Owari no Chronicle:Volume12 Chapter 12
Chapter 12: Consumed Heat
That resistance is much like being patient
That is why you find yourself unable to stop
The moon shined bright that night.
The moonlight filled a certain large yard.
The yard belonged to a large house. It was a calm place with trees and a pond.
However, the electric lights inside the yard’s lanterns revealed a certain form.
It was Shino, a kimono-wearing girl who walked awkwardly with a cane.
She walked along the wall or the fence surrounding the large but earthen yard.
This was part of the rehabilitation for her right ankle, so she held her left hand against the fence or wall as she walked.
The nearby guard dogs turned toward her, but she only smiled and walked by.
A single circuit of the yard took about half an hour.
She did this at morning, afternoon, and night and she found it the most relaxing part of her day.
Lately, her routine was to take some time to think in the bath afterwards.
However, her thoughts today were different from normal.
…A lot happened today.
She thought back to the feeling the conversation with Shinjou had given her.
“Ryouko said I should do whatever I want.”
But she did not know what she should do.
She could relax here yet felt guilty for staying here, so what was she supposed to do? She asked that question again and again.
…What if I ran away?
She revisited that hypothetical for the umpteenth time and suddenly stopped to look at the yard.
How would she run away if she wanted to?
The yard had surveillance devices disguised as lanterns and human sculptures, but she could tell what areas they covered by observing the movements of the dogs. She had been trained in this sort of thing while in the Army.
But the problem was the Tamiya house’s front gate. The large front gate and the back gate both had electronic security devices installed to keep Ryouko from sneaking out to buy snacks.
The top of the fence also had sensors attached, but Shino’s leg kept her from climbing the fence in the first place.
…I can’t run away.
If she wanted to leave, she could always say goodbye and leave.
At the moment, she had nowhere to go.
Kouji and the others would likely ask about that and would stop her from leaving once they found out she had nowhere to go. She could not lie to them. That was the kind of people they were, but that was exactly why she was so thankful for their presence. They were willing to worry for a complete stranger like her.
…In that case, I could always use the cover of night to…
She ended that thought and corrected her posture.
She asked herself why she was trying to run away.
“I would only be worrying them all the more.”
And even if she did make it through the front gate, she could not escape. If she left without saying anything, they would immediately notice and tail her.
But, she thought.
…Is that what I want right now?
That question surprised her and a sudden sound reached her from the side.
One of the dogs howled and caused her to drop her cane.
Ah, she thought as the cane fell on the guard dog’s head.
The dog shrank back and she frantically spoke up.
“S-sorry. You’re Pes, aren’t you?”
But Pes grabbed the cane in its mouth. It must have thought that was Shino’s harsh way of showing affection because it wagged its tail as if saying “Again! Again!”
Shino gave a troubled groan, crouched down with a hand on the fence, and started to grab the cane.
As she did, she noticed a hole at the bottom of the fence where the light of the lanterns did not quite reach.
“What is this?”
The hole was cleverly hidden by a tree and some leaves, but it was large enough for someone to crawl through and one branch had a small scrap of cloth caught on it.
Shino recognized the red and faded cloth.
“That’s from Ryouko’s kimono. Is this how she escapes to buy snacks?”
She gasped, grabbed the cane, and quickly left with Pes.
She knew she had discovered something she was better off not knowing about. In more ways than one.
Heo moved silently in the light.
The corners of her eyes were a little red and her eyebrows were raised.
However, her mouth was twisted into a shallow frown like she was putting up with something.
“What is with Harakawa!? Really, really what is with him!?”
She was doing the exact opposite of what she had done before. Instead of cleaning or organizing, she was making a mess.
In the center of the room, the table was sitting across Harakawa’s spread futon and it contained all the bags of snacks they had stocked up on.
The TV was left on, books from the closet were sitting in the corner, and the mirror she had been hiding was sitting on the table and facing her.
“Harakawa said to do whatever I wanted, so…so that’s what I’ll do. Starting today, I’ll mess up my normal lifestyle. I’ll eat snacks after brushing my teeth and watch late night TV.”
She looked at the futon laid out below her butt. It was white, but…
“A-and I’ll sleep in Harakawa’s futon! Th-this is revenge for making me sleep in that cramped closet all the time!”
