Owari no Chronicle:Volume8 Chapter 2

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Chapter 2: The Pair’s Pace[edit]

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I will walk with you

That is a promise

But it is such a natural thing that I will keep that promise without even trying


The many-colored lights for a night game lit up the schoolyard.

The sandy area extended for a kilometer in each direction and the lighting produced a certain level of mood.

Simple green spectator seating was set up between the lights and the schoolyard was divided into eight sections.

Food stands, an entrance gate, and an exit gate had been built along that schoolyard.

The entrance gate said “Taka-Akita Academy 60th Athletic Festival” and the first school building bordering that schoolyard had hanging banners saying “7 days until the festival begins” and “14 days until the post-festival party”.

People were scattered around the schoolyard where those hanging banners were visible.

Most of them wore track suits and the armbands of the athletic festival committee and they were redrawing the lines on the schoolyard, reaffixing the simple spectator seating, or placing signs for local sponsors on the food stands.

The 100 meter dash and the 400 meter one lap line required especially long white lines, so they were very carefully redrawing or adding to the lines.

Two students were redrawing the lines near the first school building. The one drawing the fourth lane had long hair with a ribbon and the one drawing the fifth lane wore a suit and had his hair slicked back. The two of them walked while rolling the line carts behind them.

The one with long hair spoke to the boy in a suit walking next to her.

“Sayama-kun, the student council does a lot of things, doesn’t it? I never thought we would help prepare for the athletic festival.”

“Shinjou-kun, is this your first time for this kind of event?” asked Sayama with Baku on his head.

Shinjou nodded with a smile.

“Even when UCAT had some special recreation, it was always a one day thing. Also, everyone would pretty quickly gather together and decide the match with a fistfight. Are those the official rules for soccer and baseball?”

“What kind of sports are the soccer and baseball you are talking about?”

“In soccer, you can’t use your hands, but in baseball, you can use a bat.”

“And what would you be using them on?”

“Your opponent’s bodies. …In soccer, you can only hit their head with a headbutt, right?”

“Ha ha ha. Going to such physical humor so quickly? You are surprisingly extreme, Shinjou-kun. There are some sports I need to show you on TV sometime. One involves kicking a ball and the other involves hitting a ball with a stick.”

“Thanks. Anyway, I never knew the lines of a sports field were drawn with lime. Some of the white powder got in my nose earlier and I started feeling kind of funny.”

Sayama nodded while thinking he could use that last sentence in one of his edited audio recordings.

They walked on and their lines bent along the outer edge of the schoolyard. They could see the spectator seating, the food stands, and the signs for local store sponsors.

“The pieces of art from past graduates are over there,” pointed out Shinjou as she turned around. “I’ve been wondering. Why is there a collection of memorials there?”

“Oh, about twenty years ago, the graduates made super-realistic sand pictures of themselves. They lined them up and gave them black borders made from carbon to protect them from the elements, but oddly enough, local residents and the Buddhist society keep bringing offerings of flowers and water. Wonderful, isn’t it?”

“I think it’s more ominous than it is wonderful.”

“It is not ominous. The alumni association was afraid it would seem that way, so they have recently been making alterations. At night, a few of them will randomly appear to smile and their eyes will glow.”

“That’s plenty creepy.”

Shinjou sighed and looked toward Sayama.

“I know it’s a bit late to ask, but why are you wearing a suit, Sayama-kun?”

“This is my athletic suit, so there is nothing at all strange about-… What is with that look, Shinjou-kun?”

“I was just wondering what to do when someone has the very foundations wrong.”

“Now that you bring it up, should you be wearing a track suit? Given the time…”

“I have Sadame’s body right now, but…I’m fine. I changed clothes and I’m getting more used to going outside. I sometimes go out without disguising my chest, so I do wonder if I’m getting too careless.”

“That means you are able to relax, Shinjou-kun. But if you ever need something to cover your chest, just tell me. I will use my own two hands to help calm you down.”

“Right, right.”

She averted her gaze while nodding, but she kept her right hand on her chest.

She began walking once more and Sayama silently followed.

