Chapter 20 – Then the Culprit Would Be In Here
In the abyss, it wasn’t the setting sun that signified nightfall but the flickering daylights.
Whenever the State-standard clock hit 6 o’clock, the artificial lights that tried to imitate the sun glowed red, trying to mimic sundown.
Imitations were limited by the very form of the original.
From top to bottom, the rays from the daylights faded down, mimicking the setting sun.
Then, the nightlights that were scattered around the abyss would faintly glow, lighting up the inner sides of the buildings.
Copies unavoidably differed from the original; the nightlights were lacking in comparison to the real night sky.
Instead of a navy sky dimly lit by the scattered light, the abyss was lit by weak lights.
It was an unsettling light that created a shade in the dark; not a nice shine of moonlight and starlight through a fog.
It really didn’t compare to the real sunlight that would cover the world with grace.
As the daylights turned off, the corridor’s light levels dropped.
Now, the mirror that I set up on the door frame only reflected the darkness outside.
Also, the light in my room had gone out, so I couldn’t continue working.
I stopped my work and got up from my desk.
On the desk was a deck of 52 cards.
The cards were made all day with the alchemic gold that I had received from the regressor.
‘I am a magician.
An alchemist who uses cards and pushovers to create money.
A deck of cards is my weapon.’
I swiped the desk with one hand.
The 52 cards that were scattered across came tidily into my hand in one fell swoop.
The square, strong and flexible.
The familiar feeling greeted me.
I cut the face-down deck in half and proceeded to shuffle it.
The flexible and compliant cards knit nicely together.
I shuffled, flipped, twisted, then shuffled again.
I placed the well-shuffled deck onto the table.
“Ace of diamonds.”
I flipped the top card over.
It was the ace of diamonds.
It was to be expected.
I shuffled it that way.
It had been a while since I had touched a deck of cards, but my skills were as sharp as ever.
They had just been waiting to be revealed again.
I nonchalantly picked up the ace of diamonds.
The single sharp, red shape displayed itself on one side of the card as if it were claiming it for itself.
I pinched the card between my middle finger and thumb then flicked it over.
As soon as I opened my hands, the ace of diamonds was nowhere to be seen.
The card’s quality and condition were pretty good.
I took a deep breath and steeled my heart.
Shall we go?”
‘I would like it if it really was Azzy who stole the food.
But if it wasn’t… To be able to run away, I must carry at least one weapon of choice.’
I carefully opened the door so as to not make a sound.
The corridor that was enveloped by darkness seemed to absorb even sound.
In the day, even if it was quiet, there was a vibrant atmosphere.
However, it was dark and quiet at the moment, fitting of the name Tantalus.
I walked through the deeply long corridor.
I felt that I shouldn’t make any sound with any footsteps, so I unconsciously tiptoed across.
It didn’t take long to reach the cafeteria.
I focused my mind to see if there were any minds present there.
‘I can’t sense even the slightest thoughts.
It at least means that no one who’s thinking is in there.’
Well, we’ll have to see if there’s a thoughtless man or not a man at all in there.
I stealthily went into the corner of the cafeteria and grabbed a seat.
‘I just need to wait here and jump at Azzy once she tries to eat out of the pot.
Or run away if a ghost appears.’
Hunting was the art of waiting in the first place.
Even the most glorious hunters were formed by their endurance in patience.
I held my breath and stared in focus at the direction of the pot.
A long and boring time passed when my focus was faltering and I was bobbing my head, about to fall asleep.
‘I wonder how long it’s been.’
I felt a presence outside.
‘You fell for it.
See? I told you, it’s an intruder.
What are you on about, “someone being on the inside”.
I won’t ever believe such a baseless conspiracy theory.’
I tensed up, waiting for the perfect opportunity where the prey would be caught in the trap.
As soon as they put their hand on the pot, they would be stuck between a rock and a hard place.
‘When that happens, I’ll get out there swiftly and catch this thief.’
The silhouette that came into the cafeteria scanned the area with glowing yellow eyes and spoke.
“What are you doing over there?”
They came towards me.
Just because I can read minds doesn’t make me the master of hiding.
I got up from my seat and pointed at the regressor.
“So it was you.
I had expected this outcome.”
“If you were that curious, you could have just asked for a bite.
Did you really have to sneak in here in the middle of the night to do that? Because of your deviation, distrust has spread across us! Distrust is the evil that undermines society.
It is like the rust between gears that creates screeching sounds—a distraction, an obstacle! Do you realize the gravity of the deed you have committed?”
“Seriously, what are you talking about?”
The regressor ignored me and turned away.
“If you have nothing to do, at least be quiet.”
“You smelt it, you dealt it.
How can you feign ignorance after shitting all over this place?!”
“What kind of vulgar talk is that?!”
The regressor looked at me with a gasp after reflexively refuting me.
