Owari no Chronicle:Volume4 Chapter 20
Chapter 20: Intent to Escape
What do you call it when you flee despite having nowhere to escape to?
Is it parting ways?
Or is it being cornered?
The morning of the festival was overall noisy.
The All Holiday Festival was handled by the different committees, the different circles, and the volunteers from the classes.
A lot of students were taking part because the school had no classes on Sunday, but the morning of the first day was still used for preparations.
Music played from music players and other speakers around the school. Sounds of mic tests and hammering could also be heard and bicycles and motorcycles with trailers could be seen transporting materials.
Amid it all, Shinjou hung his head next to a row of trees warmed by the sun.
Sayama was walking him around to the different stands and introducing them, but not much of it was entering his head.
There were a few different reasons for this.
When he had woken up at around seven that morning, he had been embracing Sayama.
His waking had woken Sayama who had noticed what Shinjou was doing.
Sayama had assured him it was fine, but then…
“We were seen.”
After Harakawa had brought in the materials for their stand using his motorcycle, he and their other classmates had stopped by their room. They would have normally contacted Ooki, but she had been late as usual.
…They looked so surprised.
They had explained the situation and Harakawa himself had seemed to accept it.
But the others had apparently spread the rumor. When they had left the dorm and when they had eaten at the cafeteria, they had been interviewed by the gossip newspaper which was one of the school’s multiple newspaper clubs.
…Sayama-kun responded to them so easily.
He had merely insisted it was nothing to worry about.
However, Shinjou still felt he had caused trouble for him.
And that kind of rumor had a way of sticking around.
…He is already known as the eccentric student council vice president who is well known for doing odd things.
Izumo had been absent, so Sayama had handled the opening ceremony.
It depressed Shinjou to remember the slander and jeers a few people had shouted.
Something was held out into his downturned vision. It resembled a large dried plum and was held with a pair of chopsticks. It was wrapped in what looked like clear glass.
“What is this?”
“H-have you never seen an apricot candy before? This is… This is a shocking revelation.”
“Wh-why do you have to wiggle around and give such an over-the-top reaction?”
“I see. Then how about we both calm down? …Listen. This candy is the festival’s must-have item.”
“Really? Are things like this needed at a festival?”
“Yes. There are other similar items such as the plastic bag containing a goldfish you stole from a tank or the blade-carved ice with carcinogens placed on top. And at the center of it all is the wooden tower playing bewitching music that everyone repeatedly circles around while dancing in a trancelike state. Ventura! Ventura!”
“I have a feeling your descriptions aren’t entirely accurate…”
Shinjou tilted his head and licked the candy.
“It’s sweet. I thought it would be sour.”
“The outside is nothing but a sugary syrup. It is hard because it was placed in ice. The trick is to eat the whole thing after licking it down a little bit.”
Shinjou nodded and started to pull out his change purse, but Sayama stopped him.
“No need to pay. The first year girl at that stand gave it to me for free. She told me to ‘do my best’. I am impressed that first years these days are trying to form connections with the student council by bribing them with food.”
“I am 100% sure that is not what she meant. What did you say in return?”
“I said I would give it my very best effort, so leave it to me. She gave an excited scream, so I think she might have a brain disease.”
Shinjou held his head in his hands.
“What is it, Shinjou-kun? A headache? If you do not eliminate the cause, headaches can be dangerous.”
“I don’t want to hear that from the source of the danger,” he muttered while staring into empty space.
He then heard the sound of an engine behind him.
He turned around and saw a large black motorcycle with a sidecar. Harakawa was driving it. The brown-skinned boy with wavy black hair lowered his sunglasses.
He stopped the motorcycle next to them.
The boy may have had difficulty telling Japanese people apart because he treated everyone in the class the same. He even acted casually around Sayama who everyone else kept some distance from.
“What is it, Harakawa? Are you about to leave?”
“Yeah. The automobile research club’s all set up, so I’m on my way to meet my mother and then head to my job in Yokota.”
