Owari no Chronicle:Volume5 Chapter 10
Chapter 10: A Chance Meeting of Questions
Ask until you run out of questions
Once that happens, there are only two possibilities
Whether you have a full understanding or must give up, there is nothing more to say
A small room of about ten square meters had a six square meter kitchen attached. The room had no windows, but the gentle light of early morning passed faintly through the walls themselves.
The pale lighting showed books, CDs, and empty bottles of mineral water scattered on the floor.
In the center of the room was a single large object.
It was donut shaped and was at least two meters across. It was made of plastic and the circular space in the center had about thirty centimeters of water inside.
It was a kiddie pool.
Someone was currently asleep while soaking in the pool.
The woman was curled up while facing to the left. Her ears were longer than a human’s and her face was submerged. She wore a dress shirt instead of pajamas and her brown hair was soaking wet, but her shoulder and the line down to her stomach were rising and falling above the surface with an incredibly slow rhythm.
The water suddenly moved as her leg moved below it. The bottom of her foot lightly kicked the inside of the pool.
Ripples filled the pool which said “Ooki” on the side with magic marker.
The small waves struck the ear sticking above the surface and Ooki gave a ticklish expression below.
That was when an electronic tone filled the room. A faint light and a chilly, air-splitting noise came from the kitchen. A cell phone’s red light began flashing atop the portable stove that had an unused pot on it.
The sound caused Ooki to close her long ears without waking up. She rejected the sound.
But the ringing continued from the kitchen.
This continued for a few minutes. After some more time dozing, she slowly raised her closed ear.
She stuck it wholly out of the water and noticed the sound had not stopped.
She frowned in displeasure below the water, but she still got up.
With a gentle splashing noise, she sat up without brushing her wet hair from her sleepy face and with her shirt sticking to her bare skin. Her listless eyes stared at the duck toy floating on the water.
But the ringing continued from the kitchen.
She slowly stood up with a sleepy look in her eyes and water dripped down from her.
She wobbled a bit, but she managed to brush up her hair and step forward. The wooden floor instantly absorbed the water that fell from her skin. She arrived in the kitchen in seven steps and picked up the cell phone.
“Ooki-sama? This is Sibyl from Team Leviathan.”
Oh… thought Ooki.
Her brain was not functioning very well, but she tried to remember what she should say.
It seemed like Sibyl nodded.
“Testament. You woke up quickly today. This was seven minutes faster than yesterday.”
She praised me. Yay! she thought, but her body would not keep up. Sayama-kun and the others are always so full of energy in the morning. I wish I was like that.
…Then again, I’m not sure I’d like it.
As she thought, her brain started moving bit by bit. She gave a weak laugh and asked a question.
“Um… What is it?”
“Testament. Are you listening?”
“Hm, I guess so.”
“Testament. Then I shall keep this short. …You are late. Please hurry to UCAT.”
Ooki looked to the clock on the kitchen wall.
“Ooki-sama, your kitchen clock had been stopped at 2:30 three months ago. You yourself said you need to put in new batteries, but what time does it give you now?”
“Testament. It is actually approximately two hours after that. Ooshiro-sama is already here.”
“Eh? It’s 4:30? I don’t go to school until seven and why is Ooshiro-san at the school?”
After a few seconds, Sibyl cleared her throat.
“Starting last week, Japanese UCAT headquarters has been working with Kansai UCAT to search for any philosopher’s stone reactions. Team Leviathan is helping and you are in charge of concept related operations. Also, your shift is four to seven both AM and PM.”
“Testament. You were told at the initial meeting and each morning at around this time. Today, we have detected a faint reaction in Kansai, so it is possible another flying object will appear.”
“Oh, I see. But have I really been doing that job?”
“Testament. Normally, it takes you about five more minutes to remember this recent job. And then you always shout an apology.”
“Oh, is that so? …Ah! I’m sorry!!”
“That was a few minutes early. Have you finally woken up?”
She had, so she frantically held the cell phone with her shoulder.
“D-don’t worry! I’m on my way now!”
“Ooki-sama, are you a soba restaurant?”
“No, no, no, no.”
She put on her work heels and realized she would need to work at UCAT past seven to make up for being so late. She prepared herself to be late for school.
