Owari no Chronicle:Volume9 Chapter 23
Chapter 23: Developing Assignment
How does it unfold?
How does it open?
Someone ran down a white corridor.
The corridor was long. It was filled with nothing but light and the doors on either side were closed.
The person running down it was a young man in a lab coat. He wore a worn-out shirt and chino pants below that lab coat. He wore rubber sandals on his feet, but each running step carried him an entire room’s length down the corridor.
“Oh, dammit. If only Atsuta were here. Why is that creature obsessed with Okinawa right now?”
The young man pushed his glasses up his nose and the motion revealed the name Kashima on the collar that whipped in the wind.
Kashima was trying to reach the other end of the corridor.
At the same time, people charged in from either side of the T-shaped juncture up ahead. There were six of them and they all wore blue armored uniforms and wielded meter-long electromagnetic batons.
Also, the armor at the bases of their limbs swelled out.
“They have mechanical parts installed there for close-quarters combat. Are they after me specifically?”
He nevertheless continued forward and amongst the six men.
“Ahh,” he sighed. “This is such a pain and so boring.”
He stepped forward.
“Even if I filmed it, I wouldn’t be able to show Natsu-san or Harumi.”
He spun around.
“I can’t use my camera here.”
He ran below the electromagnetic baton swung down by the first man on the right. He approached close enough for an embrace, so the man frantically stepped back.
The man turned around to fall back without pressing his back to the wall and he did so with the inhuman speed the mechanical parts of his armor allowed.
But Kashima caught up in a single leap. He twisted his body to control his midair position as he approached.
“You have a lot to learn about military gods.”
He lightly clenched his fist and drove it into the man’s chest. The heavy armor had the strength of a metal panel, but it still broke. The steel armor shattered like dried clay.
Kashima gave an instantaneous shrug when he heard the soldier’s confused cry.
“Did you really think armor and weapons below the divine level would be of any use against a military god?”
With that, he completely broke the man’s armored uniform. Cracks ran through it starting from the chest and all of the mechanical parts burst from within.
Sounds of breaking metal filled the air and the broken mechanical parts briefly sent the entire uniform out of control.
With no control over his suit, the soldier was sent flying backwards along with the fragments.
He collapsed with a sound resembling shattering glass.
Kashima then looked behind him.
An instant later, a line of silver flew toward him.
It was a blade. The other five had abandoned their electromagnetic batons and drawn the knives with sixty centimeter blades stored on their backs.
The first caught Kashima off guard and grazed his cheek.
The very next moment, he brought a hand to that cheek.
He saw a hint of red on his fingers.
“Have you altered those with some kind of concept?”
To respond, three of them moved in at once. They rushed toward him.
However, he moved forward and only at a walk.
The three wielding knives seemed to break past Kashima and the other two watched him continue to walk.
They could not see him. The three up ahead produced mechanical sounds as they stopped and frantically turned around.
They could not see him. Nevertheless, Kashima simply walked between the group of three and the group of two. He walked toward the latter group.
“Yeah,” he said. “Even when I put this much effort into my work…”
He lightly raised his hands.
“I can’t even let the people I most care about see it.”
He stepped between the two men who were looking all around.
“And I can’t hear them praise me.”
He tapped them on the shoulder.
“Being a father isn’t easy.”
As if those words were the cue, all five armored uniforms shattered. Not just those on either side of Kashima, but the three who had passed by him as well.
The series of five sounds resembled shattering glass and just as many people collapsed to the ground.
Once Kashima reached the end of the corridor, he looked both ways.
“I see. So those six were supposed to force me out here where you would shoot me.”
About three meters in both direction, he saw a double barricade made of desks and the barrels of anti-tank rifles were peeking out from behind them.
There were eighteen barrels in all and they all shook as they sent an intense noise toward Kashima.
The entire corridor shook, the gunshots collided and left the audible range, and all sound vanished.
And tearing through the leading edge of that soundlessness were eighteen armor-piercing rounds modified for concept combat.
Eighteen sprays of sparks filled the silence.
The scattering red flames vanished in the air, the air carried a faint scorched smell, and then came the wind.
The sound of the wind swept across the corridor and washed over everything.
The white steam produced by the colliding shockwaves was swept away by the wind and everyone looked down the corridor. Two people stood on both sides of the young man in a lab coat.
They were four old men.
The first on the right had wavy gray hair, wore a white armored uniform, and held an Azure Dragon Sword toward the opposing guns.
