Ao no Kiseki Short Stories
Lloyd’s Chapter (Part 1)
It was just an ordinary day when she found it.
A number of years before the Crossbell Police Department established the Special Support Section and recruited Lloyd and his comrades, the seeds of prosperity that led to Crossbell becoming the economically powerhouse it is today were only just beginning to bud.
Orbal cars were slowly beginning to fill the streets, but they were still a luxury item and out of reach for the average consumer. The high-rise buildings that crowd the city today were few in number, which meant each individual building stood out quite a bit more than they do today.
If you were to remain uptown however, the bustling cityscape would seem almost identical to today’s Crossbell.
It was in a popular residential square that she found it. Well, it would be more accurate to say that she stole it.
Staring wide-eyed at this object was a young girl around the age of 12 or 13.
She was wearing a comfortable pair of denim overalls that were made for getting dirty. She was the kind of girl that favored function over fashion when it comes to clothes. Under her overalls she wore a battered T-shirt with a worn-out neck. Her short brown hair was tied in the back, and over it she was wearing a baseball cap turned backwards. She could easily have been mistaken for a boy.
Beside her a cat from whom she had seemingly taken the item voiced its objection.
The girl, however, didn’t hear a thing. When something grabbed her interest, she seemed to lose all awareness of her surroundings.
This occurred to such an extreme that she might not even, for example, notice two of her friends standing right next to her and loudly calling her name.
“Hey, Earth to Wendy!”
After one of the two friends, a boy slightly on the shorter side, shook her by the shoulders, the girl named Wendy finally became aware of their presence.
“Oh hey, Lloyd, Oscar. When did you get here?”
“We’ve been standing here screaming at you for like five minutes,” said a young boy named Lloyd, clearly miffed.
He had brown hair, slightly long for a boy. His hairstyle didn’t look all that different compared to his 18-year-old self, but his face was still quite boyish in appearance. He was wearing a T-shirt under a dress shirt, and beneath that a pair of cargo pants. It was an outfit chosen primarily for ease of movement.
“Once something’s caught Wendy’s fancy she wouldn’t notice if a Creepy Sheep walked up and gave her a big ol’ kiss on the lips,” teased the other young boy, whose name was Oscar.
Slightly taller than Lloyd, Oscar had short purple hair and pleasant facial features. You wouldn’t necessarily call him good-looking, but he did give off a sense of maturity, which was amplified by his stylish cut and sew shirt and khaki pants.
His laugh, however, exposed a childlike innocence more befitting of the young boy he is.
“So, what were you doing?”
“You were staring at that thing really intensely…”
“Look at this!” Wendy said, and enthusiastically held out her hand.
The item had a slender, cylindrical shape, slightly longer than the width of Wendy’s hand. It was pointed on one end. It was made out of some kind of metal, probably lead. If not for the lead color, it would have looked like a pencil that was nearing the end of its usability.
“What is it?” asked Oscar.
“I dunno,” she said, shaking her head. “No, I actually feel like I’ve seen it before, I just can’t remember where…”
Rather than giving further explanation, she simply let an out unconscious “hmmmm.” Oscar and Lloyd had been friends with Wendy for long enough to know that when she set her mind on trying to remember something, you could spend an eternity waiting for her to return to the real world.
“Where have I seen this… In grandfather’s workshop… No, probably not… in a book?”
And sure enough, Wendy had gone deep into the recesses of her mind.
Lloyd and Oscar knew that if they didn’t change the subject fast, they would lose her completely.
“Oh by the way, Wendy, think you could fix this for me?”
Oscar held out an item toward Wendy. It was a toy pistol that had been all the rage amongst kids their age. But this was no ordinary toy pistol; Wendy had modified it to be able to shoot rubber bands. This was a revolutionary invention, as all of the kids had just been shooting imaginary bullets. The fun didn’t last long however, as these modified pistols soon drew the ire of their Sister at Sunday School, leading to most of the kids being forced to throw theirs away.
The toy pistol Oscar was holding was one of the few to survive the “Great Pistol Hunt.” Using it to compete at target practice had become one of Lloyd and Oscar’s favorite pastimes.
“You broke it again?”
“I didn’t break it. It broke on its own.”
“That’s the same thing, you know. I’ll bet it broke because you were tampering with it in order to make up for your sucky aim.”
Oscar’s awkward silence suggested that Wendy hit it right on the mark.
“Well, how it broke doesn’t matter. Since no one else can fix it, we’re counting on you Wendy.”
Lloyd intervened. Their relationship generally went like this: Wendy was the type to rush full speed ahead without thinking, Oscar would sit back and laugh at whatever mess she got herself into, and Lloyd would be left to clean up afterwards.
What Lloyd just said is flattery irresistible to anyone with a technical mind like Wendy’s. “Oh, fine. You two will never learn will you…”
Wendy took the pistol and studied it closely. She stared so intently she went cross-eyed.
Curious as to what had Wendy so interested, Lloyd and Oscar subconsciously bent forward and began to study it themselves.
“Oh, THAT’S IT!!!”
Wendy’s sudden shout almost knocked Lloyd and Oscar off their feet. She then continued to mutter to herself in a strange voice. Only the cat, who was watching her sleepily, seemed unperturbed by her behavior.
Wendy’s family home doubled as a workshop.
The workshop offered a variety of services, including quartz exchange, equipment maintenance, and more. It was run by Wendy’s grandfather, who was an engineer of quite good reputation.
