Owari no Chronicle:Volume11 Chapter 23
Chapter 23: The Second Battle
The darkness of night filled a forest.
That forest covered the surface of a mountain.
The moon was bright and the sky was bluish, but the pale light of the moon could not penetrate the forest.
The light was stopped by countless layers of branches and leaves, so only shadows fell below.
The bottom of the forest was a dark, steep slope.
Something moved along that slope as if falling.
It was two sounds.
They were both sets of footsteps, but they were complete opposites in one aspect: the space between steps.
One set had five seconds between one footstep and the next.
The other set sounded continuously like a high-tempo performance from a percussion instrument.
The two sets of footsteps used these different intervals to race down the dark mountainside.
Occasionally, a great sound of impact would mix in with them.
The clear and harsh sound would be absorbed by the forest and the footsteps would begin anew.
The one producing the set of footsteps with the long interval spoke while quickly racing through the dark forest.
“Ha ha ha. Keeping up with me at this speed puts you on Hiba-sensei’s level, Nijun-kun.”
The one with the shorter interval replied.
“You’re not bad yourself to move faster than me, Sayama-sama.”
The two of them laughed, rushed forward again, and produced another solid sound.
A break in the forest briefly revealed the sounds.
Below the night sky, a boy in a suit the same color as that sky appeared in the lead.
He was literally leaping.
He would throw his body very nearly horizontally, the bottom of his suit coat would flip up, his tie would flutter upwards, and a few tufts of his hair would dance in the wind as he seemed to glide along the surface of the forested slope.
Some faint sweat had emerged on his brow and his sharp gaze was focused on the ground below.
However, it could not exactly be called the “ground”.
This was a rocky area.
The many years of wind and rain had eroded the forest’s dirt until countless stones larger than a human were exposed.
The boulders were piled up in a steep slope down toward a valley instead of forming a cliff wall.
From above, it did almost look like a precipice in the forest.
As Sayama continued his gliding movement through the dark forest, his eyes were focused on that series of rocks.
“When travelling in a place like this, the easiest path is straight down, Nijun-kun.”
Even as he spoke and felt the wind of his rapid descent, he lowered his right leg and bent the knee.
A stone approached below that bent leg.
An instant later, he fired that right leg out from his leaping body. Instead of hitting the top of the boulder, he kicked off the front surface.
He leaped upwards and forwards so he left the slope.
He never fully landed; he only kicked off the stones like a wall.
But that was enough.
His downwards inertia would carry him toward the base of the mountain.
If he did actually land, he would be unable to absorb the inertial weight and damage his leg or trip.
He only had to make sure the speed of his fall did not exceed the speed of his kicks. To do that, he turned his body and adjusted the angle of his jumps as he fell.
Each time he kicked, he would twist his body to make a slight feint and alteration to his trajectory in order to throw off his pursuer. He would also spread out his clothes as an air brake.
He faintly heard a flowing river beyond the wall of stone and earth to his right.
However, he could barely hear it even during the silent night.
It was likely over one hundred meters down below.
As he leaped, Sayama turned back in midair.
“Are you coming, Nijun-kun?”
Someone pursued Sayama as he raced down into the valley.
It was Nijun running through the darkness with the color white flapping around him.
He was an old man in a white coat, but…
“I see you are using a path a normal human could manage. You four really are perfectionists.”
“I am a diligent worker, after all. And I am the best of my brothers when it comes to improving physical ability.”
Nijun raised and lowered his legs while taking the idea of “running” to its extreme and he dashed along a narrow path between the stones.
Charms were floating near the bases of both his legs. They were glowing a bluish-white and discharging some kind of lightning.
“These are divine travel charms. They increase the speed of one’s legs. With these, I need not bother with your acrobatics. I can use the same path as a normal person…”
He added a charm to each hand.
“And still catch up!”
Several charms were floating all around his body, so it looked a lot like armor of acceleration.
Sayama saw the man loudly kick off the ground and sprint. He instantly raced through the narrow mountain path, made each meandering turn on a single heel, and even quickly climbed up or down any chains prepared for hikers on that path.