But once she remembered her change of clothes was in the closet, she climbed in to retrieve them.
After a while, she found she had searched out a book in the closet bookshelf and comfortably curled up next to the closet wall.
“Ah! Wh-when did I get so pathetic?”
She quickly crawled out of the closet and looked around.
“Um, wh-what else am I not supposed to do? I can read manga in bed and…”
She went to the kitchen and took two things from the refrigerator. She and Harakawa had bought the first item on sale at the supermarket.
“I-I’ll eat this two-person cake all on my own!”
She checked the number of calories on the seal sticker and then checked the expiration date. It expired the following day, so it had likely been on such a good sale because it was about to expire.
…S-someone has to eat it before it expires. That’s enough of an excuse.
She then turned to the other item she had placed on the table.
It was made by IAI and the can pictured a nude Daikokuten striking a bold pose with the morning sun hiding his crotch. It was known as Daikoku Beer and the ads saying “The God of Fortune Stands on the Earth” were famous.
“Underage drinking is proof you’re a delinquent.”
She grabbed the pull tab, took a deep breath, and realized this was the moment to make up her mind.
“Th-this is Harakawa’s fault. He left for the base without saying why and told me to do whatever I wanted. He…He thinks I can’t do anything or won’t do anything, doesn’t he? W-well, I’ll show him and become a delinquent. If he’s going to be a delinquent and push me away, then I’ll become a delinquent too and I won’t let him in if he comes back.”
But as she said that, her expression suddenly fell apart.
“But he will come back, won’t he?”
She almost started to cry, so she shook her head to hold back.
He wouldn’t just never come back, she told herself.
But if he did come back and she was the same as always, she had a feeling he would reject her again.
But she did not know what to do to keep him from rejecting her.
…So I just have to become a delinquent like him.
However, he was quite the delinquent. He watched late night TV, he drove a motorcycle, and he drank beer. It would be difficult for her to develop into an even greater delinquent in such a short time, but she had to do it. She had to become enough of a delinquent to shock him.
“In terms of units, I’ll be a mega delinquent!”
She kept her thoughts positive and decided to cross the starting line with the beer.
She gathered strength in the finger on the pull tab and prepared to open it.
But something stopped her.
She heard a bell.
She tilted her head at the quiet sound coming from beyond the front door.
…Is it a cat?
Cats would sometimes stop by the apartment. Harakawa never fed them, but they still seemed to like him for some reason.
But this was a winter night. Any cat wearing a bell would be inside their warm home.
Still tilting her head, Heo stood and tiptoed over to the door.
She was worried it might be a robber, but the American UCAT guards were hiding outside.
…So it must be the laptop I asked for.
After reaching that conclusion, she unlocked the door and slowly opened it.
The night opened up before her eyes.
The chilly air he had disappeared into enveloped her body and she briefly shrank back.
But then she saw two cardboard boxes sitting at the entrance.
One was stacked atop the other and they were both fifty centimeters square. They were bound with white paper thread and…
…An origami crane.
That was Diana’s origami and the crane’s neck had a small bell attached.
“Did this crane bring the boxes?”
She could hardly believe it, but the two boxes were more than enough to tell her what had happened.
The stacked boxes were as tall as her waist and…
…The bottom box has an invoice for the laptop?
The bottom one contained the laptop she had asked for to help her investigation. 2nd-Gear’s Kashima of the development department had likely prepared it for her. It was wrapped in dangerous looking paper printed with the Heart Sutra.
…Then what’s the top one?
If Diana had arranged this, what could it be? Did it contain books for her studies?
Confused, Heo reached down to undo the paper thread binding the boxes.
However, the paper thread came undone on its own before she could touch it.
It moved like a snake to come apart and spread out around the boxes.
She reflexively pulled her hand back in the chilly night air and the white light of the entranceway. The packing tape on the top box also peeled off on its own.
It started on her end and peeled back away from her while rolling itself up. Once the sound of it tearing from the box ended, the lid opened.
Heo saw something inside the cardboard box push up the lid.
She was unable to react, so she only managed to take a single step back.
“What’s in there?”
Her eyes opened wide as she watched something poke out of the opened box.
She recognized what placed its front legs on the edge of the box and looked out at her.
“Heo? Doing well?”
A voice reached her in the form of a thought.
“A 4th plant creature?”
