Owari no Chronicle:Volume12 Chapter 2
Chapter 2: First Greeting
A close relationship
That feels out of reach
Is one that’s distance you have misjudged
The setting sun shined on a road.
The single lane road cut east to west through a residential area. Barely any cars drove down it, the sunlight was already growing purple, and the streetlights were coming on.
The sounds of the giant school to the east reached the road. The sounds were of hammers and metal.
With those sounds in the distance, two people walked below the spots of light from the streetlights.
A boy in a suit and a boy in a school uniform were walking west toward the vanishing purple light.
The boy in the suit and the small animal on his head turned to the boy in a uniform.
“It has been a while since we visited the Tamiya house, hasn’t it?”
“Yes, it has, Sayama-kun. After the Army’s attack before the school festival, we’ve just been too busy, haven’t we? We’ve spoken with them on the phone or passed them by on the street, though.”
Shinjou’s lips moved as if counting the days.
“I haven’t gotten a talk from Ryouko-san in about a month and a half.”
“I do not think that is her giving you a talk. That is simply who she is.”
“Oh? You know a lot about her, Sayama-kun.”
She gave a teasing glare, but he ignored it and gave a deep nod.
“I know more about you than her now, Shinjou-kun.”
Shinjou agreed to avoid any trouble, but her eyebrows suddenly lowered.
“But are you okay? We’re going to be searching for a lot of different documents at the Tamiya house, aren’t we?”
“Yes. There should be some things from the past in the unopened room I used to live in with my mother. I want to look through this to prepare for the meeting in the Kinugasa Library before we leave for Kansai tonight.”
His expression was a bit stiff as he talked about his mother.
Once she realized he was not going to say anything more, Shinjou moved in closer to him.
“Let’s do our best.”
Is it my duty to push those words onto him? she wondered.
He nodded and looked down at the black binder she held.
She gave him a questioning look and he crossed his arms.
“Shinjou-kun, can I do anything to help with the novel you are writing?”
He was diverting the conversation away from the past.
She knew that, so she hesitated before shaking her head.
“No, you don’t have to help. It’s going really well.”
She smiled and held the binder closer to her chest. She thought about helping to shift the conversation from the past, but ended up speaking her mind.
“It may be inappropriate when we’re all so busy, but I really am putting a lot of work into this. I can’t help but want to write more. Um, I just type away at the laptop I borrowed. Also, um…”
Unsure how to express the excitement in her heart, she tapped her fingers together.
“Even during class and when preparing for the festival, I end up thinking about the best way to write the next part of the story.”
“I see. So things like killing off a character and immediately bringing them back, taking a trip to a hot spring, or starting with the weakest of the enemies?”
“Th-that’s all kind of cheap.”
“Then none of the characters die, they never go to a hot spring, and the weakest enemy never shows up?”
“And that’s kind of unexciting.”
She thought for a while but looked up when she heard hammering.
Those distant sounds were coming from the school behind them. The other students were finishing the final preparations for the year end festival, but Sayama and Shinjou were not helping.
Shinjou looked to Sayama, but he was as expressionless as ever.
…In other words, we should focus on what we need to do.
I suppose that’s how it’s always been, she added.
So she lightly adjusted her grip on the binder.
“Anyway.” She looked up at Sayama with a hint of tension in her face. “About the message from Izumo-san when we left the school.”
“Yes.” Sayama nodded. “It seems a bald man showed up, acted on his misplaced bald anger, and baldly lost. …I wonder if the others know.”
Gentle music washed over the shelves of products.
The soft lights on the low ceiling illuminated the green, red, and blue lined up on the shelves.
The shelves contained quite a few publications, but the girls and others reaching for those barely made their way to one area.
The shelves there contained cleaning products.
A single girl stood in that nearly deserted area while comparing products with a serious look on her face.
She had short blonde hair and wore a track suit bearing the name “Heo T”. She soon reached out toward the shelves.
“I want a toilet cleaner you can just stick in the tank, but should I get the potage kind or the new chili sauce kind?”
She checked the price, but they were both 197 yen including tax.
She turned her serious expression back and forth between them while crouching down in her bike shorts.
“I bet Harakawa will be surprised when he flushes and all the water turns yellow or red.”
When she had bought the glow-in-the-dark version, Harakawa had forced her out of bed once he got home from work that night. He had dragged her to the bathroom and asked her to flush the toilet without turning on the lights.
