Owari no Chronicle:Volume4 Chapter 26
Chapter 26: Beginning of the Confrontation
Let the festival begin
The sky and moon are excellent tonight
And an excellent will blows through
The chilly night wind brushed across Okutama.
Below the moon, occasional houses produced light along the wind-filled mountains and forests.
One of those houses was the Kashima household. It bordered a stepped paddy field and bright light fell on its yard.
That light illuminated a single figure walking away from the porch.
The figure wore a lab coat. He was Ooshiro Kazuo.
He held something under his right arm. It was a bottle wrapped in brown paper.
He lightly tapped the bottle with his right hand and turned a smile toward the porch.
“This was a nice thing to receive. And we should be able to meet our opponents’ demands. …Thank you.”
Sitting on the porch was an elderly man in a running shirt and work pants. He was Kashima’s father.
He held a cigarette in his mouth.
“Hah. You can take it. It’s my payment for talking about old times for so long. More importantly, are you still up to no good, you perverted old man?”
“I see you’re still as nonchalant as ever, you eccentric old man.”
“Heh. Nothing good is gonna come from a meeting between a man from the first naturalized generation and a man born during the war. You didn’t even come to my old man’s funeral.”
“Yeah, but you had decided not to have anything to do with UCAT.”
Ooshiro’s sulking comment produced a shushing noise from Kashima’s father.
Ooshiro turned a questioning gaze toward him as he looked into the house.
“Aki’s wife is here. She doesn’t know about UCAT, so don’t speak so loud. In fact, get out of here. If possible, just disappear altogether.”
“I kind of want to stick around and see what lies you use to introduce me.”
“Wa ha ha. Is that so? Then I’ll say you’re a new kind of panty thief and throw you in the storehouse.”
“Being thrown in storehouses has been my special skill since I was a kid. …More importantly, what kind of person is Akio-kun’s wife?”
“Excuse me while I go call the police. I need to report a pervert who’s after someone’s young wife.”
“You’re right, Kashima. Turning yourself in is always the best choice. The holding cell is cold this time of year, so I might bring you something hot to eat.”
“You’ll be the one in the cell, you stupid old man! And how do you know the cells are cold!?”
This time Ooshiro shushed Kashima’s father.
Kashima’s father clicked his tongue and Ooshiro sniffed a bit.
“Something smells good. Is that fuki tsukudani? If so, your main dish tonight must be fish or beef. You might add tofu too.”
“Stop trying to guess what we’re having for dinner. Our miso soup has nappa cabbage in it, but we aren’t giving any to you, so leave.”
“Hmm. Can I say one thing?”
Kashima’s father’s expression said “what?” and Ooshiro pointed at him with a serious expression.
“A stingy old man like you must not have any friends.”
“Unlike you, I have friends in the neighborhood association! I’ve heard all about you from Aki. He says you spend all your time in your room playing pornographic games. He’s worried you might not be right in the head.”
“Ah! He’s leaking our secrets! Anyway, how did you respond? You’re not letting him know you know me, right?”
“While pretending not to know you, I told him this.” He took a breath. “Aki, trust in your first instincts.”
“How could you tell him that!?”
“Shut up, idiot. Just get out of here. And don’t you dare come back until my funeral.”
“Y’know, we are childhood friends. Doesn’t that normally lead to a cruel but devoted marriage?”
“Hey, wife! This old man is trying to force me to do gay things with him.”
“Okay, your wife is legitimately scary, so I think that’s my cue to leave.”
Despite his words, Ooshiro smiled as he stepped from the light and into the darkness.
“It’s nice having a conversation like this after so long. My work has been a bit too cement-like lately.”
“Are you talking about my old man? Aki’s been busy lately too.”
“That would be classified information, but I can tell you this is something important to your father and to Akio-kun. And it will probably be important to Akio-kun’s wife as well.”
After a short pause, Kashima’s father nodded.
“Probably so. Aki has already decided to continue with UCAT.”
“Yes. Despite everything that happened, he ended up with a nice wife. I can hear two people cooking. Which one is your wife?”
“The aged noises would be my wife. …Not that you can really tell. Since they got married, Aki’s wife has come here a lot to learn how to cook.” Kashima’s father gave a quiet laugh. “She would tell Aki someone had left her with some extra tasks at work and then come here every day. At first, she didn’t even know how to wash rice, but that idiot Aki thinks she was an excellent cook from the get-go.”
“So she’s good at beneficial lies.”
“How was it with you? You have a kid, right?”
