OmaeGotoki: Volume 2 008 - Powerlessness Will Always Haunt Us
Sara didn’t show up at Flum’s house after all. She didn’t tell them she was going to come over so normally it wouldn’t be anything to fuss about.
The incident in the slums is still fresh in their minds, though.
Naturally, they’re all worried.
The next day Flum decides to pay a visit to the Central Quarter church where Sara lives. That being said they’re technically enemies, so she starts by just checking the state of things from the shadows outside.
“It doesn’t look like anything’s really wrong, but…”
The paladins at the front door have very serious expressions and the priestesses she can see through the open doors appear to be flustered --- though maybe it’s only her concern for Sara’s wellbeing that’s making her see them in that way.
Just as she’s wondering whether or not she should head in to ask, a woman in her thirties wearing the same white robes as Sara happens to pass right in front of her.
“Sister-san, do you mind if I ask you something?”
Flum calls out to her. The priestess stops and asks “Is there something I can help you with?” with a smile and a light shake of her light pink hair. Flum beckons to her to come closer, and after she approaches with a puzzled expression on her face Flum gets right to the heart of the matter.
“Do you know a girl named Sara?”
“You know her!?”
The priestess’ calm demeanor breaks down in an instant as she desperately grabs Flum’s shoulders.
Something happened to Sara, that much is clear.
“Ah… I’m sorry, everything’s happening so suddenly I don’t know what I was doing…”
“Something happened to Sara-chan, didn’t it?”
“Before that, do you mind if I ask what your relationship to her is?”
“My name’s Flum. Sara-chan and I---”
“Ahh, so you’re Flum! She’s told me all about you. She told me you’re the nice person who gives her all sorts of tasty food.”
It sounds like Sara’s told the priestess all about her, and it’s very much like her to put all the emphasis on the food.
“I haven’t introduced myself yet, have I? My name is Ellen. I’ve been looking after her and Ed and Johnny since they were little. Ah, Ed and Johnny…”
Flum remembers hearing from Sara that she has family at the Central Quarter church, too. Ellen must be one of them.
“I know them, too.”
“Really? That’ll speed things up a bit, then. A little while ago word came from the pope that Sara is to be excommunicated.”
“According to the higher-ups it’s because she’s been worshiping demons… If they find her she’ll be sent to the Church Court.”
The Church Court is a different institution entirely from the kingdom’s court system, established to bestow just punishments on those who break the Church’s precepts --- or at least, it used to be. They imprison, sometimes torture, and even execute people in complete violation of the Kingdom’s laws, but the king has not only made no move to stop them but has even given them money to fund their efforts.
With the Kingdom in the state that it is, the Church Court has never once found anyone ‘not guilty.’
“No matter what they say, though, I simply can’t believe that Sara would do such a thing, and all of the priestesses who’ve been living with her would agree.”
They’re false charges to be certain. Flum bites her lip with irritation.
She’s supposed to be quite valuable to the Church, however. Whatever they’re trying to cover up must be important --- maybe Ink, or the truth behind the West Quarter church.
“Flum-san, do you have any idea where she’s been and what she’s been doing? What could she have done to deserve all this!?”
Ellen’s voice trembles, as if trying to repress the waves of emotion rising within her.
The whole reason Flum’s there, however, is to ask that same question.
“The truth is, I had her look into the Church’s orphanages a little for me.”
“The orphanages? Why?”
“I found a lost girl in the West Quarter and took her in, but I had no idea where she came from, and Sara offered to help look into it.”
“That’s why she left for the West Quarter so early…”
“She apparently also asked Ed-san and Johnny-san for help, but they all told me that there’s been no children reported missing from any of the orphanages.”
“...So Ed and Johnny were involved after all.”
“Yeah… did something happen to them?”
“As of today they’ve been stationed to a town out in the middle of nowhere. Paladins stationed in the Capital are never transferred like that unless they’ve caused a problem… I didn’t hear anything like that, of course, but when I asked around I heard that they’ve already left. There’s no way they’d just leave without even saying goodbye!”
Ellen’s words are quickened by her anxiety.
Flum fiddles with the hem of her shirt in irritation as she listens.
