Owari no Chronicle:Volume1 Chapter 11

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Chapter 11: Her Fingers[edit]

OnC v01 0307.png

If you draw in one who is waiting

They will become one who is hoping

Instead of merely waiting, they will be hoping


The sun began to sink and the shadows of buildings and people grew slightly slanted.

The rectangular shadows of the school buildings of Taka-Akita Academy to the west of Tokyo were no exception.

Two deeper shadows stood in the shadow behind the 2nd year general school building on the western edge of the academy.

They were Brunhild and the black cat.

Brunhild was not keeping the black cat from speaking as it gasped for breath. It lay on its stomach and spoke quietly.

“Wow, I don’t think I’ve ever panicked that much before. I followed my observation target and ran across a gunfight. And I certainly didn’t expect them to all of a sudden target me. I shouldn’t have walked there in this form.”

“If you think about it, you might have become the cat with the most involvement in the history of 1st-Gear. At any rate, I’m glad you managed to escape.”

“You were worried about me? Thanks.”

“Yes. It would be a shame to waste the wonderful relationship we have constructed together.”

“I just learned that the word ‘wonderful’ has more than one meaning,” commented the cat with a sigh.

Brunhild said, “Now, what is this report that was so urgent you had to stop me from going to the cafeteria?”

“The Royal Palace faction surrendered. All of the hawks showed up, but they lost.”

“They lost? With all of them there? Who did UCAT send out?”

“Surely you already know. Who do you think I was observing? The Royal Palace faction’s terrorist attack was just a showy bonus I stumbled onto while tracking him. …He took part in the battle.”

Brunhild muttered the name of their observation target as if to confirm it.

“…Siegfried Zonburg.”

“Yes, but he was only a guest. He was not part of the main force.”

Brunhild’s expression stiffened at that. The black cat grinned and continued speaking.

“It seems this school’s student council president, vice president, and treasurer are part of Team Leviathan. It looked like an automaton also took part as a guest. What will you do?”

“You have to ask? If they are our enemy, I will have to fight them if it comes to that.”

The cat fell silent at that. It slowed its breathing and looked up at Brunhild.

Finally, it spoke.

“Can you do that? This may be you we’re talking about, but you have no grudge against them.”

“If they are our enemy, I will have no choice.”

“They might pass by in the hall and greet you.”

“Do you think they will simply greet me on the battlefield?” asked Brunhild and the black cat stared up at its master.

“True enough,” it said with a nod after a short time. It lowered its gaze and quietly added, “But you are the type of person who still remembers the song Siegfried taught you.”

Brunhild sighed, placed her hands on her hips, and tilted her head.

“I do not know what you are trying to do, but try not to trouble me too much.” After thinking for a moment, she spoke to the cat that was hanging its head down. “Even if they may become my enemy on the battlefield, Team Leviathan is still being formed, correct? Siegfried may be another matter, but there is no guarantee the others will become my enemies, right?”

“Right. The vice president had a lot of things explained to him. Team Leviathan is still not fully put together.”

“Then we do not know what will happen. Unlike Siegfried who destroyed 1st-Gear, they are not yet clear combatants. I will not try to kill someone like that.”

“Yes… That would be nice.”

The black cat raised its head and Brunhild looked back with an expressionless look.

She remained silent and the cat commented, “Is this a wonderful relationship?”

“You shouldn’t have to say it yourself, though.” Brunhild brought a hand to her cheek and smiled bitterly. After a moment, she lowered that hand. “But the Royal Palace faction will likely join with the peaceful faction they originally broke off from. And UCAT will likely recommend they do so. To set the stage for discussions with us, they need to strengthen the peaceful faction as an intermediary.”

“This is getting tricky.”

“Yes. But the Royal Palace faction truly is pathetic. If a battle this small is enough to satisfy them, they should have stopped fighting ages ago. They may have secretly always wanted to return to the peaceful faction.”

“So they went out of the way to cause this commotion and get captured so they could align with the peaceful faction while also sticking to their principles? Is that it? But why?”

“Pride. That’s why. …And that is also why I cannot mock them. The Royal Palace faction regained a small bit of what we lost when we were destroyed. We do not have even that, so we have no room to talk. Now, let’s go.”

With a nod, Brunhild began walking toward the cafeteria.

To keep the cat from speaking, Brunhild gripped a blue stone in her right hand and began to write something in the air.

