Chapter 3 – The Prayer Festival
Eight people are lightly wounded, no casualties.
Luckily, the damages are a lot more minor than expected. The direst of the disaster is the direct route that has collapsed, but it’s completely repaired on the second day, and three days later, the rubble is all cleared up.
We decided to keep this ‘mysterious room’ we found during the repairs from the villagers. This decision is made by the Chief. He feels it is better to investigate first before revealing.
And on the fifth day after the earthquake.
“Vicia! Vicia Toxin!”
I, dressed in a nurse outfit, call out in the corridor. The waiting room filled with the ruckus from the children immediately quiet down, and a girl teeters towards me,
“Your name is?”
“Registration number 00218, Vicia Toxin.”
The girl straightens her little back, stating her name.
“Not bad. You did good, Vicia.”
I pat Vicia’s head, “ehehe” and she grins gleefully.
“Teacher, Teacher Viscaria!”
Splash. There’s the sound of hands being washed, and Viscaria, dressed in white clothes, show up.
“Kept you wait…eh, Vicia? What’s wrong?”
Vicia puts her hands on her tummy, looking up as she complains,
“I feel some pain.”
“Oh dear…so, what kind of pain?”
“Feels like the screws are creaking.”
Viscaria nods away, moving her feelers.
“Now then, lie down here.”
“Are you going to open my tummy?”
Vicia lies on the bed, giving an uneasy look. “It’s okay.” Viscaria gives a tender look at the girl’s face.
“It won’t hurt at all. It’ll be done immediately.”
Viscaria comforts the girl who still remains somewhat uneasy, giving a motherly smile.
“Okay now, if you’re a good kid, switch off your ‘Mind Circuit’.”
“And your Control Circuit too.”
To note, there are three main circuits in a robot. The ‘Mind Circuit’ is basically the human brain, which acts as the control tower for the entire body. The ‘Control Circuit’ is basically the equivalent of the nerves and spine, able to spread the commands from the Mind Circuit all over the body. And then, there is the ‘Safety Circuit’ to prevent both Circuits from going amok.
Vicia’s voice becomes interrupted, and finally, the light in her eyes vanish. Once Viscaria is sure that her Mind Circuit is in sleep mode, she starts to investigate.
She rolls up the girl’s shirt with her metal feeler, revealing the white belly, and gently inserts into that cute bellybutton. A little twist, and with a little creak, Vicia’s abdomen is opened right down the middle.
“Hm, uh huh.”
Viscaria checks the girl’s body with a serious look. The feeler extending from her fingertip twitches like a living creature, peeling off a translucent membrane, revealing the inner circuits.
“Ahh, so it’s this thing after all…”
“This, as in?”
I look over Viscaria’s back, and towards Vicias,
“An ‘inflammation’ around the batteries.”
She says, lighting a light from the tip of her feeler. It’s somewhere to the inner side of Viscaria’s belly, as the battery unit has been distorted like melted plastic.
“Yes. The same part as the last one. But,”
“The belly may still hurt even after it is replaced…”
The deeply entrenched growth ring-like frown appears on Viscaria’s forehead, “Specification is HRM1103. Type is 01102C.”
I head into the room, and look up at the parts cases that are stacked everywhere and built to the ceiling. The replacement parts for the villagers’ bodies are filled completely. In terms of importance to the village, this warehouse is second only to the Snow White.
I recite it out loud, and one of the shelves light up. A faint translucent blue drawer slides out automatically, indicating that what I’m looking for exists. I draw out a silver baumkuchen-like part, and return to the diagnosis room.
“This is okay, right?”
“Okay. Then discard that old one.”
I look at the part by the bed that is completely deformed. This is the ‘infected part’ taken out from Viscaria’s body. It’s so twisted that it is impossible to think of it as the same part. It’s basically telling the pain the girl suffered, and my heart aches.
After Vicia’s operation is done, we proceed to diagnose another ten or so, and the morning work is finally done.
“There’s a lot of people today…”
Viscaria slumps into the sofa, letting her neck creak. Waste materials will gather in the Mind Circuit of the robots keep focusing their attentions too much, corroding it.
“You alright? You’ve been working non-stop recently.”
“No way. I feel better off than you having to drive the icemobile for more than 100 hours a week.”
“Don’t force yourself.”
Viscaria is basically the expert in technology, so we just end up leaving everything to her. We can probably install her repair manual in us like a pill, but we probably will freeze up due to a lack of specs.
