City Series:Volume4a Prologue
Prologue: First of All (Instructions) — (12/16/1996)
Strength or material
Is contained to man
Not even one
(From Miyazawa Kenji’s Spring and the Demon)
A torrent of water surged through the night.
It was a waterfall.
That rumbling with actual mass shook one’s body and had a seemingly tangible power to it.
The night was dampened by the mist produced by the waterfall.
Someone walked through that damp night.
A single presence climbed the mountain path dampened by the night and the mist.
It was a girl.
The strong-willed girl was in her mid-teens.
She wore a dry suit for diving, but it was a little big for her and she had a belt wrapped around the waist to keep it from falling down.
A diving mask hung from her neck like a necklace and each step produced a light plastic sound as it hit the collar of the dry suit.
That dry sound was contrasted by the wet footsteps of her mountain-climbing shoes.
She silently climbed that mountain path that was filled with the night and the mist.
The waterproof maglite in her right hand was off.
Her pace remained steady even when she stepped on branches or leaves.
She was used to walking here.
With each footstep, the rumble of the waterfall grew louder and the ratio of night to mist changed.
The mist grew thicker and the night began to lose its darkness.
The waterfall was nearby, so the girl walked to make its roar even louder.
She stopped treading on branches and leaves and her footsteps gained the distinctive note of rock.
The heavy atmosphere of the surrounding trees thinned.
The waterfall’s roar grew even louder as it echoed off the rock.
The girl briefly stopped and took a breath.
“I wonder if he’ll get mad at me afterwards. I didn’t tell him I repaired this at home…”
The girl touched the chest of her dry suit.
The words “Tochigi Yakushi Firefighters” were written in white, acrylic letters.
The family name Fujiwara was written below.
The shoulder contained a station name and member number.
The dry suit belonged to the rescue team in charge of Tochigi Prefecture’s Mt. Yakushi.
She started walking again and the waterfall grew even louder.
Her pace had picked up.
She was in the mountains in December, but she had sweat on her brow. That was just how well-insulated the dry suit was.
But despite the sweat, she rushed through the darkness.
She was close to her destination.
She walked across the stones.
Suddenly, her vision was surrounded by a hazy but bright white mist.
She had entered an open space.
The mist was white even at night because of a bright light far overhead.
She stopped and looked back to see the shape of the forest in the dark mist.
She took a breath and turned her back on that forest.
There was only mist up ahead as well.
She used a technien she had only just learned in middle school.
—Fujiwara – Sight Tech – Take – Secure Vision – Hit.
As she muttered those words in her heart, strength filled her gaze.
She had used a Tech.
Techs were specialized physical or mental techniques one learned at school or elsewhere. Modern cybernetic and organic technology allowed people to use them with a single command.
Her conditioned reflex training used a certain Tempo as the keyword that activated this bodily skill. With the word “take”, light reached her vision.
She could somewhat see through the mist now.
She looked back and found she could see the damp shapes of the trees in what had only looked like dark mist before.
She looked forward and saw the pure emptiness of the night instead of mist.
The power of her Tech did not allow her to see through some of the darkness and she could hear the great rumbling of water coming from beyond that darkness.
It was the roar of a great waterfall in Nikko’s Mt. Yakushi.
That was the surging voice of Kegon Falls.
As one of the most well-known waterfalls in Japan, it made its presence known with a great torrent of water even at night and even when out of view.
—Fujiwara – Mind Tech – Take – Restrain Urge – Miss.
Her legs trembled and she pursed her lips while looking up.
Even with her Sight Tech, a thick layer of mist hid the sky, but she could still see the artificial light that illuminated the mist from above.
A rectangular terrace-like platform jutted out twenty meters up the giant stone wall to her right.
It was the viewing platform for the waterfall.
There was no one on that platform, so only the sunlamp on its edge looked down at her.
Looking at that artificial light stopped her trembling.
She faced forward again and saw the end of the mountain path.
She left that path that only the few locals knew of and found herself halfway up the rock walls surrounding Kegon Falls.
She descended the rocks which had no path to follow.
Soon, the downward slope vanished and she stood on a simple rocky area. A collection of pointed rocks and stones formed the ground.
She could now hear a flowing river mixed in with the roar of the falls.
The wind had also started to blow.
She brushed back her bangs which were wet from the mist.