Whenever he changed direction, his body would break through a thin wall of water vapor.
This produced a sound.
The air roared in response to his acceleration.
He was fast, but Sayama also twisted around.
“I see. Very interesting. But I want to make you try even harder.”
Sayama kicked off the ground, but this time he leaped higher, stronger, and more downward than before.
“Let us see if you can keep up with the same level of speed I used against Hiba-sensei.”
“Ha ha. It is an honor to be treated on the level of 3rd’s destroyer!”
“Yes, you are on the level of a mountain ape.”
Sayama smiled slightly and let gravity pull him down for even longer.
As he dropped down through the rocky forest, he spread out his arms to use his suit for speed adjustments and attitude control.
The wind produced by his fall blew up from below. It felt like all the air stored in the depths of the planet was being thrown at him.
He gave a laugh of joy in his heart.
“Are you having fun, Nijun-kun? Look, you’re falling behind. You said you wanted to enjoy yourselves, but was that desire not enough to keep up with this world?”
“Oh, you’ve said it now.”
Nijun altered his posture. He had stood tall as he ran before, but now he leaned forward, bent his elbows at right angles, and swung his arms.
This produced tremendous acceleration.
He instantly broke through a wall of exploding water vapor and did not stop.
He raced through the meandering path between the rocks so quickly it looked like time-lapse footage.
He let out a roar and did not let up on his acceleration even as a mist of overheating rose from his body.
“Continuation brings strength!!”
Sayama heard that shout and saw Nijun charge down the mountain toward him.
The man rotated his right arm.
“Sayama-sama! Prepare yourself! To be blunt, I might kill you!”
“Ha ha ha. That is blunt indeed. I like it. But…”
Sayama kicked at the ground just before Nijun caught up.
“I believe you will be seeing nothing but darkness.”
With that, he leaped out into the darkness.
He leaped down the steep slope spread out before his eyes.
After Sayama leaped into the darkness ahead, Nijun entered the forest covering that steep slope.
The forest continued, but this was a very steep spot midway up the mountain. Sticking a hand out to the side was enough to touch the ground.
To someone running down from above, it was nearly a straight drop.
However, Nijun saw his enemy in the darkness. That enemy showed no fear of the steep angle.
As Nijun ran between the rocks, Sayama soared through the air about ten meters ahead.
His dark blue clothing was hard to make out in the dark forest, so Nijun held a single charm in front of his eyes.
“A dark travel charm to assist my vision.”
The charm glowed and grew transparent. It resembled a panel of glass and the outer edges shined a bluish-white.
The charm remained fixed in front of his eyes and it showed the scene before him sans the darkness.
He saw Sayama truly leaping through the air.
The boy kicked off the rocks and kicked off the right or left cliff face to match the corners of the mountain path. Whenever the path moved sharply downwards, he would kick off an outcropping of the right or left cliff face from below, spin around in midair, and fall down along with the path.
His movements resembled those of a snowboarder.
His jumping technique transferred his falling speed into mobility and sent him on through the darkness.
His vision would be no different from a normal person’s, so there was only one way he could see through the darkness like this.
“Have you memorized this mountain?”
Had he learned where to step while training in the mountain with Hiba Ryuutetsu?
Nijun corrected himself. Sayama had been running like this ever since leaving Kinugasa’s house.
The boy knew the path all the way to that house he had only visited once. He was replaying his memories of the way up to tell him where to step on the reverse route back down.
It was only natural that he had chosen to take the lead.
If he had not, they would not have taken the path he knew.
Nijun began to run even faster.
The wind from behind could no longer keep up and a delayed surge of air appeared several meters behind him.
The rocky ground behind him crumbled and was blown away, but he did not slow.
He pursued Sayama as the boy spun about in midair on his falling pathway.
He heard the boy laugh.
Sayama kicked off a thick root on an almost perfectly vertical portion of the left slope and he turned toward Nijun.
“That is a nice pace, Nijun-kun.”
Nijun did not reply. He no longer wasted any of his breath on a conversation.