But she stopped when she heard a small sound.

“Chirping?” she asked.

The black cat looked around and said, “Over there.”

It was facing a line of trees in front of the 3rd year general school building.

High-pitched chirping could be heard from the ground below one of those trees.

Brunhild jogged over and saw it. A fully-fledged but still young bird was repeatedly flapping its wings fruitlessly at the bottom of the tree.

The chirping continued below the afternoon sun.


Sayama and Ooshiro sat at the rest area bench to the east of the grassy area.

Shinjou had gone to report on the situation, so she was not with them. Sayama let out a light sigh at that fact.

The scene around him was no different than it had been before the 1st-Gear attackers had arrived.

The stone wall had not crumbled and the rest area had not been destroyed. The fact that it had all happened inside a Concept Space finally hit home for Sayama.

Everywhere he looked, people were running around in all sorts of uniforms. They were UCAT workers.

After the battle, the knight and his comrades had surrendered and the Concept Space had been neutralized and released. At the same moment, UCAT vehicles had arrived through the Sakashita Gate on the east side of the Imperial Palace. The various vehicles were disguised as a delivery company, a gardener, a mover, a security company, etc.

The people who stepped out of the vehicles were dressed to match the camouflage. This led to their uniforms all being mismatched.

From what Sayama could see, the delivery company was the investigation team, the gardener was the medical team, and the mover was the maintenance team. Unsurprisingly, the security company took care of security at the entrance to the open area.

The knight and his comrades were taken away by those in the delivery company uniform. As Sayama watched them, Ooshiro Kazuo spoke from where he sat to Sayama’s left.

“They were one of the radical factions of 1st-Gear.”

“You said I would be carrying out provisional negotiations with the peaceful faction tomorrow, but is the situation there just as dangerous?”

“Don’t worry. The peaceful faction wishes to talk this out. However…”

“However?” repeated Sayama.

Ooshiro raised two fingers on his right hand with the passing uniformed workers behind them.

“You heard from Shinjou-kun that 1st-Gear has two Concept Cores, correct?”

“I heard they are sealed inside a sword and something called a mechanical dragon.”

“Yes. The first is in the holy sword Gram which is stored in UCAT’s western branch headquarters below IAI headquarters. The second…well, it is inside Fafnir Custom, the mechanical dragon belonging to the City faction. That is the largest radical group and we do not currently know where they are located. The modified mechanical dragon supposedly has separate reactors for movement and weaponry and the Concept Core is sealed within the weapons reactor. That is a very big problem.”

“Fafnir, you say?”

Sayama had heard the names Gram and Fafnir before.

They are from a European epic poem.

“That is from the Ring of the Nibelung, isn’t it? My grandfather took me to an opera based on that story once. Our opinions on it were split, so we got into a fistfight once we returned home. …But why is that showing up here?”

“That is a trivial detail, so I will explain it later. At any rate, your true negotiation opponent is the radical faction possessing the other Concept Core. When that happens…”

“It would be best to have the peaceful faction act as an intermediary. Is that what the preliminary negotiations tomorrow are for?”

“Yes. Do your best not to cause any conflict. …What we want is to receive the concepts from them and activate them. A lot of them will be opposed to the idea, but in order to apologize for destroying all the other Gears, we have no intention of causing a second war.”

Ooshiro raised his right thumb and Sayama ignored him.

“Now then,” said Sayama. “Basically, you want me to put an end to the grudges from the past, obtain a promise to release the concepts, and prevent the world from growing too far in the negative direction? That certainly is a convenient task you are forcing onto me.”

“The Leviathan Road is a series of negotiations to that end.” Ooshiro then raised five fingers. “Sayama Kaoru, your grandfather, placed five conditions on the Leviathan Road.” He lowered his thumb. “First, in your research, the consenting representatives of each Gear may not disclose information on any Gear but their own. Also, any information related to the destruction of the Gears must be investigated and determined by you and those helping you. No one else may guide you.”

At this point Ooshiro looked toward Sayama.

“Do you have any questions?”

“I was planning to ask all my questions after you had finished. Is that okay?”