“I am Ikkou, the eldest brother. A pleasure to meet you.”
The second on the right had long gray hair, wore a lab coat, and held a charm toward the opposing guns.
“I am Nijun, the second brother. A pleasure to meet you.”
The first on the left had short gray hair, wore a lab coat, and held a meter-long scroll toward the opposing guns.
“I am Mitsuaki, the third brother. A pleasure to meet you.”
And the second on the left had long black hair, wore a flight jacket, and held nothing.
“Ummm, I’m like Yonkichi, the fourth brother. It’s like super nice to meet you or whatever.”
The three other men began attacking him.
“Damn you. You’ve started giving yourself terrible idiosyncrasies again, haven’t you?”
“I’ve had enough. It’s time we castrated him.”
“Brother! Brother! Leave it to me!”
Among the noise and voices, Kashima once more began walking and the gun barrels turned toward him.
But they lost sight of him. Even as Kashima sped up to a run, he shouted toward the four men behind him.
“They can see you!”
Hearing that, the three elder brothers stopped moving and made an immediate decision.
They kicked the youngest brother into the center of the corridor and returned the way they had come.
The attack began anew and gunfire arrived from either side of the corridor.
Kashima continued forward while he heard Yonkichi cry out behind him. For some reason, the old man sounded like he was enjoying it.
“What a pain. There are just too many of them.”
He crouched down and slipped below the bullets and shockwaves.
“But I want to take back this place before the Sayama boy returns.”
“Could you climb up to reach that document, Shinjou-kun? The L row is over there.”
Sayama’s voice filled a large space divided up by bookcases.
He was crouching in front of one bookcase and Shinjou listened to him under the shadow it formed in the fluorescent lighting.
“The S row you mean?”
“’No, the L row. L for lecherous old man, Shinjou-kun.”
“Sayama-kun, you sometimes use oddly old-fashioned words, don’t you?”
She looked up at the L bookcase. The document was in the middle of a shelf two meters up. She was not sure what to do, but the green creature they had let out of the bag walked over and stood below the document in question.
It seemed to be asking her to step up on it.
She hesitated, but she did so after removing her shoes. She looked to either side while reaching up for the document.
The bookcases almost seemed to continue on forever. She could see the end, but it still seemed like an unusually large space. It was nearly two hundred meters across and probably fifty meters wide.
This was the concept space reference room below Japanese UCAT’s western general headquarters.
All the documents for both UCAT and the Izumo Company days were stored here.
…Would Japanese UCAT’s reference room be this big if you combined the first and second ones?
As she wondered that, she saw several people moving about.
Miyako was standing near the entrance as their supervisor.
Moira 1st was moving between the bookcases and retrieving documents, Moira 3rd was copying the documents Moira 1st gave her, Moira 2nd was preparing tea near Miyako, and Gyes was standing in wait next to Miyako.
…They’re on our side now.
Shinjou found that strange as she grabbed the document.
The movement shook her hair. She had changed into Setsu’s clothes before coming here, but she still had Sadame’s hairstyle and that difference felt almost ticklish.
“Hey, Sayama-kun? Did you mean this one?”
She turned to Sayama who was crouched down to her right and he looked up at her with squinted eyes that seemed to stare into the distance.
“Yes, at that height, I can indeed see your underwear through the gap in your culottes, Shinjou-kun.”
She jumped down and kneed him from above. The idiot collapsed on the floor, but he put on a charming look as he sat back up.
“Wh-what was that for, Shinjou-kun? I am simply shocked.”
“I don’t care if you’re shocked. …And how can you say something like that when the others are busy fighting American UCAT back at Okutama!?”
“I only asked if you could climb up to reach it. I never said you should.”
I need to keep a little more distance, she told herself.
She crouched down toward the green creature that was emitting air, rubbed its head, and it rubbed her head with its front leg.
It was producing a lot of air, so she was apparently quite tired.
Someone then appeared from behind the bookcase. It was Moira 1st.
“Master Sayama, Lady Shinjou. A fax has arrived from below Japanese UCAT. It is a newspaper article related to a Heo Thunderson’s past. Also, I have the copies of the documents I gathered.”
Despite her words, Moira 1st frowned. Wondering why, Shinjou followed her gaze and saw the plant creature rubbing her head. Shinjou tilted that head.
“Moira 1st-san, do you not like these people?”
