Owari no Chronicle:Volume3 Chapter 11
Chapter 11: Falling Sounds of Rain
In the rain
In a cage
In a lie
Kashima returned home through the rainy night.
However, he was not on the path back from his workplace and he was not alone.
He was returning from the supermarket where Natsu worked part time.
Natsu stood to his right with an umbrella and he held Harumi in his arm.
Harumi was held within a bucket bag meant to hold babies. The child was contained within the cylindrical cloth bag and a vertical strap wrapped around his back to hold her in front of his body.
It was meant for Natsu who had poor grip with her left hand, but Kashima currently had the strap around his neck. Harumi was asleep while wrapped in a towel inside the bucket bag.
Kashima held her and hummed as he walked, but Natsu’s head was lowered and she seemed unenergetic.
When she opened her mouth while looking down, she spoke the same words in the same tone she had several times already.
“I’m… I’m really sorry.”
“You don’t have to apologize. Someone mistakenly took your umbrella is all.”
“It still isn’t acceptable. Not only did I not make it home in time for the head of the household, I had him come get me,” she said decisively with her head lowered a bit.
Even in the dark, he could tell the movements of her white denim shirt lacked energy.
Kashima watched Natsu as she kept to the center of the umbrella and stared at the ground.
She looks like a scolded puppy, he thought.
A small smile appeared on his face just as Natsu turned toward him with a troubled look.
“That isn’t acceptable, right?”
“Right, right. Now, which umbrella was taken?”
“I brought the cheap plastic one because I didn’t want it to get stolen. …But I think someone thought it had been left behind.”
“Maybe we should get one with a nametag.”
“Oh, I know a store in Asakusa that makes excellent umbrellas. We could-…” She trailed off and shook her head. “We need to stick to our budget.”
“Don’t say that with such disappointment. You can spend a bit of money.”
“I shouldn’t. Also, my parents always go to that store.”
“I see,” said Kashima with a nod.
He thought about pulling her toward him by the shoulders, but unfortunately, his hands were full.
As he lamented that fact, Natsu spoke up again.
“But how did you know I was still at the supermarket, Akio-san?”
“Well, to be honest, I was looking around everywhere.”
“Hee hee. Were you worried?”
“Yeah,” he said.
Natsu looked a bit surprised and Kashima was not entirely sure what to say.
“I was pretty worried. It’s been a while since the front door didn’t open when I got home.”
“That hasn’t happened since I was rushed to the hospital to give birth, has it? Sorry.”
“Maybe we should carry cell phones.”
“It might be useful for you, but I’m fine. And I have a bad habit of spending too much time on the phone. I think the charges would be ridiculous if I had a cell phone.” Natsu smiled and looked toward their daughter. “She really is sleeping well. She never cries when you’re around. Did you know that? It’s like our family’s great god Kashima gives us peace.”
“You’re part of the Kashima family now, too. I think it’s when the two of us are together that Harumi doesn’t cry.”
“Thank you very much.”
Is that really something you respond to with a smile and your thanks? thought Kashima as he looked at her.
Something glittered at her neck. It was a ring hanging from a short silver chain.
He suddenly felt a tug on his right sleeve, the same arm holding the umbrella.
Natsu’s left hand had grabbed the sleeve of his lab coat. The three fingers of that hand held on weakly.
She remained facing forward and her eyebrows were a bit relaxed, but she spoke.
“I really was happy when you came for me even when I didn’t call for you.” The ends of her eyebrows lowered. “You always come to save me.”
“I…” began Kashima, but he could think of nothing to say.
Should he agree or disagree with her use of the word “save”?
He did not know which was the correct answer for her and which was the incorrect answer for himself.
…I just don’t know.
His uncertain thoughts naturally produced silence. Natsu smiled a bit with the ends of her eyebrows still lowered.
And then Harumi’s small body began to tremble in Kashima’s arms.
The instant he stopped, they happened to be approaching an intersection.
And he saw a light to the right. It was a car’s headlights.
It was turning their way as if scraping the inner corner.
Natsu dropped her umbrella in the rain.
Rain fell on UCAT headquarters which was disguised as a transportation administration building.
The spray striking the ground was visible from the first floor lobby.
Shinjou sat in the sofa by the window which was the optimal spot to view the rainy night.
Ooshiro sat on the other side of the sofa in a lab coat and they both watched the white rainy road jump up into the darkness.
“Spring is coming to an end. This is the rain of the changing season. Not long after the rain ends, it will be time for the farmers to plant rice.”
Shinjou heard Ooshiro sigh.
The sigh sounded meaningful, so she turned from the window and looked at him.
“Why are you giving me a thumbs up, Ooshiro-san?”
