Owari no Chronicle:Volume1 Chapter 3
Chapter 3: Her Song
One, two, three, the words are uttered
The words are those of a singer
But only once they are heard do those precious words become a song
Ooki saw a painting of a forest.
A space had been opened in the center of the art room. The easel standing there held a large canvas giving off the scent of turpentine. The canvas contained the forest painting.
“Have you repainted this a whole bunch of times?” asked Ooki.
Brunhild turned around next to the sink at the window of the art room.
While washing the brushes she said, “I have altered parts and painted over areas countless times. But I am not ‘repainting’ it as it is still incomplete.”
“Is a painting not complete when you paint it once?”
“It can change depending on the materials and methods used. And on what you decide is its completed form.”
“Hmm,” replied Ooki as she looked at the forest contained in that rectangular frame. It was a work in progress, so some areas were not fully painted. However, a depthless black forest spread out within the canvas.
For an instant, Ooki felt like she was being sucked inside, so she frantically straightened up.
“If you get too close, you will get paint on you.”
Brunhild dried her hands and the brushes with a dark stained towel.
“Where are the other club members?” asked Ooki toward the girl’s back.
“I am the only one that remained behind for spring break and wishes to paint enough to stop by the art room. I have been making use of the space due to its excellent soundproofing.”
“Hmm,” replied Ooki again as Brunhild pulled a small round case from her skirt pocket.
It was hand cream.
Ooki let out a sigh as she watched the back of that girl rubbing the cream on her fingers.
She looked down and found the black cat looking up at the painting.
Wondering if the cat could understand what it was looking at, Ooki followed its gaze. One section of the vast, deep forest remained untouched. It had no color and the material of the canvas was exposed.
“What will you be putting in this blank area?”
“A cabin.” With her back to Ooki, Brunhild nodded to herself. “Yes, a forest is not just a collection of trees. A forest is a forest because it is a place for people. It is because of the people in the forest that the trees are not just a collection; they are counted and remembered. Forests-…” She trailed off for a moment. “The kanji for forest was the first I learned in this country. I think it is an excellent representation.”
“I see. So you’re the outdoors type… I like green things too. Like celery.”
Brunhild’s fingers stopped moving at that last comment, but Ooki carefully examined the empty spot on the canvas without realizing the meaning behind that. A careful look showed a small cabin and four people drawn in charcoal. Three of the people were visible. An old man read a book inside the cabin and a girl and a woman played with a bird in front of the cabin.
The fourth person was probably a man, but he was hard to make out. The sketched lines had been roughly erased.
However, the direction of the woman and girl’s gazes showed that someone was definitely sitting there.
“Brunhild-san? Who are these people in the cabin?”
“A forest needs people, but those who live in the forest are those known as hermits, their apprentices, and those seeking their protection. …A hermit is the same as a wise man. Those who lament the world live here.”
“I see,” said Ooki as she straightened up and thought while keeping her gaze fixed on the painting. She then whispered, “So you like making up stories to go with your paintings.”
“Did you say something?”
“No, no. Nothing at all.”
Ooki looked over and found Brunhild looking toward her.
The girl’s eyes were narrowed as if staring intently at something.
“Sensei, something has been bothering me. What is that on your forehead?”
“Oh, this? That was thanks to a student.”
“School violence? That is not good. I will teach you a disciplinary method my older sister taught me. Even the biggest fool will regain his obedience in a single strike.”
Why is this school filled with people like this? muttered Ooki in her heart.
“No, no. He is already plenty obedient. If he had been serious, it would never have stopped here.”
“This school has a student that violent?”
“Violent? No, he isn’t violent,” said Ooki. A small smile floated up on her lips. “In his second year of middle school, he advanced to the openweight finals for student karate, but he lost after breaking his fist. Afterwards, his corporate blackmailer grandfather taught him all sorts of things and he now constantly has the top grades in the school. If I had to say he has a problem,” she took a breath, “it is that his knowledge of his abilities and his knowledge of just how much of an advantage he has prevents him from getting serious about anything. This was…not so much violence as it was a mass of strength that had nowhere to go. Okay?”
