༺ There Are No Bad Dogs ༻
Tantalus was a place that only detained the most nefarious criminals, or the strongest of beings, who couldn’t be contained within any other facility. It was a place that people entered endlessly, yet none ever left.
Considering how nobody came out, it was inevitable for the rumors about Tantalus to snowball.
Claims that the State was performing human experimentation in order to create a super soldier.
Or that mythological demons roamed the facility.
Or that everyone sent there was secretly executed.
I was able to look around Tantalus with my own eyes to confirm the authenticity of these rumors. Tantalus certainly lived up to its name.
The abyss. A bottomless hole cursed by mother earth herself. An inescapable chasm. Inside, there truly resided mythical, historical, and transcendent beings like the Dog King, the Progenitor of Vampires, and the Regressor.
According to the golem, a prison break had occurred, but I questioned that too. Just what did they do to escape this inescapable abyss?
Of course, there was evidence of an outbreak. Most of the walls were shattered, and bars that were bent like candy canes were sprawled everywhere. The signs that a massive riot had occurred were evident.
Yet, not even a single drop of blood could be found.
But I already knew the answer to that.
The Progenitor of Vampires, Tyrkanzyaka.
The oldest vampire that slept within the depths of Tantalus had complete mastery over blood. Any bloodshed would have been collected by her. It was likely done without her even realizing it, just as an apple was naturally drawn towards the ground.
Without blood, all that was left in the prison was the rubble.
Thinking that far, I murmured to myself.
“…Could the beings who remained here be the scariest of them all?”
It was an ironic yet frightening thought.
‘If this were a normal prison, I would have scoffed at the wimps who didn’t have the guts to escape… but I could clearly see that the only ones left were monsters.’
Tyrkanzyaka was known throughout history as the one who could match the great power of the sanctum itself, and the Dog King was amongst the strongest of the Beast Kings.
‘It’s a relief that neither of them had any malicious feelings toward humans. Or else, I would have lost my life the moment I stepped foot into Tantalus. Although, I don’t know how much longer I’ll be able to last…’
“Either way, there’s only one thing to do.”
‘They don’t hate humans and didn’t kill me, so there is only one thing I must do. I need to get on their good side so that if something happens in the future… they’ll take my side.’
After deciding on my goal, I began to move
‘The three prisoners left in Tantalus are the Dog King Azzy, the Progenitor of Vampires Tyrkanzyaka, and the Regressor Shei. Who amongst the three was the least dangerous and easiest to get close to?’
The answer was obvious. It was undoubtedly Azzy.
Even before history started being recorded, dogs and humans had been friends.
Dogs were loyal to humans from birth, and the representative of that species was loyal to all living humans. That was how the State was able to imprison a Beast King within Tantalus. Azzy was the kind of dog who would wait with bated breath in a cage forever if she was ordered to by a human.
If it were a different Beast King, like the Wolf King or Lion King, they would tear through the metal bars instantly. It was not a matter of strength, but a matter of how domesticated they were.
As to why Azzy was imprisoned by the State…
I don’t know, but I can easily guess why.
The Dog King Azzy was loyal to all humans.
That included not only the State, but its enemies as well. The State worried that if the resistance or neighboring forces got their hands on her, she might turn against them. So they put her in Tantalus, where they could retrieve her whenever she was needed.
I couldn’t stop laughing at their idiocy. To think they would leave a weapon lying around in a storage unit for fear of their enemies using it.
‘I’ll show them. Weapons that anyone can use aren’t meant to be hidden.’
I picked up a lamp and opened the doors to the storage unit. Thick layers of dust flew off the boxes like fallen snow. Shoving away a couple of skulls that were in the way, I grabbed a few poles, a steel net, and firewood.
Upon closer inspection, the steel net was tattered at its ends, as if it had failed an attempt to capture some large beast. It had sharp hooks sticking out of the other side, and they were caked with dried flesh and bundles of fur.
…Let’s not pry any further.
The wooden poles had sharp hooks attached to the ends.
What the hell were they using all this for?
Whatever it used to be, I brought all the equipment out to the field.
I wiped all the flesh and fur off with an oil-soaked cloth, I delicately balanced it on top of the firewood like as if it were a grill. After finishing the preparations, I placed the lamp next to the wood and flicked my finger toward the pile.
The State’s magic, designed with nothing but practicality in mind, brought forth a flame. Sparks flew from my finger, and the mana-surged lamp began burning brightly.
I began opening a can as I watched the fire spread across the pile of wood. After I took off the lid, I saw a dry black lump inside of the can. After dipping it into the water, it began rehydrating at an extraordinary rate, growing into a piece of meat ten times its original size.
One of the seven great inventions of the Military State: the Military-Grade Compressed Can. It completely removed all moisture from the food, increasing the shelf life by twenty percent. It was processed using preservation magic, they even claimed that it tasted and smelled just as good as real, fresh meat.
