Owari no Chronicle:Volume14 Chapter 18
Chapter 18: Feelings for a Voice
Is it reality or imagination that has reached you?
Grasp the answer using your own point of view
A pair of footsteps ran up a staircase filled by the morning sun.
They came from a boy and a girl and they were accompanied by words.
“Kaku! C’mon! Hurry up! The bell is going to ring! It’s the last day of the year-end festival, so the student council can’t miss the homeroom roll call two days in a row.”
“Hey, now. Who was it that took forever getting changed in the dorm room? You or me?”
Kazami blushed, grabbed Izumo’s hand, and pulled him along.
She then looked to the top of the stairs.
“Hurry. This might be our last homeroom.”
“I’d rather it wasn’t.”
Both of them held large bags.
The bags contained V-Sw and G-Sp2.
Kazami rested G-Sp2’s bag on her shoulder as if to better feel the weight in her arm.
“Once homeroom is over, let’s meet up with the others and go to Yokota Air Base. We should be able to get some detailed information on the situation there.”
The loss of everyone in Japanese UCAT was still unconfirmed.
Would they find the answer or not?
The two of them had called Harakawa and the others, but no one else had known anything either. It did seem Shinjou was safe, so Kazami hoped to learn more about that and the safety of the others after meeting up with Sayama and the rest.
Yokota seemed to be the place closest to the center of it all, so they hoped to gather information there.
That was why they would go there after meeting the others.
“After confirming what happened, I want to build my resolve.”
Kazami’s comment put a bitter smile on Izumo’s face.
She looked at him as if to say “What’s that for?” and he responded with the bitter smile intact.
“I see you’re playing this by ear.”
“Yeah. Adlibbing can be useful off the stage as well.”
As she said that, they reached the stairway landing.
They faced the hallway lined with classrooms. As they began running, 8:30 arrived.
It was time for homeroom.
The classroom was filled with students.
Some were speaking and a few were standing, but most were seated.
Sayama and Shinjou were in their school uniforms as they heard the bell ring.
Shinjou sat in the back and looked to both the teacher’s desk and the windowsill.
“Ooki-sensei and Harakawa-kun aren’t here.”
“Harakawa and Heo-kun are apparently on their way from Yokota. As for Ooki-sensei…who can say?”
Shinjou could not nod or shake her head to his question.
She said something else instead.
“I…hope she gets here.”
She then reached out her left hand toward Sayama’s seat on her left, took his right hand, and squeezed it.
He squeezed back.
They said nothing, but it was enough to calm her. So…
“What is it?”
“Once homeroom is over, let’s leave the school. We can meet up with the others and go to Yokota Air Base.”
“Yes,” he replied. “I was thinking the same thing.”
He squeezed her hand even tighter.
She glanced over and found him slowly looking across the classroom.
The class was waiting for homeroom.
All of their classmates were there.
In the seats toward the front, someone was silently looking forward with nothing to do.
Toward the hallway, someone was looking in a mirror and fixing her hair.
One was reading a book, one was listening to music, and one was chatting with someone in a nearby seat.
Sayama spoke quietly as he looked at them all.
“Everyone is fighting.”
Shinjou questioned what he said, but she received no response.
When he spoke, he mostly seemed to be confirming it with himself.
“I began the Leviathan Road because I wanted to get serious. But…as we discussed early this morning, it was probably only a matter of chance that the one thing I could get serious about was the Leviathan Road.”
He looked around again.
“Shinjou-kun, you for example can get serious about writing your novel instead of the Leviathan Road.”
“I-I’m serious about the Leviathan Road too, you know?”
Her quiet protest led him to nod without turning her way.
“That means you have two things you can get serious about.”
He gave a small smile.
“I am glad I had something. And I will try to believe that I will find plenty more from here on. …And that is thanks to you.”
He maintained his smile and spoke so only she could hear.
“Everyone must be the same. They want to get serious, they fight, and they gain whatever it is. In that way, while there are differences in what exactly we do, the two of us are no different from everyone else.”
He narrowed his eyes in a smile and finally turned that smile her way.
“And the same must be true of my other self.”
“Yes,” he said. “She inherited so many feelings and an entire world and this is the first thing she has gotten serious over. Do you understand what that means? Even inside Babel, my other self hid her true plan from me and never revealed her serious side. …She lost someone important to her and even stored up the power of the philosopher’s stone created for that person, so no matter who opposes her, she will continue with her unavoidable revolution of the world.”
