Owari no Chronicle:Volume12 Chapter 17
Chapter 17: An Older Time
Now, you are here
To test your resolve
To test what you must know
Two sets of footsteps walked down a dark corridor.
However, this corridor was not surrounded by walls.
It was located between several partitions and machines.
The footsteps traveled down a path lit only by the small emergency lighting.
One set walked out ahead and the other remained a bit behind.
The leading set was created by a pair of sandals.
“What do you think of the sixth basement, Hiba-kun? …Of course, I only came here for the first time just a bit ago.”
The leading footsteps produced a male voice and Hiba stopped observing his surroundings and faced forward.
“Um, well… It feels like I’m somewhere important.”
Hiba, who wore a blue track suit and a bandanna, scratched his head.
“And I didn’t expect you to be showing me around, Kashima-san. To be honest, I thought I was going to be lectured for losing the Concept Core.”
“Ha ha ha. I can let Kazami-kun and the others handle that. I even have permission to film it. …It’ll probably be rated R15 for violence.”
“Why do you make it sound like that’s a foregone conclusion!?”
“Calm down,” said Kashima, asking the impossible. “Anyway, I’m not really the best person to show you around here. I’ve only walked back forth on this main corridor. This is the sixth basement’s uncompleted concept creation facility.”
He had been told to come here only half an hour earlier, so it had been quite sudden.
Until then, he had been holed up in UCAT’s underground medical room.
The night before, he and Mikage had apparently been rescued directly after Tatsumi’s attack.
He could only say “apparently” because his medical treatment had been complete by the time he came to.
The doctor had said his entire body had been damaged almost evenly. He had apparently fared fairly well for being punched by a god of war and slammed into the ground.
Charms had been placed across his body and he had been given plenty of medicine.
After half a day, he only felt a lot of fatigue and most of his injuries were beginning to heal.
…The real problem is…
She was sleeping on the intensive care bed in a private room at the back of the medical room.
Her injuries had primarily been the broken right arm and the chest wound.
The doctors had said her right arm would heal nicely if she rested for another night.
That made him wonder if they had let his injuries heal more roughly, but…
…The chest wound.
The philosopher’s stone in Mikage’s chest was gone.
Specifically, it had fallen out onto the road. The blue stone had lost its light and split in two.
The wound itself was healing. It was apparently less severe than Hiba’s and her head had remained untouched, so she should have regained consciousness before him.
Despite that, she had yet to come to. The Doctor said her brainwaves resembled those of sleep but were highly uniform.
…Like a sleeping machine.
He wondered how long she would sleep, but he shook his head because there was nothing he could do about it.
He shook off his unease and looked forward to Kashima’s back.
“Um, how far are we going?”
“Just a little further. So do you know where this is?”
Hiba tilted his head at Kashima’s question.
All he could see in the darkness and shadows was outdated-looking machinery, but that was only because of their old design.
He had never seen anything like any of them. Several consoles and layers upon layers of piping joined together to create something.
He noticed what he had previously thought was a wall was actually a number of tanks measuring several hundred meters tall. That was when he realized how massive this facility was.
He maintained the tilt of his head.
“Isn’t it a facility for creating concepts? That’s what you said.”
“Sayama-kun called after obtaining Wanambi and you heard what he said about why this facility is here and why it was never completed, didn’t you?”
“I suppose,” said Hiba noncommittally while thinking.
He had received a regular check-in from Sayama and according to the past that Sayama had seen below Izumo UCAT…
“Shinjou-san’s mother left behind altered data, right? She destroyed the facility below Izumo UCAT and left the people of Low-Gear with a…false theory?”
“Sayama-kun speculated that Shinjou Yukio could not stand to have the concepts used as weapons, so she altered the data on her theory before leaving for Top-Gear. That way, no one could use concept creation for war.”
Kashima took a breath and scratched his head.
