OmaeGotoki: Volume 2 007 - There's No Truth To Be Found

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“Hahh… I’m sooooo boooored…”

Ila, receptionist of the West Quarter guild, plants her elbows on the counter in front of her and fiddles with a pen.

The bar, devoid of Dane’s presence, is so quiet it seems as though all the ruckus he and his men were making there just the other day was like a dream. A few of his subordinates are there, but they keep to themselves as they down their booze.

This is probably the first time in all her years working at the guild there that it’s been so quiet --- though that’s not to say she wishes Dane would come back. She never swore loyalty or anything to him, she just joined his group for the advantages she got. In fact, now that he’s not always telling her to mess with the requests she might even be better off now.

“U-Uh… I b-brought you some tea…”

Someone puts a mug of tea onto the desk from behind her.

“Thanks, Slowe-kun.”

“D-Don’t thank me… It’s my job, after all, so…”

The timid golden-haired fellow behind her is Slowe Uradness, age eighteen. He joined the guild as a clerk just recently, and he has almost no connection to Dane or the underworld at all. He and Flum haven’t met.

“Um, Ila-san, can I ask a quick question?”

“What?”

“I’m… I-I’m not going to get fired, am I?”

He trembles with anxiety as he talks, causing Ila to smile bitterly.

“Worried that the guild’ll go under now that Dane’s gone? Don’t worry, we get our money from the country. No matter how busy or quiet it is, in the end it won’t affect us.”

“Ah… I-I’m glad to hear that…”

Finally seeming to calm down a little, he heads back into the depths of the guild. To be honest she was hoping he’d stick around to chat a little, but it looks like she was wrong to hope he’d be that sociable.

She takes a sip of the tea, then plants her elbows back on the counter and stares at the wall.

“Too strong…”

It looks like she’ll have to keep on training him.

She continues sipping her tea until finally, someone walks in --- it’s Flum.

“Wow, did you finally get around to cleaning up all the filth in here? It’s so much cleaner now.”

She looks at the bar with a smile on her face.

“Whose fault is that, I wonder.”

“Not mine. I didn’t start the fight, I just finished it.”

She walks up to the counter and sits down on the chair there.

“Why’re you making yourself at home all of a sudden?”

“I thought our chat might run a little long.”

“Nothing I have to say to the likes of you could take that long.”

“Let me ask you something, then. Do you know where Dane is?”

“I don’t… is what I’d like to say, but I do, I suppose.”

Flum is surprised by her response. Even if she knew, she didn’t expect her to confess it so readily.

“You sure you should be so upfront with that kind of thing?”

“I sure don’t care anymore. I thought he had some good points even though he was a villain, but I must’ve misjudged him. I still can’t believe he just went and sold his soul to the Church like that…”

“Wait, the Church? As in, he joined the Church, not the other way around? What, the guild’s so empty because everyone’s out at morning prayers?”

“Yeah, that’s it.”

She’d meant it as a joke.

“Just a little while ago he came by with his buddies, said something like ‘We’ve all become devout believers’ and left.”

“He’s planning something, though, right?”

“How should I know? I guess this way he won’t be taken in by the Military… they can’t mess with Church affairs that easily.”

“If he’s acting like that, then I’d almost say he’s just trying to butter them up…”

Flum looks over at the sparse bar, brow furrowing.

If that’s the truth, then the men drinking there now must have been left behind by Dane. He’s always had an almost noble sense of aesthetics that caused him to see his followers as a valuable resource. He must be feeling pretty bad about how his plan to control the Military and drive her into a corner turned out, but abandoning his followers like this just isn’t like him.

“I gotta admit, he was kinda cool when he was saying all that stuff about taking over the Church… with so many defectors, though, I’m not all that surprised he’s lost control of his whole group.”

Dane didn’t betray them --- they betrayed Dane.

“Are you going over to the Church’s side too, Ila?”

“Ha, why would I have to do something like that? I don’t believe in anything I can’t see. The only things you can really trust are money and power.”

The words seem to fit her, but it’s nothing to be so proud about.

“And really, just picture this: a bunch of scruffy, burly men all earnestly getting together to pray. Doesn’t that kinda just creep you out?”