But that worried her because this was the final day of the first term. If she was late or absent, would the children be able to continue homeroom smoothly? She had read in the newspaper that modern children were poor at working in groups and tended to quickly make mistakes. She did not think that would be a problem with her students.
“But I’m still worried. Especially with a certain few.”
With that serious comment, she finished putting on her heels, opened the door, and left.
Outside was a mountain road through a forest. The morning air and light soaked into her body after passing through the surrounding trees.
Behind her was a giant wall made of wood.
Looking up, she found a large tree towering up in the forest. Its trunk was at least twenty meters across and it was her home.
“I really have grown up.”
The door at the base led to a living space modelled after the apartments she had seen in newspaper ads. She had created the interior after becoming conscious and being able to go outside. The space’s child string vibration was the same as her own. She told her students she lived in an apartment, but no one else could see the door or go inside. Oddly enough, roaches still managed to find their way in.
Even so, she never forgot to shut the door behind her or to shut off the new model of electromagnetic relay device installed in the trunk.
She reached for her waist pocket she always kept the key in.
It was not there. Both the key and the pocket itself were missing. Just as she began wondering where she had dropped the pocket, a voice came from the cell phone on her shoulder.
“Ooki-sama, you forgot to change into your clothes as usual.”
Two people rode a single motorcycle down an early morning road.
The sky was clear and the eastern sun was to their side as they travelled south.
The motorcycle was right next to the sidewalk and Izumo moved it forward by foot with the clutch disengaged. Kazami sat behind him in a T-shirt and hoodie and held a large rucksack.
Sayama and Shinjou walked along the sidewalk in their school uniforms.
Sayama checked his watch and Baku peered at it from his chest, but it was still before seven.
“I did not expect the Hiba boy to call us here this morning. Is he not afraid of Kazami?”
“Chisato, don’t kick him. The recoil would knock the bike over into the lane of traffic.”
“Kaku, I hadn’t started to do anything yet.”
“Yet?” asked Shinjou. Kazami turned toward her, so she frantically waved her hands. “N-nothing. I didn’t say anything. I wasn’t wondering if you were planning to do something. A-a-anyway, um… Did Ryuuji-kun really ask us to stop by in the morning?”
“He probably chose a time when no one else would be here. He also said he wanted to show us something.”
“I see.” Shinjou nodded and tilted her head. “What kind of person was he?”
Kazami looked up into the sky with a distant look in her eyes.
“He looks obedient enough, but I think he needs a decent beating.”
“Chisato, stop expressing everything through violence. You’d be a wonderful girl if it weren’t for that.”
“C-c’mon, stop complimenting me like that.”
She sent a left hook into the side of Izumo’s head to hide her embarrassment.
Instead of a scream, Izumo gave an awkward grunt and collapsed into the lane of traffic along with the motorcycle.
“Ah,” said Kazami as she jumped from the motorcycle, but Izumo landed sprawled out on the road.
A moment later the tires of a 12-ton dump truck grazed his hair as it travelled at well above the speed limit.
He frantically stood up amid the rumble of its engine and the shaking of the ground.
“Whoa! Y-you idiot, your flirting almost killed me!”
“That is quite an absurd cause of death,” sighed Sayama before spreading his palms to either side. “Seeing the current state of this indecent couple has me worried about your future.”
“Wow,” said Shinjou with a feigned smile. “You can actually worry about others, Sayama-kun?”
Izumo righted the motorcycle, made sure the stopper had not broken, got back on, and sighed. Kazami apologized and sat behind him.
“Anyway, about Hiba. Wouldn’t you know more, Sayama? You were both students of the Hiba Dojo, right?”
“I attended that bizarre dojo starting in middle school, but I only ever ran across him once or twice a year. According to the other long-time students, Hiba-sensei would take time out to teach him techniques he did not teach the others.”
Sayama recalled the black god of war from the other night.
“What did you think of him after speaking with him? To get right to the point, do you think he is dangerous?”
“I’m not sure. He didn’t really seem like a bad person. If anything, he seemed to like people too much. He’s the type who would definitely go buy you a can of coffee if you asked him. He wouldn’t if you ordered him, though.”
Sayama smiled bitterly at that last comment.
“The kind of person that draws that kind of line can be the most frightening.”
