Owari no Chronicle:Volume1 Chapter 4
Chapter 4: A Mysterious Abyss
Even if offered
One cannot swallow it all at once
The truth can only soak in gradually
One awoke when one’s consciousness floated up from the darkness and into the light.
Sayama now felt that light feeling of ascension. He then felt his vague sense of self rapidly return to a single object. He could once more feel the weight of his body.
When he heard his own voice, he opened his eyes.
The only coloration his blurry vision could pick up was brightness. He was lying down. His upper body was bare and he felt hard sheets under his back.
He could see a fluorescent light on a neatly arranged white ceiling.
A female voice cut him off.
“This is the medical room, so stay still.”
An index finger suddenly entered his field of vision from the right and pressed down on his forehead. That was enough to prevent him from sitting up. And so Sayama moved only his eyes to look toward the owner of that finger.
It was a short Chinese woman. Her hair was tied back in a bun and her face held a youthful sharpness. A simple black shirt and pants covered her entire body below her white coat.
After seeing that Sayama was not moving, she removed her finger and looked to the side.
“Nijun, call Shinjou in.”
Sayama looked toward the second voice and saw an old man in a white coat turning his back. He had been standing next to the woman. He cut across the room silently.
As Sayama followed the man’s path across the room, he saw for himself that this was indeed a medical room.
Besides its two beds, the room only had a desk, a chair, and shelves covering the walls. The wall clock informed Sayama it was currently 8:30 PM.
…So only two hours have passed since then.
The old man named Nijun opened the room’s door while his long gray hair fluttered slightly.
And a girl entered from outside.
It was Shinjou.
She wore a brown dress and a long white T-shirt. She bowed to Nijun, hurried into the medical room, and looked toward Sayama. Once she did, her expression lit up.
She blushed and covered her face with her hands.
Sayama then recalled that his upper body was bare.
While she turned her head away yet still looked his way, the woman in the white coat spoke to her without even turning toward her.
“Shinjou, please bring the shirt on the chair to him.”
“But Doctor Chao…”
“Just do it. If you’re too slow, I’ll have to beat some liveliness into you.”
The woman named Chao then faced Sayama and lightly bent up the fingers of her right hand.
Assuming she meant he could sit up, Sayama did so.
Once he did, he felt pain from his left arm and shoulder as if someone was squeezing them tightly. His left arm was wrapped in bandages both above and below the elbow and fixed in place by a thin yet hard cloth. He could move his elbow, but it felt heavy.
Chao looked down at him and said, “It seems you received the injury while your arm was bent in an L-shape. Both your upper and lower arm were torn diagonally.”
“How many stiches did it take? I want to avoid too many scars if possible.”
“Don’t be ridiculous. No treatment from me is not going to involve any stitching. But…don’t move it for a while. I have it fixed nicely in place for now, but forcing it to move will mess with that.”
Shinjou was then standing next to him. She held a shirt. When she tried to hold it out to him, Chao slapped her on the ass. Shinjou cried out “Wah!” and Chao frowned.
“Don’t just hand it to him. You have to put it on him, don’t you?”
“…Testament,” replied Shinjou before sitting on the bed. She looked at Sayama and said, “Could you turn that way?”
Sayama turned his back to her. Behind him, he could hear the sound of her spreading out the shirt and of Chao’s dignified voice.
“Shinjou, say it. You have to. Tell him you’ll wash his back for him.”
“What kind of services does this medical room provide?”
“Hah. This is the medical room inside an organization known as UCAT. I am the medical chief, Chao Sei.”
“Doctor!?” cried Shinjou and the sensation of the shirt pulled away from Sayama’s back.
Sounding like she was smiling, Chao said, “Is there any point in hiding it? He is here to see UCAT anyway. …Right, Sayama Mikoto?”
“I believe I was summoned by IAI.”
“Japanese UCAT is the hidden side of IAI. It is located deep in IAI territory and the important parts are underground. The normal IAI personnel know nothing about this special area.”
