Owari no Chronicle:Volume9 Chapter 27
Chapter 27: Beyond the Forefront
There is only one foremost point
But how far does the empty space continue past that?
Motion filled an underground space made of concrete.
The motion came from a confused mixture of a hot wind, a cold wind, and a wind of bullets that pierced through both other winds. Soon, new movement created yet another wind.
This wind was known as a whirl.
The whirlwind filled a broad floor filled with pillars and it had four points of origin.
Three of those were expressionless automatons. They wore white maid uniforms and each held a different item: one a shield, one a spear, and one a bow. The shield doll always stood in front, the spear doll came next and took action whenever the enemy approached, and the bow doll stood in the back and continually fired arrows while the enemy was more distant.
The last of the wind’s points of origin was an automaton in a black maid uniform. Her name was Violet and her glasses acted as a windshield for her vision as she pursued the enemy with a submachine gun in her right hand.
She ran by a concrete wall that said B2F.
This construction floor was used to develop gods of war and other machines and it was also used to prepare various items for transport, so it had relatively few partition walls.
Violet leaped to the right in the center of that floor and she spun around by digging her toes into the floor upon landing. She ran along with the wind toward the other three dolls.
The three wielding shield, spear, and bow circled the floor while keeping the shield maid toward the center at all times.
When approaching or falling back, the shield would move forward and hide those behind her. When Violet approached, the spear would suddenly attack from the right or left of the shield.
When more distant, the bow would fire again and again whenever Violet tried to get anything but a head-on angle.
The way the three maids circled the floor in a line bound Violet’s movements.
“Um, I have determined this is a pain.”
Her bullets would be deflected by the white elliptical shield, but if she tried to catch her breath afterwards, either the tip of the spear would target her chest from the side of the shield or a steel arrow would target her legs from a distance.
She had no choice but to keep moving, but…
“Ah, the excess heat is affecting my movements.”
Automatons only breathed for show. Their joints were simple sockets and their body parts were only connected by the steel wires that took the place of muscles and the conductive wires that functioned as nerves. Each body part had to expel its heat on its own.
That meant extended periods of motion would make them begin to boil on the inside. Combat automatons had a humanoid structure partially to increase the durability of their joints, but it was more about allowing the water cooling effect of perspiration and circulation.
But Violet could not do that. If she relaxed her joints and the bases of her wire cylinders to expel the heat, the enemy would immediately take advantage of her slowed movements.
And from the look of the three enemies…
“Um, those are simple combat models, aren’t they?”
She could tell by viewing them with her thermal vision. Their joints had the same simple structure as her own, but the internal parts that moved the steel wires were kept in the torso or gathered together as much as possible.
For example, the parts to move Violet’s shoulders were installed in her shoulders and upper arms to improve her balance. Simply put, it was a twin engine system. Meanwhile, the enemies’ were only located in the shoulders. They had a single engine system. That prevented them from making more subtle movements, but it was lighter, simpler, and easier to maintain. And by making them lighter, they could be installed in locations better protected by their armor.
Also, having fewer heat-producing parts made it easier to position the openings to expel that heat.
An arrow flew toward the right side of her face, so Violet accelerated left to avoid it.
As soon as she kicked off the floor, the shield was right in front of her.
She was not going to hit it, but she did not want it to block her vision, so she accelerated further to the left.
As she did, the spear flew toward her from the left.
The strike would slice her torso in two, but she could evade by jumping and almost flying into the air to the left.
However, the heat built up inside her interfered. The overworked motors spun in vain.
“I can’t avoid it!?”
An instant later, Violet chose to evade without relying on the movements of her limbs.
She chose the one function she excelled at: gravitational control.
The three enemies also possessed that function, but she knew their power was only on an independent level.
Violet side-flipped to the left by reversing up and down.
In the short moment that she cleared the blade and rotated to a midair handstand, she prepared her submachine gun. Below her, the ones hiding behind the shield were now in view.
She only had to fire.
