Owari no Chronicle:Volume14 Chapter 6
Chapter 6: Wind-Told Distance
There was sound.
The sound of iron.
The sound of steel.
The sound of metal.
It was all the sound of machines.
There was more continuing sound.
The sound of wind.
The sound of earth.
The sound of trees.
It was all the sound of movement.
There was yet more continuing sound.
The sound of impacts.
The sound of strikes.
The sound of swords.
It was all the sound of combat.
The created sounds met to make even more sound.
The sound of damage.
The sound of breaking.
The sound of destruction.
It was all the sound that summoned victory.
There were also voices.
“Oh,” the voices yelled.
“Ah,” the voices cried.
“Nn,” the voices replied.
The voices came not just from the usual directions, but also from the heavens above and skimming just off the earth below.
All movement became evasion, became attack, and never stopped.
The questioning sounds seemed to respond, call, and answer.
All movement instantly broke the sound barrier and a wrist reversing a sword was enough to slice through an explosion of water vapor.
The black and white were surrounded by the roar of vacuum and the flavor of the whipping night wind.
The black used evasion and defense to deflect and pass through the rapid series of attacks and the white blocked and dodged the black’s attacks before striking.
Sparks flew and the wind was cut apart.
The earth split and the sky shattered.
There was sound.
It was the sound of battle bearing the name “god of war”.
“I can hear it!”
The black god of war cried out to break through that sound.
It rushed toward the white god of war.
“I can hear the voice calling for me!!”
Mikage quit controlling the emotions filling her body.
It’s okay, she thought.
Her high-speed pressurized thoughts surrendered her body to Hiba and allowed him to use all of her strength.
They did not stop.
She kept moving her wings, moving her legs, and balancing her upper body.
She let Hiba try to do what he wanted with her body and she tried to grant it all.
It was all possible.
It was now possible for her to move as he wanted at the speeds he wanted.
She moved to block Typhon’s two swords.
She controlled the defense by using her understanding of each and every piece of armor to sense precisely how to move them all to redirect the attacks.
Like a bird controlling each individual feather to fly, Susamikado flapped onward through the damaging wind.
She raised her speed.
Faster, faster, she thought.
She did not need a character string of emotions.
She did not even need a description of her thoughts.
She reacted even faster than her reflexes.
The wind was solid, so she raised her speed.
She fought even more quickly, tried to get behind their opponent, could not, and repeatedly exchanged attacks from the side.
The attacks came from the left.
The armor on the left was being heated by the friction of the sword strikes.
The shield. She could reduce the heating with better usage of the shield.
I can’t think like that, thought Mikage.
I can’t answer if I think like that.
She could hear the sounds.
All of the sounds among the movement and collisions were conveying a certain thought.
Mikage wondered why the sounds that girl made sounded so much like crying.
It was a crying voice.
All of the strikes sounded like the fists of a child clinging to someone in tears.
Why was she crying when she was so strong and had so much power?
Mikage did not understand.
But she wanted to understand.
No, she did understand.
Miki had said she had killed his father.
Mikage did not know how much of that was true.
That was someone she should not have killed. As her other self’s parent, he was essentially her own parent.
So she had waited for Hiba. She had waited for the heir of the man she felt she had killed.
Why had she waited?
Why had she continued to win all this time?
Why had she wished to battle Hiba so many times?
Why was she crying?
…Why did you continue to wait even when Ryuuji-kun lost?
…You defeated someone you shouldn’t have defeated, so for their sake, you couldn’t let yourself lose?
So even as she grew tired of always winning, she had not been able to lose.
But there was one person she could let herself lose to: the original person’s heir.
…You waited for him all this time, didn’t you?
For so long, she had made herself their enemy, defeated them several times, and yet waited.
She had waited for the moment when they could both use their greatest power.
Mikage had a thought as she synchronized the wings and legs for even greater speed.
…Ryuuji-kun, you’re here to answer that call, aren’t you?
She spoke to make way for that answer.
“Ryuuji-kun! Let’s speed up!”
Her entire body moved about.
Hiba had to have noticed Miki’s true thoughts and that was why he raised his own voice.
“Mikage-san!” he said as if making a promise. “I will win this!”
“Go ahead, she was telling him. Do what you wish. I’ll lend you my strength. All of it. I’ll do anything for you.
She recalled an older time when she had wondered if she was just a machine and when she had feared the strength she held.
But what about now?
That strength was necessary.
Yes, she thought. I’m glad I have this strength.
Without it, a certain hand would have been unable to reach the person waiting for it.
So she desired even more speed.
She fully opened her wings and moved them along with her legs.
That way, each step had the same force as flying through the sky.
