Owari no Chronicle:Volume8 Chapter 16
Chapter 16: The True Contents of One’s Heart
Who decided that one’s true feelings are correct?
Who decided that what is correct should be called one’s true feelings?
The color white filled a small room.
The white walls, white floor, white ceiling, white bed, and white curtains made up a hospital room.
The view from outside the single window was a bit high and nothing but vast fields could be seen beyond the parking lot.
This was a personal room on the second floor.
A middle-aged woman sat up in the bed with her back against her pillow. She wore white pajamas and her hair was graying and tied back. She currently fixed that hair with one hand.
“Dan? Is something the matter?”
Her voice was directed at the room’s entrance.
A boy casually wearing a school uniform stood there as if protecting the door. The boy, Dan Harakawa, turned to face the woman and finally twisted his head as if turning his shoulders.
“No, nothing’s wrong, mom.”
“Really?” asked the woman while reaching her left hand to the side table.
A plastic storage case sat there and she opened the slide cover that contained the name “Harakawa Yui”.
“Do you want one of the apples you brought by before?”
“Eat it yourself.”
“If you buy that many for me, I’ll get tired of them. …You really are a boy.”
Yui narrowed her eyes and smiled while pulling out a knife, a tray, and an apple.
“Did something happen to you? Is that why you ignored your usual schedule and visited in the morning?”
“Then let me ask you this, Dan. Did something happen to someone other than you?”
Harakawa answered with silence, but his mother only peeled the apple without saying anything more.
She peeled the juicy fruit and the sound gently filled the room.
As if that was his cue, Harakawa crossed his legs, took a breath, and spoke.
“Can I ask something?”
She did not reply, but he continued regardless.
“You worked for IAI, didn’t you?”
“Yes. It was that work that sent me to Yokota where I met your father. …Do you have some social studies homework? Do you have to research your parents’ jobs?”
“We haven’t had to do that since elementary school and this has nothing to do with that man. Because he had to go off and get himself killed.”
After a short pause, he spoke again.
He uncrossed his arms and scratched his head with his right hand.
He brushed his fingers through his hair, returned his crossed legs to normal, and crossed his arms again instead.
“I just have a simple question: have you ever heard of a part of IAI called UCAT?”
“Where did you hear about that?”
“I’m only asking if you’ve heard of it.”
He heard a voice call his name and he froze in place.
However, the sound of apple peeling continued and he answered after listening to it for a moment.
“Someone wants that place to protect them and my idiot classmates know about it, but I’ve never heard of it even after all the deliveries I’ve made to IAI with my job on the base.”
“Oh, dear. You think what you’ve seen is everything, don’t you?”
Yui then asked a question.
“Can you not trust what those people are saying? Or are you worried that your classmates are mistaken or lying and then the person seeking help will have nowhere to go?”
Harakawa did not respond. He merely listened to the peeling of the apple and a bitter laugh.
“I know you won’t like to hear it, but you really are just like your father in that regard.”
“Please stop comparing me to him.”
“But if I don’t do that, I can’t see how you differ either.”
“Most of it has to be how we’re different.” He closed his eyes, sighed, and took in a deep breath. “He always put others first. He would always neglect us for his military job and what the hell was he doing at the very end? He was a sniper, but he went out of his way to help with that Great Kansai Earthquake and died. …I won’t turn out like that. I swear it.”
“Then are you going to spend your entire life supporting only yourself and me? I caught this illness while helping with that earthquake, but I do receive some compensation for it.”
“Sorry, but we don’t have enough to support me or anything above the bare minimum for you. Even my attendance at school is just barely enough as I’m sure you know from my teacher visiting you. How am I supposed to guarantee anything more than this? Of course, I know this isn’t your fault. This is…”
“Then is it your father’s fault?”
Harakawa did not reply, but Yui gave a small smile.
“I was the one that got off topic there. Sorry. As for the UCAT you mentioned, an organization named that does exist in IAI. But it’s more like a subsidiary of IAI than a part of IAI itself. So…”
“So that’s why I didn’t know about it?”
This time, Yui did not reply and she had finished peeling the apple.
“See, I’m still plenty skilled with my hands.”
She picked up the single, continuous piece of apple skin to show him.
“Dan, open the window.”
Harakawa began to move as if peeling himself from the door. He took long strides past the bottom of the bed and reached for the latch on the window that faced the morning sun.