“I can never underestimate you.” Ooshiro smiled faintly and lowered his index finger. “Second, members of UCAT are forbidden from revealing or leading you to any information on the Gears or their destruction except for the information given prior to the Leviathan Road beginning and what is needed to introduce the representatives of the friendly Gears.” He lowered his middle finger. “Third, any added helpers will be overlooked, but no one may be forced to help.” He lowered his ring finger. “Fourth, if you choose to take action, UCAT will cooperate to the best of our ability.” Lastly, he lowered his little finger. “The negotiations with 6th-Gear and 10th-Gear are already complete, so you will focus on negotiations with the other Gears instead of repeating negotiations with those two Gears. This must be completed as quickly as possible and by any means necessary.”

After explaining all that, Ooshiro lightly spread his hands downwards and tilted his head.

“What do you think?”

Sayama nodded, brought a hand to his chin, and replied.

“Saying it too bluntly would cause some problems, so I will be more indirect: Was my grandfather an idiot?”

“Oh, nicely said. Now, how about I be a little indirect, too?” Ooshiro held his head in his hands. “That’s harsh!”

“I think I will ignore that and continue on.”

“…”

“He tells me to negotiate, but he refuses to give me any information on my opponent and wants me to feel everything out as I go along? What does he plan to do if I make some horrible mistake out of ignorance? He can just go to hell. …Actually, I suppose he is already there.”

“Calm down and listen. You will be occasionally introduced to representatives to the Gears who approve of the Leviathan Road. And what your grandfather truly wanted was for you to gain experiences rather than knowledge of the past. …Baku there in your pocket was his idea as well.”

Ooshiro reached out and petted Baku’s head as he spoke.

In response, Sayama said, “Before we begin talking about ideas, I still do not believe everything about this situation.”

Sayama smiled bitterly when he suddenly realized he was motivated to do this despite complaining.

I am not calm, he thought. I am still at the stage of deciding whether I will be involved or not.

That thought calmed him down. He had not yet decided if he would accept the right passed down to him. There was a lot he did not understand and he was only at the very first stage where he was being taught many different things. The biggest problem Sayama saw was in the phrase “by any means necessary”. That meant it was already assumed lives would be taken and lost.

It was true that there was no guarantee this could be resolved by talking it out if a radical faction possessed the Concept Core.

The Leviathan Road was a negotiation to prevent the world from falling to the negative concepts and being destroyed.

That meant combat could not be taken off the table and it was worth taking some risks for. However…

But can I do that?

He had doubts.

That was a question he could not answer just by thinking about it. And so he shook his head.

For a change of pace, he asked Ooshiro about something that had been bothering him about 1st-Gear.

“I want to hear more about what we mentioned before. During the battle, I saw the name Wotan Kingdom on the book loaded into that knight’s rifle. And just now you mentioned the holy sword Gram and Fafnir. Is that-…?”

“Those names are from the epic poem ‘The Song of the Nibelungs’ that spread across Northern Europe and Germany and from the Volsunga Saga, the Norse legend it is based on.”

This explanation came from a voice behind and to the left of Sayama. It was Siegfried.


Sayama turned around to find Siegfried standing with Izumo and Kazami on either side. They had already removed their equipment which was being stowed in a mobile okonomiyaki stand.

Sayama stared at the three of them and asked, “How can that be? Why does 1st-Gear, an alternate world, use the same words as an epic poem of our world?”

“What makes you think it originates from our world?”

That left Sayama at a loss for words. Siegfried nodded his head once and continued speaking.

“The Izumo Aviation Institute once created its National Defense Department and chose skilled researchers and test pilots. A ‘sorcerer’ arrived from Germany and set out to modify the ley lines. However, when the facilities meant to connect Japan to the world and bring the world’s earthly energy to Japan, strange phenomena occurred in various parts of Japan.”

“Strange phenomena?”

“Monsters and worlds that had become legends in various parts of the world appeared in Japan once the ley lines were connected. The alterations to the ley lines increased the connection rate with the other Gears. Concept Spaces repeatedly opened up centered on ten different locations within Japan and we would occasionally battle them. And we realized something.” Siegfried took a breath. “The cultures of the ten other Gears appearing in the ten locations at which Japan’s ley lines were modified greatly resembled the legends, myths, and cultures of the regions those ley lines corresponded to.”

“You mean…”

It was Kazami who answered this time.

