Owari no Chronicle:Volume8 Chapter 14
Chapter 14: Shadow of Fate
All things have aspects that cannot be seen
They cannot be seen by people
They cannot be seen by time
There were stars.
The night sky was an expanse of scattered stars visible through the night clouds floating in front of them.
Looking down showed a similar scene.
That scene was a city nightscape.
Both of those lights were visible from a certain spot in the mountains of Okutama in west Tokyo.
UCAT’s disguised transport control building stood six stories aboveground, so the earth and sky were both visible from the roof’s edge.
A man’s voice could be heard before those lights.
“The lights on the surface look farther away to me. …How do they look to you, Sf?”
“Tes. It does not look that way at all to me. I have determined you are experiencing an optical illusion, Itaru-sama.”
Even though it was night, a beach parasol and a long chair were located on the western edge of the roof. Ooshiro Itaru sat in the chair while wearing a black suit and he raised both hands after Sf spoke next to him.
“An optical illusion, is it? It’s wonderful how accurate your mechanical decisions are.”
“Tes. Unparalleled accuracy is the motto of the German UCAT automaton.”
“Then prove your unparalleled accuracy by getting a headshot on the American UCAT soldiers guarding the roof entrance and wandering around down below. That should cause a commotion.”
“Tes. Unfortunately, I do not possess a firearm. When we were taken into custody, I followed your advice and handed them over.”
“Oh? Well, you can’t exactly prove your unparalleled accuracy like this. I guess I can’t see just how accurate German UCAT can be. How unfortunate.”
“Tes,” replied Sf with a bow.
She then reached into her pocket and pulled out a small object that resembled a watch.
“What is that, Sf?”
“Tes. It is the IAI boy’s love pedometer named Manzou-kun.”
“Is that all?”
“Tes. Do not worry. I have modified it so it is wirelessly linked to the explosives embedded in the firearms I handed over earlier. Once your daily number of steps reaches ten thousand, a transmission powerful enough to break through their jamming will send the detonation signal and demonstrate German UCAT’s accuracy. …I believe seven more steps are needed.”
“Wait, you stupid machine. Are you saying I can’t walk anymore today?”
“No, you can still walk. This simply means German UCAT’s accuracy will be demonstrated on the seventh step. And you may continue walking afterwards with no issue. The world will continue on just fine. Also, my predictions say you will shed tears of praise for me and send an email filled with deep emotion to German UCAT. Now, how about giving it a try?”
“I think you mean I’ll shed tears of grief and send an email of protest to German UCAT, you stupid machine.”
With that, Itaru sank down in the chair.
However, he continued looking at Sf.
As she stood next to him, she stared down below.
“American UCAT is camping on the runway,” he said. “As a German machine, does it look like an American occupation army to you?”
“They are not an army. I have determined UCATs are a type of vigilante organization.”
“Is that so, is that so? So vigilante organizations are giving automatons flashy guns and explosives these days.”
“Tes. That is standard equipment. If you wish for additional equipment, please send a request to German UCAT. A traffic safety firearm campaign is currently running, so the first one to enter will win the common weapon known as a personal anti-tank railgun.”
“The first one to enter? I’m pretty sure I’m the only one who could possibly enter.”
“No, there is one other. And that would be me. Surprised?”
“Oh, wow. How surprising. …Wait! Don’t tell me you entered!”
“No, it is unfortunately against the rules to enter into more than one contest.”
“I see, I see. That’s very good to hear. …What else did you enter!?”
Sf tilted her head at his shouted question.
“Itaru-sama, your blood pressure is rising for some reason. I have determined you need to calm down. Also, I exist solely for you. I was created to not cause any trouble, interruption, unhappiness, interference, worries, or disrespect for you, so rest easy, breathe a sigh of relief, and feel grateful.”
“Then let me use all my self-control and gratitude to ask you this: how well do you think you have carried out that duty?”
“Tes. I have determined I will have done enough as long as I remain by your side. As long as I continue doing that, I will be fulfilling my raison d'être.”
“And if I don’t like it?”
“Tes. Earlier today, you corrected my words to this: they may complain, but they actually like you.”