“Tightening bolts and sorting old books? Do your best. …Oh, and how are your new club members?”
“There’s this one perverted kid who wants to get a sidecar a girl can ride in. I like his style. And we’ll probably get more people after the demonstration during the festival.”
“Demonstration? What’s that?”
“Oh, no one’s told you, Shinjou? Well, first we drive our motorcycles side by side along the rows of trees at the main entrance.”
“Then we all shout ‘our budget was too small and we couldn’t maintain our brakes!’ and charge into the school building.”
“That’s illegal! Sayama-kun, don’t you have something to say about this?”
“Do not try to run up the stairs. Last year, there were some motorcycles flying off the roof, but I do not think it was a stunt.”
“We were targeting the motocross crowd. Preventing the front suspension from bottoming was hard.”
“I’m starting to see why this school is so strange,” commented Shinjou.
“Yes. Even someone practically brimming over with common sense like me has difficulty understanding a lot about this school.”
“S-sorry, but if you’re ‘brimming over with common sense’, how much do you think I have?”
“You? Common sense? I distinctly remember you asking what ‘that spinning square thing’ was when I turned on the game system in the dorm room. How can you not know about the rule of spinning polygons?”
“B-but it really was the first time I’d seen something like that…”
As Shinjou lowered his head, Harakawa sighed.
“Well, you could say this school gathers people with a strange sort of common sense.”
“I-I’m not strange.”
“Ha ha ha. Shinjou-kun, that is what all the strange people say.”
“Sayama-kun, I’m pretty sure I’m the one that’s supposed to say that.”
Harakawa smiled bitterly and gathered attention on himself again.
“More importantly, I’m sorry about this morning, Shinjou Setsu.”
“Oh, um, it’s fine. It was an accident and you actually let us explain. And if you’re going to apologize, apologize to Sayama-kun. I’ll be leaving the school before long.”
“Really? That’s news to me.”
Harakawa turned toward Sayama, but Shinjou could not bring himself to do the same.
“Yes, it is true.”
When Sayama did not deny it, Shinjou gave an emotionless nod.
“Also, Harakawa-kun, I don’t want to leave any misunderstandings behind. The one Sayama-kun is interested in…”
“Yes. The one Sayama-kun is interested in isn’t me. It’s my sister…unfortunately.”
He casually added the “unfortunately”.
Ah, gasped Shinjou in his heart.
He probably should not have said that. For Sayama’s sake and for his own sake.
To avoid any questioning from Sayama, he lowered his head.
But the one to take action was Harakawa. While facing Sayama, he nodded and poked at his shoulder.
He seemed to be reprimanding Sayama for something and he wordlessly drove off on his motorcycle afterwards.
The engine sounds slowly but surely grew more distant. Meanwhile, Shinjou bit into the apricot candy to stall for time. Some sourness joined the sweetness, but it was so little he had to focus on it to notice.
The voice he had dreaded arrived.
Wondering what he was going to ask brought a certain emotion.
Would he seek some kind of conclusion here?
“Are you still feeling unwell?”
It took Shinjou the span of two breaths to understand the unexpected question and then he thought on it.
An answer floated up in his heart and he spoke it while looking toward the ground.
“I don’t know.”
“You do not know?”
“I don’t know what I should do. I’m scared and I keep thinking only about myself.”
Having Sayama embrace him had brought such relief the night before, but now he felt he should avoid that.
…What look is on my face right now?
“This is a weird question, but…Sayama-kun, are you interested in boys?”
“No, I am not. I am normal in that sense.”
Shinjou gave a weak nod and Sayama tilted his head.
Sayama’s gaze held concern, so Shinjou spoke up before he could say anything.
“Th-then… How do you feel about Shinjou Sadame?”
It took Sayama a moment to answer that testing question. He remained as expressionless as ever.
“She is important to me.”
“Yes,” said Shinjou. “I suppose she would be.”
He nodded and his vision grew distorted.
