Owari no Chronicle:Volume9 Chapter 20
Chapter 20: Sky of Reunion
Can we meet again?
Is it more likely to happen if I wish for it?
The afternoon sun covered an area of land.
That land was surrounded by a fence except for the east side which was the back of a large house.
It was a backyard. As it was situated to the west, the sun reached it best during the afternoon.
The land contained trees, large garden stones, and a small pond.
Also, a small shrine was located next to the pond.
But this shrine did not have a torii or a hanging lantern. It was as tall as a human and simply existed as proof of something. The years had worn down its dark surface and its small tile roof was stained with moss.
A woman in a blue kimono currently stood in front of that shrine.
She was sweeping up the early fallen leaves with a bamboo broom and looking at the shrine through her glasses.
She then heard a voice from the bath window on the house behind her.
“Sister, have you put out the offering?”
“Yes, I did that at midday, Kouji. If you have something else to give, I’ll take it.”
“Are you sure you want to eat something filled with preservatives?”
“A-are you trying to kill your sister!?”
An arm with rolled up sleeves and a hose stuck out the window and sprayed water around.
“Wah! Stop it, Kouji. I’ll tell the young master that you were trying to spray your liquid all over me!”
“Please stop saying such dangerous things so naturally.”
Kouji poked his head out the window with a towel around his forehead and a deck brush over his shoulder.
“And I’m sure you’re thinking of gathering those leaves to cook potatoes over a bonfire for the first time this year, but please stop. The leaves that fall this early are too wet too burn. They’ll just make a lot of smoke and get the firefighters called in.”
“What are you talking about? Just leave it to your sister. I have an evidence-destroying torch from one of our clients and the potatoes are good ones from Kyushu.”
Water shot out and struck the gathered pile of leaves.
“Ahh! Kouji!? I’ll get mad if you keep destroying my dreams!”
She did not hesitate to pull out a cigarette-sized torch, light it, and throw it into the bath window.
She heard her brother cry out from the bath and saw a blue flash of light.
“Honestly. I was only trying to be with the young master and Setsu-chan in spirit while they’re in Kyushu.”
“The young master would not set his own house on fire! Oh, no. It scorched the painting of Mount Fuji on the wall and made a really ominous image.”
“Now it’s an image post-eruption and what’s wrong with that? …Also, Kouji.”
“What?” replied her brother along with the sound of him scrubbing the wall.
She ignored the sound and looked back at the shrine. As the sun was about ready to begin setting, she peered into the small structure.
“When the young master went to live in the dorms, our father and Honorable Sayama told us where this shrine came from, but will we tell the young master once he graduates?”
“Honorable Sayama said he regretted never telling Asagi-san, but I do wonder if it’s right for us to do it in his stead.”
“I’m sure it is. It’s better than having the young master know nothing like with Asagi-san.”
After a pause, Kouji spoke again.
“Um, sister. …Why do you think Honorable Sayama didn’t tell Asagi-san about his past?”
“Oh? You don’t know?”
“No, I don’t.”
“I see, I see. If you ask me to tell you and give me a Japanese-style, super-sweet dessert that’s still below 150 Calories with dinner tonight, I might consider telling you.”
“What’s this? Have you gotten fat as a pig again? Were you the culprit who threw the scale into the pond?”
“I-I have not gotten fat! I don’t get fat!”
“Enough excuses. Just tell me.”
“Well, if you insist. …It’s simple. Honorable Sayama didn’t want Asagi-san to be like him and Asagi-san was intent on the same thing.”
Ryouko wrapped her right arm around the broom and looked up in the pale sky as she spoke.
“I still remember when Asagi-san and Yume-san were called in to work that night. Honorable Sayama stopped them out front and told them something, but…”
“Don’t tell me you were eavesdropping on them.”
“I couldn’t hear what he said,” she complained while pouting her lips. She then lowered her gaze to the ground. “A big car came to get the two of them and I’m not sure if Honorable Sayama’s final words reached them. I put the young master to sleep and waited at the front door, so I did hear what he said just as the car pulled away. He said he would tell them everything once they returned.”
Kouji asked a question while scrubbing the wall.