While listening to Chao, Sayama felt a sudden pain deep in the left side of his chest.
He took a deep breath to suppress the pain. And then the shirt was placed over his shoulders.
He turned around to find Shinjou frowning slightly.
“We’re not actually supposed to answer any questions about it,” she said quietly.
“I see. So that old woman is breaking the rules.”
“Yes,” she nodded, but shortly afterwards her eyes opened wide in surprise. “H-how did you know that Doctor Chao is an old woman!?”
“It is just the way she talks. No matter how much younger you make yourself look, you cannot hide the years in your words. She uses similar old woman speech patterns to Old Tome in the cafeteria who was born in 1945.”
“I see. That’s amazing. You’re the first person I’ve seen that realized she’s an old woman.”
“Well, Old Tome’s speech patterns were quite characteristic. She would occasionally get your order wrong or just stand there like someone had switched off her power, but that exciting clumsy old woman side of her was the secret behind her popularity.”
“I see the two of you want salt rubbed in your wounds next time you get injured,” said Chao.
Shinjou frantically looked over and said, “Eh? Ah! I-in my defense, I only called you an old woman to respond to him with the words he used. I don’t think of you as an old woman at all. Okay?”
“Hm,” said Sayama before turning to Shinjou. “To me, it sounded as if you were quite excited to call her that.”
“Eh? Eh? D-did it?”
To respond to that question, Chao smiled slightly from where she had suddenly appeared next to the girl.
“Shinjou, if you are injured here, you can be healed right away. So what will you do?”
Shinjou frantically began adjusting the shirt over Sayama’s shoulders.
After they were kicked out of the medical room, Shinjou sat with Sayama on a sofa in the hallway outside.
She took a deep breath, faced Sayama, and spoke.
“I was told Ooshiro-san would be here soon. …You had business with IAI, right?” She averted her gaze slightly. “Um, Sayama…-kun?”
After confirming his name, Shinjou felt a troubled smile appear on her lips.
“Come to think of it, this is the first time I’ve called you by name.”
“That old woman knew my name as well. Where did you learn it?”
“Hm… I only heard it from Doctor Chao, but it seems she already knew it. But,” the ends of Shinjou’s eyebrows drooped as she looked at Sayama’s left arm, “that will leave a scar, won’t it?”
“Yes,” agreed Sayama. Eventually, he asked a question while choosing his words carefully. “Do you…no, what was that beast? Do the people of UCAT always perform jobs like this?”
“Um…I can’t really say.”
“So you cannot respond without permission. Fine then. But there is a possibility you could receive a similar wound, correct? If you are that worried about my wound, why do you do this kind of thing?”
“There is something I want to know. That is why I do it.”
She replied almost reflexively, but then realized what it was she had said.
She was not sure what she could tell him, but she had to say something to explain what she had meant.
A few seconds of silence followed as Shinjou thought. She tried to determine what she could and could not say.
“Um,” she started. “I was chosen to move from my usual position to what you could call a new team. I used to have a protective role on the rear guard, but this new team is made up of a small group of elites. It works a little differently.”
“What does this team do?”
“We still do not really know. The entire team has not been fully gathered yet. It seems the members who were gathered earlier know some of the details, but this was my first day.”
“Will you learn what you want to know if you join this team?”
“I don’t know,” she said with a tilt of the head. She truly did not know. “But the person who recommended me for this unit…no, I mean team. Anyway, this person said it would allow me to be involved in the world’s past. And I,” she leaned back in the seat, “know nothing about my parents. I have no memories before the age of six.”
“Is knowing about your parents really such a great thing?”
“Y-you only say that because you take that knowledge for granted.”
Shinjou stared at him. Even she could tell her expression showed a bit of displeasure.
Thinking she needed to say something more, Shinjou opened her mouth as she watched him.
But then she saw Sayama place his right hand on the left side of his chest.
For an instant, she thought he was taking up some sort of stance.
She did not understand why, but Shinjou had a feeling that this was not good.
