Chapter 4 – Broken Toy
An endless darkness swallows the entire village, and loneliness rule the place until dawn breaks.
There’s no distinction of day and night in this underground world where the light can’t shine. Despite this, the villagers decided that eight hours each day is to be designated as ‘night’, and during this time, everyone will switch to sleep mode, and save power. The lighting of the roof will be dimmed to the minimum, and one can’t see without adjusting the visual output.
It’s a week after the Prayer Festival.
—I’m finally done…
After issuing the ‘supplies’ for the day, I return to the village, and hurry home. Because of my duties as vice-chief, my house is right next to the senate hall.
And five minutes away from my hourse.
I find someone in the park at night. The hemispherical head seem familiar.
I ask, and a creaking sound can be heard. The shadow slowly turns towards me as the caterpillar legs let out a grinding sound.
“What are you doing here late at night?”
The round lens visual installation he has seem harder to see than usual, probably because the surroundings are dark.
“P-p-pa-pa-park, is where, we play, rig-right?”
“So-so-so, I-I came to, play.”
“So late at night…?”
I ask, and Gappy nods.
—Ah, I see.
“Here’s here for Daisy, right?”
Gappy remains speechless. It’s easy to read this child.
It has been a week since the Prayer Festival, but Gappy and Daisy have not made amends. Normally, they would be able to make amends in one night, but it has been a first time this lasted so long.
“Daisy really likes this park.”
“D-Daisy, really, loves the park.”
“She loves to ride on the swing.”
“D-Daisy’s good with the swing. She goes faster, higher than anyone, else.”
While talking about Daisy, Gappy continues to rattle on like usual.
I listen to his rambling for just a little more. We are the only two people in the park, and to any bystander, it might look like a moonlight date.
“…The flower medal.”
“Daisy, wants, the flower medal.”
“Flower medal…the Festival?”
I take down a flower medal from my chest. This is the commemorative medal only the prize winners of the Festival can get. It’s made from the ice plants in the ‘REM forest’. The medal has the flowers that had bloomed a hundred years ago.
“Daisy, never won, the medal, once. Of the children, the only ones, who never won, are Daisy, and me…so I really, wanted the medal. I thought that this year, just this year.”
After the Prayer Festival last year, the only children who didn’t win a prize were Daisy and Gappy. Leaving aside Gappy, there was no way Daisy the sore loser would take this.
Gappy starts to be exceptionally loud.
“I want to give this medal, to Daisy.”
He says adamantly, as though making an oath.
“As thanks, for playing, with, a broken, toy.”
I kneel down, and exchange looks with Gappy. The fog at night condenses, dampening his round lenses.
“But it’s late already, so head home now…okay?”
I pat his head, and he nods.
Something resembling a tear slides down the lens.
There are no starry skies in the underground world.
However, the crystals that fill the ceiling will flicker from time to time, and they appear to resemble twinkling stars.
I watch Gappy return home, and sit on the swing as I look up at the starry sky. What he said appear in my mind again.
—As thanks, for playing, with, a broken, toy.
A long time ago, Gappy’s a toy. HGP.10β, an outdoor toy robot suitable for play with children aged above three years old. Play hide-and-seek with children, play ball, play horsey—over the thirty years since he was created, he had been playing around at the roof of a department stores. He would run around while carrying children, or act as a ghost and give chase after them.
But, just as broken toys will be abandoned, the aged Gappy had a day where he would be decommissions. On a certain day thirty years after he was created, he was removed from the roof of the convenience store as he malfunctioned. After that, he was installed at the door of a second-hand shop, and then bought off in a strange net auction. It’s a mere coincidence that he came to village; when ‘the end’ came a hundred years ago, he was abandoned near the village, in an illegal dump.
Even after coming to this village, Gappy remains in poor condition. A little rigorous action, and it’ll be giving off smoke “Ga-ppy’, short-circuiting. Thus, whenever he plays with the children in the village, he’s often left aside. By the time he realizes it, he’s alone.
