Owari no Chronicle:Volume12 Chapter 4
Chapter 4: Persuasion Through Attack
Your speed brings the flight meter to its limit
Your bullets are unpolished but powerful
Gallant girl, please show up right away
A wide area was filled with voices.
It was a circular underground room with no windows. American UCAT’s flag hung from the high cement ceiling and several rows of chairs filled the space below.
This was an underground meeting room.
A white man in a lab coat sat on the east side of the central round table and voices reached him from all the other seats.
Some were protests, some were questions, and some were soothing words meant to persuade him.
The flood of words reverberated through the room, but the old man said nothing. He seemed to think silence was the way to gain the upper hand here.
But the chain-reaction of countless emotions would not stop.
If someone took a break, someone else would accelerate. If someone suggested bringing it to an end, someone else would begin anew.
They were all speaking about what Hajji had said during the Army’s attack three weeks before.
Top-Gear had existed.
It had been destroyed.
That had been covered up.
How would he take responsibility for the reactions that were sure to come from the other Gears?
It was nothing but criticism and it showed no sign of slowing.
A small voice joined the sea of voices.
It belonged to the red-haired maid standing next to the old man.
Instead of looking at him, she continued facing forward and did not move her lips.
“Ooshiro-sama, I believe it is about time for dinner. …Can you answer me?”
After a pause, Ooshiro replied without moving his lips either.
“You can speak, #8-kun?”
“Testament. Is that ventriloquism, Ooshiro-sama? I have determined that is indeed better than blatantly speaking with me and looking like you are ignoring them. …Even if this is a bit disturbing.”
“If only I could use your shared memory. This would be so much easier.”
She tested the idea with the others and the answer came back in a matter of nanoseconds.
“Ooshiro-sama, fifty-two of us said ‘no’.”
“Oh? Then the other seventy-odd ones said ‘OK’? Is my popularity soaring?”
“Testament. Thirty-one said ‘that sounds disgusting’, twenty said ‘I would rather die’, twelve said ‘I don’t want to think about it’, seven said ‘tell him it’s fine even though we don’t mean it’, and a few said ‘no decision is necessary’ and ‘Ha ha ha. Quit joking and go die’. I have determined your popularity is indeed higher than before.”
“How!? How is that any higher!?”
“Well, probably in the…um…way they expressed it.”
“You shouldn’t have to think that hard to answer it!!”
She obeyed his instructions by no longer thinking about it.
She looked around but was more interested in the sounds than the sights.
She heard angry shouts and voices of protest.
The collection of sound shook the air.
The pressure of the voices gave them no chance to respond.
She saw Diana and Roger silently sitting in the neighboring seats and facing the surrounding people.
Thanks to Siegfried, German UCAT had been close to Japanese UCAT ever since the National Defense Department days.
That was why Diana had been sent as the German UCAT inspector for the Leviathan Road, but the other European powers had been unable to send their own inspectors to hold her in check.
Similarly, the postwar relationship between the United States and Japan had placed American UCAT close to Japanese UCAT. And ever since the battle with 5th-Gear, they had an American UCAT inspector through Heo.
The other powerful nations feared the United States would take control of the Leviathan Road.
But even if they had sent inspectors, Germany and the States had overlooked the past hidden beyond the Leviathan Road.
Diana and Roger had both been involved in the destruction of Top-Gear.
That made this the other countries’ chance to attack. They could remove the German and American UCATs from the negotiating table and seal Japanese UCAT’s power while forcing responsibility onto them.
…They also intend to intervene with the Gear reservations and make the Leviathan Road their own.
#8 thought to herself while having her auditory devices shut out the jeers.
…They only see the Leviathan Road and what we were doing as something to increase their own power.
The power of concepts could easily change the world.
That was why the Gears had fought.
If the Leviathan Road would release all of those concepts, they likely intended to end the Leviathan Road and “manage” the concepts themselves.
If they became that manager, even a small country could possibly gain the same influence as a powerful country.
“Do they think the best option is to speak out now so they can become that manager?”
“This is a troublesome thing, isn’t it?” commented Ooshiro.
She nodded and said more.
“Is the world simply full of rioters if it isn’t united?”
Ooshiro spun his mechanical pencil with his thumb and #8 turned to the side.
She saw Diana and Roger there, but…
Despite Diana’s calm look, she was folding paper below the desk. Roger was nodding at what the crowd said, but he had made earplugs out of sand.
Seeing them gave #8 a certain thought.
…Or is all this the direct result of their lack of unity?
She turned back to Ooshiro.
“Ooshiro-sama, please stop drawing manga while pretending to be taking notes on what they say. Besides, is that really the proper way to use screentone? I have determined you should place it all the way to the edge.”
“Calm down,” he said. “Everyone is being so loud. Why do you think that is?”