But in that instant, the spear tip suddenly jumped up toward her despite having just been swung in a different direction.
The movement completely ignored inertia, but the cause was simple. The shield doll standing near the spear tip had struck it from below and the bow doll had struck the back end of the spear from above.
The spear shot up while using the center doll’s grip on it as the fulcrum and it moved directly toward Violet’s torso.
Just before firing the submachine gun, she slammed it against the silver line arcing toward her.
With the sound of shattering glass, the submachine gun broke to pieces.
But Violet used the recoil to jump away from her enemies.
That action and use of her gravitational control had brought her internal heat to its limit.
She had lost her primary weapon, so she only had a combat knife, a handgun, and a hand grenade.
And just as she landed, she spotted a single figure in the floor’s entrance.
Her arms were spread in front of her and she had something like rings on all her fingers.
“Can you see these? A gaudy kind of fashion, isn’t it? This is the Army’s special remote controller.”
Tatsumi’s voice coincided with Violet’s landing and Violet realized what she was truly up against here.
“We didn’t have the technology or spare time to create artificial intelligence, so we created dolls that could take the place of soldiers. I’m here to test those out a little.”
Violet and Tatsumi faced each other with the three dolls in between them.
Violet’s hips were lowered from landing and she pulled her knife from her apron as she slowly stood.
She had an awful lot of heat stored up in her body. The oil of her circulatory system had lost its viscosity and she could sense air bubbles inside it.
She knew she could not win at her current level of output, but…
A method for accurately expelling that heat suddenly occurred to her.
She looked up in surprise, but she also knew she could not let the enemy catch on.
And so she quickly looked to Tatsumi through her glasses and spoke the words needed to trick her.
“Um, in other words…”
She made the appropriate statement for the situation.
“You fight by controlling dolls? But then where is their will to fight?”
“Oh, how scary. But your will is also artificial, so I could also ask where it is.”
Tatsumi’s response told Violet the girl had not noticed her chance of victory.
At that point, a few more figures appeared at the top of the stairway that led down to next floor.
They were Violet’s fellow automatons. There were around five of them, but their unit characteristics were not suited for combat and Violet could predict this was not an enemy that could be overwhelmed by numbers.
“Everyone, stay back. …You are recording the data of this battle, aren’t you?”
“Yes,” replied Tatsumi with a step to the right.
Two new individuals came into view behind her.
One was a girl and the other was a large dog.
However, Violet noticed something odd with her thermal vision. The girl and Tatsumi had a normal human heat distribution, but the dog was simply tinged with faint heat. It had no real form.
One of her fellow automatons explained why.
“That is the data stealing girl named Shino.”
Shino bowed and hid behind Tatsumi whose hands were still raised.
“The dogs have already begun devouring the data here. During the summer, we acquired most of Japanese UCAT’s weaponry documents and internal diagrams, so now we just need to get our hands on the information related to the large-scale concept space creation device and concept space communication device.” She smiled. “Even if Japanese UCAT creates their own battlefield, we will be able to alter it and communicate within it. Also, we will have further strengthened the weapons we made with your information and we will possess maps of your facilities.”
With that, the three dolls prepared to resume the fight.
In case of possible damage, Violet’s fellow automatons took a step back toward the stairway.
And Tatsumi continued to speak.
“Now, help me buy some time and give me some data while you do. How much can you automatons fight and how skilled am I with this remote control?”
Violet began to move before Tatsumi had finished speaking. She took the first step toward her victory.
First, she swung her arm to throw the knife.
The shield doll moved to block the knife, but the weapon had a bit of gravitational control in it.
The steel blade could be heard piercing through the top of the ellipse.
While watching the three enemies and the shaking knife, Violet spoke to her fellow automatons. Even as she did so, she felt bad for receiving help from units whose primary skills were those of maids.
“U-um, did you bring my personal storage box?”
“Yes, sir. It’s right here.”
“Th-then prepare one of #4 and three of #5.”
“Yes, sir,” they replied.
