Owari no Chronicle:Volume7 Chapter 30
Chapter 30: Clash of Divulgence
To say one thing, say two things
To say two things, say three things
But before saying three things, do not let them speak
Several shapes of light filled the darkness.
Those lights took the form of two meter tall triangular pyramids and cubes.
Those were the lights of tents and a dozen or so were located in the forest near the sea.
One of those tents split open. It was white and displayed a card labelling it as the “medical tent”. The front of the tent split open and two people exited the light. One was a girl with short hair and the other was a short woman with her black hair tied back.
The girl closed the tent behind her and sighed while the woman pulled out a cigarette to her left.
“Various scrapes and cuts as well as lacerations and contusions to the right leg. It would normally take two weeks for a full recovery, but there are no major external injuries. You have no reason to worry so much, Kazami.”
“But Doctor Chao…”
“It’ll be fine. I went all out on treating her and Sibyl is with her.”
Chao lit the cigarette with a men’s lighter she pulled from her white coat. Kazami could smell gas and see the light of the flame.
“I made sure the injuries will be healed by the time she’s taken to the battlefield. If she’s human, that is.”
“What is she?”
“Well, I’d say she’s human. It’s true some of her body is still mechanical, but it’s fused with the human tissue. Those parts are basically prosthetics that can’t be removed.”
Kazami’s eyebrows rose in surprise when Chao so readily called Mikage human.
“Then she really isn’t an automaton?”
“It’s too early to make that decision, Kazami. Much too early.”
Chao held the cigarette between her lips and the flame instantly moved down to the base.
She dropped the long cigarette butt into a portable ashtray she pulled from her pocket and opened her mouth.
She breathed out a large puff of smoke and she sank into the massive cloud of smoke she herself had produced.
“Ahh, that really stings the eyes. If I don’t do this after working, I’ll lose this stimulation.”
“Doctor Chao, you don’t have to put on a one-woman circus show here.”
“I know it reeks of smoke, but bear with it. …And listen, Kazami. Both in my home country and this small country, illness is said to come from your life force. It’s all the same. Your health, build, growth, and personality all come from your life force.”
“Then in Mikage’s case…?”
“She’s a human with an automaton body that evolves into a human body. She is the one completed version of that. Since her creator and parents are no more, only she has the right to define herself. She defines herself as a doll, but why is that?”
Kazami tilted her head forward.
…What am I supposed to say?
She knew she was not good at thinking about others and their feelings, but she tried to do so.
“Is it because she can’t evolve? In other words, she’s a doll because she isn’t becoming a person?”
“Ha ha. You’re good at going for the easy answer, aren’t you? You could say that’s it and you could say it isn’t. It’s definitely part of the problem, but it forms a…s…sp…spalir!”
“Are you mocking four thousand years of history!?”
“Please stop jumping to misdirected anger at Mach speed. Anyway, what are you trying to say?”
“It’s simple. She’s decided for herself why she can’t evolve and that is in turn preventing her from evolving.”
“What power is preventing her from evolving?”
Kazami frowned, but she had an immediate answer to Chao’s question this time.
“The destructive weapons of Susamikado and Keravnos, right? She’s afraid of evolving into a weapon.”
“You really are stupid. That’s a part of her, so it gets stronger when she evolves. Even if she turns into a human, it won’t go away. She will simply swap out her automaton body for a human one. Did you hear that? It’s nothing more than swapping them out. Nothing is disappearing. It’s only natural for Susamikado to grow stronger as she evolves.”
“Th-then…” Kazami thought. “Has she stopped evolving because of the missing half of the Concept Core?”
“That’s wrong too and the young Hiba is probably vaguely aware of it. You can ask Sayama about it later.”
“Then what is it that’s stopping Mikage’s evolution?”
“I already told you: her life force.”
Suddenly, an odd sound came from the other side of the tent behind them. It was disturbing the conversation, so Kazami glanced toward it.
“Doctor Chao, why does it sound like someone is being beaten?”
“Oh, Yonkichi tried to attend to Mikage ahead of the other three, so they’re settling that.”
“I see. So to get back on topic, what do you mean by her life force?”
“Life force is life force.”
“You didn’t give this much thought, did you?”
