Owari no Chronicle:Volume1 Chapter 6
Chapter 6: Their Impressions
Fitting and unfitting
To be together
Is a complex sort of restraint
In a certain room, one could look out into the mountains and valleys of Okutama at night.
The aboveground portion of UCAT was disguised as an IAI transportation administration building. This room was on the top floor of that building.
Specifically, it was on the eastern end of the fifth-floor of that large white-walled building hidden in the mountains.
The private room was five meters square and had a single light and a single air conditioner on the ceiling. The walls and ceiling were white, so not a single dark color was visible. However, the floor was covered with disorderly shadows.
Books, documents, cardboard boxes, and packaging were piled up all across the floor. The area around the desk by the window was especially bad. The desk had several cluttered strata piled atop it.
A white-haired man was sitting between the desk and the window. He was wearing a white coat and was the man named Itaru that Sayama had met on the train.
He was sitting shallowly in a wooden chair with his sunglasses still on.
His hand was moving. He was folding a piece of paper.
He was making a paper airplane using a document from a pile on the desk. The text at the top revealed it had been sent to Ooshiro Itaru.
“This is how you deal with documents not even worth looking at.”
Ooshiro Itaru tightly folded one end of the paper, held it up, and aimed. He aimed at the room’s white door.
The pile of documents on his desk was in the way, so he had to lean out a bit.
And he threw it.
The sharply pointed paper airplane soared in a straight line toward the door.
But then the door opened and a girl entered.
This was the maid-uniform girl named Sf. She held a silver tray in one hand.
“Itaru-sama. I have brought your dinner,” she said just as the paper airplane struck her forehead.
With a small yet solid noise, the paper airplane bounced off. It rotated around and fell to the floor that was already cluttered with documents and boxes. Several other paper airplanes were already on the ground at her feet.
However, Sf did not even look at the paper airplane. She remained expressionless.
“Could you give some sort of reaction?” complained Itaru. “Something like, ‘You mustn’t make even more trash! Ukii!’ ”
“This has only altered the form of the trash from a sheet of paper to an airplane. Also, you never continue with the same task for long, so this flight test is unlikely to last long.”
“You’re so boring.”
“German UCAT created what was needed for the situation. According to my creator, I perfectly meet every one of your demands.”
“And that is why you are boring.”
“Thank you very much. It is my duty to meet your demands, Itaru-sama.”
With that said, Sf walked expressionlessly forward. She lightly crushed the paper airplane underfoot.
Sf walked lightly across that paper, other documents, and even the boxes. She finally arrived next to Ooshiro where he sat at his desk.
She bowed and held the silver tray forward. It contained a soup cup and a hamburger.
“This is a soup and a hamburger. Are you familiar with them?”
“Wow, I’ve never seen anything like them before! …And if you are displeased about something, just come out and say it.”
“Tes. …Thank you very much for the polite response.”
“You really are boring. So what is it?”
“These are 100% chemical compounds. Not a single natural ingredient was used. UCAT completed the design as an experimental food and announced their research today, but it is not being sent out to be sold by IAI.”
“So it is a food that does not exist in this world but has been created in this world. That would probably sell.”
“I hear they have a large repertoire and the prototypes have been frozen. The head of the dining hall said they would be serving a few different patterns over the next year.’
“I see,” nodded Itaru.
Sf continued, “This provides worse balance when carrying it around than with the solid foods from before. Its performance and nutritional value remain unchanged, so I must deem it an inferior product as it is more difficult to carry and transport.”
“Just get used to it. The head of the dining hall is going to keep serving it until it’s gone no matter what you say.”
“Why? If I am not given a clear answer, I will request the previous type of food from the head of the dining hall.”
“Just think of it as humans needing human food just like dogs need dog food. And the same holds even if this human can no longer eat normal food.”
Without waiting for Sf to respond, Ooshiro took a bite of the hamburger. Cheese, onions, pickles, and beef were held between the buns. None of them were real.
He finished it in five bites and reached for the soup cup.
He gulped it down all at once.