“Spare Ops is probably at its limits…”
Over the past hundred years, we have been providing maintenance and care for the ‘Snow White’, for the ‘Spindle’ of the main computer, the ‘cradle’ of the masters, and the ‘REM forest’ that contains the Snow White—every day, we made checks, cleaning and repairs on them. But no matter how well we manage to maintain them, the ‘Snow White’ is still a large piece of metal. Its body is slowly being corroded, breaking down. And so, on a certain day seventy years after we went underground, the spare parts to repair the Snow White have finally worn out.
We didn’t know what to do. If this kept up, the Snow White would malfunction. Our beloved masters would die. Is there any way to obtain the parts—after thinking so hard, we finally thought of one.
We extracted the parts that form a robot’s body, refined them, and used them on the Snow White, so that the maintenance of the Snow White could continue. In this sealed underground world, where resources are limited, there was no other choice.
But there was undoubtedly an issue to this. Robots that had been ‘extracted’ would be unable to move due to the defects of their parts. To resolve this issue, we used ‘replacement parts’ made of similar materials to replace the parts that were ‘extracted’. The villagers’ bodies were then replaced by replacement parts every passing day.
—And once everything is switched to replacement parts.
Viscaria once explained this to us.
—They aren’t parts of official specifications, so no matter how we try to process them, they will not mesh perfectly, and the rate of deterioration will be hastened. Thus, patients who have been ‘extracted’ will malfunction easily.
Even so, the villagers rushed forth, hoping to be ‘extracted’. I too have seventeen parts swapped with ‘replacement parts’, two on the head, two on the right hand, three on the left hand, one on the right leg, two on the left leg, and seven on the body. At first, the ones who offered to be extracted was limited to just adults, and in the end, even the little children bravely offer their parts. At this point, a child has an average of 4.2 parts extracted, while an adult has an average of 11.3 parts.
Pin pon pan pon. The cowbell-like chime rings, indicating the end of the rest period.
“Now it, it’s time.”
Viscaria gets up from the sofa, and adjusts the collar of her white robe.
“Amaryllis, what’s our appointment for the afternoon?”
“Eh, three cases starting at 1pm, four cases starting at two, and then—”
At that moment,
“Wait, what are you saying!?”
A young girl’s voice rings.
“I-I-I-I-I won’t go to a hospital.”
“Are you an idiot!? Stop forcing yourself here, trashy!”
“I-I hate the, hospital. Hate it, hate it.”
And then, it’s followed by a familiar “Gaaa peee.” Noise. Viscaria and I exchange looks.
“Emergency patient first.”
Viscaria lowers her beret, and shrugs.
After that, another two weeks pass.
The lights shine upon the ice-carved stage, creating a dazzling crystal effect. The center of the arena is filled with a scattered-style audience seating, as the three hundred plus villagers are all gathered here.
The prayer festival we awaited is finally here. The passion brimming from the audience reaches the stage, as though trying to melt it. The festival is going to be held from morning to night, and all work is suspended. I too intend to enjoy the festival before it’s my turn to ascend the stage.
“Why are you sitting beside me?”
“It’s fine. Don’t be so rigid.”
“Seating’s in order of performance. This is the Chief’s seat.”
“I got the old man’s permission.”
This rare relaxation time I finally have is ruined by this flirting guy. “Hey, stop touching me.” “Ehehe.” So this exchange continue on over and over again, and in the blink of an eye, it’s time for the performance.
A sextet happily blow the trumpets “Kept us waiting!” “It’s here!” “Heerrrreee!” and the audience roar into life. There are shrieks in this fiery atmosphere.
“And now, the 108th Masters’ Revival Prayer Ceremony shall begin.”
With a beautiful voice, the host Cattleya announces the start of the festival, and the audience burst into cheers again.
“Greetings from the Chief.”
And amidst the thunderous applause, Chief Chamomile shows up on the stage. The way his head rolls around on the stage is as terrifying as a zombie in a horror flick.
“This is the Chief Chamomile speaking!!”
He repeats the greeting that remains the same for over a hundred year, “Chief!!” “You still doing okay!?” “So cute!!” and voices can be heard from the audience.
