Owari no Chronicle:Volume11 Chapter 31
Chapter 31: A Small Amount of Truth
There is so little of it
Because it is so important
Hajji was so very close to the white building that had lost its upper floors.
The front entrance was not open.
But they did not need to get in through there. They could always shatter the lobby glass, break a window, or blow a hole in a wall.
But the enemy was numerous and reaching the building would not be easy.
But, thought Hajji.
…A stalemate on the battlefield is interesting too!
He cleared the center of the roundabout in a single leap on his way to the white building.
He was surrounded by the white army, but he was already on the move.
As soon as he landed, he knocked aside the three men in white armored uniforms standing in front of him.
His steel spear bent, split their clothes at the chest, smashed their armor, and sent them flying.
Three impacts rang out in quick succession and the three of them bent back and flew through the air, clearing the way ahead.
Originally, I was going to say it here, he thought. I was going to tell them we would forgive them if they withdrew.
But he did not say it.
Instead, he spun on his heel and used the rotation to knock away the approaching enemies.
He rotated a full three hundred sixty degrees.
The next sound was that of the men forcefully charging his way being flung away from him.
But he faced forward without even glancing in their direction.
“So you’re here.”
Hajji powerfully raised his spear overhead as he spoke.
A moment later, the metal spear shaft deflected something upwards.
He knew what it was it had deflected: a spear tip someone had sent his way.
He also knew who had done it. In fact, he could already see the person swinging a spear down in front of him.
“So you’re here, Abram Mesam! And is it just me or are you not using B-Sp? Hm?”
“That weapon should not be used on human opponents.”
“I see,” said Hajji with a nod.
And immediately afterwards…
“Do you think you have room to go easy on me!?”
He deflected Abram’s metal spear toward the heavens.
Abram jumped back and Hajji leaped after him.
Abram landed first, gained solid footing, and jabbed his spear forward.
Hajji twisted around in midair.
He dropped his right heel on the back of Abram’s spear tip.
He timed it exactly right and successfully kicked Abram’s spear tip down and into the asphalt.
The metal loudly smashed the stone.
Hajji landed while holding down Abram’s spear tip with the bottom of his foot.
He also used his momentum for a spear strike on Abram’s face.
The attack pierced through the wind.
This was enough to gather the attention of the others fighting around them.
Some called Hajji’s name and some called Abram’s name.
Carried by those voices, Hajji’s spear flew straight for Abram’s face.
Abram turned to the side to avoid it.
The spear tip grazed his cheek as it flew past him.
Abram then did something one normally never did in armed combat.
He let go of his spear.
He grabbed Hajji’s spear with both hands and pulled while also sending a kick toward Hajji.
Hajji forcefully doubled over.
However, the kick never reached him.
As if pushed by the wind caused by the kick, he bent backwards.
And he too let go of his spear.
He stepped back and stomped on the spear tip below his right foot.
The tip acted as a fulcrum, so the spear stood up and stopped right in Hajji’s waiting hand.
By that time, Abram had turned around the spear he had stolen and begun an attack.
Hajji blocked the attack and continued blocking.
He blocked four and then five attacks. After the number grew to eight and then nine, he did something else.
But this went beyond the corners of his mouth rising. He opened his mouth wide and bared his teeth as if to bite at something.
“Ha ha! It’s been a long time since I’ve smiled like this!!”
Pushed on by his own words, he powerfully deflected Abram’s spear with the back end of his own.
He no longer hid his smile behind a hand.
The look on his face was of pure joy.
“I hate to admit it, but it’s you! It has to be you! Yes, you are my enemy!!”
Abram did not answer.
Those fighting around them answered in his stead. They found small openings in their own battles and sent their gazes and voices toward those two.
Cries of their two names repeated again and again.
As everyone watched on, the two spears trailed white threads of water vapor and their feet and attacks shook the earth and wind.
In just an instant, the two of them moved several dozen meters. In an even shorter amount of time, they sent out countless attacks and sparks.
Their armored uniforms flew behind them and the soles of their shoes left their tread patterns on the asphalt.
The area in front of the white building had become a combat space no one but them could enter.
Hajji heard voices calling his name.
He heard voices calling his enemy’s name.
It’s been so long, he thought. It’s been sixty years since I was cheered on like this.
