Owari no Chronicle:Volume6 Chapter 24
Chapter 24: Signs of an Approaching Enemy
The footsteps of the past are quiet
The footsteps of the future are loud
Both of them pierce into something
It was an old district.
A canal was surrounded by willow trees and the dirt roads on either side were lined with white walls and wooden buildings.
The canal started from the west and made a right turn to the south partway through. Both stretches of the canal were approximately two hundred meters long.
“This is the Bikan district, isn’t it?”
Shinjou’s voice filled the area in front of a teahouse on the southern end of the district.
She wore a white straw hat and Sayama wore a vest and suit pants as they sat on a bamboo bench covered in a red cloth. They both held piles of copy paper, but Shinjou’s focus was constantly stolen by Sayama next to her and the unusual scenery around her.
She knew she had to take this more seriously, so she lowered her gaze to the documents while continuing to glance around.
The documents were the ones from UCAT’s central server that Kashima had sent them. They supposedly primarily held information on the National Defense Department, but they could not read most of it. They could tell the text was Japanese and that there were diagrams, but they simply could not comprehend the contents.
“This is an information hiding concept,” explained Sayama. “It must affect any copies of the information as well.”
“What do you mean?”
“You have heard the urban legends of information that curses you simply from hearing it, haven’t you? This is the same. A concept has been applied to the central server data that leaves some power with the information even as it is spread.” He smiled bitterly. “It is as if they expected we would do this.”
Kashima had apparently been unable to read most of it either, but he had selected what unreadable information seemed most important based on what he could read.
What Kashima could not read had a checkmark at the top of the page, but they had found they could read a bit of what he could not. Currently, Sayama was reading through Tsukuyomi’s Georgius report rather than the other documents.
Shinjou watched him reading the report and spoke.
“Director Tsukuyomi really is kind.”
“Kashima mentioned a reason for that. She is apparently searching for a Cowling Sword.”
“A Cowling Sword?”
He nodded and showed her a diagram below the Georgius report.
It was a design diagram for a Cowling Sword. It looked like a Japanese sword with almost no curve, but the hilt was oddly long. The hilt on the diagram was likely made of some hard substance and it was almost half as long as the blade.
“Why is she searching for this?”
“It seems her husband created it during UCAT’s blank period. This is the reason she agreed to join UCAT after the great Kansai earthquake ten years ago. She found this diagram in the back of a drawer of the desk she inherited upon taking over the development department and it is currently all she has found about it.”
The copy of the design diagram was signed by a Tsukuyomi Aruhito.
Sayama placed Georgius’s report aside and reached for the same documents Shinjou was reading.
“What did it say about Georgius?”
“There seem to be a lot of unknowns, but Director Tsukuyomi and Kashima both think that gauntlet may be alive and that it is merely sleeping while possessing a will of its own.”
“Then was it made by 3rd-Gear? Living metal is a 3rd concept.”
“When I first put it on, it spoke in Japanese rather than some strange Gear’s language.” He took a breath. “The report speculates it acts as a concept pressurizer, but it is unknown why it only reacts to Concept Cores or why only I can wear it.”
Shinjou almost commented how they seemed to know nothing, but she swallowed her words. Sayama already knew that and there was nothing they could do about it.
She then realized that his right hand had been placed on the left side of his chest for a while.
When she knew he was feeling that pain, she could do nothing but place her hand on his back. However, her thoughts seemed to get through to him because he finally spoke while arranging the bottom of the Georgius report on his lap.
“It was said that my mother obtained it and left it for me. In that case, it would be best to assume it was made by UCAT using inferior copies of concepts from 3rd-Gear and other Gears. It seems Director Tsukuyomi and the others intend to look more deeply into this data, so let us hope they find something. …More importantly, what about your documents?”
“Do not tell me you have not actually been reading them.”
He was exactly right.
“Um, well. uh… Oh, hasn’t it been about an hour and a half? Your handheld recorder is going to run out of material, isn’t it? C-c’mon, let’s head back and read this stuff with the others.”
As she tried to smooth things over, Sayama removed the bag containing the recorder and bugs. He removed the recorder from the bag, pulled another recorder from his pocket, and placed it in the bag.
“Sayama-kun, wh-what was that?”
“No need to worry. That was the second scenario. The previous one was the indoor version and this is the outdoor version. I also have the adventure version, happy version, demon king version, and more. How about listening to one to give you some ideas for your novel plot?”
“No thanks. That would probably make me want to rethink a lot of things.”
“I see. That is somewhat disappointing. At any rate, it is time for the outdoor version. Do your best, recorder.”
“W-wait! Outdoors!? I’m not into that kind of thing!”
“What are you talking about? Interests are not automatically present. They must be developed, Shinjou-kun.”
“That may be true, but don’t emphasize that here!”
“Anyway, keep in mind that you sabotaged our inspection of these documents when I ask for compensation later.”
