༺ Supplies, Another Battle ༻
“Here, Azzy. Boiled canned beans for breakfast!”
“Here, Azzy. The bean stew you always eat for lunch!”
“Here! Azzy. I cooked soy meat patty for dinner! But this time there was no meat, so I made it with just beans!”
“Woof! … Woof?”
“Now for some tofu residue made from yesterday’s leftover beans. I left them for you!”
“Voila! Steamed beans! Oh my goodness, it turns out you can steam beans too! This enriches the taste and brings out a slightly stronger flavor!”
“Nooow. Today is a special occasion! A special double serving of bean stew! Whoa, that’s twice as much as usual, twice!”
“I think we’ve made a full rotation now? Then in the sense of going back to our origins, how about some bean—”
In a way, it was a foreseen outcome, and in another, an expression of ingratitude.
Even I, a lordly human and member of the prime race, couldn’t escape the hellish daily cycle of canned beans, yet a mere dog dared to be picky!
… But to be fair, I was also getting sick of the vegetable, so it was high time we searched for different ingredients. However, due to certain issues overlapping over the past few days, the only food materials we had were canned beans overstocked enough to build a castle out of. If we ate all those, Azzy and I would end up as sausages stuffed with plants.
There was only one way to solve this dilemma.
“Oi! Captain Abbey! Are you listening?!”
Opening one of the cupboards in the cafeteria, I found the captain’s golem sitting between propped iron pots, its limbs slack. Its shoulder, pierced by the regressor’s sword, had an ugly hole, and its body was covered in scratches. Even the iron pots were cleaner in comparison, and they were plagued by fire and oil since the moment they were created.
It was a pitiful sight, like looking at a doll neglected out of lost interest or a homeless person living under a bridge. So much so that you wouldn’t imagine it to be one of the State’s prided magic golems.
That wasn’t any cause for sympathy, though. The golem was strictly a synchro-type magic golem and its pilot was an elite officer among elites. I guessed they were monitoring this side while drinking an iced glass of beer in some cozy, relaxed place.
The golem might be going through hardship, but it was only a detached tragedy. Like how the misfortunes overlooked in reality swept the mainstream of literature, the golem’s pilot was probably getting their vicarious fill of doom and gloom, which couldn’t be felt in their present day.
Thinking about it, I grew indignant.
Should I just dunk this golem into the toilet? It’s not even connected right now. If I can get a feeling of torturing it in water, that might soothe my miserable—
｢What brought you here?｣
“Yikes, you startled me!”
I lost grip on the golem, surprised by its sudden movement, before managing to barely catch it again. It almost fell to the floor. The golem stared up at me.
｢Please take caution. This unit is heavily damaged, making it difficult to withstand any further impact.｣
“Oh dear, I’m sorry.”
As I carefully put the golem down on the cafeteria table, it stood up unsteadily, creaking. I scratched my head and settled down on a chair.
“You were connected.”
｢Tantalus is a level 5 security facility. Observing the happenings in the facility is my work and duty. I cannot be negligent for even a moment.｣
So she was hard at work. That made me feel sorry somehow. A little guilty too. It was as if I had cursed a civil servant, only to see them working busily the next moment. Seeing how the pilot was here, even though it wasn’t mealtime, they really had to be checking frequently.
“But don’t you only stay in the cafeteria? Why sit here day and night? What’s there to monitor?”
｢It cannot be helped. The other trainee will attempt to destroy this unit were I to leave this location. However, it is also a relief. I can watch you and the Dog King at every mealtime.｣
“Me and Azzy? What’s the point of watching a man eating with a dog?”
｢At the very least, it tells me you are alive. That alone is worth knowing.｣
｢Affirmative. The Military State takes a profound interest in your life and death.｣
I felt a little shy to hear that. Who knew the State was paying such attention to my safety?
It was oddly moving to think of them watching with interest, considering how they dismissed welfare and safety as a luxury—
｢Because you are a litmus.｣
Litmus. It was a test paper to determine whether a solution was acidic or not, and also a jargon sometimes used by the State.
What did it mean?
It meant to them, I was no different from a piece of litmus paper. A paper that serves as a warning when it turns red. In other words, I was a scapegoat sent down the abyss first to see if it was safe or not.
