Owari no Chronicle:Volume7 Chapter 25
Chapter 25: Afternoon of Misunderstanding
It is naïve to think that something is obtained by facing each other
What matters is heading out to obtain it
On the afternoon beach, two boys faced each other with wooden swords in hand.
With the ocean in the background, the short one on the right ran forward and the large one on the left received him.
Hiba and Izumo were holding a mock battle.
The UCAT members watched them from the shade of the trees leading to the beach.
Amid them, a girl sat alone on the beach, watching Hiba’s movements.
It was Mikage.
As she watched, Hiba was wary of Izumo’s lowered sword yet moved swift and low.
She had predicted this action.
While joined with Susamikado, Hiba would always do that. It was a pattern he specialized in.
By lowering his body and moving quickly, he would sink below his opponent’s field of vision. Even if his opponent caught sight of him again, his lowered body would hide the movements of his arms and legs.
…He’s faster with Susamikado’s wings.
She knew Hiba would win. She had almost never seen anyone but Hiba fight, but he had never once lost to the gods of war that came to kill her.
Also, he had learned a lot of techniques from his grandfather who lived in Okutama.
She did not know how his grandfather had destroyed 3rd-Gear.
He had used Susamikado, but she did not know how the god of war had been summoned. Despite having an automaton body, she had been a child too young to recognize her parents’ faces at the time.
That power had been left to her along with the destructive weapon named Keravnos.
Just like her, the god of war had been rolled out with some defects remaining. Cronus may not have finished in time or Zeus may have caught on and hurried him, but it was an incomplete product.
The first time she recalled summoning it was when a 3rd-Gear god of war had suddenly appeared and Hiba had been injured.
Her evolution had stopped on that night.
Hiba said she might need 3rd-Gear’s concept core to evolve.
…So what am I doing here?
As she watched, Hiba charged up to Izumo.
The surrounding people cried out, but she held her impaired legs in her arms and mouthed some words.
“What am I doing?”
…All I do is rely on Ryuuji-kun.
Right now, he was not fighting for her evolution. She understood he had his own life, so she felt bad for feeling disappointed. It felt like she was restraining him and she did not like it.
…This is my problem, not his.
As she added that comment in her heart, she heard more voices.
Izumo had reacted to Hiba.
He made the first attack, but he did not use the lowered sword.
He kicked with his right leg while standing on his left leg which he had moved forward.
The shovel-like kick slammed into Hiba from below as he ran forward.
Mikage heard the sound of impact and a comment from Kazami next to her.
Hiba was knocked off the ground.
Kazami clenched both her fists and watched Izumo.
He had lured Hiba in with the lowered sword and countered with the leg kept farther back.
…It was a simple feint, but that method was pretty mean.
He had held the sword in a special way to draw the eye and hide that the first attack would be a kick. The method worked best against an opponent with the combat experience to instantly decide what to do.
Izumo’s kick struck Hiba and sent his small form into the air.
He then pressed the kicking foot forward and pushed the boy back.
Or he tried to.
He clicked his tongue and withdrew his leg.
Wondering what had happened, Kazami looked more carefully and noticed that Hiba’s elbows were bent downwards as he doubled over in midair.
He had held the sword in his mouth and used both upper arms and palms to guard against Izumo’s leg. She also realized why he had held his hands forward.
“Did he try to grab the ankle?”
Kazami’s question was eloquently answered by how Izumo quickly drew back his leg.
In his instant in midair, Hiba removed the sword from his mouth and held it in his right hand. He shrank down and landed in an even further lowered posture. He used the tip of the sword to support himself when he almost fell.
Despite being so close he could reach out and touch Izumo, he still accelerated.
However, Kazami saw Izumo step back by drawing his leg back even further than necessary. As tall as he was, a single step took him a long way.
Hiba’s acceleration and Izumo’s step back put approximately a meter between them.
When Izumo’s right foot reached the sand, he rotated the toes to the left and dug into the sand.
The wooden sword lowered from his right hand shot upwards and toward Hiba’s side as he charged in.
Just as Kazami thought it was sure to hit, Hiba made a sudden move while running.
He stabbed his sword into the ground.
The sword in the sand acted as a powerful brake.
Sand burst into the air and he came to a sudden stop while just far enough away for Izumo’s sword to brush by his bangs.