However, even he manages to gain respite.
“That face of yours is really frustrating.”
And talking to him, or trying to pick a fight, is a girl with soft chestnut-colored hair—Daisy Stalk. “Well, looks like I got no chance but to play with you. Be honored!” With such an arrogant attitude, the girl and Gappy become friends.
At this moment, I realize.
There’s a shadow near the entrance of the park. It seem to look around the inside for something, and then retreat into the darkness.
I call out, and the figure shivers in shock.
“Don’t be scared. It’s me.”
I call out, slightly louder this time, “Ama…ryllis?” and the girl whispers back.
I wave at her from the swing. She’s somewhat hesitant, but she finally enters the park.
“So it’s you.”
“So…as in what?”
Daisy looks at me through her fluffy hair.
“Gappy just came by, so I was wondering if you would come by.”
“Gappy, came here…?”
The girl asks with her head lowered.
“Just now…do I call him?”
I put my finger on my temple. It’s a gesture to connect a wireless network.
“No, it’s fine.”
Daisy shakes her head lightly, and sits on the swing next to mine.
After that, there’s silence.
Krrr, krrr, there’s the sound of the swing’s cahins echoing emptily in the part at night. It seems to be a reflection of the girl, and I too feel a little forlorn.
As though muttering to herself, Daisy breaks the silence.
“Why did he come here?”
I answer, and Daisy immediately lifts her head, only to drop it again.
“Not going to make amends?”
I ask, and Daisy remains silent. However, the swing gets a little higher.
Daisy and Gappy never spoke ever since the Prayer Festival. They met a few times at the park, but every time, Daisy would hurry back. The clumsy Gappy wanted to give chase after the girl, but never once was he able to catch up.
“—Actually.” The girl mutters. “Gappy’s not wrong.”
I listen silently.
“It’s my fault for not checking the jumping platform during the festival.”
“But when we failed, I really was angry, so I…”
At this point, Daisy curled her lips together. The darkness of the night is reflected in her large eyes, and the color as deep as the sea appear to be brimming out.
“…Time to go back.”
After some silence, Daisy silently gets to her feet.
“Hm, it’s late.”
I do not intend to stop her. I know that even if I don’t do anything, both of them will make amends.
—This time, it has been dragged out, but they’ll definitely make amends. They’re friends, irreplaceable bosom friends.
And after watching the girl limp away, I leave the park. I intend to head home, as it’s too late.
—Next Prayer Festival, Daisy and Gappy will perform together again, right?
While having such thoughts, I walk home in the night. Right when I’m about to reach home.
I receive a wireless transmission.
“Hey, if you’re going to do anything strange to me, I’m not going to forgive you.”
“Don’t say that. Just watch.”
“Hey, I said not to touch anywhere strange.”
I pinch the itchy hand of his. “Ow!” and he yells in much exaggerated pain.
I look up at him,
“W-what’s this important thing…now?’
The one who called me out through the emergency wireless communicator is Eisbahn.
—It’s something important. Please come by.
Normally, I wouldn’t be fooled by his sweet talk. But ever since the ‘duet’ during that Prayer Festival, my stance towards him isn’t as hard as before.
“It’s this, this.”
He picks up something with his finger. It’s a microchip the size of a little finger nail.
“…A high end memory chip?”
“Yeah. Some valuable data inside. I want to watch it with you.”
“What is it?”
“Ah, no, it’s nothing.”
I feel a little distraught, listless for a while. I am not hoping for something, but what’s he planning, asking a young maiden out to ‘watch an interesting video’ together. I’m not a child anymore. No, I didn’t have any hopes.
“Now then, put it into the replay set.”
“Wait. Isn’t this our masters’…!?”
Eisbahn slowly pulls out something. It’s the Poly Screen I saw before.
“Did you bring it out!?”
“Just a little while and nobody will no.”
“You idiot. We can’t do this. Chief forbid us from going to that place.”
