Owari no Chronicle:Volume4 Chapter 21
Chapter 21: Honest Intentions
When your question repeatedly rings out
It resembles striking stone again and again
In which case, what will the answer sound like?
In the Tamiya household, breakfast and dinner were split into two.
The family ran a security company, so they served food for the employees who lived in the house. They would eat once before being sent out and once upon returning.
It was currently 6:00 PM, the first dinner.
Japanese food made by Kouji and those not on duty was laid out on the dinner tables lined up in the main hall.
On the upper end of the table were those who had just returned from their security job and a few of those tables had beer on them. The three central seats of honor were all empty while Kouji and Ryouko sat in the two seats to their left.
Kouji would eat at the later dinner, so he munched on some beans, sipped on some tea, and sighed.
Ryouko ate at this earlier dinner, so she cheerfully swayed back and forth while poking at the food on her plate.
Kouji could not help but comment as he watched his elder sister eat her food.
“Tonight sure is peaceful.”
He lowered his gaze toward those surrounding the tables.
There were currently 51 of them and they were primarily those with day duty and those off duty that day. Adding in those currently out on night duty, there were 77 people total.
He looked at them, looked at his sister, and slowly opened his mouth.
“Everyone, just put up with it all for two more days. Father and mother will be back then.”
Just as everyone let out a sigh of relief, Ryouko’s shoulders rose slightly.
“Sorry, but our parents called a bit ago. They said they’ve taken a liking to the hot spring they stopped by on their way back, so they want us to send that body board. Y’know, the one they bought last year. Here, this has the address of the inn and when they will be back.”
She pulled a note from her kimono sleeve and handed it to Kouji. Kouji’s expression clouded over.
“They won’t be back until next week?”
“Did I say anything wrong?” asked Ryouko.
“No, the blame does not lie with you. It’s just like how the blame does not lie with nuclear power itself.”
“Kouji, try not to mention nuclear power. Look, Shige-san is holding his head and trembling.”
“Sorry, sorry. Hey, could someone bring him his Marxism book?”
Once that was complete and the dinner began again, Kouji sighed again.
“By the way, I hear Atsuta-san stopped by the other night when you were locking up.”
“Yeah, he did. We chatted a bit. How did you know?”
“I met him yesterday and he mentioned it.” Kouji frowned. “But I take it you told him about the young master.”
“I did. Why do you bring it up? The young master is no longer so nervous, so it doesn’t matter if I tell people, does it?”
Kouji’s face paled.
“Sister, do you know why Atsuta-san passed by our house?”
“It was just a coincidence, right? That’s what he said.”
“How do you feel about him?”
“I guess he’s a nice guy.” She tilted her head while Kouji’s pale face stiffened. “When we would play pachinko back in our school days, he would lend me balls. He was also good at getting the slots just right. And when he would go on his own, he would bring back presents for me. It was usually cookies or some other snack.”
“He was trying to lure you in with food. …Anyway, just like old times, do not tell anyone about the young master.”
“Eh? That’s no fun. I need to brag about him to the people in the neighborhood.”
“But you help out the neighborhood and work for the neighborhood association.”
“Stop arguing with me.”
As Ryouko began pretending to cry, a sound came from her right elbow.
Kouji looked down and found she had toppled her teacup and tea was spreading across the table.
“Ah,” she said.
“Sister…” said Kouji with a cold look in his eyes.
“Th-this time, it wasn’t my fault. Wait, don’t lock me out again. Ahh, Kouji! Why are you pulling on my ear!?”
Kouji ignored her, stood up with her ear still pinched between his fingers, and looked around at the others.
“Please excuse us. Feel free to continue eating.”
“Ow ow ow ow! Stop, Kouji! Help me, everyone! I’m the company president.”
“Yes, yes. We all know how important you are, sister. Now, let’s go outside. …Please ignore this, everyone. This is a family issue.”
“C’mon! If you treat a female president roughly, there will be a murder!”
“That murder will occur at nine on Tuesday night and will be solved by eleven. Everything will be fine.”
“Wrong! It will be solved at 10:45! Ow ow ow ow ow!! S-stop! Who do you think pays your allowance?”
“Masa-san from accounting.”
“Masaaa!! Why are you buying people off!?”
That shout was ignored as the sliding door opened and closed. The siblings and their voices soon vanished down the passageway.
