The Markless Man
What am I? Willem often asked himself this question, but the answer was simple: a human in a place where humans shouldn’t be. His very existence defied logic. With no way to return home, he wandered, forever a lost child.
When the sun begins to set, the main streets of town become lively and colorful, illuminated by crystal lamps hanging off the walls. A light purple smoke drifted about, stirred around by various people coming and going. A Borgle raised his voice to draw in customers. A feline Ayrantrobos woman, managing her store, took a puff of her cigarette. A group of young Orcs strolled through the streets while exploding in laughter.
The side alley where Willem sat was quiet in comparison. Although just a single building stood between the two streets, almost no trace of the hustle and bustle out there could be detected.
He shelled out 32,000 Bradals, putting his remaining debt at about 150,000. “Give me about half a year, Grick.” Willem faced his old friend and put on the best smile he could manage. “I’ll have the money by then.”
The pair sat in a cheap diner. Willem wore an old, battered coat but had his hood down, revealing his markless face.
The man named Grick, an average sized Borgle, counted the money Willem handed over with an unsatisfied expression. Inside the envelope was a large stack of small Bradal bills, which made the counting process unnecessarily long.
An awkward silence followed.
“Ahh… oh! That’s right… how are Anaala and the others doing?”
“Anaala? Not too well. Got gobbled up by a ‘The 3rd’ last month,” Grick answered curtly, never taking his eyes off the money. “By the way, Gulgura also died. You know how the 47th Floating Island sank last summer? Yeah, he got caught up in that… now he’s just a little stain on the ground below.”
“Ah… sorry… shouldn’t have asked.” Willem’s shoulders sagged at the sad news.
Grick, not seeming to care much, just laughed. “Don’t worry about it. We’re all salvagers. From the moment we first set foot on that ground, we’re already prepared to die… or to let others die if the need arises. Besides, those two lived a pretty long life. Most salvagers die the first day they go down there.”
He finally finished counting. “Yep, it’s 32,000 alright.” Grick neatly aligned all the paper bills before putting them back into the envelope. “But Willem… are you really okay with this?”
“It took you half a year to get this 30,000… you have 150,000 left, so even if things go well it’ll take another two and a half years.”
“Oh, that. Sorry, but right now I can’t really bring in the dough any faster.”
“Well I’m not rushing you or anything, but….” Grick paused to stuff the envelope into a tattered leather bag. “As you know, this island is mainly filled with markless hating beast people. You’re not going to be able to find any decent work. Right now you’re just barely scraping by with random low paying jobs, aren’t you?”
“Ah… well….” Willem avoided eye contact.
Grick narrowed his eyes. “So this money is almost your entire earnings from the last six months?”
“Minus some spending for food… lately jobs haven’t been providing meals.”
“That’s not the real problem here,” Grick said with a sigh. He started tapping his muscular Borgle fingers on the table, obviously irritated. “Are you doing anything else with your life besides paying off your debt? That’s what I was trying to say… it’s been half a year since you’ve awoken. Haven’t you found anything you want to do? Anything you want to enjoy?”
“Well… you know, they say just living life is fun by itself…”
“Don’t give me that sorry excuse of a justification for living a boring life.” Grick cut off Willem sharply. “I live for what I enjoy. A sea of treasure lies down there on the ground. Materials and technologies we don’t have up here are just rolling around for anyone to take. Searching for those and bringing them back to sell is what I enjoy. Coming up empty and being in the hole… well that spices things up in its own way. Accidently stepping into the nest of a ‘The 6th’… moments like those are when I feel the most alive.”
For a moment, Grick had a faraway look in his eyes, reminiscing about his past adventures. “That’s what we salvagers do. So what about you, Willem? If you’re the serious type who likes to just work hard, then that’s fine with me… but have you thought about what you’re going to do after you pay off this debt?”
“Isn’t this coffee kinda salty?” An almost too obvious attempt to dodge the question. Grick gave him a funny look, but, still unable to find an answer, Willem gave a half-hearted laugh. Another awkward silence followed.
