Owari no Chronicle:Volume6 Chapter 22
Chapter 22: Pulse of Ascertainment
Movements always have something extra
A sound of beginning
A sound of announcement
There was a place where the summer air felt cool.
Namely, a mountaintop.
In the heights, one could immerse themselves in the cool summer air without relying on the wind.
During the summer, the mountains to the west of Tokyo were a degree or two lower than the city on average. The trees of the forests and the dirt of the earth maintained the humidity, so the ground was cool as well.
In those mountains was a certain cemetery. The entrance was located at the base of the mountain and the sign there called it the Nishitama Cemetery.
The Bon Festival had yet to arrive, but two people stood on the long stairway leading up to the cemetery at the peak.
One was a young man wearing black and the other was a maid wearing black.
The maid held a bucket filled with flowers in her right hand. Despite carrying the bucket of water up the stairs, her gait was lighter than the man next to her. He had to use a metal cane to climb the stairs.
Her white hair shook as she waited for him to move ahead five steps and then she followed.
After she caught up, the man turned his sunglasses toward her.
“You can go on ahead, Sf. And that doesn’t end with these stairs. You can abandon me and go wherever you want. Yes, even to the next life.”
“Tes. If that is your wish, I will obey. But I did not think you believed in an afterlife.”
“I believe in it for you, so be thankful.”
“Tes. I am activating my gratitude circuits.”
Sf lowered the bucket, faced Itaru, and clapped her hands thrice.
“Is that how you show gratitude, Sf?”
“Tes. German UCAT’s research on Japan is perfect. This expression of gratitude symbolizes the union of Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples, but it was also determined to be a suitable symbol for the union between East and West Germany.”
Sf looked back toward Itaru, but he was already silently continuing up the stairs.
She followed him only after completing her expression of gratitude by bringing her hands together and bowing.
“Itaru-sama, where are we going today?”
“I’m not telling.”
“Tes. Understood. So it is a secret. It has been a while since you wanted to share a secret with me. The last time was my third week after arriving in Japan.”
“We shared a secret?”
“Tes. While cleaning the room you provided for me, I detected a strange hollow area below the floor and peeled up the floorboard to reveal a large number of figurines. They were all modified into ‘sheeeh’, ‘komanechi’, ‘gachon’, and ‘just kidding’ poses. Three hours later, you interrogated Kazuo-sama and had him tell the truth, but you mentioned that I was to keep it a secret. I have determined that is a valuable memory.”
“Please forget it ever happened. It’s an embarrassment to the Ooshiro family.”
Itaru continued up the stairs, Sf followed, and he continued even further.
As that process repeated, they arrived at the peak. The graveyard entrance contained a slight wind and the bright sun.
Itaru walked east as if opposing the wind and Sf spoke to him while pointing forward.
“Itaru-sama, the Sayama family grave is that way.”
“We’re going this way today. I have an obligation at a different grave.”
“Tes. I have determined you have a great number of friends.”
“Do the dead count as friends? They don’t exist in reality anymore.”
“Tes. I have determined humans have great imagination. They never use it for anything worthwhile, though.”
“I see,” said Itaru. “Do you not imagine things?”
“Tes. I can make predictions, but the way you humans fabricate meaningless desires in your thoughts baffles me and I do not see why it is necessary. Why is reality not good enough for you?”
“Ask that to my old man. He’s nowhere near satisfied with it.”
“Tes. I once asked him directly, but he ran off in tears,” she said. “But why do you imagine?”
“Look around you.”
Sf did so while continuing to walk.
“Tes. I have determined it is a cemetery. What about it?”
“Why do you think there are gravestones here?”
“Tes. They are a sign that the land is owned as a grave and they prove which family it belongs to.”
That answer put a bitter smile on Itaru’s lips.
“That’s why you have no imagination. There’s a hole in your theory, so answer this: if these gravestones are not there for the reality of possession and family, what do you think humans imagine their purpose is?”
