OmaeGotoki: Volume 1 001 - The End of the Girl Who Only Wanted a Normal Life
“Don’t think for a second someone like you could ever defeat the Demon Lord.”
The legendary sage grabs her collar and glares at her, and all she can do is cower in fear.
She doesn’t have to be told that. She knows. Not only was she useless in their last fight against the demons, but her party members ended up having to protect her. She only got in their way.
She wasn't quite timid enough to just sit there as he yelled in her face, though. She’d tried to calm him down by making a little joke, but his feelings on the matter are clear. In one last attempt to appease him she forces a smile, tears gathering in the corners of her eyes.
Seeing her pitiful expression, the man snorts, loses interest in her, and walks away. She stands there alone, facing the ground, wiping at her eyes with her sleeves.
“I never wanted this, either...”
Flum Apricot whispers to herself in a trembling voice.
Following the prophecy of the God of Creation Origin, she’d left her village to join the Hero and defeat the Demon Lord as one of the Hero’s companions… or so she was told, at least.
They couldn’t be more different from her.
The “Lone Sage” Jean Inteige is the man who was berating her just moments before, and he’s a prodigy who can control air, fire, earth and water.
The “Godslayer Archer” Linus Radiance is skilled enough with a bow and has senses sharp enough to hit a target a thousand leagues away.
The “Saint of Love” Maria Affenjenz is a priestess whose merciful heart and Light magic can supposedly cure any malady.
The “Starcrushing Strongarm” Gadio Ruskett can create a shockwave strong enough to reduce an S-Rank monster to dust with a single-handed swing of his giant sword.
The “Eternal Witch” Eterna Rinebow has enough raw magic power to send any enemy to a watery grave.
Finally, the “Hero of Salvation” Cyrill Sweechka is stronger than any of her companions, and supposedly was born only to slay the Demon Lord.
Of course a party assembled to slay the Demon Lord would be filled with famous people --- famous enough that even an ordinary farm girl from the middle of nowhere like Flum would know about them. It's painfully clear that she doesn't belong there. Her only power, “Reversal,” is a mystery even to herself, and her stat total is an impressive 0.
Cyrill herself is also from a farming town in the middle of nowhere, but there’s still an insurmountable difference between the two girls.
Cyrill is strong. Flum is weak.
That's the undeniable truth.
Flum nonetheless does everything she can for the party. She works longer and harder than anyone else, but still nobody respects her.
Whenever she hurts herself covering for one of the others, they tell her they don't have the magic to spare on her and ignore her injuries.
Whenever she gives someone a hand in camp, they tell her to mind her own business instead of thanking her.
She makes all their food, but she has to practically beg them to eat every time.
Maybe they aren’t as bad as she thinks. Maybe it’s all in her head. Every time she’s bullied and abused, however, she can’t help but ask herself why she’s even trying so hard in the first place.
Those simple words 'even so' have been her only real comfort as of late, but it's only a matter of time before they offer her no more comfort than her party members.
As she stands there alone, Flum suddenly feels a gaze on her and looks up. At some point, somebody had come to see her.
Maybe they came to cheer me up? --- but even as that hope crosses her mind she looks up to see Cyrill simply standing there, watching her.
Her golden hair is just long enough to cover her ears, and she’s smaller than Flum herself, but she’s strong enough to make even demons tremble in fear.
Cyrill Sweechka --- the Hero herself.
Flum can’t tell from her expression what she’s thinking, but it's clear it's nothing pleasant. Just in case, Flum calls out to her anyways.
Before Flum can even finish calling her name Cyrill turns her back and leaves.
Flum can feel her chest grow tight. She bites her lip to stave off the tears rising in her eyes.
---I’ve been completely abandoned.
The more desperate Flum was to be helpful, the more she failed, and the greater the distance between them grew. Now Cyrill won’t even try to comfort her.
Flum had no intention of joining Cyrill on her quest to begin with, but as one of the Chosen she had no right to refuse. Even if she could, there's no way she could betray the expectations of everyone in her village who'd seen her off with such enthusiasm.
I wonder what everyone would think if they knew I'm useless, bullied, and depressed all the time...?
“They’d all be so disappointed in me…”
She imagines her friends and family looking at her with the same eyes as Cyrill and she feels ill. Even so, she can’t give up and leave --- regardless of what she wants for herself, this is her duty.
Wiping away her tears with her palms, she runs to catch up with Cyrill and the others. It’s pathetic that even now she has no choice but to rely on them.
Without a friend left in the world, she now feels completely and totally alone.
