City Series:Volume4a Chapter 9
Chapter 9: Presentation of Mysteries (Rhythm Rule Explanation)
A bullet train traveling west from Nagoya would arrive in Osaka after two hours.
Taeko and Saki had left Nagoya at noon, so they were currently halfway between Osaka and Nagoya in both time and distance.
Taeko took up an entire double seat on the right side of the aisle with the Dragon Emperor’s fist resting on one of the seats. Saki sat in one of the opposite seats while writing something in the memo book he had taken from his attaché case.
Taeko faced the train’s window.
The scenery below the winter sky was the concrete wall of the elevated track.
They were passing through the mountains of Oumi and about to enter the Koto region, so Lake Biwa was located past the wall.
However, Taeko was not looking at that scenery.
She was looking at the reflection of herself and Saki who sat across from her.
“What are ya doin’?”
“Going over everything that’s happened. I need to have some predictions before we get back to Osaka.”
“About what the Tokyoites are thinking.”
“Aren’t they tryin’ to destroy Ixolde? If it’s completed and creates the strongest Rhythm, the east-west power balance will shift westward pretty quick.”
“Unfortunately, we don’t plan to use the Flame High even if we do make it.”
“…What are ya talkin’ about? No one actually believes yer presentin’ it to the Mountain.”
“Don’t be stupid. Whether you want to call it the strongest Rhythm, Yamata, or the Flame High, it isn’t like a normal Rhythm.”
“…What do ya mean?”
“The Mountain and the Emergency Teachers are hiding the truth of the Kinki Riot from us, so there are some records we can’t view even as part of the Officers. But our upperclassmen managed to piece together the half-erased technical documents and historical records to figure out what Techs Tokyo’s Chancellor used during the Kinki Riot.”
“And the Ixolde Word Accelerator is goin’ to create that?”
Saki cut her off.
“Just listen. The Flame High used to be called a Heavy Rhythm, but that’s because they didn’t understand how it worked. After some tests, we’ve figured out the theory behind it.” He took a breath. “It creates music with a Tempo overwhelmingly faster than any currently existing Rhythm.”
“How much faster?”
“To use your Thunder High as a comparison, it would complete eighty sequences in the time yours took to complete just one. That’s twenty-eight times faster than the Break High which is the current fastest. It’s so fast you can’t think up your Words fast enough. And…”
“Its flames spread.”
Taeko moved for the first time when she heard that.
She faced Saki who closed his memo book and faced her.
“I guess I can tell you why we have no intention of using the Flame High after creating it.”
“The biggest problem is that we couldn’t determine what Rhythm the Osaka Chancellor had used at the time.”
“There aren’t any records of that?”
“They’re vague. It says he ‘used a Rhythm without using a Rhythm’. Can you decode that?”
Taeko thought for a second.
“That can wait. It’s an even bigger mystery than the Flame High’s mechanism.”
“Right? Anyway, having a trump card against Tokyo was of political importance, so some years back, Osaka’s Chancellor’s Officers used the remaining records to build Ixolde.” He sighed. “But two years ago, there was an accident during a preliminary experiment.”
“Yes. A mistake in the word acceleration caused one of the machines on the double helix pathway to burst into flames and produce an ogre. Simply put, that ogre was a failed creation of the Flame High.”
Saki put the memo book in his pocket and lightly struck his left palm with his right fist.
“From that, we learned about two of the Flame High’s powers. One, it can perfectly pierce any object. Its ultra-high speed Tempo creates a vibration that can ‘eat’ both the Lives composing an object and even the Rhythm techniques we create.”
“And the other one?”
“The spreading flames I mentioned before. …Anything the ogre set on fire would utterly burn away. The great speed of the Flame High intoxicates and steals the Lives making up the object.”
“Do you know why Souichirou took on mechanical arms and legs?’
“Ya don’t mean…?”
