Part 79: Blue SkyPart 79 - Blue Sky
SFX: There is nothing to be heard save the gentle sound of of waves flowing back and forth.
A shallow shoal, no higher than one's ankles. I didn't feel any coldness.
The sound of the waves whispered intermittently in my ears.
I was holding the handlebars on the back of a wheelchair.
"Shogun".... No, the real Nishijou Takumi's head, clad in a knit cap, was close before me. He sat in the wheelchair with his back hunched a little.
There was nothing around us.
Shells buried in the sand, for instance, or seabirds flying gracefully through the sky; I couldn't see anything of the sort.
Life had no presence here. There was only the blue ocean and the absolutely clear sky.
The land was flat, and no matter which way I faced, I could look out across the horizon in every direction, 360 degrees around.
This wasn't the real world.
I heard Shogun's voice, mingling with the sound of the breaking waves.
From where I stood, I couldn't see what kind of look he had on his face.
His was not a voice filled with any particular sense of lamentation. It was truly as though he had said it offhand.
"I think you'll understand if you take a look at my body."
Tiny, and covered in wrinkles, and underweight. All of his hair had fallen out.
"It's a hereditary disease."
"My body stopped developing when I was ten years old, and the symptoms first emerged."
"And then.... it began aging."
"When you were ten...."
A certain gruesome spectacle engraved in my memory rose to the forefront.
"I started having symptoms about three months before that bus accident."
"The bus accident, did you....?"
"....Maybe so. But at the time, I had little awareness of my power."
"Long before my illness manifested.... as long as I can remember, in fact, I was able to use my abilities as a Gigalomaniac."
"I thought it was normal."
"Consciously or unconsciously, I've used my power countless times before now."
"Which is why the 'contradictions' in my existence have grown too large."
"Mathematically speaking, antiparticles are that which 'leads toward the past.'"
"Because of this, the more of them a Gigalomaniac stocks up, the greater the consequential 'lag' between him and present conditions."
"The more I use my abilities, the more this disease advances."
"Can't you just cure yourself with your power as a Gigalomaniac?"
"If I use my power, the disease progresses. To put it bluntly, even if I make use of my power, the balance of plus and minus adds up to zero. Nothing changes."
"Why did you make someone like me, an otaku freak, a good-for-nothing jerkoff? You should've gone with someone stronger, and more proactive, and cooler, and better-looking...."
"It isn't an easy task to create an individual person--not to mention one capable of using the power of a Gigalomaniac."
"In fact, creating you sent me into a coma for close to a year."
"....Are you saying I'm incomplete?"
"That itself is what makes you so very human."
"You don't have to follow through like that for me."
"I'm in earnest."
"Rimi always got angry at me, telling me not to use my power."
"She wants to save you, doesn't she?"
"But I can't afford to obey Rimi's warnings."
"Because my Ir2 was the trigger leading to the current critical situation."
I r 2.... That peculiar doodle drawn on the reverse side of the essay.
"Ir2 caught the eye of a certain scientist, and at last the Nozomi Technology Company began researching it."
"The result was Project Noah."
"You could describe it as a device to artificially generate the abilities of Gigalomaniacs."
"I only picked up on their plans after meeting Rimi."
"The terrible torture she went through was one aspect of the project."
"They needed CODE samples to make the Noah System more efficient."
"They're unique brain waves emitted by Gigalomaniacs in the process of using their powers."
"In order to obtain them, Nozomi's president--Norose--inflicted harsh torture on Rimi."
"Because the power of Gigalomaniacs awakens when they harbor intensely negative emotions, and then they come into possession of their Di-Swords."
"Depending on the person, it could be when they're in a hazardous situation, when they're agitated, sad, filled with hate, or laughing."
"Yes. To coerce you into awakening."
It wasn't only me and Rimi.
Those who had been forced to awaken as Gigalomaniacs because of the psychological or physical torture involved in Project Noah, they were:
Ayase. Sena. Kozu-pii. And even Nanami. They had been through horrific trials.
"Ir2 gave rise to Noah II, and I have to stop it with my own hands."
"But I'm stuck in this body. I can't so much as move to my satisfaction."
"In addition, Nozomi has started targeting me, wanting to take my CODE sample."
The place where he'd been hospitalized was indeed AH Tokyo General Hospital. It had hidden ties to the Nozomi Group.
