Owari no Chronicle:Volume3 Chapter 10

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Chapter 10: A Call for False Testimony[edit]

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It only becomes a lie once you look at the other person

Until then, it is a secret

It is a truth waiting for you to let it bloom


Sayama and Shinjou were inside the locker room in front of the training room.

Sayama was changing into a new shirt on the bench near the room’s exit.

He had used the authority of Team Leviathan to reserve the room for a short time. Almost no one was waiting to use the training room that late, so he had been given permission to use it for about half an hour.

Shinjou sat to his left, drying Baku with a towel.

Baku glared at Shinjou with narrowed eyes.

“Does the soap smell bad? Sorry.”

She smiled bitterly and turned the troubled expression toward Sayama.

However, she stopped smiling there.

She let out a sigh, let her shoulders droop, and hung her head down.

And she did not look back up.

I feel like I have seen this scene a lot today, thought Sayama as he watched Shinjou’s lowered head.

Was there anything he could get across to Setsu or Sadame?

His thoughts were suddenly cut off by a muttered word and a sigh escaping Shinjou’s mouth.

“…Sorry.”

“What are you apologizing for?” asked Sayama with a tilt of the head.

He had a feeling he understood why she was apologizing. However…

“2nd-Gear has an ability we cannot handle, but is there more to it than that?”

Shinjou would not apologize for a situation in which no one had been able to do anything.

Shinjou seemed to grasp what he meant because she shook her head.

“There is that, but that isn’t quite what I meant. It was my question to Kashima-san that got Atsuta-san so worked up, remember?” She sighed. “I wasn’t thinking. And I couldn’t do anything afterwards.”

“You will be able to do something eventually. How about I bring you to my teacher sometime soon?”

“Eh?”

Shinjou looked up with a confused look and Sayama smiled back.

“The Hiba Dojo is where I learned marital arts. My teacher there was a friend of my grandfather. If you go, you will definitely receive a nice beating, so I need to bring a present to cheer you up afterwards.”

Sayama suddenly remembered old times.

That had definitely been someone he was no match for whatsoever.

He was a short old man and his most noticeable feature was his red right eye.

I wonder if he is still doing well, he thought. He is probably fine.

Unlike his grandfather, that old man ran through the mountains every day.

“But Hiba-sensei can be pretty stubborn, so I doubt he will even give us a hint. But I bet he could reproduce that Art of Walking after only hearing a description of it.”

“I see,” said Shinjou with an impressed nod.

She suddenly turned toward Sayama’s left arm.

Sayama followed her gaze toward the white shirt sleeve covering his arm.

The wound below that sleeve was almost completely healed.

“Setsu will be leaving soon, won’t he?” asked Shinjou while closing her eyes a bit.

It was an unexpected question, but Sayama managed to remain expressionless.

The question itself bothered him, but so did the quiet tone with which she gave it.

I need to distract her with some carefree chatter before this grows too dark.

But what topic should he use?

Driven by a sense of duty, he tried to come up with something.

Would the cafeteria’s new menu item, the watermelon ramen, work? Or perhaps how Kazami naturally knocked Izumo off of the second floor during a rehearsal for the student band? No, a cheerful topic related to Shinjou Setsu would work. He could tell her how much he admired Setsu’s butt.

There are too many options!

“S-Sayama-kun? You look really conflicted about something.”

“It is nothing to worry about, Shinjou-kun. I am always giving everything great thought.”

“In other words, you always overthink everything and end up choosing something weird?”

He had a feeling the conversation was veering off track.

Why is that? he wondered.

For the moment, he decided to force it back on track, so he cleared his throat and spoke.

“But I will still be able to see Setsu-kun even after he leaves, won’t I?”

“Eh?”

His question made Shinjou tremble.

He continued speaking to make sure she understood what he meant.

“If you and Setsu-kun both live in the place UCAT prepared for you, I could always visit him after training.”

