༺ There Is Always Only One Truth ༻
My back hit the hard, concrete floor.
Or was it the concrete floor that fell onto my back? Honestly, it doesn’t really matter. The fact that it hurts like hell didn’t change.
The sound of a leather drum bursting echoed.
If any children wondered what a drum made of human skin sounded like, they could just refer to the sound my back emitted. My back was akin to a human leather drum.
I couldn’t scream because all the air had been knocked out of me. I endured the pain in silence. Meanwhile, the Regressor that threw me stared at her own hand.
「I jumped to reduce the impact…」
‘You call that reducing the impact? You’re crazy. We consider this an attack.’
「Wow, I executed that absolutely perfectly! Maybe I have an aptitude for judo.」
She thought that as she put her thumb up. If I landed wrong, I could have easily died from the impact. To jump on my own… The moment I felt something was off, I was caught off guard and thrown to the ground.
「My Sky Turner is a form of qigong that I specialized in as a form of counterattack. Since it’s a move ingrained into my body, it activates before I can even think about it. He jumped as he saw it. That was a good response, but…」
‘A counterattack ingrained into the body. That’s just cheating. I approached using the perfect blindspot, yes as soon as I made contact with her, she performed a perfect throw only seen in books. It was the ideal textbook move, so I didn’t get folded wrong anywhere. But the shock itself was so great that it’s difficult to move. It’s like my back is being stabbed by a thousand tiny needles.’
「His response was good, but… he didn’t feel good in my hands.」
This is why you shouldn’t associate with people who’ve been battling their way through their lives. To judge people by how good they feel in your hands… Am I a sushi ingredient or something? You disgust me.
“Get your foot off me. Was throwing me to the ground not good enough that you have to step on me?”
The Regressor moved her foot off my collarbone. I dusted the footprint off my shirt as I lay on the ground.
“This is your fault. Why’d you touch me all of a sudden?”
“Hmph. You really value your body. How are you going to get through everyday life if you throw people who tap your shoulder slightly?”
“If this is a world full of strangers who grab my shoulder out of nowhere, then I don’t need an everyday life.”
“Are we strangers? You make me sad.”
“…Of course we are. What else would we be?”
“A warden is like an instructor.. and a trainee. They say to honor your teacher, but to throw them to the ground and step on them? Wow. How sad.”
The pain from the shock still hadn’t fully dissipated, so I couldn’t even stand up. I continued to lament as I lay on the ground.
「Saying that it was his fault for coming at me unprepared… I guess this isn’t a battlefield. I did strike first.」
The Regressor did feel sorry, albeit very slightly. She replied in a faint voice.
“Whoever you might have been, you should have been prepared to face the consequences after getting in my way.”
Is she really sorry? Look at how her words contrasted her thoughts. I’m going to lose my mind. If I weren’t a mind reader, I would have exploded in rage.
I still feel like I’m going to explode.
“Is this regret? Is this unfair? Did you think that no one would try to stop you after you cleaved the wall open and tried to slice the golem in half?”
When dealing with the Regressor, you need two logical arguments. Due to her tendency of being weak against logical arguments, she’s the type of person who would agree to anything that has some form of ethical point.
「Now that I think about it, that man is a warden. Which means he’s an eye of the State. I was about to destroy this golem without even considering this man.」
It’s a relief that she understood.
「Should I just deal with him right now? I feel like I could eliminate him this time.」
I take it back. It seems that just because we’re both human doesn’t mean we can understand each other.
Time to change topics.
I started conversing with the mini magic golem.
“Hey, Captain AB.”
｢Captain Abbey speaking. The current situation has been analyzed. I thank you for your actions.｣
“No, you know what, stop talking if you don’t want to get destroyed.”
I stopped the golem from continuing to speak. If it continued, it could reveal my identity. Thankfully, Captain Abbey quickly caught on. They seemed to realize that I was the only one in the abyss who would assist them.
I lifted the golem up while still lying on the ground. It was the size of a small doll, but it was far more solid than one. Its thin metal arms and legs dangled in the air.
I changed the tone of my voice. I closed my eyes and continued as the Regressor seemed to feel a slightly strange glare.
“Not only did you slice open the wall and destroy the golem, but you also assaulted me. Very naturally.”
“Sure, the wall was already demolished, the golem’s almost just as damaged, and my body was there to be thrown anyway. I won’t ask any more. So let’s forget about the golem for now.”
「Considering there’s already a warden here, it wouldn’t matter whether or not the golem remained. They’re both dogs of the State. And… it might be better to leave it alone.」
After some consideration, the Regressor put away her sword.
“I just need to not be watched by that.”
“It won’t even if I ask it to. You already saw how it was hiding in the cafeteria earlier. If it wanted to keep a watch on you, it wouldn’t have hidden itself there. The bourgeois who has four meals a day while the others barely get by with the limited supplies wouldn’t come to the cafeteria anyway.”
“If you understand now, please leave.”
“What are you going to do here?”