In general, Borgles are relatively simple people; they just follow their instincts. Of course some variation exists among individuals, but Grick was such a clear and logical thinker that it almost made Willem doubt his identity. He was also a nice guy, an aspect of Grick’s personality that Willem often had trouble with.
“Say, Willem… I might have a job for you. Why don’t you give it a try?” Grick broke the silence with a question. “I know someone looking for people… it’s a decent job, but it involves working with markless for a long period of time, so she can’t find many prospects. I’m guessing you don’t have any problems working with markless, though.”
“Why can’t you do it? I mean, you’re able to put up with me.”
“I’m a salvager. My soul lives down there, on the ground. Any job that traps me up here would drive me crazy,” Grick said with a chuckle. “As for what you’ll be doing on the job… well, simply put, you’ll be managing the Winged Guard’s secret weapons.”
“The army? Secret weapons?” Those words didn’t have a very peaceful connotation.
The word ‘army’, here on Regul Aire, usually refers to the official organization made to counter invasions from the ‘17 Beasts’. Even with the quite literal high ground, the Winged Guard understandably still has great difficulty against the Beasts. After all, they are the enemies who destroyed all life forms on the land. To secure any additional firepower possible, the army has been using any and all methods available — or at least that’s the word on the street.
“I can’t fight anymore. You know that.”
“I know, I know. Just because I said army doesn’t mean you’re going to go off to battle to beat things up. There are some more behind the scenes desk jobs, you know?”
“… like what?” Grick’s description didn’t give Willem a very good image of this job. “Is it the type of job that any old part time worker can do?”
“I don’t think that would go too well. If it’s the paperwork you’re worried about, I can take care of that.” Grick let out another laugh. “Anyways, listen up. I hear that those secret weapons are effectively managed and maintained all by the Orlandri General Trading Company. As you know, the law prohibits civilians from possessing weapons above a certain power level.
“However, to the army, Orlandri is a major sponsor, so they don’t want to damage relations with them. On top of that, even if the Winged Guard were to collect those weapons, they wouldn’t be able to manage or maintain them with their current technological and financial resources.”
“So on paper, the army owns the weapons… but in actuality, it’s the trading company in control?”
“Exactly. The army sends a token supervisor over, but doesn’t do anything else. To any real soldier, that supervisor is a useless job. You have almost no authority, and the results of your work can’t be made public since you’re managing secret weapons. A big step backwards for any soldier’s career. That’s why they’ve starting looking for people outside the army.”
Grick stared down Willem with his amber Borgle eyes. “Like I said, I can get you an official title as a soldier. Since the supervisor doesn’t actually do anything, you don’t need any special skills. Just need to have some patience and keep your mouth shut. All in all, the pay’s pretty good. You’ll be able to pay off your entire debt and still have some left over.
“Use that money and find your own way in life. I know you have special circumstances, but don’t waste the life given to you. That’s what the others and I wa–.” Grick shook his head. “Ah, sorry… it seems I’m getting a little soft from seeing so many friends pass away.” The Borgle man’s face twisted into a bitter smile.
It was getting harder to decline the offer. “Alright, tell me more of the details about this job.”
“You’re going to take it?”
“I’ll decide after hearing a little more. So don’t say anything that’ll make it impossible for me to refuse.”
“Got it. First of all….” An evident happiness showing on his face, Grick looked down at his cup of coffee. “Kinda salty… this coffee.” He let out hearty laugh.
Grick was a logical thinker and a surprisingly sympathetic Borgle. In other words, a nice guy. Willem had just a little trouble with that part of him sometimes.
The over a hundred floating islands making up Regul Aire have a numbering system. In the middle of the group sits the 1st Floating Island, and from there the numbers spread out in a spiral pattern. As you go out from the center, the numbers get larger and larger.