“I thought it would be too hot, but that wasn’t bad.”
“Its temperature was quite high, so I stuck my finger in it on the way here to cool it. My internal temperature is kept low.”
“You really are a machine that meets my every demand. If I could return you, I would do so in a heartbeat.”
Saying that, Itaru returned the soup cup to the tray and wiped his hands on Sf’s apron.
He glanced up at her and said, “Not even a displeased look? I’m dirtying your equipment.”
“Do not worry. This apron is meant for you to wipe your hands on. I also have one for outings, office work, cleaning, receptions, sleep, and ceremonial occasions. This one functions as a disinfectant, so feel free to use it.”
“You are truly an amazing machine. Where can I send my thoughts and requests? Please tell me.”
“Tes. Please send any mail to the Sf assistance official within German UCAT.”
“…You really don’t know what a joke is, do you?”
“I will interpret that as a request, Itaru-sama…Oh.” Sf bowed and leaned forward. She adjusted the position of Itaru’s metal cane leaning up against the chair. Then, “I will be going.”
She turned to leave the room. Itaru called out to her.
“What’s my old man doing?”
“Kazuo-sama was at the first floor’s central entrance not long ago. He was with Shinjou-shi,” while still expressionless, she tilted her head slightly, “and Sayama Mikoto-shi who we saw on the train. It appeared they had discussed the Leviathan Road while underground.”
“Do you know the details?”
“Tes. Sayama Mikoto-shi was informed that there are ten alternate worlds known as Gears, that his grandfather worked with UCAT to destroy them, that the world is facing a crisis, and-…”
“And that he is to gain cooperation from the survivors of the other Gears by engaging in the postwar negotiations known as the Leviathan Road?”
“Tes. He was told to ask Shinjou-shi for any simple information he lacked. …Also, he was handed the sacred beast Baku from 7th-Gear. It is to help him by showing him the past.”
“When will that old man stop putting on airs? He should just tell the little shit to not even think about it.”
“Tomorrow, they will meet at the Imperial Palace at 1:00 PM to explain the details of the Concept War and of the current situation. The day after that, they will visit UCAT’s 1st-Gear reservation for preliminary negotiations with 1st-Gear’s peace faction.”
“Is this Sayama brat really willing to go that far?”
“No. According to Kazuo-sama, this is all tentative. Sayama Mikoto-shi can still reject the right his grandfather has left him. He is being told to make his decision after learning what the Leviathan Road truly is.”
“My old man’s gotten too soft. …Although he is the one that encouraged us on the verge of death way back when.”
“What is the objective of the Leviathan Road?”
“You want to know?”
“Not really, no.”
“Then I’ll tell you.” Ooshiro Itaru picked up a document from his desk. He folded it as he said, “1st- through 10th-Gears were all created from their own unique concepts. We call those positive concepts. On the other hand, our Gear has nothing. The reason for this is simple: this Gear is created from negative concepts. Do you understand so far?”
“The Concept War was fought by destroying the other Gears, but do you know what basis would have been used to determine which Gears were destroyed and which one survived when all the Gears collided in 1999?”
Ooshiro Itaru gave a bitter smile and added another fold to his paper.
“When that time of destruction arrived, the Gear with the most positive concepts would survive. That was why the Gears fought and did their very best to extract and take home as many of the enemy worlds’ concepts as they could. And since this Low-Gear had nothing but negative concepts, it was apparently abandoned right away.”
“But despite being made of negative concepts, this Gear succeeded in destroying the other Gears made of positive concepts. …Is that why we receive so much enmity for winning the Concept War?”
“That’s only one of the reasons, but yes, the underdog won. However, that result means the other Gears’ concepts were brought into this Gear. They are stored in the form of Concept Cores which are masses of concepts on the level of an entire world. That goes well beyond a simple Concept Text.”
The sound of folding paper continued. He made a fold that pointed up like a mountain, spread out the center, and created corners on the four sides.
