Owari no Chronicle:Volume7 Chapter 26
Chapter 26: Jab of Guidance
Indicate the direction to travel
Here there is nothing but different battlefields
Look to your feet and you will find iron
A narrow strip of beach bordered the ocean.
A forest lay behind the beach and a rocky area separated them.
A woman stood on the rocks after coming from the forest.
It was Ooki who wore a white coat and gray shorts.
After walking from the nearby medical tent, she stretched atop the rocks.
“Nn. This is such a nice place.”
…I don’t like all the salt water out there, though.
The salty wind was oddly stimulating. It was bad for her health and she needed to wash it away with spring water later, but it seemed to tense up her body.
“Will it help me lose weight?”
“Oh? You don’t look like someone who needs to worry about that,” said a female voice.
The voice came from below, so Ooki stopped walking and stretching.
Down below, a woman with long gray hair lay on a beach mat. She wore a black and gold swimsuit.
Ooki jumped down from the rocky area. The difference in height was approximately a meter, but she was landing on the beach. The sand should have absorbed the shock, but for some reason, her feet slipped and she fell forward.
She ended up lying next to Diana in the same position.
Don’t cry. Don’t cry, she told herself. The woman lying next to her was the inspector from German UCAT. Those children were working so hard, so she would feel bad if Germany was told Japanese UCAT’s people cried at the slightest provocation.
She sat up, wiped at the corners of her eyes, and brushed the sand from her clothes and hair. It’s a little salty, she thought while turning to Diana who lay with her bikini top undone.
Diana lowered her sunglasses and knitted her brow a little.
“Are you okay?”
“Oh, y-yes. I am.”
Ooki straightened up and then bowed, hoping the woman would report that Japanese UCAT’s people were polite.
She then looked back at Diana as she lay on the beach mat.
“Are you tanning?”
“Yes. This kind of sun is rare in Germany, so it’s for my health as well.”
Ooki wondered what to do. She was usually the one giving the tests, so it made her nervous to be inspected like this. She had heard it was best to make a good impression in an interview and the fastest way of making a good impression was to compliment the person.
…This situation showed up in the drama I saw the other day. How did that compliment go again?
“Heh heh heh. Girly, you’ve sure got some nice skin.”
“That’s Pervsuke’s catch phrase from the Sunday 8:00 drama ‘Return of Mito Kimon’, isn’t it?”
“So you recognized it. Those people always use the back gate for assassinations. And when they’re found, they say ‘Ugh, what a pain. Suke-san, Kaku-san, get them!’ I think there’s something a little off about that.”
“Yes. Now, for a sudden change of subject, is the Hiba boy okay?”
“Oh, yes. That is sudden, but he is. Izumo-kun made sure not to hurt him too badly. He’s currently being treated by Doctor Chao in the medical tent and he should be fully recovered by tonight. He was given a sedative, so he’s sleeping now.”
“Gut. Then what about the Izumo boy?”
Ooki thought for a moment and wondered if she should really say this.
“He’s actually sleeping in the tent for Kazami-san and the other girls. He’ll apparently recover on his own by tonight.”
“Oh? He seemed fine during the fight just now.”
“Apparently, he was putting on a strong front.” Ooki smiled while sensing the ends of her eyebrows lowering. “He said Hiba-kun would be too full of his own power otherwise.”
“And what about Mikage?”
“Oh, right. Since letting her know Izumo-kun’s condition would make it all meaningless, Sibyl-san is showing her around the island. There’s an orchard over there and Sibyl-san said she could learn a lot there.” She thought for a moment. “It seems like it was quite a shock for her that Hiba-kun lost.”
“I didn’t notice much of a difference.”
“From what I can tell, she may provide some unexpected surprises, but she may normally be even more expressionless than Sayama-kun. As your teacher, I-… Oh, I’m sorry, Diana-san. I’m not your teacher. That’s a bad habit of mine.”
She scratched her head and Diana’s shoulders shook in laughter.
“Could you please continue, teacher?”
“Oh, yes, yes.”
Ooki stretched her knees forward and wondered if tanning would be good for her health as well.