When she touched her cheek, she found her face wet as if from tears.
…I didn’t want to start playing it yet, but I guess I’ll do this like always.
With that silent comment, she pulled a single cord from the dry suit’s waist pocket.
The cord had headphones attached.
The speakers were larger than normal because it was waterproofed.
She stuck them in her ears and switched them on.
A gentle and refreshing Irish sound started playing.
It was instrumental music with a Live contained inside.
The music’s Message was that of water and she let the water music flow through her.
The Live in the music washed over the flowing Lives making up her body.
She raised the volume to increase the Octave.
She used an Octave of 80,000. Among normal people, that took some talent.
Finally, she sang her Words to fully place herself in the music.
Time flows like water
She who flows through time
- People do not stop
- Time does not stop
- Simply flow like water
- And inherit all of the questions
As she sang, she squeezed the maglite in her right hand.
“Aqua Middle Rhythm.”
With that clear voice, the mist around her right hand began to move.
—Fujiwara – Aqua Middle/Mind Tech – Multiple Take – Water Control – Hit.
As the music known as a Rhythm sent the water Live into her body, that Live became her power.
By listening to the water Live just like activating a Tech, she could control the water.
The boys in her class were always arguing over what combination of power and commercial Device they could use to fight. Needless to say, she was not interested in such uncivilized things.
The girl only used her Rhythm when she wanted to control water.
This was one such time.
“Open the way.”
The mist parted before her eyes and her vision cleared.
The environmental change allowed the wind that lacked mist to strike her cheeks.
Her Rhythm’s power parted the mist and her Tech’s power let her see through the darkness.
She looked straight forward and saw water.
The fifty meter waterfall basin was filled with dark water before her eyes.
To her left across that water was Kegon Falls.
The large cascade’s water raised an excited roar.
The solid downpour struck the water’s surface beyond the mist split by the Aqua Middle Rhythm.
The rumble echoed off the rocky walls surrounding the waterfall.
The reverberation shook the Aqua Middle Rhythm and somewhat numbed her senses.
She absentmindedly glanced over, but then a look of shocked realization covered her face and she shook her head.
She checked the neck and waist of the dry suit and pressed the headphones further into her ears.
She hummed the rhythm of the song so as not to be distracted by the waterfall’s roar.
The song would not end for another five minutes and she could control water until then, so she removed her mountain climbing shoes.
Her bare feet were cold on the winter rocks. In another month, Kegon Falls would freeze.
The cold rock seemed to stab into her feet as she walked forward.
On the third step, her feet touched the water.
The power of the Rhythm caused the water at her feet to waver and lose its current.
That December water should have been even colder than the rocks, but…
It only felt that way because her own Live and the Lives of the water were so similar.
It felt like she was being embraced by someone, but then a voice split through the roar of the cascade.
“Who is that!? What are you doing there!?”
She looked up on reflex and saw someone looking down at her from the viewing platform.
She could see the silhouette of his boxy hat in the sunlamp’s light.
…I was spotted!?
Her body reacted to that thought on reflex.
She ran along the wet rocks.
The splashing of her steps soon rose to her shins and knees.
She ran forward and even deeper.
On the third step, she put on the diving mask.
Someone’s voice was still shouting overhead.
On the seventh step, she leaped forward.
She flew in a parabolic arc and into the water.
She plunged into the darkness embraced by the waterfall basin.
Water surrounded her entire body.
She could breathe because the Aqua Middle Rhythm’s power acted just like scuba gear.
To her, the water was no different from viscous air.
The view through her diving mask was dark.
This was not her first time in here because she had helped her father with a few jobs here.
But it was her first time diving here.
The sounds of the wind and waterfall were gone down here. She only heard the low rumble of the water pouring into the basin.
Looking up, the surface glowed a little and she was still only about three meters deep.
She felt a tickling sensation in her the stomach and left leg of the dry suit.
Water was getting in.
…Looks like I didn’t repair it all the way.
That was a miscalculation, but she would be fine as long as she had the Aqua Middle Rhythm. She would only end up trembling from the cold once she resurfaced.
After nodding to convince herself of that, she looked down again.
There was only darkness there.
The Aqua Middle music in her ears flowed through her body and altered the current of the water around her.
When she desired to move deeper, the surrounding current started moving down.
With the water compression, the 80,000 Octave volume could reach one meter around her.
