OmaeGotoki: Volume 1 004 - A Quest Like This is Nothing

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About an hour after leaving the Capital’s west gate, they arrive at the forest marked on the map. Thanks to the stat ‘increases’ of the Zweihander Flum still has energy to spare, but Milkit seems a little short of breath.

“Wanna rest a while before we go in?”

“There’s no need to stop here for my sake. I’m fine.”

“Okay then. We’ll rest for a bit.”

Milkit seems to be saying that there’s no need for Flum to worry about a mere slave like her, but if she does it’ll be clear that she really does want to rest. She idly fiddles with the ends of the bandages covering her face, probably feeling quite uneasy.

Flum doesn’t pick up on that, of course, but even if she did she wouldn’t do anything different. She’s decided they’re going to rest, so they’ll rest.

She finds a log near the entrance to the forest and sits on it, kicking her legs and feeling the refreshing breeze on her skin, watching the sky.

Finally, they can relax for a while. They can’t afford to rest for long, though, so she wants to make the most of it and relax in both body and mind.

She notices that Milkit is still standing straight as a board and finds herself unable to properly unwind. Slightly irritated that she still seems determined to subordinate herself, Flum pats the log beside her invitingly.

“Please don’t worry about me.”

“I can’t relax if you’re hovering like that. C’mon, sit down. Please?”

“Is that an order?”

“Fine, it’s an order, just sit already.”

Noticing that Flum seems to be at a loss, Milkit finally gives in. She seats herself on the far edge of the log, careful to keep the right amount of distance from her master. Flum is still a bit put out by the space she’s put between them, but she settles for Milkit’s compromise.

“...Master?”

Milkit calls out to Flum, a bit of confusion in her voice.

“Hm? What is it?”

“Don’t you feel sick looking at me?”

Her words are accompanied by the rustling of dried cloth.

Flum answers with her true feelings.

“I do. You’re honestly a little creepy.”

There’s no point in lying. Some of the bandages are stained a deep reddish brown, and the skin that can be glimpsed through the occasional gap between them is an unhealthy colour. Flum can’t help but find the sight of her condition unnerving, even if Milkit is a girl just like her at heart.

“Then why did you take me with you?”

“Because I’d be lonely and sad alone.”

“If that’s your only reason, then you shouldn’t bother with an untalkative and unfriendly slave such as myself. You should probably sell me and buy someone new.”

Milkit is exhaustingly negative. Flum has no real reason to be so fixated on her --- they just happened to be in the same cell together, and they happened to both survive.

For some inexplicable reason, though, Flum knows that she wouldn’t treat any other slave the same way, only Milkit.

“If I had to be more specific… it’s because I’m a hypocrite, I guess.”

Not something beautiful like a sense of justice, just hypocrisy. A big, tainted, warped mass of self-satisfaction.

“The reason why you took me with you, you mean?”

“Yeah. I’ve never been able to do anything, or save anyone. That’s why I was sold into slavery in the first place. It’s not really something I’m proud of, but… I thought that if I could take you out of there and give you a proper, happy life, then I’d feel fulfilled somehow, like that'd give my life meaning. I think, maybe just a little bit, that’s what I really wanted.”

She hadn't even noticed her true desires herself, the feeling was so faint inside her, and had only realized it herself after the fact. She only wanted to help Milkit out of the depths of hell, to put it nicely --- one might even call it the desire to become a hero. She got the feeling that if she saved Milkit she'd be able to regain some of the courage she lost after being sold into slavery.

“I don’t understand, Master. Regardless of what the reason might be, doesn't that mean that you want to make me happy? In that case you really should sell me. I don’t deserve anything so pleasant.”

“Did you forget that you’ve already accepted me as your master? Just accept it. I’m sure not going to trade you in now.”

“In that case---”

Milkit reaches behind her head and nimbly unties her bandages, and they start to unravel before Flum’s eyes.

“...!”

Her bare face is in such a state that Flum recoils unconsciously.

From her jaw to her forehead, her entire face is red, mottled, and swollen. In some places the skin is inflamed, in some her skin is split, in some a clear substance is oozing out---

“Can you still say that you want me after seeing this?”

Milkit really doesn’t want Flum to abandon her --- but unless she shows Flum what she really looks like, she doesn’t feel as though it’s fair. She couldn't care less about why Flum saved her --- if she's going to choose her, then anything less would leave Milkit feeling guilty.

Flum puts a hand to her mouth and is silent for a long moment. Countless thoughts swirls and dance through her mind.

I feel sick.

That looks so painful.

How grotesque.

I feel so sorry for her.

