Owari no Chronicle:Volume9 Chapter 26
Chapter 26: Running Destination
Your heart tells you to go
And your voice wants to say something
A small room of about eight square meters had an arched roof.
The floor was orange carpet and the walls were covered in wallpaper made of a fairly thick white cloth.
The only furnishings were a sofa and bed affixed to the ground, a television embedded in the wall, and some shelves.
The lights embedded in the ceiling created shadows in front of the door and at the edge of the bed.
Both of those shadows were cast by a person, both of whom were female.
A tall woman in a black suit stood in front of the sliding door and a short girl sat on the edge of the bed.
“Okay, Heo. I will be leaving now, so are you sure you’re okay?”
“Y-yes. I can see what’s going on using the TV, Mrs. Diana.”
“That’s right,” replied Diana with a smile. She placed a hand on the door behind her. “Don’t worry. We just received word that Black Sun was destroyed, remember?”
Heo nodded and remained sitting without even removing her jacket.
Seeing that, Diana tilted her head while still smiling.
“You don’t believe it?”
“It’s not that. I see no reason for them to lie about it. It’s just…that means there was a battle.”
“Yes, and it seems many lives were lost.”
Heo hung her head when she heard that and Diana continued speaking.
“Feeling sad is a good thing, Heo, but if you are going to actually say something, say thank you. They were fighting to create happiness, not to make people sad.”
Despite the sinking tone of Heo’s reply, Diana narrowed and bent her eyes.
“But you probably won’t really understand that until later, so think about this again once you are more certain of your safety and have grown up. …Perhaps after you have children.”
“B-but I’m still a long way from getting married.”
As Heo tensed her shoulders, blushed, and waved her hands back and forth, Diana laughed a bit.
“It’s better for girls to be cute like that instead of looking sad, Heo.”
“Ah,” said Heo upon realizing Diana was comforting her.
She relaxed her body and let out a sigh.
“Thank you very much.”
She lowered her head a bit while giving her thanks, but she had formed a small smile by the time she looked up again.
She asked Diana a question in a bright voice that sounded a little forced.
“What about you, teacher? Mr. Roger told me you are married.”
“I don’t have that kind of relationship with my husband. The two of us once investigated a small organization’s source of income in the United States. We ended up fighting that enemy and, after about a month of fierce fighting, we found we had a lot in common.”
Heo’s eyes opened wide, but Diana only continued with a smile in her voice.
“We promised each other to singlehandedly bear the death of the other if they die first.”
“What… What kind of person is he?”
“Well, he rejects others, acts superior to everyone else, and believes that he is always right about everything, but at the same time, he truly hopes to find he is wrong.”
Diana’s words almost seemed directed at herself and they left Heo speechless.
Heo mouthed the words to herself and sighed.
Diana’s shoulders fell a bit as she heard that air escaping the girl’s lungs.
“Do you have someone like that?”
Heo’s shoulders tensed when she heard that question and the movement brought noise from the stone necklace around her neck.
“N-no, I don’t.”
“Heo, you know you can’t lie to me.”
Heo looked up and faced forward.
At some point the door had opened and the transport plane’s cargo hold lay behind Diana.
Heo’s room was inside a protective barrier placed inside the already concept-protected transport plane. This was a special plane that masked any concept signal when transporting concept-altered items. This guest room had been put together especially for Heo.
She felt the chilly breeze blowing in from the door. And…
She heard a voice that seemed to break through the great noise of the airplane’s jet engines.
“If you had tried to stay in that apartment, I would have taken you here by force if necessary.”
“Is that because…that’s your duty?”
Diana retained her smile as the wind blew at her hair and Heo asked a sudden question.
“What is all this? I was given an explanation, but I still don’t fully understand. Great-grandfather and you belonged to the organization called UCAT…but were my parents part of it too? Did you all fight in deadly battles?”
“Yes, and that is how things ended up how they are.”
That simple answer was accompanied by no change of expression.
Heo was momentarily dumbfounded, but her words exploded out soon thereafter.
