OmaeGotoki: Volume 3 003 - A Chunk Of Meat Perfect For Carving
As soon as they emerge from the basement, they find Hallom waiting in ambush to jump into Gadio’s chest.
“Papa, play with Hallom!”
Evidently her selfishness-gauge has maxed out.
Kereina jogs down the corridor to catch up with them, a troubled look on her face.
“Hallom, you can’t just abandon me halfway through hide-and-seek!”
“You let a child fool you? You’ve lost your edge, Kereina.”
“I can’t help it, she’s gotten really good lately! Unless I really hide she finds me right away!”
She raises her voice to hide her embarrassment.
“You’re not busy now, right, Papa? You’re done talking, right?”
“I am, but you’re being rude to our guest.”
Gadio gives her an affectionate pat on the head, but Hallom’s mood doesn’t improve.
“You really like Gadio-san, don’t you, Hallom-chan?”
“Yeah! Hallom loves Papa!”
“It looks like I’m not wanted here anymore. In that case, I’ll just show myself out. I wouldn’t want to be in the way.”
“Eh? You’re going home, Oneechan? Play with us!”
Flum was sure that Hallom thought she was in the way, but that doesn’t seem to be the case after all.
“No troubling our guest, Hallom. I’m sorry she’s such a handful, Flum-chan.”
“No, I don’t mind. I’d be willing to play with her for a while… i-if it’s not a problem, that is.”
“Any help would be welcome, trust me.”
After that Hallom leads Flum to her room by the hand, and by the time she finally lets Flum go the sun has already begun to set.
After politely refusing an invitation to dinner and leaving Gadio’s mansion, Flum lets out a large sigh.
“Where do kids get all that stamina…?”
Even with the stat increases of her new equipment she feels exhausted.
Milkit’s probably waiting at home with dinner, however. Not wanting to waste even a second, she hurries towards the West Quarter.
“Oh? Is that you, Flum-san?”
Not long after she starts running, however, someone calls out to her. Turning, she finds Reach standing there, whom she hadn’t seen since after the incident in Enchide. He’s wearing a relatively plain white shirt and a black vest, and judging from the fact that he’s alone and empty-handed he’s probably out for an evening stroll.
“It looks like you were just visiting Gadio-san’s mansion, am I right?”
“Something like that… but I don’t remember ever mentioning him to you.”
“Come, now, I’ve heard the rumours that you’ve been living with Eterna Rinebow. I must admit I had no idea that you were one of the Chosen when I asked you to pick those herbs for me, but I’m not so dull as to not know now. You’re quite the troublemaker, not telling me something so important when we first met.”
He gives her a joking smile.
“Please don’t call me that. I might be a Chosen on paper but I’m nowhere near that level.”
“I don’t know your circumstances, but you’re a Chosen in my eyes for saving my wife.”
“Flattery’ll get you nowhere… Speaking of which, how is she?”
“Thanks to you, she’s doing a lot better now. My wife was overjoyed. She said it’s just like magic.”
“...That’s not funny, you know.”
“Yes, I can assure you I wasn’t laughing at the time.”
He never told his wife, Foie, that he went behind the Church’s back to get illegal medicine. She was apparently perceptive enough to realize the truth, though.
“Ah, Reach-san. Fancy running into you here.”
As Flum and Reach talk, a gaudily-dressed woman approaches them.
Her red coat is trimmed with plush fur, and a number of large corsages adorn her dress. Her nails glimmer with a myriad of different colours and her fingers are laden with enough large gems that a punch from her would probably be quite painful, but most of all her opal hair stands out as it shimmers slightly in the light. Her face is covered in thick makeup and her perfume is strong enough to be paralyzing.
“Out for a walk, Satils-san?”
Reach smiles at her and the two muscular armed men standing half a step behind her. Unlike with Flum, however, his smile is clearly a fake ‘business smile’. She’s famous enough that even a country bumpkin like Flum knows who she is.
Satils Francoise --- a business magnate and Reach’s rival of sorts.
“Yes, I thought I’d get a bit of air. If taking a little walk means that I can meet you, Reach-san, then maybe I should consider making this routine. Might I ask if that slave there is yours?”
Satils gives Flum a mercilessly frigid look --- the look of someone quite used to the ‘proper way’ to deal with slaves.
“Of course not. She’s quite a respectable adventurer.”
