OmaeGotoki: Volume 1 013 - Melting Hearts
Enchide is draped in the same veil of dusk as it was when they first arrived. The lights of the few populated houses seem even darker than they remember, possibly due to Flum and Sara’s exhaustion.
The only sound as they walk down the abandoned streets is the scatter of gravel beneath their boots. Only the promise of being able to rest soon pushes them forward. The large, somewhat dilapidated inn comes into sight as they round the corner. The thought of Milkit waiting for them brings a smile to Flum’s face.
There’s no light in the window of Stude’s house next door.
No matter how early to rise and early to bed country folks are supposed to be, it’s far too early for that yet. They’re probably both out somewhere.
But more importantly, they can finally rest now. Flum is just about to climb the steps into the inn when she stops. Sara comes to a halt a moment later, turning back to look at her.
“What is it, su?”
Flum expressionlessly turns to face the front entrance of Stude’s home. The longer she looks the paler she turns.
The light’s off. The front door is wide open. Through the lace curtain on the window she can barely make out the kitchen table, covered in scattered and broken dishes.
She tries to put it all together.
Dane’s cronies used magic to seal off the exit to that cavern. Since they visited that old lady at the general store just as Flum’s party did, they should know that nobody comes home from that cave because of the monstrosity. In other words, they should be convinced that Flum and Sara are dead.
What would those two do after returning to Enchide in high spirits?
Guided by the scent of blood, Flum walks towards Stude’s house.
They call themselves adventurers, but they’re no better than a band of criminals. Dane exerts his influence as an A-Rank adventurer to have his way with not only the guild but the entire West Quarter. Even in the middle of the Capital they’re confident enough that they’d try to steal the bag of someone like Reach in broad daylight. They’d surely have no problem doing whatever they please with the residents of a country town, away from the eyes of the paladins and the guards.
She puts her hand to the door and pushes. The smell of iron grows even stronger. The tiny stubs of candles that light the corridor are all but useless.
No, forget petty theft. They’ve done far worse. Fraud, assault --- even murder. A little push from Dane and it’s as if it never happened. When they tried to steal Reach’s bag, however, things were different. Before he could do anything, those thugs were taken in by the paladins.
What did they think of that?
The floorboards under Flum’s feet groan as she enters the dining room.
Amongst the destruction is a man lying slumped against the table, scarlet blood from the deep stab wound in his back staining his blue shirt red.
She’s never seen the man before. He must’ve been one of Stude’s friends, come to visit when he heard Stude was back in town.
Flum clenches her fists and grits her teeth.
There are traces of blood on the floor, as if someone dragged themselves across the ground while bleeding, starting from one of the chairs and leading to the doorway Flum is standing in.
There are more victims.
She follows it with her eyes down the corridor, further into the house.
Dane and his men must’ve been indignant. They’d always had free reign over the West Quarter, so why should they have to be punished now? That must be the reason why they trapped Flum and Sara in that cave and tried to kill them.
The floorboards continue to wail underfoot as Flum approaches a bedroom.
Afraid of what she might find inside, she opens the door slowly. The hinges of the door screech in protest.
They wouldn’t just be content with killing Flum and Sara, though. Murder doesn’t hold any special significance for those criminals. Just killing them alone wouldn’t be enough to lighten their spirits. They need to take more from them, take everything they can.
That, of course, includes involving innocent people, people who only tried to help them.
Flum has her theory now. All she has to do is look at what’s in front of her to confirm it.
As I thought.
As I feared.
There are two people, a man and a woman, on the bed. The room’s dark, but anyone would be able to tell that much.
One of them is an old woman. The other is a man, draped over her as if attempting to protect her.
Stude and his mother.
The room is filled to the brim with the raw smell of their blood.
They did nothing wrong, ordinary villagers who committed the sin of letting Flum and Sara stay at their inn -- and yet they were killed, for nothing more than a petty grudge.
She feels the weight of their deaths for involving them in her business.