However, there are a few special things to take into consideration. The central islands, up to around number forty, rest fairly close to their neighbors. In some of the extreme cases, two islands can even be connected by bridge. This close proximity between islands promotes cultural and economic exchange, which in turn lead to prosperous towns.
On the other hand, islands near the edge, after number seventy or so, have great distances between them and are usually small in size themselves. As a result, towns are less numerous, less populated, and of course less prosperous. Some may be so isolated that the public communication airships don’t even stop by on their route.
The facility where Willem needed to go for his new job was located on the 68th Island. Far enough out to be unreachable directly by public communication airships, the island required some more creative means to get to. Buying or renting a private airship was financially infeasible, so Willem opted to take the public airship to the 53rd Island, the closest stop to his destination. From there, he hired a ferryman to take him across.
His calculations were perfect — except for one thing, which Willem noticed the moment he arrived on the 68th Island. The sun had completely gone down.
A strong, chilling wind blew past. “Haha… well this was a failure.” Standing alone in the deserted harbor, Willem laughed to himself. The hem of his coat, worn over his new army uniform, fluttered violently in the wind.
The ferryman hurried back home to the 53rd Island immediately after dropping Willem off, so there was no going back. He spotted a sign, worn down from exposure to the elements. According to it, the nearest town sat 2000 malumel to the right, while the Orlandri Trading Company’s 4th warehouse sat 500 malumel to the left. Next to the sign, two red wooden arrows pointed in opposite directions.
“This must be it,” Willem muttered to himself, recognizing the name Orlandri. The arrow pointed towards a narrow path which led right into the middle of a thick forest. Of course, not a single street lamp or anything else convenient was in sight. While walking through the place without any light didn’t sound like very much fun, Willem couldn’t just sit here and wait for morning. He thought about heading the other way to the town and finding an inn, but that path was still fairly long and certainly not much brighter. Looking up at the starry sky one last time, Willem sighed and stepped into the darkness.
The stars sometimes peeked out from gaps between the trees, giving Willem just enough light to stay on the path. Navigating like that, however, caused his pace to become laughably slow.
It’s dark. Needless to say, Willem knew that before he set foot into the forest. I can’t even see where I’m stepping. This too, he knew beforehand, but still he couldn’t help but complain to himself.
Trudging along, Willem suddenly remembered a fairy tale he read as a kid. A boy entered a forest one summer night and never came home again. In the forest, a group of fairies kidnapped him and took him away to their country in another world — or something like that. At the time, Willem thought that the same thing might happen to him, so he vowed to never go close to a forest at night. His master and the “Daughter” teased him endlessly about that. Now that he was no longer a little boy, it seemed like a funny story, but…
“There are no dangerous animals out here… right?”
Between being kidnapped by fairies and being eaten by wild animals, the latter seemed to be the more relevant issue at the moment. This forest and the 68th Island itself were both quite large by Regul Aire standards. The place could be considered a close imitation of the nature once found on land, so he couldn’t rule out the possibility of a wolf or a bear popping out of the darkness.
Could I survive a bear attack? Willem asked himself. For his past self, a couple wild animals would be no problem. In his current state, however, having lost all of his power, he couldn’t be so sure.
He felt something wet beneath his feet. It seems like he strayed from the path slightly while lost in thought. From the faint smell of water, along with the sound and texture of the ground, Willem guessed that he had stumbled into a wetland.
The mixing of the water, dirt, and wind produced a unique scent that, for some reason, he found very nostalgic. Is this place really in the sky? Thinking about home, wading through the pitch black swamp, Willem put on a bitter smile.
Out of the corner of his eye, he caught a glimpse of light. The glowing ball swung violently from side to side while gradually growing larger. Something was coming.
“Someone coming to pick me up?”
When the ferryman’s airship landed at the harbor here, the facility might have been notified somehow. In that case, it wouldn’t be surprising if a technician or researcher or someone saw the signal and came to meet him.
Aw, you didn’t have to walk all the way out here just to get me. Willem played out a conversation in his head as he headed toward the light.