…I never thought it would be that bright.
She had only seen it during the day, so it had really surprised her.
She had heard it was meant to help you see where to aim at night, but that version was no longer on the shelves.
She checked the shelf and saw a “Mapo Tofu” and “Return to Your Innocent Days with Milk” versions, so she wondered what kind of water they would make.
With anticipation warming her heart, she saw legs standing next to her. She looked up at the black leather pants.
“Oh, Harakawa. Did you come to get me?”
“I came to stop you from buying anything weird, Heo Thunderson. …Show me what you’re holding there.”
She groaned, returned the potage and chili sauce ones to the shelf, and placed a harmless melon soda version in the basket.
She stood up, held the basket out to him, and picked up her school sports bag from the floor. She placed the strap over her shoulder and wore it vertically along her back.
“Like you said this morning, we get five hundred yen for dinner tonight. How about a nappa cabbage pot with tofu?”
“Nappa cabbage has gotten expensive. I’ll have something a little more-…”
“You said you weren’t going to do that.”
Heo smiled bitterly.
“Besides, you’re putting all the money you make from UCAT towards my high school, but I’m planning to go to a public school.”
“Listen, Heo. It’s better to keep your options open. If you do end up going to a public school, you can return the money to me then. And if I don’t treat you right, there are a lot of people who will harass me about it.”
“Really? But if I can go to a private school…”
Could I go to your school? she thought but did not say.
If she did say it, he might reject the idea, so she left it unsaid.
He also said nothing.
And after a while…
With the basket in hand, Harakawa wordlessly turned his back and walked toward the food.
Heo frantically followed him. She almost felt like he was leaving her behind instead of rejecting her, so she rushed after him.
She reached to take the basket from him.
But she stopped.
She closed her eyes and swallowed the words she almost uttered.
A moment later, she opened her eyes without saying anything and focused on the music coming from the speakers on the ceiling. The music played through a phrase and she walked alongside Harakawa. As it played another phrase, she reached for the opposite handle of the basket.
“We can still spend another two hundred yen. Should we check the meat?”
With that, she grabbed the handle.
He turned his sunglasses toward her and nodded.
Holding the basket together, they made their way to the meat section but found it was crowded because a sale had started.
Heo was unsure what to do, but she heard a sudden sound from her back.
It was her cellphone. She had put it in her bag, but she was unable to immediately remove the bag from her back and she tried to reach the zipper without removing it.
“U-um…huh? Nn, ah. Um!”
“Why are you shaking your butt and dancing around, Heo Thunderson? Are you sick? You are, aren’t you? Understood. Stay away from me.”
“Th-that’s just mean! And more importantly, Harakawa! My phone… U-um, it’s in my bag.”
He casually reached out and lowered the bag’s front zipper.
He reached inside but frowned after about two seconds.
Heo frowned back and saw that he truly was frowning with his hand inside her bag.
“Heo Thunderson, did you have something indescribable in your bag?”
“Eh? No, the only thing in there is the annin tofu from cooking class today. …Wait, how did it spill out!?”
“What kind of idiot tilts this kind of bag on its side to put it on her back?”
After thinking for about five seconds, she hung her head and raised a hand.
She heard a sigh from above and wondered if he was going to hit her.
“You can have three hundred yen. Make some more.”
Something hard pressed against her forehead.
She looked and saw the cellphone in front of her eyes.
She took it and looked up at Harakawa. He had removed his bandanna to wipe off his hand and he looked exasperated.
“I can use three hundred yen? Are you sure we’ll still be able to afford breakfast tomorrow?”
“Easily. And the people around us are giving me cold stares, so don’t give such specific comments on the finances we need to live.”
“Oh, okay.” She nodded and then pressed the phone to her ear. “Hello. This is Heo Thunderso- Why are you throwing your bandanna into my bag after wiping your hands on it? Oh, sorry. Um, who is it?”
“Oh… Are you having some trouble? This is Kazami, by the way.”
“Hm? What is it? Isn’t it still too early for the meeting tonight?”
“Um, yes,” she said hesitantly. After a while, she continued. “It seems Kaku won his battle with Boldman. I’m about to stop by UCAT’s hospital, so you two head back to school on your own. …And be careful.”
On an evening road, Kazami was riding her mountain bike for the first time in a long while.
This had been her primary means of transportation before meeting Izumo. She had felt a little bad when she discovered the dust coating it.
