Translator: Flowingcloud Editor: Slumber, Frosted Archer Proofreader: Frosted Archer TLC: N/A
Disclaimer: These chapters are massive (like 10k+ characters), so please don't expect mass release of chapters.
"Do you think someone like you can defeat the demon king?"
The legendary magician grabbed her by the collar, and the girl, who was being glared at, was clearly scared.
Even if he didn't say anything, she knew.
During the battle against the demons just now, she was completely useless. Rather, she had to be constantly protected as she was just being a hindrance.
However, she was not patient enough to be abused one-sidedly as "useless" and stay silent.
If just a little humor was weaved into her objection——this would happen.
She made a stiff smile as tears lingered in her eyes, lightening the mood.
The man laughed at the girl. "Ha." He thrust her away, and left that spot.
Not a single one of her companions extended a helping hand to her. She raised her voice with an "Ow" as she fell on her bottom.
Her companions faced her with a look of pity and left.
"Even I didn't want to come too such a place with my own free will……"
The girl's name is Flamm Apricot.
Due to the prophecy from the creation god Origin, she became one of the heroes who embarked on a journey in order to subjugate the demon king alongside the Hero.
By the way, the other ones beside Flamm were——
The one who thrusted Flamm away just now, the "Sage of Imperial Wisdom" Jean Intage, was someone that could manipulate the four elements.
The one who possessed the ability to pierce a prey from even 1000 ri away was the "God Killer Archer", Linus Radiance.
The one capable of curing every single wound or disease with her merciful heart and power of light was the "Saintess of Love", Maria Afengen.
The one who wielded a gigantic sword with one hand and was capable of demolishing S-ranked monsters, "Star Breaker's Strong Arm", Gadio Ruscat.
The one who could freeze even the souls of every single one of her enemies with her overwhelming magic power, the "Immortal Witch", Eterna Linbau.
The one who possessed power that overwhelmed the other heroes, and the one who was born in order to defeat the demon king was the "Hero of Salvation", Kiriru Swiccha.
And well, the party was formed in order to subjugate that demon king. Obviously, every single person that was summoned was a celebrity. Even Flamm, a country girl, had heard of their names.
In such a gathering, there was no way for a country girl with an unknown ability called "Inverse" and the unheard ability of "all status 0" to be able to fit in.
For this reason, Flamm had been preserving and contributing to parts outside of the battle.
She had gone through more hardships than the other heroes.
Even when she protected someone and got injured, "It was only a waste of magic power to heal her." Thus, Flamm's body constantly had fresh bruises and wounds.
Even when she was helpful to someone, the others would say, "Don't do pointless things," and she would be abused.
Even when someone was slightly hungry and treated them to a light meal, she would say, "Please eat," and have to lower her head.
It was possible for the depressed Flamm to also have a persecution complex.
However, she was clearly being persecuted. She asked herself numerous times as to why she was met with such eyes, and why she was doing such things for them.
So far, she had been repeatedly telling herself "even so," and bravely preserving on, but.…… Before long, she would reach her limit.
Before she knew it, someone was looking down on Flamm as she was sitting.
They should've gone on ahead, but did they come back?
That hope was crushed by the cold gaze.
That girl was someone who had grown her golden hair up to where she could tuck it behind her ears and her physique not that different from the petite Flamm——furthermore, that pupil carried a strength that even demons were afraid of.
She for sure, was the hero, Kiriru Swiccha.
Although there was nothing to expect from the look in her eyes, for the time being, Flamm gambled on a sliver of hope and called out to her.
However, before she could finish speaking, Kiriru turned her back on Flamm and left.
Her heart squeezed and tightened.
I was completely abandoned, she thought.
When they started their journey, they were both of the same generation from the same country, and they were intimate, but…
As Flamm's uselessness was exposed, and the two gradually grew distant.
Thus, nowadays, she constantly ignored Flamm who felt depressed.
Originally, the girl, who did not possess anything, hadn't planned on leaving on a journey.
Nevertheless, she could not refuse since the god's oracle had chosen her. Furthermore, the people from her hometown were so excited to say that "There's a hero from our village!" So she could not escape at all.
