Owari no Chronicle:Volume8 Chapter 15
Chapter 15: Morning Commotion
Where are you now?
Should I head in the direction of your voice?
In the direction of your resounding will?
In the early morning, the sun had yet to come out over the sea and the sky was a bluish-white covered by hazy clouds rather than a pure blue.
However, the dark ocean surface reflected the light of the sky and that lit surface seemed to rock a little.
The rising of the sea looked less like waves and more like short mountains. The peaks of those water mountains sent back the light of the sky while their feet were filled with a duller light.
A few forms were visible on that gentle rising and falling that resembled breathing.
They were boats.
The boats were not even a one-hundredth the size of the short mountains of the waves and they all had large lights hanging down from their masts.
They were fishing boats.
They all had a white base with blue and red lines decorating them. The sides of the colorful boats had the name of that particular boat as well as a license and license number from the association they belonged to. That association was the Sanriku Harbor Administration Bureau.
This was the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Sanriku.
Each of the boats traveling along the vast sea had two to five men or women onboard. They kept a certain distance between each other, their nets were already drawn in, and they all had their backs to the brightness of the sky as they moved west.
The horizon was visible ahead of them, but something white was visible above that line: clouds.
Those objects hanging in the sky were proof that land existed there.
Those boats that were small compared to the sea slowly travelled to the west. They would occasionally rock a bit as they created their own white waves.
The boats in the lead turned a bit to the north.
The sea off the coast of Sanriku had three currents.
The first was the Tsushima Current that came from the Sea of Japan and rotated clockwise along Honshu. It flowed north to south and was the closest to the east coast of Honshu.
The second was the Chishima Current that flowed down from the south side of Hokkaido and to the east of Honshu. It travelled alongside the Tsushima Current as it too flowed north to south along Honshu’s east coast.
The third was the Kuroshio that rotated in the Pacific Ocean. It flowed south to north further east of the previous two currents.
Those currents would change depending on season and time and they would display a variety of emotions, so the boats travelling on that ocean always chose the optimum time to cross those areas.
They were currently moving from the Chishima Current to the Tsushima Current.
A few of them began to scatter to one side or the other. These boats chose to fish on the transition line between currents during the early morning because that was when the fish deep in the water began to move.
The boats wishing to return to port early had gathered together and started to leave.
But at that point, a sound resembling an alarm or a whistle filled the sky. It was a boat’s horn.
However, that ear-splitting sound did not come from the leaving boats.
It came from the ones that still had their nets out in between the currents.
At first, only a few boats sounded their horns, but several more did the same after noticing something and even more of the sounds filled the air a moment later.
A crewmember of one boat hurrying home grabbed the radio on the cramped shed-like bridge.
“Look in the water!”
Hearing that, everyone activated the fishfinders attached to their boats.
The rotating green light on the sonar screen displayed what was hidden within the ocean.
It picked up on something.
Something that filled the entire sonar screen.
This was not a school of fish or a ship.
The sonar searched over an area of several hundred meters, so the crewmembers initially thought it was malfunctioning.
However, all of the ships were seeing the same thing.
This should not have been possible.
There was no way something that large was moving through the ocean, so they had no idea what was going on.
But then something else happened.
All of those watching the sonar noticed the light had vanished from the screen.
Or rather, in the time it took for the sonar to make a full rotation, the light moved outside the sonar’s range.
It moved forward in the ocean in an instant.
A great sound came from the ocean as something moved swiftly through the water. The moving object’s presence had created a large gap in the water and its quick movement opened a great pit or abyss.
All of those on the boats saw a ravine open in the ocean.
It was about fifty meters wide and one hundred meters deep and they could not tell how long it was.
Soon thereafter, the ocean exploded.
Air flowed into the ravine and the collapsing water pressing down on it caused an explosion of air.
The great blast created a water pillar so large it looked like a wall of water rising above the morning ocean. The white surging wall was over two hundred meters tall, the seemingly unshakable ocean below it trembled, and the ravine split like an opening mouth.
The boats desperately brought themselves alongside the collapsing ocean and watched the trembling of the sea.
Some boats were struck by the waterfalls created when the pillar of water fell back down, some sank into the giant air pockets rising from within the water, and others were rendered completely uncontrollable thanks to those air pockets bursting.
Among it all, a crewmember saw something as his ship rose to the top of a mountainous wave. The ocean now resembled a mountain range, a great mist of seawater filled the air, and the long depression of the sea being split was travelling quickly into the distance.
