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The funeral is held three days later.
There were six whose Mind Circuits were in an irreparable state—in other words, dead. Thirty-eight of them were grievously wounded, their limbs having fallen off, and more than eighty have light wounds. This is the biggest tragedy to befall the village.
The funeral is to be held in the arena at the center of the village, and of the villagers attending the ceremony, most of them are lacking in arms and legs.
“To the six compatriots who have devoted their all to the village, we shall pray for them to be blessed. The funeral shall now begin.”
Cattleya hosts the ceremony, and Götz handles the crowd. It’s the exact same allocation of personnel as the Prayer Festival a month ago, but the atmosphere is completely quiet, the old bustling atmosphere no longer present.
The altar on the stage has the corpses of the deceased. Those attending will take out bits of the corpses’ parts, and move them to the coffin. It’s akin to the ‘bone ash picking’ humans to, and this has been a custom in the village for almost a hundred years. I put the flower medal Gappy gave me before he died into the cinerary (Parts case), along with his parts.
“There’s still one more…?”
Only after the funeral ends, and everyone disperses, do we realize this.
“When did it vanish, it is unknown.”
Götz, who was managing the scene, grimly reports. According to him, there should be six ‘parts cases’, but one of them vanished.
“Someone actually stole a parts case…”
“This is the greatest failure of this Götz…”
Götz’s silver mask contorts, showing a pained look.
“No, this isn’t your fault. Nobody would have expected the parts case to be stolen.”
Till this point, there hasn’t been a crime like a robbery or theft in the village, let alone stealing a parts case.
“You say that there’s one missing. Whose is it?”
He winces harder than before.
I hide this shock inside my heart, trying to act calm.
“Leave the search to me. Please manage the arena, Götz. Keep this a secret from everyone, okay?”
I have an idea.
The only one who would steal Gappy’s parts either has a huge grievance against him, or—
At the part several minutes from the Village Council Hall, there is a girl with soft chestnut-colored hair. She’s at the swing, all alone, holding the parts box in both hands.
“So you’re here.”
I approach the girl, and sit on the swing next to hers. This is the place Gappy stayed at in the middle of the night, trying to look for Daisy.
Daisy lowers her head, “Hm…”, and weakly answers me.
Just like this, both of us remain silent for a while.
Daisy stares into space, blinking from time to time. I watch the white sidelong face of the girl.
This continues on for another five minutes or so.
Daisy moves her soft lips, turning her face halfway towards me.
“He has been looking for me ever since we argued. He kept looking for me every day, trying to make amends with me.”
Daisy finally starts to talk, like a dam that collapsed. I quietly listen to her.
“But, I, ran away. I ran away from Gappy. I couldn’t bring myself to meet his face, so I ran away from him. And then, and then—”
Her voice starts to tremble.
“Gappy, he’s dead…”
I continue to remain silent, just staring at the gloomy sidelong face of the girl, waiting for her next words.
In Daisy’s clutches, a silver cylinder case is glittering. It contains the vivisected parts of Gappy. The body shattered due to frostbite, and shrank to an alarmingly small size, as though it was cremated, able to be contained the grasp of the girl’s arms.
“I know that. I know that, it’s my fault, but I didn’t apologize. So Gappy died. G-Gappy, died, bcause of me…”
A tear appears in the girl’s eyes.
I stand up from the swing, and kneel before the girl. Our eyes meet beyond the parts case. Daisy’s large eyes are filled with a moist glint.
“Gappy finished his mission. Through his will, through his decision, he saved our masters. It’s not your fault. Gappy decided it.”
Daisy remains silent. However, a tear trickles down her cheek silent.
How much distilled sadness is filled in this tear? How much anguish is filled in it? My heart winces as I watch this clumsy girl sob.
And as the third tear lands on the parts case.
“Amaryllis, tell me…how was Gappy when he died?”
I told everything that happened on the day Gappy died. How he came to the ‘REM forest’ to create a Flower medal, how he ended up caught in the collapse, and how he died protecting the ‘Cradle’ of a master.
I take out a little ice fragment from my pocket, and show it to Daisy.
“This is Gappy’s gift to you.”
“Is this, the, flower medal?”
I place the flower medal gently on the parts case. Daisy stares at the fragment.
