Owari no Chronicle:Volume2 Chapter 19
Chapter 19: Prematurity of Thoughts
What is the difference between being hasty and acting quickly?
The answer is incredibly simple
It is decided by whether the outcome is successful or not
The preliminary negotiations with Fasolt began with a check of the initial assumptions.
“At the moment, there is no sign of the City faction joining us. The negotiations will primarily relate to the Royal Palace faction joining. These negotiations are the preliminary preparations for the Leviathan Road.”
From there, Fasolt informed Sayama of a few matters:
UCAT had asked that Fasolt remains 1st-Gear’s representative, UCAT special division security guards would be maintaining a presence in the reservation for a temporary period of time after the Royal Palace faction arrived, and due to cultural similarities, the reservation would prefer if those guards were sent in from German UCAT.
Sayama replied that he understood, Shinjou nodded, and Ooshiro typed it up on his keyboard to keep records.
Once the initial assumptions had been clarified, Fasolt said, “The day after tomorrow, 167 members of the Royal Palace faction will be arriving here. It is impossible for us to secure enough arable land for all of them.”
“Are you asking for an expansion to the concept space creating the reservation?”
Fasolt did not nod. Sayama turned to Ooshiro.
“What would happen if it was expanded?”
“It already covers a radius of one kilometer. If the radius was expanded by 100 meters, the area would increase by 21%. …It is a simple calculation, but you understand what it means to increase their yearly budget by 20%, right? We already put 10 digits worth of budget a year into maintaining this place.”
“I see.” Sayama turned back toward Fasolt and said, “Just because the Royal Palace faction is joining you, I cannot approve merely expanding the reservation.”
“You mentioned before that there is a process for naturalization. That means you try not to bring in anyone who can survive outside of 1st-Gear’s concepts, correct?”
“That means we need to go over the list of those arriving and see how many belong to races that can be naturalized. We can build temporary lodging for those who can be naturalized, temporarily prioritize food distribution, and build houses for and expand the fields for those who will be ultimately staying. I think we can hold new negotiations over the land issue once you know how many will be staying.” Sayama gave a bitter smile. “But I think you knew all this. That is why you said what you said: ‘It is impossible for us to secure enough arable land for all of them.’ And that is why you did not answer my question, isn’t it?”
After a short silence, Fasolt laughed from deep in his throat.
“Yes. I did no more than tell the truth, Sayama Mikoto. You are the one that misinterpreted, boy.”
Sayama smiled and Shinjou let out a sigh next to him.
Something is beginning, thought Sayama.
He quickly began to calculate out what he and his opponent had at their disposal.
Via UCAT, Sayama had the authority to do whatever he wanted with the concept space. However, if he used that authority, he would be distancing 1st-Gear’s cooperation in the Leviathan Road.
On the other hand, his opponent had a past Sayama was unaware of and could make demands from the position of a victim. When he used the sudden arrival of the Royal Palace faction as a shield, Sayama had difficulty telling the truth of his demands because too much was unknown.
…At any rate, he will be making demands.
He would give some reason for making a demand no matter how ridiculous. If Sayama misjudged the situation and accepted it, his opponent would profit.
Possessing a kind heart would be a disadvantage here.
Sayama trusted his prediction that the negotiations had already begun.
He took a breath, pulled a handkerchief out of his breast pocket, and wiped his brow.
Fasolt watched Sayama.
In one hand, the boy was folding the handkerchief he had pulled from his breast pocket.
Fasolt looked up and found the sun was at its highest point.
“It really is hot,” said Sayama as if informing Fasolt who was looking up into the sky.
“Yes, it is,” agreed Fasolt before lowering his gaze.
He is very young, thought Fasolt about Sayama who was looking directly at him.
Fasolt thought back to the previous conversation. The boy had responded properly to his slight test and he had seen through Fasolt’s intentions. Even the standard UCAT negotiators could do the same. It was an issue of paying attention.
But this boy had intentionally pretended to be mistaken and had thought up an actual means of handling the situation, even if only a superficial one.
His solution had been incomplete, but it was the specialists’ job to finish it off.
For a leader, what truly mattered was negotiating without making any mistakes and deciding on a general course of action.
Fasolt had yet to fully make up his mind about Sayama.
Sayama looked up toward the sun high in the sky and began to remove his coat.
He roughly gathered the sleeves, folded it so the front was visible, and handed it to Shinjou next to him.
As soon as he did, Shinjou’s eyes opened wide and she whispered to Sayama.
