Owari no Chronicle:Volume9 Chapter 31
Chapter 31: The Human Dragon’s Will
Harakawa heard someone crying.
It was the quiet sound of someone sobbing while desperately trying to stay quiet.
As that voice reached his mind, Harakawa wondered why he was hearing it.
His thoughts asked to playback his memories and that brought his other senses rushing back.
He had apparently passed out.
…Twice in one day. That’s pretty sad.
He opened his eyes, but he was surrounded by the color black and wondered if he had gone blind.
From what he remembered, he and Heo had been riding an invisible dragon which had instinctually faced the enemy while saying it did not understand anything.
…And it was shot down.
He thought they had only avoided the black dragon’s final attack because Heo had woken. When she had given her cry of rejection, their dragon had hesitated.
And that hesitation had avoided a direct hit. Still, they had been knocked away and their excess flight speed had taken them eastward.
“And we fell in the ocean. So is this the ocean floor?”
He then felt something move on his chest. It was Heo and she was clinging to his T-shirt.
“Hey, Heo Thunderson. Please don’t drool on my clothes.”
“I-I didn’t do that.”
She tried to sound defiant, but her voice shook. She apparently tried to get up, but she also apparently did not have it in her to leave his arms.
He was definitely sitting in something. The seat had him almost lying down and it felt like the one’s he had seen in the base’s F-16s. When he stretched out his legs, he could feel them reach the bottom of something like a table.
He turned his head to either side. His vision was still filled with darkness, but his eyes seemed to have adjusted because he could sense a bit of light.
He removed his right arm from Heo and reached toward the light source. He found a soft cloth material.
“Ah, w-wait Harakawa! Just because it’s dark d-d-d-d-doesn’t mean-…!”
“Stop getting worked up over misunderstandings, Heo Thunderson. Now, about your necklace…”
The faint light was enough to see Heo raise her head in confusion.
The stone necklace she wore was wrapped in light. Blue light.
“This thing isn’t radioactive, is it?”
“I-It can’t be. My mom wouldn’t leave me something dangerous.”
“It is a philosopher’s stone,” said a voice.
Harakawa recognized it as the dragon’s voice and he looked around.
“A philosopher’s stone? …No, that doesn’t matter. Where are you?”
“I am here, but I am not with you. That is all I know.”
With that, the voice fell silent as if this was not its place.
Even after the span of a few breaths, the voice did not continue. Whether relieved or worried by that, Heo tilted her head.
“U-um, what was that voice?”
“Your savior apparently. It has no name, but it’s a dragon. Crazy, isn’t it?”
It was too dark to see each other’s expressions, but he still wondered what look was on his face.
“This invisible dragon saved you when those guys in blue attacked this afternoon and when you fell from the transport plane just now.”
“Um,” began Heo while further tilting her head. “Harakawa, did you hit your head?”
“Can you really say that after all the nonsense you asked me to believe, Heo Thunderson?”
“B-but it was only a demon that was with me. There wasn’t an attacking dragon and a saving dragon. Why did we start talking about an invisible dragon? And does that mean the darkness around us is the bottom of the ocean we can see through the dragon’s body?”
“That’s the only explanation I can think of. You remember falling, don’t you? Well, look around you. We’re most likely in the cockpit of a completely invisible dragon. Right now, we’re at the bottom of the ocean just like you said. Or if we’re unlucky, this might be Tokyo Bay’s famous toxic sludge.”
“Th-then if this really is a dragon…and it really is with me to save me…”
He could feel the movement of her chest as she gulped a bit.
“Was it this dragon that killed my mom?”
It couldn’t have been, thought Harakawa.
Thinking back on its two appearances today, the dragon had always appeared to save Heo. And in the sky, it had thanked him for protecting her twice. That had likely been because he had protected her before the dragon could.
But the dragon gave a different answer to her question.
As the voice quietly filled the cockpit, Harakawa froze in place and Heo shrank down.
She took a new breath and prepared to say something, but Harakawa asked a question before she could.
“Is that really true?”
His question and the dragon’s response stopped Heo. The strength gathered in her body grew to a tremor.
Something was about to burst from her, but just before it did, the dragon spoke.
“I contain reproduced 5th-Gear concepts. He was evolving and repairing himself, but he sensed that faint signal and pursued it. That was when I first awoke, but…”
There was a slight pause.
“I did not make it in time. By the time I appeared and drove away Black Sun who did not know what he was, Heo’s mother had already passed away. …That is the same as killing her. She was attacked by an enemy pursuing me and I did not save her in time.”
Harakawa could tell Heo had lowered her head.
He decided to let her speak because he thought this at least was necessary.
“But…that can’t be. You mean…without you, my mom wouldn’t have died?”
There was no need to ask. It was true. That was why the dragon was apologizing and making no attempt to excuse it.
She then pressed her forehead against his chest.
Her trembling body breathed in again and opened its mouth.
“Please leave. You don’t have to come save me, so please leave! You’re a machine, aren’t you? Then throw a switch and leave! Besides, how can you even save me!? You couldn’t stand up to that black dragon just now! That’s why my mom died, so…so…!”
She let out a shout.
“Give it back…”
Her voice fell apart. It lacked the strength and volume from before and it was filled with uncertain trembling.
“Please give it back. You don’t have to save me, so please give it back.”
I definitely don’t have to ask what “it” is, sighed Harakawa.
The answer was “everything”.
And then the dragon replied.
“I am sorry. …I do not know.”