He had evaded the strike and he continued as if a switch had been thrown.
He let out a cry and pulled the sword from the ground as he stood up.
With a swing from the right, it struck Izumo in the side.
Her shout was accompanied by an intense sound of impact.
Hiba’s sword was knocked from his grasp and Izumo’s body began moving a bit to the left.
But Kazami saw Hiba turn from left to right and throw a left hook from the opposite direction.
With the sound of the punch, Izumo’s large body stopped moving to the left.
However, Hiba did not stop there.
As soon as his leftward turning body returned to its original position, he reached his right hand into the air.
The sword knocked from his hand was there.
Kazami knew a wooden sword was not enough to damage Izumo. With his divine protection, a small blow from the tip of the sword would only give him the same amount of pain as being struck by a whip.
A thick blow that could reach the core of his body was needed and Hiba provided one.
As the sword rotated through the air, he grabbed the tip.
He swung it like a bat and struck Izumo with the thick, round hilt.
The hammer-like blow targeted the same spot as the first one.
An unpleasant noise filled the air and Izumo collapsed forward.
But Hiba did not stop moving.
As soon as he finished the leftward swing, he was already leaning to the right.
He released the tip of the sword and knocked it away with his fingers.
While swinging his body to the right, he grabbed the sword again, but by the hilt this time.
However, he held it backwards as if to strike with the back of the sword. Meanwhile, Izumo’s body was bending forward toward him.
Kazami caught on to Hiba’s tactic when she saw those two actions.
…That’s what he’s after, isn’t it!?
Hiba targeted Izumo’s jaw with the wooden sword. By striking below the jaw as if pulling it toward him, Izumo’s head would swing upwards and the principle of leverage would shake his brain enough to cause a concussion.
The best way of striking the jaw like that was hold the back of the sword forward and strike with the curve.
The spectators, Kazami included, had seen plenty of Hiba’s attacks and movements.
He had conveyed just how skilled he was.
If he landed this strike and knocked Izumo out, it would all be perfect.
Hiba had never intended for the bat-like swing to finish this.
That had been for show while he aimed for a complete victory by knocking Izumo unconscious.
Now that Izumo’s jaw was in range, the real battle had begun.
Hiba took action and swung the horizontal strike toward Izumo’s jaw.
When it hit, it sounded more like something breaking than merely being struck.
After swinging the wooden sword, Hiba looked at the scene before his eyes.
The hilt remained in his hands, but the wooden blade vanished partway up.
No, it had been broken.
Did I swing too hard? he wondered. Should I have held back a little when striking the jaw?
But he saw something beyond the scattering splinters of wood.
Something else had fallen into the position Izumo’s jaw should have been in.
Namely, Izumo’s forehead.
What had happened?
The answer was simple. Izumo had taken the blow on his forehead rather than the jaw and the counter had been forceful enough to break the wooden sword.
The pain from the previous attack should have left him completely defenseless as he collapsed forward.
His breathing should have stopped, the pain should have been intense, and it should have been unbearable.
“Damn, that hurt,” muttered Izumo beyond the flying splinters.
A moment later, Hiba realized something heavy had landed on his right shoulder.
It was Izumo’s hand after letting go of his sword and it had only reached because the larger boy’s body had bent forward.
…He didn’t fall forward out of pain! It was to grab me!
He gasped and Izumo rose up while breathing a larger breath.
Izumo faced Hiba with a sleepy look and then turned left to the spectators.
“Hey, did you see Hiba’s skill? That looked like everything he had to me.”
“I did and he was definitely going all out.”
Izumo nodded toward Kazami’s exasperated voice.
“I see,” he said. “Okay. Watch this, Chisato. I’ll be a good upperclassman and go easy on him.”
He then faced Hiba.
“Hiba, how many times did you hit me? Three, right?”
Before Hiba could say it was four, the first strike hit him in the solar plexus.
That first strike came from the bottom of the sword he was holding.
It felt like having a stake driven in below his lungs, but he lessened the damage by moving backwards.
I’m fine, he told himself. I’ve been in this same situation with the god of war, but I always managed to keep moving and defeat my opponent. I just have to do the same.
But for some reason, he could not move. Air left his mouth and his body remained motionless.
Why? he asked himself.
