Owari no Chronicle:Volume5 Chapter 6
Chapter 6: Driving Questions
Where does the initial question lead?
To question is to go and to return
They let you test yourself and look back
By the afternoon on the day before the closing ceremony, very few students remained in the Kinugasa Library.
The shouts and sounds of the sports teams could be heard from the schoolyard.
That provided the background noise for the three people who sat motionless at the table in the center of the library.
A cloth map of Japan was spread out on the table while Izumo, Kazami, and Hiba sat around it.
Hiba started by asking Kazami a cautious question with a serious expression.
“You aren’t going to hit me?”
“Y’know, I think you’ve gotten the wrong impression of me. I won’t hit you if you do nothing wrong.”
“Eh? R-really? Strange. That isn’t what everyone says…”
As he tilted his head several times, Kazami clenched her fist below the table while considering actually hitting him. Hiba seemed to catch on because he quickly put on a smile.
“Oh, s-sorry. Anyway…”
“Yes. What do you want?”
“Well… Before I explain 3rd-Gear’s impurity, I want to quickly go over their history.”
With her agreement urging him on, he reached for a piece of paper on the table. He also picked up a ballpoint pen and drew on the white back of the paper.
The drawing looked like a few floating islands.
“Um, this is actually a cross-section. 3rd-Gear was apparently a collection of giant floating continents.” Hiba tapped at the center of the drawing with the back of the pen. “It supposedly also had an ocean long ago, but it was always this shape and so it didn’t have very many people. The people of 3rd-Gear had long lives and they each had a special ability coming from one of the concepts supporting the world. In other words, they had lifespans of several thousand years and the powers supporting the world were distributed among them.”
“Yes. The Concept Core was divided up and they received a portion when they were born. You could say they were humanoid concepts rather than people.”
“When they died, was that concept extracted and returned?”
“Not just that. From what I’ve heard, they had a single device that took the wills of those bearing the concepts and stored them in the Concept Core. Do you understand what that means?”
“Their Concept Core worked like an underworld, right?” answered Izumo with little interest in his voice. “When those with the concepts died, their residual will and concept would be stored in the Concept Core. And when a new life was born, the concept would be recycled into them, but the wills would simply accumulate in the Concept Core. That’s an artificial Tartaros.”
“Yes. That is why 3rd-Gear called their Concept Core the Tartaros and called the device sending them there the Tartaros Machina.”
Kazami thought on what Hiba said with a smile.
“If they had technology like that, 3rd-Gear must have been a pretty advanced world.”
“Yes. That is why their civilization advanced with an extreme focus in one direction. They altered the world as they saw fit, they created automatons to make up for their lacking manpower, and they created machines modeled after themselves to increase an individual’s strength. Do you know how gods of war are piloted?”
Kazami thought about the device underneath UCAT. UCAT had experimentally created that large humanoid machine and it was primarily operated remotely, but she knew that was not the standard method.
“A human combines with it, right?”
“Correct. Because they could turn metal into a living thing, a god of war contains the same systems as a human. The pilot is broken down and taken inside those systems.”
Hiba raised his right hand and lightly rotated it, mixing up the warm gentle air of the library.
“It feels less like you’re riding it and more like you’ve grown and have armor and reinforced parts attached. When the god of war is damaged, the injury is sent back to your own body when it is reconstructed.”
A bitter smile suddenly replaced Hiba’s serious expression. He knew they would not understand.
He must have fought in quite a few battles up until now, thought Kazami as she watched him.
He clearly knew there were times when others would not understand his stance.
…I hope we can understand.
She sighed inwardly.
“Anyway, let’s get back on topic. How was 3rd-Gear destroyed?”
“Well, it was a floating continent civilization, but there was one thing that truly started the advancement of their civilization.”
“The Concept War?”
“Yes. When they learned of their world’s concepts and coming destruction, they realized their civilization and concepts were very powerful and gave them the upper hand. But…” Hiba scratched at his head and hesitated to continue. “Due to what I mentioned before, their civilization reached a dead end.”
“A dead end?”
Hiba looked up and compared the look on Kazami’s and Izumo’s faces.