“Wh-what are you saying? I c-can’t do that…”
Shinjou looked over at Fasolt. She then frantically adjusted her position and held Sayama’s coat.
With a slightly disappointed look, Sayama returned to his proper position. He wiped his brow with his handkerchief and placed it in the pocket on his shirt. The handkerchief stuck out from the shirt a bit.
Nevertheless, Sayama turned toward Fasolt.
Next to him, Shinjou continually glanced over at him, but Sayama did not seem to notice.
Fasolt then looked over at the coat Shinjou was holding. Its breast pocket was turned toward him.
Fasolt thought about the boy before his eyes. He really is young, he concluded before making his next move.
Sayama heard Fasolt speak.
“Our demands are quite simple, Sayama Mikoto. We want you to hand over Siegfried, the holy sword Gram, and the Concept Core held within the sword. Until then, we will not give you the right to use 1st-Gear’s Concept Core and we will not help persuade the City faction.”
Fasolt did not even acknowledge his question.
“After the Concept War, this reservation agreed to cooperate with UCAT, but we agreed to nothing concerning the Leviathan Road. That is why we demand that we begin anew here. Hand over the war criminal. If you promise that, the Royal Palace faction and the City faction will both fall in line with the peaceful faction. We will make sure they do.”
“And you want us to hand over Gram and the Concept Core inside it?”
“I think it will be necessary to convince the City faction, but what do you think? Even if we persuade them to join with us, I doubt they will do what we say if we have not been granted some power.”
Sayama remained silent. Fasolt watched him as he sat silently.
“Just to be clear, threatening to remove this concept space to aid your negotiations will gain you nothing.”
Sayama did not say he would not do so. If he had to, he would. Fasolt had warned it would gain him nothing, but those were nothing but words. It was impossible to know what would happen if he actually did it.
However, that was a last resort. Using it would end the relationship between them.
Sayama took a breath.
“Could you stop testing me? Unnecessary statements could hinder our negotiations,” he said.
“Saying many things in quick succession is the special characteristic of a storyteller.”
The dragon gave no apology. That gave Sayama an odd sense of relief.
His opponent was a proud person. That may have been a common characteristic of 1st-Gear. No matter how far they lowered themselves and no matter what means they chose to use, they would always give precedence to their self-respect.
…They are obstinate and direct.
They were easy to handle as allies, but impossible to avoid as an enemy.
With that in mind, Sayama once more pulled the handkerchief from his breast pocket.
He wiped his brow and Shinjou’s shoulders jumped slightly next to him.
At the same time, Fasolt looked over at Shinjou.
“There is nothing to be afraid of. As Ooshiro said, you can take it easy.”
“Oh, right,” said Shinjou as she slightly relaxed her legs which had been strictly kept in the seiza position.
As soon as she did, Fasolt’s hand moved.
“Ah,” gasped Shinjou, but Fasolt had already snatched the coat from her lap.
“This is a nice coat. Do you mind if I take a look at it?”
As Fasolt asked his question, an object fell from the suit coat in his hand.
Sayama clearly saw the cell phone drop. It was able to record audio.
“Whoops,” said Fasolt as he grabbed it in midair.
And with a clear noise, he crushed the cell phone in his hand.
“Oh, my mistake. I give you my personal apology. However.” Fasolt returned the suit coat to Shinjou and held up the remains of the cell phone in his other hand. “This was not running by any chance, was it? You were not so concerned about me that you felt the need to give a sign to have me filmed from the side, were you?”
Fasolt saw Sayama’s expression change twice in response to his words. It changed from tense to harsh and then from harsh to joyful. Fasolt’s thoughts raced as he saw those changes.
…Did he notice my trick?
When Fasolt had watched over the autopsy of the werewolf that had committed suicide the day before yesterday, he had inspected Sayama’s possessions. And knowing that Sayama would be his opponent in the negotiations, he had thought up a certain trick.
He had switched on the digital recorder to drain the battery and had left the cell phone untouched. If Sayama brought the two items to the negotiations, he would need to use the cell phone to record any proof of what was said.
However, the cell phone’s microphone was weak, so it and the built-in camera would have to be on the surface.
Locating Sayama’s hiding spot for it had not been difficult. The camera had been sticking a bit out of his coat pocket.
Fasolt was certain the boy had been recording him. He had seen the small exchange between Sayama and Shinjou and he had seen Shinjou’s movements.
Such awkward teamwork, thought Fasolt.
That was why he had grabbed the coat and smashed the cell phone.
