Owari no Chronicle:Volume8 Chapter 6
Chapter 6: Door of Misapprehension
Something is coming
It is based in misunderstanding
But it brings the truth closer
Harakawa faced the futon in the living room.
It was curled up like a turtle on the tatami mat floor and a blonde girl’s head was sticking out.
“How long are you going to do this, Heo Thunderson?”
“Until my clothes dry.”
He noticed a small bit of strength in her voice.
After he had returned, she had jumped into the futon and had been crying for about ten minutes now.
It had been plenty of time for him to realize what it meant for the washing machine to have entered the spin cycle.
…I can’t tell if she’s considerate, unrestrained, or just stupid.
As he thought, he saw her raise her head. Her eyebrows were slightly lowered, but there were no more tears in her eyes.
“I’m sorry,” she said weakly. “I’m just being a bother, so I’ll leave once my clothes dry.”
“As long as you understand. I really do have to get to school.”
He stood up, removed the apartment key from his motorcycle keychain, and placed it on the living room table. As he did, the stones making up his bracelet clacked together.
“Ah,” said Heo. “Um, Harakawa?”
“What is it?”
“Um… Did you happen to see a necklace made of stones like that?”
He thought about what she meant. He had seen nothing of the sort when he had taken her in last night, he had not seen it when removing her clothes and dressing her, and he had not found it when searching her pockets for some kind of identification.
“No, I didn’t see anything like that. Do you want this?”
“N-no, that isn’t what I meant,” she said. “But I got it from my mother.”
“Is that so? That’s the same as me.”
She tilted her head and he showed her his bracelet.
“My mother makes these as a hobby. She always loved these kinds of crafts and she seems to think of them like protective charms. If yours is the same…”
He was going to say “I hope you find it”, but he swallowed the words.
…Why am I getting even more involved?
He stood up without saying a word more, turned his back to Heo, and began to leave the living room.
He suddenly found himself curious about the look on her face behind him.
…What a lovely story.
He only now realized this was much like taking in a cat. He did not know what she was thinking, but she would cause problems when he was careless and escape to some comfortable place if he was more cautious.
He gathered his thoughts, and asked a question with his back turned.
“What were you running from last night?”
“Eh? Oh, that was…well…a demon.”
I see, he thought while finally making up his mind. She really is a dangerous girl.
If she were a cat, this was like taking in one with distemper. He had carelessly given her food that morning, he had given her the bath for grooming, and she had now taken the sleeping space for herself, but he would do nothing else for her. If she had given a different answer to his question, he might have brought her to the police for help, but he could only sigh and leave the living room.
He then heard the futon move behind him.
He turned and saw Heo with the futon gathered around her like a gown.
“What are you doing?”
“Oh, uh, I thought I would see you off.”
“Just stay there,” he replied with a frown.
But then a sudden knock came to the front door and a boy’s sharp voice entered the room.
“Dan Harakawa! We have your apartment surrounded from a single direction! Come out this very instant!”
“S-Sayama-kun, that doesn’t count as being surrounded.”
“We are simply using different definitions, Shinjou-kun. …Okay, Harakawa. Hurry on out. If you do not, I will greet you! Good morning, commoners!!! Oh, no. I have such a superhuman love of people that I greeted the entire public rather than just you. What am I doing!?”
…An idiot has arrived.
Once he came to that single realization, Harakawa emptied his mind of thought.
Several problems had just occurred at the same moment and he would panic if he tried to think about them all at once.
He had two primary things to think about: the idiot outside the door and Heo.
Heo was currently giving him a confused look.
“Um, Harakawa? My Japanese isn’t good enough to understand what that person is saying.”
“That proves that your Japanese is excellent, Heo Thunderson.”
Harakawa recalled a dangerous fact about his return to the apartment.
…I was only going to return the key, so I didn’t lock the door.
Just as he cursed his carelessness, he heard another voice from outside.
“Huh? Harakawa-kun, the door isn’t locked.”
“Hey, wait, Chisato. It looks like the door’s open. Stop preparing to break it down with a flying kick.”
“Eh? I-I wasn’t preparing for anything. I just wanted to practice my running start.”
“Ha ha ha. At any rate, we have quite a careless boy on our hands. We need to do the considerate thing and drag him out.”
…You’re coming in? And why are the student council president and treasurer here too?
Harakawa gave a shout to hold them off and buy some time.
“I’m just about to leave! Don’t come in!”
“Ha ha ha. Did you hear that, Shinjou-kun? Harakawa just lied.”
“Don’t just assume that without question!!”
He had two options: lock the door now, or…
“H-Harakawa, if they come in, they’ll see me naked.”