“What a pain,” she said first while raising both her palms. “That’s right. Ever since Low-Gear began to exist, it has crossed paths with the other Gears a few times and that has created a few connections. Low-Gear is where the other Gear’s negative concepts end up, but that has given us the characteristics of all the other Gears’ cultures.” Kazami then walked in front of Siegfried and placed a hand on Izumo’s shoulder. And, “Anyway, certain circumstances led to me becoming a member of UCAT. Differences in physical strength can be overcome in Concept Spaces after all. …Sayama, why are you getting involved in all this?”

“I do not know. I still have no reason.”

“I see,” said Kazami with a nod. She formed a gun with her right hand and aimed it at his forehead. “We were in that forest last night, too. I was the one that fired that last shot.”

“…”

“I’m only involved as the result of a certain event and someone I know, but I’ve made it in this deep. If you want to rethink this, this is your last chance, Sayama. Also…”

Kazami lowered her gun hand, grabbed Izumo’s hand, and began walking away.

“Eh? We’re leaving already?” asked Izumo as Kazami dragged him away.

Izumo frantically waved toward Sayama and Kazami looked over her shoulder with a bitter smile. As she continued toward a UCAT vehicle disguised as a pizza food truck, that bitter smile transformed into a true smile.

As if to make doubly sure, she said, “Well, let’s keep things the same as ever at school.”

She then faced forward once more. With her back to Sayama, she dragged Izumo along with her and left.

After watching them leave, Sayama turned toward Siegfried.

The tall old man was also watching Kazami and Izumo leave.

Rather than Sayama or Siegfried, it was Ooshiro Kazuo who spoke next.

“She was trying to help you out there, Mikoto-kun. Kazami-kun is quite nice.”

“I am having difficulty understanding why she needed to act so tough, though. Also, old man, haven’t you ever heard the proverb telling the elderly not to act like they are still young?”

Sayama’s manner of speaking brought a small smile to Siegfried’s lips.

“Such a nostalgic way of speaking. I have not had much chance to speak with you at school, but it seems you have inherited more than enough of the Sayama personality. You really are Sayama’s grandson.”

“You call me his grandson, but I am actually the son of his adopted son.”

That turned Siegfried’s smile into a bitter one.

That bitter smile brought a sudden pressure to the left side of Sayama’s chest. He quickly realized why. During the battle, Siegfried had said he was a former member of the National Defense Department.

He must have known my grandfather.

For that reason, he went in a different direction with his next question to Siegfried.

“Why is the man who destroyed 1st-Gear working as a school librarian?”

“That library contains documents related to the Concept War. When UCAT makes a request, I investigate it on their behalf. Before that, I worked as a weapon tester for German UCAT, but…”

When he trailed off, Ooshiro finished for him.

“His ability was simply too great. They were unable to determine the pure ability of the weapon. And nine years ago when the previous librarian died, we had him return to Japan after so many years.”

“Then will you be involved in the Leviathan Road?”

“I will only be involved in the negotiations with 1st-Gear. I cannot interfere with the others.” He cast his eyes down lightly and spoke his next words more quietly. “After all, 1st-Gear was the only Gear I destroyed.”


Below a tree sitting in the sun, a small bird flapped its wings against the ground.

Standing before it was Brunhild and the black cat.

The cat rushed over to the bird and frantically looked back toward Brunhild.

“Wh-wh-wh-wh-what should we do!? Th-this is an awful situation here! What should we do? Look at the poor thing. I-isn’t there anything we can do!? Can I eat it!?”

“Was that last one what you really think?” asked Brunhild with half-lidded eyes before crouching down.

The small bird was chirping while bending its black head backwards. Black feathers ran down the center of its white chest like a necktie. The small wings striking the ground were slightly blue but mostly black.

It was small, but it had the distinct coloration of a nearly fully-grown bird. Brunhild frowned a bit as she crouched down.

“We cannot interfere with this. This is the law of nature. …Look up.”

The cat and Brunhild look up. A small, dark semicircle was visible atop one of the poplar tree’s branches. It was a bird’s nest. However…

“No other birds are crying within the nest. The other children and the parents have left. This one likely cannot fly. Or it may be able to but cannot remember how or lacks the strength. One way or the other, it cannot fly now.”

“You know a lot about this.”

“Long ago, I took care of an injured bird.”

“Then why not do it again?”

“I can’t. …Don’t give me that look. I said I can’t, so I can’t. It isn’t happening.”

