Owari no Chronicle:Volume14 Chapter 7
Chapter 7: Voice of the Just One
Say your answer
Your answer in your calling
The sky was an infinite expanse.
To fly, one only needed acceleration.
An increase in speed increased the resistance from the thick atmosphere.
It felt like digging through piled-up snow.
One spoke with acceleration there and it allowed movement in any direction.
If airspace was seen as a place of invisible resistance, then everyone there was a resister.
And Heo was currently resisting that sky.
Her body was in high-speed mobility form.
Her wings were half closed and she flew toward the heavens as if leaning back.
She made a large turn in the great heights to shift from a vertical rise into a descent.
An enemy pursued her from behind.
A stream of bullets flew her way and she was cutting through them with her turn.
After rotating around, she needed to get behind the enemy.
…But I’m so heavy.
She was already moving quickly and the turn was a fight against her inertial weight.
The great speed increased her weight several times over.
Her body shook from the air resistance and she could only hear a great roar in her ears.
Her frame creaked and she lightly hopped through the gaps in the wind.
She was moving at blinding speed.
She thought her entire body would be knocked down into her belly that was pointed toward heaven.
She had used 5th-Gear’s concept to set forwards as “down”, but that did not eliminate the inertial forces of the turn.
The wind captured her body and tried to drag her into its raging stream, but she resisted.
She was constantly resisting.
She viewed herself as a blade sticking into a muddy stream and she sliced through the turbulent air.
Her wings were blades and her body was the helm.
She read the course of the wind, kept it from carrying her away, and cut sharply into it so she did not collide with it.
Her upwards momentum made it difficult to obtain downward thrust, but…
As she leaned backwards, the tips of her wings caught the air.
She rode that air and turned.
She saw the pursuing bullets scatter into the sky above.
Immediately afterwards, her senses detected a certain presence.
Alex had just shot up past her.
Their relative speeds meant their passing truly only lasted an instant.
The red light of acceleration was undoubtedly flying in search of greater heights.
This meant it was her turn to pursue.
At the same time, she heard Harakawa as his body shook from the centrifugal force.
“Heo, let’s go after him!!”
“Right!” she replied.
She bent back her jaw, extended her back, and brought air to her lungs.
She kicked at the air like it was water and instantly oriented herself upwards.
The sky was there and the points of starlight acted as the backdrop for the residual light of the accelerators.
That was Alex.
She pursued him. She used the centrifugal force of her three-dimensional turn to launch herself skyward.
Her acceleration had a target: herself and her other self.
“Here we go!!”
She threw herself forward.
Her enemy fired a barrage behind him and their relative speeds made it a wall of accelerated bullets.
She did not care.
She reached out a hand to pinpoint the locations of the destructive projectiles with her fingertips.
And she avoided them.
She shot forward, turned, and folded up her wings to slip through the straight lines and attacking smoke.
When she struck the air, it turned to spray and her body shook as if to keep her from making any minor adjustments to her movement.
But she knew one way of controlling that shaking.
She could accelerate forward to eliminate it.
And she did so.
While slipping through the roaring barrage, she chose acceleration as her way of ensuring proper control.
Now the shaking only came from the tail end. It was nothing but speed to push her onward.
She wished to reach even greater heights. Barrage or not, she simply wanted to continue upwards.
The heavens could be found nowhere else, so she accelerated.
She seemed to be showing off her acceleration to the surface.
She tore through the cold air in pursuit of the red acceleration light up ahead.
She saw the red light turn toward the western sky.
Threads of mist trailed from the tips of the mechanical dragon’s wings and those moonlit threads made their way to the white tower reaching toward the heavens.
Her enemy had chosen Babel’s surface as their battlefield.
That battlefield was a vertical drop off from fifteen kilometers up.
Those still on the surface could see the light.
While providing first aid for Hiba’s wound, Mikage saw two powers rapidly dropping from the heavens.
She also saw the white tower rising high into the sky.
The pair of powers dropped toward that tower’s surface.
The powers drew lines.
Those twin beasts drew two white lines through the night sky.
They were vapor trails.
The two of them repeatedly intersected and dropped down.
They would sometimes separate, make a circuit of the tower, collide on the other side, and then collide again on this side.
The white trails would occasionally swell out.
…That’s their acceleration.
That battle had reached speeds Susamikado could not hope to match.
Heo wished for the speed and Harakawa provided it.
Even the initial speed of gravitational acceleration meant nothing to them as they descended.
