OmaeGotoki: Volume 3 011 - To Where The Miracle Of Life Squirms
The next morning, Flum and her companions leave the Capital at dawn. It takes them only about four hours to arrive at the forest in question, but the first thing they have to do is figure out a way in.
“It’s a little faint, but I think there are traces of wagon wheels here. It looks pretty narrow, but it should be plenty passable.”
“That’s Rhent-kun for you! He’s the world’s leading expert on carriages, I tell you!”
Welthy boasts to them about their driver, Rhent. He works at a transport company, but supposedly he’s also a coworker of Welthy’s. As a critical part of the Capital’s infrastructure the Church and even the royal family puts them to use, and as such it’s the ideal place for an undercover journalist. He apparently even played a big role in securing the ledger.
“Uwaah, it’s so bumpy~~!”
Ink’s voice bounces and trembles in time with the carriage. Since the forest road is unpaved and in poor repair, it makes for an incredibly unpleasant ride, but fortunately none of them get carriage-sick easily.
...Except for Welthy.
After a little while, however, the bumping and shaking suddenly stops.
“It looks like it’ll be a lot smoother ride from here, folks. It’s not paved, of course, but it looks like it’s well travelled enough that it shouldn’t be a problem.”
“So the entrance was camouflaged, huh…?”
“This forest is only getting more and more suspicious, isn’t it?”
It seems almost certain that the lab lies ahead. The only problem remaining is that they might get ambushed --- but for the next twenty minutes, nothing happens.
“Flum. You can relax a little.”
“Why do you say that, Eterna-san?”
“I didn’t feel any hostility from Daffyd. I didn’t go to meet him but he didn’t try to force me. If they’re not allied with Chimaera and the Children, then maybe they’re not that strong.”
“So they just specialize in bringing back the dead, huh?”
“Well, let’s hope you’re right. If that’s the case, then Gadio should be just fine.”
Deep down, Flum had thought that he’d come back on his own overnight, but reality wasn’t that kind.
Yeah, reality isn’t kind. Sara-chan’s hasn’t come back, let alone Gadio-san.
Bumping along in the back of a carriage reminds Flum of that sweet little girl. She’d heard that Sara was with Neigass, but she can’t help but worry.
As she’s lost in thought, however---
Rhent seems to notice something from the cab.
“There’s a ton of weird tracks around here.”
“You sure it’s not just a boar or a bear or a beaver or something?”
“No, they’re too big. There’s probably a monster nearby.”
Even if they don’t have to worry about any spiral-faced monstrosities coming after them, it’s entirely possible that normal monsters might still attack them. At the very least, they can’t afford to let their guard down yet---
“I can hear footsteps…” Ink mutters.
Even over the rumbling of the carriage, her ears are good enough to make out other sounds.
“Behind us to the right. They’re really fast, like DONDONDON! They have only two legs… like people, but bigger. I think it’s a monster.”
Eterna peers out the window, but she can’t make anything out. If she closes her eyes and focuses on the sound alone, however, she can barely make it out. Just as Ink said, the footsteps are strong, heavy, and unsettlingly swift.
“Wait, this sound… Don’t tell me…”
Flum recognizes that sound.
She went through hell once because of that thing --- the Spiral Ogre.
Eterna opens her eyes and running a short distance away, somehow managing to keep pace with the carriage, is an ogre, the spiral on its face pumping out blood with a SPLURURT as it raises its fist---
“Everyone! Get down!”
A twisting spiral storm punches its way through the carriage, blowing the roof clean off and sending shards of wood flying through the air.
“Kh… Calm down, everything’s fine…!”
Rhent frantically tries to calm the horses.
“Th… That’s a ‘monstrosity’...!?”
Seeing one face-to-’face’ for the first time, Milkit pales.
“Uegh, just looking at that thing makes my skin crawl…!”
Welthy quickly casts Burn Projection to record it as she talks.
Flum, on the other hand, draws the Zweihander and raises it to shoulder height, aiming at the ‘ogre’ with its tip. At the same time, she casts Scan.
CHIMAERA-PROTOTYPE: O Attribute : Earth Strength : 2,552 Magic : 584 Stamina : 2,831 Agility : 1,259 Intuition : 499
Seeing that, she’s certain.
It’s not the same as the ‘ogre’ from back then. It looks the same, but its Core hasn’t gone berserk… They must still have full control of that thing.
