Owari no Chronicle:Volume14 Chapter 1
Do I wish
For it to end?
—We will not immerse ourselves in the past.
Chapter 1: The Joy of an Outing
Can remain hidden
They are personal and their joy can also be hidden in your heart
During the night, most of the light had vanished from the residential district, but one area remained lit by more than just the streetlights.
It was a large house surrounded by a wall.
The gate was open and a blue tarp was spread out just inside. A folded-up festival stand and its framework were piled up on the tarp and several people were working to put it away.
But one person sat out in front of the gate.
She was a woman wearing a leather jacket over a kimono. She sat on the gate’s curb and stared intently to the east.
The eyes behind her glasses were fixated on the dark residential district and the pale light in the sky beyond.
That faint brightness came from the lights shining up on the winter sky.
“Taka-Akita’s festival is still ongoing…”
Her comment received a response from the roof of the gate.
“Ms. Ryouko, waiting for Ms. Shino?”
“Yeah. Setsu-chan didn’t come back either, so I thought they might be playing together. Poyanski, you thought so too, didn’t you?”
A deep sound descended from afar. It seemed to shake the air as it travelled through the heavens.
“There have been a lot of planes today.”
“That was fighter jet.”
“I guess a former soldier would know that. Is there a war going on or something?”
Her question was answered by the young man in a suit who walked out from the gate.
“You always make things sound so dangerous, sister. From what we managed to intercept, it seems they’re holding some kind of night exercise in Kansai. But…”
“But what, Kouji?”
“There are more planes flying around than reported. And according to Toki-san, military bases in the West, Asia, the Middle East, and Russia are working together with Japan.”
Ryouko tilted her head.
“If that was true, it would be big news. There would be fighters flying around on a global scale.”
“That’s what doesn’t make sense.”
Kouji sat next to Ryouko and pulled two paper cups of coffee out from behind him.
“Bases around the world are working with Japan, but it seems no one can see any of the fighters.”
“No one can see them?”
“Like I said, the bases are really busy, but they can’t see the fighters.”
“Oh.” Ryouko nodded in understanding. “So the world’s super technology has created fighters that idiots can’t see. That would explain why you can’t see them but I can.”
“If you can see them, then tell me what’s flying overhead right now.”
She looked up in the sky and narrowed her eyes.
“Hmm. Ah! See!? It’s flying! It’s a twin-engine bomber with pink frills! Did that design come from Shibuya? Is it a Shibu-Bomber? That’s so cool!”
“Sister… You don’t have to get all worked up and lie about it.”
“I-I am not lying! I can see it! It’s flying right there! You can hear it cawing to the west!”
“Yes, yes, yes. Yeah, it sure is flying and cawing there. Yeah, no question about it.”
“What are you talking about, Kouji? Is there something wrong with your brain? Are you actually a moron? Oh, sorry. Should I not have asked that?”
“You said it first!”
“Give me some coffee and I’ll go easy on you.”
He held out one of the paper cups.
“Why is my sister so…”
He trailed off and looked up at the roof with the other cup.
“What about you, Poya-san?”
“Leave there and I will drink.”
“Pes has been asking for it for a while, so are you sure you want to leave it here?”
“I might not drink.”
Kouji set the cup on the edge of the gate’s lintel and then sat back on the curb.
“But ignoring all that activity, where has Shino-san gotten off to?”
“I haven’t seen her since she said she would buy us some drinks. Nagase-san, who was playing the Festival Stand Detective, forgot to rehydrate, so the next thing we knew, he was so dehydrated he began giving a confused roadside speech. It was something about demanding the return of the Northern Territories so he could turn them into the Bear Kingdom.”
“That would be problem. Penguin Land better name.”
“But everyone thought the speech was part of the show.”
“Best to ignore, Mr. Kouji.”
“Calm down.” Kouji sighed while quieting down the roof. “But after Nagase-san collapsed, we removed the mask and found him passed out with a refreshing smile on his face. Then again, it might have just been his face stiffening up from the dehydration. …Not that any of that is Shino-san’s responsibility.”
He then faced Ryouko who had fallen silent and he smiled bitterly.
“Do you think she isn’t coming back because the atmosphere here just wasn’t a good fit for- Why did you just collapse on your back and fall asleep, sister! At least listen to what I’m saying!”
“Eh? O-oh, sorry, Kouji. You were letting your love of little girls burst from your soul as all that pedo talk about Shi-chan, so I had to restrain myself so much I actually fell asleep. I was so serious the coffee’s caffeine didn’t stand a chance! So? Have you finished that filthy discussion, you genuine pedophile?”
“I-I didn’t say anything ‘filthy’.”
“And you won’t even admit it!? How was any of that not filthy? How are you not a pedo!? Honestly, I’m promoting you from genuine to super genuine! I hope you become a white dwarf and shrink away!”
