Owari no Chronicle:Volume13 Chapter 22

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Chapter 22: Looking Back in the Snow[edit]

OnC v13 0059.png

As if afraid of the white snow

My voice seeks the darkness

But the voice of the darkness refers to me as snow


A large room was decorated for Christmas.

Even the sign in the cafeteria that said Soukou House had chains of colored paper hanging from it and those colorful chains covered the ceiling as well.

Below the white lights, Shinjou sat on a white bench with notebooks and letters spread out before her and Sayama held a cellphone to his ear.

Shinjou saw the director walk past the cafeteria entrance, so she gave a quick bow.

The woman nodded back and Shinjou smiled before facing forward.

The documents in front of her were the records of Shinjou Yukio that she had not had time to read before or that they had brought with them. The director had found more since Shinjou’s last visit, so there was a small pile of notebooks, albums, and letters on the table.

It’s nice being able to learn as much as I can.

She felt like she was filling the gaps left inside herself.

The others seemed to be taking action in their own ways and Sayama was currently on the phone with Heo.

It had been a long call, Sayama occasionally spoke up so Shinjou could hear, and Heo was telling him what Harakawa’s mother had told her about the past. However, that was reaching its end.

“I see. Then are you about to head home, Heo-kun? …Yes, take care.”

Sayama ended the call and Shinjou turned toward him.

“It sounds like they’re having trouble over there. Did Ryuuji-kun do something again?”

“Yes.” Sayama nodded and crossed his arms. “From what Heo-kun said, he renegotiated with 2nd-Gear by letting a 2nd-Gear man penetrate him with his sword, which produced a lot of blood. Currently, he is stuck in bed, defenseless against all the ‘attacks’ the others are sending his way.”

Shinjou frowned and the two of them thought on what he had said.

“Was part of that a euphemism?”

“Shinjou-kun, are you suggesting that the Hiba boy’s heart has migrated to the side of men?”

“N-no, of course not. I was only kidding. Heo must have said it wrong.”

“But would she really say anything wrong to us after the ‘thisp’ incident?”

They fell silent for about a minute but eventually cleared their throats.

Deciding not to think about anything unpleasant, Shinjou gathered together the documents on the table.

“Come to think of it, Sayama-kun, you were speaking with the director earlier, weren’t you? Do you mind if I ask what about?”

“Oh, she was only talking about my grandfather.”

He brought a hand to his chest and smiled bitterly.

“I only confirmed that he did know how to keep up the appearance of being a good person.”

“He was apparently the one who delivered my mom’s letters.”

“Heh heh heh. Being someone’s gofer is perfect for that wicked old man. Work until you die. Although I suppose it is too late for that.”

“You’re as twisted as ever.”

“If you twist far enough, you end up facing straight forward again, Shinjou-kun. But anyway, were you able to hand over the gift you brought?”

“Yes.” Shinjou smiled. “The director gave me so much last time, so I bought our school cafeteria’s famous Kinugasa Gelatin. It’s amazing. It has 0% fruit juice, but it apparently still tastes like fruit.”

“Heh heh heh. Shinjou-kun, your ignorant naïveté is lovely and right in my strike zone. But…it is disappointing that the item I prepared in the cafeteria did not catch your eye.”

“Yes, yes. …Wait. Is that why there was ‘Shinjou Konjac Gelatin’ in the cafeteria gift corner!?”

“All the fiber is gentle on the stomach.”

“You aren’t backing down, are you? Are you? You instantly decided not to back down and moved about three steps ahead, didn’t you?”

“Calm down, Shinjou-kun. I know it is a disappointment that I was only able to prepare the Se-chan flavor in time. But do not fear. I secretly drew myself on the underside, so we are inseparable. No matter what happens, you are still mine and mine alone.”

“But that means we have our backs to each other.”

“How careless of me! But the way our backs are pressed together is unbearably delicious!”

He isn’t going fix this even if I warn him, realized Shinjou. In fact, I feel like he’s actually pulling me in.

So she instead flipped through the documents again.

Among the letters sent here, one had been brought from Top-Gear by Sayama’s grandfather. It of course said nothing about Top-Gear or concepts, but it mentioned that she had begun to manage a church of her own.

The funding was given by someone calling themselves “The Pair’s Daddy-Long-Legs”.

The letter said Shinjou Yukio did not know who that was but that she was thankful.

