Owari no Chronicle:Volume2 Chapter 18
Chapter 18: Broken Horizon
What are you going there to see?
Is that a question one can answer?
After all, that is what you are going there to find out
Sayama followed Ooshiro Kazuo to the 1st-Gear reservation. They climbed a hill behind UCAT.
They walked past UCAT transportation control, made their way through vegetable and flower gardens and a cedar forest, and finally arrived at a paved road. Ooshiro turned toward Sayama on that road. He flipped up the hem of his burnt white lab coat.
“Do you have anything with anything written on it or carved into it?”
Sayama was just about to answer when he suddenly looked toward the surrounding forest.
Something is off, thought Sayama.
He had felt some sort of presence.
However, he could not see anything in the area. He found only silence.
“It certainly is quiet here.”
“Maybe that’s because we are near the concept space. But I visited here a few times a long time ago. And those times,” Shinjou tilted her head, “I remember hearing more birds.”
I need to be cautious, thought Sayama.
He nodded and answered the previous question.
“I decided to be cautious and avoided bringing any products with writing on them. But will electronics work inside?”
Sayama pulled his cell phone from his pocket. It had a microphone and a built-in camera that allowed it to record audio and video.
Sayama pointed at the camera and Ooshiro scratched at his head.
“Hmm, it should work. To prevent a rebellion, the reservation is based on Low-Gear concepts. If you are clever in how you use it, you might be able to give it extra ability from the concepts added to the reservation. But…”
“But it will not work as a phone, right? The phone tower exists outside.”
“There are specialized devices that allow you to communicate outside, but they are quite valuable.”
Hearing that, Sayama returned the cell phone to his suit’s breast pocket. He kept the camera facing outwards.
Sayama then looked toward Ooshiro’s left side. He held a laptop there.
When Ooshiro noticed, he tapped the gray body of the device and raised his right thumb.
“This is for recording what is said. The keyboard and switches are unmarked. At the press of a button, it can switch to a setting that does not display anything.”
“I did not know you were that skilled with computers, old man.”
Shinjou looked over toward Sayama. She was slightly out of breath from climbing the slight hill.
“He plays video games a lot in his room. But when SF, the others, or I try to look at the screen, he panics and switches off the display. I think Itaru-san scolded him about it once.”
“…Is that so?”
“Yes. And the walls in Ooshiro-san’s room are covered in long vertical posters. They all have gaudy drawings of lewd girls.”
After thinking on what Shinjou had said, Sayama looked over at Ooshiro. He turned a small smile toward that man carrying a laptop.
“D-do you need something?”
“I will say this in an indirect way: you will not die in any decent way, you perverted old man.”
“Wow, you really said it. …And Shinjou-kun, you shouldn’t tell on people!”
“Eh? B-but I thought an hour of video games a day was an acceptable way of extending your hobbies.” With her head tilted, Shinjou pulled what looked like a card out of her back pocket. “I have this. It isn’t the same as yours, but it is a handheld game system UCAT gave me.”
Sayama took it from her and realized it was a small game device with an LCD screen. The black and white LCD screen was located in the center, a single round button was located on either side of the screen, and it had two selection buttons. From the patterns visible on the LCD screen, the game involved people jumping down from a building which the player had to bounce into an ambulance with a stretcher.
“It has a clock mode and the game has a normal A Mode and a hard B Mode. I got the max score in A Mode once, but the battery died and my high score was lost.”
Sayama nodded in understanding as he listened, but then he spoke to Ooshiro.
“I just now realized that it is UCAT’s doing that Shinjou-kun is so strange, but what am I supposed to do about it?”
“I-I’m not strange.”
“You have been brainwashed. Video games are normally played on the television or with a color LCD screen.”
“Eh? You can play games on TV?”
“Old man! This has reached the level of personality modification!”
“I’m not actually sure how this happened either,” he said. “I can only think people have been giving her what they have to spare.”
“I see,” said Sayama with a nod. He returned the handheld game system to Shinjou. “Take care of this. …But get ready because I will make sure Setsu-kun educates you on this. I think I have some things in storage that a graduate left behind.”
“Eh? Y-you don’t have to do that. I would feel bad.”