With regards to that room we found three weeks ago—the ‘Secret Room’, Chief’s orders are that no uninvolved people are to enter. ‘We’ll investigate this a little more’, it’s because of this reason that we have yet to disclose its existence to the ordinary people.
“Hehe, the more you say no, the more I want to.”
“No means no…anyway, this thing.”
I stare at the microchip.
“Is this the one with the perverted images?”
“There’ll be a strip model resembling you showing up.”
“Are your Mind Circuits rotten or something?”
I stamp on Eisbahn’s foot “I’m going back!”, and storm off. I really am an idiot to be hoping for any romantic works.
“Hey, wait! I’m joking, joking!” He hastily grabs my shoulder, “I haven’t watched the content! Anyway, you’ll regret not watching it! It contains our masters’ secret!”
I stop in my tracks, and turn around.
“Then why are you looking away?”
“Ah, you see.” He shows the microchip. “I took this from the ‘top secret’ cabinet’, so it definitely contains that.”
“Not some top secret lewd video?”
“I’m going back.”
“Wait wait wait Amaryllis!”
With a cheesy voice, he calls out to me.
“It’s because of me that you manage to win the ‘Grand Prix’ at the festival, right?”
Faced with his words, I falter a little.
“I didn’t see what’s inside This microchip has some strange additional encryption. It’s not too late to go back if it’s some lewds, so please. Okay, okay?”
To be honest, I really am interested in the content of the chip. There’s also the ‘top secret’ part on it, which piques my curiosity further.
“But we have to decrypt it, right?”
“Got to ask Viscaria.”
“I see, only Viscaria can do…eh?”
I look at him, “…hm? Where are you looking?” Eisbahn grins away.
“I say, did you call me out…just to call Viscaria out?”
“Well, if I ask her directly, there’s no way Viscaria will come out, right? But if it’s you, it’s a different matter.”
“…I’m just a sideshow, right?”
I glare at him, utterly peeved as I am today.
“Hehehe, I’m quite the smart one…oof!”
I punch the face of the blond, and yell,
“I’m going back after all!”
“I see. This is a tough encryption to deal with…”
Viscaria stares at the screen as she taps at the keys with her feelers. She was called out suddenly in the middle of the night, but she seems to be enjoying herself.
In the end, “I’m going back!” “Wait wait!” “I’m really unhappy!!” “Please, Amaryllis!!” after such a pointless squabble that lasted for more than ten minutes, I gave up, and called Viscaria.
“Hey, be happy~”
“Like I care!”
I turn away in a puff. I can at least bear with him if he said “let’s watch together”, but I never thought he would use me as “bait” to call out Viscaria. Why am I so peeved though?
“Woah, this is amazing. As to be expected of our masters’ top secret parts! The encryption level is of a completely different level.”
Viscaria continues to decrypt excitedly. Looking at her, she seems to be as delighted as a child who obtained a new game.
“Has it been cracked?”
I sit by her side. Since we’re here, I guess we should see our masters’ secret no matter what, even if we do not return.
“Wait. Let’s decrypt this one, and then remove the lock inside, the password—”
The feelers extending out from her right hand tap at the keyboard messily.
“Right, last move!”
Jajan! The feelers tap the keys, ostensibly creating this effort, and the screen suddenly flickers. After that, the screen turns dark, and countless words fill it.
“Decrypted it yet?”
Viscaria gives a thumbs up with her feelers. She’s effervescent when it comes to fixing or inspecting people, but her face is brimming with joy, like a child playing tag. Maybe those hands of hers really do love working.
“Right, let’s watch this lewd video.”
Eisbahn hooks his arm around my shoulder.
“No way. Anyway, that’s not a lewd video.”
At this moment.
“—May I inquire, is this the place, where the video shall be played?”
We look back in unison. The silver mask face, ‘iron arm’ Götz is standing there.
“Wh-when did you…?”
Taken aback, I ask. “I shall say that it has been for a while.” He quietly answers.
“Why are you here, you bastard!?”
“Lady Viscaria summoned me here.”