Sayama’s use of the cell phone was proof that he had viewed the negotiations as dangerous and had wanted to secretly leave some proof behind. Taking that from him and destroying it while also warning him would inflict inescapable pressure on the boy.
Sayama was currently looking at the smashed cell phone.
“I do not believe I had it running,” he said with his head down as if trying to recall.
Liar, thought Fasolt with a bitter smile in his heart.
As Fasolt watched, Sayama turned to Ooshiro to his left.
“Not that it matters. The old man here will handle recording what is said.”
Fasolt followed Sayama’s gaze and watched Ooshiro typing.
He nodded and said, “Unfortunately, Ooshiro’s records will not pass as proof.”
“Wh-why not?” asked Shinjou as she held the coat.
Fasolt nodded and replied, “That data can be easily altered. That is why I want to resolve these negotiations right here like this.”
Fasolt pulled a sheet of canvas from the inside pocket of his vest.
It was covered with the writing of 1st-Gear. Sayama would be able to read it because an image of the meaning took priority here.
It was a contract saying UCAT would accept the reservation’s demands. Below the agreement was a five centimeter underline.
Once he saw Sayama’s gaze stop on the underline, Fasolt spoke in a tone that held a slight smile.
“You will stamp your seal there. …You have your seal with you, don’t you? It is with the digital recorder with the dead battery.”
Shinjou embraced Sayama’s coat. She squeezed it between her arms.
And she glanced over at Sayama next to her.
What will he do now? she wondered. Is there anything he can do?
As she watched on, Sayama stared expressionlessly at the contract.
He then suddenly moved. He pulled his handkerchief from his breast pocket with his right hand and lightly shook his wrist.
He looked at Fasolt and said, “So you saw through it. Yes, the battery is indeed dead. In that case, I no longer need it.”
He produced a digital recorder from the handkerchief. The power light was off which indicated it was not running. However, he was not looking at the recorder. He was looking at the broken cell phone that had fallen to the ground.
“I was planning to record any promises you made to perhaps later change our demands.”
Sayama sighed and took his seal case out of his pocket using his free left hand.
He placed the digital recorder and handkerchief next to him and placed the seal before him.
“But I am not yet ready to stamp my seal,” he said.
“Are you saying you will eventually do so?”
Sayama gave no response.
He remained silent and his face held no expression.
Faced with this, Fasolt froze in place.
Shinjou gulped lightly at seeing this silence and expressionlessness from Sayama for the first time. However…
His pulse was calm.
Why is that? she wondered.
She felt as if she had seen him like this before.
When had it been?
She searched through her memories and arrived at a certain moment in the past.
The night before last, when he had stood before her and beyond the werewolf.
What happened after that moment? she thought.
She thought back. In that moment, Sayama had stepped forward and spoken to their enemy. He had provoked the enemy. And now…
“You should learn that those who trust in writing can be betrayed by writing.” Sayama lightly raised his right hand. “Let me be clear up front: I cannot agree to any one of the demands you have given.”
“Then what will you say when you see this?”
Fasolt pulled a thick book from his vest and held it so Shinjou and the others could see.
It was a hardcover book made of canvas sheets and cloth. Shinjou had seen it before.
“That’s the book the knight had yesterday.”
“Yes. It is an investigation report on the destruction of our Wotan Kingdom. Volunteers from the Royal Palace faction visited both the peaceful faction and the City Faction to gather the records to create it. These records could only have been made by the Royal palace faction that sat in the middle. Neither we nor the City faction could have made it.”
Sayama took the investigation report and opened it.
Shinjou peered at its contents from the side. It listed a calculation of the total amount of destruction while using spelling that avoided any dangerous terminology. Each time Sayama turned the page, Shinjou could sense the image of the destruction detailed within.
Arton Central Street was smashed along with the decorations for the festival in the small park: 38 dead.
Ethos District 3 contained a wooden school, but it was crushed along with the people who had taken refuge inside: 91 dead.
The evacuation warning never reached the 3rd redevelopment sector and the pioneer village was eliminated without knowing what was happening: 46 dead.
In addition, there was damage to houses in several sectors or out in nature, the loss of assets and livestock, and a calculated value of the land lost. It was all calculated out to reach a final sum for the damages.
“Once converted to the currency of philosopher’s stones, UCAT must maintain this reservation for 7022 years. We have lived here for 60 years, so that still leaves 6962 years. Exchanging that debt for one man and a sword sounds like a bargain to me.”
That’s absurd, thought Shinjou with a gulp.
She slowly looked over at Sayama so Fasolt would not notice her internal panic. She found Sayama as expressionless and silent as before.
