Owari no Chronicle:Volume10 Chapter 16
Chapter 16: Dry Desire
To thirst for something
Is nothing other than the joy of dryness
Beyond the thin clouds, the sun was beginning to set.
At the bottom of a cleared slope in the mountains were a long runway and a white building.
Behind the building was a green space.
The area past the freight elevator could be called a vegetable garden, a flower bed, or a farm.
The separated space continued up onto the slope and it contained flowers, trees, and other plants. The words colorful and multi-purpose perfectly described it.
Four individuals stood near the plants growing in a vegetable garden.
Two had human forms and two were plant creatures walking alongside the other two.
One of the human forms was a short girl with a small animal on her head. She wore a blue armored uniform and an orange jacket.
The other was tall and wore an armored uniform with a long skirt.
The short one was holding the tall one’s hand in one hand and a basket in the other.
The basket contained picked plants and herbs wrapped in rubber bands.
“Heo, are you using those for the massage as well?”
“No, these are for dinner tonight. Do you like fried chicken, Mikage?”
“Yes. I like the skinny ones.”
Does she mean the legs? wondered Heo.
She then glanced down at the piece of paper inside the basket.
It had some notes written in English shorthand.
…I’ve asked about UCAT’s blank period all around here.
After Diana had left for some kind of work, Heo had wandered around UCAT.
It was partially to familiarize herself with the facility and partially to take a walk with Mikage. On the way, she had spoken with people close to Team Leviathan or the people around those people.
…For example, I got some information from Development Department Director Tsukuyomi.
- Her husband died in the secondary damages of the Great Kansai Earthquake.
- For some reason, Nagata Tatsumi has a Cowling Sword made by her husband.
Even after being told that, Heo had said nothing about the Cowling Sword she had seen in her dream.
…Until Sayama makes a decision, it would be best not to take any careless actions.
That was her decision.
She had more notes based on the other people she had asked about UCAT’s blank period.
- I’m interested, but I don’t know anything about it since I joined after the blank period. → 28 people
- I assume some kind of unspeakable scandal happened. → 11 people.
- Maybe the Army knows something about it. → 3 people.
- I’m interested…in you, Heo-kun. → Turned him down.
- I assume some kind of unspeakable scandal happened…and I assume it was caused by UCAT Director Ooshiro. → I kind of agree.
- Oh, thanks for coming. Come on in and I’ll give you some candy. Yes, yes. Just step inside for a little bit. → Contacted the authorities.
A lot of the information was probably useless, but she could decide which that was if she focused.
To sum it all up…
“Everyone is interested in the blank period.”
“I wonder why,” said Mikage. “It has nothing to do with the people here now.”
Heo casually nodded, but a question came to her.
…The past shouldn’t have anything to do with Team Leviathan either.
The team was limited to the present, so why did they need the past?
“That’s a good question. Why is everyone so interested in a past that shouldn’t have anything to do with them?”
She tilted her head, but no answer came to her.
They began to walk and the two plant creatures followed. They were helping to lower her fever from her exhaustion and injuries, but they were not expelling much air anymore
“Feeling good?” asked one.
She was almost fully healed.
…And so is Mikage.
Mikage was still not steady on her feet and she would occasionally come to a stop as they walked.
Whenever that happened, Heo would turn around to find her looking at some flowers or a face-shaped stone someone had laid out as a decoration.
…Is this what it would be like to have a little sister?
Heo thought that was a little rude as she walked with Mikage and the plant creatures.
This was not her first time to walk through this place, but it was her first time to use it for herself. Also, before Diana had left for some business in the city, she had said Heo could plant something here too.
What would she plant here?
Unable to find an answer, she asked Mikage.
“Mikage, what would you plant here if you could?”
“I would grow Ryuuji-kun. …He’s always saying he wishes he was taller or smarter. He’s especially insistent that we would be in equilibrium if he was taller.”
She looked to one corner of the slope.
“That would probably be a good spot.”
“P-please don’t get me involved in a crime. And I think burying a person is a bad idea for a number of reasons.”
Heo felt a tug on her hand and saw Mikage had stopped walking.
The girl looked to a narrow, deep hole to the right. Heo read the sign to the side of the hole.
