OmaeGotoki: Volume 3 013 - ‘I’ Don’t Know ‘Me’

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“I wish you’d be as scared of me as she is, Flum-oneesan.”

The terror of being kidnapped apparently not yet gone, Milkit clings onto Flum’s back as she hides behind her. If she had a little time to prepare herself she could probably hold a proper conversation with him, but with so little warning she cowers instinctively.

“It’s okay, Milkit. He’s not going to hurt us.”

“I know. I know, but… my body won’t listen to what I say.”

“Seriously, are you guys trying to make my solemn dignity go to waste?”

“If you were worried about something that stupid you wouldn’t be here. So what, do you feel like joining forces with us now?”

“Nah. If you end up fighting Necromancy, though, I’ll pitch in.”

In other words, they’re as good as ‘allies’. His wording makes it sound as though he’s looking forward to benefiting from Flum and Necromancy fighting, but as long as he’s not an enemy it should be fine.

“So Nekt, was Eterna-san right? Is Mother working on the Third Generation?”

“What if I don’t want to answer that?”

“Then we’ll just assume that the Third Generation is around somewhere.”

“Same as keeping quiet, huh…? Fine, I’ll admit it, it’s just like that little oneesan said. Mother’s so obsessed with raising the Third Generation Children that she just ignores us now.”

“...And that’s why you’re worried that you’ll get abandoned just like Ink was.”

Nekt doesn’t respond, but he doesn’t deny it.

“If I have a word with Eterna-san and if we can find replacement hearts for you, I’m sure we can turn the rest of the Children back into normal humans, too.”

“You’re telling us to reduce ourselves to that trash’s level?”

“Isn’t Mother already treating you like trash?”

“That doesn’t mean we have to go back to being mere humans!”

“But is that really the only reason?”

“I… we’re Mother’s kids. We can’t live without her.”

“There’re tons of different ways to live in the outside---”

“That’s not what I mean! We were raised that way! Even if we go back to being human on the outside, nothing’s going to change, not to mention the Church’ll never leave us alone!”

Where Nekt once felt total control he can now feel only a pointless, empty powerlessness.

Just like a frog raised in a well, his world is but a tiny fragment of the whole.

“There are countless people who enjoy twisting and defiling the lives of others for their own personal fulfillment…”

Milkit herself grew up in such a fragment of a world.

“...but as soon as you’ve convinced yourself that you can’t rebel against them you’ve lost, playing right into their hands.”

“What, so I should just leave Mother after all we’ve done for each other?”

“There are also many people who might be kind enough to help you. It’s too early to give up and believe that you can’t change.”

“Hah, you almost sound like you’ve seen it happen yourself.”

“Yes, thanks to Master’s help I was able to change. I’m living proof!”

Even with such an example right in front of him, he doesn’t accept their aid. It’s not that he doesn’t trust them --- there’s a different barrier altogether between them.

“You can’t just assume the same thing’ll happen to us…”

He’s locked in a room, away far from everything else. Impenetrable walls surround him on all sides. But maybe he’s only convinced himself there’s no way out.

Somewhere, somehow, there must be a way for him to escape.

Flum stands up, walking right up to him.

“What, you think you can force me to open up or something?”

He looks up at her weakly.

She leans down towards him, sniffing the air.

“What the hell are…?”

He shrinks back in suspicion, but Flum simply furrows her eyebrows.

“Nekt, you reek.”

“...Huh?”

“Are you taking baths regularly? Your clothes look pretty dirty, too…”

“T-That doesn’t matter right now!”

Maybe it not, but Flum can tell that he won’t just give in at this rate. While she still has the initiative she’d like to change the topic to something lighter and brighter.

“Of course it matters. Your new base does have a proper bath, right? I can’t imagine any of the Church’s facilities being that poorly-equipped.”

“Yeah, there’s a bath! We just can’t use it because Mother won’t give us permission!”

“You need permission to even take a bath?”

“That’s how baths are. It’s common sense.”

Nekt seems perfectly confident until Flum and Milkit exchange surprised glances.

“Wait… You mean that’s weird?”

“I’m fairly certain that most households aren’t that strict about bathing rights.”

