Owari no Chronicle:Volume7 Chapter 33

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Chapter 33: Growing Closer on the Board[edit]

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If you advance game pieces along the board

Where do you place yourself to advance?

Whether travelling to the past or the future, your heart will occasionally advance


The movements of the sun and moon could not be seen underground, but the clock on the wall gave an indirect look.

The clock in UCAT’s development department gave the current time as 10:21 AM. Below the clock were the large director’s desk and a woman in a lab coat who held a phone receiver to her ear.

It was Tsukuyomi. She toyed with her unkempt gray bangs as she spoke.

“That daughter always was trouble. Yes, Sayama, thank you for calling. Don’t worry. This can be in exchange for the documents we gave you. Nothing’s more frightening than getting something for free.”

All of the partitions before her were filled. The people inside had been working night and day without rest to restore the servers and help the other departments with the aftermath of the attack.

A few people were watching her from above the partition walls. They looked worried, so she smiled and gestured for them to sit.

“Honestly, I’m so busy that I’m more worried about myself than her.” She then spoke to Sayama through the phone. “Are you at the Port of Mizushima right now? And you’re going to set up a formation near Kurashiki, right? You must be busy too. Anyway, use all of the documents Kashima sent you as your summer homework, including the ones you can’t read.” She laughed. “I’m sure the higher ups know. That’s why I’m going to offer the data from our ‘emergency backup’ to help restore the central server.”

His response made her smile bitterly, but that smile quickly vanished.

For a while, she only nodded as he spoke.

“Hey, is anyone here fairly knowledgeable about gods of war?” she shouted to the partitions.

One middle-aged technician in the back stood up and she asked a question before he could speak.

“If a god of war is powered by a Concept Core, what happens when that Core is removed from it?”

“In short, it no longer functions. It dies.”

“Can it be started up again?”

“No. Gods of war are like living creatures. They always exist in a faint standby state. If that is eliminated, their components slow, deteriorate, and then die. Once the circulation is cut off, great damage is done to the internal systems and anyone synced with it will be in danger.”

“I see. Thanks,” said Tsukuyomi while motioning for the technician to sit.

A voice reached her as soon as she pressed the receiver back to her ear and she made a few responses.

“Don’t act so surprised. I didn’t know you could make such human complaints.”

She gave a bitter laugh.

“Ha ha. You should show that side of you to your teammates more often. You’re essentially Team Leviathan’s king after all. …Right. Now do your best and don’t worry about my daughter.”


Huh? thought Miyako.

She was currently on a bed in a dimly-lit room. More importantly, she was not wearing any clothes. Next to her, Apollo had yet to fully remove his own clothes.

“How did things end up like this?”

She had carried him to his room after he collapsed, but her mistake had been falling asleep while lying next to him. When she had woken up past noon, he had also woken, so they had been forced to face each other as they ate the food left by Moira 1st. Afterwards, Apollo had fallen asleep again. It was currently mid-afternoon, but the window was shut and the room only contained a faint light.

Miyako recalled the plate Moira 1st and the other maids had used to leave a note.

“They’re preparing for a sort of festival, are they?”

She did not quite understand, but the maids who occasionally came to speak with Apollo seemed to be enjoying themselves. Apollo’s tearful face from the night before had vanished and he conversed with the maids while showing a comfortable expression lacking any excess concern.

Currently, he spoke next to her.

“Do not worry, Miyako. This should not be a bad thing.”

“Why did I end up stripped down before you? Answer me.”

“Because you had fewer pieces of clothing.”

“No. It’s because you were in such a rush to take them all off me. And you looked pretty happy doing it, I might add.”

While she was not satisfied with his answer, she also wondered if they should be doing this.

“H-hey…”

She realized she had never had a proper conversation with him.

“Let us talk, Miyako.”

“Don’t steal my line.”

She raised her voice and blushed, but Apollo only laughed and approached from the side.

“I would like to hear about your family.”

“About my dad?”

“And your mother and you, Miyako. What is a Low-Gear family like?”

He sat next to her with a smile and she pulled up the blanket to hide her body.

“It’s not very interesting.”

“But a family is something I do not know. …The only people I had were a sister who I was to view as a woman, a father who gave me orders, and those who fought.”

“…”

“I would often look at my father and decide I did not want to turn out like him. I would wonder why I had to follow his orders. Whenever I disobeyed him, he would say it was for my own good.”

That made Miyako laugh and Apollo looked confused.