This was a normal strike and the same situation had happened in battles again gods of war. An opponent with especially thick armor would sometimes deflect his weapon and manage to get in close.
“Why are you just taking the blow? Are you stupid?”
At the point when he would have fallen back against a god of war opponent, Izumo’s second strike arrived.
The attack itself was simple. He merely formed a fist with the hand that had been on Hiba’s shoulder and swung it down.
However, Hiba’s movements were sluggish as he bent forward to escape backwards, so he took the full blow on his back.
The attacks to his gut and back had knocked all the air from his lungs.
His mind told him to evade, but he had been unable to move since the first strike.
He was utterly confused because he normally took this level of damage without issue.
“C’mon, pull yourself together, underclassman.”
Izumo grabbed Hiba’s shoulder to stand him up and oxygen quickly entered his straightened body.
“My attacks here are perfectly normal. Do you know why they’re so effective? Here’s the final one.”
Izumo stepped forward and performed a smash on Hiba’s right side.
The sound of impact reverberated dully throughout Hiba’s body and he felt his entire body vibrate.
He felt numb and Izumo’s voice arrived from beyond the shaking.
“You’re strong. Since I came to this Gear from the 10th reservation, the only person I’ve seen move as fast as you is the old janitor named Tanaka who’s my peeping partner. But you know what? You don’t know how to use that speed. Even when fighting gods of war, they’ve all been remotely controlled by automatons. You might’ve even gotten predictable in your attacks.”
Izumo’s hand pushed down on Hiba’s shoulder as he began to collapse.
“And you know what else? You hold back from possibly deadly attacks too much. You didn’t know that we fight for real in these fun training matches of ours, so you held back when you heard this was training. That’s why you only started rotating around a lot more partway through, isn’t it? If you’d done that from the beginning, you might’ve been able to get behind me. …Anyway, here’s a fourth one for free.”
Izumo used his other hand to strike just below the navel.
Strength left Hiba’s knees and he belatedly realized he was in real trouble.
“Well, Hiba? Strong, ain’t I?”
He wanted to say that “sturdy” was a better word, but his jaw trembled and would not move.
“Okay, I paid you back and even gave a bonus strike, so now it’s my turn.”
“Do your best, Hiba. And do your best, me. The people of the world are waiting. …Ready, go!”
A blow suddenly struck him in the gut.
“Okay, listen up, Hiba. You’re about to lose.”
He was struck in the chest and then was pulled forward by the collar.
“But I won’t be the one that decides that. It’ll be the others here. After seeing my restrained attacks turn you into an old rag or some scraps or something too pathetic to call a man, they’ll vote on who won and who lost. You can’t argue against that.”
Another heavy blow struck his gut.
“So I won’t do anything that would knock you out. I want you to truly experience this defeat as you collapse in front of everyone and fall into a sea of ‘no, don’t look at me!’ embarrassment. I’ll even give a nice laugh to enhance the experience. …Last one!”
Hiba could not move, but he still tried to take a defense stance. As if clinging to the idea that his spirit had not been broken, he was determined to stay focused to the very end.
But this attack was different from before.
Izumo slowly reached out his hand and used his index finger to poke Hiba’s chest.
“At dinner, I’ll tell you one of the reasons you lost. You can sleep until then.”
That was all.
Hiba let out a breath and felt the world rise up below his feet.
It took a few seconds for him to realize he was falling.
His body had reached a limit separate from his spirit.
He did not feel himself land on the sand, but he did hear it happen.
He heard cheers from the rocky area and saw the spectators stand up.
But he also saw an expressionless and unmoving girl among those standing and walking over.
It was Mikage.
Amid all the movement and voices, the two of them remained motionless and said nothing.
He then averted his gaze and looked up into the sky. That sky contained a piercing blue he felt he had never seen before.
His body weakly trembled as he spoke.
The sun had reached its noontime height.
The shadows were at their smallest and the temperature in the building-filled city rose sharply.
Few people were out and walking along the black and scorching asphalt. It was only those unaccustomed to the city, those who had to move around for their job, and tourists.
Two people who fit all three categories were headed toward the small mountain in the city.
It was Sayama and Shinjou. They had both loosened their collars while approaching the tree-covered mountain. Baku began panting, so Sayama placed him on his shoulder to expose him to the wind. Sayama also flipped through some documents while walking.
