Owari no Chronicle:Volume14 Chapter 3
Chapter 3: In the Direction You Are Headed
Please wish for your power
Please get ready
The mountainous region was being destroyed.
The sounds of breaking came from the running and shooting of four-legged mechanical beasts.
They were American UCAT’s blue mechanical dragons and they made their way through the forest and mountains.
The twelve of them were split into groups of three as they ran west through the eastern Mount Ikoma region.
They were transforming models, but they were set up and equipped with a focus on close-quarters combat.
Twelve others in the air had the opposite settings and they were engaging Alex in battle.
They had not yet made it past the mid-section of the mountains.
Mechanical dragons would normally fly down from the sky to fight on land, but they could be shot down by the dolls’ high-flying arrows if they flew past the mid-section.
Also, the entrance to Top-Gear’s concept space had been set to the east. If they tried to enter from any other direction, the change to their string vibration would be too great and they would be unable to enter.
The closest area to Babel that allowed for a stable string vibration was on the eastern side, so they had determined the route across the mountains was a trap set by Top-Gear.
Still, they had to cross the mountains, so Japanese UCAT had broken through.
And American UCAT was supporting them.
They attacked the enemies pursuing Japanese UCAT and guarded the route to and back from Babel.
They had considered using long-distance cruise missiles, but Alex and Tatsumi could shoot down any flying objects and the missiles would only provide localized destruction due to the conceptual protection placed across the battlefield.
The most effective method was pushing through on the surface and the mechanical dragons did just that.
The four groups of three began their forest-crushing charge from the position the vanguard had desperately reached.
One of those four groups was further ahead than the others.
That group travelled along the cleared path Japanese UCAT had created in the forest.
With the mechanical dragons out front, they rushed straight forward at an average speed of sixty kilometers per hour.
They were focused on speed.
The dragons’ front armor was sturdy, but it broke away as stones and arrows were thrown or fired faster than sound.
The other three groups moved through the forest at an average speed of around twenty kilometers per hour both to draw the enemy’s attention and to create a path.
But the speedier group using the train track did not worry about its own destruction.
The three dragons formed a rotation, so whenever the front-most dragon’s damage reached a certain level, another one would take its place.
They were followed by a high-mobility unit riding armored cars and modified motorcycles.
There was no road, only the stomped down earth.
Visibility was poor this late at night.
They raced onwards through a downpour of enemy attacks.
But they had a reason for going to all this trouble.
A motorcycle was following their unit and a girl was clinging to it.
Her short blonde hair shook with the motorcycle’s movements and her arms were wrapped around the waist of the boy driving it.
“H-Harakawa! I think you’re breaking the speed limit!! This is illegal!”
“Listen, Heo. Do you see a speed limit posted in these mountains?”
A moment later, the motorcycle tore into some rocks and hopped into the air.
Harakawa lifted the front wheel and balanced the vehicle. He also swung his head to avoid an arrow flying in from the forest to their side.
“We need to get there soon. Those idiots decided to take a train here for their school trip even though there isn’t a station anywhere.”
They resumed their charge forward as soon as they landed.
Heo bounced up from the back seat, but Harakawa did not look back.
He simply sent the motorcycle forward while throwing dirt behind them.
Armored cars and motorcycles covered them on either side, to the front, and behind.
The mechanical dragons in the lead did not slow.
Harakawa suddenly sensed movement in the forest.
There was a presence there.
The dolls were running through the forest and they pressed in on the air as they approached.
Based on the amount of wind, there had to be a large army of them. The dolls meant for the other mechanical dragons had to have been sent here, too.
One of the motorcycle drivers behind them spoke.
“Dammit!! They’re all after us!”
“Yeah,” said the man in the passenger/gunner seat of an armored car. “This shows they know what really matters.”
They aimed their weapons toward the wall of wind pressing in from the left and right and they glanced toward Heo.
“That’s right. What really matters is a love of little girls!!”
“Wh-when did America become so influenced by Japan!?”
“Didn’t I tell you, Heo Thunderson? It’s contagious.”
However, the overwhelming pressure in the air rapidly approached.
The mechanical dragons ahead of Harakawa slowed down when they noticed, but they would not be able to turn around in time.
