Owari no Chronicle:Volume6 Chapter 23
Chapter 23: Accusing Attacker
What is faster than words?
That would be something that exceeds sound
It would be words and communication that exceeds sound
Miyako stopped next to Typhon.
At five meters, she was just within reach of its arms.
However, there was no light in its eyes.
It isn’t running, she thought.
Five maids were moving about on Typhon and the hanger surrounding it. Their primary jobs were replacing the armor plates, repairing the head and right arm, and readjusting moving parts below the armor.
They sang as they worked.
Looking at it like this, Typhon was nothing but a weapon. It could only stand there as a hunk of metal.
It did not scream or do anything else.
The light in its eyes the other night had made it seem alive, but that may have only been the case when the pilot was inside.
She looked to the side and saw Cottus’s giant blue form.
“Are you always here?”
“Do Gyes and Aigaion not help with maintenance?”
“Different job. Busy.”
“I know Aigaion earns money at a greengrocer, but what does Gyes do?”
Rather than Cottus, Moira 3rd answered as she caught up to Miyako’s right.
“She’s patrolling and examining the area around here. She leaves the concept space to guard it and lately she’s been going to places that have something called the internet to check on some information.”
Moira 3rd continued speaking while stretching.
“Those two have philosopher’s stones for outside work. The gods of war and Cottus do too, but they can’t show up in public looking like that, y’know? I wish I had a philosopher’s stone so I could go outside.”
Her voice was bright, but Miyako guessed that last comment was what she truly thought.
Miyako had heard they were able to move their base. A few times in the past, they had moved the entire space so the base would not be found, but they could not leave the space surrounding the base.
…Is it like being in a cage?
Their desire for guests and a master may have been to make up for their inability to leave.
“Hey, hey, hey, hey. Miyako. Next time you go outside, can you bring something back for me?”
“What do you want? Just tell me.”
“Hmm. Then get me the Sudden Death Man chocolates that Aigaion brought back before.”
“Oh, the ones with the Lifestyle Disease Angel and the Overwork Demon? Can you even eat candy?”
“No. I’ll take the sticker and you can have the chocolate. The others would probably be fine with that too.”
“Wait. I’ll have to buy an entire case to have enough for everyone.”
There were approximately 60 maids in all. If each one was 30 yen, that was 1800 yen. If she went to a supermarket where she could get 10% off…
She was bad at mental calculations. She converted it to about 1600 yen and upped it to 1700 yen to include tax. That was cheaper than a CD.
“Okay, I can handle that. It’s perfectly okay!”
“Um, Miyako? What’s okay?”
She decided not to answer Moira 3rd.
Suddenly, the automaton began to float. Miyako looked over and saw Moira 1st had approached at some point and was dragging Moira 3rd behind something by the collar.
“Oh, big sister. What is it? Where are you taking me!?”
The larger automaton ignored her and moved out of Miyako’s view.
“Stop making unreasonable requests! Lady Miyako has her financial situation to worry about.”
“B-but she said it was okay.”
“It obviously is not okay if she has to think about it so much first. Not to mention that she is busy.”
“Ehhh? She clearly isn’t busy.”
You’re both right and I can hear you both, thought Miyako as something new began out of her view.
“If you say that, I have no choice but to punish you. Now, it’s time to crack that butt!!”
“Waaaah! Big sister! You knocked my hip joints out of place.”
“You can’t fool me with those fake tears. I can see it with my thermal vision. And to make sure you see your mistake, I will be taking your hip joint bolts.”
“Hmph. Fine. I can hold it all in place with my gravitational control. I don’t need legs.”
A dull metallic noise filled the air.
“Wah! You dented it!”
Dented what? thought Miyako, but she turned her back because she felt wrong listening in on a fight between sisters.
She took a breath and looked up at Cottus.
“Do you ever want to go outside?”
“No, uh, that wasn’t what I meant.”
Cottus tilted his head and that action told Miyako something.
…To him, leaving here means battle.
“Maybe I’m just being sentimental. Well, if you ever want to leave, just tell me.”
He nodded and Miyako recalled the previous day. Apollo had lent her his cane and she would have been able to leave using it, but here she was.
