Owari no Chronicle:Volume9 Chapter 35
Chapter 35: Black Guidance
I want to be praised
Heo managed Thunder Fellow’s body and Harakawa piloted it in a clash with their enemy.
That enemy’s firepower surpassed their own.
That enemy’s physical strikes surpassed their own.
That enemy’s armor surpassed their own.
Nevertheless, rejection filled Heo’s will.
Their speed was greater.
Their mobility was greater.
Their will was greater.
Nevertheless, questions filled Heo’s will.
Why did that enemy fight?
What did he seek?
And what would be his answer?
Let’s go, she thought.
Let’s fight, she thought.
Let’s find that answer, she thought.
She currently had the body of a high-speed cruising mechanical dragon.
She was attacking a black dragon that was heavily armed.
White lightning and black shots crossed paths, the former hit and were deflected, and the latter grazed by and tore away armor.
However, Thunder Fellow found an instantaneous opening and circled above Black Sun. From the sky behind Black Sun, he accelerated straight toward the front of that black dragon.
He passed above the twin-fuselage wings that looked like buildings. Even at the speed of sound, it would take almost two seconds to travel across those six hundred meter wings. And Black Sun was also accelerating, so Thunder Fellow’s relative speed was dropping.
With her senses sped up five times over, the coming approach would last a few dozen seconds for Heo.
The sound of wind echoed off Black Sun, but Thunder Fellow left even that sound behind. The blue and white mechanical dragon no longer hesitated as he flew across Black Sun’s right wing.
He had a plan.
Black Sun’s main body was a black mechanical dragon measuring three hundred meters long and it existed in the rear center of the twin-fuselage. It was guarded by the protective field of that twin-fuselage and by its many cannons, so it would not be easy to approach.
However, there was an instant at which Black Sun’s main body was defenseless: when the main cannon on the bottom of that main body was fired.
If Thunder Fellow fired his main cannon at that moment, it would reach his enemy.
During their first meeting, his light had been blocked by the main cannon’s acceleration light created between the twin-fuselage wings.
But what if he passed those and fired at extreme close range?
…We can do this.
They needed to fire the main cannon and to do that they needed to circle around and face the enemy.
That was why Thunder Fellow travelled over the twin-fuselage wings and fired.
Twin bolts of lightning tore into the armor panels as he travelled ever forward.
It all happened at high speed.
The cannons on the twin-fuselage wings responded with their black light.
The attacks were all at close enough range to leave no room for evading a shot after it had already been fired.
To avoid them, Thunder Fellow needed to predict the attacks by the direction Black Sun’s cannons pointed and whether they contained black light or not.
Making those predictive evasions was Harakawa’s role.
His reflexes forced the high speed cruising craft all over the place and Heo felt those movements as movements of her own body.
…We can do this!
Black Sun’s attacks were numerous, but they were no different from his normal attacks. Once Harakawa memorized the cannons’ timing, he could take them out one at a time and destroy the twin-fuselage wings.
“Black Sun’s heat level is rising!!” warned Thunder Fellow.
At the same time, Heo saw the area above Black Sun – the area they were flying through – transform into an area of destruction.
Every cannon was firing continuously.
In an instant, Black Sun’s top surface became a temple filled with thousands of black pillars.
However, those “pillars” were cannon blasts supported by Black Sun’s massive firepower. This attack’s true form was countless massive swords of continuous light that ignored the heat radiating from them.
But rather than as swords, everything before them rushed toward them as pure attacks.
Heo gulped, but spoke with strength in her voice.
“It’s like having a group of thugs pick a fight with you, isn’t it!?”
The tension in his voice belied his light words.
But Thunder Fellow began to move nonetheless.
He no longer had time to fire his lightning attacks, so he emitted swords of light from his wings, pushed past or cut through the approaching black blades, and continued forward.
Even so, his armor was torn away in several places all over his body.
Several of his swords of light broke, but each time they did, they were pulled out and produced a tremendous cut.
Metallic sounds sliced through the black forest made of black pillars. His speed never dropped as the few dozen seconds seemed to stretch on infinitely.
Heo felt pain because her senses were the same as Thunder Fellow’s.
…But this is drawing out his true ability!
She did not reject the pain. She simply gave Harakawa permission and squeezed out all of her own strength.
All she could hear were the surrounding sounds of clashing light and darkness and a voice.
“Can’t we open a path with our main cannon!?” asked Harakawa.
“No. It is only for a slight moment, but I must stop in the instant of firing to cut off the reflux of power. If I do that, we will be destroyed. Also, you know when we must fire the main cannon, don’t you?”
“Hah,” laughed Harakawa within the shaking of shockwaves. “You’re going to blast that thing’s main body once we get through all this and circle around in front, right? The instant he fires his main cannon is the instant the inside of the twin-fuselage and his own front armor are removed. Also…”
Harakawa trailed off and Heo found that odd, so she asked him about it.
“What is it?”
“Oh, it’s just that I saw something strange just before we were shot down when facing Black Sun the first time. It was…” He hesitated again. “Something that shouldn’t have been there.”
“H-Harakawa. Did the tension of the battle make you go crazy?”
“We need to have a talk after this is over, Heo Thunderson.”
As she listened to him, one of their light swords broke on a black pillar that was quickly swung toward them on the right side.
The sword shattered with the sound of breaking glass, but it produced enough of a gap in the attacks for the mechanical dragon to slip through.
The same cycle repeated again and again.
Nevertheless, the dragon kept at it. He was almost at the end and the pillars were growing less dense.
But it was still a balancing act until he truly did reach the end.
Heo thought she heard Harakawa groan, so she quickly spoke up
“Um, Thunder Fellow? Do you have any other good weapons? Y’know, um, something you would see on that Captain Nuclear cartoon that’s popular in America.”
“I do not know what you mean.”
“Why are you watching that environmental destruction cartoon?”
“I-I was trying to be considerate, so why are you two being so serious!?” she shouted.
“My only other weapon is the Vesper Cannon. The only other thing would be too dangerous to use now.”
“There’s something else?”