“He’s hopeless.” Ooshiro waved a hand back and forth. “But there are certainly some interesting people other than him. I’m on my way to meet them now.”
“Are they an interesting group?”
“Yes. They are terrible at lying. They can’t even make the beneficial lies. …That’s why I hope they can get along with the people who can.”
Ooshiro turned to the east. From the high position of that yard, he could see a sea of lights beyond the mountains to the east. The gatherings of lights gradually grew denser. Starting from the west, they were Oume, Fussa, Tachikawa, and the city center.
Kashima’s father followed Ooshiro’s gaze.
“Susaou is somewhere in those lights, isn’t it?”
“Yes,” agreed Ooshiro.
“And…all those lights were once lost back when we were kids.”
“They were not lost.”
Kashima’s father looked up. He turned toward Ooshiro, but Ooshiro continued looking at the night scenery.
“If they had been lost, they could not have returned. My father, your father, the people who died among those lights in the past, and the people who survived all made sure that they were not lost.”
“Are you sure that isn’t just the sentimentality of an old man?”
Ooshiro turned around, formed his usual smile, and raised his right thumb.
“No, it isn’t. That’s why I’m on my way to meet them.”
A group was advancing through the forest on the southern end of the concept space.
The group of about one hundred wore white combat outfits and were from 2nd-Gear.
Kashima was in the lead, along with Atsuta who carried the large Cowling Sword named Futsuno over his shoulder.
In his work uniform and lab coat, Kashima typed on his laptop.
“Has the scouting unit contacted us about Team Leviathan’s movements?” he asked while looking at the LCD monitor.
“Team Leviathan has set up a headquarters for their supplies and sent three units out,” said a voice from behind. “The main unit is in the center and normal units are on either side. Each unit has about thirty members. In other words, three of their four total units are headed toward us. That is ninety people.”
“I see,” said Kashima with a nod. “It looks like they are taking this seriously even if it is a mock battle. I thought they might focus on the victory condition and send anyone who could fly directly toward Susaou.”
“If they did that, I’d knock them down. Heh heh heh. I wish they’d tried.”
“I really cannot understand how you think. Anyway, Atsuta…and Director Tsukuyomi.”
“Yes? What is it?” Tsukuyomi stepped up next to him with a long, black leather case on her back. She was smiling. “What should we do? I expect all three of them will attack us from a distance.”
“We do not need to worry about all of them. The units on the left and right are filled with normal people. We will have their central unit advance on us and attack. And then…” Kashima glanced toward the leather case on Tsukuyomi’s back. “Director Tsukuyomi, please drive all four of their units, including the headquarters one, to the verge of destruction.”
“Oh, my. You’re heavily relying on me.”
“You have the surname of 2nd-Gear’s imperial family, so you have the greatest individual combat ability,” said Kashima. “Mikami, Katori, you two begin exterminating the normal units to either side once Director Tsukuyomi attacks. You’ve been making their weapons, so you can easily defeat them.”
“Yes, sir,” replied the two young men.
Kashima nodded and looked behind them. The aged managers nodded at him from further back in the unit.
Those elderly soldiers were in charge of assisting Tsukuyomi and the two inexperienced young men’s attacks.
“Okay,” said Kashima with a second nod. “After making a quick appearance, Atsuta and I will head for Susaou and wait there. If Team Leviathan reaches us, that’s fine. If the rest of you succeed, that’s fine too. I hope to receive good news.”
“Do you really?”
“To receive 2nd-Gear’s Concept Core and release its concepts, Yamata must be freed, calmed, and then re-sealed. I would prefer to do that after 2nd-Gear wins.”
Kashima’s serious expression turned toward the northwest.
Through the forest, he could glimpse the artificial lake in the center of the concept space.
The giant dark shadow that seemed to fill the night was cast by Susaou.
“The question is how much thought they’ve given this. How much do they understand concerning the name Yamata seeks, the concept space left by our ancestors, and what it means to calm Yamata.”
“If they cannot provide the name, they will be roasted on the spot.”
“If they do not understand what it means to calm Yamata, they will be roasted despite sealing Yamata like Ooshiro Hiromasa was. But if that happens, we will protect them. We will ensure they are not burned by Yamata’s flames. And we have Futsuno.”
“Yes,” said Tsukuyomi with a nod. “But why ‘they’? I thought only one person would give Yamata the answer.”
Kashima shook his head.
He was certain the boy he had spoken to in UCAT would be accompanied by the girl who had trembled when facing him.
…Just like I have someone to support me.
He had heard that those two had yet to arrive.