With that cry, he drew out all his strength.
He heard a sound.
He did not hear it with his ears.
It was the pulse of the battlefield.
The sound did not truly exist.
His heart knew this sound.
It showed him the battle.
It showed him the lies, the truth, his opponent, and himself.
It began with footsteps.
The pounding boots rang loud.
The footsteps reverberated through his entire body.
The sound of the wind stimulated his emotions.
The sound of a blade cleared his surroundings.
The sound of guns pierced through the area ahead.
And he heard the pounding of his heart.
That pounding became a voice.
The voice asked him to settle this.
The impacts as they clashed, the bright sparks, the sharp will to fight, and the pressure of being a leader all filled him with joy.
“But Abram, how about we bring this to an end?”
He attacked again and again and listened to the many roars of impact.
“Can you trust the voices that support you?”
Abram did not answer that question, but he replied in a different way.
He began a ferocious offensive.
Metal collided, Hajji was pushed back, and he could not help but fall back.
He raised his eyebrows and saw Shino watching worriedly in the distance. Mikoku purposefully had her back to him where she fought to the south. Jord was looking his way as she fought.
He felt as if they were all asking him what he would do.
He knew exactly what he would do.
This attack led into his opponent’s special attack. He had been on the receiving end of this left and right barrage about sixty years ago.
He had continued to defend and decided to wait for the other man to grow tired, but a sudden attack had come from below.
That was when he had lost his eye. His frantic counterattack had taken the other man’s eye.
He believed he was more skilled, but something bothered him.
…Back then, I panicked and attacked.
He had defeated thousands or even tens of thousands of opponents, but a single unexpected attack had filled him with fear.
Skill did not come down to a simple matter of victory or defeat. They had received equivalent damage, but…
…I lost that fight.
Hajji shifted from defense to offense. He moved quickly and sought nothing more than a swift and accurate strike.
He cried out and their attacks clashed. In that instant, a memory resurrected in the back of his mind.
It was coming.
He sensed the same attack from below as in the past, but…
He shook free of the past and moved on reflex.
He sank down and held his raised spear over his head.
An intense impact rang through the raised spear shaft.
It was a heavy strike that seemed to drive him into the ground, but he withstood it.
He clenched his teeth, endured, and confirmed something a moment later.
…I just broke through that unpleasant past!
He held the spear up in a short grip like it was a sword. He swung down the tip like a sword blade to slice Abram’s head in two.
But that was when he noticed something.
Abram’s metal spear was still bending as it pressed down, but the man let go of it with both hands.
Abram made a split-second decision.
Inertia had bent his spear, so he could not immediately pull it back. Instead, he let go of it.
He then grabbed the spear Hajji had a short raised grip on.
He grabbed the spear shaft and forced it down. He poured all of his weight and strength on it.
Hajji’s hands seemed to be bringing his own blade down on himself.
It was a single-edged blade, but the area near the point was sharp enough to cut if it was lowered in a straight line.
With a scraping sound, the eyepatch covering Hajji’s left eye was cut through in an instant.
It also split his left shoulder and sent a flash of cutting light from his chest to his waist.
The blade found flesh.
The slicing sound filled the air, the spear left Hajji’s hands, and the black army cried out as if gasping.
But Abram faced Hajji without turning toward the others.
He picked up his own spear and looked to the man who had fallen to his knees.
…So it ends here.
At that very moment, Hajji’s collapse suddenly stopped.
Abram noticed that Hajji had fallen into a sitting position before collapsing.
To keep the cut shallow, he had leaned backwards while escaping downwards.
Blood flowed from the slice in his black armor and his left arm was not moving, but he got up.
“You’re too soft. …Didn’t I tell you to finish someone off when you defeat them?”
Abram looked Hajji in the eye. In both eyes. The right eye was black and the left…
“It exists…but it doesn’t, does it?”
Hajji spoke as he got up from the ground.
“This is a copy of the concept held by Shahrnavaz…by Zahhak who you destroyed. The concept sealed inside the holy spear Barmayeh was the bright flame of motion, so the concept inside Zahhak was the deep darkness of stillness. Everything seen by this eye is brought to a stop, but it all breaks to pieces because it can’t endure it.”
He gave a brief pause.
