Owari no Chronicle:Volume8 Chapter 5

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Chapter 5: The Depths of Memory[edit]

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Think back and you will reach your past self

But

Does that directly link to your future self?


Heo dried off in front of a small bathroom.

She was in a strange apartment, she had nothing to wear, and the apartment’s owner had left.

She was glad she had gotten permission to use the shower when Harakawa had left for school. Her clothes and underwear were hanging from the kitchen ceiling, but she had still been covered in the sweat from the previous night.

The sweat had hardened her hair, but that hair was now damp instead.

However, she had made one mistake. Just because she liked the color, she had chosen the blue container of shampoo. She had kept her guard up because it was made by IAI, but it had still felt so refreshing she had accidently let out a shout.

Do boys like that kind of thing?

A strange refreshing feeling remained around her armpits even after drying off with a bath towel.

She found it ticklish as she wrapped the towel around her.

The cloth felt good on her skin and she suddenly remembered that Harakawa had seen her naked.

She blushed slightly.

If I get married in the future, should I tell my husband he isn’t the first one to see me naked?

She sighed and reached for the clothes hanging from the ceiling, but then she realized something.

“They’re damp.”

They still had some water in them and they had the dampness of something that had just left the washing machine.

Boys.

But after that thought, she shook her head. While he had seen her naked, he had also saved her and been considerate.

She could not let herself focus on the negative results and ignore his intentions.

The clothes would need to dry before they were back to normal, but he had given it some thought.

“Thank you very much.”

She smiled as she spoke to someone who was not there and then she looked around.

A white washing machine was located to the side of the bath entrance. It was the IAI high-speed washing machine named the “Super Twister”. A similar model was popular in America, but she was pretty sure it had been brought to court because it had put a permanent tendency to spin on a child who had played inside it.

A basket was located next to the machine and it contained the pajamas she had removed and his clothes below that.

That was probably what he had worn the night before and maybe before that.

He should have washed those, but he did my clothes first.

She felt she was meddling, but she turned on the washer. The time settings for the different functions appeared on the console, but the time for the spin cycle was set very low. She wondered why.

“Maybe because he runs it after getting home from work at night.”

He would want to keep the noise as short as possible, but it was daytime now. While making a mental note to return it later, she set the time to three times longer.

She divided the laundry between whites and colors.

She first placed the white clothes in the washer and dropped in the appropriate amount of the detergent placed on top of the machine. She did not see any fabric softener, guessed he did not own any because he was a boy, and hit the start button.

The sound of the motor began and the water shook. Once the rotation began, noise filled the previously still apartment.

She let out a breath to add her own noise to the mix. The rhythmic rotation of the water was quite pleasant.

The next thing she knew, she had opened her mouth and started to sing a song.

Silent night, Holy night

Long we hoped that He might,

As our Lord, free us of wrath,

Since times of our fathers He hath

Promised to spare all mankind

Promised to spare all mankind

She sang a verse of the song she had sung on the night just before her father had died.

She recalled also singing it later at the town church her mother had often brought her to.

She kept her voice low enough to be hidden by the washing machine’s noise and she sang with her eyes closed.

“…”

She then took a breath, nodded, gathered strength in her shoulders, and opened her eyes.

The washer was rotating. She wondered if her clothes would be dry by the time it finished washing and she looked down at herself and the bath towel she wore.

“Um…”

She hesitated, but she removed the towel and put it in the washer. She thought about wrapping the futon around her instead and she recalled that Harakawa had said he would be working until late at night after school.

It shouldn’t be a problem if it takes me a little longer before I leave.

After telling herself that, she lightly wrapped her arms around herself and walked toward the living room.

“First, I need to go to the train station.”

She needed to take a bus or taxi to the Nishitama Cemetery that they had passed the previous night.

Will great-grandfather be there?

She lowered her head as she entered the living room and approached the futon folded up on the tatami mats.

She unfolded it in the morning light and placed it over her head as if trying to crawl into it.

She found herself surrounded by nothing but her own scent, the weight of the futon, and darkness. The only sound was the washing machine muffled by the futon.

She then repeated a certain thought.

Is it happening again?

She closed her eyes and recalled something from long ago. When she had been a child…no, she was still a child, but it was long before now.

She recalled when she had lost her mother.


Heo remembered being in a larger place than she was now. It had been made of wood, the ceiling had been high, and it had contained lines of pews as well as a cross and a pulpit up front.