“You really have gotten impudent lately. Don’t look down on an older woman, okay? This goes back to that spilar I was mentioning before.”
Kazami decided not to correct her this time. When she nodded twice, Chao pulled a new cigarette from her pocket and placed it in her mouth.
“Let’s say we have a sick person. While they’re sick, they’re let into the hospital, worried about, and can relax knowing they’ll be healed even if it isn’t easy. But what happens once they’re healed?”
“Won’t they be happy?”
“Probably, but even if the people waiting outside the hospital will hug them when they get home, those relationships will be back to normal the next day. That’s why some people realize they liked it better when everyone was worrying about them. …Okay, Miss Chao’s lecture ends here! Can you answer the question now!?”
“Miss is pushing it, so how about we go with lady?”
“That’s just your personal opinion.”
And yours isn’t? thought Kazami as she scratched her head.
At any rate, she thought she knew what Chao was getting at.
“Mikage is afraid of becoming human, isn’t she? She’s been an automaton for as long as she can remember, her current life is all about fighting, and she’s never had a normal life as a normal person. That makes staying an automaton feel safer than losing her current life and evolving into the unknown world of a human.”
She took a breath.
“If she becomes human, her life will also be swapped out for a human one. This is an evolution rather than an improvement. …However, she prefers her current life with Hiba to what she would gain by becoming human.”
“That’s right. Having a young man work to meet your every need is obviously the best option.”
“I’m going to ignore that difference in values, but does that mean you don’t like those four brothers?”
As soon as she asked that, the beating behind them grew silent.
Chao smiled bitterly.
“They’re an irreplaceable bunch.”
The beating resumed and Kazami allowed the sounds to blend into the background noises of nature.
…The people around Mikage must be kind. Kind enough for her to show restraint.
Mikage was being stupid.
Hiba acted pretty much the same even when she was not with him.
However, he was always talking about her. But not because he was worried. It was always about how much he enjoyed being with her.
“That must be the answer. It’s a wonder she didn’t grow up to be spoiled, though.”
Kazami had problems with controlling herself, but she thought about using this as a disciplinary model when she had kids of her own. She would need to ask Hiba…no, his mother about it some time.
…My parents won’t be any help at all.
“Kazami, it looks like you’re thinking about something completely unrelated.”
“Eh? No, I was still thinking about Mikage. Sort of.”
“Really? …Well, it may have been a mistake to bring Mikage with us. She’s seen Hiba here as he would be once she became human and was no longer restricting him. He can choose to fight freely, he can lose, and he can choose someone other than her.”
Kazami recalled when Typhon had appeared before the others. According to Sayama, Mikage had called in Susamikado as a decoy. That was not necessarily a bad decision.
…But it means she called for Susamikado without Hiba.
“Instead of choosing a human like Hiba, she called for Susamikado which she thinks is stopping her evolution.”
There was no movement in the tent behind them. Mikage was asleep with a sedative and was wrapped in healing charms and bandages, but she had Sibyl with her.
As Chao lit another cigarette, her expression was lit up for an instant. It was a harsh look with a wrinkled brow.
After breathing out the smoke, she spoke quietly.
“I’ll give you a nice piece of information, Kazami. Japanese UCAT is beginning to work out the location of 3rd-Gear’s base using the paths of Typhon and that red god of war. Also, the other UCATs are requesting that they exterminate the remnants of 3rd-Gear.”
“Why would the other UCATs interfere like that? And how do you know about this?”
“I’ll answer the second question later. Now, the first question is an easy one. There are a lot of bad stories about 3rd-Gear’s past. To earn the favor of the other Gears, those UCATs have decided it isn’t worth negotiating with 3rd-Gear and therefore want us to exterminate them. By dropping 3rd-Gear below all the other Gears, that past can be swept away.”
She smiled bitterly.
“It sounds logical enough, but they’re actually trying to crush the Leviathan Road. If they do that, Japanese UCAT can’t take everything for themselves. Now listen carefully.”
Kazami frantically answered and Chao smiled.
“No need to get all flustered. 3rd isn’t stupid. They must know letting their location be known will focus the wrath of all the other Gears on them. When they tried to get along with 1st, they had a unit sent after them to take revenge. This leaves them with only one escape. Can you tell me what that is?”
