Chapter 2 - Rebirth - Day Seventy-Eight
It's a rainy day as usual. A rainy day that definitely wouldn't end.
I'm moving the waste materials today as well.
At the coastline that extends from the piled up waste materials at the 'gut', the waste that were stacked up like a hill has decreased a lot. This would signify that our job is coming to an end.
The clanking noise of the metal in my skull was like the irregular dance moves of a person dancing on the stage that is my mind.
I couldn't help but feel like cracking open my skull, taking it out. However, using my arms to do this type of delicate work makes me uneasy. Besides, opening it would be simple, but closing it would be troublesome.
While thinking to myself, I saw a rare scene in the afternoon when I was repeating the dull labor.
It was the scene of the inspector apologizing.
On the monitoring station, the inspector that usually stays at the top was actually bowing, an appeasing smile on his face. After looking in detail, I found that a middle-aged man of medium build who's wearing a suit was standing beside the inspector, pointing here and there.
—he's probably a VIP. He might even be the general manager here.
I glanced over there while I moved the waste materials. The man on the monitoring station pointed at us quite a few times. Each time, the inspector would hurriedly jot down notes. I wonder what they're talking about.
I shifted my attention to my front, and stopped behind Volkov's large back. Lilith was at his side.
I increased the speed of my continuous track, going forward to ask them.
The clanking metal noise rang joyfully in my skull while I continued to go forward in the rain.
"Don't you feel that it's strange?"
The person who said that was Lilith.
Late night at two, we were having a book club meeting at the old wooden table in the warehouse, as usual.
"What's so strange?"
"Iris, didn't you see it too? The fat man."
Probably obtained from the waste materials, Lilith stared at me while swinging the small recorder in her hands. Her elegant, beautiful face showed a dissatisfied expression, while her brows were furrowed.
"Ah, do you mean the man wearing a suit speaking to the inspector?"
"That's right, that's right. He's probably one of the people from the 'headquarters' that came here before, right?"
"Headquarters……? Headquarters from where?"
"The headquarters of this company. Isn't there a red logo on the inspector's uniform? …… It's a pity I couldn't read the words on it."
"A red logo……"
I can't differentiate colors, so I don't remember this.
"The car that they were on had the same logo as well, so they're probably sent here from the headquarters in Oval."
After hearing the word 'Oval', my heard started to pound. That's the name of the city that Professor and I lived in.
"Is Oval…… near here?"
"Eh? Do you mean Oval City?"
I nodded, then Lilith answered: "It's just beside here. You wouldn't even need fifteen minutes to reach it on car."
I bated my breath because of this answer. Fifteen minutes on car. After arriving here, I felt as if I was thousands of miles away from my hometown, and was at foreign soil, but never would I have thought that the this place is so close to Oval City.
At this moment, Lilith continued the topic just now.
"That's right. I heard some strange news today. Those were the words that the inspector spoke of after the VIP from the headquarters left."
After that, Lilith lowered her voice. Actually, only robots with their power sources turned off were in the warehouse even if she didn't do that.
"After the job is finished, these people are going to get fired."
"……? What does that mean?"
"That~ would~ mean~ fired, fired! After the work is done, we'll become scrap metal!"
I couldn't help but moan. After hearing the word 'scrap metal', I recalled what occurred 'that day'. The day when my limbs were torn off. I don't want to go through that all over again.
"…… What do you think?"
Unusually, Lilith asked Volkov for his opinion, while he answered immediately.
"Robots- must- obey- humans."
Unsatisfied, Lilith hammered on Volkov's arm.
"Seriously…… Did you think clearly about this? Don't you know that we'll become scrap metal if this continues?"
"Robots- must- obey- humans." Volkov repeated the same answer.
"That's enough, I'm the dumb one for asking you about this."
Lilith leaned her back against the junk behind her.
"I definitely don't want to turn out like that."
I gazed at Lilith: "But we can't do anything about that."
"Isn't everything solved if we just run away?"
"But there's a forced command code in our body."
"That wouldn't matter. I removed it a long time ago anyways."
I was taken aback. The forced command code is an important component in the safety circuit of a robot's body. That is a program that is forbidden to be removed so that robots would definitely be unable to disobey humans.
"My safety circuit broke down. Probably at the forth construction site before this? It was coincidentally broken when I was squashed by a crane before this. However, I can't charge if I don't work, so I kept pretending to obey the humans."
"Is that a joke…… Then is it the same with Volkov?"
I glanced at him. He answered in his deep voice as usual: "No."
"Volkov's- safety circuit- still- same."
"It's because this guy was a military robot."
Lilith looked at Volkov while saying.
"His safety circuit is quite unusual. I tried to remove his safety circuit before this, but it ended in failure. …… It was still successful in the process, but there's a strange black setting in the way…… "
Volkov said with his head held high: "Volkov- safe." Lilith answered uncaringly: "Yes yes, very safe."
"But this isn't the time for us to say these things calmly."
Lilith stared at Volkov directly.
"Is it really okay if you become scrap metal?"
"Robots- must- obey- humans."