“Not that it matters, but can’t I explode and become a black hole instead?”
“Do you have any idea how much trouble that would cause the neighbors? And are you trying to become the center of a galaxy or something? What would your galaxy be called? The Genuine Galaxy? …Yay! I said it, I said it!”
Ryouko was so worked up that she stood and clapped her hands once. Responding claps came from the nearby wall, gate, and manhole.
She then turned around.
“So what were we talking about?”
“You’re the worst, sister!!”
“K-Kouji’s being a bully!!”
“Can you stop talking on reflex and actually use your left brain!? What is even in that half of your skull!?”
“P-probably…brains, I guess?”
“Please don’t sound so unsure.”
“Oh, c’mon. It’s not like you’ve ever seen inside your own head.” She took a sip of coffee. “Well, it doesn’t really matter, but Shi-chan has a big sister. You don’t have to worry about her too much, so get inside and make me a midnight snack.”
“I wasn’t actually out here to wait for her, you know?”
He stood up and let his shoulders droop a little.
“I have a feeling she isn’t coming back, so…”
“So you came here to tell me to stop waiting? Don’t be silly.” Ryouko smiled bitterly and sat back on the curb. “I’m waiting for Shi-chan to make sure I don’t have to wait for her anymore.”
“This is a ritual for me. And you know what?”
She looked up in the sky and heard an airplane fly from south to west.
“I like to think Shi-chan holds the fate of the world in her hands, so armies from around the world are chasing after her right now. Girls like to dream, you know?”
“That is quite the dangerous dream.”
“Wow, I could hear the young master saying that!!”
Kouji smiled a bit at that, but then sighed and took a step toward the gate.
“Well, you take care of things here, sister.”
“Yes, yes. Leave this to me. …Shi-chan will be okay.”
She took a breath.
“I’m sure she’s surrounded by good people.”
“Yes,” replied the roof. “But Ms. Ryouko, are you okay? Very cold outside. Da, very cold”
Ryouko answered the roof’s concern with a gunshot.
There was a great noise.
It was a high-pitched noise that reverberated through the sky.
The surging sound was created as the atmosphere was split apart and eight aircraft were visible at the front end.
They were twin-engine fighters equipped for a ground attack.
They travelled west below the moon and their sides were decorated with American UCAT’s emblem. They belonged to American UCAT’s Atsugi Base.
The massive payload of bombs attached below their wings and the accelerators attached above the wings rid them of a normal fighter’s silhouette.
The oddly-shaped eight were flying west through the Tokai region.
The northern of the two in the lead lit up his optical communication pod.
“R1, this is BA1. BA and BB have secured our course. Shifting into weight reduction flight.”
A response came from the control craft flying above Suruga Bay far behind them.
“Testament, BA1. BA and BB, maintain your course. Attack craft teams AA and AB have also detected no enemies on their approach from Okinawa.”
“Testament,” replied BA Team’s commander before sighing. “R1, how well are the different countries working together? I want to avoid a midair collision while we’re all using stealth.”
“Testament. It seems the UCAT bases near the Sea of Japan have become a showcase for the world’s fighters. And they’re all waiting for our results.”
“Testament. So we have to do our job right as the opening act, do we? I’m sure D Team’s mechanical dragons will clean everything up once they arrive.”
“Testament. But BA1…”
“I know,” replied BA1. “The enemy has two aircraft: one mechanical dragon and one god of war. …And I remember having all of our mechanical dragons shot down by that god of war a month and a half ago.”
“I hear the pilot of that white god of war defeated our blue and white mechanical dragon.”
“Testament,” replied R1 before saying what they thought BA1 needed to hear. “Don’t think about fighting. Fly straight in, scatter your bombs while accelerating, and get out of there.”
“I’m well aware. We don’t have the armor, hand-to-hand ability, or firepower of a mechanical dragon, but we still have our top speed since we’re smaller. This kind of mission is perfect for us.”
BA1 continued speaking while tearing through the wind in the lead.
“R1, has the girl of the blue and white dragon woken yet?”
“That is highly classified, so I can’t answer.”
Everyone listening smiled bitterly at the casual tone, but then someone spoke.
“Do you think that mechanical dragon will come back from the alternate space it was sent to?”
“Don’t rely on a girl,” succinctly replied BA1. “And I doubt she wants anyone to rely on her right now. ...Not when she’s lost her power.”
But as soon as he finished speaking…
His fighter broke apart and scattered through the sky.
Everyone inside the control craft designated R1 froze when they realized what had happened.
But a moment later, the American UCAT members escaped their surprised despondency and managed to speak or begin moving.
They had already lost the transmission from BA1 and…
“BA2, BB1…and BA3 were lost!”
After the communications officer finished her report, a shout came in from B Team.
“This is BB4! R1… What happened!?”
When they heard BB4, everyone in R1 thought, “You were just shot down.”
