Owari no Chronicle:Volume14 Chapter 11
Chapter 11: What Matters in Life
I will call for you
Power swept across the operating room in an instant.
The stirring of wind that gave form to the life-carving power rose from the operating table like shimmering heat or a great serpent.
Power was thrown against everything with more force than an explosion.
The power at the base of a world’s creation was sent out as pressure.
That pressure was directed at the defending power and its wielders.
The room itself did not shake or sway. The reverberating power only shook its target and those connected to it.
The paper thrown by the witch turned to ash before it could even burn.
The blue stones and the string connecting them broke and snapped before being slammed against the wall.
The swords an elderly woman in a lab coat had stabbed into the ground and the new ones she was preparing shattered in an instant.
The women themselves were slammed into the wall.
The doctors, the machinery, and everything else were as well.
Everything working to protect the form lying on the table was distanced in the name of that great wind.
The wind roared.
The wind whirled around the room and chose its direction.
It raised its head like a cobra and turned toward the white skin on the back of the girl on the table.
The life-carving power had knocked back all other power and there was nothing left to oppose it.
Shinjou’s will was also on the verge of breaking.
However, the women heard something.
Shinjou was nearly in a coma, but a voice was dragged out of her by the life-carving concept.
The name Mikoku drew out a name as a representation of the girl’s will.
Her vanishing will called a certain boy’s name and the three women heard it.
Sound rang through that space.
There were three sounds.
One was the clash of blade and fist.
Another was the racing wind.
The last was roaring voices.
The ceiling had opened to reveal the sky and eighteen large stained glass windows shined on the walls.
The final window on either side, which depicted the holy one’s birth, was the only one unlit and the two figures moving below them were entirely focused on producing the aforementioned sounds.
The sounds reverberated into the sky.
Fist and sword whipped up the wind equally and sounded out as they collided.
Their rapid movements created a mist around them and the moonlight gave it all a pale hue.
The sounds rang and voices spoke.
One of the moving figures, Mikoku, raised her voice.
“Shinjou’s life is being carved away at this very moment!”
The wind roared as Sayama ducked below her racing blade.
It flew over his head and he threw a left smash toward her gut.
That thought was followed by a straight right kick from Mikoku.
She had predicted his action.
In that instant, he spotted the word “below” written on the surface of her blue sword.
“It is Wanambi’s prediction!”
Before she finished speaking, he guarded by forcibly bending the elbow of his left smash.
The bottom of her foot collided with the left side of his body.
He was sent flying.
The white mist surrounding them was blown away and he flew seven meters.
He landed and quickly got back up.
But Mikoku’s next attack was already on the way.
The pressure of the sword tore into the mist like a solid blow.
Sayama managed to leap out of the way, but Mikoku immediately turned around.
“What is the matter!?”
She instantly circled behind him.
“What is the matter?”
Her question came from quite near the back of his neck.
“Concepts really are interesting. I am gradually figuring out how to use them. …And all of you have been fighting all this time with this power in your possession.”
Her speed rose, so Sayama activated a charm to accelerate himself.
He jumped to the right and turned it into a feint by immediately switching to the left.
“It is no use. Those charms are based on 7th-Gear’s bodily reinforcement concepts and 1st-Gear’s writing concepts. That means I have them as well.”
Her voice was even closer than before.
“But do not worry. I will no longer attack you with 2nd-Gear’s concept.”
Her voice was calm.
“I feel bad about what happened to Shinjou. …I really do.”
He reacted to that.
…Not as weak as you think she is!!
He acted on reflex.
He threw a left backhand blow.
He sent out his elbow and instantly snapped the arm straight.
Rather than at eye level, he sent it up from below to take advantage of her blind spot.
“I saw that coming.”
The voice came from right in front of him as he turned around. He saw black hair flowing in the wind, and…
“So it ends here.”
He heard a frowning voice.
Then Mikoku’s blue sword thrust toward him in a straight line.
It was going to hit.
The thrusting strike sounded out as it reached the center of his chest.
He was sent flying.
The color white filled Diana’s vision.
The white was the ceiling.
The operating room’s ceiling sat in front of her as the wind toyed with it.
She was collapsed on the ground, her hair was disheveled, and she felt nothing but wind and pressure.
When she moved her head to look around, she saw several other collapsed forms.
Yui, Tsukuyomi, the doctors, the machinery, and everything else had been knocked to the ground.
She was pressed against the wall by the wind and a few pieces of clothing were plastered to her.
They were likely the clothes removed from Shinjou before the surgery.
She peeled them away and started getting up.
Before, she had heard the voice of Shinjou’s will calling a precious name and she wanted to respond to that call.
The wind had become a dragon swirling above the operating table in the center of the room.
That wind power had raised its head as if preparing to devour Shinjou as she slept below it.
It would all be over soon, but…
The life-carving power had shown itself now.
If she could place some powerful defensive power on Shinjou, the life-carving power that had resided inside her would lose its home and would vanish.
She had no more paper.
Yui’s stones had shattered and Tsukuyomi’s swords had broken.
