City Series:Volume4a Chapter 4
Chapter 4: Battlefield Arrangements (Screen Layout) – (12/18/1996)
A large enclosed space was visible from a hall surrounded by glass.
The hall stuck out like a ship’s bridge and was filled with operating equipment. Beyond the glass was a square pit with one hundred meter sides, rivaling the size of a dock.
This was the operating room for the Ixolde Word Accelerator and it was located below Osaka Prefectural #2’s schoolyard.
Shutters had covered the glass the day before, but now a giant mechanical pillar made its presence known as it rose from the darkness.
That pillar that appeared to be connected to a giant container was a Babel Gun.
Instructions from the operating room would fire pure compressed words down from the top of the Babel Gun.
The fired words would accelerate as they collided with the word particles of light inside the acceleration pathway. Upon reaching the turnaround point at the very bottom, the excess heavy word dregs were cast off as the words bounced back up.
Those words were further accelerated by the ricochet effect.
They were gathered inside the ascending acceleration pathway that fired word particles of darkness. Darkness pulled in the words with the same speed as the light.
As the words travelled up the long pathway, the ricochet effect would cause them to scatter, but they were kept together by the double helix Babel Gun positioned near the surface.
The pure Lives had been given acceleration by the double arrangement of light and darkness. As they reflected around the double helix pathway, they gathered together and accelerated more and more. The Babel Gun contained a pocket to record the voice emitted when the words surpassed the speed of time.
“We are after the sound that reaches the voice pocket when the maximum value is reached.”
That comment came from a student in a lab coat standing in front of the large window giving a view of the Babel Gun.
He was speaking to Nanba Souichirou and Saki Seiji who stood in front of him.
Once he finished his explanation, he gave a quick bow and left.
Drawn by his movement, Saki Seiji looked back.
As he and Souichirou remained in front of the window, the students working on the final setup of the operating room were inspecting programs and equipment or running simulations of the final stage.
A large digital clock next to the room’s entrance told Saki it was eleven in the morning.
The large terminal below the clock was the mainframe for connecting directly to Ixolde’s core.
Once the activation password was typed into that terminal the following day, Ixolde would boot up.
Some technical terminology and instructions were exchanged, footsteps rushed here and there across the floor, and fingers typed furiously at keyboards.
Saki faced forward again.
Standing next to him, Souichirou had his one eye focused on the Babel Gun standing tall in the space before them.
Saki scratched his head with the attaché case in his hand.
“So we’re finally activating it tomorrow, huh?”
“Yes. …At this point, only Nagoya’s Chancellor is taking part, so we must really be hated. I wonder if the others will give their approval if we succeed.”
“We have a 100% chance of success here. After all, two years ago-…”
“Do not mention that accident.”
Souichirou cut Saki off and looked back with his one eye.
Saki also turned around and saw the work being done by the science club elites selected from different schools.
They were all doing their very best to get Ixolde up and running by the following day.
Saki scratched his head again and spoke up hesitantly.
“Well, Nandaimon has always hated Ixolde and tomorrow night isn’t going to be any different, right? They’re coming for the night’s Osaka security meeting, but they didn’t come to see the inside of this place.”
“Nandaimon’s leader, Yuuki Senga, is the only human in Japan who can teach how to use Heavy Rhythms. She sealed those techniques away at the end of the Kinki Riot, so it’s understandable she would not want them appearing in the world once more.”
“Heavy Rhythms, huh?”
“I heard at the Mountain that it was their presence that caused the Kinki Riot.”
“What do you think of that Killing Holder girl? Is she the same as Yuuki Senga?”
“You met her yesterday, didn’t you? When you had to ‘clean up’ after the Koto Guardian.”
“She’s no laughing matter,” said Saki quietly. “She has exclusive access to the world’s only combat satellite, the Suzaku Ver. 40, and she wields the giant staff Housei, which was given its power using Death Techno.”
“She destroyed an entire schoolyard and school building, didn’t she? That goes beyond an Octave of 5,000,000.”
“There’s a lot to talk about when it comes to her. After that stuff yesterday, some weird people showed up.”
“Yeah.” Saki pulled an MD from his pocket. “I recorded the commotion if you want to hear it.”
“You will play it for me?”
Saki smiled bitterly as he shoved the MD into an MDD and played it.
“There’s a bit of static…but they really were weird.”
A quiet voice played from the headphones extending by a cord from Saki’s neck.
“That was the Koto Chancellor. Next up is the Nagoya Chancellor. They confront each other right away.”
“Oh? Yer willin’ to get that close with yer staff? Does distance not matter with yer power?”