…Or hide this girl.
He had no idea what would happen if it came out that he was late for school because he had a naked blonde girl in his apartment. The Weekly Rose Taka had been doing quite well recently and had increased its copies sold within the school with an extra edition dedicated to scandals.
The safest option was to lock the door and hide Heo somewhere before they broke through the lock.
However, his options were instantly cut in half.
The doorknob had been turned.
Rather than making an actual decision, his reflexes kicked in and he picked Heo up.
With a weak cry, she pulled back her shoulders and the futon fell away.
“Moron! Don’t drop it!”
“B-but you grabbed me in a place that’s sensitive thanks to that strange shampoo.”
He tried not to think about what that meant as he ran across the room with her in his arms. He reached the closet on the west side of the living room, opened the sliding door with his foot, and set his sights on the bottom shelf. It contained a spare futon and…
“There are snacks in the back, so eat something.”
He tossed Heo inside and she gave another shriek.
“Wh-what are you doing?”
Before he could answer, the front door opened.
At the same time, he closed the sliding closet door.
The sound of the sliding door hitting the column and the sound of the student council members stepping inside occurred simultaneously.
Silence then fell.
He turned and did indeed see those four famous students standing in his front door.
“Why are you here?”
Shinjou nodded while holding a travel bag in one hand.
“Ooki-sensei says you need to attend class.”
“I was just about to leave. Can’t you see I’m wearing my uniform?”
“Harakawa, can you prove that is not a school uniform style of pajamas?”
“Sayama, can you prove you are not completely insane for asking that?”
Hearing that, Shinjou hung her head.
“No, he can’t.”
“Ha ha ha. You are exactly right, Shinjou-kun. Harakawa cannot prove those clothes are not pajamas.”
“I wasn’t replying to you!!”
Harakawa relaxed his shoulders.
…So it’s only a pointless visit.
As soon as he realized that, Kazami spoke.
“Was there someone in here? I thought I heard people speaking.”
Izumo then asked a question of Harakawa who stood motionless in front of the closet’s sliding door.
“And when we came in…Harakawa, was it? Anyway, did you throw something in there that looked a lot like a person?”
Sweat slowly appeared on Harakawa’s back.
…This is dangerous.
He then heard a whispering voice from beyond the sliding door.
“U-um, Harakawa. It’s dark in here. Hot and stuffy, too.”
He ignored her. She was whispering, so she seemed to understand why he had thrown her in there. She would also be hesitant to leave because she was naked.
The current problem was how to escape the fact that they had seen her.
He thought, but there was not much that was human-sized and human-colored.
…Not much other than an actual human.
Just as he thought it was hopeless, he heard Sayama’s voice.
“I seriously doubt it, but was it a life-sized figure?”
He just barely kept himself from calling Sayama an idiot and instead nodded.
“What if it was?”
“There is nothing wrong with it. Everyone has their own preferences, after all. I have been thinking about making one myself.”
“What kind of one?”
“One of Shinjou-kun, of course.”
He looked over and saw Shinjou blushing and saying, “Eh? Really?” After seeing those two eccentric boys, he relaxed a little.
The group here was apparently even more unusual than he had thought. Even if he had made a life-sized figure, it was still on too small a scale to match them.
But Kazami destroyed that relaxation.
“Then why did I hear talking?”
This was a second crisis and he could not talk his way out of it this time. A conversation was more than enough to prove that he was hiding a person.
What do I do? he asked himself. Should I bring Heo out and tell the truth? And should I tell them I’m not sure what to do about it either?
…What do I do!?
He clenched his teeth and saw Izumo crouch down, tilt his head, and whisper to Kazami.
“Hey, Chisato. You should probably stop that. I bet he’s a sad kind of person who talks to his dolls like Old Man Ooshiro.”
For the second time, Harakawa had to stop himself from calling someone an idiot, but he also felt it would be for the best if they settled on that.
“And look carefully, Chisato,” continued Izumo. “There’s a futon in the middle of the living room, right? He must’ve been using the doll to…y’know.”
“Y-you’re right, Kaku.”
Kazami whispered back, glanced toward the kitchen, and quickly looked away.
She pulled Izumo’s collar closer and whispered some more.
“Hey, Kaku. Look in the kitchen but make sure he doesn’t notice. A girl’s clothes and underwear are drying in there. They must be for dressing it up. …I really shouldn’t have expected a normal person to be Sayama’s friend.”
“Y’know…” Shinjou joined in the whispering and looked troubled. “I’m really surprised that Harakawa-kun is into that kind of thing. B-but I guess everyone is entitled to their personal preferences.”
