Chapter 8: A Contradictory Nun

“Thank you for saving it!”

After returning the stolen bag, its owner gripped both of Flamm’s hands while thanking her with tears in his eyes. The man appeared to be around thirty years old, but he had a crooked back and seemed to have a weak constitution. He did not look like the kind of person who should be walking alone through the West District.

“Oh, I’m sorry I didn’t introduce myself. I am Rich Mancathy and I run a small shop.”

He introduced himself politely. His bearing and his clothes both marked him as a member of the upper class. Besides that, Flamm remembered hearing the name Mancathy. Not in a distant memory, but only recently.

Milkit touched her shoulder. “Is that the shop Master visited earlier to buy dinner?”

The two of them had stopped by a large store handling fresh food just before heading back to the West District

“Oh, yes, that Mancathy Shop… no, wait, it’s not small!”

“Ah, you’re too kind.”

Although Rich was not putting on airs, the Mancathy Shop was the largest store dealing with fresh food in the capital. Just about everybody who lived in the capital had shopped there one time or another. While Rich looked a bit scrawny, Flamm was impressed that such a rich person would be so polite while talking to a pair of slaves.

“By the way, what is your name?” he asked.

“Well, I am Flamm. I am registered as an adventurer in the West District. This is Milkit,” Flamm said.

“I serve Master,” Milkit added.

Milkit deeply lowered her head as she was introduced. Thanks to the maid clothes, the overall impression was striking.

“Flamm and Milkit. Flamm, your face seems familiar.”

Rich scratched his chin, lost in thought, while Flamm felt her heartbeat pick up.

“I thought so too,” the young nun added.

As a member of the Hero’s party, Flamm was not exactly a celebrity but she was somewhat well known. Whether it was the people at the church who worked with Maria or the president of a large store who collected information as part of his work, it was quite possible they had seen her face before.

“No, well,” Flamm said, then laughed. “I often hear that I look like a celebrity.”

Flamm was calm as she deceived the two of them. Nobody would imagine that Flamm Apricot would become a slave. Even somebody who had seen her before wouldn’t believe their eyes in the face of the slave brand.

“Ah, I’m sorry if it bothers you.”

“No, I don’t mind.”

“Also,” Rich said, “who is this nun here?”

“I am Sarah Ambiren,” the young nun said. “I am doing my best to serve Origin.”

“Well, thank you for your help!” Rich said. “I just can’t thank you enough.”

“It’s only a matter of course as a nun to fight guys like that.”

Sarah put both hands on her waist and puffed up her chest as she spoke.

Flamm’s mental picture of nuns being pure and weak was being overwritten by the image of a fighter. The two men groaning at her feet probably also couldn’t have imagined they would be beaten and captured by a young nun.

“By the way,” Flamm asked, “what are you going to do with them?”

“I have my bag back,” Rich said, “so I don’t think there’s need for anything more.”

“Yeah,” Sarah said, “They should be discouraged by this much.”

Flamm made a noise of disagreement after hearing the two of them suggest letting the men go. She didn’t believe that two men who followed Dain around were struggling to make ends meet. While somebody who stole out of desperation could be reformed, these two probably just stole for fun. She didn’t think that people like that would repent their actions so easily.

“You disagree?” Rich sked.

“I think it would be better to report them,” Flamm said. “I think these guys will probably start stealing again if we let them go.”

“Do you really think so?” Sarah asked. “After being hurt, won’t they reflect on what happened? Why would they do the same thing after getting beaten up?”

“You’re a nice girl, Sarah,” Flamm said. “Bad people like these won’t reflect on their actions unless they suffer serious punishment.”

“That’s sad,” Sarah said, looking distraught. “Sad.”

Flamm crouched down and stroked her hair. “Well, the world is sad sometimes. I think it will get better though, if somebody like you does your best.”

“I understand, I’ll do my best!”

Sarah’s mood recovered quickly. She was definitely a simple child. If everybody were simple and pure like her, the world would be a peaceful pace.

“So,” Flamm said, “I think you should call a guard or a church knight.”

“All right,” Rich said. “Ah, maybe you would know more about where to go in this area?”

“I know where the church knights are,” Sarah said. “I’ll go get them for you!”

With that, Sarah took off at a full speed run. Flamm and Rich both stared at the back of her head as she ran out of sight.

“She’s really something,” Milkit said.

“A little impatient. That’s how kids are,” Flamm said.

“I suppose.”

Rich smiled at the conversation between the 16-year-old Flamm and 14-year old Milkit.

For teenagers a four or five year age difference could feel bigger than the actual number. Although for the two of them in particular there was a bit of envy at seeing the happiness of childhood that they have lost.

After a moment, Rich lost his smile and spoke with a more serious expression.

“By the way, Flamm…”

“Yes?” Flamm asked, picking up on the change in mood.

“You seem to be an adventurer with good skills,” Rich said. “Could you handle a personal request?”

“Personal request?” Flamm asked. “I’m only an F rank adventurer.”

Although Flamm was an adventurer, somebody in charge of a business the size of the Mancathy Shop certainly should have his pick of adventurers to choose from. She wasn’t sure why he would want to make a request to somebody he just met.

“Was that the ability of an F rank just now?”

“Well, I only registered yesterday.”

Simply looking at Flamm’s stats, they were above the F rank category. However, her experience was still too shallow. The capability of an adventurer wasn’t just determined by strength. Experience and knowledge was also important. One fight, even against a high ranked monster, wasn’t enough for Flamm to say that she had definitely surpassed the F rank.

“So they don’t know your skills yet,” Rich said. “Honestly, it’s more convenient for me if you are not high-profile.”

Flamm felt uneasy. For Rich to be happy with such a thing suggested that this was a request that he didn’t want other to know about. Even more so considering that he was asking directly without going through the guild, making things a little awkward.

Rich seemed to notice Flamm’s feelings. “In fact, my wife is ill.”

“I’m sorry,” Flamm said. “Have you asked the church for treatment?”

“It seems that it is a disease that magic cannot heal,” Rich said. “The priest told me that I have no choice but to believe in my wife’s ability to survive and wait for her to get better.”

Milkit flinched. The situation sounded much like the Mustard poison that had ruined her face.

“However,” Rich continued, “when I looked it up I found that it is a disease that can be cured with medicine.”

“I see,” Flamm said. “What is your request exactly?”

If Rich put the request through the guild, it would be revealed to the church that he wanted to make medicine using herbs. The church had crushed pharmacists in order to protect its own interests. That was not just a bit of interesting history. It was still a crime, illegal drug manufacturing, to produce herbal medicine, no matter how effective.

The kingdom has walked hand in hand with the church in the regulation of medicine. Even the head of the Mancathy Store would not be able to avoid prosecution if his request were discovered.

“My wife’s condition gets worse day by day,” Rich said. “If she doesn’t get medicine as soon as possible, she could die.”

So he felt forced to obtain medicine even if it was illegal. An adventurer like Flamm with low rank and high ability was just what he needed.

“Of course, the reward is high,” Rich said. “I understand a request that doesn’t go through the guild won’t help your rank, so you need to be compensated appropriately.”

As Rich said, a request that didn’t go through the guild wouldn’t be included in calculating Flamm’s rank. On the other hand, the guild wouldn’t be taking a cut out of the fee. Also, the request itself wasn’t inherently violent or immoral, and Flamm wouldn’t have to deal with the obnoxious guild receptionist.

“What do you think, Master?” Milkit asked.

“Well…”

Flamm shrugged, torn. The reward was great, but so is the risk. If Flamm were sniffed out by the church, she would be in danger. Still, though, she can’t help but respond to Rich’s feelings for his wife.

She turned back to him and spoke clearly. “I will perform your request.”

Rich smiled as his face lit up with hope. “Really! O God, thank you for this encounter!”

Flamm was uncomfortable in front of a public display in a belief she didn’t share, but it didn’t shake her resolve. She was happy to receive Rich’s tear-filled gratitude. Although, while she had accepted the quest, she still didn’t know what medicinal herbs were needed or where to get them.

“Ah, where do the herbs grow?” Flamm asked, slightly embarrassed.

“Actually, I don’t know the location,” Rich admitted. “I know that it is a plant with a blue flower called Chiaraly, but it is hard to find any books about medicinal herbs any more.”

With the Church suppressing information on medicinal herbs, it was already impressive that Rich even knew what material was needed. He had probably only succeeded because he was so desperate to save his wife.

“I see, finding it is part of the request.”

“I know it’s an unreasonable thing to ask,” Rich said, “but this is my only hope.”

“I’ll do my best. I won’t give up halfway.”

Flamm wasn’t completely confident in her ability to handle this quest from scratch, but she was willing to give it a try.

It shouldn’t be impossible to find the missing information. Flamm could start from her basic understanding about herbs and try to figure out the location on her own. Ideally, she would be able to ask her friend for help. Unfortunately, she wasn’t sure whether her friend will cooperate, or really even if she is a true friend.

“They were slightly troubled, but they eventually agreed.”

“Those two thought you were the biggest burden.”

Flamm remembered Jean’s words. She didn’t know if he was telling the truth or not. Even just the memory was enough to make Flamm’s heart tremble. If he had been telling the truth, then Eterna would not cooperate with Flamm. But she had no choice than to believe.

“But,” Flamm continued, “I think it will take some time.”

“While my wife’s condition is poor, she shouldn’t be dying soon,” Rich said. “All I can say is that getting the herbs as soon as possible will be fine. I’m sorry to put such pressure on you.”

There is no specific deadline, but if she took too long then Rich’s wife would die. It was a heavy burden to bear. A life was in the balance based on Flamm’s performance of his request.

“My notes summarizing the characteristics of Chiaraly are at my house, should we go and pick them up?”

As the two arranged the final details of the request, Flamm could hear Sarah’s voice approaching them.

“Oh, here they are!”

Sarah ran up to the three of them, followed by two other knights wearing white plate armor. The knights made a magical ring of lights that restrained the two unconscious robbers. In the mean time, Rich, Flamm, and Milkit made idle conversation. Presumably things went so smoothly because Sarah was a member of the church.

“Good work!”

Sarah shook hands with the knights and waved them off. She had sweat beading on her forehead from running back and forth, but the smile on her face was still untouched by any kind of fatigue.

Sarah turned to Flamm after the two knights disappeared into the crowd. “I hope that those guys mend their ways.”

“Me too,” Flamm agreed. It would help public security in the West Ward, and it would also reduce the power of Dain’s faction.

“By the way,” Sarah said, “I have something I want to ask.”

“What is it?” Rich asked.

Sarah looked up at him and tilted her head. “Is something bothering you? Specifically, with medicinal herbs.”

Flamm’s heart skipped a beat.

Rich hesitated, but otherwise maintained his poker face. “No, nothing like that.”

He and Flamm were both surprised. Sarah hadn’t eavesdropped on the two of them, but despite that she had seen through the request Rich made.

“Well, in the past, when I’ve seen someone with similar expressions who had similar troubles,” Sarah said, “I helped look for the herbs and handed them over.”

“Handed out herbal medicine?” Rich asked. “Aren’t you a member of the church?”

“Well, it’s the duty of clergy to help those in trouble,” Sarah said. “I learned that from Maria.”

“Maria?”

“Maria is an amazing person who is traveling with the Hero!” Sarah said. “When I was just starting in the church, she was very kind to me.”

Sarah seemed to be speaking of the saintess Maria Afengens. Sarah’s eyes glittered as she spoke about her, and it was clear that she adored Maria from the bottom of her heart.

Flamm’s experience with Maria had been a bit different. Certainly she was kind. But during their travels she always acted strange in the presence of the demons. She also followed Jean’s instructions not to use restoration magic on Flamm in order to conserve resources. Flamm found it hard to think of someone like that as a saint.

“I think it is strange that the church forbids the use of herbal medicine. If a person can’t be saved by magic, why not save them with medicine?” Sarah continued. “Oh, don’t tell anybody I said that, I’ll get in trouble.”

Rich, Flamm, and Milkit all looked at each other. Sarah’s remarks sounded like somebody who barely followed church teachings. Rich seemed to be asking Flamm with his eyes whether he should trust Sarah.

“I understand that you don’t want to say anything, but I want you to understand that I want to help,” Sarah said. “Also, the church still has some information on medicinal herbs. I think it would be useful.”

“The church has that kind of information?!” Rich asked, shocked.

“A little bit, yes.”

It was hard to trust somebody associated with the church on this matter. But on the other hand, the information on the habitat of Chiaraly might be in the church documents. Speaking up would be risky, but it could also help Flamm complete the request quickly. Rich was forced to choose.