“Wow. I must really, really love you.”
“Tes. I have recorded that statement in my brain’s storage space. Once this commotion is dealt with, I will send the audio data to German UCAT.”
“Don’t, you selfish machine.”
“Tes. I will not send out this data. It has been successfully saved in my storage space. Thank you for helping me expand my library of data.”
She gave a quick bow and he sighed.
She then looked down once more, but he could not see anything from his chair.
“Are you concerned about American UCAT? Or is it the pathetic ones hiding down below?”
“Tes. I have determined the Americans are more confusing by a margin of a few percentage points.”
“Out with it.”
Sf lowered her head slightly but did not change the direction of her gaze.
“Why did American UCAT occupy Japanese UCAT?”
“You already know the answer, don’t you?”
“Tes. Then let me give my guess. American UCAT’s main force seems to be their mechanical dragons, so I suspect they wish to carry out the Leviathan Road with 5th-Gear using those dragons. They will negotiate through battle.”
“And what is their motive?”
Sf moved her right hand in response. She accurately raised it to shoulder height and extended it such that her index finger pointed to the east.
“Tes. Their motive is likely the same as in that cemetery. It is the same imagination that leads humans to make graves.”
“Is that so?” Itaru sat up in the chair and brushed a hand through his white hair. “You’re more or less right there, as ridiculous as it is.”
He reached for the metal cane leaning against the chair and tossed it to Sf.
She thrust out her left hand to catch the metal pole flying through the darkness. Without losing any momentum, she used her fingers and wrist to skillfully rotate the cane around like a windmill.
She placed it on the floor to the right of him.
The sharp sound of it striking the concrete caused the American UCAT soldiers guarding the roof to turn around. However, he took the cane regardless and stood from the chair.
“I don’t know all the details myself, but let’s try to increase your knowledge.”
“Tes. Are you referring to the discussion about American UCAT?’
“Yes. I’m talking about why they are so fixated on 5th-Gear.”
Just as Itaru took a step toward the edge of the roof, a young man’s voice reached him from behind.
“Didn’t someone tell us it was best to avoid revealing too much about the past?”
“Those were the words of the one who was always lecturing us, Roger Sully.”
Itaru turned around and found a young man in a brown suit at the entrance to the roof. His blond hair was slicked back and he pushed his glasses up his nose.
“With Diana here too, this feels like a reunion. She is currently sleeping in the beauty salon, but for now I can speak with the Leviathan Road’s supervisor about American UCAT’s situation.”
He walked forward and looked up in the sky.
“We can discuss the truth about the past that Mr. Richard Thunderson revealed to us before leaving the United States.”
Sayama and Shinjou faced the transmission monitor in their hotel room.
The room was dark because the footage on the monitor was dark.
The monitor resembled a fourteen inch television and it was placed against the wall on a side table. The footage on its screen came from Kashima’s camera underneath UCAT.
A white and blue cannon was visible in the darkness.
Chao stood on top of it, so they could tell just how large it was. It was easily over forty meters.
From the top of the cannon, Chao spoke while walking toward the muzzle.
“Anyway, before the Allied UCAT arrived at the National Defense Department, they had captured a single mechanical dragon. Due to the Divine States-World Interaction Theory, the ley line modifications had connected 5th-Gear to Hokkaido. From what I heard, an airplane-like machine launched to Hokkaido’s northern coast was collected by Sayama Kaoru because he was free at the time.”
Shinjou realized Sayama was holding his suit at the left side of his chest as he watched the monitor.
She sat to his left while wearing what she had worn to dinner.
Before leaving for the meal, her body had changed to Sadame’s about forty minutes later than usual.
That was why she wore girl’s clothing, but she pressed against Sayama’s left shoulder without worrying about the wrinkles it would make.
Just after the transmission had arrived, he had told the others what he had discussed with Roger.
American UCAT’s reason and foundation for stopping the Leviathan Road was the will that said all of Richard Thunderson’s authority transferred to American UCAT upon his death and that included full authority over 5th-Gear.
The others gulped in understanding of what that meant, but he had spoken up regardless.
