It wasn’t the artificial flavor that deceived. It wasn’t electric signals. It was real taste.
This was the true thing that fulfilled one of the three great desires of humans.
It wasn’t about gaining energy. It was about satisfying the soul.
It was the first time Sharma realized this truth.
And as for Rindo…
“I cannot allow you to carry all the weight. I too will learn of the truth.”
Veldora and Ramiris watched this display and wondered why they were exaggerating so much. Rindo cut himself a piece of pound cake and brought it to his mouth.
(…Impossible!? Is this what real taste is…!!)
He was shocked.
It was as if everything he had ever known was a lie.
The first thing that had filled Rindo’s heart was a sense of mistrust towards Veldora and the others.
He had thought that they were spies from the Empire that had been sent to find their hideout.
However, they turned out to be very strange.
As he wondered about this, they had then ridiculed the food that had been offered as a show of gratitude.
After that, Rindo’s heart became full of rage towards them.
But the ability to calmly make decisions was always required of him, and so he had repressed these emotions and watched silently…and now, the small girl called Ramiris had served them food.
The distrust. The rage. The shock.
Rindo’s heart swayed between the emotions in confusion.
Where had the thermos and snacks from from? And the thing–the magic that Ramiris had used–what was that?
It would take immense power to gather the water from the atmosphere like that… Was this miniature Automata really that powerful?
How did it work?
And if they used this technology, could they create lots of water?
Would they be able to solve their very serious concern regarding water shortages…?
There was no end to his questions.
And not only questions, but ambitions.
But he pushed all these thoughts and questions aside for now in order to follow Sharma in eating the food—and that was when all his questions were blown away.
The insult of having their precious water referred to as mud water–he understood it now, with the tea in front of him.
Ah, damn it all! So this was what the real stuff was like.
He had not known.
He should not know…
But now that he did, he would have to eat the imitation that could never satisfy him, and bear it.
–Yes, it had happened already. He could feel it.
(Ahh. And Zaza knew it more than anyone…)
Rindo now understood the meaning behind Zaza’s warning earlier.
Zaza was an older cyborg model, and so he had had to bear this pain for over a hundred years.
He had known some of it, but he had no idea what that pain might feel like.
And now he would be just the same as him…
“Zaza. Do you mind if I ask you something?”
“Ah. What is it, Rindo?”
Zaza answered with a look of concern.
But he knew what the question would be…
“A long time ago…were such wonderful foods accessible for everybody?”
It was exactly what Zaza had expected.
“…Yes. My daughter once baked me cookies. They were good. Very good. Even if they were a little burnt and odd in shape…but it’s not about those things. There was a warmth…”
Rindo nodded and thought about it.
The food in front of them made Zaza’s argument so much stronger.
He had never heard of Zaza having a daughter before, but it seemed rude to ask about it.
The fact that he had not mentioned her before suggested that the war had…
And then Rindo began to mutter to himself.
“Why. This war, why did it…”
The thirty-year old Rindo and the fifty-year old Sharma were forced into this lifestyle because of the scars left by the war.
The responsibility for this was with their parents’ generation. Or perhaps the generation before that.
He knew that it was pointless to complain about it now, but he could not help but think in this way.
They had to attack the Empire’s food producing plants and steal–that’s what they had to do to survive in this world.
They purified the polluted water and secured the bare minimum.
Luxury was not permitted. Everyone worked together in their desperate struggle to survive.
And this was all possible because they didn’t even know what luxury was.
But now that he did, he could not help but hate the ‘great war’ which was the reason they were now suffering…
“I’m sorry… It was because we were weak…”
“No, I’m the one who is sorry. I got a little excited…”
Rindo accepted Zaza’s apology.
Zaza was not at fault here, but it seemed like the natural thing to do.
The air in the room felt very oppressive now.
“Hey, hey. Master…”
“What is it…Ramiris?”
“Did I do something wrong?”
“Uh, yes. I tried to stop you, remember?”
“No you didn’t! You were happily eating the cake!!”
“Tha-that’s not true. Well, nevermind that…”
“But that’s important! Oh, well…”
The two culprits became frantic.
They began to whisper to each other so that Sharma and the others could not hear.
“…If they like it so much that they can cry, maybe we should give them more?”
Ramiris started to suggest, but Beretta stopped her.
“Lord Ramiris, I do not think you should do that. Lord Rimuru will not be pleased.”
“It is irresponsible. Lord Rimuru believes that interactions with other words must be conducted with the utmost caution. We are already involved enough as it is. If we go in any deeper, we will be held responsible for these people. And it is unthinkable that we could choose a side when we do not even know which side is for true justice in this world.”
Beretta was warning her–if she had no intention of looking after them after this, then she should not give them any false hope.
It would not be difficult for Ramiris to prepare food for a thousand people.
However, it would not continue on forever.
Only a demon would do something so irresponsible when they had no intention of taking care of them until the end without receiving anything in return.
Beretta was a former demon, and so he knew more than anyone, the pain felt by humans when dropped into the pits of despair from the heights of joy.
“…That’s true. Okay. I shall be more careful.”
“That would be for the best. At least, we should learn more about the situation in this world before choosing to side with these people.”
Veldora and Ramiris looked at each other and nodded after hearing Beretta’s warning.
It may already be too late, but neither of them wanted to create more reasons for Rimuru to get angry.
And so the two of them took Beretta’s opinion into account and then used Thought Transmission to talk about what direction to take from there.