It was one year before the Monster assaulted Bantorra Library.
In a small island far from Bantorra, a minor incident had occurred.
That island’s sky was crystal-clear and the sea was calm as if time had stopped. The crabs walking on the sandy beach didn’t pay any heed to the men standing there, and birds flew in the sky as if they owned the place.
There were three men on that empty beach.
Or maybe it would have been more accurate to say two men. One of those three lay on the sand because he couldn’t ever move again.
The dead man was young. He was at an age only slightly past boyhood. He wore an old-looking military uniform. The front of his body had been burned beyond recognition. His face and body had been scorched by intense flames and he probably died an immediate and painless death.
The two men stood next to that corpse.
“Zatoh-sama, it was truly disappointing.”
One man had said. He was a plain-looking man at the prime of his life.
“Indeed. He was different than what I heard, what was that supposed to be?”
The other man – Zatoh – had answered. His long, transparent hair fluttered in the sea breeze.
“Well, it doesn’t matter. Just do it, Lascall-san.”
Zatoh said. The aged man – Lascall Othello – gracefully bowed.
“As you wish. Please wait a little.”
Lascall kneeled on the sand and brought out a strange dagger from his breast pocket. Its handle looked like a human hand and its blade was made of stone. The man held that strange dagger with a backhand grip in a completely impractical way.
“What is this?”
“This is the Passed Stone Blade Yor. It is the eighth Memorial Weapon which was not supposed to exist.”
As he said this, Lascall Othello thrust the blade into the ground. The sand around it took the form of a Book on the dagger’s tip.
“Oh… that’s incredible.”
“Is that his Book?”
Zatoh pointed at the boy’s corpse left aside.
“That is indeed true. Here you go.”
Lascall prompted him. Zatoh reached for the Book that was inside the sand. When Lascall saw that his hands were bare, he raised an eyebrow in confusion.
“Ah, do you intend to read it?”
“How unusual. But why?”
“I’m interested in this Monster guy.”
His fingers touched the Book and the boy’s memories flowed inside him.
He was inside a stone room. The size of that room was about ten square meters. There was a small oil lamp on the ceiling, which was the only thing illuminating the room. It was very dim. The room had only one door. That hard cold steel door separated the room from the outside.
He sat directly on the stone floor, hugging his knees like a baby inside his mother’s womb.
There were no chairs or even any bed sheets. Only clothes that looked like rags were warming his body. These shabby cotton clothes were damp with filth and sweat, and thus made his whole body dirty.
The boy appeared to be around fifteen years old. He had black hair and eyes. He was somewhat short and dirt clung to his skinny body. When he would scratch his skin with his overgrown nails, layers of grime and dirt would peel off of them. He emitted a smell that would make one want to turn their face away, but he didn’t think anything of it. It was natural for him.
Including him, there were fifteen men inside the room. Their ages were diverse – there were some that looked to be in their teens like him, and others that looked like they were also past sixteen. Everyone was dressed in rags just like him.
He was a Meat.
He was a clothed livestock kept by the Indulging God Cult. They all were simply lumps of meat, without any memories or wills, waiting to be used in experiments or be turned into bombs.
As for his name – he didn’t care for such a thing.
Why would a being without any memories, will, or a reason for living have a name?
He explored the gloomy floor by hands. Everything his hands touched he would pick up and put in his mouth. They were bread crumbs. He spit them out after a bite. They were moldy.
Once again he looked for bread crumbs on the floor. However, all he could find were crumbs that were spat out by someone. Occasionally the crumbs he picked up were too small or all moldy.
Many of the other men also looked for bread crumbs on the floor just like him. The gross sounds of chewing and spitting resounded in the dark room. From time to time, there were also the sounds of excretions of bodily waste from the corner of the room.
The door suddenly opened. A man holding a bucket stood on the other side. He seemed to be a man in his forties smoking a cigarette. He was the one in charge of taking care of the Meats.
“Meats. It’s washing time.”