“Don’t worry,” muttered Mikage.
She was speaking to the white and blue dragon of the two machines accelerating toward the earth.
“You’re the one that defeated Black Sun!!”
Alex flew along Noah’s armor on his way down to the surface.
He was using his full strength.
Threads of mist trailed from every leading point on his armor and his own movements left an afterimage behind them.
But something was catching up to and biting at the white trail behind him.
It was Thunder Fellow.
His enemy had kept her position behind him, he could not shake her, and she was using her speed to catch up.
What an absurd enemy, he thought.
Alex knew Noah.
He had lived inside it.
The layout of its surface portion was contained in his memories, so he knew where the walls and corridors were.
His enemy on the other hand knew nothing.
But despite knowing nothing, she was fearlessly pursuing him.
It would be easy to call it reckless.
It would be difficult to call it courageous.
But Alex instead thought of her as insane.
If she was reckless, she would back off once she made a mistake.
If she was courageous, she would keep her distance from a battlefield that put her at such a disadvantage.
But she readily flew into this place.
She had acceleration and flight.
She had movement and mobility.
She simply trusted in those powers and attempted to surpass him.
And so he accelerated.
He slipped through the gaps in the residences and actuators on Noah’s surface, split the narrow air, flew along Noah’s armor, and threw on even more speed.
He was entirely focused on his flight.
He seemed to be saying he was the one that belonged above this nostalgic battlefield.
But he heard something from the rumbling of the air that refused to leave him.
His rear sight could see it.
Thunder Fellow had stumbled over a rise in Noah’s surface residences.
But despite stumbling, the dragon did not flee.
It remained on the same path, pursuing Alex.
It only had to accelerate to make up for the lost speed and it relied on its strength to continue its flight.
He spoke aloud.
“Such a villainous and inelegant flight!!”
He had to defeat this enemy.
He could hear a crying voice from the surface.
Those were Tatsumi’s tears.
Who had made her cry?
No, he knew the answer. There was a single obvious reason for her tears.
…Because my justice was lacking!!
No matter the reason, no matter the interpretation, and no matter the emotions, the power of justice had to silence a child’s tears and send them on to the next sequence.
It did not matter if they were crying over their own crimes and what they had lost.
“Justice is what rids the world of even those tears!!”
Alex remembered when he had wished to be a hero.
Heroes were what had rid him of his tears when his parents had not returned and he was left all alone.
Someone had told him that heroes only existed on TV.
But that was wrong.
That nonsense reasoning was what only existed on TV.
Heroes could exist in reality.
…It’s just that everyone else gives up!
One only had to say a certain phrase – one little phrase – no matter the circumstances and even in public.
“I wish to keep others from crying!”
Once he said it, he would be able to act on it.
And so he did act on it and he fought.
He raised his speed and pointed his cannons toward his pursuing enemy.
“Enemy! Will you obstruct my justice!?”
But his enemy kept coming.
The blue and white mechanical dragon seemed to be racing more than flying.
It stacked acceleration on top of acceleration like a young bird flapping its wings in order to reach the sky.
The blue and white dragon flew swiftly across the Top-Gear construction.
It was fast.
As if pressing in on and distorting the air, it shot forward and nearly into arm’s reach.
As soon as he realized his enemy was alongside him, Alex heard a voice.
It was a girl’s voice, Heo Thunderson’s voice.
She asked her question with strength behind her voice.
Her question reached him.
“Why do you try to keep others from crying!?”
“That should be obvious!!”
Alex had his body rush forward and downward.
“That is where my justice lies!”
Heo thought to herself while placing her body on the forefront of her speed.
Her thought of rejection was directed at Alex’s words.
She felt exhausted, as if she were running out of oxygen.
Her moving parts were tense and she felt she would lose control and trip if she relaxed her focus.
She had run full speed all this way with this unfamiliar battlefield as her track.
The great exhaustion of her tension was also exhausting Thunder Fellow.
But her thoughts were clear.
She was flying. She was clearly in flight.
Her confidence that she was in a position of absolute freedom brought clarity to her and her opponent’s wills.
And that allowed her to make a statement she normally could not have.
Her mind raised a powerful rejection to the justice Alex spoke of.
“Justice is keeping people from crying? That…that can’t be right!”
“Whenever I cried I kept crying!!”
Yes. That was how it had always been for her.
But Alex gave her an answer from the forefront of the wind.
“That is because there was no justice around you!!”
His dignified statement gave Heo a thought.
…That may be true.