And immediately afterwards…
“A moron was standing between the Chancellors, so the Nagoya Chancellor shoved him toward the Koto Chancellor.”
“So that was a boy’s scream?” asked Souichirou as he crossed his arms.
“The moron muttered that just before he was tossed behind her by the collar.”
“See? Now, this next line is a big one.”
“It is no use. If you try using a student as a shield, I will simply kill both of you.”
Saki and Souichirou’s expressions changed at the word “kill”.
They exchanged a glance and waited for more sound without nodding.
Their silence was answered by Taeko’s staticky voice.
“A shield? …Hah. Ya haven’t seen this guy for two years…and ya call him a shield?”
“The Killing Holder probably would.”
“Hey. I thought ya’d be at least a little worried ‘bout Shoui, so what’s this? Yer callin’ him a shield that’s keepin’ ya from movin’?”
“What else could he be?”
That line was immediately followed by a low rumble from the headphones.
The sound continued for a while.
“That’s the Nagoya Chancellor’s Dragon Emperor automatically starting up. It went all the way up to the third stage right off the bat. She was pretty mad.”
“Hold it right there!”
“The moron restrained the Koto Chancellor from behind, which really surprised the Nagoya Chancellor.”
A sound resembling shattering glass came from the headphones.
Saki’s voice and the sound of breaking rock came next.
“Was he unable to restrain the Koto Chancellor, so she still managed to launch an attack?” asked Souichirou.
“I used my spear to destroy the pillar of ice she sent flying. She’s a frightening girl. That was a clash between Chancellors.”
“C’mon, now! This is Osaka! Why are you acting so impulsively, Koto Chancellor!? Are you still going to act selfish after blowing away some students from our territory!? You too, Nagoya Chancellor!”
“Didn’t I tell you before?”
“You mean that you’ll do what it takes to take advantage of any opportunity? You did, Chancellor of the Turbulent City.”
“And that’s exactly right. Turbulent City – Nagoya will use any means necessary to survive, even if it means bringin’ shame to ourselves. …That’s been our motto since the Warring States period.”
“An excellent opinion,” said Souichirou.
Saki grimaced and the voice from the headphones spoke his thoughts for him.
“Once you reach the Chancellor level, you aren’t supposed to get to know people like that! Do you think this is a friendship manga!? Not to mention that Osaka is busy with Ixolde right now.”
“Oh, shut up. Nagoya is full of fightin’ on a daily basis. We sit on the dividin’ line between east and west, so information warfare and corporate warfare are bein’ waged on a daily, hourly, and even secondly basis. Do ya understand? …We can only trust someone who’s either lost to us or defeated us.”
“I said shut up. Don’t you agree, Shoui?”
The slight static of silence continued for a while.
“Oh, go ahead and continue talking, boss.”
“What are ya doin’, ya moron?”
“Can you not feel this dangerous atmosphere?” asked Saki’s voice.
“Eh? Well, given the situation, I just couldn’t help myself, so, um, uh…”
Saki switched off the MD there.
“Now then,” he said with a serious expression. “We parted soon after that. …The Nagoya Chancellor’s brother was killed by the Koto Chancellor, but she got weirdly angry partway through there. …Did you notice it?”
“Yes. After the Koto Chancellor treated the ‘moron’ you mentioned so carelessly, she started acting weird.”
“That moron was our new student you saw yesterday. The Dis-Worder boy who for some reason stayed at the Nandaimon Shrine until two years ago.”
Saki took a breath.
“He apparently met the Nagoya Chancellor at the Mountain. …Just as the legend says, the Dis-Worder boy is bringing calamity to Osaka.”
Souichirou gave a small bitter smile.
He opened his eye and held his right false arm forward to touch the large window there.
His spread palm pointed toward the Babel Gun that looked like a layered container.
“This is a lot like two years ago.”
“Yeah, it is.”
“Do you think an ogre will appear this time too?”
“You’ll defeat it if it does, won’t you?”
Souichirou fell silent, so Saki did as well.
The ensemble of typing reached them from behind.
Souichirou finally spoke slowly as if to deny the rapid pace of the keystrokes.
“We will create the ultimate Rhythm here. …I just hope no calamity befalls the supernatural music of the Heavy Rhythm that no one can use. But if calamity does befall it, will it be an ogre?”
“As long as you don’t have to cut down a person. We can’t have you being called a Killing Holder too.”
“I see. But…”
Saki tilted his head and Souichirou asked him a question.
“That moron you mentioned… He seemed flustered at the end. What happened?”
“You said he was restraining the Koto Chancellor from behind, didn’t you?”
Some serious suspicion filled Souichirou’s gaze, so Saki placed a hand on his chin as he quietly responded.