“As you all know, this Revival Prayer Festival is for a ritual to let our beloved masters sleep well, and that one day, they will revive. In other words—”
The Prayer Festival is a traditional festivity with a hundred years of history. At first, it’s simply a yearly ritual to offer ‘prayers’ to our Masters, but as time passes, there is singing, dancing and all kinds of entertainment involved. In this sense, while it is to provide entertainment for the villagers who have lived underground for a long time, the main purpose is to train their ‘talents’ such that the acts can be performed to the masters once they awake. The programs are graded according to voting, and the basis of the voting is decided on “Can it make our masters happy”.
“In other words, this Prayer Festival isn’t just for entertainment, but also an exalted purpose to be honed for our masters—”
And about thirty minutes into the Chief’s speech, “It’s too long!” “Enough already!” “Get down now!” an endless amount of boos ring. This too happen every year, and the Chief, who always appears in the midst of thunderous applause, will sheepishly slip off the stage amidst boos. “Don’t throw any items!” “This includes screws!” Cattleya, in charge of managing the scene, will holler,
Once the Chief’s address is done, the staff will clean up the screw and screwcaps on the stage (these will be returned to their masters once done), and then, a trumpet’s cry signals the start again.
—It’s finally here.
“Entry number 1! Please welcome Miss Ceolaria and Mr Curl!” (Ceolaria, short for Calceolaria, Curl, short for Ivory Curl)
As Cattleya’s beautiful voice rings, a man and woman appear on stage.
One of them is Miss Ceolaria, who has the appearance of an eighty-year-old domestic robot. She’s the ‘replacement robot’ created by a husband who lost his wife and wanted to alleviate his loneliness, and she continues to live even after her master died. The other, Mr Curl, once worked in a famous orchestra, and is now the premier musician in the village.
“I’m really nervous to be chosen first. Now then, I shall perform the ‘Spearmint Genesis’ my deceased husband loved.
Miss Ceolaria bows elegantly, and the crowd immediately burst into applause before becoming silent again. There’s no commotion, as everyone knows that it’s time to be silent. As her partner, Mr Curl carries his signature electronic viola, and stands diagonally behind her.
The uninterrupted melody of the viola flows out, and Miss Ceolaria starts to sing.
Before humans are born, in a time far beyond.
The many messengers of god, appear in the sky.
With tears in eyes, they became rain of grace.
Thus the seas are born, the seas are born.
With a clear yet despondent voice, she sings a hymn that reveals how the world is born The arena is engulfed in a solemn atmosphere, and everyone feels melancholic, gloomy. Miss Ceolaria’s program has never changed over the past thirty years, but whenever I listen to it, it just feels so new, the first time I have heard it.
“…So it ends. Thank you all for listening.”
Once the singing and performance are over, a thunderous applause rain upon the stage again. Both of them bow, and return to the side of the stage.
—This is a nice song..
As I narrow my eyes and enjoy the lingering emotions, Cattleya’s voice rings again.
“Continuing on, Entry Number Two! It’s little Vicia and Grayano performing a magic show!” (TN: Short for Grayanotoxin.)
The performances continue on.
Pairs of male and female perform songs, dramas, skits, magic shows, manzais, impressions—there are classic shows we are familiar with, and new shows; the atmosphere at the arena remains as lively as ever. I remain in the audience, cheering from time to time, and squashing Eisbahn’s lecherous hands from time to time.
It has been two hours since the performance started.
“Continuing on, entry number twenty five, little Daisy and Gappy’s ‘Horsey Play’.”
—Oh, it’s here.
I lean my body towards the stage. The backdrop changes into a grassy field similar to a kindergarten, and Daisy shows up, riding on Gappy. “Ahahha!” “It’s Gappy!” “It’s Scrappy Gappy!” and the children burst out laughing.
“I-I-I-I’m not Scrappy, at all.”
“Enough already, shut up.”
Daisy slaps Gappy on the head, and it causes the audience to laugh again.
“Now then, let’s go!”
Daisy rides on Gappy, who looks like he’s going to collapse at any given moment, and kicks his chest. Gappy slowly moves forward in a clumsy manner, the caterpillar legs letting out a creaking sound.
“Alright, now we’re going with the one great jump in history!”
The host Cattleya announces, and a ‘wall’ carved out of ice is moved onto the stage.
I whisper to Eisbahn beside me,
“Jump…as in they’re going to jump up that wall?”
On first glance, the wall is at least three times the height of Daisy. It’s really unbelieve to think that she would be able to jump across while riding Gappy.
The audience too break out in murmurs. “Jump over that thing?” “You’re kidding, right?” “No can do.” There was such a discussion.
