Owari no Chronicle:Volume7 Chapter 31

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Chapter 31: Cleansing Transition[edit]

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Saying it will put you at ease

But what does it mean to release it?


The moonlight washed over the white building that acted as 3rd-Gear’s base.

But even though the moon had passed its zenith, the building still had its lights on. And that did not just apply to the living floors. The hangar down below was also lit.

The hangar’s door was cracked open and two people stood near the entrance.

The woman in white and the woman in a maid outfit were Miyako and Moira 1st.

Miyako was walking across the white floor and toward the stairs leading to the god of war hanger deck. Her footsteps rang loudly and she showed no sign of restraining herself.

She was frowning while looking back in the hangar. In addition to the nine gods of war – including Cottus – lined up, there was a large white form.

It was Typhon.

She noted the lack of light in Typhon’s sight devices.

“Where’s Apollo?”

“He will not leave for a while after returning,” answered Moira 1st from behind. “Where is Lady Gyes?”

“She flew off again saying she had business to take care of. But what’s with Typhon? I saw it just now and that definitely wasn’t the rich boy controlling it. It was acting like a beast.”

“What do you think about Typhon, Lady Miyako?”

That question brought Miyako to a stop.

She held the railing of the staircase to the hangers on the second floor. The metal railing tilted its head when she did not climb the stairs, but it decided it was worth waiting.

Miyako turned to Moira 1st.

“Typhon is afraid of everything but itself.”

“Correct.” Moira 1st smiled, but then looked directly at Miyako with the ends of her eyebrows lowered. “Typhon is imprisoned by fear, so it calls for Lord Apollo. It wants him to pilot it, fight, and eliminate the fear it once gained.”

“The fear it once gained? What do you mean by…?”

She trailed off as she thought about what a machine would fear.

I guess that’d be its own destruction.

She recalled three facts.

First, she had seen the name Artemis in Typhon’s cockpit and the god of war in the basement. Second, Typhon had been damaged in the same places as Apollo’s injuries when they fell from the cliff. And third…

Damage to a god of war is fed back to the pilot.

From that, she did not know if there was a connection between the basement god of war and Typhon.

But Moira 2nd hinted there is.

Assuming that was true, Miyako spoke.

“What if Typhon has died once before?”

“Are you asking me that, Lady Miyako?”

“No, I’m asking both of us.”

She continued to think about the connection and similarities between the basement god of war and Typhon.

“Artemis.”

Both their cockpits had contained that name.

And she had heard that Apollo piloted a god of war that was made from Artemis’s body.

“The god of war in the basement was Apollo’s.”

But, she thought to stop herself from jumping to conclusions. And then Moira 1st gave the main fact opposing that theory.

“That god of war was cut in two. Lord Apollo would have been killed instantly.”

“Yes. But there was a copilot. That means… Both it and Typhon aren’t only piloted by Apollo! Someone else piloted them along with him!”

As she spoke, her knowledge began to link together.

She made deductions and she shouted the conclusion with too much force to stop herself.

“Gods of war send their damage back to the pilot, but what if there are two pilots? What happened with the basement god of war’s copilot? How about this? Typhon’s cockpit was transplanted from that god of war and it contains the copilot who died in Apollo’s place.”

As for that copilot’s name…

“Artemis! The name written in Typhon’s cockpit was that of Apollo’s sister! She could not have his child, but he still kept her by his side. …Is that what happened!?”

“No,” answered Moira 1st in a troubled tone of voice.

Miyako gasped and almost fell to her knees in an odd sense of disappointment, but she was stopped by what Moira 1st said next.

“That is not quite right, Lady Miyako.”

“Not quite?”

“Lord Apollo was the one who died.”

Miyako thought on that, but she finally frowned once more and tilted her head.

“But that idiot’s alive.”

“Yes, he is being kept alive.” Moira 1st’s eyebrows lay flat, she looked directly at Miyako, and she nodded. “The god of war in the basement was created using Lady Artemis’s body, but that process was not completed. It was only a partial unification. Thus, when it received the damage you saw, Lord Apollo died instantly and Lady Artemis was heavily injured.”

“Then…why is that idiot still alive?”

“The data for those united with the god of war is kept separate within the machine, but what do you think happens if one is damaged and the other sacrifices itself to repair the first?”

“…”

Miyako tried to imagine what that meant, but she had trouble.

That idiot and his sister swapped out his death?

The questions “what?”, “how?” and “why?” repeated in her mind and she could not gather her thoughts. The truth of Typhon and Apollo before her eyes seemed to reject the entire line of questioning.

Wait.

Just as she tried to end the chaos in her mind, Moira 1st spoke.

“Lord Apollo’s body died instantly, but his brain remained alive due to the residual oxygen. Lady Artemis then cut the limiters on their division within the god of war. It was only possible because their gods of war were Typhon and its prototype and because most of Lady Artemis’s body had been modified into the god of war’s internal circulatory system.”

“So she gave her own body to recreate her dead brother’s body? To resurrect him?”

“No, he could not be resurrected. We have no concept to make something from nothing. That is why she overwrote his death with her life.”