…Only the other two Hecatoncheires can leave.
As she muttered in her heart, she realized something was missing.
When thinking about who could leave, she was omitting a member of the 3rd-Gear group. She had failed to think about the person who would most naturally be able to leave.
“That would be…”
When she recalled the name “Apollo”, she let out a voice of realization.
She had completely forgotten despite exchanging headbutts with him the evening before. He had provoked her and had her say what she truly thought.
…And he protected me when the cliff collapsed.
Dammit, she thought He showed off and then had me blurt out my true thoughts.
“It all started with that idiot suddenly sitting down.”
She rubbed her shoe’s heel against the floor in frustration, but then she recalled something strange.
The concept that allowed machines to live had been weak there, so the automatons could only function there for a short period of time.
So why had a human like Apollo collapsed?
She folded her arms. She knew she was not very smart, so she thought carefully.
…Does he have some kind of disease? Did he have some kind of fit?
But if that was the case, why had he been able to go through with that argument shortly thereafter? Someone who collapsed just from walking a bit would have to be insane to raise his blood pressure by grabbing someone else’s collar, shouting, and headbutting.
…He did bleed from that, so he must not be an automaton.
However, the automatons had been watching on from overhead during that argument. That meant it had been just barely removed from the outer boundary.
She had no proof, but an idea occurred to her.
…Is he a human who can only live in places an automaton can function?
What did that mean?
She searched for Moira 1st to ask her, but she did not hear anything from the area Moira 1st and 3rd had gone. Something new may have been happening outside.
“That’s no good, then.”
She instead turned toward the automatons maintaining Typhon. One with black hair had finished removing an armor panel from the leg and was taking a break.
“Hey,” called Miyako.
She chose her words carefully as the maid turned a smile in her direction.
“Does Apollo come here often?”
“He stops by at a frequency I would call ‘occasionally’.”
“Is that so?” She made her way toward her real question. “Does that idiot ever go outside?”
The ends of the maid’s eyebrows lowered slightly at that question.
She did not know what to do.
Seeing that, Miyako asked further about the answer to the question before the maid could fall into mechanical confusion.
“He can’t leave, can he? Why?”
“Is he sick?”
“Has he made some kind of promise?”
“Does he simply prefer to stay here?”
Then what is it? she thought.
A word then occurred to her.
…But that’s only worth making a joke.
She shrugged her shoulders and asked while assuming the maid would not understand what she meant.
“Is it a curse?”
That answer caused her to freeze in place while still shrugging.
She remained speechless for a short time as she tried to grasp what the maid’s confirmation meant.
“Does 3rd-Gear have curses?”
“The translation concept is likely conveying our word ‘curse’ as the word you are hearing. Our word is defined as a defect that is remotely forced upon one by someone else and that can be removed under certain conditions.”
Miyako repeated that definition in her head.
…In other words…
“Someone is forcing that rich boy to bear some kind of restriction or handicap?”
“Is there a way to remove it?”
The maid reacted to that slowly-asked question with hesitation. She was trying to decide whether she should answer or not.
But after the span of a few breaths, she took a step forward and lowered her head.
“There is a single method.”
She hesitated to continue and fell silent, so Miyako scratched at her own head.
That term did not seem to fit the mechanical Gear that was 3rd-Gear, but she had seen something similar the previous night.
“This is a strange place. You have curses and a strange ghost-like woman shows up.”
“Eh? A ghost-like woman…?”
“Oh, from your tone, I take it you know what I’m talking about. A pale glowing woman with long hair. She looked like she was about to cry.”
Suddenly, Miyako was shoved to the right.
As her vision tumbled, she saw that a new maid had charged into the spot she had been standing in.
That automaton had shoved both Miyako and the maid she had speaking with.
Miyako looked up while wondering why.
A giant shadow that almost looked like a large tree was falling from overhead.
It was an arm. A metal arm covered in white armor.
Typhon’s arm had fallen from the shoulder block.
An instant later, Moira 2nd turned toward Miyako and their gazes met.
The automaton smiled just as the steel arm fell on top of her.
