Unlimited Fafnir:Volume 13 Prologue
"Leave everything to me."
These were merely words for expressing my wish and resolve... Mononobe Mitsuki's.
However, when the wind carried my voice back to my ears—I realized that my words just now were identical to what Nii-san had said three years ago.
Back then, in front of Hekatonkheir which was approaching the town where we siblings lived, Nii-san had said that to me.
Leave everything to me—
Smiling wryly at the thought of how similar we siblings were, I felt a pain deep in my chest.
Due to the brightness from the setting sun's rays from the western sky, I rubbed my eye. In other words, I rubbed away the tears that were inexplicably seeping from my eye while I looked down at Marduk's deck below.
Nii-san was reaching towards me while I was in the sky.
Even though it was impossible to reach... Even though it was too late—
Three years ago, the same expression must have appeared on my face. A pained realization.
Astonishment and confusion, the insecurity of being left behind, loneliness... Simply the sight of the grievous look on Nii-san's face was enough to multiply the torment in my heart.
Perhaps this might be my last look at Nii-san's face. If possible, I would like to imprint a more wonderful expression onto my mind, but alas, it was not to be.
Because I had drawn my bow at Iris-san, sabotaged Marduk and become the "enemy" hindering Nii-san and the others from achieving their goal.
Right now, my only ally was the fake Shinomiya Miyako hovering by my side.
Was it due to the effects of end matter? Her skin was brown. The naginata fictional armament in her hand was also stained pitch black. However, her face, voice and motions were completely identical to Miyako's.
Miyako—No, Miyako-san—urged me gently.
I was perfectly aware. Although Nii-san and Vritra on the deck were unable to fly, once Lisa-san and the others arrived, I might not be able to leave.
"Yes, let us depart—Miyako-san."
I did not address her name directly without honorifics as I had done back when she was alive. This was to warn and remind myself that she was not the real Miyako.
Controlling the air generated from my fictional armament, I flew south. Miyako followed after me with a slight delay. I looked back, wondering if anyone was going to pursue me, but apparently not.
Giving off black smoke, Marduk gradually receded from my view, slowly disappearing into the other side of the horizon.
"Where are we off to next? Our interests are aligned except for what you are planning to do at the end, Mitsuki. I've already promised to aid you fully from this point onwards... So why don't we take a detour? I'd like to spend as much with you as possible, Mitsuki."
Accelerating to fly side by side with me, Miyako-san asked me in a cheerful voice.
This cheerful smiling face and bouncy voice, buried deep in my memories, were things that I never thought I would ever see again, hear again.
—Nevertheless, she was definitely not the real Miyako.
Although she said she would assist me, it was probably for gathering all end matter in one place. Like how Bahamut had connected unknown territories together, there was perhaps some kind of significance to the unification of end matter.
After all, she was part of the ninth dragon.
Suppressing the surge of burning feelings and tears, I spoke.
"There is no time for a detour. We must head straight for the two remaining unknown territories. The one closest to here... is in North Africa, I suppose. That being said, it is still four or five thousand kilometers away..."
I took out my portable terminal and checked the map. The screen displayed my current location and the inputted coordinates of one of the unknown territories.
"Really? What a shame. However... Is it really okay for you to be carrying that? Since it's Midgard-issued equipment, won't it expose our location?"
Miyako-san seemed more concerned about the terminal's presence than the distance to our destination. There was a worried look on her face.
"Perhaps, but it would be challenging to reach the destination without relying on GPS. In any case, Nii-san and the others already know where we are headed, so there is no point worrying over this. What matters most is to stay ahead of the chase."
"...In that case, just sabotaging the battleship might not be enough. Mitsuki, your brother and the others might call for a plane from somewhere to chase us."
Hearing the point Miyako-san made, I gritted my teeth. It was definitely within the realm of possibility.
Although flight powered by generation of air was fast, it could not break the sound barrier without a group effort. For one person, roughly 300 kilometers per hour was the absolute limit. No matter how much we hurried, flying to the next unknown territory would take over ten hours. Furthermore, it was necessary to take breaks along the way.
If Nii-san and the others got their hands on transportation such as a plane, they could catch up to me.
"In that case, we must make haste. If need be, I can simply dispose of the terminal and hide, then being discovered would not be an issue."
Rueful that she had pointed out the naivete in my thinking, I spoke in a forceful tone.
This was a sudden course of action. Originally, I wanted to do some planning before moving out, but back then—Just as I heard from Miyako-san about the method for eliminating all end matter, I happened to run into Iris-san and failed to control myself.
With everything exposed, my only recourse was to leave... Doing things over was not an option now.
"Really? Then let me help you. The way I am now, I should be able to fly faster than you, Mitsuki."
Saying that, she suddenly held my arm.