“Kh,” she groaned while placing her hands on the floor to get up.
…Is it happening again?
Would she be unable to save someone again?
Would she use her lack of power as an excuse to herself?
The wind was so powerful that simply sitting up was all she could manage.
If she stood, the dense wind would slam her against the wall again.
…I want to save her.
She clenched her teeth but lowered her gaze.
“Is there nothing I can do this time either?
Her lowered gaze spotted something on the floor.
She shot forward as soon as she realized what it was.
She did everything she could to move forward, so she was practically falling on the floor as she crawled with her hair whipping in the wind.
She picked up the object and clenched it in her hand.
This is it, she thought. This will settle it.
The mist split to either side and Sayama was knocked through it while falling back-first to the ground.
He flew eight meters and rolled another three meters after landing.
Baku had fallen from his head, so the creature enveloped himself in the mist to pursue his master.
Mikoku let out a white breath and watched the curtain of mist close once more.
She watched long enough to tell the mist was entirely motionless.
Her shoulders drooped.
She lowered both swords and did not bother wiping the sweat from her brow.
“Honestly.” She hung her head as she spoke. “A minute and ten seconds left, is it?”
She weakly turned around and her gaze moved to the concept extractor and the girl lying below it.
Her eyebrows remained slightly lowered as she took a step through the mist.
She closed her eyes and brought a hand to them while still holding the sword.
“It seems I laid my hand on Shinjou, too.”
She took in a scratchy breath.
As soon as she said that, something interrupted.
“Do you think you can just bring her back to life, you fool?”
She quickly turned toward the voice behind her and immediately saw Sayama’s fist.
Something as hard as rock struck the right side of her face.
It was not so much the pain or the impact.
Her surprise was the strongest.
Her blue sword lit up and a healing concept from 10th-Gear activated as she flew through the air.
She recovered and landed with her right leg sliding a little.
She faced forward and saw someone in a white armored uniform.
It was Sayama.
She had definitely pierced his left chest before, and yet…
“You look like you are wondering how this is possible.” He did not wipe the sweat from his brow. “But I would like to ask that, too. How could you not tell what you had hit?”
His lowered left arm held a chain.
A silver pocket watch hung at the bottom of the silver chain, but the center of the watch had been torn out.
“You attacked me with a piercing concept, didn’t you? Since the concept attack could pierce through any material, you would have received the same tactile feedback regardless of what you hit. …You assumed that meant you had hit me, you failed to actually check what you had hit, and this is the result.”
He threw the silver watch aside and it clattered to the ground below the mist.
He then turned his expressionless face her way, let out a white breath, and took a fighting stance.
“Let us continue.”
As soon as he said that, a sound came from the watch on his right wrist.
That signal told him it was almost one minute until the concept extraction was complete.
The ringing alarm would ring once every five seconds.
It would ring twelve times before completion. Understanding that, Mikoku listened to that first ring.
“Do you think you can win?”
She raised her twin blades and looked back at him.
After the previous hit, she had slight tears in the corners of the eyes below her confident eyebrows, but she did not wipe them away.
“She will not.”
He cut her off and the alarm rang a second time.
Regardless, he spoke.
“I promised to be with Shinjou-kun and she promised the same. So…”
He almost seemed to fall toward her.
“So if I do not give up, neither will she!”
He dashed forward.
He was coming for her.
Sayama whipped up the wind and scattered charms like wings. Mikoku blew away the mist and exposed the light of her two swords.
Sayama raised his fist.
“I will not lose her!!”
At the same time, they heard a rumbling sound.
The church shook with the great sound of something being absorbed.
The church’s trembling song was telling them the concept creation was nearly ready.
It sang and sang.
That house of teaching played its song loudly as if rejoicing at the coming new world.
The two of them collided and sent the mist flying as that sound washed over them.
Sayama swung his fist.
He blew the mist away and kept up a barrage with quick footwork.
These were not powerful finishing blows. He tensed his shoulders, made quick steps with his heels, and released countless rapid straight punches.
He stuck to his left hand, but that was fine.
Mikoku was faster than him and she could attack more often than him.
Her two swords were especially troublesome. The philosopher’s stone swords were made from the positive and negative concepts, so he could not intercept them without using the opposite Georgius.
However, there was a hole: she could only attack once at a time with either arm.
If he turned his left shoulder toward her and faced her right arm, the blue sword in her right hand became the only attack she could use.
The alarm rang for the third time.
He was to her right side, so the red sword in her left hand could not reach him.
Also, a fist could attack again more quickly than a sword.
He kept his fist flying and she started fighting a primarily defensive battle.
Whenever he stepped forward, she was forced to step back, so she could not make use of her maneuverability.
He sent out a straight left punch.
That was a fundamental movement and his feet brought him ever forward.
He stuck to the fundamentals.
But even though anyone could use these techniques, he used them to confront Mikoku.
He remained calm, kept himself from rushing, sent his fist accurately forward, and targeted her face or gut whenever he saw an opening.
The force of the hit produced mist and a loud noise.
The reactionary force reached his shoulder, giving him tactile feedback.
