Unlimited Fafnir:Volume 10 Chapter 3
Chapter 3 - Inherited Lost Code
"—Someone powerless huh. Seriously... That's quite a painful jab."
Rewinding to an hour or so earlier, inside the Naglfar's operations room... Loki Jotunheim was smiling wryly at the screen after the call disconnected.
Ariella Lu was completely on the mark. Discovering the opponent's weakness in an instant was part of a killer's essential skills. In that sense, her talents were clearly evident.
"Just as you say, Ariella Lu, I have never seen anyone as powerless as I am."
This was neither humility nor self-deprecation. Loki was simply stating the truth calmly.
Power was that which was required to do certain things.
To stand up, to walk, to obtain food, to earn money, to plunder, to fight, to flee—All this required power.
Muscle power, physical power, military power, financial power, power of intellect, power of authority... There were more types of power than one could count.
Holding power unsuited to the target would be useless. There were also situations where necessary power was impossible to obtain due to incompatibility. From this perspective, the man named Loki Jotunheim was a powerless human, lacking in the power required to attain his own goal.
"However, I have never envied you lot. Not even once."
Loki raised his head and looked at his subordinates in the room.
They were nameless soldiers clad in silver armor. Even if they heard Loki, they remained standing motionlessly without any reaction.
However, Loki did not hold them responsible for displaying such an attitude because all they were capable of recognizing were commands from Loki. That was how they had been tuned.
Loki slowly stood up and stopped walking in front of them.
"Rather, I'm grateful for this from the bottom of my heart. Because I am powerless, I did not end up as a tool for those NIFL geezers. Instead, I became a person who works hard and struggles for my goals."
Using his hand to touch an armored outfit's cold and hard exterior, Loki quietly continued.
"Were I perfect and flawless, I never would have mastered the art of controlling others. My superior power would have turned me into something to be exploited, a disposable weapon—Just like you lot and my father."
Loki narrowed his eyes and spoke. With his hand, he knocked on a motionless soldier's chest armor.
"However... There are times when humans have no choice but to take action personally. What times are those, would you say?"
The armored soldiers said nothing, but a faint metallic sound could be heard. Loki knew they were trembling. Trembling in the face of lethal threat was a living organism's natural response.
"Here's the answer: when no one but yourself can get the job done. My remaining trump cards were Sleipnir and 'Fafnir,' two of them. Now that neither of them could respond to my expectations—"
At this moment, Loki paused. Pointing at an armored soldier's throat with his finger, he smiled.
Then as though carving these words into himself, he continued in a sinister manner.
"—I shall abandon this lovely powerlessness."
In order to reach the ground surface from the underground passage where the battle against Ariella had taken place, it was necessary to move to the clock tower's underground level then take the elevator there.
But before we left the building—the instant we got off the elevator—we were greeted by the sight of calamity.
I took a deep breath and examined the ground floor. There were several women collapsed, apparently Midgard staff. A mildly rusty smell greeted our noses.
"—It's the smell of blood."
I frowned and said to Ariella and the girls who were getting off the elevator after me.
"Eh!? Are they already—"
Iris cried out and looked at the people who were collapsed on the floor with pallid faces.
"No... They do not appear to have external injuries. I believe they are only unconscious. However, I have not been able to establish communications since a while ago. What on earth happened...?"
Mitsuki approached the collapsed women and refuted what Iris was about to say.
"Anyway, this doesn't look minor. We have to clarify the situation as quickly as possible."
Kili suggested while staying vigilant of the surroundings. Tia nodded firmly in agreement.
"Go to Lisa and the others! Tia is very worried!"
Ren also grabbed my shirt and urged me to hurry over.
"—Got it. But let's be careful, everyone."
Standing in the lead, I went through the automatic door at the entrance to exit the clock tower.
The smell of blood grew stronger and stronger.
It was currently late at night. Normally, all lights would be off in school, but due to the emergency situation, the entire campus was illuminated. What the light reflected was a red color covering the entire sky.
Almost at the same time, Ariella raised her gauntlet fictional armament and yelled. After a strong gust of wind blew, the scent of blood became lighter.
Ren looked at her in puzzlement, prompting Ariella to answer with a stiff expression.
"Best not to inhale this mist. Well... I guess it might be too late by the time you smell it."
"...You think it's something like poison gas?"
Kili asked Ariella after cautiously checking the surroundings.
"No, rather than poison gas... This is surely—"
Did something occur to her? Ariella hesitated.
"Oh, it's Lisa and Firill."
However, Ariella was interrupted by Tia's joyful voice. Despite my concern about what she was going to say, I still went up to greet the two girls descending from the sky.
They looked relieved to see Ariella, who was scratching her cheek in embarrassment.
"Ariella-san—Allow me to say this to you first, welcome back."
"Umm... Yeah, I'm back. Sorry."
Ariella lowered her head after nodding at Lisa.
Firill tapped Ariella on the shoulder, causing her to look up.
"Welcome back, Ariella. I've got things to say to you, but let's have a proper chat later."
Firill motioned to the crimson mist with her eyes.
I followed her gaze to check out the situation.
"I'm glad you two are okay. What the heck is that red mist...?"
Lisa gazed at me gravely after hearing my question.
"We are the only ones who are fine. While that red mist was in the process of spreading, the members of the Dragon Subjugation Squad lost consciousness successively. It is now impossible to sustain the barriers."
Firill continued after Lisa's answer.
"However, it's the same for NIFL, so the school grounds haven't been breached yet. Apart from those hacked by Tia, the majority of unmanned weapons have been destroyed too, so no worries there."
Listening to these reports, Mitsuki showed surprise in her expression.
"In other words, this mist is not an attack launched by NIFL?"
Hearing this question, Lisa nodded with a serious look.
"Indeed. Rather—The effect on NIFL has been very severe. According to what I could observe from the sky... This mist is also spreading around Midgardsormr's final defense line and has covered NIFL's fleet."
I gasped after listening to Lisa. What Ariella was about to say earlier—was most likely the same as what I was thinking now.
A red mist with the smell of blood. Neutralized NIFL soldiers and the mist-covered fleet.
Although the presence of victims on our own side raised questions, the most logical conclusion was that "she" had caused the current situation.
"Yuu, someone is coming."
Just at at that moment, I was pulled back from deep thought by Kili's voice.
I looked where Kili indicated. A figure came into view, walking along the path leading to the gym. Due to the excessive brightness of the surrounding illumination, all I could tell from the figure was that it belonged to a woman. She was currently approaching us.
I reflexively raised my guard but I realized her identity as soon as I got a proper look at her clothing.
She was wearing an old-fashioned maid outfit. Only one person dressed like this on this island.
I called her name while running over.
Mica-san sank to her knees after calling my name hoarsely. Upon closer examination, I saw that her maid outfit was tattered.