“There’s more.” Izumo nodded and shrugged. “That kid made a call on his cell phone after we finished speaking yesterday. And he called the person Mikage.”
“Yes. He’s slightly perverted, but the girl he cares for comes first. I’m the same, so I think we can get along!”
“You take it a lot further than just ‘slightly’ perverted!”
Sayama ignored Kazami’s shouting and actions. He wrapped an arm around Shinjou’s shoulders and walked forward. Behind him, he could hear flesh being struck, metal bending, and countless dump trucks driving by, but he paid it no heed.
“S-Sayama-kun? I’m not sure how to describe the sounds behind us. Wham and smash don’t do it justice.”
“Shinjou-kun, stop relying on onomatopoeia. And this scene is too brutal for practicing verbal descriptions. Let us continue on. The Hiba house should be just up ahead, so how about it?”
Shinjou let out a breath in his arm, her shoulders drooped, and she suddenly looked around the area.
She took a city map from the binder in her arms.
“Um, we’re going to the Hiba family house, right? Yeah, it should be around here… It’s pretty close to the school.”
As soon as she spoke, they heard an engine in front of them.
They both looked forward and saw a boy riding a motorcycle which had a sidecar.
“Hey,” said the boy as he stopped the motorcycle.
Their classmate Harakawa turned toward them. His wavy black hair was swept back, he had brown skin, and he wore his school uniform roughly.
“What are you two doing out this early?”
“We are on a student council job to save the world.”
“Oh, that sounds important. Are the perverted president and violent treasurer not with you?”
Sayama turned back, realized those two and their motorcycle had vanished from the road at some point, and heard the dull sounds of mounted punches coming from the thicket of a park next to the sidewalk. A close examination showed Izumo’s leg sticking out from the thicket and shaking along with the irregular sounds of impact.
“They seem to be busy,” he said after turning back to Harakawa.
“Sayama Mikoto, I hate how that sounds like the truth when you say it.”
After giving a bitter smile, Harakawa looked back and forth between Shinjou and Sayama.
“I see you two are getting along well.”
“Ha ha ha. Why of course. Every morning, I help develop Shinjou-kun’s bodily awareness by-…”
“Waaah!! How many times do I have to tell you not to say that in front of people!?”
She tightened his tie down to the base.
He had been in the middle of laughing, so his vision suddenly started to shake, but he quickly removed her hands. As she frantically tried to strangle him, he began struggling against her hands and the tie.
“H-Harakawa-kun, what are you doing here?” she asked while dealing with his hands. “I thought you lived in the other direction.”
“Shinjou-kun, a criminal tends to avoid the scene of his crimes.”
“Stop making things up, Sayama Mikoto. I was bringing some parts to an underclassman named Hiba.”
Hearing that, Shinjou finally stopped trying to grab the tie.
She turned toward Sayama, nodded once, and then looked back at Harakawa.
“Th-then you’re on your way to school now? We only have the closing ceremony today, so isn’t it a bit early?”
“It is, but I have to clean up my stuff in the automobile club and I have work right after the closing ceremony ends.”
“I see. But you never got your job approval sticker because you skipped the final homeroom the other day, right? Ooki-sensei has it, so you should probably get it before she forgets what it is and sticks it on her lectern.”
“What is she, a child? Anyway, I can still work without approval, Shinjou Setsu.” Harakawa smiled bitterly and shook the bracelet on his arm in displeasure. “More importantly, I know you two understand, so can you tell Ooki-sensei to stop asking about me at the hospital? My mom’s gonna find out I’m skipping classes. …Also tell her to stop calling my cell when I’m at work just because she can’t remember how to get home.”
“You tell her yourself, Harakawa. That is your duty as a student.”
“Is that so?” With another bitter smile, he moved his motorcycle forward to continue past them. “Oh, and one other thing. Pay attention to who’s watching when you put your arms around each other’s shoulders. Not everyone is as accepting as I am.”
Shinjou lowered her shoulders and blushed while Sayama simply nodded.
“Never fear. I do not feel embarrassment.”
“That’s called having no shame!”
“Calm down, calm down.”
With his arm still around her shoulders, Sayama began walking forward once more. As they heard the motorcycle drive off into the distance, a new sight reached them.
Amid the two-story houses was a blue-roofed house with a boy polishing a motorcycle in front.
