༺ What She Regained ༻
Tyrkanzyaka managed to calm down the Dog King, then lifted the fallen warden and made her way to the cafeteria. Despite the fall, the warden didn’t scream or even frown. He simply trailed slowly behind Tyrkanzyaka, his gaze vacant.
“Are you all right?”
The warden gave a slight nod in response to Tyrkanzyaka’s question, but beyond that, he gave no words or any reaction.
Tyrkanzyaka muttered worriedly.
“He can hear, and also seems to understand speech… yet it is as if he has become mentally disabled.”
He continued to display no other response, leaving Tyrkanzyaka feeling nothing but sympathy. The man was always humorous, even in pointless chatter, displaying remarkable eloquence. She never imagined him ending up this way. Everything was taken away from him. Truly.
“Let us go to the cafeteria first. If something is there, we will doubtlessly find it soon.”
Even if they found nothing and the warden was to be disabled for life, Tyrkanzyaka didn’t mind. She intended on being responsible for him. The warden was her benefactor, and her heart’s revival didn’t diminish her ever-enduring patience.
“If I recall… the cafeteria was near the classroom on the 4th floor.”
As Tyrkanzyaka drove her coffin along, she briefly frowned. Typically, the coffin should have seamlessly moved the moment she willed it as if an extension of her body. But after her heart started beating again, she encountered a subtle resistance when exerting control over things beyond her physical form.
It wasn’t that controlling objects became difficult, but rather that she felt a slight additional weight. In a figurative sense, it was akin to the disparity between moving your hand and moving a bag you’re holding.
“Perhaps the return of my heart is affecting me. My bloodcraft does not respond as I desire.”
The imperial juniper coffin had accompanied her for nearly a thousand years. It had been Tyrkanzyaka’s bed, her sanctuary, a part of her even, yet now it acted unyielding like a child who had become independent. That brought her a tinge of disappointment.
But even such feelings faded for the moment when she felt the thumping in her chest and the warmth of the man seated with her.
“Yes. I suppose it is only fair to lose some upon gaining some.”
When you try to obtain everything in the world, you might overlook and lose the small, precious things that should never be lost. Tyrkanzyaka decided to deem that drawback as the price for attaining emotions.
The coffin, carrying the two, floated smoothly in the air. They reached the 4th floor in no time, quickly arriving at the cafeteria.
In a corner, an obligatory set of a simple dining table and four chairs were arranged. A large bucket and about five smaller pots were neatly displayed on a shelf, organized by size. The place, though small, was meticulously organized, exuding a sense of well-maintained living.
Tyrkanzyaka took in the cafeteria, murmuring.
“It is my first time coming to the cafeteria… Then again, I had no need to.”
A vampire only consumed blood, which was why Tyrkanzyaka never visited the cafeteria until now. The blood spilled by others was her sustenance. Although this remained unchanged, she had another mouth to feed now.
Tykanzyaka helped the warden onto a chair before searching around her.
“Food before everything else, as they say. Let us get you something to eat first. You must be ravenous after starving for three days.”
Then, as Tyrkanzyaka prepared to cook, she suddenly realized her complete unfamiliarity with culinary arts. Her body didn’t require food, after all. She couldn’t possibly recall the cooking she had done 1200 years ago. All she recalled was the basic understanding that boiling ingredients would typically yield a stew.
“…I better find the ingredients first.”
Tyrkanzyaka scanned the cafeteria and noticed a tall cupboard. She managed to open it, standing on tiptoes, but she was only tall enough to barely glimpse the lowest shelf, which only contained tableware such as cups and plates.
Tyrkanzyaka made herself levitate toward the higher shelves. On the middle shelf, various leftover oils and ingredients were stored meticulously. She made note of this as she cast her gaze upward.
But when her eyes reached the topmost shelf, she found a small golem, tied up and wriggling.
The golem’s posture was odd. In fact, it felt more than just odd—it exuded a sense of spite and mischief.
The golem sat firmly planted on its buttocks with its legs spread wide at a 180-degree angle as if harboring dreams of becoming an organic being. It looked as if it was doing yoga.
But upon closer inspection, it became clear that it wasn’t acting of its own accord. Its ankles were tightly entwined with wire, rendering any attempts at folding or bending impossible. A loudspeaker, detached from its mouth, lay all by itself just beyond the golem’s grasp.