Miyako heard the singing stop.
The great noise had already ended and she only heard the sounds of scattering components.
The low, rhythmic sound in her ears was her own pulse which was raised in panic and surprise.
…What just happened!?
The emotion of that mental shout raised her pulse even further.
She realized she could move her legs and she was not trembling, so she began to stand up.
But she staggered. It was less that her footing was unsteady and more that she was too tense.
She placed a hand on the floor in front of her and managed to stand.
She then saw the giant arm only three steps away.
It was Typhon’s left arm which was covered in armor panels and surface buffering armor. The upper arm was as thick as Miyako’s torso. The shoulder connector was open, so a steel plug thirty centimeters thick was exposed and pointed upwards.
There was almost no gap between the arm and the floor and something was crushed beneath it: components made of delicate metal and ceramic as well as fragments of those components.
The parts that had not been smashed to pieces lay between the arm and Miyako.
The remaining parts were nothing but a portion of a female upper body.
The head, the right side of the back, and the right arm lay face down. The black maid uniform had been caught at and pulled by the arm and floor and it looked as if the maid had been squeezed out from between the two of them.
Her short blonde hair shook, her eyes were closing, and she was not moving.
Except that is, for her lips.
Miyako heard her voice.
Miyako frantically crouched down and listened closely as Moira 2nd spoke so very quietly while moving only her lips.
“Please help Lord Apollo. He is a victim of the Concept War. He is unstable as a human…and thus must receive the restrictions of a machine.”
“How do you remove those restrictions? Surely you have a way using your technology.”
Her frantic question received no reply and Moira 2nd stopped moving altogether.
But Miyako continued to shout.
“Don’t go to sleep!!”
That produced a small smile from the automaton.
She opened her mouth and spoke the rest with difficulty.
“Th-the method is…”
“Something that…Lord Apollo c-cannot d-do…b-by him…himsel-sel-self.”
Miyako nodded and touched Moira 2nd’s cheek to tell her she had understood.
All strength left the automaton’s body and she did not speak any further.
No one moved, so Miyako stood up, turned in every direction, and shouted out.
“Someone take Moira 2nd to get help!”
With shudders of realization, some nearby maids, including the one who had escaped damage thanks to Moira 2nd, quickly ran over. Seeing that, Miyako breathed a sigh of relief.
“She isn’t going to die from this, right? Right?”
“There is nothing to worry about. As long as her head remains, her memories can be returned.”
Miyako looked toward Moira 2nd with a quiet expression.
After thanking the automaton for saving her, strength entered her eyebrows.
…I could let it end like this, but…
She looked up toward Typhon’s shoulder, but not a single maid was there.
The maids working on it had been in the process of replacing the armor around the waist. Five of them were paused where they had been lifting the giant metal panel together.
…In that case…
Typhon’s arm had fallen from the shoulder on its own.
“That wasn’t an accident due to poor maintenance, was it?”
She looked over.
She saw a faint light there.
And it was a pale bluish-white. It was the same cold light as when she had been abducted.
“Is someone in there!?”
…Who is it? No, it doesn’t matter who it is.
Typhon had definitely attempted to prevent her from speaking any further with that maid. And it had attempted to do so with her death.
She had not heard any footsteps on the overhead catwalk, so Typhon’s pilot would have been in the cockpit the entire time.
She wondered who it was. Was it the glowing woman from the previous night? Was it Apollo? At the moment, it did not matter which it was.
She lifted her heel, turned around, and began running.
There was a staircase up to the catwalk on the hangar wall, so she ran there while keeping her eye on Typhon to ensure no one fled from the cockpit on its back.
…From now on, those maids aren’t going to tell me anything about Apollo or Typhon.
That falling arm had been a warning from the one controlling Typhon.
Who is it? she wondered.
This was the final 3rd-Gear member who was refusing to show themselves. It was the person controlling Typhon, the person who had not let Moira 1st and the others show her the hangar until now, the person keeping Apollo inside the concept space, and the person who would crush their own automaton as a warning.
Miyako recalled what 3rd-Gear had done during the Concept War.
…This sounds like someone who would do those things.
