Owari no Chronicle:Volume7 Chapter 28

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Chapter 28: Confrontation of Discovery[edit]

OnC v07 0097.png

What is it called when your eyes meet?

Or is it what happens next that matters?

Eyes speak despite not uttering words


A pale green light could be seen in the darkness and someone stood before it.

The person was Miyako.

She was in 3rd-Gear’s basement and the light was located in the center.

“Is this the remote control for the gods of war?”

She had come this far using that light.

Moira 1st had opened the way to this giant underground storehouse. God of war parts and automaton parts were stored inside hard packaging and some packages were labelled as food.

Miyako belatedly realized what it meant for the maids to use ingredients bought outside rather than the food stored down below. She gave a nod of silent thanks and looked around once more.

I saw a large area of darkness north of the entrance.

“I should probably check over there.”

As she began to walk, her eyes adjusted to the darkness enough to notice something before tripping over it or running into it.

She then saw something.

“?”

The large object lay collapsed in the darkness.

“Is that a god of war?”

Her muttered question quickened her pace.

After two or three more steps, she started jogging and she soon began to run.

She brushed her hair back and arrived at the object. It was indeed a god of war. It was covered in pale blue armor, the frame was large, and the armor plates were thick.

“Why does it seem so similar to Typhon?”

She noticed the god of war had been sliced in two.

The collapsed body’s torso had been split by a shallow diagonal strike. When she circled to its back to check on the damage, she noticed something had been ripped out of it. There was only empty space there now.

“Why are these scraps here?”

She approached and attempted to peer into the damaged portion.

She touched the armor and looked into the torn out area. Based on what she had seen of Typhon, the cockpit should have been there.

Was the cockpit forcibly removed?

She checked the cut and saw it had only diagonally grazed the bottom of the removed portion. The cockpit itself had likely been unharmed. However, she had learned a bit about gods of war in her time here.

“Any damage to a god of war is returned to the pilot.”

If the torso was sliced this spectacularly, the pilot would have died.

“So why did they bother keeping it here?”

She noticed something odd while peering into the damaged area.

Huh?

She wondered what it was and then spoke her thoughts aloud.

“It’s so deep.”

That was it. The hole was oddly deep.

She looked up and checked the damage again. The hole was about three meters deep. She could tell a single block had been removed because the internal frame had a smooth surface meant to carry something.

The back also had a frame meant to support the cockpit.

“It must have stuck out of the back quite a bit.”

She checked and the god of war’s back was indeed made to jut out.

She recalled Typhon’s back. It had not been as noticeable because of its wings, but it had jutted out about the same.

“Huh?”

She remembered something else about the day. Moira 3rd had said the other gods of war were made to be remotely controlled without altering the cockpit.

She had seen their backs when running across the catwalk.

“But they weren’t as thick.”

An odd feeling filled her chest.

She realized it was unease. It was the unease of facing something she could not predict.

She shuddered at that realization and began to take a step back.

“…?”

But the pale blue armor panel reacted when she removed her left hand. A small area on the armor lowered slightly and then rose back up. By the time she realized it was a switch, light had appeared underneath her left hand.

Writing scrolled across the armor. She did not recognize the green characters, but she could read it.

“Preparing to activate.”

The appearance of the writing was accompanied by a minute trembling in the pale blue god of war. It was beginning to start up.

More writing scrolled by as if continuing the startup process.

“Primary pilot: Unknown. Inactive.”

It had no cockpit, so that was hardly surprising.

However, the writing did not end there. It vanished and new characters appeared.

“Standard Copilot: ”

Miyako gasped when she saw the name it displayed. This was why the cockpit block had been so deep.

It had two pilots! And that name!?

But at that point, the text was rewritten.

“Deleted.”

“Hey!” she shouted futilely.

Both the writing and the trembling vanished.

Darkness and silence returned, leaving nothing behind.

She took a step back in that darkness as if to move away from the craft before her eyes.

When she did, her back touched something.

She bumped into someone standing behind her.

“…!?”

As soon as strength filled her shoulders, a hand was placed on one of those shoulders.


The ocean roared below the moon.

Two people walked lightly through the waves on the edge of that noise.

One wore a shirt and chino pants while the other had long hair and wore a short-sleeved shirt and culottes. The one in chino pants brushed up his slicked-back hair.

“Shinjou-kun, is this your first time playing in the waves?”

“Yes,” replied Shinjou with a nod.

She held sandals in one hand while avoiding the approaching waves, chasing the receding waves, and sometimes giving a faint cry when she intentionally let the water wash over her feet.

“This is my first time doing this, Sayama-kun. Ah, I’m already so wet.”

Is that so? thought Sayama. I need to save that comment for future use.