“You don’t know what?” slowly asked Heo. She raised her head as if speaking to Harakawa. “What are you saying you don’t know, you machine that lets people be killed?”
“My role. I exist and have functions, but I need a name to recognize my existence and to give me an objective. Without that, I cannot use my functions toward that objective.”
Harakawa spoke to the voice and tapped Heo’s back to give himself time to speak.
“You didn’t have a name when you were made?”
“I have records indicating I once had one, but I cannot speak that name. That name belonged to what I once was, but I have remade my former self.”
“So all you can use are functions brought by the slight remnants of memory from when you remade yourself?”
…Is that why he says he knows but does not know?
All of his memories were classified as someone else’s. His appearance to save Heo must have been a sort of instinct that had permeated his being while being remade.
Harakawa prepared to ask if he truly intended to protect Heo, but someone else spoke before he had a chance.
It was Heo.
“Of course you have a name.”
She forcefully sat up by removing Harakawa’s arms and raising her upper body.
“It’s ‘demon’, isn’t it?”
I’m glad it’s so dark, thought Harakawa when he heard that. This way I don’t have to see the look on her face.
“So my name is Demon?”
“Yes. I…I am giving you that name, so please leave and never show yourself to me again! If the demon is gone-…”
She stopped when he called her name. In the pale blue light on her chest, her silhouette curved up like a cat and Harakawa spoke while looking at that shadow.
“Are you listening, Heo Thunderson?”
Her voice fell and some of its energy vanished. Relieved by that, Harakawa tried to keep as much emotion out of his voice as possible.
“Unfortunately, this is not the demon.”
“The demon that killed your mother is something else. This one only showed up a little late.”
He heard a gasp and felt a tremble of shock from the butt that sat on his stomach.
“Listen,” he said. “Unfortunately, Heo Thunderson, his objective is to protect you. Not to protect your mother. And another thing, Heo Thunderson. Your mother tried to save you, but failed and died. That is why he appeared. The demon was attacking you, so he had to make sure it did not kill you.”
“Enough of that. Think ahead before you speak, Heo. Now listen. You are blaming this dragon for your mother’s death, but what if you turn that idea around? Your mother died because she tried to protect you. If she had left it to this dragon…no, because he did not make it in time…”
He hesitated, but he said it.
“If your mother had left you to be killed by the demon, she would not have been killed.”
He continued to speak and felt he was almost telling himself this.
“Heo, what would you do even if he did give everything back? After all, once your mother died, you were the one that chose to be demon possessed. You did not try to deny it and you only chose to run away. Wouldn’t something similar have happened even if your mother was with you? While that was the beginning of your unhappiness, you are the one that chose to continue on in that unhappiness without rejecting it. Am I wrong, Heo Thunderson?”
After he said that, all motion vanished.
After a while, he heard a breath, but he was unsure if it was his own or Heo’s. That was just how focused he was on the faint silhouette in front of him.
The few seconds that passed felt much more dense and slow than usual.
“The answer is simple. I do not know, Heo Thunderson.”
He brought oxygen to his lungs while focusing.
“Isn’t it the same for you? You don’t know either, do you, Heo?”
“That’s not true. I finally heard the truth. I know why my mom died, I have someone to let my resentment out on, and I never want to see them again.”
“And do you think they’re completely in the wrong?”
“Of course I do.”
Harakawa said nothing. He simply sat up without making a noise and took another gentle action.
He hugged Heo and his arms around her body told him a certain fact.
“Don’t lie, Heo Thunderson.”
Silence filled the cockpit until he heard sobbing from his chest.
He heard her speak, but he silenced her by holding her even tighter.
…You vaguely realize it, don’t you?
Even if she did not know about this dragon or the demon, she knew what path she was choosing.
She had chosen to reject it, but that very action of choosing had made her worried about the one-sided protection of the organization named UCAT.
What a selfish girl, he thought. She doesn’t realize it herself and makes everyone around her deal with it.
Just as he realized she was like a cat, he smiled bitterly in his heart and tapped her back.
“Hey, can you tell me one thing? Why do you protect Heo? If it was your choice, then how did you meet her?” he asked. “If someone left you to her, that person is the one behind all this. Heo, do you remember anything? Was there some kind of ritual a long time ago?”
Heo moved a bit. With her face pressed to his chest, she turned to the side and looked up at him.
He saw tears reflecting the blue light. As inexpressible thoughts filled him, he heard her quiet sobbing voice.
“There was nothing like that. Nothing more than my parents giving me the name Heo. …I can’t speak for when I was a baby, though.”
“Heo is correct,” said the dragon. “I have no memory of such a ritual. But…that is why I will open my memories. The memories of a me I do not know. I will show you those memories using the circuit allowing you to hear this voice.”
The dragon said one last thing.
“To use a word I know, this is a memory of a ‘promise’.”
Shinjou thought the pasts Baku showed her were a lot like dreams.
She felt like she had dozed off, but her eyes soon focused, she sensed light, and color filled her world.
Blue slowly filled her vision.
It was the sky.
It was a vast blue expanse filled with clouds, but there was one odd thing about it.
“There’s no land.”
She looked around in all 360 degrees, but everything was blue as far as the eye could see. The only land she saw was…
Some objects floated here and there in the sky.
They literally were floating islands. Broken pieces of crust drifted through the sky like the wreckage of a larger piece of land.
Most of them were clumps of rock and it was difficult to tell their size with nothing else in the sky to compare them to.