“Most of the Concept Cores are stored in UCAT. If those Concept Cores are released, they will eat into this Gear’s negative concepts and destroy our current ideas of common sense. However…”
“Ten years ago, the negative concepts of this Gear began to activate for some reason. If nothing is done, this Gear will continue even further in the negative direction and be destroyed. To stop this, all the positive Concept Cores must be released to create a balance. We know this will change the world, but it is our only option.” His hands stopped moving. “My old man says this is accepting the existence of the lost Gears. This world will accept the powers of those destroyed Gears and will maintain its existence using those powers. However, most of the Concept Cores were split and a portion remains in the hands of the Gear’s survivors. Also, the war ended 60 years ago, so we cannot act like conceited victors and simply do as we wish with the Concept Cores. We must hold official negotiations with each Gear and gain permission to use the Concept Cores.”
“And that is the Leviathan Road? To be honest, I cannot determine if this is true. What proof do we have that the negative concepts have become active?”
“Japan and you, Sf. The ones you and those like you are based on fell asleep when brought from 3rd-Gear. Now, tell me when they awoke.”
“…December 25, 1995.”
“And what happened in Japan on that day?”
Sf immediately replied, “If my memory is correct, the great Kansai earthquake.”
“Yes, you are correct. That was one aspect of this. And the Concept Cores must have had some sort of reaction too because their concepts began to leak just a tiny bit into this Gear. That is why those girls became able to move ever so slightly.”
“The negative concepts are even now growing more and more active. It has been predicted that their activity will reach its critical point at exactly ten years after it began. In other words,” he powerfully added a fold, “December 25 of this year.”
Ooshiro Itaru’s hands stopped there. He placed what he had folded atop the pile of documents on his desk. It was a square with one end pointed. It had a square protrusion on the top.
Sf looked at it and asked, “Is it a boat?”
“Does it look that way to you? No. It is a tower. Look at it like this.”
He pressed down on the back of the square to stand it up. It was a tower stabbing straight up to heaven.
“It all begins here.”
Sayama and Shinjou left the white-walled UCAT headquarters which was disguised as a large IAI transportation administration building. They then walked toward the main entrance through the IAI grounds.
He had left his cell phone with UCAT along with his torn coat so they could be inspected after the battle. Sayama called someone from back home using the cell phone he had been provided with.
A car would arrive for him in half an hour. He had to make his way out of both UCAT and IAI grounds in that time. However…
“This place is much larger than I expected. Maybe we should have waited for the bus,” Sayama said.
“I-I agree. I thought I wanted to walk for once, but that may have been a mistake,” replied Shinjou.
The UCAT area was filled with 3000 meter runways and large hangars that were visible under the nighttime lighting.
A kilometer long valley could be seen partway across and it was what hid UCAT from the surrounding areas. The IAI area on the other side had many more lights and the buildings on the surface were much larger.
Sayama and Shinjou spoke as they walked down the central road between the buildings.
He asked her what she knew about the Concept War and the time of destruction.
He then asked her about the person from 1st-Gear who had been their opponent that evening.
“The 1st-Gear Concept Core has been split into two. 1st-Gear was a world that sat on a flat table. The first Concept Core constructed that single isolated world. The other provided the unique aspect of 1st-Gear. That is the concept that gives power to words and allows 1st-Gear to use something like magic.”
“Does UCAT possess both of those Concept Cores?”
“The world construction Concept Core was sealed in a 1st-Gear sword and is stored in Japanese UCAT’s western branch located below IAI HQ. But the word concept one was sealed in a mechanical dragon belonging to the radicals that fled into this world.”
“A mechanical dragon?”
“It is a weapon shaped like a dragon. I’ve never actually seen one, though.”
As he watched Shinjou shrug, Sayama decided she was not lying.
“That sounds like a weapon out of a manga or something,” he said.
“Oh, I actually prefer novels. I don’t read much manga, so I wouldn’t know.”
“Hm. It is sad to hear you denying part of Japan’s culture like that. …But at any rate, if I accept these rights from my grandfather, I will ultimately have to negotiate with these radicals, won’t I?”
