Owari no Chronicle:Volume11 Chapter 28
Chapter 28: Sound of Soaring
The sounds of running echo into the sky
Instead of darkness, he initially saw the night sky.
He had a body and the sensation on its back told him he was probably lying on rocky ground.
When he gathered strength in his body, each part reacted and moved accordingly.
He heard running water. It was flowing swiftly but had not reached the level of raging rapids.
After hitting Nijun with the flying kick, he had likely fallen into the river below and washed up on the bank downstream.
He then noticed that what had saved him from drowning was caught on his left arm.
Just before hitting the water, he had pulled it from his bag and filled it with air.
“The Shinjou-kun body pillow cover.”
He tilted his head over and saw the float made from the cover had soaked up the water and lost the air inside.
He sat up and held the cover up in both hands.
“It would sound dirty if I said I got you wet, wouldn’t it?”
He lowered his arms, checked his watch and found it was ten at night. A fair amount of time had passed since he had jumped down.
Wondering what had happened to Nijun and considering the possibility that he had been swept away, Sayama called out to him.
He received a response.
It came from behind him and from very near his defenseless back.
However, Sayama knew this had already been settled, so he asked a question without turning around.
“Do you have something to tell me?”
“Yes, although it may be too forward of me.”
“What is it?” asked Sayama.
After a hesitant pause, Nijun answered.
“Could you…compete with me again in negotiation?”
“I see.” Sayama nodded and brought a hand to his chin in thought. “It is true you have a lot to bargain with, but I have nothing. Are you sure you want this?”
This answer also took some time. After a thoughtful silence that lasted the span of about five breaths, he answered in the affirmative.
“Yes. If I can defeat you, it will mean that I overturned this world in at least one way. That would be the greatest honor as someone from 7th-Gear.”
“I see. That is an excellent way of viewing this. Then let us begin right away. As for our bargaining chips…”
“How about my Concept Core and a hint concerning the past? …And I will ask a single question. If you cannot answer it, it will mean your loss.”
“I see,” said Sayama again as he watched the river flowing through the night.
After a short pause, Nijun spoke quietly.
His question reached Sayama with the sound of flowing water in the background.
“Can you make me lie while under the effects of my concept?”
“In other words, you want me to make you tell a lie without stopping the concept?”
Sayama thought about the man’s words.
Gyes of 3rd-Gear could not lie and he had once made her do so during a negotiation, but this was different. The man would be unable to speak as long as he was aware it was a lie.
…Then how can I make him tell a lie?
He thought while watching the flowing river.
Suddenly, a certain fact came to him. It was a way of expressing a lie.
And so he slowly raised his head and looked into the night sky.
“Nijun-kun, how about I try one thing? I am going to test just how much you understand your own concept.”
He asked a question.
“Nijun-kun, have you ever lied?”
“An excellent answer. Now, Nijun-kun. If you have lied, then tell me what it was you said. But if you have, in fact, never lied…”
He spoke clearly.
“Then remain silent.”
Nijun responded to Sayama’s question.
But that silence itself meant that he could tell a lie here.
It was a contradiction.
Based on the defined conditions, that answer was not possible. It rejected the concept space.
As soon as that answer was made, the world changed with the sound of shattering glass.
The world expanded.
Sayama saw the surrounding air begin to move and the river current pick up speed.
Unable to withstand the self-contradiction, the barrier of the concept space had broken. The man who had created the space had accepted the contradiction.
As the night wind washed over the river bank, Sayama smiled bitterly and rested his head on his hand.
“That was a simple contraction, but even that was enough for you to overcome the ability of your fixed concept. I would speculate that your Concept Core does not include a concept to handle self-contradictions because it is only a fourth of its original size. …So, are you satisfied with that?”
He received no response.
He waited a while longer and still received no response, so he removed his head from his hand.
He turned around, but Nijun was nowhere to be seen on the slope leading from the river to the forest.
Something else was there instead.
“The Concept Core.”
A ten centimeter red ball of light floated at Sayama’s eye level.
That was Nijun’s true form. It was one of 7th-Gear’s Concept Cores.
Sayama reached out toward it and spotted writing below the scarlet light.
Hiragana characters were written in the river water on a torn piece of a white coat. They had clearly been written in a hurry.
That was all it said.
He assumed it meant Shinjou Yukio, but the writing ended before saying anything else.
Most likely, everything had ended when Nijun reached that point.
…Why? No, what was he trying to tell me about the past by writing the name Yukio in hiragana?
