Owari no Chronicle:Volume11 Chapter 22
Chapter 22: What Taught Her to Smile
Because you hoped
Alone in the cafeteria, Shinjou stood motionless below the cold lights.
She took a breath and muttered to herself.
“What do I do?”
She knew the answer. She knew exactly what to do, but she needed those words to get her started.
She began to answer those words with her actions.
First, she placed the album in her hands on a nearby table and set the notebook and letters on top of that.
She sat in the chair and took a breath in front of all that writing.
She stretched out a hand, but hesitated as that hand approached the letters.
“It’s too soon for that.”
She picked up the notebook instead.
She gave a silent bow and gently flipped through it.
…Research on mythology?
She had expected a diary or something similar, but she had been wrong.
She felt a mixture of disappointment and relief as she readily flipped through the pages.
That girl had grown up with a connection to the Bible and these were the records of her research on the world’s mythologies.
She summed up that most mythologies contained the symbols of dragons and divine tools and she had labeled a hand-drawn map with the spread of different mythologies and their points in common.
It had apparently been a summer research project for her third year of middle school and the final page contained a grade of A+ in faded red ink and a list of sources in Shinjou Yukio’s own handwriting.
“World Mythology Encyclopedia 1 – 11 by Kinugasa Tenkyou.”
Shinjou felt a small tremor in her spine when she read that name.
This girl had been the granddaughter of Shinjou Kaname and assisted by Sayama Kaoru, so what had she thought and hoped for as she read those books in the Kinugasa Library?
Shinjou did not know, but she felt as if she could sense something there. Something she could not put to words welled up within her.
…It feels like a flame.
She had similarly thought her heart was burning when she had found this place.
After all, it burned bright, blew through her, and quickly grew.
Pulled by that heat in her thoughts, she closed the notebook.
She reached for the letters.
The action was much like reaching for the next book in a series when one wanted to know what happened next.
It was a casual and natural action and that was exactly what helped Shinjou realize how she felt.
“Yes. I want to know more.”
Hope filled her cheeks with slight heat as she looked at the first envelope.
She did not immediately look inside. She wanted to look at the outside more and more and make it all feel more important.
She checked the date. It was about half a year after the girl had entered high school.
The stamp was an old type not seen anymore.
The address was written in round handwriting using a ballpoint pen.
After making sure there was nothing else on the front or back, she finally gave permission to her curiosity.
She pulled out the letter.
She looked down at the folded and slightly faded paper and she closed her eyes.
“Please let me read you.”
With that said, she unfolded that first letter.
She found a photograph held between the folds and many words.
“It has been a while.”
Shinjou’s eyes raced along the paper.
“I have finally gotten used to living in the dorm. Do you see the boy and girl with me in the included photograph? I am not sure if I should call them my friends, but they are always with me.
“There’s a lot of interesting things about those two, but I will leave it at that since I am not sure if I should talk about some of it yet. At any rate, I very much enjoy being with them.
“However, I will tell you this much. Tragically, the girl lost both her parents recently. It was apparently a strange sort of murder, but her situation reminds me of when I lost my parents. Apparently, she is moving out of her house and it will be torn down.
“But this means she will be my roommate now. Things are sure to be livelier, but I have never shared a room with someone my own age. I don’t know what is going to happen, but I am looking forward to it and I hope her parents can rest in peace.”
Shinjou checked the photograph.
Shinjou Yukio’s hair was a little longer and she stood below a cherry tree with a pair of classmates.
She was smiling.
And Shinjou recognized the boy and girl standing on either side of her.
…Those are Sayama-kun’s parents.
She slowly breathed in and read the letter again.
What Shinjou Yukio was unsure if she should talk about was probably Sayama’s father.
That meant she had Sayama Kaoru’s son by her side.
…I wonder if Sayama-kun’s father had realized the truth?
She was not sure.
Even if she had realized they both had a connection to Sayama Kaoru, mentioning it could damage their relationship.
…And she wouldn’t want to damage that relationship like that.
Yukio may not have told Sayama’s father that she had been supported by Sayama Kaoru.
Shinjou nodded and reached for the other letter. She checked the postmark on the envelope, but…
“There isn’t one?”
There was not. The letter must have been delivered by hand.