Stained with blood all over, there also seemed to be bullet holes left behind from gunshots.
"Did you get shot!? We'll treat your wounds immediately—"
I reached out to check her injuries, but Mica-san refused me politely.
"...Do not worry. The wounds have already healed. I am one of Charlotte-sama's followers who have been bestowed with her blood..."
"But why are you in such pain?"
If it was the same as Shinomiya-sensei's case, she would not die from such wounds. However, Mica-san was sweating profusely from her forehead and too weak to stand up.
Following me to approach, Iris and the girls looked at Mica-san in worry.
"This... This is not my pain. It is Charlotte-sama's."
I frowned. Mica-san nodded feebly.
"This situation... was caused by Charlotte-sama. The vicinity has been shrouded by a large volume of stored blood in the form of mist, thus placing all of NIFL's people under control in one fell swoop."
Listening to Mica-san, everyone had questions.
"Since the principal did it, why are the staff and the Dragon Subjugation Squad also...?"
Iris asked in puzzlement.
"Due to controlling too many people simultaneously... Detailed adjustments are impossible. It might be more apt to call it going out of control. I am about to lose consciousness too..."
Mica-san pressed on her forehead in pain and finished. Firill cocked her head in puzzlement.
"If the principal's power has gone out of control... Why are we okay?"
"Because... Well, allow me to confirm first. All of you have chosen to make contact with Mononobe-san, haven't you?"
Confronted with Mica-san's question, Firill nodded in a slight fluster.
"Huh? Hmm, umm... Well, in a way... I guess?"
Blushing, Firill sought everyone's agreement.
"Y-Yes—everyone here... including Ariella-san, has already made contact with Nii-san."
After Mitsuki answered on everyone's behalf, Mica-san said "I see" quietly.
"In that case—therein lies the reason. Having transformed into Mononobe-san's kind, all of you became more 'superhuman' existences than ordinary Ds. As such, Charlotte-sama's power to control mankind has not affected you."
I was shaken by these words but Iris seemed unaware. She continued to ask:
"Then we'll be fine?"
"No... Charlotte-sama's power worked properly when healing Mononobe-san's injuries. In other words, the effects are simply delayed instead of not taking action at all."
Mica-san shook her head and refuted Iris.
Charlotte's power had definitely helped me out a lot. In other words, the fact that we were considered human beings despite our transformations was a disadvantage in this situation, but I felt slightly relieved. At this moment, Iris looked up at the clock tower in worry.
"—If that's the case, Shion-chan, who's nearer to the principal... and Vritra-chan, who's a dragon, should be fine. But Jeanne-chan is definitely..."
As an ordinary person, Jeanne had likely lost consciousness like the staff and the girls of the Dragon Subjugation Squad. Was Mitsuki picturing the situation? Her face was clouded by uncertainty.
"I am quite worried... The principal's situation needs to be verified. Perhaps it would be better if we returned."
The one who disagreed was Ariella, who had been showing a somber expression the whole time.
With everyone's gaze gathered on her, Ariella looked sharply at Mica-san.
"Detailed adjustments are impossible due to controlling a large number of people—That's what you said just now. But isn't this situation actually the true nature of the principal's authority?"
Questioned by Ariella, Mica-san silently averted her gaze. Suspicious of how the two of them were acting, I interjected.
"Ariella, what is the meaning of this?"
"A similar phenomenon happened when the principal's father exerted control on a wide scale to prevent nuclear war. It seems he forcibly stopped the phenomenon at the time, but a group of people felt greatly threatened by his authority. Rather than dominance, isn't that power something else?"
Mica-san gripped her fist silently. This expression conveyed a kind of suffering different from pain.
"It was also to prevent her from controlling the world that I betrayed everyone to go kill the principal. If what I heard from NIFL was true, then it's definitely not simple dominance. What's happening here can't be described simply as the authority going out of control. So right now, it's extremely dangerous to approach the principal."
Ariella warned us strongly while waiting for Mica-san's response.
"...What you say is indeed correct. Until now, Charlotte-sama had been using all her effort to suppress her authority from operating with full functionality."
Mica-san lowered her gaze and spoke while avoiding eye contact.
"I knew it. So—If she fails, what will happen exactly?"
Mica-san hesitated. When Ariella urged her to continue, the air shook.
With the sound of a heavy explosion, black smoke began to rise on the opposite of the school building.
"It is in the front gate's direction. Judging from the distance, the explosion should have happened outside the campus..."
Lisa looked up at the smoke and remarked, but her face was filled with puzzlement. Firill was also frowning and tilting her head in disbelief.
"But NIFL's people have lost consciousness... And Tia should've hacked all the remaining unmanned weapons near the school... So who on earth—"
Listening to the two girls, Mitsuki crossed her arms and spoke with a troubled look:
"Capable of moving under such conditions, the other party must be 'superhuman' like us."
I held my breath. In other words, the other side consisted of humans transformed by an authority.
Like how Shion had gone on a rampage as Kraken Zwei or Iris had Basiliskified.
Earlier, Ariella and the members of Sleipnir must have been transformed by Code Lost. Ariella had swallowed a capsule and I would assume the young soldiers of Sleipnir had done the same. Naturally, the one who gave them these capsules was my former superior officer, Major Loki.
In that case, it would not be surprising if Major Loki had dispatched more forces powered by the scrapped authority.
"Don't worry, Mononobe-kun."
Ariella's voice interrupted my thoughts. It looked like she was thinking of the same thing but she was smiling with confidence.
"No matter what comes, nothing can be stronger than I was earlier. That level of combat potential would've been deployed in battle together. There's no reason to hold it in reserve."
"...True. Okay, then let's—"
I was about to suggest hurrying over to that side, but Ariella stopped me in a sharp voice.
"But Mononobe-kun, are you still sure you want to protect the principal after seeing the current situation? Handled poorly, it might become impossible to revert things for everyone on this island, you know?"
This viewpoint was perfectly natural for Ariella, who saw Charlotte as dangerous. However, I was firmly set in my conviction.
"Since something similar has happened before—Charlotte must have predicted this. Despite knowing that, she still skirted the boundary, forcibly trying to protect Midgard. In that case, I trust Charl will succeed."
"Then... Mononobe-kun, are you planning to do nothing and leave fate to her?"
"No, I'm not planning to do nothing. If a threat approaches Charl, I'll protect her. If she's feeling discouraged, I'll cheer her on by her side. This is what I can do as her friend."
Hearing my answer, Ariella showed surprise on her face.
"Cheer her on... I see. Fufu. That's my Mononobe-kun. Oh well... Since I've already decided to follow you, I won't complain a single word."
Apparently reassured, Ariella accepted my approach.
Next, Mitsuki approached me and said:
"—Then it is settled. No one has any objections regarding the matter of protecting the principal, right?"
Mitsuki asked the group. After everyone expressed agreement, Mitsuki turned her gaze back to me.
