Owari no Chronicle:Volume11 Chapter 37
Chapter 37: Restraining a Great Sin
Your heart is screaming
For you to fulfill it
For you to show it off
“It” being your attack on the past’s hesitation
Kazami followed the shortest route indicated by the automatons and raced down the stairway to the sixth basement.
Sayama would be facing Hajji down below. She did not know the exact situation, but they had made a promise.
…So that idiot can definitely pull this off!
“G-Sp2, second form.”
That was the cannon form. If Hajji had his back to her and she saw Sayama and the others were in danger, she would fire.
With a shot from behind, Hajji could even die from the impact if he was unlucky.
And if she did kill him, she would have to live with that fact.
But she did not hesitate. She had decided to stop him if he was going to harm Sayama or Shinjou.
Her eyebrows rose in thought as she ran.
…This is the job of an upperclassman.
Once the bottom of the stairs came into view, she spread her wings.
Her body floated up and her footsteps vanished.
She needlessly spread her arms to grasp at the air and she slowly fell through empty space.
“Then let me ask you something, negotiator.”
She heard Hajji’s voice beginning the negotiation.
When she heard Hajji, Shinjou looked to Sayama’s back in front of her.
He had removed the coat of his dark blue suit, so she could see his vest. His lowered left arm had a gash near the elbow of the shirt and the forearm was stained red.
…Is he okay?
His back answered her with silence.
She could only look in the same direction as him. There, she saw Hajji in his black armored uniform.
The man turned his powerful gaze directly toward Sayama.
“I will ask you about the seven sins I mentioned earlier, plus one other question. That makes eight,” he said. “And no matter how you answer, I will be taking the Concept Cores after the eight questions. Fortunately, 7th’s Concept Core seems to be here too. That is terribly convenient. Yes.”
Sayama crossed his arms at the man’s low voice.
He nodded and Shinjou heard him speak.
“I see. Eight questions is quite a lot of trouble, Hajji-kun. So please hurry it up. And to help…”
She saw him arch his back and jerk his chin toward Hajji.
“Ask your questions, Hajji-kun. I shall answer them all at once after I have heard all eight.”
Hajji did not immediately respond to Sayama’s suggestion.
He kept his spear prepared in his right hand.
He had a single thought: there had to be a reason for that suggestion.
…This boy said he would answer all of them at once after hearing all eight.
What was his reason for speeding things up with a single answer instead of a conversation of question and answer?
After all, it was in Sayama’s best interests to stall for time here. That would allow his allies to arrive.
But he had requested that Hajji quickly make all his requests so he could answer them all at once.
…Why? Why rush this?
Sayama was a negotiator and he had dealt with several Gears’ representatives.
…And this conversation is being broadcast to every UCAT and reservation.
Both of them had to be careful what they said, so Hajji thought about why Sayama would rush this.
His sight found the answer.
He spotted it on the boy’s crossed arms.
Sayama was holding his left arm to hide it, but it was wet with blood.
Hajji could tell he had lost a lot of blood.
…If we alternated between question and answer, he would need to think about and discuss each question individually.
But if he heard all eight questions first and gave his eight answers in a row, there would be much less discussion.
…So he is shortening this due to his bleeding.
I see, thought Hajji. That is not a problem.
It was also safer for Hajji to finish the negotiation quickly and make off with the Concept Cores.
And even if Sayama was bleeding badly, Shinjou behind him was unharmed.
Abram was on the verge of collapsing, but he did indeed stand in front of the metal door.
In that case, Hajji decided it was best to avoid any unnecessary work.
“Fine then. I will ask my questions.”
He took a breath and began to speak, beginning with number one.
“First, how do you justify your Gear causing the time of destruction?”
That question received a response. Shinjou shouted at him.
“Th-there’s no way we can justify that! We weren’t the ones who made this world!!”
Hajji did not say anything back.
Instead, Sayama nodded and tilted his head back toward her.
“Listen, Shinjou-kun. It is still Hajji-kun’s turn to speak. We must not interrupt him.”
She reluctantly nodded and hung her head, so Hajji sighed and spoke to Sayama.
“I thank you.”
“Then can I say that you owe me one?”
The boy smiled bitterly and Hajji did the same. He also sighed again.
“Then I retract my thanks. I can’t have you thinking I owe you anything.”
Before Sayama could say anything, Hajji asked the next question.
“Second, how do you justify killing your neighbors by destroying the ten Gears?”
