Owari no Chronicle:Volume5 Chapter 2
Chapter 2: Meeting of Steel
First, face each other
Then, either hit each other or pass each other by
A white hallway had no windows, but it did have writing on the wall.
That writing said BF2.
This was Japanese UCAT’s second basement floor and the hallway passed in front of the development department. The center of the hallway had a rest area with a sofa and a few vending machines.
A woman stared at the floor in front of the coffee vending machine.
Her long gray hair hung down over the chest of her lab coat which contained a nametag reading Tsukuyomi Chizuru.
She took a sip of the cold coffee in the paper cup she held.
“What is going on?”
“What is it?” asked a sudden female voice.
Tsukuyomi frantically tuned around and saw who was walking down the hallway.
“Is something the matter?” Diana wore a black suit and held a brown paper bag. “I heard you were travelling to Kanda this afternoon to retrieve an examination device for Georgius.”
“Eh? Oh, so talk of that has reached the higher levels, has it? UCAT Director Ooshiro was opposed to the idea, but our younger members offered to help him make a perverted game in exchange.”
“So a mysterious concept weapon is worth the same as an 18+ game?”
“Only when using the Ooshiro currency. …More importantly, what are you doing here?”
Tsukuyomi gulped down her coffee while Diana squeezed the paper bag in her arms.
“I just bought a swimsuit at the store up above and I was taking a stroll through UCAT on my way back.”
“A swimsuit? How luxurious.”
“No, this is part of my job as inspector. Team Leviathan is apparently having a training camp at the Seto Inland Sea the day after tomorrow, so I will be going with them. …This is a job. Let me spell it out for you: this is a j-o-b.”
“Well, it’s quite a luxurious j-o-b.”
“You don’t believe me?”
“The float sticking out of that bag makes it hard to.”
“Th-this isn’t a float. It is a beach mat to lie on while sipping on a drink.”
“How luxurious a time are you planning!?” shouted Tsukuyomi before sighing and facing Diana who was adjusting the contents of the bag. “If I was only five years younger, I would have gone with you.”
“U-um, did I mishear that? I thought I heard a number about ten times too small.”
“You’re supposed to laugh. But when I see you and Doctor Chao, it makes the longevity and anti-aging techniques look pretty good. I was already on the way to being an old lady by the time I joined UCAT, though.”
“Heh heh. But you decided to stay with Low-Gear, right?”
After a pause, Tsukuyomi nodded and narrowed her eyes.
“Yes. I have a daughter, so I can’t undergo the anti-aging techniques,” she said. “Have you heard? My daughter was abducted. And the rumor is that Typhon, that white 3rd-Gear god of war, did it. But they must be a terrible judge of character to abduct her.”
Diana remained silent, but her expression did loosen a bit.
The ends of her eyebrows lowered and she nodded once.
“I have no children, so I don’t really understand.”
“That’s fine. I’m sure there’s a part of it that any woman would understand.” Tsukuyomi gave a bitter smile in return. “Her bag and coat were found at the site the flying object fell last night. She was probably accidentally taken inside the concept space, but…”
“Don’t give me that look. It’s fine. That girl won’t die so easily. After all that idiot has done to disobey me and do what she wants, she’ll manage on her own.”
“I see she is worrying you.”
“Let’s just leave it at that.”
Tsukuyomi’s bitter smile deepened and Diana nodded.
At that point, a new female voice reached them.
“I am not sure you two should be speaking about 3rd-Gear so openly.”
Diana recognized the voice.
She tilted her head, looked around, and spotted Sf.
She was standing sideways in the small gap between vending machines.
“U-um, Sf? Did you gain some strange habits when formatted for the Japanese language? Why are you crammed in that small space?”
“Tes. Monitoring Itaru-sama at all times is one of my duties, but he moved out of range of my senses. I have determined he is viewing the sky from a corner of the roof.”
“And that spot is just barely within range?”
“Tes. I have determined it was a dangerous situation. I was on my way back from disposing of some trash at the underground incinerator, and I would have lost him for the first time if I had been just a little slower.”
Tsukuyomi looked back and forth between Sf in between the vending machines and Diana next to her.
“So this is what they call German quality.”
“Th-this is because of the local formatting.”
Diana waved her hands in denial and glanced over at Sf.
“Should I go and tell Itaru to move from the roof?”
“Tes. However, that will not be necessary. Statistically, he never continues any one task for long, so I have determined he will return to his office soon. I will remain on standby here until then. His irregular action here is most likely due to him thinking about the coming Leviathan Road.”
“It is true he used to always go outside while thinking.”
Diana’s comment caused Sf to tilt her head between the vending machines.
“That information is worth adding to my records.”
“You didn’t know that? When we had all reached various dead ends, I was often dragged outside. Both by him and someone else I know quite well.”
“Who is that?” asked Tsukuyomi, but Diana only smiled weakly back.
“If you always choose to continue on, you will eventually arrive somewhere. You remember that too, Sf. And do not leave Itaru alone again.”
“Tes. I will make sure to never again leave him while he is thinking.”