“No, it is not that. But 4th-Gear can instantly accomplish what our various services are meant to provide our master. …They are a formidable foe that removes a large portion of what makes our work enjoyable.”
“I-I guess we all have it tough.”
“Indeed,” said a voice behind her. “Moira 1st-kun, I have an idea for when the world has been made equal. We can create a 4th-Gear massage center that provides instant relief from one’s exhaustion and a 3rd-Gear service center that does the same over a longer period of time. Then the two can compete.”
“There is no need. We would obviously win, after all.”
“3rd-Gear sure is amazing in a lot of different ways,” muttered Shinjou as the green creature expelled a lot of air as if in agreement.
Seeing that, Moira 1st brought a hand to her cheek.
“Oh, dear. Please cheer up, Lady Shinjou. Um, if you use one of 3rd’s secret tools, it may be a bit immoral, but…”
“I-I don’t need any tools.”
“But it sounds useful,” chimed in Sayama.
As she stood up, Shinjou tightened the necktie next to her and stopped Moira 1st who was searching for something in her apron.
“More importantly,” she said while holding out a hand to stop the automaton. “U-um? Can we have the copies you made?”
“Yes, of course. Here they are.”
Moira 1st handed Sayama the article on Heo and the multiple copied documents to Shinjou.
“I have determined these are the documents on Master Shinjou Kaname and his descendants.”
After taking the article on Heo, Sayama turned to Shinjou who stood to his right.
She looked blankly down at the documents related to Shinjou Kaname and his child.
“Are you surprised to find Shinjou Kaname’s employee information?”
“Uh, yes. A little.”
She let go of the left side of the documents and held them out toward him. He grabbed them and found that the man had started working at an Izumo Company factory in Yonago after graduating from a local elementary school. At fourteen, he had taken the company’s special skills lecture.
“I see. At sixteen, he entered Tokyo’s First Higher School. It also says he was Professor Tenkyou’s assistant, Shinjou-kun. …Where are the documents on Professor Kinugasa?”
Moira 1st shook her head.
“I could not find any employee documents on him. Instead, I found this.”
She pulled an envelope from the pocket on the back of her apron. Sayama took it with his right hand and found a stack of paper inside. Moira 1st nodded toward him.
“These are copies of the company reports from before and during the war. Professor Kinugasa sent in a few reports on Tokyo after going to the Okutama factory, which was a new company facility built there. They contain photos of the factory, photos of Tokyo after the firebombing, and…a photo of his home in the mountains of Okutama.”
“When did the reports end?”
Shinjou stiffened at that question and Moira 1st’s smile vanished.
“August of 1946. A notification of his death was sent out that September. It happened on July 26. When he was making adjustments to an Izumo Company facility in the Kinki region, he died suddenly due to pneumonia he had developed from his exhaustion and the rain.”
“Is that so?”
Sayama nodded and said nothing more.
They had received some of the truth. There was still a lot they did not know about Professor Kinugasa, but they had information on his home, they had information on his death, and both of those meant he had actually existed. Sayama turned his thoughts to the Izumo Company facility in the Kinki region that he had last visited
…According to the Divine States-World Interaction Theory, that would be 10th-Gear’s location.
Yamata had been sealed on August 25 of the same year and it was entirely possible the Concept War to seal 10th-Gear’s Concept Core had occurred just before then.
However, that was all speculation. It would be a waste to think about it anymore, so he stopped.
Upon returning from his thoughts, he found Shinjou looking at him with a troubled expression.
“Sometimes your ability to focus seems really amazing, Sayama-kun.”
“Yes. You put things aside for the time being, but you don’t forget about them.”
“It is simply that I am unable to forget, Shinjou-kun. It is not a virtue or anything of the sort. It is much like being a stalker who resists pursuing his target. Although for a stalker, pursuing that target would be a virtue.”
After saying that, Sayama guessed why Shinjou had said what she said.
“Shinjou-kun, do you mean to say you want me to virtuously stalk you?”
“That isn’t virtuous! It’s a bother! Look, Miyako-san can’t believe what you’re saying!”
Sayama looked past Moira 1st and saw Miyako looking up at the ceiling. Her mouth spread apart horizontally and she called over to them.
“Do whatever you want.”
“See, Shinjou-kun? I have permission.”
“Just look at these documents. These ones right there. Do you see them?”
Sayama reluctantly lowered his gaze to the documents she was pushing toward him.