“She is incredibly serious. Noah-kun is a weapon and not a companion, so in truth, she is supported only by her own seriousness.”
Sayama looked down slightly and spoke quietly as if imagining the girl he spoke of.
“She currently stands at the leading edge of every world’s emotion of loss and she herself lost someone important to her. She has cornered herself in that position, so she has bet everything on a means of overturning that loss. And yet creating a world of rebirth will also reject herself as a member of the world of destruction.”
“Then what are you going to do?”
“Beat some sense into her.”
His quiet declaration left Shinjou briefly dumbfounded and he closed his eyes.
“I am someone who lost some things yet did not lose some other things, but just like her, I too can get serious. That means we are the same. And I do not like her methods. I need no other reason to punch my other self.”
“If I do not, then her seriousness will win out. That is not a bad thing. After all, that conclusion would surpass my own seriousness. That would be a conclusion I could trust. And that is why I will abandon any expectations telling me I have an overwhelming disadvantage or I might be unable to turn this around. Instead, I want to do everything I am capable of doing.”
After a pause, Shinjou finally smiled bitterly.
Sayama gave her a puzzled look and she squeezed his hand before responding.
“You really can be childish sometimes.”
“Yes. Even I must admit it is truly adorable how I feel the need to lick certain things to see how they taste.”
“That’s not what I meant!!”
After checking to see if anyone else had heard that, Shinjou let her shoulders droop.
But without letting go of his hand, she added some inflection to her voice.
“I’ll go with you, you know?”
“I was counting on it, Shinjou-kun. Let us go punch that idiot together.”
He was expressionless, but she could sense a hint of a smile in it.
“And there are others who will help: Kazami, Izumo, the Hiba boy, Mikage-kun, Harakawa, and Heo-kun.”
“There are others too: American UCAT, the Gears who agree with us, and the surviv-…”
She trailed off before saying “the survivors from Japanese UCAT”.
She wondered what had happened to them.
Based on what she had heard of the Leviathan, she doubted the people they had mentioned were enough to put up a fight.
The enemy was much larger than a city and possessed the positive and negative powers of every Gear.
…Is there nothing we can do?
She decided not to ask that out loud and Sayama said nothing either.
This was the one incident he would not reassure her about.
She squeezed his hand again.
“The final battle is tomorrow, isn’t it? How about we search for the others until then? And how about we gather people to fight with us?”
“I was thinking the same thing, Shinjou-kun.” Sayama nodded. “Our opponent is large and serious, while we are small and serious. So it would be best if we could gather an equal amount of seriousness before facing them.”
“Right.” Shinjou nodded, squeezed his hand harder, and wondered if it was hopeless. “Let’s do everything we can.”
As she spoke, she looked to the empty teacher’s desk.
Another sound then drew her attention.
She heard static.
Everyone in the school recognized it because it always preceded the bell.
It pointed to a single fact.
“The final homeroom…”
It was beginning.
But the bell did not ring. Instead…
She heard the white noise that preceded a school-wide announcement.
“What is this?”
As soon as she asked her question, a voice escaped every speaker in the school.
Sayama braced himself for what was coming and listened with Shinjou to the voice coming from the speaker.
He heard a man’s voice.
He recognized the voice.
But, he wondered as the two of them exchanged a glance.
He gave a look of doubt and she gave a look of confusion.
Sayama’s question was eloquently answered by the speaker.
It provided the representation of a will known as words.
Kazami heard Itaru’s voice speak the same word again.
Izumo frowned in the next seat over.
“Hold on… We’re at school right now.”
She understood that. She really did.
But she also had a thought.
…What is going on?
That thought became a desire to learn more and she lifted her gaze.
She looked to the speaker uttering the man’s will.
Everyone around her was too confused to do anything.
Within the stillness, Kazami and Izumo listened to the voice continue.
Itaru’s voice began with the same word for the third time.
“The entirety of UCAT will now enter a state of emergency.”
Hiba and Harakawa raced along the school’s northern road with their partners riding along and they listened to the voice reaching them from the row of boy’s dormitories.
“These orders are made with the full authority of Team Leviathan Supervisor Ooshiro Itaru,” said the voice. “All UCAT members are to enter a state of emergency regarding the world.”
Sayama squeezed back Shinjou’s hand and listened to the scratchy voice reaching them through the speaker.
He made sure not to miss a single word or syllable.
“By the time you hear this, I doubt I will still be with you.”