Guided by that power, she descended into the basin.
Her hair trailed behind her as she slowly dropped further and further down.
She turned on the maglite and a beam of light stretched through the water.
She could not see the bottom.
…I really am weird for doing this in the winter. That guy up there must think I’m committing suicide.
Around one hundred people committed suicide at Kegon Falls every year.
Her father’s job was to dive into the basin and search for their corpses and belongings.
She was currently copying him.
Her motive was pure.
A certain boy had stopped coming here.
The boy had noticeably straight hair, he always seemed to be smiling, and he had been a little older than her.
Unlike her classmates, he had not worn a Device or anything else to fully use a Rhythm.
A somehow lonely atmosphere had surrounded the boy.
He had come here every Sunday for about five years and he had always dropped a single flower while staring into the basin from the viewing platform.
The large, white, rose-like flower had sunk under its own weight instead of floating on the basin’s water.
Due to her father’s job and her part-time work at the viewing platform’s shop, the falls had long been her home ground.
Every week, the boy had arrived, thrown the flower in the basin, and left.
According to the owner of the shop, he had started visiting five years before.
…Did a relative of his kill themselves here?
Two years before, she had asked her father about it out of curiosity.
That was the first time she had heard her father raise his voice in anger.
After telling her not to pay any attention to the boy, he had turned his back and apologized.
“I haven’t dived down to the very bottom of the basin since eleven years ago.”
She had never asked him about it again.
She had sealed the question in her heart and watched from the shop each week as the boy dropped the flower in the basin.
But he had stopped showing up about a month before.
And yet he had always shown up before, even when the waterfall had frozen.
There had been a sign leading up to it.
One day, he had brought some friends with him.
It had been a weekday afternoon. She had happened to stop by on the way home from middle school and spotted him sitting on the viewing platform railing and speaking with his friends.
The girl had eavesdropped on the conversation from the counter of the café next to the shop.
She had heard the terms “sister” and “flames” as well as the names “Osaka” and “Tokyo”. He had also discussed the Kinki Riot, a student riot that had split Japan between east and west.
…Are they discussing politics?
She had wondered that, but she had not actually asked.
Unable to move, she had simply glanced over at them and listened.
But she had fallen from her chair when one of his friends, a girl with a stole over her shoulders, had suddenly kissed him.
Just as she wondered what they were doing, that girl had spoken some Words.
A red flower blooms in the darkness
An empty party begins in strength
A human heart flows into nothingness
- A soldier saves the king
- A woman becomes the queen
- A sage reminisces
- Run without looking to another’s path
- Choose your own path and sprint
- The true path lies in the future
It was a song.
These were the Words one needed to use a Rhythm.
Hearing it had only brought one thought to mind.
…But the flower he throws in the basin is white, not red.
They had then left without even taking a picture.
He had never shown up again.
Each week for the past month, she had thrown a flower in instead.
The flower was sold at a single flower shop in the town at the base of the mountain.
The old lady who ran the flower shop was proud of how early she got up in the morning and she had known the boy. When the girl had found the white flower in the shop, the woman had smiled and spoken of the boy.
“That flower blooms year-round, but it’s hard to get your hands on. I’ll be losing money with no one to buy it.”
So the girl had bought one each week and thrown it into the basin.
…What am I even doing?
Her thoughts cleared inside the water.
She thought about her father’s anger and silence, about what could have happened thirteen years ago, about the boy and his friends, about the girl who had kissed him, and about the Words that girl had spoken.
Finally, she focused her thoughts on the boy who had stopped visiting the waterfall.
The answer had to lie at the bottom of the basin.
She dropped straight down in the darkness.
The music flowing into her ears would continue for about three more minutes.
She felt the weighty current of the water on her cheeks. She also felt the water temperature beginning to cool.
The water’s traits were growing too strong for the Aqua Middle Rhythm to resist. The water at the bottom of the basin had been compressed for thousands or even tens of thousands of years, so its Lives were viscous enough to almost be solid.
Instead of leaving it all up to the Rhythm, she swam through the water.
—Fujiwara – Gym Tech – Take – Dive – Hit.
The water rose toward her with the mass of a wall, but she broke through it to continue further down.
Time passed and she started to panic when she still could not see the bottom.
—Fujiwara – Aqua Middle/Gym Tech – Multiple Take – Sink – Hit!