It had been a church. The light of midday had shined through the stained glass, but she had lain on the floor right in front of the pulpit.

She had been exhausted from running until she had collapsed to the ground.

Her memories had been in chaos at the time. While trying to remember why she had been running, she had been reminded of her father who had died long before.

Her father had often praised her for being an incredibly fast runner.

Before moving to the town that contained that church, she had lived in a place with lots of fields and running had allowed her to see many different things.

She had often gone outside with her parents, partially to receive their praise.

Once her father had died, she had come to that church’s town. When going shopping there, she had run down the road while tugging on her mother’s arm.

Her mother had often scolded her for running on ahead, but she had always been smiling when doing so. It had been during that time that her mother had given her the necklace of stones.

Was this the same as back then? She had a faint memory of her mother suddenly shoving her forward while they were taking a walk together.

Her mother had told her to run.

She had asked why and her mother had answered while pointing at the church on the top of the hill.

“It’s a race. When we get there, I’ll sing for you.”

But the smile on her mother’s face had been stiff.

She had thought something was wrong, but she had been too afraid to ask and had thus begun to run. She had simply run while squeezing the necklace her mother had given her as a mental support.

Even her mother’s footsteps behind her had scared her as she had run to the church as fast as she could and then collapsed.

The young Heo in her memories had stood up and wondered what had happened.

She had run back to the church’s entrance and found the door had closed.

When she had pushed open the wooden door, she had found a certain sight: with the field in the background, someone sat with their back to her.

Her mother had sat on the stairs up to the church.

“—————”

She had called out to her mother but received no answer. When she had hesitantly placed a hand on the woman’s shoulder, she had found an odd weight there.

The weight moved in her direction, she had been unable to support it, and her mother had slowly lain back on the stairs.

The white shirt her mother had always worn on walks had been dyed a dark red from the chest to the stomach.

“…!”

Heo had shouted something and embraced her mother. Then, her mother had moved slightly.

Her unfocused eyes had looked up into the sky and then at Heo.

She had been smiling and her eyes finally focused as she looked at Heo.

“…”

She quietly uttered something that did not even form words and her hand fell limply down.

“———!”

Heo had shouted and shaken her mother, but the woman would no longer react.

After crying out for a while longer, Heo had looked around.

What had happened and what had caused it?

That was when she had seen it.

It was wind.

She had seen a mass of wind in front of the church. It had shaken and her memories remembered nothing except that it had been gigantic. The movement of the air had seemed like a mountain.

That was when the word “demon” had entered her mind.

And then the demon had vanished.

She did not remember much after that. Her great-grandfather had taken her in and they had moved again and again, but everywhere they went, the story of her mother’s death would get out and she would be known as the girl saved from a demon attack.

A few people who had come running had apparently seen the same mass of wind as she had.

The further away she went, the more the rumor grew distorted as it pursued her.

She went from being protected by god to being loved by a demon and sometimes she was said to be on the run after killing the people of her old town.

At first, she had been angry, but at some point, she had started to cry instead. Even later, she had accepted it as normal and hidden it away within herself.

Her sociable great-grandfather had moved with her again and again and the rumors had eventually vanished, but she had started actively avoiding people by that point.

If I get close to someone…

That demon could come again and kill them.

She had lived for eight years while dragging those thoughts around. She had to take her entrance exams this year, so her great-grandfather had made various arrangements and suggested they visit her father’s grave. If nothing happened then, he said everything would be okay.

“But it came again.”

This was the same.

Her mother had once told her to run and her great-grandfather had done the same last night.

She was praised for her running, but she may no longer have anyone to give that praise.

What happened to great-grandfather?

She had to find out, but then she opened her eyes in the darkness.

“…”

She took a breath inside the darkness of the futon, wiped away the tears that had appeared in the corners of her eyes, and crawled forward to leave the futon.

But her head hit something hard.

“~ ~”

She raised her head and the futon along with it and she found a metal window frame. She belatedly remembered she had entered the futon headfirst with the futon spread out in front of the large southern window.

She turned around with the futon still on top of her and she moved to the table.

During breakfast, Harakawa had said he had left the key on the table.

“Huh?”

But there was no key there.

She tilted her head and looked to the wall between the living room and kitchen. Perhaps as a decoration, ten or so American motorcycle license plates were placed on that wall.

However, there was no key hanging on the walls or the columns.

“…?”