She ran up the stairs.
The catwalk was about three stories up, which put it at the height of a god of war’s back.
The empty passageway continued in a straight line and reached the left side of a back with six wings.
She had not seen anyone leave from the back, so she ran loudly and while swinging her arms.
She travelled the distance in an instant and arrived.
“I’ve got you now!!”
She stopped and stood on Typhon’s back. The cockpit located between the six wings stuck out quite a bit further than the other gods of war and the inside of the block formed the basin that decomposed the pilot.
But it was empty.
She caught her breath and peered inside with a hand on one wing.
“Wait a second. Why?”
Why was no one inside?
That’s cheating, she mouthed while leaning further forward to peer inside the cockpit.
But all she saw was a dimly-lit empty space and a metal floor.
She took a breath, frowned, and felt a sinking feeling deep in her chest. It was a dark feeling. It was a mixture of impatience and fear because she knew something was going on but did not know what.
And as the feeling filled her, she saw a light. The light formed writing. A panel inside the cockpit contained a word in a pale light. She could not read it, but she could tell what it meant.
She knew the word.
“What is this?”
Before she could picture the characters in her mind, they vanished. The cockpit fell into complete darkness and she realized Typhon was not going to move now.
Instead, she saw a strand of color.
A single hair was caught in the cockpit’s door. She wrapped it around her finger to pull it out and the slender and soft blonde strand fluttered in the air.
She recognized the length and the color.
…This is Apollo’s.
But he was not inside, so it may have simply blown there in the wind.
In that case, who had piloted Typhon?
As soon as she asked herself that, she saw a light. The light took the form of slender fingers and approached the nape of her neck from behind.
She frantically turned around but found only empty space.
No one was here, but she was certain someone had been.
While eating breakfast, Moira 1st had told her that a ghost or something similar might appear next to Typhon as it contained the Concept Core which functioned as the Tartaros. That something would be unable to touch anyone, but it would exist.
The fact that something like that existed brought a chill to her spine. Once she caught her breath, she tensed her back.
And she silently walked back along the catwalk.
She remained focused and noticed that Typhon’s eyes no longer contained any light. The fallen left arm and the connector on the shoulder showed no sign of being pried open or of bolts being loosened from the outside. The attachment base that could not be accessed from outside had opened naturally. The opening to that attachment base contained no damage like the right arm did, no cracks in the armor, and no scratches on the frame.
Typhon’s left arm had definitely been removed by the pilot, but Miyako started to focus on the right arm that was being repaired.
She focused on that broken right arm and…
“The slightly damaged head.”
“That writing and the presence behind me.”
At that point, she sensed something about the damage to Typhon.
Something seemed off and she felt an odd sense of déjà vu.
…What is this? I feel like there’s some important connection here.
Her vision then caught a hint.
Down below, the arm that had crushed Moira 2nd was being removed. Six automatons were lifting it on Moira 1st’s instructions.
However, Miyako was looking at the automaton who had saved her rather than at Typhon’s arm. The automaton’s head was lowered and she was collapsed, but Miyako was looking at her unharmed right arm.
Moira 2nd’s right index finger was pointing in a certain direction.
It was pointed straight down as if to some place below the floor.
An expanse of white sand lay below the blue sky.
Immediately behind the sand was a thin rocky area followed by a forest. The rocky area’s height change separated the forest and the beach and the sea breeze reached the sparse branches of the pine forest.
Several green tents were set up at the entrance to the forest and all of them had thick waterproof sheets as roofs.
The shallow and rocky land meant the tents could not use stakes driven into the dirt.
“Use the rocks and have the trees act as pillars. But don’t break the trees. Do that and you’ll lose points and be in charge of dinner. I’m in the mood for curry. What about you? It’s delicious.”
Ooki was giving instructions while walking unsteadily across the rocky area.
Her instructions were not very useful, but the tents were somehow getting set up one after another.
Those who had finished would construct their stove, bathroom, and other facilities and then split into two groups. One group would go train while the other…
“Break time! I’m first!!”
