Owari no Chronicle:Volume11 Chapter 29
Chapter 29: The First Step
That walk is swift
That walk is strong
That walk never ends
Hajji opened his eyes in the darkness.
The surrounding darkness confused him. He did not know where he was.
He only knew he was sitting on something that shook and he was surrounded by shadow.
…Where am I?
He then remembered he was inside a moving vehicle.
He was on the way to UCAT for the attack that night.
He checked his watch and found less than an hour had passed since they had gathered in front of the Takao factory.
He shrugged his drowsy shoulders in annoyance and he heard a woman speak in front of him.
“You sure are calm. You seemed to be having a pretty good dream.”
He saw a large woman in a white combat coat. It was Jord.
She smiled bitterly, but he gave no response and looked around to check on the situation.
The back of the transport truck had been transformed into a hangar and men and women were standing silently along the left and right wall. They were accompanied by another three trucks that would also be filled with pre-battle tension.
In the night, he heard the wind blowing across the truck and the tires racing along the road.
In front of him, Jord opened her mouth to break the silence.
“It certainly is strange to be fighting alongside you. …10th and 9th never got along and, if it hadn’t been for all of you, my friend and daughter wouldn’t have died so soon.”
“I see. I’m sure you’re just angry, but I suppose I’ll ask. Yes. What was your friend’s name?”
Hajji covered his mouth with a hand and lowered his eyebrows.
“That would indeed be my fault. Yes. A real shame.”
“Well, it was technically due to 9th-Gear’s politicians. 9th-Gear’s king took a holy spear containing half of 9th’s concepts to Low-Gear and died there. That didn’t leave enough power to activate Zahhak.”
“When I returned, I tried to stop Zahhak’s activation for that very reason, but the palace had a connection to an underground organization in 10th-Gear and they stole Thor’s Hammer to use the 10th concepts it contained to help activate Zahhak. Yes, that was quite the commotion.”
That must have been a tough time for the politicians too, he thought.
…And after Thor’s Hammer was brought back and Shahrnavaz gave up…
“She combined with Zahhak as its brain to protect me from the false accusations of abandoning the king.”
“What? Did you say something?”
“No, nothing. Nothing at all, Jord. That has nothing to do with anyone but me. Yes. …But a group with no one controlling it is always a problem no matter what time period you’re talking about. Isn’t that right? In the early days, a lot of people in the Army tried to randomly take revenge on UCAT.”
“So you purged your own followers, leaving you with the group you have now?”
“That’s right,” said Hajji.
The truck shook as it turned left and tilted up a slope. It was a long slope leading up a mountain.
“I see. So we’ve started to cross the mountain leading into Okutama. Not long until the battle now. …With the people here and the doll unit coming later, we should be able to reach the center of Japanese UCAT.”
“But how do you plan to eliminate the concepts?”
“I have a way. Yes. And I know where they can be destroyed.”
“Where they can be destroyed?”
“Yes.” He nodded. “I’ve only ever heard of it, but the person who explained it actually saw it there. They said we could ‘do whatever we wanted’ with the concepts if we go there. …And I’m sure UCAT would end up there if they did complete the Leviathan Road.”
“Where is that?”
“Why do you want to know? But either way, I will end up talking about that tonight. You can look forward to it if you like. …More importantly, all of you need to think about what to do afterwards. The concepts of the other worlds will no longer belong to UCAT. Your concepts that support your reservations will be the only ones left.”
As he spoke, the floor shook vertically.
Everyone in the back of the truck lowered down and held their weapons close.
Meanwhile, Hajji continued.
“Once the concepts are taken from UCAT and destroyed and once UCAT itself is defeated, the different Gear reservations will have to adjust from being protected and ruled by UCAT. This will reset the world. I suppose 4th and 8th will fall under 10th’s protection.”
“Are you trying to create a new world?”
“No, we will return Low-Gear to its original form. Once the Gears are no longer held hostage through the Concept Cores and reservations, they can hold proper negotiations with Low-Gear. Yes, that would be for the best. Everything will return to a blank slate and continue from there. We only need to crush UCAT and disappear ourselves.”