“Yeah, I guess I’d be walking the other way…”

For once the two agree on something --- that just goes to show how strange it would be. Even if Dane’s trying to get in the Church’s good graces, he probably doesn’t have to bring everyone along with him.

I hope Sara doesn’t get herself involved with him...

“What do I do now, though… Now that he’s with the Church I can’t just walk up to him and give him what he deserves.”

“I‘m pretty sure they can’t get stabby with you, either, thanks to their ‘faith’ or whatever.”

“I still don’t know what to think about all this, but at least it looks like things will be calm for a while at least.”

Their peace could be broken at any time, but still.

In the end, since she can’t tell what Dane’s thinking, she’ll have to be just as careful as she was before.

“By the way, there haven’t been any quests submitted for a missing girl, right?”

“Nope.”

“You didn’t even look at the files. How about you at least try to do your job?”

“Pass. I don’t feel like it.”

“No, I’m pretty sure the guild won’t let you do that.”

“Pfft. So long as there’s no guildmaster I can do whatever the hell I want.”

“...Wait, there’s no guildmaster?”

“There’s one on paper, sure, but I’ve never once laid eyes on him. Nobody wants to be the master of the West Quarter guild, so nobody is. They just force the title on some high-ranking adventurer who’s never even around.”

That would explain why Dane and Ila have been able to do whatever they want with the quests.

The ones in charge of appointing the guildmaster are probably the people at the adventurer guild’s main branch in the Central Quarter --- it’s certainly irresponsible, but it probably goes to show how little they care about the West Quarter.

“If you won’t let me take any requests then how am I supposed to make a living?”

“You’ve been taking a lot of requests lately so what’s a day or two of playing hooky? If you really want money, though, you could just go sell your body like a good little slave.”

“I got tired of that lame joke after the hundredth time I heard it, y’know.”

“Oh really? Sorry, but I’m going to keep saying it until you accept it. Quit adventuring and become a whore already.”

“I don’t want to be told that by a woman whose tits are practically hanging out of her shirt.”

“Haa!? Are you trying to tell me I look like a whore!?”

“Yeah, that’s exactly what I’m saying!”

Their argument continues to heat up, and with nobody around to step in and interrupt them they don’t stop.

“I bet that’s it, isn’t it? Night after night you open your legs to Dane and his goons, moaning and groaning---”

“Gods, you just don’t know when to shut up, do you!?”

Ila stands up, slams her hand onto the counter and glares at Flum. She may be just a receptionist, but she’s had to deal with thugs like Dane’s men for a long time now. She’s seen her share of battlefields, and those encounters are reflected in her glare.

Flum’s lived through hell far worse than that, though. She returns a casual smile.

“Wipe that smirk off your face… and stop thinking my body’s that cheap!”

“Really? I got the feeling it was half-off since it clearly wasn’t selling…”

“Haa!? This body’s top-class! I’ve never forgotten to look after it once!”

“Hehe.”

“Don’t just giggle! You seem to be getting the wrong idea, but I’d never sleep with any man I haven’t fallen for!”

“So only Dane, then? Haha, I don’t know if you’re a poor judge of character or just have terrible taste…”

“Definitely not Dane!”

“...Wait, you’re being serious?”

“Of course I am! I might’ve let him have his way with the guild, but there’s no way I’d let him have his way with me!”

Flum’s momentarily struck silent by that unexpected truth. She was certain that she had that sort of relationship with Dane and his men, but come to think of it she’s never seen any of Dane’s group even try to approach her in that way.

“...W-Why’re you looking at me like that?”

“Nah, I was just thinking you must be really lonely.”

“That’s none of your business!!”

Ila’s cheeks redden slightly as she yells at Flum. Bullseye, it would seem.

“Seriously, I didn’t think not having those guys around would throw me off this much… Here, it’s a list of all the requests received by every guild in the Capital.”

“Wow, you’re actually doing your job?”

“Even if there’s no guildmaster some adventurers file complaints. I don’t wanna deal with any more of those.”

“I wish you’d just shown me this from the beginning.”

“Shut up and take it already.”