She moved her vision closer and found one was a narrow slab of dark stone that measured a kilometer long. Clumps of plants with triangular leaves were attached to the top of the slab.
…This is 5th-Gear, isn’t it?
Shinjou suddenly found a manmade object.
Gray and green land floated in the sky about a hundred meters below her.
It was around a hundred meters across, the gray was artificial pavement, and a similarly colored square building was located on top of it. The area behind the building was filled with bluish-green plants with long, narrow leaves.
Among them, she saw a certain shape and colors.
The shape was a dragon and the colors were blue and white.
She saw someone pushing through the dense foliage in front of the mechanical dragon.
The person wore something like a scuba tank on his back and a half-face helmet on his head.
“That’s Thunderson-san, isn’t it?”
His breath was visibly white around him and the speed at which the breaths scattered suggested a strong wind. However, the scattering breaths spun around as if hitting a wall a meter away from him.
Gravitational control or something similar must have been protecting him from the air pressure and wind.
After some hesitation, Shinjou waited until the proper timing and had her vision jump down.
Her mind fell for only an instant and she landed on the lower surface with no sound or sensation of impact.
It was a gray and smooth paved road. It had a curb and the edges had a slightly raised area much like a sidewalk.
This must have been a world that thought about people’s safety, she thought.
She moved her vision forward and found what looked like a house.
It was a short, square building. It was about twenty meters across on each side, three meters tall, and windowless. However, it had round fist-sized lenses on a few spots on the walls.
The entrance was located a level lower. There was a slope at the front of the building that led to a rectangular seam on the wall at what was likely the basement.
…It’s like a shelter.
After that thought, she heard someone breathing. Someone was catching their breath to her right and on the other side of the building.
It was Thunderson, the man wearing the tank.
“Xolotl 3, I’ve made it to the front.”
Xolotl 3’s voice came from near the man’s shoulder.
“I am sorry, Thunderson. If I went, I would likely destroy it.”
“It’s fine. This is part of the investigation process. …And you’re curious about this building, right?”
“Yes, in your manner of speaking, I am ‘curious’. In my manner of speaking, I feel it is worth investigating. There might be a weapon or something else there which is sending out a faint signal. Ever since I was born in these skies, I have been ‘curious’ about it, but I am too large to enter.”
“That’s a dangerous kind of curiosity. But Xolotl 3, are you sure I should be going in here?”
“You have my spare sensory device attached to your shoulder, so I will see whatever you see and hear whatever you hear. …So please enter. I am curious. I was born as a machine, so why am I curious about the ground and why have I always come to rest here between battles for thousands of years?”
“I see,” said Thunderson before hesitating.
But he soon grabbed the meter hanging from the tank on his back.
“I’m going in. But our translation concept is weak, so tell me if anything is labelled as dangerous.”
His look of resolve was turned straight forward and he made his way down the slope to the basement entrance.
His footing was confident and the sound of his military boots soon arrived at the entrance.
The door was two meters tall and three meters wide.
“I see our standards are the same. I’m opening it.”
The door opened by dropping down.
Huh? thought Shinjou as he looked at the upper edge of the door. A space opened along the width of the fallen door, but the bottom of new type of door panel soon replaced it from the other side. She could tell the metal was somewhat flexible, but she did not know how it worked.
Wind blew in front of her. The difference in air pressure at such a high altitude caused the air inside to burst out.
Most of it was dust. Dirty brown smoke mixed in with the wind and danced about and a torn paper-like fiber followed.
“That isn’t good. This could destroy the whole thing.”
Thunderson rushed into the door and Shinjou did so as well.
She heard the door close behind her as she followed the man inside the building.
The entranceway was a three square meter space.
The walls themselves emitted pale beige light. The hallway floor was black, but the spots the man stepped on glowed bluish-white and that glow spread in ripples shaped like his footprints.
The hallway continued both right and left, but Thunderson checked right first.
“Can you see this, Xolotl 3? The right side has been destroyed.”
The right half of the hallway had melted. No, it had technically not melted.
“It looks like the metal lost control. It must have broken at an early stage of the destruction and just melted into a clump.”
The metal forming the hallway’s walls was crushed as if someone had slammed a bar into it from the left wall.
The gaps in the collapsed walls gave a glimpse of the piles of objects from the rooms bordering the hallway. Some of the objects appeared to be made of wood, but whatever had covered their surface had crumbled like sand.
It had all been worn away by the passage of time.
“There is nothing to see there. Go left, Thunderson.”
“Sure,” replied the man.
The left end of the hallway had also collapsed, but he headed for the one intact door.
Shinjou realized something from the softness of the lighting coming from the walls.
…This was a home. There weren’t any weapons here.
She then noticed Thunderson had vanished.
The door down the hallway was open, so he had entered that final room and left her alone.
She was belatedly hesitant to enter someone’s private room. She was unsure it was appropriate for someone who had only ever lived at UCAT and a student dorm.
But that thought was blown away by the beige light shining from beyond the door.
She relied on the illusion that the light was warming her nonexistent body and she set foot in the room.
The room was almost ten square meters. Thunderson stood in the center and the gray dust on the floor was up to his ankles. The room was unfurnished, but the dusty walls had lines on it as if objects could be pulled out from them.
The room looked empty, but it did contain something.
The gray dust on the floor revealed a shape there.
There was a shallow rectangular bulge on the floor. It rose further on one end as if to lay one’s head on and there were dividing lines on the wall at the end. The lines were in the perfect place to look at while lying on the floor.