“The Leviathan Road?”
She understood that. The Leviathan Road was a series of negotiations meant to transcend the Gear framework and bring them all alongside each other.
Chao nodded and exhaled some smoke.
“You all will battle 3rd. If everything is set up properly, 3rd will move in to attack when they sense danger. They will ask to be brought into the Leviathan Road framework. Of course, they won’t just come out and say it. So, Kazami, where is that idiot?”
“You mean Sayama? He went to the beach to speak with Hiba.”
A smile came to her lips.
…That’s right. That idiot must understand all that.
“He wants Hiba to tell him what 3rd-Gear’s second impurity is. He said that will likely be the greatest obstacle during the Leviathan Road.”
“Is that so? 3rd-Gear’s actions themselves are quite something, but…well, 7th-Gear did something similar. It wouldn’t be any fun without something that exceeds that.”
Kazami turned toward Chao.
“It’s nothing much, but you probably weren’t able to read it in those documents you got today. That only covered the National Defense Department days.”
“This comes after that. In the old UCAT days when the different UCATs around the world hadn’t completely gathered together, Japanese UCAT was more or less the world’s central UCAT. The American and European ones were larger and better funded, though. Anyway, that old UCAT had people in charge of investigating and battling the different Gears. Removing Shinjou left five from the National Defense Department and one idiot each from the Middle Eastern, American, and Chinese UCATs were added. Those eight were known as the Eight Great Dragon Kings.”
She smiled bitterly.
“I belonged to Chinese UCAT back then and I still have connections there. That’s how I learned about that previous topic. Keep it a secret, but I’m Chao Sei, the Eight Great Dragon Kings member in charge of 7th-Gear.”
Sayama faced Hiba on the moonlit beach.
“Now then,” he said as he brushed his bangs against the sea breeze. “A lot has happened, but it is time you gave your answer, Hiba boy.”
“My answer to what?”
“Whether you will join us or not.”
That response brought a change to Hiba’s expression. He frowned and looked away.
“This really isn’t the time for that. You saw what happened to Mikage-san.”
“But now that 3rd-Gear has taken action, the others are likely to do the same. Even if Mikage-kun was injured, the world continues to revolve around me. Am I wrong?”
“Um…I’m not sure what part I’m supposed to point out first.”
“If every part if it is wrong, it cancels out and becomes true, Hiba boy.” Sayama remained perfectly expressionless. “Is this not the perfect opportunity? How about you tell us about 3rd-Gear’s second impurity and join us?”
“I can’t do that. I’ve been fighting this whole time in order to-…”
“In order to protect Mikage-kun and continue her evolution? Are you saying she will become human if you obtain the full Concept Core?”
Sayama looked at Hiba who was frowning in the moonlight.
…That expression appears to be false.
Then I will destroy it, concluded Sayama.
He pointed at Hiba with his right hand and Baku emulated the action atop his head.
“You are blaming the concepts for her lack of evolution.”
“What do you mean? Keravnos only has half of the Concept Core.”
“I apologize that all of my information is secondhand, but I must ask a question here.”
Sayama swung up the hand pointed at Hiba and noise burst from his shirt’s shoulder.
“You say Keravnos is stored here and its mechanism may indeed be a portion of Mikage-kun. However, even though half of the Concept Core is found inside it and is therefore stored in her concept space, is it really a part of her body?”
He knows the answer, thought Sayama.
The main point was a simple matter.
“If it is a part of her body, it must function as a reactor much like in Fafnir Custom or Typhon. However, Keravnos is a mere warhead. Even if you retrieve the other half…” He showed off a smile. “It will only strengthen Keravnos. It will further turn Mikage-kun into a destructive weapon.”
Hiba’s eyebrows twisted a bit.
That expression told Sayama something.
…This fortunate boy does not know that it is he who is stopping her evolution.
But she seemed to have realized that she was restricting him.
Sayama thought it was good that Mikage had called for Susamikado in the ocean.
…No matter what might happen, she had thought about the possibility of leaving him.