“No, this is an excellent chance to teach you that you do not live in the Showa era.”
Sayama sighed and continued forward. As Ooshiro walked in front of him, the man suddenly disappeared.
Sayama frowned and wondered what had happened, but then the watch on his left wrist suddenly vibrated.
—Writing is a representation of power.
He heard a voice and red words scrolled across the face of the watch.
Sayama realized this was the same concept text he had heard at the Imperial palace.
But he felt as if nothing had changed.
The scenery around him had barely changed. The types of trees were slightly different and the smell of earth was a bit stronger, but that was all. He could not help but compare it to the concept space that had caused the direction of gravity to change.
“This is a bit underwhelming.”
“Not all of them are quite so exciting.”
He looked over to find Ooshiro and Shinjou standing next to him.
Sayama nodded and they began walking once more. Beyond the forest on either side of the path were fields of crops.
Sayama continued walking along the earth between the trees as he looked at the crops in the distance. He soon came to the top of the hill.
The visible area opened up before him.
Above were the blue sky and the white clouds and below was a village. The fields on either side of the path continued on to the village.
Most of the trees had been left intact in the village and several houses had been built among them. Most of those houses were made of built up stones with cement filling the gaps. The roofs were made of wood. A small vegetable garden and storage shed existed next to each house.
An even more open area existed beyond the trees and houses. A green sea was visible there.
“Yes. Some potatoes and other things are grown individually. Growing crops in a concept space can be unstable. About twenty years ago, large amounts of soil was brought in from outside so they could be self-sufficient.”
“Is that part of UCAT’s job?”
“Yes, but UCAT’s budget is limited. For anything more than that, the reservation residents need to earn it themselves. They do so by sharing techniques and knowledge or by working in UCAT. And if they wish to be naturalized, we will gladly help them.”
“Is that because the fewer the people in the reservation, the easier it is to keep them fed?”
Just as Ooshiro nodded in response, a low voice called out from the field to the side.
“Yes. And if we are to welcome in new members, we must send out those who can leave.”
The figure that climbed up to the pathway was huge. Sayama looked up at that two meter figure.
In front of him was a humanoid dragon covered in a black shell and skin.
His pointed face and sharp eyes were turned toward Sayama. The low shoulders below his fairly long neck were covered by a simple white outfit that had a fisherman’s vest worn over it. On his feet were…
They were the type sold cheaply in supermarkets. The toes were covered in dirt and moss.
He must have noticed Sayama’s gaze because Fasolt opened his mouth and laughed from the throat. He kicked the ground to knock off the dirt and moss and shook the flowers and straw in his left arm.
“These shoes work best with the three claws I have received from the reign of the dragon god. They also work well with agricultural work. Don’t you agree? What is your name, human youth and boy of Low-Gear? I am Fasolt, the leader and storyteller of this 1st-Gear reservation.”
His lungs must have been able to hold a lot of air because the words all came at once.
Sayama saw Baku ball up his tail and pull back his hips where he stood on Sayama’s shoulder.
“I am Sayama Mikoto. It seems I am the tentative Low-Gear representative. It is nice to meet you, leader from another world,” said Sayama as he held out his right hand.
“Ahh,” groaned Fasolt as he held out his right hand which was covered by a large work glove. But his outstretched hand was clenched in a fist. “We do it like this in 1st-Gear, Sayama Mikoto. According to folklorists, the purpose is to show you are not holding a weapon, but a lot of us would injure each other if we held hands.”
It was true that Fasolt’s hand had claws sticking out from the work glove. The ends were round, but those ends were white from being filed down. Sayama decided to clench his right hand into a fist as well.
Fasolt struck Sayama’s fist with his own. Sayama did the same in return.
“Excellent. Do not forget to use your palm instead when greeting a woman. If you want to remember how to greet people in 1st-Gear, just remember to punch the men and stroke the women. That saying comes from the city’s 14th block and I used to follow it quite a lot.”
Fasolt’s words arrived all at once, but they were easy to listen to.
It has a nice rhythm, analyzed Sayama.
Ooshiro said, “In 1st-Gear, writing produces power, so they never advanced very far when it came to keeping documents and records. The dragon race has a long life, a large lung capacity, and an excellent memory, so they were often record keepers, judges, and historical storytellers.”
