༺ How To Hide A Corpse ༻
It was night and the day lights were gone. In the pitch-black darkness, only the faint night lights illuminated the world. Only dark outlines stood out in the rayless hallways of the prison as if everything was carbon paper tinted with a pencil.
Amidst the blinding obscurity where you couldn’t see even the wall in front of your eyes if you didn’t look carefully, a man was moving with sneaking footsteps. He was carrying a large tied-up bundle of sorts, through the gaps of which poked out bizarrely twisted arms and legs. They were sticking out at angles impossible for normal human structure, angles that only made sense if those limbs were attached apart from the skeleton of a vertebrate… or if the limbs were outright separated.
The sight of the man moving the dismembered body parts was obviously that of someone trying to hide a corpse. Someone had to stop and interrogate him right away, but the veil of darkness concealed not only his figure but also his crime. And what couldn’t be seen wasn’t a sin.
Thanks to the cover of night, he was disturbed by no one as he—
“Woof? What’s up?”
“Shh, Azzy. Will you go away? It’s a surprise gift.”
“Woof? Gift? Mine?”
Disturbed by no “person”, he hid the dismembered body in a secret pl—
“Don’t try to dig it up! Bad girl! It’s not food! That’s icky!”
He hid it. In any case, he did.
* * *
Another peaceful day today. I stood in front of a chalkboard with the trainees gathered. As I was about to pick up a chalk stick, I saw the chalk box was empty and so called the Regressor.
“We’ve run out of chalk sticks. Trainee Shei. Could you take out some chalk sticks from the cabinet in the back?”
“Do you have to make me do that?”
“But you’re close. Please do me a favor.”
“Cheh. Well, fine. If it’s a favor.”
The Regressor approached the cabinet delinquently, and I slowly counted her footsteps.
Now, one. Two. Three. Tada. As per my design, the Regressor jerked open the cabinet door, and the next second, a set of bizarrely bent limbs and a body with twitching scarlet muscles popped out. A head with its tongue sticking out like a dead creature made direct eye contact with the Regressor and slowly began to fall toward her. Along with its dismembered limbs.
The freakish corpse had appeared without rhyme or reason. Anyone with ordinary nerves would’ve gone aghast at the sight, but the Regressor faced it unflinchingly.
“Heavenly Counter Domain.”
As if something like this didn’t even surprise her, she expressionlessly pushed away the falling corpse…
Or at least, that was how it seemed on the outside. In contrast to her calm facade, the Regressor screamed mentally in astonishment. When the corpse’s right arm fell out wriggling, she hastily shoved it back inside with a shudder.
｢What the hell…! What is this?! Why is something like that in the cabinet?!｣
In her heart, the Regressor was fussing in every way possible, but those emotions didn’t show on the outside.
The Regressor’s Qi Art, Heavenly Counter Domain, was a specific set of technical moves ingrained into her body, allowing her to reflexively respond to any situation. It activated even when she was shocked and taken by surprise. Despite being startled to the point of her heart racing, her vast training experience enabled her to maintain an imperturbable state of mind—or body, should it be said.
The Regressor glanced at me, speaking in a plain tone.
“There’s a corpse inside? Hey. Is there something you know?”
｢… Since when was the c-corpse here? Was it there from the very start? That’s… a little creepy.｣
Eh, she got a hold of herself in no time. Tsk. And I thought she’d be a bit more surprised. There goes my efforts in preparing the ultimate surprise gift.
I swallowed my regrets and answered in a composed and innocent manner.
“Huh. Since when has that been there?”
Azzy perked up her ears and got up hearing that.
“Woof! Me, I know! Yesterday—”
“Fool! How dare a brute butt in when a lordly human is talking!”
After silencing the witness’ mouth, I continued with a nonchalant gesture.
“Someone must have hidden this corpse in the cabinet. This calls for an investigation. Trainee Shei. Could you take it out for a minute?”
“But you’re close. Please. You’re not even scared of dead bodies, right?”
The Regressor composedly carried the body. As far as appearances went, she looked utterly unsurprised. And on the inside, well, she was barely unsettled too. The mind followed the body, people say. She would’ve put up an ugly show if not for that thing called Heavenly Counter Domain. Such a pity.
The Regressor lined up the parts of the undying’s body.
I bent down and pieced his limbs together in front of her. I put away his tongue, which I had slightly pulled out last night for dramatic effect. I had also tied up the fingers of the right hand, in case he resisted, so I put that back to normal as well.
As the pieces came together and gradually took the shape of a person, the Regressor’s eyes calmed down.
｢It wasn’t a corpse. That giant, muscular build and dark skin… It must be that undying.｣
My intention in hiding the undying in the cabinet wasn’t only to startle the Regressor. That was merely a side goal. According to the Regressor’s memory, this undying most likely survived until the end in every one of her past life cycles. Which I supposed was natural since he was an undying.
In her previous life cycle, the Regressor was searching for information. She met the undying and heard the gist of what happened in Tantalus. Then, she decided to infiltrate the prison herself to obtain more accurate information.
That was all I managed to read off her mind. Because her recollection ended prematurely, I had no way of finding out what she heard from the undying, and what happened in the previous life cycle.
It would’ve been nice to delve that far into the Regressor’s memories, but for some reason, I could only read her past through her recollections. So, I had to display the undying in front of the Regressor if only to find out why I had died. That was the way to get even the smallest clue out of her head.
The Regressor’s voice became much more serious.
“This undying. Was he always here?”
“That can’t be. With wounds like this, there must’ve been bleeding, so there’s no way Tyrkanzyaka wouldn’t know.”