Sf bowed from between the vending machines.
“My ability to wait is infinite, but I will never allow myself to leave him.”
The sun rose high into the sky.
Several large buildings were lined up below the sunlight.
The buildings all belonged to a school. The sunlight covered a large campus and students in summer uniforms walked between the buildings.
Most of the students were headed to the dormitories or their club activities. Some held graded tests in their hands.
Among them all, a few people sat in front of a school building in the center of the campus.
Four students sat on the lawn in front of the library protruding from the school building. Three wore male uniforms and one wore a female uniform.
They were Sayama, Shinjou, Izumo, and Kazami.
A large multi-layer bento box and a small multi-layer bento box sat between them.
With a black binder sitting next to her, Shinjou reached for the small box. She used chopsticks to grab a croquette and held it out toward Sayama to her right.
“Here, Sayama-kun. I even made the filling this time.”
Once it was put in his mouth, Sayama thoroughly chewed the croquette and swallowed it.
Shinjou looked a bit worried, so he thought for a moment and then spoke.
“Yes. A supreme flavor, Shinjou-kun.”
“Wow, I’m glad. I can almost feel the horrible rumor from this morning disappearing within me.”
She smiled and grabbed a new croquette.
“I used the cafeteria kitchen to cook these and this one contains some strange leaves that Old Lady Tome said make a good secret ingredient. She said they only grow on her balcony.”
“Hm. I think I see why that cafeteria has so many regular customers. I would prefer not to know any more details, though.”
Sayama smiled pleasantly in the sun and Shinjou’s cheeks reddened slightly.
Across from them, Kazami and Izumo stared at them with half-lidded eyes.
“Even though I know the truth, it feels weird to see them flirting in male uniforms.”
“I can’t believe they’re doing this when that rumor started only this morning.”
The two tilted their heads, but Shinjou continued feeding Sayama.
As students passed by, a few girls lowered their heads toward Kazami.
When she looked up and nodded back, they would bow again and leave.
Izumo looked impressed as she nodded in self-satisfaction.
“You sure are popular.”
“Heh heh. That’s because I’m the only one who can stop you and Sayama.”
That was when more people greeted her. A few boys with disheveled uniforms were passing by.
“Ah… K-Kazami-san. Good morning!”
They immediately covered their faces with their crushed bags and quickly ran away.
They left only the wind behind.
After a pause, Izumo nodded expressionlessly.
“Chisato, I’ll stick with you no matter what, so tell me what happened. And be honest.”
“What do you mean by that? I didn’t do anything too horrible.”
“Eh?” said Shinjou. She held her nose and made a gesture of something falling from it. “Drip drip?”
“Shinjou-kun, not even cute onomatopoeia can soften this, so do not even try. Now, Kazami, about last night.”
Kazami froze in place when she heard the term “last night”.
After a short pause, she looked around and nodded.
“You mean about Hiba Ryuuji? Don’t worry. I summoned him via his homeroom teacher, so he’ll be here soon. More importantly, I assume Sibyl contacted you this morning.”
She took a breath.
“You heard that Director Tsukuyomi’s daughter was abducted, right?”
Shinjou looked up as she listened to Kazami.
“It happened in the battle that Hiba guy was fighting, didn’t it?”
“Yes. The items left inside the concept space last night show that Director Tsukuyomi’s daughter was there. And Hiba Ryuuji probably knows the truth of the matter. He was taken into UCAT custody, so he probably told them about it.”
She gave a bitter smile.
“Based on Ooki-sensei’s opinion and the fragment of white armor left at the scene, both Hiba Ryuuji’s craft and his opponent have power on the level of a Concept Core. We can’t say anything about Hiba’s, but his opponent was likely Typhon. That proves that some remnants of 3rd-Gear remain. …And Sibyl also mentioned that she discussed another matter with you two.”
“Yes. Sayama-kun received an additional call.”
As Baku mimicked him on his head, Sayama nodded.
“Director Tsukuyomi is headed to the UCAT Kanda laboratory to receive a device needed to examine Georgius and another important item. Shinjou-kun and I will be accompanying her as witnesses of the event.”
“Georgius is going to be examined? But why does Shinjou have to go too if you are only retrieving equipment?”
“Most likely to distract me from my interest in 3rd. Even if I refuse to act as witness for some reason, Shinjou-kun cannot refuse. …And thus I will go too.”
“Uuh… I-it’s true I can’t turn down jobs people ask me to do.”
“Oh, so Shinjou is the lure to get you to go.”
“Kaku, don’t say it like that. The term you want is ‘bait’. That sounds much more normal.”
“Y-you don’t have to make it normal!”
Hearing that, Sayama shook his head solemnly.
“Shinjou-kun, normal is best for humans. If you ever need a model, just watch me.”
“You’re right. Watching you is a good way of realizing normal is best.”
It was unclear if her meaning had reached him because he nodded deeply and crossed his arms.
