Owari no Chronicle:Volume8 Chapter 12

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Chapter 12: Guidance of Thought[edit]

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Running shows you where you are headed

It is a path of no return where you stop and enter the early morning

Even that which guides you can only continue under that same illusion


Darkness had settled in on a large expanse of sand.

Several white geometric lines covered that schoolyard being prepared for the athletic festival.

The lights were already lit and boys and girls wearing track suits were drawing lines and setting up spectator seating on the edge in front of the school buildings.

A motorcycle was currently parked on the main road running by the schoolyard and continuing back to the academy’s main entrance.

It was a foreign model with a sidecar, but no one sat on the motorcycle or in the sidecar and a plastic supermarket bag was placed in the sidecar. The bag contained enough fish and bread for two.

The two people who should have been there were standing in the schoolyard in casual clothes. One of them was a blonde girl who looked up to the black-haired boy next to her.

“This place is so big, Harakawa. Is it really a school?”

“It is, Heo. From what I’ve heard, some idiot bought it all up during the war while focusing on getting as much land as he could. He got carried away and also made some weird giant library and tried to lure in the people of the city. So what do you think? You said you wanted to see it, but it’s not all that interesting.”

Harakawa walked toward the center of the schoolyard. To avoid the lines drawn on the ground, he ended up following the 400 meter track line.

He then heard a rumbling in the sky above.

He tilted his head as he looked up at the large transport plane causing it.

“There have been a lot of those tonight. Supposedly an American plane crashed in Okutama. They were apparently borrowing Okutama IAI’s runway.”

“There was a city-wide broadcast about that earlier, right? They said the pilot of the crashed plane was…”

“They said he was fine, so don’t worry, Heo Thunderson.”

As they spoke, Harakawa saw Heo raise her head before lowering it again.

He recalled that her parents were gone and he realized the idea of a plane crash was what made her lower her head.

Is she meeting her great-grandfather at the cemetery to visit a grave?

Had her parents dealt with aircraft? But if they had been stationed on the American base, they would have been buried in the graveyard on the base, so he guessed her parents were civilians unrelated to the base.

While trying to decide what to say, he walked to the left of the school building.

Heo soon called out to him.

“Um, Harakawa? I’ve been thinking. This is a weird school, isn’t it?”

“Yes, I suppose you would think that when you see it for the first time. Is anything in particular bothering you?”

“Y-yes. What is that giant statue of a hand by the southern wall over there?”

“Oh, that’s from the ramen shop called The Fist that’s a local sponsor of the athletic festival. It serves ramen hand-massaged by a tough old man. It’s a bit famous for how the old man running the place plunges his hand into the boiling water and massages the noodles.”

“Doesn’t that burn his hand?”

“He says he manages through sheer willpower.”

“That’s amazing, Harakawa. …Are you sure this is a school?”

“Just to be clear, Heo, this place confuses me too.”

“You don’t seem to have a problem explaining it all.”

Really?

He mentally tilted his head while walking on.

Partially to change the subject, he asked a question that had been on his mind for a while.

“Well, you can’t change how weird this place is. And speaking of weird, what language is your name, Heo?”

“I-it isn’t weird. My…my parents gave it to me, but from what I’ve heard it’s from the language a friend of my great-grandfather’s spoke. He would never tell me what it means, but he said I didn’t need to know. It might be the language of some small tribe.”

At that point, a girl in a blue track suit passed by them while drawing a line. She was the member of the athletic festival committee for Harakawa’s class, so she spoke up even though he did not.

“Huh? I thought you were out today.”

“I was, but my cousin wanted to go sightseeing around Tokyo.”

Heo looked confused, but Harakawa continued adlibbing an explanation.

“My mother’s sister married the chief of a tribe that shaves off one eyebrow and fights bears in the mountains of Utah. This girl is her daughter, but she decided to study abroad once the wave of information freedom reached their village. Still, her mother insisted she live somewhere with bears. Fortunately, we have them in Okutama and Hinohara.”

“I-I see. There really are a lot of cultures out there.”

“Yeah.”

Harakawa nodded and looked around in order to end the conversation. He saw the large schoolyard, the school building that looked far too white under the lights, and the students.

“Weren’t Sayama and Shinjou in charge of this area?”

“Th-those two… You hadn’t heard? They left on a premarital vacation.”

Heo was the first to react. She tugged on his left sleeve from behind and gave him an upturned look when he turned around.

“Two of the students are getting married?”

“If so, they’ll have to deal with the large hurdle of overcoming gender. They’ll probably have the wedding in California or something.”

“Probably,” replied the track suit girl with a smile.

She began to walk off with the line cart behind her, but then she turned around.

“We’ll keep the two of you a secret too, okay?”

“Just to be clear, she isn’t my girlfriend. More importantly, did our teacher say anything about me being absent?”

“If you’re worried about it, don’t skip class. Well, good luck.”