Maybe she was just so bored that she thought an argument with Flum would make for a nice change of pace. Flum sighs, and feeling slightly fed-up with Ila she starts looking for any requests that look like they’re connected to Ink.

As she starts studying the list, an out-of-breath man bursts through the door and runs up to the counter.

“H-Hey Ila, where’s Dane-san? Where’d everyone go!?”

His face is deathly pale.

“They’re all at church, last I heard. Something wrong?”

“A shitload of those things suddenly showed up!”

“Yeah, okay, what’re you talking about?”

“Y’know, just like what happened to Phil! A buncha bloated, warped monstrosities just like Phil was when we found him this morning!”

“I never heard anything about that.”

“Anyhow, a buncha bodies just like that were found all over the slums!”

Flum twitches at the word ‘monstrosities’, immediately thinking of the Church.

The man’s likely one of Dane’s thugs, but she’d do a lot worse than rely on him if it means getting her hands on a clue.

“Could you tell me the full story?”

Naturally, the man only glares at her.

“C’mon, you can at least tell her that much. You were just complaining about how he left you out of the loop, so there’s no need to keep covering for him, right?”

Surprisingly, Ila steps in to vouch for her. Their gazes meet for a moment, but Ila snorts and looks away. It would seem as though she’s looking to get back at Dane, not trying to help Flum.

“I guess so, but…”

He looks at the two of them for a long moment, then finally clicks his tongue loudly enough that Flum can hear it.

“...Dane-san sent Phil to go intimidate the Church. Y’know, test the waters.”

“So he tried his usual methods first after all.”

“‘Course he did! He’s a strong, heroic man who wouldn’t chicken out even against the Church!”

Are we really talking about the same Dane here?

She’s honestly surprised and a little offended he can talk about Dane like that in front of the person he almost killed just a few days ago.

“But he failed and ended up joining them instead… he’s downright pitiful.”

Ila spits out the words with disgust.

“Look, I get how you feel, but you didn’t see Phil. You’d be singin’ a different tune if ya did.”

“What, you mean that ‘monstrosity’ or whatever?”

“Yeah. I didn’t see him myself, ‘course, but I heard that he had a ton a’ arms, legs, an’ heads an’ was all bloated --- and inside him they found all these creepy eyeballs.”

“A ton of eyes and multiplying limbs…”

It sounds completely different from the spiral-faced monstrosity from the research facility. That said, it wouldn’t be too much of a stretch to think that same research gave them a method of warping people like that.

“I thought the guy who told me about it was outta his mind, but then Dane-san started actin’ weird an’ now there’s more of ‘em in the slums… I guess I gotta believe it now.”

“So their lab’s somewhere in the Capital after all…”

“Stop the creepy monologue there, Flum. Wait, you don’t know anything about all this, do you?”

“Maybe. If you wanna hear about it I’ll tell you, but…”

“No thanks, leave me out of it.”

A smart move. Flum wishes she could’ve done the same.

“But if this Phil guy was found this morning, then why isn’t the whole Capital in an uproar by now?”

“The Church put a lid on it, I’ll bet.”

“It’s becoming a big deal this time, though. If they're in the slums then who knows how many people've seen it?”

The man shakes his head and lets out a long sigh.

“I sure as hell don’t know. There’s probably just too many casualties an’ too many witnesses since it happened in the middle of the street.”

“Yeah, but why’d they do it there, of all places? I don’t suppose you could show me where they are, could you?”

For the fruits of such secret labours it’s awfully haphazard. Unless she sees the scene of the incident she probably won’t be able to figure anything out.

He doesn’t seem eager to go there at first, but perhaps out of curiosity he agrees without too much of a fuss and all three of them decide to go together.

“You sure you don’t have to watch the guild?”

“It’s not like I’m the only person working here. Slowe-kun!”

Ila calls out, and a moment later a boy Flum’s never seen before comes out.

“This is Slowe-kun. He’s a clerk.”

“H-Hello. M-My name is Slowe Uradness!”

He bows deeply.

“Uhh… hi. He doesn’t strike me as really fitting in with the rest of the West Quarter.”

“You might be right there. Slowe-kun, I’m going out. Watch the counter, okay?”