The vampire directly answered her question.
“No. If that is what I think it is, then I cannot tell either.”
The vampire, who was sitting on her coffin instead of a chair as usual, gazed indifferently at the dismembered body.
“It must be an earthener from the plains of yonder.”
“As fellow immortals, we call them eartheners to draw a distinguishing line. They call us bloodfiends. We hold an unfriendly relationship, for they deem us cursed, and we cannot take their blood.”
The vampire lifted a hand and a slight gap opened in her coffin, from which crimson blood crept out toward the undying as if raring to consume it. However, the portion of blood that touched the undying’s body suddenly lost its power. The red liquid turned completely black and disintegrated like sand to the ground.
“Their flesh and blood resemble Mother Nature. They gained immortality by sacrificing their very race. Their flesh is sand and their blood is mud. Their body is so extremely impure and unclean that only they can bear it. Therefore, their blood is unaffected by my bloodcraft even if it leaves their body.”
The vampire grimaced slightly as she dusted her hand. Aside from the portion that had disintegrated, her blood returned to her side. She shook it off as if she had touched filth.
The Regressor nodded.
“… I got it. So that means no one knows when this undying was here.”
Hearing her muttering, Azzy straightened up and cried out.
“Woof, me, I know! Yesterday—!”
“Silence fool! Where do you, a double-digit-IQ-holder, get off speaking at a three-digit club?! Even a puppy three months in school knows how to sit quietly, yet a guard dog dares to yelp up?! You’re ten years behind!”
It looked like Azzy’s favor meter dropped a bit. I’d have to brush her fur for at least an hour to barely recover it. Still, shutting her up came first right now.
The Regressor quickly lost her interest in us.
｢He’s up to some nonsense with Azzy again… Well, whatever. It’s not like that man was never strange before.｣
This was why a person’s usual behavior was important. She simply overlooked things no matter what kind of craziness I got up to. I knew my efforts in eccentricity until now were worth it.
｢More than that, the undying comes first. He seems to be in a critical state. Can he even wake up? Maybe it would be different on the surface, but in the disconnected abyss, it should be hard for him to self-recover.｣
The Regressor eyed the undying doubtfully. These immortals could easily regenerate even fatal wounds, but there was no way to heal them in the abyss.
｢Maybe if he took a boon of Mother Earth’s grace… a full serving of crops. But who knows how long that’ll take. Should I use potions? But if things end up different from the past, my information becomes meaningless.｣
No wonder the undying ate bean porridge by the pot when no normal human could swallow that stuff ever. It was to regenerate his wounds.
I was going to stop showing him to the Regressor, but… Hmm. Shall I just wake him in this situation? Right then. I’ve decided.
I gestured for the Regressor to move.
“Trainee Man-Lover-Shei, will you stop making lascivious eyes at the man’s body and return to your seat?”
The Regressor staggered on her feet, snapping out of her pondering. She barely maintained her balance and avoided falling before shouting at me.
“W-what are you saying all of a sudden!”
“This person may be unconscious, but allowing a man-lover to keep ogling as he likes is, well. A bit wrong, I think.”
“What do you mean ogling?! I have normal tastes!”
“What? Eh, You like women? Then what about you washing Azzy the other day? Was it dark desires you did away with instead of grime while cleaning?”
“You’re wrong! There’s no way!”
“Yes, no way right? Because you like men.”
Trapped in self-contradiction, the Regressor could only flush, unable to refute. But the next moment, the vampire tapped a desk with her parasol.
Then she unfolded the parasol slightly to cover her face. She sounded rather embarrassed behind it.
“I guarantee it is true. I kept watch as you asked the other day. Shei only appeared troubled as he washed the Dog King. He did not seem conscious in any other way. It is, most likely, also true that he fancies men… Oh dear me.”
“Hold up, Tyrkanzyaka!”
“It is all right, Shei.”
The vampire showed only her mouth under the parasol—it seemed beyond her to meet Shei’s eyes—and smiled warmly, defending the Regressor.
“I have thought it over carefully and concluded that your nature is also part of you. You may have violated natural law, the harmony of Yin and Yang, but I too am a nature-defying monster. How can I blame you when the both of us are deemed unacceptable by Sanctum?”
“I’m not something like—!”
“It is all right. I understand.”
There was such tenderness in the vampire’s smile after she decided to fully accept the Regressor. So much so that the latter couldn’t make any retort despite her foul mouth. She was utterly helpless. The Regressor turned bright red in the face and shut her mouth.
｢If I reveal that I’m a woman right now instead…! No! I can’t do that. If I say that at this timing, it’ll seem like I’ve lost!｣
She sure had an odd pride, thinking it was a defeat to be driven into revealing a truth. From where I stood, reading all her thoughts, it was pretty amusing.
Well, it wasn’t like she knew I could read minds. I just had to keep on reading and making fun of her.
｢Besides, using Agartha’s Mask which I got from a treasure shrine, I always give the first impression of being a man. The only way to break the illusion is to take off my clothes… but I’d rather kill instead!｣
I’d been wondering why no one saw through that shoddy cross-dressing. Turned out it was because of another unknown piece of treasure. There sure were all kinds of curious things in the world.
Hang on. What did she say? I’d rather kill instead? Not die? Who?
I rushed to sort out the situation.
“Now, now. That topic ends here! Now why don’t we revive this undying who has suffered an unfortunate accident!”
… Alright. I should stop teasing her.
After mercifully providing a hole of escape for the Regressor, I drew everyone’s attention to the undying lying with his limbs all torn off.
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