Owari no Chronicle:Volume5 Chapter 5
Chapter 5: Machine Footsteps
Even with one’s eyes closed, the differences in the piercing sounds are noticeable
The similarities are also noticeable
That is why it is so troublesome
Wind blew through a wide area between the large buildings of Kanda.
But that wind was not of this world. It had the thin scent of an alternate world.
Several automatons stood in the path of that wind that smelled slightly of metal.
The god of war and the red-haired automaton standing in front of them faced their opponent.
A boy stood in front of the truck stopped fifteen meters away. He wore a gray suit.
“I assume you are Sayama Mikoto,” she said. “Why have you exited the truck? We asked for you to leave.”
“That does not matter. However, I would like to ask your name.”
“And what will you do with that knowledge?”
“I will negotiate with you. I will ask what will sully the Leviathan Road and I will negotiate a means of cleansing that impurity.”
“I see,” said the red-haired maid with a nod.
She determined she needed to answer in order for the conversation to continue smoothly.
“#8. That is my ID.” #8 nodded. “You say you wish for knowledge of the impurity?”
“I will not say it a second time. Or a third time. Make sure you remember.”
“Understood. But I cannot speak of what the impurity entails. Telling you would produce unnecessary curiosity and cross a point of no return. Simply think of 3rd-Gear as inviolable and leave.”
“Knowledge of it would cross a point of no return? In that case, I do not see how anyone could know about it.”
Deciding his point was valid, #8 nodded and carefully chose how to express herself.
“Can anyone set foot in muddy water without growing dirty? We are considerately attempting to prevent anyone else from growing dirty.”
Sayama smiled when he heard that.
“So you are driving people away out of consideration? Is that because you have betrayed UCAT and returned to 3rd-Gear?”
The maids behind her began to move at that comment. They moved to restrain him.
But #8 stopped them by raising her right hand lightly.
“Why do you think we have betrayed UCAT?”
“After speaking for a bit, you have not once replied with ‘testament’. The one I know may be a bit unique, but automatons should strictly follow their own definitions. In that case, the lack of ‘testament’ means you have left UCAT.”
“I see. It is true that the importance of the word ‘testament’ has fallen for us. And do you know what that means?”
“If you are out front after betraying UCAT, it means you have taken control of this Kanda laboratory,” said Sayama. “Also, under some condition, your refugee definitions have switched to 3rd-Gear’s definitions. What might that condition be?”
“The linked self-defense instincts of an automaton. The specific condition was your arrival. We believe your presence will certainly result in our harm.”
“And what harm would that be?”
“That is a personal issue of the automatons at the Kanda laboratory, so I cannot answer.”
“And so you are driving me away in the name of protecting me from some impurity?”
“Yes,” answered #8. “The negotiation has already begun. Will you leave?”
She waved both arms as she spoke.
That motion produced black metal parts from her sleeves.
They belonged to handguns.
Barrels, grips, mechanisms, and magazines spilled out into the air.
“Or will you be destroyed here? Those are your only options.”
The metal firearms were assembled in midair using gravitational control.
As the parts fell into place and tightened, a spray of metallic noises filled the air and a gun flew into each of her hands.
She now held two handguns.
“We once welcomed someone in this same fashion. After falling to this world sixty years ago, we were gathered here, but we took control of the laboratory upon awakening when the concepts activated ten years ago.”
#8 struck her heel against the ground.
That metallic noise acted as a signal and the god of war next to her moved. It drew the two swords worn at its waist.
And she spoke over the metallic noises they caused.
“Those negotiations led to us taking up residence here. But we cannot allow the same result this time. Please leave, negotiator. We must ensure that 3rd-Gear’s impurity is untouched, that the people of the Kanda laboratory remain safe, and that no harm comes to our fellow automatons.”
“I see,” replied the boy. “So you have three bargaining chips to have me leave: your consideration concerning the impurity, your hostages, and the harm to your fellow automatons.”
“I have determined those three are enough.”
“Yes, it is enough. That is plenty for me to break down and create a path.”
With that comment, Sayama took action.
He pulled two objects from within his suit: a shotgun and a submachine gun.
He spread his arms with the shotgun in his left hand and the submachine gun in his right and he faced forward.
“I will now eliminate the foundation of your bargaining chips with a single statement.”
“And what is that?”
“It is simple,” he said. “The surname Sayama indicates a villain. It is incredibly simple, automaton.”
What a pain, thought Sayama. Truly a pain.
Someone was already fighting 3rd-Gear. And that person was younger, he was most certainly inexperienced, and his resolve seemed to be wavering.