“Because of this meeting. Attempting to show we are being fair is fine and all, but this has revealed a weakness in the meeting system. However, having individual meetings with each country would take too much time and any closed-room discussions would result in complaints of unfairness from the other countries.”
“I see,” said Ooshiro. “Then who is the main player out of those who called for this meeting?”
#8 thought for a moment.
“I have determined it is Chinese UCAT.”
She looked to a single point in the shouting group.
No one sat in the seat for Chinese UCAT’s representative, but…
“I have determined the only nations large enough to have called for this meeting are China, Russia, and France. But Russia and France unfortunately have no corresponding Gear according to the Divine States-World Interaction Theory. Both 1st and 10th are more closely related to Germany, so Russia would not have much influence.”
“With Chao-sama’s death, China became a normal country with no inspector here. In fact, they can even claim to be a victim for losing their inspector during the Leviathan Road. Thus, China has the chance to take the lead here.”
“Then,” began Ooshiro. “We’re in trouble.”
“So it seems,” agreed #8. “But that is your job. And this is also an opportunity for us.”
She saw Ooshiro give his manga the title “Short-Tempered Iron Woman #8-kun”, so she took the Kent paper and began tearing it to pieces.
“I have determined this is an opportunity. We can show the foreign UCATs just how futile their shouts are, so let us buy some time.”
The crowd grew a little quieter and looked confused, but #8 continued tearing the paper into pieces no bigger than a few millimeters and scattered it around. She used her gravitational control to send it high into the air so it scattered like snow.
“I have determined it is worth trying. We can show them the strength of the ones currently fighting, regardless of what happened in the past. After all…”
She looked back at all the eyes focused on her.
“No matter how much these people shout that this is nothing but lies, that team’s power will not become a lie.”
The empty city still contained some slight movement.
There was no one on the roads or in the buildings.
All of the cars on the roads were empty, but they coasted along on inertia.
Their speed dropped and they either collided with each other or ran onto the curb.
As everything came to a stop, there was still light and sound.
The bright but empty stores were filled with the roar of machines or the music from CD players. A children’s prize machine near a supermarket made an electronic tone.
Suddenly, a new sound was added.
It came from Itsukaichi Road which cut east to west through Akigawa.
On the eastern end of the road, it traveled around the outer edge of a school and two sounds played in competition as they rushed down that two-lane road.
The two sounds were those of something tearing through the air.
They traveled west below the streetlights.
Both of them took the form of flight.
But that was not all.
The sounds contained the color of destruction.
They were also filled with high speed aerial collisions.
Metal clashed with metal and something loudly broke.
The sounds came from two girls.
One of them swiftly flew at low-altitude while standing on a broom.
The other stood on a long, narrow shield like a skateboard and let her spear’s accelerator pull her along like she was waterskiing.
They were Brunhild and Kazami.
The former wielded a long sword and the latter wielded a spear with a scarf wrapped around the tip and the word “cowling” written on that scarf. They were in the middle of a high-speed pursuit.
Kazami had removed her right glove. The blood flowing from her index finger had written the word on her scarf and the words “slides well” on the shield.
They exchanged attacks and projectiles while racing westward along the road.
Currently, the repeated attacks were flying toward Brunhild.
She evaded Kazami’s shots and pursued as her opponent accelerated away.
“Honestly. …Just lose already!”
Meanwhile, she controlled her broom like a snowboard and swung around the sword that was as tall as she was.
Gram had a single word written on it in magic marker: machinegun.
Brunhild looked at the word she had written.
…That turned out well.
The handwriting is nice. Maybe I could have become head of the calligraphy club as well. I could have had the other club members writing day in and day out while teaching them in the 1st-Gear way. That would have been amazing!!
The black cat on the back of her neck spoke up.
“Brunhild, are you having evil thoughts?”
“What are you talking about? I’m thinking about club activities and culture. …And how to use people.”
When she held Gram under her arm and at her waist, Kazami opened her eyes wide.
“Hey, wait! Don’t point a gun at people!!”
“You’ve been aiming a cannon at me this whole time!”
“Oh, c’mon, Brunhild. What are you talking about?”
Kazami held G-Sp2 in her right hand and waved her left hand dismissively.
“This isn’t a cannon. It’s G-Sp2.”
“That’s right,” added G-Sp2.
It was such an awful excuse that Brunhild could not help but fire.
Bullets of light flew from Gram’s tip.
The gunpowder of light produced a repeating staccato.
She slipped between the drifting cars and avoided her enemy’s attacks while firing toward Kazami.
Kazami cried out and accelerated forward.
But Brunhild held Gram in place as it shook from the recoil.
“Honestly. Could this be any more annoying!?”
The repeated sounds of gunfire created the background music for her shout.
