Owari no Chronicle:Volume10 Chapter 9
Chapter 9: A Back that Watches Over
A path forward and those travelling it are seen from behind
A path here and the one who travelled it cannot see themselves
Even a flower withers away without ever seeing itself
A factory was located in the mountains.
Despite the stains and shadows of age that showed up in the high contrast, the building looked innocent in the moonlight.
Two men stood on the dirt clearing in front of it.
One of them was a tall, skinny man exhaling white breaths. He had cloth wrapped around his head like a turban and his white breaths travelled a fair distance from his mouth.
“Hm, the mountains really are cold. Very cold indeed. And your breath is awfully white, manager.”
“That’s cigarette smoke, Hajji,” replied the old manager. “Anyway, are we really okay here?”
Hajji brought a hand to his mouth.
“Hm,” he said with a nod. “We should be. We should reach Japanese UCAT’s sixth basement after consuming eighty percent of our resources. And once we get there, the Concept Cores are ours for the taking. Yes, ours for the taking. Am I wrong? Hm?”
“Not what I meant. I was talking about our claim to righteousness.” The old manager blew smoke into the sky. “I’m helping you for a personal grudge. Plus, I like messing with machines. But I’ve never heard all that much about you, Hajji.”
The wind blew and the old manager’s smoke swirled into the sky and vanished. He raised the collar of his work outfit.
“Take this world’s war for example. In this country at least, the politicians settled everything. I got a family and my daughter has even graduated college. No one cares that I lost my family in that war or that I still can’t forget.”
“Our war isn’t over. Isn’t that the common point between us? Hm?”
“Then let’s stop talking about my example. …How has your war not ended?”
The old manager breathed smoke into the night sky.
The smoke thinned as it spread out and scattered.
“I have two questions, Hajji. You don’t have to answer and I’ll probably learn the answers at tomorrow’s confrontation anyway. The first is about your war. And the second…”
He asked his question.
“The second is about Mikoku, Shino, Tatsumi, and Alex’s war.”
“Why? Why would you want to ask about that? Hm?”
Hajji’s voice contained a hint of a smile and the old manager gave a brief answer while looking up into the sky.
“War is important to me.”
He let out a white sigh instead of smoke this time and the breath vanished into the sky.
“Sixty years. I’ve waited sixty years. Sixty years ago, someone died to save me. It might’ve been my mother, or my father, or my sister, or all of them. As I desperately worked to survive from then on, I would always wonder if my mother, my father, or my sister would’ve had an easier time surviving than a little kid like me. And I wondered why the one who had so much trouble just staying alive was the one to survive.”
“I’ve made a new family and had kids, but that doubt still hasn’t cleared. I haven’t died to save my kids and I don’t have the guts to die anyway. And even if I try to ask about it, this world is trying to put that war behind it. Sixty years. It’s been sixty years and now no one has seen the people who were with me back then and they all say we can never allow war to happen again.”
He continued to speak.
“The people who were with me died in war, but war was when I was with them. If we can never allow war to happen again, what does that mean for the precious time I spent with my family? What I’ve done for my kids is what I had done for me back then. I learned all of that through war. …So I want to start another war and see that war with my own eyes now that I’ve moved past where my mother, father, and sister were back then. That’s the only way to free myself from that war.”
All of his words vanished into the air.
Nothing remained in the night sky, but Hajji’s own words scattered to join it.
“My thoughts are best left unsaid, manager.”
“Thank you for listening so quietly, Hajji. If I told the younger ones this, it would turn into a lecture. But you’re different, aren’t you? Is your war and Mikoku and Shino’s war the same as mine?”
“Mine isn’t,” answered Hajji quietly. “No, mine isn’t.”
The old manager looked down from the sky and to the side.
He saw Hajji holding out a hand.
The old manager pulled out a cigarette and lit it with the on in his mouth.
“These are strong.”
Hajji inhaled without nodding, bit down on the smoke with his teeth, and let it seep out of his mouth.
“I’m thankful. Yes, so very thankful.”
“Everything, manager. Isn’t that right? Hm?”
With that question, Hajji suddenly looked into the sky.
He stuck a hand in his pocket and spoke through the smoke leaving his mouth.
“Let me tell you a story from a long, long time ago, manager.”
Smoke whiter than his breath formed in the sky.
“Long ago, there was a wonderful world. It was a land of desert lit by the two extremes of fire and shadow, but it was filled with heat phenomena concepts and it interacted with the other worlds quite a bit. That world supplied the other worlds with power and the calculations needed to use that power. But once the Concept War began, it was the first to be targeted. The other worlds both feared and desired its technology and knowledge,” explained Hajji. “So that world’s politicians tried to destroy the other worlds. But the king and general had a thought. What if, instead of destroying the other worlds, they gathered all the concepts in their own world, invited in the residents of those other worlds, and created the ultimate world? To accomplish that, they created a giant mechanical dragon with the ability to construct a world. But…”
Hajji briefly stopped at the old manager’s question.
