Owari no Chronicle:Volume2 Chapter 24
Chapter 24: Entrance to the Dance
Begin moving ever so slowly
And you will surely see
The acceleration leading to the end
Sayama and Siegfried travelled to the western side of Japan.
The helicopter took them to IAI’s Tokyo branch. A plane took them from there to IAI’s central branch in Nagoya. They then took another helicopter to the Chugoku Mountains. They were headed for a base that had been constructed on the southern side of Mount Hyono.
Despite the roar of the helicopter, the roar of the wind, and the chill of the air, Sayama slept in the flight jacket he had been given.
And he saw the past.
In his sleep, he saw a quiet wooden room.
He recognized the room. It was the small room in 1st-Gear where the old man named Regin had lived.
It was dark within and the slate in the fireplace was emitting a slight crimson light.
In that pale, gentle light, two men faced each other.
The first was the old man whose room it was. Regin wore green clothes.
The other was a tall young man. Siegfried wore long, black clothes.
While pacing to and from the fireplace, Regin explained 1st-Gear’s state to Siegfried. Siegfried nodded in understanding at the old man’s words and Sayama could understand them from the images they brought to his mind.
In 1st-Gear, the king had feared the Concept War and therefore mass produced mechanical dragons for defense.
1st-Gear had extracted the world’s Concept Core for defense.
Most of the concepts within the Concept Core that related to writing had been placed in a weapons laboratory for research purposes. The concepts related to the construction of the world had been placed below the royal palace in order to manipulate the world.
And in case another Gear tried to invade, the holy sword Gram had been created to seal the Concept Core. Regin told all of this to Siegfried.
However, Regin stopped pacing, looked down, and closed his eyes.
“Even if we create an army, 1st-Gear does not have the manpower needed to defeat the other Gears.”
“How very wise. Unlike us.”
They both grinned bitterly at that.
But both of their bitter smiles came to an end.
Regin straightened his stance and faced Siegfried. He raised his head and looked up at the young man. No smile of any kind could be seen on his face.
“Princess Gutrune explained 1st-Gear’s structure to you, right?”
“Yes. It is an inward-facing world surrounded by a dome-shaped space.”
“Our king wishes to use 1st-Gear’s inward-facing concept to seal it off. He has said he wishes to take a nonaggression policy and then negotiate with the Gears remaining at the time of destruction, but I am doubtful that is what he truly intends to do.”
“Do you have any proof?”
“The holy sword Gram was supposed to be presented to him tonight at the festival, but he said it was unnecessary and had it sealed below the palace. He also said we would begin an absolute defense. I want to go see what he meant by that,” said Regin. “It would be simple for him to set our concepts so the Gear is closed off and the gates can never be opened again. He has the Concept Core after all. I want to see whether I am overthinking this, so I will check during the festival tonight when the king’s aides have either returned to their territories or are asleep.”
“If this is nothing but a baseless suspicion of yours, everything will be fine. But what will you do if the king is truly planning to do that?”
“I will have the princess take command.”
Seigfried’s expression changed when he heard that. It changed from tense to harsh.
Regin continued to speak as he stared directly at that expression.
“The princess has agreed. The others may call me a traitor, though.”
“Is this necessary?”
“Yes. And once this is all over…I will die without leaving any records of my actions with a storyteller. I will take all of the malice onto myself.”
“Don’t give me that look, youth from another world.”
“I was not giving you a look.”
Regin smiled a bit. And with that smile, he raised his head.
“The princess said she would make an agreement with your Gear if she ends up in a position of power. …She must really like the music you taught her to play on the keyboard.” He nodded. “Will you come with me? If the king is not planning to defend this Gear but is instead planning to shut the gates and be destroyed at the time of destruction, I will open the path to the underground concept facility and join with Fafnir, the mechanical dragon meant to guard the royal palace, so that I might take the Concept Core. You take Gram from the storage area behind the palace it is sealed in and head underground. If we are together, we have a better chance of overpowering him.”
“What about Gutrune and the others?”
“Let them sleep. This might result in betrayal. During the festival tonight, all the unneeded politicians will return to their homes. Imagine if the princess snuck into the palace in the middle of the night during that. It could not be passed off as a joke.”
Siegfried frowned and sighed.