"Well then, Nii-san, let us go check what the explosion noise earlier was about, shall we? Mica-san, please stay put here."
"...Very well, thank you."
Mica-san replied in a pained voice and bowed her head deeply at us.
When she looked up again, she made eye contact with me and smiled.
"Charlotte-sama... truly has a wonderful friend..."
As we neared the front gate, we were greeted by the sight of burning red flames mixed with dust and smoke.
Explosions were heard one after another. Ariella had deployed an air barrier against the red mist, so the burning smell could not reach us—But the quantity of smoke rising into the sky was clearly unusual.
"That hue of the flames... It's the color of when the special fuel used in unmanned weaponry burns. What exploded was probably a large unmanned weapon."
I ran while telling everyone my deductions. Using her fictional armament to fly, Tia frowned.
"That probably is an unmanned weapon that Tia hacked. Tia will fly higher to confirm."
"Don't, carelessly increasing your altitude is very dangerous. If unmanned weaponry is getting destroyed, the enemy likely has high-power weapons. Everyone, focus on protecting yourself."
I called out to Mitsuki and the girls behind me while summoning Siegfried, my fictional armament in the form of an ornamental gun. Tia was the only one flying but everyone else had their respective fictional armaments wielded. The only exception was Kili who treated the surrounding space itself as a weapon.
The smoke source was outside the front gate. What appeared to be a giant plate of armor, presumably sent flying by an explosion, was embedded in the automatic security gate that we normally passed through using our portable terminals.
We cautiously went over the destroyed main gate and exited the campus.
Several multi-legged unmanned weapons were burning intensely on the road where lively crowds of students would pass through on their school commute in the mornings and evenings.
Next, three figures appeared before us. Accompanied by a large explosion, they were illuminated by the flames.
I could not help but doubt my own eyes.
The two people standing on the left and right were soldiers clad in armored outfits, the same as the Hreidmars whom I had fought many times, but could also be humanoid drones too.
Reflecting red light from the flames, the armored soldiers were each wielding all kinds of ridiculous heavy weapons. They were surely the ones responsible for destroying the unmanned weapons.
However, the problem was the slender man flanked by the two armored soldiers.
Dispatching Hreidmars and unmanned weaponry was foreseeable to a certain extent, but I never expected "him" to head to the frontline himself—
When I called out his name, he—Major Loki—grinned. Although it was too far for voices to be heard, he must have read my lips.
"Heh... So that's him? I feel a different vibe from him compared to our conversation over the communicator. He doesn't seem like the type to be on the frontlines..."
By my side, Ariella showed a slightly doubtful look.
It seemed like she was getting the same feeling as me. However, having worked with him for so long, what I felt was not limited to a sense of dissonance. There was also a terrifying feeling somewhat different from before.
Something... was off.
Leading two armored soldiers, Major Loki was giving off an extremely fearsome aura. What intimidated me was surely more than the frightening and terrifying feeling coming from him.
A lethal situation that my current self was unable to oppose, my instincts warned intensely.
"Nii-san, what is the matter? Although the enemy is equipped with heavy weaponry, there are only three of them. At this distance, we can deploy barriers while overwhelming them unilaterally."
Controlling her voice, Mitsuki sought my opinion.
It was indeed as she described. With a sufficiently wide open space, Ds were able to make full use of their powers. Bombarding enemies from this distance without approaching recklessly would be the best tactic. Since Major Loki's objective was to kill Charlotte, there was no point in wasting words with him now.
However—Despite knowing all this, I could not issue the order.
My heart was filled with a sense of foreboding that something irrevocable might happen if we made a move carelessly.
Iris and the girls looked at me in puzzlement but I remained stuck in hesitation.
"Yuu—Tia's is coming."
At this moment, hovering overhead, Tia whispered quietly to me.
Although I could not understand what she meant, soon enough—I figured it out after seeing the multi-legged unmanned weapon rushing out from the side of the main road. She was referring to the unmanned weapon she had hacked.
However, the soldiers equipped with heavy weapons and armor did not move. Neither did Major Loki show any intent to evade the unmanned weapon charging at him. He simply looked at it in irritation.
Instantly, without any prior warning, the unmanned weapon exploded.
I totally had no idea what happened. No one had attacked, yet this powerful weapon was suddenly rendered into wreckage.
"Tia-san, do you know what happened?"
Lisa asked Tia who had the unmanned weapon under her control, but Tia shook her head in shock.
"Dunno... It suddenly exploded."
"It's almost like my Muspelheim... But it's not. He shouldn't be a D and in this dusty environment, tiny particles of dark matter cannot be sustained at all."
Kili looked gravely at the destroyed unmanned weapon and Major Loki. Everyone else had trouble hiding their surprise but another scene took place to further deepen our puzzlement.
One of the armored soldiers suddenly lost strength in his knees and collapsed on the ground.
"What's with... that guy?"
Firill murmured in doubt.
"...Was he injured by shrapnel from the explosion?"
Ren brought up the most likely possibility but I had seen clearly that the armored soldiers were unharmed.
Watching us react, Major Loki smiled with delight. Then he walked slowly towards us.
Mitsuki pleaded with me again to issue orders. There was no time for hesitation.
"I'll go. Before we find out what Major Loki—that man, in other words—has done, don't any of you make a move."
I ordered the girls in forceful tone of voice then started walking forward.
"Wait, Mononobe-kun. If you do this in this kind of situation, he'll surely—"
Ariella stopped me frantically but I shook my head lightly.
"...I know. But that's why I must go."
The fact that he was standing in Charlotte's red mist without behind controlled stood as evidence that he was no ordinary person. In other words, it was very likely that Major Loki also possessed Code Lost.
I walked forward while paying attention to the armored soldier behind Major Loki. The other armored soldier remained collapsed on the ground, unmoving.
Major Loki halted when our separation had shrunk to five meters. I stopped accordingly and stood face to face with him.
"Hello, 2nd Lieutenant Mononobe."
Major Loki spoke with his usual tone and expression but there was something different about his gaze towards me. Until now, he had looked at me as though facing livestock—a downward gaze—together with a sense of pity towards one of his own. But now, his eyes contained cold mercilessness as though looking at prey he was about to hunt.
I focused my mind to prevent my wavering from causing my fictional armament to disappear. At the same time, I stared at Major Loki.
"I already know of Sleipnir's defeat, but never did I expect her to show up with you. Sleipnir is supposed to be impossible to stop by any means except killing them."
Major Loki glanced behind me and smiled. He was probably looking at Ariella.
"2nd Lieutenant Mononobe choosing to stay on Gray's side, defeating Sleipnir then showing up to obstruct me—Under such conditions, you were supposed to be filled with murderous rage towards me due to being forced to dispose of Ariella Lu by your own hand."