And before that…
…Is he saying the reading of the name is important? Or is the name Yukio a clue to something?
Thinking was not enough to find an answer, so he stood and shook his head.
“Well, whatever. I need to hurry back. I am worried about the others.”
He reached out for Nijun’s Concept Core and it slowly circled to his right side.
The Concept Core could not speak and it had nothing but memories, but it still seemed willing to go with him.
He nodded and looked up at the crimson sphere.
“Good. Now, let us go. I wish to descend the mountain in a hurry, but I would like your help in that. I believe your main ability is physical enhancement.”
He lowered his body in preparation to run downstream.
“I am worried about my teammates down below, Nijun-kun. I want to know if they were successful.”
With those words, with the crimson Concept Core, and with a new mystery, Sayama began to run along the river bank.
Wind wrapped around his speedy form and not even his footsteps could keep up with him.
Kazami was inside Izumo’s hospital room.
The room was dark. The only light was from the emergency lighting, X-Wi on her back, and the moonlight outside the window.
In those dim lights, Kazami sat on the floor and ate.
Her eyes would occasionally dart to one of two places: Izumo who slept on the bed and the baby who slept on the chair next to the bed.
She dug through the food in the bag Sibyl had brought while trying to be as quiet as possible so as not to wake the other two.
The rice balls filled her empty stomach. The ones containing tuna mixed with soy sauce mayonnaise had likely been made by Heo. She thought the ones containing a dried plum were from Mikage. That would explain why all of the dried plum ones were of a uniform size.
The salad was all wrapped in vegetables boiled in consommé to help her eat it faster.
The fried chicken was extravagant breast meat. The French fries in the same bucket had a lot of chili pepper on them, but it was so dark she had only discovered that upon eating them.
She had a feeling she would regret this from a calorie and weight perspective, but this was the reward she got for continuing to live.
Now then, she thought as she set the thermos of sports drink to the side and sighed.
She reached for Brunhild’s letter.
…Ways to fight the four brothers, hm?
Just as she began to open the letter, her crossed legs knocked over the thermos which made a loud noise.
Soon, crying filled the darkness.
The baby had reacted to the sound.
To a child that did not understand the outside world, all things were either relief or surprise.
Panicked by the crying, Kazami approached the baby without righting the thermos.
She stood and quickly picked up the baby from the chair. X-Wi reacted to the movements of her shoulder blades as she crouched and the wings of light enveloped the two of them.
Inside the protective cage of pale light, Kazami hurriedly held the child to her chest and gently shook its small form back and forth.
“Um, uh, what am I supposed to do? Stop crying, stop crying…You can’t even understand me, can you?”
Even she could not believe what she was saying, but then she realized something.
You were not supposed to shake a baby.
…You just end up scaring it.
She was trying to comfort it, but it was nothing more than a never-ending shaking for the child that did not know what was happening.
“In that case…”
Um, she hesitated. Like this, maybe? she asked herself with her eyebrows lowered in confusion as she moved her own body.
She rocked back and forth along with the baby.
It was a slow, gentle motion like a boat rocking on the waves.
She did not let the child shake alone. She too rocked in the imaginary waves.
After a few repetitions, she got the hang of the balance needed to rock like that.
This was different from running around and she was not used to using her muscles like this.
The next thing she knew, the white wings were swaying and waving along with her. Their movement was a bit behind her own, so when she moved right, they moved left and vice versa.
At some point, the crying stopped.
The baby’s eyes were opened and looking at something. Most likely, that something was the light enveloping them.
Next, the baby’s mouth opened.
It opened its mouth in an “ah” shape and squirmed.
Kazami somehow knew what it was trying to say.
…Are you hungry?
She slowly crouched down and managed to keep a gentle hold on the child surprisingly easily. She picked up the thermos lying on the floor.
The top was open and some had spilled, but that was not a problem.
…It would be best for the mother to do this.
She realized the baby could not drink directly from the thermos, so she silently apologized to the parents.
She gave the drink to the baby by mouth.
Instead of drinking the warm liquid from her mouth, the baby almost seemed to suck it out.
She held the child’s face up to straighten the throat and let the drink into its mouth.
After removing her own mouth, the child expelled some air from its stomach.
…Wow. It’s just like I’d read.
She was surprised and she belatedly blushed at what she had done. Soon, the baby’s mouth opened again.
However, it should have had enough to drink.
“In that case…”
When she realized what the child wanted, she hesitated. She timidly looked around and listened for any noises before hiding the two of them with the wings and slowly opening the front of her shirt.