With that shout, Kazami ran toward the ocean. She dashed across the artificial beach while holding G-Sp2 and wearing an orange and black bikini. Water splashed into the air and she sank down into it.
“I’ve got our dinner!!”
Eventually, an explosive spray of water burst up from the ocean. The pillar of water reached around a dozen meters up and the rain of saltwater made it as far as the beach. Those on the beach cried out and avoided the rain which had several fish mixed in.
The fish flopped around as if in surprise after falling on the beach and Sibyl gathered them while wearing a light jacket.
Once a large basket was full, Kazami left the ocean.
She held up G-Sp2 in her right hand and did not bother wiping away the seawater running down her body.
“Ah, that felt great. But you really can’t underestimate a desert island out at sea. The current is fast and deep. We should probably run a rope from the rocky outcroppings on either side to show where your feet can reach the bottom.”
“Good idea, but what about Izumo-sama? He will almost certainly laugh as he crosses the rope and end up swept out to sea.”
“Don’t worry. He won’t die just because he stops breathing. More importantly, where’s Mikage?”
Kazami looked where Sibyl pointed and saw someone in a dress sitting in the rocky area. The girl held a cane and simply stared up into the sky.
“She does not seem to have brought a swimsuit.”
“Yeah, I think she’s still reluctant to show off her body. Well, there’s more to see on this island than the ocean, so I hope something here can help her evolve.”
Two boys carrying baskets approached from beyond the rocky area.
Izumo and Hiba both wore T-shirts and shorts.
Kazami saw Mikage try to stand up as soon as she spotted Hiba. Her actions had a brightness absent from her usual expressionless face.
…She really cares about Hiba.
Kazami smiled and Sibyl whispered next to her.
“You looked just as happy when Izumo-sama appeared.”
“I’m not that straightforward.”
She shrugged and smiled as Izumo approached. He lowered the basket on his back a few steps away.
He turned toward her, looked at her face, her chest, her hips, and her legs.
“Chisato, listen closely.”
“What is it?”
“To be honest…” He placed a hand on her shoulder, looked up into the sky, and chose his words carefully. “I’ve always been a coward when it came to swimsuits, so I think I’m going to show more courage and- Don’t throw me that quickly!”
She immobilized the wrist on her shoulder just as she swept his legs out from under him and rotated him around.
He flipped completely over in midair.
She had only recently learned this technique. Punches and kicks could harm the opponent too easily, but locking techniques could only defeat a single opponent. However, there was a different sort of technique that could defeat a single opponent and disturb or damage any others around.
The main trick was to continually pull her opponent’s hand forward and down to create circular motion.
As a result, Izumo quickly rotated in midair.
His back would soon be slammed against the ground, but she trusted him to prepare for the landing. That trust came from the years she had spent with him and it allowed her to use her full training without worrying about him.
Good, good, she thought of her own movements when Sibyl suddenly spoke.
“Ch-Chisato-sama! Izumo-sama is going to fall into the ocean and get soaking wet!”
She quickly corrected his trajectory and the top of his head slammed into the relatively hard beach.
The sound of the impact filled the air and the sounds of tent preparations came to a halt.
As sand blew up into the air and fell back down, Kazami was left letting out a breath and wiping sweat from her brow.
“Thanks, Sibyl. Knowing Kaku, I doubt he packed any extra changes of clothing.”
“Yes. Having him crawl around in wet clothing would affect both his health and our public morals.”
Kazami looked to the rocky area and found Hiba glaring at her for some reason.
She tilted her head and he frantically held Mikage’s shoulders and took a step back.
“U-um, I feel like I have to ask: is he okay?”
“Hm? Oh, he’s fine. C’mon, get up, Kaku.”
Kazami lifted Izumo up and struck his head with the tip of G-Sp2.
She would hit him with a vase to wake him in the mornings, but even that was taking a while recently.
She occasionally wondered if he still had some reason to hesitate.
He now slowly opened his eyes.
“Yawn. Is it morning already?”
“Wake up already. We’re at the training camp.”
“Oh, that’s right. So what was I doing? Last thing I remember, I was gathering fruit in the forest with Hiba.”
“You probably fell out of a tree. Heh heh. Yes, let’s say that’s what happened.”