He ran. He accurately slipped between boulders, did not skip a single one of the steps made from dirt covering tree roots, and focused entirely on running.
He was catching up.
Seeing a chance, he threw an open-hand jab toward Sayama’s back.
Sayama twisted in midair and avoided it.
To respond, the boy prepared to throw his left fist.
In that instant, Nijun activated his fixed concept.
—Only truth remains.
Sayama’s left arm stopped.
Sayama had thrown his left arm to prepare for his real attack, but it stopped.
He had not stopped it himself and it had not hit anything.
The motion had simply stopped.
“It is simple, Sayama-sama. My concept prevents the creation of any and all lies.”
Sayama saw Nijun swing his right arm toward him.
A charm flew from that hand and he clenched his fist.
It was an acceleration charm, so the man’s arm was wrapped in acceleration and seemed to shoot forward.
The fist struck the arm Sayama had raised in defense.
A tremendous sound filled the air.
Sayama was in midair, so he was blown backwards.
…He looks slender, but that was quite a powerful blow!
Sayama flipped around as he flew and attempted to correct his position.
However, Nijun caught up to him, so he tried to swing his body leftward and away.
He could not move, but Nijun laughed as if that motionless was perfectly normal.
“Ha ha. You cannot make any feints in this world. All fakes, tricks, and deceptions are made impossible! …This should be a fatal blow to your favorite tactics.”
Nijun threw his fist and Sayama guarded.
The man’s right fist hit the center of his crossed arms, but he could not stop the force of the blow and his arms struck his chest.
His breastbone creaked and his entire body flew backwards a moment later.
As he trembled from the impact, Sayama saw Nijun continue to move.
The man sent an acceleration charm to his right elbow and quickly raised his right arm once more.
He sent out another charm and approached for a re-accelerated strike.
The charm activated, the used charms scattered like feathers, and he pursued Sayama.
He sent a chain of attacks.
Charm after charm flew and impact after impact reached the boy in midair.
The fifth hit knocked his guarding arms upwards, the seventh struck his chest, and the eighth drove into his gut.
…! He felt the crushing of his flesh and the creaking of his bones.
A light appeared from his chest.
It was the blue philosopher’s stone pendant that the development department had given him for defense.
Nijun reached out his right hand and tore the pendant’s chain.
Just as the blue vanished into the darkness, Sayama began to move.
He reached out both arms and wrapped them around the right arm Nijun had used to grab the pendant.
He instantly stretched his hands to the man’s shoulder and chest. He grabbed hold of the man with one hand deep inside the white coat.
But despite Sayama’s shout, Nijun forcibly tore him away.
That eliminated the connection between them, and…
Sayama swung his right leg through the air. This was the beginning of a real kick and not a feint.
Nijun leaped and quickly pulled back his right leg for a straight kick in response.
His counterattack could easily rupture an internal organ if it hit.
The attacks flew and Nijun’s was faster.
Sayama continued swinging his right leg regardless and his kick flew toward its intended target.
That target was the rapidly approaching sole of Nijun’s shoe.
Nijun felt his vision waver.
The visual footage from his eyes told him his speed had slowed slightly.
This was due to an accurate kick to the sole of his right foot as he kicked it straight out.
As he finished his kick, he realized that very kick had launched Sayama far from him.
Sayama had not used a feint. From the very beginning, he had intended to jump back by kicking off of Nijun’s kick.
Mistaking it for an attack and kicking back instead of ignoring it had been Nijun’s error.
…That was because we had just finished exchanging attacks.
He had assumed there would be no feints or lies.
But attack had not been Sayama’s only option.
Nijun had been outdone under the effects of his own concept.
Soon, Sayama was five meters away in the darkness.
However, there was a hole beyond the darkness the boy had jumped into.
The forest ended and that hole gave a view of the night sky and a path up to a ridge.
The ridge was a water divide.
Both sides of the steep slope had been worn away and a stony path only wide enough for one person continued for about fifteen meters.
The ridge was sloped downwards, but the angle was very shallow.
Another forest awaited beyond the ridge.
Nijun realized that Sayama could not build up his speed along that fifteen meter tightrope of rock.