Eisbahn turns back to look at Viscaria. And this big sister with short red hair merely answers, “It’s a rare chance, so I thought everyone should have a look.”
“Gracious am I for the invitation.”
I again look at Götz.
“That’s surprising. I thought you would be opposed to this, Götz.”
“Why do you imply so?”
“Well, Chief said ‘it’s forbidden to take it out’, right? Don’t you always oppose such rulebreaking, Götz?”
And so, Götz immediately frowns, giving a grim look.
—Ah, no good?
“No, well, I would say that I am male after all, I do have some interest in the secrets of a female body…”
“Huh? Female body?”
“Am I wrong? ‘Everyone is watching a porno video, so come along, Götz.” This is what Lady Viscaria said to me…”
Everyone turn towards Viscaria in unison.
She tilts her head, blinking away. Then, she points at the poly screen, asking with some surprise.
“This isn’t lewd though?”
They’re all hopeless.
It’s not the lewd video everyone (?) hopes for, but as agreed, we start the playback of the chip, Surrounding the screen from right to left are Eisbahn, me, Viscaria and Götz.
Once the video plays, everyone’s eyes are focused on the screen.
“Woah, is this before the ‘Ice Age’…?”
Shown on the Poly screen is a scenery of a city with tall buildings. Before the station, as the crowd moves along, there is a man saying something. Unfortunately, the voice is no recorded, but looking at the logo on the screen, one can tell that it is an enterprise promotional video.
To the audience of that time, it must have been a footage they have been very familiar to them. But to us, who lived underground for a hundred years, there is a strong sense of nostalgia. There are signs of masters, the roads our masters walk on, the laughter from our masters, the breathing of our masters—
“Look! A kindergarten! So many children!!”
I, an ex-nanny robot, get excited after seeing the footage of the kindergarten.
“Such a large maintenance plant…”
The ex-mechanic Viscaria watches with her eyes dazzling.
“There is the theater! The National Central Theater!”
Ex-actor Götz brings his face close to the screen.
The bustling streets, the relaxing suburbs, the lush plains, the unheralded ports—these images suddenly pop up on the screen along with the introduction from the reporter. Whenever a new place is shown, “Wah!” “Shocking!” “How nostalgic it is.” There are such cheers. Such a scene is akin to children visiting a zoo for the first time “Amazing, it’s a panda!” “There’s a lion there!”.
But amongst us, only Eisbahn seems different. From time to time, he stares quietly at the screen, sometimes lowering his eyes. He seem to be somewhat uneasy.
—Speaking of which.
I have a thought.
—What did Eisbahn use to do?
It’s a doubt I used to have. Viscaria’s a mechanic, Götz’s an actor, and I used to be a nanny. However, nobody knows about Eisbahn’s past at all. I asked about it many times, but he always diverted the topic “Let’s not talk about the past.”
Blond, flirt, a powerful weapon with that right arm. Nobody knows how he end up like this, through what experiences. Even I, the closest to him in this village (though that’s also because he’s always harassing me), know little about him.
—Well, maybe he’s a bouncer at a strip club or something.
I glance at his sidelong face.
The listless, lowered eyes show a melancholic look, somewhat gloomy.
And so three hours pass.
Once the video stops, everyone let out a nostalgic sigh.
After a hundred years, we finally see footage of our beloved masters. It is a wonderful record filled with much nostalgia, joy and melancholy.
While mesmerized, I space out for a little while.
—Eh, but, wait…?
Once my excitement fades, I start to have a doubt in my heart.
“Hey, don’t you find this strange?”
“Huh?” Viscaria, who has been checking the condition of the player, turns around, “How is it strange?”
“Didn’t they say that it’s top secret? There are a lot of masters showing up, which is wonderful…but how is it top secret?”
Viscaria too seem to have realized this, and opened her mouth.
“Well, truly it is simply a daily scenery despite the record of it becoming top secret.”
Götz too puts his hand at his chin, and tilts his head.
“I say, Eisbahn, that was from the ‘top secret’ shelf, right?”
