Owari no Chronicle:Volume4 Chapter 30
Chapter 30: Place of Yearning
The past is heard and seen.
The present is felt.
Then can nothing be done about the future?
On the grassy field that had been the first battlefield, Team Leviathan and 2nd-Gear ended their battle which had developed into individual versus individual.
At the center of them all, Sibyl stopped singing and looked up.
She wiped sweat from her forehead.
She frowned and tilted her head as she looked past the forest to the north.
There she saw the five hundred meter giant named Susaou.
A loud noise had just come from there.
It had been a metallic noise.
The deep noise had reverberated in her stomach and it repeated again and again.
The noise showed no sign of stopping.
In front of the lake from which the metallic noises came, two new people stood in the clearing Sayama and the others had previously fought in.
They were Izumo and Kazami.
Kazami held V-Sw and G-Sp2 in her arms and Tsukuyomi’s Heavenly Moon Bow over her shoulder.
G-Sp2’s console displayed a few words.
“You shouldn’t say that to a girl.”
With that annoyed comment, she looked to the right where Izumo carried someone on his back.
It was Tsukuyomi. As she rested her chin on his head, Kazami spoke to her.
“Director Tsukuyomi, hurting your back is pretty lame.”
“I have a slim waist. I’m not like you modern athletic girls. And more importantly…”
Tsukuyomi looked toward the pier built out over the lake.
A man sat cross-legged on the weeds while facing a laptop.
It was Atsuta. He was tilting his head.
“What is with this card game? It’s gotta be cheating. I can’t win.”
“Atsuta, stop bragging about your stupidity and tell us what happened. Where are Kashima and the other two? What are these noises?”
“Just look. There’s no place for me there.”
He raised his hand and pointed the thumb behind him.
Tsukuyomi frowned at the giant form standing in the darkness below the moon.
“Are you saying these metallic noises are what I think they are?”
“That’s right. They’re literally having a final battle at the peak.”
Atsuta twisted his head around to look behind him.
At the same time, something like white mist burst out from the stomach portion of Susaou.
Kazami knew what it was.
“That’s the steam explosion from an object moving at high speed.”
It was followed by a metallic noise. It reverberated in their guts and sounded like something breaking.
And the battle continued.
As Kashima continued the clash of metal, he moved further and further up the giant mass of metal.
He climbed Susaou.
A zigzagging staircase was built into the side of the giant parts making up its 500 meter form.
The metal staircase was about a meter wide. The corrosion from the past made his footing unreliable.
“But that is a meaningless obstacle for a military god and the one fighting him.”
As he spoke, he looked down the stairs at the boy pursuing him.
In his pursuit, the boy ran, kicked off the ground, and even dashed across the railing. All the while, he battled using the sword in his hand.
Kashima felt he was an excellent opponent.
Kashima himself knew almost nothing about wielding a sword, but the sword taught him everything he needed to know.
As a military god, a sword was something like a servant. It would teach its bearer how to use its power. It provided him knowledge, experience, and technique.
He could fight.
As he stepped, he felt the metal below his feet.
His own body fought his enemy amid the wind.
Everything rang out like music and moved like dance.
As he ran further and further up, his vision grew higher and higher.
They had already arrived at Susaou’s chest.
Another hundred meters and they would be at the bridge in the head.
They were close.
And the closer he came, the faster his pulse grew.
The feeling that had once made him tremble now felt wonderful.
…I yearn to reach that place!
He swung Futsuno.
He swung the blade into the air to catch a strike from above.
The two blades clashed and a metallic noise rang out.
Sparks flew and a pleasantly hard impact reached his hand.
A roar filled his ears for an instant and white smoke exploded from the path his blade had taken.
How fast were they moving? He did not know and he did not care to know.
He merely continued upwards.
The next thing he knew, his vision was even higher.
From his position approximately four hundred meters up, he could see the moon, the bluish-black sky, and the landscape spread out below.
“So this is Tokyo at night.”
The gathering of lights to the east was the city center.
Those lights had once been lost during World War Two.
Bu he did not know much about that.
He only knew the stories about the Concept War that his grandfather had told him.
He smiled bitterly.
Still smiling, he moved his gaze westward.