“I think you can trust Sarah,” Flamm said. “She has very pure eyes.”

After Flamm spoke, Rich closed his eyes and remained silent for a while, thinking.

“Well, if you say so… Sarah, I certainly have a problem with herbs,” Rich said. “My wife is suffering from a disease. We need an herbal remedy for her treatment.”

“That kind of thing? I guess I will understand when I examine it.”

“I already asked Flamm to help,” Rich said. “If you can cooperate and find what I need, of course I will give you a reward.”

“I don’t need it,” Sarah said. “Helping others is a nun’s job.”

Sarah glared a bit at Flamm. While Sarah persisted in a life of service, Flamm felt a bit wretched for always acting for rewards.

“Well…”

“No, it’s okay,” Sarah said. “You don’t work for the church, after all.”

The three of them, Flamm, Milkit, and Sarah, followed Rich back to his house. They would be working together to find the Chiaraly.

◇ ◇ ◇

Sarah left to gather information from the church based on what she learned from Rich. Flamm tried to look for information as well, but she was unable to find any books relating to medicinal herbs.

Two days later, Sarah returned. She had notes written in her childish handwriting describing the location of a cave where Chiaraly could be gathered.

“I had a hard time stealing a look,” Sarah said, laughing. “I’m glad I found it safely.”

Even the people within the church didn’t have free access to materials on medicinal herbs. Sarah had to sneak around in order to take a peek. Flamm was surprised and a little guilty and finding that she had led an innocent like Sarah onto such a dangerous path.

In any event, Chiaraly could be found near a town called Enichidae. From the capital city, it would take about two days traveling south by coach to get there.

The three of them gathered at Rich’s mansion to make preparations to travel. Rich was delighted that they knew where to find the Chiaraly and gladly handled all of the travel arrangements. Flamm was prepared to handle the request by herself from that point, but Sarah insisted on coming along. After Milkit agreed that it would be a good idea, Flamm could only acquiesce, though she was worried that the church would find out what Sarah had been doing.

“There’s no problem with traveling around to help people,” Sarah said. “Other nuns do it all the time.”

It would probably be ok.

They decided to leave the next morning.

◇ ◇ ◇

Milkit was lying in the hotel bed that evening, staring at the ceiling. She seemed too tense to sleep.

“Milkit, are you awake?” Flamm asked from the other bed.

“I still… I’m nervous.”

“Heh, that’s right, you’re like that.”

Flamm also seemed to be nervous and couldn’t sleep.

“Well,” Flamm said, “do you want to talk a little?”

“Please.”

“What do you want to talk about?”

“Well, can I ask about you?”

“Sure.”

Flamm’s voice hitched slightly. She was glad that Milkit was showing interest in her.

“Has Master traveled?”

Milkit had no idea that Flamm had traveled with the Hero’s party, even after spending time with Flamm. As a slave, she knew about the existence of a Hero, but not the identities of everybody participating.

Flamm had not spoken about her past before being sold into slavery, but now Milkit was showing interest in learning more about her. She decided it would be better for the relationship between them to speak now instead of hiding things until later on.

“Actually, I was traveling with the Hero.”

The room was silent for a moment. It seemed that it was impossible for Milkit to believe such a ridiculous fact right away.

“A heroic person?”

“Well, specifically, I was traveling with Cyrille, Eterna, and Gadio for months.”

Even Milkit who didn’t know much recognized those names. She leaned up, tilting her body to look towards Flamm’s bed.

“You… were one of the heroes chosen by God?”

“I don’t know if I believe in that kind of thing.”

“Master, you were a wonderful person.”

Milkit had thought that Flamm was not a simple person. However, she had never imagined that she was one of the heroes. She peered through her bandages and studied her closely. Flamm felt suddenly shy.

“Well, in the end they kicked me out,” Flamm said. “Not just that, I was sold to slave merchants and given this mark because I was chosen by God.”

Flamm still didn’t understand why Origin chose her. On balance she felt she had been hurt by being chosen.

“Oh, I see.”

Milkit seemed to have decided something.

“What?”

“Master seemed dazzling to me. Even though we were both slaves, it seemed like you had not been stained by any part of a slave’s mindset. Even though I was in the same cage I did not understand… now I finally understand the reason.”

Was she dazzling? Rather, Milkit, a slave for years and years, might have been seeing things too positively. Well, Flamm could agree that she wasn’t “stained,” at least.

“Perhaps Master is in a place that I can reach.”

“Why say that… I do not even like myself.”

“Even so.”

“I am still in a place where I can fall back,” Flamm said. “But if I hear that Milkit is sinking, then I will raise both of us.”

“Master says such a thing again.”

Milkit acts as if she were upset, but her voice sounded slightly happy.

“Is that wrong?”

“I want to believe you, so I’m in trouble.”

“Well, good,” Flamm said, laughing.

Milkit puffed out her cheeks and huffed a bit in frustration.

“Leaving tomorrow… I hope everything ends safely,” Milkit said.

“Yeah, let’s plan to eat something delicious with the reward.”

“Today’s lunch was very tasty, it was the first time I ate such a thing.”

“It wasn’t that fancy, but… if you like it, we’ll go there again.”

“Good.”

By talking with each other, much of their anxiety faded. However, it didn’t completely disappear. Especially since the church was doing things that they didn’t understand. Still, as Flamm thought about it, it seemed useless to speculate when she knew so little. She swallowed the premonition that was bothering her and closed her eyes.

“Good night.”

“Good night.”

With those words, the room was filled with silence. The night grew darker. The time for departure drew near.

TN: Happy New Year everybody.

Chapter 7: We Aim for “Ordinary” from the Bottom of an Abyss

TN: The author wrote character summaries as of the end of volume one. I haven’t translated the whole thing since it’s largely a rehash of what’s already been covered, but we did get to see everybody’s stats:

Flamm Apricot
Attribute: Inverse
Strength: 0
Magical power: 0
Vitality: 0
Dexterity: 0
Perception: 0

Milkit:
Attribute: Darkness
Strength: 11
Magical power: 8
Vitality: 9
Dexterity: 6
Perception: 15

Jean:
Attribute: Nature
Strength: 994
Magical power: 8809
Vitality: 678
Agility: 1087
Perception: 2886

Eterna:
Attribute: Water
Strength: 668
Magical power: 10005
Vitality: 525
Agility: 564
Perception: 2898

Gadio:
Attribute: Earth
Strength: 7385
Magical power: 821
Vitality: 7261
Dexterity: 2136
Perception: 1341

Linus:
Attribute: Wind
Strength: 3581
Magical power: 1063
Vitality: 3891
Dexterity: 8854
Perception: 2876

Maria:
Attribute: Light
Strength: 1857
Magical power: 6680
Vitality: 2279
Dexterity: 1136
Perception: 4278

Cyrille:
Attribute: Hero
Strength: 6899
Magical power: 6250
Vitality: 6887
Dexterity: 6716
Perception: 6529

Overall, with Flamm’s current gear she is well above an untrained person like Milkit but well below the Hero’s companions on raw stats. Kind of amazing she survived tagging along with them when she was at zeroes all around. Also, Cyrille is more of an all-rounder than a total dominating powerhouse like the Hero can be in other stories.

If you visit the raw you can also see some fan art of Flamm.

◇ ◇ ◇

Flamm and Milkit went shopping in the Central Ward, as they had discussed the previous day. Flamm changed from her shabby clothes into a simple combination of shirt and hot pants. Compared to before, her appearance was much improved. Milkit was standing in a dressing room. The outfit that she had put on was…

“Is this really OK?” Flamm asked.

“I should be the one asking that. Buying such expensive clothes.”

“The money isn’t a problem thanks to the Anzu. It’s just…”

Milkit was wearing black serving clothes decorated with frilly lace around the skirt and chest. While labeled as a maid’s outfit, it seemed difficult to wear it and perform a maid’s duties, so it might instead be something meant for a person with a particular hobby. The overall impression provided quite a contrast with the bandage covering Milkit’s face.

“These were the clothes I saw the most often, so I thought that I wanted to wear them someday.”

When Flamm had asked Milkit if she had clothes she wanted to wear, this was what she chose. Even if it was not a strong desire and more of a vague, thin longing, Flamm still wanted to support Milkit’s choice.

“Well, it certainly looks cute.”

“I think so. It’s a nice design, right?”

“It’s not just that. It suits you and you look cute. Shop clerk!”

Milkit blushed as Flamm said something embarrassing. However, Flamm didn’t notice as she was focused on getting the attention of the pretty female clerk who was standing a little ways away.

The clerk came over. An ugly expression crossed her face as her gaze passed over the slave brand, but she immediately schooled her features into a neutral mask. It wasn’t because she was a good person, but because she had already exchanged words with Flamm when they entered the store.

At that time, her reaction was more blatant. Even so, it was far from as bad as the treatment Flamm had received in the guild. Flamm was also growing used to handling such situations. She would have to, as the mark of her slavery would not be going away any time soon.

Flamm finished paying and the two of them left the store. A girl in a maid dress with a bandage covering her face and a slave girl with a bloody glove hanging from her waist slipped into the shopping crowds. They made for quite a sight. However, the main street in the Central Ward was crowded with shoppers and tourists from outside. Not as a result of a special holidays or festival, but just as the result of an ordinary day. In such circumstances, no matter how unusual two people were, they would soon vanish into the crowd. Flamm had to take a firm grasp on Milkit’s hand to make sure that they wouldn’t be separated.

The two of them had many things to buy. They were two people who had nothing starting their lives from scratch. Even if they brought home armfuls of luggage, they wouldn’t be able to get everything they needed for daily life in one trip. For the moment, they focused on buying the things they needed immediately.

The most urgent thing was to get clothes, which they did first. After that they went to purchase shoes, toothbrushes, and bathing supplies. Flamm also wanted a backpack she could use as an adventurer and needed to save enough to purchase the evening meal.

She had enough money for that much, at least. While they had a financial margin, they had no time to spare. Over and over, they entered a shop, quickly picked up the item they needed, and bought it. It was a busy day, but it was a valuable experience for Milkit who had never been shopping before.

“Thank you!”

The two of them were sent off with a rare polite farewell from a slave working in the shop. They split their purchases between them and held hands as they walked on to the main street.

“Buying things is fun, isn’t it?” Flamm asked.

“Yes. Although I made some big mistakes with things I hadn’t seen before,” Milkit said.

“When I saw you wanted to buy such high-class tableware that it would clear out all of our savings, I was worried.”

“Ah, sorry, I did not read the price.”

Milkit looked embarrassed. Seeing such a thing, Flamm brought the two of them to a stop. Looking up, she saw a sign she had been searching for hanging over a nearby store.

“Master?”

“Can I take a break?”

“Yes, of course.”

Flamm had found the largest bookstore in the capital. As they passed through the entrance of the shop, they saw a copy of Origin’s scripture on display.

In the history of the kingdom it was the church that always possessed the greatest number of books. In addition, education for children was often conducted in the church. Thus, printing technology developed in connection with the church’s needs. Even now, the church had a close relationship with the printing companies and book stores in the kingdom.

Even this shop had a sign that included a symbol of the god Origin. However, this was not because the store was connected to the church, but rather because the scripture was a top selling item.

Flamm and Milkit were not part of any religion. Flamm led them past the scriptures and toward a bookshelf on the far wall, relying on a guide map posted on a nearby pillar.

“Master reads books?”

“Oh, it’s not for me,” Flamm said.

She pulled a book out from the bookshelf and checked its cover while Milkit looked on in confusion.

“Then who is it for?”

“I said I would teach you how to read and write. Since I got enough money for it earlier than I expected,” Flamm said, “I thought we should start as soon as possible.”

“You were serious?”

“Did you think I was joking?”

“I never thought that an unlucky slave like me would ever learn how to read.”

Flamm had gotten used to Milkit’s attitude. Rather than confront her directly, she intended to work around the edges. She wanted to grow Milkit’s confidence so that she would naturally stop using such words.

“Does Master want me to be independent?”

“I have not thought so far ahead,” Flamm admitted.

“But you have the ability to live alone, with your knowledge and experience.”

Milkit sounded uneasy. Flamm, understanding her feelings, adopted a self-deprecating tone.

“Even if I seem confident, I’m not sure at all that I could live by myself.”

“You said something like that before.”

“Don’t you trust me?”

“I don’t know what trust is, really, but I think that I will be with Master as long as possible.”

Flamm laughed. “Well, you might say about a trustworthy person, since I trust them, I want to stay by their side.”