She had originally met him because she was riding around on it at night to distract herself from her daily troubles.
As she recalled that, she controlled the bike with one hand and spoke into her cellphone.
“Kaku only pulled a muscle, so he’s fine. Anyway, I just wanted to let you know the situation here.”
There was a field to the right of the road and houses to the left. Continuing straight led to an intersection, after which houses filled the right side as well.
She heard Harakawa’s voice over the phone.
“So the other Gears fell for the Army’s attempts to shake them.”
He’s a sharp one, thought Kazami. She decided she did not have to go beyond the main point.
“More like Boldman might show up, so be careful.”
There was a short pause that she guessed was him thinking.
“Ooki-sensei’s the same as always, though.”
“She is.” Kazami nodded. “That’s because she sees herself as a part of UCAT. Sibyl does too and I’m thankful for it.”
“Yeah, but there’s a lot to think about here. We need to be on the lookout for other forces.”
She was curious about what he meant by ‘there’s a lot to think about’, but she did not get to ask because Heo spoke.
“Um, will Sayama and Shinjou be okay?”
“Those two are never ‘okay’, so don’t worry.”
With that, Kazami looked around at the night scenery filled with chilly winter air.
The sky above the field to her right was covered in stars.
Her gaze stopped on one point of that sky and she frowned.
“Either way, all of us and anyone near Team Leviathan and the Concept Cores are in a dangerous position. And the easiest of us to target would probably be Sayama and Shinjou.”
She took a breath.
“I wonder what those two are doing now. Also…”
“Yes.” Kazami nodded, stopped her mountain bike, and looked into the night sky to her right. “I may have been imagining things, but I could have sworn I saw something odd pass by in the sky. It was a white origami crane.”
A certain dark hallway was only wide enough for two people to pass each other.
The walls were plaster and it had no windows. The only light was on the ceiling at the corner far down the corridor.
The wooden floor creaked whenever someone stepped even gently on it.
The light showed three people producing those wooden footsteps.
The one walking softly in the lead was a woman in a kimono.
“This was really a surprise, young master. Not only do you suddenly show up, but you want to open that old room. And with Setsu-chan, too.”
She turned around with smiling eyes behind her glasses and she looked to a boy in a suit and someone in a school uniform a half step behind.
The boy in the suit, Sayama, spoke as he followed the woman.
“I just thought it was about time to see it, Ryouko. And one of the reasons I am able to set foot inside is my life with Shinjou-kun.”
“Is that so?”
Shinjou saw Ryouko face forward again.
The woman’s voice reached her from beyond the kimono.
The words arrived from the darkness and the back ahead.
“Setsu-chan, you found your mother, didn’t you?
The sudden question sent a tremor through Shinjou’s back, but she managed to gulp and answer.
“Yes. …Her name was Shinjou Yukio.”
“Is that so?” Ryouko’s back gave a small nod. “Yeah… I had a feeling it was.”
The woman’s tone of voice prevented Shinjou from saying a word.
“Are you listening, Setsu-chan?”
Shinjou trembled at the sudden question and Ryouko continued on.
“On the west side of Taka-Akita Academy’s schoolyard, there are a bunch of hand sculptures left by some graduates. …Yukio-san’s hand is in there too. Did you know that?”
“Is that so?”
Shinjou detected a hint of joy in Ryouko’s voice, so…
“Thank you, Ryouko-san.”
“It’s fine, it’s fine. I’m just making up for the past. Like, for example, why I know about that when I’m not even a graduate of Taka-Akita. And…”
She took a breath.
“I want to help you out outside of all that.”
She turned around and sent a smile to the other two.
“Let’s go further in. I’ll lead the way. …I happen to know at least a little bit about this.”
As if to show off her smile, Sayama moved to the side of the hallway.
That allowed Shinjou to fully look Ryouko in the eye.
Ryouko stopped walking and lowered her eyebrows a little.
“Listen, Setsu-chan. A long time ago, I was a terrible girl. I got mad that someone was ignoring me, didn’t try to better myself, and didn’t even pursue the person because my pride and embarrassment wouldn’t let me. And as I hid from the others and resented them…”
“I lost all of those people.”
Her tone seemed to thrust this confession of the past onto Shinjou.
Shinjou frantically spoke up.
