Owari no Chronicle:Volume10 Chapter 17
Chapter 17: Reason for Agreement
One two three
Even if you can count out the time
You still cannot hear your own bell
The sky above was bright and filled with a white light.
Below that sky was a structure of white sand.
It was a castle. The building was a square with sides exceeding several hundred meters and it stood twenty stories above ground.
Its sand was fixed in place and it sucked water in from underground, stored it like a sponge, and wet the surrounding gardens and land.
A kilometer long road extended from the front of the castle. The brick-paved road had manmade rivers running along either side. Something that emitted light swam through the gently-streaming rivers and wings of shadow flew through the white sky.
Shimmering heat rose from the road between the rivers.
A single gaze walked through that shimmering and toward the castle.
The gaze was situated high, but it barely moved up and down as it walked.
Clothes of wrapped white cloth were visible below the gaze.
The arms sticking out of those clothes were thick and the right hand held a spear. The spear was at least three meters long.
The walking gaze approached the castle without speaking a word. However, a sudden voice reached it from the right.
The voice came from the shade of a tree on the side of the manmade river.
The gaze turned toward it.
A woman wrapped in orange cloth stood below the tree.
The gaze stopped and waited as she smiled and ran over.
“Shahrnavaz, should the future queen really be out here? Hm?”
“What about you, brother? Why doesn’t 9th-Gear’s general have anyone accompanying him?”
“That’s fine. That’s fine, Shahrnavaz. I have the power to move an army. If I don’t do my best to hide that fact in everyday life, the politicians will get scared. Isn’t that right?”
“But the people in the palace are complaining about that. They say the current general is unreliable.”
“Ha ha,” the owner of the gaze laughed and showed off his teeth in a smile. “Unreliable? Yeah, that’s probably true. After all, I haven’t shown them how reliable I can be. Talks have begun with 3rd about a joint attack on Low-Gear now that they’re causing a little trouble, but the palace has not seen that yet. …Incidentally, travelling to all these different Gears feels like the pilgrimage I took as a child. Yes.”
“C’mon. Can’t you worry about him a little bit and show off for everyone? The rumor in the palace is that you didn’t give him any kind of bodyguard because you have no intention of protecting him.”
“Is there any need to protect him? Hm? Sarv is the king and he is even more powerful than me.”
“I’m not so sure.”
“Shahrnavaz, you are supposed to say ‘of course he is’. Or do you want to be burned at the stake? Hm?”
Shahrnavaz smiled bitterly at that.
She then slowly looked behind the owner of the gaze.
The owner of the gaze also looked back.
The road and rivers were cut off by a stairway.
The land below the stairway was filled with buildings.
It was a city. The houses and other buildings were made of sand and they formed complex rows. Countless dark trees with white leaves were growing among them. The long reflections of light within the city were rivers.
The expanse of the city filled their vision to the left and right and it continued all the way to the horizon.
White smoke was rising here and there within the city and the vehicles people rode reflected the light of the sky.
All of that continued far into the blurry corners of the city.
However, a single form was visible beyond it all.
It looked like a wall at the end of it all.
Something far wider and longer than the vast city sat atop the horizon. More than walling off a side of the city, it seemed to wall off a side of the entire world.
The owner of the gaze spoke the name of that being that resembled a dark shadow.
“It took millennia to build the world dragon Zahhak. Once it absorbs the concepts of the other Gears, it will become the great world-changing dragon that fills this world with all the other concepts.”
“Yes, Sarv resumed development after it was abandoned over a thousand years ago. That is our world’s project. It is currently sitting at standby with half of this Gear’s concepts inside. However, it seems trouble with developing the brain is going to make autonomous function impossible. It can manage simple environmental circulation, though.”
“That is enough. If we no longer need to worry about water, 9th can develop even further.”
“Yes,” agreed Shahrnavaz. “He looked at what 9th-Gear did in the past and predicted that the remnants of the other Gears would continue to attack this world even after those other Gears were destroyed. For example, what happens if 5th’s mechanical dragons regain their memories? Right now, he is working to stop the palace from attacking 10th using an underground force in 10th. He says we should attack Low-Gear first.”