“While standing behind the Koto Chancellor, he moved his arms sharply around like this…”
“And he fondled her breasts.”
A vermilion shrine stood quietly in the afternoon sun.
It was Nandaimon Shrine.
Its current master, Yuuki Senga, stood before the sanctuary.
The entrance to the vermilion wooden structure was closed by a bulkhead painted with yellow and black danger stripes. “Use Extreme Caution” was written in red letters at the center.
Senga silently operated the key panel on the wall next to it.
She pressed a few keys and inserted a card she pulled from her pocket.
After a pause, she pressed her thumb against a point on the panel.
—Senga – Mechanic Tech – Take – Machine Operation – Hit.
The bulkhead moved.
It had looked like a solid piece, but it split into four pieces and receded into the sanctuary wall.
The sanctuary had looked wooden on the outside, but it was a fully-equipped modern shelter on the inside.
The bulkhead revealed a slope leading underground.
In the darkness beyond, another bulkhead could be heard opening. It led to the sanctuary proper.
The low sound of heavy moving metal was accompanied by the slope’s lights turning on.
The bright light reflected off the flexible gray metal of the walls and floor.
Senga stared down the pathway and sighed.
“Maybe it’s about time to let Yuuki put the sanctuary and history books to rest. Her grandfather’s soul hasn’t been showing up lately…”
She complained as she walked down and reached for a touch panel on the wall.
When she did…
“Hey, wait! Wait just a second!”
She turned in surprise toward a male voice.
A boy stood there.
He wore a red mountain hoodie with a tattered bottom and he looked young.
…Is he a student? But…
“Is sneaking up on a woman without letting her sense your presence your idea of a greeting?”
“Sorry, sorry. But my personal rules say you can only yourself a woman up to the age of twenty-eight. You didn’t know that?”
“I don’t like to brag, but I turned twenty-five this year.”
“That I didn’t know. That’s called being a nonagenarian, right?”
“…Are you trying to pick a fight? What brings a Critical Forcer here?”
The boy whistled lightly at what she said.
“That’s the former head teacher at the Mountain for you. How could you tell my Combat Style?”
“The soles of your shoes are scraped up at the toes. That’s because you shift your center of gravity with kicks, isn’t it? It’s impressive that both shoes are like that.”
He looked into the sanctuary behind Senga.
“I’ve been wondering. What’s in there?”
“What will you do if I tell you?”
“Feel impressed. …Hey, quit sighing and tell me.”
“Hah. This is where the Devices, prosthetics, and history books created by the Nandaimon Shrine are kept. They’re all so old that their spirits tend to get a little rowdy, so they have to be put to rest once a day.”
“Hmm. Do you have the rumored hand of that Rashoumon ogre? Y’know, the arm of the ogre Osaka Chancellor Nanba Souichirou fought and slayed last year.”
Senga smiled bitterly.
“That arm is valuable for research, so it’s being preserved. But it wasn’t a Rashoumon ogre.”
“That’s just what the rumors say. I don’t actually think it was either.”
“You’re an interesting boy. Everything you say is so vague. …What are you truly after?”
Senga gave a small smile and the boy smiled back.
“I’m here to defeat the Koto Chancellor.”
Both the sudden comment and how casually he had said it left Senga speechless.
A short time passed.
“After all, she’s the only Chancellor that’s killed someone over the last ten years, right? Nanba Souichirou’s strong too, but he killed an ogre, not a person. That means defeating the Koto Chancellor would be better from an image standpoint.”
“Huh? Eh? Umm, don’t give me that scary look. I was just stopping by, but she wasn’t here. She wasn’t at her school either. I had nothing to do with her gone, but then I spotted you.”
With that, he took a step toward the inside of the sanctuary.
“Do not go inside!” shouted Senga.
“The sanctuary is under constant surveillance from the Suzaku Ver. 40 in orbit.”
“You mean that combat satellite that was launched before the Wort Bombe created the Great Canopy? …So what about its surveillance?”
“If anyone but me goes inside, a word particle cannon will fire on them from orbit when they leave. Do you want to be hit by a cannon blast that destroys everything in a kilometer at full power?”
“That’s just cruel. Wouldn’t you destroy your own Koto region with that?”
“It’s better than having anything taken from here. The people of Koto are prepared for that.”
The boy nodded and took a step back.
He stuck both hands in his mountain hoodie’s pockets and let out a disinterested sigh.
“The Suzaku Ver. 40 is a machine, so it wouldn’t be using a Tech to fire… And even if I dodged it, I wouldn’t be in the clear with a blast of that size.”
Senga frowned at that.