“There is, but it is not a weapon. It has also never been tested and a test activation would be too dangerous now that the battle has begun.”
Just as Harakawa began to reply, Heo felt something odd.
It was a sound being sensed by Thunder Fellow’s entire body. The auditory devices located across the dragon’s body were picking up something unnatural.
There was a hole of silence behind them.
“Harakawa! Something’s coming from behind!!”
A moment later, something shot through all the black pillars behind them.
The front-facing sub-main cannon at the base of the twin-fuselage had fired on them.
Black Sun’s plan had been to surround them with the countless black blades and then fire this piercing shot.
“What a cheap trick!!”
Heo made up her mind in an instant and left all of her sensory acceleration with Harakawa.
And in exchange, Thunder Fellow took action.
What Heo saw him do was not what she had expected.
Harakawa swung Thunder Fellow’s left blade to the left and shut down the right blade.
Shutting down the blade meant to protect their side should have meant being hit on that side, but Heo did not wonder why he had done this.
…Please take care of this!
Her only decision now was to trust him.
A moment later, lightning raced from Thunder Fellow’s right side and it was directed straight down.
A cannon was located there and the lightning blast gouged out the dome-shaped weapon and blew it backwards.
And as the black spear of an attack approached from behind, it collided with the wreckage of the destroyed cannon.
That weakened it and she heard Harakawa raise his voice.
“Let’s turn this around, Heo Thunderson!!”
Black Sun watched the movements of the blue and white mechanical dragon.
That enemy’s left sword strike broke through several of the black pillars sticking up toward the sky.
The enemy then flew into the gap this created on the left.
But the enemy could not avoid everything. Even if he broke through the pillars on the left, the bases had not been broken and the interrupted blast would recover quickly.
And he could not cover all of the black pillars coming from the right.
On top of all that, there was the sub-main cannon blast from behind. It had been weakened, but it was still plenty powerful as it struck the blue and white dragon that closed its rear thrusters for defense.
But despite the hit, the dragon somehow managed to endure.
He purged most of his armor and opened various parts along his body to allow the excess heat and force to escape. He had lost armor and gathered heat, but he still flew into the empty space on the left.
That meant the space between the twin-fuselage wings.
Black Sun had been waiting for this. His prey had entered within range of his main cannon.
He had already prepared his main cannon to fire, so the eight black pillars between the wings had gathered strength and the cannon below his body was wrapped in black heat.
But the blue and white had done the same.
While almost tumbling in between his wings, the enemy had rotated around and white light had already gathered in that enemy’s mouth as he prepared to fire his own main cannon.
Both dragons faced each other and they adjusted their power in just an instant.
They would fire at almost the exact same time, but that was acceptable from Black Sun’s point of view. Their base power outputs were different, so he was guaranteed to win in a collision between their main cannons.
He had already scanned the output of the other dragon and he knew the time it took that dragon to fire its main cannon thanks to the child craft he had sacrificed. On top of all that, he had altered his calculations to include a slight increase in ability as the blue and white dragon continued to fight.
The calculations were flawless.
The blue and white dragon would fire its main cannon, but the black main cannon would swallow up that white light.
That was the expected outcome, but the other dragon’s dragon cannon fired too suddenly.
The cannon’s light had converged and finished its firing preparations slightly before Black Sun’s had.
Black Sun saw what should have been impossible as the blue and white dragon fired a scattering beam of white light.
That was when he saw someone inside the cockpit in the enemy’s head.
In fact, he saw two people.
Just before firing his main cannon, the other dragon had released the power taking them inside him. He had gathered every last bit of power into his main cannon and finally accelerated that power.
Black Sun saw the white light spreading out before him, but he was certain of one future: his victory.
His sight devices saw a black form fly in front of the approaching white light.
It was the final midsized mechanical dragon.
The white light scored a direct hit, but it could not penetrate all the way through the midsized dragon. Its armor broke, the light tore into its underside, and that light reached its back, but the dragon continued to move.
Black Sun ordered the child craft to seize the enemy.
And it did exactly that. It poured everything into its unharmed wings, slipped between the twin-fuselage wings that contained black pillars of lightning, and collided with the blue and white dragon.
A metallic sound rang out like a bell as the midsized dragon carried out its duty despite beginning to fall apart.
Its three hundred meter body desperately grappled with the thirty meter dragon.
The girl in the rear seat of the enemy’s cockpit had vanished. She had combined with the mechanical dragon once more.
An odd sensation came over Black Sun when he saw that. It was the same as the familiar scent.
Had he once known that kind of thing?
But he ignored it because the girl was a human of this world, not of his world.
The blue and white dragon moved its legs in an attempt to break free of the black midsized craft’s bonds, but it was no use.
The high-speed cruising dragon lacked close-quarters combat ability and he did not have a transformable frame, so there was nothing he could do. He might have stood a chance as a close-quarters combat model or a standard cruising model that could move its legs more, though.
Black Sun fired his main cannon.
A great roar rang out and black light filled his vision.
The midsized dragon gave one last cry to say it had completed its mission.
A corridor was filled with white light.
The north wall contained a bathroom, a bath, a kitchenette, and the landing of the stairs down to the next floor, but all of them remained dark.
The south wall contained a counter with a large space behind it and several rooms with white wooden doors.
The label on the counter said “Nurse Station” and the neighboring rooms had the names of patients on the doors.
This was a hospital ward.
One of the wooden doors to those rooms was open.
It was the door labelled “Harakawa Yui”.
The room inside was dark and the light attached to the bed was the only illumination.
Someone in light purple pajamas stepped out into the corridor as if emerging behind the door.
It was Yui.
Her hair was damp and she had a white bath towel over her shoulders as she walked to the nurse station. Her slippers made little noise, but they sounded plenty loud in the silent hospital.
The baby room which contained the newborns was located beyond the nurse station.
The baby room’s wall was made into a window and two young women were peering through that glass wall.
When Yui saw them, she wondered if they were new mothers looking to their children inside.
As she walked past the nurse station, someone called out to her.
“Yui-san,” said a young nurse.