“I was told the same thing. Everyone else was going to cram school…but you probably don’t know what that is. Anyway, everyone else went, but I didn’t like studying. The thing is, I also didn’t like being separated from everyone else. When he made me go, my dad said that same thing.”

“Ha ha. Why is it that parents try to force happiness onto you?”

“How should I know?” She shrugged. “But those are the only things you remember, aren’t they?”

Apollo nodded.

“It really is unfair. He forced everything onto me and then left without giving me a chance to say anything. …I really don’t want to end up like him.”

“Neither do I.” said Miyako. “Anyway, can I change the subject to the present?”

“You mean Typhon?”

“How did you know? Typhon is a part of your family, isn’t it?”

Apollo gave a bitter smile.

“You got me there,” he said and she held out a hand.

“So what are you going to do about freeing yourself from Typhon’s curse?”

Moira 1st had told her the two methods. The first was no longer possible.

And the second requires my feelings.

According to Moira 1st, the organization named UCAT that her mother belonged to also wanted Typhon’s Concept Core.

If she joined with Typhon and the Concept Core was removed, she would die.

She decided now to see if that was actually true.

Whether I’ll actually sacrifice myself is a different issue, though.

As she thought, Apollo opened his mouth to speak.

“I see Moira 1st explained the situation to you. One of the automatons told me earlier.”

“Yes. What I know for sure is, if I join with Typhon…”

“No one wants you to do that.” Apollo’s expression grew serious. “I just thought up a third method.”

“Seriously?”

She sat up a little and he shook his head.

“But if I tell you, it will use up all the time I have with you.”

“D-don’t say that, you idiot. More importantly, that third method…it’s nothing bad is it? It doesn’t sacrifice anyone, does it?”

“It does not. It frees me from Typhon’s curse and makes me a king.”

“A king?”

I’m doing nothing but ask questions, she thought as Apollo nodded.

“And when I do, I will take you as my queen.”

“D-don’t be stupid. I never said I’d marry you.”

“I said I would take you as my queen, not as my wife. You could be an honorary queen.”

“You son of a bitch!”

He laughed and she bared her teeth for a moment, but she soon sighed.

I was wondering why he looked so serious.

She clicked her tongue and his smile vanished.

“But do not worry. Moira 1st likely told you what she did so that you would worry for me. …But we have a choice.”

“It’s a hundred years too early to think about using that choice to make me your wife.”

“A hundred years? That isn’t long for me.”

“You idiot,” she muttered before sighing again. “Y’know, it may be a bit late to say this, but I’m kind of a failure.”

She lay on her back and looked up at the ceiling. Even the dim orange light seemed bright to her. She crossed her arms in front of her eyes to hide the light.

The whole reason I ended up here was failing that interview.

Something like a voice came from deep in her chest. The word “regret” filled her mind, but she did not let it show.

Who regrets not getting into a place they didn’t really want to be?

She did not speak that thought aloud, but she did speak her true thoughts. The darkness of covering her eyes made her honest.

“I’ve made myself sound pretty important while I’m here.”

She took a breath.

“But you were right when we spoke below that cliff. I’m staying here because I don’t want to go back out into the world.”

“Miyako.”

“I shouldn’t be doing this…”

“Miyako.”

She raised her arms and found his face.

At some point, he had lifted the blanket and moved above her, but his face looked somehow twisted.

“Don’t cry, Miyako. For some reason, seeing you cry makes me want to cry.”

“Sorry. But…”

“Are you nothing but talk, Miyako? Then why did the automatons accept you as their master? Was it your words? Your thoughts? Or was it your attitude that pushes you ever onwards? Let me tell you this, Miyako. A king who leads the people is someone who possesses all three of those,” said Apollo. “That is something I could not do. Thank you.”

“I should be the one thanking you, idiot.”

Tears spilled from the corners of her eyes and his head lowered.

As she shrank back in surprise, their lips met.

After a few seconds, the wetness took a breath and left, but the heat did not leave her body and cheeks.

She took a breath and moved her legs. She gently held him between her knees and positioned her butt.

“U-um, just to be clear…”

Saying this really isn’t like me at all.

“This is my first time. Be gentle, okay?”

“Don’t worry, Miyako. It’s my first time, too.”

“I see,” she responded without thinking. “Wait! What was that!? Don’t lie to me!! Looking like that, you’ve gotta be a real lady-killer!”

“I am not lying. To ensure everything goes smoothly, 3rd-Gear omitted the manual labor. Everything was extracted and done outside the body. Also…lady-killer? I do not like killing, especially of women.”