“I’ve been thinking about what kind of place this is in Mikage-san’s mind. Hiba-kun was forced to come here because his house was ruined and because his mother insisted, but for Mikage-san…”
“She just wants to be with the Hiba boy, right?”
“Yes, but what if Hiba-kun tries to go somewhere Mikage-san doesn’t want to go?”
“Well…” Ooki thought. “Such as a place where he’d be fine even without her.”
She nodded and wondered if she was using Japanese properly before continuing.
“It would be somewhere that did not include her if Hiba-kun lost. It would be somewhere in which he had the power to fight without Susamikado and everyone else welcomed him in her place.”
She stared out to sea before finishing her thought.
“For example, here.”
“What an odd thing to think about.”
“Is it really?”
“If he were to go to a place she does not want, it would mean losing his power to fight. And if that happened, why would everyone welcome him?”
Diana reached for the glass holder next to her beach mat. The glass in the styrofoam holder produced a light sound that indicated some ice remained inside.
As if that sound were a signal, Diana spoke.
“Or were they able to welcome him when he lost because they were certain in their victory? The loser must obey the victor even if they do not want to. Is that it? However, the Hiba boy’s objective and current position are different from yours.”
“Of course they’re different.”
Diana tilted her head, so Ooki explained.
“They couldn’t be the same. After all…um…how should I put it? Um…uh…”
She crossed her arms. She did not quite understand what she wanted to say, but what Diana had said was not it. She was almost certain of that, so she carefully thought without rushing.
She looked out to sea. Diana did so too and finally tilted her head again.
“There’s nothing there.”
“No, um, what I mean is… You still saw the same scenery, right?”
Ooki gave an internal cry of joy.
“Even if we have different objectives and stand in different positions, we can still see the same scenery if we try.”
“Winning and losing isn’t the only important thing. If you don’t understand that, you’ll only think about making your opponent lose. But my teacher’s instincts think Hiba-kun is looking to the same place as us.”
She emphasized being a teacher again, but she no longer cared.
“But at some point, he may have started looking down at his own feet and I don’t think he’s let Mikage-san know. But he’s a good kid. They all are: Izumo-kun, Kazami-san, Sayama-kun, Shinjou-san, Hiba-kun, and Mikage-san.”
“Oh, my. I get the feeling you would call even your enemy a good kid.”
“They probably are. Enemy or not, everyone should be looking to the same place. For example, they probably really, really want to get some sleep and they probably want to laze around.”
“It looks like this entire conversation was on a much lower level than I thought it was.”
“D-don’t be rude.”
Ooki turned toward Diana and found the woman smiling.
“Anyway, you say they are different types of good kids?”
“Yes, they are all good kids. Even if their levels of perversion, violence, and sophistry vary.”
“Those are some small yet oddly meaningful variations.”
“I-I don’t have any other good examples.”
As soon as Ooki said that, she heard footsteps from the rocky area behind her.
She turned to find Kazami peering at them from above the rocks.
“Ooki-sensei… And Diana-san too?”
“Oh? Is there something you don’t want to say around me?”
Diana held a hand over her chest and turned toward the rocky area.
With the woman looking at her, Kazami was unsure what to say. She would normally have Izumo by her side and he would give her some kind of guidance, but that was not the case now.
She hesitated until Ooki gave a guess.
“Did Sayama-kun do something?”
He had not been seen since announcing he would buy some necessary items in Kurashiki.
Ooki suspected he was up to something, but she did not know what. Nevertheless, if Kazami wanted something now, it likely had to do with him.
Diana then asked another question with a smile.
“He has been searching for 3rd-Gear, hasn’t he? The adults are unable to act thanks to the other UCATs and the inspectors like me, so you children are doing something instead.” She nodded. “Fine then. I will take a break from my job and pretend I don’t hear any of this.”
“How are we supposed to trust you about that?”
“Oh? Germans rival the British in how seriously we take our breaks.”
“And does taking a break here mean you’re also taking a break from those German customs?”
“Herrlich. I see you’re good at logic games. I suppose that qualifies as a passing grade.”
Diana lay back down, put on her swimsuit, sat up, and retied the swimsuit.