After spending so many years here, Yui treated this nurse as her junior and the nurse treated her in kind.
The nurse grabbed some karinto from a glass container.
“No thanks. I already brushed my teeth.”
Yui shook her head and the nurse smiled bitterly.
“Taking a walk?”
“Oh, yes. I was having trouble sleeping. I had a guest today, after all.”
“Your son, right? Um…”
The woman trailed off and it likely had to do with her son’s appearance, but Yui replied with a tone that said she did not mind.
“He takes after my husband more. …And I’m proud of that. But today I had someone else visit.”
“Someone else? You mean that teacher who always trips and can never find the stairs when she leaves?”
“No, not her either. …I guess you could call her my son’s girlfriend.”
“Oh?” The nurse drew back with a smile, placed the container on the desk, and held her hands together. “Well, congratulations. If anything comes of it, have them come here.”
After saying that, the nurse gave a quick “ah” of realization.
“What is it?” asked Yui with a tilt of her head.
“Well, today’s garbage today.”
“Oh,” said Yui with a strongly bitter smile. This happened occasionally, so she knew what the woman was trying to say. “You mean the apple skin, right?”
“Yes. After cleaning, Tama-san always shows me the apple skin when you do that. It doesn’t matter how often I say not to pull trash out in front of people.” Her bitter smile grew stronger as well. “Peeling it in a single continuous strip isn’t easy. And you do it with a one centimeter width, too. But…”
“There were two today, weren’t there? Was the other one by your son’s girlfriend?”
“Oh? Why do you think that? It’s my special skill.”
“Well,” she looked up at the ceiling for a moment as she hesitated whether to say it or not. “One of them was even thinner. It was so thin it shocked Tama-san and stopped the head nurse from scolding her like usual.”
“And which one do you think was mine?”
The bitterness left Yui’s smile as she looked to the nurse.
The nurse met her gaze for a moment.
“Let me tell you something interesting. I gained that skill while competing with an old friend. The men we worked with liked fruit, so we had plenty of opportunities. That friend of mine was incredibly good at it and I still haven’t reached her level.”
“Is there really a monster like that out there?’
“There was one here today, wasn’t there? And this girl worked even faster than my old friend did.”
Yui turned to the right in order to return to her room.
“Yui-san, weren’t you going to take a walk?”
“I feel better now. Our talk helped me relax. I’m sure it will work out now. Oh, and one other thing.”
She rested her elbows on the counter and showed her teeth.
“Can I have a karinto? I can always brush my teeth again.”
Black Sun saw the explosive flames in the sky.
Smoke and flames remained in the dark sky between the large twin-fuselage structure added to his wings.
That was both the final remains of his army and the remains of his enemy.
The wreckage was smashed to pieces and melted and now the wind would simply blow the smoke away.
His sight devices had already turned his thermal and gravitational vision to the west, but he still made sure to record the final attack with every one of his sight devices.
And due to the trailing smoke, his optical vision required the longest time to record.
Finally, the wind cleared away the smoke.
There was nothing there.
Black Sun saw nothing but sky all the way to his destination in the west.
He diverted more power to his accelerators, closed the armor panels that he had expanded for defense, and deployed some small airplane-like wings. He also stored his main cannon in his underside as he slowly moved forward.
This world’s characteristic stars could be seen in the dark sky overhead, but a question came to his mind.
This world – the planet he was on – had a satellite. It circled the planet at a set interval and the sun gave it the illusion of waxing and waning as it did so, but was it visible in the sky tonight?
Black Sun turned his optical sight up to the night sky and saw a circle of white light.
However, this was not the satellite he was looking for.
This was the light of an attack. It was the gathering light of the blue and white dragon preparing its main cannon to fire.
Black Sun immediately changed his vision to a scan of the enemy.
This was definitely the previous mechanical dragon, but his form had changed.
Somehow, his pointed high-speed cruising form had become a close-quarters combat form with larger legs.
The beast’s roar descended from the sky and his entire body collided with Black Sun.
An intense sound filled the air as heavy metals crashed into each other.
With a deeply lasting impact, the other dragon’s four arms dug into Black Sun’s back at the base of his twin-fuselage wings.
This intense landing had enough force to break the framework of a transforming model, but Black Sun’s upper vision told him his enemy was unharmed.
The blue and white mechanical dragon on top of him had the thick frame of a non-transforming model.
He did not understand.
He considered the possibility that there were two enemies, but the boy in the pilot’s seat was the same as before.
He simply did not understand.
And as soon as this inexplicable fact filled him with confusion, the enemy fired his pre-prepared white main cannon into Black Sun’s back.
The direct impact of the explosive blast was of course a problem, but the shockwave that spread from that point of impact tore up his armor to quickly open a hole of destruction. The second and third shockwaves tore into the inside and outside of the additional armor and smashed the connections between the main body’s wings and the twin-fuselage wings.
Black Sun made an instantaneous decision.
He purged it all and cast it aside. He cast aside the twin-fuselage wings, additional armor, accelerators, and everything else he had added onto his main body through evolution.
Black Sun’s three hundred meter form shot backwards as if stripping off an empty shell.
He was the same size as the midsized craft modeled after him, but his power, armor, and firepower were all superior to theirs.
He quickly put half a kilometer between himself and the purged twin-fuselage and he made a decision.
The enemy’s identity was a mystery, but he simply had to defeat that enemy.
For a weapon, he had the main cannon which had evolved below his main body where he held it in his legs. Its power would drop without the pressurization of the twin-fuselage, but it was still powerful enough to pierce through the sky. More importantly, he would not have to wait as long to fire it.
Currently, the enemy was trying to remove his legs that were embedded in the back of the falling twin-fuselage.
In its close-combat form, it could not fly freely enough to nimbly evade the main cannon blast.
And so Black Sun immediately fired.
His goal was simply to pierce through both the enemy and cast-off twin-fuselage wings and to make those wings explode.
The black light raced out and first pierced into the twin-fuselage wings. The black structure still retained some of the residual power from its job as a pressurizer and it shook as it was pierced through during its fall.
A massive explosion scattered black smoke and red flames through the air.