They all gulped because they did not know why, but the situation would not wait for them to catch up.
“B Team, scatter and ascend!”
“R1, what is going on!? It looks like we lost some fighters! But there was no explosion or anythi-…”
The next voice was accompanied by the static of being shot down.
“I’m breaking apart!”
“BB4 has been lost!”
The communications officer seemed to have difficulty giving the report.
“A Team’s attackers will arrive in thirty-two seconds!”
Hearing that, everyone turned to one point in the aircraft.
One of Japanese UCAT’s automatons had been deployed to man the radar that checked for philosopher’s stone readings.
The businesslike maid illuminated by the pale red light was named #66. The data from the battle against 3rd-Gear and from the Army’s attack on UCAT had been downloaded into her personal memory.
“I am detecting Typhon and Alex’s readings. Typhon’s is within thirty kilometers to the west, but its output is too weak for flight.”
“I am detecting a philosopher’s stone reading elsewhere, but it only ever lasts an instant.”
“Testament,” replied #66 while noting that the screen indicated that BB3 had been shot down as well. “The reading appears on the fighters in the instant that they are shot down!”
As she spoke, the information she was receiving confirmed her suspicions, so she turned toward the other frowning people.
“This is not an attack by Typhon or Alex! This instantaneous output is only seen from a close-range attack of a handheld concept weapon!” she said. “The enemy is using a concept weapon to bring down the fighters directly without causing an explosion!!”
BA4 was ascending toward the moon when he saw BB2 break apart in the moonlight up above him.
There was no explosion.
Nor was it broken apart.
It simply scattered its pieces with no flames or smoke.
BA4 saw fragments, the frame, pieces of explosives that scattered without a detonation, and…
Someone stood on his own fighter’s nose.
Moonlight washed over the back of a girl holding a curved blade.
The wind blew at her hair, combat coat, and skirt and she wore red pumps on her feet.
There was nothing BA4 could do.
He could not aim his machineguns at someone standing on the nose and the missiles were meant for ground strikes.
He considered accelerating so the wind would sweep her away, but he was already travelling at three times the speed of sound which was apparently not enough.
He suddenly rolled to catch her off guard.
He added in a bit of yaw to swing the fighter around, but…
He had been trained to react to high-speed movement, so he saw it all.
The enemy kept up with the fighter’s movements simply by lowering her hips a little.
It looked a lot like she was riding a surfboard.
For just an instant, the moonlight revealed her expression.
Her mouth and eyes showed a silent smile.
She then opened that mouth and raised the sword.
“Surprised? I had Typhon throw me from below so I could pretend to be a human shell.”
BA4 recalled that Top-Gear had two female swordsmen. The younger was nearly immortal and the older had a strange concept weapon.
“That concept weapon absorbs its target’s attack and makes it its own.”
“Yes,” replied the smiling girl. “First, I stored one of Typhon’s blasts and used that to destroy one fighter after being thrown here.”
She took a breath.
“Then I absorb the blast created by the explosion to recycle it against the next fighter.”
This enemy also controlled the direction of the destruction so that the recoil of the blast allowed her to hop to the next fighter.
They had scattered and ascended to see what their enemy was, but that enemy had moved to the first ascending fighter and worked her way down as she destroyed them.
And as for the sword she held…
“This is charged with the recycled explosions of eight fighters, so it will cause quite a boom if I use it all at once.”
At the same time, a transmission reached BA4’s ears.
It was the relieved voice of R1’s communications officer.
“BA4! A Team has arrived!”
He saw them both on the radar and with the naked eye. Eight attack craft were arriving from the west.
However, BA4 silently begged them to stay away.
As soon as they arrived, their enemy was going to hit him with the explosive power she had accumulated thus far.
It contained the explosions of eight ground-attack fighters, their explosives, and a blast from Typhon’s cannon.
That would undoubtedly burn through the sky and blow away everything there in an instant.
So BA4 tried to tell them to escape.
But in that moment, the skirt before his eyes fluttered upwards and he shouted something else instead.
The enemy stabbed her sword downwards with a smile and BA4 scattered below the moonlight.
In the final moment, he saw her moonlit form.
Heo slowly awoke.
She seemed to have been placed in a bed on top of some fairly hard fabric.
But she did not know what position her body was in; she could not even guess.
She could not rouse any thoughts.
She felt like her mind was empty and like she was blankly watching herself from the outside.
She did not try to move or even consider it as a possibility.
Her consciousness was entirely closed.
She knew why: she did not want to remember.
If she did remember, she would also remember that there was nothing she could do.
And if there was nothing she could do, she had no power.
So there was no point in doing anything.
She was filled with a great sense of powerlessness.
Thinking about power only reminded her of the moment when she lost it.
If there was no point in being, then she thought she might as well die, but she could not even think about that too seriously and she simply tried to erase her thoughts as a substitute.