“It is true that Shinjou Yukio seems to have gone to Top-Gear and tried to create a space for Low-Gear there. So…”
“Even if she was doing it for peace, it must have been a shock to the people she lied to.”
Hiba knew how Sayama and Shinjou lived at school. And he knew their parents had spent three years at that same school.
…Being lied to by someone like that couldn’t have been easy.
Then again, Izumo-san and Sayama-san sometimes lie to each other.
I guess everyone’s different, he thought. But then he remembered the past scene of Shinjou Yukio he had seen in the Kinugasa Library. What he had seen there made it hard to believe she could lie, but he wondered if that was his weakness for girls showing through.
“She was really committed to her decision, wasn’t she?”
“Yes.” Kashima nodded deeply and stopped up ahead of Hiba. “Now, then.”
He scratched his head as Hiba caught up to him.
Once he did, Hiba saw what lay ahead of him.
“A metal bed.”
“Do you know what this is?”
Hiba thought. He thought deeply and added on an additional ten seconds before clapping his hands.
“Yes, it’s a new SM device, isn’t it?”
“Ha ha ha. Hiba-kun, you really are a member of Team Leviathan, aren’t you?”
“O-oh, god. You think I’m like them!”
Kashima smiled and placed a hand on his shoulder.
“Don’t worry about it. We will all accept you as you are…while keeping our distance.”
“I don’t think you’ve fixed the misunderstanding at all.”
“Calm down.” Kashima nodded and looked to the two meter metal bed ahead of them. “Listen. It was only for a short time, but this place was made to store the Concept Cores to help build the concept creation facility. And since everything has been left untouched since the Concept Cores were stored here…”
He lightly tapped the bed, producing a metallic ring.
“This bed is the same as the one built into Susaou’s bridge to seal 2nd-Gear’s Yamata. …This is where Mikage-kun originally slept.”
Hiba listened to Kashima.
“When Shinjou Yukio analyzed 3rd-Gear’s concepts, she must have used the concept reading coming from Mikage-kun as she slept here. Also…”
“Mikage-kun was being treated as a mere concept container, so Hiba Ryuuichi may have wanted to take her in and that may have been the condition used to get him to fight for UCAT. …That’s my guess anyway.”
Hiba was left speechless and Kashima turned toward him with a hand on the metal bed.
“If I’m right, why do you think your father wanted to take Mikage-kun in?”
“Are you saying you know why?”
“No.” Kashima hung his head and shook it. “But I feel like I might. I’m a father too, after all.”
“So it has to do with videos?”
Kashima gave Hiba a serious look and frowned.
“Hiba-kun, this is hardly the time to be discussing that. …Videos should be discussed in a calmer setting. Also, the lighting in here is awful and the sound is far too lively.”
“Yes, I guess you’re right. I really don’t care anymore, so can we get back on topic? Sorry.”
“You have a habit of not taking people seriously, don’t you!?”
Hiba nodded twice and tried to keep his cool.
“I’d love to see some of your videos some time.”
That put Kashima back in a good mood, so he nodded, tapped on the metal bed, and resumed speaking.
“I think your father was trying to protect Mikage-kun. He saw her as a person instead of a Concept Core.”
“But he died in that battle.”
“By that time, he already had you.”
Kashima turned toward Hiba.
“As a father, I feel like I understand what it means to have a child you can leave things to.”
With his eyebrows lying flat, he looked straight ahead and asked a question.
“Have you protected the person he left to you? …I would never leave Harumi with a boy who couldn’t protect her. So what about you? You couldn’t protect her, could you?”
“Well…” muttered Hiba before clenching his fists and breathing in.
He knew the answer. He had not been able to.
But just as his regret began dragging down his thoughts, Kashima said something more.
“Do you want the power to protect her?”
What did Kashima mean by that?
“W-will you be giving me some kind of weapon? Like an ultimate Cowling Sword called the Goddamn Slayer!?”
“No, no. Not even I am that overly creative. You need something else right now.”
“You need to make yourself stronger.”