Diana did not reply, so Heo continued speaking. She rose a bit from the bed and her eyebrows shot up a bit as she did so.
“I just want to live a normal life. Is that not what my parents or great-grandfather wanted?”
“But it is because of them that you are who you are. They are the ones that protected the happy life you want and people like them will support it in the future.”
“But…” Heo’s expression crumbled and twisted. “But I want a normal life. Why does everyone have to go out and fight? This…this kind of problem will fix itself if you give it enough time!”
Diana took a step back without saying anything more.
Heo called out, but Diana stepped out the door.
Heo reflexively stood up and tried to run after her, but…
She shrunk back and came to a stop. She had seen a smile in the darkness beyond the closing door.
Diana’s narrowed and smiling eyes looked directly at her through the vanishing gap of the door.
The smiling mouth opened as the door reached the halfway point.
“Let us return to a previous topic. …You are an excellent student, Heo. After all, you did not sell yourself short at that apartment. Yes, a true woman must help a careless gentleman make his way and she must have the consideration to let him take the first step to lead the way.”
“Just wait, Heo. The north wind that carries the dark clouds with the lonely star has not abandoned the family of thunder. And Heo, as your teacher, let me give you one answer ahead of time.”
“Eh? Oh, yes, ma’am.”
Diana’s smile grew at her student’s confused reply.
“About your previous question, it is not just time that is needed to resolve your problems. You also need…”
The smiling eyes and voice were joined by the sound of the door closing.
“Resolve. This will be on the test: Point Allocation (Your Life). Got that?”
Relaxation filled the air in an underground portion of the Kanda Laboratory.
However, this was not in a figurative sense.
In a large open space with B3F on the concrete wall, automatons were relaxing the various components of their bodies to let out the excess heat built up from overwork.
B3F was partitioned into a number of blocks and it was normally used for development research and to gather all the philosopher’s stone readings in eastern Japan. Now that American UCAT had requested the use of the large-scale concept space creation device, the entire floor and its philosopher’s stone detectors were being used for that singular purpose.
As a result, the American UCAT forces had taken damage, but the reading determined to be Black Sun had stopped.
Currently, a slight change was being made to the concept space during the time before it naturally vanished.
The concept space corridor running through the Fussa region had been bent to incorporate Yokota Air Base.
That way they could fully protect Heo Thunderson’s transport plane until it took off and entered Tokyo airspace.
Six mechanical dragons had been waiting in Yokota to intercept the black mechanical dragon, so their job was now to escort that past hero’s descendent until she reached the very edge of the concept space.
After setting all that up, the automatons announced their success over their shared memory.
“Mission complete. As is to be expected.”
They showed some reserved celebration and loosened their joints to let out the heat caused by raising their reaction speed.
The air around them grew hot.
The large-scale concept space creation device was located at the back of B3F. Technicians were gathered around the machine which contained multiple ten meter thick cylinders of different sizes which were held in place on each side by a key-shaped shield.
Those technicians were making adjustments to the machine and they had stopped trying to resist the heat coming from it. Most of them were wearing T-shirts and shorts. To cool themselves off, they had prepared buckets of ice, kiddie pools, and even anti-tank water guns, but they were still finishing up their work.
After this, they only needed to retrieve the concept space creation device terminals set up on the Chuo Expressway, national routes, and other roads. After that, they would need to negotiate with American UCAT about securing Okutama’s safety.
Apparently, American UCAT had settled for a ceasefire with the Japanese UCAT counterattack unit there.
At the same time, they did not know what to do with the Vesper Cannon that Japanese UCAT had used as a diversion. One of the automatons intercepting the optical communications spoke over the shared memory.
“They do not know how to load the Vesper Cannon on their mechanical dragons. The top of the cannon sticks out as a single long, narrow panel, so a mechanical dragon cannot climb on top of it and use its legs to grasp it from below.”
The automaton in charge of making drafts, #27, had secretly calculated out some estimated data, so they had been able to compare the new information on the Vesper Cannon’s size with American UCAT’s mechanical dragons.