She tossed aside the words she had been planning to use and instead decided to change the subject. At the very least, she wanted to speak about something other than her parents.
Her gaze lowered until she saw his left hand. She then realized what she could use for a new topic.
“U-um.” Shinjou raised her right hand so he could see. She wore a men’s ring on her middle finger. “Do you know what this is?”
“No. It is similar to mine, but I have never seen it before. Why do you ask?”
“It is my sole possession. Besides my name, I only have this ring and a song. You heard the song, didn’t you? It is Silent Night. For some reason I knew that song. It and this ring are all I have. You wear one too, so I thought there might be some connection.”
“It would be interesting if there was, but the odds are quite low. For one thing, a lot of people wear rings as fashion accessories in this day and age. Sorry, but…” Sayama glanced away slightly with a dampened expression. “Have you ever left this place?”
“Y-yes. I know everywhere in Okutama. I even go as far as Oume. It’s a big city, so a train comes in every 12 minutes! That’s five in an hour!”
“To help you save face, I will omit any detailed comments, but you need to get out more.”
Shinjou was troubled. But then she spotted someone walking toward them from the hallway to the right.
“Ah,” she said before standing up.
She had seen an elderly man with this thin gray hair swept back.
His slender body had a lab coat around it and he wore sandals on his feet. The eyes behind his glasses were bent like bows.
He raised a hand and opened the mouth below his moustache.
“Hi, there. Long time no see, Shinjou-kun, Mikoto-kun. …Do you remember me? It’s Ooshiro Kazuo.”
Sayama followed Ooshiro down the UCAT hallway.
Shinjou must have viewed the man as her superior because she kept her hands folded in front of her waist and did not speak much.
They passed by a few doors and several people. Four of those people were wearing white coats and one man was wearing the same white and black outfit Shinjou had been wearing in the forest.
Ooshiro would occasionally look over his shoulder and speak.
They discussed Sayama’s grandfather, his funeral, school, and other topics.
But after a few minutes of walking, Ooshiro suddenly stopped and turned toward Sayama.
Behind him was a dead end with a large closed door.
A placard on the wall above the door read “Central Passageway”.
“I think we should discuss the truly important things beyond here.”
Hearing that, Shinjou took a step forward.
“Sh-should I really go with you?”
“I don’t see why not. This is an important topic for you as well.”
That was the same word Sayama had heard in the medical room.
He asked Shinjou, “What do you mean by testament?”
“Oh, that is a special UCAT sign. From what I hear, some of the terms used here were taken from the Bible as a joke. Testament or just Tes is a sign of agreement similar to ‘understood’. The original term can refer to an agreement or a portion of the Bible.”
“I see,” said Sayama with a nod.
Ooshiro then pulled a single object out of his lab coat pocket.
It was a wristwatch. It was mostly black, but the hands gave off the light green glow of glow-in-the-dark paint.
“Now that is some terrible taste.”
“I have one, too. See, on my left arm,” said Shinjou as she showed him her left hand.
When Sayama saw a black watch there as well, he said, “Okay then. I believe in taking back what I have said when proven wrong, so should I be doing that now?”
“What do you mean ‘okay then’? And shouldn’t you be more concerned with making such quick judgments?”
Shinjou’s annoyed response put a bitter smile on Ooshiro’s face.
“You can have this as a memento of this day. It can replace the one that was broken in the fight.”
Sayama took the watch and put it on. He noticed Ooshiro was already wearing an identical one.
After Ooshiro saw Sayama had finished strapping the watch on his left wrist, he opened the door behind him.
The metal door opened inward.
Beyond the now empty space was a passageway with closed shutters on either side.
“This passageway runs through the center of UCAT. But right now…”
Ooshiro entered the passageway. Sayama stood before the door alongside Shinjou before setting foot inside.
Once he did, he heard a voice.
—Your feet are on the ground.
Sayama tilted his head in puzzlement. He felt as if he had heard a few other voices after that first one, but he had been unable to make out the others. He only recalled that he had heard a voice.