If she thought nothing, she would not lose anything. If she hoped for nothing, she would not feel anything.
The only thing at the base of her powerless thoughts was the decision to stay still and let others ignore her.
She wanted to go to some dark place.
She wanted to go to some quiet place.
She wanted to go to some solitary place.
And she felt like that wish was being granted. She felt like a wall separated her from her skin, but that skin felt air which was chilly enough to be called cold and her ears sensed silence.
She opened her eyes, but not of her own will.
She had simply abandoned even the strength she needed to keep her eyelids shut.
Even keeping her eyes shut had felt like doing something, so her eyes opened and she stared blankly forward.
She should have seen the white wall of the infirmary, but she instead saw the night sky.
Not only that, but she had a full view of that sky and all the stars therein.
She was lying in a bed, but there were no windows, walls, or ceiling. There was not even a floor.
Fear over this unknown situation won out over her self-imposed stupor.
Her pulse raced and she sat up as she wondered what had happened.
She then realized that this was at the top of a mountain cliff and her bed had been placed on the edge of that cliff.
The bed was the reclining type used in hospitals and its white frame and blanket had been placed on the grassy clifftop such that she was looking up into the sky.
“So you’re finally up, Heo Thunderson.”
She turned toward the sudden voice to her side and saw a boy sitting at the head of the bed on the side closer to the mountain. His right arm held a machinegun encased in a white cowling.
He did not turn her way.
He simply stared ahead and said nothing more.
His silence confused her. Why was he not saying anything?
That was when the sky split open.
Sudden red split through the dark blue of the starry and moonlit sky.
The silence was broken by a bursting sound of impact and crimson flames blossomed in the sky.
For just a moment, Heo knew what that crimson light was, but something else escaped her mouth.
She gasped a bit as she looked into the sky.
She gulped, tensed her shoulders, and slowly opened her mouth again.
“Why did you bring me here?”
“Don’t ask the obvious, Heo. Heo Thunderson.”
She snapped back at the word “obvious”.
“How is this obvious?”
She spoke quietly, but that was enough to sap her of strength.
She was closing up.
But she continued to speak because she wanted him to understand this at the very least.
“I have no power right now.”
However, Harakawa did not turn toward her.
She only heard him speak a quick question.
“So what, Heo Thunderson?”
This time, Harakawa did turn toward Heo.
There was more noise in the sky, so there was likely light as well.
However, he only looked at her pale face with tears welling up in the eyes.
“There is a battlefield for you whether you have any power or not.”
He could also hear noise from beyond the forest visible west of the cliff.
The American UCAT troops that had dropped them off here had engaged the enemy.
They were fighting with no air support and they would likely change their mission from an assault to a diversion.
Japanese UCAT had yet to arrive, but he knew they had to be nearby since they intended to charge in after American UCAT’s attack.
But, he thought.
“I don’t know if those crazy people can win this time.”
There was a reason for that.
“First, Sayama doesn’t have Shinjou, so he can’t raise his bizarre excitement gauge to max. Also, the violent comedy couple have lost their Concept Core weapon pets. And of course, Hiba has been without Mikage so long he can act without thinking while also having Susamikado off limits.”
“That’s quite an accurate analysis.”
“Yes.” He nodded and looked Heo in the eye. “And we don’t have Thunder Fellow.”
Heo shrank back, but he did not care.
He spoke the truth without holding back.
“Our strength has fallen considerably and our enemy could keep up with us before. That means…”
“Our enemy is far more powerful than us right now.”
“There’s another problem.”
Wind swept her question away.
It was the cold winter wind of a mountain.
The whiteness of her breath made the air seem all the more invisible.
And Harakawa spoke to add meaningful color to that transparency.
“I’m talking about Babel, Heo.”
He looked up at the sky above the mountain.
Beyond the forest, a great tower pierced the heavens in the dim light.
“Based on the documents he found he can read now, Sayama concluded that Babel has been partially active ever since ten years ago to restrain the activated negative concepts contained inside. And since Babel is Noah, the Top-Gear residents will be allowed in.”
He took a breath.
“Noah will treat the people of Top-Gear like gods and do whatever they say. It can create concepts as instructed by its ‘gods’, so Top-Gear can now influence this entire world.”
Heo threw her words his way, so he turned around.
As if to surpass the cold wind, she held a hand to her chest with the night sky in the background.
“What can I do in such an important fight!?”
“I have fingers, so I can pull a trigger.”
Harakawa immediately answered her and stood from the bed.
“I have eyes, so I can see the enemy approaching.”
“I have a mouth, so I can inform people of things.”
He continued speaking.
“I have ears, so I can grasp the situation on the battlefield.”
“I have a body, so I can show people that something is there to support them.”
“Everyone has this much, Heo Thunderson. …Most people don’t have the kind of power we did.”
Now that I think about it, Sayama’s the representative example of that, thought Harakawa.