“Yes. I gave up the position of judge due to my age, but I will continue as storyteller until I die. Not many speak like this anymore, but I suppose that is just the age we live in. Oh, but I am a bit disappointed that you do not seem very surprised to see me, Sayama Mikoto. Shinjou there was quite surprised when she first saw me.”
“I-I was just a kid. I didn’t really understand.”
Shinjou lowered her head and blushed while Ooshiro folded his arms and spoke.
“When she first met Fasolt, she climbed up on his back and was surprised not to see a zipper.”
“B-but I was watching Aretorman Cement and there was one on his back.”
“Why were you watching a minor Showa tokusatsu show? Do television broadcasts arrive in Okutama with a time lag?”
Fasolt laughed from the throat and closed his eyes nostalgically.
“It was even more amazing when Ooshiro met me the first time as a child. He wet himself as soon as he saw me and was so surprised he let out some strange shriek and ran up to attack me. I knocked him to the ground without even thinking. It is a complete mystery how that never affected the negotiations afterwards.”
“Hitting someone who deserves to be hit does not affect the negotiations.”
“I see, I see. I thank you for solving that 50-year-old mystery, Sayama Mikoto.”
Sayama and Fasolt lightly tapped their fists together. The half-dragon ignored Ooshiro who seemed to want to say something.
“Now then. If you like, we can begin the provisional negotiations. Public matters should be done in a public place, so our custom is to do this in the public square.”
Sayama nodded, but then said, “If possible, could you perform your job as storyteller first?”
Fasolt and Ooshiro looked over at him, but Shinjou nodded.
“That’s right. Shinjou-kun and I don’t know much about 1st-Gear.”
“You are quite different from Ooshiro despite being the same race. I am a bit moved. Tes.”
After giving his consent, Fasolt turned his back and began walking.
Ooshiro began to follow Fasolt, but first looked over at Sayama and turned his thumb downwards.
“You had better remember this.”
“Is that any way for an adult to act?” replied Sayama.
Ooshiro ran after Fasolt while blatantly pretending to cry.
Sayama exchanged a glance with Shinjou and sighed. With a bitter smile, he jogged after Fasolt.
As he did, Sayama looked at Fasolt’s back. His low shoulders stuck out from the collar of his clothes. On either side was a portion not covered by the shell or scales. That area was as long and thick as an arm and the skin was dark red and hardened like a burn scar.
Shinjou whispered to Sayama from where she walked alongside him.
“Those are the scars from cutting off his own wings. Or so I’ve heard.”
Whether he heard her or not, Fasolt spoke as he looked across the earthen public square that existed between the trees and houses and a wheat field.
“On a sunny day, the air, the wind, and stories of the past will all flow far and wide. Before we begin the negotiations, I will tell you the history of our land.”
Instead of just taking a breath, Fasolt seemed to store up even more breaths before speaking once more.
“As well as its destruction.”
Brunhild was dreaming. 1st-Gear’s destruction was recreated in her dream.
In the darkness of the night, their small cabin shook. The ground shook as if it was being struck.
Brunhild ran through the cabin. She held the birdcage in her arms and called out the names of those she trusted as she went from room to room.
In the distance, she heard the earth trembling as if she could feel it in her gut. From nearby, a vibration shook her bones.
As she heard these noises, she cried out while shedding tears. And she ran once more through the rooms she had looked through so many times already.
The fireplace in the central room had crumbled and the stone inside had burned and scattered.
The six-row keyboard against the wall of the back room had been broken by a fallen joist.
The wall and ceiling of the tilted room were decorated with rolled cloth written with the words for good luck. They were for the festival.
“Why is this happening on the day of the festival…?”
The trembling of the earth grew stronger and she tripped. The cage struck the ground and she almost fell on top of it.
That was when an arm reached out and supported her from behind.
She picked up the cage and turned around to find a red-haired woman.
“Yes,” nodded Gutrune.
She tried to embrace Brunhild, but her eyes stopped on the birdcage. In that shaking cabin, she smiled and kissed Brunhild on the cheek.
