Owari no Chronicle:Volume4 Chapter 17
Chapter 17: A Scream in the Rain
Not everything is inevitable
There are some places where “yes” will certainly be said
But the one to shout it has to reach that place first
Just as the clouds hid the afternoon sun, the wind began to blow.
The white-walled building of Japanese UCAT’s headquarters trembled very slightly in the wind.
The noise could be heard in the first-floor lobby.
Two figures were there to hear it: Ooshiro Itaru and Sf.
Itaru sat on the sofa while drinking a glass of water.
“Sf, how is my old man doing?”
“Testament. He is holed up in his room. Should I check inside with my thermovision?”
“Can you also shoot lasers? If he’s playing an 18+ game, fire one into his ass.”
“Eye beams is an available option. Please email a request to German UCAT’s Sf Development Official. Students receive a 50% discount, so I can forge a student ID if necessary.”
“Oh? How kind of you. What goes on in that brain of yours?”
Sf nodded and pointed at her own head.
“Testament. The artificial synapses of my artificial brain are preserved at minus forty degrees, a temperature cold enough to hammer a nail with a banana.”
“I see. Is that why you’re so coldhearted?”
“No. The oil that acts as my blood is kept at room temperature. My exterior is kept at a slightly lower temperature to reproduce an artificial coldness.”
“That’s what makes you coldhearted.”
Itaru sank into the sofa and did not even turn toward Sf as he spoke.
“You sit down, too.”
Sf sat sideways on Itaru’s lap.
He half-closed his eyes.
“What’s this? Did I ask you to use your master as a chair?”
“Testament. You told me to sit down. My deep memory contains an incident when you asked me to sit down in a train and you stopped me when I attempted to sit on the floor. If the floor would be preferable, I can move there.”
“I see, I see. I’m shocked. You can actually learn? I’m truly shocked.”
“Testament. If you are delighted, please stamp this card.”
Itaru wordlessly stamped the card and returned it. Sf bowed.
“Testament. Kazuo-sama certainly has been staying in his room a lot lately. Is he trying to rot away in there?”
“Let him rot. This is because…his old man destroyed 2nd-Gear.”
“That statement is incorrect. Based on the records I have recently reviewed and the conversation from the other day, 2nd-Gear was destroyed because the people of the Gear overused their control system until they lost control of it.”
“That’s why. If there was anything the people of 2nd-Gear could have done, they could have shared the sin. But my old man’s old man was the one who should have been able to do something. He failed on his own and bore the sin on his own,” explained Itaru. “Remember this: my old man’s feelings about this are complicated. He’s the one person who knows the full story.”
“The full story?”
“That’s right. His old man was the one who couldn’t stop Yamata in 2nd-Gear, so why was he able to do it here in Low-Gear? My old man was a kid back then, so he knows the answer.”
Itaru looked up at Sf.
“Do you want to know why?”
“Then I won’t tell you. …Now, I’m about to talk to myself for a bit, so don’t listen.”
“Testament. I will begin speaking to myself as well.”
Itaru took a drink from his glass, looked up at the ceiling, and opened his mouth to speak.
“The project to build Susaou began March 12, 1945. Three days before that, a certain event occurred in Tokyo. And my old man’s old man took part in the event even though his friends tried to stop him.”
“I can determine this event was something quite flashy. …By the way, that was me speaking to myself.”
“Then this is me talking to myself. …It was a flashy festival. So flashy it’s still written about in history textbooks.” Itaru let out a breath. “After all, it created such a cry of pain that the city of Tokyo was almost destroyed.”
Shinjou and Sayama arrived at Shinjuku in Tokyo.
Sayama had said they needed some material on World War Two, so he had gone around to the different major bookstores and bought a few books. Shinjou had never seen the big city before, so she was overwhelmed by the size of the bookstores.
“Would you want to live in a place like this?”
When Sayama had asked her that, she had nodded.
After leaving the Showa Memorial Park, he had not asked about her.
He had not asked about why she had been late or about the lie she had mentioned the night before.
Currently, he was simply pulling on her hand as they walked toward Shinjuku Station.
They were surrounded by the hustle and bustle of the city. People and their voices filled every direction.