“Y-you shouldn’t do that,” insisted Shinjou with her head still lowered.

Sayama tilted his head a bit.

“Why are you-…”

He began to say “the one to decide that”, but he stopped.

UCAT looks after these Shinjou siblings in a lot of ways.

Wondering if there was a reason for that, Sayama expressed himself with different words.

“How about we let Setsu-kun decide that?”

“This may not be the best way to put it, but… Can’t you trust what I tell you?”

“That is not what I mean. If it is possible to respect the wishes of Setsu-kun himself, that is what I wish to do.”

“…”

“Or do you believe that I do not trust you?”

“I do.”

“But I do trust you.”

“Th-then if I told you I have an incurable heart disease, you would believe me?”

“I would.”

“R-really!?”

“Yes. And in that case, I would have a doctor teach me an excellent heart massage method so I could perform the massage myself.”

“Why are groping the air while speaking so seriously?” she shouted.

Silence followed until she let out another sigh.

But she must have felt the silence was her own fault because she spoke up while continuing to dry off Baku.

“U-um, Sayama-kun? You are really, really important to me. I mean it.”

“How important?”

“More than Ooshiro-san.”

“That does not seem very important to me…”

“Um, then, to be blunt… You’re second only to the parents I never knew.”

“I see. Thank you.”

“Ah, no. Don’t thank me.” Shinjou kept her head lowered but stopped moving the towel. “But, um, Sayama-kun?”

“What is it?”

She bit her lower lip, her face reddened, and she averted her gaze.

“I don’t want you to trust me too much…”

Sayama did not ask why.

Shinjou remained silent as she waited for him to ask, but then she shook her head.

The way she trembled told Sayama she had made up her mind.

“Remember what I asked Kashima-san just now?” she finally asked. “I asked him if he could not think of himself as a person of 2nd-Gear because he was telling a lie. I was kind of asking that question to myself.” She took a breath. “I am lying to you, Sayama-kun.”


Izumo and Kazami travelled south through Okutama at night.

They rode an old black Kawasaki motorcycle through the wind on their way to Akigawa.

Izumo sat straight as he calmly drove the motorcycle and Kazami clung loosely to his back. Neither of them was wearing a helmet. Their helmets were shaking where they hung next to each other on the side. They wore something else instead.

“Defensive philosopher’s stones.”

Kazami suddenly looked down at the anklet currently worn on her left arm. It had a small blue stone attached.

“These philosopher’s stones are stronger than a helmet, but are you sure this isn’t mixing our private lives with work?”

“Director Tsukuyomi gave them out to everyone, so I don’t see anything wrong with it. And we do get in fights sometimes.”

“These were meant to keep us quiet about what happened, but I wonder what Sayama will do. He isn’t the type to forgive someone just because they gave him something.”

“No, he isn’t,” agreed Izumo. “Left turn coming up.”

It was a tight corner. Kazami looked past Izumo’s large back and toward the darkness of the night beyond.

Oh, this is the corner we always take like this, she thought as her short hair blew to the right and she leaned her body.

She leaned against Izumo’s back while listening to a mountain stream to the left.

“Will you take me home?”

“Sure. I think your dad really likes me.”

“My mom was amazed when the two of you ate and drank like crazy two weeks ago.”

“He challenged me, so I couldn’t just back down. It was like that two years ago as well.”

“Back then, he was trying to eliminate the man he thought was kidnapping his daughter. He did pretty well for an event planner.”

“Yeah, it ended up with a double KO thanks to a self-destructive full nelson off the second story balcony. Ha ha ha. Your dad’s the only normal person to ever hurt me.”

“My mom videotaped it and still shows it to us. She added in a Cantonese song.”

“Oh?” he replied while ending the motorcycle’s tilt.

The wind blew over his back and Kazami sighed into it.

“My dad just sees you as a good drinking buddy…”

“Doesn’t he do a lot of drinking in his event planning job?”