What would the hopeful people think if they saw the useless, depressed Flamm who was abandoned by her comrades?
"I let everyone down."
She imagined everyone who came to kindly look at her with cold gazes and felt even more depressed.
Even so, her comrades were moving on, and she could not just sit there forever.
She stood up, brushed off the dirt on her bottom, and lightly jogged after them.
It was miserable.
It felt like she was the only person in the entire world.
The southern half of the continent is human territory, and the northern half is demon territory.
In other words, the hero's party was aiming for the demon king's castle that was even further than the northern part of the demon territory, continuing further north.
Nonetheless, it was a journey of living flesh and blood; the amount of materials they could carry was limited.
However, it was not necessary for the hero party to be concerned about materials.
This was thanks to the magic "Return" that only the brave Kiriru could use.
It was possible for them to return to the imperial capital at any time, and they could use Return once more to go back to the demon's land.
Of course, there were restrictions on the number of times and conditions when casting, but by repeating this, they would certainly and steadily approach their destination: the demon king's castle.
That day, the hero party reached their planned checkpoint and returned to the imperial capital.
Return's transfer point is the imperial capital's basement, nicknamed "Transfer Room".
It was a dim, unobtrusive place, and the room was a place for them to assemble in before heading towards the demon's territory.
"Fuu…… yeah, as expected, the air here is delicious."
Witch Eterna took a deep breath of the imperial capital's air for the first time in a few days and commented on it.
In reality, it was the basement, so it was not full of clear air. However, it gave the impression that it was safe since the enemy wasn't here.
"Right? My mind is at ease just because the demons aren't nearby."
Archer Linus approached Saintess Maria, who agreed, while moving his hands excitedly.
"Marichan, in other words, the joints in your body are getting stiff. That's good, I'll give you a massa—"
Rejected with a smile, Linus was disappointed and drooped his shoulders.
In the beginning, his face turned bright red and his voice was rough, but Maria was also stubborn.
However, he was not discouraged.
"I guess sooo. Then, how about a meal?"
Changing the conversation like it was flowing, Maria held her hand against her mouth. She giggled elegantly and smiled at Linus who was asking her out on a date.
"Fufufu, if it's like that, then let's go together."
"Yoshaaaaaaaaa!" (T/N: Scream of excitement, usually after an accomplishment.)
Without hiding his joy, Linus made a guts pose.
The two of them left the Transfer Room without saying anything.
Sage Jean looked at their exchange, complained that "there was no feeling of tension," and sighed openly. But he had no right to stop them.
Anyhow, before the meeting time for the day after tomorrow, free action was permitted.
For each one of them to prepare and finish stocking up on supplies, they dispersed.
The ones that were left in the end were Kiriru and Flamm.
When Kiriru closed her eyes, the jewelled sword that she was holding in her hand turned into particles and disappeared. A crest emerged on the back of her hand.
When she shot a fleeting glance at Flamm, she squinted as if she was scowling at her and left the room.
The two of them liked sweet things, so when they returned to the imperial capital back then, they ate cake and chatted with each other.
But now, Flamm couldn't hope for that anymore.
"I want to go home…… Mom, Dad, are you doing well……"
She recalled her hometown and her family.
It was just a few months before the incident, but she missed it.
Every time she remembered her warm family, tears escaped her eyes.
When Flamm rubbed her eyes while complaining, she shook her head and stopped thinking about her sentiments. She strongly clenched her fist and said, "Alright," to fire herself up. She then headed towards the room's exit.
There was no time to cry because she had to stock up on supplies for tomorrow's departure.
Heading through the Transfer Room's exit and leaving the basement——there was a huge man clad in black armor standing there, enough to give a misapprehension that he was twice Flamm's size.
"Gadio-san? And Eternsan too!"
The armored man was Gadio who supposedly had left earlier.
When she took a closer look, Eterna's appearance could be seen hiding in the shadows as well.
When she suddenly showed up in front of her, she flutteringly waved her hands.