“Night after night, people come to my house or Fasolt’s place! We’re not some kind of refuge! And the Requiem Sense isn’t a phone to call the underworld! …Fasolt constantly has to hang from the cliff out back to reflect on what he’s done!”
“It’s not like I know anything about your bizarre customs!”
“Then learn now!”
She added “heavy” in front of “machinegun” to increase the firepower.
What sounded like a signal gun pierced through the sky.
But Kazami soared before Brunhild could swing Gram around.
The girl was fast.
Brunhild’s accelerating broom and attacking sword were separate, but Kazami used G-Sp2’s second form for acceleration and its third form for attack.
For Kazami, firing meant slowing, so her movements tended to be a little slower. On the other hand, she was absurdly fast when focused solely on acceleration.
The bottom of her shield sent sparks flying as she weaved between the drifting cars.
Gram’s pursuing shots of light grazed the ground and tore into the cars.
A shot to the engine of one car ignited the fuel and blew it up along with several other cars.
Three muffled explosions sounded.
The force blew off the hood and the body instantly sank down.
But a moment later, the reaction to the explosion blew straight down and sent the cars flying into the air.
The cars acted as torches and scattered shimmering heat.
Brunhild ducked down to slip below them.
Kazami was already moving on ahead.
Brunhild tried to target her back, but a new car appeared between them.
“Oh, honestly! Even when I blow everything out of the way, I can’t get a clear shot!!”
“I think your options are a getting little violent there, Brunhild.”
“Yes, I agree. …It pisses me off to have someone point it out, though.”
I’ll get her back for this, she promised herself.
At any rate, speed was what mattered now.
Itsukaichi Road was reaching the intersection in front of the municipal office.
After moving west of the office, a bike lane was added to widen the road.
That made it easier to avoid the cars and expanded the battlefield, so Brunhild increased her broom’s speed to reach that widened battlefield.
“That’s where the real fight begins!!”
Ahead, she saw cars stopped in the intersection.
The empty cars had collided again and again, creating a confused mess.
She did not care. She wrote “acceleration” on the black cat and threw him onto the front of the broom.
He frantically clung to the broom.
“Is this what you call pet abuse!?”
“What are you talking about? You’re not a pet. You’re a family member. …But only for the moment.”
“Th-then this is household bullying!”
As she accelerated, Kazami also picked up more speed and looked back.
“Well, I’m glad to see things are lively back there.”
Kazami raised her eyebrows and smiled bitterly.
“But fine. Let’s settle this!”
The two of them simultaneously stepped strongly down on their respective boards and leaped.
They used the top of the stopped cars as jump platforms to make an even larger leap.
The two girls flew.
They looked down on the never-ending expanse of darkness and light that made up the night.
This was a view only someone in flight could see.
Both of them gasped at the night scenery of Akigawa.
They were above the wide two-lane road leading west of the municipal office and to JR Akigawa Station.
The two rows of streetlights continued straight for about three hundred meters where another intersection led to Akigawa Station.
That straightaway was their battlefield, so the two of them exchanged a glance.
They took action as soon as their high-speed air ride came to an end.
On her way down, Brunhild collapsed backwards to perform a backflip.
She grabbed the broom between her right toes and left heel and rotated the broom four times to the right as she spun her body around.
As soon as she landed, she fired a burst of acceleration to the west.
On the other hand, Kazami moved up and pushed her feet into the sky.
As she flew, she spun the bottom of her shield ski through the sky and performed a vertical flip.
She was going to land ten meters in front of Brunhild, so Brunhild prepared an attack for that spot.
Kazami fell from five meters above the ground.
Brunhild raised Gram in her right hand.
Super thick writing on Gram’s surface said “Heavy Rapid-Fire Homing Bullet Circle” and she rested Gram on her right shoulder.
Her body sank down below the weight and Gram opened up.
With a metallic sound, the cowling encasing the blade on either side opened up and emitted light.
A moment later, a circle of light appeared behind Brunhild.
Countless letters appeared in the red circle and even more dots appeared between those letters.
Arcs of light shot from the dots and flew out in the hundreds.
Kazami’s eyes opened wide as she looked back.
“That’s just not fair!!”
“Don’t you get it!? Gram is all of 1st-Gear! Even if you don’t write out the mechanism, it can manifest anything you write on it!”
As if to prove her right, the streams of light bound together and pursued Kazami.
Kazami faced forward and accelerated as soon as her shield ski landed.
She slid along the road to evade.
G-Sp2 pulled her along as she essentially waterskied along the road. She quickly slalomed back and forth to dodge and a spray of sparks came from the asphalt in her wake.
The group of red lines pursued her like a wave, but the red lights struck the cars she weaved between or crashed into the asphalt she grazed across.
The cars were destroyed by the concentrated fire and the asphalt turned to sand.