Mikoku’s face twisted in confusion and she looked to her sword, but the prediction concept on the blue sword’s surface only said “straight left”.
There was nothing she could do about the attacks even if she could predict them and Sayama picked up even more speed.
The barrage continued.
The alarm rang for the fourth time.
He took the step on 1, planted his foot on 2, and both sent the strike from his shoulder and pulled it back on 3.
On the count of 1, 2, 3, he would hear the spraying sound of impact.
It was all the fundamentals.
He took the fundamental 1, 2, 3, and heard the spray.
He focused. He focused on the 1, 2, 3.
He stuck with it the entire time. There was nothing but the 1, 2, 3.
This was the very first thing he had learned long ago.
When his life had been in turmoil after losing his father and losing his mother, he had learned this as a way of focusing his strength.
On 1, he moved forward. On 2, he stepped down. On 3, he released his strength.
1 and 2 and 3.
1 and 2 and 3.
1, 2, 3.
The alarm rang for the fifth time.
1, 2, 3, spray.
123, spray. 123spray.
The barrage continued as the alarm rang for the sixth time.
The movement of his fist had permeated his body and would not stop.
1, 2, and 3. 2, 2, and 3.
He continued punching, raised his speed, and pursued the evading enemy. He pursued the enemy who wielded the power of a god.
His fist was not reaching her. Despite the great speed of his barrage, he could not strike her concept-increased speed.
But he knew he would reach her. No matter how close to godhood she came and no matter how much she injured him…
…As long as I do not give up!!
He listened to the seventh ring of the alarm, but he raised his speed regardless.
His arm had been worn down by the blade, he had scratches on his cheek, and wounds from the piercing blade tip covered his chest and stomach.
But he did not care. He did not look at them or even feel them.
He only had his subconscious that guided his fundamental movements and…
That thought resided within him.
He rapidly linked 1 to 2 to 3.
“If I do not give up…”
He launched his fist.
“Neither will you!!”
He caught her.
The speed of his arm had surpassed her swordplay.
His fist pushed on the base of the blade and knocked it aside.
He pulled back his left arm and stepped forward while leaning somewhat forward.
He straightened up and stomped his foot down as if thrusting his entire body forward.
He turned his shoulders inward, tensed them, twisted his left arm inward, and launched it.
His fist landed on the left side of her face.
The fundamental strike tore into her flesh and bone.
She was knocked back a little, but she stood back up straight.
Her legs slid back, she controlled her stance, and she sent her right sword toward Sayama’s left fist.
“You are wasting your time!”
But Sayama moved quickly. He suddenly rushed straight toward Mikoku.
After attacking from the left so many times, he had gone to the center as soon as his opponent attacked to the left.
The center was where the left and right crossed paths.
Sayama raised his right arm that he had barely used up to this point.
“Right arm unleashed!”
He threw both fists toward his opponent.
The alarm rang for the eighth time.
He rushed Mikoku with his unending combination blow.
He pushed on through.
He moved quickly with both of his fists.
Meanwhile, Mikoku raised both swords for defense.
“You only have four rings left!”
He did not care. He raised the speed of his fists, telling them to reach her defending swords.
He told them to break the swords. He told them to break them to pieces.
…Break through, powers of the left and right!
The positive and negative powers of the ten worlds were defending. Those swords contained the beneficial powers of ten great worlds, some of which contained gods.
However, Sayama poured his strength into his fists and thought to them.
What were his fists for?
He let out a roar.
“My fists should be able to break through the defenses of the gods!”
He poured speed into his fists.
He swept away the spraying mist and targeted his other self.
That version of himself had desired death and tried to make that her answer.
I cannot allow that.
How could I allow it?
There is so much more to the happy mealtime found on the table of this lowest world, but she has already stood from her seat. I must punish this foolish girl for her poor manners.
Eat all of the food served you and then die.
“I simply cannot allow it!”
But his other self bared her teeth beyond her swords and the spray of her divine speed.
“You do not understand!”
His other self shouted back as the alarm rang for the ninth time.
“You do not understand what it feels like to lose something so important to you!”
Those words brought pain to his chest, but he released his right fist and continued his barrage as he gave a shout of his own.
“Of course I do not!! I intend to never understand the words of someone who chose her own death and thus tried to place that same pain on others!! That is all I have to say!!”
The reverberation of the hit reached his shoulder.
“You chose your own death, so why can you not celebrate someone else’s death!?”
“Do not profane Shino’s death!”
His arms shook from the impacts of his continued barrage.
The defensive swords grew sharper, cut through the wind, and struck the sound.
Their fists and swords were now clashing directly between them.
Mikoku gave a shout amid the speed and sparks. Her sweat flew into the air and a pained look covered her face.
“You will be the same as me before long!”
“Shinjou will lose her life soon! And by the very power I used!”
Those words filled Sayama’s entire body with pain and she did not overlook it.
Her blue sword shot up toward his chest from below.
It stabbed into him.
Diana struggled against the dragon of wind.
The swelling wind rushed toward her.