She laughed and continued drawing the 400 meter line.

Harakawa sighed as he watched her leave and then turned to the right. He walked toward the south end of the schoolyard and heard quiet footsteps behind him.

“U-um, Harakawa. Did she think we were…” Her shoulders tightened. “I’m sorry.”

“Any excuse would raise suspicion and people always hope they’re right about things. Don’t worry about it, Heo Thunderson. You won’t be around here long, so don’t waste your time thinking about it.”

He entered the shadow of the spectator seating to the south. It had ten rows of seats, it was about three meters tall, and it was primarily made of green pipes. He walked between the different seat structures that had been built by entire classes and left their shadows that resembled thick nets.

“Look, Heo Thunderson. This is what you wanted to see, isn’t it?”

However, he did not look ahead. He looked at Heo next to him.

As she left the shadows and stepped up to his right, she slowly looked forward. The bright lights caused her to narrow her eyes, but they soon widened.

“…”

A smile with some surprise mixed in appeared on her face.

After seeing that, Harakawa looked forward too.

“The freshmen are pretty motivated, so they’ve already finished their preparations. Look, Heo, these are the grounds prepared for the athletic festival. No matter which white line you follow, you will reach an athletic event.”


Heo felt a voice escape her mouth.

It sounded like an excited breath and she blushed while turning toward Harakawa.

While worried that had sounded strange, she spoke.

“That’s amazing, Harakawa. I used to run track, but I’ve never seen one like this.”

“Really?”

His eyebrows moved and he walked to the right. She wondered why and began to follow.

“Wait where you are, Heo Thunderson.”

“Eh? Wh-where are you going?”

He removed the watch he wore with the bracelet made of stones. He let it dangle from his right hand and pointed down with his left hand.

“Look at your feet.”

“…?”

She looked questioningly down.

Her sneakers were standing on a white figure drawn with lime. She stood in a one meter square box and five more were lined up vertically from her perspective. Each one had a number and hers was number one.

“What is this?”

“You can’t tell? These are the lines for the 100 meter dash.”

He walked down the line extending from the boxes.

He was already a good distance away and he raised his fairly deep voice so it would reach her.

“Since we’re here, why not run a bit, Heo Thunderson?”

“Eh? But…”

She liked running. No, she had liked running.

She had not run much recently. If she did not count the run from the previous night…

I haven’t done it since three schools ago.

A lot more filled her mind as well, including her great-grandfather and what was going to happen now.

But…

With that thought, she looked around the area.

She saw the stands, the lights, and the illuminated track. Harakawa stood at the other end of that illumination. He was too far to see his expression, but she could hear his voice.

“Aren’t you coming, Heo? This can commemorate your arrival in Japan. Just run over here.”

“Try not pointing back at that giant hand when you say that.”

But…

“Can I really run?”

“The lines will need to be redrawn after a week anyway. Plus, no one’s looking, so a girl with nothing else to do can steal herself a free commemoration here. What’s wrong with that?”

That line made her smile bitterly.

Why does he love sarcasm so much?

But he doesn’t mean anything by it, she also thought. He might actually use sarcasm to hide his good intentions.

She saw him raise his right hand with a skull objet and the tall net fence for baseball behind him. He held his watch and she could tell he intended to time her run.

She took one last look around and made sure no one was around.

“…”

She sank down, spread her hands a little farther out than her shoulders, and placed them on the ground.

She supported her body with only the tips of her fingers and relaxed her shoulders.

She brought her left leg back, pulled her right knee close enough that it touched her chest, and shrank down as if curling up.

“Heo, your starting pose is pretty good.”

“They taught me this at a school I used to attend. The coach there was nice.”

After speaking, she realized she was using sarcasm too.

She gave another bitter smile with her downturned face.

“Get set,” called Harakawa without asking if she was ready.

She found that a little selfish but also felt a relieving sense that the situation was advancing on its own.

He doesn’t show any intent to let me relax.

His consideration mostly went unnoticed and had no obvious indication that he was telling her relax. That made her wonder if he was even now being considerate in a variety of ways she was not aware of.

But I’m probably imagining all that, she also thought.

He was the one who had helped her in this foreign land, so she was probably imagining these things like someone with a fever.

But then…

“—————!!”

The sound of clapping hands cut into her thoughts.

For just an instant, the intruding sound caused her shoulders to jump.

“Nn.”

But she still took in a breath and began.

She had once been taught how to do this. During her many school transfers, her life in those schools had been cut short again and again, but she had always chosen to join the track team and been taught how to run.

And this was what she had been taught.

Run full speed from the very first step!

She extended her body as if launching it up and forward and her waist moved down and back, but she kicked off her left leg and sent that waist shooting forward.

“!”

She achieved a start that looked like a leap.

She ran.

The initial movements of her legs carried her lowered waist forward.