He saw more lights in the night.
The lights of Tokyo drew a line from Nakano, Mitaka, Kokubunji, and to Tachikawa where he was.
The lights continued to shrink in number as they went further west.
The city lights continued to Haijima, Oume, and then to the mountains of Okutama.
Natsu and his family were in Okutama beyond the mountains.
Kashima wondered what they were doing.
They would never imagine he was fighting in a place like this.
…I will always lie to them like this.
He was sure he would never tell them the truth.
He would continue lying by never telling them about today’s battle, the things which had come before, and the things that would come after, but he gained something from it.
“Isn’t that right?”
With that unintentional question to his enemy, he swung Futsuno.
The enemy caught the metallic reverberation and Kashima felt the impact in his hand.
The vibration reached his head as he thought.
…What ending do I want?
He was no longer 2nd-Gear or Low-Gear. He was in an uncertain state.
Could he receive an answer while lying in an attempt to gain both?
…What if I don’t get an answer?
He asked himself the question he could not ask.
But he threw the question at himself and muttered his newest answer.
“That would be fine too.”
A certain woman and a certain baby appeared in his heart.
He could not believe his thoughts were on them in the middle of this crucial battle.
…I want to see you.
…I want to see you, Natsu-san, Harumi. My family.
He nodded while looking to the western lights where that family was.
He would return.
Once this battle was over, he would return.
…But not to 2nd-Gear or Low-Gear or anything like that.
He would return to where they were.
When he returned the next morning, he was sure to be starving.
He wondered if Natsu would cook him breakfast at his parents’ house.
She could make freshly cooked rice and miso soup, but his parents would not have any fish. In that case, she could cook eggs and vegetables. The boiled bamboo shoots wrapped in cured ham from before had been quite good.
…Ahh, that sounds wonderful.
When he returned home, that would be waiting for him.
As the swords clashed and sent out metallic noises, Kashima thought.
…Natsu-san, Harumi. I will make sure to return to you. And then we can eat a meal together.
But there was something he had to say first. That phrase would act as the proof that he had returned to his proper place.
It was a simple phrase rather than a name and he needed to say it.
He needed to say “I’m home”.
…I will return so I can say that phrase, so wait for me. Wait for your lying husband, my lying wife and our child. I will not return to any group or any Gear. I will return to you.
“I will make sure of it!”
As the guest, Natsu felt closing the porch storm shutters was her duty.
There were eight of them and they were hard to close. By the time she had finished closing them all, she had worked up a slight sweat.
After closing the last one, she stuck the wooden key in the eaves and glanced at her left hand.
That hand was missing the little and ring fingers. She always lacked some strength when closing the storm shutters.
She sighed just as Kashima’s mother called out to her from behind.
“Thank you, Natsu-san. I kind of wish you could stay here forever.”
“I would like that too, but Akio-san would never agree.”
“He’s an idiot, but he does have his pride.” She smiled bitterly. “But tell him we’ll hire him if he’s fired. The farm is shorthanded and short an heir.”
She prepared three floor cushions in the living room bordering the porch. Three cups of tea had already been prepared.
After Natsu thanked her and sat, Kashima’s mother sat on one of the other two cushions.
Kashima’s father then appeared from the hallway wearing a yukata.
“Is Haru-chan asleep?” she asked him.
“Yeah, she is, she is. I’ve always been an expert at getting kids to go to sleep. With Aki, I’d always squeeze this part of his neck and…”
“Quiet down, old man. Just sit down.”
He obediently followed his wife’s instructions.
He lowered his shoulders and trembled as he sat politely next to her.
“Do you know why I called you here?’
“B-because you were lonely?”
Natsu realized Kashima’s mother was looking at her.
The old couple then sighed in unison and corrected their posture.
“Once again, we must ask you to please take care of Kashima Akio.”
They placed their hands in front of them in a sitting bow.
Natsu frantically reached out her hand.
“U-um, please stop that. I, uh, would also like to…”
She placed her own hands forward and lowered her head as if starting a competition over who could bow lower.
After ten seconds like that, all three of them sat up.
The edges of Natsu’s eyebrows were lowered.
“What is this about?”