She tilted her head further and stood up to check the kitchen. She folded the futon up next to the living room wall and moved swiftly while lightly wrapping her arms around her naked body.

She checked on the sink, the walls, the columns, the running washing machine, and the laundry basket, but she could not find a key.

“Um…”

Now I can’t leave.

She wondered what to do and brought a hand to her neck.

She felt a tremble run down her back. The cause was simple.

My necklace.

The necklace her mother had given her was gone.

She frantically checked through the laundry basket, but there was no sign of it there. She doubted Harakawa was the type to steal, so she was left with only one conclusion.

“I dropped it while running last night?”

She wanted to go out and search and her thoughts raced outwards, but her clothes still needed time to dry and she did not have the key.

“…”

Unsure what to do, she started back for the living room and recalled when she had cried because Harakawa had seen her naked.

He had stayed with her until she stopped crying and he had told her she could use the bath as he left.

And he had locked the door.

“That means he took the key with him.”

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She guessed he had forgotten to leave the key because she had confused him by crying.

And as she held her body and wondered what to do, the front door opened and Harakawa stepped in.

He was clearly in a bit of a rush.

“I forgot to leave the key. Heo, are you here?”

He stopped speaking when he saw her.

“—————”

He frowned while she gasped and froze in place.

While still looking at her, he tilted his head.

“Why in the world are you naked in the middle of the day?”

He then saw Heo cry for the second time that day.


A few people walked in the sunlight as noon approached.

The three boys and one girl moved by foot and motorcycle.

A girl in a school uniform rode on the back of the motorcycle.

Of the two male students walking in front of the motorcycle, the one with long hair turned around while shaking a travel bag.

“Kazami-san, I’m amazed you found Izumo-san. How far had he drifted?”

As they crossed the railroad track cutting across the road, Kazami replied while sitting on the back of the motorcycle.

“I found him being chased by sharks off of Fukushima. If he had drifted any further, he might have ended up on a route circling the Pacific. Kaku, how was the ocean?”

“When there aren’t any swimsuits around, the ocean is just the ocean. I don’t want to remember any of it. …But anyway, aren’t you on your way to Kyushu after this, Sayama, Shinjou? Should you really be running an errand for Ooki-sensei?”

“We already have a response from 4th-Gear. More importantly, I do not see why you two would come along for one of Ooki-sensei’s random requests.”

Sayama turned back toward Izumo and Kazami. He held two travel bags.

“Well, we can view it as the student council giving a warning to a student who is not showing up at school. It would have been nice to have the Hiba boy along after Kazami half-forced him to join as assistant treasurer. He is in the same club as Harakawa, after all.”

“It would be strange if we brought Mikage with us and Hiba said he was training with her at UCAT after earning his attendance for the day. Sibyl was very excited about finishing the armored uniform for Mikage. She’s acting like she has a new little sister. It makes me feel a bit lonely,” said Kazami with a shrug. However, she soon gathered her eyebrows together. “But that isn’t the only reason we’re here. UCAT’s Japanese branch has received some instructions to be carried that completely ignore the fact that we’re supposed to be off duty. We’re to be on our guard in the Akigawa area and take Heo Thunderson into custody if we find her.”

Sf had informed Kazami of that fact when she had arrived in the decorated lobby during mid-morning. Diana and the others had been burning straw dolls on a Buddhist altar. They claimed it was to clean up the celebration preparations, but Kazami had not understood what it meant.

“They probably want to make up for that Thunderson man’s death a little by finding his missing great-granddaughter.”

Kazami looked across the others and pulled a photograph from her breast pocket. It showed a blonde girl in shorts running on a track and the words “Japanese UCAT Overseas Travel Department” were printed at the bottom.

“The girl in this photo – that was clearly taken without her knowledge – is the one who disappeared last night. But this photo isn’t much to go by. I’d like some more information, but it’s all we have because it seems America isn’t giving us anything else.”

“I hope we do find her, but when it has been this long with no word from her and no demand for a ransom, she might have been abducted and imprisoned by someone with as many odd interests as the old man.”

“I seriously doubt another abnormality like him exists. …But that black mechanical dragon from last night created the concept space she escaped from, right? What was that?”

Sayama answered by pulling some copy paper from the side pocket of one travel bag. It was a printout of the classified UCAT data Kashima had sent them that summer.

He expressionlessly held the documents up toward Baku on his head.

“Have any of you realized that we can read more of this now? Specifically, the section on 5th-Gear. Oh, Izumo. No need to force yourself. I understand that savages have a low literacy rate.”

