Owari no Chronicle:Volume6 Chapter 16
Chapter 16: Flowers on the Board
The seasonal colors begin to change
There is no right answer when coloring the blue of the heavens and the green of the earth
Sunlight filled a large space.
It was a lobby with windows covering the southern wall. An oil painting of the Virgin Mary holding her child decorated the back wall and six lines of a song were engraved into a copper plate below it.
Three figures sat on the sofas by the window to the side.
One was an old man in a lab coat.
The other two were a black cat and a girl in black with a bird on her head.
A three-cornered hat lay next to the girl and she was facing forward.
A shogi board sat between her and the old man.
She moved her hand across the board.
“UCAT Director Ooshiro, I hear Sayama and the others intercepted 3rd-Gear. Check.”
“Wow, you don’t hold back. …You weren’t there at the time, Brunhild-kun?”
“I detected a strange philosopher’s stone reading this morning, but it was all over by the time I went out. I threw the cat at the disguised food stand to stop it from leaving and I asked them what happened. I also got a rice ball. Check.”
“Oh, right. They were serving breakfast there. I’m jealous.”
The black cat glared at his owner from the side, but Brunhild did not notice.
“Unfortunately, I’m not a fan of pudding. Caramel tastes bitter to me. Check.”
“Damn, you’re persistent. Anyway, why are you here today?”
“I asked Siegfried about 3rd-Gear, but he wouldn’t tell me anything. Check.”
“Gwah. I think you might know more about it than him. When 1st-Gear and 3rd-Gear came to this world, you were right next to each other in the Chugoku region and the Setouchi region, weren’t you?”
“All I know is that they did not take any real action until five years ago. Check.”
“What do you mean that’s all you know?”
Brunhild stopped moving for a moment and finally grabbed a pawn.
“Will you give me that silver? I like silver. It’s nice and refined.”
Ooshiro moved the silver general forward.
Brunhild returned the pawn to its previous spot, grabbed a bishop instead and moved it behind the silver general.
“Ahhh! That’s just immature, Brunhild-kun!”
“How about we start talking?”
As Ooshiro calmed down, Brunhild lightly crossed her legs.
“It’s simple. Five years ago, 1st-Gear’s city faction considered moving to the west, but found that area was already occupied. Occupied by 3rd-Gear. Check.”
“Did you greet them?”
“Yes. Our scouts gave a polite and hostile greeting of weapons and spells. They were given a warm welcome by 3rd’s automatons. Check.”
“A warm welcome?”
“Yes.” Brunhild nodded. “They apparently held a sukiyaki party. And the leader of their automatons, Moira Something-or-Other, told them to stay away from their concept space between eight at night and four in the morning from then on. That prevented us from moving. Check.”
“I see. But I assume the radicals inside the city faction had other ideas.”
“Yes. We wanted a larger area. And…”
Brunhild moved her hand, announced “check” again, and continued quietly.
“There were those in 1st-Gear who held a grudge against 3rd because their relatives had been taken away. Those people formed a revenge unit before Venerable Hagen could decide how to handle 3rd.”
“And what happened then?”
“The day after they left without permission, they too received a warm welcome. Check.”
“Another warm welcome?”
“Yes.” Brunhild nodded again. “This time it was a slaughter party. We found them all as corpses and it seemed to be a message telling us not to approach them again. …Also, 3rd-Gear’s fortress had disappeared.”
“It was no longer where it had been before. It had likely been moved along with the space it existed in.” Brunhild looked up at Ooshiro’s face. “I heard UCAT was spotted at the time. UCAT followed the string vibration of 3rd-Gear’s fortress being moved, didn’t they? Check. Having 3rd-Gear out there somewhere was a problem and UCAT was poking around, so we gave up trying to move. Check.”
The bird on her head chirped quietly and she pulled a small wooden box from her pocket.
She opened it to reveal some yellow bird food and a portable water bottle.
The bird started pecking at the food.
The cat stared intently at it, but Brunhild grabbed his tail and pulled him toward her.
“The final transmitted text from the ones who died said ‘white god of war’, ‘insurmountable opponent’, and ‘can’t attack or even defend’. Venerable Hagen realized what that meant. I’ll tell you what that was, so give me that gold.”
Ooshiro moved forward the gold general and she actually took it with the pawn this time.
“I don’t get this country’s culture. What do minerals have to do with war?”
“War is an economic activity.”
“I don’t care, so give me that knight.”
Ooshiro did as he was told and spoke with a serious expression.