She forcibly lowered her bra to expose the skin, and wiped her breast with a cleaning charm Sibyl had left for her.
After that, she only needed to bring the child to her while rocking back and forth again.
She smiled bitterly at the ticklish sensation and the bitterness soon vanished.
…What am I doing?
With that thought, she stood up.
And she sang. She opened her mouth in the moonlight and light of her wings.
“Silent night, holy night
“Where today all the might
“Of his fatherly love us graced
“And then Jesus, as brother embraced
“All the peoples on earth
“All the peoples on earth.”
As she sang, the embarrassment vanished. After all…
…I’m half-naked, holding a child, pretending to breastfeed, and singing.
She could not think of anything more embarrassing.
She suddenly glanced to the bed through the gap in the wings. Izumo slept in that bed.
…A woman holding a child and a man sleeping in a bed at a hospital.
She laughed quietly as she wondered what that looked like.
She looked down and found the child had fallen asleep. That made her smile a little.
That was all she said as she wrapped the baby in a cloth and placed it back on the chair. She created a makeshift bed by placing bags upside down on the armrests to make sure the baby would not fall off.
Now then, she thought as she looked to Izumo’s left arm on the bed and the two weapons leaning against the wall. Her eyebrows rose, she pressed her heels against the floor, and strength filled her knees.
“I’ll be going.”
She grabbed the maglite from the side table, picked up Brunhild’s letter from the floor, and moved to leave the room.
She opened the door and stepped out into the dark hallway.
As soon as she did, she felt a great stillness.
…This isn’t just a lack of sound!
This was the silence just before something began.
She quickly looked around, but there was nothing to see. Not down the hallway, not near the smashed nurse station, and not through the emergency exit’s window behind her.
…Then where is something coming from?
Thinking about it in reverse led her to the answer.
…Somewhere I can’t see.
She instantly remembered that the enemy’s attacks could break through walls. That meant he could surely hit her from…
“The first floor!?”
She started back into the room, but at that moment, a line of power raced along the hallway from east to west. It shot by behind her as she turned toward the room’s door and it sliced through the wings of light along its path.
As her wings scattered from the impact and she approached the door, the entire hallway exploded from below.
Ikkou looked up at the destroyed ceiling.
The sound of the explosion passed by and dust flew through the air.
He saw some few remaining floor tiles through the straight line cut in the ceiling.
There was still about thirty square centimeters of floor around Izumo’s hospital room, but the shockwave must have knocked the door down because it was gone.
Ikkou heard several sounds in addition to the stony noise of crumbling pieces of the ceiling.
He heard the breathing of a baby as it opened its eyes and did not know what to do. He heard Izumo’s breathing in his anesthetized sleep.
And he heard the weak but panting breathing of Kazami.
…So she survived.
However, that breathing suddenly stopped and he heard a wet sound shortly thereafter.
He recognized it as someone coughing up blood.
…Based on that coughing…
“I still need to finish her off.”
He looked to his right hand which held an Azure Dragon Sword with a fresh blade.
He made a gentle leap using only the motion of his ankles. He moved up in front of Izumo’s hospital room as if climbing a staircase and he landed on the small bit of remaining floor.
Kazami lay face down on the hard floor.
She was not sprawled out or doubled over. Her right arm was extended forward, her left arm was lying weakly outward, and she unfortunately had no idea which way her legs were pointing.
She let out a breath and coughed up some blood. Her breathing was erratic and her body was trembling, but her mind was faintly aware of herself.
She first saw the floor. She then looked forward and saw the shadows cast by the bed and chair.
Her vision was blurry and she guessed it was due to tears.
She wanted to know why she was in this state, so she dug through her memories.
The answer was simple. Just before the explosion, she had produced new wings with X-Wi.
…And I tried to block the door as a barrier.
Izumo and the baby were inside. If she had done nothing, the blast would have reached the room.
That was why she had taken the impact along with the door and the door had slowly collapsed into the room.
As she breathed, something spilled from her throat.
She could not breathe properly and she thought the shock had torn a lung.
She tried to move regardless, but her entire body trembled and she could not gather her strength.
She tried looking around, but she realized her vision was shaky due to a concussion.
Even so, she noticed a haziness beyond the tears covering her vision.
It was dust.
The dust from the explosion was noticeably blocking the light from her back.
X-Wi was still functioning and desperately trying to create its wings, but the small shadows of the floating dust prevented the wings from fully solidifying.
And the dust would also weaken the maglite’s beam.
…This isn’t good.
She tried to stand, but her body would not move.
