Unlimited Fafnir:Volume 12 Prologue
Badump, badump, badump—
The "pulse" resounded across the world.
As though announcing its existence, the "pulse" persisted incessantly, the sound repeating at regular intervals.
This deep noise shook the atmosphere violently, changing the shapes of clouds, carving circular ripples onto the sea surface. Birds flew into the sky while fish and marine mammals fled in the water.
They ran away from the "pulse," trying to get as far away as possible.
They did not understand what they were fleeing, however, instinct told them to escape. This sound was the heart beat of a lifeform more powerful than everything else.
The pitch-black domes, each 300km in diameter, had appeared all over the world. No sensory equipment had been able to detect what was inside the unknown territory inside them—
At one location, a gigantic heart had appeared inside the dome and kept beating badump, badump.
The heart was surrounded by a sphere of blood vessels that pulsated along with the beating.
This was quite a surreal scene beyond comprehension.
Mankind, equipped with rationality and knowledge, was probably the most terrified by it.
They did not have the luxury of acting curious. They were plunged into panic, fleeing desperately like animals—
However, precisely because mankind possessed rationality and knowledge, some of them were able to control fear. Even when confronted with an overwhelming crisis, they could still take on the challenge.
Standing on the bridge of the Naglfar, a battleship cruising on the sea off the American west coast, this man—Loki Jotunheim—was one of such people.
"'Eternal Longevity' Bahamut... huh?"
Seeing the pitch-black dome and the sphere of blood vessels surrounding the heart displayed on the bridge monitor, Loki spoke quietly.
It was the name that had appeared on his terminal. This name was recorded in a data fragment of the Akashic Record salvaged from Yggdrasil's remains.
"Major Loki, Gae Bolg is ready to fire!"
"According to the Atlantis System, synchronization between the New York headquarters, the Alaska branch, South America's first and second branches, and the Hawaii base is complete—Ready to proceed any moment!"
Hearing his subordinates' report, Loki declared sharply.
Immediately, the anti-dragon ICBM on the Naglfar—Gae Bolg—was launched into the blue sky.
Confirming on the monitor the sight of the cruise missile flying away in a trail of flame, Loki spoke to the terminal in his hand.
"Atla, your job is to fine-tune the timing of the impacts."
The following words instantly appeared on the terminal:
'Leave it to me, Master.'
Loki smiled, satisfied with this answer. Then he looked back at the monitor, which was showing the locations and trajectories of the six Gae Bolg missiles, fired from the Naglfar and the five other bases.
Although they were all launched from different locations and distances, by adjusting speed and trajectory, the six missiles could be timed to strike the targeted heart simultaneously.
Just as the heart was engulfed in blinding light, noise appeared on the video feed, blacking out the monitor. Several seconds later, the image returned, showing a mushroom cloud rising into the sky.
"Verify the situation."
Loki issued a concise order. His subordinates checked the data while reporting.
"All Gae Bolgs struck their target. According to radar analysis, the target's mass has been reduced to less than one third!"
"—So it is effective?"
Loki muttered with his hand against the corner of his mouth. But after that, another subordinate cried out in surprise.
"No, wait! Target's mass rising rapidly—Regenerating... No, it has surpassed its original size—"
Before he finished, that appeared on the monitor.
Amid the hazy smoke, was something very large—or rather, extremely gigantic.
First to appear were wings. Piercing the mushroom cloud, the pitch-black wings blotted the sky.
Then came the tail. Glinting with a hard luster, the long tail slapped down on the sea directly below.
The seawater splashed up dozens of kilometers into the sky while a gigantic tsunami attacked nearby shores. The raging gale caused by the wings was dispersing the thick smoke with wind speeds surpassing hurricanes.
Then the exposed "heart" emerged with a dramatically altered appearance.
Blood vessels were no longer visible at the heart's location. They were now inside a "body," hidden beneath heavy muscle and hard black scales. On that carnivorous reptilian head were golden eyes shining brilliantly. White steam blew out of the mouth lined with sharp teeth. Blue-white flames were spewing out from the wings and various parts of the body, producing thrust which seemed to be sustaining this gigantic body's hovering state.
Shocked, a NIFL soldier on the bridge whispered hoarsely.
Indeed, there was no other way to describe this creature except as a dragon.
"B-Body length almost ten thousand meters... If this is a dragon, it would be the largest dragon in history! Damage inflicted by Gae Bolg impossible to determine. Furthermore, temperature sensors have detected an abnormal reaction. The air temperature surrounding the target is rapidly falling."
Listening to this report, Loki narrowed his eyes, staring intently at the giant pitch-black dragon.
"...That form resembles 'Black' Vritra greatly."
The giant dragon's appearance was reminiscent of the black dragon that had caused the first dragon disaster. As though reacting to Loki's whisper, his terminal began to vibrate. Loki looked at the screen, only to see quite a long message.
'Many points of similarities undoubtedly. Nevertheless, the dimensional micromotions associated with dark matter generation cannot be detected, thus one can conclude that the regenerated body structure arose simply from cell division. Target is 'Eternal Longevity' Bahamut—No change in this deduction.'
"Hmph... So it isn't Vritra, huh? Then let me ask you, using the weapons on this battleship—Is it possible to take down Bahamut?"
Loki kept his voice controlled and asked. A few seconds later, new words appeared on the terminal.
'Weapons should be effective against it, but considering enemy's size and rate of body reconstruction, firepower is insufficient for extermination.'
Seeing this answer, Loki frowned. At the same time, a subordinate called out.
"—Target beginning to move! W-What is this...? Target's 'shadow' is forming a new unknown territory!"
"What...? Where is the target heading?"
Loki turned his gaze to the main monitor and asked. The screen was showing the giant dragon, hovering leisurely using its huge wings. Rather than flapping its wings, the dragon was propelled by the blue flames it was discharging. The giant dragon's shadow on the sea surface was huge, but even after the dragon had gone past, the shadow remained. A new dome of unknown territory was appearing at the starting point of this black trail.
It was as though darkness kept flowing out of the pitch-black dome.
"Target moving north! Probably towards the other unknown territory in the arctic!"
"Is it planning to link up the domes? Although no one can predict what will happen, this does make its course quite easy to predict."
Loki thought for a moment then issued commands to his subordinates.
"Set course for the Alaska branch! After retrofitting the Naglfar there, we will converge with forces from the other branches. We will construct a defensive line ahead of the enemy's course and gather the entirety of NIFL's forces to intercept the monster!"
After Loki commanded, he suddenly thought of something to add as an afterthought.
"—Contact Midgard after sharing information with all branches. I wish to have a few words with the girl who pretends to be the ruler of mankind."
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