His light comment contained a very simple idea.
Oh, thought Hiba as he realized his thoughts had been running in fruitless circles. He lowered his shoulders a little before speaking.
“If only I could do that…”
If he could do that, he would not have lost to Tatsumi.
…How can I get as strong as her?
He and Mikage used Susamikado, a top-class god of war.
But as humans, they had been no match for Tatsumi.
And that led him to a certain fact.
…I won’t be able to protect Mikage-san from anyone on Miki’s level.
He gulped at that conclusion and Kashima gave a deep nod in front of him.
“I understand your concerns. To put it on words…you were having dirty thoughts, weren’t you?”
“Uh, why was that a question?”
Hiba briefly grew flustered. His thoughts had been perfectly serious, so why had he been unable to show any confidence in himself?
“I-it’s possible my adolescent skills have manifested themselves on a subconscious level. In other words, my mind is always in firing mode, so I can’t even trust myself!”
“I see.” Kashima pushed his glasses up his nose. “Can I ignore that?”
“Go right ahead.”
They both sighed, let their shoulders droop, and hung their heads.
After a while, Kashima looked back up.
“Anyway,” he said while scratching his head. “How about we begin training?”
“Training?” asked Hiba as he too looked up. “Is there a 36th Chamber of UCAT or the UCAT Wooden Men or something like that?”
“No, but a personality modification room is in the works. We received quite a few requests to make one for UCAT Director Ooshiro.”
“Oh? Just out of curiosity, what does it do to people?”
“They stop moving.”
“I think you’re modifying something more fundamental than their personality!”
“Calm down.” Kashima smiled bitterly. “At any rate, do you want to get stronger?”
He nearly gave a noncommittal answer, but stuck a hand in his pocket instead.
He found two stones there.
They were the two broken pieces of Mikage’s evolution philosopher’s stone.
He wrapped his fingers around those solid shapes.
…If I’m going to make sure this never happens again…
He answered on reflex. And…
Even he was surprised that he had answered so honestly.
Will this really work out? part of him wondered. But… said another part of him.
The night before, he had only been able to collapse onto the road with Mikage in his arms. He recalled that fact and nodded in his heart.
He really did want to grow stronger.
Meanwhile, Kashima nodded twice and quoted Hiba’s answer.
“ ‘I…yes’, hm? That is a linguistically odd answer, Hiba-kun. Or were you too lost in thought to notice?”
“J-just tell me how already!!”
Hiba glared at Kashima, but he ignored it, stuck his hands in his pockets, and smiled bitterly.
Afterwards, he softened his expression and faced the boy.
“Sorry about that. It was just such a great response. It showed you have a real reason to want this strength.”
He inhaled and straightened up.
“After all, I once hurt someone important to me and tried to cast aside my power. And I continue to lie even now because of it.”
Kashima did not directly answer that question.
“I want to know why Shinjou Yukio lied to everyone she cared about. And unlike me, you are the type of person who can get by without lying to Mikage-kun,” he said. “So I will give you a chance to fight someone powerful. …You must fight and struggle to grow stronger. That is the greatest way of achieving your goal.”
Hiba then heard a new voice.
It was doing an awful job of singing.
“Memories in the distance! Such a beautiful universe!”
The song continued unopposed.
“Once the beam flashes! The northern hemisphere is destroyed! Now, the apocalypse has arrived! But the bikers! And bike shops! All survived!!”
“Th-that’s Atsuta-san, isn’t it!?”
Hiba saw a man suddenly appear right in front of him.
He had sensed and seen no movement.
…The Art of Walking.
“Oh, c’mon. Don’t look so shocked when you predicted it was me and everything.”
The man’s short blond hair and sharp eyes were looking down on him from within arm’s reach.
“Listen. The Great Atsuta here is going to give you some training.”
His right hand reached for his back and pulled out a Cowling Sword.
It was a bluish-white sword with a long, narrow, and straight blade.