What will he do now? she thought.
And she had another thought.
She recalled what Fasolt had said when he had destroyed the cell phone:
You felt the need to give a sign to have me filmed from the side.
She did not know what he had meant by that. She had not been given that role.
But even if she did not understand, Shinjou knew that everything was advancing. And she knew that Sayama likely had some plan.
Sayama looked at Fasolt.
Fasolt had been looking at him for a while now. With that in mind, he spoke.
“Giving concrete value to people’s lives is something else I am not willing to do.”
“If doing so is necessary for a negotiation, we will choose that as our weapon.”
“And so you are demanding a human life in the place of money?”
“Demanding? No. My role here is to present you with possibilities. Your role here is to choose, Sayama Mikoto. I have presented you with a means of paying reparations for the damages. You are the one that chooses whether you will pay for your ancestors’ mistakes with seven thousand years of expenses or by handing over that man and Gram.”
“And if I handed them over, I would be putting a price on a human life?”
“Yes, if you did. We would have prepared a different path, but you would have chosen that path because you could not pay. It would not hurt us in any way.”
Sayama thought. According to Ooshiro, it was impossible to even increase the reservation’s yearly maintenance expenses by 20%. That meant it was beyond impossible to pay off the seven thousand years’ worth of debt right away. And that was why he asked the next question.
“Are Siegfried and Gram really that valuable?”
“I see.” Sayama picked up the contract and the seal case in front of them. “Shinjou-kun, hand me a pen from my coat’s breast pocket.”
Shinjou took a silver ballpoint pen from the pocket and handed it over.
Sayama flipped over the contract and wrote something while using the cover of the investigation report as a desk. He stamped what he wrote with the seal he took from the case and then placed the contract in front of Fasolt.
“If you want something of such great value, then how about we resolve everything like this?”
Everyone looked at the back of the contract.
Shinjou gulped, Fasolt clenched his hands, and Ooshiro smiled bitterly.
Sayama read what he had written on the back of the contract.
“Seven thousand years shall be added to the current seven thousand year debt. In exchange, we shall buy the half-dragon Fasolt and all of his rights. …That should be fine with anyone who will give monetary value to people’s lives.”
“You will buy your negotiating opponent!?” cried Fasolt.
A wind blew through and disturbed Sayama’s hair, but he ignored it and spoke.
“If doing so is necessary for a negotiation, we will choose that as our weapon. Those are your words. And I believe we had agreed to that view. …You asked me to sell someone’s life if I could not pay.” He gave a bitter smile. “But that also means I can buy someone’s life if I can pay.”
“We will pay what is needed. It does not matter how many years it takes, who might suffer, or even if you refuse us. So let me say this: you may think you all have pride, but you only have the spirit of poor slaves.”
“Slaves? Now you’ve said it, you aboriginal.”
“Aboriginal? We certainly have evolved. I miss the days when we were called yellow monkeys.” Sayama’s bitter smile deepened. “Fasolt, let me tell what kind of race we are. We are the Japanese, the ‘economic animals’. We have nothing to fear when it comes to money. A debt? We just need to save up. The government? It runs on money. A grudge? That is just a bias of the poor. Now, Fasolt, for fourteen thousand years of peace for your comrades, you will be ours. And let me say this: you will physically remain with 1st-Gear, but as our possession,” he nodded, “you will withdraw all of your demands. No need to lower your head. You are our comrade now that we bought you. We have the right to do this. You are the one that brought up buying people’s lives, something we had never done before.”
At that point, Sayama threw the investigation report to the ground.
“This is absurd, Fasolt.” He took a breath. “What is this investigation report? It may have some truth to it, but how much of it is truth? If you are going to carry out an investigation, have a third party do so or at least do so while we are present. Otherwise, this is nothing more than reference material. …Is presenting unreliable material at the negotiating table the 1st-Gear’s way of doing things!?”
Fasolt responded to the last part more than anything else.
The creaking of his fangs could be heard from his clenched mouth.
But that was as much of Fasolt’s power as was seen.
He slowly reached out a hand and picked the book up from the ground. He let out a long sigh.
“It is true this contains a fair bit of personal opinion for an investigation report. But are you really going to use the lack of records from this conversation to say such abusive things?”
Sayama turned a smile in Fasolt’s direction.
“Abusive? That was a rebuke over how useless your investigation report is. …I was trying to say that your actions were showing contempt for the value of 1st-Gear. If you misinterpreted me, I apologize.”
