OmaeGotoki: Volume 3 002 - Reason To Fight

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“I didn’t know you had a kid, Gadio-san.”

“No, she’s… How many times do I have to tell you not to call me papa, Hallom?”

Gadio gives the little girl, evidently named Hallom, a pat on the head. He acts naturally enough that they clearly look like father and daughter --- but if Gadio denies it, then they must not be related by blood.

“Papa’s Papa! Even Mama says so!”

Hallom puffs out her cheeks in anger. Just as Gadio gives her a bitter smile, a red-haired woman about the same age as him steps outside.

“Welcome home, Gadio.”

“I’m back, Kereina.”

Their exchange makes them look just like husband and wife.

“Isn’t it about time you just let her call you Papa already?”

“I can’t. I don’t know what I’d tell Souma.”

“So it’s Souma this time? Yesterday it was Tia. Seriously, there’s being proper and then there’s this…”

“We’ll continue this later. I brought a guest.”

“Ah!”

Kereina seems to notice Flum standing there for the first time.

“Sorry for leaving you out of the conversation like that. Wait, you aren’t Flum-chan, are you? Gadio talks about you all the time! He says you’ve got real promise.”

Flum blushes slightly, more than a little embarrassed, though she doesn’t take it at all seriously. Until just a little while ago she was a status-zero, powerless little girl, after all.

“How about we bring the conversation inside? The parlour’s fine, right, Gadio?”

“Yeah. It’d be best if we weren’t disturbed.”

“Ahh, so you’re telling her about that. Got it.”

“Ehhh, Hallom thought she’d finally get to play with Papa!”

Gadio picks up the pouting Hallom and hands her to Kereina. She’s probably six or seven years old, but both of them handle her as though she weighs nothing. Judging from the scars on Kereina’s arms she’s likely a retired adventurer --- she and Gadio might’ve been party members at one point.

“Papa promises he’ll play with you later, but Mama will play with you now, okay?”

“Playing with Mama’s boring! Hallom wants Papa!”

Kereina plants the writhing and flailing Hallom onto her shoulders, unfazed by the girl’s antics. The two of them disappear inside the mansion.

Unable to keep up with their conversation from start to finish, Flum watches their backs in a daze.

“Let’s go.”

“U-Uh, yeah…”

Flum has to hurry to keep up with Gadio’s massive stride as he heads inside.


◇◇◇


The walls of the parlour are covered with expensive-looking paintings, and a crystal chandelier hangs from the ceiling. The sofa is deceptively soft, and Flum sinks into it far deeper than she’d expected as she sits down.

Everything in the mansion is opulent to the point of excess. The decorating sense clearly doesn’t match the Gadio she knows.

“I was planning on just talking about the Church and giving you some equipment, but it looks like you have a few questions for me now.”

Gadio sighs as he sits down across from her.

“Equipment?”

“Stuff in the storehouse that we gathered some while back. Some of it’s cursed, so I thought you might be able to use it.”

“Wait, really!?”

“I certainly can’t use it.”

“Thanks. I guess I’ll take you up on your offer, then.”

Most adventurers simply throw away any cursed equipment they find, but a few pieces make their way around the Capital as collector’s items. She spots them on display in store windows every now and then, but she’s never really seen anything she’s content with. Since it’s not every day that she gets a chance to root through mountains of corpses, Gadio’s offer is welcome indeed.

“We’ll leave that for later, though. I’m sure you’re curious about Kereina and Hallom.”

“Yeah, you could say that.”

Kereina isn’t his wife and Hallom isn’t his child, and yet the three are living together quite comfortably. Flum’s head is about to burst with all her theories as to why that could be.

“Kereina was my best friend Souma’s wife, and Hallom is their daughter. Souma himself was killed by a monster six years ago.”

That alone is enough for Flum to figure things out. Since Hallom is about seven years old now, she probably doesn’t remember her real father. Gadio likely took on the role of her surrogate father, and chances are Kereina sees him as…

“If he was your best friend, then Souma-san was probably really strong, right?”

“Far stronger than me, at any rate. He held our party together as our leader and always bravely lead the charge.”

“Your old party…”

“Me, Souma, Kereina, Tia, Jane, Rowe --- we were truly the perfect team. With three S-rank and three A-rank adventurers, we were convinced that we were invincible.”