I thought her body would feel cold like a dead person's, but her palm felt soft against my skin, even slightly warmer than my own temperature.
Next, holding my arm tightly, she accelerated all at once.
Unbelievable speed. We kept flying past the clouds in the sky.
What on earth was this speed—No, before that, my wind should be interfering with hers when we are so close together...
What surprised me even more was that there were no signs of her transmuting air.
What ought to happen was for us to increase our speed through perfect coordination but I had not devoted any effort towards that at all. In spite of that, we were advancing at an abnormal speed.
"Anyway, all we need to do is fly in this direction, right?"
"Yes, that is correct—"
Confused, I nodded. She sped up further.
"I will take you to the destination like this, Mitsuki. You be in charge of navigation."
Miyako-san looked back and smiled at me.
By the time I noticed, there was an iridescent halo over her head. Intangible, it was wavering faintly like an aurora. Practically like an angel's halo—But what on earth was it?
—She was more than just a fake Miyako, something like that?
Watching Shinomiya Miyako flying at high speed with an unknown power, I revised my earlier disdain for her slightly.
I used to think that in my current state, I could easily seal her away again. However, complacency and carelessness might be risky.
Although this current flying speed was useful, I had a feeling that it was going to be too late if I did not take care of her soon.
—But just a little longer... While she is still my ally...
My own weakness must be the reason why I was thinking such thoughts.
Her perfect resemblance to my best friend was not the entire reason. I was afraid of being alone. After all, until now, I had never fought alone.
When facing Hekatonkheir, I had Nii-san with me. At Midgard, I had my comrades in the Dragon Subjugation Squad.
Nii-san, Lisa-san and the others surfaced in my mind. I felt terrible in the depths of my chest.
Only now did I truly realize how much support I had received from them.
Of course, this unease did not stem purely from my awareness that Miyako-san was going to turn into my enemy eventually. It was also because she had told me about a certain "upside."
However, there was definitely apprehension in my heart about fighting alone.
But once the final unknown territory was sealed—Or perhaps the instant prior to that, the two of us would undoubtedly be in opposition.
I prayed from the depths of my heart that when time came, she would take action as a clear "enemy."
"Leave everything to me."
With these parting words, Mituski flew off into the orange sky of dusk. She was accompanied by the fake Shinomiya Miyako—
Knowing it was too late to reach her, I lowered my arm, standing rooted to the spot.
Vritra and I were the only ones left on the deck of the Marduk whose main engine was emitting black smoke.
"What are her intentions...? If she is going to handle the remaining unknown territories as she claimest, why run away—?"
Two sizes smaller than Kili, with black hair fluttering and a young face, Vritra murmured in surprise.
I suddenly noticed the green vine wrapped around Vritra's pale and slender neck. It was one of Yggdrasil's terminals, which prevented her from transmuting dark matter so long as this collar remained.
Although the collar was durable enough such that it was impossible to break by ordinary means, such as pulling it by hand or severing it with a blade, it should be easy for Tia to remove.
It should be easily to repair Marduk as long as they freed Vritra and made use of her massive quantity of dark matter, but—
'—Let Mononobe Mitsuki absorb all of the darkness, then kill her along with it using Code Lost.'
Recalling the words she had uttered, I gave up on this thought. If Vritra were to regain her freedom now, it was highly likely for her to take an oppositional stance against us.
Chasing after Mitsuki immediately was impossible. I clenched my fist and accepted this fact.
There had been an opportunity. Before Mitsuki flew away... Had I not hesitated for a moment—
'Iris-san is in my cabin. It would be best if you hurried to save her.'
When Mitsuki said that, I took action a step too late.
—I did not believe Mitsuki would do anything to threaten Iris' life, but...
It was necessary to confirm. And out from Mitsuki's shadow emerged Shinomiya Miyako.
Unable to hold back the anxiety in my heart, I ran to the hatch leading into the ship.
"Hey, where art thou going!?"
Vritra yelled from behind me, but there was no time to respond to her. Although I ought to be worrying about Iris under such circumstances, it was with feelings of irritation and guilt, as though I had committed a grave mistake, that I rushed towards Mitsuki's cabin.
Faint smoke and the stench of burning drifted in the air along the way. Halfway, I encountered the panicking Lisa and Firill.
"Mononobe Yuu! What on earth is with this smoke!?"
"Oh, Mononobe-kun! Although Ariella and the others went over to the bridge, if there's a fire, shouldn't we mobilize to engage in firefighting?"
Listening to them, I linked my senses to Marduk to examine the extent of the damage.
As "linkers," Jeanne and I were the ones operating this gigantic battleship. Just by focusing my mind, I was able to manipulate and check the ship as though it was part of my own body.
"The fire extinguishers have already started working. I'll save the details for later. You two should go standby at the bridge too."