It was a great pressure.
She was about to fall forward, but the wind was enough to scoop her up from below.
She could not even hear her own breathing anymore, but…
She held strength in her hand and she swung that hand forward as a fist.
She was less than a meter away. If she could fill that distance, she was certain she could save the girl.
She would be able to save her.
She had always regretted not going to save the others in the past, so she did not give up here.
“I can go save someone!!”
She thought of her former comrades, of those who had survived to this day, of the people she had met since then, of her adorable student, of everyone dependent on her, and of the people she was sure to meet in the future.
There was a girl who referred to her as her teacher.
How did she feel about that?
Did she want to be called that? Was that who she truly wanted to be?
She had a single answer.
She slowly dragged her feet forward.
She split apart the wind that was as thick as water and carried what she held in her right hand.
But then she heard a sound. It came from a machine that was still operating after falling to the ground.
Shinjou’s heartrate and blood pressure were being expressed with an electronic tone.
That tone had become the representation of a straight line.
Diana knew what that meant. Every part of Shinjou had come to a stop.
“That is only under the effects of ‘Mikoku’!!”
Go. Reach her.
She saw the wind gently begin to move ahead of her. Behind the solid power reaching Diana, the wind sought Shinjou’s back and tried to settle itself inside her.
It was trying to fulfill its role and carve Shinjou’s life.
The wind dropped toward Shinjou, but Diana had not arrived.
She was thirty-one centimeters short.
The pressure of the wind grew as the dragon descended and Diana’s expression twisted as she failed to reach the girl.
She shouted something.
That was when strength wrapped tightly around her back and pushed her.
It came from powerful arms that opposed the wind.
“Diana, Diana. What are you doing? …This lowly dragon is no match for you.”
Odor was there.
Behind her, she saw Odor, Roger, the development department, and plenty more all in a line. The operating room’s door was wide open and they were pushing her forward from all the way back into the corridor.
She heard all of their voices as they flooded into the operating room and supported her back.
They were saying “go”, “go get that thing”, or “we’re counting on you”.
She heard one voice among them all.
“Diana, shedding tears of anger has always been a bad habit of yours.”
It was Itaru.
Those words from someone who knew her past told her something.
She was where she was now because of her past.
She faced forward and raised her eyebrows. Metallic sounds rang out as Odor helped by tearing into the wind and she felt the support of Yui, Tsukuyomi, and the doctors as they got back up.
She spoke to all of those people from the past.
…I will save this girl!
“We were left something thanks to all of you!!”
She broke through the wind and covered the last bit of distance.
She took Shinjou’s hand which was reaching out as if asking for help.
She took that slender hand and slipped on what she had found on the floor.
It was a ring.
It was the one Shinjou had been wearing.
“This is Yume’s ring!”
“She would have been wearing it when she was hit by the life-carving attack under the effects of 2nd-Gear’s Concept Core! So this ring holds the greatest life-giving protection of Yume!!”
The ring had not been as effective as it might have because it had been removed, but that was also why it had not had to endure the greatest power of the “Mikoku” concept and had survived.
Diana heard something.
She listened to the electronic tone telling her Shinjou’s life signs had come to a stop, but she still grasped the hand bearing Yume’s protection.
“Please… Wake up!!”
Shinjou sat below a vast sky.
It had happened suddenly.
She sat on an aged wooden box and she seemed to have suddenly woken.
She wore a white armored uniform and she checked on her surroundings.
She was at one end of a wharf.
The wharf bordered the water and the great expanse of water behind her looked white.
She could see the sky, but the bottom was covered in fog.
She saw something like a mountain beyond the warehouse in front of her.
The wharf continued as far as she could see to the left and to her right…
“The pier and…a ship.”
A passenger ship was moored at the pier. It was a large white ship.
There was a line of people from the pier to where she was. The line continued past the front of the warehouse and on into the distance. Everyone was too lightly dressed for the chilly air and they carried luggage with them, but they also had the unique atmosphere of anticipation found in lines.
Wondering what was happening, Shinjou tried to think back.
…Um, what was I doing before I woke up here?
She could not remember.
She lightly hit her head as if knocking water from her ear, but…
She could not remember where she had been or what she had been doing.
She tried seeing what she could remember.
The word “Shinjou” came to mind. She could remember that word pointed to her.
She also knew what her clothes were and she knew the meaning of the nouns “sky” and “fog”.
Something was missing from her memories.
She crossed her arms and tilted her head to try to forcibly recall whatever it was.
As she muttered to herself, she felt a painful itching in her back. It was a small tremor-like pain.
That sensation led her to realize something rather than remember it.
“I’m injured, aren’t I?”
She had been hurt and she had found herself here when she woke up.
The scenery around her did not seem real and silent people were waiting for a boat.
That boat would take them to the opposite shore.
She speculated out loud.
“A near death experience?”
She seemed to still remember the oddest things.
However, she did remember this.
It was not quite a memory, but she had a feeling there had not been an afterlife in whatever place she had come from.
In that case, what she was seeing here was not actually real.
“This is a dream my body is showing me as it approaches death.”