“Eh? B-But I’ve never…!”

“It’ll be fine. See you later.”

She waves her hand dismissively as she walks out. Slowe’s evidently the type of person who can’t really assert himself to his senpais. She may be asking the impossible of him, but especially since Dane is gone there shouldn’t be any problems.

Leaving him with his panic, Flum, Ila, and the man leave the guild.


◇◇◇


The scene of the incident is in the very center of the slums. The site is already so crowded with rubbernecks that it takes them some time to make it a place with a good vantage point. As they push their way through the crowd, a strange stench hits their nostrils.

“Uehh, this reeks… This can’t be from Flum alone.”

Ila covers her mouth and nose with one hand and scrunches up her face shamelessly.

Arriving at the front line of the gathered crowd, the smell grows even stronger --- but even more unbearable is the sight before their eyes.

“Geh… the hell’s that…!?”

Ila draws back with disgust.

“Those things were really human…?”

“That’s what I heard, but this is unbelievable…”

Flum and the man are also repulsed.

Balls of flesh covered in all manner of limbs scatter the street, still squirming and flailing faintly as if alive.

The guards appear at a complete loss. As the three of them watch a few of them bring in a large tarp and cover a nearby body.

“Ugh… ph…!”

Ila presses her hand over her mouth, suddenly feeling very ill.

“Try not to barf on me.”

“...How can you stay so calm!?”

“I’m an adventurer, after all.”

Just as she says that the man beside her resists the urge to vomit. He’s also an adventurer, for the record.

“That’s not an excuse.”

Flum’s hardly normal, especially after her encounter with the ‘ogre’.

Ila looks to be about at her limit, however, so the three leave the crowd. Though each has their own reasons, all of their expressions are dark, and the lightless alley casts everything in an even deeper shadow.

“I just don’t know anymore. Even though Phil was warped an’ twisted around like that Dane-san still joined the Church… I don’t know if I wanna keep followin’ him anymore.”

Up until now Dane has focused on expanding his influence, bringing adventurers, the guild, merchants, and he almost even got total control over the guards. Instead of keeping all the benefits to himself, however, he was clever in that he split the benefits. Thanks to that many overlooked his evil deeds, but just one loss was enough to collapse his entire empire, just one wrong choice destroyed his momentum completely.

“Who knows, we might be next. Seein’ those things, I can get how Dane-san --- how anybody’d want to get on the Church’s good side. Though if a certain someone hadn’t forced his hand an’ made him go after the Church before he was ready things might be different.”

He casts Flum a sidelong glare.

“Even so, Dane-san still has us! If he lets this end him it’ll be the end of our dreams, too!”

“It’s over, so just accept it.”

Flum’s voice is cold and unsympathetic to the burning vigour in the man’s words.

“Dane and everyone who went with him valued their lives more than anything else, so they did what’s most likely to keep them alive. No matter how much he talked about dreams or the future or whatever, his own life was more important to him.”

Most people are the same way, but his men followed him because they were convinced he was different. No matter how cowardly he seemed his plans were always ambitious and clever, and that boldness was incredibly attractive. Even Flum has to admit he was good at what he did, even if at the end of the day she still doesn’t agree with him.

“If you’re unsure, though, I wouldn’t recommend walking around the West Quarter on your own. Who knows when those eye things will show up again?”

“Y-Yeah… I guess I’ll hide out for a while ‘til things’ve calmed down…”

“I’ll also be staying well away from Dane for a while. I don’t want to wind up like those guys did.”

The thug and Ila both decide to cut ties with him, which just goes to show how much of an impact seeing those things had on them. Flum might not like them, but she’s not cruel enough to keep pestering them after they’ve left Dane’s side.

She parts ways with them there, heading home instead of back to the guild.


◇◇◇


Flum opens the front door and calls out “I’m home!” and three calls of “Welcome back!” meet her ears. Judging from that it’d seem as though Eterna is in her room and Milkit and Ink are in the living room. Flum felt a little disappointed that Milkit didn’t come running to see her as always, but peeking into the living room she can see why. Ink is currently perched on her lap at the table.

“Welcome home, Master. I’m sorry I couldn’t greet you at the door.”