But, she also thought.
There was a word in her heart that she was not sure if she could call “justice”.
She waited the span of a breath before shouting.
“Then why was I able to run again!?”
She accelerated as if pulled onwards by the question.
She bit at the bearer of justice, demanding he give her an answer.
“No one ever stopped my tears!”
She had only had a single truth.
She yelled what she could call her past experience.
“Instead, everyone gave me a certain something!”
“And what was that!?”
That was an easy question to answer, so she released the words in her heart like a bullet.
“The ability to choose for myself! It was nothing more than that!!”
Her cry was immediately followed by approaching darkness.
The metal darkness appearing overhead was Noah’s lower armor.
There was a vast hangar below the armor and it was located quite near the ground.
Heo thought she knew what it was.
…Noah’s mechanical dragon launch zone!?
It was two kilometers long and at least five hundred meters wide.
The thin, flat exit was located straight ahead.
The ground was visible past that exit and there was less than a kilometer until she reached it.
She had already run around a dozen kilometers from the top of the massive tower.
She had flown the entire way with a focus on acceleration.
If she did not begin an ascent immediately after leaving the exit, she would crash into the ground before she could rid herself of her speed.
She gasped for just a moment.
Her body was approaching its limits from the exhaustion of the run, so…
…Shouldn’t I slow down here to avoid crashing into the-…
But that was when she saw Alex’s acceleration light grow in front of her.
He had added on more speed.
He had eloquently told her what he intended to do.
If he moved ahead and left the exit, she would lose sight of him in an instant.
Lagging behind was dangerous and the greater the distance between them, the greater that danger.
She realized she could only pull up closer to him, but…
Her next words seemed to reject her own timidity.
“I can’t just pull up closer to him. I have to pass him!”
She breathed in.
Her body was growing stiff.
She briefly shrank down, thinking this would be her final run.
And she suddenly raised her hips, directed all of her acceleration backwards, and blasted it all out toward the sky.
“Here I go!”
She launched herself forward.
Two speeds raced through the two kilometer tunnel.
Both of them had already broken the sound barrier.
The large tunnel’s ceiling was thirty meters high.
For a mechanical dragon, a light jump would hit it.
The only options for those two speeds were horizontal or straightforward movement.
The leading speed, Alex, fired on Thunder Fellow who was pursuing him.
The enemy had approached too much for this great speed.
Thunder Fellow passed by the homing bullets before their homing capability could kick in.
Alex could not rely on bullets here.
The only effective attacks were the lightning from the pairs of secondary cannons on his left and right sides.
His red lightning pursued Thunder Fellow with quick whip-like motion.
Thunder Fellow fired bluish-white lightning from his own secondary cannons.
Amid the darkness, atop their speed, and below their straight down trajectory, the two machines fired barrages of light and accelerated to evade.
They swung to either side as if being knocked back and they tilted their bodies until they were very nearly scraping against the floor.
Each time either one locked on, they would fire their lethal attacks.
They never let up.
Their enemy’s attacks would fire, approach, and arrive too close to know for sure they could avoid it.
And they would fire their own attacks.
The bright lightning intersected between them and the world exploded with light.
They left the noise and explosions behind.
Theirs was a world of speed, shadow, blue, and red.
Even the scattering fragments of the floor and ceiling were left behind.
They accelerated to the very limit.
But Alex saw something.
The enemy was gradually approaching behind him.
Impossible, he thought.
The ground was approaching from below.
Alex accelerated without fearing a collision with that solid ground.
He had no intention of going easy on her, and yet…
…Why is she catching up!?
That was when he realized Thunder Fellow was leaning forward.
…What is that?
That was not the pose of someone who simply did not fear crashing into the ground.
“Does she see the surface as her goal!?”
The enemy was not even looking at him. She had even stopped firing on him.
Heo Thunderson, the girl who had combined with Thunder Fellow, had most likely made a certain decision: she would run and win.
Her goal was the surface and he was only a fellow runner.
Alex filled his heart with the desire to accelerate and clenched his metal fangs.
…Does she see this high-speed battle as no different from a footrace!?
However, she was not looking his way.
She was only looking at what she had decided was her goal.
She was looking in a straight line.
Thunder Fellow accelerated as they entered the second half of the tunnel.
This second half was the last spurt.
Thunder Fellow broke through the air it was pushing forward and its blue and white form appeared to shake.
Alex’s calculations told him she would pass him in an instant, so he attacked.
He did what he needed to as a fellow runner on this battlefield.
