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Quite abruptly, the sound of shattered gla.s.s floats to us from below the stairs, followed by several screams of terror. Realising that something must have happened downstairs, the shopkeeper and I race down the steps.
"If ya don't wanna die, hand out yer coin!"
There we find a duo of men, each wearing a mask over their face. One of them gestures with a firearm toward Khiel. Customers stream out of the store, one after the other. It's a robbery, completely out of the blue.
The shopkeeper's face goes pale as a sheet. The image of the earlier ruffians brings me to question the stability of this town's public order. Just how normal is it to target small stores like these?
"But Bro, don't ya think this guy looks like he's pretty tough…?"
"Hah. Just take a good look at 'im, he's quaking in his boots. There's nothin' to worry about."
The robbers aren't wrong; Khiel's positively sweating rivers while his entire body shakes like a leaf.
"Fuh… Fuhuh… S-S-S-S-See, I told ya! T-T-T-T-This place is a war-zone!"
It's a lost cause. It really doesn't look like I can count on the old man to handle this. Just what does he even use all those muscles for? Although granted, there's not much he'd be able to do regardless, what with the firearm pointed his way.
"Hey! You there, raise yer hands, both of you, and keep quiet!"
The robber points his firearm towards the shopkeeper and I, but with my defense of 99,999, I sincerely doubt he's going to be able to even land a scratch on me. The shopkeeper though, now that's a different story. A normal human getting shot won't end well for them.
"Incantation: Absolute Barrier!"
I erect an invincible barrier in front of the shopkeeper. That should guarantee his safety.
"W-W-Who the h.e.l.l are ya?! When'd ya get here?!"
That's when the two robbers looking my way make an expression that looks like it's part bewilderment and part utter despair. What's wrong with them? What do they mean by 'when'? I've been here all along, haven't -
Only now do I realize that I've returned to my true High King form. d.a.m.n it all. I'd completely forgotten that using an incantation undoes the Transformation spell.
"M… Mo…. Monster… Gurglegurglegurgle…"
The shopkeeper's eyes go pure white the second he sees me, and foam begins bubbling from his mouth. I have to admit. Seeing him faint from seeing me rather than the robbers is a little shocking.
Well, whatever. This form would be much more useful for reprimanding those burglars anyways.
"It would seem that your luck's run afoul of you, my little burglar friends. Who would even dare to set foot within my territories?"
Slowly, I draw closer to the robbers.
"D-Don't come heeeeeree!!"
The robber pulls the trigger, shooting a projectile from his firearm towards me. As I am now, the speeding bullet appears to be moving as slow as a soap bubble.
I stop the bullet with just one hand. The robbers stare in dumbfounded awe.
"Do you wish to entertain me with a game of catch, perhaps? Then I suppose it is your turn now."
I throw the bullet back. It grazes the face of a robber before making contact with the ground on the outside, crashing into it and leaving a large explosion in its wake. There's no one who got involved, is there?
The burglar fires blindly. The bullets collide against my body and fall to the ground, again and again. The total damage I take is, of course, zero.
"It is futile. A mere toy such as yours would not even be enough to entertain."
"B-Big Bro, calm down!"
Falling into a complete frenzy, the burglar begins shooting at random directions in the store.
I can see one of them sailing towards Khiel. d.a.m.n it! This guy's another regular human too, isn't he?! I won't make it in time!
The bullet makes direct contact with his forehead. That's not what surprised me, however: Khiel hadn't so much as flinched, and not a single wound is to be seen.
Just as I'm about to question this further, Khiel's eyes snap open.
"You two… Let's not stoop down to this. If you want to make some money, then you can start by finding yourselves a part-time job!"
"We're so sorrryyyyyy!"
Khiel's enraged bellow sends the two burglars fleeing from the store. I could probably catch them both if I wanted to, but it's a little too bothersome to follow up on that thought. They'd probably been chastised enough too.
"… Well, color me surprised. I wouldn't have guessed that you were the High King all along."
Khiel moves toward me.
"Oh? So you have heard of me?"
"Well, just what they say. But who'd have guessed that I'd meet you here like this? If I'm going to be perfectly honest, I knew you weren't normal from the first time I laid eyes on you."
I have my doubts. Looking at whom I have to deal with, I really don't feel like I need to reconsider my stance.
"But I must admit, I am impressed. Most ordinary men who cross paths with one such as I tend to react as if they're face-to-face with a monster."
"I am a warrior with fifteen years of service dedicated to this store. That much won't even phase me."
But being held at gunpoint by bandits is something that shakes you up, huh?
"And monster or not, it doesn't matter. We are now comrades that have outlived this harsh field of battle together."
"You are certainly an interesting fellow."
So far, people have looked upon me with little but pure fear. This makes for a fresh new experience and just the smallest twinge of happiness.
"But now that I have seen you in action, I must say that you do not seem to be all that ordinary either."
"… Who can say."
Khiel gives a little smile.
"Hmph. Well then, I will not make it a habit to pry. I doubt we will ever meet again regardless."
"What, not coming over here anymore?"
"Of course not. The shopkeeper has seen my true form. I can see no way that might allow me to continue working here."
"…. That so. Well, what a shame."
But before I go, there's something that needs to be done. I climb up the stairs, then silently enter the room where the shopkeeper's daughter sleeps. Then I raise my right hand.
"Incantation: Almighty Healing!"
I chant the spell. With this, the young girl's illness has to be completely gone. That should mean that she's now free from her excessive dependence on medicines.
Going down the stairs, the unconscious form of the collapsed shopkeeper once more catches my gaze. If I were to use Almighty Healing on him now, I'm sure he'd recover, but…
Well, the way things are now should be fine. Although I am, admittedly, a bit curious to see what kind of face he'd make when he finds out that his daughter's ailment is gone.
"Farewell, Shopkeeper. I was under your care, if only for a mere two hours."
I had worked two hours, so I take ten coppers for myself. The treatment of the daughter coming to mind, I pull another thirteen coins out of the counter drawer and take them for myself, putting them in my pocket.
"Well then, Khiel. I leave the rest to you."
"Sure thing. Another time, High King."
I use Teleportation and disappear from the store. While I had said that we would never cross paths again, something tells me that I'd meet Khiel again before too long.
And only later did I realize the following: Couldn't me ridding the girl of her illness potentially lead to a greatly improved image for the High King?
I now feel far too much regret.