She lacked her memories and anything related to her memories because it was all shutting down.
The last remaining movements of her brain were showing her this image at the very end.
It was only a dream that represented vanishing as a trip to somewhere else.
“I see,” she muttered. “So I’m going to die.”
She had no memories, so she had no reason to hesitate.
She guessed she actually had a lot of people she would not want to leave, but…
“Do I really? Reality can be cruel.”
She nodded twice.
“That’s right. I probably lived somewhere filled with eccentrics. Somewhere with people who would grope my breasts without end or grab and tug on my boy side.”
She smiled bitterly.
“Of course, no one that crazy could actually exist.”
I guess I’ll be boarding that and riding away, she thought as she looked to the ship.
Suddenly, a sound reached her ears.
It was a song.
She knew it, but she did not remember it. She did not know what it was, but she had not forgotten it.
…What is this?
What is this song? It’s coming from the ship. No, from far beyond the ship. From beyond the water? What is it?
She got down from the wooden box.
The concrete ground felt a bit uncertain below her feet as she approached the ship.
A sudden thought came to her. Even if she had no memories, her presence here meant one thing at least.
…I had to have had a mom and dad, didn’t I?
“Will I be able to see them if I get on that ship?”
Those two people were missing from her memories, but were they on the opposite coast where the song was coming from?
Someone spoke to her as she pondered that.
“Oh, what have we here? Are you lost?”
She gave a start at the sudden voice from the water’s edge.
She turned to the side and found an elderly man sitting on a mooring rope.
He had gray hair and wore a suit.
He brushed a hand through his slicked-back hair and looked at her.
“If you are going to board the ship, you need to wait in line.”
“Oh, right. …Sorry.”
When she bowed, he narrowed his eyes and nodded.
“Where did you come from?”
“I don’t remember.”
“Do you have any luggage?”
She looked down at her hands.
Her eyes moved from her empty hands to the box she had been sitting on, but…
“Um… I don’t think so.”
“You must have been in quite a hurry then. So…do you not have any flower words either?”
She looked to the elderly man and he jerked his chin toward the people in the line.
They all carried luggage in one hand, but there was something odd about their other hand.
That opposite hand seemed to be carrying something near their shoulder.
“Do they…have something there?”
“We call them flower words. They are something everyone has. Everyone.”
He looked to the line of people.
“They are the things people have accomplished.”
Shinjou looked too and it felt like they were all holding a bouquet of flowers.
She could not find a way to describe them with words and their form was unclear even though she could see them.
They started up from the people’s hands and continued on to heaven.
“Some people want them to be. Some people would rather they be light.”
The elderly man said “look” and pointed beyond the mountain visible through the fog.
“The people who think they have too few or too many will circle around that mountain again and again while carrying their flower words. If you do that, you are given weight, even if it is only a temporary form. …Of course, you end up going around and around for thousands or even tens of thousands of years. Some jokingly call it hell. Most of the people here are happy people who have no such complaints.”
She did not have what this man called flower words.
He looked back at her and tilted his head.
“Did you already go through the reception process before coming here?”
He pulled a cigar from his pocket and used it to point at the end of the pier where the passengers were checked before boarding.
There, they would hand over their luggage and…
…They put their flower words in their pocket.
“Their existences are made equal with the world using the plucked flowers and words.”
“The opposite shore is a different kind of place. There, what you have accomplished is what matters,” said the elderly man. “What did you do for the world? Those actions are what make up your existence. To put it another way, the opposite shore is where all accomplishments since the beginning of the world are gathered. You could call it the world itself.”
After saying that, he faced Shinjou again and she looked to him.
“You know everything, don’t you? …By any chance, are you god?”
“Ha ha ha. I am even greater than that.”
Just as some surprise filled Shinjou, a voice called out from behind.
“Father, I told you to stop coming over here!”
The elderly man gave a joking shout at the woman’s voice.
A woman in a white denim shirt and jeans entered Shinjou’s field of vision.
Her semi-long hair swayed and she grabbed the elderly man by the ear.
“Your friends aren’t all going to show up just because you’re waiting here.”
“Now, wait just a second. Two I could do without arrived recently, so the idiot of a little monkey I’ve really been waiting for might just-…”
“You accursed old man!!”
He cried out as the woman pulled on his ear.
She sighed but raised her eyebrows a little when she glanced over at Shinjou.
“Oh? Are you lost?”
“Oh, no, not really…”
Shinjou frantically waved her hands.
“I-I’ll go get in line. Yeah.”
“Do you know where to go?”
“Yes,” she answered. “Where I can hear that song coming from, right?”
The elderly man and the woman exchanged a glance at that.
Finally, the woman turned back to her.
“Why are you here?”
For some reason, being asked that caused some small pieces of her memories to return.
“Um,” she began while thinking. “My life…was carved.”
“So there must be no saving me. It’s a pretty strong power, so even though I think there must be a lot of different people trying to save me, it won’t be enough against that power. So, um…”
“Do you want to go to the other side? To the other side of that water?”
