༺ A Bad Dog ༻
Yesterday, when I threw the pot at the Regressor, the pot that was supposed to be full of stew, was empty. Someone had already eaten its contents before I had even arrived.
There were only two possible culprits: Azzy or something that was hiding in the cafeteria.
But that ‘something in the cafeteria’ was a golem, and golems don’t eat.
By process of elimination, it was crystal clear who it was.
Azzy shouted with eyes wide open after my interrogation.
How’s that? Are you shocked?
“You, ate everything?! By yourself?!”
“You’re the one who ate everything!”
“No! Woof! I not eat! Hungry but wait! Eat together!”
Even through the forceful interrogation, Azzy denied it to the bitter end. My cold heart began to warm up as she adamantly pleaded her innocence.
‘Was it really not her? Or is she just being a dog? I can’t tell because her mind is that of a dog. If she were fully human, I would have been able to decipher the truth. But all the other quack-mind-readers get on with their stingy lives without knowing the truth. When someone lies, they go press on for “clues” or “proof” and whatnot then make a “correct” decision on their own. Let’s give it a try today.’
“We’ll know when we examine the evidence. Captain AB! Was there someone in the cafeteria last night?”
｢Affirmative. This unit was collecting information from 0400 yesterday.｣
“Then did you notice who stole and ate the stew from the pot yesterday?”
I lifted the golem by the sides with joy. It seems like air came out of it.
As if it had let out a long sigh or something.
After lifting the golem carefully from behind, I looked around before speaking.
“Captain AB. Now, pick from the crowd. Show us the criminal who came out of the dark like a rat and stole the stew last night!”
‘Let’s see. Which direction will the golem point? Well, there aren’t many directions it can point to begin with. But there must be at least one, though. Right?’
The golem slowly raised its finger. I waited in anticipation of the future-revealing cold steel.
The finger pointed in my direction.
“It was me?!”
‘No way. The twist that should never happen in a detective story! Was it really me? Had I really done it unconsciously?’
｢Negative. The finger is not pointed at you.｣
The golem shook its head and pointed again. Upon re-examination, it was slightly away from me. It didn’t chase me as I tilted and moved my head around.
I slowly walked towards the spot with the golem in hand, moving around as if I were following divinations for water. Every so often, the finger’s direction adjusts ever so slightly. As it adjusted its position more and more, a sewer drain beyond a hole in a steel cover could be seen in its direction. The drain was used to get rid of the leftovers.
It appeared a little too small for a person to fit in there. I looked down at the golem in doubt.
“…In here? The thing that stole the food is in here?”
｢That is correct.｣
“Is there a rat or something in there?”
｢That is a ridiculous question. Not even bugs exist in Tantalus.｣
“True. Even bacteria are nonexistent here. Fuck…”
A land cursed by Mother Earth. So much so that all earthly beings couldn’t infiltrate it. This led me to believe that it was Azzy who stole the food. The only living beings in the abyss were me, Azzy, and the Regressor. Amongst us, Azzy was a stupid dog who was the least capable of resisting temptation; anyone else would have also doubted her as the number one suspect.
And, because I could read minds, I was certain that the Regressor didn’t do it. Every process of elimination and estimations based on experience pointed to Azzy.
But it was just too unexpected for a third person to be the suspect.
‘Come to think of it, wasn’t there a mind that could be heard faintly in the cafeteria? At the time, I simply ignored it. But now, the answer was right there. It’s right to think that a different being is living in Tantalus. Anyway, the past is no longer. What’s important now is making decisions regarding the future. I don’t want to poke at a beehive, but it’s probably better to do it now when I have Azzy here. I wouldn’t be able to do anything on my own If it’s a monster.’
The dog was the man’s best friend when he was in danger.
“It seems the guy who stole our food is in there.”
“Woof, woof! Bad!”
“Bad, right? So let’s go punish it for that. Can you draw it out?”
It was too scary for me to do it, so I got Azzy instead.
Because a dog is a man’s best friend.
Azzy came to my side. But rather than digging out the drain, she looked up at me with a displeased face.
“But you, more bad! I didn’t eat! I waited good, but you, angry I ate!”
‘Ah, she remembers all of that. I was hoping she had already forgotten it, but it seems that she isn’t that stupid. Well, I did hear something about the dog having better memory than a goldfish.’
But Azzy is the Dog King. Something I can persuade with words. You literal dog, I’ll roast you in the heat of my silver tongue.
“Azzy, is that really important right now? We have a common enemy. The true criminal behind our stolen food.”
“Woof! Azzy didn’t eat!”
“Yeah. I’m sorry I doubted you. For now.”
“Woof! Didn’t eat!”
“Yeah, yeah. I said I’m sorry. Let’s get along from now on.”
“Woof-woof! Didn’t eat! But you yell I ate! I angry! We not get along!”
“Bad! Woof! Bad!”
Sigh. I can’t do anything about it, can I?
This catastrophe was self-inflicted. I should pay the price.
