Owari no Chronicle:Volume13 Chapter 31
Chapter 31: Strategy of Consideration
We attempt to attain victory
By thinking of each other
Izumo and Boldman’s fistfight ate up nearly fifteen minutes.
Sf ultimately drove them back with a stream of bullets, so they were being carried to the infirmary on stretchers.
Including the five minutes spent on that and the five minutes for the question-and-answer session itself, they had taken up a total of about twenty-five minutes.
But Hiba was worried as he watched Izumo’s stretcher disappear out the library entrance.
…Is this really going to work out?
He also wondered how he was going to buy more time.
He could not pull off the same forcible physical comedy as Izumo, but Sayama had asked him and Izumo to buy him fifty minutes of time.
…I have to get the remaining twenty-five. Can I really do that?
He stood next to the representative chair and four colored spheres floated above the desk.
The spheres could not speak. They did seem to have wills of their own and they could move in response to questions, so some simple communication was possible.
…But they can’t argue. How am I supposed to buy time like this?
The light above him turned on.
Once he realized everyone’s eyes were on him, he briefly put up his guard, but…
“Um… I am Hiba Ryuuji, 7th-Gear’s assistant representative.”
Once he began speaking, he somehow made up his mind: he would do this normally.
The right thing to do in this situation was correctly identify himself, so…
“I belong to Japanese UCAT, I’m a first year at Taka-Akita Academy, I’m part of the automobile club there, I’m 168 cm tall, and I weigh 61 kilos, but I have low body fat. Also, my blood type is A and my hobby is peeping. My favorite food is anything Mikage-san has started making recently. Mikage-san is just so cute that I-…”
“Hiba boy, the world is recording this exposure of all your embarrassing secrets.”
“Eh? D-did I say anything weird!?”
He looked around in surprise, but every single person there averted their gaze.
An unbearable silence fell and he could not bear to stand in the center of it.
“Ah! The entire world is ignoring me! Is this a first for humanity!?”
They were ignoring him, so naturally, no one responded. Instead, he looked to the seat on his right.
“C’mon, Kazami-san. Please turn this way. Look, it’s your cute underclassman.”
Kazami remained facing away from him, but G-Sp2’s tip poked over her shoulder and toward him.
The weapon was already in firing mode and the console had a message for him: Stay back.
“Wow, even your pet weapon is cement-like!”
“Hiba boy. Do you have any questions for me?”
Hiba turned toward Sayama’s voice, realized the other boy was looking at him, and gave a toothy grin.
“Sayama-san, you at least understand me, don’t you!?”
“Yes,” he said before looking to the audience seating on the left and right and giving a dry snap of his fingers.
“Stenographers, our previous statements could be misunderstood, so please strike it from the record.”
“Ahh!! You monster!!”
“Continuing on, does anything come to mind as a request from 7th-Gear?” asked Sayama. “We inherited 7th-Gear during the previous battle and they already knew of the battle between Top-Gear and Low-Gear. Nevertheless, they personally gave us their Concept Core, so-…”
Before Sayama could finish, Hajji’s voice rang out.
“Objection! Moderator, that Concept Core was created by a member of UCAT!”
His voice roared from the 9th-Gear seats.
“I believe the creator was acting on the 7th-Gear residents’ instructions when she created it, but if they had known of Top-Gear’s existence, don’t you think they would have given their Core to Top-Gear instead!?”
Everyone gasped and Sf responded.
“Tes. I will allow this. …7th-Gear representative, please answer the question.”
Hiba understood what the question meant.
…Doctor Chao was chosen to create the four brothers’ Concept Core, but if 7th-Gear had known about Top-Gear, they would have chosen Top-Gear instead of her.
I see, he thought while Sayama gave him an expressionless look.
“What do you think as 7th-Gear’s assistant representative?”
Eh? he thought. How am I supposed to know about something that happened so long ago?
But as he wondered that, he saw the spheres floating around him.
The four colored spheres were the Concept Core the four brothers’ had become.