The swelling of the air seemed to surround the back end of the unit.
“Here they come!!”
Harakawa saw them “spill out”.
They did not simply “appear”.
White-skinned dolls poured from the edge of the forest as if they were being pushed out.
But that was not all.
From the sides and up above, the charging and flying dolls came from the darkness in triple digit numbers.
There were enough of them to blanket the area.
But Harakawa heard gunfire from close by.
Most of it was directed towards the dolls flying from the sky or charging in at them.
However, the bullets could only hold them back. Even if a lucky shot snapped or crushed the wires, others would crush their fellow dolls underfoot and keep coming.
And what were they after?
“Protect the inspector!!” someone shouted.
All of the armored cars and motorcycles pressed in toward Harakawa’s motorcycle.
He raced forward with the machine’s full acceleration and the others moved along with him as if using their speed to evade.
Heo spoke up while clinging to Harakawa’s waist.
“Wh-why are they doing this for me?” She was half in tears. “I don’t have any power right now!”
Harakawa did not respond.
That was for the others to answer.
“You have no power?” said one man while taking an arrow to the right shoulder. “That’s not true. It’s not. And…”
“Yeah,” said someone else while his motorcycle hopped up from the vibration of the rough ground. “Can’t we be your power, American UCAT Inspector?”
They all attacked.
They all fortified their defenses.
They all continued racing forward.
They all strengthened their resolve.
They all began to yell.
“There’s one thing we refused to get rid of during the Revolutionary War.”
“Oh, I know what that is. The idea of ‘ladies first’, right?”
“So let’s show her our strength, boys.”
“These out-of-place wooden ladies are approaching our princess.”
“And being a wall is a bodyguard’s job.”
“We don’t ask for any previous experience. The only qualities you need to work for our escort service is a body that won’t let a magnum round through.”
“Hey,” one of them shouted to Harakawa while spraying bullets everywhere. “Hurry! Getting her to the battlefield isn’t our job. Neither is taking her hand for the dance on the battlefield!”
Harakawa did not reply.
He simply sped up.
The wall of dolls on either side was thinning out.
…Can we lose them?
The surrounding men slowly spread out.
They were holding their positions and telling him and Heo to continue on.
He responded by twisting the accelerator as far as it would go.
Immediately, he felt Heo trembling behind him.
Something arrived at the same time as her voice.
With no wind this time, many more dolls spilled from the forest on the left and right
The previous dolls had been a diversion. They had put pressure on them all to push Harakawa and Heo out ahead.
And these new dolls had been lying in wait for them.
The men tried to rush back in after having spread out, but the dolls would not allow it. They pursued and fired arrows to hold the men in place.
Meanwhile, the new group spilled out between the mechanical dragons and Harakawa’s motorcycle.
Their joints clattered as they slowly but immediately ran out.
The dolls rushed in and their relative speeds quickly eliminated the distance between them.
Harakawa did not have time to pull out his rifle.
Heo quietly called for Thunder Fellow, but nothing appeared.
Harakawa heard her shout.
For the first time in a while, she was speaking from her heart and it seemed to control the movements of the attack.
“Someone…someone please let me through!!”
The dignified ring of her voice seemed to break through the wind and Harakawa saw her request being answered.
The dolls rushing in from either side up ahead were blasted into the sky.
He widened his eyes in surprise and a few motorcycles pulled up alongside his own.
He and Heo looked back.
“Is that Japan’s high-mobility company that was sent in after us!?”
Heo looked to them.
They were from western Japan and the concept space’s only entrance was to the east, so they had been late to arrive.
They spread out to protect American UCAT’s motorcycles and armored cars.
Heo noticed they all had mohawks, wore hockey masks, or were tattooed skinheads. More than just off-road motorcycles, they also rode buggies and three-wheeled bikes.
They fired wooden arrows from their bow guns and burned the dolls with flamethrowers powered by natural fuel.
One of the mohawked men stood on his motorcycle and thrust out his chest.
“Tottori UCAT’s Sand Dune Regiment at your service!”
“Oh!” shouted all the newcomers in agreement.