And he did not go easy on her.
He forcibly rolled his body and pointed his belly toward the ceiling.
Turned upside down, he raced along the ceiling.
This was a dangerous decision.
Unlike the launch zone’s floor, the upper surface was covered in piping and air conditioning ducts.
And it was all wrapped in darkness.
But Alex had decided that would be his floor.
He needed to fly along there to fire from the multi-shot container on his back.
At this speed, his homing bullets were left behind before they could recognize the enemy, but what would happen if he scattered bullets from the ceiling?
A wall of bullets would appear before Thunder Fellow as it flew along the floor.
This would work given their speed and the low ceiling.
Alex could see the shadows of the pipes and outcroppings below him. He also saw internal communication antennae.
If he hit any one of them, he would be blown away.
But he would not hit them.
Justice would not hit them.
He preserved himself by flying just barely out of the way.
He stayed on a straight line while slipping past it all.
The wind and noise of his passing caused the antennae, deactivated lights, and other ceiling structures to split and burst.
Shards of glass fell like rain and reflected the lightning that the two of them continued firing.
It’s like the ocean spray, thought Alex. Such a pleasant scattering.
The tunnel’s exit was visible up ahead.
Immediately afterwards, the enemy arrived.
The enemy sank down in order to pass him.
And she did so from directly behind him.
There was less than fifteen meters of space between Alex and the floor, but Thunder Fellow was trying to slip through that gap.
Both mechanical dragons were about ten meters tall, so they would have to hug the floor to prevent a near miss.
But despite moving at supersonic speeds at that altitude, Thunder Fellow sank even further down.
…She really is insane!!
His enemy had cast aside her fear.
She was only looking at her goal and that fact sent a chill to Alex’s mind.
…Can justice not get through to her?
As if to answer him, Thunder Fellow accelerated even further.
Alex’s scans confirmed that Thunder Fellow threw more acceleration behind itself while flying only fifteen centimeters off the floor.
She was coming and not from the side.
She was coming straight in as if to face him. She wished to unmistakably overtake him.
She had done more than say it all came down to speed.
Her flight had thrown away everything except for speed.
This was a time of battle, and yet she was fighting through speed alone.
In that case, thought Alex as he gave his response.
He fired the bullets from his back.
Not even his own ears heard the attack name.
All sound was swept behind them as the barrage flew backwards as if he had overturned a bucket.
He scored a direct hit.
The scarlet flames looked like a line of light.
The object they had struck was moving so quickly that the explosion was deflected and stretched out.
Alex saw his enemy beyond the multiple flashing lights that resembled firecrackers.
It was a mechanical dragon’s silhouette.
It appeared after pushing through the light and smoke.
Just to make sure, Alex fired on it.
The red lightning swept through the air, split open the exploding light, and tore into the shadow.
The twin lightning strikes tore through the silhouette which was trying to break free of the smoke.
Both red lightning bolts struck, electrical discharges and sparks flew, and the shadow shook.
It finally collided with the floor.
That collision during their high-speed fall caused it to bounce high.
That was when it broke free of the smoke.
…It isn’t Thunder Fellow!?
Alex instead saw a collection of framework that closely resembled a mechanical dragon.
“Did she throw forward one of her other frames as a shield!?”
Confused, Alex looked more closely and saw something slip below the normal cruising frame that had bounced up and stabbed into the ceiling.
The blue and white silhouette moved forward.
Alex then saw Thunder Fellow’s opened mouth turned his way.
The dragon’s roar tore into everything.
It closely resembled a racer’s cry of effort.
The roar then produced light.
At the same time, the bluish-white main cannon tore through Alex.
Heo saw the attack hit.
She had defeated her other self. She had defeated that high-speed flight-style heavy mechanical dragon that advocated justice.
Beyond the explosion of light, his armor was blown away and smashed to pieces.
Her dumbfounded heart quickly sapped all strength from her body.
She entrusted everything to the speed she was riding.
She started to breathe a sigh of relief, but…
Harakawa’s voice awoke her senses.
Before she could ask what he meant, she saw it and heard Harakawa explain it.
“We didn’t hit him!”
Fragments flew their way from beyond the destructive light, but they had not been smashed from his body.
“He purged his armor to use it as a shield! He shot it toward us like a bullet!”
The result was clear.
She felt the great pressure of a presence behind her.
That was her enemy.
He had purged his armor and instantly circled behind them.