A great power is manipulating things from behind the scenes to keep something from getting out --- but the real question is why Sara is getting excommunicated when the others are just getting transferred. If their goal is to simply get Ed and Johnny out of the picture then they should just send them to the Church Court, too.
“Have you found any clues on your end, Ellen-san?”
“Only one thing… In the slums near the west wall of the Capital someone spotted a golden-haired little girl in priestess robes.”
“That’s… isn’t that where they found all those corpses…?”
Ellen nods wordlessly. Then, even though she doesn’t expect an answer from Flum, she asks her a question with a hint of desperation in her voice.
“Those bodies and Sara’s excommunication… do they have anything to do with each other?”
Flum isn’t positive, but given the timing, context, and how the Church has done things up until now she’s able to answer with some certainty.
“They’re both connected to the Church’s ‘dark side,’ I think.”
Ellen’s eyes fly open, but even through her shock some part of her knows it’s the truth. Anyone connected with the Church for as long as she has will have caught a glimpse of the darkness they’re concealing whether they want to know or not.
“I hate to say it, but… there’s a fair chance the reason Ed-san and Johnny-san were transferred was because they're dead.”
“It’s just a possibility, but it might be so that the Church won’t have to cover up their deaths.”
“I don’t believe it… But then, why is Sara getting banished?”
“I think she might still be running from something, so even if she manages to escape they’ll be able to catch her if she comes back.”
“What could the pope possibly want to hide so badly!?”
“That, I can’t tell you. You might end up the same as Sara-chan.”
“I don’t care! Sara, Ed, Johnny… We might not be related by blood but we’re still all family!”
“If she really is still on the run, then she probably hasn’t come back here specifically because she doesn’t want to get you all involved.”
“But still… still, doesn’t she realize how much she means to us…!?”
Ellen’s words are steeped with sorrow.
Flum is feeling much the same, even if she isn’t letting it show.
If they were only stronger, if they only had some way to fight back Sara might come back to rely on them. She’s probably still running because she knows that full well.
Both Ellen and Flum feel their powerlessness so strongly it hurts.
“What should I do now? If I go punch out the pope, will she come back to us?”
“I don’t think it’ll be that easy.”
“Yes, I suppose there’s no way we’re any match for the---”
“That’s not what I mean. The church itself… Well… ”
“What about it? Go ahead and tell me everything, I’m ready for whatever happens to me. Even the other priestesses and I can tell that the higher-ups are hiding something.”
Unlike those outside the Church, Ellen and her colleagues might be even more suspicious of the dark side of the organization. Feeling her resolve, Flum decides to tell her what she knows.
“...There’s a chance that this time the Church couldn’t control the ‘something’ responsible for what happened in the slums.”
“You’re telling me that whatever ‘it’ is was supposed to get rid of anyone who’s seen the Church’s secrets, but ‘it’ failed?”
“The Church has been dabbling in human experimentation for quite some time now, and just recently they succeeded in creating children with Origin’s power. That’s all I know for certain, but I think that one of the kids might be moving on their own now.”
“Origin’s power…? You mean the God of Creation Origin granted them power? Sara’s a candidate to become a saint, so why would Origin be after her!? She’s followed all his teachings more devotedly than anyone!”
“To the Church, that power might be a lot more valuable than saints or teachings.”
Ellen puts her head in her hands in shock. Even if Flum is an acquaintance of Sara’s, it’s strange for Ellen to accept Flum’s words so readily --- her doubt of the Church must be that strong.
“I can’t trust the Church at all anymore… Until just a little while ago everyone was just smiling and having fun together… I can’t believe I’ll never see those three again… This must all be a bad dream…”
“Sara-chan might still be alive. We might still be able to save her.”
“She’s being targeted and she’s missing! Even if she’s found she’ll just be executed by the Church Court…”
“Even so, if we just leave her alone those ‘eyes’ will kill her.”
“I heard that all the fatalities in the slum were from a wave of eyes that swept over them and warped their bodies. That power is probably Origin’s. The same things are probably chasing after Sara-chan still.”
“What do you mean? Eyes? Just eyes are attacking her?”
“I think so.”
“This is unbelievable… ”
“Sara-chan and I have already fought a monster unlike anything that could possibly be natural… It’s certainly possible.”
“You mean…!? Ahh, so that’s it. That’s why she…”
Ellen seems to come to some sort of realization.