“Tech? Dodged it?”
“Hm? What about it?”
Senga stared at the boy’s face and their gazes clashed.
It took some time before she spoke.
“I once…” She took a breath as if hesitating. “I once heard someone say the same thing as you. During the Kinki Riot thirteen years ago, an idiot said they could dodge the Suzaku Ver. 40’s cannon.”
“Tell me your name and your teacher’s name.”
“Will you fire on me from orbit if I don’t?”
“That might not help if you’re who I think you are.”
“You’re overestimating me,” he said with a bitter smile.
He straightened his back, looked down at Senga, and spoke with a pleasant smile.
“I’m Tokyo Chancellor Nakamura Hisahide. …My teacher’s name is Iba Masaaki. You know him, don’t you?”
His question was answered with silence.
Senga’s gaze wandered.
She looked down, seemed about to say something, and then looked Hisahide in the eye again.
“I was right.”
“That old man said you, Yuuki Senga, would probably make up your mind pretty quickly.”
“Only probably? That idiot’s underestimating me. Does this mean Iba created a White Noise user!?”
“I wanted to be one.”
“To meet my sister and become the king.”
Hisahide continued in an almost arrogant tone.
“I’d like to hear the opinion of Yuuki Senga, leader of the Nandaimon Shrine, former head teacher of Mt. Kouya’s Mountain, and leader of the Kansai Temple and Shrine League. Are the rumors true that Ixolde is going to create the most powerful Rhythm?”
“You came to Kansai because you think they are true, didn’t you?”
“I want to hear the truth from you, the only person to oppose the Ixolde project.”
He lowered his hips, crossed his arms, and sat on the ground.
“I’m not moving until you tell me.”
“What will you do if I tell you?”
His tone was jocular, but a horrible stillness filled his expression.
He looked up at Senga with the look of a student awaiting his teacher’s lesson.
—Senga – Mind Tech – Take – Decode Expression – Hit.
“I don’t know what you’re thinking or what you feel obligated to do, but you must deem this necessary.”
Hisahide said nothing.
He waited motionlessly for Senga to speak, so she responded to his silence.
“The Rhythm it will create is far more powerful than the Wind Rhythm Kusanagi that Souichirou uses. It will be the Heavy Rhythm Yamata, aka the Flame High. That mysterious Rhythm is said to exist in this Land of Fire and Land of the Rising Sun.”
She took a breath.
“But it was lost when used by Tokyo Chancellor Nakamura Midori during the Kinki Riot.”
Osaka was a cramped city.
It was known as the sloped city, but the city center was relatively flat. Climbing to the top of a tall tower was enough to see it all.
The Osaka Hilton was a hotel in Osaka’s Umeda district. The sky lounge on the top floor of the thirty-five story hotel allowed one to look down on Osaka as the setting sun washed over it.
A couple looked down at the city like that from a two-person table by the window.
They were Tokyo Vice Chancellor Aoi Hijiri and Tokyo Special Duty Officer Ikemaru Takahiro.
Ikemaru still wore his three-piece suit and black leather gloves while Aoi roughly wore a blouson and jeans.
They looked somehow mismatched.
Aoi looked at the silhouettes of Osaka that had grown sharper in the setting sun.
“I can’t seem to find them, Takahiro.”
Ikemaru asked her a question while still looking out the window.
“Do you mean Takada?”
“Hm? No, not her. The cherry blossoms blooming in winter that my mom mentioned.”
“We have only been here for half a day. Aren’t you getting ahead of yourself if you’re even thinking about finding them quite yet?”
“Master Iba probably knows the answer, but he can be so stingy.”
“He called them the cherry blossoms that bring misfortune, didn’t he?”
“Apparently, the Tokyo Chancellor and Osaka Chancellor saw them during the Kinki Riot and it brought misfortune to everything.”
“The winter cherry blossoms that triggered a riot, huh?”
While Ikemaru thought, Aoi turned a slight smile his way.
“I’m causing you a ton of trouble by making you come with me, aren’t I?”
Ikemaru corrected his posture and looked straight at Aoi.
He adjusted his tie a little and took a breath.
“Please do not worry about me. My family prides itself in being a family of Japan’s greatest businessmen. That is why my parents agreed that I should visit Osaka while I am young.”
“Well, that is why I can stay in a hotel like this. …I’m thankful.”
“I am delighted to hear it.”
Ikemaru placed a hand on his chest, bowed, and smiled bitterly at the troubled smile on Aoi’s face.
“Your parents really are amazing, Takahiro. …Although maybe that’s because I don’t have either of mine anymore.”
“Didn’t you come to this city in order to understand the two of them better?”