One hit would surely turn a human body into a spray.
The light poured down like red rain. It arced after Kazami and approached from every direction to envelop her.
But she repeatedly ducked between the roadside trees to quickly reduce the number of pursuing attacks.
She flapped her wings for a 360 degree flip to check things behind her and she flew out of the way of the red light.
Only a few dozen shots remained.
She flapped her wings for a great leap. When she passed over the roof of a large RV parked by the trees, she placed her hand on the roof and used her heels to kick the shield ski up and around to the front.
She ducked down as she and the shield ski landed on the road beyond the RV.
At the same time, the remaining light crashed into the back of the RV.
Sounds of destruction rang out.
The glass shattered, the metal broke, and the accumulated force sent the large RV into the air.
She ducked down and resumed sliding along the ground. Meanwhile, the RV’s back end rose up and threatened to fall down on top of her.
However, she did not mind. She raised her right hand and used her blood to write “super light” on the bottom of the vehicle.
She then used her left index finger to lift the RV.
She spun it on her finger like a plate and instantly spun herself around.
She used that momentum to throw the RV back at Brunhild.
Kazami saw that Brunhild had already begun her next attack.
She had moved Gram around so it was resting backwards on her shoulder.
One side of the blade said “catapult” and Kazami saw the black cat standing on top of it.
The word “acceleration” on the cat’s belly had been crossed out and a new term had been written on his back: shell.
“You don’t mean…!”
Kazami’s shout of surprise was followed by a red light racing from Gram’s base and out to the tip.
As if riding on that light, the shell was launched.
It instantly produced an explosion of water vapor.
And it cried out as it tore through the RV.
Pierced from the front to the back, the vehicle stopped moving in midair and bulged out a bit.
It burst to pieces like it was made of paper.
Surrounded by a trail of mist, the shell flew straight toward Kazami.
Kazami spent a moment making up her mind.
If she fired G-Sp2, this shell was no threat.
However, she was hesitant to destroy this shell.
While she disliked shells, she did like cats. Loved them even.
And so she hesitated.
…What should I do?
She briefly thought about what the report on her death would say.
…Field Operations Special Division and Team Leviathan member Kazami Chisato was killed in action by a cat.
Would they write “loved cats” on my grave? That would be an embarrassment to all my descendants. Then again, if I died now, I wouldn’t have any descendants, would I?
The shell was right in front of her.
She made a split-second decision and wrote on G-Sp2.
Her hint came from Izumo. He had once done something like this.
She wrote “Anti-Shell Metal Bat”.
She held G-Sp2 near the bottom and swung the metal bat.
She gave her own sound effect as she hit the shell and the slight squashing sensation at the moment of impact told her it had been a perfect hit.
With a great sound, the ball was sent right back toward the pitcher.
Go, she thought while clenching her fist and accelerating forward with G-Sp2.
“Couldn’t I have just dodged instead of hitting it back?”
Brunhild saw the shell flying back toward her.
Their relative speed plus the batting effect made the shell’s speed greater than when she had fired it.
She considered writing “shield” on Gram to stop it, but that would smash the shell to pieces.
…Which would get Gram and my clothes filthy!
She made a split-second decision and raised a magic marker in her right hand.
She predicted the path of the flying shell and placed the marker in the spot its back would pass through.
When the cat’s back passed below the marker, a negating line was drawn through the word “shell”.
It all came down to an instant of action.
The black cat returned to being a cat, decelerated, and grabbed onto Brunhild’s left shoulder.
“U-u-u-um, Brunhild!! I-I need-I need to have a word with you!!”
“Yes.” Brunhild wrapped her left hand around the cat on her shoulder while soaring along the road with her broom. “I know exactly what you want to say. …Hitting a shell back with a metal bat? Just how absurd is that girl?”
“You’re ignoring the one who did all the work, you know?”
Brunhild did not answer him.
Kazami jumped to put some distance between them and she pointed G-Sp2 toward the ground.
It was clear what she was going to do.
“Fire into the ground!”
Exactly that happened and it produced a solid sound.
And it happened repeatedly.
Those shots had enough power to destroy a dragon, so they utterly destroyed the asphalt. The broken asphalt blasted skyward like geysers, but those areas were several meters in length and they instantly formed walls.
Brunhild had created a single large wall earlier, but Kazami tore into the ground to make walls of smaller fragments.
There was only one good countermeasure.
Brunhild wrote the word “ocean” on Gram’s side.
“Add in that power!!”
While gliding along, she swung the long sword like a golf club and struck the ground.
The asphalt transformed into an ocean.
The rising walls of broken pavement turned into cresting waves.
She would only be hit by a spray of water, so she continued on.
She could see Kazami through the waves and the girl had begun waterskiing.
The girl gave her a confident smile, so Brunhild nodded in agreement.