“The year is 2005! The power of depopulation is shrinking our prefecture and the number of pachinko parlors is growing!”
“But the mohawks and bike shops have not died out!”
More dolls appeared to oppose them, but the maids were swept away as soon as the men focused on them.
Wondering what had happened, Heo saw several figures running through the darkness.
Men wearing mountain-climbing armored uniforms threw reinforcing charms around their bodies to catch up to the motorcycles. They were all leaning forward and running.
“We are Shizuoka UCAT’s Fuji Regiment. This mountain is nothing compared to the Sea of Trees. How about we clear a path for you?”
More men ran up from behind them.
“You morons from Shizuoka! Mount Fuji belongs to our Yamanashi!”
“What are you talking about? Sacred Mount Fuji belongs to all of Japan. …Even if it is too contaminated to become a world heritage site.”
Even though they said it themselves, the men from Shizuoka and Yamanashi UCAT gave disappointed sighs.
Heo spoke to them while bouncing up from the motorcycle.
“Hmmm? What is it, missss? I can’t hear youuuu- gefah!”
After a mohawked man punched that hockey mask man, another man turned her way with a helmet that draped decorative cloth over his shoulders.
With his sharp gaze turned her way, he stuck a hand in his pocket.
“Um, I am the commander of the Sand Dune Regiment. Um, this is my business card. If you, well, look in the corner, you can see the glow-in-the-dark skull, right? Cute, isn’t it? …Anyway, um, do you have any business for…no, do you have a request for us, American Inspector.”
“Eh? Um, uh.”
The men repeated the man’s shout.
“N-no, not that.”
“Men, not that!!”
“Ah, no, p-please wait a bit!!”
“Men, slam on the brakes just a bit!!”
“Slamming on the braaaaakes!”
“N-no!!” shouted Heo.
Once they fell silent, she then looked across them.
They all silently ran, threw dolls through the air, burnt them, tore into them, did other things to them, and yet continued looking directly at her.
And she finally said what she needed to say.
“Thank you for your cooperation.”
“Please do whatever you can.”
She lowered her head in a bow and received a single response.
They all moved forward.
“Hyahaaahhh! Let’s go, you bastards!”
The motorcycles and armored cars had become a metal cavalry and they raced up the mountain as if pulled by the mechanical dragons.
The speeding men accelerated even further.
Even as they smashed stone, sent dirt spraying upwards, and continued their rampage through the night, Heo felt like they were somehow supporting her heart.
“Harakawa… Do you go on motorcycle rampages like this a lot?”
“This is a special case, Heo Thunderson. This is on the level of the movie Mad☆Max.”
“Oh, I wasn’t allowed to see that because it was a ‘delinquent movie’.”
The wind seemed to carry Heo through the battle.
She could see the way ahead.
Past the mechanical dragons, she saw the mountain peak, the ridge, and the night sky.
Their destination was close.
But then she saw a pale light descending from the sky.
It collided with the ground directly in front of the dragons.
Heo was not the only one to see what happened next.
They all saw the dragon in the lead fly several dozen meters into the air.
A single strike had done that.
The sound came afterwards: the twisting of metal and someone’s shouted voice.
Six white wings spread out in the center of her vision.
A white giant stared down the other two mechanical dragons and a girl stood on its shoulder.
The first dragon fell from the sky.
It tried to brace for the impact, but the twisted backbone of its frame would not allow it.
The girl on the god of war’s shoulder looked down at the blue dragon as its back crashed into the earth.
“A valiant effort,” she said. “But it’s too late. Can’t you see it? Can’t you hear it?”
She waved a hand toward the heavens and the giant shadowy tower rising into the night sky.
But the shadows were vanishing.
“It’s covered in light!”
“Yes,” said the girl on Typhon’s shoulder. “Can’t you feel it? Babel is activating as Noah!!”
Those words were followed by a great noise.
It sounded like the shattering of glass stretched out to eternity.
It grew higher in pitch and quickly left the audible range, but light was created in response.
Light raced across the tower like veins on a leaf.
The blue light pulsated.
The pattern of light was imperfect and there were gaps in places.
A voice could be heard behind the glowing tower.