He heard a sound in the sky that he should never have heard on the ocean: a roar that resembled creaking metal.
He could not see anything, but all of the crewmembers looked in the direction of that roar that almost sounded like weeping and the moving ocean ravine.
That direction was south and it would lead to the ocean off of Kantou.
At some point, the sun had risen and it pointed in that same direction.
A shadow descended in front of the round morning sun.
From the front, it looked long horizontally.
It was a large airplane.
The thick green craft emitted shimmering heat behind the wings as it began to land.
The sound of the rubber tires tearing into the ground overlapped with the sound of the fully open flaps beating at the air.
Some people moved along the runway while backed by those sounds and the sound of the morning wind. A truck to be loaded with materials approached the arriving transport plane.
All of that activity was visible from in front of the white transportation building at the far end of the runway.
American UCAT guards stood in the large entrance that contained a flower bed and a small roundabout filled with the morning sunlight.
On all their backs were submachine guns modified for concept combat.
Those out on patrol raised a hand in greeting to those at the front entrance who then went out for their patrol.
However, something disturbed their movements.
Someone had appeared from the mountain path on the side of the building opposite the runway.
That woman soon arrived from the other side of the transport control building.
She wore a black T-shirt and black bike shorts, her gray hair fluttered behind her, and she ran with a light step.
“Oh, good morning.”
She raised a hand in greeting when she noticed the guards. Just in front of the roundabout seemed to be her end point because her black basketball shoes dug into the sand there, but she continued jogging in place while catching her breath.
One of the guards frowned until he noticed the emblem sewn to her T-shirt’s shoulder. The pattern showed a land reconnected after being split between left and right.
“Are you German UCAT Inspector Diana Zonburg?”
“Yes, but at the moment I am intruding her where American UCAT has taken residence.”
“I thought you were forbidden to leave the building.”
“I thought you were merely protecting me as a member of German UCAT.”
With that, Diana stopped jogging in place.
She lightly clasped her hands and thrust the palms forward while looking to the entrance beyond the guard who was narrowing his eyes.
“Isn’t that right, Roger?”
“No matter how I answer, it would cause problems with German UCAT,” answered a man in a suit who stepped out of the automatic door.
It was Roger. The morning sun washed over his brown suit as he waved toward the surrounding guards. They took that as a sign to return to their posts and patrols.
Roger sighed and walked over to Diana.
“I am sorry, Diana, but could you try not to interfere with the others?”
“Oh? Since when can you order me around, Roger? I hold the rank of colonel, you know?”
“You were a major ten years ago, weren’t you?”
“And weren’t you a second lieutenant? Were you promoted? Wait. I think I heard you are a captain now.”
“My authority was raised before I was sent here, so I am now a major.”
“Hm,” muttered Diana as she wiped her forehead with the white towel on her shoulder. “Did you meet Itaru?”
“I was thrown from the roof.”
“Yes, he can be a bit aggressive.”
“It was the automaton you built that did it!!”
After a short pause, she tilted her head and frowned toward Roger.
“You don’t have to shout. I can hear you just fine.”
He bent back and took a deep breath. He closed his eyes, quietly told himself to calm down, and took another deep breath.
Once he opened his eyes, he found Diana also taking deep breaths and smiling.
“The morning air really is wonderful, isn’t it? What do you think of the Okutama region’s air? Is it helping calm down your usually strict and impatient mind?”
“Are you scattering bait so you can challenge me to a war of words?”
“Why would I ever do that? There’s no way you could possibly defeat me.”
She smiled and waved a hand in denial and he subconsciously tightened his tie. Too much strength gathered in his fingertips, so he once more told himself to calm down.
“I have dedicated a lot of time to studying arguments in the past ten years.”
“That must have been a lot of work and I’m sure there were better ways to spend your time. Like crying yourself to sleep.”
“Do not be ridiculous. Americans do not allow themselves to surrender.”
“Does that silly pride come from consuming nothing but burgers and cola? It must be the excess sugar and cholesterol reaching your brains.”
Diana brought a hand to her cheek and lowered her shoulders in a sigh.
“Poor, poor Roger.”
Diana’s expression changed when she heard those words slip out.
She gave a bitter laugh.
As the laugh escaped her throat and her shoulders shook, Diana turned her back on Roger.
“I see you haven’t changed. But I no longer have it in me to keep this up.”
“You seem quite willing to me.”
