Owari no Chronicle:Volume10 Chapter 19
Chapter 19: Annihilating Betrayal
I want to hear what you have to say
With his rucksack on his back, Sayama looked around from the entrance of the storehouse.
He could see a collection of shadow in the center of the floor about three meters ahead.
The shadow appeared to be two meters square, but its shape was not clear.
Sayama guessed it was something hidden by concept camouflage.
He then turned away from the pale bluish shadow and looked to the open metal door behind him.
“ ‘Know that the entrance to the truth is not here…!’, hm?”
He crossed his arms in thought and wondered if that text was the key to revealing the shadow.
…But is it truly not here?
If that visible shadow could be described as “not here”, then the text was exactly right.
But since it was visible, there had to be something there.
“Then I need to investigate.”
He raised his head and began looking around inside the storehouse.
He checked everywhere he could reach: the walls, the floor, the grooves in the floor, etc.
He touched it with the gloves he wore and even tapped around with a hammer he pulled from his bag.
“There is nothing odd here.”
He walked outside.
The moonlight had grown stronger and the air he breathed felt colder.
The owl had stopped hooting.
All he heard was the susuki grass rustling in the breeze.
The word “tranquility” entered his mind as he walked along the storehouse’s outer wall.
The western wall that faced the mountain slope had crumbled, but there was nothing there.
He checked the other three sides as well, but…
“Nothing out of the ordinary.”
He took a few steps away from the storehouse.
He brought a hand to his chin and wondered if there was anything odd about the small building at all.
…There is not.
The opened door caught his interest, so he returned.
He entered the storehouse’s darkness through the entrance and placed a hand on the metal door that was pressed against the left wall.
He tried pulling.
It moved smoothly. It squeaked a little, but he could move it with no more resistance than the weight of the metal itself.
He slowly pulled it as if bringing it to himself.
Closing the door more or less drove him outside.
The hinge was located at the center of the door’s edge and the building’s connector stuck out at an angle. If he continued pulling, he could open the door outside the building as well.
That was likely a way of securing space near the entrance when carrying items into the storehouse.
Sayama stopped the door when it was horizontal to the entrance.
The storehouse looked better with the door temporarily closed like that.
It had no lock. Instead it had a hole for attaching a padlock.
After stopping the door, he took a few steps back.
…It would have been like this originally.
However, that was all. The storehouse had shown nothing out of the ordinary and this change had simply brought it to its natural state.
What does this mean? he wondered.
…It is not “here”? Then is it “there”?
In that case, where was “here”?
“Is it where one would see that text with the door in its normal closed state?”
Was “here” the inside of the storehouse?
In that case, “there” would be…
“Not inside the storehouse?”
With that question, he turned around.
However, he only saw the abandoned house and the gravel yard.
The yard contained nothing but gravel and plants that had withered during autumn.
It looked like something could be hidden within the susuki grass, but he had already decided crops had been grown there.
As for the house, he had already seen everything in there. There had not even been anything below the floor.
“In that case…”
Where is it? he wondered as he gently pushed open the metal door and stepped back inside the storehouse.
He meaninglessly paced to help himself think, but he suddenly looked up and opened his mouth.
He stopped walking and smiled bitterly.
He was acting exactly like someone asking for a hint.
…There is no one here but me.
After reminding himself of that, he spoke.
“This would be somewhat different with Shinjou-kun, Kazami, Izumo, or any of the others here. We could split up, search around, and bounce ideas off each other if we did not find anything. …Izumo especially can say the most nonsensical things, but I can guide him to the correct answer as he tries to explain what he meant. And no matter what Shinjou-kun says, it inspires ideas and many other things within me.”
But he closed his eyes.
“But that is a kindness I cannot rely on now.”
He was alone. He did not even have Baku on his head.
He nodded, opened his eyes, and quickly sat on the dirt floor.
“In other words, I must remind my weak self that I am alone.”
Sitting, he released a relaxed breath.
