Owari no Chronicle:Volume11 Chapter 24
Chapter 24: Resumed Reunion
A sloped road ran between a cement-covered slope and a row of dark houses.
The road was lit by scattered streetlights and someone ran down that road.
It was Shinjou with her long black hair swaying behind her and her backpack bouncing up and down on her back.
The sound of her shoes on the ground was light and some hesitation would occasionally show itself in her pace.
She stumbled a little and smiled bitterly.
“Am I too worried?”
Not long had passed since she had collapsed and passed out in the orphanage cafeteria.
She had woken in the infirmary, changed clothes, and received a variety of things from the director. Afterwards, she had been overcome by weariness.
She had known she could not, but she had given in to the exhaustion, slept, and found it was 9:30 when she woke.
The bullet train had already left, but the bleeding had stopped and she knew she could move.
She had asked the director to check the train schedule and had learned the next train to Tokyo was a 10:22 sleeper train from Shin-Osaka Station.
She had called and learned that train was full, but another one with an opening was leaving Osaka Station at midnight.
After asking for a reservation on that train, she had left the orphanage.
She had said goodbye to the director, called to thank the woman at the church who had helped her, and even remembered to call Sibyl and Hiba at UCAT to tell them she would not be back until the following morning.
When leaving the orphanage, she had made a promise that she intended to keep.
“I’ll come back to visit sometime.”
She wanted to visit again soon.
That was partially to see the documents she had not managed to see today, but…
…What will Sayama-kun say when he finds out?
Sayama’s father had also been an orphan who was taken in by his grandfather.
She guessed Sayama’s grandfather had owned orphanages like this one across Japan.
…For the children who lost their parents in the war, in the Concept War, or during post-war retribution.
As she walked, she looked down at the white plastic bag in her left hand.
It contained the sweets the director had given her. They were meant to serve the guests at the orphanage’s cultural festival in November, but the woman had said it would be wrong not to give her anything.
“Sakai’s famous ‘Xavier Watches Over Us’.”
The box had a picture of sweets shaped in a realistic depiction of a saint.
She felt like it was looking at her, so she looked away and noticed the IAI logo on the corner of the box.
…What is that company doing?
But then she took a breath.
A laugh escaped her lips.
…What will Sayama-kun say?”
When she told him she had found her mother and that her girl side was working now…
“Will he rejoice and praise me?”
But then doubt filled her expression and her shoulders drooped.
“I’m sure something bad will happen. He’ll probably want to make a poster or body pillow to commemorate the occasion.”
It’s possible he’s already made that kind of thing, she thought. He’s probably outdone anything a normal person could imagine.
“But,” she said while bringing her right hand to her cheek. “If my actual body is working, he won’t have to rely on weird, perverted replicas.”
Her imagination continued from there, but her face grew red and she sped up.
To distract herself from her own imagining of the future, she recalled a certain fact.
Sayama had given her an envelope.
“He said he wanted me to read the letter once I found my past, didn’t he?”
She reached into her bag and quickly managed to pull out the envelope.
Still walking, she returned the bag to her back and opened the envelope while listening to the rustling of the plastic bag in her left hand.
She pulled out the first of two white pieces of stationery.
She unfolded it and read the beginning of the text.
“Dear Shinjou-kun. Ahh, you are as stimulating as the ripples covering the sea at night.”
She thought for a moment and skipped past the first page without reading it.
But after another moment, she sighed.
“I guess that’s being a little insincere.”
His intentions were good and she enjoyed this taste of his idiosyncrasies after so long.
More importantly, she was in a good mood after what had happened today.
So how about I read it? she decided while looking back down at the text.
“Your smile is like a morning cup of coffee. It is a little surprising, it is not sweet, and yet it is so charming and – perhaps due to the caffeine – makes my heart race. In fact, I am having difficulty restraining myself. Ahh, I want to fill you with cream. Are you excited? There is no stopping it now-…”
That’s it. I’m stopping.