Given the name, I wonder if it was that world’s version of Sayama-kun’s grandfather, speculated Shinjou. No, if it was, it would be Mommy-Long-Legs or Granny-Long-Legs.

“I wonder what happened.”

“What happened with what?”

Sayama casually urged her on, so she gave voice to her thoughts.

“I must have been on Noah with my mom, but why was that? My parents weren’t getting along.”

“And yet you were born. Is that a problem?”

She did not nod because even she was doubtful whether it was a problem or not.

“What if I was an unwanted child?”

She turned around and saw Sayama accepting her words with his usual expressionless look, so she spoke with the new letter in hand.

“My mom had people who were cheering her on, but she didn’t get along with my dad because she did not want to actively help them. She had allies, so why was I born between her and the man she was trying to keep her distance from?”

“What do you think?”

“I don’t know. But…I do wonder why.”

The letter in her hand eloquently described a moment in the past. It was from the time in which her mother had had trouble with her father.

“I always refuse, but he keeps showing up. My hymns are gradually spreading through the local people, but he keeps his distance from all of them and watches me. And when I approach him, he only ever says he wants my help with his work.”

Shinjou checked to make sure Sayama was reading the letter and let her shoulders droop.

“To be blunt, your father may have been something of a stalker.”

“I was thinking about saying the same thing. …I bet the two of you would have gotten along well.”

“What are you talking about? Stalking is a crime.”

“Then what is it you’re always doing?”

“If you and I are not in the center of the world together, the world could very well fall out of balance and receive irreparable damage.”

Shinjou was speechless and she blushed a little.

“Y-you really like making up weird theories about the world, don’t you?”

“Checking on the answer does not change that answer, Shinjou-kun. Now…how about we set the world in motion just a little?”

Sayama stood up and forcefully tugged on her hand.

She hesitated for a moment.

“Wh-where are we going? I haven’t read all of the documents yet.”

“Not to worry. Right now, we must go to the place Shinjou Yukio, your mother, stood.”

He looked through the cafeteria’s glass door and outside.

There was a gate at the park’s exit, an asphalt road filled with the darkness of night beyond the gate, and…

“The answer must lie in the wreckage of the collapse.”


Sayama and Shinjou stepped out into the dark yard.

He was pulling Shinjou along, but she quickly moved up alongside him.

“We’re going to see the past?”

“Some kind of impetus is needed to see the past. Baku uses that impetus to show it to us. That is how we will check to see if our reasoning about the past is accurate.”

“You mean…”

Sayama nodded and continued for her.

“It is simple. We only need to find proof that your parents came to understand each other.”

He turned toward her and held out his empty hand.

“Can you give me the letters you have already read?”

“S-sure.”

Sayama belatedly realized their breath appeared white in the cold air as they exchanged words.

The gas synthesized within Shinjou-kun is dissolving into the air, he realized.

“Shinjou-kun, may I stand downwind of you?”

Why?”

He thought up an excuse. This happened when we were exchanging drinks at the train station before, he recalled. I went with the direct truth then and that was a failure.

In that case, I merely need to be less direct, he decided while smiling to lower her guard.

“Because your white breath smells sweetly of mint.”

“That sounds like a perverted comment in some schoolboy’s journal!!”

She shoved the letters toward his face and he tilted his head.

Complaining about a compliment? She is so very shy.

Well, modesty is a very Japanese virtue, he thought. And Kenjou, Japanese for modesty, sounds quite a lot like Shinjou.

“Sayama-kun, are you going to read them or not?”

“I am,” he replied to her glaring eyes while walking toward the park’s exit.

He looked down to the text and found it had been sent to his father.

“Something good and something bad happened today. First the good thing: I can build a bell tower thanks to someone’s donation. Apparently, the director who actually runs the church knows who donated the money, but she won’t tell me who it is. She apparently signed a contract with the donor and she can’t tell me until the church is complete. But on her suggestion, I had a sign set up at the gate. The director named it the Nisho Church. I’m guessing she took the first character from ‘The Pair’s Daddy-Long-Legs’ and added on the last character of my name.”

The next letter described some conflict with her other self.

“Something bad happened again today. I ran into this world’s version of me. He says the funding for spreading the Bible is going to be redirected toward developing terminals for Noah.”

I see, thought Sayama.

Shinjou’s mother had defected to Top-Gear, but she had not promised her full cooperation.