“As I am an automaton and not a human, I do not understand the premise of the question.”
“Then why are you asking about our imaginations?”
“Tes. Because it is something I cannot do.”
“What if we added in some new circuits? Then could you do it?”
“Tes,” replied Sf. “It would be impossible according to my definition of imagination.”
“And what is that definition?”
“Tes. It came with my foundational memories. In my deepest depths, there is a place even further down than language that forms the base of everything. Someone’s thoughts are located there. I believe people imagine things because they do not contain that important factor.”
Itaru looked up into the sky, frowned, and clenched his teeth.
“Is something the matter, Itaru-sama?”
He did not answer her question. He instead ground his teeth and muttered quietly.
Sf tilted her head, but he asked a question while still looking into the sky.
“But if you know that, why not do the same for yourself? Lose that important factor and then imagine.”
“That is impossible. When I lose you, I will destroy myself. I will not have time for imagination.” She gave Itaru an expressionless look. “Am I wrong, Itaru-sama?”
“Tes. I have determined you are correct.” Itaru clicked his tongue. “You really were formatted by German UCAT. Diana can’t just leave well enough alone, can she?”
“Tes. But I was made especially for you. If you are delighted, email your thoughts to German UCAT’s Sf support team. Do so now and you will be entered into a raffle with prizes for three winners.”
“What are the prizes? Gifts for the Bon Festival?”
“Tes. They are Sf holiday tickets. Collect five and I will take a day off.”
“Wow, this the first time I’ve actually been thankful for the information you give me. I’d better send that email right away. And please continue taking days off for the rest of your life.”
“Tes. I will now give you your participation prize: 10 Sf hard work tickets. For each one, I will assist you for 24 hours. I will manage their use, so-… What is that expression, Itaru-sama? I cannot seem to place it.”
“Itaru-sama, here is a saying to help you calm down: grow angry and you lose. How was that?”
“You really do know how to bring out my emotions.”
“Tes.” She bowed. “I am honored to receive your praise. As that phrase has proven to bring about an undiscovered secondary effect, I will likely continue speaking it forever. I must send a report to German UC- Why are you continuing on ahead?”
“You’re a pain to deal with.”
He walked forward and she followed to prevent him from moving too far away.
However, he soon came to a stop.
She looked toward him and his sunglasses. The black sunglasses were facing a gravestone below a tree.
“I can see the words ‘Hiba Family’,” she said. “I can also see a woman in Japanese clothing.”
The woman standing before the grave turned toward Sf’s voice. She was short, her hair was mixed with gray, her thin eyes were bent in a smile, and she bowed.
“It’s been a while, Ooshiro-kun.”
“Yes.” Itaru nodded. “It really has, Ms. Hiba. Ryuuichi’s funeral was the last time, wasn’t it?”
A building with tall white walls sat below the sun as noon approached.
This was 3rd-Gear’s base. The emergency exit on the side near the top opened and a young man stood on the elevator sticking out.
He was Apollo.
He rested his elbows on the railing and watched the cityscape beyond the mountain forest.
His narrowed eyes followed a train travelling west from the distant station. Once it moved out of view, he watched the countless cars and buses moving through the streets.
He listened to the faint sounds of the engines.
But then he heard a song.
He cleared his ears to determine where it was coming from.
The song was formed from several female voices.
That harmony of voices was nearby. It came from the open hangar door directly below.
In that case, he knew who had to be singing.
“Those are the automatons, Lord Apollo.”
Hearing a voice behind him, he looked up but did not turn around.
“What is the meaning of this, Moira 1st?”
“Lady Miyako said she was going to the hangar after breakfast.”
“Why did you allow her to? None of the other guests were ever allowed to approach Typhon.”
“She is one of our masters,” answered Moira 1st. “Also, while eating breakfast, she asked if 3rd-Gear really does have ghosts. It seemed like idle curiosity, so I told her any ghosts would appear near Typhon because it contains half of the Concept Core that is the Tartaros.”