But Daisy herself gives a confident look, and has Gappy retreat. It probably looks like a running start before they jump.
“It’s too dangerous after all.”
I stand up. If they end up crashing into the wall, there’ll be trouble.
“Well, just wait.”
The flirting guy beside me grab my arm, “Hey, let go already.” I glare at him.
“They got an idea.”
“Look at that.”
Eisbahn points at the stage.
“Isn’t there a sheet before the wall? There’s probably a jumping platform underneath.”
“How do you know?”
“There’s a similar trick.”
Well, it’s true that there’s something thin laid out somewhere on the grassy patch.
“So they’ll be able to jump over the wall?”
I then sit down again. If Eisbahn’s right, I would have ruined this program if I went out.
The crowd is bustling. I narrow my eyes, and see that the running start has begun. Gappy’s caterpillar legs spin intensely as the sound of friction echoes, and sparks look ready to fly as they charge towards the wall. What will happen, how will this end up—with bated breath, everyone watches this reckless challenge, and at the moment they’re about to crash into the wall—Gappy’s body sinks, and the rebound causes them to jump up.
It’s supposed to be a jump several meters high. Unfortunately, both of them lose their balance and end up ‘flying forward’, falling head first into the bottom of the stage like a rubber ball, thunk, thud, loud noises follow.
“Daisy! Gappy!” I instinctively get to my feet and quickly rush to the stage. “You alright…!?”
I pick up Gappy, who remains motionless, “Ga-Ga-Gappy…” he groans weakly, the hemispherical head sinking in hard.
At that moment.
“Just a little more…Gappy you idiot! Garbage! Trashy!!”
I find Daisy beside me looking utterly furious, her face flushed. It seems she’s lightly hurt herself.
Gappy tries to refute as he remains in my arms.
“I-I’m not, trashy.”
“Shut up trashy! We trained together so many times! It’s all your fault that we failed!”
“I-I-I-I-I-I di-did my best…it’s your fault, Daisy!”
“What did you say…!?”
Daisy widens her eyes, her body shaking in anger.
And then, she yells,
“I hate you, Gappy…!!”
After that, the girl runs off without looking back.
Even after the break, Daisy shows no signs of returning.
I want to go look for her, but I can’t ignore Gappy who’s giving off smoke. So I bring Gappy to the infirmary.
“This is really some injury.” Viscaria slowly notes once she sees Gappy.
“Well, you can leave the rest to me. Just head back to the festival.”
“It looks like it’s just a dent on the outside. No need to worry about this.”
“Hm…but I want to stay here until the repairs are done.”
And so, Gappy’s repair ends up taking up more than two hours, and I stay by his side the entire time.
Daisy’s stubbornness really is troublesome…I mutter as I leave the infirmary, as the morning performances are coming to an end. It’s almost my turn, so I quickly hurry to the seat.
“Sure took you long enough.”
Eisbahn gives me a gleeful look, his legs resting on the seat before him.
And I show no attempt to hide my contempt as I sit with a thud.
“Goodness. Got to tell her off this time.”
“Oh my, you’re angry.”
“They argued on the stage of the Prayer Festival. How disrespectful to our masters.”
“Maybe it’s more interesting if they had argued right from the beginning?”
I proceed to knock the blond on the head.
At this moment.
“Now then, entry number fifty five! Miss Amaryllis and Mr Eisbahn will present…eh?”
Cattleya stares at the paper in her hand, taken aback.
“A deep kiss!”
And so I’m stunned.
“Wh-wh-wh-wh-wh-wh-what is this!?”
“Uhehehehehehe as you heard!”
I grab him by the chest, and shake him head.
“I didn’t hear of this!”
“Didn’t I say it already?” Eisbahn answers with a grin. “I got the old man’s permission!”
I recall the words Eisbahn said when he sat next to me. He did say he has a deal with the Chief.
“I thought it was about the seating…”
“What? You want to forfeit…?”
“Ugh…you had me there…”
Cornered, I glare at this flirt before me. “Call me a strategist.” He chuckles.
“I’m not going to do it. A-a deep…deep kiss.”
“Is this your first time?”
I smack this pervert on the head. “Miss Amaryllis! Mr Eisbahn! It’s time!” Cattelya exclaims.
It’s bad. If this keeps up, I’ll be disqualified. This prayer festival happens once a year, and if I get disqualified without being able to do anything, I can’t explain to our masters. But if I have to give this fellow a deep kiss…!