“We can do this as many times as we have to. Aki said he was going to take his work seriously, so he will probably end up neglecting you a bit,” said his mother. “Also, he will probably lie to you about a lot, so we would like you to…”
“You don’t need to ask me to forgive him for that,” said Natsu. Her expression had calmed and she brought a hand to her chest. “I lie to him about a lot too.”
“Like your cooking?”
“Not just that, father. Girls have plenty of lies boys don’t know about.”
“I don’t like the sound of that.”
He laughed and Natsu nodded.
“And I have been telling him one very major lie.”
“One rainy night while riding a bus on a road down below here, I was caught in a landslide, remember?”
Kashima’s parents exchanged a glance.
“Th-that’s true,” said his father with a troubled look. “You were on your way to investigate some ruins up above, right?”
“Yes, that. …Well, the lie I mentioned is old enough now that I can tell you. On the night of that accident eight years ago…”
She lowered her head a bit and looked away from them.
“I was not actually on my way to the ruins.”
She looked up to meet their silent gazes.
“I told my parents I was going to the ruins, but I actually intended to come here. Since graduating, I had exchanged letters with Akio-san, but I still wondered how he was doing… I planned to visit him at night, have him see me home, and…”
As she spoke, she could tell her cheeks were growing redder and redder.
“Thinking back, it was incredibly improper.”
“And after the accident, I was shocked when the person who saved me was the person I wanted to see most of all.” She nodded and spoke quietly. “Everyone thought I was in an accident on the way to the ruins and he ended up helping me with my rehabilitation. And then he asked me to marry him.”
She lowered her head again.
“So I was scared.”
“I was on my way here with such improper plans and the accident felt like punishment for that, but he stayed with me without knowing or asking about the truth.” She took a breath. “I am not the type of woman he thinks I am. I know nothing of the world, I am always pretending to know what I am doing, and I have indecent thoughts. And yet he married me.”
She wrapped the fingers of her left hand in her right hand.
“And for some reason, I became afraid to ask him why he married me.”
She took a breath and found Kashima’s parents were looking directly at her.
“Ah.” She frantically separated her hands and waved them back and forth. “U-um, that is no longer the case. I can only talk about it because I’ve gotten over it.”
“Have you? But…”
“Yes, I am fine now. I got over it as soon as Haru-chan was formed inside me. It may be unfair, but having a child made me feel like there was something other than pity and responsibility between us.”
She gave a bitter smile.
“And if you didn’t care for someone, you wouldn’t video tape the child you had with her and you wouldn’t make sure to come home every day, would you? And I realized something. Every time he comes home, he makes sure to tell me ‘I’m home’, and when we eat, he makes sure to thank me for the meal. He had always done this, but I had never been watching closely enough.”
“I guess even Aki can come in handy sometimes.”
“Oh, but I refused to talk to him for three days when he bought the video camera without asking.”
Her smile lost its bitterness and she stretched her back.
“In the beginning, it may have been a lie and it may have been real, but now Akio-san, Haru-chan, and I are a real family.”
“Yes,” said Kashima’s mother with a nod and a slight smile. “You put a lot of effort into this, didn’t you?”
“No.” Natsu shook her head. “It was Akio-san who put in all the effort. So I need to return all the effort he put towards us. It may be lonely when he isn’t around, but Haru-chan will be our support from now on. We will be okay.”
As she spoke, Natsu held the three fingers of her left hand with her right hand.
And she slowly placed her hands in front of her and bowed deeply.
But when she spoke, it was with a solid tone.
“As Takagi Natsu and now Kashima Natsu, I ask that you take care of Akio-san, Harumi-san, and myself.”
The battle reached the top of Susaou.
The remains of the bridge formed a clearing of scorched metal.
The fifteen square meter space dimly reflected the moonlight.
A silhouette stood in the center like a gravestone.
It was a large sword made by intertwining many thin panels of metal.
It was at least two meters long and stabbed into the metal floor such that it stood up vertically toward the sky.
Two figures rushed into the remains of the bridge and another arrived after a short delay.
The first two were Sayama and Kashima. The following one was Shinjou.
Kashima leaped to the center of the bridge and in front of Totsuka.
But he did not reach for the sword that would mean his victory.
