OmaeGotoki: Volume 1 007 - We Aim for 'Normalcy' From The Depths of Hell
Flum and Milkit have troubles finding an inn for the night, despite having the money from Flum’s first quest in hand. Between the slave mark on Flum’s cheek and Milkit’s bandaged face, they’re turned away no matter where they go. Not many inns are willing to lodge slaves simply because it might hurt their reputation.
Their search continues until finally they arrive at a run-down two-storey inn in a corner of the West Quarter near the slums. Just inside the entrance is a small restaurant. At the counter is a bored-looking man in his mid thirties sporting a scraggly beard, resting his chin in his hand and yawning. He glances over at them and suddenly freezes.
“Oi… don’t tell me yer customers? Ah finally have customers!?”
He’s surely noticed that they’re slaves by now, but he looks overjoyed nonetheless. He stands up and approaches them, arms spread out wide and a welcoming smile on his face.
“Welcome, valued guests! Ah thought Ah wouldn’t get no more customers ‘fore Ah closed up shop fer good! Ah was so lonely here by mahself!”
Flum feels a little overwhelmed by his excitement.
“So, what can Ah do ya for? Want a bite? Want a room? Want both!?”
“B-Both, I guess… You really don’t mind that we’re slaves?”
“Why would Ah care ‘bout somethin’ silly like that? Ah don’t even need yer money! Ah was just about ta close up in a few days anyhow! Gahahaha!”
“Uh, no, I think we should probably pay like anyone else…”
As Flum looks around, however, she really can’t see any sign of anyone else. He probably really is just happy to have customers. He might even be serious about letting them stay for free.
“Ah really didn’t think Ah’d be lucky ‘nuff ta get any more customers ‘fore the end, so ya’ll prolly be the last ta stay here.”
“You really don’t get many customers, then, do you?”
“Darn right. Ah came here from a lil’ town in the middle a’ nowhere called Enchide chasin’ mah dream, but life don’t go that easy. Ya think it’s ‘cause Ah look so bumpkin?”
Flum looks away and lets out a fake-sounding laugh.
His problem clearly isn’t how he looks, it’s where his inn is. Even by West Quarter standards, the slums are remarkably unsafe. Nobody in their right mind would stay at an inn that has such unpleasant neighbours. It doesn’t matter how cheap the rooms are, most people would value their lives more.
Fortunately, the man himself doesn’t seem like a bad guy.
“By the way, what’re ya called?”
“I’m Flum. This is---”
“...My name is Milkit.”
“Flum-chan an’ Milkit-chan, eh? Ya can call me Stude. Ah’ll do all Ah can ta make yer stay a nice one!”
Saying so, Stude sticks out his slightly pudgy hand.
Unable to keep up with him, Flum limply returns his vigorous handshake.
True to his word, Stude does all he can to make the two feel at home. Not only does he let them both stay for the price of one, but he puts his all into making a luxurious supper for them. On top of all that, he refuses to accept their money in advance. They start to feel bad for making him go so far for their sakes.
The next morning he even prepares an oversized full course breakfast for them complete with bread, soup, salad, scrambled eggs, bacon, and even fish. Even after Flum eats her fill and Milkit (being a light eater) eats all that she can, they still don’t manage to finish.
“Ah don’t mind, Ah just like cookin’,” Stude says with a smile in response. He probably is just a good guy at heart.
“I wish he'd show a little more restraint, though...”
Flum mumbles to herself when he’s out of earshot.
After finishing all their preparations, Flum and Milkit head for the Central Quarter, just as they’d planned. Walking around town in the clothes that the anzu wrecked is, of course, a little too embarrassing, but fortunately Stude is kind enough to lend them some plain white loungewear for the day. They’re plenty warm and in fairly good condition, but they’re not well suited for being out in public.
Deciding to buy clothes for Flum first, they head for a reasonably-priced general clothes store on the Central Quarter’s Main Street, a long road that extends from the Royal Palace to the South Gate.
Cheerfully humming to herself, Flum looks through an assortment of bottoms. One of the employees glares at her with distaste, but Flum doesn’t pay her any mind.
The first thing she picks out is a knee-length checkered skirt. She holds it in front of her waist and faces the mirror, checks it out for a little while, then finally turns to Milkit.
“What do you think?”