Brunhild pursued her classmate whose position made her an enemy.
As she pursued, they both crossed a large intersection at almost the same moment.
They were only one hundred meters to Akigawa Station.
A light moved below the streetlights.
It was the light to a mountain bike.
But instead of riding it, someone was pushing it by the handlebars.
That person was Ooki who wore a jacket.
She pushed the bike with her left hand and held a cellphone in her right.
“Oh, Sibyl-san. I’ve collected Kazami-san’s bike, so don’t worry.”
She heard Sibyl’s apologetic voice over the phone.
“Testament. Thank you very much. It seems Chisato-sama was in quite a rush.”
“Immediate decisions are her thing. She changed inside the concept space and I collected that as well.”
“H-her clothes! I-I need to wash them, iron them, and return them!”
“You like to take care of everything, don’t you?”
“Testament. It is my thing.”
Ooki heard her add a “but”, so she looked into the night sky.
“Ooki-sama, how were things inside the concept space?”
Ooki thought on the question. After about three seconds, she gathered her eyebrows together.
“Well, it was night, it was cold, and there was no one there.”
“That isn’t what I meant.”
There was a smiling tone to Sibyl’s voice, yet Ooki felt like she was being scolded.
…Did I say something odd?
She tilted her head, but Sibyl asked another question.
“Could you tell how Chisato-sama’s battle was going?”
Oh, I get it now, thought Ooki as she came to a stop.
There was a field to her left, houses to her right, and stars in the sky, but she stared straight forward.
This road likely ran alongside the larger Itsukaichi Road that Kazami and Brunhild had flown down.
Ooki narrowed her eyes.
“I think they’re full of energy.”
Ooki smiled at Sibyl’s confusion.
“They’re probably having a great time exchanging blows right now. …Am I wrong?”
The road was made of black tar, but it acted like water.
The road had “30” written on it, so it contained a current flowing at that speed.
Kazami and Brunhild flew along the center line between lanes where the current differed.
Red light shot from Gram which had “rapid fire gun” written on it, so Kazami deflected it with the tip of her spear.
Kazami rotated around and fired G-Sp2, so Brunhild deflected it with “shield” Gram.
The two moved apart and produced a splash of asphalt as they drew an arc along it.
While gliding along the center of the road, spear clashed with sword.
A metallic sound rang out, sparks flew from their locked blades, and they moved apart just enough for more swordplay.
When Kazami jabbed, Brunhild deflected. When Brunhild swung, Kazami deflected.
But Kazami had the upper hand in close-quarters combat.
By jabbing in and pulling back, G-Sp2 could knock Gram outwards.
The sharp sound of metal shot out and sparks flew.
Wind blew in from the front and Brunhild’s hand trembled as it held Gram.
She swung the blade straight toward Kazami, but the other girl seemed to wrap the strike around the spear tip and sent it outwards.
The witch frowned and clenched her teeth a little.
Attacking like this was not her specialty.
When a beginner attacked with a long weapon, they tended to be led around by its length and never put any real force behind their strikes.
With longer weapons, one had to focus on the base of the blade and the bottom of the hilt as they held it. They had to use it lightly while making sure they did not only slightly graze their enemy with the tip, but that was a tall order for a beginner like Brunhild.
Gram was a long sword, so it was bound by those rules even if it was light. And unlike a spear, the grip was short and the blade long, which only made those rules more important.
Once it was deflected, the weight of the blade would reach her hands and it took a while for a beginner to gain control again.
But Kazami did not hold back.
She moved straight in.
“This is over!”
She stared straight at the girl while jabbing her spear just as straight.
She was confident it would hit.
But with a clang of steel, G-Sp2 was deflected by Gram.
Kazami’s eyes opened wide.
It may not have been perfect, but she had knocked Gram upwards and attacked the girl’s unguarded chest.
Brunhild did not have enough combat skill to instantly regain control of Gram.
In fact, not even Kazami would have been able to regain control of such a long sword so quickly.
She could only keep up this high speed exchange of attack and defense because she held the long spear close to the top.
…How did she do that!?
Kazami gasped and saw something written on the side of the sword Brunhild lightly swung around.
“I probably should have done this from the beginning, but then I couldn’t have caught you off guard.”
Now the one left defenseless was Kazami.
She had poured her full strength into that strike, so she had not used a short grip on the spear.
She then saw Brunhild prepare Gram at her right hip.
The action pressed the blade’s tip against Kazami’s stomach.
She also saw words on the side of the sword.
“88 mm gun. You can’t hit it back at this range, can you?”
The blast rang out quickly.
Kazami acted on pure reflex.
She bent over to pull her stomach back and flapped her wings forward.
She put as much space between her and Gram as she could.
A moment later, she lifted her right leg.
