Chapter 31

With the swords still spewing from Kazue’s chest, Naomi dropped to hands and knees in the dirt and began pulling them from the pile. As soon as she took hold of their grips, they vanished as if they were mere illusions. Even with her godlike speed, Naomi could not keep up with the dozen swords a second that were added to the pile. As she worked, the intensely proud Naomi was aware of how undignified she appeared, but the stakes were too high to stop now. After all, the purpose of the pile must be to hide the real sword. What other purpose could it serve?

Momentary excitement shot through Naomi’s body when she laid her hand on a sword which did not immediately disappear. However, as she pulled it from the pile, she saw that the gemstone set in the guard was yellow, not green. She threw the counterfeit sword aside, doing her best not to dwell on the lost time it had caused her. Her sour mood improved as the flow of swords slowed and stopped. Kazue, once again in control of her own body, backed away from the pile. Although thousands of swords remained, it was only a matter of time now before Naomi worked her way through them.

Minutes later

Jin had managed to regain enough control of the Gundam to deploy the heatproof film before reentering the atmosphere, but with the psycho-field gone, the vernier thrusters wouldn’t be powerful enough to allow her to land safely. They would, however, allow her to influence where she landed. Her first instinct was to smash the Gundam into the Soviet forces, but she quickly realized there were two problems with that.

The first problem was that the Soviets possessed beam weaponry, but not Minovsky reactors. They might not know not to shoot the Gundam’s reactor. Jin wasn’t sure if their non-Minovsky beams could actually collapse the reactor’s I-field, and even if it could, there was only a small chance that the collapse of the I-field could lead to a nuclear chain reaction, but any chance of a nuclear explosion was unacceptable. It wasn’t just that the hole in the GINZUISHOU would expose Neo Crystal Tokyo to radioactive fallout, but if one or both of the world’s nuclear superpowers mistook the explosion as a strike from the other, it could trigger all-out nuclear warfare which would bring all life on Earth to a premature end.

The second problem was more mundane. Although the Gundam would likely be smashed to bits on impact, the Soviets might be able to learn a few military secrets by studying the wreckage. The Weeaboo Confederacy’s continued existence relied on its superior military technology, and Jin did not want to be accused of allowing some of it to fall into enemy hands.

The best plan she could quickly think of was to dump the Gundam in the English Channel and eject to safety. This would set off a race between the Confederacy, the Futarchy, and the ‘Muricans to retrieve the wreckage, but if the black ships acted quickly enough, they could establish short-term naval and air superiority over the channel. She would have little control of where she landed, but if she was lucky, she would be found by allied forces, and if not, she would have to rely on her newtype powers to evade capture. Casting off the heatproof film, Jin Prepared to maneuver the Gundam towards the English Channel when she received a transmission.

“RX-93, you’re falling too quickly. Please maneuver into a neutral belly position to decrease your velocity. Over.”

As Jin obeyed the instructions, she scanned the area for the source of the transmission, spotting a Dodai YS flying at an altitude of nearly 50,000 feet. It obviously belonged to the Confederacy, but it could be part of the defense minister’s faction. “It won’t make a difference,” Jin replied. “I don’t have a parachute pack. I’m going to splash down into the ocean.”

“Negative,” the voice responded. “I’m here to catch you. There’s no time to argue. Maintain your current course and speed. When you get close enough, I’ll begin descending. When I give the order, maneuver into a feet-down position and fire your verniers to slow yourself as much as possible. We’ll make contact at 20,000 feet.”

“That’s insane,” Jin shot back. “If anything goes wrong, we’ll both—”

“Kiyoshi-sama trusted me with this meirei. Please, trust me too.”

“OK,” Jin said without a moment’s hesitation. For one thing, there was no time to hesitate, but that wasn’t the deciding factor. There was an earnestness to the voice coming over the radio. He could be an agent working for the defense minister, but Jin felt she could trust him.

Ima!” he commanded, and Jin fired her thrusters at full burn. She was still falling, but her relative velocity was approaching that of the Dodai’s. After a few seconds of burn, the Dodai pilot issued another command, “Cut!” Jin cut her thrusters and fell onto the back of the Dodai. The Gundam’s left foot attached safely to the aircraft, but the right foot slipped, and Jin had to reach down to steady the mech with its right arm. It was only once she had recovered her balance that she realized that the last order hadn’t come over the radio. She had heard it in her mind.

