If I die to this Tablet of Madness, I hope Lucia survives so I can haunt her. How can she be so unreasonable? I’m only in the saint realm! Lucia should’ve brought Claw or Softie along instead…. I know Softie’s also a saint-realm expert, but I’d rather her die than me. Not that I want her to die or anything; I’m just saying I want to live.
“We are close,” the smith said and swallowed as he turned a corner. “The Cave of Wonders is straight ahead.”
Oh? Juniors! How can you traverse upon the path of immortality when death is inevitable?
What was that? Was that the Tablet of Madness? It spoke right inside of my head, exactly like the other smith said it would.
“Mm? It’s been so long since I’ve eaten something that I’m starting to hear things,” Lucia said and pulled out a pre-cooked aurochs’ leg. She munched on it while the smith stared at her with a pale face.
“C-Captain Fluffytail, this is the furthest I’ll accompany you,” the smith said and nodded before stepping backwards. “The voice you heard just now came from the Tablet of Madness. Be careful!”
Can I go with him? Please?
Lucia finished eating her snack and blinked. “Hmm? Where’d the smith go? Don’t tell me the Tablet of Madness ate him!”
And she wasn’t listening. As usual. “No, he left. That voice just now was the Tablet of Madness. You heard it too, right? It said something like death is inevitable.”
That’s right. Immortality is impossible to achieve. All roads lead to death.
“Oh….” Lucia nodded. “Does this mean the tablet’s alive? Like it has a spirit inside of it kind of like Durandal and Puppers?”
“I wouldn’t know.” Lucia always thinks I know everything. But I’m younger than her and, in theory, should have less life experience! “But you’re hearing the same thing as I am, right?”
“Yup.” Lucia bobbed her head up and down. “This tablet is such a pessimist. All roads lead to death? Nonsense! The road to immortality leads to immortality. That’s why it’s called the road to immortality. Sheesh, just like Puppers, this spirit inside the tablet isn’t the brightest, huh?”
Lucia’s socks fluttered. “…Did you really have to take a jab at me, Lucia? You can’t read either.”
Lucia stomped her foot and placed her hands on her hips. “At least I can beat things up. You can’t even do that! So you’re dumb and useless, hmph.”
For some reason, Softie has been putting Puppers down in front of Lucia, and Lucia, being Lucia, was easily influenced by her words. I feel bad for Puppers sometimes. But I’m a little glad he gets abused too. Misery loves company, after all. If I was the only one suffering under Lucia, then I’m sure it’d be a lot more unbearable. Partners in misery…. I want to go home.
...Even the road to immortality leads to death. Everything you’ve ever accomplished will cease to exist. Your legacy shall disappear in the passages of time. When the sun and stars stop burning, the universe will come to an end. The heavens shall collapse and the underworld will implode. Once again, everything shall become nothing. Even immortals will not be spared.
“Hmm….” Lucia scratched her ear before looking at me. “Is this tablet stupid? It thinks the sun will go out like a bonfire or something. Now I know why it’s called the Tablet of Madness—because it’s not right in the head. Let’s ignore it and hurry up and fix Durandal!”
I don’t think you’re one to talk about being not right in the head, Lucia....
Do you think the sun is eternal? Like everything else, it shall eventually run out of energy. When that happens, everything dependent on it shall die. Immortals will not be spared either when the heavens fall apart.
Lucia sighed and shook her head. “Some people just can’t be helped. The sun’s never going to run out of energy. It’s not possible! Sheesh, this is why I hate arguing with idiots.” Lucia grabbed my arm and pulled me forward down the alley. A cave entrance came into view along with a glowing purple slab of stone.
If you don’t believe me, then I shall show you.