“Did Miyako see the supposedly impossible afterimage of an individual 3rd-Gear soul?”
“We have seen one plenty of times. Typhon is likely interested in Lady Miyako, but Typhon and its Tartaros have never shown an interest in the living before.”
Moira 1st smiled and Apollo smiled bitterly.
“You really are cruel,” he said. “Are you not going to tell her the full truth?”
“She will approach it on her own. We simply must reevaluate everything afterwards. I am sure she will show us something we have overlooked due to knowing too much.”
“Then will she remain here?”
“She does not remain here. She simply is here.”
His shoulders shook in laughter.
“Ha ha. You really have taken a liking to her. Typhon might eliminate her, you know?”
“Perhaps, but I hear our clash with Low-Gear is approaching and I think someone should see everything we bear.”
“Even if Low-Gear cannot defeat Typhon?”
“Even that is part of the current situation.”
The singing changed. Apollo could tell one automaton was singing the accompaniment while the others sang the lyrics.
He then heard Moira 1st speak with a smile in her voice.
“Lady Miyako taught us that song. When she saw the girls down below working in silence, she commented on the absence of a radio. When we asked what that was, she told us Low-Gear often plays music while working. Listening to it silently supposedly helps you focus and lifts your spirits.”
“And that led to this song?”
“The song she taught us was quiet, so we made some alterations.”
“I see,” he gently repeated. “I’ve heard 3rd-Gear did the same thing during my grandfather’s generation.”
“Yes, I recall Lord Cronus mentioning it.” She paused for a beat. “He also said the one who inherited the position of sun god would be in charge of music.”
“Music wasn’t a concept, so I didn’t inherit that.”
“Then how about you learn now?”
“You mean learn the music of Low-Gear who we are about to fight?”
“The air you are breathing now also belongs to Low-Gear.”
“Isn’t Low-Gear music the same as 3rd-Gear’s? I am not a combat model, but I believe I can distinguish between what is an enemy and what is not. What about you, Lord Apollo?”
Apollo lowered his shoulders and sighed.
“I sure am being bullied a lot today. But…”
“What do this song’s lyrics mean?”
“Well,” replied Moira 1st. “It is a song blessing the night on which a precious holy man of this world was born.”
Surrounded by song, Miyako watched the work progress.
The automatons maintained the gods of war with a combination of pure strength and skilled technique. They could control gravity, so they could lift parts larger than themselves with a single hand and fix them in midair.
While watching, Miyako realized there was no crane.
There were only the hangers supporting the gods of war and the scaffolding the automatons used to move about. They moved from scaffold to scaffold with quick hops, but those hops spanned several meters.
A nearby automaton explained the system that allowed that kind of movement.
“We are puled across by directional gravity which is created until just before the target distance.”
By repeating the action in midair, they could apparently move back and forth like a pendulum.
When in a hurry, the ones up top would lift up those down below and the two of them would combine their acceleration.
A green god of war arm passed by Miyako’s head and one of the automatons stopped singing. It was the one named Violet and she spoke to the automaton transporting the arm.
“C-come on! Lady Miyako has no gravitational control, so think about what would happen if it fell!”
“Oh, my apologies! But she can catch something like this, can’t she?”
“I thought automatons couldn’t make jokes,” complained Miyako with her hands on her hips.
The automatons all laughed and began singing once more. They were singing a modified version of Silent Night. They had not known what a song was and had wanted her to sing for them, so she had done so while sweating nervously.
The song had a poor tempo for work, so the automatons had taken it upon themselves to alter the tempo to match the wavelength of their actions. At first, their voices copied Miyako’s own, but they had returned to their normal voices after adjusting the tempo.
Miyako had decided only two things for them.
“One of you sing the accompaniment with whatever noise you like. After a verse, the next one takes over the accompaniment. You can set up a rotation like that.”
The accompaniment changed again. The previous automaton had used “lu” sounds, but this one used “ah” sounds.
She detected great skill in the voices and she surmised they had been built to sing.