Suddenly, he realized he was not alone after all.
This realization came from the left side of his chest.
He felt a pain as if someone had jammed their fingers inside his chest.
As he held his breath and trembled with sweat covering his body, he knew he would not be alone.
His gaze turned to the ground.
There were slight differences in height within the dust accumulated where not even the wind could reach.
These were old footprints that he had not made.
He knew who had been here before and the pain in his chest told him the answer.
This was a past he would never be free of as long as he lived.
“Traces of my parents.”
“I see,” muttered Sayama.
…My parents faced the same riddle as me.
The footprints travelled around the storehouse and then back outside.
He followed them out.
He closed the door and reentered the night.
He was a little short of breath as he stepped out below the starry sky.
“What do I do now?”
He crossed his arms, inhaled the surrounding night air, and felt the pain in his chest weaken.
He had a single problem to consider: the text written on the storehouse’s door.
…The entrance to the truth is not “here”.
Then where is it? he asked just as he noticed a change.
“The door is opening?”
He turned toward the movement of air behind him and found that the metal door was indeed opening inwards.
He placed a hand inside the storehouse, pulled the door back, and stopped it in the center position.
It wavered but finally stopped.
He took a few steps away and the door engraved with the words “Know that the entrance to the truth is not here…!” stayed in place.
But then it began to move. It slowly moved back inside the storehouse as if the wind were pushing it.
Why? he wondered.
“Or must I shout ‘Why…!?’ with a door like this? At any rate, what is going on?”
He tilted his head, observed the door, and noticed the trick.
The door was slightly tilted.
It was not really a trick at all. The door was simply made to open inwards.
The tilt was weak and it would not make it any more difficult to open the door in the opposite direction.
…Is it supposed to be a simple automatic door?
Sayama sighed, raised his handheld fluorescent light, and illuminated the inside of the storehouse.
He pointed the light into the darkness and observed the shadow in the center of the floor as he stepped inside.
“The entrance is not here. ‘Here’. As opposed to ‘there’.”
He muttered to himself as he thought and he found some of the dust had gotten wet and become part of the dirt.
My parents must have done the same thing, he thought while crouching down to observe the ground.
Should I perform a more thorough examination? he wondered.
All of a sudden, the top of this rucksack opened just a bit.
He was leaning forward, so the bag’s contents spilled over his head and forward.
This included a compass, some portable food, a whistle, and…
“Oh, no! The second Shinjou-kun life-size poster!”
That alone he managed to catch before it reached the ground.
He took a breath and lowered the bag to the ground.
He gathered the fallen objects and prepared to place the rolled life-size poster in last.
But he looked up instead.
…It can’t be. No…
He cried out and frantically put the rucksack on his back.
“What a… What a simple problem. It was so simple that I was about to lose tears, blood, and other bodily fluids over it.”
He stood, placed the bag’s straps over his shoulders, and hurried to the answer he had reached.
It was not “here”, so he moved “there”.
“The storehouse’s door!”
He faced the metal door that was opened all the way to the storehouse’s inner wall.
He shined the white fluorescent light on it, but that only revealed the same text as before.
“The opposite of ‘here’ is ‘there’, but the scale of those words depends on the context. They could refer to the near and the far, but ‘there’ could also refer to a conceptually unreachable place or somewhere separated from ‘here’.”
“Life-size posters can be hung on the inside of a door because the parents who stand out ‘there’ may open the door to ‘here’ in the child’s room, but they will not close the door behind them. The living people ‘here’ in this world may catch a glimpse of ‘there’ in the afterlife, but they cannot live there themselves.”
As he spoke, Sayama reached for the door and began to close it. And he did so from inside the storehouse.
However, there was nothing on the inside of the door. It was just a door.
…But that is the way it should be.
“The answer was already written on the other side.”
He closed the door.
However, the door moved forward. It moved outside and beyond the storehouse.
“It is not opening ‘here’. It is opening beyond the divide between ‘here’ and ‘there’.”
