OmaeGotoki: Volume 1 012 - What Are We Supposed To Believe Now?
“Can you walk, Sara-chan?”
“I think… I can keep goin’, su.”
Flum grabs Sara’s hand and helps her to her feet. They’ve started searching for the exit once more, this time with frequent breaks. Their clothes are battered and their feet feel heavier with every step they take. It'd be a lot easier going if they took a proper rest first, but they want to leave that unpleasant place as soon as physically possible. They’ve recovered to the point that they can walk, at least, so they don’t want to just sit around.
They leave the corpse-filled room and find the corridors beyond it to be filled with rubble from the ‘ogre’s final attack. In some places the ceiling has even collapsed, but fortunately there’s always at least one corridor leading forward.
There isn’t any sign of other enemies left in the facility. The crying voices have also stopped, and the ‘corpses’ that were being used as traps have all collapsed, motionless. The spiral is gone from their faces, leaving behind only a bloody hole.
“It must’ve been really strong to have wrecked all the way up to here, su.”
Flum leads the way over a collapsed wall, supporting Sara as she climbs. As they descend the other side Sara almost slips and falls, but Flum catches her.
“Oof… Watch your footing around here.”
“I’m sorry, su…”
Sara looks down at the ground in embarrassment as Flum pats her on the head.
“I guess that just goes to show that if we’d ran back then instead of fighting we might be dead by now.”
“Not maybe, definitely, su. Who… who would make something like that, su?”
After killing the monstrosity, Flum made sure to put the black crystal she broke into her bag. She’d dropped the bag at some point during the fight, but she got it back in the end, even if the lunch that Milkit made for them had gotten squished.
…Well, we ate what we could, so hopefully she’ll forgive us.
“We’re going to have to leave this place before we can look for the people responsible.”
“I get the feelin’ we’ve been down here a really long time, su.”
“Yeah, I really hope it hasn’t gotten dark yet…”
Their spirits rise as they think of the outside.
They turn the corner where they’d met the spiral-faced woman and reunited with the ‘ogre’ and check a few more rooms, such as an empty-shelved archive room, a room filled with large glass tubes, and a nap room with a number of beds and sofas. Every time they open a door they’re filled with the hope that it’ll lead outside, but every time their hopes are betrayed.
Their spirits fall as easily as they’d risen. Their battered and beaten bodies feel even heavier now, but it can’t be much longer now.
“Doesn’t that look like an exit, su?”
They arrive at the depths of the facility --- although at one point it was probably the entrance. The door in front of them is clearly different from all the others that they’ve seen.
Flum and Sara look at each other and grin.
The promise of finally leaving that facility causes them to quicken their pace. Unlike the other doors this one is thick metal but opens readily to Flum’s push. On the other side is a spiral staircase, at the top of which is a metal hatch in the ceiling. Unlocking it, Flum pushes open the hatch like popping the lid off a jar.
Rays of sunset fall through the gaps in the ceiling of the cavern. She holds up a hand to shield her eyes from the light and smiles. Pushing the hatch fully open and crawling up and through, she finds herself in the same vegetation-rich area where they first met the ‘ogre’. It would seem as though the plants provided camouflage for the facility’s entrance.
Even though it’s only been a number of hours since they jumped down that hole, it feels like it’s been a number of days since she’s had a lungful of fresh air. Flum stretches her arms above her in a full-body stretch, letting a faint sound of exertion escape her lips. Sara crawls out of the hole after her and copies her stretch.
“We can finally go back, su!”
Her voice is light at finally being free, but she’s forgotten one important detail.
“Not yet. We’ve still got to deal with that.”
“That, su? …Ahh, that, su.”
Her shoulders slump as she looks at the rockfall blocking the only exit to the cavern. The ‘ogre’ had left such an impact that she’d forgotten Dane’s henchmen were ever there.
“Next time I see them I’ll really let ‘em have it!” Flum says, cheeks puffed out.
First things first, though, they’ll have to move the boulders.
“Oneesan, can’t you just use your Cavalier Arts thingy to blow the rocks away, su?”
“I could try it, but I think I’ve only got one more of those left in me before I collapse. I think your mace’d be a lot better suited for that kinda thing anyway.”
