Owari no Chronicle:Volume14 Chapter 17
Chapter 17: A Dedication to Relief
Are you sure you want me?
You wouldn’t want me
That is not true
A long line cut across the land below the dark sky.
The illuminated westward-running line was a runway.
It was the western spare runway at Yokota Air Base.
Four people stood in front of the hangar located at one end.
They were two boys and two girls.
The boy with dark skin crossed his arms.
“Noah is sitting above Tokyo after turning into the Leviathan and we can’t contact anyone who was in Japanese UCAT. On top of that, our weapons can only stop the Leviathan temporarily and who knows if that will work again. …What are you planning, Hiba?”
He turned his sunglasses to face Hiba.
“The injury in your side has only been treated with first aid. I’m sure you had a reason to come here without even heading home, but shouldn’t you get treatment from the macho men in the medical room instead of calling just us here?”
Hiba scratched his head.
He let out a white breath with his eyebrows lowered a bit in a smile.
“Well, there’s something I wanted to show you first. I wanted to show just you and Heo-san.”
Heo tilted her head and lowered her eyebrows.
“Something you want to show us before you meet the macho men? It isn’t something perverted, is it?”
“Wh-what makes you think I’m a pervert!?”
Harakawa whispered into Heo’s ear.
“As hard as it is to believe, he isn’t aware of it, so try not to mention it. If you corner him, he probably really will do it. Keep in mind that this is the guy who took a hit to the crotch to make people laugh.”
“Oh, right. Testament. Understood. …I’ll try not to encourage him. It would make my teacher sad if one of us turned into a criminal.”
Heo forced a smile and looked back to Hiba.
“Wh-what is it you want to show us? I’m really looking forward to it.”
“I really feel like you have an ulterior motive when you say that…”
Hiba glared at her but then sighed. He turned to look at the girl with long black hair standing next to him.
“Well, I had us come here because of what happened to Japanese UCAT. There’s nowhere left to treat my wound, but also…”
“Mikage-san said she was worried everyone might be feeling a little hopeless.”
Hearing that name, Heo looked over and saw a slight smile on the other girl’s face.
“Mikage, do you not feel hopeless or like we’re completely outmatched?”
Mikage returned Heo’s gaze and tilted her head.
“The Leviathan is sad.”
Heo looked surprised and Mikage turned to the east.
Tokyo was there.
The lights of Yokota Air Base kept the dark of night away, but the sky above the city center was even brighter.
The end of the year was approaching and Mikage looked to the sky illuminated by the bright city below.
“The Leviathan is so big, but it’s alone with Mikoku.”
Mikage looked down where something was moving within Yokota Air Base.
They were inside the concept space surrounding the base, but the main eastern runway was filled with the aircraft carrying various UCAT representatives that had arrived through the concept space corridor and mechanical dragons from the United States.
The spare runway they stood on would eventually be used as an apron.
“We have everyone here,” said Mikage as she watched their movement.
“B-but,” cut in Heo. “The Leviathan’s power is absolute!”
“If you’re powerless does that mean you can’t fight back?”
Mikage asked her question while looking at them all and it stopped Heo.
Harakawa suddenly patted her shoulder and looked to both Mikage and Hiba.
“Let’s not act so self-important. Heo especially has learned to get lost in her worries. If she stumbles even a little, she’ll make a huge fuss and show off how hopeless things are while naked. …You could call it a sudden-onset self-obsession disease.”
“H-Harakawa, you don’t have to be so mean about it!”
Heo frantically looked around and found Hiba giving her a puzzled look.
“Wow… Is that like the person who complains about the school in their graduation essay and says how unfair they had it, but they don’t actually mean it and just want to show off?”
“N-no, that’s not what this is…”
“Well, when Heo starts pointing out problems like that, she’s bound to get other people involved,” said Harakawa. “And the first up to bat will definitely be me. I should probably evacuate to a nuclear shelter.”
“N-no, like I was saying…”
“A shelter?” asked Mikage. “Heo, are you as powerful as a nuclear weapon?”
“No, wait, um, uh…”
Thick sweat poured from Heo’s entire body.
“U-um, are we really still doing this? Are we still continuing with the usual hate that completely ignores the individual in question? Really?”
“Calm down, Heo Thunderson. We are not ignoring you.”
“H-Harakawa. R-really? You aren’t ignoring me?”
“No, we aren’t,” he said. “But don’t infect me with your brain disease, Heo Thunderson. I have a busy life.”
Hiba held out a hand to calm her.
Once she and Harakawa turned back his way, Hiba stood in front of Mikage.
“Anyway, whatever we might say, we’re the people who always end up fighting.”
“In other words, we’re dangerous people.”
“Harakawa-san, the way you know just when to take the shot is an art.”
Heo nodded in agreement and Mikage placed her hands on Hiba’s shoulders.
She then looked to Heo.
“Heo, you have a will, don’t you?”
Heo hesitated and turned to Harakawa.
He averted his gaze and looked up into the sky.
“How about you answer on instinct like you always do?”
Hearing that, Heo sighed and looked to Mikage.
“Yes, I have a will.”
She directed her answer toward Mikage’s eyes and Mikage looked right back into her eyes.
“Then…let’s go hear the Leviathan and Mikoku’s cries.”
“Before, you said people should cry when they want to, so let’s go hear it head-on. We’re the only ones that can do that. We’re the only ones that can grab their hand as they try to sweep everything away.”
“But,” said Heo. “Can our power reach the Leviathan?”
“It can,” confirmed Hiba. “At the very least, the two of us can.”
Heo glanced over at Harakawa.
“Harakawa, in weekly manga, isn’t it always the first one to declare victory that loses?”
“Shh. It’s true the short ones and huge ones get taken out first, but don’t say it loud enough for him to hear. We’ve finally got him back in the usual pattern, after all.”
“Wh-what are you two saying!?” Hiba sounded completely confused. “T-Team Leviathan doesn’t have someone to be the ‘opening act’ for that kind of pattern!”
Harakawa and Heo looked away from Hiba for a full five seconds.
Afterwards, Harakawa patted Heo’s shoulder and she gathered her strength with her head lowered.
For the second time that day, she worked to force a smile.