"You're going shopping right? I also have some business, so I thought we should go together."
"Eterna told me to be the luggage carrier although I don't have free time."
Although he said such a thing, Gadio's expression was gentle as he was leaning on the wall with his folded his arms.
It seems like they couldn't just watch and they waited for the depressed Flamm.
From the beginning, the two of them were veteran adventurers; perhaps they had seen through her unreliableness.
"T……t-thank you very much!"
Flamm deeply bowed her head.
Because of that simple action, all kinds of things that she was troubled about was blown away in an instant, and felt like she was saved from everything.
However, a few hours later, she would realize that it was all her imagination.
When Flamm, who finished shopping, said goodbye to Eterna and Gadio who kept her company, she left her luggage in the castle and went towards an inn. (T/N: yado inn?)
Then, as soon as she entered the room, she looked into the mirror while sighing.
Despite the fact that the luggage was taken by two people, the sudden fatigue overwhelmed her.
Her physical strength was 0, so she could not carry heavy things, and her stamina was 0, so she would feel fatigued just by walking a little.
Flamm personally pointed out the fact that she disliked her own body.
The status being 0 itself wasn't something that started today.
Since she was a child——if taken even further, it was like that since she was born.
The cause was due to her "attribute".
Humans in this world receive an attribute on their bodies when they are born.
Fire, water, wind, earth, light, and darkness.
One is chosen from within these 6 attributes, and depending on one's amount of magic power, they can use magic according to the attribute they possess.
However, there are also exceptions.
For example, genius sage Jean's "Nature" can control four attributes: Fire, water, wind, and earth.
For example, the exclusive magic that only the brave Kiriru can use: "Hero".
These were called "rare attributes" and it could be said they were fundamentally superior to the 6 attributes.
Of course, just as rare attributes themselves are an exception, and there exists exceptions to this as well.
A concrete example would be Flamm's "Inverse."
Strength, magic power, stamina, agility, and intelligence——all of her statuses at 0 were probably affected by inverse that prevented her from even growing.
With everything in reverse, the values that should've grown continued to decrease.
Also, since it doesn't go below 0, it stopped at 0.
Of course, as a result of her magic power being 0, she could not use magic. She could not even ream the benefits from the rare attribute that had she received.
"The people in the village were kind as expected, weren't they."
No one persecuted Flamm; the adults treated her equally with the other children.
Her friends of the same generation too——not a single person looked down on her.
Thinking about it to this point, it was probably much more strange there.
After leaving on a journey, Flamm was thrown into the normal world and had to face reality.
Eventually, she would collide against a wall, whether that would be now or the future…… the moment she was born with this ability, Flamm's life had probably reached its limit.
While cursing her own innate power, Flamm threw herself down on the bed and tightly hugged her pillow.
When she lied down and closed her eyes, her whole body was wrapped in a pleasant nap.
She was fatigued and about to nod off to sleep when——knock knock, someone rapped on the door.
"Who is it?"
The girl, who was half asleep, asked with an absent-minded voice.
"It's Jean, I have something important to tell you."
The moment she heard that voice, Flamm quickly got up and madly rushed over to the door.
She tripped over nothing and grazed her knee, but she bared the pain as she unlocked the lock and turned the knob.
A sage with a sour look was standing there.
"Jean-san, w-what's wrong?"
Flamm was not prepared to retaliate.
In a fluster, she grasped the key to the room that she had left on top of the shelf, locked the door, and chased after Jean's back.
He left the inn, walked down the street, and did not turn around at all.
Flamm was not chasing after him. So from the beginning, he did not assume those things.
Rather than trust, his attitude was that of "I expect you to listen to my orders," and he looked down on her.
When Jean turned the corner, he entered a narrow alley.
On this unpopular road were people without homes. They had sluggish eyes, were sitting while holding their knees and thighs, and lying down on laid out clothes on the ground.
If Flamm was by herself, she probably would never step foot into this place.
As one would expect, the girl who became uneasy asked Jean a question.
"Um, where are we headed?"
Of course, there was no response.
Flamm, who had given up, followed Jean in silence.