“Do you seriously think that I came here to steal some food?”
“Just a bit ago, yes.”
“In that case—Wait, no! Just a bit ago? You really saw me as your equal?!”
‘Yes, you’re my equal.
We are trapped here together.’
I was reading her mind.
Unfortunately, the regressor wasn’t here to steal the food.
She had come back to the cafeteria at night to check out the presence that was bothering her, which was here when she left before.
I scratched my head and talked to her.
“Then is there really some kind of hidden being in here?”
We can’t be sure, but it doesn’t hurt to find out.”
I picked up my belongings.
When I got up from my seat, I looked at the regressor and nodded.
“I hope you do well.”
“…Where are you going?”
“I’m scared, so I’m gonna run.”
The regressor looked at me with a stupefied face before asking.
“What happened to ‘I’m an instructor of the State with the responsibility of looking after the trainees’?”
“‘Trainees’ doesn’t include ghosts.”
“What about me? Are you going to leave me alone when I’m going to investigate the prison?”
“Who told you to investigate? And are you going to stop if I ask you to? What does it matter for me to tell you off if you’re going to do it anyway?”
「He still talks in an irritating way.
And is he being real? No, there’s no way.
He’s surely got to be planning something.」
‘I’m not planning anything.
If there really is a ghost, I can’t read its mind.
Therefore, I can’t do anything.
I’m less than an insect against inhuman beings.’
I walked towards the cafeteria door without looking back.
“Now, I’ll be going.
Don’t forget the ex post facto reports.
And if possible, please submit a report according to the sample one.”
“Then why don’t you just wait and see?”
“Sorry, but it’s lights out, so I should go to bed.”
“Stop your nonsense and watch from there.”
「That face of vigilance on a powerful man who could deflect my blade… Is there really something that strong hiding here? Or is he trying to throw off my caution? Whatever the reason, let’s try going against it.
Not that I’m… scared or anything, but just in case, let's leave him in the rear.」
Fear is contagious, so when I showed how scared I was to the regressor, her alertness went up just as much.
So much as to think of leaving me in the rear in this situation.
The regressor paused her thoughts and started concocting excuses.
“There could be an intruder in there, feeding off us like a parasite.
Then the responsibility of eliminating them is on you since managing the prison is your responsibility.
You should be watching out as well.”
If you confirm that it is an intruder, please do submit an after report.
Until then, I’ll be in my room.”
‘Go break a leg.
I’ll be going now.’
However, just as I was about to walk out the door…
「Hey! I told you to stay! Tsk, let’s just throw Chun-aeng at him for now!」
I spun my body around, walked back into the cafeteria, then stuck closely behind her.
The regressor was grossed out by my sudden change in behavior.
“What are you doing?”
‘I can’t say that I was scared she was going to persuade me by force.
And to be honest, if there really is an intruder like she said.
Wouldn’t it be far safer to be with her than to be by myself? Currently, Azzy is mad at me, and the vampire wouldn’t care because she’s a ghost herself.
If I exclude the regressor now, the only one left to defend me is myself.’
Even if she is quite untrustworthy.
“Now, take the lead.
You’re going to go and defeat the ghost! We can’t let a mere ghost harass us!”
「But… it is reassuring to have someone behind me.
Even though it’s a problem how the person behind me is that man…」
The regressor let me stand behind her as she scanned the area with her glowing yellow eyes.
The third of the Seven Colored Eyes, Golden Eyes.
The Fiery Golden Eyes that let you see the unseen.
You really wouldn’t be scared of something like a ghost if you had those eyes.
What can I do? Nothing.
Except having some popcorn while watching.
‘Ah, you want moral support or something?’
“You can do it! Ghosts are just clumps of mana that are left behind after death! Don’t be scared.
Let’s go on! Trainee Shei, your sword can surely cut even ghosts!”
“…Can you be quiet? I can’t hear anything because of you.”
“You’re only using those glowy eyes right now.
Just concentrate on sight.”
“I’m also listening.”
The regressor thoroughly went around the cafeteria.
She even checked the storage unit on the shelf that was a bit deeper into the cafeteria.
Then, she tilted her head, confusion on her face.
“I don’t see anything.”
What? See, there really was nothing there.”
“That can’t be right.
My gut feelings are usually correct.”
‘Your gut feelings don’t seem too trustworthy.
After all, it couldn’t see through my bluff.’
Anyway, I couldn’t say anything because it was that gut feeling that kept me alive.
“If you can’t see anything with those shiny eyes, then there surely is nothing.”
“Just give up.
There’s nowhere to hide in this tiny cafeteria.
There’s only a table for two and a storage unit the size of a small box.
Where are you going to look next? It might be different if they could pass through walls.”
I obviously said it sarcastically, but the regressor took it seriously and started to think.
There’s that place.