…Was something like a TV kept in the wall there?
Shinjou thought about whoever had lived here.
A book or a device with similar functionality had likely been within arm’s reach. This was near the kitchen, so they would have been able to keep snacks and drinks around.
She saw a few other bulges in the dust covering the room.
Thousands of years had passed in 5th-Gear since Black Sun had destroyed the land and the people had been destroyed. This house seemed to have retained some atmosphere, but the resident or residents would have been long dead.
However, Shinjou suddenly remembered what Sayama had said just before she had been shown the past.
…There are still questions about the fall of the 5th-Gear’s people?
She wondered what those could be, but the scene around her gave no answers.
The dust looked like gray snow and it only revealed the past through the weathered wreckage hidden below.
She then saw Thunderson pick something up from the dust.
It looked like a B5-size glass panel.
But it was actually a piece of paper encased in a clear sheet that resembled glass.
The paper contained color. The colors were those of reality. Or rather, the colors of a photograph depicting reality.
The photograph showed a girl, a man, and a woman.
They looked human. Their skin was very nearly white and their slenderness seemed to be their primary characteristic. Overall, they resembled the long-lived race.
Shinjou thought the girl standing in front looked fourteen or fifteen. The identical blonde hair on all three suggested the girl was the daughter of the man and woman behind her. Blue eyes with a hint of green smiled in the center of the photograph.
Thunderson moved his fingers to brush the dust from the photograph.
“Xolotl 3. Do you know who these people are?”
“No, I do not.”
“Then do you know why you are so curious about this place?”
“No, I do not. But,” said Xolotl 3. “To use your manner of speaking, this is a ‘calming’ place.”
That comment was followed by a sudden noise.
It came from the wall. The dividing lines Shinjou had seen before extended outward and lit up.
It became a screen.
The screen displayed the same man standing in the photograph. What looked like a factory was visible behind him. It was a large factory that seemed to extend forever and countless machines were moving about. Mechanical arms were carrying drive wheels and metal frames that looked like pieces of a giant skeleton. Other machines were welding them together.
With that in the background, the man used his blue clothes to wipe a black liquid from his hands.
“Sorry that————the periodic letter. It’s just been———————.”
The sound and video would skip. Instead of filling with static, the video partially blacked out and then the scene changed. It was still in the same factory, but the background was different. A transportation pallet was now visible and Shinjou recognized what it carried.
“This is the experimental——————the separation isn’t going well. In addition to the pilot, someone else must combine with it, but their body and memories—————and can’t be recovered. The other units are similarly————————, but once this is complete, —————help Black Sun that you love so much. Once he and White Creation are protecting our world together, we can rest—————”
The video skipped again, but the location did not change. The man and his fellow workers stood in front of a mechanical dragon that looked a lot like Xolotl 3, but was not quite the same. All of them looked exhausted, none of them had shaved recently, and their clothes were filthy, but they were all smiling. Some were even waving at the camera.
But the image suddenly changed and Shinjou’s confused mind was shown something else.
The factory was being destroyed. As the ceiling collapsed and sparks flew everywhere, the same glasses-wearing man stared into the screen with a tense look on his face.
“Can you————? We were hit by a chemical———————. It was a concept bomb————————by 9th. —————headed to your planet too.”
Before Shinjou could wonder what was going on, an alarm sounded in the footage and the man closed his eyes.
“I’m sorry. Black Sun is undergoing maintenance, but——————asked him to take care of everything. If all of you are suffering, and it doesn’t look like we’re going to make it in time———————the planet. —————sure it will trouble Black Sun, so————”
The man opened his eyes and looked directly into the screen.
“Do what you can until the last moment. —————and tell Black Sun to find happiness.”
That was all. The video ended and the screen went dark.
And as black filled the screen, Shinjou took a dazed breath.
That had given the truth behind Black Sun’s destruction of 5th-Gear.
…Does that mean…!?
“Could Black Sun not stand seeing the people suffer and die from another Gear’s chemical weapon, so he went out of control and destroyed them himself!? All to keep them from suffering!? And did he come up with his own reason for doing it because he didn’t want responsibility to lie with the people who asked him to do it!?”
“Did a few people combine with the incomplete mechanical dragons to survive the chemical weapon?”
When they did, they lost their memories and began to battle the rampaging Black Sun.
And it was all because they had cared for each other and yet lost everything.
Shinjou then saw Thunderson look away from the black screen and open his mouth.
“What is it?”
“Do you remember when you were born?”
“No,” replied Xolotl 3. “But I do remember it was very ‘sad’. I opened my communications and heard what my fellow mechanical dragons had to say and they were the same. It was a reaction to losing some kind of support and losing any objective.”
“Then, Xolotl 3… Who are you?”
“I am Xolotl 3.”
“Then tell me this, Xolotl 3. How is this read?”
He looked down at the photograph in the glass panel he held.
Something was written on it. Shinjou could read the meaning of the characters written in something like bluish-black pen, but she did not know what sound the writing represented.
But she heard Xolotl 3’s answer.
“It is a name. The first word means “to” and the following word is the name of the girl in the photograph.”
“And that name is?”
“In the sounds of your world it would be ‘Heo’,” explained Xolotl 3. “It means ‘happiness’.”
As Shinjou’s nonexistent body stiffened, Xolotl 3’s voice continued.
“Why are you crying, Thunderson of the family of thunder.”