But something altogether different boils up above it, some pitch black emotion.
I’ll never forgive them.
Her emotions boil over into her howl, her indignation boiling over into madness.
Her indignation isn’t rooted in some beautiful sense of justice but in something horribly egotistical, an addiction too twisted to be called affection not directed at the bodies on the bed but at what’s about to happen, maybe what’s currently happening, maybe what already happened, an unsupressable rage in the face of an unspeakable tragedy. Leaving her body to those dark emotions, she forgets her exhaustion and sprints out of Stude’s house.
Leaving Sara to her confusion, she dashes into the inn.
Those bastards, those bastards, those bastards!
The two men surely aren’t satisfied with just those two sins.
Her feet pound the floorboards hard enough to break them as she storms through the inn.
Faster! Faster! Faster!! If I can get there a second, a moment, and instant sooner---!
The men can probably hear her coming.
Like I care! If you’re going to run then run, if you’re going to resist then resist, but it doesn’t matter to me. Even if you beg me to spare you, even if you maim yourselves in apology, even if you rip the flesh off your own faces and beg the gods for forgiveness --- I’ll NEVER forgive you!!
A little while before Flum’s arrival at the inn…
Milkit sits on the edge of the bed, patiently waiting for Flum and Sara to come back. She doesn’t have anything to occupy her time and it’s too dark outside to take a walk so she sits in the dark, letting the colourless time flow by her.
She doesn’t find it boring, of course; until recently she was often left with such empty time. She fidgets as she watches the minute hand on the clock slowly advance. They’d only taken lunch with them. They were supposed to be back by now. The sky’s grown dark with no sign from them, causing unease to stir in her chest.
“...You’re okay, aren’t you, Master, Sara-san?”
Saying it aloud makes her heart tremble and tingle.
I shouldn’t have said that.
It’s too late, however.
The seed of unease buried in her chest sprouts and grows on the dusky light shining in through the window. Her chest feels tight, and she puts a hand to her heart. The rhythmic throbbing of her heart is noisier than it usually is.
Just as Milkit worries about the two of them, she can hear footsteps from outside the room.
Two sets of footsteps.
Milkit stands up and half-runs to the door, opening it so as to not force her master to after a long day’s work.
Two men she’s never seen before are standing there.
Before she can do anything a large hand reaches forward and grabs her bandaged face.
“Ngh!? Nn! Nghngh!!”
The owner of the hand, a man with countless piercings on his lips and ears, grins at her sadistically.
“Hey, you’re not seriously gonna do it, are you?” asks the man behind him. The second man has heavy blue tattoos covering the right half of his face.
The pierced man grins at the tattooed man’s question.
“She’s ugly for a bitch, but I’d rather screw her corpse than that hag’s hole or that hairy smarm’s ass.”
“If you’re gonna complain ‘bout it then don’t do it, man. Let’s just kill her an’ go.”
“Ahh, but where’s the fun in that?”
He nears his face to Millkit’s as she tries to scream and break free. His eyes are bloodshot and his breathing is ragged.
“I’ve got one helluva boner after my first kill in a while. I can’t just go loosin’ myself on any old living bitch! Ahyahya!!”
He raises his voice raggedly, as if he’s high on something.
Fear and disgust rise in Milkit’s chest, but she’s too weak to resist as he pushes her back into the room. Her knees hit the edge of the bed and she collapses onto it. She flails at him, but she’s not even strong enough to make him flinch, or maybe she’s just in shock as he mounts her. If she resists, who knows what he’ll do to her.
“Oh, you’re a calm one. Don’t tell me you’re used to this kinda thing?”
He strips his shirt off.
“Why so quiet? Huhn? Answer me. Hey, hey, hey!! I said A-N-S-W-E-R M-E! You stupid or something!?!”
The pierced man grabs her by the hair and starts slamming her head against the bed. She can’t possibly answer like that, but he seems to grow angrier every passing moment she doesn’t respond.