“I do.” Saki smiled a little. “His right arm caught on fire during the first battle, so he immediately chopped it off. And…he adopted prosthetic arms and legs for the next battle. That way he could purge them and attach a new one if any of them caught on fire.”
“So it’s a Rhythm that pierces the opponent’s body and burns them away? …That really is different from our Over Rhythms.”
“Do we really need a Rhythm that brings certain death to our opponents? Either way, it isn’t something anyone wants to master.”
“The Flame High is too dangerous. We know that all too well. The only reason we’re making it is…”
“Giving up on what the previous years worked so hard on would be an embarrassment. This has gotten to be a lot of trouble.” Saki sank back into his seat. “Osaka’s 1st Special Duty Officer was said to be the third major base of the Kinki Riot because he held all the information on it, but I can’t understand any of it.”
“Will the other two bases not tell ya anythin’?”
“You’re talking about the Nandaimon Shrine and the Mountain. They’re both too secretive. They’re clearly trying to hold us in check, so we decided to present the Flame High to the Mountain right away.”
“I see… Well, that’s probably proof that the Mountain and Nandaimon both know the power of the Flame High.”
“It’d be a problem if the students caused another major conflict now that Japan has been split between east and west.”
“It’d be a problem for both of us,” said Taeko.
“Yes. …I get the feeling you’d never hear the end of it from Nagoya’s Student Council.”
“The students in my year wouldn’t have it too bad. It’s the younger years I’m worried about. …If somethin’ like that happened, they could even end up joinin’ Tokyo’s side.”
“I’m surprised you’re willing to come back to Osaka with all that local trouble going on.”
“I’m indebted to someone there.” Taeko touched the Dragon Emperor with her right hand while still looking out the window. “But if that happens, it’ll be just like my brother wanted.”
“Oh, the brother killed by the Killing Holder…”
“He went to the Mountain for Chancellor’s trainin’ that year, but Yuuki Yuuki was given the Koto Chancellor position on the recommendation of the previous Chancellor who was expected to keep the spot. My brother ended up as Vice Chancellor.”
“So he had the skill, but he couldn’t outdo her?”
“The Yamashita family has produced Chancellors for generations. …Due to the eyes of our family on his back and the Ixolde issue, he wanted to turn Nagoya’s focus toward Tokyo by defeatin’ the Koto Chancellor.”
“But Yamashita Gihei lost…and the age remained unchanged.”
“I couldn’t accept the remains of a loser, so his right arm was apparently buried somewhere at Nandaimon.”
She laughed quietly and Saki said nothing.
“Let’s get back on topic,” she said with a slight shrug. “In yer opinion, who in Kansai could defeat an opponent wieldin’ the Flame High?”
“Either Souichirou who has fought a close approximation before…or Yuuki Yuuki the Killing Holder.”
“But what is Tokyo thinking? If they’re worried about the Flame High, why didn’t they destroy Ixolde when they attacked the night before last?”
Saki crossed his arms.
He looked Taeko in the eye through his sunglasses but seemed to be speaking to himself.
“And there’s more. Why did they crush Nagoya?”
“Because we got in their way, right?”
“They didn’t crush Gifu or the Koto region on their way to Osaka. They had to have gone through those areas too, so why did they only crush Nagoya?”
“There’s only one answer.”
“They have to be waiting for Ixolde to be activated. That way they can steal the Flame High.”
“They might be planning to attack Nagoya.”
“Ya mean they’ll take over Nagoya as a midway point and continue west from there?”
“Yes. If they can rule Nagoya with the Flame High in hand, it’ll give them some decent publicity in both the east and the west.”
“But that would require havin’ someone who can control the Flame High, right?”
Saki smiled at Taeko’s question.
“Nakamura Hisahide said he was going to Osaka in search of a bond with his sister.”
“What about it?”
“Who was the Tokyo’s female Chancellor that used the Flame High during the Kinki Riot?”
Tension filled Taeko’s voice when she spoke that name.
Saki smiled and nodded at her obvious concern.
