Owari no Chronicle:Volume8 Prologue
Prologue: Blue Guidance
Where is the color of the sky?
You can ask
But you cannot grab ahold of it
A color could be seen.
It was the color blue. A deep, dark blue filled a great expanse above. A slightly darkened blue filled an expanse below.
Those two blues were the heavens and the earth as seen from the sky.
The sky above was empty, but the hazy blue earth was uneven and contained a white line.
The area below was mountainous and almost a desert, but with the color blue, it looked like the sandy bottom of the sea.
Something traveled through the center of that blue sky.
It resembled a dragon.
However, it had a metal body that reflected the sun and its surface contained several emblems and ID numbers.
As it cut through the wind, US-UCAT was written on both sides in white writing.
It was a mechanical dragon of American UCAT and that steel dragon was flying through the blue sky.
It was at least thirty meters long and five meters wide. It was painted blue and white and its overall form was a rectangle with a shallow slope at an acute angle.
It had a sharp face, a long tail, and no neck. Its four legs were drawn in and its two pairs of wings stuck out on either side.
Shimmering heat was ejected from what looked like the waist and the bottom of its legs.
It continued on while pushed by the accelerating heat.
The head facing its destination had a windshield. Inside that windshield was a single-seat cockpit. The pilot strapped into the deep seat wore a pressure suit and a helmet, but the suit was made of cloth and all of the consoles before him were analog.
He reached to his right toward a B5-size writing board with a few papers in its stopper. The top of the papers said “Test (Final)” and they gave the date “4.20.1945”.
They also gave the pilot’s name: Richard Thunderson.
Thunderson wrote the numbers on the instruments into a few of the fields on the documents and then returned his hand to the central control column.
The majority of the noise within the windshield was the racket of cutting through the wind at high altitude. That noise was joined by the metallic creaking of the craft and the roar of the ejected heat accelerating it.
Thunderson pulled on the control column while squeezing the throttle.
The blue mechanical dragon turned upwards as if twisting its body. The walls of air on the top and bottom threatened to bring that turn to a stop.
But a moment later, the dragon broke through the upper wall of resistance and the air coming from the front struck its bottom surface.
With the air resistance on its stomach, the dragon ascended as if climbing a slope.
The beating of the air sounded like an explosion and the disturbed air current burst into mist.
By the time that ended, the blue mechanical dragon had moved several hundred meters higher.
As it flew calmly through the air yet opposed the air all the while, a voice spoke over the communicator.
“b1 to base. The leg retraction and accelerators are working well. …Are your numbers good too?”
The voice was Thunderson’s and he laughed before continuing.
“Is a1… Is that him!?”
Just as his question grew into a shout of expectation, the blue mechanical dragon heard a roar down below.
Before he could think that something was coming, a white line stabbed upwards through the sky only a few dozen meters to the right.
The line of mist looked like a contrail.
But it was erased by the great roar that followed after a short delay.
And something else arrived. It was overhead where nothing had been before.
It was a white mechanical dragon.
It was also about thirty meters long, it had no neck, and it had a long tail.
It resembled the blue one, but it was still different.
In order to fly more efficiently, the blue one had closed up its legs and expanded its wings.
However, the white one’s legs were contracted but still extended out enough for landing and walking. Also, its wings did not extend out as far as the blue one’s.
The blue one spoke over the communicator.
“Isn’t that a bit sudden, James Davis?”
“I’m a1 right now, Richard Thunderson.”
The white one replied and they both gave bitter laughs.
The white one took a slightly upward path with its short wings cutting through the sky.
“Did you see that ascent speed? Mine will be the one chosen for official use.”
“C’mon now. Don’t think ascent speed is enough to win, James. Are you actually amazingly stupid by any chance? For one thing, that structure leaves you barely able to turn. You put everything into acceleration, so that’s all you have.”
“Now you’ve said it. Then again, you’re right about one thing. I haven’t shown what it can really do yet. How about yours? You’ve been making tons of small adjustments, but it still doesn’t have any explosion of power, does it?”
“An aircraft needs stability. I can’t put the pilot’s life in danger. Especially when that pilot is me.”
“That’s an excuse for rejecting new ideas. You’ve been like that since our school days and that’s why-…”
“You’re doing an amazing job of talking in circles, James.”
He sighed and they both laughed bitterly once more. After a pause, the white mechanical dragon spoke.
“I will make sure this one is chosen, Richard. This is the anniversary of my wife’s death and my kids’ birthday.”
“C’mon, I’m not going to let you win out of sympathy, James.”
“I know that, Richard. We’re doing this to keep them from taking over the sky. Ever since man began to fly, we’ve known that there’s something here in America’s skies.”
“I’ve heard the area they appear in has been shifting toward the Pacific and toward Japan over the past few years, but that doesn’t change the fact that we’ve lost a lot in the past. Or the fact that we have these craft because of what we gained from it. So, James, you need to cross yourself before this match for everyone’s sake. After all, you’ll be shot down before long.”
“Sorry, but I already crossed myself before taking off. That leaves you. I’ll protect you, so hurry it up.”
“Oh, I forgot to mention. I converted to Voodoo last night. And I designated you as the sacrifice.”