I look towards the blond next to me. “Well, yeah.”
“The words ‘top secret’ are there.”
“Now that’s weird. There’s nothing special that has to be kept top secret.”
I tilt my head.
I recall something.
“Anyway, who’s that robot anyway?”
I ask, and Götz in turn ask me, “May I inquire what you mean?”
“I’m talking about the robot in the secret room.”
“Ahh, the one that died in front of the monitor…”
“Right right. If that part is ‘top secret’, I’m guessing it has something to do with that robot.”
I try to deduce, “That’s possible.” Eisbahn mutters.
“Looks like we need to investigate that room thoroughly.”
“I’ll go get permission from the Chief.”
“Let’s just ignore the old man.”
“No can do.”
While we continue to debate this amongst ourselves.
“Wait a moment.”
Viscaria suddenly raises her hand.
“I see, so that’s how it is. Everyone, gather around.”
“What what, what is it?”
Everyone sit around Viscaria, whose eyes are staring at the operating screen.
“That was a dummy video.”
“I thought the encryption is completely cracked. Looks like I’m still missing a bit.”
“In other words, the real secret is behind this?”
Viscaria’s right hand reaches for the feelers, Ho hum, hm hm, ooh, and she starts to mumble to herself.
“Now this is the last step!”
She tap at the keys, and the screen again shows up. “Looking forward to it!” “Heh, there’s a sequel.” “I’d say that I am looking forward to it!” all over us are filled with expectations.
The player glows. The video begins. And so, we understand—
The reason why it is classified as top secret.
After more than ten seconds of sandy wind, the video finally gets to the main point.
What first appear is something that appears like a wide space. Tens of thousands of people are gathered there, and they seem to be people protesting a dictatorship, as roars and yells can be heard.
The people are shouting something. With bloodshot eyes, they are yelling “Kill them!” “Die!” “Move!” “You got to be joking!” Amongst them, “Save me!” “Noo!” There are shrieks from women, and the crying from the children lingers on. Such a scene is akin to a depiction of a horror movie I the end times.
We check on the filming date, and find that it’s filmed one hundred and eight years ago. That is the year when the world suddenly got struck by a cold wave, and quickly entered the ice age—the ‘end time’. The cold wave froze every living creature, and the people who were running away under its terror. Before the ice age began, many masters were already swallowed by the cold.
—But it’s weird.
Looking at them, it seem the people were ‘divided into two groups’. There are thousands of people on the cliff, and tens of thousands of people in the valleys below. Looking from above, it appears to be two armies facing off.
“Don’t they look like military robotos?”
Viscaria points at the screen. Over there, hundreds of black glowing robots are lined in a row, and the soldiers seem to be standing guard there, looking down at the tens of thousands of people in the crowd. It seems like they’re there to protect the ‘minority’ on the cliff, against the ‘majority’ at the bottom of the cliff.
“Looking at the models, it’s probably the later generation of the ‘F.310’…”
Viscaria says with a serious look.
—What are they doing?
The hordes of tens of thousands appear to be approaching the bottom of the cliff. Some on the front group have begun to scale the cliff.
“It’s basically a rebellion.”
Eisbahn mutters. “Why, yes.” Götz gives a rare agreement. Both of them watch on grimly.
Finally, the military robots occupying the ledge slowly raise their thick metal arms. The arms bend at right angles, showing long silver-colored cylinders.
The guns are fired upon the yapping crowd. At this point, I still have yet to understand what this scene before me is about.
Some voices echo. It is a loud, booming voice from the commanding soldier. The robots receiving this command start to shoot lights from their arms, blue lasers spewing from their guns in unison.
The lasers rain upon the front of the group. Juuu, there seem to be something steaming away, and the bright red smoke fizzle out like a geyser. Slabs of meat rain from the skies, and only then do I realize that it’s vaporized ‘blood goblets’.