Also, a girl with long, blonde hair sat in a wheelchair next to him.
Sayama approached Hiba and the boy looked up in realization.
He frantically stood and then bowed.
Meanwhile, Shinjou whispered to Sayama from his arm.
“Don’t say anything too weird, okay? This is more or less our first time speaking with him, so start with a topic you have in common. Like motorcycles or something.”
“No need to worry. I already have the perfect topic in mind.”
Shinjou breathed a sigh of relief and he nodded.
He raised a hand toward Hiba and charmingly greeted him with a topic they had in common.
“Good morning, slightly perverted Hiba Ryuuji-kun! I am well aware that you are slightly perverted. But do not worry! I too am a boy, so feel free to discuss- Wait, Hiba boy! Why are you running away!?”
Someone began strangling him from the side.
Even early in the morning, the development department and armories on the second basement of Okutama UCAT was filled with activity.
This was due to the announcement from Ooki being sent to only that department.
“Um… It looks like there are some philosopher’s stone readings around Akigawa. Three of them. This looks suspicious, so it would be appreciated if you prepared some equipment.”
Tsukuyomi had been up all night using her computer, but she managed to react now.
She stood up and spoke to all of those already preparing inside their partitions.
“Despite what Miss Ooki would make you think, this might actually be really bad. Remain on standby and prepare the anti-concept equipment for ground combat! We might have to break into a concept space, so prepare the assault models!”
Multiple voices voiced their understanding, so she snapped her fingers and began walking toward the large door out into the corridor.
As the others left their partitions and followed her, she barked instructions.
“Those remaining in the department are to be on standby state 3! We don’t know what unit will be selected in an emergency, so carry out all necessary equipment as if this were training! And anyone with nothing else to do should clean the armories! We don’t bring everything out very often, so this is our chance. Prepare the vacuums you can stick in the gaps on the pallets!”
She threw open the door to the corridor and those gathered behind her began to run. They were on their way to the armories, the maintenance team’s floor, and the equipment elevator room. Those still in the room contacted the other departments needed to move the equipment and ensured they could operate smoothly as an organization.
The corridor walls opened and the auxiliary equipment transport rails leading to the equipment elevator room appeared. The workers in the corridor divided into an inside and outside team as Tsukuyomi watched on.
They opened the doors to the armories, removed the weapon pallets from the inner garage, placed them on the rails, and sent them off. The larger pallets were set on the main equipment transport rails which led directly to the surface and they were rushed to those who needed them. The rails screeched as the pallets moved quickly to the standby post on the surface.
“Hurry it up! You! If it needs thawing, shove it in the large oven!”
As Tsukuyomi spoke, everyone around her ran off in different directions.
“This is going well,” she muttered.
At that moment, Kashima moved past her while scratching his head. He too had stayed up all night. He was in charge of swords and blades and was on the way to his subordinates.
“Oh, yes. What is it?”
A moment after asking, he pulled out his laptop with a look of realization.
“I understand, Director Tsukuyomi! You want to see how much my Harumi has grown to soothe the tension, don’t you? L-look at this amazing and valuable footage! She’s so interested in this toy!”
With a stiff smile, Tsukuyomi strongly grasped the laptop with just the thumb and forefinger of her right hand. She then threw it to the floor with a snap of the wrist.
“Ahhhhh! I only just finished editing today’s Haru-chan collection!”
“Pipe down. This is an emergency. More importantly, um…well…”
“Is it about Atsuta?”
“Yes, that’s right. Where is that idiot?”
“That creature has been in Niigata for the last three days.”
“What? Is there something there?”
“Only in his mind. He said the Sea of Japan was calling him.”
“Tell him to go during the winter next time! And here I was hoping to send him against a god of war so I could see him beaten to a pulp.”
Kashima pushed his glasses to the top of his nose with a serious look.
“A god of war?”
A cool voice seemed to ignore all the surrounding activity.
Tsukuyomi and everyone else turned toward the corridor entrance and found a woman standing there.
“Sibyl of the maintenance department.”
“Testament. But I am currently here as a member of Team Leviathan.”
As Sibyl walked forward, she was already wearing her white armored uniform and her brisk gait caused her skirt to flip up and cut through the wind.