“You mean when she was gone for a number of days, correct? I thought it was strange that she was so quiet about what happened then…”
“She probably didn’t want to get you involved in this whole mess.”
“But we’re family… ahh, but if it’s really as bad as you say it is and there really is something that terrible lurking in the Capital… I can’t believe that despite all our praying, all our dedication, Origin is something that would try to harm us instead of help us…”
Learning the truth behind Origin is likely taking its toll on her faith, especially since the Church not only knows that but is willingly trying to gain its powers, going so far as to erase a candidate for sainthood. Once they obtain the power they seek they’ll probably shed their benevolent facade and reveal the ugly truth. When that time comes, though, there are probably a great many people who will denounce their faith in Origin, so the Church likely believes it's better to ‘trim the fat’ from their end and save them the hassle of dealing with them later.
“Do you know why exactly those three are being targeted? None of them should be able to access any deep or crucial secrets… It’s strange that you’re just fine when you’ve seen one of their creatures firsthand.”
“I’m afraid I don’t know, but since Sara-chan decided to run someplace highly populated like the slums she must’ve found something.”
“What makes you say that?”
“If she was being attacked by a monstrosity, then knowing her she’d go someplace with as few people as possible in order to reduce the number of casualties, but she did the opposite, which would only make sense if she knew it was looking to erase her for knowing too much. If the Church was trying to hide something, then she probably thought that going someplace with a lot of people would cause it to leave her alone.”
“But it didn’t stop… ahh, that’s why you said the Church lost control of it.”
“Exactly. Instead of keeping things quiet those eyes only caused more problems. Both the eyes’ pursuit and how the Church is handling the situation seem kinda sloppy, so they must be in a bit of a panic.”
Her excommunication might be insurance in case she survives, but it also tells Flum that she is, in fact, still alive.
“If the Church is in a panic, it might mean that there’s an opening we can use to save her…”
“Yes, and that’s why we need to find her.”
“I suppose you’re right. It’s too early to give up now. I’ll gather everyone I think I can trust and we’ll start looking for her.”
“Be careful, though. They could send someone after you at any time.”
“If we’re being targeted, then that might mean we’ll find her sooner, though.”
Flum can’t bring herself to laugh at Ellen’s joke.
“Thanks for all you’ve told me.”
“No, I should be the one thanking you. If I find Sara then I’ll make sure to let you know.”
“Thanks. I’ll do the same.”
After telling Ellen her home address the two part ways.
Flum ended up getting a bit more information that she’d expected --- she looks up at the sky, feeling a lot brighter than the horribly gloomy sheet of clouds above.
“I hope you’re okay, Sara-chan…”
Just imagining that carefree young girl getting bloated and warped by those eyes is enough to make her feel like vomiting.
She has to find Sara and stop the child controlling those ‘eyes’ as soon as possible.
To that end, she can’t afford to just stop moving forward now.
On the way home from the Central Quarter, Flum happens to make eye contact with a man heading in the opposite direction as her and they both stop in their tracks.
“Hey. How’s life treating you?”
He calls out to her, a disgusting smirk plastered across his face.
Behind him about twenty men stand perfectly erect in formation. She recognizes them, but their expressions have a lifelessness to them unlike anything she’s ever seen.
Almost as if they’re nothing but dolls.
The sight of them gives her goosebumps. She tries to ignore them and walk right on past, but---
“You’re probably awfully broken up about that little brat going missing, aren’t you?”
The words stop her. All twenty men behind Dane look at her expressionlessly, sending a shiver down her spine.
“For your sake, I certainly hope that ugly bandaged thing isn’t next…”
She takes his blatant threat head-on, closing in on him and roughly grabbing his shirt collar. He lets out a fearless laugh.
“Are you sure you want to do that? We’ve all of us become believers, you know. Devout little disciples of Origin-sama, his little dogs. If you hurt us He might get angry! Hyaha!”
“So you finally threw away that worthless pride of yours, is that it? Did getting abandoned by your ‘friends’ really scare you that much?”
“Hahaha, a glare from a little puppy isn’t scary in the slightest! The Church isn’t half bad, you know. Being under the protection of such absolute power is the most reassuring thing in the world!”
