Owari no Chronicle:Volume12 Chapter 16

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Chapter 16: What One Has While Alone[edit]

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By realizing I had a thought

I realized I could think

That is why realization is said to be a virtue


The north wind blew down from the gray sky and filled a plaza.

The plaza was divided up by a moat and white walls.

A giant structure filled the center of the plaza.

The structure was a castle.

It was Osaka Castle.

Quite a few tourists looked up at the castle tower and its aqua-blue tiled roof.

Below the castle, Osaka Castle Park was split up by the waterways and walls. That winter afternoon, it was filled with tour groups and couples.

At the north end of Osaka Castle Park was a bridge crossing the northern moat and allowing passage to the city.

The cement bridge had wooden railings and it gave a view of Osaka Castle’s north side.

From the north, the castle was backlit by the sun, so it was covered in shadow.

However, one person did look up at the shaded castle.

A girl in a black suit stood at the center of the bridge, leaning against the railing.

She had a large white dog with her which was staring up at her as if waiting to be fed.

However, the girl was not looking at the dog. She frowned and glared at the letter in her hand.

It began with “To Mikoku” and it was the one that had been attached to a knife.

“I am about to go steal 3rd-Gear’s Concept Core. Team Leviathan’s negotiator and Shinjou plan to complete the Leviathan Road with 8th-Gear before visiting Sakai. Confront them and tell them what we intend to do once we have 3rd-Gear’s Concept Core. It is up to you to decide what exactly that will be. If anyone is to gather us together, it has to be you, the one positioned directly below Master Hajji. Give this careful thought.”

Mikoku summed up what the letter told her:

“I’m supposed to think about how we will use 3rd-Gear’s Concept Core to confront UCAT?”

She looked up into the gray yet bright sky.

“But why is she making me the leader?”

She had her doubts about that.

Tatsumi had her easily beaten in both combat skill and popularity.

She had been late to make her debut in the Army and she was still mostly viewed as everyone else’s junior.

Tatsumi said she had been chosen due to her position below Hajji, but she only had that position due to her young age at Top-Gear’s destruction and her need for someone to look after her.

It was still a mystery whether the others would accept her as leader.

I hope she is not simply shoving this onto me because she does not want to do it herself.

Regardless, Tatsumi had undoubtedly taken 3rd-Gear’s Concept Core.

She would not say she would if she could not. Some might call her manly, but Mikoku had tried that once and ended up knocked seven meters backwards by a wooden sword jab to the forehead.

Some might say she could not take a joke, but Mikoku had tried that once and ended up meeting a similar fate. Mikoku decided not to continue digging through her memories of Tatsumi.

“Now, then.”

She sat on the railing and set down the bag containing her extra clothes.

3rd-Gear’s Concept Core, huh?

That could strengthen Typhon, Alex, and the dolls, so it could be seen as the most useful of the Cores for Tatsumi and the others.

And she’s left it to me to decide how to use it against UCAT.

She could imagine the scene. The factory manager and the others would be maintaining Alex and such somewhere and Tatsumi would show them Keravnos.

“Finding space for this is a lot of work,” she would say. “I hope Mikoku does something about it soon.”

That was exactly the sort of selfish thing she would say.

“But how am I supposed to know what to do with it?”

Should they hold 3rd’s Core hostage and demand they hand over the other Cores?

Should they trade 3rd’s Core for Hajji and the prisoners?

Should they use 3rd’s Core as a weapon and battle UCAT once again?

Or…

Mikoku did not know what was best, what made the best use of their resources, or whether she should be the one deciding this.

There was also more she did not understand.

“Shiro.”

She spoke to the dog that had circled in front of her and he suddenly stood up as if to embrace her.

“Ha ha ha. You’ve been play-biting me so much lately, but have you finally accepted me?”

However, he was unexpectedly heavy, so she lost her balance and started to fall backwards.

“Nh.”

She took a position much like throwing Shiro backwards in a front suplex.

“…”

And they endured. She kept herself from falling backwards and Shiro stretched out so he would not lose his balance.

The two of them maintained their position for five seconds. Then ten. And thirty. Finally, a contest of force vectors was established.

“Nwah!!”