As his prey flew through the air, the werewolf moved to strike her once more.
The girl was doubled over in midair and the werewolf took a powerful step toward her.
In an instant, a third figure darted between the girl and the werewolf.
The werewolf remembered this person. It was the prey he had been pursuing before the sun set. He had lost sight of this prey after running into a wall and collapsing pathetically to the ground. The prey spread his empty arms wide as if to hide the girl. He was wearing a dark vest, but the sleeves of his white shirt showed up well in the dark forest.
The werewolf chose to use the right hand he had held up to attack the girl. He only had to plunge his claws into that boy’s gut as he ran by and then throw the boy aside. His white shirt would be stained with blood which would add some nice color to the plain forest.
The werewolf made up his mind in an instant, but something else happened slightly before that.
It came from below.
Something like a wall flew toward his face.
The werewolf realized it was a coat.
Where? he thought. The boy had spread his arms wide, but his hands had been empty. That left only one answer.
His feet. It had to be that. When the werewolf had leapt, his focus had been grabbed by the white of the boy’s shirt as he spread his arms. The boy had placed the coat atop his feet and then kicked it up.
This slowed the werewolf’s reaction time.
The coat covered his face. His pointed nose sucked in the odd flowery scent that stained the boy’s clothes and he grew confused. He shook his head in an attempt to remove the coat, but it had wrapped around his head as if embracing him.
Why? he wondered just as he felt an impact run across his shins.
His body seemed to float in midair.
After Sayama swept the werewolf’s feet out from under him, he saw the werewolf begin to collapse, starting with the head. As the werewolf swung his arms around randomly, he grazed Sayama’s left arm.
He felt pain, but turned around without checking on the wound.
The girl was what mattered, not the beast. With that thought in mind, Sayama began running alongside the rolling werewolf.
…He won’t be able to get that coat off of his head easily.
Sayama had tied off the sleeves and then placed a stone in each one and in the lower pockets. If the coat struck something while spread out, the weight of the stones would cause it to grab onto its prey. Sayama had used the principle of a throwing net.
…But this only buys us some time.
He understood that well.
As he nodded, his eyes looked out on empty space. The girl had reached the fall of her parabolic trajectory.
To his left, the werewolf’s leg had gotten caught in one of the depressions located here and there. The speed of his roll had suddenly increased. Sayama ignored the werewolf as the beast’s giant frame struck the ground.
Instead, Sayama stretched his arm out toward the falling girl.
He was not going to make it. If the girl continued falling with such momentum, she would almost certainly be injured.
He kicked off the ground. He stretched out his hand, he stretched out his fingers, and he grabbed the girl’s skirt.
With a single groan of effort, he pulled her in toward him.
Her unconscious form fell into his arms as if she had jumped into them.
He had caught her.
He noticed she still held that long staff in her right hand. Sayama intentionally let his feet slide along the ground to brake quickly. As he did, his right arm holding her shoulders shook her slender body.
“Are you okay?”
As he stopped by tearing dirt up from the ground, she replied with an action rather than words.
Her eyelids opened slightly and her gaze moved toward Sayama.
While surrounded by a sweaty face and disheveled hair, her slightly teary eyes looked right at him. And then…
Her eyes opened wide.
Upon seeing her gaze, Sayama twisted around which gave her a better look. Behind him, the werewolf had ripped off the coat over his face and was beginning to stand. When she saw the enemy, she looked back up at Sayama.
“Y-you…” she started to say before suddenly looking down at herself.
She had only just now realized she was being held.
“Kyah!” she shouted.
Sayama glanced down to find the white and black material of her bodysuit had been split vertically. Everything from her chest to just below her navel was bared through the wide gap this opened.
Sweat covered her navel and round breasts as they moved up and down with her heavy breathing. She frantically covered herself with her hands.
Sayama unsteadily flinched back as he looked at her.
…Not good. I should have checked beforehand.
“Okay,” he nodded before asking what truly mattered at the moment. “How can I defeat that enemy?”
“Eh? U-um…What are you-…?”
