༺ Good Taste Is All That Matters ༻
In the Regressor’s previous life cycle, the abyss had collapsed. It was far more fatal and terrible than the Tantalus jailbreak incident which was the worst happening in the entire history of the State. The criminals who broke out were a menace in their own rights, however… what crawled out of the abyssal ruins were terrible things capable of destroying the world.
It was a calamity that was all the deadlier because the threat it posed wasn’t as immediately noticeable compared to its huge danger. It took even the Regressor several regressions to finally discover the existence of the Fragments of the Apocalypse within the abyss. She gathered the clues she excavated through her past life cycles and arrived at the collapsed abyss.
There, she encountered a horrible monstrosity formed from the flesh of tens of thousands.
“Hey now, do not look at me that way. I am a victim myself. How could I have known this would happen?”
The pendulous sunset illuminated the wet ground. The sticky redness revealed under the sun was inexpressibly beautiful yet disgusting and dreadful. The liquid soaking the earth was all blood from the body of men.
The immortal corpse golem that had marched for the Empire in the past had also come from the abyss. The Regressor battled the golem for a full day and barely managed to defeat the thing before pulling out its core, the undying.
Yet for all the fierceness of the battle, the undying was lighthearted, muttering an explanation of what had occurred.
“Alas, I had closed my eyes for too long. We are undying, but not indestructible. Once our life is exhausted, we temporarily return to the world to be granted life by the earth before moving again. However, some damned thing defiled me. They cursed my flesh and scattered it. And I could not protect myself for I was in a land cursed by Mother Earth…”
The flesh monster regenerated bullet wounds and was unharmed by fire, and it wielded the corpses it swallowed as weapons. Thorny spines thrashed the field of combat and boils of pus exploded everywhere. The vivid yellow pus would melt whatever it landed on like hissing acid. The monster’s taut, bulging innards were more bombs than balloons. It fired a rain of blade-like shins down on its enemy.
The Regressor swung her sword amidst stench and filth. The monster mindlessly regenerated itself by absorbing fetid corpses along with the rancor of the dead. It was a crawling pestilence that coveted the flesh of humans, a desecration of mankind itself. The Regressor mustered all her might to stop the thing from roaming in search of its next meat.
As a result…
“Well! I do feel slightly sorry for the dead! But what can be done? It was not of my own volition!”
The undying shouted a hearty half-apology, laughing lightly as nothing much had happened.
But how could this tragedy be so trivial? The Regressor wiped her sweat using the cloth she wrapped around her face to block the stench in the air. She let out a weary sigh.
“Three villages you destroyed. A hundred and ninety dead.”
“At least ten times that number would have died had you not stopped it, young lady! Well done! You are the hero!”
“… I wasn’t asking for praise. You have to be eliminated. This time, it can’t be helped.”
The undying was unperturbed despite her cold statement.
“I did not praise you in hopes of living either! Listen now, we are undying, not ageless. We slowly grow weak as we age until at one point, we return to the earth. Though of course, I am quite young to die.”
The undying lifted his left shoulder. His body, covered in melted blood, was light years away from the shape of a human. Perhaps something gnawed by a great swarm of maggots and vomited out would look as he did. The outline of his figure was faint like a picture with crushed borders, which made it hard to tell where his body started.
But even as he was melting into nothingness every passing second, the undying laughed gallantly.
“Haha! I was too harsh with my body! My lifespan has worn out too quick. I will die soon! Well now, at least I did not die in the abyss. What a relief it is to be buried in Mother Nature’s arms!”
Again, the abyss was mentioned. The Regressor pondered what had happened in that place. Her efforts coming here were in vain. She was late in this life cycle. There was too little time as this incident itself had occurred early after her regression.
But if there was an incredible solution lying within that bottomless chasm, the Regressor thought she might be able to find hope in the next life for sure. She felt a glimmer of small anticipation underneath her thick exhaustion.
“What happened in there? Who did what to birth a monster like you?”
“It is rather hurtful to be described as a monster. But I cannot deny it! For I certainly look like one right now!”
“There is no time to chat. Quickly.”
“Ah, right. I was being too selfish! You must be busy!”
Death came slowly but as surely as the sunset. The undying’s tone was no different from before, but the dark signs of death were apparent on his face. He barely managed to continue.
“Do you, perhaps, know that some escaped from that abyss?”
“Then that makes things easy! I fought against one of those trying to break out. I would have instantly regenerated and ripped his head off if we were on the surface, but unfortunately, I could not regenerate in the abyss! My limbs were torn off by a mysterious spell, and so I fell asleep, drained of life force. However…”
He frowned like someone trying to squeeze out a hazy memory.
“When I first opened my eyes, I saw some people. First, a so-called warden came to me and said he woke me up. He asked me something, then told me to keep sleeping again because it was a bother to ‘supervise’ me. I had not recovered much life force back then, so I went back to sleep.”
The Regressor scrunched up her face at that.