With an expression conveying his surprise at the unexpected turn of events, he shrugged.
"Do you... wish to exact revenge from me?"
Informed of Major Loki's intent, I asked cautiously.
"No—It simply saves me a bit of effort. Besides, it allowed me to talk to you. If anything, I might say that this current meeting is what I hoped for."
"By this point, what is there for us to discuss?"
Our positions were in complete opposition, which meant that there should be no point in negotiating. Although that was what I thought, Major Loki nodded.
"Indeed, this is the end, which is why I have things to tell you. Relax, this isn't my last wish. I don't do useless stuff like that. What I'm about to say is for insurance. For the sake of leaving a complete successor behind regardless of fate's machinations."
When I frowned and repeated what Major Loki said, he nodded deeply.
"Indeed, the successor of the clear dragon—'Colorless' Fafnir—is essential to the current world."
This was what Charlotte had told me, the name of the dragon holding "the power born to kill humanity."
"Judging from this reaction of yours, you've already heard the gist from Gray. That makes things easy. Fafnir is the name of the one who scrapped the killing authority. The being capable of killing even the immortal Gray. In the past, that was what my father called it."
"The one who assassinated Charl's father... I heard that NIFL treats him as a 'hero.'"
"—Indeed. And hopes were placed in me as the 'son of the hero.' I received the best education and greedily absorbed knowledge and skills, distinguishing myself with various accomplishments. And I intended to respond to their expectations, but... I lacked the most crucial talent."
Major Loki continued in self-deprecation.
"The day my father died, I was still in my mother's womb... and did not inherit the authority."
His unexpected words made me exclaim in surprise.
Was my reaction exactly the same as what Major Loki predicted? He laughed sarcastically.
"Knowing the truth of the expectations laid upon me as I entered NIFL, yet aware that I lacked the essential talent, for the very first time, I was confronted with my own powerlessness and what was impossible for me."
"Major Loki doesn't have an authority..."
Still in doubt, I muttered in surprise. Although this was only natural upon further thought, for someone like me who never thought of him as "powerless," this was a shocking truth.
Just as Ariella had pointed out earlier, there was no reason for him to hold back combat potential in reserve. If Major Loki possessed the same kind of potent power wielded by Sleipnir and Hreidmar, he could have finished the job on his own.
Hence, it was only logical that he did not possess Code Lost.
No... But that was only up until now. Why was he here currently—standing calmly without being controlled by the red mist of blood?
This contradiction troubled me. Major Loki spoke in delight while the corners of his mouth twisted in a grin.
"Are you that surprised? Then my acting skills must be too good. From the start, I was a weakling inferior to you. Hence, I gathered people who possessed power and focused on conducting research. This was to investigate as much as possible about the Gray I had to defeat."
Major Loki looked up at the red mist and asked me:
"2nd Lieutenant Mononobe, before Gray exerted control—Did you know about that authority's true nature?"
I shook my head. Ariella had said that Charlotte's power was not dominance but possibly "something else"—But what exactly, I had not heard. Mica-san had also glossed over the issue.
However, Major Loki seemed to have obtained the answer. Without any uncertainty, he spoke.
"The authority of the gray dragon—the 'Gray' Vampire—is an authority born for the sake of uniting the human race into one being."
"...Unite? What the heck are you talking about?"
Unable to understand him, I frowned.
"Is it hard to understand? ...Then let me use the word 'assimilate.' Using Gray's bodily fluids as a medium, synchronizing oneself with others to exert control, thereby conferring immortality upon others at the same time. In a certain sense, isn't that making them a part of Gray?"
I was rendered speechless. Indeed, dominance was also about making others belong to you, turning them into a part of you. Taking into account what had been said just now, it was now possible to explain why accepting her bodily fluids would heal wounds.
"Since it is an authority born for the sake of uniting the human race into one being, this power was entrusted to one person. And precisely because he understood this point, the previous Gray had exerted dominance at a minimum level, limiting it to key individuals in power. However, once the authority goes out of control, this is the result."
Major Loki gestured towards Midgard, covered in the red mist of blood.
"When the authority is activated fully, all humans apart from Gray will lose their minds, turned into cells with collective immortality. Ultimately, both authorities, bestowed for the sake of delivering the world from mankind's hands, exist to kill humans."
With hostility towards the world, Major Loki spoke with displeasure.
"...Even if what you say is true, Charl didn't use her power that way. Right now, she's still hanging on to control it. That's why, no matter what you say... I won't become Charl's enemy. If Charl is going to walk down a wrong path, I will correct her as a friend. Of course, killing her is not an option."
I deliberately avoided using polite language and retorted against Major Loki in a forceful tone of voice.
Major Loki proceeded to smile with a sigh.
"Hoo—by now, I don't think I can still appease you either. Neither do I believe that Gray would be stupid enough to let her authority go out of control intentionally. What makes me reject Gray's existence is not because of the authority she holds but the fact that she imposes a state of peace on the world."
"Because armies are not needed without war...?"
When I voiced my speculation, Major Loki shrugged in exasperation.
"It's certainly not a cost and benefit calculation. If Gray's dominance is established, there won't be any lives lost due to war. On the other hand, those whose lives cannot be extended except by fighting will end up dead. This is undoubtedly the dragon disaster caused by the gray dragon."
Did he think this explanation was enough? Major Loki stared at me.
"Don't tell me... it's because dragon disasters must be stopped? As NIFL's responsibility, that's why—"
"Somewhat different from NIFL's responsibility, I simply believe this is a 'hero's duty.' You may laugh at me, but I truly intend to be a 'hero,' unlike my father who had failed to actualize it—To become a genuine 'hero' instead of being an exploited tool."
After Major Loki said all this with eyes of firm determination, he waved his hand at the armored soldier behind him.
"What are you planning—"
I readied a stance warily but Major Loki simply knocked on the head of the armored soldier who was standing still on the side and issued a brief command.
Next, the armored soldier tossed away the heavy weaponry in his hands then operated his headgear to remove the helmet.
The face of a man in his late thirties was revealed. Although he was different from Hreidmar in that his interior was not hollow, the man's gaze was blank and unfocused.
After glancing coldly at him, Major Loki returned his gaze to me.
"However, 2nd Lieutenant Mononobe, I lack the necessary power to be a 'hero'—the authority required to exterminate Gray. Hence, I have gathered potential holders from around the world. This guy is one of them—a mass murderer on death row from a certain country."
Major Loki placed his hand on the man's shoulder and spoke.
"So this man... has Code Lost?"
Skeptically, I looked at this sorry excuse for a man. His condition was similar to Ariella and Sleipnir when they were fighting me earlier, except that the heavy killing intent had not manifested in him.