“I think he likes you because he can drink without it being related to work.”

“Is that how it works? Come to think of it, we always talk about you while drinking.”

“Wait. You always get really worked up, so what exactly do you say? Be honest.”

“Needless to say, we praise you as a wonderful person who-…ow ow ow! N-not the spine!”

“Shut up. I’ve heard a bit of what you say. You talk about how long I bathed with my parents and things like that.”

“Yeah, it was until the second year of middle school, right? Your dad said he’s been lonely without you in there with him, so how about I take a photo for him? There shouldn’t be anyone in Sunflower’s women’s bath this late, so-… Agh! Stop, stop! Are you trying to turn this into a test of the philosopher’s stones, Chisato!?”

With a sigh, Kazami loosened the arms strangling him.

She sat up a bit to look over his shoulder.

Ahead, she saw the night sky and the street lights which cut it off here and there.

The darkness of the forest filled their surroundings and the sounds of a stream could be heard down below.

Kazami lowered the hands around Izumo’s neck and brought them to his chest.

“What do you think would have happened if we had actually fought in the cafeteria?” she asked.

“We’d have lost.”

“You think so too?”

“But you saw Sayama, right? He didn’t do anything himself and he didn’t stop us. If the leader of the Leviathan Road does that, it means he’s telling us to fight,” said Izumo. “I think I know what he’s thinking. He thinks we need some kind of discord if we’re going to gain anything when everyone is already satisfied.”

“And Shinjou didn’t stop him despite being his usual stopper. I hope she’s okay. She said she would go with Sayama afterwards, but I think she’s worrying about something.”

“Shinjou, hm? To be honest, there’s something about her I just don’t get.”

“I don’t like talking behind people’s backs, but I know what you mean. Both Sadame and Setsu seem somehow distanced from us. Maybe it’s just because they always stick with Sayama.”

“There has to be a reason for it and Sayama has to be the one approaching that reason.”

“You sure sound certain.”

“That’s because I am,” said Izumo with a nod. “Two years ago when you took me in, I only wanted to talk with you. I think there is only ever one person who will truly understand you.”

“Eh?” said Kazami, but she had no real reply for what he had said.

She was troubled.

She wanted to say something about understanding him, but she could not come up with anything to say.

Instead, she loosely embraced his chest from behind.

She heard him speak in response.

“Anyway, let’s get home. Tomorrow is when it truly begins. After all, we didn’t get Yamata’s question or answer from Kashima today,” he said. “We’ll be turning right to cross the mountain now.”

The motorcycle tilted and the wind changed. The wind which had gathered at the bottom of the mountain became a wind falling down from the sky.

Kazami frowned at a sudden scent in the wind.

“We learned nothing and now it’s going to rain.”


Sayama replied to Shinjou with a question.

“And what is this lie?”

“Do I have to tell you?”

Her expression and tone were both tinged with fear.

She seemed to be telling him not to rush her, so Sayama swallowed his words.

And finally…

Are these words better?

“What kind of lie is it?” he asked instead.

Shinjou’s shoulders relaxed and she seemed to think about what to say.

“Um, it’s kind of hard to say, but this lie allows me to be with you.”

And…

“Without this lie, everyone would look at me weird and treat me like a treasure. That’s how it has always worked with people who know about my lie. So…”

“So you think I will do the same?”

Shinjou nodded.

“Setsu is…the same,” she said.

“I see,” he replied with a nod.

So they do have a lie.

This was something he had to face.

That realization allowed him to give a sigh of relief.

But what kind of lie is it?

As he thought, Sayama suddenly remembered something.

“Oh, right.”

“Eh?”

He had just recently come up with a guess concerning Shinjou’s lie.

This is an excellent opportunity, he thought. I may be able to solve everything related to Shinjou’s “lie”.

“Shinjou-kun. There is something I wish to check. May I?”

“Eh? Um, sure.”

She looked doubtful, but she gave him permission.