“Now that I know there’s a golem remaining, I should make a supply request. Since someone has been stealing all our supplies at night.”
「After deciding not to fight with that man, it’s inevitable that some information will slip past me. Let’s just wait and see. This might turn out to be a good chance to gather some information regarding that man.」
After nodding, the Regressor shot a sharp glare at the golem before turning away.
“Could you ask if they could supply blood as well? It seems like Tyrkanzyka is a bit short on blood after suddenly moving her body.”
“I’ll check and inform you.”
‘Who the fuck’s going to supply that?’
“I’ll be returning to my room now.”
The Regressor left proudly, as if she was showing off her leaving stature. Only the golem and I were left in the dark cafete—
“Trainee Shei. Didn’t you say you were leaving?”
I could feel a surprised thought on the other side of the wall. The Regressor replied with excuses.
“I-I was about to leave. I was just doing something.”
‘What, are you trying to eavesdrop?’
I glared at the door. The Regressor left with loud footsteps. I heaved out a long groan and lifted the golem up again.
“It’s been a while. Captain AB.”
｢Confirming your survival. You did well to last thi—｣
I covered the golem’s mouth as I stood up from the ground.
Ow, my neck. I’m sure it was my back that slammed onto the ground, so why does my neck hurt?
I stretched my neck by moving my head every which way, then stared into space.
“Is there still something to eat around here? You said you were going back to your room. Why don’t you go now.”
Amidst the blinding darkness there was a subtle distortion. As if shocked, the camouflaged Regressor held her breath and stared at me with trembling eyes.
「He… saw me? Through the Veil of Darkness, which hides even the faintest of movements? N-No, there’s no way… He didn’t realize last time…」
“Stop fooling around. It’s too obvious. Who the heck stomps through the hallway as if they’re announcing their departure?”
「Urk, was I really too obvious? But that man shouldn’t have any evidence. He’s probably just throwing it out there. Let’s just feign ignorance for now.」
“Just go away!”
I threw the pot that was on the table. The Regressor ducked down before the pot could hit her, and it hit the ground with a clang. The camouflage was dispelled by the sudden movement, so the Regressor’s eyes met with mine.
The astonished Regressor blushed, red from the embarrassment.
“Trainee Shei. Didn’t you just say something about the golem keeping a watch on you? This is the same thing. Eavesdropping on someone while using camouflage is a really bad hobby.”
“I-I know. I just…”
“I understand that there are such instances in life. Anyone can be curious or make mistakes. I won’t say anything, so just go this time.”
「Fuck, fuck, fuck! I should have been more careful about it. I underestimated him because of our previous interaction!」
The Regressor left with a drooping head. I thought she would cover up her embarrassment by lashing out at me, but as a perfectionist, she seemed to feel slightly depressed by her own inadequacy. She ran down the hallway, loathing herself.
Watching it all happen, the golem began to speak.
｢So you did have abilities.｣
“You should know how I made money. It’s just some psychological warfare.”
｢It’s a relief that you seemed to be doing well.｣
“What? A relief?”
｢A new worker was to be placed into the next supplies list, but it seems that is not needed. Human resources will not need to be wasted.｣
“Ah, you meant in that sense.”
The Regressor might be a Regressor, but the State was also made up of people who were hard to get along with.
They chucked me down here expecting me to die.
“You know the gist of the occurrences down here, right? Then I won’t need to explain anything.”
｢False. I had this unit hidden from Trainee ‘Shei’. Observations could not be made outside of the cafeteria.｣
“Aha. Is that so?”
‘That’s some good information. Seeing as how there’s information that only I know, I could get some value out of this.’
｢If you report any valuable information, I promise to provide my absolute support to you.｣
‘And they’re quick to catch on. They recognise their position and my motives to present a trade offer. I do like their efficiency.’
｢Do you have any special reports or requests?｣
“I have one. I—”
「But I still have another option.」
‘Ah, wait a minute. Strangely, I can hear another thought. There’s no way. Getting caught twice for the same act makes you an idiot, and thrice makes history. The Regressor’s offering her name to the history books.
‘She renovated a prison cell on the first floor and is now living there of her own accord. I wouldn’t be hearing her thoughts if she had actually given up and returned to her room. The reason I can hear her is…’
「Was it my 7th cycle? I learned the far hearing skill from demi-humans who had very perceptive ears. At the time, I considered it a useless skill because it picked up all sorts of sounds from every direction. But it might be useful in this situation. Because it’s quiet everywhere, I should be able to hear them clearly. Now, let’s see…」
“Wait a minute.”
I walked over to the pot I had thrown earlier then searched the storage and got another pot.
‘Nice, there aren’t any cracks and it’s in good condition. This should be enough.’
I waited for the perfect time and spun the pots around.
「Although I don’t have the ears of a demi-human, if I put my ear against the ceiling… I should be able to make out what—」
As soon as I heard the Regressor’s thoughts, I slammed the pots together.
The circular-shaped metal in itself served as a great amplifier. Additionally, these pots were made out of alchemic steel, engineered to keep every drop of water in. When the two pots were slammed together with full force, a sound loud enough to ring throughout all of Tantalus was produced.