"So I had to hide myself."
"The 'Ami-chan' in the illusionary hospital room...."
"Rimi was the only one able to come in there."
"I became incapable of moving about, and then--"
"You made me...."
"Shogun" gave a small nod.
"Rimi told me to erase you over and over."
"She told me to stop, because it would whittle away at my life."
"But there isn't much time left to me anyway. Whether or not I use my power now won't make much of a difference."
"Besides, once you awoke and became capable of using your power, my life would surely fail to hold out any longer."
"You mean, we're.... one in self and soul?"
"'I won't have any more delusions.'"
"Because you have a very powerful imagination."
"How much longer will your life last?"
"Most likely.... until sometime today or tomorrow, maybe."
The time left to him was so much shorter than I'd expected, it stunned me.
"Because I awoke?"
"Don't worry about it. Because I longed for your awakening from the bottom of my heart."
"What'll happen to me if you die?"
"At the same time that you share my heart and body, you have also become a real human being by means of real-booting."
"Your manner of birth may be unique, but you're a human being."
"If I disappear, will it save you?"
"It'd be pointless. At most, I think my remaining lifespan would extend from a few days to a few weeks."
"But don't make such foolish choices."
"I'd like you to destroy Noah II. With that goal in mind, I don't want you to hold back on using your power."
"....You don't have to tell me. I know."
"I'm not such a good person that I'd hold back for your sake."
"Shogun" laughed, his shoulders shaking faintly. It kind of offended me, since I hadn't meant to be funny.
"I'm glad you awoke."
Its two wheels cut through the water, forming ripples. I had no intention of chasing after him. I hazily saw him off.
"My role has ended."
"Pretty selfish of you. Gonna just shove it off on me?"
"I'm a little bit tired. Let me sleep."
In his wheelchair, he turned back toward me. As usual, I couldn't read his expression. But his voice was urgent.
"There's no time. Be fast. Norose has moved Noah II into full-scale operation."
"At this point, our only choice is to destroy Noah II directly."
"I'm counting on you...."
"You've got no right to rely on me."
"I'm only doing what I myself decided on."
The sound of the waves retreated into the distance.
SFX: The earthquake brought on by the Third Melt has come and gone. Yet the sound of rubble crumbling away and falling can still be heard, alongside an electrical sparking sound. A downed power line, perhaps? A heavy wind blows through the empty streets.
Radio Newscaster: "233 casualties have been confirmed at present, but the final count is expected to surpass 30,000--"
Radio Newscaster: "According to an announcement by the Meteorological Agency, this latest earthquake was a 7 on the Japanese earthquake scale--the highest level possible--and magnitude 7.8, which puts it on par with the Great Kantou Earthquake of 1923."
Radio Newscaster: "Some of the buildings in Shibuya have been destroyed, and there is also an emerging pattern of large-scale cave-ins."
Radio Newscaster: "The Shibuya portion of the Shuto Expressway has been completely closed down due to the collapse of overhead structures."
Radio Newscaster: "As for public transportation, all railways, such as the Yamanote Line, have been--"
Radio noise began to mingle with the newscaster's voice, and at last she stopped saying anything.
"It's too old to be of much use."
Both Ayase and Yua's school uniforms were completely soiled with dirt, making it readily apparent how much they had struggled to walk this far.
After the earthquake took place, Yua and Ayase had returned to Shibuya from Roppongi on foot, and by going even further, to the Freesia office, they were able to join up with Momose.
Expecting the missing Ban to come back, the three of them spent the night near the office, in a mixed-use building, which tilted from the earthquake, and which had looked ready to topple over any minute now.
But in the end, Ban hadn't shown himself.
Momose proposed leaving Shibuya, but Ayase disagreed.
"Gladioul has awakened. We must hasten to combine forces with the other black knights...."
She asserted, tugging forcefully at Yua's hand, and heading off toward the wreckage-swamped central district of Shibuya. Yua and Momose were left with no other option but to go along with her.
Seven in the morning. Less than an hour had passed since the brightening of the sky.
There was absolutely nothing in the way of refreshing morning air. The wretched state that had been hidden by the darkness of night grew gradually more and more visible together with the arrival of the sun. Now they were right in the thick of it.