The great noise reverberated through the sky and the air trembled as if from an earthquake.
The great voice of the explosion was numbingly loud, but Black Sun did not let his guard down. He made full use of his vision’s scanning ability and worked to detect his enemy.
Sure enough, he saw the enemy rising to the heavens on the other side of the blossoming flames.
The blue and white mechanical dragon was unharmed. Shimmering heat burst from his rear accelerators as he attempted to circle around overhead to reach Black Sun.
The enemy had changed form again. The muscular body of the close-combat form had grown pointed and his four legs were spread out as wings. Looking at his framework, he was clearly a non-transforming normal cruising mechanical dragon.
Based on the timing of his flight, the enemy had to have quickly transformed from the close-combat form to escape the explosion.
This meant the enemy could transform despite being a non-transforming model.
That should not have been possible.
However, Black Sun grasped the enemy’s trick, the enemy’s evolution, and the enemy’s will.
Black Sun changed his line of thinking: the enemy had chosen a different path of evolution than he had.
When he had lost to the enemy army, he had chosen to evolve an army to support himself.
But this enemy had desired to become a powerful single unit rather than strengthening that army.
Black Sun understood that this was a dangerous enemy.
And so he accelerated his lightened body to the western sky where he detected that familiar scent.
He could not allow the enemy to obtain the weapon there, so he accelerated in order to destroy it first.
As they approached Black Sun from above, Harakawa saw the dragon begin to race away.
“Is he trying to run!?”
“No! He is after the Vesper Cannon! He wants to destroy the weapon that can truly defeat him!”
“In that case,” muttered Harakawa while shifting from a descent to a pursuit of Black Sun. “Heo.”
He called her name, but it was so sudden that she was unable to reply.
“Are you listening, Heo Thunderson?’
“Oh, y-yes! What is it?”
He could see Black Sun’s back accelerating away up ahead. The dragon’s speed was enough to leave them behind in their normal cruising form, but Harakawa spoke calmly.
“It’s time to run. We can see the goal line and so can our opponent.”
Harakawa felt Thunder Fellow take in a slight breath. The breath gathered strength in his gut as if making up his mind.
And then he heard Heo’s voice.
“Let’s go, Harakawa, Thunder Fellow. It’s time to move the legs that stopped so long ago.”
Harakawa nodded, closed his eyes, and muttered the words that would set it all in motion.
“On your mark.”
He felt Thunder Fellow prepare and take in a breath as if drawing a thread taut.
And he shouted.
From a crouching start, Heo kicked herself forward and began to run.
Her fellow runner was Black Sun and he had already taken a false start, but she did not care.
She had long ago learned that victory would come to the true sportsman who played fair.
And even if he had cheated to get ahead, that cheating would mean nothing once she lined up alongside him.
When she took the first step, she changed to a running stance.
However, she did not say anything. She had begun to focus on nothing but running. Just like breathing, she changed to her running stance so naturally that she did not even notice.
In this case, her running stance was her high-speed cruising form.
They had used this system earlier in order to escape the midsized black dragon and avoid Black Sun’s attack.
It was the untested system that Thunder Fellow had been hesitant to use.
Heo now saw it activate and change her current body.
It began with a single action: a dismantling.
Scraping sounds reverberated from her entire body as she broke it down.
Every part making up her body – the head, torso, legs, tail, wings, armor, and everything else – had their bolts removed.
Gravitational control removed tens of thousands of bolts which floated in the air as the blue and white dragon’s body split away from the primary frame that formed the core of his body.
That steel-colored primary frame was normally hidden inside, but it was now exposed.
That frame was currently a normal mobility type. It revealed the dragon’s figure as a spine with connectors for the four legs, various types of armor panels, and the metal bones of the legs.
However, that framework was swallowed up by empty air and vanished. It had entered Thunder Fellow’s concept space.
The sound of colliding metal was the first thing to arrive in its place.
Next, a long, narrow, and pointed gathering of steel was ejected from that space.
This was the primary frame for the high-speed cruising form.
The blue and white mechanical dragon had swapped out his framework at the most fundamental level.
He did not transform and he did not have a fixed form; he would remodel himself.
As his head, torso, legs, and wings floated in midair, they pressed against the frame. And they were placed differently from the normal cruising form. The front legs would be in the way during flight, so they were placed below the torso as ballast for stability. Next, the legs extended backwards with no intention of every having them set foot on the ground. Lastly, the tail was placed on the very back like an airplane’s tail.
Transformations were restricted by the movement range of the frame and other parts, but Thunder Fellow was different. He completely dismantled himself and completely altered the parts’ locations with no concern for their original connections. This allowed him to use the optimal positions for durability, air resistance, and power connections.
He had decided to use this system in order to escape the midsized dragon earlier.
It had succeeded and, during this third use, the moving parts let out cries of joy at achieving the shortest and most efficient cycle.
The temporarily separated wires reconnected along the shortest routes and his new form allowed him to bring forth his most happy power.
With a soft sound of metal, everything was set in place.
That was when tens of thousands of bolts gave a harmony of connection.
The countless metallic noises sounded like the tones of brass instruments.
All of that happened in an instant to give Thunder Fellow a high-speed cruising form.
And that gave Heo her running stance.
She took the first step, accepted the power Harakawa sent to the rear accelerators, and kicked off the air behind her.
The great force lifted the front of her body, but she bent her spine a little to hold herself down. She then took the next step like a spring extending forward and launched herself further ahead.
Rather than just lift her knees, she also thrust them forward.
She did not move her legs in vain, she did not build up too much momentum and lose her balance, and she did not allow the position of her hips to rise or fall. She simply continued moving her body forward and raising her speed.
Repeating that was known as sprinting and the wind it created was known as a gust.
Her focus narrowed her vision down to a single point ahead of her.
Her increased senses had yet to be reinstated after avoiding the attack earlier and she was not looking at anything in particular as her surroundings rushed by her so quickly. She simply watched the darkness of the night, the overhead wiring of the railroad down below, and the black form not far ahead of her.