A few people calmly wiped up the spilled tea and continued eating.
Shinjou was out in the city of Okutama.
Night had almost completely fallen. Her wristwatch said it was just past 6:30 PM.
The IAI bus was enough to reach the city, but she had opted to walk. She had taken a long route which took around two hours.
If she had taken the bus, she might have run across Sayama.
That was also why she had gone out to the city.
“I don’t know where to go,” she muttered.
She was currently on the grounds of the Hikawa Shrine near Okutama Station. If one left the station, left the roundabout to the south, and crossed the intersection, the shrine was right there.
The bus passed through this area, but the shrine was located near a flowing mountain stream on a lower level.
The vehicles passing by on the road above could only see the shrine’s roof.
Shinjou sat in front of the shrine on stone steps which were chilly from the night air.
As it was night, there were no playing children around and the air chilled her skin.
She figured it was about time Sayama would leave UCAT and return to the school dorm.
He ate dinner at eight, so he always returned by that time.
The only exceptions were when he met Shinjou Sadame at UCAT and ate dinner there.
Because she was currently here, he would definitely return to school by eight.
Travelling from Okutama to Akigawa took an hour and a half by bus and train.
To return by eight, he would have to head for Okutama Station from UCAT at just past six.
Earlier, she had seen the roof of the IAI bus pass by on the road above. It had been headed north, toward the station. That was the most likely bus for Sayama to have been on. Once another bus passed by, she would return to UCAT.
“It’s been a while since I slept at UCAT.”
A nap room at UCAT was Shinjou’s “home”.
But she did not have much there at the moment.
“Setsu took it all with him.”
She held her own body while thinking. She thought about how she did not want to see Sayama and what Kashima had said.
“What will I choose…?”
She bent forward while thinking. She placed her chin on her raised knees and swept sand off the stone steps with both hands.
And then she realized something.
…I want to choose, but I’m afraid to.
Would she continue with her lie or would she stop?
“It scares me…”
She raised her head from her knees and sighed.
Suddenly, a bus passed by on the road above.
It was the IAI bus. Was Sayama on that bus?
“If so, it’ll pull into the station.”
“And he’ll get out.”
She recalled Sayama’s brisk actions. He would make his way into the station only a few seconds after disembarking the bus. As she pictured the scene in her head, she smiled bitterly and muttered to herself.
“This is goodbye, isn’t it?”
She stood up, brushed off her butt, looked around again, and realized the darkness had deepened.
The only light was coming from the incandescent lights on the shrine’s grounds.
She began walking. As the slight night wind washed over her, she silently descended the stone stairs, left the shrine’s grounds, and climbed the slope next to it.
As she headed for the shrine’s entrance, she heard the whistle of the train leaving the station.
Past some external lights, she saw a line of lights moving quickly through the darkness of the mountain. As the train travelled along a raised structure, it headed east toward the city of Tokyo.
Sayama was likely on that train.
…He left without ever knowing I was here.
And that thought brought something else.
“Uuh…” she groaned.
For some reason she suddenly stopped walking and strength gathered below her mouth.
“What am I…?”
What am I doing? she belatedly thought.
She recalled what she had been doing all day.
…And yet he is always looking out for me.
“I’m running away because I’m too scared of the answer I might get…”
That thought seemed to hit her head hard. Her stomach felt heavy and her vision grew distorted.
She felt heat gather at the corners of her eyes, she let out another quiet groan, and she wiped her eyes with her sleeve.
Checking her sleeve told her that her eyes had been a bit damp.
Why had they been damp?
Ahh, I’m completely hopeless, she thought when she realized why.
She held something so heavy in her heart.
“And yet I’m avoiding Sayama-kun.”
She was not trying to speak with him.
In front of the training rooms, Kashima had told her to choose, but Sayama had already left.
“It’s all because I lied…and ran away.”
As she spoke, an unexplainable feeling squeezed at her chest and began to grow stronger.
She could not stand it, so she moved beneath a large cedar tree at the shrine entrance.
“Why was I so afraid of Sayama-kun that I chose my lie?”
She began shedding tears as if providing a release for the painful feeling welling up within her.
A sob escaped her lips and she frantically wiped her eyes with the sleeve of her jacket.
But as more and more tears appeared, she was unable to keep up.
She had no choice but to place the sleeve over her eyes and cover her face.