She then threw her leg forward while swinging her upper body.

Her heel caught on the ground and pulled her body forward and the toes of her other foot kicked off the ground to part with the track.

This produced wind. It was her personal wind that was created by her running.

Yes.

She travelled through that wind and through the personal space she desired.

Her thoughts grew sharper.

She thought only about old times. Because she had not run in so long, she was reminded of what running meant to her.

It feels wonderful.

She did not have to hear the horrible rumors surrounding her, she did not have to think about anything else, she could gain some kind of result that would remain even after she left, and she could gain a new method of earning even better results in the future.

Out of all the teachers in the schools, the track coaches had been the ones to most often look at her records without bringing the rumors into it.

Most of them had been women and they had given her advice on running after seeing her times. When she had followed that advice, she had gotten even faster.

Those teaching her to run had focused only on running.

She ran and assumed the line she had just passed was the fifty meter line.

She wondered whether she could become like those people.

If she came across someone like herself, would she be able to show them something more?

Teacher.

I can’t, concluded her sharpened thoughts.

Even she felt a demon was following her, so how could she find a way to teach and guide people?

She then recalled two things: a past event related to the act of running and the previous night.

The first was her mother.

“…!”

And the second was her great-grandfather who she had left the night before.

At both those times, she had run and it had been due to the consideration of her family members who had not wanted her to know what was happening.

They had me run away.

That thought brought something else to mind.

It was a question that seemed to burn into the back of her brain.

Is…

She let out a broken sigh.

Is running away all anyone wants me to do?


Harakawa suddenly looked up while watching the stopwatch function on his watch.

Heo’s footsteps had stopped.

“Hey.”

When he called out and looked forward, he found her at about the seventy-five meter line of the first course.

Her legs had slowed to a stop, her head was lowered, and she was trembling.

What?

He wondered if she had started feeling sick, but he mentally shook his head. That was nothing but his own convenient interpretation.

“…”

He silently stopped the stopwatch. The time had already reached twenty seconds. He had seen the time when she had reached the fifty meter mark, but recording the rest would be meaningless now.

He reset and then restarted the stopwatch before walking over to Heo and stopping the stopwatch again. He was pretty sure she had reached fifty meters at approximately 6.8 seconds.

A few breaths after that, he arrived in front of her.

Her head was lowered and her hands were hiding her expression.

She did not speak, but her shoulders were rising and falling a little and he heard sobbing.

He had no intention of asking what was wrong. Everyone had their reasons for crying.

“Let’s go, Heo.”

She gave a shallow nod and replied in English.

“H-Harakawa, I…”

“Sorry, but I don’t know English.”

“R-really?”

“Really,” he answered in English.

She looked up a bit. There were tears in her eyes, but she still turned weakly toward him.

“Um…”

“What is it, Heo Thunderson?”

She took a single rough breath and steadied her breathing when she exhaled.

“I told you what happened last night, didn’t I?”

“Yes, you did.”

It took some time before she continued.

She clenched her fists and wiped at the corners of her eyes.

“Did I…run away and abandon my great-grandfather?”

And…

“Why do I always lose something when I run?”

“If that’s how you see it, then that must be how it is for you.”

“…”

She held her breath and looked toward him, but he continued regardless.

“Don’t ask questions that you already have your own answer to, Heo Thunderson. No matter what I say, you want to think about it your way. …As I said earlier, people with suspicions want to assume their thinking is correct.”

He inhaled and sighed.

With a bitter smile, he patted the silent girl’s shoulder and brought her gaze back onto him.

“But if you understand that, feel free to complain. Speaking it aloud can make the thought fade. You often hear that, but it should work with questions that are dragging your mood down. So ask. Let out your heavy thoughts and deep worries. If it will help cheer you up, I’m willing to listen for as long as you’re here in Japan.”

“Y-you’re mean, Harakawa.”

“I’ll feel better too if I’m listening to complaints meant to let off some steam instead of meaningless ones. And listen. We can’t ask your great-grandfather what he thought of you last night. If you’re going to feel like you abandoned him without even asking him if that’s the case, you’ve entered the world of fortune-telling, Heo Thunderson.”

“…”

“And there’s something wrong with asking such an important question to some stranger you just met. Heo Thunderson, I won’t say this again, so don’t forget it. Remember it and start complaining.”

He then thrust his watch toward her.

She had been thinking about what he had said, so she jumped in shock when the watch appeared in front of her.

“U-um? What is this?”

“This is more or less your time when you crossed the fifty meter line. How fast do you generally run a hundred meters?”

“Eh? Usually around thirteen seconds flat.”

“I can’t say for sure since we’ve got nothing but your memory and my eyes to go on, but you’re the type that does better on the second half. You were at 6.8 seconds.”

“…”

She fell silent, but the tears stopped.

She turned her weak gaze toward the watch and then at him.

“I need to run all the way to the end, don’t I?”