“This is no time for philosophical questions. I asked a single question and I seek a single answer. How do I defeat that enemy?”
She gulped. However, she gave an answer because the werewolf was getting up.
“Precious metals. Only a weapon using them will be effective.”
Sayama had some doubts regarding what she had said, but he cast them aside.
He decided to trust her. She understood the situation. That was all the reason he needed.
He trusted her.
And so Sayama placed the girl on the ground. He placed her feet on the ground, supported her unsteady back, and kept his gaze on their enemy.
“What is your name?”
Sayama rolled that hesitantly-spoken surname around in his mouth.
The werewolf stood up and leaned forward. It was preparing to run full speed for them. In another instant, that great power would be charging toward them.
As soon as he saw that, Sayama moved forward. Shinjou called out behind him.
“W-wait a second! Wait until my comrades arrive!”
Sayama’s only reply was a light wave of his left arm. A red flow fell from his fingers to the ground. The girl named Shinjou must have seen it because he heard her gasp behind him.
Her tension told Sayama once more just how limited his time was.
The grazing blow from before had been surprisingly deep.
But he did not hesitate. Even as his left arm felt oddly heavy, he took another step forward.
He fixed his left sleeve which was wet with blood, rebuttoned the cuff, and then lightly raised his right hand which now had blood on it.
He snapped his fingers and a spray of blood shot out.
He looked down to the chest pocket of his vest. It held two ballpoint pens.
“These are Swiss. The tips are silver. That is a precious metal. …You are in for a painful experience.”
As he spoke, Sayama kicked off the ground and began running.
He ran straight forward.
He had to close the gap before the enemy began running. This was due to their difference in weight. If the enemy began running, he would not even need to stop to crush Sayama. And the girl named Shinjou was behind him.
Sayama wondered if she could fight or not. That staff she held was undoubtedly the weapon that had felled that tree. However, she had only used it the one time. She had felled the tree and done nothing more.
Did the reason for this lie in the machine or in her?
Sayama recalled the eyes he had seen while holding Shinjou. He recalled those black eyes with thin tears running from them.
…It is the latter.
He was sure of it. She was likely a naïve person, and so she had tried to avoid having to attack.
But Sayama needed to focus on the term “precious metal”.
He was approximately three meters from the werewolf. He was not yet close enough for his attack to reach.
However, the werewolf swung his left arm up while leaning forward. He was preparing to knock Sayama out of the way and then charge on to Shinjou.
“Hmph,” snorted Sayama as he reached into his vest’s breast pocket with his right hand. The two ballpoint pens he had previously shown off were inside. He pulled out one of them.
And he threw it.
He gave that projectile as much speed as he could manage from a distance of just under two meters.
He aimed for the werewolf’s forehead, but the werewolf used its raised left hand to grab the ballpoint pen from the side. Bluish-white flames and then smoke burst from that palm.
The werewolf shook his right arm and threw the pen away.
His left side was now wide open.
Sayama charged in. He skillfully undid his right cuff button and pulled the other pen from his vest. He then jabbed the pen at the werewolf’s chest as if tackling the beast.
It all happened in an instant.
The werewolf suddenly took an action fundamentally different from his previous ones.
It stopped leaning forward and stood up straight.
It had been a feint. The werewolf had pretended to prepare to run to draw Sayama in.
Sayama’s aim was thrown off when the werewolf raised his body.
His right arm stabbed into empty air.
However, the werewolf’s left arm was still where it was from shaking off the pen and his right arm was still where it was from straightening up. The beast had not yet taken an offensive stance. He may have evaded Sayama’s attack, but he had lost his opportunity for an attack of his own.
Their situations were the same. Or so it seemed at first. However, Sayama’s opponent was not human.
Sayama saw the werewolf choose a third option for attack instead of relying on his arms.
The werewolf opened his mouth.
Even in the dark night, Sayama could see the red of his mouth and the pale yellow of his fangs.
It all came to an end in an instant.
Sayama swung his right arm up as if stabbing into the air and the werewolf lowered his opened maw.
