OmaeGotoki: Volume 2 010 - MORE
By the time Flum starts heading home the sun has already begun to set.
Flum tiredly opens the front door and calls out “I’m home…” with less energy than she ever has before.
Milkit runs to the front entrance hall with padding feet and a smile on her face.
“Welcome home, Master!”
Flum can’t help but smile at the sight of her. If nothing else, she truly is the one thing keeping Flum sane.
“I was just about to go shopping for ingredients for dinner. Would you care to join me?”
At her elbow is the wicker basket she always has whenever they go out shopping. She was probably waiting for Flum to get home before heading out.
“Maybe you’d prefer to rest for a while?”
Noticing that her master seems to be a bit off, she peers into Flum’s face curiously.
Today’s maid outfit has a lot of white and is well-accented by the red bow on her chest, giving her clothes a trendy-yet-cute look. She almost seems more like a waitress at some cafe than a proper maid.
By switching up which maid outfit she’s wearing everyday she manages to heal Flum’s soul every time she looks at her, but the shock Flum suffered today is a little too much to be healed so easily.
“...I think I’ll rest, then. Sorry.”
Milkit was probably looking forward to going out with her. No matter how much Flum’s heart wants to go for a stroll with her, though, her body can’t follow.
“I understand. In that case, Master, please make sure you get some rest. Eterna-san and I will be fine on our own.”
“We’ll be back.”
Eterna suddenly pops out of the living room.
Flum watches them leave in a bit of a riff on the usual pattern, and the moment she sits at the table she slumps forwards, draping herself over it.
“Welcome back, Flum.”
Ink, sitting across from her, is in the middle of another block puzzle.
“Did you figure out where Sara went?”
“I found nothing. No matter where I went there was no sign of her --- and worse, even Otilier-san’s missing now. Hahh… this whole people disappearing thing is getting on my nerves.”
“Oh… I’m sure you’ll find them both eventually, though!”
“I really hope so…”
If she doesn’t believe that she won’t be able to keep on going.
She closes her eyes, too exhausted to keep them open any longer.
A little worried about her, Ink stops playing and is lost in thought for a moment, trying to figure out how to be as quiet as possible for Flum’s sake. Rolling up her sleeves, she goes about the puzzle more carefully than before.
After finishing their shopping trip more quickly than usual, Eterna asks Milkit without really thinking about it first.
“Yes. I’d like to return to Master’s side as soon as possible.”
“She did seem kind of down.”
It’s probably more bad news.
“Could you please let me carry that after all?”
Milkit’s voice is apologetic. The basket, filled with ingredients for dinner, is currently dangling from Eterna’s arm.
“Don’t worry about it.”
Even if just looking at their stats, Milkit’s Strength is only 11 whereas Eterna’s is 668. Her thin little arms may seem weak but she’s far stronger than the average person.
“I’m stronger than you.”
She flexes the muscles in her left arm, but there’s no visible difference, making Milkit even more uneasy.
“I noticed you bought all Flum’s favorites.”
“I’m sure if she eats it Master will be back to her usual self in no time.”
“That’s not it at all. I just… I only want to return everything that Master has been kind enough to give me, even if only a little.”
“You’re too eager about it.”
“I am Master’s slave, after all.”
Milkit puts her hand to her chest, a happy look on her face.
“Good thing you two met, then. For both your sakes.”
“Yes, without a doubt!”
They happened to both survive that hell, and they just happened to take each other’s hands as each licked the other’s wounds.
Milkit didn’t choose a thing. She just followed the flow as she always has. In the end it happened to change her life for the better, proof that you never can tell what life has in store.
As she reflects back on the miracle that brought her together with Flum and the days that followed, she almost doesn’t notice the slender man that emerges from the alley to stand in front of them.
“Oh? What a rare pair. If you were alone you’d be a sitting duck, but this is a pickle, oh, yes, quite the pickle. I wonder why the great Eterna Rinebow would stoop so low as to walk with a weak little thing like yourself?”
The man spreads his arms wide like an actor performing on some great invisible stage. He’s tall and lanky but covered in lean muscle, and his hair is a light shade of brown. He’s clad in leather armor, a dagger about twenty centimeters long rests at his waist, on his back is a large crossbow, and on his arm is a wooden buckler.