The bound golem stretched its arm in a desperate attempt to reclaim the speaker but fell short. Whoever designed this situation had calculated the distance flawlessly. The maddening posture was something between torment and mischief.
Tyrkanzyaka watched the golem’s struggles, murmuring to herself.
“Is that not the toy golem I saw previously?”
Noticing her gaze, the golem began to shake its arms frantically. It couldn’t make any sound due to the detached speaker, but anyone could tell it was a call for rescue.
“You want to be released?”
The golem made up for the lack of voice with fervent nodding.
Tyrkanzyaka untied the wire that bound the golem. Slowly and cautiously, the golem closed its splayed legs. Then it gripped its thighs with both hands and rolled around for a moment, appearing to be writhing in pain.
Before long, the golem stood up again and fixed the speaker back to its mouth. The reattached speaker emitted a faint and intermittent voice, as if malfunctioning.
『That damn… XX dared to defy authority in the end…! This is treason…!』
The speaker crackled with a mix of words and profanity. Then once it finally calmed down, the golem let out a small cough and turned to face Tyrkanzyaka.
『…Thank you for your cooperation, Progenitor Tyrkanzyaka. I apologize for my impudence, but I must request your continued assistance.』
Tyrkanzyaka casually offered a suggestion.
“I happen to have something to ask myself. First, I shall listen to your request. Let us hold an exchange.”
『I will only answer within my authority.』
“That is for granted. I, too, will remain silent on troubling questions. How can we share secrets? And even if we do, how can we discern truth from lies?”
『My statement was foolish. I accept your proposal. Then allow me to begin.』
The golem tightened its fist and lifted its head. Despite its rigid form lacking any discernible emotions, Tyrkanzyaka somehow sensed a smoldering anger brewing within it.
After a while, the golem spoke sharply.
『Where is he?』
Tyrkanzyaka could only think of one person the golem could be referring to. She understood immediately and hesitated in her response.
“If you are referring to the warden you sent, mm. Well, I… encountered a slight issue.”
『Is it something you cannot answer?』
“Not necessarily. He is here, for starters. However…”
Tyrkanzyaka could explain the situation without going into the details, excluding how the warden lost his memories while trying to restore her lost heart. But wouldn’t that be too irresponsible?
The man was a warden. Considering his limitless abilities, he had to have been a valuable asset entrusted with the future of the Military State. By sabotaging someone of his caliber, Tyrkanzyaka had inflicted substantial harm upon the State.
Reflecting on this, she realized the extent of the trouble she had caused for many. A renewed sense of guilt washed over her.
“I have much to speak of. May I have a moment to talk with a representative of your Military State?”
Feeling the need to make amends, Tyrkanzyaka requested a representative to negotiate with the State, if only to take custody of the warden.
『Did that troublemaker do something?』
Tyrkanzyaka blinked in surprise at the golem’s unexpected response.
『Affirmative! That troublemaker who restrained this unit!』
The golem replied in a higher voice than usual. Perhaps it was thanks to her restored ability to sense emotions, but Tyrkanzyaka found herself more adept at perceiving the emotions conveyed in the voice.
Intrigued by this newfound sensation, she concentrated on the golem’s words.
『I am duty-bound to observe the occurrences within Tantalus! Yet he, a mere prison laborer, has impeded my mission! His actions constitute an interference with official duties in a level 5 security facility which, depending on the severity, may be considered a level 4 offense at the least! Moreover, he has already committed a crime in the past and was sentenced to labor, so there will be no leniency this time!!』
The warden restrained the golem and fled, obstructing official duties. He had already committed a previous offense? Did this imply he was viewed unfavorably by the Military State?
But despite the questions in her mind, Tyrkanzyaka found herself unintentionally defending the warden.
“Do not be too angry. A ruler must respect their commanders’ judgment. There must have been a deeper meaning to his actions.”
『I can assert that there was no such thing. This is not even a war zone, to begin with, and he is not even a commander!』
“Was he not sent here by your country, as the lord of this territory? A territorial knight should be worthy of being called a commander…”
『Negative! He is no knight, let alone a butler! In reality, he is even lower than a slave!』
Tyrkanzyaka found it unjust to treat someone loyal to the country as a slave. Unable to believe the golem’s audacity in treating the warden that way, she vehemently expressed outrage, fueled by a mix of anger and admonition.
『Because that man— though he hid it from you and others!— is in fact a criminal who was sentenced to labor in Tantalus!』
Or at least, she would have, if not for the golem’s unexpected revelation.