“The only remaining problem is you, Hiba boy. What will you do now that Mikage-kun has rejected you? You no longer have the power to fight 3rd-Gear and you no longer have a reason to. But will you still fight them?”
After a pause, Hiba finally answered.
“I don’t really have any other choice, do I?”
“Why not? Because of what happened in your grandfather’s generation?”
“To be honest, I wasn’t told much about what happened with him.”
“Then are you fulfilling a nonexistent responsibility on nothing but inertia?”
“No. I still have the duty of the one who knows the truth, Sayama-san. I have the duty of the one who knows the second impurity,” he said. “In a way, this may be exactly what I wanted. Mikage-san can’t do anything right now, but I know the second impurity and I can cleanse it on my own.”
Sayama nodded and gave a small smile.
…Interesting. Even now, he is keeping her in mind.
Sayama thought of Shinjou. If she at least appeared to have rejected him, would he continue thinking of her?
He recalled the countless flesh-colored images and soft sensations from the past and he checked his memories for the many words they had exchanged afterwards. He did so thrice just to be sure. Once he was done, he understood that they were perfect and so he nodded.
“Hiba boy, you are likely similar to me. Especially how we are both one wrong step away from being stalkers.”
“U-um, based on that brief happy look on your face just now, I think we’re at most only 10% alike!”
“No need to be modest. I am not such a Pervsuke that I pretend to wash my partner in the bath and instead touch her butt. I only touch my partner to gain an understanding. Your method is much more perverted.”
“I’m going to try to keep this polite since you’re my upperclassman, but you are insane!”
“Calm down. Those who do not understand themselves are the first to die on the battlefield.”
Hiba fell silent at that.
…Shinjou-kun would have fought a while longer before agreeing.
Underclassmen truly are obedient, he realized. How wonderful.
Hiba was averting his gaze for some reason, but Sayama chose to ignore it.
“Let us get back on track, Hiba boy. We were discussing Mikage-kun’s evolution.”
Hiba turned back toward him when Sayama crossed his arms, so he nodded toward the boy.
“Now, what do you think is preventing her from evolving?”
“The Concept Core, but you readily rejected that already.”
“Don’t you already understand why that is?”
“Well…” he began.
Sayama took a step toward him.
“Let us discuss a hypothetical situation.”
“Someone once held a secret, but they could not divulge that secret to the person who said they wanted to be with them. The other person had come to a vague understanding of that untold secret, but they chose to leave well enough alone.”
After that final phrase, Shinjou could be heard shouting from a tent in the rocky area.
For a brief instant, Sayama caught a glimpse of Shinjou standing up in the rocky area, but Izumo’s hand forced her back down at twice the speed.
Hiba did not turn in time, but he still tried looking around.
“D-did I just hear someone shout at you?”
“This is the Seto Inland Sea. This land was filled with pirates during the Sengoku period, so I hear ghosts show up at night.”
“O-okay, we can just leave it at that. So you were saying?”
“I have this to say to you: you think both of you need to evolve, but you are afraid of destroying your current relationship and thus think up excuses for not evolving.”
“That is not all, Hiba boy. You say you wish to protect Mikage-kun, but that is not what one would say if they were certain that they were protecting her. Hiba boy, you believe that she is protecting you even now.”
Hiba gasped, but Sayama shook his head.
“Of course, even if that is the case, it is not a bad thing.”
“It isn’t a bad thing? Even though it means I’m not protecting her properly?”
“It is an issue of self-awareness. Even if you find yourself lacking, she may consider it plenty. And positively thinking of yourself as inexperienced will prevent you from getting careless and lead to improvement. I try to keep my own thoughts positive in that way. For example, I often wonder why I give in so easily with Shinjou-kun.”
Sounds of a struggle came from the rocky area, but it quickly quieted down. Hiba once more looked over.
“Can we really just ignore that?”
“I have no friends who are rocks. Do you?” asked Sayama. “Anyway, there is a small problem in your case, Hiba boy. You believe she is protecting you and you use that to justify being weaker than her, don’t you?”
“B-but Susamikado and everything else are her power.”