The girl reaches for the ice fragment, her finger stroking its surface. The pink flower is encased in ice, the petal scattering listlessly like a faded life.
“Gappy’s so amazing…contributing for our masters, even until the very end…”
Again, the tears appear in the girl’s eyes, and they fall upon the medal, flowing down it, and landing on Gappy’s remains.
As she hugs the parts case tightly, Daisy looks at me,
“May I personally bury it…?’
I nod hard “Of course.” And answer.
“Gappy will be happy too.”
The girl raises her head, making sure the tear won’t fall out. The seventh tear is wiped away by the girl’s finger, and doesn’t fall.
The next day.
I put my elbows on the icy table, listlessly recalling all that has appeared the past few days.
One, two, three, four, five…six.
Six died. I can’t count them all with a hand, and I fold up the thumb to indicate a sixth.
It’s not the first time we have seen deceased in the village. In this cruel underground world that’s sealed in ice, the deterioration of robots is rapid, and there is a dire shortage of replaceable parts. Ever since we found that the Snow White spare parts were starting to be depleted, about one or two die every year since we started ‘extracting’.
Never since the ‘end times’ a hundred years ago did we encounter so many deaths at once. All the villagers really get on well with each other, so the entire village is filled with sadness.
And there’s another reason as to why my heart feels so heavy.
—“Gappy’s so amazing…contributing for our masters, even until the very end…”
Daisy’s words echo in unison with Gappy’s.
—“Have, I contributed anything, to masters…”
To serve our masters, to live for them, and to die for them. This is our mission as the villagers, or raison d’etre. Gappy died after he fulfilled his mission. There is nothing to be ashamed of. This might even be the highest honor of them all, to die for this honor.
I can’t help but feel some doubt in my heart. The image of my kind masters, and that footage that seem to paint them completely different.
While I’m still brooding over this.
“Hey, Amaryllis! You hear me…?”
I lift my head, and before me is the blond flirt. He’s shaking my shoulders with a look of shock.
“Ah…” I finally recover. “Ah, sorry. Just thinking about this.”
“You alright? Quick, give me a wakeup kiss…ack.”
I give a good old wake up punch at the face of this shameless flirt, and turn to everyone else. Viscaria, who’s late, arrived before I knew it, so all the members are present.
“Sorry. Then, let’s get started.”
I sit on the chair again, clear my throat, and say,
“We’re holding an emergency meeting. Chief isn’t around, so this Senate meeting will be held by me, the Vice Chief…first, look at this.”
Tok, with my fingers, I tap at the table, and the holographic visual appear without a sound. It’s a combined picture of the Pillar graphs and the contour groups.
“Four days ago, we have an earthquake that really devastated us. Again, I shall offer my respects to the six compatriots who died…and here is the problem.”
I let the graph glow.
“Due to the earthquakes and frostbites over this period, the casualties keep increasing in numbers. The result is that our parts supply is strained to the limit. We have sixteen parts that cannot be changed anymore. We still have replacements, but even that has limits.”
“We’re probably going to see some dead next week.”
Eisbahn chimes in, “Too careless your words are.” Götz chides.
“Now then, as for the countermeasures that can work…”
I show the solutions on the screen.
■ Solving the parts shortage
(1) Cut down on supplies issued.
(2) Extend sleep mode.
(3) Carry out another extraction
“—These are the rough thoughts I have.”
Once done with my explanation, “A question, if I may ask?” Götz raises his hand.
“Personally, I’d say that I have no specific objection…but any of these will require the Chief’s permission, surely?”
Verbally smacked, I nod away.
“That’s true…we can’t make formal decisions without the Chief…”
I look at the table. Normally, the Chief’s head will be rolling around before me, but at this time, the only things are materials for the meeting.
“This is worrying…”
We lost contact with the Chief completely since days before that ‘earthquake’ happened. Even through the emergency contact installed in all the villagers, he hasn’t responded. This is really unprecedented.
“Probably caught in a collapse, trapped somewhere.”
Eisbahn nonchalantly notes.
“But even so, we can at least figure out where he is through the beacon’s signal, right?”
“So that means the beacon is also damaged now, isn’t it?”