And seemingly catching all those people were the lines of buildings and car-filled roads.
When the faint oppressiveness of it all caused her to look up toward the heavens, she saw the gloomy sky and felt the wind blowing down from it.
The humid wind was filled with the scent of the city.
The dampness of the wind told Shinjou it would rain soon and she started to look around.
“A-are we going to the station? Are we going back? Is it going to rain soon?”
“Ha ha ha. I will answer each of our questions in turn: we can reach the station from anywhere, we can return at any time, and we still have some time before it rains. After all, we are on our way to a moment in the past.”
Sayama let go of her hand and pulled a book from the paper bag under his arm.
“I have finally found a common point between 2nd-Gear and us for this Leviathan Road. Here it is.”
“An overview of American aerial missions during World War Two? How… How is this a common point?”
“Do you remember when the project to build Susaou began? March 12, 1945. …When you think about it, there is no greater point in common. Do you remember back in UCAT’s cafeteria when I said I would mention something once I had confirmation?”
“Oh, that’s right. Did you find some kind of meaning in that date?”
“An excellent question, Shinjou-kun. I feel as if I am returning to a simpler time. …Three days before that date, something very similar to 2nd-Gear’s destruction occurred here in Low-Gear.”
What did he mean?
The other Gears were connected to Low Gear in fixed places via the ley lines. However, she had not heard of any indirect effects like that. And this would be something similar to destruction.
“Y-you’re kidding, right? After all, Tokyo is right here. It wasn’t destroyed.”
“No, it was not. It survived and it recovered.”
Sayama suddenly stopped walking.
They stood at the center of the large scramble crossing in front of Shinjuku Station’s east entrance.
Drawn by his words, Shinjou looked around.
A great number of people were moving out of the way and walking past them. Lines of cars were waiting for all of the people to cross.
And on the asphalt road supporting them all were structures made from a metal framework.
Shinjou felt the humidity press in at her throat.
Sayama’s left arm suddenly wrapped around her back.
“A busy place, isn’t it?”
“Looking at it again… Tokyo is an amazing place.”
“Yes, but this city was nearly destroyed once. That is a fact.”
Her questioning tone brought Sayama’s gaze toward her.
“It happened on March 9, 1945. That was approximately five months before Japan surrendered in World War Two. And it was three days before the project to build Susaou began. On that day, the American military performed a certain experiment on the city of Tokyo.”
“A-an experiment? What kind of experiment?”
“The same experiment they had earlier performed on Hamburg, Germany and failed. While bombing, they used flammable fuel in place of normal explosives. They performed a firebombing,” said Sayama. “Tokyo was constructed from wood, so the result of the experiment was clear. In one night, approximately 120 thousand people died and almost all buildings in Tokyo were destroyed. That experiment elicited the greatest cry of pain Japan gave during World War Two.”
“Yes, the Firebombing of Tokyo.”
“Why did Ooshiro Hiromasa grow so serious about constructing Susaou and Totsuka after he did not save 2nd-Gear? …The answer is simple.”
“You don’t mean…”
“Yes. He was here when Tokyo was bombed. He saw it with his own eyes. He saw his own world of Low-Gear destroyed in flames.”
Sayama remained expressionless as he spoke.
And Shinjou saw Baku poke his head from the breast pocket of Sayama’s suit.
The first thing Sayama could sense was light.
He saw crimson. He saw the color of flames.
He also heard noise, saw motion, and saw the scenery. But…
…It is all mixed together.
Was he in a village, a town, or a city?
Sayama knew the answer: this was Tokyo.
The sky was covered with dark clouds and smoke. Flames and wind blew across the land.
Countless shades of scarlet colored the crumbling people and houses.
He heard countless sounds of something being dropped from the sky.
He also heard ringing fire bells and people’s voices.
The heat sent countless voices crying together into the sky.
Amid those voices were people crying for their father, their mother, their son, or their daughter. Some were crying for their grandfather or grandmother.
All those voices gathered together, but not a single response came.
The sounds of destruction and the whistling of flames slammed the crying voices into the ground and the color of flames blasted up into the sky.
The scene of Tokyo burning lay before Sayama.
He clearly saw it.