“This is Prototype Kusanagi. …It’ll apparently be the greatest masterpiece yet, but it’s a little too unstable. I’m supposed to test it out.”
“Test it out? You mean on me?”
Atsuta frowned and leaned forward to peer down at Hiba from above.
“Aren’t you happy? You can fight a nice battle here. Lose and you’ll die, though. …And you know what? If you do die, 2nd-Gear will call that our official punishment for Japanese UCAT’s lies and leave with Totsuka.”
That meant this battle with Atsuta would be a redo of the Leviathan Road with 2nd-Gear.
But Hiba gathered a bit of strength in his body and took a deep breath.
He looked to Kashima who crossed his arms and nodded.
…Want to take a stab at it?
The man seemed to be asking him that and Hiba trembled at the thought.
This had to be what he wanted.
…I can gain the strength I need to protect Mikage-san.
That thought settled it for him.
He suppressed the slight tremor that Atsuta’s powerful presence gave him and he asked a direct question.
“What happens if I win?”
Atsuta’s expression changed.
His eyebrows shot up and he bared his teeth in a smile.
He also tapped Kusanagi against his shoulder.
“You’ve got guts. I’ll have to cut them out of you. Listen up, little monkey. If you beat me, we’ll pay you back for the help the girl who slept here gave us in sealing Yamata long ago.”
Hiba listened to Atsuta.
“To pay you back, the development department will do everything it can to give you the strength necessary to wake up that sleeping beauty. That’ll be enough, won’t it?”
A curtain kept the setting sun out of a white hospital room. The fluorescent light on the ceiling worked to overpower the scarlet glow of the curtain and the people inside the room cast a shadow both to the east and straight down.
The shadows came from two humans and a creature.
One was a girl in a school uniform sitting on a stool by the window-side of the bed.
She was working on something using the black laptop on the side table.
Next to her, a woman sat up in the bed.
The woman had a creature resting on her stomach. It was a plant creature.
Its fur was made of vegetation and it spoke to the woman in the bed using its thoughts.
“Went to school. Heo has lots.”
“You went to Heo-san’s school, didn’t you? And she has a lot of friends, doesn’t she?”
Heo, the girl operating the laptop, blushed when she heard that.
She grew needlessly flustered and had difficulty coming up with an explanation.
“U-um, how should I put it? It was nothing I haven’t told you about, Yui.”
Only then did she realize she was blushing despite having no reason to be embarrassed.
…I’m not used to having people talk about me.
She talked about herself a lot. On the days she visited Yui, she would tell her all about school, but Yui would always listen and ask just the right questions. She asked how she had felt about things, what she had thought, or why she had done something. When she gave a good answer, Yui would praise her and rub her head. When she gave a sad answer, Yui would say something quietly and rub her head.
Yui’s questions allowed Heo to confirm that she really had been there, so she appreciated it. If she ever had children, she wanted to listen to them in the same way.
But that was all a self-report. Having someone else say what she had done felt kind of embarrassing.
“Sorry about that. …I’m not sure why I’m so embarrassed.”
“You’re embarrassed that someone else is talking about you?”
She nodded, thought for a bit, and turned to the plant creature.
“If they say something bad, I can always correct them. But when they say something good, I’m not sure how to correct them. It’s kind of scary and makes my heart pound.”
“So it’s a sort of verbal humiliation with you?”
“Verbal humiliation?” asked the creature.
It took three minutes to correct it and prevent that unnecessary knowledge from reaching 4th-Gear as a whole.
Afterwards, Heo sighed.
“What about you, Yui? If you hear something really, really good about me, but I say it isn’t true…would you feel disillusioned about me?”
As soon as she asked that, a weight reached her head. It was Yui’s hand and the fingers slipped into her hair.
“Heo-san, would you really be able to tell me it wasn’t true?”
Heo thought for a bit before answering.
“Yes. Unfortun- ah.”
She was interrupted by her surprise at having her head rubbed.