That was no longer his condition for victory, so he continued to hold up Futsuno.
“Come, one who will control the dragon!”
“Gladly,” replied Sayama.
He ran forward and threw his body to the right as a feint.
The wind wrapped around him as he dashed and leaped. His movements were those of someone who had been freed from what bound him.
He was fast.
But Kashima could see something else.
To use his full strength on Futsuno, he had twisted his body backwards.
In the next instant, Kashima swung Futsuno’s blade to the position he predicted Sayama would be.
The military god descendent poured all his focus into slicing.
And in that instant, Sayama demonstrated a certain technique as he looked Kashima directly in the eye: the Art of Walking.
Kashima saw Sayama suddenly vanish.
…He learned how to do it!?
After exchanging sword blows and synchronizing their breathing through their actions, looking him in the eye was enough to achieve some level of overall synchronization.
And his enemy had done exactly that in the very, very end.
“So Low-Gear will use a 2nd-Gear technique to win!?”
This was interesting. Kashima felt joy.
Yes, he thought. This is nice.
He understood just how intent Sayama was on winning. The boy was even willing to use 2nd-Gear’s techniques.
When it came to winning, the distinction between Low-Gear and 2nd-Gear did not matter.
And so Kashima could not stop the sword he swung down.
Sayama was no longer in the path of the blade. Outside of Kashima’s perception, he had likely come to a quick stop and would attack from a different position in the next instant.
Kashima needed to see through this Art of Walking.
And to do that, he had to force himself out of sync.
Before, Sayama had done so by recalling his own past even further.
In that case, what could Kashima do?
His vision brought him the answer.
Beyond the night sky, the mountains of Okutama were visible to the west.
…That’s right. There are people waiting for me.
He had somewhere to return to.
As he realized that, he stopped yearning for that place. He instead accepted it.
He was not fighting in order to win, to kill, or to lose something.
“I am fighting to return there!”
Immediately afterwards, he felt a weight in his hand.
He felt the weight of metal, the weight of a blade, and the weight of the slicing wind.
It was only for an instant, but his thoughts for that which was important to him made him something other than a military god.
It truly did only last an instant, but that instant was enough.
Freed from the bonds of a military god, he left Sayama’s synchronization.
And thus he broke through the boy’s Art of Walking.
Sayama was only a step to the left.
He held his sword down by his waist in order to launch the final attack toward Kashima.
He was likely planning to attack the instant Kashima slammed Futsuno’s blade into the floor.
That was when it should have ended.
But Kashima made an instant decision.
As he swung the blade down, he removed his right hand from the hilt.
He poured all his strength into his right fist and struck the right side of Futsuno.
His fist broke in an instant and a dull impact passed through the back of his neck and to his brain.
But he did not care.
He had successfully altered the path of the giant blade.
Futsuno was now headed toward Sayama.
It would enter through the top of his head and leave through his left waist.
And Sayama reacted.
He swung the sword at his waist and struck the great mass swinging down from above.
But it was no use. Kashima’s strike had been different from before. It had the initial velocity of a military god and it had been made with proper footing. It was not a blow meant to be supported with only his left arm.
It demonstrated its strength in an instant.
Before the strike reached Sayama’s blade, the hair wrapped around the blade and his arm was destroyed. The princess’s protection which had been protecting him bent for an instant and ultimately broke.
As the hair scattered through the air, the two blades clashed.
Kashima heard the girl’s scream, but it changed nothing.
Sayama’s blade suddenly broke.
It produced a great metallic noise.
Futsuno’s slicing speed did not drop, but Sayama had no means of defending.
And Kashima had no way of stopping it either.
“Is this…!” he shouted. “Is this your answer!?”
As he heard his own voice fill the air, Kashima saw something.
He saw the answer.
First, he heard a new metallic noise.
The massive piece of cutting metal broke. That blade had made him question everything eight years before, but now it shattered as if it were made of sand.
It cracked and then could not withstand its downward motion.
The cutting blade broke and scattered as if embracing the air.
Before Kashima could ask further questions, he saw it.
Sayama held something up in his right hand.
It was a single black floppy disk.