But he was desperately fighting as if clinging to something. He had some reason for that and he was prepared to keep Team Leviathan at a distance.
And so Sayama thought about his role as the Leviathan Road’s negotiator.
…I must grow even more desperate and face 3rd-Gear.
“Are you going to stand in my way here, automaton? I am trying to learn about the world you came from.”
“We stand in your way specifically because it is our world you wish to learn about.”
“If you are going to call it inviolable, do not call it ‘our’ world.”
Sayama lowered the guns in his hands and walked forward.
“If no one can touch something, it belongs to no one. It becomes a closed world where you cannot even secure a firm footing for yourself. But a world is an open thing by nature.”
“There is no such thing as an inviolable world.”
He waved the shotgun in his left hand through the air and he looked up into the blue sky.
“Inside an inviolable cage, the sky is safe, the wind is safe, the earth is safe, and the night and day are safe. But that is why no one can grow desperate while surrounded by walls. Will you show your consideration despite that, hypocritical automaton? Only a child enjoys being shown consideration by someone in a glass box.”
As he continued to walk and smiled bitterly, #8 asked a question.
“But I have determined it is children who enjoy growing dirty in mud. Don’t adults avoid that?”
The first bargaining chip, thought Sayama. The negotiation begins.
He nodded and opened his mouth.
“So you say adults avoid the mud?”
“Am I wrong? And please do not simply say I am wrong. Give me a reason.”
“I see. Then let me say this: you are wrong.” A bitter smile. “Unfortunately, automaton, there are two types of adults: those who grow upset when dirtied by mud and those who laugh at themselves when dirtied by mud. And there are two types of those who laugh at themselves: those who will grow upset when someone scolds them for it and those who laugh off any scolding. …Listen.”
He continued forward and reached a distance of ten meters away.
“I do not know what this impurity of yours is, but there are definitely people who will view it as something other than dirty.”
“And you are one such person?”
“It is hard to say.” He tilted his head. “I may not be.”
“But I am not the only person in the world. At the very least, there is someone in my world who is my exact opposite. There is also a foolish S&M couple, a perverted old man, a teacher who feigns ignorance, as well as plenty of comrades, enemies, and others.”
“Even those who have died and those yet to be born are my allies.”
Hearing that, #8’s expression changed.
Her eyebrows grew flat and all expression vanished from her face.
That expressionless look could only mean one thing.
…Her bargaining chip has changed.
The discussion of the first one was over. He did not know what she had decided, but he would not let his guard down until the entire negotiation was over and they had shaken hands in agreement.
As he walked even closer, #8 asked another question while raising the handgun in her left hand.
“Then what about the workers of the Kanda laboratory?”
The answer to this question was even simpler than with the first bargaining chip.
As he walked, he shrugged.
“Do I even need to say anything when you could have already killed them for all I know?”
“Then what if you could confirm their safety?”
At the same time, she pulled the trigger of the raised handgun.
A gunshot rang through the air.
And with that as a signal, the laboratory door opened.
Men in work uniforms exited the glass door with their hands in the air. A closer look showed even more inside the dark space beyond the door.
With them and their grim looks far behind her, #8 lowered her left hand and spoke.
“Our sharpshooting ability is unmatched. What do you say now?”
“I see. Then I have just one thing to say to them.”
“Good luck. That is all.”
…This is only natural.
“I am here to complete the Leviathan Road. In that case, is it my job to rescue the captured workers of the Kanda laboratory? It isn’t, is it? They can handle their issues while I handle mine.”
“…You do not care if they die?”
“It would be a problem if they die, but their survival is their responsibility. No matter what decision I make, they should not leave their survival up to another person. If they do not wish to die by your hand, they should not die based on my decision either. That is all.”
“I have determined that is sophistry.”
“But I have moved forward. You need to learn that the world deals in facts, not sophistry.”
He was now five meters away.
And #8’s eyebrows moved. She was trying to decide whether to fire or not, but her decision was not immediate.
She was hesitating.
…Will she shoot them?
With a single bitter laugh, Sayama decided to speak.
“Now, then. Let us move on to your final bargaining chip.”
That comment returned #8’s eyebrows to their flat position.
She looked him in the eye and then lowered her gaze a bit. For just an instant, she glanced at the workers behind her.
“Thank you for your consideration,” she finally said.
“Make no mistake. I merely find this negotiation to be a pain and wish to hurry it along. You need not feel thankful.”
“Understood. Then let us discuss the final bargaining chip.”
“Yes. You said my arrival will bring harm to one of you, didn’t you?”
He was already only three meters from #8.
And he suddenly raised his left arm to point the shotgun forward.
He targeted #8.