“It will probably be after they arrive that Team Leviathan will get serious. Do not let your guard down.”
As he spoke, he heard running footsteps and a voice from ahead of him.
“The scouting unit has engaged the enemy!”
He looked forward and heard gunfire beyond the forest that sounded like cloth being struck.
“Are those named weapons? Otherwise, they would not do much.”
He stopped walking as he muttered to himself.
As if in response, Atsuta, Tsukuyomi, Mikami, Katori, and the managers stopped as well.
He thought about the solid presence behind him.
…So this is my conclusion.
Or perhaps it was his beginning.
He thought he would never truly know, but he then decided he would go find that out now.
He nodded once and took in a breath.
The cold air of the forest was under the effects of 2nd-Gear’s concepts.
…But it smells no different from Low-Gear’s forest air.
That may have been why his parents decided to live in this Gear. But what about his grandfather?
He removed his right hand from the laptop and placed it against his chest.
The piece of Japanese paper his grandfather had written on was in the breast pocket of his work uniform.
If he faced the past atop Susaou with that in hand, he might find an answer to his questions.
He raised his right hand next to his face.
“Everyone! Japanese UCAT’s development department will now engage Team Leviathan in combat!”
As he faced forward, he lowered his hand and cried out.
“Now, awaken your surnames!!”
In a grassy plain between forests, Izumo and the others began fighting 2nd-Gear’s scouting unit.
Other than their V-Sw and G-Sp2, their comrades were using weapons meant for a mock battle. The guns used mock bullets and the swords had a cowling over the blade.
They still should have caused a decent amount of damage, but…
“It looked like the manufacturing name isn’t a very powerful name!” shouted Kazami as she swung G-Sp2.
The spear had the tip enclosed in a cowling, but it still knocked over several people in its path.
But the other members of the unit did not wield such great power. From the very first attack, they locked swords and were pushed back or their enemy charged in while ignoring their bullets.
The reason was obvious.
Concept weapons used the philosopher’s stone inside to secure their own field of power. That allowed them to retain their power as a weapon under any concept. But even so…
“The bond created by the power of names is too strong! Kaku and I are fine with V-Sw and G-sp2 because their names include the names Vajra Vritra and Gungnir, but the mass-produced weapons only have a model number for a name.”
When a weapon with a name and one without clashed, the named one would win unless there was a massive difference in base strength.
“The enemy equipped themselves with that in mind.”
2nd-Gear was armed exclusively with customized versions of mass-produced concept weapons.
They had decorations added and they all had a name engraved in them.
The young man currently standing in front of Kazami held a weapon named “Special Warrior’s Lightning Sword” and it was producing small-scale lightning.
“Ugh, what a pain! I just have to blow him away before he can hit me!”
She ducked below the lightning attack and knocked him away.
The sensation of that strike told her that G-Sp2 maintained its strength.
And she shouted out.
“Everyone! Raise the output of your philosopher’s stones! Turn off the usage limiter for the philosopher’s stone fuel! You’ll be pushed back at the normal level!”
As she shouted, Kazami moved forward. At the moment, she and Kaku had to cut into the enemy’s front line.
If they could stop the enemy for even a moment, their confused comrades could recover.
And so they went.
She glanced over at Izumo and he nodded.
“After this, the enemy’s main force will attack. Hurry, Chisato.”
“True. But should we really be calling them our enemy?”
She smiled bitterly and looked forward once more.
Four members of 2nd-Gear’s scouting unit had backed away and taken defensive stances.
The battlefield was a dirt ground with clumps of knee-high grass. She only needed to tread on that grass to advance.
“Kaku, you take care of the rest. I’ll deal with those four.”
Kazami whipped up the wind as she ran.
Starting from the closest, the enemies were to the left, left, center, and right. They were all armed with swords.
They were all prepared for her attack and they stared back at her.
They had courage.
She did not recognize them, so she was able to eliminate her hesitation.
As she ran, she targeted the first enemy on the left.
The young man wore a white combat outfit and he attacked with the sword he drew from his right waist.
The blade moved as if to lop off her head.
Kazami used the shield in her left hand to deflect the sword upwards.
With a solid sound and a light impact, the hilt left the man’s hand and the sword flew through the air.
While running with her body low to the ground, she tried to jab G-Sp2 into him.
Suddenly, the trajectory of the sword flying overhead changed.
That white line had supposedly been knocked up into the air, but it was now falling blade-down.
As she wondered what had happened, the young man gave the answer.
“We are sword gods!”