He realized what Sayama meant, so he turned toward Hajji and spoke.
“Sorry, but that is not the case. If you think it is, then please make a correction! After all,” he began. “The four old men that were 7th-Gear’s Concept Core tested us to see if this world was worthy of inheriting their Concept Core. And they knew about Top-Gear. …If they had thought Top-Gear was ideal, they would have gone to Top-Gear and fought to be inherited there!”
“They stayed in Low-Gear of their own free will and here they still are!”
He yelled his conclusion, but Hajji asked another question.
“Then what if that desire to stay was implanted within them when they were created?”
Damn, he’s persistent, thought Hiba. There’s no way I can answer that.
But at that moment, Sayama’s voice interrupted his hesitant thoughts.
“Moderator, the 9th-Gear representative is asking a leading question with no evidence to back it up!”
Hiba saw Sf react to Sayama’s words by raising her machineguns.
“9th-Gear representative, do you have any evidence of that?”
“I take back my question. But…how fair is it to stick with Low-Gear’s interpretation when there is no evidence either way?”
“If there is no evidence, then you stick with the interpretation of the one who brought it up, Hajji-kun.”
“I see,” muttered the man and Hiba sighed in his heart.
If Sayama had not cut in, Hiba probably would have fallen for Hajji’s tricks.
And as he sighed in relief, Sayama faced him and placed a hand on his chin.
“Listen, Hiba boy. 7th-Gear will be an important case.”
“There are no survivors of 7th-Gear’s people and the Concept Core will likely lose its form if it is released. That means we will be erasing all traces of 7th-Gear.”
Hiba fell silent, as did everyone else, so Sayama continued speaking.
“Does 7th-Gear find it acceptable to be erased?”
Hiba thought for a brief moment, but answered before any real thoughts reached his mind.
“That…would be fine.”
“Why is that?”
Hiba looked across everyone watching.
“7th-Gear left themselves to Low-Gear. They wanted this world to become the kind of world they yearned for: one they would never lose interest in.”
“I see.” Sayama nodded. “Then what do you think 7th-Gear wants of Low-Gear?”
“To always remain an interesting world.”
“In what way?”
Hiba thought about the four brothers they had fought.
“A law forcing everyone to adopt silly speech patterns that change on a daily bas-…”
The four spheres floating around him tackled him from four different directions: one to the chin, one to the right side, one to the solar plexus, and one to the crotch.
The sounds of impact were difficult to listen to. Especially the last one.
Hiba adopted an overly serious expression with his upper lip stretched down a bit.
He groaned, began hopping up and down, and heard Sayama speak.
“It would seem they punish you if you say anything they do not like. This helps show us what 7th-Gear thinks, so I suppose it is two birds with one stone.”
For about three minutes, Hiba bent over with his legs turned inwards, trying to catch his breath.
…Sigh. Am I actually buying some time here!?
For some reason his voice sounded high-pitched even in his mind and he looked to the clock.
Fifteen minutes had passed since the question-and-answer session had begun, so the question was whether he could buy another ten.
He began to think. He thought hard enough to begin sweating and forced up his doubled-over body.
Impressed cries came from the men in the audience seats.
“I-I really don’t understand why Yonkichi’s sphere attacked me for that one…”
“Everyone is harsher on other people’s jokes than on their own.”
That made an odd amount of sense, so Hiba lowered his hips and looked to Sayama who asked him a question.
“Do you think the trick to maintaining an interesting world is to let the world evolve?”
He just about said yes.
It made sense that an ever-evolving and thus ever-changing world would remain interesting.
…But…that’s not quite right.
“I don’t think evolving is the only way to keep the world interesting.”
“Is that so?”
“Yes,” he answered.
He suddenly reached into his pants pocket.
He grabbed two things and placed them on the desk in front of him.
“This is the philosopher’s stone in charge of Mikage-san’s evolution. It isn’t working anymore, though.”