She saw they were holding a pink storage box by the staircase and she was a little worried they might have dropped the potted plant that had been sitting on it.
…But they are better at taking care of flowers than me.
She calmed herself down and spoke to Tatsumi.
“U-um, excuse me.”
“Yes? What is it? I’m guessing you’re stalling to help cool down, but you won’t have enough time to expel much of your heat. In that case, I suppose I’ll hear you out before I destroy you.”
Violet nodded and held her right hand forward with the index and middle fingers raised.
“Thank you for giving me your time. …I was born and raised in 3rd as a maid automaton, my identifier is 13th, and my name is Violet. My occupation and Gear were lost and I found myself in Japan of Low-Gear, which lies beyond all concepts. Eventually, I found myself here in Japanese UCAT’s Kanda Laboratory. I serve Lady Miyako, the successor to 3rd-Gear, but this is the place that has taken me in and protected my king.”
She lowered her raised fingers and pointed at her opponent.
“I am a named automaton. It was for precisely this sort of situation that I was given a name and thus made a proper individual. Our flowers do not bloom upon death. An automaton blooms in a more reserved fashion but still repays her debts of gratitude. In exchange for her name, an automaton will fulfill her work even if it means to wither away. So…”
She leaned forward and took a first step of acceleration.
“Let us see if the spirit of the unit given the flower name Violet can be crushed by mere dolls!”
She ran and took her second step.
She stepped on an empty cartridge and fell head first to the floor.
Shino saw the automaton named Violet trip quite spectacularly.
This was her first time seeing an actual automaton and was also her first time seeing one tripping.
It happened so suddenly that she was left dumbfounded.
…Can automatons be clumsy!?
This was a new discovery. She had to tell Mikoku when she saw her next.
But Mikoku was being cold to her recently. She would not hang around Shino during training and she always tried to warn Shino away from any missions she took.
…She doesn’t think I’m capable.
Shino brought a hand to her chest and to the cloisonné pendant Mikoku had given her as a souvenir of Kurashiki.
Just as she lightly touched the red half circle of pottery, Tatsumi turned from Violet and toward her. Tatsumi looked a little dumbfounded, which was rare for her.
“She’s just like you.”
“I-I don’t trip like that!”
“True. You would have fallen – wham! – right onto your butt. Wham! Wham!!”
“Y-you don’t have to repeat it! More importantly, hurry up and…”
She was going to say “finish her”, but she stopped herself because that was not something to say so casually.
She nodded to solidify her awareness of that fact and Tatsumi’s eyes narrowed.
“Yes, that’s for the best. For you anyway. You need to fear those words.”
As she looked up in confusion, sweat fell from her forehead and to her cheeks. However, this was not due to nerves. It came from the heat trapped in the underground space.
Tatsumi then turned back to the fallen automaton. Her fingers moved a bit to put the three dolls in motion.
They turned their shield toward the enemy and crouched down. The way the rearmost doll held her bow showed her intent to safely settle this with a projectile.
However, Shino continued to feel the heat and it almost seemed like the room temperature was rising.
…Tatsumi-san told me about this, didn’t she?
When indoors, highly sealed automatons like the 3rd variety had a tendency to overheat.
This one named Violet should have reached her limit, but even while collapsed on the ground, her joints and other parts remained closed and thus were not expelling any heat. It was all still trapped inside her.
Shino saw Tatsumi’s doll draw its bowstring. Shino turned toward the target of the coming shot and realized a certain fact.
Violet had scattered empty cartridges while firing her submachine gun, so they littered the floor. It was stepping on one of those that had made her trip.
…That means the cartridge rolled beneath her foot.
But Shino noticed that the cartridge located where she had tripped was crushed flat.
It had clearly not rolled and that led to a single conclusion.
…She stepped on the cartridge, pretended to trip, and intentionally fell?
She wondered why and found the answer in an unexpected place.
Shiro, the ghost dog standing to her right, suddenly lay down as if it had nothing to do.
It placed its belly on the floor.