The State’s concrete is thick.
If it hid there, I wouldn’t be able to know.”
‘At this rate, the conspiracy theory is turning more into an illness.’
I let out a sigh and waved my finger in front of her.
So what now? You going to break the wall down? That’s destruction of property.”
“I won’t break it down.”
「I’ll only cut it.」
The regressor lifted her head, raised her finger, and poked her eye with it.
One of the primary color eyes from the Seven Colored Eyes, Jade Eyes.
The eye that emitted an ominous green light could see through objects.
Although, seeing through metals—especially lead—was much harder.
‘Harder to see through’ meant it would take up a fair bit of space in a section of her vision.
Which meant that she could use it to easily find metals underground.
I used my mind reading ability to take a look through her eyes.
I could see in black and white.
It was dark and light, as if the world was made up of thin strings that overlapped each other multiple times.
The penetrative sight could see through to the inside of objects, and when the regressor’s vision was on me, I could see the white bone in my body.
Having my naked body exposed would be embarrassing, but once the skin is off, there is no sense of shame.
It’s quite strange.
The regressor’s sight moved towards the wall.
The concrete wall looked like a white straw board, and the steel frame inside it stood out, looking like a net.
The regressor carefully searched the wall then found something.
In a section of the wall, there was a small doll-like silhouette.
It almost looked like someone had accidentally left a doll in the wall while constructing it.
However, the identity of the doll was…
Still some left, are there?”
…A magic golem of the State.
A smaller model.
The regressor stretched her hand behind her head and grabbed Chun-aeng.
At that moment, the blade was already drawn.
The rapid true strike cut a thin slice off the wall in a flash.
The concrete that was cut like a bark from an old tree unravelled like a scroll, covered in dust from top to bottom.
A gap appeared.
The regressor pulled the skewered magic golem as it was.
The golem’s body twitched.
[This individual is strongly requesting that you stop your destructive actions.]
A dull and monotone voice flowed out of the golem.
It was the same voice as the one I heard when I first landed in Tantalus.
Captain Avey was it? The Radioman of the State.
An emotionless trumpet blower of the State.
The regressor scoffed at the request.
“Should have requested that before keeping a watch on me while hiding like a rat.”
[Taking into consideration your destructive and sensitive personality, I concluded that this individual would have already been destroyed even if it had revealed itself first.
That conclusion is still valid.
Another thing, when this individual sensed that you were near, it stopped all functions.
You could conclude that you were not being watched.]
Your decisions and requests are all right.
Just as expected from the State.
In saying that…”
The regressor raised her blade again.
A spark shot out of its end.
Then, a part of the golem’s circuit burned, and it made static noises, as if it were screaming.
“I’m going to destroy you now.
Hiding in the wall was kind of clever.”
[Stop your destructive action immediately.
Cease of communications lead to a lack of efficiency.]
It’s in a hurry.
The golem must be nearing its end.
Well, it wouldn’t matter if there were more.
I’ll just go investigate every wall here with Jade Eyes.”
The regressor seemed awfully joyful for once as she toyed with the golem.
‘So I couldn’t read its mind because it was a golem. Phew. That's a relief.
It was a golem, not a ghost.
There’s nothing as uneasing as a ghost when it comes to not being able to read minds, but the regressor’s here to destroy them for me, so there’s no problem.
I should just keep watching.’
At that moment…
[I repeat my request.
Stop your destructive action immediately.
Because of your actions, communications—which include supplies and other related matters—won’t be possible.
I repeat my request…]
That word triggered my thoughts.
‘While being trapped here, there’s going to be an end to our resources.
If Azzy keeps eating away mindlessly, we’ll run out of food in no time.
The regressor doesn’t need anything with all her treasures, but I, on the other hand, need supplies… Now that I think about it, we can’t afford to destroy this golem!’
I hurriedly went behind the regressor.
That’s a word I despise, but I could do it as many times as I want.”
The regressor didn’t notice me approaching her and continued to be absorbed in her joy in tormenting the golem.
“Me destroying this golem won’t do anything to your real body.
But the State becomes slightly inconvenienced.
That’s all I need.”
Hostile actions will—]
At the flick of Chun-aeng, the golem flew into the air.
The regressor retrieved her blade and prepared to obliterate the doll.
She was in a preemptive stance, full of potential energy.
I approached her from her blind spot, afraid of getting stabbed, and reached out my hand.
“Wait! Stop for a second!”
It was then that my hand touched the regressor’s shoulder.
I could see something jump in the corner of my eye.
I felt a sudden push that I couldn’t react to.
Something large was coming at me.
No, it’s the opposite.
The world was turning around me and my vision along with it.
It wasn’t anything else jumping, but me.
‘Huh? A counter? A counter that doesn’t need cognitive action, but one that is automatic?’
As I had read that, my body was already heading towards the ground.
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