In the continent’s south lies the Human Realm, while the demons live in the Demon Realm in the north. The Demon Lord’s Castle is at the northernmost part of Demon Realm, which means that the Hero’s Party is always headed further north.
As with any journey, there’s a limit to the amount of supplies they can take with them, but Cyrill's Return magic helps mitigate that issue. By using Return, Cyrill can take them back to any place she has designated as a Return Point --- specifically, the Capital. Then, by using the spell again, she can take them from the Capital to anywhere she has designated as a Continue Point.
In order to create a Continue Point, however, a tool found only in ancient ruins known as a Teleportation Stone is needed, and as they cannot be manufactured with modern technology their number is severely limited. In order to make the best use of the stones, they pace themselves and plan where to create Continue Points ahead of time.
On top of that, magic of the highest order is needed to utilize the Teleportation Stones, magic that only a select few mages can use. In the Hero’s Party, only Jean and Eterna can use such magic.
Return is not a be-all-end-all that they can afford to use lightly, though nobody would deny its usefulness. By making frequent use of Return, Cyrill and her companions have grown ever closer to the Demon Lord’s Castle without ever having to worry about running out of supplies.
That day, after they make enough progress to warrant and Continue Point, they return to the Capital as always.
Return brings them back to the Teleportation Room beneath the Royal Palace. It’s a dark place out of the public eye, and it also serves as a muster point for when they’re ready to continue their journey.
“Fuu… The air here tastes a lot better.”
Back in the capital for the first time in days, the witch Eterna takes a deep breath. The air in the underground Teleportation Room isn’t fresh, but being able to relax is a huge weight off their shoulders.
“Yes, the air in the Demon Realm is so stagnant.”
As the saint Maria agrees with her, the archer Linus edges closer to her, his hands stroking the air in front of him suggestively.
“Maria-chan, your muscles are probably still all tense from all that walking, right? If you’d like, I could give you a massa--”
“Linus-san, you know I hate jokes like that.”
Maria replies with a smile, and Linus’s shoulders slump in dejection. Back when they’d first met she had reacted to his dirty jokes with a bright red face and a trembling voice, but she’s grown used to dealing with him over the time they’ve been travelling together.
Regardless, Linus doesn’t give up.
“I knew a crass pickup line like that’d never work on you... How about dinner instead?”
Quickly changing gears, he asks her out on a date instead.
Putting a hand to her mouth, Maria replies with a good-natured laugh.
“Fufufu, in that case I don’t see any problem.”
He pumps his fist, not even trying to hide his joy.
Then, without even saying goodbye to their other companions, the two leave the Teleportation Room.
The sage Jean lets out a conspicuous sigh, but he knows he has no right to stop them. Until they meet up in two days’ time, they’re allowed to spend their time however they want.
The rest of the Party quickly follows suit and in moments only Cyrill and Flum are left.
Cyrill closes her eyes for a moment, and the jewel-encrusted sword that she’d been holding the entire time they were in the Demon Realm fades into motes of light and a small crest appears on the back of her hand.
She casts one last glance at Flum, narrows her eyes in a scowl, then leaves the room.
---How did it get to be like this?
No matter how hard she wracks her brains, she can never find the answer.
They both like sweets, so they used to go out for cake together whenever they returned to the Capital. There’s no hope of that happening now.
“I wanna go home… I hope Mom and Dad are doing okay…”
She fondly remembers her home village. It’s only been a few months since she left, but already she can’t help but find the thought of her hometown nostalgic. Just recalling the warm, sweet air is enough to bring tears to her eyes.
Rubbing her eyes with her arm, she shakes her head clear of her self-pity. Shifting her thoughts to the task at hand and renewing her determination, she heads for the exit.
This is no time to be crying.
In just two days they’ll be meeting up again, and before then she has to have finished restocking their supplies --- she can do that much for them even as weak as she is.
She leaves the Teleportation Room and steps into the dark, chilly corridor beyond.
She’s surprised to see a mountain of a man in black armour waiting there for her, his arms crossed in front of him as he leans against the wall.
“Gadio-san…? Oh, and Eterna-san, too!”
He was supposed to have left already.
A second, much smaller figure pops out of Gadio’s shadow and waves.
She’s dressed as eccentrically as always, clad in something halfway between a white one-piece swimsuit and a leotard. A pair of strange devices that almost resemble deformed fish float by her shoulders. As if trying to look the part of a witch she’s also wearing a pointy wide-brimmed hat and a fluttery cape, but they end up only making her look stranger.
“You’re going shopping? I have some stuff to do, too. I’m coming with you.”
“Eterna told me to carry your things. Normally, though, I wouldn't have the time to waste with that kind of thing.”