After a moment, he placed a hand over his mouth with the cigarette between his fingers and turned around.
He smiled with the ends of his eyebrows lowered.
“I’m talking too much, aren’t I? What do you think? Hm?”
“This is fine every so often. It all ends tomorrow. Both our strange relationship and this world, that is.”
“I see,” said Hajji with a resigned sigh.
He took a step in front of the old manager’s gaze and hid his expression from the man.
“The king promised to marry the general’s sister and went out to battle in celebration. It was a joint battle with 3rd. But that’s where the betrayal began. The politicians betrayed the king and he died unable to return from the lowest world. The general had returned ahead of time, but he was captured by the politicians and his sister, the king’s promised queen…”
“What happened to the queen? I’ll listen, so tell me, Hajji.”
“Sure. The politicians used her as the final component in the modified mechanical dragon. She was used as the core of the world-destroying mechanical dragon.”
He took a breath.
“The general resolved himself then and began attacking the other worlds, but people from the lowest Gear appeared to stop him. One of those enemies attacked the general, but they both only lost an eye and the general’s sister was destroyed…along with the world.”
He laughed and a white breath not made of smoke entered the air.
The wind had settled down at some point, so the white breath simply spread out into the night sky like it had been thrown.
Below it, the old manager spoke.
“Who is that enemy of yours?”
“The old UCAT member charged with 9th-Gear: current UCAT Field Operations Director Abram Mesam. He is the man who killed my sister Shahrnavaz while she was the great mechanical dragon Zahhak. And yet I hear he later married and has lived a happy life. That is my war, manager.”
He took a step in front of the manager and shrugged his shoulders.
After a pause, Hajji’s shoulders lowered.
“Ridiculous, isn’t it? I talk so much about concepts and the fate of the world, but it all comes back to a grudge over losing a precious friend and relative. Don’t you think? Hm?”
“If that’s ridiculous, then mine’s even cheaper. But…”
“I take it you aren’t planning to say anything about Mikoku, Shino, Tatsumi, and Alex’s war. How far are you going to carry their war while sacrificing your own past, Hajji?”
Hajji’s back did not immediately reply.
A few streams of cigarette smoke filled the air before he finally spoke.
“Their war is something only those four should have anything to do with, manager. They were supposed to save those of us who had nowhere to go and then fight another war. However, they never had the chance. We were so useless that we could only just barely manage to carry them away from Osaka back then. We were lucky we even got Tatsumi back after she was taken away.”
“And we never did get Shinjou Sadagiri back.”
“Hm? That’s one of the girls on Team Leviathan, isn’t it? Why her?”
“Her mother understood us but also rejected us. Yes. …And, manager, let me give you one other piece of information.”
Hajji turned around with the hand holding his cigarette hiding the smile on his lips.
“Those four have absolute righteousness on their side. Theirs is so much deeper and broader than ours. But this world crushed it during that Great Kansai Earthquake. On tomorrow’s battlefield, I will reveal that perfect righteousness and where exactly those four’s war lies.”
“Does righteousness like that even exist? After the Concept War, we can only be talking about events inside Low-Gear, right? Is there really a righteousness that can convince the other unrelated Gears?”
“There is. We have a legitimate reason to make Low-Gear ours.”
Hajji took the cigarette from his mouth and flicked it into the air.
“Funny, isn’t it? Even as we prepare to attack with our perfect righteousness, UCAT is splitting apart. Team Leviathan has disbanded for some reason, their negotiators are scattering, and some of them are even being targeted by the bearers of 7th-Gear’s Concept Core.”
“Yes.” Hajji nodded, lowered his gaze, and smiled toward the old manager. “It’s interesting that the bearers of evil would be worn down now. It’s like this world is accepting our righteousness. Don’t you think? Hm?”
A dark room was filled with silence.
The walls, ceiling, and bed by the window were all white, but they had all sunk into the darkness of the night.
The scene outside the window was a little high because this was the second floor.
The room was as dark as some watery depths and even the moonlight did not make it far past the window.
A single chair sat on the dark side of that borderline between darkness and moonlight.
A girl sat in that simple pipe stool.
It was Kazami.
She looked at what lay in the bed in front of her.
Izumo’s head stuck out from the top of the blanket.
His right arm was also exposed and it was attached to the IV stand next to the bed. The large IV pack still had about a third of its contents and the drops were dripping down the tube.
Izumo was asleep.
Kazami looked to where his left arm was under the blanket, but the blanket did not rise up as it should.
She looked down at her own feet. Her hair swayed and she did not bother brushing it away from her face.
“It should have been me.”
She rested the side of her head on the bed.
Her eyes looked up at Izumo’s face and she saw two objects standing next to the bed.