“Please spare me this one. I’ll cry.”
“I won’t stop even if you do cry, so don’t worry. Or do you accept defeat?”
“No, no. I can turn this around.”
“Then let’s keep fighting and talking. The white god of war was likely Typhon, the strongest god of war that 3rd-Gear developed for their royal family. Venerable Hagen realized that, so the slaughter and the mysterious messages reminded him of another fact: 3rd-Gear’s next king and his sister possessed the 3rd-Gear’s concepts of time.”
“In other words, 3rd-Gear’s next king and his sister were piloting Typhon and controlling time to assist their attacks?”
“Not quite. Check. I do agree the attacks included time control, though,” said Brunhild. “The ones who had met 3rd-Gear earlier had learned a few things from their automatons: Apollo was 3rd-Gear’s only survivor, he was ill, and they wanted to keep things quiet for him. Check.”
“I see. That would mean Artemis was not there.”
“Yes. But that leaves a mystery. If Typhon really was created for the royal family and was controlling time, Apollo would have to be the one piloting it. But do you think a sick person could pilot a god of war and use something as powerful as a concept of time? Simply piloting it would sap his strength and kill him. Fighting would be out of the question.”
“Perhaps the automatons were lying.”
“It would take a special kind of automaton to lie about their master. There were countless automatons receiving them, but no one there doubted what they were saying. Check.” Brunhild raised her right index finger. “It seems 3rd-Gear’s concept of time is divided in two. Apollo controlled the daytime and Artemis controlled the nighttime. With only one of them, do you really think 3rd Gear could freely use the concept of time in the urgency of a battle? Also, wasn’t Artemis supposedly turned into a god of war?”
“Then who is piloting Typhon?” Ooshiro exaggeratedly tilted his head. “Such a mystery.”
“It seemed like Venerable Hagen had a vague idea of what happened. Check. He said it was all related to the connection between Zeus’s children. I hear UCAT is stopping the Leviathan Road with them, but I doubt you can stop Sayama and the others. How about you secretly tell them where 3rd-Gear’s fortress is? Check.”
Ooshiro tilted his head even further.
“To be honest, I don’t actually know where it is. UCAT is still searching for it. We know it’s somewhere in the Kurashiki region, but there are a lot of decoys and they’re hard to detect because they travel at extremely high altitudes.”
“I’d like for you to crush them. I’m not saying that as an inspector; it’s a personal opinion. They may not have been the smartest bunch, but a group of my brethren was killed by 3rd. …And you need to give up already. Check.”
“Brunhild-kun, you need to show more respect to your elders.”
“Oh? And how old are you? Check.”
“About sixty. I’m at the age where I finally gain a refined charm.”
He raised his right thumb and Brunhild replied by looking to the side and somewhat relaxing her shoulders and expression.
“Th-that was a laugh of scorn, wasn’t it!?”
“Quiet down. Check,” she said. “Listen. While I’m here dealing with club activities and my summer break research project, Team Leviathan will apparently be enjoying themselves at the beach. Sounds lovely. Check. How about you actually make them do some work for once? I thought you Japanese were supposed to never stop working.”
“Brundhild-kun, I have nothing against sending one more person to the beach.”
“Oh, I said nothing about wanting to go along. Why would I want to soak in saltwater and throw off my body’s salt content? Anyone who confuses that for fun can go cleanse their body’s impurities with salt. Check.”
“Then if I win, you have to hold a photo shoot at the underground saltwater pool instead of going to the beach.”
“How can you hope to win now? Moving your king toward my pieces isn’t going to help.”
Ooshiro silently moved his bishop deep into Brunhild’s pieces.
“That promotes it.”
He flipped over the bishop, but the lacquered engraving said “nuke”.
“W-wait a minute! What is this!?”
“You’ve never heard of Ooshiro shogi? Too bad! This nuclear suicide bomber turns every piece in a range of three spaces to ‘ash’. Damn, that’s harsh!”
Without speaking another word, Brunhild flipped over the shogi board.
Below the afternoon sky were a forested mountain and a giant white building at the top.
Several figures stood in the empty land in front of the building.
Twenty were maids in black and one was a princess in white.
The maids all held flowerpots and the princess held a hoe in front of them.
They were all speaking together.
The princess spoke in a very masculine way and instructed them to answer her with “yes, sir”. The maids complied.
Her voice carried to the automatons who were opening the windows of the living space at the top of the white building.
They all looked down on the commotion.
“Okay, everyone. Get back to work. Lady Miyako is about to do something with the others, but she has prepared enough for everyone.”