“For a mechanical dragon to hold the Vesper Cannon from above, I have determined its legs would need to be nearly twice as long as theirs. At the same time, the mechanical dragon mount on top of the Vesper Cannon is about three meters, the same as American UCAT’s mechanical dragons.”
Also, their estimated data said the mount was so thin that it would not attach well to the mechanical dragons. Even if they could attach the Vesper Cannon, the mechanical dragon would wobble back and forth on the mount and lose all sense of unity. If it tried to fly with it, it would almost certainly lose its balance.
“The mechanical dragon needed for the Vesper Cannon would have legs twice the standard length and a body half as wide.”
That estimation allowed them to predict the desired mechanical dragon.
“That is impossible.”
The automatons exchanged questions while relaxing their bodies.
“Why is it impossible?”
“Because of the frame strength. The thinner the body, the thinner the frame. It could not support its own weight like that. A mechanical dragon specially made for the Vesper Cannon would be necessary, but such a dragon would be unable to fly or walk.”
“But if it could not function on its own, they would have built the Vesper Cannon into it from the beginning, right? In that case, there must be a mechanical dragon that overcomes all those problems. It must have been created to fight Black Sun.”
That comment came from 31st “Daisy” who was from 3rd-Gear.
However, someone suddenly gave another opinion.
This was 78th “Gentian” who was also from 3rd.
“But that mechanical dragon did not fight Black Sun. When Black Sun was putting up so much of a fight and was ultimately shot down, would that mechanical dragon really ignore the Vesper Cannon and do nothing?”
It was a simple idea that could be viewed as a thought or a complaint. However…
Her idea created something among them all.
It was a high-speed series of thoughts brought by their experience and it was similar to a human having a “hunch”. They connected their minds to function as a single thinking machine and they thought on a certain question.
…Why was Black Sun defeated even though the mechanical dragon meant to fight it did not appear?
They thought and they all suddenly gave off a lot of excess heat and jumped up.
“I have determined this is dangerous!! Calculating back arrives at a single conclusion.”
“If the Vesper Cannon’s user has not appeared, that must not have been Black Sun!!”
The automatons’ shout reverberate through the underground space. A moment later, they all switched back to making individual decisions and began to move.
Those who controlled the machine moved back to their posts, those who measured readings turned back to their screens, and those who operated computers reached for their mice. A hot wind moved among them and their movement produced mechanical noises and the rustling of clothes.
“Open the optical communications! Ask them to check on the concept readings in the supposed Black Sun’s reactor to see if it truly contains the Concept Core!”
“We just received a transmission from American UCAT! Black Sun contained…a large weakened concept! The only obvious reading from 5th-Gear’s Concept Core inside the concept space is the one in Okutama! Which means…”
Amid the silence, a shout filled their shared memory.
“The defeated mechanical dragon was not Black Sun!”
A moment later, they all looked in a single direction.
A map was displayed on the ceiling so it could be seen from within any of the partitions.
It was a map of Kantou and it was synced with the radar displaying the status of the operation.
“A large philosopher’s stone reading has appeared. It is off the coast of Chiba and moving toward Tokyo through the ocean.”
An actual voice slipped from the mouth of one of the automatons.
A red dot had appeared in the blue ocean to the right of the green map of Kantou.
“This reading is much larger than the previous Black Sun and two…three…four…many more readings have appeared around it! There are six of them and they are each the same size as the defeated mechanical dragon!!”
Confusion swept across that underground space and an alarm began to blare.
“Send out an optical transmission!! This is an emergency! Also, activate the experimental concept space communication device!”
“B-but the alpha test still hasn’t been-…”
“That does not matter! Contact the cellphones of all UCAT personnel inside and outside the concept space! This is no longer a problem for just American UCAT or just Japanese UCAT!”
“What is it!? Did something happen!?”
“Just as I was going to contact American UCAT, the optical transmission facility was destroyed.”
After a breath, a pause that should not have occurred for an automaton, she continued.
“W-we have an intruder!”