“Is that so? She looks perfectly defenseless to me. Any quest that can be completed by the likes of her mustn’t be anything that impressive.”
“You can’t judge people on appearances and numbers alone. If nothing else, I trust her completely.”
Not remembering having done anything with that much trust, Flum squirms in discomfort.
Her interest apparently piqued by Reach’s words, Satils studies Flum from top to bottom. Partway through her inspection her brow furrows slightly. She must’ve cast Scan on her.
“...If you trust her, Reach-san, I suppose she must be plenty respectable.”
“She’s quite dependable, I assure you.”
“If she wasn’t yours I was planning on using her since her face isn’t half-bad, but I suppose I’ll have to give up.”
Flum cocks her head to the side in confusion. She has no idea what Satils could possibly mean by ‘using’ a slave. If nothing else, though, Flum’s instincts tell her not to get too close to the woman no matter what.
“Ahh, cute slaves are so hard to come by these days… If you come across anyone good you’ll introduce me, won’t you?”
“I’m afraid I’m rather against slavery as a whole.”
“Really? What a waste. You’ll never find anything else so entertaining, I promise. I know, why don’t I show you my favorite place the next time I go shopping? Maybe seeing it in person will change your mind, ufufufufu!”
Leaving behind only a bewitching laugh, she turns around and leaves.
As soon as she passes out of sight, Flum lets out a sigh of relief.
“That was Satils Francoise, wasn’t it?”
“Yes. As I’m sure you could tell, she’s quite the ill-natured old she-devil.”
Flum does a double-take at Reach’s surprisingly vicious words.
“I-I don’t think I’ve ever heard you talk like that about anyone…”
“She might run fashion boutiques and bookstores on the surface, but I can assure you she’s involved in all sorts of unpleasant business.”
As if he truly hates her guts, he doesn’t even try to sugarcoat his words.
“If you know that much you should be able to report her, though, right?”
“Of course I’ve looked into her black market dealings, and I even have proof of what she’s done. Unfortunately, she’s got strong ties with the Church, and I’m sure they could counter any evidence I could possibly offer. Worse, if I’m not careful, they might even come after me.”
“You know quite a bit about the Church.”
“They were supposedly quite opposed to my family’s medicine dealings when my parents ran the estate, and even now they try to control my business dealings. They’re quite the thorn in my side.”
The Church frequently pushes their agenda onto others, even if they end up harming the common folk in the process. Reach certainly isn’t the only merchant to have been stymied by their plans. The fact that the Church still goes unchecked is testament to their incredible influence.
“Similarly, it’s thanks to them that the likes of Satils can just do as they please. In fact, I’d heard that until just recently she was in association with a black market slave merchant. Apparently she’d bought a fair number of slaves from him.”
“Why would she do that instead of buying slaves legally?”
“Given all the regulations and the like, there are fewer and fewer new slaves every year, I’ve heard. In order to get slaves that respond well --- in other words, fresh slaves that haven’t given up yet, she has to go through more illegal routes.”
“Slaves ‘respond well’...? You make it sound like she tortures them.”
“That’s what she does with them, you know. Satils takes a sort of perverse pleasure destroying beautiful things.”
Reach is almost unnervingly knowledgeable about her. He’s probably been looking into her quite thoroughly.
“That’s how it was until recently, at any rate. Apparently the slave merchant she’d been dealing with was found dead a short while ago. It’s not rare to hear of masters being killed by their slaves, but I heard that in this case his body was in a truly awful state and there were a number of other bodies at the scene. I can’t say the man didn’t deserve it, however...”
Reach’s description of the scene rings a bell with Flum --- or rather, there’s a fair chance she was the one responsible.
“Recently I’ve been trying to find a way to change the laws and make slavery illegal, but… Are you alright, Flum-san? You’ve frozen up.”
“Eh? Ah, no, uh… It’s nothing.”
Her heart isn’t in her response.
Part of the reason is because he suddenly brought up her first murder, but more than that she’s curious about one little thing. A dead slave merchant, illegal slaves, and someone who takes loves ruining beauty --- something about that combination strikes Flum as harrowingly familiar.
What if… what if that Satils woman is Milkit’s former master…?
If she’s right, then Satils is the one who poisoned Milkit’s face.
Rage bubbles up from within her. She turns to glare in the direction Satils disappeared in. She’s hit with the urge to chase her down and hack her apart, but with a deep breath Flum manages to calm herself.