Within her grandfather’s workshop there was a sea of parts, junk with no clear use, quartz, blueprints and massive notepads; and yet somehow everything, trash and parts alike, existed in perfect harmony.
Oscar once christened it with the poetic name of “Rubbish Universe”, which Wendy didn’t seem to take very kindly to.
Wendy had been making this workshop her playground since she was very young. Surprisingly, her grandfather, famous for being stubborn and irritable, seemed to enjoy her presence, and rarely made even a word of complaint at her play.
Over the years through observing her grandfather and through working on her own projects such as analyzing and remodeling a toy orbal train her father Fay had given her, Wendy spent a lot of time in this workshop, and before anyone knew it she had gained a pretty good understanding of how machines work.
Lloyd, Oscar, and Wendy were now in that very workshop. Wendy shoved some things aside on crowded desk and opened up a massive book. There were so many books in the workshop dealing with machinery that they filled up bookshelves lining nearly two entire walls. And in front of the bookshelves there was mounds of parts and junk and even more books that no one knew what to do with. It would have taken anyone not used to the workshop ages to find the book they were looking for.
Wendy was reading an old identification manual containing a large number of illustrations. The machines depicted in this book looked quite different from the machines Lloyd and Oscar were used to seeing. Wendy went through the illustrations one-by-one, meticulously comparing each one to the mysterious pencil-shaped metal object. Not wanting to interfere with her search, Lloyd and Oscar watched attentively from a distance.
“…No, that’s not it… Maybe this…? Hmm…”
As the sounds of pages turning and Wendy’s quiet murmurs filled the workshop, Lloyd reminisced about the first time he came here, when he was a few years younger. He and Wendy were more rivals than friends at the time. Special circumstances though led the three of Lloyd, Oscar, and Wendy to decide to hold a friendship ritual where they each shared something important to them. What Wendy decided to share was this workshop. Even within the neighborhood Wendy’s grandfather had a scary reputation, and Lloyd still remembered how hesitant he and Oscar were to enter.
Now that I think of it, back then… Lloyd was on the verge of recalling something when…
Lloyd and Oscar looked up at Wendy’s sudden exclamation. They walked over and she pointed at a picture in the illustration manual.
It matched the mysterious metal object Wendy was holding exactly.
“This is it, this is it! I remembered it because I’ve asked Gramps about this illustration before!”
Wendy looked thrilled, like she’d just gotten a monkey off her back that she’d been carrying for years. However, something about this felt off to Lloyd.
“That’s a really weird shape for a bullet though.”
Lloyd nodded in agreement at Oscar’s statement. Lloyd’s older brother is a police detective, and naturally possesses real orbal bullets. He’s positive the bullets he has seen in the apartment are shorter, and definitely not pencil-shaped.
When Lloyd brought this up, Wendy pointed to a passage in the book.
“That’s because this a bullet used with weapons powered by gunpowder.”
“Gunpowder…? You mean, the stuff used for fireworks?”
“When it comes to guns the orbal style is much more common, but a very small amount of gunpowder guns are still used. The gunpowder style is actually quite a bit older.”
“Older… does that mean they were used before the Orbal Revolution?” Lloyd asked while recalling what he learned in history class at Sunday School. Wendy nodded in response.
“Exactly. Gunpowder guns are very powerful, but the maintenance is cumbersome, and they’re difficult to use compared to orbal guns. My grandfather says that nowadays they’re really only used by hobbyists or especially eccentric people.”
At that she paused for a second and knit her eyebrows.
“…And jaeger corps.”
Lloyd and Oscar both jumped a bit at hearing the term “jaeger corps”. Jaegers are mercenary soldiers that specialize in rough, theatrical combat. The name carries equal parts awe and contempt. Crossbell being the international center of trade that it is, it wasn’t unheard of for jaegers to pass through and cause trouble. As a result, compared to other cities the people of Crossbell had a higher level of awareness and fear of jaegers, to the extent that even kids knew their name.
Lloyd stared at the bullet in Wendy’s hands. Just the thought that this thing could have some connection to a jaeger corps sent a shiver down his spine. However, he also couldn’t help but feel a rising curiosity about the possibility.
Oscar seemed to be thinking the same thing, and with sudden interest, he turned toward the bullet.
“So, is there gunpowder packed inside of it??? It’s not going to go BOOM!!! and kill us all out of nowhere, is it?!”
“If it could blow up that easily, wouldn’t it be impossible to use? As long as we don’t hit it with any strong impact, we’ll be fine. …That’s what it says in the book, anyway.” Wendy answered, looking irritated by Oscar’s question.
She sounded confident initially, but her last remark betrayed a shred of doubt. Wendy had read plenty about gunpowder variety weapons in books, but when it came to the real thing, even she was uneasy.
“Hmm… but there’s something weird about this one, isn’t there?”
Wendy nodded at Lloyd’s question.
“Look here. The shape of this bullet is different from the one in Gramps’s book. The tip is more rounded, see?”
Just as Wendy said, this one had slightly rounded edges, unlike the one in the book.
“This book is really old… so maybe this bullet was made after its publication.” Wendy said, and put the bullet in her pocket.
“Alright, let’s go!”
Wendy looked ready to tear her hair out at the stupidity of Oscar’s question.
“The library, of course. We have to find out more about this bullet!”