Heo stared blankly up at him and he spoke toward her powerless eyes.
“But even if I lost my power, I can still drive a motorcycle and I have pretty good eyes. It’s no more of an advantage than anyone else, but that kind of advantage is important on the battlefield.”
What about you?
“Being the same as everyone else doesn’t make you powerless, Heo Thunderson. If you make good use of the slight advantages you have, they will bring even more power. And if you continue to train those advantages and accumulate even more…”
You’ll probably become the kind of person people call stupid.
But, he thought. What about you?
“In battles, everyone is shorthanded. Everyone wants someone by their side when things are feeling hopeless and they want something to protect. The battlefield is for the people who can fight, but more than that…it’s a helpless place that is always asking for help.”
He looked straight at Heo from where he stood.
“So. Are you willing to reach out to the battlefield that is asking for help?” he asked. “And I know it’s a little late for this…but put on some clothes, Heo Thunderson. They’re on the edge of the bed.”
Heo looked down at herself.
The blanket had fallen from her upper body when she sat up, so it was completely bare.
“Eh? Ah, w-wait. What is this!?”
“It was your teacher that removed your clothes, so don’t ask me. She also put you on the transport helicopter.”
“W-wait a second! Removing some of them is one thing, but why am I completely naked!?”
“Isn’t that your cruel personal skill? Also, Germans are all perfectionists.”
“Y-you find a reason for everything, don’t you!?”
To protest, she gathered the blanket in front of her chest and pounded on the bed.
“Then why…why is everyone trying to get me to fight!?”
She hit the bed again as she shouted.
“Tell me that! Because I’ve lost track of why I’m even here!”
Harakawa heard a shaking sound as she hit the bed.
Heo’s eyebrows were raised in anger, but her face was gradually rising and leaning backwards.
“What is it, Heo?”
“For some reason, I can see the sky even though I’m sitting up.”
“Yeah, and it looks to me like you and the bed are tipping backwards.”
“Oh, c’mon, Harakawa. You make it sound like the bed is shaking and falling off the cliff.”
“If that was enough for you to understand, I must be better with words than I thought. The bed’s about to reach a ninety degree tilt.”
And it did.
Heo was thrown out into the air.
She gasped as the bed toppled over.
It seemed to scrape her right shoulder as it rotated around to point straight down.
She was tipped a bit on her back, wrapped in the blanket, and falling.
She felt weightless and the night sky quickly grew more distant.
There was a drop of around a dozen meters behind her.
If she fell, she would die.
She would be no more.
And at the bottom of her vision, she saw Harakawa standing on the edge of the cliff.
But she noticed that he was not trying to help her.
He simply stared at her while still holding the gun.
He did not budge.
She felt like he was pushing her away.
Did she not matter to him?
…Even I thought I didn’t matter…
And now the person she most wanted to understand her was pushing her away.
Then this must be the end, she thought.
She noticed a certain fact and a certain contradiction.
First, the fact.
Who did she most want to understand her even as she felt she did not matter?
Wasn’t it Harakawa, the one who had chosen to entrust this with her even though she did not matter?
But that created a contradiction.
Why did she need to choose the end if Harakawa understood her?
Why would that be the case if he had given her his understanding?
She had no power. She was physically weak, she was young, she was short, and her breasts were small. Her breasts and her butt had grown a little recently, although she did not plan to announce that fact until it was more visually noticeable and she had no idea what she was thinking about anymore, but in short, she was powerless.
But she was not alone.
So what should she choose now: the stars visible in the sky or the motionless boy?
She gulped as she fell.
She was already passing below the edge of the cliff.
The blanket wrapped around her began to flutter in the wind and gravity pulled her downwards.
It was too late.
She had noticed her contradiction and what she wanted, but it was too late now.
However, she saw a new crimson flower blossom in the sky.
In that brief moment, she moved. She reached her hand toward the sky as if to pluck those flower petals.
She thrust her hand skyward and she received an answer.
A power forcibly stretched her body.
It was Harakawa’s hand grasping her own hand.
“It’s all right.”
Her body shook and her entire weight bore down on her right hand and shoulder.
But her entire body was lifted upwards. It was a slow movement that could not quite be called an ascent.
“Yes, there is only one reason, Heo. As I said, it’s ‘all right’. In other words, everything is ‘right’. So it’s all right, Heo.”
She saw him raise his eyebrows in a smile as he pulled up her hand.
“Let’s get to the battlefield, Heo. The idiots will be there soon, too.”
Light raced through darkness.
The light rushing through the forest at the bottom of a mountain was a high speed train.
However, it was already late at night, so no such train should have been running.
Nevertheless, the streamlined front car towed the rest of the cars as they broke through the wind on their westward journey.
Not all of the cars were for passengers.
A few specialized transportation cars were positioned right after the front car and behind the passenger cars.
Also, the passenger cars were covered in armor and figures were visible on their roofs.