---Or so she thought. Suddenly he grins and lets go of her hair. He runs his hand through her hair, letting the silver strands slip between his rough fingers.
“I’m sowwy. When Oniichan gets excited he can’t help but get a widdle rough with girls. Most of them just can’t take it. But you know what? Oniichan wuvs watching widdle girls suffer more than anything else in the whole wide world!”
“Ugh, and now you’re crying. Seriously, hurry up an’ answer already. You a virgin or what?”
Milkit silently nods.
He looms over her, looking down at her with a cold expression.
“If you don’t say it I can’t hear you.”
“Nah, I gotta hear ya loud an’ clear. What are ya!?”
“You’re still too damn quiiiieeeeet!!”
“I’m a virgin!”
She manages to force the words out and he bursts out laughing.
“AHYAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!! HAHAHAHAHAHA!! I LOVE makin’ bitches say that!! What am I, twelve!? Hyahahahaha, ahahahaha! Haha, ha… hahh.”
He quickly quiets down again. He’s tired of this game already.
He reaches for the shortsword at his belt and touches the tip of it against Milkit’s chest for a moment before tearing open the front of her maid outfit.
Seeing her bra exposed, he asks her a question.
“How'd you like to die?”
“After I’m done with ya the first time, I mean. I like to have a second go at bitches like you after they’re good an’ dead. Ah, that means anything that wrecks those bits down there is no good, ‘course. The typical options are havin’ a knife jammed in your mouth, maybe in your neck. Maybe you’d prefer it nice an’ quick through the heart? Or maybe I should just jam it in your gut an’ mix you up a little?”
How ‘nice’ of him to give her an option.
Milkit can’t choose so easily, of course, but if she makes him angry again he’ll probably grab her hair again.
She’s got to answer, as quickly as she can.
“What’s with that face?”
The time limit’s far shorter than she’d thought. The pierced man’s face twists, his face growing redder.
No normal person’s mood would shift so violently. He’s definitely very high on something, probably one of the illegal drugs being passed around in the back alleys of the Capital.
He’s immune to common sense now.
He slowly wraps his hands around Milkit’s neck.
“If you’re gonna be so bitchy about it then how’d ya like some strangulation play, huh!? Virgins these days’re animals! Oniichan’s worried about horny widdle sluts like you, y’know!? HA-HYAHAHAHA!!”
As she starts to black out, the only thing on her mind is her still-missing master.
Flum immediately notices that the door’s open, and as soon as she sticks her head in she cries out.
Three pairs of eyes turn to face her as one. Two pairs belong to the man with heavy piercings and the heavily tattooed man, but the last one belongs to Milkit, pinned to the bed, a pair of large hands wrapped around her slender neck. Her clothes are torn, exposing her chest so pale it seems transparent.
They all stare at each other for a long moment. All of them are stopped as if the entire room was only a painting.
It’s clear what’s happening.
Milkit calls out to Flum in a thin, plaintive voice.
Flum looks down at the ground, digging her nails deep into her palms and clenching her teeth hard enough to shatter them.
---Now you’ve REALLY done it.
They’ve proven themselves less than insects, subjugating and tormenting a girl who has no way of resisting. If they really wanted to die so badly, they should’ve just asked Flum nicely.
“I’ll end you.”
Her voice is so frigid she even startles herself for a moment.
Stepping forward one, two long strides.
The first one to react is the tattooed man. He gets as far as putting his hand on the hilt of his knife.
“You weren’t supposed to co---”
The tattooed man is shocked at the sheer speed of her movements, but he never finishes his sentence.
She lowers her waist and draws the Zweihander from its extradimensional sheath, using the unsheathing momentum to drive the razor edge soundlessly through his torso, splitting him clean in half.
She swings the blade at empty air to clean it of the man’s blood. A few fat droplets hit the pierced man in the face.
