In Another World With Just Monika Chapter 93
It was dark. We found Micah sitting in a corner in the dark and sobbing onto a rag. "Oh no Micah" I dropped to my knees beside her and touched her shoulder. "What happened?"
"She was here she came back after you left"
"What what did she do to you?" I said softly, cursing that I ever thought that was Zorah was harmless. "Are you... are you all right?" No wait that was a stupid question. Why do people ask that? Obviously she wasn't. "Are you hurt?"
Micah hid her eyes in the balls of her wrists and hiccupped with tears. " nobles nobles are scary, you know? No sane person should get involved with them. They expect things from us just because they are they expect so much more than we can give until the only thing we can give is blood and then they say we lie when we can't give any more. No one SANE should anger a noble"
I grit my teeth and my shoulders slumped. This was my fault. I forgot that there were innocent people that could be damaged by my comic rampages. "Micah, I'm sorry."
My hand on her shoulder stroked past the arch of her neck, and closed into a fist. Then in a voice tinged with sorrow and anger, I asked "Please. I'm sorry to ask of you so much more, but please tell me. How did she hurt you?"
I waited for Micah's sniffling to stabilize. "Words can really hurt, you know?" she continued. "She came in and demanded tea. She demanded to know everything I could tell her about you"
"And so of course you should have," I replied softly. "I would never mind"
"I'm just an innkeeper. But this place you called it your home. I was so scared, what could I do? I served her tea and we talked and she that sort of person"
Micah looked up, and her teary vulnerable face made my heart hammer. I didn't expect this sort of face from someone I had thought to be so reliable and inured to nonsense. Her long red hair in a ponytail quivered with spent emotions. "That was tea as my mother taught me. And when they say the floor should be clean enough to eat off from, that's just a metaphor! A metaphor!"
Oh no. "What did she force you to do?"
She grimaced and didn't answer. Instead she hissed out "Commoner's don't need justice, we just want to be left alone. Nobles come in and impose their rules and call it justice. Nobles tell us that we owe them our lives for keeping order when they break everything when they just roll in and thing that just because they want it to happen, it will become true! I hate that. I hate it. I hate it. That sort of people"
"Adventurers are scum. And by that I don't mean they're bad people, but because they *float*. But if they get powerful enough, they can piss off nobles and get off scott-free. There's no justice there either. Doesn't this just mean that it's only the strong that gets to decide what's right? What's true? What if what if we, the weak, don't want that truth? What if we're fine just the way we are?"
" Micah. What happened?"
"Even a commoner should have aspirations. A life lived in mediocrity is wasted. Why? Why?" Micah snarled and shrank back into herself. "What if I don't want to be more than just this? What if I don't want more money, more fame, more trouble? You! You brought this into my home if you stand tall, you get chopped down. This is what happens! That's why you shouldn't try to be noticed by nobles!
"Maybe they're needed, because they're the ones that choose to fight. Maybe not, because they're ones that decide when it's a fine time to have a war again. But maybe maybe they should not be terrifyingly convincing..."
She reached out suddenly and grabbed at my face. She pulled at my cheeks, my left side feeling wet from her tear-soaked wiping rag. "Maybe they should not be so terrifyingly convincing at telling us things that might become true that even a commoner like me can be SAFE if I would ever DARE to become more than what I am. That sometimes the BRAVE will be rewarded. That we are all put into this world to BE USEFUL, and everyone has their place. But even in the smallest place you can be the best there is at it leave YOUR PLACE to your peril, this is a truth of the world"
"Micah, I don't understand" What did she say to you? Micah?
You are a pretty terrible innkeeper, you know?
She laughed a bit, seeing my thoughts from the incredulous tilt of my head. "I have small dreams, you know? Because I'm not that a strong person. Reach too far and you won't have the strength to protect and cradle to your bosoms the ones you love. You can love things more than people. I don't want that. I never wanted that and that woman she scared me, she scared me so much, because
"She said that she was *exactly the same*."
Micah looked down and wiped at her eyes. She had stopped crying, but she still looked cold and uncomfortable.
"Micah, I'm sorry."
"I'm not like your girls, Playa. I don't like adventure. I don't like change. Ever since you came in here, it's been chaos. I admit it, it's fun sometimes. I like looking at you. Someone who is so free, so much more than I can ever be I admit it, it's like fresh air into this stale old life of mine. Your business your noble friends, your damn chickens I can deal with that.
"But a home is where you're supposed to be comfortable, when you can feel you're SAFE. Leave your madness out the door, please."