Now I understood why I was ordered to survive. That was probably about all they expected of me in the first place.
My pessimism as a citizen was growing today as well, yet the golem added some more to the negativity.
｢If you happen to suffer a fatal wound by someone, I request that you loudly shout the identity of the attacker before dying. Our country will then make a more objective assessment of the trainee based on your testimony.｣
“Say what? This golem can’t choose its words carefully. Shall I end you first? Wanna scream my name last thing before you shut down?”
｢It is not a bad proposal for you as well. You will be able to add a negative assessment to your killer. I am sure you can rest easy even in death.｣
“Is that a humane thing to say? I don’t want to close my eyes in peace! I’ll keep them open for the rest of my life, cataracts be damned, I wanna live!”
Enraged, I grabbed the golem’s legs and held it upside down. The golem shook powerlessly, its joints creaking. That seemed to bring some sense to the pilot as the voice coming from the golem’s mic grew much more urgent.
｢Cease this at once. I strongly request that you cease this unprovoked violence and free this unit.｣
“Calling this unprovoked violence is the reason you’re gonna get hit, you lump of scrap!”
I debated hitting it with my hand, but then its hard-looking body caught my eye. My fingers would hurt instead, right?
A tool was what I needed for the occasion. I drew my ace of diamonds and alchemized it into a skewer, then put the sharp thing to the golem’s torso.
The golem cried out hastily seeing the weapon before itself.
｢Cease this at once. This is a serious warning. Should you damage this unit, there may be a significant disadvantage to your assessment…｣
“You still haven’t disconnected? Well then.”
I had to strike while the pilot hadn’t disconnected and still shared a sense of pain with the golem.
The thin, long skewer could act as a cane by itself. I swung it and spanked the golem’s buttocks with a clang.
“Oh don’t fuss. You can’t even feel pain when you disconnect the sense anyway.”
｢Affir…mative. This unit is a golem. Such behavior is meaningless. I strongly request you stop imme—Ack!｣
I gave another spank while the pilot was talking. They let out a small groan. It seemed the pilot hadn’t cut off pain sharing yet.
I held up my cane and muttered solemnly.
“But there is more meaning in the act of punishment itself than the pain. Although it may only be a golem, spanking that ass causes me a gouging pain in my heart too.”
How unfair was this? Sure I was spanking the golem as punishment, but the pilot inside only had to disconnect for a while before coming back. Maybe the pilot was having a cold drink on the other side, cursing me. Urgh, the thought amplified my bitter feelings.
Alright. I’m gonna vent this hatred through my cane.
I whooped the golem’s buttocks as it hung upside down. Clang, clang. Metal collided against metal. After about ten strikes, I stopped, afraid it might really malfunction, and placed it again on the table.
The golem was on its fours with its butt held high as if it was really in agony. Halting words came out of its mic.
｢… Reflect, on your assessment…｣
“Oh come on. Will you stop exaggerating? I know you disconnected the sensorial link. If someone saw, they’d think you’re completely synchronized with the golem.”
The golem glared at me. For some reason, I felt resentment coming from that inorganic body. Could a tin doll contain emotions? Well it turned out the answer was here.
I mean, why though. Was I wrong? I doubted the pilot took all those hits. It wasn’t like they were a masochist.
｢… This unit is one of the few remaining communication-type magic golems. It must never be destroyed if only for the stability of communication. It is bad enough that the defect in the shoulder has caused a failure in the synchro function. Any more impact may deal an irreparable blow to the unit.｣
“That’s why I struck with the side instead of stabbing.”
｢That stimulates the pain synchro mo—｣
The golem stopped talking with a grunt and stood up, in a more crooked posture than earlier, before continuing.
｢… So. I take it you have some request to make, coming to me now when you only entered the cafeteria to eat for the past several days. What is the matter?｣
“Oh, right. Give me some supplies. There isn’t enough fresh food.”
｢Supplies, you say?｣
The golem sounded incredulous.
｢You came to request supplies, yet you attacked this unit?｣
“Hey now. Attack? What about the chemistry we have? Let’s say it was some light skinship.”
｢So you call it light skinship to hit someone with a metal stick.｣
“Well at least I only hit a golem. The State thrashes humans. Honestly, they’ve got nothing on me in comparison.”