In that instant, the werewolf saw a single object.
The prey’s right hand holding the pen moved back down as if adjusting his aim.
Useless, thought the werewolf. His fangs would tear into the prey’s face before that pen could reach him.
But something odd entered his vision.
Something like a dark wet stone flew between the pen and his jaw.
As his prey swung his right arm up, this object had tumbled out of the sleeve and flown up.
What was it?
Before he could determine that, it flew into his mouth.
It tasted of blood. Of human blood.
Such a nostalgic flavor, he thought just as he realized what had flown into his mouth.
A wristwatch. It had been the one the boy had worn on his left arm.
His memories told him why the boy would do that.
The watch had been decorated with silver. And just before charging forward, this prey had fixed his bloody left sleeve with his right hand.
That was when the boy must have hidden it in his right sleeve. And he had thrown it using the action of stabbing with the pen.
He had done it all after predicting the werewolf would attack with his fangs.
The werewolf looked forward as he bit down on the watch that could be called a silver bomb.
He captured the boy’s movements in his vision.
The boy twisted his right arm around to take a fighting stance.
He had already begun to bring his right knee up.
He pressed his left foot down to jump up.
The momentum of his jump brought his right leg straight up and toward the werewolf’s jaw.
The werewolf could not avoid it.
The kick landed.
Pain and heat exploded in his mouth and his vision became enveloped in bluish-white flames.
Just as he tried to cry out, a sharp pain stabbed into his chest thanks to the second pen. His body became even further enveloped in fire.
He could hear the boy asking a question.
“Was that a painful enough experience?”
The girl named Shinjou uttered a single short statement after seeing what had happened.
“No way… And against an enemy like that?”
However, she immediately held up her staff. She did not aim the point at the enemy; she instead aimed the side with the fluorescent light toward the enemy like it was a bow.
Before her, the boy stumbled backwards a few steps after landing. Beyond him, the werewolf’s head and chest were enveloped in flames. The boy tried to stand up tall, but his knees gave out underneath him and he collapsed to the ground.
Meanwhile, the werewolf could still move.
Even after being turned into a bluish-white torch, the beast howled up into the sky and took a step forward.
The boy managed to stand up, but he seemed to be twisting his body around to do so. Also, his left hand was still hanging limply at his side, his back was arched, and his breathing was visibly erratic.
Shinjou tightened her grip on her staff. She had to hurry. If she did not, she might lose that boy.
She looked at the center of the grip. A narrow chain with an anchor attached hung down from the hole there.
If she grabbed and pulled that anchor, the dynamo inside would supply power to the fluorescent light. The concept that precious metals possess power had been added to the conditions of this space. That was why the dynamo within the staff was created from consecrated silver sheets and gold coils. And the light emitted by the fluorescent light powered by that dynamo was…
“A sacred light created from mercury.”
It was fairly weak as far as the powers of precious metals were concerned, but reflectors were used to focus the light. That gave it enough power to act as a blade within the effective focal length.
With swift motions, Shinjou grabbed the anchor and stared forward.
The boy had taken a fighting stance and the werewolf had swung up his right arm. That sight caused Shinjou to cry out reflexively.
The werewolf turned toward her.
And she saw emotion.
She saw the emotion on the werewolf’s face.
Sayama saw the werewolf move.
…It can still move!?
A bitter smile appeared on his face when he realized his thought was one of admiration rather than fear or surprise.
I see, he thought. He was gasping for breath, but his thoughts raced on.
He could do this. He could still do this.
Do what? he thought, but the answer was already prepared within him.
He would get serious.
He had yet to reach that point. All he had done at this point was perform a simple feint and exchange injuries.
It started here. He felt this was where it truly began.
The instant he got serious, the answer came to him. He simply had to knock down the enemy before him and be the last one standing. He could use any means necessary. After all, the beast before him was his enemy.
He would truly try to crush this enemy. That was the lesson his villain of a grandfather had driven into him again and again.
He began to move. In order to carry out his act of evil, he took an instant to check on the ballpoint pen he had just stabbed into the werewolf’s chest.