The maid’s shoulders drooped.

“To do so, a great amount of power had to be given to the cockpit and a location with no external interference was needed. As 3rd-Gear was destroyed, we hurriedly used that god of war’s cockpit as Typhon’s cockpit and we removed Lady Artemis’s incomplete body from the cockpit as the overwritten corpse. …We did it all so as not to lose our master.”

“That last comment wasn’t needed, Moira 1st. You only did what your masters wanted. Automatons shouldn’t be adding their own thoughts in there.”

“My apologies,” said Moira 1st with a bitter smile.

Miyako nodded.

“So did that return the idiot to normal?”

“We waited fifty-five years. The first fifty passed without incident, but the concepts suddenly began to activate and Moira 2nd detected both of their brainwaves in the five years after.”

Miyako found something odd about what Moira 1st had said.

I feel bad interrupting.

“Why were Artemis’s brainwaves there? After the overwriting, wasn’t she dead?”

“She lived on…as Typhon.”

Moira 1st looked to the stairway ahead.

“Typhon was the one to die. …No, Lady Artemis took control of Typhon. Its control system, thought system, and everything else became hers,” she said. “And Lord Apollo did not return to normal. The split and re-composition were imperfect, so he retains some of Typhon’s mechanical properties.”

“So that’s why he collapsed on the edge of the concept space.”

It had to have been difficult to take her all the way there.

Goddammit, she thought. It feels like that idiot is ahead of me on everything.

“So is this what’s happening? Is Typhon’s fear based on Artemis’s revived memories of being killed?”

“Yes. And by joining with Typhon, she has unprecedented control over the Tartaros which allows her to appear outside it. As the time of her death within Typhon approaches, she wails and calls for Lord Apollo to save her.”

Miyako recalled the expression on that glowing woman who walked through the night and she recalled Typhon’s scream.

So even Typhon is a victim of the war.

“As they were the two to control time while in 3rd-Gear, Lord Apollo has greater control during the day and Lady Artemis has greater control at night. It seems Lord Apollo took brief control of Typhon when it first came across you, Lady Miyako. When its eyes are yellow, it is him in control.”

Hearing that, Miyako lowered her head and turned her back to Moira 1st.

“Dammit,” she muttered and placed her foot on the first step. “I’ll check the rest on my own, but I have one last question. You said Typhon has half of 3rd-Gear’s Concept Core, right? And you said it was that Concept Core that created Typhon and Apollo as they are now, right?”

She raised her head and looked up toward the top of the stairs to the hanger deck.

“So what happens if Typhon is destroyed?”

“That is simple. As Lord Apollo’s re-composition was imperfect, he is synchronized with Typhon. If Typhon is destroyed or the Concept Core removed…”

The automaton paused.

“He will die.”


“And that is the second impurity,” said Hiba atop the rocky area.

He had wrapped ice from a cooler in a towel and held it to his stomach. He turned to his side where Shinjou was attaching powerful healing charms to Sayama.

Sayama returned the look with Baku on his head and he raised his left hand which Shinjou held.

“So is this what you are saying? Acquiring 3rd-Gear’s Concept Core will kill Apollo?”

“Yes. The Concept Core needed to prevent the negative destruction of this world can only be obtained in exchange for his death. That’s actually a pretty good deal. For me, I’m killing him for peace and Mikage-san’s evolution.”

A voice responded to his self-deprecating comment. It came from Shinjou.

“But…that’s a bad decision.”

“A single human’s life does indeed feel heavier than the entire planet. And based on the justice of the Leviathan Road, we cannot take something in exchange for a human life, even if it is the Concept Core.”

“That’s why I intended to fight,” said Hiba. “The descendants of those who fought in the past would be fighting with no connection to Team Leviathan. For us, it would be the second round of the Concept War and no one would question it if one or the other of us died. But…”

He lowered his head and brought a hand to his forehead.

“That won’t work anymore. Now that I’ve told you, Team Leviathan can’t allow me to go through with it. If you did, you’d be using me to commit murder by proxy. And this means Team Leviathan can’t even try to obtain 3rd-Gear’s Concept Core. Doing so would mean killing to save the world.”

“That’s right,” agreed Shinjou. “We’re weighing the entire world against a single life. …But if the Leviathan Road is to be just, we can’t accept murder even to save the world, Sayama-kun.”

“I see no real problem there.”

“That’s right. There’s no real pro- Wait, Sayama-san!”

Hiba’s head shot up and he saw Sayama’s expressionless face staring at him. Next to him, Shinjou was staring wide-eyed and looked pale even in the night.

Sayama looked back and forth between the two of them.

“What is the matter, Shinjou-kun? I would like to heal this injury as quickly as possible, but is the bandage for my shoulder not ready yet?”

“Not ready… S-Sayama-kun? What did you just say?”

“I said I see no real problem.”

He gave a small smile that brought a chill to Hiba’s spine which was even colder than the ice on his stomach.

This boy…

He had readily made up his mind about something Hiba had been troubling over for years.

However, it was not Hiba who asked about it.