And she forcibly returned Shiro to the bridge like swinging down a hammer.

Did it!!

The two of them gasped for breath while holding each other in their arms on top of the bridge and its railing.

“Sh-Shiro, try not to play around too much.”

The dog’s entire body was tensed up and he was obviously not going to nod in agreement, but he seemed to have learned the danger of that situation.

He quickly tapped her shoulders with his front paws, so she let go of him and he panted while lying down on the ground like he was wilting.

Seeing that reminded Mikoku of Shino.

I wonder what she’s doing.

That worry is probably a sign that I’m dependent on her, she thought, which only depressed her further.

She seemed to have entered a negative cycle and she knew perfectly well why.

“I have lost my confidence, haven’t I?” she asked Shiro.

The dog raised his lowered head.

He seemed worried about her which lightened her mood a little, so she spoke quietly.

“The thing is, I once thought I was the very strongest.”

She brought a hand to her chest.

“My mother made me this philosopher’s stone with a regeneration concept inside. I will never die with it, so I assumed I would always win in the end.”

She smiled bitterly.

“But you know what? That does not mean I will win in the end. It only means I will survive to the end. I cannot believe this,” she said quietly. “To win when necessary and give victory to someone, I need my skill. This philosopher’s stone is only a part of that skill, but not all of it.”

She reached for the cloth cover leaning up against the railing next to her.

And she looked up at Osaka Castle.

This castle had also existed in the Top-Gear Osaka she once lived in.

It would have been destroyed on that final night.

Everything in their city had been.

Including my parents.

Her parents had been concept and philosopher’s stone researchers and their concept research had led to her mother embedding this philosopher’s stone in Mikoku’s chest.

Despite knowing it was a misplaced complaint, she held a hand to her chest and thought to herself.

Would I have been stronger without this stone?

“I am awful.”

But it was true she had little aversion to the idea of death. She had to accept that fact in order to improve herself and there was no real reason to hate that stone which was a part of her, but she could not help but wonder “what if”.

What if she had been a boy? What if she had been taller? What if she had been stronger? What if Top-Gear had not been destroyed? What if she had been more-

“What would have happened?”

There was no one here to answer her questions.

“Because I am all alone now.”

She stepped down from the railing, sensed Shiro standing up at her feet, and looked to the false version of a destroyed castle.

She would travel to Sakai now.

Sayama and Shinjou would arrive there that night with 8th-Gear’s Concept Core with them. They would be there to learn about Shinjou’s past.

Tatsumi expected Mikoku to face them there and announce how they would be using 3rd-Gear’s Concept Core. Would she seek a rematch, the release of the prisoners, or something else?

I somehow doubt I will find a very good answer.

She turned her back on the castle.

She was glad she had stopped by here instead of traveling directly to Sakai. The names of stores and surnames on houses were different, but the place had still brought back a lot of sentimental memories.

“It is time to go, Shiro.”

As soon as she faced the streets of Kyobashiguchi, a sudden voice reached her.

Metal is alive.

A moment later, she realized the enemy was here.


Gyes had detected Mikoku the night before.

She had noticed while taking Miyako and the Moirai back from Yokosuka via god of war.

A bullet train had been travelling east through the mountains below them, so Miyako had leaned out from the god of war’s shoulder.

“Go, Gyes! Pass it, pass it!”

Gyes had responded by passing the bullet train at extreme low altitude.

A child had noticed them out the window and Miyako had struck a triumphant pose, so Gyes had frantically sped up and away from the train.

It was then!

A familiar concept reading had come from somewhere within the train and that reading belonged to the killer of her fellow Hecatoncheire.

“Toda Mikoku!!”

Currently, she looked down from the top of Osaka Castle which was surrounded by a concept space.

The castle’s shadow fell on the bridge over the northern moat where Mikoku and a dog looked up at her.

Gyes leaped down regardless.

She used her gravitational control to quickly descend toward her target.

She was glad she had checked for the girl based on the bullet train’s schedule. She had been unable to resist saying she had business to take care of and leaving Izumo UCAT that morning. She regretted missing her chance to say hello to Sayama and Shinjou, but…

This is a personal battle!

Gyes accelerated and swung her arms backwards.