“How does one increase the population?”
Kazami and Izumo fell silent.
After taking about five breaths, Izumo raised his right hand while facing forward.
“Chisato-sensei, may I give a clear and erotic answer?”
“…We all know the answer, so you don’t have to say it.”
“Hmm,” groaned Izumo as he lowered his hand.
Hiba slowly clenched his fist to show his agreement.
“Well done, Izumo-san. You’re exactly the kind of person I heard you were.”
“I see. Then do your best to show me some respect. Too many people have been unable to see my value recently. …Chisato, why are you giving me that displeased look?”
“Honestly, I don’t even care anymore. Anyway, Hiba-kun… No, I think calling you Hiba is good enough.”
“Wh-why would you drop the ‘-kun’? Aren’t I your adorable underclassman?”
Kazami ignored that comment.
“Anyway, Hiba, what does increasing the population have to do with 3rd-Gear’s destruction?”
“Well, you know how animals are said to need a population above a certain level to increase in number? What if they were only just barely at that level before the Concept War?” He took a breath. “They only ever had as many people as there were concept pieces supporting the world. …Now what if they went to war?”
Kazami froze in place. Wait, she thought to keep herself from reaching too hasty a conclusion.
“Wait a second. Don’t you normally encourage population growth before a war?”
“The Concept War isn’t something you see coming. The fight is suddenly brought to you. At least, that’s apparently how it was for 3rd-Gear. When 9th’s troops invaded 3rd, they were held off by the gods of war and automatons, but 3rd-Gear panicked. They did not know whether they should solidify their defenses or head out to war.”
“Then…” Kazami thought. She looked up at the ceiling and sighed when she reached her conclusion. “3rd-Gear went out to war, didn’t they? They wanted to finish things before their population could fall too far.”
“Yes. Their current king was named Cronus. I’ve heard that he was skilled at making automatons and gods of war and that he created further longevity methods to keep the population from falling. And he also modified the Tartaros Machina to be used for invasions. He made it so people’s concepts could be removed while still alive. Otherwise, 3rd-Gear would have been destroyed if more than half the residents left the Gear for an invasion.” Hiba shrugged. “But Cronus could not fully ease the people’s fears, so his position was usurped by his son.”
“Was his son named Zeus? According to Greek mythology, Cronus was kicked from the throne by Zeus and a culture of fighting and pleasure was created under Zeus’s rule.”
The corner of Izumo’s mouth rose in a smile and he brought a hand to the map before him.
He pointed toward Okaayama’s Kojima Peninsula in the Setouchi region.
“Is that fighting and pleasure the impurity that’s apparently somewhere around here?”
“You’re close. But when it is created for a war, what does that make it?” asked Hiba. “We’re getting to the main issue now.”
I hate studying, thought Miyako.
She faced forward while scratching at her head and sitting on the bed with one knee raised.
Moira 1st was on the other side of the stretcher that had previously contained a meal.
She was crouched down and used both hands to hold something on top of the stretcher.
It was a thin B4-size board with a drawing on the side pointed toward Miyako. The drawing depicted their world being destroyed and she read the explanation written on the back.
It was a kamishibai.
According to Moira 1st, when her fellow automatons had gone outside, an educational facility had taught about society using this method.
…They must have snuck into a kindergarten.
That had to have been a very long time ago when the Showa era was still in its middle period. If their story was true, it would have been about sixty years ago.
As Miyako thought about the past, Moira 1st flipped to the next board.
A king named Zeus was giving instructions to the people.
It was a crude drawing made with crayon, but Zeus was one of the people she had seen in the picture frames in the hallway. He was the man with a blond beard.
Past the picture, Moira 1st spoke with a slight smile.
“Now, the king was eager to get things started. ‘Wah hah hah. Be fruitful and multiply.’ It became okay for family members to have children together.”
“Wait a second. Don’t say that in such an exciting and enjoyable way!”
“But that is what happened. …Oh, are you out of snacks?”
“I still have this cigarette gum.”
With a smile, Moira 1st flipped to a board with a picture of a cell.
