Owari no Chronicle:Volume8 Chapter 7
Chapter 7: Departing Pace
You are waiting
For someone to stand beside you
A large space filled four or five stories of a building. It was twenty meters wide and over one hundred meters long, it was air conditioned, and it was lit.
Customers with travel bags walked along the tile floor that reflected the lights on the high ceiling.
It was an airport.
The front of the airport spelled out Narita in the English alphabet.
It handled domestic flights and was currently in the slow period of midday.
Many pre-autumn travelers and office workers on business trips had left the entrance during the morning, but now the airport was simply gathering the afternoon customers as if taking a breather.
Amid those customers was a boy in a blue suit who held two bags.
He was Sayama.
He stood by the wall near the restroom next to the entrance.
He checked the watch on his right wrist and the hands indicated it was 12:10.
“Our flight to Kyushu leaves at 1:10, so we need to enter the lobby before long.”
However, Shinjou was not leaving the restroom.
He of course assumed she had her reasons and he folded his arms along with Baku on his head.
“Well, there is no need to rush. Izumo, Kazami, and the others can handle the rest, so we only need to visit the 4th-Gear reservation in Kyushu.”
They had remained in Harakawa’s apartment until noon approached, but they had been unable to dislodge him from his room before they had to leave. He had insisted he had preparations to take care of, but Sayama had other suspicions.
…Heo Thunderson is undoubtedly there.
He did not know why she was there, but the various pieces of evidence they had seen in his apartment, the mention of UCAT, and his continued refusal to leave had settled the matter. He had informed Kazami of his suspicion and it turned out she had been thinking the same thing.
…So she will be monitoring Harakawa’s apartment with Izumo.
However, there was one thing Sayama did not understand. If his suspicion proved accurate, why was Harakawa hiding Heo Thunderson? His thoughts soon turned in a direction he found unlikely.
“Could he have abducted her? It would be unfortunate to find one of our classmates is a sexual criminal.”
But I need to trust my classmate, he thought while saving the number for Akigawa’s police department in his phone.
He sighed and checked his watch again. Five minutes had passed since last time.
…It has been fifteen minutes since Shinjou-kun entered the restroom.
She had told him to wait here and she must have been in a hurry because her face had been flushed and she had brought her bag with her. Fifteen minutes had passed since then, but there was still no sign of her.
A few businessmen in suits had entered in that time, but they had all soon exited.
Sayama thought while nodding to one of those men who left with a quick pace.
…Are the Japanese in too much of a hurry these days?
His grandfather had once told him people needed to slow down a little. Sayama had opted to help in that matter by nailing the door shut in seventeen different places when his grandfather had entered the restroom, but when he had returned from the bookstore, he had found a human-shaped hole in the door.
That was when Sayama had realized that slowing down allowed you to build up your power.
…Is Shinjou-kun building up her gauge as well?
He was not sure, but Shinjou had never shown this sort of behavior in the dorm and he had never taught it to her.
Also, there was a lot he had to teach her before getting to this building up of power.
…After all, carelessly building up power is dangerous.
He nodded and folded his arms along with Baku. He thought about what Shinjou was doing.
After about ten seconds of thought, he reached the logical conclusion.
“She has been caught in the middle of some sort of crime!”
What should I do? he wondered.
Shinjou was in danger inside, but he could not allow the criminal to detect his own actions as he went to save her.
“I just hope I was not too late to catch on.”
He swung his right arm and a screwdriver and wrench set fell from the sleeve and into his hand.
“No, even if something has happened, I cannot open it right away. And if she realizes it is me, she will likely put herself at risk to avoid causing me any trouble.”
He swung his left arm and a set containing a stethoscope and portable recorder fell from the sleeve and into his hand.
He looked at the tools in his hands and nodded.
“Good,” he muttered. “First, I need to silently determine the situation inside and then I can break in.”
He entered the restroom with his travel bags. Based on the footsteps he had heard, Shinjou had entered the men’s restroom.
He entered the restroom and found a space with five stalls and tulips.
A few office workers who had finished their business looked at Sayama, but he ignored them and began checking the stalls. He walked silently, checked the state of the doors’ locks, and found one of them was closed.
…This is the one.
He lowered his travel bags, pulled white rubber gloves from his pocket, and put them on.
He had to confirm that Shinjou truly was inside the stall.
…If I was wrong, it would humiliate the customer inside.
With that thought, he pulled a small silver case from his pocket and produced a fine powder and brush from within.
He used the brush to apply some powder to the door handle and produced a fingerprint.