A large wave broke and almost reached their feet. Shinjou laughed and clung to him as the wave chased her.

She did not hesitate to grab his arm, so he silently spoke to the ocean.

I must thank nature.

He then looked at the arm Shinjou held and saw the thick bundle of copy paper in his hand.

He suddenly realized she was looking him in the eye and that her joy had changed to calm.

“U-um, sorry about getting excited on my own like that. …Have you been thinking about what we discussed earlier?”

“Yes,” he answered while thinking back.

Shinjou was referring to the meeting they had held during their post-dinner free time. The main force of Team Leviathan had borrowed one of the boy’s tents and looked over the documents from earlier that day.

They had primarily communicated through writing to make sure no one outside the tent could hear them and Hiba had taken part. Mikage had not left the girl’s tent, so she had not joined them.

“Everyone had documents they could read and those they couldn’t, didn’t they?”

“Kazami could read the fewest because she has the weakest connection to any other Gear. Sibyl-kun also remained silent, but she did appear to look through most of the documents.”

Sayama held up the documents after moving them to his left hand so Shinjou would not have to let go of his arm.

He flipped through them with his fingers and folded them open with a flick of his wrist.

“During the early stages of World War Two, the National Defense Department was aware of 1st through 8th. They had too little information on 9th and 10th and they decided to postpone dealing with 5th and 7th. 5th was the world of aerial mechanical dragons, so they wanted to wait until they developed a corresponding weapon. 7th simply rejected their gates, so there was nothing they could do.”

“And so the main force of the National Defense Department dealt with 1st through 4th, 6th, and 8th.”

Shinjou looked at the documents in his hand.

He stopped walking and held them up so she could see and so the moonlight reached the writing.

She gave a breath of laughter.

“You can actually read by moonlight here. That only occasionally happens in Akigawa.”

“Rather than saying it is always like that here, it would be better to say this is the normal state of the world.”

She nodded and began reading the text.

“1942, National Defense Department Primary Representative, Izumo Zen, Age 27, Lieutenant, 6th-Gear.

“Technology Division Director, Ooshiro Hiromasa, Age 36, Lieutenant, 2nd-Gear.

“Guard Division Director, Hiba Ryuutetsu, Age 23, Sergeant Major, 3rd-Gear.

“Special Division Director, Sayama Kaoru, Age 25, Lieutenant, 4th-Gear.”

Her voice slowed on the next line.

“Special Division Assistant Director…Shinjou Kaname, Age 24, Warrant Officer, 8th-Gear.”

And she continued normally from there.

“Adviser, Siegfried Zonburg, Age 27, Lieutenant, 1st-Gear.

“Adviser, Kinugasa Tenkyou, Age 64. He was not in charge of any Gear.”

“Even if they held official positions, it appears they were mostly a field operation team with special abilities. They were a small number of elites, much like us now.”

“Should we really praise ourselves like that?”

“Judging yourself accurately is a good thing, Shinjou-kun.”

Sayama flipped through the documents and found something like a chronology.

It was a record of Shinjou Kaname’s 8th-Gear. It had likely been handwritten to begin with, but the writing lacked any personality because it had been digitized and printed out.

Even so, it was important information. The text said 8th-Gear’s life forms were made up of completely different bodily tissues than those of Low-Gear. The report said they appeared no different from stone.

“8th sounds like it was a peaceful Gear,” commented Shinjou. “That’s kind of surprising.”

“If a creature’s scale of time is different, it will take part in a war differently. Between a Gear of people and a Gear of stone, the latter will be forced to act primarily as onlookers. The records say much the same about 4th-Gear which was populated by plants. While it was not to the same extent as Low-Gear, those two Gears were not seen as enemies or were at least put off until the later stages of the Concept War.”

“This Shinjou and your grandfather were probably trying to grasp the true state of the Concept War by approaching 4th and 8th.”

Sayama felt pain in his chest as he recalled the records of his grandfather, but his right hand contained the documents and his left was taken up by Shinjou. I must endure, he told himself before taking a breath.

“The scene does not suit my grandfather. 4th-Gear was a world where three rings of land intersected. The sun was located in the center and the inner walls of the rings contained flowing rivers. Was that old man dreaming?”

“I’m sure it really existed. …It said your grandfather had trouble speaking with Tree Serpent Mukiti because of how long it took.” She smiled bitterly. “It apparently took several hours for a single response, so it later evolved more high-speed plants.”

“It must have been that experience which made that monkey so short-tempered. Anyway, it is a shame none of the records go beyond the National Defense Department days.”

“Yes. We don’t know what happened to Shinjou Kaname.”

She reached out and flipped through the documents.

The 8th-Gear document ended partway through and had the following written at the bottom.