His expression is unmistakably kind.
They likely noticed she was feeling down and decided to wait for her. Gadio has a long history as an adventurer, and Eterna is supposedly far older than her small, youthful body suggests, so it’s not surprising that they’d notice her insecurity.
“Th… Thank you so much!”
Flum bows deeply in gratitude.
Despite the simplicity of their gesture, all of Flum’s fears are alleviated, and even though hardships beyond anything she could ever imagine may be just around the corner she feels safe and secure once more.
After they finish shopping she parts ways with Eterna and Gadio and delivers the supplies to the Palace before returning to her room at the inn.
The first thing she does is look at herself in the mirror and let out a deep sigh. Even though they carried the bags for her most of the way, she feels exhausted.
All her stats are 0 --- with a Strength of 0 she can’t carry anything heavy, and with a Stamina of 0 her breathing grows heavy and labored even walking short distances. While she can still live a more or less normal life, she’s far weaker than the average person.
She hates how weak she is, but she's been living with her condition her entire life.
The cause of all her misery is her Attribute.
Every living thing has an Attribute, most often one of Fire, Earth, Water, Air, Light, or Dark. If they have enough mana, they can even cast magic drawn from their Attribute.
Every once in a while, however, someone is born with an Attribute other than one of the six.
Jean’s Primal Attribute, for example, gives him control over Earth, Fire, Water, and Air, and Cyrill’s Hero Attribute gives her access to a wide variety of unique spells. These Rare Attributes are often fundamentally stronger than the other Attributes, but even among the Rare Attributes there are special cases --- exceptions among exceptions.
Flum’s own Attribute, Reversal, is one such rarity. It also happens to be the reason why all of her stats --- Strength, Magic, Stamina, Agility, and Intuition --- are stuck at 0.
Normally, one’s stats increase naturally through normal everyday life, but in Flum’s case, the process is reversed; instead of her stats steadily increasing they’re always decreasing. Since stats can’t fall below zero, that’s where hers have stopped. With her Magic at 0, that of course means that she can’t even use the unique magic supposedly bestowed upon her by Reversal.
“Everyone in the village was so nice to me back then...”
Nobody made fun of her for her weakness, and even the adults treated her the same as the other children. Among the kids her age, even, nobody looked down on her. Thinking back on it, she really was fortunate. After being forced into Cyrill’s party and the real world, she's experienced the normal state of the things first-hand. It was something she was bound to run into eventually --- from the moment she was born she's been one of the victims.
Cursing the ‘power’ of her Attribute, she jumps onto the bed and clutches her pillow to her chest. She closes her eyes and lets the comfort of her bed envelop her.
If I’m this tired I may as well just sleep.
Just then, someone knocks on the door.
“Nn? Who is it?”
Already half asleep, she asks in a drowsy voice.
“It’s Jean. I have something important to discuss.”
As soon as she hears his voice she bolts upright, springs from the bed, and rushes to the door. Halfway there she trips over herself and scrapes her knee, but enduring the pain and swallowing back her tears she quickly unlocks and opens the door.
Standing there in the doorway is the sage himself, a sour look on his face.
“Wh-What’s wrong, Jean-san?”
“Come with me.”
He turns and starts to walk away without explaining himself or allowing her to refuse.
She grabs the key off its place on the shelf, and after quickly making sure the door closes behind her she hurries after him. Jean doesn’t look back even once as he leads her out of the inn and into the street. He never even considered the possibility that she wouldn’t follow him, not because he trusts her but because he believes it only natural that she hang on his every word.
Turning a corner, Jean leads her into a narrow alley devoid of any human life. A few thin men sit cloudy-eyed with their knees hugged to their chests or lie on piles of thin rags. She'd never come to a place like this normally. Finally, she works up the courage to talk to Jean.
“Um... Where are we going?”
No reply. She should’ve expected as much.
Giving up on communication, she simply follows Jean wordlessly.
Turning another corner, they arrive at a slightly more open space. The unsettling feeling of the square almost gives the impression that they aren’t in the Capital at all, but given the sheer size of the city it’s only natural that some places feel foreign to her.
“Is this where we’re going to talk?”
Jean finally turns around to face her.
He reaches out and grabs a fistful of hair from the top of her head.
Just like that he drags her across the hard cobblestone street until they come before a hunchbacked man with an unpleasant grin on his face.
“Ow, Oww! P-Please stop, Jean-san!!”
Her pained cries echo throughout the square, falling only on deaf ears.
Neither of the men are so softhearted as to stop before they’ve even begun.
She struggles and flails in an attempt to break free, but she simply lacks the Strength to do so.