“… That’s it? Anything else?”
“I think he did say something else, but I do not remember.”
“Think a little harder!”
“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.”
“There must be something that could be a clue! Like the number of people, or who was there!”
“Clue. Mm. When I looked, there were two women. That is about it. Both were attractive.”
“Do you know how important that information is? Is it not ten times as meaningful compared to the number of men?”
Was he used to death, or was death so alien that he had gone mad? The Regressor held her aching head as she asked again.
“The next time I opened my eyes, I was not sure, but it was chaos everywhere. The building was shaking ominously, and I could hear the howling of a beast in the distance. The people who woke me said that the warden was trying to kill me, and asked me to fight against him.”
“Who were those people? What did they say?”
“Who knows? I do not know either. They were not women, of that I am sure.”
There was too little information, but the Regressor couldn’t hope to get more out of the undying who had flitted in and out of consciousness.
Still, she wasn’t disappointed. She was going to make sure she got inside that abyss in the next life cycle, after all. This was merely a lead to the information she wanted.
“I fought, and I lost. If that place were on the surface… No, if only my limbs were intact then I would not have been defeated so helplessly. But in truth, beating him would not have made much of a difference. He was with a Beast King, you see.”
“A Beast King?”
“Indeed. What was it… Something about humanity’s great desire and the need for a desperate struggle to find ‘him’… Really, it was so absurd that I actually remembered a man’s rambling. Heheh…”
The undying’s dry laughter fell upon the ground. His vessel was broken and leaking essence. Even the infinite life of those called undying was, in the end, a fleeting candle that will inevitably run out one day.
“The last time I opened my eyes, I was not myself. There was only pain and resentment as I rampaged to absolve the vengeance driving me. I starved as if a hole were in my stomach, and I pained as if stabbed by needles. In my hunger, I think I ate this and that… things that should not be eaten.”
“Yeah. It was a bit gross.”
“Well now. It was a fine life… or could have been, if not for how it ended. Heh. If only I could, I would carve out my last moments…”
After giving a short chuckle in the way he always did, he died. Confirming this, the Regressor got up slowly.
“I don’t know if this will comfort you, but rest assured. You’ll come back to life in the next cycle anyway.”
Sorrily enough, his end had yet to come. He would most likely come back to life. Once the world returned in time through the Regressor’s death, there would be a different outcome from the present.
The Regressor straightened herself calmly.
“… Humanity’s great desire, ‘him’, Beast King… Is that where their plan began? The digging for truth just never ends, does it?”
Whatever the case, it was certain that an important clue was lying in the abyss. Since it was too late in this cycle, the Regressor wondered whether she should regress immediately while her memory was fresh or investigate a little more.
After some thought, she took out Chun-aeng.
“If I’m going to regress anyway, it’s probably better to finish my chaos-spree then die instead of committing suicide. Alright. I’ll throw this cycle.”
At that moment, the Regressor’s fate was decided.
The recollection ended.
The Regressor immediately recalled the memories of her previous life and stared at the undying.
｢When he first opened his eyes, he said a warden woke him up and asked some questions. To be sure this is that point in time… He definitely said there were two women. And that they were attractive.｣
As the Regressor’s pondering grew long, the undying urged her for a reply.
“Come now, what is it you have to say that makes you think so hard, boy? If you have words for me, then be out with it. I do not want to wait long for a man to speak.”
“A-alright. I’ll ask my question.”
Finishing her thoughts, the Regressor assumed a solemn expression.
“Right now, how many women do you see?”
It was a very natural flow of thought. To make sure this was the point at which Rasch first opened his eyes, the Regressor intended to compare his testimony of the past and present. If he answered that there were two women this time as well, then she would be at the timeline he mentioned in the past.
｢Shei? What sort of question is that? What in the world are you after?｣
Actually, wait. I regained my senses thanks to the vampire’s thought. Wasn’t the flow of conversation strange with mind-reading out of the equation?
Despite the bizarre question, the undying counted the number of women as he was asked. One, the vampire sitting at the front, and two, Azzy lying on her belly at the back. Why wasn’t he counting Shei?
Oh, she’s cross-dressing.
Finishing the math, the undying held up two fingers and gave his answer.
“One, two. Is it not two? You can tell by simply looking unless you are an idiot.”
“Are both women attractive? Not anyone else?”
“Of course. In the first place, there is no unattractive woman in the world. It is merely that they each possess their own charm. As for men, well, that is not my concern… But what of it?”
Even the undying suspected the intent behind her question, as he should. The flow of conversation was subtly, no, openly deviating. The Regressor asked that question because she had information connecting from her previous life cycle, but the others couldn’t quite keep up and resorted to filling in the blanks with their imagination.
It was especially so for the vampire. She covered her mouth with both hands, looking between the Regressor and undying, lamenting to herself.
｢Why? Why do you ask him of such things? What is it you so desire to know? Is it that earthener’s preference?｣
Amazingly enough, the undying figured out something from this odd atmosphere. He turned to me dubiously, asking.