“July 21, 1945. I have requested that Sayama Kaoru continue the investigation.”

“It seems he fell ill. The 4th-Gear document says this: starting July 25, I will begin investigating 8th-Gear in place of Shinjou Kaname who has been hospitalized.”

“I wonder if those two got along.”

“Who can say? But this Shinjou Kaname may have been your grandfather or another relative.”

“We can’t know that.”

Her expression was perfectly serious and she seemed to be speaking to herself more than anyone.

“We shouldn’t get our hopes up. Shinjou is a pretty common name and this is from over sixty years ago. If he was 24 in 1942, he would be around 87 now. That would put him around 70 when I was born. You can fit two generations in between.”

“And if a daughter was born even once, the Shinjou name would not continue on.”

“Yes. Also, I’ve felt short-lived joy at seeing the name Shinjou several times in the past,” she added. “Still, I wonder what happened to him. It says he was hospitalized and we know he was with the National Defense Department but not UCAT, right? So what if his illness…”

“Even if that is the case, you are still here, Shinjou-kun.”

Shinjou trembled at that and he spoke directly to the gaze below her lowered eyebrows.

“Whether something happened or not, I am looking at you now, so do not worry.”

“…Right.”

She lowered her head before suddenly speaking up.

“Oh. S-Sayama-kun!”

She frantically called his name and touched the left side of his chest.

“What is it, Shinjou-kun?” he asked when he felt the touch of her hand. “Why the sudden chest-groping heart massage? If you are going to do this, go bolder and more sensitive!”

“Stop making about three leaps of logic at once! …U-um, we’ve been talking about your grandfather this whole time, so does your chest hurt?”

He had been ignoring the pain.

“No? I am perfectly fine.”

“Don’t do that. I don’t want you to hurt.”

“I get the feeling you have not been listening to me recently.”

“Eh?” She tilted her head and looked up into the sky as if thinking on his words. “W-well, that makes two of us.”

She took a breath and looked around to make sure no one else was around.

“What is it, Shinjou-kun?”

“Oh, well… I was just thinking we’d come a long way.”

“We have. We might be on the opposite side from the camp.”

The distant lights were no longer from Shikoku. They were from the north.

“That is the Kojima peninsula. The light from the Mizushima industrial complexes is quite orderly. Also, another island seems to continue on beyond it, but that is likely from the Great Seto Bridge. We could not see it during the day, but the light must make it show up at night.”

“I see…”

Shinjou sounded disinterested as she looked in the direction he pointed.

“Is there something you want to say?” he asked her.

“Eh? Um, yes.”

She lightly held her body through her shirt and looked around again.

“This is just between the two of us, but you said you are looking at me now, remember?”

She averted her gaze as she spoke.

She slowly relaxed her arms and reached for her clothes.

A moment later, her culottes slid down her legs and to the sandy beach.

She blushed as she looked back at him, but then she smoothly undid the buttons on the chest of her shirt.

“It’s not because you said that…but will you look at me?”

With that, her white shirt fell from her shoulders.


Below the moon was a large white-walled building.

Three people could be seen by its southern wall. They were all female and two of them faced the third.

That third one wore a red suit and faced forward. Her sharply narrowed eyes first turned toward the one with blonde hair and a maid uniform. She opened her lips which were covered in red lipstick.

“Moira 1st, do you understand what you have done? Many secret items are located down below and you allowed in an outsider.”

“Yes, I understand, Lady Gyes. However, it was what Lady Miyako desired.”

Gyes turned to the right and toward Tsukuyomi Miyako, the black-haired woman standing next to Moira 1st.

She looked her in the eye and Miyako frowned as she looked back.

Surely she knows she is no match for my combat abilities.

Gyes did not understand, but this was a favorable situation for a combat automaton.

However, she kept that hidden and spoke to Moira 1st once more.

“Did you say that to pin the blame on Tsukuyomi Miyako here?”

“No.”

Moira 1st responded immediately and Miyako frantically looked up, but Moira 1st continued with a smile before the woman’s look of protest could lead to words.

“My decisions are my responsibility. I helped Lady Miyako because that was what I wished to do. I did it for myself.”

“Are you saying you now have a designated master? You have worked for anyone’s sake for millennia as the leader of the Moirai, but you have chosen this woman after only a few days?”

“Yes.”

She smiled as she answered and that expression told Gyes that her ability to form expressions had grown constant. Gyes thought about why that would be.

Oh.

“Moira 1st, you hold a position different from Lord Apollo’s 3rd-Gear, don’t you?”

Gyes pulled a sword from her suit and Miyako reflexively stepped in front of Moira 1st with her arms spread.

“What the hell are you doing!? Aren’t you on the same side!?”