“I will deal with it somehow. The Leviathan Road is mine, after all.”
The others had sworn to do whatever they could to help and he had nodded.
Currently, they were listening to Chao talk about the past.
“Back then, the National Defense Department – along with Siegfried’s research – was investigating the existence of the different Gears and how to produce the gates. After retrieving a mechanical dragon from a foreign Gear, they naturally attempted to analyze it, but they were unable to remove any of its components no matter how hard they tried and they were unable to restart it. Even when they climbed into the cockpit, the supposed controls did nothing. …Why do you think that was?”
Kazami spoke from outside the screen.
“Was it broken?”
“I said they captured it, didn’t I? It didn’t look broken and it indeed wasn’t.”
“Then,” said Shinjou while sensing Sayama turning toward her.
…Will my voice get through?
With that thought, she asked her question.
“Then was it out of fuel? Or was it not in the right concept?”
“Not quite, Shinjou. …That was Shinjou, wasn’t it?”
“Yes, Doctor Chao.”
“I thought so. …From what Sayama told me, it was Shinjou who figured out why the machine wasn’t working despite not looking broken. Shinjou Kaname, that is.”
That name caused Shinjou to shrink down.
…The Shinjou from the National Defense Department?
She tilted her head at the name that might or might not be related to her. Chao then arrived at the muzzle end and looked down from there.
“It was simple. The machine’s cockpit was empty when it fell from 5th-Gear, so Shinjou Kaname concluded that the machine was alive.” She took a breath. “He said the machine had put itself to sleep which kept any of the components from moving and rejected any input from the controls. And so he decided it needed to be returned to 5th-Gear.”
“Yes. If it was indeed alive, their investigation was nothing more than searching over his body without his permission. That was why they tried to move the machine back to the crash site in Hokkaido.” Chao raised both her hands to shoulder height. “But when the machine opened the concept space gate, it connected to the scene of a concept battle between 5th-Gear and 9th-Gear. Sayama Kaoru, Siegfried, and the others there were caught up in the battle, but the machine suddenly began to move and it protected them.”
“Was that machine named Xolotl 3?”
“Oh? I’m impressed you know that. …The concept space closed and he was once more unable to return. But by that time, the National Defense Department had managed to replicate a weakened form of a few 5th-Gear concepts and language concepts, so Sayama Kaoru returned Xolotl 3 to the National Defense Department and attempted to speak with him.”
At that point, a left hand rose on the screen.
It was Hiba’s.
When he entered the screen, Shinjou spoke her honest thoughts.
“Oh, you were there, Ryuuji-kun?”
“Waaah! I guess I don’t stand out much compared to all these demonic upperclassmen, do I!?”
The sounds of someone cracking their knuckles came from the right of the screen and Hiba’s voice dropped in tone.
“Um,” he began. “I heard the National Defense Department discovered the Concept War when my grandfather and Siegfried-san were fighting over who destroyed a ley line modification facility. I believe corpses and wreckage from those defeated in a concept battle fell in front of them.”
“Yes, that’s right. What about it?”
“Well, does that mean the first actual contact with a resident of another Gear was with that mechanical dragon?”
Izumo clapped his hands together off screen.
“Yeah, that’s what I was going to say. Well said, Hiba. I think I’ll nickname you Mini-Me.”
“Ha ha ha. I don’t think so, Izumo-san. That would make it sound like I’m even remotely like you.”
“They’re a little alike. Kind of like Hiba-kun is the caterpillar and Izumo-san is the butterfly. Right, Sayama-kun?”
“An excellent description, Shinjou-kun. That process is technically known as a metamorphosis and in this case it would be a perverted metamorphosis.”
“Oh, so Ryuuji-kun is the pre-perversion Izumo-san and Izumo-san is the post-perversion Izumo-san?”
“Okay, you two! That’s enough whispering commentary!”
Shinjou tilted her head at Hiba’s shout.
She felt like a lot of things had started making sense.
“I have nothing more to say,” she said. “I think we summed it up pretty well.”
“I have a feeling you’re making a rather large misunderstanding,” replied Hiba with doubt in his eyes.
However, the next person to speak was not replying to him.