“Dan, your bracelet is about to break. Should I make you a new one as a protective charm?”
He looked down at the bracelet made of stones, but it did not seem anywhere near breaking to him.
“If that’ll help you kill some time.”
After giving permission, he opened the window.
The wind blew in.
The autumn wind was warm yet chilled the skin. The curtains blew around a little and Yui’s voice reached him.
“You need to take care of things. Especially girls.”
“I’m well aware of-… Wait. What’s this about girls?”
“Look down. She’s been looking around impatiently for a while now.”
He looked down at the parking lot where his motorcycle was parked. The sidecar had its cover up to prevent anyone from seeing inside, but…
“She’s been peeking out the window at the sky and field, but she clearly wants to leave. Much like a kitten. Based on how she looks, is she a foreigner from the base?”
“Some of the thoughts in her head certainly are foreign.”
Harakawa’s shoulders drooped and Yui said one more thing.
“Help your mother kill some time. It’s been a long while since I last spoke with a girl.”
“This ocean is terrible. This ocean is a terrible place to kill some time.”
Some dry English filled the air.
The voice came from a concrete wharf with the green and black of the ocean spreading out in front of it.
An elderly man in a suit stood on that wharf.
It was Odor.
He looked around and saw several large ships stopped along that wharf. They were all cargo ships that rose the equivalent of three stories above the wharf.
However, those ships were not moving. There was light in their windows, but no one could be seen inside the windows or on their decks.
The usual loading and transport of cargo was nowhere to be seen.
The wharf was the same. The large forklifts loaded with cargo containers were stopped and no workers were visible among the surrounding containers needing to be transported.
Something else was visible instead.
“Those are the mechanical dragons,” said Roger as he stepped out from behind a container.
He quickly approached Odor who stood on the water’s edge and he was looking to the blue and white mechanical dragon unit formed up behind one of the wharf’s large warehouses.
“Colonel, the six mechanical dragons from Atsugi have arrived. The first wave of interception against Black Sun will include twelve craft. Japanese UCAT’s Kanda Laboratory has agreed to use their large Accel Point creation device on the Accel Point currently surrounding this wharf once Black Sun appears.”
“And in exchange? What do they get in exchange, Roger?”
“The safety of those underneath Okutama. An easy price to pay, don’t you think? And in exchange, they will expand the Accel Point from Tokyo Bay to the Chuo Expressway and from the Chofu Interchange to the Trans-Tokyo Line that connects National Route 20. Black Sun will likely add 5th-Gear Accels to that space and fly toward the Vesper Cannon, but we will catch up and destroy him before he reaches Okutama.”
“Is it perfect? Is it perfect with just them, Roger?
“Testament. When they arrived at their positions earlier, did anything look inadequate to you, colonel? This is their job…just like we have our own jobs.”
Roger then looked out to sea.
“Black Sun has settled down outside of Tokyo Bay and we lost track of him.”
“Roger, Roger. Is it possible he’ll show up elsewhere?”
“Testament. We cannot rule it out, but including the repaired craft, there are a total of ten at Okutama now that four more have arrived and Yokota has sent out patrol planes. Of course, it is possible Black Sun’s stealth ability outdoes our technology.”
“In other words. In other words, Roger, this plan is not perfect?”
“I did not say that,” replied Roger without fear. “We are doing our job perfectly, but our enemy is also perfect.”
“Roger, Roger. That is a vague way of talking. But I am fortunate to have you as my aide. This cooperation between Yokota and Atsugi would have been impossible for the members of American UCAT who have never left the United States.”
“I am pleased to hear that.”
Roger bowed and Odor put his hands in his pockets.
“Roger, Roger. Do you have any intention of telling us about your past?”
“Has your wife told you anything?”
“Roger, Roger. You know her better than I do. To me, she is only the woman I made a mutual promise with to care for each other in our final days.”
Roger said nothing about her and simply looked up into the sky.
“What were you doing during the Gulf War, colonel?”
“I was going around taking care of mysterious incidents occurring in the country.”
“I was part of an internal inspection team that inspected the condition of injured soldiers. Those who were thought to be victims of biological or chemical weapons were rushed to Yokota because Japanese UCAT had advanced their Accel method research far enough to cure them in a number of effective ways. American UCAT provided guidance,” explained Roger. “I got to know the ones who had suggested the idea. Including a descendent of Lord Northwind, a hero of World War Two, most of them had relatives who had dealt with Japanese UCAT during the National Defense Department days. …And one of them was James Thunderson after he left American UCAT.”