“Regin, did you give no thought to the possibility of me betraying you? If I stole Gram and the Concept Core and then ran off, I could destroy this world.”
“If you try that, I will unite with Fafnir. Do you think you can handle that?”
“I have already defeated one mechanical dragon. I am the strongest sorcerer in my world.”
“I see,” said Regin. However, he still patted Siegfried’s shoulder. This produced two or three dry noises. “But Nein would never grow so fond of someone who would do that. That girl is the only surviving member of the long-lived race in this Gear. She is quite timid. She even kept some distance from the princess who took her in.”
Regin looked up above the fireplace. He looked at the birdcage covered by a knit cloth.
As he stared at it, his expression softened and he finally spoke.
“I hope this is all a misunderstanding on my part and nothing happens.”
His voice seemed to grow more distant.
Sayama felt his vision grow dark.
He awoke from the past. That old memory disappeared and the roar of a helicopter and the wind replaced it.
When he opened his eyes, Sayama saw the dark backseat of the helicopter and its ceiling.
The brisk air blowing by as well as the vibration and roaring engine told him they were still in flight.
Siegfried sat to his right. He was lifting up his collar and checking inside his coat. He seemed to be organizing the inner pocket.
Sayama checked his watch and saw it was almost 9:00 PM. The old man named Yonkichi who was navigating from the copilot seat turned around. He was the younger brother of Nijun who Sayama had seen in the medical room. His long black hair waved in the wind.
“Listen. We are about to enter the Osaka region,” he explained in a voice almost drowned out by the wind.
Sayama looked out the window.
He saw beads of light in the distance ahead. Those lights extending in an arch to port were the lights along the coast of Osaka Bay extending from Kobe to Osaka and off into the Sakai region.
Something similar to dark waves were visible directly below. Those waves were the mountains and forests illuminated by the moonlight. The speed of the helicopter caused the ground below to undulate like waves.
Sayama called on his geographical knowledge and speculated they were in the Ikoma Mountains.
He nodded. And as he did, the area below suddenly opened up. The forest came to an end and an open plain became visible.
Immediately afterwards, Sayama saw a large shadow in the sky to the side of the helicopter.
It was a huge shadow. It spread out across his entire vision like a wall. What he could see in the moonlight was a structure that was easily a kilometer wide. He looked up into the sky and the towering wall continued upwards. He could not see the top.
…I recognize this.
As Sayama pressed up against the window, he heard a voice from the seat to his right.
“Do not be ridiculous. Babel exists within a concept space. You should not be able to see it.”
Sayama looked back out the window.
It was gone.
The giant tower he had seen so clearly a moment before had disappeared.
Sayama moved from the window in blank surprise. He heard Siegfried speaking behind him.
“Did your string vibration approach that concept space’s by coincidence? Or did Baku show it to you?”
It was impossible to say. Sayama looked down again and the grassy plain from before had disappeared.
He wondered how much of it had been real. And…
…What even is “real” anyway?
As he thought, the lights of Sakai flowed by below them. Yonkichi spoke from the copilot seat.
“Listen. We will arrive in the danger zone in another five minutes.”
Brunhild sat on the edge of the cliff in the forest. She watched a light descend in the sky.
It was about five kilometers away. That light came from a manmade aircraft and it sank into the mountain range.
The wind blew in and a distant roar that sounded like waves reached her.
The light disappeared beyond the mountain range.
A small figure stood up next to where she sat. It was a black cat. He tilted his head.
“They sure are busy. Another one landed about ten minutes ago.”
“But I don’t think any more are coming. The sky is still.”
“Should we meet up with Fafner and the others?”
“Yes,” said Brunhild as she stood up.
As she did, she heard several shouts beyond the mountain to their backs.
Those shouts were followed by metal striking metal and gunfire.
Those sounds did not stop.
Brunhild’s eyes narrowed as she listened to those shouts and trembling noises.
“Those voices are ours. …We are pushing through.”
“Well, we are used to this area.”
The cat nodded and Brunhild began to walk. They walked toward the voices and noises.
But after taking a few steps, she looked over her shoulder. She turned toward where that light had descended.
She narrowed her eyes and a quiet voice escaped her lips.
Her begging voice was swallowed up by the wind and the sounds of gunfire carried by it.