“Did the young master hear that?”
“I don’t know. But only Yume-san returned and then she passed away. A lot happened between me and the young master and he was truly left alone once Honorable Sayama passed away, but now…”
She lowered her head and let out a bitter laugh of resignation.
“I’m sure he’ll search it out on his own even if we don’t tell him. So while I’d like to tell him what I know about this shrine and about Asagi-san…it probably isn’t necessary.”
She looked back up and saw the road and other residences past the fence.
However, there was one odd fact about the row of houses: there was a single empty lot among them.
Despite the houses being crammed in so closely, there was still an empty lot along that main road. It was blocked off from the road by barbed wire and stakes, the three sides that bordered houses had concrete block walls, and it was filled with tall grass.
Ryouko frowned at that empty lot.
“I’m sure he will eventually learn that what he needs to know is what Asagi-san and Yume-san kept hidden and did not tell us.”
While she put on a show of looking to the west, she heard Kouji’s voice from the bath.
“Sister, I’m sure he and Setsu-kun will do what they need to do. But are you listening?”
“What is it, Kouji? I’ve got a really good pose going on here. Don’t interrupt me.”
“Sure, sure.” He stuck a hand out the window with the palm up. “Pay for the repairs. These scorch marks aren’t coming off.”
She smiled and threw another torch through the window.
Shinjou and Sayama sat on the edge of the lake with their shoes off.
In the forest, they were speaking with Mukiti who had entered the giant tree. They began by discussing the current situation and Mukiti had begun turning the conversation toward Sayama’s grandfather.
To Shinjou’s right, Sayama had his pants rolled up and his feet in the water. A plant creature supported him from behind like a chair back and a creature under the water supported his feet.
“I never would have dreamed of receiving a foot massage in a place like this, Shinjou-kun.”
“Sayama-kun, how can you relax like that?”
She gently held his left hand because Mukiti was talking about his grandfather, but it seemed the 4th-Gear creatures’ healing ability was reducing the pain his chest.
Once the conversation reached a break, the sweat had left his forehead.
Thank goodness, she thought as the air moved and the tree asked a question.
“How far did I get?”
“You said Sayama-kun’s grandfather visited and gave you lots of information on Low-Gear.”
“Oh, yes,” said Mukiti. “So in terms of the Sayama here, that was the previous previous Sayama.”
“Yes. …And, um?”
She looked at Sayama and saw him closing his eyes and enjoying the foot massage now that the chest pains had receded. His lips twisted up into a fearless smile.
“Heh heh heh. Shinjou-kun, this is very nice. How about we bring one to the bath next time?”
It did not seem he was going to be of any help, so she looked back at the tree.
“Um, Sayama-kun asked earlier, but what is the promise? And why was Shinjou Kaname involved in the promise to go with his grandfather?”
“Are you curious?”
“So am I. I am curious what kind of person he was.”
Mukiti gently bent his body as he spoke.
“According to the previous previous Sayama, he was Tenkyou’s companion.”
“Yes. He was his assistant.”
“He said Tenkyou created some kind of gathering.”
“Yes. That would be the National Defense Department.”
“He said Tenkyou was researching something.”
She just about said that was the Concept War, but she hesitated.
Sayama’s grandfather had visited 4th-Gear in 1943. By that time, the National Defense Department had already created gates and Kinugasa Tenkyou should have learned the truth of the Concept War from Rhea and Xolotl 3.
Am I misunderstanding something here? she wondered.
“What was Professor Tenkyou researching?”
As expected, she received a response.
“Something to end concepts.”
Before she had finished uttering that tone of confusion, she noticed Sayama move next to her.
He folded his hands on top of his stomach.
“And what was that?” he asked.
“I do not know.”
The answer was frank and the residents of this Gear did not lie.
Shinjou heard Sayama sigh, but he went on to ask another question.
“Did my grandfather tell you anything else about Professor Tenkyou?”
“He lived in a place like this called ‘the mountains’ and that place was near the gathering. That is all.”
Sayama suddenly sat up and stared directly at the tree rather than at Shinjou.
