Owari no Chronicle:Volume4 Chapter 22
Chapter 22: Impetus to Stand Up
You make a decision
You may have done so in conceit
But that is where it begins
Sayama looked up at the night sky.
He was sprawled out while lying on the ground.
I got my clothes dirty, he thought while standing up in his vest.
Turning his head caused a dull pain. And in a lot more than one place.
…That shows just how many times I have been slammed into the ground.
Beyond the cold air of the night, he could see the dark blue night sky and the dark shapes of the mountains.
He was in the outdoor dojo located next to Hiba Ryuutetsu’s dojo/home in the mountains of Okutama.
The dojo was in an elevated area, so the starlight was enough to see the ground.
Sayama stood up and looked over his shoulder while surrounded by the evening dew in the air.
He was inside by a 15 meter square dojo made of wood. The center had been tread down until no grass remained and an old man stood there now.
He was Hiba Ryuutetsu.
His red eye and white shirt showed up best in the night.
His short silhouette showed he had his arms folded.
“What’s wrong? I hope you aren’t going to say you’re too heavy because you ate too much.”
“No, that is not it. Oddly enough, I do not remember eating much of that hot pot we had for dinner.”
“Oh? And why is that?”
“For some reason, a petty monkey came down from the mountains and ate my portion of the food. When I struck him on the temple and called him an undisciplined beast, he dragged me out here.”
Sayama brought a hand to his chin and looked up at Ryuutetsu’s face from a diagonal angle.
“Also, that monkey looked an awful lot like you.”
“Do you have any idea how to respect your elders?”
“Unfortunately, all the elders around me are the worst possible examples. I truly hate the elderly.” He looked back at Ryuutetsu and gasped. “There is an elderly person right there. Could this day get any worse?”
“Okay, Mikoto. I’ll kick your ass for that later, but listen up for the moment.”
“Fine then. Please speak, Hiba-sensei.”
“I’ve given up fighting your mistaken politeness. …Anyway, that idiot Kaoru would occasionally visit here and complain about you. At the beginning of spring in your second year of middle school, he said you got into a fight and wouldn’t speak to him.”
“I was trying to study for the end-of-term exams, but he charged at me shouting ‘revenge for the great pudding!’. I merely slammed him into the counter in response. He said the pudding he had bought had vanished and we began a five hour fistfight. In the end, we discovered the guard dog Pes had eaten it. A dog that can open the refrigerator is bad enough, but I think an old man that hasty deserves to be castrated immediately. It is too late for that now, though.”
“I see that idiot never changed.”
Ryuutetsu’s comment brought a slight pain to the left side of Sayama’s chest.
…Come to think of it, I only know that the two of them were old acquaintances.
Had Ryuutetsu been a part of the National Defense Department?
It is too soon to say, he thought with a bitter smile. But he should have heard my grandfather’s conditions for the Leviathan Road.
Those related to the Leviathan Road could not provide information on Gears unrelated to themselves.
And so Sayama faced Ryuutetsu while still feeling the slight pain in his chest.
“Are you sure this is accomplishing anything?”
“Of course. You were able to reproduce the Art of Walking just from my explanation. Merely knowing anyone can pull it off is a huge step forward.”
This was a simple dojo without a concept space, but Ryuutetsu had merely said “this is probably what they are doing” and suddenly reproduced the technique.
On the level of perception, Sayama could see him more than with Diana or Atsuta.
But it was still too much for him to react.
Ryuutetsu refused to tell him how it was done. He told Sayama to figure it out on his own. That was how it always was.
“I would like to do this once more, even if you do not wish to.”
“You leave me no choice. But I’d rather not stay up this late at my age, you know?”
“I hear your wife caught you watching adult programs late at night and threw you in the well.”
“Don’t be silly. She didn’t throw me in. I jumped in to escape her. It was the middle of the winter, but she still put on the lid and placed a weight on top.”
He approached while calmly speaking.
“It may be a bit late to say this, but I am glad to see you are doing well, Hiba-sensei.”
Sayama moved as well. He took the initiative and attacked.