He saw dark shadows. As they crumbled in the flames, he could not even tell if they were people or buildings. As people ran and shouted in confusion, the attacks from above scattered the color scarlet across them.
The wind blew, but it did not bring in rain. It only caused the flames to dance.
This air current was created when a large area was burning. It first gathered flames around itself and then raced across the city in search of oxygen.
The wind was not merely hot; it was burning.
Wind as hot as fire raced across Tokyo in every direction and burned away rows of houses just by caressing them.
East, west, north, and south. The raging wind guided the flames in every direction.
That wind raced about to find air.
The rivers flowing through Tokyo were all filled with people trying to escape the heat, but the burning wind descended to the river and roasted them as well.
The people standing atop the bridges were struck by the hot wind flying in from the side.
The heat cooked the metal of the bridges and easily bent them. Once set afire by napalm and exposed to the blazing wind, the bridges’ arch structures melted and they collapsed into the river in no time at all.
Before the water could splash up, the shimmering of flames and the black of smoke rose up.
No one could escape. They were not allowed to.
Most of the air-raid shelters were roasted inside and out because their doors were sucked open by the pressure difference created by the flames.
The roads, buildings, rivers, basements, people, and everything else touching the air were roasted and they instantly showed one what carbon was.
Above the rising smoke, shimmering, and screams, countless dark shadows and dark rain could be seen in the sky.
The shadows were large B-29 bombers and the rain was a barrage of incendiary bombs.
Occasionally, a few of the bombers would descend and fly close by over Tokyo.
As the great noise and heat assaulted Tokyo again and again, Sayama saw something.
A man stood still in front of an Izumo truck which had been burned with the city.
Sayama knew who he was.
Hiromasa wore a lab coat and stood within that city which was nothing but shimmering and light.
The stone hanging from his neck emitted its blue light at full force.
That light protected him so that he grew dirty but did not burn. He shouted something and questioned the city.
Is anyone there? Hurry up and evacuate. Get out of here. All of his cries were drowned out by the wind and the bombs. The heat twisted the screams he heard, so he could not even grasp how far away they were.
But he continued shouting and ran aimlessly through the burning city. He jumped over what looked like clumps of charcoal lying in the roads, tripped over one, fell, and continued running.
He ran through a flame-filled alley, trying to find a safe street.
But just before he made his way out into one, a burning wind passed through the street like a wall.
That one quick pass brought a great roar with it.
Once the flaming wind had passed, nothing remained.
The buildings, people, and everything else were unrecognizably covered in flames, leaving only black silhouettes.
No matter which way he looked, he saw only the burning ground and the night sky filled with sparks.
He fell to his knees when he reached the empty, flame-filled street.
Sayama suddenly spoke while watching him from behind.
He spoke his unheard voice which could not reach the past.
Hiromasa hung his head down.
“You knew there was nothing you could have done, but you still wanted to gather the survivors and feel that you had ‘saved’ them. That desire came to you here, didn’t it? You wanted to atone for failing to save 2nd-Gear.”
“But the destruction did not even allow you that.”
Hiromasa touched the blue stone hanging from his neck.
“So will you destroy yourself? If destruction is the only path remaining for the world, will you gain a lonely superiority by destroying yourself ahead of time? If that is what you intend, just look before you.”
A wave of crimson assaulted the street before Hiromasa’s eyes.
That wave resembled a giant serpent. It was the largest fire current created by the center of Tokyo burning. It undulated, blew across the rows of houses, and brought a burning wind.
“Now, Ooshiro Hiromasa. This is a crossroads. To take responsibility for being able to do nothing, will you throw away your protective stone and wish to be destroyed along with everyone else? Or will you cling to your small life and expose yourself to the shame?”
The expanding flames seemed to answer Sayama.
Hiromasa reacted. He squeezed the philosopher’s stone in his right hand.
He tore it from the string around his neck.
“Now, what will you do with that stone? Make your decision!”
As if responding to Sayama’s question, Hiromasa slowly raised his hand.
He was preparing to throw it.
But then he saw something.
The flames approaching around him lit up everything and made their structure clear.
Something lay collapsed there.
Something sat motionless on its knees.
Something lay motionless over a child.