The fact that she hurt Milkit still remains.
She can feel a sinister black flame start to burn in her chest, a cruel hatred that surprises even Flum herself.
“...I’ve got to kill her.”
She mutters to herself quietly enough that Reach can’t hear her, clenching her fist tightly enough to bleed.
Reach, surprised by Flum’s sudden murderous aura, nervously taps her on the shoulder.
“...Are you sure you’re alright?”
He taps her on the shoulder.
She slowly turns to face him, and by the time her eyes meet his she’s smiling cheerfully.
“Ah, sorry. I kinda spaced out for a moment there.”
“T-That’s, uh, good to hear… You seem a little different from the last time we met.”
So much has happened since last they met. It really wasn’t all that long ago, but to Flum it already feels like the distant past.
“I’ve found what I need to do now, that’s all. Back then I was still trying to work everything out.”
She looks down at her palm as she talks.
She’s been thinking a lot about what she and Milkit really need for a normal life.
She doesn’t want or need anything special, just normalcy.
To be honest she hates killing people, and she hates making so many unpleasant memories and tearing her own body to shreds. She really, really hates it.
Even so, she has no choice.
In order to deal with the Church and how they treat everyone around them like garbage, it’s necessary for her to return the favour and mow them down like weeds. If it’s to destroy Origin, the source of all her misfortune, she has no reservations whatsoever about carving herself up.
“No matter how much I complain about how unfair it is, they won’t just disappear. I have to push back even harder.”
“You’re probably right --- there’s no such thing as the strong standing up for the weak, in the end. Everyone is simply too determined to push their own agendas for any change to really occur. As long as there are still ‘the strong’ and ‘the weak’, even if they switch places the same tragedies will repeat themselves all over again. It’s a sad part of human nature.”
“Exactly. That’s why I believe that one side has to go.”
“I owe you a lot, Flum-san, so if you ever need my help you can consider it yours. Try not to carry too heavy a burden by yourself.”
“Don’t worry, there are people who’ll support me. I’d really rather not get you wrapped up in all this, Reach-san.”
Reach simply laughs in response.
“It’s far too late for that. The Church already has their eye on me, and on top of that a journalist friend of mine is gathering what information she can.”
“A journalist… As is, a newspaper journalist?”
There are a fair number of newspapers in the Capital. Some report recent events, some are oriented towards adventurers, and the Church even has a paper for publishing their own news. In the end, though, all papers go through a censor, one who doesn’t allow for any anti-Church sentiments to be published.
Whoever his journalist friend is, she must be outside the Church’s censors’ reach.
“In fact, why don’t I introduce you two? Welthy!”
As soon as he calls her name, a young woman in a deerstalker cap pokes her head out from behind a nearby corner. Her tight-fitting clothes seem to suit her quite well, and after a quick wave to Flum she quickly trots over to them.
“This is Welthy Mankathy.”
“Hey! It’s great to finally meetcha, Flum-chan!”
She cheerfully holds out her hand for a handshake, but Flum is more concerned about why she was hiding.
“Makathy…? Are you two siblings?”
“Hold on, Niisan, whaddya mean ‘unfortunately!?”
She glares at Reach, but with a little “Anyhow” he changes the subject
“She may seem unreliable, but I assure you she’s a good journalist if nothing else.”
“Hey, didja forget I’m the one who figured out Satils was sending all those herbs to the Church!?”
“Herbs? As in, medicinal herbs? Why would the Church…?”
“I dug up a buncha stuff about how there’s no guarantee they won’t catch any of those sicknesses that can’t be cured with magic, but considering how much they’re getting they’re prolly after something else, y’know?”
“We don’t know all the facts yet so we can't do anything with that information, but it should serve as a bargaining chip at the very least.”
Reach’s tone is almost too light for such a conversation.
“By the way, Niisan, arencha making those two wait a little long dawdling here like this?”
“Hm? Ahh, you’re right… You wouldn’t believe it, Flum-san, but the old couple that owned the house I gave you are currently waiting for me.”
“They’re not asking for their house back, right?”
“No, of course not. That house is yours by rights. I’m quite surprised to hear from them given how old they must be now, though. To be honest I’m shocked they’re still alive.”
Her house’s former owners --- Flum is quite curious about them, but she can’t stop him when he’s in such a rush.
“I’m afraid I’ll have to leave you now, then. Welthy, give her your card.”