There was a sound like breaking glass. Monika appeared beside her, a semi-transparent glowing ghost, and knelt down on the other side. She put down a cold, luminous hand on Micah's other shoulder and whispered /"We understand. I'm sorry too, and we'll make sure not to trouble you any further."/
"What the hay is this now?" Micah moaned, and then devolved into humorless cackling. "What didn't you hear? What *did I just say*?"
I am truly sorry, Micah.
"Wait, wasn't Maldon's whole job supposed to be preventing this sort of thing from happening?" I asked later. "He was brave enough to go up against Zorah the first time, what happened to him now?"
Micah pointed to the opposite dark corner of the room. Only then did we realize a different figure was sitting there in a fetal position, arms hugging around his own knees, and slightly rolling back and forth.
"What... did she do to him?!"
"Not words, not words at all" Micah said in a terrified whisper. "She wanted to test his resolve"
Let's just say the humiliation she put the guard through was almost literally emasculating.
"Monika, we need to talk."
/"We ALL need to have a talk."/
It was in the deep of night. We sat in the empty dining hall of the Silver Moon Inn. Elze and Linze looked angry. Yae as usual looked imperturbed, but I could tell she was quivering with fury inside.
"Playa. You realize this is all your fault, right?" said Elze.
"No. No, I don't think it's fair" said Linze. "It was Lady Zorah violated the sanctity of this place as our home ground"
"Considering how he acts at Zanac's place"
"But the difference is that Zanac and I are friends. And bros are totally fine literally taking 'my house is your house' for granted!" I interrupted quickly. "There an unwritten rules even among rivals! And this *codified* when it comes to noble etiquette!"
Elze sighed. "It's all still your fault. If you hadn't been such a jerkface when you first met her I dunno, I have a feeling you could have been good friends."
I deflated. "I know. I was too arrogant. I was happy to feel like a bully and now it's not supposed to be someone else that pays for it."
"It is a breach of guest rights and responsibilities," Yumina spoke after a while. Her voice was soft, and yet steady as steel. "The Zenovivi family have always been as popular with the commoners as much as the nobility shied away from interacting with them. They care deeply. In fact I might even go as far to think that Lady Zorah might have been thinking she was offering useful advice even as she terrified Miss Micah."
"Are you defending her?!" Elze barked. "Just as expected!"
"No!" Yumina shot back. "I'm saying Lady Zorah is probably more than slightly mad. Normal ways of trying to communicate and make her feel ashamed of her actions probably won't work."
"So you're saying she's like Playa."
Yumina winced. She bit at the tip of her tongue rather than respond. And then, slowly, she nodded.
"I dunno. I think punching her in the face many many times might work," said Elze.
"Elze, when they say one hits like a truck, one did not usually mean to say with all the mass of a truck," I said. "And by that I mean, without Monika's stacking, she could probably break your fist then kick your ass. She's as [Earth] as Earth can be as much as I'm [Wind]."
"So what do you think should be done about this?"
"Well we're still going to have to humiliate her most perfectly for this somehow."
"Dang it Playa! This whole thing with making unnecessary enemies is the whole problem! You caused this and instead of taking a step back like usual you double down and double that!"
"What do you expect me to do about this, then?!"
"Wait" Yumina pointed out, "are YOU defending her?"
Elze growled and threw up her hands. "I don't know! You're all annoying!"
"What she has done is unforgivable," said Yae. "There must be justice, that must be so."
A long uncomfortable silence settled through the room.
We all turned to Monika and she repeated /"Hugs. Lots and lots of hugs. That is what Playa should do about this."/
/"Do you want to move out to keep her safe? Or do you want to STAY to make sure she's safe? This place does it really feel like home to you? Is Micah just another landlady that makes our lives easier, or is she someone we call friend?"/
"Of course she's our friend. That's why we're so pissed, you know?" I put a hand up to my face. "The only thing I fear now is if she still considers us any of that instead of the weirdos she must endure, because now she's too scared to throw us out."
/"Money is the least of ways to show appreciation. Gifts *and* affection, surely?"/
"Should we move out?" Linze asked. "I mean please don't think that I mean anything against Miss Micah, but if people that Sir Zah angers will keep on following us home, I think it would be better if it was a place where we could set up lots of traps."
And once again I remembered why I loved it when Linze would go all Lara Croft. Despite that cute innocent face she had some rather cunning and merciless thoughts.
"It is kinda convenient to live near the center of town though," said Elze. Also meals, baths and laundry. Granted, we had enough money to hire a maid. But if we lived on our own Elze would feel too guilty and end up having to do her own housekeeping anyway and ahahah oh wow for all her talk of my becoming fat and lazy like a petty noble she was already spoiled by comfort.