Instead, the back of the letter inside contained a date: January 10, 1989.
That’s sixteen years ago, she muttered in her heart while unfolding the letter.
The flowing handwriting in ballpoint pen began in the same way.
“It has been a while.”
The words continued.
“I have been unable to send a letter for a few years now. I apologize if I worried you.”
Shinjou’s question was directed at the individual named Yukio who she had come to know through the various documents.
…She didn’t seem like the kind of person to cut off contact like that.
She tilted her head, but the next words seemed to answer that confusion.
“About two years ago, I moved to a new workplace and was unable to contact you from there.”
Where had she gone and what had she been doing there? What had her previous workplace been?
The writing seemed to wash away those questions.
“I am where I want to be now. I am in the best possible place for me.”
Shinjou held her breath and continued reading those words that rejected all complaints and protests.
“Yes, there are people here who need my ability. The job is not exactly difficult, but please know that I am doing my best to work toward peace. And I am making use of what I learned. I worried a lot about the future, but I finally got married. I apologize for waiting so long to tell you, but I wasn’t sure how to bring it up. My child is doing well. She was born on December 25 of last year and she is sleeping next to me now.”
Shinjou’s entire body shrunk back when she saw the word “child”.
…W-wait a second.
This was too sudden.
Things had jumped too far ahead from the words “workplace” and “job”.
Um, she said as she began to think.
If Yukio was her mother, she would have been in UCAT.
That was what Mikoku had told her when they had met at Izumo UCAT a month earlier.
…My parents were in UCAT.
Yukio claimed to have moved to a new workplace and that she was working toward peace in her job.
…Did she join UCAT. And does that mean…she’s my mother?
Shinjou did not know. She had to read on to find out.
However, she had read similar things so many times now, but none of it had told her what she wanted.
…But this time…
She breathed in.
She tried to fill herself with strength using that breath, but something else filled her instead: shaking.
Her body shook, her shoulders shook, her arms shook, her fingers shook, and the letter shook.
As everything trembled, she focused her mind.
She only had a single chance to read something this important for the first time.
She cleared her mind as if casting aside her body and read the letter to leave no regrets.
She slowly read the words aloud.
“Director, I had considered letting you or our Daddy-Long-Legs name her, but in the end, I did it myself.”
Shinjou breathed in and made sure the words she spoke were carved into her mind.
“I want my child to be an energetic, thoughtful, and hardworking person like Yume, one of my first friends. But I don’t want this child to be exactly like her, so I gave her a different name. Yume’s name includes the character for ‘life’, so I wanted to give my child a name that will bear, raise, and protect life.”
The words practically spilled from Shinjou’s mouth and she finally reached the name.
“That name is Sadagiri.”
She stopped breathing, but her eyes continued moving.
…That name hides the character for life within it and I hope it will allow her to face her destiny and cut through any evil that threatens her.
A broken breath escaped her throat.
Something trailed down her cheek.
She lowered her head and whatever it was fell from about halfway down her cheek.
She did not know what this tear meant. Why was she crying when she was not sad?
Regardless, the tear urged her to read the final line.
“This child has some difficulties regarding her body, but I am sure…”
She took in a shrill breath.
“I am sure she will grow into a wonderful child.”
Her voice no longer formed proper words.
She reflexively stood up.
The chair toppled behind her as she rose, opened her mouth, and leaned forward with her hands on the table.
She inhaled. She felt like she was swallowing something to endure it, hold it inside, and control herself.
She wrapped her arms around herself.
She tightly held herself and the letter as if to confirm everything about herself.
As if to confirm that she was here.
She trembled and bent over, but she still managed to open her mouth.
She spoke a word that she had always used as a mere noun and never to address someone.
Unsure if that word would actually reach anyone, she raised her voice.
There were still things she did not understand, like her family name and what Yukio had done in UCAT.
However, she knew one thing for sure and she spoke that one thing.
My mom was probably in that Osaka battle too, she thought while squeezing her own body.
I’ll probably never be able to see her again, she added.
Regardless, some records remained.
Even if she could never meet her, Shinjou Yukio had existed and there were records of her laughing, worrying, and being with others.
Most of the photographs were when she was younger than Shinjou, but that did not change the fact that she had existed.