“It suits you, Master.”
She gives an offhanded response while trying to figure out why Flum would ask her something like that. To tell the truth, she thinks that a skirt would be too hard to move in for an adventurer.
Flum looks deep into her eyes.
“Hmm… You don’t like it?”
“I never said that.”
“If you don’t like it or something, then say it. I’ll take it into consideration.”
“...I can really just say it?”
Milkit remembers her former master.
Whenever she was asked something like that in the past, she was whipped if she didn’t respond. If she gave her honest opinion, she was beaten anyway.
The memory of that pain traps her words in her throat.
“Of course! I wouldn’t ask you if I didn’t want your opinion. C’mon, don’t be shy.”
The person asking her now isn’t her old master --- it’s Flum. If their relationship is going to be any different, she should probably tell the honest truth.
Working up her courage, she turns her thoughts into words.
“In that case…”
“Go on, go on!”
“If you’re going to be fighting monsters, then maybe… um… pants might be better…?”
She still can’t help but feel impudent. Near the end her voice had betrayed her hesitation.
“Ah, right!” Flum exclaims, returning the skirt to the rack.
“Now that I think about it, you’re right. Ehehe, thanks, Milkit. I wasn’t thinking about that at all.”
Unsure of what to do with a thank-you, Milkit stands there with her hand pressed to her chest.
Flum walks off to a different part of the store, coming back a moment later with a pair of hotpants in hand. Holding them in front of her waist, she asks Milkit again.
“What about these?”
“They suit you, and they look easy to move in. They’re… nice.”
She answers honestly.
Flum beams, perfectly content.
“I’ll get these, then.”
After buying a simple shirt to go with the hotpants, she changes into them.
The outfit gives off a somewhat rough impression overall but is nicely set off by her skin tone, lightly tanned thanks to her travels up until now. She gets the feeling that people won’t look at her as harshly on the street anymore.
“Well then, I’m all done. Your turn, Milkit.”
“I’m fine with what I’m wearing now.”
“You might be, but I’m not. Don’t you have anything you want to wear? We still have a lot of money left, so whatever you want just name it.”
If she asks for a fancy gown or something they might have some issues, but Milkit probably won’t ask for anything that extravagant.
After a long moment of deep thought, she opens her mouth.
“I really am fine with this.”
“No, you’re not.”
After arguing back and forth for a while, Milkit finally comes clean and tells Flum what she wants.
And so, they head to a slightly higher-end store that sells it.
“...You really want to wear that?”
Milkit walks out of the changing room wearing a black dress with a white apron over top --- a maid outfit.
“I think I should be the one asking, Master. Are you sure that we have the money to afford such expensive clothes?”
“Don’t worry, we can afford it. But… really, why a maid outfit?”
The frilly lace around the hem of the skirt and the chest area make it look like a more conventional dress, at least to an extent. Precisely because of those embellishments, however, it seems like it would make work more challenging, so it might have actually been designed with a certain type of roleplay in mind.
That’s not to say Flum doesn’t like Milkit’s new look, though. She finds the mismatch of the bandages with the vaguely gothic dress especially charming.
“This was the type of outfit that I saw the most when I was with my former master. I’ve always wanted to wear it myself.”
Milkit says, holding the hem of her skirt and twirling around as she studies herself in the mirror. To be honest, she said she wanted one on nothing more than a whim, but now that she’s actually wearing it she’s quite content with it.
“Well, I’ve got to admit it’s pretty cute… I guess I'm fine with it if you are.”
“It is quite well designed, isn’t it. To the point that it doesn’t suit me.”
“No, I wasn’t talking about the dress. It's cute only because you're the one wearing it. Ah, hello? Over here, please!”
Flum’s words are embarrassing enough that Milkit stops spinning, staring at her with a blank look. Flum herself doesn’t seem to even notice, turning away to call over a polite-looking shop assistant.
The shop assistant hurries over, and when she notices the slave mark on Flum’s face she quickly hides her disgust with a business smile. As expected of a customer service professional, she changes gears quickly.
After buying the maid outfit at a nearby counter, the two leave the store.
One of them is a slave in a rough outfit with a pair of bloody gauntlets hanging from her waist, and the other is a maid with most of her face covered by bandages --- together the two girls make something of a strange pair. Even though they went clothes shopping specifically to blend in more, they somehow ended up standing out even more.
