OmaeGotoki: Volume 3 Side Story - Lamenting The Boundary

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The West Quarter is not nearly as well-maintained as the East Quarter, and as such there aren’t as many places for children to play. What it does have, however, is a wealth of empty lots for children to play in --- but one particular lot has a different kind of play that morning.

“Is that all you’ve got, Flum!?”

“Hahh… Hahh… I’m still good to go!”

“Good. We don’t have the time to waste resting!”

“Yeah, Gadio-san!”

Flum kicks off the ground at Gadio, swinging the Zweihander down on him.

Clad in his longcoat, he easily deflects the massive black blade and knocks Flum off-balance with a low kick.

“Kh...”

“I thought I taught you the difference between attacking and charging in blindly.”

As she starts to tip and fall, Gadio mercilessly kicks her in the gut.

“Gaha…!”

The air’s knocked out of her lungs and her consciousness starts to fade for a moment, but the fight burning in her eyes doesn’t go out. Even as she’s sent flying back through the air, she unleashes a Prana Shaker.

She’s striking out blindly again… no, this is a feint. In that case…!

If her attack’s meant for her to buy time to recover, then he’ll crush that and her follow-up attack as one. Instead of going on the defensive, he wraps himself in prana and steps forwards. The Prana Shaker strikes him with a loud crackling flash like lightning, prana cancelling out prana. He arrives in front of Flum just as she hits the ground, before she has the time to raise her sword in defense.

“This is the end!”

He raises his blade.

Normally, the fight would be all but decided --- but Flum hasn’t given up yet. She sticks out her gauntlet-clad right hand to accept the attack. It’s a completely futile defense; even if Gadio’s attack was weak enough to be blocked so easily, she’d lose an arm and would be unable to keep fighting. If nothing else, there shouldn’t be any need for her to go so far in a sparring match.

In the split second before his sword hits, however, Gadio carefully assesses what she’s thinking.

It looks like she’s thrusting her arm out as a last resort, but that’s not it at all. She’s got a plan of some sort. Judging from where her arm is, where she’s applying force --- she’s hoping to deflect my blade, not stop it. She’s determined to keep going, then. In that case!

Gadio doesn’t stop. Sparks fly as metal meets metal. Unable to handle the force, Flum’s forearm cracks like a tree branch right in the middle with a loud crack.

“Master…!”

“What’s going on, Eterna?”

“Her arm broke. Badly.”

Milkit, Eterna, and Ink are struck speechless from where they watch on a nearby bench.

It’s far better to have her arm break than to lose --- in other words, Flum succeeded in deflecting his attack. It still hurts, of course, and even if her sense of pain is dulled somewhat it’s far more than what would be normal for a sparring match. On top of that, she’s still not used to the unpleasantly visceral sensation of her bones breaking. Her entire body flinches, a chill running down her spine as her blood seems to freeze over.

She’ll have to make up for it with sheer force of will.

“Haaaaaaahh!”

Gripping the Zweihander in her left hand alone, she slashes at Gadio. She’s planning on stopping right before she hits him --- but she never gets the chance to.

Gadio’s blade follows through to embed itself in the ground. Using it as a support, he jumps somersaulting into the air, avoiding her attack completely. He pulls his sword out of the ground as he lands, now standing behind her.

“That wasn’t half bad, Flum.”

He doesn’t go so far as to put his blade to her neck, but the result is clear nonetheless. Flum lets out a large sigh, collapsing to the ground.

“That still wasn’t enough…?”

She was quite proud of that last move, but it still failed to hit Gadio.

“Master!”

As soon as the match ends, Milkit runs up to Flum, worriedly looking at her right arm.

“Are you alright? It doesn’t hurt too badly, does it?”

“I’m totally fine! It’s all healed already and everything.”

Flum opens and closes her fist as proof, and Milkit lets out a sigh of relief. A moment later, however, she puffs out her cheeks and takes a rare angry tone.

“You push yourself far too hard, Master! You should learn to take proper breaks on your days off at the very least.”

“Ah, sorry… I just got the feeling that I wouldn’t be able to beat Gadio if I didn’t go at least that far, y’know?”

“A matter of determination, is it? I was surprised to see you sacrifice your arm like that to be certain, but I believe that was going a little too far.”

“Uuuu, of course it was… Maybe I should just stop doing stuff like that altogether.”

“If it was anyone else I’d tell them to stop without a doubt… but if I think in terms of a fight to the death, I must admit your fighting style is effective.”