“Don’t look down on me, Sayama. I’m a high-level person who learned to read ‘women’s bath’ before any other Japanese term.”

“Th-that certainly is a high level of something…”

“You don’t have to respond to those two idiots, Shinjou. Just hurry up and check the documents.”

Kazami thought about the past as she watched Shinjou frantically read through the documents.

Kaku just lied.

After all, she had been the one to teach him to read Japanese.

The first term she had taught him was “Kaku” and the first one he had learned himself was “Chisato”.

It’s been two years since then, she thought while the scenery ahead began to slope down.

Sayama’s classmate named Harakawa lived at the end of this road after an intersection with another road.

She had attended elementary school next to the river down below, so it had been a while since she had seen this scenery. Once they reached the elementary school, she would be able to see her house in the residential area across the river.

As Shinjou walked down the slope as if pushed along by her travel bag, she suddenly looked up from the documents.

Her eyebrows were raised in surprise.

“Um, it’s true. I can read what’s written here now. That’s amazing, Sayama-kun!”

“Ha ha ha! Praise me more, Shinjou-kun.”

“Chisato, I have a feeling being able to read it has nothing to do with Sayama being amazing.”

“Shh. Receiving food from its master is one of the joys of a pet.”

“I-I am not a pet! I’m the one giving him food!”

“Does that mean I am your pet, Shinjou-kun? In that case, I request that you groom me, bathe me, and let me sleep in your bed on a daily basis. How about that?”

“You should probably go ahead and get him fixed,” cut in Izumo.

Meanwhile, Kazami took the documents from Shinjou.

After taking the copy paper, she leaned forward as if to cover Izumo’s back. She reached over his shoulders to hold the documents where they could both see them.

“Look, can you read it, Kaku?”

“Hm? Oh, a bit to the right. Good, now a little lower. Yes, right there. That puts your breasts in a nice calming- I give, I give, I give! I’m gonna fall! No choking!”

Kazami clicked her tongue and released the chokehold. She looked forward and found Sayama and Shinjou glaring at her.

“Pressing your breasts against him, groping, and embracing all in broad daylight? What an indecent couple.”

“A chokehold is not an embrace! And if you want to see groping, it’s more like this!”

Letting Izumo say anything more would just cause more problems, so Kazami silenced him.

She flipped through the documents and indeed found the 5th-Gear investigation report to be readable.

However, it was written in English.

She frowned at the fact that it was not in Japanese, but then Shinjou tilted her head.

“Can you read it, Kazami-san? I couldn’t read much.”

“Yes, not only can I perceive the writing, I can actually read it. You might not expect it, but I know English. …Anyway, the report was written by Richard Thunderson. He was from American UCAT, right?”

Shinjou looked impressed and Kazami gave a bitter smile in return. She wondered if Shinjou would think of her more as an upperclassman now.

Kazami went on to read the report on 5th-Gear.

“5th-Gear was originally a world with two planets. It had no outer space and was surrounded by a sky filled with air.”

Its concept of gravity made it a world of “falling” rather than of normal gravity. A civilization of flying by falling was quickly established and people began travelling between the two planets.

“However, they created two powerful weapons for the Concept War. A Concept War self-defense base was created on one of the two planets and the self-evolving combat mechanical dragon named Black Sun was left there. The other planet was used to manufacture weapons and the self-evolving weather control mechanical dragon named White Creation was left there for the people who had been evacuated to there.”

“I believe this continues with a ‘but’,” commented Sayama.

Kazami nodded.

“Black Sun had been ordered to fight and protect the people, but after evolving, it had doubts about how its own military base of a planet was sending those people to the battlefield. It concluded that, if the base did not exist, the people would not go to die and they would not kill the people of other Gears, so it forced the people to evacuate and destroyed the very planet it was meant to protect.”

And…

“Black Sun then found a way to completely end all conflict and bring peace. That was to destroy the remaining planet and the weapons it contained.”

Shinjou gulped at what she had read, but Sayama merely nodded and spoke.

“The two planets were destroyed in the early stages of the Concept War. 5th-Gear became a land where the wreckage of the planets floated in a vast sky and the change in atmospheric pressure brought the people to extinction. The only way Black Sun could protect itself from the contradictory actions it had taken was to evolve into an out-of-control weapon.”

“Then the black mechanical dragon from last night was probably Black Sun, wasn’t it?” asked Shinjou.