“C’mon, Brunhild. You aren’t making any sense. You say it’s the law of nature, but you broke it before, right?”

“Shut up.”

Brunhild reached out a hand to grab the black cat’s tail, but the cat stepped out of the way. With the slight sound of it treading on the gravel, the cat circled around to the other side of the flapping bird.

Brunhild frowned and the small bird ceased flapping and chirping once the cat’s shadow fell over it.

Brunhild held out her hand.

“Come here. I was headed to the cafeteria. I can get some food for you too.”

“That’s all right. I have some food right here.”

Brunhild stood up and sighed.

“What are you doing?”

“This is what you meant by the law of nature, right? I’m hungry and I want to relieve myself of some stress that has been building up. …That’s how it works, right?”

“Stop that,” said Brunhild as she stepped forward on the gravel. The cat moved back just as far and she asked it, “What would you do if I wasn’t here?”

“Capture it and eat it. Just like my instincts tell me to.”

“In other words, you will have a chance unless I watch over this bird until it starves?”

She looked down. The bird stopped flapping its wings and looked up at Brunhild.

The bird then gave a quiet tweet.

“…”

Brunhild remained silent, but the ends of her eyebrows lowered slightly.

The bird moved. It lightly raised its body and showed off its flapping wings. It chirped as it looked up at her. It chirped again and again without stopping. Brunhild cast her eyes down as she heard it.

Her shoulders drooped and she sighed. She then spoke to the black cat.

“Um…Can I?”

“Sure.”

“Don’t say ‘sure’ before I even get to what I’m talking about!!”

“That may be true, but…did that help relieve some stress?”

“Yes.” Brunhild’s shoulders lowered, she lifted her right hand, and raised the index finger. “You know, this is a lot of responsibility. It isn’t something to take on lightly.”

“…You seemed amazingly carefree when you took me on as your familiar.”

“Oh, shut up. Honestly,” muttered Brunhild as she crouched down once more.

She held her hand out toward the small bird. The bird hesitated for a moment, but eventually struck the ground with its wings and hopped up onto her palm. It must have felt the lightly curled palm was safe because it settled down in the bottom of her palm and tweeted quietly.

Brunhild looked down at the bird and muttered, “Now I’ve done it…”

“Ahh ahh, you broke the law of nature! You shouldn’t do that, Miss Brunhild!”

She wanted to do something, but her hand was otherwise occupied. She was forced to clench her teeth and blush.

“Wow, for the first time in my life, I feel victory! From now on, I will be the one-…whoa!!”

After kicking the cat in the rear, Brunhild turned her back on it and walked away.

The cat hurried after her.

“Where are you going?”

“The cafeteria. I need food for the bird and a cardboard box for it.”

“What about food for me?”

“How about you obey the law of nature and eat a rat? I can introduce you to a nice sewer.”

She ignored the displeased look on the cat’s face and let out a breath. She looked at the small bird opening its beak and chirping in her hand.

“But I really shouldn’t have done this. Leaving things be is the law of nature.”

“Which is why you should let a natural beast like me eat it.”

“Come to think of it, you aren’t a natural creature at all!”


The Sakashita Gate on the eastern side of the Imperial Palace sat below the sinking afternoon sun.

Sayama and Shinjou sat atop the railing of the bridge crossing the moat. They watched the disguised transport vehicles leave through the gate.

Kazami and Izumo had already left in one of the disguised vehicles along with Siegfried.

Sf had received some simple repairs and was aboard the maintenance team’s vehicle. Sayama recalled when she had expressionlessly grabbed onto Ooshiro Itaru and refused to let go when he said he would return on his own.

Sayama was waiting for Ooshiro Kazuo who was taking part in a pre-withdrawal meeting. He wanted to speak with the old man about the preliminary negotiations with 1st-Gear the following day.

He turned to Shinjou and asked, “Are you heading back after this, Shinjou-kun?”

“Yes. After getting out some like you said I should, Sayama-kun. I’ll stay with you until Ooshiro-san gets here,” she said.

Sayama bowed lightly and said, “Thank you.”

“It’s fine, it’s fine. I did it again today, though. …Sorry.”

“No need to apologize. There is always the help needed afterwards. Heading to the front is not the only type of ability. Isn’t that right?”

“Perhaps…but did I really manage to help out afterwards?”