“There’s no doubting it.” He took a breath. “Nakamura Hisahide is Nakamura Midori’s brother.”
Students were visible here and there as Shoui carried a Dog God on his shoulder and walked around Osaka with the girl named Takada Seigi.
They were looking for the hotel at which she had a reservation.
She tilted her head as they walked along the road in front of Nanba Station.
“Was it the Osaka Hotel?”
There were hotels with names like that everywhere.
That name was especially little help in the category of hotels cheap enough for a normal student to stay at them.
“This is quite the problem… I can see why you were searching around since morning.”
Shoui scratched at his head and looked around. The semi-cylindrical Nanba Station was right in front of them and a few phones were located in front of the station’s entrance.
“How about you call home to ask?”
“Oh, I can’t do that. I left on this trip without telling anyone.”
“It’s sort of a graduation trip and I’m skipping school.”
“Skipping school, are you? …Kids these days sure like to have fun.”
“You understand, don’t you? If you were to run away from home…”
…Well, I kind of get it.
He tried to say that with a bitter smile, but…
“I don’t have any parents, so I don’t understand,” answered the Dog God on his shoulder.
Takada’s expression changed before he could scold the Dog God.
Her cheerful look clouded over.
“Ah, don’t worry about it!”
But it was too late.
The cloudy expression soon produced rain. Tears welled up in Takada’s eyes.
Shoui looked around quickly to check the afternoon crowd in front of the station.
…I can’t believe this. I hope no one’s watching… / “I can’t believe this. I hope no one’s watching…”
He panicked when the Dog God spoke his thoughts aloud.
“Wait! I don’t mean that in a bad away! Um…!”
Takada nodded and quickly lowered her head.
“Sorry about that. My emotions burst out without warning again. That was a nuisance, wasn’t it?”
“I wouldn’t call it a nuisance. Honestly, it just surprised me. …What was that about?”
“People’s thoughts reach me through Taromaru.”
The Dog God licked at the tears on her cheek.
“So I read your memories…”
“Oh, so you saw when I was buried alive and nearly died during the Kinki Riot…”
He smiled bitterly as the girl wiped away the tears with her ring-bearing hand.
“I can’t believe this. So this Dog God is connected to you?”
“Taromaru…no, the entire Dog God race speaks people’s thoughts.”
“But they can’t speak thoughts people can’t put into words. Instead, they try to understand those thoughts and share them with each other.”
“So the memories and images I briefly thought of were sent back to you through the Dog God?”
“As they grow more and more accustomed to reading someone’s thoughts, that person’s thoughts and memories…are directly transmitted to me.”
“I can’t read your thoughts, though.”
“You probably need to get used to reading them.”
“That’s not fair…”
Shoui then realized something and the Dog God on his shoulder reflexively put it to words.
“You can see my lewd thoughts too?”
“Yes, I can.”
Shoui’s face stiffened at her Dog God’s simple answer.
She smiled bitterly while wiping away the tears and then leaned against the station’s outer wall.
“You were sneaking peeks at my butt and legs from behind before.”
“W-well! They’re pretty great! Wait, what am I saying!? Calm down! Agh!”
“…Taromaru is reading all of your thoughts.”
“Wait, wait, wait! That’s, um, the thing about that is…”
“You like legs in stockings?”
“Indeed I do. …Wait, no!”
“Don’t worry. I understand.”
“That stockings are amazing?”
“Th-then, it’s something worse? I do have a feeling I was thinking some pretty awful things…”
“I said don’t worry. There are people out there thinking even more unbelievable things.”
“That doesn’t make me feel much better!”
Takada giggled as Shoui shouted through the Dog God.
She was laughing even though she had been crying just a moment before.
When he noticed that change, Shoui sighed and let his shoulders droop.
“You’re an interesting person…”
“Yes. This girl I know almost never lets her emotions show.”
“Really? I’m jealous…”
“People used to say I never hide anything I’m feeling or that I’m emotionally unstable.”
“Used to, hm?”