Something had placed a blanket over a child to protect it, but had become just as motionless as the child.
Hiromasa had a child of his own. But the flames ignored that fact as they easily burned everything away.
Everything burned. Everything turned to charcoal.
Soon thereafter, Hiromasa opened his mouth.
A voice escaped.
His voice became a great cry similar to a newborn’s and it did not stop.
He then began to move.
But he did not throw away the stone. He held it in his hand as he formed a solid fist.
The philosopher’s stone which kept him alive was no longer something which simply hung from his neck. He now clenched it in his fist.
He forcefully stood up while continuing to cry out.
Sayama only existed as his vision, but he smiled at the action.
“So you have chosen to live in disgrace, engineer of the past! That is the action of one who continues forward without fearing failure!”
With the flames before him, Hiromasa looked up into the sky.
He opened his mouth, arched his back, and shouted something further.
This was a cry of protest. It was a voice of anger.
As Sayama watched, he spoke in response to that protest.
“Shout! Feel your anger! Destroy your hesitant heart! Face the unreasonable sight before you!”
He looked at the flames in front of him.
“Let out a scream!”
And Hiromasa did just that. He let out a loud, loud voice toward the many, many flames before him.
He threw his fist toward the burning wind which ripped him from the ground and blew him away.
As Sayama heard that shout, he was knocked from the past.
A narrow road traveled through the forest of Okutama’s mountains.
No cars drove on this road, but a man wearing a work uniform walked along it as clouds began to cover the sky.
He was Kashima.
The right shoulder of his clothes was still torn from a sword strike.
In his left arm, he held the thick waterproof envelope his parents had given him.
He thought while the cold wind bringing rain pushed at his back.
…What should I do?
That thought filled his mind and would not leave.
What should he do?
With his past in the 3rd Production Room before his eyes, he had run away. That had reminded him of a certain fact.
…That is where I used to be.
Long ago when he had failed to fulfill his grandfather’s dying request, he had tried to forget by losing himself in his power as a man of 2nd-Gear.
And in doing so, he had forgotten about the person he cared about as a man of Low-Gear.
He had forgotten about her and had only remembered once he had hurt her and rescued her.
He would never forget that again.
But at the same time, he had begun to deny something.
He had been denying that thought for so long now.
“I was denying that I had not forgotten my power.”
The cut in the right shoulder of his clothes told him all he needed to know about his power.
…I can never truly be someone of Low-Gear.
He looked like one, his culture was similar, and he had a family there, but there was nothing he could do about his own existence at the base of it all.
But the thought still would not leave.
“What should I do?”
There was a simple answer: he just had to stop having these thoughts.
He just needed to forget about his power. If he did not, he could not be honest with Natsu and Harumi.
…Should I continue lying and lose myself in my power again?
No, he thought.
“But,” he muttered.
…But what am I supposed to do?
Suddenly, the cold wind blew across him once more.
The chill snapped him out of his thoughts and he realized he had stopped walking.
Ahead of him, the road turned sharply to the right. This was to circle around a steep slope that jutted out.
It was where that landslide had occurred eight years ago. This was where it had all been determined.
Kashima stood at the location of his past.
As he stood silently, something small struck his shoulder.
It was rain.
The rain fell from the sky and began gently striking Kashima and his surroundings, but it gradually grew stronger.
The rain did not stop.
It only grew more intense.
In the plaza in front of Shinjuku Station, rain clouds filled the sky and the wind blew, but the flow of people did not lessen.
As everyone moved to their destinations to escape the coming rain, a single figure sat on a stone step.
This figure crouching at the bottom of all the noise was Shinjou.
Another figure walked toward her.
It was Sayama. He held a cup out toward her.
“Want a drink?” he asked.
Shinjou looked up and gave a weak smile.
“Oh, sure. Thanks. What kind is it? Don’t tell me it’s 100% sea urchin juice or something.”
“Ha ha ha. We are not in a shady secret organization beneath Okutama. It is just tea.”
“I see. …That feels kind of empty,” she said with a bitter smile.
Sayama thought on her comment.
…Would it have fit her ideal image of me if I had bought something strange?