“I can’t do it,” she said while wiping tears from her eyes, turning around, and looking up in the sky. “Not now that there is no longer anyone to stop me.”
Roger could not immediately respond to that comment and he briefly paused to breathe in the morning air of Okutama.
“I suppose not.”
“Anyway, I hear you met the Sayama boy over a video call. Fun, wasn’t he? If you had met him earlier, you would have stopped the attack on Japanese UCAT, wouldn’t you have? You would have thought that strange boy could reach the place we failed to.”
Diana walked off without saying anything more. She made her way to the vending machine at the end of the roundabout and in front of the white building.
Roger followed and the rumbling of another transport plane arrived in the eastern sky. However, he heard the woman speak over that rumbling.
“American UCAT is attempting to stop the Leviathan Road in order to supervise the future of the world in the name of the United States. However, we know the truth,” said Diana. “We are the only ones that know that American UCAT cannot complete the Leviathan Road. Did you tell your superiors that?” She stopped in front of the vending machine. “The survivors of those who once assisted Japanese UCAT decided to hide this truth, but did you tell your superiors who know nothing?”
“No. How could I possibly tell them something so ridiculous,” replied Roger with a shake of his head. “I have not informed American UCAT of what happened.”
“Why not? About fifteen years ago, we began helping Japanese UCAT due to a variety of obligations and happenstances. Even back then, you could have informed American UCAT of what we learned, so why didn’t you?”
“Why didn’t you with German UCAT?” asked Roger in front of the vending machine.
However, he received no response, so he took in a breath and turned toward her.
“Diana, can you guess what Itaru is thinking now? He clearly intends to bear it all himself. He will not even inform the Sayama boy and the others you support and he will have that truth destroyed along with him. …Do you see it that way as well?”
However, she once more did not reply.
She simply pointed at the vending machine with a smile and tapped at one of the sample drink cans.
“How about you make up for a few of your losses from ten years ago?”
Roger’s shoulders drooped when he heard that.
He reluctantly pulled out his wallet and placed some change in the machine. After he heard the money fall, he pressed the button, and Diana quietly thanked him in German and pulled out the can.
“You always drink coffee after exercising, don’t you?” he said.
“Oh? This is IAI’s sports drink coffee.”
She opened the pull-tab, took a drink, and continued.
“But you know what? Director Abram and Doctor Chao were held in reserve back then, so they barely know anything. The only ones who learned the truth were Sayama Kaoru and those trusted by Sayama Asagi.”
“But most of those people died during the Great Kansai Earthquake and UCAT eliminated all of the records while disguising it as conflict within IAI. How do you feel about all that as the single survivor of the Five Great Peaks?”
“Those times were a lot of fun,” she said slowly while looking at the sky and forest displayed on the vending machine’s plastic board and the actual city visible in the distance. “A witch who hated being compared to her uncle’s achievements decided to go to the same place her uncle had. There, the witch was delighted to have people recognize her strength. She met others there who had their own strengths and they had a lot of fun together.”
She gave a quiet laugh.
“The place where I got drunk and hit UCAT Director Ooshiro with the bottle is now a vegetable garden, but the flowers and trees we all planted still exist.”
“Do you intend to continue with those festive days?”
“No,” she replied with a smile and tilt of the head. “I have already retired. All I will do is provide support for those who wish to follow in our footsteps. But…it’s kind of funny. Georgius is now responding to the Sayama boy.”
“And yet it did not provide us with anything. When Yume first showed me that device which you-know-who created for some reason, I wondered if it was simply a failure. However, it truly is lending its power to the Sayama boy.” She laughed again. “Yume and the rest of us weren’t able to find the right half of Georgius, but I wonder if they will be able to.”
“The Sayama boy and his friends. Just as with the Eight Great Dragon Kings and the Five Great Peaks, he is not alone. I believe they will gather both parts of Georgius, bring the ten Concept Cores to their side, and guide the world beyond the Leviathan Road just as Yume said.”
She lowered her gaze just a bit.
“I believe they will do what we could not.”
With that, she walked past the vending machine and to the trashcan there.
“Diana, isn’t it a little rude to me if you throw it away without finishing it?”
“Oh? But I did finish it.”
She turned her upper body around and shook the can. It showed no sign of weight.
“But you only took one drink.”
“I am jogging for my looks. I already have a decent lung capacity.”
“Let me be clear about one thing, Diana. You are the worst sort of human being.”