But Sayama recognized this voice.
It was the same voice that he had heard upon entering the forest that evening. However, he did not understand what it meant.
…What does it mean that I heard this voice?
As soon as he thought that, he felt a small vibration on his left arm.
It came from the wristwatch he had been given. He felt as if it were vibrating.
He looked down and for just an instant saw something like red writing scroll across the face of the watch.
That writing disappeared before he could read it.
“Is this a trick watch?”
It was currently ten till nine, so this was not indicating the top of the hour. Also, Sayama could not determine what that scrolling writing had been.
As question after question appeared in his mind, Sayama suddenly reached behind him.
However, he found no invisible wall. And the second hand of the watch was still moving when he looked back at it.
“Is this okay…?”
“Hm? Is what okay?” asked Shinjou while turning around.
“Nothing,” replied Sayama before stepping up alongside Shinjou.
He looked ahead and found Ooshiro standing in the center of the passageway looking toward him. He was smiling.
“Does that voice really bother you so much?”
“This evening, it was after I heard that voice that the world went insane. …But before that, I would like to discuss my grandfather. The document you sent me mentioned transferring rights left by him. What are those rights?”
“I suppose it would be quicker to start from there. Mikoto-kun, do you know what your grandfather did during the war?”
Sayama felt an ache in his chest at that question, but he took a deep breath and answered.
“I heard he was doing some sort of research and development here at IAI, the Izumo Aviation Institute.”
“Yes. Then, Mikoto-kun, do you know what he was fighting against?”
“Wasn’t it America?”
“Correct,” said Ooshiro with a nod. “A lot of the large corporations that created weapons to use against America are still going strong today. Izumo is still expanding now just like Isuzu, Mitsubishi, and Nittetsu. However, only Izumo received no interference from GHQ after the war. And it has expanded beyond its original field of aviation and into a broad range of fields such as chemistry and electronics. Why do you think that is?”
“There are rumors that Izumo was involved with the Ministry of the Imperial Household at the time. GHQ was having difficulty deciding how to handle the Imperial system, so I suppose they could not touch them. The primary developers from the other corporations saw Izumo as a safe zone and fled there. That created the foundation for the current expansions. Am I wrong?”
“You know quite a lot about this. Nicely done, Mikoto-kun.”
Ooshiro happily smiled and raised his right thumb.
Sayama raised his own right thumb toward Shinjou.
“What do you think of his taste?”
“Tell me what you truly think.”
“I-I can’t. He is way, way higher in the organization than me. I can’t say it.”
“An excellent answer. Very elegant.”
Sayama turned back toward Ooshiro to find the man still smiling but pointing his thumb downwards. When Shinjou noticed, she poked Sayama in the side with her elbow.
“What does that mean?” she asked.
“He is pointing at his feet. He is trying to brag about his smelly feet.” Sayama ignored the change to Ooshiro’s expression and spoke to the man. “I know I was the one who digressed just now, but when are we getting to the topic at hand?”
“Your impatience is just like your grandfather. However, I must inform you that there is a hole in your reasoning, Mikoto-kun.”
Sayama frowned and tried to fold his arms but realized he could not lift up his left arm. Feeling awkward with just his right arm up, he brought it even further up to scratch at his hair.
He then asked, “A hole?”
“Yes,” said Ooshiro as he lightly spread his arms. “You know the history of IAI quite well. However, what about the history of UCAT? Do you know why the institution known as UCAT is hidden here?” And then, “And what do you think about that monster you fought this evening?”
“How should I know? This is the first I have ever seen of UCAT or that monster. I would like further information to base any conjectures on.”
Sayama had replied out of reflex, but he then realized the ache in the left side of his chest had grown stronger.
As if pushed on by that ache, Ooshiro’s eyes narrowed.
Meanwhile, Sayama lowered his right hand from his hair.
“How long has this organization existed? Was my grandfather involved in it?” he asked.