They probably right --- just having three S-rank adventurers would’ve made them the strongest party in the Kingdom.

“Originally, this house was built for the six of us to live together in.”

“You were that close, huh?”

“Just being with them was all I ever wanted… Tia and I were newlyweds back then. I’ve never been happier in all my life.”

The reflection of Gadio’s face in the polished table is filled with sorrow.

“I never knew you were married.”

“I was against it at first since Souma was already married, though. Ironically, she died not long after we swore our vows --- and it was all because I was too weak.”

Gadio spits the words out with self-loathing.

“So all six of you were living here together? What happened to everyone else?”

“Six years ago, we took on a quest to hunt a dragon. We were all convinced that it’d be so easy, that we’d be home in a flash… Kereina was waiting for us here with young Hallom, after all. When we finally met the beast, though, we realized it wasn’t a normal dragon at all.”

He takes a deep breath, a bitter look in his eyes.

“It had a hideous spiral of flesh for a face.”

“Wait, so you fought one of those monstrosities six years ago!?”

Flum raises her voice in shock and pitches forward in her seat, and Gadio wordlessly nods.

“It took us by surprise. Before we’d even realized what was happening, Jane and Rowe were dead. Souma fought bravely, but in the end he was ‘spiralled’ and turned into mincemeat from inside his armour. Tia took a blow through the heart protecting me… I was the only survivor.”

Six years later, he still regrets the events of that day. It’ll likely haunt him as long as he lives. Even if someone were to forgive him for his weakness, he’ll never be able to forgive himself.

“I barely managed to escape with my life, only to find all my colleagues blame me as a weakling and a traitor, hence ‘Gadio the Coward’. I can’t blame them, though, since it’s the truth. I left my party members, my best friend, even my wife behind that day, walking into the Capital as though nothing had happened --- nobody deserves that title more than I do.”

Gadio grits his teeth and tightly balls his fists.

“I went back to the place we were attacked later, hoping to at least give them a proper burial, but all that was left was Souma’s sword and armour. I wasn’t even able to return with my own wife’s corpse…”

Frustration and regret are thick in his voice.

Ever since then he’s been using Souma’s sword and armour, determined never to forget his failure.

“I tried to bury myself in the way of the warrior, determined to grow strong enough that I wouldn’t make the same mistake ever again, but the emptiness wouldn’t leave me --- it still hasn’t.”

Flum is at a loss for words. She’s learned more about him in the past few minutes than she has in the past six months, but now that she knows she doesn’t know what to say.

After a long moment in thought---

“No matter what happened in the past, Gadio-san, you’re no less of a hero now. You’re not a coward!”

Her words are neither a poison nor an antidote --- a sense of irritation rises at her own ineptitude.

Her feelings must’ve reached him, however, as his expression relaxes and he grows a little more at ease.

“You really are kind, aren’t you?”

“N-No, I...”

“Let’s leave the gloomy talk at that move on to the main topic, shall we?”

“About the Church, right? Did you figure out anything else?”

“There’re still a few things I discovered from those Grand Cathedral documents I haven’t told you about yet. It might’ve been best to tell you everything right after the fighting ended, but it was all I could do to memorize a few things before being chased out of the Cathedral. I wanted a little time to think things over first.”

After he got information on the Children those eyes had started pursuing him. The fact that he was able to memorize yet more information in such a state is plenty impressive.

“I haven’t quite finished sorting through everything yet, but I did manage to learn that there are three research teams working with the Cores.”

“Yeah, I heard that there were multiple teams from Otilier-san. One of them’s the Spiral Children, right?”

“From what I could tell, they’re just referred to as the ‘Children’ within the Church. The other two are ‘Necromancy’ and ‘Chimaera’.”

“Just the names send shivers down my spine…”

It’s easy to imagine the kinds of horrific experimentation the other two teams are conducting.

“Necromancy seems to be attempting to use the Cores’ power to turn corpses into weapons. Their leader is a man named Daffyd Sharmas.”

“Ah, him --- Otilier-san mentioned that she’d seen him and another researcher, Echidna, around the Grand Cathedral.”

“Echidna’s heading the Chimaera project, apparently. From what I’ve seen all the teams also have a cardinal overseeing them.”

