Owari no Chronicle:Volume5 Chapter 7
Chapter 7: Painful Guard
Why do flowers wither?
Why do they not stay in bloom forever?
A wall contained a giant metal door.
The basement of the Kanda Laboratory was filled with the scent of sparks and the sounds of welding and grinding metal. A cargo corridor on one end of the floor led to a metal sliding door at least eight meters wide and four meters tall.
Three people stood before that double door.
The automaton named #4 was leading Sayama and Shinjou.
Behind Sayama and Shinjou was the laboratory work space where a large number of people and automatons worked.
In front of them, #4 stood before the bulkhead door and her legs were placed slightly apart as if to stop the other two’s path.
She had a smile on her face.
“Now, let us begin the test.”
She spread her arms behind her and grasped the bulkhead’s locks.
Her gaze remained fixed on the other two.
“If you do not provide the proper answer, please leave. What lies beyond here is the embodiment of our great grudge. I will determine whether you can have it.”
“D-determine? What are you going to ask?”
Shinjou’s concerned question only received a smile from #4.
And so Sayama took a step forward.
“They are hoping for a villain, Shinjou-kun. A wonderful villain who is willing to reach for their impurity. …You would be unable to answer.”
“Testament,” said #4 quietly with a nod. “I have a single question. The people of 3rd-Gear had long lives, they corresponded to legends of this world, and their culture truly could control the weather, control heavenly bodies, and use giant gods of war as weapons.”
“You may be saying they were like gods, but it sounds like they were closer to being demons.”
“Testament.” #4 did not deny it and she slowly continued. “If you continue with this Leviathan Road, you will be fighting those demons and then accepting them to your side. But if you oppose and ally with those nigh almighty demons, it will cause the other Gears to avoid you. As the representative of your world, what do you think of such an action?”
“I see.” Sayama nodded. He had only one answer. “A worthless question.”
Sayama raised his left arm lightly yet still forcefully enough to produce a sound from the sleeve’s elbow.
The sound of snapping cloth rang loudly.
As if that were a sign, the sounds of work behind him slowly faded.
He could tell they were all turning toward him. He could sense them growing still and listening carefully.
Before him, #4 stood motionlessly with her arms spread to protect the door.
Silence ruled all.
But in the strained atmosphere of that silence, Sayama slowly lowered his arm.
And he began to speak.
“You wish to know what I think about opposing and subduing demons? Let me say it again: a worthless question.”
“Really? This is no different from inviting a murderer into your family. You may see no problem, but what about the rest of your family?”
#4’s gaze turned to the left where Shinjou stood.
She returned #4’s gaze and then turned toward Sayama. The ends of her eyebrows were lowered and she was attempting and failing to force a smile.
“U-um, Sayama-kun? How about you look at this politically? This may not be my place to speak, but people in the other Gears had family members killed by 3rd-Gear. And not in war. They were abducted and killed for experiments.”
“If you ally with them, you will likely need some form of compensation for such people.”
I see, thought Sayama. This question is indeed looking at the later negotiations with the other Gears. But…
“Do you really think I had not given that any thought, Shinjou-kun?”
Shinjou’s expression changed. Her eyebrows rose and she looked up.
“Y-you really thought about it, Sayama-kun?”
“Ha ha ha. I have of course given it no thought whatsoever.”
Shinjou’s expression froze over.
The atmosphere from those behind him hardened and all expression vanished from #4’s face.
But Sayama readily spoke to the surrounding atmosphere that had lost all emotion.
“Why would I need to think about that again now?”
He raised his left arm once more. With a snap of the sleeve, he brushed a hand through his hair.
“In this Leviathan Road, we must negotiate with 3rd-Gear and bring them to our side. That has nothing to do with the other Gears. Why must we listen to what the other Gears have to say? The whole world is equally under our rule.”
Shinjou was at a loss for words, so #4 spoke in her stead.
“Are you saying Low-Gear stands above all other Gears and will rule them? Is that how you view the Leviathan Road?”
“Make no mistake,” he said. “Bringing all other Gears to one’s side is something no other Gear could manage. Doing so requires bringing all Gears except Low-Gear to the same level. In other words, completing the Leviathan Road will automatically set Low-Gear above the other Gears. …And once I gather every Gear in that fashion, there is one thing I plan to say to them.”
Sayama answered #4’s question without hesitation.