“Receive the gaze of Shahrnavaz who was always watching you!!”
Abram leaped back just as an impact covered his entire body.
Shinjou heard Hajji’s shouted words as she took the elevator to the third basement.
She was worried about Abram, but a question occurred to her as well.
“The gaze of Shahrnavaz who was always watching you?”
The way he said it suggested he was close to this Shahrnavaz person.
But what did that have to do with Abram?
…It can’t be.
She frowned and glanced over at Arnavaz.
The woman stood perfectly still and said nothing with her eyes closed. She faced forward just like Shinjou and almost seemed to be ignoring the girl.
Shinjou hesitated, but pulled a photograph from the basket in her hand.
She unfolded quietly it so Arnavaz would not notice and looked to the people of an older era.
She saw Sayama Kaoru, Hiba Ryuutetsu, Siegfried, Thunderson, Rhea, Toshi, and Chao. The man facing the other way in the far back was likely Kinugasa. And…
…Director Abram is…
As she searched through the photograph, an unexpected voice reached her from the side.
“I’m sure he is in that photograph.”
“Eh? Oh, um, sorry!”
“Hm? There is nothing to apologize for. …That is a photograph of the early days of UCAT, isn’t it? My Fereydun from before I met him should be in there.”
“Yes,” agreed Shinjou.
There were quite a few people there in addition to Sayama’s grandfather and his group. A well-built Arab man stood in front of everyone’s luggage and she assumed he was Abram.
But Arnavaz continued speaking while still facing straight forward.
“He was known as a hero. He was a doctor, he had bad eyes, and he was far too skinny to fit the image of a ‘hero’, but he was still a true hero who saved many lives as he worked endlessly for the people.”
Shinjou gulped, looked to Arnavaz, took a breath, and looked back at the photo.
Her stiff body saw someone in the photo that matched Arnavaz’s description.
At the side of Sayama’s grandfather’s group was a skinny Arab man.
He had short hair, he wore a brown coat, and his glasses were looking up toward the sky.
…If that’s Abram, then he’s a completely different person from the current Abram.
Then what was the current Abram?
She was dumbfounded and Arnavaz stood next to her.
The woman continued to face forward, she said nothing, and her expression remained calm.
“Arnavaz-sama, you’ve noticed, haven’t you?”
She did not answer Shinjou’s question, but she did speak.
“Things are so noisy up above.”
Noise seemed to answer her words.
It came from the battlefield beyond the large shaft overhead.
Abram jumped back and Hajji realized he had escaped the range of his vision.
However, his armored uniform was torn and the right knee he had bent for his jump had failed to escape and shattered.
The air between them also shattered, creating a vacuum wave.
Hajji’s gaze did nothing more than stop everything in its range, but stopped objects were brittle.
If the air was stopped, it solidified and the faint movement of the surrounding air would push, bend, and finally break it.
Abram was blown further back by the vacuum wave and Hajji forcefully stood to pursue.
The spear he had held had returned to his enemy’s hands.
He picked up the spear Abram had abandoned in midair and that was originally his.
Instead of running, he made a single quick leap to close the distance with Abram.
Out of the corner of his eye, he saw people looking at him after hearing his words about Shahrnavaz.
He noticed that most of them wore white and he decided that was perfect.
Before revealing the whole truth, he would break down a ridiculous falsehood.
“Listen. Listen carefully!”
He brought his right leg forward and swung his spear up from below.
“This man is going by the name Abram, but he is actually Sarv, king of 9th-Gear!!”
He felt the blow land as he spoke.
“9th-Gear once joined with 3rd to invade Low-Gear. During that mission, the king was betrayed by the politicians, separated from his comrades, and badly injured by a spy.”
Abram was knocked to the right with the sound of breaking bone.
“Everyone thought he was dead, but he actually survived thanks to the medic that all of you originally referred to as Abram! And…”
As Abram flew through the air, Hajji circled behind him in a single step.
He also twisted his body and swung his spear.
“The real Abram died during the battle that destroyed 9th-Gear, but for some unfathomable reason, this man took on his name!! To fully take over the man’s identity, he even married his fiancée!”
Hajji hit Abram’s back with a horizontal strike.
“Your original fiancée, my sister Shahrnavaz, was made into Zahhak and then killed by you! And after betraying me, my sister, and our world, did you forgot all about your past and wish to live in happiness!?”