“Th-that wasn’t your fault! It was the Great Kansai Earthquake that-…”
“But I regret it. I regret not showing them the best version of me I could. But even that thought came after the resentment.”
She smiled bitterly.
“I couldn’t help but wonder if Asagi-san, Yume-san, and I could have continued our family-like relationship if Yukio-san had never shown up.”
Shinjou felt a certain meaning in the words Ryouko kept throwing out at her.
The relationships seen in those words indicated a certain fact.
She hesitated and glanced over at Sayama’s back.
“What kind of relationship did my mother have with Sayama-kun’s father and the others?”
She chose her words carefully and tried not to settle on an answer for herself.
Ryouko answered, but not with a bitter smile. It was a true smile with her eyebrows lowered.
“Yukio-san and Asagi-san’s hand sculptures are lined up right next to each other. …While Yume-san’s is one separated from theirs.”
Shinjou saw Sayama move slightly. He brought his right hand to the left side of his chest.
But she also saw Ryouko close her eyes to ignore the action.
Ryouko then raised her eyebrows a little.
“Young master, have some confidence.”
She opened her eyes and turned her powerful gaze first to Sayama and then to Shinjou.
“Asagi-san chose Yume-san in the end. That was only after Yukio-san left and sent back word of her own marriage, but you know what? I don’t think Asagi-san was the kind of person to choose someone because they were all that was left.”
“If I can think that, then you can think it even more, can’t you?”
Shinjou did not nod in agreement. This was between Ryouko and Sayama.
She simply watched the smile that softened Ryouko’s expression.
Meanwhile, Ryouko shrugged with her eyes closed.
“Don’t worry, Setsu-chan. I won’t be the Yukio-san between you and the young master. I tried to when he was only a child, but I realized it wouldn’t work.”
She laughed quietly.
“After all, taking responsibility would be way too much work.”
She seemed to be talking to herself, but someone answered.
Shinjou heard Sayama’s voice from the wall to her left.
“Ryouko, we are causing you all sorts of trouble, aren’t we?”
He moved from the wall and stood in front of Shinjou.
Shinjou saw his right hand hanging by his side.
That was the hand he had been holding to his chest.
She wrapped her hands around the trembling hand. She held it tight to give it strength.
She then faced forward and the two of them looked to Ryouko’s slight smile.
“Hm? What is it, Setsu-chan? …If you want to know where you can get the surgery to be with the young master, I can get you a reservation right away. Or do you want some anesthetic in the crotch so we can do it here?”
Ryouko began fishing through her pocket, so Shinjou frantically waved her hands back and forth.
“W-we’ve already dealt with that. I’m fine!”
Ryouko frowned and Shinjou realized she had misspoken.
It was true that her body as Sadame was functioning ever since her previous trip to Sakai, but…
…Ryouko-san doesn’t know my body changes like that.
She hurriedly tried to find something to say, but Ryouko seemed to have found her own meaning in the words. She was even more flustered than Shinjou.
“Eh? Oh, Setsu-chan! How bold! Is that true, young master!? Did Setsu-chan make up his mind on his own!? And with physical proof!?”
“No, Ryouko. Shinjou-kun is trying to say that no surgery is necessary and that bodily modifications are as inelegant as you can get.”
“Eh!? So Setsu-chan made a number of impossibilities possible while still being Setsu-chan!?”
Ryouko was shocked at her own words, but strength quickly filled her expression and she pointed at Shinjou with both hands.
“No, that is not it, Ryouko-san! And Sayama-kun! Don’t say things that will only cause misunderstandings!”
“D-don’t worry, Setsu-chan! This changed my way of thinking by about 1800 degrees!”
“Isn’t that rotating around five times and ending up where you started?”
Ryouko frowned and looked up at the dark ceiling. She counted under her breath for a while.
“I-It doesn’t matter. I’m just bad at math is all!! My best subject was PE!”
…Well, for one, that’s more arithmetic than math. And for another, that’s more than just being “bad” at it.
Shinjou kept her comments to herself and spoke only the proper comment aloud.
“You were good at PE?”
“Yes. I was great at ‘line up’, ‘be careful’, and ‘take a break’. And I always wear a kimono, so my posture is excellent.”
Shinjou felt any response she gave would be halfhearted, so she simply tugged on Sayama’s hand.
He seemed to understand the situation.
“Ryouko, show us to the room.”
“Oh, sorry, sorry. I forgot to control myself after getting into a serious discussion.”