“But how is it possible for that hard, sturdy beacon to break that easily…”
The beacon is an installation made convenient to search for people in danger, so of course, it’s very sturdy.
“What do you think, Viscaria?”
The robot most proficient with technology tilts her head, extending her feelers out.
“I can think of another possibility. Some place where electromagnetic waves can’t reach.”
“A place where electromagnetic waves can’t reach? But the entire village’s basically covered, right?”
“Yeah, so it’s a small possibility.”
A certain memory awakens in my mind. A place where electromagnetic waves can’t reach. A place where a beacon can’t respond.
I get up, and raises a possibility.
“The Secret Room!”
After an hour’s ride on the icemobile.
We enter ‘that room’ again.
The high ceiling, the layout that extends far in. When we first entered, we could be said to be amazed, and now that we’re again entering after a month, it just feels so refreshing. We stand before the shelves before us, our eyes staring at the items laid out neatly. The interior decorations are all dazzling, and the room is brimming with a charm more dazzling that the most luxurious library, the poshest museum.
But on the other hand, this place does cause us to recall ‘that footage’. This doubt will never vanish until the data is deleted.
And on the floor tiled with a posh carpet, there is a trail of something moist rolling about. We nod to each other, and follow the trail deep into the house.
At the very end, we arrive at a place with a large monitor. There remains a robot lying on a chair, and also a soft looking sofa, probably a premium seat. The sofa tumbles, and turns towards us.
“—So you came.”
Seated on the sofa is a familiar bearded face—
“Oh, it has been a while!”
Chief turns his head around, and cheerfully greets us,
“Thank goodness, Chief…you’re still alive.”
“Yes, alive and jumping!”
Seeing the Chief look so enthusiastic, I feel relieved for the time being.
“Oh my, you people seem lively too. Hahaha!”
And so, after feeling so relieved, I feel enraged.
“No, sorry, sorry. Hahahahaha!”
“Goodness, you worried us—and you’re laughing!”
I pick up the Chief’s head, and tug at his beard sideways.
“You suddenly disappear, and now you go ‘hahahaha’!? You idiot Chief!”
“Well, don’t be so angry owowowowow, I’m really sorry.”
Chief says with tears in his eyes. Such a punishment should be expected when he made everyone worry.
I tug at the Chief’s face with both hands, and glare at him with fearsome eyes.
“Where were you, and what were you doing!?”
Chief answers with a grimace.
“I’ve been here the entire time.”
“You mean, this ‘secret room’?”
“Well, yes. I have been checking the records of the past, and considering over the future of the village.”
“If that is the case, couldn’t you have discussed it with everyone?”
My anger remains unable to be vented.
“Of course, I do have to discuss this with everyone sooner or later…however, I want to sort out my thoughts first.”
His reply remains as vague as before, but his expression was more serious than ever before.”
“Then, what are your thoughts, Chief?”
“I shall talk about my thoughts later. First, I want to hear your thoughts.”
“Ehh, well that’s fine…”
I want to pursue the matter of the Chief leaving home(?), but the emergency has to be prioritized.
“Now, about the solutions proposed during the meeting…” I put the Chief down on the sofa, and start to explain.
“There are a few solutions, and first—”
I suggest a few solutions to solve the shortage, “Yes, yes”, and Chief appear to be nodding in agreement.
“—So, I want to get your permission, Chief.”
And then, Chief suddenly changes the topic,
“How many times have you been ‘extracted’?”
This sudden question leaves me startled.
Chief repeats the same question.
“I shall ask again. How many times have you offered your parts for the Snow White?”
“Ah, yes…I think, about seventeen times.”
“Seventeen…probably the most in the village. What about you, Viscaria…?”
“Me?” Viscaria seem troubled by this sudden question, “Sixteen.” And answers.
“Similarly, sixteen times.”
“Eisbahn, what about you?”
“Same as Amaryllis.”
Chief nods away, seemingly enlightened, and continues,
“Having come down to this underground world, you all and I have been providing maintenance for the Snow White. Day or Night, we did so for every day.”
Chief narrows his eyes in nostalgia.
“We kept prioritizing our masters no matter what, restricting our lives, cutting into our expenses, offering our bodies for them.”
I’m skeptical. This should be a discussion about the emergency measures, yet Chief suddenly diverts the topic, and it confuses me.