The truck sped up and everyone prepared their weapons.
Once the speed lowered and the truck came to a stop, the attack would begin.
As the truck descended to its destination, Hajji held his own weapon and formed a slight smile.
“We are not creating a new world. We are creating what can be called the true world.”
Kazami gathered her things in a moonlit room.
She put her half coat on over X-Wi and held G-Sp2 with a bag wrapped around the tip.
“It’s dark,” said the spear’s console.
“Bear with it. I’ll remove it once we get outside.”
She extended a hand toward the corner of the room where two fist-sized spheres floated.
One was blue and the other black.
They swayed as her hand reached them. They almost seemed to be hesitating.
But soon the blue sphere seemed pulled in toward her and the black one followed.
They flew to either side of her and into her half coat’s pockets.
She started to close the pockets, but smiled bitterly and stopped.
“Why do inorganic things seem to like me so much?”
She looked across the room.
The baby was no longer on the chair. She had returned it to its original place before the concept space vanished.
V-Sw leaned against the wall. The armor-covered sword’s shape had changed somewhat.
Its console flashed randomly and Izumo slept in the bed next to it.
Izumo’s left arm stuck out from the bed. The solid cast on the elbow had broken and a fairly pale left arm grew from there. It was a newly made arm.
“Was that the healing power of 10th-Gear’s world tree and the power of destruction and regeneration of 6th-Gear?”
Some things felt a little off inside her own body. Some areas seemed to be moving a little better as if they had been modified.
She looked over at V-Sw and G-Sp2.
“You forgave me just once for not understanding you and losing because of it, didn’t you? But the next time I lose will be for real, so that won’t happen again. Isn’t that right?”
“We are strict.”
She smiled a little at that blunt response and looked at Izumo who seemed to be sleeping.
“Thank you. I would have died if you hadn’t protected me. And I need to thank the others too. I need to thank them for being with me.”
She slowly lowered her head and placed her lips on his.
After some damp time passed, she moved away.
“I’m going on ahead. And remember. From now on, my heart will not go with you. Even when we’re walking side by side, remember that I will be hoping to go with you. And…”
“I think I’ll try to have more confidence in myself. No matter what anyone says and no matter how much I worry over what my actions lead to, I’ll always try to do my very best.”
“So I’ll always be fresh.”
She looked at V-Sw and the words written on the white sword’s console.
“See you later.”
She nodded, stepped out the door, and entered the hallway.
She hesitated for a moment but began to run.
The head nurse looked her way from in front of the nurse station.
“Oh, are you really okay? It seems everyone is rushing over here.”
“I’m fine, so please tell them to head back. I’ll go meet them myself.”
She held up G-Sp2 with the bag over it.
The head nurse’s eyes stopped on the weapon and finally seemed to realize it had been repaired. She looked surprised and smiled.
“Do your best.”
Just before she started down the stairs, Kazami spotted someone in front of the nursery window.
…It’s that child’s mother.
The woman looked at her just like before.
“Are you heading out? And with some big tool?”
“Yes, well… It’s for a bit of a part time job.”
“Is that so?”
The woman tilted her head but gave a genuine smile.
“The head nurse told me something odd just now. She said you saved my child.”
“I’d say it was the opposite actually.”
“Oh, and sorry. …I took his first kiss. But I had a reason for it, so don’t get the wrong idea.”
Kazami bowed and the woman looked down at her in utter confusion.
But when she looked back up, the woman tilted her head.
“First kiss? Um, I’m not quite sure what you mean…but my child is a girl.”
Kazami dropped her head forward and looked the woman in the eye.
She swallowed her voice and let out a deep laugh.
She doubled over, came to a personal understanding, and suddenly looked up.
She nodded toward the mother of the child who had helped her out.
“Thank you very much.”
As soon as she raised her head again, she ran down the stairs.
She skipped one step, then two, and desired to continue on and on.
Why did she feel so lighthearted and elated?