The Leviathan Road would accomplish that, so Hajji knew it was a relatively meaningless question.
But the larger the number of sins in his list, the worse an image it gave his enemy. And those in the Gears who still did not approve of their allegiance with Low-Gear would still want to continue with that question.
It is an important question, he thought as he continued on.
“Third, how do you justify killing your mother by destroying Top-Gear, which is the mother of us all?”
He did not stop there.
“Fourth, how do you justify killing your other selves? And fifth, how do you justify causing a disaster in your own world and killing unconnected residents of Low-Gear?”
At that point, Hajji looked to Sayama.
The boy was expressionless. He silently stared back with his arms crossed.
He looked like he was thinking, yet he also looked like he was not.
But giving him time here would only allow him to come up with a satisfactory answer.
On the other hand, the questions had been prepared from the beginning. And over the course of ten years.
…Acting self-important would only irritate those who have lost so much.
So Hajji formed his words. As the spokesman for those who had lost so much, he used his mouth like a speaker.
“Sixth, how do you justify covering up these sins? And seventh, how do you justify hiding your sins and yet attempting to bring the ignorant survivors of those Gears under your control through the Leviathan Road!?”
Hajji raised his voice and inhaled.
In front of him, Sayama remained expressionless and had not spoken since quieting Shinjou.
Hajji shook his head a bit, cracked his neck, and looked at Sayama again.
“Now, time for the eighth question. But let me warn you first. …A slight misstep in answering this question will be a grave error indeed.”
He held his spear below his arm and made sure Sayama, the others in front of him, and anyone behind him were not moving.
“What do you think of this?”
He pulled a black stopwatch from his pocket and placed a finger on the button.
“Outside of the concept space, over a thousand bombs have been hidden throughout Tokyo’s major stations, shopping districts, and regional residential districts. If I press this button, they will all detonate.”
Faced with this sudden demand, Shinjou’s eyes opened wide while Sayama remained expressionless.
“Surrender. If you do not, I will press the button.”
She gulped, forced down a breath, and somehow managed to speak the word in her heart.
That name produced a slight smile.
But not from Sayama. It came from Hajji.
Her frustration nearly escaped her as words.
She wanted to swap places with the man using Yonkichi’s concept, but that required him to take hostile action against her.
He was not making any kind of attack.
Instead of fighting, he had taken hostages.
“Th-that’s not fair!”
“Not fair? Which do you think is higher? The number of people who will die in the bombs I have set up around Tokyo or the number of people who died in the Great Kansai Earthquake ten years ago? And with that in mind, let me ask something else. Will you repeat your past mistake or will you prove that you have learned from that mistake?”
Hajji held the stopwatch up at chest height.
“Can you think about that tragedy from ten years ago? Your parents died then, didn’t they?”
As if to answer, Sayama’s back swelled up before Shinjou’s eyes. He had taken a breath.
…What are you going to do? Do you have a plan?
Hajji said people would die if they did not surrender.
She doubted Hajji was lying. If he triggered the bombs, he could simply say it happened because UCAT had not learned from the past. It would not hurt him in the slightest.
Hajji gave a weary sigh and held the button up as he spoke.
“Listen, Sayama. Please… Please do not make me press this button.”
He tilted his head.
“What is your response as Low-Gear’s representative?”
He got us, thought Shinjou as she bit her lower lip.
This was all being broadcast to the UCATs and reservations around the world.
And they would all know what Hajji was saying.
…If he presses the button, it’s our responsibility! And it will make UCAT out to be completely selfish and evil!
She wanted to do something and she gathered strength in her right shoulder where Ex-St rested.
But then she heard Sayama speak.
He also languidly cracked his neck.
“I see. Fortunately, Hajji-kun, it would seem the two of us have reached a consensus. So let me give you my answer to your ‘don’t press the button’ competition.”
That answer was…
“If you want to press the button, go right ahead. It is none of my business.”
For a moment, Hajji did not understand what Sayama had said.
Once the words travelled to his brain via his ears, he rolled them around in his mouth a bit and finally…
The word “disappointment” appeared in his heart.
He raised the stopwatch and began to squeeze the finger on the button.
…I’m sorry. If they had changed from a decade ago, this wouldn’t have happened!
He had to prove to the Gear reservations and the other UCATs that UCAT had not changed.
It had to be in a way that no one could deny and no one could forget.
His enemy had agreed to that. All that remained was for him to sully his name as the one who actually performed the bombing.
He moved to press the button.