“Low-Gear stands above you, so now bring us to your side.”
“I do not know how it will happen, when it will happen, or even if the Leviathan Road will ever end. But if they do that, all will be equal. In exchange for bringing the other Gears to our side, Low-Gear will take responsibility for all their negative aspects and it will fall. And that will be the end of it.”
#4 listened to the boy standing before her.
The others peering over the partitions were just as motionless as her.
…Bring Low-Gear to their side?
Sayama spoke as if to answer her question.
“#4-kun, you asked what I thought about opposing and subduing those demons or gods. But make no mistake. Demon and god are nothing more than a classification of race. Even if they have greater abilities, they are the same as you and your fellow automatons. What is there to be afraid of?”
“Even if the difference in ability is like that between an ant and a human?”
“If I saw them next to a bar, I would tap them on the shoulder and treat them to a drink.”
Sayama lowered his raised left arm and asked her a question.
“What is a demon or a god? One who tempts people and causes them to fall? An omniscient and omnipotent ruler? That demon or god is nothing more than an individual that uses the power to do those things.”
He let out a bitter smile. It was likely directed at what he himself was saying.
That smile gave #4 a sudden sense of nostalgia.
She had once seen someone give that same smile.
And so she asked a question.
“And what do you intend to do with those individuals?”
“Well, if I find someone who is being feared or worshiped as a demon or god like that, I will knock them to the ground to wake them up. I will show them that there are more enjoyable things in the world. Yes, they would enjoy life a lot more if they cast aside their corruption or almightiness and gave it to all of you instead.”
“You serve people, do you not?” he said. “The demons or gods can leave their omniscience and omnipotence with all of you and they can become human. Is that not a wonderful thing? You will be able to serve people without feeling any limit to your abilities. Also, demons and gods are created through belief. In other words, they are artificial. In which case, there can be no objection to making artificial creations such as you into them.”
His words brought a sudden change to #4’s expression.
A certain function activated. Her chain of thoughts chose a certain reaction from her emotional functionality.
She laughed. A small giggle escaped her lips.
“Testament. I apologize for that. I rarely use that function.”
“Then this was a good chance to inspect the function.” Sayama held his lowered left hand toward her and spoke directly to her. “Now, take this hand and use the other hand to open the door behind you. That is your job. Take pride in it, automaton. We will receive that which lies on the other side, investigate a past you are unaware of, and head out to fight. …And it is all to bring those mistaken demons or gods out drinking with us.”
“That is what we are here for. The party is sure to be lively. The misunderstandings of each Gear will be gathered together and you will be our waitresses. Although I would like for you to sit and laugh with us if possible.”
“Is that so?” #4 nodded. “I have determined that is certain to be enjoyable.”
Another function activated. This one created a smile. She determined that this was valuable as she rarely used the function, but she also determined that it was somehow not very machine-like.
Her smile may have been a reaction from her emotional functionality. Heat gathered in her cheeks and softness filled her eyes.
She did not understand it, but she lowered her head slightly because she did not want anyone aside from Sayama to see the smile.
An old record revived in her brain.
Ten years before, someone had caused her to use the exact same function and that person had often spoken of a certain boy. He had said the boy lacked a lot, but he had always smiled while speaking of him.
That person had died recently and a certain question had filled her mind in his place.
…What kind of person did that boy become?
She wondered what kind of smile was on her lips.
And she closed her eyes before speaking.
“Welcome to the entrance to 3rd-Gear’s question, Sayama Mikoto-sama.”
A pause followed #4’s words.
But Sayama did not try to hurry her. He did not hold his hand out any further and he did not speak.
And #4 remained motionless as she faced him. Her arms were still spread behind her and she was still smiling.
Her head was still turned slightly downward and her eyes were still closed.
The silence lasted a few breaths until it was broken by movement.
But that movement was not made by #4. Nor was it made by Sayama or Shinjou.
Several short figures arrived from behind Sayama as he held out his hand.
They were automatons.
Several dozen automatons slowly surrounded them. A few moved forward toward the bulkhead door.
As Sayama frowned in confusion, Shinjou trembled slightly to his right.
She was looking ahead toward #4 who was surrounded by a few automatons.
Her voice turned Sayama’s attention toward #4 as well.
#4 was indeed not moving.
Even the slight movements of a doll had vanished, so she had frozen in place as if her entire body had hardened over.