Gyes frowned and looked to Miyako.

“That is exactly why I must do this. A machine that has lost sight of its objective must be disposed of or displayed in a museum. And Moira 1st, why do you not stand in front of this woman? If she is your master, it is your duty to protect her.”

“It is, but I am happy that Lady Miyako would stand in front of me.”

“Automatons cannot feel ‘happy’.”

“But we can make associations. Automatons are machines, but we understand it is worthwhile for our master to draw out more of our own functionality and to treat us with care so that we might last longer. From there, we only need to associate happiness with smiles and the actions we take to confirm our master’s existence.” She continued to smile. “If we do that enough, our trust in our master rises and we should be constantly happy.”

“So did you hug me earlier because that trust gauge overflowed?”

“Y-you are not supposed to mention that, Lady Miyako.”

Moira 1st placed her hands on Miyako’s shoulders from behind.

“Now,” she said as she finally moved forward. “Thank you very much for your concern, Lady Miyako. That was more than enough. I will handle the rest.”

“Is that so?”

Gyes watched as Miyako stepped back with a reluctant expression.

“Don’t look at me like that. When she says that, what choice do I have but to let her handle it?”

“Are you jealous, Lady Gyes?”

“I have no such emotion. Also, we have been treated with plenty of care since Lord Apollo awoke five years ago. I have no complaints.”

“Yes, but Lord Apollo does not have us do anything. Do you never want to remove the curse placed on him?”

“Do not say that, Moira 1st!” shouted Gyes on reflex.

However…

“It is no use. Lady Miyako has already realized there is a mystery surrounding Lord Apollo.”

It can’t be, thought Gyes just before hearing Miyako’s voice.

“Are Typhon and the god of war in the basement related to why that rich boy can’t leave here?” She took a breath and scratched her head. “When I checked Typhon’s back today, I saw a name on the cockpit console. It said Artemis. But the Artemis I saw was obviously some kind of ghost walking through the building. I doubt she could be piloting Typhon. Also…the console for the god of war in the basement gave Artemis’s name as the copilot.”

“And what do you say this means?”

“How should I know? I’m not smart enough to come up with an answer right away. But the god of war in the basement and Typhon both have a connection to the name Artemis. Also, there are some odd things about Typhon.” She folded her arms and looked to Gyes. “When Moira 2nd was crushed, I looked at Typhon again and noticed something. The forehead and right arm were being repaired today. Those are the same places Apollo was injured when he fell from the cliff yesterday. What’s up with that?”

She received a single response.

“————”

Gyes began to move.

Her mechanical mind had determined this was dangerous. One of 3rd-Gear’s secrets lay there.

That secret is necessary for 3rd-Gear’s continued existence!

If it was discovered, the foundation they served would grow unstable.

“You have learned too much!”

The attack was a straight jab. The silver line tore through the air and split the darkness of the night.

“!”

However, the sound it produced was not that of pierced flesh or breaking bone.

It was a metallic noise.

Gyes realized the sword in her hand had broken.

Why? she wondered, but the answer was directly before her.

Something had stabbed into the ground between her and Miyako.

“My sword.”

Her implied question was answered by a deep male voice.

“Have you forgotten the promise you made with Low-Gear? You promised to speak with them if they placed this sword where they think our base is.”

She sensed two people behind her.

“Aigaion and…”

“Moira 3rd!” announced the smaller maid.

“What are you two doing here?”

“I’d like to know that too.” Miyako shrugged. “I get that the rich boy has something going on, but what is it? How are the god of war in the basement and Typhon binding that idiot?”

“Why do we have to tell you?”

“What if Lord Apollo actually wants this, Lady Gyes?”

“What?”

Gyes frowned and Moira 1st nodded.

“When he shouted at Lady Miyako yesterday, it was the first time I had seen such powerful emotions in him for a long time. I believe it was the first time since he awoke and left Typhon five years ago. That is something we could not produce in him in those five years.”

“I do not want to make my master shout in displeasure!”

But Moira 1st only spoke with a peaceful smile.

“I am sorry, Lady Gyes, but Lord Apollo was smiling after that argument. And that was not the smile we have seen for these five years. It was the same smile he would give before 3rd-Gear began to struggle in the Concept War. That is what I have determined.”

Automatons could not lie, so that had to be the truth.

Did this woman remind Lord Apollo of feelings we were unable to give him?

“Why were you able to drag a smile out of Lord Apollo?”

Miyako stepped forward with a frown and tilt of the head.

“Drag a smile out of him? What do you mean?”

“Have you not realized despite being the one to argue and smile with him? We have spent five years with him and yet were unable to give him a natural smile. He often smiles, but the movement patterns of his facial muscles show that there is no strength behind those smiles.”