The light jumped into the air. A battle cry, slightly too cute to qualify as a scream, rang through the damp air. Willem saw a wooden sword poking out of the darkness, descending from above at a surprisingly fast rate.
Why?! He tried in vain to think of a reason why he was being suddenly attacked. Anyway, this is bad. Simply avoiding this attack would be easy. The problem was that the attacker, currently leaping through the air, would draw out a perfect parabola as determined by the laws of physics and fly straight into the marshy ground behind Willem.
What to do… what to do. Before his head could come up with a reasonable course of action, his body started moving on its own. Willem took a step forward, positioning himself under the arc that the wooden sword drew in the air. He spread out his arms and took the full force of the attacker’s body. Ouch. Heavier than I thought… I don’t think my legs can hold much longer.
His instincts as a soldier did their work, switching his body into battle mode and trying to activate the Venom inside his body. This process would usually strengthen his muscles and accelerate his decision making, but instead Willem was met with a sharp pain throughout his entire body. The strength in his arms faded, and he collapsed backwards, landing in the wetland with a loud splash.
By the time the water settled down, most of the heat in Willem’s soaked body had been stolen. A small flame, most likely created by Venom, ignited in the attacker’s right hand. The light seemed to create its own little world, cut off from the surrounding darkness.
The attacker sat on top of Willem’s stomach and looked down at him with a smug face. Willem caught a glimpse of light purple hair and eyes.
“Panival! What are you doing?!”
A second magic light, dancing between the trees, approached. Before long, another young girl appeared out of the dark. Willem recognized her familiar sky blue hair.
The purple girl sitting on top of him raised her head and boasted to the newcomer. “The suspicious character has been defeated.”
“You shouldn’t run around here, the ground’s all wet so it’s dangero — eh?” The familiar girl looked at Willem with a surprised face. “The suspicious character… you? Why?”
“Hey… long time no see….” He raised his hand slightly in an attempted wave and smiled at the girl.
Of course, Willem couldn’t stay dripping wet like that forever. After a long bath and a change of clothes, he stood in front of a mirror. A black haired man stared back at him with black eyes that seemed void of any ambition. The faint smile that he wore appeared so natural, as if his face muscles were permanently bent into that shape.
In order to hide his being a markless, Willem once tried to put on fake horns and fangs. However, they looked so hideous that it almost made him depressed. He concluded that those facial features were meant to express one’s wild side, so they didn’t go very well with people that didn’t have any wild qualities about them.
While checking around his body to see if he missed any mud or if any pain still lingered, Willem reflected on how pitifully weak he had become. Just trying to ignite a little Venom led to this mess. In the past, he could have conjured up a battle ready flame in his sleep.
Well, I guess there’s no point in thinking about stuff I already lost. Willem stepped out into the hallway of the army facility — which didn’t look like one at all. The floor consisted of old, worn out wooden boards, and plaster covered the walls. A few rooms lined the hallway at evenly spaced intervals. Pasted on the wall next to Willem were three sheets of paper: one displaying the rotation order for chore duties, one warning of a dysfunctional toilet on the second floor, and one saying ‘Don’t run in the hallways!’.
Last of all, he spotted young girls peeking out from behind various objects, all trying to sneak a look at the strange new man.
The blue haired girl led him around. Getting another chance to look at her up close, Willem readjusted his age estimate to about fifteen, based on human standards. A markless, she had a body and features similar to those of a human. What set her apart was her brilliant blue hair, evocative of a clear spring sky. An Emnetwyte would never have been able to achieve such a naturally vivid color, no matter what dye they used.
Compared to when they met at the Briki Shopping District, the girl seemed to be more calm and took a colder attitude. But even so, Willem could tell that wasn’t her true personality. Every time she had some confusion or uncertainty, it showed clearly in her ocean blue eyes.
They say it doesn’t matter how you act on a trip because you’ll never see those people again. The lively girl that Willem saw a couple days ago must have been a result of that mindset. She reminded him of a comrade he worked with long ago, someone who had a hard time being honest with himself. As he ran through memories of his old friend, a smile spread across his face.