She picked up speed.
It did not matter how powerful the enemy was.
It did not matter how solid the enemy was.
It did not matter how strong the enemy was.
Speed would reach them.
Speed alone would never lie.
…That is how you reach someone waiting for you!
Her vision had sped up to the point that all sound vanished and she saw what was in the sky and on the earth.
The forest and the people.
The heated metal fragments scattering like flower petals.
And the ones dancing amid it all were a white being and herself.
They faced each other in the center of all the motion and the vacuum.
It was the perfect place.
The air had been blown outwards and only clearness remained.
It’s beautiful, thought Mikage as she saw Hiba reach his hand out toward the girl.
Their body slipped past the white swords and moved unhesitatingly forward.
As the white attempted to escape, they spun on their heel and pursued her just by facing her way.
The world looked so calm at this extreme speed.
There was no excess and only motion existed.
There was no hint of difficulty or fear of moving forward. This was where her final evolution had taken them.
Her metal heart danced along with her body.
There were white sword strikes, cannon blasts, evasive actions, defenses, and so much else.
But he slipped past it all, did not so much as graze them, and simply tried to reach his opponent with his own hand.
His movements looked slow and she thought she saw a touch of fear in them, so she supported him from behind.
She placed her hands on his shoulders and leaned in.
And she gave a push.
She gently urged him toward his other self.
She told him to go.
Tatsumi saw Susamikado slip below her attacks.
It happened amid the mixing vacuum and wind and amid the silence as the bottom of its defensive coat was torn.
Susamikado swung its body in the clear emptiness containing only moonlight.
It did not walk.
Nor did it run.
It did not even slide.
It only gently approached like a pendulum.
That movement told Tatsumi that Susamikado was receiving and redirecting the full burden of each and every movement.
Even the force pushing up on the soles of its feet and the pressure on its body as it moved forward.
…Are they controlling all of that!?
When a force reached someone from one direction, it left in the opposite direction.
The standard way of controlling the forces received was to pull back, but controlling all of the forces reaching their entire body was something entirely different.
Even if they pulled back from the force arriving in one direction, they would be receiving another force from the direction in which they pulled back.
If they could not pull back, then the forces would explode inside their body.
…So controlling all of the forces reaching your body is impossible.
But the word “possible” was displayed in front of her.
She saw it in Susamikado.
That was actually Hiba and Mikage.
Hiba had the same technique of controlling forces as Tatsumi did and Mikage would be controlling their entire body based on that.
She was using her high-speed calculations and her combination with the system known as a god of war.
She was simultaneously handling all of the forces arriving from a multitude of directions by adding in slight time lags and expanding the armor panels to allow the vectors to escape.
A single, instantaneous mistake would cause all of the forces to explode inside their body, but Mikage could pull it off thanks to her understanding of Hiba’s actions.
They were not just one in spirit; they truly were a single individual.
They were a single bearer of strength.
…No, they are a single rider of strength.
Black wings opened before Tatsumi’s eyes.
Susamikado had gently moved right up to her.
A sword approached, so she had Typhon catch it on its left sword.
She planned to attack with the right sword in the opening that created.
The left sword was deflected.
Tatsumi’s technique of catching and stopping any power was rejected and deflected.
She knew what it was.
It came from strength.
It also came from skill.
The idea was simple. As soon as Tatsumi activated her negation technique, Susamikado had slightly shifted the direction of its attack.
That was much easier said than done.
After all, she determined the direction to pull back in the very instant Hiba’s attack hit.
It had to happen in that instant.
Tatsumi made sure it was quick because she would be hit by the attack if she took too long.
So to knock back her technique, one had to intervene in that instant and reset the direction of their attack.
That’s impossible, she thought.
But Hiba, who knew her technique, made it possible and Mikage, who had the strength, gave him the permission he needed.
And as a result, the word “negation” vanished from between Tatsumi and Hiba.
Instead, there was swordplay at extreme speed.
It was a pure exchange of swords with no excess strength.
The white silver arc raced and the black moonlit arc flew.
In that clear space, blue sparks flew and disappeared.
Blazing-hot seams blossomed and withered away in that transparent world.
Their attacks were their movements.
Tatsumi repeatedly struck as if brushing aside an outstretched hand.
Her thoughts went further than that.
…I’m telling you to stay away.
…Are you still coming!?
It seemed to slowly bend in that empty space.
It swayed like a branch in the wind.
There was no shouting voice or anything else there.
Susamikado used only its movements to move in and continue forward.
It was close enough that its breaths would have reached had it breathed.
Tatsumi then launched a supremely swift strike.
Typhon swung its right sword straight down.