“Maybe your service is just really bad. Maybe he can’t smile because you’re too awkward.”

“Um, Lady Miyako, that is actually our job,” protested Moira 1st.

“Sorry, sorry.”

The corners of Miyako’s mouth twisted as she further approached Gyes.

She was already at close range. If Gyes drew her sword, the others could not stop her in time, but there was something she had to ask first.

“Human, how did you give Lord Apollo that expression?”

“That’s easy. I hit his head too hard and knocked a screw loose.”

“Damn you!”

Gyes reached toward her back and into her suit, but she saw that Miyako had already leaned backwards.

“Headbutt!”

The headbutt struck Gyes right on the forehead.

The attack caught her completely by surprise. She had not switched to combat mode, so her only defenses were the defensive membrane of her skin and her skeletal structure. Unfortunately, the defensive membrane was not enough to suppress the vibration.

“…!”

The vibration reached her artificial skull and her brain sensed danger. She shut down her wiring to prevent the vibration from sending random commands through her nervous system. It only took an instant to reconnect, but she could not move in the intervening time.

She collapsed as if her knees had given out.

The reconnection succeeded a moment later and she regained her senses of sight, hearing, and touch.

“Ah…”

But Miyako was holding her by the collar and the woman’s empty left hand was pressed against her own forehead.

“That rich boy is quite something if he was smiling after taking blow after blow like that. Tell me, Gyes. What is his secret?”

“Why? Why do you want to know so badly?”

“It’s nothing much.”

Miyako averted her gaze and frantically spoke up when she noticed Moira 1st peering at her from the side.

“Oh, but…um…I don’t mean it’s nothing. There is something. It’s just…”

“Yes? What is it?”

“Well… You know that rich boy’s eye color? That yellow? Typhon sometimes has that same eye color, doesn’t it?”

“Yes, it does,” answered Gyes. “Although only for a short time.”

Hearing that, Miyako looked relieved. Her shoulders lowered, she took a breath, and she looked at the others.

“Listen. Don’t tell anyone about this. …To be honest, I don’t really get it myself, but I feel like that eye color is really important to me.”

“What do you mean? If you want that eye color, you can change yours by- That’s just cruel, big sister!!”

After watching Moira 3rd being carried away, Miyako turned back to Gyes.

“Answer me this,” she started. “Did that rich boy always have that look to his eyes? Y’know…that weak one.”

“No. That appeared when 3rd-Gear began turning its people into gods of war to fight and he was left all alone.”

“I see. What was that idiot like before then?”

“He was strong. He was kind and meant to become a king, but…that was taken from him.”

“Why?”

“He was killed by the traitor’s daughter and a member of your Gear. The god of war from below is a remnant of that.”

“That doesn’t make any sense. Apollo was killed? But that idiot’s alive.”

Gyes did not answer, but Miyako continued speaking.

“So is that the curse? Is something keeping him alive while also binding him? Is that what’s moving Typhon and keeping him from leaving here!?”

What could that something be?

“Is it Artemis!?”

As soon as she shouted that name, she heard a noise. It was a low groan that almost sounded like the earth trembling.

“The hangar door.”

Aigaion’s comment led her to turn east where the forest was now lit up. The hangar door was opening and someone appeared from the light within.

“Artemis!”

That woman of light exited the hangar.

Her gentle movements resembled dancing as she floated atop the grass in front of the hangar.

Her expression was near tears, she held herself in her arms, the wind blew her hair, and she looked up into the sky.

The moon was there.

She opened her mouth and let out a voice that took the form of a shout and a scream.

“————————!”

However, that tremendous scream came from within the hangar and a giant white form soon followed the sound out.

It was Typhon.

As they all held their breath, Typhon came to a stop behind Artemis.

The white, six-winged god of war reached for Artemis and lifted her on its palm.

It looked to the sky. The giant’s eyes were pale and those eyes were turned upwards where the moon floated in the night sky.

Typhon placed Artemis on its shoulder and roared once more.

“——————!”

With that deep mechanical voice, the white giant flew into the sky.

It left noise and wind behind.

“!”

Gyes covered her eyes amid the gust of wind, but she still saw Miyako continuing to hold her collar and looking up into the night sky.

The wind blew leaves into the air, but only the moon was visible in the sky.

“Is Apollo inside Typhon?” asked Miyako.

Gyes took several seconds to conclude that question had been directed at her.

But before she could reply, Miyako asked again.

“He is, isn’t he, Gyes?”

“Why?”

“Why what? You aren’t making sense.”

“That does not matter. Answer me, human. Why do you put so much focus on Typhon?”