…I never thought I’d be hearing that from you.
However, that used up everything they could use to question him further.
Feeling mentally exhausted, he left the closet door. He now had to drive them out as quickly as possible. To pretend nothing was out of the ordinary, he picked up the fallen futon and slowly folded it.
As he did, he glanced over at the others.
“Get out already. I’ll be right to school.”
“Oh, we do not mind waiting here, Harakawa. Also, your laundry has yet to dry and the washing machine is still spinning. If we let you use that as an excuse to skip school, we would be unable to look Ooki-sensei in the eye.”
Harakawa glared at Sayama’s expressionless face.
“Do not worry about us,” continued the boy. “If you can give us some tea, that will suffice.”
Heo crouched down in the darkness.
This isn’t good. This isn’t good, she thought twice while holding her knees.
She did not like or dislike the darkness, but she did not much like being thrown into it against her will.
She had never been punished like that even when she had done something wrong. She would instead be thrown outside and she would have no choice but to run through the fields for fun.
In her memories, contrails always filled the sky.
Her mother had only ever told her that her father was a pilot. That had been long ago when she had still been in Japan, but she had very few memories of that time.
…What am I supposed to do?
Outside the closet, Harakawa was speaking with the friends who had arrived. The conversation had a dangerous edge to it that had been absent when he had spoken with her.
She found it nice to be able to sense his emotions. She could tell he was trying to get rid of her, but she also wished there was some kind of feeling behind it.
…That’s asking for too much.
Not even she could believe what had happened the night before, but he had heard her out and accepted that something had happened. She told herself that was enough.
However, it was hot. It may have been due to the sun coming out, her own body temperature, the enclosed space, or a combination of them all, but it was horribly hot and stuffy in the closet.
She curiously touched the futon below her butt and found it was damp with sweat.
I wonder if he’ll scold me, she thought while shrinking back.
When she pressed her back against the back of the closet, she could tell her sweat was soaking into the thin wooden wall.
It was a little hard to breath.
This isn’t good, she thought again while noticing her throat felt a bit dry.
…But if I left, it would cause trouble for Harakawa.
She had already caused him enough trouble and he had been fairly considerate, so she had to endure for the moment.
Still, it was hot, so she closed her eyes and let out a breath.
She held her own body, gathered the sweat between her fingers, and moved it down her skin. She felt as if something were rolling down her side and waist. It tickled.
She let out a voice and she heard speaking outside the closet.
“Huh? Did you just hear a strange voice, Sayama-kun?”
“I assumed you made it, Shinjou-kun.”
She shrank back further, her pulse quickened bit, and she had even more difficulty breathing.
She had not done anything, and yet sweat poured down her forehead.
This isn’t good, she thought a third time.
She had worked up a sweat running last night and now this. She felt her body was starting to sweat more easily. In school, she had learned that Japan had a warm and damp climate. She had also learned Japan’s famous giant Buddha statues were mostly half naked because the country was as hot and humid as a sauna.
And in health class, she had learned that people died when they lost an extreme amount of water.
…Will I die if this keeps up?
She wanted hydration, so she wished she could have absorbed the shower water like a plant. Or perhaps she should have drunk the water.
She suddenly groped around in the hopes of finding something.
She found a shelf along the closet wall. A large shelf covered the entire wall and it contained lots of paperback books, but she did not need them now. However, she did wonder why they were there.
As she wondered and continued searching, she felt a slightly hard bag below the shelf. She realized it contained junk food and a possible flavor came to mind.
Thinking of the famous super-spicy flavor named “My Saltiness” had been a mistake. She had once had a horrible experience when her great-grandfather had bought it as a joke.
She wondered if there was anything to drink. Harakawa had said she could eat something, so if there were drinks to go with it…
She found it. She stopped breathing for a moment when she felt the metal can between the bags of junk food.
It was a 350 mL can of something. The shape told her it was a drink and not boiled mackerels, sardines in oil, or spam.
She held the can in both hands and curled up against the wall. She lowered her head in silent thanks and slowly tugged on the pull-tab. To muffle the noise as much as possible, she folded up an edge of the futon and pressed the can against it as she opened it.
The quiet sound of carbonation was enough for her to feel the refreshment, so she smiled in the darkness.
She then realized her smile was tilting.
She was losing her balance. Her dehydration was catching up to her, so her body was not working properly.
Oh, no, she thought.
She wanted to leave today, hopefully find the necklace her mother had given her, and head to the station, but she could not do any of it if she collapsed again.
…And I’ll cause more trouble for Harakawa.
She hung her head and forcibly shook it.
She decided to drink. The flavor of the drink would likely focus her and hydrating herself would steady her and allow her to leave.