If he had searched for an IAI vending machine, he could have found something that packed a punch. It would not have been as much as what one found in UCAT, but it would have been a start.
…Did I make the wrong choice? No, but… No, no. But…
“S-Sayama-kun? It looks like you’re lost in thought about something. A-are you okay?”
“Y-yes. Sorry. I was just thinking about my ideal self.”
“That sounds suspicious… But what drink did you get?”
“I have a lot to think about, so I need sugar for my brain. I also need calcium for concentration, so this was the best option. Yes. Now that I think about it again, this choice is well worth praising me ove-… What is with that look?”
“Nothing. I was just thinking nothing I said could stop you.”
Shinjou’s expression then returned to normal.
“I can’t believe you’re fine after seeing such a harsh part of the past. You really are tough, Sayama-kun.”
“Really? Setsu-kun once said I am surprisingly timid.”
“Enough about that,” she said with an exasperated look.
He was unsure how to react and Shinjou seemed to sense something from his expression. She lowered her head and said “sorry”.
“But I wonder if Ooshiro-san’s father was able to truly feel the destruction of 2nd-Gear in that bombing,” she said.
“I think we can assume so. He saw what would happen to this world if Yamata appeared here. That was why he put all his thought into creating Susaou and answering Yamata’s question.” Sayama nodded. “And the people of 2nd-Gear held the same thoughts. And they must still hold them.”
He narrowed his eyes and nodded in response to Shinjou’s questioning tone.
He spoke what it was he had learned during the preliminary negotiations.
“I believe 2nd-Gear is a sleeping dragon. They wish for peace, but are still able to choose the best option. That is what they did sixty years ago. Those who created Susaou and Totsuka had to have raised a cry of resistance in response to what they had lost.”
He took a breath and asked a question.
“Can you hear it, Shinjou-kun? Can you hear 2nd-Gear letting out a scream as they awaken from their slumber?”
The rain soaked Kashima, but he continued facing the slope ahead of him.
His eyes stared forward at the guardrail that cut him off from the slope.
The guardrail turned to the right to follow the new road, but the old road lay behind it, buried by the slope.
Most of the bottom of the slope was hidden by concrete.
This was a place of memories. It had once received that concrete makeup, but the rain caused hard mud to spew from the cracks and from above. Its old face peeked through.
As the mud spilled down, he heard a soft noise. It seemed to be asking a gentle question: why are you here?
The sun must have warmed the ground because mist began to rise across the area.
He was surrounded by rain, mist, and a slight wind.
The gathering clouds above produced the rain.
As he heard the rain falling, Kashima looked into the forest and up into the sky.
“A world much like this once existed.”
The people who had tried and failed to protect that world had argued with each other.
But even as they did, they had worked to protect this new world.
Why was that?
Why had the two fought yet protected this world together?
…I don’t know.
That was the past and it was what others had done. There was no way he could know.
But he had had a certain thought about it in the past.
“Even if I can never fully understand, I can still approach an understanding.”
His grandfather had told him stories of a war in a different world.
He had not thought they were true and his grandfather had always enjoyed telling them, but the old man had always looked sad at the end.
…I never said anything about that sad look.
“Can we really just forget it all?”
Could they really just forget about his grandfather and the thoughts his grandfather had given him?
“Can we really just forget it all?”
He realized the answer was no. And he realized no one but him could arrive at that point.
The sky suddenly grew blurry in his vision. He assumed the rain had fallen in his eye.
The rain felt oddly warm. It seemed to have body heat. As he felt that rain, he spoke to himself.
“I need to decide.”
What are you saying? he thought, but not even that could stop the words from coming.
“This must be the place where I need to make a decision.”
This was where he had come to fear his own power and where he had gained something precious.
He trembled as he stared at the slope which was partially covered in concrete.
The trembling he had felt in front of the 3rd Production Room returned.
Choosing the old road would bring trembling.
With that in mind, he turned toward the new road to his side. That safe road brought no trembling.
But he quickly shook his head. It looked like he was shaking something off.
“There is something I need before I can head down that road.”
He took a breath and took a certain action.
He would cross the guardrail. He would move to the other side where the slope lay waiting.
Amid the rain, he took one step and then another.