“This is trust…”

Milkit patted her chest as she tried to feel out the shape of her emotions. Sometimes when talking to Flamm, she would feel her chest tighten. Just knowing that the name of that feeling was “trust” didn’t mean that her fear of betrayal and loss just disappeared. However, she did feel a burden lift from her shoulders.

Flamm finished picking out the book she wanted and bought it. It was a reference book for children that seemed just right for teaching Milkit. The book itself was not cheap. Milkit was surprised at the cost, but Flamm paid for it before she could protest.

◇ ◇ ◇

By the end of the day, the two of them had bought so many things that their hands were completely full carrying their purchases. Thus, it wasn’t possible for them to hold hands. Fortunately, as they got closer to the West Ward the crowds began to thin out so they didn’t have to worry about being separated.

“You spent a lot of money on me,” Milkit said. She seemed to feel bad that more money was spent on her behalf than on Flamm’s.

“Don’t worry about it. Your happiness is my happiness.”

“I don’t understand.”

“When I think that I’ve made somebody happy, I can be happy too.

“I still don’t understand.”

Milkit had never experienced the idea of becoming happy by helping others. Her earlier masters sometimes treated her gently. However, it was never with good intentions. Instead, it was only to build her up so that she could be torn down. That sort of thing was much more painful than simple violent abuse, and often drove slaves to suicide while their owners laughed.

After Milkit experienced such things over and over again, her emotions gradually grew numb. It was a matter of self-defense. Perhaps Flamm wouldn’t betray her. Still, it was hard for Milkit to accept that Flamm solely wished for her to be happy.

“Well, you should get used to it little by little, then I think you will understand,” Flamm said.

“Can you wait until I get used to it?”

“Eh, no.”

Flamm gave her a full smile. Milkit felt her chest tighten again. But, Milkit still had not noticed why Flamm did not want to wait. She would only realize later.

The two of them were distracted from their conversation when a man shouted out behind them.

“Stop, thief!”

There was a tinge of desperation in his voice. As he yelled, two men raced past Milkit and Flamm.

“Those two?”

Flamm recognized them. They were adventurers who had been drinking with Dain when she first visited the guild.

“Master, the bag they have – isn’t it a luxury item?”

“Certainly, it’s not something those two would buy,” Flamm said. “I guess I’ll be away for a bit. Milkit, watch our things.”

“Yes.”

Flamm set down the bags she had in her hands and lowered her posture before taking off running after the two men. As she ran, she took the glove hanging from her waist and pulled it on. It didn’t do anything to make her faster, but it wouldn’t hurt to increase her strength.

Judging from the speed of the two men, they were D rank adventurers. They weren’t fast enough to escape from Flamm with her stats raised from the Soul Eating Zwei Hander. One of the men looked over his shoulder before cursing.

“Damn, it’s that slave woman!”

Realizing that they were too slow to get away cleanly, the two of them split up from each other. Flamm had no choice but to give up on one. After a brief moment of hesitation, she went after the one with the bag.

She caught up with him in second. After rushing by, she planted herself in front of him and raised her fists. The man pulled out a dagger at the same that he prepared a spell.

“Fireball!”

The spell was low level. It traveled slowly and its power was low. Flamm avoided it by tilting her body. The man rushed in with his dagger, likely intending to use the fireball as a decoy.

It was no use against Flamm. The dagger seemed to be stabbing forward in slow motion. Flamm simply grabbed his wrist and held it tightly. She felt a dull crack through her gauntlet.

“Aaaaah!”

The man screamed in pain as his wrist bent in the wrong direction. When Flamm let go he dropped the dagger and fell to the ground. It seemed the effect of increasing her strength was greater than she expected.

“Oh, oh, it hurts … help me!”

“Do you really expect sympathy?”

Flamm barely spared a glance for the man cradling his broken wrist in agony before reclaiming the stolen bag. She turned to head back to the rightful owner, but stopped in her tracks when she heard a crash from the direction the other man had fled. At the same time, she heard a voice cry out.

“Animals!”

Flamm had thought that she was alone in chasing the thieves. Now, peering in the direction of the noise that she heard, she saw a figure come into view, dragging the other thief behind her by his neck.

Surprisingly, the figure was a little girl who looked about ten years old. Her golden blonde hair falling down over her clean white robe was the picture of innocence, contrasting strongly with the enormous mace carried over her shoulder. The girl was short, and gave the impression of a small child playing with her toys. However, the man she was dragging behind her had clearly been beaten into submission with a blunt instrument.

Undeniably, her power was for real.

“Origin nun…”

There were no other women in the kingdom quite like them. Maria, a member of the Hero’s party, had dressed in a similar fashion, and had also been surprisingly effective in melee fights. Most people who pictured Origin nuns thought of gentle women who healed with recovery magic, but the church also taught them fighting techniques so they could destroy demons.

This girl had a sleepy expression on her face as she approached Flamm.

“Mm, this guy’s been captured too?” she said, before giggling. “Thank you very much.”

Interlude: The Collapsing Gospel

“Not enough… it’s not enough!” cried out a red-haired man with blue skin, floating in the sky. “It’s still not enough… bring out your full power, this battle is still too cold!”

The roar reverberated in Cyrille’s eardrums. As if to agree with the demon’s statement, heat waves began to spread from his position.

“Prometheus – Forbidden Formula!”

The blue-skinned demon pushed his arms towards the sky. At the same time, the earth cracked and a red fire billowed up from the ground to cover a square kilometer with flame tens of meters high. The surrounding territory that had been wrapped in the darkness of night was now illuminated by the hellish glow.

Forbidden Formula, a technique that increased the power of magic with an excessive consumption of magical power. Originally, the magic called Prometheus could only cover a hundred meter square with an ocean of fire. The demon expanded it further by using the Forbidden Formula. In exchange, it was more difficult to control the magic, but at this moment Zion of the Phosphorus Fire was the only demon in the area. After the town was cleared by the heroes, he had no need to worry about the surroundings.

“Eterna, put out the fire with your magic!” Jean called out.

Jean, the sage, was working with the witch Eterna and the saintess Maria to cover the party with a wide area shield. His voice was tinged with irritation.

“I know, I know,” Eterna said. She had already been moving before Jean gave the order. She calmed down, focused, and activated a major water spell.

“Water meteor!”

With that single phrase, a giant sphere of water appeared over the demon’s head. Once it appeared it was affected by gravity and fell, heading towards him with enormous force. Eterna intended to accomplish attack and defense at the same time with this spell.

But the demon wrapped himself in flame and threw himself towards the mass of water. He penetrated from the bottom straight through to the top. Once he was out, he kicked it like a ball, straight at Eterna.

“That stupid-”

“Confusing.”

“Unexpected.”

Jean, Maria and Eterna were amazed at the counterattack that was outside of common sense. All they could do was to hold on to the shield that was already straining.

The warrior Gadio rushed forward. Every time he kicked against the ground small craters would form where his feet had been. The weight of his black armor and two handed sword was no joke. Despite that, his overwhelming strength allowed him to move at high speed. Beyond strength, Gadio would even use magic.

“Earth Grave.”

The quiet invocation accompanied the concentration of magical power at his feet that he pushed into the ground. The earth before him rose up to create a stairway in time with his advance. Gadio raced forward towards the falling sphere of water and the demon beyond.

Gadio refined his prana as he moved. His technique converted power that filled the body into an invisible force called “qi,” a power distinct from magical power. At the cost of heavy physical weakness it released a deadly blow. The technique was originally used by a knight who served the kingdom, and was known as Cavalier Arts.

“Ha!”

Gadio swung his sword with both arms full of prana. The surrounding scenery seemed distorted by the speed of the strike. A high pitched sound rang out. This was Cavalier Arts – Sword Curtain. A shockwave raced out and cut the meteor of water in two. Even after that, the shock wave carried forward towards Zion.

“So, this time it’s you!”

Zion held out his hand, black smoke pouring out. The smoke did not behave like smoke from a fire. Instead, it was a haze created by Zion’s “phosphorous fire” attribute, a rare attribute that allowed him to control both darkness and fire. The shockwave was made visible by the smoke and Zion caught it with his bare hands.

The palm of his hands were clasped around the shockwave. They were protected by a thin membrane of fire that refused to allow it to touch his skin. Zion clicked his tongue and threw the shockwave into the sky.

“You still have nothing… it’s not hot, this heat of yours!”

However, Gadio himself was still going. He reached the end of the rock staircase and kicked off of the last step. His black armored form danced high in the sky. Zion prepared to receive his giant sword with a fist wrapped in flames.

Bang! The fist and blade collided with each other. The aftermath of the impact sent vibrations through the surrounding air.

“It’s about time to end – let’s finish this!”

Even in muscular strength, Zion surpasses Gadio. With a crash, the knight was blown away and sent flying towards the ground. At the same time, the water that had lost its shape splashed down on the ground, putting out the flames that had covered the surface of the earth. Fog billowed up from the ground, wreathing the party in mist.

“Hey Hero, crawl out of hiding and fight me! You are the only one who can match one of the three Demon Generals!”

Zion’s words were not wrong. With the strength of the Hero, the party had never fallen into despair even when fighting one of the three generals in the past. However, the hero Cyrille who still missed Flamm – because of her shaken heart, she couldn’t use magical power successfully.

As he taunted them, an arrow was released from a distance an ordinary human being could not have seen with the naked eye. Linus had been waiting for the right moment and took the shot when Zion was distracted by Cyrille. Despite the distance there was no problem with the speed or aim of the arrow as it headed straight for Zion’s forehead. Moreover, the arrow was hidden by the water vapor, and Zion never noticed its existence until it reached him.

In the instant between the arrow’s appearance and before it could stab through his brain, Zion reacted on instinct rather than by conscious thought. The temperature around him soared, burning the arrow to ash.

“Hey, that’s not it, that’s not it at all!”

Zion, who embraced the heat of battle, despised that sort of sniper attack. He exploded in anger, raised his hands and put out even more magical power than he had used to that point. Multiple fireballs were created in the air, quickly growing to the same size as the water meteor Eterna had released.

“If you won’t heat up, I’ll heat you up! Flare Meteor – Forbidden Formula!”

The spell was outrageously powerful. Zion was trying to kill Cyrille in one powerful blow. The remaining steam burned away under the heat of the spell, and the people on the ground looked up at the huge fireballs that each rivaled the sun.

“Aaaah! Such a thing… it can’t be stopped!”

“We did all we could.”

“Eterna, how can you be so calm! If you could use more powerful water magic, we’d have a chance!”

“It’s my fault?

“Hey, you guys-”

“We can’t fight now!” Maria interrupted. She rarely raised her voice, so her shout momentarily silenced the others.

“Please reinforce the shield as much as possible,” Cyrille said. “Gadio can add his shield as well. If we reduce the size we might have a chance.

“Even that is not enough!” Jean said. “Cyrille, can’t you use the power of the Hero to protect us?”

“I can’t,” Cyrille said. “That’s why I’m thinking about how we can manage.”

“Why, why, why? You’re the Hero, why can’t you use the hero’s greatest weapon?” Jean asked. “What’s wrong? Don’t complain about feelings. If you’re the Hero, you have to save us!”

Cyrille could only lower her eyes and clench her teeth. She couldn’t argue. Right then, she was certainly showing her weakness as the Hero. But, after all, she was still a young girl. Her guilt and hurt feelings couldn’t disappear so quickly.

“How can you be distracted by garbage like Flamm? You are the chosen hero, there’s no need to think about useless people,” Jean said. “You should think about protecting your fellow heroes!”

“Well, I…”

“If you are the Hero, take action like a Hero! Throw away useless sentiment!”

“Jean! This is not the time for that!” Eterna interrupted. “Get ready!”

“Damn, why… why do not you understand, when I know I’m right!”

Jean was not sensitive to feelings and didn’t realize how much his words could hurt. Despite his grumbling, he joined together with Eterna and Maria to deploy a shield. Cyrille still was not able to use her magic at all. Up above, the Flare Meteor continued to inflate with magical power.

“Sorry, I thought I could get hotter, but …”

Though Zion sounded rueful, he had still gathered enough power to eradicate the heroes. He raised his hand, prepared to bring it down and drop a gigantic lump of fire.

“Hotter, hotter, hotter, you battle maniac!”

Along with the commentary, someone slapped the back of Zion’s head.

Zion furrowed his brow and looked back. A woman whose outfit exposed quite a lot of her blue skin was floating in the air behind him. She brushed back her hair, a darker blue than her skin, and glared at her colleague.

“Oh, Neigas, sorry to bother you.”

“Bother me? The heroes would die if I weren’t here! Do you remember what the Demon Lord said?”