She narrowed her eyes and her shoulders trembled at the ticklish feeling on her scalp.
“Um, why? I just said I was a hopeless girl.”
“You know, Heo-san? I won’t be disillusioned to find you aren’t what people say you are. But I would be disillusioned to find you cared more about what people say you are than what you really are.”
The rubbing hand eventually slowed.
“I like honest people. I like people who don’t lie, can apologize when they do something wrong, and think doing the right thing is so natural they don’t feel the need to tell anyone about it.”
Heo raised her head and Yui nodded.
“Is there anything you aren’t telling me?”
…Something I haven’t told her!?
There’s a lot of that. Will she forgive me if I tell her now? Well, this isn’t very much, but she probably wants to hear about it. Um, uh…
“L-last night, Harakawa said he didn’t want me!!”
“My, how awful. He deserves to be executed for that.”
“N-no, I already got back at him plenty! I ate all the snacks he had bought, I stayed up late, and I ate the cake meant for both of us!”
“Oh, my. You’re such a delinquent. How many calories in the cake?”
“W-well! It had a whole 666 calories! Kazami would have committed seppuku if it were her!”
“You really are a delinquent, Heo-san! You’re on an entirely different level. You’re a mega-delinquent!”
“Yes, I am a delinquent! And not just a mega one! I’m a giga-delinquent! S-so I even wore Harakawa’s shirt and slept in his futon last night!!”
“You wore my son’s shirt and slept in his futon!?”
“Y-yes, and on my back!! It was a reverse full-body prostration!”
“A face-up reverse!!”
The plant creature responded to this.
“Morning. Heo hugged futon. Called for Harakawa.”
“Y-yes, I did! I don’t remember it, but I was probably talking in my sleep!!”
Yui rubbed her head hard enough to rock it back and forth.
…Huh? That wasn’t just being honest.
“That was revealing everything…”
“Don’t come back to your senses now, Heo-san. You need to get even more worked up!”
The woman, girl, and creature clenched their fists, lowered down, and gathered their excitement.
After about half a minute, Yui straightened up and smiled.
“Things are so fun with you around, Heo-san. There’s plenty to look forward to now.”
“Why do I feel like I just made the mistake of a lifetime?”
“Heo T? Worried? Worried, Heo T?” asked the creature.
“Heo T?” cut in Yui.
“Heo called that at school.”
Heo was embarrassed and worried Yui would find it childish.
But the woman seemed to realize where the nickname came from. She looked to her uniform’s nametag before speaking.
“I see. I guess that would make me Yui N, but that doesn’t flow very well.”
Heo tilted her head when she heard the initial N.
As soon as she asked, both the questioner and the questioned realized something.
For Yui, this was probably her first time letting that slip. For Heo…
…That’s Harakawa’s late father’s name!
I shouldn’t have asked that, she realized while panicking.
She quickly smiled and waved a hand back and forth.
“U-uh, then why not use the initial from Harakawa? You would be Yui H-…”
She had dug her own grave.
Her hand and smile froze in place and Yui nodded.
The woman gave her a serious expression and picked up the plant creature so it would face her.
She then spoke to the creature.
“Heh heh heh. Heo-san just misspoke. If being Heo Thunderson makes her Heo T, being Harakawa Yui wouldn’t make me Yui H. And once she becomes Harakawa Heo, she’ll be H Heo.”
“H Heo?” asked the plant creature.
“Yes, H Dan and H Heo will make a wonderful H pair! Hooray, so much H.”
As she listened to the woman and creature’s conversation, a cold sweat poured from Heo’s smiling face.
…This is a test! This is a test I have to endure after messing up twice!
But the test suddenly crumbled away when the plant asked a question.
“Harakawa important to Heo?”
However, it was not facing her. It asked Yui.
“What does Yui think? Harakawa important to Heo?”
Heo saw Yui smile as the plant creature continued.
“Yui different from Heo. But understands Heo,” it said. “Heo and Yui similar to 4th.”