Eventually, after passing through the street that bent and turned many times, they moved forward to an open place.
The surroundings were as dim as ever; the gloomy atmosphere didn't represent what one would expect in the middle of the imperial capital, but——it could be said that it was ten times bigger than other cities. It was the kingdom's largest city; it was not unusual for there to be such a place.
"Is this the destination?"
When Flamm asked again, Jean turned towards her, extended his hand——and grabbed hold of the hair on top of her head.
He expressionlessly dragged her and took her towards the direction of the male that had been standing there some time ago.
"It hurts, it hurts! Please stop Jean-san!"
The girl's sorrowful cry only vainly resounded, and no one's heart was moved.
"Hehehe, this is a really fine customer. Such a pretty woman."
As he said that, the man lowered his back and rubbed his hands with a flattering expression.
"Aah, it's fine. It's just trash."
Jean threw Flamm in front of the man as if he was literally throwing trash away.
She was thrown against the hard ground.
She laid down on the cold ground senseless, and the knee wound that appeared was pitiful to look at.
She did not understand what was happening.
When Flamm looked up at Jean with a frightened expression, he glared at her with an unusually cold expression.
"You're not of a noble lineage, nor do you have the appropriate strength. To be honest, just being with you makes me want to vomit. Enough to warrant praise for myself for tolerating it until now."
Jean spat his words out just like that.
"A piece of trash dares to call out my name!"
As if responding to Jean's anger, a pebble came flying at Flamm.
Fired like an arrow, grazed her right cheek, and drew a slight red line.
It was a stinging pain.
When Flamm touched her own cheek, her hand was soaked with blood.
When she saw the red fluid stuck on her hand, she leaked out a frightened voice, "Hik," once again.
"This is not good for the customer, she's a good that's for sale after all."
"Sorry, I suddenly flew into a rage. But this is just fine, wouldn't it be okay if you tattooed that cut?"
"Well, a cut to that degree will disappear on its own; it'll be what the customer likes after this."
As he said that, the man handed over the prepared iron rod over to Jean.
A lump that was like a seal adhered to the tip of the rod that was about 20cm in length.
Jean drew his hand near it and invoked "Heat", a fire magic.
When he did, the lump of iron attached itself to the tip of the rod…. it turned hot from the inside and glowed red.
"Okay Flamm, I'll teach you something called your appropriate position from now on."
"The mark of slavery; you've seen it right? You see, as for the kingdom's slaves, it's necessary to engrave a mark that clearly shows their social status on a constantly visible area on one part of their body. This is that. There is a more comfortable method, but I choose the branding iron that includes the significance of having your body realize it. How do you like it? Aren't I kind?"
In the end, he pressed the red-hot iron mass against Flamm's face, the tattooed the mark of a slave.
The man who stood by in the plaza was a slave merchant, so he had already thoroughly prepared the tools in order to disinfect the branding iron after it was used.
"N-no…… I don't want to become a slave!"
"You have no right to refuse."
"That's strange! Why, why do I have to become a slave!"
Jean's expression warped into anger in response to Flamm's words.
"You bastard——do you not understand how much trouble you have personally caused so far!? If you didn't exist, the demon king subjugation would have progressed as planned! Because of you, because you exist, you hold back the others and so my flawless plans have been thrown into disarray! Because of a commoner! Because of a small fry who has no ability! Do you know how much of a sin that is? Hurry up and understand it!"
——That complaint was too unreasonable.
No, but from Jean's point of view, Flamm's existence itself was probably unreasonable.
In the party of only heroes, where no one in the kingdom that hadn't heard of their names. A useless status 0 was in the mix.
"…… D-do the other people know? Even if I'm useless, I was one of the chosen after all. Thus, if you do this on your own accord, this is unjustifiable!"
"Of course they know."
"That's a lie…… absolutely a lie! Did Eternsan not stop you? Did Gadio-san not stop you!?"
She did not think that the two people who had just shopped with her would have agreed.