“Can’t do it, su. I’d collapse, su.”
“Guess we can’t just cut corners, then.”
It’ll be a lot of work, but since they don’t have to worry about the monstrosity anymore they can go at their own pace. They walk up to the closest of the boulders, grab hold as best they can and try to lift it on Flum’s count of three.
The rock is a lot larger than two girls their age could normally lift, but it isn’t an issue for a deceptively strong little priestess and a professional adventurer. They each have more strength in their arms alone than the average grown man has in his entire body. They carry it a short distance away before lowering it to the ground.
Flum wipes the sweat from her brow as she nears a second boulder as wide as her shoulders are broad and wraps her arms around it. At that moment, however, something catches her attention from the green, vegetated area opposite the rock pile.
---Her eyes meet its.
Or rather, they would if that thing had eyes to meet.
Nonetheless, it’s undeniably looking right at her.
The spiral of flesh excitedly starts spraying blood.
“You’ve got to be kidding me…”
Flum freezes like a deer in headlights, and Sara cocks her head to the side in confusion.
“Oneesan, what’s wrong… su…?”
She follows Flum’ gaze and sees ‘it.’ Her eyes widen and her body stiffens.
It only takes a second for Flum to put it all together.
She remembers a certain room they passed down below, a room with not one but many large glass tubes.
She remembers how the creepy crawling of the ‘ogre’ down there was clearly different from its sprinting movements up above.
In other words, the monstrosity that they killed down below --- it was a completely different ‘ogre’ from the one in front of them now.
“What is this, su… Nobody ever told me there were more than one of those things, su!!”
Their backs are against a cold stone wall. They’ve made a small hole in it, but not nearly big enough for either of them to escape through.
Flum bites her lip.
If she was in top condition she could probably kill it, but she doesn’t have anywhere near enough energy left. If there was somewhere to run to they might be able to rest long enough for her to recover her strength --- but there’s no place like that in the cavern.
They’re at checkmate.
“I’m sorry, Milkit…” she whispers, having half-accepted death already.
She’s of course going to struggle and fight with everything she’s got, but it doesn’t look like she has any chance of making it out alive.
She reaches out in front of her, grabs the hilt of the sword that appears there, and swings it free of its extradimensional sheath, its black blade glistening. She points the tip at the enemy in front of her. Sara similarly takes her mace in her hands and lowers herself into a ready stance.
The ‘ogre’ energetically gushes blood all over the ground as it walks towards them, arms swaying freely by its sides. It moves like a child on a picnic, elated at the thought of getting to eat the two tasty little snacks in front of it. It almost seems pure and innocent in the way it strides towards the pair, openly emitting a murderous aura.
It stops about two sword-lengths away from Flum and looks down at its prey from its three-meter-tall vantage point, noticing how exhausted they are.
It’s sure of its victory. It slowly raises its arms---
“Sara-chan, let’s do this!”
“We’re gonna win this, Oneesan, su!”
Knowing it’s futile, false bravado filling their chests, they charge forward.
Then, at the very instant the monstrosity is about to bring its fist down on Flum, it happens.
A woman appears from beyond the brush behind the ‘ogre’. She looks to be maybe in her mid-twenties, and her revealing dress puts her fine blue skin on full display. Her even deeper blue hair sways as she comes to a stop.
She strokes the air in front of her as if strumming a harp, and she chuckles through her rouged lips before saying the incantation.
A bluish-green sphere appears in front of her, and a split second later it flies at the the ‘ogre.’
The instant the sphere makes contact with its green back its massive body is sucked inside.
shuu… SHUZA, ZAZAZAZAZAZA!!
Countless blades of wind hack at the creature from all angles. It flails and tries to escape, but every time it tries to reach outside the sphere it gets another chunk of its flesh removed. Even its head and legs and torso are mercilessly hacked away at, powerless to resist. Just like the ‘ogre’ in the facility its wounds quickly spiral in on themselves and harden, but even that proves futile in the face of such overwhelming magic as it is literally ripped to shreds.
As the name of the spell would suggest, the sphere of wind is quickly dyed a beautiful crimson with the monstrosity’s blood.
