OmaeGotoki: Volume 1 014 - Private Property Priced To Move (Housemate Included)
Flum heads towards a nearby house with a light in its window and asks for help from the woman who comes to the door. She tells the woman matter-of-factly that a man, likely a friend of Stude’s, was murdered and that she’s already killed the criminals responsible. The woman seems deeply confused, but she calls the town watch nonetheless.
The group of burly men seem to doubt Flum’s word as an outsider, but they follow her to the house and get a chance to ask Stude and his mother, and hearing the tale straight from the victims’ mouths they have little choice but to believe it. They carry out the body of the man who was collapsed on the kitchen table a short while later.
There’s a strong sadness in Stude’s voice as he watches the man be carried out on the makeshift stretcher. Flum balls her fists as she watches him from a short distance away. Her chest feels tight, but as one of the people responsible for the tragedy she can’t just pretend it’s none of her business.
“Was he a friend of yours?” she asks, walking up to Stude.
“Yeah, he’s been mah friend since we were lil’uns. Ah invited him ta come an’ eat with us since Ah’ve been gone fer so long, but Ah never thought…”
Stude’s voice trembles. He grits his teeth, desperate to hold back his tears, but a fat droplet runs down his cheek nonetheless. He quickly rubs it away with the back of his thick arm.
“Ah’m sorry, Flum-chan. Ah didn’t want ya ta see me like this.”
“No… Actually, it’s my fault they even came out here…”
“Nah, yer wrong there. If ya didn’t come an’ save us, me an’ mah Ma’d be dead by now. If anythin’ Ah should be thankin’ ya!”
“Thank ya kindly fer savin’ us, fer avengin’ James, fer everythin’!”
He gives Flum a hard thump on the back before heading over to his mother as she talks to the militia.
She can’t just accept his words, however. She hangs her head and watches the dried gravel road with emotionless eyes.
After that, the mutilated corpses of the tattooed man and the pierced man are gathered into burlap sacks and abandoned in the nearby woods. The townsfolk have no way of punishing the dead, but at least by denying them any proper burial they can feel a little better about it. Soon wild animals will find the bodies and they’ll return to the earth.
The next day Sara is clearly depressed, but nonetheless they have her perform James’ funerary rights. They don’t have any local priests or priestesses, so they have little choice.
Throughout the entire ceremony she maintains her professional composure. Even if she’s still only a child she has a strong sense of responsibility, and she throws herself fully into fulfilling her duty.
To be honest, Flum doesn’t know if she should even be there. All around her people are crying and mourning James’ death, but the only thing she feels is relief that the funeral isn’t Milkit’s.
I don’t have any right to be here.
“I really am cold-hearted, aren’t I?”
She whispers to herself in the middle of the funeral, so quietly nobody else can hear her. Self-loathing wells up in her chest.
Even if she didn’t know him, she should feel something as the person responsible. If she doesn’t it’s as though she’s betraying all the kindness Stude showed them when everyone else turned them away.
Flum grits her teeth. Milkit, standing next to her, notices and grabs the hem of her shirt, trying her best in her own way to cheer her up. Flum’s expression softens as she feels for Milkit’s hands.
“Thank you,” she whispers.
She gently squeezes Milkit’s fingers before letting go.
They obviously can’t just start holding hands in the middle of a funeral, but that fleeting contact is enough for Flum to ascertain Milkit’s warmth. They both softly smile at the feeling of the other’s body heat.
A few hours have passed since boarding the carriage back to the Capital.
Nobody has said even a single word yet. Sara especially seems to be lost in her own thoughts and in no state to talk to anyone. Watching her concentrate, Flum can’t bring herself to lighten the mood. Milkit seems unfazed by it all but is quieter than usual, perhaps to match her master’s silence.
The carriage leaves an area of dry flatlands and moves into a region filled with rolling grassy knolls. A pleasant breeze reaches them where they sit. Sara tucks a loose lock of golden hair back behind her ear.
“...I’ve been thinkin’ a lot recently, Oneesan, su.”
She doesn’t shift her gaze from the rolling sea of green in front of her.
“There’s still a lot I just don’t understand, su. I still don’t know what to trust an’ what to doubt, su. I’m not that clever, so if I believe in somethin’ I wanna believe it all and if I doubt somethin’ I start to doubt it all, su.”
Sara’s still only ten years old. She’s still far too young to be able to cleanly divide the good from the bad and the true from the false on a case-by-case basis.