Out of the left corner of his eye, he saw Tatsumi ignoring him and eating some grilled chicken from a festival stand.
He realized she was not acknowledging him and he knew his injuries had yet to heal, so he thought back to the night before last, the battle the previous day, the vision of his father’s battle, and…
She was sleeping at the moment.
The development department was trying to wake her, but she would no longer evolve once she did.
“Why does the world have to evolve to keep us from losing interest in it? Doesn’t that make the world a slave to its audience? What matters is for both sides to work to make sure they won’t lose interest in each other no matter what might happen.”
He took a breath.
“You need to be able to think you’d never get tired of sleeping alongside the other person.”
Hiba looked to the two stones in front of him.
“Evolution is only one way of changing. Because we’re seeing, hearing, and touching so much, talking about those things, asking about them, doing them together, thinking about really perverted things, and staying in motion the entire time, we have a word for the occasional spots of boredom: a holiday.”
“I noticed something odd mixed in there, but it would seem you know fairly well how to keep things interesting.”
“Yes. After all,” he declared with a smile, “Even if you’ve seen her naked countless times, it still seems fresh when you peep.”
His crotch was hit twice from the front, once from below, and once from behind.
He regained his previous serious expression but with his eyes opened wide, grabbed onto the desk, and trembled.
“A-automated crotch shots? And I feel like they’re focusing more and more on that area!”
“Why are your jokes always so focused on physical comedy?”
“I wasn’t actually trying to make a joke… B-but I feel kind of happy that you think it’s funny…”
Hiba breathed in, gathered strength in his stomach, and scolded his body that was ready to collapse.
However, he heard a voice from the representative seats to his right.
“C’mon, Kashima, why not tape that? Look at how he’s twitching. This would be some rare footage.”
“No. I’d rather not. …It’s too pathetic.”
I-I really don’t like that kind of consideration, he thought with sweat pouring down his face.
…Honestly, whose fault is this!?
His heart lightened a bit when he gave the punchline, It’s my own fault.
And so he raised his trembling body.
“To sum up what 7th-Gear wants…”
As he spoke his next words, he collapsed onto the desk and then to the floor.
“Let’s all have fun, ge…l…ge…”
When Hiba was carried out on a stretcher, Ooki went with him.
The library and the infirmary were connected by a concept space, but just in case, the special duty men carrying the stretcher were disguised in Taka-Akita Academy uniforms.
The men were so large that the standard size of skirt did not even arrive within twenty centimeters of their knees, but Ooki did not call them on it. She assumed it was just their personal preference.
However, Hiba spoke from his doubled-over position on the stretcher.
“Wh-why do I feel like I’m being carried into a nightmare?”
“Well, um, not to worry, Hiba-kun. You did your job.”
Ooki held out a wristwatch which showed fifty-two minutes had passed since the beginning of the afternoon question-and-answer sessions.
He had bought as much time as Sayama had requested during lunch.
“You did your job and everyone else is doing theirs. Heo-san left the library earlier and said she’s continuing her verification of the world’s creation.”
“I see,” he said and closed his eyes in a look of relief.
The apparent leader of the school uniform-wearing men, a Russian man, nodded as Hiba prepared to drift off to sleep.
“You fought well, so it is time for you to rest.”
That’s how men speak with each other, isn’t it? thought Ooki as she saw the infirmary down the corridor.
A large mohawked German man disguised as a female doctor waited for them with crossed arms.
“Leave the rest to me!”
For some reason, Hiba sprang up and tried to run away, but the men restrained him.
They all laughed and grabbed the short boy like a log.
“It won’t hurt! It won’t hurt at all, so don’t worry, boy! I am incredibly skilled!”
“I-it’s not your skills I’m questioning!”
Ooki watched as Hiba was swallowed up by the infirmary.
He should be fine now, she thought.
“They’re the ones that treated his wounds after Tatsumi-san attacked, after all.”
Just as she started back toward the library, an automaton walked up from the other end of the hallway.