“It’s fine. So what’s that?”

She points at the oddly-shaped wooden blocks scattered across the table. In front of the two of them is a wooden frame that already has a number of blocks in it.

“It’s a puzzle~!”

Ink replies with an innocent grin. If it’s a wood block puzzle, then even someone without eyes like her can play with it --- though Flum is a little curious as to where the puzzle came from, since she’s never seen it before.

“Eterna-san found it for her. She said that even Ink would be able to enjoy it.”

“Huh. I didn’t know we had anything like that around.”

Flum takes the seat directly across from the two of them.

On the house’s second floor is an old storage room, filled with the possessions of the house’s last inhabitants. Everything was old and dusty and they haven’t had a chance to properly go through it yet, but apparently Eterna has already started looking through it.

“What’s that?”

Flum points to a metal ringed toy beside the puzzle.

“It’s a puzzle ring. She was playing with it up until a little while ago, but it would appear as though she got tired of it after trying to solve it for so long.”

“Milkit’s really amazing! I couldn’t figure it out no matter what but she solved it right away!”

“I didn’t know she was that good with her hands.”

“N-No, um, I’ve seen puzzles much like it before, and once you know the trick they’re rather easy…”

Even though she’s trying to be humble she really is quite dextrous. She’s very good with a kitchen knife, and on top of that everything she cooks tastes exquisite. Not only that, but when Flum was teaching her to read and write she was incredibly quick on the uptake.

She’s perfect inside and out and overflowing with talent --- when she thinks about all the abuse she must’ve suffered Flum feels absolutely indignant. No matter how angry she feels, however, so long as the ones responsible aren’t around the rage is nothing but a burden on her heart. She calms herself down a little and looks around the room.

“It looks like Sara hasn’t come by yet.”

“She might not arrive until dinnertime.”

They hadn’t made any sort of promise to meet or anything, but for some reason they’re all naturally convinced that she’ll be there again today.

“Isn’t it kind of hard on you to have to do all that extra cooking, though?”

“I know that you might be angry to hear this since I’m ultimately spending your money, Master, but… I’m always happy to cook a little extra.”

“Really? She’s been dropping by a lot recently, though…”

“I like watching people’s spirits rise after they eat my cooking, the more the better.”

Her response could’ve come out of a textbook for young housewives.

Flum can faintly make out a cute smile beneath her bandages.

I’m really glad I grabbed her by the hand back then and helped her make it this far.

“Milkit, Milkit, are you happy watching me eat, too?”

“Yes, of course I am.”

Milkit responds quickly and pleasantly. Ink grins at her, a bit of relief mixed into her expression. Anyone can see that she wants to stay at that house as long as she possibly can.

“...Say, Ink.”

That’s exactly why as long as she’s still hiding things from them Flum can’t just let her stay.

“Are you sure ‘Mother’ and ‘Papa’ and those other kids aren’t worried now that you’re gone?”

“Hmm… I dunno. I never talked to Papa and all the other kids kept on teasing me and calling me worthless. Mother was always nice to me, but now I think she thought I was useless, too…”

Hearing Ink’s words, Flum knits her eyebrows.

Worthless, useless --- what kind of standard were those kids being held to?

“I’ve had people tell me the exact same thing, so I can understand wanting to run away.”

“You too?”

“Yeah… though in my case I was kicked out before I could run away.”

Flum feels the slave mark on her face with a bitter smile.

“Master…”

“Don’t make that face. Thanks to a certain someone who told me I match her, I’ve pretty much gotten over it.”

Without the slave mark they never would’ve met. Flum would still be travelling with the Hero and ignorant of her true worth, and Milkit would’ve been devoured by the ghouls in that basement. Even though they were in the depths of hell, it’s because they had each other that they’re able to laugh and smile again --- though Flum still won’t ever forgive Jean.

“I’m kinda jealous… I wish I had someone like Milkit.”

“Yeah, it’s all thanks to her I was able to make it out of there at all.”

“...I wonder if I can make it out if everyone’s with me.”

Ink mumbles to herself almost inaudibly.

Flum knows how she feels so much it hurts, but since Ink was able to escape all on her own their positions are fundamentally different.