No, I’ll read it, but I won’t expect anything from it this time. It’s probably going to be something crazy.
…And when did he write this anyway? We’re always together.
She nodded, picked up the second page, and lowered her gaze to it.
“Now, let us bring an end to the complicated part. No, perhaps a little more.”
About three lines of nonsense punctuated with exclamation marks followed, but she skipped past it.
That left only about fifteen lines.
…Why didn’t he just write this part first?
As she wondered that, she read the text.
“First, I will tell you something that has been bothering me, Shinjou-kun. There is a possible connection between my family and the Army.”
Before that question even formed in her mind, she had started reading on.
“My mother’s family apparently ran a store that sold set lunches. It was located in what is now an empty lot behind the Tamiya house.”
“Soon after entering Taka-Akita Academy, her parents were murdered. The criminal was supposedly never caught, but both of my parents said the issue had been ‘settled’. Could we perhaps speculate that my mother’s parents were also involved with UCAT and the organization that preceded the Army targeted them? And could the same be said about Shinjou Yukio’s parents?”
She had never heard this about his mother and she had a guess as to why he had chosen to inform her with this letter.
…If he told me directly, it would worry me.
I’ll assume that’s why, she decided.
Meanwhile, his opinion on her mother was the same thing she had felt while looking at the documents in the orphanage.
She continued reading the letter.
“My father apparently lived in an orphanage with a connection to my grandfather. That old man must have wanted to raise more underlings for himself because he owned a few orphanages and hid that fact from me. It would seem the rights to them were left with the old man back at UCAT and he is also hiding it from me, but I had an inkling of the truth after years of living as that ape’s grandson. According to my grandfather, he adopted my father because, ‘he was full of himself, stupid, and selfish, so I knew I had to set him straight.’ To me, it always sounded like he was describing himself.
“But what about Shinjou Kaname’s granddaughter? Who arranged to have her sent to an orphanage and who controlled that orphanage? My grandfather would not leave his friend’s grandchild just anywhere. …Although I am sure you have already found that answer.”
After reading that far, Shinjou realized most of this information matched what she had discovered.
However, she had a question about it that also applied to the information about her own mother.
…Is this information really all that important?
She knew it was important to Sayama since the past brought him so much pain and she knew she needed to share that pain with him.
But as pure information, how important were the contents of this letter?
She tilted her head and continued reading.
“There may be a connection between our parents. And if so, that leaves a certain mystery. First, let us assume my mother’s parents were killed by the Army’s predecessor. We do know my parents were part of UCAT and Toda Mikoku of the Army told us yours were as well. In that case…”
She read the next line.
“My mother’s maiden name was Toda.”
She wrinkled her brow in a frown and her thoughts matched the next line Sayama had written.
“What does that mean?”
That was exactly her question.
“Shinjou-kun, my mother fought against the Army, so why does a girl in the Army have her family name and why does she know you? It could be a coincidence and there are still some unknowns, but I will write my current answer in invisible ink.”
She noticed a circle around a blank area on the bottom left of the letter.
An arrow pointing to the circle said “Place your lips here and say ‘Come forth, oh answer’.”
Why go to so much trouble? she thought. He’s included another weird concept, hasn’t he?
But she did want to know his answer, so she silently placed her lips on the letter.
“Come forth, oh answer.”
She looked back at the paper, but…
When she tilted her head and stared at the paper, she noticed small writing along the left edge.
“Ha ha ha. I tricked you, Shinjou-kun. That circle only contained a kiss of my own. I still cannot find an answer, so I gave you an indirect kiss of apology. Good night, Shinjou-kun, and sweet dreams.”
“Good night and goodbye!!”
She threw the letter down to the ground, but quickly picked it back up.
After an annoyed sigh, she realized she had stopped walking.
She frantically began moving her legs again.
She put the letter back in her bag, muttered “Honestly, Sayama-kun”, and thought about the mystery he had given her.