“You are the one fighting. She is merely lending you her power. You are the one using power descended from 3rd-Gear to fight 3rd-Gear. And your ultimate objective is cleansing 3rd-Gear’s second impurity,” explained Sayama. “You need to be aware of the meaning behind your fight. Now, what is this second impurity? I would like to hear your reason for fighting 3rd-Gear so that we too may gain the right to fight them. Should I add ‘please’?”
“Do you really think I’ll tell you?”
“No, but what about Mikage-kun? She summoned Susamikado on her own in order to save you, so I believe she would answer on her own.”
Hiba reflexively took a fighting stance.
He dug his feet into the sand and pulled his right leg back.
“You joining us in our fight sounds like a decent victory prize, doesn’t it?”
Sayama also took a fighting stance. Hiba slowly began to nod, but then quickly shook his head and smiled bitterly.
“N-no, wait. You never said whose victory prize that would be. If I win, please tell me what weaknesses you see in me. Izumo-san already told me a lot, but I think there’s still more. I need to keep those in mind while fighting 3rd-Gear.”
“You are not going to ask us to help Mikage-kun?”
“All of you will look after her even if I don’t ask you to, won’t you?” His bitter smile deepened. “If I asked, it would worry her. She would worry you were only being so kind because I asked you.”
“She must truly be ill if she worries about kindness.”
Sayama lowered his stance to match Hiba’s.
The moon filled the top of his vision and he realized the night was growing late. That led him to wonder what was happening with the Tamiya and Hiba families in Tokyo.
…An unexpected match between students of the same master.
He pressed lightly against the ground while still wearing his shoes, relaxed his shoulders, and lowered Baku to the ground.
He watched as Baku frantically ran to the rocky area.
“No holding back and no handicaps. My fist was broken once, so I cannot use it to punch. And your injuries from this morning are likely still affecting you.”
“Understood. What determines the outcome?”
“We will both know when it happens. Don’t you think we have reached that level?”
“You’re right,” agreed Hiba.
A moment later, the boy rushed toward Sayama.
Hiba focused on the distance between them.
It came down to an instant.
Neither of them had the same endurance as Izumo.
That meant it would be over if even a single attack hit Hiba.
However, the same went for his opponent. If Hiba got the one attack in, Sayama’s body would be unable to keep up even if he remained conscious. Hiba had learned that all too well in his fight with Izumo.
Also, the two of them were students of the same dojo. The Hiba School of martial arts taught combat techniques beyond mere self defense and it focused on unarmed combat while also assuming the use of bladed weapons. It contained almost every type of attack and defense.
Hiba could hardly say he had mastered the techniques which often used speed to perform a series of attacks.
However, his opponent was the same. He knew what his opponent could do and he knew what speed he had.
And so he made the first move.
It was dark save the moonlight, but that gave everything a deep contrast. When Hiba lowered down and moved, Sayama would be unable to see it all perfectly. Even the shadow that could give away his movements was falling directly below him at this time.
He moved closer.
Sayama swung his left fist, but Hiba decided it was a feint. Even if it hit, Sayama could not clench that fist properly, so it would have little effect.
…His real attack lies elsewhere!
Sayama moved his right foot. That was his true aim.
But that was not the kick.
It was the sand.
Hiba saw it coming, but it was difficult to oppose sand flying up from even further down than him. Closing his eyes would rob him of his vision, but keeping them open would allow the sand to do the same thing. Also, knocking it away with his hand would momentarily prevent him from attacking.
He then heard Sayama speak.
“This is an experience you never had with the dirt floor of that open-air dojo, isn’t it?”
He was right.
But Hiba made up his mind. He charged forward and chose the simplest method available.
He closed only his right eye.
The sand arrived and got in his left eye, but as soon as the sand struck his skin, he opened his right eye.
The right half of his vision had not been lost and he saw Sayama preparing his opposite leg.
Hiba charged to Sayama’s right.
Meanwhile, Sayama stepped back with the leg he had prepared for a kick and began to take a defensive stance. He drew his stomach back in order to withstand a blow.
But that was not Hiba’s intent. Hiba had only the one eye and he was not reckless enough to attack with his sense of distance thrown off.
Hiba looked to the left hand Sayama had used as a feint.
That hand was slower to be drawn back then the rest of his body.