It was Sayama and his emotionless voice was directed at Chao in the slightly-staticky footage.
“Doctor Chao, that first contact did not initially go very well, did it?”
“Oh? How do you know that?”
“That is simple. When we visited Kanda before, we were shown the past at the guidance of a kind automaton. There, we saw Hiba-sensei, the Ooshiro father who is actually a decent person, and Cronus of 3rd-Gear.”
Hiba turned toward him at the mention of his grandfather.
Shinjou noted the serious look in the boy’s eyes while Sayama continued.
“They mentioned that Mikage-kun’s birth gave Miss Rhea a desire to help Low-Gear and she had the mechanical dragon named Xolotl 3 open a path to 5th-Gear.”
He reached out his left hand to the center of the screen and tapped the cannon with his index finger.
“He must have been wary of the National Defense Department.”
“He was,” replied Chao. “From what I hear, the mechanical dragon only gave the name Xolotl 3 and refused to say anything about 5th-Gear. I think that was in March of 1941. But when he was shown the god of war wreckage and other things they had retrieved, Xolotl 3 gave a few pieces of information and was shocked to find Low-Gear knew nothing of the Concept War.”
“And then along came Miss Rhea?”
“Yes,” confirmed Chao. She sat on the muzzle end with her legs dangling down and her head resting on her arms. “That was in July of 1941. Mikage’s conception was detected from Rhea’s physical condition in July of the following year and that led her to contact Xolotl 3. I believe a group photo of the National Defense Department was taken around that time. Have you seen it? It would probably be pretty faded by now, though.”
“Oh… Is that the one in the Kinugasa Library?” asked Shinjou.
“Yeah, if it exists, it’d be pretty old. There should be one of us in the old UCAT days as well. But anyway…”
At Sayama’s question, Chao pulled a cigarette from her pocket and placed it in her mouth.
“Four years before we arrived, the National Defense Department went farther than anyone else. It’s a painful fact both for my home country and for the United States,” she said. “Talking about this really takes me back. So much surprised me back then. I couldn’t believe that Rhea’s pregnancy lasted several years and there were plenty of ridiculous commotions after that as well. It’s all so nostalgic.”
The night sky was visible up above.
However, that vast expanse was cut off in every direction by trees.
This was a clearing surrounded by forest and two people stood there.
One was a short old man and the other was a tall old man.
The tall bald one spoke to the short one with a questioning tone in his voice.
“Has American UCAT finally made their move, Hiba Ryuutetsu? That country has a way of mistaking pride and reputation for justice and then obsessing over them.”
“Don’t say that, Siegfried. I know all too well how grudges and regret can put things in motion.”
Near the forest to the west was a stump.
Ryuutetsu sat on that stump in pajamas and sandals and he looked up at Siegfried.
“Don’t you sit down too. Two old men sitting together like pals would be a little too creepy.”
“I have yet to age so much that I must sit,” replied Siegfried.
Ryuutetsu tilted his head and carefully observed Siegfried’s face from below as if looking up into the forest and sky.
“The hell did you just say? Do you want to settle what we started seventy years ago?”
“What are you talking about? That was precisely sixty-eight years ago and it was my win even if we never managed to finish.”
“I clearly had that one in the bag, you moron. And how can you even pretend to have won when my magnificent dropkick broke three of your ribs?”
“And whose left arm was it that my mystical spell literally smashed? And you were the one that wrongfully assumed I had destroyed that facility.”
“But you still destroyed all the other ones.”
“Being accurate in your work is an excellent German teaching. Also, that was not the real reason you were pursuing me. It went back to the day before. We were assigned to the same room, so I was cleaning and I found several indecent magazines below your bed.”
“Yeah,” agreed Ryuutetsu. “And of all the possible ways of handling that situation, you had to hand them over to Toshi. She ended up chasing me around with a red hot fire poker.”
“And in the end…”
“Yeah, I of course tricked her into thinking you had bought them as a way of assimilating Japanese culture. I was chasing you down that night to eliminate the witness.”
“You mountain ape. So does Toshi still think those magazines were mine?”