…What does it mean that his mother and Mikoku-san have the same family name?
But something interrupted her thoughts.
“Oh, Shinjou-san. Wait.”
For some reason, she heard Hiba’s voice from the right.
However, she had just spoken to him over the phone, so he could not possibly be here.
She had to be imagining things.
…But why I am hearing Mikage-san’s stalker instead of Sayama-kun?
Her thoughts were interrupted again.
“Wait, wait. It’s me, it’s me.”
Like a true stalker, even an illusion of his voice refused to go away.
She waved a hand to the right and hurried down the slope.
A visual illusion of Hiba appeared in front of her, so she threw a backhand blow with her right fist.
The illusionary strike hit, she heard an illusionary sound, she felt an illusionary impact, and the illusion gave an illusionary scream and illusionarily rolled around on the ground.
What a persistent illusion. But this should bring it to its illusionary end, she thought as she began to walk again.
That was when she heard Mikage’s voice from the left.
“Eh? Mikage-san? Why are you here?”
She turned to the left and saw the girl wearing her armored uniform.
Mikage gently brushed aside her hair in the moonlight.
“To come get you since you said you can’t ride the bulletin train.”
“Bulletin? Oh, you mean the bullet train. But, um, what do you mean you came to get me?”
“We used Susamikado, but the address was hard to find and it slowed us down.”
Even if it had “slowed them down”, not even twenty minutes had passed since the phone call.
However, Shinjou recalled something from about a month before. During the battle with 5th-Gear’s Black Sun, Gyes’s god of war had taken them from Izumo to Okutama in less than an hour.
Gyes’s god of war did not have a specialized propulsion device for aerial movement, so…
“Susamikado would be able to travel even faster…”
“Right. Sorry. We happened to spot you while we were wandering around overhead.”
Mikage held out a hand.
“Eh? Are you sure? And why come get me all of a sudden? I can get back on my own.”
“I had a dream of Ryuuji-kun’s father and the others fighting. But all of the people he was fighting with are gone now…”
She remained expressionless as she spoke.
“I started wondering if we would lose each other someday.”
Shinjou was speechless, but Mikage continued with her hand still held out.
“So I thought it would be better if we weren’t teammates. If we might lose each other, it would be easier if we never had each other in the first place.”
“But you’re working hard, aren’t you? And so are Sayama, Heo, and the others. …I want to work at it too. That way I can become a better and better person even after my evolution ends. So…so let’s gather together. If I can still get even better after my evolution ends, then Susamikado can get even better too.”
She took a breath.
“So I won’t let Kazami be like that. I won’t let anyone ruin all of her work…and I won’t let us lose each other.”
Shinjou reflexively took Mikage’s hand when she heard that.
Strength gathered in her eyebrows and she returned Mikage’s still gaze.
She knew there were people she could never meet, but she still squeezed the fingers holding Mikage’s hand.
This must be my answer to Team Leviathan disbanding, she thought while also thinking of her mother.
“You really are right. We haven’t lost each other yet, so it isn’t too late. So…so let’s go gather together to make each other stronger.”
If they could do that…
“We can get stronger and stronger!”
“Right,” said Mikage with a squeeze back.
Shinjou realized she wanted to speak with Kazami.
She knew Sayama had not really meant it when he had told Kazami they were disbanding.
He had not been telling her to leave Team Leviathan.
…Please realize that.
The rest of them had a part of their past supporting their involvement in the Leviathan Road and Kazami had to have something similar. What was it that made her want to fight?
Shinjou knew Kazami had worked so hard on those deadly battlefields despite being a normal person and she knew Kazami always scolded them and tried to lead them so they would not give up.
When Shinjou and Sayama had first met, it had been Kazami who had saved them from the werewolf.
Kazami had worried over the death her shot had led to, but she had never let it show.
…I know that she belongs on Team Leviathan.
…Find your reason for being with me.