“Wh-why would you say that?”
Just as she threw away the can, the main entrance to their right opened and a slender elderly man in a suit walked out.
“Roger! Roger! A mysterious form has been detected in the ocean east of this country!”
“Testament. Colonel Odor, I already knew that. The information gathered by the Japanese Self-Defense Force and our satellites shows an abnormality in the ocean currents. Russia has detected it as well, but they have not sent out their military or UCAT.”
“Roger, Roger. Do you mean…”
“It is likely Black Sun. This is no more than conjecture at this point, but I believe it is slowly travelling toward Tokyo after healing itself at the bottom of the northern ocean after its injuries the other night. It is likely cautious of the surface and enjoying the evolution brought on by the high water pressure. But once it closes in on the Vesper Cannon it desires, it will quickly travel along the surface or fly through the sky.”
“Hm.” Odor stopped at the step down at the edge of the entrance and crossed his arms. “Roger, Roger. How will we prevent it from reaching land?”
“Testament. The mechanical dragon unit has already been divided into teams on the coast of Tokyo Bay.”
“Such brave, brave young pilots. If it were not for the orders of the higher ups, I would travel to the front lines to support them. You should learn from their example, Roger. Got that?”
“We can visit them later. I am sure a visit from their overall commander will delight them and your power will be necessary in the middle stage if they do lose,” said Roger. “Also, we need to capture Black Sun in an Accel Point so we do not disturb the people of the city. That Accel Point will need to be large, but I believe Japanese UCAT’s Kanda Laboratory is researching a device to create one that covers all of Tokyo.”
“Will we… Will we be taking that from them?”
“No.” Roger shook his head and pushed his glasses up his nose. “The Kanda Laboratory has already been sent the information on Black Sun’s approach. To protect their own country, the laboratory has no choice but to create the Accel Point whether we ask them to or not. We will merely accept their cooperation in this matter.”
“I see. I see, Roger. But I have another odd piece of information.”
Roger frowned at that and he took a step toward Odor while asking what it was.
“The enemy. The enemy is on the move. We detected movement not far below ground here. The search team said the movement had arrived here about ten seconds ago.”
“Is it Japanese UCAT?”
Roger tilted his head and twisted his body to look along the ground, but he saw nothing.
It was then that Diana noticed Odor after finishing throwing away her can and taking a breath.
“Oh?” she said in slight surprise. “I thought I recognized that way of speaking. Are you the commander here, honey?”
Roger froze in place when he heard Diana’s final word.
He looked first at Odor and then at Diana.
“Yes, Roger. Before you were put under his command, we were married on paper.”
“Then when the colonel mentioned his wife, he meant…”
“That’s right. He meant me. We have yet to even kiss, though.”
Diana brought her right hand to her cheek and smiled as she spoke.
Voices erupted from below the ground and a manhole cover on the road behind her blasted straight up into the sky. Two heads rose from the hole after headbutting the metal lid out of the way.
The large one looked to the small one.
“D-did you hear that, Hiba!? I thought she was a well-endowed foreigner, but she was actually a well-endowed untouched foreigner wife! I don’t think I’ve ever been this overcome by shock before, but is that okay!? If so, tell me it’s not okay!”
“Yes, it’s not okay, Izumo-san! You can’t let the shock distract you here!”
“You calm down too, Hiba! If you can’t calm down, how am I supposed to!?”
“Can’t you get Kazami-san to climb up and punch you?”
“Whelp, that thought calmed me down in a hurry. …But that was one hell of a surprising and wondrous announcement! It’s already reigniting my thoughts!”
“I’m just as surprised as you, Izumo-san! Who would’ve thought there was such a novel new genre so close by!? I’m so glad I joined UCAT. It’s so full of stimulation.”
“Don’t cry, Hiba. This is pretty amazing, though. It’s got a good bit of impact from how unexpected it was too. Still, if the genres are spread out too much, it loses any real focus. Commentator Hiba, do you agree with that assessment of Diana’s attack? What do you have to say as someone active in this field?”
“Well, ignoring the lack of focus, it might be difficult for me personally. I’m not sure I see how the genre of wives can be applied to Mikage-san. But the well-endowed angle is on a direct course high on the inside corner and I think Mikage-san might even be heading in that direction. I’d like for Diana to stay focused and try harder next time.”
“An excellent point, Commentator Hiba. But we really are idiots. Wa ha ha ha ha ha!”