He pulled a memo from his pocket and compared the fingerprint to one of Shinjou’s he had taken in the past.
He had a match.
With no reason to hesitate, he crouched down and peered underneath the door.
He spotted Shinjou’s blue shoes, but something was not right.
…She is not there.
Finding only her shoes made him decide he had to check on and record the situation inside as soon as possible.
He pulled a digital video camera from his travel bag. It was an IAI model and its special feature was the removable lens that could be attached elsewhere.
…Should I shoot from above or below?
He hesitated briefly, but he chose a low angle to give it a sense of realism. He set the camera to the floor, removed the lens, and placed the lens at an angle to look up from below the door.
He then pulled a black box of about ten centimeters from his travel bag. As he was travelling to Kyushu, he had visited UCAT’s development department and borrowed a simple thermal sensor named “I can see the hot stuff!” or “Hottie” for short.
It was meant to be used by newlywed couples to accurately fry an egg in a covered frying pan, but it could detect the heat of the human body if the setting was on “Toasty”.
It was small, so it could only be used on doors and only wooden ones if they were too thick.
…But it is enough for this.
When Sayama crouched down and pressed the device against the door, Hottie’s LCD screen displayed the permeating heat.
While the device stabilized, he checked his surroundings.
All of the office workers who had finished their business gave him confused looks.
As he returned their looks, he had a sudden thought.
…Am I doing something strange right now?
He looked back at his own situation. Presently, he was crouched down next to a door, he had checked for fingerprints, he had set up a camera, and he was checking the interior using a thermal sensor. He also held a stethoscope in his left hand to hear any noise on the inside.
…Anyone who sees this can tell I am performing a detailed examination of the inside of the stall rather than peeping on or bugging someone.
He nodded, confident that his actions were straightforward and nothing to be ashamed of.
With an expression of absolute confidence, he gestured for the men to stay still.
After a moment, the confused office workers exchanged glances.
Sayama nodded toward them to ask if they understood and made a slow, downward-striking motion to tell them to remain silent as they left.
The office workers gave frantic and awkward nods. They all tightened their belts so as to make no unnecessary sound, gave him a nod, and tiptoed out of the bathroom.
Just before the last one left, the man stopped and gave Sayama a thumbs up.
Thinking that was a lot like Ooshiro, Sayama nodded back.
…I must make this mission a success so I do not betray their expectations.
He looked at Hottie and found the color had stabilized. The LCD screen showed the color green.
…That means there is nothing immediately past the door.
At the very least, the criminal is not sealing off the door, he thought while wiping sweat from his brow.
He then brought the stethoscope to his ears, crouched even lower down by the door, and pressed the end against the door.
He listened carefully and heard Shinjou’s voice.
It was a sigh.
Wondering what the situation was, Sayama switched on the recorder attached to the stethoscope.
“Oh… I need to hurry up and finish.”
Finish what? thought Sayama.
“Nnah. I-it’s too tight. I don’t think I can get it in. Nn…”
Hearing that, Sayama wondered whether he should head in or not.
“Ah. That’s better. Okay, now I need to clean up.”
“Leave the evidence, Shinjou-kun!!”
He broke through the door in an instant.
The door fell to the floor and he saw a surprised Shinjou sitting on the closed toilet seat.
“Oh? Why are you all alone, Shinjou-kun? Did you fix everything on your own!?”
“How about you try fixing your brain on your own!?” shouted Shinjou.
“Oh? That dress looks lovely, Shinjou-kun.”
Her shoulders trembled while she shrank down and looked up from the toilet seat.
She was wearing a green dress that was made of light fabric and tightened around the waist. The short-sleeved jacket that appeared to go with the dress was large in order to make the waist look thinner.
However, she sat on the toilet seat with the skirt pulled up to her stomach. She used her spread left leg to balance herself while she grabbed at her right knee.
As the blank look on her face grew red, Sayama tilted his head.
“Hm? Shinjou-kun, why are you doing yoga with your panties on full display?”
“I-I’m not doing yoga. I, uh, couldn’t pull my stockings up very well. …Wait! Why did you suddenly open the door, Sayama-kun!?”
“You were in too much of a hurry and rolled up the top of the stocking, didn’t you? You do not want to tear a hole, so leave the rest to me.”
“Are you listening?”
“I am, but we must start by settling the first issue you brought up.”
She tilted her head as he showed her the rubber gloves on his hands. He sat down on one knee, lifted her right leg, and placed the leg on his knee.
He noticed the top of the stocking had folded over and was rolling inwards.