To ensure he did not sprain his ankle when he landed, he would need to slow down before leaving the forest.
…If I catch up to him there, I can make up for kicking him away!
If he collided with Sayama once the boy slowed down, even an open-hand jab could pierce through his body.
Knowing his victory was assured, Nijun spoke aloud to the boy in the air ahead of him.
He threw a flying kick toward Sayama’s back.
However, Nijun saw something other than the boy’s back up ahead.
He saw empty air.
“He dodged it!?”
Where is he? he wondered before finding his target in an instant.
He was up and to the left. Sayama had kicked off the slope, flipped around, and arrived far above Nijun’s head.
Was he trying to leap all the way across those fifteen meters?
He just about asked how that was possible, but the boy’s movements stopped him.
Sayama maintained his momentum as he ran up the left side of the cliff and kicked forcefully off the highest point.
“We have arrived in my home ground now. Yes. I would always come down from above and this water divide is where Hiba-sensei would catch up and throw me off the cliff.”
“I developed a means of jumping over this water divide while watching my mountain ape teacher down below.”
Sayama leaped as he spoke. He used all of his accumulated acceleration and all of his strength to leap from the top of the eight meter cliff, cross the water divide, and reach the forest on the other side.
“During the day, the wind up here is too strong to make a stable jump, but I should be able to make a decent flight during the night. …I thank you for giving me this fun opportunity, Nijun-kun.”
Nijun ran out below the night sky as he listened to Sayama.
He used all of his jumping strength to soar high in a flying kick pose, but it was still too low. He would never reach the boy in a suit soaring overhead.
“Are you having fun, Nijun-kun?”
Sayama spread his arms as if to cover the night sky and his suit coat spread out in the air. He swung his arms like a symphony conductor, swayed his body, and used the slight wind for attitude control.
Nijun clenched his teeth.
“I,” he began with a tremor in his voice. “I am so jealous.”
“Yearning for something is a truly enjoyable thing, Nijun-kun. …As is being yearned for.”
Nijun landed before he could respond.
He was in the center of the water divide. A great impact reached his legs as they slammed into the rock and sent stone fragments flying, but 7th-Gear’s combat life forms were made sturdily enough to survive falling from the sky. He would not break from this.
A moment later, he leaned forward and accelerated.
He ran straight across the water divide.
As he ran, he felt mocked. The boy had taken the lead this entire time, had taken advantage of his fixed concept, and was now flying by overhead to avoid him.
“This isn’t over!!”
Just as he was about to reach the forest past the water divide, he finally caught up to Sayama who leaped overhead.
Sayama’s trajectory would take him about five meters into the forest and he likely intended to kick off the rocky area there to begin his acceleration anew.
Nijun raced forward to arrive ahead of the boy and launch a counterattack.
He knew this would settle the battle. His heart cried that it was over.
…Is it over already?
To be honest, this ending disappointed him. He had used his full speed and had his fixed concept used against him, but it annoyed him to say that he had never actually been in any danger.
He wanted to use his full strength and yet lose.
He did want to give this world the Concept Core. He had seen this world with Chao and his brothers in the approximately sixty years since his birth and he did have a general desire to hand it over.
He had enjoyed his life, but it seemed that was far from what the people of 7th-Gear had desired.
For those people who had become gods by perfecting mankind, anything normal or average was nothing new.
They had been the greatest and ultimate human race.
They had fundamentally surpassed all others in martial arts, physical durability, and speed.
Their lives would never be in any danger even without using any concepts.
That was why they felt no despair. If they despaired anything it was having Nijun’s body destroyed for nothing. It was having the Concept Core destroyed without accepting this world as entertaining.
That time was drawing near. He had been aging regardless, but the burden of all the powerful charms he had used this night was accelerating the strain in his body.
…I beg you.
Nijun silently pleaded to Sayama as he ran and leaped through the forest.
…Give us a meaningful ending.
“We want to know that our power is not enough in this world.”
That was their desire.
“That is the sort of world 7th-Gear yearns for!”
He leaped into the darkness of the forest as if leaving his words behind.