｢… I ask again. You came to me asking for supplies, yet you attack this unit and criticize our country?｣
The golem glared daggers at me for a while before giving an answer.
｢I believe your statement a moment ago alone makes for plenty enough reason.｣
“Are you really going to play dirty like this? You’re trying to take personal revenge by abusing your power, aren’t you?”
｢Personal revenge is only part of it. I also have a legitimate reason to refuse.｣
That means it is personal to some extent, then. Is a soldier of the State allowed to say that openly?
It was absurd, but I was the one at a disadvantage due to needing those supplies. I had to take a humble stance for now.
“Well, let’s hear that reason then. What is it?”
｢Two days ago, supplies were dropped on Tantalus. You must have received them. It is a waste of resources and a dereliction of duty to request additional supplies when there is enough food left. The logistics division will not accept the request, and I also cannot see why it is necessary.｣
“So to put it simply, you’re saying, ‘You got your supplies two days ago, why ask for more you pigs,’ right?”
｢There is no need to repeat it if you have understood. To conclude, additional supplies are impossible.｣
The golem’s pilot was curt, sounding cold and hard as if they really had become a steel doll.
I protested in an aggrieved voice.
“But there was nothing but canned beans in the supply box! We’ve been living on nothing but beans for the past few days. Are we supposed to continue that way? Do you intend on making living fermented soybeans out of us?”
｢Negative. Bread and milk should have been included in the supply items. You are uttering falsehoods.｣
“What are you on about? Don’t you know that the Resistance members hiding in the box snarfed it all up? Why are you asking me for what’s in their bellies?”
Hearing my irritated retort, the golem’s head jerked up as if it had received an unexpected blow.
｢… I did not hear clearly. Can you repeat that statement?｣
“I’m saying, the Resistance members who hid in the supply box stayed alive by stuffing themselves with everything not canned. That’s why we have nothing but sickening canned beans to eat. I’m sure you’ve seen it as well. How we’ve been having only beans for some days now. It’s hard for me and Azzy to keep going on that alone, so give us something else.”
｢The Resistance, hid in Tantalus?｣
The golem fell silent for some time before suddenly starting to interrogate me.
｢Why are you saying this so late?｣
“Why? Because I need supplies.”
｢Did you not think it was more important to inform me of the infiltration than to request supplies?｣
“Is that important?”
｢Affirmative. It is a matter of course. So, what happened? What of the intruders?｣
“They tried to set off a bomb, so battle broke out. After the fight, the vampire feasted on the intruders.”
The golem clutched its forehead with its functioning right hand. The gesture was so realistic that I was certain the pilot was taking the same pose.
｢This is no false report, I take it?｣
“You think I’d eat nothing but canned beans for days just to get some more supplies? If you need more evidence, then look up the name Kanysen Riverwood. I’m pretty sure he’s on the wanted list.”
｢Please wait a minute.｣
The light faded from the golem’s eyes for some time. The pilot must have temporarily disconnected to check. Before long, the golem moved again.
｢… I have, confirmed it. We have judged your claim to hold sufficient credence, considering that you have no way of checking the recently updated wanted list. It would be logical to think you met the fugitive in person.｣
“Yay. So you’re giving us supplies then?”
｢Does that matter right now?｣
“Of course it does. Azzy’s tired of beans and now she’s about to start eating me. I’m less scared of the dead Resistance, who are now nutrients for the vampire, and more scared of Azzy. Opening a can of beans alone gets her growling.”
Once again, the golem clutched its forehead and groaned. A heavy sigh came from its mic.
｢… I will ask for additional supplies. But this case requires your testimony and the judgment of the higher-ups, so please cooperate.｣
“If you’ll give us supplies, then I’ll testify anything. How shall I deliver it? Fairy tale style? Or theatrical style?”
｢In a statement tone, if you please.｣
“Okay. Now, once upon a time, there was a beautiful village where, when the water mill went round and round scooping up water, a rainbow would stretch like a zelkova tree. It began with the clear river water coming from the mountains, the merchants who sought a milepost to the sea, the stories they brought, the boy who grew up listening to them, and his dreams that flowed alongside the water. There, a boy named Kanysen Riverwood—”
“Sheesh, no sense of romance. Statements are boring.”