He aimed for the knees with a left kick.
“Would you look at that? You can give a proper greeting. …But that’s too slow.”
The back of that leg was kicked out of the way.
As he lost balance, Ryuutetsu charged in.
Once the old man got close, he would grab Sayama’s collar and throw him.
So Sayama sank down and placed his hands on the ground in a sitting position.
And he kicked forward with the leg that had been knocked out of the way.
“You fool. I thought I taught you not to throw a straight kick if it isn’t gonna hit.”
With that comment, he grabbed Sayama’s leg.
He grabbed at the ankle and the back of the thigh.
As if righting a log, he lifted Sayama’s body using the leg.
He stood Sayama up.
The next thing he knew, he was standing up and Ryuutetsu stood right in front of him.
“How do you like that?”
“A clever trick. It makes me think you are trying to trick me into thinking you have any kind of skill.”
“You never shut up, do you? You could at least show me some respect.”
With a bitter smile, Ryuutetsu vanished. More accurately, Sayama’s eyes ceased to see him.
But he could still perceive him.
“Listen. There is one way to defeat this Art of Walking. You need to catch on to the trick.”
Sayama then felt someone grabbing the collar of his vest.
“Is this still not enough? Are you sure you were looking at that girl properly?”
Shinjou opened her eyes in the darkness.
She first noticed that she was lying in a futon and that she was wearing different clothes.
She quickly sat up and the futon fell off of her.
The area around her was still dark, but she could see faint pale light coming through a sliding door to the right.
She was in an oblong room that was had an area over 18 square meters. She had been sleeping near the entrance and the only furnishing was a partition screen covered in cursive writing located toward her feet.
There was no one else in the room.
Once she took a breath and looked down at herself, she found she was wearing a white yukata.
The left chest of the yukata said “Hiba Dojo”.
…Then is this inside the dojo?
She had never been there before, so she could not say for sure.
“But I’m hungry.”
Her stomach felt completely empty. That was why she had woken up. Pathetic, she thought while holding her stomach.
Suddenly, a light appeared to her left. The light was accompanied by the sound of a sliding screen and a female voice.
“Are you hungry?”
She squinted as she looked toward the sudden brightness and she saw an old woman entering the room.
She was wearing Japanese-style clothes and she held a tray with a small pot on it.
Shinjou wondered who this was, but the old woman with short gray hair showed no sign of caution.
“I will iron your clothes, so you can wait until tomorrow morning. I was the one that changed you out of them. Kids these days certainly have nice bodies.”
Shinjou saw the woman sit next to her and fix the futon that had fallen to her lap.
After the thick futon was flattened out, the woman placed the small pot and tray on top of it.
Shinjou used a pillow behind her waist to hold her in place and she looked back and forth between the tray and the old woman.
…Where is Sayama-kun?
“If you are wondering about the young Sayama, he is practicing something with my husband in the side yard. It has been two years since he did that. He said there is someone he must defeat.”
…Oh, I get it.
Sayama had mentioned he would ask Ryuutetsu about 2nd-Gear’s Art of Walking. He must have been on his way there after leaving UCAT when he had come across her.
…I can’t believe he would go ask someone for help.
That likely showed how much he trusted this place.
But then she remembered why she was here.
…I said some odd things, cried, and clung to him at the Hikawa Shrine.
As Shinjou thought, the old woman opened the lid to the small pot on the tray. A lot of steam brought the aroma of bonito to her nose.
“Wah,” she said as she looked down at the pot.
“The others had a hot pot, so I made ojiya out of it.”
She saw damp, colored rice with vegetables casually thrown in.
The yellow covering the surface of the rice was likely egg.
“It may not look pretty, but it is a type rice soup without much liquid. You can eat it and go back to sleep. I heard about you from the young Sayama. It seems he wants to speak with you about something, but you aren’t ready yet, are you?”
Shinjou thought for a moment and then nodded.
“I still haven’t gathered my thoughts.”
Despite saying that, she had made a decision in her heart.
That decision was why she had clung to Sayama’s chest.