“No need.” Fasolt drew back and held the book to his chest. He spoke once more after suppressing the anger in his voice. “Either way, we will not give you the right to use the Concept Core unless you accept our demands. …How do you intend to gain that right from me?”
Sayama glanced around. The nearby houses had their windows open because it was a sunny day, so he could see inside. Inside the shadowy houses, he could tell the items within were a bit different from those he was used to. Every house had bare walls and they grew flowers.
Sayama was searching for a certain object within those houses.
But from what he could see at a distance, it was not there. It was a completely normal object in his world, but it was absent here.
…It could be easily brought in from outside, but there is none here.
The possible reasons for this were simple. It may never have existed in 1st-Gear and was not needed, or UCAT feared letting 1st-Gear have it and so refused to do so.
It was one of those or possibly both.
Once he realized that, another fact came to Sayama. He realized the true purpose behind the negotiation.
He silently relaxed. He cooled his head that had begun to grow serious.
If I am right about the true purpose of this negotiation, thought Sayama, trying to crush Fasolt would not be the best strategy.
And that was why Sayama said what he did next. He breathed out, breathed in, and then spoke in a calm voice.
“Instead of Siegfried and the holy sword Gram, we will provide you with technology equivalent to seven thousand years’ worth of budget or allow you to use said technology.”
“Technology equivalent to seven thousand years’ worth of budget?” asked Fasolt before laughing from the throat. “What do you mean by that? We already sustain ourselves. Is there any technology we could possibly want and is there any technology Low-Gear could possibly provide us with?”
“And what is it?’
Sayama thought and said, “It can be used as a weapon. It can be used as culture and civilization. It can be power and it can become anything in existence.”
“Hah! How amusing! We in 1st-Gear live with the power of writing, so what more culture and civilization do we need!? And with our mechanical dragons, why would we need weapons?” Fasolt strongly held the hardcover book against his chest. “Tell me, Sayama Mikoto. What is this technology you think we would exchange our Concept Core for? What is this technology that UCAT has been keeping from us?”
Sayama nodded and spoke a single word.
Fasolt almost dropped the book he was holding to his chest.
“Why would you think we need-…?”
“All of your writing is on parchment or canvas. And I do not see any bookshelves in these 1st-Gear houses. Paper is a necessary item to bring a society past a certain point, but it is being restricted here in some way. That is why I thought I could use the removal of that restriction as a bargaining chip.”
Fasolt understood what Sayama meant.
In 1st-Gear, writing held power, so spelling something out held the possibility of danger. Needless to say, creating that writing in the proper form to create power was difficult and it was nothing but scribbles if done wrong.
However, nothing was as frightening as an unlikely accident.
That was why a storyteller like Fasolt passed down writing in the form of sound and most records were kept using symbols that were difficult to call writing. The writing in the investigation report had been carefully chosen so it would provide the proper images yet not have actual power.
Due to the conditions of their world, writing technology had not advanced. Most of the tools that could easily write had been in the control of the royal family and very few were produced.
As a storyteller, he knew very well that 1st-Gear’s culture was built around that.
But he had to wonder what would happen if that assumption was removed.
The boy before him spoke.
“What if you used the safe writing used in that investigation report as the foundation for a carefully selected set of everyday writing with little power? Wouldn’t that allow you to pass down your current culture and allow anyone to perform research?”
He was saying the current state of 1st-Gear’s culture would change.
Sayama held a hand out toward him. He reached for the book at his chest.
Fasolt handed the boy the hardcover book as he wanted.
Sayama took it and flipped through the pages.
“You had so many houses. And the people living in them worked at the schools, stores, and government offices. But out of fear of dangerous writing, you could not record any of it. You never expanded the writing technology that would support those records and UCAT is currently keeping our technology from you.”
“That is true…”
“UCAT will remove the restrictions on that technology as a form of reparations,” said Sayama.
Fasolt turned to Ooshiro who looked back at him.
“Well, we would need to negotiate it out with the UCATs from other countries. What a pain,” said the old man.
Fasolt gave a quiet laugh from the throat and listened as Sayama continued to speak.
“Our world is immature, Fasolt. About a thousand years ago, we believed our world had the same table shape as your world. But our people walked, left records, and changed our beliefs to match the truth. And even now we are building up more and more records to divide truth from falsehood.”
“And you are telling us to do the same? I see,” said Fasolt with a nod.
It was a nice idea. If they had writing tools that could be mass produced, they would only need people with the ability to write in the proper way. And instead of restricting usage of the writing tools as the royal family had done, they would restrict the words that held power and spread the safe words.