She moved further and further down.
She approached the solution to her questions.
To strengthen her Live, she sang her Words once more.
As if to keep her from answering her questions, the water’s current would not stop, but she did not stop either.
She swam down to find those answers.
But the water leaping up from the depths became a wind and tried to blow her away.
A thought flashed through her mind.
…If this water is coming up from the very bottom…
Then it might have swept everything away, leaving nothing there.
She was about to reach the point of no return for her Rhythm’s music.
Diving any further would be dangerous.
…Should I go back?
Her mind suggested that, but her body wished to dive further.
Her hand reached the MD in her pocket and raised the Octave to about 20,000.
That was her limit.
She swam while listening to a volume she could only just barely control.
A slight change came over the surrounding current, even if it was awkward.
Her body could not defy her Words.
The answer to her questions lay below.
If she found nothing, that would be her answer.
Her body continued swimming despite her hesitation.
She shut off the maglite and continued down with darkness before her.
In her desperation, time seemed to slow.
Her hand broke through the wall of wind created by the water.
A moment later, all motion ground to a halt.
Before she could wonder what had happened, her shoulder slammed into the hard ground.
Her hand touched the ground.
It was a somewhat warm stone surface.
The speed of her descent had pressed her face-down against the exposed stone and she stopped moving.
As her exhausted breaths escaped into the water, the air bubbles tickled her cheeks and led her to realize two things.
First, the darkness surrounding her now was quite still.
Second, the intense current had vanished.
…Where am I?
She had reached the bottom of the basin.
Unable to even speak in her heart, she straightened up.
She slowly stood up as if bouncing up inside the dark water.
She sensed the torrent roaring by overhead, but the very bottom was disturbingly quiet.
She had miraculously held onto the maglite, so she shined it around the dark space.
…There’s nothing here.
That thought was immediately proven wrong.
There was snow.
White snow drifted in the light before her eyes.
No, it was actually snow-like flower petals.
Her movements had caused the small white flower petals to dance about the bottom of the basin.
She recognized the petals.
They belonged to the white flower the boy and then she had thrown in.
Those petals had become snow and now danced about as if surprised by her sudden visit.
…What is this?
The white snow gently flew through the dark water like cherry blossoms.
…Was he creating this?
Her question led her to walk slowly forward.
She walked to the center of the snow-filled basin and spotted a rock.
The large, pedestal-shaped rock was five meters across and two meters tall.
It had likely broken off of the rock wall above because there was still moss and a tree on the rock.
But she was not looking at the moss or the tree.
She looked to the top of the pedestal where two people lay.
She lightly kicked off the ground to gently jump through the water and get a better look.
Atop the pedestal covered in white flowers, a boy and girl lay on top of each other.
She shined her maglite on the two of them.
The one on top was a girl with short hair in a white sailor uniform.
Below her was a boy with long hair in a black school uniform.
Their eyes were closed and they held each other in an embrace.
Their uniforms had some outdated combat gimmicks worked in.
Those gimmicky uniforms and their hair were flowing in the water’s current.
…Who are they?
No one was going to answer her and the maglite strayed from those two in order to gain more information.
A long arc reflected the light back at her.
—Fujiwara – Sight Tech – Take – Detect – Hit.
It was a long blade.
The curved blade of a Japanese sword stuck out from the girl on top’s back.
The object jutting out of the man on the bottom’s chest was likely a spear’s shaft.
The spear tip had to be stabbed through his body and into the rock behind him.
The two of them were dead.
The girl only now confirmed that obvious fact, but the idea of death did not feel unpleasant here.
Their hair simply flowed in the current and they almost seemed to be sleeping.
…Who were they?
When she tried to find an answer, she found a Device fallen next to them.
The long spear with a wooden shaft had fallen alongside them on the stone.
Unlike the Devices stabbing them, this spear looked old.
New questions occurred to the girl.
…Who were they to the boy who was throwing in the flowers?
…Why did they stab each other?
…Why are they smiling?
…What is that spear next to them?
Those two embraced each other in the depths of the water, never to move again. The flower petals danced around them like snow, but they remained silent.
Their deaths and smiles only raised further questions for the visiting girl.
Another question mark filled her mind.
A moment later, her Rhythm stopped.
The water Live vanished from her body.
The chill of the water inside her dry suit stiffened her body.