“U-um, what is this power that you and Mikage have?”
“Is it just me or have you decided you don’t need to take me seriously?”
“Th-that isn’t true. We haven’t at all decided we can just ignore you or look away from you!”
“Y-you do that all the time! You all need to treat me in a way that I can accept! If you do that, then I’m fine being looked down on like a mere animal! Can’t you find a way to make me feel more motivated!? Y’know, like how you would treat a puppy!”
Heo and Harakawa clearly wanted to ask him if he would really be fine with that, but then Mikage pressed up against him from behind.
“If I do this, can you tell how big they are?”
“You’re the best, Mikage-san! I’m absolutely brimming with meaningless motivation!! …Hey, you two! Stop looking at me like I’m a pathetic animal!”
“I don’t really care, so can we move this along, Hiba Ryuuji?”
“Yes.” Hiba maintained his good mood. “At the very least, I’m looking at our power in a different way now.”
“Looking at it in a different way?”
“That’s what I’m about to show you. …At the very least, it should be different than it was when we fought the Leviathan earlier. And…”
As he took a breath, Mikage opened her mouth and looked to Heo.
“Even if all of our power can’t reach it, the power Ryuuji-kun and I have might be able to. …Is this what you call hope? Or is it hopeless?”
“They do say nothing is as hopeless as hope with an uncertain future.”
Harakawa’s comment made Mikage smile.
“Then nothing is as hopeful as hopelessness with a definite future. That means we’ll be fine,” she said. “I think you two and the others have all overlooked something and still have something you can do. We’re about to show you an example.”
Hearing that, Heo took a hurried step forward.
“You’re about to? Um, then shouldn’t you call the others, too?”
“They might get caught in the middle of it if we did. And…”
Mikage closed her eyes.
“You’ll understand once you see it.”
A moment later, Mikage and Hiba spread their arms and cried out in unison.
She was sitting on the floor and wearing a track suit.
She was in the living room and it was already five in the morning.
…Why do we have to have a family meeting now of all times?
The idiot next to her had caused this, but she was also at fault for going along with it.
Thus, she could only bow down to her father who sat in front of her.
She apologized whenever he said anything to her and she used up all of the apologies in her vocabulary.
I’m so very sorry.
I am ever so sorry.
Please forgive me.
Forgive me, okay?
C’mon, I’m telling you to forgive me.
Forgive me already.
Just forgive me.
I’m. Telling. You. To. Forgive. Me.
“I-I’m starting to feel like I’m the one being scolded here!”
“Oh, sorry. I got a little carried away.”
Kazami bowed again and finally reached over to slam Izumo’s forehead into the floor.
Meanwhile, her mother approached.
Kazami slowly looked up and saw her mother handing her father a plate with steam rising from it.
She also saw what was sitting on that white plate.
“Ah! That’s the fried rice I was planning to make!”
“This used up all the rice.”
“Have you learned your lesson?”
Kazami felt the hunger in her stomach.
At some point, her mother had grabbed a fan that she used to fan at the fried rice.
…Nwaah! That pepper and cooked fish paste smells so good!
“This is delicious!” said her father. “Your fried rice is so good, mama!!”
“Stoooop! There’s a difference between punishment and bullying!”
She could not help but complain and her mother looked over at her.
The woman lowered her shoulders.
“You know what?”
Next to her, Izumo spoke up while wearing a track suit he had borrowed from her father.
“W-wait a second!”
He bowed his own head this time.
“This was my fault for getting carried away! It wasn’t Chisato’s fault at all!”
Kazami was a little surprised.
“K-Kaku. I’m actually kind of moved.”
“Don’t act like it’s never happened before. …But it doesn’t really matter. It really was my fault.”
Kazami’s father nodded while eating the fried rice.
“But Chisato went along with it, so she is somewhat at fault, Izumo-kun.”
Izumo’s head shot up when he heard that.
His expression was serious, but it immediately crumbled.
“Yeah, I guess you’re right.”
You moron, thought Kazami as she raised a fist, but she stopped when her mother cleared her throat.
Izumo had shrunk away from her fist, but he looked back to the two adults.
“Still, I don’t think it could be helped.”
“Well,” he began. “If I wasn’t with her, Chisato would’ve started crying.”
“Why would she do that?”
“There’s been some…hard stuff at work.” Izumo chose his words carefully. “Some coworkers might be dead.”
He looked back down toward Kazami’s parents.
He gave them a troubled smile as if seeing how they would respond.
“She’d cry if she was on her own, right? That’s why I had to be with her.”
When she heard that, Kazami swung down her raised fist.
She lightly tapped his shoulder with it.
She did so a few more times.
“D-don’t assume you know what I’ll do. I hate that.”
But he did not seem to mind. He kept his eyes on her parents.
When she stopped moving her arm and lifted her head to look at her parents, she found them looking back at her.
She was not sure what to do about their narrowed eyes and she felt her cheeks growing redder and redder.
“Wh-what’s with all of you?”
“Well,” began her father while scooping more fried rice into his mouth. “I just realized that you’ll always need to rely on someone.”
She bent back as if someone had shot her.
…I can’t stand this.
Is no one going to stick up for my honor? Please come quickly, hero.
But after no one showed up even after asking thrice, she straightened back up.
“I-I’m not relying on anyone. Kaku, y-you need to stop making up excuses for yourself!”
Izumo looked at her with a perfectly serious expression.
“You’re super cute right now, Chisato.”
Without speaking a word, she knocked him to the ground.
Oh, I think this actually made for a decent change of pace, she thought as she did so.
Sayama and Shinjou sat side by side on the bed.
They had their backs to the wall and they spoke about the current situation and Shinjou’s novel.
In the darkness, their words brought each other relief and brought smiles to their faces. Heat still remained in their bodies.
Shinjou had put on a shirt.
After they finished talking about the novel’s protagonist, Sayama said something more.
“It was good. I want you to write much, much more, Shinjou-kun. Are you going to be an author?”
“I don’t think it would be that easy to become one.”
“But if you do not go easy on yourself about becoming one, I think you can become one.”
“Is that how it works?” she asked before gulping and laughing.
Sayama tilted his head at the laugh and she bent her eyes in a smile.