“Sadame is a girl and you are a boy. You don’t care about people seeing us this morning because you will choose Sadame. You…You can’t choose me, can you?”
He tried to say “What?”, but different words came out.
“Sorry, I don’t want to hear it.”
Sayama held out his hand and Shinjou twisted out of its way a moment later.
He turned his back to Sayama and lowered his head. The distortion to his vision fell to the ground.
He looked forward where a path led away from the school. A sudden breeze blew in.
“Sorry. I need to go calm down a bit.”
Shinjou ran forward and away from the school. He ran as far away from Sayama’s words as he could.
Shinjou did not turn back toward the voice. He heard footsteps pursuing him, but a group of elementary students visiting the school crossed their path and blocked the way for Sayama.
Shinjou took a breath, straightened up, and passed through the school’s gate.
…I just did something I shouldn’t have.
Sayama was surrounded by the elementary students pressing in from the front gate.
He saw Shinjou turn a distant corner and disappear.
“Shinjou-kun! …What is with this crowd of children!?”
“With this many, it’s hard to lead them around.”
Sayama turned to the side and found Ooki scratching her head amid the sea of children.
“So it is our tardy teacher who is in charge of them. You appear unable to move, so when did you appear next to me?”
“I was just caught in the flow.”
“I am glad to see you are the same as always. Now, what is with these children?”
“On the way here, the head of a children’s home asked me to take the children to the festival since I was already late. I am quite popular, you see.”
“So even the children’s homes know my homeroom teacher is always late.”
“If possible, I would like to hear what you have to say about my popularity.”
Sayama ignored her.
He looked around and found a stomach-height crowd staring intently up at him.
“Anyway, Ooki-sensei. Why did you use these children to block my path?”
“When I arrived, I saw you and Shinjou-kun were playing a game of tag, so I had them join in and…ow ow ow!”
“Was it the brain inside this skull that had such an idiotic thought?”
Once Sayama gave Ooki a red spot, the elementary school students began swarming around them.
“D-don’t be mean to her!!”
“Do not let her fool you! She is a bad person!”
His decisive shout brought the children to a halt. They all stared up at them.
“A-a bad person?”
“N-no! Sayama-kun, why are you calling your teacher a bad person!?”
“Oh? Bring your hands to your heart and think very carefully. Have you never once done anything bad?”
Ooki brought her hands to her chest and thought.
“Um…” She tilted her head for several seconds and finally smiled without any further hesitation. “No, not once.”
“Under the Sayama code of law, lying is punishable by death. Are you sure you do not want to reconsider?”
Sayama glared at her with half-closed eyes, but someone suddenly called out behind them.
“Why are you people getting so worked up in the morning? You’re blocking the way.”
He turned around to find Brunhild standing beyond the children.
The art club’s stand sat on the sidewalk behind her.
It was shaped like a Venus de Milo measuring over ten meters tall. The statue was created with an increased bust and had a grilled chicken stand embedded in the stomach. Green smoke blew from the nose up above.
Brunhild smiled toward the children.
The black cat on her shoulder meowed and the children drew back.
As the group of children moved away like a receding wave, Sayama stepped forward.
“I thank you.”
“No need. Having them gathered here would affect sales. More importantly, are you preparing for 2nd-Gear’s Leviathan Road?”
“Did Kazami or one of the others tell you?”
“No. …Izumo is absent today, isn’t he? Have you heard why?”
“No. Kazami merely said he fell from the rooftop yesterday.”
“That sounds like one of her excuses. …From what I hear, they were doing some kind of training on the roof last night. She said they had figured out the trick to something, but Izumo had to sleep because of an injury.”
Sayama gave a bitter smile. That training had likely been to find a countermeasure for 2nd-Gear’s Art of Walking.
But he had nothing to say about the fact that they had not told him.
“They probably had another strange idea.”
“What will you do? Will you head to UCAT where your runaway friend’s sister is?”
“Yes, that is my plan. I have other business in Okutama, too. I was about to ask the dormitory head to call me if Setsu-kun returns and then speak with Sadame-kun at UCAT.”