“Are you listening? While Ooki of Team Leviathan was randomly operating our machinery, she discovered a few philosopher’s stone reactions near the city of Akigawa. There are three and all of them are god of war class. They have been judged to be 3rd-Gear’s combat automatons known as the Hecatoncheires.”
“Judged? How? Did you check their child string vibrations?”
“Testament. It was my decision.”
With a smile, Sibyl passed by Tsukuyomi and slowly raised her right hand.
“Please bring out my pallet from block eighteen on the fifth basement. Other than that, I only need enough personnel to transport it.”
“W-wait a minute. The fifth basement?”
“Do not be so surprised. With the Leviathan Road underway, Team Leviathan’s armory is bound to be used more frequently. And even it is less strictly guarded than the storage vault containing Georgious and Concept Core weapons whose exact location is unknown and is directly controlled by Ooshiro-sama.”
Still smiling, Sibyl turned toward Tsukuyomi, nodded, and spoke to all the others who had stopped to listen.
“With the authority of Team Leviathan, let me assure you that this battle will occur within a concept space. Please assist me in bringing it to an end.”
Shinjou and Sayama moved to the side of the Hiba house.
The area was similar to an alleyway. A two meter area of dirt existed between the trees and fence surrounding the Hiba house and the concrete wall surrounding the neighboring house.
Sayama looked through the dimly lit alley from a step ahead of Shinjou.
“Why must we speak here? Do you feel guilty about something, slightly perverted Hiba boy?”
Hiba was panting for breath after frantically pushing the girl’s wheelchair to the alley and he glared at Shinjou and Sayama.
“Wh-where did you hear about that? Peeking up that skirt in the past yesterday was just a bit of curiosity.”
“But… If you think about it, that was Mikage-san’s mother he was peeking at.”
“Shinjou-kun, you must not say that. If you say boys at his age feel their heart race when they notice a girl, it may sound pure enough, but it would be more accurate to say they act like dogs.”
“Stop whispering to each other!”
Shinjou looked over and saw Mikage suspiciously staring at Hiba.
She held a cane to help her walk and she used it to jab at him, so he frantically turned a smile in her direction.
“I-it seems these people are mistaken about some things. Okay, Mikage-san? Okay?”
“He’s trying to trick her,” muttered Shinjou with a half-lidded glare, but she then tilted her head and stepped up to Sayama’s left. “Um, I take it that girl is Mikage-san.”
“Yes,” he said while turning her wheelchair toward them. “That’s right. You have heard the details concerning her, right?”
“Yes. She was born sixty years ago and we heard what Cronus-san did to her in the other world. Is all that true?”
Mikage tilted her head weakly and turned to Hiba.
She spoke to Hiba instead of Shinjou and she spoke with exaggerated silent mouth movements. They had heard about this from Kazami over the phone the day before. It was part of Mikage’s incomplete evolution.
After Mikage finished speaking, Hiba tilted his head.
“Will you show them?”
She faced Shinjou and Sayama once more. She was wearing a white turtleneck and a beige dress. Both were a bit big for her, so they looked baggy.
She raised her right hand and removed the white glove.
Shinjou spoke what it was that was revealed below the glove.
Mikage’s right hand was made from a beige material that almost looked white. The flexible points at the joints were made from a black material and were the same as the soft armor on UCAT armored uniforms. As her fingers moved, black curves formed on the skin of her hand.
Still silent, she lowered her turtleneck’s collar.
Her neck was the same. It had a lot of flexible points, so the connection between her neck and breastbone was almost entirely black.
She expressionlessly opened her mouth and said something. Hiba read her lips and spoke in her stead.
“Do you need to see anything more to confirm the truth of the past?”
Hiba’s quiet words produced a reflexive shake of the head from Shinjou. She was well aware of how frightening it could be to show someone your body.
“That’s the body of an automaton that is evolving into a human.”
Shinjou fell silent and thought about the past she had seen the night before.
If what she had heard there was accurate, Cronus had given Mikage the god of war intended to be a spare for Typhon.
Hiba seemed to pick up on her thoughts because he nodded.
“Mikage-san was given Susamikado, a god of war meant to be Typhon’s spare and which was modelled after my grandfather’s Susahito Custom. Cronus placed it in a concept space that her body can draw it from.” He took a breath. “But the half of the Concept Core is not contained within Susamikado because it could make her evolution unstable. It is instead sealed within Keravnos, Susamikado’s special armament. In Greek mythology, that was the heavenly lightning Zeus used to seal Typhon.”