“What was it?”

“Do not kill human beings! Do you not remember at all?”

“Oh, yeah, I forgot.”

After being told off by Neigas of the Blood Wind, another of the three Demon Generals, Zion canceled the magic he had developed with a casual wave of his hand. The heroes looking up from the ground were shivering simply from seeing two of the three demon generals gathered together.

“All right heroes, that’s it for today. We should battle seriously next time!”

With that, Zion waved at them and left. Cyrille did not understand at all why he abandoned a battlefield when he could have killed them all.

“I would like to persuade you to quit this invasion,” Neigas said, “but I know that’s not going to happen.”

Neigas spoke of peace, but after looking at Maria and seeing the hatred in her eyes she gave up quickly.

“Well, see you again, invading Heroes.”

With a wink, she followed after Zion. The remaining heroes could look up at the sky with dismay. Other than the saintess at the far back who was looking up with hatred.

◇ ◇ ◇

After the battle, Linus rejoined the group and confirmed the degree of damage. Fortunately, nobody had wounds that Maria couldn’t treat with her magic. Unfortunately, the loss of supplies was severe. It would make it tough for them to continue.

“You can’t use metastatic stones here as a treasure… Damn, what a waste.”

Cyrille’s magical ability “return” allowed the group to travel freely back and forth between the human kingdom and demonic territory. However, in order to return to the proper spot in the demonic territory, they had  to set up a “transition stone.” The group only had a limited number of such stones, so they could only be used if the group has covered as much territory as they had planned or more. If they covered less distance then they would have to return to the kingdom without setting up a return marker.

“Until a while ago, everything was going well. Now that things should be even better, why are we delayed?” Jean said. “How can cutting off dead weight slow us down?!”

“Jean, please calm down.”

Maria, who was treating Gadio, noticed that Jean was losing his temper as he had done during the battle. She tried to calm him down, but he wouldn’t listen.

“How can I calm down? Cyrille, why did this happen? Why?”

“… sorry.”

“Apologizing doesn’t change anything!”

“Hey Jean!” Linus said, putting his hand on Jean’s shoulder. Instead of calming down, Jean shook off his hand.

“Damn, shit, fuck! Everyone, why can’t you understand that I’m right! I’m surrounded by idiots!”

Without looking at the rest of them, Jean stalked away from the group into the barren lands.

“Ah, he’s in trouble too,” Linus said.

Linus knew that Jean had complex feelings towards Cyrille. In a word, he was jealous of Flamm. With Flamm gone, Jean expected Cyrille to pay more attention to him. Contrary to his expectations, that hadn’t happened. Moreover, Flamm, his usual outlet for his anger, was not there. Linus could understand that Jean was upset, and would bear with his temper. Still, even as a friend, he couldn’t defend his behavior.

“Yes, this should be fine,” Gadio said. As Maria finished her treatment, he rose to a seated position and turned his shoulder to confirm his condition.

“I am sorry,” Maria said. “I can’t heal it completely.”

“Don’t worry, I’m used to getting hit.”

While it still hurt, Gadio felt much better than he did after getting hit by Zion’s fist. As he stood, Eterna, who had been watching the treatment, turned and walked away from the party in a different direction than Jean had gone. Eterna frequently wandered off on her own, but this time Gadio found himself following after her. He wasn’t quite sure why.

An awkward silence arose between the remaining three: Cyrille, Linus, and Maria. They were the two that Cyrille knew best.

“Well, don’t worry about it. Everybody has bad days,” Linus said, “hero or not.”

Linus wanted to encourage Cyrille and dispel the atmosphere.

“Yeah, there is still a long way to go to the Demon Lord’s castle,” Maria said. “You can get it back little by little.”

“Yeah,” Cyrille muttered.

Cyrille’s heart sunk further with feelings of guilt. Linus and Maria looked at each other. If nothing they could say could turn things around, they could at least be kind to Cyrille.

“It was strange that they just left like that,” Linus said. “They seemed to be saying something about ‘instructions,’ and ‘do not kill humans.'”

Although Linus was a long way away from the conversation, he could roughly understand what had been said by reading lips. As soon as he mentioned the demons, Maria began tapping her thumb and index fingers together in irritation.

“It’s very strange,” Maria said. “They’ve killed a lot of people before.”

“Yes. Should anything change now?” Linus said. “I guess it doesn’t make a difference.”

“It can’t make a difference,” Maria said. “It is better for all of the demons to disappear.

Her tone was unusually vehement. Linus was starting to realize that she had a deep-seated hatred of demons. Actually, when they were in the capital before, he had investigated Maria. He was good at that sort of thing. He felt bad about it, but his curiosity exceeded his sense of guilt.

Maria Afengen, 18 years old. She was a user of light magic with tremendous magical talent. She is currently in a position where she can be worshiped as the saintess of Origin.

Originally, though, she was not a believer in Origin. She lived in a village where a local religion dominated, and she believed in the local god. As a remnant of that time, she has a tattoo on her back that even now has not been completely erased.

Around ten years ago when she was eight years old her village was destroyed by the assault of the demons. She and her family and friends lost everything because of the demons. She was protected by the church and entered it at that time. As it happened, she had the light attribute and became a nun. Later, she was chosen by Origin’s prophecy to be a member of the current demon suppression.

She had enough reason to hate demons. However, was that enough to explain the hatred lurking in her? Linus wasn’t sure.

“Linus, did you have something to add?” Maria asked, tilting her neck.

She was very pretty. To the extent that Linus didn’t want to imagine that there is darkness in her heart. Well, even if there was darkness it was fine. He wanted to support her, including that, if only she would reveal everything to him.

“… No, nothing at all”

Still, Linus didn’t feel he was prepared to tell her.

Linus resumed the conversation again to comfort Cyrille. He was slightly amazed that she didn’t melt down. But her smile didn’t return, either. All in all, the party wouldn’t be saved unless Flamm returned and gave Cyrille a chance to apologize.

◇ ◇ ◇

Eterna stopped after walking for about five minutes. Gadio, who had been following behind her, stopped on the spot.

“Why did you follow me?”

As she spoke, she idly poked at the sphere floating beside her. It appeared to be an equipment designed for magical power amplification.

“I guess you called.”

“Oh, maybe, maybe,” Eterna said. “So what do you think of the party now?”

“What about it?”

“Are you enjoying it?” Eterna asked. “Are not you bored?”

Eterna had initially not been interested at all in demon suppression. She lived in the mountains, and though she had the same strength as S rank adventurers, she lived a simple self-sufficient life. Her age was unknown, her motivation unknown, she was a woman who didn’t stick her neck out at all.

“I thought I was excited about the heroic party that set out to kill the Demon Lord,” Eterna said.

“Oh.”

“But I noticed that since Flamm left it’s not fun for me now,” Eterna said. “It’s not fun at all. The food is bad, everyone is bad.”

“I can’t disagree.”

While Gadio acted calm, it didn’t mean he didn’t feel the disturbing air around the party. Mostly caused by Jean, but even besides that the number of bombs buried – such as the scars on Cyrille’s heart and Maria’s background – were quite large. With Flamm gone, the party seemed doomed to collapse. Gadio respected her efforts, but he couldn’t fill her role.

“Therefore, I will leave,” Eterna said.

“What?”

“Now that Flamm is gone, it shouldn’t be a problem if I leave,” Eterna said. “Well, even if you told me not to, I would just disappear without permission.”

It was Jean’s blunder. People who were chosen by prophecy to be members of the hero’s team for the suppression of the Demon Kingdom would assume that it was a duty and wouldn’t leave. But now Flamm’s departure is a fact that has given the rest of them an excuse.

“I don’t think it would be useful to tell Jean,” Eterna said. “I’m done talking to him.”

“Are you sure?”

“That guy. Talking down to me with his 8800 magical power. I have 10,000, I’m stronger!” Eterna said. “What mage would accept being told off by a child with lower magical power?”

“Well then, I won’t stop you.”

“I’m surprised,” Eterna said. “I thought you would stand for discipline and stop me.”

“There is no such discipline here.”

“No?”

“If Flamm can leave, why can’t you?”

“Oh, you should come with me!”

While Eterna laughed, Gadio sighed.

◇ ◇ ◇

The group gathered again and returned to the capital with Cyrille’s invoked return. After that, Eterna announced her withdrawal from the party. Of course, Jean was furious and Cyrille was dismayed, but her intention remained unchanged.

Eterna shook hands with the rest of them before leaving the transition room. She never returned to the party again.

TN: Apparently if things don’t work out as a shonen protagonist then demon general makes a good backup career choice.

Chapter 6: The End of the Beginning

Previous | Next (to come)

After finishing the battle with the Anzu, Flamm had a problem. In order to complete the adventurer guild’s request she needed werewolf fangs, but they were all in the Anzu’s stomach.

“Swallowing only the upper bodies, what a picky eater.”

Flamm kicked the Anzu’s body in frustration. Even if she wanted to search for another group of Werewolves, the sun was going to set soon. In the dark forest at night, there was no guarantee that she could pick a fight and then get out safely.

There was only one way to get the quest item.

“I guess there’s no choice.”

The Anzu’s skin was tough and its muscles were thick, but it was nothing Flamm’s sword couldn’t handle. However, sinking the blade into the belly of the dead body and exposing its organs was a struggle against the intense smell as much as anything else. Fortunately, she found the stomach quickly and confirmed that the upper body of at least one undigested Werewolf was inside.

Flamm had grown up in the countryside. She was not a delicate noble lady by any stretch of the imagination. Even so, she found herself gagging as she reached in through the cut she had sliced open in the Anzu’s stomach. She pushed down her revulsion and pushed further, finding the Werewolf’s snout. She grabbed hold of it and dragged it free.

She tossed the werewolf to the side as soon as it was out. She couldn’t help but take a moment to study her hands. They were covered in mucus and the smell made her retch. She scrubbed them against a nearby tree trunk and the surrounding grass, but the smell still lingered.

Flamm kicked the Anzu again for the trouble it was causing her after death. With a sigh, she reached in to the stomach again, pushed through, did her best not to think about what she was doing, and dragged out the next Werewolf.

When all of the Werewolves were laid before her on the ground, she still had to carve out the fangs from their mouths. Unpleasant, but much easier than dragging them out of the Anzu’s stomach had been. With that done, Flamm had succeeded in retrieving the quest item. If she brought them to the guild, by all rights she should get her adventurer’s license.

“When I think about that arrogant receptionist, I want to do more than just succeed at the request.”

In order to not just succeed but to rub that nasty woman’s nose in her success… for that, Flamm wanted to take a part of the Anzu.

“I wish I knew what part of the Anzu is in high demand.”

Naturally, monsters had high-value parts and low-value parts. Flamm didn’t even have a backpack, so she couldn’t carry many materials at all. Even if she did have a pack, there would still be a limit to what she could take. In order to earn money efficiently, she would need to learn how to judge the value of the monster’s body parts. Although things would be different if she had a large-capacity magic bag that used the same storage mechanism as epic equipment, Flamm was far from that level. For now, she could only take one piece of the Anzu with her.

“Well, I guess I’d like to have its fangs.”

As with the werewolf, most monster’s fangs were a useful material for making weapons, armor, and accessories. Flamm hit the Anzu’s fang a few times with her sword in order to free it from its mouth. Then she picked it up with both arms and lifted it. The fang was surprisingly heavy, but not so much that it couldn’t be carried.

While holding her spoils in both hands, Flamm began walking toward where Milkit should be waiting.

◇ ◇ ◇

Night fell as the day came to an end. Milkit was sitting on a stump near the entrance of the forest. One hand was clutching at her chest as she stared at the forest with uneasy eyes, waiting for the return of her master.

Three hours had passed since she split up from Flamm. The battle should already have ended. It was strange that she wasn’t back yet.

“I … I will keep waiting for Master’s return.”

Milkit’s heart hurt at the thought that she may never see Flamm again. She had never cared before about the life or death of others. Even her previous masters were just tools who gave her a small amount of food in exchange for her servitude.

Certainly, a normal person might have considered hers an unhappy life. However, as an apathetic doll, it was easy for her to avoid having to worry about relationships with others.

Her relationship with Flamm was not easy.

If Flamm survived and came back for her…. From that point on, her life tomorrow and the day after tomorrow was probably something impossible for Milkit to imagine. Treated as a person, allowed to laugh, possibly having her face healed. Ah, the more you have, the more you can lose. While Milkit treasured Flamm’s kindness, she was still terrified of loss.

But she still wanted to see the future ahead.

She didn’t want to be hurt. She hated pain. She could endure it, but she still longed for a life without pain. Worse than pain, though, would be the feeling of giving up hope.