Knowledge would spread and they would even be able to interact with other cultures. However…
“Sayama Mikoto. That is a nice idea, but a problem remains. And our negotiations must continue.”
“Eh?” said Shinjou as Fasolt turned back toward Sayama.
Sayama showed no panic or surprise over his words.
He only said, “Yes, you understand, don’t you? Writing can betray those who use it. Building up and spreading records can do more than create; it can also destroy.” Sayama held up the hardcover book. “If you obtain the technology to publish books, you will have books like this one. And that will pass your grudges down to the later generations. The power we give you will create more enemies for us.”
“And that is why I must ask you something, boy… No, you are no boy. You are merely Sayama Mikoto. Can you give us this technology without fearing the spread of our grudges, protect Siegfried and the holy sword Gram, and also acquire the Concept Core?”
“Of course,” replied Sayama.
Shinjou’s eyes opened wide when she heard what Sayama said.
“Y-you can’t, Sayama-kun! You can’t make an enemy of him!”
“I think it will be fine. Fasolt understands that this investigation report is nothing more than reference material. After I rebuked him, he admitted that it includes personal opinion.”
“He did, but…”
“Those comments and the records of them are worth nothing. At the negotiating table, only the final decision matters.”
Ooshiro looked up and said, “Um, you do know I am working really hard typing up everything you say, right? Please do not say it is worth nothing.”
Fasolt ignored him. The half-dragon looked down at the remains of the cell phone lying between Sayama and himself.
“My comment admitting the investigation report contains personal opinion will not remain in the records. That means I can insist on its legitimacy. No matter what you say, it will be seen as accurate. Even if you protest, it will be published and distributed to everyone. A large number of people will believe it over you!”
“Fasolt, I am about to test how much you have been paying attention. Is that okay?”
Sayama’s sudden words caused Fasolt to look up.
“I will be asking some questions and you will answer me. Got it? When you destroyed the cell phone whose remains lie before me, did you check to see if it was running?”
Shinjou did not understand the point of the question.
And Fasolt did not seem to either.
He sank down slightly and asked, “Are you saying…it was not running?”
Those words which were inarticulate for a half-dragon caused Shinjou to tilt her head in confusion.
“What do you mean?” she asked and Fasolt quickly turned toward her.
“Why are you asking?”
“Oh, um, it’s nothing. Nothing at all. There might have been a slight misunderstanding.
She frantically waved her hands in front of her, but Fasolt kept his gaze on her. He opened his fang-filled mouth and spoke.
“What is going on? Shinjou, I thought you and Sayama were working together. He would give you a sign and you would record what I-…”
“W-wait a second!”
Shinjou did not understand some of what he had said. And it reminded her of another baffling thing Fasolt had said earlier. Shinjou asked about the confusing parts.
“What do you mean we were working together? And what sign?”
Fasolt had been leaning forward, but he straightened up in an instant.
While still looking at Shinjou, he bared his teeth and trembled.
“Sayama Mikoto handed you the cell phone along with his coat. When he raised his handkerchief as a sign, you began recording, did you not? He wanted you to record my abusive remarks.”
“Eh? N-no. I wasn’t given that role.”
He was mistaken about something. For some reason, that half-dragon was focused on her even though she had been doing nothing but listen.
Fasolt continued to speak to provide his evidence.
“Then why did you squirm a bit whenever Sayama Mikoto pulled out his handkerchief and wiped his brow? He provided you with instructions when he handed you his coat, correct? I heard you say you could not do something.”
She looked to the side and found Sayama staring expressionlessly up into the sky. He must have noticed her looking at him because he picked Baku up from his left shoulder and placed him on his head.
He and the beast squinted as they looked up into the sky.
He was determined to ignore her.
That left her with no choice. While prepared to blush, Shinjou proved her innocence to Fasolt.
“I-I will tell you what Sayama-kun told me to do when handing me his coat!” She hesitated for a moment. “ ‘I am so nervous that I really want to feel up your butt. If I am unable to resist any longer, I will give you a sign by raising my handkerchief. When I do, stick your butt out for me’! But I can’t do that. B-but it was a request from Sayama-kun, so I-I would jump in shock a bit whenever he pulled out his handkerchief!”
As she blushed and gave her explanation, Fasolt’s mouth hung limply open.
He slowly faced forward while his open mouth continued to produce no sound.
He stared at Sayama who still had Baku sitting on his head.
In response to everyone’s gazes, Sayama picked up what was lying next to him and held it up.