“We should arrive at the entrance to the Achi Shrine soon. This is the only mountain on Kurashiki’s east side.”
Shinjou nodded while walking quickly across a narrow road lined with houses.
They were on their way to the Shinto shrine atop the small mountain. Only two places in Kurashiki contained a large number of natural trees. Mt. Tsurugata on the east side of the city was one of them. The other was Mukouyama Park on the southeastern end, but it was far enough away that they had not considered going there today.
The Achi Shrine was only a few minutes’ walk northeast of the Bikan district and circling the mountain northward brought one closer to the train station.
Sayama had suggested the following when leaving the Bikan district:
“According to the old man, UCAT thinks 3rd-Gear’s base is somewhere near Kurashiki, so how about we view the city from the Achi Shrine and think about where their base might be?”
They had then begun walking, but it had quickly grown much hotter after leaving the teahouse.
Shinjou felt the heat below her feet as she and Sayama turned left at a corner. A sign had said the road led to the Achi Shrine, but it was so narrow she had her doubts.
There it was.
At the top of a cement slope was a torii with a white wall to the left and a tree-covered slope to the right. The torii was not red like the one she had seen at the Hikawa Shrine in Okutama. It was old and made from manmade stone.
Stone steps followed after the torii.
“These steps are pretty steep.”
“Oh? Are you out of breath already, Shinjou-kun? There is a railing if you need it.”
If she did nothing, he could very well suggest having her ride on his shoulders and actually go through with it, so she silently began running up the stone steps. They seemed to have been repaired recently because spots of white cement were visible here and there.
Her sandals rang loudly on the steps as she climbed them and she turned around upon reaching the halfway point. She found Sayama reading the documents while leisurely following two steps at a time.
Once he caught up, she let out a breath and started to sweat as if she had been holding it in. A sort of sweat not gained during training poured from her back and legs, but it was not a bad feeling.
“There is some shade here,” she said after looking around.
The shadows of the trees reaching across from the right grew deeper the farther they climbed the stairs.
She noticed Sayama was not out of breath and he had looked away from the documents at some point. He was instead looking toward the city behind them.
Shinjou did the same and saw something unexpected.
“You can see the sky.”
Their viewpoint had risen quite a bit without her realizing it.
The city was down below. They had risen above the houses, so they could see far across Kurashiki.
“Look how flat it seems from here, Shinjou-kun.”
He pointed south while focusing on the gathering of green far beyond the cityscape.
“South of Kurashiki and approximately four kilometers from here, the Yoshioka River runs east to west and a low mountainous area lies south of that. That mountainous area is visible from here with nothing obstructing the view. Also, the city retains its old form and the roads run in small curves. Do you understand what that means?”
“It is a vast flat area of land. If you look at it as a battlefield, it is convenient for weapons able to leap over buildings and use the roads as wide paths. Such a weapon could use the buildings as cover and leap over them if someone else tried to do the same. A god of war would be the perfect size for that.”
“Oh, I get it. But the girl I met earlier said the roads here are narrow.”
“Girl? What girl?”
“Oh, right. I didn’t tell you about that,” began Shinjou.
She went on to tell him about the girl she had bumped into in front of the convenience store and added that the girl had been from Tokyo.
“You certainly have become extroverted.” Sayama smiled toward her. “Do you want to try your hand at negotiation next time?”
“I-I can’t. I’m not good at sophistry.”
“What I do is not sophistry. It is- Well, we can discuss that later. What was this girl’s name?”
“Toda. Toda Mikoku. My heart skipped a beat when I heard her name. I was surprised to find someone else with a name like ours.”
She then turned toward Sayama and noticed something odd.
Sayama was clutching his chest with his right hand which held the documents.
He was experiencing chest pain.
Shinjou could tell that Sayama’s face had grown pale and that he was sweating.
“S-Sayama-kun? Are you okay?”
“Y-yes. I was just regulating my breathing. I am fine, Shinjou-kun.”
“Why? Why did you suddenly get chest pains? I wasn’t talking about the past, was I?”
I’m trying to divert the blame away from me, she realized as she saw Sayama nod.
“What you said reminded me of someone I know. That is all.”
“What I said? You mean the girl named Toda?”
She asked hesitantly, but nothing changed as he nodded.