“This is the collection of names belonging to the countless gods of 2nd-Gear that can be said to be 2nd-Gear itself. Futsuno was created as a symbol of 2nd-Gear, so it cannot cut it!”
As he clenched the remaining hilt of Futsuno, Kashima listened to the boy speak.
“This is the proof that you truly created something of 2nd-Gear!”
He spun around, showing his back, jumped, and performed a reverse roundhouse kick on his way up.
A dull sound filled Kashima’s chest and he was knocked backwards.
“This isn’t over yet!”
“Agreed!” shouted Sayama.
The two of them smiled at the same moment.
Kashima spread his arms, brushed away the shards of Futsuno scattered throughout the air, and stepped strongly on the metal floor.
He let out a breath, ignored the pain in his chest, and continued forward.
“Bearer of the dragon! The descendent of those who could not subdue the dragon has a question for you!”
Totsuka lay before his eyes.
That 2nd-Gear sword had been made by his grandfather. He still did not know what answer should come from it.
He reached out his broken right hand and grabbed Totsuka.
And in that instant, he saw an animal poke its head out from the breast pocket of Sayama’s armored uniform.
It was Baku.
Sayama saw the past.
He was inside a metal room covered with a low ceiling. It resembled the bridge of a ship.
In the center was a platform that looked like it was meant to contain a humanoid object.
But it was currently empty and there were only two people on that bridge.
A scarlet light from the window illuminated the two of them.
Massive flames were visible immediately outside the window.
The flames burst upwards, flickered back and forth, and boiled upwards once more. However, those flames were not formless.
They took the form of a giant dragon. An eight-headed dragon.
Giant arms could be seen extending out from either side of the bridge and they were wrapped around the flames.
The two people inside the bridge were speaking. The tall one in a work uniform held a large sword in his right arm.
The other was short and wore white Japanese-style work clothes. He had been continually shouting.
They were Ooshiro Hiromasa and the grandfather of the current Kashima.
This Kashima was urging the other man to evacuate.
As he spoke, the scarlet light outside grew stronger. In response, the blue stones hanging from their necks began to emit light. As that blue light gradually grew stronger, it illuminated the two of them.
Hiromasa smiled toward Kashima amid that light.
“I can’t. Now that Mikage has been removed, someone has to manually operate Susaou. And we need someone to give the answer to seal Yamata in Totsuka.”
Hiromasa shook his head.
He removed his glasses and threw them to the floor.
Before even hitting the floor, the glasses suddenly melted.
“Now, go. It’s getting so hot I’m not sure the philosopher’s stone protection will be enough. You might not be able to escape safely, Kashima.”
He looked directly at the short elderly man named Kashima.
Kashima gulped when he saw his eyes.
Hiromasa’s eyes were not focusing and they held no light.
“Can you tell? I was blinded by the destruction of your Gear and that firebombing.”
“Go gather all the others. That’s what you promised, isn’t it? To gather together Low-Gear and 2nd-Gear, you acted as the representative of 2nd-Gear and initially harshly rejected us. But you said you would convince the opposition to surrender to Low-Gear once Yamata is sealed. You said you would lead everyone in my place.”
“You’re a fool.”
“Perhaps, but I’ve made my decision. I made it when I failed to save your Gear and you shouted at me in protest upon setting foot in Low-Gear.”
“That was effective. I needed to be told I had no real intention of facing 2nd-Gear’s destruction.”
“I-I’m the one that needed to be told that.”
“We’re the same, Kashima. We’re both engineers.”
Hiromasa nodded and turned his unseeing eyes toward the window.
The eight simultaneous roars of the flame dragon stabbed into the night sky and shook the bridge.
They were cries of protest and an attempt to take vengeance against everything, but they were also suppressed and struggling cries.
However, Hiromasa could not see the dragon. His unfocused eyes looked beyond the dragon and beyond the walls of the concept space. They looked toward the small nightscape visible in the distance.
“Can you see it, Kashima? Tokyo has not even begun to recover, but you can see some lights that still live on, can’t you?”
After his question, he opened his mouth again.
But he stopped. He took a breath to calm himself before speaking again.
“Susaou isn’t enough to control Yamata. I will use your Totsuka to answer Yamata’s question.”
“Y-you idiot!! Do you know what the answer is!?”