He knocks away her hand, stumbling backwards as if drunk as he continues his disconcerting laugh.
“Hehe… My client… or should I say superiors? At any rate, they ordered me not to lay a finger on you yet, and I suppose I’ll have to live with that for now. It’s a small price to pay for my life --- low risk, high return, you might say.”
“Sorry, I don’t follow.”
“You will soon enough. Soon enough… Let’s move, men.”
At his orders the men start walking forwards, movements precise as clockwork.
She now understands full well why Ila was so antipathetic towards the new Dane.
There’s no underground empire anymore, no ‘Dane and his thugs.’ All that’s left is Dane himself --- he valued his life so much that he literally threw away everything he’s worked so hard to gain, all in exchange for as much freedom as a caged bird. The pillar of pride and ambition around which everyone had gathered has completely crumbled.
The charismatic Dane Finneas who once ruled the West Quarter is dead.
That’s what makes him so terrifying now.
As he is now he wouldn’t hesitate to sacrifice his men for his goals; he’ll do whatever it takes in an altogether different sense.
It’d probably be for the best if Flum cuts him down from behind here and now.
Fostering the killing intent building inside her, she moves to draw the Zweihander --- but just then she feels a presence and glances to her right.
---An eyeball is watching her.
A lone eyeball sits there at the entrance to an alleyway, gaze fixed on her.
“That thing is…!”
It’s likely the same ‘eye’ as the ones that warped and defiled all those people in the slums.
She forgets all about Dane and focuses on it instead, slowly drawing the Zweihander. Her hands tremble as she grips the hilt.
She remembers the corpses that she saw yesterday --- the bloated torsos, the countless limbs, the heads leaking all manner of fluids, the countless eyes within --- and the very thought that she could end up the same makes her mouth go dry.
I’ve got to crush it now.
There’s only one of them now. There were probably a lot more that caused all that death. Even now, it might be sending out some inaudible signal to the others, or it might start splitting and multiplying on its own.
No --- if she crushes it she might accidentally release some sort of pheromone that’ll summon the rest.
As soon as she thinks of that possibility she can’t possibly do anything to it.
Her hands grow sweaty, her breathing ragged.
Should I attack it? How? Should I start running now?
Countless ideas spin through her head but all she ends up doing is increasing her nervousness, but just then --- the eye rolls away from her, around a corner and out of sight.
She hurriedly tries to follow it, but by the time she turns the corner it’s gone without a trace.
“So it wasn’t after me? Then why was it here…?”
All it did was show itself. In the end all it did was distract her and prevent her from attacking Dane --- or maybe it appeared just to do that.
Utterly perplexed by its actions and unease swirling in her chest, she hurries back home.
Flum opens the front door and Milkit comes running up to her. As if sensing her master’s feelings from her expression, her smile is even warmer than usual.
“Welcome home, Master. I just finished preparing lunch. Would you care to join us?”
Food always tastes better when eaten in a good mood, so Flum tables the subject of Sara as all four of them sit down to eat.
Everyone there seems to sense that Flum doesn’t have any good news for them, though.
After they finish eating and putting the dishes away, Flum tells them everything she gleaned from the conversation with Ellen.
Of all of them Ink takes the news the hardest, convinced that it’s her fault that Sara got involved. They all say whatever they can to reassure her that’s not the case, but it’s not enough. Shortly afterwards she heads up to her room directly opposite of Flum and Milkit’s and shuts herself in.
Eterna similarly returns to her room, claiming she has work to do.
Milkit opens her mouth countless times to try to cheer up Flum, but every time she closes her mouth without saying anything, unable to find the words. This is perhaps the first time that she’s ever wanted to do anything for someone else’s sake, so it’s not surprising she doesn’t know how to do it properly. She laments her own powerlessness.
Flum, noticing her strange actions, smiles warmly at her.
The unexpected words cause Milkit’s expression and mind to go blank.
“You’re always right there for me whenever I’m feeling down… I don’t know what I’d do without you.”
“I-I-I really haven’t done anything, though…”
“No, you’ve done more than enough. Just knowing that you’re by my side and worrying about me is enough to give me strength. That’s why…”
Flum stands up, leaning across the table to put her hand over Milkit’s.
“You don’t need to say anything, and you really don’t need to feel so down. All I need is your smile.”
