OmaeGotoki: Volume 3 014 - Paradise Lost

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That night they decide to hold a banquet. Not only Daffyd and Flum’s party but Gadio, Tia, Kinder, and Claudia are supposed to be there as well, shaping it up to be quite the event.

After they’d finished the tour of the lab, Daffyd had told Flum and Milkit that he’d call for them when everything was ready.

“It’s getting awfully late, isn’t it?”

“Yeah, we would’ve started eating a lot time ago if we were back home.”

Flum and Milkit kill time by rolling around together on the bed, but there’s no sign of Daffyd coming for them.

Maybe they’re all so busy with their research that they don’t eat until a lot later than normal?

Just then, her stomach grumbles. Milkit turns to face the source of the sound and Flum goes bright red in response.

“W-We been really busy today, and…”

“Being hungry is a normal sign that you’re healthy, Master. Should I make something light while we wait? There’s a kitchen here, after all.”

“Nah, it’s fine. It’d be kinda awkward if he came while you’re cooking something.”

“But will you be alright, Master?”

“That was just my tapeworm talking. I’m not hungry at all, really.”

It’s only a bluff. Flum has her pride, after all --- not that Milkit especially cares or is at all fooled.

“Fuu…”

The research facility is silent. It’s quiet enough that when they’re not talking the only thing they can hear is the other’s breathing. Everything is so calm and quiet, in fact, that Flum finds herself having to fight off sleep.

“You can sleep if you want, Master. I’ll wake you when Daffyd comes.”

“Thanks… I guess I’ll take a little catnap, then…”

Taking Milkit up on her offer, Flum slowly closes her eyes. She leaves her body up to laziness, about to let go of her consciousness.

[...HY D… EE…]

Just when she’s about to fall asleep, she gets the feeling that she can hear something. Her eyes fly open and she immediately meets Milkit’s gaze, since she’d been watching Flum sleep.

“Is something wrong?”

“There’s… I can kinda hear people talking, I think? You didn’t say anything, did you, Milkit?”

She shakes her head.

It must’ve just been my imagination…

[W… AT… ]

She hears it again.

It’s so faint that she can only catch faint fragments, but it’s a man’s voice.

“So I DID hear something!”

“Really? I’m sorry, I still can’t hear anything.”

Flum hops off the bed, closing her eyes to focus on listening.

[SHOUL… O…]

Again.

The voice this time is a lot higher, like an elderly woman’s.

Determined to discover its identity, Flum heads towards the source of the sound --- the door of the room.

[...BOX… FOR…]

[C… R, CRU…]

There’s definitely more than one voice.

It sounds as though they’re talking to each other.

Why in front of our room, seriously…

She considers suddenly opening the door to surprise them, but before that she decides to put her ear to the door and figure out what they’re talking about.

Then---

[WHY LET HER LIVE] [RIP OUT HER TONGUE] [SHE’S ALIVE, THAT’S ENOUGH] [KILL] [START WITH THE ARMS]

[I WANT HER HAMSTRINGS] [SKIN HER, GOOD] [STUFF HER IN BOX] [SNAP HER SPINE AND SLITHER INSIDE] [IT MUST BE DONE]

[CAN’T LET HER ESCAPE] [WHY NO KILL HER] [NO PERMISSION YET] [MUST CONNECT] [LEAD HER WHERE]

[TWIST OPEN A HOLE FIRST] [ENTER, CONNECT WITH BRAIN] [LET’S BECOME ONE, EVERYONE BECOME ONE]

[WANT SEE INSIDES LIKE MAGGOTS, JUST ONCE]

[KILL THIS ONE, CONNECT NEXT ONE] [CUT OFF] [NOT WORTHY OF CONNECTING]

[MORE BLOOD IS GOOD] [I THINK DISEMBOWELMENT ACCEPTABLE] [WHERE WE CONNECT? HOW OPEN HOLE IN SKULL?]

[THRIFORTOOFIIIVESEV] [NO MAKE US SUFFER]

[AAA, TIGHT, AA, TIGHT] [CAN I HAVE UTERUS?] [START BY CUTTING OFF TOES]

[MUST PUNISH] [EEEEEEEEEE] [I HEAR SIREN] [MUST TAKE]

[SEW TUBES TOGETHER] [D, DD, DANGEROUS]

[STILL NOT ENOUGH] [EEU, REGH, RECCH] [YOU HAVE TO END IT] [TOO LATE, EVERYTHING, TOO LATE]

---There’s not just two of them.

Countless voices endlessly talk over each other.

No matter how generous the estimate, it’d take dozens of people to create such a sound.

“!?”

Flum twitches in surprise, her elbow hitting the door loudly enough for it to be heard from outside.

Everything is suddenly dead quiet.

Listening closely, however, she can hear their breathing.