The hands touching the door, her leading feet, her head she had tilted a few times, and her expression were all perfectly motionless.
She had stopped all of her functions as an automaton and she would never move again.
Shinjou’s almost self-questioning shout served as a reminder of just how silent their surroundings were. One of the automatons standing around #4 turned toward them.
It was #8. Her red hair swayed as she shook her head. She was saying #4 would not move again.
“#8-kun, you said that my arrival would harm one of your fellow automatons.”
“Why is that? Why did #4-kun harm herself?”
As he asked, Sayama placed his right hand on the left side of his chest.
A slight pain acted as a prelude as #8 faced him and spoke expressionlessly yet quietly.
“When we took control of this place ten years ago, #4 handled the negotiations. She prepared the plan to defect by betraying 3rd-Gear and she planned to take responsibility for our betrayal with her own self-destruction, but she was stopped.”
“Who stopped this doll from destroying herself and how?”
“Testament. She was given a duty. She was made to serve a certain individual. And that duty has now ended by allowing you passage.”
“Was the one who gave her that duty who I think it was?” asked Shinjou.
It was Sayama who answered.
“Testament. #4 just asked you a question, did she not? Your grandfather once answered the same question. Afterwards, he asked #4 to protect that which had been sealed within here since just after the end of the Concept War. He left her with what they had kept sealed for fifty years. And he told her to only allow passage to one she approved of.”
Sayama felt pain.
He swallowed a groan and Shinjou embraced him from the right.
The warmth and softness he felt through his clothes was enough for him to control his breathing.
He would be fine. His forehead felt damp, but the tension left him.
“I am fine, Shinjou-kun.”
He removed his weak right hand from his chest and pulled Shinjou close.
“Nn,” she groaned as she leaned in and supported him.
He stood tall once more and faced forward.
There he saw a door and a now unmoving automaton standing before it.
Everyone remained silent.
In the still air, he moved away from Shinjou and approached #4. As he did, someone spoke.
It was the red-haired automaton standing next to #4.
“Your grandfather would occasionally come here to suggest that she take on a new master once her duty was finished. However, she refused to stray from her own decision.” She tilted her head. “Why was that? Humans possess hearts, so do you understand?”
“I only understand one ridiculous truth here: she had terrible taste in people.”
“Testament. Your grandfather said the same thing.”
“Is that so?” Sayama endured a slight throbbing in his chest. “How did my grandfather respond to the question she asked him in their negotiations?”
“You would have to ask #4 as she is the one who heard the answers of both those with the name Sayama.”
#4’s skin was as hard as a doll and no longer moving.
However, one thing could be seen on her lips: a smile.
That unmoving smile remained.
While focusing on that, Sayama brought his hand to his chest once more.
“I thank you.” He took a breath and looked at her with no expression of his own. “But unfortunately, it seems you cannot take my hand and open the door yourself.”
As he spoke, he realized why she had not taken his hand.
The hands held behind her were placed on the door’s locks.
But her fingers were no longer holding the locks.
The door had already opened.
…Come to think of it, she did say ‘welcome’.
“You did an excellent job.”
Sayama raised his left hand and let out a shout toward the automatons to either side and behind him.
“Let us open the door.”
As the automatons nodded, Sayama stepped forward.
He raised his hands above #4’s head and placed his fingers in the gap between the two sides of the bulkhead door.
The question of whether it would open vanished from his mind in an instant.
The automatons were not touching the door.
…If these well-made automatons are doing nothing, the door must already be ready to open.
He spread his arms to either side and the gate quickly slid fully open.
The metal gate roared across its rails and loudly crashed into the openings that held it while open.
Wind blew through. It was released from the area beyond the door and it was accompanied by light.
Sayama took a step back and looked.
As #4 stood with her arms spread, the wind whipped at her clothes and she was backlit by the light within.
She continued to smile and still did not move. And something stood beyond her.
The lights illuminated something atop a ten meter long cargo platform.
“A black god of war!”
It resembled the one they had seen the night before.
#8 spoke from the side after moving away from #4.
“This was built based on a 3rd-Gear god of war recovered during the Concept War. It is the only Low-Gear made god of war that can use philosopher’s stones to function outside of concept spaces. It is the Susahito Custom. It has survived two almost complete destructions and one lesser destruction and it is a grim reaper of the past to 3rd-Gear!”
As he looked toward the metal figure referred to as a grim reaper, Sayama felt a tickle on his chest.