At the moment, all she had to do was overtake that dragon which had once been a friend of man.
The sound of her breathing and her pulse were all she could feel.
She did not hear or feel her surroundings.
Hearing and thinking had already left her understanding.
The word “wholeheartedly” no longer applied. She had emptied her heart and mind as she ran.
She understood nothing, but…
She had wanted to run here.
This was where she had wanted to run for so long. Running here would give her an answer to everything she did not understand.
And so she ran through all the unknowns. She ran toward the goal line that lay ahead.
She accelerated and threw her body forward.
Harakawa simply leaned forward.
They had already passed through the city, left the outskirts, and flown into the mountains.
Slowly but surely, Black Sun’s form was growing closer to the upper right.
Thunder Fellow’s acceleration had already brought them through an explosion of water vapor and several streams of mist wrapped around the front ends of the dragon’s various parts as he tore through the atmosphere.
The same was true of Black Sun to the upper right. Waving lines of water vapor were wrapped around the large black dragon as he accelerated westward.
Harakawa thought about where Black Sun was headed.
Sayama and his own mother had said IAI contained an organization named UCAT.
That was likely the dragon’s destination deep in the mountains of Okutama.
Down below, the Oume line left Ikusabata which told him how much farther to Okutama.
“About fifteen kilometers!”
At that point, he saw light to the upper left.
Black Sun was accelerating and that speed pushed his giant black form forward.
Even if he was powerful, he still had air resistance and his own weight to deal with. Thunder Fellow should have had an overwhelming speed advantage over that three hundred meter dragon.
“Did he wish to evolve again after his experience fighting an enemy faster than any before?”
Black Sun’s wish had been granted, even if he still did not know the identity or past of his opponent.
But that was true of them as well. They had known nothing.
“But that’s different now. Listen, Thunder Fellow,” said Harakawa. “Return my senses to normal and give it all to Heo’s running so she can live up to the past.”
He received no response, but everything around him gave the answer.
His vision was now linked with their actual speed.
But he was not afraid. He simply leaned forward to pour on more acceleration.
Without even a moment’s hesitation, he took in the power supplied by Heo. That’s enough, he thought in a world moving too quickly for him to see. This is your will and your power.
As if to prove that this was her full strength, the world sped up even more.
Only Black Sun was visible to the upper right due to his similar speed.
The giant black form was growing closer. Amid the dense flow of the world around them, the ever-accelerating Black Sun slowly lined up alongside his vision.
But then Black Sun accelerated even further.
“How many more gears does he have hidden away!?” shouted Harakawa.
But then he heard a voice.
It was the quiet sound of someone’s mind leaking into the cockpit.
As Heo ran, the mind she was no longer aware of gave off a quiet noise much like radio static.
It took the form of a song.
It was a hymn Harakawa would hear at the base or the hospital on Christmas Eve.
And it was the song his family had sung the night his father had passed away.
Had it been the same for her?
“Silent night, holy night.”
They split the coming wind with a bursting sound.
“Long we hoped that He might.”
They accelerated as if kicking their body forward.
“As our Lord, free us of wrath.”
But Black Sun gave another blast of acceleration.
“Since times of our fathers He hath.”
Black Sun slowly began to pull away.
“Promised to spare all mankind.”
But Harakawa recalled a certain fact.
“Promised to spare all mankind.”
He remembered when he had timed Heo on the hundred meters. She had said her personal best was 13 seconds.
Her time at the fifty meter line had been in the upper half of six seconds. She could never have gotten thirteen seconds at that pace.
But he had said something back then.
He said it again even though she could not hear him.
“You’re the type that does better on the second half!”
And that proved accurate.
The mechanical dragon body that had already accelerated so much suddenly shook as if jumping up, but Harakawa knew what that meant.
“Are we beginning to accelerate!?”
That was exactly what happened.
In just an instant, it looked to Harakawa like they had launched Black Sun backwards.
They overtook him and their intense series of accelerations did not stop there.
Their speed continued to rise and he simply leaned his entire body forward. He felt like he was leading her, like he was standing on the goal line and calling her toward him.
They continued on.
The ground below was dark as they entered the mountains.
He felt a presence approaching from behind and saw Black Sun’s nose out of the corner of his right eye.
There was a lot he wanted to say: things he did not understand, things that angered him, and much more. However, he gathered all that into a single cry.
“Win this, Heo Thunderson!”
A moment later, they reached the goal line.
The tape they were meant to break was made of light.
Harakawa recognized the band of light from his time on the base.
It was a runway’s signal lights.
But as he shifted his balance backwards to slow Thunder Fellow, he realized it was not working.
At this rate, they would pass right over UCAT.
And he knew why: Heo was not granting him permission to pilot.
He received no response. Not from Heo anyway.
“It is no use, Harakawa. She has passed out.”
After the continuous tension of the battle and her victory in the race that followed, everything she had been holding onto must have shattered and turned to exhaustion.
He was sure he could wake her and Thunder Fellow could resuscitate her, but there was no time. They would travel the three thousand meters of the runway in only a few seconds at their supersonic speed.
…What do I do!?
He thought and let go of the roll bars on either side.
And then he found the answer.
Black Sun realized his loss had turned to victory.
Beyond the band of light and beyond the wreckage of his child craft, he found the familiar object. He knew he would be in constant danger if he did not destroy that.
The enemy had arrived first, but for some reason, that enemy was not making a move to collect it. After all, he was not slowing down.
Black Sun had been planning to ram the enemy in the moment he tried to collect it, but he now scanned the enemy.
That was when he realized the enemy had lost control.
Based on the enemy’s course, he would pass over the building behind the cannon.
Even if he slowed down now, he was moving too fast to collect the cannon. He would either crash into the building or destroy the cannon due to the difference in relative speed.
Black Sun calmly chose to fall in behind the enemy.
And he prepared his main cannon.
However, his sight devices captured a certain movement: the false humans were frantically moving about on the runway down below.
But there were more than just people there.
He also saw a group of automatons and…
Sayama stood on the ground between the runway and the white building with a cellphone to his ear.