That syllable escaped Heo because she felt like she had realized the purpose and meaning behind her renegotiation with 4th-Gear.
The plant creature had not come for a dispute or “just because”.
…It wants to know if we truly are complete individuals.
Everything in 4th-Gear was either the manager Mukiti or the single entity that made up the entire world.
To them, a fellow member of your race was another part of you that shared your same mind.
…They see someone trustworthy as a being that shares your mind.
4th-Gear’s creature did not understand, but it was definitely interested. It wanted to know if people could understand others in Low-Gear.
“Heo. Lots of friends.”
“Friends worried. Asked Heo ‘are you okay?’ ”
The creature called for her.
“Used different name: Heo T. But still worried for Heo,” it said. “Strange. What is Heo? Heo and others not together, but the same. Why? Where is the real Heo?”
Heo decided to answer that question. She placed a hand on her chest and said what she wanted to say.
She faced the plant creature and Yui as she spoke clearly to make sure it understood her.
“I am right here. But…”
“I am not here.”
Huh? she thought. I feel like I just said something strange.
But she also felt this was the truth.
Long ago, she had made a certain decision when faced with a battle.
She had thought of her mother and the others she had lost, she had thought of all they had left her with, someone important to her had hinted at it, and she had desired to fly.
There had been no need to think about people who were no longer with her, but she had anyway.
…They aren’t here, but at the same time, they’re here with me.
And so she asked Yui a question.
“Who is ‘Heo’ to you?”
Yui lifted up the plant creature and turned it toward herself.
“My Heo is the same as the Heo you saw. She cares for my son, she trusts him even when he pushes her away, and she trusts in the fact that she has him.”
“Everyone has everyone!?” asked the creature.
“Yes,” replied Yui. She lowered it and rubbed its head. “We have you as well. So you too are both here and not here.”
The creature’s fur stood on end and it shook its body.
“Yui, the same. Heo, the same. Harakawa, the same. Heo! Heo T!”
Heo nodded at its innocent thoughts and it began swaying left and right.
“Heo, the same. Sayama, the same. Shinjou…”
“U-um, let’s not get carried away with who we’re saying I’m the same as!!”
The creature tilted its head and Yui smiled bitterly.
“You’re so cute, Heo-san. Take care of my son, okay?”
There, she suddenly changed the subject.
“How about I tell you about my husband? …It seems my friend won’t stop me today.”
The window was growing dark as the light of the setting sun faded.
The curtain fluttered and Heo realized the window had opened at some point.
Before, there had been an origami crane on the windowsill, but there was a piece of paper there now.
Yui picked up the white paper with that word written on it.
“I hear that boy left for work and hasn’t come back. I bet he was lying about it being for work, but do you know why he doesn’t quit his part-time job at the base when he has his job at UCAT?”
Heo shook her head and Yui turned a bitter smile toward the paper in her hand.
“Herrlich,” she muttered under her breath. “That boy is making sure he won’t forget the time when we lived on the base.”
Heo did not need to ask why. She knew Yui was about to tell her that. As for why she would tell her…
“Will you…make me the same as Harakawa?”
“Yes, let’s talk. I’m sure he is learning even more than he already knew right about now. So I will tell you as much as I can.”
Yui’s expression grew serious.
“And all to help you become H Heo!”
Harakawa could see clearly as soon as he came to.
That could be due to the light or how clear his mind was, but it was more due to the light this time.
A white fluorescent light shined down on him from a cement ceiling.
He could clearly see the color of that light.
He vaguely wondered why he was seeing it.
It was on the ceiling, so he had to be facing up. However, he felt no strain on his neck, so…
…I’m lying down.
Once his body’s senses returned to him, he could tell what position he was in.
“Why am I lying down?” he muttered
“Oh, are you awake?”
He recognized that voice, so he sat up.
A moment later, he felt like his entire body was breaking or like some great impact had hit him.