However, Sayama lightly crossed his arms and did not nod.

“Is that really the best way of putting it?”

“Why do you say that?”

“There is an addition at the end of the report. Black Sun was destroyed off the coast of Hokkaido but escaped deep under the ocean while White Creation and the other mechanical dragons all vanished. 5th-Gear was then destroyed by Richard Thunderson.” Sayama tilted his head. “Based on what we know, the mechanical dragon from last night was Black Sun or Tezcatlipoca from South American mythology, but it has evolved and resurrected itself after sixty years. Meanwhile, the mechanical dragon named White Creation that corresponds to Quetzalcoatl is currently missing. But where did White Creation and the others go and how did Thunderson-san bring about 5th-Gear’s destruction. Both of those mysteries remain.”

Kazami suddenly recalled a certain fact.

“Do you think 5th-Gear’s Concept Core is inside those two mechanical dragons? Half of it is said to be stored in UCAT as a powerful weapon, isn’t it?”

“But is that powerful weapon a mechanical dragon?” asked Shinjou. “If it was, wouldn’t they just call it one?”

“In that case, there may have been something more to 5th-Gear than just those two mechanical dragons,” said Sayama.

“Hmm,” thought Kazami while cheerfully thinking how much more fun a conversation was with plenty of people. “But who are we supposed to hold 5th-Gear’s Leviathan Road with?”

“The old man refused to tell me that. I think he plans to tell us once the negotiations with 4th are complete. It may be with the weapon held by UCAT or White Creation may still live. He said Thunderson-san was to be involved in 5th’s Leviathan Road, so it is also possible American UCAT’s inspector will guide us to our negotiation partner.” Sayama remained expressionless. “But American UCAT has remained silent ever since sending their temporary inspectors. …What do you think about that?”

“It sounds dangerous to me. Thunderson-san was supposed to be cooperative as one of the Eight Great Dragon Kings, but can we say the same for the temporary inspectors American UCAT has chosen?”

“If Thunderson-san had lived, we would have known everything including why he had come to Japan, but that cannot be changed now.”

After everyone exchanged a glance and nodded, Kazami shrugged.

“There’s just so much to worry about. For one, we don’t know where the other half of 5th’s Concept Core is. If the black mechanical dragon named Black Sun has it, it might have recovered its strength by the next time we see it.”

Shinjou also shrugged and she opened her mouth with a relaxed expression.

“But that footage your transport plane took showed the mechanical dragon was over three hundred meters long. …If we fought that, it would be like a monster movie. Sayama-kun, you know about monster movies, right? They have those huge monsters like Whalerilla which was a combination of a whale and a gorilla to symbolize its strength.”

“Ha ha ha. It’s time you came back from the past, Shinjou-kun. Later, I will show you a mysterious movie in which the piano wire is not visible at all. It is even on a black disk that resembles a CD.”

“C’mon, Sayama-kun. Stop trying to trick me. A movie would never fit on something like a CD. You need something as long and thick as a tape.”

“Sayama,” said Kazami in exasperation. “As her roommate, you need to teach Shinjou more about the modern age.”

Kazami then looked forward. They had reached the end of the downward slope and the four lanes of Old Itsukaichi Road cut across in front of them. The narrow road they were on continued straight on after the intersection.

“Harakawa-kun lives in the old apartment building at the end there, right?” asked Shinjou.

Suddenly, Baku looked up from Sayama’s head. Kazami saw the creature look at the documents in her hand.

“Hm?”

She tilted her head and Baku did so as well.

A moment later, the past opened up before her eyes.


Shinjou found herself in a dimly-lit space.

Her experiences immediately told her she was in the past.

But when in the past?

No one was going to answer her question, so she looked around in search of the answer.

It was a large concrete space that measured one hundred meters in each direction. She saw small lights installed on the walls, pillars with cranes and winches installed near the walls, and large boxes filled with tools.

In addition to that, several large objects were visible in the space.

Fighter planes with propellers?

The floor in the back was sloped and she saw a shutter for heading up and out. She belatedly realized the space had no windows.

“This is an underground hangar.”

Once she made that realization, she looked to the airplanes. They were all smaller than the fighters and transport planes she had seen on UCAT’s runway and their emblems were not all the same.

Some said Izumo Company, some said US-UCAT, and others said GER-UCAT or CHI-UCAT. She could think of only one place all those would have gathered.