“Twenty-five more minutes. Once that light fills in, Noah will fully activate and the concept creation will be complete. And once the resurrection philosopher’s stone is complete, Shino will be brought back to life…and who knows what will happen to the world. Maybe people will begin to fight over that power.”
“We won’t let you-…”
“You don’t have to let us. …We will make sure we can. And what’s wrong with bringing a single girl back to life? I think that’s enough to justify driving the world insane. And if you disagree…”
Her voice rang out.
“Then how about we get started?”
Sayama ran through the forest.
It was a dark forest. Instead of a conifer forest created through afforestation, it was a broadleaf forest native to the country.
The broad leaves almost entirely hid the sky, but the glimpses of the sky he could see were filled with light.
This was not starlight or moonlight.
Blue pulsating light ascended as if pushing back the darkness of the sky.
…The light of Babel, hm?
“According to the report I received, it should fully activate in about another twenty…one minutes.”
A voice responded when he spoke his thoughts aloud.
It was #8 who ran alongside him in her maid uniform with four long coolers floating around her.
“I have determined the world would begin to fight over a resurrection philosopher’s stone. And Sayama-sama…”
A few other maids ran with her and Sayama realized she was looking his way.
He understood why.
“Are you curious about Georgius?”
She nodded and looked away.
He wore the left and right Georgiuses on his hands.
The gauntlets were glowing. A blue light surrounded the “+” chip on the back of one and a red light surrounded the “-” chip on the back of the other.
The light pulsated with the same timing as the light on Babel’s surface.
The shattering glass sound coming from Babel caused Georgius itself to vibrate just a bit.
…Are they calling each other so they can synchronize?
As he wondered that, dolls appeared from the forest on the right.
They responded with neither attack nor defense.
#8 simply raised her hand.
One of the maids holding guns and blades responded to the small gesture.
With a bow, she grabbed her skirt and moved boldly toward the dozen or so dolls.
That was all the maids did to fight back.
Gunfire and explosions shook the air behind them.
“Are you not going to let me see their efforts, #8-kun?”
“Think of it as cleaning up the battlefield, Sayama-sama. While our master is taking an enjoyable hike in the mountains, we happened across some trash, so we are disposing of it such that it will not spoil the view for our master.”
“And will your master, oblivious to your efforts, comment that the mountain is so clean and beautiful?”
“Testament. I have determined that we need nothing more than to see our master’s good mood. Any job to that end is not work. Just like preparing food, it is a necessary action.”
#8 smiled, but she did not look at him.
She instead raised her left hand toward the enemy wind approaching from the left.
“We were originally meant to help people in their everyday lives. Specifically, 3rd-Gear’s people.”
Sayama noticed a slight pause in her words.
He decided she had to be calling out to the others over their shared memory.
And then her voice began again without ever stopping her forward movement.
“But what can I say? 3rd-Gear was destroyed in a way that erased its skies, its land, and even its history with not even dust remaining. The next thing we knew, we were messing with machines below the earth of the lowest Gear.”
She raised both hands.
The last two maids accompanying her bowed and leaped toward the forest on the left and right.
However, she showed no concern.
“I have determined that maintaining one’s existence truly is a ‘battle’.”
“Yes. Maintaining one’s existence is a never-ending battle against the question of ‘what to do now?’ That is my interpretation of the current situation.”
She asked the empty air, her fellow maids, and Sayama a question.
“What do you think? Do you enjoy this constant battle of not knowing what the future holds?”
“Then as we automatons try to maintain our existence, we will rejoice in this battle and its enjoyment, amusement, and pleasure. I am able to determine that, even without emotions, dolls are born to fight in this excellent battle.”
Sayama heard her call his name.
At the same time, the end of the forest came into view.
The bright night could be seen beyond the darkness.
That brightness came from the moonlight, the starlight, and…
“Sayama-sama,” called #8 again. “Do you enjoy not knowing what the future holds?”
He did not answer her question.
There was only one thing on his mind: Shinjou as she fought her fatal wound back at UCAT.
Could he say he enjoyed not knowing whether she would survive?
But #8 said more.
She seemed to be changing the subject.
“Would you enjoy losing here without gaining any kind of future?”
That question gave him a few different thoughts and he spoke the greatest of those.