His next action could begin once he kicked it up or otherwise got it back into his hands.
Or so he intended.
But before he could, he heard the metallic sound of a staff being held up. Soon thereafter, he heard Shinjou’s voice.
At the same time as he heard that still word, Sayama saw a single emotion.
As the werewolf looked over Sayama’s head, the beast’s face definitely twisted.
Protest, indignation, resignation, grief, anger, and pity.
The werewolf’s face twisted into an expression that was simultaneously all of those and none of those.
When Sayama saw this expression, he stopped moving briefly.
…Is it really necessary to crush this beast’s emotions?
That thought came to him. He wondered if his evil was just or not.
He was inexperienced.
However, Sayama clenched his teeth and moved.
Shinjou had also seen the werewolf’s expression.
When she realized that expression had been caused by her and the weapon in her hand, a quick “ah” escaped from her lips and her hand pulling the anchor suddenly stopped.
She saw the boy move. He tried to deliver a right kick.
However, it was too late. She was unsure if he would make it in time.
If the werewolf moved with all its strength, the boy and his attack would be crushed.
If she did not pull the anchor, she might lose the boy.
She had to shoot.
But she hesitated.
She did not know why she hesitated. She only knew that this hesitation had existed in her heart all this time.
Was there no better way? Was there some method other than fighting like he was?
Was there some method that would not require either of them to be lost?
She could not think of anything. As she became aware of her own inability, she saw the boy take his belated action.
When she saw his action, Shinjou compared him to herself.
…He is different.
And then the werewolf’s body trembled slightly. This was the beginning of an action. She could not tell if this was an advance indicator of the beast swinging his right arm down or of some other action.
“N-no!” cried Shinjou.
And yet she was unable to pull the anchor. She could see the fingers holding the anchor trembling. She could not suppress the trembling. It grew so bad that the chain shook and rattled.
With a voiceless breath, Shinjou tried to pull the anchor.
In the next instant, her fingers slipped from the anchor.
The chain rattled as it fell slack.
“Ah…” she said as her eyes opened wide and tears poured out.
And suddenly, the werewolf was pierced by a white light from the side.
Shinjou saw it. A white light about ten centimeters wide shot through the center of the werewolf’s torso from left to right.
It had been a sniper shot.
As a light sound of flesh being struck rang out through the air, the werewolf stopped moving.
Finally, the beast’s body tilted backwards.
And the werewolf looked up into the sky. Into the night sky of the dark forest.
A cry escaped through the fangs in its opened maw and shot into the sky. This cry could be taken as one of protest or one of great emotion.
And then the werewolf moved. He moved his sharp claws. He held his right hand up to his neck and made a single horizontal jerk.
The sound of the flesh being torn was the same as the sound of a fibrous material being cut.
The sound of blood spilling out was the same as the sound of bubbles being formed.
After those two sounds and a stream of blood burst out, the werewolf collapsed.
An unreserved sound of flesh striking the ground rang out.
The beast’s giant form lay sprawled out on the ground while still wrapped in bluish-white flames.
When he saw that, the boy lowered the leg he had swung up for a kick.
The train bound for Okutama began to move.
It had already grown dark outside the window and the black of the mountains and the blue of the night sky were visible through the window that reflected the inside of the train.
The train was near deserted. Only two figures could be seen reflected in the window. One was a white-haired man wearing a black suit and the other was a white-haired girl wearing a maid uniform. The man was named Itaru and the girl was named Sf.
The girl held a metal cane on her lap.
“Do you think the situation has ended by now?”
“Probably. My old man said the preliminary negotiations with 1st-Gear would be held the day after tomorrow, but…”
“There have been a lot of deaths.”
“Yes. What do you think?”
“This can be used to our advantage in the negotiations.”
Itaru gave a bitter smile.
“You’re supposed to say we will not let their deaths go to waste, you idiot. Try to remember to put it like that when speaking to others.”
“Tes. But that representation makes it difficult to arrive at the original meaning.”
“That is supposedly the entire point. And I used to be like that, too.”