“At any rate, 3rd-Gear’s Leviathan Road has yet to start and we are already meeting a boy who is personally fighting 3rd-Gear and 3rd has abducted someone. If Japanese UCAT does not wish to provide the other UCATs with any misunderstandings or excuses to interfere…”
“…then they wouldn’t want Team Leviathan to deal with anything problematic? …And then there’s that impurity that Hiba mentioned last night. He said he wanted some time.”
“Yes, but UCAT might be expecting us to do something. We have summoned the Hiba boy to meet us, but no one has interfered. And only Shinjou-kun and I are going to Kanda. Izumo, Kazami, that means the two of you can do as you wish.”
For once, clear irritation could be heard in Sayama’s voice. A hint of harshness had entered his expression as well.
Seeing that, Shinjou smiled in her heart.
…He wants to take the initiative and gather information himself.
And so she wrapped her ring-wearing right hand around his left elbow.
“Let’s eat lunch.”
He nodded, closed his eyes for a moment, and returned to his usual expressionless look. Shinjou was worried she was forcing him to do this, but he looked her in the eye.
“Come to think of it, Kazami, don’t you have something to give Shinjou-kun?”
“Eh? Kazami-san has something for me?”
What could that be? she wondered.
After a moment, she shook her hands in denial as Kazami’s shoulders rose in realization.
“Oh, you don’t have to worry about that! As thanks for helping me shop the other day, I bought her a raw milk gyuudon at the UCAT cafeteria, but you don’t have to pay me back for that.”
“Chisato, is that why you’ve been worried about your waistline recently?”
“N-no. I ran around the school buildings after I got back that night.”
As she pled her case to Izumo, Kazami pulled an envelope form her pocket and handed it to Shinjou.
“Can I open it?” asked Shinjou as she hesitantly took it.
“What would be the point if you could not, Shinjou-kun? It is for you.”
After a moment of hesitation, she opened it.
She read through the document inside and then spoke.
“I’m being appointed as secretary of the student council?”
Surprise filled her face and a bit of heat followed.
…Wait. Is this…?
“Did I get this position through connections while ignoring the election? Hooray.”
“Shinjou-kun, choose either suspicion or excitement. Kazami, explain it to her.”
“While this is ignoring the election, the student council has the authority to appoint new members. All the lower positions starting with secretary were open this year because a lot of people pulled out of the running during the election.”
“Yes. Last year, a certain female student performed a flying kick on a dumb yet large candidate during a speech. That led to candidates dropping out like the receding tide.”
“Oh, I-I see.”
“And what exactly do you mean by that?” asked Kazami with a smile.
Shinjou shrank back, but Kazami continued speaking.
“So will you accept the position? If you don’t like secretary, there are plenty of other positions: general affairs director, manager, animal official, and loser. You can also decline the offer altogether.”
Her question had a persuasive tone to it.
Shinjou hesitated for a moment and looked over at the black binder next to her.
…Is it worth having less time to work on this?
“Um, well… What exactly does the secretary do?”
“Well, you take notes on the proceedings of meetings. I’ll interpret for Kaku, so don’t worry about that.”
“I get the feeling you just casually insulted my humanity,” said Izumo. “In fact, I know you did.”
“Ha ha ha. Before you complain about that, try writing so that a modern human can understand it, you foolish primitive,” said Sayama.
“Ha ha ha. It must be nice having no humanity whatsoever and your mindset in the distant future.”
“Oh, and I will handle training these inhuman people, so don’t worry about that either,” added Kazami. She continued as the two boys glared coldly at her. “And once you join, we can talk about the Leviathan Road while claiming it is a student council meeting. We’ll be able to reserve the library and call Ooki-sensei to join us. Sounds nice, doesn’t it?”
She smiled bitterly.
“This school will be our base.”
With that voice of realization, Shinjou found her answer.
…It will give me ideas for my novel and help the Leviathan Road.
She felt that was looking at it too simply, but she still nodded.
“Th-then I will be the secretary.”
“Are you sure, Shinjou-kun? If you join the same group as our crazy president and violent treasurer, it will start some unwanted rumors.”
“Sayama-kun, I think you forget to mention someone.”
“Ha ha. Of course I did. It is not right to praise oneself needlessly.”
Kazami glared at him but then ignored him and looked down at her watch.
“Isn’t it about time for you two to leave? Get lost, Sayama. We’ll talk with Hiba and then go shopping. We need to make preparations for the training camp the day after tomorrow.”
Sayama stood up and Shinjou stood up next to him.
As she did, she suddenly saw an odd color. It was a red that resembled a flower or fresh blood.
She focused on that color that was not often seen in an outdoor lawn.
She turned around and saw a motorcycle parked on the road running alongside the yard. It had a sidecar attached and a boy sat on the motorcycle itself.
He had short hair, he wore a white bandana around his head, and he was looking their way with his red eyes.
He was Hiba Ryuuji and he had a troubled look on his face.
“Here I am. Just as you asked.”
As soon as he said that, Shinjou saw Baku stir on Sayama’s head.
And then the past arrived.
Shinjou found herself standing on a road surrounded on either side by green trees.
She had become nothing more than sight and hearing.
…This is the past.