Sayama replied from Shinjou’s right by holding up his left hand as a sign to stop.
“Susamikado? That is the first time we have heard its name. …This seems like a good opportunity.” He snapped his fingers to show he was changing the subject. “It may be a sudden question, but could you tell us about the final battle with 3rd-Gear?”
Shinjou was taken aback.
She remembered what the automaton named #4 had said the day before.
…There are aspects of 3rd-Gear’s destruction that those automatons don’t know.
He was pursuing the answer to those questions.
She turned to face him and he spoke expressionlessly.
“We obtained a fair bit of information yesterday, but a lot is unclear about that part. I would like to know about it.”
Sayama saw Hiba frown and tilt his head.
“Why do you want to know that all of a sudden?”
There was no need to give a detailed answer to that question.
“A certain individual asked me for that information and I want to know. Why is 3rd-Gear still fighting? From what I heard, the Gear’s survivor, Apollo, is a pacifist, but-…”
“Nonsense.” Hiba laughed and cut him off. “Then what do you suggest? Surely you don’t think 3rd-Gear is fighting because I’m attacking them to gain the Concept Core and speed up Mikage-san’s evolution.”
“That is certainly one way of looking at it.”
“Well, it isn’t true. Five years ago, they picked a fight with us. A god of war suddenly appeared before us and attacked. That was when Mikage-san first called in Susamikado.” He hung his head a bit and placed a hand on his white bandanna. “Sorry. I can’t say anymore. But ever since then, we’ve been fighting them. Recently, we’ve been intentionally flying through the Kansai region to call them out, but we still haven’t narrowed down the location of their headquarters beyond the general region of Okayama.”
“I see,” said Sayama with a nod.
How strange, he thought with a renewed understanding of the importance of #4’s question.
If his fight had begun five years ago and had continued like that, it meant there had not been a single chance for negotiation. If Apollo was a pacifist, why had he attacked first and why did he allow continued fighting when it was not improving the situation? It was possible that those around him were acting on their own.
…But that means those following him have a reason to prioritize these attacks over their master’s wishes.
He did not understand, so he stopped thinking about it.
…Any more conjecture would be dangerous.
He turned back to Hiba whose head was apologetically lowered.
“As for your previous question, I don’t know much about my grandfather’s generation. All I know is that he entered 3rd and that he returned using Susamikado which carried a heavily damaged Susahito Custom. And afterwards, Mikage-san’s reflexive mechanisms were used as an intermediary for the controller of a giant machine known as Susaou.” He nodded. “Also, I do not know where Mikage-san was sleeping until ten years ago.”
“Then you know nothing about the result of 3rd-Gear’s final battle?”
“I know the result, but I don’t know how it happened.”
“Can you tell us the result?”
“What exactly do you want to know?”
How cautious, thought Sayama as he felt the resistance there and decided to ask it all at once.
“I would like to know what happened to Apollo. At the time, he should have been piloting a pale blue god of war. Typhon was made exclusively for him and it is active now, so why did he switch machines?”
Hiba hesitated for a moment, but finally spoke.
“I don’t know why that is either.”
He gave an exaggerated shrug and Sayama nodded mentally.
Shinjou poked her elbow into his side and spoke so only he could hear.
“He managed to avoid answering, but you asked too much all at once.”
“No, that reply told me a lot. This was plenty.”
Hiba had taken the bait splendidly and Sayama planned to later reveal what he had learned and be praised for it.
…Compliments from Shinjou-kun are a truly wonderful thing.
Hiba gave him a suspicious look, so he spoke once more.
“Now, let us get back on topic.”
“Very well. Mikage-kun, you do not remember the past, do you?”
Sayama saw the ends of Shinjou’s eyebrows lower at that nod.
…Shinjou-kun does not remember her past either.
They both knew nothing of their parents, but Shinjou had seen Mikage’s mother the day before. That may have been why her eyebrows had lowered.
And so Sayama asked Hiba something else.
“Have you told Mikage-kun about the past we saw yesterday?”
“Yes. I would like to thank you for that. It was a valuable record of her mother.”
Shinjou’s eyebrows moved partially back up.