“I see, I see. And?”
“Testament. American UCAT’s primary base in Japan is underneath Yokota and I met them during joint training at that base. Thanks to that, my connection with them continued even after the Gulf War.”
Roger lowered his gaze toward one of the mechanical dragons and the maintenance soldiers between the wharf’s large warehouses.
“Thunderson’s mechanical dragon was a modified version of the Thunderbird which had lost the development race against that Blanca 9. He preferred the superior stability and safety of the Thunderbird over the full transformation of the Blanca series.”
With a slight smile, he looked to the city beyond the wharf: Tokyo.
A white haze covered the many buildings, but their windows reflected some light back.
Odor asked a question while still facing the ocean.
“They…died, didn’t they?”
“Testament. And all at the same place. We answered a request for help from Japanese UCAT and travelled to that place along with your wife.”
“Roger, Roger. I hadn’t met her yet back then. And I hear you were sent out to assist with the recovery after the Great Kansai Earthquake, but is that true?”
“Testament. If there is no one but us that can speak of it, then I suppose it is true,” said Roger. “But I…survived. And Japanese UCAT’s defenses were too strict, so I could not find out what happened to most of the families afterwards. I do know that Thunderson’s wife took their daughter to the United States and visited his grandfather.”
“I have no intention of placing Thunderson’s daughter in danger.”
Odor nodded just before footsteps approached them.
A woman in a blue armored uniform ran out from behind a warehouse.
“Colonel, major, we have a transmission from the base.”
She carried a memo and her voice continued on to the ocean containing no one but them.
“The satellite has photographed an individual who seems to be the target. Shall we send personnel out to Akigawa Central Hospital?”
Roger turned to Odor.
While still looking out to sea, the elderly man removed his right hand from his pocket and reached into his suit pocket.
He pulled out an aluminum case containing cigars.
“Roger, Roger. I won’t get mad, so tell me: who here has the least to do and is most in the way? If your answer is the two of us, then let’s get to work.”
“Are you sure I’m not in the way?” asked Heo.
She was inside a hospital room and sitting on a round stool next to the bed.
She held her hands between her thighs and shrank down while asking another question to the women in the bed.
“Um, where is Harakawa?”
“I had him wait down below, so don’t worry.”
The one speaking was the woman who was apparently Harakawa’s mother. Her name was Yui and Heo had just named herself as well.
After the introductions, Heo was unsure what to do.
Not only did she not know what to talk about, she did not know if the two of them had a single common topic to speak about. Yui had apparently said she wanted to speak with Heo, but she had not asked the girl anything.
“Would you like an apple? I peeled one for him earlier.”
“Oh, thank you.”
“Did you not have enough for breakfast? He does make meals for guys.”
“No, he made toast and salad and even gave me some milk.”
“I see. In other words, you spent the night with him, didn’t you, Heo-san?”
“Ah.” Heo noticed the leading question too late and frantically waved her hands back and forth. “U-um, uh, we’re not in that kind of relationship or anything.”
“But as a guy, he has to take responsibility for what he’s done, doesn’t he?”
“No, um, I don’t mind that he saw me naked.”
“I see. So he saw you naked.”
Heo blushed at that second leading statement and Yui gave a bitter laugh.
“Don’t worry. If he had done anything, I’m sure he would have said something about it first.”
Yui pulled an apple from the storage case on the side table.
Heo looked up when she heard the sound of the knife peeling it.
“You’re really good at that.”
“Want to try it with the next one? No, how about we each peel one for each other?”
Yui looked inside the case which contained a single apple inside a plastic bag as well as a teacup and some other things.
Heo nodded and Yui began peeling the apple once more.
“Heo-san? It sounds like you’re having a hard time.”
“Eh? Did Harakawa tell you?”
She had thought he had not believed her, but had he really?
“I hear you met a monster.”
“Y-yes, that’s right. And then I was separated from my great-grandfather.”
“I see. I hope you can see him again. But if you have nowhere to go, feel free to stay with that boy.”
“No, that would be too much trouble for him.” Heo hesitated and tensed her shoulders. “I think it would be better if I found a relative before long.”
“Oh, dear. It looks like he has gotten very good at drawing in girls.”
“N-no, that isn’t it.”
“I see. Then what is it?”