She did not bother drawing the swords from her suit.

She summoned her god of war straight away. And…

“Go, swords!!”

She drew the six giant swords from her fixed concept space.

She sent those half dozen blades forward to attack.

She swung her arms down as if to strike Mikoku.

And the swords flew.


Meanwhile, Mikoku took a defensive stance and breathed in slightly.

She was somewhat panicked. This had come suddenly and she knew she had let her guard down for anything to seem “sudden”.

However, she knew she was still fine.

She was inexperienced and she tended to use that as an excuse, but she knew she could still fight.

She knew she had to be stronger than before.

I can win!

With that thought, she gathered strength in her legs.

Her aim was simple.

I will counter her attack.

As Gyes dropped down from above, she swung down a giant attack.

So Mikoku would quickly fall back to dodge Gyes’s blades and then step forward for a counterattack.

Gyes’s actions had a flaw. She was assisting herself with her gravitational control, so she could not immediately shift into her next movement upon finishing this one.

Once Mikoku saw through the swords’ movement, she could duck through them and charge forward. That way, she would not need to jump over the holes smashed by the massive swords and she could always regenerate if one of the swords did graze her.

I will be fine, she told herself. I can manage on my own.

With that thought, she opened the cloth wrapper in her hand.

She pulled out a Japanese sword treated with philosopher’s stone and tried to draw it.

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“…!?”

But for some reason, the sword did not move even with the usual flick of her thumb against the guard.

Eh?

It felt less like it was glued in place and more like this was a single object with no blade that was never meant to be drawn in the first place. More importantly, she had not expected this at all.

“————”

I cannot fight like this, she thought, before immediately erasing that thought from her head.

Nothing but a question mark filled her mind. She tried flicking the guard with her thumb again, but it remained motionless.

“What is-…”

She tried to ask what was going on, but then she saw a small form sitting where she had not long before.

It was a childish form in a maid uniform. It was a girl with blonde hair.

She was looking over at Mikoku.

“Sorry, sorry. Are you panicking?”

She lowered the ends of her eyebrows in a bitter smile.

Only then did Mikoku realize she had no idea what to do.

She was trying to fight back against Gyes and that much was right, but she could not draw the sword she had pulled from its cloth wrapping.

I cannot do something I assumed was a given.

The path to victory she had painted in her mind had been closed off.

If she could draw the sword, she could bring that victory into reality, so her thumb was entirely focused on flicking up the sword’s guard.

However…

“Sorry. Gyes said some confusing stuff about this being a personal fight and not a duel. And well, I used to play with Aigaion a lot too, so…”

The girl raised her hands which seemed to be grabbing an invisible tube in midair.

“You won’t be able to draw that,” she said with a troubled smile.

Mikoku realized the six giant blades were descending from above.


The six swords split the concrete bridge.

“————!?”

And they sliced through what stood on the bridge as easily as slicing through empty space.

The first two severed Mikoku’s arms at the shoulder, sending them flying. The blades went on to slice through her feet, smash the concrete, and pierce through the bridge.

A solid sound filled the air, Mikoku’s left arm flew with the Japanese sword still in its grasp, and the next two blades dropped down.

Those two both split the front half of Mikoku’s body. They sliced through her lungs and every last rib and slid down the inside of her thighs while tearing a bit into the bone.

Soon thereafter, the final two slammed into her. And they used the back of the sword.

The rapidly falling blades provided blunt but powerful impacts that contained enough force to smash what remained of her.

She had already been sliced apart by the previous swords, so her left side, right side, and inside splattered everywhere. The inside was especially bad. The impacts on the left and right caused her insides to burst.

“————!!”

As the bridge began to collapse, Mikoku let out a scream mixed with the color red.

Her voice rang out.

The sounds of impact joined it.

But the bridge did not collapse. The girl sitting on the railing held out her palms.

“That was for Aigaion.”

She scooped her hands upwards to preserve the shattered bridge.

With her limbs scattered through the air and across the ground, Mikoku was released from the impact and began to fall.

“!”

But she was stopped.

Gyes had pinned her in midair with a sword through the abdomen.

“This…”

Gyes spread her arms wide to either side and nine swords spread out behind her.