With that action, he crossed the guardrail and stopped on the other side.
He could not stop the trembling.
Even so, he had chosen to stand here.
That was his decision.
He used his trembling body to take in a breath.
He opened his mouth and spoke as if addressing someone.
“This is the method I choose.”
He took a breath.
“I will carry the past as I walk down a new road.”
He walked through the rain and approached the slope.
He trembled, but the trembling gradually vanished as he continued forward.
And as he walked, he recalled the past.
He recalled his grandfather asking for forgiveness in the very end.
He recalled the disappointment of finding the bridge in Susaou’s head destroyed.
And he recalled causing this landslide and grasping Natsu’s incomplete hand.
Amid all of those memories, there was one thing he could say for sure.
There was one thing in common about all of his questions, anger, resentment, and joy.
…It all came from having this power.
He could not forget or rid himself of those memories.
Those memories had left him conflicted for so long and he had not been able to shake free of them even when he gained a family.
“But there is one thing I never asked of the power that caused it all.”
He stood before the slope and spoke in a scratchy voice.
“Can my power do anything other than take things from me?”
He took in a breath and placed his left hand on the dirt of the slope.
He slowly held up his right hand and shook his head.
“I know it’s selfish! But I…I want to use this power which hurt the person I care for the most!”
He swung his right fist into the muddy slope before his eyes.
A splashing sound rang out.
“I want to use it to regain everything I lost!”
His hand sank into the mud up to the wrist. The soft and wet mud was warm from the sun.
As he felt the heat in his right hand, some of the rain on his face entered his mouth.
That warm rain dripped onto his tongue and he tasted it.
…It tastes just like blood.
He tasted that flavor and sensed his right hand in the mud.
The wet feeling in his hand was a lot like what he had felt while holding Natsu’s hand back then.
He had not forgotten.
The trembling of his spine expressed the emotions brought by the same sensation as eight years ago.
But he could no longer turn his back on the slope.
His voice trembled as if he were bearing with something.
“I am going to lie to you, Natsu-san.”
I’m sorry, he thought. I’m sorry, Natsu-san.
I am trying to once more wield the power that hurt you.
I’m sorry, Harumi. Your father is a liar.
But I will not apologize for lying after this. I will not say sorry.
“Because I have made up my mind.”
He had decided to lie and to protect everything with his own power.
And with his decision made, he turned to the right.
He grasped the feeling from eight years ago as well as some mud and looked toward the new road.
The asphalt road seemed to continue on forever.
Every part of his body sensed his heavy breathing and racing pulse.
But his heart remained calm.
…I am not choosing 2nd-Gear or Low-Gear.
“I am choosing to hide my 2nd-Gear power and remain within Low-Gear.”
…The place to which I am headed is not one or the other.
He had decided. He felt it was selfish, but he could find no more opposition to the idea than that.
And so he made up his mind.
He pulled his right hand from the slope and opened his mouth.
A voice started to escape.
He had no reason to oppose his thoughts.
He opened his mouth toward the heavens and released it.
He cried out. It was like the cry of a newborn baby.
His trembling vanished as if thrown off of him and his voice grew even louder.
He twisted his body, bent forward, and arched backwards.
His body stretched toward the sky, breath passed from his lungs to his throat and his mouth, and he let out a cry.
His great roar tore into the gathering clouds in the sky.
Below the dark clouds and amid busy Shinjuku, Shinjou’s shoulders trembled at Sayama’s question.
Sayama nodded and brushed up his hair in the wind.
He looked up into the sky with a calm expression. He spoke as if remembering something.
“People who struggle and people who fight will use their voice or their thoughts to raise a cry that is either voiced or silent. Just like Ooshiro Hiromasa did.”
“Just like 2nd-Gear is sure to do.”
She remembered two things: what Ooshiro had told her about Kashima the night before and the past she had just seen.
…Will he make up his mind like Ooshiro-san’s father did?
He would. She was sure of it. After all, he knew what power he held.
What about her?
She had no answer. The emotion that fact brought caused her to tremble.
She reflexively moved.
To reject the thought, she stood up and gathered her strength.
When she realized what she had done, she looked over at Sayama who was looking up at her.
