Owari no Chronicle:Volume4 Chapter 24
Chapter 24: Murmur of Tradition
What will be left for you?
And what will you leave behind?
Behind UCAT’s white-walled building was a large green ground that received a lot of sun.
It was a farm. A variety of plants grew there, including flowers and vegetables.
One area grew vegetables in the open and another grew fruits in a greenhouse. However, all of it had been created by workers as a hobby. They had to maintain the plants on their own, so people were almost always visible there.
One person wearing a lab coat sat in front of a flower bed near the forest to the west.
It was Tsukuyomi.
The flower bed in front of her contained a few budding chrysanthemums with the stems and leaves extending from them.
She nodded in satisfaction while looking at the flowers.
“Dear, today is finally the day. We are having the Leviathan Road with Low-Gear.”
She spoke quietly while pulling an old photograph from her pocket.
The photograph showed a man and her while she was still young.
The IAI building stood in the background of the photograph.
“I was the only one that knew nothing until you died in that earthquake.”
She sounded regretful as she looked back and forth between the photo and the flowers.
Suddenly, she realized someone was approaching her.
The woman walking toward her wore a black suit and Tsukuyomi recognized her.
Hearing her name, Diana turned around and stopped next to Tsukuyomi.
“I appear to be rather well known. You are the development department’s director, correct?”
“Yes. Anyone at the director level would know who you are.” Tsukuyomi stood up and took a step back. “You are the witch that forcibly reformed German UCAT back in ’96. Shortly after that, Sf was created and several types of spell weapons were developed in Germany. I hear all of that was your doing.”
“Oh, my. I take it you do not know anything about me before that.”
“Before that? You mean during UCAT’s blank period?”
“That’s a secret.” Diana stuck out her tongue a bit. “I still have no intention of telling anyone who does not already know what happened back then. …And I merely wanted to take a nostalgic walk today. Let’s remain silent.”
The witch looked down at the flowers with a smile.
After seeing Tsukuyomi look at them too, she spoke.
“Did you plant these chrysanthemums, Director Tsukuyomi?”
“My husband left them behind. …Did you plant something here long ago?”
“Yes. I planted one of those child-shaped things that yells when you pull it out. …Why are you backing away?”
“There aren’t many of the occult type in the development department.”
Diana nodded and gave a bitter smile.
She crouched down to look closer at the chrysanthemums. After a few seconds, she spoke as if asking for confirmation.
“A lot is going to happen today, isn’t it? I am going along to inspect.” She took a breath and held her hands out toward the flowers. “Your Gear is choosing a path it cannot turn back from. Why?”
She was obviously testing Tsukuyomi with this question, so Tsukuyomi did not immediately answer.
Tsukuyomi turned toward the back of the UCAT building past the farm and relaxed her shoulders.
“It seems our people have been making swords for UCAT all this time. …As a descendent of the former imperial family, I have some thoughts about the destruction of 2nd-Gear.”
“As a member of the imperial family, you want power instead of peace? Is that why you have agreed to this?”
“Yes, I feel that is best.” Tsukuyomi smiled bitterly toward the ground. “And I have to support the children who are worrying over the same thing, don’t I?”
Diana replied to her joking tone with a small laugh.
That laugh sounded pleasant to Tsukuyomi. It was a decent and authentic laugh.
“Then watch carefully,” said Diana. “Watch the children with the surnames Sayama and Shinjou.”
“Do you know something about those two?”
“A bit,” replied Diana. The warm mountain wind brushed up her hair. “Someone with the surname Sayama once appeared before me. And…”
As the wind blew, she paused to choose her words.
“During the great Kansai earthquake, those who wished to be with him chose a path that held no reward.”
“Eh? During that earthquake?”
Hearing that question, Diana stood up and bent her eyes in a smile.
“That is all I can say.”
“Th-then at least tell me this.” Tsukuyomi could not hide her hurry to ask. “The people who, like you, were with Sayama… Were they happy? Even if they received no reward?”