“I was thinking I could continue making novels about you and the things that happen around us. That would end being a lifework, wouldn’t it?”
Her small smile continued to grow.
“So I’m glad I’m alive and I want to defeat the Leviathan. Otherwise, I can’t write about what you do afterwards.”
She heard Sayama say “I see” and saw him lean back against the wall.
“If you will write about me, that could help me out, too.”
After a while, he brushed a hand through his hair and said more.
“Just between the two of us, I do not actually have anything like your novel.”
Dumbfounded, Shinjou could only hear his quiet words ringing in her ears.
“Izumo has IAI, Kazami has her singing, the Hiba boy has the Hiba School, Mikage-kun has the many joys she will find in the human world, Harakawa has his precious everyday life, and Heo-kun apparently wants to be a teacher.”
This early morning space shared only by the two of them may have been making him more talkative.
He spoke of what his teammates had.
It may have sounded cheap to call them “dreams”, but they were what allowed those people to get serious.
Shinjou watched Sayama speak of their teammates’ futures, but then he closed his eyes.
“Do you understand? I can get serious when I need to, but the Leviathan Road was given to me by my grandfather and all I am doing is settling the past my grandfather and father left behind. Once that is over, I will still be able to get serious, but I will have nothing left but the work directly before me. I can only think of one other thing I could have.”
“Yes, perhaps I can get serious about loving you.”
Even as she said that, she wondered what would happen if he did get serious about that. She could not imagine what a Leviathan Road level of loving would be.
But when he opened his eyes, he was expressionless. It was the usual expressionless look, but…
Noticing that, she took his hand and opened her mouth.
“Don’t worry. We can work together to find what comes after the Leviathan Road.”
That may have sounded a little too vague because he did not turn toward her.
Regardless, she created even more words.
“If the world is able to continue…then let’s continue seriously negotiating and fighting while we search.”
He still did not look her way.
“Do you really think anything on the level of the Leviathan Road will happen? I cannot imagine it would.”
Her immediate answer finally got him to turn toward her.
The surprise in his eyes asked if she was serious, but she did not falter.
She was confident that he was not someone that would be stopped here.
No matter how he viewed himself, she had absolute confidence in that fact.
…I even have proof.
She felt she should tell him. He had revealed his own thoughts, so she wanted to answer in kind.
So she brought a hand to her chest and commanded her heart to speak honestly.
“Sayama-kun, are you less than your grandfather or father?”
“Something…something so nonsensical could never be true.”
He made that very clear, so she used his words and tone against him.
“Your grandfather had the ten-against-one Concept War and your father stood up against the world that contained the other ten worlds. And since you’re higher than either of them, there has to be something for you, doesn’t there? This world must contain a war of your own that you cannot win without getting serious.”
“Isn’t that the Leviathan Road?”
She smiled at that.
“Who was it that said that was only settling the past? That’s only something your grandfather and father left behind. Didn’t you say a while back that it was forced onto you? This isn’t what you were originally meant to do.”
“You’ll find something if you’re serious about it. In other words, as long as you hope for a stage on which to negotiate, fight, and do perverted things, you’re sure to find something on the same level as the Leviathan Road.”
“Did you slip an insult into the middle of that wonderful statement?”
…Did I? But I don’t remember saying anything inaccurate.
After he thought for a bit, he looked away from her and spoke.
“Will you…help me find that stage?”
She had long since known the answer to that question.
She nodded, grabbed his hand, and turned him toward her.
“Yes. I’m a little worried about the perverted part, though. …B-but it isn’t just me. If you’re serious about it, I think everyone will gather around you and help you.”
“All of those things you said they have? If you hadn’t been serious, they would have lost them or never gotten them in the first place. I never could have made my novel without you and I was only able to seriously pursue my past because you were with me. So helping you get serious is the same thing as improving the things we have.”
“You make me sound like a leader.”
“You’re the ruler of the universe, aren’t you? And a god too.”
“Oh? Are you finally willing to admit it?”
Sayama’s usual tone of voice was back.
Shinjou looked over and found him looking at her. His expression was much calmer and more peaceful than before.
She returned his gaze and realized the same expression appeared on her own face.
“Are you feeling better? You don’t need to worry, Sayama-kun. You may not have noticed it yourself, but when you get serious, people gather around you and accomplish something. Something very, very big. If not…I never would have written about you.”
She nodded as she spoke.
She plainly explained the source of the confidence allowing her to push him forward like this.
“I was the first one touched by your serious side and I gained the most from it, so I should know.”
“Then,” he said. “What am I supposed to do?”
“Anything. It’ll be fine whatever you do. But for the moment…let’s make sure the world can continue on.”
She took a breath.
“After that, you can look at the world and decide how you want it to be. And if you’re serious about it, then we’ll help you. Once you get serious, you never give up and you do everything you can to accomplish whatever it is, so it’ll be worth helping.”
“Then I will undoubtedly end up the ruler of the entire world.”
He sounded somewhat amused but also somehow serious.
Finally, a bit of a smile escaped to his lips and he nodded.
“Thank you, Shinjou-kun. …You are right. I thought what I had inherited was everything, so I may have forgotten to search for what comes after that. I thought I had nothing, so I did not even notice I had forgotten that I only have to try to find something for myself.”
He suddenly added one more thing as if to sum it all up.
“So let us end it all.”
“I will end what I have inherited and find my own battle within the fights and negotiations beyond that. …I will find something I can only find if I am serious. I will find my own Leviathan Road that requires the help of many people. And I will find it as many times as it takes. Yes…if my father and grandfather destroyed eleven worlds, then I will find even more battles than that. And…”
Shinjou heard him sigh. It was a sigh of relief.
“At the very end, I suppose the two of us shall become gods.”
“Wh-why are you stopping me? Isn’t that the most natural plan for our future?”
The idiot next to her blatantly feigned confusion and looked up at her in surprise.
“Or are you saying you have already walked down that path as you are already a butt god!?”
“No, that isn’t it. Um…”
She thought for a moment but then changed her mind.
…Since he’s back to his usual self, is it over now?
She doubted he was going to speak his heart anymore for the moment. Someday, at the end of some major incident, he might tell her more about what they had discussed.