Brunhild’s eyebrows shot up.
“It’s no use!”
The end of her words was drowned out by the blast of the shot being fired.
At the same time, Kazami kicked something up with her right leg.
It was G-Sp2’s shield she had been using as a ski.
She pressed her right leg against her chest and the bottom of the foot brought up the shield and placed it between her and the gun.
At the same time, the 88 mm shell of light exploded in the muzzle.
Kazami was blasted into the western sky with the speed of a shooting star and noise washed over Brunhild.
The black three-cornered hat fell from her head, but the witch did not care.
She looked to Kazami through the blowing wind and water vapor smoke.
The girl had crashed into the roof of a pachinko parlor to the west of the train station.
She had flown a long way. That was partially due to the force of the shellfire, but…
…Did she use G-Sp2’s acceleration to escape the blow!?
It was the same idea as pulling your body back to reduce the damage from a punch.
But if she had done that…
“Is she still conscious!?”
If so, the battle would continue.
She quickly found a way to determine whether the girl was or not.
Over by Kazami, the “pa” of the neon sign saying “pachinko” had gone out due to poor maintenance. Being hit by that in this world of writing would be an embarrassment to every last one of her descendants, so Brunhild took action.
“Brunhild, Brunhild. You’re a girl too, so try to be a little considerate.”
But Brunhild saw G-Sp2’s cannon blow away the “chi” just before it hit.
That meant Kazami was still conscious.
Now that she knew her enemy still intended to fight, Brunhild turned her broom toward the sky and truly flew.
Her destination was the twenty meters above the pachinko parlor with a large hole in the roof.
She instantly arrived in the air and peeled the cat from the broom.
After she wrote “wings” on his butt and had him cling to her back, she could float without the broom.
“B-Brunhild! I have no idea what I am anymore!!”
“Don’t worry. There is only one answer to that.”
“Eh? What is it? A cute pet kitten? Or your beloved black cat?”
“D-don’t fall silent! Tell me the answer, Brunhild!”
She ignored him, maintained her altitude with the wings, and placed the broom over her left shoulder.
She reinforced the broom with papers saying “magazine”, “chamber”, “loading point”, “barrel”, and “ignition device”. She then placed some paper bullets along the base.
She had created a long cannon out of the broom.
She placed the Gram cannon alongside it.
With that shout, she fired.
Her target was the crumbled roof of the pachinko parlor. Her enemy was below.
The flash of shellfire blossomed in the night sky.
The sounds shook the night air as she fired again and again.
The shells of paper and light were surrounded by shockwaves as they smashed the pachinko parlor below.
The shockwaves of impact sent the light materials of modern buildings flying like paper. The roof vanished after a few shots and the shockwaves inside the building blew out the walls from within.
In an instant, only the pillars remained and the explosions sent countless dots of light flying through the air.
They were silver balls.
They burst upwards like spraying water, shook in the noise of the blasts, and fell as they scattered wherever they pleased. Sometimes, the wreckage of a pachinko machine would fly up, but even those were sent scattering by the continuing shockwaves.
Despite all that, Brunhild would not stop.
The most frightening thing about shellfire was not the shells themselves. The shockwave created when a physical shell flew and hit caused much more destruction than the simple area struck by the shell itself.
Even ten centimeters of concrete were easily smashed by a metal shell moving at high speed.
Kazami could only intercept one of the shells with G-Sp2. The fallen shockwaves shot back up into the air, but Kazami had no way of defending against it and she would be smashed to pieces.
Even if she tried to stop the shells, Brunhild was firing randomly. Kazami would be unable to determine where they would hit, so she would be struck from an unexpected direction.
So Brunhild continued firing.
It would be easier if the girl simply vanished.
The broom ran out of ammunition. Smoke rose from the tip, but Brunhild was not going to let her enemy get away. She peeled off all of the paper and attached a single new paper.
She looked down at the broom while feeling a ringing in her ears from all the noise shaking her eardrums.
The broom now had “barrel addition” written on it.
She let out a breath, closed her eyes, swallowed to clear the ringing in her ears, and attached the barrel addition to Gram.
The cannon resting on her shoulder was now twice as long as she was tall and she added another word to Gram.
“Dragon cannon. …This final shot is a requiem from 1st-Gear.”
Her numb ears could barely hear her own voice.
She realized her hair was plastered to her forehead with sweat and her breathing was heavy.
But she prepared the dragon cannon on her shoulder while dealing with them both.
Her target was the center of the pachinko parlor that still had three steel pillars. She aimed for the center of the rising dust.
She muttered “farewell” as she reached for the trigger.
The witch saw her enemy and those white wings.
Kazami was crouched on one knee within the dust.
“How did you survive all that?”
The answer was simple and Kazami gave the answer in a trembling voice.
She spoke even as her body shook from the remaining damage.