Those figures were automatons wearing combat maid uniforms.
Two automatons stood atop the transport container loaded on the second car. They stared sharply forward and sent out their shared thoughts.
“Our current speed is two hundred and seventy kilometers per hour. I have determined we have made up for the time lost transferring over from the transport helicopter.”
“This is an excellent train. But I never knew IAI was developing anything like this.”
They looked down at the racing vehicle below their feet.
“This next generation high-speed train has a top speed of four hundred and twenty kilometers per hour, and yet it is a high-speed stealth train that counteracts the sounds of collisions by creating buffer bands between the cars.”
“They wanted to name it after the fact that riding it is so nice it actually feels good, so they had someone sum up that idea in a single word.”
The automatons looked to the side of the car.
Someone had used a brush to paint “Creepy” in large letters.
“I have determined this is incomprehensible.”
“Testament. We are about to leave the Tokaido Line, so get ready down below.”
Those shared memories were sent to #8, the automaton inside one of the armored passenger cars.
Inside the long passenger car, #8 listened to the report from the automatons on the roofs.
It was almost time to enter the battle.
However, she tried to be considerate. So as not to rush those around her, she served tea and coffee to the people in armored uniforms sitting in the rows of three seats and then slowly spoke.
“Okay, break’s over.”
Hearing them shout, she wondered if she had worked a little too hard making the break seem nice.
But she refocused and looked across everyone there.
“The Creepy is about to enter autonomous mode. We will accelerate to gain some inertial force, so I have determined the drinks I just served will be your last time to rest.”
“Testament,” replied everyone inside the white light of the car.
They were all from Japanese UCAT’s special division and most of them were from Team Leviathan.
Izumo and Kazami were amusing themselves by playing cards with Sibyl and Boldman while the others were looking down at their card version of mahjong or their handheld game systems.
“Report. American UCAT failed to achieve air superiority over the Mount Ikoma region. They now plan to send their mechanical dragons in by land.”
Everyone clearly focused on the incoming transmission.
After a moment, light boards were handed over the backs of the seats and passed out to everyone. They displayed the documents that each platoon and company used to confirm with their commander what they should do.
Each time a new announcement came in, the text would gain details or additional opinions. By the time they set foot on the battlefield, each commander would know what they needed to do.
#8 looked to her side.
Sayama sat alone in the very first row of seats.
His seat was fully reclined, a towel covered his eyes, and Baku sat on his head as he slept.
…Will he be okay?
She had heard that Shinjou was badly injured and also in conceptual danger.
He received regular updates on her state by cellphone, but the situation did not look good. He had finally gone to sleep after Ooki had promised to email him if anything changed.
There was nothing #8 could do, but the very fact that she could not think of any kind of plan made her painfully aware of the wasted cycles of her activity clock.
But he asked nothing of her.
She felt this time waiting for instructions was wasted, but…
…This means that he is okay.
She upped the thought priority level of that fact she could take from her records. She told herself not to think about anything else or to make unnecessary decisions.
A maid only had to trust in her master because an automaton would not serve someone she could not trust.
Suddenly, she thought of the Moirai.
The Gear reservations had decided to maintain their silence on the current situation.
That was obviously because they had decided the conflict between Top-Gear and Low-Gear was still ongoing.
They had entrusted everything to the Leviathan Road meeting and had said they were waiting for the results.
The Concept Cores must have had a similar understanding because they did not display any kind of desire to be saved.
The only people from other Gears taking part in this attack were the automatons and the people from 2nd or 6th who had joined UCAT and Low-Gear.
But #8 sent Moira 1st access to her shared thoughts and asked what to do when her master looked about to lose heart.
They had given each other access permissions when they had met the other day. She had assumed she could make use of her downtime by receiving some new information or tips.
After connecting, auditory information streamed in from Moira 1st.
“Yes, Lady Miyako, tonight’s dinner is your favorite instant ramen: Drenched #1 – Soy Sauce Flavor. Say ‘ah’, Lady Miyako.”
“Hold on. That’s really not something you do with ramen.”
“Ehhh? You don’t want to? Does it have to have mayonnaise for that?”
“That isn’t the issu-... What do you think the rest of you are looking at!?”
#8 did not listen any longer because it would be an invasion of their privacy. She determined it was an event mission to raise their master-maid intimacy level.
…If only Sayama-sama would give me that kind of opportunity.
No, she determined. Those opportunities are probably being given to Shinjou-sama.
In that case, I want to set things up for the two of them, she thought while closing her eyes.
She cooled her thoughts with a sigh and looked to Sayama.
She simply pulled a blanket from the container above the window and placed it over him, but she felt that was enough. The train would enter autonomous mode in just a few minutes.
With the blanket on him, Sayama stirred a bit and spoke in his sleep as if groaning.