“For Ooshiro only. (Keep your chin up)”
“Keep your chin up? So stay positive?”
“L-let’s not think too much about that. U-um, the next herb is…”
Heo looked forward and saw Diana’s flower bed.
“What did she plant?”
She looked down in interest and found a few plants with long leaves. The sign said “If you’re going to pull them up, use a dog”, but Heo did her best to ignore it.
…That’s just a joke. She’s joking.
She stopped the plant creatures from trying to pull up the plants and she sighed.
Mikage patted her shoulder from the side.
“Heo, taking everything so seriously will only wear you out.”
“Yes. I don’t think I’m quite used to this place yet.
“Ryuuji-kun said letting it influence you feels good. He happily said he was soaking in it.”
“Oh, I see.”
Heo reached a strange understanding and straightened up to refresh her mood.
Suddenly, Mikage’s hands reached to her sides from behind.
She gave a ticklish shriek and strength filled Mikage’s hands.
“Heo, you’re bending your back.”
“Oh, thank you very much.”
Mikage nodded but still seemed dissatisfied with Heo’s posture because she corrected a slight bend.
While bending Heo to the left and right and back again, Mikage asked a question.
“Did you know your grandfather’s father?”
“Eh? Oh. No, I didn’t know my grandfather’s fath-… I didn’t know him all that well.”
“I didn’t know my mother very well either. Ryuuji-kun saw her in Baku’s past, but I’ve only seen a photo. …Even so, I’m glad I saw the photo. She was smiling.”
She paused for a moment.
“But seeing her move would have been even better. Ryuuji-kun told me about what he saw, though. He says she was beautiful and noble…and that her panties were white.”
“D-do I lose if I question that? I do, don’t I?”
“Heo, you can’t rush this. You’ll eventually be able to win.”
What does that mean? wondered Heo with a calming sigh.
Mikage removed her hands from Heo’s sides and placed them on her shoulders instead. She resumed moving her back and forth.
“Ryuuji-kun’s grandmother said his grandfather was friends with your grandfather’s father. She said they would always lend each other magazines of naked girls and she would hit them with a metal bar.”
“Is that so?’
“Yes, but you know what? Ryuuji-kun’s grandparents won’t say anything about his father. Did your grandfather’s father ever till you about your parents?”
Heo gasped at that question.
She had been asked exactly what she wanted to know.
And so she answered.
She tried to say “but I want to look into it”, but Mikage spoke before she could.
“I want to look into it.”
Heo reflexively turned toward Mikage.
Mikage stopped speaking with her arms slightly raised. She looked at Heo with a frown.
“Do you want to as well?”
Heo realized she had tensed up and that she was giving a flustered expression. I can’t do that, she scolded herself. All she did was say what I wanted to say.
…I’m acting like those words belong to me.
She was certain Mikage had to have been thinking the same thing for some time.
“Sorry, Heo. Did I steal your words?”
“No, it’s fine. Whoever says it first gets to say it.”
She frantically shook her hands back and forth. She tried to smile brightly, but Mikage gave an even better smile.
“But Baku controls the past and he chose you, not the person who said it first. Just like American UCAT began pursuing you first, but it was Harakawa who got you. And…sorry, Heo. I might know about your father.”
“Yes. I’ve been sleeping somewhere in UCAT for a long time. From about sixty years ago to about ten years ago. I only woke up on the night of the Great Kansai Earthquake.”
“Ryuuji-kun’s father took me and left me with Ryuuji-kun. He told him to look after me but ‘if you’re a man, don’t do anything sexual to her until she grows up’.”
“Sounds like his father was a lot like him.”
“Yes. But I was asleep, so I don’t actually remember it. Also…”
“Miki is in the Army. Ryuuji-kun’s father apparently found her at the earthquake site before he died. She was with us when I woke up.”
It took Heo several seconds to realize who Miki was.
Once she did, she gulped.
“You mean Nagata Tatsumi, don’t you? I heard she is an important member of the Army. …So you used to know her?”
“Yes, but it makes me wonder. She might have had some connection to Ryuuji-kun’s parents. This might be a coincidence, but…”
Mikage looked Heo in the eye.
“Nagata is Ryuuji-kun’s mother’s maiden name.”