“It is fortunate you remembered I had called and that your phone has a callback number, Harakawa!!”
He hung up just as the blue and white mechanical dragon was about to pass by overhead.
“Here they come, everyone! Are you ready!?”
Sayama looked around as everyone around him replied.
On the runway and in front of the building were people in white armored uniforms, people in blue armored uniforms, automatons, and plant creatures.
Sayama raised his voice toward them all while waving his left arm sideways at shoulder height and then raising just the forearm.
As that word carried through the air, gunfire shot up from the surface.
It was a volley of signal guns.
The flying bullets and beams all shot toward Black Sun who pursued the blue and white dragon.
Their quick approach ended in an instant and both clear sounds and sparks filled the air.
And a response came from the sky.
Black attacks poured down like rain. Straight-line unguided shots flew toward the shooters.
But the close-range attack unit struck the black light with their armor and weapons.
Their swords shattered and their armor split, but they let out spirited cries.
Their defense had been a success. They were not unharmed, but no one had been lost.
However, it was not over yet.
The wind moved. It was a large and gentle wind.
The wind came from the Vesper Cannon which sat in front of the building.
The forty meter cannon was being lifted up.
And this was done by a black giant named Susamikado.
Susamikado used both arms to lift the Vesper Cannon overhead. The wings on its back expelled heat to maintain its balance while shimmering heat shot out around it.
“We can do this!!” replied Hiba as he lifted the cannon.
He tossed the Vesper Cannon into the air for just an instant and adjusted his grip from below. He pointed it up at a sharp angle as if preparing to throw it like a spear.
And then Susamikado flapped its wings.
While holding a cannon several times longer than itself, Susamikado forcibly spread its wings.
It floated up slowly and heavily, but it rose several meters.
A force that could no longer be called wind exploded in the space between the ground and its wings.
However, the god of war’s body and the weapon would not rise any further. They came to a stop and started to fall.
“Dammit!” shouted Hiba. “Is there nothing to help with this!?”
“Ryuuji-kun!” said Mikage’s voice. “We promised to take a bath together if this went well, remember!?”
“I’d forgotten about that!!”
He forced it. He used the acceleration of the wings to power the throwing motion and scorching wind burst from the motors across his body.
And he threw it.
The cannon flew into the center of the sky and toward the nose of the blue and white mechanical dragon flying there.
But its acceleration was still not enough. At this rate, the dragon would run into it with too much relative speed.
In that instant, an orderly female voice came from the front of the building.
It was #8. A total of more than sixty automatons in maid uniforms were lined up in front of her.
All of them were holding hands.
With that command, space seemed to bend. A massive gravity lens was created at the center of the ring of sixty maids and it flew upwards as a gathering of pressure.
It was directed toward the Vesper Cannon which had been thrown into the air.
The gravity lens surrounded the cannon with a roar and launched it as if it had been hit with a racket.
There was only one possible destination for the flying cannon: the same direction as the blue and white mechanical dragon meant to receive it.
Thunder Fellow caught up to the Vesper Cannon that flew ahead of him.
His entire body dismantled.
He then placed his body around the Vesper Cannon’s mount instead of his primary frame. A normal mechanical dragon could not hold the long cannon because their frame got in the way, but he could truly become one with it by removing his frame and holding it in his arms.
The bolts gouged into the gaps of the different parts.
The dragon and cannon connected together and Harakawa gave a shout from the cockpit.
“Can you hear me, Heo Thunderson!?”
A groan of awakening filled the cockpit, soon followed by a gasp.
“You only passed out. The battle isn’t over yet, but…you did well.”
Silence answered his final comment, but then…
“Th-thank you.” She sounded hesitant. “But, um, sorry. It was all so amazing and I’d never felt anything like that before, so I passed out.”
“It isn’t time yet for the nonsensical post-victory interview. …The lonely dragon is on his way.”
Black Sun had not given up and Thunder Fellow’s voice gave proof of their fears.
“He has already begun gathering power in his main cannon. We can connect and charge up at the same time, but I do not know if we will make it in time. And I am sure Black Sun knows that. He will build up power to just barely fire first and divert all other power to aid his attack.”
Black Sun moved forward to line up alongside them.
He was less than one hundred meters away and continued to move forward.
“Is he approaching so we can’t even make a low-power shot!?”
A moment later, Black Sun drew his swords. Long black swords appeared from each shoulder.
“He cannot fire on us either if he approaches,” shouted Thunder Fellow. “Charge up using the Vesper Cannon’s power! Until then, fight back with my own power!!”
The large and small mechanical dragons soaring high in the sky began fighting with gunfire and extreme close-quarters combat.
They exchanged bullets and sword blows while taking repeated evasive actions.
They attacked each other from a position that prevented the other from moving away but close enough to threaten a collision.
The white blades were stopped by the black blades and the black blades were avoided by the blue and white dragon.
That blue and white dragon flew about as a torrent of black gunfire shot his way and avoided it all by reducing the surface area the attacks could hit. At the same time, he put away his swords and fired blasts of lightning, but the black dragon deflected them into the sky with his black blades.
The two dragons approached, clashed, fired, flipped their bodies around, and took a spiraling course through the sky.
Sounds of metal, of firing, and of bursting light intersected many times over and carried through the air.
The dragons were followed by shimmering heat and trails of white clouds created as they tore through the atmosphere.
They swung their entire bodies, accelerated their slashes, repeatedly fired, and evaded.
And a mixture of all those actions repeated at incredible speed.
Both of them let out cries and both of their paths through the sky intersected.
“Let’s…let’s end this!!”
It was like taking your partner’s proffered hand.
It was like supporting and rotating your partner on a turn.
It was like facing your partner and pressing your cheeks together.
“Please remember the people who meant so much to you!!”
The avoided gunfire tore through the sky and air, the blocked gunfire sent countless sparks flying through the sky, and the broken swords scattered in a spray before being replaced.
They rotated as if exchanging places, they did not let up on their attacks or evasions, the black dragon had its back to the sky, the blue and white dragon had its back to the earth, and a moment later they exchanged positions once more.
The only thing that remained unchanged was that they were both soaring.