Abram flew toward the white building’s entrance and Hajji ran after him.
“It is time you lost!!”
Hajji launched his spear tip toward the giant man’s back.
The metal blade sank halfway into the armor on his back just as his body crashed into the disguised building’s front entrance.
The large glass door turned pure white in an instant.
The impact to the entire surface of the bulletproof and explosion-resistant glass utterly destroyed it.
As if opening a hole in the spray of glass, Abram’s body tangled with the door frame and flew inside.
He did not stop even after breaking through the lobby counter.
His giant body and his white armored uniform broke through the cement storeroom wall in the back and disappeared.
The building shook from the continued destruction and more crashing sounds continued afterwards.
As he listened to all that, Hajji raised the spear in his right hand.
He looked to the expanse of darkness leading underground.
“The entrance to the truth has opened!!”
He looked behind him and to Shino.
She stood away from the fighting on the distant southern grass and she squeezed the blue philosopher’s stone hanging from her neck.
She closed her eyes and hid the growing blue light with her hand.
“Please believe us.”
As soon as he heard her speak her compulsory will, Hajji discreetly took a breath.
The chilly wind entered his lungs, strength returned to his eyes, and he spoke his words.
After making sure his voice was working normally, he spoke in his usual tone of voice.
“The truth I just revealed is no more than a preview. Realize that you are fools who were tricked into being led by an old enemy. Yes.”
He said “listen” again as those in white stiffened as if scolded.
This was the power of Shino’s philosopher’s stone. After seeing Abram’s defeat, her will could more easily reach them.
Fully aware of that, Hajji spoke.
As he did, he saw the three large dolls walking along the distant east end of the runway.
“Don’t worry. Defeat isn’t a bad thing. Just die and you won’t have to think about any of that. Yes. …But we will never forgive you even if we see you lose. You understand nothing and yet you think you’re in charge of this world, don’t you? Hm? Therefore…”
He swung down his raised spear forcefully enough to hear it slice through the air.
“The main force will come with me. Let us go change this world. And everyone else… Mikoku!”
Mikoku turned around and he gently narrowed his eyes toward the surprised black-haired girl.
“Protect Shino while taking care of the fools here. You don’t want to leave behind any regrets. Isn’t that right? Hm?”
“…!? Father! I will head down with you!”
He shook his head and gave her a smile with clenched teeth.
“Didn’t you hear me? Don’t leave behind any regrets. So secure our escape route, Mikoku. This is a fierce battlefield and the enemy will be pushing in from outside. So you protect the entrance so none of them can get in and also protect Shino. …How about it? Can you do it?”
She no longer protested.
Instead, her shoulders drooped and her eyes closed.
But a moment later, she trembled and filled with strength once more.
“You won’t listen to anything I say when you ask multiple times like that.”
She opened her eyes and turned her sharp gaze his way.
He looked her firmly in the eye and had an honest thought.
…She’s gathering too much strength, but that might be just right for now.
Don’t force yourself, he thought but did not say.
He simply smiled and did not hide it with his hand.
“Will you do it, Mikoku?”
“I will. I cannot disobey an order from our leader.”
She finally nodded.
Next, she held her drawn sword in her right hand, raised the blade for him to see, and opened her mouth.
“Get going, father. And good luck. I will be waiting here, so hurry back.”
He used the same words she had and turned his back on her.
He used his hand to instruct his unit to follow.
“I’ll be going. …It’s time to have some fun filling you all with regret.”
A white corridor said BF4 on the wall.
Three people ran down the center of the long white passageway.
Two were a young and old man both in a lab coat and one was a maid with red hair.
The young man opened his laptop toward the maid.
“You see, Japanese UCAT’s underground area is currently being split in three using concept space corridors. It splits up the pathways the enemy can use and makes it easier to intercept them. And this is Harumi sleeping this morning. …Did you see it? Then, #8, your role will be…”
“Testament. Kashima-sama, after I escort Ooshiro-sama to the fifth basement, I will join my fellow automatons because the enemy’s dog ghosts might be able to reach our brains even underground.”
Her voice was calm and Kashima nodded in understanding.
“I see. But where are those dog ghosts now?”