Shinjou nodded, but then realized something.
“Huh? Where’s Ryuuji-kun?”
“Sleeping over there.”
She looked in the indicated spot and found the collapsed illusion. It had yet to get up.
“Reality can be harsh.”
Mikage tilted her head as if she did not understand.
A girl moved quickly through a white hallway.
A small creature sat on her short blonde hair and she wore an orange flight jacket over a dark blue school uniform.
The chest of the jacket swayed as she walked and it contained the name Heo Thunderson.
Her footsteps were light as she passed the nurse station on her way to a hospital room.
The young nurse inside lowered her head, took a bite of a chocolate snack called a Strawbcookie, and spoke.
“Do your best with him.”
She held up her right arm in a triumphant pose.
Heo had been raised in the United States, so she was not quite sure what the gesture meant in relation to doing her best with Harakawa. She gave up on understanding and simply took it as support.
“Y-yes. I’ll do what I can.”
“If anything comes of it, we’ll take care of you here.”
Wait, I think I do know what she means, realized Heo as she hurried back to the hospital room.
She knew she could not run, but she could not let the drinks Harakawa had asked for get cold.
…I need to hurry without rushing.
It seemed Harakawa’s mother, Yui, was stable now.
Ooki had told Heo the woman had collapsed, but Harakawa had not contacted her.
She had wanted to contact him, but she had not worked up the courage.
She had been afraid he would tell her not to come with him.
After some hesitation, she had made her way here, but it had taken about two hours by train and foot.
It had been past eight by the time she had arrived and Harakawa had been in the hospital room.
He had briefly explained Yui’s condition and said this happened all the time.
He had said nothing more and Yui had continued sleeping.
Heo and Harakawa had remained in silence until past nine when Harakawa had handed over his wallet.
Now, Heo was walking down the hallway with drinks.
Having something to do had calmed her heart a little. At the very least, it was far better than sitting in silence while thinking about the fact that she had come uninvited.
She reached the room with the cans clanking together in her arms.
She heard someone speak from inside and focused on it, assuming it was Harakawa.
“Heo-san. Hurry on in while he’s using the bathroom.”
It was Yui’s voice and it was surprisingly steady.
Didn’t she collapse? thought Heo while walking through the door.
She prepared to say “You’re feeling better, aren’t you?”, but…
She swallowed the words when she saw the color red.
The color Heo saw was small.
It was nothing more than a red stain on the handkerchief Yui held over her mouth.
However, it stood out in the white hospital room filled with white light.
Heo quickly ran over and prepared to say something, but Yui stopped her with a hand.
“Don’t worry. I only coughed up what was left in my throat.”
The woman forced down Heo’s panic with a smile and a nod. She then held out a hand.
“More importantly, could I have something to drink? My mouth still tastes like salt and iron, so I don’t want to talk much.”
Heo tensed her shoulders and hesitated, but she opened a can and held it out.
“I bought Maximum Coffee’s tea flavor like Harakawa asked…”
Yui first tossed the bloody handkerchief in the trashcan to the side of the bed.
Next, she drank the contents of the can with some blood still on her lips.
It almost looked like she was simply pouring the can into her mouth and she consumed about half of it.
“Kwaah! Now, that was good. …Oh, sorry. Did I scare you?”
When she smiled, she was back to her normal self.
Relieved, Heo tensed her shoulders and shook her head.
She then sat on the bedside stool Yui gestured to.
She set the two remaining cans on the side table and realized something.
“Wait. Is this why he asked me to buy three drinks?”
“You really are slow, Heo-san. Heh heh. That boy knew I had woken up. He probably wanted to force the troublesome part onto someone else.”
She sighed and leaned back against her pillow.
“You want to hear about my condition, don’t you? To make up for how rude he was, I’ll tell you some extra things he doesn’t know about. For example…”
Yui slowly brushed aside the hair on her shoulders.