It must’ve been specifically ordered to hunt them down. Furthermore, it’s not one of Necromancy’s but one of Chimaera’s.
Going out of their way to make me fight the same thing as back then… this is somebody’s idea of a joke, I bet. It’s even all spiral-faced and ready to fight. But…
She puts aside the question of whether it’s Daffyd’s doing or not.
The important thing is that she kills it before it can attack again.
“Don’t think I’m the same as I was back then! Prana Sting!!”
FWISHK --- a spear of prana flies from the tip of blade, headed for the ‘ogre’s heart.
At the same time, it raises its arm and releases another spiral or energy at her.
Their attacks collide head-on. Without seeming to meet any resistance at all, the reversal-imbued prana spear effortless dispels the spiral and punches through the ‘ogre’s chest, breaking its core clean in half. Having lost its energy source, its massive green body falls tumbling to the forest floor.
Immediately afterwards, Milkit calls out.
“There’s another from the other side!”
By the time Flum turns around it’s too late --- the new ‘ogre’ has already swung its fist. She doesn’t have the time to counter a second attack so soon.
Eterna takes it on instead.
A wall of ice forms in the air between them, blocking its attack. The vortex of energy bores at it, sending shards of crystalling glass flying, but she repairs the shield with more mana faster than it can carve away at it. No normal attack could possibly break it.
Next, she fires a shotgun spray of water pellets at the ‘ogre’ from its blind spot behind the shield. The bullets punch cleanly through the wall that the vortex couldn’t, riddling the monstrosity’s body with gaping holes. Its limbs and head fly off, stopping it dead in its tracks.
“I can’t break the Core, but I can do this much.”
“There’s more, Eterna! A whole bunch this time!”
“...What a pain.”
From directly behind the carriage comes a whole horde of ogres. Their pounding footsteps sound like a stampede of raging buffalo, a sound that gives them goosebumps.
“C-Come on, don’t fail me now!”
Rhent shouts words of encouragement to the horses as he urges them ever-faster.
“This is a huge scoop… but I really don’t think I could print this!”
“I’ve never seen anything like this…!”
Welthy and Milkit are rendered speechless by the sight.
The ‘ogres’ run with their backs up perfectly straight, raising their knees high with every powerful step like a pack of sprinters. Every last one of their faces is twisted into a horrible intestine-like shape, spraying and spurting blood with every step.
Then, in near-perfect sync, the entire horde stops and raises their fists.
One big, conclusive attack to end them all.
Against so many of them, not even Flum or Eterna could possibly stop them.
Eterna taps Flum on the shoulder, whispering something into her ear. In response, Flum whispers something back.
“W-Wait, hold on a second, should you just leave them like that? Isn’t, like, a really big one coming!?”
Welthy starts panicking.
Flum and Eterna, however, seem perfectly calm.
SPLURT, SPLURURT --- and with a visceral squelching sound, countless fists are driven forwards.
The spirals all mass together, expanding to the size of a tornado before ripping its way right at the carriage.
Eterna stands up on the carriage seat, and raising a hand she casts a spell.
A new shield appears, slightly larger than the last. Other than that, however, it’s perfectly normal.
“Uwah, h-here it comes!”
Welthy alone continues to freak out. Ink and Milkit, however, instead put their faith into their respective partners---
Flum touches her hand to the Ice Shield, pouring mana into it.
That itself isn’t anything special, either --- all she does is infuse the shield with mana the same way she does the Zweihander and her Cavalier Arts.
The spiral hurricane uproots trees and carves the ground as it whips closer to them, but as soon as it touches the shield it dissipates like a light spring breeze. Its force neatly reversed, the energy loses its power and cancels itself out.
“Now, the counterattack---”
“Here we go!”
The two of them jump off the back of the carriage and nimbly land in the middle of the road. Eterna then puts her hand to the earth at their feet.
The forest floor quickly begins to freeze over, rapidly spreading and slithering its way towards the horde of ‘ogres’ like a mass of countless white snakes. As soon as they make contact, their entire legs freeze up, completely sealing off the monstrosities' movement.
Without wasting a moment, Flum raises her sword.
“Whenever you’re ready, Eterna-san!”
“Just as planned… Imbue Ice.”
Ice rapidly begins to build on Flum’s blade.
Flum had gotten the idea for the new technique after seeing Gadio and Nekt’s battle the other day. Since Gadio’s Strength is still much higher than hers, however, she wouldn’t be able to lift such a massive blade, let alone swing it.