The ceiling display instantly changed to Kanda’s underground security camera footage divided between 180 screens. The footage of individuals with a proper ID signal and those not displaying anything were then eliminated.
It finally zoomed in on a single screen which displayed a few unidentified individuals.
Four figures could be seen walking down an underground corridor.
Three of them approached with a girl behind them and those three were…
“They are unidentified. The echo scan of their joint movement sound does not match any UCAT-made model.”
They then saw the face of the girl.
As if responding to their voice, she looked directly at the camera and waved.
An instant later, the camera footage blacked out.
One of the technicians spoke in the now-silent space.
“Are they here to steal information on this concept space creation device and the concept space communication device?”
The man almost sounded angry and he started toward the stairs with a wrench in hand and while wearing nothing but a black bathing suit. He was not going to let the enemy approach. However…
“Um, please wait. I will intercept them. This kind of work is my specialty.”
A dignified voice filled the air and a short figure appeared in the central passageway.
She raised her bespectacled head and spoke quietly to the others.
“I am 13th ‘Violet’ of 3rd. If anyone wishes to help, please respond with ‘yes, sir’.”
Below the starry night sky was a large schoolyard. To prepare for the athletic festival, it was divided by straight and curved lines for sporting events and by the spectator seating.
The clock on the school building to the north said it was 8:40 PM and the festival lighting was shut off.
However, a single figure stood in that schoolyard.
It was a boy. The dark-skinned boy had a bandanna over his wavy black hair. Instead of a school uniform, he wore black jeans and a black leather jacket that was a little much for early autumn. But below the jacket, he only wore a black T-shirt that looked like it would leave him feeling chilly.
He faced forward where a motorcycle with a sidecar was stopped past the edge of the schoolyard.
“Since that was fine, they must be almost completely ignoring me.”
The eyes hidden by his sunglasses looked down at the straight white line at his feet.
He looked back up and his gaze followed the line for the several dozen meters to the goal.
But when he began to walk, Harakawa stepped over the line and outside the course.
He then looked up into the sky.
…Should I drive around on the motorcycle to distract myself?
The small radio in the sidecar said there was some lightning in the sky on the Chuo Expressway near Chofu. The announcer said to be careful as that meant a sudden thunderstorm was possible.
In that case, it might be best to travel south along 16 until I reach Yokohama or maybe Shounan.
“Yeah, I think I’ll do that. …There’s nothing to worry about.”
…That idiot said she would be fine.
“She said she would do her best in her new home.”
He sighed, told himself that was the last time he would think back to that, and walked toward the motorcycle.
He did not understand that girl.
She would start crying at the slightest provocation, but she also did not like making others worry.
She would readily say the most unbelievable things, but she would look confused when someone tried to believe her.
She would say she was better off alone, but she was afraid to be alone.
“She’s such a liar.”
…And she’s such a little kid. You can always tell when she’s lying.
She was probably the only one who had not noticed.
When Heo Thunderson lied, she would shrink down. She would stiffen her shoulders as if trying to make herself disappear and as if she did not like having to lie.
If being able to lie without being found out made one an adult, then she was a child.
Harakawa recalled his most recent memory of her.
He recalled her slender shoulders when she had said she was fine and that she would do her best in her new life.
The sound of his own shout brought his feet to a stop.
He then took in a breath as if he had just remembered something and he shook his head.
…Why am I so mad? Ignore it like you always do. You need to protect your normal life.
You put so much distance between you and tried to drive her out, didn’t you? he told himself.
But another fact remained and that fact would not leave his heart.
“You’re the one who took her in because you couldn’t ignore her.”
He already had his answer to what had started this.
He lowered his gaze, but there was no longer a line at his feet.
He checked and found his stopped feet had already reached the goal. He had indeed reached this spot while walking along the outside of the course.
His back was turned to the straight line he could see when he looked over his shoulder.
He gathered strength in his shoulders and walked forward.
And he thought.
He did not have a shift at the base today.
But wouldn’t it be perfectly normal to stop by the base since he had some extra time?