She really does have pretty eyes.

Nothing she says to Milkit now will be anything more than empty words, however.

After a moment passes, however, she realizes that there's one small piece of useful information mixed in with the clutter of her mind.

Only her face is affected. This condition, didn’t she --- didn’t she hear something about this from Eterna back when they were travelling together?

“Are these… mustaad poison symptoms?”

“Mus…?”

Having never heard of it before, Milkit gives Flum a blank look.

“I’m going to touch it, okay?”

If it really is what she thinks it is, then there shouldn’t be any pain by now. To confirm her theory she reaches out to Milkit’s face, but Milkit suddenly stands up and causes Flum to miss.

“You can’t, Master. You’ll catch it, too.”

“C'mon, you can't catch a poison. It’s not a disease or anything like that.”

“I heard other people can catch it, though, so you must be wrong.”

“Wait, where’d you hear that?”

“From my previous master. I was told that it’s infectious and incurable, so I can’t allow anyone to touch it, not even you.”

Flum’s outstretched hand clenches into a fist, hard enough that her nails dig into her palm.

There really are some awful people out there...!

The weak ones who can’t fight back are always the victims. The sinners live large while their victims suffer, struggle, and even after they die they’re laughed at.

That can’t be right --- no, it shouldn’t be right.

“Lies, all of it… Everyone just keeps on lying!”

She’s angry enough that if the culprit was there she’d cleave them in half with the Zweihander without a second thought, but they’re both victims. The only thing weaklings like them can do is lick each others’ wounds.

Flum suddenly stands up and draws Milkit close in an embrace. Milkit tries to resist, but Flum isn’t afraid.

Flum matches her cheek with Milkit’s and gently starts rubbing the two together.

“No, Master, you can’t. If you catch it, you’ll end up looking just like me...!”

Despite how muted her emotions have been up until now, there’s a rare hint of panic in her voice, probably because of how she was threatened by her former master --- Don’t you dare let anyone touch it. They’ll catch it and become ugly, too.

“I don’t care!”

As if to blow all those bad thoughts away, Flum responds with a loud voice.

“I told you already, I’m sure not going to quit being your master now! Maybe you were planning to scare me off, but too bad. In fact, now I know I’ll never leave you.”

“That wasn’t my intention at all. It’s just, even if you say you’re going to make me happy, I’ll probably just be nothing more than a burden to you…”

“I’m tired of hearing that already. It’s true that you can’t cure it with recovery magic, but…”

Nowadays, healing within the Kingdom isn’t done by doctors but by priests and priestesses. With Light magic it’s possible to heal and even prevent a lot of different maladies without needing any special equipment or fancy techniques. Because such magic has become commonplace, the average lifespan of people in the kingdom has risen dramatically.

Not even magic is all-powerful, however. There are some poisons and illnesses that just can’t be cured so easily.

“I know a way to cure you. It’s really easy. If magic won’t work, then all you need is some medicine.”

“You certainly know a lot, Master. But there aren’t any apothecaries left in the kingdom, are there?”

The current pope, as soon as he received the position from his father, started a campaign to drive out all the apothecaries with the desire to put all healing into the hands of the Church of Origin. They put immense pressure on businesses and even colluded with the Kingdom itself to bend the laws and force them out. The single largest factor, though, was that the very citizens of the Kingdom itself, many of them adherents of Origin, supported the Church's plot.

“Putting your body as well as your soul in the hands of Origin is a powerful sign of your faith,” the pastors had told them.

In the end, the apothecaries were pressured from all angles until they couldn’t even afford to support themselves and went out of business.

That’s not to say that all of their practices were lost, however. Until leaving with the Hero to defeat the Demon Lord, there was one person who lived outside even the Church’s reach. All the knowledge and techniques of the apothecaries now exist only within her --- Eterna Rinebow, the very same Eterna with whom Flum had been travelling until just recently.

In an effort to be useful to the others, Flum had learned a thing or two about healing magic and medicines. Although in the short time they had while travelling Flum didn’t learn enough to be able to make medicines herself, she knows enough to be able to identify a few conditions.

“I know the herbs that are needed for the antidote, so why don’t we look for them once we’ve settled into our new life a bit? Of course, in the end we’re going to need the help of an acquaintance of mine, but…”

Since Eterna had supposedly agreed to Flum’s being sold into slavery, she probably wouldn’t be eager to help her.

She remembers that laid-back witch who had been so kind in teaching her. Even if Flum was useless, she tried her best. She hopes that she had managed to build a relationship of trust with her --- though now, she’s not confident about what Eterna thought of their relationship.