He unrolled it and lifted the stocking while Shinjou raised her skirt and waited.
“Ah… Th-that tickles, so don’t worry about it.”
“I see. So I should continue without worrying about the tickling.”
“Ah! No, wait! I didn’t mean it like that!?”
“I did not mean it in a dirty way either, so- …You are very good at glaring at people, Shinjou-kun.”
Meanwhile, Sayama finished lifting the stocking.
He attached the top to the fastener hanging from the garter around her waist and Shinjou sighed. In order to put up with the tickling, she brought her hands to her chest while holding up her skirt.
“I was having trouble because my nails are too long,” she said while blushing. “So thanks.”
“Being able to help you change is all the thanks I need. This day must be recorded in Sayama history.”
“I have a feeling you have something to record every day.”
She stood up from the toilet seat and gathered the school uniform and underwear that had been spread out below her butt.
She placed it all in her travel bag, pulled out and put on some new yellow shoes, and faced Sayama.
“Sorry. I was changing, but it was my fault for not telling you.”
“Were you trying to surprise me?”
“Yeah. It took longer than I thought because this was my first time putting on stockings. This kind of stylish stocking is different from the ones on our combat uniforms.”
Still blushing, she placed her hands on her shoulders and showed herself off to him.
“We’ll probably still be busy when I become Sadame, so I thought I would dress that way from the beginning. I didn’t choose anything too showy because I’ll be riding an airplane, though. …Does it look weird?”
“Of course not.”
“Really? It’s my first time wearing this outfit, so it’s a bit tight in places. Are you sure it’s fine?”
“Yes, I can tell you put a lot of effort into this. I usually see your bare legs, but this garter and stocking look is also quite- gfh. I-I was merely checking with my cheek! What kind of reaction is that!?”
“How can you say that after you pull up my skirt and rub your cheek against me?”
“Ha ha ha. You are contradicting yourself, Shinjou-kun. You yourself were lifting up your skirt just a moment ago.”
“Me lifting it and someone else lifting it are two different things. A-also, now that I’ve had time to think about it, not only did you barge into the stall, but what were you doing with that stethoscope and those weird machines!?”
Sayama shook his head.
…Good intentions are so rarely recognized these days.
“Listen. What I was doing is simple, Shinjou-kun. Listen carefully. Once I used a thermal sensor to see what you were doing inside the stall, I recorded the sound inside and-…”
She suddenly strangled him.
Well-maintained plants grew along a slope created by cutting down a portion of the forest and the afternoon sun washed over the crops of that field.
The field widened toward the bottom of the slope and a large white building was located even further down.
This was behind Japanese UCAT which was disguised as a transportation building.
In addition to the crops, the field contained flower beds, trees, kadomatsu, and totem poles.
They had all been artificially planted and two people walked among them.
Both of the people wore black. One was a gray-haired man and the other was a maid in a white apron.
The maid held a closed parasol and followed a step behind the man.
“Itaru-sama, where are you going today?”
“Where do you want to go? Tell me, Sf.”
“Tes. I wish to go where you are.”
“Then tell me where I want to go. I’ll let you decide. You have ten seconds.”
“Tes. And if I cannot decide within ten seconds?”
“I will dismantle you and ship you back to Germany.”
“Tes.” Sf nodded. “Then I will leave my answer to you. Ten, nine, eight.”
“Wait. And if I don’t answer? Will you dismantle me as well out of joint responsibility?”
“No, this question was given to me, so if you do not answer, it will mean that is what you desire. Seven, six, five.”
“You idiot. I’m not going to answer.”
“Tes. Then that is what you desire. Four, three, two.”
“Wait. Answer me this first: what are you going to do if I do dismantle you and ship you back?”
“Tes. The questionnaires sent back to German UCAT will be used to develop a new-and-improved Second Sf, Third Sf, Sf Z, God Sf, etc., and I will be sent back to you. The new version will likely be able to help you with complete transformations for land, sea, and air. One, zer-…”
“It doesn’t matter, so let’s just stay here, you idiot.”
“Tes.” Sf stopped walking and bowed. “I have determined the fact that you care for me that much is a shocking truth.”
“I did it out of concern for my own safety.”
“Tes. Are you familiar with the phrase ‘they may compliment you, but they actually dislike you’?”
“You have that backwards! And why are you with me, anyway?”
“Tes. If something were to happen to you, I would lose my raison d’être.”
“Hah. It’s nice that dolls don’t lie. In other words, you’re doing it for yourself.”
“Tes. I am also glad to have been named your favorite. I will now make full use of German UCAT’s unique egocentric circuits.”