“Phew, at last I got out. I’m tired!”

Milkit was drawn out of her thoughts by a familiar voice. Standing up and looking toward the forest, she could see Flamm approaching. Flamm was dirty and blood spattered, her arms full of the spoils of battle.

“Master!”

Milkit was glad Flamm was all right. In the moment she saw Flamm’s figure, that was the first thought that came into her mind. She was too shy to say so but she did laugh out loud.

That’s definitely the answer. Milkit was still not sure what it felt like to worry for another person, but she was starting to believe in her instincts. She ran forward.

Flamm was walking slowly. She smiled as Milkit approached.

“I’m back.”

“Welcome back, Master.”

Milkit tried to take some of the items Flamm was carrying.

“Careful, you’ll get blood on yourself and your clothes.”

“I don’t mind.”

“If you’re my slave, you need to take care of yourself more,” Flamm said. Laughing, she handed over the werewolf fangs. The Anzu fang was too heavy to give to Milkit.

“Ah, Master, I guess the big fang is from the Anzu,” Milkit said, “but where did you get the gauntlet?”

In addition to the Anzu’s fang, Flamm was indeed carrying a bloody gauntlet.

“Oh, this – I passed the corpses of some adventurers on the way back.”

In the darkness of the forest, Flamm had stumbled and nearly fell. She had cried out in shock and dropped the Anzu’s fang when she saw the body that had tripped her. It might have seemed like an overreaction from somebody who had survived being chopped into pieces, but in the end scary things were scary.

The body she had tripped over was wearing a full set of armor. When Flamm saw it, she remembered something from her days with the hero’s party.

– She had wanted to be useful to everyone, but there was hardly anything she could do.

Flamm was keenly aware of her inability. In order to help, she tried to learn from the others. After all, everybody in the party was a top-notch adventurer. She was nervous about putting more burdens on them, but surprisingly some of them were happy to teach. Maybe they felt sorry for her.

One of them was Gadio, “Star Breaker’s Strong Arm.” He wore black armor on his gigantic body, and his silent, scarred face was quite intimidating, but he was surprisingly helpful.

Flamm’s physical ability was too low for her to be useful, but she did learn some basic swordsmanship. He also gave her some practical tips on adventuring.

“You will often find rotting corpses in dangerous areas. If they are wearing excellent equipment, most people will take that as supplemental income.”

“Isn’t that like grave robbery?”

“You don’t have to bury equipment with its owner,” Gadio had explained. “To honor the deceased it’s better to use it effectively.”

“Aren’t you scared of being haunted by the owner?”

“Do you believe in that kind of thing?”

“Sorry, sorry. Adventurers have to be more practical, right?”

“Actually, you’re right to be cautious. Equipment taken from a body may be stained with a curse from the former owner.”

“There really is such a thing?”

“Yes, it is the so-called ‘cursed equipment’ that can reduce stats, resist removal, and sometimes harm the wearer directly,” Gadio had said. “But you won’t get caught by that kind of thing as long as you scan it first.”

“I can’t use scanning magic though.”

“Oh, that’s right. Then find a friend to help you. Adventurers shouldn’t be by themselves, anyway. Its good to have somebody to hold you back when you need to be held back and push you forward when you need to be pushed forward.

– That was a lesson that he taught to Flamm.

The important part that she remembered was that equipment could be cursed by its deceased owner. She scanned the equipment on the dead bodies one by one. In the end, she found one piece of cursed equipment.

——————–

Name: Blood-stained Gauntlet

Quality: Rare

[This equipment reduces your strength by 82]

[This equipment reduces your magical power by 101]

——————–

Although it was inferior to epic equipment, it would still allow Flamm to increase her stats by 183. When she saw it she made a brief apology to the corpse before separating the gauntlet from the body. If Gadio’s words were true, the previous owner shouldn’t bear a grudge over her putting the gauntlet to use.

Milkit regarded the gauntlet with caution after hearing Flamm explain that it was cursed equipment.

“Ah, it should be safe as long as you don’t wear it. I don’t mind carrying it, though.”

“You are already carrying that heavy fang, I can’t relax as your slave like this.”

“Seriously, it’s fine.”

In this way, the two of them headed back to the capital after fulfilling their mission.

◇ ◇ ◇

The sky was completely dark. The capital was bustling in an entirely different way now that night had fallen. The bars were noisier, and the magic lamps illuminating the street shone down on women putting their bodies on display. Some of their customers even started to approach Flamm, only to show disgust and walk away once they saw the slave mark on her cheek.

“Ah, it’s late,” Flamm said.

“Yes. Will the guild be open?”

Flamm was just worrying about that very thing. The guild’s signboard hadn’t said anything about its operating hours.

“I hope so,” Flamm said. “I don’t want to spend the whole night walking around with these fangs in hand.”

While they were talking, they made their way to the adventurer’s guild. As they got close, they heard the same noises drunken revelry that had been coming from other taverns. It seemed there had been no need to worry.

Flamm pushed the door open with her shoulder and walked in. Her entrance drew the attention of the men inside. The first time that she had come the gazes were all hostile, but now there was some curiosity mixed in. That was not to mention the dramatic reaction of the men who had been wagering over her life and death.

The receptionist, Ella, pulled a face as Flamm and Milkit approached the counter.

“This is the requested item,” Flamm said.

Milkit placed the werewolf fangs on the counter. Ella touched them with her fingers, then glared at Flamm.

“With this, did I complete the examination?”

“You can’t be an adventurer! You’re a dirty slave!”

Ella screamed at Flamm while grabbing the fangs and throwing them at Flamm’s face. Flamm caught the fangs out of the air. She then set them back down on the counter.

“Isn’t it the guild’s job to give rewards to the adventurer who fulfills its requests?”

“Aah…”

“Please buy this too,” Flamm said, setting the Anzu’s fang on the desk. The wood groaned under its weight.

“What, what-”

“C rank monster, Anzu. Its fang,” Flamm said. “I accidentally encountered it when looking for werewolves. I killed it and brought the part that I thought would be valuable.”

The adventurer guild would buy valuable materials even if there was no collection request. Of course, selling directly to individuals who wanted the materials would bring in more money, but many adventurers preferred to sell to the guild because it was quicker and easier.

“Rank C, is it …?”

Ella had nothing to say. A girl who was supposed to be killed by werewolf not only killed it but also killed a higher tier monster.

Two ugly-looking men from the bar had come over and took the opportunity to butt in.

“Hey girl, don’t lie. A monster like can take on a whole party,” the first man said. “An F rank adventurer with decent equipment wouldn’t have a chance, let alone a slut like you. If you’re going to lie, at least make it plausible.”

“Oh, and, what’s that smell? Whose bodily fluid?” the second man asked. “Did you catch an adventurer and get paid in raw materials instead of money before trying this scam? Working on your back is a lot easier than working as an adventurer.”

Flamm, who had been getting angrier and angrier, finally lost her temper and lashed out at the second man. She punched him right in the nose, sending him reeling to the floor while he clutched at his bleeding face.

“Well then, all right!” the other man yelled out, reaching for his sword.

“What’s your adventurer rank, old man?”

“D, same as my friend!”

“The strength of D rank is only this much? Falling down after one punch from a girl with strength zero?”

“Let’s see!”

The man started to draw his sword. As soon as he moved, Flamm pulled her own sword from subspace and brought it forward.

The tip carved a beautiful arc through the air before it stopped directly in front of his neck. The man froze in place. A twitch of the wrist from Flamm would be enough to end his life.

Flamm judged that her opponent had lost the will to fight and put the sword back into subspace. As the sword disappeared the man collapsed to his knees.

Flamm turned to smile at Ella. “Will you give me my license now?”

Ella still wore a reluctant expression on her face, but she could not refuse to do her duty any longer. She processed the request for delivery of werewolf fangs and gave Flamm her adventurer’s license. She also purchased the Anzu’s fang. Altogether, Flamm and Milkit would have enough spending money for the next few days.

Flamm took the card with a smile, looking at her name next to the label of “F rank adventurer.” She gave Ella a cheerful wave and left the guild with Milkit.

As soon as the door swung shut behind them, Flamm heaved out a sigh and sagged in relief. The expression and posture of the girl who stared down a D rank adventurer completely disappeared.

“Ah, I was so nervous.”

“You worked hard, Master,” Milkit said, reaching out her hand.

Flamm smiled, before taking Milkit’s hand in hers.

“I expected Ella to resist, but I didn’t expect those other guys to get involved,” Flamm said. “I’m not sure whether to be happy or sad that Dain didn’t show up.”

“At least we have money,” Milkit said. “I saw a cheap inn on the way here.”

“Good, good, as long as it has a bath,” Flamm said. “I’ll be taking you clothes shopping tomorrow.”

“Yes, Master should wear better clothes.”

Flamm smiled ruefully at Milkit’s response. “I thought you would say that, but I should also buy you some clothes, shouldn’t I?”

“I’m a slave.”

“Well, then it’s an order from your master,” Flamm said. “I will definitely buy you clothes tomorrow.”

“Something like that …”

Milkit looked down, puzzled. Even if she goes shopping, she wouldn’t know what to buy. Besides, it’s a waste to put nice clothes on an ugly figure who kept her face wrapped in bandages.

Seeing her confusion, Flamm stroked her head.

“Don’t worry, it’ll be fun!”

Milkit felt a warmth in her chest. She didn’t recognize the emotion. She truly didn’t know what the future would hold if she goes forward alongside Flamm.

“All right,” she said, nodding her head.

She could feel herself beginning to change.

A girl who lost everything and a girl who never had anything. The two girls took the first step into a new life together with joined hands.

TN: This is the end of the first volume, other than the epilogue interlude. I may take a couple days off over Christmas.

Chapter 5: Your Palm Is Too Narrow for a Dance Hall

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“Master!”

Milkit’s voice was empty. Her master’s flesh had been torn apart by the wind magic, her body parts scattered and falling to the earth. Both arms, both legs, head, and torso: a total of six parts sank into the soft ground, blood soaking the leaves.

“Ah… oh, oh, oh!”

So much, so much – Milkit couldn’t move her legs as the feeling of hopelessness dominated her body. The Anzu snorted with satisfaction as it turned its black eyes toward her, the remaining survivor. Its mouth distorted as though it were laughing at her. She could see the wrinkles forming on its cheeks and the blood on its fangs from the werewolves it had eaten. It was like it was declaring “I will kill you next.”

Milkit was frozen.

The idea of death did not bother her. Even her own death was fine. Living was much scarier.

But now she saw sharp claws, pointed fangs, and powerful magic that easily dismembered a human body all attached to a monster over four meters long. None of these weapons were something Milkit could resist. In the face of such an overwhelming power difference, any human would feel instinctive terror.

Milkit’s legs and feet were shaking uncontrollably. She didn’t exactly feel like she wanted to live, but she wanted very badly to run away.

The Anzu roared and clawed at the ground with its forepaws before leaping at its prey. Milkit crouched down reflexively while wrapping her arms around her head at the sight of such an enormous monster approaching so quickly. The monster passed by and landed on her other side.

Milkit’s heart began to pound. She didn’t believe that she would be able to run away, but if she tried she would at least have a chance. Her feet sank into the muddy ground as she ran forward. To anyone watching her escape, the Anzu obviously had room to spare. Just jumping once would easily shorten the distance.

Milkit panted as she ran. She was not accustomed to running, but it was too late for anything but regrets. The Anzu watching her came to one conclusion: she was nothing but a toy.

So the monster began to play.

It jumped at her, aiming to pass close but not hit her directly. It enjoyed the sight as she rolled around on the ground. It tore at her clothes lightly with its claw, amused by how her voice cried out in terror. It opened its mouth and roared at her, pleased by how she flinched away.

However, Milkit’s body was fragile. In the face of such extreme stress, her physical strength was soon exhausted. Bored by her fading reaction, the Anzu prepared to bring the game to its inevitable conclusion. It gathered its energy more seriously, preparing for the lethal attack.

“It hurts, but…”

The voice came from behind the Anzu as something grabbed its tail.

“Should I say that epic equipment is amazing? Or should I cry that I can suffer so much without dying?”

Although she was complaining, she also tightened her grip. The tail was a sensitive part of a monster. The Anzu wrinkled its brow as it looked back over its shoulder.

“So, you attack people like this… whose slave do you think you’re playing with?”

Flamm swung her oversized sword with one hand and cut off the Anzu’s tail.

The monster howled and jumped away. It fell over in shock at the pain it had suffered. Flamm raised the sword higher, grimacing due to the pain from her not-fully-repaired shoulders, and slashed at the monster’s hind leg.