She was on a mountain and the road running downhill was made of dirt. The light brown dirt was covered in tire tracks and weeds were growing up here and there.
…Where is this?
She looked around and saw manmade objects to the left and right.
They were pillars. A wooden pillar hardened with turpentine stood on either side of the road.
The fronts of the pillars were split vertically and lacquer had been poured into carved words on the smooth surface.
“Izumo Aviation Laboratory – Tokyo Branch.”
“This is the entrance to the National Defense Department!”
As she cried out with her mind, her pulse quickened.
If the National Defense Department lay ahead, there was one fact that drew her interest the greatest.
…There should be someone with my family name here.
The person had been Professor Kinugasa’s assistant during the National Defense Department days, but all records of them were gone by the time UCAT came about. This person had her family name and a connection to Sayama Kaoru, Sayama’s grandfather.
…And they might have some connection to my relatives.
With that thought, she tried to move her mind forward. She did not know how far the recreation of the past went, but that person might be in the National Defense Department up ahead.
“I want to see them.”
That comment made her realize her thoughts.
…I am yearning.
But she had no clear answer what exactly it was for which she yearned. She could only think up immature words, but she never thought about casting aside the desire.
And so she took a step forward.
But she stopped when she heard a noise.
Something was approaching from below the mountain behind her. She could tell it was a number of vehicles. She could hear the metallic noises of a dozen or so wheels and chassis.
…What kind of vehicles?
She turned around and saw the approaching convoy.
It was a line of green jeeps and trucks.
The flat hood of the jeep in the lead had a star mark on a white background.
This was the American military.
But Shinjou found something odd. A number of men rode that jeep, but something was off about their military uniforms. She could not quite place what was wrong with them, but she found the answer once the convoy grew closer and she could see them more clearly.
It was the crest on the shoulder of their jackets.
It had a blue shield and a collection of lines surrounded by white wings.
They were UCAT.
A closer look showed that the men in the jeep and those in the trucks behind them were made up of a number of different races.
“American UCAT is leading the different UCATs of the Allies.”
The convoy was approaching while acting as part of the occupying army.
…What is going on?
Shinjou knew about the origin of UCAT, but she knew nothing more than that the National Defense Department became Japanese UCAT.
She did not know the details of how it happened.
Meanwhile, the convoy approached the two pillars that formed an entrance.
She could hear their engines as they approached.
And just as it felt like they were going to run her vision over, something fell from the sky right in front of her.
It was silver-colored and shaped like a long blade.
It was a Japanese sword.
The curved blade stabbed forcefully down in front of her eyes and audibly tore at the dirt.
The elderly soldier sitting in the jeep’s passenger seat raised a hand.
In response, the convoy came to a stop. All the vehicles’ brakes screeched, their chassis shook, and they tore up the dirt road surface.
The sounds of the dozen or so vehicles shook the leaves of the forest.
Shinjou heard the wind blow as a sudden wind arrived from behind her.
She turned around and saw motion.
It was a large green military motorcycle.
With a laugh, the motorcycle turned sideways and slid toward Shinjou.
A short young man drove it and his short hair waved in the wind.
“So you’ve decided to show up, have you!? Are you here to steal our position? We work in the same field, don’t we!?”
As he spoke, he forcefully planted his foot in front of the sliding motorcycle.
“There we go!”
And he used that foot to rotate the motorcycle around in front of Shinjou.
The high-speed spin stopped perfectly at 180 degrees.
The young man was directly in front of the Japanese sword that had landed earlier. He now faced the convoy with the blade between them.
He supported the motorcycle with both legs and observed the convoy with his black eyes.
“You want a fight?”
He narrowed his eyes and got down from the motorcycle.
His military boots made his footsteps ring loudly from the dirt.
At the same time, everything began to move.
The people in the leading jeep and the backs of the trucks stood up. Shinjou saw a fair number of women among them.
…And those weapons.
In addition to guns, they wielded plenty of swords, spears, and shields. And unlike normal blades, they had been modified with exposed cords, components, and tanks.
The technology was still undeveloped, but those weapons had been modified with cowlings.
The elderly soldier then stepped out of the jeep’s passenger seat. He held a spear.
“I ask that you surrender.”
She heard the Japanese meaning of his words over the English he was actually speaking. His tone was polite yet forceful.
However, the young man’s smile remained.
“I don’t have a damn clue what you’re saying, you old foreign bastard.”
The elderly soldier’s spear moved slightly.
And it produced a noise very near the handlebars of the young man’s motorcycle. The single rearview mirror on the right side flew into the sky.
“I am Sail Northwind, representative of American UCAT. My north wind can pierce even steel.”
“Oh, that’s a neat trick.” The young man’s smile did not waver. “I think I’ve figured out what you’re trying to say. This is what you’re saying.” He pointed at the elderly soldier’s face. “ ‘Oh, that was a hell of an entrance! You’re pretty cool!’ ”
As soon as he spoke, all of those standing in the vehicles jumped down. At least a hundred armed people covered the road and forest and prepared to fight.
Countless footsteps and the metallic noises of the weapons filled the air.