“I will start with your first question. Japanese UCAT was created in September of 1945. It was just after the war ended here in the old Izumo Tokyo Branch Office. As for your next question,” Ooshiro nodded, “Your grandfather entered Japanese UCAT as a central member of the Izumo National Defense Department that preceded it.”
Sayama’s heart gave a low throb in his chest. He took half a step back as if pushed back by Ooshiro’s words.
Sweat appeared on his brow, but he ignored it and asked, “What was he fighting? Was it things like that monster?”
After thinking for a short while, Ooshiro shook his head.
He took a step forward and said, “Mikoto-kun, your grandfather and the others were not fighting monsters. They were fighting ten alternate worlds lined up alongside this one. Those worlds and ours were fighting to destroy each other.”
Sayama began thinking on Ooshiro’s words. He contemplated what they meant.
“What is it?”
Sayama looked up at Ooshiro’s face from below.
“I apologize for having to say this after not seeing you since my grandfather’s funeral, but you leave me little choice. Do you really think anyone will fall for such obvious nonsense? What kind of person does this at your age?”
“Oh, I haven’t seen a reaction so wonderfully aggravating since the day of the funeral!” shouted Ooshiro half in joy as he raised his right thumb.
Sayama tilted his head and asked, “Why do you not look remotely sorry? Is the word sorry not in your dictionary?”
“It is not that. This is the truth, so I can’t exactly be sorry for telling it to you.”
“Isn’t this a little farfetched? I mean, alternate worlds?”
“Yes, but… Wait, am I being lectured?”
Sayama could see Shinjou looking puzzled and Ooshiro hanging his head while scratching at it.
Hearing that, Ooshiro looked up.
“What a pain. Anyway, that was the conclusion reached. …I will explain why later. Are you willing to listen to this conclusion and how it was arrived at?”
Sayama frowned at the old man’s question.
He had seen strange phenomena and met a strange beast. But these were two different things. An entire alternate world was on an entirely different level from phenomena and beasts that existed individually.
Mysterious phenomena and monsters could be explained away in some way or they could be faked with tricks or models.
However, the same could not be said for an alternate world. The scale was simply too great. However…
…Even if it is farfetched, it looks like the conversation will not continue unless I hear him out.
Sayama did not understand why Ooshiro was doing this, but he only needed to find a way to prove the old man’s words were false.
Sayama also wanted to know what purpose the old man had in making him listen to this.
While feeling it was nothing but a bother, he urged the old man to speak.
“I will listen to your nonsense. So there are these ten alternate worlds. …Why were they fighting?”
Ooshiro let out a sigh.
It was obvious Sayama was dubious.
Ooshiro shrugged and placed his hands in his lab coat’s pockets.
He spoke as if reciting lines he had memorized ahead of time.
“The ten alternate worlds and our own did not exist parallel to each other. They would intersect and affect each other on a set cycle. However, it was proven that all of the worlds would intersect at one point during the cycle. When that happened, the world with the greatest power would survive and the others would be destroyed in the impact of the collision.”
“When does that happen? Tomorrow?”
“The collision – that is, the time of destruction – was calculated to be what this world calls 1999.”
“But that did not actually happen.”
“Weren’t you listening? Your grandfather and those he worked with already destroyed the ten alternate worlds.” Ooshiro gave a bitter smile. “Yes. The alternate worlds meant to collide were destroyed long ago, leaving only this world behind. Your grandfather helped destroy those alternate worlds. We refer to that war,” he took a breath, “as the Concept War.”
Shinjou glanced over at Sayama as she listened to Ooshiro. What Ooshiro was explaining was the first thing explained to any member of UCAT.
While some people already knew this when joining UCAT, it was necessary to explain for those who somehow ended up involved in a fight like Sayama had.
And in most cases, they gave the same reaction.
They would reject it. They would call it ridiculous.
Shinjou wondered what Sayama would do.
He had fallen silent. Shinjou waited a few breaths, but the boy continued to stand perfectly still with his right hand on the left side of his chest. His head hung down and after quite a bit of time, he opened his mouth to speak.