She raised her teary face and forced a small smile.

“…”

But a sudden stroboscopic flash came from the left.

They turned that way and found the track suit girl from before and a few other people in track suits.

“Ooki-sensei too? What the hell are all of you doing!?”

“W-well, we wanted a chance to communicate with a foreigner. You don’t see many of them around here.”

“Based on your name, you’re half foreign.”

The students ran, but Ooki in her white track suit stayed behind and scratched at her head.

She looked up into the night sky and thought about what he had said. She finally gave a troubled smile and answered.

“Um… I kind of lost sight of myself there.”

Heo clearly did not understand what was going on, so Harakawa pushed on her back and started walking away from the schoolyard.

“H-Harakawa, was that woman…”

“You wouldn’t believe me, so I won’t even try to explain it.”

“D-don’t tell me she’s a teacher. Sh-she isn’t, is she? I-is she a…um…I’m not sure how to put it.”

“Do you want to be shocked by this country that much, Heo Thunderson?”

As they walked away, the colors of evening completely vanished from the sky.

However, there were still several shapes in that sky. They were all transport ships flying northwest toward Okutama.


Japanese UCAT’s new headquarters floor was a large space on the second basement with a large screen filling the front wall, but the people inside the room now were not those meant to be there.

The people all wore blue armored uniforms.

They sat at the various communications desks, exchanged data, and spoke to each other, but one person was climbing the stairs to the upper bridge.

He was a young man wearing glasses and a gray suit and he brushed a hand through his hair when he arrived on the bridge.

“Colonel Odor, the fifth basement and below are indeed sealed off both physically and conceptually.”

“Roger, Roger. How long until we can break in?”

“Testament. This is just an estimate, but…I do not know.”

“Roger, Roger. Have you ever thought of yourself as incompetent?”

“Testament. Only when I fail to wake up in the morning.” Roger pushed his glasses up his nose. “Colonel, the UCAT branches around Japan are all on alert. Izumo’s western general headquarters has sent an objection and a demand of withdrawal to the UCAT Alliance Bureau.”

“It is no use. Unfortunately for them, it is no use. American UCAT has already received the other nations’ understanding and the United States is the chief nation of the Alliance Bureau. You could say the entire world is our motherland.”

“Also, colonel, while I was out holding off two members of Team Leviathan in Akigawa, the team searching for traces of last night’s concept space gave me this.”

Roger reached into his pocket and pulled out a circular object.

It was a necklace made from stones.

“It was lying on the road with the clasp open and it is thought to belong to Heo Thunderson.”

“Roger, Roger. Why do they think that?”

“It matches the necklace she is wearing in her photograph in our records. The team searching for her in Akigawa has been instructed to remove the necklace from their description of her.”

Odor gave a satisfied nod before speaking.

“More importantly… More importantly, how is the situation?”

“Testament. Of the twelve Blanca 9s in our unit, five were destroyed, two were badly damaged, and the remaining five were all lightly damaged. Their numbers will be recovered with replacements from the nearby base and exchanging the damaged components. Of the other soldiers on the front lines, seven were seriously injured and almost everyone else was lightly injured.”

“Then… Then, Roger, what about Japanese UCAT?”

“Testament. Eighteen were seriously injured and we have twenty-seven in custody after they surrendered. They were mostly personnel with disabilities, but they include members of Team Leviathan.”

“Is that so?”

Odor looked down at the first floor where an old man was playing a missile game using one of the consoles.

“Would that be… Would that be this pitiable old man named Ooshiro, Roger?”

“To an outsider, he may look pitiable, but he is a troublesome creature who has no problem with it himself.”

“R-Roger-kun! I see you’re as calm and cement-like as ever!”

Ooshiro turned around for just an instant, but he quickly focused back on the missiles flying on the screen.

In the same way, Odor turned back toward Roger.

“Do you know him? Do you know him, Roger? Explain this immediately.”

“Testament. While I was stationed in Japan with American UCAT, a lot of…unpleasant things happened.”

“Roger, Roger. Listen carefully. Hardships are what fuel one’s life. I personally don’t like them, though. And tell me, Roger. Do we have any members of Team Leviathan other than him?”

“Testament.” Roger formed a smile on the corner of his mouth. “We have Team Leviathan’s supervisor and the girl who contains 3rd-Gear’s Concept Core. We are still clearing the facility, so they are currently in the temporary headquarters we erected on the runway. Also…”

“Roger, Roger. If you have something to say, just say it. I will not stand for it if you say something that annoys me, though.”

“Testament. We have received an interesting call.”

He reached into his pocket and pulled out a remote for the large screen.

He pressed a button and light filled the black screen.

“It is the boy named Sayama Mikoto who acts as Team Leviathan’s negotiator.”

With that, the head and shoulders of a boy appeared on the wall-sized screen.