“Well,” muttered Miyako as she looked up into the night sky. “I used to be strong, just like Apollo. And recently, I realized something. The truth is, I was also weak back then and I’m also strong now. It was that eye color that led me to that realization.”

Miyako nodded.

“Yes, that’s what it is.” She let go of Gyes’s collar. “And that’s why I’m so interested in those eyes. I want to know if there’s something I can do, even if it’s unwanted.”

“…”

The word “regret” appeared in Gyes’s mind.

Just as Moira 1st had said, she was associating Miyako’s words with her own desires.

It was unclear if Miyako had realized it or not, but Gyes’s assessment of Apollo was the same as Miyako’s assessment of herself.

That would mean something had happened to Miyako that was similar to what had happened to Apollo.

“Miyako, are you closer to him than any of us despite the difference in Gear and the short time you have known him?”

Miyako did not look Gyes’s way, so the automaton got up and stood next to the woman.

“Let’s go.”

“What’s this all of a sudden? Go where, you idiot?”

“To pursue Typhon. When Typhon goes on a rampage, it is our duty as the Hecatoncheires to stop it. And while we are at it, we will let you see it all. So come with us. And…” She nodded. “If you still wish to do something after seeing this, I will choose to trust you!”


Black hair danced in the moonlight.

That color black was sent dancing by the girl playing in the waves while wearing a white swimsuit.

As the waves washed up to above her knees, she swept it away with her hands, slowly circled around, and otherwise enjoyed herself. Her movements waved her black hair about and the dark spray of water reached her skin and the white cloth covering her chest and lower body.

When she spoke, her voice was filled with surprise and delight.

“Ha ha! The bottom really is cold at night, Sayama-kun.”

She turned toward the boy who sat on the beach.

Baku sat on his head and Shinjou’s shed clothing was untidily placed next to him.

He had one knee raised as he watched her.

“Are you enjoying the ocean, Shinjou-kun?”

“Yes. I’m glad I came.”

OnC v07 0125.png

She collapsed into the water, but a wave crashed down above her before her back hit the water. She sank into the unexpected cold and pressure of the water.

“Wah!”

She frantically stood up and brushed up her slightly damp hair.

That was pathetic, she thought while turning toward Sayama.

She spread her arms as if showing off her body.

“How do I look? I was afraid white wasn’t all that different from underwear or our combat uniforms.”

“Never fear, Shinjou-kun. Swimsuits are an entirely different genre. You look wonderful.”

“Since you didn’t make any strange comments, I’m really glad to hear that.”

However, she began to hold her body with a troubled look. She was feeling a bit cold now that she had been soaked with water.

It actually feels less cold when in the water.

She found that strange as she scooped up the waves and splashed the water over her skin.

“Waves are so very strange, Sayama-kun. I wonder how they work.”

“The wind and the flow of the tides move the water and the continual overlapping movements become repeated waves.”

“That answer kind of ruins the mood…”

But what made her smile was not what he said but how quickly he gave the answer.

That smile produced a question from him as he buried Baku in the beach such that only his head stuck out.

“Did I say something funny?”

“No. I was thinking about how you have a response no matter what I say.”

“I am only this verbally generous when it comes to you, Shinjou-kun.”

“Thanks, but it can’t just be with me.” She narrowed her eyes as she spoke. “This may not be exactly what I truly think…but even if I’m no longer with you, you have to continue the Leviathan Road and continue speaking.”

“How ominous. You should avoid saying that sort of thing.”

“Why? Low-Gear has no concept that makes words come true.”

“Perhaps not, but my mother said we were going to meet someone important and then she alone went to meet that person.”

His face looked white in the moonlight, but Shinjou spotted his right hand on his chest.

Ah.

She realized her words had taken them in an unintentional direction.

She frantically moved toward him in order to take his hand in the moonlight, to see each other’s faces better, and to eliminate the misunderstanding faster than words could.

But the sandy ground was loose after being torn into by the waves and a receding wave tugged at her feet.

Meanwhile, Sayama spoke.

“Also, the automaton known as #4 defined her own death and truly did die once that definition was fulfilled.”

His hand remained on his chest.

“And yet there is no concept giving words power.”

“That’s…”

She tried to add “not true” as she crossed the waves. She did not know about his mother, but she could comment on #4.

“That can’t be true. Sayama-kun, if you try to carry everything yourself, you’ll- Ah!”

The receding wave caused the sand below her feet to crumble and she tripped forward.

The water was only knee deep, but a wave crashed down from above and she sank down to the bottom. The warm water and sound around her hands, elbows, and knees was pulled back toward her butt and it tickled.

She quickly got up and sat on the sandy ground below the water.

“Ah.”

She spat out the salt water in her mouth. The water in her eyes stung, but rubbing her eyes would not help. She shook water from her hair while a new wave hit her on the waist and then receded.