He gave an almost exasperated sigh and his drooping shoulders stiffened, but he said the following.
“That is a completely ridiculous story, but I am willing to believe it under certain conditions.”
“Eh?” said Shinjou without thinking.
Sayama and Ooshiro both turned toward her.
She frantically waved her hands and said, “N-no, it’s nothing. Nothing at all.”
“Do not tell me you thought I would readily deny it.”
“But you just did… You asked what kind of person could do this and you called it farfetched.”
Sayama turned back toward Ooshiro, tilted his head, and asked, “Now, old man. Did I ever say those things?”
“Well… Since you have started to show interest, I can hardly discourage it. So no, you did not. You shouldn’t lie, Shinjou-kun.”
“A-adults don’t play fair!”
“This is how politics works.”
“Yes,” agreed Sayama as he brought his right hand up to his chin.
Shinjou let out a sigh of relief and asked, “What made you believe him? You can’t deny that it sounds like nothing but nonsense.”
“True. …And unlike a normal person like me, there is a lot that is odd about the old man. You could say it is unavoidable that he sometimes suddenly cannot resist and will say or do something strange.”
“You cannot say that. And how are you defining ‘normal person’ here?”
“Let us move on from that. Now, there is the crazy talk of a pathetic old man and there is the truth. However, to argue against this, I need proof and not emotions. Currently, the opposing side within me has no proof. And…”
“To make this more difficult, the supporting side within me has enough evidence to indirectly believe this. Shinjou-kun, that is you.”
“Yes. I heard a strange voice in the forest near Shiromaru. That voice told me the crazy idea that precious metals possess power. And after hearing that voice, I heard you scream and saw a tree fall.”
Shinjou brought the fingers of her right hand up to her lips.
“Sayama-kun, did you come because you heard me scream…?”
“I will leave that up to your imagination. The forest I was in was surrounded by a strange wall. Some kind of monster that may have been a type of bear was inside. And so were you. And you told me that precious metals possessed power in that place.”
Shinjou nodded. She had indeed said that.
When Sayama saw her nod, he bowed his head in return.
“I do not know how your weapon worked, but my ballpoint pens and watch possessed power using precious metals. If all of that was a trick, it was a truly excellent one. You would have had to plant gunpowder or some kind of chemical on that monster. However…”
Sayama clenched the right hand on his chin and his expression grew serious.
“Shinjou-kun, your expressions were real. That fear and tension were not a prearranged act.”
“Really? What if that fear and everything else up to now were an act?”
“I apologize in advance for saying this, but are you the type of actor that can bring sweat to your skin or quicken your heart rate at will? And this was a cold sweat not brought on by exertion. Can you also freely create the thin tears of someone enduring fear rather than sorrow?”
Shinjou’s cheeks reddened and she loosely held her own body. He had seen all that.
Whether realizing what she was feeling or not, Sayama looked down as he gave a deep nod.
“Yes. The sweat on your bared breasts and stomach were real.”
“And when I rested my head in your lap, your well-formed navel was moving in and out with your slightly disturbed breathing. That is not something one can fake. Especially the tension visible in the glimpses of your breasts visible through the gaps that your arms could not quite-…! Ahh! Ahh!!”
“Don’t say that!!”
Sayama drew back as a knee jabbed reflexively toward him.
“Wh-what are you doing? You certainly are a sudden person.”
“That’s my line. Why would you say that all of a sudden…?”
“I was simply giving evidence to the contrary of your claim that you might have been acting.”
“Oh? So your relationship has already reached that level. That speeds things up,” chimed in Ooshiro.
“Now then, Shinjou-kun. I believe this is when you are supposed to say Testament.”
“I’m not even sure where to start correcting you there…”
Sayama ignored her and turned toward Ooshiro.