During their morning break, she had asked about the effect singing had on their work and they had replied as follows:
“Based on our statistics, the frequency of records made and number of test thoughts performed have increased. Even if our efficiency remains the same, the records and test thoughts should increase our precision.”
When she had asked what that meant, they had exchanged a glance and reached a unanimous answer.
“By entering a set flow such as music while working, the conditions for creating records become clearer. Also, the miscellaneous thoughts concerning the work are eliminated by the song, so we can completely focus on the work.”
“So to put it more simply, you can remember things and concentrate more easily?”
“Not just that. We vow to do all things perfectly, so singing well while working is a sort of test for us. Especially while singing the accompaniment. With this many people, your turn does not come often, so you think about how to sing better, introduce less noise, and use the motions of the work to eliminate any shaking in your voice the next time your turn comes around. You want your turn to come more quickly and you want to more quickly and precisely perform the work.”
“Don’t get so lost in thought you stop paying attention to the work.”
That comment had produced smiles from them.
It was now the second morning work period and lunch would come once it was complete.
While Miyako ate, she planned to have the automatons look after the seeds they had planted the day before and make observation records. She considered having them make the records with pencil and paper in addition to the records in their brains.
…Would that make a better living record?
Meanwhile, Moira 3rd passed by with an armful of large screws.
Miyako watched her finish carrying the screws and then called out to her.
“Do you always overhaul all eight gods of war like this?”
“There used to be more and some were in the underground hall. However, it has been a while since we performed a full overhaul on all of them. We are doing this because Low-Gear’s UCAT has come to a place called the Seto Inland Sea.”
“Are you going to fight?”
“Hm? We’re not combat models, so I doubt it.”
Miyako breathed a sigh of relief and looked toward the gods of war.
“So who pilots these things? It isn’t the rich boy, right?”
“My middle sister. She uses the general remote piloting device down below. It was originally meant to unite someone, but they’re gone now. The cockpit remains unchanged and a remote control system was inserted into the nervous system. It can cross the barriers between concept spaces, so not much information can be sent back and forth and the gods of war don’t always move quite right. The damage to the god of war doesn’t feed back to the pilot, though.”
“I see. So the pilot will be fine and even an automaton can do it.”
But if Moira 3rd’s explanation was accurate, it meant the Hecatoncheires named Gyes, Cottus, and Aigaion were possibly going to fight Low-Gear soon.
“And so will Typhon.”
Miyako looked further back in the hangar.
She had yet to focus on and look at that white god of war.
The giant six-winged machine was being repaired by a few automatons.
Assuming it had been called out to some fight during the night again, she looked at its damaged form.
She nodded and started walking.
She made her way to it, knowing Moira 3rd would follow a step behind.
She walked toward Typhon which had slight damage to the right arm and head.
A song filled the darkness.
A hall existed underneath the hangar.
Spare god of war parts were stored there and it was divided by several thick pillars, but a certain device was located in one corner.
The machine looked like a vehicle’s cockpit had been cut out, including the roof and floor.
Inside it was a monitor and a seat with keyboards shaped for five fingers on either side.
Near the chair were a foot point for each foot and an arm point for each arm. Those four points were connected to the chair with wires so the person sitting inside would have all their movements recorded.
Currently, an automaton sat in that seat.
The slender automaton with blonde hair noticeable even in the darkness was Moira 2nd.
She opened her eyes in the darkness and the front console lit up and displayed text.
“God of war remote control – Preparing to rearrange all armor for combat – Switching to sleep mode.”
She nodded and stepped out of the seat.
That completed her work for the morning. Once the others altered the detailed locations of the extremity drivers, she would perform her next check, but she predicted that would be late in the afternoon at around five.
She began to walk.
It was too dark to see the floor, but the console behind her provided some residual light and she was used to walking through here.
Her footsteps suggested she was walking on stone and she travelled to the west end. After passing by a large pillar, she looked to her right.
A large shadow lay there.