“He wants to rid them of their defiant spirit with a crushing defeat and to solve the mystery of Low-Gear, doesn’t he?”
“Yes. That mystery that has long been spoken of that lowest Gear.”
The owner of the gaze nodded at his sister’s words.
“If you gather records on that lowest Gear, you will occasionally find some odd reports. Sometimes when a location there is reused as a battlefield, the previous destruction of the location’s string vibrations will have vanished. That opens the possibility of Low-Gear healing string vibration damage.”
“I do not know what it means either, but Sarv says he wants to speak with you in private because he has a theory about it. He says we are facing great possibility and great destruction.”
“Great possibility and great destruction?” he repeated.
Shahrnavaz nodded and looked him in the eye.
“I do not know what he meant, but he also said Zahhak would help gather everything in the name of righteousness. And he said he needs your help.”
The owner of the gaze clearly did not understand, so Shahrnavaz smiled. She took a step back, leaned forward, and looked up at her thinking brother.
“Well, once you and Sarv return from Low-Gear, Zahhak’s brain should be complete. Then the palace won’t be able to complain. …Sarv’s been having a tough time. He said going to Low-Gear and searching for that ‘possibility and destruction’ would let him avoid speaking with the palace.”
“I see. Then I need to bring him back safely. Yes. …For that and for your official marriage.”
“Oh, my,” said Shahrnavaz with a smile.
She turned back toward the gaze but then looked to the city.
“I would like peace for a wedding gift. You all will probably be destroying a lot of Gears from here on, but promise me you will take in those Gears and bring about peace and understanding in the end.”
“Didn’t I tell you that fighting is my job? Hm? And once the fighting is over…”
“You will retire and go somewhere to disappear, right? If he heard that, I’m sure he would stop you.”
“This way is fine. If I stayed, the people would expect me to take an important position and take part in politics. However, Sarv is my only king. …After all, he is the man who did not lose when he fought me in the duel between royal representative and military representative. That’s a world of difference from those politicians who weaseled out of it by calling it an outdated tradition.”
“He may not have lost, but he didn’t win either.”
“He did win.”
The owner of the gaze looked away from his sister and into the white sky.
“When you stopped the duel, you stood in my way. The sister of the greatest military family protected the man with the greatest royal position. I only have the greatest military position, so I can’t beat that. Isn’t that right? Hm?”
He took a breath.
“Once we return from our trip to Low-Gear, the people will recognize the strength in Sarv that only I have seen. And if that continues, the people will eventually realize he is exactly the sort of person who should make me his subordinate.”
Hearing that, she spread her arms forward.
“I hope you’re right. He said you were the only one he could not defeat, but men like to talk big. …I hope you can imagine what it is like to be the one waiting for your return. So please return safely. If you don’t, who knows what the palace will start saying.”
“I will return safely and I will make sure he does as well.”
The owner of the gaze spoke to her and to the city she almost seemed to be embracing.
“I promise you as the general of 9th-Gear. I promise you for the peace of all Gears. But…what is this secret truth of Low-Gear that Sarv wants to talk about?”
“I don’t know, but I think it is important. So go hear him out. After all, I am his only ally in the palace. Go save him. Go save my hero.”
“Your hero, hm? That’s what you called him when you stood in my way, wasn’t it?”
“I am glad you gave in during that duel. That is what brought the military and the throne together.”
The brother narrowed his eyes at his sister’s words and he stared into the vast city filled with people.
“So this world is ruled by a hero. But if he is a hero, then what am I? Hm?”
His sister laughed at his question.
“Good question,” she began. “I will tell you when you return from Low-Gear. If you protect my hero and bring him back…”
Her words vanished into the sky.
“Then what will you be in my eyes?”
Below the dull sky of early evening was a gray factory.
It was located at the entrance to the Takao Mountains, the trees around it were beginning to grow red or yellow, and the pale sunlight of early evening poured down on and seemed to surround the trees and factory.
A clearing had been dug down behind the factory.
A color there reflected the sunlight.
That color was silver.
The reflective silver came from the sword swinging through the air near the center of the clearing.
The sword was wielded by a girl with long hair. She was sweating despite the late autumn chill and she repeatedly stepped forward and sliced through the air at tremendous speed.