Her mind was numbed by the loud roar of the water pouring down above.
It was already too late.
She was going to die.
First, fear raced through her entire body.
Next, the powerful water pressure pressing down on the basin’s depths crushed her from every direction.
The pain of the pressure reminded her what divers called the water.
…Their holy ground.
An intense pain deep in her ears directly throbbed into her head and the pressure on her stomach forced the air from her lungs.
The snow danced around her.
As she questioned the scattering of those white flower petals, she used all her remaining air to shout.
When the girl woke from the dark pain, her vision was filled with bright light.
…Is this heaven!?
She quickly sat up and realized this was a familiar place.
It was the bench on top of the waterfall viewing platform.
The sunlamp was shining in the darkness overhead.
When she identified the artificial light, she let out a white breath.
That was when she realized she was naked.
The blanket that had covered her had fallen from the bench.
There was another blanket over the bench and she could feel the warmth that her own body had given it.
…It really is cold.
She moved to pick up the fallen blanket.
—Fujiwara – Mind Tech – Auto-Take – Detect Gazes – Hit!
She looked forward in surprise and several people in the café at the back of the viewing platform quickly turned their backs.
They were all wearing firefighter uniforms, so they were her father’s colleagues.
The café’s lights were on even though it was after hours and the men drank cans of coffee and glanced back at her.
“Don’t look, you idiots!”
She shook her long, lowered hair and hid her body behind the blanket.
“You’re the idiot here.”
A low male voice spoke from surprisingly close by.
She turned around and found her father sitting on the bench behind her with his back turned.
He wore a borrowed dry suit which was pulled down from his shoulders and a bath towel was draped over the shoulders of his T-shirt.
White steam rose from his shoulders and through the towel.
It was the steam of sweat.
When the girl saw that, she realized what had happened.
So she wrapped herself in the blanket below her butt instead of the one she had picked up.
She then used her feet to push the other blanket toward her father.
“Sorry,” she quietly apologized.
“Who are you apologizing to?”
“And to everyone else. …The chief must have been surprised.”
“That old man just got a prosthetic heart, so try not to surprise him too much.”
The girl nodded silently and stared at the blanket sitting between her and her father.
“Aren’t you going to say anything else?”
“I didn’t think you could use the Aqua Middle.”
“You’re the one that bought me the MD for my birthday last month.”
“I kind of thought I was getting you a coming-of-age present five years early.”
“Didn’t you say something similar to mom when you gave her the engagement ring?”
“And it turned out the same way too. She decided we were getting married right away.”
Her father reached back to grab the blanket, draped it over his shoulders, and continued speaking without looking back.
“What did you see?”
“Just like your Words.”
“Unlike yours, my Words are full of mysteries.”
“But did you see it?”
“…What was that?”
“You wouldn’t understand even if I told you.”
“Because I’m a child?”
“Then do you understand why those two were smiling?”
“Once you understand that, you won’t need to know anything about their past.”
“What do you mean?”
“There are two sides to everything. There were smiles even in that tragedy.”
Her father hesitated for a moment.
“Most of us have never told anyone about them for that reason. If we did, it would cause a commotion and disturb their slumber.”
“You mountain men sure are sentimental.”
“That’s because we’re the only ones who know what happened there.”
“Then what about that boy? He was throwing flowers in there.”
Her father turned around, showing her his square face covered in facial hair.
“You’ll understand a little once you enter high school next year. You’ll year about the Mountain and the Kinki Riot.”
“I’m not going to join the Chancellor’s Officers. That’s just my homeroom teacher Takoyama getting all worked up.”
“That isn’t what I meant.” Her father stood up. “You’ll be able to understand your questions even as they remain questions.”
“So you’re telling me to gain the knowledge and experience to do that?”
“I’m telling you to grow up.”
“…You’re always treating me like a child.”
“You’ll be an adult before long. That’s what I meant when I praised you earlier.”
“About surprising me as much as your mother did before we got married.”
He rubbed the girl’s head.
“C’mon, everyone’s worried, so leave those questions for the future and go say hi.”
“The questions never end, huh?” She looked up at her father. “If people can’t fight their Words, this could be a problem.”
“Yeah, you’ll be stuck wondering about your questions forever.”
The girl tilted her head.
“Didn’t mom say people’s Words are what will make them happiest?”
She took a breath.
“If so, then what are these questions to me?”
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