“The cardinals are the second most powerful people in the Church after the Pope, right? I think I heard there were five of them…”

“Of them, Tarch Kanswalker oversees the Children, though on the surface he only oversees the Church’s lands and infrastructure.”

“Two jobs at once… You think the Church’s short-staffed?”

“They can’t go making anyone a cardinal, after all, and there’s a chance that they really are just keeping an eye on things. The researchers seem to have complete control over their respective projects --- I can’t imagine them condoning Mother disposing of Ink like that.”

The Church has been keeping their human experimentation top secret. They wouldn’t have allowed Ink to fall into Flum’s hands like that if they had any say in the matter.

“To be fair, I wouldn’t leave anyone insane enough to do research like that without a babysitter, either.”

“The Church are the insane ones for conducting that research in the first place… but we’re getting off topic. The Chimaera research team is trying to stitch the bodies of different things together into a single creature and bring it alive through the Cores’ power.”

“So Necromancy’s trying to make Cores to fit the bodies and Chimaera’s trying to make bodies to fit the Cores, huh? It sounds like they all have their own unique approach… So which cardinal’s in charge of Chimaera?”

“Slowanach Seitie, the man in charge of the priests and priestesses.”

“Another double-duty… Did you figure out who the leaders of the Children project are?”

“The names Mike Smithy and Falmo Fimio were written there. I’ve heard that Falmo is the cardinal overseeing research on healing magic.”

“That seems to be a pretty obvious fit. Mike Smithy’s probably Mother’s real name, then.”

“Most likely. He probably took the name to hide his identity --- or rather, to immerse himself in his role, from what you’ve told me.”

“I only got to talk with him for a little while, but I could tell he had a few screws loose. Now that we have a name, though, it should be easier to track him down. If it’s his real name there should definitely be a lead or two in the Captial.”

“Yes, I plan on tracking down this Mike Smithy first. He should be panicking now that he’s lost his lab, which is good news for us.”

That’s what makes the most logical sense, but something strikes Flum as a little off.

“Umm… So the team that killed your friends six years ago was probably created by Chimaera, right?”

“They’re the only ones making monsters, after all.”

That means that Chimaera must’ve been at work for at least six years. The lab at Enchide was abandoned about ten years ago, but the chances that it also belonged to them are high.

“You’re wondering why I’m not chomping at the bit to hunt down Chimaera, is that it?”

Flum nods vigorously.

They’ve killed both his best friend and his wife. There’s no way he isn’t holding a grudge.

“True, I do hate them. Now that it’s clear they’re the ones responsible, I have every intention of hunting them down and destroying them no matter what. At the same time, though, I have no intention of allowing Children or Necromancy to continue either. As far as I’m concerned they’re all equally guilty.”

His voice, low and heavy, is laden with hatred.

“Eventually I’ll crush the Church itself. That’s the sole reason I’ve become as strong as I am now.”

He was a plenty competent adventurer back with his old party, but he was nowhere near the level he is now. After losing everything six years ago, he literally put his blood, sweat, and tears into training himself, finally becoming the Gadio he is today.

His anger fuelled him every step of the way. Even when he didn’t know who he was fighting it was a great source of strength, but now that the enemy is within reach his blood must be boiling.

“What about you, Flum?”

“What do you mean?”

“We still don’t know what they’re really after, but the reason you were forced into that Journey was because of ‘Reversal’, the only thing that can stop those monstrosities. They probably haven’t given up on you yet.”

“Yeah, I can’t imagine they’d leave me alone now.”

The Church is one thing, but even Origin itself desires her power. Judging from the fact that her name was in that notebook she found outside Enchide, it’s probably been after her since her days in her hometown, since she was only a child, always. It won’t give up easily.

“You’ll have to deal with it whether you want to or not, but there’s a difference between fighting and just defending yourself. Can you really keep fighting them with just the determination you have now?”

His expression is harsh, but his thoughts are kind.

She may have suddenly gained the strength to fight, but that doesn’t mean she has the resolve to handle whatever comes her way.

Violence destroys not just bodies but hearts as well.

Gadio is simply worried that if she keeps fighting as she is now, she’ll crack sooner or later.

“I’m not just defending. I have something I need to protect.”

Her voice is filled with resolve.

She has someone supporting her.

