Unlimited Fafnir:Volume 12 Epilogue
"Neun—My comrade. Owing to thy sister, two locations of darkness have vanished from Gaia. 'Twould be a major step of progress."
Vritra's long hair swayed while she was speaking to me.
Standing on the deck with the sea breeze blowing, I looked into her eyes and nodded.
"Yeah. Well, it's a great relief to hear that the people inside the unknown territories are safe and sound. Dispelling the darkness is enough to rescue them—Learning this fact is already a major breakthrough."
Our location was roughly ten kilometers south of where we had defeated Bahamut. The surrounding seawater was not frozen and Marduk was moored on the sea. The Naglfar could be seen some distance away.
To be honest, it was quite cold since there was no air barrier deployed on the deck. Since I had come outside without any winter clothing, this air temperature was quite unbearable.
"Hoo—Is that so? Nevertheless, this was different from banishing the darkness. I am afraid what Mononobe Mitsuki accomplished was invoke her authority against the people who were dissolved by the darkness and merely bestowed their former forms to them. Thereafter, she sealed the vast amount of end matter into herself. This was essentially identical to the method thou hast used to save her in the past."
"Even if that's the case, the difference in scale is completely different from when I used the authority. Mitsuki must have truly mastered Neun's authority. Vritra, wouldn't it be better if you think of Mitsuki as your comrade instead of me? Wait—Did you call me to the deck just to tell me this?"
Poking fun at myself slightly, I replied. For Mitsuki to rescue me when I should be the one protecting her, I was truly useless. Mitsuki was the one who should be addressed as Neun.
"On the contrary. This is not what I wanted to discuss."
Against my expectations, Vritra shook her head. Dressed in the school uniform, her skirt was clearly very short and her arms were exposed, yet she looked completely unperturbed by the cold.
"Then why did you call me out? We're having a strategy meeting immediately after NIFL finishes gathering intelligence and Major Loki gets ready. There's no time to talk in leisure."
Due to the dramatic change in the situation, our next course of action could not be decided immediately. Right now, all we could do was wait.
Incidentally, all the unmanned ships and drones behind us that were providing support fire had been destroyed by Bahamut's all-out attack.
"Dost thou truly not comprehend? I believe this is fate."
"Fate? What do you mean?"
"Thou asked me to switch comrades, but I disagree. Currently, thou art undoubtedly the axis around which all else revolveth. Many phenomena, originally thought to be coincidental, have gathered here. Sure enough, thou art Gaia's chosen one. The being to destroy the ninth dragon."
Vritra asserted with conviction. I doubted.
"But it's clearly Mitsuki who's able to bring forth Neun's power, you know?"
"Indeed. After observing this battle, a method to vanquish this darkness hath occurred to me. Thy existence is essential."
Vritra nodded. What she said next was even harder to believe.
"Method to vanquish the darkness?"
"In fact, thou ought to know already, but thou art simply unwilling to accept it. Such are the ways of mankind, I understand well after living among ye. Hence, I must be the one to spell it out. Perhaps thou wilt hate me."
Seemingly with some kind of regret—looking at me with pained eyes—Vritra revealed the method to destroy the ninth calamity.
"'Tis a very simple method. Let Mononobe Mitsuki absorb all of the darkness, then kill her along with it using Code Lost. Given a human vessel, the authority is able to work its effect. This hath already been proven."
After my mind went blank, the night of the fireworks flashed through my thoughts. Flowing out from within Mitsuki, the darkness had transformed into human figures... They took on the appearances of Mitsuki's parents and attacked. Using Fafnir's power, I killed them.
My heart pounded rapidly. More than surprise, it was wrath that surged within me. My body shuddered.
I grabbed Vritra by the collar, lifting her petite body into the air. However, she did not even frown despite what ought to be a painful position.
"I could not be more serious."
Seeing the immense determination conveyed in her expression, I gritted my teeth.
I did not want to know this method. My mind even refused to consider this method. Just as Vritra pointed out, I should have realized this method long ago.
'—Such awful people we have here.'
At that moment, I heard a tiny voice behind me, so I turned around immediately.
However, there was no one there, except for a black shadow stretched out along the sunlight's direction, standing there silently the whole time.
'—Hey hey, did you hear that? Mitsuki, can you believe she and your brother said something so awful? At this rate, don't you see, they're going to sacrifice you, Mitsuki? Are you really fine with this?'
Sitting on a chair, I—Mononobe Mitsuki—listened to the displeasing words coming from the shadow and sighed.
"Please be quiet. You will wake up Shion-san."
Was she exhausted from releasing antimatter at full power? Shion-san was curled up asleep on the bed.
The two of us were alone in the cramped cabin. The annoying shadow nagging at me did not count as human.
"Be quiet...? Now is not the time for that! I really heard it! I'm not lying! I can hear clearly hear every sound that reaches darkness—reaches shadows."