She felt no pain. She simply felt hot and unsteady.
She could feel her right arm that extended forward and was dyed a dark color from the wrist down.
She thought nothing about it. Her body was at least intact.
She placed her right hand down, grasped the floor with her palm, and pulled herself forward like she was climbing a wall.
She thought about using her left arm too, but she gave up when she found she could not move it past the shoulder.
She twisted her hips forward and finally managed to forcibly crawl along.
Even that small movement elicited a wet-sounding breath from her mouth.
…What am I doing?
She could not fight in her state. Nor could she escape.
Yet for some reason, she crawled.
When she thought about it, it had been a stupid thing to do. If she was taken out, she could not protect the child or Izumo.
…Why did I try to protect the door?
She did not know. It had been the only thing to come to mind at the time.
…That only made the situation worse.
But she still crawled. She dragged her body forward along the floor. She simply moved while thinking that might bring some kind of answer into view. Soon, she approached a leg of the bed.
She coughed up a clump of blood and finally started feeling pain.
There was an undeniable something deep in her gut. She felt a cold sense of loss as if something important had left her.
…Now I’ve done it.
Am I done for? she wondered.
She formed those words of apology from her breaths that did not quite constitute a voice and she continued from there.
She gave the reason for her apology and why she could no longer protect them.
She had fled her club activities long ago, but she had thought she was stronger after joining Team Leviathan.
What had she said when Sayama had ordered them to disband the day before?
Hadn’t she asked why they had to disband when they were so strong?
…What was I saying? And look where it’s gotten me.
Without the others, she could not do anything, she had lost her weapon, and she was about to lose someone important to her.
Had Sayama understood this?
Instead of acting tough and full of herself, she should have backed down there.
She should have done as he said and stayed put at home.
She felt something with her crawling fingers.
It was the former proof of her strength. It was the bottom of G-Sp2.
She had crawled to the wall and the chill of the broken spear seemed to reject her.
She tried to give a self-deprecating laugh, but she gave a bloody cough instead.
She muttered another apology and could tell tears were spilling from her eyes. But she opened her mouth again.
“I finally know just how weak I am.”
With something still caught in her throat, she took a deep breath filled with the dust floating near the floor.
“That’s why I wanted strength.”
She grabbed G-Sp2.
She went on to muster her strength and roll onto her back. The wings of light spread along the floor on either side and her hazy vision looked up at both the ceiling and the moonlight entering through the window.
Her position was the same as Izumo’s and the baby’s. She wondered if she would share in their dreams if she closed her eyes.
She just about said she could no longer protect them, but a sudden fact came to her mind.
“Oh. That’s right.”
She nodded and thought about this realization.
…I want to protect them even if I have to crawl to do it.
She came to understand her previous actions and her thoughts turned to the boy who slept in a position much like hers.
…I think I know why he protected me now.
The moonlight filled her teary vision and she spoke quietly.
“You did it without even thinking, didn’t you?”
…Can I act full of myself when it’s for something important?
With that question, she began to cry.
And she continued.
She choked and the coughing stopped. Something deep in her throat was preventing her from even breathing.
To fight the trembling that had replaced the coughing, she tightened her grip on G-Sp2.
She apologized in her heart in countless ways.
…G-Sp2, I kind of understand why you broke now.
It was because I was stupid.
You flew in to protect me. You didn’t simply come because I called for you.
I tried to be understanding and I thought you were afraid in that incomprehensible world.
But I was wrong.
Kaku, V-Sw, and you all had strength and so you weren’t afraid.
I was the only one that was afraid. And that fear made me misunderstand the power that had come to protect me.
That power was supposed to keep me from fearing, but I only saw it as a way of winning.
And so I trembled in fear without even winning. If I hadn’t been afraid, I may not have won, but I wouldn’t have given up or screamed.
“I was weak, so I only wanted strength.”
She apologized under her breath yet again.
Something left her throat, spilled into her cheeks, and spewed from her mouth and her body suddenly felt lighter.
Cold breath reached her lungs, but her body refused to move at all.
Ah, she thought when she grasped her situation. She then clenched her right hand and spoke.
“I’m sorry, G-Sp2. But if I do ever become your master again, I won’t fear this time. So if I do become your master again…”
She spoke in a quiet breath that no longer qualified as a voice.
“Will you become a power that will never leave someone as weak as me?”
With that question, all strength left her body.
She could no longer move. Her vision clouded over and only her ears seemed to function.
She heard a small metallic noise.