“Please take off your clothes,” instructed Sayama with a smile.


“What!?”

Sayama nodded.

“I have a certain question which may be related to your lie.”

“Wh-what? …O-okay. Sayama-kun, I need you to calm down.”

“I am always perfectly calm.”

“Yes, yes, of course. But please take a deep breath and let it out. …Okay, now before you suddenly begin doing something, could you tell me what you’re thinking?”

Sayama confidently answered her roundabout question.

“Shinjou Sadame-kun, you are actually Shinjou Setsu-kun dressed as a girl.”

When she heard that, Shinjou gasped for an instant but then frowned, partially closed her eyes, and looked away.

“Ahh… What is wrong with this person?”

“Ha ha ha. No need to be shy. Many people enjoy things considered out of the ordinary.”

“That isn’t what I meant.” With her head lowered, Shinjou placed a hand on Sayama’s shoulder. “My lie isn’t that simple. And listen closely: I, Sadame, am a girl.”

“You are?”

“Can’t you tell just by looking at me?”

“Then I shall take a look.”

“Eh? W-wait!”

Shinjou stood up in order to back away, but her skirt fell from her waist.

“H-huh? Wait, when did that happen!?”

“When you gave me permission earlier, I unfastened the clasp. My grandfather taught me how to do that.”

Sayama picked up the skirt and looked up at Shinjou from the bench.

“You will let me see, won’t you?”

“Wait… Wait just a second. Have we entered the Sayama Zone?”

“What kind of nonsense is that? There is no such thing.”

With a look of understanding, Shinjou turned to the side.

“They do say people never realize where it is they live…”

“Why are you bringing up a philosophical issue?”

“I’m not.”

Shinjou clenched both her fists and held them up, but her shirt suddenly opened and her bra fell down.

“Eh? What? H-how did you do that!?”

“My grandfather’s technique lets one remove all of a woman’s clothing in an instant. I am glad you were wearing a front-hook bra.”

“I-is that how it works?”

“Yes. Removing rear-hook ones from the front is difficult, so I practiced it with my grandfather. One summer night during my first year of middle school, he wore nothing but a pair of boxer briefs and a rear-hook bra. We worked up quite a sweat training. …We even got our legs tangled together and fell to the tatami mats together.”

“An old man wearing women’s underwear was rolling around with a young boy during a summer night…?”

“Heh heh heh. Ryouko rushed in when she heard the noise and she would not speak to me for three days afterwards.”

“Enough strange stories about your past. Would you please give me back my skirt?”

“Of course. But will you let me see first?”

Shinjou’s expression froze over.

“S-Sayama-kun? Um, a thought just occurred to me… Are you even listening to what I say?”

“Of course I am. But checking on this comes first.”

“I-I already told you! I’m a girl and that isn’t my lie.”

“But you gave me permission earlier.”

“You didn’t say what you were going to do! I-I trusted you!”

Sayama nodded.

“And I want you to continue trusting me. Before I arrive at your lie, I want to clear the doubt in my mind. I want to face you properly.”

“Face me?” muttered Shinjou as the ends of her eyebrows lowered. “C-can I really trust you?”

“Have I ever betrayed you?”

“If you count unexpected actions, I can think of countless times…”

Shinjou lowered her head, blushed, and gave a troubled look.

“You won’t do anything weird? …No, saying that is meaningless here, isn’t it? Isn’t it? So, um, uh…” She wrapped her arms around her chest and her disheveled shirt. “Y-you can’t take off any more than this.”

“I see. So you will be designating the method I use. Understood.”

Shinjou gave a sigh of relief and stuck Baku in the breast pocket of her shirt.

“But how are you going to check that I’m a girl? I won’t show you any more than this.”

“And that leaves touching as my only option.”

“You mean like touch gently with your fingertips?’

“Yes, like a nice firm squeeze.”

“That’s completely different! …Listen. You can only use your fingers and palm and you can only touch.”