The cell contained some kind of laboratory and a gray-haired old man stood within it. He looked the same as one of the people in the hallway picture frames. He was holding the metal bars like a monkey.
“But the number of people decreased. It was partially due to underestimating the development speed of the other worlds’ civilizations, but Lord Cronus shouted from his cell claiming that ‘you shouldn’t do it within the family!’. However, it was mostly due to people dying in the war.”
As Miyako tried to decide what about that to take issue with, the next board was revealed.
“It all came to a head when the ninth world destroyed one of our continents. ‘Take this! Suicide bomber of rage!’ Kaboom! Kaboom!”
“Wait. The way you’re saying that doesn’t match the detail of this drawing! People are being blown up!”
“We divided up the work and each drew one, but Moira 2nd is a really good artist.”
The next board showed Zeus and several other people.
“The war dragged on and the people stopped being able to have children for some reason. Whether due to a limit of the species or just pathetic individuals, the number of men and women who could have children greatly decreased. And the loss of a continent made the world begin to fall out of balance.”
The next board showed Zeus sitting in a chair.
“The king was anguished. They tried cloning, but the technology must have been insufficient because the clones could not have children. The number of people continued to fall. Once not much more than his own family remained, the king made a decision.”
“To do what?” asked Miyako.
After a moment, she gasped at what her question meant: she was growing interested in 3rd-Gear.
She looked up and saw Moira 1st smiling beyond the board. She flipped to the next one which showed a line of giant robots similar to the ones she had seen before.
“Those who could not have children transferred their concepts and wills to the Tartaros while their bodies joined with machines and fought. Those who could have children did whatever they could to give birth to people of their world in an attempt to ensure the continued existence of their world.”
She flipped the board again and displayed a drawing of four men and women. One was Zeus, one was Cronus, and the other two were a young man and woman. The young pair both had long blond hair, but the man had yellow eyes and the woman had red eyes.
Neither of them had been in the hallway picture frames, but the man looked familiar.
He resembled the silhouette she had seen in the forest while looking down from the elevator.
But she did not recognize the woman at all.
The woman in the picture frame had had pale blue eyes.
All of them but Cronus had a robot behind them. Behind Zeus was a gray robot, behind the young man was a pale blue robot, and behind the woman was a silver robot.
“The few remaining people also became machines. Only four remained as humans: the king, his son Lord Apollo, Lady Rhea who served the king, and Lord Cronus who was imprisoned. And Lady Rhea carried the king’s child.”
Moira 1st continued speaking, but she spoke quietly as if testing her.
“It was known that Lady Rhea’s child would be a girl. If the child was able to have children, the king intended to duplicate her with new clone technology being developed and then create a large number of people for their world.”
When she heard that, something fell to the floor from Miyako’s hand.
It was the cigarette gum she had been toying with in place of an actual cigarette.
But she did not even look down toward it.
Not even she was sure why she had spoken.
…This isn’t good.
But despite her thought, she spoke in a quiet yet trembling voice.
“In other words, y-you mean the king…”
“What is it?” asked Moira 1st.
Miyako’s mouth hung open and she felt the emotion that had caused her to drop the gum.
“So… Before this kid was even born, your king was thinking about using her as a sample for cloning?”
She did not want to hear the answer.
“Yes.” Moira 1st gave a slight smile. “The child would be maintained at a young state in a preservation tank. Her growth would be stopped at a stage when she retained great possibility for growth, cells would be extracted, and the stasis would be removed to allow her to grow.”
“Stop!” shouted Miyako.
She recalled her job interview from the previous day. How had the interviewers viewed her then?
…Like a faceless member of a crowd or like a lifeless part of a machine.
She felt that interpretation was showing a bit of a persecution complex, so she stood up from the bed to wipe the thoughts from her mind.
“That Rhea woman’s kid was the king’s kid, right!? It was his own kid, wasn’t it!? How could he ignore the kid’s will and…try all that bullshit!”
“It is not ‘bullshit’,” declared Moira 1st.
Her words threatened to tear Miyako’s feelings to pieces, but that was stopped by Moira 1st’s own smile and dignified voice.
