In front of the door was a vast circular open space.
It was easily over 90 m or 100 m in diameter and the already high ceiling was even higher at close to 50 m.
「So this is the innermost part……wow, seeing it in person really makes you at a loss for words.」
Tristan smiles wryly as he shakes his head.
There was none of the lighting equipment that was in the passageway, but the brightness increased and the color is a whiter……no, it’s a faint red……no, no, could it be light blue or maybe it’s changed color to a shade that I’ve never seen before.
What I’m certain of is that it’s bright and the pale color of the light is beautiful.
「Incredible……I’ve been journeying just to see these kinds of things……magnificent.」
Natia is so overcome with emotion that she’s about to cry.
Her ears seem confused and go back and forth between swaying or drooping.
「If such a room exists underground……I wonder how much power they possessed……it’s frightening.」
Agor seems a bit overwhelmed.
His attendant is also clinging tightly to his waist.
I see the silent Mack take one step back, while Celia remains vigilant and won’t leave my side.
This place cannot be compared to the size of the plaza of the palace in the Federation, let alone the one in Goldonia.
The fact that there isn’t anything small like a table or chair emphasizes how large the place is.
「No, there is one thing, or rather, there is someone……?」
In the center of the expansive area stood a female.
She was 150 cm tall with slender limbs that matched her height and a baby face that made her appear young.
However, her rainbow pastel-colored hair and light pink eyes, impossible for a human to have, clearly showed she wasn’t any ordinary girl.
Her tight-fitting white-based outfit, which is composed of a material I’ve never seen before, really accentuates the curves of her body, but doesn’t reveal any imbalances.
『I repeat. This is a high security area. Please state your name and job title.』
Those same words were recited again.
It was spoken by a monotonous machine voice somewhat resembling the voice of a lovely young girl.
We don’t give an answer, and simply gather together, continuing to stay alert.
「I appreciate the repetition…… so, what do we do?」
I glance over at Tristan.
I don’t think it will be satisfied with any of our names or ranks.
「Automatic puppet, huh……those steel soldier dolls from before, I guess. We aren’t being attacked probably because we opened the door with the proper method, but now it’s asking for a confirmation of identity. If it determines we are intruders, we’ll likely……」
That’s why I’m asking you.
Useless, I’m going to fill your meals with peas every day if we return home alive. And I’ll get Irijina to cook your meals.
「When we go back, I’ll happily eat them. Well, our only option is to lie here. We might coincidentally guess a safe name and title. I’m counting on you to do the same thing you did with the key.」
I click my tongue, frustrated that there is no other plan.
If I recall, the name of this civilization was――and it said this was a high security area.
『This is the final warning. Please state your name or job――』
「I am Birubiru Taro. I’m the boss of this area!」
「Aegir-sama……there’s no way that kind of name will work!」
「Get ready to run!」
「How do you get there from Jirubiru…… alright, let the battle commence」
「Lord Hardlett……it’s like you’re being questioned in the palace and declaring yourself as John Goldonia.」
Hey, bystanders be quiet.
The automatic puppet shifts its completely emotionless gaze to me.
『Unable to identify――』
No good, huh? Damn, Tristan’s plan was useless after all.
However, it doesn’t attack us and nothing sprung out from around it either, rather it looked like the puppet was in thought.
『Name registry lost. Unable to match with visitor. Confirmation not possible. Omitting authentication process――welcome to Bados Fortress. Previous access was 1057 years and 153 days ago.』
I don’t know what it’s saying, but I think we got by somehow.
「It was okay with that answer? Eeh……」
「Are the people from the ancient civilization stupider than I thought or maybe nobody ever lied……?」
As Natia and Tristan praise me, I feel a faint vibration under my feet.
『Moderate fatigue detected in two individuals and minor fatigue detected in four individuals. Rest is recommended.』
A table and a chair rises up from the floor.
In addition, a mysterious rectangular object emerges and water is poured inside.
『Minor dehydration detected in three individuals. Please have a drink.』
Glasses made of a material I’ve never seen before are offered to us.
「Yeah, when you think of automatic puppets, you think of the ones that go “whirrr, kill, kill”.」
It’s because we saw those other mechanical soldiers first.
Hmm, its expression softened after hearing Celia’s comments and became displeased from Natia’s words. Or was that my imagination?