“Listen, Nein. I have to go to the royal palace. I can only think something has happened to the Concept Core there.”
Brunhild, who had been called Nein, was confused, but the ground shook once more and the roof groaned.
Gutrune looked up and said, “The weapons laboratory is likely closer. If it comes to it, the gate will be opened, so wait there. The doctor and Lord Hagen are in the laboratory. They will give you a snack to eat, okay?”
“No, I want to be with everyone. Where are the doctor and the others? Are they not here?”
Gutrune fell silent, but Brunhild continued to ask questions.
“The book on Gram was missing from the back room. So was the book on Fafnir. …Where is Siegfried? Did he betray us? Hey, did he betray us!?”
Gutrune took the questions head on. She closed her eyes and opened her mouth to speak.
And she closed it once more.
She took a breath and opened her eyes. She stared directly at Brunhild.
“He…might have. But he might not have.”
Brunhild realized her expression had brightened somewhat when she heard those words. She knew that Gutrune trusted him, too.
Gutrune pulled Brunhild toward her while lightly embracing her, birdcage and all.
“I will go check, so you run away ahead of me.”
“C-can’t you go with me at least?”
Gutrune gently let go and shook her head.
“I am a member of the royal family. The high officials have returned to their homes for the festival, so only the doctor and I can enter the basement. And something must be happening there. I must go.”
“Why? Why do you have to go?”
“I am sure I will be able to save someone or something.” She gave a bitter smile. “My father has grown weak ever since my mother died. I should have saved him…but it seems I can do that now. Whatever happens and however this turns out, there is something I must do as a member of the royal family.”
“What will you do if Siegfried betrayed us?”
“Do not worry. No matter what happens, I will persuade him. Together, we can preserve and save this world. …But as a member of the royal family, I may have to be forceful with him. If that happens, you take care of him.”
“And…and once that happens, we can all be together again someday?”
“Of course. I will persuade him and you will support him. And…we will always be together.”
“Do you promise?” asked Brunhild.
Gutrune smiled and replied, “Yes, I promise we will always be together.”
She rubbed Brunhild’s head. The gentle sensation calmed Brunhild and she finally smiled.
“You are a good girl, Nein,” said Gutrune with a smile of her own.
The bird in the birdcage chirped amid the shaking and the sounds of trembling.
As Brunhild heard that chirping, she awoke from her dream.
When Brunhild opened her eyes, she saw the art room turned on its side.
She had fallen asleep with her head lying on the work table. Her face was pointed to the left. Her neck felt stiff as she straightened up.
She touched her cheek and felt the tile pattern of the work table’s surface.
“This is not a good way to live.”
She looked down to find the small bird had left its box and was looking up at her.
The contents of the food dish had clearly lessened. The bird seemed plenty hungry.
She held her hand out on a whim and the bird flapped its wings and flew up to her shoulder.
Brunhild laughed. Turning her head hurt a bit, but she endured. She looked the chirping bird in the eye. She could not say whether the tears in her eyes were from the dream, the pain in her neck, or the bird’s recovery.
Brunhild looked down and searched for the black cat.
But it was not there.
She thought back and the scene just before she fell asleep appeared in the back of her mind.
She turned toward the door and found it was unlocked.
“I managed to send him off for the periodic report…”
She breathed a sigh of relief as the cat’s owner. She turned away from the door and her gaze naturally focused on the center of the art room.
An unfinished painting stood on an easel there.
A single small cabin was visible in a forest of black and green. Brunhild spoke to the bird as she looked at the cabin which had been started with pale black.
“This is the world I came from.” She gave a bitter laugh. “The final promise made to me there was never upheld. She never came back. I doubt she was able to persuade him. And…It seems he betrayed us and abandoned us. The only person left was me, the one who had trusted everyone else.”
Brunhild looked at the bird.
“But,” she began.
The bird chirped. It waved its tail up and down happily.
As she listened to that chirping, Brunhild sat in the chair in front of the easel. She lowered her head a bit.
“I shouldn’t have asked him why he saved you,” muttered Brunhild as she recalled the scene from her dream. “Why did she say that when she was going to the palace to be killed by him? Why would she ask me to take care of him or say that we would always be together?”