It was Shinjou.

“What do you mean, Sayama-kun!?”

She spoke loud enough for everyone in the area to turn toward them.

“I… I don’t want that! We may be opposites. If I say I don’t want to kill someone to save the world, that might mean you’ll say the opposite…”

Her words suddenly crumbled, her eyebrows bristled, and her mouth twisted.

“But…I don’t want you to say that.”

She lowered her head and Hiba saw something sparkling spill down.

Shinjou-san must really care about him.

But what would Sayama do?

He raised his head and indeed turned to Shinjou. His eyes narrowed for just an instant and he nodded once even though Shinjou could not see with her head lowered.

That was all. When he turned back to Hiba, he was expressionless once more.

Before he could say something, Hiba sighed and opened his mouth.

“You’ll create misunderstandings if you don’t let your partner see how you feel about them.”

“Doing that would only make us both embarrassed. Besides, this is not our problem to discuss and resolve. It is true arrogance to make such a decision without the affected individual present. For now, we need only establish our individual arguments. Am I wrong?”

Sayama turned his head and looked behind Hiba.

“Eh?”

Shinjou raised her crying face and looked in the same direction.

Lastly, Hiba turned around.

As he did, the others scattered around the area looked in the same direction and stopped moving.

At some point, a woman had appeared in the rocky area. The moonlight lit her from behind.

She wore a red suit and Sayama spoke her name.

“Gyes-kun, correct? What do you need at this late hour?”

“That is simple.”

Gyes lightly spread her arms.

“I have come for the Leviathan Road so that 3rd-Gear might live on.”


A certain room was colored red.

It was approximately six square meters and it contained a work desk, a sink, and a portable stove with a pot on top. The work desk was lined with vats filled with liquid.

Wires were strung up near the ceiling and something like black sashes hung down from them.

It was a darkroom.

The only person lurking inside and working was an old man in a lab coat.

“Digital just can’t beat analog. I wonder what expressions I got.”

He put back on the red rubber gloves labelled “For Ooshiro’s use only – x3” and he peered inside one vat.

“Now then, is it about time to take them out?”

An instant later, the door behind him opened and a girl’s voice entered.

“Hey.”

“Ahhhhh!”

Ooshiro looked across the materials that had been exposed to the outside light. He spread his arms in the center of the room, and slowly moved his feet around to make a self-made slow motion rotation.

“You’ve destroyed my newfound youth that couldn’t be defeated by dogs or cicadas!!”

“Are you stupid or something? And this room stinks. This is your smell, isn’t it? I won’t forgive you even if you bow down to the ground.”

“That’s quite a lot to say in one breath, Brunhild-kun!”

Brunhild sighed in her uniform with the light of the darkroom’s standby room behind her.

Ooshiro then noticed a man in a lab coat peering into the room behind her.

“Kashima-kun? What an unusual pairing. What brings the two of you here?”

“Well, the thing is…”

“Oh, wait a moment. Would you like some tea? Look. I have some nice black tea I recently got my hands on.”

As Ooshiro lifted the pot from the stove, Brunhild picked up the black cat at her feet and threw it inside the open top of the pot. The steam and tea that spilled out got on Ooshiro’s hands which still wore the rubber gloves.

“Ahhhhh!” cried both the cat and the old man.

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“Quiet down, both of you. Think of it as sterilization and bear with it.”

The cat stuck its upper body out of the pot, bent backwards, and shouted at her.

“B-Brunhild! I can’t forgive that! I’m sorry!”

“Oh, poor thing. I think you’re confused.”

“And whose fault is that!? Also, look me in the eye when you speak to me, Brunhild!”

Brunhild frowned as she looked at the shouting black cat whose stomach and above seemed to grow out of the white pot held by Ooshiro.

“That’s a poor balance of colors.”

“Th-that’s all you have to say!? That’s all!? Surely there’s something else!”

“Quiet down. And this is taking far too long. 2nd-Gear representative, explain the situation as concisely as you can.”

When Brunhild saw Kashima filming the cat with a small video camera, she frowned again.

“What are you doing?”

“My Harumi has started showing interest in moving things, so I thought a video like this would be good to have. Don’t worry. When I bring the footage home, I’ll have redone the sound and background. Maybe it can be happening in outer space.”

Brunhild grabbed the top of the camera and slammed it to the floor.

It could be heard breaking and Kashima cried out after a short delay.

“Ahhhhhh!”

“Quiet down. None of you are doing anything to move this conversation along.”

“I’m hesitant to point it out, but that’s entirely your fault!”

Brunhild ignored the cat’s point, crossed her arms, and looked to Ooshiro.

“I hear the other UCATs have been contacting you. Why?”

“Ah… I can’t really answer that.”

“Let me be clear, Ooshiro. We are the representatives of our Gears. You must disclose all of your information concerning the Leviathan Road.”

“I see. And what will you be giving us in exchange?”

Brunhild sighed.

“A lack of suspicion about UCAT’s actions. Don’t you need that for the future?”

She was not asking, but Ooshiro gave an exaggerated tilt of the head.