But just as he did, Sayama spoke.
“But I am surprised, Hajji-kun. …I never thought you wanted to kill the people of Low-Gear this badly.”
Hajji reflexively stopped the finger he held on the button.
He frowned and looked to Sayama in doubt.
Meanwhile, Sayama bent back to look down on him.
“What is the matter? Don’t you want to press it? If that is what you want, go right ahead.”
Sayama spoke with a smile on his lips.
“But let me say one thing. …I do not want you to press that button. Also, your actions here are the actions of the entire Army. Do you understand what I am saying?” He took a breath. “You are pressing that button even though I am saying I do not want you to. Are you perhaps finding any flimsy excuse you can to fulfill your own desire to kill the people of Low-Gear?”
“No!” Hajji shouted back on reflex. “I care for the people of Low-Gear!”
“So you claim. …But either way, you intend to find some reason to press that button, don’t you? …It all sounds like excuses to me. Even a pig can claim to care for people.”
Hajji’s cheeks twisted at Sayama’s words, but the boy slowly tilted his head and continued speaking.
“You are a surprisingly disgraceful man, Hajji-kun. Please think about this carefully.”
He slowly used his chin to point at the explosive switch Hajji held.
“As for that button…listen. You decide whether you will press it or not.”
“What do you mean by that!?”
“Is it really that surprising? Isn’t it obvious? Neither of us trusts the other much. And looking at this as a part of our negotiation, it is even more obvious,” declared the boy. “Simply put, the truth behind your words and actions only exists inside you until you let it out. In. Other. Words.”
Sayama gently shook his body and posed on the last three words.
He then smiled and continued.
“If you want to kill, then show it by killing. If you do not want to kill, then show it by stopping.”
“This negotiation is about your surrender! Are you going to abandon those innocent lives!?”
“Look in the mirror and say that again. …I fight in place of those innocents and I am negotiating as their representative, so on a fundamental level, I cannot use them as a bargaining chip.”
He looked directly at the man.
“But I can say one thing as their representative: please do not kill them. And I can say one other thing as the one who fights on their behalf: I cannot surrender.”
He raised his left hand and pointed at Hajji.
“If you insist on using those innocent people as a bargaining chip, I can say something else from my position.”
“What is that?”
“It is simple. This is not the give and take of negotiation. It is death or defeat. You are asking me to see value only in the survival of the innocent people. But their survival should not even be a question. So I must establish a clear give and take on my end.”
He spoke clearly.
“You and your Army will be killing a large number of innocent people, so I demand that you surrender, retract all seven of your accusations, and immediately cease all acts of agitation toward the Gear reservations. That is my equivalent demand assuming you use those innocent lives as a bargaining chip. And…this is a negotiation you suggested in the first place!!”
“If you gave no thought to this while taking these hostages, I can only imagine you truly wanted to slaughter this world’s people with no resistance whatsoever!!”
Shinjou’s eyes opened wide as she looked to the back in front of her.
Sayama was turned slightly to the side as he strongly pointed at Hajji.
“I will now give my answer to your seven questions.”
That answer was…
“How do you expect us to answer that now, you moron?”
Shinjou saw Hajji bare his teeth. The strength in his shoulders was near bursting and Shinjou switched Ex-St to standby mode without thinking.
But Sayama kept the words coming without fearing Hajji.
“Listen. You have no proof of any of these supposed truths. Top-Gear? What are you talking about? The real us? Who is that? A false world? Never heard of it. Are you going to compare the DNA lurking inside these ‘true’ versions of us with the lively genes residing inside us? If you do not at least do that, you may have some credibility, but it is still a gray zone!!”
“Enough lies!” roared Hajji as he turned his strength into words. “You are bluffing! Can you not imagine the lives on the other end of this button!?”
“Oh? You are still being rather rude, but at least you are finally willing to acknowledge bluffs. Excellent. Now, let me tell you something. In this audiovisual age, people’s imaginations are only triggered by what they can see or hear right in front of them.”
Sayama took a breath.
“You claim there are lives on the other end of that button? All I can imagine is you deciding to move your finger and then pressing that button! It all comes back to your will! Do not blame the button for the killing!”
He shook his head toward Hajji before continuing.
“Also, you spent an entire decade putting together these questions, yet now you are demanding an answer in the middle of a battle with no time for evidence, examination, or discussion!? We have no way of determining whether there are any traps hidden in those questions. After all, we are just as foolish and ignorant as you have said!! What if rushing our answer here ends up harming some other Gear!? That would be a terrible problem!”