They’re still there --- dozens of people, blocking their only way out.

How’s that even possible!? There’s not room in that corridor for that many people, and I never heard any footsteps. When? How!?

Or maybe they’re not even human---

[TONIGHT]

One voice.

[DO IT TONIGHT]

Another agrees.

[TONIGHT GOOD] [TONIGHT, TONIGHT] [NO MORE WAIT] [FINALLY GET TO EAT] [WAIT FOR TONIGHT]

The visitors echo each other, suddenly clamouring once more.

“Master…?”

“Stay back!! Milkit, just… wait for me there, okay?”

There’s no place to run. She’ll have to fight. Given their numbers, she’ll have to try to keep them in the doorway so they don’t have the room to maneuver.

In her right, the Zweihander.

In her left, the door handle.

She closes her eyes, taking a deep, calming breath.

Filling her body with prana, she’s ready for anything.

She twists the lever-handle, pushing the door open with a CLACK!

She points her blade at the corridor beyond and all the enemies it contains---

“...Huh?”

There’s absolutely nobody there.

Jumping out and shooting glances left and right, she can’t see a single living thing, not a shadow, not even a presence.

“Um, Master… What did you hear?”

“You really didn’t hear anything, Milkit?”

“Yes, without a doubt.”

“I guess it must’ve been my---”

Flum stops mid-sentence.

She’s been overly cautious about Necromancy from the beginning, but in the end she’s still not sure if that’s just her prejudices. That sense of unease she can’t shake, the gazes of the townsfolk --- is it really all just in her head?

“...No, it’s not.”

She definitely felt one thing that was very amiss.

If that’s the case, then even if only a little, there should be some change.

“There’s something I need to check out. Let’s go, Milkit!”

“I’ll follow wherever you lead, Master!”

Flum grabs Milkit’s hand and takes off running down the corridor.

It doesn’t have to be Daffyd, she just has to ask someone. Their destination is the ‘First Laboratory’, the largest experimentation room in the complex and the place where they’re most likely to find a researcher.


◇◇◇


“So Ga-kun, what do you think of this dress?”

Tia calls out to Gadio from in front of the dressing mirror. The banquet will mark the first time she’ll be formally reintroduced as his wife. Gadio wants to go just in his normal clothes, but she’s determined to make an impression.

“C’mon, Ga-kun, why won’t you answer me? You can see me, can’t you? Oh, but come to think of it you were always bad with this sort of thing, weren’t you? Sometimes a girl wants to wear something her sweetheart picked out for her, though, so---”

Ksh, the sound of metal.

Tia slowly turns around.

“Ga… kun?”

Gadio stands there, black blade in hand.

Expressionlessly. Wordlessly.

He stands there frigidly, as if he himself were a sword, and aims the tip of the blade at her bosom.

“What… what are you doing? Why would you do something like…?”

“...”

“Do you hate me now, Ga-kun? I guess that’s it, isn’t it? We’ve been apart for so long… B-But you don’t have to go this far, do you!? Or wait, you’re trying to startle me, aren’t you? Really, that’s going too far! It’s not funny! You’re starting to scare me a little, so put the sword down, okay?”

Gadio doesn’t say a word.

“Please… Please, don’t do this. I didn’t come back to life for this…”

“Tia.”

“W-What?”

“I love you with all my heart.”

“Then why are you doing this? Because I’m not normal?”

Thinking back on it, she realizes that he’s been acting off ever since he came into the house a little while before. He replied only half-heartedly if at all to her questions about her hairstyle and accessories, too.

She has no idea what changed inside him so suddenly --- but anyone would be heartbroken to have a loved one act so murderously towards them.

Tears begin to well up in her eyes.

“Am I really that weird? Am I doing something wrong?”

“No, nothing like that.”

“So why…? I’m alive again, aren’t I? I thought that I could be your wife, properly this time, and that we could live happily ever after together…! I can’t leave Sheol right now, but I won’t need the Central Core’s support forever! I’ll have my own life back soon!”

“No… No, this is enough. You’re my Tia, alive and well, almost unnaturally so.”

Gadio wishes he could cry, but nothing comes out. He must’ve left all his tears in the past.

The Tia he knows died with his heart on that day six years ago. No matter how strong he gets, he can’t change the past. He can’t do anything about it.

There are some things that are so much easier without a heart, however.

“It was only a slight difference. Because of that faint difference, however, the sort of thing you could never change on purpose… I found out…”

The rhythm of her breathing, the movement of her fingertips, the scanning of her gaze, the pauses in her speech --- alone they mean nothing, each so faint that he didn’t even notice, but all together he can’t possibly ignore them.

“That… Just ignore that. There’s so many places I want to go together with you! I want to see the ocean to the south… I heard that in Farada they have an onsen! There are so, so many places I’d---”

“I wanted to go with you, too!”