She did not know who the Toda he was reminded of was.
…I wonder if he would tell me.
But before she finished thinking, he said something that could be taken as an answer.
“Anyway, if we fight in Kurashiki, Kazami would likely be our strongest member. If we fight on a straight-line battlefield, we can use Izumo’s rushing strength. Perhaps we could use them as a commando unit while the special and standard divisions advance more slowly in a defensive formation.”
This was not the topic Shinjou had been hoping to discuss, so she gave a mental sigh.
…He probably still isn’t going to tell me about his past.
Of course, she had another thought as well.
…And I don’t know my own past.
That thought was immediately followed by Sayama’s voice.
“I apologize, Shinjou-kun. Even as I view myself as wonderful to an unparalleled degree, there are parts of myself I find troublesome.”
As she answered with a questioning syllable, he took her right hand. He walked up the stairs one step at a time and his light tug sent her slowly after him. Once she caught up, he continued.
“To be honest, an oppressive feeling came over me as we passed through the early morning Osaka sky on the way here. I did not get a good look when we fought 1st-Gear because it was night and because I was distracted by you and the giant tower I saw on the way, but it was painfully obvious in the morning light.”
He took a breath.
“The effects of the Great Kansai Earthquake are unmistakable.”
“Yes,” agreed Shinjou as she climbed the stairs.
That large-scale earthquake had occurred ten years ago which was within the time she had no memories of.
She had seen its effects on the helicopter ride to Okayama.
It had first been noticed by Kazami who had sat behind them. Shinjou had been giving comments such as “wow” or “amazing” as she watched the scenery down below, but then she had heard Kazami speak.
“It looks like claw marks.”
When searching for what the girl had meant, Shinjou had noticed it.
Large faults and cracks that looked like claw marks had run across the land around Osaka.
The Great Kansai Earthquake was a large earthquake with its epicenter in southeast Osaka that had occurred in the early morning of December 25, 1995. Osaka, known as the sloped city, and the surrounding area had collapsed and some portions had been damaged beyond repair.
In those unrepairable areas, large faults had formed in the crust. For fear of secondary damages from landslides and cracks, the areas where the ground had shifted were deemed unlivable. Water, electricity, gas, and the other veins of civilization had all been cut off.
The part of Kansai’s recovery to take the longest had been the construction of new relay facilities to make up for those disconnected veins. To make use of the land, Kansai contained a lot of densely-populated residential areas and even more facilities had been needed to circumvent the faults. However, a delay in the construction would have extended the time until central Kansai was able to function again and that could have even caused serious damage to Japan as a whole.
To speed it all up, a floating island had temporarily been constructed in Osaka Bay. That and the quickly-repaired Kansai International Airport had been used as bases to store and transport various types of fuel and construction materials. The ocean and waterways had been used for ships to carry generator trucks and water supply trucks and to construct a communication network centered on cell phones and wireless internet.
The elevated highway running through the center of Osaka had been quickly reconstructed, but it had not connected to anything else and had been used by transport planes loaded with construction materials and supplies. While some remained unhappy that the one-every-forty-minutes high-speed transport planes were also carrying unnecessary things, the demolition and reconstruction work had spread from the center of the city.
Kazami had then spoken as if she had suddenly remembered it.
“The IAI headquarters in Shimane took the leading role. Someone said it was as if IAI were using the Kansai disaster area to test its technology. There are a lot of facilities with names left over from that time.”
She had then looked at the others in the cramped helicopter.
Shinjou had done the same and seen Sayama looking out the opposite window from the seat next to her.
In the very back seat, Hiba had been looking down from the window while holding Mikage’s shoulders as she slept.
The boy who now pulled on her hand up the stairs had lost his father in the secondary damages of that earthquake.
“That earthquake was apparently caused by the activation of the negative concepts by the Low-Gear Concept Core in the Tower of Babel that you saw, right?”
“That is a fair assumption.”
She tilted her head at that.
“Do you think it wasn’t?”
“Normally, only a change in the crust could cause such a wide-reaching earthquake. If it was caused by something else, various signs point toward it being the activation of the negative concepts and I think that is likely the truth.” He took a breath as he stepped up onto the top step. “But there is still a lot we do not know. If we investigate it, I am sure we will find the answer.”
He took another breath and looked around.
