༺ The Monologue of a Mind Reader ༻
As the vampire promised, Finlay no longer came swaggering out of nowhere. Although sometimes, when I was chopping ingredients while cooking, he’d eagerly eye my kitchen knife and fingers with anticipation.
As if that would happen. A fool that slips up with a mere kitchen knife can’t shuffle cards. Do you know how dangerous that is? Worst case scenario, you’ll lose your hand. So chopping food is easy as pie in comparison. The worst you could lose with that is a finger.
Sorry, but there ain’t no food for a vampire in a human’s kitchen. Get lost.
Anyway. The abyss regained peace somewhat. The vampire left Finlay alone longer than before, and while that wasn’t enough to satisfy the Regressor, at least she didn’t get touchy about it. The big commotion settled into an odd period of stability.
In the meantime, I was facing the golem in a corner of the cafeteria.
Upon hearing my report of what happened, the golem sounded warmer than before.
『There are still many problems to be dealt with, but I predict we must observe for the time being due to the lack of options currently available. Maintain the situation until the State takes further action.』
“Understood! Please leave it to me!”
The golem began to stare wordlessly at me. I didn’t know if it was the golem’s face getting to me, but I grew apprehensive for some reason.
“Why are you being quiet with your mouth on the microphone? What are you going to say this time?”
『…Question. Why are you taking an unusually cooperative attitude today?』
“Unusually? I’ve always been cooperative with you, Captain Abbey. Was there a single request of yours I haven’t fulfilled?”
『Those were tasks you rightly should have performed. You are a laborer of Tantalus and are obliged to comply with my legitimate orders as I am the overseer.』
“That’s what I’m saying. I did everything you asked except for the times we slightly clashed in opinion and needed some coordinating, right? I took you where you wanted, got what you needed, and responded to intruders falling in here. I even solved an issue without being ordered to. Where else will you find a model laborer like me?”
『You used every occasion to make an unreasonable demand of me, did you not?』
“Unreasonable demand? What’s that?”
『I mean when you forced me to use a certain tone.』
“Certain tone? Well now, that doesn’t ring a bell.”
The golem froze, but only for a moment before it continued to emit a flat voice out of its speakers.
『You forced childish words out of me, such as ‘oppa’ or ‘piggyback’, did you not?』
“Oh, that? Come on, that was a joke I tell you.”
I tried to dodge the subject casually, but the golem’s stare was so stinging that I had to add an excuse.
“Honestly, do you need to call it ‘forcing’? What was so hard about it? What, did you lose money or get hurt, Captain Abbey? You only asked for a piggyback. Your command just got a little cuter. Since I gladly gave you a ride, doesn’t that make it a win-win in the end?”
『Negative. I am a State signaller and also a captain of the Independent Signal Corps. I have a duty to maintain a demeanor that befits my position.』
“It’s a golem in the first place, isn’t it? I’d be an undeniable degenerate if I made the real you do that, but all I did was play a prank on a tiny golem. Big deal.”
『Your perversity is already beyond doubt.』
“Perversity? Goodness gracious. The things you say to your oppa.”
Oh, is she mad?
I quickly moved on to the next topic before the golem seriously contemplated revenge.
“Ah, and the Progenitor said something else. She wanted me to send Finlay back to the surface since he basically came down by mistake.”
The golem stopped staring and sighed. She gave up retorting at the ludicrous idea.
『Impossible. Breaking into the abyss, Tantalus, with specific intent is a violation of security laws. A wanted order would have been issued if we were on the surface, but this is the abyss. As such, the Progenitor’s request is unacceptable.』
“I gave a similar reply and somehow managed to keep him here for now, but the Progenitor is ready to just fly up if things go wrong. As you know, powerful vampires can fly freely even in this darkness. What if she ends up going up?”
『Escape is also impossible.』
The golem’s answer was curt. Too curt for me. I protested, gesturing with both hands.
“No, she’s going to fly, you know? Fly up until she’ll die of old age, that’s what she said. And since vampires don’t of age, she’ll virtually keep going forever! No matter how deep the abyss is, surely she’ll escape eventually? Then I’ll be shot dead for failing to keep her in check!”
『You do not need to worry about that. Escaping through flight is impossible here in the—』
The golem’s words cut off abruptly at that moment. She continued speaking seconds later but in a sharper voice.
『…This is a strict warning to you as a State signaller.』
I no longer felt the slight sense of ease from our earlier conversation. Due to the relaxed atmosphere, I had established, the golem let her guard down and let slip a hidden truth. Realizing this, she grew wary again and adopted a stony attitude.
『I fully understand your position. I am taking a cooperative approach as you are the only available personnel within Tantalus who has also built friendships with the trainees. However.』
The golem’s eyes made of crystal moved, reflecting my figure in those light-capturing orbs.