He looked past the opening door, but did not find the night.
“The inside of a storehouse?”
He saw some other space that should not have been there.
After opening the door from inside the storehouse, he saw the inside of a storehouse.
Another one existed there.
It was a square space of less than ten square meters and the dirt floor was elevated to keep water out.
And in the center…
He saw the entrance to a staircase leading underground.
The staircase’s ceiling descended along with it, so it formed a sort of tunnel.
The entrance was two meters square, making it the same size as the shadow on the “here” storehouse’s floor.
…Did my parents reach here?
Pain filled his chest and his breathing grew erratic.
However, strength filled his thoughts and he set foot into the “there” storehouse.
He glanced behind himself and frowned at what he saw.
He had been in the storehouse, but he was now outside.
He was surrounded by the moonlit yard and the abandoned house.
The world around him was unchanged. Only the inside of the door had changed.
He nodded and turned his back on that unchanged world.
“Here I go.”
He mouthed someone’s name and stepped forward.
He made his way toward the past and the dark depths of the earth.
A dark road sloped upwards.
The left side was lined with homes and the right side was a cement-covered slope.
The road was new and it had a sidewalk, but it did not have many streetlights. The slope surrounded by houses and cement was lit by both the streetlights and the light escaping the houses.
Stars filled the sky, so the people had already returned home and the houses were filled with light.
Someone walked through those manned lights and those unmanned lights.
It was Shinjou on the sidewalk. The bag on her back bounced up and down as she climbed the slope.
…I need to hurry.
The old woman at the church had given her the orphanage’s address and that address was at the dead-end at the top of this hill.
The cement-covered slope filled the right side, so the orphanage would be on the left.
It was currently 6:30 PM and the bullet train back to Tokyo left at 9:18. She wanted to leave Sakai by 8:30.
“Can I finish this in only two hours?”
“I will finish it!”
This was not for the people who had helped her. She simply wanted to find the answer and tell those people she had done it.
So she hurried.
A variety of information reached her from the houses she passed: the sounds from a TV, a crying child, a knife chopping something on a chopping board, something frying in oil, the smell of cooking fish, and the strong smell of curry and meat.
These were all household things she had not experienced, but…
“What will I find?”
If she did find information on Shinjou Yukio…
“Will I find that I might have experienced things like that at one point?”
Her question filled the air.
Hearing that question to herself, she extended her body and took in a breath.
She began to dash.
The top of the cement slope on the right came into view. It seemed the top of the hill was flat. There was a park surrounded by trees there, perhaps for the residential area on the left.
However, the park was dark. There were no lights inside.
…Why is it so dark?
She remembered what Kazami had said on the way to the Seto Inland Sea that summer. The Great Kansai Earthquake had caused a large-scale fault which had cut off the power supply to some regions.
And the orphanage she was heading to did not have a phone line.
She tried not to grow suspicious and continued running.
Her footsteps echoed off of the happy houses and the concrete slope.
That echo vanished from the slope first because it ended at the top of the hill.
She looked to the park on the right as she ran by and she saw a cul-de-sac of trees and a gate ahead on the road.
There were three houses left before reaching the old gate.
Noticing the gate was open, she took in a hopeful breath and picked up her speed.
She had only two houses to run past now.
She took another breath while swinging her arms and moving forward. She practically threw her body forward.
There was only one house left to pass now and it was completely dark.
She passed the old, empty house and reached the gate.
She stopped, exhaled, bent forward, and exhaled again with her hands on her knees.
A moment later, she took in a deep breath and looked up.
The open metal gate had a white plastic nameplate on it.
It said Soukou House.
That was the name she had been given, but she did not find a building beyond the gate.
She only saw the broken edge of a cliff and the city’s lights.
She saw the evidence of people’s lives filling the expanse of darkness below the cliff.
The specks of light from houses and streetlights dotted the vast darkness beyond the gate. They showed where the roads were and where the residential areas were.