He heard a bitter laugh.
“Make sure to rejoice about that.”
“You all stand at the end of the trend we created, so I’m sure all of you will stand up in my place.”
Heo placed her hands to her ears in the sidecar of Harakawa’s motorcycle.
She spread her hands to pick up the surrounding noise and the voice mixed into it all.
“It took sixty years to reach this point.”
There was a pause for a breath.
“It took ten years to change course here.”
Next to him, Kazami sank low in her desk, so he could tell she was focusing.
He feigned apathy, but as he rested his head on his hand, he kept his ear pointed toward the speaker.
“The ephemeral justice.”
Izumo muttered the same words.
“The compassionate villain.”
Harakawa drove his motorcycle to the north of the school buildings.
He approached a gravel path which increased the risk of the motorcycle slipping, but he squeezed the accelerator regardless.
If he slowed down here, he might be too late for something.
“Not to mention,” said the voice. “The reason, the emotion, and the bonds and intentions those things led to.”
Some self-deprecation could be heard in the voice.
“All of those things will be gathered in this worst case scenario. As ridiculous as it seems.”
Shinjou felt the strength of Sayama’s hand.
She felt heat and a beating pulse there.
So she nodded and looked in the same direction as him: toward the speaker producing Itaru’s words.
Itaru’s voice continued as if to respond to her gaze.
“Gather your strength. Let your wills cry out. That is what is needed now.”
The voice breathed in.
“After all, the past – including the last sixty years and the Concept War – is limited. If you wish for it, there will be much, much more to come. And you can only find it if you beat down the past and turn back toward it!”
“So at the very least…”
Mikage sank down in Hiba’s sidecar as she listened to the voice.
She looked up into the sky and saw no clouds there.
She felt like her soul could go anywhere today.
“At the very least, do not think of tomorrow as something that simply arrives.”
She heard what could be called a physical voice.
“Think of it as something you must take!”
Kazami listened to the voice of a man who had kept his distance from them for so long.
She did so.
“If you are going to reach out your hand, then express your will. If you do that, you will be promised whatever it is you can grasp. So express yourself. There is only one response here.”
He continued immediately.
“Answer me! Will you or will you not continue on ahead and become the leading edge of it all!?”
Kazami just about responded to Itaru’s words.
She doubted the rest of her class knew what this announcement was about.
Still, she knew what it meant to answer that question and there was a single word she had to say.
To do so, she reached for the bag sitting next to her desk.
But something happened just before pulling G-Sp2 from the bag.
“Are you going to answer me or not!?”
Kazami saw and heard it.
All around her, as far as she could see or hear, every single student stood up, reached into their desks or bags, and noisily pulled weapons out.
Shinjou and Sayama heard it.
Before the two of them could do anything, the others stood up, lifted white cowling weapons, and raised their voices.
Tes, tes, tes.
We make our testament here.
They all said it, their weapons produced metallic sounds, and they laughed at what they were doing.
Those without a concept weapon on hand ran to their lockers and pulled them out.
Those with a concept weapon looked at each other’s weapons with surprised looks of “you too?”
“What is going on?” asked Shinjou.
Everyone looked at everyone else and laughed awkwardly.
Shinjou realized she and Sayama were the only ones still seated and she heard rushing footsteps and voices all around.
She heard Sayama’s voice next to her.
He spat out his breath.
He laughed and stood.
He pulled on Shinjou’s hand to have her stand as well.
Still confused, she stood, looked around, and saw the others turning back toward them.
She saw their eyebrows lifted in powerful smiles and she saw Sayama smile back in the same way.
They all held different weapons and noisily prepared them, so…
Shinjou nodded back at them with her confusion becoming a bitter smile.
The next thing she knew, she heard footsteps and joyous shouts coming from the hallway and other classrooms. The same commotion could be heard from the ceiling and floor, so the same thing was happening on the third and first floors.
The rumbling coming from the hallway likely came from movement in the neighboring school building.
They were all the same.
They all raised their respective weapons.
“We’re all…together, aren’t we?”
Once Shinjou said that, someone in a white track suit suddenly opened the door and entered the classroom.
“Ah, is homeroom over already?”
It was Ooki.
Everyone turned around with shouts of surprise as Ooki brushed down her slightly disheveled hair, raised her attendance book, and looked around the room.
“Um, I’ll take attendance for the last homeroom of the year now.”
After a moment, surprise filled her face.
“Wh-why do you all have concept weapons!?”