Some of the automatons were charged with informing the Gear reservations and foreign UCAT headquarters what was going on. They were currently distributing an extra report to the personnel stationed in different parts of the concept space meeting area made from the school facilities.
“Oh, Ooki-sama. You should return as quickly as you can.”
“Hm? Is 8th-Gear’s session over?”
“It will be soon,” replied the automaton.
She seemed to focus her ears and listened to the other automatons via her shared memories.
“It seems Sayama-sama will provide 8th-Gear with a workplace. A central control system will be created for the Messengers of Wanambi to live in and they will form an ultra-high speed network.”
The Messengers of Wanambi possessed a thought network much like the automatons’ shared memories.
UCAT used the automatons and their shared memories for a lot of high-level control operations, especially management of troops and strategy, but Sayama was attempting to take another step forward by including Wanambi.
The centralized control system itself would be Wanambi’s workplace.
Wanambi was a powerful shared mind and if he spread across the entire world when the concepts were released, Sayama seemed to think they might be able to communicate their thoughts at greater than the speed of light.
“Sayama-sama said that network and its calculation power would be freed up for civilian use when it was not otherwise in use and each individual Messenger of Wanambi would have access to the civilian side.”
The Messengers of Wanambi existed on the level of sand, but they would each have access to the network to play around.
UCAT had a recreation room and an arcade. People played on computers and game systems at schools. Each individual person was given that kind of freedom, but the Messengers of Wanambi were different.
However, Sayama was saying they would be given that now.
“They must have been delighted.”
“Yes. They are apparently saying: ‘Wonderful’ ‘Splendid’ ‘Horosho’ ‘Banzai’ ‘Can do it’ ‘Each one’ ‘Individually’ ‘Can play’ ‘Can play!!’ ”
“Oh?” Ooki nodded. “If that plan is realized, the world will become a much livelier place, won’t it?”
“It will,” agreed the automaton. “Take care, Ooki-sama. 8th-Gear’s question-and-answer session will end soon, but that leads into 9th-Gear, 10th-Gear, and Top-Gear’s sessions. …Izumo-sama and Hiba-sama bought Sayama-sama the time he asked for, but…”
“Are you worried?”
The automaton shook her head.
“I do not have the emotion of worry. I simply have some negative predictions.”
“Yeah, I guess you would.”
Ooki sounded carefree, so the automaton looked up at her.
“Are you not worried?”
“No. After all, Hajji-san is sticking to being our enemy.”
She thought back to the conversations she had in UCAT’s underground cafeteria.
“He’s with the people he trusts now and I’m sure the strength of his words as our enemy are what those people need. He’s sure to step forward as the enemy who will lead us to some kind of answer.”
“I’m sure they’ve already realized Sayama-kun is desperately trying to stall for time.”
The automaton’s expression grew entirely blank as Ooki spoke.
“Ooki-sama,” she said. “Will Sayama-sama be okay?”
“I don’t know. What I do know is that they are both trying to reach their answer.”
Ooki took a breath and scratched her head in resignation.
“And both of them will probably use any means necessary to get there.”
Back in the library, 8th-Gear’s question-and-answer session came to an end.
Wanambi and the Messengers had agreed to use their communication and calculation power for the coming new world. They said they would see the world through the network they shared with the information people created.
“Play” “We can play” “Let’s play” “Let’s play!”
That was the final answer Wanambi reached.
Once Sf announced the end of that session, Sayama placed his hands on the central desk and sighed without letting anyone else notice.
An hour and two minutes had passed since the afternoon question-and-answer sessions had begun.
…I have sorted through a lot of what I want to say, but I still have a long way to go.
He needed another hour. There was not much hope with 10th since they had already submitted to UCAT, but 9th was Hajji. If Sayama could stretch things out with him, he could probably get the hour he wanted.
He could use that hour to complete his arguments before the Top-Gear question-and-answer session with Mikoku began.
He watched the automatons carry the Messengers of Wanambi back to their seats.
…Once it’s over, I will have Shinjou-kun praise me.
