༺ Contingency ༻
“Azzy, let’s eat!”
A suffocating silence followed. The regressor and Tyr both stared in response to my sudden cry.
Like a flipped coin, my repressed ego hiding on the other side emerged. It was as if the dying embers of a candle burst into flames, illuminating the world with brilliance and granting me an objective view from above.
Regaining my mind, I exclaimed in relief while smoothing my chest.
“Woaah! That was close! I almost died just like that!”
I felt as if I’d been swept away by a river, carried downstream, only to barely make it back to the bank. I was engulfed by a wave of exhaustion, as if drenched in water.
Dammit. I was only trying to read a little, but I let my guard down in the last moments and delved too deep. I was swept away by the vampire’s memories and nearly lost myself.
Phew. Good thing I had insurance. All that dedicated boozing and smoking paid off. Who knows what would’ve happened otherwise…
Huh? What’s this? The cigar’s all burned out though?
“By the way, what exactly brought my senses back?”
Tyr, gazing at me emotionally, rang the bell once again in response. Dingle-dingle, it went. It was the chime bell I used when feeding Azzy. A kind of psychological trap I devised to better “utilize” the Dog King.
Upon hearing that chime, a stifling feeling rose within me and I called Azzy despite myself, as if it were necessary for some reason.
Coincidentally, Azzy barged in through the door at that moment. Her eyes sparkled with warmth as she approached, but then her expression turned puzzled as she looked around.
“Woof? The food?”
Oh, so that means… instead of the magic herbs I couldn’t smoke for weeks in prison, it was the bell I rang at every mealtime…
“Woof! Food! Woof? Food? … Food, where?”
“Sorry, there actually isn’t any. I just played a prank out of boredom.”
“What’s that? You don’t mind much? You really do like me, don’t you?”
“Not anymore! You smell!”
I reached out to pet Azzy, but she wrinkled her face after sniffing my hand and left. I scratched my head instead, contemplating quietly.
“Since it’s useless now, maybe I should quit smoking while I’ve stopped.”
Anyway. There’s more than one way to the mountaintop, as they say. Who cares about the steps taken when the result is good? All that hard living turned out to be worth it. If I hadn’t rung that bell daily to tame Azzy, I would’ve remained senseless and continued to behave like a girl from twelve centuries ago…
Not that I felt too good about the matter, as it seemed the bell I made to train the dog ended up training me instead.
I sighed, lifting my head. Inside the cramped room, the regressor and Tyr were still staring at me. Their expressions contrasted: Tyr was purely delighted, whereas the regressor was solely focused on resolving her lingering questions.
“Alright, everyone. Thank you so much for taking care of me while I was unconscious…”
With one hand on my chest and the other arm outstretched, I mimicked a graceful bow… then abruptly snapped my head up to yell at them.
“… Not! Did you really think that’s what I was gonna say?!”
I took the preemptive strike, just in case they wanted to start pointing fingers.
Perspective drawing applies to the human heart too. People often prioritize recent small acts of kindness, overshadowing the significance of past favors they’ve received. Of course, this tendency to easily forget what has been received compared to what has been given away partially comes from human selfishness.
But that ain’t gonna work on me. Back in my days as a fixer, I even did some debt collection. Be it financial loans or emotional debt, I’ll make sure to reclaim every bit that’s owed.
“I ended up in that state trying to gift Tyr a heart. It was a sacrifice for all of you! And since I fell ill as a consequence, it’s only natural that you take care of me! It’s common sense, I tell you! It’s like providing meals to workers when employing them, a necessary expense! Remember that!”
“But of course. How could I forget? I will always remember the tremendous sacrifice you made for my sake.”
Tyr immediately nodded in response, leaving me speechless.
… Huh. Why’s she so compliant? Even Buddha would throw a punch after hearing the crap I said. That’s the normal reaction.
“Worry not. Though you have regained your mind, I will always protect you with my entire being.”
“What? Uh, actually, there’s no need to go that far.”
“It is all right. What I can offer you is as light as a feather compared to what you gave me.”
… Something was a little off. My heart felt, hm, slightly heavier than I expected. To the point I was almost scared to say more.
I had a hunch that continuing this subject would lead to awkwardness, so I steered clear of it.
“Oh and by the way, nobody did anything unusual while I was unconscious, did they?”
Tyr was intensely startled and whipped her head away, while the regressor snorted.
Both of their reactions were somewhat peculiar. In the regressor’s case, I could guess that she attempted a thorough investigation while I was senseless. That was honestly within my expectations. But what on earth did Tyr do?
As I fixed a piercing gaze on her, Tyr hesitated briefly before pointing at the regressor and confessing.
“Shei, Shei interrogated you.”
The regressor’s eyes went round as she was snitched on right before her eyes.
“Wha? Tyrkanzyaka? You were involved too!”
“I wanted nothing to do with it. I even stopped the interrogation before it went further.”
What the devil did they do? I wanted to read their minds, but my head was still too muddled to employ mind reading. I needed a few more minutes to get a proper read. Yet, my suspicions didn’t subside. What on earth had Tyr done to go so far as to snitch on the regressor…?
Deciding to leave that question for later, I glared at the regressor, who had been proven guilty.