“At any rate, I have already experienced the truth once. If those mysterious phenomena or that strange monster had been tricks, I could use them to refute you, but I am currently leaning toward saying they were real. However.” Sayama stretched out his right arm. He pointed toward Ooshiro as the sleeve’s fabric let out a noise. “I will admit that something strange happened, but that does not mean I can accept what you have said. Neither those strange phenomena nor that monster directly link to the existence of alternate worlds. Not even if they were engraved with the words ‘made in an alternate world’. We can prove the existence of our world because it exists. …Can you prove the existence of these ten alternate worlds?”
“Technically speaking, no. Those alternate worlds no longer exist,” replied Ooshiro. “But I am sure you understand one thing: no matter what phenomenon it is, there is a point where it is only natural to assume it is no trick. The same can be said for the idea of alternate worlds. Once we pass a certain point, you will know this is something other than our world. …And I will show that to you.”
As Ooshiro spoke, the shutters on either side of the passageway opened.
They made no noise. As those silent shutters rose, an office floor could be seen to the right and a large, three-story maintenance hangar could be seen to the left.
Shinjou watched as Sayama looked out at the sights to the left and right.
How will it go? she wondered. What will he decide about this world?
What lay before Sayama’s eyes was a world with no distinction between up and down.
Both the office floor to the right and the large hangar to the left had desks, equipment, and working people on the floor. However, there was more than that.
“They are on the ceiling and walls too…”
People and equipment were there. Work was being done.
To both the left and right, the ceiling was being used as another floor.
As if it was a mirror image of the floor, desks were lined up on the ceiling of the office. The occasional decorative plant could even be seen.
The only thing that differentiated either one from a normal office was that the walkway down the center was made of covered lights which illuminated the other. The ceiling lit the floor and the floor lit the ceiling.
On the ceiling, people wearing office clothes stared at screens on the desks and typed on keyboards, walked here and there with paperwork in hand, or pushed carts full of documents.
Sayama observed those people on the ceiling.
But despite standing upside down on the ceiling, their hair did not stand on end and their feet were not attached to the floor on the ceiling.
Suddenly, a woman carrying documents on the ceiling accidentally bumped her hip against the corner of a desk.
With a look of surprise, several papers scattered through the air. They spread out and “fell” to the ceiling.
She frantically gathered them and a man on the floor directly below her called out to ask if she was okay.
Sayama saw all this.
He remained silent as Ooshiro approached one of the windows to the office floor and opened it. Everyone on both the floor and ceiling turned toward him.
“Ooshiro-san!” cried a voice.
He nodded in response and said, “Are you doing well?”
Hearing that, Ooshiro moved away from the window. As the workers all returned to their work, Sayama finally opened his mouth to speak.
“What is this?”
“It is exactly what it looks like. …Now, look to your left.”
Sayama ignored Ooshiro’s thumbs up and looked to the left as he had been instructed.
That was the three-story maintenance hangar. The passageway he stood in was at the second story portion, so the hangar spread out for one story both above and below.
The vast floor was surrounded in concrete. In there, people were working on not just the ceiling, but the walls as well. All four walls, the floor, and the ceiling were lit by large lights protected by bars at the corners of the surfaces and along the walkways.
A large object was currently located in the center of the ceiling. It was an armor-like humanoid machine about eight meters tall.
Of all things, it was lightly raising both its arms, standing tiptoed on its right leg, and rotating.
Ooshiro opened the window and spoke over the mechanical noises coming from the hangar.
“Oh, would you look at that. A balancer test.”
The humanoid machine stopped after 15 revolutions and went down on one knee as if dizzy. The surrounding workers gathered around it and peered into the area analogous to a face.
This sight brought a wordless thought to Sayama’s mind.
It was strange.
He nodded, now convinced, and suddenly opened the window in front of him.
He heard loud mechanical noises, smelled the burning scent of welding, and saw bright lights higher up.
He had seen a small shadow on the upper edge of the window he had opened. A closer look showed it was a wrench dropped on the floor on the reverse side. Most of the grip was sticking out onto the window, so Sayama could only think it was sticking to the wall by ignoring gravity.