It was Baku.
From behind Sayama, Shinjou saw Baku climb up onto his shoulder.
…The past is coming.
She had experienced this more than once, so she could perfectly detect it in advance. All of her senses told her she was right. She was entering the past as nothing but sight.
The past revealing itself before her was in the early morning. The area was dim and rain was falling.
It appeared to be somewhere in the mountains. She was surrounded by the sounds of rain and the shadows of the mountain range, so all she could see clearly was what lay at her feet.
It was a twenty square meter area of empty land that had been cleared out.
The ground had been hardened by countless feet, but a large portion of the surface was cracked open.
It appeared to be a small battlefield.
…What is this?
The area was almost completely dark, but she could see two giant forms.
One was a black god of war standing on the cracked ground. Its right arm and the wings that said Susahito in white writing were broken. The armor panels of the torso were bent inwards into the chest.
The other was a silver god of war. It stood in front of the black one and its torso had been sliced apart. Both the top and the bottom of the split god of war were bent from great impacts and it had oil and lubricant leaking from the cut and other parts of its body.
Shinjou knew that damage to a god of war was returned to the pilot.
“Rhea-san was the one piloting that silver one.”
Before she could think about the implications of that, she saw motion.
A man rose up from behind the black god of war.
The short young man was Hiba Ryuutetsu. He roughly wore an army uniform, his right arm hung down limply, and he dragged his legs forward through the rain. His right eye had been destroyed by what looked like a vertical slash of a blade and his left eye could not see clearly through the blood flowing from his head.
But his single eye could see the two giant figures standing even further in front of him.
“A gray god of war and a pale blue god of war!”
Two gods of war even larger than the black and silver ones stood in the darkness.
One was gray and the other was pale blue. They both had four wings spread, but the gray one’s right hand held a sword covered in black oil and its left hand held a certain noise.
It was the crying of a baby.
The crying left the gray giant’s left palm and filled the rainy sky.
Shinjou’s vision saw a red-eyed baby shedding tears within baby clothes made by sewing together scraps of cloth.
Its long, intermittent crying caused Ryuutetsu to move forward.
He held his unmoving right arm with his left hand and he looked up at the gray and pale blue gods of war.
“Is that… Is that your answer!?”
The gray god of war did not answer with words. The pale blue one merely looked up at the gray one slightly.
It seemed to be asking the other one something.
The gray one then moved as if giving an answer. It raised the sword in its right hand.
And it sliced the sword through the wind and toward Ryuutetsu.
At the same time, the silver god of war collapsed in front of Ryuutetsu moved. Only the severed upper half of the body swung up its right arm like a living being.
A clear sound brought destruction. Everything past the silver one’s right elbow burst as the blade struck it. But the silver upper body suddenly leaped up and crashed into the gray one.
Needless to say, it did not move any more than that.
The ground shook and muddy water splattered around as the silver god of war fell back to the ground. Ryuutetsu shouted toward it through the rain with a voice that was near tears.
There was no response. But the gray god of war did look down at the silver god of war at its feet.
After that quick glance, it stared at the silver god of war’s oil on its gray fingers.
It produced a noise halfway between a groaning machine and a sigh.
Meanwhile, darkness appeared behind the gray and pale blue gods of war. It was a deep darkness. Unlike the darkness already surrounding them, this darkness seemed to solidify. It spread out in an instant as if to envelop the gray god of war.
It was a gate.
The gray god of war held up the crying voice in its left hand and sank into the gate.
Having completed what it came to do, it returned to 3rd-Gear without even a parting glance toward Ryuutetsu.
Next, the pale blue god of war turned its back, but it stopped for a moment.
It said something.
And then its giant form vanished in a gust of wind.
All that remained were the broken ground, the two destroyed gods of war, and Ryuutetsu.
He sat on his knees below the early morning sky. His head hung down, he bent forward, and he let out a moan.
Shinjou tried to close her ears to the cries of agony, but she could not.
“I won’t forgive you…”
His shout changed to crying, but the past quickly came to its end. She could not shut off her vision, but it now grew dark as if to say she had seen what she was meant to see.
And then the past switched out.
It did not come to an end. There was more. The next scene began as if to say there was more for her to see.
Rather than fading to black, the world changed as if she were moving.
The second past that revealed itself to Sayama was a dim warehouse wrapped in fog.