Those two objects were weapons.
Normally, they would have been a large sword and spear both measuring around two meters long, but they were shorter now that their cowlings had been destroyed.
Barely any of the white armor remained, the internal frames had split, and some fragments had twisted until they stuck out.
The steel protective cylinder was visible in both of them.
When Kazami thought about how both of those contained a Concept Core, she averted her gaze.
…At the very least, I have no right to wield them.
G-Sp2 had likely been hesitant to enter that battlefield of no mutual understanding.
She had treated it like a weapon with no attempt to assuage its fears and she had ended up breaking it.
Right after Izumo had been injured, Sibyl had arrived and Ikkou and Mitsuaki had fled.
She had thought the development department had retrieved G-Sp2 and V-Sw, but for some reason, they were here.
…They must think they’re ours.
She did not know for sure, but to her, all of the broken things in this room felt like her fault. It felt like they had been left here as a lesson for her.
No, she thought.
A number of things bothered her.
…What if Kaku and I had gone to UCAT earlier without stopping at my house?
What if they had taken a different route to UCAT?
“What if…what if Sayama hadn’t had Team Leviathan disband and we’d all been together?”
She muttered those words while thinking “I’m the worst”.
Just as with G-Sp2’s destruction, all the fault lay with her because she had been the one there.
She tried to bury her forehead in the blanket.
She pressed her mouth against the blanket and asked a question to the boy beyond it.
She took a breath.
“Why was I left unharmed?”
Their strength in battle seemed equal, but his was actually greater. After all, he had his constant defensive power. That was different from her ability to fly with X-Wi.
He was also the only son of IAI’s president while she was the only daughter of a normal household.
She did not believe in judging people’s “worth”, but when thinking about usefulness and position, who was needed on the concept battlefield and in IAI?
“It isn’t me, is it?”
With that question, she inhaled to take in his warmth through the blanket.
No, she shrunk down and clenched her fists on her lap.
“I don’t want that…”
She remembered when she had snapped at Sayama about disbanding and yet he had ordered her to represent them.
She had been so forceful then, but not anymore.
She sighed and the long, heavy breath fell to the floor.
She heard a sound from outside the window. People were speaking down below.
Wondering who it was, she got up.
She had been in the same position for so long that she wobbled when turning around.
She grabbed the windowsill to keep herself from falling.
At the same time, she saw five people in the hospital parking lot down below.
Harakawa, Heo, Hiba, and Mikage were leaving the hospital entrance.
“And Brunhild too.”
Was I worrying them, she wondered, but that only made her feel worse.
She noticed Hiba and Harakawa were not starting up their motorcycles.
Heo tilted her head at that and Harakawa pointed at the driver’s seat.
He taught her how to use the clutch and pushed the sidecar and back seat from behind.
They were likely trying not to disturb the hospital with the loud sound of the engine.
Hiba was doing the same. He sat Mikage in the driver’s seat, taught her how to control it, and also stroked her butt in the process, but that did not matter.
Brunhild and her cat continued ahead on foot, but…
Hiba said something and Brunhild turned around with a frown. He had likely pointed out she did not know the way to his grandfather’s place.
Brunhild took a step back and the five of them left in a row.
As Kazami watched them, she gave a small nod.
…They can get by without me.
As soon as she thought that, Heo turned back with Baku on her head.
She turned toward Kazami.
Kazami instinctually bent out of the way, but Heo’s gaze did not immediately reach her.
Heo was not entirely sure where the hospital room was.
Kazami sighed and stepped back as Heo lowered her eyebrows and clearly began counting windows from the edge of the building.
Finally, her gaze reached the right window.
She tilted her head while peering in.
Kazami wondered if she could see her, but the principle of reflection would prevent Heo from seeing Kazami from the moonlit parking lot, even though Kazami could see her.
Nodding at that fact, Kazami spoke quietly.
She took another step back to the chair and that place surrounded by broken things.
But just before she did, she saw Heo grow careless in her control of the motorcycle and crash into Hiba’s motorcycle.
Kazami heard a faint collision but did not watch any longer.
Harakawa had likely gotten mad at her.
…At least they have the energy for that.
If they were safe and they could smile cheerfully, that was all that mattered. She had messed that up for herself.
She sat in the chair alone but lifted her right leg to her chest and wrapped her arms around it. That allowed her to sense the presence of her own body and she slowly sighed.
She looked at G-Sp2 and V-Sw which were placed broken before her and at Izumo who would not open his eyes.
“Why did I escape unharmed?”
She closed her eyes, wrinkled her brow, lowered her head, and clenched her teeth as the words escaped.
She had one thing on her mind.
If Team Leviathan had been whole, would this still have happened?
She spoke about what he had said.
“You told me to search for my past, but I’m different from the rest of you. I can’t do that.”
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