“Speak about what?”
“About why I must be looked down on like this.”
Brunhild’s questioning voice and expression elicited a bitter smile from Sayama.
“It seems Shinjou…Setsu-kun does not want to hear what I have to say.”
“There are times like that.”
“But I cannot stand it. And…I doubt that is what he truly wants.”
Sayama spoke his true feelings to the girl he had once fought.
“Who else is going to listen to what I have to say?”
“Don’t be so humble. Someone from 1st-Gear who listened to you is standing right here.”
“Do not misunderstand. I made you and your Gear listen by force. But with Shinjou-kun…both Shinjou-kun’s, I want them to listen of their own free will.”
“You have a serious case of just about every illness I can think of.”
“That is fine by me. They say overcoming all kinds of illness leads to good fortune. …The time has come for me to decide how to face them.”
“Then what will you do now?” asked Brunhild.
Suddenly, the left side of Sayama’s chest vibrated.
It was his cell phone.
He pulled Baku from his pocket and then grabbed his phone.
“It is me.”
“Sayama-sama? This is Sibyl of Team Leviathan. Do you have a moment?”
“Testament. What is it?”
“2nd-Gear has announced the details of the Leviathan Road. The time and place are 8 PM tomorrow in the concept space within Showa Memorial Park. 2nd-Gear’s representatives will carry out joint training with Team Leviathan and its support units. The victor will be the one to acquire Totsuka from the bridge in Susaou’s head. Simply put, it will be a mock battle. What do you think?”
“So the military god has finally made up his mind.”
“I predicted you would say something like that.”
Sayama frowned at the hint of enjoyment in her voice.
“Did the others give different comments?” he asked.
“A few, but one person said the same thing you did.”
“Who was that?”
Why him? he wondered as Sibyl continued.
“Please come to UCAT soon. We must exchange the necessary paperwork and I will prepare the documents related to 2nd-Gear.”
“Testament,” replied Sayama before putting away his phone.
He looked up and found Brunhild looking at him.
“You are going to UCAT, then? I have business there as well.”
“To visit the 1st-Gear reservation? Send my regards to Fasolt and Fafner.”
“That family has recently seriously tried to create pulp from kitchen waste. It smells too bad to get anywhere near their house. And they got into a serious fight and partially destroyed that house recently.”
“Who knew giant monsters were battling so close to home?”
“Yes,” said Brunhild. “But you mentioned a military god, didn’t you? The god-class members of each gear are powerful. Are you trying to get yourself killed?”
“This military god wants us to face him. And if you recall, I once faced a girl who was the god of the underworld and a dragon who could only be defeated with a holy sword. Nevertheless, here I am alive.”
“Not only are you foolish, you’re full of yourself, too.”
“I will take that as a compliment. It was someone who was referred to that way that defeated a god. …And I already know that the ones I am facing now are as formidable an enemy as you were.”
“I see.” Brunhild nodded and expressionlessly continued. “If you have not forgotten that, then I am still the god of the underworld. …But I am one who is no longer opposing you.”
“Then shall we go to UCAT together? I plan to head over once the afternoon group takes over here.”
Brunhild began to nod, but someone suddenly flipped her skirt up.
She turned around to find one of the elementary kids from before. A boy in shorts was smiling at her.
“Yay! It’s the coldhearted girl’s panti-…gwoh!”
“Hm. Starting out with an iron claw? Rather harsh, don’t you think?”
“Sorry, Sayama. I’ll head to UCAT on my own after dealing with this kid.”
Ooki frantically ran over.
“Ahhh! I’m sorry, Brunhild-san! There are just too many energetic and perverted children!”
“Don’t worry about it. No one will be left to worry about it.”
“D-don’t say such ominous things with that cement-like face!”
As Ooki panicked, Brunhild smiled and pointed toward the stand behind her.
“Want to see it? Don’t worry. …I’ll convince you.”
On the north end of Akigawa was a cemetery on a mountain near Oume.