As they spoke, a white shadow came into view up ahead.
It was a cloud.
The two mechanical dragons spoke as they approached the white mass like it was an island.
“Richard, what will you do once we get the results today? Head back to the war?”
“I don’t know, but I feel amazingly guilty. Right now, the American people, European people, and the people of the enemy nations have lost so much, but as long as I’m here, I can’t share in that feeling. …I missed that latest fad.”
“Don’t say that. They’re working to fix this world, while we…well, it seems we still aren’t seeing it all clearly, but it does seem we’re working to protect that world.”
“Even so, James, this war that we’re calling the Concept War still doesn’t seem real to me. I was brought here because of my piloting prowess, but I feel I would’ve been better off shooting down enemy planes over the Pacific.”
“I’m not sure you should feel such purpose in shooting down living human beings, Richard Thunderson.”
“But I would be standing on the same stage as other human beings. Our brethren are putting their lives on the line, so I’m not sure you should call it just to be fighting dragons, James Davis.”
The blue mechanical dragon gave a small laugh of self-deprecation.
“And from what I hear, we haven’t found any human corpses in the cockpits of the mechanical dragons that have crashed in this world. We’re fighting a world of mechanical dragons that fly on autopilot and there are no people there. The people we’ve lost were lost for nothing.”
“No death is for nothing, Richard. Richard Thunderson.”
“Yeah,” came the lifeless response from the blue dragon as it moved down and away from the white one. “We’re talking in circles again.”
“So we are,” replied James.
“I know one thing. Today is your kids’…twins were they? Anyway, it’s their birthday. But if having your craft chosen was going to be their present, you’re going to have to console some disappointed children when you get home.”
“You made a reservation at the bar for tonight, didn’t you? Was it a cheap drink in the seat farthest back in the corner? Once you sit down, you can stoop over, say ‘congratulations James’, and return the drink to the bartender. Got it?”
As the two exchanged words, they began moving apart to the left and right.
An object was visible in front of the cloud up ahead. It was a blue airplane with a reciprocating engine.
“It begins once we pass that recordkeeping craft, James. You don’t have real bullets loaded, do you?”
“I’ve got the same as you.”
“Why do you have real bullets, you idiot!? Are you planning to have this double as a fully-equipped flight test!?”
“Why are you thinking the same thing as me, Richard?”
“Because I intend to win.”
The two of them passed the recordkeeping craft that had gone in ahead of them and they began to move to the left and right for the beginning of the test.
But in that moment, they both saw a sudden light appear.
It was a crimson light and it appeared at the midpoint between them.
The recordkeeping craft had exploded just after they passed by.
It broke as if struck on the center from above and it crashed into the wall of air.
Its wings broke, the body was crushed when exposed to the wind, and the small parts with little air resistance were thrown forward while trailing the smoke of the explosion.
The two mechanical dragons observed it in the small time available and immediately moved apart. They then flew into the cloud.
“I see it. It’s him. It’s that black mechanical dragon that rules this sky like it’s a game. The researchers call it Tezcatlipoca the Black Sun, right? Can you see it on your radar?”
“No, it’s vanished. But…”
He could see the wind moving through the cloud ahead of the two mechanical dragons.
The mass of wind split the cloud and the scattering cloud and mist showed the form of a giant dragon. It was a giant invisible dragon that existed as wind.
The white mechanical dragon moved ahead of the blue one.
“a1 to base. We have encountered the enemy. It’s Black Sun. …c1 was shot down. Beginning interception.”
“James, are you going after it?”
“That’s the whole reason we have these mechanical dragons. I’ve long since resolved myself to this. Watch, Richard. I’ll show you what Team A has developed. This is what we made while paving the road of development for these machines that must handle both ground and aerial battles.”
As he spoke, the white mechanical dragon suddenly broke apart. However, this was not due to it being destroyed.
“Beginning transformation from normal cruising form to high-speed cruising form.”
And that was precisely what the white mechanical dragon did in midair.
Its dragon-like shape crumbled and it changed.
Instead of retracting the legs like the blue one did, it solidified them as the base of the wings.
All of its joints were drawn in and it was made even smaller to reduce air resistance.
All of its accelerators were oriented toward the back.
And with metallic and mechanical noises, it all came together.
Thunderson spoke aloud what it had become.
But it was still a mechanical dragon. Its shape had been warped a bit, but it was clearly a mechanical dragon transformed for aerial combat.
The white dragon stored shimmering heat in all of its accelerators.
“Richard, your Thunderbird is an all-purpose non-transforming model because you focused on durability, but my Blanca is a high-mobility all-purpose transforming model. I can’t fly for as long as you and I don’t have as much defensive power, but I can move out ahead.”
The white dragon did exactly that while leaving behind some residual shimmering of heat.
The blue dragon belatedly moved out, but it could not catch up. The mass of wind was far out ahead, the white mechanical dragon was catching up to it, and the blue mechanical dragon was left behind.
The blue one broke through the air that could only be called a wall as it attempted to keep up. Meanwhile, the white one gave a shout that shook due to the impact of piercing through the air.