She had worked to create a place for Low-Gear there, but before Shinjou’s birth, she had not helped with their concept creation and had been uncooperative.

She had likely wanted to stick to her role as advisor and allow Top-Gear to maintain its dignity.

At the same time, the higher ups of Top-Gear had not wanted her full cooperation. More than anything, they seemed to have wanted to show off that they had a defector from Low-Gear.

That may still have been a peaceful and relaxed time.

But as an actual researcher, Top-Gear’s Shinjou Yukio had realized the difficulty and danger of concept creation.

That had led to conflict between them.

And Sayama imagined Low-Gear’s Shinjou Yukio must have made a decision after that conflict.

She decided to take personal command of the concept creation and to give birth to Shinjou-kun.

What led her to do that? he wondered while nodding again.

Meanwhile, Shinjou produced an odd footstep next to him and asked a sudden question.

“Sayama-kun, why…why are you trying to learn about my parents?”

“You have doubts about your parents, so is it wrong to want to eliminate those doubts?”

He did not turn toward her as he asked that and she paused for three seconds before responding.

“It is. After all, you won’t look at me.”

“Is that so?”

He nodded and slowed his pace a bit.

The ground was solid below his feet and he sensed her to his side.

He showed her his expression by letting her stand by his side rather than by turning back toward her.

Even as she spoke, he thought that was a cowardly way to show her his emotions.

“Why did my father choose my mother?” he asked.

“…”

“As a result, I was protected by my mother and survived. There is nothing wrong with the result.”

He found it was difficult to speak without allowing his white breath to become a sigh.

“But I would appreciate it if that decision was made for a happy reason. My father realized he should choose my mother, but he likely did so because your parents chose each other.”

He took a breath.

“I want your parents to have chosen each other for a happy reason. That way, my father would have celebrated the decision and noticed my mother’s presence. He would have realized she was the only one he had.”

“Sorry.”

“Thank me instead, Shinjou-kun.”

“I-I don’t think that would get the right meaning across.”

“But I would prefer to have your thanks than your apology. The meaning does not matter as far as that is concerned.”

Sayama picked up his pace again.

He could see the gate ahead.

He pulled Shinjou’s hand in close, pulled her body in close, and placed an arm around her shoulders.

She spoke quietly as he helped keep the cold away.

“Thanks.”

“No, thank you.”

As they exchanged thanks, they approached the gate and walked through.

The streetlights briefly cut off their view, so it felt like stepping out into another world.

But that other world had an asphalt ground and a cliff.

“You can see so much.”

The night scenery opened up down below.

The nearby lights were from houses and cars driving along the roads. The more distant lights were from the port and the boats on the sea.

Shikoku, through which they had travelled that afternoon, was visible as a band of light past the bridge over the Naruto Strait.

“Your mother must have seen this scenery in both Low-Gear and Top-Gear.”

Sayama and Shinjou stopped in front of the gate remaining before the cliff.

Sayama then breathed in and faced Shinjou.

“Now, time for some questions.”

“Eh? W-wait. Where did this come from?”

Shinjou frowned in confusion, but Sayama ignored it.

He raised three fingers in front of her.

“You must answer three questions. If you do not…”

“I-I have to strip?”

“…That is a great idea, Shinjou-kun!!”

“Oh, no! Why did I have to say that!? Forget I said anything!!”

She quickly tried to flee, but he grabbed her shoulders and pulled her back.

“Now, for question one.”

“W-wait a second! I haven’t pressed my mental start button yet!”

He waited a little, so she slowly turned around and tilted her head worriedly.

“Y-you won’t really make me…right?”

He immediately nodded with a smile.

“Unfortunately, that is incorrect. The correct answer was ‘Artluman’s seventh special attack is the eye jab’, Shinjou-kun.”

“What kind of question has an answer like that!?”

He ignored her and held out his hand as if asking for her to give him something.

She forced a smile and jabbed a finger into his palm.

“What’s this hand for? Money?”

“Of course not. This is for something which has a value that cannot be bought, Shinjou-kun.”

She sighed and resignedly removed her tie.

“Fine, fine. Make do with this.”

As suggested, he made do. Namely, he wrapped it around his forehead.

“Now, time for question two, Shinjou-kun.”

“Y-you’re still doing this!?”

“Unfortunately, that is incorrect. The correct answer was ‘Kamen Vader 1 died by-…”

“O-oh! Oh! He held a nuclear bomb in his arms, bungee jumped off Tokyo Tower, and destroyed Tokyo!”