“Japanese UCAT after the war. This is in Sayama-kun’s grandfather’s time.”

But why am I being shown this past? she wondered while tilting her non-existent head.

She tried walking from the wall left of the exit to the opposite metal wall.

“Huh?”

She found something strange at the bottom of the metal wall before her.

They were blades.

A mechanical component the size of a small car had three blades extending from it.

Each blade was thicker and longer than her own body, they were white, and they reflected the dim light coming from the wall.

“Claws?”

She took a quick step back which expanded her field of vision and she looked up at what she had assumed was a wall.

She found it was actually a dragon.

It was a mechanical dragon. The blue and white mechanical dragon sat on a large transportation pallet.

It was so large that she could only call it gigantic. It was over three times as long as the fighters and she guessed it was at least thirty meters.

It was hunkered down so it just barely fit below the ceiling, but nothing could be done about its length. It looked like it was simply sitting still so as not to be in the way.

What is this mechanical dragon?

She had heard that American UCAT had been researching mechanical dragons as far back as before World War Two and that they could currently deploy them for combat.

However, the mechanical dragon before her eyes looked like it was from an entirely different civilization than the airplanes next to it.

Its moving parts were made large yet complexly, the armor appeared to cling to it rather than being riveted on, and there was no sign of any part having been welded.

“What is this?”

She then noticed a man was sitting on the floor near what appeared to be the dragon’s face.

He had blond hair and blue eyes, he held a bottle of yellow liquid in his right hand, and he spoke while facing the dragon.

“So when you get down to it, what are you?”

Shinjou’s mind heard the answer.

The answer came in the form of sound.

“I do not know. I simply found myself flying through the sky in this body.”

The sound was produced from the mechanical dragon’s throat.

He’s talking with the dragon.

Shinjou had her mind run over to the two of them. Um, she thought as she tried to figure out where to stop. She chose the airplane next to them and stopped below the upwards-curving wing of the propeller plane. She sat her mind down on the landing tire.

She faced forward as the dragon continued speaking to the man.

“At first, I did not know who I was. I only knew that I was flying through the sky. No, I did not even have the word ‘sky’ back then, so I was flying through empty space. As I flew, I found others like me and managed to speak with them. Once we were able to look at each other, we realized something.”

The dragon raised its head slightly, opened the windshield, and exposed the empty cockpit.

“Our heads are empty.”

“Sounds like a horror story.”

“I do not know the meaning of that term. …But as we investigated, we managed to operate the structures inside us and found that our bodies would move on their own. The one being experimented on suddenly took off at full speed and caused a fair bit of damage.”

“Sounds like you were pretty reckless. A lot like we used to be.”

The man laughed a bit and the dragon lowered its head.

“Why are you laughing?”

“Oh, so you understand laughter? …I wasn’t laughing at you. I was laughing at my old memories. I call them old, but it was only a year ago.”

“So short-lived races refer to recent events as ‘old’.”

“Will that help you understand this world? Anyway, how did the investigation of yourselves go?”

“Well, we guessed that something was meant to fill that empty space and pilot us. That meant we were meant to be used and our masters were gone for some reason.”

“Gone?”

“We quickly found the reason. There were small pieces of rock floating in the air that we would use to rest on, but the observations taken by my many companions allowed us to guess that they had originally been one single object. Most likely, the place in which our masters lived was destroyed and only we remained.”

“And what destroyed that place?”

“We do not know the details, but an enemy soon appeared. It was a black dragon much larger than us. He attacked and shot down a few of us. However, a giant white dragon quickly appeared to help us.”

Once the dragon finished speaking, Shinjou heard another sound. The man grabbed the bottle sitting next to him and brought it to his mouth.

As the contents foamed, he spoke.

“Sorry. I got some answers I expected and some I didn’t.”

“What is that liquid?”

“It’s made by fermenting grains such as wheat. Have you never heard of alcohol?”

“I have heard it is a combustible compound. It must function as your fuel. How very interesting.”

“Let’s just leave it at that and continue. So what was that giant white dragon?”

“He called himself White Creation and told us to take identifiers that indicated why we existed. In other words, names. Thunderson, these were the same as the series of sounds and letters that you use.”

The man, Thunderson, brought the bottle to his mouth again and then rested his chin on his hand.

“Did your names give you power? Do you have a concept like 2nd-Gear?”