She has one thing that he doesn’t, however --- regeneration.
No matter how badly her arms may suffer, she’ll recover almost immediately.
A low, deep moan comes from the depths of Flum’s gut. Ice continues to amass on the Zweihander, quickly growing taller than the surrounding trees. A symphony of visceral snapping sounds comes from her arms.
Her moan grows louder, becoming a roar. The ever-growing blade become large enough that those still in the carriage can easily make it out through the canopy. Not only her muscles but even her bones have begun to creak and snap, but with the sheer speed of her regeneration she’s left with only the pain.
Then, finally --- she brings the colossal sword crashing down on the horde.
Its name: Jotun Blade.
The ‘ogres’ are crushed from above by the blade’s raw mass, as they’re smashed into the ground fresh shards of ice from the ground shatter and skewer them, and finally the shockwave hits, blowing them and the surrounding forest away. As an attack of Flum’s it was of course imbued with her mana, and every Core the blade touches is obliterated. A thick white steam is blown up from the sublimating ice, and as it lifts no recognizable scrap of the ‘ogre’ horde is left.
There are no survivors.
Not even the surrounding forest and the ground made it out unscathed, crumpled trees and huge chunks of scattered earth having changed the landscape itself.
“Hahh… hahh… hahh…”
“Maybe we overdid it.”
“Hahh… No… this is, good… Trust me, those bastards are stubborn… hahh…”
Shoulders heaving with every breath, Flum laughs.
Having obliterated their pursuers, Flum and Eterna catch up with the half-wrecked carriage. About five minutes later, they find a signboard hanging by the side of the road.
“The ‘Town of Salvation’ Sheol…?”
Flum reads it, cocking her head to the side in confusion.
“Maybe it’s the name of the village past here?”
“Ehh? That’s kinda weird. There isn’t a village or anything on the map…”
“You should ask him yourself.”
“Who’s ‘him’, Eterna-san?”
Just as Flum asks, the carriage slows to a halt.
“Is everything alright, Rhent-san?”
“There’s someone in the middle of the road…”
A slender man in a labcoat blocks the road ahead of them. If he’s who Eterna was referring to, then he’s---
The leader of the Necromancy team himself.
Hearing his name called, he gives Flum a humble smile.
“The gods really are cruel, aren’t they? You didn’t tell me a thing and just showed up on my doorstep. I had no time to prepare a proper welcome for you.”
“Are you talking to me?”
Flum leaps down from the carriage, landing right in front of him. Without another word, she draws the Zweihander and puts it against his neck. It might seem rash, but she’s seen far too much of the Origin Cores and their work by now. It’s only natural that she’s taking the initiative.
“Could you please put that thing away? I hate violence.”
“Yeah, right. We ran into those spiral-faced ‘ogres’ you had waiting for us out there.”
“Wait, you fought Chimaera!? So that explains that impressive sound I heard… This might sound like an excuse, but that wasn’t our doing.”
“You’re right. It does sound like an excuse.”
“We’re no friends of Chimaera here. We’d never stoop so low as to use their weapons! If nothing else, I can assure you that our Necromancy Central Core is horribly incompatible with their Chimaera Cores. If they get too close they might both run out of control. It’s simply not feasible.”
“Don’t expect me to know all your weird lingo.”
“Our Necromancy Central Core keeps the Origin Cores embedded in the dead’s bodies --- the Necromancy Cores for short --- from running amok, effectively lowering the strength of Origin’s ‘transmissions’. The Chimaera Cores are simply the Cores that Chimaera produces and uses. Does that help at all?”
Flum feels a little disappointed at how readily he answers. Just as Eterna said, she can’t feel any hostility from him. Looking at his eyes, even, he doesn’t seem to be lying.
“He’s doing swimmingly. I believe he’s with his wife at the moment. Would you like to meet him? He was concerned that those he’d left behind in the Capital were worried about him.”
Flum still doesn’t trust him yet, though.
Welthy finally pipes up from the carriage.
“How about you put your sword away for now, Flum-chan? He really doesn’t seem to be lying or anything, and he’s in a pretty talkative mood so he’d probably tell us a lot about the Church and stuff.”
The other three are likely of the same opinion. Milkit and Ink are waiting for Flum to make the call, and Eterna doesn’t cut into their conversation, having already had a chance to meet Daffyd.