Flum doesn’t feel as though she’s grown any stronger personally --- it’s because there’s someone supporting her, a home to return to, that she’ll be able to fight as long as she needs to.

“I have Milkit, and I’m still determined to live a normal life with her here in the Capital someday. If I have to fight for that, then I’ll fight. I’m sure I’m not anywhere near as determined as you are, but I’ve made up my mind to do this.”

“For her, huh…? In other words, you’re fighting for…”

Gadio is about to say something, but realizing how crass it’d sound coming from him he stops himself.

“Nevermind, there’s no point in me saying it. That should be more than enough motivation, though.”

“Yeah. You can feel free to rely on me instead of trying to shoulder everything on your own, y’know.”

“I suppose I’ll be counting on you, then.”

Gadio’s expression relaxes, and following suit Flum grins.


◇◇◇


Having finished talking about the Church, Gadio shows her the way to the mansion’s storeroom.

The tiled floor of the impressively long hallway is polished to the point that it’s almost blinding. The vases, busts, and even doors that line the hallways are opulent enough that they’d probably feel right at home in an art gallery. Just one of the vases probably costs as much as Flum’s entire house.

“It’s down these stairs.”

Descending the stairs and opening the door at their foot, they arrive in room filled with all manner of equipment. The mannequins are clad in everything from dresses to robes, from leather armour to platemail of a staggering variety of sizes and designs. The shelves are filled with helmets, headbands, gauntlets, shin guards, boots, brooches, and too many more defensive items to possibly count. Glass cases are packed with an incredible assortment of accessories. Longswords, shortswords, greatswords, spears, hammers, maces, staves, bows and more line the walls.

Flum casually casts Scan on a few items to find a large amount of Legendary and even some Epic equipment mixed in with the others. The contents of this room is undeniably many times the cost of the mansion above.

“T-This is amazing…!”

“I thought of getting rid of them since I can’t use them all, but my memories always get in the way in the end.”

The equipment that his old allies used are probably somewhere in the horde.

Flum didn’t come for anything in that room, however --- Gadio tells her that what she’s looking for is beyond the door in the back.

A huge pile of equipment dominates the back room, along with the powerful raw stench of blood. Just like Flum’s own Bloodied Steel Gauntlets, there are probably a number of items in the pile that won’t come clean of the blood they’re steeped in.

“Rowe had a hobby of collecting cursed stuff like this. Nothing in here’s normal, I’m sure.”

“He sounds like he was a bit of a weirdo…”

“We kept telling him to throw this stuff out. I never thought I’d ever see it be useful…”

There’s a hint of nostalgia in Gadio’s voice. This mansion is likely filled with happy memories for him --- and that’s exactly why it’s so hard for him.

Flum reaches out to the pile of equipment. One by one, she casts Scan on everything she sees. Some of them tremble faintly on their own, some of them have wrinkles that look eerily like human faces, some of them scream into her mind just by touching them, and after she and the cursed items stare each other down for a while she picks up a helmet.

“Find anything good?”

“I’ve got to admit, there’re some pretty powerful curses in this stuff.”

“It sounds like that’s making it hard for you to decide.”

“I’d like something Epic, if possible… Ah, you’re fine with that, right?”

“The higher the tier, the stronger the curse, and the more useless it is to me.”

“That’s a relief.”

“You’re fine with anything Epic, are you?”

“Well, no… Take this helmet, for example.”

She shows the helmet in her hands to Gadio. It’s made from a pitch-black metal and covered in a number of sickly purple splotches, and its overall shape is twisted and warped.

“It’s so weirdly-shaped that I’d barely be able to see out of it. There’s probably some creepy reason for it, but…”

She opens and closes the ill-fitting faceguard a few times.

“True, you couldn’t use that as a helmet. Maybe it was a sculpture or something that got cursed somehow. If you could sense your opponent’s presence, though, barely being able to see wouldn’t be a problem.”

“I’m not that good yet.”

Maybe if the raised her Intuition stat enough she could use it, but since it’s currently useless to her she puts it down with a clunk that sounds oddly like a resentful wail. Pretending not to hear anything, she continues digging through the pile.

“Hm? This is…”

The next thing she pulls out is a leather belt.