"Indeed, that being said—his authority is very diluted. As its name implies, the scrapped authority is an abandoned power. The first Fafnir did not use that power even once, hence the authority has not manifested in full. After his death, the authority was inherited by others, spread in a weakened form. No longer worthy of being called an authority, consisting only of lingering fragments... Something that should be called the scrapped factor. From other people's view, these holders are simply too talented at murder."
After saying that, Major Loki gestured with his gaze towards the man who was standing perfectly still.
"This amount of the scrapped factor is nowhere capable of killing Gray. The special qualities of a so-called authority cannot be breached except by someone holding at least as much of the scrapped quantity as my father did. Hence, I researched the succession rules of authorities and methods for distilling the factor. Death row prisoners like this guy is what I used to carry out my experiments. As for the resultant existence—I'm sure you know very well."
At Major Loki's prodding, I spoke hesitantly.
Unable to think of anything, I said the name of the armored soldier that was the prototype of "Fafnir."
"Indeed. Those who have inherited the scrapped factor from multiple people are the Hreidmars. However, the physical body ends up getting transformed by the excess scrapped factor, resulting in an unstable form that cannot be sustained without wearing an armored outfit."
Major Loki shrugged and deliberately looked behind me.
"After that, I conducted research on collective application of the scrapped factor by having it spread over multiple holders. The completed product is Sleipnir with the inclusion of Ariella Lu. However—along the way, I discovered the rare vessel that is you."
An intense chill ran down my spine. I felt a foreboding sense of what had been done to me—
"No way, me too..."
"Indeed. You might not have noticed, but your body has inherited the scrapped factor many times. Guiding the inheritance of authorities is very simple. Priority in authority succession is decided by the depth of karma. Although the blood relationship of parent and child is a very deep one, the strongest karmic relationship is formed between 'the killer and the killed.'"
"The killer and the killed..."
For sure, we had inherited authorities after killing dragons. The one to take a life and the one whose life was taken—The creation of this strong karmic relationship was presumably what had guided us to inherit authorities.
"Consequently, the probability of succession is dramatically increased by blood relations and the killer-victim connection. The most efficient method was to have test subjects drink your blood laced with poison."
I could not help but hold down my empty right hand. Major Loki's calamitous experiment made me breathe irregularly.
—How many people's lives had been used to cultivate my "Fafnir"?
While I was feeling dizzy from the sacrificed lives, Major Loki motioned to the man on the side and smiled cruelly.
"No need to be so shocked about all this. All the people used for experimenting had been sentenced to death. Dead men walking. Furthermore, you showed no signs of transformation despite obtaining the factor comparable to Hreidmar's amount. Hence, I believe you are precisely the one compatible with Fafnir. However—You chose to take Gray's side."
Major Loki sighed and stared at me.
"Oh well, this was foreseeable too. Although my expectations were betrayed, the plan remains flawless. The only surprise was that you stopped Sleipnir without killing them. Perhaps because of that, I inherited their scrapped factor instead of you."
"—So in the end, Major Loki, you took the authority..."
I had already guessed when I saw that he had not fallen under Charlotte's control.
"Sleipnir had taken medication made from my father's blood because I knew that his blood, from Fafnir's direct descendant, could activate the scrapped factor. The karma of this blood is probably what allowed me to become the prioritized successor. Truly... unexpected. To think that I had already made preparations to fight you assuming your inheritance of Sleipnir's factor—"
"What... do you mean?"
A loathsome premonition rose in my heart. I now knew the true identity of the capsule Ariella had swallowed, but my failing to inherit her factor was something unforeseen?
In that case, what exactly had Major Loki done as preparations—
"About a hundred people."
"That is the number of scrapped factor holders required to compete with you after your presumed acquisition of Sleipnir's factor. Just now, I executed the remaining hundred or so test subjects, using poison mixed with my blood."
Major Loki laughed heartily, holding his chest with his hand.
"Don't tell me—"
He had used the same method as what he did to guide the scrapped factor to my body. In that case, right now, he was—
"Indeed, what I have inherited is the factor from them. Hence, I have Sleipnir's factor added as well. To be honest, I had worried whether I might turn into a gas like Hreidmar, but it looks like my capacity as Fafnir's direct descendant is greater than I imagined."
He raised his hand and pointed his fingertip at the armored soldier.
"As a result, I've obtained power beyond expectation. The power I can use right now is infinitely close to the original Code Lost."
All my hair stood on end. Although Major Loki was carrying a gun, he did not draw it out. He simply pointed the finger of his empty hand at the man.
Feeling a premonition that he was going to do something dangerous, I yelled out.
However, he swung his hand a moment before I called out to stop him.
Nothing changed. The man remained standing there, his glazed eyes staring at the sky.
But why was I trembling with my back breaking out in cold sweat, the pounding of my heart echoing in my ears?
"Just now, I imagined the manner of this man's death."
Was this the reason? Loki's voice, speaking these words calmly, sounded as though it had been transmitted from afar.
I could not understand what sort of actual effect this would do. I looked back at Major Loki. He smiled and continued explaining.
"Behind me, the unmanned weapon is still burning intensely, right? A large explosion will happen there, producing a piece of shrapnel to pierce his neck vertebra. Oh right, it won't happen until five seconds or so later."
Turning around to motion towards the burning remains of an unmanned weapon, Major Loki began a countdown.
"Three, two, one—"
At the end of the countdown, his words instantly turned into reality.
Standing still, the man made a sound from his mouth for the first time. However, it was the sound of a life extinguished.
A piece of sharp metal fragment had pierced the man's throat. Flying due to the explosion, the metal shrapnel had accurately penetrated the man's neck vertebra from behind.
Thud, the man collapsed on the ground. Behind me, Iris and the girls began to clamor as a result of witnessing this scene. Someone screamed.
Major Loki looked down coldly at the man who had died on the spot. With a completely unemotional voice, he said quietly:
"Hoo... Considering his crimes, this death is a bit too comfortable. But anyway, I suppose this is a reward for his cooperation in my experiments until now."
—Incomprehensible. What Major Loki had done was totally incomprehensible.
Using a time bomb would allow the explosion to occur at a predicted time, but the trajectories of flying shrapnel should be impossible to control.
"How did he die—No, he was killed... right?"
I asked in confusion. Major Loki nodded.
"Indeed. Just now was undoubtedly a demonstration of murder according to my will. Achieving quantum resonance by using the shared characteristic of 'humanity'—using the state of synchronization to cause limited interference in the law of causality—this is the true form of the 'lethal gold' held by Fafnir 'the embracer,' the true nature of Code Lost. Although everything until this point was theoretical, it is finally proven now that the power has fallen into my hands."
"Resonance... Law of causality...?"
I frowned at the incomprehensible explanation.
"—It must be difficult for you. Simply stated, it is the power to twist a human's fate, thereby forcing certain death upon that person... Such is the nature of the scrapped authority."
Major Loki spoke casually but this was absolutely not something that could be accepted so easily.