This voice and tone was truly identical to Miyako's. It apparently recovered its vitality because I had taken in new darkness.
To think that it was capable of imitating Miyako so perfectly even in such a situation, I was truly astonished by the ninth dragon's attention to detail.
"Please, believe me, Mitsuki!"
"I believe your words alright. Seal the ninth dragon within me then use Code Lost to kill me—This is a logical-sounding solution that is simple and easy to understanding. There is no need for you to lie regarding this either."
Ripples appeared on the shadow's surface and Miyako's face appeared faintly. However, I shrugged after giving her a glance.
"You completely missed the point. You completely... failed to understand Nii-san."
I spoke with pity and stood up from the chair. Did the fake Miyako fail to understand me? She fell silent, confounded.
Seeing her like that, I mocked her.
"However... Thank you for the information. As a result, I understand now. I know how to fully realize my wish."
After covering the sleeping Shion-san with a blanket on the bed, I walked to the cabin's entrance.
I had made my decision. I knew what I should do. All that was left was to take action for real.
However, the instant I stepped into the corridor, I ran into Iris-san by accident. Iris-san seemed to crash into me before stumbling two or three steps back. Then she stared at me in surprise. She must have come to visit Shion-san and me.
"Mitsuki-chan, where are you going all by yourself?"
"—I need to find Nii-san. Although I know that I should not be alone, Shion-san fell asleep..."
After I apologized straight away, Iris showed a look of understanding and held my hand.
"Oh, I see! Then I'll come along too!"
"No, well, I think I shall go later—"
I was gong to find an excuse to return to the cabin for the time being, but I changed my mind mid-sentence.
—Indeed, this was a good opportunity. Let me make things simple and easy to understand.
"So, I think Mononobe went up to the deck with Vritra-chan. It looked like they had something important to talk about..."
"As always, Iris-san, you never listen to others. Please go away."
I shook off Iris-san's hand that was holding my hand and responded with a cold voice and gaze.
She looked at me with exceptional shock. One could hardly blame her. This should be her first time seeing me act this way. This was also the first time for me to expose my true and ugly heart.
"Iris-san, I am very jealous of you."
I hesitated at first about what to say. What came out from my lips were such words.
"W-What are you suddenly saying?"
Iris-san showed obvious puzzlement, but I continued unfazed.
"You are cheerful, honest, and very kind-hearted, caring for others from the bottom of your heart... Iris-san, that is the kind of attractive and cute girl you are. It is only natural that Nii-san fell in love with you."
"No way—C-Compared to someone like me, Mitsuki-chan, you're prettier, more competent, and admired by everyone... Even Mononobe thinks of you as..."
"It is true that Nii-san does cherish me. He told me he loves me. However, that only applies to Nii-san as he is right now."
"Mononobe, right now?"
"Indeed, Nii-san is protecting me due to Neun's instinct. In the beginning, I was shocked by this revelation. All of Nii-san's feelings for me are fake."
Iris-san wanted to object but I nodded and said:
"Yes, Iris-san, just as you said before, love and affection are feelings born from human instinct. Hence, I no longer consider Neun's instinct to be fake. However, please consider the future after that."
After initiating the conversation, my words naturally flowed forth. I could no longer stop. I could not allow myself to stop.
"I believe Nii-san will be victorious. No matter what hardship he must endure, Nii-san will destroy the ninth dragon, to save me, I suppose."
"Yes, Mononobe won't lose for sure!"
Iris-san clenched her fist tightly and agreed. However, this very kind-hearted but very dense girl still had not realized what was it that I truly feared.
"Indeed—Nii-san will surely succeed. But when that happens, what would I be to Nii-san, despite being by his side?"
I told the correct answer to Iris-san who was showing a confused look.
"Everything will proceed smoothly and we will surely accomplish the ideal outcome. In other words, when the time comes, the ninth dragon that only exists within me will be destroyed. At that time, Nii-san will lose the reason to protect me."
Iris-san gasped. I smiled in self-deprecation at her.
"Did you know? Instincts can vanish. Love and affection can fade away. Nii-san's feelings for me will crumble and scatter. Of course, that does not imply that Nii-san will hate me, but things will definitely be different from before. At least... I could never win against you, Iris-san."
"W-Wait! N-No way—"
Iris-san looked like she wanted to deny all of what I said, but failed to find words.
This was only natural. I had been seeking salvation the whole time, yet no matter how much I contemplated, I still had not found the answer.
"I too, had attempted to convince myself that there was nothing I could do. However, that was no good, ultimately. Compared to the time when I wanted to yield Nii-san to you, Iris-san, and give up on Nii-san, things are different. That is because I now know that Nii-san loves me. Consequently, I... I cannot give up on the 'Nii-san who regards me as the one dearest to him'!"
Pouring the flood of my feelings into my words, I cried out, directing my dark gaze at Iris-san.