Once she raised her head and opened her eyes, she found Sayama standing directly before her.

Ah.

He had entered the ocean up to shin height with his shoes and everything still on. He was as expressionless as ever and Baku sat on his head.

“Are you okay, Shinjou-kun? There are rocks and shells on this beach, so do you have any cuts?”

“I-I’m fine, but your pants and shoes…”

“Do not worry.” He took a shallow breath. “This happened immediately after I made an odd comment. It would have been a much bigger deal had something happened to you.”

Shinjou realized what he meant by that.

What happened with his mom and #4 means a lot to him.

She wanted to tell him to stop thinking like that, but she knew it would not be that easy.

Instead, she reached out a hand toward his right hand. That was the hand he always used to hold the left side of his chest.

She grabbed the hand and tugged it toward her.

“Let’s stay together forever.”

It took several seconds for him to reply, but he did finally nod.

His expressionless face changed to a small smile and he spoke.

“Saying it once merely cancels out what you said before, Shinjou-kun.”

“Th-then I’ll say it twice: let’s stay together forever. If you want, I can say it a third or fourth time.”

“Is that so?”

He nodded and pulled on her hand to help her stand.

He looked at her wet body and she decided to assume he was checking for injuries. Feeling appreciative, she turned around.

The lights of Okayama were visible there. Beyond that were the lights of the Great Seto Bridge as Sayama had previously explained and lights likely continued on and on the farther back one looked.

“Your parents protected the lights of that city from the Great Kansai Earthquake, didn’t they?”

“Rather than protecting them, you should say they allowed them to remain. …Or perhaps they were unable to do even that.”

He took a deep breath and looked in the same direction as her.

“My parents were certainly part of IAI and they seem to have been part of UCAT as well, but I do not have much desire to remember how things were back then. A lot happened and the memories I wish to reject are more powerful. But…I think my father was an obedient person, unlike my grandfather.”

“…”

“The Great Kansai Earthquake in 1995 creates a dividing point for it all,” he said. “The old man said the epicenter was Babel, the ancient tower which contains this world’s negative concepts. On that night, my parents were called in to help and my father did not return. My mother would only say he was caught in secondary damages. However…I do not know what really happened.”

“Eh?”

He nodded.

“Do you remember what I said earlier today? There is a lot we still do not know about that earthquake. That is what I am talking about. We know what caused the earthquake, but we do not know what caused the activation of the negative concepts.”

“W-was it just a coincidence or due to something we don’t know about yet?”

“Yes. For example, the interference of the Army or a group that preceded them.”


Shinjou gasped.

The interference of the Army or a similar group?

What if the activation of the negative concepts had been an intentional act by some group?

“Would that mean this group activated the negative concepts for some reason? Like to destroy Low-Gear?”

There would have been a battle and the negative concepts had not been fully activated.

“Does that mean your father and the others were trying to stop them?”

“There is no way to be sure because we still lack too much information. We do not know if such a group even existed or if there was a battle around Babel. However…”

“However?”

“Here is an interesting piece of information. On that final night, my father said he had work to do at IAI, left with my mother, and then died when he was sent out to help with the early morning earthquake. In other words, my parents were called in to UCAT before the earthquake actually occurred.”

He took a breath and placed his right hand on his chest.

“I wish to look into the records. What positions within UCAT did all those who died from the ‘secondary damages’ hold? If they were all skilled fighters, why were they called in just before the earthquake? Of course, it is possible they were all given the night shift by coincidence.”

“This is all speculation, isn’t it? It’s hard to believe there was some decisive battle between UCAT and an opposing force ten years ago.”

“Yes,” he said with his eyes closed. “We do not have enough information to support or reject that theory. And if this theory is correct, nothing could be more humiliating.”

“Why would it be humiliating?”

He opened his eyes, faced her, and answered with a serious tone.

“It would mean I am fulfilling the Leviathan Road in order to make up for my parents’ inability to fully prevent the activation of the negative concepts in that battle. Also, it would mean there were those in the battle who were truly attempting to destroy Low-Gear. That is exactly the sort of person I wish to defeat in negotiations.”

“I think your desires are straying toward the extreme.”

“I suppose so. But remember that this is only speculation, Shinjou-kun. We will likely learn the truth in the future, but I intend to avoid being trapped by my own imagination and feeling let down when I face the truth. After all, I know that I am the world. The truth found in that world must agree with my thoughts and that is why I wish to make sure that is the case.”

He sighed.

“At any rate, I still do not know what happened back then. All I know is that my father died and my mother grew depressed afterwards.”

That comment led Shinjou to look toward him.

He was lowering his gaze from the lights beyond the ocean and to her.