The tattooed man’s top half slips off and tumbles to the ground, hitting it headfirst. He opens and closes his mouth like a fish gasping to breathe and voices words that have no sound. It only takes a moment for his brain to realize it’s out of blood. He stops moving. A moment later, his lower half follows him to the floor and a wealth of murky fluids and ripe organs spill out.
The pierced man is suddenly alone.
He wipes at the fluid on his face, looks at the crimson at his fingertip and swears loudly.
“Shit!! I haven’t even screwed anyone yet, dammit!!”
He scrambles towards the window, flings it open, and practically falls out of it. Tripping over his own feet, the pierced man fades into the darkness.
“Milkit, wait here for just a moment.”
Flum leaves Milkit with those words as she jumps out the window after him.
It was her master’s kind voice.
In her master’s eyes, however, burned a dark desire to kill.
As soon as Flum leaves the inn, she scans the area for any sign of the pierced man.
He hasn’t vanished into the darkness completely, and he’s still close enough that she can see him with the naked eye. She shifts the blade to a one-handed grip as she runs after her mark.
The man’s a D-Rank, at best a C-Rank adventurer. There’s no way he can escape her as she is now.
He turns around at the sound of her pursuit, the metal rings on his lips and ears clanging together loudly. As he watches Flum starts to catch up and he twists his face in terror.
“You’ve gotta be shittin’ me! All this for that crappy little virgin bitch!? Dammit, he told me I could just come out here, rape an’ kill whoever I wanted, and even get paid at the end! I’ve got a mountain of bitches waitin’ for me and my money!!”
He doesn’t spare even a thought for his dead comrade. Scum like him truly deserve death.
“If only I’d killed that granny an’ the ape properly back then I’d be long gone by now, dammit!!”
“I hope that’s not what you want written on your tombstone.”
Flum’s face suddenly appears out of the gloom.
Before he realizes she’s caught up to him and matched his pace. She makes sure he gets a good look at the black sword in her hand, still faintly glistening with the tattooed man’s viscera.
The pierced man, realizing that he can’t escape, stops in his tracks. In a practiced motion, he drops to the ground and plants his forehead into the dirt.
“Ha… Haha, hyahahahaha, no no, hold on. Don’t get so worked up, it’s not like I actually screwed ‘em. It’s a misunderstanding, a M-I-S-T-A-K-E. Those clothes I wrecked… tell ya what, I’ll compensate you for ‘em. We’re even now, am I right? Anything that ugly bitch was wearin’ couldn’t be that expensive anyways, right!?”
Bowing and scraping must be the secret to his ‘success.’
She looks down at him with heartless eyes.
“I haven’t done a single damn thing worth killin’ me over! It was that asshole with the tattoos that offed the hag an’ the smarm!”
He thinks that’s supposed to make some sort of difference to me.
Wordlessly, she raises the Zweihander over her head.
All she has to do is swing downwards and it’ll all end.
The black blade fades into the darkness, making it impossible for the man to tell when it’ll come falling on him. Fear tightens its grip on his chest.
“Oneesan, hold on a minute, su!”
Just as Flum’s about to swing Sara’s voice comes from behind her.
Murder is a sin. Even if it wasn’t a sin to the Church of Origin, it’s one of the gravest crimes a human being can commit. Sara, believing wholeheartedly in human goodness, can’t just watch Flum kill him.
“Stude-san and his mom are still alive, su! I cured ‘em with my healin’ magic so they’re both just fine, su!”
Flum turns around to face her.
“Sara-chan… it’s too late for that. The other one’s already dead.”
“Well… maybe so, but that guy can’t repent if he’s dead, su! There’s gotta be some better way to punish him, su!”
Her words make perfect logical sense. Murder shouldn’t be punished with more murder. Some murderers, while few, reflect on their crimes and live normal, fulfilling lives after receiving just punishment.
There are many of people who never repent, however, who never change their ways.
“Heh… Hehe… Hya, hyahahahahahahahahaha!”
The pierced man springs to his feet and pins Flum’s arms behind her back, sticking a dagger to her neck. His fear has dissolved completely from his face, replaced by a twisted grin.