“Wait a second. If you have circuits like that, what happened to the equality circuits?”
“I am sorry, Itaru-sama, but those are not equality circuits. They have been named the communist circuits of the red heart.”
“So the Soviet Union’s your enemy!? That’s what you’re saying, isn’t it!?”
“They are known as Russia now, Itaru-sama. But even if the name has changed, the fact that they are our enemy has not.”
Itaru turned around and began walking, but after taking a few steps and turning back, he found Sf was not following. She was standing perfectly still.
“Why are you standing there, Sf?”
“Tes. You said. ‘It doesn’t matter, so let’s just stay here.’ ”
“Oh, did I? How wonderful. If I move a hundred meters away, you’ll lose track of me for the first time, won’t you?”
“Tes. I have determined this is a terribly troubling situation.”
“I see, I see. I’d like to know what a doll does when it’s troubled. Do you cry?”
“Losing track of you is outside my expectations, so I cannot predict what would happen.”
“Then how can you be certain it would trouble you?”
“Tes. Because I can predict that nothing else would trouble me.”
She opened the parasol and placed herself in the shade.
“I will wait here, so come take me with you once you finish your walk.”
“You don’t think I’ll just leave like this?”
“Tes. I do think you will,” she said. “But how about you hurry up and leave? Do exactly what you want. Go on ahead.”
“Do you think I’ll go if you say that?”
“Tes. If that is what you wish.” She bowed. “I will remain here as indicated by my name. Whatever my master wishes, I will remain here. No concern, courtesy, or recognition is needed. All I ask is that my master trusts in me and tells me what he desires.”
“Please look after your health. After this morning…”
“Don’t tell anyone else I was coughing up blood, Sf. I’m not going to last long, so you need to hurry up and give up too.”
“Tes. I have done so since the moment I was activated, so do not worry. I will not lose myself any earlier or later than you. I am your personal automaton, so I could do nothing else.”
“Ridiculous.” Itaru sighed into the sky and then glanced toward Sf. “How long are you going to stand there? Come bring some shade to your master.”
Sf bowed and walked over to him.
She looked around the area as she did and she frowned for just an instant.
“According to the transmission we received, the new inspectors from American UCAT should arrive soon.”
“I’m sure they will. And I’m sure it’s going to cause trouble just like before.”
The shade from Sf’s parasol covered Itaru.
He looked around and began walking down the slope. Sf followed with the parasol and commented on his destination.
“I have determined that is the flower bed, Itaru-sama. Abram-sama’s wife Arnavaz-sama and Development Department Director Tsukuyomi have planted various flowers there.”
“Yes. We used to grow quite a lot of things here. This was originally a flower bed and parking lot, but the people from overseas were insistent on growing herbs or something and they eventually started growing a food supply. Afterwards, we all had a cookout together. I believe it was that hill over there where Diana actually got drunk for once and knocked my old man out with a mug.”
“Is that what made Kazuo-sama go crazy?”
“No, he was still relatively normal back then. …The change came after we were never able to have that kind of ridiculous fun again.”
“What do you mean?”
“I’m just talking about the past, Sf. A past that you can find anywhere. Just like my destination can be found anywhere.”
He stopped walking and looked at the flower bed.
The yellow autumn chrysanthemums were in full bloom.
An apartment building bathed in the afternoon sun.
A large motorcycle with a sidecar attached sat atop the gravel laid out in front of the cement at the building’s first floor.
Behind that motorcycle, the steel door of the westernmost room slowly opened.
A dark-skinned boy stuck his head out and looked around.
He was Harakawa.
After making sure no one was around, he pulled his head back inside, closed the door, and locked it.
Inside the narrow entranceway, he sighed in his school uniform.
“It looks like the student council president and treasurer finally left.”
“Are you okay?” asked Heo from the living room.
The futon had been laid back out on the floor and she was lying in it with a wet towel on her forehead.
Seeing her looking up from the edge of the futon, Harakawa sighed again and walked into the living room.
“Whether I am or not, you need to worry about yourself, Heo Thunderson.”
“I’m feeling a lot better.”
“Is that so?”
He leaned against the column next to the closet and sat next to her.
She tilted her head.
“U-um, don’t you have to get to school?”
“In the time it took to get you in the futon, the time to earn my attendance passed.”
She pulled the futon up above her nose and he touched the empty can he had pulled from the closet.
“I was wondering why you had quieted down in the closet, but I never would’ve guessed you’d gotten drunk and fallen asleep.”