A brightly-lit windowless corridor was filled with people moving one way or the other.
Men in lab coats rushed or even ran past walls with BF2 printed in black.
A few men rode a transport pallet moving down the transport rails along the center of the wall’s surface. All of them carried weapon storage pallets of different shapes.
“Outta the way! Outta the way! We’re transporting the anti-7th-Gear equipment!! If you don’t open a path, Director Tsukuyomi will fire her Heavenly Moon Bow into your ass from point-blank range!”
The development department members saying that were kicked to the ground by Tsukuyomi who stood behind them.
The transport pallet continued down the corridor while ignoring the cries of the fallen men, but…
“Ah, stop real quick! …Kashima! What are you doing walking down the corridor like that? I know you know a 7th-Gear concept space was detected.”
Next to the stopped transport pallet, Kashima was walking toward the development department.
He stopped when he noticed Tsukuyomi, but he opened his laptop and tilted his head.
Tsukuyomi frowned and stepped off the pallet.
“Hey, Kashima. Are you skipping work to watch videos of your daughter again?”
He turned toward her, wrinkled his brow, and pushed his glasses up his nose.
“How rude, Director Tsukuyomi. You seem to be mistaken about something, so let me be very clear. Videos of my family are what motivate me to do my work. In fact, you could say they are a new nutrient named Vitamin V. Simply put, those videos are a part of my job.”
“Yes, yes, yes. We can discuss that further when assessing your pay. Anyway, why aren’t you doing anything? You’re in charge of G-Sp2 and V-Sw, aren’t you?”
“Yes, but both of them are inside the concept space in question, so there’s nothing I can do.”
“Then come help us. Besides, you’re the one that left V-Sw and G-Sp2 in the hospital room because you said we didn’t have to fix them. …And now Kazami doesn’t have a weapon in there.”
Kashima glanced down at his laptop’s monitor, frowned, and looked back at Tsukuyomi.
“Director Tsukuyomi, one quick thing, if you don’t mind. I’m having difficulty judging something here. …Do you understand what this means?”
He showed her the computer monitor.
“Why aren’t you playing a video of your daughter or wife?”
“If I watch them too much, the family nutrients are less effective. Anyway… Wait. Why are you giving me that look when I try to have a serious conversation? Please stop that.”
“Don’t blame us when you make it so unexpected. …Now, please continue.”
“Okay, it’s about the two graphs on the monitor here. I’m following G-Sp2 and V-Sw’s states in real time using their communicators that can surpass a concept space’s boundaries.”
Tsukuyomi looked at the monitor that had a window opened in the top half and one in the bottom half. Both windows showed several numerical values and a rising graph.
“What? They were both destroyed, so why is their energy rising?”
“That isn’t all. Let me show you why I left those two weapons in the hospital room.”
Amid the surrounding noise and footsteps, he moved his fingers to revert the graphs to the past.
The graphs now displayed the readings from the previous night when Izumo had been taken to the hospital.
“What is this? Are you sure the sensors aren’t broken? This says the values never dropped.”
“I inspected the sensors, but they’re working just fine. I even replaced them just to be sure, but nothing changed. This means G-Sp2 and V-Sw may have been badly damaged, but they weren’t broken.”
“What…does that mean?”
Kashima nodded and hesitated before continuing.
“I can only guess, but perhaps the weapons only see their Cowlings as an outer shell. It comes down to the fact that they’re Concept Core weapons. Unless the actual concept inside them is destroyed, they can never be truly ‘broken’.”
Tsukuyomi frowned and Kashima shrugged.
“It’s not even worth it with those machines. Neither of them thinks they’re broken even in that state. They think they can still fight.”
“Why would…the Concept Cores think that? And why are they still broken on the outside?”
“That’s simple. Most likely, they’re waiting for their masters to want to fight again. Those broken-looking exteriors want a persistent master.”
Kashima stuck the monitor out toward Tsukuyomi. The graphs displaying the two weapons’ states had already surpassed 40% power.
“Do you understand what this means? …They’re ecstatic. Those masses of power known as dragons are overjoyed that the one to use their power is waking up. Is there anything we need to do? …And now that we’ve settled that, it’s time for a Harumi video. I’ve got a new one today!”
Tsukuyomi kicked Kashima to the ground and loaded him on the transport pallet.
Ikkou saw something after reaching the open door in a single bound.
It was light.
White and black light of unknown origin came from Izumo’s hospital room.
The center of the two colors of light came from the back wall of the small room.
They came from the two giant pieces of wreckage.