After some thought, Shinjou nodded.
The song she could hear sounded very soft and she wanted to give herself over to it.
“If I go to that song…”
She nodded again.
“If I go there, I’ll find my mom and dad.”
The woman nodded too and took a step toward Shinjou.
She stood in front of her, crouched down, and placed her hands on Shinjou’s shoulders.
“Are you sure you want that?”
Shinjou thought about it while wondering why the woman would ask that.
“Well, I’m going to die, aren’t I? There’s nothing anyone can do since my life has been carved, I can find my mom and dad if I go to the other side, and…”
She breathed in.
“And there won’t be any more pain or troubles.”
The woman nodded and her slightly sharp eyes bent in a troubled look.
“Then let me ask you one thing. Why…?”
She asked it.
“Why are you crying?”
Eh? thought Shinjou as she started to bring her hands to her cheeks.
But the woman’s hands moved and held Shinjou’s hands as if to tell her not to.
Shinjou was standing straight, so she could not hide anything.
She could feel tears spilling from her eyes.
Everything grew blurry: what she saw, her previously calm emotions, and even her words.
She cried without knowing why. She cried in search of something missing from her memories.
She shed tears in her dream.
Mikoku felt her attack hit. She felt the tip of her blade sink about three centimeters deep and strike his ribs.
Sayama had bent his body forward as if ducking.
Mikoku had swung her left sword toward his back.
“You can perish here before you know what it feels like to lose something so important!!”
But his back did not sink down and she heard his shouting voice.
“I will not perish!”
His voice trembled but contained great strength.
“There is no way I could perish!”
“That is a delusion, Sayama Mikoto!! The end is soon coming for Shinjou as well, isn’t it!?”
“No! It is not! That alone is certain!”
His roaring voice was accompanied by his body jumping upwards.
He raised his left fist a bit and opened his mouth.
“Something that has been confirmed between both parties is not a delusion!! It is…”
He surpassed his previous great speed and raised his fist with divine speed.
She did not understand.
She did not understand at all.
She truly did not understand anything.
But there was something in her heart she did not want to leave.
“I don’t want to go…”
She looked up in the sky as she spoke and she heard another voice.
A moment later, she saw the fog and waterside vanish in an instant.
She was no longer at a wharf. There was only concrete below her feet and a sea of clouds in every direction.
She also heard a song. It was a gentle song that felt nostalgic even though she did not remember it.
The woman stood in front of her and the elderly man was looking down into the sky behind the woman.
The woman released Shinjou’s hands as she spoke.
“You will be fine.”
“H-how can you say that?”
Shinjou used her freed hands to wipe away her tears.
“It’s over. I’m going to die. My life was carved… It was done by such a great power and, no matter who tries to save me, it won’t be enough.”
“You will be fine,” insisted the woman. “Do you remember your name?”
“Eh? Wh-what does that-…?”
“Just tell me. Do you remember it?”
Shinjou thought about it.
What was her name?
I feel like it was a single character, but I also feel like it was two. I don’t get this. It’s like it keeps changing.
“You can’t remember?”
“W-well, how should I put this? I don’t really understand. …There are two things in my heart that I feel might be it, but I’m not sure which one it is.”
“Simple,” said the elderly man with his back to her. “Why not combine the two?”
When she heard that, it hit Shinjou.
“That has a somewhat vulgar ring to it.”
“That’s just being mean!”
The women laughed quietly at their exchange. I was being serious, thought Shinjou as she glared at the women, so the woman apologized with her shoulders still shaking.
“Sorry, sorry. It’s just that you’re a lot like a friend of mine. Yes, you really are a lot like her. …Anyway, do you know the answer now?”
“Yes.” Shinjou nodded. “I think it’s Sadagiri.”
“I see. That would be the name of one who carries life and cuts through destiny,” said the woman. “Your mother hid the character for life in your name so that your life would not be harmed. And…your life lies elsewhere too.”
“Yes.” The woman shrugged. “The name of the one by your side is Mikoto. Written with another character, that means life. So…”
The woman gently rubbed Shinjou’s head.
“As long as he lives, no one can harm your life.”
Shinjou heard a song behind her.
When she heard the gentle singing voice, she realized the song was not calling for her.
…It’s celebrating a birth? It’s sending someone on their way?
Who was singing it? And…
“By any chance…am I the only one that can hear this song?”
Neither the woman nor the elderly man answered.
The two of them simply took a step out of the way, bringing the top of the clouds covering the vast sky into view.
“Can you wish for the person those tears yearned for?”
Shinjou was looking straight ahead now.
She did not understand. She did not understand at all. She truly did not understand anything.
But she could say one thing for sure: she had someone.
Then she felt something touch her right hand.
She looked over and saw the woman had removed her ring and placed it on Shinjou’s hand instead.
“It’s fine. Think of it as a protective charm. And you know what?” asked the woman’s smile. “Reach out your hand, spread your fingers, and make sure you reach it.”
Shinjou nodded and moved forward.
She stood on the edge of the concrete ground and looked into the bottomless sky.
It’s time to go, she thought before looking back.