“What could you possibly want right now, you idiot!?”
Ahead of the blue one, a distant thick cloud enveloped the wind and the white dragon.
The giant wind dragon and the white mechanical dragon vanished from view
However, the latter’s voice could still be heard.
“Hey,” began James. “Are there others fighting like we are?”
“I hear there are in Europe. There might be in Germany and Japan as well.”
“I see,” said James. “Ohara, the first one shot down by this dragon here, was half-Japanese. He said he joined UCAT because he didn’t want to go to war with his father’s country.”
“And wasn’t Hughes, the next one shot down, part German like me? …But did you just say ‘this dragon here’!? Have you caught up, James!?”
“Yeah, I finally have. Finally. It took so long. Lyle, Essert, and Curt, who was just a kid, weren’t even able to see it, but I’ve finally, finally made it. Did you know that all of the crashed mechanical dragons we’ve recovered were shot down by this thing?”
“What!? Does that mean…?”
“Team A’s conclusion is that the world of dragons we’re up against is in a constant state of civil war between this single giant dragon and countless smaller dragons.” James laughed. “It probably comes to our skies when it’s tired of that fighting at home. And after it amuses itself by shooting down the weak machines flying here, it goes back. …I won’t let it do that again.”
The blue mechanical dragon rushed into the cloud as it listened. The cloud was blown away in front of its nose.
“Wait, James Davis. We need to work together. You understand that, don’t you? When you won over your wife, it was because I hit on her first and you went in for the attack after she shot me down. So wait.”
“I am waiting, so hurry up, Richard Thunderson. Hurry to the destination of your resolve. I’ll be moving on ahead and I’ll wait for you there.”
The blue dragon accelerated through the cloud. It used all of its accelerators to their fullest and broke through the wall of air before it.
A moment later, its vision filled with a single color.
That color was blue. It saw a sky without a single cloud.
In that empty expanse of blue, the identically colored dragon looked forward.
A few hundred meters away, it saw the result of it all.
That result was destruction.
The flickering wind trailed a cloud behind it. That wind was a giant dragon and it destroyed the white mechanical dragon.
Beams of light shot between the two of them. That optical weapon could be called the dragon’s breath, but while the white one drew eight white arcs through the sky, the wind dragon fired dozens of black arcs.
The white mechanical dragon writhed in agony as the many black lights pierced into it.
But it forced itself to circle above the wind even as it was pierced through.
Meanwhile, the wind revealed itself.
Color appeared and that color was black. A black body and black wings spread out in the blue sky.
The large black mechanical dragon was over three hundred meters long.
A flat series of cannons opened in the space between the two wings on its back. All of those cannons turned toward the white mechanical dragon circling around above it and they began to gather black light.
However, the white dragon transformed as it flew in from above.
Amid the wind, its fighter-like silhouette instantly changed from an aerial dragon to a close-quarters combat dragon.
The cannon fire and the rushing dragon crossed paths.
Even as the black light stabbed into it, the white mechanical dragon forced its way down toward the large black mechanical dragon’s back.
It collided into it and raised the claws of its four legs.
But that was as far as it got.
The white dragon was destroyed. Its legs, body, and even the frame supporting its head were torn into and it could not even withstand its own next attack. The movable frame used for its transformations bent and its own heat and weight destroyed it.
It shattered like a piece of glasswork.
The white dragon raised its crying maw toward the sky.
And it exploded.
The blue mechanical dragon soared in as if the scattering wreckage and flames were its cue.
It tried to catch up to the large black mechanical dragon that had revealed itself and that shook in the explosion.
However, the black dragon shook its body. It calmly bent its body while ignoring the air resistance of its great speed and it swept away the wreckage and smoke on its back. Once it saw the blue dragon, it opened its mouth.
At the same moment, a black light came from deep in its mouth.
This was its dragon cannon.
It produced enough light to color the blue sky black. A pillar of black light with a diameter of over a dozen meters cut horizontally through the sky.
The sound of the scorching heat drowned out every hint of the wind.
The black dragon’s light blew away all of the air as if twisting it. The surrounding clouds instantly evaporated and the black light tore into the starboard side of Thunderson’s mechanical dragon.
Even so, the blue mechanical dragon was not destroyed. However, it could no longer fly.
It crashed into the pressure of the wind and was knocked through the sky as if falling forward.
From there, it could only fall.
And so it did.
With the flames of the white dragon’s explosion still in the sky, the blue dragon simply fell toward the ground visible far below.
The large black dragon in the sky watched it fall. To fire the dragon cannon, it had bent its body as if curling up. Once it confirmed that the blue mechanical dragon would not fly back up, it opened its metal maw.
Its roar filled the sky. It sounded like a crying voice and it reverberated through the blue sky.
As that sound continued, the black form vanished. It seemed to slowly but surely grow transparent. The color of the sky became visible through it, so the black dragon was dyed blue.
Afterwards, only the blue sky remained.
Down below, the mechanical dragon of the same color fell toward the ground.
That dragon let out a cry of its own.
“I will…I will…!”
It took a breath.
“I will defeat you! I swear it on the name Thunderson!”
“I swear it!!”
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