“An entire world was on the verge of destruction. There were only two options: try every means available to survive or give up and be destroyed.”
Moira 1st asked a quiet but clear question.
“Have you ever tried to choose the former or been faced with someone who did, princess?”
A certain underground space did not feel dark and sealed off. That underground maintenance area made full use of its excavated free space.
The concrete floor measured several hundred meters in all four directions and it was filled with people, light, and sounds.
The wall displayed the UCAT logo and said Kanda Laboratory in a black Gothic typeface.
Unlike UCAT in Okutama, the vast underground space was divided into research blocks with partitions. Each large partition had various objects and noises within.
“This first basement is primarily used for god of war research. The second basement is used for research on concept space production theory.”
While surrounded by the sounds of grinders and smells of welding, Sayama and Shinjou walked down the center path between partitions. An automaton in a maid uniform walked ahead of them.
The maid, #4, had sent a different maid to retrieve Georgius’s examination device with Tsukuyomi while she showed the two of them around. As they walked, she described the destruction of 3rd-Gear.
“Lord Zeus chose the path of survival no matter what.” She looked back toward them with an expressionless look below her short blonde hair. “Do you now understand what 3rd-Gear’s impurity is?”
Sayama saw Shinjou nod next to him.
She embraced her binder as if relying on it and paled a bit.
…Treating humans like tools is a difficult topic for her.
And so he took the initiative and spoke.
“Is this what you are trying to say? To survive the Concept War, 3rd-Gear did not treat its own people as human in those intra-family marriages and human modifications.”
“I do not know how exactly you are picturing the situation, but that is what happened. At the time, 3rd-Gear was the Gear with the greatest technology in such things.” She closed her eyes. “What you just mentioned was one of the methods used in the initial stage. Almost everyone but the nobles was treated that way. Most of those who disobeyed were sent to the Tartaros Machina, the empty shell of their body had the organs extracted, and the remaining parts were fixed inside a god of war. Once a temporary will was attached, the god of war was sent out to battle.”
“I believe a portion of that requires correcting. It was not just “most” of those who disobeyed, was it?” asked Sayama. “For the Gear to be destroyed, more than half the Concept Core had to be lost. But weren’t 3rd-Gear’s concepts held by each individual resident? To lose over half the core, more than half the residents would have to be sent to the Tartaros, bringing the core together into one mass.”
He heard Shinjou gasp.
But he went on to speak the truth she had realized.
“3rd-Gear’s king took almost all of the residents’ lives and sent them to the Tartaros, didn’t he?”
“Testament. That is correct.”
“But can you say anything more concerning 3rd-Gear’s actions?”
“Of course,” answered Sayama with slight laugh.
…That is a simple matter.
“Someone who is willing to do anything to survive would never limit himself to his own Gear. 3rd-Gear had to have reached for other Gears. They must have abducted people, taken them apart, modified them, and used them as tools for their own survival. Am I wrong?”
“Testament. Then do you understand the meaning of 3rd-Gear’s impurity?”
“They are the Gear that violated a great taboo and committed a holocaust in which they did not view people as human.”
#4 nodded and lowered her gaze slightly.
“This fact is known at least by the Gears higher than 3rd. Especially 9th which directly fought 3rd. And at the time, 3rd-Gear was known as ‘the Gear of fighting and pleasure’. Fighting referred to the gods of war and pleasure sarcastically referred to the forced production of children.” She closed her eyes. “But if Team Leviathan accepts 3rd-Gear to their side, it will mean accepting its past crimes. The people of our Gear were treated as tools and people of other Gears were treated the same. At the time, the people fighting 3rd-Gear knew some of their own relatives were being used as parts for the gods of war and automatons, so they took the initiative to destroy them.”
“But it was Low-Gear that ultimately did so?”
“Testament. I have heard that some people praise Low-Gear for that destruction. But what will they say if Team Leviathan now accepts 3rd-Gear?”
“In other words, we will receive the resentment of the other Gears?”