“You’re a newtype,” Jin observed. Although she couldn’t see her rescuer, she could feel much about him. He was a young man, brimming with a desire for justice, and with a deep admiration for Kiyoshi. Like her, he wasn’t entirely comfortable with being a newtype, but while she was uncomfortable knowing how others felt about her, he was uncomfortable when other newtypes understood his feelings too well. Realizing this made Jin feel guilty about reading him without his permission, but there was nothing either of them could have done to prevent it.

“Hang on tight,” was all he said in response. “I have to get you to the ground quickly so I can come back for Kiyoshi-sama.” Jin didn’t say anything, not wanting to upset him while her life still depended on his ability to land the Dodai, but it was impossible to hide the sadness she felt. His admiration of Kiyoshi was so pure, she knew how painful his breaking heart would feel, and she didn’t want to experience it.

“He’s not coming,” she told him. “He decided to stay in uchuu.” The young man didn’t understand. He knew Kiyoshi was always talking about emigrating to space, but he couldn’t survive all alone. Nevertheless, he knew she was telling the truth, and also that she was withholding details. The two of them spent the rest of the descent in silence, trying, and failing, to prevent each other from reading their emotions.

“Naomi-sama, the sensha are advancing again,” Chikako warned, “and faster this time.”

“They’re coming to secure the lever,” Naomi said, still sorting through the almost-depleted pile of swords.

“The lever?” Chikako asked.

“Someone didn’t do their homework,” Naomi chided. “Suffice it to say, it’s the reason they’re here in the first place, and if they learn I don’t have it yet, things are going to get messier. Hold them off for me.”

The Macedonian’s guns fired a full barrage at the oncoming tanks. A few tanks on the front line survived and continued to race towards Naomi, only to be destroyed by two of the returning ν Gundam’s funnels. The Soviets rushed to set up their artillery to defend their tanks, but were bombarded by missiles from the Dodai. The heavy force fields they had set up around the artillery protected them from beam weaponry, but they had been relying on the now-deceased magical girls to cast barriers that could protect them from missiles. Through the chaos, a few of the Soviets’ anti-aircraft guns managed to get a bead on the Dodai, but the Gundam jumped off, destroying most of the anti-aircraft guns with its vulcan cannons. The Dodai pilot took evasive maneuvers and flew off, leaving Jin to clean up.

As Chikako and Jin drove the Soviets from the battlefield, Naomi grabbed the last sword lying on the ground, and it, too, disappeared. She stood slowly, but her mind was racing. How could she salvage the situation? She might have to stop time again to give herself time to think, but doing so took a lot of energy, and she was starting to feel fatigued. It might not even help either, if she needed to collect new information.

Suddenly, she turned around and grabbed Kazue’s arm, preventing the gynoid from running her through from behind with the real Sword of Dios.

“I had nearly forgotten that scene,” Naomi muttered, as she pulled the sword from Kazue’s grip. “It’s been decades since I’ve watched Utena.”

“Naomi-sama, I was not—” Kazue tried to explain once again, but Naomi walked away, uninterested in what the gynoid had to say. Akira began to float to the ground, still encased in one of Naomi’s barriers.

“You know what this is, don’t you?” Naomi asked him, her trademark cruel smile now a full grin. He began to shout desperately at her once more, but the barrier prevented his voice from escaping. “This one’s the real sword for sure. I can feel the energy flowing through it. I’m only sorry your grandfather isn’t here to see the fall of the city he worked so hard to build. You’re a poor substitute, but you’ll have to do. Hey now, don’t start crying. I want you to see it clearly when it happens.”

Naomi looked back towards the city and waved the sword in its general direction. She expected the GINZUISHOU to vanish, but nothing happened, and the grin fell from Naomi’s face. She turned back towards Akira, only to find an ornate telephone on a pedestal where Akira had been. Naomi quickly picked it up and held the receiver to her ear. When the voice on the other side spoke, it made no sound, and Naomi heard it as if it were her own thoughts speaking to her.

Ah, Naomi-san ka? I was expecting this call.

“Very funny,” Naomi replied. She had never experienced this phenomenon, but she guessed right away that she was talking with the GINZUISHOU. “Where’s the real sword?”

You have the real sword. Sekai wo kakumei suru no chikara, on the other hand, is nothing more than an adolescent fantasy.

“That’s just one possible interpretation,” Naomi protested. “It makes more sense that this would be the lever.”

It is my interpretation—or rather, my creator’s—and thus, it is real in this sekai.