“Look around me.”
Brunhild did so and looked below the vanishing dust.
The red and white tiles of the floor came into view. The dust covered it like sand, but it was unharmed. And…
“Why are the bases of the pachinko machines still there?”
The tops of the machines had been torn away, but all of the bases remained from the floor to about waist height.
The surrounding light entering the pachinko parlor told Brunhild why.
Kazami’s right arm was raised and it held G-Sp2’s shield. Brunhild saw what the girl had written on it.
“That’s right. When a shockwave is produced on the ground, it escapes up into the air, so you won’t be harmed if you place yourself lower than the floor. If you can’t escape an explosion, they tell you to hide below the lowest part of the ground and cover yourself with something, right? Also…”
Kazami weakly stood and lifted her left hand.
That hand held a pennant-style poster.
“Can you see what it says? ‘Hit the jackpot’. I quickly scattered just the ‘hit’ portion along the four edges of the ceiling and that guided most of the shell hits.”
The broken parts of G-Sp2’s cowling were slowly regenerating.
Brunhild had heard about this. During the battle with 7th-Gear, G-Sp2 and V-Sw had combined their power to heal themselves and to save Kazami when she was on the verge of death.
That was special even for a Concept Core. She had heard that had not happened again since and Kazami was not rapidly recovering now. The weapon had rescued its master when she had admitted to her own mistake, but the rest was that master’s own responsibility.
…What a cold concept weapon.
However, that likely meant that the weapon trusted its master.
That turned Brunhild’s thoughts toward Gram on her right shoulder.
She shook her head and gave a self-deprecating smile as she looked down.
Kazami was standing on trembling legs and trying to raise G-Sp2.
She was still enough of an enemy, so Brunhild did not hold back.
She pulled the trigger and bared her teeth in a smile.
“You’re pretty cool, Kazami. But I saw what happened when you flew in here before.”
She gave a shout while firing.
“You ‘nko’ girl!!”
Light from the surface intercepted the light from the sky.
They collided and exploded with a sound like shattering glass.
An explosion of light covered the ground for several hundred meters in every direction.
The entire station area was instantly turned to scorched earth.
A great force of air spread out beyond the explosion and transformed into a powerful wind.
The staticky sound of the air resembled crashing waves.
The witch in black was blasted into the heavens and she flew through the sky with the acceleration of the broom in her right hand.
She trembled from the great sound of the dragon cannon and dragon spear clashing below.
But something broke through that tremor.
Spear-wielding wings ascended through the dragon’s roar.
G-Sp2 used all of its thrust to stab up from below, so Brunhild released her broom behind her.
The cat on her back grabbed onto the broom while inside her collar. Brunhild felt like she was being tugged on the back of the neck as the cat and the broom pulled her straight up into the heavens.
She wrote “shield” on Gram, grasped it by the blade and hilt, and held it forward to protect her.
But G-Sp2 crashed into it.
She was instantly pushed into the heavens.
This new thrust far outdid that of her broom. She doubled over as Gram pressed against her stomach and pushed her into the sky.
She tried in vain to protest, but her body was quickly taken away.
She was looking down on Tokyo now.
She passed through some white clouds and cried out as she felt the chill of their high altitude.
“Kazami! What are you-…”
She did not finish her question.
She had noticed that Kazami’s eyes were squeezed shut.
…It can’t be.
“Did that explosion blind and deafen you?”
Her senses were numbed.
Even in this attack, she would only know that she had hit.
But even after hitting, she continued to rise and never stopped accelerating.
…All to defeat me.
They had ascended to the stratosphere, but that was apparently not enough.
“You’re willing to go this far to defeat me!?”
Brunhild clenched her teeth.
…It wasn’t enough.
What had that barrage of shells mattered? Or the dragon cannon?
Around her, she saw the heavenly dome of the night, the vast nightscape, and the darkness between the mountains.
The distant horizon was slightly curved.
…Is this the height of her primary battlefield?
Had Brunhild made any attack on this level?
“You stupid girl,” she muttered.
She bent forward until she was close enough to kiss the girl and found her eyes were ever-so-slightly open.
Despite her limp expression, her unfocused eyes looked to the sky and the surface.
“Can you see it? This area is where we live.”
Kazami looked around at the distant lights of the cities.
“I can hear it.”
Kazami did not answer. She simply closed her eyes.
With those words, the sensation pressing up against Brunhild vanished.
Kazami had released her and she knew what that meant.
…I’ll fall to the ground from here.
Ah, she thought just as she flipped around and began to fall face-up.
She dove from the heavens with her back pointed down.
“Ahhhhhh!” shouted the cat on her back. “Don’t have me looking down!”
But she ignored the cat’s protests. An attack came from the heavens above.
It was G-Sp2.