“Testament. The disturbing act of killing all of the Gear’s residents and the cruel act of desiring other Gears’ residents as parts has left a shadow of mistrust around 3rd-Gear. The Leviathan Road cannot be carried out without cleansing that impurity.”
“Cleansing the impurity, hm?”
Sayama thought about the impurity Hiba had mentioned and the conclusion the boy sought.
…Why did he say he would cleanse the impurity?
What would he do to completely cleanse the crimes that were something like the parting gift of a destroyed Gear?
Sayama spoke the answer he arrived at.
“There are survivors of 3rd-Gear, aren’t there? And the fight is not yet over, is it? The fight between 3rd-Gear’s desire to live on and Hiba’s wish to cleanse that impurity still continues.”
“Testament. Did you see the beginning of that fight?” #4’s words filled the air. “Did you see Lady Rhea who fled to Low-Gear out of dislike of that impurity?”
Moira 1st was not finished speaking.
“In their desperation to survive, they grew impure.”
With strength in her shoulders, Miyako let out a breath.
“Your king used any means necessary and he stopped treating people as human.”
She could not accept it, but she wondered what she would do if she were the leader. And what if she had been a resident of 3rd-Gear when the king had told her she was powerless.
…What would I have done?
She recalled the rest of her interview from the day before.
She was always shouting loudly and with an air of importance, but she had been unable to say anything to the decision the interviewer had made upon seeing her resume.
…He said there was nothing I could do for their company.
According to Moira 1st, those in 3rd-Gear who could not have children had been forcibly joined with machines known as gods of war.
Compared to a world where someone who could do nothing was sent to the Tartaros, her situation seemed almost carefree.
…But I’m still not being viewed as a human being.
She felt they were wrong, but she was not confident she had the ability to prove it.
What could one do?
“What can you do?”
Moira 1st’s voice made Miyako realize she had spoken her question aloud.
She looked up and saw the maid smiling at her.
Pathetic, she honestly judged herself and grew flustered. Ah, this isn’t good.
“U-um, isn’t there anything you can do when someone that stupid rules above you?”
“Yes. That is why there was one person who did not choose that method.”
With a smile, Moira 1st flipped to the next board. It showed a silver robot in a vast darkness. The slender craft looked feminine.
“Lady Rhea betrayed them.”
Moira 1st nodded at Miyako’s confusion and looked to the back of the board.
“When it was decided that Lady Rhea’s child would be taken, she fled to another world. She fled to the weakest and lowest world that no one had paid much attention to. She felt she would be safe there.”
The lowest world.
In the preliminary explanations, Miyako had been told that was this world.
She suddenly sat back down on the bed.
Her entire body went limp when she saw the image before her and heard Moira 1st’s words.
Why? she asked the silver robot in the picture, but it did not respond.
But the lack of an answer did not make the question disappear.
…Why did you choose this place?
But that was not the real question.
…Why did you choose to act?
Why had she been able to so fully trust her desire to reject the situation?
Naturally, she received no answer to her questions.
She simply listened to Moira 1st provide the sound of the silver robot leaving.
“Please stop providing sound effects.”
Miyako sighed, raised one knee, and looked at the board that Moira 1st flipped to.
The look in her eyes was much more serious now.
In the underground space, a maid walked through the maintenance and research space.
The sounds of welding and grinding formed the background noise behind her voice.
“In her dislike of the impurity, Lady Rhea travelled to Low-Gear. After her defection, Lord Zeus formed an alliance with 9th-Gear.”
Sayama and Shinjou listened as they walked behind her.
And Sayama asked about the fact just mentioned.
“He formed an alliance with the Gear that had attempted to destroy his world?”
“It is not an unlikely decision during a war, so allow me to continue. Lord Zeus decided to recover Lady Rhea’s child, enter the Tartaros himself, leave the rest to Lord Apollo, and prepare a god of war with a copy of his thoughts to act as an advisor.”
“And…what happened then?” asked Shinjou with a very bad feeling about the answer.
#4 nodded quietly and answered.
“Lord Zeus intended to have Lord Apollo begin an invasion against all the other Gears. On Lord Zeus’s orders, Lord Cronus had already created the base of Typhon, the strongest god of war, and he had developed Keravnos as its weapon of destruction. They both contained the Concept Core.”