“The one that possessed #100 transferred to one of us on the third floor. We captured that one when it was wandering around after the explosion. However, the dog possessing 101st learned from that experience and has managed to escape even when its host was destroyed. We do not know where it is.”
There was a possibility of the automatons betraying everyone, so they were all closing themselves in a concept space.
#8 then looked to her right hand.
That slender hand was latched onto an ear and that ear was connected to Ooshiro.
The old man was flopping around like a fish as she dragged him along the floor.
“Ah, ow! This really hurts, #8-kun! What on earth did I do wrong!?”
She thought for a moment and quickly returned her expressionless gaze to him.
“Testament. You are alive.”
“Living is a crime now!?”
“Ooshiro-sama, living is not a crime, no matter what I might think. …And I have determined your current state is better than dying while enjoying yourself on the fifth floor. It was fortunate for you that you were so hungry you snuck down to the cafeteria. Now, please hurry. …And Kashima-sama, will you be heading out to fight?”
“Yes, I will be defending a point along the route. I just hope no one too powerful comes my way. Also…”
He smiled bitterly.
“The one who really likes to show off has already gone outside.”
#8 nodded at that.
Those two ran and Ooshiro was dragged until they finally reached the intersection where they would part ways.
Once they stepped out into it, Kashima alone turned to the right.
“I’ll be defending up above. You work hard too.”
“Testament. But telling me to ‘work hard’ is meaningless. 3rd’s automatons always do their very best.”
Kashima smiled, bowed, and turned his back. His pace soon grew to a run.
#8 returned the bow and continued down the corridor while half dragging Ooshiro.
The path ahead continued down to the fifth basement.
A group in white armored uniforms approached from up head. They were armed with anti-tank rifles. When they saw Ooshiro being dragged, they stopped, saluted with a smile, bowed, and laughed.
“Tch. He’s still alive.”
“How can he be so shameless?”
“Why does #8 have to be with someone like him?”
“I-is that really what you should be saying when you see me!?”
The men ignored him and continued on.
As they disappeared behind them, the white corridor grew completely empty.
A slight sound could be heard overhead.
The corridor shook along with it and Ooshiro looked up at the ceiling.
“Hm. From the sound of that, I’d say they’ve gotten in. What do you think, #8-kun?”
However, #8 did not say “testament”.
She expressionlessly let go of his ear and gave a different answer.
As #8 barked, a handgun came from her right sleeve and assembled in midair.
She then pressed the muzzle against Ooshiro’s unmoving forehead.
She targeted a vital point from point-blank range.
Ooshiro looked up at her with the end of the round cylinder pressed against his forehead.
She looked down at him with a blank look on her face, so he pressed his index fingers against his cheeks and tilted his head.
“Oh, #8-kun. You sure do love your jokes.”
A gunshot rang out.
The gunshot echoed down the corridor and a hole appeared in the wall.
The hole was created by the handgun held by the maid automaton named #8.
Ooshiro had been her target, but he had dodged the bullet by sliding his upper body to the side.
He went on to quickly hold his palms out toward her.
“Nwah. That’s a harsh response for my cute mannerisms, #-…”
She pressed the handgun against the left side of his head next to the ear and another gunshot rang out.
The bullet should have penetrated the side of his head, but he crouched down to avoid it.
“W-wait a second, #8-kun. If you’re going to act like a dog, at least wear dog ears.”
She pressed the muzzle against the top of his head and suddenly fired.
But he stood up while bending half a step backwards to evade.
However, her gun kept coming.
“Ah, wait. Is this, um, really what happens when an automaton is being controlled!?”
She answered his powerful question, but not in words.
“Woof, woof, woof.”
Multiple gunshots sounded and they did not stop.
She pulled the trigger, repeatedly altered her aim, and produced constant noise from the full-auto slide mechanism.
Ooshiro continued to dodge by raising his hands, stretching, sliding to the side, getting on the ground, and even striking a pose with his arms wrapped around either side of his head.
Once the number of fired bullets reached the capacity of the magazine, he stuck his right thumb out toward her.
“All right! Now you won’t have to shoot me!!”
Her rebuttal was to pull a fresh handgun from both her sleeves.
“Th-that’s not fair!! And one in both hands!?”
Bullets flew from both sides now.