"This ridiculous nonsense—"
"2nd Lieutenant Mononobe, what are you so surprised about? You've been using this power to survive all this time. Never losing against human opponents, no enemy you cannot kill... If such absolutes existed for certain, isn't that equivalent to deciding your opponent's fate?"
No words to refute him. When giving up myself to "Fafnir," I felt as though victory was guaranteed. Multiple pathways leading to the opponent's death would appear in my mind, extending all the way to the very end.
"When interference in causality is weakened, it requires the user to add in killing behavior to guide 'the possibility of death.' Imagining the opponent's death, twisting fate—Then ensuring it."
"The same happened to that armored soldier... too?"
Speechless, I asked Major Loki.
"Yes, I used him in order to destroy the unmanned weapon. I roped the unmanned weapon into the causality of his death."
"What... I can't believe you can go so far—"
Code Lost's power had completely surpassed my imagination. No, it was Major Loki's application of it that had transcended conventional rules.
Killing a person just to destroy an unmanned weapon—No ordinary person would think of that.
"Well then, we have chatted long enough... However, let me tell you something essential."
Looking at me in my surprise and confusion, Major Loki narrowed his slender eyes.
It felt like being doused with a bucket of cold water. My thoughts were reset. Warnings from my instincts blared in the depths of my ears.
Ensuring death simply through imagination—If this was true, then timing or the like would be irrelevant.
At any point in time recognized by Major Loki, fate was practically held in his hands. What could one do in such a situation?
"Hoo—Relax, 2nd Lieutenant Mononobe. My Code Lost is still incomplete. It's no easy task for me to kill you, who wields the power to interfere in causality, only second to mine, and that immortal Gray. I've already tried it many times but failed in every case."
"...You already made a move huh."
I whispered painfully. Considering the possibility of death encountered when I came here, a terrible chill went through my body.
"Unconfirmable causality means that all endings have a chance to exist, no matter what kind. That's why I need insurance. It won't do unless you develop a deep understanding of Code Lost. This is to ensure that I can become the 'hero' in all possible futures."
"What... is the meaning of this...?"
The air was filled with tension. However, Major Loki answered me in a cold voice and expression.
"There is no need for you to know at the moment. Recall this and think carefully if you happen to kill me."
Saying that, he took out a gun from the inside of his military uniform. Instead of the mass-produced Nergal used by NIFL, it was an old-style revolver seldom seen on the battlefield nowadays.
Seeing Major Loki draw a gun, the girls called my name from behind.
But at that moment, I was the first to realize what I should be doing. After learning of Major Loki's power, I should have yelled this instantly.
"Hurry and run, everyone! Immediately—get away as far from here as possible!"
I roared with all my strength without turning my head back, staring at Major Loki the whole time.
Firill and Ren questioned this sudden order but I ignored them and repeated myself.
"Hurry—I'm begging you, run away! Run away quickly!!"
Charlotte and I were the only ones whom Major Loki could not kill by imagination. The exceptions did not include Iris or the girls. They should have noticed upon listening to me. Right now, they were in a situation where their lives could be taken any moment.
"...Let us be on our way, everyone!"
"Our presence will get in Mononobe-kun's way! Let's hurry!"
After Lisa and Ariella urged them, I heard the sound of them running.
"Yuu—You're not allowed to die!"
Mixed amidst the receding footsteps, Kili's message reached my ears.
Looking past me at the escaping girls, Major Loki smiled wryly.
"How regrettable. Code Lost has no concept of distance. Running anywhere makes no difference."
"...Are you using them as hostages?"
I glared at Major Loki and asked.
"No, that's pointless. Seeing as you are so smart, you probably know that I intend to execute them regardless, right?"
He had a point. I did not believe at all that Major Loki would spare them. Sleipnir was a unit existing for the purpose of hunting Ds. Now that I thought about it, Major Loki's hostility was not only directed at Charlotte but also all Ds.
Hence, precisely because I understood this, the cruel smile on Major Loki's face made my entire body tremble.
Rather than threatening them, he intended to follow the worst-case scenario.
"As a result, I will dispose of them first—Let their death cries serve as the signal for us to start 'killing each other.'"
The instant I heard him, I raised Siegfried without hesitation and fired a bullet of dark matter.
I did not have luxury of waiting for him to speak. I must not give him any time to think.
Using my fastest transmutation, I attacked his heart directly by generating a bullet that a human could neither block nor evade.
However, the diamond-piercing bullet failed to interrupt his talking and thinking.
I looked in shock at the unharmed Major Loki. Tearing through the darkness of night, the glowing bullet's trail disappeared behind him instead of striking him.
A shot fired with lucidity at full concentration without hesitation at merely a distance of five meters—
"Nowhere good enough, 2nd Lieutenant Mononobe. Currently, the gap in our causality interference power is far too great, have you forgotten? All phenomena involving random fluctuations will proceed in my favor. In other words, at this distance, the only possibility for your bullets is to miss. In addition—"
The corners of Major Loki's lips sneered.
"—During the time you are firing this completely pointless bullet, I can think things slowly at my leisure."
My mind went blank. A sense of despair rose up from underfoot.
My throat became parched, to the point that I did not know how to breathe. Irregular breathing affected my thoughts while my shaken heart caused my Siegfried-wielding hand to tremble nonstop.
"The deaths of all those girls are sealed."
Major Loki's calm and cruel voice delivered to my ears words I refused to believe.
I felt as though my body was sliced myriad times.
Roaring like a beast, I kicked the ground and charged.
Using the remainder of my dark matter, I created a steel knife. If bullets were blocked by the wall named probability, then my only recourse was to deliver "death" directly by these hands of mine.
"Fufu—As expected, you instinctively chose the best option."
With a confident expression, Major Loki raised his revolver at me.
Within my accelerated consciousness, I saw the line of murderous intent. Predicting the trajectory, I blocked the bullet with my knife.
With a high-pitched ringing and heavy impact, the blade shattered and flew apart.
The blade, which should have been strong enough, was shattered the instant the bullet struck. This was not because the bullet's power exceeded my expectations. I knew this from the sensation of the impact.
Most likely, he had "coincidentally" hit the knife's most fragile point.
I felt a sharp pain in my right leg. A fragment of the broken blade had stabbed me in the leg. This was probably due to causality unfolding in Major Loki's favor too.
However, none of that mattered to me. There was no time to be intimidated by pain nor fearful of overwhelming odds.
Fight—kill—in order to protect the ones dearest to me!
I closed in and used my bare hand to grab the broken blade stuck in my leg. Drawing out the fragment, I stabbed at my opponent.
However, Major Loki took half a step back and evaded my attack with minimum motion. Although I immediately followed up with a backhanded strike, it missed as well.
"Indeed—Although death is sealed, it still has not arrived yet at this moment. If you were to kill me this instant, the one who has warped causality, perhaps those girls might still live."