“In that case, I will do my job. For example, by missing out on this information, I will gain something later. …How about that? Can you make beneficial use of this information I am going to miss out on? Such as…Oh, I know. Successfully completing the Leviathan Road with 3rd-Gear.”
“We can do that,” immediately replied Ooki rather than Kazami.
Diana turned toward her, but she did not care.
“This will turn out well, won’t it, Kazami-san?”
“Eh? Oh…yes. Of course it will.”
Diana gave a bitter laugh at that and she brought a hand to her mouth to suppress it.
“Now, please give this information I will miss out on. What does that Sayama boy have to say?”
“About that… Ooki-sensei, is Sibyl around?”
“Huh? She went off with Mikage-san earlier. What do you need?”
“Well…” Kazami held up the object in her right hand so they could see. “I got a call from Sayama. He says he knows where 3rd-Gear’s base is located.”
“Oh, my,” said Diana while looking up. “But not even Japanese UCAT’s Okayama branch and Shimane’s western headquarters knows that.”
“Yes, but he says he’ll tell us after impressing Shinjou by telling her. That makes me want to throw him to the ground, but I thought I should gather together Team Leviathan (minus the two sleeping idiots) beforehand. I want Sibyl because she can use her transmitter to contact everyone’s cell phones.”
“Oh, I get it now,” said Ooki. “Yeah, her beepy thing would help. Here, I’ll do it for her.”
“Stop! You’ll break it!! And what do you mean ‘beepy thing’?”
“It makes weird sounds when you press the buttons. By the way, the one for the TV is called the the clicky thing. Right?”
She turned to Diana for support, but the other woman frantically shook her head.
“I just call it a clicker.”
“Oh, so that’s what they call it in Germany.”
While looking down at them from the rocks, Kazami rested her cheek on her hand.
“I thought it was just my parents, but it looks like everyone’s like this.”
The grounds of the Achi Shrine were vast.
At the top of the stairs was a large area of gravel. The main building was directly ahead and the other buildings were arranged in a wide circle around that main building.
To the west of the shrine grounds was a wooden viewing platform. It had a roof and it stuck out from the sharply-sloped ground like a balcony. It was supported by several thick wooden pillars below.
Shinjou was currently looking out from the edge.
“Sayama-kun, it feels like we were thrown out into the trees of the forest.”
“Yes. This is like a small mountain with a surprisingly steep slope.”
Sayama sat on a wooden protrusion from the wall and he placed his cell phone in his pocket.
Shinjou sat down to his left and reached for Baku on his shoulder.
“So… Where is 3rd-Gear’s base?”
“Heh heh heh. Do you want to know?”
“U-um… Please stop teasing me and just tell me.”
“I am not teasing you. I simply enjoy seeing you growing so impatient.”
“That’s called teasing me.”
Sayama thought as he watched her frown in impatience.
But the world functioned on the principle of give and take. The world required he pay 1 unit of Sayama difficulty for this 1 unit of Sayama pleasure.
“Then I have a simple question for you: where do you think 3rd-Gear’s base is?”
“Here,” she immediately replied. “If 3rd-Gear’s base is in Kurashiki, it has to be here. We got a good look at Kurashiki earlier, remember? It’s an old city and it hasn’t changed in the past sixty years. In which case…”
“Holding the high ground would help in case enemies attacked from all four directions?”
“Yes. That’s why I think this would be the best place. And it may be weird, but…this is a shrine. If the people of 3rd-Gear are superstitious, I think they would choose here.”
Sayama nodded and felt that was a convincing argument.
“But Shinjou-kun, do you realize there is a flaw in your reasoning?”
“Yes. It’s that-…”
“That 3rd-Gear moved after their clash with 1st-Gear, right?”
Shinjou nodded and leaned over in front of him.
…Does she want to rest her head on my lap?
He spread his arms to welcome her, but she instead opened the bag on his opposite side.
“Let’s see… Where’s the map? …Sayama-kun, what’s with that deep breathing pose?”
“Heh heh heh. Shinjou-kun, you are a wonderful person who far exceeds my expectations.”
“I’m not sure what just happened in your brain, but thanks. Anyway, look.”
She spread out the large sightseeing map of Kurashiki so he could see.