Lilith sighed. She looked really troubled. Though she seldom shows this attitude, she indeed cares for Volkov.
"…… Never mind, compared with this, it's better if I remove your security circuit right now, Iris. If anything happens, even if they pressed the 'emergency stop button', you can still escape."
The emergency stop button is a button used for emergencies for the robots to stop moving together. I saw one of those hung on the belt of the inspector.
"Remove? Is that possible?"
"Of course. I was in charge of the emergency repair of my colleagues at a construction site before this. …… though it's just instantaneous."
Lilith took out a toolkit from below the table. Of course, it's another 'war spoil' from the construction site.
"Don't move. The mental circuit is especially fragile." She moved behind me, coming closer to me with a screwdriver in her hands.
"I- is it really going to be okay?"
"It'll be alright! …… Probably."
A creaking noise came from the top of m y head, Lilith had started to loosen the screws. One tiny screw after another were placed on the square box on top of the table.
Finally, with a clang, the top of my head was opened.
"Oh? It's the substandard goods from the third factory. …… So that's how things are."
Lilith started to nod, making sounds of agreement.
"What do you understand?"
"I understood how you came to be here. From that junk parts store."
"Junk parts store?"
"Aren't new robots expensive? That's why the junk parts stores that collect second hand parts like hands or legs, making 'homemade' robots are increasing."
I've heard about this. Those places would collect second hand parts and modify them, assembling an illegal modified robot— such as myself.
"You're probably bought by the inspector from the junk parts store at Oval City. But actually, the Robots Management Department sold them to them, right?"
I thought that she's right. Thus, I explained the process of myself arriving at the construction site after being turned into scrap metal."
"Are you joking……" Just at that moment, Lilith made an odd noise.
"What is it?"
"Wow, it's the first time I saw such a small mental circuit……"
Looking at my internal parts, Lilith said in awe. "Wow! The safety circuit is so small! And it's a unique structure!?" Lilith seems very excited. I couldn't help but get embarrassed.
Lilith's expression turned solemn. She observed my face from the side, her long hair gently brushing past my shoulder.
"You, who are you?"
"…… What?" I tilted my head.
"The parts of your body are all quite old, but your mental circuit are quite advanced. What is with this?"
A shadow was cast in my mind. Those were the sorrowful memories that I sealed in the depths of my heart, the past that I don't want to face.
"Ah, what's this?" Lilith said in surprise.
"What is it now?"
"There seems to be a locked object hung near your mental circuit."
I suddenly remembered something. 'That noise' that kept clanking in my skull recently.
"Wait a minute……"
Lilith took out a metal wire out of the toolkit and twisted it into a hook— like the hooks on fishing rods.
"I'll get it out for you right away."
After a moment, a click echoed, then she said "It's done". It seems that the hook found its prey.
"What is this…… A pendant?" Lilith muttered in surprise while holding the metal wire.
I turned my head over, only to hear Liltith say "Look", placing the object she found on the table.
It's a gray oval-shaped pendant with a lock on it.
No, it's not gray, actually a silver radiance shone from the—
Circlet cigarette case.
I slowly extended my right hand, holding the cigarette case.
Stains of dried blood were still caked on the cigarette case dirtied by black machine oil.
With trembling hands, I opened the cigarette case, then a familiar 8-shaped circlet cigarette rolled onto the table, falling down silently like a bicycle that lost its rider.
'That photo' was stuck onto the lid of the cigarette case as well.
A young girl wearing a frilled dress and a straw hat was standing in front of the signboard of a movie. Beside her, it was the tall person wearing a shirt and a pair of jeans with a mischievous smile on her face, she is—
My right arm holding the cigarette case started to tremble slightly. The trembling soon spread to the whole of my body. The emotions that I had been suppressing, the restrained pain, love and deep despair broke out of the cage at the depths of my heart, surging violently out of my body. The Professor in the photo extended her hands to me, bringing me back to the happy times of the past. "I'm back, Iris. Have you been a good girl today as well?" the Professor patting my head gently, but somewhat harshly as well. "Mnn., it's really good. Iris is really good at cooking." The Professor praising me. "Ah, Miss Iris, do you have anything to say about this?" The Professor bullying me. "Erm, Iris?" The troubled Professor. "Good night, Iris." The gentle Professor. However, Professor is now dead. I can't see Professor anymore. Professor, Professor, ahhhh, ProfessorProfessor ProfessorProfessor ProfessorProfessor ProfessorProfessor—
"Uu- aa…… UWAAAAAA—!"
I started to wail. I lied on the table in violent convulsions, making sounds of despair that frightened even myself. The happy moments and gentle memories shattered like glass, piercing into the tenderest part of my heart. The emotions that flooded out of my heart turned into a large wave, drowning myself in it.
"Iris!" At that moment, Lilith's high-pitched shout pierced into my back. Her arms forcefully hugged my body that was in convulsions.
"It's okay, everything's going to be alright……!"
I caught hold of Lilith's elbows, restraining my emotions. While drowning in the sea of pain and sorrow, I frantically waited for the moment to pass.