As if blocking her vision had been a sign, her shoulders began to tremble and her breathing grew erratic.
She began coughing and could not form words, so she thought.
…Sayama-kun. I really do want to see you.
She thought it was silly to think that now, but a scratchy voice finally escaped as she thought about the fact that he had left.
“I want to see you.”
…This is what I really think.
What would he say to her if she did see him? When he asked her something, how would she respond?
She did not know. She simply wanted to see him. It scared her, but she did.
The tears showed no sign of stopping, so she gave in to the crying.
While the desire to see him and the knowledge that she could not mixed together, she tried to lean against the trunk of the cedar tree.
She wanted something to support her.
The voice she heard caused her to tremble and stop breathing.
In Shinjou’s teary vision, she saw a boy and an old man backlit by the outdoor lights.
While holding a sake bottle, the boy approached from the sidewalk in front of the shrine.
Shinjou defensively held up her hands at chest level, but…
She did not step back. She only asked the question filling her mind.
“What a silly question, Shinjou-kun. You wanted to see me, did you not? Would you like to join us? I was on my way to eat dinner at run-down Hiba-sensei’s wonderful dojo.”
“Mikoto, I think you mixed up your descriptions of me and the dojo.”
“Sensei, listen carefully. Appearance is not what matters with people. It is first impressions that matter.”
“That’s the same thing, you fool.”
Sayama ignored Ryuutetsu’s opinion and held his left hand out toward Shinjou.
Shinjou stared at his hand and took in a breath. Her trembling lips moved a few times and she breathed out.
“Why are you here…?”
“Because you wished for it and I wished for it,” he said as the wind brushed through his hair. “If you are feeling pain and I wish to protect you, I will protect you. If you do not wish to be alone and I wish to speak with you, I will speak with you. If you have decided you wish to carry your worries alone and I care for you, I will leave you to be on your own. If you do not wish to be here and I wish to do what is best for you, I will hate you.”
“If you wish to grow closer to someone and I see you, I will stand by your side.” He kept his hand held out toward her. “How does that sound?”
But she did not answer by taking his hand.
What she had thought she had lost now stood before her.
That fact eliminated her fear. She let out a voice that split through the night sky and she leaped toward his chest.
Sayama firmly caught her.
All she could do was shed tears, cling to his chest, and speak.
“I don’t want to…”
She breathed in and repeated her confused thoughts.
“I don’t want to lie…”
Her hands scratched at his suit, shirt, and vest and she pressed against him.
“But…but… If you learn my lie…you’ll hate me… That scares me…”
She sobbed as she breathed in and out.
“Both Setsu and I are important.”
“Setsu is the same.”
“B-but Setsu keeps causing trouble for you. He can’t be with you, but he wants to be.”
She did not know what to do.
“I don’t know what to do… I don’t know and it scares me!!”
“I see,” he said and reached his hands around to her back.
He embraced her awkwardly at first, but then adjusted his grip as if making sure.
As strength entered his arms, she heard a bottle breaking at their feet.
The old man to the side let out a dismayed cry, but they both ignored him.
“I want to be with you…”
Shinjou’s heavy breathing struck his chest and tears spilled from her eyes.
“I want to be with you…”
She could tell Sayama had nodded.
But he said nothing in response. He only patted her back lightly with his left hand. He repeated the action again and again as if telling her to calm down.
And for some reason, she felt the excess strength leave her own body. She slightly loosened her grip on him and her tears slowed. There may have been something nostalgic about the patting on her back.
It felt like nostalgia for part of her own past that she did not remember.
She heard his pulse through the ear pressed against his chest.
The sound was slightly hastened but still calm.
She matched her breathing to his and relaxed further.
She was exhausted.
The weariness rose from the bottom of her body. The sudden tired feeling seemed to fill the core of her mind.
“I’m sorry. I only ever cause trouble for you…”
He only replied once she said that.
He gave a confident nod and spoke.
“That is not true.”
Just as he had in the past, he denied her words. She did not know how to respond.
Should she smile or shake her head?
Before she came to an answer, she lost consciousness in his arms and toppled over.
A large, white space was filled with several large machines.
This was the 3rd Production Room. A single red-hot sword sat in front of the large, flat work table in the center of the room.
It was a thick blade with a length of over two and a half meters.
It was named Futsuno.