“Do you mean Professor Tenkyou lived in the mountains near the National Defense Department and he was developing a weapon that would ‘end concepts’?”
“That is all I was told about anything related to Shinjou.”
Sayama relaxed and had returned to his usual expressionless look by the time he turned to Shinjou and nodded.
“So the promise itself is the only other related piece of information?”
“Yes. The promise.”
Mukiti gently shook his body. A thick, slow wind blew by and the trees shook as he formed words.
“The promise was for us to continue on in this world.”
When she heard those words that sent waves across the lake, Shinjou lifted her hips a bit and began to stand up.
“I am here. I have been accepted as the Shinjou of the promise. But…”
Her eyebrows lowered and she tilted her head.
“What was the promise? What was the promise that had you follow Sayama Kaoru here?”
The large tree began by uttering a single word.
“The previous previous Sayama called it the dragon’s promise.”
Shinjou recalled the term Leviathan Road that referred to what they were doing right now.
“Nice to meet you.”
She fully stood up as he gave a second greeting. She kicked the water of the lake and turned toward Sayama.
However, he was not looking at the tree. He was looking at the edge of the lake to his right.
Baku was there with his front legs raised.
A moment later, the past enveloped them.
Shinjou stood in some woods.
She was not on a mountain. This was a flat area of woods on top of a hill. She stood on a broad, unpaved gravel road near the top of the hill and brown puddles remained here and there on the road.
All of the trees on either side of the road were thick cedars and the afternoon sunlight reached her through the conifer leaves.
…Is this in Akigawa? It reminds me of the mountains and forests around there.
She could hear cicadas.
She recognized the unique cry of the large brown cicada and realized the temperature was quite high.
As she focused on the cicada cries, she looked into the distance to the right.
She could see the ceiling of tree leaves continuing down the hill and she could see the buildings of a city beyond that. However, there was a thin layer of smoke rising from those buildings.
And it was not the smoke of rice cooking at midday.
…There was an air raid here.
She realized this was a continuation of the past that Baku had shown them at the hotel that morning.
She hesitated, but then…
She reflexively ran down the road. She had her mind step forward and hurry over the puddles.
She soon found a blue truck up ahead.
It was the one belonging to Sayama’s grandfather.
Past the truck were a wooden gate, a Buddhist temple, and then the forest.
This was the temple that evacuees had been brought to.
Shinjou passed by the truck and found the black tile roofed gate standing open.
She passed through and found the fifteen square meter temple grounds.
She saw a bell tower to the left, the main building and lodgings up ahead, and a storage building to the right.
The main building had all of its doors open and there were several dozen people inside.
Most of them were wearing white pajamas and lying on futons. Some were young, some were old, some were sick, and some were injured. An old man in a white coat and a female nurse were rushing back and forth between them all.
Shinjou also heard a voice. It belonged to Sayama’s grandfather.
“Excuse me. Where is Shinjou!? Where is Shinjou Kaname-kun!?”
The man producing the voice stood below the main building’s overhanging roof.
It was indeed Sayama’s grandfather and he wore a military uniform.
Shinjou Kaname is here, realized Shinjou.
But she stared intently at Sayama’s grandfather’s back. She wanted to see Shinjou Kaname, but…
…So does he.
She stopped her mind behind the man.
She was still five meters away, but that was as close as she could bear to go.
From that distance, she saw movement in the shadowy hall of the main building.
The people lying down began sitting up to see who was speaking.
The nurse turned around and walked over.
She picked up some documents from the floor and opened one as she arrived under the overhanging roof.
“Shinjou Kaname, was it? That name is on the list, but please try to remain quiet.”
“My apologies. Can I meet him?”
The nurse hesitated for a moment. “Where is he?” she muttered under her breath while turning toward the people behind her.
At the same time, a hand rose near the wall.
It was a pale and slender hand.
However, it was not a man’s hand.
It was a woman’s.
Shinjou heard a voice, but it was a child crying rather than an adult speaking.
She saw Sayama’s grandfather look over and frown.
“Who is that?”
“She gave birth this morning after arriving at the temple. I do not think she can speak quite yet.”
“Wait,” said the woman in the futon by the wall.