The shot was from a slightly low angle. The boy wore a suit and lightly rocked his rocking chair in a dim but furnished room. A small yellow animal sat on his right shoulder and his left hand held a large glass filled with a yellow liquid.

He smiled and nodded while continuing to look down on them.

“I suppose I should say it is a pleasure to meet you, American UCAT.”

His calm voice caused all of the American UCAT members to tense up, but despite seeing that, the boy continued to gently rock his chair. He finally stopped that slight back and forth and opened his mouth.

“I am Sayama Mikoto, negotiator for Team Leviathan…and the man at the center of the universe.”

Odor reflexively shouted out and pointed at Sayama.

“Roger! Roger! Is this who we’ve been entrusting the world too all this time!? Thank god we have arrived to correct this! What is your opinion of this!?”

“Testament. To be entirely honest, it is a bit of a strange feeling.”

“Ha ha ha. People rarely understand true greatness when they first see it. There is nothing to be ashamed of.”

Sayama held up his glass and took a sip.

He let out a small sigh, held up the glass once more, and looked at them through it.

“The tolerant Sayama Empire will give one final chance to American UCAT for fighting so valiantly. Will you submit, cry, and bow down in apology or will you unconditionally surrender, strip naked, and fully prostrate yourselves?”

“Submit? Submit? Unconditionally surrender!? Which one of us are you imagining will be doing this!?”

“America of course. …But calm down. You are ruining my orange juice.”

Odor turned to Roger and silently pointed at Sayama. And he did it again.

Roger sighed and raised his palms toward Odor. He was telling the elderly man to remain silent. He then cleared his throat and crossed his arms.

“Negotiator Sayama, to help this run more smoothly, I would like for both sides to spell out their demands. How does that sound to you?”

“Oh? Do you really think you are in any position to negotiate with me?”

With his arms still crossed, Roger pointed his left hand down.

“We have Japanese UCAT Director Ooshiro Kazuo in our custody.”

“So?”

“M-Mikoto-kun! That statement could be interpreted in some pretty horrible ways!”

“Calm down, old man. Your interpretation is entirely correct. How clever of you.”

Roger saw Ooshiro pull his legs up on his chair and pretend to cry, but Roger did not groan or grow angry because this was within his expectations.

“We also have some other Team Leviathan members and general injured personnel under our control.”

“You are taking care of them, I assume. Normally, we would need to pay you for that service, but it appears American UCAT is currently lodging in Japanese UCAT. We can simply let those two expenses cancel each other out. How many nights are you planning to stay? If it is more than one, each additional two hours will mean an additional fee.”

“In that case, we will make up for it by providing services for those under our care.”

“An excellent solution.” Sayama placed his glass outside the screen and intertwined his fingers over his stomach. “Now, let me ask you this: what are your demands?”

Roger re-crossed his arms before answering.

“First, stop the Leviathan Road. Second, transfer authority for the Leviathan Road to the UCAT Alliance. Third, send all the Concept Cores possessed by Japanese UCAT to the UCAT Alliance. Fourth…” He threw his words at Sayama. “Turn the currently missing Heo Thunderson over to American UCAT. Those are our four demands.”


Roger watched Sayama on the screen.

The boy’s expression had not moved in the slightest as Roger had listed the demands.

However…

“I see. In other words, you are here to crush the Leviathan Road, aren’t you?”

“No, we will not crush it. We will restructure it so that it is safer and more acceptable than at present.”

“What proof do you have of this alleged safety?”

Roger glanced over at Odor and the elderly man nodded twice, so Roger pushed his glasses back up his nose and continued.

“Testament. Currently, American mechanical dragons are being stationed with all the American UCAT forces located in America’s bases in Japan. A total of forty-eight dragons have been sent. With the additional soldiers and personnel with special abilities also being sent, we estimate we can defend against an attack from a 3rd-Gear god of war or a 5th-Gear mechanical dragon.”

“So was that one of you that fought the black mechanical dragon last night?”

“Testament. That was Colonel Odor here. Although Japanese UCAT reinforcements eliminated the dragon before he could complete his interception.”

“I see.” Sayama nodded. “May I ask a question?”

“Testament.”

“Why do you wish to be given the girl named Heo Thunderson?”

Roger looked to Odor again and he once more nodded twice, so Roger reached his right hand into his pocket.

“Heo Thunderson has a past worthy of our attention. While still young, she and her mother were attacked by a dragon.”

“A dragon?”

“Testament. Mr. Richard Thunderson would not provide the details, but the evidence left behind was proof enough. The shape in the air seen at the scene, the footprints, and the metal pieces scattered about belonged to the large black 5th-Gear mechanical dragon known as Black Sun.”

“And what does that mean concerning Heo Thunderson?”

“Testament. There were two large mechanical dragons in 5th-Gear and American UCAT believes the hostile black one named Black Sun may be targeting the Thunderson family as the destroyers of 5th-Gear. The attack on Mr. Thunderson last night has more or less proven it.”

