OmaeGotoki: Volume 2 015 - Inconvenient Truths
The sound of faint birdsong reaches Flum’s ears. Opening her eyes a crack, she can see a familiar wooden ceiling above her. A blinding ray of light slips through the curtains to land on her arm.
“...It’s morning, I guess.”
Her throat is dry, her voice a little hoarse.
She sits up, scratching at her bedhead as she looks around her. A side table, a desk, another bed, a few other pieces of furniture --- it’s her room, just the way she left it.
“So… last night I jumped into bed as soon as I got back, and then...”
...she fell asleep. That’s all she remembers after coming back home.
Since it was dawn by the time they left the church and it’s morning now…
“...I guess I must’ve slept a whole day away.”
It goes beyond simply ‘oversleeping’, but that just goes to show how tired she must’ve been after the whole ordeal. No matter how much her equipment raises her Stamina, running around fighting for a whole day pushed her body to the limit. At this point her muscles and joints hurt from so much sleep.
“Hnn… Fuaaaa… ahhh… ”
She stretches, letting out a large yawn. Her expression is spacey, proof that she’s still half-asleep. She shakes her head in an attempt to dispel her drowsiness, then stops, her gaze fixed on the bed beside her.
Sound asleep there is a cute, fair-skinned young girl --- Milkit, clad in her nightgown.
Now that she’s paying attention, Flum can tell that the other bed is empty. Maybe Milkit was unable to stand being alone, or maybe she was so worried about Flum she didn’t want to leave her side --- whatever the reason, she’d slipped under Flum’s covers at some point.
“She’s so cute when she’s asleep…”
A fluffy smile on her face, she lightly pokes Milkit’s soft cheeks and softly strokes her hair. Since she’s in her nightgown, she must’ve been awake for a while after returning home.
The question is, though, what happened to Eterna and Gadio --- but most of all, Ink.
Going downstairs would surely answer all of Flum’s questions, but instead she sits there in bed, head bobbing back and forth faintly, waiting for her body to finish waking up. Her idle hands entertain themselves by feeling Milkit’s hair, stroking her cheeks, and lightly tickling her ears. She doesn’t mean to annoy her, but judging from how high the sun is in the sky already it’s high time they were both awake.
“Nnyu… Mas, ter…”
“Hm? Are you awake?”
Flum peers into her face, but her eyes are still closed.
“Hehe, I wonder if she’s dreaming about me?”
“Master… don’t leave me…”
Her sleeptalking causes Flum’s heart to skip a beat, her body temperature rising.
Things being as they are it’d make sense that she’s a little uneasy, but…
“Sneak attacks like that aren’t fair! Uryaurya!”
She rubs her index finger into Milkit’s soft cheek. Finally she seems to wake up, looking up at her master with bleary eyes.
A smile spills naturally onto Flum’s face. Just seeing Milkit and hearing her voice fills her with such pleasant feelings.
“Ah… Good morning, Master.”
The very sight of Flum is enough to put a bright smile on Milkit’s face.
Their presences have grown large in each other’s hearts, far past what would be normal between master and slave, and they’re both plenty aware of that fact now.
“You startled me. I didn’t expect you to be sleeping beside me all of a sudden.”
“I’m very sorry… You were still asleep, and I was so worried about you… I thought you might never wake up...”
“Sorry for worrying you. I was apparently a lot more tired than I thought…”
“You had an awfully hard time, after all.”
“You didn’t exactly have it easy yourself.”
“Oh, no, I was only kidnapped. I really can’t thank you enough for all you’ve done, Master… It must’ve been awfully hard for you, but I believe that it’s all thanks to you that Ink is alright.”
“I couldn’t have done it alone, though.”
“Gadio-san and Eterna-san said that they wouldn’t have been able to do it without you.”
Being complimented by those two, Flum blushes a little from combined embarrassment and happiness.
I’m not worthless, I’m not useless, I’m strong enough that even the Chosen acknowledge me now --- well, she can’t go that far, of course, but she nonetheless takes Gadio and Eterna’s words to heart, feeling a little more self-confident now than before.
“Oh yeah, if Ink’s fine then that means she woke up, right?”
“Yes, she’s resting in Eterna-san’s room as we speak. Eterna-san said that the worst of it should be over, but her condition could suddenly worsen at any point in the next six months at the very least.”
“Six months, huh… It sounds like a long time but I guess it makes sense. I’d never even thought about moving organs from one person to another before.”
Eterna probably didn’t mention anything at the time so as to not dampen the mood when they’d finally caught a glimpse of hope.
“At the very least, she said that we shouldn’t see Ink until the wound has fully closed. She said that there was a risk of ‘infection’ or something along those lines.”