He held up his empty hand and swung it down.
“Stab into her!”
“How naïve,” said Kazami.
Immediately afterwards, the butt end of G-Sp2 jabbed into the air and deflected the falling sword.
“You do not have enough real combat experience. There is more than one way to use a spear!”
She used the point of her shield to knock the young man away.
Her left arm felt a muffled scream and the sensation of something breaking.
As the young man’s body floated up a bit, she slipped past him.
And then the next one came. Another attack came from the left.
The power was produced by a well-built young man. He swung a long sword like it was a bat.
It was a quick movement, but Kazami’s gaze stopped on the blade.
“The blade is wrapped in water!? Please don’t tell me it’s called Tama-chan because it uses the water of the Tama River!”
“No. This prototype Cowling Sword uses the water of the Abukuma River! It is named Abu-san!”
“I think this goes beyond a prototype!”
The water-wrapped blade showed its power.
The water wrapped around G-Sp2 and kept it from moving.
Kazami could not use her weapon.
That was when the third enemy approached from the front.
As his sword stabbed forward, she made an instantaneous decision.
She let go of G-Sp2.
Her next actions happened in an instant.
She used her shield to deflect the attack from the front and then rotated her body clockwise.
She launched a roundhouse kick into the back of the young man swinging the water sword.
Her right backhand slammed into the enemy arriving from the front.
Two sounds of impact rang out.
The water sword and G-Sp2 flew through the air.
While continuing to rotate, Kazami caught G-Sp2.
“Do not abandon me,” complained the spear.
With a bitter smile, Kazami faced forward and swung the spear.
The horizontal attack eliminated the last enemy coming from the right.
She looked over and saw Izumo had knocked the other enemies away and ended the battle.
She let out a breath, but then she gulped.
At some point, countless white figures had appeared on the vast nighttime plain.
At least one hundred white figures stood approximately one hundred meters away on the grass.
“2nd-Gear’s main unit!?”
That was precisely who this was.
2nd-Gear’s main force was lined up. In the center, Kazami saw Kashima, Atsuta, and Tsukuyomi.
One of the three stepped forward.
It was Atsuta.
He held the largest Cowling Sword Kazami had ever seen.
Its length alone was greater than Izumo’s V-Sw.
And he sang as he approached.
“The tuuuunaaaa of the seeeaaaaa are freshwaterrrrr fissssshhhh!!”
His song brought looks of displeasure to the faces of the adults around him, but he did not care.
He held up the sword’s hilt like a microphone.
“The suuuuun sets over the Pacifiiiiiic!”
Once he finished the chorus, he looked toward Kazami with a satisfied expression.
A joyful smile appeared on the corner of his mouth.
“Heh. My special performance sure attracted a lot of customers. Tonight’s a good night. Now, how about another song?”
“Stop, Atsuta. You are being rude.”
“Kashima, are you betraying me?”
“I do not know how this is playing out in your head, but I will gladly bear the title of traitor if it will stop your singing.”
“Is that so?” Atsuta sighed and lightly swung the Cowling Sword up in one hand. “Fine then. We can start off tonight with a single attack from the ultimate weapon me and my jolly friends created. This is the Cowling Sword Futsuno.”
The Cowling Sword slowly cut through the wind and stabbed into the earth.
In the next moment, a 200 meter square area of earth burst apart.
Kazami watched the destruction of the crust.
Before her eyes, the ground broke and peeled up. And it did not stop.
The power of the slice created a canyon as it raced toward her.
She was surrounded by the wind and noise that preceded the destruction.
And riding on that momentum, the slicing attack arrived.
Just before Kazami thought she was done for, a shadow stood in front of her.
The shadow produced a voice.
The shout and sound of impact produced an immediate result.
The center of the slicing power was broken.
It raced past on either side.
The roar and destruction of the earth continued on behind her and the wind pursued it.
But that was all.
Once the wind died down, silence fell and Kazami looked at the shadow before her.
Izumo’s back was rising and falling as he gasped for breath. V-Sw’s cowling had been driven into the ground and the console on the hilt displayed a single word.
Kazami smiled bitterly at that and looked around once more. The destruction of the ground around them was different from that behind them. Starting with where V-Sw had been driven into the ground, a fan-shaped area was much more lightly damaged.
…V-Sw’s destructive power interfered with that breaking power.
But Izumo did not look her way. He faced forward.
She did the same and saw the white army had not moved from their position behind the destruction.
And Izumo called out to them.
“Is that a Cowling Sword created with all the focus placed on cutting?”