“Hmm. But there are some who will suspect us whether you do or not.”

Brunhild frowned at that and Kashima crouched down next to her.

“Then how about this, UCAT Director Ooshiro?”

Once he stood up, he held the tape from the broken camera on the floor. The tape had not been harmed.

“What if I told you I was using this camera to film last night’s Dog-Girl Attack and Cicada Incident?”

“Hmm. But it’s a video camera. The image quality drops when compared to photographs.”

“That depends on your mindset. Why not awaken to the wonders of video over still images? While videos do look lower quality when you pause them, they look wonderful in motion. Footage of a daughter or wife can be especially amazing. What about it? Are you ready to find a new hobby?”

“What you’re doing will only increase the criminal activity within UCAT,” pointed out Brunhild.

Ooshiro, on the other hand, scratched his head and groaned.

“Hmmm. But I don’t have a wife or daughter like you. All I have is a strange son and his cement-like maid. Do you have a more appealing offer?”

“Well…”

After some thought, Kashima clapped his hands together.

“UCAT’s development department has been performing a certain experiment lately. We use the video and photographs taken of enemies during battle to create 3D models.”

He pulled a laptop from his coat and displayed a realistic 3D image of a woman.

“What do you think of the latest version of Polygon Natsu-san!? She can move on a grid and everything.”

“Did you get her permission for that?” asked Brunhild.

“It doesn’t matter as long as it’s for my personal enjoyment. Plus, I have the real one anyway. This is just an experiment.”

“This is brilliant!” suddenly shouted Ooshiro. “If I use this, any enemy captured by UCAT cameras can be mine, right!? I can even make a virtual Miyoko based on her photos! My passion for figurines has been reignited!”

“I get the feeling you’re confusing virtual images with real ones, but you can indeed do that!”

“I’m starting to feel really sorry for UCAT’s enemies.”

Kashima ignored Brunhild and pulled a white card from his pocket.

“For the time being, I will give you this. It contains a pass to create three figurines, so please use it well. Also, each figurine will add a point to your card. At thirty points, you get a member of the development department for a month. Feel free to use them for game development.”

“I see. I am also worried about security.”

“No need to worry. The wrapping paper is printed with the Heart Sutra in Sanskrit, so your family will not find out or grow suspicious. Even if it arrives while they are home, they will only think you have awoken to your Buddhist side.”

“Won’t that make them more suspicious?”

“We have planned for that. The package reflects infrared, X-rays, and all other strange rays and will not break even if one hundred mechanical dragons stepped on it. It requires your fingerprint to open, but it will self-destruct quite spectacularly if forced open.”

A moment later, a spectacular explosion sounded in the distance and a small rumbling followed.

After a short delay, alarms rang and the corridor grew noisy.

“And just like that, no evidence will remain behind,” added Kashima.

“That leaves plenty! But you are well-prepared, I’ll give you that.”

“You need to add ‘in a way’ to that,” cut in Brunhild. “Anyway, I want to get back on topic.”

“Sure,” said Ooshiro as he held up the pot containing the cat. “It’s a simple matter. We’re beginning to learn where 3rd-Gear is and the other UCATs are telling us to defeat them right away. They claim 3rd-Gear is a taboo Gear and so we should defeat them before the other Gears learn of their continued existence. Basically, we are to act now to eliminate future problems.”

“But that would mean rejecting the Leviathan Road, wouldn’t it?”

“Yes, but that’s exactly why they want it. Mikoto-kun and the others have suddenly started to have real influence. The preliminary Leviathan Road negotiations with 3rd-Gear’s representative have begun using the communications networks of the Chinese, German, and Japanese UCATs.”

Brunhild clicked her tongue and muttered “her” at the mention of German UCAT.

Ooshiro smiled bitterly.

“Yes, Diana-kun opened the line. The other UCATs are in an uproar right now. The negotiation with 3rd-Gear is being broadcast in real time to China, Germany, and Japan. The rest of the UCATs – especially American UCAT – are attempting to hold those three in check in case they are attempting to build connections with 3rd ahead of the rest,” he explained. “I will be going later, but it seems Mikoto-kun asked for you two to stay away.”

“Why?”

“He said that is needed to ‘fall in step’ with 3rd-Gear. If 1st or 2nd showed up, it could put the other Gears on guard. Also…there is a danger of violating certain impurities this time and he does not want you to be guilty of that simply by showing up.”

“Does he really think we’ll do what he says?”

“He also said he was counting on you if anything happened to them.”

Brunhild’s eyebrows rose for a brief moment, but she soon frowned instead.

“Hmph. If he’s going to worry for us on his own, he can go fail on his own. …We can listen in, can’t we?”

“Yes. We can hear everything in Okayama until the negotiation with 3rd-Gear comes to an end.”

“I see.” Brunhild turned her back while grabbing the cat pot. “This means 3rd-Gear is already on the way to the Leviathan Road. Whatever happens in this negotiation, Sayama will not let them escape. The only remaining question is how he will clear away the crimes of 3rd-Gear’s past.”

Ooshiro shrugged.