“This is my answer,” he said expressionlessly. “If I destroy you here, it will prove that not even that hope of yours can be achieved.”
As soon as he spoke, #8 took action. She first opened her eyes wide.
And she vigorously swung her left hand up once more.
Before he could react, something arrived.
It was a wind. The god of war’s sword whipped up the wind as it was swung down overhead.
At the same time, a metallic noise rang out and the god of war flew up into the air.
With a clear noise, the armor plate on its chest broke and a beam of white light flew from its back.
Without turning around, Sayama smiled.
“Wonderfully done, Shinjou-kun.”
Shinjou held Ex-St atop the truck’s roof.
It had been quickly prepared when they left UCAT and Sayama would likely have been unable to take his weapons with him if Tsukuyomi had not been with them.
While her head felt heavy after focusing, she lowered Ex-St from her shoulder.
She heard the god of war collapse.
The sound of crashing heavy metal sounded like a musical instrument being played at random.
As she realized she had produced that result, she looked down.
Down and to the right, Tsukuyomi was leaning out of the truck window and watching Sayama.
“Now, what will he do? I was wondering what would happen ever since that stupid boy said combat was a possibility if we were dealing with 3rd-Gear automatons.”
“Yes,” agreed Shinjou. “That may be how the Leviathan Road works. If we are to rethink our relationships after the war, we can also redo everything from the beginning.”
Shinjou started to dismantle Ex-St to return it to its case that sat in the back of the truck.
“Let me handle that. You hurry to him.”
“Only you and his meagre self-restraint can stop him, right?”
Shinjou thought about that and finally smiled bitterly.
“I hope you’re right…”
She then heard several sounds from the front of the truck where Sayama was.
They were gunshots. And quite a few of them at once.
She turned around and cried out.
As he heard the god of war falling over, Sayama heard #8 shout.
She did not say what to defend.
But in response to her shout, four automatons leaped forward to his left and four did the same to his right.
Their maid uniforms flipped up and they formed a half-circle around him with weapons in both hands.
But he had already started to move.
He moved forward.
As he saw them position themselves in an arc, he had a single thought.
…They have opened up gaps to avoid friendly fire.
His opponents were armed with firearms just like him.
In that case, a factor other than firepower would determine the winner.
There were three such factors.
First, there was speed.
Second, there was position.
Third, there was mentality.
Those factors could be affected by tactics.
And Sayama had lived with the Tamiya family until two years ago. They had originally been a yakuza family and they had weapons.
…And I have my grandfather’s training!
And so he did not hesitate to move forward. A skilled group and a firefight lay at close range. Distance was almost meaningless here and something else mattered more.
What position would aid him and put his opponents at a disadvantage?
That would be right in front of an enemy. The other enemies would be unable to fire for fear of friendly fire.
The third maid from the right had black hair and she raised a handgun in her left hand.
She seemed to be the only one with a handgun.
And the short weapon could reach firing position fastest.
That was why he prioritized her and charged in toward her.
From there, his speed said everything.
Without killing the momentum of his charge, he used the shotgun in his left hand to sweep away the arm holding her gun.
With a light impact, her arm moved to the left.
That arm obstructed the path of the fourth maid from the right, slowing her movements.
Sayama then jumped to the left and charged toward the side of the fourth maid from the right who had stumbled a bit.
While sweeping the third maid’s arm upwards, he jabbed his left elbow into the now-unguarded side of the fourth one.
The fourth maid doubled over and collapsed.
In response, the second maid from the right and the fifth maid from the right raised submachine guns.
They moved to trap him where he was in front of the third maid and the collapsed fourth maid.
But they were too slow. His left arm remained bent from the previous elbow jab, so the shotgun barrel was pointed to the right. He also passed the submachine gun under his left arm to aim it to the left.
With his arms crossed as if in an embrace, he fired both guns.
He hit twice.
The second and fifth maids were blasted in either direction. Counting the fourth maid in front of him, that was three down.
But the first maid from the right and the sixth, seventh, and eight maids on the right had taken action.
The one on the right and three on the left had already raised their guns.
With that voice, four gunshots rang out. As expected, there was one from the right and three from the left.
The bullets arrived. Also, the third maid in front of him had brought back her arm.
Sayama hurried forward while uncrossing his arms.
He jumped up. As his arms met in the middle in the process of uncrossing them, they deflected the third maid’s arm upwards once more.
He heard a metallic noise and her handgun flew into the air.
She was now wide open.
He spread his arms and moved forward while listening to the four bullets passing by behind him.
As he stepped forward, he raised his right leg and jabbed his knee into the third maid’s right side.
