Owari no Chronicle:Volume10 Chapter 11
Chapter 11: Flow of Human Will
Where does regret come from?
A room was lined with small tables and chairs.
Windows covered the room’s southern wall and the almost gray light of morning was partially blocked by the giant logo-covered stickers on those windows. The stickers contained a simplified drawing of a mountain bandit leader.
“The Japanese fast food chain Most Valiant Burger. IAI sure runs some strange places. I’m also not sure I approve of calling a rice sandwich a ‘riceger’.”
Those complaints came from a woman in a white coat sitting alone by the window.
The tray on the two-person table held two rice balls wrapped in paper (a new product), a cup of consommé, and lightly pickled asparagus and lettuce.
The woman looked a little like an Asian girl and she rested her head on her hand and stared out the window despite the food in front of her.
She could see the city in early morning. The roundabout in front of the train station contained nothing but a single car and some parked buses. Very few people were in evidence and no motion could be seen.
“I wonder if they’re having an exciting time of it.”
Just as she released the contents of her lungs, she heard a female voice.
“May I sit with you, Doctor Chao?”
Chao looked up at the woman who sat down across from her.
“Diana? How did you know I was here?”
Diana wore a black suit and a large black scarf and she nodded while setting down her tray.
She brushed back her long hair and settled down in the chair.
“You underwent a similar process to me, so I released some paper birds and asked them if they spotted anyone like me around Okutama.”
Diana rested her right elbow on the table and showed off the raised palm.
She held a five centimeter crane created from folded black paper.
She closed her hand and the crane vanished before she opened it again.
“I see.” Chao crossed her arms. “The philosopher’s stone reading is weak, so I thought I’d be fine as long as an automaton didn’t find me, but I forgot about you. …So what are you going to do, descendent of Zonburg? Report me to UCAT?”
“Oh, dear. Is that what you think of me? I am nowhere near that boring a woman.”
Diana hummed as she lifted up a wrapped rice ball. She held the overflowing contents in with the bottom of the wrapper and bit in.
“The tuna scrape riceger special is so good. I’ve recently taken a liking to using wasabi as a topping.”
“The seaweed and Chinese pickles are enough for me.”
“It has plenty of fiber, doesn’t it? But it’s a shame the coffee here is cofftea.”
Diana wiped her lips with a paper napkin and drank some corn soup from her cup.
After a sip, she spoke.
“I hear those four old men are on the move.”
“Are you going to stop them?”
“No, I will leave that to anyone with too much time on their hands and their appropriate opponents. I have other plans.”
“Yes. After I finish my work at UCAT tonight, I am meeting an acquaintance in the city. I also need to find some books for Heo there. I need to give her some books on Japanese culture, bizarre Japanese festivals, and anti-pervert self-defense.”
“I see.” Chao nodded and grabbed her riceger while looking out the window. “But you know what’s happening and why, don’t you?”
“Testament,” replied Diana. Still smiling, she turned toward Chao. “Those four old men were created as the temporary bodies for 7th-Gear’s Concept Core and they will return to their Concept Core form once they accept an inheritor. And if they do not…”
“They will vanish along with the Concept Core when their lifespan runs out. When I created them in 7th-Gear, the 7th-Gear sages planning to become the Concept Core instructed me to make them that way. They were not gods. They had simply reached the ultimate form of mankind, so they would only be bored with a world they could not accept. That is why I made them age as they lost interest in this world.”
A bitter laugh filled the restaurant.
“Those four have lost interest right on time. This world may have changed quite a bit after the war, but it still failed to interest them. I think it was during your generation that their aging slowed,” explained Chao. “But their aging accelerated during the last ten years. And around when we received 5th-Gear’s Concept Core, they came to tell me something.”
“That they’re so bored they want to go try some things out for themselves?”
Diana’s gaze dropped, she took a bite of her riceger, and she brought a hand to her mouth.
“Ah, that bite had a lot of wasabi.”
“How about you decide whether you’re having a serious conversation or eating?” asked Chao as she took a bite of her own rice. “Besides, I’ve been feeling a little emotional lately. Hanging around me will only put you in a bad mood. …I know it’s not like me, but I’ve been thinking. Why did I even create those four?”
She watched a bus leave the roundabout outside the window and she listened to its engine and the other background noises.
“At the time, I was invited to 7th-Gear, shown the ultimate in bodily modification techniques, and even heard they could create artificial humans using the Concept Core as a basis. I was simply delighted and the 7th-Gear people were happy to see my delight. But,” she said. “Did I make them only so they could die?”
“Diana, do you ever plan to have kids?”
Diana shrugged at the sudden question.
“I like fried chicken, so I think the stork hates me.”
“I like grilled chicken, so I think I’m the same. But I do wonder. What are parents thinking when they have kids? Do any parents have kids just so they can die?”
She gave a quiet laugh and ate her rice while still looking out the window.
She took a large bite to create a pause and then swallowed.
“I knew what was going to happen to them when I made them. And I was happy to do it. But back then, I never imagined how I would feel about it now.”
“What would you have done if you had known that then?”