“Really? Huh… I only really know how Mother does things.”

“Wanna take a bath together, then?”

“Haah!?!?”

Nekt flinches backwards. He normally tries to act like an adult, but his expression at that moment is undeniable that of a child.

“No way! Never! Baths aren’t supposed to be taken with other people, it’s just not right! You realize that means being NAKED, right!? With other people!?”

“It’s not like I have anything to hide from an eight-year-old. You took baths with Mother when you were little, right?”

“Yeah, but that was ages ago! I’ve outgrown stuff like that. If nothing else I can’t let anyone see me naked.”

Baths I can kinda understand, but I wonder why he’s so fixated on the naked thing?

“Is that another one of Mother's rules?”

“...Wait, that’s not normal?”

“No, it’s not normal to expose yourself in front of anyone you don’t know well, and you should only take a bath with someone you’re very close to.”

“So I was right. You guys are the weird ones this time! I’m not taking a bath and that’s final!”

“Okay then. By force it is.”

“Wait, didn’t you just hear me? Get back! I said get back! I’ll ‘connect’ you! Even with Reversal you can’t defend yourself from me point-blank!”

Flum knows full well that he wouldn’t actually use his power on her, at least not as he is now. Scooping up his little body, she carries him towards the bath.

“No, lemme go, LET ME GO!”

“Be right back, Milkit.”

“Good luck, Master!”

Milkit beams at her encouragingly, and Flum returns with a thumbs-up.

With that, Flum and Nekt disappear into the changing room.

“Finally, you put me down… gyah!? Stop it, those are my clothes!”

“If you don’t like it then you can just ‘connect’ out.”

“Right, I can just… wait, I can’t go outside like this!”

“I guess that means you don’t hate this as much as you’re letting on, huh?”

“Where are you looking!? Look at my face! I’M TRYING! TO RESIST! AT FULL STRENGTH!”

“Okay, so your pants next…”

“Hey, stop, if you take that off… agh, dammit, you’re strong for a girl! You’re not at all like when we first --- aah, there they go… uwaaaaagh, my paaaaants!!”

The voices from the changing room are loud, but there’s a distinct hint of happiness to them.

As soon as Flum succeeds in pulling down his pants and underwear as one, however, she suddenly freezes.

“...Eh?”

“Uuu… you’re the worst, dammit…”

“Hey, uh, Nekt… This is gonna sound pretty rude, but…”

“What, you haven’t done enough? Like that’s going to stop you after everything you’ve already done to me…!”

He raises his voice in desperate anger --- but her next words cause him to flush red with indignation.

“So, uh… I didn’t know you were a girl.”

Flum says so at point blank.

She was under the impression that Nekt was a boy. There’s ‘something’ missing from right between Nekt’s legs there, however, meaning that ‘he’ is evidently a ‘she’.

“Of all the…! How could I be a girl!? Just look at me, I’m a boy!”

Nekt, however, seems to be convinced of the opposite as she starts yelling exasperatedly.

“No, I mean, you’re missing a…”

“What am I missing, huh!? I was raised a strong, masculine boy!”

‘Raised’ --- that word provides Flum with all she needs to assemble the puzzle.

“...”

“Why’re you so quiet all of a sudden?”

“...No, nevermind. Let’s finish our bath first.”

Putting the problem off until later, Flum decides to focus on her original objective.


◇◇◇


After getting out of the bath, Flum starts wiping off Nekt’s hair with a towel.

“So Nekt, I’ve got something to talk to you about.”

“After embarrassing me like that you’re still not done…?”

Even in the bath Nekt was determined to get out while Flum was determined to make sure she cleaned every last nook and cranny. They weren’t fighting so much as they were playing around, however, and to be honest as Milkit listened to them from outside she found herself growing a little jealous (though she knows it’s not the time or place for that).

Flum has something important to tell Nekt, however, and with a serious face:

“Nekt… You’re a girl, at least on the outside. Trust me.”

“That again? Look, Mother always told me I was a boy, so…”

Mother did indeed tell him that, time and time again, but he never once defined ‘boy’ for Nekt.

