Owari no Chronicle:Volume8 Chapter 13
Chapter 13: Mutual Words
Check on them
Even when you pass them by
Make it so you are looking to the other side of them
Two people were crouched down in a ten square meter room with a tatami mat floor.
The fluorescent light with a Japanese-style umbrella over it lit them from the ceiling as they stuck their heads into the bottom shelf of the closet.
“Harakawa, I’ve pulled out all the beer and laid out the futon.”
“And I’ve put up the curtain, Heo.”
Heo crawled out of the closet wearing boy’s pajamas. She sat down, clapped her hands, and waited for Harakawa to crawl out and sit next to her.
He was still wearing his outdoor clothes and he held some extra curtain clips as he crawled out. He sat cross-legged and looked toward the short curtain that now blocked off the bottom of the closet.
“This looks really cheaply done.”
“B-but it’s where I’m going to sleep.”
“Then the lodging and dinner fare will be equally cheap, Heo Thunderson.”
She shrank down in dejection, looked at him, and lowered her shoulders.
“I’m sorry, but if I’m alone, I’ll remember all the horrible things and get too scared.”
“I’ll agree with you that this isn’t normal. I gave you the option of going to the police or IAI.”
“But this isn’t enough to warrant that.”
“But it’s apparently enough to interrupt my life. Don’t forget that, Heo.”
It took her several seconds to respond with “I won’t.”
He turned around and found her head lowered.
“And did you not think about the possibility that I would attack you?”
“I can trust you.”
She raised her head and lightly held her body as if to protect it, but she looked him in the eye.
“You’re, um, well…”
As her words trailed off, he jerked his chin forward.
“Just say it. I won’t get mad.”
“Y-you’re already mad.”
He sighed. Why is she so hard to speak with? he wondered while leaning down and dragging over the table they had used for dinner. He rested his elbows on it to support himself.
“I’ll say it first, so listen. What would you do if I did something to you? The trains are still running and the business hotel’s front desk will still be open, so let me give you a chance to rethink this. You’re staying in some strange guy’s house, so what if something happened to you? Heo, this is more than being afraid. It could traumatize you for life.”
“But I don’t think you would do something like that.”
“How can you be sure?”
“Do you want to force me to do that kind of thing?” She tilted her head. “If so, you could have done it when I was in the bath earlier. Or when I was making dinner or when we were cleaning out the closet. You’ve had plenty of chances already.”
“What if I suddenly give into temptation? Or what if I’m oddly methodical and I’ve decided to wait until some kind of gauge reaches its peak at one in the morning? I could be saying all this to get you to trust me.”
“But then anywhere would be the same.” She shook her head and lowered the ends of her eyebrows. “If I stay in the hotel alone, someone could open the lock and enter my room. Not to mention if I get thirsty in the night and head to the hotel store or when I leave my room in the morning. Everything becomes suspicious. I will doubt myself, but with others…”
She trailed off there and sighed after some time of silence had passed.
She then gave a smile. She closed her eyes and lowered the ends of her eyebrows as she did so.
“And if you were really plotting something, wouldn’t you normally try to make me feel at ease? Why would you keep acting like you’re a potential criminal?”
“By saying that up front, I can escape responsibility. If I tell you I’m a bad person, it’s your fault for staying with me.”
“Then you’re a bad person that will attack me if I stay here?” asked Heo while opening her eyes. “In that case, running would be meaningless. You could attack me now, while I’m changing before heading to the hotel, while you take me to the hotel on your motorcycle, or tomorrow when you’re taking me to the cemetery.”
She gave a small awkward smile.
“In that case, I can only ask you to do it now if you’re going to. All of the bad things in my past came suddenly and I was told to run away.”
She looked around the room and spotted the closed window and door.
“But if you do it now, I’m ready and I can’t run away.”
She took in a breath, fixed her collar as if she had decided something, and turned so she sat facing him. She then leaned forward and placed her hands on the floor.
“Just get to sleep!!” shouted Harakawa from the gut.
Harakawa mentally clicked his tongue.
The part of him that had made him shout out brought a curse to mind.
…What a terrible feeling.
His shout had surprised Heo into sitting up straight and the look on her face made him want to say something.
…Yeah, what a truly terrible feeling.