They were halfway up the stairs to the shrine. They turned right at the landing that sat in the shade of the trees and found a parking lot for the cars that had driven up here. The rest of the stairs were to the left of the parking lot.
As they walked toward those stairs, Sayama asked a question.
“Why does the Great Kansai Earthquake bother you that much?”
“Well, that seems to be a big reason why you clutch your chest and it’s also the same time I lost my memories. It makes me wonder if…”
She trailed off as she felt her pulse throb.
A heavy throb of unease came from deep in her chest, but she did not know why.
She could describe the feeling as “unpleasant” and it slowed her feet. Sayama gave a glance of concern next to her, so she grew frantic. She told herself the trembling feeling was just her imagination and she spoke further.
“Oh, um… As I was saying, it makes me wonder if my parents were also at the scene of the Great Kansai Earthquake.”
Once she said it, she realized this was something she had not thought before. She had been given plenty of opportunities to think it, but she had been intentionally avoiding it.
“They might have been in Osaka and, just like your father, they might have…”
She could not continue.
This thought she had been avoiding for so long had arrived as a premonition after seeing the scars of the earthquake that morning and hearing what Sayama had said.
…Are my parents…already gone? Why have I never considered it before? Was I trying not to consider it?
She was a part of UCAT, so the odds were good that her parents had been as well. If they had been, they would have faced that earthquake ten years before.
No, she thought with a trembling in her spine.
Her entire body shook and she had trouble breathing.
She further mentally rejected the idea and attempted to quell the trembling, but she could not.
Her thoughts were not enough to reject that horrible premonition.
Just as she realized she had to control the shaking, all strength except for that shaking left her.
Even so, she tried to speak and tell Sayama that she was fine.
Tears suddenly spilled from her eyes, her knees shook, her feet would not continue forward, and she wanted to crouch down on the spot.
Sayama suddenly wrapped his arms around her.
He embraced her with the forceful sound of an impact.
After she breathed a sigh of relief at being supported, his hand wrapped around behind her head and pressed her cheek against his chest. His body was warm to the touch and thick tears leaked down her cheeks.
She took a few breaths as if about to vomit.
“That would mean…I’m all alone. I don’t want to be alone.”
“That is not the case.”
“Eh?” she said while looking up.
He brought his lips to hers.
She half resisted in surprise and half relaxed as she entrusted herself to him, but after a few seconds she fully entrusted herself to him.
With her head and back in his arms, she closed her eyes and gave in to his tongue.
After she closed her eyes, sobbed a few times, and shed some tears, Sayama moved away.
She then took a breath. It was a large and warm breath, but her breathing had calmed.
“You’re right. I won’t be alone,” she said quietly. “You’ll be with me.”
“It’s not that I will be with you. I am with you.”
“Yeah, b-but… I’m Setsu right now.”
“Is that a problem, Sadagiri-kun?”
Hearing him call her name, she once more thought about what he had meant when he said “that is not the case”.
…Just like my parents, he must trust in my name.
In that case, he would not be the only one. Kazami, Izumo, and the others at UCAT would be the same.
She closed her eyes, took a deep breath, and felt her strength return.
His arms held her tight so that strength would not escape and he spoke.
“I should not have done that. It seems my odd conjectures stirred up your unease. …In apology, let us find your parents.”
She looked up at him from within his arms and found him looking at her expressionlessly.
“I do not believe people simply disappear. They may be lost, but annoyingly enough, they do not vanish altogether. A certain old monkey proves that well enough. So let us find the parents that you have lost sight of.”
“B-but we don’t know where they are.”
“No, we do not. We do not know where they are now or what they are doing. But at the very least…”
His right arm left her back and touched her chest. The left side of her chest.
“I feel pain here, but what about you, Shinjou-kun? Also, we already have a hint.”
“What you do not know always lies on the path to liberation. …Also, I more or less know where 3rd-Gear’s base is. Once we arrive at the temple up above, I will tell you that. And tonight or some other time, we can discuss the hint we have received here.”
He then held something up for her to see.
“The hint is contained in the documents Kashima sent us. It may have been a good thing for me that you did not read it very carefully. Now I can be the one to give you the information that may act as a hint to finding your parents.”
|Back to Preface||Return to Main Page||Forward to Chapter 26|