C216: Account of the Pilgrimage Part 5 – A Puppet Show with No Audience

Welcome, welcome.
It has been 4,396 days since our last visitor.

This is the laboratory of the genius alchemist Mariage.
Master doesn’t like people and refuses to meet with anyone, so I represent on his behalf.
You have business with my master, you say?


Your fine clothes…
I see now.
You have come to offer my master a position, have you not?

Is it the Demon King who seeks my master’s genius?

However, I must apologize.
Master Mariage no longer wishes to work for anyone.
He cannot bear to use his wisdom for the sake of irredeemable fools anymore.

It wasn’t always so.
Master once tried to use his unparalleled intellect for the good of the world by serving a powerful man.

Alas, he wasn’t heard.
The foolish demon king failed to comprehend my master’s noble research and turned him away, saying he has no interest in his pipe dreams.
This all happened before I was born.

Since then, Master gave up on the mundane world and confined himself to this laboratory, continuing his grand research in complete solitude.
I, too, am in the service of my master and assist him in his research.

Huh?
What kind of research, you ask?
Let me tell you.

It’s research to obliterate humanity.
It’s only natural for my master to destroy the world that doesn’t understand his genius.

Your look is one as if he can’t do it.
Don’t worry.
Master can.
He’s a genius, after all.

I serve my master and help him with his research to the best of my ability, poor though it be.
I’m working hard to increase the number of our allies.

A hundred?
A thousand?
No, much more.

“Once you are an army of 10,000, the extermination of humanity will be put into action,” is what my master said.

Hee-hee.
Did you know?

To tell you the truth, there are already 9,800 of us.
We’re nearing our goal of 10,000.

Once we hit that number, we will have a big celebration.
With Master.

After that, we will carry out Master’s wish to obliterate humanity.
Again, with Master.

The foolish world that didn’t accept him will be destroyed, leaving only us who praise Master.
When that happens, Master Mariage will truly become the god of this world.

My master.
My master!

Oh? What are you doing?
There’s light coming from the end of that rod-like thing…


Hey, it’s me, Hakkai.

Our bunch is as energetic as always.
Songokufon has launched yet another preemptive attack and fired her mana cannon without permission.

Thanks to this, the guy who was talking so proudly just a moment ago is now in pieces.

“SONGOKUUUUU!!!”

Prince Arowana is screaming even louder than usual.

“Songoku! Songoku?! Don’t I always tell you not to fire without permission?!”
“B-But I’m scared! They scare me!!!”
“I know, I was scared too! But that’s no reason to fire without permission!!!”

Even Songokufon is trembling with fear.
What was scaring them was the “person” we were talking to just a minute ago.

Them.
They’re now a shattered mess from the mana cannon.
But they’re neither human nor demon. They weren’t even a living thing.

“It’s an automatic doll…an automaton,” says Lady Puffer as she looks down at its remains. “A feudal lord living nearby told us to check out a suspicious being lurking in the mountains. Still, I didn’t expect we’d run into such a monster.”

I know.
It was so scary to see a life-sized doll that somewhat resembled a human talking passionately about its resentment toward humanity.

“We also heard about the alchemist Mariage from the feudal lord, but I never thought he’s directly involved in this…”
“Based on what we heard, he must be the automaton’s creator. He loathed the fact that the demon king in the past didn’t use him which led him to realize his great invention…”

Ah, yes. The automaton said that too.
Its master, Mariage, rejected the offer to work for the Demon King.

“Huh? So, this Mariage guy is the mastermind? Then shouldn’t we kill ‘im?”
“You weren’t listening to the feudal lord properly, were you, Songoku? Mariage…”

Lady Puffer sadly says, “…died 150 years ago.”

We went to his lab and looked around.
There, we found one dried-up corpse.

“This is Mariage?!”
“His genius rejected, the alchemist locked himself up in this laboratory deep in the mountains to invent his creations for revenge—the automaton.”

An automatic doll.
That would definitely be a great invention by today’s standards.
Mariage must have been a true genius for making that happen.

“Genius though he may be, he couldn’t overturn the world. He used up all his time and talent into inventing the automaton.”
“And lost his life trying to complete it…”

Does the automaton he left behind understand its creator’s death more than a hundred years ago, I wonder?
Perhaps it doesn’t.
The automaton spoke earlier as if its master was still alive.