With a boy sleeping in the bed to the side, a bloody girl lying on the floor below, and a baby further to the side, the two wrecked weapons scattered shaped fragments of light around themselves.
More and more light appeared like bird wings, leaves, or spraying water.
The light was either white or black and the two colors swirled through the air on the right or left.
The light produced an infinite number of sounds. There were high sounds, low ones, mid-level ones, short ones, and long ones. They all mixed together to produce a humming tune or a pulsation.
Amid that light and sound, Ikkou saw something floating into the air.
It was countless red drops.
Kazami’s blood rose from the floor and Izumo’s blood rose from the bedclothes it had soaked into.
At the same time, a powerful pulsating noise filled the air.
The deep pulse that shook one’s body came from the two weapons.
As the weapons produced light and sound, they pulsated and changed the cloud of blood droplets along with the light and sound. They become bird wings, leaves, or spraying water.
The two weapons’ identical spirals eventually overlapped and decorated the room with a double helix pattern.
The weapons’ pulses accelerated like a human heartbeat and sounded louder and faster.
Light raced through the outer surface and inner core of G-Sp2 and V-Sw.
G-Sp2’s was a bluish-white light and V-Sw’s was a red light.
As the light raced from the sealed Concept Cores, it filled the cracks in the weapons and corrected their shapes.
Their blades were formed anew, their handles grew smooth, and their Cowlings were purified to white.
Their shapes changed. They maintained their original functions, but grew more angular and solid.
Finally, Ikkou saw light slowly grow in the weapons’ consoles.
“We won’t lose now.”
With a metallic noise, the Cowlings slid on their own to finish creating their new forms.
At the same time, the spiraling light coloring the room changed to a spray.
The room filled with light and swallowed up Izumo and Kazami.
Seeing that, Ikkou used all his strength to thrust his Azure Dragon Sword into the light.
The second floor of the hospital exploded in the night.
However, the explosion did not occur in the eastern end which contained the hospital rooms. It was in the western end.
Building materials and dust seemed to bounce out of the building more than they were blasted out and two objects followed.
One was Ikkou using a broken Azure Dragon Sword to guard.
The other was a light rising straight up from the explosion.
The light was a giant spear.
The light emitted by its tip trailed behind it in the night sky.
That glowing dust washed over someone who was already wrapped in light.
Specifically, in wings of light.
In the moonlight, the bearer of the spear spread her white wings and slowly took in a breath.
She began a power dive toward the enemy below.
Kazami did not understand anything.
She did not know what had happened, what she was thinking, or what she was doing.
Even so, she found an answer to that last question.
As soon as she landed in the moonlit backyard, she used her wings to charge toward Ikkou who had also landed.
Not even the wind could keep up with her.
Ikkou swung his Azure Dragon Sword, but she did not care.
After colliding with him and making her next attack, she thought.
She made attack after attack and slid quickly through the air to arrive behind her enemy.
…Why can I move again?
The Azure Dragon Sword broke, but a new blade formed by the time she had raised her spear.
…Why was I forgiven?
She evaded, spun around, and used the motion to make a jab with the back end of the spear.
…Why am I still alive?
Her hair fluttered and her sweat flew.
She did not know, but she did not know two things for sure. She had been given forgiveness that she would never receive again, and…
…I can protect.
“I can protect them.”
She knocked away the Azure Dragon Sword with the back of the spear.
“I won’t freeze up in fear anymore. I won’t stand still and tremble anymore. Because…I won’t think I’m strong anymore.”
Despite being knocked back, the sword was forcibly swung down at her. However, she did not hesitate to hold the spear below her arm.
“So lend me your power. Lend me the power I need to protect someone!”
She used the wings on her back to step forward with her entire body behind the spear tip.
She cut through the wind and slipped below Ikkou’s blade.
The spear tip sank into the chest of his armored uniform and smashed his bones.
He was thrown back from there.
With a great sound of impact, his body flew backwards.
She brought her feet to the ground and stopped herself. She swung up G-Sp2, spun it in her fingers, and held it under her arm again.
Her wings vibrated and produced noise.
“But it seems I’ve become a bit of a better person.”
Even as she spoke, Ikkou spread his legs and landed. The soles of his shoes slipped back along the dry dirt of the backyard and he raised his Azure Dragon Sword again.
“Ha ha. You regained your energy quick-…”
Before he finished, Kazami had circled behind him.
He gasped and shook in surprise, but this was nothing to be shocked about.
It was simple. As long as she used her wings and swung her body, she could circle around faster than him.