His first impression of the large warehouse was that it was old. But not because it was outdated. It was worn out from plenty of use.
The warehouse had no windows or doors and its floor was plain concrete. The concrete floor had been scraped away by great weights passing over it, so very little of it was flat anymore.
What resembled a large mountain sat in the center of the warehouse floor.
That mountain sank deeply within the darkness and fog.
But a certain form was visible in the early morning warehouse.
It was the wreckage of two gods of war. One was silver and the other black. The silver one had been sliced in two through the torso and its limbs had been crushed. However, the black one was almost undamaged save the smashed torso and right arm.
Also, three human figures appeared from behind the two gods of war.
The one in the lead walked along while checking the condition of the gods of war.
Sayama recognized him.
The one who averted his gaze from the gods of war was Hiba Ryuutetsu.
One eye and one arm were wrapped in bandages.
He looked silently behind him where an old man walked up. He wore a white cloak, his back was bent, and his gray hair and gray beard hung forward to the same length.
He walked slowly, but Sayama saw strength in his eyes.
The man stared at the two gods of war and suddenly stopped walking.
“Very interesting inventions.”
Another language could be heard on top of his words.
As Sayama wondered who he was, Hiromasa stopped walking and turned back.
“Thank you very much. It means a lot to hear that from the leading member of the god of war homeworld, King Cronus.”
“I am no longer king,” said Cronus in disinterest. “I am now a man who can only visit Low-Gear once his son lets his guard down.”
“It is a shame we must meet in a place like this. And you have to leave soon, don’t you? What do you need today? Surely you aren’t just here to see Rhea-san.”
“Rhea came here after properly removing her concept and sending it to the Tartaros. No will remains in her corpse, so there is no meaning in seeing her. Dispose of her as you would a human of this world.” Cronus adjusted his cloak’s collar. “I have two things to say. First, 3rd-Gear has formed an alliance with 9th-Gear and they have decided to bring the fight here to your world.”
His words caused Hiromasa and Ryuutetsu to freeze in place.
Ryuutetsu looked at Cronus with his one eye, but the old man said nothing.
Instead, Hiromasa pushed his glasses up his nose and asked a question.
“Can we win with these inventions of ours?”
“No. You seem to have mechanical dragons and concept weapons, but it will be a tie if they are on the same level as theirs and a loss if they are on a lower level. …Also, they will be arriving when this world reaches spring. Decentralize what is important and have your women and children evacuate. Leave behind only those who are willing to die or wish to gather wreckage from the battlefield.”
“I see,” said Hiromasa with a nod.
“Hey,” said Ryuutetsu.
He took a slow breath and faced Cronus. No expression remained on his face and he weakly asked a question as if letting the words fall from his mouth.
“Will Zeus and Apollo be coming?”
“You cannot defeat them.”
“I asked you if they’ll be coming.”
“Zeus will. But Apollo will remain in the temple. He annoyed Zeus because he could not bring himself to kill Rhea.”
“Is that so?” Ryuutetsu showed his teeth in the corner of his mouth. “It’s too bad Apollo won’t be coming, but we can still open the gate, right? Not the one that sends a single person and closes like you use. The one that a god of war can travel back and forth through.”
“Why do you wish to go that far?”
Cronus did not bother asking what he intended to do.
But it was not Ryuutetsu who responded.
It was Hiromasa. He grabbed Ryuutetsu’s unmoving right shoulder.
“Hiba, you should give it up. You need to look at the people you have by your side.”
“I know,” said Ryuutetsu. “But you can’t back down on some things. Hiromasa, you have a kid, don’t you? That healthy but stupid-looking one. Why’d you give him his name?”
“Because I want him to be #1 in everything, be it health or stupidity.”
“Hah. Those of us from Low-Gear sure do like to get some actual benefit from things. I’m probably the same. If I have a kid, I think I’ll give him a name that will help him make something of himself. But…” He swept off Hiromasa’s hand with his left hand and smiled. “Rhea named her daughter Mikage. When Mikage was born, that was how she saw the early morning scenery outside the open-air dojo near my house. It was nothing more than the sun starting to rise, but she thought it warranted the name ‘beautiful shadow’. …But she said 3rd-Gear didn’t even have that. She said her daughter was a child of Low-Gear and she gave her that name to remind her daughter of that.”
“Mikage is a part of our world. I will take her back no matter what.”