“Having done that, you will continue to love your masters, serve them, and make self-sacrifices to protect the Snow White for them from now on, no? Is that so, Amaryllis?”
“Yes. But, Chief.”
“What is it?”
“What have you been talking about? It is rude of me, but I have to say that you are stating the obvious. I…”
“Now then, I shall state my conclusion.”
Chief turns his head around to face me. With a sharp look, he looks different from the suual kind Chief.
What he says next topples over the history of this village that spans for more than a hundred years.
“Do feel that humans should be wiped out.”
At first, we’re unable to understand his words.
Chief nods again.
“I shall say it again. I do think humans should be wiped out.”
“Please stop with the lousy joke. ‘Humans’ here refer to ‘masters’, right? This is an unpleasant one.”
I chide, “Yeah, this isn’t funny at all.” Viscaria too adds in. Götz nods away in approval. Eisbahn alone doesn’t say anything, merely giving Chief a sidelong look.
“Not a joke…this is the proof.”
Chief opens his mouth, and with a pop, spits out something. It’s about the size of a little gemstone, with a round button at the top.
“If this is pressed, the Snow White will be destroyed—thus, humans will be wiped out.”
We’re looking at the ‘button’ before the Chief in unison. There is a clear case at the top, covering it.
“This switch will stop all energy supply to the Snow White. Once twelve hours pass, it will be wrecked, unsalvageable.”
I cry out,
“What nonsense are you saying!? Wearing out humans? Destroy the Snow White? Enough already! Our mission is to protect the Snow White, isn’t it? And now you want to destroy it!? Are you crazy!?”
“Am not. Over the past hundred years, I’ve been thinking, wondering. Are humans worth keeping alive? Is there really purpose is sacrificing the innocent, hardworking villagers to protect the humans?”
“Wh-what are you saying…?”
I’m rattled. I have a feeling that my existence is completely denied. I really couldn’t believe that the most elderly in the village, Chief Chamomile said these words.
“U-us robots…work for masters, live for masters. This is why we live for, right?”
“That has been the case till now. But from now, there’s no need for it.”
“You saw it, didn’t you? The ‘footage’ of humans killing each other.”
For a moment, I’m speechless. The reviling memory appears in my mind. The two groups of people growling, buzzing, facing off, shooting, the whirlwind of blood blobs—massacres—the Snow White that went underground—the people who were abandoned—the cold wave that struck.”
“Please explain by going through the points. Either way, destroying or wiping out is too serious a topic here.”
“Hm, certainly…now then.”
And so, Chief sits back on the sofa, seemingly ready to get on point.
“Let me tell you the truth to this world.”
It was a rumor regarding the ‘End Times’.
It was just before the ice age came upon the world. Back then, humans were thoroughly troubled by the lack of resources. Crude oil, coal, natural gas, uranium, all of them were dug up and depleted, leaving a dry, barren land. However, the social structure that has been thoroughly ingrained in the concepts of mass productions, mass consumption and mass wastage continue to seek energy. Just as how their massive bellies continue to seek food, humans became hungry monsters that seek energy. Every day, there has been conflicts and wars fought over limited resources.
However, such ugly scuffles came to an end one day. What stopped it wasn’t the military might of a massive country, nor was it a compromise born out an economic agreement, but instead, it was the invention of a new technology.
This invention was born out of coincidence.
Since the start of the previous century, there had been competition over mobile facilities, and in the late years, it became a race over highly potent batteries; during this process, a high powered battery called the ‘Recycle Quartz’. This Crystal Plant was of high purity, contains small traces of Germanium and carbon; as the name implied, was a unique metal that could be grown as ‘stalks’ like planets. By soaking them in fluid pools of melted carbon—commonly called ‘farms’—and preserving them in low temperatures, they would sprout like ‘plants’, and within a week, they could be duplicated.
The Crystal Plants contained vast amounts of energy. The power efficiency could be compared favorably to uranium, and there’s no radioactive waste to worry about. Also, the Crystal Plants could also be produced indefinitely due to ‘grafting’, which meant that there was no risk of them running out like cruel oil and coal.