She tilted her head as she looked back and forth between the elderly man and the woman.
“This is a dream I’m having on the verge of death, isn’t it?”
“Ha ha ha. You must be very creative.”
It felt weird having her own dream compliment her.
What is with that? she wondered.
“If I do wake up, what will happen to me? What kind of person will be by my side?”
“Well.” The elderly man nodded and crossed his arms. “It will probably be a weird kid. He is an incurable idiot, but he had quite a skilled, wonderful, and magnificent relative. So make sure you get after him if he sullies the name of that relative.”
“You really need to be more honest, father.”
“I-I see you are as blunt as ever!”
Shinjou tilted her head a bit at their exchange.
“Well, whatever. I’ll be going.”
She did not hesitate to take a step from the edge.
She heard the woman’s surprised exclamation behind her because, instead of stepping “off” into the air, she took a solid step.
She was flying. She begged herself to reach the place she wished to be.
But she did more than just wish.
…I need to make sure I reach it!!
She leaped with all of her might and flung herself into the sky.
She reached her right hand out, spread her fingers wide, and thought.
…I need to reach my life.
“I need to go as far as my life will take me!!”
Just as the alarm sounded for the tenth time, Mikoku swung down her left sword.
Sayama responded with a left uppercut.
Mikoku was willing to take that blow.
Even if she let it hit her…
…I can cut him down with my left sword!
In a cross counter, the side with a sword had a significant advantage, so she gathered strength in her left shoulder.
In that instant, something entered the center of her vision.
It was colored silver.
It was a pocket watch.
It was the one she had stabbed when she thought she had stabbed into Sayama’s chest.
She remembered him showing it to her and throwing it aside.
It had vanished into the mist, but now it was thrown at her from below.
She did not even blink.
The solid silver object hit her in the center of the forehead.
It made a dull sound.
The watch was opened and it slightly obstructed her view.
She chose to continue attacking, but she could not see in front of her due to the watch.
Sayama had been swinging his left fist in an uppercut, but…
…What if he was actually using that fist to throw the watch?
He might have reversed his motion and thrown his right fist.
Or he might have thrown the watch to make her think that while continuing with the left.
Which was it?
She gave her answer.
She forcibly brought her arms together and sent both swords forward.
There was no way she could miss at this close range.
She swung the two blades in a straight line as if letting them drop down.
She performed a slashing attack.
She drew two sharp arcs as the watch fell and her vision cleared.
She could see now.
Sayama was right in front of her and she saw his movement.
…The left fist!
But that no longer mattered.
Her swords were going to hit his shoulders.
Sayama then made his move.
The clenched strength of his left fist drew an arc through the air.
Mikoku realized he had hit.
But his fist had not hit her body. It had instead hit the side of her blue sword.
Diana saw it on the forefront of the wind’s pressure.
The wind dragon overhead very nearly had a physical form as it plunged down toward Shinjou’s back.
…Did it not work!?
She clenched her teeth as if in protest.
There was nothing more she could do. She distinctly felt her limits.
But in that instant, something shot upwards in front of her.
It was a blue cloth, the one draped over Shinjou’s body.
Next, Diana saw the color black spread out.
It was hair.
Shinjou’s black hair danced in the wind.
Her slender body quickly sat up and she raised her right arm.
Her fingers were spread wide and the ring on her ring finger collided with the descending dragon.
It only took an instant.
Yume’s ring tore into the dragon and Shinjou’s fingers closed around it and squeezed.
It vanished with an explosion of wind.
All that remained was stillness and Shinjou’s voice as she looked to heaven with her fingers clenched shut.
Sayama’s blow landed.
His left fist struck the falling blue sword from the left.
The collision coincided with the eleventh ring of the alarm.
…But I will not let it end here!
He swung his right arm to support his attack.
A charm activated.
As he rapidly swung his entire body to the left, his attack was launched through the mist.
He cried out and clenched his fist in the moment of impact.
“Tear into the power of a god!!”
His right fist intercepted Mikoku’s red sword from the side as it approached just above his head.
Both of his fists punched the swords on the outside surface.
Catching the two blades between his fists did more than just stop them.
His red and blue punches smashed the two swords together and they both broke.
However, this was not a destruction that called in their regeneration.
“This is the mutual annihilation of the positive and negative concepts!!”
Sure enough, the two swords exploded in Mikoku’s hands.
They turned to sand and light.
In a split second, the concept swords completely vanished.
All that remained was Mikoku, who sat there blankly after swinging down her swords, and…
Sayama stepped forward with his right foot.
An instant of movement brought everything to a stop.
Sayama dropped his heel to the floor and launched the end of his right arm from his twisted shoulder.
He began a barrage.
Eight consecutive attacks left his right shoulder like rapid-firing gun and collided with Mikoku’s body.
Dull sounds rang out and Mikoku bent backwards.
Sayama took another step forward.
He had a single target, Mikoku’s chest and what lay there.
He struck it and then made his next attack.
He made a full rotation and a full spin.
He seemed to simply place his left fist at the end of that motion.