Susamikado’s left arm responded by rising like shimmering heat.
Its shield was there.
The sword dug into the tip of the shield.
The white blade tore away the thick steel armor.
Typhon’s sword was redirected downward and Susamikado lost its shield.
Tatsumi took action at the same time.
The left sword raced toward the back of Susamikado’s neck.
The flying silver arc was deflected by a black sword.
White struck black in that clear world.
The clash of the swords sounded only in her imagination.
But her goal lay beyond that.
She used her left sword to knock Susamikado’s black sword further outward.
Susamikado had broken through her technique, but she returned the favor in double.
With the shield gone from the left arm, Mikage would have to rebalance due to the change in weight between the left and right arms.
So if the right sword was knocked powerfully outward at that moment…
Susamikado prioritized keeping its balance and let go of the sword in its right hand.
It also leaned back and to the right.
Susamikado had no sword or shield, so Tatsumi did not hesitate.
With a snap of the right wrist, she raised the sword diverted by Susamikado’s shield.
“How about this?”
She asked that question while thrusting the sword tip toward Susamikado’s throat.
Immediately afterwards, she saw Susamikado move.
It raised its now-shieldless left arm.
And it caught the approaching sword in that palm.
There was no sound, but there was destruction.
The blade pierced through the god of war’s left hand.
It plunged in up to the base, but…
Susamikado’s left hand grabbed the sword’s guard and Typhon’s right hand beyond it.
Typhon’s right sword and hand were crushed.
And this time, Susamikado’s hand reached Typhon.
Tatsumi saw the machine clench its right fist.
It can’t be, she thought.
It had let go of its sword and it had leaned back and to the right as if keeping its balance, but…
“Was that all to pull back your right fist!?”
There was nothing to hide behind in this space, so she clearly saw the metal fist as it was launched.
The strike seemed to flicker as it flew toward her.
Its target was Typhon’s face right next to her.
She realized she could not block this one.
Nor could she negate its force now that Hiba and Mikage could turn that against her.
She could not take this blow.
But neither could she avoid it with Typhon’s hand held.
“Then I’ll have to go with this!!”
Tatsumi raised Typhon’s left arm.
The left blade shot up from below and severed Typhon’s own right arm.
Typhon could now move back, so it started to take that first step. Except…
…If I escape…!
If she escaped here, she would undoubtedly get by without losing.
…Can I really do that!?
Just as she asked herself that, two things stopped her from moving back.
Those things were noise and light.
A noise from the sky seemed to penetrate this space.
It was Alex’s voice.
However, that voice from above was not the only one she heard.
She heard more from the distant mechanical dragons lying on the forest floor.
“No running away!”
They belonged to Heo Thunderson and the powerless ones.
She saw a light.
One of the broken dragons had lifted its upper body and opened its mouth.
The light was its main cannon.
It was directed into the space behind her.
She did not know if it had been poorly aimed or if they had no real intention of hitting her, but it was clear what they were trying to do while frantically fleeing from the dragon as it was blown backwards by the recoil.
…They’re keeping me here.
Thank you, she thought as she stopped after only moving back one of Typhon’s legs.
She then shifted to dodging by focusing on her own movements.
She tried to avoid the fist by leaning back.
The metal fist shot by just thirty-two centimeters in front of her.
And just as Susamikado’s right fist was going to pass before her eyes, she almost thought she heard Susamikado yell something.
No, she had heard it.
That was 3rd-Gear’s Concept Core weapon.
Susamikado did not have that Tartaros pile driver equipped.
Keravnos was currently inside Noah.
But something did open before Tatsumi’s eyes.
It was the entrance to the Concept Space that acted as a hangar.
The opened space threatened to swallow Tatsumi.
Acting on reflex, she drew the sword on her back.
She defended herself by striking the concept space with her blade and absorbing its power.
Just as the opening concept space was swallowed by the blade, she saw Susamikado’s arm flying past her.
She felt some relief at having survived, but…
She realized she had made a grave error.
She realized that this attack had been one of the goals that Hiba, Mikage, or both had seen in this battle.
“Don’t tell me…”
Tatsumi gasped, raised her Cowling Sword, and faced forward.
She looked past Susamikado and its fist and she looked to the people on the path through the forest.
A certain girl stood among them.
Her blue eyes were staring directly Tatsumi’s way and her mouth was already open.
“Please come out,” she shouted to the sky. “Thunder Fellow!!”
The response to her cry came from Tatsumi’s hand.
Her Cowling sword had sealed the power to open a concept space and that meant one thing.
…I’ve created an exit for what I sealed with this same power before!
It burst out.