The plant creature nodded from within the box.
“Talk with Heo. Very good thing.”
After the span of a breath, the creature continued.
“4th will redo negotiation. With Heo this time. Okay?”
The corridor was very cold.
It was a long windowless corridor made of cement. It curved a bit to the left, but only enough to prevent one from seeing farther than twenty meters down it.
The plumbing was exposed on the walls and a bench was located below a water pipe covered in condensation.
A boy breathed a white breath from that bench.
The black-haired boy had the slightly dark skin of someone with Latin blood.
He wore a leather jacket and faced a single door.
The door contained a placard that said “United States Yokota UCAT Commander” in English.
People in blue armored uniforms would occasionally walk between the boy and the door.
They would all give the boy a puzzled look, but after realizing who he was, they would give a quick salute and pass by.
The boy would nod uncomfortably back at them.
“Harakawa. Harakawa Dan, come in.”
The boy stood when a sudden voice called for him from the door’s communicator.
He straightened his slightly bent back and reached for the door.
“I’m coming in.”
He spoke instead of knocking and entered the room.
The room was as cold as the corridor.
It was a simple room.
It was a ten square meter space made of concrete.
A secretary’s desk with a PC was located next to the door, but it was currently empty.
A world map and a map of Japan hung on the left and right walls and the only other furnishings were a small decorative plant on a chair and a coffeemaker.
Finally, there was a large desk in the back.
The wooden desk was long from left to right, piles of documents covered the left and right sides, and a familiar face sat on the other side.
That face was wearing reading glasses for the documents.
“Colonel ‘Odor’, commander of American UCAT’s Japanese Deployment and Assistant Inspector to Team Leviathan.”
Harakawa’s breath was white as he spoke the man’s name and titles. He then removed his hands from his leather jacket.
“I came here with a request. A single request.”
He continued without waiting for a response.
“I want you to disclose the records on my father, Alberto Northwind.”
Odor reacted to the boy’s resounding voice.
He nodded toward the documents he had been looking at and raised his right hand.
A moment later, a metallic sound struck Harakawa.
The boy’s body was slammed to the chilly floor.
Odor did not bother checking on that sound he was so used to hearing.
The documents before him were far more important.
He had no aide at the moment, so he had to handle all the paperwork on his own. And if he did not complete this stack of papers, he would have no free time and he would be unable to head out in an emergency.
This was a difficult time for American UCAT. The other UCATs were holding them in check, but they also had to defend the people Japanese UCAT could not.
He did not understand Top-Gear’s movements.
Earlier, some of their guards had been drawn in by a Top-Gear survivor and then the entire unit had been wiped out.
The target that unit had been charged with protecting had subsequently been attacked by Top-Gear.
And of all things, 3rd-Gear’s Concept Core had been stolen.
This is… This is American UCAT’s failure, thought Odor.
Japanese UCAT had not actually asked them for this protection, but it was still a failure from the United States’ point of view.
They had responded by sending out additional guards and putting Heo under complete surveillance. If she so much as tripped, a sniper team would fire a handkerchief onto the spot where she would land.
And to ensure all of that was perfect, he had a lot more paperwork to check over.
In truth, he felt they could always call Heo here, but that would stifle her sense of independence.
Odor wanted to let Heo continue her normal life as much as possible.
…This paperwork… This paperwork will ensure that!
Any other work was unnecessary and he did not have time to deal with the request of the boy who had selfishly left Heo.
And so he snapped the fingers of his right hand.
He did so thrice.
He did not want to make Heo sad, so he avoided smashing the boy to pieces. However, the boy did annoy him in a number of ways, so he struck the right leg, then the left arm, and – once his odor had drawn a diagonal line between those two points – the right arm.
This would smash the boy’s bones and crush his flesh. The pain would go well beyond intense, so he would be lying unconscious and unmoving on the floor.
Odor would only need to call the general affairs department to have them clean up the room and transport the boy to the hospital. Most everything would be settled after the boy spent a day healing and it would give him a physical reason to rethink his actions.
Odor flipped through the documents and pushed his glasses up his nose, but he suddenly looked to the floor.
His gaze moved up from the floor.
There was a single reason for his gaze to move like that.
Even though his arms and right leg had been smashed, the boy was standing up.