“Well, Shinjou-kun. I hear you were alone in the men’s locker room with Mikoto-kun.”
“We didn’t do anything inappropriate,” she said almost too quickly. “There is a rumor spreading because of Diana-san, though.”
“Oh, my.” Ooshiro exaggeratedly covered his face with his hands. “When did you learn to snap back at me like that?”
“You don’t have to wiggle around like that.”
“You’re no fun. You need to play along, Shinjou-kun.”
“How about you go back to your room and play more of that game with girls in it? Was it called Osaka Nanba Street? You said you quit early from the shock of falling for a transvestite, right?”
“Wow, and now it’s a cement-like opinion that exposes a secret!?”
Shinjou ignored him and looked out the window while resting her head on her hands. The window reflected the painting of the Virgin Mary on the opposite wall. She had thought seeing herself reflected below it while looking at the rain would make her look like a heroine from a novel or something. However…
“I just look sleepy…”
Shinjou heard Ooshiro sigh again.
Not again, she thought as she turned toward him.
He was sitting on the sofa and staring at her.
“Did you tell Mikoto-kun your lie?” he asked.
Shinjou slowly shook he head.
“But I told him Setsu and I both have the lie.”
“I see.” He nodded and once more said, “I see.”
He said nothing more, so Shinjou tilted her head.
“What should I do?”
“I think you shouldn’t ask me.”
“Asking someone will give you the answer right away. Do you understand what I mean?”
“Yes, but isn’t that why you ask people?”
“If you want, you can ask me here and I will give you a hint. But isn’t Mikoto-kun thinking about your lie without asking anyone else for help?”
She thought on that. She thought again. She thought a third time. But…
“Yeah… He would never ask someone else.”
“Are you telling me not to rush this?”
“You need to give him time to prepare. He needs to prepare to accept you.”
She trembled a bit as she recalled what Sayama had said in the locker room.
…He wants to face me properly.
She placed the meaning of those words deep in her heart.
“Shinjou-kun, you can think alongside him. Even if your physical location and coordinates are different, you can think alongside him in time. You can decide what to do after that.”
Shinjou nodded and Ooshiro sat shallowly in the sofa and spread his legs a bit.
“Sadame is the sister and Setsu is the brother… That idiot Itaru comes up with the most unnecessary things.”
“But that name has always protected me.”
“And it is why you are troubled now, isn’t it? It sounds like more trouble than it’s worth to me.”
“D-don’t act like you’re not involved in this.”
“But I’m not, not, not!”
“Ah, that really ticks me off!”
“Wa ha ha,” laughed Ooshiro as he raised his right thumb and looked out the window.
The rain had grown more intense than before.
Shinjou saw his expression change for just an instant.
She tilted her head at that hint of harshness.
“Does the rain bring back some bad memory? Do you melt when it hits you?”
“What am I, a Youkai? …Anyway, do you remember the night eight years ago when there was a collapse three mountains over?”
“I…think I do. Wasn’t that when everyone went out to help because it was an emergency, but you slept through it all and Itaru-san beat you up afterwards?”
“Y-you don’t have to remember that second half.”
“I don’t remember much about the accident, but I do remember Itaru-san grabbing you by the collar and delivering a barrage of body blows while Sf-san made tea to the side. The cookies were good. As a child, I think the fun part left more of an impact than the disaster.”
“You think it’s fun that I had my ribs broken? My left side always starts to ache on rainy days like this.”
Ooshiro’s shoulders drooped and Shinjou apologized twice.
“It was a horrible collapse, wasn’t it?” she continued. “Wasn’t a bus heading into the mountains caught in the collapse?”
“Yes. The only passenger was badly injured. She was a college student on her way to view some relics from the Jomon period that were being excavated in the mountains. At least I think that’s what Itaru said.”
“What happened to her?”
“Broken glass injured her left hand pretty badly. But the worst part was that the mud trapped her in the bus. She couldn’t move at all and was stuck with the rain hitting her for about two hours. I heard she couldn’t go out on rainy days anymore and that she dropped out of college.”
Shinjou realized her expression changed as she listened. The ends of her eyebrows lowered and she tried to say something, but Ooshiro spoke before she could.
“What would you think if I told you UCAT was actually responsible for that collapse?”
“At the time, UCAT was being reorganized. The development department was almost completely switched out, so they had to get the hang of things. As that department is primarily made up of 2nd-Gear people, they were investigating Susaou which had sealed Yamata, 2nd-Gear’s Concept Core. But when they saw the damage to Susaou’s bridge, they realized there was nothing to gain.”
“A-and what happened then?”