Name: The Shrieking Masochist’s Leather Belt
Tier: Epic
[This equipment lowers your Stamina by 363]
[This equipment lowers your Agility by 212]
[This equipment lowers your Intuition by 749]
[This equipment robs you of your resistance to poison]
[This equipment amplifies your pain]

Its somewhat unsettling name aside, it looks like a normal double-pin belt aside from the fact that the colour of the leather looks maybe a little on the rich side. The odd colouration might be due to blood, but since it doesn’t smell like it Flum doesn’t put any more thought into it. Judging from its length and width, it looks like it’s purely decorational.

It looks perfectly normal --- and if she starts hears screams out of nowhere later, well, she’ll cross that bridge when she comes to it.

“It has a pain-amplifying curse on it. Are you sure that’s what you want?”

Gadio watches skeptically as she tries the belt on.

Then, Flum suddenly drives her fist into the stone floor. The skin on her knuckles splits and she can distinctly hear and feel the cracking of bone, but her injury heals a second later and she seems unperturbed.

“Huh… I barely even felt that.”

Seeing her almost too willing to harm herself, Gadio furrows his brow.

“Pain is your body’s built-in limiter, you know. Don’t go doing anything stupid now that you don’t feel it.”

“I know, I know. It’s not like it didn’t hurt at all, and I’ll admit that I maybe went a little too far just now…”

Gadio’s worries are far from alleviated, however.

From what he could tell from her battle with Dane’s subordinates, her fighting style is borderline suicidal, maybe a side effect of only being able to fight in extreme close-quarters. True, the way she fights with such abandon is extremely unnerving to her opponents at the very least --- but the bodies of normal humans their bodies aren’t that disposable. There’s a chance it might affect her psyche.

I just hope she doesn’t get even more reckless now that she doesn’t have to worry about the pain…

Name: The Maniacal Massacrist’s Damascus Gauntlets
Tier: Epic
[This equipment lowers your Strength by 1,312]
[This equipment lowers your Magic by 674]
[This equipment lowers your Intuition by 377]

While Gadio is worrying, Flum has already moved onto the next piece of cursed gear.

The next thing she puts on is a pair of wicked-looking metal gauntlets. The fingertips end in pitch-black clawlike spikes. Given all the black metal in the pile and even as per her own Zweihander, maybe all metal blackens after absorbing enough resentment.

Flum is currently using the Bloodied Steel Gauntlets, but now that she’s got her hands on Epic-tier gauntlets she’ll have to retire them. She feels a strange sense of attachment to them, since they’re the first cursed equipment she’d gotten her hands on after meeting Milkit --- but when she stops for a moment to think she realizes it’s weird to feel that way about some bloody old gauntlets.

Just as she tries to figure out what to do with them, Gadio makes a suggestion.

“Those are cursed, aren’t they? You can leave them here if you don’t need them anymore.”

“Thanks, I think I’ll take you up on that.”

Thanking her old gauntlets for everything up until then, she puts them to rest on the very top of the pile.

Concentrating on her two new pieces of gear, the belt and greaves fade into motes of light. Two new crests appear on the backs of her hands, and rolling up her shirt she finds a slightly different-looking crest there right below her navel.

With this, Flum has gotten her hands on four pieces of cursed equipment. All together---

Strength  : 2,036
Magic     : 1,267
Stamina   : 1,572
Agility   : 1,164
Intuition : 1,315

---her stat total has become 7,354, right in the middle of A-Rank. Compared to when Jean sold her into slavery, she’s like an entirely different person. Even now she can feel mana coursing through her veins and her senses sharpened to new heights.

“Alright, then, I guess I’ll be taking these two home.”

“If that’s what you decided, then go ahead. I’ve got to admit, though, being able to reverse enchantments must be useful. Cursed equipment gives far greater penalties than normal equipment gives, and in turn that means your equipment counts for a lot more.”

“Trust me, it has its drawbacks.”

Most people can grow stronger by training and through combat, but her stats can’t increase that way. Being able to use cursed equipment is certainly nice, but without it she wouldn’t be able to hold her own against even an F-Rank monster.

“I wish Reversal would make it so I could get stronger by just lazing around and stuffing my face with junk food…”

“Reality isn’t that kind, though, huh?”

“I wish it was, though. It’s not like it’d hurt anyone.”

Gadio lets out a short snort of laughter.

“You’ve got that right,” he mumbles morosely to himself.


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