It was truly a miraculous energy. Like a rising market stock, the Crystal Plants expelled all other pre-existing forms of electrical generation, like fire, water, wind, nuclear, and there was a fad of Crystal Plant electric heating in the world. The production of Crystal Plants was very easy; all one needed was a stalk. Thus, the technology to generate electricity through Crystal Plant furnaces was pervasive throughout developed and developing countries. Developing countries in particular obtained an explosion of development due to the mass usage of electricity and industrialization, and it marked the start of a new age called the Crystal Revolution, a technology revolution that could be recorded in world history.
However, this miraculous material that created a massive amount of heat just by adding large numbers suddenly became a demonic material. A certain year after Crystal Plant furnaces started running for more than fifty years, in a country called Robium that is located in the Far East, a furnace core in the first generator suddenly dropped drastically in temperature. The reasons for that were unknown. The safety installation caused the Crystal Core to suddenly stop operating, but the temperature kept dropping. Later, the furnace was completely frozen, and even the surrounding facilities were all caught up, until the area surrounding the generator became a frozen land. Such a freezing phenomenon kept on happening, and there was a freezing cold wave that started from the generators—which would later be called the ‘Ice Age’. Like a bonfire, the cold flames devoured the small country in the Far East. (Note: Plant is named after a species of Orchid called Dendrobium
Like a dried sponge sucking up water, the Crystal Plant furnaces absorbed all the heat from Rodium. The cold wave ran rampant, as all the heat formed seemed to have been sucked back.
Though small in country size, the fact that Rodium became a frozen land within a mere three months shook the entire world. Some did manage to escape overseas, but the citizens who were frozen alive as ice sculptures due to the sudden astronomical rise in airplane tickets took up the majority.
Faced with such decisions, countries around the world ceased operations of the Crystal Plant furnace. Despite the prior tragedies however, there were countries who selfishly continued to generate electricity through Crystal Planets. Large countries in particular bent the safety regulations and evaded the issues by stating that Rodium, the lost country, was a developing country with low skilled populations, or errors. Also, as the freezing phenomenon in Rodium seemed to have abated, this led to debates on both ends. There were many citizens who pleaded to stop the operations of the Crystal Plant furnaces, and researchers who have repeatedly beseeched against such dangers, but they were all ignored in favour of the huge profits from the Crystal Plant furnaces.
And so, a second tragedy struck, one that left humans in a state beyond any point of return. The developed countries that were the first to accept Crystal Plant electricity generation started to show signs of freezing too—‘An Ice Age’. This was of an unprecedented scale, and all involving countries were overwhelmed by the trail of ice, the cold wave spreading beyond the oceans, and throughout the entire world.
After that, the world entered an ice age. Faced with such a rampant cold wave, humanity was left with no choice by to escape from the source, to warmer areas. They mobilized all the robots in the world, and built emergency escape houses. Of all the countries, only the richer ones, who form a minority, could occupy these evacuation shelters. After the shelters were built, the robots who were gathered to build them were mercilessly scrapped except for a few used to maintain the faciltiies. Hordes of citizens who swarmed in were massacred by military robots. Such evacuationshelters were a form of extreme egoism, built all over the world, burrowed into the underground, as humans awaited the day the ice melts.
And so, a hundred years passed.
“—This is basically the truth to the ‘End Times’. This ‘Snow White’ here is built as an evacuation shelter.”
The hard-hitting words continues to linger. I feel my leg wobble, that I may fall over at any moment.
“Humans are ugly. Humans are foolish. Humans are cruel. Humans—”
Chief looks over at the ‘button’.
“Should be wiped out.”
I snatch the switch, and hold it in my clutches.
“W-we robots, ar-are all created by masters. So, our mission is to protect our masters—”
“The ones who massacred those masters are in that Snow White.”
“The ones sleeping comfortably in there are not our masters, but vile beasts who killed off all our murders. Forget about the past; from now on, there is no need for any sacrifices from the villagers.”
Stopping here, Chief looks up to see our reactions.
While we’re still too shocked and unable to say anything, Chief mutters a summation,
“Next week, we shall have a Village Meeting. I shall reveal the truth to everyone, and everyone shall decide if we are to press this button. You should prepare yourself here.”
The conversation ends.
Chief rolls his head away, and leave; left behind before us is the button giving off a faint red light.
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