“Hehehe… Are you really sure about this, Sir? I can really have this little gem?”
He talks with honeyed words as he studies Flum top to bottom, eyes running up and down her body as if licking her all over.
“You can do whatever you want with this trash.”
Jean throws Flum to the ground at the man’s feet as if she really is nothing more than a bag of trash.
She hits the ground hard.
She can’t bring herself to stand, only able to lie there on the cold ground.
Her legs are scraped and bleeding from being dragged.
Flum can’t grasp the situation she’s found herself in.
She looks up at Jean in confusion and fear, and in response he returns a cold-hearted glare.
“You’re nothing but a snivelling, pathetic commoner, but despite that you have the audacity to interfere with us real Chosen! Just the thought that I breathe the same air as you is enough to make me retch! To be honest, I’m rather impressed that I held out as long as I did.”
Jean's words drip with venom.
“What gives trash like you the right to address me so casually!?”
As if responding to his rage, Jean’s magic activates, and a nearby stone flies at her with the speed of an arrow. It leaves a thin red line and stinging pain behind on Flum's cheek. She brings a hand to her face in disbelief and her fingertips come away wet with blood. A squeal of fear escapes her lips.
“C'mon, Sir, no more of that. That’s valuable merchandise you just damaged there.”
“Sorry, I couldn’t help myself... but perhaps this is for the best, actually. Wouldn’t that be the ideal spot for the mark?”
“Well, a little scratch like that is sure to fade, so it shouldn’t matter much. I’ll leave the decision up to the young Sir, yes?”
The man hands Jean a metal rod about twenty centimeters long. One end is a handle, and the other has a flat metal part. Jean nears his hand to the flat end, and muttering “Heat” it begins to glow red. Flum shies away from him.
“Wh… What’s that?”
“A branding iron, specifically one for a slave mark. Surely someone of low birth such as yourself is familiar with slaves.”
Slave - a type of human that can be legally bought and sold.
Some people are born slaves, some are orphans or criminals forced into slavery, but the number of slaves on the whole has been on the decline. In the past, when instead of the single unified Kingdom there were warring lords who fought endlessly for land, it was fairly common for countries to turn prisoners of war into slaves or to kidnap the residents of neighbouring lands, resulting in a large number of slaves overall. The issue, however, was that during the war and even afterwards the slaves would flee abusive nobles or horrendous working conditions, eventually resorting to all natures of horrible crimes just to survive.
In the end, the law was changed in response to the violence perpetrated by both slaves and owners, and slaves started receiving better treatment - on the surface, at least. The recapture of such ‘free slaves’ was allowed by law, and illegal slave merchants sprung up and started catching these free slaves and selling them to nobles with a special love for torture. Even now, slave-related issues grip the Kingdom.
“To refresh your plebeian memory, all slaves must have a slave mark somewhere on their bodies. This is an instrument for precisely that purpose. There are, of course, many more pleasant ways to go about the process, but to allow you to better come to terms with your new lot in life I chose a brand. What do you think? Are you not grateful for my overwhelming generosity?”
As he says, the slave mark is always engraved somewhere easily visible, and it’s quite common for it to cover an old injury. His choosing the brand is also, as he claims, his own personal choice. There’s no real reason for him to force that glowing hot clump of metal onto her face.
“N-No… I don’t want to be a slave!”
“And yet you have no right to refuse.”
“This is just wrong! Why do I have to become a slave!?”
While the recapture of slaves is legal, selling people into slavery is of course illegal. The hunchbacked slave merchant is regardless unfazed by the scene unfolding in front of him. He’s probably already prepared all the equipment he will need for processing and selling Flum after the branding is complete.
“Why are you doing this!?”
In response, Jean’s face twists with rage.
“You bitch! Do you really have no idea how much trouble you’ve caused us already!? If not for you, we probably would be at the Demon Lord’s Castle by now! All of my carefully laid plans have been ruined by you, always slowing us down and getting in our way! You, a mere commoner! A weakling with no power to speak of! Soon you'll understand just how grave a sin that is!!”
Regardless of how cruel and unreasonable his words are, he doesn’t tell a single lie.
Their party is composed of legends whose names are known by every man, woman, and child in the kingdom; he himself is one such legend, a genius.
Her very presence among them is mud on their exalted names.
“Do… Do the others know what you’re doing? I might be useless, but I'm a Chosen just like everyone else! You can’t get away with it!”
“Of course they do --- the decision was unanimous, in fact.”
“That’s a lie.. You’re lying! Eterna-san and Gadio-san didn’t stop you!?”
They were just shopping with her a few hours ago. She can’t imagine them going along with such a plan.