“It took you that long to notice!?”
Everyone’s retort was soon followed by another question.
“Why are you alive!?”
“A-are you telling me to die!?”
“Wait,” said Sayama as he raised a hand to stop everyone and looked to Ooki. “Allow me sum it all up in a single question: where have you been, you tardy teacher?”
“Well….” Ooki scratched at her head. “Sf-san gave us an evacuation order straight from Itaru-san, so we all evacuated. But that took a lot of doing with 1st-Gear’s reservation and the 4th-Gear people.”
“Very good. All of that is acceptable. Continue.”
“Sayama-kun, are you making fun of me?”
“Of course not,” he replied. “I was praising you for having a proper explanation for once.”
“Yay! Sayama-kun praised me!”
Everyone gave her a look of shock, but she remained oblivious.
“Anyway, after we loaded the 1st-Gear reservation’s concept space creation device on a bicycle trailer and evacuated, it all blew up. And when we called for help, a whole bunch of police, firefighters, and JSDF showed up.”
“Ha ha ha. I suppose they would.”
Ooki gave a carefree bitter smile.
“Anyway, we couldn’t leave the concept space with all of them around, so we were stuck carrying the equipment all the way here.”
“I see, I see,” said Sayama as he nodded.
Shinjou realized he was going to say something soon, so she looked to Ooki.
But Ooki held her chest out proudly.
“I worked really hard. I clearly did a good job.”
“Yes, Ooki-sensei, you did work hard. You did a great job. …But I would like to ask why you never contacted us, you delinquent teacher. All of you have been missing since last night!”
“Eh?” Ooki frowned. “Was everyone worried? But Sibyl-san and Harakawa-kun’s mother were busy healing the wounded.”
“And what was a mere spectator like you doing?”
“Well… Odor-san and Diana-san said they were fine because they’d taken paid leave.”
“And why do you think you are on the same level as those inhuman people? And your paid leave has long since been used up thanks to your frequent tardiness, so do you have anything to say for yourself?”
It took five seconds, but Ooki finally found something to say.
Everyone sighed at her quiet apology.
“Well,” began someone as they all gave their thoughts at just about the same moment.
“I wouldn’t expect anything less of a superhuman that can coexist with roaches.”
“Who in the world let her be a teacher?”
“We’re never getting our final exams back, are we?”
“Wh-why are you all starting an anti-Ooki negative campaign!?”
“It’s not a negative campaign! We’re just telling the truth!!”
She flinched back from their unified response, but then Sayama sighed in her direction.
“Well, at least you are safe, Ooki-sensei. …Is your home okay?”
“It actually fell over.”
She sounded carefree, but everyone looked at her.
Shinjou knew that a tree spirit’s tree was equivalent to their own life.
…If it fell over, she must have taken a good bit of damage.
Shinjou glanced over at Sayama.
He nodded back, telling her to ask her question.
So she did just that.
“Are you okay, Ooki-sensei?”
“Yeah, I’m fine, I’m fine. The repair workers will fix the roots.”
Ooki was the same as ever. Or she seemed to be.
But then she scratched at her head.
“Although there is something I’m worried about.”
“Worried?” asked Shinjou. “If it’s something we can help with, just tell us.”
“Well…” Ooki kept scratching her head and slowly continued. “How should I put it? At the moment, I have no home, no clothes, and no money in the bank, so I was thinking of staying in the girl’s dorm for the time being. That would be fine, right? Right? It’s winter break. And once my home is standing again, I might like some volunteers to help fix all my toppled furniture. Also…”
Ooki continued with her true feelings on full display.
“I’d love it if someone could give their teacher a Christmas cake, a New Year’s meal, and a New Year’s gift.”
Shinjou and everyone else turned their back and ignored her, so Ooki raised her voice in protest.
That was when the courtyard grew noisy.
A shout came from outside the window.
Curious, Shinjou pulled on Sayama’s hand and ran to the window. She found a commotion leaving the courtyard and reaching the schoolyard.
“Everyone’s heading out!”
It went beyond that.
The group by the main gate was likely the people Ooki had brought. The UCAT members, Diana, the automatons, and the 4th-Gear residents were approaching the school buildings after leaving the concept space.
Everyone rushing out to greet them was a bearer of power.
That was why Shinjou squeezed Sayama’s hand.
“Let’s go with them! Let’s go to the power Itaru-san left for us!”
She and Sayama exchanged a look and a powerful nod.
“We can fight now. I’m sure of it!!”