A sign reading Nishitama Cemetary and a pair of guests stood at the entrance.
Walking below the midday sun was a man and woman wearing black. They both had white hair.
One was Ooshiro Itaru and the other was Sf.
As he climbed the stairs to the cemetery, Itaru held his cane in one hand and a bouquet of chrysanthemums in the other.
Next to him, Sf held up a bucket of water in her right hand.
“Itaru-sama, should I carry the flowers for you?”
“Oh? How surprisingly considerate. Do you want to carry them that much?”
“No, not really.”
“Then I will have you carry them.”
Itaru handed Sf the flowers. She placed them in the bucket of water and looked around.
Tombstones were lined up along the mountain slope and a path continued on between them.
“I have determined this is an incomprehensible place.”
“Tes. If this megalithic culture was capable of constructing such ley lines, why was it destroyed?”
“It looks like your brain is tuned to some special program. …Remember this: the culture that made this is very much alive. It has not been destroyed. Also, this has nothing to do with ley lines.”
“So it is a graveyard? In that case, I have concluded it is all the more incomprehensible.”
Sf once more looked across the gravestones.
“If people felt strongly enough about the people to set up gravestones, why did they place them so far outside the city? If you have strong feelings, wouldn’t you place them nearby? I cannot make any sense of it, so I have determined the answer is based on emotions.”
“There are some things you feel are important and have strong feelings about but want to put at a distance. …You don’t understand that?”
“Tes. I cannot understand the actions of distancing something or distancing yourself from something.”
“Is that so?”
“Tes. For example, ever since I was activated in Japan, I have not left a 100 meter radius of you. I have been monitoring your heartbeat, breathing, and body temperature in real time.”
“Oh? I see the Germans install extreme stalker protocols in their machines. I had always thought a maid and her master kept a fair bit of distance, but maybe I was imagining it.”
“That is not something I can understand without emotions.”
“I see, I see.”
Itaru came to a stop at the top of the staircase.
The graveyard lay on a gentle downward slope in front of him.
As he walked forward, Sf continued alongside him.
“My memory says we have been here once before. It was on the way back that we met Sayama-sama.”
“Don’t remind me.”
“Tes. I choose a bow from my different apology options.”
Itaru stopped walking and Sf lowered her head.
A few seconds later, she began to raise her head, but something struck it.
“Itaru-sama, a chop has struck the back of my head.”
“It’s a form of silent communication. Doing things like this is fine from time to time.”
“Tes. But I have determined this was not your idea.”
“Oh, have you?”
He removed his hand and she adjusted her hair decoration.
“Tes. Unless you are troubled, you would not choose to touch me.”
“You remember too damn much.”
“Tes. My ability to brighten my master’s day with as-yet-unknown features is what makes me the secret masterpiece of German UCAT. Please look forward to what you will discover in the future. …Should I add a catchy comment at the end?”
“I would love it if you said ‘die’ or ‘go to hell’ with a smile.”
Sf bowed, suddenly stopped moving, and recorded everything.
She turned her expressionless face toward her master and tilted her head concerning his action.
“Itaru-sama, what is with that weak chop?”
“I used to know a guy who did stupid things like that,” he said quietly as he came to a stop in front of a gravestone. “Sf, give me the flowers.”
She handed him the flowers and he began to place them in the vase in front of the gravestone.
But someone must have been there before them because the vase already contained new flowers. And the bright flowers were not chrysanthemums.
“You wouldn’t understand, Sf. Not that I do either.”
With a bitter smile, he loosened his black necktie that blew in the mountain wind.
“This world is full of things I don’t understand. Not only that, but only me and a few other people even know of the world’s true mystery.”
“The world’s true mystery?”
“That’s right, Sf. Have you never thought about it? This Gear has nothing but negative concepts, so why has it never before fallen too far to the negative side and been destroyed?” His bitter smile deepened. “That Sayama must search out the answer to that question…no, he must search out an even greater answer than that. Those once known as the Eight Great Dragon Kings asked the question and the Five Great Peaks sealed the answer.”