For some reason, Hiba held Mikage’s shoulders, turned around, and tried to sneak away.
“Hey, don’t run, Hiba.”
“I-I think Mikage-san wants to go in the shade.”
“Is that true, Mikage?”
Mikage turned toward Kazami and shook her head.
“Ahh, Mikage-san, you don’t understand,” said Hiba frantically. “The world is headed in an odd direction right now!”
“Your world is headed straight for hell,” warned Kazami.
Hearing that, Sibyl frowned.
“Chisato-sama, I do not think you should make implicit threats of murder to someone you do not know very well.”
“Y-yeah, you’re probably right. But…”
“Yes. He does not know you very well, so he will not understand unless make the threat explicit.”
“Sibyl? That was a very good point, but how about you keep points that good just between the two of us? …I said don’t run, Hiba!”
“But I don’t see why I should stay here.”
Hiba looked toward Mikage. She had her usual expressionless face, but she did not seem to have made her own decision. She looked at him expectantly to tell her what to do.
He sighed and faced Kazami with lowered eyebrows.
“Is there anything for me to do here?”
“They’re training over there. Would you rather join them?”
Kazami looked to the eastern side of the beach. She and the others were on the western side while the eastern side was used for training. An empty car and dummy building for infiltration training were prepared and Boldman stood before those needing training.
Despite the sun beating down on them, they all wore three-piece suits, neckties, and leather shoes.
Kazami watched as Boldman pushed round glasses (minus the lenses) up his nose and tightened his tie.
“Now then,” he said with a training manual under his arm. “Students, the summer training camp for Japanese UCAT Tokyo Branch Special and Standard Divisions begins now. I am Robert Boldman and I have been the training instructor since last year. I will not ask anything difficult. Simply answer ‘yes, teacher’ to whatever I say.”
A young Japanese man on one side whose gray suit was already darkened with sweat raised his hand.
“Yes, teacher! May I ask a question!?”
“Questions are generally not permitted, but as we have only just begun, I will allow it this once.”
“Yes, teacher! Why must we wear suits as we train and speak overly politely like a bunch of homos? May I call you an idiot!?”
Around twenty of the others lined up gave looks of agreement.
“I see.” Boldman brought a hand to his forehead which was completely devoid of sweat. “During last year’s training camp on Mt. Osore, I gave the same training given to the American marine unit I belonged to. It started with shouting insults along the shore of the Sanzu River and running a marathon across Mt. Osore while singing an enjoyable round of an erotic song. Anyway, one of the trainees was filled with a rebellious spirit.”
“I tried to quell that rebelliousness, but the rebel…for the purposes of the story let’s say it was a she. Anyway, she said the lyrics of the song were horrible and I sent my aide after her, but she punched him and kicked him in the crotch. Her partner was a man who would not go down no matter how much you punched him, so I ended up receiving some injuries from the two of them.”
He indicated the area around the back of his neck.
“I was fine at the time, but aftereffects of the whiplash have been showing up lately and my wife is worried. At any rate, I spoke with the higher ups afterwards and realized my training method was simply too outdated, so some of the fault lay with me.”
He clenched his fist and looked up into the sky.
“And so I have given the concept of training new life. It has gone from being a wild and delinquent to stylish and politely intelligent! Training forever!!”
“Where’s your answer?”
“I can’t hear you.”
“Okay, try to make it loud for once! Ready, go!!”
“Well done! Now, everyone, run three laps around the island. If it’s getting tough, just tell me. We’ll be running in a line and the slowest person takes the lead. Do you know the trick to running?”
“Can you tell me what it is?”
“You don’t actually know, do you?”
“Very good.” Boldman pushed the round glasses up his nose again. “The trick to running is to stay M-A-D. M for ‘move ever forward’, A for ‘always accelerate’, and D for ‘dash and don’t stop’. If you don’t follow those rules, you’ll be doing the same thing tomorrow.”
“Yes, teacher! We’ll make sure to stay MAD!”
“Okay, you there can take the lead first. Everyone else line up behind him.”