The reason hands were separate from the mouth? It was probably so that the mouth wouldn’t interfere with the hands working. My hands were empty as I explained the full story to the golem, so I instinctively found something to do.
What I found was opening canned beans. Since I had shown every trick I could with these blasted beans, it was time to get rid of them.
One by one, I opened the mountain of cans as I recounted what had happened.
“So. They tried to destroy Tantalus with explosives, which is why I bypassed them using a technique of Heaven and Earth, the divine art of teleportation. They ran like terrified rabbits at my stealthy, sudden approach. At that moment, I threw the canned bean in my hand, and the beans exploded like a grenade, wiping out the… Oh, sorry. Where was I?”
｢I have confirmed up to the part of the Resistance making a plan to destroy Tantalus using explosives.｣
“Ah, yes. So as I was saying…”
I was well into recounting my story as I shook an opened can of beans into a large pot. At that moment, I heard the loud thumping of feet running down the hallway. I could fully guess what was behind this revealing noise without having to read any thoughts.
“Woof, I hate!”
Azzy busted through the cafeteria door and came straight over to cling to me. She grabbed my waist with both arms and pulled at my sleeve with her teeth, shaking her head in great desperation. The dog-girl made it seem like I was cooking up some terrible alchemic concoction of a witch.
“I hate! Beans, I hate! Woof! Stop!”
“Azzy. I think my body will rip before my clothes, so could you let go?”
How much did she hate beans to come rushing over in fright at the sound of opening cans?
And all the while, the State-made warden uniform was so needlessly tough that it didn’t tear well. Though that made my hand flail around harder due to Azzy’s head-shaking. That alone was about to dislocate my wrist.
After barely calming Azzy, I emptied the last can into the pot before explaining to her.
“We aren’t going to eat these canned beans.”
“Really. How could we eat so much? This will all be used as fertilizer.”
I poured water on the beans in the pot and made something similar to bean porridge. Azzy’s tail stood on end as she glared at the stuff as if it were her archenemy. I soothed the agitated dog-girl, then hefted the pot of twenty canned beans toward the storage, grunting.
There lay what looked like a completely dismembered body… which looked like a corpse. I noisily put the pot down by the head. I noted its eyes were rolled back.
The next moment, the undying’s right arm leaped over and began to transport the bean porridge into his mouth. It was, whichever way I looked at it, not something fit for human consumption, but the right arm didn’t seem to care for form or flavor so long as it had nutrition.
Well, it wasn’t like a tongueless arm could taste.
“It was a bit gross at first, but it’s better now I think of it as growing a plant.”
It would probably take a day to gobble all that up, so I closed the storage door and came out. Azzy, who had been waiting in front of the door with a lowered posture and stiff tail, barked happily after seeing the pot was gone from my hands.
Together, we went to the golem.
“See? You can’t try to feed Azzy more beans.”
｢I have understood the situation, but you have yet to finish recounting the story of what happened. I ask that you first finish explaining.｣
“Ah, right. How far was I?”
｢You talked up to the point of the Resistance remnants planning a bomb terror attack.｣
“Huh, I said everything then. That’s all there is to it. We joined forces to stop them and gave their corpses to the vampire. The end.”
The golem suddenly stood up and raised its fist.
The heck? For a moment I was slow to react as I couldn’t read its thought. Was it trying to start a fight? But sadly, weak though I may be, that puny golem model wasn’t enough to harm me.
I smoothly moved my left fingers to take the pilot’s attention while I sneaked my right hand behind the golem.
I struck the crook of its knee and the golem immediately collapsed. Then I quickly took its raised arm with my left hand and twisted them behind its back. The golem struggled, but it couldn’t escape with its right arm restrained.
I stroked its back with my fingers, muttering leisurely.
“Calm down, calm down. Easy now, easy. Put down any complaints you might have for now. Getting upset doesn’t help in any way.”
｢… If you are intentionally mocking me, then I will tell you that you have succeeded.｣
“Mocking? Not at all. There must be some misunderstanding.”
But even as I spoke, I had such a large, happy smile that I could notice it myself.
Ahh. I’m so happy there’s someone I can beat in strength. If only there were a few more people like this.
“Woof! What about my food?”
Please. I wish there were just one more.
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