“No, a lady-killer is…oh, never mind!”

I’ve had enough, she thought to herself. This isn’t something where you can try to look good.

Just as she realized that was not much different from normal, Apollo lowered his body.

“Ah, w-wait a minute.”

Her pulse began to race and sweat poured out as if she had been holding it in.

He looked down at her in confusion.

“Y’know, I’ve read that it rarely turns out well when it’s both people’s first times.”

“Do not worry, Miyako. Long ago, I read in a book how to make sure it turns out well.”

“And how many thousands of years ago was that, you idiot? Plus, it’s rare these days to see a non-standard product like me produced in Japan, the nation of mass production. What’ll you do if something goes wrong? Also…”

She looked up at the young man above her and made a prediction based on the somehow happy look on his face.

“I couldn’t tell you why I’m so sure, but you’ll succeed this time. Without a doubt.”

“Low-Gear is far more advanced than 3rd-Gear! You can determine someone’s skill just by looking at them!?”

“It’s not about skill! It’s more like an accidental discharge!”

She punched him straight in the face.

He let out a groan before twisting his body and falling toward her.

“Kyah!”

She was surprised how pathetic her own voice sounded. Unlike when she had held him in the hangar that morning, his skin was warm and even the tickling of his hair rested on her.

“…”

She looked around with her hands lifted above her head, but there was of course no one there.

“You idiot…”

She sighed, relaxed, and wrapped her arms around his back and neck.

I’m doing him a huge favor here.

Once she realized that thought was just a way to hide her embarrassment, she gave a mental sigh. She further relaxed her body, sank into the bed, and matched the curve of her body to his.

“Well, I’m sure a lot will happen, but it should turn out fine. Probably.”

He nodded and raised his head to look her in the eye with his own smiling eyes.

His yellow eyes were not the same color as hers, but they contained the same light.

“Do you think we can become a family?” asked the owner of those eyes.

“That’s fine with me, but I wonder what my mom would say.”

“Oh, that’s right. If we become a family, I gain a mother-in-law. At the very least, we will have a family of three.”

Is that how it works? she wondered.

Based on his past, she guessed why he had said that with a smile and she empathized with him. Once she did, she could no longer stop her feelings for him.

“But… Don’t forget about the Moirai and the other maids. They’re family too, aren’t they?”

“I will make sure of it in the future. It will have to be through you before I am used to it, though.”

He raised his body a bit and stuck his arms under her shoulders and back.

She took a breath to relax and she felt the heat of his breath, but she did not reject it.

He’s sure to make a good king.

She felt Typhon was holding him back. And if the automatons did become his family, who would no longer be needed?

Me?

They don’t need two masters, she realized. Staying with this idiot as Typhon is still an option, I suppose.

“You lost your family, didn’t you?” she said. “But you never forget your family, you can make a new one, and you can become part of someone else’s. Don’t you think?”

“That’s right.”

When he nodded, she continued with a relieved smile.

“Then we really are the same.”


The sunset was beginning to disappear to the west.

The sky was quite visible in this area.

Fields continued on as far as the eye could see. The only other things visible were the train tracks and a circle of trucks in a large empty lot. The trucks were all loaded with shipping cargo, but what lay in the center of the circle was different.

Lights brighter than the dim sunset illuminated the people standing alongside it.

Three giant armored warriors were loaded onto the back of trucks. Two were colored black and white and contained the UCAT emblem, but the wholly black god of war next to them had no emblem.

Several people were gathered next to the black one. A whiteboard was placed in front of them and a quick map had been drawn on it by hand. The map was labelled “Kurashiki”.

A large black man spoke in front of the whiteboard.

As he did so, he glanced to the side where two boys and a girl stood.

The boy with sharp facial features and the girl with short hair wore the same white and black armored uniform as the others, but the short boy did not. He wore a black T-shirt, jeans, and a white bandanna.

The bandanna boy spoke the most to the two across from him.

“So Kazami-san, how is Mikage-san?”

“She hasn’t come to yet, but she’ll be driven to Kurashiki ahead of time. Sibyl will be with her, so you don’t have to worry, Hiba. But…should we really bring an injured person to the battlefield?”

Kazami’s eyebrows lowered and she tilted her head.

Hiba could only give a trouble smile in response. I’m being selfish, he thought.

“I’m not sure. Maybe I shouldn’t have her with me since she might have given up on me.” He gave a small nod. “But we might settle things with 3rd-Gear, so I think she should be there.”