But she was also happy he had said “the two of us”.
“I really am glad I’m alive…and that I’m with you.”
“So am I. It is so early in the morning and I have already gotten so many wonderful birthday presents. First I was reunited with you, then we confirmed each other’s presence, and…”
“You helped me realize what I should do from now on.”
The emotion she felt in his tone filled her yet again with surprise.
She was surprised that he had been so worried about what would come after the Leviathan Road.
…He seems so almighty, but he’s actually pretty withdrawn in some ways.
He had the ability to wish for so very much, but he would hesitate because he did not know whether he should wish for it. That was especially true when it would involve other people.
No one else knows about this side of him, she thought. I hope I can learn even more about this side of him.
He looked at her and tilted his head a little.
“By the way, how did you get here? The door was locked when I got here, so what exactly happened? Add in what happened to the others, and there are so many questions left.”
He could not find an answer to any of those questions, but Shinjou smiled with the ends of her eyebrows lowered.
“I can’t say anything about the others.”
After seeming to think about what she meant, he asked another question.
“Then do you know how you got here?”
She had a single answer.
“Yes,” she said with a nod. “I do.”
Sayama saw Shinjou nod while sitting on his suit.
“I figured it out earlier. Can you look by the pillow?”
He did as he was told.
The suit and books were scattered around by the pillow, but he moved them out of the way.
He turned his back on her and prepared to remove the suit.
“Oh, you left a bite mark on my suit.”
“W-wah! I-I’ll pay for it, so forgive me!”
“It cost about seven hundred thousand, you know?”
She fell silent for a while before answering.
“Can I take out a thirty year loan for it?”
“Are you planning to buy a house?”
He smiled bitterly and dug down toward the bed. It was too dark to see what was there, but he could feel something small. They only felt like scraps.
Only after asking did he realize what it meant. There was someone in Japanese UCAT who carried around a straw item.
“Sf-kun? It is true she could unlock and relock the door without the key.”
“Yes.” Shinjou gave a weak nod and presented more evidence. “You said before that something fired from below UCAT, right? Itaru-san knew what was down there, so I think it must have been him. But if so…that means Sf-san left him to take me here. And…”
“What about the others? She might have only taken me away.”
They could not even contact Ooshiro at the moment.
The worry in Shinjou’s voice came from her understanding of the current situation.
So Sayama looked back to tell her it would be okay.
He found her standing on her knees in the center of the bed.
Without bothering to hide the unease on her face, she exposed her shirt-wearing form to the dark blue light coming from the window.
“Can you keep me from being afraid?”
She had tied back her hair at some point.
She had used his red necktie instead of her usual ribbon.
But even with her hair tied back, she lightly grabbed the bottom of her shirt.
“Um…? I changed earlier.”
Lifting the shirt a little did not reveal Sadame’s body.
She lowered her head and blushed, but her eyes looked directly to Sayama.
“Will you…check on me to the very end? And will you keep me from being afraid?”
He knew exactly how to answer her. First, he nodded.
“Do not worry.”
He moved toward her, took her hand, pulled her close, wrapped his arms around her, and held her tight.
“Let us both do so to keep away the fear, Shinjou-kun.”
Sayama loosely crossed his legs and placed Shinjou on his lap.
He stroked her shirt which fell from her shoulders and gathered around her waist.
When she looked back at him, he placed his lips on hers and touched her body.
He moved from her chest to her armpits and he lowered his fingers down her sides like her ribs were a musical instrument.
He continued down from her sides.
He stuck his right hand below her shirt and wrapped his left arm around her body.
He spread his own legs a little to spread Shinjou’s legs on top of them.
“Wait, S-Sayama-kun. My stomach and below are defenseless.”
“If they were defended, I could do nothing. What would you have me do then?”
“You’re a poet in the most meaningless way.”
Sayama thought about that.
“Should I create a better mood?”
“What kind of mood?”
“The kind you like.”
She thought about that for a moment.
She thought even more on that and turned a smile his way.
“If you say you’re going to use the joystick and two buttons to enter rapid-fire mode, I really will hit you.”
“Ha ha ha. What are you talking about? We have to start by inserting a coin and pressing the start button.”
“What is that supposed to represent!?”
She protested, so he was not sure what to do.
Creating the proper mood was quite difficult.
But it was also fun, so he thought as hard as he could and finally found a good idea.
“Now, to begin with…”
“You certainly are hasty.”
“Yeah, I know things are most dangerous when you pretend to actually think about it. It’s best to hit the cancel button immediately.”
“What on earth are you talking about? I was only going to advise that we release your extra ships to lower the difficulty.”
“What if you miscount the number of extra ships and get game over! I’ll turn off the game!”
But Sayama shook his head because he already had a solution.
“If that happens, I will insert another coin for a continue.”
“I prefer to win on a single coin, even at home.”
“In other words, you prefer to play this game outside in the arcade?”
Shinjou slowly turned toward him with a smile.
“If you say it’s a reverse-import from the home version that uses a 360 degree rotating machine, I’ll hit you.”
“Ha ha ha. I am perfectly fine playing the crane game.”
He touched her and she trembled a bit.
“Ah… S-stop. If you touch me like that, I’ll…”
“Hmm. It seems my machine has a weak arm. I need to grab on better!”
“What exactly are you treating as the prize!?”
But as she trembled, he lay back on the bed.
That caused her to lean back on top of him.
He kept his arms around her on either side and he further spread the legs bent under her.
“S-stop. The bottom of my shirt is pulling up. You can see everything below my navel…”
“Not to worry, Shinjou-kun. Just a little further.”
“Just a little further and what?”
“We will earn a full power up for your normal shot. Would you like a beam?”
…Strange. I thought she liked video games.
I wonder why, he thought before realizing the answer.
Is it because this is a shooting game?
“In other words, your weak punch is about to become an unbeatable super dragon fist.”
“Y-you don’t have to talk anymore.”
And so he fell silent.
He touched her in silence.
He rubbed her in silence and he moved in silence.
“Ah, w-wait. Sayama-kun. No, not without saying anything!”
“You tell me to stay quiet, but then you are mean to me when I stay quiet?”