Fortunately, Main Street is crowded beyond description with tourists from outside the Capital, shoppers, and everyone in between. Everyone is so busy simply trying to find their own way that they don’t have the time to stop and judge them. There isn’t any sort of special event going on; Main Street is always this crowded.
Flum can’t help but wonder how many times more people are in that one street at that moment than in her whole hometown.
If they let down their guard they’d be swept away in an instant. To avoid that, Flum and Milkit grasp each others’ hands as tightly as they can and keep moving forwards.
There's still so much they need --- since they’re essentially starting their lives from scratch, they could fill their arms with only the essentials and still need more.
They’ll only buy what they need for today, like shoes, underwear, toothbrushes and other toiletries.
Flum will need a bag as an adventurer --- a backpack will probably be the best balance between capacity and utility. She’ll also need a lantern and a knife to help with exploring.
They probably won’t run out of money, but time will be an issue as always.
Moving quickly so that Milkit doesn’t get too tired before they’re finished, they go around to a variety of stores and buy all that they need. As busy as they are, the experience of buying what she’ll need to live out her own life is the only priceless thing Milkit takes from the trip.
“Thank you very much! Please come again!”
Finishing their business at a store unusually welcoming to slaves, they head out onto the street once more.
They’ve divided their load between them, only sharing each other’s warmth through their hands as they head down the street.
“I’ve never had this much fun shopping before now.”
“I know what you mean. There are so many new things I don’t know what to look at first.”
“Hehe, I didn’t know what to do when you went and bought the most expensive tableware in the whole store.”
“I-I’m sorry. I didn’t realize that row of little circles was the price…”
Milkit looks down at the ground, slightly embarrassed.
Remembering something, Flum stops. She turns back to a certain store that they’d passed just moments before.
“Is it okay if we take a quick detour?”
“Of course, Master.”
What had caught Flum’s attention was the largest bookstore in the Capital.
Looking through the big glass front window, they can see rows of shelves, all of them stacked with spines of a myriad of colours.
The unique smell of ink and paper fill their nostrils as they enter.
Books are by no means cheap; only the well-off can afford them. The mood of the store is rather solemn, and all the customers give off an air of nobility. It’s certainly not a place slaves can feel at home.
Timidly, the two go take a look around.
The shelf closest to the door is filled with the holy tomes of Origin.
Back before books were as available to the common folk, the only books were in the hands of the Church. They regarded books as essential not only for containing the word of Origin but for history, education, and all sorts of other knowledge. Driven by their increasing need for such knowledge, the Kingdom was motivated to develop their first printing press. Because of those origins, the Church’s influence is clear in countless printing houses and bookstores throughout the kingdom. Even on the sign outside that very bookstore is the holy symbol of Origin, the so-called 'twisted circle.'
The reason for the holy tomes being placed so prominently in the store has nothing to do with the Church’s influence, though. It’s only natural to make the bestselling books stand out the most.
Neither Flum nor Milkit have any real interest in Origin, though. Ignoring the holy books, Flum checks the shopper’s guide posted on the nearest pillar before heading deeper into the store.
“Do you like reading, Master?”
“Hm? Oh, this isn’t for me.”
Arriving at her destination, Flum pulls a book off the shelf and studies the cover. The look in her eyes is dead serious.
If it’s not for herself, then who? --- Milkit wonders as she watches Flum’s expression, head cocked to the side.
“Who is it for, then?”
“Didn’t I tell you I’d teach you to read and write as soon as things calmed down a little? Since we got a little more money than I was expecting, I thought I’d start getting ready.”
“You were serious?”
“Did you really think I just said it to make you feel better?”
“I just thought that you wouldn’t really spend that much time and effort on a worthless slave like me…”
Flum’s used to her self-deprecation by now --- but she’s not content with just correcting Milkit every time she says that sort of thing about herself. She wants to give Milkit enough confidence that she’ll stop herself before she even says anything. In order to do that, she’ll have to give Milkit the strength she needs to stand on her own two legs.
“Are you planning on making me completely independent, Master?”
“I’m not thinking that far ahead, really.”
“But if you give me so much knowledge and experience that I really can stand on my own, then---”
Her voice is steeped in uncertainty. Flum, understanding Milkit’s worries, responds with a little self-deprecation of her own.