“I see.”

Kazami nodded and pulled a map of Kurashiki from her pocket.

She faced the boy with a sharp face and looked at Baku on his head.

“Sayama, a question. What’s our plan?”

“I will give a quick explanation. Just look over at the map drawn by that bald man.”

Boldman turned around.

“I can hear you!”

“I was not hiding it, so of course you can. …Now, if you can see that poorly-drawn map…”

Hiba looked over to the equilateral triangle representing Kurashiki.

“Kurashiki can be viewed like this if you use the major roads to divide it up. The top corner is Kurashiki Station and there is an amusement park above it. The bottom right corner is the small mountain containing the Achi Shrine. 3rd’s base is also there, so it is the center of the concept space. We will be entering through the bottom left corner.”

“That’s a long way. Isn’t 3rd’s concept space a little too big?”

“In the late afternoon, UCAT’s Okayama branch detected their concept space expanding. I believe it has a radius of three kilometers. Jumping in near the center risks damage to your string vibration and that map shows the two-lane road leading straight to the Achi Shrine.”

Hiba saw the line leading from the bottom left corner to the bottom right corner.

However…

“Since that’s the shortest path, won’t they be waiting there?”

“That is why we will circle around from above,” said Sayama. “It is going a bit out of our way, but it is more certain. Also, there are a few side roads leading right – that is, east – on the way from the bottom left corner to the top corner. If we run up toward Kurashiki Station and send units down those side roads…”

“They can stop any enemies that might pursue from below.”

“A dummy will be sent out in front in case there are enemies at Kurashiki Station as well. An empty and disguised cargo train will be sent ahead on the track running alongside the road and we’ll travel in a truck while the enemy is distracted by it.”

“What’s my job?” asked Hiba.

Out of their three gods of war, his was the only one with full power.

Sayama answered with his gaze.

He looked to Hiba’s left where the side of a disguised truck had been lifted up and something was being lowered down. Some long objects made of black steel were affixed to pallets. There were three of them, two were sheathed swords, and the third was much longer.

“That is the anti-god of war sniper rifle ‘God Piercer’. Our development department remade the world’s very first German anti-tank rifle on the god of war scale. It holds three shots and its effective range is approximately a kilometer. At that range, it can supposedly pierce the armor of three gods of war.”

“I’ve never done much shooting…”

“A specialized auxiliary device was already added at the Kanda Laboratory. If you wield it with Susahito Custom, your aim will be automatically corrected. You have five test shots, so try it out as you like. Your target will be 3rd-Gear’s leader if he attempts to flee. It will likely be a flight-capable god of war, but in the worst case, you will have to shoot Typhon.”

Sayama patted his shoulder.

“If Typhon arrives, you handle it. Finish this once and for all.”

“You’re right. But I explained Typhon’s technique before coming here, didn’t I?”

He was referring to the movement technique that could eliminate time, but Sayama did not seem interested.

“Do not worry. I have only heard about the technique secondhand, but you can overcome it.”

“H-how irresponsible can you be?”

“It is not my responsibility. Also, the technique itself is incredibly simple. All it does is eliminate time. Nothing more. No matter what happens, you must overcome Typhon’s technique and win, so you must find a way to reach an opponent who moves while destroying the intervening time.”

Sayama raised both his hands in front of his eyes before the left one shot upwards and the right one circled behind him.

“Fortunately, Typhon could not eliminate the time it took to fire as it flew like this. Most likely, that technique must be activated by its opponent’s attack.”

“By my attack? But why?”

“Maybe to drive away the fear of death,” cut in Kazami while tilting her head. “If you represent death to her, Artemis may try to hide herself as a starting point toward driving you away. She wishes to escape that symbol of death. But when attacking, she feels the relief of being able to win and isn’t able to eliminate the time.”

“That is a decent theory. It does nothing to help us find a strategy, but pondering it could make for a nice break.”

Kazami glared at Sayama, but Hiba did not mind.

They could make some guesses about Typhon’s attack system and what activated it.

“But that leaves how to break through it.”

“You have already been taught how to do that.”

“Eh?”

Hiba looked over and saw Sayama pointing to the south. He could no longer see it, but the sea was there.

“You would not have won before traveling there, but Izumo and I taught you a few things. According to my calculations, you should easily be able to overcome Typhon. So let me irresponsibly tell you to do your best.”

Hiba gave a bitter smile because he had a feeling he might actually manage.