“OK, then where is the lever?”

I honestly don’t know.

“You’re lying.”

I am incapable of deception. I do know that it is within my power to create it, but I am a mere computer. I can only run the commands given to me. If you want the lever, you must figure out how to use my power to attain that goal.

“That’s the same trap as the Holy Grail. I avoided that trap!”

You did not. If you had managed to deduce the real identity of the lever, I wouldn’t have been able to stop you. You were clever to realize it was hidden within my power, but it’s not enough to be familiar with anime, you have to be familiar with anime as my creator interpreted it. You probably must also be a brilliant physicist. My creator could not destroy the lever, but he wanted to protect his machi from it. The best way to do so was to guarantee only someone who thought like he did could retrieve the lever.

“Fifty years,” Naomi growled, “all for nothing.”

You have more pressing concerns now. I tell you this because you saved my kodomo, and for that, I am grateful. By manifesting the Sword of Dios,  you have also brought the Million Swords of Hate into existence. I can no longer hold them back. They’re coming for you.

As soon as that thought entered Naomi’s head, the phone vanished, and Akira shimmered back into existence. From his chest, a long, thin sword emerged, hilt first. It floated into the air, passing through the barrier, and then rotated to point at Naomi before rushing at her. More followed, pouring out from the city. She swatted a few away with the Sword of Dios and dodged the rest, but they swiveled around and renewed their pursuit of her. They were soon joined by more swords, which flowed out of the city through the hole in the GINZUISHOU.

As she fought them off and ran from them, she cast spells in an attempt to destroy them, but nothing seemed to affect them, not even the spell that burned the hole in the GINZUISHOU. Even so, although they moved quickly by normal standards, they were not fast enough to endanger Naomi. The two forces were at a stalemate, and it was clear that the winner would be the side that could persist the longest. Despite her powers, Naomi was still a human, and she would eventually need to rest. Knowing this, she struck at the swords more forcefully, hoping to break them apart one by one, and each time Naomi struck one of them, she could hear their originator’s complaints echoing in her mind.

You killed my children!

How could you betray us to the Weebs?

Those protesters were innocent.

I have lived in fear of you for my entire life.

You’re stronger than everyone. Why didn’t you save us?

You’re a threat to the Federation.

“Do you think I wanted this?” Naomi yelled, loudly enough so that everyone in the city could hear her. “I never wanted to kill anyone! I never wanted to see Paris fall! I didn’t even want to be a maid in the first place!” As her words echoed, a few of the swords fell, dispossessed of their will to harm her. “But that doesn’t matter now, because I am strong, and Paris did fall, and now we’re all in this shitty situation together. As strong as I am, I couldn’t stand up to the entire Weeaboo military. No single person could! I joined their side to prevent as many deaths as possible. Every time I killed someone, it was to save ten others.” Most of what she was saying wasn’t true, but she sounded sincere, and more swords fell off, while many others wobbled unsteadily. She continued to fight them in silence, trying to think up arguments that might satisfy the rest of the swords, and more swords fell to the wayside. Their creators still hated Naomi, but their hatred was not strong enough to fuel the swords indefinitely.

And then, as she was batting them away, she came into contact with one that took her breath away.

You’re a cruel, spiteful old woman. You filled my head with romanticized notions of violence. You bullied me, abused me. Every day you dragged me further into Hell until I could no longer tell right from wrong.

“I sacrificed everything for you,” Naomi wailed. “I betrayed everyone just so you could survive. I suffered for fifty years as a maid to these despots so that you could live a comfortable life.” Her words had an effect on many of the swords, but not her intended target. Without hesitation, it struck at her again.

I was a child. You turned me into a war criminal. You were supposed to protect me, and you put me in danger. Our cause was lost, and you knew it, but you prolonged the fight just to torture me, because you held a grudge against my father. How many innocents died for your petty revenge?

“I was trying to restore Paris. I was trying to do what I thought was right, and I took the steps I thought had the best chance of succeeding.” By this time, the other swords had all fallen by the wayside, their antagonism for Naomi either extinguished or exhausted, but the last sword remained.

I hate you. I wish we had both died fifty years ago.

As Naomi deflected that strike, she realized that feeling was mutual. She hated her former master too, and knowing now that the lever was beyond her reach, she wished she had never suffered those last fifty years.

The last Sword of Hate pierced Naomi’s stomach. She didn’t try to stop it.