With a rustling sound, the thin futon moved as the woman tried to sit up.
The nurse frantically stood, brushed her skirt into place, and walked over.
Sayama’s grandfather walked over as well. A great many gazes gathered on him, but he walked straight through that dimly-lit hall.
It took him exactly ten steps to reach the woman by the wall.
The nurse helped the slender woman sit up, placed a few cushions behind her to prop her up, and placed the red-skinned baby in her arms.
The woman saw that Sayama’s grandfather was a soldier and used a hand to fix her hair and collar.
“Excuse me, soldier.”
“What is it?”
However, the woman asked a question. And a surprising one at that.
“Was Shinjou-sama all right?”
As that voice joined the cicada cries, Shinjou felt a chill.
However, the back wearing a military uniform did not budge in the slightest.
Shinjou asked a question to that back before her eyes. She was almost asking him to check on what she did not want to.
“A-aren’t you going to ask what she means?”
But her words did not reach him and only the cicada cries filled the air.
It was only after a few breaths that Sayama’s grandfather spoke slowly.
“What do you mean by that?”
“Well,” said the woman who the nurse supported. “The other night, I was waiting for the evacuation truck during the air raid. And then this child…”
“Did you go into labor?”
The woman lowered her head and blushed, but her eyebrows lowered.
“And then one man got off the truck to leave space for me. He said he would wait for the next one and he said his name was Shinjou. …Shinjou Kaname.”
“If he is safe, I would like to thank him for my sake and for my child’s-…”
She frowned and gulped a bit when she saw the look on Sayama’s grandfather’s face that Shinjou could not see.
“How is Shinjou-sama?”
Sayama’s grandfather did not respond.
The woman tilted her head, the nurse lowered her head, and one of the cicada cries vanished, but he still did not respond.
Eventually, the woman asked another question with a tremble in her voice.
“You are…Sayama-sama, aren’t you?”
He did not reply. He did not move at all. As if to tell him to move and to fight the silence, the woman spoke some more.
“When he stepped out of the truck, Shinjou-sama said to rely on someone named Sayama if I needed anything. He smiled as he said it.”
Nevertheless, Sayama’s grandfather remained silent.
However, his shoulders rose as he took in a deep breath, let it out, and asked a gentle question.
“What is your name?”
The woman nodded and then bowed deeply toward the man with her child in her arms.
“I am Tamiya Ryou.”
Shinjou’s mind gasped at the surname and the past suddenly switched over.
Sayama saw the past switch over.
…Where am I now?
His mind awoke as if looking up and he saw a certain scene.
He saw the edge of a lake. The bottom surface was made of plants and it was surrounded by a forest.
It was much like the 4th-Gear reservation, so he wondered something.
“Have I woken from the past?”
No, his mind answered.
Without even a close examination, there were several differences.
First of all, there was no giant stump in front of him. Also…
A black expanse covered everything above.
This was not the night sky. It was a black sky and that was all.
There were no stars and the only light was the powerful one from overhead.
That light was the sun.
He looked up at the intense sunlight coming from directly above.
As he did, he noticed something odd.
Directly ahead, something like a path extended up from the forest and into the sky.
It was a green belt.
The green path rose into the sky and had collections of what resembled blue veins in places. As he looked further up, the green belt drew an upward arc as if it would circle around behind the sun.
There actually a few similar belts. There were three of them in all, including the one Sayama was looking at. And those belts formed complete circles.
…A world of three rings with the sun at the center.
This was 4th-Gear.
The three rings each had a diameter as wide as the earth’s orbit around the sun and the ecosystem was gathered on the inward edge. They slowly rotated and mist-like smoke rose from them where they crossed paths.
…Are they exchanging their ecosystems?
He looked up at the world of three rotating belts for a while.
But then he lowered his gaze because there was something else he had to see here.
The direction he was meant to look was straight ahead.
He saw something there that had not been present before.
Mist hovered over the lake and someone sat in the grass in front of the lake.
The person wore a brown suit.
It was his grandfather.
The wind blew gently past the man. It was a warm but transparent wind.
It produced small waves on the lake, shook the plants, and rustled the leaves of the forest.