He nodded in understanding. A break in the conversation formed and he looked around as he walked. Several giant white buildings could be seen under the outdoor lights. At this point, the UCAT buildings were nowhere to be seen.
“So UCAT is a hidden village. …The normal IAI workers know nothing about UCAT and think the area further in is an airport.”
“As you were told before, the Izumo Aviation Institute’s Tokyo branch had a national defense department during the war. That department learned of the Concept War, researched it, and became Japanese UCAT immediately after the war.”
“Do you know a lot about that?”
“No. Tonight was the first I ever heard about your grandfather being a part of it all.”
“Same here. That probably means my parents did not know either. They only worked for IAI. They must not have known that my grandfather had anything to do with the transportation facility over the valley.”
As he spoke, Sayama brought his hand to the left side of his chest and looked toward his left shoulder. A single small animal stood there.
The 15 centimeter animal was of a type he had never seen before. Its face looked like a boar, it had a round body, and its legs had hooves.
“That’s Baku, right? I’ve never seen it before. It can…show people the past, right?”
“The old man said it was like dreaming. Apparently, it was on the verge of dying but managed to survive due to the slight release of the positive concepts in reaction to the negative concepts beginning to activate ten years ago.”
When he reached out his hand, Baku drew back but then reached out its front legs to grab his finger.
“I wonder what kind of past it can show me… I suppose it could only be an unpleasant past.”
He glanced over to find Shinjou hanging her head down.
While walking alongside her, Sayama asked, “What is it?”
“Oh, sorry. It’s just… I didn’t know anything about you and 10 years ago, Sayama-kun.”
“Oh, you mean when my father headed to Kansai with the IAI rescue team and-…”
“You don’t have to say it. You don’t have to talk about your chest pains either. …It would be best if you don’t talk about it.”
“I do not mind.”
“You should. You shouldn’t talk about your parents and yourself like they are strangers.”
“But my parents more or less are strangers and I work to view myself objectively.”
In response to his words, the ends of Shinjou’s eyebrows drooped slightly as she looked up at him.
Sayama received her gaze head on.
She is likely in the right here, he muttered in his heart. Shinjou had said she had no memory of her parents. She wanted to search for them. He decided that was what led her to be right.
When Sayama had been told that the objective of the Leviathan Road was the suppression of the negative concepts, the topic had turned to the activation of the negative concepts and the great Kansai earthquake ten years ago.
And that had naturally led to Sayama’s parents. Sayama had seen the look on Shinjou’s face change when she heard about his father’s death during relief work for the earthquake, about his mother taking him with her and trying to commit a double suicide, and about his angina.
When she had once more asked about the ring he wore, he had given her the proper answer.
It was a memento of his mother.
She had then apologized. She had said she had not been thinking when she had said what she said in front of the medical room.
She was now looking up at him with the same expression as back then. The ends of her eyebrows had lightly lowered above her black eyes.
Before, it had been an expression of apology. But now it was an expression of admonition over speaking as if his parents were strangers. Sayama thought on Shinjou’s words and expression.
…When she should be criticizing me, why does she use the expression of someone who has done something wrong?
But before Sayama could come up with an answer, Shinjou made a move. Her head drooped down.
“Sorry,” she said.
Sayama tilted his head in confusion. He was the one who deserved to be criticized here.
“Why are you apologizing?”
“B-because I was being an imposition on you, Sayama-kun.”
When Sayama heard those words she spoke to the ground, he spoke.
“There is one thing I hope you understand.”
But then his lips produced another statement.
“That is not true at all.”
After he spoke, Sayama realized what he had said.
Why had he permitted someone else to give their opinion on his pet theory?
As he felt that slight shock, he saw Shinjou look up at him wide-eyed with her eyebrows still lowered. A bit of surprise could be seen on her face as well.
She is surprised from the simple fact that someone accepted what she said, he thought.
She was serious about this.
It was related to one’s memories of one’s parents. That was something that she lacked.
Sayama thought as he watched Shinjou’s expression change before his eyes.
Why had he allowed Shinjou’s opinion?
…That is because she understands.
