Owari no Chronicle:Volume12 Chapter 13
Chapter 13: Morning Voices
You want to check
You desire to check
You want to check each other
A mountain sat below a dark winter morning.
The sun had yet to rise, so the green covering the mountain looked dark and deep.
A track ran through those evergreen shadows and a train moved along it.
It was a night train from Tokyo.
A few people were visible inside the white and red train as it traveled westward across the mountain.
The bunks were stacked two high and walls divided them into rooms of four.
The opening to the corridor had no door and each individual bunk had a curtain for privacy.
The clocks on the wall next to the bunks indicated it was early morning.
Two people sat next to each other on an empty bunk.
One was Sayama who wore a suit and had Baku on his head and the other was Shinjou who wore a shirt.
The boxes to the lunches they had bought at the station sat empty on their laps and they held documents in their hands.
“We got up pretty early, but we still have more than an hour in the mountains before reaching Izumo. We’ll still have time to spare even if we check through this.”
“We can read a lot more than before, but I doubt it will take up much of our time.”
“Yeah,” agreed Shinjou with a look down at the papers in her hand.
The letter from Shinjou Yukio they had found in the Kinugasa Library sat on her backpack to her left.
Sayama was reading through his own papers to her right.
But he quickly turned toward her.
“Are you tired, Shinjou-kun? You were up late last night writing your novel on your laptop and getting lost in thought as you read these documents. We just ate, so feel free to go to sleep. …You will be perfectly safe.”
“If it wasn’t for that last part, I might have let my guard down and gone to sleep.”
“Shinjou-kun, do you think I would do something to you?”
“Which one do you think I am right now?”
“Wh-why do you jump to such outlandish conclusions, Shinjou-kun!? It is so wonderfully sudden!”
“How about you deny the conclusion instead of pointing out how outlandish it is!?”
After yelling, Shinjou looked to the corridor and saw a passenger in pajamas giving them a worried glance.
Ah, she thought as heat filled her cheeks. She hid her reddening face behind the papers, grabbed her things, moved past Sayama and to the window, and hid herself behind the curtain.
“Honestly, there are people passing by in here.”
“Yes, but why were you assuming I would do something to you?”
“You won’t do anything weird?”
“I will not.”
“What is that silence for?”
“Well…” she said with a tilt of her head.
Was she being too suspicious? Was she being too cautious? But to be blunt, she doubted she could fight it if he did do anything, although she was not sure why.
“If I did fall asleep while sitting here, what would you do?”
“I would will you to lean my way.”
“And if I leaned toward the window instead?”
“My will is too strong for that.”
“I have no idea how your brain works, but fine. What if I leaned on you? Would you just spend the time like that?”
“Yes.” He nodded and brushed a hand along his documents to straighten them. “There is nothing to worry about. From there, it is a matter of my mental fortitude.”
“Then there’s plenty to worry about! Is it the Sayama way for your answer and your explanation to not match up?”
“Calm down, Shinjou-kun. It would be wrong to not do anything with you leaning up against me.”
“You don’t hold back on the craziness, do you? But…”
She lowered the ends of her eyebrows and spoke quietly from behind her papers.
“Lately… Ever since both bodies started working, you haven’t done anything.”
She could feel the heat reaching her ears as she continued.
“I haven’t been doing it on my own, you know?”
“I am honored. But…”
He crossed his arms.
“I might go beyond merely checking. I might go all the way. Are you sure you want to do that just any old time? For example, would you want to do it here?”
She slowly thought about that and shook her head.
“Indeed.” He nodded. “We must choose a better time and place. For example, on an especially momentous day and in a place where your perfection can reach the entire world.”
“You mean like sunrise on New Year’s while making a no-rope bungee jump from the Tokyo Government Office? You can do that on your own.”
“Ha ha ha. Do you really think a government office built by the people’s taxes would be enough? Ha ha. I am only kidding, Shinjou-kun.”
“I have no idea what you’re talking about! And what are you imagining!?”
Still, Shinjou had a thought.
It was not that he had given up on her or gotten tired of her.
She had been telling herself that was not it, but she felt relieved to hear it from him.
Sayama was waiting for a number of conditions to be met.
To cool her mind, she flipped through her documents. She had looked through most of it the night before and she had compared ideas with Sayama as he lay on the top bunk.