Major Loki dodged my attacks while telling me this in a detached manner as though talking about someone else.
I transmuted a new knife and threw the broken blade at Major Loki's throat.
However, the blade brushed past his neck even though we were clearly less than a meter apart, flying behind him.
"Nevertheless... only ten seconds remain."
With these words, Major Loki pulled his revolver's trigger. I twisted my body to evade. The bullet's trajectory could be predicted. However, a vivid red splattered on the side of my vision. Part of the muscle on my upper arm had been gouged.
My attacks could not land yet his attacks were unavoidable.
This was presumably caused by the difference in quantity of the scrapped factor held by each of us.
Be that as it may, I must bridge the gap. Unless I rejected fate within the next ten seconds, I was going to lose the ones dearest to me.
Iris, Mitsuki, Tia, Lisa, Firill, Ren, Ariella, Kili... They were all going to die.
I refused to acknowledge it. Absolutely forbidden. This sort of future, this kind of existence that would bring about the worst outcome!
Disallowed. Must be destroyed. Must be killed.
I will—kill. Kill him!
Filled with murderous intent, my mind began to meld with "Fafnir."
But despite the acceleration of the mind and the sharpening of my senses, that former sense of omnipotence did not surface.
Predictions failing, attacks being read. In this back and forth process, I was gradually cornered.
Summoned dark matter was shot by the revolver the instant of generation, thus putting a seal on transmutation.
Major Loki counted down calmly while evading my attacks. Bit by bit, the revolver's bullets were shaving away my flesh.
Although I barely managed to avoid critical injuries, my injured body was bleeding profusely. My movements were gradually growing sluggish.
Was this it? Was this everything? Was this the best that "Fafnir," the monster occupying my heart, could do!?
If it was still not enough, I could hand over everything of mine, whatever it took. Hence—Devour this guy before my eyes!!
The only thing left was the knife in my hand.
Using this one and only fang, I will take my enemy's life. I no longer cared what was going to happen to me. Even mutual annihilation was fine.
So long as this blade met its mark, all else could—
A gunshot and heavy metallic sound was heard. Sent flying from my hand, the knife spun through the air.
Raising the smoking revolver, Major Loki announced calmly to me.
My vision turned dark. My thoughts and heart were completely frozen.
This word declared the end to everything. A voice implying my loss of everything.
Too late. Failed to hit. Failed to protect—
Emotionally, I could not accept. But rationality forced me to confront reality.
Within my heart, filled with despair, only murderous intent remained impossible to dispel, expanding and overflowing still.
Despite having lost the ones dearest to me, my body continued to fight as before.
Hatred and anger erupted. I thrust a knifehanded strike at Major Loki's eyeball.
"Now that's what I'm talking about, 2nd Lieutenant Mononobe—True killing intent painted completely with hatred and vengeance."
With a smile of contentment, he dodged my attack and aimed the revolver at me.
"—I've been waiting for this moment. To inherit your scrapped factor in its most activated state."
The gunshot shook the air—I felt a violent impact against the left side of my chest.
The instant I noticed my heart had been struck, all sensory perception left me. My consciousness fell into a deep abyss of darkness.
Why? My heartbeat was still clearly audible. The heart, which should have been destroyed, continued to pump blood through my entire body.
I felt as though I was looking at the water surface from the depths of the ocean. Submerged deeply, all I could see was blue darkness.
However, there was sound—a heartbeat and some kind of faint voice echoing.
'—What a disappointing ending, 2nd Lieutenant Mononobe.'
Ripples appeared on the water surface. I heard Major Loki's voice from the abyss.
Was this a dream? A kind of kaleidoscopic flashback seen before one's death?
Although the thought crossed my mind, the heartbeat sound brought a sense of reality.
I was still alive, it told me fervently.
Then this voice was also reality... It must be a voice I was hearing in the present.
'I must have taught you that the impetuous live short lives. Asking them to flee out of your sight was an error in judgment.'
Major Loki's voice was heard again.
I felt bothered by a certain part of what he said.
Asking them to flee out of my sight was an error in judgment...?
What did he mean? It was almost like he was saying—It would be troublesome for him if I were able to check on the girls' situation...
'However... Now that I've inherited your scrapped factor, lies will also become truths. The sequence was merely reversed.'
While he continued to speak, throb—A loud and intense beat of the heart.
Lies will also become truths—
Lies? In other words... In other words, everyone was still alive?
Despite the lack of concrete evidence, there were grounds to believe so. It was possible that his words were a hallucination, but still.
Those girls, having become my kind, whom Charlotte's control was ineffective against, it was possible that they could avoid getting slaughtered by Code Lost's imagination.
However... If I died... If this beating stopped, Major Loki's power would strengthen further. Once he got closer to the complete Code Lost, he would probably be able to kill Charlotte and the girls for real.
In that case, I must not let go of this heartbeat.
I feared that Major Loki would notice immediately that he had yet to inherit the authority... The fact that my heart was still beating—
Even so, I still had not found a way to win. Standing up would only end up reenacting the previous scene.
What should I do? The power of "Fafnir" could not touch him. It was impossible to fill the gap in the quantity of the scrapped factor we each possessed. Both coincidence and fate were standing on Major Loki's side.
No—Then why was I still alive? Why on earth was my heart still pulsating...
The beating sound grew clearer and clearer.
The sound was coming from the abyss of darkness. A faint light was glowing there.
Following the light, I swam through the darkness. Next, brightness erupted instantly in my surroundings like stars.
This place, could it be—
With a particular type of premonition, I reached the source of the heartbeat sounds. What I saw there were golden particles vibrating along with the pulse.
Right, this was where the mental conversation had taken place between Ariella and me. Then surely, this must be the lingering remnants of the Ether Wind generated from that time.
They were still... in my body huh?
What the Ether Wind enveloped was probably my heart.
The human heart was located in the left chest rather than inside the brain. Hence, that was why people placed their hand on their chest as a gesture to indicate themselves—To express I am "here."
In other words, Ether Wind remaining in the "heart," where spiritual density was the highest, had protected the heart organ... Probably something like that.
It was practically a miracle—No, wait. There were no miracles in front of Major Loki. Probabilities were all skewed in his favor and phenomena would not be affected by uncertainties—Unless "inevitable," developments could not possibly unfold in my favor.
Besides, the fact that instantly disappearing Ether Wind had lingered in my body was in itself abnormal.
With questions, I extended my hand towards the light. At that moment, golden particles flew and scattered, accompanied by an intense pulse.
The light in the darkness gradually weakened. Watching it vanish—I noticed.
...Wrong. These particles were not remnants. They were freshly generated.
Flashes of insight formed a chain as I reached the conclusion with lightning speed.
—Right, Hraesvelgr's authority had always been here... Ever since the moment I inherited it—
There was no better location than the "heart" for a soul-manifesting authority to reside in.