Flum and Sara can do nothing but look on in shock.
The winds finally quell and the gore that was the ‘ogre’ up until a few seconds ago wetly plops onto the ground. In the middle of the sea of blood and still-quivering flesh is a small black crystal.
We almost died fighting one of those things and she comes and kills it with one attack? Just who is she!?
The woman twists her face in disgust as she plucks the crystal out of the mass. She removes the blood with a strong puff of wind and studies it resentfully.
“I never would’ve thought they’d make things like that. Humans really are troubling creatures, don’t you think, Flum-chan?”
“What do you mean, wha-wha? Cat got your tongue?”
She cheerily makes a cat’s paw with one hand in front of her voluminous chest.
Flum just stares at her, mouth wide open in shock.
Sara, on the other hand, looks at the Demon with far greater animosity than she did the ‘ogre’ just moments before.
“Oh, my… W-What a c-cute little girl, yes, too cute! You look just like one of the Church of Origin’s little nuns, am I right?”
“Kh… Don’t call me cute, su!! Murderer! Monster!! You're disgusting, su!!”
The blue-skinned woman slumps her shoulders in dejection at Sara’s tirade.
“This again? I can’t count how many times that Maria girl has glared at me, and now you, too…”
“Of course Maria-neesama an’ I are ticked, su! You filthy Demons took our homes an’ our families… I’ll never, ever forgive you, su!!”
Sara looks ready to cut down the demon where she stands. Flum quickly puts a hand on her shoulder.
“Just calm down, Sara-chan.”
“How’m I supposed to calm down when there’s a demon right in front of me, su!? I’ll never, ever---!”
“Please, just take a moment to cast Scan on her. Please.”
Sara continues hissing like an angry little kitten, but she seems a little calmer thanks to Flum’s words.
She casts Scan on the woman in front of her.
Neigass Attribute : Bloody Gale Strength : 3,596 Magic : 15,997 Stamina : 2,479 Agility : 3,698 Intuition : 7,854
Seeing those stats, something catches in the back of Sara’s throat. Quickly reading her Status again, she drops her mace. The difference between them is too despairingly great.
“Nice follow-up!” Neigass says, giving Flum a smile and a thumbs-up.
All of Flum’s memories of her are of someone who’s tried to kill the Hero and her party time and time again, so she honestly doesn’t know how to respond to Neigass’ overly friendly attitude.
“Now we can finally have a nice, relaxed talk.”
Sara isn’t relaxed by any stretch of the imagination, but she seems willing to listen now.
“Let’s start with introductions, shall we? My name is Neigass, my Attribute is a combination of Air and Dark called Bloody Gale, my age is… a lot older than you humans, I belong to a little group called the Three Demon Generals as you may or may not know, and as you can probably tell I’m a demon.”
Flum and Sara respond with silence.
Neigass puffs out her cheeks at them in a pout.
“How rude! I introduced myself, so now it’s your turn, Sara-cha…. Uwah, that’s quite a glare. I suppose I shouldn’t expect anything less, though...”
“I don’t get why you’d even bother introducin’ yourself, su. If you’re so strong, how about you hurry up an’ kill us already, su!”
“Hahh… I get the feeling I’ve said this before, but we Demons really don’t kill people,” Neigass explains as if stating the obvious.
Her all-too-casual words just seem to upset Sara even more.
“Don’t screw with me, su! You demons killed my parents, su! You took everything from me, su!!”
“Oh? And you saw this with your own eyes, did you?”
Neigass’ immediate response causes Sara to hesitate.
“Well… no, su. But the good guys at the Church who took me in said so, su!”
“In that case, I have a question for you. Do you really think you can trust an organization that conducts such obviously suspicious research in the middle of nowhere?”
Neigass turns her gaze back to the small black crystal that was embedded in the ‘ogre’.
Sara is at a loss for words.
Flum responds to Neigass’ words with a dubious expression.
“You mean the Church is behind all this?”
“Oh, I thought you’d realized. I haven’t been inside yet myself, but surely you saw their symbol around down there? It looks like Sara-chan’s put it all together already.”
Sara’s gaze is fixed on the ground as she grits her teeth. Finally, she starts to explain.