Shinjou thought about what #4 had just said.
Her casual comment had contained two pieces of information. First, it revealed that the missing half of the Concept Core was contained within the weapon named Keravnos. And second…
…If Typhon was made as an invasion weapon…
“If Typhon left 3rd-Gear with half the Concept Core in itself and half in Keravnos, 3rd-Gear would be completely destroyed.”
“That was not a problem. 3rd-Gear intended to abandon its own Gear.”
After stopping, #4 swung her right arm and lightly pointed at the floor. She was pointing at the world itself.
And she smiled.
“Lord Zeus intended to create a new foothold here in Low-Gear, the Gear that had been abandoned and ignored by the other Gears due to its lack of concepts.”
Shinjou gulped and #4 continued speaking.
“Meanwhile, there were a few misunderstandings between the people of Low-Gear and Lady Rhea, but a certain incident led them to work together. Namely, Lady Rhea’s child was born.”
“What happened to that child?”
But #4 did not answer Shinjou’s question.
She silently turned her back and began to walk once more. She was headed toward a large metal door on one end of the floor.
…Is that something she doesn’t want to tell us?
Shinjou had seen Rhea in the past, so she had given it a bit of thought.
And so she asked a tentative question to the back leading her to the large door.
“The people of 3rd-Gear have long lives, right? If that 3rd-Gear child were still alive now, how much would they have grown?”
“It has only been sixty years, so a 3rd-Gear human would still be a very young child.”
Shinjou nodded at that brief answer and continued walking.
And she thought about Mikage.
She thought about the female automaton who had exited the black god of war and been held by Hiba the night before. That girl was with Hiba who was at the center of the incident.
They had assumed she supported him as he piloted the god of war.
…But something bothers me.
Her imagination led her to a possibility they had not considered.
And she thought about it.
…What if she doesn’t stand on the sidelines? What if she stands in the center of it all?
…What if Ryuuji-kun is with her in order to protect her?
Just like she and Sayama stood on the battlefield together.
In that case, what made her so important?
She continued thinking on this leap of logic for a while.
But she shook her head and gathered her thoughts.
Mikage was an automaton. She was not human.
And she had responded calmly to Hiba using the black god of war’s mouth. That response had been based in the kind of thought not present in a child as young as #4 had mentioned.
She was not a human and she was not a young child, so Shinjou had two means of denying the possibility.
But a sudden thought reached her.
It concerned the name Mikage.
She had heard that name before the previous night and it had been fairly recently.
…Where was it?
Her thoughts were cut off by a question from #4.
“Do you have a question for me?”
While walking, #4 looked toward Shinjou. In the corner of her vision, she saw her fellow automatons using gravitational techniques to carry tools and materials beyond the partitions on either side.
After giving that command over their shared memory, she waited for Shinjou to speak.
Shinjou held a black binder next to the boy with the surname Sayama.
“U-um?” She regulated her breathing and spoke. “Um? Last night, we met someone named Hiba who said he would cleanse 3rd-Gear’s impurity. But now that I know the history of 3rd-Gear, it sounds like you would need a certain right to cleanse the impurity. For example, Rhea-san fled to the National Defense Department due to her dislike of the impurity, so Low-Gear has a justification for getting involved in 3rd-Gear’s affairs.”
“I see,” said #4 with a nod.
She found it interesting that Shinjou was bringing up an issue of rights.
How would she go from there to draw out further information?
Shinjou nodded and brought a hand to her chest over the binder.
“What right does this Hiba Ryuuji-kun have? There is of course the fact that his grandfather destroyed 3rd-Gear, but if there is another reason, what is it?”
She lowered the hand on her chest and held her own body as if trying to support it.
Based on that action, #4 estimated her skeletal structure. She looked male, but there was also a strong possibility she was female.
While she gathered data on her, Shinjou spoke while choosing her words carefully.
“If there is something more, the person with Ryuuji-kun must be in a similar position to Rhea-san or at least dislike 3rd-Gear’s impurity. That person looks like an automaton, but what if that person became like that for some reason or another?”