Milkit finds herself listening to Gadio’s words with mixed feelings.

“Yeah, thinking of how much more experience you have I figured that’s the only way I’d get anywhere.”

“That’s why I won’t stop you. You’ve got to remember the difference between blindly charging in and properly attacking, though. If you take a blow to the brain or heart, not even you could shake it off. I hope I can train you to protect those regions at least.”

“You’re going to continue sparring with her in this state!?”

“Please don’t stop him, Milkit. I was the one who asked him to train me, after all, and I don’t know when we’ll get the chance to do this again. I want to get as strong as I can, especially since that means I’ll be able to protect you.”

Flum reaches out to Milkit’s cheek, her fingers tickling her silver hair as her index finger grazes Milkit’s ear lobe. The ticklishness, her softness and her warmth --- Milkit’s heart starts racing, her face reddening slightly.

“If you put it like that, I suppose I can’t argue… but please be careful from now on, okay? Your pain is my pain, Master.”

“Got it, I’ll watch out for that.”

Eterna and Ink listen to their little exchange from the bench.

“They’re as close as always.”

“Hmm… Haven’t they gotten a little closer since coming back from Sheol, though?”

“It seems like Milkit took a step forward. Maybe she’s more confident after realizing she has the power to save Flum.”

“So they might be taking the step to the next stage, huh? It looks like they’re gonna be putting you through even worse stuff than before, Eterna!”

“Why do you seem so happy about that…?”

In one way or another, Eterna and Ink look to be growing steadily closer as well.

While they’re talking, however, Milkit finishes talking with Flum and returns to the bench. She hates seeing Flum get hurt, but if it’s necessary for her to get stronger she’ll keep watching over Flum to the end.

With that, round two begins.

“Teryaaaaaaaa!”

Letting out a battle cry, Flum starts boldly striking out at Gadio. He calmly blocks, dodges, and occasionally pushes her back. Even after receiving Milkit’s warning she’s suffered multiple injuries since they started again --- if she’s determined to have a realistic fight, then Gadio is determined to not disappoint her.

They don’t have the luxury of time, after all. The Children, Chimaera, or even the Paladins could make their next move at any time. There’s no guarantee that tomorrow --- no, even the rest of today will be peaceful.

That’s why Gadio holds nothing back, determined to teach her all he possibly can while he has the chance. Even if she ends up battered and beaten, she’ll be able to fight with her own two hands should the need arise.

“Cool! Hey guys, come see this!”

At some point a group of children gathered to watch them spar. They get the feeling that watching Flum’s half-suicidal fighting might not be the best thing for their developing minds, but they don’t stop.

Getting to watch a ‘real’ fight up-close, the kids only get more worked up.

“Don’t let him beat you, Oneesan! Show him who’s boss!”

“Don’t lose to that Ojisan! Go, go!”

At some point they start cheering for the battered Flum and Gadio becomes the villain --- but in the end, it has nothing to do with their training.


◇◇◇


Come noon, Flum and Gadio decide to take a break for lunch, each returning to their respective houses. Milkit invites Gadio over for lunch, but perhaps feeling a little regretful for all the worry he caused Kereina during the Sheol incident he refuses.

The only time they really have to talk together, then, is the short time before they arrive at Flum’s house.

“Gadio, you look down. Like you suffered some sort of shock.”

Eterna calls out to him just as they’re leaving the empty lot.

“Do I really?”

“You really do.”

“Well, to be honest, I… no, I get the feeling you’d only laugh if I told you.”

Gadio seems unusually at a loss for words. After a long moment, he seems to have found his resolve.

“Am I really an ‘ojisan’?”

Flum, Milkit, and Ink give him blank looks, and Eterna looks away, her shoulders trembling with a suppressed laugh. Gadio scratches his head abashed.

“No, nevermind. Forget I said anything.”

“Sorry. I won’t. I’ll be teasing you about this for years.”

“You’re just as twisted as always, Eterna.”

“I have a reputation to uphold.”

“Stop swelling your chest with pride like that.”

“Who’re you calling flat-chested?”

“I didn’t say anything like that.”

“...”

“Did you just hurt your own feelings, Eterna?”

“I honestly don’t know what to say…”

Gadio puts his head in his hands.

Finally, Flum steps in to say something decent.

“I think you’re still pretty spry, Gadio-san.”

“You don’t call people who’re actually young ‘spry’.”

“Uu…”

Eterna’s retort renders Flum speechless.

“It might be as Eterna says. Maybe I really am an ojisan… I suppose thirty-two makes me old enough for it.”