“Such speed,” he said.
“Oh? This is my average speed…when facing an enemy anyway.”
“Oh? So I am your enemy, am I?”
“Yes,” she replied.
She raised her eyebrows and pushed the spear tip into Ikkou’s back.
“Or at the very least, you aren’t my teammate.”
She poured all of her strength into a point-blank range strike.
The sound of impact shook the air, but the sound of flapping wings accompanied it.
Ikkou was launched parallel to the ground, but Kazami caught up and calmly made another attack.
“You turned your blade on people I care about. While it is my fault they got hurt…”
The additional hit sent him flying even faster, but she used her wings to soar above the ground and line up alongside him again. She attacked from the side this time.
“You are still an enemy for not stopping your blade.”
She struck him from below to launch him up into the air at a right angle.
He flew around a dozen meters into the sky, but she circled above him in an instant.
With the light of the moon behind her, she pressed the spear tip against Ikkou’s back as he reached the peak of his ascent and briefly stopped.
“Yes, you aren’t my teammate. After all…”
She sent him flying straight down.
However, she accelerated down after him and struck his back again as she caught up.
“My teammates are elsewhere. I may not have any strength…”
She hit him yet again to accelerate him further.
“But they still want me on their team.”
Yes, that’s right, she thought. Let’s go form a team.
Not a team prepared only for the Leviathan Road, but a team that will last forever.
We won’t think we’re strong anymore. We’ll gather together to become strong.
As long as we keep that in mind, we won’t let our guard down.
“And we won’t lose!”
She activated G-Sp2’s second form and fired the cannon down.
After a direct hit on Ikkou, the ground and the light exploded.
This left a crater ten meters across and the sound filled the entire area.
The hospital building shook and the reinforced glass bent and broke.
With the rising wind washing over her from below, Kazami rested G-Sp2 on her shoulder fifteen meters up in the air.
“You’re still alive, aren’t you?”
“You can tell?”
Ikkou stood in the center of the crater.
He was surrounded by shimmering heat, his armored uniform was in tatters, and his hair was a complete mess.
But the light in his eyes had not faded and his weapon was unharmed.
He faced to the side and spat a dark clump to the ground.
“Well done, Kazami-sama. I suppose that would be around sixty points.”
“I’d like another forty beyond that.”
He laughed and sighed.
“It will be too late by the time the battle ends, so I will take this time to tell you of the past we know.”
“Yes, my brothers promised to give you the Concept Core and some information on Japanese UCAT’s past if you defeat us.”
He looked up at her with a sharp look in his eyes.
“Just once in the past, someone took data on our Concept Cores after realizing we had them.”
“…? Just once? Who was it!?”
“Well,” he said. “Someone who was attempting to find a just way to rule the world.”
“What?” she asked.
She did not know what he meant. Was there such a thing as a just way to rule the world?
However, he continued speaking.
“It is fine if you do not understand. I am sure the Army will tell you soon enough. And I have no time. …Kazami-sama, let us prepare the stage for our battle.”
“Sure, but how?”
“How about this?”
Ikkou held something overhead. It was a fist-sized black sphere.
“This is my brother Mitsuaki’s Concept Core. It arrived just now. You know what his concept does, I assume.”
Kazami gulped a bit.
That concept prevented her from understanding anyone else. That had been the trigger to her previous loss against Ikkou.
The man opened his mouth with a smile in his eyes.
“Then let us begin. Working together is the best part of being brothers!!”
With that shout, a voice reached Kazami’s ears.
—There is no mutual understanding.
Those words robbed Kazami of all her senses.
After Ikkou opened the concept space, he took a certain action.
The breath contained some blood.
He spat out the clump of blood and wiped his mouth.
…My end is coming soon, too.
Mitsuaki had been defeated and there was no response from Nijun or Yonkichi either.
“Give me a good answer.”
He looked up while trying to catch his breath and he saw Kazami sitting motionless in midair.
Her eyes were closed as if in quiet thought, so Ikkou prepared his Azure Dragon Sword.
He prepared an iai strike from below and to the left.
He then spoke to this opponent who could not hear him.
“I will now make the greatest attack I can muster. You can block it if you like and you can deflect it if you like. Either way, I will die satisfied. This is…”
He let out a bitter laugh.
“This is in exchange for all the trouble I have caused you.”
He twisted far to the left, took a deep breath, held it, and sank down a bit.
He suddenly moved. He sent his right heel forward, and pushed his body up with his left knee.