My vision disappeared for a brief moment. When it came back, I was surrounded by darkness. Below me, there was a massive green disc with jagged edges. I could barely see the darkness past the disc because it was so large, but I managed to make out some floating chunks of rock circling it. Encasing the disc, and me, there was a translucent dome. I couldn’t tell how far away it was, but the dome was dotted with lights with one light being especially prominent—the sun. Then, the sun winked out of existence. Darkness fell over the disc, and the green surface became brown, then black. Like brittle scorched bones, the disc disintegrated into tiny specks starting from its edges, merging into the abyss underneath. A few insect-like lights surged up, gathering together above the crumbling disc. A small beam of light shone out of them, lighting up a portion of the land beneath. The illuminated portion regained its color, flourishing with green once again as the rest of the disc disappeared, but the insect-like lights vanished in the next moment, and the flourishing portion crumbled apart as well. The translucent dome dimmed as more and more lights winked out of existence, and soon, I was left in complete darkness, unable to even see my own hands that I was sure I was holding in front of my face.
Do you understand now? The universe was born from nothing, and to nothing it shall return. In the face of the inevitable end, even immortals are like insects ground mercilessly underneath the feet of time.
“Ilya!” Lucia’s voice brought all the color back. I was standing in front of the Cave of Wonders again. The next thing I felt was a sharp pain on my head. Why was Lucia grinding her knuckles against me!? What did I do this time!? “You said this necklace prevented illusions! Of course, I’m too smart to believe what I saw, but it was still unpleasant to see!”
…No. That may have been an illusion, but it was a vision of the future. What you saw will come to pass.
Lucia snorted. “Like I’d believe a talking rock! You don’t even have a p****!”
What does a p**** have to do with anything…?
What does a p**** have to do with anything…?
My lord, my thoughts are in sync with this tablet. But if everything the tablet says is true….
I cannot lie. Continue on with that train of thought. Wouldn’t it mean everything you’ve ever done was pointless? Your struggle for immortality is futile.
Lucia hummed and pulled me along into the Cave of Wonders. Wasn’t she going to argue with the tablet some more?
I ceased communications with her. I conversed with a broken blade of grass once. It was more reasonable than that woman.
Well, can you stop talking to me too? I feel like I’m not your target audience. See, immortals might despair at what you showed me, but I haven’t invested anything in the path towards immortality. Quite frankly, I didn’t even believe in it in the first place. I’ve lived the majority of my life under the pretense of every living thing dies. This isn’t some amazing new discovery, and I’m pretty sure anyone from my pocket realm will agree with me.
You don’t feel despair at the pointlessness of your life? Not even a tiny bit of existential dread? You and everyone you know will disappear. There will come a time when no one will remember your existence. Anything you’ve left for the future generations will be lost, eroded away by the passage of time.
Eh…. If I really ended up living forever, chances are I’d be stuck with Lucia for that whole time. I think I’d rather be able to eventually die, you know? So, I don’t feel any dread; maybe I feel some relief? That doesn’t mean I want to die though! Please don’t kill me.
…I understand. My master told me to pass on his techniques to someone who’s strong enough to traverse the necropolis and able to comprehend the end without turning insane. You’ve passed.
“…Ilya? Ilya!? Why is the tablet chasing us!?” Wind cut my face as Lucia sprinted forward, pulling me along. From behind, the Tablet of Madness was flying towards us, glowing with an ominous purple light.
Stop running, please. This won’t hurt.
Somehow, I don’t believe that. Maybe it’s because there’s a giant spike made of purple light jutting out of it that’s cutting the supposedly impossible-to-cut cave walls.
This transfer needle is necessary to impart my master’s technique.
“Holy shit! That spike is massive! What did you do to provoke it, Ilya!?” Lucia ran even faster, her tail fur stabbing into my face. She turned a corner and abruptly slammed into a dead end. And since I was pulled along by her, I slammed into it too. That hurt! Lucia grabbed me and hugged me to her chest as the tablet rounded the corner, surging towards us. “P-Puppers! Human-Shield Technique!”
Puppers flew out of Lucia’s sock and collided head on with the flying tablet, stopping it in its tracks. …Did he die? It wouldn’t be the first time he died to defend Lucia, and it probably wouldn’t be the last. I really do feel bad for him sometimes.