But something even more impressive arrived from further down the road.
A giant form suddenly fell behind the young man and his motorcycle.
The form was accompanied by the sound of something extremely heavy striking the ground. The ground split and Shinjou finally saw what it was.
…A god of war.
She heard everyone gasp as a silver-colored humanoid machine stood behind the young man and his motorcycle. It was approximately eight meters tall, it resembled a female armored warrior, and it had two pairs of wings on its back.
The god of war already held a long, narrow sword in its hands.
With a mechanical noise, the wings on its back moved. They folded up to allow easier motion on the ground.
Meanwhile, the opposing soldiers could not move. They clenched their teeth and stared at the god of war behind the young man.
The spear-wielding elderly soldier’s expression was the one exception. A smile remained on the corner of his mouth and he continued to look at the young man. The young man was looking back at him with an identical expression.
Time seemed to drag on, but it suddenly came to an end.
First, the silver god of war crouched down.
Next, a slender figure appeared from its back and climbed up onto its right shoulder.
It was a woman. The young woman’s blonde hair flowed across her back. As Shinjou looked at her thick eyebrows and strong-willed face, she noticed a certain color.
They were red. That deep scarlet below her inconspicuous eyebrows looked down at the young man.
She opened her narrow mouth as the wind whipped at her white shirt and flare skirt.
“Do not play around, Hiba.”
Both her awkwardly-spoken Japanese and the name she mentioned shook Shinjou’s mind.
…Hiba? As in, Hiba-sensei?
But something was off. Hiba Ryuutetsu’s left eye had been colored a deep scarlet, the same as the eyes of the woman on the god of war’s shoulder.
…What does that mean?
With no answer to her question, the woman continued speaking.
“Do any of you match me in power? If so, I will battle you. If not, Hiba will handle it.”
“Who are you?” asked the old man who had given the name Northwind.
The young man grinned when he heard the old man’s perfect Japanese.
“Oh, so you know Japanese after all.”
The woman smiled bitterly.
“I am Rhea, a refugee from 3rd-Gear. And I have decided to seek refuge in Japan’s National Defense Department. If you attempt to take this place from me, I will battle you whether you match me in power or not.”
The elderly soldier’s smile strengthened when he heard Rhea’s words.
At the same time, a black figure appeared next to Hiba. Shinjou recognized the tall man wearing a black cloak.
The young Siegfried calmly appeared next to Hiba as if he had grown out of the shadows of the trees. He wore black gloves and already held several pieces of paper.
When the elderly soldier saw him and the paper in his hand, he asked a smiling question.
“It is a pleasure to finally meet you, Lord Northwind. Did you perhaps read the reports I sent my nation? …However, you are being too hasty here.”
“It seems so, but I have learned one thing. This is the place that desires the world,” said Northwind.
Hiba folded his arms and nodded.
“You’ve got that right. But think carefully, Old Man Northwind. The Izumo Aviation Institute’s National Defense Department is working for important people right now, but if it is let loose, it will work for something else.”
“And what is that exactly?”
Hiba did not answer. Instead, the woman named Rhea spoke in a dignified voice.
“That would of course be this world itself. This world has nothing and sits at the lowest level, but that is precisely why it has everything!”
Shinjou looked up just as the others were. The red-eyed woman was smiling. Instead of looking down at the people, she faced them and looked across all of them.
“I fled to this world. I abandoned my own concept to the Tartaros and came here as an individual. However, I was treated as a guest rather than a prisoner of war. There were misunderstandings and conflicts, but I now stand here as a soldier because that is my wish! I wish to fight for this world. And…”
She looked across the surrounding area. She looked at the blue sky, the trees, the earth, and the rustling wind. She left a smile in the wind and gently brought her right hand to her stomach. Only then did she look back down toward the others.
“And so that I can be with this child here. We have already begun preparing for battle. If you wish to be with us, then let us speak. But if you obstruct us in the slightest, we will be your enemy!”
“Rhea, you’re sounding a lot more self-important than the rest of us. It might’ve been a mistake to let Kaoru prepare your Japanese lessons.”
“Ha ha. You men are always so slow. When preparing to be a mother, a woman wants immediate decisions. If you do not like it, then bring me something sour to eat. …Soldiers, give your answer.”
There was a clear smile in her voice.
“Do any of you wish to be the ally of my child!?”
That booming question signaled the end of the past.
As her sight and hearing rapidly fell into darkness, Shinjou thought about Rhea’s words.
That had been sixty years before, so where was that child now if it had been born?
Shinjou had been in UCAT the longest of the group, but she had never heard about a descendent of 3rd-Gear. She had only ever heard that 3rd-Gear was the Gear of gods of war and automatons.
“Come to think of it, this is the first time I’ve heard it mentioned that there were people there.”
She wondered if Sayama was right and the Gear had few people, but she had no way of knowing. She assumed that would be one thing she would learn later. If she stayed with Sayama and the others, she would learn that along with how they were destroyed.
But, she thought. What if a descendent of hers is still alive?
Just like Shinjou, they would have no other members of their race and not know their parents.