After the caretaker said this, the Meats all stood up and pressed on the walls. The caretaker started scattering water from the bucket, washing away the moldy bread crumbs. Then, he sprinkled some more bread crumbs on the floor. The Meats jumped on them. Raising a cry like hungry stray dogs, they picked up the fresh bread crumbs, striving to be the first ones to eat.
The boy’s hand touched a large bread piece. A man near him stretched his hand in order to take it from him. He shook off the Meat’s hand. Here and there, people were scrambling for the pieces of bread in a similar way.
The caretaker stared at them doing this, annoyed.
“Disgusting. How longer will I have to do this job?”
Then, a bread piece rolled at his feet. The boy reached for it. However, he was pushed aside by another Meat, rolled on the floor and hit the caretaker’s feet.
“Don’t you touch me!”
The caretaker kicked the Meat. He rolled on the floor without raising any cry. No one would even look at him.
“Damn it, I hate it. Hey you, come here!”
The caretaker said and grabbed the boy’s collar, raising him up.
“Go and reflect in the punishment cell.”
He was dragged out of the room by his collar.
The place called the punishment cell wasn’t any different from the room he was in before. It was simply colder and no bread crumbs were thrown around. He was put inside for a day or two. During that time, he had to withstand the cold and hunger.
Another boy around the same age had been inside the room. He sat down on the opposite corner of that boy.
He was thrown inside this punishment cell for some trivial reason – no, for no reason at all, but he couldn’t get angry. He just wasn’t like that. He understood he was meaningless. He was worthless. Because he was worthless, if he were to be put inside the punishment cell or even killed, he would just accept it.
He wouldn’t be allowed to refuse. He couldn’t even think about refusing. Someone without any value couldn’t be allowed anything.
In order to bear the cold, he shrank his body and rubbed his toes together. Then, a voice called to him from the other corner.
“If you’re cold there, come here.”
He didn’t understand he was being talked to. He also didn’t understand that the boy at the other corner was talking to him. Meats never conversed with one another.
He stopped thinking about this impossible situation.
“…Well, if you don’t want to I don’t really mind.”
When he didn’t answer anything, the person on the other side spoke with displeasure. Meats never sounded displeased. That boy was also different in that sense.
He stared at the boy. He felt fear.
He was supposed to be the same as him, but he was different. It was similar to when a sheep noticed a goat slipped into its herd. He was silent for a while. The other boy was also silent.
After about an hour, the other boy opened his mouth.
“Who are you?”
He asked. The boy replied to him without reflexively.
“What are you?”
It was a long time since he used his voice. He had forgotten how to do it.
“You don’t need me to tell you. I’m a Meat just like you.”
The boy answered while scratching his nose.
“I’m Relia Bookwatt. And you?”
He couldn’t understand the question directed to him.
“Answer me. Even you should have some name, right?”
He remembered. Right, he did have a name. He didn’t think about it in a long time.
He then identified himself.
“…I’m Enlike. Enlike Bishile.”
It felt terribly strange giving his name. It was like he admitted himself being a human and not anything else.
Thus, he found some meaning for the first time. He was an individual. Enlike Bishile’s story slowly began at this moment.
Enlike looked at Relia who sat in front of him. He was a strange Meat who asked for his name for the first time. He was staring at him while feeling confusion and fear.
“What did you do?”
Relia asked him.
“You haven’t done anything but they still put you here… how horrible.”
“What did you do?”
Enlike nodded. Enlike was a bit surprised at having made a conversation. It was the first time he found out he could do such a thing.
“Someone in the same cell as me got a fever. I told the caretaker to get some medicine. That’s all.”
Enlike’s face slightly distorted.
“Such a thing is not allowed.”
“Seems to be the case.”
Relia bent his cheek while saying so. Enlike noticed it was swollen. He was probably hit by the caretaker.
“You’re bad. Don’t do such things.”
“I didn’t do anything wrong. I just said it.”
Relia answered while shrugging. However, Enlike didn’t stop.