The sound traveled down the corridor and rang through the building. A solemn sound that could rival that of a bell. An echo sustained throughout the abyss.
I waited for the faint echo to cease.
「Ah, ugh… Ah…」
A silent cry emerged from downstairs. I crouched down and spoke to the concrete.
「Ahhh, there’s no way…」
“You’re not even coming out to ask what that sound was. You weren’t eavesdropping on us again, were you? I trust that you weren’t.”
You are going to cry? Nah, there’s no way. Surely you won’t. The feeling of wanting to cry and actually crying is quite different. Even a tearless man weeps in the heart. The feeling of wanting to cry from sadness and embarrassment isn’t a rare occurrence.
It’s a shame. If I saw her actually crying, I could have made fun of her ‘til the end of the world.
“Now that the heckler’s been dealt with…”
｢How did you know that she was eavesdropping?｣
“I told you, it’s psychological warfare. She’s the type of person to chase after great profits. Due to her compensation mentality, she’s the type of person to chase after profits over and over again even after experiencing failure, thinking ‘It’ll be different this time.’ She is the type of person who only becomes satisfied after gaining something.”
It’s all a lie. I read her mind. But even if this is a lie that was made up last second, it makes sense from beginning to end.
“And there was nothing to lose. It was a ‘zero risk high reward’ move.”
｢Understood. What is the percentage of her eavesdropping again?｣
“Honestly, it’s a loss for her even if she starts eavesdropping right now. She should have given up while she was ahead. How much more humiliation does she need?”
The Regressor’s thoughts came to an end.
‘Ah, is this alright? This level of lacking in thoughts usually occurs due to fainting.’
It might have been too harsh, but compared to the fear I felt, it was nothing. Mental pain was nothing compared to physical pain.
Anyway, after successfully pulling the rug from under the Regressor, I continued my business.
“This golem… has the form of a human. It’s the type that shares senses with its user, right? One that you control by syncing your body with it.”
“In that case…”
I tapped the golem’s body. As the golem reacted, I began to write on its body with my finger. My finger swerved around its chest and stomach.
—I’ll write all the important messages on you, so try to understand them. Just reply with a nod.
After the golem’s body slightly shivered, it responded with a slight nod.
‘Even if I can read minds, it’s better safe than sorry.’
If I was going to communicate like this anyway, why did I slam the pots together?
I just wanted to witness the Regressor’s pain.
“You said you were only in the kitchen, right?”
I pretended to have a normal conversation while writing on the golem.
—I’m pretending to be a warden here. I lied so I could survive.
The golem responded with a slight nod. Then it spoke with the speaker in its mouth.
“Then you would have seen me and Azzy eating.”
—So, can you pretend I’m a warden as well?
This time, the golem shook its head. As I shot a glare at it, the golem spoke clearly.
｢Not all of it was observed. As I had mentioned before, this unit was operating in a highly dangerous environment, so it was shut down during the day. Warning. Impersonation and false reporting is a heavy offense.｣
‘I guess it’s replying by adding stuff to the end of its sentences. Well, impersonating as a State warden is quite the crime. Even in this kind of situation, the State’s Radioman is still strict about it.’
“Then it would have been active during the night.”
—Then I wouldn’t have a reason to protect you anymore. I would also lose my authority. If you don’t help me, I can’t carry you around.
The golem froze for a second. It was probably processing the conflicting information between its duty to keep watch and my crime of impersonation.
However, it didn’t take long to reach a conclusion. The golem nodded and responded in an even more robotic voice.
‘Nice. That’s been sorted for the time being. Now, I can just be the man in the middle for the State’s authorities and Tantalus while reaping the benefits.’
It was worth getting thrown over. It hurt like hell, but I gained something.
After short consideration, the golem continued with a bit of hesitation.
｢This unit is linked with my senses. So care should be taken when handling it.｣
‘What does that mean? I can’t read its mind, so I can’t really understand it. Is it something important? It seems to be trembling slightly.’
I lifted the golem up again and then began writing on its chest and belly with my finger.
—OK. You’re telling me that I should only write it out when it’s something important, right?
｢Urk. You didn’t…｣
‘Huh? That’s a weird response.’
The golem trembled strangely, as if it were broken, and spoke on its own.
A moment after, the golem swatted my hand away. Even though it was a miniature golem the size of a doll, it was still a State magic golem. Its metal limbs could easily deflect my hands.
｢…It doesn’t matter.｣
‘What? What’s with this response? I don’t get it.’
I didn’t realize how unfortunate it was that I couldn’t read the golem’s mind. I would have been able to read this person’s mind and gained the upper hand. However, since it was a remote-controlled golem, there was no way to do so. It also had no facial expressions, so I could only make assumptions based on its tone of voice.
Is this what it’s like for the average person? It’s more inconvenient than I thought. It’s like buying something for my kidneys.
It did say that it was active throughout the night, right?
Then it should know who stole the food.