She brought the can to her mouth and drank.
Her throat told her it was very bitter and she almost choked.
She held her throat and gulped.
After letting out a slow breath, she looked at the can in her hands.
She could not see it well in the darkness, but she knew what the contents tasted like.
…What is this incredibly bitter carbonated drink?
At a school she had transferred to before, she had drunk some soda water to help loosen her throat before a choir recital. It had been flavorless but had stung her throat. The ginger ale she had drunk at a gas station while moving to a new home with her great-grandfather had had a rocky flavor that was almost spicy.
However, this strange bitterness was different from both of those.
What is it? What is it? she thought twice.
Harakawa was only a little older than her, so she doubted his sense of taste was all that different from hers. She also doubted a canned drink could go bad, so she tried another sip.
…It really is bitter.
It tasted the same as before. She wondered if there were any other drinks, but Harakawa probably would not like it if she opened another without finishing this one.
She felt it was her responsibility, so she took another drink.
It was bitter and it smelled like medicine when she brought it under her nose.
…B-but it isn’t so bad I can’t drink it.
It was better than collapsing, so she slowly drank it.
The closet was still hot and she had been sweating quite a lot since she had started on the drink. She guessed the liquid had allowed her body to relax and let out the sweat.
Her pulse sounded loud too, but she guessed that was due to the heat.
She knew she had to get more liquid inside her, so she endured the bitterness and drank more from the can.
After leaving only a third of the contents, she lost to the carbonation and removed the can from her mouth.
…It’s so hot.
However, she was not referring to the general temperature. When she felt her forehead, she found sweat and heat.
She did not know what was happening, but she had been sweating an awful lot and she was finding it even harder to breath.
She wondered if she was sick.
No matter how many times she thought “this isn’t good”, it was not going to help. Harakawa was still speaking with his friends outside the closet. When she realized his voice was not directed at her, tears suddenly spilled from her eyes.
To suppress her voice, she brought the can back to her mouth.
She drank more, but the heat did not leave her. Her entire body felt warm and sweaty.
No longer able to resist, she collapsed. She rotated her body slowly and silently and she took a crawling position on top of the futon.
The movement spilled the gathered sweat from her back, her hips, and between her thighs.
She realized this was not normal and wondered if her repeated dehydrations had messed something up.
…Am I done for?
She propped herself up on her elbows and drank the rest of the can to get the last bit of liquid from it.
She had done everything she could, so she let out a fairly rough breath and let air in between her body and the futon by spreading her knees and lifting her butt. She pressed her face against the futon to muffle her heavy breathing and she clenched the futon cover with both hands to put up with the oppressive heat.
She gently twisted her body and felt her consciousness slipping away.
Her knowledge of wintertime mountain-climbing told her going to sleep meant death, but she still closed her eyes.
She then heard a voice outside the closet.
It was Harakawa’s voice and it seemed they had been discussing their work schedules.
“Sayama, you work part-time in Okutama, right? Your job’s related to IAI, isn’t it?”
“Yes, Shinjou-kun and the two behind me work at the same place.”
“That doesn’t matter. I’m interested in a department or something called UCAT. Ever heard of it?”
Even as she sank into her pounding pulse and sweat, Heo’s mind snapped into focus when she heard that question.
She was relieved that he was trying to help her and the answer came after a short pause.
“Yes, I have. Let us just say it is one of the workplaces within IAI there. Why do you ask?”
“Oh, I just have something to deliver there. It’s for my job.”
“Is that so?” replied the other voice.
Heo breathed a mental sigh of relief.
…Everything will be okay.
She had a feeling she had heard someone say something similar recently, but she slowly fell asleep before she could remember where.
The ocean looked black from up in the vast blue sky.
A single giant object was located in that sky.
It had a long body made of black steel, it bent its body, and it used its giant wings to fly.
Rather than simply drifting, it actively slipped into the wind and would occasionally have fun by accelerating and breaking through the air.
It was a giant black mechanical dragon.
It had a certain thought while gazing upon the blue sky.
…The sky is so vast.
It did not know how long it had been doing this. Its memories began when it had suddenly found itself doing this.
It did not even know its name.
Perhaps it would be better to say I do not remember my name, it thought while flying.
It willfully flapped its metal wings to strike the heavy air and ascend.
As its giant body rose above the clouds, it thought some more.
…Such a lovely sky.
It remembered almost nothing about itself, but it had a few sensations that were not quite vague memories. One of those was the sensation of the sky.
The sky that faintly remained in its mind had not had the expanses of water and land below it like this one did. Or maybe it had. It could not remember.