Her heart felt like wind. It would sometimes blow violently along, crash into a wall, and smash to pieces, but it would also rise into the air as it freely went where it pleased.
This had to be a time for that positive side of the wind.
As she descended the staircase, she reached into her pocket and pulled out a letter. It was the letter of advice Brunhild had left.
It was a little late for that, but she opened it anyway and found a single line of writing.
“I’m sure an idiot like you will win regardless, so I’m not going to write anything.”
“Well, of course.”
She quickly jumped down the circling staircase.
She ran outside and into the moonlit night wind.
A band of light shined below the night sky.
The light illuminated a long strip of asphalt in a valley between mountains.
It was a runway.
The asphalt covering the three kilometer runway was brand new.
In exchange for the new asphalt, thick walls two meters tall continued along either side of the runway. They were barricades made using the piles of the old broken asphalt.
The top of the barricades had been made roughly flat and a few figures walked along them.
They were automatons wearing UCAT combat maid outfits and philosopher’s stones that allowed them to remain active in the outside world.
They carried machineguns at their waists and they constantly monitored their surroundings with their sight and concept senses.
There were so few of them on patrol because their individual senses could cover a wide area, but they would be replaced by other maid automatons quite frequently. This also helped provide a change of pace since they would otherwise be inside all the time.
They were deployed to more areas than just the runway. Some were in the southern and northern forests and some were in the front of the 1st-Gear reservation to the west.
They patrolled in groups of two, but they did not communicate with their voices.
They handled everything through their shared memory.
“This is 56th Iris on patrol with #57. Nothing to report at the southwestern edge of the southern forest.”
“Testament. Please return. #93 and 94th Camellia are next, so they will take your place.”
“Yes, sir. …What are you working on there?”
“Currently, we are opening up most of the camouflaged building’s third floor and piling up the equipment and explosives in case of an attack. The cafeteria will act as a base and this will be the storage area. To prevent an external attack, the defense shutters have a concept saying ‘—You cannot enter here’ applied.”
“Yes, sir. This is using a lot of special equipment, so I have determined it must be tough. I hear Lady Miyako took command of Izumo UCAT’s mass-production of reflection concept philosopher’s stones to oppose the thought compulsion concept that girl used when she visited UCAT.”
“Testament. Those arrived by air a while ago and have been carried to the third floor. I have determined they will be helpful.”
The automatons used their shared memory to transfer what they saw as data.
Large concept barrier emitters were set up at the four corners of the runway.
The devices had six barrel-shaped metal objects arranged in a circle, they each created an area of gravitational control around themselves, and they prevented large machines from flying. Their effective range was approximately five kilometers. As soon as an unregistered philosopher’s stone reading was scanned approaching through the air, the reading would be taken inside the concept space and sent straight down.
The automatons covered the ground and the barrier emitters covered the sky.
Just in case, a prefab station was set up by the runway. Light still came from the prefab building located next to kneeling gods of war hidden by covers. If anything happened, the god of war pilots could immediately board them.
Negotiations were underway to have other countries’ UCATs help with security, but American UCAT’s Yokota branch had decided on its own to rush over in an emergency. If anything happened, their mechanical dragons would arrive within ten minutes.
In truth, Japan had wanted American UCAT to remain in Japanese UCAT permanently, but the other nations’ UCATs had put a stop to it so that the United States would not gain such an advantage. Unfortunately, that had led to the other nations’ UCATs hesitating to help with security now.
They were currently planning to have a meeting on the subject come November.
The automatons were aware of all this and they had their own thoughts on it.
“Yes, sir. This world has yet to unify itself,” said one.
“Testament. That means world peace is reliant on our work here.”
Happy to be given work like that, they continued to move.
Their vision could see through the darkness and see heat.
However, one could easily hide from that using concept camouflage.
Their greatest advantage was their ability to detect faint philosopher’s stone readings while only being the size of a human.
The Army’s weapons would be altered with concepts.
During day or night and even when hidden by cover, their eyes could pick up on readings that normal sensors would miss. The effective range of their senses was approximately two kilometers.