“This ends here, Toda Mikoku!!”

With that shout, she used her gravitational control to stab Mikoku with the nine swords.

However, Mikoku was not yet dead. She was still conscious, still breathing, still pumping blood.

The blue light of a philosopher’s stone shined through her tattered clothing at her chest.

“I can still…”

Mikoku managed to speak. To keep her consciousness from fading in the intense pain, she spoke aloud to herself without understanding what exactly she was saying.

“I can still make it…on my own…”

She spat out some blood with those words and tried to hold on to her consciousness.

“Yes, you have that regeneration ability. You may regenerate quickly when healing a single body part, but it takes time to regenerate everything.”

Gyes saw several colors and objects gathering together atop the bridge that remained standing despite collapsing. They were reconnecting into a single body.

“You are defenseless during that time, but Aigaion did not know about your ability and assumed he had won. That led him to let down his guard and lose. But you know what? If he had known, Aigaion could have killed you.”

“Kill…ed…?” weakly asked Mikoku.

“Yes,” replied Gyes. “All one has to do is destroy that philosopher’s stone in your chest.”

Mikoku trembled at those words.

She tried to twist around and bend over.

“!!”

But something pierced through her head from front to back.

She had tried to bend over and hide her chest, but the impact caused her to bend backwards instead.

She felt like her thoughts were knocked out the back of her head and she saw a maid sitting on the ground beyond the bridge.

The maid had short hair, sharp eyes, and a needle in her right hand.

A rapidly fired needle was what had pierced through Mikoku’s head.

“…!”

Still bent backwards, several hundred needles stabbed into her, fixing her in midair.

At the same time, something moved from below the bridge and into the air.

The giant object turned out to be a blade.

The six belonging to Gyes’s god of war were stacked up on top of each other. Together, they formed a single extra-thick sword.

They sent a roar through the air as they dropped down as a massively heavy blade.

Their target was the philosopher’s stone in Mikoku’s chest.

At the same time, Gyes jumped on top of the six combined swords.

She added on her own weight to accelerate them further.

“Do not worry! I will make sure not to harm your face any further!!”


Mikoku saw it.

There was nothing she could do. She had lost most of her body, most of what even formed thoughts had been smashed, and she could only think vaguely about the scene before her eyes.

Her thoughts never actually stopped. They simply relaxed and allowed what was hidden in her heart to spill out.

Ah.

She saw a giant blade.

It dropped from the gray sky and a woman stood on it.

It had a machete-like tip and the corner was falling straight for her chest.

Sto-…

She tried to say “stop”, but her mouth would not move.

She could only think “stop” and “no” like a child while twisting her nonexistent body.

The sword arrived.

It can’t be, she thought. Why? she asked.

There is no avoiding it, she also thought.

No…

Her eyes saw the blade dropping from the gray sky and the shadows of the surrounding buildings.

Those buildings were the castle and the more distant city.

Long ago, she had lived in a similar place, her parents had been with her, and she had had plenty of friends.

She had always been taught they were in the right. When she had asked why, she had been given the following answer:

“Because we are trying to accept everyone.”

Her young self had accepted that answer.

However, her mother had embedded a certain stone in her young chest.

Afraid of the pain, she had resisted the idea, sobbed, and cried, but after being drawn in by sweets and dolls, she had undergone the surgery.

Three days later, the world had been destroyed.

All that had remained were the other members of the Army and this.

However, a lot of those others had been captured.

Shino had likely gone wherever it was she wanted to be.

Mikoku was now alone.

She was alone, she could do nothing, and a sword was about to smash her to pieces.

No.

She finally let out a voice. However, there was no strength behind it and she could not even reject anything that was happening.

“No!!”

Her shout was answered by the blade colliding with her chest and her body being torn apart.

But just before that, she remembered a great many things: her father’s face, her mother’s face, her friends, her life in Noah, the city she had lived in, the people she had lived with, herself as she had lived there, and…

Shino.

She cried out the name of that girl who was no longer by her side.

However, that cry was never heard.

The lungs that would produce it had been sliced apart.


The afternoon sunlight reached a certain location.

A materials storage area was filled with the colors of shadow.

An area of a forested mountain slope had been dug out, pillars driven down, and a metal roof added.