Diana responded with a question of her own.
“Isn’t that what you are on your way to find out?” She took a breath. “Just like 1st-Gear did, choose a path from which you cannot turn back and then find out for yourself. Find out just what kind of villain their child named Sayama is. …I hope the answer you find is the same as that of the person you care for.”
Diana gave a slight smile and turned her back.
Tsukuyomi sighed as she watched the woman walk silently away into the farm.
She looked down and saw one of the moon-like white chrysanthemums had bloomed.
UCAT’s design room was almost completely deserted.
The clock on the wall indicated it was past noon. Everyone had finished producing weapons for the mock battle. This was the time for making final checks over one’s own equipment and resting before the battle.
But one man still remained within one of the partitioned spaces.
It was Kashima.
As always, he wore a lab coat over his work uniform, but he did not hold a chisel or a laptop.
He held a bundle of Japanese paper. The paper was the contents of the thick envelope his parents had given him.
He had flipped through over half of the bundle and was on his way to being done. After completing the repairs to Futsuno, he had begun checking through this without taking a rest.
He had not gotten any sleep, but he was surprisingly focused.
He could clearly read the list of names on the Japanese paper before his eyes.
“This handwriting is very tidy.”
…Was this written by Ooshiro Hiromasa who once opposed my grandfather?
Two mysteries floated in Kashima’s head.
“Why did my grandfather ask for forgiveness on his deathbed?”
“What was in the box on Susaou’s bridge that he mentioned?”
Hoping for a hint, he was using the free time before the mock battle to work through these papers.
The writing on the paper was definitely what Ooshiro Hiromasa had written sixty years before.
But the handwriting looked a bit off in places.
The handwriting was confident and steady, but the formation of the characters looked somehow off.
Kashima tilted his head as he arrived at a theory.
He removed his glasses and looked at the paper. In his blurry vision, the writing looked fine.
…Was Ooshiro Hiromasa losing his vision?
He did not know why. It could have been overwork, malnutrition…
“Or did some bright light burn his eyes?”
Had Kashima’s grandfather known about this?
He gave a long sigh and sat up in his chair.
He flipped another page over.
Only a dozen or so pages remained in his hands.
He looked over the one or two names given and repeated the process about ten more times.
He was fast approaching the final page.
It seemed to have gone by too quickly. He had not found anything of use.
He nodded once while coming to a reluctant understanding.
But he still resolved himself and flipped to the next page. It would be over soon.
His action revealed the second to last page.
He saw the name written on the white paper that had visible plant fibers.
He recognized the name.
The name was written in katakana. Seeing the name caused his pulse to quicken.
Hadn’t he disliked Ooshiro Hiromasa, hated 2nd-Gear’s full acclimation to Low-Gear, and refused to spell the name Kashima with kanji? Then why was this spelling of the name written here by Ooshiro Hiromasa?”
“Could it be that the katakana spelling was given to him by Ooshiro Hiromasa?”
Kashima did not know. And without an answer, he flipped the page to look at the final page. He hoped for an answer there.
But he did not find an answer.
The final page had a name written on it.
But the handwriting was not Ooshiro’s.
It was the messy, shaky handwriting of someone unfamiliar with the characters. And from the large X over it, it appeared to be a failed attempt.
Kashima recognized the messy, shaky handwriting.
“That’s my grandfather’s handwriting.”
Kashima looked at the name behind the X of rejection.
He looked at the name his grandfather had written.
The midday sunlight poured down, but there was one place it did not reach: the Kinugasa Library.
It took up eight classrooms’ worth of space and was located on the first floor of Taka-Akita Academy’s 2nd year general school building.
The walls and windows were covered by bookcases. For the All Holiday Festival, it would become a rest area during the afternoon.
However, only a few people were currently inside the library.
In the center at the lowest level of the stepped floor, Sayama, Izumo, and Kazami sat around a table.
Piles containing hundreds of pieces of copy paper sat in front of Sayama.