Flum isn’t willing to accept it, but she knows that what Welthy suggests is the most logical course of action.
She reluctantly resheathes the Zweihander. Seeing it fade into motes of light in front of him, Daffyd lets out a long-held sigh of relief.
“Fuu… I know full well that you hate the Church enough to ‘justify’ murder, so please know I’m grateful for your discretion. Thank you very much.”
His politeness rubs her the wrong way, but that’s probably only because she’d decided he was an enemy before they’d even met. The others likely see him in a different light.
“Well then, please follow me to Sheol. Feel free to follow by carriage if you’d like.”
Walking in front of the horses, Daffyd leads the way to ‘town’ with the research lab.
Flum reboards the carriage. Milkit gives her a worried look, evidently noticing her uneasy expression. Realizing that, a feeling of warmth spreads through Flum’s chest. She naturally put her hand on Milkit’s head, slowly stroking her silky hair as they get underway once more.
Finally coming to a break in the trees, they arrive at the entrance of a town. It seems as though it’s not just a research facility that they gave a catchy nickname to. There are houses, workshops, a marketplace, and even parents watching children play. Aside from the unusually large church in the middle of everything, it’s a normal, laidback country town.
Flum and the others step down from the carriage, and parting ways with Rhent and the horses there they head out into the streets.
Even as they walk through the town and see things up-close, nothing seems to be amiss. The only potentially strange thing would be that a lot of the townsfolk seem to stare at Flum as she passes --- but circumstances as they are, it’s only natural that they attract a little attention.
“So that church is the research facility?”
Daffyd smiles warmly at Flum’s question.
“Yes. It expands quite some ways underground as well.”
“I heard Satils was sending you money and that this land belonged to some other noble before, but if there’s a basement, then that means the Church built it, right?”
“Oh, so you even know about that? Quite impressive. As you say, Satils-san is supporting us financially, but all of our research of course belongs to the Church.”
“So then why’s Satils giving you money?”
“We have a contract that states once Necromancy is completed, she’ll have the rights to market it to the general populace.”
“...So we can’t trust you after all. How could you just sell the means to bring back the dead like that!?”
Flum stops in her tracks, raising her voice in irritation. Daffyd turns around to face her, a morose tone in his voice.
“I wasn’t eager to make such a deal, either. The last thing I want to do is treat human lives like merchandise. Without money, however, we wouldn’t be able to continue our research, let alone provide those we bring back a place to live. I had to make sacrifices to realize my dream.”
“Give them a place to live…? Don’t tell me all these people are---”
“As you may suspect, roughly half of this town’s residents were once dead. The other half are their loved ones, the ones whom we’ve saved. Don’t they all look so happy?”
Daffyd’s voice is filled with pride.
Flum and the others take another good look at the townsfolk. To Flum’s eyes they all look the same --- and no matter how hard Milkit looks, how hard Eterna thinks or Ink listens, how carefully Welthy studies them, they can’t see any difference, either.
As they’ve stopped to look, a woman with a large bulge under her clothes runs up to Daffyd.
“What are you doing, Suzie!? You can’t run in your state!”
“I was so worried about you… After that huge noise you just ran off on your own. You should’ve at least taken an escort.”
“This is my lovely wife Suzie. She’s one of the people we’ve brought back with the Cores, and as you can see she’s pregnant. The baby is due next month, in fact.”
He seems overjoyed, and Suzie blushes slightly. The two of them are the very picture of a happy couple.
The prouder he seems, however, the more disgusting everything seems to Flum. It might just be that she’s got a strong bias against them and that she isn’t being fair --- but who decided logic is always right and emotion is always wrong?
“Suzie-san became pregnant after coming back…?”
“Flum-san, I know that you must’ve been thinking that the Origin Cores were just making it seem as though we were resurrecting people. There’s a new life inside Suzie, however. There have already been successful births here --- strong, healthy, normal babies. These people have rejoined the circle of life. If nothing else, you can’t deny that they’re alive and well now.”
Daffyd’s voice is brimming with confidence and pride. After years of research and years of living together with the people he’s resurrected, he knows the process is flawless.
Nothing Flum says could change his mind. If Flum denies it, if she insists that the several hundred people who’ve been brought back aren’t really alive, it’d mean having to kill every last one of them.
There’s just too many for that.