It was big enough for three large dump trucks to fit inside.

However, it was currently filled by something other than trucks, sheet metal, or other materials.

It contained a metal dragon and a white steel giant.

A girl sat on top of the crouching dragon that was colored red, white, and blue.

The girl stared forward at the white giant kneeling in one corner of the dark storage area.

No, she was actually looking at the men in work outfits surrounding the white giant.

“Manager, how is it? Can you get it moving?”

“Can’t you tell at a glance, Tatsumi? This isn’t a pendulum and there are no spares, so it isn’t moving right away.”

“I see,” said Tatsumi.

The mechanical dragon she sat on raised his head slightly.

“How was the enemy?”

“Nothing worth mentioning, Alex. But if I had to say something…troublingly weak. I need him to be strong.”

“Strength is quite a complicated topic.”

“Is it really? I don’t think it’s that-…”

She trailed off and looked down at a small object touching her shoe.

It was a bolt. It had likely been holding on one of Alex’s parts, but it had come free of its nut.

However, she placed the bolt in her pocket and waved down below.

“Manager, one of Alex’s bolts has-…”

“Typhon comes first,” replied the manager.

“But Alex is alive.”

“Stop it, Tatsumi,” cut in Alex. “You make it sound like I will fall apart from losing a single bolt.”

“But,” she said with a frown.

“This much is nothing to worry about. …I am in far better shape than when the negative concepts washed over me and left me on the verge of death. I have to thank your mother for replacing my dying body with this.”

“Your body was remade, but it’s still falling apart. This bolt may look perfectly normal on the outside, but it will fall right back off even if we put it back on.”

“That is the dreadful side of negative concepts. My actual body has grown almost entirely negative. It is merely being held at bay with new bolts added onto the outside.”

After a pause, Alex continued.

“But without this body, I never would have met you and I would have died. So the only thing I can do is continue on such that I leave no regrets.”

“…”

“That is nothing to fall silent over, Tatsumi. And more importantly…”

He turned his head toward the corner of the storage area.

Beyond the white giant named Typhon was a pile-driver wrapped in blue chains.

“You brought it back with you, but aren’t you going to attach it to Typhon?”

“Mikoku will decide that.”

“I wonder if she is doing well.”

“She isn’t at all. I tailed her and did a little dance behind her, but she didn’t react. I even played ding dong dash at her hotel room and she didn’t notice a thing. …She’s doing much worse than before the battle,” quietly said Tatsumi. “With Master Hajji and Shino gone, she must think she’s alone. She thinks she has no allies and the only people left are enemies or people who force troubles onto her.”

A voice answered her from below. It was the manager who was brightly lit by his welding.

“Tatsumi, how about you quit teasing her and teach her a thing or two?”

“She’s far past the point where she can be taught. Even when it comes to fighting, she can think for herself now.”

“Then why is she feeling so down?”

“She has no confidence,” declared Tatsumi as if she had seen it for herself. “She had always relied on others to provide her a reason for her actions. She had always entrusted herself with Shino, Master Hajji, or even us, so she has no idea what to do now that she’s alone and without a set goal.”

Tatsumi brought a hand to her neck and smiled bitterly.

She then crossed her arms, looked down at Alex’s face, and narrowed her eyes.

“But what do you think someone’s true strength is?”

“That would be their own strength as opposed to something given to them by anything external,” answered Alex.

“Then is a fighter only demonstrating their true strength if they fight barehanded?”

That question silenced Alex.

Tatsumi laughed, crossed her legs, and swept a hand through her hair.

“Mikoku still has allies.”

“Hm? Even though she has no one nearby?”

“You have allies, too. So do I and so does everyone else. That’s how I see it anyway. Everyone has at least someone who will unconditionally side with them no matter what,” said Tatsumi. “And Mikoku’s case is more powerful than anyone else’s. She has simply forgotten about it and lost her nerve. And remember one thing, Alex.”

She nodded.

“One’s true strength is what is hidden inside them and forgotten.”


The impact sounded like music to Gyes’s ears.

She loved these sounds of slicing and destruction.

It felt like the commotion of the old festivals of the gods condensed into a single instant.