She groaned, but she did feel bad about it.
“Why were you negligent about something so important?” he asked with a tilt of the head.
“Um, well… It’s the first time I’ve been somewhere like this with you.”
She was not sure what to say, but she made up her mind as she lightly embraced her own body. She shrank down and wondered if he would forgive her if she explained.
“I don’t have much experience going to strange places like this, but you can sit here drinking tea and reading documents like it’s nothing. …It made me realize how mysterious a person you are.”
“I see. Is that why you were staring at your surroundings and at me? Especially as I was lost in work?”
“Sigh… I may always gather the public eye, but even I will feel embarrassed if you do that, Shinjou-kun.”
“U-um? Please don’t tease me like that. B-but…” She felt herself blush and lowered her head. “It is true I was staring at you.”
“I see. Then I will forgive you, but only if you will let me stare at you in fascination sometime.”
“Okay, that would be fine… Wait, no! You never said what part of me, when it would be, or how you would do it!”
Despite her protests, Sayama pulled a memo pad from his pocket, wrote an entry titled “Promise” and wrote “All of her – Anytime – While unwrapped” below it.
“You are not ‘unwrapping’ me!”
He nodded and added “Discussion needed”.
Shinjou hung her head limply. A discussion was out of the question. A Sayama discussion was especially out of the question. She had no chance of winning. The word “discussion” took on a completely different meaning and he would force his view onto her.
…Is there any way to oppose him on this?
As she thought about it, she felt heat gather in her face, but she told herself it was due to the weather.
Meanwhile, Sayama slowly closed the memo pad next to her.
When she looked up and turned toward him, he used the pile of documents as a fan to create a breeze in her direction.
“At any rate, I have only glanced through these documents, but it seems to contain a few fascinating pieces of information. Let us go for a stroll. There are some things I wish to investigate, including the location of 3rd-Gear’s base.”
As soon as he spoke, an electronic tone sounded from his pocket.
It was his cell phone, so he removed Baku from the pocket, placed the creature on his head, and removed the phone.
“It is Kazami,” he informed Shinjou.
After exchanging a few words, he hung up.
He took a breath, looked down at her, and spoke expressionlessly.
“It seems the Hiba boy and Izumo will be having a sparring match. Ridiculously enough, they have bet the Hiba boy’s cooperation on the match.”
“Yes. That is a bit much to decide on their own, but they have now received my permission.”
“You’re okay with it?”
“If Izumo wins, all is well. If the Hiba boy wins, I can be his next opponent as the true star. If the Hiba boy complains, I can claim Izumo has no human rights or make some other excuse.”
“Will an excuse like that actually work? …No, I’m sure you’ll make it work with sophistry.”
“Sophistry? How rude, Shinjou-kun. Refer to it as a creative argument. At any rate, we cannot arrive in time, so we must leave this to them.”
He looked inside the teashop and spoke to the female worker inside.
“Excuse me, I would like the bill and six sticks of dango wrapped so we can eat as we walk.”
Two people stood on the beach.
They both wore T-shirts and shorts and they both held wooden swords in their right hands.
They had different builds.
The roar of the sea washed over the two, one of whom was short and the other of whom was larger and a head taller.
Spectators gathered in front of the rocky area across from the sea. At the head of the crowd was a girl in a T-shirt and swimsuit who held a whistle.
“Okay, Team Leviathan Representative Izumo Kaku vs…um…”
“Kazami-san, how about Nice Guy Representative Hiba Ryuuji?”
Without agreeing, Kazami gave a half-hearted blow of the whistle.
“Okay, okay. Now start.”
“Ah, that’s even worse than being ignored!!” shouted Hiba.
However, his expression changed once he looked toward the girl sitting next to Kazami.
His loose expression became a smile.
His smile was directed at a girl with long, blonde hair who showed no sign of sweating despite wearing a long black shirt and a white dress. She simply looked back at him with no discernable expression.
“Don’t worry. I’ll do something about this, Mikage-san.”
After a short pause, Mikage nodded.
She held her cane close and nodded again.
Around a dozen seconds had passed since the whistle had been blown, but both Hiba and Izumo remained motionless on the beach near the crashing waves.
Hiba stared forward where Izumo stood approximately five meters away.
He stood on the flat beach with the ocean to his right and the rocky area to his left.
They both held wooden swords as weapons. Hiba specialized in unarmed combat, but he was well-versed in using a sword thanks to his grandfather.
…And I often use a sword when fighting gods of war.
3rd-Gear did have projectile weapons, but one’s vision and predictive calculation speed were assisted by the machine while joined with it. One’s desires acted as a switch to zoom in on an opponent’s movements, view them in slow motion, or even anticipate them.
It was possible to view the path of a bullet and most concept-powered optical weapons were too weak to pierce his armor, so he could predictively evade or ignore projectiles.
However, doing that repeatedly could put a strain on the machine.
