A/N: A recollection chapter.
The very first time I woke up, it was to a lifeless world of darkness.
I knew nothing. Not where I was, nor what I was. I only had a vague feeling that I used to be living in some other world, somewhere not here.
Yet as ignorant as I was, my mind still possessed a strange sort of knowledge, enough so that I could recognize my current form as something like a mass of slime.
A part of me was finding the whole thing unnatural, uncomfortable. Another part much more instinctive was driving me to catch these strange bug-like things and eat them.
Every time I crushed a bug, I felt sweetness, a physical satisfaction, but it was also accompanied with a kind of forlorn homesickness. I stopped eating the bugs to instead spend all my time chasing thoughts that never go anywhere. My body shouted at me, telling me it was hungry, but my mind was filled with nothing but sadness and sorrow, robbing me of all will to live.
I had enemies.
Well, not quite exactly ‘enemies’, to be accurate. Among them were slimes like me, as well as some sort of things that looked like clouds of mist. They were probably of the same species as me, and they were trying to eat me.
I wasn’t scared. I also didn’t want to be eaten by them.
I ran-uh, I mean, I strategically retreated, forcing my deteriorating body to carry me away.
But they were faster. As they were slowly but surely catching up to me, something resembling an incredibly small ‘magic circle’ suddenly appeared in front of me in a burst of shining light, and it sucked me in.
It was a tiny, tiny summoning circle, and it was unstable. If I hadn’t been so weakened, so starved, I probably wouldn’t have passed through it.
I arrived somewhere bright. Thinking that my hunters wouldn’t be able to catch up with me now, I jiggled in relief.
“Yes, I did it!”
This might be the first time since I was born that I heard words of meaning, I thought.
As I gradually got used to the light, I came to realize that I was in a room built out of stone. Standing in the middle of the room and looking at me was a small girl.
She was a cute thing of about five years old, with silver hair and violet eyes. Her dress itself was finely made, though I could see fraying threads here and there. Her gaze was fixed on me with evident joy.
Then I felt a connection opening up between us, a conduit through which poured into me her loneliness and her magic. It filled my weakened body with strength.
As small as she was, I was still smaller. She beamed at me, reaching out a hand to brush against me so gingerly, as though afraid that any more force would pop me like a balloon.
“Hey… will you be…”
The very moment she finished her words, the magic circle once more sucked me in. I took a look around to see that I was already back in that world of darkness. The magic circle must have been incomplete, I thought. Not enough magic power.
Memories of the girl passed through my mind, accompanied by a faint sadness. Yet this was no time for sentimentality. My fellow creatures of darkness had been lying in wait for my return, and they were now approaching me.
But I was no longer the same.
The slimes attacked. I slipped through them, using the power I’d regained thanks to the girl’s supply of magic to eliminate my enemies. Ooh, tasty.
After that, well, I kinda went a bit out of control.
I still didn’t know what sort of creature I was, but my instincts seemed to know how to fight, so I listened to it. I killed and consumed more of those things that looked like me.
I had thought the cannibalism would have bothered me at least a little bit, yet I felt nothing at all. I wondered why?
I was on a roll. I kept eating, eating, and my body began to feel heavier… hold on… was I getting fat? I got stronger but also slower, so my hunting speed didn’t improve.
If only I was faster. If only I was more nimble.
If only I had a longer reach.
If only I had more limbs, so that I could hunt more of my prey…
Splat! My black claws tore apart a small simian thing.
In the end, I turned into some sort of spindly creature with suuuuper long legs that looked a lot like a golden orb-weaver spider, only pure black in color. Why the heck did this happen?
I asked for it, that’s why.
With the transformation, I got even cockier. The small slimes and clouds of mist no longer satisfied me, and I began to hunt the small monkeys.
The little guys were quite powerful. With my new ability to spin threads like a real spider, however, I grew strong enough to deal with five of them at once without breaking a sweat.
Some more time passed since then. I might have gotten a bit too arrogant.
I found a monkey somewhat stronger than the rest, with a slightly different fur color. I killed him after a difficult fight and surprise, surprise, he dropped something that looked like some dried seaweed upon his death. It’s like a video game. Then a while after, all the monkeys and slimes near me vanished.