“W-what is it?”
“Ah, nothing. Keep going.”
Occasionally the girl would nervously turn to Willem, looking like she wanted to say something, but then immediately turn back around and put more distance between them. Unable to take a more familiar attitude because of this, Willem silently trailed a few steps behind. The girl with the purple hair, Panival, who appeared to be around ten years old, curiously looked at the awkward couple.
After a short walk, they arrived at a cozy room, which had a small table and chair, a bookshelf, a bed, and various convenient accessories scattered about.
“This is supposed to be a warehouse, isn’t it?” The question that Willem had been asking himself ever since he entered this place suddenly slipped out.
“A typical reaction.”
A woman sat in the room. Another markless. Judging from her appearance, she looked to be about eighteen, the same age as Willem, or a little older. Light red hair fell down to about shoulder height. Her grass green eyes fixed intently on Willem, and she wore a similar colored blouse with a white apron on top. Her gentle and well mannered behavior gave off a rather elegant impression.
“Welcome to the secret weapon warehouse,” the woman said with a smile. “Long time no see, Willem. Have you gotten taller?”
“… why are you here Naigrat?” Willem groaned.
A faint crashing sound came from outside the room, but Willem pretended he didn’t hear it.
“Why? Well, this is where I work, of course. I was surprised when I heard from Grick. Wouldn’t have expected you to get sent here. Oh, congratulations on the promotion, Willem Kumesh, Second Enchanted Weapons Technician. To get such a position the same day you joined the military… rising up through the ranks pretty fast, huh?”
“Don’t make fun of me… I know it’s an empty title. By the way… the ‘someone looking for people to help out with a decent job’ that Grick mentioned…”
“Ah, that was probably me.”
“That bastard.” Willem made a mental note to punch Grick next time they met. He was probably ready for it, given that he knowingly set this trap for Willem.
“Anyway, the forest at this time is pretty scary isn’t it? If you contacted us, we could have picked you up at a nearby island or something.”
Naigrat gestured for Willem to sit. A tea set was laid out on the table, probably prepared during his bath.
“I’m not used to such long airship rides… the 28th Island is a lot farther away from here than I thought. I’ll let you know in advance next time then. ”
“Please do… by the way, those clothes look great on you.”
“Except the person currently wearing them finds it tight and hard to breathe…”
“Don’t say such sad things Willem… compared to right after you awoke, you look about twenty percent more delicious.”
“… so my risk of dying has also increased by twenty percent.”
“Aw, don’t be so mean… you can trust me. I told you before, didn’t I? Even if I’m a Troll and you’re an extremely rare dish, I don’t intend to eat you.” Naigrat clapped her palms together, tilted her head slightly to the side, and continued. “I mean, it would be a shame to waste the last human in the world just to satisfy one moment’s hunger.”
Willem had to admit that he found her gesture cute, but her words sent chills running down his spine.
“Of course, if you say it’s okay to eat you, then I’ll think about it…”
“No. Definitely not okay.”
“Hmm? Are you sure you won’t change your mind? What about just one arm? One finger?”
Willem sighed. The longer this conversation continued, the more dangerous it got for him.
Trolls, classic examples of monsters, often appeared in ghost stories told by travelers back in Willem’s time. A handsome man or beautiful woman would be living all alone in a house far away from any town. When tired travelers came by, he would invite them in, welcome them with a feast, take care of them, then, in the middle of the night, eat them.
Until recently, Willem thought those stories were all just myths, stories created to teach new travelers not to let their guard down in unknown lands. When he found out that Trolls actually existed as a type of Ogre, Willem had stood dumbfounded, mouth gaping open, for a good five minutes. After that, the person who told him, which happened to be Naigrat, laughed at him, saying something like “I don’t know how to feel about being thought of as a mythical creature”.
Willem heard a tapping sound from outside the room again. He sensed a few presences stirring about, but again decided to ignore them.