The man in a gray suit who responded ran across the beach as quickly as he could as if fleeing something. The next person gasped and frantically followed. More and more followed with no discrimination between the sexes or anything else. Lastly, Boldman ran after them.
“Okay, everyone, let’s sing a song to increase our sense of unity. Just repeat after me.”
“Blooooming, blooooming, the target flower is bloooooming.”
“Blooooming, blooooming, the target flower is bloooooming.”
“They’re all in a rowwww, a nice straight rowwwww. Red clothes, black clothes, white clothes. Whatever flower you see, just cry yeehoo!”
“They’re all in a rowwww, a nice straight rowwwww. Red clothes, black clothes, white clothes. Whatever flower you see, just cry yeehoo!”
The alternating song disappeared into the distance.
After watching them leave, Kazami turned to Hiba.
He pointed toward the already vanished song and turned his head toward her.
“Is that really okay? The colors seemed pretty biased to me.”
“Don’t worry. They’ll get enough complaints for it to be changed next year.”
“I see. But I guess I can’t complain now.”
“Because you’re so happy to get to join them?”
“That is not what I meant!”
He let out a long, exhausted sigh and spread his mouth horizontally.
“That training is too much.”
“Then you’ll be training with me.”
He looked down toward the sudden voice from the ground and saw Izumo. Izumo sat up on the sand and faced Hiba on the rocky area.
“I asked you about joining us last night, but you didn’t give an answer even though we’ve showed you how well we can fight. …Of course, I’m sure you have your reasons.”
He stood up by leaping up from a sitting position.
With that single leap, he reached eye level.
“Hiba, you think you’re stronger than us, don’t you? How about we put that to the test?”
He landed as if stabbing his feet into the sand.
“C’mere. Let’s fight.”
“Fight? Are we going to spar? But do you have any martial arts experience?”
“Of course not. Only what they teach in the special division training.”
Hiba looked shocked.
“UCAT’s training is generally modeled after the militaries of different countries, isn’t it? Some of it may be filled with originality like what we just saw, but my grandfather gave me military style training until I was in tears and he trained me in the Hiba style of martial arts on top of that.”
“That’s fine by me. I’m twenty and you’re sixteen. When you were born, I could’ve killed you easy. Right now, I can vote and I can smoke without having to hide it. I easily broke through the 18+ barrier a whole two years ago. How about that!?”
“Well, that last one might be nice.”
“Is that so?”
Izumo ignored Kazami’s half-lidded glare and pointed at Hiba.
“How about this? Let’s spar while using wooden swords or something. If I win, you think about joining us in our fight.”
Someone reacted to that proposal, but it was not Hiba. It was Mikage.
She frantically peered into Hiba’s face and moved her lips to produce her silent voice.
“I oh’t ahnt aht.”
I don’t want that.
Kazami read her lips and her expression.
…What does that mean?
Hiba used a god of war to fight, so it was natural if he did not like joining them, but why would Mikage dislike when she only assisted?
…It can’t be.
A thought occurred to Kazami. Did Mikage want only Hiba to fight?
If so, that was a ridiculous idea. That meant wanting the one she cared for most to fight.
But was that how she felt?
As she looked at Hiba, the ends of her eyebrows were ever so slightly lowered and Kazami imagined unease resided behind that look.
…Is she worried that we will take their fight away from them?
If so, what would the two of them do?
“And what would we do? …Kaku, I know what it means to win this match.”
“Yeah, but nothing will ever happen if we stay still. Doing nothing will only lead to the bell indicating time is up.”
Izumo’s tone was light, but she could see a harshness on his face.
She guessed that something had happened to him in the past that she was unaware of. Something in which he had remained motionless and come to regret it.
Hiba’s eyebrows slowly rose and he nodded while drawing Mikage close.
“Giving thought to joining you if Izumo-san defeats me could work, but what will you do if I win? It would be pretty conceited of you to have not thought about it.”
“Okay, how about this?” shouted Izumo with a smile. “Hiba, if you win, I’ll act in your place and show some courage concerning Chisato’s swimsuit! What do you think about that!?”
“Here’s what I think about that!!”
Kazami punched Izumo.
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