“If you really want, I don’t have a problem with you continuing to live here with us.”

“Really!?”

She pops up over the edge of the table, a blindingly bright smile on her face.

“But before that we need to know absolutely everything. You’re still hiding something, aren’t you?”

“I…”

“Eterna-san’s worried sick about you. If something bad happened to you she’d be devastated.”

Ink herself has grown rather close to Eterna. Flum feels bad for manipulating her feelings like that, but they need to know everything.

“The truth is… I had to take medicine. Every day at the same time.”

“For a sickness or something?”

Ink shakes her head.

“Mother said I’m not sick but I need to take it everyday.”

“Why didn’t you say anything before now if it’s so important?”

“It’s because it’s so important… Eterna knows a lot about medicine, right? I thought that if she knew she might make me go back…”

“If something happened to you, though, we wouldn’t be able to help you if we didn’t know. If you’re not sick, though, then why do you need medicine?”

“I dunno. The Second Generation kids don’t need it, so maybe it’s because I’m First Generation or something.”

“Generation…?”

“I don’t know what the difference is, but I’m the only First Generation kid. Maybe it’s because I’m older?”

There’s no doubt about it now. She escaped from one of the Church’s research facilities.

“Maybe that’s why I felt so fundamentally outta place, not just because we weren’t friends or family… maybe that’s why I felt something was wrong.”

“What do you mean, fundamentally?”

“We could talk and play together, but… I don’t know, it felt like we were different living things completely… I guess?”

Ink’s instincts are likely correct. If the procedure that the ‘ogre’ had undergone was performed on humans, then the result could only be described as inhuman. Assuming that the Second Generation is more advanced than the First Generation, then they’d be all the more inhuman.

If the mass-murder-by-eyes is the act of one of this ‘Second Generation’, then it might mean that they’re using the eyes to look for Ink. It might be far too indiscriminate and unrefined for an adult’s actions, but a child might be that messy.

Of course, Ink herself has a connection to eyes given that her own are sewn shut, but she hasn't left the house since arriving there. No matter what, it’s impossible for her to be killing people in the slums from here.

Aside from that, there’s another burning question that needs to be answered --- she’s worthless by their standards and hasn’t used any mysterious power like the ‘ogre’ did, and it’s not even clear if she even can. Flum learned firsthand from that underground facility near Enchide that they won’t hesitate to dispose of failures, so the question is why Ink is still even alive, and why they let her escape right out from under their nose.

“Flum?”

Flum is so deep in her thoughts that Ink’s voice comes as a surprise.

“Eh? Ah… what is it?”

“Are you doubting me?”

She doesn’t know why for certain, but Flum can’t say she isn’t.

“I… I am, a little. I guess I don’t fully trust you yet. I really want to, though.”

Flum doesn’t want to doubt her, and more than that she has nothing to gain from doing so.

“I’ve never been out of there before now. I lived my whole life there, in the same room… The air here, the food, getting to sit on someone’s lap, getting to meet new people, everything’s a first for me!”

She spreads her arms wide, a happy expression on her face.

Guilt grips Flum’s heart.

“Ah, I didn’t mean to sound like I was blaming you or anything. Feeling all this new stuff, though, I can kinda get why you’d doubt me.”

“Why’d you think that?”

“Everything that was common sense for me isn’t that way for everybody else. Every morning I wake up and it’s one new thing after another… I kinda get the feeling that what Mother was giving me wasn’t happiness after all…”

The measure of happiness is different for everyone. A person born unhappy might experience a small joy and be overcome with happiness, whereas someone at the pinnacle of happiness might experience the same thing and even be disappointed.

“I guess I just wanna say that I really don’t wanna hide anything from you. I don’t know what’s weird and what’s normal. So, Flum… ask me anything, okay? I’ll answer everything the best I can, so if you hear anything weird I wanna know!”

Ink isn’t even aware of that simple fact, given her overly-sheltered life.

“...Sorry, Ink.”

All Flum can do is apologize. She wasn’t thinking about Ink’s side of things at all.