“Before the Kinki Riot, they met below the winter cherry blossoms you mentioned, didn’t they?”
“Yes. And that’s what brought misfortune to my mom…and that man. Who told you that?”
“Your father when he was alive.”
“He always did tend to tell the most important things to people other than his family.”
Just as Aoi sighed, their iced coffee and iced tea arrived.
Ikemaru took the iced tea and Aoi drank some of the iced coffee without placing a straw in the glass.
“Are you sure you don’t want to order a cake or something?” he asked her.
“This is being charged to your card, isn’t it?”
“I see. And we usually pay with our shared wallet. …But I don’t mind.”
“No, I wouldn’t feel right doing that.”
“Is that why you only ordered toast at the restaurant earlier?”
“No, that’s because I’m on a diet.”
“But my mother told me women are more aesthetically pleasing when a little plump.”
“I’m more worried about building up any more muscle. And it’s an issue with my personal aesthetics.”
“What do you mean by that?”
Ikemaru tilted his head and Aoi answered with her head resting on her hand.
“You’re the kind of person that split us up between a boys room and a girls room, so you wouldn’t understand.”
He tilted his head and she smiled bitterly.
“That’s why we haven’t made any progress after fourteen years together.”
“It’s fine, it’s fine. More importantly, has Seigi really not made it to Osaka yet?”
“I did tell her about this place when we left Tokyo.”
“She’s your cousin, so you need to take better care of her. …Besides, did you tell Taromaru too? That girl can make prophecies, but she can be a little careless when it comes to reality.”
Aoi’s gaze turned toward Ikemaru’s hands.
He wore black leather gloves as if to hide them.
The corners of his mouth tightened a little when he noticed her gaze.
“Are you afraid of my power?”
“No. I know that your tone of voice changes when you speak with me.”
She looked to the seat next to him.
His scarf was draped over the back of the chair.
“Thanks for using that crappy handmade one.”
“And thank you for being so kind to someone as constantly rude as me.”
“It’s fine. And I’m not much better since I tend to talk in a pretty masculine way with other people.”
“I think it has a wonderfully gallant ring to it.”
“Oh? Then will you speak to me as rudely as you do to others?”
“I cannot do that. You are a unique and precious person to me, so of course I would speak to you differently from others.”
“Well, as long as that’s what you really think. I still have room for improvement too.”
“Is there a problem with your Shinkage Style that opposes Rhythms with a divine shadow?”
“That’s not what I meant.” Aoi looked to the leather gloves covering Ikemaru’s hands. “It’s okay, Takahiro. I’m willing to use the power of my Shinkage Style to let you touch me.”
“Then what is the problem?”
“I know why you won’t kiss me on the lips,” she said quietly. “Kissing someone on the lips lets you read their Live, doesn’t it? You’re a Word Master, after all.”
“You don’t need to apologize. I like the stylish compromise we have going. Remember what you’ve always said? A kiss to the forehead is for parental love, to the cheek is for friendship, and to the eyelid like you always do…”
She smiled bitterly.
“Now I’m too embarrassed to finish.”
“Just remember that a kiss to the lips signifies lust.”
“Oh? How dirty.”
He fell silent at her teasing tone of voice and she looked out the window again.
She smiled and changed her expression. Her face left no opening.
“But Nakamura has it tough, too. He went to finish off the Koto Chancellor today…and then he’s attacking the Osaka Chancellor’s Officers headquarters, right? Will he be okay?”
“People are not made to defeat him.”
“He tries to hide it, but he’s pretty panicked. …If only Seigi could be by his side.”
“None of us can let down our guard until those two are brought back to Nagoya.”
Before Ikemaru finished speaking, a sound came from Aoi’s watch.
She quickly stopped the electronic tone that rang throughout the quiet lounge and then she looked around.
All of the other guests were looking their way, so she shrugged and smiled bitterly.
“How about we get going too?”
“I have a target prepared. There is a black motorcycle and a white car in the parking lot.”
Ikemaru stood up and removed his leather gloves.
His hands were untanned, pale, and could almost be described as delicate.
“How about we start stirring up some trouble for the Osaka Chancellor and Nagoya Chancellor?”
Aoi nodded at the mention of the Osaka Chancellor.
“Do you remember that my mom was originally from Osaka?”
“She knew a lot about the Nanba family’s Modified Purple Electricity Style of Dance Combat that was derived from the Kage Style.”
“I wonder which is stronger, the Modified Purple Electricity Style or the Shinkage style that my mom created with that man?”
Ikemaru gave a brief answer to her question.
“Today we are only introducing ourselves. I am sure the time will eventually come to truly crush him.”
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