“...As a man, I’ve got to…”

Somewhere in the back of her mind, Nekt recalls what Nekt said just earlier.

There are countless people who enjoy twisting and defiling the lives of others for their own personal fulfillment.

Mother twisted their house, their family as he pleased.

Nekt is starting to realize that Mother is one of those people.

“There’s no way…”

Nekt herself was likely some sort of experiment. Maybe Mother wanted to see if it was possible to use the Origin Cores’ influence to alter someone’s mental state. Maybe he was simply curious as to whether or not he could twist Nekt’s perceptions in such a way.

“There’s no way that’s… Like I could believe that!”

Regardless of the reason, Mother had no right to forcibly alter the identity of such a young child like that.

“I’m a boy! Go on, say it, oneesan!”

Flum is silent.

It’s best to bring the issue out into the open as soon as possible. Nekt is still only eight years old. She has the luxury of choice available to her.

“What’s with you, suddenly keeping quiet like that… You’re telling me you’re serious? You’re saying that’s why Mother said I had to take baths alone… why I could never show anyone my naked body…!?”

She had thought that Mother always had their best interests at heart.

That’s why she believed him.

All Mother’s rules, all his restrictions, were only possible because the Children loved Mother and believed that he loved them in return.

Everything is different now.

“So that’s it… That’s why Fwiss is so clingy with Mother, why Rook and Mute are like that… You’re saying it’s all because Mother wanted us to be that way? That Mother was just toying with us?”

The hurt tone in Nekt’s voice is enough to make Flum’s chest feel tight.

What Mother had given them was a little garden of happiness. If they didn’t know there was a world outside, if they stayed blind to the wrought-iron fences, they would never know pain or suffering.

Sooner or later, though, they would have woken up, realizing that there was an entire world outside of Mother’s ‘happiness’.

Nekt simply woke up a little earlier. Because of that, her wounds will be shallower.

I haven’t just made her suffer… I’m helping her. I hope.

“I can’t say that about everything, but…”

“No, it’s everything. Recently, I’ve… I’ve been getting that feeling. I wanted to trust Mother as family, though, I really did. I wanted to believe that Mother was just doing the best for us, no matter what… Even though I knew it was pointless.”

The truth is especially heavy for her since she’s still at an age where she probably just wants to be spoiled. She must only be able to handle it through her personal strength and her obligation to the others as the leader of the Spiral Children --- no, as their older sister.

“I really think you should leave Mother, for good this time. We’ll support you with everything we’ve got, I promise. Won’t you at least consider taking the surgery?”

“There’s no way I could run away alone…”

Her sense of responsibility is both a strength and a limitation. If she could, she’d leave Mother right then and there, but she can’t just abandon the others now that they’ve proven how blindly faithful they are to Mother even in the face of his abuse.

“Bring them all here and we’ll talk it over together, then. It’ll probably take some time, but I’m sure we can understand each other eventually. We got through to you, after all.”

“Like... like that’d ever...”

“We can do it, just watch!”

“It’s not too late, I’m sure. Ink-san was the same way, and look at her now!”

“We’re not like her… but…!”

She falters, leaning towards Flum’s side ever so slightly.

They’ve made mistakes, certainly, but nobody could expect children who aren’t even ten years old to take full responsibility for their actions.

Flum doesn’t have any intention of letting Mother go, of course. After he not only abused his power as a parent but performed such unethical experiments on innocent children, maybe even going so far as to have ruined their lives, it’s only right that she return the favor and ruin his life.

If nothing else, though, I hope that the Spiral Children can---

“I… I’ve got to think this through. Connection.”

She clenches her fist, and after her face twists into a spiral for a split second she disappears.

“Ah, Nekt! She’s gone…”

“I can’t imagine she went too far. I’m sure she’ll return before too long with her answer.”

“Yeah… I hope so.”

Her last words sounded to Flum as though they were all but a flat-out ‘yes’. Hopefully she’ll be back soon as Milkit says with a positive answer.


◇◇◇


After ‘connecting’ out of the lab, Nekt sits on the roof of a certain house and watches the sun set. She doesn’t even seem to notice when one of the house’s residents comes out, but he definitely notices her. With a little jump he lands on the roof beside her in almost perfect silence.