Unless Flum asks her face-to-face she won’t know the truth.

That’s why for now Flum will focus on only the good things.

The world's too full of unpleasant things for anything else.

At least within her own mind, she wants to live in a world where everything goes as she hopes it will.

That’s why she’ll believe. She’ll believe that if she gathers the materials and tracks down Eterna, she'll make the medicine Milkit needs.

“But first, I guess we’ll have to make it through today.”

“Y-Yes. If we take too long, the sun will set on us.”

The two separate their bodies. Flum smiles warmly at Milkit, but she only looks at the ground, blushing faintly.

Flum honestly thinks that habit of hers is adorable.

She helps Milkit wrap the bandages around her face again, and as soon as their preparations are finished, they set foot in the forest where werewolves dwell.


◇◇◇

The sun’s rays are scattered by the leaves, making the forest floor dim and cool. The ground is so covered with gnarled roots that if they aren’t careful with their footing they’ll trip. Even when it looks like Milkit’s about to fall Flum supports her, their hands still connected, and they head ever deeper into the woods.

This is the first time she's ever had the strength to fight --- but more than that, this will be her first time in a proper fight with a monster.

Her heart pounds with nervousness.

Is this really the best way forward?

Her inner weakness shows its face and her feet grow heavy. From the warmth of Milkit’s hand in hers, however, she remembers what she has to lose if she doesn’t try.

That desire to protect Milkit, at one point so unlike her, gives her enough courage to stamp out her weakness completely.


◇◇◇


Fifteen minutes have passed since they’ve entered the forest. Even though they’ve barely started walking, Flum stops in her tracks. Pulling Milkit into the shade of a nearby tree, she puts her index finger to Milkit’s lips.

Ahead of them is a small pack of three wolves.

Grey Wolf
Attribute : Earth
Strength  : 108
Magic     : 9
Stamina   : 61
Agility   : 109
Intuition : 98

Their stat totals are 385 each. E-Rank monsters.

The stat total that Flum receives from the Zweihander is 995. As long as she’s careful, she should be able to defeat them without getting hurt.

She was told that the werewolf is an F-Rank monster, which would make it even weaker than these grey wolves. They’re not ideal as a trial run --- but just then Milkit shifts her feet slightly, rustling the fallen leaves beneath her feet loudly.

All at once, the three wolves turn their attention to the tree they’re hiding behind.

It’d be difficult to run away with Milkit, so rather than turn and run it’d be better if Flum took the initiative and charged in at them. Probably.

She motions for Milkit to stay put.

Facing the sky, she inhales, and as she exhales she shows herself to the monsters.

“GRAAAAAAHH!!”

Quickly realizing that Flum is unarmed, they all leap at her.

Flum, in a ready position despite being unarmed, waits until she’s drawn them in close enough. Then, as soon as they’re all in reach, she calls her sword forth from its extradimensional space.

“Haah!!”

Letting out a battle cry, she swings at them from the side.

Shunk!

The black blade’s arcing strike connects with all three wolves’ heads.The heavy strike from the two-handed blade pulverizes their skulls and scatters their brains. Losing their strength, the three bodies fall to the ground, all in the same moment.

“Hahh, hahh, hahh...”

Her hands tremble with the raw realization she just took lives.

Her body feels hot with exhilaration as she realizes that she really can fight.

Taking deep, calming breaths, she looks down at the corpses on the bed of fallen leaves.

Their heads were crushed, their deaths instantaneous, and already insects have started to gather around the corpses. Soon the bodies will return to the earth and eventually give new life to the forest itself.

“That was amazing, Master.”

Milkit’s emotionless voice comes from behind her. Hearing that empty compliment, Flum is able to calm herself somewhat.

“Let’s go,” she says, putting away her sword and extending her hand towards Milkit.

The quest monster wasn’t any of those three, but if she can kill E-Rank monsters then an F-Rank monster shouldn’t be a problem.

Armed now with that confidence, they head even deeper into the woods.


◇◇◇


“There it is. A werewolf.”

About twenty minutes after slaying the grey wolves, they meet the target of their quest. Whispering so as not to be noticed, Flum points out the stoop-backed wolflike humanoid as it searches for food.

“Master? Since I can’t fight, why did you bring me all the way here?”

It’s a good question, but it’s a little late to be asking it now. Flum, looking a little troubled, answers as quietly as she possibly can.

“I thought about leaving you in the Capital, but to be honest, I’m a lot more worried about the monsters there than the ones in these woods.”

There's no telling what might happen to Milkit alone in the Capital --- they might never see each other again. The forest is safer for her, even considering that they might be attacked by monsters at any time.