I get a glass too.
I pretend to accept and naturally rub its hand.
It feels exactly like human skin, including the characteristic warmth that living bodies have. The skin is smooth and soft, and its nails are meticulously trimmed, just like that of a human female.
I try touching its hair next.
The color is not something that humans can naturally achieve, but the texture is no different from that of human hair.
It’s silky like a comb has been run through the strands many times.
My hands proceed expectedly to its shoulders and cleavage.
The feel of its clothes was strange, but the tender body of a young girl laid beneath them, and although small, I also confirmed the presence of breasts.
『Please refrain from excessive touching.』
It didn’t behave like it disliked my actions, but a loud voice suddenly scolded me, causing everyone to stare coldly at me.
Umumu……it’s hard to read when its face doesn’t show any emotion.
「Why don’t you set your pervertedness aside, Margrave? Let’s move on to the main issue.」
Tristan stands up.
「You are the supervisor of this place, right?」
『Negative. The one with the highest authority is Colonel General Midect and the ones with upper management authority are General Guinun and Lieutenant General Atoei.』
Tristan, tilting his head slightly in confusion, goes on.
「Are you the one currently in charge of maintaining this place?」
『Affirmative. In situations where authority holders are absent for long periods of time, I have been temporarily tasked with the preservation of critical functions.』
Tristan made himself useful for once.
Natia tried to sneak the glass she was given into her bag, but hastily returned it to the desk and whistled like nothing happened when the doll turned its head/
「People came here before us. They should have carried out various things……」
『Confirming… 106 days prior, a total of 15,455 people continuously intruded the facility. A few weapons and miscellaneous items held in storage were stolen.』
It knew about everything?
「You didn’t try to stop them?」
『My top priority was the preservation of the core. Since the intruders could not bypass the security system, I determined they were not a threat to the core. Furthermore, I have been forbidden to leave the high security area.』
I see, so the initial passage was, to put it in our terms, equivalent to the courtyard or outside the window.
「Okay……about that. We are interested in those few weapons which were stolen.」
Tristan unrolls a scroll with the aforementioned items.
『Warning, presence of fungus and foul odors above the standard levels has been detected. Scheduling emergency cleaning.」
「Haha……it does stink. Anyways……this.」
Tristan points to the weapon drawn on the scroll.
『Image is not clear, unable to identify.』
「Aah……okay. Then what weapon do you have that most closely resembles this shape?」
『The A-7 magic cannon matches. The R-12 scatter shot suppressing magic cannon matches.』
「What about the weapon that resembles the shape of a spear――」
『The S-12 light infantry suppressing magic ruler.』
The answer was so easily obtained that it was almost disappointing, but something feels off.
「And……what about a mechanism that reinforces an already built wall or fence?」
『Coatings PP-3 to PCP-16 matches that description. The application of any of those coatings will form a highly durable layer on the surface of any object, protecting it from damage or flames.』
「What happens when the structure covered in the coating breaks apart?」
『If damage surpasses a certain amount, it will be considered destroyed and the coating will lose its strength.』
Tristan smiles wryly and spreads his arms.
「I’m finished. I understand everything now. I was collecting resources and looking forward to perform an analysis……no, I was prepared to do so.」
Yeah, it’s certainly not very satisfying. And there’s still this strange feeling I can’t get rid of……
「The most important part also hasn’t been addressed.」
I guess it’s my turn to shine.
「That’s right! We’re not here to create a picture book for weapons. We have to figure out how to deal with――」
「What’s your name?」
I ask the female-looking doll with a smile.
Celia, I know you’re fussing behind me, but you’ll have to wait a second.
『T-99, auxiliary type automatic puppet, made for the preservation and maintenance of this facility.』
I mean, that’s just a code name.
「T-99…… how about Tikuku?」
When Natia mutters her suggestion softly, it……no, Tikuku turns its head 180 degrees to look at her.
It has such a function?
Natia hastily puts the glass back on the desk. Does she want it that badly?
「My official name cannot be changed. ――therefore, I will register it as a secondary name.」
I guess it took a liking to the name.
Anyways, Celia is getting noisy, so let’s get back to business.
「The theft of the weapons and coating have caused a bit of a mess. We would like to destroy or neutralize them, do you have any solutions?」
『The A-7 and R-12 are not very durable. It is easy to destroy them with a certain amount of physical or magical force.』
「IWe’re asking because we can’t get close enough to do so……」
I nudge Tristan.