The man is clearly not in his casual wear but ready for combat as an adventurer.
Milkit knows him.
Milkit lets a rare bit of anger slip into her voice as she glares at him. He’s her master’s enemy --- there’s no better reason to hate him.
Eterna doesn’t let her emotions show on her face, but she starts gathering mana into her palm. It can’t hurt to be prepared. There’s no telling what dirty tricks he has up his sleeves.
“Hold on there, meeting here like this is a coincidence, I assure you. I don’t want to fight. I’m strong enough to know when I’m completely outclassed.”
“Why did you come here, then?”
“All I want is to talk. I can assure you it’ll be worth your time.”
“No thank you, we’re not interested. Let’s go home, Eterna-san.”
They move to pass him without so much as looking at him again, but the corners of his mouth rise and he starts ‘acting’ once again.
“Ahh, what a pity! And here I thought you cared about that bratty little Sara Anvilen. Flum’s been running all over the place looking for her, hasn’t she? I bet your master would be awfully happy --- overcome with joy, even, if you were to tell her where she is and how she’s doing, but if you insist you aren’t interested…”
Milkit stops in her tracks.
“...Milkit. Keep walking.”
She had fun together with Sara. She wants to find her. She wants to talk with her, play with her, to cook for her again. But more than that --- Flum’s been running herself ragged looking for her.
If I have a chance to find out about her…
If I can be useful to Master, then…!
“Oh, I do rather like obedient little slaves. You’ve finally got some meat on your bones, and I daresay your face is healed, isn’t it? I bet I could sell you for a pretty penny.”
“Shut it, sleazebag.”
Eterna glares at him, and it’s enough that Dane’s expression freezes, despite his confidence only a moment earlier. She wasn’t chosen as one of the Hero’s companions for nothing.
The question is, though, how he got information on Milkit and Sara. It would appear that his information network is just as formidable as ever, even if it was on the verge of collapsing at one point.
“Uhehe, how very scary. Unfortunately, I know no fear now --- ahh, I had no idea being protected was so liberating. Up until now I’ve been the fool doing the protecting, after all.”
“I don’t care, please just tell us what you know about Sara!”
“Kuhehehe, don’t get impatient, now. I’ll tell you absolutely everything in due time.”
The smirk on Dane’s face goes past crude, twisted as if he’s lost his mind. It’s so undignified and disgraceful that Milkit scrunches up her own face in disgust.
“The day that the brat went missing, she’d gone to the West Quarter church as she always did. She was there for a very good reason, though --- she was curious about an insolent little urchin named Ink.”
He pauses for a moment to study their reactions --- that must be why he specifically brought her name up.
They can’t let anything show.
They can’t let him know Ink is living with them.
Eterna arrives at the conclusion logically, Milkit instinctively.
He must be looking for her; that’s why he’s trying to trick them into revealing what they know.
Evidently upset with his results, he clicks his tongue with irritation before continuing.
“There, she heard a certain rumor from a pair of paladins. Since it was a little too close to the truth, however, that innocent little rumor proved to be the trigger for a certain something.”
“Trigger? What are you talking about?”
“Maybe I should call it an automatic defense system? It’s a little too kind, however, a little too eager to protect us from them.”
His words are a little too abstract for them to understand, however.
“I suppose I should get a little more detailed, then,” he says with a brazen laugh.
At that moment, Eterna flicks her fingers.
Milkit cocks her head to the side, a strange feeling occupying her ears.
Dane doesn’t seem to notice or care, however.
“It’s not a matter of those with the Church and those not. It’s a matter of the Children and everyone else. If anyone else hears the truth they’ll be chased, toyed with, and killed. I became the Children’s ally --- it was that or be killed. That’s why they’re so nice as to protect me now.”
“Children? The human experimentees?”
“Yes, them! Oh, so you know already… or no, I suppose not. If you knew you would’ve fulfilled the ‘requirements’ long ago. How should I put this… Whatever you’re thinking of must be the work of a different team entirely.”