And Shinjou had someone she could tell this to. She had someone to speak with about her mother.
She informed that person in her heart.
…I really do have a mom.
“She hoped that I would grow into a wonderful child.”
Thank goodness, she thought.
She repeated that sentiment again and again and took a breath.
With that breath, so much from the past seemed to transform into relief.
And as she filled with that relief, she felt a certain sensation.
As she stood on her trembling legs, she felt something gently moving down the skin of her inner thighs.
She almost felt like something had fallen from her leg, so she bent over.
She looked down at her feet and at the inside of her lower legs visible below her skirt.
For an instant, she did not know what that blood was.
But a decision in her mind led her to speak aloud what was happening to her.
“My body is developing as a girl…”
The relief in her heart had changed her body’s pain and worry into something else.
She was filled with countless conflicting feelings like surprise and relief or tension and relaxation.
…Now both Sadame and Setsu’s bodies are working.
She collapsed to a sitting position and felt her mind sinking into darkness.
Her body continued embracing the record of her mother as she sank down to the floor.
She weakly spoke as she spilled to the floor with a teary smile.
“I’m glad I’m who I am.”
It was night and both the moon and stars were visible in the vast night sky.
This was not the city night. This was the blue night sky of the mountains.
A single light was visible below it.
The light was located in front of an abandoned house and storehouse built on land cut out of a mountain slope.
A white light shined in the center of the unmaintained yard.
It came from the handheld fluorescent light held by a boy in a suit.
It spread and illuminated both Sayama and his surroundings.
It was silent, so the only sound was the autumn’s night breeze blowing from the west of the mountain.
That high altitude wind would likely become a north wind before long and it was cold yet not entirely dry.
The wind carried the scents of the forest and it swayed in front of Sayama.
Someone stood in front of him.
“You came a long way, Nijun-kun.”
Sayama raised his light so it covered the other person.
The figure that was illuminated starting with the feet was an elderly man with long white hair and a white coat.
It was Nijun.
He lifted his coat a bit in the gentle breeze.
“How do you like the red shirt under here, Sayama-sama?”
“Wearing red at night is most stylish, Nijun-kun.”
Sayama swung his left hand forward to point at the man with a snap of the sleeve.
“But are you here to keep me from sleeping with my Shinjou-kun body pillow?”
“You can go to sleep if you want, but you know what will happen then, don’t you?”
“Yes,” he confirmed with a perfectly serious expression. “I will be in a state of bliss. After all, I will be using a Shinjou-kun body pillow. I cannot use that in the dorm, so-… No, I have Shinjou-kun herself in the dorm, so-… No, no. I can have Shinjou-kun dress up as a pillow and-… No, no, no…”
“Sayama-sama, please focus over here again.”
“Ah. You just interrupted my imagination, didn’t you!?” shouted Sayama. “The crime of imagination interruption warrants a direct punishment!!”
“Calm down,” said Nijun while holding out his palms. “You can see her as soon as you leave the mountains, can’t you?”
“Yes, you are right.”
He suddenly swung his right hand.
The light flew upwards. The thrown fluorescent light illuminated the area like an especially bright star.
Below it, Sayama slowly shrank down in preparation to move.
“You need to learn that being made to wait can be fun too, Mr. Stylish.”
“I have waited long enough already. That is why I had already made my way here last night.”
Nijun still had his hands held out to calm Sayama, but a moment later, paper appeared between all of his fingers.
They were charms.
“These charms were sealed inside Izumo UCAT. They temporarily strengthen the human body, but they were sealed because the backlash can be harsh enough to destroy the body afterwards. However, they could not bear to get rid of such a powerful tool because they thought they might need it in the future.”
“Let me guess, my father made them. That man clearly did not know how to restrain himself.”
By saying that, he weakened his chest pain, even if only a little.
The light began to fall toward the ground between them.
Just before it landed, Sayama asked a question.
“Why did my father need something like that?”
“Testament. For a battle. He had a battle to fight.”
Nijun placed the charms in his hands under the opposite arms.
“That battle ten years ago was the last one we could enjoy!!”
With those words, the light struck the ground and broke.
Using the resultant darkness as their cue, two bursts of speed collided.
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