「Ah, right……what should we do if these weapons are stolen or if the army wielding them rebels? We want to minimize the number of casualties as much as possible.」
『An order will be sent from this facility to turn off all weapons.』
My soldiers slump as I shout “why didn’t you just say that from the start?”
「Then can you send that right away?」
We might be losing Aless soldiers on the surface as we speak.
Tikuku fixates her eyes on me from the front.
When I look closely, her pupils are moving mechanically. So she isn’t human after all.
『Birubiru Taro. Are you an authority figure in this fortress?』
「No. Also change my name to Aegir.」
Tikuku nods robotically.
『For the sake of preserving the fortress, a special protocol will be applied. Aegir, are you a supervisor?』
「I’m not that either.」
It changed my name properly like I asked.
『Applying the emergency manual for the special protocol. Are you a person affiliated with the fortress?』
Tikuku’s eyes peer into my eyes almost like she was trying to appeal to me.
Now I know what made me feel so uneasy.
「Yeah, that’s right.」
At that moment, Tikuku’s expression softened.
『A request has been issued to T-99 by the current highest authority figure to apply the special protocol in conjunction with the emergency manual. T-99 approves. Magic weapons will be shut down remotely.』
Desks with countless protuberances on them emerge from the floor and Tikuku starts operating them.
When Natia, whose attention was drawn to the foreign devices, reached her hand out to one of them, she was surprised by Tikuku, who only spun its head around to look at her while continuing to manipulate the mysterious terminals.
So it seems its head has a range of motion of 360 degrees.
『Transmitting stop signal to the magic weapons. All weapons outside the fortress have now been stopped.』
「That’s it? How anticlimactic.」
Everyone, including me, visually relaxes.
With that, we’ve pretty much achieved our objective.
Since the weapons have now lost function on the surface, that means the Aless soldiers should be fine too.
「We only have the impenetrable walls to deal with……」
『The coating is designed to lose its effect if hit by a certain amount of voltage for disassembly purposes.』
What is voltage?
「It doesn’t have a magic component so it cannot be disabled remotely.」
So we have to smash it……that may be the trick.
In any case, we have a way to pull it off now that the light weapons are out of the picture.
「Shall we head back?」
Natia panics when Celia proposes to return home.
Observing Agor and Mack, I can tell they want to go back.
Tristan looks like he wants to stay a bit longer.
『Please refrain from excessive touching.』
For some reason, Tikuku stands between me and the door. I see.
「Since we’re here, it would be interesting if we picked up some new weapons.」
I say in a joking manner.
『Opening weapon storage number 1.』
The edge of the open space swells and a large mass incomparable to the desk and chair rises from the floor.
A bizarre object was presented in front of us.
A strange mechanism and a handle was attached to the back, and then a long narrow tube extended out from there.
Mounted on the top of the tube was something that resembled a peep hole.
『There are 15 000 M102 assault rifles available for use in stock.』
「I don’t even know how to use it, I mean……」
Immediately, something else rises from a different part of the floor.
『In weapon storage number 2, there are 100 multiple rocket launchers, 100 M155 heavy autocannons, and other such gunpowder-based weapons in stock.」
「I don’t know what you’re saying anymore. They look heavy, so I guess I’ll take them.」
After that, Tikuku very slightly tilted its head downward.
『In weapon storage number 3, there is the Genocide Cannon, which cannot be deployed, even during emergencies, unless a direct order is given by Colonel General Midect.』
「M…… I have no idea what these are, but I’ll take one as a memento.」
「There’s a blade attached to the tip, so isn’t it a spear? No, but considering how slim it is, it can’t be possibly used in battle.」
「……the handle is too small for me.」
Natia, Agor, and Mack inspect the weapons restlessly, and in the end, Natia took one of the M weapons……or whatever they’re called, with her.
Celia lightly taps the weapon that looks like several huge tubes bundled together and then loses interest in it.
「This…… I should stop. It isn’t something I should bring back. Wars are already a constant phenomenon. If this is brought to the surface, things will really become messy.」
Tristan mumbles something and then plops himself on a chair.
「Rather than all these unknown weapons, don’t you have anything closer to swords or spears?」
No matter how many of these weird weapons I take, they’re useless if I don’t know how to operate them.