The person who was somewhere beyond those eyes, somewhere I couldn’t see, had to be watching me coldly.
『Should you show any behavior of attempting to pry information from me again, or if such signs are observed, then I will consider other means to ‘replace’ you.』
This was why I wasn’t very fond of the Military State. Their people, way of thought, and systems were all utterly rigid, making it so hard to make a living. In a harsh world like this, there was no place for a dream-chasing magician.
I gave a smile as my reply. The golem glared at me for a moment, then disconnected without any notice. The light from its crystal orbs disappeared, and its metal body fell slack.
* * *
Finlay no longer asked me for blood. As per the sublime Progenitor’s command, he completely stopped disturbing my life or butting into my matters. Technically. But…
｢Get cut. Cut your finger. Spill some blood.｣
I had overlooked the fact that I was a mind-reader. When I was cooking, especially when I was doing something with a kitchen knife, he’d secretly watch and try to jinx me. I seriously felt like I’d go insane if I kept hearing those kinds of thoughts. It was practically a curse at this point.
Dammit, why did that gremlin keep coveting my blood?
｢I must offer blood to the Progenitor! Fresh blood is necessary for a retainer to speak their mind to a maker, especially when it comes to a maker of utmost superiority. A retainer offers blood, and the maker accepts the blood, listening to the words it contains. That is the tradition, so I’m sure the Progenitor will accept!!｣
Judging by his thoughts, it seemed the Progenitor Tyrkanzyaka had a slight misunderstanding.
Retainers were utterly insignificant in front of a maker. These lords of blood could birth vampires, dominate retainers through bloodcraft, and even end their lives with the twitch of a finger. Makers were like deities and parents combined to retainers.
｢The Progenitor views us with pity. She wants to protect us. Since I know her wishes, I should be able to persuade her if I keep trying.｣
However, there were plenty of children in the world who were unfilial, and outrageously many humans who disdained gods. Their way of thinking was also diverse. There were ten thousand ways of respecting parents, and even the worshiping of deities differed by religion.
｢Yes! I’ll inform her of the deceased elder first. Once she finds out that one of her closest retainers has perished, she may change her mind out of sorrow.｣
Finlay had wavered. When he first prostrated before the Progenitor, who was like a goddess to his kindred, he had unmistakeably wavered for a moment—should he turn the situation to his advantage, even if it meant deceiving the Progenitor? Or should he confess the truth regardless of the outcome?
Back then, he told the truth, afraid and unknowing of the Progenitor’s power.
｢Although he… was not hunted down by Sanctum. But not even the Progenitor will know that much. If she blames me later, I will gladly take the punishment. Her idling here with such petty cretins is a tremendous loss for us nobles of the night.｣
The unknown instills fear. That’s why we’re always humble before the unknown. When darkness falls, we must meekly face it with a torch or lamp in hand, or stay crouched in our rooms.
However, putting it the other way round, knowledge can bring not only peace of mind but also arrogance.
The Progenitor Tyrkanzyaka was quite benevolent, contrary to her notoriety. Having received her protection several times in his time here, Finlay wasn’t as fearful as he was before. That was likely what changed his judgment.
“Haah. And that’s why I need to change my response.”
Sometimes, I felt my ability to read minds was an inconvenience. One of those moments was when I happened to hear something I wasn’t particularly curious about, like now.
I was no prophet. I couldn’t see as far as the future and tell what’ll happen. But when the thoughts of others flowed into my mind, when my ability exposed plans with too much resolve yet too little substance, I’d be gripped by a strange notion.
Maybe it was pity? Or contempt? It was a feeling that made me want to help achieve their purpose because it was so laughable, and at the same time, an urge that tempted me to ruin it all like a mischievous child. An odd feeling bloomed in my chest.
Thinking about it, it struck me more interesting to find at least some difficulty in reading someone’s mind. Like with the golem, the Regressor, and if no one else, the vampire. Even Azzy would do. It was quite fun digging through their thoughts.
But I guess this was, in a way, a pretentiousness borne of blessing.
As my pondering came to an end, I also finished cooking. After a final touch of plating the dish with hard carrots chopped into long strips, I took a bell from my pocket and shook it.
I heard Azzy’s barking, following which I sensed Finlay quickly flee from the corner he was hiding in. Not that Azzy cared about him. As she barged into the cafeteria, I put down the dish. She sat in a chair, put her face in the food, and began with chewing the carrots.
I wiped my hands with a cloth as I raised my voice.
Finlay, who had sneaked back to his hiding place, flinched at my voice.
I glared precisely at where he was standing beyond the corner and gave an announcement.
“Tell Trainee Tyrkanzyaka. A class will be held this afternoon.”
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