“There’s nothing wrong with that.”
I’m really not in any position to talk down to her about what’s right and wrong, though.
“It’s my fault… If it weren’t for me, you never would’ve got hurt like that, and…”
“It was nothing… or so I’d like to say. At any rate, it’s my fault I got my throat slit, not yours. And look, I’m still alive, so you really don’t have to worry about it.”
Flum laughs, trying to further soften Sara’s impression of what happened.
Truth be told it really hurt, and even now just thinking about it causes the area around the wound feel funny, but there’s no point telling Sara that.
“More importantly, I think you should wonder and worry about this kind of thing as long as you can while you’re still young.”
Sara bursts out laughing at Flum’s words.
“What’re you sayin, su? You’re only six years older than me, su.”
“Those six years are big ones, though. Just hush and listen to your Oneesan.”
“Muu, it sounds weird when you say it, su.”
She frowns at Flum discontentedly, but she seems a lot more at ease than she did before when she was still fretting about getting Flum hurt.
There’s no end to her worries, but there’s no need to be depressed about it.
She still has a long ways to go before she’s all grown up, and until then she has no choice but to live with her troubles and figure out how to deal with them on her own. She’s still young, which means she should learn how to fail while she still can.
Sara seems to regain her former energy and the mood pervading the carriage improves all at once. Now that they’re closer than ever before, their conversation is even freer and more frivolous.
When they get hungry, the three of them enjoy the lunches that Milkit made for them before leaving Enchide, and afterwards Sara and Milkit fall asleep, each resting their head on one of Flum’s thighs. She smiles as she watches over them. To be honest the two girls are surprisingly heavy, but it’s nothing she can’t handle. Even the bumping and shaking of the carriage feels relaxing to her now.
Eventually, the heat pressed against her body causes a warm drowsiness to envelop Flum. She bobs her head back and forth in an effort to fight off sleep, but the temptation grows to be too great.
The only sounds left on that country road are the rhythmic clopping of horses’ hooves, the revolving of the carriage’s large spoked wheels, and the faint sound of gentle snoring.
They arrive at the Capital’s East Quarter without incident, hopping off the carriage not far from Reach’s estate. Flum had thought that they’d all go report their success to Reach together, but Sara bids farewell to them there.
“If I go along Reach-san’ll probably try to reward me, so I’d better not, su.”
Given her position she can’t possibly accept a reward, so rather than have to turn it down again it’s better if she just doesn’t go.
“I’m with the Central Quarter church, so if you even need anythin’ you can find me there, su. Don’t forget you promised to treat me to lunch, su. I’ll be waitin’ for you, su!”
She energetically waves at them as she runs down the street and back to the church. Flum and Milkit wave at her for as long as they can see her. As soon as she’s out of sight, though, Flum tilts her head to the side in confusion.
“Is something the matter, Master?”
“No, I was just a little confused about what she said there. I thought for sure that she was with the West Quarter church, since that’s where we met her.”
Come to think of it, though, it’s hard to believe that the Church would let such a genius live at the little church in the West Quarter what with how dangerous it is there and how relatively shallow the believers’ faith is there. They’d no doubt want to cultivate her talent someplace a lot more respectable.
“I guess it isn’t really that important, though. We should get the chiaraly to Reach-san as soon as we can.”
Everyone, even Reach, has business in the West Quarter from time to time, so it’s probably only natural that Sara was there.
Without putting any more thought into it, Flum leads the way through the East Quarter’s residential area until finally they arrive in front of an exceptionally large mansion.
A noble they happen to pass takes one look at Flum’s slave mark and Milkit’s bandages and wrenches her face in disgust as she starts whispering something fervently to her retainer. It’s very unusual for the likes of slaves to be there, especially without their master anywhere in sight.
Flum pays it no mind, however. It’s the same no matter where they go.
One of the guards by Reach’s front gate addresses Flum.
“Is there anything I can help you with?”
Unlike the noblewoman, he addresses them politely and with a perfectly neutral expression.
“My name is Flum, and we received a personal quest from Reach-san. May we see him?”
“Ahh, so you’re Flum. Reach-sama told me to expect your arrival. Please, go on in.”
He unlocks the front gate and ushers them inside. The front courtyard is surprisingly large and filled with so many beautifully blooming flowers that they almost forget what they came there for. Nonetheless, they move straight ahead along the path to the front door.