Sayama would only talk about what they needed to do to win, but he had made a phone call with a serious expression back at the port. Kazami had speculated he was calling Tsukuyomi or someone about a way to save Apollo and Hiba found himself trusting the boy.

What is with this trust? I don’t really get it.

“Sayama-san, do you think there’s a way to save Apollo?”

“I do not know. That is 3rd-Gear’s problem and we have very little information,” he said. “But I do wonder if the previous rulers of 3rd-Gear were truly the mad kings they were said to be. Zeus did not view people as human and Cronus resented Zeus for imprisoning him and tried to destroy him. That may be how the father/son relationship works, but is that truly how they were?”

Hiba noticed Sayama’s right hand lightly clutching the left side of his chest.

He did not know why Sayama did that every time he spoke of the past, but he still stopped himself from asking if Sayama’s father had been different. He was afraid he would be intruding on something related to the boy’s chest, so he changed his thoughts.

How was it with my dad and me?

His father had been strict and had taught him plenty of techniques, but the man had never known Mikage or Hiba as he was now.

“I don’t know what kind of relationship a real father and son have.”

“Neither do I. But that is exactly why I believe my reasoning is correct. If there is a condition, it would be how well you understand Mikage-kun. That will likely determine whether Apollo can be saved or not.”

“Eh?”

Sayama looked at Hiba.

“I am certain the answer has already been given and Cronus probably predicted it.”

“Are you talking about how to save Apollo?”

“Yes. If I am right, Apollo has already been saved. I want you to trust me when I say that. If something does happen, all responsibility will fall on me. As a villain, I will have deceived you and had you kill Apollo. So do not worry and go fight, Hiba boy.”

Hiba was unable to nod. He did not know what Sayama was talking about and he had no reason to believe it.

Can I really trust him?

But he did have something he could trust: he had lost to them.

And so he spoke without actually agreeing.

“Let’s go. If necessary, we can create an answer out of nothing.”

He then faced the rifle and swords that would be his weapons and found a familiar face next to them. It was a short old man with a bent back.

“Grandfather.”

Hiba Ryuutetsu turned toward him and Hiba sensed a smile in the man’s one red eye.

Did he ever do anything like this?

Hiba doubled his resolve to settle this and smiled bitterly.

“I’ve prepared myself, grandfather.”

As soon as he said it, something small moved on Sayama’s head.

It was Baku.


Sayama stood within the rain. It almost felt like a mist, but it had actual drops to it.

As he passed through the rain with nothing but his vision and hearing, he realized what had happened.

This is the past.

Where was he?

He looked around and saw a certain scene.

“A battlefield.”

Several forms were visible at the bottom of a broad plain surrounded by mountains. They were machines and buildings. Most had lost their original form and had their frames and supports exposed.

Among the buildings, just one thing had escaped complete destruction.

A passageway continued underground beneath the largest building. It had been a three-story prefabricated building and some massive force had smashed entirely through it, but the floor of the first story and below had survived.

That meant the underground passageway and a giant explosion-resistant door remained.

Sayama saw letters engraved into that door: UCAT JAPAN.

“Japanese UCAT.”

He recalled something else he had heard from the past. According to Cronus, 3rd-Gear had planned to work with 9th to attack UCAT after they had stolen Rhea’s child.

Is that what happened here?

As far as he could tell, this was a garden of destruction. He belatedly noticed many human forms were collapsed amid it all.

But he also saw a few people moving inside the smoke. Those were the survivors.

How great a force had attacked and how much damage had been done? This was UCAT rather than the National Defense Department, yet it had been so thoroughly destroyed.

“It must have been quite a battle.”

However, the explosion-resistant door leading underground had held.

The evacuated local residents and research items were likely inside.

Sayama then saw something odd. A strange darkness was located in the air near the center of the rain-covered destruction.

It was a gate to another Gear.

He moved toward it and found it was black, tall, and emitting a faint shadow-colored light. As he approached, he realized it was easily over seven or eight meters tall.

This gate was meant for gods of war.

The enemy had appeared and left through the gate, but its light was weakening.

It was vanishing.

However, Sayama saw some movement below it. They were injured men covered in mud. There were about a dozen of them and they called out to each other while setting barrel-like machines below the gate. Sayama heard them say things like “keep it going” and “don’t let it vanish”.

Are they trying to preserve the gate?

There were two giant objects near them.

One was Susahito Custom which had a broken right arm.