He primarily focused on strength and speed more than evasion.
What he needed was an iai strike or a barrage at too close a range to give them time to react.
And with his short body, Hiba had trained in attack methods that included quick rotation.
That was an effective method against large opponents and he could end everything with a quick series of attacks if he got in close.
His current opponent, Izumo, was plenty large for that to work.
Hiba was approximately 160 cm while Izumo was 190 cm.
Hiba could target the gut just by crouching while Izumo could only attack from overhead.
…Did he suggest wooden swords to give himself the reach he needs to hit me?
Even if his hands would not reach, he could use the sword to strike from below.
…If that’s what he’s thinking, I can’t let my guard down.
Hiba rotated his wooden sword with a light snap of the wrist and faced forward.
“Now, let’s get started.”
At some point, Izumo had balanced his sword on top of his head, so he grabbed it with his right hand once more.
The surrounding crowd stopped moving and a tense atmosphere spread throughout them. Amid that silence, Izumo spoke.
“I’m a little reluctant to do this, but come on.”
Hiba frowned at that.
“What? You were the one that suggested this, so why are you reluctant?”
“Win or lose, this is going to bring about some unpleasant thoughts.”
“I thought you enjoyed fighting.”
“Oh, the fighting will be enjoyable. For me, at least,” he said. “But what about you? As your upperclassman, it’s difficult to get into the mood.”
Izumo then took a casual step forward.
The distance between them closed and the battlefield grew smaller.
While still facing forward, Hiba checked the left and right of the battlefield out of the corners of his eyes.
He saw ocean to the right, rocks to the left, and Mikage and Kazami in front of the rocks.
Next to Kazami, the German UCAT inspector named Diana was sipping juice in a chair below a beach parasol, but he felt that black and gold swimsuit of hers was downright criminal.
…Mikage-san looks worried, but that look is cute too. Ahh, I just want to rub her head.
As he thought that, Izumo stopped in front of him.
They were five meters apart, so either one could attack after taking a few steps.
Hiba saw Izumo looking at him while checking on Kazami out of the corner of his eye.
Hiba suspected he was thinking something similar or possibly something even more amazing.
Hiba felt a sudden affinity with his opponent in this sparring battlefield.
But Izumo adjusted his grip on the wooden sword in his right hand.
He was indeed going for an attack from below. In fact, he held the bottom of the sword in his palm as if to strike a staff straight down.
…Is he going for a one-handed strike?
Using both hands gave strength to a slashing attack, but it led to a slower initial speed. A single-handed swing using a snap of the wrist and raised elbow gave speed.
Izumo’s stance showed he was wary of Hiba’s speed.
His expression looked a bit sleepy and thus was difficult to read, but Hiba thought he saw some thought there.
Izumo brought his left leg forward and out a bit. That allowed him to immediately move his body if Hiba moved to the right.
If Hiba instead moved to the left, he only needed to swing the sword in his right hand.
…In that case…
Charging straight forward would be safest.
If he did that, the wooden sword in Izumo’s right hand would be the greatest threat. A snap of the wrist could send the sword tip shooting up from the ground and it would be below Hiba’s range of vision as he approached.
It was possible he would receive a sudden blow to the jaw or side.
Hiba’s own attack would have reached by then, but their different body sizes would create a difference in damage absorption and the speed of Hiba’s advance would add to the strength of the counter against him.
His opponent might be able to withstand the blow, but he might not be able to.
And what would he do after he avoided the first attack?
Izumo was larger than him and he would not go down from any normal attack. He was perfectly fine after Kazami’s attacks, so it would require a fair bit of damage to defeat him.
Nevertheless, Hiba knew he could do it.
He wanted to defeat Izumo even if it was not a complete victory.
He had a single reason for this.
…I can’t let them get any more involved.
He wanted to protect his exclusive right to battle 3rd-Gear. He had realized that once more when Mikage had clung to him earlier. He and she would be the ones to fight 3rd-Gear.
He did not want to rely on their strength and – as rude as it was to his upperclassmen – he would make it very clear who was stronger by defeating Izumo here.
He briefly thought about Sayama’s presence, but he doubted that boy outdid Izumo when it came to combat ability.
In that case, defeating Izumo held real meaning.
…What should I do?
He answered that question in an instant.
In the blink of an eye, he realized what actions he should take.
This was nothing special. His long years of combat experience put together the actions he should take and simulated the flow of events leading to victory.
All that remained was the start signal. He waited for his moment to act which would be when his opponent showed an opening.
And that moment arrived.
It took the form of Kazami’s voice from the spectator group.
“Kaku! Try to keep your expression more serious.”
Hiba interpreted that as a form of cheering, just not one he would ever receive.
In response, Izumo frowned and turned toward Kazami.
Hiba used that instant to move toward him by kicking deep into the sand and leaning forward.
He travelled half the distance with his first step.
He was on his way to end the sparring match.
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