…I’m causing it as much as she is.
“U-um… Can I spend the night here?”
“I’ve given up.”
…Don’t smile like that, you idiot.
He pointed toward the closet and she flipped up the curtain with the lithe movements of a cat. She switched on the lamp placed in the back and turned toward him.
“Um, are you sure you want to leave your cell phone in here?”
“If you press the address book button, the top entry is the police. If you can’t trust me anymore, call them.”
She laughed bitterly and narrowed her eyes.
“That would only be if I doubted you.”
She then peered further in.
“Can I ask something else?”
He knew what she was trying to say.
“You mean the bookshelf?”
“Yes. Can I read something until I fall asleep? U-unless it’s full of books meant for boys…”
“All of those are with an underclassman, so don’t worry. The ones in there are all meaningless novels.”
“No, these are the classics, aren’t they? I recognize some of the titles when I translate them into English.”
“Are you surprised?”
That response brought movement to Harakawa’s eyebrows. Beyond the pajama-covered butt sticking out of the closet, Heo was looking at the bookshelf.
“I’m not a fortune teller, so everything about others is unexpected. But that’s exactly why I view anything I found out about them as normal.”
“Are there unexpected things about you?”
It was a cheerful question and he was expecting her to tell him about an interest of hers or something she liked.
“That isn’t possible.”
For a quick moment, she turned a resigned smile toward him from the closet, but she changed the subject immediately afterwards.
“Oh, this is Golinger’s Catch Them in the Rye. We were reading it at my previous school, but I didn’t finish it before transferring away. I’ll borrow this one, okay?”
Brightness filled her voice and she moved beyond the curtain.
She closed the curtain to cut off their view of each other and Harakawa finally relaxed his shoulders.
“I’m turning out the lights.”
“Eh? I’ll be up a while longer with the lamp in here, so you don’t need to hurry.”
“Would you rather leave the closet and turn off the lights once you start feeling sleepy? I have a work light out here, so I’ll be fine. Or should I close the closet door to make it darker in there?”
“No, that sounds too claustrophobic.”
“That settles it.”
Harakawa stood up and turned out the lights.
He heard the rustling of clothes in the closet as she lay down. He pulled a memory headphone stereo from his own clothes and removed the headphones.
He plugged them into the TV, put on just one ear of the headphones, and turned on the sports news. He listened to the baseball commentary with one ear while listening to Heo turn the pages with the other.
…The sound of someone else turning the pages, hm?
He found it somehow nostalgic as he rested his elbows on the table and looked to the TV.
He then heard a voice.
“What is it, Heo Thunderson?”
“Thank you very much. I just felt I had to say that before going to sleep.”
“I’m not sure what you’re talking about.”
He received silence in return, but he thought that was fine.
…Words don’t get through to her anyway.
He began to wonder why and found the answer almost instantly.
…Because we’re opposites.
They had both lost at least one parent and mostly lived alone.
However, something in Heo’s past had made her doubt herself and that anxiety had apparently led to repeatedly transferring between schools. From what he had heard in the morning and during dinner, something had killed her mother.
…A demon, huh?
He had his doubts about the giant footprints and fragments of metal, but even if it was some kind of trick, the fact remained that someone had died. Various rumors had followed Heo around and that suspicion and misunderstanding had spread regardless of the facts.
However, Heo tried to trust others despite doubting herself due to the supposed demon.
…And then there’s me.
He could only think of opposites there and he brushed his hands through his hair with his elbows still on the table.
…What a terrible feeling.
He repeated the same thought as earlier and there was something that bothered him.
It was one quick answer from their previous conversation.
…That isn’t possible, hm?
And back at the school, she had stopped partway through running down the track.
“It’s impossible for her…”
He heard a voice and mentally clicked his tongue.
“Just talking about the baseball game. A new team called the Kemco Stars is playing and I was complaining that their main hitter, Bombuzal, hasn’t gotten any hits yet. Sorry.”
“Were you really?”
“Heo, are you doubting that I’m a fan of the Kemco Stars?”
“N-no, that’s your choice. I’m a fan of the New York Yankee Go Homes, but, um…”
The question arrived.
“Did something bother you?”
That made him gulp, which kept him from immediately speaking and let him think instead.