“2nd-Gear is full of engineers, so they began researching powerful concept weapons. …At the time, we were already assuming we would be fighting concept weapons powered by Concept Cores. They wanted to create a weapon as powerful as Izumo-kun’s and Kazami-kun’s.” He took a breath. “And their testing ground was…”
“Y-you don’t mean…”
“Yes, the site of that accident. 2nd-Gear had created a prototype Cowling Sword made up of only the necessary parts, but the tester couldn’t control the power and sliced the mountain. It had probably already been softened a bit by the rain, but that would still require as much power as the second form of Izumo-kun’s V-Sw.”
That man named Atsuta had not seemed afraid of Izumo and Kazami at all.
…They’re aiming to make weapons like the ones those two have.
“B-but UCAT wasn’t blamed for it, were they?”
“No. It was an accident and we’re an organization the public can’t know about. All we can do is provide indirect financial support.”
“Th-that isn’t what I meant.” Shinjou stood up without thinking. “Did you ever make up for what you did?”
“That’s a good question.” Ooshiro tilted his head. “But after that, 2nd-Gear’s concept weapon research focused on usability rather than power. V-Sw, G-Sp2, and your Ex-St are exceptions. Also, the engineer who caused the accident stopped developing weapons and instead researched output control. And…”
“The woman injured in the accident was apparently an acquaintance of his from college and they married after the accident. According to Director Tsukuyomi, he hasn’t told her about UCAT, but they had their first child this year.”
“So he took responsibility for the accident?”
“Responsibility? What responsibility?” asked Ooshiro. “He can’t tell her about UCAT, so she still doesn’t know the truth about the accident. Do you see any responsibility there?”
Shinjou started to say something, but Ooshiro raised his hands and said “calm down”.
She then realized she was oddly stuck on this topic.
…It’s because we’re similar.
She was lying and revealing the truth could hurt Sayama.
That engineer was lying and he continued to live with the victim without revealing the truth.
She remained silent with a hand on her mouth and Ooshiro sighed.
“I think Mikoto-kun would have this to say: he is trying to make up for his crime, but isn’t he simply prolonging it?”
Shinjou was not so sure. She wondered what she would do in his place.
…Wait. Is that engineer…?
“Who is this engineer?”
She knew him and Ooshiro nodded to affirm it.
“You met him in the cafeteria, didn’t you? He is 2nd-Gear’s negotiator.”
Shinjou suddenly felt strength leave her legs and she sat limply on the sofa.
In the cafeteria, she had asked him if he was lying about something.
…He is continuing to lie for the sake of someone he cares about.
He had remained by her side for so long while hiding the fact that he hurt her.
That was his decision. And…
She could tell her face had grown pale.
She saw Ooshiro nod.
“Duty and humanity. It is very like 2nd-Gear and very like Japan. It’s a tricky thing, Shinjou-kun. 2nd-Gear is the world of Japanese mythology, but did you know there are two contrasting heroes in that mythology?”
“Susanoo and Yamato Takeru, right?”
“Yes.” Ooshiro smiled and nodded. “Japanese mythology can be very deep. One hero was hated for being violent, but he lived an honest life. Another hero was praised for being beautiful, but he lived a life of lies. However…”
“After Susanoo became a hero, he continued his life as Storm God Susanoo. Yamato Takeru on the other hand was originally named Ousu, but when he destroyed Kumaso, he was given the name Takeru by Kumaso Takeru. …You can think of that as the distinction between them.”
Those words surprised Shinjou.
But after she thought for a moment, she nodded.
Thoughts of those two heroes of the past raced through her mind.
One hero stuck with his own methods and lived without changing his name while the other hero changed.
What if the two of them met?
As that idea entered her head, she felt as if she could not see. She could hear the rain as white noise, but Ooshiro’s voice suddenly cut in.
“Anyway, it is time to go home for today. You can have Sf-kun bring out the car to take you where you belong.”
Kashima listened to the rain in the darkness of the night.
He could feel the breathing of his young daughter in his left arm and he could feel the rain striking the umbrella in his right hand.
And he could feel the pulse and trembling of a woman in his right arm.
It was Natsu.
When the headlights had approached, he had pulled her close with the arm holding the umbrella.
She was now clinging to him from within his arm.
The car had passed with no sign of noticing them and he could not even hear it any longer.
But Natsu was still clinging to him so close he could feel her pulse.
Kashima squeezed with his right arm to put her at ease.
But she did not calm down even in his embrace.
“Nn…” she groaned and clung to him even tighter.
It was as if his embrace had given her permission to approach him further.
Her right hand wrapped around his left arm which held their child.
Her left hand grabbed at the back of his lab coat as if scratching at it, let go, and then grabbed a different spot.
She repeated the clumsy action again and again, but she did not stop.
With the weak grip of that hand, she must not have felt she was gripping tight enough.
Kashima was holding both the umbrella and their child, so he could not hold her hand.