“I am really not sure what he was hoping to accomplish with that. …But how did 2 die?”

“Ah, that’s a cheap question!!”

“The answer was ‘he collided with 1 after performing a Super Headbutt to catch him from below’.”

As he spoke, Sayama removed another piece of clothing from Shinjou.

“Eh?”

After about seven seconds, Shinjou looked down.

“Um…”

She frantically held down the front and back of her skirt and crouched down. She was also blushing.

“S-Sayama-kun!? Wh-what was that for all of a sudden!?”

“These are not the panties you wore this morning, Shinjou-kun. …Strings? Were you expecting something to happen!?”

“No, I’ve changed clothes since this morning and I thought these would be easier to walk in. …More importantly, give them back!”

“Restrain that which has at long last found freedom? I could never do something so cruel! I must protect this.”

“Protect? Come to think of it, I’d noticed some of my underwear was vanishing from the closet.”

“Yes. To make sure they would not be stolen and to ensure I would have some on hand whenever you needed them, I placed them under my strict supervision.”

“So it was you!!”

“W-wait, Shinjou-kun! You misunderstand! I am pure!”

“Yes, it was a misunderstanding to ever think you were innocent. You’re obviously pure here. Pure guilty!”

This makes for a nice daily life too, thought Sayama as he received a moderate strangling. But just as he began to give in to the asphyxiation, he restrained himself and quickly tapped Shinjou’s hand.

“C-calm down, Shinjou-kun. And at any rate, it is time for the third and final question.”

Shinjou stopped moving with her arms still reaching toward his neck.

She must have assumed saying anything would lead to further clothing being removed because she remained silent.

So Sayama exhaled and opened his mouth for the final question.

“Question 3: In the Kinugasa Library, we saw Miss Shinjou Yukio standing in the snow. The building next to her had a concert hall and bell tower. In other words, that was the completed version of her church. The gate likely had a sign calling it the Nisho Church. But…”

He looked over to where the cherry tree had to have been.

“She spun around in front of that completed building. So why did she do that? Why did she spin around and spread her arms as if to show off the completed building?”

He asked his question.

“Who was she showing it off to?”


Shinjou raised her eyebrows at Sayama’s question.

Come to think of it…

That dream of the past had only lasted a moment, so it had looked like the woman was dancing.

But that was unlikely to be the case. Below that snow-covered cherry tree, she had turned toward someone.

After looking into Osaka’s sky where Noah floated in the darkness, she had turned toward someone behind her with a look of joy over the completed church.

“Was that…my dad?”

“What do you think?”

She heard the toe of Sayama’s shoe tap hard against the ground.

“He must have been standing here, below the gate. Most likely without an umbrella.”

“Without an umbrella?”

“Your mother did not have one either. Don’t you think your mother had a childish side to her in that way?”

Shinjou thought about the mother she had no memory of.

“You’re right.”

When her mother had turned around, the look in her eyes had been confident that someone was there watching her.

Shinjou looked to her mother who had once turned around here in another world. She directly returned the woman’s gaze.

“I had a thought, too.”

“And what was that?”

“Well, whenever my mom was faced with something painful or unpleasant, she would hide it behind a weak smile,” she explained. “So why did she write about my dad in her letters? She said she had trouble with him and did not like him without trying to hide it.”

“That is a new fact I had not noticed. And on that snowy day…”

She knew what Sayama was saying, so she nodded and continued for him.

“She must have been announcing to my dad that the church was finished. She would have said something more sacred than Noah had been built. …And she would have said they might be able to create the Biblical mythology in that world.”

Shinjou spoke her thoughts while fully aware it was only a convenient hope.

“My mom may have been trying to put Top-Gear and Low-Gear on the same level by giving Top-Gear the Biblical mythology they lacked. Instead of creating concepts and waging war, she wanted to provide each world what they lacked as well as something they could believe in. …And so she pretended to defect.”

Sayama said nothing, so she breathed in.

She touched the metal gate and looked into the distance where she pictured her mother’s gaze in midair.

“My mom must have turned my dad away. She would have told him they would be just fine without Noah and she must have asked him to stop inviting her in and to instead listen to her invitation.”

She took a breath.

“That wasn’t mentioned in the letters, but I’m sure of it. She had to have given him an invitation, too. If not, he wouldn’t have continued coming here.”