“I think it’s just a coincidence,” said Mikage before falling silent.
However, there was likely more to what she had said.
What would it mean if there was a connection? To find out…
…We need to look to the past.
They were learning more about their grandparents and Heo’s great-grandfather. Sayama’s investigation may have had him following his parents’ footsteps, but the house belonged to a leader of his grandfather’s generation.
On the other hand, they had almost no information on their parents’ generation.
…What happened then?
She knew the Great Kansai Earthquake had happened, but the past she had seen that morning had shown a battle in an empty Osaka that was likely a concept space.
The adults who would know what had happened – including Diana – were refusing to speak.
Why were they so tightlipped about that battle?
She thought they would talk about it if they had not done anything wrong, but she did not want to think Diana and the others had done something wrong.
…Which is it?
She wanted to know.
Knowing could put her parents, Diana, and the others in the wrong, but she still wanted to know.
“You want to know, don’t you?”
Heo spoke aloud as if asking herself.
“That way you can face what happened without avoiding the truth.”
She reached for Baku on her head, hoping he would show her the past.
However, he parted her hair and sank down as if hiding.
His little paws reached below her hair and tickled her scalp.
Her shoulders stiffened and she frantically swallowed her shout.
That was when a small form stood from beyond the rice growing to her left.
It was an old woman in white. It seemed she had been looking after the flowers on the other side.
She turned toward the building in preparation to return and she gave a quick bow toward Heo and Mikage.
What a beautiful person, thought Heo. She was aged, but her expression was perfectly clear and void of needless strength. That fact delayed Heo’s realization that the woman had dark middle eastern skin.
Heo frantically bowed back.
The woman’s expression froze when she heard that. A hint of tension and surprise could be seen on her face.
That female name put that same expression on Heo’s face.
The plant creature at her feet expelled gas as if converting her emotion.
However, the old woman gave a bitter smile of sudden realization.
“Sorry. Your voice reminded me of someone I used to know.”
Heo was about to say she did not mind, but she found herself saying something else.
“You knew my mother, didn’t you?”
“Yes…I mean, testament. My mother’s name was Maria Thunderson, my father was James Thunderson, and I am their daughter, Heo Thunderson.”
The old woman responded by circling the rice plants and approaching. She repeated an “oh” sound of surprise and joy again and again and she finally reached a hand out toward Heo.
“Their daughter is-…”
She tried to touch Heo.
But there was sudden motion behind Heo.
Mikage quickly moved in front of her.
She took a forceful step forward to move the old woman away.
Heo watched and listened as the other girl spoke clearly in front of her.
“No. And sorry. But Heo named herself and I will name myself. …I am Hiba Mikage. According to Ryuuji-kun, I am the best in his eyes.”
“U-um, Mikage? I don’t think you need to be so cautious about her.”
“I do. You do not know this place as well as I do and Harakawa would be unhappy if something happened to you. So I will protect you. …Like I wasn’t able to this morning.”
Strength filled Mikage’s back with those last words.
Seeing the girl acting to protect her, Heo realized she had been wrong earlier.
…How could I think of her like a little sister?
Mikage had much more resolve. Heo placed her hands around the hand hanging by Mikage’s side. She then faced the old woman.
“Um, sorry, but you heard her.”
“Yes. And, Heo. I need to protect you because your chest has yet to evolve.”
“W-was that comment really necessary?”
The old woman laughed.
“Ho ho. Such good friends. But this is simply amazing. To think I would meet a Thunderson child and a member of the Hiba family. Not to mention hearing the name Harakawa after so long.”
Still smiling, she bowed.
“I am not a member of UCAT. I am simply borrowing a place to live here. Ho ho. I am Arnavaz Mesam. Field Operations Director Abram Mesam is my husband and my Fereydun.”
“Ah,” said Heo in slight surprise.
She knew of the field operations director. He would sometimes show up during training. He was a large man who had looked dangerous to Heo.
…But he’s married to someone like this.
What a rude thing to think, she scolded herself. To change her train of thought, she asked about one thing Arnavaz had said.
“Arnava- Lady Arnavaz? Um, what do you mean by Fereydun?”
“It means hero. Abram was a hero in our country. He travelled the path of medicine, saved people, and…yes, he is my Fereydun.”