“Ahhh, Shinjou-kun, you are so bold… Y-you cannot mean it. You’re taking it all in your mouth…and…and swallowing it? Yes, if you are going to drink all of the soup, it has to be this high-calorie, high-sodium Drenched #1!”
After noticing he seemed to be having a good dream, she debated whether she should inform Moira 1st of this synchronicity or plainly tell him that instant ramen made you fat. But before she made a decision, she heard someone speak from the opposite seat.
“Are we almost to the battlefield, #8-kun?”
She turned around to find Ooshiro and simply glared at him.
“Why are you here?”
“Wah! You’ve already decided I’m an outcast!? Are you shunning me!? You are, aren’t you!?”
“Please quiet down. More importantly, Ooshiro-sama, are you familiar with the word ‘useless’?”
He raised his hands as a sign of protest.
“I-I am to useful!”
She nodded and accurately reproduced an expression she had recently learned.
“Ooshiro-sama, is this the appropriate way of expressing disrespect? I am still not used to this expression.”
“That’s not just disrespect! That’s a look of pure contempt!”
“Testament. Thank you very much. As it was received much better than expected, I will make ample use of it from now on. Anyway, Ooshiro-sama, you are too thin to act as a shield and get in our way too much to act as a wall, so can’t you do something about that?”
“W-well, you see… I’m quite useful. I have intelligence, strength, and beauty!!”
He stood up and struck a flirtatious pose, so #8 looked around.
She saw the others waving their hands in front of their faces, so she nodded.
“Ooshiro-sama. Please choose one of the following: 1. Pretend you never said that. 2. Take back what you said. 3. Die and apologize. …Which would you like?”
The others all wrote “3! 3!” on their light boards and raised them high, but #8 shook her head.
“You mustn’t do that, everyone. I have determined this is a problem Ooshiro-sama must solve on his own.”
“#-#8-kun, you are surprisingly fair. I’m a little moved.”
“Testament.” She nodded and slapped his head thrice. “Now, please think carefully. 3 is the only real option, after all.”
“How is that thinking carefully!?”
The majority already decided for you, so stop being so selfish, she thought just as an electronic tone played from the car’s speakers.
“Um, uh, um, in thirty minutes, the, uh, Creepy will…enter autonomous mode. Uh, we will begin, uh, accelerating soon, so, uh, all passengers had better stay in your damn seats!! …Uh, I mean please remain seated.”
They all sat back down and #8 started to sit in a nearby seat but hesitated.
However, she ultimately took the seat behind Sayama instead of her usual one.
At the same time, she saw the boy slowly sit up in the seat in front of her.
He raised the seat, so she could not see him, but she heard him.
“#8-kun, thank you for the blanket. …It was short, but I had a wonderful dream. I appreciate it.”
She compared his voiceprint with one from the past but found it was lacking something.
But, she thought. If he is willing to thank the one who serves him, he must have regained his awareness that he is my master.
So he should be fine, she decided while speaking with the others via shared memory.
“Get ready. We are about to accelerate.”
A moment later, that was exactly what they did.
The automatons standing atop the high-speed train created a wall of gravitational control to combat the pressure of the wind as they accelerated.
Their clothes, hair, and everything else fluttered and bent in the wind.
“And our hearts only bend to the will of our master!”
The maids saw the track turn a bit to the north. The Tokaido Line turned north to the Kyoto region and then south toward Osaka.
The track had no sharp curves, so the trains could maintain their speed. It was a gradual but definite northward turn.
“That will not take us to the Mount Ikoma region in south Osaka!”
Then what were they to do?
The answer was given by the shouts of the two automatons standing on the front car.
“Prepare autonomous mode!!”
They were answered by the maids standing on the transport container on the second car.
An automaton rushed from both emergency exits on each car.
They pushed at the wind with their gravitational control. There was one on either side of the twelve cars for a total of twenty four.
They all spread their hands outward.
As soon as they yelled that word, the white pallet covering the second car suddenly leaped into the air.
The wind carried the giant lid into the night sky and something was revealed below.
“Track Facility Mechanism ‘Moirai’! Begin deployment!”
A giant spindle machine rose from the car.
The mechanism was seven meters tall, twenty meters long, and shaped like an upside-down iron. It had twelve giant spindles on either side, but those spindles were not wrapped with thread.
They were wrapped with rails and the front spindles launched those iron threads.
The two metal rails broke the sound barrier as they flew forward.
The twin lines of steel tore through the night and passed the front car, but the automatons on the front car did not overlook them.
Those front two used their full gravitational control to draw the flying tracks toward their hands.
They bent the metal thread down as if rotating it around to the nose of the front car.
At the same time, the four automatons standing to the front of the second car stepped down on the back of the front car’s roof.
The high-gravity attack bent the roof, but it also noticeably lifted the nose of the car.
And the car landed atop the track being released from that very same train.
Now that it was on its self-laid path, it only had to continue on.