"It's okay…… It's alright now, Iris……"
Like a mother comforting a weeping child, Lilith kept encouraging me. The body that I felt on my back was very soft and warm, reminding me of the times when Professor hugged me before this.
My trembling gradually stopped.
Time flowed again.
My convulsions stopped, only my hands were trembling slightly.
Looking worried, Lilith held my hand soundlessly. Volkov gazed at us silently as well.
"…… Have you calmed down?"
Lilith asked in a gentle voice. I answered weakly "Yes……"
After that, she looked at the cigarette case and myself in turn, asking hesitantly: "What is this?"
I nodded slightly, then raised my head to look at them.
Lilith's large eyes that reflected my silhouette were filled with worry as well.
Volkov's square eyes emitted a steady glow, he's waiting for me to speak as well.
— That's right, tell these two……
I decided to tell them the truth. Telling them wouldn't matter— instead of saying that, it's better if I say that I wish for them to know.
Thus, details poured out of my mouth like water bursting out from a dam. I spoke of being created by the famous Professor Umbrella, the death of Professor because of an accident, of myself attempting suicide because of despair but failed, of the people from the Robots Management Department appearing before me, of myself turning into scrap metal, and of myself arriving here after I woke up.
I pointed at the photo with my right hand: "This is Professor…… This is me." At the same time, I heard Lilith gulp. Volkov's body was rather rigid as well.
After about ten minutes, I stopped. Silence returned to the warehouse.
In the cigarette case on the table, Professor and I were smiling. Professor wore a teasing expression, while I was rather angry.
"Is that so……" Lilith gazed at the photo in the cigarette case, muttering lightly, "I felt that something was odd. Iris felt like a girl's name to me……"
Then, she blinked, raising her head as though she came to a conclusion.
"Actually, it's the same for me."
She stared directly at me.
"I lived at a human's house before this as well."
After that, she started to speak of her past.
Five years ago, Lilith was bought by the prestigious 'Sunlight' family. As the Sunlight family do not have any children, they adopted a young robot model instead.
At first, Lilith lived a happy life there, accepting her the love of her 'parents'. They would buy clothes for her, play with her, treating her like their own flesh and blood. The rich array of expression that she owned was the proof that her parents spent a lot on her.
The situation changed two years after Lilith arrived. Her parents had a new child. While Lilith was happy for the birth of her younger sister at first, things weren't that simple.
Lilith's parents abandoned her.
The incident happened all of a sudden. One day, the robot recycling vendors came to her house without a sign, almost dragging her out of the house. Her parents didn't even look at her departure.
After that, she was sold again as 'second-hand stock'. She was a waiter at a restaurant at first, and was then moved to a construction company, arriving at this construction site. Though she looks fragile, both her battery capacity and load weight are immense, which is why she could persist until now.
She spoke of her sad past as if it doesn't concern her. Lastly, she told me that I'm the first person to know about this apart from Volkov.
"This person is the same as well."
After saying that, Lilith turned around to face Volkov and asked: "Can I tell Iris?" Volkov nodded silently.
"Do you remember Volkov's full name?"
"Isn't it Volkov Galosh?"
Lilith nodded, then continued: "Actually, it's Volkov Galosh Ouroboros."
"That's right, Ouroboros. That's originally the name of a snake that appeared in myths. …… And then, when Volkov was in the army, he belonged to a unit called Ouroboros."
'Volkov- knows- ways- to- kill' The words resounded in my mind.
"The unit called Ouroboros was a unit that was formed of robots, a Mech…… Err, what's it again?"
Lilith glanced at Volkov, while he answered shortly: "Mech Corp."
"Right, in the Mech Corp, they were dispatched to various battlefields. However, they suddenly received an order to return when they were going to their twenty eighth battlefield."
"Because a newer model of robot weapon was invented. To dispatch the new weapons, the 'older models' like Volkov fell into disuse."
Actually, I think I heard about this on the news before this.
"But why is a military robot being used in a construction site?"
"It seems that the company has relations with military affairs as well. Though the background is complicated, the company is only working on subcontract projects. …… Also, most people don't know it, but the management of military robots is actually quite lax."
"Apart from Volkov, many robots that were originally used for military uses were sold in the market. They were all older robots that were left because of the decrease of wars."
"So that's how things are……"
"Pitiless, aren't they. Creating them when they need it, abandoning them when they don't."
Lilith shrugged while saying. I didn't know what to say.
After that, she picked up the cigarette case and said while looking at the photo.
"Even so…… Your situation is better."
"Because, didn't your Professor love you till the end?"
Now that Professor is not here, saying things like this is meaningless— I wanted to answer that, but stopped.
Lilith was abandoned by her parents. Volkov was abandoned by the army.
Professor— didn't abandon me.
"That's right, much better." Lilith kept staring at the photo, mumbling absent-mindedly, "Up till the last moment, you were loved……"
I only understood at that moment. The reason that Lilith kept standing up for the magic ring Flo Snow.
After the new ring appeared, the old ring would lose its home.
The ring represents Lilith, and also Volkov.