The UCAT base was set up in a mountain campground.
Two helicopter landing areas had been created by using lights for markers in an open area that was messy due to it being the off season. A tent for containers and a tent for personnel had been set up at the mountainside entrance.
The artificial lights set up around the base shined white and the area outside that was wrapped in darkness. The helicopter rotors created an undulating wind and the intermittent noise of the air being chopped.
Sayama and Siegfried stood in the brightly lit space in front of the tent.
Sayama was no longer wearing his suit. He had changed into a UCAT anti-Gear combat uniform he had been given.
It was made up of a white body suit and thick, black tights. White shorts and a coat were worn over that. Its design was similar to the outfits of Izumo and Kazami at the Imperial Palace and Shinjou in the forest the night before last.
As Baku sat on Sayama’s head, a small figure stepped out of the tent.
It was Chao. She demanded that the old man behind her explain the equipment.
He was an old man with short, white hair and a white coat. He had the same atmosphere about him as Nijun and Yonkichi. His narrow eyes bent.
“Hello, Sayama-sama. My name is Mitsuaki. How does your new outfit feel?”
“Not bad. It seems a little light, but that is necessary for marching.”
“It has been developed over 60 years.”
The plates, pads, and small bits of printed text placed at various points along it were made to display defensive power under most concepts.
“Did you not think about camouflaging it for covert operations? It seems to me white only makes you a target at night.”
“Tes. In the other Gears, there are a lot of people who do not see us by color. The uniform has philosopher’s stone camouflage that uses the concept of ‘difficult for opponents to see’. Any pattern such as camouflage that hides its individuality risks changing the ‘meaning’ of the uniform or the one wearing it while under certain concepts.”
He went on to explain that a unit testing camouflaged equipment had once fused with the forest floor and disappeared.
“So it is like modern armor.”
“Tes. To ensure your vision, the head is left exposed, but it is covered by a defensive…I suppose you call it a field. No physical strike will break through it unless it has a very large amount of momentum or was conceptually changed to something else. However, the concept will let slower things through, so be careful during close quarters combat.”
“I see,” said Sayama with a nod before turning to Siegfried next to him.
Siegfried was dressed the same as he had been when he arrived. He wore long black clothes. Other than his black leather gloves, he had no equipment.
“Will you be okay in the mountains like that?”
“I am not the same as I was 60 years ago. A sorcerer’s strength is proportional to his age.” Siegfried smiled bitterly and turned to Chao. “Do you not have a weapon for him, Chao?”
“You’ll protect him, won’t you? Also, Sayama’s weapon is with the main unit up ahead.”
“…The main unit?”
“Yes. Izumo, Kazami, and the others went on up ahead. Go catch up to them.
When Sayama nodded, Chao grinned at him.
“You’re supposed to say ‘Tes’.”
She then took Sayama’s left arm. A bandage was wrapped around the arm from the wrist of the glove to the shoulder.
“You should be fine, but don’t push yourself. If you reopen the wound, we’ll just have to redo it.”
“Tes,” he replied and Chao smiled.
“Liar,” she said and smacked Sayama on the butt.
Another old man then entered the tent. He wore a similar white combat uniform to Sayama and held a white military rucksack. His wavy white hair was tied in the back. That hair waved as he looked toward Sayama.
“Would you look at that. I am Ikkou, the oldest of the four brothers.”
“All of you are kind of forgettable.”
“We worry about that too. We once tried to give ourselves some individuality by each using a unique speech pattern. Unfortunately, Yonkichi chose a speech pattern that…let’s just say it pissed us off. The three of us ended up beating the crap out of him. Ever since, we decided being forgettable might just be for the best.”
“I take it back. I think I will remember you all as a group, even if not individually.”
“Thank you very much. Now, this rucksack holds food and water. The side contains writing tools and a hand light. Also…we can no longer contact the frontline camp.”
Chao clicked her tongue.
“Sayama, listen up. I’m going to explain the route to you: check your cell phone. That is all.”
Sayama checked the cell phone he had brought in his suit.
At some point, the LCD screen had begun to display a map of Mount Hyono.