“S-sorry, so, um…”
“Or should I do what you did before? Accept it all with my mouth?”
“N-no. You’re not allowed to do that. Th-that’s for me to do.”
“Yes. Yes. That’s right. That’s how it works.”
“Understood.” Sayama nodded in understanding and spoke in his most charming voice. “At any rate, I think it is about time for you to launch your bomber.”
“Have you noticed that the bomber gauge just rapidly fell?”
“You really do have harsh ups and downs, don’t you?”
But despite what she said, her body seemed to be heating up. As he continued, a tremor ran through her body.
“Ah, u-um, Sayama-kun!? I-I…I’m not Sadame right now?”
“But you are still Shinjou-kun.”
He raised his right knee a little to further lift her hips.
“As long as it is you, nothing else matters.”
After he touched and rubbed her more strongly, she kissed him and her body shook.
The surging sensation left Shinjou.
She breathed out and her body sank into a deep sense of relief, but then Sayama touched her again.
“Ah, S-Sayama-kun. …I-I don’t get any invincibility after a death, so you’re going to use up all my extra lives!”
“Shinjou-kun, calm down.”
“R-really? We’re not doing that joke anymore?”
“No.” He nodded. “In my mind, we were playing best to three.”
“That’s the problem!?”
Meanwhile, she was lifted up. No, Sayama collapsed to the left below her and bent even further forward.
His momentum bent her forward with him.
He slipped his face and shoulder below her left cheek.
She was lying on his left arm and his left hand started touching her.
A moan escaped her lips and she bent further forward.
That was when his right hand touched her from behind.
She gave a start.
“U-um? Are you sure? Are you really sure? You aren’t going to regret this? Are you okay? Is your brain working properly?”
“Calm down, Shinjou-kun. I want to check on you, so of course I will be doing this.”
She hung her head at that and felt the heat in her face growing.
“It hasn’t even been a year since I met you, so…um…”
She tried to avoid the issue.
“We’re still in the warranty period, so you can keep going even if you find a manufacturing defect.”
“Not to worry, Shinjou-kun.”
“Really?” She asked
“Yes,” he confirmed. “Machines these days are guaranteed not to break for the first two years.”
“Don’t make it sound like I’m going to break in two years!”
“Ha ha ha. Then I will not hold back.”
She cried out but immediately suppressed her voice.
He checked her with both hands. He rubbed her and massaged her. She tried to bear with it and endure it, but he refused to stop.
She did not know what it meant when he stuck out his right middle finger, but she greedily brought her lips in close, wrapped her tongue around the finger, and licked it. She brought it into her mouth as if to swallow it just like she had done to him before.
After he rubbed his finger through her mouth and even along the back of her teeth, he pulled it out and slid it toward her back.
“Eh? I-in my butt?”
Before she could finish asking, his finger slipped inside.
It was so sudden that she gasped and tried to bear with it, but to his licked finger, it was only light resistance and there was no stopping it.
His finger made it past the gentle resistance and slipped on in as he varied the speed.
By the time the sensation washed over her for the second time, she had lifted her butt up high on the guidance of his finger.
Her face-down body was covered in sweat, she was gasping for breath, and her chest was pressed against the suit below her.
She removed the shirt wrapped around the back of her waist and threw it away.
After brushing her hair out of the way, she pulled a pillow close and embraced it below her chin.
She was on her knees with her waist lifted high, so she tried to look back.
“Ah, w-wait, Sayama-kun! Don’t kiss my butt!”
“I am only doing the same thing I did to Sadame-kun.”
He treated it the same way.
Brief cries kept escaping her and she brought her knees together to fight it, but it was no use.
Her skin was damp with sweat and a finger or tongue could warmly slip past it even if she pressed that skin together.
“N-no, Sayama-kun. It’s going inside!”
Aiming for the instant she relaxed her strength, he spread her legs again.
She could feel the wet finger and tongue deep inside her, but she decided to give herself over to it.
That was when she noticed his face between her legs.
He turned to the side and gently bit her.
What he had done and the slight pain it gave her caused her to lose control.
As a tremor ran through her, everything she had been holding back spilled out and was caught in a third handkerchief.
A “hyah” escaped her and her body went limp.
“D-don’t do that…”
“Hm. That seemed a little too powerful. I need to remember that as a surefire strategy.”
She kicked him.
She seemed to have hit him in the solar plexus so she turned toward his slight painful groan.
“You need to watch out for the boss character’s motionless attacks, okay? Honestly.”
“I-I am glad to see you are the same as always.”
After he caught his breath, he continued.
“Will you…show me?”
After a pause, she responded.
She lifted her butt back up, exposed everything to him, and let a warm breath escape her lungs.
“What do you think?”
He got back up, looked at her, and answered.
“You are eroundic, Shinjou-kun.”
“You’re saying that again?”
She smiled a little and spread her knees some more to see him between them.
“W-will everything work out? Will we be able to make a baby?”
“If so, I will have only one thing to say: congratulations.”
Hearing that, bitterness filled her smile and she held the pillow close while still looking at Sayama.
“Then…you can do it.”
“I can check on you?”
“Yes. …Will you?”
She narrowed her eyes.
“I never even dreamed that someone would check on me to the very end.”
“This is not a dream. It is all real. After all, it was in your novel, too.”
That made her sweat even more and the heat reached her ears.
“Th-th-th-th-th-th-that was, u-um, uh, just me writing what I thought would make the best story.”
“No, Shinjou-kun. That is not what you should say here.”
She then remembered what the novel’s heroine had said at the end of this sort of scene.
She altered the line she had written for her purposes.
“Here, this is my…this is Setsu’s birthday present for you.”
She bent her waist and lifted her defenselessness for him to see.
“And in exchange, will you let me check on you to the very, very end as your present to me?”
“Yes, I will give you myself as a present while I take you as one. All of you.”
As if to show his agreement, he made her words a reality.
His fingers dug into her skin as he held her into place. After that sensation confirmed his presence, the two of them checked on each other.
They did so slowly but thoroughly.
Shinjou was dreaming.
Her sleeping body felt the warmth and strength of his hands, so she knew this was a dozing dream.
The dream was made of the color white.