“Let’s talk about work… I was told I hardly have to do anything, but I haven’t heard any real details. What am I supposed to do starting tomorrow? Or rather, is there anything I should be doing today?”
“Hmm… let’s see. Are you planning on staying here?”
“Of course. I was sent here to manage these ‘weapons’, so I should at least live in the same place with them.”
“The previous two people in your position showed up on the first day then left and never came back, you know?”
“Seriously!?” It sounded like this job was more of a joke than Willem thought.
“So if you said ‘like I would ever live here!’ and went off to stay somewhere else on the island, there wouldn’t really be any problem…”
“This isn’t one of those things where you say it’s okay, but as soon as I turn my back you stab me or something, is it?”
“What kind of person do you think I am…”
A human eating Ogre, of course.
Willem gave a long sigh. “Well, it’s against my principles to just abandon a job, even if it is meaningless. I came here intending to stay.”
“Really? Great!” exclaimed Naigrat, placing her hands beside her mouth. “Well then, I have to hurry and get your room ready. Oh, you must be hungry too. There might be something left over in the dining hall… tomorrow I’ll make you a feast, so look forward to it!”
Another sigh. Willem had always found Naigrat a little hard to deal with. Ignoring the fact that she wanted to eat him (which is pretty hard to ignore), something about her behavior… just didn’t feel right to him, as a guy.
“Hehe… taking care of Willem… it’s been about a year, hasn’t it? I’m getting kind of excited.”
Willem was a man, and a young man at that. Being a young man, he had many complicated, uncontrollable emotions stored up inside his heart. In other words, a situation like this, being taken care of by a friendly young woman (who was also a similar race), made his heart flutter a bit.
However, he knew better than to misinterpret Naigrat’s kindness, which probably had no romantic feelings behind it at all. Her affection was essentially of the same type that farmers give their cows or chickens. She was being nice to Willem to feed the cycle [raise with lots of love] —> [eat].
Calm down, instincts. Activate, reason. The person in front of your eyes is a predator. Your heart is beating fast because your life is in danger. Don’t get the wrong idea. Willem told himself this over and over until his heartbeat returned to normal.
“Why the gloomy face?” The young woman remained completely oblivious to the young man’s internal struggle.
“Just want to make sure one more time… you’re not going to eat me, right?”
“No no, I really just want to take care of you. Trolls have a natural desire to give their guests a reception as friendly as possible. I promise I won’t eat you (yet).”
“Ookayy… why don’t you repeat what you just said under your breath one more time, loud and clear.”
“Hm? I didn’t say anything.” Naigrat responded nonchalantly, then quietly stood up and went to open the door.
An avalanche of orange, green, purple, and pink spilled out onto the carpet. Four young girls, all looking about ten years old, with very colorful hair, piled on top of each other.
“Hey! Don’t push!” cried one girl pinned under her partners in crime.
“S-S-Sorry! Sorry!” wailed another while repeatedly bowing her head.
“Ayy Naigrat, what’s up?” the one named Panival said coolly.
“Hey! My bad!” The last girl casually apologized with an energetic grin.
All the girls started talking at once. Naigrat, paying no attention to them, put both hands behind her back, stood up tall, and uttered a single command. “Go back to your rooms.”
One of the girls cautiously raised her hand. “Um… before that, we wanted to introduce ourselves to the new supervisor.…”
The others nodded in agreement.
“Did you hear what I said?” She cocked her head slightly to the side and gave the girls a stern look. Then, she smiled. “Or, if you won’t listen… I might eat you up!” Even when threatening the girls, she talked in a soft, gentle voice, like a mother comforting her baby.
Without a moment’s hesitation, the little girls disappeared from the room. An impressively executed retreat.
“Well then, let’s get going.” Naigrat turned around and called Willem.
“Ah.…” Still a little overwhelmed by the situation, he barely managed a response.