“Negotiations are not done alone. I’m sure they will show us a wonderful answer.”


Words were exchanged below the moon.

Those words were uttered by Sayama and Gyes who stood on the beach.

A folding table was set up between them and only a microphone sat atop it. They stood on either side of Shinjou who sat in a chair and took notes as the record keeper.

The area behind Shinjou was deserted all the way to the rocky area. That was how inviolable the negotiation table was viewed.

On top of that, Gyes was using her gravitational control to surround them in a gravity barrier at a distance of a few meters. To Shinjou, the surrounding landscape occasionally seemed to distort.

That probably bends optical weapons too. I wonder if Ex-St would work.

Even as she thought, she continued taking notes. She was writing down Sayama and Gyes’s words, but there was little meaning as it was being recorded by the microphone. Sayama had told her to write down an outline of the conversation and to provide her opinion if there were any problems.

They were currently discussing what was known as 3rd-Gear’s first impurity.

Gyes kept her arms crossed as she spoke.

“In other words, Team Leviathan sees no problem with what 3rd-Gear has done in the past?”

Shinjou mentally nodded. Gyes was referring to what they called an “impurity”, but she was intentionally avoiding speaking of it in a negative light. She would refer to it as she just did or as 3rd-Gear’s “policy”.

That’s the right thing to do from 3rd-Gear’s perspective.

Meanwhile, Sayama made no attempt to show distrust or find fault.

“We will eventually accept the value of every Gear and make them all equal,” he said with his usual expressionless look. “Once that happens, anyone showing hostility to you would qualify as terrorists. Am I wrong?”

“Such terrorists might appear from within your own organization.”

“What will giving into fear accomplish? I ask that you think about this. In our current state, some might indeed rebel, but even we will grow. Who do you think will grow the most in numbers and strength? Predicting a terrible future without even considering that is not even the act of a coward. It is the act of a fool. Even if we are idiots who look to the future, I do not want us to be fools who make eloquent yet ultimately useless arguments. What about you?”

“You certainly are confident. And that is a good point. However…”

Gyes raised her eyebrows, but a smile appeared on her lips.

Shinjou understood where that smile came from. Sayama was saying almost the same thing he had once told #4, but something that had not been necessary then was missing here.

“Have you realized that we have no reason to trust what you say?”

Shinjou made sure to write that in her notes and added her own thoughts.

#4 didn’t need this because she trusted Sayama-kun’s grandfather.

Gyes did not trust them.

Even if they claimed they would protect 3rd-Gear from other Gear’s out for revenge, it was nothing but a verbal promise. And even if they did make a formal agreement, she did not know if they could really guarantee that.

“How can you prove your ability to protect us?” asked Gyes. “And that includes your ability to protect the other Gears if they ask for the same treatment. Protecting the ten Gears will require quite a bit of personnel and funding. And…”

“And even if we provide that personnel and funding, you do not know if we can truly protect you?”

“Yes. For example, those opposed to Low-Gear could frame other Gears with their suicide to show that Low-Gear’s protection is not perfect and blame it all on you. What do you have to say about that possibility?”

Shinjou turned to Sayama.

If he could not answer a question like this, it would prove that this was nothing but a verbal promise.

However, Sayama did not immediately answer.

He first loosely folded his arms over his stomach and faced Gyes. He then raised his left hand to his cheek.

“What is this nonsense you are talking about?” he asked. “Ask yourself whether that would actually work.”


Sayama saw his words wipe the smile from Gyes’s lips.

Shinjou tilted her head where she sat to the right.

Her current thoughts could help to get Gyes to speak, so he turned toward her to get her to speak.

Shinjou’s shoulders drew back when their gazes met. Drawing focus here seemed to make her nervous because she glanced toward Gyes and held her notes to her chest.

“U-um,” she finally said.

“Speak. Gyes-kun is waiting too.”

“O-okay… Um, Sayama-kun? Gyes-san was asking whether we can protect 3rd-Gear or not. So why are you turning the question to 3rd-Gear?”

“That is simple, Shinjou-kun. They will be the ones protecting 3rd-Gear.” Sayama turned to Gyes before continuing. “Let me make this clear. Even if every Gear joins us, UCAT and Low-Gear do not have the land and money needed to protect and look after all of them. That was proven with 1st-Gear. At most, we can construct a reservation.”

“Then what will you do!?” Gyes placed her hands on the table. “Was everything you just said nothing more than an ideal!? Are you going to make an unrealistic excuse about never reaching the future without having ideals!?”

“Which one of us is being unrealistic, automaton? Are your eyes defective?” Sayama sighed. “What a pain. I have been using the word ‘we’ this entire time. What about you, Gyes-kun?”

“I have done the same.”

“No, it is not the same.”

Sayama moved the hand on his cheek to point forward while glancing at the ring on his left middle finger.

“When you say ‘we’, you refer to the people of 3rd-Gear.”

He moved his finger again, but he pointed down rather than at himself.

“When I say ‘we’, I refer to us, you, and the people of every other Gear.”

“Ah,” said Shinjou.

Shinjou-kun has realized what I am trying to say.