“That is speculation,” said #4 before Shinjou could say anything further.
Shinjou wanted to know about the automaton who had been with the boy of the Hiba family.
#4 could tell her, but she decided to test her first. Would she pick up on the hint #4 was about to give her?
With no expression on her face, #4 tilted her head and asked a question.
“If I may ask, why do you think she is a human?”
She saw the answer to her question in the change to Shinjou’s expression.
…Has she noticed it?
While still expressionless, she saw Shinjou smile ever so slightly. It was a relieved smiled.
“That question was a test, wasn’t it?”
“What do you mean?”
“It was too obvious. You asked me why I think she is human. But…”
#4 received her answer.
“I never once said that person was a she.”
Shinjou took a breath to relieve her tension. She then tilted her head toward #4.
“You know about the automaton I was talking about, don’t you? You were thinking about Mikage-san, weren’t you?”
Her question flew directly toward #4.
#4 brushed up her bangs to create a period of silence and let out a breath toward the floor.
As her breath dissolved into the floor, she turned her expressionless eyes toward Shinjou.
“You said this person was with a boy named ‘Ryuuji-kun’, so I assumed she was female. That is a perfectly natural assumption. It is no different from the two of you being together.”
Sayama immediately responded to that.
“Sorry, #4-kun. Shinjou-kun is a boy right now.”
His comment made #4 quickly look back toward Shinjou.
It was possible the truth about her had not left the Okutama UCAT.
…Come to think of it, there’s no need for anyone else to know because I won’t be working with them.
With a mental nod of understanding, she looked down at her own body.
She wore the school’s summer uniform and she had Setsu’s male body.
“Do I really look like a girl? …D-do you want to check?”
“Shinjou-kun, there is no reason to force yourself.”
“No, I was just interested that an automaton could be wrong about this kind of thing.”
“Hm. Then look closely, #4-kun. I will support Shinjou-kun’s courage.”
When her belt was suddenly removed from behind, she frantically jabbed her elbow backwards.
“Gh… Wh-what are you doing, Shinjou-kun? That came out of nowhere.”
“Stop trying to act so surprised. …Oh, sorry about the commotion, #4-san.”
“Do not worry. This is not an impossible turn of events.”
“Yet you were unable to predict this possible turn of events. Shinjou-kun, that means you win this round.”
“I’m not sure if that’s a good thing…”
As Shinjou’s shoulders drooped, #4 turned toward her.
“At any rate, let us get back to this Mikage you mentioned earlier. If you wish to prove that she is Lady Rhea’s child, you must clarify her origin at least to a certain extent. Do you have any proof that this Mikage existed sixty years ago?’
Shinjou nodded without hesitation.
The phrase “sixty years ago” had helped her remember.
…That’s where I heard the name Mikage.
She had heard it only about two months before. The past she had received in order to fight had given her the answer.
“When 2nd-Gear’s Yamata was sealed, Susaou’s control device had a strange bed-like device in it. The creator of that control system called it the ‘Mikage format’. An automaton named Mikage must have laid there.”
“But that does not prove she is Lady Rhea’s child.”
“No, it doesn’t,” said Shinjou.
She had no proof of that. That was a fact. But…
“But proof of that is what we will work to find now. Why was Rhea-san’s child made into an automaton after Rhea-san fled to Low-Gear? Why has she grown so much in only sixty years if she is a 3rd-Gear human? I want to find the answers. Is that wrong?”
A clear change came over #4 when she heard that.
Her expressionless look changed to a different expressionless look.
Shinjou did not understand. She could not tell what that expression meant.
It was a small change that could barely be described, but Shinjou tried.
There was no hint of tension. Shinjou thought it was a perfectly natural expression and she quickly realized how the automaton had made it.
…It’s the angle of her head.
The actual expressionless look had not changed, but the way she had raised her head to look at Shinjou head on had made it look like she was smiling just a bit.
Shinjou felt it was an expression only an automaton could make.
…She is truly facing me.
And #4 opened her mouth as if to respond to that feeling.