…We learned a lot.
These documents were more than just the ones from the library. There were also the ones they had taken from the Second Reference Room, the ones Kashima had faxed them in Kurashiki over the summer, and more that Sibyl had faxed them the previous night.
They still could not read a lot of it, but they could read far more than before.
Some of that included UCAT’s summarized activities during the blank period.
By reading them in chronological order, Shinjou had learned that the first interaction with Top-Gear had occurred in 1948.
With some help from information left by Kinugasa Tenkyou, Sayama’s grandfather and some 10th-Gear residents had guided a gate there. At first, the 10th representative had acted as an intermediary, but later, Izumo and Sayama’s grandfathers had negotiated directly.
Most of the National Defense Department and old UCAT had not been privy to these things.
But in the seventies when Izumo’s grandfather had died, the information had been released to all of Japanese UCAT and they had secretly began putting together anti-Top-Gear strategies and tactics.
…The battle against Top-Gear was set for 1999.
Thanks to Hajji’s explanation, they knew that was a non-aggression treaty put together by Sayama’s grandfather.
And they found three familiar names on the list of people who joined Japanese UCAT in April of ’82: Sayama Asagi, Toda Yume, and Shinjou Yukio.
After their training, Sayama Asagi had joined the development department, Toda Yume had joined the general affairs department, and Shinjou Yukio had joined the development department.
…She joined Izumo UCAT’s development department?
Why had she alone moved elsewhere?
The documents also revealed where they had undergone training.
“Osaka’s Mt. Ikoma region.”
According to Sayama, Babel was in that area.
They could only read the title of the Babel interior investigation report they had found in the Study, but it had been written during that training.
…However, only Sayama-kun’s father and my mom could get inside.
What did that mean?
Only Professor Kinugasa had been able to get in before, so why had they been able to enter?
Shinjou asked herself a silent question. Her mother was said to have nearly completed a concept creation theory, but was that thanks to seeing Babel which could supposedly construct concepts?
But if that was the case…
…Why is there an incomplete concept creation facility below Japanese UCAT?
Who had tried to build it and why?
“There are so many questions and too few answers. I never imagined my mom worked at Izumo UCAT.”
“But it is a useful piece of information. We were already on our way there for the Leviathan Road with 8th-Gear, but we may find information on your mother as well. …That is two birds with one stone.”
“I hope so. …So what did you find?”
He held up the document on the abandoned Georgius project.
She gave the papers a puzzled look and he showed her the text.
“It seems Georgius allows you to use your opponent’s concept field as your own.”
“The stronger the opponent, the greater its output. It is much like a mirror. And it apparently did not originally bear the name Georgius. …My father gave it that name after seeing the Kinugasa Document.”
He read an outline of the events given in the report.
“April 1983: Research and development begins.
“March 1984: Prototype fails to activate due to faulty production.
“April 1986: The Kinugasa Library and Study reveal the existence of the Kinugasa Document.
“September 1986: Manager Sayama reads the Kinugasa Document at Kinugasa Tenkyou’s residence and gives up on the project.”
Once he finished speaking, the train shook as the slope up the mountain steepened.
After crossing this mountain and travelling for about an hour, they would reach the Izumo region. Miyako would be waiting for them there in the Izumo IAI headquarters.
…A lot happened last night.
The foreign UCATs were waiting in Japan to see what Team Leviathan would do.
Shinjou was thankful because that had helped the situation settle down.
And Miyako was certain to request that they retrieve 3rd-Gear’s Concept Core.
…Doing that is our job and it will earn us their gratitude.
She nodded but turned her focus back to the papers in Sayama’s hand.
They could tell one thing from how much they could read.
“Your father tried to create Georgius but gave up and my mom very nearly completed a concept creation theory at Izumo UCAT.”
“But your mother went to Top-Gear and my father remained in Low-Gear.”
She could hear the slight pain behind his words, but a certain question occurred to her.
…What kind of relationship did my mom and his father have?
She wanted to ask if they had been friends, but she mentally shook her head.
Sayama was here and she was here because…
…They both found someone important to them.
Her mother had wished for her to be happy, so she wanted to believe that she was here because that was what her mother had wanted.
And most likely, Sayama felt the same.
The train shook a little and the shaking removed the tenseness from her shoulders.
