Chapter 9 – It’s Harder to Unteach Things than to Teach Them
No light made it down to the depths of the abyss.
The deepest land, cursed by Mother Earth herself.
In the land of only darkness, the only thing that alerted one of the arrival of morning was the rattling sound of the alarm.
Instead of the warm morning rays, earsplitting ringing would force one up.
The deep blue sky, with clouds floating around like ships in the sea with warm sunshine and a refreshing breeze, were all a given on the surface.
On the other hand, all the abyss had was an angular building—that isn’t quite a square—surrounded by concrete rubble and adorned with artificial lights; a poor attempt at replicating the sun.
Creations of nature offered warmth and satisfaction, while artificial creations scratched at one’s mood.
Man-made objects were the waste products of a man’s body.
They kept the best things within and expelled what was deemed disgusting.
Maybe that was why man despised artificial sceneries despite needing to live amongst other men.
Is there no way to turn down the volume on that alarm?”
Massaging my sore shoulder, I got up from the bed.
My body, having been extorted by the Dog King for two days, screamed in refusal.
But if I let that dreadful sound continue, it would surely sap away any strength I had left.
That type of noise actively damaged the body.
All alarm clocks designed by the Military State were meant to be attached to walls.
It ensured that one needed to get up from bed to turn it off.
How befitting of a country that had no tolerance for laziness.
I made my way over to grab a chair, using it to reach the gears of the alarm clock to input the correct combination.
One counterclockwise turn, four clockwise turns, and two counterclockwise turns.
With a chirp akin to that of a cricket, the alarm’s ringing became faint.
I didn’t exactly want to go back to sleep after that ordeal, so I began brushing my hair and pacing my room.
The alarm works, alright.
The room was small, but it had everything I needed.
To put it nicely, it was efficiently designed.
In reality, it meant they shoved too much into too small of a space.
I could reach the closet with my left hand and touch the sink on the other side with my right.
The tap water could be used for drinking or washing, but the allotted amount per day was insufficient for both.
Nevertheless, the room next door was empty.
There would be water in the other rooms too.
Planning to use the other rooms to shower, I gulped the water down.
A tiny room smaller than an arm span.
Being designed for workers and prisoners, Tantalus was cramped and had limited space.
The sturdy concrete walls only made it worse.
Fortunately, the mass prison break meant there were plenty of rooms to go around.
“Let’s bust down the wall and connect two rooms.”
What were the conditions for a nice place to live?
It wasn’t much.
A place with sufficient resources and not many people.
The reason large houses were expensive was because those neighborhoods had a lower population density.
Surprisingly, Tantalus… currently fulfilled all the conditions to constitute a great place to live in.
‘I’ll knock down those nasty walls and live like a king with five connected rooms.
Five times the normal amount of water.
With that, I could take a bath every day.
Actually, I could just go to the water tank itself and take a dip there.
It’s a lifestyle befitting an emperor!’
With an evil smirk, I left the room.
Slamming my lockless door shut, I was in the middle of planning my happy life.
Then, a familiar shadow appeared at the far end of the corridor.
…Why is that thing here?
Azzy zoomed through the corridor and began circling around me, sniffing to verify my identity.
I felt as if she was ready to hunt her prey.
In fear, I shook my head as hard as I could.
“A-Azzy! No, I can’t.
At this rate—”
“Woof! I’m hungry!”
Hearing those words, I let out a sigh of relief.
“What? This is the food storage?”
In order to survive, one needed to eat.
One needed to consume food and digest it in their stomach, breaking the food down into calories necessary to live.
It was a law of nature so obvious that it didn’t need to be explained.
And the State, who was extremely resourceful in their methods, was willing to manipulate such a basic right to life.
Tantalus, the mental education facility, was not a place meant to keep people alive.
It was meant to kill.
It was a home for those that the State couldn’t kill themselves or would require too many resources to execute.
As if dumping leftovers into the compost bin, Tantalus was the place where the State tossed everyone they couldn’t handle.
And the easiest way to whittle down people in an isolated environment was a method akin to those used by military strategists during war.
We’re almost out of canned food too…”
There was still some food left.
Obviously, some prisoners like Tyrkanzyaka didn’t require sustenance, and just letting the immortal ones survive was not what the State wanted.
“Even so, a prison this big has a food storage unit that’s only a square meter big? It’s actually disgusting how openly they’re willing to do things like this.”
They made sure that it was impossible to ‘preserve’ food.
It was meant to cause fear and obedience among the prisoners, who would need to wait day to day for supplies to be sent down.
So that they would fight amongst each other to claim more resources.
“They probably only provided the bare minimum to survive.
They’d need to kill each other for more.”
However, as I said earlier, Tantalus was a place with little people and sufficient resources.
While the storage was puny for a facility of this size, there were currently only four residents in Tantalus.
The vampire wouldn’t need to eat, and I could feed the dog our scraps.
I only needed to worry about the regressor and myself.
There was plenty of food for two.
Especially since this was the abyss—which was free of things like bugs or fungus to ruin the food—where we didn’t need to worry about anything going bad.
You’re going to have to eat less.”
“Wowow?! Arf! Arf!”
I mean, people come before dogs.
Three cans of meat.
Twenty-three cans of beans.
Some starch and flour… It’d be boring meals, but enough to live off of.
They’d also probably send some supplies.