After a moment, she spoke up while lowering her head.

“Um, Sayama-kun? Preparing for the athletic festival is fun and all, but…”

“Is this about the Leviathan Road?”

“Eh? Oh… Th-there is that. And there’s also the person from the Army I met. …W-well, both of those things are actually more important and this may be sudden, but…”

She slowed her pace and she lowered her head enough for her bangs to hide her face.

“You haven’t been checking on my body lately.”

“I see. So to put it logically, you are asking to do it right here and now.”

“How is that logical!?”

“Calm down, calm down,” he said after she shouted at him and turned her red face toward him.

It was true they had not had much free time with the preparations in the morning and evening and the festival committee members or Izumo and the others stopping by their room.

When you add in the time she needs to write her novel, we have to get to sleep right away.

She seemed to have made it past the plot stage of her novel because she was building up the setting on the library computer while either writing “good” or throwing out the data. That was important too, but…

“It is true we have not had much time for just the two of us lately.”

“Yeah…but I’m sorry. I’m talking about myself when the Leviathan Road is more important.”

“The old man seems to be preparing the preliminary negotiations for 4th and 5th. Richard Thunderson of the Eight Great Dragon Kings is even supposed to arrive today as American UCAT’s inspector. I assume it is to help the negotiations with 5th run more smoothly. …But for now, what is it you wish to discuss about your body?”

Shinjou stopped walking and stood with the monument-like pieces of art behind her.

“Neither body is working. The other day, I just got a stomachache again. Am I really making any progress?”

“I see,” said Sayama again.

He stopped the line cart next to him and folded his arms while Baku mimicked him on his head. But before he could say anything, Shinjou spoke again.

“I-is the boy side getting in the way?”

“You mean Setsu-kun’s body? I would like to know why you think that.”

“Because…” She too let go of the cart and lightly held her own body. “Well… there’s something I don’t really understand. Um? Sayama-kun, will you tell me?”

“I will answer any question for you, Shinjou-kun. All truth and knowledge lies within me.”

“Oh? Then what’s the truth behind the Kennedy assassination?”

“There are times when a man cannot restrain himself any longer.”

“That is not it and you know it!!”

That shouted response came not from Shinjou but somewhere much further away, so Sayama looked up.

He looked to Shinjou, but she was shaking her head with a look of surprise. She was saying it had not been her.

He waited for a few seconds, but he heard nothing more beyond the distant hammering of students constructing stands and the distant shouts of sports teams practicing.

“Was that shout a special function added to the graduates’ self-portraits? Well, it does not matter. Shinjou-kun, what is it you wish to ask me?”

“Oh, right. Well, a man and a woman can make a baby, right? Oh, and I know how, so you don’t have to explain it.”

“Hm. That last bit is certainly disappointing.”

“Yes, yes. Very disappointing. Now, about my question.”

She took in a breath, paused for a few seconds, and spoke clearly while blushing.

“H-how do two boys make a baby?”

As soon as the question left her lips, two odd sounds of impact came from behind her.

Sayama looked over and found two people collapsed in the schoolyard behind the self-portraits.

“Why are you two lying on the ground there, Kazami, Izumo?”


Kazami came to when she heard her name.

She could see the nighttime schoolyard turned on its side and two people standing on it.

She wondered who they were and she eventually found the answer: Sayama and Shinjou.

She then questioned why she was on the ground.

“Did Shinjou-kun’s challenging question give the two of you anemia?”

That question brought her back to her senses.

She frantically stood up and walked over to Sayama without brushing the sand off of her track suit.

“J-just a moment, Sayama!”

She kicked Izumo’s head to wake him as she walked over and Shinjou was the one to react. Her shoulders shook as if in fear.

“Oh… Kazami-san, did you hear that?”

“Yes, we were swapping out the self-portraits’ voice ROMs from vengeful spirit to invigorating cheering. …But what is this all of a sudden, Shinjou?”

“Well,” said Shinjou.

She lowered her head and brought a hand to her chest, but…

“…”

She hesitated. Kazami had a pretty good guess what this was about, but she chose to say something else instead.