He placed his own flowers in the vase.
“Sf, the water. …No, wait!”
He turned around just in time to see Sf preparing to dump the contents of the bucket on the gravestone.
“But you did this last time we were here… Is there a problem? I even checked my memory three times over.”
“Don’t repeat what every Japanese person thinks at some point.”
“Tes. I understand. You are saying I should not repeat a gag, correct? What gag should we go with this time?”
“German machines are a pain in the ass. …Do it like you’re watering the gravestone.”
Sf pulled a small watering can from beneath her apron.
“Just out of curiosity, why were you walking around with that?”
“Tes. So I could carry out any request you might have. I was correct to bring my S equipment that I take with me on walks. The S stands for ‘stroll’ and the equipment was decided on with a strict lottery. Would you like to attend the next selection meeting? The prize for attendance is a notebook and pencil.”
“UCAT has become a very wasteful organization.”
“Tes. That is a sign of stability. …Hm?”
“What is it, Sf?”
“I only just now notice the name on this gravestone.”
The front of the watering can pointed toward the front of the gravestone. The sprinkled water revealed a name there.
Shinjou sat in a sofa with a jacket on as she waited in front of UCAT’s underground training rooms.
It was currently 4 PM and she was waiting for an opening in the training rooms. The adults around her were doing the same. The men’s and women’s locker rooms faced each other, so men and women of all ages gathered in the lobby.
“There isn’t going to be an open training room at this rate. But I told Sayama-kun I was training today.”
The wall in front of the locker rooms contained electronic boards displaying the status of each training room.
…2nd-Gear is using all of them for official secret training.
As they were preparing to oppose the Leviathan Road, they had top priority. Even Team Leviathan had to wait for a cancellation that might not come.
She wondered what 2nd-Gear was doing.
…They’ve definitely started moving.
That thought eliminated all calm from her body.
She wore white jeans and her legs were crossed. She rested both her elbows on her lap and held a small handheld game system.
A UCAT worker had given her the two-button device. The game took place in a southern ocean where the player repeatedly gathered treasure from the bottom of the ocean while avoiding the legs of a large oceanic creature that was trying to communicate.
But the old and blurry LCD screen would reach game over and stop running after only ten points.
She did not recognize any of the other people waiting.
She looked around and saw that it was truly a strange mixture of people.
Some of them were not even human and those stood out the most.
She then realized something. Ooki, for example, would not show her long ears except in a concept space.
Do they not mix well with this Gear? she wondered. Do Sayama-kun and I mix well?
That last thought caused her to shake her head.
…Why am I thinking such dark thoughts.
She put the game in her jacket’s inner pocket and stood up.
It was unlikely any of the training rooms would open up, so staying would only bring more dark thoughts.
Just as she decided to go elsewhere, everyone around her suddenly stirred.
She turned in the same direction as everyone else and saw one of the labels on the electronic board had changed. The scarlet indicator had vanished and a voice came from the speaker on the ceiling.
“Um, thank you very much for, um, using Japanese UCAT’s training room. Um, what comes next…? Oh, Training Room 7, Training Room 7. 2nd-Gear’s training is complete. The door will open soon, so be careful. The same training room will now be used by German UCAT. Um, anyone trying to force their way in will be… I just said not to go in, you goddamn ape!! Okay, the door will close now.”
Shinjou heard several disappointed groans and her own shoulders drooped.
She took two or three steps away from the others because she just wanted to get away.
But before she could, a new stir ran through the crowd.
A group had left the men’s locker room.
The men still wore UCAT’s white combat uniforms.
A dozen or so men walked out while still prepared for battle.
Their harsh atmosphere silenced the crowd.
Shinjou spotted Kashima and Atsuta within the group.
Kashima stood out at the front of the group because he alone wore a work uniform.
He was explaining some numbers to Atsuta while gesturing with his hands.
Behind those two were a few elderly men with tools hanging from their waists and people carrying computers and large instrumentation on stretchers.