Shinjou’s tone was firm, but her step forward was timid.

“And I wouldn’t let anyone else do this.”

With a troubled look, Shinjou raised her shirt collar and slid her bra to the side.

Her breasts were now bared within the shirt.

A bit of sweat was visible on those round mounds of flesh and they moved up and down with her shoulders as she breathed.

With the same trouble look, she held her chest out toward him a bit.

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“Y-you can touch now.”

Sayama nodded and reached out his hands.

His right arm gently embraced her back, his cheek and ear pressed against her chest, and his left hand…

“Eh? W-wait! You can’t stick your hand between my legs!”

“You are the one that said I could touch you.”

“But…” said Shinjou as he listened her pulse through her skin.

“Please be quiet. I want to hear your pulse.”

What he heard was a bit faster than what he had heard before, but it was the same.

Just as before, he felt her body heat and a bit of sweat on his cheek. Shinjou’s sweet breaths were the same as well.

However, they also resembled what he had sensed from Shinjou Setsu.

And so he turned his focus to his left hand.

That hand was placed between Shinjou’s legs. His fingers and palm felt a certain sensation, warmth, and texture.

“Ah… Wait…”

Sayama gave no response to her voice and trembling. With the term “investigation stability” in the back of his mind, he moved his right hand which was behind her back. He grabbed her hands which were wandering through the air and placed them on his own back.

“Sayama-kun…”

Shinjou was now embracing him with both arms. That was for the best.

He then turned his attention back to what he felt with his left hand.

It is not there?

Something that a boy should have had was not present.

Sayama recalled the events at the public bath about a month before.

The sensation of gently grabbing Shinjou Setsu returned to his hand. But in the present…

It is not there? Odd. It should be…

“Nn… W-wait! Not so strong…”

Shinjou’s hips squirmed. She pressed her legs together to keep him from moving his hand any more.

“U-um, Sayama-kun. Is that enough? You can tell, right?”

He heard her question reverberate through the flesh of her chest.

To Sayama’s astonishment, he was forced to accept a certain fact: it was definitely not there.

This cannot be. My prediction should not have been wrong.

He expressed that thought with a question.

“Shinjou-kun, something is odd. But…I am not sure what.”

“It’s you!!”

Sayama ignored her and continued to think.

In that case, what is her lie?

He had confirmed that Shinjou Sadame was indeed a girl.

“Ah, not so hard…”

But Shinjou Setsu had certainly been a boy when he had checked previously.

“Please, you shouldn’t do this. This isn’t a normal thing to do…”

Had he jumped to an erroneous conclusion?

“P-please take your hand out from between my legs… Are you even listening?”

“Hmm,” groaned Sayama.

“What did that groan mean? Did you find something strange? Is it about my body…or about your sanity?”

“Mh? What is with these rude comments, Shinjou-kun?”

“Oh, you’ve come back to your senses. Th-then can you remove your left hand?”

Sayama looked forward when he heard her hesitant request.

His hand was in between her thighs and her underwear was slid a bit to the side.

Seeing that, he realized a certain fact: his investigation was already over.

“Shinjou-kun, how long do you intend to hold my hand between your thighs? …Gwoh!”

“Wh-whose fault do you think that is!?”

“Heh…heh heh heh. Holding my head and jabbing me with your knee? Not bad.”

Shinjou did not remove the arms wrapped around him, so he tried to remove them himself.

“No. You’re going to do something weird again. Don’t move. If you do, you get the knee again.”

“Calm down, Shinjou-kun.”

“S-say something that will calm me down.”

“Very well,” said Sayama with a nod. “The other night on the way up to my bed on the top bunk, I happened to glance down where Setsu-kun was sleeping. I was so distracted by his ass that I stubbed my little toe on the ladder quite hard.”

“Wah! Don’t say something that will make me even less calm!”

“I see.” Sayama let out a breath, thought for a bit, and stated his thought from earlier. “It seems your lie and my suspicion were two different things.”