“If you think saying it will help resolve it, you should say it.”

“Right,” said Shinjou quietly before finally taking a few breaths. “Um… I still don’t have my period and the boy side still can’t reach the very end like Sayama-kun can. But…a girl can carry a baby, right?”

“Yes, even I can do that.”

“Chisato! You’ve finally decided to- gwoh!”

She silenced the voice on the ground by kicking over the line cart with her heel and then she placed a hand on Shinjou’s shoulder.

She then realized the girl’s trembling was reaching her palm.

Still trembling, Shinjou lowered the ends of her eyebrows and looked back and forth between Kazami and Sayama. Her damp eyes shook a bit and narrowed as she opened her trembling mouth.

“But… Even if I can carry a baby as a girl, what happens during the day when I’m a boy?”

“…”

“If I return to a boy during the day, the baby will disappear. So if…um….two boys can’t make a baby together, I…um…”

Kazami saw her head lower further as she spoke.

“I looked into it. But I couldn’t find anything saying if it was possible or not. …If nothing says it isn’t possible, then it might be possible, right? So today, I worked up my courage and asked a girl from our class, but she said I should ask Sayama-kun instead. So…um…”

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“Shinjou.”

She stopped speaking when Kazami called her name. She looked on the verge of tears.

Before the dam holding in her emotions could burst, Kazami motioned Sayama over.

“Hey, Shinjou,” she began. “Do you not like your current body?”

After a pause, Shinjou shook her head and took a rough breath.

“I stopped rejecting it.”

Kazami breathed a mental sigh of relief at that.

That meant Shinjou’s worry was a simple matter. Unlike before, she did not have a problem with the way she was.

She wants both Sadame and Setsu to become proper adults, but she’s afraid that will cause problems.

That was the fear that had led her to discuss something that would overturn the workings of the world such as having a child between two boys.

Kazami found it cute, but Shinjou herself was completely serious.

“I see,” she said despite not knowing what exactly she meant. She then tapped Sayama on the shoulder. “Listen. Give the answer you need to give and then have a nice discussion about the future.”

“I understand.”

He was as expressionless as ever and Kazami felt relieved enough to take a step away.

He approached Shinjou and grabbed both her shoulders.

She gave a start and finally looked up. She looked straight ahead with tears gathering in her eyes, but Sayama was not shaken.

“Shinjou-kun, please listen. You seem to be worried that Setsu-kun and I would be unable to have a child together, but…”

“Y-yeah?”

Sayama gave his answer.

“I can make it happen.”

An instant later, Kazami felt her vision falling into darkness once more.

“…”

She had the contradictory sensation of losing all her senses and her mind recovered with the rising feeling of waking from a dream.

Her mind was initially filled with confusion.

Huh? What was I just doing?

It was an odd feeling.

She recalled having heard something strange, but she could not quite remember what it was.

There was also something strange about her vision. She had previously been standing in the schoolyard at night, so why was she leaning against a wall now?

Wondering what the wall was, she touched it. It felt strange.

Is this…?

What she had thought was a wall was the schoolyard, so she had to have collapsed at some point.

She suddenly realized someone was shaking her and calling out to her.

“Hey! Chisato! Chisato! Are you okay!?”

This is hopeless.

As she listened to Izumo’s voice, she realized her body and mind were not linking up properly.

Simply put, she had taken some form of serious mental damage.

But then…

“Chisato, wake up! Fine. If that’s how it’s gonna be, I’ll use this chance to feel up those breasts in publi-…”

Fighting instincts unrelated to her mind sent her fist flying.

It struck and the impact travelled through her fist to her wrist, arm, shoulder, and then brain. The impacts of one, two, three, and then four punches connected her mind to her body and her senses returned with the fifth blow.

“Oh, I’ve woken up. …Huh? Kaku? Why are you so bloody?”

She got up and looked at Izumo who lay collapsed before her, but he was breathing.

After concluding he had fallen asleep, she stood up.

The shock had mixed up her memories a little. She did not remember what had happened while she had been collapsed, but she doubted it was anything worthwhile.