“Yes.” Hiromasa nodded and held up the large sword in his right hand. “As I am now, there’s no way I don’t.”
Kashima tried to say something in response.
He opened his mouth, twisted his face, and tried to draw up the words from deep in his gut.
“I… I don’t actually…!”
But Hiromasa cut him off.
“Go, Kashima. This is my first command to you, military god and swordsmith.”
Susaou shook as if in response to those words.
The dragon raged and tried to escape its bonds.
The bridge tilted, the metal creaked, and Kashima toppled over.
The tilting threw him into the air and he slammed into the door.
The door suddenly opened, swallowed him whole, and closed once more.
Hiromasa had controlled the door from where he was pressed against the front of the bridge.
But he had heard Kashima as he disappeared beyond the door. His crying face had been turned toward Hiromasa.
The man’s shout had been a question. He was relaying the dragon’s will. He was asking the question that only he could ask.
As he left, Kashima had left everything with Hiromasa.
The bridge reverted to its normal position and Yamata roared in response to Kashima’s voice.
But Hiromasa’s hands suddenly stopped on the console.
He firmly grasped the edge of the box attached to the front of the console.
After a moment, he tilted his head slightly and opened the box.
And he pulled out a single sheet of Japanese paper.
The paper had been made heat-resistant and it had large letters written in ink.
Hiromasa could not see, but he let Yamata’s scarlet light illuminate the paper as he traced his fingers across it. He must have been able to feel the ink on the paper because he smiled as he touched it.
As he felt the writing, he spoke the sloppily-written katakana aloud.
His smile deepened, he folded up the paper, and he placed it in his work uniform’s breast pocket.
He then faced forward and cast his unseeing gaze toward Yamata.
“Your handwriting is terrible,” he muttered just as scarlet light filled the bridge.
And just Hiromasa opened his mouth to speak the answer, the past came to an end.
The UCAT members deployed by the lakeside saw light overhead.
The light came from names quickly spreading out like a diagram of the celestial sphere.
The names were formed by tiny strings of writing which flowed from the bridge to the night sky while trailing white and blue light.
The names extended in straight lines, drew arcs through the sky in parallel lines like sheet music, surrounded the sky, and rotated around in countless layers.
They moved quickly into the distance and spread out. Differences in speed caused the white and blue names to form multiple layers. Some flew in elliptical orbit while some flew in perfect circles. Ultimately, a giant celestial sphere formed a cage in the sky.
Those names were Totsuka’s true form and they were meant to seal Yamata.
Everyone heard small metallic noises amid the rapidly expanding names.
An old man from 2nd-Gear muttered to himself when he heard them.
“The metal shards forming Totsuka are expanding the names carved into them…”
The light raced on as if agreeing.
And once the celestial sphere reached the limits of the concept space, something else arrived.
First, the color crimson appeared in the empty space below the moon.
As if spilling into the air, the crimson color expanded and formed flames.
The flames flowed. They moved like water, like a serpent, like a dragon.
The fire finally truly became a dragon.
“Here it comes!” shouted someone just as it took form.
With a roar, an eight-headed, eight-tailed flame dragon appeared.
In an instant, it grew over a kilometer in length and further expanded in the very top of the concept space.
A giant red flower bloomed in the sky.
As the crimson dragon blossomed, it produced a cry. Its cry of protest shook the air and the ground.
Its roar rang out, its scorching noise filled the air, and the celestial sphere of names…
Yamata’s motion caused the countless names of the seal to cry out.
“Hurry,” muttered someone as they heard what sounded like the strained creaking of a ship.
“Please hurry! If Yamata is freed, this concept space might not be able to contain it!”
That shout came from the development department managers who had joined Tsukuyomi. They were the ones who had the most knowledge of Yamata’s seal.
But the flame dragon in the night sky ignored them.
It raised its eight heads.
Eight bestial voices reverberated toward the moon.
And then Yamata moved.
It dropped down toward the iron giant on the lake approximately 1500 meters below. It descended toward that giant that spread its arms as if in an embrace.
With its opened maws in the lead, the flame dragon came to devour the blade that had once sealed it.
|Back to Chapter 29||Return to Main Page||Forward to Chapter 31|