“We mentioned it while climbing the stairs, but Kurashiki has another mountain. Mukouyama is about four hundred meters southeast of here and it’s actually larger than this one.”
“But if they were there, UCAT would notice. And 3rd-Gear must have realized they are being monitored.”
Sayama grabbed the cloth wrapper hanging from the backpack. He pulled Gyes’s sword from within. The thin metal blade measured around a meter, and yet…
“It is light. It feels like holding an aluminum ruler.”
“D-don’t move it around too much. It might have some kind of trap.”
“There is no danger of that. 3rd-Gear’s automatons are rational. They would know doing that gives us an excuse to attack.” He took a breath. “One of those automatons told us to find them and that statement came from her belief that UCAT had yet to find 3rd-Gear’s fortress.”
“Oh, you’re right.” Shinjou then seemed to realize something. “So that’s it. Was it five years ago that they clashed with 1st-Gear? Ooshiro-san said they vanished and haven’t been seen since, right?”
“Then where is their base on this map?”
Shinjou looked to the map and saw a few candidate locations. She figured a wide flat area would be best for a large facility and she tilted her head.
“It could be at the amusement park north of the train station…and the roundabout south of the station would be good too. The station behind them would form a barricade against attacks from airplanes. But…”
“Those places have already been investigated, haven’t they?”
“Are you trying to say that 3rd-Gear might not be in Kurashiki at all?”
“I see.” Sayama had muttered those same words a few times already. “Slipping into a blind spot is indeed the same as not being there at all. This is much like 2nd-Gear’s Art of Walking.”
“You mean they really are in Kurashiki?”
“Yes,” he answered with a nod.
He looked to the map and realized the sword in his hand was in the way.
He tossed the sword over the edge of the viewing platform.
He heard something falling into the leaves covering the slope behind him and then Shinjou closed the map and frantically stood up to his left.
“S-Sayama-kun! You can’t just throw it away!”
“But we no longer need it, Shinjou-kun. More importantly, let me see the map.”
He folded his arms and spoke to her.
“Shinjou-kun, open the map once more.”
She did so and he thanked her before running his finger along the map.
“3rd-Gear changed location. UCAT investigated once they detected the string vibration disturbance and 1st-Gear checked at the same time, but neither one found anything. Isn’t that right?”
“Yes. That’s why they checked elsewhere too, but they never found 3rd-Gear.”
“However, they overlooked two important factors.”
“The automatons we saw yesterday could move through Low-Gear and they were certain UCAT had not located their fortress. Why was that?”
“Because they have UCAT information?”
“Exactly,” said Sayama. “Now, where did they receive that information? They either have a spy or a skillful information broker has been giving them some small pieces of information. I would like to argue the latter.”
“Why? Do you have a reason for that?”
“3rd-Gear was not present when 1st-Gear reinvestigated the area. When their comrades were killed, 1st-Gear would have immediately sent out a recon team. A recon team on a mission of vengeance. To move before that, 3rd-Gear would have to be cowardly or have someone giving them 1st-Gear’s information. When you combine that with their knowledge of Low-Gear’s actions, it is easier to assume the existence of a common information broker than two different spies,” said Sayama. “Now, if 3rd-Gear had all our information, where would they hide?”
Shinjou gave a voice of confusion, but her eyebrows soon rose.
“You don’t mean…”
“I do, Shinjou-kun. We no longer need the sword. 3rd-Gear moved from here, but once 1st-Gear and Low-Gear had finished investigating…they only had to move back.” He gave a bitter smile. “The stupider the organization, the more restricted the lower levels are. Do you really think the UCAT members on the scene would have suggested the following to their superiors? ‘I’m sorry, but could we go back and check the areas you already used so much manpower to investigate?’ Of course, this will be my loss if they had a superior who would agree to that. But…”
“The old man said UCAT’s Okayama branch checked everywhere, but a check is done once and it does not vanish. They rolled across everything and concluded it was not here.”
He stood up.
He held out his hand and Shinjou frantically folded up the map and took his hand.
“You certainly are confident. …This will be a big deal if you’re wrong.”
“It will be an even bigger deal if I am right, Shinjou-kun. Now, prepare yourself.”
He pulled on her hand to help her up and bring her next to him.