Surprise filled Shinjou’s face.

“That’s a surprisingly perceptive thing for you to say.”

“I think there has been a misunderstanding at a fundamental level.”

He touched her arms again and managed to remove them.

He stood up and realized she had been hanging her head while looking at him.

When he saw her trembling shoulders and slender body, he did not hesitate to embrace her.

“Ah…”

“Sorry, but this has eliminated my misunderstanding.”

“I get the feeling a second or third misunderstanding will suddenly appear later…”

“I assure you that will not happen. …So will you tell me your lie eventually?”

Shinjou shrank back a bit and finally shook her head.

“I don’t want to tell you… Once you learn the truth, I think you will leave me.”

“But if you do not tell me, you can never know if I will or not.”

“But if I tell you, you’ll definitely learn the truth. That scares me.”

“I see.”

“I shouldn’t have said anything… The Leviathan Road has already begun and we’ve started to move, so I don’t want to cause any discord between us.”

Sayama said nothing in response because he did not know what her lie was.

But she quickly raised her head.

She removed his arms and took a step back.

“C-can we talk about something else?”

Sayama nodded and tried to come up with something enjoyable to discuss.

When he found something he thought would work, he looked in her black eyes.

“The school I attend is having a small festival called the All Holiday Festival.”

“Yes… S-Setsu told me about it. Isn’t it a bizarre festival where a human sacrifice is set on fire? Are you sure that’s okay?”

“I am disappointed to see that Setsu-kun did not get my deadpan joke. Anyway, the festival begins the day after tomorrow. How about you come?”

“Eh? Really?”

“Really. Our academy city allows outsiders inside. As Setsu-kun’s sister, it is your right to visit.”

Shinjou’s face brightened. But then…

“How about you, Setsu-kun, and I enjoy the festival together? I can show the two of you around.”

Her expression suddenly grew troubled.

“U-um. If possible, I would prefer if it was just the two of-…” She trailed off, shook her head, and lowered her shoulders. “Sorry. I was about to lie again.”

“Lie? Are you saying you do not want to see the festival with me?”

“No, that I want to do. But I was going to lie in order to accomplish that.” The ends of her eyebrows lowered and she smiled. “Thanks, but give me some time to think about it. And…let me promise you one thing.”

“What do you wish to promise?”

“As much as possible, I will avoid telling any unnecessary lies.”

Lies, thought Sayama. Will she ever tell me what she means by that?

Immediately afterwards, the side door suddenly opened.

“I was sent to check on you because you’ve been taking an awfully long time to change a shirt,” said Diana as she entered the locker room.

She saw Sayama standing in front of Shinjou who was half-naked.

Diana’s smiling cheeks quickly grew tinged with red.

“O-oh, my, my, my!”

She brought her right hand to her cheek.

And with her left hand, she swiftly pressed the external intercom button on the wall.

The button activated an emergency building-wide broadcast.

“Oh, my! Would you look what this young boy and young girl are doing!”

An instant of silence followed.

Sayama and Shinjou exchanged a glance and Sayama nodded. He was smiling.

“This makes it official, Shin-…gwoh!”

“I don’t want anything made official like this!”

Shinjou’s knee sent Sayama collapsing to the floor.

Meanwhile, a message played over the intercom.

“Um, we just received the signal to shut down the training room. According to the emergency broadcast, our guests have stepped out of line. Um, an official is on the way to check on the situation now. Um, everyone stay as you are and please wait a moment.”

Shinjou began frantically dressing herself.


On the west side of Akigawa, the lights of a certain residence filled the night.

It was the Tamiya residence. The sliding doors on the outside shined white with the light inside.

The large yard contained a few slender black dogs but no people.

The dogs protected the house along with the surveillance cameras and sensors set up in the yard.

The dogs guarding the front of the house were currently approaching a single target.

The wooden gate was being fiercely pounded on and a woman’s voice shouted out.