The men waiting their turn commented as they passed by.
“They gathered all of 2nd-Gear’s engineers, didn’t they?”
And then everyone gasped when the next stretcher was carried from the locker room.
It contained a large white table on which a pile of Cowling Sword fragments sat.
It all had to have made up at least thirty swords originally.
The weapons had been created to combat alternate worlds, but they had broken.
“You can destroy those?” someone muttered.
No one else dared speak.
Shinjou stared blankly at the swaying stretchers and the men.
That was when Kashima looked up.
Her gaze met his head on.
She took a step back, but the sofa was directly behind her.
By the time she wondered what to do, he was already right in front of her.
As she stood defensively, he opened his mouth to speak.
“You are Shinjou Sadame of Team Leviathan, aren’t you? Do you have a moment?”
Kashima looked at Shinjou in front of him.
She wore an orange jacket, a white shirt, and white jeans.
He felt it was not just his imagination that her slender frame looked unreliable. She had taken a defensive pose.
…But she’s trembling.
Before entering the training room, Tsukuyomi had informed Ooshiro Itaru when the Leviathan Road would begin.
At the same time, Tsukuyomi had received documents on the members of Team Leviathan.
All of the documents had some portions blacked out because the information was classified.
But Shinjou Sadame’s document had contained a certain note.
…Based on her mentality, it is possible she is not suited for an offensive role.
He had dug further and found that her Ex-St had never been used at its full output.
Most of the retrieved data stopped before reaching the highest output range. The one exception was a single time during the battle with 1st-Gear when the output had gotten very close.
He remembered it had been the same when he had met her in the cafeteria.
She had been standing right next to Sayama when Atsuta had provoked the boy, but she had not moved.
He did not know why.
The blacked out portions of her file may have explained it and they may not have.
The one thing he did know was that she was the one who stood by Sayama’s side.
But, he thought. That boy hopes to fight.
Then what about this girl?
“Shinjou Sadame-kun, we have not met since the cafeteria, have we?”
“Wh-what do you want?” she asked cautiously.
He nodded once to put her at ease.
While thinking about her and Sayama, he spoke.
“Since then, I have chosen to fight. How about you?”
He saw her shrink back at his question.
She let out a short breath and looked up at him with no strength in her eyebrows.
“I don’t know…”
“But you want to know, don’t you? You asked me about my lie in the cafeteria.”
She thought for a moment before answering.
“I want to know? …What answer do you want?”
She was likely asking herself the same question, so he nodded.
As she trembled before his eyes, he spoke as if to teach her and to warn her.
“For the sake of the future, I want the answer to all my questions.”
He thought back and the landslide from eight years ago entered his mind.
“Why could I not forget my power when I tried so hard to forget?”
He recalled Natsu’s hand that he had grabbed.
“Why do I hurt the person who I want to be with?”
He thought of his parents.
“Why do I feel alone when so many people care for me?”
He recalled his grandfather on his deathbed.
“Why do I feel like I am out of sync with this world?”
And he brought back his memories of the past eight years.
“Why do I feel as if I cannot just choose one or the other?”
He asked each question in a calm tone, but Shinjou shrank back further and further.
He opened his mouth yet again as if to draw her back.
As he spoke his final question, he thought of Natsu, of Harumi, and of the future.
“Why do I want to gain everything with my own power even as these questions eat into me?”
Shinjou bit her lower lip and trembled.
She lowered her head as if thanking him. She then lowered her shoulders and let out a breath.
“Kashima-san, do you think you will receive your answer if you fight?”
“I will not receive my answer. I will go out and take it. …It scares me, though.”
She raised her head and looked at him with slight tears in her eyes.
He placed a hand on her head and stroked it gently to put her at ease.
“You do not know whether it is the truth or the lie that makes you fear yourself. But I am sure the person who cares for you is waiting for you on the side of truth.”
He took a breath.
“I spent eight years lying. When will you be able to choose yourself within the fear?”
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