༺ The Undead Aren’t Silent ༻
The undying lurched up like a man awakening from a long slumber. He didn’t scream or show shock even though his arms and legs were missing. He merely furrowed his thick brows and looked around. For someone who was ripped to pieces in a tragic accident, there was nothing special about his reaction. As it should be.
The reality was that the undying didn’t die even if their limbs were torn and their heads fell off. This degree of injury was an everyday thing to them. But if there was one difference from their daily lives, it was that they couldn’t regenerate in this abyss that was cut off from the earth.
The undying regained his senses and cried out with an astonished face.
“Oh! What happened? I surely remember my limbs being torn off!”
“They still are. Here.”
I proffered his dismembered arms and legs. Instead of being appalled, complaining of pain, or growing wary of me, the undying promptly took his limbs and stuck them where they should belong. He even gave me a thumbs up with his reattached hand, laughing cheerfully.
Just what you’d expect of an undying. Lost limbs must be nothing much to him.
“Thank you! Such generosity!”
“It’s nothing. Keep your arm attached for now.”
I had kept my audience waiting too long. Turning my back on the undying, I spread both arms and shouted to the rest.
“Now, you see? Voila, revival! A great success! His arms and legs aren’t put back together yet, but his heart is certainly beating!”
Behold the miracle of bringing the dead back to life. Maybe I was the second coming of the Saintess? I could scam at least dozens if I started a religion.
Though well, the truth of the matter was that I had simply forced the undying awake from a state of suspended animation. Forget being the Saintess, what I did was no different from those horrible State alarm clocks. Nevertheless, it was a fact that I made a stopped heart start beating again.
I looked at the Regressor and vampire with a proud smile. Magicians were a species of peacocks who needed an audience to survive. Their reaction was the very driving force that kept me living.
Especially the Regressor. As someone who held clues to the past, she was the biggest reason I woke the undying, after all.
｢A method like that… can wake him up. This must be how the undying woke in the past! Then! Is this that point in time?!｣
What point in time? Could you please stop thinking that way and just remember? Recollect instead of referring to past cycles and wrapping it up with pronouns!
Alright, let’s not be hasty. Leave the Regressor for now. I can slowly pry it out of her later. Then for the vampire now.
I read the vampire’s thoughts with a heart full of anticipation. She didn’t betray my expectations.
｢Forcing a heart to beat, again?｣
Waves of emotion swept over me. The weight of 1200 years was tremendous. The vampire was stunned, her eyes wide like someone who had witnessed a miracle. But through my mind-reading, I could tell she was far more surprised inside.
｢No. It was possible because it was an earthener. His heart could be made to beat again for he is an undying immortal. A spark of fire is enough to reanimate them. Yes, that is naught but a spark…｣
Then the vampire soon remembered another fact; vampires, who animated blood through bloodcraft, were also a breed of immortals.
｢…Perhaps, I too?｣
If only she had the embers to stoke her withered body. If she could hold that fire within her chest.
｢Could my heart, beat again as well?｣
Be it expectations, firm common sense, or egotistic notions… A seemingly strong mind is, in truth, nothing at all. Solid beliefs are all but illusions that can be shattered by the remark of another.
And that truth was my joy. This was my only way of life, but that was precisely why I felt more delight. The sense of being alive, the self-esteem of being able to exist as myself filled my body.
Did humans taste flavor and happiness from food because it was the result of an evolution advantageous for survival? Or did food itself contain flavor and happiness in the first place? I figured there was no need to distinguish. Sweetness lingered in my mouth.
While I was drunk on a sense of fulfillment, the undying finished assembling his limbs and got up. Although he had somehow pieced himself back together, it was plain that I could expect no more durability from his work than something taped together.
The undying offered his right hand, which he had mistakenly attached upside down.
“Pleased to meet you! I am Rasch. You are?”
Uh, I guess I should shake with my right, even if his is the wrong way up?
I gripped the back of his hand and shook it.
“I’m the new warden here. I found you in the cafeteria bin, uh, cabinet and revived you.”