Sayama frowned slightly on the screen.

“In other words, it proved that American UCAT is justified in using the girl carrying Thunderson’s blood as bait to call in Black Sun and destroy it?”

“No. You are half wrong there, Negotiator Sayama. We will take in Heo Thunderson, but that is to ensure she is not left defenseless. The attack last night also proved that Black Sun will approach any 5th-Gear concept.” Roger pointed down with his left hand. “And half of 5th-Gear’s Concept Core is here. This place is the greatest bait of all. We will bring Heo Thunderson here to strengthen that bait, but as soon as Black Sun has been detected, we will quickly have her evacuated. She will be sent to an American city protected by UCAT where she can live the rest of her life in peace without having to fear an attack.”

“I see. So you have that much information.”

“We also know that the other half of 5th-Gear’s Concept Core is held by Black Sun, so you cannot use it as a bargaining chip. In fact, we know the identity of the weapon located below here.”

“I am sure my comrades who have escaped down there will also learn that, so it too would be worthless as a bargaining chip.”

“Testament.”

Roger admitted it with a bitter smile and bowed with his right hand still in his pocket.

Sayama then leaned forward on the screen.

“Neither of us can bargain using information on 5th-Gear, so let me ask again,” he said. “Why would you stop the Leviathan Road? Do not bother with your official reasons. Give me reasons with a clear basis. One of the Eight Great Dragon Kings developed this supposedly inviolable negotiation, so why would the likes of American UCAT attempt to stop it?”

This was the same question the girl named Sibyl had asked Odor before the battle on the surface had begun.

This time, Roger began his answer with “testament” and finally pulled his right hand from his pocket.

He pulled out an envelope which he held up before removing its contents. He produced a quickly-written handwritten text with a signature and seal at the end.

“This was given to us before Mr. Richard Thunderson travelled to Japan. First of all, it says that full authority over 5th-Gear was temporarily transferred from White Creation to Mr. Thunderson when 5th-Gear was destroyed.”

“Full authority? Do you have any proof of this?”

“Why do you think 5th-Gear’s Concept Core weapon was left with Japanese UCAT? The reason is written here and signed. Mr. Thunderson temporarily received that weapon from White Creation and requested to have it stored in Japanese UCAT until the time came to fight Black Sun once more.”

Roger spread out the letter.

“I doubt you can read it for yourself, but I will read the end of the letter for you. ‘If I, Richard Thunderson, die or go missing, I leave all authority I hold at the time to American UCAT. September 15, 2005.’ That is about a week before he left. Do you understand now?” asked Roger. “5th-Gear has no people, so even though Mr. Thunderson only received that full authority temporarily, he had no one to hand it back to. …But now that he has died, that full authority lies with us in American UCAT. And that means we can act on 5th-Gear’s behalf to decide whether they will accept the Leviathan Road or not.”


Roger refolded the letter and spoke to Sayama.

“Concepts can be used to determine the validity of this letter. At any rate, we will obey this letter which has become Mr. Richard Thunderson’s will by taking on full authority for 5th-Gear and rejecting the Leviathan Road as dangerous. You on the other hand…”

“Yes, tomorrow morning, I intend to carry out the Leviathan Road in the 4th-Gear reservation.”

Sayama remained expressionless as he answered and Roger placed the envelope back in his pocket.

“Are you saying you will not take our demands into account?”

“Please make no mistake here. The Leviathan Road with 4th-Gear has already begun and has mutual understanding between both parties. Will you really stop this after they have agreed and wish to begin? If that leads 4th-Gear to distrust Low-Gear, whose responsibility will it be?”

Roger gave a quick downward glance. The large greenhouse containing 4th-Gear’s residents was located on the fourth basement, so he looked to a member of the communication team looking into that.

“…”

But the man looked up at him and shook his head to say that area had been purged.

Roger gave a mental sigh and spoke only the fact he had just received.

“It is true we have no way of communicating with 4th-Gear at the moment.”

“In that case, you have no way of entering the 4th-Gear reservation. Other than intruding without permission, that is. Are you going to locate us and rush in to attack us?”

“Negotiator Sayama, what if we went to take you into our custody?”

“This hotel has excellent service. They apparently firmly eliminate any suspicious intruders. Also, let me introduce you to an interesting friend of mine.”

Sayama stood from his chair.

He returned after a few seconds and placed a travel bag on his lap once he sat back down. Everyone frowned when they saw the thick black bag.

However, he showed no sign of caring.

“This friend enjoys warm, stuffy places, so this room is too chilly for him.”

He opened the bag and something stood up from within with the sound of something striking the air.

It resembled a dog, but it had six legs and its long fur was actually narrow conifer leaves.

“This is someone who could be referred to as 4th-Gear itself.”


Roger saw the plant creature turn what seemed to be its face toward them through the screen.