…What kind of person was my dad?
Hajji had said he was Top-Gear’s Shinjou. As the opposite of Shinjou Yukio, his name had also been Shinjou Yukio, albeit written with slightly different characters.
She was sure she would learn about him as well.
And after learning all that, they had to face Top-Gear.
Sayama seemed to have come up with some kind of “last resort” and he would probably tell her what that was during this trip.
So it will all work out fine, she told herself with a sigh while sorting through her documents.
Her mind was packed full of different thoughts and she had already eaten, so she wanted to take things easy.
To lean up against Sayama, she lifted her hips a little to shift her butt over toward him.
He seemed to have been thinking the same thing because he excitedly set his papers aside and scooted over as well. And he moved forcefully underneath her.
Behind the curtain, Shinjou ended up sitting on Sayama’s lap. Also…
“Sayama-kun? Why are you pulling up my shirt?”
“Sayama Mikoto dislikes being asked for a reason.”
“This is no time for a self-psychoanalysis! Just calm down! W-wait! Hey!”
“Think about it carefully, Shinjou-kun. To start with, we cannot go all the way here, right?”
“That is not where careful thought would lead you, but w-where are you going with this? To be clear, we can’t do it here.”
He nodded twice, but immediately put on a refreshing smile.
“Going all the way here would be a bad idea…but we can always stop partway.”
“N-no, we can not! That would be a crime!”
She tried to support her protest by getting up, but that action ended up pulling down her underwear.
She gasped when the inside of her shirt directly touched her butt and she sat back down on his lap.
She frantically held her shirt down to hide the bare flesh between her legs and shook her head.
“L-let’s calm down, okay? We’re on a train right now, I’m panicking, and – look – it’s morning outside.”
“Why do you sound so flustered, Shinjou-kun? And an early winter morning still counts as night.”
His hand moved from behind her shirt and touched her thighs, causing her to jump.
“Ah, wait. Even if we’re only going partway, w-we can’t do it here.”
“Ha ha ha. This is a moving train, so we have already left ‘here’, Shinjou-kun.”
“Wah,” she cried as his hand slipped below her hands in inside her shirt.
She resisted by holding down the shirt, but the level of strength above and below the single layer of cloth was too great.
His touch caused her to jump and she grabbed on the curtain she had pulled in front of her.
She turned toward him as if squeezing her body.
She let out a deep breath and looked him in the eye.
He nodded at her request for a reason.
“You were up all last night, weren’t you? We were talking the entire time, but in truth…you thought I might come down to join you, didn’t you?”
He was exactly right, so she felt her heart pound and searched for an excuse.
“U-um, well, uh…”
“I too am a coward. I was wondering if you might come up to join me.”
Shinjou reacted to that confession in two ways.
She blushed and averted her gaze downwards.
She had no excuse. Her heart was racing and she was covered in sweat.
She hesitantly looked up and found him giving her a relaxed version of his usual expressionless look.
“Do not worry, Shinjou-kun. I will only be checking on your body like usual. It has been a month and a half since the last time, though.”
“Really? I can leave it to you? But…someone might pass by.”
“Not to worry. The first time Setsu-kun’s body worked properly, we had opened the window for some partial exhibitio- gwah.”
A fist with the middle knuckle slightly extended was enough to do damage even without great arm strength.
Shinjou sighed as she watched Sayama hold his face below the nose.
…I’m too kind. Kazami-san would have hit him another five times.
She was worried about anyone noticing, but she still relaxed her body.
She let out a long breath, realized that coming up with an excuse would be impossible, and sat back down on Sayama’s lap.
“Don’t do anything weird, okay? Just do it like normal, okay?”
She looked around, but there were no footsteps in the corridor.
She also wondered how much longer until they reached Izumo.
“Now, um, Sayama-kun?”
She hung her head a little and felt heat filling her ears.
“Remember what I said. I want you to check on my body.”
“Yes,” she said again. “And not just now. I always want you to. …Without it, I’ve been feeling needlessly afraid.”
“Yes. I know it’s a weird thing to say, but you know what?” she asked to make absolutely sure he was listening. “I was afraid you weren’t interested in seeing me anymore now that I’m working properly.”