“Yeah, we really are. Hah hah hah hah!”
The two laughed and laughed until finally looking toward Roger and growing serious.
They pulled their heads back into the hole and the manhole cover fell from the sky to loudly fill it once more.
At the same time, Odor shouted out.
“Roger! Roger! These are a busy bunch! Do something about it!”
Shinjou stood in the morning light.
The first thing she noticed was the sky overhead.
It was blue and clear, but the color of the sun reminded her of summer.
She then realized she had no body.
Um, she thought just before realizing what had happened. She had yet to wake up after going to sleep the previous night.
That meant she was seeing the past in a dream while dozing in the morning.
…I need to get up early today, but if Baku is doing this, what summer am I seeing?
She looked up into the sky and finally noticed something odd. What resembled clouds was rising up to join the actual clouds in the sky.
She mentally tilted her head and looked back down.
There, she saw ruins.
What had once been a city lay before her.
The “clouds” rising from below were pillars of smoke rising from the ruins.
She quickly looked around and only learned that the ruins extended in every direction around her.
She currently stood on a large road that had been burned away. It was a two-lane road and all that remained of the buildings on either side were walls rising only about two stories high. However, even those walls had been colored white and a scorched black color covered them as if something had spilled across them.
All of the buildings had lost their roofs and walls and there was no glass in any of the windows.
The internal structures of the buildings was scattered from the buildings to the road as if they had been spat out.
An arcade had originally covered the road and a structure with a Go board pattern was still visible, but it had all crumbled and burned.
…It’s already over.
She realized this was the aftermath of an air raid.
She heard a fire alarm in the distance and felt the wind.
This was the cool west wind that occasionally caressed her on summer mornings.
That was when she noticed there were people there.
They were bent over and searching through the rubble on the road or inside the burnt buildings.
Some people carried wood and sandbags in a bicycle trailer and others went around calling the names of families or informing others that survivors were being registered at the local shelter.
All of them were dressed in the slightly old attire Shinjou had seen in history textbooks.
…This is during World War Two.
She remembered seeing the Firebombing of Tokyo while out in Shinjuku back when they had been investigating 2nd-Gear.
“Is this after that?”
With that question in mind, she ran down the road.
On the way, she avoided and passed by a housewife pulling a bicycle trailer carrying a child and a futon.
She was trying to find some way of identifying the location.
The traffic lights were melted and broken and all the shop signs were burned.
Her vision suddenly opened up and a sort of plaza appeared to the left of the arcade.
It was a large space surrounded by a cement wall and it contained burnt trees and a large building that sat at the center of them.
It was a two-story wooden building about one hundred meters across, but even it had lost its roof and been crushed as if punched from above. She also saw scorch marks all over its surface.
…Is that a school? The attack must have been completely indiscriminate.
As she thought that, Shinjou moved her vision toward the plaza’s entrance.
However, that entrance was filled with people. A closer look showed the entrance was sealed by a metal gate.
The people were approaching the gate and Shinjou heard voices. The people were all insistently and repeatedly calling out different names.
She further approached in confusion and saw an old soldier in the center of a ring of people. He looked at a paper in his hand with glasses missing one of its lenses.
And he spoke.
“I will be reading off the names now, so quiet down!”
That caused Shinjou to mentally frown.
…Is it a list of people they’re looking for?
The old soldier began reading names and they were all paired with a location such as a plaza, a Buddhist temple, or a Shinto shrine. That clued Shinjou in.
“He’s telling them where evacuated people ended up.”
So that’s it, she thought with a sigh of relief. Any name read here is someone who was evacuated in time.
Each time a name was read, she saw someone give their thanks and leave the circle of people.
She looked to the plaza and wondered if the school had been a shelter for evacuees.
A moment later, she noticed some writing.
The gate into the plaza had a metal doorplate and the name there told her the building had not been a school.
“First Hachioji Hospital.”
As she muttered those words in her heart, she looked up in a daze.
She looked at the burned down building, looked back at the doorplate, and finally recalled a certain fact.
…That was where Shinjou Kaname was hospitalized!
She felt as if her mind had suddenly jumped up. Before she realized it was her racing pulse, she brought her vision into the circle of people and listened to the list of names being read.
However, she only heard other names, so…
“Shinjou! What happened to Shinjou Kaname!?”
She looked at the burned building and the paper in the old soldier’s hand, but her voice could not reach him as this was nothing but a replaying of the past.
…All I can do is watch!