Futsuno was split in two. The hilt and blade were broken and separated.
That damage had been caused by an accident during an experiment.
A single man wearing a work uniform stood in front of Futsuno’s broken form.
He was Kashima.
But he was facing forward rather than at Futsuno. He was facing the 3rd Production Room’s entrance.
He was watching five younger people in identical work uniforms.
“Now then,” he said to them. “We have completed the first stage of the repairs. It does not need to be hammered out any more with a chisel, so we will now re-carve the name that the sword lost when it was broken.”
A chubby young man with short hair asked a question.
“Manager, we have the frame for the Cowling Sword, but when will we make the cowling to regulate and direct the power?”
“An excellent question, Katori. But we do not need one for Futsuno.”
Everyone else gasped.
“B-but a concept weapon like that would be too dangerous.”
“The danger is determined by who uses it. When someone’s life is taken, do you blame the weapon?”
One of the others began walking toward Kashima.
The young man was named Mikami and he had a sharp look in his eyes.
“I am opposed to everything that is going on in here.”
“Are you? Why?”
Kashima casually nodded toward Mikami and the young man’s eyebrows formed a harsh look.
“You are being conceited. You assume we are on the side of justice and that it is acceptable for us to wield destructive weapons.”
“Wow. That’s quite something,” said Kashima in a sarcastic tone.
Mikami glared at him for an instant.
But he quickly turned toward Futsuno and spoke.
“Powerful weapons can become tools of killing depending on who uses them.”
“Hmm. I suppose that’s true.” Kashima relaxed his shoulders. “But what if the weapon you create can’t stop our enemies?”
“What will you do then? Will you blame the weapon? Of course not. The blame lies with us, the ones who created the losing weapon.”
The others frowned when Kashima said “us”.
As they all watched him, he looked down at the ring finger and little finger of his own left hand.
“It’s quite something, but there is justice there.”
“In the trust. But not the trust in the weapon’s power. The trust between the one who made it and the one who wields it. For example, Atsuta has promised me he will not kill.”
“Swords are swords and people are people. Weapons exist to fulfill their role as weapons. Am I wrong?” He took a breath. “Do not fear your power, do not fear your weapon, and do not feel overly proud of either one. We create weapons. Our thoughts are transferred to the blades and reach the ones who wield them. So gather your beliefs as you forge the sword and only hand it to someone you can trust. If you do that, they will exhibit only the power we want.”
Kashima took a step back and approached Futsuno and the shimmering of heat rising from it.
He then looked toward Mikami and the others.
As he nodded, he looked at the collection of machines behind the others.
They were machine tools and heat-resistant equipment that they had brought in from the 2nd Production Room.
Noticing where Kashima was looking, Katori tilted his head.
“Is there a problem?”
His voice trembled slightly. It was a weak tremble and the ends of his eyebrows were lowered.
But Kashima ignored that trembling and emotion. He replied casually.
“What is all that equipment for? Don’t tell me you plan to use it on Futsuno.”
“But to work on the high-temperature frame, we need-…”
Katori’s words were cut off by a small laugh.
It was not Kashima’s laugh. The bitter laugh came from behind.
Kashima’s shoulders drooped in exasperation and he turned around.
An elderly manager stood before a white plant base which was tempering metal.
The one-eyed man turned his darkened face toward Kashima.
“That’s right, Kashima. You’ve gotta teach them from the ground up. These kids started down the path of swordsmithing from an intellectual standpoint.”
“What a pain. …Okay, do you all understand your own name?”
While looking at the younger men, Kashima placed his left hand on Futsuno’s blade.
That mass of metal was red-hot and the air above it shimmered.
The five men before his eyes all gasped at his action. But…
“Nothing happened?” asked Mikami with a pale face.
As Mikami had said, Kashima’s left hand was unaffected by the high temperature blade.
“We are sword gods, military gods, and swordsmith gods. You cannot be harmed by that which you are meant to use. With a block of metal that has yet to be made into a blade, you need nothing but a metal comb and chisel. In fact, even that is too much. The more you work through unnecessary tools, the more your conversation with the metal will stray off track.”
Kashima grabbed Futsuno’s broken hilt.
He picked it up, spun it around, and held the hilt out toward the five of them.
“If you believe in your name enough to touch this, you may help work on Futsuno. Got it?”
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