These were the contents of the floppy Tsukuyomi had given him the day before. He had already looked through them, but…
“I can’t. Even if the countless names are sorted by job, there are too many of them.”
Beyond the copy paper, Kazami looked at him with a fed up expression.
“But you seem to be in a good mood. Did something happen?” she asked in a puzzled tone.
“Yes. Shinjou Setsu-kun will be returning this evening. To be honest, I am a bit relieved.”
As Kazami nodded, Izumo held a bunny picture book far enough away to not hurt his eyes.
“Seeing him sleep with his eyes open is strange, but I’m getting sick of the joke.”
“At least he is gradually gaining more variation.”
“Anyway.” Kazami tapped the documents in front of her. “Ooshiro-san’s father realized Yamata’s true name when looking through this, right?”
“Yes, but these are the names of the countless gods making up 2nd-Gear. …It is not Kusanagi or Murakumo like we expected.”
“What if Yamata’s true name is one of these names rather than Kusanagi or Murakumo?”
“Then I will be roasted alive by Yamata.”
Kazami fell silent but shrugged in annoyance.
Someone then walked up next to them.
It was Siegfried. He wore his usual black vest and shirt and he placed three paper cups of coffee on the table.
“It appears you are having difficulties,” he said in his low voice. He nodded. “But I cannot help you.”
“Did you only come over here to mock us?”
“I merely do not want any unneeded expectations, so I felt it would be best to remind you.”
“Thanks for the consideration and the coffee.”
Kazami took a cup and turned toward Izumo.
She then held the cup up to Izumo’s ear as he slept in a perfect reading pose.
“I just have to bend the edge of the cup and…out it pours!”
Izumo shot to his feet while holding his ear.
“Y-you idiot! Wh-what the hell did you do!?”
“You wouldn’t have woken up otherwise.”
“Y-y’know, Chisato. I’m going to give you a wonderfully rich and happy life in the future, so you need to be careful.”
“Sorry, Izumo. I just checked the future with a time machine and you were living under a bridge.”
“Y-you need to bring an end to those crazy delusions.”
“Say that into a mirror next time, Kaku.” Kazami sighed and asked Izumo a question. “What do you think?”
“Think about what? …Wait, Chisato. Cracking your knuckles like that will mess with the shape of your fingers, so you should really stop. More to the point, I’m opposed to violence”
“Tch. …Fine then. What do you think Yamata’s name is?”
“Isn’t it either Kusanagi or Murakumo?”
“And what do you think about the papers in front of you?”
Izumo looked at the piles of paper on the table.
“They’re Kusanagi or Murakumo, right?”
“Hm? What do mean?” asked Kazami.
Izumo looked up at the ceiling and thought about what he had said.
“Huh? …I was just making something up, but I guess it didn’t really make sense.”
“U-um, Kaku? Could you try to think before you speak next time?” Kazami looked troubled and then tilted her head. “There isn’t anything weird in this coffee, is there?”
But Sayama realized something while watching the two of them.
…This must be what Izumo was trying to say.
“So if you gather all of these countless names together, they mean either Kusanagi or Murakumo?”
“Yeah, that’s it! That’s exactly it, Sayama! You’re pretty sharp. I wouldn’t expect anything less of the vice president who works under me.”
“Kazami. Afterwards, the treasurer should give a beating to the idiot who works above me.”
“Now’s fine with me.”
But Siegfried shook his head next to her.
“Listen,” he said admonishingly. “People wishing for rest will arrive in the afternoon and normal library guests will come by. I cannot have the library covered in rubble and bodily fluids when they do. Take any violence outside.”
Siegfried’s instructions brought a displeased look to Izumo’s face.
But Sayama ignored him, folded his arms, and spoke.
“Going back to what Izumo said, his reasoning may have been doubtful, but his conclusion is fairly likely. The countless names may be under the control of the power held by the name Kusanagi or Murakumo.”
“Eh? But that power is the wind, right? Are they really under the wind’s control?” asked Kazami.