“Trainee Shei, do you not fear the heavens? You’ve read the note yet you blatantly disregarded it? Do you have no respect for the value of a promise?!”
“Says the guy who wrote a hidden message…”
“Are you new to the Military State or something? Even if you were deceived, since you nodded, you had a basic obligation to follow through! Remember to read the fine print! And also!”
I decided words alone wouldn’t suffice. To demonstrate the depth of my dissatisfaction, I slammed the bed with all my strength, unintentionally making Tyr jump as she was sitting beside me. Incidentally, the bed was hard, much like the country that made it.
I rubbed my sore fist against my thigh, continuing to voice my frustration.
“Think about it from my perspective. Imagine how untrustworthy you must’ve been for me to pull that off! Let’s be frank. The hidden message wasn’t a big deal! Is it really that tough to not mess with someone who’s mentally vulnerable?! I even added some fun and emphasis, worried you’d brush off that little favor, yet you ignored it with such contempt!”
Everything I said was justified. She was still suspected of trying to dig out information when I was at my weakest.
The regressor furtively admitted my words.
“…Fine. I was hasty, I’ll give you that. But I doubt you have the right to say anything yourself.”
The regressor looked self-assured despite being in the wrong, which confused me. She was triumphant, as if she had grasped a weakness of mine.
“Your name, it’s Hughes. Am I right?”
“Eh? That’s my registered name. How did you know?”
The heck? Did she manage to uncover my name while I was mindless?
In response to my question, the regressor narrowed her eyes and continued in a murmur.
“Level 0 citizen, Tantalus laborer, Hughes. Amazing. You had me fooled from the start. Thanks to your unnecessary actions, I ended up going in circles.”
“W-what? But how?!”
Mind reading! Agh. It still hasn’t come back!
I had no choice but to act like an ordinary person for the moment. I raised both arms in protest.
“This, this is an invasion of privacy! It’s a breach of personal information! Who the hell is it? Who revealed my legal name?!”
“It was I.”
A voice suddenly came from outside the door. As I turned my head to look, I noticed a stranger standing there, arms crossed and glaring at me.
It was a woman wearing a service cap commonly seen on State officers, with her hair trimmed short in a sharp military style. Her crisp uniform and the proudly displayed badge on her chest caught my attention.
She spoke with an intimidating demeanor.
“So here you were, laborer.”
She was an officer. One with a uniform at that. Why would an elite officer of the Military State be here? Huh? Did she come as a warden? A war… den? Why is a warden here already?!
The moment I realized her identity, I leaped in shock and pointed at the officer.
“Wooah! Trainee Shei! What are you doing? Quickly, cut off that person’s arm!”
My outcry didn’t quite register with the others. Only the regressor showed realization, scrunching up her face.
The regressor retorted coldly.
“…I didn’t take yours off, so why?”
“Didn’t take mine off?! Get your facts straight! You tried and failed! I want equality of opportunity, not equality of outcome! Let that arm there get an equal chance to detach from its shoulder please!”
“Nope. I’ve lost interest.”
“Hold up. So it was all just for fun and games? You think cutting off people’s arms is a joke?! I’d prefer if you did it with a sense of responsibility and fairness instead!”
Following her apathetic response, the regressor even stepped aside to let the officer enter. Although she did shoot a glance at the latter, she let her pass with no arms cut.
The officer scanned the room upon entering, her eyes darting around. Sensing a desire to find fault in her attitude, I flinched like a frightened student.
“Tantalus is in disarray. Did you abandon it for days on end, perhaps?”
“No, I… I was picking up some lost memories.”
“And yet you have the audacity to point fingers at your overseer, speaking of severing arms.”
As an ordinary man at heart, I found myself unable to retort to the officer’s words and instead cowered. Noticing this, the officer grew more confident. From the faint thoughts I could perceive, she even seemed slightly pleased. It was likely because she was observing the only being weaker than herself.
“This is a summons, laborer. Report to the warden’s office at once.”
A regular citizen couldn’t go against an officer’s command. They held the authority to give orders to the workers in a facility and the power to punish disobedience. Furthermore, she was the warden who had assumed full control over Tantalus. Even if she were to execute me on the spot, no one would be able to blame her in this situation…
So I bowed my head with a mournful expression.
But my lowered head was merely a ruse, a retreat to advance. Laughter escaped through my clenched teeth, and the officer’s expression froze.
“What is so amusing?”
“Hahaha! Do you think I just sat around without any preparations until you came?”
The Military State always maintained reserves, whether for new laborers or wardens. From the moment the golem warned me, I could tell that the Military State was likely seeking someone else to manage this place, besides me… though I didn’t expect an officer to arrive so quickly.
“I made arrangements, knowing this would happen! Go ahead, try touching me! You’ll learn a lesson you won’t forget!”
What nonsense is that? You wouldn’t even flinch if I got angry at you.
I jumped to my feet and pointed to Tyr standing beside me, declaring in a loud voice.
“No! Not me. From Tyr!”
You can rate this series here.
Advаnceԁ chаpterѕ аvailable on gеnеsistlѕ.соm
Illustrations on our discоrd – discоrd.gg/gеnеsistls