“Yeah, sure, here! I’ve been spending a lotta time sniffing around Satils for clues recently, but if you come across anything you come right to me, got it?”
Welthy hands Flum a roughly palm-sized business card. Flum takes it without thinking, but a moment later she realizes that it’s completely blank. She cocks her head to the side in confusion, and in response Welthy gives her an impish grin and casts a bit of magic on it.
The paper’s surface ripples slightly as it fills itself with words. Her paper’s name, her address, the words ‘News Journalist’, her full name, and in the remaining space a quick mugshot of Welthy herself appear on the card. The mugshot especially, though, is far too precise to be a drawing, almost as though Welthy herself had crawled onto the card’s surface.
“Letters, pictures, scenery, if I’ve seen it I can mark it down just like that! The journalist who’ll expose all the world’s secrets, that’s me, Welthy Mankathy! Again, it’s great to meetcha!”
Leaving behind something oddly like a catchphrase, Welthy proudly disappears behind a nearby corner.
Holding the business card up to the dark sky to try to get a better look, Flum reads it again.
“A journalist, huh…?”
They say the pen’s mightier than the sword, but what could a pen do against the Church?
Even if she’s a bit of an unknown, though, it’s reassuring to know Flum has a new ally now.
Shoving the card into her pocket, Flum finally heads back home.
Milkit tilts the watering can into the planter outside their house, watering the plants growing there. After she finishes, she crouches down to admire the cute little pink flower that has just begun to blossom.
She’d received the flowers from a middle-aged woman who lives in the neighbourhood. She treats Milkit kindly despite her bandaged face, and recently they’ve even been exchanging side dishes.
The little sprout didn’t even have a pot at first, but yesterday morning it’d started to bloom.
Milkit feels a small sense of accomplishment.
She’d never felt that way before meeting Flum. It feels good --- not in any dramatic or novel way, but the gentle feeling works wonders on her heart.
The scent of dinner wafts in from inside the house. The evening’s menu consists of a basilisk, mushroom, and tomato stew with a corn potage and caesar salad. For dessert they have tagoule, a citrus fruit common around the Capital. Despite being about the same size as an orange, it has larger seeds and a distinctive smell that hits the nose strongly with every bite. Given that it’s a lot sweeter than most citrus fruits, it’s said that nobody in the Capital hates tagoule.
It’s still not done yet, though. Milkit thought she’d leave the finishing touches for after she comes home. It’s not as though Milkit is just killing time in front of the house since she’s so late --- although as soon as the thought crosses her mind she feels a little embarrassed.
Milkit puts a hand to her chest.
There’s something there that she didn’t have before she met Flum. Since she’s started living there she’s started eating well and getting all the nutrients her body needs, and so she’s started to fill out a little bit. Flum always seems to be enjoying herself whenever they eat together, so Milkit herself been getting a little carried away and eating maybe too much recently.
Maybe I should be a little more careful at dinner --- though the important thing isn’t on her chest but in it, past her flesh, that warm feeling.
It’s that feeling’s fault.
The reason why she came outside when Flum was slow to come back, the reason why her excuse made her feel so embarrassed, the reason why even now her heart’s aflutter --- it’s all that feeling’s fault.
It seems to only grow larger with every passing day.
Flum had once told her that it was called ‘trust’, but she gets the feeling that it’s gone past that now. She can’t imagine it’s anything normal between master and slave --- she’s never felt that way about any of her past masters, to say the least.
What is it, then…?
Waiting for an answer that’ll never come, Milkit stares off into space. Then---
“I’m back, Milkit.”
She feels two warm palms cover her cheeks. Looking up, she finds Flum’s lovable smile shining back at her.
There’re still any number of things she needs to think about, but she has a new priority now. She returns Flum’s smile.
“Welcome home, Master.”
“Sorry I’m so late. Anything I can do to help with dinner?”
“All that are left are the finishing touches. Would you care to give me a hand?”
“Of course! Let’s make it quick, though. My stomach’s been grumbling for a while now and your cooking’s the only thing that could shut it up.”
“Hehe, I’m not sure I’ll be able to meet your expectations but I’ll do my best.”
The two head inside the house hand in hand. That soft, pleasant mood follows them, and as soon as the front door is closed the world outside returns to its cold cobblestone self.
A single large man stands where nobody was just a moment before. Casting a measured look at their house and snorting, he leaves as silently as he came.
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