“The wind is ever changing, Kazami,” he said with a smile.
“You mean it is in a constant state of flux?” asked Siegfried.
Sayama nodded and spoke to Kazami and Izumo who did not seem to understand.
“Something with no form. Something that is always changing. That which comes and goes. The wind is a symbol of all those things. Is that not the perfect power for that which brings together all the assorted gods, including the weather and their skills?”
“Also, the wind provides the power to increase flames and call in the rain to extinguish them. In that way, Kusanagi and Murakumo are both good terms to control Yamata.”
Sayama thought as he looked at the piles of copy paper.
…Did Ooshiro Hiromasa ask a certain question when he saw all these names?
What was 2nd-Gear if it ruled over all these things?
That thought brought Sayama relief.
They had already predicted it, but now he had support for their thoughts.
“But the real question is which name is the truth of 2nd-Gear. Are the countless gods of 2nd-Gear ruled by Kusanagi which travels along the earth or Murakumo which travels through the heavens?”
“In other words, are they gods or are they men?” asked Kazami to no one in particular.
At that point, someone opened the library door and entered.
The person looking around for someone was Ooki.
“What is it, Ooki-sensei? Have you made yet another clumsy mistake?”
“N-no, I haven’t.”
Ooki walked over with long strides and held out an envelope.
“The dormitory head gave me this just now. It is a personal letter for you, Sayama-kun.”
Confused, Sayama took the envelope and frowned when he saw the sender’s name.
It said “Shinjou Sadame”.
Two people stood in the large lobby on the first floor of UCAT headquarters.
One was Shinjou who wore an orange jacket, a white shirt, and a skirt. The other was Ooshiro who wore a lab coat.
Ooshiro scratched his head below the painting of the Virgin Mary.
“2nd-Gear has begun preparing for the mock battle, so should you really be here?”
“No, I shouldn’t. …But I am about to bring an end to something important.”
“Bring an end to something important?”
Shinjou nodded, lowered her head, and chose her words carefully.
“Setsu called Sayama-kun and told him to wait at school until 5:00 PM,” she said. “But Sadame sent him a letter telling him to come to UCAT’s rooftop at 4:00 PM so she can tell him something important.”
Shinjou understood why.
“Yes. It takes an hour and a half to travel between school and UCAT. …Sayama-kun will have to choose between Setsu and Sadame.”
“Are you okay with that?”
“Yes,” she answered after a short pause.
But she smiled while lightly pinching the edge of her skirt.
“I know which one he will choose.”
“So if he contacts you, don’t let him talk to me. I want to reveal my lie once he chooses.”
Shinjou looked further into the lobby.
A red-tiled staircase was located to the side. If she climbed that staircase past the fifth floor, she would arrive at the rooftop.
She muttered to herself while looking at that staircase which disappeared upwards.
“This is my answer, isn’t it?” She sighed. “Itaru-san took me in, but I wonder what he would think about me casting aside Setsu.”
“I don’t know,” answered Ooshiro with a sigh.
Shinjou turned toward him and he looked at her with the ends of his eyebrows lowered.
“Don’t give me that look, Ooshiro-san.”
She nodded toward his disappointed look and spoke cheerfully so he would not worry.
“I’m on my way to give my answer.”
It was 2:10 PM.
After checking Shinjou Sadame’s letter in his dorm room, Sayama needed to make a decision.
He had to choose between Sadame and Setsu.
“She wants to tell me something important, hm?”
Sayama sighed after repeating what Sadame had written in her letter.
He turned toward the empty bed.
“Isn’t this too sudden Shinjou…Sadame-kun? I wanted to speak with Setsu-kun as well.”
He reached for the desk next to the bed and picked something up.
It was something Shinjou Setsu had left with him.
“This may be the perfect time. I will make up my mind how I will face you as well.”
As he looked at what he held, Sayama regulated his breathing.
He prepared to silently face something.
And he slowly spoke a single question.
“Do you remember what it means to tell a story, Shinjou-kun?”
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