“I wonder if they feel lost too…”
Shinjou awoke from the past.
She took a breath and focused on the scene before her eyes.
Standing on the yard around her were Izumo, Kazami, Sayama, and Hiba.
Further away, a lot of students were returning from school and only a few seconds of time had passed.
She let out a breath and looked around. The scenery was the same. Kazami and Izumo were exchanging a dazed look, but Sayama had experienced the past several times before.
“So that is one connection between Hiba-sensei and 3rd-Gear.”
He placed a hand on his chest, took a breath, and faced Hiba.
“I see there was a refugee from 3rd-Gear.”
“Yes. That was the first time I’ve seen something like that, though.”
Hiba’s face was pale as he sat on his motorcycle. He nodded weakly and stepped to the ground. He approached but stopped with a step still separating them.
“What was that?”
Sayama grabbed Baku from his shoulder and held the creature up.
Baku looked to the left and right but suddenly hung its head and began to sleep when it noticed everyone focusing on it.
Sayama nodded deeply.
“I am sure you understand now.”
“I don’t understand at all!”
“Then let me put it simply. Listen and be amazed. Are you ready? Baku here can show people the past.”
“Oh, I see. …I-I mean, wow! That is amazing! I’m shocked!”
You could make it less obvious, thought Shinjou as she stared at him, but Sayama nodded in satisfaction.
“Hiba-sensei was quite young, but he looked somehow like you, Hiba boy.”
“Are you implying I’ll look like him when I grow old?”
Shinjou nodded and tapped on Sayama’s shoulder.
“You should give up now. The more I hear about Sayama-kun’s grandfather, the more they sound alike.”
“Shinjou-kun! That is an incredibly rude assertion. How am I anything like that self-centered old man who did nothing but eloquently mock others?”
Everyone fell silent at that.
Amid the silence, Sayama nodded, smiled toward Shinjou, and slowly spread his arms.
“Just look. Everyone is using their silence to show their agreement.”
“I’ll just jump to the conclusion: you need to go to the hospital.”
Before Sayama could reply, she turned to Hiba and he seemed to pick up on her intent.
He frantically looked across the group.
Shinjou observed his expression. He looked frantic and his eyebrows were slightly lowered, so it seemed he was unsure whether he should say something or not.
She tilted her head toward that expression that she herself had often made until recently. She also lowered the ends of her eyebrows.
“There’s something you want to say, isn’t there?”
“Eh? Oh, yes. I hear you all are doing something called the Leviathan Road.”
“What about it? Do you wish to ask us to stop the Leviathan Road with 3rd-Gear?”
“Yes. This is a request from the one whose grandfather destroyed 3rd-Gear.”
His immediate response came with the relief of having said it.
Shinjou and the others judged his meaning and remained silent for a moment.
“W-wait a minute. Isn’t a bit sudden to just say your grandfather destroyed 3rd-Gear?”
Shinjou understood why Kazami was so hurriedly stopping him. They wanted to know what he had meant the night before.
…So we need to take this slowly.
Shinjou sat up a bit and spoke.
“Ryuuji-kun… Yeah, I’ll call you that to differentiate you from Hiba-sensei. Anyway, you’re from this Gear, right? So why are you stopping us from negotiating with 3rd-Gear?”
Sayama nodded and added to her question.
“We can discuss Hiba-sensei’s countless wrongdoings at a later date, but your mention of an impurity suggests a larger reason. Based on the situation from last night, you have an automaton, your grandfather belonged to the National Defense Department, and yet you are fighting Typhon without the help of UCAT.”
Hiba’s expression changed at the mention of the name Typhon.
He frowned a bit, so Sayama expressionlessly continued.
“And UCAT has officially told us not to get involved with you. In other words, getting involved in your fight would be a negative for us. Have you come here to tell us why that is, Hiba boy?”
“Y-yes. It is a long story and I am not sure what conclusion you all will reach, but this is what I know for sure,” said Hiba. “If you carry out the Leviathan Road with 3rd-Gear and bring them to your side, it will sully the name of the Leviathan Road.”
“Sully?” asked Kazami.
“There are actually two impurities we must purify. I came here to tell you about one of them.”
“This all sounds very pretentious.”
“I know what you mean. But…even though I intend to bear these impurities, I do not know what will happen once I truly face them.”
“In other words, you’re testing us, aren’t you? You’re going to tell us about a lighter impurity to see if we are prepared to face the true impurity.” Kazami smiled bitterly. “You’re underestimating us.”
But Hiba only smiled bitterly in return.
Seeing his smile, Kazami thought.
…A bitter smile, hm?
The smile he gave could only be made by one who had thought the same thing countless times. It was the smile of someone who had no other choice.
She wanted to hear him out and speak with him, but some of them had other things to do.
“Hey,” she said and showed her watch to Sayama.
“Hiba boy, I apologize, but I must ask that you give your test to Kazami and Izumo. Shinjou-kun and I already have plans.”
“And those plans are more important than speaking with me?”
“Is speaking with me more important than speaking with Izumo and Kazami? That extreme violence couple has been involved with the Leviathan Road longer than me.”