A few pieces of the destroyed armor had taken the main cannon blast, deflected it, and produced a smokescreen of light.
The few remaining pieces flew their way like shells.
They collided with her.
The enemy’s armor struck her right shoulder, left arm, lower chest on both sides, right stomach, right upper leg, and left lower leg.
It hurt as bad as a hit from a hammer.
Before she could think, she had flown out of the tunnel.
She was thrown out into empty air and she had lost control due to the armor shells.
She rotated in three dimensions and saw the sky for just a moment.
In that moment, the color red filled the center of her vision.
That was Alex’s main cannon.
The now lighter mechanical dragon let out a roar.
And it slammed Heo straight into the ground.
The battlefield on the moonlit earth was filled with something that shined.
A giant tower sat at the center of the wide field and the light falling on the ground there was the moonlight reflected off of wreckage. The wreckage came from dolls.
Those white, humanoid forms were strewn across the ground after having been destroyed in every way imaginable.
Some just lay there, some had been skewered, some had large gouges torn from them, and some had been crushed.
There was a pattern to their destruction.
First, the wires connecting their joints were cut and then bullets or explosives were fired or shoved into the entrances and exits for those wires.
The technique required high precision and speed.
But more dolls yet remained. Nearly three digits’ worth surrounded the tower from a distance.
Their gazes were all focused on one point.
A few figures stood in front of the tower, protecting its entrance.
They were maid automatons and the central one had a machinegun floating to either side of her.
Counting the red-haired one wielding the machineguns, there were three.
Injured maids were sleeping in the coolers placed behind them.
They no longer had handguns floating around them.
Their only weapons were knives with chipped blades and their other guns.
The one on the left opened her mouth.
She had lost her right shoulder and she spoke to the red-haired automaton.
“I will create a diversion, #8-sama.”
“No, you will not.”
#8 used her gravitational control to swap out ammunition belts while giving that dignified response.
A case hung down from the ammunition belt she dragged from the cooler.
The case fell to the ground, now empty.
But #8 looked around regardless.
“The enemy is numerous, but if we avoid any unnecessary attacks and focus our efforts…”
As soon as she said that, the maid to her right, whose left hand was destroyed, narrowed her eyes and spoke.
“Here they come!”
#8 turned in that maid’s direction and saw the forest shaking.
A moment later, a wall of wind reached her.
New dolls appeared, seemingly born from the forest surrounding the plain.
“More of them?”
“No,” said the maid to her right with a shake of her head. “They are not the only ones coming.”
There was also a giant figure.
A giant doll appeared, towering above the trees of the forest.
This was one of the same large dolls that had approached Japanese UCAT on the night of the Army’s attack.
The doll held a giant sashimi knife in each hand and it was nearly ten meters tall.
This was a remote-controlled doll the size of a god of war.
#8 calculated out the enemy’s strength and compared it to their own.
The other two automatons turned toward her.
She nodded and responded while closing her shared memory
“You two retreat along with those behind us.”
The answer was simple.
“My duty is to protect.”
“W-we can also-…”
“No,” said #8 to cut them off. She looked back and forth between the other two. “My duty is to protect my master. You have yet to find your masters, so go. I desire to remain here. That is what I have determined.”
Her words were accompanied by a great sound from the sky.
She looked up and saw two mechanical dragons flying along Babel’s surface.
The automatons’ eyes saw exactly what happened.
Thunder Fellow was hit by Alex’s main cannon and fell into the southern mountain range.
That mechanical dragon was Team Leviathan’s greatest individual strength, but it had been shot down.
The automatons on the left and right froze when they saw it, but #8 did not.
Expressionless, she took a slow step forward.
The two now behind her frantically turned her way, so she addressed them.
“What does it matter if the mechanical dragon was shot down? My master is still safe. And…”
“While they may fall to the earth, none of those around us will remain there.”
“Now,” she said. “Go. You are in the way of my and my master’s master-servant relationship.”
She closed her eyes as she spoke and a slight pause followed.
Before long, she heard footsteps on either side behind her. They were stepping on the grass and moving away.
She heard them grab the coolers, but she heard nothing after that.
She had already rushed out to the battlefield.
Heo could not breathe.
She tried to move her belly to breathe, but the air would not enter her lungs.
She was lying on her back, but she did not know if she could move.
She simply trembled while facing the night sky.
She remembered the shaking and shock to her body.
She also remembered the fear.
That shaking and emotion reminded her what had happened.
She had purged her armor to reduce the force of the main cannon blast.