Once more the Anzu cried out as the sword pierced its skin. The wound this time opened up and began to bleed as the Anzu rolled away into the trees.

“Hurts, doesn’t it? You hurt me a lot more than that when you cut my body to pieces! Although it’s healing, it still hurts an awful lot.”

Flamm knew the monster couldn’t understand her, but she couldn’t help but complain. The pain was so strong.

When she was hit by wind magic and her body cut in pieces, she couldn’t do anything but wait to die. As the blood flowed, her consciousness faded, and the cold creeped in, she could only cling to the hope that Milkit would escape.

Strangely, the flow of blood stopped after a while, and she started to feel as if the divided parts of her body were connected by magical power. An invisible force attracted and attached each part together and then her wounds began to heal. While it took a while to regenerate, she was still alive, just like when she had been bitten by the ghoul. Flamm was starting to think that she couldn’t die unless her head was crushed, causing an immediate death.

The Anzu got up and faced Flamm. Its movements were clumsier than before. The fur of its back leg was matted down with blood from the cut Flamm had made. Even a big monster could be injured by such an attack from the Zwei Hander.

“Master, I’m glad you are okay… thank goodness,” Milkit said, holding her chest in relief. She was on the other side of the monster from Flamm.

Flamm was also relieved that Milkit was still alive.

“Milkit, run away now!”

“Okay! Please don’t do anything reckless!”

Milkit ran back to the road to the capital as fast as she could. With that, Flamm could focus on the battle ahead with one less worry on her mind.

“With an opponent like this, just standing here is reckless,” Flamm said, a bitter smile on her face.

The Anzu focused entirely on Flamm. It didn’t even look at Milkit as she ran away.

“It should be slowed by the leg injury,” Flamm said, thinking out loud. “Though it has claws and fangs, and I have to be careful of its magic… I should be able to win.”

Of course, she had no real basis for her conclusion.

Now that the monster was aware of her, Flamm fought with caution. She circled around it, trying several times to strike at the Anzu’s front legs. It moved to the side and continued to face her while avoiding her attacks. Neither one of them was eager to close the distance. Even though Flamm couldn’t land another hit, the blood was still flowing from the wound to its back leg. The longer the fight went on, the better, as far as she was concerned.

The Anzu acted to break the stalemate. With a flutter of wings, it took to the sky.

Flamm was surprised. She had expected the Anzu to charge forward, not up.

The Anzu’s wings didn’t allow it to fly over long distances. However, they were powerful enough for it to glide and to assist it in jumping.

The Anzu was able to get high enough that Flamm couldn’t track its position through the leaves overhead. Meanwhile, the Anzu carefully confirmed its target and took aim, using its wings to adjust its direction. Once its preparation was over, it dove straight at her. Flamm heard its approach as it closed in and jumped out of the way.

The Anzu landed with a crash.

The ground shook with the impact. Leaves fluttered down from nearby trees. A crater formed in the ground around it.

But none of that mattered if it didn’t hit her. Flamm, having moved some distance from its landing point, prepared to slash at the monster while it was overextended.

Before she could act, a gust of wind rushed forward. The previous attack wasn’t just a strike from above. The Anzu had also prepared a magical follow-up. This time it wasn’t a sharp wind blade but a simple blast of wind with the force of a storm behind it.

“I knew I had to watch out for magic… Yikes!”

Flamm was able to resist the wind for a moment, but in the end she was blown away. Despite being strong, she was still a beginner at battle. She had no ingrained fighting instinct. Not only was there a gap of power between her and the Anzu, she was also an amateur.

Flamm cried out involuntarily as her back slammed into a tree. There was a feeling of pain as if her spine had broken, but by the time her body slid down the tree to fall to the ground she was completely healed. From where she was laying she could see the blurry sight of the Anzu’s claws slashing forward.

She used her arms to help herself up and quickly jumped out of the way. She could feel the shockwaves as the Anzu crashed into the tree behind her. She felt sick at the thought of taking that attack head on.

Flamm landed on her feet and noticed that her sword was no longer in her hand. It seemed she dropped it when she was blown off her feet. However, when she looked, it wasn’t anywhere on the forest floor, and the emblem was back on her palm. Flamm focused and called the sword. It immediately appeared in her hand once more.

“Huh, as expected from epic equipment.”

Flamm grasped the sword with both hands and faced the Anzu. The monster picked itself up and glared at her. She reminded herself again to be careful of its magic. The Anzu had already shown more ways of fighting than she had expected. It was dangerous from long distance and short distance. It was probably impossible for someone like her to fight it and survive intact.

In other words, the only way that an amateur like Flamm could fight it…

“My strength is this absurd healing, right?”

She wasn’t used to the pain of cuts and broken bones, but it was just too overwhelming of an advantage for any wounds short of immediate death to heal. Using that, she could fight the Anzu.

“I really hate pain, but, well,” Flamm said, “if I die, Milkit will probably also die. If I think of it like that, I can feel that heroic desire within me to do my best.”

Flamm focused her thoughts on the figure running through the forest in search of an exit. She felt her own resolve start to take shape. She remembered the warmth when they were holding hands. She could feel her courage solidifying. In the end, Flamm’s heroic desire was somewhat simple. For the girl she just met today, she would bet her life.

“Well, let’s go, I’m going to be a hero!” Flamm said, somewhat cynically, before charging directly at the Anzu.

The large sword, held low, brushed the ground. The Anzu, knowing it was more powerful, didn’t try to avoid her. Instead it took up the challenge and stood strong. One step, two steps, three steps – collision.

As it drew close, the Anzu swiped its claws down at Flamm’s head. She ducked her body to the right so that the claws gouged her left shoulder instead. More pieces of meat were scattered around the clearing, and Flamm could feel burning heat in the exposed bones that her brain didn’t yet recognize as pain. At the same time, Flamm kept moving forward and slashed at the Anzu’s body as she passed it by.

Both of them cried out in pain.

The overall damage done by each side was comparable. However, Flamm’s wounds would heal in a few seconds while the Anzu’s would remain.

Flamm slid to a stop on the fallen leaves. She quickly spun around to face the monster once more.

Despite being in pain the Anzu’s wing began to flutter in a way that gave Flamm an ominous feeling. At that moment, she could feel that the Anzu was preparing its trump card: the wind magic that had carved Flamm into pieces earlier.

Flamm felt a chill run down her spine as she remembered the pain of her body being chopped apart. She couldn’t repress a shudder. Fortunately, it seemed the Anzu’s concentration was disturbed by its wounds, as it was not invoking the magic as smoothly as it did the first time.

Still, it would be difficult to disturb the invocation from a distance. On the other hand, if she got close and tried to go toe to toe with the Anzu’s teeth and claws, she could easily suffer a fatal injury.

If she couldn’t stop the magic from being cast, could she avoid the invisible blades that would surely target her head? Difficult. Very difficult. Not impossible, but impossible to be sure. Unfortunately, Flamm has no long-ranged weapon.

Was there no way to attack the monster from there? As she looked around and thought, all she could see was the trees growing high in the sky.

“Aha!”

She didn’t have time to think about success or failure. She spun and swung the Zwei Hander with all her might against the trunk of a tree.

A crashing noise echoed through the forest. There was considerable resistance, but she still did enough damage to cause the tree to fall. However, it was about to fall in the wrong direction.

“Yaaa!”

This time she shouts as she swings with the flat of the sword. Again, and again. Full swings with both hands. Under the impact of her unrelenting strikes the direction of the tree’s fall was diverted towards the Anzu.

The magic was on the verge of release. The Anzu, distracted by magic, did not realize the tree was falling towards it until just before impact. It landed across its back, forcing its legs to bend until its belly touched the ground. The Anzu was pinned in place. Such a strong monster, though, would eventually escape even from that if given enough time.

Flamm did not intend to allow it that much time.

“I got it!”

Flamm dashed forward at full speed. She leaped in the air as she approached the Anzu. Holding her sword before her in both hands, she thrust it down into the monster’s forehead with all her strength.

The blade penetrated the skull with a crack and a wet slurping noise. She could still hear the monster moaning. It wasn’t dead yet. Flamm added force with both arms and pushed until the blade had sunk in all the way to the hilt.

With a great groan, magic power began to come out from the Anzu’s paws. Its whole body trembled. Flamm jumped back in fright. As she watched, the monster finally went limp. The last gasp of magic did nothing more than stir up the fallen leaves.

Flamm took a few deep breaths, her shoulders heaving up and down as she stared at the corpse.

“Ah, geez… that was way too hard for the first time.”

The monster was completely dead. Once Flamm was convinced, all the power drained from her body. She spread her hands and fell forward in what was almost a mockery of the Anzu’s posture, then rolled onto her back.

Flamm sighed. The bed made of leaves was proving surprisingly comfortable. It was slightly damp and cold and she could feel her clothes getting wet, but that was no particular problem since she was already covered in sweat and blood.

Looking up through the gaps in the trees, she could see a slightly orange sky. She could almost hear it telling her that she needs to hurry home before dark.

“Even the sky is bullying me,” she complained to no one in particular.

The wounds she took during the battle had healed so cleanly that no marks remained, but she still hurt. There was nothing she could do about the phantom pain but suffer through it. It felt like little sparks were shooting up and down her body.

“I have to fight against monsters like that, the people at the guild are bastards… what’s going to happen next?”

Flamm felt swirling insecurity. Part of her didn’t want to return to the kingdom. But just as she was thinking of running away she pictured Milkit, waiting for the return of her master at the entrance of the forest. Imagining her lonely figure motivated Flamm a little, at least enough to sit up.

“Well, Dain, how do you like me now?”

Never mind a werewolf, if he knew she had defeated a C ranked Anzu, he might faint. Flamm pushed herself to her feet, imagining the look of shock on his face.

TN: Epic equipment OP, plz nerf. Although, to be fair, the body melting was the most dramatic part of the curse so it makes sense for healing to be the most dramatic part of the blessing.

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Chapter 4: For This Request, There Is Still More Work Required

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The forest that was their destination finally came into view. Getting there had taken an hour of walking after leaving the west gate of the capital. While Flamm was fine thanks to the effect of the equipment raising her physical strength, Milkit was visibly fatigued.

“Would you like to take a break before entering the forest?”

“If you are aware of me, you can ignore me.”

“Well, then, let’s take a break”

The master did not have to worry about the slave’s physical condition. That was what Milkit was trying to say, but it seemed Flamm had understood her statement as a confession that in her heart she wanted to rest.

Milkit lightly tapped the bandage hanging from her face with her finger. It may have been an expression of frustration. Of course she would never have voiced such a thing, and Flamm’s decision wouldn’t be changed by anything she said.

They found a stump near the entrance to the forest and Flamm took a seat. Milkit stood nearby, her posture correct. Flamm could see that Milkit was trying not to stand in Flamm’s line of sight. Flamm felt a bit irritated, and patted the stump next to where she was sitting.

“Don’t worry about me.”

“You standing while I sit worries me. Please sit down.”

Milkit couldn’t maintain her stance any more in the face of Flamm’s appeal. She kept a little distance from her master and sat down in a tranquil way at the edge of the stump. She still seemed concerned about maintaining an appropriate reserve, but for the moment she was willing to compromise.

“Master.”

“Hmm?”

“Don’t you think that you will feel uncomfortable when you see my face?” Milkit asked, confused.

As she spoke her lips moved behind the bandage, scraping against the cloth.

Flamm responded naturally. “I think it’s creepy and disgusting”

There was no point in hiding it. The cloth covering Milkit’s face was dirty and stained in places with dried blood. The skin visible through the gaps in the cloth had an unhealthy color. Even though she was a young girl around Flamm’s age, it was a matter of course to feel disgust when seeing such an appearance.

“Well, why did you rescue me?”

“Because I would get lonely if I was by myself.”

“In that case, since I am disfigured and unfriendly, you should sell me and buy another slave.”

Milkit really had no sense of self-preservation.

It was true there was no real reason for Flamm to cling to Milkit. They just happened to be in the same cage and she only took Milkit out because she survived by chance. But still, although Flamm was not sure why, she felt a sense of purpose coming from her gut.

“After that… maybe it was hypocritical.”

“Your reason for bringing me along?”

“Well, before, I couldn’t do anything. I was useless, nobody could redeem me, and as a result I was sold as a slave. What a depressing idea,” Flamm said. “With you being so unfortunate as well, if you could live a happy life, then it could give me a reason to live. That may be a bit… but I think it was on my mind.”