The other was a blue and white machine even larger than the god of war. It was a mechanical dragon and the Stars and Stripes mark on its side suggested it belonged to American UCAT.

The mechanical dragon was broken and spewing smoke and its windshield was partially opened. A young soldier in a flight suit spoke with blood running down his face.

“We could have managed if we’d had Xolotl 3 here.”

“Wishing for something we don’t have isn’t going to help, Thunderson.”

The response came from below the black god of war. A young soldier sat there with bandages around his right eye and more binding his right arm.

The soldier named Thunderson raised his eyebrows when Hiba stood up.

“Hiba, you idiot. …Are you really going!? That’s enemy territory!”

“You wouldn’t understand. Not when you’re so disheartened.”

Hiba opened the god of war’s stomach with his left hand and pulled out the cockpit door.

“I’m going and I don’t know when I’ll be back.”

He then faced toward Sayama.

He was actually facing the soldier named Thunderson and he gave a muddy smile.

“I’m continuing on, Thunderson. You look toward the place you need to go.”

“Hiba!”

Thunderson tried to fully open the windshield to exit the craft, but the bent frame would not let it open further. He tried a few more times, but found it was hopeless.

“You can’t! If you go, what will happen to Toshi and the others!? Is Mikage more important than them!?”

Rather than reply, Hiba climbed into Susahito Custom’s cockpit and closed the door.

Thunderson moved the control column and the mechanical dragon trembled.

“!”

But its front right leg broke and it fell to the muddy ground, jaw first.

“That’s not the issue. It isn’t about who’s more important.”

The black god of war slowly stood up.

The wings on its back were broken, but it turned around all the same. It whipped up the wind in the rain and headed toward the black gate.

The men adjusting the machines supporting the gate opened a large path and saluted.

Susahito Custom saluted back and spoke to Thunderson.

“You go too. Go to the destination you’ve prepared for. I’ll be going on ahead.”

The black god of war took a step forward and vanished.

The rain that had been falling on it now fell through empty space. Meanwhile, a cry rose from the man who had been left behind.

As that roar filled the air, Sayama felt as if he had been thrust backwards.

The past was ending.

And this is where it truly began.

This was where 3rd-Gear’s destruction had begun.


Hiba looked up in surprise.

The light of sunset surrounded him and the sounds of truck engines and speaking voices returned. That sudden noise surprised him and the old man before him scratched his head.

“Oh, no. …I’m not sure how to put it, Ryuuji, but wasn’t I pretty cool there?”

“No, you had nothing on my youthful spirit.”

The two of them smiled bitterly and Sayama tapped Hiba on his shoulder.

“Hiba boy, Hiba-sensei, I am sure you have plenty to discuss. Go take a break.”

When Ryuutetsu agreed, Sayama and Kazami nodded expressionlessly before leaving.

Ryuutetsu suddenly looked to the left toward the rifle, the swords, and Susahito Custom beyond them.

“Ryuuji, what are you going to do about Mikage?”

“Good question… Once this is over, I can discuss it with her.”

“You’ve learned a lot, haven’t you? About the past, what you’ll do from now on, and what you’ve been doing until now.”

“Yes,” said Hiba with a nod. “And I’m not the only one who’s been thinking about a lot, am I?”

“Of course not. It’s a bit late to be figuring that one out. …So what’s your answer?”

“I don’t have one,” he answered. “But I want to protect her no matter what.”

“You sound like a stalker.”

“Why do you have to say that!?”

“Calm down, calm down.”

Ryuutetsu walked forward, passed by Hiba, and faced Susahito Custom.

“There’s nothing wrong with not giving an answer and continuing to worry. That can be an answer in and of itself.”

“Were you not allowed even that?”

“You don’t think the elderly always have pasts filled with tragedy, do you?”

He turned around with a smile in his red eye and Hiba swallowed what he was going to say next, but Ryuutetsu narrowed his eyes further.

“Ryuuji, there’s a lot that isn’t easy, but those are the truly important things. The most valuable things I taught you were the peeping techniques and how to take care of Mikage. You need to continue questioning everything and continue choosing what you can. As long as you do that…”

He scratched his head.

“You might make mistakes, but you won’t do anything wrong.”

“Grandfather…”

“What?”

“Just now, you were a little cooler than me. Like the length of a pinkie’s fingernail more. Like this.”

“Ryuuji, you cut all your fingernails down as far as they’ll go.”

“That’s because Mikage-san says it hurts when I’m washing her in the bath and my nails touch her.”

The old man suddenly punched him.


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