Considering that, I could eat plenty.
“I need to meet the vampire today, so I should eat a filling meal.”
On the first day, I just ate whatever.
But since I needed to stay here for a while, I needed to formulate a diet.
‘Let’s get something cooking.’
I opened a can of dehydrated beans and spooned it out into a pot.
“Azzy, do you like beans?”
“Woof! Beans, good!”
“Is there anything you don’t like?”
When I turned the tap on, water gushed out.
The kitchen only had one flame, but the sink still worked fine.
I put the dry beans in water and let them soak.
The dried beans sucked up the water in seconds.
In the manufacturing process, the beans had already been cooked with vegetables.
Just boiling it would’ve made decent baked beans, but I wanted something more.
I made dough from the flour, stretched it out, and covered it with a plate before leaving it so I could continue working on the beans.
“Woof! Woof! Woof!”
Azzy skittered around the pot, excited at the expanding beans.
It was an amount I didn’t expect to come out from such a small can.
The change in volume was as big as having planted and harvested an entire can’s worth of bean seeds.
“Woof! It grew! More tasty things!”
“Yes, yes, the food grows.”
The State sucked at many things, but they were amazing at making rations.
They put a few days’ worth of beans into this tiny can.
It was because they were always focused on war.
Condiments were items of vanity.
Prisons obviously lacked them.
We had some salt and some dried cabbage.
The State had even considered removing vegetables from prisons at one point due to their large volume compared to their meager calories.
I washed the cabbage and put it down.
Azzy grimaced as she saw the greens.
“I hate plants!”
“I wasn’t even going to give you any.
‘Alright, let’s start cooking.’
After seasoning the beans with salt, I put the cabbage into the pot as well.
Meanwhile, I put the dough from earlier into the stovetop oven.
While the stew boiled, I started adding some starch.
The vegetables and water slowly turned into something more edible.
Now all that was left was to wait.
As I watched the stew boil, I kept hearing restless twitching near me.
Azzy, who lacked several times more patience than me, was chasing her wagging tail around.
She was kicking up all kinds of dust and fur.
I frowned as I chastised her.
You’re getting fur everywhere.
Go do that outside.”
“Even if you’re hungry, we’re going to end up having to eat your fur at this rate.”
She had a human form, so only her head and tail had hair.
So where was all this fur even shedding from?
Azzy paused for a second, but then she began messing around again out of boredom.
She was ready to smash her mouth into the pot, unable to withstand the delicious smell.
“Food food food food food food!”
She’s eyeing me with a strange look now.
If I waited any longer, I was going to be the one eaten.
I quickly grabbed a spatula, and began stirring the stew.
Mashed beans and pieces of veggies gathered in the middle of the swirling pot.
It was the scraps created in the production of the canned beans.
I gathered all the scraps and dished it out to Azzy in the empty can.
Then, I took out the bell from my pocket and rang it.
Azzy seemed to understand what the bell meant now.
Her eyes sparkled as she tensed up in anticipation.
I could see her lips glistening from her saliva.
I put the can of scraps on the ground in front of her.
She immediately bent down and ate it.
I looked at her with a soft smile as she ate.
I love dogs.
They can eat whatever waste humans don’t want to eat.
Feeling better, I continued to finish cooking while humming a tune.
The soup had gained a slightly sweet taste.
The starch stuck to my tongue, giving me a sense of satisfaction even before I swallowed.
Now, it was time to eat.
I wiped the dusty table and rested the pot on it.
I also brought out the almost-bread from the oven.
It was just canned beans and some flour, but it made a nice meal.
Maybe I should get into the mood.
I sat up straight at the table, closed my eyes, and gave a prayer to Mother Earth.
‘Thank you for my daily sustenance, and I pray that you look out for me even in this barren land.
Now, let’s dig in.’
When I opened my eyes again, I saw a dog sitting up straight at the table.
“Hey, Azzy! Get down! What are you doing on the table?”
She demanded more food, waving her arm.
Didn’t I give her food already? I took a glance at the floor and saw that she had eaten it all.
This selfish dog was eyeing my food after having already eaten hers.
Bad habits go far.
Now she thinks she’s above humans.
I sternly told her off.
“Get down while I’m saying it nicely.
This is a table where people eat.”
When her paw slammed the solid table, everything flew about three centimeters in the air.
I could see the cooked beans enjoying their time in the air.
The falling pot and cutlery made a peculiar tune as they fell back onto the table.
It was like an orchestra, except only with percussion.
Behind it, a dog was licking her lips, staring straight at me.
With a trembling hand, I picked up the can on the ground.
She had licked it so clean that it looked almost new.
Using it as a dish, I poured some of the soup into the—
…Using it as a dish, I poured a plentiful serving of beans and soup into the can.
After shaking the bell again, I pushed the can in front of her.
Azzy immediately pushed her face into the can and started gobbling down.
“Woof! Tasty! Beans are good!”
This is the last time.
Don’t expect more next time.”
Dogs are terrible animals.
They eat what people eat, freeloading off of humans like the idiotic parasitic furballs they are.
She thinks she’s superior to humans? I’ll show her.
She may be the Dog King, but that means she’s just a dog.
One day, sometime, somewhere, when I finally train you, I’ll make sure you don’t step out of place again.
I’ll demonstrate why humans are at the top of the pyramid.
…Man, these beans taste meh.
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