“Hmm… I wish I could go see her right away, but I guess for now it’s enough just knowing she’ll be okay.”
Armed with that knowledge, waiting shouldn’t be that difficult.
A load off Flum’s chest, she and Milkit get out of bed and get dressed.
The clothes she’s wearing were torn up quite badly from all the fighting, but thinking back on all the battles she’s lived through recently her wardrobe is quickly emptying. She’ll have to go out and buy more soon, but for now she just picks something at random.
Turning once in front of the mirror, she sits down to deal with her hair. Milkit, having finished putting on a new maid outfit and wrapping her face, stares at her from behind as she does so.
She seems somewhat nervous.
Today’s maid outfit consists of a navy blue one-piece dress, a simple white apron, and an orthodox hairband --- a very traditional style. It may be a little plain, but everything Milkit wears seems to fit her perfectly.
“Um… There’s something I’d like you to have, Master.”
So saying, she opens a drawer in the side table and pulls something about. She stands there for a moment, eyes closed with a somewhat conflicted expression.
Flum, having no idea what Milkit could be trying to give her, turns around in her chair to watch her.
After spending a few long seconds with her hand clutched in front of her chest, she mumbles “Okay!” to herself and walks over to Flum.
“H-Here it is.”
In Milkit’s open hand lies a small hairpin. The translucent pale blue flower on it glints as it catches the light.
“It’s so cute…! Are you really giving this to me?”
“Y-Yes. I’m sorry for only being able to give you something as simple as this, and I know it’s nothing compared to everything you’ve been so kind as to give me, and… I wanted to give it to you back when you were depressed about Sara-san’s disappearance. I couldn’t find the right timing then, so I’m afraid I’ve just held onto it all this time...”
“I’m happy with whatever you give me whenever you give it to me, Milkit.”
“Master… Thank you. I, um, actually made it myself…”
“You made this!? That’s amazing!”
Milkit nods, embarrassed and blushing.
Flum was ready to treasure it for the rest of her life as her first present from Milkit, but now it’s family-treasure tier.
She almost feels bad using it, but the best thing to do with a present is to put it to good use.
“Thanks! I’m really, reeeeeeaaally happy! I’ll be sure to treasure it!”
“I-It’s really not that important!”
“No, I’ll treasure it and that’s final! Can I put it on right away?”
Parting her bangs to one side, Flum affixes the hairpin. Looking at her new hairstyle in the mirror, she breaks into a smile. Milkit, watching Flum use her present, smiles as well.
Through the mirror their eyes happen to meet, and finding it unexpectedly embarrassing they both look away, blushing.
Descending the stairs, Flum and Milkit find Gadio gazing out the window. He’s in a smart longcoat, marking the first time Flum’s ever seen him wearing anything but his platemail. Despite the fact that he’s only looking out the window he appears quite picturesque.
“Good morning, Gadio-san.”
“Ah, Flum and… Milkit, was it?”
Having her name called, Milkit nervously bows. Even though she’s been spending some time with him since the day before, she’s still not used to his intimidating presence.
“I’m impressed you’re awake so soon after using up that much prana.”
“Sleeping for only a day is impressive…?”
The thought is sobering.
I’ll have to be a little more careful from now on…
“By the way, Gadio-san, is this how you dress normally?”
“Yeah. I suppose you never had a chance to see me like this, since I was always wearing armour on the Journey.”
His platemail isn’t Epic-tiered --- it’s currently in a storage room on the first floor. It wouldn’t be odd for an adventurer of his level to have Epic armour, but he surely has his reasons for sticking with that black plate.
Flum and Gadio sit down facing each other at the dining room table to chat as Milkit pads into the kitchen to start preparing breakfast.
“It may sound a little weird now, but I never would’ve imagined you coming to help me when you did.”
“I never imagined I’d run into you, either, but I was surprised by more than just that. Fighting with that large sword, that slave mark branded on your cheek… What exactly happened after you left us?”
He narrows his eyes slightly as he asks, the look in his eyes somewhat frightening.
As soon as he saw the slave mark he must’ve been able to guess what happened.
“Well, it all started…”
In chronological order, Flum starts explaining everything that happened to her since they parted --- being sold by Jean, finding Milkit and the Zweihander, the fight with the monstrosity in the abandoned research facility including that it was after her and about how she destroyed the Core --- and Gadio listens seriously, occasionally cutting in to ask for clarification. Finally, she finishes telling him about everything that’s happened up until then.
“...And that’s about it.”
Gadio crosses his arms in thought for a long moment.
“So Jean was responsible for it after all… I’d always thought him to be a little self-serving, but I never expected him to go so far. That pride of his is an illness.”
“I’ll never forgive him, but… in the end I think things have turned out okay.”