“Heh heh heh. You aren’t getting away tonight. I won’t let you reveal that misunderstanding after seventy years.”
“Get it into your head already. It was sixty-eight years ago.”
The two of them glared at each other and Siegfried slowly stepped back.
While still sitting, Ryuutetsu placed the bottoms of his feet on the side of the stump so he could leap forward at any moment.
But they then heard a small whistle that resembled a sigh.
It was the wind producing a whistling noise as it struck something.
The two old men’s expressions vanished for an instant and Siegfried eventually straightened up.
“Is that coming from Rhea’s house?”
“It’s falling apart a little, so the wind gets in. That reminds me of when Rhea’s stomach grew so quickly. That was when we learned 3rd-Gear humans have long pregnancies to match their long lives, but they come to an end pretty damn quickly. Since they had so few descendants, Rhea didn’t know how it worked either and it all caused a huge commotion. Chao was oddly excited.”
“If that had happened in the summer, we might not have been able to stop the Allied UCATs. …And now we really weren’t able to. It was Rhea who saved us back then.”
Siegfried looked up.
The ceiling of trees shook lightly as the night breeze blew through like waves.
“This is a lot like that last night when Richard left for 5th-Gear.”
“Yeah, I don’t know much about that because I was busy with 3rd-Gear at the time. I hear he was pretty manly. When he heard another of his fellow pilots was shot down by Black Sun, didn’t he ignore his orders to return to American UCAT and head out in Xolotl 3?”
“Yes, I’m starting to feel quite nostalgic. I’m almost ready to say he was a somewhat decent man. …I may be growing senile. In my memories, we were always all together back then. Even when I think about the National Defense Department, I picture Chao, Abram, and Richard with us and I begin to wonder if we were all together afterwards as well.”
“I think that sometimes too. But while it may be senility in your case, I think some things really have changed. We had such trouble getting along with Thunderson back then, but now we can speak his name without issue.”
Ryuutetsu stood up from the stump and looked up in the windy night sky just like Siegfried.
“And now he’s dead. I always thought I’d go before him.”
“And American UCAT is here too. It makes me wonder what happened to the resolution that sent him on his journey.”
“That idiot didn’t tell us anything.” Ryuutetsu bent his back and hips as if looking even further into the sky. “He didn’t leave us with anything besides the report saying 5th-Gear was a world of mechanical dragons, a simple history of the place, and that Vesper Cannon he brought back with him. He said something about searching for the other of his dead friend’s twin children, but he wouldn’t let any of us help.”
“Such ridiculous pride. He was supposedly American UCAT’s ace mechanical dragon pilot, but the pathetic man never properly flew one in front of us.”
“That’s right. That’s right.” Ryuutetsu smiled bitterly. “He was always second-guessing himself too. He even asked Lord Northwind why he was chosen to remain in Japan. And yet…”
“While I was gone, the bastard destroyed 5th-Gear, sank Black Sun in the ocean off of Hokkaido, and returned with the Vesper Cannon that contained half the Concept Core.” Ryuutetsu straightened up. “If only Xolotl 3 was still around. Then we could learn about Thunderson even now and Thunderson might not have died in the first place.”
“Xolotl 3, hm? He’s gone now, isn’t he?”
“Yeah,” said Ryuutetsu while looking up into the sky.
The wind blew in from the east and it brought noise with it.
That noise was the low rumbling of airplane engines.
The identification light of a transport plane was circling as if patrolling the night sky.
Hiba clicked his tongue while watching that flashing of red and white.
“Richard would only say Xolotl 3 and White Creation, which could oppose Black Sun, were both gone and that only the Vesper Cannon remained. But the Vesper Cannon I knew was Xolotl 3’s primary weapon and not that giant thing.” He took a breath. “5th-Gear mechanical dragons have the ability to self-evolve. That was in Thunderson’s report, so I’m guessing Xolotl 3 or some mechanical dragon we don’t know-…”
“Focused on White Creation by combining with the Vesper Cannon to one day defeat Black Sun?”
As Siegfried spoke, the rumbling passed by overhead.
The wind blew and rustled through the forest as if making some kind of appeal.