Her expression changed ever so slightly.
…She understands what it is she seeks.
The ends of Shinjou’s eyebrows lowered and her eyes narrowed around her large pupils.
…That is something I do not have.
She opened her mouth slightly, let out a soft breath, and spoke.
Sayama nodded and looked away as he changed the subject.
“At any rate, I need to think about whether I should accept the Leviathan Road or not.”
“Y-yes. If you do, it will involve more than just negotiations. You will be dealing with people as desperate as this evening.”
“I see.” Sayama nodded and muttered under his breath. “I wonder if he viewed me as desperate.”
I was not, he thought with a sigh. It had ended before he could. And Sayama remembered what he had felt when he had been about to take action at the end. He had thought that he had been wrong.
He understood why he had felt that way.
…I am inexperienced. Even if I am wrong, I simply need to think it is necessary.
Sayama wondered when he would become the kind of person his grandfather had been.
He then recalled the battle from that evening.
“Our enemy was serious and so were you. …I have seen many different fights, but that battle was not fought hopelessly or as a game.”
“According to Ooshiro-san, we will head to the 1st-Gear reservation for the preliminary negotiations the day after tomorrow. It seems they realized we are taking action, so one of the radicals tried to win over the peaceful faction on the reservation.”
“So he made his way into the middle of enemy territory. …What leads people to head down such dangerous paths?”
“How about we leave it as ‘there are things that cannot be explained with words’. According to the old man, tomorrow we will go to the Imperial Palace so he can show me the beginning of the Concept War and the day after tomorrow we will meet with representatives of 1st-Gear’s peaceful faction for preliminary negotiations. If that was all, I would not be remotely interested. However, I saw one of the radicals today. I am interested in the Leviathan Road.”
…So that is what it looks like when two serious people clash in desperation.
“Utilizing force creates enmity, but there are some who will never accept it if you do not. What can be done about that? …These negotiations are wrapped in contradiction. Perhaps that is why I was chosen.”
Sayama looked forward to find they were approaching the main entrance. The guard noticed them and activated the automatic gate. With a sound like rattling chains, the gate disappeared belowground.
Amid that sound, Shinjou stopped walking and asked a question.
“That is why…? Why would you have been chosen, Sayama-kun?”
Sayama stopped as well. He supported Baku who almost fell from his shoulder.
“My grandfather would boldly declare that the surname Sayama indicates a villain. He was a lone wolf corporate blackmailer. …This is a similar dirty job. Someone is needed to crush this kind of idiot underfoot.”
…And they hope that person will be me.
Sayama wondered if he could manage it.
If he was to leave, he had to do it now.
Sayama fell silent. With a click of the heel, he began walking once more.
A step later, Shinjou rushed up to join him.
“Wait!” she called.
But Sayama did not turn around.
He heard Shinjou’s footsteps line up beside him.
“Um, Sayama-kun. Sorry, but…”
“What is it?” he asked.
Shinjou’s head drooped and she folded her hands in front of her waist.
“Umm,” she started. “I just want to check one thing about what you said.”
She formed a troubled smile and asked her question.
“What is a corporate blackmailer?”
“S-sorry. I know it was a really important part, but…well…I’m not quite sure what it means.”
Sayama’s mouth hung open and he let out a “ha!”
…Oh, I see.
He did not care if his laugh reverberated in his left arm. He let loose and laughed without restraint.
Is that all it was? he thought.
Meanwhile, Shinjou’s face grew red.
“Wh-why are you laughing? Is it that funny?”
“Apologies. You are an honest person, Shinjou-kun. A corporate blackmailer is someone who uses violence or influence hidden from the law to threaten corporations into giving them something in return. They bring harassment or unseen violence and if the corporation wants it to stop, they have to give them some sort of influence or a good rate in negotiations.” He thought for a moment. “But unlike normal ones, a lone wolf corporate blackmailer who acts out of conviction is an idiot. When they see an enemy or evil, they wield their justice and charge in. They make no threats, they harass no one, and they cause no violence. They cry out about the injustices and fraud of corporations and wield their power in the name of justice. And they do not care who else is damaged in the process. They do not care if they are hated.”