Nevertheless, the mist over the lake did not move.
His grandfather sat cross-legged while half-sinking into the grass. His hair blew around a bit as if the wind had knocked it out of place and a plant creature grew up next to him.
However, the creature did not actively approach. It only looked at the man.
…He has yet to make any promises with 4th-Gear.
While still facing the mist, Sayama’s grandfather held his right hand out toward the creature.
The creature looked to the mist, but finally approached and held the offered hand in its front legs.
In an instant, the creature expanded.
Air blasted from the creature’s body and more joined it. The ground swelled up as if linked to the creature’s backside and a new creature was added behind it.
But the additional creature was forced to instantly expel air and another was added on.
The creatures quickly surrounded the lake and extended into the forest.
The forest stirred and Sayama looked up.
He saw a rapid change in the ring of land extending upwards in the distance.
It had been primarily green a moment earlier, but it was turning blue.
That blue quickly enveloped the one ring and the mist whirled at the intersections with the other rings.
Wind was created.
Air was produced from all over the ring. A burden from outside their world should have been an impossibility and the excess air produced wind.
Sayama heard a voice from the mist in front of him.
“It appears some adjustments are needed to deal with your production rate.”
“Yes. Humans create a good deal more heat than plants. Either way, I suppose this counts as our first interaction.”
With that, his grandfather removed his hand from the plant creature. Reluctant to part with him, the creature reached out, but the man continued pulling away his hand.
He faced forward and spoke to the mist.
“I can no longer bring Shinjou.”
Sayama gasped at how plainly he said it.
He was only a few meters from his grandfather’s back, but he did not approach.
…I must not.
With the word “self-control” in mind, he watched over his grandfather. He did, however, have his mind sit down in the grass.
He simply set his vision’s height to the same as the back before him.
“Shinjou will not be coming?” asked the mist.
“Correct. Even though I promised he would. And even though you said you could return with me if you could heal him and use that to fuel your survival.”
“I remember. I decided to listen to what you had to say because you found me.”
“Finding you was easy. After all, I had longed to meet you without having seen you.”
“But you were the first to suddenly call out to the sky and ground as soon as you arrived here. Do you remember?” asked Mukiti’s will. “You kept saying ‘nice to meet you’ and suddenly started talking to the sky and the ground. I could not ignore that.”
“You asked why I was doing that and I said it was because I knew where you were. After all, I only wanted to speak with you. I spoke to the sky and the ground because that was you,” said Sayama’s grandfather. “You asked me to keep it a secret because the other Gears might try to forcibly extract you if they knew. And that’s why I asked you to come to our Gear.”
“Using the term you taught me, that is a ‘funny’ story.”
“It is,” said his grandfather while looking up into the sun in the black sky. “Nostalgic too. It feels like that discussion was only yesterday. …When you learned how our world did things, you asked to hold an equal position with no debts if you were to go there. That was when I realized your healing ability could give you that. And you asked for the person most in need of healing so you could earn my trust. That way you could prove your power was sufficient and you were not underestimating our demands.”
“But Shinjou will not be coming?”
“No. I’m sorry about that. My promise with you can’t be fulfilled. …And I can’t bring someone who I can’t trust and you wouldn’t want to heal someone who I don’t trust. 4th-Gear now has no way to determine whether Low-Gear can repay you or not.”
“You broke the promise.”
“That’s right,” sighed the man. “Because Shinjou is no more.”
The wind blew through as if to erase his words. It came from the ring of land turning blue up above.
“Ah,” sighed Sayama’s grandfather in the wind. “You might actually be incredibly cruel. In our world, we say he ascended into the sky, but in this world, all of the burden I had left on him is turned to wind.”
“What is it?”
“I see people can make water too.”
With that, Sayama looked at his grandfather’s back. The man finally wiped at his face with his right hand.
“Yes,” he agreed.
“Let us go to your world,” said Mukiti almost immediately.
In the past, Sayama’s grandfather forcefully raised his head.