The orphanage that should have been there was not.
In its place, she found the gap of a cliff and the lights of the city at the bottom of the hill she had run up.
She looked beyond those lights and saw a massive black expanse.
It was the Seto Inland Sea.
She saw more light in the distance beyond that darkness, but that was likely the light of Shikoku.
The light people sent into the night began directly below and continued into the great distance.
However, Shinjou belatedly spoke the name of what should have been here instead.
“Where’s the orphanage?”
Her voice was weak and her gaze dropped to her feet.
The ground ended after dropping about a meter past the open gate.
Below that, she saw darkness.
There was nothing there.
No, there was something at the bottom of the night’s darkness.
“The remains of the collapse that took the orphanage.”
The remains of a collapse covered an area three hundred meters long and about as wide.
It spread out in a fan shape starting from where she stood and it continued down to the city below.
Her lips spoke what she was afraid to even think in her heart.
“After giving up being a church and focusing on being an orphanage, there must have been a collapse from tertiary damages.”
The orphanage that should have sat beyond the gate was gone.
“Are the building and all the documents at the bottom of the collapse?”
As soon as she spoke those words, she found her vision dropping.
Her knees gave out and she fell to her butt.
She did not even have the willpower to complain.
She sat on her skirt on the cold asphalt. She lowered her hands as if clawing at the asphalt, but she did not even feel the pain in her nails.
With her upper body supported by the bag on her back, she spoke toward the great empty space before her.
“It can’t be…”
There was nothing there.
She had assumed she would eventually find the answer if she continued searching. After all, Shinjou Yukio had been in Sakai.
She had pursued the woman, she had overcome a number of difficulties, and she had finally reached this place. However…
“It’s not here?” she muttered while facing the remaining entrance and the night sky beyond it.
She shook her head and forced an expression she thought was a smile.
“It can’t be.”
Her voice was cheerful.
“This is just a joke, right?”
She laughed and beat the asphalt with her right hand as if she found this funny.
However, the action only tore at the asphalt with her nails.
It changed nothing.
After the span of five breaths, she lowered her head and spoke from beyond her lowered bangs.
“It can’t be…”
She breathed in.
“It can’t be!”
Her shoulders suddenly began to tremble in anger and she placed her fingers on the asphalt.
“This isn’t right! I chased after her and hunted her down and I thought I would find the answer here…but now you’re telling me there is no answer!?”
She breathed in.
“That can’t be…”
She let out an extended shout and began to cry.
She wailed into the night sky. She leaned back, opened her mouth toward the heavens, and raised a voice of protest.
But she was beyond that empty house, so there was no one to hear her cry.
So she cried and cried with no one to interrupt her.
She slammed her palm against the asphalt and clawed at it as if to fight this outcome.
“No… Why isn’t it here?”
She thought of someone important to her and wondered why he was not here.
“You said you would be by my side when I cried!”
As soon as she shouted, something enveloped her from behind.
It was light.
The light was nearly scarlet and it brightly illuminated her.
She almost felt struck by the light and she drew back in surprise.
However, she used her surprise to bring strength to her body, wipe away her tears, and look back.
The light came from the park’s entrance.
The gate at the entrance was open and the arch above it held a sign.
That was the name on the sign.
She looked past the gate.
It did not lead to the dark remains of a collapse and the city beyond.
She saw the park ground illuminated by the scarlet light and…
“A new white building.”
The building had a square roof measuring thirty meters across and a single triangular black bell tower.
Also, a middle-aged woman in white stood at the building’s entrance.
“Oh? What’s the matter? Why are you sitting out there?”
“Ah…” said Shinjou while trying to stand.
As she did, she heard a song.
The slightly muffled sounds of an organ reached her through the building’s walls.
She then heard children singing.
“Yes, we are practicing for Christmas. If something is troubling you…”
Shinjou heard the woman’s smiling voice mixed with the song.
“Why not tell me all about it?”
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