“Oh, right. My memories don’t get through to you.”
Shoui looked to the Dog God named Taromaru on his shoulder. The animal looked him in the eye and tilted his head.
“How smart is this guy?”
“I’m not sure. My cousin said his intelligence matches whoever he’s possessing.”
“Yes, he was the one who created Taromaru. He’s a Word Master, you see. Taromaru was based on one that was possessing that cousin, but it left him because he found someone to support him.”
“They stop possessing you once you’re no longer no single?”
Takada shook her head.
“They possess someone who is indecisive.”
Shoui placed a hand on his chin in thought and Taromaru spoke his thoughts aloud.
“It’s probably not over whether stockings or panty hose are better. That’s getting into the perverted area again, which could cause some problems for me. So what could she be indecisive about? It’s probably something more pleasant. Something pleasurable…no, that’s getting back into pervert territory again.”
“Shoui-san, Shoui-san. I can hear everything you’re thinking.”
“Eh? Oh, really?”
“It sounded like a bunch of nonsense.”
“I can’t believe this…”
He looked to the Taromaru on his shoulder, but the creature only scratched at the back of his head with his back paw.
“I need to get back to normal as soon as possible. That way this guy won’t have to speak for me anymore.”
“Really? He saved me. I’ve always been able to read a little bit of other people’s Lives. That’s why they influence me so much.”
She smiled a little.
“I couldn’t even go outside during elementary school, but then my cousin came and made Taromaru from my Live without speaking a word.”
“Yes. He’s apparently a Dog God highly tuned to my thoughts. I said I could read the thoughts of the people he possesses because it was a trait of Dog Gods, but that might be unique to Taromaru.”
“Dog Gods apparently choose someone to possess if not given any specific orders, but to be honest, you’re the first one he’s chosen on his own other than me.”
“Yes. If what my cousin said is true, then you must be indecisive about something.”
“I’m not sure what to tell you…”
“But it’s true,” said Takada. “Taromaru reads people’s thoughts and eats them as Lives, so he possesses people who are indecisive and conflicted…”
“And speaks for them like this?”
Takada spoke as Shoui scratched at his head.
“I think it means you have a dual nature.”
“What? Is that like being both an S and an M? …Wait, no!”
“I like how you’ve been playing both the boke and tsukkomi.”
“Well, I guess playing both roles myself would be another sort of dual nature.” He sighed. “Anyway, I guess this means I’m worrying over something even more than I thought.”
“Yes, that kind of dual nature. But it isn’t a bad thing.”
“Most people have something like that, even if it isn’t on the same level as you. Including those indecent thoughts. …Some people’s public side is stronger and some people’s private side is stronger.”
“The way I see it, the more indecisive someone is, the stronger their ultimate answer will be.”
“…Their answer, huh?”
“You have more on your mind than those indecent things, don’t you?”
“Personally, those are the things I’ve been trying to think about the most, though. …Why does this bastard have to say all those things aloud!?”
“I don’t mind.”
“Eh? Really? You don’t mind that the guy standing next to you was imagining you naked? …Stop it, you idiot!”
Shoui reached for the Taromaru on his shoulder, but the creature hid behind his back.
He chased after the creature as if scratching at his body, but he could not catch the thing.
Takada gave an honest laugh as she watched.
“Don’t worry, Shoui-san. I know you’re only thinking those things on the surface.”
“Yes, I can see the girl in glasses you’re thinking about deep down.”
“Oh, wow. So I’m talking to a girl while thinking about another girl? Am I a wishy-washy A-type with a lucky color of red, or something?”
“You’re troubled by this self-analysis, aren’t you?” said Takada while peering into his face. “My family is naturally skilled with Lives, so how about I read your destiny a little?”
“…You can do that? That sounds like a Tuner.”
“I am a Tuner, actually. It’s just that I abandoned that path due to the instability I mentioned before.”
“I called myself a Fast Reader when I introduced myself, didn’t I? I borrow Taromaru’s power to read the Lives of people’s or the world’s destiny.”