Everyone around the consoles gulped and they heard the plant creature’s thoughts.

“Sayama. Cold.”

“Oh, my apologies. However, our hostile allies seem to want to say hello.”

At that, the creature raised its head from within the opened travel bag.

It had a blue philosopher’s stone hanging from its neck on a string. Roger guessed it was a weakened version of a 4th-Gear concept, but knowing that did not help.

He simply listened to the creature’s thought which took the form of a question.

“Allies?”

However, everyone was frozen in place more by the sight before them than by the question.

Finally, someone broke through the frozen atmosphere.

It was Odor who stood to Roger’s right.

He stepped forward and grabbed the metal railing of the bridge with both hands.

“How dare you!? How dare you!? You are imprisoning a resident of another Gear!!”

“Unfortunately, they have a collective consciousness. Even if a single individual is here, the remaining whole is elsewhere. The idea of imprisonment does not apply. If you wish to say it does, you must ignore their collective consciousness. Am I wrong?”

“Then… Then it is abduction!! You have abducted a portion of the collective consciousness!!”

Sayama let out a breath and peered down at the plant creature on his lap.

“What do you think?”

“Go with Sayama. Promise.”

He nodded twice at that and exaggeratedly pressed on the inner corners of his eyes.

“Did you hear that? I have approval. You could say we are best of friends.”

“Roger! Roger! Say something!”

“Colonel, to be completely honest, I have trouble with adlibbing.”

Nevertheless, Roger turned toward Sayama while the boy closed the plant creature back in the travel bag.

He saw the creature’s plant fur disappear into the gap.

“Negotiator Sayama, is this what you are trying to say? If anything happens to you, it will all be conveyed to 4th-Gear through that 4th-Gear resident’s shared consciousness?”

“Precisely. I decided the best way for them to learn what kind of person I am and whether I am trustworthy was to have them send someone along to observe me. Their ability to communicate via their collective consciousness is not all that strong, but this one can likely get through while so close to the reservation.”

“Testament. Then, Negotiator Sayama, we will provisionally approve of the Leviathan Road with 4th-Gear that is currently underway.”

“I assume there is a ‘but’ coming.”

“Testament. No matter how much you attempt to deny it, our demands are the demands of all UCATs and we have Mr. Thunderson’s will to support us. Do you have any way of denying that?”

“I would like to say no, but may I say one thing first?”

“Testament.”

Sayama lowered the travel bag from the chair and adjusted his position.

He gave one shallow rock of the chair before speaking.

“American UCAT has exposed Japanese UCAT’s lack of strength by trapping them underground and you have demanded the rights to the Concept Cores. In that case, I assume you will accept the demands of the victor if you are driven out by force. As a lesson to those like us who refused to obey, surely you would submit to those victors.”

“Do you really think that is possible?” asked Odor while grabbing the railing. “Do you really think you can defeat us?”

Sayama replied with a smile.

“The time for prostration draws nigh, gentlemen.”

“How dare you!? How dare you!?”

Odor’s shoulders swelled up with strength, but he was interrupted.

“I beat it!!!”

The shout came from down below. Roger looked down and saw an old man in a lab coat dancing on top of a console. The console’s screen displayed the missile game from before, but it now only showed the word “complete”. Ooshiro threw his hands into the air and spun around and around.

“I finally beat Sibyl-kun! This is my first victory over her!”

As soon as Ooshiro laughed and jumped down to the floor, Sayama reached his hand down and off the screen.

A hole opened in the floor where Ooshiro was about to land and he fell right on through. The floor immediately closed back.

“I am so very sorry you had to see that,” said Sayama.

“H-He got away! He got away! That boy assisted his escape, Roger!”

“No, colonel. I believe that was the proper decision.”

But just as Odor turned back to the screen, a new person walked into view from the right.

A girl was walking by behind the boy.

Her wet black hair was swept behind her bare shoulders and her chest on down were hidden behind a bath towel.

The men at the consoles let out voices of excitement.

Rather than continuing past Sayama, the girl turned toward him while in front of the bed behind him.

“Sayama-kun, what are you watching? A TV show?”

“Yes, you could call it an American group skit show. How was your bath?”

“I just had to wash away the sweat, so it didn’t take long. A-also, I want to wait until the hot spring to just sit and soak. …Will you join me there tonight?”

A stir came over the men down below and Odor frantically turned toward Roger.

“Roger! Roger! Are the Japanese youth really this sexually depraved!?”

“Testament. Forty percent of the child pornography on the internet is made in Japan while the Japanese only make up approximately two percent of the world population. Based on that, the child pornography rate of the Japanese is approximately twenty times the world standard and their child pornography potential index far exceeds that.”

“Dreadful! What a dreadful race!”

As Odor cried out, the girl on the screen spoke to Sayama.

“Um, but Sayama-kun? I haven’t actually changed yet even though it’s already 6:30.”