She held her breath within the circle of people, but she could not stand it any longer and took a step back to leave.
But at that very moment, she heard a dignified male voice from behind her.
“Shinjou! Is there a Shinjou Kaname on that list!?”
She frantically turned around toward that sharp tone of voice. She wondered if Baku’s abilities had grown and the creature’s owner had entered the past with her.
But that was not the case.
A blue truck loaded with wooden boxes that appeared to hold food was stopped in the road. It was dented in places, covered with mud, and the words “Izumo Co.” were partially missing.
A young man impeccably wearing a dirty military uniform stepped out of the truck.
“I apologize to the rest of you, but I am Lieutenant Sayama Kaoru. A man with special military duty was hospitalized here. If possible, I would like to know where he ended up.”
Shinjou was left speechless.
…That’s Sayama-kun’s grandfather?
The young man approached along the road and his footsteps brought sharp facial features, cheeks with slight facial hair, and a powerful expression into view.
He had a glare in his eyes, but she could not tell if that was normal or due to the situation.
…That’s different from Sayama-kun’s usual expressionless look.
However, the way the man moved and spoke resembled him and she came to an odd sense of understanding. She also wondered if Sayama was holding his chest even without a body if he was seeing this as well.
…I’m sorry, but I can’t support you right now.
But while she thought that, Sayama Kaoru passed by her and spoke.
“Do you know where Warrant Officer Shinjou Kaname is?”
The old soldier frowned.
“There is an order to-…”
“Then I shall wait,” readily replied Sayama Kaoru while crossing his arms. “Is it in iroha order?”
Shinjou looked up at him feeling a bit disappointed, but she saw something unexpected there: his expression and attitude.
Strength had not left his gaze and his fists were clenched despite crossing his arms. And they were clenched tightly.
…He’s really impatient.
Meanwhile, he spoke to the old soldier with no concern in his voice.
“Those waiting for someone at the end of the list can unload the truck. These are private reserves. And you can distribute them. I can trust you.”
The old soldier nodded and began reading the names once more.
While listening to the names, Shinjou mouthed the iroha order. The name Shinjou would be toward the end.
Nevertheless, Sayama Kaoru waited. Even as he looked back to check on the other waiting people unloading the truck, he silently waited for the name to be called.
And Shinjou also waited. If the name Shinjou Kaname was not called…
…It means he died.
Suddenly, the old soldier’s voice rang out and Sayama Kaoru’s head sprang up.
However, he levelled his gaze once more and spoke quietly.
“Where is he?”
The soldier gave the name of a Buddhist temple. And…
“All the patients in Building 3 were apparently transported by truck before the air raid last night. The truck turned back to take those in the maternity department, but it didn’t arrive in time and…”
The soldier trailed off as he realized he was growing sidetracked and he bowed his head.
Sayama Kaoru replied by partially closing his eyes and nodding back.
“I do not mind. Any regrets you speak will rise into the sky with the smoke as part of their funeral. It is not my place to say so, but I do not want you to suffer by hiding so much within yourself.”
“Then I will keep those words in my heart instead. If you need a guide to the evacuation spot…”
“Thank you, but I know the way.”
He then turned around, but he stopped in front of the truck. There were still boxes in the back, so he turned back around and spoke to the people.
“Do you not want these?”
“We have taken as much as we need. Take the rest to the people at your destination.”
Sayama Kaoru simply nodded in response to the old soldier’s words and he slowly climbed into the truck.
He saluted from within the window and started up the truck.
Shinjou knew his destination.
…He’s going to where Shinjou Kaname is.
At that point, her vision went dark.
The past was ending. As she felt herself sinking, she saw the truck driving away.
…How does it turn out?
“Is the person at his destination my blood relative?”
…I’m glad Shinjou Kaname was evacuated.
She then had a thought about the dream itself.
…Why did Baku give me this dream?
Baku always showed them the past when it had some connection to them.
“So is this connected to where we’re going?”
Their plan for the day was to visit the 4th-Gear reservation.
Sayama was likely having the same dream and she decided to ask him about it after they woke and dressed.
…What was that about?
…What are the others from UCAT doing?
With that thought, her vision fully fell into the darkness.
A dark tunnel was illuminated only by the white emergency lights installed every few dozen meters and it had water running down the center rather than a road.
This was a sewer. The water visible below the lights was filthy, but it was indeed flowing. And the insufficient light showed something reflected in that water’s surface.