I returned to my room and pulled out the leather ball from a while back. The ball was already flat from just a couple days of negligence.
I let out a deep breath and lifted my left arm up straight into the air. I rhythmically tapped up from the elbow to the wrist with my right finger. As I performed the promised somatics, my body squeezed some mana out and into my left arm.
“To think the day I start the ball game would come. It’s a human’s disgrace, but remember it well, you mutt. Humanity hasn’t lost. It’s only me who did.”
The mana gathered. What was once spread throughout my body rode up my bloodstream and towards my left finger. I could feel a sense of near-omnipotence at the tip of my finger. At the same time, I could feel its limits. I could also feel my disappointment at realizing that I would lose this sense of power once I used the mana pool, which could only fill one finger.
Why is my mana pool so small?
I put my finger in the ball as I chanted a level 0 spell while complaining about it.
The event of exploding the air, the level 0 magic that called it.
With a bang, the ball tensed up as the leather stretched out. A ball made of a small piece on the inside and a large piece on the outside didn’t leak air when blown up in an instant. After removing my finger from the ball and using alchemy to seal the hole, I carried the ball to the cafeteria.
There was an Azzy with her front paws on the table and tail wagging, more ecstatic than ever.
I spoke as I lifted the ball.
“Will a ball game be enough?”
“Woof, woof! Yummy food too!”
“Sure. I’ll make yummy food.”
“Awooo! Good! Good! You, good! Now good!”
“Now, get that thing out of there.”
Azzy nodded, then walked straight to the drain and shoved her hands in as if she were digging up the ground. After scraping the end of it a couple of times, she put her head halfway in with her butt pointing to the sky and finally started pulling something out.
An arm that was severed below the elbow.
A large hand.
And the last thing she pulled out struggling was a large body with only one arm and one leg attached.
A muscular body—that almost looked harder than the golem—with a short mustache and hair. It looked like a noble monk’s body, but its severed appearance was gruesome to no end. Very well-toned muscles could be seen in its cross-section.
I can feel a gag reflex coming.
That’s not a human, that’s a ‘human’.
The cut itself was clean. If you only looked at the disjoint, it looked twisted off, as if a giant twists a toy’s arm and leg off while playing with it. However, there were no signs of blood, and the bones were intact like it was a perfectly made anatomical figure. Even though it had a severed arm and leg, you might wonder if it had actually been killed because there were no blood stains on its brownish skin.
But seeing how I couldn’t hear a single thought, it must be dead.
‘It was probably attacked, dismembered, and dumped down the drain. It might have survived for a few days through sheer willpower, but since no one found it, it eventually died slowly.’
“Dang. To meet its fate in a place like this…”
‘The thought I just heard must be its final thoughts,’ I thought so. Unfortunately, there is nothing that can be done about it.’
I picked up its right arm, thinking of at least burying its cut-up body.
This might be a cursed land, but surely it’s better to be buried…
As I grabbed the arm, it also grabbed me.
The arm was so strong that even when I tried to throw it away in freight, it only shook along with my arm and didn’t come off.
What the fuck? Does a severed arm have this much strength??? If it were still an intact arm, it would have crushed my arm with its grip!
This was not the time to panic.
I flipped my other wrist around and pulled out a hidden card. An ace of diamonds, a trump card composed of fine and dense metal created by alchemy that was strong and tensile.
I put the thin card between me and the fingers that were grabbing me. By twisting it slightly, the fingers slid off. I used this technique to pry the fingers from the middle finger to the pinky off. Eventually, I was able to barely throw the arm off.
“H-Huff. Huff… What is that?”
The arm that had fallen to the ground tried to crawl up using its fingers but stopped as if it had lost all strength. After seeing the horror and blood in front of me, I caught my breath.
I asked the golem that seemed unimpressed, as if it had already known.
“Captain AB, what is that?”
｢A severed hand that moves. It can be presumed to belong to that of an Undying.｣
“That used to also be a trainee?”
｢Correct. Trainees were murdering one another when the prison break took place. But it seems that it is still alive due to it being an Undying. To be able to revive from such a wound, I should raise its evaluation level.｣
“You should have told me about it earlier! It scared me!”
Azzy curiously prodded the arm. She jumped back every time the arm twitched, then came back every time it calmed down. I pushed Azzy out of the way and then lifted the right arm carefully, trying to stick it onto the corpse’s elbow.
The arm itself fit perfectly, but it didn’t stick. It moved and acted as if it were a completely separate being from the body.
Holy… An arm that moves by itself.
“So you’re saying that the stew was taken by the right arm?”
｢Affirmative. It had sought out food in an effort to regenerate the muscular mass it had lost being in a state of suspended animation.｣
“What. The fuck. That’s scary.”
Now there’s an arm that moves on its own. Tantalus contains a wide variety of different monsters.
The golem looked at me to ask.
｢What are you going to do?｣
“That? What am I going to do with that?”
The golem glared at my irritable reply. From its inorganic, no, lifeless eyes came a cold light.
｢I suggest that you dispose of this Undying before it revives.｣