“You most likely won’t be able to communicate using it while inside, but the bare minimum of philosopher’s stones packed inside allows it to function as a standalone databank. The manual is inside the memory and it can show you the marching route of our forces and the shortest route there. Understand?”
The map of Mount Hyono showed a curving line moving north while taking a detour around the mountain to the east. The line ended partway through and a small circle was drawn at that point.
“The other members have already gone ahead to the frontline camp. They likely began pursuing the Gram recovery team after that. Also, Shinjou arrived about ten minutes before you two.”
“It seems she was late leaving UCAT. She came in on the helicopter next to yours. Try to hurry,” said Chao. “It would take quite something to destroy the frontline camp. Fafnir Custom is probably behind it. They’re probably already fighting, so hurry. You need to arrive before 1st-Gear finds the holy sword Gram.”
“Is it at all possible to move through the real world to avoid the danger and enter the concept space once we arrive at the point at which we need to be?”
“String vibrations originate at the center, so the center is like a mass of sound. If you jump in there, you’ll be destroyed and never be seen again. If your child string vibration was registered when the concept space was created, you could do that, but 1st-Gear created this one. Our only choice is to attack from the outside. Understand?”
“Tes. So it will not be that easy.”
Sayama nodded, took the rucksack, and placed it on his back.
He and Siegfried looked north toward the mountain. They looked at the dark forest and the dark blue night sky behind it. Sayama and the others began walking in that direction. They walked through the night wind that carried the scent of trees.
And just as they entered the forest, the watch on Sayama’s left wrist vibrated.
At the same time, he heard a voice.
—Writing has the ability to provide power.
This concept was stronger than any he had heard before.
And he heard something else along with it.
The air shook and a deep sound filled the sky. It was a distant explosion.
Sayama’s eyebrows moved and Siegfried spoke to him.
“We need to hurry. Izumo and Kazami are probably drawing the enemies toward them. Izumo is the heir to IAI and their weapons contain the Concept Cores of 6th and 10th. They would make decent bait.”
A slight clearing 15 meters across existed within the forest.
It had become a battlefield.
A couple wearing white armored uniforms moved around in the center of that clearing. It was Izumo and Kazami.
They were colored white and black. The large sword and shield-equipped spear they wielded had the same colors.
White cloth was scattered about where they stood. That was the remains of the tent that had been set up there. A few bonfire-like flames existed on the torn and scattered white cloth.
“Ahh, how persistent are you!? Are you all idiots!?”
A different color filled their surroundings. That other color in the clearing, in the surrounding forest, and the sky above was a dark green declaring its presence below the moonlight. That was the color of the cloaks worn by those of 1st Gear.
At a glance, it was clear there were easily 50 people wrapped in dark green.
The enemies moved and Izumo and Kazami moved. Their footsteps were sometimes light and sometimes heavy, but they moved quickly without ever stopping.
Izumo knocked away the enemies who approached while Kazami pierced the enemies beyond those or the ones behind them.
They heard a great number of footsteps and the rustling of the forest. Both were made up of countless small noises piled on top of each other.
Izumo blew away three approaching enemies with a low strike.
“Do you think everyone managed to escape?”
“I don’t know. Either way, the situation isn’t looking good.”
Kazami raised her eyebrows and looked to the fully-cowled single-edged spear and shield in her hands.
The white spear had a curving form and was labeled G-Sp2 on the side. The curving handle at the base of the blade had a small speedometer-like console on the top. Words were being displayed on the LCD screen there.
“Are you in trouble?”
“Yes, I am, G-Sp2. What do you think now that you’ve blown away a few of them?”
“They are powerful.”
“Do you not realize you’re 10-Gear’s Concept Core?”
“V-Sw here thinks the same.”
Izumo held up the large single-edged Cowling Sword he held in his right hand. The console on the grip had words displayed on it.
“Is it fun? Is it fun?”
Kazami held the Cowling Lance G-Sp2 under her right arm and sighed. She held up the long, narrow shield in her left hand.
“They’re both like terrible pets.”
As she spoke, she stepped to the left.
As soon as she did, Izumo fired a shotgun in his left hand through the area Kazami had been standing in.
The sound of the shot and the sound of the impact came almost simultaneously.
A figure was blown away by the shot. The dark figure which had gotten up from the ground flew backwards with its jaw pointed to the heavens. It then collapsed flatly to the ground.