She had fallen, but in the instant of the crash, she had forcibly changed the direction in which she “fell” and avoided a direct hit with the earth.
The last thing she had seen was the forest slope and she did not know what had happened to her afterwards.
Long ago, her shoelace had come untied as she ran the hundred meters and she had tripped.
Just like now, she had not known what had happened to her and the shock had left her mind blank.
At the moment, she could tell the trees around her had all fallen, shimmering heat and thin smoke rose from her body, she had removed most of the armor that could be thought of as her clothes, and…
Overhead, a red light in the heavens was slowly growing in intensity.
She did not understand what was happening, but she knew for certain that she would die if that red light continued to grow.
The word “death” easily came to mind.
She had accepted that word of ending because she no longer understood anything.
She felt tears in her eyes and she felt like none of her would move, but this was not due to the fall.
She had given it everything she had, but it had not been enough.
She had rejected her opponent’s justice, but she had not defeated him.
She felt her speed had not been enough to overtake him.
A single thought entered her mind.
…There’s no point in moving anymore.
So she did not move.
It was not that she thought nothing of the red light that would soon be sent her way.
“But I lost…”
So there was nothing she could do.
She heard a voice.
At first, she did not know whose voice it was and she briefly did not even realize it was her name being called.
But as soon as she realized both who the voice belonged to and whose name it was, the voice called again.
“Can you hear me, Heo Thunderson?”
It was Harakawa and she responded to him.
She forcefully took the breath she had been previously unable to take.
“Wh-what is it?”
“Well,” he gently replied. “Are you going to die, Heo?”
It shocked her that someone else – even someone so close to her – had guessed so perfectly what she was thinking.
“H-how did you know that?”
“Then listen carefully, Heo.”
“Okay,” she said just before she heard his next words.
Harakawa was stretched out on top of the upside-down pilot’s seat.
He was being held there by gravitational control, so the grass and the distant forest looked upside down to him.
His legs were placed up on the console and his arms were behind his head in a pose of relaxation.
“Do as you wish, Heo,” he said.
“A-as I wish…?”
He understood why she was so confused.
She was an active girl. She did not wish for a simple life like he did.
That active side of her gave her many things and expanded her world, but simplicity had its own strengths.
…If you’re knocked down, you can live on in your simplicity and you don’t think too much of it.
Both happiness and unhappiness were averaged out and you avoided both.
But Heo was different. She had harsh ups and harsh downs.
“This goes beyond bipolar disorder. You could probably call it the UCAT disorder.”
“Wh-what are you talking about!?”
“Don’t worry about it,” he said.
And he had a thought: What does it matter if you lose once or twice?
He did not say it out loud, but he did say it in his heart.
…Some people can’t even accept the challenge. Compared to that, what’s so bad about losing?
She had not died.
“Thunder Fellow and I stayed at the controls during the crash. We removed just the frame which made the whole thing more pliable and let most of the impact escape. Most of the armor was stripped away, but we protected everything necessary for flight and attack and the frame isn’t even scratched.”
“If you want to fly, you can fly. If you want to die, you can die. You can just as easily choose either action.”
Don’t worry about it Heo Thunderson.
…This is a race.
Your enemy outdid you in the previous match, but that was on his battlefield.
“Hey,” he asked. “What is your justice, Heo Thunderson?”
She hesitated to answer but finally spoke.
“Why do you always ask me so many questions?”
“That’s simple. I don’t have the answers, so that’s my form of justice, Heo Thunderson. That’s why I only ever ask someone who can reach the answer on their own.”
“I won’t say it again. Don’t forget it.”
With that, he sat up and operated the communicator.
“Can you hear it?”
I’ll tell you.
“The ridiculous song of the ridiculous people seeking your justice.”
After some static, she heard a song arriving over the communicator.
The American UCAT members were singing as they continued to fight.
“Can you hear it? That’s the American national anthem, ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’.”
She heard the song they sang to encourage themselves.
“Oh, say can you see by the dawn’s early light
“What so proudly we hailed at the twilight’s last gleaming?
“Whose broad stripes and bright stars thru the perilous fight,
“O’er the ramparts we watched were so gallantly streaming?
“And the rocket’s red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
“Gave proof thru the night that our flag was still there.
“Oh, say does that star-spangled banner yet wave
“O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?”
Heo saw something.
In the winter sky directly in front of her, the northern end was brighter.
She saw a certain light beyond the red light of death.
It was the North Star.
She remembered the meaning that star held for her.