“Shinjou-kun.” He nodded once. “You are making so very many misunderstandings that I will have to summarize this quite a bit, but I am trying to be extremely sensitive to your needs as your mind and body begin working together and, until you can do everything properly, I will look, listen, touch, and do anything else that transcends what you will find on an educational program, so-…”
“Sayama-kun, Sayama-kun. You aren’t summarizing it at all. It’s all coming out in some kind of bizarre stream of consciousness.”
“To put it simply, I am ready when you are.”
“If you’re ready…then so am I.”
What am I saying? I’m being way too kind, she thought while unable to look him in the eye.
“Even if everything is working properly, I still want you to check on my body like always.”
When she continued, she said what she truly thought.
“And you don’t need a practical excuse for doing these things with me anymore. I want you to see me as someone you simply want to do those things with, so, um…”
She searched for the right words and had trouble, but he said nothing to help her.
After a few breaths, she gathered her thoughts in a single question.
“Do you no longer want to check on my body now that it isn’t necessary?”
“That is not the case.”
He rejected her thoughts as usual and she looked up at those comfortable words.
She saw the serious expression on his face as he nodded and moved his hands to touch her.
She shrank back, but he pulled her in from behind.
“Then this will be the day I resumed checking on your body. …We should make it a national holiday.”
I’d rather we didn’t, she thought with a bitter smile before he touched her again and another quiet gasp escaped her.
“But Sayama-kun? I…I… I can actually do it now.”
“Then we need to make up for the time we wasted last night. And the train will continue on after we finish, so you can sleep then. Once you wake, we will be in Izumo.”
She relaxed her body and rested her back on his chest. She then lowered the ends of her eyebrows.
“Can I ask one thing?”
“What is it? Do you need derby-style commentary? …Now, #1 Shinjou has left the gate! Shinjou has left the gate! #5 Arousal is gaining on her and #3 Shame cannot keep up!”
“Let it catch up and then calm down!”
After an exasperated sigh, she entrusted herself to him.
“Um?” she began. “If possible, when I go to sleep, could you lie next to me with your arms around my shoulders? If you do that, I think it really will be morning when I wake up. The slightly scary night I’ve been living through will be over and the morning to reach our next destination will have arrived.”
She knew she was asking for a lot, but she still smiled and asked him.
“It’s only a short time, but can you do that?”
A 4th plant creature woke in the morning sunlight.
Although in its case, “waking” only meant for the sensory organs on the end of its current body to begin functioning.
The plant creature did not actually sleep. When bathing in a warm light, the burden would activate its metabolism, but there was still a burden on its life functions even in the dark.
The amount of power being consumed was vastly different, but 4th-Gear’s creatures were always awake.
Here, the light had reached its sensory organs which had switched it from a passive to an active state.
It could not see the sky because it was in a room. The room was nearly dark, but…
A transparent area connected the room to the outside and the cloth covering it glowed a dark blue.
The plant creature knew that dark blue reached this world before the sun rose.
The creature did not move.
This was a very cold time for this world, which was a difficult state for a creature that consumed heat. This creature was a portion of the whole sent by Mukiti and it had been created based on data taken from bodies that had lived on the dark side of 4th-Gear’s ring-like land, but this world was still very cold at this time.
The night before, Heo had raised the room’s temperature before going to sleep.
“I’ll set the air conditioner to thirty-two degrees. I’ll turn on the electric carpet too.”
After saying that, she had also closed all of the room’s sliding screens and turned on a machine that let out steam.
That had been borrowed from an individual named “Landlord” and it was still running.
That machine kept the room relatively warm. It was cold compared to the underground space the creature’s main body lived in, but it was not so cold it would wither away.
Heo had also prepared some water the night before.
The plant creature was sitting inside it. The large flower-colored container was filled with water.
The water was cold, but the creature understood Heo had prepared it out of kindness. For a creature that absorbed heat, it was nothing more than moisture and it slowed its metabolism, but…
Heo had filled it with something special and it tasted fairly good.
The creature had arrived as a negotiator, so it decided to focus on her kindness and not worry about small problems. It also decided to remember all of this for when it regrouped with the rest of itself.
The plant creature had then patiently waited for the sun to rise.
It was good at passing time. Its memories went back longer than it knew how to say, but they had been doing nothing since those earliest times.
The creature did not think of it in terms of “waiting”. It simply continued to watch as time passed.
Finally, the window grew white and sounds arrived from outside the room.