“A different research team…”
“Yes, that about sums it up. The Spiral Children, instead of being born with hearts, were all born with a… Core, wasn’t it? A black crystal of some sort that makes them delightful little monsters. The fruits of but one branch of research, if you will, though I’ve heard that their results are some of the most favorable. The Children were created in a lab under the Capital, you see---”
Dane continues to casually let slip crucial information all on his own. Eterna had felt that something was off a while ago, but now that her fears have been confirmed she’s glad she took preventative measures.
Milkit cocks her head to the side in confusion again. It’s only natural --- she can’t hear a word he’s saying, after all. Eterna had created earplugs for her out of water.
The explanation for her actions is provided by Dane himself.
“...Well, I’m sure you’ve figured out that I have a good reason for telling you all this. I’m so clever that I just happened to come across a little discovery --- even if you aren’t looking for it, even if you happen to hear it by accident, even if I tell you all about the Spiral Children from my end without even asked, the ‘requirements’ are fulfilled.”
He taps his temple a few times with his index finger.
TUNK, THUNKTUNK --- a large number of somethings fall from a nearby rooftop.
The sight of them causes Eterna to recoil in disgust.
Eyeballs. Human eyeballs.
They start to roll towards her --- from the alleyways, the windows of nearby houses, even seemingly bubbling out of the ground itself.
“Hehe, hyahahahahaha!! Oh, my, there are so many of them already! You’d better get out of here. You don’t want to get warped and twisted like all those rank corpses, now, do you?”
He once again shows them his unhinged grin.
They heard all about the bodies found in the slums from Flum. If Dane’s telling the truth, then letting even a single eye touch them will condemn them to a rather unpleasant end.
“Eee…! E-Eterna-san, those are…!”
“You can’t have Milkit… Aqua Garm!”
A sphere of water forms in front of Eterna, then bends, twists, and finally becomes a dog several times the size of a human.
The dog reaches down and grabs a confused Milkit in its soft jaws, placing her on its back.
Eterna swings her arm in the direction of their house and the dog starts running straight there --- literally in a straight line, jumping up to the rooftops and dashing across the tops of buildings as it needs to.
“Hyahaha, it’s futile, all futile! They’ll catch her eventually!”
Eterna responds to Dane’s laughter calmly.
“It’s not futile.”
“She didn’t hear you. I blocked her ears.”
“Kh… So you noticed, huh?”
“I’m clever. More so than you.”
“You uppity little bitch---!”
Overcome with rage, he trains his crossbow on her.
“What a temper. You must be at your wit’s end.”
“You’re the only one being forced into a corner here, Eterna Rinebow!!”
The eyes start to close in on her, and just as there’s nowhere left for her to run Dane pulls the trigger on his crossbow.
At the same time she casts a spell, easily crushing and deflecting both the eyes and the crossbow bolt as they close in.
Next, long, thin tentacles of water sprout from the ground, moving to entangle Dane.
He jumps backwards, shooting the grappling hook from his buckler. The hook embeds itself in the eaves of a nearby house and a moment later he is pulled to safety. The thugs that were watching a short distance away quickly disperse, splitting up to flee.
“It really is a shame that little slave escaped, but this is the end of you. Just try to run, little witch! Hyahahahahahahaha!!”
Laughter echoing eerily through the street, he grapples again and flies away from the scene.
Eterna is about to cast another spell at him, but…
“It doesn’t look like these things will let me.”
The eyes only continue to multiply.
Even if they move slowly, there’s no end to their numbers and letting even one touch her means game over. She can’t let her guard down.
She concentrates mana into her legs, then stomps the ground with magic-infused soles.
Water springs up from the ground, enveloping her in a protective shell. It’s not as hard as ice, but what it lacks in raw durability it makes up for in elasticity. Cast by someone of her level, no number of normal adventurers would be enough to break through it.
The eyes continue to proliferate.
A single spell should be enough to wipe them all out at once, but there’s a limit on how much energy she has. She’d cast Aqua Shelter to buy enough time to gather all she could for that one definitive attack, but…
“They’re trying to pass through...”
The eyes are all moving straight at her, not caring about the wall between them.
Just as they slip into human bodies, they’re on the verge of slipping right through the wall of water.
“There’s no end to this.”
She gathers magic energy into her feet once more and kicks the ground.
A geyser of water erupts at her feet, sending her up through the top of the Aqua Shelter and high into the air.