His right forearm snapped off the moment I shook it upward. As if afraid of falling, it clung to my hand, dangling. All of a sudden, I became a man with two elbows.
Silence fell around us. Looking at his detached right hand, the undying scratched his head with his left and laughed awkwardly.
“Haha. I am sorry to bother you. It would have stuck together in a second if we were on the surface. It sure takes a while in the abyss!”
“Well, it can happen.”
I pried off his fingers and put his forearm back on his elbow joint. The undying stiffly moved his recovered right arm as he made a remark.
“It is a wonder that the State sent down a living person! They usually only sent lumps of iron to peek around! By the way, where are all the others? Have they escaped?”
“If you mean the trainees who used to be here, they’ve all escaped. These are the only remaining people.”
I secretly read the undying’s memories as we talked to find out how he ended up dumped in a waste bin with his limbs ripped off.
The undying Rasch was a prisoner. He was impressed by the advanced laws and systems of the Military State and wanted to know more about this place, but the State didn’t return the sentiment.
The ecology of the undying was too different from that of ordinary humans. Rasch didn’t care for injuries and always stepped up first when there was labor to be done. He hardly ever got tired, and even when he got hurt, he simply laughed it off. The undying was a wonderful neighbor indeed, so much so that anyone would wish for at least one of him around.
But that didn’t mean Rasch was a pushover. As fearless as the undying were of death, they valued honor and rules equally as much. They would laugh off a slash of the sword to their body, but they didn’t stand for any insult to their dignity.
Unfortunately, one citizen forgot the saying “the fist is closer than the law” and provoked Rasch. It seemed the State’s military law, which was closer than most fists, had twisted the citizen’s survival instinct.
The man had solemnly recited a prayer: “You barbarians are as tireless as you are uncultured, so slavery must be your calling in life.” Among friends, it would’ve been no more than a bad joke, but in front of said barbarian, it became a death wish.
Like the well-mannered earthener he was, Rasch tried to patiently win the man over with words. But fools tended to wish for death at least twice. And so, like the well-mannered earthener he was, Rasch humbly accepted his will and tore him to death.
Another man tried to rescue the first and attacked the undying, but he was assumed to endorse the insult and was also ripped to death.
The State attempted to execute Rasch, but there was no way to kill someone who could shrug off bullets and walk through fire. And when the State lacked the ability to kill something, they only had one way to handle prisoners.
The leaders of the State made a decision, and Rasch fell into Tantalus. He got on well in there until he got mixed up in the jailbreak incident.
Hmm. Interesting. Hold on. So if he witnessed the jailbreak in Tantalus, doesn’t he know how to get out too?
I began to steer the conversation.
“Trainee Rasch. You asked earlier, didn’t you? Whether all the others had escaped.”
“Indeed, but what of it?”
The dead are silent. Therefore, the undying, who didn’t die, made for a fantastic speaking witness. He was an eyewitness to me now as he was to the Regressor in her future. A precious witness who may know how to escape from this prison.
“The Military State is greatly curious. This is the abyss, a place inaccessible by ordinary ways. So how in the world did the prisoners succeed in escaping?”
I questioned the undying, pretending to interrogate him while I activated my mind-reading to its fullest capability. If he so much as remembered the related memories, I would obtain the card that was the way to escape the abyss. The Regressor fell into the abyss right before the prisoners broke out, so she didn’t know much.
I looked at the undying, full of hope.
“I do not know!”
And quietly watched him give a hearty answer.
“This one sorcerer did something, then suggested we all escape together. Will you believe it? Went on about having a better chance of escaping as a group or whatnot! Well, there was no reason to refuse, so I nodded!”
Damn it. This useless immortal.
“But there must be something you heard in passing? Like who that person was, and what method he used.”
“Who knows? That feeble sorcerer, he must have used some strange way to get out.”
“Oh, will you think back a bit more seriously?”
“Apologies, but I have no hobby of remembering every word muttered by another man. Especially when it comes to the vain spiel of a sorcerer.”