No need to be so nosy, he thought. She already has someone to worry for her.
“Then let me make something clear,” said Sayama. “We have the ability to see the past. Would that ability be an effective bargaining chip against you?”
Shinjou trembled when she heard that.
Shinjou’s hurried and emotional voice showed she felt they must not do that.
“We can’t! That’s someone’s past! People want to know about their past and we can’t take advantage of that.”
“Oh? Please do not take negotiations too lightly, Shinjou-kun. I am not taking advantage of that desire.” He looked her directly in the eye without looking away. “There is something we want to know about as well. If he uses that as a bargaining chip against us, would you view that as him taking advantage of our desire for knowledge? If it is exchanged for something of equivalent value, it makes a splendid bargaining chip.”
“B-but…” Her lips twisted down and she tightly grasped his left arm. “I don’t like that kind of deal.”
Her voice trembled and something welled up in the corners of her eyes.
Changing his plan because someone cried would accomplish nothing, so he would follow his own principles.
However, the tears in her eyes brought a smile to his face and relief to his heart.
“That is another way in which you are right, Shinjou-kun.”
Strength left the hand she held him with.
After a breath, Sayama brushed up his hair with his right hand and waited for Shinjou’s breathing to calm down.
“Then how about I make a small alteration, Shinjou-kun?”
He faced Hiba who looked slightly tense.
“What if I state it like this: if we work together, you will surely be able to see the past much like before. …What do you say now, Hiba boy? Will you gain nothing and fight 3rd-Gear while hindering our actions or will you view the past and fight 3rd-Gear while meddling in our actions? Which will it be?”
“I am inviting you to join us.”
Shinjou mouthed what Sayama had said and grasped its meaning.
…He’s letting Ryuuji-kun join us?
What did that mean? First, she thought about the positive elements.
1. UCAT would gain a new god of war.
2. Team Leviathan would gain a new member and its connections to the National Defense Department would grow.
3. Having more people her own age – especially an underclassman – would make her happy.
Then she thought about the negative elements.
1. She was nervous about inviting in an outsider.
2. What would he think once he discovered her identity?
3. Would he fall victim to Kazami’s attacks or Izumo and Sayama’s bad influence?
She weighed the pros and cons. The positives were decent. The first negative would become clearer later, the second was an issue of her own feelings, and the third was something he would just have to put up with.
“Sayama-kun, my opinion of you has improved a bit. Oh, but…only just a bit, okay?”
“Ha ha ha. Feel free to praise me even more. There have been so many misunderstandings about me lately that my satisfaction meter has been running past its limit. Anyway, Hiba boy.”
He took a shallow defensive stance in front of Mikage which surprised Shinjou. He protects her so naturally, she thought while glancing over at Sayama. But he was currently focused on Hiba.
“Listen. Currently, anyone who joins us gets to join the student council as well. How does assistant treasurer sound?”
“Assistant treasurer? I-I couldn’t. That would put me right next to the school’s greatest fighter!”
“In a way, you’d be a step away from great influence. Not that you’d be able to control it. But I think you would do fine, Hiba-kun. You’d be able to dodge the attacks.”
“I notice you aren’t denying anything I said…”
“Do not worry about it, Hiba boy. Now, choose one of the following options: A) Become my servant. B) Beg to be a servant of the great Sayama. C) Do my bidding for the rest of your life.”
“How about ‘D) None of the above, asshole’?”
Hiba scratched at his head.
“Anyway, I’m not sure what to say about joining you.”
After speaking, Hiba turned toward Mikage. Both the ends of her eyebrows and her entire head were slightly lowered.
…She’s a little cautious.
Recently, they had been showing people and telling people what had previously been their secret.
She had coolly shown off her body, but she likely had some other thoughts about it. I need to keep that in mind, he thought.
The other night when they had been taken in by UCAT, he had spoken a lot with an old man in a lab coat as well as a young man with black clothes and white hair who had been accompanied by a maid. Mikage had shown them her hand and the maid had shown her arm.
…That was a strange organization.
Automatons and humans worked together there.
…If we joined them, could Mikage-san have more freedom?
But Hiba shook his head and decided it was too soon to say.