“Hmm… I’m not so sure about this. It sounds more legit than a fortune-telling.”
“Please close your eyes. That will help calm your mind.”
She did not give him a choice and he closed his eyes on reflex.
She immediately held his cheeks between her hands.
He opened his eyes and found her face right in front of him.
She had kissed him.
After two breaths, she pulled her lips away and returned to her previous position.
He stared at her face.
“Oh, dear. I just had my lips stolen…”
“Why the effeminate tone of voice?”
“Well, it was so sudden…”
“Is it that surprising? You went all the way with that glasses girl.”
“…You have no problem saying some pretty outrageous things, you know that?”
“Anyway, that wasn’t what this was about. I was reading your kotodama. In other words, your Live.”
“…That seems like a bit of a sad explanation to me.”
“If you hadn’t been so surprised, I could have read a little deeper.”
She closed her eyes and the Taromaru on her shoulder looked up toward heaven.
The creature sang with her voice.
A white flower blooms in the darkness
An empty party begins in the fire
A memory of death floats in nothingness
- A king saves him
- A queen laments him
- A sage resigns himself
- Fall into indecisiveness while looking to another’s path
- Choose your own path and hesitate
- The true path lies in the past
After the clear voice came to an end, Taromaru sighed.
Speaking so much seemed to have been tough on his small body.
Takada opened her eyes and Shoui asked a question.
“Was that…my Words?”
“No, it wasn’t. Not in your case.”
“Then what was it?”
“Good question. …Your destiny can always be changed, but that song was your future based on your current Live. It’s a little vague since I didn’t get a perfect read on you, though.”
She smiled and Shoui sighed. The Dog God spoke his calmed thoughts.
“I’m not gonna be able to fondle this girl’s breasts… Wait, no!”
As the morning sun slowly began to drop from its midday height, a single guest arrived at the Nandaimon Shrine.
It was the monk who had been referred to as Iba back at Nara Station.
He stood at the center of the shrine’s grounds. Without speaking a word, he stared straight forward.
Senga stood before him with a bamboo broom in hand.
She spoke with Iba’s gaze on her.
“Instead of standing there, how about you say something?”
“…I see you haven’t changed in the last thirteen years.”
“That’s because I’m so young.”
“I believe you turned sixty-seven this year.”
“The man with the greatest grudge against me was indeed the type to say such hopeless things with a straight face.”
—Senga – Mind Tech – Take – Sense Killer Intent – Hit.
“Iba, you’re the same as back then. You can be silently and expressionlessly staring at someone but still overflowing with killer intent.”
“That is my way of doing things.”
Senga smiled bitterly.
“More importantly, Iba, what do you want? I would like to finish cleaning before the sun sets.”
“Then I shall get straight to the point.” Iba furrowed his brow as he was wont to do. “I would like to declare war.”
“This is a declaration from Tokyo to Osaka, and from those who died in the Kinki Riot to you.”
“Oh? And why would you be doing this?”
“To clear away all of the mistakes that led to the Kinki Riot.”
“For how expressionless you are, you must really see me as an enemy.”
“I no longer have any comrades.”
“Did you learn nothing from the Kinki Riot, Iba?”
“I have a question concerning that.”
Senga gave an exaggerated tilt of the head and Iba gave a straightforward question.
“What was the Kinki Riot from the perspective of the teachers?”
“Based on that killer intent, I’m guessing you already know more or less. …That explains why you hid in the Mountain and never appeared before me in the thirteen years since that battle came to an end.”
“I would like to hear the truth in your words.”
“Most of those at the center of that war were taught by you.”
“Yes, that’s true. Once Yuuki could walk, I made a trip around Japan and visited the local Mountains.”
“Was it a coincidence?”
Iba maintained his straightforward gaze and clarified his question in an emotionless voice.
“That you taught students to use Heavy Rhythms everywhere you went.”
“What do you think, Iba?”