At first, her lips had moved to count each time she stepped forward and struck, but the numbers had vanished once she exceeded three digits and only the action remained.
The racing silver line in the center of the clearing was always the same.
The girl moved.
Those movements remained steady even as her surroundings changed.
As the sun began to set, the direction of the reflected sunlight shifted.
That light had rotated around the embankment surrounding the clearing.
A man slept on that illuminated grassy embankment.
It was an elderly Arab man in a white coat.
The reflected light caressing his face finally reached his eyes.
He frowned and opened his one eye.
When he looked into the sky, he gasped, almost as if the sky before his eyes was an unfamiliar sight.
But after a short pause…
He stood up, did not bother to brush the grass from his back, and slowly faced forward where the producer of the silver light continued moving without rest.
After his call, the light shook.
It continued moving despite the disturbance.
“What is it, father? I am trying to focus for tonight.”
“Is Shino not with you?”
“Shino…went to the Tamiya house. She thinks I have not noticed.”
Her tone was weak and she continued even though Hajji said nothing.
“Part of me thinks this is for the best. We will be separated eventually, so maybe it is best if that separation begins now.”
“I see.” Hajji nodded, crossed his arms, and thought for a moment. “Where are Tatsumi and Jord?”
“Are you changing the subject?”
He smiled bitterly. He brought a hand to his mouth and showed the smile only in his eyes.
“I am. Yes, I am, Mikoku. I was following your lead since this practice is meant to point your heart away from dark feelings.”
“I am simply rethinking my inexperience from last night. It was that inexperience that prevented my sword from so much as reaching ‘Betrayed Expectations’ Jord.”
Hajji sensed her confused gaze, so he gave a firm nod.
“Her concept provides a special kind of defense. Yes. None of your attacks will affect her unless you see through that trick. Training is not enough. You must change the way you think.”
“Are you saying even I could defeat her if I changed the way I think?”
“Then,” said Mikoku. “My mind is inexperienced. And I can still say this training is for tonight.”
“Are you sure it isn’t for Shino?”
She did not answer.
She only continued sending the silver light around, so Hajji shrugged.
Soon, she spoke again.
“As I already said, Shino went to the Tamiya family. And she thinks I have not noticed.”
Her tone seemed to be testing him to see what he would say in response.
And so he gave his response.
That was all.
Mikoku reacted by relaxing her shoulders a little even as she swung the blade. Her mouth opened a bit.
“But I suppose that is for the best.”
“Shino will be alone eventually, so it is best if she leaves us now and learns how to enjoy herself on her own.”
“I see,” said Hajji again with a hand over his mouth. “And you are willing to make her hate you to ensure that? Hm?”
Mikoku did not immediately reply. After a pause, she closed her eyes.
“That is fine.”
She opened her eyes immediately afterwards and began on a new topic entirely.
“Jord is asleep to prepare for tonight, but why is she fighting?”
“Oh, that’s simple. Yes. I do enjoy talking, so I guess I’ll tell you.”
He removed his hand from his mouth and looked up into the sky.
“She was originally part of 10th-Gear’s royal family and she has lived since the Concept War era. With that said, let me ask you something, Mikoku. Do you know why she would use concept weapons modelled after Low-Gear weapons?”
“You mean it isn’t just because they suit her?”
“She is a 10th-Gear royal, so she would normally use 10th’s weapons.”
Hajji stood up and brushed off the grass on his butt.
“She chooses this world’s weapons because she wants to harm this world with its own weapons. …She is ‘Betrayed Expectations’ Jord. She lost her husband during the Concept War and the result of the fighting betrayed her every expectation, but weapons do not betray your expectations. Yes.”
He looked up to the thin clouds remaining in the evening sky.
He knew very well why Jord was fighting.
…This world is hopelessly insufficient compared to the Gears we lived in.
It lacked knowledge, technology, power, land, nature, and so much more.
And so very much had been corrupted.
“In 10th-Gear, spirits lived in the air, so air without spirits feels like a vacuum to a 10th resident. On top of that, the vacuum is filled with all of the exhaust built up over this world’s history.”
“Right,” said Mikoku as she swung her sword. “I heard the mother and grandmother of Team Leviathan’s Izumo were from 10th-Gear and that their lives were shortened by Low-Gear’s polluted air.”