Once, a mechanical dragon had ascended toward that star.
That dragon had a heart and that was exactly why he had gone mad.
In the very end, he had asked her name and she had replied with the name of happiness.
…I answered him.
So, she thought.
“If I have my own brand of justice…”
She got up.
“If I do…!!”
She could not complete this lying down.
“It is not to keep people from crying!!”
She filled her body with strength and shook her own aching body.
“It is to ensure everyone’s happiness by watching over them and holding out your hand…”
She opened her mouth and filled her lungs with air.
“But letting them choose everything for themselves!!”
With that shout, she heard a voice.
“On your mark.”
It was a precious voice.
It was the precious voice of someone precious.
Just after he gave her a mental push forward, the red light in the heavens shot down towards the earth.
But just before it did, Heo flew.
She escaped the light of death and flew toward the center of the heavens.
She flew toward the star there.
Thunder Fellow ascended.
Alex realized his enemy had recovered.
His red main cannon scorched the air and swept across the earth, but its target was no longer there.
The blue and white mechanical dragon ascended along a spiraling path that seemed to wrap around the afterimage of the red light.
…So she’s coming!
He opened the multi-shot container installed in his body and fired the bullets.
However, the enemy seemed to forcefully swing her body around as she bent the air and flew.
She rotated through the bullets, leaned back, and yet…
Her direct ascent made the space between them meaningless.
So Alex wished to continue their battle.
He lit up his accelerators.
From here on, having speed only put him on an even level with her.
The battle would occur in the heavens above.
Their speed had already turned every point in those heavens into an aerial battlefield.
A dragon’s flight negated all distance.
The dragon below exposed its body in its ascent as if negating any time created by the distance between them.
Alex used all his strength to climb the slope into the heavens, but the pursuing blue and white form caught up in an instant.
“So this is your justice!”
He had heard his enemy’s earlier shout.
Then what was happiness to his other self?
He looked across the heavens during his direct ascent.
He had a clear view.
The chill and shadows of night spread out in all three hundred sixty degrees and created a vast emptiness, but…
“Is it to bathe in this frigid freedom, Heo Thunderson!?”
Heo did not answer.
She simply displayed her speed and her ascent along a gouging arc.
She seemed to have grown even faster than before.
Before, they had been fought as they descended.
But this was different.
If they forgot to ascend, they would fall. If they did not constantly desire speed, they could not even remain where they were.
Heo Thunderson saw that as entirely natural.
She flew with even greater speed than when they had been falling. Her flight here was a fight against gravity and…
…Has she gone insane in her resistance!?
“No… Have you gone insane in your own happiness, Heo Thunderson!?”
They exchanged cannon blasts as their speeds collided and separated.
The bullets that missed their mark drew long arcs through the night sky.
The escaped speed became arcs of water vapor that decorated the night sky.
It was much like a high-speed dance.
They would approach their enemy but then move away to avoid that enemy’s attacks.
There was evasion and attack.
The flying lightning strikes were like outstretched hands.
The rolling scissors used to avoid them were much like turns.
All the while, the two dragons raced up into the night sky.
The earth was visible down below.
They saw the night of this planet, this country, this mountainous region, and the surrounding cities.
There was light, there was flickering, there was movement, and people lived there.
The moonlight created a clear division between earth and sea and a different country’s lights were visible beyond that sea.
This was a world with nothing to hear and everything to see.
The two mechanical dragons intersected their attacks and evasions in that world.
All the while, they ascended.
Their paths created a double helix which connected the earth below to the heavens above.
There was a single sound there.
It was a song.
A girl’s voice sang a song of fluttering stars with her own meaning in mind.
“Oh, say can you see by the dawn’s early light.”
“What so proudly we hailed at the twilight’s last gleaming?”
White spray filled the sky and formed an arc.
“Whose broad stripes and bright stars thru the perilous fight.”
“Her rising power carried her into the heavens.
“O’er the ramparts we watched were so gallantly streaming?”
She stared directly at her enemy.
“And the rocket’s red glare, the bombs bursting in air.”
She was catching up.
“Gave proof thru the night that our flag was still there.”
She moved in to capture him.
“Oh, say does that star-spangled banner yet wave.”
It all came down to acceleration.
“O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?”
Heo pursued Alex through a sky of absolute freedom.
Heo attempted to fulfill her promise.
It was a one-sided promise. She had carved it into her heart when she had parted ways with a certain giant mechanical dragon.
…“Become like these people”.