He was low on money this month, so couldn’t he ask for an extra shift?
“Yeah, that’s right!”
He arrived at the motorcycle. The black vehicle was stopped along the ninety degree corner leading to the academy’s main gate.
…I’m just going. I stop by the base all the time.
He placed one leg over the motorcycle’s seat and sat down. The sidecar was empty.
He then recalled the final moment. What had Heo said when she had left?
…A bookstore, hm?
He could guess his mother had told her. Heo had simply believed it and mentioned it without knowing at all how he felt, but…
“Is that something to say to me so proudly, Heo Thunderson!?”
He jammed the key in the ignition and turned it.
He put back on his sunglasses and took a breath.
Just then, sudden shadow and light appeared from the left.
Before he could erase his look of suspicion, something stopped next to him.
It was a large motorcycle with two people sitting on it.
“The president and treasurer?”
That was all he said before looking away from the two who had a giant cloth bag attached to their motorcycle.
The treasurer wore a track suit and gave a bitter smile from the back of the motorcycle.
“Oh? You don’t have any questions for us? Even though we’ve been watching you since you got here?”
“When I thought about it, I realized you’re the same breed of eccentric as Sayama. I would end up regretting anything I asked you.”
“Hold it right there, second year. You need to watch how you speak to your upperclassmen.”
“Then let me tell you something,” said Harakawa while putting on his riding gloves. “In the language spoken in the country of the father I hate so much, people address both their elders and little kids with the word ‘you’.”
“ ‘Yoo’? What’s that mean, Chisato?”
The president turned around with a frown and the treasurer punched him upwards.
While Harakawa ignored that normal turn of events, the treasurer held the head of her swaying partner.
“Harakawa, take these.”
She held out a black watch and a cellphone. He noticed she wore an identical watch but the president did not.
“Why do I have to wear the president’s?”
“Just put it on. It’s a magic tool to bring you closer to Heo Thunderson. I’ll tell you how to use it on the way. After that, do as you wish. We have work to do at Okutama, so we’ll have to leave partway there. We’ve already contacted Sayama, so he might have something to tell you.”
With that, Harakawa squeezed the accelerator.
He moved forward and toward Taka-Akita Academy’s northeastern gate. That was near Akigawa’s northeastern end which was not far from the neighboring city of Fussa. It was almost a straight shot to Yokota Air Base.
“Ah, wait! C’mon, Kaku!”
He heard a blow behind him and then the light began to pursue.
But despite the movement from behind, Harakawa only accelerated further. He shot past a school building and down the gravel road through the row of student dormitories.
He could hear the tires tearing across those stones.
…What am I even thinking of doing?
Still, there were a few things he did know. The night before, she had started to cry and stopped running on the hundred meter track. And today, she had lied so he would not worry and yet had given him her support.
He had said nothing and had done nothing for her. So if he was going to make it…
He squeezed the accelerator tighter.
“This isn’t like me at all.”
The light behind him caught up and raced alongside him. He heard the treasurer call out his name, but Harakawa did not respond. “Someone else” spoke instead.
“I’m not Harakawa right now. After all, I’m doing something that isn’t like me at all.”
Hearing that tone of question, he pushed his sunglasses up his nose to hide his eyes and opened his mouth.
“Right now, I’ll use the surname of the father I hate so much.”
“Your father’s surname?”
“That’s right,” he said into the oncoming wind. “Dan Northwind. That’s my name if I take on my father’s surname.”
It flew into the sky. That sky covered a burning city and a harbor.
It was over eight hundred meters long as it flew through that sky. Its main body was only three hundred meters, but it had evolved additional armor and twin-fuselage wings that greatly supported its body. This was its perfect battle equipment that it had not possessed ten years ago or the night before last.
It travelled into the western sky with its greatest fighting power.
When it had entered the bay, it had noticed some kind of concept space instantly stretch out and envelop it.
Leaving that space would be easy, but the scene visible below and the information from the child craft it had sent on ahead told it the concept space contained enough power to destroy one of the child craft.