The sound carried into the distance and rose into the sky. The wind created by the moving blades and shattering impacts felt wonderful and the splattering chunks acted as proof of her fun.

And if it led to victory, that was all the better.

Mikoku’s philosopher’s stone had undoubtedly been smashed.

Gyes had felt the hit and she had confirmed it while compressing her combat speed several thousand times.

Mikoku was dead.

No, I killed her.

Was this her first time to lay a hand on someone from Top-Gear?

Or had she unknowingly done so in the past?

She did not know, so she chose not to think about it and lowered her shoulders.

She began to switch her body parts from combat mobility mode to normal mode.

“————”

But she suddenly realized that something was not right.

She was standing on the stack of six swords, but her vision was located too high.

That means…

Something was supporting the swords from below.

She tried to peer down to see what, but something stopped her.

“Sister Gyes!!”

She heard Moira 3rd’s voice and she saw Mikoku’s body in the spot the six blades had struck.

Mikoku wore the tatters of her clothing and almost seemed to have grown up from the ground.

“She’s regenerating!?”

Impossible!

The philosopher’s stone had been broken. She had felt it happen through the blades. And yet…

“…!?”

Gyes saw Mikoku’s philosopher’s stone supporting the tip of the fallen blades.

The pinky-sized blue stone had definitely broken.

“That blue light…”

Despite being broken, it was emitting light.

It’s repairing itself!?

Gyes understood what Mikoku’s philosopher’s stone was doing.

“It regenerates both her body and itself!?”

That stone could regenerate itself.

It was likely a product of combining concepts from 3rd and 10th.

It was a philosopher’s stone that could only have been made in Top-Gear.

This is dangerous, warned Gyes’s artificial mind.

However, she did not know where exactly the danger lay.

She saw no problem in the fact that this philosopher’s stone could regenerate itself.

Mikoku’s regeneration took time, so she only had to use that time to smash the stone again and destroy the girl’s body.

If it came to it, she could drop the girl in a vat of powerful acid or a pool of lava. The stone and her body’s regeneration speed would be unable to keep up.

And to do any of that…

I need to smash it now to prepare for my next move!

Mikoku’s regeneration was nearly finished. Her body stood as if pulled up by the philosopher’s stone. Some gravitational control may have been at work because Gyes’s swords were lifted up as well.

Mikoku was not conscious, so Gyes decided this was her chance. But just as she began to take action, she realized something.

Her movements were slow.

I’m still using my combat speed.

She had yet to switch back to normal speed.

That meant everything she was seeing was in the realm of her combat speed.

In that case…

I’ve compressed my speed several thousand times, but her regeneration speed appears unchanged.

That thought led to a single answer.

Mikoku’s regeneration speed was rising. That was the only explanation.

Why? she asked.

“Does that philosopher’s stone include an evolution concept!?”

She shouted the answer she had reached as a resident of 3rd.

At the same time, Mikoku slowly opened her eyes with blue light filling her chest.


Mikoku’s vision cleared.

The first thing she saw was a torrent of blue light.

Eh?

The blue stone embedded in her chest pulsated with a piercing light that traveled in every direction.

A forceful wind whipped around her.

As if delighted by that wind, the blue light surged outwards.

Why?

Why was she alive?

There was only one possible answer: a power hidden inside her philosopher’s stone.

Is this what my parents were researching?

They had been researching immortality.

However, they had not succeeded. After all, every Gear contained a concept of destruction.

Evolution and destruction were two sides of the same coin, so to hold the possibility of one was to hold the possibility of the other.

Thus absolute immortality was impossible. Instead, they had created a false immortality. Rather than healing the root cause that was destruction, this philosopher’s stone filled in the gaps and healed the symptoms of that destruction.

However, there was one thing Mikoku had not known.

This stone regenerates me, but even if it is destroyed, it regenerates itself and further evolves?

She had not known about this ability.

She soon felt strength fill her entire body.

This strength had not been there before. She could begin moving immediately after her resurrection.

Her body was working perfectly and this gave Mikoku a certain thought for the first time.

I can fight?

With this regeneration speed, she could instantly heal any wound and keep moving.

However…

“…!”