It was the same for Iris, successors of authorities were able to generate effects directly without relying on dark matter.
According to Vritra, Mitsuki and I could only rely on dark matter transmutation because of incomplete inheritance or power suppression to avoid dragonifying as a result of surpassing human boundaries.
Residing inside my heart, Hraesvelgr's authority must have been generating Ether Wind continuously while keeping within limits to prevent me from transforming.
Then conversely... If I could use the authority on the same scale as the original, I would tend towards a dragon more.
At the current stage, neither Charlotte's dominance nor Code Lost were effective against me, which implied that I was already beyond human.
If I were to take a step further—
I reached out to the golden color, praying strongly.
For the present, even if just for this instant, surpass human boundaries and generate the maximum amount of Ether Wind!
What I desired was the power to oppose Major Loki—that belonging to a monster capable of trampling humans directly without any words wasted.
Inevitability that would paint everything the same color.
The pulsing golden particles gathered towards my hand, taking on the shape of a spear.
From the abyss of my consciousness, I looked out to the water surface afar. Raising the golden spear—I cried out with my soul.
Bursting out, the flood of dazzling particles crossed the boundary of consciousness, then—
I opened my eyes, surrounded by the color of gold.
Supposed to have collapsed, my body was still standing on two legs. Rather than trying my hardest to stand on a wounded leg, I was simply imagining myself in a standing state.
My entire body was enveloped in dazzling Ether Wind.
Normally speaking, a materialized soul would be locked inside the physical body, unable to move.
But right now, I was able to move my body using my mind. The spirit currently enveloped the flesh. As far as I knew, there was only one such lifeform.
The yellow dragon—"Yellow" Hraesvelgr.
This authority apparently altered the mind instead of the body.
Standing in the same realm as that giant golden bird, I looked at the surprised Major Loki before me.
"2nd Lieutenant Mononobe... You—"
He instantly raised his revolver and pulled the trigger.
However, the fired bullet was deflected by the spirit enveloping my body. Physical interference was completely useless against a materialized mind. No matter what possibilities were attempted, none of them included a future where I was shot.
My victory was inevitable.
Using my mind to animate my body felt easier and faster than ever be before.
This was due to skipping the process of transmitting orders from the brain to the muscles, even achieving reaction times faster than natural reflexes.
Major Loki stared in shock as I instantly charged into his chest.
I raised my arm that was covered by concentrated particles.
—Killing is wrong.
In that instant, Iris' voice flashed through my mind. I remembered the sensation of our pinky promise.
However, I yelled out to dispel my hesitation and swung my arm down.
Apart from taking his life, there were no other choices to stop someone like him who could kill others simply by imagining it.
Sorry, Iris... This will be the last time.
The color of red splattered in this golden world.
Enveloped in Ether Wind, my hand stabbed into Major Loki's body with almost no resistance at all.
Major Loki smiled while spitting blood from his mouth. Losing strength, his body leaned against me.
"You win... 2nd Lieutenant Mononobe."
Major Loki whispered hoarsely into my ear.
I felt perplexed by his emotions that were being conveyed by the Ether Wind, namely, slight regret with immense satisfaction.
"Don't worry... Either side is fine. Regardless, the outcome will be the same."
The Ether Wind I had generated beyond my limit gradually dispersed. The spirit coating surrounding my body thinned out. The living sensation of blood and flesh returned to my body.
"My factor... will be inherited by you. Next, you will kill every human you know... Just kill Gray along with the rest of them."
"What are you talking about—"
A loathsome sense of foreboding. Major Loki's composure and his words made me feel intensely disturbed.
Major Loki kept coughing. The flowing of fresh blood made my shoulder wet and warm.
"...Hoo... To be able to kill just by thinking it... If this power were to continue increasing... What would happen, you do understand, right...?"
His words brought an intense chill running through my body.
"You will... kill every human you know... That is the kind of monster you'll become... Shouldering the responsibility of the awakened authority... understanding true murderous intent, you... will have no means to suppress the power... You want to imitate the first Fafnir... walking... along a path of murdering no one...? No chance... for you now."
With a feeble voice, Major Loki spoke words sounding like a curse.
"...You... will kill Gray... After inheriting her authority... you will surely commit suicide... then... without any successor, the authority... will be lost... in an incomplete state... like in the past as... with Code Lost... Thereupon, humanity shall find freedom once more..."
His voice was already hard to hear clearly. Still, I was able to understand what he wanted me to do afterwards. Having said the outcome will be the same, he—
"...Of course... monsters like us... can only do evil... as humans... hence 'Fafnir'... must be slain... This is... as a 'hero'..."
"Why do you have to go this far?"
I could not accept it. Major Loki mustered the last of his strength to answer.
"Wanting to actualize the meaning of my birth... What's wrong with that?"
These were his final words.
Going limp completely, Major Loki's body slid to the ground.
After I let go, his body lost balance entirely and fell over.
However, there was no time for me to react emotionally to his death.
A frightening chill ran through my body. This was murderous intent directed at myself.
Merged with me, having become a part of me, "Fafnir" expanded, beginning to devour my consciousness.
—Die, die die die.
What is this? This pitch-black emotion.
This was definitely not my own killing intent. The "Fafnir" within me... The scrapped factor lamented.
Evidently, killing intent directed at humanity was the authority's true form—
As my thoughts reached this point, I noticed, this was most likely the case.
This was... the world's intent to kill, directed at humanity.
Taking a massive explosion of hostility towards mankind, which had used the unstoppable force of violence known as civilization to wipe out huge numbers of other species and even going as far as to alter the world, then condensing this hostility into killing intent, the origin of an authority was the result.
The first Fafnir must have sensed the same thing. After knowing the authority's true form, it was only natural that he refrained from using the authority for the rest of his life.
This power was a self-destruct device handed over to humanity. Once killing intent was directed towards anyone, the authority itself would erupt with killing intent towards all of humanity, thereby achieving total extermination.
Hence—I must not think.
Pressing on my chest, I desperately suppressed this killing intent that did not belong to me.
If I were to think of anyone, that person would be killed simply through my imagination.
—Die die die die die die!
At this rate, sure enough, I would have no choice but to commit suicide. However, I hastily changed my mind.
No good. Directing killing intent at myself could cause the authority to run amok.
But there was ultimately a limit to how long I could hold this in. Once someone was killed—when the people I protected were gone—I would probably choose suicide.
Everything was happening as Major Loki had said.
No other paths. No existing options. But...
"Giving up... No way in hell."
I gritted my teeth to resist the overflowing killing intent and turned my back against Major Loki's dead body.
In a situation where one was unable to stop oneself, it was impossible for me to alter destiny on my own.
However, what about others apart from me—"those girls"...
Forbidding myself to imagine any of their faces, I dragged my heavy body and forced myself to walk.
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