A small spherical crystal is embedded in the wall beside the double doors, and putting her hand to it Flum channels a small amount of magic through it. They can faintly hear a bell ring from inside. Milkit watches Flum’s actions with acute curiosity.
“How do you suppose that switch works, Master?”
“I think I remember hearing that there’s a certain ore that’s attracted to magic, so they base the bell mechanism around that.”
“I see. You’re very knowledgeable.”
“Nah, it’s just what I learned in school. It isn’t that impressive, really.”
“No, you really are impressive, Master.”
It looks like Milkit’s trust of Flum is only growing with every passing day.
Unsure of what to do with that compliment, Flum lightly scratches her reddened cheeks. It really is only common knowledge, but it probably sounded pretty impressive to Milkit, who’s never received a proper education.
More importantly, though, Flum can’t imagine Milkit asking a question like that back when they first met. Slowly, she’s regaining her humanity. Flum smiles as she watches her study the crystal with great interest.
A moment later, a butler whose hair is only starting to turn grey with age opens the door, bowing deeply and apologizing for making them wait. He turns and leads them inside.
Even though this is her second time seeing it, Flum can’t help but be impressed by the size and opulence of the mansion. The entrance hall alone is incredibly vast, and she lets out a gasp of astonishment as she walks under the exquisite crystal chandelier that hangs from the ceiling above them. The elaborately patterned plush carpet that covers the floor is so clean and comfortable that she feels bad just walking on it. The walls are covered with paintings so beautiful that even she can tell that they’re masterpieces, and the vases that decorate the corners are probably as expensive as entire houses in the Central Quarter. Once again, Flum is reminded that Reach may as well be from another world entirely.
The butler leads them up a staircase with a banister so polished that they can see their faces in it, and they climb without touching it out of fear of getting their fingerprints all over it. The newel posts are decorated with finely detailed wooden statues and Milkit practically turns around to study them as she walks, completely absorbed by them.
They finally arrive at the parlour shortly after reaching the second storey. Flum sits in one of the chairs and is again amazed by just how comfortable it is. Milkit takes up her position behind her, but Flum grabs her and practically forces her to sit in the chair beside her. “Chairs are made for sitting in, y’know,” Flum says with a smile in response to Milkit’s guilty expression.
The butler tends to them while they wait for Reach, serving them an exceptionally good-smelling herbal tea and tasty little fruit tarts that they can’t seem to stop eating.
They find themselves wishing that Reach will take a few hours to get there, but he arrives only ten minutes later. His forehead glistens with sweat, giving off the clear impression that he was in the middle of some important business.
I didn’t expect him to drop everything just to see us… I guess that just goes to show how worried he is about his wife.
“I’m dreadfully sorry for making you wait, Flum-san, Milkit-san. Wait, where’s…?”
“Sara-chan said she had some urgent business to take care of back at the Church.”
“I see. That really is a pity. I’ll have to go thank her sometime soon.”
He wipes his forehead with a handkerchief before taking a seat opposite Flum and Milkit. He then eagerly voices what’s on his mind.
“You brought back the chiaraly, didn’t you?”
Flum reaches into the bag on the floor beside her and hands a small pouch inside it to Reach. He opens it, looks inside, and breaks into a smile.
“Ahh, this must be…!”
Tears start to gather in the corners of his eyes. Emotionally moved to the point where he can’t even speak, he simply stares into the bag of chiaraly. Finally he turns to Flum, bowing so deeply his forehead grazes the table between them.
“Thank you so much for everything you’ve done! With this… With this I can finally cure my wife…! I honestly can’t thank you enough for what you’ve done for me!”
Flum is at a loss. He’s a lot more grateful than she’d expected.
“Please stop that, Reach-san. I only did what you hired me to.”
“Even so, to think you actually found the plant I’ve been looking everywhere for… It was truly a miracle that brought the two of us together!”
Maybe for you, but it feels like I’ve just gone through hell and back… though it’s not like I can just tell you everything.
“Now, about your reward. Anything you desire, if it’s within my power to give, is yours. Anything you want.”
“Hmm… nothing really comes to mind… Milkit, is there anything you want?”
“I certainly have no ideas.”
“There you go, then. Can’t you just give us money like normal?”
“That’s fine by me. How much do you want?”
Judging by his expression he intends to literally hand them a blank cheque. The thought is deeply unsettling to Flum.
Since it’s come to this, maybe I should just be completely honest with him…
“Come to think of it, we could really use a place to use as a base of operations. Do you know a good apartment in the West Quarter where we can stay?”