The spinning machine spun out the track, the automatons on the front car pulled it in, and the maids on the back car supported the bottom of the autonomous track with their gravitational control.
All of this created one thing.
“A high-speed train which can choose its own path!”
The two on the front car accurately bent the track toward the sky.
The sonic train moved at greater than four hundred kph as its own track carried it into empty air.
One of the spindles was exhausted in no time at all.
“Only twenty six kilometers until we arrive!”
“I have determined we have enough to spare!”
The automatons smiled amid the roar of the wind and the creaking of metal.
Gravitational control was their own technique and they were measuring levels of output they had never seen before.
Where did their limits lie?
As the moonlit automatons learned just that, they expressed the feeling with a single word: pleasant.
After all, they were fulfilling their job. That job was to transport the fighters to the battlefield.
And this was a job only they could do. What word would better describe that than pleasant?
The overheating, creaking, excessive calculations, and all the other burdens felt truly pleasant to them.
The train raced through the night sky.
The wind was cooling, the night was heavy, and the sounds were those of work.
They flew through the dark night toward some moonlit mountains.
They had already passed over the fields and reached the forest at the base of the mountains.
An expressway was visible below and they used that asphalt as a stepping stone.
“Here we go!”
The train leaped once more.
This time, they flew beyond the southern forest and into the mountains.
Based on the information gathered before leaving, there was a river there and they could follow it to the eastern Mount Ikoma region.
It was a fifteen kilometer journey which would take less than three minutes at their current speed.
As if throwing their entire bodies forward, the automatons became one with their speed and desired to advance.
Shadowy trees raced by on either side and a river reflected the moon below.
They continued on.
The roaring sound and the wind bent the trees and the shockwave of their passing sent a reverse cascade of water and leaves into the sky after they passed.
The automatons had linked their sight and hearing devices as they focused only on their destination.
They kept on a straight line toward the mountains that had produced the river below.
…Here we go.
They all thought the same thing.
…We pull the humans onward to mountains filled with nature.
This was something they had been unable to do in 3rd-Gear.
It was always near the top on the lists of things they wanted to do, but it was always pushed further and further down the list.
They had made all of the food and drink being handed out inside the train.
It would have been perfect had it been daytime and sunny.
It did not matter whether they were heading into battle or not.
The goal was for the master to decide. The means was for the maid to decide.
A trip to the mountains required a box lunch.
And now, they were pulling the humans onward. Just like a maid leading her master to some flowers she had found in the mountains, they predicted what would make their masters happy and guided them to the battlefield.
Such a happy battle.
The automatons on the front car saw an explosion.
The trees on either side of the river up ahead were suddenly blasted into the sky.
There was no sound. When breaking the sound barrier, that was to be expected.
Something charged toward them at faster than the speed of sound.
“That is…a mechanical dragon!” shouted an automaton’s mind.
A mechanical dragon with red, white, and blue armor flew their way with its main cannon mouth already opened.
It had been lying in wait to attack them.
There was only an instant until the attack, but the automatons continued their work. They continued spinning the track without fear.
Alex did not hesitate.
Eighty percent of his armor had been replaced, but his frame had only had charms for the automatic healing of metal attached and his injuries were not yet healed.
Even so, he did not hesitate.
While Typhon was being worked on, Tatsumi had let it throw her so she could hold onto their air superiority. Similarly, it was his job to prevent Team Leviathan from rushing in.
Mikoku had already entered Babel on Noah’s guidance.
After ensuring their air superiority, Tatsumi had shifted to defense.
The others were deployed in formation and plenty of dolls had been sent out.
So Alex did not hesitate.
“This is a showdown!!”
He flew straight toward the train that acted like a long, subsonic shell.
He had no intention of firing on it from hiding or from the side.
…Justice is justice because it brings its righteousness head-on!
So he accelerated.
“Destroy the enemy on sight! Alex Forcer!!”
He prepared to fire his main cannon, but he saw something just before he did.
As the train continued to spin its track and rush forward, the roof of one of the back cars blasted into the sky.
The white lid was cast aside like a cloak to reveal what lay below.
“A black god of war!?”
That was precisely what stood up.
However, this was not Tatsumi’s enemy, Susamikado.
It was a similar yet different model.
“Is that Susahito Custom!?”
As if to answer, Susahito Custom calmly moved.
It forcefully stood in the wind and water vapor trailed from the corners of its armor.
It held an anti-god of war rifle.
Alex recognized it as one of those used in the fight against Typhon.
Normally, it would not have been enough to break through a mechanical dragon’s armor.
However, their relative speeds and his imperfect state could change that.
“Bring it on!!”
He shouted and they both fired.
A moment later, the earth and the sky exploded along a straight line and that signaled the beginning of the battle.
- A play on words using the kanji for “justice”.
|Back to Prologue||Return to Main Page||Forward to Chapter 2|