Heo realized something while looking the old woman directly in the eye.
She realized why the woman had mistaken her for her mother.
The woman was blind.
And as soon as she noticed that, something moved atop her head.
It was Baku.
He raised his front legs as if greeting Arnavaz.
Mikage stood on parched land.
She had been in a vegetable garden and the sky had been cloudy, but she was now on a vast stretch of parched land and the sky was a clear blue as far as the eye could see.
She looked around and saw a few people wearing different colors of cloth.
Beyond them was a large structure with a square roof and dry color.
The wall around the structure had crumbled in places.
The trees inside the wall had few leaves and not much grew in the large yard visible through the entrance.
The building itself had partially crumbled.
There were quite a few cracks in the sun-covered southern wall.
There did not seem to be anyone inside.
The people standing in front of the withered and dying building were all women.
They wore blue, brown, or yellow cloth that covered everything but their faces.
They stood motionless below the sun which was almost directly overhead.
All they did was stare out into the dry field.
They seemed to be waiting for something to arrive.
What are they waiting for? wondered Mikage as she looked behind her.
That was when she realized she only existed as her senses of sight and vision.
Baku was showing her the past.
She looked down at her hands but found nothing. She only had a faint sense of their existence, much like when inside Susamikado.
Behind her, she found sand dunes.
It was an ocean of sand covered in dry hills.
After observing the scenery, she turned her vision back around.
She realized she stood in a position lower than the dunes or the building.
She looked at her feet and found cracks running through the parched ground.
…Was there water here?
She did not fully understand, but she grasped that the building was so dry because the water that should have been here was not.
Without water, one grew thirsty, so she wondered if the people were trying to move elsewhere.
…It must be tough.
With that thought, she approached the women.
She tried to walk and her vision moved.
Interestingly enough, she moved faster than her legs normally carried her.
“If only I could always move like this.”
While moving at an ideal pace and speed, she looked to the people standing before the building.
She realized her previous prediction had been correct.
The people had gathered clothing and other luggage at their feet so they could move out.
However, one of them had no luggage at her feet.
The woman standing in the center wore white, hid her face with a hood, and simply clasped her hands in front of her waist.
An older woman in red spoke from her right.
Mikage could not understand the words, but their meaning reached her.
“Lady Arnavaz, you won’t be coming with us?”
Arnavaz? wondered Mikage with a mental tilt of the head. This woman completely hidden by white cloth is Arnavaz?
She peered into the hood, but she could only see the woman’s nose and mouth.
She has a beautiful face, she thought.
The woman in red closed her eyes a little while facing Arnavaz.
“I sent a message about today’s closing of the Sahan house, but there was no response. That man learned medicine at the city’s university as the prince of the Mesam family and he is called a hero for the people he has saved, but he has abandoned you for fifteen years since promising to marry you.”
The woman took a breath and faced the dry and empty building behind her.
“And I had hoped he would save the Sahan family.”
“This is fine, Shahina.”
Mikage heard Arnavaz’s voice and saw the white hood shake slightly.
“The people of the desert are the people of the sand. We live like the scorching heat of day and we die like the calm chill of night. This just means Sahan has reached the night. He is known as a hero, so telling him to marry the blind princess of a house nearing the night must sound like telling him to lose his light and go to sleep.”
She spoke quietly.
“The marriage proposal was made by my late father and he merely accepted. It would be wrong to expect anything of-…”
“Come with us, Lady Arnavaz.”
Arnavaz was cut off by Shahina, the woman in red.
“We cannot live as we have, but we should be able to rely on your connections as head of the family. That man, Abram, has apparently cast aside his position as heir to the Mesam family, so an engagement from fifteen years ago is no longer valid.”
“Are you asking me to use convenient words to throw out my honor as a bride?”
“Clinging to that honor will not bring him here! You even gave us all of your belongings as a severance payment, so…”
“A blind woman does not need colorful clothing. I have been so spoiled that I do not know how to cook, so I do not need the furniture either. And I cannot live alone, so I do not even need money.”
Arnavaz raised both hands.
The cloth fell back to reveal her white hands which held something.
Mikage circled in front of her to see what she held in each hand.
Her left hand held a faded letter on the verge of falling apart.