He wanted to just cut her down without a word, but having come face-to-face with her like this he can’t do it. He doesn’t want to kill her. He wishes he could live together with her forever.

“I wanted to go see them with you, all of them... but that’s why… that’s why I couldn’t ignore it.”

“Ga-kun…”

Tia’s not the only one who’s suffering. Realizing that, she relaxes her body.

“This is a problem I need to solve with my own two hands.”

“...Okay.”

“Before it’s too late. Before you’re not you…”

“Before I’m no longer me… Yeah. I think you might be right. Maybe only a teeny-tiny bit, I got the feeling that might happen. Maybe that’s what coming back to life really means, huh?”

Tia thinks that she’s Tia Ruskett --- but at the same time, just like Gadio, she got the feeling that something, physically or mentally, wasn’t the same as it was before.

“To be honest, I can’t stop thinking about it. There’s something about the research labs. Someone inside me wants what’s in there.”

“Flum, I bet.”

“I think so. A part of me wants her so badly it can barely contain itself.”

It’s not Tia’s will, that much is certain.

“Daffyd told me that it takes more than just a body to bring someone back, it needs a soul. I think all that I have now, though, is the ‘husk’ of my soul that was left after I died.”

“Husk of a soul…?”

“When somebody dies their soul kind of hollows out, leaving only scraps in their body. I think something else is in that husk now, pretending to be Tia.”

“So Tia in form but not in spirit, huh?”

“Something like that. I want to think I’m really her, but…”

Having admitted it, her body starts to feel suddenly and incredibly uncomfortable. If she was more different, if she was something else with parts of Tia, she might’ve been able to accept it.

This is different, though. Because she was made to be Tia Ruskett, everything felt just wrong enough.

She can’t accept it.

Having rejected her spirit and the Core, her body starts warping, its connections coming apart at the seams.

“Ahaha, you really are amazing, Ga-kun. I can’t be too happy about it, though, even if you are going to let me die as a human, by your hand, than as some monster…”

Tia’s right arm starts violently convulsing, something on the inside struggling to break free with a sickening burbling sound.

“Your arm’s…”

“The limiters on the Necromancy Core’s probably stopped working now that I’ve gone and admitted it.”

He wants to say she’s wrong, to embrace her.

He holds himself back. Knowing that such regrets will only cause him to falter, he kills the impulse.

“I’m sorry for being so selfish, Ga-kun, making you do all this for me…”

“Don’t be sorry. I’m the only one who can properly put you to rest.”

“It was only for a little while, but I had a lot of fun with you. I was really, really happy. Probably a hundred times happier than any wife in the world!”

“I see… I’m… I’m glad to hear that…”

“I guess that makes you… yes, the best husband in the world! If being with you made me a hundred times happier, then that must be it!”

“Tia, I… I…!”

Tears still don’t come to Gadio’s eyes --- but she can tell he’s crying on the inside.

“Fufu… You’re such a crybaby, Ga-kun! But you know, It’s because you’re that soft that I fell in love with you.”

“I… I love you more than anyone else in the world, Tia!”

This is probably the first time he’s been so upfront about his feelings. Gadio was always the shy type, so even when he proposed to her he was hopelessly awkward, but Tia always loved that about him.

Of course, even with a straight confession like that, she’s so happy to hear those words that she could just die.

Then --- Gadio raises his sword, prana saturating the blade.

He can’t destroy the Core. All he can do is carve it out of her chest.

Faltering slows his hand.

Regret entangles his arm.

As if cutting them both in half --- Gadio howls as he swings.

“I… love you…”

Her body splits from shoulder to opposite hip, prana causing the wound to open as if exploding, spitting out a small, black sphere.

“Ga… ku…”

Words of love for him on her lips until the very end, Tia returns to sleep once more, this time never to be disturbed.

The pool of blood starts to expand across the floor.

Sleeping in the lake of blood is a princess in a lace gown, her life more precious and more fleetingly beautiful than any other.

Covered in her blood, Gadio’s hands fall to his sides as he burns that last sight into his mind.

“...Wait for me, Tia. I’ll be with you again soon.”

He doesn’t loosen the grip on his sword, however.

He’s decided, more determined than ever now.

The fight isn’t over yet.

“I can’t go there now, though. There’s one more thing I need to butcher first.”

When he closes his eyes, the name ‘Chimaera’ is waiting there for him.

He hates the entire Church and everything they stand for, but if he’s to have his proper revenge he needs to kill those directly responsible for his friends’ deaths.

There’s a gaping hole in his heart now, but as he calms his breathing hatred begins to fill it. Since he has no future ahead of him, no dreams left, all he needs is that awesome, all-consuming destruction.

Every breath fills his lungs with the smell of blood, and opening his eyes he can see viscera flowing forth from her open gut to stain his wife’s corpse. Seeing her dead like this for the second time, he gets the feeling that he has all he needs.