“I hate the rain…” said Natsu suddenly.
Kashima was a bit surprised to hear her trembling voice spoken into his chest.
“I hate it…”
She began to cry.
“I hate it…”
The way she trembled, clung to him, and looked down toward the ground looked just like a child. He bent down to bring his head closer to hers.
“You don’t like it, do you?”
Natsu shook her head, breathe in, and scratched harder with her left hand on his back.
“I’m here. So is Harumi.”
Kashima looked around for Natsu’s umbrella.
…There it is.
The red umbrella had been blown away by the car, so it had rolled into the middle of the road.
The streetlights illuminated its silhouette. It was lying upside down and its round form had collapsed. Two or three rods of the frame had broken, so it was useless.
This isn’t good, he thought.
They had only one umbrella and he could not let the rain hit Natsu or Harumi.
Natsu’s shoulders trembled and they rose and fell with her breathing.
Had she calmed down a bit?
As he leaned over, the cold rain soaked his back. That chill was the complete opposite of the warmth coming from the two lives in his arms.
…This is my responsibility.
He would give them what they wanted.
If they were at peace, he would leave them be. If they were trembling, he would stop it.
He recalled that rainy day eight years before.
…I underestimated my own power.
That had led to a certain instant back then and what lay before his eyes now.
For an instant, he had been drunk on his own destructive power, but that had quickly changed to panic when he realized what he had done.
It had taken hours for help to arrive through the rain.
When he had dug through the mud, he had found the incomplete hand of his old classmate.
He could not hold that hand now, so he called out to her.
Back then, he had called her family name from their time in college.
He had used the name “Takagi” which was a common surname in Tokyo.
But now that they had the same surname, he used her given name.
…She does not know the truth.
…She does not know about UCAT.
She slowly raised her head.
…She does not know about 2nd-Gear.
She was still crying.
…She does not know about me.
He nodded and loosened his embrace around her.
She trembled and he held Harumi out toward her.
…I will do anything for her.
She looked back and forth between him and Harumi, nodded, and chose Harumi.
She supported the bucket bag with her right hand and he removed the strap from around his neck.
She attached the strap around her own neck and wrapped her arm around Harumi and the bag.
Harumi opened her eyes and looked up at Natsu’s teary eyes.
“Ah,” said Harumi with a smile.
Natsu finally smiled within Kashima’s arm.
She gently moved Harumi up and down to settle the baby’s breathing.
“Ah,” said Harumi again.
She went on to make several light laughs that sounded similar to “ah” or “hyah”.
Natsu looked down at Harumi and nodded.
“What a good girl,” she said with a sigh.
She was back to normal.
…Except for the flush in her cheeks and the dampness in the corners of her eyes.
With that thought, Kashima took a mental sigh of relief.
“I’m going to grab the other umbrella and head home. Can you continue on ahead?” he asked.
Natsu looked up at his face and the umbrella held above their heads.
“When you lean over to match my height, your back sticks out.” She suddenly realized something. “Y-your back is already wet.”
“But I can’t have the rain hitting you or Harumi.”
“Thank you. B-but I can’t have the rain hitting the head of the household.”
Natsu looked troubled, but she soon crouched down while holding Harumi and looked up at him.
“Do you want me to carry you?”
She blushed but did not deny it.
She was quite a troublesome wife, but Kashima did as she wished.
He blushed too, but he had enough of an excuse to do this.
He had decided he would do anything for those two.
Kashima crouched down with the umbrella in his right hand and wrapped both arms under Natsu’s back and butt while she held Harumi.
And he picked her up.
She was light. He had thought that before. He had happily done this during their wedding and when she was pregnant with Harumi.
Back then, he had held her in his arms and realized how light she was and how important she was to him.
She was like a bouquet of flowers.
The umbrella in his right hand covered the sky above their heads and protected all three of them from the rain.
The bigger of the two held against his chest smiled and spoke.
“We should have brought the video camera. We won’t be able to do this once Haru-chan grows up.”
“I’d be too embarrassed.”
“Don’t worry. No one but us would watch it.”
“I suppose so,” he said with a nod.
Now they only had to hurry. Once he had Natsu reach out and pick up the other umbrella, it was only about three hundred meters to their home. His arms would last that long.
He began to walk with two smiles in his arms.
He looked back at them with a smile of his own and he thought to himself.
He thought about the Leviathan Road.
…Should I be involved in it?
In the cafeteria, Atsuta had said it looked like he had already made up his mind.
Atsuta may have been right.
While listening to the rain, he thought back to that accident and to his own power which had created the sword that caused it.
That was his true power.
…That is the power I need to deny.
But Kashima had another thought as he gave an inward sigh.
…Why can’t I forget about that power?
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