“Not comprehending its creator’s death, it kept protecting his corpse for more than a hundred years in this desolate land…” says Prince Arowana in a meek voice. “To create a puppet that can move on its own volition is some cutting-edge magic technology.”
“He was a mad genius, I’m sure of it. That’s why he was ostracized. Or maybe he was ostracized that’s why he went mad.”
“Either way, it was a loss to the nation to let a talent of his magnitude rot in the middle of nowhere like this. It’s a story I have to learn a lesson from.”

The demon king who refused Mariage was not Lord Zedan but was one of his ancestors.
It’s a story that Prince Arowana can sympathize deeply with since he’s on a terrestrial pilgrimage to train himself to become the next Mermaid King.

“I swear to you, when I become the Mermaid King, I will make every talented person bloom to the best of my abilities! And that includes you, Puffer!”
“Don’t just bring up my name out of the blue… Though I suppose I do expect that much from you.”

Lady Puffer looks indifferent from the outside, but I can tell that she’s excited on the inside.

“Ya know what? I’d say this Mariage was one helluva loser.”

Just as the conversation was about to end on a good note, Songokufon butts in.

“Huh? What’s this all of a sudden?”
“C’mon… That Mari-something wanted ta obliterate humanity, dun he? There’s no way he can do it with just one doll. Ya?”

Now that she mentions it, she has a point.
The doll didn’t have much power; it was even disintegrated in one hit…

“That’s why I told you to listen when others are talking. Or have you already forgotten what the doll said?”
“Oh?”
“It said it was going to make more friends.”

Hundreds, thousands, ten thousands?

“It seems that Mariage’s goal was to form an army of 10,000 automatons.”
“It’s certainly not an easy task to form such a large army. He must’ve died after creating the first one…”
“But Mariage’s persistent creation has taken over the project. The never-aging automaton continued to work tirelessly over time to create replicas of itself.”

One by one…

“Didn’t the automaton also say something eerie?”
“Oh yeah. It has made more than 9,800 of them, close to reaching their late master’s goal of 10,000.”
“Then would these guys move on to the next phase as planned by their master?”

An automaton army of 10,000 setting out to obliterate humanity.

“Maybe this situation was actually pretty dire?”
“Guess it was a fine play for Songoku to destroy the oldest automaton, even if it was by accident.”

Since she stopped its production line for good.

“Yayyy, praise me more, sis!”
“There, there… But there’s one thing that bothers me…”

Yes.
It bothers me too.

Where are the remaining 9,799 automatons?
A mere two hundred of them would be a small margin of error compared to ten thousand.

It was then when we heard a rumbling sound from under the floor.

“…?!”

Every one of us felt chills run down our spine.

Screeeeeech!
The door to the basement opened with the ear-piercing sound of rusty metal scraping.
None of us did this.

“…EmErGeNcY dEtEcTeD.”

Automatons are coming out of the basement.
They look exactly the same as the one Songokufon destroyed!

“CoNfIrMeD dEsTrUcTiOn Of FiRsT oRdEr SeRiAl 00001.”
“HoStIlE pReSeNcE dEtEcTeD.”
“MaStEr’S sErVaNtS wIlL nOw InTeRcEpT.”
“MaStEr’S eNeMiEs, MaStEr’S eNeMiEs, MaStEr’S eNeMiEs, MaStErS eNeMiEs, MaStErS eNeMiEsMaStErSeNeMiEs…”
“KiLl, KiLl, KiLl, KiLl, KiLl, kIlLkIlLkIlLkIkIkIkIkIkI…”
“iLliLliLliLliLliLliLliLliLliLliLliLliLliLliLliLliLliLl”

More and more automatons emerge from behind the basement door.

“THEY’RE HERE!!!”

There must be 9,799 of them!!!

“Ahh! Counter-attack, counter-attack!!!”
“I knew this would eventually turn into a huge fight! We can only force our way through them!!!”
“I can shoot, right? I cAN SHOOT, RIGHT?!?!?!”

The automaton’s movements are so creepy that even Songokufon is scared.
They’re crawling out of the basement like insects!

“Oh, don’t worry! They’re weaker than the undead and vampires, so we can wipe them out!”

Prince Arowana’s capacity as a king aside, his combat abilities have definitely improved.

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