Shinjou gulped. At that moment, they passed through the main gate. The guard bowed and they bowed back.
“Will you…choose the same thing as your grandfather?”
“Perhaps. …He truly was hated by a lot of people. When he dug up corporate injustice, not many corporations could withstand the reorganizations and dismissals that followed. He did not know the meaning of the word mercy.”
Sayama nodded as he thought about his grandfather. He brought a hand to his forehead and sighed.
“Yes. When I was in fourth grade, I ignored a lame gag he made. That developed into an actual fistfight. What kind of person fights an elementary school boy while wearing nothing but his underwear, goes in for a cross counter, and then takes a photo to commemorate his victory? You will never find a more childish old man in all of human history. I suppose that breed went extinct recently.”
“I think I see a candidate before me…”
“That would be nice,” replied Sayama with a smile.
They stopped in front of the main entrance. Across the wide road in front of them was a cliff with the Tama River flowing down below and forests on the mountains and valleys beyond. The lights of the IAI hospital and employee dormitory could be seen in the distance.
While listening to the sound of the river, Sayama spoke to Shinjou.
“At any rate, I think my grandfather was hated because he was a true villain and nothing else.”
“Why did he continue to do that even though it made him so hated?”
“I do not know. And to be honest, I am jealous. Why was he able to do that? …If I understood that, I could choose my own path without so much doubt.”
Sayama said no more. And shortly thereafter, headlights approached from the Akigawa direction of the road.
“Is that from your family?”
“It is from a yakuza family that became indebted to my grandfather. They run a security company now, though.”
As he spoke, the car pulled up. It was a large, black car. The windows were all tinted black so the inside could not be seen.
It came to a stop.
“Wah,” said Shinjou as she drew back.
A man had stepped out of the driver’s seat on the left.
This young man had close-cropped hair and wore a blue suit. He turned toward Sayama.
“Young master, I have come to take you home.”
He bowed and looked toward Shinjou. Slight caution could be seen in the young man’s actions.
He then turned his eyes toward the bandages wrapped around Sayama’s left arm.
Sayama nodded and said, “Kouji, do not worry. I trust her. She…treated my wound when I tripped in the forest. Her name is Shinjou-…”
He trailed off when he realized he had never asked her given name. Shinjou picked up on this and answered.
“Oh, it is Sadame. My name is Shinjou Sadame.”
“I see. My apologies. I am Tamiya Kouji. It seems you have been of great help to my young master.”
“Eh? No, um… He helped me too…”
Shinjou took a step back, stood right next to Sayama, and whispered.
“You tripped in the forest?”
“I can hardly tell him the truth, can I?”
“Yes, but I wasn’t the one to treat you. …And this is an amazing reception. Why is he treating you like this?”
“You could say this family is a memento of my grandfather. I did not acquire this myself. Do you not-…”
Sayama was going to say “have anything like that”, but he swallowed the words.
Shinjou sighed, thought for a moment, and then spoke.
“Don’t worry. I do have…a younger brother. My twin brother. But…” She gave a bitter smile and lowered her head slightly when she saw Tamiya looking at her. “Your environment… Whether you can call it a family or not, it’s quite amazing.”
“I see,” said Sayama with a nod. He then amended it to, “I suppose so.”
At that point, he realized he had a bit of leeway within him now. He knew she was not completely alone.
He concluded that the male language mixed into her speech was due to that environment of hers. He then nodded slightly in her direction.
“Now then. Thank you for seeing me off. …Will I see you tomorrow?”
Shinjou nodded and gave only a slight smile. That was the sign of their parting.
A girl stood on the rooftop of Taka-Akita Academy’s second year general school building.
She stood on the western edge overlooking the nightscape of Akigawa City.
It was Brunhild wearing her uniform and with her gray hair blowing in the wind.
As the moon shone down on the rooftop, she placed her hands on the railing and opened her mouth.
She cast her eyes down while otherwise expressionless. Her opened lips did not produce simple words. She sang.