Izumo looked toward the flat figure collapsed on the ground.
“If they can hit Shades, we must not have screwed up with our bullets. Their armor must change to match the impact of any attack.”
“Instead of increasing their defenses, it changes it into a form they can endure.”
Izumo holstered the shotgun at his waist. The inside of the holster automatically swapped out the magazine and it was ready for reuse in only two seconds. Once he heard the sound of the magazine exchange, Izumo drew the shotgun once more.
And an instant later…
Izumo threw the shotgun into the air and pushed Kazami to the side.
He jumped in the opposite direction of Kazami.
Before Kazami could complete her question, it came.
It was a black wind. It came from the ground and jumped up in an arc.
It appeared from the figure Izumo had defeated with the shotgun. And the form the shadow took was…
“Indeed. Remember the name Fafner and then die.”
That two meter form that flapped its wings was filled with forward momentum.
The black half-dragon’s claws dug into the ground as it filled the space between them with a single step. He was targeting Izumo.
Izumo gasped when he saw black Cowling Sword resting on Fafner’s shoulder.
A shimmering in the air rose from the black rectangular blade Fafner swung up.
Izumo read the word carved into the blade via the image it gave him.
The instant he shouted that, the power was swung down. The shimmering of the air swelled up along the path of the blade and became a striking weapon several meters across. Partway down, the shimmering swallowed up the shotgun Izumo had thrown into the air.
The shotgun scattered as if it had been made of sand.
However, Izumo could hear nothing but the loud sound of the shimmering consuming the atmosphere.
Izumo clenched his teeth and tried to swing up V-Sw.
Just as he did, he heard a shout pierce through the air.
It was a girl’s voice and the word it spoke was a demand for it all to stop.
Even though he was in combat, Izumo looked away from Fafner.
A white figure stood in the forest to his right.
It was Shinjou.
Shinjou ignored how out of breath she was from running and held up her Cowling Staff.
She had to stop it.
She was panicking. However, that allowed her to ignore everything but what she had to do. She ignored the surrounding enemy forces turning toward her and she ignored her own lack of breath. She focused her mind forward.
She could see that distorted power being swung down toward Izumo.
Izumo was swinging his Cowling Sword from below, but it would all be over if he did not make it in time.
Shinjou held up her staff. She placed the central curving grip on her right shoulder and placed her hands along the triangular cannon extending forward.
When she lowered her hips and looked forward, she saw three hardcover books bound to the top of the cannon that was labeled Ex-St. Each of them was a dictionary of a minor language and they were all first editions.
The dictionaries vibrated and a gun sight expanded in empty air before her eyes. It was a two-dimensional image that measured ten centimeters square. That display floating in midair showed Fafner and Izumo because the cannon was being aimed toward them.
The crosshairs in the center of the targeting image selected Fafner.
Shoot, thought Shinjou.
She only had to squeeze the trigger on the side grip in her right hand. That would fire the staff’s power.
But she hesitated.
For some reason, she could bring no strength into her fingertips.
Her own memories responded to her surprised question.
It was not a clear answer. She recalled the face of the werewolf when it had looked at her in the forest the night before last.
She recalled the emotion on that beast’s face. The instant that face carved itself into the surface of her memories, Shinjou shouted out.
She shouted at herself and closed her eyes. She tried to squeeze the trigger.
She tried to convince herself there was nothing in front of her and she was doing nothing more than squeezing the trigger.
A sudden question entered her mind.
Why am I trying to fight?
She wondered if this was due to feeling guilty that she was using this fight to pursue her parents.
…Or am I…
A thought suddenly came to Shinjou. That boy whose stance was the opposite of hers entered her mind.
She was surprised that she thought of him and she put her thoughts in order.
No, she thought. I can’t choose to use my power with my eyes closed!
She did not understand the meaning of that thought, but she would no longer close her eyes.
She opened her eyes and looked forward.
In that instant, Shinjou’s vision was filled with destruction. The forest on the opposite side of the clearing from her was blown away.
The lines of trees snapped and something appeared from within the forest.
It was a white dragon.
“Fafnir Custom!?” shouted Shinjou.
In response to her shout, everything began to move.
And as a result, a single explosion occurred.
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