It appeared of its own accord from the Cowling Sword’s blade.
It was a heavily armored blue and white mechanical dragon.
It was Thunder Fellow.
Heo and Harakawa were instantly taken within Thunder Fellow.
Before they had time to breathe, their vision was pointed skyward.
Something was descending toward them.
It was a mechanical dragon colored red, white, and blue.
Its entire body was heated by the air’s friction.
It was Alex.
Thunder Fellow briefly stopped twenty meters above ground to face him.
Thunder Fellow opened all of his accelerators and checked on them as if waving his tail.
He then performed a roll while still positioned vertically.
“My output is all green.”
“I see you’re well-prepared,” commented Harakawa.
Heo nodded as she entered the back seat.
All the others were on the surface behind them.
Those people had brought them this far.
They were all looking up and waving: the scarf-wearing mountain unit commander, the sand dune regiment with mohawks or masks, and the American UCAT members in blue armored uniforms.
They were all waving.
“U-um, you’re going to be blown away by the accelerators!”
They all scattered.
But as they looked back over their shoulders, they were smiling.
Someone told her to get going, so she smiled.
It’s time to go, she thought from the bottom of her heart.
Her destination was the airspace above.
That was a place only dragons could go.
Heo sat in the back seat and waited to combine with Thunder Fellow.
But first, Harakawa tossed something to her from the front seat.
It was contained in red cloth packaging.
“Munch on that while you’re inside. Do it outside and you’ll gain weight.”
“I-I can’t eat while combined with Thunder Fellow!”
“Actually, Heo,” said Thunder Fellow. “I could take them in with you and place them inside your digestive system.”
“Sorry, but you’re supposed to taste things with your tongue, not your stomach.”
She heard Harakawa laugh quietly at that.
“Well, whatever,” he said. “Let’s go. How about it, Heo Thunderson?”
“Are you inviting me to go?”
“No. You’re the one that decides to go and I’m the one who drives. It’s just that you always take so long that I end up having to rush you along. So I’m going to say it again today, Heo Thunderson: Let’s go.”
She thought about what he meant and she realized it meant she would not be left behind anymore.
And that led to a single answer.
She looked up into the sky.
She spoke into that sky.
“Let’s go to that absolute place where our answer lies!!”
Immediately afterwards, everyone spread out across the Mt. Ikoma region saw a line of blue light fly up towards the center of the night sky.
At the same time, the mechanical dragons in that black sky spread out.
They were opening a path for the blue light passing between them.
And something pursued that that blue light.
A red light flew in from below and tore a straight line through the sky.
Everyone watched as the blue and red lights rose into the heavens.
They watched those lights approach an airspace they could never reach.
Tatsumi watched Alex ascend once more, but she only did so for an instant.
Susamikado was still moving before her.
Without pulling back its right arm, Susamikado made a full rotation to make its next attack.
In the silence, Tatsumi used her left hand to raise the sword that had produced Thunder Fellow.
Susamikado was about to complete its rotation in front of her.
It had pulled back its right hand again and had twisted its body around to the limit to launch the attack.
Come, thought Tatsumi.
“I will knock you back however many times it takes.”
She gathered strength in her body and moved her right hand to have Typhon raise its left sword.
She planned to strike her enemy’s fist with the blade.
“Oh, they’re white.”
With those words, her skirt was lifted to waist height behind her.
It had happened suddenly.
Tatsumi had been so focused on what was in front of her that she was slow to react and hesitated.
As if brushing off her waist, she moved back to the right, pushed down her skirt, and lowered her hips.
She then looked towards Typhon’s left shoulder.
She saw someone there.
“That’s twice today.”
He was three meters away.
He had to be here for the same reason as before.
It had happened while she was distracted by the fist and the failed summoning of Keravnos and while she was confused by Thunder Fellow’s summoning.
…He had Susamikado turn its back and then released his combination.
She saw Susamikado continue to rotate and…
As wind gently wrapped around it, it came to a stop.
Its movements were now feminine.
The one who piloted it for combat was standing in front of her.
Hiba gave her a trouble smile and took a step forward.
Tatsumi held her Cowling Sword in both hands with her hips still lowered.
She started to say “wait” until she realized something.
She remembered this layout.
This was the same as ten years before.
Back then, everyone had evacuated to the gate which had stopped functioning and those without defensive philosopher’s stones had started collapsing, one after another.
Tatsumi had been given a defensive stone by her parents.
…So I alone was fine.
The sky had split open and the earth had shattered while all the others had fallen to the ground in groans of pain.
She had wanted to do something, but there had been nothing to do.
Because she alone had survived, she had decided to protect the others until the end.