Throughout their meal, Naigrat, now in a cheerful mood, smiled and hummed quietly while eyeing him. Thanks to that, Willem felt a little uncomfortable the whole time.
The manager’s room had almost nothing in it. While the room itself wasn’t small, it contained only a bed, an empty closet, and a lamp hung on the wall. No carpet covered the hard, wooden floor, and no curtain covered the window. The view outside was pure black, as if the window had been painted over with ink. Just staring outside, Willem felt like he would be sucked in, or rather crushed, by the overwhelming darkness.
Pretty good room, Willem thought. Up until then, he had been living in an apartment complex made for Borgle laborers. Besides the cleanliness issue, Willem also found it impossible to sleep in the provided beds as a result of the body size difference between him and a Borgle. Every night, he would lie on the floor and curl up in a blanket. Compared to that, almost every room seemed like heaven.
Willem threw his luggage on the floor and tested out the bed. The soft mattress and faintly fragrant sheets gradually cured the fatigue in his body, inviting him into a deep sleep.
“– before that…”
He managed to peel his back off the bed before he actually fell asleep. First, he needed to get out of his sweltering army uniform. After that, he stuffed the few plain clothes he brought into the closet. There didn’t seem to be any space to put his other belongings, which didn’t consist of much, so he left them in his bag.
It’s quiet. The silence comforted Willem, who had grown used to the omnipresent tumult on the 28th Island. — or maybe not…
“Do you think he’s asleep?”
“I don’t know… it’s my first time seeing a boy.”
“Keep your voice down a little. He might notice us.”
A few whispers from beyond the door broke the peaceful silence. Probably the kids chased out by Naigrat earlier… they really don’t give up.
Willem, holding his breath, tip toed toward the door without making a single sound. He put his hand on the doorknob, counted to three, then threw it open. The little girls tumbled into the room, making the second avalanche of the day.
“Hey, Mr. Supervisor! Fine evening, isn’t it?”
Willem crouched down to make eye contact with the girls and held a finger to his mouth. They blinked in surprise for a second, but then held up their own fingers to their lips, guessing what Willem wanted to say.
You’ll get eaten by Naigrat. All of them, the girls and Willem, seemed to whisper the same thing just by looking at each other. No matter the time or place, when you want to get kids to do something, you first scare them with the presence of a demon.
Willem gestured for the girls to come in the room. There weren’t enough chairs for all of them, but they would certainly be caught just standing in the doorway. The instant they entered the room, the girls crowded Willem up against the wall.
“Where did you come from!? What race are you!?”
“What’s going on between you and Naigrat? Your conversation sounded pretty deep!”
“Do you have a girlfriend? What type of girl do you like?”
“Do you have a favorite food? Or foods that you can’t eat?”
“By the way, out of all the questions we just asked, which one would you answer first?”
Like a torrential flood, questions poured forth endlessly until Willem held up his hand, signaling them to stop.
“I’ll answer your question first. I don’t have a girlfriend, but I like kind and reliable women a little older than me. My favorite food is super spicy meat, and there shouldn’t be anything I can’t eat — but a few days ago when I saw a Reptrace lunch box I almost threw up. My relationship with Naigrat is like that of a farmer and his stray cow. Until this morning I lived on the 28th Island. As for my race… apparently I have a lot of different blood mixed in so I don’t really know.” Willem answered every single question, pointing at the ones who asked them as he went.
Gasps of admiration came from the girls’ mouths. Satisfied with himself, Willem laughed smugly. As a result of being raised in an orphanage, entertaining little children was one of his specialties. By the way, whenever the ‘Daughter’, raised in the same orphanage, saw Willem like this, she would call him creepy.
Ahh… kids are great. Girls, unlike women — especially a particular evil troll — didn’t confuse Willem with any suggestive behavior. He didn’t have to be suspicious of any ulterior motives behind their kindness. Ahh… what wonderful creatures.
“My name’s Willem. I’ll be helping out around here awhile.”
“Are you going to live here?”
“Yep, it’s part of my job, after all.”