“Because you met her?”
He casts a glance at Milkit’s back as she works in the kitchen.
“That’s part of it.”
“Only part, huh. You have some other reason?”
“If I was in that party because the Church or Origin had something particular in mind for me… If I’d arrived at the Demon Lord’s castle just as planned, then their plans probably would’ve come to fruition.”
“In other words, Jean inadvertently foiled the Church’s plot.”
What he’s done is still unforgivable, though. The next time they meet, Flum knows the perfect way to kill him without letting him die.
“Come to think of it, you were looking into the Church too, right, Gadio-san?”
“Even before leaving the party they’ve seemed suspicious. Fortunately, an acquaintance of mine on the inside helped me sneak into the Grand Cathedral.”
“T-That’s pretty bold…”
“Hmph, maybe it was a little reckless.”
If even a warrior with his record remembers it with a smile, then it must’ve been quite difficult.
“It was the quickest way to get results, though. I was able to glean a fair bit of information on the Church’s secret history from their archives.”
“That’s why the eyes were chasing you, right?”
“They started coming after me after I started looking into the Children, so that must’ve been the trigger.”
“So if you looked into their history, then… You looked into the Demon War?”
“That was part of it. That and the ‘demon attacks’ that occurred eight and ten years ago.”
“What happened to Sara-chan and Maria-san’s hometowns, right?”
Flum remembers just then that she hasn’t yet heard about where Sara is now, but she decides to not interrupt him yet.
“If by Sara you mean Sara Anvilen, then yes. I don’t know about her, but Maria at least holds a strong grudge against the demons.”
“But if the Church is involved in those incidents, then… does that mean that the Church had some hand in them?”
“They were sloppy to begin with. It’s all too convenient for the Church that the only survivors were child prodigies in healing magic.”
“So paladins did it or something?”
“The records weren’t that precise, but I’m sure they weren’t that stupid.”
“The Church did fake it, though, right?”
“There’s a chance, but remember that Maria was eight years old at the time. She would’ve been able to tell humans from demons at the very least.”
“Come to think of it, you’re right… so did the demons do it after all?”
“That, or humans that somehow disguised themselves. Regardless of who did it, however, the fact is that the Church was involved.”
“Why are you so sure of that?”
“There were other survivors aside from just Sara and Maria.”
“Wait, there are more?”
Flum had never heard anything about that before. Even Sara herself seemed convinced that there was only one survivor per attack.
“All the other survivors were pregnant women --- a total of five between the two attacks were taken in by the Church.”
“Have you noticed? The incidents were eight and ten years ago. In other words, their children would be eight or ten years old now.”
That must mean---
“Those kids… are the Spiral Children?”
“Exactly. The Church got their hands on not only two magic prodigies but five test subjects as well.”
“So that’s what the Church was after…”
“On top of all that, both of the villages attacked worshipped deities other than Origin --- that was likely a factor as well.”
“Three birds with one stone, huh…”
With everything that Gadio has told her up until now, however, there’s one thing that Flum still doesn’t quite understand.
“Why’d they pin it on the demons, though? It’d be a lot easier to just say a giant monster did it.”
It’s not common but certainly not unheard of for towns to get wiped out like that --- although there’s a fair chance that they have a reason for fostering hatred of demons. Granted, within fiction it’s common to make the demons the villains, but this is real life.
“I was able to find that reason in the Cathedral’s records.”
Just how far into the Cathedral did he go in order to get information that detailed? If he’d been found he likely would’ve been killed on the spot. Despite that, however, he talks about what he found almost too casually --- just like Eterna and how she was able to save Ink’s life, he's truly superhuman.
It’s enough to make her feel ashamed to be a Chosen alongside them.
“About fifty years ago now, the previous king became an adherent of the Church of Origin. At almost the same time, he started issuing edicts encouraging the villainization of the demons in fiction.”
“Fiction? Like fairy tales and plays? Why’d he do that?”
“I don’t know for sure. The truth is, though, that after twenty short years the demons were accepted as evil, resentment towards them grew, and the Demon War broke out. Even now, the king may well be attempting to start another war.”
“So that’s why the Church pushed the blame on them. But wait, doesn’t that mean the Demon War is our fault? I learned in school that the demons attacked us.”
“I’m not surprised. That version’s a lot more convenient for them.”
He replies matter-of-factly as Flum lets out a sigh.
“I didn’t think history could be twisted around like that so easily.”
“The Church on its own would be one thing, but they had the aid of the Kingdom in manipulating what reached the ears of the people. It can’t have been easy, but it clearly wasn’t impossible to make sure that a more convenient version of the ‘truth’ got passed down.”