Had I gotten powerful enough for them to avoid me? I thought, full of myself.
I was wrong. Apparently I was smarter than them, but also with a weaker set of survival instincts.
I only realized its existence after it got much too close.
Something terrible was coming, something impossibly brutal. An oppressively enormous presence was heading in my direction.
The monkeys and slimes had ran away because of the arrival of this thing. At least give me a warning! Weren’t you my neighbors?!
What arrived was a horror in the shape of a human wearing a maid uniform.
I knew, just from a glance, that both running and fighting would be meaningless. To the giant in front of me, I was but an ant-no, a microbe. I couldn’t even look at her. I immediately dropped down, my face scraping the ground.
I thought I felt a flicker of something changing in the aura of the horror before me as she saw my perpendicular prostration.
The innumerable strands of hair on her head stretched out toward me… ah, they weren’t hair, they were gold-colored snakes… the swarm of snakes stared at me, watching me. The horror looked at the nest I built out of my threads… aaaand she decided to get me as takeaway. Somebody help me…
In the end, I wasn’t eaten.
Apparently the monkey with the weird coloring that I killed had been a subordinate of the horror-I mean, Miss Horror. And since I killed it, now I had to work for her as a replacement. I was hired, to be paid with an exceptional salary of 1 kilogram of dried seaweed a day, and my job was to make clothes (that were going to be worn by women, it seemed) with my threads… Why seaweed?
What? No, I didn’t call you a horror. Hmm? I have to call you the Maid Chief? Ah, yes, understood.
Once she found out I could speak, I was, for some reason, provided with a maid uniform and repositioned into the maid squad as a newcomer.
A spider wearing a maid uniform. Surreal, right? Who made this? The Maid Chief herself, surprisingly, and it was handmade too at that.
Thus began my maid life. Proper language and manners were beaten into me. Memories of what was probably a past life, combined with the fact that I picked things up decently quickly had helped me to, in time, climb up the ranks to become the Maid Chief’s assistant.
The existence of a maid implied the existence of a master that she would serve. Then I really had to wonder how ridiculous the horror-ahem, I mean, the Maid Chief’s master had to be, if they managed to make her into their servant.
But I was just an insignificant spider. I would never have the chance to meet that sort of deity in my whole lifetime. It’s actually relaxing, in a way. Hahahah.
…what? The Lord wanted to meet me?
From what I’d heard, the underthings that I’d been making days and nights from my threads, a material that I could proudly say to be even better than silk, had been presented to the Lord. And that they’d caught her attention, as unbelievable as it was.
Darn it, I should have cut some corners… Not like I actually would, though. The Maid Chief would chastise me. Severely.
So now, I was being dragged toward the Lord’s place for an audience.
The Lord was, umm, how do I say this, she were giving off so much golden light I couldn’t even see what she looked like. Anyway, before her overwhelming presence and divinity, I unconsciously and instantly did a perpendicular prostration. Again.
By the way, a ‘perpendicular prostration’ was when you touched the ground with your head while your butt pointed up in the air, which made your lower body perpendicular to the ground. Seeing my strange posture, the masked maid beside the Lord cackled as she held her stomach.
Life was such a strange thing. You never knew what tomorrow might bring.
I wasn’t sure what had endeared me so to the Lord, but she had decided to grant me a Name herself.
The Lord was the only one who could bestow Names to creatures like us. With a Name, my power was stabilized and dramatically strengthened.
With my power and my abilities, I was granted a thousand subordinate maids and the duty to eliminate the enemies of the Lord.
Fleurety, the Maid Lieutenant-General… what did being a maid have to do with this?
A question came to my mind and was out of my mouth before I could think about it: why a lieutenant-general? Then the Lord spoke as though I’d asked something obvious: Fleurety’s supposed to be a lieutenant-general, right?
It seemed like my name had a history behind it.
Anyway, while I still had no idea what it meant, I was on the fast track to success.
Yet although my life seemed to be smooth-sailing, I could see dark clouds waiting for me on the horizon. My power had been growing unimpeded until now, but it was plateauing these days.