“I think you make quite a nice ojisan, Gadio-san. I’m sure men all over the Capital would be eager to hear how you’re aging so well.”

“Yeah, you’re like a… dan-dee? More like an ojisama than an ojisan…?”

Milkit and Ink try to put a better spin on the word. It’s not as though he isn’t happy they’re trying, but still a little too reluctant to accept the unpleasant truth he parts with them with a bit of a shadow over his face.


◇◇◇


Gadio heads from the West Quarter through to the East Quarter. Just as he’s passing through Main Street, however---

“Ah, Gadio-san!”

He happens to run into Kereina there, out on a shopping trip. Clearly very happy to have ‘coincidentally’ found Gadio there, she greets him with a broad smile, her ponytail swishing side to side almost like a dog’s tail.

“I didn’t expect to see you here, Kereina.”

“Yeah, I’m out shopping for ingredients for lunch.”

Gadio naturally takes her shopping bag for her, and she returns a natural “Thanks”.

“Where’s Hallom?”

“She’s playing at a friend’s house.”

“Full of energy as always, is she?”

“Tell me about it. Thanks to your help, she’s growing up strong and healthy.”

“I’m really not doing that much. It’s all because you’re such a great mother.”

“There you go with that modesty of yours again!”

She frowns a little in discontent.

The two walk shoulder-to-shoulder as they always do. Since Kereina’s apparently finished her shopping already, they head straight back to their mansion. They only walk together a short ways, but judging from Kereina’s attitude she seems to think it’s a date --- probably even more so since Hallom’s not there.

Gadio notices her mood, of course. As they walk her glee seems to fly off at him, causing guilt to well up from inside him.

He just can’t help but think of Tia.

“Why so glum, chum?”

“...Well, I was sparring with Flum a little while ago.”

As if dodging the question, he starts with something totally unrelated.

“The kids who were watching us called me an ojisan. I was simply realizing that I’m finally at that age.”

“That’s kinda surprising. I didn’t think you cared about stuff like that.”

“Well, you’re younger than I am, so I’m sure---”

“I don’t… not care, really. There’re a few little troublemakers in the neighbourhood, and whenever they go too far with their pranks I always tell them off, but they always call me ‘old hag’ because of that. Can you believe them!?”

“There’s no need to take them so seriously.”

“Maybe, but you start caring about stuff like that at thirty, y’know? And aren’t you worried about the same thing? Even if I tell you you’re still plenty handsome you’ll still be upset, right?”

“I suppose you have a point.”

“It’s kinda like destiny, honestly. All we can do is age gracefully.”

“Age gracefully, huh…”

Gadio closes his eyes, thinking back.

[I wonder what kind of ojisan you’ll be, Ga-kun?]

It was back before he and Tia were married.

[You’ve got a young face and you’re a little on the skinny side, so you’re probably going to be the cool and collected type. I’ll probably be… mmgh, I don’t think I’ll be the type of obasan that’ll look good with you…]

[N-No, that’s not true! I-I think you’ll be cute no matter how old you are!]

[Really…? Nfufu, if you say so, Ga-kun, then you’re probably right!]

It’s only natural to imagine one’s future self, trusting and believing it’ll naturally come to pass---

“You’re thinking about Tia, aren’t you?”

Kereina’s voice drags Gadio back to reality.

“...We talked about something similar once, long ago.”

Gadio doesn’t even try to hide it. Kereina doesn’t seem to mind as she chuckles a little.

“I guess I’ve gotta up my game or you’ll never look my way, huh? Here I am trying to fit myself to your tastes, but you don’t seem to even notice.”

“I believe you’re a fine woman. In fact, I’d say that you’re far too good for me.”

“There you go again, pouring oil on my fire!”

She gives him a challenging smile, her expression just like it was back during her adventuring days.

“Face it, you’re stuck with me. I’m gonna blow your socks off one of these days! Lessee, how about ten years from now? I swear I’m going to make you fall for me before then. You’d better be ready!”

Having said her part, she speeds up a little to walk ahead of him. From behind, Gadio can tell that her ears are bright red.

A pain runs through his chest.

I can’t possibly let someone as wonderful as her stick around with someone like me. My life’s already as good as over.

“...Ten years, huh?”

He can’t help but imagine what life will be like then. He must not be a perfect revenge machine yet.

“That’s a long ways from now---”

Gadio whispers out to the sky.

The sun’s rays shine on and illuminate all life equally. To him, even that light feels a world away.


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