“Hey! Kouji! How can you lock your sister out!?”

The voice coming from the other side of the gate belonged to Tamiya Ryouko, the current master of the residence. Unsure what to do, the dogs wandered around for a bit while looking toward the gate.

The dogs then heard a quiet repeating noise from beyond the gate.

A moment later, a quick electronic melody played in the house.

After a burst of static beyond the gate, Kouji’s voice came over the intercom.

“Stop ringing the doorbell so much. Old man Nguyen recalled his trauma from Vietnam and has started convulsing. He doesn’t have an insurance card, so he’s in trouble if this keeps up.”

“Sorry, Kouji. I got too focused on myself.”

A sigh came over the intercom.

“But, Kouji,” replied Ryouko. “You don’t get to shut me out just because mom and dad took a swimming float and went to stay at a random hot spring.”

“I will do this no matter what mom and dad say. Someone who spills their cup of water three times during a meal needs to be disciplined.”

“Th-that wasn’t my fault. It was my elbow’s fault.”

“You need to think about three things right now. First, do not make excuses. Second, think about what you did. Third, become a decent human being. That last one may be a lost cause, but how about you at least try?”

“Eh? What? I lost track with all those numbers. Can you explain it so I can understand?”

The intercom remained silent for a while.

“Um… Would the young master be able to explain it?” asked Ryouko after some thought.

“He would just laugh it off. He’s always been overly kind to you.”

“That’s the normal reaction. You’re supposed to treat girls with care.”

“Girls? Sorry, but how old are you?”

“Why are you playing dumb? I’m 18. Try remembering that next time.”

“I guess that means I’m 14. Ha ha ha. I have to go to middle school tomorrow.”

“K-Kouji just went crazy.”

“Sorry, but I just felt an urge to physically disconnect this intercom. May I?”

“Sure. But why?”

“May I shout ‘because of the kind of person my sister is’?”

“C’mon, that doesn’t sound like something you would say. …Ah, he really disconnected it. Kouji!!”

The dogs exchanged a glance as the knocking on the gate began again.

“Pes!”

The leader of the pack of dogs raised his ears.

“Pes! Come here a second!”

Wondering what was going on, Pes walked forward. The surrounding dogs nervously opened a path. Pes gave a quiet bark and wagged his tail when he arrived at the gate.

“Open the gate,” whispered Ryouko.

Pes stopped moving.

“You can do it, right? Right?”

Pes shook his head back and forth. When Pes looked back, the group of black dogs scattered. For some reason, their tails and ears could be seen poking out from behind nearby bushes and stones.

“C’mon, hurry.”

Ryouko let out a few odd dog-like whines and scratched her fingernails against the bottom of the gate.

Pes held his tail between his legs and began to quietly back away.

At the same time, two sounds came from the distance.

The first was the high-pitched noise of a motorcycle. The second was a man singing along with the acceleration of the engine. The out-of-tune song carried into the distance.

“A burrrrning kiiiiiick into a maaaaan’s crotch!!”

Ryouko stopped knocking on the gate and spoke a question.

“Huh? Yukihito-kun?”


Ryouko turned toward the modified motorcycle that stopped in front of the gate.

The light in front of the gate illuminated a motorcycle with three headlights attached to chopper handlebars.

Leaning against the back of the seat was Atsuta Yukihito.

“Oh, Ryouko. I thought you were a drunk.”

“Long time no see, Yukihito-kun.”

Atsuta wore a white summer coat and he approached by rolling the idling motorcycle forward with his feet.

He wore only sunglasses on his head as he turned toward Ryouko.

“It has been a while. How are you doing?”

“So-so. Did you just happen by?”

“That’s right. What are you doing?”

“I was locked out.”

As if she had just remembered, Ryouko began knocking on the door behind her. Atsuta kept his motorcycle idling.

“I can’t say your brother was right for kicking out a woman who’s almost thirty, but what are you doing? Why not kick the gate down?”