Just in case, they formed groups of two. On top of that, the automaton guard groups were given patrol routes that overlapped.
The humans would use sensors and their own eyes from the runway and building and the automatons would make long range patrols.
If they sensed a philosopher’s stone reading, they could send word over their shared memory and immediately have others sent in.
And they worked diligently.
They continued to share a number of words and reports.
“Yes, sir. But is it really efficient for half of us to use ‘yes, sir’ and the other half to use ‘testament’?”
“Then what should we say instead, #93?”
“Why not take the start of one and the end of the other for ‘yestament’ or ‘tes, sir’?”
“I have determined that does not change very much.”
“Yes, sir. 101st Lotus here. Then how about the start of both or the end of both for ‘yestes’ or ‘sirtament’?”
“That is an excellent decision, 101st. How about we see what #8 thinks? …#8?”
They all listened to #8’s unedited thoughts.
“Listen, Ooshiro-sama. How many times do I need to tell you? You are not going to trick me by pretending to pass out again.”
After a while, the automaton that had asked for #8’s opinion spoke again.
“Everyone, I have determined #8 is enjoying her job.”
“Yes, sir. 101st Lotus here. I will add ‘waiting for #8’s response’ to my remaining tasks. …Oh.”
“What is it, 101st? Did something happen?”
“Yes, sir. I spotted a puppy and a black dog. They are wearing collars, so there is nothing strange about-…”
But her voice vanished. The supervisor automaton waited several seconds which was a very long time for an automaton.
“101st Lotus, #100? What is the matter? …I can still detect your presence.”
She received a response via their shared memory, but it was not in words.
The response was as follows.
The automatons mentally tilted their heads at the voice they heard and they all mimicked it.
After a while, the one who had given that response, 101st, spoke.
“Oh… S-sorry about that.”
“Of course…but are you okay? If there is a problem with your memory functions, you can go in for maintenance.”
“I’m fine. I think it was just a moment of confusion and we were on our way there anyway. Send in our replacement.”
“Your replacements are #75 and #77. They just left, so you should be able to see them from there.”
Sudden noise reached them from 101st’s location.
It was gunfire.
Immediately afterwards, static ran through their shared memory.
The supervisor shouted out in response to the static.
“#75 and #77’s functions are dropping! They have been shot!! This is an enemy attack! Determine the enemy’s location!”
After receiving that shared thought, all of the automatons outside headed southwest.
But when they got there…
“101st Lotus here. …Nothing to report.”
“This is #98 in charge of the southern area. I have arrived as well, but there is nothing to report. …Eh? …Kh!”
That voice was accompanied by more gunfire.
After another pause, the supervisor spoke without knowing what to do.
“#98 and #99’s functions are dropping…”
The automatons below the night sky saw something in the southwestern forest. Their thermal vision saw 101st and #100 aiming their machineguns toward the southern area #98 and #99 had been in charge of.
“Why?” one of them muttered.
At the same time, brief silence filled their shared memory.
They all performed high-speed scans on each other and confirmed their settings.
All of the automatons had been given a certain setting as a family.
“We cannot destroy other automatons of our type and only 1st through 3rd can remove that setting from themselves.”
But the footage arriving from the vision of those on the runway showed 101st and #100 firing their machineguns to the southeast. More gunfire reached their ears.
“This is 108th Sasanqua. We are under attack from 101-…”
The voice cut off there.
This left a single fact.
The automatons with the numbers 101 and 100 were being controlled by some kind of power.
However, none of them could act. They wanted to stop the two of them, but their settings prevented them from destroying their fellow automatons.
But then how could those two destroy them so easily?
They could not find an answer. To change that, they all spoke to the supervisor.
“Send out UCAT!!”
But before they received a response, another voice reached them.
It was 101st’s voice.
Their minds froze up when they heard that mimicked dog bark again.
And then they heard it a third time, but that was followed by another voice.
“Ahem. Can you hear me, automatons? Well? Hm?”
The automatons’ minds ground to a halt.
They did not recognize this voice at all.
The automatons could not move.
There were three reasons for this.