His face was covered in sweat, blood dripped from his arms, and only his left leg had any real strength in it, but he managed to stand on that trembling leg and face Odor.
He let out a large white breath and then sucked in the chilly air.
“I won’t say it again!” he said. “Will you grant me my request!?”
Harakawa shouted and stepped forward.
He belatedly realized how absurd an organization UCAT was.
It was no place for him.
After all, he was a normal person. His race, fashion, lifestyle, tastes, and everything else were different from others’, but no more different than anyone else’s.
However, there were people who were much more different.
UCAT was made up of those people. Whether they wanted it or not, they had gained that difference and they tried to make some use of it. That was how Harakawa saw it anyway.
…And those people don’t need me.
He was fine with being just as different as your normal person.
He only needed the standard sort of difference he could compare with those of the people he passed by, met, or got together with in town, on the streets, at the train station, at school, or anywhere else.
He did not need the kind of unique difference that one could show off.
That would not put him on the same level as others.
…I have something like that now.
He was Thunder Fellow’s pilot.
He could probably remove himself from that position. He could convince Heo, speak with Thunder Fellow, and have that setting removed.
An ace in American UCAT’s air unit would be able to pilot the mechanical dragon better than him.
But he also knew about an organization where people with those unnecessary differences would gather and he knew about a girl who was trying to stay there.
He remembered seeing himself in that girl.
Did he still?
Was he that kind of person?
Was he the type to gather on the windy emergency staircase when everyone else was having fun in the classroom?
The girl with him, the girl who could summon a dragon, had a certain past.
She had once trusted in her parents and used that trust to yearn for the sky.
But while he could trust his mother, he did not trust his father.
On that Christmas Eve ten years ago, the family had prepared to celebrate, but his father had taken his mother, told him to wait for them, and then left.
His father had been a sniper with greater than average skill.
Afterwards, only his mother had returned and she had been ill. From then on, he had been alone.
And because I was alone, he told himself.
…I’m fine with being average.
The battle with 5th-Gear was over and there was no reason for Heo to fight.
He wanted to become average. He did not desire this difference when it was not necessary.
But, he thought. What if she doesn’t just have that difference? What if she’s the kind who can use that difference and embrace it?
He had told her to become average. He had said everything he could, he had given his reasoning, and he had pushed her away.
But if she found a reason despite not having one or if she produced a reason out of thin air, it meant she was the real deal.
…And I know she’ll find one.
It scared him that he believed that for no real reason.
But in that case, what would he do?
Would he cling to her difference so it carried him with her, would he leave, or…
“Please do this for me.”
He hated his father. The man had been selfish, he had pushed Harakawa away, and he had died without giving any thought to anyone else.
But when Harakawa looked at what he was doing now…
…Am I the same?
He wanted to say no, but he thought that desire was hypocritical.
…I can’t believe I’m thinking of pushing someone away as the right thing to do.
He hoped that would remove her desire to fight and make her average.
But from her point of view, he was rejecting her and abandoning her.
Oh, he thought.
…Maybe my dad saw it this way too.
He moved forward while practically dragging himself with his left leg.
He saw Odor looking through some documents.
He knew the man was ignoring him and he knew why the man was doing so.
“Because I’m not meant for UCAT.”
He had only been dragged along by her power and he had no ability beyond your average person.
But, he thought to convince himself.
“I’m here to find the answer.”
Those words produced a reaction. As he flipped through the documents, Odor opened his mouth just a bit.
“What? What answer are you here to find?”
“Well,” he began with a sigh.
He was one meter from the desk. He was within arm’s reach, but neither of his arms would move.
So he dragged himself onward, finally made it another ten centimeters forward, and let out a white breath.
“I’m here to find which kind of person I am.”
“And? And what options do you think there are?”
“Am I the kind of person I hate?” answered Harakawa. “Or am I the kind of person I like?”
“Then… Then which kind do you want to be once you learn of the past?”
Harakawa nodded at Odor’s question.
He breathed in, filled his trembling body with strength, and answered.
“The kind of person who can survive and go back to where I should be.”
A moment later, Odor raised his right arm and released the documents into the air.
He snapped his fingers and the papers scattered.
“Ridiculous! Absolutely ridiculous!”
His power struck Harakawa’s entire body and his words filled the room.
“But! But I will let you off with only this strike, descendent of the north wind!!”
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