Flum thinks back to what Neigass told her in that cave outside Enchide. It would seem to be true what she said back then, that the humans attacked the demons back then --- which means that she might've been telling the truth when she said they don’t kill humans.
She never would’ve expected the words of demons to be more trustworthy than the Church’s. She lets out a long sigh.
“There’s one more critical thing they’ve been hiding about the War, though.”
“There’s still more?”
“Enough that we could be here all day. The important thing, though, is this --- do you know what the demons asked of humanity after we lost to them?”
“Land… or maybe not. Money or resources?”
“Most victors in war would demand that much, but not the demons. All they asked was that we never start a war with them again --- in effect, a ceasefire.”
The unexpected gap between what she’d always thought of the demons and the truth is enough to make her dizzy.
It’s almost as if the humans are the villains here --- no, that’s surely the truth. Even after challenging the demons once and losing, they still won’t learn, hiding the truth from even themselves.
“Is that still in effect now?”
“It should be.”
“Then isn’t Cyrill-chan… or actually, aren’t all of us Chosen breaking that deal?”
Flum’s question is only natural. Gadio snorts, a fed-up look on his face.
“I have my theory on that, but it’s only a theory. I don’t have any proof to support it.”
“I’d still like to hear it.”
“In effect, that party is just a group of normal people. That’s why it’s so easy to leave.”
“Yeah, I guess you’re right.”
Their allegiances and origins are all over the map --- Gadio and Linus are adventurers, Jean’s a sage, and none of them have any idea where Eterna even came from.
“In other words, we’re at heart a group of random civilians with no connection to the Kingdom itself. There’s nobody to be held responsible for our actions, so we can do whatever we want in the Demon Realm without violating the terms of the ceasefire.”
“Wha… That barely even makes sense!”
“I’d imagine the demons aren’t fooled by it, either. As long as the Kingdom insists we have nothing to do with them, however, the demon’s can’t do much of anything. I suspect that’s why the Three Demon Generals were formed --- the demon counter to the Hero.”
Flum is left speechless.
In that case, the villages getting destroyed near the border are completely the kingdom’s own fault, and the demons’ insistence to not take human lives is almost too kind. There might not be many demons, but they are on average far stronger than humans --- if they felt like it they could probably raze the whole kingdom to the ground overnight.
They don’t want that, though.
They insist on not hurting anyone unless they absolutely need to.
That’s why even with the advance of the Hero’s party dead set on killing their ruler, they react as minimally and peaceably as possible.
The Kingdom is in return doing nothing but taking advantage of their kindness --- or possibly, their naivete. It’s clear who is at fault.
“...I wonder why the Kingdom hates the Demons so much.”
“It’s possible they’re only after their land, but that wouldn’t justify all the trouble they’ve gone through. The truth stands that this all started with the Church --- the only way we’ll get an answer is if we gut them and take a look for ourselves.”
In the end, it all comes back to the Church.
If they want to know the truth of the kingdom’s past, its future, and even the truth of Flum herself, they’ll have to accept the risks and unveil the truth themselves.
It won’t be easy --- not even the help of Gadio and Eterna will be enough to overcome the opponent in front of Flum. Unless she learns it all and crushes the Church’s plot, however, she’ll never be able to live a normal, peaceful life.
“There’s no point in overthinking things now, though. All we can do now is continue to gather what information we can on them.”
“It’s all so frustrating, though…”
“Remember that feeling. It’ll help you keep pressing forward.”
Just as their conversation starts to lighten, Milkit places the bread on the table, enough for four. Ink’s portion must be separate.
“It looks like it’s about time for breakfast. We can continue this talk later.”
“Wait just a moment, Gadio-san, there’s still one more thing I’ve got to ask you!”
At the last moment, Flum remembers to ask him the thing she’s been most concerned about.
His brow furrows slightly.
He said she’s okay, so what’s wrong?
Flum herself starts to grow nervous.
“Is there someone with her right now?”
“You could say that.”
“Is she with a friend of yours?”
“I wouldn’t say that. I’ve talked with her before, but…”
Strangely enough, Gadio seems to be perplexed, his meaning unclear.
Maybe it’s just hard for him to say who it is…
Hardening her resolve, Flum decides to ask.
“No matter what sort of situation Sara-chan’s in, I promise I can accept it. Please, Gadio-san, just tell me.”
“She’s safe, no doubt about it. She’s not hurt, ill, or in any sort of danger. But the person with her is, well…”
“Who is it?”
Gadio folds his arms and sits in silence for a moment.
Finally, he sighs and opens his mouth to speak.
“Neigass of the Three Demon Generals.”
The last name she was expecting.
She shouts out loud in surprise.
Milkit twitches in surprise at the sudden noise, and out of the plate she’s holding spills a lone sausage.
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