First, how had someone else cut into their shared thoughts?
Second, they had no idea how they were supposed to react to this unexpected turn of events.
And third, they could not determine what was going to happen.
What were they supposed to do?
All of them decided they had to tell someone other than themselves about this.
But they could not.
Their thoughts and their shared memory were being locked down by someone else. Their shared memory used machines as an intermediary, but unlike Low-Gear’s artificial intelligences, theirs were true artificial thoughts.
It should have been impossible for anyone else to intervene.
That was why their automatic thoughts determined this was some kind of misunderstanding.
However, they also wondered if this could possibly be a misunderstanding.
This was affecting every single one of them, so that left two possibilities.
First, the same misunderstanding had occurred in all of them simultaneously.
Or second, someone had interfered with their shared memory with a method that exceeded their own abilities.
In order to reject the latter possibility, the 3rd automatons decided that no one could exceed their abilities.
And it was also possible to assume a common misunderstanding could occur in all of them at once because they were built on common standards.
Ergo, this supposed fact was actually a misunderstanding on their part.
All of their artificial brains instructed them to ignore the misunderstanding and continue with their work.
But one thought inside them said their conclusion was wrong and the thought process began anew.
Their thoughts looped thousands, millions, and even billions of times. The doubt in their minds was opposing the fundamental decision-making part of themselves.
But their thoughts never reached a definite conclusion and the infinitely looping thoughts left the automatons motionless.
But just before they all froze up, a certain automaton added in a new thought.
“We are excellent.”
The 3rd automatons knew what it meant to be excellent.
They had been taught that during the Leviathan Road battle three months prior.
An excellent individual could admit their own defeat, would continue trying to win despite that, and would try to stay at the same level as both winner and loser.
And a doll that could admit to her own mistakes and inexperience was treated kindly by her master.
A certain memory returned to the automatons. It was the memory of one of their own losing and being carried by a human.
That confirmed for them that they could lose and admitting that fact led to a single conclusion.
“3rd’s automatons are excellent. It is unthinkable for all of us to reach the same erroneous conclusion!”
One of them shouted those words. It was weak and not quite a cry, but the one speaking out against her own control had been given an obedient personality.
“So this is the truth! Our minds are being invaded by someone!!”
With those words, all of the automatons came to their senses.
They broke free of their infinitely looping thoughts and awoke.
Someone was interfering with their shared thoughts.
And this was not a misunderstanding of a single unit. It was a phenomenon occurring in every single one of them.
Something supposedly impossible was happening.
This was a contradiction, but it was also a fact.
And that fact reached them in the form of words.
“Well done. Yes. An excellent recovery. I would expect nothing less of a product of the Gear of dolls!”
The dolls hearing those words as fact shouted back as one mind.
“Who are you!?”
The individual units had yet to fully recover from the contradictory thoughts, but their artificial minds put up their guard and they stopped moving while speaking to the intruder.
“We demand you free the compromised units!”
“I can’t do that. No, I definitely can’t do that.”
The voice answered without delay and continued before they could say anything more.
“Unfortunately, we have taken control of two automatons. Yes, I’m truly sorry. I really am, but that’s why I would like it if you did not resist. Yes.”
“Who are you?”
“Is saying I’m Hajji of the Army enough? We’re on our way there as quickly as we can. So could you form a wall and wait for us? Well? Hm?”
The tone of voice was awfully calm for what it was saying.
And 56th Iris sent out a quiet thought from the southwestern area.
“We are under attack!! There are 121 of them and a great number of small animals. I have determined the animals are dogs! But…they are thermally and conceptually identical to real dogs and yet I cannot hear a single pulse from the entire group! These dogs are made from high-density information, so I have determined control of 101st and #100’s artificial brains was taken by them!”
56th’s next words were muffled by gunshots.
“Hurry! Even as we hesitate, the enemy is-…”
Her thoughts cut out and something else could be heard instead.
An alarm blared from Japanese UCAT and a large group of footsteps filled the southern forest.
Countless enemies ran into view from that forest.
They were a kilometer and a half from UCAT’s disguised building.