She coughed into her fist and continued "I do appreciate Micah and everything she has done for us. So I think it's only fair to help her out as much as we're able."
Another heavy silence descended.
Now the question has been opened, it hung around our necks like a necklace made out of a dead albatross. Should we move out?
Our own lair would have many advantages. But it also felt like insulting Micah, saying to her that she was too small for our concerns, that we were moving up and on, enterprising adventurers while she was just another commoner who found the limits of how much she could contribute to our legends.
But I liked Micah, dammit. For all her lackluster performance as an innkeeper, she was stellar at actually making us feel welcomed and at ease. She was a very caring person that just didn't show it so easily. She was a very mothering sort of person.
"I don't know I just don't know."
/"Are we done with the drama?"/ asked Monika. /"Because we have an even more pressing matter."/
/"We're fighting Zorah in a couple of days. That's what we told Zanac to tell her. But we will also be leaving Belfast a few more days after that. That makes the whole concept of 'moving out' a moot point."/
"Miss Micah will be left alone!"
/"Yes. And the protection detail I had negotiated for had so far proven to be particularly useless. Light Guard Cavalry that are supposed to be based on the ones protecting the Ducal family, which really makes me even more scared about their security now."/
Yumina raised her hand. "Um, to be fair, if the Zenovis weren't so insanely strong, they wouldn't get away with all their insane antics either."
/"So I would really like to know if it would be better to just leave them here or take them with us."/
I groaned and dropped my head onto my waiting palms. "Twenty good men, Monika? What even am I supposed to do with twenty light cavalry guard? We're adventurers. Five people can go quickly and defeat opponents where twenty-five would just be a hindrance. We travel light and fast with minimal logistics overhead. What the heck am I supposed to do with twenty troops?!"
I sighed. "Are we supposed to be a mercenary company now?"
/"Well, in all honesty, isn't THAT the type of business you're actually most used to running?"/ she replied with an impish smile.
Front Mission. Jagged Alliance. Metal Gear Solid. BattleTech. Battle Brothers. Armored Core. Kingmaker. Planet Mercenary. Oh damn it she's right.
"Unfortunately we lack the giant robots," was all the criticism I could give.
Elze raised her hand. "Question!"
"What is it?"
"Setting aside the problem with Miss Micah's defense," she made as if picking up a box and then putting it away. "If we have them around does this mean we can't take adventurer quests anymore? If we can does this mean we have to split rewards to twenty-five?!"
/" Yes. I'm sorry, but even if you sign them all up to be adventurers, they will all have to start at Black rank and then our team will be limited to beginner missions."/
"If we just have them work to Rank Up, there is no guarantee on how quick that will be," Yae added. "We cannot guarantee their safety, and if they do not fight with us what is the point of having them at all? We lack a fief to make them necessary, we cannot support armed men, we cannot."
Then she looked up sharply "Unless?"
"Still not accepting any titles of nobility," I answered. "If I have to sit down and administer land, we won't be free to roam around to other countries to pick apart their magics."
"Yet if this is what Monika-sama asked as your reward surely she has a plan?"
/"Commander Char is incomplete without men to command,"/ said Monika. /"There are consequences, Player. As long as you wear that mask, you must bear the weight of his soul."/
I leaned back on my chair and sighed. "Well I suppose we could use a few more waiters or horse delivery"
Monika sniffed, unamused. /"Come on, Player. I can tell you're just pretending."/
I put my hand behind my head and exhaled roughly. This was not a people problem. It was not even a logistics problem. Monika was right, there was potential there. It was largely a legitimacy problem.
Nobles who were ready to harass some random adventurers would be less likely to pull shenanigans on a clearly organized battlegroup. The main problem would be a reliable source of funding, but bandit clearing operations were always an option. Large scale and much more profitable subjugations would open up, long-distance missions and garrison quests instead of just wagon escorts, and of course there was outright war.
dang it Monika, I know you did this before we accidentally incited war between Belfast and Regulus. How convenient now.
and I just remembered the Wolf's Dragoons(1) have an easter egg Zera Battalion with Char Aznable in there.
Wealth was always open to those who were willing to kill other human beings. Adventurers were those who specialized against monsters.
"Monika, you did this backwards," I could only say. "You should have asked for a *ship* first, and then men to populate it. We need the mobile home base first before anything."
She smiled mysteriously. /"Oh don't worry. You shall have your Musai, my dear."/
The other girls could only just stare at us, somewhat creeped out by our mutual grins. I could see her eyes were pinprick Yandere eyes. I could see myself mirrored in them.
If the protection detail were being spectacularly useless, the solution should be to make them NOT so useless. They certainly should be used to military discipline and rigor. Right?