“And Black Sun, that large mechanical dragon singlehandedly spreading a storm of danger across 5th-Gear, has not been destroyed. Mr. Richard Thunderson received full authority over 5th-Gear from White Creation, but he was unable to fulfill his rematch with Black Sun.”
A night breeze blew across the roof while Roger spoke to the two standing before him.
Those two were Ooshiro Itaru and Sf, his maid.
“When Mr. Richard Thunderson was sent from American UCAT to Japanese UCAT, he stated in writing that all his authority would be transferred to American UCAT upon his death.”
“And so you claim the Vesper Cannon and 5th-Gear’s Concept Core belong to American UCAT? You say Japanese UCAT has kept the Vesper Cannon this long only because he left it here and we can’t begin the Leviathan Road without rechecking all this?”
Itaru asked his two questions in quick succession, but Roger did not immediately reply.
After a while, the wind blew in and he brushed a hand through his hair.
“More than sixty years ago, American UCAT lost some people to Black Sun.”
“And you prepared mechanical dragons to take vengeance?”
“That is not all, but I will still say testament. The Vesper Cannon is a mechanical dragon cannon, it is not known how to fire it, and it likely has a mind of its own. We predict that the Vesper Cannon evolved into its current form by combining with a mechanical dragon damaged in the battle that sank Black Sun.”
“And so Xolotl 3’s mind was taken into it?”
“Yes,” agreed Roger while reaching into his pocket and pulling out a postcard-sized piece of copy paper. “This is a photograph of Mr. Thunderson speaking with Xolotl 3. It is a reproduction of the original. Supposedly, he and Xolotl 3 enjoyed speaking of flying and that was why he was placed in charge of 5th-Gear. If Xolotl 3’s mind resides within the Vesper Cannon, it will respond to an American UCAT mechanical dragon that carries on Mr. Thunderson’s wishes. Don’t you agree?”
“That isn’t all, is it?”
Itaru gave a bitter smile, raised the cane in his left hand and balanced himself on his left leg.
He rested the cane on his right shoulder so it pointed at the landscape behind him.
“Thunderson’s great-granddaughter, Heo Thunderson, is somewhere out there. If the Vesper Cannon doesn’t react to American UCAT, you’re planning to put her in the mechanical dragon, aren’t you?”
“There is no need and I would not allow it.”
Itaru lowered his cane and Roger pushed his glasses up his nose and returned the photograph to his pocket. Roger looked up at the transport ships visible flying beyond the wall of the concept space.
“A disguised transport ship is waiting in Yokota to take Miss Heo home at any time. It is possible she could be attacked by Black Sun while crossing the Pacific, so the Vesper Cannon can be used as bait and we have also prepared weakened 5th-Gear concepts. The latter have already been proven effective, so American UCAT will lure Black Sun here and settle this.”
“Are you sure? Just because you have mechanical dragons doesn’t mean-…”
“My colonel has already repelled Black Sun over the ocean once. All we need is to supply the finishing blow and that role will of course be filled by our mechanical dragons.”
“Even with a fleet of American UCAT’s latest mechanical dragons, this will lead to deaths.”
“Yes,” agreed Roger while lifting his glasses to hide his expression. “But this is the desire of our higher ups who wish to show off American UCAT’s technology and strength. The colonel and I will form a defensive line at Yokota and the mechanical dragon unit will continue ahead to intercept it in Tokyo Bay. The pilots will all be volunteers who have said they will take care of it, so we can only trust in them.”
“I see,” said Itaru before turning to Sf. “What do you think of all this?”
“Tes. It seems to me the invaders are simply attempting to take the world for themselves using war and the lives of the dead.”
“Very good.” Itaru turned to Roger. “What do you think of Diana’s automaton, Roger?”
“I can only imagine she created it to mock us.”
“It’s quite a problem. Then again, I think she was trying to be considerate to those of us who survived that battle. Did she send anything to you?”
“Only the sand. After all, I was obedient and, unlike you, gained quite a lot back then. She did not need to provide any help after the fact.”
At that point, he suddenly began walking toward the edge to look down.