“Then I will speak frankly when it is with you, Itaru-sama. I have interpreted that as your demand.”
“…You really are skilled at what you do, Sf,” said Itaru as he gazed out the window. “Look, we’re at Okutama. Hand over my cane. …That is my current demand.”
The location Sayama and Shinjou chose to rest in was the base of the tree she had felled.
Sayama arrived while Shinjou supported him from the right side.
“I think that was a sniper strike from one of my comrades… Help should arrive soon.”
Ever since that comment, she had only hung her head down. However, once Sayama sat down while leaning up against the tree trunk, there was something he had to do. First, he had to stop the bleeding from his left arm.
He took action while relying on the afterglow from Shinjou’s fluorescent light.
He bit strongly into the fabric of his shirt’s left shoulder and ripped it. He placed the torn sleeve on the ground and raised his left arm. He could not feel anything beyond the elbow and the shoulder felt heavy. A close examination showed he was bleeding from one area above his elbow and one below it.
He hurriedly grabbed the sleeve from the ground. He bit one end of the sleeve and wrapped the other end all the way around from his armpit to his shoulder. He let go of the end in his mouth, tied a knot over the artery, placed a finger under the knot, and tightened it.
He suddenly realized Shinjou was watching him. Her mouth was hanging open slightly.
“Is this that surprising?”
“No, um, you just seem used to this.”
“I used to attend the Hiba Dojo, a dojo a bit farther up from here. I learned this as practice there.”
“Hmm,” said Shinjou with a nod.
Sayama then realized she was embracing her own body and trembling slightly.
Shinjou quickly averted her gaze and spoke quietly.
She held her knees in her arms. Her bodysuit-style outfit was made so the shoulders and that contained defensive properties were connected together through each of the hard points. It was similar to a modern suit of armor. Holding her knees the way she was showed off the deep-colored stockings covering her thighs. They had some sort of graphic and writing printed on them.
The way Shinjou deeply embraced her knees looked less like she was trying to hide her exposed body and more like she was trying to make herself as small as possible. While lifting her feet up on their tiptoes to bring her knees even closer, she spoke.
“I should have fired, right?”
Her tone was half questioning, but Sayama responded by leaning his head back against the tree and looking up. The shadows of the forest only made the night even darker. He could not see the stars.
“Do you think so?” he replied.
Shinjou turned toward him and lowered the ends of her eyebrows.
“If it were you…would you have chosen to fire in the end?”
“This is purely hypothetical, but I think I would indeed have chosen to fire. …Why did you not fire?”
“It isn’t that I didn’t fire. I couldn’t fire.”
“No,” replied Shinjou. “You took action in the end, didn’t you? …But I didn’t know what to do when I saw the look in the enemy’s face. I began to wonder if there wasn’t a better way.”
“So you tried to make a different decision than I did.”
But she could not think of anything and it resulted in being no different from simply choosing to do nothing, thought Sayama.
In the end, the enemy had committed suicide after being shot from afar.
Sayama sighed in his heart.
She had been naïve. And that had led to the worst possible result.
But that is a way of thinking I cannot copy, he thought. And because a villain like me cannot think like that…
“In reality, I was probably wrong and you were probably right.”
“I was…right? But I might have endangered-…”
Sayama looked Shinjou straight in the eye. When their gazes met, Shinjou stopped speaking.
“Listen. You hesitated because you weighed my life against that of the enemy. That is the right thing to do.”
“Th-that can’t be true. All I did was freeze up because I couldn’t decide which was more important.”
“Anyone who judges the value of people’s lives is in the wrong.” He smiled bitterly. “You did the right thing. Do not try to apologize. I will demand compensation if you do.”
“B-But it bothers me…”
Sayama narrowed his eyes. He looked carefully at her expression.
“Why do you always look so uncertain? It may be difficult for someone like you to survive, but you should be confident that you have survived this long by doing the right thing.”
Shinjou opened her mouth as if to say something in response.
Sayama was certain that whatever words were about to come from her mouth would be a denial of what he had said.
And that was why he spoke before she could.