It was true he had also blamed himself for the terrible feeling that Heo bowing down had caused him, but…
“No, I’m fine. You worry too much.”
As he replied, he managed to get a grasp on the terrible feeling within him.
He only managed to do so when thinking about her and himself along with the phrase “that isn’t possible”.
He didn’t know what this was leading him to, but he could tell it was related to his current situation and he could feel himself getting closer to understanding it.
But then he stopped thinking. His current life was built atop his current situation and changing that just because of a sense of dissatisfaction or a “terrible feeling” felt like it would prevent him from continuing this lifestyle.
…And I need to make enough money to cover my mom’s hospital bills.
He may have seen something of himself in Heo, but she would most likely return to her normal life the following day. Her connection to him would vanish and he would return to his normal life as well.
In that case, he saw no reason to expose this slight dissatisfaction.
…I’m happiest the way I am.
That was called looking to the future.
As he thought, his gaze stopped in one corner of the room. The beer cans that had been in the closet were there. He got up, moved around the table, grabbed one, and opened it with the sound of carbonation.
The closet was now to his left and he heard Heo speak from the lit area beyond the curtain.
He got up on one knee as he responded.
“What is it, Heo Thunderson? Is it about the book? Have you figured out the identity of the spy who made the crop circle in the rye to contact the Soviet satellite?”
“No, but I think he’s the crewmember of the glowing object that flew through the eastern sky. …But that isn’t what I wanted to say. Um, does beer taste good?”
“No, it doesn’t. But does it feel good when you run, Heo Thunderson?”
He heard the rustling of clothes and assumed she was sitting up.
Weren’t you trying to get to sleep? he thought with a frown.
“Running is exhausting…but it feels good.”
“That sounds like you’re coming out as a masochist, Heo Thunderson. But it’s the same thing here. It’s the accomplishment that’s…”
He trailed off there.
…That isn’t something to say when I never do anything myself.
“Um, Harakawa? I’m sorry.”
“I have no idea what you’re talking about, Heo Thunderson.”
She remained silent but produced more rustling of clothes as she lay back down.
Harakawa lowered his shoulders in a small sigh and looked toward the curtain.
He saw Heo there, but not directly. The light of the lamp set up in the back of the closet projected her silhouette on the light yellow curtain.
She was crouching low and she brought a hand to her chest.
And she opened the collar to remove it from her shoulders.
Her shadowy silhouette now showed the lines of her body from the shoulders down.
The shadow Heo then stretched her legs to the side and slowly pulled down what covered her legs so as not to make any noise. However, she lost her balance.
Harakawa used her voice as a starting point.
“What is it, Heo Thunderson?”
“Oh, nothing. I was just preparing for bed.”
…Is she the type that sleeps in the nude?
There were a lot like that on the base, so he guessed there were also a lot back in their country.
So as not to intrude, he stood up with the beer in hand, turned off the TV, and removed the headphones.
“Um, where are you going?”
“To work on my motorcycle. I’ll keep the door open as I work, so call out if you need something. Also, Japan can get pretty chilly at the beginning of fall, so try not to catch a cold because you’re naked.”
“Oh, thanks. …You can see me!?”
He walked to the front door without responding.
He heard the curtain move a little behind him and assumed she was poking her head out.
…What a strange girl.
With that thought, he opened the door and took a step outside.
Out there, he found the night and saw the moon in the sky.
A certain place was almost completely dark.
It was an underground space that did not let in any outside light. It was a large area and the concrete floor lined with countless containers covered at least three hundred square meters. The western, southern, and northern walls contained metal shields much like ribs and those ribs supported the ceiling about fifty meters up.
The eastern wall was separated from the floor, the ceiling, and the other walls and only a giant pit existed there.
The flow of air created in that hole slowly washed over the dark area.
The floor with only three walls was lit by bluish-white reserve lights with long gaps between them. Much like scattered streetlights, they placed light below them and did little else to combat the darkness.
However, those were not the only lights.
At the northwest corner, light filled the twenty meter space between the containers and the walls.
They were indoor lights including fluorescents and incandescents. There were a great number of them and they pointed in countless directions. The area they illuminated continued for two hundred meters along the wall.
Many people filled that area of light and they were performing various kinds of work.