She lightly tapped her dizzy head and turned to Sayama and Shinjou.

Shinjou was crying while Sayama held her in his arms.

“…”

Kazami silently lowered her shoulders as she realized Shinjou had understood that Sayama was lying. Or that he was fully intent on doing it but did not have a foundation for his confidence this time.

But she does have someone to support her like that.

Kazami gave a small smile, but then electronic tones came from the pockets of the three who stood on the schoolyard.

They came from their cell phones and there was only one reason all three of them would get a call at the same time.

“UCAT?” she asked.

Sayama was the first one to act. He first looked across the others.

“It is me.”

And he answered his black cell phone.

After a moment, he gave an expressionless comment.

“A strange concept space has appeared to the north of Akigawa?”


The city of Akigawa was divided by a few roads running east to west through its center.

One of those was the main road that ran through Taka-Akita Academy and the JR Itsukaichi Line was just south of it.

Crossing the Itsukaichi Line and continuing south brought one to a gentle slope leading down to the Aki River.

An apartment building was located in a residential district halfway down that sloped area. It was a beige mortar apartment building with a bamboo grove behind it, it looked quite old, and it was incredibly dirty.

It bordered the road to its north and had a small gravel space instead of a parking lot.

Light and noise arrived at the eastern end of that dry gravel. They were the headlight and engine of a motorcycle.

Three tires could be heard digging into the gravel: the motorcycle’s front and back wheels and the sidecar’s one wheel.

The headlight illuminated the front of a room with a nameplate saying Harakawa. Below it, the names Yui and Dan were given side by side.

The motorcycle’s engine shut off and the person riding it stepped down. He was a boy wearing a black leather jacket, a T-shirt, and black jeans.

He did not wear a helmet and only a bandanna held down his messy hair. He brushed his dark fingers through that hair and took his bag from the sidecar.

“I’m home.”

He put a key in the green steel door and pushed it open.

The space inside was darker than the night outside, but the boy, Dan Harakawa, entered regardless.

He flipped the switch next to the door and light filled the inside.

The kitchen extended to his right and a living room was located directly ahead. There were no furnishings besides the TV and stereo in a corner of the living room and a table.

He closed the door behind him.

“?”

He noticed a piece of paper stuck in the door’s mail slot, so he took it out.

“Oh, it’s from Ooki-sensei. She’s telling me to come to class again, isn’t she? Did she actually stop by my house? What a pain. And her handwriting’s hard to read too.”

Despite his words, he had a small smile on his lips. However, he gently suppressed the expression.

“I suppose I’m a pain too.”

He tossed his bag to the side of the kitchen.

As he listened to the sounds of the books and metal components inside hitting the ground, he heard another odd sound.

It came from the door behind him and it sounded like something had hit it, so he tilted his head.

Is it that cat? Is it begging for food again?

With a practiced motion, he slowly opened the door while using it as a shield.

And he found what had hit the door.

Rather than a cat, it was a girl.

She had collapsed and was curled up in the small cement space in front of the door.

Her short blonde hair spilled onto the damp cement and took some of the ground’s color with it.

“Is she from the base?”

Dan thought about the American military’s Yokota Air Base where he worked part time. However, even if the base was in the neighboring town of Fussa, that was still five kilometers away. Not many of the people connected to the base lived in Akigawa and he had never even seen a girl with such noticeably blonde hair around Fussa.

I’ve never seen her while at work either.

“Hey,” he called out while crouching down, but she did not react.

Even in the dark night, he could tell her slender face was not looking good and she was sweating quite a bit. He guessed that she was dehydrated.

Just as he began to reenter the apartment to get some water, he saw a small movement from her hand.

Her slender right hand reached toward him in the still night and he heard her voice. At first she spoke in English that he could not quite catch, but then…

“Help me…”

He responded to her Japanese words with an action. He reached out and held her hand. He squeezed to tell her he was there.

“Don’t worry.”

The girl turned toward his words.

She slowly tilted her head and opened her blue eyes a bit in surprise. Something in her eyes that could have been sweat or tears caused their blue to waver.