He raised his right elbow forward, reversed his wrist while stretching his entire body upwards, and stood on his right leg while swinging up the Azure Dragon Sword.
The instant he moved, the blade broke the sound barrier.
…This will work!!
His body’s movements linked together and there was no shaking or wobbling in the blade’s path.
There was no hesitation in this attack. He swung it through its entire moon-like arc.
Surrounded by exploding water vapor and enduring exploding wind, Ikkou used his vertically stretched body to look up at his enemy.
The moon was visible behind the spear-wielding and winged girl.
And a certain sound reached his ears.
It was a song.
Even during the battle, he heard a song in the girl’s voice.
Kazami sang in the moonlight.
She sang the same hymn as when holding the baby: Silent Night.
As she closed her eyes and sang with no excess information reaching her, her unheard voice rode on the wind and filled the world.
In her hands, G-Sp2 resonated with the song and vibrated like a tuning fork.
And the song’s vibration in the wind reached her skin.
She could not see the world, but the world came to her. It returned her voice to her.
The earth echoed, the building resonated, and the night sky fell silent, but all of that was the world’s response.
…Why was I so tense?
She could not understand others in this world, but there were things she could learn as her own voice returned to her.
She had been unable to do this the day before. Both when faced with this concept and when faced with Sayama’s order to disband.
But she was fine now.
She had learned something.
She knew why she had been so angry about Sayama’s order.
…Back then, I felt like my efforts weren’t being recognized.
But I was wrong, she realized while singing below the moon.
Nothing anyone said could change how much she had fought or that she had protected the Leviathan Road.
So her job was to do her very best to protect the others and accomplish something.
If she did that, her efforts would be recognized without her having to point them out.
Sayama must have known that after fighting alongside them so many times.
But he must have sensed their carelessness.
After growing strong, they were relying on their strength, forgetting their original intentions, and losing sight of what they needed to do.
If they merely wielded their power, they would grow intoxicated on that power and end up filled with fear.
He had hinted at this by having them disband, but that was likely because of the approaching battle with the great power of the Army.
…But I’m weak and my lack of confidence made me lose hope.
And to hide her weakness, she had relied on her power, but that had made her fear that power, lose, and fail to protect what really mattered.
She needed to trust in something other than strength and she had understood that in the past.
…Yes, it used to be more than just words. I really did understand.
Once, she had tried to protect Sayama and Shinjou and led a werewolf to take his own life.
She had worried over that and her decision had been to leave flowers for him and to never forget it.
At the time, she had not tried to justify her actions to anyone. She had not tried to use the werewolf’s death as proof of how much her teammates mattered or how hard she had worked.
She had received the sin as the sin it was.
She was stubborn, but she had tried to grow stronger.
But after gaining more teammates…
…Why did I get so full of myself and grow soft?
If she stayed like that, her teammates would not want her around.
And that was why she had a new thought.
A teammate was someone to share her joy with as they fought and protected each other.
And they were someone to notice the flower she silently set down and line up their own flowers next to hers.
She had people who would understand without her having to say a word.
…So I just need to do everything I can.
She smiled bitterly when she suddenly remembered snapping back at Sayama.
I’m such an idiot, she thought as the bitterness left the smile.
…But it’s partly that idiot’s fault for always choosing the most eccentric way to express something.
That had not turned out well. She thought about having a word with him next time, even if Shinjou was with him.
After all, he was a stupid underclassman and he was doing what she had once done.
Long ago, she had injured someone during her club activities and quit the club.
But after meeting Izumo and beginning to fight, she had heard about a certain strange first year student.
The boy had gone to karate competitions, but after injuring his left hand, he had quit karate altogether.
As a replacement for karate, he had searched for a place to get serious and he had ended up alongside them.
There was one thing she had wanted to ask him eventually: aren’t you ever going to clench your left hand again?
…But I’m glad I didn’t say it.
If she had said that when she didn’t realize how weak she was, it would have shown how little she understood.
I’m sure he’ll figure it out on his own without me saying anything, she realized.
So she stopped singing and nodded to herself.
“Let’s go. It’s time we formed a team again.”
She could hear where her enemy was, so was that enough to say she knew where he was?
Ikkou launched a straight line of shockwaves toward her.
She responded with a strike from her spear of light.
She was filled with an inappropriate curiosity about who would win.
…Ikkou-san, you’re thinking the same thing, aren’t you?
She also knew what G-Sp2 had to be saying: this is fun.
So she took a midair step and dove straight down.
The silence of the attack below was her path to him.
To resume fighting, she prepared to crush him.
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