Another sigh of admiration. From the girls’ hushed whispers, Willem could guess that an outsider coming to stay was an unprecedented event. It made sense, given that traveling to the 68th Island was no easy task, as Willem found out earlier that day. So just having a new face around in and of itself must have been an exciting event for the girls.
“Hey! What are you guys doing?” A scolding voice came from the doorway.
The little girls froze up. Standing outside the room was not Naigrat, as Willem first thought, but the girl with the sky blue hair.
“He came a long way and must be tired, so don’t bother him. Isn’t that what Naigrat told you?”
“Umm… ahh…” mumbled the orange haired girl.
“I can’t stop my curiosity,” said purple hair.
“That’s it! It’s what you call an irresistible force!” exclaimed pink hair.
Cutting off the flurry of excuses, the blue haired girl scolded them once again. “Naigrat told you, right?”
The little girls scattered in another perfect retreat. Willem heard voices calling out goodbye echoing farther and farther down the hallway.
“Hmph, they never listen to people.” She looked over at Willem. “Sorry about that… the little ones are always being annoying.”
“I don’t mind… I’m used to being around kids.”
“Well I’m glad, but don’t spoil them too much. If you leave them unchecked they’ll go wild.”
“Haha, I’ll be careful.” Willem laughed, which for some reason the girl responded to with a gulp, as if scared.
A short silence. The girl, who Willem thought would leave soon after driving off the kids, didn’t budge.
She seemed to remember something. “Ah… sorry about Panival earlier in the forest. She was a little too energetic… she didn’t mean to harm you.”
“It’s fine… I’m not mad at all. Thanks to my bath, I won’t catch a cold or anything.”
“Oh… I see… umm….” She paused again. “Kutori…”
“My name. How to say this… it’s kind of awkward since I told you to forget about me earlier… of course you don’t have to remember it… but I thought since you’re here and all… I should at least tell you my name.”
“Ah….” Willem thought for a second. Oh, that’s right. We never knew each other’s names.
“I’m Willem. Nice to meet you, Kutori.”
She took a moment to gather her breath. “Also… umm….” Unable to find the right words, she finally said, “Nevermind. Sorry for bothering you… hope you rest well.”
As Kutori turned around to leave, Willem suddenly remembered something. He had forgotten amidst the confusion of his unexpected reunion with Naigrat, but a question had been sitting in the corner of his mind ever since he arrived.
“Wait… I wanted to ask you something.”
The door, which had just been shut, slowly creaked open again.
“I came here as the manager of the Trading Company’s weapons.”
The girl nodded.
“And this place is a warehouse to store those weapons.”
“Mhm.” She nodded a second time.
“But no matter how many times I look around, this place doesn’t seem like a warehouse to me. Where are the weapons?” He looked around the room. He looked out the window. Wherever he looked, all Willem saw was a residential building. No trace of a warehouse.
Or maybe when he heard that they were used to fight the ‘17 Beasts’, Willem just assumed the weapons would be huge golems or something, but in reality they weren’t so big. In that case, maybe the weapons could all be stored in one room somewhere. But still, one more mystery remained.
“And… I don’t know if I should be asking you directly, but what are you guys? Why are you living in this supposed army facility?”
For a second, Kutori stared blankly at Willem. “You came here without even knowing that?” She narrowed her eyes. “On top of that, you played with those kids without knowing their situation? Are you the type of person who just acts without thinking?”
“Ah….” Willem could say nothing in return. He was well aware that he sometimes acted irrationally.
“Well, whatever. It’s not like it’s a secret, so I’ll tell you. The answer to your first question is your second question. The answer to your second question is your first question.”
“Huh?” A riddle of an answer. “What does that mean?”
“You shouldn’t have to think too hard. It’s exactly as I said. We are the weapons you’re talking about.”
It took some time for his brain to process meaning of her words.
Kutori waved her hand. “Well then, nice to meet you, Mr. Supervisor.” She walked out the door and closed it shut.