From there she extends watery tentacles towards the nearest building, pulling herself towards it and onto the roof. As soon as her feet touch the tiles she casts it again, pulling herself to the next building and away from the eyes.
The eyeballs are always all around her, coming out of nowhere.
Just when she thinks she’s lost them, she finds herself surrounded again.
As she flees through the night, she finds herself more worried about Flum, Milkit, and Ink than herself.
Dane surely won’t just give up after failing once. On top of that, he’s likely not even the one controlling the eyes. There are more enemies than just him at large.
Hoping those three will be safe, the curtain opens on Eterna’s grand tale of daring escape.
Milkit runs into the house, and as soon as she lays eyes on her master she leaps into her arms. Her clothes are sopping wet and her shopping basket is missing.
“Milkit, is everything okay? Where’s Eterna-san!?”
“Eterna-san… J-Just like Sara-san, those eyes…!”
“Her too!? Why…!?”
Ink arrives a little late, but hearing their conversation she seems shocked.
“But they let you escape? All you did was go out shopping…!”
“Dane suddenly appeared in front of us, and while he was talking those eyes suddenly came out of nowhere.”
“That asshole again! Do you remember what he said?”
“I don’t know. I think Eterna-san prevented me from hearing with magic… I couldn’t hear anything, and then all of a sudden I found myself on the back of a magic dog which took me here.”
“She covered your ears…? Does that mean that if you hear something those eyes will chase after you?”
In other words, it’s not just a matter of looking into the Church, it’s coming across specific information.
If that’s the case, though, then the question is why the eyes weren’t attacking Dane.
“So he’s safe because he’s with the Church… no, since Sara was targeted, maybe it’s possible that he became a member of their research team…? That might explain why he and his thugs joined them…”
The other day Dane had mentioned that his superiors didn’t want him to lay a finger on her --- he was probably referring to the head of the research team.
If they don’t want to harm Flum, then there’s a chance they want to capture her, not kill her.
“In the end it’s all my fault, isn’t it…”
“No, it’s not, Master!”
There’s no basis behind Milkit’s words. She can’t say that for certain.
“Ah… We’d better get you out of those clothes or else you’ll catch a cold. We can think about this more after that.”
Even if they put it off, though, in the end there’s no way for Flum to win against an enemy that has sent even Eterna running.
Flum’s spirit feels on the verge of breaking.
Ink is facing the ground, a glum look on her face.
An oppressive mood fills the air.
Milkit’s still there, however. That alone is enough to give Flum strength.
Flum grabs a change of clothes from their room and hands them to Milkit where she waits in the changing room. She was planning on waiting outside the room for her to finish changing, but the thought of being alone makes the both of them nervous, so Flum stays where she is.
Watching Milkit change is a little too much, though, so she faces the opposite direction.
“This really isn’t your fault, Master. It’s all his fault.”
Taking off her wet clothes, Milkit starts wiping herself off with a towel.
“Yeah, I know, but I was the one who started it.”
“From the beginning he had no real reason to target you. Please don’t think it’s your fault.”
“That’s… you’re right, I guess.”
Sara, Otilier, even Eterna got mixed up in this whole mess, but the Church’s true target is Flum.
I guess if I just give up it’d all end, huh…
Finishing with the towel, Milkit grabs her underwear. The room is silent for a moment except for the faint rustling of fabric.
“If nothing else, Dane’s my fault. I’ve got to deal with him with my own two hands.”
“He felt somewhat different from the first time we met him, though.”
“I thought so, too. He’s probably getting desperate after losing so much… that’s why he’s more frightening than ever, though.”
Milkit starts putting on a dry maid outfit, hands moving nimbly. They’re a lot harder to put on than normal street clothes, but wearing them every day has made it a lot easier.
That being said, though, she’s overjoyed to wear anything that Flum gave her, regardless of what it is.
Hearing her voice, Flum turns around.
--- Milkit isn’t there.
There’s nothing but air.
Just empty space.
Her wet clothing is still in the laundry basket --- it’s still warm to the touch.
Until just a moment ago she was right there.
“Eh… W-What’s going on…?”
She’s now gone.
“M-Milkit? Hey, Milkit! Where’d you go!? You’re just hiding somewhere, aren’t you!? This is a prank, isn’t it!?”