But well, I still had enough strength to deal with most enemies I encountered anyway. Excepting the Maid Chief and the Lord’s aides, I was considered one of the more powerful among my colleagues, so I wasn’t really that worried. I continued to live my life as carefree as ever.
Then one day, I was called to meet the Lord once more… was I going to get my pay docked?
It seemed the Lord knew the reason why my power hadn’t been growing. To summarize what she said, it was because I hadn’t completed my first Contract.
My Contract…? The moment I heard the words, I was reminded of the adorable girl.
…I still hadn’t fulfilled my Promise with her.
Ever since that day, for every single moment of my life, she had been occupying some corner of my mind. But knowing that I couldn’t enter that world by my own power, a part of me had already given up.
I could say that I was busy living for myself, that I hadn’t the spare time… but it would just be an excuse. The girl had given me the power to live, after all.
I want to see her again, I thought idly, I really do. I wished that I could meet her, could become her strength.
I wanted to fulfill our promise.
I wanted to meet her again, and this time around, I’lI—
And right at that moment, I thought I felt the Lord smirking.
Oh no, what a gaffe… Of all the things I could have done, I had made a wish in front of someone who might as well be a goddess. I might not have said it out loud, but a wish had still been a wish.
A golden magic circle abruptly appeared on the ground below me. The Lord spoke as I panicked.
She said that the bond between me and the girl was a string that connected us, that pulled us together even through time and space, that would allow us to meet once more.
Then I returned to the body I once had in my past life, and I met my lady once more.
That’s it, everyone. The flashback is over.
My? It seems the remaining people had gone ahead and passed away while I was busy with my lengthy reminiscence. I had planned to teach them a bit of a lesson, but when I heard of their intentions toward lady Sharon, well, I just… accidentally.
At any rate, I order the meat still under my control to deal with the expired meat, and I head for milady.
“Tsk, the fuck are they doing, comparing dick sizes? Fine, I’ll do it myself.”
“W-what are you doing?! What about the store-”
“Hah, well aren’t you just precious. Don’t be so scared. Just listen to what you’re told and you won’t be hurt.”
“Heheh… that’s right, I’m going to kidnap you and sell you to those dirty old noblemen. Do what they want you to and you just might live even better than you are now, you know?”
“Nobody’s coming. You only have yourself to blame, little girl. Weren’t you taught to not follow strangers? Hey, come now, don’t run.”
“No… no, someone… Letty!”
“Yes, milady. What is your order?” I speak.
“…Eh?” My fearful lady says, looking like a bit of an idio-ahem, looking rather flabbergasted, her cute little puppy-dog eyes opening widely.
“Yes, milady. Fleurety is here.”
“W-what about that woman…?”
“She was blocking my way so I relocated her, milady.”
“Blocking your way…? Why are you here…?”
“I am here because milady called for me.”
I speak as gently as I can, enveloping her still-shivering hand with both of my own as I try to reassure her. Milady squeezes back tightly and presses her face to my shoulder.
“…thank you…” she whispers, her voice muted and quavering.
After we came back to the dorm, I made dinner for milady, then helped change her clothes and bathe her. By then, it was near lights-out in the dorm.
I lay milady down on the clean and carefully-made bed. I turn off all the lights except for the lantern I’m holding. Milady speaks, sounding somewhat forlorn.
“…good night, Letty.”
“I wish you a good night, lady Sharon.”
Despite her unease, it doesn’t take long for her breathing to slow down. She must have been tired. But even when asleep, her hand is still looking for something to grip, to give her comfort.
I silently walk toward her and kneel down by the side of her bed. I take her hand in mine.
Her breathing calms down. From her small lips comes barely a whisper.
Asleep, milady looks so much younger. I look at her face and remember.
You had been just a child back then. You had called for me when I was still weak, and you had given me the strength to live.
That day, lady Sharon had spoken to me.
“Hey… will you be my friend?… please?”
As the light of the moon slips through the curtain gaps and falls on the two of us, I gently stroke her hair and give her a smile.
“Yes, lady Sharon. I am here. I will always be here.”