“Awawa, don’t apologize to me like that! In fact, you can get angry if you want! You should be saying ‘How do you not even know that!?’ or ‘You should’ve done that from the start!’ or something…”

“Master is far too nice to say anything like that.”

“Muu, that’s why it’s so irritating… You can apologize or whatever, but make sure you ask me lotsa stuff, too! I won’t hide anything anymore, I promise!”


◇◇◇


After that, Ink answers every question they ask her, just as she said she would.

First, the details about how she escaped.

“I opened the door, climbed a staircase, and went outside. I ran a lot after that so I don’t really remember, but right outside there was a place without a lot of smells, like it was really clean.”

Likely she’s referring to the area right around the West Quarter church. That’s essentially the only place that’s frequently cleaned, which would explain why the smell wasn’t very strong.

Next, about her life at the facility.

“I told you that they treated me differently from everyone else, right? They wouldn’t take me outside, and whenever I was alone it was really boring… I’d just explore around or run around making up my own rules. Other than that I ate a lot of bland food, took my medicine everyday… that kinda thing.”

Then, about Mother.

“Mother’s Mother. I don’t know her real name, but if I had to say something… she’s waaaaaay taller than me. Whenever she gave me a hug my head would be about at her chest. Going by her voice she’s maybe… thirty? She was really nice, but I think she was nicer to the others. Actually, thinking back on it she wasn’t that nice at all…”

“What makes you say that?”

“You guys are a lot warmer and nicer… it’s kinda embarrassing to say it…”

She scratches her cheek. Flum turns a little red, and Milkit looks down at her on her lap bashfully.

Next, about the Second Generation children she was living with.

“There’s Nekt, who was kinda bratty and always full of himself, there’s Mute, who never talked much, there’s Rook, who was kinda a troublemaker and could be really scary but was always thinking about everyone else, and then there’s Fwiss, who was always with Mother. Even though I’m their big sister they never really treated me like it…”

“Did you feel any sort of difference between yourself and the Second Generation kids while you were living together?”

“I told Eterna about it a little while ago, but Papa treated them a lot differently.”

“You said you never met him, right? I guess you wouldn’t know his name, then.”

“His name… I don’t know for sure since nobody would tell me, but I listened in on Nekt one time and heard it. They got really angry at me after that, but…”

Putting that aside for a moment, she puffs out her chest with pride.

“Guess what? Papa’s name is ‘Origin’.”

Flum and Milkit both freeze.

The organization that Flum’s been looking into is the ‘Church of Origin’, after all. She was certain that the pope lead it all; she never even considered the possibility that their ‘god’ really existed. Even if it did exist, she didn’t once think that it would be directly controlling them.

Ink’s case is clearly different, though. The children she was living with heard its voice and called it ‘Papa’.

“H-Hey Ink. Are you absolutely positive they called him Origin?”

“Yeah. Do you know him?”

“Know him? I…!”

She’s about to answer with a raised voice when she stops.

Ink probably doesn’t realize that the ‘Church’ they’ve been talking about is the ‘Church of Origin.’ She probably doesn’t know what that means.

“Origin… is Origin, I guess.”

To be honest she knows almost nothing about Origin aside from its connection to the Church --- until a little while ago she didn’t think it even existed.

Wait, if it’s possible to hear Origin’s voice, then… does that mean the prophecy that forced me to join that party was…?

She’d thought that the pope or one of the cardinals just made it up to suit their needs, but when she stops to think about the spirals of twisted flesh for faces, the eyes that literally follow people, the multiplying body parts --- all the monstrosities Flum has seen so far are too twisted, too far separated from anything that a human would or could possibly create.

Just like the diary and seeing her name in the stats of the ‘ogre’ in the lab near Enchide, she can’t imagine that even the Church could create such things from scratch no matter how long they spend researching.

If Origin actually exists as some paranormal being well beyond mortal ken, then it makes sense.

The question still remains, however --- what does it want with her?

“Flum?”

“Master, you seem awfully pale…”

“...I’m fine, everything’s okay. Probably.”

Nothing’s certain yet.

Not yet, at least.

Even as she tries to calm herself, the unpleasant feeling lurking in the back of her mind doesn’t leave her, and her heart continues to beat at an uncomfortable rate.


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