The two dragons roared and danced through the night sky. Their attacks and evasions were the quick and unfaltering steps of that dance.
When they defended, they would strike back. When struck back at, they would defend. There was no time lag. They passed back and forth an embodiment of the word “attack”.
But their dance came to an end.
The long cannon on the bottom of the black dragon finished gathering black light.
That was when the unseen space that was their destination closed.
A change came over that space.
It moved upwards as if to create a way to escape.
Sensing that, the black dragon lowered his speed to move outside the dancing movements of the blue and white dragon.
The blue and white one responded by changing his course and rising into the sky.
They moved apart so they could both fire. After ascending and coming to a gentle stop, the blue and white dragon suddenly began to fly in circles. And these circles spiraled down toward the black dragon whose back was to the earth.
White light surrounded the long cannon on the bottom of the blue and white dragon, but it was still weak.
Nevertheless, he fired.
A straight line of light tore down from the heavens and toward the earth. It ripped apart the air and created a bursting ring of wind while continuing to target the large black dragon down below. And as if to strengthen his aim, the blue and white dragon accelerated.
He moved to slam his entire body into the black dragon.
The black dragon looked up into the sky to face him.
With a great roar, he fired.
A roar ran through the earth. The trees of the mountains far below were tossed up as the mountain surface shook and it almost looked like the mountain itself swelled up.
The recoil of the blast smashed the earth within a dozen or so kilometers of the black dragon.
The black light containing all that force spread out as if to envelope the entire sky, but it soon converged once more.
The concept cannon pierced upwards toward the heavens.
The descending white light was easily swallowed up.
This would end everything.
But the moment before the blast struck, something was destroyed.
The power diving blue and white dragon broke apart.
But this was an intentional dismantling.
Two objects descended through the black light piercing vertically through the center of the night sky.
One was the cannon held by the blue and white dragon.
The other was the blue and white dragon itself sans primary frame.
However, their falling speed was too great. Before the blue and white dragon could reattach its framework, it had passed by the larger dragon. Not only that, but it had already fired. Even if it grabbed the falling cannon once more, it would take time to recharge.
The cannon- and frame-less mechanical dragon passed by the black dragon’s side.
Wondering what had happened, the black dragon tried to turn around.
As he did, he caught sight of a point in the sky.
In the center of the heavens, he saw a single star directly to the north.
But he also saw a silhouette in front of that star.
It was a human boy’s silhouette.
This boy stood on the black mechanical dragon’s nose.
Harakawa stood on the giant black mechanical dragon’s nose.
He was gasping for breath and the tension of this gamble ruled his body.
Using the cannon as a diversion, they had dismantled Thunder Fellow both to evade and to use the dragon’s gravitational control to send Harakawa here.
It had gone well, but…
“I saw it when we first faced each other, but you probably didn’t since it’s right between your giant sight devices.”
Harakawa reached out a hand toward something white sticking out from between Black Sun’s eyes. It was shaped like a shaft and he gave its identity.
“A spear. …Heo’s great-grandfather most likely got this attack in on you.”
He grabbed it. Most of the shaft was shaped like a battery pack and there was something like a trigger near the tip. For some reason, Harakawa’s surname was written on the side of the white shaft: Northwind.
He found that odd, but pulled it out nonetheless.
As soon as he raised it overhead, Black Sun turned the light in his sight devices toward the boy.
The small cannons on his shoulders also aimed at the boy.
But Harakawa had no reason to be concerned. He pulled the trigger and felt a power in the tip of the spear slice through the wind. It was a great invisible piercing power that almost seemed to be made of wind.
“Remember this!” shouted Harakawa. “The north wind will pierce even the dragon!!”
With a clear sound, he slammed the long extending blade between the great dragon’s eyes.
“And remember what it is you are meant to do!!”
With a squeezing resistance, the blade penetrated into Black Sun’s head.
And after thrusting the blade down to the base, the spear broke. Whether it had overloaded or completed its duty, the white shaft shattered like pottery and scattered into the sky.
Black Sun let out a great cry.
As that cry shook his body and reached his ears, Harakawa leaped into empty air.
He passed between the wings and armor panels on the black dragon’s back and said farewell to its giant form.
As the wind rushed past him in his fall, he saw the darkness of the earth down below, but another color filled the center of that darkness.
Thunder Fellow waited to catch him in the open cockpit down below and white light filled the cannon he held.
The sign of the conclusion could be seen from Japanese UCAT’s runway.
The Kanda Laboratory had altered the concept space to remove it from the city center and instead stretch it almost to satellite orbit far beyond the stratosphere.
The darkness filling that concept space was pierced by a single white line rising upwards.
Everyone saw that white light break through the black mechanical dragon’s chest and out his back.
And another light was visible as well.
That light came from the girl and boy standing in front of the white building.
They were Shinjou and Sayama.
Shinjou tugged on Sayama’s sleeve as he looked into the western sky.
“What is it?”
“Um,” replied Shinjou after making sure everyone else was focused on the west. “About this.”
She extended her left hand. That hand wore Georgius which was wrapped in light.
She frowned and tilted her head.
“What does this mean? Why can I wear it?”
“I do not know and it seemed the old man did not either. All I know is that my mother left Georgius with me and that only the two of us can use it, Shinjou-kun.”
Sayama reached into his pocket and pulled out the papers Roger had given him.
“I still cannot read a single word of the conceptually hidden contents, but I can read the cover now. How about you?”
Shinjou looked down at the cover.
It gave Sayama Asagi’s name as the primary developer, but it said something else as well.
“The research and development was based on some abandoned documents found in the Kinugasa residence?”
She turned toward him in surprise.
“What does that mean? Had Professor Tenkyou started to create Georgius?”
“I plan to find that out for myself. Just as you will pursue Shinjou Yukio, I will follow in my father’s footsteps.”
He then pointed at another point on the cover where a stamp had turned black when the copy was made. The black letters of the stamp said “Project Suspended”.
“It is also worth knowing why we hold in our hands the product of a project that was suspended.”