He switched from running to leaping in order to reach Sayama’s landing point.
His goal was a flat rocky area at the base of a tree facing a cliff.
He landed in an instant. His legs absorbed the shock and he took a step.
He turned toward Sayama who was now approaching from behind.
He had one chance and that chance was this very instant.
He would launch a counterattack on Sayama who flew this way to kick off the rocky area.
The boy soared through the air with his suit coat spread out behind him.
He had already passed below the tree branches on his way down, so he could not grab a branch to throw off the timing of Nijun’s attack.
Nijun had a single possible attack: a reverse roundhouse kick thrown as he turned around.
He rotated his right leg backwards, raised the heel, and swung it like a log.
He used a charm to accelerate this reverse roundhouse kick.
If it hit, inertia would bend Sayama’s body around it and rupture his organs.
He sent his strength racing toward the falling boy and his right leg soared through the air.
But that was all.
His rotating leg cut through empty air and turned him back around.
The strike had not hit Sayama.
Why? he wondered, but he found his answer when he looked over his shoulder.
He saw Sayama, but the boy was not standing right in front of him or standing on the ground.
For some reason, he was standing motionless in midair.
Sayama looked down at Nijun from midair.
After the roundhouse kick, the man was wide open.
“You were too low to grab a branch, so how?”
The answer was simple.
Sayama showed off his raised left hand.
The hand held something in the darkness.
It was a rope.
The old rope dangled down with the end in tatters.
This was the rope he had once used to hang Hiba Ryuutetsu.
However, simply grabbing that rope could not have stopped him. Either his grip would have lost to inertia and it would have slipped from his grasp or the old rope would have snapped.
But Nijun seemed to have realized what Sayama’s answer was.
“You used that rope to make a feint?” he asked blankly.
“Yes,” confirmed Sayama, satisfied that the man had given a good answer. “The feint was stopped, so I stopped as well. I once hung Hiba-sensei with this rope, but it proved surprisingly useful. I am glad I checked on it on the way up.”
He stood in midair holding the rope and he tilted his head while looking down at Nijun.
“What a curious concept,” he began. “What just happened here? Did I make a feint or was my feint stopped? Perhaps this is what you call a paradox. Regardless, I was lucky that it acted in my favor.”
With that, he swung his body and let go of the rope.
He jumped down.
He landed on the rocky area directly in front of Nijun. They were within arm’s reach of each other.
As soon as he landed, Nijun took action.
He must not have had time to activate a charm because he began a left roundhouse kick from the pose his reverse roundhouse kick had left him in.
As he did, Sayama sank down low and muttered something.
“Too slow, Nijun-kun.”
The boy spread his suit coat and Nijun shouted the name of what surrounded the edges of his exposed vest.
Inside the suit, the charms Nijun had been using glowed and floated on the back of the waist and the sides.
“Oh, that one is easy.”
What a pain, thought Sayama as he answered and sent the bottom of his suit fluttering behind him.
“Lies do not work in this space, correct? So I blatantly picked your pocket when grabbing at your arms. I even gave a clear announcement of my success.”
Nijun’s eyes opened wide in surprise, but he had clearly not trained enough if this was enough to shock him.
How about I give him some training right now? thought Sayama as he sent his body toward the man at high speed.
He swung his right fist and struck Nijun’s gut.
Without stopping the impact or acceleration and without stopping Nijun’s body from rising into the air, Sayama stepped forward.
“Nijun-kun, you do not trust me enough. That is why you have failed. …It is truly regrettable. So to deepen our understanding of each other, how about we have some fun together?”
With that, Sayama grabbed Nijun and leaped into the empty air behind him.
He jumped straight off the cliff.
“Is something the matter?”
He casually replied in the empty night air, kicked Nijun downwards, and looked in that same direction.
A ravine lay below.
It was at least a few dozen meters deep and it was too dark to see the bottom.
Nijun fell face up along the cliff face and Sayama slammed both his feet down on the man’s stomach.
He jabbed his heels into the man, pressed down, lowered his hips, and spoke.