“Could you lend me your lap? That will be my compensation for that first apology.”
“Eh?” said Shinjou in surprise.
Finally, she removed her arms from her knees. She hid her breasts behind those arms and hesitantly placed her knees down. She sat with her legs bent back to either side.
“I-is this good?”
Having received permission in the form of a question, Sayama moved his body down while half-sliding across the tree trunk.
When he placed his head on top of her thighs, Shinjou trembled slightly. He looked up to find Shinjou looking down with an uncertain expression.
“…Is this okay? If it isn’t comfortable, just tell me. Is there anything else I can do?”
Shinjou removed one hand from her breasts and brushed up his bangs.
Sayama looked up and said, “Let’s see. How about a lullaby? I am exhausted.”
“Don’t you dare die while looking like you’re only going to sleep.”
“That only happens in movies.”
He gave a bitter smile and Shinjou returned it. She then looked away.
“Um…” she began before brushing up his bangs again and opening her mouth.
She began singing. Her voice wavered slightly at first, but it gradually steadied.
Sayama recognized the song. It was the hymn Silent Night.
“Silent night, holy night
All’s asleep, one sole light,
Just the faithful and holy pair,
Lovely boy-child with curly hair,
Sleep in heavenly peace
Sleep in heavenly peace.”
As he listened to her voice, Sayama looked over and noticed some skin next to his face that her arm could not cover. Her stomach and her well-shaped navel moved shallowly in and out with the rhythm of the song and her breathing.
That movement and the sense of her breathing and pulse he could feel through her thighs gave Sayama an odd sense of peace.
He suddenly recalled his conversation with Izumo and Kazami at school.
She did indeed smell good.
As if invited in by that scent, Sayama leaned his head over and pressed his cheek and ear against the sweaty area below her chest.
He heard her say “ah” and her legs drew back slightly, but he could also hear her breathing and pulse in his ear. It was a gentle noise. He could not help but match his own breathing to hers. Sayama smiled a bit in his heart.
…You did the right thing.
He wanted to say that once more. They had not lost their breathing or the beating of their hearts. In the same way, she had not wanted to lose him or their enemy.
But the words did not come out. He no longer had enough spare energy to move.
As his consciousness thinned, Sayama tried to determine what this peace was that he was given from the warmth and rhythm of Shinjou’s body. It was something nostalgic that he could not quite recall. What was it?
When the boy’s eyes closed, Shinjou panicked slightly.
But when she moved, she noticed his eyebrows slanting a bit.
He was alive. He was only sleeping. When she realized that, she faintly admonished herself for thinking something so dangerous. As he slept with his ear and cheek against her body, she stroked his bangs with her hand.
His expression changed. She thought she could sense peace coming from it.
“Maybe I’m thinking too much of myself…”
Shinjou removed the arm hiding her breasts. She used both hands to reach around behind his head and shoulder and lightly embraced him. Once she actually touched him, she realized he was cold.
It’s okay, she told herself as she looked down at his left arm. Because he had bound his right hand in his armpit, the bleeding had almost entirely stopped.
Shinjou’s gaze stopped on his left hand. The bloody middle finger had a women’s ring on it.
Surprised, Shinjou looked at her own right hand that was embracing his shoulder. She removed the glove to reveal a men’s ring on her middle finger. Thinking it looked like they were following the same fashion, Shinjou smiled. He desired battle and she tried to avoid it. They seemed like complete opposites, yet they seemed a lot alike in this one aspect.
As she smiled, Shinjou belatedly realized a certain fact: she had never asked his name.
Just as she looked at that peaceful sleeping face, she heard two sets of footsteps on the dirt behind her.
Shinjou covered him with her own body as if to hide him. After taking that precaution, she turned her head to look behind her.
Two figures stood in the darkness only a few steps away.
A slender figure held what looked like a long spear and a large figure held what looked like a long, wide sheet.
The large one spoke to her. It was a male voice.
“What’s with that look? He’s injured, right? Then hurry up and bring him with you.”
The figure took a breath.
“As long as he isn’t dead, something can be done. …In this world, at least.”
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