The enemy was too close.
All of the automatons had that same thought as they began to move.
The time they had spent frozen had been devastating. The fact that automatons from 3rd had been “hijacked” had slowed everything down.
Japanese UCAT’s night guards had sensed danger in the automatons’ silence and they had come charging out, but even that had been too slow.
The enemy had already left the forest and reached the runway.
It would take too long for the god of war pilots to leave the station and start up the gods of war.
They had all expected an attack by mechanical dragons or gods of war. They had thought an attack too quick to react to would destroy the UCAT building or grounds and then the Army would come pouring in.
But the Army had begun on foot.
More and more people in black armored uniforms appeared from the forest.
They cut across the lawn next to the runway that contained the station and barricade and they ran toward the runway.
They climbed over the barricade and looked west to see a straight shot to the white building.
They only had to make a run for it.
They had a great number of dogs running at their feet and they were led by an elderly Arab man with a black turban around his head.
101st and #100 accompanied him on either side.
The blowing wind was the sound of late autumn and the elderly man spun his weapon in his hands.
It was a Cowling Spear with a sword-like blade attached.
He held it under one arm, crouched low, and stared straight at the white building.
“Now, let’s get this started.”
The automatons did not move, but he did.
He moved forward and took the first step of a run.
“This will bring the end, so…don’t hold back.”
As soon as he spoke, the battle with the advancing black forces began.
A light traveled west toward Okutama starting from a road near a hospital in the mountains.
The light took the form of wings and flew straight up into the night sky.
Two people on the ground looked up at the wings of light.
They stood in front of a vending machine below a streetlight in front of the hospital.
One was a gray-haired woman in a black suit and the other was a well-build elderly man in a white suit.
The woman took a sip from a can labeled “Black Coffee – Extra Bitter”.
“What do you think of tonight’s events, President Izumo?”
“Well, I do want to know what my stupid son is doing sleeping. Don’t you agree, Diana-kun?”
The man, Izumo Retsu, drank from a coffee can printed with a giant abstract image of a professional wrestler.
“But…how should I put it? The Izumo family has always been really lucky with women. Two goddesses in a row and now an angel who can tame a dragon, even if she seemed hopeless for a bit there. Did you see that, Diana-kun? You did, didn’t you? She took care of her opponent so quickly it even shocked me a little. Now that’s what I’m talking about!”
“Are you not going to greet her?”
“Eh? No, it’s best to just hide and watch these things. …And I knew she was going to win anyway.”
“Why would you think that? She almost died.”
He looked up into the whiteness of the moon, but suddenly stopped.
“No, I can’t. If I said anything here, it would sound so cool I’d make myself blush. Ha ha. Give me a break here, Diana-kun.”
“I see you haven’t changed.”
“That’s not really true. I don’t like to admit it, but I’m a lot different from a decade ago. After all…”
He nodded and crossed his arms while still holding the can of coffee.
“I really don’t like to admit it, but…I’ve aged ten years in the past decade.”
“You don’t get mad like you used to, Diana-kun. That makes this a lot less fun. How about it?”
“I’ve simply learned how to hide it inside. …How to hide everything inside.”
Diana shrugged and turned toward the hospital.
“Are you going to go see the Izumo boy?”
“That idiot will live on even if I don’t. And he can come to me. I need to make sure I don’t die before then, so I have a lot of work to do.”
“Everyone from the Izumo family is a real pain to deal with.”
“There are other problems, too.”
Diana tilted her head, so Retsu elaborated with a bitter smile.
“You see, the 10th-Gear reservation contacted me personally. Annoyingly enough, a god named Jord who’s also my mother-in-law seems to have left the reservation.”
“She said she’s joining the Army. See, I told you there are other problems. The Army is coming.”
Diana gasped and Retsu narrowed his eyes and looked up at the moon.
“I think I’ll go see just how far my mother and wife’s protection can reach. Just how powerful are the feelings of those two who so loved this world’s moon?”
He held the can up toward the moon.
“And if they end up losing…well, destruction can be amusing too.”
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