Moira 1st’s voice filled the rooms and the automatons there resumed their work.
They placed their brushes against the floor or wiped down the walls, but still exchanged a glance. Their high-speed conversations achieved by accessing their shared memory devices were all about those down below.
Moira 1st walked between the rooms and viewed everyone’s shared memories.
Only identical models could access the shared memories and they were something like a multi-way phone connection. She listened to the conversations there, but still asked a question from the princess’s room.
“What are they doing down there?”
She did not actually know the details.
The night before, Miyako had asked for a list of all the automatons. She had given a powerful nod and thanked Moira 1st upon receiving the list, but she had not said what she wanted it for.
…What is she doing?
Moira 1st asked the question out of expectation rather than suspicion and a maid in front of her looked down from the window.
“Well, from what I’ve heard…”
“It seems the princess is giving everyone names,” explained the maid running a vacuum cleaner across the floor.
Moira 1st looked out the window and saw Miyako speaking while gesturing with the hoe in hand.
“We told her that we do not have names,” said the maid next to Moira 1st. “We said that is not one of our functions. But then she asked Master Aigaion to prepare all this before he left this morning.”
“The pots they’re holding and the flower seeds.”
Moira 1st looked more closely at what those below held.
“She says we need to care for the flower whose name we choose. She says there are autumn flowers, winter flowers, and spring flowers, but we should take one of their names because they all bloom eventually.”
Below the blue sky, maids were lined up in front of a giant white building.
All twenty of them stood side by side in a single line.
Across from them, Miyako wore what resembled a white dress and rested her elbow on the bottom of a hoe.
“Okay, does everyone have their seeds?”
Miyako nodded at their answer.
…This is going well. With a group this obedient, I could probably conquer Kantou at least.
But she noticed one maid with a downcast look who was not looking at her flowerpot like the others.
She stood at one end of the line, she had braided hair and glasses, and she was staring intently at the ground in front of her rather than the flowerpot with flower seeds in it. The ends of her eyebrows were slightly lowered and her expression was weak.
Miyako tilted her head and realized there were differences even among the same model of automaton.
However, she was curious what was causing the maid’s downcast look.
The maid quickly pointed her glasses upwards and hurriedly spoke again after seeing Miyako’s bitter smile.
“Oh… Y-yes, sir.”
“Good, good. Always try to put some energy behind your answers. …Anyway, what’s wrong? Why do you look so down?”
“Y-yes, sir. I do not have that sort of emotional functionality. I am simply having trouble deciding.”
“What do you mean?”
Miyako stood in front of her.
“You chose a flower, right? Do you not want to take that name? If you don’t want a name, that’s fine. I was just hoping you would take one is all.”
The glasses maid lowered her head again.
That must not be it, thought Miyako. This look is coming from somewhere else.
She thought back to when the automatons had taken the pots. They had walked up to the lines of seeds and pots and they had chosen the one they wanted while thinking and conversing.
Miyako remembered that this maid in glasses had not joined in with the others.
She had been the one to take the last remaining option. Miyako sighed as she realized why she was having difficulty deciding.
“Do you not like a name you didn’t choose?”
…Not that I chose my name.
Her parents had given her that name, but she could guess what the problem here was.
“You’re thinking that you might have chosen something else had you chosen on your own, aren’t you?”
“You’re thinking that this name doesn’t suit you, aren’t you?”
The maid looked up in surprise and started to say something but stopped.
She lowered her head again, but Miyako did not overlook it.
Miyako pushed up the maid’s head with a finger under the jaw and looked her right in the eye.
“Where’s your answer?”
Miyako was sure she had been right, but the maid shook her head. By not answering, she was eliminating her own will.
Miyako understood why. If she said yes, she would be complaining about those who chose first and she would be personally admitting how terrifying it was to take a name.
…This is her consideration as an automaton.
But something about it seemed odd, so Miyako mentally tilted her head. They were all automatons, so why was only this one lowering herself and prioritizing the others?
…It must be a difference in ability. Or a difference in the work they can do as an automaton.
There had to be differences between automatons. Not only were they given different appearances, but there also had to be differences in the quality of their parts and the way those parts fit together. Just like a human’s height or muscle distribution, that would influence their body’s functionality and determine their strengths and weaknesses.
This maid likely had a great number of weaknesses and so her duty was to act after all the others so as not to be in the way. And here she had determined that those who worked more deserved priority in choosing a name and that she was not suited even for the name the others had not chosen.