Jean’s response is firm and unwavering.
“They took a little persuading, certainly, but in the end they agreed. It’s for the best if we defeat the Demon Lord as soon as possible, and you held them back most of all, you know.”
It's true --- Eterna and Gadio are the kindest to her and looked after her the most, which means that she’s the biggest burden on them. Even Flum herself feles bad about all the trouble she puts them through on a daily basis.
This can’t be happening… I’ve gotta be dreaming...!
Even as she repeats the words over and over again in her head, her chest tightens.
“What about Linus-san and Maria-san!?”
“They didn’t care either way. Not surprising, considering you really weren’t that close.”
It makes sense. Since they barely even talked, it was only natural that neither of them would pointlessly cover for her.
“Wh-What about… What about Cyrill-chan?”
She’s been cold to Flum as of late, true, but until just recently they were close friends. Flum can’t imagine someone as kind as her going along with such a horrible plan.
Jean grin is bigger than any she's ever seen him make before.
“She was positively overjoyed to hear of my little plan. ‘I’m glad I’ll never have to see her face again’, she told me.”
“It’s the truth.”
“No… You’re lying...”
“Would I ever lie to you?”
“Aah… Aaaahh…! No… You’re lying! Liar…!”
She can’t bring herself to believe any of it, but what she thinks and wants has never mattered to Jean before and certainly doesn't matter now.
“You’re free to think whatever you want, I suppose, but that won't change the truth. You'll finally be useful to us for once --- we could always use a little more money. Isn’t that what you've always wanted? To be useful?”
“No… I don’t wanna be a slave…!!”
“From the day we first met until now, this is the most use you’ve ever been to me. You should be proud of that.”
“Take me back home… I wanna go home…!”
If there’s nobody left in the Hero’s Party on her side, that leaves only her friends and family back home. They might even welcome her back.
Jean can’t help but feel discontent at leaving her that one last hope to cling to. He twists his lips into an evil grin.
“I’m afraid I can’t do that. If I took trash like you back there, you’d only burden them, and that would hardly be fair.”
“I'm sure your parents are living a life of luxury now that you're not holding them back! Even if you're useless, they'll probably be able to live off their newfound fame as parents of one of the Chosen for the rest of their lives! Hahahaha!”
No matter how much she screams or complains, he'll never let her go.
Desperate, she tries to crawl away from him on all fours, but arms of earth rise out of the cobblestone, grabbing her limbs and immobilizing her completely. She writhes and flails, but the earth magic of The Lone Sage could never be broken by someone with a body as frail as hers. Tears streaming down her face as she flails in a frenzy to escape, and Jean simply cackles with glee as he draws closer, and then --- with a sizzle, he presses the hot iron brand onto her cheek.
A hoarse scream rips itself out of Flum’s throat.
Tears fall onto the iron and evaporate instantly.
She tries to turn her head away, but more earthen arms emerge, holding her in place, taking that last freedom from her. Even as her voice turns raw, her scream doesn’t stop.
Jean, watching her suffering---
“Hahaha! This is only what you deserve! This is all YOUR doing!! HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!”
---can’t help but burst out laughing.
His pride would never allow her to call herself his party member. He could never even consider something so utterly humiliating.
“Aagh, ahk, ahh, aggh… gh… gah, agh…”
Finally, she can scream no longer. Her entire body is drenched in sweat, and both her shirt and her shorts are dripping wet. No, not just sweat --- her spasming body had been unable to control her bladder.
Left in such a terrible state, she loses consciousness and finally ‘escapes.’
Jean peels the branding iron away from her face, the stamp having lost its heat. Some burnt skin and flesh try to hold it in place, but he's more than strong enough to pull it free. Throwing it away, he turns to face the merchant.
“You looked like you were enjoying yourself, Sir.”
Even after witnessing all that, the man seems completely unperturbed.
The world he lives in is clearly different from the norm.
Something of that level is a simple part of everyday life.
“A little, I suppose. Honestly, after all the bitch has put me through, I’m still not quite satisfied.”
“I’d appreciate it if you stopped there, Sir. She’s not worth anything dead.”
“Even I’m not cruel enough to kill her. Well then, where’s my money?”
The gold-filled purse makes a conspicuous clinking sound as the merchant hands it to Jean. Smiling at its weight, Jean turns and leaves the square.
After watching him leave, the merchant starts tending to Flum’s face. Not only was her face burned, but a special dye on the branding iron ensures that the slave mark will be a curse Flum will bear for the rest of her life.
---In that one brief encounter, Flum lost both her dignity and the right to live the life of a human being.
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