“I wouldn’t be so sure.”
The instant after Cronus’s voice reverberated through the warehouse, Ryuutetsu grabbed Cronus’s collar with his left hand.
“I don’t care what you say! If the enemy wants to come, let them come. And now it’s our turn to go to them. That’s all there-…”
“That is not all there is to it. Not when it comes to Mikage.”
“What else is there!?”
“Mikage could not have children.”
The words seemed to spill from Cronus’s mouth.
Ryuutetsu and Hiromasa were dumbfounded. Ryuutetsu’s eye opened wide, strength left his hand, and he let go of Cronus’s collar.
“Zeus had me examine her. When I viewed the future of her growth on the genetic level, I could tell she would grow to be a human who cannot have children.”
It took several seconds for his statement to sink into the air and for understanding to sink into the two men.
Ryuutetsu was the first to react.
“Hah,” he laughed while his shoulders shook.
His shoulders shook silently for a while, but his voice quickly joined them and then he doubled over.
“Ha ha! I-is that bastard Zeus an idiot? He caused such a huge commotion entering our world and he even killed a woman, but the daughter he got can’t even have children? 3rd-Gear will be destroyed! You may have Apollo, but he doesn’t have a partner!”
“That is why I created a partner for him. A partner created using Mikage.”
Ryuutetsu suddenly collapsed to the side.
After a sound of impact, he fell to his knees, revealing Hiromasa behind him. Hiromasa rested a metal rod on his shoulder and smiled toward Cronus.
“Sorry about that. It seems monkeys these days have high blood pressure. I will speak on his behalf, so what exactly do you mean? Have you completed a method of altering an infertile mother?”
“No. I have recently been working with an automaton.”
“Functionally, it is simply an automaton with the gravitational ability omitted. …However, it can evolve into a human.”
The meaning of his words left Hiromasa speechless. Cronus gave a self-deprecating smile before continuing.
“Metal has life. And so metal should be able to evolve as life and become human. I have completed an automaton designed for that purpose. Just before coming here, I transplanted Mikage as the managing body for that automaton. And the surgery was a success. Mikage has cast aside her infertile body and now lives inside an automaton that might be able to have children eventually.”
Hiromasa fell silent and Ryuutetsu slowly stood up while regulating his breathing.
While standing, he instantly grabbed the metal rod from Hiromasa’s grasp.
“How much are you going to toy with us!?”
He swung the rod down at Cronus with all his strength.
He targeted the top of the old man’s head. The rod could not miss.
But he stopped it a hair’s breadth from Cronus’s forehead.
And yet the old man did not even look toward the weapon that had almost struck him. He only looked at the weapon’s wielder.
“Are you not going to hit me?”
“If I do, that bastard Zeus would notice. That would put Mikage’s life at risk.”
“Are you sure it is not that you cannot hit me? Because you do not wish to lower yourself to our level?”
Ryuutetsu let out a laugh and jabbed his elbow into Cronus.
The old man stumbled back two steps but did not fall. He also looked toward Ryuutetsu for a moment. The young man was wrinkling his brow and gathering strength in his shoulders.
“Interesting.” The old man nodded with an impressed look. “Humans are quite interesting. Ha ha. Especially those of this Gear!”
He brought a hand to his wrinkled cheek and touched his lips as he laughed.
“Is this a time when one should laugh? I apologize, but it’s been so long that I’ve completely forgotten. Ha ha. But you are so very amusing. It has been a while since I have seen anyone this amusing.”
“You’re a human too, you know? You saw my attack, but you didn’t avoid it. Do you think you should die? How naïve.”
Ryuutetsu looked away from Cronus and to his own god of war.
“Just wait, old man. I swear to you I’ll make my way there. If I’m gonna kill you, it’ll be then.”
“I doubt you can make it there alive.”
“Just shut up and leave,” said Ryuutetsu. “Hiromasa, I know you’re busy having fun with 2nd-Gear, but help me modify my Susahito. Once I bring back Mikage, I’ll pay you back for your excellent work.”
“How very selfish. I promise you I will ask you to pay me back in the worst possible way. I can no longer worry about appearances while dealing with Yamata.”
Hiromasa smiled bitterly and turned to Cronus.