“The first time… the first time I saw Origin’s holy symbol, the ‘twisted circle’ on the door of that office, I got a bad feelin’, su.”
It was so faint that probably only someone thoroughly used to seeing it would’ve noticed. She convinced herself that it was only a coincidence, however, and she didn’t spare it another thought until a little later.
“When we read that researcher’s notebook… All that talk about divine revelation, spinnin’ knowledge, wisdom… It really stuck out to me ‘cause a lot of those same words an’ phrases show up in Origin’s holy texts… ‘Ah, this must be one of the Church’s places,’ I thought, though I hoped I was wrong, su.”
“The Church’s doing experiments on humans…? But what does that have to do with the demons?”
“Let’s just say that ‘power’ they're researching is a little… inconvenient for us. When I heard there was a lab out here I came to check it out.”
If that ‘power’ is really that problematic to the demons, then it makes sense that the Kingdom and Church would research some way to weaponize it for use against the ‘evil’ demons.
That’s hardly an excuse for human experimentation, though.
Even if that power of ‘revolution’ can be used to great effect against the Demons, every bone in Flum’s body screams that it’s not anything humans should mess with.
“More importantly, what are you doing here, Flum-chan? You suddenly disappeared from the Hero’s party, and now here you are with that mark on your face… isn’t that what you humans use on slaves?”
Flum doesn’t know what to say. Sara looks at her curiously.
“So you’re that Flum Apricot after all, su.”
Apparently she’d suspected as much all along. It’s honestly not a stretch, since her face, name, and age all fit.
“Something like that, I guess. Back then I wasn’t strong enough to be a member of their party so they kicked me out and sold me into slavery, and here I am now.”
“That’s awful, su!” “How unpleasant…”
Sara’s and Neigass’ voices overlap. Having agreed on something for once, Sara wrenches up her face in disgust and Neigass smiles warmly at her.
“What I really mean to ask, though, is why you’re all the way out here in the middle of nowhere. It certainly doesn’t seem like you came to the lab on purpose.”
“Hahh… We came here to pick plants for some medicine, su.”
Sara sighs and replies.
“Oh my, doesn’t the Church forbid that sort of thing?”
“That sorta thing doesn’t matter if there’s someone who’s sick, su. If we don’t get the medicine we can’t help ‘em, su.”
Hearing Sara’s words, Neigass puts a hand to her chest, her eyes sparkling.
“Flum-chan, don’t you think she’s just the most precious little thing…!?”
“Uhh… yeah, she’s very nice…?”
Flum still can’t keep up with Neigass, but if nothing else it makes her claim that she doesn’t kill humans more plausible. She can’t feel any ulterior motives hidden behind her smile, and her eyes are clear, so at the very least she’s not the deceiving type. She really is acting perfectly natural and exposing herself to them completely.
Even Sara seems to sense her sincerity, as she’s lowered her guard a lot compared to when she first appeared.
“I see I see, so you came here to get medicinal herbs, got attacked by that monstrosity, and you ended up fleeing into that lab. Then right when you were completely cornered by that monster, I showed up with perfect timing and saved you. Is that right?”
“Flum-oneesan an’ I killed the first one together, but that’s about right, yeah, su.”
“You killed one of those things!?”
Neigass’ surprise is apparent on her face.
“You killed one yourself, su.”
“Well, yes, but that’s just because my Magic is so high, unlike Flum-chan here. When you were still with the Hero you were just a little farm girl who couldn’t fight at all! Tell me, how’d you do it?”
Her memory of that final showdown is fuzzy at best. She was screaming, she hit it with all the energy she could muster…
“I hit it hard with everything I had, that little black crystal thing inside it broke, and it stopped moving.”
“...Did you just say you broke its Core?”
Neigass’ expression suddenly turns serious. She vigorously plants her hands on Flum’s shoulders, clearly worked up about something.
“Tell me you still have that broken Core!”
“Y-Yeah, I picked it up just in case…”
She pulls it out of her bag and hands it to Neigass, who proceeds to study it closely from all angles.
“It’s completely stopped… What on…? No, don’t tell me that’s why they…?”
“What is it?”
“...Nothing. Nothing at all. You don’t mind if I keep this, do you?”