Mukiti had agreed to what the man had wanted. However…
“You fool!” He rose up and shouted. “Will you mock our negotiation!? Low-Gear and 4th-Gear negotiated as equals, but my clumsiness prevented us from completing those negotiations! That is the result! Twisting that result will not just damage Low-Gear’s honor but 4th-Gear’s as well!”
“The negotiations are not over.”
Mukiti’s words silenced the man and more wind blew.
However, this was not the same gentle wind as before. It was a mighty gust.
The air moved all at once as an audible wall.
It came from in front. The branches and leaves of the forest and the sea of grass all fell forward as if being tanned and released all their moisture into the air as mist.
A white mist danced through the sky.
It spiraled upwards and did not stop there.
It stretched out as it rose into the black space.
In response, mist rose from all three rings of land.
Sayama and his grandfather both stood up and looked around.
“I am here, yet not here,” said the sky.
The mist spiraled around the sun floating in the center of the rings.
“You said my response when you found me is called ‘surprise’.”
“Yes, but what does that have to do with ignoring the conclusion of our negotiation?”
“Is there only one Shinjou?”
Sayama realized what Mukiti was trying to say.
Because he always had Shinjou by his side, he understood.
“It seems your world has a concept of inheritance.”
“Let us keep the promise. Sayama, even if you are inherited by someone else, I can trust you. Bring Shinjou to me and I will show you my power.”
“But Low-Gear needs to win the Concept War for that to happen.”
“We have promised,” insisted the voice.
Sayama saw his grandfather stop moving at that.
The man stood tall within the grass that was blowing in the wind.
His shoulders slowly rose, he took in a breath, and he did not back down.
He tightly clenched his fists, gathered strength in his neck, and looked up into the sky.
“Are you saying you will continue the negotiation? With me…and with Shinjou?”
“We have promised.”
Sayama’s grandfather thought for a moment and finally spoke.
“Then come to keep that promise. Come to keep the dragon’s promise. To ensure our negotiation, I will first destroy this world and to take responsibility…” he declared. “I will make sure you meet Shinjou. When the time comes, the surname Sayama will bring the one known as Shinjou to see you. When the world once more desires a negotiation of battle and powerful healing is once more needed, Shinjou will be brought to you as the condition for gaining your power. And to do that, I will make sure all the other worlds are-…”
He took a breath.
“To keep my promise, I say that the surname Sayama indicates a villain.”
“Yes,” said the dragon taking form overhead.
It was a dragon formed from the gathered mist.
Plant creatures then grew at Sayama’s grandfather’s feet and the three rings rapidly faded in color. The world changed from green, to yellow, and finally to brown.
“Are you gathering the ecosystem information!?”
“The large whole is being becoming a small whole.”
Mukiti lowered as he said that.
The sky grew even darker as the sun lost its light behind Mukiti who lowered his long body straight down.
Everything except for the lake was wrapped in darkness.
A gate, realized Sayama as something rose beyond the lake.
It was a giant tree. Its trunk was over thirty meters wide and it broke off its own top as it rose.
Mukiti flew inside the broken end and 4th-Gear moved.
But just before it did, Sayama heard Mukiti’s will.
“Sayama, you said I was ‘surprised’ when you found me, didn’t you?”
“Yes. But why do you bring it up now?”
“I would like you to revise that description. To use the term you taught me, I was ‘happy’ that someone had found me.”
“And I wish ‘happiness’ to those who will inherit the promise.”
That signaled the end and a wind from above enveloped Mukiti and collided with the tree.
A moment later, all light vanished.
Sayama thought in that darkness.
…A negotiation to make dragon and human equal, hm?
That was the promise. And to restart that promise and give it a new beginning, the dragon was to meet Shinjou.
Was this why Shinjou-kun was given a spot in Team Leviathan? wondered Sayama. My grandfather and the old man would have known about this, after all.
…If so, those old men must truly love roundabout methods and riddles.
He thought about what Shinjou was doing now. The previous vision of the past had likely been a great shock to her, so he decided he needed to support her.
And as his mind fell, he recalled his grandfather’s back that he could no longer see.
The back he had seen at the Hachioji temple had been a new sight for him, but the one he had seen during the promise with Mukiti had not.
…That was the same back I saw until he died.
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