“Still, I will make sure this monkey finds his way to 3rd-Gear, Former King Cronus.” He took a breath. “Mikage is indeed a child of Low-Gear. It was after her birth that Rhea-san began to cooperate with us. She gave us information on the Concept War and she had the mechanical dragon Xolotl 3 open a path to 5th-Gear. …We cannot ignore her or her family.”
“Such a foolish Gear. How very appropriate for the lowest level.”
“Isn’t that why you were laughing?”
Cronus nodded and began walking. He walked outside where it was still dark.
“I will send a messenger later. There is only so far you can modify that god of war.”
“We won’t thank you.”
“Fine by me,” said the old man as he passed through the warehouse entrance.
He vanished into the dark and foggy early morning.
“It is too bad that I must leave without seeing the world Rhea saw. I will also tell you one other thing I meddled with.” He paused a moment. “I set the path of Mikage’s evolution to become as much like a Low-Gear human as possible. Once her evolution begins, she will not have a long life like us and she will not possess a concept to control nature. She will be a powerless mother. But to defend her, she will be given the spare for Typhon which is currently under construction.”
“You thought of her as a part of this Gear from the beginning…”
“This is just for fun. And as proof, I will leave you with a certain game. Once this spare god of war is complete, half of 3rd-Gear’s Concept Core will go to Typhon, half will go to Typhon’s weapon named Keravnos, and then Zeus and I will enter the Tartaros.”
“What!? Is that bastard planning to quit while he’s ahead!?”
“He is creating a copy of his will. That copy will be placed inside the gray god of war as an advisor for 3rd-Gear. And instead of within Typhon, Keravnos will be sealed within the spare being given to Mikage.”
“If you wish to destroy 3rd-Gear, come take Mikage. But she is a baby. How will you defeat the god of war army led by Apollo, quiet a crying baby, and take her with you? That is the game. This is my final bit of fun after toying with so many lives.”
Cronus’s words dissolved into the warehouse.
And then the past slowly dissolved into darkness, into nothingness.
As he saw the past come to an end, Sayama muttered to himself.
“So Mikage-kun is at the center of it all.”
There was a wooden staircase.
The narrow staircase was illuminated by the red lights on the ceiling. The sides were left open to make it look bigger, so the single spiral of the stairs had only a thick railing on either side.
The lights illuminated a single figure halfway up the wooden stairs.
It was a girl with blonde hair.
She wore a long-sleeved black turtleneck and a white dress as she sat sideways on the stairs. She was writing in a journal placed on a step higher than her elbow.
She created a string of writing on the white page of the journal.
“What Happened Today – Hiba Mikage”
She was pressing down a bit too hard as she wrote, but the handwriting was neat.
She looked at the white gloves covering her hands, she looked at the words, and she nodded. She flipped through the past pages and compared her name.
Today’s handwriting closely resembled the handwriting on the previous day and the day before that.
She quickly flipped through the pages, moving further and further into the past of the thick journal. Photographs were inserted at points and she had made drawings at some points.
The drawings were detailed. The pencil sketches looked a lot like a black-and-white photograph.
Her expression clouded over a bit as she looked at them. She looked at her fingers, but she continued flipping the pages to the past.
The earliest ones were from January.
The first entry was about the Kagami Biraki. She compared the handwriting there to that of the current entry.
She could tell the past entry used a lot fewer kanji than the current one. That was because she studied a lot since then, but she had not had to worry about difficult kanji back then. Also…
“Ihs oh eet.”
It’s so neat.
A few of the characters in the past entry were much more detailed than now. They looked like the product of a printer.
She looked to her right hand and the glove covering it.
She slowly placed her left hand on the glove and removed it.
The removal of the white cloth revealed a hand too white to be flesh-colored. The joints and palm were still made of a material resembling black plastic.
The hand made precise movements in accordance with her will.
She lowered the ends of her eyebrows and her shoulders drooped.
But she flipped back through the journal with one hand.
She returned to the current page and even more strength left her lowered shoulders. She sighed and tapped the journal several times with the tip of the mechanical pencil she held.
“I’ll ooh I ehs.”
I’ll do my best.
She nodded and strength returned to her shoulders. She adjusted her grip on the pencil and began recording the events of the day.
…What happened today?
She had a lot to write. She wrote instead of speaking, instead of making noise.
Rather than having Hiba take the time to read her lips every day, she felt it was less of a bother to write a journal entry and have him read it.
Once that had become customary, Hiba had started reading the journal entry aloud and she would move her mouth to emulate his. That was their latest speech training.