“I didn’t want to keep lying.” She took a breath. “So once I calm down, I think I will reveal my lie to Sayama-kun.”
With that word, a hand was placed on her head.
It brushed her head.
The reassuring warmth she felt through her hair seemed to push tears out of her eyes.
The old woman let go of her head and rubbed her back.
The hand on her back helped calm down her sobbing breaths.
“I wonder if he’ll hate me…”
“I do not know that, but I do know that you are a diligent hard-worker and that the heavens will help out people like that.”
Shinjou smiled bitterly at that.
“If the tears have stopped, you can eat. And we can keep it a secret that you woke up. You can go back to sleep once you finish eating.”
“B-but I need to get home…”
“Young Sayama contacted someone earlier and said you would be spending the night here.”
He had likely been speaking with Ooshiro. This relieved Shinjou a bit and she smiled bitterly again.
After taking a breath, she realized there was nothing she had to do.
And so she should eat. The problem would wait until tomorrow.
She picked up the spoon and scooped up some slightly dry egg.
She timidly brought it to her mouth.
The surface had cooled, but the inside was warm.
The flavor of the thick and moist rice had a hint of soup stock made from soft bonito. She felt soft noodles between the rice.
She brought the first bite into her mouth as if searching for its identity and something like a plant stalk came apart on her tongue. Sweetness spread out within her mouth.
“The egg is cooked just right, isn’t it?”
Shinjou nodded and smiled a bit.
She then brought another spoonful to her mouth.
She decided to leave the egg for last and smiled bitterly again.
“Have you cheered up a little?” asked the old woman as she rubbed Shinjou’s head again. “You’re a good kid. I’ll tell the others you are still asleep, so sleep until morning. You will work diligently tomorrow, right? So take this time to get some rest.”
Sayama found Ryuutetsu’s comment odd.
“Are you saying Shinjou-kun is connected to the Art of Walking?”
As he spoke, his body was carried forward and he heard Ryuutetsu speaking.
“Have you been looking at her properly?”
“Shut up. I’m asking the question. And you’re not the one to answer it. The answer will come with the result you and she reach.”
Sayama’s body was lifted up onto Ryuutetsu’s waist.
“You are right. You are wrong in the right away. But did you properly face that girl as a villain when you made her cry? You know she was truly crying, don’t you?”
Ryuutetsu pulled him further forward and moved in to sweep his feet out from under him.
“Did you look at her properly just now? Did you see her true side?”
His body was thrown up into the air.
“If you were being a villain properly and you were looking at the true side of that girl, you would know what it means to see things and to not see things.”
The sensation of Ryuutetsu’s grasp suddenly vanished.
“I did it. I pulled it off perfectly. That was an unrestrained unseen throw. Now, break through it. If you don’t, you’ll fall on your head and die.”
Sayama felt as if he had been thrown with all the old man’s strength.
He could not perceive the one who had thrown him and he had even lost track of the timing with which he had been thrown. No matter how skilled his ability to land was, there was nothing he could do without that starting point.
He did not understand anything at the moment.
He did not know in what way he was spinning or how he would land.
Hiba Ryuutetsu was a man who would truly try to finish him off.
Without a doubt, this throw could kill him.
So he had to see that unseen sensation.
Suddenly, he recalled a similar situation. He recalled when Diana had knocked him flying.
What had he said then?
“Why can I not see you even though I am seeing you?”
He had to confront them and think about what it meant to face them.
When he had faced Shinjou earlier, he had replied by embracing her.
When he did, he had received her pulse, breathing, body temperature, trembling, voice, touch, and tears.
And he had gathered his confidence and replied to her words.
…That is not true.
He could not make that rejection if he was not facing her.
And so he thought.
…We faced each other while both right and wrong.
She may have been hesitating and crying in fear over a lie, but even that was right.
So when was it that he would lose sight of Shinjou?
…She is my opposite, so it is when I am not facing her head on.
“It is when I have deviated from you!”
As soon as he grew convinced of that fact, Sayama understood the Art of Walking.
When he brought together the ideas of facing someone and being deviated from them, he arrived at the answer.