I swiftly replied to them and immediately continued on my way.
As a linker, I was originally able to observe the cabins immediately, but right now, I had imposed a self-restriction to prevent peeking into the cabins which were private spaces. As a result, I could not obtain visual confirmation on the cabin situation.
After arriving at Mitsuki's cabin, I used my linker authorization to open the door.
Inside was Iris, immobilized by an elastic substance resembling rubber. Looking up at me, her eyes were red and I knew she had cried earlier.
Shion was asleep on the bed, but she was not restrained.
"Thank goodness... You're okay—"
I bent down in front of her to check to see if she was hurt. Next, I created a knife using transmutation and carefully freed her from her restraints.
"Mononobe... How is Mitsuki-chan?"
"—She flew away after sabotaging Marduk. She's probably headed to another unknown territory."
I tried to keep my emotions under control as much as possible while sharing confirmed information and highly probably deductions.
"Really...? Sorry, I'm sorry, Mononobe... I'm sure it's my fault. I totally didn't understand Mitsuki-chan's feelings—I even said all that on my own when I clearly didn't understand... That's why—"
Weeping, Iris apologized to me. I hugged her and patted her head to calm her down.
"Did something happen?"
I asked in a gentle tone of voice and Iris explained in fits and starts.
It had happened just earlier when Iris came to this cabin. By chance, she ran into Mitsuki who was planning to go somewhere. Then Mitsuki suddenly drew her fictional armament of a bow against her.
Then she had heard Mitsuki's true feelings—
"...Mitsuki-chan does not doubt your 'current feelings,' Mononobe. She doesn't think they're fake because they stem from instinct. However... She is very afraid of the future. Once end matter is eliminated, Mononobe, will you no longer have any reason to protect Mitsuki-chan... Your instinct will disappear... This is what she fears the most."
"The future... Once end matter is eliminated—"
I muttered in shock. I had not thought that far ahead since it was still uncertain whether such a goal was possible to achieve.
However... After briefly giving thought to it, icy terror and despair crept up my spine.
If Neun's instinct were to disappear, my mind would definitely be affected. Perhaps the "Mononobe Yuu" who regards Mitsuki as dearest would vanish.
"Mitsuki-chan said that to see you with your feelings for her changed... would be worse than death. Then with her bow aimed at me, she..."
Listening to Iris, I gritted my teeth hard.
Why had I failed to think of this? I cursed my own negligence. I could have reached this answer if only I had given thought to it again and again and again. Once armed with the answer, I would have been able to stop Mitsuki before things reached this point—
—Are you really sure?
However, my calm self asked from the depths of my heart. Even if I had known that this would happen, would I really be able to find a solution to avoid this conflict?
I would search for a solution to enable everyone to survive without sacrificing Mitsuki. However, Mitsuki did not seek this herself.
Did my chagrin reach Iris? She tapped me on the chest.
When I released her from my embrace, she stared at me with tears in her eyes.
"Mononobe... Do you feel lost?"
Faced with her question, I nodded hesitantly.
"Yeah—What should I've done earlier...? And what should I do next? I've no clue."
Iris proceeded to shake her head seriously.
"No, Mononobe, you shouldn't feel lost. I'm the one who knew nothing and messed up completely... All I ended up doing was say things that hurt Mitsuki-chan... But it'll be different for you, Mononobe. I'm sure your words will definitely reach Mitsuki-chan."
With eyes glowing with strong determination, Iris asserted.
"Because, Mononobe, you've always been together with Mitsuki-chan, right? Before becoming Neun, you've always been together—"
Iris interrupted me and spoke with a gentle smile.
My heart skipped a beat violently.
That's right... The time I became Neun was during the car accident that had killed Mitsuki's parents. Before that, Mitsuki and I were already together.
Of course, it was true that Neun's instinct was added after that, but—even without any special identity, I was a definitely...
I could feel my confusion vanishing. Banishing the regret and uncertainty that froze my body back to the depths of my heart, I stood up.
"Thank you, Iris, because of you, I managed to come up with the words I must convey to Mitsuki."
Iris' expression brightened up and I extended my hand towards her, helping her up to her feet. I nodded.
"Yeah, let's chase after Mitsuki."
Having decided what to do, the next step was to contemplate how to going about doing it.
Due to the internal damage, Marduk could no longer set sail. Although it was possible to build a new Marduk by borrowing Vritra's power, my viewpoint and hers were in opposition.
She had suggested that using Code Lost to eliminate Mitsuki together with the end matter would be the best solution, to which I refused. This schism could not be bridged so easily.
Even if we released her seal, there was no guarantee that Vritra would listen to my request. In the worst case, we might become enemies. Given the current situation, increasing the number of enemies was not an option.
Hence—To chase after Mitsuki, we needed to borrow another set of "legs" no matter what.
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