If she can’t even tell the difference between the living and the dead, then destroying the hundreds of Cores in the dead alone would be too physically and mentally draining.
There’s got to be something I can do here...
“...Ah, it’s Gadio!”
Ink suddenly cuts into Flum’s thoughts, evidently hearing him coming from some distance away.
Flum and the others look around for a moment, finally spotting Gadio leaving a nearby store arm-in-arm with Tia.
“It’s so relieving to see that he’s alright, isn’t it, Master?”
He looks more relaxed than she’s ever seen him, however, preventing Flum from simply being happy.
Noticing them, Gadio’s eyes widen in shock for a moment before he approaches them with a somewhat guilty expression.
“So you’re here too, huh?”
“Of course we’re here. Kereina and Hallom are worried.”
“Sorry… I didn’t know how to break it to them.”
“It’s not your fault, Ga-kun! I should’ve talked to them before leaving…”
Tia herself seems a bit guilty for taking him to Sheol without telling anyone. Having weighed her options, however, it would appear as though this was her decision in the end.
“Are you planning on returning to the Capital sometime soon, Gadio-san?”
“Tia can’t live anywhere but here, and I’m not brazen enough to try to split my time between here and the Capital.”
“What do you mean, she can only live here?”
“Ah, allow me to explain that.”
Daffyd cuts in on their conversation from the sidelines.
“Gadio-san, Tia-san, I’d appreciate it if you’d continue your conversation with them later. I’d like to give them a proper tour of the lab first.”
“Yes, that’d probably be the easiest way to convince them. Sorry I interfered.”
He turns to leave, but Flum frantically stops him.
“Save your questions until after you’ve seen everything. I’m sure he’ll be able to put your mind at ease.”
Without even slowing down, he and Tia walk off.
“That doesn’t sound like the Gadio I met before…”
Ink mutters to herself.
Not only his tone but even his expressions seemed completely different to Flum from the Gadio she knows. He seemed cowardly --- would be a bad way to put it, but he had a sort of weakness she’d never seen on his face before on full display.
“Please don’t be too hard on Gadio-san. Tia-san is a truly wonderful woman. I’m sure losing her was terribly hard on him.”
“Like you had nothing to do with it…! Tia-san was killed by Chimaera. Since you had to dig up Kinder and Claudia’s graves to bring them back, you clearly need a body to resurrect someone. How exactly did you get your hands on her corpse?”
Eterna’s expression changes slightly at the mention of the Rinebow couple, but Daffyd doesn’t seem to notice.
“Even though we’re on poor terms, it’s not as though we don’t have any positive contact with Chimaera whatsoever. I visited a certain research facility of Echidna’s once and she quite proudly showed me a body that she’d treated to keep from rotting. That body happened to be Tia-san’s.”
Thinking back, Daffyd bites his lip. If she’d gone through all that trouble, she must’ve had a special use in mind for her corpse.
“Perhaps she’d been planning on using her body as a component for one of her weapons. Maybe she’d intended to make Gadio-san fight her as a hideous monster…”
“That’s a leap.”
Eterna’s interjection sounds a little sharper than usual. Maybe she was trying to get back at Daffyd for seeming so utterly unrepentant at his treatment of graves, but he still doesn’t seem to care.
Necromancy requires a large number of corpses, after all. He can’t have done it just once or twice.
“I’m afraid that’s the kind of unpleasant woman that Echidna Ipeira is. She was likely the one who put those ‘ogres’ in the woods outside the village. Even if they didn’t kill you, she likely figured they’d at least make you distrust me. She really is such a blatantly despicable woman. She always has been…”
For the first time since they’ve met him, Daffyd makes a hateful expression. Suzie, who had been walking beside him, smiles bitterly at them.
“I’m really sorry. He’s really a warm, gentle man, but not when it comes to her.”
Flum knows full well just how rotten Chimaera is. On top of that, she can’t imagine such horrible monsters coming from such a peaceful village.
Even if he’s with his wife now, there’s no way Gadio-san didn’t check everything out. I guess that means he decided that Daffyd really means no harm, and that all these ‘dead’ people are really back to as they were in life. That, if nothing else, is probably true, but…
As Flum walks through town, however, she can’t shake the subtle feeling that there’s something amiss. Normally just holding hands with Milkit is enough to make her stop worrying about the details, but even still that niggling feeling remains.
Something about those gazes, the way the townsfolk stare at her as they walk, is inexplicably unsettling.
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