After all, she had the power to fight.
And then he had arrived.
He had been an enemy.
He had said he was there to save them, but she had not known if he really was there to help or not.
She had not been able to judge anything about the situation.
She had suspected he might cause further damage to the people whose demise was only a matter of time.
She swung her head.
She realized she had started trembling at some point and she could not stop it.
She thrust out her sword as a way of telling him to stay back.
But he still entered within range of the danger.
And so she changed her display of rejection to something else.
She thrust the blade straight forward into Hiba’s right side.
Her footing was weak and the sword did not pick up much speed, but…
The blade pierced through his side and out his back.
The sword was incredibly sharp.
Its tip stabbed through its target with no sound or resistance.
Tatsumi seemed to stumble as she stared dumbfounded at what she had done.
She held a hilt in her hands.
A guard was attached to the top of the hilt and that guard was pressed against Hiba’s stomach.
She had stabbed him.
No, she thought. Why? she added.
Why didn’t he dodge? Did he not think I would stab him? What was he thinking?
The questions in her heart were a refrain of those from ten years before.
Her former doubts were revived.
She felt it clearly in her hands, but…but why?
…Why didn’t you dodge!?
As soon as she asked that silent question, she heard something.
It was a troubled voice that was clearly putting up with some pain.
It was Hiba’s.
But Tatsumi could not bear to look at him. No matter what expression he had on his face, it would be a reaction to what she had just done.
She could only hang her head and two things entered her field of vision: Hiba’s hands.
The boy’s hands touched hers that still held the hilt.
Taken aback, she tried to let go but instead clamped down from the tension.
Nevertheless, Hiba’s hands removed hers from the hilt.
And after peeling away her hands, he spoke.
“There, everything is going to be okay now.”
That was much like what someone had said ten years before.
He reached below her arms and lifted her up.
The shorter boy somehow managed to lift her weakened body.
“Everything is going to be okay.”
She snapped back at his words.
“H-how is this okay!?”
She squeezed her hands tight and hit him.
Her clenched fists hit the head and shoulders she could see below.
She hit him again and again, telling him to let go.
“How can you say that?”
She struck him.
“You might die!”
With those words, tears poured from the corners of her eyes and they would not stop.
“You’re going to die!”
“I-I’m not dead.”
She hit him as her mouth and face tearfully twisted.
“When your father was stabbed in the same way…!”
“I’m not dead!!”
“I’m not dead!!”
His shout stopped her from moving.
She breathed out and the built-up tears fell from her eyes.
She sniffled and saw Hiba hanging his head.
Without wiping away the tears, she spoke with a tremor in her voice.
“It’s true my dad died,” he said. “He was stabbed through the gut and some of his organs were hit. That had to have been a lethal injury…if nothing was done.”
Tatsumi was left briefly speechless by those final words and Hiba’s voice seemed to follow her silence.
“Am I dead right now?”
She looked to him when she heard that question.
“Right?” he replied before sighing.
Then something red spilled from where her sword had stabbed him.
His sigh had relaxed his tension and opened the tightened blood vessels.
She was nearly panicked, but he shook his head.
“My dad didn’t do anything about it afterwards.”
“He had something he had to do and he gave that priority. He had something he found more important than being stabbed by you.”
Tatsumi listened to him speak with his head lowered.
“Do you understand?”
She heard that question and then more.
These were the words of the answerer she had waited so long for.
“I am not going to die. I still have to flirt a whole lot more with Mikage-san and master several different paths, so I will not die. And if my dad hadn’t had something he had to prioritize over his own death…he wouldn’t have died either!”
“You don’t get to take credit for what his own decisions led to!!”
Tatsumi tried to say something, but something else left her before her voice: tears.
She needed to argue back and she needed to say she had killed him, so why could she not speak?
As she wondered why, she found the answer in her heart.
…Because these are the words of my other self?
As she thought, she looked up into the heavens to hold back the tears.
This was the sky near Osaka and it looked a lot like the night sky she had seen in the past.
She had been there, the parents she had lost had been there, and they had all looked up into that sky as they walked home from the store.
Hadn’t she constantly asked them a certain question?
…What kind of person do you think my other self is?
Her father had reached below her arms and picked her up.
After comforting her from her fear of the height, he had given her the same answer he had given her so often before.
…I’m sure he’s a lot like you.
She distinctly remembered him telling her that.
His sex, age, and height were different from her own, but he had come this far, he used the same technique as her, and…
She released her voice into the sky above.
It sounded a lot like the cries of a newborn.
And as the reverberation of her throat faded into the sky above, a battle raged there.
Babel’s light had yet to fully activate.
The battle was not over yet.
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