Chao stopped moving, closed her eyes, and gave a self-deprecating look.
“You’re cruel, Diana. Wishing for something I couldn’t have done only brings frustration.”
Chao turned around to face Diana and crossed her legs.
“Those four are strong. Will Heo and the others be okay? Kazami and Izumo didn’t put up much of a fight.”
“If Heo and the others die, that’s just the way it is. But even then, it doesn’t mean those four were born to die. …They were born to do something, but they simply chose to die on the way there. That is how I view it.”
“And where did that idea come from?”
“Ten years ago, a group of people chose to die together just as they had eaten, lived, and spoken together. I chose not to and they disappeared from my life. But even though they passed away, they are still crying and laughing, talking and falling silent, and walking and stopping. I try to think that I have no reason for sorrow since this merely means I can no longer meet them.”
Diana held the cup of corn soup in both hands and quietly looked out the window.
“If we can create a continuation to the act of dying, I believe my friends will return. But those four old men are trying to create an ending. And that ending will act as the final destination of 7th-Gear’s Concept War.”
“Yes. They are trying to fight and enjoy themselves as the people of 7th-Gear. This is likely their first and last chance to build up their experience, reveal their identities, and enjoy themselves with the greatest power possible. They most likely want to have fun and win…but even if they win, it is over for them,” said Chao. “They are probably thinking that they were born to die. And if the purpose of their existence lies in their deaths, why were they not allowed to die immediately after their births? …They probably resent me for knowing that when I created them.”
“That is something only they can know. …But that is exactly why I hope they can enjoy themselves until the end arrives. I hope Heo, the Sayama boy, and the others can satisfy them.”
Diana took a sip from the cup and smiled.
She directly faced Chao with that smile.
“But it is my students who will be victorious. Not those four old men.”
She took a breath.
“The Sayama boy once said he would never admit defeat no matter how many times he lost and that he would win in the end. …Crazy, isn’t it?”
She smiled bitterly, but Chao did not nod.
But she did speak and reach for another wrapped riceger.
“I see you don’t cry anymore, Diana. When you first came to Japan, you would always get mad for others and cry.”
“Testament,” quietly agreed Diana.
She opened a new wrapper and brought the rice to her mouth.
She tried to eat the entire riceger at once and Chao glared at her.
“Your snake-like eating hasn’t changed, though.”
“D-don’t compare me to a snake. I am the Mother Cat.”
“Oh?” Chao pulled a cigarette from her pocket. “I’m finally feeling a little better. Mind if I smoke?’
“No, go ahead.”
Diana pulled lipstick from her pocket, wrote two words on a napkin, and placed it in front of her.
“ ‘Get lost’? What’s this? Are you picking a fight with me?”
“It is for the smoke, Doctor Chao. …Anyway, talking about those four really is reminding me of the past. For example, there were others who desired victory to bring something to an end ten years ago and before.”
“That there were. …And there are people who want that now too.” Chao lit the cigarette in her mouth. “The Army. We know very well what they’re thinking, don’t we? They’re a collection of the remnants and crimes of the Concept War. They wish to destroy the victorious survivor that is UCAT but also to eliminate themselves. That way they can create a peaceful world with no victor.”
“Only a group small enough to vanish could come up with an idea like that. They’re willing to use any dirty method of winning. All that matters is eliminating their enemy and themselves,” said Diana. “So they will simply do evil without even being a villain. The more evil they are, the more the later world will know of the evil committed during the Concept War, so that later world will avoid conflict once they vanish. …They think the people of that later world will be able to appreciate peace.”
“Be careful, Diana. My four may be attacking now, but the Army is definitely coming. And meanwhile, Team Leviathan has disbanded and both Kazami and Izumo are out of the fight.”
“I know that.” Diana nodded and raised her eyebrows a little. “But those four are the more pressing problem for now. …I will keep it a secret, so can you tell me what they’re going to do?”
Chao exhaled some smoke and it reversed direction toward her and the wall once it arrived above the napkin in front of Diana.
“Ah, that pisses me off. I’m not telling you now.”
“O-oh, come on. I just want to know a little. Oh, I know. How about some dessert? The youke, a fusion of youkan and cake, is something like kintsuba.”
“How are you supposed to pronounce that?”
“…Well, whatever. Ikkou is maintaining his weapons and Nijun is pursuing Sayama. Mitsuaki works more behind the scenes, so he should be with Ikkou. And Yonkichi… He’s pursuing Heo and the others.”
Diana’s expression stiffened at that last fact.
“That’s right. Surely you know that he’s the strongest of the four brothers when looking at a one-on-one battle. …Now, how will this turn out?”
Chao blew smoke upwards and it gathered like a cloud up near the ceiling.
“Those children are always playing the fools, but they’ve finally realized what they need to do and will give this their all. They helped you all ten years ago, but their strength and determination are entirely different now. They will be asking the question that was always kept hidden inside them.”
Chao looked to Diana with the smile of those four’s parent.
“They will win. They are the ones asking, so their strength as they ask will be greater than all else. Can’t you hear them asking, Diana? The question should resound on and on forever. They lost the world they were born in and they were born to accept this world and die.”