White light filled the place and a glowing pillar rose into the sky.
She looked up toward the heavens and saw a giant object on its side like a white cloud.
The pillar of light before her was in the center, but there were four more pillars in the four corners of the heavens.
When she looked down, she realized two things.
Her vision was situated lower than it normally was and someone was sitting in front of her.
It was her mother wearing white.
She had some gray in her hair and she had grown a little thin.
She sat on a clump of sand that looked like stone and she was out of breath, but she was smiling toward Shinjou.
Shinjou realized her mother could no longer walk.
And she realized something else too.
…This is the past.
It was when Top-Gear had been destroyed and when she had left her mother.
She sensed someone on either side of her. They were likely Sayama’s parents.
But, she thought.
…Baku isn’t here today.
She was only sleeping next to Sayama, yet she was having a dream of the past.
…Oh, this is one of my forgotten memories, isn’t it?
So she watched these events of the past, of her and her mother.
Her past self, not even half her current age, spoke.
“Let’s go together!”
Her younger self pleaded, but her mother shook her head while still smiling.
She wants to go, understood Shinjou. But she can’t.
But her younger self did not understand. She ran the short distance to her mother and pulled on her hand.
“Let’s go! Let’s go!!”
Still, her mother did not move and could not move.
Out of the corner of her eye, she saw her mother hang her head and shed some tears.
Her younger vision was soon filled by her mother’s chest.
Her mother had hugged her.
Her younger self hugged back.
Yes, she thought. I must have known what I wanted couldn’t happen.
Even so, the younger Shinjou raised her crying voice. She breathed in and spoke weakly.
“Let’s go! I won’t be picky anymore! I’ll go to sleep at my bedtime! I won’t say it’s your fault when dad doesn’t come home at night and I won’t cry about my body. I’ll be good! I’ll always be good from now on, so…”
She raised her voice.
Her mother said nothing and only squeezed her tight.
As if to accept her child’s tears, she breathed heavily which shook her body and finally…
Her mother breathed in but could not catch her breath properly. Still, the younger Shinjou heard her speak.
“Do you care for your mother?”
“Yes! I do,” she said. “Y’know what? You know the clothes you made for me before? I said they weren’t like the ones the boys wore at kindergarten and I tore them apart and I said I didn’t like them, but I was actually so…so happy I got them… When you made me new clothes, I couldn’t say I liked the old ones better and I really wanted to cry…and I said I didn’t like them, but…”
“Yes.” Her mother nodded. “I understand. You really liked that white dress, didn’t you? …You were just embarrassed and thought you had to do that in front of the others, didn’t you?”
“Yes.” The younger Shinjou nodded. “Also, when we got in a fight when I knocked over that cup…I refused to eat the food you made.”
She breathed in.
“Make it again… I’ll eat it! I’ll really eat it this time! I’ll be good!”
Her mother did not respond. She only patted on her back to comfort her.
Yes, thought Shinjou Hold onto her.
…That will tell her how much you care and how much you love her.
She heard her mother’s voice.
“Don’t worry. No matter how much you said you didn’t like us and got into fights with us, your dad and I both knew that you actually cared about us and loved us. We know you’re a good kid.”
“Really,” answered her mother. The woman breathed in and continued in a shaky voice. “Really. After all, you always called us mom and dad. …And those people you called mom and dad? We understand. Even if you say you don’t like what we give you, get into fights with us, or don’t eat what we fix for you, we know that deep down you remember and care about us and what we do for you.”
She took a breath.
“And we’re the same, you know? No matter what comes between us, we care about you and love you the most. You might get into fights with us, refuse to eat our food, and rip up or give back what we give you, but we really do understand that you care for us.”
Her mother nodded and Shinjou could feel the movement.
“It’s okay if you rip up your clothes. You were happy when you got them, weren’t you? And you usually eat all of the food we make, don’t you? I know that, so it’s okay. And before, you painted your nails to copy me and they made fun of you at kindergarten, didn’t they?”
“When I got home…I got mad at you…”
“It is? Why? I said I hated you!”
“You know what? I’m happy just knowing you tried to copy me and that you’re with me. Just because they made fun of your painted nails doesn’t mean you don’t want to be like me anymore, it doesn’t mean you don’t want to be with me anymore, and it doesn’t mean you really do hate me, right?” She heard a bitter laugh.
“If your friends hadn’t made fun of you, you would have kept wearing that dress and painting your nails, right? And if you hadn’t spilled that water, you would have eaten that food, right? Your initial happiness would have stayed, right?”
“See? Then if nothing had happened, you would have still cared for us the same, right? It was only because of what happened that you got angry and said you hated me, but I know perfectly well that you wouldn’t grow to hate us over something like that. After all, you were so happy. Nothing anyone says can change what a good kid you are.”
“There might be misunderstandings, but that isn’t enough to fool me. I’ve been watching you from the very beginning, so don’t worry. …I only stopped making that kind of clothing or painting your nails because I wanted you to be happy without being made fun of. That’s better, right?”
“I know that you really were happy. But because you were made fun of and had those misunderstandings, I did some studying and chose a method that wouldn’t let that happen. So I made those new clothes for you just like I made that dress. …I didn’t think the old one was better.”
“But…I liked the first one better…”
“I see.” Her mother laughed and lightly patted her back. “Then from now on you can choose to wear that kind. It was a white dress with a red necktie, wasn’t it? If you can wear that and hold your head high even if someone makes fun of you, then I’ll be glad I made that dress. …I’ll know you really care about the clothing I made for you.”
“Yes. I know. We like a lot of the same things.”
Her mother embraced her long hair and brushed her hands through it.
“Yes, you are a lot like your mother. Like your hair. And…”
Her mother lightly patted her back.
She hugged her as if to tell her this was the last time.
Her younger self breathed in and her embracing arms practically clung to her mother.
Their breathing aligned and they nodded.
They both moved a bit apart and looked each other in the eye from close range.
“You don’t have to copy me even when I cry.”
“You copied me!”
“I guess you win this round.”
Her mother smiled bitterly. She briefly glanced at the two behind Shinjou but immediately turned back.