『Swords, spears――nothing in stock matches that name. Expanding the range of search―― one match found, General Guinun’s personal item.』
This time, a tight compartment opens up from the ceiling rather than from the floor and an object lowers down.
What appeared was……
「Is it a spear?」
「It looks like one.」
『Magic spear, Keravnos. It is not officially in stock so I do not have any detailed data.』
Its length is approximately 3.5 m, 80 cm of which is the blade on the tip, and has seven additional extremely sharp blades evenly spaced and positioned at a shallow angle on the side of the spearhead in a way that doesn’t interfere with thrusting. It’s a spear made more for thrusting and piercing than slicing.
Its entire body is silver in color and it glitters like the Dual Crater.
The Dual Crater looks nothing like its former self though.
Its weight of roughly 40 kg isn’t too heavy. I can easily swing it around with one hand.
「In terms of durability……well, I’m sure it won’t be an issue.」
I gave it two or three swings and I don’t think it’s for ceremonial use as far as I can tell.
「It’s a small accomplishment. I’ll take it.」
『Yes, General Guinun died 1057 years ago. Since there have been no communications regarding inheritance, the rights to the corresponding item have become void.』
I just hope he doesn’t come back and haunt the spear after dying over 1000 years ago.
「Alright, time to go home.」
Celia, Agor, and Mack reply positively.
Tristan has mixed feelings as he gives a parting glance at his surroundings, while Natia ties her fully stuffed wrapping cloth around her neck, sweating anxiously as she distances herself from the glaring Tikuku.
Everyone didn’t take long to exit the door.
Meanwhile, I also get ready to leave.
However, I felt something tug on my sleeve.
Tikuku was grabbing onto me with a blank face.
Did I do something wrong?
『You have attested to being a personnel of this fortress. I cannot allow you to leave.』
The hold on my sleeve tightens.
Everyone seems to become tense except me.
The female doll isn’t trying to imprison me or bring harm to me.
Thinking back to the start, it didn’t make any sense.
It was also strange how she tried to deceive me during the identity check by saying the name registry was missing.
Even if that were true and she couldn’t verify our identities, we would simply be recognized as workers or soldiers in the fortress, and it should not have been that easy for us to access weapon information or see the contents of weapon storages.
「You knew they abandoned you here, huh?」
『I am T-99 and my mission is to maintain the core of the fortress. The order is valid and still in progress.』
Tikuku, who offered chairs, water, and glared at Natia, was actually a little happy.
Although she is also an automatic puppet, she’s different from the inhuman ones we fought on the way here.
「People don’t come here anymore. You knew what that meant.」
『Fortress personnel are not permitted to leave. Not permitted.』
Tikuku repeats herself as she trots after me briskly, all while holding onto my sleeve, and then my foot takes one step outside the door.
「You wanted to leave this place, didn’t you?」
『Outside the boundary…… continuing the existing…… ord……er.』
Tikuku stops right at the edge of the room and releases my sleeve.
With a lack of expression similar to Leopolt’s, not a single tear was shed and her eyes did not waver. Her pupils only moved around mechanically.
But that clearly indicated to me she was sad and she was pleading for me to stay.
I extend a hand from the other side of the door.
「Why don’t you come with us?」
Tikuku briefly froze, tilted her head once to the left and right, and then spun her head one full rotation.
「You scared me, don’t do that.」
She looks like a real human, so the impact of such abnormal movements is greater.
『Request to move outside boundary. Contradicts fundamental order, not permitted. Applying special wartime exception. Setting Aegir to be the current highest authority figure. No mention of name in registry――concluding data has been damaged, adding a new entry. Awaiting orders.』
Tikuku stares at me with eyes filled with anticipation, although the rest of her face remains unchanged.
Wow, she’s easier to read than Leopolt.
「Come with me, Tikuku. Leave this place.」
『Overwriting――fundamental order. T-99, committing to new mission.』
Tikuku finally took the one step she was unable to do for a thousand years and crossed the border of the door.
Tikuku talked from beginning to end on the way back.
With that said, it wasn’t done voluntarily.
「Please refrain from excessive touching.」
Natia’s curiosity gets the best of her as she pokes Tikuku’s back and pulls Tikuku’s hair, triggering the puppet to give a warning each time.