The hundreds of people at the front are vaporized into red steam, and the people at the back sink into chaos. The screams sound like metallic friction, and there is massive chaos created out of fear and rage—the people who turned around to leave, the people who started to climb out of anger, the ones who fell and got trampled, a man who keeps writhing because the lower body is gone and his guts are spilled out, a woman who appears to be a mother, distraught as her baby has lost its head.
However, this is just the beginning. The arms of the robot fire again, and the blue lasers rain down like divine judgement. The front end of the crowd again explode into blood, and the rain of flesh fall upon them.
Nobody else dares to resist. Those driven by rage are scampering away with blood drained from their faces. The crowd fade quickly like the tide, and those who are trampled and unable to get away are left them like red water spouts.
But, it’s not over.
The killing rays appear to have intention to eradicating the fleeing people. A third volley, fourth, numerous shots are fired at the backs of people. There is red blood, red blood, blood goblets, red red red blood blood blood—
—Stop it, stop it, stop………!!
I grab my body with my arms, but even so, my eyes still can’t leave the screen. Everyone too is the same. Our eyes are widened, faces blank. We are watching the footage, like dolls with their hearts and minds taken.
On this Poly Screen, the blue hail continue to create a large amount of blood. This is no longer a war, not even a massacre. It is a simple job similar to a pesticide used to spray at insects.
The place filled with people becomes a complete red. The black dots that can be seen escaping are vanishing along the horizon, and the hundreds of wounded who manage to survive—or rather, those red beings that are deformed, become writhing beings that depict hell itself.
Time seems to stand still.
We remain speechless, waiting for the continuation.
Finally, the footage moves away from the red wasteland to the cliff. The footage is taken from high up, so it’s probably some surveillance satellite. At the top of the cliff, in the front, are the military robots, and then there are thousands of masters in formation. The objective of that formation—
Over there, there is a building with an acute angle, made of glass, an large egg-shaped item can be seen inside, dug into the ground. The large thing (—hammer) that continues to spin, the outer wall that contains numerous capsules (—Cradle), the storage container built into the ground (—REM forest).
Ahh, that’s, there’s no doubt about it. That white, long, round building is—
“The Snow White…”
People with bloodshot eyes scramble towards the Snow White, and sit into the Capsules. Finally, the Snow White absorb them into its belly, spins into the underground, and vanishes below.
There are thousands of people left behind. The abandoned people are screaming and wailing in despair and rage. Finally, a surging white smoke rose, freezing the helpless people. The human figures glittering in light are as pretty as crystal dolls, but in the end, their heads and limbs are loped and dropped off in the winds, shattered as they turn into dust.
The ones left at the top of the cliff are robots. Our comrades made of black metal, who started killing to protect their masters, raise their thick arms in battle position, remaining still. Like people dressed in mourning clothing for a funeral, their eyes lost luster as they look down at the frozen land. The footage ends.
Nobody could say anything.
Sleep well, sleep well, sleep well for today.
I shall continue to hold you in my arms, so sleep well.
I finished the lullaby, and the room’s filled with peaceful rest. There were more than thirty children sleeping in the nap room of the kindergarten. The children were sleeping peacefully in the room, the children were sleeping with their feet reaching out from the blankets, the children sucking their thumbs like a cat as they sleep; I can determine their personalities from how they sleep.
—Goodness, you’ll catch a cold.
There’s a boy revealing his cute bellybutton. I adjust his clothes, and drape the blanket over him. Human children are very weak; managing their conditions is a must.
The bright lights shone through the curtain gaps, and the spring breeze shook the branches outside. I sensed the wind of life. It’s the spring anyone would sleep in.
A hand patted my shoulder. I lifted my face, and saw a kind face.
“Thank you very much, principal.”
“Go have a rest.”
“Yes. Thank you very much for your concern.”
The principal left, and I stayed back to watch the children’s sleeping face. There would be some who would reveal their bellies, some who would cry as they wet the bed. I still couldn’t look away from them; most important I love this time. So serene, peaceful; it’s the best time for me, as though everything is covered with warm love.
The children sleep on peacefully, with innocent looks.
Innocent faces, with no sense of doubt on them.