“Don’t worry about it, really. I’m honestly not sure I could even live on my own. Even if you try to leave me I won’t let you. Okay?”
“...I think you said something similar yesterday.”
“You don’t trust me? Do you think I’ll suddenly disappear, or that I’ll suddenly abandon you?”
“I don’t know about trust or anything like that. I just want to stay with you as long as I possibly can, Master.”
Flum can’t help but break into a grin at Milkit’s words.
“Ehehe, I think that’s called trust. If you trust someone, then it’s only natural to want to be with them.”
As if trying to find the shape of that feeling and where it’s hiding within her, Milkit puts a hand to her chest.
Sometimes, when she’s talking with Flum, her chest feels tight. The reason why she sometimes feels like she’s suffocating but in a good way must be this ‘trust.’ She feels more at ease now that she knows what to call it.
Flum picks out a few reference books aimed for teaching children and buys them. When Milkit hears how expensive the books are at the counter, her eyes grow wide with shock, but before she can argue Flum hands the money to the cashier.
After buying stationary to go along with the reference books, they head back to the inn.
Unfortunately, they bought so much that they can’t hold hands anymore, but there are far fewer people on the streets closer to the West Quarter so there’s no need to worry about them becoming separated.
“You spent so much money on me, of all people…”
Milkit has her full negativity on display. She’s no doubt feeling guilty that she’s made Flum spend so much money on her.
“If you’re happy, then I’m happy. Don’t worry about it.”
“I’m not sure I understand.”
“Don’t you feel happy after making someone else happy?”
“...I’m not sure I understand that, either.”
She’s never once received charity out of kindness or anything positive like that, so she can’t help but feel confused.
Milkit’s previous masters would occasionally be kind to her. Every time, however, it turned out to be nothing more than a setup. They took great pleasure in lifting her up and knocking her down.
Such torture is the single greatest fear of illegal slaves like herself, far more feared than simple physical or emotional abuse. Some slaves even killed themselves, unable to bear the suffering. Some stabbed themselves in the neck, some strangled themselves with a towel, some just banged their head against a wall until they eventually stopped moving --- all while their masters watched and laughed.
Supposedly, the greatest joy of owning a slave is watching their last moments.
Experiencing that bait-and-switch torture time and time again, Milkit decided to shut off her emotions completely, determined to remain cool and collected no matter what her master did to please her.
It was a means of self-defense.
But Flum --- she wouldn’t betray Milkit.
She’s confused precisely because she doesn’t know what to do with her feelings of ‘trust’ towards Flum.
She doesn’t know how to respond to Flum’s simple wish for her to be happy. Her brain has simply never had to process this sort of thing before.
“Don’t worry, just get used to it at your own pace. You’ll understand eventually.”
“Will you… wait for me until then?”
Milkit’s chest grows tight again as Flum gives her a broad smile.
She doesn’t want to make her master wait for her, she wants to understand Flum’s kindness as soon as possible. She doesn’t realize yet that those feelings are in and of themselves more than enough of a reason to help and support someone.
She likely won’t realize it for some time yet.
“Stop, p-please wait! You can’t take that, anything but that!!”
As they near the West Quarter, they suddenly hear the desperate voice of a middle-aged man, and a split-second later two men sprint past them.
“Whoa, slow down!”
Watching the two men run off, Flum suddenly recognizes them. They were drinking with Dane at the guild during their first visit.
“Master, doesn’t that bag they have look rather expensive?”
“It’s certainly not something West Quarter thugs normally carry around, is it? And that guy behind us is yelling pretty loudly… Watch the bags for a moment, Milkit.”
“Yes, of course.”
Putting down her load, Flum runs after the two men.
As she runs she puts on the gauntlets hanging at her waist. They won’t do anything for her Agility, but once she catches up to them it can’t hurt to have a little extra Strength.
Judging from their speed, the two men are probably D-Rank adventurers.
Since she has the ‘benefit’ of the Soul-Devouring Zweihander on her side, there’s no way they’ll be able to outrun her.
“Dammit, it’s the slave bitch!”
One of the men looks back over his shoulder and recognizes her. They split up, running off in opposite directions.
“Tch, looks like I’ll have to give up on one of them.”