She took in a breath and gave a small nod toward Harakawa.

But that was as far as she got. As if she finally found herself able to relax, her strength left her, her eyes closed, and her head dropped down.

She had passed out.

“Hey,” called out Harakawa, but she did not respond.

She merely took long, rhythmical breaths with no strength in her body. She seemed to be sleeping.

He let go of her hand, saw that strength did not return to that hand, slowly sat down on the entranceway floor, and sighed.

“What a pain. What do you mean ‘save me’? You could at least give your name.”

He looked at the girl and rested his chin on his hand.

“A cat would’ve been better than this.”


Far above the nighttime ocean, an object flew above the clouds in a place too high to even call the sky.

It was an airplane.

The gently-curved, white passenger plane was made in Japan.

The flight had left the west coast of the United States and was crossing the Pacific Ocean to reach Japan. As it flew through the night, lights could be seen through the windows on the side and the interior was visible.

The economy class seats were aligned with three sets of three to a row and the plane was preparing for a late dinner.

Most of the passengers were Japanese on the way back from touring, but two foreigners sat next to the right wing. One was an elderly man in the window seat and the other was a young man sleeping in the center seat.

The young man in a suit was sleeping with a blanket pulled up to his shoulders, but he woke to the sound of the flight attendant bringing dinner. He bowed to the woman who passed a dinner tray to the elderly man further in.

“How much longer?” he asked in fluent Japanese.

The woman answered “about three hours” in English.

At the same time, the plane shook slightly. However, it shook vertically rather than horizontally.

The man’s body floated up into the air a bit and then the plane shook to the left.

“We seem to have hit some turbulence. I apologize.”

The flight attendant spoke calmly, but she spoke Japanese this time. By the time she finished speaking, the plane had made it out on top of the air and only had the normal vibration of an airplane.

The surrounding people grew a bit noisier. It was partially due to dinner arriving, but it also seemed someone’s food had fallen from the tray in the turbulence. The bread also fell from the tray held out to the young man.

The flight attendant apologized and also spoke to the elderly man in English.

“Sir, is yours okay?”

“It’s fine, it’s fine. Nothing to worry about.”

The young man heard the elderly man reply in English. After receiving a replacement tray and placing it on the simple table he opened in front of him, he turned to the elderly man.

The elderly man wore a suit, had thin hair, and had a tall and slender build. He was currently eating while looking out the window.

The food on his tray showed no sign of having moved during the turbulence.

Just as the young man was about to talk to him, the elderly man grabbed the bread and spoke.

“Roger, Roger. This bread is really bad. Why is it so damp?”

The young man, Roger, shrugged at the English words spoken without even looking at him.

“I believe that is Japanese bread, Colonel Odor. According to my research, this flight’s food was supplied by IAI and I suspect this is their new bread meant for the Japanese. It is called ‘Eat My Soft Skin Bread’.”

“Such a ridiculous, ridiculous culture of copying others Japan has! What do you think of the flavor?”

“Well, the outside is crunchy and the inside is spongy, but it seems to me the outside would need to be the soft part to count as ‘soft skin’.”

“Roger, Roger. How can you know that when you haven’t eaten it yet?”

“A silly question. I can deduce it all from the information available to me.”

“Then…then what about this, Roger? Deduce when I’m going to die.”

“I do not have much information on you, Colonel Odor. A delusion with an unsatisfactory basis would only lower your confidence in me, so I can deduce that I would be better off not doing so.”

With a quick laugh, the elderly man called Odor stopped looking out the window. He cut the bread in his hand with a knife and spoke once more.

“Roger, Roger. Tell me what information you gathered while asleep. Tell me what our mission is.”

“Very well. Major General Richard Thunderson, the American Leviathan Road inspector sent ahead of us by American UCAT, and Miss Heo Thunderson, his great-granddaughter, have gone missing. We were to meet up with them as assistant inspectors, but our mission is now to search for them.”

Roger removed a cup of gelatin from his dinner tray and pulled a stamp-sized case from his pocket.

He opened the top of the case and poured its contents into the indentation that had contained the gelatin cup.