Flum breaks into a cold sweat and she gets goosebumps. Her breathing is shallow and ragged, her lungs refusing to take in any oxygen.
“C’mon, answer me! Milkit! Milkit!!”
Even if she shouts, there’s no reply.
Inside the bathroom, outside the window, the hallway, the kitchen, the second floor --- no matter where she goes she can’t seem to find her.
“What’s wrong, Flum?”
Ink, noticing something wrong, grabs onto the hem of Flum’s shirt.
“Ink… Milkit’s gone! She was just changing, I was right behind her, and she just disappeared!!”
“Calm down, Flum. What do you mean, she’s gone? Why’s she gone?”
“If I knew that I wouldn’t be running around like this!!”
Flum’s half lost her mind already.
Milkit was her only support when everyone was disappearing around her.
Now that she’s gone there’s nothing she can do but break down, give up.
Without Milkit she’s just a sixteen-year-old girl.
Milkit’s ‘magic’ hasn’t faded yet, though. For just a little longer, she can keep going --- even if she’s on the verge of losing her mind completely.
She has to find Milkit, as soon as possible, before the spell is broken.
“Milkit, Milkit, Milkit, Milkit, Milkit, Milkit, Milkiiiit!!!”
Flum howls her name. She looks outside the house, too, even crawling on all fours to check under the house.
She’s not there.
She’s not anywhere.
It’s as though she vanished into thin air.
One hour passes, two, three --- no matter where she runs, there’s not a single trace of her.
As the cool night breeze hits her face she’s able to cool off a little bit, and with unsteady feet she drags herself back home.
“Are you okay, Flum?”
Ink feels for Flum’s hand, finds it, and grips it tightly. The warmth of her body starts to seep into Flum’s already-cool heart.
Just then, Ink’s stomach growls. It’s long past time for dinner.
Normally they’d all be enjoying Milkit’s cooking --- all together, everyone.
There’s nobody at the table now. Milkit, Eterna, Sara, they’re all gone.
Flum collapses to her knees, tearing at her hair as she moans.
What’d I do that was so wrong!?
All I did was try to defend myself! Was I supposed to just sit there and get beat on!?
If this is the will of the gods then they’re too cruel!
Did I stray off the proper path somewhere!?
Why is everyone I care about disappearing before my eyes!?
All we did was support each other! All we did was try to grasp happiness, even though the world was determined to beat us down! Is that so wrong!? Should we really be punished for that!?
“Aaagh, aaaaaaaaaahh…! Milkit… Was I not supposed to let you out of my sight…!? But, but that’s…!”
She was close enough that Flum could feel her warmth, but just blinking was enough to lose her.
She can’t win against an opponent that powerful, that unreasonably cruel.
I’m powerless, powerless, powerless…!
She’s just as powerless as she was when she was in the Hero’s party.
Powerless, useless, worthless trash.
“I’m… still in the depths of hell…”
She scratches at the slave mark on her cheek hard enough to draw blood. She feels the pain, the blood glistens on her fingertips, but the curse quickly seals the wound, leaving it the same as always.
“Even if I have this worthless power, I still couldn’t protect her…!”
Ink doesn’t know what she should do, how she should talk to Flum now. She tries to comfort her but the words fail her. Vexed, she can only squeeze her hand.
As she does so, Flum stops whining and turns to face ahead of her.
“I’m going out again.”
“It’s dark and scary out there.”
“I’m going. Don’t leave the house no matter what, okay?”
“...Okay. I’ll wait here.”
The night is black, and running through the streets is hopelessly ineffective.
Unless Flum keeps moving, though, unless she convinces herself that she’s doing absolutely everything she can for Milkit, she knows she’ll go crazy.
By the time Flum returns home the date is on the verge of changing.
She found nothing, of course.
Her powerlessness weighs heavily on her shoulders.
Flum calls out in a thin, weak voice, but there’s no response. Ink must be asleep already. The light on the first floor must only be on to welcome Flum home.
Her body’s reached its limit. She doesn’t even think she can muster the strength to change; all she wants to do is collapse onto the bed and sleep like the dead, not caring even if she never wakes up.
Her heavy feet carry her up the stairs. The second floor is pitch black, so Ink really must be asleep. The door to her room is half-open, however, meaning that she was probably hoping to hear Flum coming home so she could say goodnight.