But he did not relax. He found it only natural that Shinjou would catch on. The person standing before him still did not understand, so he opened his mouth and spoke to that frowning face.

“Do I have to spell it out for you? If 3rd-Gear is completely protected by Low-Gear, it means 3rd-Gear is under Low-Gear’s control and is thus in a lower position.”

“…”

“The Leviathan Road will make all Gears equal and Low-Gear is no exception. But we are not foolish enough to accept nothing but losses. We will compensate for it a bit. …And Low-Gear will of course also help the other Gears compensate, but it will not do anything more than that. In other words, protect yourself. You are old enough to get back up on your own if you trip, are you not? Or do you need to be helped to your feet by the Gear said to be the lowest?”

“Are you telling us to work on our own to make up for what you idealists lack?”

“Then no one will owe anyone anything. Low-Gear’s end is coming on December 25 of this year, so how about we save each other from that ending? Your gods of war are especially desirable. Also, I am sure plenty of other Gears will want that kind of defense even if they have to pay. While you are at it, how about you prepare a god of war Santa costume for the coming ending?”

Gyes gave a small smile with her eyebrows still raised, but that smile soon vanished.

“But in that case, how do we establish the justness of our self-defense? Some would likely be happy if we were attacked and destroyed by terrorists. And if we attempt to defend ourselves, won’t some side with the terrorists based on what has happened in the past?”

“There is no need to question that. It will happen,” agreed Sayama. “If anyone could deny that, they would have to be a god or me.”

For some reason, Shinjou quickly began erasing the line she had just written.

“Shinjou-kun, you must not alter what was said.”

“I’m not altering it. I’m making sure it isn’t recorded.”

Shinjou then sighed and asked a question.

“What are we supposed to do if people criticize 3rd-Gear’s self-defense like that?”

“That is simple. The Leviathan Road provides one thing other than the physical support.”

Namely…

“A modest amount of justification.”

“What?”

“Did you not realize this? Once every Gear has fallen in step, they will no longer be walking at different paces. The only difference will be the size of our feet. Thus, if any group makes such ridiculous criticisms and attempts to throw off our common pace, they can be ignored or rejected. Wield your power, 3rd-Gear, so that you walk forward along with us.”

“I see,” said Gyes with a nod. “Well said.”

But then her voice rose to a shout.

“Are you using all these nice-sounding words for nothing more than making mercenaries out of us!?”


Gyes laughed.

I see. So that’s it. In the end, Low-Gear really is just a Gear with no power.

Something came to her mind. It was the scenery she saw whenever she left the base to walk into town. The residents of that world had developed a mechanical civilization to make up for their lack of concept powers, but those machines had no wills of their own and they broke down easily. Their ultimate destination was a pile of trash.

That thought led her mechanical mind to produce more laughter.

“Ha ha. Yes. A world that uses and disposes of valuable machines on a daily basis truly is different. And now that you have discovered us – living machines which are even more valuable – are you planning to use and dispose of us in your coming battles!?”

She let out a shout.

“If so, feel some shame, Low-Gear!”

But then the boy named Sayama reacted to the words she had thrust at him.

“Is that so?” he asked quietly.

As she wondered if he had something to say, he crossed his arms.

After a pause, he spoke.

“Feel some shame?” His emotionless voice continued. “Then I will feel that shame as a representative of humanity and use you as mercenaries.”

“What?”

She could not comprehend what he had said. She analyzed the words further before speaking.

“Are you going to sell us into slavery in exchange for a single boy’s shame!?”

“That is an amazing bargain for getting me to feel shame.” He nodded with his arms still crossed. “It is a wonderful story of self-sacrifice. The greatest god of war force of any Gear would be under my control. My name would go down in Low-Gear history.”

As he spoke, a smile formed on his lips.

And he laughed.

But then he continued.

“Listen. Use and dispose of? An excellent phrase, Gyes-kun.”

“Do you realize that is a provocation against the machines of 3rd-Gear?”

“It is the truth, so there is not much I can do about it. Now, Gyes-kun, we live in a world of waste. Recycling? Economical? Environmental improvement? None of those are meant to improve this world. It is all an excuse for more waste. And in the end, the machines are sent to the Tartaros known as the trash dump and they become a part of our earth. So, Gyes-kun, I will feel shame as you have asked. …Ahh, I am ashamed to admit just how wonderful this world is.”

He took a breath before speaking again.

“If you have an issue with that, feel shame for all the fuel you have consumed in the past!!”


“I cannot accept your objection.”

Sayama spoke to Gyes whose eyebrows were raised.

Such a ridiculous original sin argument.

“Machines, fuel, wind, water, earth, and everything else are items to be used in this world. Even people, Gyes-kun. It is only those we have connections to that we make graves for and record memories of, but after a few generations, those connections to the past vanish and even the most detailed records become nothing but reading material. That is all there is to it. In the end, even we are nothing more than fuel that is used to move this world little by little. There is nothing more or less than that.”

To his left were the black sea, the sky, and the lights of a city.