She heard voices.
The voices no longer hid their strength and were confident that everyone was there.
Those voices never stopped reaching Shinjou’s ears.
A single person sat in the darkness while gathering and listening to the voices outside.
The broadcast room was a small room sticking out from the school building’s second floor.
The person sitting in front of the studio and mixer consoles and soaking in the joyous voices entering through the window was an automaton in a black maid outfit.
The letters “Sf” were stitched in the apron facing the window.
Sf looked to the tape recorder that was no longer running.
Its contents had already been released into the air.
“The will contained inside would deteriorate on a second playing.”
So she reached out and pulled the tape from the recorder.
She held it in her right hand and twisted her fingers.
She broke it.
Her gloved hand crushed and tore apart the wrapped magnetic tape and she tossed it aside.
She held her hands to her chest.
She embraced the straw doll there, looked to the fingers that had destroyed the tape, and turned her eyes toward the scene visible out the window.
She observed the students and others in the courtyard as well as the concept weapons glittering in the sunlight.
“Itaru-sama…where are you now?”
She hugged the straw doll.
“You said you are everywhere, so you asked that I trust you. And you asked that I carry Shinjou-sama here. But…”
Her expressionless words continued.
“Where are you?”
The tape, the doll, and the voices outside were all things that would not have existed without Itaru, but…
“I am an automaton. I have no imagination. I trust you, Itaru-sama, but even though you said you are everywhere…where are you?”
Her plain words were not a question.
Her tone was one of confirmation.
And she used that tone to speak clearly.
“You are everywhere and nowhere, so…”
She reached a single conclusion because she could not perceive his existence.
“You must actually be nowhere, Itaru-sama.”
She kept her legs together and her posture impeccable as she spoke.
Her dignified voice joined the joyous ones coming from all around and below.
“My name is Sf. I am the automaton with the name Sein Frau. That means I am the automaton who exists for that purpose. Therefore, I am to be more than a maid. I am to bear metal for flesh, reality for imagination, absence for existence, rejection for desire, and even speech for silence. But…”
She closed her eyes.
“You are my only master, Itaru-sama. I have determined as such. You always refused to see me as a maid and instead treated me as Sf, but also acted as the bearer of my tears. I cannot cry, but you always took that role in silence. And your final request for me was to live.”
She gave an expressionless nod.
She did not hesitate to continue.
“If that is what you wish.”
A moment later, she fulfilled her master’s request as she understood it.
She halted all of her functions.
She immediately came to a complete stop in order to immediately fulfill her master’s request.
Even in stopping, she proved her how well-made she was.
She shut down silently, with no shaking, defect, or excess heat.
As a doll, she stopped moving.
She simply remained seated with no perceivable expression on her face.
The reverberation of movement had completely left this doll.
Diana stared at the automaton that had become a mere doll.
“I’m starting to feel like my life is nothing but watching over people’s final moments.”
She walked down the broadcast room’s narrow corridor and moved behind what had been Sf.
Diana knew exactly what the doll’s expression would be.
“Sf, you were an excellent machine. After all…you lived as a machine.”
Diana gently embraced Sf’s neck from behind and hung her head.
Her lowered head hid her face behind her hair and that allowed her to ask her next question.
“Was being a machine what Itaru wanted? …Was it really? I happen to know the very first thing he said to you.”
Diana released a breath that could have been a laugh or a sob.
“He said ‘What is this? Is it supposed to be a replacement for someone?’, didn’t he?”
The doll said nothing, but Diana still spoke.
“You decided to remain a machine because you didn’t want to be someone’s replacement, didn’t you?”
She received no answer.
She only heard the voices from outside.
She heard the voices that had inherited the will Sf had carried here.
Sayama and the others loudly celebrated each other’s wellbeing now that they were reunited. Their loud voices proved that their wills were present.
They raised their voices as one.
That was a word of agreement, a word of a contract, and a holy word.
Diana raised her head and looked to Sf’s face.
She found an expressionless face with closed eyes.
It was Sf’s uniquely sharp face that was never influenced by anything.
“Yes.” Diana nodded. “Sf, you continue relying on Itaru.”
As if to let her hear the many voices reaching them, Diana deeply embraced Sf from behind and turned her slender body toward the window.
As if to store her deep in her heart, Diana pulled the slender frame close and spoke with a faint tremor in her voice.
She breathed in.
“You are an excellent machine that chose to rely on your master as the very reason for your existence.”
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