The reflection was of three people travelling along the pathway on the left side of the sewer. One was a short boy, one was a tall boy, and the last was a girl of average height. They all wore school uniforms, but the tall boy carried a giant white sword in his left hand and the girl held a long white spear in her right hand.
They were running away from something and the girl in the back spoke first.
“C’mon, you two! We need to get to Harakawa’s house, so don’t disappear on me and then get spotted!”
“W-wait, Chisato! We can talk this out! Any guy would understand!! Right, Hiba!?”
“H-he’s right, Kazami-san! Any guy would understand! …Okay, this is when you’re supposed to give the punch line about not being a guy!”
Suddenly, a white beam of light raced through the sewer.
She had fired G-Sp2.
Izumo and Hiba frantically ducked down while still running.
The light passed over their heads and they soon heard it hit far ahead of them.
“Y-you idiot!” shouted Izumo. “That kind of punch line could’ve killed me! What if I’d died!?”
“What’s this, Kaku? Have you become such a hopeless man that you talk about reality in what-ifs?”
Three additional shots flew their way, so the boys in the lead pressed against the wall and jumped to avoid them.
“Ha ha ha. These are surprisingly easy to avoid!”
“They really are, Izumo-san!”
“Maybe, but next time I’ll actually aim using the sight.”
“You were firing randomly!?”
“Um,” began Hiba as he ran. “I think Mikage-san would be sad if I died! And Sibyl-san would hold a grudge!”
“That sounds unpleasant, heartbreaking, and hard to endure…but I think we could find a way to put it behind us.”
“Waaah! I much prefer continuing to enjoy the moment! Is that really not an option!?”
Another shot flew toward him, but the light was worn down and deflected just before it hit.
Izumo had smashed G-Sp2’s shot with V-Sw.
“Th-thank you so much, Izumo-san! As thanks, I’ll give you the collection of internet bookmarks I have on my computer!”
“Wh-why are you thinking while you run, Izumo-san?”
“Well,” he began while tilting his head. “I realized covering for a guy isn’t all that enjoyable. Chisato, I won’t block the next one, so go for it.”
“Oh, god! This couple really is wonderfully awful!”
“Just get running, you targets. This is a pretty long straightaway.”
Kazami’s voice motivated the leading boys to run even faster with perfectly serious expressions. Hiba moved ahead as he slipped through the emergency lighting with a lighter step than Izumo.
“Does this long sewer pass underneath the runway?”
“No. According to the military god papa, it runs underground alongside the runway. You saw directly underneath the runway last night, remember? It was that weird pit next to that container room.”
“What was that pit? Isn’t it supposed to be about three kilometers long and a hundred meters wide?”
“How should I know? It’s sealed at the bottom and the military god papa only said it isn’t meant as space for a future expansion to the underground facilities. …Well, maybe they’ll build an arcade or bowling alley there.”
“Are the two of you not going to dodge anymore?”
The voice from behind them was filled with murderous intent.
But just as Hiba and Izumo lowered their speed because of that, a secondary sewer flowed into the main one on the right. Hiba, Izumo, and Kazami were running along the inspection passageway on the left, so they immediately passed by the intersection with the secondary sewer.
But just as they did, light reached them from that secondary sewer.
The light was narrow but bright and there were several distinct beams of it.
They heard English and Kazami shouted out.
“They’ve found us!”
At the same time, they heard another voice.
—Light possesses power.
Those words tore into the world and the color white raced along the narrow passageway.
Wings of light had spread from Kazami’s back and they stretched almost to the ceiling in an instant.
The flapping of those wings overcame the darkness and she flew as if throwing herself forward.
The tips of the wings tore into the arched ceiling and they instantly and audibly flew down to the point that they tore into the water’s surface below. That produced swift forward motion using her power of flight.
It looked like she was using her wings to claw up the narrow passageway walls, but she actually moved forward with great speed.
She flew and quickly overtook Izumo and Hiba.
“Chisato!” shouted Izumo as he ran. “Stand out that much and they’ll target you from behind!”
“Don’t worry. I’ll reach the other end and leave in no time.”
A wall was located about fifty meters ahead and the sewer split to the left and right there.
“Head right there and you’re out. It won’t even take me thirty seconds with my wings.”
As she spoke, shouts in English reached them from behind.
“Izumo-san, am I the only one hearing something bouncing off the walls?”
“No, and I’ve been hearing bursting gunpowder for a while now.”