“But does the earth wish for more than that? Does the wind? Or the sea? Do the lights of that city wish for more? …Do you wish for something more than being fuel that moves the world with a will of your own?”

He took a breath.

“If that is worthy of feeling shame, then I hope the entire world enjoys shame. That is why I must request something from you. What matters most is not to immediately seek gratitude. It is to do what you are meant to do. Go ahead. We will walk down the Leviathan Road, eliminate the grudges of the Concept War, and travel to somewhere new.”

“Hah.” Gyes shook her head. “Do you think you’re creating a new era?”

“Make no mistake, automaton. An era is not so easily created that we alone can do so. Also, the Leviathan Road will not appear on the surface of history.”

“Then why would you claim you will travel to somewhere new? Aren’t you reveling in self-satisfaction over creating a new era and guiding us there?”

Sayama let out a sigh. He could improve his position in the negotiation by pointing out she was straying from the topic at hand, but he had decided his position would not truly improve unless he answered the question.

And so he spoke.

“We are simply travelling to somewhere new without looking back. We have no intention of remaining there or waving our flag. Our names will not remain and we will likely be unable to do anything beyond proving people can travel there.”

“Unable?” asked Shinjou.

Sayama nodded at that question that was asked with ends of the eyebrows lowered.

“Yes, Shinjou-kun. Even once the Leviathan Road is over, a few members of Team Leviathan – you and me included – will still have our studies to complete. We will go as far as we can and then step down for the sake of our own futures. We can then tell the adults that they should be able to do an even better job if children were able to make it that far.”

He gave a bitter laugh.

“I wonder how rich the world will have grown by the time we are adults.”


Shinjou looked at Sayama.

She realized he was right. The Leviathan Road had to end within the year.

There would likely be some things left to do afterwards, but there were other things they had to do for their own lives: school and the other learning needed for life.

Sayama turned to Gyes and spoke.

“Team Leviathan is an independent unit. Once the Leviathan Road is complete, it will disband. And UCAT is not an army. They can request we participate in later jobs, but they cannot force us.”

“Are you saying you will do whatever you like and then escape responsibility?”

“We have no intention of escaping. We will simply step down. Nothing will disappear. If you hold a grudge, feel free to attack. If we failed in anything, feel free to criticize. But regardless of that, we will have high hopes for the adults.” He nodded. “And we will have high hopes for ourselves once we become adults. I wonder what we will do in the future. Some will likely move all around the world, some will likely stay in UCAT to perform political activities with the other Gears, and some will likely nap with their beloved while watching the peaceful scenery outside their window.”

He turned to Shinjou.

“And at least one is likely to work hard as an author.”

That filled Shinjou with panic because she had still been mostly keeping it a secret.

“I-I still haven’t decided if I’ll really become one…or if I want to…”

“Let us leave it at that, Shinjou-kun. And as for another…”

He grabbed the microphone on the desk and took a deep breath.

“I am likely to begin a blissful life of days and nights with Shinjou-kun! We will be inseparable!”

“Waaaah!!” shouted Shinjou as she grabbed the microphone.

That microphone led not just to the entire world but to every other Gear as well.

Was that just recorded? Was it?

Gyes gave her a confused look, but she ignored it.

“It’s nothing,” she repeated again and again while holding the microphone.

That must have told Gyes something because she sighed and brushed up her hair.

“I see. I now understand Low-Gear’s objective.”

She specified Low-Gear rather than Team Leviathan.

She isn’t letting this negotiation stop at just Team Leviathan.

It would be a common point of view for every Gear.

Sayama may have realized that because he said nothing about that point.

Gyes gently placed her right hand on the desk and looked to Sayama.

“I will trust you. That is our first agreement.”

An odd sound filled the air. It came from the desk.

Shinjou looked down and saw Gyes’s fingers digging into the desk’s surface. In fact, even her palm had sunk about a centimeter down.

She silently lifted her hand, leaving a rounded handprint behind.

“I used my gravitational control to raise the density along the surface. A fingerprint pattern can be reproduced, but this pressure density cannot be reproduced without my same hand and ability. I will leave this as proof,” she said. “But there is one other problem and it is even more important.”

“Is that the connection between Typhon and Apollo?” asked Sayama.

Shinjou gasped.

What is he going to do?

Removing the Concept Core from Typhon would lead to Apollo’s death, but the concepts could not be released otherwise and the Leviathan Road would become meaningless.

“…”

Shinjou squeezed the microphone in her hand and wondered if she should switch it off.

That would prevent the world from hearing what Sayama would say, what they concluded, and anything inconvenient therein.

“Do not switch off the microphone, Shinjou-kun.”

Hearing his voice, Shinjou looked up.

He had already turned toward Gyes. His face remained expressionless, but she saw a hint of harshness within it. It almost looked like he was angry with Gyes.

Why is he angry?

Shinjou tilted her head and Sayama spoke as if that had been his cue.

“Removing the Concept Core from Typhon means the death of Apollo, the true representative of 3rd-Gear.”

But he did not stop there.

“If we want the Concept Core, we have no choice but to go through with it.”


Gyes listened to the boy speak.