Those contents were bluish-white sand.

A Japanese girl in the seat across the aisle tilted her head as she watched him. She appeared younger than elementary school age and Roger smiled at her before placing a hand over the sand.

Something strange then happened.

The sand moved.


The sand spread out in the indentation as if sprawling out.

It then created a pattern with itself. It moved as if there were bugs inside, but it accurately formed several geometric shapes.

In the next seat, Odor took a sip of coffee from his paper cup.

“Roger, Roger. What do you see? So this is the famous dream sand of Roger Sully created by combining philosopher’s stone powder and sand. It uses the concept that, if all things eventually become trash, sand can gather information on all things, right? You could call it a deodorant for information. …A good partner for someone who goes by the name Odor.”

Roger did not reply to Odor’s comments and looked into the moving sand. The sand drew an image of the information gathered by the philosopher’s stone powder. The image was created using the philosopher’s stone powder and a weakened version of 1st-Gear’s foundational writing concept and its meaning was transmitted via a sort of suggestion.

Across the aisle, the young girl’s eyes sparkled as she watched the sand move.

“Hey, he’s playing with sand! The sand is moving!”

She called out to the mother sitting next to her, but the mother had not noticed the sand and only bowed apologetically toward Roger and scolded the child.

Roger smiled bitterly at that, but then nodded once the sand finished moving.

“Colonel Odor, my deduction has been confirmed. Japanese UCAT has apparently informed our higher ups of Mr. Richard Thunderson’s death. Rather than form a search party, we are to stay at Yokota Air Base as temporary inspectors and act according to the agreement made in case of Mr. Thunderson’s death. Also…”

Roger looked to his superior, but Odor said nothing and brought a spoonful of hardening gratin to his mouth. Roger decided to simply state the information.

“Heo Thunderson is still missing.”

Hearing that, Odor lightly clasped his hands.

“So… So Thunderson’s fear upon leaving for Japan as the Leviathan Road’s inspector has come true. …This will greatly change the motion of the world. Do you have the document?”

“Testament.” Roger pulled an envelope from his suit pocket. “I have the contract that Mr. Thunderson gave us without Japanese UCAT’s knowledge. This document provides the legal right to change everything about the Leviathan Road. Japanese UCAT likely viewed Mr. Thunderson’s arrival as a way to avoid our restraints, but they will see just how important an individual he was once they see this.”

“Roger, Roger. Make sure you eventually shove that in their faces. …Now, let’s get back on topic. What information do we have on this missing Heo Thunderson? I believe I was told her father, grandfather, and great-grandfather were all soldiers.”

“Testament. And she does not know of UCAT’s existence. However, her father’s grave is in Japan. Her father and mother were deployed to Japan by American UCAT, but they transferred to Japanese UCAT. Her father died in Japan in ’95 and her mother died in America in ’97. This is her first time back in Japan since then.”

“I see, I see. So she was born in a base in Japan. Continue.”

“Testament. First, all of her grandparents have passed away.”

And…

“Her paternal grandmother, Jessica Thunderson, was adopted by Richard Thunderson. Jessica’s true father was James Davis, a mechanical dragon test pilot for American UCAT’s air force division during World War Two. Jessica was one of the man’s two children. Mr. Richard Thunderson took her in and then joined with Japanese UCAT as American UCAT’s representative.”

“What happened to James Davis’s other child?”

“I only know that it was a boy and that he was taken in by a distant relative, but I have been unable to track him down. However, it does seem Mr. Richard Thunderson has long been searching for him.”

“How ridiculous, how ridiculous. But if you can track him down, we will have a relative to send Heo Thunderson to. …She is now the sole survivor of the Thunderson family. America welcomes those with nothing, but what about Japan?”

“Impossible to say, Colonel Odor. But…” Roger sank down in his seat. “Heo Thunderson’s father was named James. …Richard Thunderson’s adoptive daughter Jessica named her illegitimate son after her real father. Did the relationship between adoptive father and daughter not go well?”

Odor replied after cutting off another piece of his bread.