“My illness was caused by the secondary damages of the Great Kansai Earthquake. …Officially, at least.”
“Surprised? I’m glad. Dan always looks so displeased when I mention my illness, so I never tell him much about it. But I think it’s about time I told you some things.”
She reached for the window and cracked it open.
The cold night wind slowly entered the room.
She exhaled into that fresh air and faced Heo.
Her narrow eyes were smiling.
“Are you going to make an old woman drink alone?”
“Oh, um, no.”
The can Heo grabbed was an IAI carbonated nectar called Nectar Pepper.
She liked its odd flavor, but everyone at school had said she had strange tastes when she said she liked it. She did not know what kind of jokes the people at UCAT would make, so she had yet to come out about that there.
While she enjoyed the odd flavor, Yui looked at the can.
“You are a unique girl, Heo.”
“…Sorry for making you choose your words so carefully.”
“It’s fine. Letting your unique side out like that is much better than that boy who is always trying to crush that side of himself. How about you become my child?”
Heo shrank down and shook her head and Yui smiled bitterly.
“Yes…you’re right. Deciding that for myself would be wrong to Maria.”
Heo quickly turned around when she heard her mother’s name and she saw Yui’s spread palm.
It avoided Baku and brushed through her hair.
The woman rubbed her head and spoke from beyond the ticklishness.
“My illness isn’t much. …It’s just that my organs will fail. Do you understand what I mean?”
Heo thought about the question while the woman rubbed her head.
“You mean your organs switch between failing and working?”
“Yes, but the timing is unstable. So if I’m too active, it could lead to damage that would affect them even when they aren’t failing. That’s why I’m in the hospital.”
She kept her hand moving as she spoke.
“I won’t get any worse, but I won’t get better either.”
“It…can’t be cured?”
“No, it can’t.” Yui sounded cheerful. “And even if it could be, then you and that boy would stop worrying for me.”
“But,” started Heo before looking at Yui’s face and stopping.
She had seen the small smile on the woman’s face. It was her usual smile.
“Let’s just leave it at that. …Also, there’s one other person with this same illness. Do you know who that is? He has white hair and…I guess he’d be middle-aged now. The needle was pointed more in the negative direction for him, so his condition only gets worse and worse.”
She did know who that was.
She knew him as the man who rarely made an appearance despite being Team Leviathan’s supervisor.
If he had the same illness as Yui and his case was even worse…
She grabbed Yui’s hand and looked straight at the woman’s smiling face.
“What kind of battle happened on the night of the Great Kansai Earthquake? What kind of battle left you and him like this and killed my father?”
“Why do you want to know that?”
She had nothing to hesitate about and the words came out before she could even think about what to say.
“Because I’m where I am now because of that battle.”
Heo spoke aloud what she had been wondering about lately.
“Team Leviathan disbanded and I was told to learn about the past if I wanted to know why. But when I investigated the past, I found I didn’t know much of anything. So many pieces are missing. …But I know one thing for sure: everything that happened led to me being here.”
She took in a breath.
She left this to her thoughts and her moving mouth and she relied on the nod Yui gave her.
“I am happy that I can be with the others, but I don’t know why I’m here. …My mom protected me from Black Sun, my great-grandfather fought, and Black Sun made a mistake for his people, but what did my parents do?”
Her head had started to drop, so she raised it.
She saw Yui slowly look outside the window.
“I’m not very good at talking with people anymore, am I? …That’s because my friend said she didn’t like someone who talked too much.”
Heo followed Yui’s gaze and saw something white sitting on the windowsill.
It had flown inside and landed.
“That’s one of the cranes my teacher makes with origami.”
“I’m glad to see Diana is doing well. And here I was hoping to earn some points with my son’s future wife.”
Heo blushed and Yui turned back toward her and took a sip from her drink can.
“Is Dan important to you?”
The woman rubbed her head.
“Do you want to be with him?”
She rubbed her head again.