“What is going on?”
Sayama placed a hand on the window frame, placed a foot on it as well, and prepared to jump out to the other side. But then someone grabbed his belt from behind.
“Y-you can’t do that, Sayama-kun! If you fall, you’ll die!”
Sayama stuck his head out the window and looked around.
Despite sticking his head out along a wall, people and equipment were standing straight on it and working.
After watching those workers standing and walking along the wall, he spoke to Shinjou behind him.
“Sorry, but please let me go.”
“Y-you can’t rush this!”
“I have made up my mind. I must go to the other side!”
“You can’t! It’s too soon! Please rethink this!”
“Do you think this is a training ground for jumping to your death? This may only be the second floor, but you might be injured if you fell.”
Hearing Ooshiro say that, a question entered Sayama’s mind. He stopped moving and asked it.
“Why do you think I will fall? They are standing on the other side of this wall, so-…”
He trailed off.
A giant trailer drove along the vertical floor from the left.
It was driving relatively quickly for the small area.
The instant of rumbling, wind, and shadow caused Sayama to duck back a bit as it passed by overhead.
The vibration caused the wrench sitting on the edge of the window to shake and drop down toward him. As he saw the wrench graze his face and fall behind him, Sayama frantically ducked back into the window.
He climbed down from the window frame and onto the passageway floor as wind from the trailer blew in through the window. The wind stank of exhaust, but it also contained a slight citrusy aroma.
Sayama took a breath. He then looked through the window at the humanoid machine standing up on wobbly legs.
“But…” He recalled the school newspaper attached to the wall in the school building. “I thought those things could not walk properly? Is your actual technology at this level?”
“Do you think we purposefully send out weakened mechs to be destroyed so no one will know what level of technology IAI has? Why would we need to put on such a performance? Mikoto-kun, the machine used in the article your school published was a God of War with the same design as this one. However, it was piloted remotely.”
“That machine was unable to walk without destroying itself, so how can this one move like this? Has the durability of the metal or gravity been altered?”
“I am glad the thought occurred to you. …What if we could control gravity?”
Sayama frowned. It sounded ridiculous, but a similar phenomenon could be seen before him. People were standing and working on the ceiling and walls. He looked at them and himself, but then he realized something that did not add up.
“Wait… You said I would fall when I placed my foot on the window frame before. If you could control gravity, I would stand on the wall instead of falling when I exited the window.”
“What if we were merely mistaken?”
“Then tell me this: what is that?”
Sayama pointed at the window to the office floor. A single object sat on the window directly opposite the one to the hangar Sayama had opened.
It was a wrench.
It sat on the window as if that window were the floor.
Sayama approached the window and touched it. A few people working beyond the window noticed him, but Sayama ignored them and spoke.
“We feel no attraction from this window. But this wrench does. …Is gravity being individually controlled for this single wrench? Does this continue until it leaves the effective range?”
Sayama approached the wrench and touched it with his hand.
The wrench immediately fell to the floor. It had been falling toward the window before, but the direction of its fall had changed. And the change had occurred as soon as Sayama touched it.
He looked down at the wrench on the floor.
“This is not gravitational control.”
He thought about why Shinjou had stopped him from leaving the window and about what Ooshiro had told him. And then he thought about the meaning of the words he heard upon entering the passageway.
“It said my feet are on the ground.”
As he spoke, Sayama raised his left foot toward the office floor window before him. He placed the sole of his shoe on the window.
He took a breath as he hesitated slightly.
And then he pushed off the ground with this right foot.
As he brought his right foot up toward his left foot, his body fell perpendicular to the window.
If he did not do anything, the back of his head would crash into the floor.
“So this is how it works.”
Sayama placed his right foot on the window. He placed it right next to the left foot already on the office floor window.
He looked around. Shinjou and Ooshiro stood on the wall to his left which was actually the floor.
Sayama was currently standing on the window.
- In Japan, the Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers (1945–1952), which occupied Japan after World War II.
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