“But it was my first time drinking beer. A-and does that mean you drink while underage?”
“You just did too. You’ll get used to it eventually. …Anyway, it must have been hot in there. I apologize for that. Of course, it was the alcohol that made you sweat more and dehydrated you a bit, but I guess that’s my fault too. Did you finish the sports drink?”
“Oh, yes. It’s over there.”
He looked by her pillow and saw the empty 500 mL plastic bottle he had peeled the label from and used as a container. To drink the whole thing so quickly, her body had to have wanted water.
He stood up and picked up the bottle.
Heo said “um”, but he ignored her and entered the kitchen.
“What are you doing?” she continued. “I could help.”
“I don’t need any help. And I’m not going to do anything bad, so just relax.”
He still had a few packets of the powdered sports drink he used for hangovers, so he could easily handle a girl with a slight alcohol problem.
He washed out the plastic bottle, took a funnel from the sink, placed it in the bottle, and reopened the packet he had used half the powder from before. It was the blue Hawaii flavor of IAI’s new BODILY FLUIDS 500 sports drink.
He poured in the blue powder, filled the bottle halfway with water, closed it, and shook it.
…This kind of powder dissolves in water a lot better than it used to.
On an elementary school field trip, the powder his mother had put in a bottle for him had hardened and refused to dissolve. He remembered how she had smiled bitterly when he had told her about it afterwards.
“But that doesn’t happen anymore.”
He looked across the empty kitchen and suddenly recalled the weight of the bottle in his hand.
He opened the lid, filled it the rest of the way with water, closed it again, and returned to the living room.
Heo frantically looked up when she heard his footsteps, but without saying a word, he placed the bottle by her pillow and sat by the closet column again.
“Um, can I really have this?”
“So you’re well enough to restrain yourself, are you? You drank the other one without saying a word.”
“S-sorry. I’ll take it.”
She sat up, grabbed the lid, and gathered her strength.
She turned a troubled look his way and he realized why.
“Are you too weak to open it?”
“I think you tightened it too much.”
After he opened it and handed it back, she lowered her head and drank it. After two gulps, she took a breath. She then sighed, looked down toward the futon, and gave a weak smile.
“Thank you very much. After a short rest, I’ll leave.”
“Do you want to collapse again? You’re clearly not well and you’re not sweating. Get some sleep, Heo Thunderson. It was my fault this happened, so I’ll lend you my futon. If you don’t want to stay, you can leave, but otherwise, try thinking about this after you wake up again.”
He grabbed a paperback book from the floor.
“Um, about that book…” she said.
“This is the bizarre author Marume☆Sandayuu’s first novel since his shocking move to a different publisher. It’s called Love Limbs. It’s supposed to be a new serious love comedy, but it’s a little weird for the heroine to die in the table of contents.”
“N-no, that isn’t what I meant. Do you like books?”
“Does just reading them count as liking them?”
“It’s just that I found a bookshelf in the closet.”
“Heo. It’s bad manners for a guest to search through someone’s closet.”
She looked away and lowered her head. After dropping his gaze to the page, Harakawa looked back up a bit, but she still had her head lowered.
…What a troublesome girl.
He called her name and she looked at him in surprise.
He spoke while looking down at the book.
“You said you were supposed to meet your great-grandfather at 2 PM, right? Well, it’s already past 3.”
She shook her head and shrugged with a weak smile.
“I’m not feeling well and…I doubt he would be there if I went now.”
“Is that so? Well, at least you can look at your condition objectively now.”
He looked up and found her tilting her head.
“Were you going to take me?”
“You can barely stand without staggering and you don’t know the roads around here. Do you really think you could make it on your own?”
“What are you talking about, Heo Thunderson? This is only what anyone would do.”
“What anyone would do?”
She narrowed her eyes in a small smile and let out a slow breath of relaxation.
“Don’t thank me for something like that, especially when I didn’t actually do it, Heo Thunderson. Only thank me when I actually do something and you like it. Got that? Don’t make me say it again. Don’t forget it.”
She gave a troubled smile and took a sip of the blue drink.
“Um, Harawaka? I’ve been wondering.”
“Yeah, I use that drink to help with hangovers. It’s good for you, but the smell kind of sticks in your nose, doesn’t it?”
“It tastes a bit like a bathroom air freshener.”
“You’ve eaten one?”
Harakawa’s mouth bent as he watched her frantically deny it.
He only realized that bend was a bitter smile when he looked back at the book and saw the term written there.
As he watched, Heo gently closed the plastic bottle, set it by her pillow, and went to sleep.
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