“No, that is not what they were for. They were to distinguish between our existences and our roles. We are machines meant to be used, so our masters give us identifiers to tell us apart and they give us permission to make full use of our abilities. But without any masters, we are given no names and we cannot release the limits on our abilities. However, we wished to avoid destruction,” said the dragon. “Both Black Sun and White Creation had been given names by our lost masters, but they were no longer around to give us names. That was why White Creation used his power to open a gate to this world.”

“Wait,” said Thunderson as he held out his left palm and looked directly at the mechanical dragon. “So you were given names by…?”

“By the people of this world, yes. Using your units, I believe it was over 1500 years ago. I could not grasp the pronunciation perfectly, but I chose the name Xolotl for myself. It was this world’s word for the Evening Star. This makes my third time to be restored, so I now go by Xolotl 3.”

“Have you been fighting all this time?”

“Yes, but Black Sun is stubborn. He and White Creation both possess a half of our world’s Concept Core. When we corner him, he flees to this world.”

“…”

“When half of the Concept Core is lost, the world is destroyed. In the instant Black Sun leaves, our world begins to crumble and we must end our pursuit.”

“So that’s it.”

“That is what?”

Thunderson looked up at the ceiling as he spoke.

“James was right. That thing is being pursued by all of you, so it distracts itself by hunting the weak here and then returns to your world before it’s destroyed, right?”

“Have you met Black Sun?”

“I wasn’t able to catch up.”

“That is for the best,” said Xolotl 3 quietly.

Thunderson frowned, but the dragon continued.

“You must have concluded that your world’s technology cannot stand up to Black Sun.”

“Hey.”

“Richard Thunderson, I made a few mistakes on my way here. My first was when I fought Black Sun six years ago and was shot down in this world. My second was being captured here and yet remaining behind and protecting the people here from that sudden concept battle that occurred when you brought me back to my crash site.”

And…

“I assisted you on the advice of 3rd-Gear’s Rhea and placed this world’s ‘mankind’ within the effective scope of my name.”

“The effective scope of your name?”

“That means the power I can use by the name of the Evening Star applies to you as well as my companions. And with that said, I still say that you cannot stand up to Black Sun.”

“Are you saying you can?”

The blue and white dragon moved in response to Thunderson’s question.

It raised its body a little and produced the sound of moving metal.

It revealed something below its belly. It was a long white cannon installed as if the dragon were carrying it in its arms.

“This is my personal weapon that can only be installed on me. To use your country’s current language, it would be named the Vesper Cannon. According to White Creation, it is the only weapon that can directly pierce Black Sun’s armor on its own.”

“…”

“For some reason, this world has no concept power and I thus cannot refine fuel from the air. I was finally able to accumulate enough fuel to fly with Rhea’s help, but my companions have surely been fighting in their own names the entire time. The time for me to fly is approaching and I will bring you to 5th-Gear, Thunderson.”

“Why?”

“When you see the state of 5th-Gear, you will see what it means to make Black Sun your enemy. But do not worry. We will surely destroy Black Sun and then we must part ways until our world is destroyed.”

The dragon faced Thunderson with white light in the sight devices that acted as eyes.

“When we first met, you ignored me when I asked if you were here to get information from me. You instead carried my pallet out under the blue sky and simply read a book. Why did you do that?”

“Hah. No real reason. Back then, I thought I might be able to use you to defeat Black Sun, but when I saw you, I realized you weren’t something that should be chained up in here.”

“An excellent decision.”

“And that’s why I decided to let you do what you wanted. At the very least, I wouldn’t keep my mechanical dragon holed up in a hangar if it had a mind of its own. So are we gonna go, Xolotl 3?”

“I do not yet have the power needed to pass through the gate, but once I do, I will go ahead, receive permission from my companions, and then return for you. If you then find records of 5th-Gear, we will go even further ahead. To use the phrase the one named Sayama taught me, I believe we are on our way to the destination of our resolve.”

Shinjou heard a bitter laugh and her vision grew dark.

The past was beginning to end.

She sat up from the landing leg she had been sitting on and she looked at Thunderson.

Huh?

She noticed something strange about the bottle in his right hand.

He had brought it to his mouth a few times during the conversation.

“But the amount inside hasn’t changed.”

He was only pretending to drink and she closed her mental eyes as she wondered why.

There must be something.

Something that he would have been unable to say or unable to keep quiet if he had not been pretending to do so.

As she realized she had done the same thing in the past, her mind fell into darkness.

A moment later, the past ended.


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