…Wow. Dragging the other Gears into this really isn’t fair.
Shinjou did not speak her thought out loud. She simply opened her mouth in surprise.
She let out a breath and spoke her true thoughts to the back striking a pose in front of her.
“Sayama-kun, I thought rushing to an answer was the only thing you knew how to do.”
“Heh heh heh. Shinjou-kun, it only looks that way because my mind works so quickly.”
“Is that so?” she said, sounding unconvinced.
At the same time, she heard Hajji’s voice.
She looked up and saw he had lowered his tensed shoulders.
His expression had cooled and he threw the stopwatch to the floor.
“So you refuse to have a serious conversation, is that it? Then let us say that the Army tested you and you did your best to avoid the issue. With that said…”
He used his right hand to support the spear held under his arm.
…Here he comes.
She had predicted this. After hearing the answers to his eight questions, he would come to steal the Concept Cores.
Based on everything that had happened, he likely intended to attack them and break through the door.
…He is coming.
She nodded and searched through her armor’s waist pocket with her left hand.
Once he ran forward and swung his spear to break through, she would swap places with him using Yonkichi’s concept. That would point him in the direction she was facing now.
It would only last an instant, but turning around would create a large time lag.
It would create an opening to attack.
And she looked to Sayama in front of her.
His unclosed left hand hung limply at his side and blood from the elbow covered the fingers.
Just as a drop of blood fell to the floor and splattered…
Hajji gave a roar and moved.
In a kneeling sniping pose, Kazami had a hand on G-Sp2’s trigger.
She targeted Hajji with one eye closed.
…I have to stop him!
But her eye saw something other than Hajji’s back.
For some reason, she saw Shinjou’s surprised face instead.
Her instincts found the answer faster than her thoughts.
Hajji had used a fighting tactic she specialized in, so she reflexively called out.
She did indeed find Hajji in the place indicated by that word.
The bottom of his armored uniform spread out near the ceiling above Sayama and Shinjou.
He was jumping over them all.
He had made it look like he was taking on the two of them and then he had abandoned the fight.
…Is he settling the battle between the Army and UCAT instead of this personal confrontation!?
He jumped high, kicked off the ceiling, and landed behind Sayama and Shinjou.
Those two turned around, but it was too late.
He was already running down the corridor. The only thing in his way was Abram who could definitely be called badly injured. Abram would be an obstacle, but he had no chance of winning now.
…So will he steal the Concept Cores!?
Panicking, Kazami aimed G-Sp2, but Shinjou and Sayama were in the way.
Thinking of gaining a line of fire down the far left or right, she stood up and flew straight down the corridor.
At the same time, Sayama and Shinjou finished turning and began to run.
But they were too slow and Kazami was too far away.
About halfway down the corridor, Kazami moved to the left side and slid down onto her right knee. She took up her sniping position again.
She felt heat in her right knee because even her defensive stocking could not completely hold off the frictional heat.
But the panic in her stomach was even greater.
She held up G-Sp2, but…
…I’m not going to make it!?
Sayama and Shinjou were not going to catch up either. With only a few steps left, Hajji raised his spear in his right arm.
His target was Abram who stood in front of the metal door to the Concept Core storage area.
But Abram had several injuries and was in no state to fight.
So he said nothing, spread his arms to protect the door, and stared Hajji in the eye.
The two men prepared to clash.
But just before they did, someone shot out of the small corridor to the side.
Kazami opened the left eye she had closed for aiming and she trembled. She recognized the person who moved between Hajji and Abram.
She cried out the individual’s name in a trembling voice.
As she ran, Shinjou was stopped by the arm Sayama suddenly held out to the right.
He stopped moving as if he had stopped breathing and he looked to Hajji’s back ten meters ahead.
Shinjou slowly caught her breath in order to remain silent.
After her question, she saw it.
Hajji had stopped his raised spear.
For some reason, Arnavaz had rushed out in front of him and he had stopped moving.
Sayama nodded as if to answer Shinjou’s silent question.
He slowly gulped for once.
“I do not entirely understand, but it seems Arnavaz-kun has taken command of the situation.”
“D-did you know this was going to happen?”
After a pause, he shook his head.
“I had heard footsteps approaching from behind, so I had assumed someone would intercept Hajji-kun even if we let him go. But I never thought it would be a civilian. I was careless.”
Shinjou gulped just like he had.