Hiba reach out both hands and grabbed that hand. It was difficult to determine its distance with only one eye, but bringing in both hands allowed his fingers to touch it and then adjust to grab it.
He grasped the wrist.
This meant Hiba could not strike Sayama. Instead, he accelerated to make use of his speed.
Sand exploded backwards as he kicked off the ground and ran to Sayama’s left side.
In an instant, he circled around the boy.
Sayama remained expressionless, so Hiba could not tell what he was thinking. That’s no different from normal, thought Hiba.
He had seen Sayama in his grandfather’s dojo a few times and he had thought Sayama was a very mature person back then.
He also recalled the stories of Sayama’s grandfather that his own grandfather would often tell.
His own grandfather would only speak of Sayama’s grandfather with insults. He would not tell Hiba much about what happened during the war. It seemed he had had a lot of other friends, but only a few of those friendships had continued after the war: Izumo’s grandfather, a sorcerer named Siegfried, and an old man in America named Thunderson.
He would insult them all with silly postwar stories about them.
Hiba thought in his fighting stance.
…If I find someone who can tell what I’m thinking, keeps up with me, continues on ahead, and faces me without fear, I’ll insult them in the same way when I grow up.
While cutting by Sayama’s side with all his strength, he remembered seeing the past the other day, the meeting in the Kinugasa Library, and losing to Izumo that day.
He continued on.
He twisted Sayama’s left wrist outwards as if pushing it and he forced it upwards.
He felt something shift out of place through Sayama’s left arm, but it was not a metal component of some machine. It was a joint of flesh and bone.
He had dislocated Sayama’s left shoulder.
Just as he felt all strength leave Sayama’s left hand, Hiba tossed that arm upwards.
He had poured his strength into the attack without holding back. If Sayama was unlucky, it could even leave long-lasting effects.
…But I must win here!
Sayama should have already torn a portion of his muscles and felt the painful scraping as his joint bent in the wrong direction. The pain of a dislocation came from the nerves being twisted by the muscle and bone, so it reverberated directly in the brain. Until the bone was set back in place, the intense pain would continue.
Hiba nodded and immediately came to a stop. His right foot stabbed into the sand to slow him.
With sand flying into the air, he turned behind him.
“Someone call a doct-…”
When he turned around, he saw something unthinkable in the air before him: the bottom of a leather shoe.
As soon as he wondered what had happened, the toe of the shoe dug into his solar plexus. It seemed to jab into the flesh between his chest and gut.
The sharp toe of the leather shoe stopped at over five centimeters into his gut.
He did not move.
And in his motionlessness, he realized he was having trouble breathing.
As his body slowly grew stiff and heavy, the owner of the foot spoke expressionlessly.
“Yes, it does seem we need a doctor.”
He then jabbed his foot forward even more to push Hiba away.
Hiba was unable to remove the tension from his body and he collapsed limply backwards.
…I lost just like earlier today.
But as he collapsed, he did not overlook Sayama’s left arm. That arm was hanging limply at his side.
“Do you not feel pain?” he asked while slowly collapsing to the sand.
Or at least, he tried to.
However, not even his own breaths were coming from his mouth. The shock was keeping his diaphragm from moving.
He merely looked up at the moon while unable to breathe or speak.
Then a sudden shadow cut across that pale disk of light.
The shadow took the shape of a shoe bottom.
Immediately afterwards, a shoe heel swung down at his stomach and supplied a great impact.
“Oh? It seems you can breathe now. It may have been a harsh treatment, but I am glad it worked.”
Strength returned to Hiba’s body, but pain arrived with it. An odd sense of heat toward the top of his gut caused Hiba to open his mouth and air tried to escape his stomach. At the same time, he heard a voice.
“If you can breathe, it would seem you do not need a doctor after all. Now, I suppose I should charge you for the medical costs of my arm here. Do not worry. It is a trivial sum. Including insurance, it is a mere 73,500,000 yen.”
Hiba tried to ask where that number came from.
But only that odd voice came out.
…Ahh, this must be what they call S&M. This is my first time experiencing it.
Just as he realized he was sweating, the voice spoke once more.
“Will you be paying or not? If so, continue writhing in pain. If not, remain motionless.”