“At the moment, I only want one thing: please understand that we are already dealing with 3rd-Gear,” he said. “About five years after Mikage-san woke up, they began attacking us. We used to have our hands full just fighting them off, but after destroying several remotely controlled gods of war, the true prize finally started showing up.”
“And so you are claiming that as your target?”
Hiba nodded, circled behind the wheelchair, and held the handles.
He looked at Mikage’s impaired legs.
“We have half of 3rd-Gear’s Concept Core and they have the other half. If we get that, Mikage-san-…”
“…might become human,” finished Shinjou.
He saw her hold her body a bit. It was a casual action, but something about the situation must have gotten through to her. She then turned toward Sayama.
“What should we do? If they have half of the Concept Core, obtaining 3rd-Gear’s half won’t end the Leviathan Road.”
“Indeed.” Sayama crossed his arms. “It is a tricky issue. It comes down to which side will give in and how.”
What a heavy silence, thought Hiba.
Neither side intended to back down.
…What do I do…?
Suddenly, he saw a bit of motion.
The small animal on Sayama’s shoulder had crossed its arms just like Sayama.
Mikage’s shoulders began to shake and she let out an amused laugh.
The laugh had been out of place, but it was not often that she laughed. That was why Hiba smiled as he supported her from behind the wheelchair.
But Sayama and Shinjou had not seen the source of the laugh.
After a moment, Shinjou caught on and smiled. Sayama then did the same. Baku looked back and forth between them and crossed its stubby arms even further.
“Baku must want to join the conversation.”
Sayama smiled bitterly and moved his foot casually to the side, but it struck something.
He looked down at the base of the trees surrounding the house and found a thirty centimeter metal stake.
“What is this?”
“That is a protective stake with a philosopher’s stone inside. It suppresses the power of machines. The effective range is small, so we can move around them, but a god of war would not be able to.”
“So you use these as protective charms for your home?”
“Yes, but the neighborhood dogs and cats like to dig them up. I need to put that one back.”
Once Hiba picked up the stake and looked at it, his expression changed.
The top of it was smashed.
“Eh?” said Shinjou.
“The dogs and cats around here must be quite something,” said Sayama. “They appear to be able to break metal.”
“Yes, I’m surprised too. …Except that’s clearly not what happened!”
Hiba looked around and found more stakes lying under the trees surrounding the house. They had all been dug up such that an outsider would not notice.
“They’re all broken.”
Hiba trembled as a chill ran down his spine and Sayama glanced around.
“Is that concept limited to gods of war?”
“Because Mikage-san lives here, it primarily affects large objects.”
“Then I take it an automaton would be just fine. An automaton that can function in Low-Gear. And now that these are gone…”
“A god of war is coming!?”
Hiba looked through the trees and toward his house. With his mother out, it was empty, but there were two people standing in front of it.
One was a black-haired woman in a red suit and the other was a large man wearing a greengrocer’s apron.
The woman stood out front and she took a step to the side while jerking her chin over toward the man.
This isn’t good, thought Hiba as he prepared himself for a fight.
The man bent over and pressed the intercom button.
“Ma’am, this is 3rd-Gear. We have a battle to deliver.”
The woman raised both arms and Hiba saw giant swords appear behind her.
The blades were rectangular, they were over five meters long, and there were a total of six lined up.
The woman let out a shout and a red form appeared between her and the swords.
“A god of war!?”
As if Shinjou’s cry had been the signal, the six swords smashed into Hiba’s house.
The instantaneous attack crashed through the house and created an explosion.
The sudden turn of events led Hiba to take a battle pose.
As he prepared to fight, he tried to choose his partner. He reached a hand toward Mikage’s hand, but that hand found only empty air.
He looked at her through the stench of burning wood, scattering fragments, and smoke of the explosion.
But she was gone. Her empty wheelchair and cane were all that remained.
He blankly wondered why because this had never happened before.
They had been together for many long years, so how had she disappeared and where was she?
“What are you doing, Hiba boy? It seems 3rd-Gear has a thing for abductions because they have taken Mikage-kun this time. As soon as they attacked the house with those swords, they expanded a concept space and brought only Mikage-kun in with them!”
Sayama yelled at him while brushing aside the explosive blast and smoke with a wave of his hand and then he pointed at the empty wheelchair.
“She is right there waiting for you. Prepare to enter the concept space and fight!”
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