“As for the one who isn’t obedient…”
Roger crossed the roof, passed by Itaru, and arrived at the edge. He stood on the raised area meant to prevent anyone from jumping and lightly held up his body.
“What do you think? I am getting good at insinuating things, aren’t I? This is a technique I picked up from that man. And-…”
He was unable to finish.
At some point, Sf had moved up behind him and she shoved his raised chest with both hands.
“Ah,” he said.
As if in slow motion, he collapsed over the edge of the roof.
By the time the guards turned around in confusion, he had already vanished, so they had turned back, assuming nothing had happened.
The wind blew through and Itaru finally spoke.
“Explain what you just did, Sf.”
“Tes. He stepped up and seemed to be hesitating, so my assistance circuits activated.”
“Do you think anyone could escape that unharmed!?”
Sf tilted her head.
“Diana-sama was perfectly fine.”
“Do not confuse strange Germans with strange Americans. They have completely different special techniques.”
Sf gave a brief and expressionless look up into the sky, but she soon lowered her head.
“Tes. I have committed that to memory. From now on, I will not help Americans in that manner. I am perfectly able to distinguish between races, so do not worry.”
However, she then looked to the now-empty edge of the roof.
“I do not hear any words of thanks from Roger-sama.”
“It may just be me, but I doubt you’ll ever receive any from him now.”
“Itaru-sama, may I send an email of complaint to American UCAT? ‘I kindly shoved a representative of yours from the roof and was disappointed that he did not express any gratitude.’ …How does that sound?”
“Do whatever you want, but don’t get me involved.”
As soon as he finished speaking, a hand reached onto the edge of the roof from the outside.
It scratched at the surface two or three times in search of something to grab onto.
Itaru sighed and spoke to Sf.
“Sf, help him.”
Sf pulled a collapsible bamboo broom from her skirt and swept the hand away from the edge.
“Wah!” shouted Roger’s voice.
Itaru and Sf watched as the voice travelled further and further down.
After several seconds had passed, Itaru finally spoke.
“Sf, what did you help him with?”
“Tes. I determined he was attempting to sweep the edge of the roof.”
Sf looked to the edge but quickly tilted her head. She pulled a dust cloth from her apron and roughly wiped down the area his hand had been searching along.
“I have determined that was a truly amateurish job. Using your hand leaves fingerprints.”
“You’re attempting to eliminate the evidence of his struggle, aren’t you?”
Meanwhile, the door up to the roof was thrown open.
Roger stood in the doorway, but his outfit was a bit different. Specifically, his suit was torn as if by claws.
“Wh-what kind of knowledge did Diana give that automaton!?”
“Roger, I’m glad to see you’re doing well. Let me tell you something interesting: I don’t understand a thing about this automaton except that she is cruel to Americans and Russians.”
“That witch is supposed to be German, so why does she love lies and jokes so much?”
Roger walked swiftly over in his torn suit and Sf turned toward him and held out the slightly dirtied dust cloth.
“Roger-sama, I assisted your bravery and dealt with your poor attempt at cleaning, so I have determined it would be best if you gave me some words of thanks.”
Roger stopped in his tracks and stared at Itaru, but Itaru waved his hands back and forth.
“If you have anything to say, take it to Diana.”
“Do you really think that witch will listen?”
Roger turned back toward Sf and pushed up the glasses that were now cracked on the right side.
“That could easily have turned into an international incident. You should be thankful that I survived.”
Sf nodded at Roger’s words.
“Tes. Then I will accept that our thanks have cancelled each other out. I suppose that is the American way.”
She took a breath, looked up into the sky, shrugged her shoulders, and whistled.
“That American-style whistle means that my acceptance circuits have completed running. Will that suffice?”
“That pretty much covers it. Do you understand now, Shinjou, Sayama?”
Kazami watched as Chao stood up on the cannon.
When the woman turned around in her white coat and the sleeves flipped around, Shinjou’s voice came from the cell phone Kashima held and the girl sounded rushed.
“Ha ha ha. Shinjou-kun, as Doctor Chao, don’t you think she should make some medicinal foods? Then we could ‘Chao down’ on- gwah!”