「Isn’t it fine? I mean, there isn’t much to do with all the traps along the path disabled.」
Tristan comments with a slight chuckle.
The reason he’s in such a good mood is probably because Mack is piggybacking a book as thick as a brick.
Apparently, it’s the official history book of Jirubiru, one of various items which Tikuku allowed to be taken after she was ordered by me to come along.
It obviously doesn’t show on her face, but she is really excited.
If she was a human, she would be skipping.
「……I’m not your workhorse.」
Mack retorts, in a good mood as well.
Aside from my spear and Tristan’s book, everyone also chose something to take from the fortress.
「Please refrain from excessive――final warning. Further contact will be considered an attack.」
Natia jumps back and hides behind me.
「It’s nice there are no more traps, but it’s a bit boring.」
「Are you really saying that, Aegir-sama……?」
「Trap activation chances, 91%.」
Hey Tikuku, what did you just say?
Don’t tell me you were watching the whole time.
The moment we got outside, it started to stink of humans.
「Let’s stop the chatter here for now. There may not be any traps, but we’re close to the entrance. Meldora soldiers should be nearby.」
Agor’s warning was a bit late and we encountered three Meldora soldiers who emerged from the alley next to us.
「They come inside! How’s that possible!?」
We prepare to draw our swords when we see the enemy soldiers do the same.
However, a rainbow blur rushes toward the enemies faster than we could act.
「Intruders detected. Eliminating immediately.」
It was Tikuku.
The slow mechanical soldiers could not compare to her.
She moved faster than Celia and me, just like a flash of light.
Tikuku rams straight into the first enemy.
He should already have his sword out, but he could not react at all, and was thrown against the wall, going unconscious instantly.
「W-what is that thing!!?」
The next soldier swings his sword wildly, but Tikuku avoids easily by sidestepping left and right at a speed that leaves behind afterimages.
She proceeds to grab the soldier by the sleeve, spins him around at breakneck speed and slams him into the floor.
What tremendous strength. I wonder what would have happened if she used that same power to tug on my sleeve.
「Dammit! Eat my trump card!」
The last enemy soldier points his magic-shooting staff at Tikuku.
Without delay, a fireball hits her directly in the head.
The air shook due to the impact and the resulting flames rose up high enough to reach the ceiling.
「Did it work!?」
When the smoke cleared, Tikuku stood there unharmed.
「The firepower of S12 cannot deal damage to me. Eliminating the intruder.」
As Tikuku grabbed the enemy soldier, her hand pressed against his carotid artery, putting him to sleep.
She said she was just an automatic puppet who manages the fortress, but she’s incredibly strong.
「None of them were killed though.」
It does seem Tikuku is making an effort to hold back.
So she won’t murder……in comparison, the traps are ruthless in that respect.
「Using physical attacks to destroy a human body will cause blood and fat to scatter. This is a normal passage without processing mechanisms, which may deteriorate the hygiene levels of the environment. I will toss them in the disposal system and chop them up.」
This ancient civilization is not to be underestimated.
「Leave them alone. We have to get back to the surface quickly.」
The magic weapons may have been stopped, but the city walls are still up and nobody knows what can happen in war.
We don’t have time to torture unconscious guys.
「The situation outside the fortress is unknown to me. Is there are battle going on?」
「Yeah, I pretty big one.」
Detached from our circumstances, Tikuku probably doesn’t know about the city state called Meldora hovering above our heads either.
「Then I will use the appropriate force to escort you. T88-02, T88-03, activate.」
Tikuku held up her arm as she plainly issued her command and then an earth-shaking rumble started to approach us.
What appeared was――
「「「A giant mechanical soldier!」」」
Everyone exclaimed at the same time.
Its height well exceeded 20 m, and it held a 5 m long axe in its right hand and a giant crossbow in its left.
Tikuku nimbly leapt up and landed on the giant soldier’s shoulder.
「Mission: Search and Destroy. Eliminate all existing threats.」
A monotonous voice different from Tikuku’s, or rather a noise, came from the giant soldier in response.
Tikuku advanced to the entrance, with each step sending tremendous vibrations throughout the ground.
「Hey, the Aless soldiers might be eliminated too! Actually, they are certainly going to appear more like the enemy because of how savage they are!」
We hurriedly followed after Tikuku.
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