“Very well.” Iba nodded before opening his mouth. “That battle was meant to reveal all of the Heavy Rhythms the Mountain had sanctified and to create a public fear of those Rhythms.”
“This is only my personal view, but did you set it all up in order to eliminate those Heavy Rhythms that you viewed as such a danger to the world?”
“It is a fact that the students you taught to use the Heavy Rhythms fought each other, even when they were friends or family.”
“If I had not taught them to use the Heavy Rhythms, that conflict would not have dragged on so long…”
“And the Heavy Rhythms would not have been eliminated.”
“…So you’re focusing on the result, are you?”
“The Kinki Riot added most of Japan’s Rhythms to the list of Death Techno.”
“Although most of them were only sealed by the Mountain or by me.” Senga smiled bitterly. “You plan to bring back the Heavy Rhythms, don’t you? A moron showed up here before…and named you as his teacher.”
“Yes. He sounded proud of it. It was a kid with spiky hair.”
“Ha ha ha! Ha ha ha ha ha!”
Iba laughed. He opened his mouth, shook his shoulders, and erased his usual self in laughter.
A moment later…
By the time he shouted that word, his usual lack of expression had returned. He stared straight toward Senga.
“I am honestly surprised he would call me his teacher.”
“Does it delight you that much for Nakamura Midori’s brother to call you his teacher?”
“Oh? I see you did your homework.”
“He was interested in the Flame High and in his sister, his family name was Nakamura, and he called you his teacher. Who else could it be? …So you want to clear away your regrets from thirteen years ago?”
“Is that so strange?”
“I respect you for it.”
“And I you. …I came to realize that over the past thirteen years.”
“Out of concern for this country, you gave everyone power and then killed them in an attempt to eliminate the king.”
“You sound confident in that theory.”
“I did not spend thirteen years at the Mountain for nothing.”
“Is that so? Then are you building on my plan to kill everyone but one in an attempt to create a king?”
Iba did not nod.
Senga rotated her broom with her wrist and aimed the bottom at him like a spear.
“Iba, is this conversation a declaration of war from former student to former teacher? History will repeat itself. This could lead to many deaths once more.”
“Do not worry. We have a prophet with us, so we can avoid all danger.”
“Then shall we spar as we used to? I never could get a single strike past your spear at that Mountain training ground…but things have changed.”
“Have you dabbled in White Noise and the Shinkage Style?”
That brought a change to Iba’s expression: he frowned.
But Senga continued regardless.
“I prefer my method over all else. If you are intent on destroying the situation I have created here, then I will take the appropriate countermeasures.”
“Can I take that as an acceptance of my declaration of war? Yet the only card in your deck is your granddaughter.”
“Your trump card is Ixolde’s activation tonight, isn’t it? The only way you can conquer this country is to borrow Osaka’s power. Befitting of the former Osaka 1st Special Duty Officer who let Kuki and Midori die…”
—Senga – Intimidation Tech – Take – Intimidation – Hit!
“…to become the sole survivor of the Kinki Riot!”
Iba released a voiceless shout and took a defensive stance.
At the same moment, the cellphone in Senga’s pocket rang far too quietly for the scene.
Their eyes met.
Iba released killer intent and Senga spoke with the broom in hand.
“When you hear why this emergency phone is ringing, you’ll have better things to do than fight me.”
“Can you still say that after I tell you only the Emergency Teachers or the Mountain leaders can call this phone?”
—Senga – Mind Tech – Take – Decode Expression – Hit.
“See? You’re curious. …And there goes your bad habit of growing even more expressionless when I say that. Listen. There’s only one reason the Emergency Teachers or the Mountain would be in a hurry to contact me now.”
She went on to tell him what that reason was.
The persistently ringing phone seemed to show just how badly whichever group it was wanted to contact her.
The words Senga spoke over that background noise elicited movement from Iba.
He began to run.
That signaled the end of this confrontation between teacher and student and signaled the beginning of a new battle.
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