“I can’t. This is a game to see who folds first and the rules forbid destroying anything. But if I cause a commotion out here, Kouji always folds and opens the gate. I’ve never lost.” Ryouko looked over her shoulder at Atsuta. “Why were you passing by tonight?”

“Just getting my mind off something unpleasant.”

“Did you lose at pachinko? You would always skip class and play in your uniform. But if you won any food, give some to me. Those cookies you always won were good.”

“I don’t have anything like that. I grew out of pachinko.”

“Th-that isn’t the Yukihito-kun I know!! What good are you if you won’t give me any cookies!?”

“Don’t base people’s value on whether they give you food!”

“Nnn,” groaned Ryouko. “Well, bring some next time. So what was the unpleasant thing?”

“Something at work. I might have to go a bit nuts.”

“You have a job?”

“What kind of person am I in that brain of yours?”

“Hm? Exactly the kind of person you look like. You still have a lot to learn about yourself. I’m living the life that perfectly matches what I look like.” She then tilted her head. “So what’s your job?”

Atsuta gave a bitter smile.

“You could say I handle dangerous things. It’s a truly worthless job.”

“Are you doing bad things?”

Atsuta looked straight at Ryouko.

Her eyebrows were slightly lowered and her head was tilted.

“What a pain,” he sighed. “Rest easy, you idiot. I’m not like I was back in school. I’m on the side of justice now.”

“Eh? You’re on the side of justice? …Did some organization brainwash you?”

“At least say I awoke to it, idiot. Anyway, I’m just a bit stressed because a coworker couldn’t stop talking about nonsense.”

“Hm. Sounds tough. …But if you’re on the side of justice, the world must be coming to an end.”

“That’s for sure. Some of it isn’t too bad, but I’m enjoying myself on the borderline between life and death.”

“Sounds like our young master.”

“Your young master?”

“Yes,” said Ryouko. “Have I never mentioned him? He’s the boy of the Sayama family that helped us out.”

“I don’t think you mentioned it.”

“It would have been a long time ago, so maybe you just don’t remember. He’s the son of Sayama Asagi-san, the only man I’ve ever fallen for. He was just a child not long ago, but lately he’s suddenly grown up a lot. …And it seems he has a part-time job handling dangerous things.”

She took a breath.

“His name is Sayama Mikoto. Do you know him?”

“…”

Atsuta’s expression changed for an instant when he heard that name. Tension filled his carefree face.

But she continued speaking and he listened silently. She told him the Sayama boy was living at school now but he would still come by to play. She also said he had made a friend named Shinjou.

“He really is just like Asagi-san.”

Ryouko was smiling and her cheeks were tinged with red.

And then she suddenly realized something.

“Oh, sorry. I shouldn’t talk so much about someone you don’t know.”

“Don’t worry about it. …But this could be dangerous.”

“What could?”

“If that Sayama Mikoto is working a job like mine, he’s in danger. After all, you can die at a moment’s notice. I can’t recommend it.”

“I see. But if you’re working the same kind of job, you might meet him somewhere. And if he’s trying to do something dangerous, stop him, okay?”

“Sure,” said Atsuta. He looked away from her as if trying to put up with something. “Anyway, I’ve gotta go. I’m glad we could have a nice talk.”

“Every talk with me is nice.”

“That’s for sure.” He smiled bitterly. “It’s going to rain soon, so make sure you get inside. You don’t want to catch a cold.”

Ryouko held her hand into the air and a small drop fell on the palm.

“And there it is. Well… See you later, Ryouko.”

“Bye,” she said with a nod.

He twisted the accelerator and the motorcycle moved forward.

The four tail lights blinked and the sound of the exhaust and of his singing disappeared into the night.

Left all alone, Ryouko looked up into the sky and then began knocking on the gate again.

“Pes? Pes! Did you run away!? I’ll neuter you!!”


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