It was the digital recorder wrapped in his handkerchief. Its red power light was lit.
Sayama nodded and looked at Shinjou. He then spoke quietly for his own curiosity.
“Now, please continue, Shinjou-kun. What happened after you jumped in shock?”
“Why is that running!? Wasn’t its battery dead!?”
“Could you remain quiet, Fasolt? That will make it more difficult to edit later.”
“Th-the difficulty doesn’t matter! Explain what is going on!” demanded Shinjou.
Sayama picked up a part from the remains of the cell phone.
It was a battery that had been badly bent.
“You want to know why it is running? If you cannot answer a question this easy, I look forward to the difficulty you will face once you have paper, Fasolt. The answer is simple. I switched out the cell phone’s battery before entering this concept space. Most modern handheld devices use a standard battery type whether they are IAI-made or not. You should remember that.” He nodded and asked, “Fasolt, you were outside this place just before we entered the concept space, weren’t you? You used your limited time outside to observe me. Isn’t that right?”
“How do you know that?”
“The forest was too quiet. When a human is lurking in the forest, the birds and beasts grow cautious, but it was even more silent than that. In other words, there was something greater than a human there. Also, you had come from the field, but your jika-tabi had moss on them. That proves you had run through the forest. When you noticed me looking at it, you frantically kicked it off.” Sayama showed Fasolt the digital recorder. “When I noticed this recorder’s battery was dead, I realized someone had tried something. Once I knew my opponent had tried to eliminate my use of this device, I merely had to use that to my advantage. Once I received them from Shinjou-kun, I switched out the batteries and decided to use the cell phone as a decoy.”
“Then, Sayama-kun, this entire negotiation…”
“Has been recorded, yes. But it is missing the one thing I said while taking it out and placing it next to me. I had to turn it off to make it look like its battery was dead.”
Fasolt gulped and recalled what Sayama had said back then.
“You said the recorder’s battery was dead and that you intended to record any promises I made with the cell phone… Was it all to put me at ease so I would bring out greater demands!?”
“Now, now. Please stop discussing comments you have no proof were ever spoken,” said Sayama. “Or should I play back what I have recorded? I have you calling us aboriginals in response to my rebuke.”
“No, more importantly…what do you want?”
Sayama shook his head in response.
“I want nothing. But let us do what is natural. I will approve providing you with our technology if you allow us use of the Concept Core. And you may carry out an investigation of 1st-Gear’s destruction if it is done in cooperation with UCAT. For mutual understanding and reconciliation, we must have records if you are to have them. And once that is complete, we can begin thinking about what to do afterwards. …Am I wrong?”
In lieu of a response, Fasolt raised both of his hands.
So it is over, he thought.
He lowered Baku from his head and muttered a short statement.
“What a farce.”
Sayama’s annoyed statement caused Shinjou to tilt her head. She could see he was frowning.
“A farce? Why? You look displeased.”
Sayama nodded, looked in her direction, and then turned toward Ooshiro.
“Old man, please do not make me do this again.”
Ooshiro looked up and gave a bitter smile. Shinjou could make no sense of the exchange.
“Wh-what do you mean? What did Ooshiro-san do?”
“I realized it partway through. The old man set all this up. Think about it. How was Fasolt able to touch my possessions? And who asked you to return them to me? How was Fasolt able to wait for us outside the concept space during his limited time outside of it? And who was it that stopped us in front of him and asked if I was carrying anything?” He took a breath. “Simply put, these preliminary negotiations were a test. I realized it once I noticed the paper technology issue. 1st-Gear is obedient enough to go along with Low-Gear’s restrictions. In that case, it was odd for Fasolt to be on the attack. I am ashamed I did not realize why and grew so worked up over a prank.”
Sayama folded his arms and closed his eyes. Shinjou was unsure what to say to him.
Fasolt laughed from deep in his throat.
“Do not feel too bad, Sayama Mikoto. You may not believe me, but I was serious.”
Sayama sighed with his eyes still closed.
His shoulders drooped and he seemed to have his own thoughts on the matter.
…Does he think Fasolt went easy on him?
“O-Ooshiro-san. Was today’s negotiation effective?”
“Yes, removing the restriction on paper manufacturing is indeed a useful idea. I believe this was effective.”
“Take this seriously. Sayama-kun wasn’t arguing for fun.”
Hearing that, Sayama opened his eyes. Shinjou looked him in the eye and thought.
…He can manage something in any situation.
“You are like the evil king of sophistry.”
“Thank you for the blunt opinion,” said Sayama with a bitter smile.