Atsuta looked up as he rested the Cowling Sword on his shoulder.
“That’s right. Futsuno would be known as Futsu-no-mitama in this world. If you take Futsu to mean ‘cut’, it means ‘the cutting soul’.”
“In this space ruled by names, Futsuno can cut through anything. Even light and darkness.”
Atsuta picked a stone up from the ground and threw it into the air.
Once it reached a few meters up, gravity began to pull it down.
It was going to hit Atsuta.
Just as it started to fall, he swung Futsuno above his head and through empty air.
The blade did not actually hit the small stone.
But once the stone fell through the path Futsuno had taken, it moved to the right and avoided Atsuta.
“The stone…moved out of the way?”
Atsuta explained it to Izumo.
“Do you get it? I cut misfortune. Swords used to be used as good luck charms because they could cut through misfortune. Do you understand? No attack can reach Futsuno and no defense works against it. If the blade can reach something, it can cut it. You need to keep that in mind, you little brats.”
With that said, Atsuta moved back.
At the same time, 2nd-Gear began to move. The vanguard moved forward and a few members of the rear guard did something else.
A few people in white combat outfits walked up into the air and into the sky as if climbing a staircase.
Kazami spotted guns or bows in their hands.
She made a single decision: she could not let them fly. That was all.
So she took in a breath and bent forward.
If she did not oppose them with the X-Wi on her back, they would achieve air superiority.
She imagined power gathering in her shoulder blades.
X-Wi reacted to her will and the movements of her muscles.
It produced light.
White light overflowed from the two spheres at the top of X-Wi which formed the bases of the wings.
She then looked forward and froze in shock.
There was a simple reason for this.
She had seen a flash of light.
A giant flash of light shot toward her from the front.
She almost mistook it for the dragon’s main canon she had seen in their battle against 1st-Gear.
She tried to ask what it was.
“Get down, you idiot!”
But Izumo’s voice and hands pressed her to the ground.
The next thing she knew, an overwhelming force passed by overhead and swallowed up the light growing from her back.
That force was a white light.
It was a large beam of light with actual mass and a radius of over three meters.
The sound of the racing light was a roar in the air. The scent could only be described as white. And the impact…
The sound of earth scattering behind her eloquently described its power.
When she turned around, she saw a wide gouge in the ground and her comrades scattered everywhere.
All of those who had collapsed were unconscious and not moving.
“Now you’ve done it…”
Kazami looked forward.
She clearly saw one figure standing in the center of 2nd-Gear’s troops.
It was Tsukuyomi.
She stood one hundred meters away and wore a white and black armored uniform.
The elderly woman wore a white cape over her shoulders which fluttered in the wind.
She held her arms toward Kazami and those arms held a certain object.
It was a giant black bow encased in a cowling.
The bow was over two meters long and it formed a powerful arc with no arrow in it.
Tsukuyomi held the large bow.
She needed to draw Team Leviathan’s attention to herself.
After all, Atsuta had fallen back so he and Kashima could head for Susaou. If Team Leviathan noticed them…
…They would at least grow impatient.
That was fine with her.
“But we need you to oppose us properly first.”
As she spoke, she saw a boy and a girl standing on the destroyed plain.
They were the Izumo family’s heir and his partner. Their weapons were the Cowling Sword V-Sw and the Cowling Spear G-Sp2.
Her team had created both weapons.
And based on the data retrieved after each battle of theirs, neither of them was fully using their weapon.
…They have both used the second form only a few times and have not used the third form since the first time they used the weapons.
G-Sp had not shown its third form since being remodeled into 2.
That simply meant they had not met an enemy powerful enough.
…But they might not be using the normal forms to their fullest either.
Their weapons had wills of their own.
Their names were engraved on the cowling and they had fabricated memories in order to establish their wills.
That had been after sealing Futsuno. After learning their lesson from Futsuno, they had spent several years attempting to create cowlings that would suppress the weapon’s own power.
How fully were they using these weapons with wills of their own? How much did they trust them?
“Perhaps I should test that here.”
A smile naturally formed on her face and she drew the bowstring with the smile still there.
She thought on how long it had been since she had last drawn this bow.
“This weapon was created for the Concept War and it has been passed down in the 2nd-Gear imperial family of Tsukuyomi. It is known as the Heavenly Moon Bow and my husband left it behind.”
“And that was its power you just showed us? That’d probably blow through a mechanical dragon, but…”
“Oh, dear. The boring explanations are my job. Please do not interrupt.”