“No matter what happens from now on, you can trust in one thing. And if you remember anything bad you did to us or you want to tell us something when we’re not there, you can trust in this one thing. You can trust that we will always care for you no matter what.”
She took a breath before continuing.
“And you can also trust that no matter what you do, we’ll always be on your side. We will never betray you.”
When her mother narrowed her eyes in a smile, some tears spilled out.
“If you trust in that, you will always be able to reach us even if we’re not with you.”
“Don’t worry,” said her mother. “Eventually, you’ll find someone other than us you care for. You’ll find someone who you can trust will always care for you and love you no matter what you say and even if you act like you hate them.”
“N-no, I won’t! I have this body…and everyone always makes fun of me!”
“You will.” Her mother gave her another light hug. “I did and your dad did, and that’s why you were born.”
“Really. So trust that our feelings for each other will never change no matter what, that we’re always listening to your voice, that we’re always rooting for you even if you can’t see us, and…”
She breathed in, moved away, and smiled.
“That you will be like us one day.”
“Will I…? Really!?”
“You will. I’m sure there’s someone waiting for you that will care for you just like we do.”
“Will that person-…?”
“They will not make fun of you. Even if you try to pull away, they will tell you that you are wrong, they will support you, they will always be by your side, and they will accept you in your entirety. And you will want to support them, too.”
“You can go now, can’t you? No matter where you go, we’re watching over you. Even if you can’t meet us, we know what you’re thinking. But if you do want an answer…”
She placed a hand on her chest.
“Remember that song. That special song we sing to celebrate.”
“Yes. You remember that song I taught you, don’t you? …When you remember that, you will be singing with me in your heart. And when you do that, you will be with me.”
“That song will lead you to your own precious person.”
Her mother said she was going to sing.
“Don’t forget. This song is the proof of our connection. The song I taught you is inside you, so even if I’m not with you, you still have proof that we’re connected.”
“It’s the song I taught you, isn’t it? Even if I’m not there, it won’t disappear, will it?”
“You’ll be inside me…telling me you’re there?”
“Yes.” Her mother moved completely away and placed her hands on Shinjou’s shoulders. “Don’t worry. When you sing it, we’ll be with you. Even if we’re not there, we won’t disappear and we’ll sing with you.”
“So if anything happens, make sure to sing. When you’re happy, sad, angry, disheartened, or want to celebrate, just sing that song and we’ll be with you. We’ll rejoice with you, cry with you…or just be by your side.”
“Tell us all sorts of things, okay? Tell us what you’re doing and what you’re thinking. And…if you find someone you care for, sing to tell us. Tell us the holy child has found someone they love and care for. Make sure to tell us you’ve found someone who will be with you like we are. …When you do that, we’ll be happiest of all.”
“You’ll be happy?”
“Yes. You’ll have gone out and found someone on your own. You had us with you from the start, but this will be someone you chose yourself and let hear your song.”
“If I find someone like that, will you and dad celebrate?”
“Yes. We’ll sing with you. …And I’m sure that precious person will celebrate with us.”
When younger Shinjou nodded, her mother straightened her back and opened her mouth.
“Okay, Satsu-chan, it’s time to sing.”
Her younger self spoke to her mother.
“I’ll definitely, definitely see you again, won’t I?”
“Yes. If you trust in us and search for us, you should realize that we’ll always be together.”
Her younger self did not understand what that meant, but she still nodded and trusted it.
“Then sing, mom. I’ll listen…I’ll listen while I go. So…so don’t stop, okay? Make sure…make sure you keep singing!”
Her mother nodded again and opened her mouth. Her younger self opened her mouth, too.
As the destructive light grew stronger, her younger self followed her mother’s lead and began to sing.
They sang the first verse. By the time they sang the second verse, she could hear other voices behind her.
The two behind her were both awkwardly joining in the best they could.
Her mother briefly stopped singing and spoke to the younger Shinjou.
“Those people will take you with them. They will take you to the world of my song.”
She looked back and the two brightly backlit people nodded.
“Mom,” she said. “Thank you. I love you.”
“Thank you too, Satsu-chan. And I love you too.”
They both smiled, shed tears, and wiped the tears away.
“Don’t worry. I’ll keep singing forever. Even if you can’t hear me, I’ll definitely be singing in your heart. If you’re ever feeling hopeless, just remember that and sing with me.”
After hearing that, her younger self moved back and began walking.
Her mother looked to her and resumed singing. She nodded and heard the song even as she moved away.
Oh, thought Shinjou. My mom is inside this song.
As long as she could hear the song, her mother was there and watching over her.
If she sang the song, her mother would be with her.
As she ran, she could only hear the voice.
She looked back and saw her mother was indeed looking at her.
She could hear the song. She was running. When she looked back, her mother was looking at her. Her mother was waving at her while singing. Her mother was probably waving at her even when she did not look back.
She was glad she had looked back, but it would have been fine even if she had not.
“Do not worry,” said the man running alongside her. “You will definitely meet your mother and father again.”
That’s right, she agreed. The fact that this world exists means my parents and I are always together. I can be with them by singing.
As she ran and looked back, her mother grew more distant and eventually could not be seen beyond the light.
She almost stopped running once her mother was out of sight, but something pushed her onward.
It was a song.
She could hear the song. She could always hear it as if it remained in her ears.
The song pushed her toward the world where she could meet her parents again and where someone even more important awaited her.
Would that person be with her? If she wore the kind of clothes she liked and painted her nails, would they say it looked good on her? Even if she got into fights with them, said she hated them, or rejected what they gave her, would they trust that she actually cared for and loved them?
If she copied her mother and cooked for them, would they eat it like her father did for her mother?
If she ever stumbled or cried, would they tell her she was wrong, tell her it would be okay, and support her?
And would she want to support them and be with them?
…I want to see them.
Her parents would always be with her and there was no need to check on anything there, so she was perfectly fine. But even so, she wanted to meet that precious person.
She wanted to sing with the person who would listen to her song.
Even if she could not hear her mother’s voice, the song her mother had taught her would remain inside her.
This is what told me this, she thought.
…It told me everything will be fine whether I look back or not.
They both understood everything they wanted to say, so everything would be fine even if they were apart.
At the moment, she heard her mother’s actual voice.