“E-Even if you say that… I want to do something to respond to your feelings…”
“Hehe, what’s that all about? I’m really happy to hear that, though. If that’s the case then I won’t stop you, but just remember that all your master wants is for you to be happy, okay?”
Flum separates her hand from Milkit’s, causing her to let out a small, lonely sigh. Flum heads towards the staircase, but perhaps hearing Milkit’s sigh she turns back for just a moment to lightly embrace her from behind and stroke her hair.
Left alone in the room, Milkit’s whisper is filled with a myriad of emotions. She touches her hand to her cheek and clutches at her bandages.
What skin is visible through the gaps is bright red.
Flum knocks on the door of Eterna’s room, and a moment later a casual voice tells her to come in.
“So you did come.”
“How’d you know I’d come here?”
“Your face during lunch. It told me everything.”
Flum touches her face, trying to determine if she really was making a face like that.
“You can sit.”
Just as she was told, Flum grabs the chair in the corner of the room and sets it down beside Eterna. Eterna puts her pen down and shifts her own chair so that they’re facing each other.
The strange fishlike object floating over her desk slowly spins, and the top of the desk itself is covered with dried herbs, apothecary tools, and even a strange carving, making it as strange a space as always.
“What were you just working on, Eterna-san?”
“Something that won’t work on wounds or illnesses but will do wonders for your mood.”
“That’s not a bad sort of ‘medicine,’ is it…?”
If it’s not actually medicinal the Church might not notice, but if she starts peddling something like that she’ll attract attention from other, less savory places.
“It’s an herbal tea blend.”
“Ah, so that’s what you meant. That’s an awful lot for just yourself, though…”
“I want to sell it. I can’t just keep living here for free.”
It looks like even Eterna would feel bad about being a freeloader there forever --- though if Flum told her that such consideration was unlike her she’d probably get angry.
“So what about that carving?”
Flum came here with a specific objective in mind, but it was strange enough that she just had to ask. It looks like a small wooden bust of someone --- Eterna hands it to her. After inspecting it up-close she realizes something.
“Hmm… it kinda looks like me, doesn’t it?”
“Milkit carved it to look like you.”
“Wait, it is me!? I didn’t think--- no, I guess she is pretty good with her hands…”
“She apparently killed a lot of time carving whatever she could find back when she was a slave.”
“Why’s it in your room, though?”
“She said it’d be embarrassing if you found it but couldn’t throw it away. I don’t need it, though. You can have it.”
She doesn’t even know what to do with a carving of herself --- and it’s just like Eterna to hand it to her right after saying that Milkit didn’t even want her to see it.
Flum politely declines, returning the figure to her desk.
Eterna pouts at her, evidently discontented with her response.
“Milkit’s trying everything she can to be useful to you.”
“So this carving is the result of that?”
“Nn. She loves you so much it makes me sick.”
“I wouldn’t call it ‘love’… I do think she’s kinda fond of me, though.”
“I’m not bragging!”
Flum half-rises out of her chair as she loudly denies her. Relieved that Flum seems a lot more normal than she did when she came home, Eterna smiles a little.
Flum sits back down, lets out a large sigh, then hardens her expression a little.
“So really, about why I’m here --- Eterna-san, could you teach me how to use magic?”
Flum’s still weak, far too weak. When Dane set his grand plan on her, she was all but powerless to oppose him on her own. If those ‘eyes’ start chasing her en masse, she won’t be able to get away. As she is now, even if she finds Sara she probably won’t be strong enough to save her.
Worse, thanks to Reversal she can’t raise her stats through hard work alone.
There’s still one path open to her, though --- strength that can’t be reflected through stats like Cavalier Arts, magic, even knowledge. Every day she practices drawing on both prana and mana, though she hasn’t yet been able to shape the mana into any sort of spell.
“I’m Water Attribute. I can’t teach a Rare Attribute much. I’m also not good at explaining things… I think I said that before.”
“Just the basics would be fine.”
“Nn… You can use prana, right? That’s harder. Why can’t you use magic?”
“Well, I can grab the mana, so to speak, I just can’t turn it into a spell or anything.”
“Try gathering it on your palm.”