“What will you do if the two of you have a child?”
Heo could not just say “yes” to this one, so she thought about it.
…What does she mean?
Was it a simple question? Yui had just mentioned “earning points”, so Heo felt she should give the best answer she could and she wanted a reliable answer that would put the sick woman at ease.
…Um, uh, uh…
“F-first I would get insurance and then I would pay into an annuity! And I would buy a house and I would save up money in the bank!”
“Calm down, Heo.”
Heo felt dejected and Yui gave a troubled smile.
“This may be hard to imagine, but what if there was a battle that could destroy the world? And what if you had an important family at the time?”
“I would want to protect that family.”
“Now, what if you were one of the people who could fight in that battle?”
“I think the answer you want lies there, so try thinking about it.”
Heo could not reply.
After all, she was simply imagining.
She had no family, so she could not answer a question based on that assumption.
However, Yui rubbed her head again and Heo trembled.
“Wh-why? I didn’t answer you.”
“This is because you didn’t answer. Reflexively saying you would fight sounds cool and makes it look like you understand what that means…but it takes this all too lightly.”
She heard Yui’s voice from beyond her hand.
“We all hesitated back then, but we went in the end. If you easily gave an answer, it would mean all our worry was for nothing. So it’s okay if you aren’t sure yet, Heo.”
After another rub of her head, she was asked another question.
“But are you not getting along with Dan? The two of you were being so quiet.”
“Oh, that… I came here today without telling him.”
“Did he say anything about it?”
She gave a nervous shake of her head and she saw Yui smile and nod.
“Then you’re fine. He didn’t leave the room, right? That means he knew you would come even if he didn’t call for you. He thinks that’s normal and doesn’t see a problem with it. And regardless, you are still by his side. …Are you going to eat dinner after this?”
“Y-yes. And after dinner, I…um…think I’ll have him massage my chest.”
The hand on her head stopped and the woman paused before speaking.
“You mean have him grope your breasts?”
“Y-yes. Well, no, not quite. He’ll also be rubbing stuff on them. Um, uh, he said you taught him a way of making them grow. He said he would use honey and sugar to stimulate them and then some herbs.”
She received an immediate reply.
“I did not say that!”
The door behind her burst open and Harakawa stormed in. His eyebrows were raised and his finger was pointed at her.
“Heo Thunderson! What kind of hallucination did you have a front-row seat for this time!?”
“Ehh!? B-but we arranged it and everything. In the bath!”
“Wait, Heo Thunderson. …You’re making some kind of massive misunderstanding here.”
“Y-you can’t talk your way out of this one!! I almost lost a lot of blood from what you said!”
His betrayal had left her on the verge of tears, but she realized Yui’s hands were supporting her shoulders from behind.
“Dan, try to be a little quieter. …And, Dan. Can I say one thing?”
“I’m innocent here. As long as you understand that, you can say whatever you want.”
“Fine, Dan. …Go get some insurance. And make sure to pay into an annuity and a savings account.”
“Please believe what your son is telling you!”
“What’s wrong with this? And if you don’t mind, then why not help out some? You would like that, wouldn’t you, Heo?”
Heo was unsure what to say.
She looked at Harakawa, but his frown was telling her to say no. She had no choice but to sigh and answer.
“That would be too much trouble for him.”
She tensed her shoulders as she spoke. For some reason, this made his face grow paler and paler.
Behind her, she heard Yui’s smiling voice.
“No one can win against you, Heo-san. I can see why Thunder Fellow would stick with you.”
“You know about that?”
“Yes, but you all will learn even more from here on. That creature on your head…Baku, was it? He wasn’t there in our time. But with him, you should be able to learn about us and about yourselves. So…”
Yui gave Heo’s back a gentle push.
“Go. You have a visitor.”
Neither of them asked who it was and they heard a voice that resembled their own.
—There is no mutual understanding.
Heo reflexively stood just as she lost all sensation from the outside world.
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