Yes, she thought again. My mom’s voice is definitely in this song.
In her memories, whenever she had remembered the one song that had stayed with her, she had heard a voice not her own.
She had always thought it was her own voice.
…But it wasn’t.
The voice providing the lyrics ahead of time when she sang had been her mother’s.
She traveled to Top-Gear, met my dad, and sent me away, but she’s always stayed with me in this song and she makes sure I hear her whenever something happens.
Shinjou remembered how she had constantly sung this song.
Whenever she had felt alone, lonely, or sad, she had sung it.
…But that was what I promised my mom. I promised to tell her whenever something happened.
White light filled her dream.
She could not tell if the world was ending or if the dream was ending, but she still heard the singing voice she had inherited from her mother.
That song proved they were together.
No matter what happened, her parents would be on her side and they understood she cared for them no matter what she might say or do. Even if they were no longer there or she wanted to apologize for something, it would all be okay and she could rest easy because they understood without being told.
This song of absolute relief contained her parents’ wills. She had inherited it and it stayed with her.
What would happen if she sang that song and tried to reach someone with it?
…Would it get through to them?
Would they know that she wanted to be with them?
And she had indeed sung that song when she met that precious person.
…Did he understand?
She had sung for the boy who had saved her and borrowed her lap in that Okutama forest.
A month and a half before, he had come to meet her after being delayed by nine years and two minutes.
When he had saved her again, she had lent him her lap again and sang for him again.
Had that reached her parents as her mother had promised?
Had they heard that she had met someone she cared for just as they had hoped? And in a white dress no less?
It was because she knew they cared that she could leave her parents without issue, but then she had continued on so she could be with the person she had come to care for on her own.
I’m so spoiled, she thought. I already have parents who say they care for me and watch over me, but I still chose someone else I care for and he responded to my feelings.
How spoiled can I be?
They had held hands and sent their thoughts to her parents in front of the shrine at the Tamiya house, but she now knew her thoughts had been reaching them long before that.
She then spoke to the mother who had seen her off with a song, the parents still watching over her, and the precious person who was by her side now.
She held a hand in her own.
Just before waking, she held the hand of the precious person she had chosen herself.
She held it tight and refused to let go.
The morning sun began to rise.
It rose in the east and sent shadows stretching across the streets.
But those shadows were thinner in one place.
There were long runways there.
Those runways were in Yokota Air Base of Fussa in western Tokyo.
Inside the concept space, the eastern three thousand meter runway was being used while the secondary runways to the west and north were not in use.
In the hangar beside the runways, the maintenance and modification of mechanical dragons and fighters continued at a quick pace.
Even in the cold air, the light of welding and the sounds of drills continued without rest.
A bus arrived.
The base was large, so the bus carried personnel around.
Most of those disembarking in front of the hangar were a new shift of workers who were working throughout the night.
Those men in blue work uniforms exchanged greetings while some continued with the leftover work, others exchanged information to pass the work off to the new shift, and others ran off to grab some materials.
A worker from the morning shift approached the storage building next to the hangar.
He had to get a forklift to carry the special-ordered parts of a mechanical dragon.
He started toward the parking hangar alongside the secondary runway, thinking his favorite forklift was there.
On the way, he met a member of the group who had been working through the night.
“Hey,” he said in greeting. “I hear things are getting tough. Can we still not reach the colonel and the others?”
“No,” replied the colleague as he adjusted his work hat. “Same with the major. The other higher ups are managing the coordination with the States for now, but with only a substitute commander, this place might as well be a parking lot.”
“Do you think they’re alive?”
“I’ll bet you five bucks.”
“On which side?”
The man thought before nodding.
“Do you know why no one’s searching for the colonel, the major, or that German inspector?”
“They put in for paid leave before heading to Japanese UCAT.”
“Then this isn’t a very good bet.”
They both smiled bitterly.
“I’m sure they’re alive.”
“So am I. if they’re not…what then? That Leviathan is apparently sitting there above Shinjuku. …They put me to sleep with a forced injection kiss when I wanted to join the attack last night, but that thing’s Babel, right? There’s nothing we can do without the colonel and the others.”
He frowned as he spoke and the other man nodded.
“It’ll be tough even for them. Apparently not even Concept Core weapons work on it.”
“Then it’s all over, isn’t it? By tomorrow, they’ll have created the positive concepts inside the Leviathan and the world will change, right?”
“That’s why everyone’s working so quickly.”
“Can we fight it?”
He sounded doubtful and the other man tilted his head a bit while holding the brim of his work hat.
“I don’t know. Or rather, I do know, but I don’t want to know.”
“But,” he said. “We’re still going to do it.”
“That’s the wrong question. We’re going to do it.”
He patted his shoulder.
“You have good luck. You’ll get to see it before even getting to work. …You’ll understand just how frighteningly made this world is. Even if you try to run away, a faint bit of hope will follow you around and lure you into hell.”
“Hm? What are you talking about?”
“It’s simple,” said the other man. “It’s like the worst kind of woman. Even when you know it’s hopeless, you still end up thinking it might work out.”
With that said, the man walked off.
The worker watched him leave but then sighed.
He recalled the gravity of the situation as explained over the base’s radio and he circled to the side of the hangar.
His heart was heavy.
If the Concept Core weapons did not work, the mechanical dragons they were working on would not work either.
Before getting to work, he thought about distracting himself by making a spinning turn with the forklift on the apron of the secondary runway.
He often played around like that when unpleasant things happened.
The world would change on the 25th. In that case, this might be his last chance to do this trick.
But he suddenly realized something.
…I’m pretty sure this isn’t that guy’s post.
Then why did he come from here? he wondered as he arrived on the side of the hangar.
He saw something there.
“What the heck?”
The secondary runway should have been there.
The runway was two thousand meters long, but that long strip of asphalt was gone.
A deep, two hundred meter mark was left in its place.
“Something tore up the entire runway?”
It was a canyon four hundred meters wide and over two kilometers long.
Some kind of powerful strike had burned the grass, melted the crust, and left its mark there.
“Oh, come on.”
He trembled from something other than the chilly morning air and let out a white breath.
“Now I can’t have any fun with the forklift.”
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