“You’re too damn careless! Thanks a bunch for the help, ya brat! I never thought a priestess’d come help me murder this bitch, su! Thank you, su! You’re a really big help, su! Seriously, who speaks like that!? Hyahahahahaha! I thought I was dead but hey, there’re nice people left in the world after all!”
The pierced man is convinced that he's won.
Sara stares at him at a loss for words. Flum gives her a small smile.
“You see, Sara-chan?”
“Hey hey, suddenly you think you can get off chattin’ right in front of me!? Didja forget that if I push on this here dagger even a liiiittle bit there’ll be blood everywhere!? Take a moment to think on that! Think good and hard, wet yourself, cry, an’ get me all excited all over again!!”
None of the man’s words have any effect on Flum.
She remembers back to Jean, and after him that slave merchant. Some people just delight in destroying the lives and dignity of others and feel no guilt whatsoever.
If only Sara could share some of her goodness with assholes like them.
“I told you before, Sara-chan. In this world, some people---”
“Oh, you’re not even gonna apologize? I guess I’ll just kill you then. Ahh, but I really wish I could at least hear some good ol’ grovelling---”
The pierced man pushes a little harder on the dagger, breaking Flum’s skin and letting a thin line of blood streak down her neck.
Flum’s expression doesn’t change.
“---some pieces of trash never repent, never learn, and are better off dead.”
As soon as she finishes gently lecturing Sara, she forces the dagger in the man’s hands deep into her own neck. It easily carves through her skin and buries itself deep in her throat. The sound of flowing water accompanies the wave of blood that gushes from her neck.
The man, shocked, lets go of the blade. She lets herself fall forward, but catches her fall, pulls the dagger out of her flesh, and casts it to the ground.
“T-The hell… How’re you not dead!?”
Blood still oozing out and staining her collar crimson, she turns and swings.
He reflexively tries to cover his face with his arms and loses both his hands. Blood gushes out.
Judging from the sheer volume of his bleeding he’ll die if he doesn’t get immediate healing, but it’s still not enough to sate Flum’s bloodlust.
“Aa, aaagh! P-Please, don’t kill me…!”
“What’re you saying? You’re the murderer here.”
“N-No, it’s all a mistake. I-I don’t wanna---”
She cleaves the man’s unsightly expression in half. The top half of his head is sent flying through the air, eventually landing in the middle of the gravel road.
“Thanks for grovelling, at least.”
The brainless sack of flesh in front of her spasms then collapses, wetting itself as it falls. Blood and human waste spread freely across the road.
Flum heads back to the inn where Milkit awaits, putting a hand on Sara’s head as she passes.
“Sorry, Sara-chan. The way I see it, this is the only way.”
She wasn’t always like this. After being betrayed and taking in more than her fair share of the world’s evils, this is her conclusion. This is who she’s been forced to become.
Sara’s voice is weak. Even though Flum’s right beside her she feels as though they’re worlds apart. Unable to follow her back to the inn, she watches Flum’s back grow ever further away as she stands there motionless under the infinitely vast night sky.
When she returns the room, the strong smell of death hits her nose. Milkit is still huddled on the bed, trying to wrap the torn shreds of her clothes around her chest.
It’s enough to break her heart.
She draws close to Milkit and puts her hand on her cheek. Milkit feels Flum’s warmth through her bandages but returns a dark expression.
“I ruined the nice clothes that you bought for me.”
The first words out of Milkit’s mouth are those.
“I’m so sorry, Master.”
She's done nothing wrong. Flum would’ve preferred to get yelled at for not coming to save her sooner. Even if she knows Milkit would never actually do such a thing, the apology hurts nonetheless.
Flum faces the ground, her lips start trembling and something hot rises in her chest as tears gather in her eyes.
“I don’t care about your clothes, don’t apologize…”
“But Master, this dress is the first thing you ever gave me. It’s very precious.”