It was much like a resume. After the entries for the individual’s work experience while attending the First Higher School, it said he was accepted into the Naval Accounting School on a recommendation, but he was soon ordered to join the Izumo Company’s Tokyo factory.
…After earning his military qualifications, he must have joined the National Defense Department.
“In 1937 when he was nineteen, he was sent to the Izumo Company’s Tokyo factory. He married in 1938, he had a son named Yoshi in 1940…and he died in the bombing of Hachioji in 1945.”
He paused for a few seconds, but he knew that past definitely existed.
“Shinjou-kun, can I continue on to the next document?”
“Yes, you can. But…”
She looked to Moira 1st who simply stood there just as she had before.
“There seemed to be something in here, didn’t there, Moira 1st-san?”
“What makes you say that?”
A voice arrived from beyond the automaton. It was Miyako who ate a chocolate cigarette she pulled from her pocket.
“Automatons love serving people, so you would normally want them to hurry through all the documents and praise you for bringing them all. But instead you’re just standing there without even suggesting they continue on. Right?”
“Big sister doesn’t understand herself all that much! And yet she always tries to act like she’s more mature.”
After hearing that voice from a distant bookcase, Moira 1st turned around with a smile on her face.
“Excuse me for a moment. I must provide some discipline.”
“Try not to make it too exciting and shocking.”
Silence fell once Moira 1st nodded and left.
Sayama flipped to the next document with Shinjou. The copied paper below was another employee record.
“Shinjou Yoshi. He joined the company in 1956 and married Mitsu, a coworker, in 1958.”
But when his eyes reached the next line of the employee history, he stopped for a moment.
Shinjou did the same next to him, but that was exactly why Sayama moved once more. He had to read this.
Shinjou gasped and Sayama read through the rest of the document to force that breath out.
“In 1960, he had a daughter named Yukio. In the same year, he and his wife Mitsu died in an accident on a trip to Kinki.”
He heard her gasp again.
There were two reasons for this. First, Shinjou Kaname’s child Yoshi had died along with his wife.
“Their child, Shinjou Yukio, was…”
“A girl. If she got married, she would lose the surname Shinjou,” muttered Shinjou.
She lowered her head and sighed.
She gulped but continued.
“She isn’t my parent.”
Sayama heard Shinjou speak the word “no” toward the floor.
“What am I supposed to do?”
Her tone made it clear she did not want to accept this, so Sayama asked a sudden question.
Sayama gave an expressionless reply to her reflexive voice.
“Are you going to give up and throw all this away?”
“Yes. Are you going to throw away the past that has taken us this far?”
She turned toward him and tilted her head with her eyebrows lowered.
“But there’s no point in learning any more. This Yukio is probably a completely normal person and she doesn’t even work here at IAI headquarters. As a woman, she can’t be my father, so she’s a completely unrelated Shinjou.”
She hit the back of the papers in her hand as she spoke. There were only the two: one for Shinjou Kaname and one for Shinjou Yoshi. As he listened to the almost nervous sound of the paper being struck, Sayama spoke.
“Listen, Shinjou-kun. What if you are Shinjou Yukio’s illegitimate child?”
“W-we can’t just say what if…”
“The idea that you are not related to Shinjou Yukio is also a what if. Do not say anything for sure until you have seen this through to the end. Even the past is overflowing with possibility as long as you have yet to see it. Just because Shinjou Yukio is a woman does not mean she is not your mother.”
Shinjou asked that disconnected question with a tremor in her voice and her eyebrows raised.
“Why? I was shown the deaths of so many different Shinjous today! And yet now you’re asking me to look into something else that’s as good as hopeless! Why!?”
Sayama opened his mouth and paused before replying.
“Do you know much about that song?”
Her raised eyebrows shook and Sayama continued speaking toward that shaking.
“The song you sang when we first met.”
“O-of course I do. It’s called Silent Night, isn’t it? And I can sing up to the sixth verse. What about it? What’s your point?”
“Who do you think taught you that song?”
Answering her question with a question actually brought her mind in closer. She thought for a moment before answering.
“My mother, I guess. …It was probably a lullaby or something.”
“Then Shinjou Yukio is worth pursuing.”
He swung his left arm which tugged the documents from her right hand with a snapping sound.
She cried out in surprise and tried to reach for them, but he countered that by holding the paper toward her. He placed the very last line of the employee history right in front of her face.
“Read this carefully. It says the orphaned Yukio was left with a church orphanage in Sakai, doesn’t it?”