It was the hymn Silent Night.
“Stille Nacht Heil’ge Nacht
Alles schlaft einsam wacht
Nur das traute hoch heilige Paar
Holder Knab’im lockigten Haar
Schlafe in himmlischer Ruh
Schlafe in himmlischer Ruh.”
She slowly raised her head.
Once she finished singing, she opened her eyes to find the round moon in the heavens. While watching that light, her expression changed.
“I hate this sky… It has that light that our sky did not. It is not the light of the underworld…”
Brunhild sighed as the moonlight reflected in her eyes.
And then her expression changed once more as if it was jumping up. Her eyebrows leveled out, her eyes sharpened, and the expression from before vanished.
“Here he comes,” she muttered as she reached her right hand into her pocket.
She pulled out a small blue stone and held it tightly in her right hand. She then slowly raised that right hand.
A wind then descended from the night sky. It was a black wind. Like a string or small stream, the black wind whirled around and wrapped about Brunhild’s right hand. It solidified into a single object.
That black wind took the form of a black cat.
This glossy black cat stood atop her right arm.
Brunhild stretched her arm out horizontally as easily as if the cat was weightless. The cat climbed across her arm and onto her right shoulder. Brunhild lowered her arm and the cat climbed down it to the floor.
Immediately afterwards, Brunhild wrote something in the air using her right hand and snapped her fingers.
As soon as that clear sound rang out, the cat looked up. And…
“Ahh, I’m exhausted. It can be hard to tell which is the real me.”
A young male voice came from the cat. Nevertheless, Brunhild remained expressionless.
“We have to keep up appearances so as to avoid suspicion. More importantly, how did it go?”
“As expected, the Royal Palace faction is hopeless. They don’t have the strength of an organization like we do.”
“I did not ask for your impressions. I want a report on the facts.”
Brunhild folded her arms and began tapping her right toes on the floor.
Seeing that, the cat said, “I think you are absorbing some bad habits from Low-Gear. You have such bad manners.”
“Shut it. If you say anything more, I’ll throw you into the room of a classmate who is yearning for a pet.”
“No, I don’t want that… It’s only any fun at first.” The cat hung its head, sighed, and then straightened up once more. “The peaceful faction that sympathizes with UCAT turned away a messenger from the Royal Palace faction. The messenger was a strong member of the Royal Palace faction, a werewolf named Gale-…Gale-something. But he was cornered by UCAT and killed himself.”
“They did that to a werewolf? I know their species gets a lot stupider when their true nature kicks in, but that couldn’t have been easy.”
“Well, the pursuit unit was slaughtered, but the UCAT special division arrived afterwards and trapped him in a Concept Space. Werewolves are a poor match for precious metals when it comes to elemental concepts. Okay, now this.”
The black cat rolled over and showed off its belly. He was asking Brunhild to rub it, so she crouched down and poked his belly with her index finger. The gentle jab caused the cat to arch its back.
“Ahhh! My hips! Not the hips! My guts! I feel some indescribable sensation in my guts!!”
“Stop speaking so oddly and get on with the report. What will we do regarding the peaceful faction and the Royal Palace faction?”
“W-we of the City faction will not contact either side. Fafner who has worked his way up lately made the announcement. …And according to Venerable Hagen, the Royal Palace faction will likely take action out of desperation.”
“The Royal Palace faction will? A group that split from the peaceful faction based on nothing but ideals is planning to attack UCAT? They don’t think they can manage by relying on nothing but youthful vigor like Fafner does, do they?”
“No, they don’t.”
The cat got up and began licking his belly.
While still crouched down, Brunhild said, “Stop acting so self-important and get on with it.”
“C’mon, you don’t have to act like that. We were both deployed here, so we are on equal footing, right? You have been getting a bit carried away lately, Brunhild.”
“Yes. Just the day before yesterday, I took a peek inside the sweets shop in front of the school and you suddenly had a kid in there strip naked and bow down before you.”