“Last night, you lent me your lap and taught me plenty afterwards. Today, you informed us of coming danger and you are speaking with me like this now.”

Shinjou let out a heavy breath when she heard that.

“Maybe I’m not suited for this kind of thing.”

“That is not true,” said Sayama and recalled that he had said something similar the night before.

It seems I end up wanting to deny her words on occasion.

He more or less understood why, but he did not pursue the thought.

Stepping in too deep would mean becoming involved with the other person.

The left side of his chest ached slightly.

He had gained that pain when he had lost his parents who had been deeply involved with him.

Sayama looked toward Shinjou.

She kept her head hanging down for a while, but finally…

“Hey.” She slowly raised her head. Her partially lowered eyebrows turned his way and she tilted her head. “Why did you come here today?”

“What do you mean by that? You gave me so much information yesterday.”

“But you have yet to accept the right to the Leviathan Road. After what happened yesterday, haven’t you thought of getting out now to avoid any more danger?”

Sayama saw Shinjou’s gaze turn toward his left arm.

“Why?”

He knew why. But could he communicate it to her by simply saying it?

That he did not know.

How very strange, muttered Sayama in his heart.

The year before in the small area that was the school, he had run for student council vice president, made speeches in front of countless students, and won. Yet now, in front of only one person…

“…”

Sayama realized he had no words to speak.

He had no idea how much time had passed since Shinjou had asked her question.

Yet when he looked toward her, she was still looking his way with the ends of her eyebrows lowered slightly.

She was waiting.

The response he gave to her expectations was a single action. Sayama suddenly placed his hand atop Shinjou’s hand on the railing. Her fingers moved a bit, but she did not reject his touch.

Sayama nodded and asked, “How does my palm feel?”

Shinjou lowered her gaze somewhat.

Sayama felt her fingers move gently beneath his hand.

Her response was quiet and spoken as if it was a question.

“It is hot. And I can feel your pulse?”

“Those are the vestiges of that battle. And…”

Sayama continued in his thoughts.

Your pulse and heat from last night were different.

Her pulse had been elevated and she had been warm, but it had been something calmer and deeper.

With that difference in mind, Sayama declared, “I want to gain something more than this.”

“That battle and everything you did in it wasn’t enough?”

“No. And I have to wonder…if it is really okay for me to become serious.”

“Why? Why do you not want to get serious?”

Sayama looked at Shinjou. Her expression was the one of apology he had seen the night before.

While averting his gaze from her eyes without meaning to, Sayama answered.

“The surname Sayama indicates a villain. That is what my grandfather taught me… I was raised to carry out that saying. My power is dedicated to using even greater evil to crush anything I decide is evil or an enemy. But,” he nodded, “I wonder if my evil is truly needed. I could become serious if I wanted to. However, I am currently too afraid of making that decision. If I remain like this, I doubt I would last long.”

“You…have no self-confidence?”

Sayama fell silent at that question.

But Shinjou did not press further. She only shook her head and said something else.

“I think you could do quite well, Sayama-kun. But it is true no one can know exactly how anything will go. Ooshiro-san and the others are inviting you in. They are asking you to do this, but telling you that you might die. And you just said you are afraid of growing serious.” As she spoke quietly, Shinjou sent her words to Sayama. “In that case, maybe you should leave the Leviathan Road.”


Sayama looked at Shinjou.

Their gazes met and her fingers stiffened a bit underneath his hand.

“U-um, Sayama-kun. To be honest, watching you has been kind of scary. When I first met you, you stepped forward to fight and tried to support me. And just now…”

Sayama realized the pain in his chest had grown a bit stronger. However, he did not remove his right hand from Shinjou’s hand. He felt a slightly moist warmth.

“If I fight and lose, I die. If I fight and win, I fear myself and am hated by my enemies… Is that it? But perhaps that is what UCAT wants from me.”

“…Eh?”

Sayama replied to that questioning voice.

“If all of the hatred is forced onto me and then I died, the world would become a more cheerful place, right? And UCAT would remain unscathed. Am I wrong?”

Shinjou looked a bit surprised at that. But…

“Y-you can’t do that! I don’t want you to become someone like that!” she shouted with her eyebrows raised.

As her resounding voice passed through his body, Sayama thought.

You are an excellent person to have around.

Shinjou then seemed to realize what exactly she had said because the ends of her eyebrows lowered, her cheeks reddened, and she looked to the side.