But then, a single man steps inside that sacred space meant for husband and wife alone --- Daffyd, come to call them for dinner. His eyes almost pop right out of his head.

“What… why… Did you do this, Gadio-san!?”

Gadio slowly turns to face the panicking Daffyd.

“Yeah, I did. Tell me, Daffyd, did you know?”

“What? What are you saying I knew!? No, no matter what reason you may have had, there’s no way you could justify such a heinous act! I thought that you and I would understand each other, that we both went through the hardship of losing our wives…!”

He was positive that they were two of a kind, that seeing their wives die such hollow, pointless deaths would mean that Gadio would accept Necromancy. He had banked everything on Gadio’s sympathy.

Feeling utterly betrayed, he’s furious.

“You loved Tia-san, didn’t you!? How could you do such a thing!? You’re no better than Chimaer--- gh!?”

Without even letting him finish, Gadio grabs him by the collar and slams him into the wall.

“You said you brought them back completely. You said that they’re just as they were. But Tia said that you knew --- you knew that they were only husks of souls in husks of bodies.”

“Y-You’re wrong… We, all of us humans, are nothing but husks! The Origin Cores merely returned the dead to their natural states!”

“No, that was Tia but not Tia. Everyone living in this damned town probably knows the truth!”

“What truth? You’ve clearly lost your mind!”

“Everyone’s just too afraid of waking up from the dream to do anything.”

“What’s wrong with dreaming? A dream that never ends isn’t any different from reality!”

“No! The fear that it might end will never stop haunting them. Isn’t everything already starting to come apart?”

“What on earth are you saying? There’s no way---”

Daffyd scoffs, but before he can finish denying it a low, long siren starts blaring, a sound that itself brings worry and unease.

As they both turn to look outside, a man plasters himself against the window, screaming “Help! Help me!!” as he pounds on the glass with his fist. A moment later a woman, probably his wife, jumps on him from behind and bites into his neck. Her teeth effortlessly break through his skin, and the area around his wound starts spiralling, writhing, and tearing itself apart.

“Wha… T-This is… and the emergency siren…? …Don’t tell me something happened to the Central Core!? Let go of me, let go! I need to go right now!”

Gadio releases his grip on the flailing Daffyd. Face deathly pale, he then rushes out of the house and sprints in a straight line towards the research facility.

“The Central Core is in the depths of the lab… Flum’s in trouble.”

Gadio leaves the house, and a moment later he spots Eterna running toward him with Ink in her arms.

“Gadio!”

“Eterna, that blood---”

“Probably the same as yours.”

“It’s theirs, huh…?”

Ink’s lips start to tremble, voice shaking.

“Eterna… I’m sorry… I’m really sorry…!”

“It’s fine. I should’ve done it sooner, even.”

“Did they attack you?”

Eterna nods.

Of her own free will, she attacked her parents.

After losing herself in that dream for but a moment, all that she’s left with is guilt and regret.

“This siren… from the lab? Flum’s in danger.”

“I was just about to go give her a hand myself.”

The three of them head for the lab together. Eterna would prefer to leave Ink someplace safe, but there’s nowhere like that left in Sheol.

“Uwaaaaaaaagh!! Somebody, anybody, help meee!!”

“Stop, w-why!? It’s me, dear! I’m your wife!!”

“Kagh… agh, guh… t-this is just a dream… all a bad dream… ghu…!!”

Screaming and crying comes from all around them, however.

All at once, the dead have begun to attack the living.

Gadio and Eterna can’t just ignore that.

“Tch --- Hmph!!”

Swinging his greatsword, Gadio unleashes a blade of energy that cleaves a husband in half as he tries to eat his wife.

“Aqua Bullet.”

The pellet of water that flies from Eterna’s hand pierces the heart of a father as he strangles his daughter.

Both of the dead stop moving, but as their Cores are still intact, it’s only a moment before they start twitching and writhing unlike any human could as they resume their attack.

Seeing that, the living finally realize --- everything that they’ve seen there was nothing but a dream.

“Eterna, behind you!”

Hearing an attacker’s footsteps, Ink calls out.

The dead who have finished devouring their partners have started indiscriminately attacking anyone and everyone around them.

Eterna’s floating fishlike device drives itself into her attacker’s gut.

“Ice Lance.”

A moment later, Eterna’s spell emerges from the ‘fish’s mouth --- a spear of ice flies out, blowing the man away as his intestines spill out of the new hole in his stomach.

With that, however, they’ve made it clear that they’re ‘threats’.

The dead seem to come out of nowhere as they surround the three of them.

“Kh… It looks like we’ll have to clean up the mess in town first.”

“Be safe, Flum---”

Filled with impatience, Gadio and Eterna turn to face off against the horde.


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