Flamm was telling the truth. At the time, it was a minor impulse that she wasn’t consciously aware of. However, when she thinks back on it, it certainly seems to have been part of her motivation. If she could act because she wanted to save Milkit from the bottom of the abyss, like a hero… doing something like that would help to regain the confidence that she had completely lost when she was exiled from the hero’s party and made a slave.

“I’m not sure I understand. If Master wants a happy slave, you should sell me right away. I’m not suited for it.”

“Haven’t you decided that I am your master already?” Flamm asked. “I don’t intend to do anything to change it.”

“If so -”

Milkit reached around the back of her head and removed the knot tied in the cloth covering her face. Then, she pulled the cloth away.

“Whoa…”

Her exposed face was so bad that Flamm gasped without thinking. The disfigurement she had seen through the gaps in the cloth was spread throughout Milkit’s face. From her jaw to her forehead, her skin was covered with red splotches and often peeling off. Clear pus seeped out from the open sores, while scattered swelling further ruined the lines of her face.

“Do you still want to keep me?”

Milkit seemed determined to be thrown away. Or at least, unable to act for her own benefit instead of thinking of her master first. She seemed to think that it was not fair that she had hidden her face behind a bandage. Even if Flamm had her own reasons for saving Milkit, it was only by exposing her face that Flamm could make an informed decision.

Flamm put her hand to her mouth and stopped. There were many thoughts running around in her head: “disgusting,” “painful,” “grotesque,” “poor little thing,” and “her burning eyes are still beautiful.” All statements that were useless in her situation, as they would have no meaning for Milkit. However, one practical thought did occur to her.

The symptom of living flesh rotting in this way… during her journey with the hero’s party, she had heard something about it while she was learning about herbs from Eterna.

“Maybe, mustard poison?”

“Hmm?”

“Let me touch it a little,” Flamm said.

If what Flamm thought was correct, touching the affected area shouldn’t cause any pain. In order to confirm what she was thinking, Flamm extended her hand toward Milkit’s face. Milkit reacted quickly, standing up and stepping out of reach.

“Master, you will be infected.”

“Mustard poison is never contagious to others,” Flamm said. “Who told you otherwise?”

“My previous master. He told me that it is infectious and absolutely will not heal, so I can never touch others.”

Almost without thought, the hand that Flamm had extended towards Milkit clenched into a fist. She could feel the nails biting into the palm of her hand. The world was infested with more rotten people than she ever imagined. All the sacrifices fell on the innocent. The perpetrators lived happily while the victims suffered, struggled, and died. Even the victim’s death was just entertainment. Could such an unjust society persist-was it worth persisting?

“All these lies… everybody lies!”

Flamm wished there was an opponent she could hit in anger. She was furious enough that she really wanted to eat somebody’s soul with her sword, but only the victim was there with her. All she could do was try to comfort Milkit.

Flamm stood and decisively closed the distance between her and Milkit. It wasn’t contagious anyway. Even if Milkit didn’t like it, Flamm would make contact with her. Reaching up, she caressed her cheek.

“No, this… if it really is contagious, Master will be ugly like me.”

Milkit’s voice was tinged with emotion that usually did not exist in her empty words. In contrast with Flamm’s behavior, her previous master had threatened her with punishment if she ever touched others.

“I don’t care!” Flamm said, almost shouting in an attempt to drive off Milkit’s bad memories.

“I don’t care. I don’t mean to quit being your master just because of this. You might have tried to escape from me by showing your real face, but it won’t work,” Flamm said. “Rather, my determination is more solid than before.”

“I said that I would make you happy. I will continue to be your master for a long time,” Flamm continued. “Who cares if your former master said your face won’t heal? While recovery magic might not be able to cure you… what you can’t cure with magic, you should cure with medicine.”

In the kingdom it is currently the job of priests and nuns, not doctors, to treat injuries, diseases, and poisons. By using light attribute healing magic, neither medication nor surgical treatment is required. Due to the spread of this method, the average life expectancy of the kingdom has been growing in recent decades. However, recovery magic is not universal. There are diseases and poisons that magic can’t cure. One of them was skin damage caused by mustard poison.

“That makes sense,” Milkit said. “But does Master know how, even though nobody else does? Are there any pharmacists left in the kingdom?”

Milkit had identified a serious problem. Once the current pope inherited his position, the church started crushing pharmacists in order to maintain their monopoly on medical treatment. Pressure, disrupting transactions, buying up medicinal herbs and breaking supply sources. Most pharmacists went out of business.

But not all of the knowledge and technology had been lost. When Flamm had traveled with the hero’s party, she had learned that the long arm of the church had not been able to affect magicians who lived alone in remote areas. For example, the witch Eterna.

Flamm had learned some knowledge of magic and herbs from her as a way to help the party even a little on their journey. She did not learn enough to become a true expert capable of purifying the herbs into medicine, but she learned enough to be able to identify the cause by seeing the symptoms.

“I know the ingredients needed for the antidote. I will buy them once we earn some money,” Flamm said. “I will need the help from an acquaintance to turn the ingredients into medicine.”

Although Flamm spoke with confidence, she wasn’t entirely sure that Eterna would help her out. After all, Eterna had allowed her to be sold as a slave. On the other hand, during the journey Eterna had been a gentle teacher who lived at her own pace. Flamm had worked hard to build a relationship of trust. Considering how things had turned out, it was hard to say that she knew Eterna’s true heart… but she did not believe it, she did not believe Eterna had abandoned her.

For now, Flamm would be optimistic. She would only think about the positive things. The world had enough negative things already. Flamm chose to believe that if she gathered medicinal herbs and asked Eterna for help, she should definitely make the medicine.

“Of course, we first have to overcome today,” Flamm said.

“Yes. If we take too long, the sun will set.”

The two of them shivered. Then they worked together to replace Milkit’s bandage before joining hands and stepping into the forest where the werewolf was said to live.

The forest was dark. Not much sunlight penetrated through the leafy canopy. The air was cold. The ground was soft and treacherous underfoot.

This was Flamm’s first time performing a request as an adventurer. Her first time as the strongest member of a party. Her heart was beating fast from the tension. Did she really want to keep going? Part of her wanted to run away. But the warmth of the hand in hers and the feeling of the need to protect gave her the courage to overcome her fears.

◇ ◇ ◇

Flamm came to a stop in a small hiding place about ten minutes after they entered the forest. She pulled Milkit behind a tree before getting her attention and holding an index finger up to her lips.

“Over there, a werewolf,” Flamm whispered.

On the other side of the tree and a little distance away, a wolf-like creature walking on its hind legs was searching for prey.

“Um, master, I can not fight. Did I have to come here?”

That was a good question, although the timing was awkward. Flamm answered, keeping her voice as quiet as she could.

“I thought about leaving you to wait in the capital, but humans can be as dangerous as monsters.”

If she left a helpless slave like Milkit alone in town, Flamm didn’t know what would happen. There was a possibility they would never meet again.

“Is it really all right to be here?”

“Since the opponent is ranked F, I think it is safe. At worst, you can run away so you don’t get hurt,” Flamm said. “I will think about whether to bring you next time depending on the circumstances.”

Once they have money and can reserve a room at an inn it might be safer for Milkit to stay behind.

Flamm first did a scan to confirm the werewolf’s status.

——————–

Werewolf

Attribute: earth

Strength: 159

Magical Power: 22

Vitality: 79

Dexterity: 207

Perception: 54

——————–

She saw all the numbers, much to her disgust.

“Gah, there’s no way… oh, that Dain was the same as the rest after all.”

“What happened?”

“That monster’s stats add up to 521,” Flamm said. “If the total value exceeds 500 usually it will be treated as a D rank monster.”

“Wasn’t this an F rank request?”

The two were completely deceived by Dain. If a new adventurer charged at a D ranked monster, they would definitely be killed. Even if they are careful and plan ahead, the chance of winning is thin. In other words, Dain tried to take the lives of two people, however indirectly.

“Unfortunately for him, I’m not that weak.”

The Zwei Hander raised Flamm’s stats by a total of 995. That was equivalent to the top rank of class D monsters. Considering the healing ability as well, she should be able to dispatch the werewolf without any problem.

Flamm could see in her mind’s eye the pattern of the sword as it is stored in another dimension. She grabbed it and dragged her huge sword into this world. With that, her battle preparation was complete. She planned to shorten the distance at once and unleash a powerful strike at the body of the werewolf. Flamm adjusted the position of her feet, shifting the power of her right foot until she was ready to pounce.

“Master, look!”

Milkit’s voice brought her up short.

When Flamm looked in the direction Milkit was pointing, there was another werewolf. Now that she was looking more carefully, she could see two more. A total of four monsters were assembled in the nearby area.

Werewolves were a special annoyance among D ranked monsters because of their habit of collective behavior. It was so notorious that adventurers had a saying: “if you see one, there are three more lurking around.” As somebody who had only traveled with the hero’s party, Flamm never learned much about D-ranked threats. Now, it was hard to say whether she could defeat four opponents at once even if she did have higher stats.

Could the group be broken up?

Flamm was staring at the group with a thoughtful expression when one of the four began to move. It seemed to be suspicious of danger. Flamm worried that it might be able to smell or hear things that a human could not. The others picked up on its nervousness and also began surveying their surroundings more intently.

Flamm and Milkit pulled all the way back behind the tree to hide and wait for the werewolves to calm down. Before that could happen, though, a strong breeze rose up out of nowhere, disturbing the fallen leaves on the ground.

Flamm closed her eyes for a moment in surprise. Once she recovered, she tried to peek out and spot the werewolf while using her arm to protect her eyes from the wind.

She saw the lower half of the werewolf standing where it had been before. The upper half was briefly visible dangling out of the mouth of a new monster before it disappeared down its throat.

The new monster had the body of a lion. It also had wings.

The werewolves attempted to attack the new monster together. With a swat of its forepaws, they were blown away to crash against the surrounding trees.

The lion ate them one after another.

“Scan!”

Confronted with a terrifying monster that she had never seen before, Flamm quickly checked its status.

——————–

Anzu

Attribute: Wind

Strength: 542

Magical power: 408

Vitality: 301

Dexterity: 422

Perception: 214

——————–

The total value of its stats was 1887. That was nearly twice Flamm’s.

“C rank monster!”

“That, that…”

Flamm thought she might be able to beat a group of D rank monsters, but she had no confidence in facing C rank anything. She decided that they should escape and find another way to complete the request.

Unfortunately, the monster had sharper senses than the werewolves and had already discovered the two of them. With blood, meat, and organs still dangling from its mouth, the monster’s eyes were glaring right at them.

There was a faint moaning from the beast. Its wings fluttered, and some kind of force stirred around it. It seemed to Flamm that it was preparing to attack.

“Milkit!”

Flamm moved on reflex. At least she would – Flamm barely had time to think as she pushed that thin body away.

“What?”

Milkit exclaimed as she rolled away. Once she stopped she looked back at her master.

Whoosh!

Almost immediately, the Anzu released wind magic with a tremendous explosion.

Sharp blades and a burning wind were released from its wings. Flamm’s body was chopped up along with the surrounding trees.

Blood splashed, her limbs danced in the air.

TN: Let’s give a big welcome to cliff-san. While not as well liked as truck-kun, I dare say he’s appeared in at least as many light novels.

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Chapter 3: Adventurers Aren’t All Bad, I Guess I Can Make It Somehow

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Flamm and Milkit held hands and walked along the street. Flamm didn’t have anywhere in particular that she wanted to go, but she did want to get far away from that merchant’s base.

Although they are walking along a road that Flamm had used many times, the passerby looked at them with cold eyes. Nobody would imagine that a girl dressed in rags with shabby hair and a slave’s brand engraved on her face was the Flamm Apricot that they used to know. Occasionally somebody walking past would jar their shoulders on purpose and continue on with a grin.

“Hey Milkit. Are slaves always treated like this?” Flamm asked as they weaved between people.

Milkit tilted her head. “Like what?”

That answer was enough. For her, it is normal to be looked down on. For others, a slave is someone to despise or perhaps to use to satisfy their desires.

Flamm was lost in thought as she stroked her face with her empty left hand. She could feel under her finger a slight change in texture that originally did not exist. The mark is colored with a special paint that will never disappear. It is still painful to touch, but as she thought about it she felt greater mental pain than physical pain.

“Master, are you hurt?”

“I just reconfirmed that this is a slave brand.”

Flamm was released from the Hero’s party and had escaped from the slave merchant, but with that marking on her face she can not go back to her hometown.