“Even if it is! I thought I told you to treat your body with more respect! Why!? Why’s that the first thing you have to say…!? You’re wrong, the important thing isn’t your clothes… it’s something else entirely…!”
Flum snuggles up to Milkit, burying her face in her chest as she strongly embraces her.
Blood’s flowing through her veins, her heart is beating --- she’s alive.
When she thinks about how Milkit would’ve not only been defiled but killed, too, Flum feels like vomiting.
“Master, are you crying?”
Milkit looks down at her master’s trembling shoulders.
“...Yeah, I’m crying. I’m still so powerless, so pitiful, so unable to change what needs changing most… so I’m crying.”
Her voice is trembling.
Milkit feels overcome with the urge to do something for her, but she’s at a loss as to what she should do. Without thinking she moves to return Flum’s embrace but stops, staring down at her hands in confusion.
When she was being attacked by the pierced man, she could feel some strange emotion sprout within her.
Your body is worthless.
All of her masters up until now have told her that, again and again until she accepted it as truth.
But now it’s different.
Her current master --- Flum told her the opposite.
Even now, Milkit’s convinced that her body is worthless, but if she does anything to harm herself Flum will be sad. Even if she doesn’t care personally, the thought of Flum becoming sad makes her heart hurt and the area around her eyes feel weird.
Flum looks up with red eyes, meeting Milkit’s again.
“Ahh… Look, even though you say you don’t care… you were really scared, weren’t you?”
“Your eyes are all moist. It looks like you’re ready to cry… am I wrong?”
Milkit’s clear, crystalline eyes are faintly trembling. Even if she’s not scared, there’s clearly some emotion at work or else she wouldn’t be like this.
She puts a hand to her eyes to confirm they’re wet before saying her feelings as they come to her.
“It’d be too shameless for a mere slave like myself to wish to be saved by her master. I don’t know for certain if I was scared or not, but… When I was being assaulted, I imagined what it would be like if you were to swoop in and save me.”
She wasn’t expecting anything to come of it. It was a dream within a dream.
“I’m so sorry for imagining such a thing despite being fully aware of how shameless it is… I would appear that I’ve let myself be spoiled by you.”
“I don’t care if it’s shameless! Imagine whatever you want, ask me for anything you can think of, I’ll do my best to make you happy!”
“That’s how I want it! I don’t want us to be master and slave, I want us to be you and me! Ahh, but I couldn’t make it in time… I couldn’t protect you completely…”
“That’s not true. You saved me, Master. Rather, I’m the one at fault here for failing to protect this dress…”
“...Nn, that again… I don’t wanna hear it!”
Refusing to listen to Milkit pointlessly blame herself again, she pushes her down onto the bed, rubbing her cheeks with her own, whispering into her ears.
“As soon as we get back we’re going clothes shopping, okay? Anything you want, no matter how much it costs.”
“But I can’t let you just waste more money on me like that…”
“Then we’ll mend what you’re wearing now first. I’ll buy you so many clothes you’ll never be able to wear them all, but I’ll make you wear them all anyway! Then maybe you’ll finally understand that I don’t care about any stupid clothes, I care about you!”
“...I don’t understand.”
“That’s okay for now. Until you can finally tell me you understand I’ll spoil you to death! I’ll make you so happy you won’t know what to do with yourself!!”
Flum buries her face in the bed and starts bawling. Not even she knows why she’s so sad. The inside of her head’s an absolute mess.
Even Milkit is able to figure out that Flum’s tears are meant for her, but in the end she doesn’t know what she should do about it herself.
Nobody’s ever cried for her before.
Nobody’s ever wanted to make her happy before.
Flum’s given her nothing but firsts.
Milkit still doesn’t know how she should answer her. All she can do is what she feels is right and move forward by her own will --- Hesitantly, haltingly, she wraps her arms around Flum’s back.
She doesn’t know herself what that movement, what that impulse means, but---
Her chest feels warm.
That alone she can be sure of.
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