"Iris-san, are you able to imagine Nii-san no longer loving you? To me—It is unthinkable. For me to see Nii-san change his feelings for me would be a fate worse than death."
I whispered helplessly while summoning in my hand my fictional armament of a bow, Brionac.
Raising Brionac, I prepared an arrow of dark matter, aiming it at the frozen Iris-san who was standing before me at point-blank range.
"Now that I have said this much, do you understand? The future that Nii-san, you, and the others are aiming for, is not the future I wish to see. In other words, I am—everyone's enemy."
Along with my parting words, I shot the arrow at my "enemy"—
The ship shook violently with the sound of an explosion.
Vritra and I were glaring at each on the deck. I tried hard to steady my footing while checking out my surroundings.
"Hey, what hath happened?"
Clinging tightly to me, Vritra asked urgently.
"Hold on, I'm checking the situation inside the ship..."
I focused my mind and started to investigate the abnormal situation inside Marduk. However, before that—Another explosion happened at the starboard.
The deck was blown away from inside. Holding her bow fictional armament, Mitsuki flew out.
Standing on one of the massive special artillery turrets, Mitsuki looked down at the two of us who were on the deck.
While I called out my sister's name in surprise, I heard Jeanne's anxious voice in my mind.
'Captain, there has been explosions all over the ship—We have fires on our hands! The drive system is seriously damaged—'
However, I did not get to hear this report in full.
Looking at me, the expression on Mitsuki's face was too transparent. An unidentified sense of unease began to spread in my heart.
"My apologies, Nii-san. It would be a problem if you chased after me, so I had to cause all kinds of damage first."
"I shall take care of the two remaining unknown territories. Aid from you or the others will not be needed, Nii-san. Please wait here quietly together with everyone."
Although I was rendered speechless for a moment, I immediately regained my senses after hearing these words.
"Wait—Mitsuki, are you planning to do something alone?"
"...Not alone. I have help."
Mitsuki shook her head and gestured to her feet.
Due to the setting sun's rays, her pitch-black shadow extended all the way to the deck beneath the turret.
However... A substance darker than a silhouette expanded from the shadow there, stretching upwards to form a human figure. It was terrifying.
I recalled the time when shadows of Mitsuki's parents had appeared, but this outline was clearly different from theirs. This human figure even gave an impression of mass. A girl had materialized from it.
Like Mitsuki, she was wearing Midgard's uniform. Her skin was slightly dark, as though symbolizing her birth from darkness. And that face of hers—It bore a strong resemblance to Shinomiya-sensei and Shion.
"That's right, I am Mitsuki's companion, her dearest best friend."
The girl smiled and raised her hand. Next, a black sphere which looked like dark matter was generated on her hand, and turned into a naginata.
"Best friend... Don't tell me—"
I remembered her face. In the underground level of the Asgard laboratory, I had seen her soul. Because of that, she was not supposed to be here. This unbelievable scene made me doubt, but I still called out her name hoarsely.
"Shinomiya, Miyako...? No, it can't be. This is impossible. Mitsuki, don't be deceived! She's an impostor! Although I haven't told you, Mitsuki, the shadows also turned into Uncle and Auntie—they took on the forms of Uncle Kazuki and Aunti Misaki."
I confessed about the shadows turning into Mitsuki's parents while pointing at the thing that had transformed into Shinomiya Miyako. However, Mitsuki smiled wryly and nodded.
"Yes, I know. She is not Miyako. However, we currently share a common goal, so I am merely making use of her. If the need should arise, I shall destroy her immediately."
Mitsuki raised her left hand, producing a flood of blue light. In response, the fake Shinomiya Miyako panicked and flew into the air.
"Hey, don't say something so scary! I am clearly trying to help you sincerely, Mitsuki..."
"Stop pretending. However, so be it for now. Let us depart—Miyako-san."
Mitsuki generated wind from her fictional armament and flew into the air.
Since Marduk was sabotaged, I had no means of chasing her. Vritra beside me also had her dark matter sealed, preventing her from flying into the air.
I summoned my fictional armament and aimed into the air.
I was planning to fire antigravitational matter above Mitsuki so that the repulsive field would push Mitsuki down, back to the ship. If I could stall for a while, Lisa and the others would be able to rush to the scene.
Seeing my movements, Mitsuki spoke coldly.
"Iris-san is in my cabin. It would be best if you hurried to save her."
My heart jumped violently, making me forget to breathe. With mournful eyes, Mitsuki looked down at me while I was hesitating over my next move.
"These are Nii-san's true feelings. Hence... Leave everything to me."
Leaving behind these words filled with intense determination, Mitsuki disappeared into the orange sky together with her companion.
Too late... to chase after them. Understanding this, I lowered my hand.
—Leave everything to me.
These were my parting words to Mitsuki three years ago. A promise with the intent to protect everything.
However... I was wrong.
Now that I was the one being left behind this time, I finally understood.
This sentence—was actually a one-sided farewell.
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