Shinjou grew pale but slowly nodded as if to support his words.
And then the people around them gasped.
“Look,” said a surprised voice. “Black Sun is rising into the sky.”
Black Sun remembered everything.
The blow into his head had fully activated his self-preservation functions. Similar to having his life flash before his eyes, it drew out all of his knowledge and experiences. This told him there was no saving him and…
Black Sun’s mind grew clear and his memories returned.
And once he knew everything, he chose to rise into the sky with his fatally wounded body.
He moved toward the night, toward the sky, and toward the heavens so that he could look out over this world. From those heavens, he could confirm that this world would never be his and that it would never belong to the people he knew.
It would show him that the people who might praise him were no more.
The large black dragon rose.
He moved his wings and lifted his breaking body in his desire to move ever upward. After countless evolutions, he had gained powerful weapons, sturdy armor, and great speed, but this ascent was all he could manage now.
It’s ending, he decided. No, it was already over.
He had destroyed his people.
Even if it had been to keep them from suffering and even if he had been ordered to do so, he had still destroyed the world he was meant to protect.
He had trapped himself in the shell of “malfunctioning” and believed in the justification of his actions.
That had come from his refusal to accept that the people were gone and his refusal to accept that his world had been destroyed.
He had lost before the battle had even begun.
Yet he had once more taken a great number of lives and done what he should never have done.
The earth grew smaller down below.
He could see an island. Unlike the islands of the planets he had protected, it was a long, narrow archipelago.
The ocean surrounded it and another large island lay beyond that.
He belatedly realized that everything would grow dark because he was on the night-side of the planet. The planets he had once protected had had the same natural phenomenon.
The people who had created him had often asked how the world looked to him as he flew.
He had always replied that it had planets and it had people.
He could see the cities of this land too. They could be seen everywhere as dots of light.
The cities of this world’s people could be seen even in the darkness of night.
And he also saw the end of the planet. The horizon formed an arc and he visually confirmed that this world was a round planet.
He altered his vision to amplify the light so he could see everything.
Once he did that, he saw a blue planet.
It is the same, he concluded. It matches how I always described the world to the people.
The people had always looked satisfied with that answer and they had praised him. They had told him to do his best which was only natural for a machine, but he had viewed it as an expression of praise and he had used it to judge how well he had completed his job.
He recalled his own creator.
That creator had been a man in glasses. The man had once brought his wife and daughter to the hangar for a periodic inspection.
The young girl had seemed afraid of his appearance, but she had run after him when he had flown from the hangar. He remembered how she had raced along the ground, waving at him and apologizing for being afraid. He had intentionally slowed so he could pretend to race her, but he remembered ultimately turning his back.
There had to be similar people in this world. Compared to the people of his world, they were indeed fake, but they were the real people for this world.
I am sorry, thought Black Sun while admitting to his error. I did something unforgivable.
Even if he wanted to make up for it, his body was already broken and falling apart.
He could not even stop his own destruction and make up for his mistakes. His only remaining option was to inform the world of his loss so its people could rest easy.
He would tell them that he was no more.
He did not think of himself as a failed creation. He felt that he himself had chosen failure. Because his own compassion had led him to lose sight of his reason for existing, he had chosen a path of failure.
He saw something rising up after him down below.
The blue and white mechanical dragon was rising up in front of him.
The other dragon’s movements and heat distribution showed it had no intention of fighting and he could not have fought back even if it had.
So for a short time, he slowed his ascent and stopped.
As he watched, the other dragon set up an atmospheric protection field and opened the cockpit in the head.
Two people sat in that cockpit: the boy who had made the strike to his head and the girl who had combined with the dragon.
The girl looked up at him while standing on the seat with her shoes off.
Why? wondered Black Sun. Why do you look on the verge of tears despite winning?
He was the one who had tried to take everything from her and from this world.
But that was over now. Black Sun named himself to the victor so that a record of his loss would remain and so that everyone would know who was responsible for it all.
“I am Black Sun.”
He transmitted his voice and it played from the other dragon’s cockpit.
When she heard the name, the girl lightly held her own body, took in a breath, and spoke.
She spoke her own name.
Black Sun heard the name.
It meant happiness in the language of his own world, and…
Yes, thought Black Sun. I am glad I did not destroy that dragon. I am glad I was able to hear that name.
He recalled his own mission. It was the same as his brother craft White Creation: to protect the people and through that…
…To guide the people to happiness.
That was something he could no longer do after all the lives he had taken.
Nevertheless, a result had survived to stand before him. This was a survivor of the answer that had destroyed him.
He was reunited with the answer of the people he could never meet again.
He did not understand.
He had been unable to fulfill his mission, so why was he able to hear that answer?
Why had he received this answer through his own destruction?
He did not know.
But he accepted his end. The end of his body and the end of his mission.
He would never again destroy another. And to prove it, he opened his chest and pulled out the Concept Core half. He used his gravitational control to pull out the thirty centimeter ball of bluish white light and sealed it in a gravity shell so it could be safely touched.
Finally, he gave it to the girl who had inherited the world he knew.
She hesitantly accepted it in her hands.
Without waiting for her to finish speaking and without listening, Black Sun looked up into the center of the heavens.
There, he saw a star. It was the same solitary star he had seen from the surface.
He began to ascend as if to take that star for himself. He moved to leave this world and reach a place where there was nothing to protect but also nothing to harm. He made his way toward a place where he could watch over everything that had been lost because of him.
Was the girl below waving to him?
One who has inherited the happiness of the world I was meant to protect, I wish happiness on you and your world.
Black Sun cried out. He gave one last roar of joy.
And he continued his self-destructive ascent. He regretted everything he had done, but he felt he had fulfilled the very first mission he had been given.
And he decided that was the one and greatest happiness he had received from the people.
At 10:12, all of those in the concept space saw a light born in the sky near the North Star.
The light was far too small for the name Black Sun, but it was sharp and bright.
That was Black Sun’s signal to say they had reached the goal.
Afterwards, the light slowly and quietly vanished.
All that remained was the wind blowing in from the north. That unseen wind blew roughly through the night.
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