“Do not misrepresent what happened. He flipped up my skirt first. For a woman of 1st-Gear, having anyone but her husband do that is a humiliation. I was crying in my heart as I made him bow down. And I also swore to never forgive that kid.”
“Sorry. My heart must have been too clouded because I could not see any tears. …And is that really such a humiliation?”
Brunhild grabbed the black cat’s back legs in her hands, spread them out in a T-shape, and lifted him up. She then shook him up and down.
“Ahhh! Such humiliation! Stop, stop! If you keep looking at me like this, a new side of me will awaken!”
“As long as you understand.”
She put the cat back down. The cat dragged his limp waist along and forced a smile.
“E-every day with you is quite stimulating. Although becoming numb to stimulation is a sign your life is over.”
“Just finish with the report before I decide to do something else.”
“Hmm,” thought the cat. “Do you remember the Leviathan Road? That thing Venerable Hagen mentioned.”
“Yes. That information he got from a strange information broker, right? …We had predicted it ourselves as well. On December 25 of this year, the activation of the negative concepts of this Gear will reach the critical point.”
“Yes, and so we must take back the other half of 1st-Gear’s Concept Core from UCAT and stop the activation of the negative concepts as part of 1st-Gear. …And UCAT is trying to do the same but with themselves in charge. Anyway…the Leviathan Road is an attempt by UCAT to obtain all of the Concept Cores. But…”
“It seems a unit put together just for that purpose has begun to move. It was apparently that unit that cornered the messenger of the Royal Palace faction. It is known as Team Leviathan and was created from the top elites of UCAT’s special division.”
“What is your point?’
“You can’t tell? Some higher members of UCAT are involved with this unit. And so the Royal Palace faction will target Team Leviathan instead of UCAT as a whole. If they could capture Ooshiro Kazuo, the head of Japanese UCAT, they might gain a significant advantage in negotiations.”
Brunhild stood up, folded her arms, and slowly moved her head down.
“Hmm,” she murmured as the black cat looked up at her.
“But… Hey, Brunhild, were you singing before I arrived?”
“Eh?” Brunhild looked down at the cat and finally spoke without changing her expression. “I was not singing.”
“Really? I seem to remember hearing it on the wind. You, Venerable Regin, and Lady Gutrune loved that Low-Gear man’s-…”
“Do cats show sentimentality by speaking of things they know nothing about?”
“I am being serious here, Brunhild. In a way, you were the person in the closest position to the cause of 1st-Gear’s destruction.”
“It bothers me that, as our fight approaches its end, you are here,” the cat slowly lay down, “observing the man who destroyed 1st-Gear. It seems to me that would be bad for your mental health.”
Brunhild’s eyebrows arched slightly, her lips formed a smile that was not quite bitter, and she crouched down to pet the cat’s back.
“Am I really that on edge?”
“You were earlier. When Miss Feigned Ignorance stopped by, you were legitimately mad when you mentioned how much you love forests and she replied by mentioning celery.”
Brunhild dug through her memories before replying.
With a serious expression, she said, “That is because I hate celery.”
“I can’t stand Chinese chives or mitsuba either. Whenever I order udon at the cafeteria, I ask for no mitsuba, but Old Tome always legitimately forgets and puts it in. …And that old woman is too cute to complain to.”
“It doesn’t really matter, but I think you are building up too much stress from little things.”
“Oh? I am not building up stress at all.”
“Really? Then how are you relieving-…no, ah!! Stop, stop! Not the ass! The ass is the last place I want-…!”
Once Brunhild rendered the cat unable to stand, she stood up.
She walked over to the north edge of the rooftop where she could see level scenery with the lights of houses and buildings in the distance.
Headlights could be seen running along the roads within the school grounds, but that was the only movement.
She looked straight down and spotted light falling on the grass behind the school building. The light came from the first floor hallway in front of the Kinugasa Library. She could see a single shadow moving through that horizontal line of lights.
“Siegfried…” she muttered. “What would he do if he knew a ghost from 60 years ago had returned?”
- The most prominent example of her use of male language is using “boku” to refer to herself.
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