“We will now settle this conflict with the gods.”
A white train station had a green mountain in the background.
The sign on the building said Okutama Station and the midday sun washed over it.
Okutama was the terminal station of Tokyo’s Oume line. With the exception of tourists, it was rarely busy outside of the morning and night. Currently, only two people exited the station and entered the midday sun.
They both wore black and they both had white hair, but one was a middle-aged man in sunglasses and the other was his maid.
The middle-aged man looked up into the sky.
“Sf, bring around the car.”
“Tes. Itaru-sama, please wait a moment. I will be right back.”
The maid, Sf, ran down the road in front of the station. The area in front of the station gradually sloped down to the east and she ran past restaurants and signs to guide tourists.
She finally arrived at an intersection down the slope.
“Was there a parking lot that way?” wondered Itaru.
Sf continued on and entered the police box in front of the intersection.
A middle-aged policeman and Sf soon exited and Sf raised her right hand. The policeman bowed and Sf moved behind the police box.
Soon, a car drove out and the policeman saluted.
The light vehicle was black and contained the IAIM mark of an IAI affiliate company. Sf sat in the driver’s seat and the vehicle smoothly stopped next to Itaru and sounded its six-tone horn.
“Are you stupid? Why are you making us stand out so much?”
“Tes,” replied Sf after manually lowering the window. “I thought you might not notice.”
“I’m glad I did notice. By the way, why did you change to this car a few days ago? I seem to recall a stupid automaton saying German cars were the sturdiest in the world.”
“The times change, Itaru-sama. Until two days ago, you were riding a wonderful German UCAT car that copied the sturdiness of a BMW, Porsche, Benz, and AMG. It was known as the BPornzMG Ultimate, but I traded it in.”
“I was asking why. That thing was so sturdy that you didn’t even notice when you hit something.”
Sf nodded in the driver’s seat while still facing forward.
“Tes. It was indeed a wonderfully sturdy car. It was so wonderful that, when on our way to see the autumn leaves, it took 72 seconds to realize I had hit Kazuo-sama’s car and knocked it off a cliff.”
“And you only noticed because of the odd explosion behind us, right?”
“Tes. When I backed up, I got a solid hit on Kazuo-sama as he was calling for help. Hitting him with the backfire earned an extra 300 Sf points. However, I was a bit late to notice that as well, so I stepped on him. I have determined it was a sturdy vehicle. …Kazuo-sama is also sturdy for escaping that with only some scrapes.”
“Stop reminding me of unpleasant things. Again, what is this?”
“Tes. It is a light vehicle created by the excessive free time and wasted effort that Japanese UCAT’s development department has in abundance. It is known as the Refresher. For a comparison commercial, German UCAT staged a full speed collision while driving backwards on the autobahn, but it seems the Refresher managed to refreshingly pierce right through the BPornzMG. German UCAT offered a more heavily-equipped version of the BPornzMG, but I chose this one because the taxes are cheaper.”
“I see, I see. That was a little drawn-out, but I get it now. …Whose money did you buy it with!?”
“Tes.” Sf nodded. “I used my savings. Are you saying you are unaware of my savings, Itaru-sama?”
“I am. Now tell me what you mean by that.”
“Tes. That is my term for the ATM card inside the wallet I have been left with.”
“That. Belongs. To me. You used my money without asking, didn’t you!?”
“No, I asked for and received your permission. The other day, I asked if I could use a little money.”
“Wait,” said Itaru. “That was when I asked you to buy some ultrapure water.”
“Tes. You seem to have overlooked the catalogue I was holding behind my back. Has this solved the mystery?”
“I can’t believe this. Also, why did you borrow the parking spot at that police box?”
He pointed at the police box and glared at Sf, but she did not mind.
“Earlier, when I asked you how to secure a parking spot near here, you told me to try seduction.”
“And did you?”
“Tes. I activated my seduction functionality at the police box and lifted my skirt by an entire centimeter. At that point, the partially-assembled Gatling gun inside my skirt fell to the floor.”
“That’s not seduction! It’s a threat!”
Itaru swore, opened the 4-door vehicle’s back door, threw his cane in the narrow back seat, and then got in himself.