“Oh, I-I see. Sorry.”
Hiba frantically bowed.
Kazami smiled bitterly and Izumo solemnly folded his arms and nodded.
“Look, Sayama. Underclassmen these days are so polite.”
“Hiba boy, courtesy is an expendable good. Choose wisely who you use it on. For example, you could use it all on me.”
Hiba did not seem to know what to say, so Shinjou turned a forced smile toward him.
“D-don’t worry too much about what they say. They’re all very strange.”
“Oh, I-I see…”
His gaze stopped on Shinjou’s arm.
Kazami then realized that Shinjou had her arm wrapped around Sayama’s.
“Oh, how passionate.”
“Eh? Ah! Wah! Th-this is just…”
“Ha ha ha. Shinjou-kun, why are you blushing? The opinions of those who do not know the truth about us are irrelevant.”
“Stop saying things that will only confuse this further!!”
Hiba tried to back away from them as he stared at them with half-lidded eyes.
…What is he doing?
Kazami stood up and tapped him on the shoulder. With an exasperated smile, she spread her arms.
“Do you understand now who the most wholesome and normal of us is?”
“…Using the process of elimination?”
“What was that?”
He shook his head just as someone else cut in.
“Wait a minute, Hiba.”
Izumo suddenly stood up and Kazami saw him look Hiba in the eye.
“How about we continue our talk in the Kinugasa Library? You want to test us, right?”
“No need to apologize. I’ll be testing you, too. I want to see what kind of person you are.”
Hiba tilted his head and took a light defensive stance.
With his arms crossed, Izumo stepped forward. Izumo was approximately 190 centimeters while Hiba looked about 160. Kazami thought Izumo was going to use that difference in height in some way, but he instead opened his mouth to speak.
“The test is simple, Hiba. I have one question about the past we were just shown. …Did you see it?”
Izumo glanced to the side a bit as he spoke and the look on Hiba’s face changed. A sharpness filled his eyes.
But he finally frantically shook his head.
“I-I didn’t see anything. …What is the point of this sudden test?”
Hiba’s arms were spread as if it had started raining.
…He definitely saw something.
Izumo continued speaking as if he understood what Kazami was thinking. He patted Hiba’s shoulder and looked him in the eye again.
“You saw the same thing in the past as I did, didn’t you?”
“N-no. I didn’t see anything.”
“No, you had to have seen them from below. At least a glimpse. They were blue, weren’t they!?”
“No, they were white! I happened to get a good look!”
Hiba’s reflexive response caused everyone to freeze in place.
Wind blew through the silence that lasted a few seconds.
As Hiba realized his mistake, Izumo nodded several times in understanding.
He folded his arms and spoke in a serious tone of voice.
“You have a promising future. I hope you can diligently-…”
Kazami swung her right leg and Izumo vanished.
After a short pause, she heard the sound of a human-sized object hitting the wall to the left, but she paid it no heed. She was used to this.
She looked at the others who turned toward her after looking to the left.
She saw Baku staring rigidly at her from Sayama’s shoulder.
…This is the first time he has looked me in the eye.
That made her happy, but she had something to say.
“Next time you want to show us a past with a girl or woman in it, do it when Kaku isn’t around, okay?”
The smile on her face made Baku frantically nod repeatedly.
When she reached out to pet the creature, it fluffed up its fur and let her.
Shinjou gave a stiff smile from next to Sayama.
“C-come to think of it, this is the first time you’ve petted Baku, Kazami-san. Isn’t that nice?”
“Heh heh. I guess it’s true that animals can sense people’s emotions. I’m very calm right now. So calm I feel a strong urge to do this.”
Sayama seemed to have chosen not to comment, so she took Baku from his shoulder and held the creature to her chest.
Shinjou frantically took Sayama’s arm and looked back and forth between Hiba and Kazami.
“Um…what do we do now? Th-that leaves Kazami-san to handle Ryuuji-kun.”
“Eh? Ehh? Sh-she’ll break me!”
“Heh heh heh. Don’t be so shy, freshman. Don’t worry. It doesn’t hurt that much.”
With the same smile as before, Kazami cracked the knuckles of her right hand and faced Sayama.
“You two can leave now. I will handle this interrogation…I mean forced information extraction…no, that isn’t it either. Um… How should I put it?” She nodded once toward Hiba. “I’ll have you tell me everything about this test, the impurity, and everything else. How about that?”
With all the hair on his body standing on end, Hiba nodded repeatedly.
Sunlight filled a hallway.
A tall maid walked through the hallway. She was Moira 1st who had spoken with Tsukuyomi Miyako.
She was pushing an ornamented metal stretcher. The table-like surface contained silver plates with semispherical lids.
Outside of the hallway’s windows were a forest, a slope, and a city. The city was packed with small buildings and houses. She glanced over at them and narrowed her eyes.
“The princess will not remember us once she returns there.”
“That isn’t necessarily true,” immediately replied a fairly low female voice.