She met his gaze and had a single thought in her mind.

No matter what past he might face, I’ll be by his side.

“Yes, it’ll be fine. I’ll be watching you and I’ll do my best to be seen by you.”

She did not say she would outdo his mother or #4. Instead, she spoke to his expressionless face. She knew he would say nothing more about his feelings now, but…

“If you ever feel like saying more, I’ll listen.”

He nodded and did not hesitate to wrap his arms around her. Her pulse began to race as she felt her wet skin begin to soak his shirt.

“Ah, Sayama-kun! I’m all wet!”

“I thought we would be together forever.”

Before she could reply, his lips touched her forehead. After a moment, his tongue licked her forehead and lowered to her lips.

She closed her eyes as he removed the remaining salt water from her mouth. It was not a bad feeling.

Once she finally let out a breath, he spoke.

“You have a wild salty flavor today, Shinjou-kun. And your swimsuit is wonderfully thin and see-through.”

“Please stop saying things in such weird ways. …And what do you mean see-through!?”

She frantically bent back within his arms and looked to her chest.

The truth lay before her eyes. As she blushed, he spoke.

“Some cleverness is needed when wearing a white swimsuit. Did you not know that?”

“No. K-Kazami-san didn’t say anything about it.”

“She wears swimsuits made of diving suit material, so she would never have to worry about this. Also…”

That last word sounded ominous. She tilted her head and he looked to her clothes on the beach.

“Shinjou-kun, it may be too late, but did you bring any underwear to change into?”

“Eh? I was wearing this below, so…” She came to a sudden realization. “But if I wear those clothes over this, I’ll ruin an entire outfit. And I only just changed before dinner.”

“I doubt anyone would blame you if you stripped down naked and wore the clothes over your bare skin.”

“I don’t want to be that unguarded.”

“I see. Well, I thought this might happen, so I prepared some underwear for you.”

“Where did you steal those from!?”

She could not help but shout out when he pulled underwear from his breast pocket like a magic trick.

However, he shook his head.

“I did not steal it. I bought it as a present for you.”

“Just out of curiosity, where did you buy it?”

“At UCAT’s large-scale store.”

UCAT’s third floor was a market facility. She pictured Sayama spreading out underwear in the lingerie shop while the female employees who shopped there watched him. He of course had Baku on his head.

I can actually see that happening.

“I want to end that unpleasant image, but how did you know my size?”

“Ha ha ha. That was easy. I am always embracing you, so I was able to use a method my grandfather taught me. I embraced all of the store’s mannequins to determine which one was the same size. It takes a fair bit of effort, but it is the best way to prepare a gift without asking the recipient their size.”

I can never walk through UCAT’s third floor with him again.

However, he embraced her shoulders.

“Now, let us return to the beach so I can give you your gift. After wiping you dry by hand, I will put the underwear on you.”

“What are you talking about!? Wipe me dry by hand? You’re putting the underwear on me?”

“It is my gift for you, so I must see it through to the end. Can you think of another way of doing that?”

“No, but I can think of some good ways to strangle you.”

“Ha ha ha,” he laughed. “You are being very funny and amicable tonight.”

He thought for a moment and his expression grew perfectly serious.

“You are a truly fucable person, Shinjou-kun.”

“Sayama-kun, do you remember what I said earlier today?”

She decided to strangle him and thought the strap of her swimsuit would work well.

A moment later, a sudden voice reached them from the direction of the tents. It was Kazami.

“Sayama! Shinjou! We’ve got a bit of an emergency! You aren’t doing anything indecent, are you!?”

“Ha ha ha. We were just about to, Kazami. Just watch and- gwah!”

“W-we weren’t doing anything. Anyway, what is it!?”

Kazami’s panicked voice came from the darkness beyond the beach.

“Well! Mikage is missing!”

“Mikage-san is!?”

Hiba and Izumo burst from the forest with binoculars in hand.

“That’s a big deal!” shouted Izumo.

“No, those two are the bigger deal!” shouted Hiba.

He faced Shinjou who frantically tried to hide her body.

“Wh-why is Shinjou-san a girl!?”

She was unsure what to say when directly asked like that and she thought about whether to explain it.

“Well, um, it would take a while to explain.”

“Don’t tell me you underwent a surgery in Morocco!”

Just as she started to think that would work as a lie, Sayama stepped forward to hide her and then turned to her.

“It would be best to give a quick explanation that eliminates the misunderstanding. …Hiba boy, listen carefully.”

“Y-yes? What is it?”

“People have their own preferences and Shinjou-kun is no different. Try to read between the lines.”

“That does not eliminate the misunderstanding!!”

Shinjou kicked Sayama from behind.

“We need to find Mikage-san!”


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