“Nijun-kun. There are three kinds of fun I have never had a chance to do in these mountains.”
Their falling speed increased, the cliff face raced upwards beside them, and they fell into a space the moonlight barely reached.
As they fell, Sayama held Nijun down with his feet and raised three fingers on his left hand.
“First, I have never played a multiplayer handheld game with Shinjou-kun in the mountains.”
As for the second…
“I have never played shiritori with Shinjou-kun in the mountains.
He continued on to the third.
“And the third, Nijun-kun? I have never surfed in the mountains.”
The instant he finished speaking, Nijun’s upside-down form slammed into the cliff face.
Sayama rode on Nijun as they fell down the cliff face.
His body tried to bounce off the rock, but Sayama held him down with his heels and forced him to slalom.
The boy surfed down the cliff face and he shouted into the darkness down below that was now straight ahead.
“Ha ha ha. No wave is bigger than this. …Well? Are you having fun now!?”
He raised his voice.
“Answer me! I am trying to provide entertainment!”
Nijun thought as his back slid down the cliff face.
…My concept is no use here.
He held his breath and bounced up off the rock.
…My strength and techniques are of no help.
He was pressed back against the cliff and he was surfed on.
…My body will not last much longer.
He would likely be destroyed before reaching the bottom of the ravine.
In that case, he had to make up his mind now.
And so he moved. He squeezed out the very last of his strength and tried to resist.
“Sayama-sama! I cannot let you enjoy this more than me!”
He forced his body up and kicked off the cliff face.
He pushed Sayama up and toward the cliff and threw himself down toward the empty ravine.
They instantly moved five meters apart and that gap slowly continued to grow.
“Ha ha! How about that!? You can’t keep it up from this far away!!”
Nijun saw Sayama place his feet on the cliff face and begin to run down.
But Nijun spoke to the boy who had outdone everything he had.
“I am the one that will determine my end! I will outdo you here!! You may have twisted everything in your favor as Team Leviathan’s negotiator, but I will outdo you in the end!”
Nijun brought a hand to his neck.
He pulled back a hand for a karate chop and prepared to bring about his own end.
This was his way of outdoing Sayama.
But would this ending send the Concept Core to Low-Gear?
…Will I be satisfied with an end that ruins Sayama-sama’s plans?
Once he finished thinking, he heard a voice.
Sayama’s clear voice reached him from above.
“Are you sure that will not be a lie if you say it again?”
Nijun tried to respond by saying he was having fun.
He found himself unable to speak in this space of no lies.
And he heard Sayama speak instead.
“Okay,” the boy began. “I will be right there to finish this.”
Impossible, thought Nijun. He can’t reach me even if he jumps now.
But he heard Sayama continue to speak as they both fell.
He began with a question.
“How about I sum up the situation, Nijun-kun?”
The man listened to him.
“You were lying about trying to kill yourself, weren’t you?”
“You wanted me to let down my guard. Then when I approached you, you would use your other hand to cut me down. That was the truth here, wasn’t it?”
Nijun realized what Sayama was doing, so he opened his mouth.
He hesitated but managed a loud voice.
“You saw straight through me!! This suicide attempt was a feint!”
A moment later, his body stopped for just an instant as he fell a bit away from the cliff face.
His momentum from jumping away was gone, so he simply fell.
The feint disguised as suicide had been rejected.
The very next moment, he saw Sayama fall from above while surrounded by new acceleration charms.
He twisted his body and sent his right leg toward the man’s chest.
Nijun prepared his hand to strike back and make his previous statement the truth.
…Is this the end?
“Ah,” he muttered. “Such fun!!”
With that shout, he fell into the darkness and swung a rapid karate chop toward Sayama.
At the same time, he remembered what Sayama had said before plunging into the depths of the forest.
…You will be seeing nothing but darkness.
He laughed in his heart. It was a loud laugh and he hoped that it would reach his brothers.
He laughed louder and louder.
He had never stood a chance from the very beginning.
And so he spoke from his heart.
“This world is what I have yearned for!!”
As his shout came to an end, their attacks crossed and his entire being fell into darkness.
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