…When I woke up, Ryuuji-kun was there.
For some reason, Hiba always grew flustered when she wrote that in the journal entry. He had grown extremely flustered when she had written about how he would wash her body in the bath. She still could not move her arms and hands properly and her body was hard. She needed someone to do that for her and she could relax if it was Hiba, so she felt it was only natural.
She wondered what the problem was. His mother said it was because her body and mind still needed to grow as a woman. But in that case, she did not understand why her inexperienced and incomplete self would make Hiba grow flustered.
She wrote about the day, about waking up, about the morning, about midday, about the afternoon, about the evening, about the night, about what was to come, and about what she could never allow herself to forget.
“Ow ih I eel?”
How did I feel?
How did she feel about what?
She was not sure.
She often did not know what she felt about things. She had thought about a lot of things, started feeling sleepy, wrapped herself in the curtain, and fell asleep while waiting for the sun to rise. When she had woken again, it had been bright. How was that supposed to make her feel? That was when Hiba had arrived and woken her.
“I was happy,” she wrote.
She then added that she was happy that she had been able write that honestly.
Her journal entry jumped around in time a lot and contained a lot of comments.
But she had a lot to write. She filled the page as if getting the words out of her system.
During the evening, Hiba had called her. At a place called school he had spoken with people known as upperclassmen. He had told them about one of 3rd-Gear’s two impurities.
Of those upperclassmen, there were two named Sayama and Shinjou who Hiba had yet to speak with properly and Hiba speculated that they were an active hard gay couple. Mikage did not understand what that meant, but it was not often that Hiba’s voice trembled in fear like that. She could only assume those two were frightening.
He had said he would meet with them the following morning and speak some more.
He had hesitantly asked if she would meet them too.
From his tone, Mikage could tell he was unsure what to do.
And to be honest, Mikage was having difficulty deciding how to handle the battle with 3rd-Gear.
Her body would evolve into a human body.
But that evolution had stopped five years ago.
It had stopped the first time she had called out the black god of war for their first battle with 3rd-Gear.
They had tried various methods of starting it again.
…But we only have half the Concept Core.
That was Hiba’s theory. They had half of 3rd-Gear’s Concept Core in Keravnos, but 3rd-Gear’s strongest god of war had the other half. Hiba theorized that her remaining evolution could not be completed without obtaining that other half.
On the other hand, their opponent wanted her body. They wanted her as a 3rd-Gear human and as the final possibility for a mother.
But Mikage did not entirely understand what the word ‘mother’ meant.
She thought it was someone who could have children, cook food, and look after others, but she doubted she could ever act as considerately as Hiba’s mother.
She had no voice, she could not walk properly, and she had little knowledge of the world.
“Uh ah I uhoh oo oo?”
What am I supposed to do?
She had a feeling she knew what would happen.
…I can’t do it.
She had never told anyone about that thought. Not even Hiba.
She just wanted to be near Hiba. She did not care about her evolution or becoming a mother. As long as she could be by his side and see all sorts of things with him, that was enough.
But he was fighting for her evolution and to protect her.
She did not know why. However, she did not want him to be hurt, so she had all the damage done to the god of war sent back to herself.
The damage to its wings from the other day remained as a wound on the flesh she had received via her evolution. However, that wound would soon return to normal thanks to her natural healing.
That was the most she could do to help him.
She wondered whether she should write that thought or not.
It would worry Hiba. Should she expose all of her imperfections and inexperience and leave the decision to him?
She then heard a noise.
The door had opened downstairs. The footsteps in the entranceway were those of the new shoes Hiba had bought for school in April.
…I need to go.
She placed a hand on the stairway wall. She grabbed the railing, pulled her body up, twisted her waist, bent her back, and brought her shoulders up higher than the railing.
She had to go. If he saw her sitting there, he would immediately pick her up and carry her. She appreciated the thought, but she did not like that she had no choice but to go along with it.
She wondered if it was wrong of her to be so glad when he did things for her.
She stood up.
She stood on her trembling legs and her weak knees. As she grasped the railing, her field of vision rose quite high.
When she had first done this, the height had surprised her. As she recalled that, she descended the stairs. She moved ever so slowly toward where he was removing his shoes down below.
She approached him just like always.
- Kazuo contains the kanji for 1.
|Back to Chapter 6||Return to Main Page||Forward to Chapter 8|