And the right held…
“Your family’s sword? Lady Arnavaz!?”
“When this letter from him arrived fifteen years ago, time stopped for me. My brothers died in war to the west, so I inherited this blade upon my father’s death two years ago. Now, it is the key to restarting my time.”
She looked up and Mikage saw her face.
…Such a beautiful face.
But a scary one, she thought.
In this dream, Arnavaz was still young, but her expression had a slight downward bend and a hint of shaking tension.
…You need to take it easy.
However, the words would not reach the past even if she spoke them aloud.
Arnavaz spoke with her unseeing eyes turned toward the sky.
“A contract in the left hand and a blade in the right. God will surely inspire the daughter of Sahan with a song. Inspire her to advance through Sahan’s night and face the morning.”
She lowered her head and hid the short sword and letter inside her clothes.
“I was a weak child and everyone thought I would be the first to die, yet I have outlived them all. I can do nothing, so why did I outlive my brothers who went to school and found their own places in the world? If there is a reason, it would have to be for this blade.”
“Now, go. You have left this house, but I will never leave Sahan. I am the final Sahan. But it is your duty to bring prosperity to other lands just like the water that left Sahan’s land.”
She took a breath.
“I am all that remains of the Sahan family. My darkness is now mine alone.”
As her words rang through the air, Shahina closed her eyes.
After a while, the other women closed their eyes as well.
They slowly bowed their heads toward Arnavaz.
Soon, they all produced a slight wind. It was the wind of turning their backs on and walking away from Arnavaz and the mansion.
The final wind, the red wind of Shahina, paused to turn back.
“Lady Arnavaz, I pray that god blesses you and you meet that man.”
Mikage could not tell if Arnavaz nodded or not.
Her vision quickly grew dark and she fell into darkness.
However, she had a thought.
…She’s the same.
Mikage was a survivor of 3rd-Gear. Her parents were gone and she had survived by abandoning 3rd.
However, Mikage had never thought the things Arnavaz had.
…Because the people around me are so nice.
Another thought occurred to her.
Despite this past, Arnavaz was living a different life now.
She had reason enough to turn that sword on Abram, yet she was living with him and smiling as she tended to the flowers.
Mikage then remembered what Sayama had said.
“Search for you own past.”
What did that mean? Did she have a past like that?
What if she did?
I want to know about it, she thought. I might be able to change like Arnavaz.
Arnavaz had grown kind even as she carried this past with her.
So if Mikage learned of her past, would she grow kind too?
And if so…
“Would I actually be able to say something if I saw Kazami crying again?”
She carved in her heart the desire to search for the past.
And as she repeated that desire to deepen the carving, she woke from the past.
Heo opened her eyes and found the evening vegetable garden.
She saw Arnavaz in front of her, the shadows of the vegetables, the forest, and the evening sky.
A faint wind blew as Arnavaz narrowed her eyes in a smile.
“I just felt like I had a dream of a familiar voice.”
“Y-yes. That was from Baku and it was your past. I’m sorry, but we saw it too.”
Arnavaz shook her head.
“That is an important thing that really did happen. It is not something to hide.”
“You’re not like Ryuuji-kun. He says the important parts are best when slightly hidden.”
“M-Mikage, I think he was talking about something else.”
Mikage tilted her head and Heo began to panic because she did not know how to explain it.
However, she was interrupted by footsteps running from the white building behind her.
She turned toward the person running over.
“Yes!” said Ooki just before tripping and falling over what grew from Diana’s flower bed.
The buried object came half from the ground and the leaves wrapped around her leg for some reason.
“Oww. What kind of plant is this? I’ve never seen anything like it.”
“Ahhh, Ooki-sensei! You aren’t supposed to pull it out!!”
Ooki only tilted her head, so Heo removed the plant from her hand and reburied it. She thought she saw something like a human face, but she ignored it and patted down the dirt with the provided spade.
“So what is it, Ooki-sensei?”
“Oh, r-r-r-right! It’s an emergency, Heo-san! You need to listen.”
“What is it?”
Heo was worried and the answer she received made her gulp.
“Are you listening?”
After trying to calm her down, Ooki gave the answer.
“Harakawa-kun’s mother has collapsed!”
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