“Yes. That is why they rarely leave the reservation. And all of them wonder why they had to come here after surviving 10th-Gear’s destruction.”
Hajji then said something else.
“Jord’s friend married a man of this world during the Concept War.”
Hearing that gasp of surprise, he spoke.
“Do not stop your blade, Mikoku.”
“B-but you are talking about the Izumo family’s-…”
“It is a common story, Mikoku. Yes. One thing gods and men have in common is the inability to understand what goes on in others’ hearts.”
You understand what I mean, don’t you? he silently added as Mikoku wordlessly began to move once more.
Her movements were steady and undisturbed.
“Yes, we cannot understand it. That is why Jord does not understand. And she certainly never expected the next person to marry a man from Low-Gear to be…her own daughter.”
Mikoku gasped again, but her blade remained in motion. Satisfied with that, Hajji turned his back on her.
He placed a hand over his mouth.
“Her friend helped destroy 10th-Gear and married the destroyer. That friend went on to live in this world and die because of it. However, the friend’s husband died as well, so it should have been over.”
He took a step forward and up the grassy embankment.
“But when her own daughter decided to marry that friend’s son, her expectations were betrayed yet again. Yes. Her daughter visited the reservation after having her child, but Jord apparently never again allowed her daughter to see her.”
“And her daughter died just like her friend.”
Hajji finished climbing the embankment while listening to the regular sounds of the sword slicing through the air behind him.
“It seemed her grandson chose to live in this world, so she expected nothing of that boy. He had decided to live in the world that had taken her world, taken her friend, and taken her daughter, so she saw no reason to expect anything of him.”
“Then why is she fighting?”
“Well,” said Hajji as he turned to the right and toward the factory. “Probably because she wants to make sure her world and this world disappointingly betray her expectations.”
“She wants to send a message by crushing her grandson and the 10th-Gear Concept Core which could be viewed as the world that was stolen from her.”
He took a breath.
“She will be saying that everything they stole from her was below her and thus not what she expected.”
Mikoku replied with only a slight disturbance in her swinging sword.
“You mean she wants to laugh off what she had protected and believed in and view them as disappointments? She wants to say what was stolen from her in the past was not that big a deal?”
“Only Jord can decide how she feels, Mikoku. It is not our place to decide for her. Right?”
As he spoke, he began to walk.
The disturbance was gone from Mikoku’s blade, so he decided he could bring her to battle and she could fight without her feelings influencing her actions.
He could not lose Mikoku, Shino, or the others in the battle that night.
Mikoku had powerful regeneration, but it was not perfect. If the blue philosopher’s stone in her chest was destroyed, she would die.
…It is powerful, but it almost seems too simple for something made by her.
Hajji thought as he walked along the embankment. That philosopher’s stone was the final one made by Mikoku’s mother.
She had been an expert in philosopher’s stone creation and he did not know the details about that one. If it did have some hidden power, he had been unable to draw it out.
If there was something there, Mikoku herself would likely find it after tonight’s battle.
…What did I actually accomplish?
Jord probably wonders the same thing, he thought while hiding the bitter smile on his lips.
He then heard Mikoku’s voice from back and to the right as she swung her sword.
“Father, thank you for keeping me company during this busy time.”
“Oh, what’s this, Mikoku? Are you trying to make it rain? Hm?”
“I am never thanking you again!”
He heard her click her tongue and he laughed as he continued walking. This is best, he thought. This is how we usually act.
But her voice reached him again.
“What is it? Hm?”
“Well.” She swung her sword. “Um… You seemed to be having a pleasant dream earlier. Who was it of?”
“Oh.” He scratched his head. “That’s a good question. I forget. It was a dream of an old, old era. After all…”
“That was a dream of a time when I too wanted to be a hero. …That makes it pretty old, doesn’t it?”
Mikoku replied while steadily swinging her blade.
“Then what are you now? Filled with betrayed expectations?”
He replied while looking up into the sky.
“That’s another good question.”
He weakly muttered the words and watched the scarlet sky as he walked.
Finally, he spoke some quiet words into that scarlet-colored sky.
“I will think about that during tonight’s battle, Mikoku.”
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