He made his punch.
The front of his fist broke through the mist and surpassed sound.
The blow landed and he heard the sound of a shattering philosopher’s stone.
All of his strength was driven into Mikoku’s body as if to suppress the shattering sound.
For a brief moment, the impact built up inside her.
But then she flew into the air.
Mist wrapped around her as she flew, but Sayama did not look to see where she ended up.
He spread the fingers of his outstretched left arm and looked to the ring on the finger there.
Sweat fell from his cheeks to his jaw, but…
He straightened up.
He spun around with mist covering his body and he looked up at the moon.
In front of that moon, the bell in the small room was not moving.
The automaton named Noah remained motionless with the bell’s cord in hand.
The facility was no longer shaking.
The final stained glass window remained dark and the church’s shaking had stopped.
The place almost seemed to be enjoying the serenity of the night.
There was no longer any sound from Sayama’s right wrist.
The alarm to indicate the time limit was gone.
The sound to indicate the end of the battle had vanished into Noah’s night.
A staircase was filled with slight darkness.
It was a plastic staircase.
It cut diagonally through an empty space with no supports and neither its top nor bottom could be seen.
It was simply a long flight of stairs that continued both up and down.
In the otherwise empty darkness, there were two sounds traveling along that series of steps.
They were sets of footsteps.
One included a clank of metal and seemed to be having trouble.
The other coincided with the first and was much quieter.
The quieter set belonged to a maid in black who asked a question of the man in black walking ahead of her.
“Itaru-sama, where does this staircase lead?”
The maid nodded as the man continued on without even looking back, but after a few seconds she clapped her hands as if just realizing something.
“Tes. That was a very, very, very, very funny joke. I can objectively determine that I am overjoyed to have heard your super joke.”
“Oh? You certainly make your joy sound like it isn’t yours, you eccentric machine.”
“Tes.” Sf nodded and kept herself precisely one step behind Itaru. “As I have no emotions, I cannot make a subjective determination on the subject, so I determined I could express joy by using my praise circuits and applauding you. How was it, Itaru-sama? Which best describes how you feel about my joy over your joke: 1. Wonderful. 2. You are a great doll. 3. I am the happiest person in the Tripartite Pact. …Those are all of your options. Which will it be?”
“4. You’re as awful as ever.”
“I am the same as ever?” she asked expressionlessly. “Tes. In other words, your feelings have numbed over at how unchangeably great I am.”
“You certainly are amazing.”
“Tes. Thank you for the compliment. Now, I have a suggestion. So that you can truly appreciate how great I am normally, how about I do a few horrible things to you for a while?”
“I could say awful things to you, do rude things to you, and cause trouble around you.”
“I have a feeling you already have those things covered.”
“Tes.” Sf nodded. “Of course I do. I am skilled at my job, after all.”
“You just answered on reflex without thinking what that meant, didn’t you!?”
Itaru stopped walking and turned to face Sf.
Even with the height difference of the step, he had to look down at the maid.
“Well, whatever. Any messages from the others?”
“Tes.” She tilted her head to clear her ears. “You have seven hundred and sixty five messages.”
“How long have those been piling up!?”
“You never asked about them, so, if my memory serves, since around August.”
“Read me the most recent ones.”
Sf tilted her head at the anger barely suppressed below his voice.
She stared expressionlessly up at his face.
“Itaru-sama, why do you look so angry? …Has something unpleasant happened?”
“Yes. You want to know what it was? Well, you know what?”
“The source of the unpleasantness? Right in front of me.”
“Tes.” Sf nodded. “So it was sentence fragments.”
Sf watched for about eight seconds as Itaru began beating on the railing with his metal cane.
Once he placed his hand on the railing and tried to catch his breath, she responded.
“First, it seems Shinjou-sama has gone to sleep in the medical room. This time, they say it is a normal sleep. She was carried to a bed and they are waiting for her to wake.”
“Well, she was fighting a concept. That will wear you out. …What else?”
“Sayama-sama has stopped the concept creation.”
Itaru straightened up and said something more.
“Then the world is going to change.”
“…? Itaru-sama, what do you mean? Sayama-sama stopped it.”
Itaru turned his back on her without answering.
He resumed his descent of the stairs and at a quicker pace than before.
Sf hurried after him by jumping down the few steps she had fallen behind.
She called out to him. Normally, he would have ignored it, but…
She heard him call back.
“What do you think is the true form of the Leviathan Road?”
“Tes.” She answered while stepping down the stairs. “To respond to the activation of the negative concepts, they will release the positive concepts to tune the world.”
“Then I have two questions.”
Itaru came to a stop.
“What did Mikoku do? And…what will happen now that she was stopped?”
Sf started to answer but never actually did.
As her thoughts and decisions grew in length, Itaru spoke.
“Mikoku understood and Sayama lost. He lost as the villain. He won the battle, but he lost the game. …At the very, very end, the Leviathan Road was stolen from him.”
He took a breath.
“The ending…is about to begin.”
- Yume means “admonition of life”.
- Another reading of the characters for Sadagiri.
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