At least, they claimed so.
Of course, like all advertisements, it lacked some flavor and texture compared to the real meat, but it was more than enough to use as dog food. I placed the rehydrated piece of meat on the grill.
Meat as thick as this took an eternity to cook, but I didn’t really care, since I wouldn’t be the one eating it. I also doubted whether it would even matter to the person who was going to eat it. What truly mattered was the smell it emitted as it got cooked.
Leaving the meat on the grill, I rattled a bell I had brought back from the storage unit.
– Jingle, Jingle.
After a round of ringing the bell, I put it aside and continued to cook the meat. The burning flames appeared to be stealing the meat’s redness as it began to turn brown. Its succulent juices dripped onto the firewood and turned into smoke, wafting far away. The smell of cooking meat spread throughout the facility.
It was almost time. I shook the bell once again, then I heard it.
“Yummy smell! Food! Food!”
Despite speaking continuously, each syllable appeared to be said from drastically different locations. Azzy ran at a speed that was comparable to that of sound. Guessing the time it would take her to arrive, I tensed up my arm and lightly tugged on the net.
The fire exploded a moment later. Ash and smoke flew everywhere, cinders fell to the ground, and the remaining firewood roared with its newfound supply of oxygen. Azzy, who had jumped onto the wood in search of meat, flailed around in the fire.
“Woof! Hot! Hot!”
Without saying anything, I picked up a cloth and swung it at her. After beating off all the cinders, Azzy groaned as she picked herself up. Tears glistened in her eyes, and her fur was singed. Yet, as soon as she saw the meat in my hand, her eyes sparkled.
I stretched out my palm and shouted.
Azzy looked at my hand as she lowered her body. Her tail wagged frantically, and her eyes were restless. She twitched as if she really wanted to lunge at the meat, fortunately, I managed to hold out my palm forward before she became too restless.. Azzy whimpered as she stared at me, unable to move.
“Wait? How long?”
Instead of answering, I took out the bell and slowly shook it left and right. Intrigued by the new object, Azzy completely forgot about the meat and looked at my hand. I slowly swung it from side to side until she was on the verge of losing interest and shook it hard whenever she started to turn back to the meat.
Once she had been made aware of the sound of the bell, I chopped a bit of the half-cooked meat and tossed it at her. Azzy caught it with her mouth despite the surprise. Even while she was chewing the meat, her gaze didn’t leave the bell.
Using the simulation training method, Azzy had completely understood the meaning of the bell. Now, it was time for a reward.
“Good job! Well done! I expected as much of you!”
Azzy’s eyes widened at the sudden barrage of compliments. Despite her confusion, I continued to praise her.
“You’re the ultimate dog! You can identify the bell! And you listen when you’re told to stay! You’re amazing!”
“Huh? I did good?”
“Yeah! You’re the perfect dog! You’re so lovely!”
I continued to praise her. Most people would have gotten suspicious by now, but Azzy was open enough to others that she responded to every compliment. She soon finished swallowing the meat and started shaking her head as she pranced around.
“Right, Azzy! Should we play ball?”
At this very moment, the Dog King looked like the happiest dog in the world.
I was grinning with malicious intent inside as I continued to clap my hands for her.
‘Witness this, State. Tools that anyone can use aren’t meant to be hidden. you just need to use them better than anyone else.’
I put the bell back into my pocket. It wasn’t quite enough yet. A single piece of canned meat wouldn’t truly reach her. However, after a day, a week, a month—if I kept showing her the sound of the bell and connected it to positive stimulus, the bell would become a remote that could control the Dog King.
‘Hehehe, just you wait. You guys think you’ve trapped me, but you’ve also given me time. Time to train the Dog King!’
“Woof! Woof! Woof!”
Azzy didn’t seem to notice the ominousness in my laugh and instead barked along as she circled around my feet. She seemed to be itching in anticipation for the game of fetch that would eventually happen.
‘Alright. I’ll play fetch as much as you want. If a sore shoulder is what it takes to get closer to the Dog King, I’ll do it!’
As I was about to move to a more open part of the garden, I heard another thought.
「I was wondering where he was, but he was with Azzy? I can’t tell what this man wants to do.」
‘Oh, that’s a surprise.’
The regressor had been closely following me. As I was about to turn my head to say hello—
「That’s fine. I’ll camouflage myself and sneak up on him. If he tries to corrupt Azzy, I’ll slice him right away.」
I turned back, but there was nobody to be seen. I couldn’t sense any sign of a person.
Nevertheless, I could hear the thoughts of the crossdresser about 3 meters to my right. She appeared to be cautiously following me while crossing her arms. Acting like I didn’t notice, I turned my head back to face the front.
‘Oh, so you’re supposed to be camouflaged… I guess I’ll have to pretend that I didn’t notice…’