Don’t be stupid, thought Miyako. Look at it in reverse, and it’s obvious you want a name more than anyone.
“Where’s your answer?” she repeated.
The maid started to shake her head, but Miyako used her fingers to hold the maid’s jaw in place and faced her.
“Silly maid, ‘yes, sir’ doesn’t have to be an affirmation. Here in Japan, it works as a denial too, so feel free to use it.”
Miyako nodded, let go, and reached into her pocket.
She pulled out a pile of documents made from strange sheets that were clearly not paper. They had data on the maids engraved into them. In fact, they contained all the information on the 63 maids that Moira 1st had supplied the night before.
Miyako had memorized the information during the night. She had done some teaching work in college and she had found that learning people’s names helped calm her down and helped relax the other person as well.
That was why she pulled out the documents but faced forward without looking through them.
This maid was 13th, but Miyako did not use that number. She instead picked up the seeds from the pot the maid held.
The white flowerpot contained a flower seed packet bought at a flower shop and that packet had a picture of purple flowers on it.
Miyako held up the packet and looked to the right.
On one end of the empty land was Aigaion who wore his greengrocer apron and some bandages. He currently had a large pile of flowerpots at his feet. When he had returned at midday, he had said “we failed”, but he had brought everything she had asked for. Feeling thankful, Miyako turned back toward the maid.
“That guy bought these and he made sure they’re all different.”
She held the seeds out toward 13th and asked a question.
“So why did you choose these?”
“When everyone was distributing them, you refused to join in, you hesitated even when invited, and you simply took the last one left, didn’t you?”
“Was this a leftover?”
“If so, were you the one that made it a leftover?”
All of her responses were identical, so Miyako felt she was repeating the same decision in her head. Miyako did not know how the individual automatons gained their individuality, but 13th understood she was the reserved one of the group and was trying to hold herself back to keep it that way.
…This is not the time for that.
So Miyako asked a question.
“Do you not like this flower? Does the name scare you?’
“Is that because you chose it as the last one left? And is it because you are inferior?”
“Really? Did you really choose this one because there was no other option? Are you really not suited for this name?”
“I see.” Miyako nodded. “Then let’s throw out this leftover and unsuitable name.”
The instant Miyako let go of the seeds, 13th reflexively reached out and grabbed the seed packet.
The automaton brought the packet to her chest as if embracing it, trembled, and looked at Miyako with obvious caution.
“I see.” Miyako nodded again. “You were lying when you said you didn’t want it, weren’t you?”
“Where’s you answer!?”
“Okay.” Miyako rested her elbow on the hoe’s handle. “Then let me ask again. You don’t like that flower, do you?”
“You didn’t want to choose it, did you? You feel it’s wasted on you, don’t you?”
“But you still think it came to you, don’t you? Even if you think the name doesn’t suit you, you’re thankful for it and you want to make it suit you. Isn’t that right?”
She was repeating the same words, but the strength behind them was changing.
“I fell into old habits and spoke a tad harsher than I should have. Sorry about that.”
The maid’s tilt of the head deepened Miyako’s smile and Miyako placed her fist over the hands holding the seeds to the maid’s chest.
“Listen. That flower’s name is Violet. It means ‘modesty’ in the language of flowers. That’s the name that came to you. If you choose to trust in that name, then use it as your own.”
The blank look on the automaton’s face did not mean she was indecisive. It meant she was truly unable to make the decision.
So Miyako gave a shout to awaken the one who had been given the name of that flower.
“Where’s your answer!?”
Hearing that, Miyako raised the hoe and slammed it down.
It created a clear noise as it gouged into the ground.
“Everyone, over here! I will once more teach you the names you’ve chosen! And from now on, even after I’ve left, take care of yourselves instead of waiting for some princess to arrive! And take care of the names that have come to you!”
Moira 1st smiled at the voices down below.
She turned toward the back of the room where a maid stood hidden behind the window’s vertical blinds.
Moira 2nd turned her blue eyes toward Moira 1st and tilted her head.
Moira 1st approached the window and used her gaze to ask what was going on.
Down below, Miyako was explaining how to plant the seeds. Moira 3rd stood next to her and she must have done something because Miyako karate chopped her head.
Laughter rose from below.
“We don’t use that function very often.”
Moira 1st looked toward Moira 2nd and found the ends of her eyebrows slightly lowered.
“I think we can trust her.”
But Moira 2nd shook her head.
In response to her younger sister’s denial, the elder sister placed a hand on her cheek and sighed.