The strike knocked the third maid away, making four down.
He used the impact of the knee jab to rotate backwards to the right.
As he did, he saw #8 standing beyond the others.
He would make sure to take her on.
He felt faint irritation as he wondered why the representative of the Leviathan Road had to fight automatons who were not the representatives of 3rd-Gear.
Even so, he was aware that he had partially wanted this.
…Are they desperate as well?
He wanted to know why. He felt he needed to know. He mentally nodded twice, ended his spin to the right, and leaped toward her. He quickly ran to the right.
The only maid remaining to the right was the one originally first from the right.
She had brown hair and she raised a rifle in her left hand.
In the instant she took aim, Sayama swung his submachine gun to the right.
An instant later, she pulled the trigger.
The rifle fired at the same moment that his weapon struck her arm and knocked it to the right.
The gunshot passed by the right side of his face and the bullet grazed his hair, but it did not hit him.
He stepped forward and raised the shotgun in his left hand while holding her rifle away with the submachine gun in his right hand.
But this time, she defended.
She stepped back and swept his shotgun upwards with her empty hand.
And she did not stop there.
After sweeping the shotgun upwards, she grabbed the barrel.
Sayama pulled back the weapon so she could not swipe it.
But then he felt pain. It was the phantom pain from his left fist. That pain from the past made him grimace.
The shotgun was forcefully pulled from his grasp.
The maid in front of his eyes smiled as she held his shotgun.
She tossed it behind her and then looked behind him.
Sayama did not look behind him.
He understood what the maid before him wanted. She would stop him and let herself be shot by the three behind him.
…A ridiculous decision!
“So you dolls have decided to sacrifice yourselves!?”
And so he moved. He would not let this doll be shot by her allies. They were attempting to produce something from a death.
…No matter what, I cannot let them accomplish that idea!
His only weapon was the submachine gun in his right hand. He was using it to hold her rifle away.
But he let go of the submachine gun.
He lost his weapon.
“I have more than just guns.”
As the maid’s eyes widened in surprise, he charged toward her and jabbed his elbow into her gut.
With a sound of impact, she was knocked away.
He turned around while watching her rifle and his submachine gun fall to the ground.
Behind him, he saw the remaining three aiming rifles at him.
They were aiming and preparing to pull the trigger.
In that instant, he held his left hand out in front of him.
That hand was empty, but something fell into it.
It was a handgun.
This was the handgun he had used his crossed arms to knock from the hand of the third maid from the right earlier.
As soon as he had it in his grasp, he fired.
A great sound filled the area.
Of the three maids, the middle one was blown away. The remaining two fired, but their bullets passed by either side of him.
At the same time, he heard a metallic noise on the ground behind him.
The submachine gun he had let go of and the rifle of the maid he had elbowed had struck the ground.
With a snap of his wrist, he tossed the handgun overhead.
He crouched down, swung both hands backwards, and grabbed the submachine gun and rifle as they bounced off the ground.
He raised the weapons in front of him and fired.
The two remaining maids took direct hits and collapsed backwards.
The eight were down.
But Sayama did not catch his breath. He tossed aside both guns and used his left hand to grab the handgun he had tossed overhead.
He turned toward someone to his right.
It was #8.
In response, #8 took quick action.
She tried to raise both handguns she held to target his face.
“I am serious!”
Her shout seemed to pierce through the air, but Sayama paid it no heed and moved forward.
But he would not make it in time. It would not take her long to raise the handguns. She held them right next to each other to target the center of his face.
“Is this your decision!?”
Sayama replied with his actions.
As he took the last running step with his left leg, he swung the knee up and jabbed the shin and knee straight up toward the heavens.
As #8 tried to raise her arms, they struck either side of his knee.
Her hands stopped.
At the same time, he threw his body forward. He pressed his forehead against his raised knee.
His face passed between the guns held apart by his knee.
And #8 pulled the triggers.
Gunshots passed by either side of his face.
But they naturally missed. Sayama swung down his raised left leg to slam his heel down. At the same time, #8 frantically moved back.
And he moved forward to pursue her.
He maintained his forward momentum and threw his lowering left leg forward. He was already close enough to collide with #8 and he looked at her surprised expression.
At the same moment, his left foot reached the asphalt and he made his step.
Using the force of his step, he pointed the gun in his left hand at #8.
In that instant…
He heard Shinjou’s voice.
And so he took action. He first let go of his gun.
“I will now show you my conclusion.”
As he spoke, he wrapped his arms around #8’s waist from below and placed her over his shoulder.
As he lifted her up, she was surprisingly light.
With a bitter smile, he took a few light steps forward, lowered his speed, and came to a stop.