Yui asked with a smile, so Heo blushed even more, shook her head, and further tensed her shoulders.
“A-as I said, I’m just trouble for him. I really am.”
“Are you really? He doesn’t seem to mind all that much. If he really did mind, he wouldn’t push you away. He would leave on his own.”
Her confusion cooled her face, but Yui continued talking like usual while moving her hands in the morning sunlight.
“If he did not like you, he would find some reason or another to leave the apartment, just like a stray dog going on a trip to avoid a turf war. But if he’s staying by your side instead, he must be at ease.”
“He has trouble fitting in at school and he works at the base but doesn’t live there. He has always chosen to live a solitary life, but now he has let a kitten into his space.”
Heo did not entirely understand what the woman had said with a smile.
However, she did grasp that Harakawa did not dislike her as much as she had thought.
…But why not?
She had done nothing but cause trouble for him, so it seemed odd that he would not dislike her.
That doubt led to a question which she expressed in words.
“But why does he let me be with him?”
“That I don’t know. You’re closer to him than me, so have you noticed anything interesting about him?”
Having the question thrown back at her, Heo thought.
She did not have to think for long.
She came up with something in only a few seconds and it was something she had spoken with him about the night before.
“He has a bookshelf in his room’s closet, but what is that? If this is something I shouldn’t ask, then pretend I didn’t.”
“Yes. It had a lot of technical books, novels, and lots of different hard covers.”
As she spoke, Yui suddenly bent over.
She leaned forward as if she had fallen.
Thinking the woman was in pain, Heo started to get up, but she soon realized the woman was quietly laughing.
Yui must have noticed Heo’s movement because she raised her shaking shoulders.
“Sorry, but that was just too funny. …That boy can be so stubborn and it reminds me so much of that man.”
“He actually loves books,” replied Yui. “When we lived on the base, everything was very noisy and it was hard to make many friends, so as a child, he would often read books for us in the house. Once he started doing that, my husband began buying all sorts of books. …Surprised?”
Heo tensed her shoulders and shook her head.
“N-no, not really.”
“You can laugh if you want. …Anyway, at one point, my husband said he was going to quit the military. It seemed he thought what he was doing there was wrong. When he did, he promised to leave the base, buy a large white house, open a bookstore or used bookstore there, and live a quiet life. But one night, he was called in under special circumstances, and…” Yui shrugged. “You can use the current situation to guess what happened.”
Heo trembled a bit at that quiet question.
“That Harakawa’s father, um…”
“Passed away? What makes you think that?”
Heo replied on reflex.
“If he was alive, I think Harakawa would have said something. I’m the type that likes to remember and talk about what I’ve lost so I can live with it more easily, but I think he’s the opposite.”
As soon as she asked that, a tray carrying apple slices was held out to her. When she took it, Yui’s hand reached out to her head.
The woman stroked Heo’s head as if brushing her hair.
Heo gave a small gasp and something spilled from her eyes.
The word “tears” did not immediately come to mind and she remembered something else instead.
…My mom used to do this for me, didn’t she?
“Oh, dear. I’m sorry. Did I startle you?”
“No, y-you didn’t. I just remembered the past a bit is all.”
She wiped the remaining tears from her eyes and smiled. So as not to worry the woman, she hurriedly took the last apple from the storage case.
“H-how about I peel this one?”
Yui smiled and stroked her head one last time.
While feeling a little disappointed that the woman was removing her hand, Heo took the knife from the tray.
“Heo-san? May I tell you something?”
“Y-yes. What is it?”
“It’s easy to tell when you are lying, so be careful when deceiving people.”
“That’s my only hint. You are on your way to the Nishitama Cemetery, correct? Then hurry up and peel that apple and feed it to this old woman.”
“I feel bad making Harakawa wait, but I’m slow with my hands.”
With that, Heo lowered her head and worked.
She was fairly confident in using a knife because her mother had taught her. That was due to helping her mother make apple pies and jams while younger. One could even say cooking was her hobby.
…But I want to stay here a little longer.
Yet when she remembered that she might be followed by a demon, she hung her head even further. She doubted she would ever receive any peace in the future either.
…This is just like why I cried while running at his school last night.
To get her mind off that, she looked at Yui and the woman tilted her head.
“What is it?”
“Oh, um, nothing.”
Heo shrank down with a single thought in her mind.
…Has Harakawa given up on his future?
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