The collapsed giant was a god of war. The torso had been sliced in two. It was a pale color and something had been gouged out of the back where the cockpit would be.
She looked away from the god of war, closed her eyes, and continued walking.
The sound of her footsteps changed as the unseen floor gained a slope.
After walking a certain distance, she reached out in front of her.
Suddenly, white daylight surrounded her.
She closed her eyes but still exited.
A moment later, wind blew as something closed behind her.
As her vision grew accustomed to the light, she looked around.
She stood to the west of 3rd-Gear’s building. The hangar entrance was on the east, so this was the back entrance.
After circling around to the south, the wall reflected the sunlight and she saw eaves formed from a metal frame and metal panels.
Below the low eaves were rows of flower pots.
The flower pots contained soil and she tilted her head as she observed that slightly dry soil.
She had not received any seeds from Miyako the day before.
From her shared memories as an automaton, she understood that they had planted the seeds and planned to make them bloom.
But as she had not been there, she did not understand the reason why. Something that could only be felt while present could not be grasped from a memory.
She wordlessly observed the pots and silently asked a question once more.
…What is the point of this?
They would eventually wither up and disappear.
…Aren’t they nothing more than that?
As she hung her head, she recalled the different guests who had wandered in here over the past sixty years. At first, she had interacted with all of them, but they were always so wary and would plead to be immediately sent back once they knew what she was.
Her elder and younger sister would always rewrite their memories and Gyes or Aigaion would take them outside.
That had repeated again and again and remnants of 1st-Gear had once visited to negotiate.
Everything had gone well the first time. 1st-Gear had been wary due to 3rd-Gear’s past, but they had been relieved to find only the automatons were meeting with them. That was why the automatons had dealt with them as guests.
But the second visit had been an attack and the situation had only grown worse.
The reason for that was Typhon. At first, the Hecatoncheires and a god of war remotely controlled by Moira 2nd had been sent out as a threat, but Typhon had intruded afterwards.
The battle had been over in an instant and the possibility of 1st-Gear ever arriving as guests again had been eliminated.
…I have had enough.
There was no reason to smile, no reason to speak, and no reason to use her ability to detect someone’s health.
She had never once had the satisfaction of receiving a guest and obtaining joy in response.
All she needed to do was optimize her skills at remotely battling the enemy.
That was all.
However, she looked toward the wall. The sunlight reflecting off the white wall prevented her from looking directly at it without reducing the brightness of her sight devices.
She had seen that wall for sixty years now, but she now heard a certain noise coming from the hangar on the other side.
She heard singing voices.
She had once heard from Cronus that humans would produce primitive music using their physical voices.
…Even that song is meaningless in the end.
Everything would eventually be lost and become meaningless.
…Does this guest know that as she gives these things to them?
…What if there really is a meaning?
In the instant that thought entered her brain, Moira 2nd felt an impossible sensation: a pulse.
Her mechanical body did not have one of those. She had once heard the sound again and again while checking whether or not certain humans could bear children.
She could not have heard Miyako’s pulse because her ability only worked at close range.
She soon found the answer.
At her feet was a line of flower pots filled with soil.
She used her ability to listen. The flower seeds in the soil had yet to even bud, but she could hear the beginnings of a movement that could be called a pulse.
The seeds slowly absorbed water and the water gently circulated within them.
As the line of several dozen seeds all breathed together, it produced a loud noise.
She heard it.
As if they wanted her to listen, these few dozen new movements were tickling at an ability she had not used in so long.
Their movements resounded.
She closed her eyes as if to withstand the noise of the flowers.
But she could not oppose what her ability sought. The pulse reverberated in her body and the song reached her ears.
She heard the vocal accompaniment and the singing voices.
What was she to make of this thing that she knew nothing of yet had once existed in 3rd-Gear?
She faced forward to the east.
If she circled around to that side, she would reach the hangar entrance.
|Back to Chapter 21||Return to Main Page||Forward to Chapter 23|