The neighborhood of Shibuya had transformed into a vision of Hell.
The roadways were broken to pieces, with their asphalt projecting up.
A number of buildings had collapsed, and the sides of the streets were buried in fallen wreckage. Most everything made of glass had cracked, and even a huge sign originally found on the roof of a building had fallen and was lying down there.
It pained Momose every time she saw those bodies, and she would mentally press her hands together in their name. But there were so many of them that, midway through, she made up her mind not to think about it. Otherwise, her own heart wouldn't last much longer.
The people they occasionally passed were expressionless, and appeared to be wandering around on heavy feet without a destination.
Several men cooperated in an effort to rescue those buried alive in the wreckage, but there was little they could do without heavy machinery.
Momose looked again at the thing Yua had in her hand.
Ayase had explained it to them. A sword one could draw, as if by magic, out of nothingness. Ban had been telling the truth.
Yua seemed startled and bewildered by the fact that she'd obtained one of those swords.
Ayase, walking ahead, didn't look back when Momose called to her. Her expression was tinged with impatience.
"You said there are seven people in total, the two of you included, who have these Di-Swords, right?"
"Do you know where the others are?"
"I sense it. The Will."
"They're definitely in this direction."
Ayase was an impenetrable fortress.
Helpless, Momose repeated the same words for the nth time.
"It's dangerous to walk around rashly right now. Before anything else, we should retreat to a secure location."
"There's no time."
The ravaged street of Dougen Hill, which cars could no longer drive along. She cast her eyes beyond it.
She wore a Suimei Academy uniform, but it was even more tattered than Ayase and Yua's.
And she embraced a massive, cross-shaped sword to her chest with her left hand alone. Her footsteps were uncertain, and she seemed about to collapse at any moment.
She was concerned about the Di-Sword Nanami bore up, but for now she set aside the prospect of inquiring after it, and instead supported Nanami's small-statured form.
As Momose spoke encouragingly, Nanami turned vague eyes in her direction.
"Eh? Did you say something?"
"Where is.... Nana's bangle?"
"This girl.... she's Nishijou-kun's little sister....!"
"It makes sense, for her, to qualify as a black knight. If she's Takumi's sister."
Nanami moaned in pain.
"My right hand.... uu..... uuu...."
"Your right hand?"
Momose, taking an offhand glance at Nanami's right hand, sucked in a breath.
"How awful.... it can't be...."
Yua and Ayase couldn't comprehend why Momose was so shaken up. There was a bloodstained bandage around Nanami's right hand, but it didn't seem to be such a dreadful injury.
But in Momose's eyes, Nanami's arm appeared as having been hacked in two at her bandaged wrist.
She had undergone some treatment, but the wound was still open.
Ayase, blank-faced, tried to grasp the fingers of Nanami's right hand. But her extended hand slipped clean through it without holding onto anything.
Like a hologram, Nanami's fingers had no actual substance. A single drop of blood dripped from the crimson-stained bandage into Ayase's hand.
"Rimi-san.... saved.... me...."
"Rimi-san, you mean Sakihata Rimi-san?"
"Ye, yeah.... She's Nishijou-kun's friend...."
As she had always thought of Takumi himself as being the true perpetrator behind the New-Gen incidents, Yua had investigated his affairs in considerable detail.
Naturally, she had also looked into Nishijou Nanami and Sakihata Rimi, as they were people who made frequent contact with him.
"Sakihata Rimi is also one of the seven black knights."
"Eh? Sh, she is?"
"Please don't get any closer to Taku."
"I don't want him to be forced to awaken."
"Have you no sense of responsibility? As one of the black knights."
"I'll do something about it on my own."
"It's very beautiful, that emotion of yours. But it isn't what the 'Great Will' desires."
"Nor do I wish to make you shoulder everything by yourself."
"For now, we have to hurry up and take her to a hospital. The blood isn't stopping."
Momose gently laid the handkerchief she carried with her against Nanami's wound.
"She has a terrible fever, and she looks pale. We've got to be quick about it."
"Bro.... I wanna see my bro...."
A single tear streamed from Nanami's empty eyes.
SFX: Everyone screams as they fall.
As they lost a place to stand, Momose and the four others began free-falling, pulled down by gravity.
As though they were plummeting toward the darkness of a bottomless abyss.