He also wanted to visit the Tamiya house. Now that they had seen the past, he felt they might feel more meaning in visiting the shrine to the Shinjou family in the backyard there.
Shinjou Yukio had never visited it, but they could still send their thoughts to her from there.
“Yes… And I want to flirt with Shinjou-kun.”
After muttering under his breath, he looked up.
Two lights fell on the representative seats. One on Hajji and one on the elderly manager.
Sayama nodded toward them both.
“Now, Hajji-kun. How about we begin 9th-Gear’s Leviathan Road?”
“That’s right. Yes. …Let’s do that.”
Hajji stood up with a bitter smile and, with a rustle of cloth, raised his right hand.
A wave of puzzled looks turned toward him.
Sayama however gave him a look of conviction. It was the look one gave an enemy.
Could it be? he briefly thought. But, he added.
…Does he have some kind of plan?
As Sayama thought, Hajji turned back toward him.
He was no longer smiling and had a serious look in his eyes.
“Listen. …9th-Gear transfers all of its rights concerning its concepts to Top-Gear. In other words, I want to treat 9th-Gear’s Leviathan Road and Top-Gear’s question-and-answer session as one and the same.”
A moment later, Mikoku stood up, nodded, and spoke to Sf.
“Moderator, as Top-Gear’s substitute negotiator, I appoint Hajji as Top-Gear’s negotiator!”
Everyone grew intensely silent at those shouted words.
“Objection!” yelled Sayama, while distinctly feeling the weight of his wristwatch. “Hajji is a resident of 9th-Gear and not of Top-Gear!”
Sf replied calmly.
“Low-Gear has also appointed substitute representatives from other Gears. I have determined that both 9th-Gear and Top-Gear have consented to placing Mr. Hajji as Top-Gear’s substitute representative.”
“I accept Mr. Hajji as Top-Gear’s representative. …Low-Gear representative, complete 10th-Gear’s question-and-answer session and then complete Top-Gear’s session with Mr. Hajji.”
A swell of gasps filled the room and Sayama saw Hajji’s one eye looking directly at him.
But that was not all.
Someone else stood up. Jord stood to Hajji’s right and also looked to Sayama.
She shrugged, looked at everyone else, looked back at Sayama, looked at Sf, and spoke clearly.
“Let me make one thing clear first: 10th-Gear will not hold a question-and-answer session.”
“Are you refusing to negotiate?” asked Sf.
Jord shook her head.
“10th-Gear was working with UCAT from the beginning. Also, 10th’s Concept Core has taken a liking to this world and we’re all in the reservation. And with all that, we’ve realized something.”
“What is that?”
“We shouldn’t say anything careless. And for that reason, we don’t worry much about what happens outside. Still, if we have anything to say, it’s to not oppose 10th-Gear and to treat our Concept Core with care.”
With that said, Jord turned to Sayama and showed off her teeth in a smile.
“Sorry about this. …Try to focus on dealing with Top-Gear, okay? And without stalling for time negotiating with 10th.”
Sayama remained silent and finally nodded.
He only spoke after looking at his watch.
“Your demands have been noted.”
Here it comes, he thought.
His final hour had been taken from him.
The enemy had used time to their advantage and eliminated the time he needed to confirm the truth and solidify his argument.
They had worn down his time once by showing up in Sakai and now they had done it again.
And so he told himself he could not afford to lose here. But on top of that…
This was essentially an unplanned opportunity to test his ability to adlib and put together arguments.
This was the stage to test his skills.
Here, he could not let his guard down and he had to be serious.
Ahead of him, Jord sat in her seat, Mikoku remained sitting, and Hajji was still standing.
The lights only illuminated Hajji and Mikoku and the latter quietly closed her eyes with a white dog next to her.
Without smiling, Hajji brought a hand to his chest and spoke.
“Now, how about we begin?”
He bowed and Sayama opened his mouth.
It was time to speak the words that would settle everything with Top-Gear.
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