Gunshots and sparks blossomed again and again with her skillful manipulation of the guns.
The muzzle flashes illuminated Ooshiro like a strobe light as he performed a high-speed dance.
“Yeeeeaaaahhhhh! It’s a one-man show time!!”
He scattered sweat, spun around, and struck a pose, but he spun again when more bullets flew his way.
She soon ran out of bullets, but she used gravitational control to bring in a new magazine.
He continued to spin and dance while she provided more gunfire with skillful speed.
Her eyebrows rose and she tried to shoot him from a variety of angles all while never letting up.
Suddenly, two people arrived from the end of the corridor that Ooshiro and #8 had come from.
Ooshiro spotted them while dodging.
“Oh, Arnavaz-kun and Shinjou-kun! …Um, Sh-Shinjou-kun! Could you help me?”
He was dodging bullets and dripping sweat as he asked, but Shinjou only tilted her head.
She seemed confused and she looked back and forth between him dodging and #8 firing.
After a while, she stared at #8’s furrowed eyebrows and spoke.
“Oh, I get it.”
She lowered her shoulders and sighed toward Ooshiro.
“You did something weird to #8-san again, didn’t you?”
“Ahhh!! You don’t believe me!? If these hit me, I’ll die!!”
“I see. …But I’ve wondered for a while if you’d really die if a bullet hit you.”
“Sh-Shinjou-kun! That’s just rude! Of course I’ll die if a bullet hits me!”
“You’ve never even tried it, so stop making things up.”
“If I tried it, I’d die!!”
Shinjou frowned and looked away.
She then sighed and pulled on Arnavaz’s hand.
“Arnavaz-sama, we need to hurry. Everyone is waiting.”
She put on a fake smile, pulled on the woman’s hand, and passed by behind #8.
Ooshiro continued moving around amid the gunfire and he clapped his hands below the right leg he had raised to dodge.
“#-#8! C-can you seriously wait just a moment!?”
Shinjou had begun to leave, but she turned back and angrily glared at him.
“This is your punishment for making her mad. I think it’s in your best interest to be scolded every once in a while.”
“I get hit all the time, but this is different!!!”
But Shinjou ignored him and continued pulling on Arnavaz’s hand. Arnavaz turned back and bowed, so he bowed back and had a bullet graze the top of his head.
Shinjou and Arnavaz disappeared down the corridor, but the sounds of gunfire remained.
Suddenly, #8’s expression changed and her eyes began to focus once more.
“Woof. …Oh, Ooshiro-sama. I greatly apologize. I have successfully created an isolated sector in my brain and regained control of my mind- woof! …But it is still not perfect.”
“Th-that’s great, but can you stop firing!?”
“Testament. I have determined that is impossible. …Woof. I had to enclose my mind in an isolated sector to secure that territory in my head. If I leave that sector, control of my mind will likely be fully taken. That is how dense this dog ghost is. Explaining the details of the systems involved would be lengthy, but I would like to prove my innocence in this matter.”
“I don’t care about your innocence, so just do something already!! If you don’t, there are going to be some tears! From me!”
She frowned while continuing her skillful usage of the guns.
“Why do you always make light of automatons and make such irregular statements?”
“Th-that doesn’t matter! You can tell me this later!”
“Testament. But I cannot stop. That said, there is one way, Ooshiro-sama. Why not try letting one shot hit you? The dog ghost might give up or regret having shot something so detestable.”
“Just to be clear, you’ve been aiming right for my head for a while now! A single hit will kill me. M-more importantly, how many bullets do you have left? Surely you don’t have any left up your sleeves.”
“No, but just to be sure, I prepared some in my skirt and beneath my apron, so I can keep this up for another three hours. …But I must admit it is a shame that I must kill you.”
“Don’t be so certain that’s going to happen!!”
His shout was followed by three sounds.
Two were #8’s handguns running out of bullets. And the other…
“Did you just hear a strange sound from my back? Something like a dry branch breaking?”
“Testament. I have determined it was a ‘crick’ sound. …Woof.”
Ooshiro could no longer move while she swapped out the two handguns’ magazines.
She used gravitational control to cock them and pressed them both against his forehead.
“I have determined this is unfortunate. However, it is the presence of unfortunate things that makes the future seem so very bright.”
“Don’t twist this into a positive light!!”