…No one predicted this situation.
Just as she wondered what to do, she heard a voice from up ahead.
Of the three unmoving people, the voice had come from Hajji.
Shinjou frowned at that name.
Hajji had spoken his sister’s name.
…What does this mean?
With confusion in her eyes, she faced forward while holding her breath.
Hajji took a slow breath.
He knew very well who the woman before him was.
She was Arnavaz. The blind woman was the last princess of the Sahan family in this world’s Middle East.
She had agreed to marry into Abram’s Mesam family in order to revive her family.
Abram had chosen UCAT over the Mesam family and the Sahan family had been destroyed.
However, thought Hajji.
“Blind girl. Arnavaz of Sahan. I have already spoken the truth. Your husband, Abram Mesam, is a fake merely using the name. He is Sarv, the killer of my sister.”
He took a breath.
“Do you not believe me?”
With her eyes closed, she shook her head at his question.
Seeing that, Sarv who was going by Abram closed his own eyes behind her.
Hajji sent a sigh of understanding toward the floor.
“Princess of Sahan, please move out of my way. As the great general of 9th-Gear and the leader of the Army, I can no longer condone the killing of civilians. …And if you act as his shield, some might claim UCAT used civilians to shield themselves.”
Arnavaz frowned and shook her head.
“I will not move.”
Those words triggered a certain emotion deep inside Hajji’s gut.
The emotion forced its way up and escaped his throat as words.
“This man…has been deceiving you all this time!”
“I am aware of that,” she said as if double-checking. “I am blind, so I must trust others to survive. And the Abram Mesam I had heard of was a man of medicine and known as a Fereydun. And yet…”
A small smile escaped to her lips.
“The man who came for me was a large warrior with thick, hard hands. Not even my brothers could compare. …I immediately knew he was not the same person.”
“Yes.” She nodded. “But he held the hands holding the sword I had prepared for him, he got down on one knee, and he asked for my forgiveness. He even trembled when facing me. He was just like a child afraid of being scolded.”
She took a breath.
“The desert family of Sahan is a proud family. The last daughter of Sahan had to show forgiveness to one who trembled and asked for it. Also, I am blind, I must trust others to survive. And he answered my trust in kind and has given me a blessed life ever since.”
“But that is a life built on lies!!”
“I am aware of that. He is not Abram Mesam. Nor is he the Fereydun who saved lives on the path of medicine. But…”
Her unseeing and unfocused eyes turned toward Hajji. Her eyebrows were raised.
“He is my Fereydun. That is not a lie.”
“What are you to me?”
A moment later, Hajji raised his tightly-held spear.
He raised his eyebrows and twisted his face as he used the spear to knock Abram and Arnavaz to the right.
Abram held Arnavaz to protect her, but they both still fell on the small stairway.
With that shout, Hajji returned his spear from the right and prepared to slam it into the metal door.
But just as he began to attack, he noticed a power striking his right shoulder from behind.
He looked back and saw a boy in a vest.
“Listen. I will show you a world of pain.”
Hajji turned around on reflex.
He launched a spear attack on the boy from directly above.
But as he turned, the boy’s movements entered his field of vision.
The boy bent his raised right arm and prepared his stance.
His right knee was already rising.
His left foot was planted solidly on the corridor floor.
The force of that step sent his right leg straight up and toward Hajji’s jaw.
There was no avoiding it, so it struck.
Hajji’s body was knocked upwards from the jaw.
He cried out just as a blow hit his chest.
The boy had raised his right fist, rotated it back, and then slammed it straight into him.
After the kick to the jaw had stretched him upwards, the fist had struck the center of his body.
His sternum was smashed and his entire body creaked.
He heard the boy ask a question.
“Was that painful enough?”
Shinjou said a single thing concerning the scene before her.
“He did it…”
But she quickly tightened her grip on Ex-St again.
Sayama was quickly correcting his posture in front of her.
He could not move while lowering his hips to sink down.
But Hajji had not given up.
Shinjou had definitely heard his sternum break. More than the pain, he would be having trouble breathing without the bone supporting his muscles.
But he used all the air remaining in his lungs to attack.
He turned his left eye toward Sayama. That was the eye socket that seemed to contain pure darkness.
Shinjou did not know quite what it was, but her instincts told her it was dangerous.
She tried to shout “no”.
But in that instant, she saw Baku raise his front paws from Sayama’s head.
In a split second, Shinjou saw a battle in the past.