At the center of the blue light and swirling wind, she sensed something. A pain was squeezing at her entire body.

Rather than the usual intense pain, she felt like her entire body was creaking.

This hastened regeneration was adversely affecting her body.

That was when she realized why this ability had not shown itself before.

I was young, so my parents gave me a slower regeneration to protect me from this pain.

So why had it sped up now, giving her this pain?

Why had the stone been created with this change in mind?

“…”

She realized she had something after all.

She had been left with something. She had thought she had nothing, but she did have something.

She had this strength.

She had an incomplete immortality concept.

It was not perfect, but it could only have been built up this far inside Top-Gear.

And it was the one thing her parents had left for her.

Even if the world was destroyed, this power would rescue her from destruction.

And yet I cried and protested so much back when they were going to give me the surgery.

She wondered what her parents had thought of her.

She distinctly remembered the sensation of being hugged and told it was going to be okay.

Inside Noah, her parents had sung to her and comforted her along with everyone else and the automaton that managed Noah.

Everything came back to her, both the memories and her body.

As her body quickly regenerated, her mind grew clear.

She could see the sky beyond her pain.

She breathed out into that false winter sky.

The breath formed words.

“Thank you.”

She was not addressing anyone in particular.

As if answering her, light and wind blew across her and filled her with strength.

That rising strength was like a voice telling her to wake in the morning.

No matter how isolated she was, the strength of this self-created world would never leave her.

I was spoiled, she thought inside the blowing wind. I was so used to being spoiled that I forgot what it was to think.

After thinking about herself, she thought about the person she cared for most.

Shino.

Her thoughts continued.

Even without you, I will not die.

So…

“Will you…?”

She took a breath, lowered the ends of her eyebrows, and sounded on the verge of tears.

“Will you be just fine without me?”

Even as she asked that question, she began to move.

A bitter calm filled her heart.

Soon, a thought in her heart rose to the surface.

It was the task Tatsumi had forced onto her. She was to be Top-Gear’s leader and…

What will I do with 3rd-Gear’s Concept Core?

As soon as she felt she had an answer, she found the solution to it all.

She would settle things between Top-Gear and Low-Gear once and for all. One could call it a last resort.

She decided this was an answer only she could have reached.

A moment later, a large sword arrived within striking range overhead.

Mikoku clenched her regenerated left fist.

She quickly drew the Japanese sword it held.

She was determined to make good use of 3rd’s Concept Core.

She took action as the first step toward the last resort she had just come up with.

She intercepted the falling sword with her own philosopher’s stone treated blade.

Her sword broke and the cutting concept contained within lost control.

“———!!”

The surrounding space was smashed to pieces and the automaton’s gravitational control could no longer support the bridge.

“…!!”

Immediately afterwards, the bridge exploded, sending out a destructive and noisy wind.


Gyes closed her eyes against the wind.

Mikoku had finished regenerating, so she would have easily been able to see through Gyes’s attack.

She could have readily made a counterattack and no one would have blamed her had she taken Gyes’s life.

However…

“…?”

Gyes was still alive.

Why? she wondered as she opened her eyes. She looked on the broken bridge and through its gaping holes, but Mikoku was not there.

Why? she wondered. Why didn’t she attack me?

She looked around from atop the stacked swords and below the dry sunlight peeking through the clouds, but both Mikoku and the dog really were nowhere to be found. She only saw Moira 3rd turning her head back and forth to look around.

Moira 3rd also seemed confused by Mikoku’s absence.

“What happened?”

She tilted her head.

“That was her chance, wasn’t it?”

“Yes, it was.”

“I know, right? You would’ve been pathetically cut down while filled with false triumph.”

“Don’t call me pathetic!!”

She got the girl in a headlock and poked at her, but Moira 2nd silently walked up to stop her.

Gyes sighed.

What does this mean? She had the perfect chance to finish me off.

A broken sword was stabbed into the bridge at her feet.

Mikoku had forcibly scratched at the bridge to leave behind a message.

It said…

“Sorry?”

Why? asked Gyes. Why did she apologize and run off when she had effectively won?

Unfortunately, Mikoku was not around to answer.

She had left that single word and disappeared.

Only the blowing wind remained.

Only the chilly winter wind.


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