“Wait, sir. Does that boy’s interest in me happen to be… that kind of interest?”
“Wow. You remembered that? What’s up with your selective memory?”
I gave a big nod and affirmed his suspicion.
“That’s right. Trainee Shei has a record of loudly shouting his fancy of men the other day.”
“What? Why are you bringing that up now? It’s completely unrelated, alright?”
The Regressor reflexively tried to refute my words, only to finally realize how the others were looking at her. The vampire was still covering her mouth, forgetting about her heart for the moment. I nodded, empathizing with her shock.
But most surprisingly, the undying stroked his chin, seriously appraising the Regressor’s appearance.
Eh? Why the heck are you taking a serious look?
“Hmm! I normally do not care for men. However!”
However? That’s weird.
Doesn’t that word imply you’re about to say something contradictory to your previous statement? You’re not going to say what I read off your mind, are you?
“With a face as pretty as that, it may somehow be possible!”
Is he mad?
The Regressor suddenly screamed.
Ah, we’re on the same wavelength.
Finally realizing what she had said, the Regressor started huffing.
“You’re wrong! Completely wrong! I have zero interest in the likes of you!”
“Feistier than most girls. You must have been born with the wrong gender.”
“I said… you’re… wrong…!”
Ack, this was bad. The Regressor was going to explode this way. The undying aside, I’d die for sure if she started going wild with her sword.
Besides, I couldn’t understand the undying’s way of thinking myself. I joined the shouting.
“What do you mean, Trainee Rasch?! Trainee Shei is certainly temperamental, hard to please, violent, and homosexual, but you mustn’t take after him! Didn’t you say you have no interest in the likes of men?”
“Haha. Warden. Male or female, is it not fine as long as the taste is good?”
“Huh? What are you on about?”
“I am rather glad. I am an undying, and I cannot make a baby without permission from a tribal council. It is more taboo to make a half-blood. This is sadly why I refused the courtship of countless women and lived in solitude. Perhaps a man is better… Oh, now this is another new perspective! I must have made the greatest discovery of the century!”
This looked bad. The Regressor was already holding her sword. I had to do something about the undying before she acted.
Suddenly, I looked down at the skewer in my hand again, then back at the undying. His chest was still open.
“Trainee Rasch. Give me a second.”
“Mm? What is it, warden?”
I hid the skewer and approached the undying. He scratched his head in a troubled manner.
“Alas. Being too popular with men is also a pickle.”
Say what? That was disgusting. Out of nowhere too. I didn’t care what kind of misunderstanding he had with the Regressor, but I couldn’t forgive his bullshit extending to me. I wasn’t putting up with any more of that.
I stabbed my skewer deep into the undying’s chest. He became puzzled.
“Huh? Warden? What is—”
And an electric shock spread to his whole body directly through his heart. The undying quivered from head to toe.
“I did… not expect… to be… the bottom…”
His huge body fell down, convulsing. After a few seconds of twitching, he grinned and left his last word.
“This is… a unique taste on its own.”
The crazy bastard spouted dog shit to the end before closing his eyes. Soon his consciousness was completely lost and his right arm dropped.
Whew. Barely cleaned things up.
“Now then. There was a bit of a commotion.”
The huffing Regressor put away her half-drawn sword, then glared at the fainted undying, muttering.
“Don’t you ever wake that thing up. Talk about queer misunderstandings. Eugh. This kills the point of me wearing Agartha’s Mask…”
Wasn’t she pushing too much of the responsibility on the undying, though? As if she did nothing wrong.
“Honestly though, you know it was all your karma, yes?”
“How? You went around saying all those misleading things. If you don’t get it, then look at Trainee Tyrkanzyaka.”
The moment the Regressor looked at the vampire, she whipped her head around, avoiding the former’s eyes. She was even fanning her face when she didn’t even sweat.
Instinctively realizing what was wrong, the Regressor held out her hands, smiling awkwardly.
“No, it’s a misunderstanding, Tyrkanzyaka.”
“It is all right, child. I understand everything…”
“You don’t look like you understand at all!”
“B-but I think it is a little early for me. Is the world truly advancing so fast that not even I can catch up…? Er, if possible, please do it out of my sight.”
“I’m saying you’ve got it wrong!”
I stopped watching the two and chimed in.
“Tell me if you only needed Trainee Rasch’s body. I’ll lend you the part you want. He won’t hate it that much himself…”
Before the furious Regressor grabbed Chun-aeng again, I finished up the lesson with a quick clap of my hands.
“Everyone. You understand how the State discovered the resuscitation of the heart using electric shocks, yes? It’s all thanks to suspects suffering cardiac arrest during electric torture. I mean friendly interrogation accompanied by electricity. More electric shocks had their hearts up and running again! So the moral of today’s story is, do not carelessly show your heart to others. Lesson over!”
With that said, I promptly opened the classroom door and made a run for it.
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