“Just bring me home. Everything around me ends up dyed in the worst colors.”
As he closed the door and spoke, the Refresher performed a 180 degree turn as if spinning, but he was already used to it. He slid the joint sofa forward to eliminate the foot space and sat sideways. He stuck his unmoving leg toward the opposite door and fixed himself in place.
Finally, he reached into his pocket and pulled something out.
“That is the envelope containing the documents the Hiba woman gave you, isn’t it?”
“Do you want to know what’s inside?”
“No, I am busy driving.”
“Then I will tell you.”
As he spoke, he grabbed the envelope.
And he ripped it apart. There were around a dozen pages inside, but they could all be heard tearing apart.
“This is the information on the Hiba Miki who was left with Hiba-sensei. She wanted me to use this to search for her.”
He grabbed the torn documents and ripped them each apart again. He tore them again and again until they were nothing but small pieces.
“This is apparently all the information she’s gathered after searching for so long.”
“Why are you throwing it away?”
“Because it’s meaningless. That girl is searching for the place she is meant to be.”
He tossed the shredded paper into the trunk area and it came apart to scatter like snow. As he continued to scatter that snow in the trunk, he looked in the rearview mirror.
In the mirror, he saw Sf continue to face forward.
“It’s a difficult issue. Do you know when Hiba Miki was left with Hiba-sensei?”
“No, not at all.”
“It was long before you came here. On the night of the Great Kansai Earthquake, Hiba Ryuuichi left an automaton named Mikage at his house and then lost his life in the secondary damage of the earthquake. The positive concept activity caused by the activation of the negative concepts made Mikage wake up that night.” He took a breath. “And afterwards, a girl named Miki was left with Hiba-sensei. She had a note in Hiba Ryuuichi’s handwriting that said, ‘I picked her up at a 9th-Gear base. Treat her like a member of the Hiba family.’ ”
Just as he was about to throw the last of the paper shreds, he realized the paper was not coming apart.
He looked and saw a black clip holding the pieces of the documents together. He removed the clip and scattered the last of the paper in the trunk.
“Clean up the trunk later.”
“Tes. Is it all burnable trash?”
“Yes,” said Itaru as he put the clip in his pocket.
“What kind of person was Hiba Ryuuichi?” asked Sf.
“He wasn’t originally from UCAT. He was a swordsman and his job was to destroy the remnants of the various Gears that were known in Low-Gear as monsters. Especially the ones who killed indiscriminately. He stood out due to his red eyes.” Itaru gave a bitter laugh. “Here’s an embarrassing story. We had a few clashes with him, but at one point, a certain man and I went and bowed down to him. We begged him to help us as an independent member of UCAT’s special division.”
“Were you successful?”
“I wasn’t able to accomplish anything, but the man I was with told me he would handle it and then spoke alone with Hiba Ryuuichi in his study. The two of them left after only three minutes and Hiba Ryuuichi signed an agreement to help as an independent member, but only when he felt like it.”
“I have never heard of an independent member.”
“It’s just for show. The actual position still exists, but only people who can singlehandedly take on a god of war or mechanical dragon are given it. We don’t have anyone like that now. …In the history of every UCAT, only a few people have ever qualified. A few of the National Defense Department’s Eight Great Dragon Kings qualified and then a few of the Five Great Peaks qualified.” He narrowed his eyes. “Hiba Ryuuichi was one of the Five Great Peaks along with Diana. All of the Five Great Peaks were authorized as independent members save the man who persuaded Hiba Ryuuichi.”
“Tes.” Sf nodded. “According to that story, I have determined you are useless.”
“Yes. You’re exactly right about that. Machines are quite perceptive. Especially the ones without emotions.”
He pulled the clip from his pocket, glanced toward the paper scraps in the trunk, and tossed the clip into it.
However, he soon reached out, calmly picked up the clip, and once again placed it in his pocket.
“But that’s fine. You say some good things every once in a while. You exactly pinpointed my value.”
“Tes. I have determined that is also related to why you do not have me do any unnecessary work. If you are delighted, please email your enthusiastic words of encouragement to the Sf support team in German UCAT. If you do…”
“I am sure they will send some even more wonderful features.”
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