“Because I understand now,” he said. “You are human, Xolotl 3. Even if you do not understand, this girl and I do. This girl who was meant to have happiness understands and so do I. And about Black Sun…was he your friend?”
“Then…let us decide.”
“We will continue on and settle things with Black Sun. He will likely flee to your world as usual, but repeating that process will only wear us down.”
“We will pursue Black Sun and then our entire army, White Creation included, will settle this in your world.”
Thunderson’s shoulders shook and he spoke to the camera-shaped sensory device on his right shoulder.
“With the Concept Core gone, 5th-Gear will be destroyed while you do that!”
He placed the photograph on the floor, gave a quick nod toward the three people in the photograph, and left the room. And he did so at a run.
He reached the entranceway, opened the door, and left the house.
The blue sky was now visible beyond the slope up from the basement.
A swarm of dragons had appeared. Shinjou saw mechanical dragons filling that blue sky. A white one measuring over three hundred meters long was in the center with hundreds of miscellaneously colored dragons flying around it.
Wind blew with a refreshing sound.
She then heard a voice from the giant six-winged white dragon overhead.
“One with the name of the family of thunder, will you fight with us?”
“Why… Why are you asking me that?”
“We are made to fear and prevent the destruction of 5th-Gear, so we cannot pursue Black Sun when he leaves 5th-Gear. That is why we wish for orders. As machines, we wish for a human to control us.”
The white dragon was likely White Creation. He slowly lowered his head and the dragons floating around him did the same.
“I am a machine, but you referred to my fellow dragons as human. You called them humans who have chosen to forget that they are human. …And you are a human that has not forgotten that he is a human.”
“I want to give you full authority over 5th-Gear and I want your help in defeating Black Sun.”
“I believe I have already stated why I chose you.”
“No,” said Thunderson before his visibly white breathing stopped.
After a moment, he took a step up the slope to widen his vision.
“Why are you fighting? This will destroy your Gear.”
“I was given a single command from my original creator,” said White Creation while the dragons lowered their heads as if nodding. “I am to guide the people to happiness. What we cannot stand more than losing our own peace is to see people’s happiness destroyed, no matter where those people might be. That is why we will destroy Black Sun. We will destroy our foolish and yet kind brother who destroyed our people and our world because he could not stand seeing them suffer.”
“That’s quite a pushy sort of happiness,” said Thunderson while slowly looking across the heavens and the earth that floated in the sky. “And you’re asking me to become a villain for that? I have to be the villain who ordered the destruction of this world?”
He took a breath, closed his eyes, and gave one last resigned comment.
“So the time for my resolve has come.”
After hearing that, Shinjou felt a sudden floating sensation.
She was waking from the past and slowly returning to the present and to reality.
Heo was curled up in the arms that supported her in the darkness.
Her senses shifted from the past she had seen like a dream and back to reality.
She felt the pulse, breathing, and heat of Harakawa who she was pressed up against.
“Is that what my name means?”
“I do not know,” replied the dragon. “But my previous self fought along with the one he chose as his pilot and scored a fatal wound on the enemy, but I too was destroyed and unable to fully defeat that enemy. The enemy fled to the ocean to prepare for a future rematch and it seems we wished to combine with a single weapon along with White Creation. That being the Vesper Cannon that I once possessed.”
Showing those memories may have established some connections within him because he continued to speak.
“And at that time, White Creation chose me as the bearer of the weapon they became. I was to completely remake my destroyed body and rest until I was needed.”
Hearing that, Heo opened her mouth and wondered how loud her voice would sound in this dark stillness.
“And why did you help me?”
“I believe it was a promise. When falling into my personal concept space, my former self made a promise with my pilot. If a child needing protection was born to the family of thunder, that child was to be given full authority over 5th-Gear and the name of happiness.”
She listened to the voice.
“As the protector of 5th-Gear’s happiness, I promised to protect that child as thanks to the one who cried for our people.”
She was left speechless, but strength gathered in Harakawa’s arms around her shoulders and back and she sank into that strength.
…How can I find a way to reject this thing that caused what I called a demon?
“I was given my name by my parents.”
She did not know why, but her parents had hoped she would be happy and that she would be protected.
…Why did they make sure only I was protected when they were the ones that fought?
And it was hard to believe that Black Sun, that demon, had cared about people.
There was so much she wanted to say that she had difficulty sorting through it all.
And just as she tried to figure out what to do, she heard a new sound. An electronic tone rang loudly in the silent and dark space.
“A cellphone. That’s the one the treasurer gave me, isn’t it?”
Harakawa spoke, removed a hand from her back, and stuck it in his own pocket. From the movement of the air, she could tell he had placed a cellphone against his ear.
“It is I. It seems Kanda has finally opened the communications line, so feel free to send your praise…to me.”
After a quiet electronic tone, the sound vanished. Harakawa had hung up and put the phone in his pocket.
“Looks like the bad dream isn’t over yet. I’m going back to sleep for a bit.”
“U-um, Harakawa. Was that the voice of that crazy person who came by yesterday?
As she asked that, the phone began to ring again and Harakawa gave an annoyed sigh.
“What is it, idiot?”
“Heh heh heh. Did you hear that, Shinjou-kun? Harakawa does not know his place.”
“Stop making things more confusing than they have to be, Sayama you idiot! Now what do you want?”
Heo strained her ears in the darkness and listened to the voice coming from the cellphone.
“Sorry, Harakawa, but I do not actually need you for anything. See, that is what you get. …However, I would like to speak with Heo Thunderson-kun who is with you.”