To be a slave is to be as good as dead. But Flamm is still alive, still walking under her own power according to her own will. Besides, she’s not just by herself. However different they might be, she has a companion who will suffer together with her if she just gives up.

“First we have to earn money,” Flamm said.

“Yes… the only way is to sell our bodies. I, I do not have that kind of experience, so I’m not sure if I can do it well.”

Milkit’s first proposal was prostitution. Flamm sighed before rejecting it out of hand.

“Milkit, look out for yourself a bit more.”

“What do you mean?”

“Prostitution is the absolute last resort.”

“Then, what are we going to do?” Milkit asked.

“First, lets head to the center of the West District. We can get a job there,” Flamm said.

“There’s work that can be contracted even by slaves…”

There was only one such job that allowed people in this kingdom to earn money regardless of status. Milkit might not be able to think of it now, but she would understand once she was in front of the building.

Flamm tightened her grip on Milkit’s hand and picked up the pace.

◇ ◇ ◇

The capital was divided into four areas: Center Ward, East Ward, West Ward, and North Ward. The largest area was the Center Ward with large and small shops and a lot of houses lined up in places off the boulevard. East Ward was a high class residential area where various rich people such as aristocrats and large merchants lived. North Ward had facilities that played a large role in the kingdom, such as the King’s Castle and the Cathedral. The poor people who are shunned in other areas gathered in the West Ward.

The slave merchant’s base was in the Center Ward, but it’s not far from there to the West Ward. Once they entered the West Ward it didn’t take long to reach Flamm’s destination.

After they stopped in front of a particular building, Milkit looked at the signboard by the entrance before exclaiming in surprise.

“Is this … the adventurer’s guild?”

As the name suggests, the adventurer’s guild is a facility where adventurers gather, undertake jobs entrusted to the guild, and report the results. The profession of “adventurer” is a remnant from the time of the brave human beings who helped to explore and pacify the monster-infested countryside back when there were many undeveloped areas in the kingdom.

“Well, I’ve heard that even former slaves can be adventurers. Now that I have the power to fight, I thought I could handle simple requests.”

The experience of killing the ghouls and merchants had raised Flamm’s confidence. She felt a little uneasy at crossing the fatal line, but for somebody who had lost a straight way to live there was no other way.

“By the way Master, where did that power to fight come from? As soon as you grabbed the sword you healed your injuries and you could swing that big sword easily.”

“Yeah, that merchant said that this sword is Epic Equipment. It seems the effect of its enchantment was to improve my physical ability.”

“But the man who grabbed it first… his body melted and died.”

“That is worrisome. Unfortunately, I can’t do a magical scan since I don’t have any magical power…”

There is a simple magic that could be used on the sword to confirm its name and magical effects.

“Wait, wait, when my body got lighter my magical power also rose. Come here a bit.”

Flamm had never used the scanning magic, but she knew about how it was done. She pulled on Millkit’s hand and led the two of them into the alley next to the adventurer’s guild. Soon they were alone and hidden from view of the street.

“Come out,” Flamm ordered.

Particles of light swirled into view and coalesced into a sword held in the palm of her hand. Pleasantly surprised that the sword came out on command, Flamm took a breath and began to invoke a “scan” of the sword.

First, the most basic of basics, she had to feel the magical power filling her body and concentrate on any part of it. She could never grasp that feeling when she tried it before… but now she could feel a power flowing inside of her body. Before, she had tried not to dwell on it. Even if she tried her hardest, it would always stay out of reach. She had never thought that it could be so easy. She focused, brought the power to her head and focused it around her eyes.

“Scan.”

And the magic activated.

——————–

Name: Zwei Hander of Soul Eating

Quality: Epic

[This equipment reduces your strength by 318]

[This equipment reduces your magical power by 96]

[This equipment reduces your vitality by 293]

[This equipment reduces your agility by 181]

[This equipment reduces your perception by 107]

[This equipment melts your body]

——————–

“Soul Eating…”

Flamm unintentionally read out loud as she took in the characters displayed in her field of view. It was a title suitable for curse equipment. She guessed that the sword was originally just a Zwei Hander. The sword took in somehow the grudge of the dead. After  absorbing the despair of those who died it became a cursed sword that killed all those who held it.

“But why? With enchantments that reduce stats, I should not be able to use such a huge sword.”

“It’s enchanted to reduce stats?”

“Well, as far as I can see. Can you try a scan, Milkit?”

“I can’t use scanning magic.”

That shouldn’t be possible. As long as their magical power is not 0 due to a special circumstance like Flamm’s, a person should be able to use scan. Even if their magical power is 1.

That was Flamm’s first thought, but she soon realized the truth. Although it is certainly basic magic, it is not taught by just anyone and it’s not something that can be used without being taught. In short, nobody taught Milkit even the basics of magic usage.

“Besides, I think I would not understand it, even if I can see it,” Milkit admitted.

Flamm was blessed. Every time she hears Milkit’s words she feels it.

“Well, if I can do it, I can teach it. Should we start studying together once things calm down?”

Flamm smiled. Milkit kept silent for a few seconds before turning her eyes a little bit. Flamm could see that she felt a little puzzled and embarrassed.

“If Master needs it, I will obey.”

“Then that’s decided,” Flamm said. “Though the mystery of the equipment remains. My stats should decline and my body should melt, but on the contrary my abilities increased and my wounds healed… to the contrary… reverse…”

There was one thing that might explain it. If she was experiencing the “reversal” of the intended effect of the enchantment-

“My attribute? No way, could it be something like that?”

“Your attribute?”

“Yeah, my attribute is ‘inverse,’ it is a so-called rare attribute. It’s because of that attribute that my stats were nothing but 0. I thought it was useless… but that must be what I used!”

In other words, the inverse of a decrease is an increase. The inverse of body dissolution turns to physical healing. It might be said that her attribute turns curses into blessings.

“I always wondered why I had such a useless power. I never thought to use cursed equipment, so I never noticed it… Hahahahahahahahahahahah!”

Flamm’s heart soared as her laughter rang louder. She caught herself and hung her head as she realized Milkit did not understand at all.

“Oh, I’m sorry. I was too excited,” Flamm said. “In short, I will be able to become stronger if I use cursed equipment thanks to my attribute!”

“Okay, Master is amazing.”

Milkit’s reaction was calm. Flamm coughed as she also calmed down. It hadn’t been long since they met. Milkit seemed to have the sort of personality that doesn’t have too much emotional inflection. It was a bit disappointing when she’s looking to celebrate together, but it did help her to focus on the task at hand.

While Flamm was excited some time had passed. She wants to earn enough money to cover their accommodation for the day. In order to be registered as an adventurer, they have to first receive and complete a simple F-ranked request. Once they finish it they will receive a license and will also be paid enough money to stay in a cheap hotel.

The two of them left the alley and entered the guild. Inside, the facility was something even a flatterer couldn’t describe as beautiful. The smell of sake permeated the building even though it was daytime. There was a tavern attached to the guild that was used as a meeting place for recruiting party members. A group of disreputable looking adventurers were hanging out there. When they saw the appearance of the two girls who came in and spotted the slave brands on their faces, vulgar grins spread across the room.

The reception desk was just in front of the entrance. The receptionist behind the desk was fiddling with her nails with a bored expression on her face. When she looked up and saw Flamm her face twisted into a frown.

“What is a slave doing here? I don’t see any reason for a nobleman to send his maids here.”

“I want to be an adventurer. Could you issue a license?”

After Flamm spoke, not only the receptionist but also the drinking adventurers all looked upset.

“You’re joking. Are you trying to throw your lives away? You look better suited to be prostitutes. I can introduce you to some opportunities for that kind of work.”

Her voice was full of malice. Flamm somehow swallowed her frustration, but the surrounding adventurers recovered from their shock in time to interrupt her attempt to speak.

“Would you like to come over here, my brown haired child? I’ll pay for tonight. Ah, never mind, the bandage is no good.”

“Hey hey-”

“Well, you can go if you want, but who knows what she looks like?”

“You’re right, it’s no good… well, I might go because I’ve been doing nothing but work lately.”

“Hahahahah, you’d go with a stray dog ​​if one came along!”

“No, hey, hahahahah!”

Flamm gritted her teeth, both hands clenching into fists. She glared at the men, unable to stand it – then Milkit grabbed the hem of her clothes. Flamm looked over to see Milkit shake her head.

“Why?”

“Because Master will lose, please don’t.”

“For your information, I am not only angry for your sake.”

Although perhaps 90% of her anger was due to the vulgar words directed against Milkit. When Milkit noticed it, she stopped Flamm.

“Don’t joke, you are my Master. I can accept these insults if it makes your life easier.”

“I refuse.”

“Even so…”

While the two of them were distracted, the receptionist had turned back to focus on her nails as she had been doing before Flamm came. Flamm shook off her anger at the adventurers and turned back to the receptionist.

“No, I do not want that. Please issue a license.”

The receptionist remained silent and ignored her.

“Hey you!”

“Ugh, you’re a slave. Keep silent and open your legs when you get paid.”

The receptionist laughed as she finished speaking. Flamm was truly enraged and almost ready to leap over the counter and wring her neck.

“Hey now, don’t say that.”

She was interrupted by a man coming over from the tavern. He seemed to have the intent of acting as a mediator.

The man was slender, about one head taller than Flamm. He was leanly muscled rather than thin, with dark brown hair that was trimmed short. Being that he was in the tavern he wasn’t wearing any armor, but he did have a one-handed sword of high quality at his waist.

“Ah, I’m sorry to interrupt you. My name is Dain Finiarth, an A rank adventurer in the guild here. Please, let’s calm down.”

Flamm took the hand that he extended while looking him up and down. His hands were big, the skin rugged. He had a scar on his cheek and was wearing a gentle expression, but his eyes were sharp. He had to have ability if he had climbed up to A rank.

Adventurers start at F rank. Their ranks rise with the cumulative amount of rewards that they have received from the guild. It is difficult to reach all the way up to A rank without repeatedly completing high difficulty requests.

“Ella, a newcomer came to the guild,” Dain said, addressing the receptionist. “Is this any way to welcome her?”

“But…”

“Whether you can survive after receiving a license depends on your ability. Slaves, nobility… who cares? I think anybody should be able to face the challenge.”

“If you say so.”

This man named Dain probably has a strong reputation. Ella had been cursing up until his arrival but lowered her head under his pressure.

Dain leaned over the counter and dragged a paper over from Ella’s side.

“How about this?”

The document now in front of Flamm was labeled “delivery of one Werewolf’s Fang.” It was marked as a rank F request. It also showed a map, marking where the monsters are likely to be found.

Dain nodded. “Yes, we will give you a license as soon as the task is completed.”

“Thanks,” Flamm said, taking the map.

Ella shot her a glare, causing Flamm to sigh in her heart. If she becomes an adventurer, she will be accepting requests from the West Ward adventurer’s guild for a long time. She was disappointed to have made an enemy already.

Before leaving the guild, Flamm turned to Dain and lowered her head.

“Mr. Dain, thank you.”

Dain gave a gentle smile and nodded to Flamm before returning to the table where his friends were sitting. Flamm took Milkit’s hand and left the adventurer’s guild. Dain watched the two of them until they were out of sight before bursting out in laughter.

“What did you do, Dain?” a man at the same table asked him.

“As you can see, I just gave them a license issuance request,” Dain said. “I’m a nice guy.”

“Hmm… how about the content of the request?”

“Well… I thought about the future of my juniors and just made it a little more challenging.”

As Dain spoke, he poured wine into his glass. “Ah, originally I put the request in at F rank and nobody wanted to take it.”

“What is it supposed to be?”

With Dain’s influence, putting a request in the wrong letter ranking isn’t difficult.

“A little higher.”

“How much?”

“Just a bit. All I did was give a D rank request out as F rank,” Dain said, laughing. “If she really is meant to be an adventurer, beating a Werewolf should be easy.”

“D rank is at least three times stronger than F rank… a Werewolf could be five times stronger. You killed that girl.”

“It can’t be helped if she’s not as talented as me.”

“Haha, that’s Dain for you!”

The adventurers were greatly excited that dinner would not just be accompanied by wine but also the story of slave girls dying miserably.

– “The brave coward”, Dain Finianas.

A man who became A ranked despite his own lack of ability. He advanced through fraud by hanging out in the guild and bamboozling new adventurers in the West Ward, taking some of their remuneration as his own achievement.

Flamm and Milkit held hands and headed to the place marked on the map, blissfully unaware of Dain’s true identity.

TN: It’s not clear to me how Dain benefits from sending Flamm out to certain death… I assume he runs other scams that benefit himself and sending newbies out to die is just something he does for fun.

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