Tsukuyomi laughed. It was a small laugh that could be called a snicker.
“Son of Izumo, I was merely tuning the bow just now. Think about the name I just mentioned.”
“Heavenly moon…” muttered the girl next to him.
“Yes. How about I tell you where the light technology used for your wings came from?”
Tsukuyomi looked up into the sky.
She looked up into the heavens were a round pale light floated directly overhead.
Tsukuyomi felt it was a wonderful and pleasant light.
…I spend so much time underground. I need to take some time to bathe in the moonlight more often.
She then faced forward and looked at the two enemies standing up front.
“I have been drawing this bowstring for a while now.”
“Are you saying you’ve been targeting us this whole time?”
Tsukuyomi smiled and pointed the bow toward the sky.
As she held the large arc up toward the moon directly above, she spoke.
“I have been gathering strength.”
She released the string and a sound resembling a koto rang loudly through the air.
The wind carried the note high into the sky.
“Resound, musical bow of moonlight! Clear away the misfortune we could not make use of during the Concept War!”
The wind blew strongly through the sky and all sound vanished.
In the next moment, countless small lights appeared across the night sky.
That group of lights twinkled like the stars as they appeared on the concept space ceiling approximately two kilometers above.
The specks of light numbered at least in the hundreds.
And they all fell at once.
The lights were not meteors or comets. They were giant pillars of light falling vertically down.
Each one was at least five meters across and the hundreds of pillars were packed thickly together.
“Strike, attack of moonlight!”
As Tsukuyomi shouted out, the hundreds of lights ripped apart the ground.
At the same time, 2nd-Gear’s full force moved forward to begin their own individual battles.
As dust and wind burst upwards, a great noise and a tremor caused the ground to crumble beneath their feet.
The pillars of moonlight poured down one after another and they showed no sign of stopping.
Amid it all, Kazami and Izumo ran.
They ran back in order to move away from their enemy.
It was unclear if their comrades could hear them.
They could see the hammer of light also striking the normal units to the left and right.
As Izumo ran alongside Kazami, he would occasionally swing V-Sw overhead to slice apart a pillar of light falling toward them.
They moved toward a location the moonlight could not reach.
And there was only one such place.
They ran to the forest along the southern edge of the concept space. This was the forest they had walked through to arrive here.
The moonlight avoided the forest as it fell. It was possible the shadows would weaken it.
…Our headquarters are beyond that forest. I hope they’re okay.
But Kazami could not focus on that now. The danger before her eyes took precedence.
The moonlight was avoiding the forest, but that would essentially trap them there.
She did not like it, but that was their only option until they could regroup.
The forest was approximately one hundred meters away and she did not know if everyone could last that long.
Out of the corner of her eye, she could see several other people running just like Izumo and her, but a pillar would occasionally hit them. They would then fly through the air and land sprawled out on the ground.
“That almost looks fun,” said Izumo.
“If you say you want to try it, I’ll throw you to the ground!” she shouted back while still running.
Their comrades who had reached the forest ahead of them were shouting their way.
At first, she thought they were telling her to hurry.
But then she realized they were pointing behind her.
“Kazami! Behind you! Behind you!”
She turned around and saw that Tsukuyomi had fired another horizontal shot. Also, some 2nd-Gear youths were pursuing her with swords in hand. About a dozen of them were spread out in a horizontal line.
“I thought this was a mock battle!!”
As she cried out, the light arrived. Izumo turned around, but he was not going to make it in time.
However, a shadow dashed in the light’s path.
No, two shadows.
Kazami recognized the two people and she spoke a name.
The one shadow nodded and spoke the other name.
“Shinjou-kun is here as well.”
As he spoke, Sayama pulled something from the back of his waist.
It was a Japanese sword with a short, thick blade.
“The old man gave me this sword just now. How will a sword with a name from Low-Gear handle the moonlight!?”
He held the sword backhanded and jabbed the blade forward.
The horizontal beam of moonlight and the trajectory of Sayama’s steel crossed.
This produced a sound similar to a steel wind instrument being struck.
The light was deflected before Sayama’s eyes.
The white moonlight produced spray like a waterfall and scattered.
Sayama pulled back the sword which had split the moonlight and inspected its blade.
It had not chipped, but he had felt a distinct impact in his hand. If he repeated the action, the blade would grow more and more bent until it was unusable.
…I cannot do this much.
Kazami then asked a question as she ran.
“Where have you been!?”
“I will explain later. For now, let me say that our headquarters has been destroyed.”
Kazami frowned and Izumo gave an exasperated sigh.