“Is that it?” he muttered while using all of his senses.
And he saw it.
He saw the state of his body. He saw the state of his surroundings.
But as soon as he perceived everything, his body slammed into the ground.
An elevated location was exposed to the wind of the night.
It was a rooftop.
Specifically, it was the top the first dorm in the row of girls’ dorms in Taka-Akita Academy.
Two figures stood there. One was a girl holding a mop in both hands. The other was a young man holding a deck brush in one hand.
They were Kazami and Izumo wearing track suits.
They two of them were currently motionless.
Izumo had lowered his large body as he tried to approach Kazami.
Kazami had stopped his movement by holding the mop handle out horizontally between her hands.
The sudden stop of such quick actions had created a tension which hardened their bodies and repelled the surrounding wind.
But Kazami finally sighed and lowered her shoulders.
“I…saw it. I was able to defend.”
“I see. So you saw it,” said Izumo as he stood up.
He had a few fresh scrapes on his cheeks, but he smiled toward Kazami in the starlight.
“Well, that’s the trick to 2nd-Gear’s Art of Walking.”
“But, Kaku. I can’t believe you managed to pull off their technique. You couldn’t do it at all last night and passed out from my counter. Did you have some kind of strange revelation while asleep today?”
“No, it was last night when you were healing my wounds with that sexual-…gah! A-at least let me finish my joke!”
Kazami ignored him, drew back the end of the mop, and smiled.
“Let’s stop making this difficult and keep it simple. …So what is the trick to 2nd-Gear’s Art of Walking?’
“Hm, well…” Izumo folded his arms and glanced over at her. “To be honest, I really want to make a joke here.”
“I see. Then let me give you a useful bit of information. This roof is 16 meters up.”
They both looked over at the fence on the edge. Kazami frowned when she heard Kaku make an indecisive groan.
“Do you want to make a joke that badly? Okay, you can make a small one.”
“Eh? Really? Really? Okay, I need to decide what joke to go with. …Oh, I know! That one’s sure to-…gwoh!”
“Okay, that’s enough. You went over the time limit. Now give me the answer.”
Izumo held his solar plexus and glared at her with half-lidded eyes.
“You want the answer? Well, it’s pretty simple.” He stood in front of her and held his right index finger in front of her eyes. “This is the center of your vision. Got it? …Now watch this.”
Without moving his finger, he slightly shifted the rest of his body to the right.
He then lowered his raised finger.
Kazami’s eyes were not looking at the center of his body. She was looking at his side.
She more or less realized what this meant, so she spoke aloud to herself.
“You move from their vision such that they don’t notice?”
“Not just that. Basically, you deviate from all of their senses and their timing just enough that they won’t notice.” He counted off the examples. “Breathing, movements, pulse, hearing, etc. You alter each individual one just slightly. When it’s all combined together…”
“They can’t perceive you?”
“Right. The more we focus, the more we refine our senses and the easier it is for them to deviate from them. It has nothing to do with speed or strength. If you can’t perceive them, you can’t evade their attacks even if they just walk up to you.”
By the time he finished speaking, Izumo was suddenly standing next to her.
That was the Art of Walking.
“I can do this to you because of how well I know your timing. It would require a lot of training to pull it off against a stranger like Diana and it’s crazy to think anyone can keep multiple people from perceiving them like 2nd-Gear’s Atsuta did.”
“I see.” Kazami nodded and the wind blew through her hair. “So at your level, you can’t peep on the girls’ bath or enter the girls’ locker room.”
“Wh-wh-wh-wh-wh-what are you talking about?”
“You don’t need to get so flustered. Something horrible will happen to you later, so calm down. Anyway, how do you plan to defeat this Art of Walking?”
“You just did it, remember? It’s simple once you realize how.”
“But how well will it work in a real battle?”
“Who knows. But for the moment, this is all we have. We found this one method, so we have to cling to it,” said Izumo. “But the Art of Walking is a sad technique if you think about it.”
He took a breath.
“You can view it as a technique where you flee from your opponent and refuse to face them.”
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