Those closest to the corner had medical duty. The injured were placed on top of a few simple medical beds made from sheets and a short woman gave instructions to four old men and the other medical staff.
“Listen. When applying healing charms, pay attention to where their joints are. It’s easy to forget when you’re in a hurry. Also, prepare a treatment space behind that container for the women!”
As the others moved around, those who had already received treatment lay on sleeping bags and air mattresses in place of beds, sat around, or played handheld games together.
“Ha ha ha. That Pikachew you raised is mine now! The bullet wound on my leg is throbbing, but I’m on my way to catching ‘em all!! You were careless to challenge me with an old non-backlit model!”
“Is that why you asked me to fight!?”
“Shut up both of you. I had to fight after the night shift, so let me sleep.”
Next to the injured, the evacuated engineers set up a space for themselves and their equipment and spoke with their superiors to gather together the data from the battle and to adjust the schedules for their normal work. Most of them used the power sources on the wall to boot up the computers they had brought with them and then connected to the LAN. A lot of them managed to restart their work and one of them spoke up.
“So even after all this, we still have to work.”
“Well, the field operation guys worked to protect us, so now it’s our turn to work and recover from this. If you’ve got some spare time, help out over there.”
The man in the lab coat pointed toward the food area to the east of the evacuees. A long table meant for meetings had a large pot and buckets lined up on it. Beyond the table were the cafeteria chief and Ooki.
“Hi, everyone. I made food for you all today. Make sure you eat lots and lots. It’s a stew with a chocolate and pork bone broth and I got so carried away I added in beans, beef, and avocado. Something sweet is good when you’re tired, so I had some cream put on top too. It’s delicious from a calorie perspective.”
“One quick question. Is it delicious from a flavor perspective?”
“I don’t like people who ask that kind of question.”
Meanwhile, a few people were gathered by the wall near the giant pit.
“Okay, I’ve rigged it so cell phones can get out using this emergency phone’s line. I can send my video camera footage too.”
A young man in a lab coat looked up. He had removed the emergency phone from the wall and had attached some of its cords to his laptop and a wireless receiver.
“The Americans are jamming cell phones and other kinds of wireless signals up above, but now we’re using the same line as them and can even tap into their communications.”
“Try it out, Manager Kashima,” said a girl in a white armored uniform behind him.
Kashima nodded toward the girl who carried a large white spear, pulled his cell phone from his pocket, and pressed the button.
A red light appeared on the wireless receiver, but it soon turned green.
“Good. It’s getting through. …Natsu-san? Yes, I’m sorry, but I won’t be able to make it home from work today. …Yes, I have to deal with some foreign guests. Tomorrow might be the same too. …You’re going to my parents’ place to help harvest the rice? Ha ha ha. You sure are a hard worker. …Yes, yes. No need to worry about the people glaring at me from behind. Bye.”
“Kaku, you aren’t allowed to turn into someone like him. Got it?”
“Don’t worry, Chisato. I’ll make sure I’m always right by your side.”
“Yes, yes, yes.” Kazami gave a bitter smile and looked around. “Only Manager Kashima and Hiba, hm? Sibyl is being healed while Director Abram and Director Tsukuyomi are helping coordinate, right? We hurried back using the safe route through the disguised sewer, but there isn’t much for us to do.”
“That’s because we’re front line fighters. That more or less means we run combat-related errands. On the other hand, the others are specialists.”
Izumo’s comment brought Kazami’s gaze down to her right hand that held G-Sp2 which she had produced from a container on this floor. Izumo had similarly changed into an armored uniform and collected V-Sw. She then turned to Hiba.
“Why isn’t Mikage with you?”
His gaze, eyebrows, and shoulders all drooped.
“I went to school for my attendance and then came to UCAT for some target practice in the god of war. After that, Mikage-san said she was still tired because of the fight last night, so she went to take a nap.”
“So why aren’t you with her? And I thought the automatons had the nap room evacuated.”
“I went to the cafeteria to get her a light snack for when she woke up. Anyway, she has a way of sleeping in places other than the bed, much like a cat. It could be in the curtains or on the floor. My guess is she ended up under the bed and the automaton that checked on the room didn’t see her.”
“What a wild girl.”