While those two fell silent, Shinjou elbowed him in the side.
“You’ll explain later? Should I really tell them my identity?”
“Yes, that should eliminate your reservations. And to help persuade them, perhaps I should be the one to tell them.”
“Kazami, listen carefully as you run. Earlier in my dorm room, I spread Shinjou-kun’s legs to check on-…”
Shinjou let out a yell to drown out his voice.
She yelled even louder than the sounds of the falling moonlight, so Kazami looked puzzled.
Meanwhile, Shinjou frantically waved her hands.
“I-It’s nothing. Nothing at all. Sayama-kun is just a little crazy.”
“R-really? Well, there’s no helping it with Sayama, but make sure you don’t catch his insanity, Shinjou.”
“Lately, it has become apparent that the people around me have a twisted picture of me…”
Kazami and Izumo ignored Sayama as they charged ahead into the forest.
But the enemy was still pursuing them.
Shinjou turned toward Sayama and nodded. Strength gathered in her slender shoulders.
“We need to make up for being so late.”
He took a step back as he watched the young men of 2nd-Gear approach with their swords.
Meanwhile, Shinjou also took a step back and spun her Cowling Staff vertically in her right hand.
The two meter white Cowling Staff was named Ex-St.
She rested the bend in the center of the body on her shoulder and she grasped the staff like a gun barrel.
And Ex-St began to change form.
First, six button-style triggers appeared on the right side of the surface.
Next, a grip stuck out on the front left.
Shinjou used that grip to support the staff and hold it in place. She then looked at Ex-St’s gun portion.
The equipment’s designated name was written on side of the white cowling. This was the second name given to Ex-St.
As Shinjou muttered that name, the moonlight fell. But she paid it no heed.
She held up the staff and stared at the enemy.
One of them shouted to his comrades.
“Don’t worry! Ex-St has never produced much power!”
“True. My determination is a bit too weak,” muttered Shinjou. “But that doesn’t mean I haven’t thought of a way to fight like that!”
How could one strengthen a weak attack?
There was a single answer. She raised her five fingers over the six button-style triggers on the outer surface.
She snapped her wrist to the left and right while bringing her fingers back and forth over the trigger buttons.
Each time she hit the buttons, a white bullet flew out.
She fired again and again.
The clicking of the buttons rang out almost like a musical instrument.
As she surpassed sixty shots a second, Sayama let out a gasp of wonder.
“Shinjou-kun, where did you learn that underhanded technique!?”
“In UCAT’s game café! I don’t want to break my nails, so I can’t keep it up for long, though.”
As hit piled up on top of hit, the enemy was swallowed up.
And then it all exploded.
A chain reaction of explosions created a giant wall of light which jutted up into the heavens.
A wall of light rose into the sky. It was 100 meters long and at least 40 meters tall.
It rose up like a pillar of water and it collapsed at the peak.
That light was visible from within the forest.
Four people watched it.
They were away from the battlefield in the eastern forest.
There was a small clearing there.
As they watched the light scatter into the air, a female voice spoke up.
“Tatsumi, those are not fireworks,” said Mikoku. She wore a black shirt and sipped from a paper cup. “Fireworks happen during the summer.”
“Mikoku, I don’t think the season is the problem,” said Shino in a white shirt. She held chopsticks. “In fact, I think what we’re doing here is the problem.”
In front of her were a wooden table, a portable stove, a steel plate, meat, and vegetables. Beyond it all were Hajji in a black shirt and Tatsumi in an orange T-shirt and white vest.
Hajji poured himself a beer and took a drink.
“Well, there’s nothing for us to do this time. Their security here has actually dropped due to the mock battle, so what’s wrong with sneaking into the concept space and watching the transition? Hm? What is it, Shino? Your meat is cooked.”
After taking the meat on a paper plate with sauce on it, Shino tilted her head.
Was this really a reconnaissance mission?
She had her doubts, but the food would taste good all the same.
Next to her, Mikoku was still looking beyond the forest. The older girl finally opened her mouth to speak.
“That falling moonlight was amazing. Father, couldn’t we have invited 2nd-Gear to join us purely as a fighting force rather than for their development abili- That is my meat!!”
“You must not let your guard down, Mikoku. I am a philanthropist when it comes to everything but pork. Hm?”
I see, thought Shino. This is the same as always.
And so she grabbed a carrot.
“Did you make this sauce, Tatsumi?”
“Yes. I asked Alex for his family’s recipe before. I removed some of the garlic, though.”