However, it had a feeling it had flown through a sky that continued without end.
Either way, flying was a good thing.
This sky was blue and it would turn scarlet and darken at set intervals.
During the dark times, many specks of light were visible overhead. It had once continued to ascend in order to determine what those specks were, but it had been unable to reach them. Its propulsion device functioned by perceiving forward as down and then falling. Its wings were used for control and acceleration, but its functions seemed to be limited such that it could not fly in a space without air.
After ascending to a certain point during that attempt, the force it normally felt on its wings had vanished and it had suddenly felt like it was not flying. That had been boring, so it had quit.
It wondered if it would eventually be able to make that journey and enjoy the flight.
It knew that it evolved.
It evolved by strengthening while remaining itself and remaining metal.
It used the surrounding compounds to refine the same material it was made of and use that material to increase its own size.
It made high-speed calculations to design efficient parts for itself and then remade itself accordingly.
It could add weapons or anything else.
The process could also be described as making active improvements.
When it had first woken up, it had found the bottom of the ocean before its eyes. The extreme pressure of the water had left it unable to move and it had certainly never thought about flying.
It had been injured. Or perhaps “damaged” was the better word.
Most of the damage had healed while it slept, but a few areas had not been fixed. To see what kind of parts those would be once they were fixed, it had sent extra power to them. The parts had moved.
It had then realized it was a moving being.
The first part it had realized was a part of its body and moved was its front right leg. While it had gone on to move other parts, it had learned how to swim through the water by observing the small animals around it.
Once it had left the water’s ceiling, it had found itself floating in the air.
It had wondered what was going on and the previously useless parts on its back had opened up.
They had revealed themselves to be wings.
It had realized the opened wings were steadying its position in the air and the rest had gone smoothly.
It had flown freely through the sky to test itself and it had evolved under the extreme pressure of the deep sea.
It had continued that powerful evolution as if it were its duty and that evolution had been focused on two things: the ability to fly freely and the ability to fight.
Its enemy was clear.
Among the moving creatures on this world’s land was a false humanity.
It had a definition for “human” in its mind, so it had to have had some kind of relationship with them in the past. However, it thought of the ones in this world as fakes.
It had one major reason for this.
It believed humanity had been destroyed. That fact was burned strongly into its faint memories. There was clearly something wrong if the people had not been destroyed.
It did not know why it could be so sure of something from a fragment of a memory, but it knew how it had once felt about humanity.
They had been important and it had wanted to protect them.
And it had another thought: it felt so strongly about humans and it was still alive, so surely the real humans were still alive somewhere.
It thought there had to be something that would make them appear before it again.
But what would that be?
It wanted to protect the humans, but those humans were gone and fake humans filled the world.
That led it to a certain conclusion. If it were to remove those fake humans and create a place for the real humans, would the real humans come to where it was so it could protect them again?
Would they praise it for having prepared a world for them and waiting for them?
It flew through the sky.
It wanted the time for the black sky to arrive. Black was its own color. It was a color of nothingness, the color of its powerful armor, and the color of the deep sea where it had awoken. It would use that color to remove the fake humans and it would evolve and prepare to fight.
It desired the evolution of its black wings so it could search for the real humans.
It had started to detect a nostalgic scent recently. That scent had also appeared once before it had fully awoken, but it was much stronger now.
The previous night had been especially amazing. While flying over the water while the sky was black, that scent had filled the air.
It had been so very nostalgic.
It had flown toward the scent and found the eastern side of a nearby archipelago. A small concept space had been set up there, it had altered the space to its own liking in order to hide itself, and it had found a man inside.
The old man of the fake humans had desired to fight and it had responded in kind.
After exchanging a single blow each, the man had ceased to function.
The old man had smiled.
It did not know the meaning of that smile, but it had understood what he had said as they fought.
It knew the name the man had spoken. That name had been in its faint memories, but it had not known to whom it referred and the name had been left undefined.
The nostalgic scent had then vanished.
It did not know if the scent had vanished because the old man had stopped moving or if the scent had left to go elsewhere. More importantly, an even greater nostalgic scent had pressed in and drowned out the previous one.
An intense sense of nostalgia had washed over it.
The scent had come from the west of the island that it had landed on that night and that was located next to the ocean it always slept in.
Once its evolution had settled in, it knew it had to visit that place.
It more or less knew what the scent was. It was the scent of the world it had been born in and it was the scent of whatever had once destroyed it and put it to sleep.
It raised its wings, lifted the body surrounded by its armor, and roared into the sky.
It felt nothing could stand up to it now.
It evolved without hesitation and desired to fight.
And it was all for the faint memories inside itself.
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