He gave her a questioning look which caused her to realize again what she had done.
“S-sorry. I’m not feeling well.”
Her shoulders drooped and she took a breath.
And when she awkwardly sat back down, she heard Sayama speak.
“I can understand having difficulty getting over seeing that scene from the past, but it is not healthy to be so tense.”
To keep him from realizing how shaken she was, she forced a smile and asked a question.
“Th-then do you have anything to talk about so I can get my mind off it?”
After a few seconds, he clapped his hands. On his head, Baku emulated the action. He then turned his head and Baku toward her.
“Then how about I once more invite you to the All Holiday Festival tomorrow?”
For just an instant, the word festival brought a look of joy to Shinjou’s face.
But she quickly realized something and her shoulders trembled.
She frantically waved her hands toward Sayama.
“U-um, I have to train tomorrow, so…well…enjoy the festival with Setsu.”
“That does sound nice, but…”
Sayama’s halfhearted tone brought an immediate question out of Shinjou.
“Do you not like Setsu?”
“Of course I like him.” He embraced the binder under his arm. “But I was asking if you would come.”
“Ah,” gasped Shinjou.
She realized what her question meant and what Sayama was thinking.
She realized his consideration and her reasons for rejecting it.
She did not know what expression was on her face.
Sayama’s slightly frowning expression told her the answer: she was about to cry.
She stood up and took a step back.
She checked her watch and found it was just about to turn 5:40 PM.
“U-um, Sayama-kun. I…I’m not feeling well, so…I’ll head back on my own.”
Sayama’s eyebrows moved.
He raised his head as if in realization and put on a serious expression.
“Given the subject matter, I will ask indirectly, but is it your perio-…gfh!”
Her knee struck his gut mid-sentence. He doubled over and she panicked further.
“S-sorry, but it slipped out because I think ‘indirect’ means something else.”
“Heh…heh heh heh. That was an excellent attack, Shinjou-kun. And it was actually a repeat joke, so I suppose I deserved that. However…”
“Enough of that. For one thing, I still haven’t started having a period.”
“What a pain,” he muttered.
But then his eyebrows moved. He formed a puzzled expression and spoke in a puzzled voice.
“You still haven’t started?”
“Ah,” said Shinjou when she realized what she had said.
…But it’s true.
She held her own body to harden her defenses. She then took a deep breath so she could look him in the eye.
She felt it was strange, but she asked to be sure.
However, his answer was different. He straightened his tie and collar as he answered.
“It differs from person to person, so I cannot say anything one way or the other.”
Even as she nodded, Shinjou could tell her face had grown red.
What was she supposed to say here?
“Sorry I’m just a kid. But there’s a reason for it… And I think that same reason is causing problems for you.”
“Is this reason the lie you mentioned last night?”
“…Yes. But I can’t say anything more.”
Shinjou quietly nodded and then turned toward the station.
“If I say anything more now, I don’t think I can stand it… But I do want to ask one thing. Will you let me ask a sudden question?”
“If you wish to ask it, go right ahead.”
She had permission. That fact brought relief and she formed the words.
“I said I wanted you to go to the All Holiday Festival with Setsu, right? Well, I’m not sure how else to put this… Would you be fine if Setsu left?”
“Don’t give me that look. Your arm is healed now, right? And…and even if Setsu leaves, you still have Sadame…you still have me. So you don’t need Setsu, right?”
Shinjou somehow managed to draw out the words which were sinking down in her gut.
“But right now – just for a bit – stay by Setsu’s side.”
That was all she could manage. She could not continue.
She glanced at his face and saw a slight look of surprise. That expression made her feel apologetic.
And so she turned her back, brought strength to her legs, and began walking.
“Sorry. …I’ll see you later! Later, okay!”
She immediately checked her watch and switched to a run.
Sayama stood up, but he could not make it in time.
She slipped into the crowd and between two women carrying large bags.
Something fell from the sky and landed on the shoulder of her jacket.
It was not an incendiary bomb that fell on her. Something else was falling on the world of the present.
- ↑ 'certainly' and 'yes' are 'kanarazu' and 'shikari', the kanji of which when together are the word 'inevitable' ('hitsuzen').
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