“Oh, it’s you, Ojisan. You’re pretty nimble for such a big guy.”

She doesn’t seem surprised to see Gadio there at all.

“This isn’t much, really.”

He calmly sits down beside Nekt as if it were the most natural thing in the world.

“You came up here unarmed? You’re really underestimating me, aren’t you? We were trying to kill each other just a few days ago and everything.”

“With a face like that, anyone would underestimate you. What happened?”

“What, you wanna give me advice, too? Flum-oneesan’s one thing, but all you guys are way too soft, seriously.”

Gadio might be soft, but more than that he’s feeling lost himself. If he was the same revenge-seeker he used to be he probably would’ve come there to hack Nekt in half.

“You spoke with Flum?”

“Yeah, and because of that I learned something I never wanted to. I always thought I was a boy since that’s what Mother always told me, but it turns out I’m a girl.”

“I see…”

“Haha, it sounds pretty lame saying it out loud, but I kinda took it as a shock, y’know?”

“Anyone would feel that way after having their identity denied like that.”

“What about you, Ojisan? Underestimating me aside, you’re looking a lot more vulnerable than before.”

“I’m starting to lose sight of who I am and what I’m doing here.”

“Just like me, huh?”

“Hmph, I can’t believe I have the same worries as an eight-year-old.”

“Take it as a compliment. I’m pretty smart, surprisingly enough. I bet I could give you a run for your money.”

“Saying that only proves how much you still have to learn.”

Gadio give her a bitter smile and Nekt replies “You got that right!” with a chuckle.

“You saw your dead wife, right?”

“Yeah.”

“So? Did you screw her?”

She gives Gadio a mischievous, bratty grin as she looks up to gauge his reaction.

“Trying to act ‘mature’ like that is incredibly childish, you know. I doubt you even know what that means, given you didn’t even know your own sex.”

“Well, yeah, but… That’s what you do with the person you’ve fallen for right? Don’t go dodging the question now.”

“...No, I haven’t. That thing is unmistakably Tia, but undeniably not Tia.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

“I’m sure I’m the only one who could understand it, but I know I’m right. Regardless of how small it may be, when you feel that sort of disconnect, it’s a sign that you’ve made a mistake.”

Similarly, all the confidence in the world doesn’t amount to anything.

If nothing else, Gadio has learned that well, almost too well.

“A disconnect, huh…?”

Nekt feigns disinterest, turning to stare back into the sunset.

“I’m planning on listening to that gut feeling. I won’t force you to do the same, but---”

“What are you, stupid? Why would you give advice to your enemy like this? You and Flum-oneesan are both idiots if you think I’m going to be grateful or anything.”

“It’s because we can’t watch and do nothing. Maybe we’re just as soft as you think. I think Flum also felt such a strong disconnect that she couldn’t not try to help you. But what do you think? Are you content with the path you’re treading? Can you see any other paths you’d rather take?”

“How should I know? …And I hate being lectured to, by the way.”

“I would’ve thought the disrespectful little brat I first met would’ve been able to answer that question in a heartbeat.”

“...I guess I’ll take what you said into consideration, ojisan.”

She ‘connects’ away again outside of the village.

Even after she’s gone, though, Gadio continues to look up at the sky.

“There’s no way I could just look the other way. You, Flum… You both have futures ahead of you.”

He might not be old enough to pass the torch to the next generation yet, but that’s not the only reason why his path will end.

The end of his dream. The loss of the one place he wanted to protect. The death of his love.

As one of the people who learned too late, he’ll never stop telling them---

“Don’t be me.”

Hopefully, they’ll never make his mistakes.


◇◇◇


A little more than seven hours have passed since Flum and her party have entered Sheol. The sky turns orange, and as it slowly dyes purple probably not more than half an hour remains before the sun disappears completely. The forest has already turned dark and the creatures of the night are starting to emerge from their hiding places.

“Forests sure are nice… Even people like me can get around without sneakin’ everywhere.”