She hesitated, but she decided to say it.

She gave the identity of the individual who her mother had wondered about, the one who had donated to have the church built.

“If not, he wouldn’t have secretly funded the construction of the church.”

She breathed out and told herself not to cry. She willed the tears back because she had not reached the conclusion yet.

But next to her, Sayama placed an arm around her shoulders and asked a question.

“Why do you think Top-Gear’s Shinjou Yukio was ‘The Pair’s Daddy-Long-Legs’?”

“It’s simple. The name Nisho Church partially came from that alias.” She gave a powerful nod at her own words. “And if you place the characters for ‘Pair’ on top of each other, they become the final character in Top-Gear Yukio’s name.”

Shinjou looked up toward that space in an alternate world where a gate with that name would have existed.

“When the church was finished, my mom would have heard the truth from the director. There’s no, no, no way the director would have been able to just watch on after seeing her turn my dad away.”

I would have done the same, thought Shinjou as her voice rose to a shout.

“My mom chased after him when he silently left without looking back, didn’t she!?”

Her question roused Baku on Sayama’s head.

He gave her the answer to her question about the past.


A snowy slope was a poor place to run, but she ran.

It was night, but the snow filled the air with pale light and Low-Gear’s Shinjou Yukio ran down the slope in a lab coat.

Snow got in her shoes and chilled her feet as it melted.

But she still ran. The snow snatched at her feet, but she kept herself from slipping by continuing ever onward.

“Wait!”

Her white breath and her voice did not reach him.

The back of a lab coat walked away through the snow and did not turn around.

“Wait up!”

She breathed in, felt the cold air stabbing at the back of her throat, and stumbled through the snow.

Her slow pace frustrated her and she could tell she was not catching up.

She wondered if it was curiosity or interest driving her to reach him.

“Wait.”

The lab coat up ahead did not wait, so she pushed herself even faster.

“Ah!”

Her foot got caught in one of his footprints and she tripped.

Instead of falling to her knees, she fully collapsed to the left.

She was lucky the snow had accumulated as much as it had. The asphalt did not scrape at her skin and she actually scraped away the snow. She sat up to knock away the snow that had been pushed up onto her.

She sighed while sitting in the snow and she finally realized she was sweating.

Why?

Why was she so desperate? She did not know.

“Wait.”

With that word, tears spilled from her eyes for some reason.

She sobbed and her shoulders rose and fell.

“Wait…”

She muttered the word and brought her hands to her eyes like a child.

She saw a tall figure in a white lab coat standing before her.

He was there.

His sharp eyes looked directly at her and seemed to pierce right through her.

“…!!”

She blushed and quickly stood, but she slipped on the snow she had packed down and she almost fell backwards.

Swinging her arms was not enough to keep her balance, and…

“—————”

She did not fall.

She noticed he had grabbed her right hand. And with almost painful strength.

He saved me.

She wanted to say something and wondered if she should thank him.

But as soon as he let go, she used her left hand to slap him.

The high-pitched sound filled the air, the snow accumulated on his shoulders scattered away, and she shouted.

“What is the meaning of this!?”

She planted her feet on the ground and slapped him again. The sound of the second strike permeated the snow.

“Why…Why would you do something like that?”

He returned her gaze and relaxed his shoulders.

“What would ‘that’ be?”

She felt her body temperature rising at that question and she swung her left arm to point up the slope.

“You don’t know what you did!? You funded the construction of that church!”

She breathed in and formed words at the volume of a yell.

“Were you taking pity on me!? Or were you trying to bribe me!? Did someone order you to do it? What were you trying to do!? And…what were you thinking!?”

With her firm expression intact and unexpected tears in the corners of her eyes, she forced a laugh.

She wiped away the tears with her sleeve and took a shrill breath, but forced a smile with her eyebrows raised.

“That must have been amusing! You got to watch a silly woman go on and on about how proud of the church she was without realizing you had paid for it all! She had been manipulated by you the entire time, but she ignorantly acted like someone important!”

After that, she lowered the ends of her eyebrows, and asked the true question she had saved until after the unnecessary complaints.

“Why!? Why would you do that after we tried so much to distance ourselves from each other!?”

That shouted question produced a reaction in the man.

He looked up a bit toward the heavens.

At the top of the slope was a church and past that was Noah.

He stared in the distance beyond the snowy darkness.

“It wasn’t some impressive reason.”