She gasped as she read the words.
“A church…and that’s a hymn.”
She slowly opened her mouth in a dumbfounded look.
She fell silent, but more words came to push her onward. These ones were in Miyako’s voice.
“That’s related to Japanese history. Sakai was the city in which the Bible spread during the Sengoku period and that trend has continued to this day.”
“Precisely,” replied Sayama. “Listen, Shinjou-kun. In that orphanage in the city of Sakai, don’t you think Shinjou Yukio would have heard Silent Night at least on Christmas?”
Shinjou’s eyebrows twisted in puzzlement, but Sayama smiled at her.
“We have no proof. Shinjou Yukio’s parents were both from Low-Gear, so there is no chance of her having the same special characteristics as you. And as a woman, her surname would change upon marriage. …But as someone who has heard your song, I think it is too soon to give up. More importantly, the song you remember despite losing your memories is one that must have been close to Shinjou Yukio. …And if she had a child, she would have sung that song to the child.”
Sayama continued as he brushed a hand through his hair in the fluorescent light.
“But the rest is up to you. Will you pursue her even if it might be hopeless? Or will you give up because it might be hopeless. The choice is in your hands, Shinjou-kun.”
A white fluorescent light illuminated a small kitchen, a ten square meter room, and an entranceway.
Two people were in that entranceway: a woman standing with her back to the door and a boy sitting on the entranceway’s wooden floor. The woman held a container sealed with cling wrap.
“Okay, Harakawa-kun. You’ll be at school tomorrow, right?”
“I already said I would, Ooki-sensei.”
Harakawa had changed out of his school uniform’s shirt and into a black T-shirt and he looked to the woman in a brown suit before him.
“You sure have a lot of time on your hands. Don’t you need to help prepare for the athletic festival?”
“No, my students are just so skilled.”
“Then how about you get home already?”
“Well, there’s something going on near my home. Y’know, with the American military.”
“Oh, that,” said Harakawa with a nod.
An airplane had crashed the day before and there were still traffic restrictions in Okutama.
“Once the cars clear out, I guess I’ll go get my motorcycle from the Nishitama Cemetary.”
“I think I’ll head home by bicycle once that happens. My friends and acquaintances are working hard, so I need to buy a bunch of snacks for them at the convenience store.”
She laughed happily and Harakawa sighed.
Meanwhile, she looked back toward him, narrowed her eyes, and tilted her head.
“Are you not having a good day, Harakawa-kun?”
“I don’t even feel like talking about it, Ooki-sensei.”
“Eh? Y-you mean, um, it’s something embarrassing?”
“Hold on,” he snapped back, but he stopped and rested his head on his hand.
He clicked his tongue once before looking toward Ooki whose face was flushed and who was forming a defensive stance.
“I don’t even know if it is or not. I can’t seem to work out what it is. All I get are the self-important ideas that maybe I should do something or that I should have done something.”
He closed his eyes.
“Well, I couldn’t do anything and I passed on the problem in the easiest direction.”
He lowered his head as it rested on his hand and another hand was placed on that head.
It was Ooki’s. He did not look up, but she patted his head with her palm.
“You really are kind, Harakawa-kun.”
“Is that so?” he replied. “The problem is I don’t know what the other person thinks.”
“You can’t know,” said Ooki with a smile in her voice. “I think part of the reason why people can be so kind is because they don’t know what the other person is thinking.”
“You only think that because you’re always talking about things without understanding them.”
“Y-you’re getting all cement-like too!?”
Ooki’s protest was immediately followed by a new sound.
Her shoulders jumped in surprise because it was a knock at the door behind her.
Ooki turned toward the two knocks and then glanced toward Harakawa.
“Um…” she said.
He nodded toward her, stood up, and reached past her and to the door.
“Who is it?”
“It’s Heo. Heo Thunderson.”
It sounded like the speaker had gulped just before speaking.
Harakawa opened the door. He did so immediately and without hesitation, but he did so slowly.
He found Heo there.
He first noticed the orange work jacket and the blue armored uniform much like those worn by the people he had seen in the cemetery.
He then saw her expression: lowered ends of the eyebrows but relaxed.
It was an expression of relief.
However, he also saw a car and a person behind her.
The car was a large black one much like the one that had brought him here and the person was a tall woman in a black suit.
Heo opened her mouth with those two things behind her. She also clenched her hands just below her neck.
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