Werner watches the townscape from up in a tree. Just as Anriette ordered, he and the other soldiers followed them out to Sheol and are watching and waiting in case Flum and the others need help.

He’s currently alone, everyone else spread throughout the perimeter forest. Since he barely knows Flum it’s an annoying job to say the least, but that’s not to say there’s nothing in it for him.

“I’d love ta see all those hypocrites get eaten alive by their own research --- but how’s the miss gonna handle this, I wonder?”

As he mutters to himself, a nearby shrub shakes.

A woman comes into sight wearing heels and a dress that looks incredibly out of place, her thick makeup completely ruined and running streaks down her face. Walking through such dense woods like that would no doubt harm both the clothes and the wearer, in addition to using a huge amount of stamina. Despite the woman’s deep-seated hatred of such ‘filth’ and that she swats away the surrounding leaves and vines with a vengeance, she keeps on moving straight towards the town.

“Satils Francoise… So that’s yer play, huh?”

Werner makes no move to stop her, nor does he try to get her attention.

“It ain’t any of my business, but don’t get caught now. If all goes well, the miss might even end up owin’ me one!”

As if Werner’s prayer reached the gods, Otilier arrives right after Francoise passes out of sight.

“How is the state of affairs here, Werner?”

“Nothin’ but trees an’ bees. It’s just kinda borin’ here, really. Hey, y’think I could slip back ta the Capital fer a quick---”

“You mustn’t betray Oneesama’s expectations, now. Until Flum and her compatriots leave the town we’re to stand watch, understood?”

“...Yeah, I knew ya were gonna say that.”

He dramatically slumps his shoulders.

Otilier holds out a red fruit to him.

“What’s this, animal bait?”

“It was supposed to be a gift, but I suppose a man as damnably rude as yourself isn’t deserving of such a thing.”

“I mean, just pickin’ fruit off trees at random an’ givin’ ‘em ta people’s a little uncouth, doncha think? What are ya, an onee-sama lovin’ gorilla?”

“Gori…!? If you don’t want it then you should just say so! It’s so rare to see such succulent fruit growing wild… though looking at how red it is I can’t help but think of blood. Blood… beautiful, crimson blood… ahh, I think I’d rather like to see some of the real thing now, don’t you?”

“I get it, I get it! I’ll eat yer damn fruit, just give it ta me!”

He half-wrenches it out of her hands and takes a large bite of it.

“Seriously, I don’t care how rare wild fruit is, it can’t be that---”

Rich, sweet fruit juice fills his mouth.

“---Holy shit, this is good!”

“That’s precisely what I’ve been trying to convey all along.”

“Nah, y’see, I thought ya were tryin’ ta pull a fast one on me.”

“Have you done anything recently that would’ve warranted such retribution from me?”

“‘Course not. I’m the most upstandin’ guy in the whole Capital, no way that’d happen.”

“I daresay you mean the shiftiest. Honestly, I find it hard to believe you can keep a decent eye out like this.”

“There’s nothin’ goin’ on, though. Not even a mouse’s been through here, let alone a person.”

He says it confidently, as if it were the immutable truth. He doesn’t act suspiciously at all, not even a scrap of guilt appearing on his features. Otilier is so convinced despite everything that he’s an ally that she doesn’t even consider that he might be lying.

“Alright then. I’ll continue to leave this front in your care, then, Werner.”

Saying that, Otilier leaves to check on the other soldiers.

“Yeah, just leave eeeeeverythin’ ta me!”

He sees her off with a casual little wave.

As soon as she passes out of sight, his shoulders tremble with an ill-natured snigger.

“Welp, this’s my debt ta Echidna squared away. Now that the party’s finally gonna start, he should be --- ahh, there’s the little bastard.”

Leaving the same way Satils came, a man runs for the edge of the town with arms full of luggage --- Daffyd’s assistant, Goen Foegan. He’s an old acquaintance of Werner’s from the illegal gambling halls in the Capital’s seedy underbelly.

“He hasn’t changed a bit, has he? Sellin’ out his friends fer a bit a’ cash again… Not like I can blame him, though.”

Werner sniggers to himself once more.

Night falls like a curtain, a deep darkness enveloping the town.


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