“Roger, Roger. Do not put sentiment in a question you can’t answer. People have different rules for naming people, so you can’t know. Take Heo Thunderson for example. What language is Heo from? It looks like it was given based on the sound alone. See? There’s no way to know.” He took a breath. “But we do know that we must begin the new mission given to us by Richard Thunderson’s death and that we must find Heo Thunderson. And Roger, what will you do with the sand?”

“Testament. Some of its effectiveness remains, so I can store it and use it again.”

“You are a petty, petty person. An American must have an ambitious and tolerant heart. …What is with this jam!? It’s too sweet!! Call whoever is responsible!!”

“Colonel, remember your tolerant heart!”

“Roger, Roger. I may have a tolerant heart in America, but I only have a normal amount of kindness. Anyway, I hear you spent some time in Japan. You didn’t become petty like those Japanese in your time there, did you? Surely you aren’t thinking fondly about your time there, are you?”

“O-of course not. I am gung-ho for America.”

“Gung-ho? What language is that?”

Roger thought for an instant, but quickly feigned calm by brushing a hand through his hair.

“I believe it is of Chinese origin.”

“I see, I see. So I was mistaken when I thought it had a Japanese ring to it.”

“Testament. I believe you were mistaken.”

“Good. Good, Roger. But that was only the negative test to see if you have been too strongly influenced by Japan. Next is the positive test to see how you feel about America.”

“The positive test? Wh-what is that?”

The demand was simple. Odor crossed his arms and looked at Roger.

“The national anthem. Sing the national anthem of the United States of America.”

Roger thought for a moment.

“Th-the national anthem?”

“Yes, yes. And loudly. Sing it loudly. And make sure to stand up.”

“L-loudly? And while standing?”

Roger’s expression showed he did not like the idea, but he soon shook his head.

He eliminated all idle thoughts from his face and turned to Odor.

“Colonel, I apologize, but I would like for you to show me how it is done.”

“Roger, Roger. This is a test. I can’t exactly give the right answer ahead of time.”

“But colonel, can the answer desired by America really be restricted to a mere test? I believe the true answer resides in one’s spirit. I simply wish to see your spirit. Or do you not have that spirit?”

And…

“Once you show me how it is done as my superior officer, I will follow your lead.”

Roger brushed a hand through his hair and looked around. The surrounding Japanese were focused on them because they had been speaking back and forth in English for a while now.

They were on a secret mission for UCAT. Odor had decided to use a normal plane for some reason, but they had to avoid standing out too much within it.

He must understand that, thought Roger with a sigh. He will back down and this will be over.

Odor stood up and began to sing.

“————!!”

It happened so suddenly that Roger felt dizzy.

He found himself unable to hear or see the low singing voice, the applause from the girl sitting next to them, or the confused looks from the adults.

For some reason, he was briefly reminded of the past. He remembered the time he had shoplifted some writing implements for his younger siblings in a small rural town outside of Dallas. The store owner had chased him with the setting sun in the background, hit him with a flying kick, and then performed multiple powerbombs on him.

His younger siblings had cheered him on as they caught up.

Stand up! Please stand up, Roger!! Count 1! 2! He stood up at 2.7!

“!”

He finally recovered.

Unpleasant sweat covered him and his entire body was oddly warm.

He looked to the side and found the elderly man still standing after finishing his song. He was looking to Roger with an expressionless look.

“Roger, Roger. You’re next. Use your youth to make up for what you lack.”

He handed Roger a spoon in place of a microphone. Roger took a breath while restraining the little finger that stood up from the hand holding the spoon. After using that breath to motivate himself, he stood and prepared himself.

He saw the flight attendant approaching down the aisle with a serious smile on her face.

He had to do something before she arrived.

But he frowned once he saw Odor begin eating again.

“Colonel Odor? That is your personal knife you’re using to cut your bread, isn’t it? Please hide it. The rules state you are not allowed to bring weapons onto the plane.”

“Roger, Roger. Americans shouldn’t be so petty.”