“C-c’mon, Sayama-kun. I want to ask something, so I made you quiet!”
“Shinjou, your phrasing at the end there was a little weird,” commented Kazami.
Meanwhile, Chao’s footsteps grew more distant, so Shinjou frantically spoke up.
“Wait a minute, Doctor Chao! I want to ask something! Um… Miss Chao!!”
Chao did not stop.
“That’s not gonna cut it.”
“Th-then Young Lady Chao!!”
What is going on? wondered Kazami before turning toward Kashima.
“Shinjou, say what you have to say. It looks like Doctor Chao’s test is pretty tough.”
Shinjou’s hesitation ate up some of her time, but she finally asked.
“What happened to Shinjou Kaname!?”
Kazami looked toward the one being asked, but Chao did not stop walking away along the cannon.
However, she did speak quietly.
She sighed and slowed her exit a bit.
“When Shinjou Kaname was ill, my grandfather attempted to bring him to the people of 4th-Gear,” said Sayama. “That was so 4th-Gear could heal him, but it never happened. Does that mean…”
“Are you trying to say Shinjou Kaname died of his illness? You fools,” said Chao. “Before those like me arrived, Shinjou Kaname apparently quit the National Defense Department and was hospitalized in Hachioji. And there, he recovered.”
“Eh? Then he never met 4th-Gear because his illness healed and there was no need?”
“I don’t have the right to tell you about any of that, so ask someone else. But let me tell you one thing. When I was there, a New Year’s card arrived from Shinjou’s home just once. The address was in Shimane and the card said his child had grown a good bit.”
The word “child” caused Kazami to bring a hand to her own stomach.
Seeing that, Izumo gave her a serious look.
“What is it, Chisato? Are you getting fat? Or was that fried chicken you ate past its expira-…”
She decided a hook would be best to create silence, so she did so.
After the sound of flesh and bone collapsing to the ground, silence had fallen over the underground space.
She thought while finding the silence pleasant.
…Do Shinjou Kaname’s descendants continue down to Shinjou?
The headquarters of IAI’s predecessor, the Izumo Aviation Institute, had been located in Shimane. IAI headquarters were still there, so if Shinjou Kaname was from there…
…He was supposedly Professor Kinugasa’s assistant, so they probably met at the Izumo HQ.
She then turned toward Kashima.
“Shinjou, you should visit the Shimane headquarters on your way back. You might find some kind of a hint.”
“I think I will. They’ll probably be busy, though.”
“Ha ha ha. Shinjou-kun, you are such a wonderful person to worry about those underlings. And with future events in mind, I would like to search for information on Professor Kinugasa, so a visit to Shimane sounds perfect. Oh, and can I ask something of you, Kazami?”
“What is it, you idiot? Just get back to flirting and get to sleep. Those of us here still have to make plans for tomorrow.”
“Very well,” said the voice coming from Kashima’s cell phone. “Kazami, I have a single request relating to Heo Thunderson.”
She frowned in displeasure when she wondered what he was going to ask. The others fell silent and she felt relief and trust in that.
“I have received some internal information that confirms Heo Thunderson is in Harakawa’s apartment we visited today. Has American UCAT managed to track her down yet?”
“No, it doesn’t seem so. And if that’s true…”
“Yes, secure her before they do. That would be the perfect bargaining chip.”
“You certainly are direct in your wording.”
“The easier to understand, the better. Also, get as much information on her as you can, even if you have to do some hacking to get it. There is something strange about her. Something about being demon possessed.”
“A demon? I’m not sure what that means, but I’ll have Sibyl look into it. I don’t like how American UCAT is doing things either.”
Kazami raised her eyebrows in a smile.
“I don’t know what kind of girl Heo Thunderson is, but I’m sure American UCAT intends to kindly shelter her…even if she’s actually a kitten that wants to head outside.”
“Very good. The opposite is also possible, but hurry either way. She is likely in that apartment even now. Wait to leave until the early morning when American UCAT lets their guard down and have someone keep an eye on her.”
“Sure.” Kazami nodded and raised the corner of her mouth. “Having something to do is just wonderful.”
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