“No, that’s just another thing that makes her so cute. Every morning I get to search around to see where she-… Why are you all walking away from me!?”
Kazami and Kashima exchanged glance and Kashima whispered with a frown.
“Seeing someone as young as him get so caught up in self-satisfaction is honestly kind of creepy.”
“Manager Kashima, this is a good time for you to look in a mirror, so wait for me to go get one. More importantly…”
Kazami placed her empty hand on her hip and looked up toward the dark ceiling.
“Is the barrier up above going to hold?”
“Some of the development department is in the attic area strengthening its defenses. They’re placing a few different kinds of conceptual barrier, so it’s really just a stalling method. And I’m not sure how long it will last if American UCAT goes all out. My best guess is we have about two days.”
It was Izumo who answered that question with a cruel smile.
“Today, they’ll celebrate their successful takeover, but tomorrow, the other UCATs will ask them if they have the Concept Cores yet. They can fill tomorrow by saying they’re making preparations, but that excuse will be revealed as a lie if they don’t break in the day after that. That’s probably it.”
“Well, we’re here now, so I hope you can relax a little more,” said Kazami with a small smile.
…But we’re up against mechanical dragons in the double digits.
“This isn’t going to be easy.”
“Then we just have to bring out the third forms,” said Izumo.
She looked up at him and found him pointing at G-Sp2.
“Team Leviathan’s weapons were made to tear into dragons after all.”
“I’ll do my best.”
Kazami smiled at the message on G-Sp2’s LCD display.
Just as she nodded, Kashima spoke up while typing on his laptop.
“I’ve connected to the Nagasaki UCAT in Kyushu with that phone. We can speak with them now.”
“Can we contact Sayama?”
He gave a slight smile and walked toward the containers with his video camera in one hand.
Kazami followed him and realized the floor was less level than she expected.
That was because a few thick guiderails were embedded in the floor.
Containers on pallets would be sent on those rails under computer control and taken by the lift on the wall to the arrival and departure zone to the side of the runway.
“So this is what G-Sp2 is always carried on.”
“It’s fun,” said the weapon.
Is it? she wondered with a tilt of the head.
“Now then,” said Kashima as he stopped ahead of her, turned around, and pulled out his cell phone. “Is this Sayama-kun? …I am glad to hear you managed to get some dinner. Can you see the video? Yes, the wireless receiver is broken and might cause some static, but can you see well enough? I’ll take that as a yes.”
Kazami raised a hand toward Kashima’s camera when he turned it toward her, but she viewed it as greeting Shinjou rather than Sayama.
“Manager Kashima, why did you move over here?”
“Because there is something I want to show you. It’s related to 5th-Gear.”
He turned toward the containers to his left.
Among them was a single object much larger than the containers.
“No. But it is forty-five meters long, so it would require eighteen of the rail lifts and need to be rotated vertically partway up.”
It looked like a long sword colored blue and white. It was sitting on a large pallet and it was indeed almost forty-five meters long, but it was not even ten meters tall. Some areas were higher than others, but it was overall about five meters tall. The tallest protrusion at the back was closer to seven meters.
It vaguely reminded Kazami of a generally sharp dragon lying down.
She then realized it was a fusion of two different objects.
“Is that a long cannon and a dragon stretching out?”
“The pallet has the name written on it: Vesper Cannon. This is my first time to see it, but it is apparently the weapon containing half of 5th-Gear’s Concept Core.”
Kazami gulped and Izumo and Hiba both stopped moving.
“Is this…?” began Hiba, but he did not continue.
After looking up at and across the giant cannon, Kazami realized no words were necessary.
…How do you use something so big? Not to mention…
The Vesper Cannon before her eyes was much larger than the one in the past Baku had shown her.
Just as she tilted her head in confusion, she heard a voice from the darkness beyond the cannon.
“Now this is something I haven’t seen in a while.”
She recognized the voice.
That was who she saw on top of the Vesper Cannon.
“Why are you up there, Doctor Chao? Are you trying to show off?”
“Shut up. I’ve got a short break from work and you want to climb things to work off some stress at my age. More importantly, this is good timing to come across this thing.”
“I’m not exactly a replacement, but since that idiot Thunderson is dead, how about I tell you a bit about this. And since I’m not very nice, I’ll leave out the best parts.”
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