Heo looked up and felt like Harakawa was looking at her, so she tilted her head in confusion.
“Listen, Sayama,” said Harakawa from beyond the phone. “Heo said she has nothing to say to you and that you need to just go die.”
“I-I did not say that!”
“Oh, I am glad to see you are doing well. …Now listen, Heo Thunderson-kun.”
Heo listened to the boy named Sayama.
“We belong to the Japanese UCAT that functions separately from the American UCAT that is protecting you. And currently, I have demonstrated my greatness by gaining America’s approval to rescind that protection as compensation for my victory.”
She did not know what he meant by rescinding her protection.
She gave voice to her confusion, but that did not stop the boy.
“Listen,” he began. “That means you will no longer be protected by America or anyone else if you do not wish for it. So live as you wish here in Japan, using the money and connections you possess. If you wish to return, either pay for the plane ticket yourself or flee to the embassy. Understand?”
“W-wait a minute.”
“Waiting will change nothing, but if you have something to say, I will listen. …What is it?”
She tried to approach the phone to better make herself heard, but her forehead hit something hard. Harakawa had been thinking the same thing and held the phone out toward her.
“Ow, ow,” she said while holding her head, but she took the phone and gathered her thoughts. “U-um, well…”
She thought and pressed the cellphone against her ear.
“So my words will actually get through to you?”
“If they would not get through to me, they would not get through to anyone else in the world.”
“I detect a structural flaw in that logic,” commented the dragon.
Heo felt the dragon was exactly right, but she spoke regardless.
“Let me ask you this instead. Why do you ask that?”
“Well…” she began.
“We are about to go fight what is likely the enemy that has pursued your past. …But it has nothing to do with you.”
“Wh-what? How can you say that?”
“Then why did you accept their protection that would take you to a place wholly unrelated to this fight?”
He did not stop there.
“This is a negotiation. To be honest, I would like your help. If you have already had the basics explained to you, you understand what I mean by that, right?”
“Yes,” she answered with a nod.
She understood from the dream the man named Roger had given her. The world would be destroyed soon and her great-grandfather had been left with full authority of the world known as 5th-Gear.
But it seemed there was more to the story of that authority.
“You have inherited 5th-Gear’s authority from your great-grandfather. That includes the right to owning the Concept Core. As proof of that, your name is a 5th-Gear word, your dragon is a 5th-Gear human, that dragon is there for you, and the weapon made for that dragon contains the Concept Core. In other words, your great-grandfather and parents have given you the ability needed to act as 5th-Gear’s representative.”
“Th-then you’re telling me to use that power to help you?”
“I never said that,” replied Sayama. “To be completely honest, your help would be appreciated. After all, the destruction of the world would rob me of a land to rule over and that would be quite a problem for Shinjou-kun.”
“Th-that would not be a problem for me at all.”
“Ha ha ha. No need to be shy, Shinjou-kun. …Anyway, are you listening, Heo-kun? There is a lot going on and I would like your help, but everyone around me has chosen to gather here of their own free will. I could use a variety of threats or enticements to call you to me, but that is not our way of doing things.”
“B-but if the world would be destroyed without my help…”
“Then let it be destroyed. A world that cannot move a single girl’s heart deserves nothing less.”
“But we will do whatever we can to fight it and we are more than willing to do so. We have a lot of spare time on our hands and we will not give up no matter what. That is all.”
“That is what we offer in this negotiation. We will not protect you and we will not let any other organization protect you. We will not provide you with order or peace of mind. We stand in a place where we look at the unadorned facts that the world is headed for destruction and Black Sun, who went mad for the sake of the people, flies through our skies.”
He took a breath.
“You have power, but power is nothing if it is never used. I would like your help, but there is no point if you yourself will not use your power. So if you ever want to break through the goal tape yourself, just say so. That delinquent boy will show you the way. But do not cheerfully trust us, Heo Thunderson. We may be comrades with the same goal, but we are not some clichéd group of friends. We are simply a group of people facing in the same direction. If you are fine with that, then come visit us.”
That was all.
With an electronic tone, the call ended. The complete lack of parting words left Heo speechless.
Sayama looked around his surroundings with the lights washing over him.
The blue armored uniforms and the blue mechanical dragons stood on the broad runway and the white uniforms stood by the white building.
They were all staring intently at him, so Sayama first raised his left arm forcefully enough to produce a sound from the fabric of his suit’s elbow.
“What are you doing!? Black Sun’s army is on its way! As that phone call proved, Kanda has given us free use of our communication devices! Report!!”
“Testament,” said a female voice from the white building.
Sibyl had stepped out of the entrance with a bandage around her right arm.
“Six minutes ago, the American UCAT forces remaining in Chofu engaged Black Sun’s advance unit. Communications suddenly cut out two minutes ago. Currently, a group led by American UCAT’s inspector has left Yokota to intercept them near Kunitachi.”
“If that interception fails, when will Black Sun’s advance unit arrive here?”
“Most likely, around 22:00. That is approximately twenty-five minutes from now.”
That immediate declaration produced noise from everyone there. But instead of gasping, it was the noise of weapons being prepared.
Sayama was satisfied by those overlapping sounds of steel and the fact that those in blue were also preparing. He then looked across the table and at Roger who was fixing his suit collar.
“I am impressed by American UCAT’s response to an estimation based on the assumption that your inspector will be defeated. I would like to continue this as equals.”
“Testament,” replied Roger while narrowing his eyes and turning toward his fellow American UCAT members.