There was no one who could answer that question. Instead, the bird stopped chirping and tilted its head.
In the center of the 1st-Gear reservation’s public square, a few blue plates were flipped upside down on the ground. The bottom of those plates said “floor” and the top said “public square”.
Sayama and the others sat on the plates below them as the “floor” while listening to Fasolt speak.
He gave a summary of the greatest reaches of time, beginning with the dragon god’s creation of the land.
After he spoke for several minutes, his continuing words spoke of the creation of man and the formation of a kingdom.
“Was that the Wotan Kingdom?” asked Sayama and Fasolt nodded.
He continued his stories even as villagers passed by and as he greeted the winged people and members of the giant race.
Once Fasolt reached the leader of the kingdom from three generations back when a black dragon was captured when it came flying through the sky from one of the other worlds of the dragon god, the story ceased to be told secondhand.
Time continued to pass and, at one point, a single strange visitor arrived in their world.
“He was not a descendent of the dragon god and he came from a land that was meaningless to us. King Wotan had lost his wife, and when one of his mechanical dragons began rampaging, this visitor arrived and defeated it.”
Fasolt took a breath. The sounds of continued breathing came from the back of his neck and his sides.
When he opened his mouth to speak again after about a minute, he spoke in the rhythm of conversation rather than the rhythm of storytelling.
“Regin joined with Fafnir to help the king protect the concepts, but Siegfried killed the both of them with the holy sword Gram and sent the concepts out of control to lead 1st-Gear to a closed annihilation. Most believe he also killed Princess Gutrune when she arrived. Siegfried himself has admitted it.”
“Most of 1st-Gear’s residents still hold a grudge and they have continued to seek the destruction of Gram and Siegfried’s assassination even after escaping to Low-Gear.”
“Why do they wish to destroy Gram? I thought that was your world’s weapon.”
“The holy sword Gram was created as a concept weapon with a will of its own, Sayama Mikoto. They view it as a crime for the sword to have agreed to take Siegfried as its master. The militant groups of 1st-Gear wish to enact vengeance on Gram after acquiring 1st-Gear’s Concept Core from it.”
“I see,” said Sayama. “So that is Siegfried’s past.”
“When he rescued the village, he was injured. The wise man Regin took him in. Venerable Regin had also taken in Princess Gutrune when the king distanced her after losing his wife and a girl named Nein of the long-lived race who was orphaned during the Concept War. At first, he intended to ask Siegfried for information on Low-Gear.”
“There was no hostility between them?”
“I hear there were a few conflicts, but Siegfried and the princess got along well. Music…Yes, Siegfried was also skilled at music, so they had that in common. But,” said Fasolt, “that ended on the day of the star festival. It happened while the royal palace was at its most empty because we had all returned to the lands we ruled over. There was a sudden earthquake and the sky split apart. The world never recovered.”
“…Siegfried did that?”
“By that time, he had already left through the gate in the royal palace. We never met him again. As the princess wished, we brought her to the palace’s viewing platform and let her deliver a speech. She told the people that 1st-Gear had lost and would be destroyed. She instructed them to escape to Low-Gear through either the gate in the royal palace or the gate in the city. If she had not done so, I doubt the chaos in the city would have ever died down, but she ran out of strength there…”
Fasolt closed his eyes and nodded when Sayama replied with nothing but silence.
“As the world was destroyed, we split between the eastern and western gates. The gate near the royal palace led here. The gate near the weapons laboratory most likely came out somewhere in Japan’s Chugoku region. Our gates mostly opened into the European country of Germany, so that one would be the primary gate. And that is the story of 1st-Gear’s destruction as I know it,” concluded Fasolt.
Ooshiro sat cross-legged next to him while typing on the laptop sitting on his lap.
“It has continued to be difficult ever since then. The peaceful faction that escaped through the royal palace gate entered under UCAT’s protection, but the radi-…militant faction refused our protection and is continuing to fight. And of those who escaped through the royal palace gate, another militant group called the Royal Palace faction split off with some concept space technology. But you saw what became of them yesterday.” Ooshiro nodded and formed a smile. “These provisional negotiations will include all of that. …At any rate, just take it easy.”
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