“Birds. Wind. …Engines?”
It took a few minutes to speak each word and it knew what those sounds meant.
The people of this world were beginning to move.
“Mukiti said people moving makes noise.”
The plant creature knew that to be the case. When Sayama moved, it made a lot of noise and sometimes Shinjou would stop it. Wings of light would grow from Kazami’s back and the ends of her limbs would often send someone flying, which caused a lot of noise. Izumo also made nice noises when he hit a wall.
They all made a variety of noises, but the creature still did not know them very well.
“I don’t know Low-Gear.”
It had a single question.
In a recent battle, Mukiti and the plant creature had heard about the creation of their world.
That in itself had no real meaning to them because they had decided to go with Sayama.
However, there was a problem.
Low-Gear was said to have lied.
“Can we trust Low-Gear?”
4th-Gear did not have individuals, so it was difficult for them to understand the concept of individuals.
For 4th-Gear, a trustworthy existence did not have differing opinions between individuals.
It had a single unified opinion. That was a trustworthy existence just like them.
4th-Gear viewed Sayama and Shinjou’s thoughts as almost identical, even if they referred to themselves as opposites.
They were the representatives of Low-Gear, so 4th-Gear had extrapolated that the entire Gear was the same.
However, someone claimed Low-Gear had lied.
4th-Gear’s Mukiti and the plant creatures had wondered about that.
If Low-Gear had lied, it meant Sayama and Shinjou were liars too. In that case, was their “promise” for 4th-Gear to follow Sayama also a lie?
So they had decided to investigate to see whether Low-Gear had a single unified mind.
After gathering that thought, they had asked the individual named Ooshiro and he had spun around while giving them permission. The previous morning, an individual named Diana had placed this plant creature into a box.
It had entered a state known as “awaiting shipment”.
It had planned to go to either Mikage or Heo because it had met them before, but Mikage had apparently been injured.
Conveniently, something else was being sent to Heo, so it had been sent at the same time that night.
And now, it was in a space known as a room and waiting for the sun to rise.
It heard noises coming from outside the space. They were the noises of Low-Gear’s people.
If Low-Gear was not a liar, then Heo would also make noises as part of their uniform actions.
It turned its sensory organs toward the girl and she moved.
In the center of the room, she slept on a fiber known as a “futon”.
It checked the thoughts that reached it and found her mind was asleep but her body was nearly active.
She pushed off the futon’s blanket.
She had removed the fiber known as “clothing” that she had been wearing.
The surface of her body was flushed with heat. It was about an eighth warmer than the rest of the room.
The plant creature sensed some slight vapor coming from the surface of her body. It was known as sweat and Ooshiro often produced it when interacting with #8.
Heo bent her body on the futon while sweating.
She twisted her body, crawled along the futon, and had it soak up her sweat.
She spread out her limbs to expose her body’s surface to the air and allow for excellent radiation of heat. The 4th-Gear plant creature began to wonder if Low-Gear’s creatures were really all that different from itself.
“Ooshiro doesn’t remove his clothes even when he sweats.”
It figured that was due to #8’s presence, but that did not seem enough of a reason to sacrifice such excellent heat radiation.
And Heo was doing what Ooshiro did not.
“Heo is clever.”
Some soft sunlight was already entering the room. The light passed through the cloth covering the hole to the outside. It shined on Heo and caused her sweat to sparkle on her skin.
She groaned again and held the futon’s blanket in her arms.
She squeezed the blanket into a stem-like tube, pressed it against her stomach, wrapped her thighs around it, and gently bit into it.
The Harakawa inside her sleeping mind was not here.
Listening to someone’s thoughts was easy, but the plant creature felt the rules were different when that person was asleep.
“I will ask.”
It left the wash tub and the splashing water dripped onto the newspaper laid out below.
Its wet legs and body walked over to the futon and found Heo’s flushed back.
Its sensory organs saw Heo panting and realized her heat radiation was insufficient.
It tilted its head and felt like eating something, so it decided to solve both of their problems at once. It lifted up its fifteen centimeter body which was damp with cold water.
“Heo, wake up.”
It slowly placed its damp body on Heo’s bare back.
A wet sound came from the point of contact just as the plant creature expelled air.
“Hyah!” cried Heo as she jumped out of the futon.
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