Just as Flum is about to pass by --- clatter. A sound comes from inside Ink’s room, not once but repeatedly.
“I guess she’s awake after all.”
She was probably planning on startling Flum. The sound seems to be coming from the window frame --- but Flum’s not out there anymore. She shouldn’t have any reason to open the window.
“Ink, I’m home.”
She pokes her head into Ink’s room and knocks softly on the door.
The clattering of the window continues.
“Can I come in?”
She asks again. No reply.
“I’m coming in.”
She feels a little bad about just inviting herself in, but she steps inside anyway.
The first thing Flum spots in that dark room is Ink’s back. For some reason she’s half-hanging out the window, staring down at the alleyway below.
“What’re you doing? Are you looking for Mil---”
Flum talks as she walks up behind Ink, but something causes her to stop dead in her tracks.
--- SPLURURT. SPLURT.
She’s heard that same sound somewhere.
Her body refuses to move.
Her face stiffens.
She catches a whiff of blood and a chill runs down her spine.
It’s impossible. I must be imagining things.
She musters what courage she can and steps forward.
The sound grows only louder --- the raw sound of wet flesh writhing and spewing.
SPLURT… SPLUT… TUNK, THUNKTUNK.
What’s Ink doing?
She doesn’t want to know.
She doesn’t want to see.
But --- she can’t just ignore it.
She takes another step forward.
The sound grows louder again.
She can feel the floorboards creak under her feet.
She swallows hard, her sticky saliva falling down her throat. Sweat wells up from her temples and runs down her jaw to drip to the floor. Her breathing is short and irregular, her mouth hanging open slightly as her lungs refuse to work properly as they spasm. Every sound, every sensation seems so vivid and fresh it makes her stomach churn and her vision swim before her eyes. She almost wishes she could just pass out.
She reaches out.
She grabs the baggy nightgown she lent Ink, taking a handful of loose fabric. Ink finally seems to notice as she turns around.
“SPLURT, SPLURURT… SPLURT.”
Before Flum’s eyes is a spiral of raw flesh.
Just like the ‘ogre’.
It twitches, spasms, spews blood --- but not just that.
Along with the blood comes a torrent of human eyes.
They ooze forth, wriggling through the gaps in the folds of flesh before plummeting to the ground wetly.
Did she make a mistake? Somewhere along the line, did she go astray?
Flum knows the answer now.
Blood stains the front of the nightgown as eyes spill onto the floor.
The sight in front of her taints and stains all her memories of Ink.
“Uu…. ua, aaaa… aaaaaahh!!”
Bile rising in her throat, she squeezes out a wail, sweat and tears pouring freely.
Even seeing Flum’s grief-filled face, though, Ink doesn’t react. She stares at Flum for a while, then turns back to the window to continue spewing eyes into the alleyway below.
“Aahh… ha, hya, a, AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHH!!”
Unable to stand it, Flum screams, bolting from the room and slamming the door behind her.
As if trying to erase what she just bore witness to.
She slams the door to her own room, collapsing her back to the door.
“Hahh, hahh, hahh, hahh…”
She holds her head in her arms, eyes wide, breathing shallow.
The truth can’t be erased that easily.
Squelching, falling, squirming, spewing --- the sounds still reach her ears. She tries to cover them but the sticky sweat covering her palms as they plaster her ears only serves to remind her of that squelching spiral.
Even then, even so, it’s far better than hearing that.
“Why… why… whyyyyyyy…!?”
She doesn’t care who, she just craves an answer. No matter what the answer is she’ll accept it.
But there’s nobody there.
Not Sara, not Otilier, not Milkit, not Eterna, not even Ink.
There’s nobody left in that house.
All that’s left is Flum and that thing that used to be Ink, the thing she believed to be Ink --- that monstrosity.
“Uu… ueh… ha, haaa… ughuh, guh… hagh, haaaahh…”
The sound still reaches her ears.
She’d thought she’d lived through the depths of despair. She thought she’d seen the worst.
But she’d barely scratched the surface.
This, here, is truly, undeniably, the depths of despair.
Sweat, tears, saliva, even the contents of her stomach flow freely.
Flum sits there, unmoving, hands pressed over her ears until the sound stops.
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