Flum narrows her eyes, grasps at the magic energy running throughout her body, wraps it in her consciousness, changes its shape, and finally forces it to flow into her palm. Just as Eterna said, it’s a lot easier to do with mana than prana.
“Amount, quality, and state are fine… but…”
Eterna touches Flum’s faintly glowing palm, feeling it as she mutters to herself.
“This peculiarity… I see.”
“D-Did you find anything?”
Flum asks with a bit of nervousness in her voice and Eterna suddenly stands up, taking a step back and gesturing at the chair she was sitting in.
Flum does as she’s told, touching the topmost part of it.
“Your problem’s in your head. Make sure you have a good idea of what you’re ‘reversing’ and how.”
“U-Um… So I should envision it and channel magic into the chair?”
Flum takes a moment to imagine it --- vertically or horizontally, inside-out or outside-in. It’s her first time trying it so she doesn’t have a good grasp of the exact sensation yet, but likely the hardest to achieve would be messing with the inside and outside, and at any rate it’d probably take a lot of energy to do anything that would destroy the chair. Since it’s her first time she’ll try something simple and just flip the chair upside-down.
As she envisions it words pop into her head, as if telling her she’s finally got it right.
In an instant the chair spins around, stopping exactly as the seat becomes the bottom.
Flum looks at it with shock, despite having just done it herself.
“...I did it.”
It’s a small thing that could easily be accomplished without magic, but it’s the fact that it worked at all that’s important. The thing that she’d never been able to do, the power that she was sure she’d never have, now rests in the palm of her hand.
“It was so easy… I actually cast magic…!”
“How do you feel? Tired? Feel depleted at all?”
“N-No, not at all!”
“Good. It’s an efficient Attribute. The question is what you’ll reverse and how.”
It would seem as though Flum’s guess was correct; as long as she doesn’t attempt something destructive like turning something inside-out she shouldn’t get too tired. She wouldn’t attempt something like that on something of Eterna’s, though, since that’d probably put her in a bad mood.
“But why can I suddenly use it now when I couldn’t before?”
Eterna takes Flum’s hand and starts lightly massaging it.
“Your magic is extremely limited in range. You need to touch your target. You can’t use it at range like other Attributes.”
Come to think of it, whenever she tried to use magic she was trying to hit a faraway target. She was hoping for a long-range way to use her Attribute since she mainly uses a greatsword, but it looks like it’ll be useless except in close quarters.
“I was hoping for some way to fight without hurting myself…”
I am a girl, after all, she adds internally. Given all the times she’s regenerated she’s gained something of a tolerance for pain, but that doesn’t mean she likes it.
“Give up on that. There are some options, though. If you’re fighting on the same surface you might be able to flip it all over, though it’d be tiring.”
“So what if I, say, cast it on floorboards?”
“They’d flip over.”
In other words, in an area with long floorboards she’d be able to make her opponent lose their footing at the very least --- though she probably shouldn’t count on fighting in such convenient conditions.
“What about if I cast it on the ground? Like dirt or cobblestone, or even floors that aren’t boarded?”
“Depends on your control and how you envision it. You don’t have infinite energy, so you can’t just flip everything. If you really focus you might be able to affect a small area.”
She looks down at the room’s flooring. She tries to imagine it, but it doesn’t quite come to her. It looks like she has a lot of practice ahead of her.
Even if she can only affect what she can touch, though, there are all sorts of different possible uses for Reversal.
“Even if you can use magic now, don’t try to do the impossible alone. I keep telling you I can fight, too.”
“Yeah, but I’m not strong enough to protect Milkit.”
All her opponents seems to be monstrosities or scumbags, after all, and reason doesn’t work on either. Only force.
“You push yourself too hard. Just like in the Hero’s party.”
“That’s because I can’t do much of anything. I’ve got to put in the effort wherever I can.”
“Fighting recklessly when on your own is fine, but don’t do it around others. Milkit especially doesn’t want to see you hurt.”
“That’s… I know. I try to keep that in mind, at least.”
Flum wants Milkit to smile from the bottom of her heart and fights to protect her, but in the process gets hurt and makes her sad. In order to protect her, though, sacrifices must be made.
Even in the face of that paradox, however, Flum has no choice but to fight --- as long as she’s alive she can heal as much of Milkit’s sadness as she needs to, after all.
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