Kazami closed her wings and accelerated straight down for another collision.
As the reverse of before, she was hitting Brunhild from above.
She caught the blow with Gram again, but…
The thrust far outdid the speed of her fall and there was nothing she could do to fight it.
She released her cracking voice into the sky.
“Are you really planning to crash into the surface from this height!?”
Kazami smiled and answered.
“Is there any point in answering that?”
The sound of an electronic motor filled the air.
It was the low, muffled sound of a spinning fan.
It came from a powerful vacuum cleaner.
The sound filled a room made up of two connected rooms. The detached room had a ten square meter space with wood flooring and an equally large space with tatami mats.
With her uniform’s coat removed, Shinjou ran the vacuum cleaner along the wooden flooring.
She wore a borrowed pink apron and she glanced to the sofa set in the center of the wood-floored room. She also looked to the large window left open to air out the room.
She finally looked to the TV placed next to the window and then switched off the vacuum cleaner.
“Sayama-kun, the TVs at your home sure are fancy. They have buttons to change the channel instead of knobs.”
“Shinjou-kun, what did you think our dorm room’s TV was? It is fully controlled by the remote.”
“Oh, c’mon. Quit lying. That isn’t a TV. It’s a type of monitor. You can’t have a TV without something to change the channel.”
She checked behind the TV to make sure she had vacuumed behind it.
She straightened the bottom of the apron and glanced over to Sayama in the tatami mat room.
A butt was sticking out of the dark closet at the far end of that room.
It was Sayama’s butt.
Whenever his butt or legs moved to keep his balance, she heard a sound of avalanching metal and other objects from the closet.
She had handled the general cleaning of the room while he dealt with the important things and anything best not messed with. His primary job had been checking through the drawers, closets, and other such spaces. He was the only one who could check to see if his parents had left any kind of records behind.
Shinjou could not help but be worried about one thing.
…Are his chest pains okay?
He was probably feeling it this entire time, but she had decided not to do anything unless he collapsed, stopped moving, or asked for help. She had also decided to ignore him if he said anything strange.
While worrying about that, she cleaned the wooden flooring with a dry mop.
She had used the room’s intercom to ask Ryouko for the cleaning supplies. For some reason, she would hear sounds of movement from below the corridor’s floor and above its ceiling and the supplies would appear in front of the room.
…I think I’ll avoid asking why they don’t show themselves.
At that point, Sayama stopped moving as he rummaged through the closet behind her.
Fearing the worst, she froze too.
She turned around and found his balancing butt and legs had stopped.
“Sayama-kun, are you okay?”
“Ha ha ha. What are you talking about, Shinjou-kun? There has never been a single thing wrong with me.”
“Really? Then I guess you are okay.”
“Your note of understanding and your comment seem a bit disconnected to me.”
Ignoring that, she tilted her head and asked the question in her heart.
“Did you find something?”
“Yes, and I suppose it will see the light of day for the first time in nine years.”
She frowned and he answered her question.
“Yes. I found one of IAI’s orphan anime roach traps ‘Roach Hutch’. It’s a pun on the character named Hutch from a popular anime at the time.”
Shinjou decided to remain silent, but he let out a warm sigh.
“But after nine years, the number of residents has grown quite a bit. Now Hutch will never be lonely.”
“You don’t have to give the details. And you don’t have to bring it out to show me. You don’t, okay!?”
“But Shinjou-kun, I want you to understand the value of what I hold in my hands.”
“You can throw that value out in the trash!”
She threw the mop handle at his butt and he reacted by bending back and falling inside the closet.
She panicked when she heard him crash into the wooden closet wall and felt the room shake.
“Ah! S-Sayama-kun, I’m sorry! I acted on impulse!”
“Ha ha ha. Shinjou-kun, everything is fine. I managed to hold onto Hutch.”
The previous shaking must have knocked something loose because a ceiling board near the closet shifted aside and a white cardboard box fell out of the ceiling.
She cried out and saw the box land inside the room’s light.
It landed perfectly with a dull sound and the light washed over it.
“S-Sayama-kun. A box just fell from the ceiling. What was that? Hitting the wall to make something fall sounds like a hidden item from a recent video game. Ooh, I bet it has a 1-up inside.”
“Shinjou-kun, I have a feeling you lose a life if the hidden item crushes you. Especially given my current situation.”
Sayama could speak despite being crushed, so no lives had been lost and that meant everything was okay.
Shinjou breathed a sigh of relief and looked to the cardboard box that had crushed the butt sticking out from the closet.
The top of the box was sealed with a charm and she read what it said.
“ ‘Serves you right. –Sayama Kaoru’ ”
What was this and what was going on?
She held her breath at those questions but then looked to Sayama as he lay below the box.
“Like grandfather, like grandson.”
- Chinko means penis.
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