“I'd be helpless if something happened to you, Master.”

“For today it should be fine if you just run away. It’s only F-Rank, so you should be able to escape just fine. We’ll talk about next time after we’re done here.”

Everything comes after they get enough money for a room at an inn. As long as they’re penniless, they’ll be dead before long no matter what else happens.

Flum starts by checking the werewolf’s Status with Scan. The rows of text and numbers appear before her eyes.

Werewolf
Attribute : Earth
Strength  : 159
Magic     : 22
Stamina   : 79
Agility   : 207
Intuition : 54

As soon as Flum finishes reading, she curses.

“Seriously… We aren’t supposed to make it back alive, are we? That Dane guy's as rotten as the rest of them after all.”

“Is something the matter?”

“That monster’s stat total’s 521. Anything from 500 to 1,000 is a D-Rank monster.”

“But wasn’t it supposed to be F-Rank?”

“We were lied to --- by Dane and by the guild.”

No newbie adventurer would stand a chance if they ran into a D-Rank monster, and no amount of planning or preparation would give them enough of an edge. Dane and Ila must be specifically trying to kill them.

“Too bad for them. I’m not that weak.”

Thanks to the Zweihander, Flum’s stat total is still almost twice the werewolf’s. Since her stat total is 995 she’s almost as strong as a C-Rank monster, and on top of that she has the power of regeneration on her side. She shouldn’t have any problem with a monster like this.

Flum mentally calls out to her sword and the hilt appears in front of her. Grabbing it, she pulls the giant sword into the real world. Now that she’s all ready to fight, all she has to do is quickly close in and hope that one good swing with the element of surprise will be enough.

Just when she drops into a ready stance and is about to launch herself forwards---

“Master, please look at that.”

Milkit’s voice interrupts her.

Following Milkit’s finger with her eyes, Flum spots a second werewolf. Looking around, she spots another, then another, for a total pack of four werewolves.

The werewolf’s tendency to form packs makes it one of the most problematic D-Rank monsters. “If you can only see one werewolf, the other three must be hiding well” --- they’re famous enough to have their own saying among adventurers, even.

Even if they walk around on two legs, they’re social creatures just like the grey wolves Flum killed earlier. Regardless of how high Flum’s stats are, it’d be difficult to take on four opponents at once.

If only I could separate them somehow...

As she watches them, one of the werewolves suddenly shakes its head suspiciously and wanders out of sight, nose to the ground. Seeming to notice something off, the remaining three werewolves turn in the direction their packmate went, restless and alert.

Flum and Milkit wait behind a tree for the werewolves to relax again.

Suddenly, a powerful gale blasts through the woods, shaking trees and stirring up clouds of leaves.

“Kya!?”

Flum clamps her eyes shut automatically.

Covering her face with her arm, she tries to peer through at the werewolves.

Lying on the ground is the bottom half of the werewolf that went missing. Its upper half is in the jaws of the giant lion-like creature that now dominates the small clearing, but unlike a normal lion massive avian wings sprout from its back.

The remaining werewolves lunge at the new monster, but one flick of the lion’s paw sends them flying back into trees. Then, one by one, the creature devours all three of them.

“Scan!!”

Having never seen any monster like it before, Flum hurriedly looks at its Status.

Anzu
Attribute : Air
Strength  : 542
Magic     : 408
Stamina   : 301
Agility   : 442
Intuition : 214

Its stat total is 1887 --- almost twice Flum’s.

“A C-Rank monster…!?”

“That can’t be…”

As she is now, even handling those D-Rank monsters would be difficult --- but against a C-Rank monster that was able to kill them effortlessly Flum doesn’t stand a chance.

They need to get out of there before it notices them.

Hiding behind a tree isn’t enough to hide from its sharp senses, however. The anzu already knows they’re there.

Gore and viscera still dripping from its mouth, it turns to face Flum and Milkit next.

“GRRAAH...”

It lets out a low growl. Flapping its wings, some sort of energy starts manifesting in the air.

To Flum, it looks like it’s about to attack.

“Milkit!!”

She moves on impulse.

As long as she makes it!

Flum pushes Milkit’s small body away with all the strength she can muster.

“Kyaa!?”

Hitting the ground with a cry, without even standing up she turns to look at Flum.

Fwoooooosh!!

With a second, stronger flap of the anzu’s wings, the air magic explodes outwards, and countless blades of wind cut massive gashes into the ground before reaching Flum.

There’s nowhere for her to run.

Flum’s body is cut into as mercilessly as the trees around them --- and with a massive spray of blood, all four of her limbs are sent flying through the air.


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