Hiba held his breath and stretched himself out on the sand, but he did not last even three seconds.
“So close. And I was thinking of forgiving you if you had lasted five seconds. What a shame.”
“What are you talking about, Sayama-kun!?”
Hiba looked to the rocky area with teary eyes and saw Shinjou wearing a white dress.
But that thought was immediately followed by another.
…I’m sorry, Mikage-san. I was charmed by another girl.
“Wait! That’s a guy!”
He frantically shot up. Doing so made him cough, but a certain question was much more important than the physical pain.
…Oh, no. Have I become the same kind of pervert as Sayama-san and Shinjou-san?
“What is it, Hiba boy? If you were having inappropriate thoughts about Shinjou-kun, I will encase you in concrete and use you as flood control in the Aki River. As a citizen, it is only natural to lend a helping hand to the city, don’t you think?”
“D-don’t be ridiculous. I’m normal! I’m certainly not hard gay!”
“Sayama-kun, can I ask you to lend a helping hand to Ryuuji-kun?”
Shinjou gave a dry smile.
Seeing the first aid kit in Shinjou’s hand, Hiba let out a breath and lowered his head.
“S-sorry. I won’t say anything about your personal preferences. …Anyway, I lost, didn’t I?”
“Yes. I’ll ignore that first part, but you pretty clearly lost. Except I think Sayama-kun had the worse injury.”
Sayama looked to his left arm which still hung limp and unmoving.
He tilted his head.
“Yes, this does seem to be a bad injury. The pain has been reverberating through me for a while now. Oh, but I think some devoted nursing from Shinjou-kun and a lap lent as a pillow might just heal it. If you are bringing me food, canned peaches would be nice.”
“You really are calm about this,” commented Shinjou.
Hiba sighed as he watched the two of them.
“I can’t hope to match that,” he muttered as he collapsed back onto the beach.
“I would not be so sure. Before the fight, you yourself said you have weaknesses. I merely revealed fewer of my weaknesses in this fight. I knew the pain was coming, so I was able to prepare for it.”
“Do you mean you predicted what would happen?”
“No. You do not predict the fight. You rule it.”
“What’s the difference?”
Hiba heard a bitter laugh, but it quickly vanished.
“My apologies. That was such an elementary question that I could not help myself. …Let me ask you this: what is it you are constantly predicting?”
“The flow of the fight.”
“No. You just lost points, Hiba boy. Stay silent and burn my words into your mind. You are not predicting the fight; you are predicting your own victory. Specifically, it is a victory that keeps you from harm,” explained Sayama. “So when the prediction you have conveniently built up ends yet the fight continues on, you lose despite being certain of your victory. If you instead rule the fight, that would not happen. Ruling the fight includes both receiving your opponent’s strength and not allowing them to use it. It means to continue fighting while hoping you can bring the fight to an end.”
“I believe you can do that now that Mikage-kun is not with you and now that the damage is sent to you. You were so focused on protecting her, that you were only able to predict quick and brief paths to victory. The surprise of the damage was one reason you lost to Izumo today, but it was also because you believed you had won after getting a nice combo on him.”
A shadow cut across the moon once more.
This time it was a hand. Sayama’s right hand.
“Take my hand, Hiba boy, and we will fight alongside each other on the battlefield you are meant to rule. If you insist on cleansing 3rd-Gear’s impurity, then we will assist you in that,” said the boy. “You must have a time when you have Mikage-kun comfort you. That would be when you are together in the god of war and you can hear her voice. In other words, after you have fought 3rd-Gear. But if she were to evolve, you would no longer need to fight in order to receive that comfort. And to gain that, you must take responsibility.”
“Responsibility? What do you mean?”
“You will bear something as the one who cleansed 3rd-Gear’s impurities. That something could even be a portion of 3rd-Gear. Hiba boy, Team Leviathan and the Taka-Akita Academy student council would like you to join us as the one who must live on while bearing the weight of 3rd-Gear.”
“You have already made up your mind, haven’t you? I can somehow tell. That white bandanna on your forehead is likely a sentimental item that hides and protects a scar which reminds you of her. But it is that very sentimentalism that means I must ask you about the second impurity of that heartless Gear.”
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