“Thank you, #8-kun.”
She had moved out ahead and he could only see her back, but he still spoke to her as he ran.
He clenched both fists.
“I have recovered a little bit.”
“I have emotionlessly determined that is a delightful thing, Sayama-sama.”
“Yes, that is right. If we do not win here and end this, I will not be able to see Shinjou-kun again either way. And…”
He sighed before continuing.
“Even if she does die, Shinjou-kun will still be wonderful.”
“Testament. I have determined you treat life and death equally.”
“Thank you,” he said.
He knew why #8 was concerned. He had received a report on the way here.
Ooki had told him that the name “Mikoku” had yet to be removed from Shinjou’s wound.
Tsukuyomi had tried to cut it with an exorcising blade and to crush it with a barrier, but nothing had worked.
They had considered cutting it with 2nd-Gear’s Concept Core, but Shinjou’s life would not last long enough for them to retrieve it and return.
Diana had apparently joined the surgery, but they had made no progress.
Even with the help of the development department and the world’s most powerful witch, there was nothing they could do.
Still, he could only leave it to them. He did not know how they could remove the life-carving concept, but he could only trust in them.
He had to fight here, so that was not his territory.
…Do not worry.
He trusted that Shinjou was fighting too.
According to the transmission records, her heartrate had been dropping, but that had suddenly improved, even if just a little. They suspected that her will was trying to fight back against the concept restraining her.
That would not heal her, but it would buy some time.
He urged her to keep fighting, but held that thought in his heart and spoke to #8.
“It seems I was worrying you.”
“Think nothing of it. A doll soothes those crying fearfully in the night by being held in their arms, but an automaton takes a more active role.”
She may have been hesitant to continue because she lowered her head a bit.
“It simply seems you do not wish that of us.”
“That is because I have Shinjou-kun.”
“Then…could we act as a replacement for Shinjou-sama?”
“You could not.” He replied immediately, breathed in, and saw the forest’s exit growing larger. “There is only one Shinjou-kun. Just like there is only one of each of you. None of you can replace any of the others. And if you could replace each other…then wouldn’t everyone be the same and wouldn’t things be a lot less interesting?”
She gave a powerful but small nod.
At the same time, they ran out into the moonlight.
And on that grassy field, they saw…
#8 looked up at it, but Sayama did not.
It was here yet not here.
They had entered the concept space in which Babel existed. Instead of a mere shadow, it was now a solid tower.
“So that is the ark skewered into the earth!”
#8 turned toward his voice and spoke.
“Running an acoustic scan of its surface.” She spent one second in expressionless thought. “There is a single open entrance. I wonder why.”
“Because I am their guest,” said Sayama. “They are letting me in. I would have done the same thing. This is a battle between Low-Gear and Top-Gear, after all.”
“But they are not you. They are-…”
“They are the same.”
He ran up alongside her.
The tower rising into the sky revealed its white form. They were about two hundred meters away.
“She and I are the same. She has chosen life and is thus working to create an undying world while I have chosen death and am thus working to create a desperate world. That is the only difference between us.”
#8’s expression briefly vanished as she turned toward his words, but she soon smiled.
“You are ‘only’ creating different worlds? …How are you feeling right now?”
He thought, but chose the following words:
“It is true I have stopped crying.”
Now he only had something else.
“I have brought an end to the tears and am wondering just one thing: what to do now?”
For some reason, #8’s expression softened at that and he saw her hang her head a bit.
But she soon faced forward and away from him.
Noise reached them almost immediately.
It came from the forest.
Humanoid shapes poured from the entirety of the forest surrounding the field.
It was like a wave, like a fog.
The sound was the clattering of their joints and their speed was swift.
Dolls approached while displaying all kinds of hostility, so Sayama spoke.
“#8-kun, you break through and then return. I can shake free of them if they pursue me because I have memorized the general layout of Babel’s interior. So you go on, #8-kun. I will be fine.”
He heard her produce single word and a slight laugh as she turned back toward him.
“Were you unable to predict that answer because you do not know what the future holds?’
“Yes. …It was most enjoyable.”