But Shinjou looked at him once more. When faced with an opponent making an absurd argument, this boy had refused to negotiate properly and had replied with an absurd argument of his own.
…The surname Sayama indicates a villain. Is that it?
She recalled that Sayama had said he possessed the abilities needed to carry out evil.
Is this what he meant? thought Shinjou.
She wondered what she would have done had she been in his place.
…If I had come back with a proper argument, I might have only been faced with another absurd argument.
But the truth of that could not be known. And it was a fact that Sayama’s absurd argument had caused Fasolt to give in.
The only other information she had was Sayama’s expression and the drooping of his shoulders.
…He did not get serious. That is probably because he realized partway through what Ooshiro-san had done.
She nodded and decided she would willingly play the role of listener if he wanted to complain about anything.
Doing so would surely be valuable for what had ended here today.
And just as Shinjou made up her mind, Fasolt turned to Sayama and spoke.
“This really did not go as I planned. Perhaps I should have expected that with Sayama’s grandson.”
Shinjou saw Sayama hold the left side of his chest. He frowned and looked up at Fasolt.
“You knew my grandfather?”
“I did, even if it was only for a short time. When we first arrived in this world, he was the member of UCAT that prepared the location which became this reservation. Siegfried had given him the holy sword Gram, so he extracted the concepts needed to create this place. I have not seen him since those initial negotiations, though.”
“I see. Then I suppose you would know nothing of my father. He worked for IAI.”
“We do not leave this place, so we know nothing of that. However, I do remember your grandfather quite well,” said Fasolt. “Sixty years ago, we exchanged arguments very similar to these provisional negotiations. He too shouted angrily at me when I requested reparations equal to the number of the dead. He told me not to calculate the number and value of the dead and to instead live peacefully here and put together a plan to restore our lost pride, even if there was an opposing faction. We have yet to do that, though.”
Shinjou suddenly turned to Ooshiro who sat next to Fasolt. Ooshiro glanced toward Fasolt’s back.
On that back that she had once clung to were the scars from the severed wings.
Oh, realized Shinjou in her heart. So that’s it.
A short silence followed. Whatever Fasolt may have thought of that silence, he slowly turned toward Ooshiro who was looking up at him. While glancing over at the old man, he spoke in a critical tone.
“This is more your problem than mine, but UCAT is filled with too many mysteries.”
“It is an organization that has hidden itself in the world so that it may save that world. Of course it has a lot of mysteries.”
“So not even 1st-Gear’s representative knows the details,” commented Sayama.
Fasolt nodded and said, “We know almost nothing about UCAT’s activities. The one thing everyone knows is that a large scale change occurred in 1995. Japanese UCAT was temporarily dissolved and reorganized.”
Shinjou and Sayama both spoke in unison.
“Temporarily dissolved and reorganized?”
Sayama saw Fasolt look at Shinjou and himself.
“So you do not know about that. It happened suddenly at the end of ’95 which was almost the exact same time Shinjou was taken in by UCAT. All of the personnel other than the leaders left the organization.”
“I do not know, Sayama Mikoto. I would love to be told. I would assume only Ooshiro here and a few others know the truth behind it. One theory is that they were taking responsibility for the many deaths during relief operations after the Great Kansai Earthquake.”
“I see,” said Sayama with a nod.
He was not discouraged.
The Leviathan Road had come with several conditions added by his grandfather. One of those was that they had to gather all of their information themselves.
Here, he only needed to learn about 1st-Gear. And…
…This just means I need to investigate UCAT in addition to the ten Gears.
Sayama nodded and Fasolt nodded in return. The half-dragon then turned to Shinjou and opened his mouth to speak.
“I have gone back and forth on whether I should tell you this, but I will tell you now since you have returned after so long.”
“Eh? Me?” she asked.
“Yes. It will be an old story for you two. This concept space was constructed by Sayama Kaoru, but he said he was only able to do so by basing it on some data he had been given.”
“From another UCAT member?”
“No, he said it was from another member of the former National Defense Department. While investigating for the National Defense Department, this person had managed to estimate what concepts the different Gears used. Sayama Kaoru said he had only followed the data from back then.”
Fasolt looked up into the sky. His gaze moved slowly around as if he could see the invisible wall forming the concept space.
“This person originally became involved in the National Defense Department while working as the assistant of a Professor Kinugasa, but they never joined UCAT. I do not know what became of this person.”
“Who was this person?” asked Sayama.
Fasolt spoke a single surname.
“Shinjou. That is all I was told.”
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