“Your bones are all healed, but your muscles have yet to fully recover. I have extended them and set them in place, so forcing them to bend will feel like breaking your entire body.”
Harakawa ignored that and got up.
After letting out a breath and sitting up with his disheveled hair, he found he had been lying on a white bed.
He also saw someone in front of him.
“Your name was Roger, wasn’t it? …So this is in American UCAT?”
“Testament. You are in American UCAT’s medical room below Yokota.”
He tried to nod, but began sweating instead.
It was a sticky sweat. It felt like his movement had twisted his body and forced out the moisture.
His arms trembled from the shoulder down and he could not gather strength in his fingers. His back was stiff and he had to tense his abs to make sure he did not collapse backwards like a clockwork doll.
The joints of his back were all as stiff as if they were connected by a nail and he had to force his muscles to move properly if he wanted to bend so much as a finger.
But he managed to move regardless. He gathered strength in his gut, slowly but surely pulled back his right leg, and used his hand to move it down from the bed.
“You are very stubborn.”
He did not have it in him to listen. He only now realized there were white cloth partitions on either side of the bed.
He was wearing a smock and his clothes were in a basket to the side of the bed.
He put his jeans on first and then removed the smock. As he did, he noticed Roger’s gaze.
“Are you interested in guys’ bodies?”
“Not particularly. I was just surprised how well-toned you are.”
Ridiculous, he thought.
Anyone who had decided to live on their own would remake themselves in the same way.
He remembered coming across one person who had not really done that and that released his excess tension.
His relaxed mood must have acted as a sign because he was suddenly able to move his body better, even if a little awkwardly.
His sweat had rapidly cooled, which meant no more sweat was leaving his body.
He decided to get dressed as quickly as possible, so he put on his leather jacket.
“I had assumed you wouldn’t be able to move for another half a day.”
“Are you basing that on the records of some little kid? If that’s how long it takes your soldiers to recover, it says a lot about American UCAT.”
“To be completely honest, I was basing it on myself.”
“I get the feeling I can actually talk with you.”
Harakawa adjusted his position on the bed and looked up at Roger.
“Will you show me the past?”
“I will not be showing it to you. The sand will.”
“You’re the one that makes the decision.”
He received only a bitter smile in response. Roger pulled a small bottle of sand from his sleeve and held it in both hands.
“This is a blend of sand from Top-Gear…and this base.”
“That sounds like a bitter blend.”
“Testament. I was right to bring a dummy to the meeting yesterday. I don’t have much of this left.”
“Left? I hear regularly imbibing the past isn’t good for you.”
“You are more than qualified to see this.”
Roger lowered his hands and placed his fingers on the bottle’s lid.
Roger did not ask if he was ready.
He did not even ask why.
It was like Harakawa had shown up just as he had wanted to show off a dream of the past.
It was like this had been predetermined.
It was like this had been promised.
And it was like he knew exactly why Harakawa was here.
Roger opened the bottle’s lid with his fingers.
After the small metallic sound, the man opened his mouth.
“The colonel said to give you what you wanted.”
“He probably went insane.”
“Testament. Then I too must be insane for obeying him.”
“You just do what you’re told. Only your commander needs to be crazy. Any more would be too much trouble for the rest of us.”
Roger laughed bitterly at that.
It was not a very pleasant laugh, so Harakawa frowned.
“What’s so funny?”
“Nothing much. I just happened to have a very similar exchange over ten years ago.”
Harakawa felt his hair stand a bit on end and he saw blue sand dance through the air.
“Now, the north wind still seeks the past even after it was broken, but what will it see there?”
He heard Roger’s voice.
“I hope that the north wind can blow once more.”
A moment later, Harakawa’s mind was taken away.
He dropped to the depths of a dream. He fell into an abyss that began in this base and ended ten years prior.
To learn what happened on that Osaka battlefield ten years ago, he fell.
- In Japanese, H can mean perverted, lewd, sexual, etc.
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