The undying responded carelessly, not even trying to remember.
My god. To think there’d be a person who really erased their memory because they had no hobby of remembering. I never even imagined it.
The undying picked his ears for a while before asking a question in turn.
“So, what were you asking?”
“When you said you don’t care for remembering, that included my words too I see.”
There really was not a single helpful person here, eh? How could there not be one bit of useful information? No, that can’t be right. It must be because I still haven’t drawn out his memory enough.
I held on to a glimmer of hope and continued asking.
“Then for my second question. Why did you fail to break out while the other trainees all escaped? Was there a conflict of opinion?”
“Conflict of opinion? Mm. There was.”
The undying recalled the past.
“That feeble sorcerer said he was going to free the prisoners. But his long prison life must have driven him insane because he suddenly tried to kill all the non-convicts.”
“By non-convicts you mean?”
“The laborers. Yes, the people who cooked and cleaned in this place.”
Tantalus was a huge facility that contained heinous criminals captured from all over the world. They were practically left to their devices here because not even the Military State could control them. This was a realm of ravenous demons and also an execution ground of the State. A place that killed the people sent down by itself.
This was why the State gave the labor sentence to prominent political figures or disruptive politic offenders who were too difficult to simply kill. It was but another name for capital punishment.
“There were few laborers left, what with the other prisoners killing so many, but still they were our companions. I was rather fond of them. But instead of escaping together, the sorcerer wanted to kill them. I opposed, but he was dogged.”
“They must’ve been pretty big-time criminals themselves, being laborers in the abyss. Why did he kill them?”
“I do not know! To remind you, I have no hobby of remembering every muttering of another man.”
Well aren’t you so proud of yourself?
“Anyhow. I fought against him, and lost! I must have been hit quite hard because my memories are vague! Really, if only this was not the abyss, I would have regenerated instantly and smacked that slimy face of his!”
“Is that it?”
“What, is there more to say?”
He really wasn’t any help. Agh, whatever. I had pulled out all the information I could. It was time to pass the matter to the Regressor.
“Trainee Rasch. There, you see that person?”
The Regressor—she had been looking this way, leaning forward with a face full of interest—flinched when I pointed at her.
｢Huh? Me? Why?｣
The undying showed an indifferent reaction seeing the Regressor.
“Yes, him. I don’t know why, but he seemed to be greatly interested in you… Ahem. In a rather strange way.”
“Huh? What nonsense are you spouting?!”
She kept trying to spectate like a bystander, but no way was I letting that happen. I didn’t tolerate other people having things easier than me.
Since I couldn’t dig up anything useful, I’ll have to read your thoughts instead. Go on then, find out for yourself.
“Trainee Shei, are you not interested?”
“Of course I’m not!”
“Then is it fine to let him go to bed? Trainee Rasch will probably fall asleep again soon.”
The undying swayed on the spot right after I spoke. He looked down at his body, appearing surprised.
“Oh? Now you mention it, I am in a queer state. I have woken yet my body is not fully recovered! What in Gaia’s name did you do?”
“I sent electricity to your heart and forced you up, you see.”
“Oho! Now that is also amazing! How did you manage it?!”
The undying continued to examine himself, seeming amazed by the teetering state of his life force. Maybe it was his immortality, but he sure had no awareness of danger.
I prompted the Regressor once more.
“Trainee Shei, are you really okay? At this rate, Trainee Rasch will go unconscious if left as is.”
“He is the only one who knows about Tantalus before we came…”
Just then, I noticed Azzy yawning at the back of the classroom. Come to think of it, she was there too. Not that she would be helpful.
I corrected myself.
“The only man, I mean. Trainee Shei. If you have any questions, now is your chance to answer them.”
“What does that have to do with me?”
“You aren’t curious about anything at all?”
The Regressor paused mid-shout, recalling something in her mind.
｢No. Since the undying has risen, there’s something I need to confirm.｣
At the end of that thought, the Regressor’s memories began to wind back to the past.
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