Moira 1st slowly turned around and saw two people standing by the wall behind her. One was a tall woman in a red suit and the other was a large man wearing a T-shirt, jeans, and a blue apron. Moira 1st looked at the two of them.
“Mistress Gyes and Master Aigaion. Are you working, Master Aigaion?”
The large man named Aigaion brushed up his short-cropped blond hair and looked down at his clothes. The thick material of his blue apron said “Dragon Grocer” in white.
“I have no other choice. I simply dropped by while out on delivery because I heard the princess had woken up.”
“I told you to stay away because your huge body only gets in the way.”
Gyes, the woman with short black hair, shook her head.
“But Cottus is bragging about being the first to see this princess,” said Aigaion. “After all, his position down there let him see her first when Typhon brought her back.”
“Moira 1st, why did Typhon abduct that woman?”
Moira 1st tilted her head.
“According to the maintenance maids, there was an intense scorch mark on Typhon’s back. It apparently came from Keravnos.”
“So it ran across that black god of war. Does that mean it took a hostage in the shock of the initial strike?”
“Most likely,” said Moira 1st.
Suddenly, a new male voice cut in.
“Are you three Hecatoncheires interested in her?”
The voice came from the wall even further down the hallway. A young man leaned weakly against it.
He wore white clothes and had long, blond hair. Moira 1st faced him and raised her eyebrows.
“Lord Apollo, should you really be up?”
“With all the noise out here, it sounded more interesting than the bed or garden.”
He got up from the wall and moved his yellow eyes.
He turned a weak smile toward the plates Moira 1st was transporting.
“Has she woken up?”
“She is quite energetic, Lord Apollo.”
Gyes twisted her head at Moira 1st’s informative tone.
“It might be feigned. All the others who wandered here were like that.”
As soon as she finished speaking, her expression changed.
The harshness left her face and she let out a regretful sigh.
“Sorry. I know this is a rare pleasure for you.”
“There is no need to apologize. What you said is true. But…” Moira 1st tilted her head as she chose her words. “To put it bluntly, she broke through the memory manipulation that Moira 3rd so delightedly applied.”
“It is not that unlikely a turn of events. If the memories you sealed or the story Moira 3rd told included something important to her, she would naturally reject them. Then the seal and the story would vanish, correct?”
“Yes, but the seal is still in place. The new princess believes those memories are missing. Perhaps we should have given more thought to Moira 3rd’s story.”
“What story did Moira 3rd tell? The princess was taken here from the eastern side of this country. No normal artificial memory would form a proper connection.”
“Yes.” Moira 1st nodded with a serious expression. “It was simple. The train the princess was riding from a station called Shinjuku was abducted by a flying saucer and all the people aboard were given physical examinations by aliens. After having her sitting height erroneously measured too high, the princess angrily punched the little greys until she had taken control of the bridge. She then shouted ‘take me to Hawaii!’, but the flying saucer underwent a Dutch roll and crashed in Okayama! The title is ‘The Naked Princess in Space: To Terra’.”
“Sounds exciting, but there’s no heroine.”
“In this case, the protagonist of the princess doubles as a powerful heroine. A meaningless shower scene partway through where she only washes her shoulders is a must. I have studied this with the limited resources available to me.”
Aigaion and Apollo folded their arms and nodded, but Gyes frowned doubtfully.
“At any rate, the fruit of your studies was rejected. …Are you going to try a second story?”
Moira 1st lowered her head but finally answered.
“I think it would be difficult. Moira 3rd’s stories are meant to be placed over the memories I seal, but there should be a half-erased blank there now. If we forcibly attempt to change the story…”
“It could apply pressure to her memories until they break, destroying her personality. …Humans are difficult to deal with.” Having said that, Gyes frantically turned toward Apollo. “My apologies. I was not trying to say that you are difficult to deal with.”
“But I am. I don’t do anything and I’m no use whatsoever.”
Gyes fell silent and Aigaion elbowed her in the side.
Moira 1st smiled bitterly as she looked at the two and then at Apollo.
“In other words, you are sensitive.”
“Yes, exactly. Well said, Moira 1st. Now, Lord Apollo, Moira 2nd says you have been in good health recently, so will you go outside today?”
“Are the dolls worried for their master? …But I do think I will wander around outside for a bit.”
Apollo smiled bitterly just as a maid arrived from down the hallway. Moira 1st saw her jog toward them.
“Do not run in the hallway, 43rd. Now, what is it?”
The maid named 43rd nodded and got down on one knee in front of Moira 1st.
“I apologize. But…the princess has escaped!”
“Escaped?” asked Gyes rather than Moira 1st.
The maid nodded and pulled a piece of cloth from her chest. It was a pillowcase with thick letters written using something brown.
“This was written with the chocolate Moira 3rd gave her.”
Moira 1st read it, let out a laugh, and then turned to Gyes.
“It says ‘Thanks for your hospitality’.”
“You sound happy, Moira 1st. Did you know this would happen?”
“No.” Moira 1st tilted her head and spoke to Gyes, who looked suspicious, and the two men, who looked a bit surprised. “But if you recall, I did say she was energetic.”
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