While I’m feeling troubled, “Well then.” He raises his eyebrows.
“How about we sing?”
“A duet with me. Stand on the stage and sing. This should be fine, right?”
It’s a lot better than kissing, but.
“Anyway, do you know how to sing? I’m going to sing—”
“‘Good Night, Dear Masters’.”
Eisbahn smiles confidently, and gives me a nudge from behind.
I just feel that I fell into a trap, or so it seems.
The white light shining down the artificial crystalized stage swallows the entire stage, giving the impression of it being under the sun. The stares of the audience are like sharp arrows piercing through my heart, and I can’t help but freeze up as I’m nervous.
“No-not at all.”
I open my lips slightly, making sure my voice isn’t obvious trembling. To be honest, I really feel uneasy about the sudden change of partner. This Festival only occurs once a year. If I fail, I won’t have the chance to salvage it until the next year.
“Can’t you just play this automatically?”
“Nope. This live performance has to be in real time.”
He shows no tension at all, and my heart has a strange feeling, wondering if I should hate him or hate.
The music echoes on the stage, and we’re surrounded by the sad melody of the instruments. The duet is finally going to begin.
—Three, two, one…!
Sleep well, sleep well, sleep well for today.
I put my hand before my chest, holding in my tension as I sing. And shockingly, Eisbahn’s voice echoes perfectly with mine.
I shall continue to hold you in my arms, so sleep well.
One day, even if this country, is wiped out, the morning light,
The singing continues, and I can’t help but show surprise at the partner next to me. It’s a powerful voice, audible enough, a singing style that perfectly controls the essential points of a man’s voice.
—Th-this is brilliant…!
Everything, and anything, is for, you.
That is why, sleep well, for today.
Until, the day, you wake up again.
It’s like driving the icemobile in unison, as our singing continues in flawless rhythm. This song is adapted from the original lullaby for this performance, and it’s only the first time I perform it before others. However, he’s able to just sing as though he’s a long-term partner, and even I enjoy singing before I enter the sub-chorus.
Finally, the climax.
Now, the light shall shine on me.
The dazzling future, shall descend upon these hands.
The world belongs to you, the future too belongs to you.
And you belong to me.
To me, the one who loves you.
The song ends. The audience replies with silence.
At that moment, the cheers rain down like a torrent on us, as the audience get to their feet. This is a standing ovation.
I did receive applause during the past Prayer Festivals, but this time, it’s exceptional. We’re basked in massive thunderous applause “Amazing!” “Riveting” with loud cheers, so loud that the ice ceilings appear to crack. Even when I had the special prize of the Prayer Festival sixteen years ago, I never had such a huge reaction.
My circuits are heating.
—But when did he memorize this song?
I look at his face. Eisbahn keeps sending kisses to the crowd. At this moment, I recall his words,
—It’s a nice tune no matter how many times I hear it.
I see. I recall. I recall myself singing the lullaby in the ‘Snow White’, and him watching on.
—So that’s when he remembered.
“See, didn’t it go well?”
Eisbahn grins with glee, like a boy who succeeded with a prank.
My heart flutters.
The ‘Grand Prix’ this year goes to the Amaryllis and Eisbahn pair!”
And as the award is given, there is thunderous applause in the arena.
“Congratulations, Amaryllis!” “As expected!” “Good work, big sis!”
Still reeling from it, I receive the award for two on the stage. This is the first time I have won this title, and I never dreamed that I would be winning it with Eisbahn. I probably wouldn’t be able to do it alone, so I think as I can’t help but feel gracious towards Eisbahn. ‘I’m too tired’ however, he didn’t attend the award ceremony because of that reason, and it’s a pity that I couldn’t share the joy with him. I’ll hand him the prize later.
The special award goes to the ‘Spearmint Genesis’ by the Ceolaria pair, the hard work pair goes to Vicia’s pair, and the ‘booby prize’ for the second worst act went to Daisy and Gappy. Daisy never returned ever since she left the arena in a huff, and Gappy’s still in the infirmary. It’s rare for both parties to not show up at the ceremony.
And so, the Prayer Festival this year comes to an end. To me, this is undoubtedly more impressionable than any Festival in the past. Having won the ‘Grand Prix’, I can finally sing to the masters with my head held high—so I think.
That night, I keep singing before the Snow White due to extreme delight. The Cradle our masters sleep in give off a little glint as it hears my singing.
And so, this becomes the final Prayer Festival.