As #8 struggled atop his shoulder, he used his hands to stop her legs from moving and he spoke.
“I almost forgot. Dolls are meant to be held and handled with care.”
“I respect that sort of thinking.”
For just a moment after his comment, #8 stopped moving.
But she quickly began struggling once more as if she had suddenly remembered the situation.
“Wh-what is the meaning of this!?”
“Be still. Do you wish to go through the losing ritual in front of your fellow automatons?”
“What is the losing ritual?”
“I treat you like a doll.” Sayama nodded and spoke to the other automatons in the area. “After stripping you naked, I will restrain you within every splendid outfit I can think of. Then, after placing you in a seat where you cannot move, I will have you enjoy a fake meal made from mud and leaves. And we can sing: ‘Hi ho! Hi ho!’ As automatons who live by a motto of modest service, that would be unbearably painful, would it not?”
#8 gasped and the surrounding automatons all took a frightened step back.
Sayama nodded toward them all.
“While I am at it, I can place you in a glass box and continually play a music box until you fall asleep. How about that?”
“Y-you cannot be serious. If you did that, rumor would spread that the losers of the Leviathan Road are cruelly abused.”
“It is up to you whether this happens or not. I believe in democracy, so I respect the opinions of individuals. And in accordance with democracy, any who oppose me shall receive an individual vigilante punishment. …How about that?”
#8 stopped moving. The surrounding automatons did the same.
As the stillness reminded them of the wind’s presence, Sayama focused on his own body.
The heat lowering from the right side of his forehead was likely blood. He was sweaty and he was pleasantly exhausted.
He then heard a noise from behind him: footsteps.
When he took a breath and turned around, he saw Shinjou running toward him with a look of relief.
She nodded and smiled with the ends of her eyebrows lowered. Her smile said she was fine and that he should face his opponents.
He faced forward, looked each of the automatons in the eye in turn, and then gently lowered #8 from his shoulder.
Her red hair was disheveled, her shoulders were limp, and she had no expression on her face.
“I have determined this was unreasonable,” she said. “Why should we listen to what you wish to say?”
“That is simple: because you wish to find a new answer after listening to me,” he said. “You already have your answer, but is there no other acceptable answer? To find out, listen to what I have to say. I want you to help me think up a new answer.”
Unable to make a decision, #8 repeated the same word.
Just as she spoke that duplicate word, she was interrupted.
“I have determined that is sufficient.”
This was a new voice.
All the automatons, including #8, turned toward the main entrance. Countless figures stood in front of the white building.
They were mostly the Kanda laboratory’s workers, but one figure standing in front of the others was not. She was a blonde girl in a maid uniform and Shinjou spoke the common term for her identity.
“Testament,” she replied. “I am #4. I am the leader of the automatons here.” She was expressionless. “I am ashamed of my fellow automatons’ actions here. I hope you are not disappointed in their combat ability.”
“No, they were an excellent opponent for my first actual battle in a while.”
As he spoke, Sayama looked around.
The maids he had defeated were slowly beginning to get up.
“It was a good thing you were wearing UCAT maid uniforms. I assumed they would be at least bulletproof.”
“Well done. I understand now that this new negotiator to appear before us is also one who will force us to face him. In that case, please come this way,” said #4. “I will tell you and show you as much as I can concerning 3rd-Gear’s impurity and its destruction. We have been waiting ever since your grandfather provided us with this place ten years ago.”
The word ‘grandfather’ brought pain to Sayama.
He brought his right hand to his chest and Baku frantically hopped from his pocket and onto his shoulder. Despite the pain and pulse in his chest, he expressionlessly took a breath.
“My grandfather gave you this place?”
“Testament. When we awoke due to the concept activation ten years ago, we took control of this place. However, we had two problems. First, the foundation of our memories was created on the idea of serving people, so having others protect us would create a self-contradiction which we would reject by ceasing to function. Second, serving someone from this world would be a betrayal to 3rd-Gear.” #4 nodded and continued smiling. “Ten years ago, your grandfather was sent as a negotiator to eliminate our control of this place. He ordered us to join Low-Gear and serve one who lives here. He said that would not be a betrayal to 3rd-Gear because it would prevent us from being a burden to them in an emergency.”
“And so you have worked here for the decade since?”
“Testament. And we have been waiting for the good-for-nothing grandson that your grandfather would often mention. I must ask that you go along with these lingering feelings of a doll for a bit longer.”
“I believe I will now speak of the past with you and give you a test. As the one who once negotiated with your grandfather, I will determine what kind of person you are and whether you are actually good-for-nothing.”
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