“Don’t tell me…”
Shino turned toward Tatsumi’s back. Tatsumi was moving her fingers in order to fire the arrow.
“Tatsumi! This is dangerous! That automaton is expelling her heat! She’s lying on the cold concrete so it absorbs all the heat from her body!”
A moment later, wind blew.
The arrow was fired and a form raced forward to strike back. That form belonged to an automaton.
She saw Tatsumi frown and saw the bow doll’s hand let go of the arrow.
She jumped to the right to avoid it.
The enemy had crouched down to defend against a possible attack from the floor, but that meant they could not immediately stand up and react.
Violet leaped with a single footstep and circled around to the right.
With the handgun in her right hand, she fired into the shield to prevent the doll from moving it.
The repeated sounds of metal striking metal rang out and the shield was stuck down at waist height. If Violet continued circling around to the side, she would win.
However, she saw Tatsumi narrow her eyes and smile.
A moment later, the doll holding the spear swung that spear sideways and struck the doll in front of her with the shaft.
The doll was knocked right and thus toward Violet.
And that shield automaton used that movement to keep up with her.
The three of them rotated and the wind blew, but Violet remained at the leading edge of that wind.
She had only expelled enough heat for this swift movement. She would have to settle this in only a few seconds.
She ran in an arc toward the wall near the staircase in the right corner.
However, the three dolls kept up with her as they rotated with the shield at the front.
Violet continued running regardless, fired her handgun, and gave a silent instruction just before reaching the wall.
“#4 and #5!”
Before that shared thought had finished, the objects flew toward her.
With unparalleled control, her fellow automatons threw her a handgun identical to the one in her right hand and three magazines.
As soon as the magazine of her current handgun ran out, she ejected it. In the same motion, she directly slammed one of the airborne magazines into place and caught the other handgun with her left hand.
She now had two guns and two spare magazines flew toward her as well.
Just as she was about to receive them, the shield doll stepped forward and toward her.
But by the wall, Violet took a step and reached toward the airborne magazines.
“Here I go.”
She used her gravitational control to launch the two magazines above the three dolls.
At the same time, she accurately fired both handguns into those magazines.
The automatons waiting by the stairway instantly scanned the destruction of the magazines, calculated out the movements of the scattering fragments and bullets, and sent the result back to Violet.
Violet repeatedly fired her handguns toward the ignition portion of the bullets from the two scattering magazines.
The tips of the bullets she was firing had a simple gravity ram attached. These were normally meant to increase the penetrative power, but they had a different use here.
She was firing at the back end of all the bullets scattering in midair in order to ignite them.
With no barrel, the bullets did not have a stable flight, but several dozen rounds still rained down from close range.
The three dolls trembled in the shower of impacts and noise.
However, Violet knew this much was not enough to have any real effect. The bullets ripped holes in the upper surfaces of the dolls and they calmly turned to face her with the shimmering of their internal heat rising from the holes.
But it was too late.
Violet had already turned toward the three of them while rushing just past the wall.
At her speed, a collision was unavoidable, so the shield was placed forward to stop her.
Next, the spear would be thrust past the left side of the shield to hit her in the chest.
Violet accelerated and pushed on her own back with her gravitational control.
She reached the shield before the spear and she had one goal: the grip of the knife she had thrown into the shield earlier.
She stepped on it and jumped.
An instant later, a high-speed strike pierced through the spot she had just left.
Once again, the bottom of the spear tip was struck from below to knock it up toward her.
Violet had expected all of this, so she threw herself forward in midair. She flipped halfway around and shifted her gravitational control once she was truly upside-down. She set her gravity so the ceiling was the floor.
Her feet landed on the ceiling and she turned to the right in order to avoid the pursuing spear.
The spear slipped past her and continued rotating around and Violet almost seemed to follow after it as she stepped back along the ceiling to circle behind the three dolls.
That was when another attack arrived: the bow and arrow.