“Is that so?” muttered Shino.
“Maybe we should have brought Alex with us,” said Hajji as he looked up into the sky. “This place is plenty dark and spacious.”
“He can’t,” explained Tatsumi. “While his body is being messed with, he says merely touching the outside air makes him feel like his body is going to collapse. …He’ll probably be like that for another two months. Also, he can’t eat.”
“C’mon, don’t get so down. You eat too, Mikoku. No matter what we say, it won’t change anything with him. He’s working hard to be modified into the Army’s greatest power, so we shouldn’t complain.”
Tatsumi threw some cooked meat onto Mikoku’s plate.
And Mikoku frowned.
“It feels inadequate without rice.”
Suddenly, something that shined in the light appeared right in front of Mikoku’s face.
Shino realized it was the tip of a blade.
Tatsumi was holding it.
At some point, she had swapped out the chopsticks in her right hand for a sword.
The tip of the white sword and a perfectly honest smile were pointed in Mikoku’s direction.
“I apologize for forgetting that. Would you like this instead?”
Mikoku’s shoulders drooped and she started picking up the meat and vegetables.
Shino smiled bitterly toward her.
“Not even you can stand up to Tatsumi, Mikoku.”
“Who can stand up to a female weapon who can oppose a Cowling Sword with a wooden sword? She even has Alex under her control. You could say she effectively controls all of the Army’s offensive power.”
“I’d appreciate if you at least said you were determined to defeat me eventually. …Plus, you rely on strength too much, Mikoku.”
The woman whose long hair had the sides brushed back smiled. It was the smile of a teacher watching over her student.
At some point, she had switched back to holding her chopsticks.
When Shino noticed that, she commented on it.
“Tatsumi, you’re naturally amazing, aren’t you?”
“Thank you. My master trained me well. In the few years since I came to Low-Gear, I’ve run through the mountains, swam through the rivers, and otherwise nurtured my intuition in the open world rather than in a dojo.”
“So no one can stand up to you. …I didn’t realize you had brought back your wild side in this modern age.”
“I don’t know if you can call me wild or not, but I wouldn’t exactly say no one can stand up to me.”
Tatsumi used her chopsticks to pick up an onion just before it burned. She then placed it on her plate.
“I still don’t think I can stand up to my master and others have caught up to me. For example, you have, Mikoku. Also, there’s my master’s grandchild and the child who treated me like an older sister for a bit. I wonder what they’re doing now.” Tatsumi sighed and bit into an onion. “Oh, it’s sweet. Mikoku, stop eating only the meat and try some vegetables too. I secretly bought only well-known and expensive brands.”
“You secretly bought them?”
“Yes. I managed to get money out of maintenance and general affairs by saying we were having a secret meeting with 2nd-Gear.”
“So if I tell them negotiations with 2nd-Gear fell through, everything will be fine? Hm?” said Hajji.
“Y-you can’t do that!” shouted Shino. “You shouldn’t lie! Mikoku, you can’t eat this meat!”
As Shino shouted, Mikoku used her chopsticks to stick some meat in Shino’s opened mouth.
Shino chewed and swallowed without thinking.
“Now you are our partner in crime. Hm?”
“Mikoku, if you’re going to do an impression of me, you need to give a little more…well, you know. Hm?”
Mikoku ignored Hajji’s comment and asked him a question.
“Father, Susaou is in the center of the lake beyond the forest and 2nd-Gear’s concept core is sealed inside Totsuka on its bridge.”
“And you are wondering why we aren’t going to get it? That’s right, isn’t it? Isn’t it?”
As Mikoku glared silently at him with half-lidded eyes, Hajji continued speaking.
“That is because of Yamata’s question.”
“Yes. Yamata will only give in to one it approves of. And that is why answering Yamata’s question is a gamble. If you fail, you die, but success isn’t a sure thing either. Someone who gave the correct answer in the past was still burned away by Yamata’s distinctive flames. …If Team Leviathan can both provide the correct answer and live on, we can watch how they do it from here.”
Hajji suddenly turned toward Shino.
“Am I talking too much? Well? Hm?”
“I think it’s a good thing on occasion.” She then looked beyond the forest. “But Team Leviathan has it tough. They’re working so hard to collect the Concept Cores while not knowing what we will eventually do.”
“Well, we should probably make an appearance before too long. The Gears we are currently negotiating with and the ones we cannot negotiate with do not know what the others are doing, but their actions are meshing together well as far as I can tell.”
He hid his mouth behind his hand.
“Perhaps next time. Hm?”
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