However, Jean declared,
"Aah, they were slightly troubled, but they eventually agreed. It can't be helped, it's for the sake of subjugating the demon king. Also, the ones who thought that you were the biggest burden were no other than those two."
That was definitely the truth.
Eterna and Gadio were the two people who were the most worried about Flamm, but because of that, Flamm always thought that she felt guilty because they thought she was a burden.
While she could not believe it, or rather, she must not believe it, Flamm's heart swayed as it was driven into a wall.
"How about Linus-san, how about Marisan!?"
"They said that they didn't care. That's about it. Your relationship with them was originally weak right?"
It couldn't be helped.
The two of them whom she hardly remembered communicating with would also have no reason to stick up for her.
"Th-then…… what about Kiriru-chan?"
Sure she was treating her coldly recently, but they were fellow friends just a while ago.
If it was her, she would not have agreed to an absurd thing such as making Flamm a slave.
However, Jean showed his best smile today when he declared so.
"She was the first one to give approval. An immediate reply. She felt refreshed when she thought that she no longer had to look at that face."
"Ah……aah…… that's a…… lie, right……"
Flamm was trying to not believe it.
However, as for Jean, he did not care about her intentions.
"Well, whether you believe it or not is up to you. At any rate, reality won't change. You will be sold off as a slave. Then the earnings will transform into our heroes' fund. Isn't this good, that you can actually make a contribution for us?"
"Return…… return me to my villageeee……!"
Seeing that she had lost her allies, the only thing that she could rely on now was her family and friends who were waiting for her at her hometown.
Jean grimaced as Flamm still had not given up hope until now and was trying to hang onto something.
"It's a shame, but that's impossible. If trash like you goes home, you won't be doing a favor for the villages right?"
"Those parents for sure are enjoying their lives without their daughter around this time. Anyhow, a good-for-nothing less than completely useless trash isn't there; it would be great to celebrate the honor of being a parent of a hero, hahahaha!"
No matter how much she groaned, no matter how much she screamed, Jean would not set her free.
Flamm was crawling on all fours and tried to get away from him, but a dirt arm suddenly rose out from the ground and detained both her hands and both her feet. She was restrained in a crucified state.
She tried to escape squirming while clawing at the ground, but there was no way for her frail body to destroy the magic that the sage created.
While Jean smiled, he approached Flamm who was shedding tears and in a frenzy. On her cheek—— he pressed the red iron with a sizzle.
A hoarse scream roared from Flamm's throat.
The tears that overflowed from her eyes came into contact with the iron. They evaporated and disappeared.
Her neck displayed resistance, but the dirt arm that lengthened even further restrained her head, and she was no match for that.
"Ahhhhh, ahhhhh! Ahhhhhhh!"
Even if it became hoarse, there was no end to her screams.
Jean, who looked at the suffering Flamm, said,
"Hahaha, this is retribution! Serves you right! Hahahahahaha!"
And he was in a good mood.
For him who was very prideful, he despised how she acted like his comrade when she was an incompetent person, and she was an unacceptable existence.
"Aaah, ah, aah, ah, gi, gu, gu…… ga, ah——"
The sound of her voice came to an end.
Sweat was trickling down all over her face, her entire body convulsed, and the incontinent Flamm finally let go of her consciousness.
Jean looked at the girl who fainted and ripped off the iron that was gradually losing heat off of her face.
Rippp…… a little bit of the girl's burnt flesh was there, but it will recover by itself, so he forcibly parted it.
Then he threw away the branding iron and turned towards the slave trader.
"It seems like you surprisingly had fun, Jean-san."
"Well, when I think about the hardships I suffered until now, it's not sufficient enough."
"However, please do me a favor and do no more. She'll die."
"I am not at the point of being a savage and killing her. Well then, I'll receive the promised money."
"Alright, this way."
The merchant lightly shook the jute bag containing ample amounts of gold coins and handed it to Jean as it jingled.
When he received the bag, he smiled as he was content with the heaviness and left the plaza.
When he looked back, the merchant had started disinfecting Flamm with the tools he had prepared beforehand.
——Thus she completely lost the right to live as a human being and the lost the dignity of being human.