“I do not think it is being petty to ask you to place that reinforced plastic knife back in the heel of your shoe. Also, Colonel Odor, please hide the special reinforced plastic gun in your breast pocket, the plastic explosive hidden in your hair…oh, and the fuse inside your PDA’s digital pen.”

“Roger, Roger. How could you tell?”

“I can deduce it all from the information available to me. You normally do not put anything in your breast pocket or any kind of gel in your hair and your PDA has a touch screen. Lastly, when riding a Japanese airplane with lax security, you are sure to take something with you so that you can laugh about it later.”

“I see.” Rather than hiding the specified objects, he placed them on Roger’s seat. “You can take care of them. Got that? You can take care of them, Roger. Return them before we land. Oh, and this too.”

Odor handed Roger a small object.

It was a blue philosopher’s stone.

“What is this?”

“Roger, Roger. Did you know there was an area of America’s skies known as inviolable airspace even before World War Two? 5th-Gear’s great black dragon would fly there for fun and shoot down the pilots who supported the Age of Flight.”

“I did know that. What about it?”

“No, no, Roger. Deduce. Make a deduction. In the forties, that inviolable airspace rapidly thinned and almost completely vanished. Why?”

“The ley line alterations made by Japan’s National Defense Department shifted the location of the inviolable airspace to the Pacific Ocean near Hokkaido.”

“That’s right. That’s right, Roger. You’re making your deductions now, aren’t you? You’re working toward an answer, aren’t you? Think, Roger. Where are we and what is this philosopher’s stone? The answer is simple. We are over the Pacific Ocean near Japan and this philosopher’s stone is a weakened 5th-Gear concept.”

As soon as he said that, the flight attendant arrived.

“Sirs, um, we are headed for some turbulence, so please sit down. And try not to raise your voices too-…”

Suddenly, the airplane shook, but it did not jerk to the side like before. It shook downwards as if something had struck it.

“…!!”

The flight attendant held onto the chair back to remain standing and the lights went out.

Roger then saw something large fly by the window Odor had been looking out before.

Its speed easily surpassed that of the passenger plane.

Amid the continued shaking, red emergency lights came on and the cabin speakers activated.

“I apologize for the interruption to your meal, but we have just entered some turbulence. The captain says it will only last a few minutes, so please do not stand up for the time being. If you need anything, just ask a flight attendant.”

As the announcement repeated in English, Roger saw Odor step past him and out into the aisle.

“Let’s go. Let’s go and see our enemy, Roger.”

The dim light allowed him to see Odor walking down the aisle. His footing did not waver in the slightest even as the floor below him shook.

Roger then heard crying. It came from the girl next to him.

He lightly touched the girl as her mother held her shoulders. As he did, he sprinkled some philosopher’s stone sand on her.

“Give her a nice dream.”

The sand gave a definite answer by dancing about in a small whirlwind.

The girl looked at the sand for an instant, but then her eyes slowly closed.

“Good,” muttered Roger.

This time, he had gathered his sand from atop a mountain in San Francisco. The sand that had looked out over the sea and been washed over by the rain would likely give her a dream of those memories.

He ignored the flight attendant’s protests and followed Odor.

Despite the shaking, he managed to catch up.

“Colonel! Were you luring something here!? If so, this was a-…”

“Horrible method? Yes, it is a horrible method. And I am well aware there are other methods. But our higher ups were too afraid, so this was the only method available.”

Odor looked over his shoulder at Roger and then his surroundings.

“Hurry, hurry. The captain said the turbulence would only last a few minutes. If we intercept it in that time, we can make that true. Afterwards, we can sing again. We can cancel out the trouble we caused them with a memory we will make for them. I may not have much kindness, but even with a country I hate, I will not simply leave after causing them trouble.”

“I believe your thinking is truly American, colonel.”

“That’s right. That’s right, Roger. And that’s why you will do the singing. These native Japanese are on their way back from shopping in America, so show them what a true American spirit looks likes.”

Roger groaned and Odor showed off his teeth and raised the corners of his mouth.

“Smile. Smile, Roger. We are on our way to see two enemies: 5th-Gear which is an enemy of America and Japanese UCAT which has become our enemy with Thunderson’s death!!”


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