“The West Quarter, you say.”
He gives them a puzzled look. If they wanted, he could easily get them a room in the Central… no, even the East Quarter isn’t out of the realm of possibility.
But Flum has no intention of running.
She’s going to make Dane pay for everything he’s done, no matter what.
Seeing the firm resolve in her eyes, Reach seems to suddenly remember something.
“If that’s the case, I have the perfect place in mind.”
“...Is this really the place?”
“...This is really the place, Master.”
Flum and Milkit stand in front of the place described in the documents they received from Reach.
“I was pretty sure I said we wanted just an apartment…”
“That’s certainly what you said.”
“Don’t tell me this is all…?”
“From what I can tell, yes, this is all ours.”
They’re utterly confused. Just as they asked, they’re in the easternmost part of the West Quarter on the border with the Central Quarter, which is comparatively a good, safe place to live.
What they didn’t expect was ---
“T-This is a whole house!”
--- a two-storey wooden house.
Looking closely at the papers, there’s also a deed to the land it sits on included.
“It’s an old place that I’d bought some time ago to turn for a profit, but I didn’t manage to sell it. Please help yourselves to it,” Reach had told them.
Not only that, but he also gave them a large bag of gold coins, insisting that the property alone wasn’t enough, and he even entrusted them with a heavily enchanted ring for Sara the next time they met.
Flum honestly felt like turning it down, but she wasn’t able to bring herself to. It just went to show how truly grateful he is for their aid.
“I don’t think there’s any problem with this, Master. You suffered through all that but didn’t give up, so think of this as an equivalent reward.”
“Well, yeah, it was hard, but not this hard...”
“I truly think you deserve it.”
“...If you say so.”
The one who decides the reward isn’t the adventurer but the requestor. If Reach is content with giving them this much, then it’s Flum’s duty as an adventurer to accept it with grace.
“Well then, wanna take a look inside?”
“Yes, very much so!”
They unlock the front door and walk in. They’d heard that it hadn’t been used in some time so they were prepared for everything to be covered in dust and cobwebs, but…
“Huh, it’s pretty clean in here.”
“It’s almost as if someone lives here.”
Looking around, they find tables, chairs, shelves, and enough other furniture that they should be able to start living there right away. There’s a full kitchen, a living room, a parlour, a restroom and a nice bath --- Flum realizes with growing excitement that it’s a far nicer house than her parents’ house in her home village.
At that moment, she hears a clinking sound coming from the supposedly abandoned second floor.
“Perhaps it’s a small animal of some kind?” Milkit wonders aloud.
The sound’s too loud for it to be a rat or anything like that. Even though the front door was locked, it’s entirely possible that someone broke in through one of the windows.
It might be a burglar, or worse, one of Dane’s goons…
Flum grips Milkit’s trembling hand and slowly starts leading her up the staircase. The second floor is also in excellent state. At the very least, it hasn’t been just abandoned as Reach said.
“There is someone living here…”
There’s no doubt in her mind now.
“You mean they just broke in and set themselves up here?”
“This is the West Quarter, after all. I wouldn’t be surprised.”
They speak in hushed voices. The clinking sounds are coming from beyond the closed door right in front of them.
Hands sweaty, Flum reaches for the doorknob, trembling slightly from the anxiety. She grips it, feeling the chilly metal through her fingertips. Swallowing hard, she twists her wrists and opens the door as silently as she can.
“...This is no good. This is… uwah, it reeks. Did it fail? No, it tastes awful but it works.”
On the other side of the door is a little girl, sitting at a desk mumbling to herself. In front of her is a mortar, pestle, a variety of test tubes and glass pitchers, and all manner of herbs and powders. She’s wearing a strange white bodysuit with a wide-brimmed witch’s hat, and floating around the room is a pair of weird spherical things.
She looks a lot like someone Flum knew very well, and there’s probably only one person in the whole Capital who would dress like that.
“W… what? You’re…”
“Nn? Is someone there?”
Casually, the girl turns around.
Seeing her face there’s no doubt about it.
Sitting there is one of the Hero’s companions, a chosen one from Origin’s prophecy, the person who taught Flum all she knows about medicine --- Eterna Rinebow, “The Eternal Witch.”
Flum has so many questions about why she’s here, what’s going on with the Hero’s party, and a million others that she’s struck speechless.
Eterna looks at her, and---
“Ah. Flum,” she says in a laid-back tone, as if her being there were the most natural thing in the world.
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