“Talking is wrong. Thinking is wrong. Meats can’t think about things like that.”
“…What’s that supposed to mean?”
Relia seemed a bit gloomy. Enlike still kept talking.
“I was taught this long ago. We’re Meats. We look like humans but are different. We’re beings who simply live and die without having any value.”
“What are you trying to say?”
“Those who are worthless also have no rights. We don’t have the right to say or think anything.
We’re not allowed to want medicine.”
“Is that how you really think?”
Relia said as he shook his head to the side as if saying he couldn’t agree.
“Even if we were told to not think, thinking is just thinking. It can’t be helped.”
“It can be helped!”
Enlike shouted as if to refute Relia. Even he couldn’t understand why he shouted.
“Why are you angry?”
Relia stared at the angry Enlike.
“…Don’t do such things.”
“…I’m asking why you’re angry.”
Enlike glared back. For a while, they simply stared at each other.
“Hey, Enlike. Why are you angry?”
“It’s unforgivable. Meats are not allowed to think about such things. Because we’re worthless.”
Relia glared at Enlike with hostility. The atmosphere between the two already became one of enemies.
“We’re not allowed to think about anything. We have no value.”
Relia spoke resolutely.
“I’m… I’m not worthless.”
Enlike didn’t understand what he said for a moment. He only managed to utter this. While glaring at Enlike, Relia repeated himself.
“I’m not worthless. Even if I’m a Meat, I’m not worthless.”
Before he noticed, Enlike’s fear turned into anger. He thought from the depths of his heart that he couldn’t forgive this boy.
“We don’t have anything. Here we only eat bread crumbs, shit, and someday die.
We get used in experiments or become bombs and die. That’s all. Do we have any value? Or do you still think that it can’t be helped?”
“I don’t. This is obvious.”
“If you understand, then give up! We’re all worthless!”
Enlike kept shouting without understanding what made him angry.
“No. Even if we’re Meats, guinea pigs or bombs, it’s still the same.
I’m not worthless.”
“…So why, you bastard?!”
Enlike rose up and started running. He almost stumbled as his weak legs made this sudden movement.
He pushed the sitting Relia and grabbed his throat. With his frail thumbs he started crushing it.
“What… are you…”
Relia resisted. He scratched Enlike’s face and poked his eyes. Enlike raised a cry of pain and shook off Relia’s hand.
Relia kicked him and he tumbled to the floor.
“What are you doing?”
Enlike stared at Relia while breathing roughly. There was no anger on his face.
“It’s unforgivable. Why are you the only one to say such things? Why are you the only one to have value?”
His expression was that of jealousy. He envied and hated this man who declared he had some worth.
“Why are you the only one…”
Enlike’s voice stopped.
Just as Relia was about to say something, a voice called to them. The heavy iron door opened and a man lazily walked in.
“Huh? What’re you two doing?”
It was the caretaker. Enlike and Relia looked at him while breathing heavily.
“What are you doing, you Meat? Stand up, your punishment is over.”
The caretaker said in a casual manner and grabbed Relia’s hand. Enlike was also about to stand up. He wanted to shout that the conversation wasn’t over yet.
Relia tried saying something.
“Why’re you talking?!”
The caretaker struck Relia with his fist. Relia cowered so the caretaker once again forcibly raised him.
“…Oh, right, you blabbered something about a medicine.”
The caretaker suddenly said while dragging Relia. He sneered at him.
“Stupid. That brat was fine.”
For a split second, the wounded Relia’s face appeared to be beaming.
“It was the sort of illness that didn’t need any medicine in the first place. You’re such a stupid Meat.”
The caretaker laughed at him.
Relia muttered in a low voice. At that moment, Enlike could see it. The expression on Relia’s swollen face had changed.
“So… they’re fine.”
Relia muttered. Enlike could see his facial expression changing. He slightly lifted his beaten, swollen cheeks. His mouth became curved and his eyes slightly thinner.
Enlike knew that expression although he hadn’t seen it in a long time nor remembered it.
It was a smile.