Will this boy become our enemy after all?

A voice seemed to respond to that thought.

“What are you trying to do here?”

She saw Sayama cross his arms and tilt his head.

“We must retrieve the Concept Core, but it seems taking it from Typhon means the death of Apollo, the legitimate heir of 3rd-Gear.”

“That is correct. But you have no choice but to do so, correct?”

Sayama fell silent.

The silence lasted a few seconds, a dozen, and then over a minute.

With the roar of the sea to her left, Gyes looked at the boy, but he merely looked back without moving.

Strange.

She had asked the question, so he had to provide an answer. Those were the rules of a negotiation.

But he merely stood and faced her.

“…”

She was unsure what to make of this, but then she realized what she should do. She should move.

That motion formed words which in turn formed a question.

“What is it? You aren’t answering.”

“Of course I am not.”

“What?”

“Make no mistake, automaton. I asked a question: what are you trying to do here? After that, I merely reiterated the facts. However, you gave no answer to my question and simply said ‘that is correct’. That was in response to my reiteration of the facts and not an answer to the question that preceded it.”

He lowered his shoulders.

“I will do this again. This is what I was asking: 3rd-Gear, what are you trying to do by linking your representative’s death to the retrieval of the Concept Core?”

His voice filled the air. He did not speak loudly, but it had a stillness that drowned out the waves.

“Team Leviathan merely needs the Concept Core, but have you built up a system around your own leader’s death all so you can force that death onto us?”

Gyes thought about what he meant.

I see.

As he had said, 3rd-Gear had been the one to trap Apollo in this cage of death.

“We will merely be taking the Concept Core. If we must kill someone to do so, we have no choice but to kill them. However, our retrieval of the Concept Core and the construction of that murderous system are two different things. We did not try to kill him. It is the ones who built that murderous system that tried to kill him. …Is that not another way to look at this?”

“Are you attempting to justify your actions? You are killing someone either way.”

Gyes’s comment was only meant to buy time. She needed to prepare the words to reverse the situation while Sayama responded.

It is true that was what Lady Artemis wished for. But…

She thought about what was truly important to them.

Lord Apollo’s survival.

Just as she began to think about how to accomplish that, a voice reached her.

“Are you thinking, Gyes-kun?”

She raised the head she had subconsciously lowered and found a boy standing there.

He was expressionless as always, but he was looking directly at her.

“You always assumed bringing up your master’s death would solve everything, didn’t you? But if it is necessary, I will not hesitate to go through with it.”

“That is evil.”

“To me, evil is a compliment. It feels like a promotion every time the word is spoken to me.” He remained expressionless. “So think about this. Rather than relying on the feelings of others, think for yourself. And rather than thinking about your victory first, think about how to protect that which is important to you. That is the decision 3rd-Gear should continue to make and it is what the Leviathan Road desires.”

He took a breath.

“And if you require assistance, we will not hesitate to provide it, whether that means preserving life or ending it.”


Sayama looked at Gyes.

The automaton in a red suit met his gaze.

“…”

And she closed her eyes.

Her behavior caused Shinjou to lower the ends of her eyebrows and tilt her head.

“What is it?”

“It is nothing. I was only thinking,” said Gyes. “Thinking about how an automaton can save its master.”

“That is simple.” Sayama gave a bitter smile. “If that master is awake, he can think for himself. But what is it you and your fellow automatons have been doing all this time? Haven’t you been protecting his slumber rather than trying to rouse him?”

What is really going on here? wondered Sayama.

According to Greek mythology, Apollo was the son of Zeus and thus in a position to become the next king. However, he was trapped and immobilized by Artemis who had become Typhon.

“Apollo is the sun god. Is it not about time he awoke?”

“There is a way to free Lord Apollo from Typhon’s curse.”

Gyes’s words caused Shinjou’s shoulders to tremble in surprise.

Shinjou looked up toward Gyes who nodded before continuing.

“In fact there are two ways, but one is now impossible.”

“B-but what is it?”

Gyes nodded again.

“The Tartaros. It is made up of the concepts that each individual person of 3rd-Gear controlled one of. In other words…”

“If Apollo and Artemis are taken into the Tartaros as concepts, their death from sixty years ago can be carried out properly?”

“Yes,” said Gyes. “If they are taken into the Tartaros, neither one of them will disappear. They were both headed for death originally. It is not my place to make the decision, but I have determined that is their rightful form.”

“…”

“But the Tartaros Machina needed for that was lost in 3rd-Gear’s destruction. The Concept Core was also split and one half has become an incomplete weapon. That all comes from Lord Cronus’s grudge. He likely intended to prevent any of Lord Zeus’s descendants from remaining with 3rd-Gear.”

Silence fell and Shinjou closed her notes amid the roar of the sea.

“What’s the other way?”

Gyes nodded, raised her head, and gave a smile with the ends of her eyebrows lowered.

“To use a term mentioned a few times in our previous discussion, it is a ridiculous method.”

She asked a question.

“Do you want to hear it?”

She nodded again.

“It is a method that could create a third impurity.”


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