But he stopped and instead reached a hand toward the table and to the philosopher’s stone on Baku’s neck.
“This is a defense concept. …You really got me there.”
“You yourself did quite well to read the letter at the end.”
“Testament. When did you realize the truth?”
Sayama replied without hesitating to lose himself in the curious look in Shinjou’s eyes.
“That is a simple matter. When you read the document during our chat last night, I wondered why he never once mentioned his precious great-granddaughter. And today when I heard Heo Thunderson had been saved by something invisible, I made a guess that she had inherited something,” he explained. “I decided Richard Thunderson must have already known his great-granddaughter would be fine on her own. …And that knowledge had most likely come when she had lost her mother.”
Sayama pulled a piece of paper from his pocket. It was the article about the death of Heo’s mother that he had received via Moira 1st.
“When asked why her mother had such a peaceful expression in death, some speculated a family member had been the culprit. However, that expression was proof that the Thunderson family had chosen the proper happiness.”
He felt a sudden pain in the left side of his chest.
He knew why. His own mother had attempted a double suicide with him.
…What expression did she have?
As he thought that and held his right hand to his chest, something supported that arm.
The slender arm and slight strength were Shinjou’s, so he nodded toward her and relaxed.
“5th’s destruction and Black Sun were a simple matter as well. …A truly excellent machine will obey its people.”
He looked forward once more and saw Roger pushing his glasses up his nose.
“I see. It would seem I had grown a little too close-minded.”
This time, he really did turn around to prepare for the interception of Black Sun.
However, Sayama saw a new document that had appeared on the table.
“What is this?”
“Something I was asked to hold on to and bring here. Asked by your grandfather.”
Sayama frowned and felt his pulse quicken as he looked at the first page of the document. He read the title aloud.
“Georgius Development Plan.”
And the author.
The pain arrived. His body cramped around the left of his chest and felt like it was breaking.
Once he heard Shinjou’s cry, he gathered strength in his back and stood back up. He bore with the instant of pain threatening to bind his body.
“So you did hold an important position during UCAT’s blank period!”
“No, I was nothing more than a soldier. Among them, anyway. And once it was all over, I was given this as someone who was close to him. This is the development plan for the left and right Georgius, which are needed to end the Leviathan Road.”
“Left and right?”
“Yes. We were unable to use them. Most likely, the only ones who can are those with the surname Sayama and those with the surname Shinjou.”
Not only did Sayama stiffen upon hearing that, but Shinjou did as well.
She took a step forward and asked a question.
“But… Why my surname too!?”
“That is as much as I can tell you. I do not have the authority for anything more.” He waved his hand with his back still turned. “It may be that this negotiation had already been decided long ago. Your grandfather said the Leviathan Road cannot be ended without Georgius. If that is true, only Japanese UCAT can stop the destruction of the world.”
Roger began to walk and his footsteps on the asphalt grew more distant. As if pursuing that sound, Sibyl looked up with a cellphone to her ear.
She was frowning and her voice rang loudly.
“We have lost contact with the interception unit in Kunitachi.”
Harakawa heard a pulse and breathing in the darkness.
The quiet sounds came from the girl curled up on top of his chest.
She was not moving and the dragon carrying them said nothing.
How much time had passed?
He did not bother counting the breaths that functioned as an hourglass, but finally he heard a quiet voice.
It was Heo and she seemed to be testing the volume of her voice.
“How can he tell me to do whatever I want when the world will be destroyed without my help?”
Harakawa was not sure if he should say anything, but he decided to correct her.
“That idiot really means it. He and everyone around him are crazy. They all think they can do something, but if they can’t, they think that’s fine too. So even if you don’t help them, they’ll stupidly and optimistically assume they can get by somehow or other on their own.”
“That idiot said he wanted your help, right? If he really needed it, he would have said so. They can say that kind of thing because they all have the power to do something.”
“But Harakawa, you aren’t telling me to help you or that you need me.”
“Why would I? I’m not trying to do anything as crazy as them.”
“But…you still came for me.”
After he fell silent, a familiar question reached his ears.
She asked it again.
“Why did my parents, my great-grandfather, those strange people, and you do what you did?”
“How should I know? I might have a guess, but how should I know?” he said. “And let me tell you something, Heo Thunderson. There are definitely things it isn’t nice not knowing, but there are also things you can be perfectly happy not knowing.”
He recalled that the protective charm from his mother had taken the attack by the dragon’s claws for them. And he recalled when he had taken a certain girl into his room.
“There are things like that, aren’t there?”
The girl in his arms did not move and she held her breath for a moment.
However, he noticed her pulse had risen a little.
“There is happiness inside you that you don’t understand, but will you refuse to trust it just because you don’t understand it?”
“Answer me, Heo. Heo Thunderson. You said you do not know why everyone made the decisions they did, but there are things you can trust even if you don’t understand them. Whether you understand it or not, the fact remains that many people have protected you all this time. …And the same goes for you.”
He took a breath while noticing how everything he had to tell this girl needed to be said to him as well.
“Do not lie about the happiness inside you, Heo Thunderson.”
“Why?” She looked up. “Why do you do have to say that?”
“Because that is my happiness.”
He knew she would probably protest. She would probably ask him what exactly he meant which was not a question he wanted to answer.
And so he sealed those words inside her. And he used his own lips to do so.
Her body stiffened a bit.
But after a few seconds, the two parted and let out a breath. A moment later, Heo spoke.