“Just tell me!”

At her urging, he closed his eyes, breathed in, and spoke with an exasperated tone.

“I simply wanted you to succeed.”

“For me to!?”

His eyes were closed, so he did not see her expression.

He only lowered his head and continued.

“No matter what, I have to create concepts and prepare this world to fight. And eventually, Top-Gear will be unable to trust visitors from the other world like you. Once the enemy could arrive at any moment, the world will begin to think fortifying our defenses is the best way to spread peace.”

He did not stop there.

“But most likely, you are right, Shinjou Yukio. No matter what happens, you will still be right, Shinjou Yukio. You did not choose Top-Gear or Low-Gear. You made the right decision and chose to be a bridge between all Gears. You chose something I could not and you are undoubtedly right.”

He then said “but” and “so”.

“I wanted to see just how much your way of thinking could change the world. I wanted to see how much the true feelings of my other self could change the world.”

“…”

“Listen,” he said. “The donations I made to you might as well have been made to me. Your pride in the completed church gave me joy. I got to see just how much my other self could accomplish.”

He opened his eyes and looked to her.

For the first time, he narrowed his eyes with a small smile on his lips.

“That is why I funded the church, my other self. I chose to remain a man of this world, so you outdid me. From now on, I will be able to see the light of your church from Noah. I will also hear its bell. And that will be proof that there is at least one thing in this world that someone wished for. That will be one thing I truly managed to create for this world.”

With that, he turned around and bent his back a little.

“Farewell.”

The man in a lab coat took a step away into the falling snow.

As soon as he did, she did not hesitate.

“Wait!”

She wrapped her arms around him from behind.

She embraced the lab coat to stop him from continuing down the slope.

She knew she could not force him.

This man…

He had already restrained himself for the good of this world, so he would not give into force.

She would need a will that surpassed his if she was to stop him.

So she shouted loud enough for her voice to pass through his back.

“Please tell me!”

She breathed in.

“Someday, god will reside in this place! You built the very first place for god’s voice to be heard in this land! No lies are permitted there and anything you confess will be forgiven. So…so please tell me. What do you want from me!?”

And…

“You understand, don’t you? Someone on your level has to know the data I gave you was modified and you have to know why…why I won’t create concepts in this Gear!”

“I do know. You are another version of me, after all.”

He slowly chose his words.

“I understand why you are making it so we cannot create concepts.”

She nodded at his answer.

“You understand, but you can’t do what I’m doing?”

“The higher ups would never accept that Top-Gear is inferior to Low-Gear in any way. That is why I have chosen my path and left you to do things your way. I have now settled things with you, so you can continue doing things as you please. And…”

She felt him sigh.

“Are you going to waste everything I have given you?”

“We still don’t know if I can waste it.”

To erase his trembling sigh, she pressed her own breath into his back.

“Are you afraid of your own words? Are you afraid of the words that will ruin everything I have?”

Tears spilled out as she exhaled.

“Tell me. Please tell me, my other self. I have always chosen to give instead of receive, but if I am truly wanted in this world, then tell me what that means.”

He slowly took a breath. He breathed in instead of out.

The oxygen was cooled by the snow, so it pricked at his lungs as he spoke.

“I want you to help me settle everything for this world…no, for all worlds.”

She listened to his trembling voice.

These were the words of her other self.

“I truly have no interest in bringing an end to conflict or in what is right or wrong. I simply want all Gears to care for the world.”

After all…

“If every Gear is righteous, then no Gear has erred. The destruction was not brought on by people’s mistakes. I want to say that the destruction came about because they were right.”

So…

“Please help me, Shinjou Yukio. Help me make sure this world does not err in the righteousness it so desires. I want your knowledge, your skills, and your songs. That way the light and sound you have created and all else that was born of true righteousness will never vanish from the remaining world.”

“Is that…what you wanted?”

“Yes,” he said. “When I first learned about Low-Gear as a child, I thought about your presence there. And when I saw you playing the organ in that church, I wished for your happiness. I remember the very first words you spoke from the pulpit: Love your neighbor as you love yourself.”

He asked a question.

“Answer me, my other self. Was I wrong? If so, I will apologize for funding what you have made.”

She did not answer, but she did let go of him and circled around in front of him.

In the snow, the two of them slowly moved in close.

“—————”

The bell rang. The brand-new bell rang.

The ringing permeated the snow as it carried into the distance.


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