Inside a forest, she saw an unfamiliar boy’s back and a werewolf beyond him.
Back then, she had hesitated and not pulled back the firing anchor.
She had been afraid of hitting the boy.
She had been afraid of killing the werewolf.
With a voiceless yell, she woke from the past.
Shinjou fired Ex-St.
She did so without doubt, fear, or hesitation.
…That way I won’t misuse this power!!
The white light shot straight toward the left side of Hajji’s chest.
The blade-like blast entered between his collarbone and upper chest and it left through his back.
He bent back from the impact and the gaze of his left eye was fired toward the ceiling.
Cracks instantly ran through the ceiling and it noisily shattered into pebbles.
But Hajji was still moving.
That strike had been powerful enough to blow away a god of war, but he frowned below the scattering fragments of the ceiling, bared his canine teeth, and desired to clash with Sayama.
He held his spear close and sent it ahead of his body.
Sayama was not wearing any armor, so its blade was plenty capable of piercing straight through him.
But Shinjou simply opened her mouth.
She raised her eyebrows and shouted to the boy who crouched down in front of her.
Pushed on by Shinjou’s words, Sayama took action.
He raised his right arm as he stood.
…I need to remember the basics.
He calmed himself, ignored the power and shouting in front of him, and gathered his footing.
He pulled his right foot back and pressed it solidly against the floor.
Supported by that, he placed his left foot a bit forward and to the left.
As soon as that left foot fell in place, he twisted his left heel outwards, raised his left knee, and raised his hips.
That movement flowed into a rightward spin of his entire body. He twisted his hips, twisted his stomach, and launched his left shoulder clockwise and forward.
He sent his elbow out from that shoulder and gathered strength in what lay beyond it.
That was his left fist.
He launched a straight left punch with all his might.
The technique was obediently performed. His body had chosen this technique first to handle the emergency situation.
As soon as he clenched the fist, it filled with pain.
This was his phantom pain.
A voice reached him along with that false pain. It was a bestial roar attempting to crush him from above.
“You dare oppose me!? A child who did not even know the reason for his mother’s death will oppose me!?”
The beast’s words filled his chest with pain. It was the usual creaking pain.
The pain tried to rule his body and his entire body was briefly filled with an explosive chain-reaction of pain.
But the person he cared for the most had just asked something of him.
She had not been referring to his creaking body.
She had told him not to lose to the enemy before his eyes.
In other words, she was not even thinking about this pain.
Why had her cry of support not taken this pain into consideration?
…That is simple.
He reached his conclusion.
…Because this pain is only natural!
His entire body moved. It was filled with the phantom pain and the creaking pain.
“But this twisting and this pain are who I am!!”
His left fist flew.
He forcibly launched it out from his shoulder and into the side in front of him.
The attack smashed the bones of his fist, but it had done equivalent damage to his opponent.
Through his fist, he could feel the sound of impact racing across his enemy’s entire body.
It even reached his right leg drawn back for support.
He had fully thrown the punch.
Despite the blood, the torn flesh, the broken bone, and the creaking pain, he had sent out a powerful strike. In only a split second, he put his entire body into his resisting enemy.
He swung his fist and stopped it.
The full force of the strike filled the surface of his fist and knocked his enemy from his feet.
The reactionary tremor reached him, spread throughout his body, and caused him to shake.
The bell of emotion rang inside him and he thought.
His heart felt like water.
…And it is threatening to overflow!
A moment later, his enemy crashed into the metal door behind him.
Ex-St’s attack must have already damaged it because, after briefly stopping the man, it filled with cracks and shattered.
The sound of metal spread through the darkness.
The Concept Core pallets sat illuminated in that darkness.
They looked like gravestones.
And the enemy lay collapsed and motionless on the floor, staring up at them.
Meanwhile, Sayama looked to his left fist and took a breath.
He let out the deep breath and dripped sweat as he opened his mouth.
But no words came out.
Oh, no, he thought as he finally realized he was still leaning forward in his punching stance.
He quickly straightened up, faced upwards, and brought air into his lungs.
He then felt heat on his back. It was the soft warmth of a human body.
It was shaped like someone important to him.
It was Shinjou.
He took another breath as she approached from behind and wrapped her arms around him to support him.
He opened his left fist overhead and felt a real, non-phantom pain.
He slowly spoke as he grasped the air and closed his eyes.
“Cry out in joy!!”
With those words, he felt all strength leave his body.
He had fallen unconscious.
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