free time.
「I see. Seems like we also have to thank those three for this amazing open-air bath.」(Iris)
「Let’s buy them beers the next time we go to Diral-san’s inn.」(Kate)
「You have to thank Daruna-san and Geberg-san too. This bath wouldn’t have existed without their support.」(Sarasa)
「My dad didn’t help a lot, actually. He just lent Sarasa-san his cart.」(Lorea)
「Still, we need to thank him no matter how small his contribution was.」(Kate)
「That’s right. But of course, there’s someone who deserves our gratitude the most!」(Iris)
After Iris-san said that, the three of them smiled at each other for a moment and then they moved their gaze toward me at the same time.
「「Thank you, (Store Owner-dono) (Store Owner-san) (Sarasa-san)!」」(Iris, Kate, Lorea)
Honestly, I was a bit surprised.
I scratched my cheek with my index finger and smiled at them.
「Ahaha… You’re welcome, I guess.」(Sarasa)
「Store Owner-san, you rescued us from the cave and made this wonderful bath for us. You don’t know how grateful we are to you.」(Kate)
「Please don’t mind it. I did it because I want.」(Sarasa)
「But you spent a lot of money because of it. You even owe your master money, right?」(Kate)
「Hold on… So, Store Owner-dono is also living in debt, huh…?」(Iris)
For some reason, Iris-san muttered to herself and grinned at me.
「Store Owner-dono, since we’re both living in debt, don’t you think we are a good match~?」(Iris)
「Pfft. Ahaha! Good one, Iris!」(Kate)
「I’m just kidding! Ahaha!」(Iris)
「Hahh….. Phu. Ahahaha!」(Sarasa)
I sighed at first but then laughed together with them.
Amidst the cold freezing winter, the laughter of four girls echoed through the white snowy forest.