It rode an updraft and thought on the fact that a wild beast attacked the weakest enemy first.
But it was not a wild beast. It knew it was a machine meant to protect mankind.
The false humanity existed outside the concept space, so what was this fighting force inside the concept space?
It decided this world must have machines built for the same purpose as it.
That fact seemed familiar.
It had lost its memories, but something it retained allowed it to recall the slight vestiges of a memory.
It had once fought opponents like this. That enemy had come as an army and it had once lost to them. The enemy army had been nearly destroyed, but the result of that fight had been put off until later.
It ascended, wrapped itself in wind, and accelerated.
The large black mechanical dragon decided to fight them. Was it for the conclusion of that battle it did not remember? Was it for the lost people it did not remember? Or was it simply because it had evolved to fight?
It did not know, but it did know it sought something.
It sought many things.
Why did it desire to fight?
Where were the people it was meant to serve?
Why had it lost its memories and why did it wish for those people despite losing its memories?
The black mechanical dragon stopped thinking.
It could simply crush any problems one-by-one and find the answers. The first step was eliminating the enemy that was trying to get in its way.
It wished to hurry. Its additional twin-fuselage was an extension of its wings and that closed slightly to point all of its rear accelerators backwards.
It continued on.
The air was now a wall of great pressure, but it knew that breaking through that wall to continue forward was known as flying.
A group followed in the sky behind it.
They were all black mechanical dragons.
Countless dragons appeared from the sky and the sea and they were divided between two general sizes: the small forty meter ones and the midsized three-hundred meter ones.
There were six of the midsized ones and not even the large one could determine how many small ones there were.
This was an army of black mechanical dragons.
This is evolution, it thought.
In the past, it had been powerful yet alone, and that was why it had been cornered and sunk.
It had chosen the very same method its former enemy had used to defeat it. It had duplicated its own parts to create companions.
Each of the child craft it sent out to gather information obeyed their imperfect instincts and sought the enemy.
As a result, the enemy had destroyed one of those midsized craft.
Twice now, it had seen the false humanity that was its enemy.
Both times, it had removed this additional armor to approach the nostalgic scent it had detected.
The first time, its evolution had been incomplete and it did not entirely remember the incident, but it recalled that the incident had happened in front of a small building in a grassy field. A woman had tried to protect the building from it, but it had sensed the familiar scent within the building and had injured her with its claws while trying to move her out of the way.
It did not think that woman was its enemy, but it did not entirely remember what had happened afterwards.
The second time had been two days ago. It had found a man wielding a spear within a small concept space.
It did not know if it knew that man, but when it had brought its claws to the man, something had begun within it. It was as if lost functionality had restarted and the hands of a clock had begun to move again.
It had been confused.
It had been so confused by the unexpected development that it had fled. It had escaped to the northern ocean it lived in. When it had detected the nostalgic air on the way back, it had left the issue to a midsized child craft.
The child craft had been attacked and that had told it a new fight was beginning. There was a nearby enemy that gave off the familiar scent of a destroyed world.
It more or less knew how powerful that enemy was. When the previous child craft had been destroyed, that child craft had sent back an analysis of the enemy’s power. Even the enemy’s primary weapons had only barely managed to destroy the midsized craft.
However, it erased that prediction. After all, its former enemy had destroyed it.
This time, it would utterly destroy its enemy and it would destroy the false humanity that filled this world.
It did not care if it became the only thing in the world. It only needed to continue evolving, increase its army, and envelop the entire world. If it did that, it was possible the humanity it knew would eventually return.
Once that happened, would the people praise it for completely protecting the world using the machines they had created to protect people? Would they praise it for building all that up on its own?
Would they praise it and say that was a truly happy thing?
It opened its mouth and roared.
And as it roared, it recalled the name its child craft had heard during the previous battle: Black Sun.
If it became a sun in this black sky, would humanity return? While wondering that, it set Black Sun as its own name.
While letting out a cry of joy at having a name, it felt a great familiar sensation to the west.
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