“Ha ha ha. You have good ears, Izumo-san. …Wait! We’re being shot at!? Ah, Kazami-san is leaving us behind!”
“Don’t say it like that. It makes me sound bad. I’m just going on ahead.”
Izumo shouted toward Kazami’s voice and wings of light that were already growing distant.
“Hey, Chisato! What if I collapse from these invaders’ bullets!?”
“Nn, sorry. I just don’t think this is enough to kill you.”
“I-it’ll kill me!”
Kazami thought for a moment about Hiba’s protest, but she flapped her wings again and continued forward.
“Nn, sorry. Give me a little more time to think about that one.”
“Well, don’t you love taking things slow. …Ah! That one grazed my ear! My ear!”
As Hiba complained, more English shouts and gunshots pursued them.
Kazami quickly reached the wall, flapped her wings, and vanished to the right.
As soon as darkness returned to the passageway, Izumo rushed his body onward and came up alongside Hiba.
“Hiba, this is a cliché line, so listen carefully: Go on ahead and leave the rest to your comrade! …I’m talking to myself, of course.”
“Ha ha ha. Don’t be silly, Izumo-san. It’s normally the big tough one that dies.”
“Do the Taka-Akita Student Council or UCAT seem at all normal to you?”
“Listen carefully, Hiba. They’re firing guns at us, but America is the land of freedom. If you handle this properly, you won’t be filled with holes. Also, remember that Mikage was captured.”
“Y-you’re right. She was.”
“And this is the most important thing: America keeps things uncensored.”
Izumo laughed and slapped Hiba’s back.
“I’m kind of jealous, you lucky boy!!”
As he ran, he circled ahead of Hiba and hit the shorter boy in the gut with a short uppercut.
“Go be a decoy for a bit.”
It had been a while since he had been hit like that, so Hiba lost consciousness for an instant.
He could not breathe at first.
With that mental voice of endurance, he came back to his senses and strength returned to his body.
He looked forward and saw the end of the passageway about three hundred meters ahead. The wall there seemed to be blocking his way, but he saw a large shadow running left to right under the emergency lighting.
It was Izumo in his school uniform.
The boy did not even glance back, so Hiba gave a bitter smile.
“I can’t believe this.”
Behind him, he heard several sets of footsteps that filled the waterway with ripples.
He turned around just as light reached him.
There were eight lights and he estimated they were about fifty meters away.
These were American UCAT soldiers.
He wondered if Izumo was right and he could be reunited with Mikage if he handled this properly. He brought a hand to his face and thought about it.
…What should I do about this?
As he hesitated, the footsteps that had passed the fifty-meter mark suddenly stopped.
He heard no gunshots or anything else. He only heard the flowing water and his own heavy breathing.
He heard someone shout in English and it echoed down the passageway.
…What did they say?
His grades in English class were average, but listening comprehension did not begin until the third term for first years. When he heard the same shout again, he tilted his head. Assuming it was universally understood, he took a pose with spread arms as if letting rain wash over him.
A bullet shot by overhead.
Hiba remained silent and heard the same English word shouted again.
…Will they shoot me without question if I don’t do as they say?
As he wondered that, the same English shout came once more.
He listened as carefully as he could and managed to comprehend what the man was saying.
However, he immediately felt a chill run down his back and into his butt. After all, the word he had heard was…
I can’t literally freeze myself like ice, he thought. So what does it mean?
…Does he mean they’re going to shoot me and throw my body in cold storage!?
His thoughts filled with doubt and panic, but some advice saved him. It was what Izumo had told him earlier.
“America is the land of freedom,” he muttered to himself.
He thought a little more and found his answer.
…“Freeze” doesn’t make any sense, so they can’t possibly mean that.
America respected freedom. It was the land of freedom. In that case, he was not hearing the word “freeze”.
…It’s “frees”. The plural of “free”.
The man was telling him to express freedom. Even if they did not speak the same language, if he could use gestures to express how full of freedom he was, he would demonstrate his wholehearted approval of the American way.
I see. So this is the American way of freeing oneself, he thought. But how am I supposed to show freedom in a way that anyone can understand?
Silence fell and he finally reached his answer.
In the center of the lights converging on him, Hiba danced the dance of freedom.
He danced and danced.
He danced his heart out.
It was a very strange dance.
Hiba thought to himself.
…I never knew my body and heart could grow so bold.
His audience reacted with surprised voices tinged with fear and then gunfire.
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