“Will you not abandon your interest in 3rd-Gear no matter what?”
“Does it look like we will?” asked Sayama.
He reached out a hand and took the hand Shinjou wore her ring on.
He took a half step forward before continuing.
“The rest is my job, Shinjou-kun. So let me ask this, #4-kun. Does it look like we are withdrawing from the impurity you have described to us? If not, then test us to see whether we can cleanse it or not.”
“We have fought our way through a few battles. However, we have not gained any combat ability to face automatons or the gods who control gods of war as their own bodies. Is the object we have come here to retrieve something that will fill that gap? I assume the old man has planned to provide us with some power.” He took a breath. “The other automatons have already tested us, but you have not. And after accepting that power, there is more I wish to ask about. That will of course include the automaton named Mikage, but it also relates to the 3rd-Gear survivors.”
He held Shinjou’s right hand in his left such that half of its back was showing and he squeezed her hand.
She squeezed back to strongly provide her answer.
The skin of their hands twisted and they heard #4 speak.
“I see. Then I shall test you. But let me say one thing first.”
“And what is that?”
“The further answers you seek are answers we seek as well. How was 3rd-Gear destroyed? How is the main force doing? By the time we noticed, the destruction of the world had already begun and we could do no more than escape through the gates created in various places.”
She lowered the ends of her eyebrows in a look of regret.
“All we know about the time leading up to the day of that final battle is that Lady Rhea’s child was retrieved, that Lord Zeus left behind a god of war with his will copied into it, and that Lord Zeus sent Lord Cronus to the Tartaros at the same time as sending himself. And when the final battle occurred, the only ones in 3rd-Gear’s central temple were Lord Apollo and Lady Mikage.”
“Then this main force you speak of must be led by that Apollo. Do you have any questions about that?”
“Testament. Unlike Lord Zeus, Lord Apollo was a pacifist.”
It took Shinjou a moment to understand what she had just heard.
…3rd-Gear’s next king was a pacifist?
And she had a thought: if that person was still alive, wouldn’t the Leviathan Road be possible?
After a few seconds, #4 resumed speaking.
“He hated 3rd-Gear. When it became clear his younger sister Artemis could not have children, he refused to send her to the Tartaros to the point of creating a conflict with Lord Zeus. If the Leviathan Road were presented to him, he would gladly accept. He was not the type to send out gods of war to fight.”
#4 hung her head.
Shinjou thought about this man named Apollo who she had never seen.
…These automatons really trust him.
And so she asked a question.
“Then is this your question? The main force is supposedly led by Apollo, a pacifist, so why are they hiding and hoping for a fight?”
“Testament. And there is one other question. Last night, we received word that Typhon abducted someone, but why would Lord Apollo pilot Typhon and do something like that? It is true that was made to be his personal god of war.” She shook her head. “But his previous god of war was created with Lady Artemis’s body. As an example to Lord Apollo and Lord Cronus, Lord Zeus sent Lady Artemis’s will to the Tartaros Machina and used the remaining body as parts.”
Shinjou was at a loss for words and #4 shook her head slightly.
“Feeling responsible for what happened to his sister, Lord Apollo declared it his own personal god of war so as to never let her slip from his grasp again.”
“Are you sure it was not destroyed during the final battle?”
“When a god of war is destroyed, the pilot dies. As long as Lord Apollo lives, Lady Artemis’s pale blue god of war remains.” She took a breath. “Please seek out the answers. There must be a reason. There must be a second impurity that exceeds the impurity we know of. Lord Cronus created four types of automatons. Three were the combat oriented Hecatoncheires who protect Typhon and act as bodyguards. The fourth was the three Moirai created to manipulate and manage people’s memories and the mass-produced models like us. Those automatons must be fighting for the sake of an impurity we are not aware of.”
#4 then looked ahead toward the wall.
The wall contained a giant metal door.
She hurried a few steps forward and turned around with perfectly silent footsteps.
“The power we have for you lies within here. That power will help you find all the answers. But I must give you a test before I can grant you that power.”
“I see. And what is this test?”
“Well,” said #4. “I will test your intentions.”
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