“U-um, uh. Th-that was my first time…just now.”
“Calm down. I’m sure one of your parents beat me to it.”
“D-don’t ruin a girl’s dream like that…”
Her words fell apart toward the end, but in place of the tears and shaking from before, she gave a bitter laugh.
Her shoulders shook and she gave a ticklish laugh.
“That’s right,” she said while slowly sitting up.
“Trusting. It isn’t easy, but there is some truth there.” She gave another small laugh. “Like the fact that you pursued me and kissed me even after I pushed you away like that.”
He had an oddly bad feeling, so he reached out and grabbed her again.
He then realized her body was trembling again even as she tried to sound confident.
…So she was just faking it.
He heard her voice again.
“Please support me if anything happens.”
“If I feel like it.”
“Sure,” she said with a laugh. “Um, dragon?”
“What?” replied the voice.
She took in a large breath, exhaled, and spoke.
“I think I will pursue Black Sun.”
“You don’t know your name, right? And you need a name for your functionality. To be honest, I still don’t understand you very well and I don’t really think we can become friends,” she said. “But we have the same objective, don’t we? So…”
She said it.
“Thunder Fellow. You are a companion of the family of thunder, so how about that for a name?”
The voice said nothing in response.
Instead, a light appeared.
The cockpit’s ceiling, sides, and front lit up.
A table stuck out below the pointed windshield in the front and a console window covered the table. Similar consoles appeared on the sides.
The cockpit had no control column or steering wheel, but a pair of roll bars could be seen on either side as if to support someone leaning in the seat.
As the light from the cockpit left through the windshield, color could be seen appearing on the dragon’s body. Or rather, the armor had stopped hiding its form.
The dragon half buried in sludge had a pointed form with blue and white armor.
Harakawa looked around and saw a second seat further back that looked like a bed.
“Lie there, child of happiness. When you are taken in and combine with me, the output limiters will be put in your control.”
“Wait, wait. Are you sure that’s a good idea? What if she loses her memory or there’s some other side effe-…”
“That was already fixed based on my previous self’s experiences. …I will protect her. I promise.”
Harakawa saw Heo nod in his arms.
“Let’s go so we can stop that lonely dragon named Black Sun.”
Her eyes were red from crying, but her expression showed she had accepted her power.
And so he sighed, lowered his shoulders, and let go.
“You really have gotten motivated. Just do whatever it is you want.”
“There is something for you to do as well, Harakawa,” said the dragon.
Harakawa frowned and Thunder Fellow continued.
“After seeing you protect her twice before I could, I took the liberty of linking your nervous system to my control system when taking you onboard earlier.”
“Wait, wait, wait a second. What do you mean linked?”
He then realized something about when the giant black dragon’s main weapon had hit them.
…Everything seemed to happen really slowly.
“I will concentrate the neurotransmission of my own body, you will pilot my body, and Heo will both support you and use her mind to release the limiters of my body. When I evolved, I gained a number of functions I have yet to use, but…”
This powerful voice was the dragon’s true will.
“If we do this, we can draw out my full power.”
At 9:37 PM, Black Sun and its army clashed with the American UCAT mechanical dragons deployed at Kunitachi.
They had smashed most of those to pieces and continued westward after shaking free of the few remaining ones.
Yokota Air Base was west of western Tachikawa and the Showa Memorial Park, but it had no equipment left and all of its remaining forces had evacuated underground.
Black Sun sent some leading child craft along the surface to destroy anything that could attack, but they were all sent on even further ahead by the time Black Sun himself reached the base.
There were no more enemies left.
All that remained was the familiar scent that was growing stronger. It was a powerful concept reading to the west and it smelled of the weapon that had once defeated him.
Black Sun pointed that direction and slowly accelerated.
However, he detected a new scent.
In the sky even further east of the defeated enemies was some other familiar scent.
Black Sun had eliminated his negligence, so he sent some child craft into the sky behind him. He sent enough to defeat all of the enemy forces that had appeared thus far.
And at the same time, an automaton in control of the concept space creation device terminal near Tokyo Bay saw something strange.
Something slowly rose from Tokyo Bay which was supposedly empty.
It resembled a sword.
It was a thirty meter metal structure colored blue and white.
The automaton’s sight saw the water gently split above its tip as it hovered into the air.
It was a mechanical dragon.
The automaton determined this was an unidentified mechanical dragon that was different from the black ones. It was approximately five kilometers away and her scan via ultra-long distance vision showed its form was similar to the high-speed cruising form of the full transformation models. However…
“Its frame is not made to transform?”
That meant it was a non-transformation model.
“I have determined it is limited to high-speed mobility.”
A red light ran between the blue and white armor like a pulse.
That acted as a signal.
The dragon bent its body and rolled around as if dancing in the air above the water.
It suddenly shot up into the sky.
It happened instantly. All it left behind was wind, a spray of water, and a white line of water vapor that revealed its path.
The automaton’s gaze followed the white line that cut westward through the night sky.
She moved her sight devices, turned her head, and spun her body around to follow it.
But she was not quick enough. All she saw was the white line.
By the time she completely turned around, that line had already vanished into the western sky.
That left only the sound.
The windy roar of supersonic speed shook her body as it arrived from behind and passed by overhead.
She had no idea what had just happened, but one thing was clear.
“It is in pursuit. The blue and white mechanical dragon is pursuing Black Sun. And…”
She spoke the estimation based on her probabilistic decisions.
“It will most likely catch up.”
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