“Are you stuck that way now?”

The girl shook her head.

“I can feel the signs of it coming, so I think it was just delayed. I guess it’s like when you want to sneeze but aren’t quite there yet. I should change after a bit longer, but…do you think this might be it? When the body is active, does it wait for that to finish before it changes?”

“If so…”

“If we do that kind of thing while I’m Sadame…I might not change until it finishes. We haven’t tested it yet though, so it’s best not to think too much about it. Also…”

The girl sounded hesitant.

“Did I…really manage to do it?”

“You simply do not remember because you passed out. As I said before, it was not complete, but you did accomplish the early stages, Shinjou-kun. Would you like to see the handkerchief that proves it?”

“Eh?” She looked confused and she blushed. “Yes…you can give a detailed explanation later. And I might be so happy I cry, but I won’t mean it in a bad way, so support me.”

She gave a small smile.

“It’s strange. I disliked Setsu so much, and yet it’s started with him first.”

“Roger, Roger. Are they speaking in some kind of code!?”

“Testament. As far as I can tell, they may be discussing the functional state of some form of transforming weapon.”

“Hmm.”

Odor crossed his arms while the girl on the screen placed a bag on the bed.

The soft sound of something heavy crushing the blanket came from the speakers while Sayama nodded.

“If you are going to change, make it your clothes for going out. I would like to treat ourselves to a meal out in order to celebrate.”

“Sure. Just face that way, okay?”

“Very well.”

Sayama looked back toward the screen and Shinjou turned her back behind him.

He reached below the screen and red text appeared in the upper left corner. The text read, “The target camera has begun recording.”

“Roger, Roger. What is going on?”

“Testament. He has set the camera on his end to record what we are currently seeing.”

At that time, a cheer rose from the men at the consoles down below.

Roger looked up and saw Shinjou had just dropped the bath towel on the screen.

The dim light just barely illuminated the flowing line of her skin from shoulders to sides and waist to butt, but then she turned to the side and revealed her chest.

“Roger! Roger! What is this!? That is…a boy!!”

“Testament. If my knowledge is correct, Japan has long since been this way. As a part of their etiquette, the military commanders of the Sengoku period would hole up in isolated rooms, compete over their ability to properly hold a tea ceremony, and show off their tea sets.”

“I can’t believe it. I can’t believe Japan is that sort of country.”

On the screen, Shinjou began by placing a light brown garter around her waist and slowly putting on brown stockings one at a time.

“Ah…Nn. These really are tight. And doing this tickles.”

“Do you need help, Shinjou-kun?”

“No, no!! I can do it on my own! I love not troubling you with helping!”

As she forced a smile and stretched out her leg to put on the stocking, the men down below took various troubled poses and made a variety of different groans.

Could this be a psychological attack from Japanese UCAT?

As Roger wondered that, Shinjou stood up and put on some white panties.

She turned her back to the screen and pulled a bra from her bag.

“But Sayama-kun, what are you watching? It isn’t a dirty video, is it? Don’t do that. I don’t want you heading in too weird a direction.”

“Roger! Roger! Tell them to look in a mirror!”

“Ha ha ha. Shinjou-kun, this has gotten quite funny.”

“Really? Is it that funny a show?”

After putting on her bra, Shinjou put on a beige blouse and turned around.

She walked up next to Sayama with a puzzled look.

“…?”

She wrinkled her brow even further as she peered into the screen.

“Um, Sayama-kun? I won’t get mad, so will you listen to what I say here?”

She smiled and looked to Sayama.

“This looks a lot like Japanese UCAT’s new headquarters.”

“Ha ha ha. Funny, isn’t it, Shinjou-kun?”

Sayama’s laughter was followed by a metallic sound and the screen shaking. The camera footage made one final shake and then only showed the ceiling.

“Wh-what are you thinking, Sayama-kun!? You just let people see me naked and hear me talk about my first time! And why are a bunch of weird foreigners in the new headquarters!? Are they peeping toms!?”

“We are not! Tell him we are not, Roger!”

“Colonel, in this case, I believe we have no choice but to accept their opinion.”

“U-um, Sayama-kun? I don’t want anyone but you to see that! And what if a rumor that I’m an exhibitionist ends up all over the world!? Those countries don’t even censor anything!”

“Do not worry. I am the only one to record the footage, Shinjou-kun. I will keep you all to myself.”

“Don’t twist this in your favor!”

With the sound of shattering glass, the footage and sound from the large screen blacked out.

“…”

No one knew how to respond to the sudden disconnection.

Roger frowned, Odor did the same next to him, and the American UCAT members down below stood up from the consoles.

For a short time, they all took five or so breaths in the complete silence.

Afterwards, Roger spoke quietly as if to test the silence. He did so with a hand on his chin.

“It seems we are not going to get a satisfying conclusion here.”


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