Sayama could not keep a smile from appearing on his lips.

At some point the pain in his chest had disappeared. While thinking how pleasant that was, he spoke.

“Well, if you told me you were going to die, I would say the same, Shinjou-kun. And your methods look like a way of killing yourself…at least to me.”

“D-do they?”

“Yes. When you need to fire, you cannot. You walked out onto the battlefield unarmed to inform me of danger. Frankly, I am surprised you are not already dead.”

Shinjou seemed troubled and groaned.

Shinjou thought as that groan escaped from deep within her throat, but she had not realized a certain fact.

Why is it that the two of us are both still alive after taking part in combat twice?

No one could provide an answer for Sayama’s question. However, Shinjou’s groan finally returned to being a sigh.

When she turned toward him, her black eyes were staring directly at him. Her small lips opened.

“That may be true. I’ve thought about it before. I’ve wondered if I am really any use when I am only taking part in the fighting to search for my parents.”

She stopped speaking there. She took some time to choose her next words.

“Sayama-kun, are you fighting in order to win?”

“Yes, my grandfather made sure of that. …He constantly told me to win back enough to make up for the losses whenever I fought. He told me to act as a villain and eliminate that which I saw as an enemy or evil.”

That was his attitude when fighting.

But, thought Sayama. That is not the same as having confidence in my ability to fight.

When Shinjou heard his words, she muttered a quick comment.

“That’s amazing,” she began “I wish I could say something like that… I have no set attitude telling me how to fight like you do.”

“I have no source of self-confidence to support my decisions like your search for your parents.”

Hearing that, Sayama quietly muttered, “We’re the opposite.”

She gave a bitter smile. The ends of her eyebrows lowered and her bitter smile deepened.

“We really are the opposite,” she continued. “I am always trying to find a way to not grow so strangely desperate as I wonder what I should do. I wish I was stronger so I could be more composed.”

Sayama thought on Shinjou’s words. After a short silence, he spoke.

“We truly are opposites, Shinjou-kun. Perhaps I should keep that in mind.”

“…Eh? What do you mean?”

Shinjou tilted her head in confusion.

Without replying, Sayama moved his right hand.

He lifted Shinjou’s left hand up from the bridge’s railing.

Her fingers were slender and soft. Sayama wrapped his own hand around them.

For just an instant, Shinjou tried to pull her fingers back. However, Sayama lightly dug his fingers into the flesh of her palm.

“Ah…”

With that small voice, Shinjou’s fingers tensed up.

But she finally left only the bare minimum of strength in those fingers, bent them, and entrusted her hand to his. She seemed to hold her hand out to him, but then slowly squeezed his hand back.

Sayama felt that small connection of power in his hand. He looked over to find Shinjou with her head hanging down and her eyes turned upwards to face him. When their gazes met, her shoulders trembled slightly and she frantically spoke up.

“U-um? What did you mean…just now? When you said you should keep that in mind.”

“It is a simple matter,” said Sayama. “Your view of me is surely an alternative answer that I could never come to even if I wanted to.”

“…Eh?”

“You need not think about it too deeply. Even if we are absolute opposites, it makes no difference as long as we do not worry about it. But…I simply want to remember that we each naturally hope for the opposite of the other. What do you think?”

“What do I think…? I’m not sure how to answer that.”

Shinjou’s expression could be seen as a smile or a troubled look, but Sayama smiled in return.

At that moment, a figure waved their way as it cut its way between the leaving disguised vehicles. It was Ooshiro Kazuo.

Sayama took a breath and looked at the watch on his left wrist. It was already nearing four.

“Ooshiro-san is calling for you,” stated Shinjou as if making sure.

She climbed down from the railing.

Sayama did the same and faced her.

Shinjou looked at their clasped hands, hung her head down, and spoke toward the ground.

“Um, today…when you get back to your dorm…don’t be too surprised.”

“Are you sending me something?”

“Yes, sort of. …I only just made up my mind. It will probably make me worry a lot, but I feel I have to.”

“I do not know what you are sending me, but I will gladly accept it.”

Shinjou raised her head when she heard that. With her eyebrows lowered, her face relaxed and formed a smile.

Her narrowed eyes reflected the sun which had begun setting at some point.

As that light grew crimson, they both slowly separated their clasped hands at about the same moment.


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