Ryouko quickly faced forward and began walking.
She looked somehow light as she turned the corner and Shinjou breathed a sigh of relief.
The woman’s voice then filled the narrow corridor.
“It must be the season for that kind of thing because Kouji’s started taking an interest in the opposite sex.”
Sayama sounded surprised and Shinjou agreed with him.
When Ryouko answered, there was a carefree note to her voice.
“He has. Lately, he took in this girl with a hurt leg. He’s keeping her here because he says he doesn’t know how to contact her family…but that’s a crime.”
“Ry-Ryouko-san, you shouldn’t treat your family like criminals.”
“But she’s fourteen years younger than him. I think that’s wrong.”
Meanwhile, they arrived at the far end of the hallway.
They stood in front of a room on the far edge of the house.
The wooden sliding door filled the entire end of the hallway and Ryouko pulled out a ring of keys.
She faced Sayama with her smile gone.
“Do you realllllllllly want to see past this door, young master and Setsu-chan?”
“What answer will make you show us?”
Ryouko smiled without answering.
She did not move and that filled Shinjou with anxious doubt.
…Is she not going to let us see?
She looked up at Sayama, but he was looking at Ryouko who remained motionless.
Suddenly, he closed his eyes and opened his lips.
She trembled a bit at hearing her name so suddenly.
Before she could ask what he wanted, he continued.
“Listen. This is a job for you.”
She answered him with a question and slowly looked at Ryouko.
…Why is this a job for me?
Ryouko’s only answer was to turn her smile toward Shinjou.
Why? wondered Shinjou. Why is this my job?
She quickly found her answer.
…I don’t know.
That was obvious. This was her first time back here.
But that truth led her to the answer.
“It can’t be.”
She looked up in surprise and looked directly at Ryouko’s smile.
“Open the door and show us, Ryouko-san. I have already had Sayama-kun give his permission.”
“You had him give it? …Setsu-chan, you make it sound like you’re above him…like you’re the master of this house.”
Ryouko gave an exaggerated look of surprise and Shinjou nodded.
“I don’t like saying things like this and I will only do so because I believe you’re testing me, Ryouko-san.”
Her words and her strong tone changed Ryouko’s expression.
The woman smiled. And unlike before, this was a relieved smile.
And so Shinjou spoke further with their implicit understanding.
“The one who inherits the name Shinjou has arrived. …Yes, this may be why you backed off when it came to my mother. After all, the Tamiya family would not exist without Shinjou Kaname.”
She took a breath.
“Open the door, Ryouko-san. The head of the Tamiya family sealed away this part of the past out of consideration, but the head of the Sayama household wishes to see it despite the pain and the head of the Shinjou family wants it released.”
“Thank you for showing such care to the name Shinjou for so long.”
Ryouko’s smile grew with satisfaction.
“We have only done what anyone would do.”
With those words, Ryouko closed her eyes.
She swept the sleeves of her kimono to either side, gently shaking the air in the process. She then crouched down and sat with her legs below her.
She corrected her posture in front of the door.
“The previous generation of the Shinjou family did not know the Tamiya family’s history. Although Master Sayama apparently told her later, after she had gone somewhere else. Therefore…”
She placed her hands on the ground and gave a deep bow.
“I am the first of the Tamiya family to officially face a member of the Shinjou family since the previous generation and the one before that.”
She let out a breath and raised her head.
She turned her powerful gaze toward Shinjou.
But Shinjou looked back as if to push her gaze away and as if to respond to Ryouko’s attitude.
Ryouko nodded just once as if to say that was good enough.
She then corrected the collar of her kimono and spoke.
“Please ask of me whatever you would like, head of the Shinjou family.”
She then turned to Sayama.
“Young master, your mother worked for IAI, but she never told me her exact position there. However…she was always quick to return home and she did tell me one thing.”
“What was that?”
“There was apparently a place known as a ‘study’ at her workplace.”
Shinjou saw Sayama frown at the word “study”.
A month and a half ago, he had visited the Kinugasa residence and seen the man’s underground study.
…Is there something like that somewhere else?
However, the answer was not going to present itself here, so she simply nodded and looked to Ryouko.
Ryouko nodded back and smiled.
“Now, then. That is more or less my side of things. I hope we can continue to get along in the future.”
|Back to Chapter 1||Return to Main Page||Forward to Chapter 3|