She ignored his shout and squeezed her fingers.
But just before she did, he cried out again.
Instead of screaming, he shouted a certain special word telling her not to move.
No gunshot filled the corridor.
With the guns still pressed against his forehead, Ooshiro looked left and right and then at the person past the guns.
He looked at #8 who had stopped moving.
She did not move, but it seemed the dog was still inside her.
He thought about why she had stopped and found the answer in about five seconds.
He lightly clapped his hands and said another word to her.
#8 looked utterly confused as she quickly crouched down to the ground.
She stopped with her hands out front and her knees raised, just like a dog.
She looked up at him, stuck out her tongue, and panted. If she had a tail, it would probably have been wagging.
“I see. …This must have been a well-trained dog.”
He gave an impressed nod and #8 frowned.
“Ooshiro-sama, how long are you going to have me sit here?”
He slowly crouched and sat down while holding his back.
“That’s a very good question. You’ve been pretty mean to me after all.”
Hearing his teasing tone of voice, she frowned and the dog ghost made her bark.
The bark was telling him to stop sitting down and start petting it, so he nodded.
“Do you want me to pet you? Hm?”
“No, I do not- woof.”
Hearing her bark, he reached out and pet her head.
“Good girl, good girl. You’re so cute, Dog #8. You don’t disobey me or bite me or anything.”
As he continued to pet her, #8 looked down and spoke in a low voice.
“Ooshiro-sama, I must request that you remember this.”
“Hmm. Are you sure you want me to remember this? For example, what if I did this?”
He held a hand in front of her face and she completely stopped moving.
She frowned, stared at his hand, and started to turn away, but…
She squeezed her eyes shut and turned back toward him.
Next, her trembling tongue slowly stuck out from between her lips.
She licked his hand once, twice, and then thrice.
“You really are a dog.”
But as soon as he said that…
A trembling tone escaped her throat as she backed away a bit and hung her head.
He watched in confusion as she gave a large frown in her canine sitting position.
A sudden drop of water spilled from her open eye.
Ooshiro frantically scratched his head and tried to soothe her.
“Oh, sorry, sorry, sorry. I guess I went a little too far. …You automatons don’t like anyone but your master to touch you, right?”
“Testament. I do not have control of my body, so it could not obey my rejection circuits. That caused an error in my head which I do have control over, so this was merely an activation of my sight device’s cleaning function. It was in no way caused by an emotional response.”
She forced her head up, returned her expression to normal, and slightly lowered her head again.
“With an automaton, such a drop of water is not a tear, so do not worry about it.”
“I see,” said Ooshiro as a sudden thought came to him. “#8-kun, I just had a thought. Do you mind?”
He picked up one of the handguns she had dropped and held it out toward her.
She tilted her head and sniffed it, but he pulled it back and…
He threw the gun down the corridor.
The dog literally left her body.
It was a black hound with a collar mark around its neck.
It was over eighty centimeters tall and it ran out in front of #8’s widened eyes.
Its footsteps were audible, but it had no shadow. It picked the gun up in its mouth, gave the same bark that had come from #8’s mouth, and turned back toward them with the bottom of its feet skittering on the floor.
It returned to them with the gun in its mouth.
After coming back to her senses, #8 lifted her hand to eye level and realized she could actually move her hand.
“I have determined this is good,” she said expressionlessly.
She wiped the corner of her eye and sat more normally on the floor.
The dog returned next to her, but she had already sealed off her brain.
She took the gun from the dog and it gave another happy bark.
A tremor reached them through the ceiling as the two people and one animal gave a sigh from the floor.
#8 held the bottom of her apron against the corner of her eye and then pet the dog next to her.
“If Shinjou-sama is here, then Sayama-sama will not be far behind.”
“Do you really think so? And we probably shouldn’t tell Mikoto-kun that you cried.”
“I do not mind. Although that seems wholly unrelated to what I said. Anyway, they are still fighting up above and Sayama-sama would make it here even if the Army took control of the surface. That is an absolute truth.”
“I see,” said Ooshiro. “Well, I’d like to evacuate before he gets here, so could you carry me?”
He held a hand out to her and then spoke with a refreshing smile.
“Okay, shake. …Woof.”
#8 expressionlessly slammed her hand into his face.
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