“It is true that you might not be able to think about this like I do. The ability you were given means you must be the closest one to the princess. I erase memories and 3rd creates new ones, but you view child string vibrations. You are the Moira meant to manage the princess’s health.”
Moira 2nd said nothing, but Moira 1st continued.
“Is it that hard to forget the other princesses who have come here? Is it that hard to forget the ones who feared us when they learned we were automatons, who wished to return to Low-Gear as soon as possible, and who did not even try to leave this room? Is it that hard to forget the ones who did not call for you? And…”
“Do you still insist on remaining silent because you were not given the opportunity to work when you wanted to?”
The question was quiet but not hesitant.
Moira 2nd closed her eyes while facing out the window.
Moira 1st lowered the ends of her eyebrows.
Suddenly, someone appeared at the room’s entrance and Moira 1st turned toward her.
“Lady Gyes. If you’ve returned, you should get some rest.”
“I have a new job thanks to information from Moira 2nd.”
Moira 1st saw Moira 2nd’s expression stiffen, but that younger sister did not reply. She kept her eyes closed and her mouth shut.
Moira 1st reached out and grabbed her sister’s shoulders.
“Moira 2nd, what did you tell her?”
“Don’t scold her, Moira 1st. This is important.”
“It is important for us too. Have you forgotten our raison d’être!?” shouted Moira 1st while still holding her sister’s shoulders. “A 3rd-Gear woman might have fallen into some other Gear during the Concept War. If we find one, we need to teach her 3rd-Gear’s history and stabilize her body. That is why we three sisters were created in order to safeguard 3rd-Gear’s fate. And Lord Cronus once told us this.”
She took a breath.
“We are to support the Concept War’s surviving world even if it is filled with those of another Gear. We are to make no decision that will cause even one of them to be lost!”
“Even if that princess of yours might be from UCAT!?”
Moira 1st froze in place, so Moira 2nd gently grabbed her hands and raised them.
Moira 1st saw her sister look out the window with opened eyes.
“According to Moira 2nd, that princess is a pure-blooded member of 2nd-Gear. We also have some internal UCAT information thanks to a certain information broker. Tsukuyomi Miyako is most likely the daughter of Tsukuyomi Shizuru, director of Japanese UCAT’s development department. She is part of 2nd-Gear’s imperial family! She might be giving names to those mass-produced models in order to control them through their names as a member 2nd-Gear!”
“I have determined there are too many uncertain factors in that information. For example, her mother belonging to UCAT does not mean she does.”
“True.” Gyes crossed her arms and entered the room. “That is why I’m suggesting giving her a test. Last night, you gave her as much information as you were allowed. And just now, Lord Apollo discussed something with me.”
“What did you discuss?”
“He suggested letting her leave even though the automatons like her and even though she has her memories.” Gyes nodded. “Lord Apollo knows nothing, not even that she is a descendent of 2nd-Gear, but if she takes him up on his offer and tries to leave the concept space…”
Gyes walked toward the window and looked at Aigaion down below.
“Aigaion and I will dispose of her. We must eliminate that possibility of danger.”
“So that is the conclusion of a combat automaton.”
Moira 1st could make no sense of it, so she remained motionless for several seconds.
Eventually, her stalled brain abandoned that line of thinking and produced a different thought from her memories. She recalled her conversation with Miyako the day before. Moira 1st trusted that Miyako would not run away.
She took a breath, turned toward Moira 2nd and Gyes, and used the breath to adjust her control mechanism.
“Fine then,” she said. “I know what Lady Miyako would say to this test: if you want to test me, go right ahead, but make sure you’re suitably prepared.”
“You certainly have grown fond of Low-Gear.”
“I tested her and received something suitable in exchange.” Moira 1st brought her hands to her chest and smiled. “She did not flee, she tried to learn about us, and she made sure to keep in mind her position here. Because of all that, I made a brand new decision to trust her even more. My payment for testing her was my obedience and the use of functions I rarely use.”
Moira 1st smiled again, but unlike before, this smile was filled with confidence.
She looked down below and saw a blond figure approaching Miyako and the maids who were moving the pots to a sunny spot.
The figure was Apollo.
He raised a hand in greeting and Miyako used the hoe as a cane with an annoyed look.
Moira 1st watched Miyako ask a question and Apollo scratch his head.
“I hope you are prepared, Lady Gyes. And Moira 2nd, if you really do not trust Lady Miyako, then go down there and see what she is doing. Go see that and learn what possibilities Low-Gear holds.”
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