The bow doll had struck the back of the spear downwards to begin its rotation, but she had swiftly nocked an arrow afterwards. She was just barely fast enough, but if she fired straight up, it would hit Violet.
Or it should have.
What Violet did in response was truly simple.
She swung her right elbow back and rotated her body.
Her extended elbow struck the shaft of the spear that had rotated past her.
As the spear was swung down, it struck the bow doll diagonally from the neck to the waist.
The sound of the doll being sliced sounded a lot like splitting bamboo.
It was a very clear sound and the bow doll began to collapse with the arrow still pointed upwards in her bow.
But Violet did not overlook that. She jumped down from the ceiling, flipped back around, and reset her gravitational control so the floor was the floor.
And as soon as she landed, she supported the collapsing bow doll from behind. She did so by supporting the hand holding the bow and the hand holding the arrow and pointing them forward.
After landing on the floor and supporting the bow doll, she faced forward and saw the spear and shield dolls.
She re-nocked the arrow and fired it.
She targeted the center of the chest and the steel arrow accurately pierced both dolls.
With a metallic sound, the arrow hit the back of the shield, launching it forward from the doll’s hand and into the wall.
The empty metallic sound tumbled down the wall, but Violet had already turned her back on it.
She did not have much movement time left and her only remaining weapon was a single grenade. If she detonated it in the entrance to the stairway leading upwards, her job would be complete. And due to fighting by the wall, Tatsumi would have had to move out of the corridor to keep the dolls in her field of vision. There was no longer any way for her to escape the grenade.
When Violet faced forward and began to run, she saw that Tatsumi was indeed in the same entrance as before.
The girl was smiling, but her shoulders were lowered.
“Oh, dear. It looks like I shouldn’t try this kind of them without more practice. I need to rethink some things.”
But she continued to face Violet.
“How about you hurry up and throw the grenade? Or will you show me a more automaton-like fighting style? In other words, approach us with the grenade in hand to defeat us even if it means your own destruction. That is the truly scary aspect of an automaton that can be good-as-new after some repairs. Am I wrong?”
Tatsumi had seen through her intentions. This was what Sayama had done to Violet during the battle in Kurashiki. Despite being a human, he had ignored any fear of his own destruction and focused entirely on eliminating his opponent.
…You must ensure victory.
As an automaton, she did not need to fear damage. She had intended to teach Tatsumi that, but…
“Too bad. Now, let me tell you how we view things.”
Tatsumi brushed her fingers across each other as if massaging them and that simple action removed all ten rings. She then held them in her right hand.
“Do you know what we do when a doll breaks?”
“Girls will feel a little sad and place it as if it is going to sleep, but we will then receive a new doll. And as for the old doll…”
She crushed the rings in her grip.
“We throw them out with the burnable trash. …Come, Shino. You should have the data by now, so let’s get home.”
With those words, Tatsumi leaped toward the stairway.
I won’t let you escape, thought Violet as she ran forward, but she suddenly felt something pressing on her back.
She then felt herself floating, but after that…
She was thrown forward too quickly for her sense of balance to keep up.
By the time she realized the three dolls had exploded, she had slammed into one of the concrete pillars supporting the ceiling. By the time her entire body’s framework was crushed, the explosive blast arrived like a wall of sand.
She could no longer hear anything in the impact, but she could tell from where she hit that the pillar had broken.
Her auditory devices informed her that the ceiling had cracked and started to collapse.
The information her artificial brain received about her body did not tell her that she could not move her body. It instead told her that her body was no longer there.
To avoid any confusion caused by the destruction of her body, her artificial consciousness rapidly closed down.
But just before it did, Violet made a prediction and sent it out over her shared memory. She said the enemy had likely escaped with most of their information, that the upper floor of the Kanda Laboratory had likely collapsed, and…
…Those new dolls.
They likely intended to eventually control Typhon like that.
She informed her fellow automatons that she had completed her job and that they should continue with their jobs.
After all, they had unknowingly allowed Black Sun to approach outside.
And so she told them to assist in the fight against 5th-Gear.
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