Flum was planning on taking it somewhere to be properly examined, but she found it in a Church facility, which means that the Kingdom itself is likely in on the secret. No matter where she takes it, the best case scenario is that it’ll disappear for good.
How ironic that the only person she can trust with it is a demon.
“Sure. It’s not like I have any use for it in the first place.”
“Thank you so much!”
Flum scratches her head, unsure of what to do with such a frank thank-you.
“By the way, you still haven’t picked the herbs you need, have you?”
“We thought we’d reopen the road out first, su.”
“Oh, you’re right, it’s completely blocked off! How’d something like that happen?”
“A few assholes decided to get themselves involved is all.”
“Hmm, sounds like you still have a rather difficult time of it. In that case, let me lend a hand.”
She turns and extends a hand towards the rockfall behind them.
Black wind gathers around Neigass and flows at the boulders a moment later. The rock faces touched by that black wind crumble under their own weight and collapse, reopening the passageway in a matter of seconds.
“If any monsters try to disturb you I’ll handle them. You can just relax and focus on gathering whatever you need.”
“Why’d you go so far for us, su?”
Neigass flashes an amicable smile at Sara’s confusion.
“You may not believe me, but for the time being you can just think of our objectives as one and the same.”
“...Sara-chan, let’s hurry up and get what we came for.”
“Oneesan… Okay, su.”
Sara finally seems to come to a decision and nods.
Though having a demon watch over them is certainly a new one, they have no problem gathering the chiaraly and two other types of herbs. Neigass even sees them safely through to the cave’s exit.
Just as she’s about to leave, Sara calls out to her from behind.
“Um, Neigass, su?”
“What is it, dear?”
“Do demons really never kill people, su?”
“I can’t say we never do. During what you call the Demon War, for example, your kind tried to invade us and I’m sure there were some deaths that couldn’t be avoided. I can swear to you, however, that we’d never kill humans for our own personal benefit or for sport or anything like that.”
“Who do you swear it on, su?”
“Hmm… That’s a hard one…”
She puts an index finger to her lip, lost in thought for a good long moment before replying.
“I can’t trust Origin or any other god, so… I swear it on you, Sara-chan.”
She smiles warmly.
Sara takes a moment to digest Neigass’ words, though she still can’t bring herself to stop hating demons after so many years.
“I see, su.”
She turns away without making up with, giving in to, or rejecting her.
That’s just how it’ll have to be.
She’s hated demons for a full eight years, so even being able to have a proper conversation with one is more than enough progress for one day.
Neigass, content with that, turns on her heel and heads back into the cave.
Flum and Sara head back through the woods towards Enchide with the aid of their lantern. The bell-like chirping of the crickets all around them sounds oddly lonely. Sara is still sorting out her feelings and walking in silence with a grave expression on her face, so Flum can’t bring herself to start a conversation.
Flum finally says something when they’re about halfway back.
“So much has happened today that my head’s still spinning.”
“You too, su? I don’t know what to believe anymore, su.”
“You’re positive that the Church set up that facility?”
“I’m a priestess, so I know that for certain, su. I knew the higher ups were hidin’ somethin’, but… ”
If even a ten-year-old can tell that much, then surely many other priests and priestesses must suspect something. There are probably only a select few that have found anything concrete, though.
“I bet that if it got out that the Church was dabbling in human experimentation not even they’d be able to just walk it off.”
“Yeah, I think they’d be pretty desperate to keep it secret, su.”
If they’re not careful, they could even be ‘erased’ for what they know.
“...I guess we’d better not tell anyone, then.”
“I don’t mean to sound threatenin’, but it’d be pretty suicidal, su.”
“It’s so frustrating… It’s not like I was planning on telling everyone, but just knowing I can’t tell anyone makes it feel so much heavier.”
Sara wordlessly nods in agreement. It must be even harder for her, not only knowing what her own Church is doing in the shadows but knowing that if she tries to tell anyone she’ll be extremely vulnerable.
There’s no point in thinking about it any more than they already have.
For now, all Flum wants to do is tell Milkit she’s back and sleep like the dead.
Both of the same mind, they continue back to Enchide.
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