She took a breath.
“So they will ask why they are alive. And they are completely serious. …That nonsense doesn’t suit them at all, does it?”
Yonkichi fought in the outdoor dojo next to the Hiba family house.
He wore a filthy white work outfit below a white flight jacket.
That was his usual outfit.
The sky was changing from white to blue and the Okutama air was becoming the clear air of morning.
That was the usual state of the world. Low-Gear was no different from normal.
It was a weekday, so the people would be waking up, eating breakfast, and living their lives by going to school, going to work, or completing housework.
But, thought Yonkichi.
…I am different from normal.
Normally, he was not dodging fists in the morning.
Normally, he was not dodging kicks in the morning.
Normally, he was not breaking free of throws in the morning.
…I am not fighting Hiba’s grandson in the morning.
This was not normal. He was certain he was currently doing things differently from others. He was the only one in the world who…no, he and his opponent, Hiba, were the only ones feeling this.
It was a wonderful thing.
…We were born to test this Gear and to die. Fulfilling that is the will of 7th-Gear, which you can call our father, and it is for the sake of Chao Sei, the mother who responded to that will.
But his brothers had said something else.
…We do not know if that is correct.
Their lifespans were reaching their end. They were losing interest in this world that lacked change, so they wanted to hurry up and die. If they died, they could fulfill the meaning of their birth.
But, thought Yonkichi as he deflected Hiba’s fist with an arm and slammed his elbow into the boy.
…My heart wishes for entertainment before then.
He remembered what his brothers had said.
…We can think about that while performing the test.
And if they did not completely lose interest before the end came, they could say Low-Gear had more value than simply bringing their end.
They would draw out all of their ability, use it without hesitation, watch their surprised opponent, smile whether they had won or lost, and reach their own highest point.
…Then we will accept Low-Gear.
But, he thought again.
Hiba ducked to avoid a kick and tried to sweep away Yonkichi’s supporting leg with a horizontal kick, so Yonkichi jumped straight up to evade.
Down below, the rotation of the horizontal kick prevented Hiba from moving.
Yonkichi dropped his heel down on the boy.
He was confident it would hit.
His reason was simple: Hiba’s actions were far too easy to predict.
The boy was used to god of war combat, so his actions appeared compact but actually used wide motions.
He quickly rotated those large motions to prevent his opponent from seeing through them.
He was like a miniature typhoon.
If you knew where his center was, he was nothing more than swinging arms and legs. Hitting his weak points was easy.
And Yonkichi did exactly that.
His dropping heel travelled straight toward the top of the head.
Hiba’s balance was fixed due to the rotation of the horizontal kick, so an attack from directly above would slam him into the ground and prevent the damage from slipping away.
This attack would knock him unconscious. The pain in his head would keep him from even drinking anything properly for the rest of the day.
His heel hit.
With the sound of bone being struck, Hiba was knocked into the ground while rotating.
Yonkichi used the recoil to flip backwards and land on the hard ground.
“But this is boring, as it does not allow me to reach my highest point.”
He saw Hiba doubled over on the ground and not moving, so he corrected his posture and turned his back on the boy.
He faced the house.
Someone stood in front of the broken entrance to one room.
It was a short old man wearing a dark samue.
Yonkichi bowed toward him.
“Will you be opposing me as well, Ryuutetsu-sama. To refresh my mind, I will add a new speech quirk, puru.”
“I’d rather not fight someone who speaks like that.”
“It is best to ignore it, puru. But more importantly…”
Yonkichi let his arms dangle next to him and turned his body toward the other man.
“Will you be fighting me or not, puru?”
“No, that’s no longer my role. I’m about to go check on the field with Toshi.”
Ryuutetsu pointed to his left.
Yonkichi turned to look and found where he had previously knocked Hiba Ryuuji to the ground.
He also saw the boy slowly standing and shaking his head.
…But that was a solid blow.
Hiba brushed a hand through his hair and finished standing. He made a gentle hop to plant his feet on the ground and began stepping forward and back. He started slow but quickly gained speed.
His eyes were trained directly on Yonkichi.
“During the summer, I was taught something by an upperclassman even more perverted than me and another upperclassman who I can never hope to match when it comes to acts of perversion. I was taught that I don’t prepare my defenses and that I think I’ve won too soon.”
He spat onto the ground next to him and the spit was colored red.
“When you jumped up, I remembered when I lost to them. …I lost twice, but I won’t lose a third time. I’m taking this seriously.”
“I see, I see.”
Yonkichi nodded toward Ryuutetsu and faced Hiba again.
Instead of letting his arms dangle, he held them forward at slightly above shoulder height.
His elbows swayed, he pulled on the sleeves, and he lightly spread his arms with the wrists and hands sticking out.
“Then I too shall take this a little seriously, puru.”
“A little seriously?”
He clenched his fists while nodding to Hiba’s question.
A moment later, the air exploded, a large portion of the hard dojo ground burst, and Hiba was blown away.
The battle had begun anew.
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