“Then let me tell you what will happen,” she said. “I will protect this place. I will protect the mansion my master is visiting. I will hold off the poorly-trained guard dogs attempting to pursue him into the mansion.”
He no longer objected to her words and he said something else instead as he ran.
“I appreciate it.”
“Testament. I have determined I am very glad to hear it. …And we just passed twenty minutes until Noah fully activates. Please do your very best during the next nineteen minutes.”
With those words, she turned around. She circled around him to face behind him while keeping her back to him and her face away from him.
She grabbed her skirt, spun around, and whipped up the wind with the returning heel of her pumps.
Meanwhile, Sayama accelerated toward Babel and toward the open and waiting entrance.
#8 brought her legs to a stop while picking up running footsteps with her hearing devices.
The Sayama ringing in her devices was still not his usual self.
But, she determined. There is more to humans than the hardware.
…They also have a will.
“So…he will be fine.”
She then faced forward.
Dolls rushed in from the front…no, from every direction. They were remotely controlled with some level of autonomous support and they wielded bows and blades.
They were all pursing Sayama.
“I have determined they are the enemy.”
She glanced through them and immediately swung both arms.
The components of two American heavy machineguns appeared from up her sleeves and below her apron.
The weapons instantly came together and floated below her hands.
However, the rushing dolls were not deterred by that.
They were prepared to trample #8 and continue after Sayama even if a few of them were destroyed in the process.
Their racing footsteps shook the earth without end.
But #8 gave a shout.
With those words, the lids flew from the coolers floating next to her.
The contents stood up and out of the coolers.
They were automatons and there were two to a box.
Counting #8, there were now nine of them.
They all prepared heavy machineguns, anti-tank guns, and bazookas in both hands.
“We will protect you!”
Countless handguns and knives floated up into the air once they were built and cocked.
Each automaton had a heavy firearm in each hand, sixteen handguns, and eight knives.
With #8’s included, there were eighteen heavy firearms, one hundred forty four handguns, and seventy two knives.
The collection of bullets and blades slowly circled around #8’s group like summer clouds.
“I believe this is enough to rival an army, but what do you think?”
After instantly transforming herself into a light fortress, she looked around her surroundings.
The floating coolers swung around in accordance with the movements of her head and the two automatons in each one aimed their weapons in different directions.
Meanwhile, the dolls had stopped moving.
That was why #8 swung both her arms as if embracing her own body.
That movement sent out the heavy machineguns floating below her hands.
The ends of the barrels tore into the dirt and moved left and right to draw a circle.
The two guns rapidly drew a great ring around Babel.
The gliding machineguns finished their circular restraint of the dolls in only seven seconds.
Once they had whipped up the wind and returned to #8’s outstretched hands, they had drawn a perfect circle in the large field.
No one moved until #8 broke the stillness by taking a step forward.
The bullets, blades, and eight companions who could rival an army followed her forward and she looked to the circle drawn by the gun barrels.
“We will eradicate anyone who steps over this line.”
She raised her fingertips, stepped on the large circle below, and opened her mouth.
“It is winter. The flower that blossoms at the world’s destruction will wither away at the world’s birth, but we will mow down any flower that does not wish to be replanted after losing a place to wither.”
She raised her head, looked straight at the enemy, and transmitted her words over her shared memories.
“Let us go, automatons. You flowers who were replanted in this world.”
“It is calling. It is calling. Our master’s praise is calling.”
“More important than the sound of our own activation, our master’s praise is calling.”
“The essence of a flower is to never compromise and to keep its thoughts hidden even when picked up and held.”
“The flower is steel. As stainless steel, its blooming thoughts know no rust.”
“If moderation is preserved, the data tells us this emotionless flower will forever blossom.”
“We are eternal snowflakes that only melt at the blessing received by trusting in our master’s thanks.”
“Go, and a flower will be waiting. So let us go, maid automatons.”
“The bouquet of thanks cannot be acquired alone.”
“Nor can it be sent anywhere alone. It is waiting at the cutting edge of our activation.”
#8 sent her song-like words to the others and closed her eyes only for a moment.
“It is waiting!!”
The very next moment, she sent all her strength toward what her opened eyes saw.
And she poured all of her thanks into it.
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