She follows after the one with the bag without hesitation. She passes him a few seconds later and blocks his path, ready for a fight.
He draws a shortsword from his belt, but then---
He casts a small sphere of fire at her.
Fireball is a fairly low-level spell. Not only does it not pack much of a punch, it moves slowly, too.
Flum bends out of the way, easily dodging it.
The man interprets that as an opening and charges in with his sword. He was probably hoping that the Fireball would be enough of a distraction to land a hit.
He thrusts towards her chest, fully intending to kill Flum. To her, however, the attack is so slow it almost seems to be in slow motion, probably because of all her enchantments. Somewhat impressed, she grabs his wrist just before the blade reaches her chest and squeezes. She can feel the soft crunch of bone even through her gauntlets.
He screams, drops his shortsword, and collapses to the ground right after. His arm is bending in an unnatural direction. She’s somewhat taken aback at her own strength.
“Gah… agh… it hurts… help me…!”
“Oh, please. You got what you deserve.”
Casting only a brief look at the man as he suffers on the ground, she reaches for the bag.
Just at that moment, however, a pebble about three centimeters across comes flying at her hand at high speed. She pulls her hand back at the last moment and the pebble hits the cobblestone, breaks, and scatters.
It must have had a huge amount of force behind it.
She looks up to find three more men standing there. One of them has a sling, one has a spear, and the last is holding a longsword.
The spearman at her left charges forward, and she calls out her own weapon.
His reach with the spear is almost three meters, far longer than the Zweihander’s. She gets the impression that he isn’t very experienced with it, however, and she easily deflects his thrust with the flat of her blade.
The swordsman charges in next, slightly late to the party. She spins around to avoid the glinting blade he tries to bring down on her skull, and using her momentum she hits him in the side with her sword’s flank.
The man is sent flying as if she’d hit him with a hammer, not a sword.
Flum puts the spearman between the sling user and herself, taking advantage that the spearman is still trembling after seeing what she just did to the swordsman. She doesn’t want to have to worry about another stone coming flying at her. He makes a sloppy thrust at her, and with a swift movement she drives the spear’s head into the ground. A spear may have the advantage of reach, but in close quarters a sword has a clear advantage. She smashes the flat of her blade into his side, too, shattering his arm and sending him flying. He rolls on the ground in pain.
Now it’s only Flum and the sling user left.
She slowly walks towards him.
He slings a few more stones at her, but she casually deflects them with her black blade every time.
Standing directly in front of him, she raises her sword and glares at him.
He’s completely lost any desire to fight.
Flum swings her sword down at him nonetheless --- stopping a hair’s breadth from his skull.
He collapses, passing out as a wet patch slowly expands on the front of his trousers.
“Whew. I wasn’t expecting more of them to suddenly show up.”
Putting a hand to her chest in relief, she reaches down and this time succeeds in picking up the bag.
As she heads back to the middle-aged man, she hears a sound not unlike a small animal getting crushed from the alley the other man fled down.
“Oh, did someone stop him for me?”
Until just a moment ago Flum was convinced there was nobody else around. Stopping to look down the alley, she spots a tiny form dragging the unconscious thug by the collar.
It turns out to be a young girl, probably only about ten years old. Her golden hair is slightly messy, and slung across her white-robed back is a large mace. She’s short and has a slight childish pudginess, almost giving her the impression of being more stuffed animal than little girl.
The man’s cry was likely from when her mace made contact with his head, however.
Just swinging a weapon that large must require a lot of strength. Anyone who can defeat an adventurer with a weapon like that can’t be your average little girl.
“A priestess of the Church of Origin…?”
Judging from her robes there’s no doubt. The only women wearing such robes in the capital are all associated with the Church.
Flum remembers Maria wearing a similar white robe and handling a mace with ease in combat.
Many regard priestesses as kind, quiet healers, but evidently the Church trains all their members to smite evil should the need arise.
“Nnn? Did you beat up those bad guys, su? Thanks a lot, su!”
Her large, spacey eyes give the impression that she was born and raised in the country.
After thanking Flum with her strange speech tic, she energetically bows her head, then pops right back up again. She giggles and shows her teeth in a big, innocent grin.
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- Moe speech tics are very hard to translate, so her ‘su’ is left in as-is.