“So I will stop you!”
She could see the blue and red mechanical dragon directly in front of her.
She let her body shake as she accelerated right up to him.
Her thoughts no longer formed words.
She was too focused.
Her mind was filled with a list of words that did not qualify as language.
It was like a song created from a mix of emotion and memory.
She had heard before that sprinting finalists would enter a state near unconsciousness as they ran.
And if so, why did they run?
Because they wanted the result?
No. The goal was not the running. Running was something that only occurred while running.
In that case, why did they run as their consciousness faded? And why was she running now?
She did not know.
She did not even understand her current state.
She simply felt freedom in the pleasure of flight.
A mechanical dragon flew beyond the current of air ahead of her.
She heard a song in her heart as she reached out toward that dragon.
…He is calling.
He was calling and calling.
In this high-speed space where all things could go hand in hand, she was being called by the power that could bring the flower of destruction into bloom.
The flying bullets could not catch up and her reflecting defense was not enough.
Her speed was now as much a part of her as her own body.
Even her spirit was only a requirement needed to step onto the battlefield.
I can arrive there, but you are calling me to battle you there.
So it is my wings’ duty to answer your call.
The answer awaits there.
Our answer, which is not a conclusion, awaits us there.
…It is waiting.
Heo no longer used her mind to think.
She let her mind scatter and simply felt. She sensed what the answer was.
And in the direction she wished for, she saw the stars, the sky…
And her other self.
Alex forced himself through evasive action.
His body creaked and the wind roared.
However, his pain was rewarded by his enemy vanishing from before his eyes.
But just as he thought he had escaped, he realized the blue and white dragon was in the space behind him.
She fired on him.
He avoided it.
He turned around and ascended.
But no matter what action he took, he could never see his enemy.
She was always behind him.
He could feel it in the air currents. He could feel the pressure of a great flying object circling behind him and calmly ascending.
He just about asked “how”, but his answer did not come in words. It came only as speed.
He was blown away by a shockwave.
Thunder Fellow had rapidly approached and used its gravitational control to slam its shockwave into him.
That attack used speed itself as a weapon.
Knocked away, Alex twisted around and regained control.
But by then, Thunder Fellow was already behind him.
He heard Thunder Fellow saying something in a quiet voice.
It was a song.
He could not quite make it out, but it was definitely a song.
That song hit him.
As he was knocked away, he was hit again and again.
It would not stop.
In their spiraling ascent, the mechanical dragon was knocked into the heavens above.
Soon, an especially strong blow hit his belly.
He bent back and saw the heavens.
He saw a star there.
When he looked down, the blue and white dragon was charging up at him.
Its speed was now a straight line.
It almost seemed to be heading toward the star behind him.
…But I can’t afford to lose.
“To see my justice through to the end…”
He took a breath and opened his main cannon mouth.
“…I cannot abandon anyone to their tears!!”
He then heard a girl’s voice from below.
“You don’t know how people can stand back up in those situations!”
“Those are the words of the powerful!!”
He saw his other self speed up as if on reflex.
His other self left the planet of man behind and instead accelerated toward the lonely star in the sky.
He was nothing but one point in between.
Without listening to his words of protest any longer, that incarnation of acceleration continued on its collision course.
That speed let out a roar.
“I am not powerful! I just have times when I get a little bit stronger!”
“The power that lets me do that…is my justice!”
Alex fired regardless.
His mind told him he had hit, but all he saw was a sharp arc of water vapor slicing through the sky.
Thunder Fellow flipped around in an evasion.
There was no fake, trick, feint, or strategy behind it.
His other self simply used her strength to force her way through.
She would detect the instant he fired and used her overwhelming thrust to evade.
A moment later, Alex realized she had collided with him.
He also heard a voice.
“What’s wrong with crying when you want to?”
He could feel his consciousness leaving him from the impact.
“If you do that, someone is sure to reach out to you.”
Alex suddenly remembered long ago when a girl who had always been strong had cried for the first time.
What had he done then?
…I took her hand.
He had had a different body back then, but…
…Will you still stop crying if I take your hand with this mechanical body?
If so, then his justice was…
“Is it the same, Heo Thunderson!?”
A deep impact seemed to answer him.
He saw a white line. He saw a single vapor trail flying toward the star in the center of the night sky.
He fell as he watched it leave.
He spread his wings to tell the girl on the surface that he was okay and to see off the girl rising into the heavens.
He spread his great wings to say that he was here.
And then he lost consciousness.
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