Unlimited Fafnir:Volume 3 Chapter 4
Chapter 4 - Crimson Catastrophe
I, Mononobe Mitsuki, have a secret.
It happened two years prior during the Kraken battle.
Confronted with an increase to two Krakens, standing there blankly in shock, I... heard a voice.
—Don't worry, Mitsuki.
It was the voice of my best friend who had just turned into a monster.
Reflected in my eyes were only the two Krakens—each consisting of an ominous purple eyeball with countless writhing tentacles of silver. Shinomiya Miyako no longer existed in this world... But I heard her voice.
—Calm down, draw your bow, aim.
I felt as though in a dream. There was no sense of reality. Witnessing a scene that I did not wish to admit, half of my thinking had halted.
In that kind of state, I did as the voice instructed. While I was drawing my fictional armament of a bow, the dragon mark under my clothing felt hot as though it were burning.
I even had an illusion as though the heat from my dragon mark was flowing into the arrow I had nocked.
—Okay, shoot! Kill it... Mitsuki!
The voice escaped my lips with overflowing emotions.
I screamed while shooting the arrow. I shot at the monster that had robbed me of my best friend.
Using its tentacles to cover its purple eyeball, the Kraken took on a secure defensive stance.
However, my arrow easily penetrated the silver tentacles, embedding itself into the Kraken's eyeball inside.
Then a blinding flash of light erupted between the tentacles, expanding. With a giant explosion, the Kraken's core was destroyed. Originally blotting out the sky in the area, the tentacles instantly went limp and fell onto the sea.
Watching that scene, I finally came to my senses.
"This was... my doing?"
I murmured blankly to myself in disbelief.
What was the voice just now? I yelled at the air, but the voice did not answer. Even if I perked up my ears to listen, my ears could not hear my best friend's pleasant voice.
Finally, I looked down at the writhing monster on the sea. The remaining Kraken—the thing that used to be my best friend.
"Was it Miyako!? Did Miyako—"
Did her consciousness remain? I cried out hoarsely, crying out until my throat hurt.
The Kraken's eyeball turned in my direction while the silver tentacles extended with astounding speed.
"What are you doing!?"
Just before the attack struck, Haruka-san knocked me away, saving me.
The voice was my hallucination after all? A miracle of that sort could not possibly happen.
"—Mononobe Mitsuki! Shoot again!"
"If it's the attack you used just now, it should be capable of defeatin the remaining Kraken. Only you can do it—So hurry!"
"But... That is Miyako, right?"
I asked in a trembling voice
Even if it no longer had a consciousness, even if it no longer called to me in a gentle voice, even if it was just a monster, it used to be Miyako.
My best friend, Haruaka-san's younger sister, but I had to—
"...No time to hesitate! If you don't hurry and kill it, someone else might turn into a Kraken too!"
"This is an order! By my will, not yours! I will take full responsibility!"
Tears fell from Haruka-san's eyes.
Then my memories turned blurry.
I remember drawing my bow with trembling hands, aiming with tearful eyes, screaming with unrecognizable words, shooting the arrow.
However, what I was thinking back then, what feelings were in my heart, all this seemed vague and blurry as though they were behind fog.
It was probably my mind's defensive mechanism to maintain my sanity.
Once everything ended, someone hugged me tightly.
I lost consciousness without seeing that person's face, so even now, I had no idea who it was.
For no particular reason, I thought it should be Haruka-san but I had no concrete proof.
However, the bosom covering me was extremely soft and warm, that hand caressing my head was very gentle. Those feelings lingered clearly in my memories.
After waking up in Midgard's infirmary, I was subjected to a hearing.
I explained everything in as much detail as I could possibly recall, but there was one fact that I could not bring up.
—The fact that I had heard Miyako's voice, it was something I could not bring up no matter what.
It was very likely my own hallucination. Also, as soon as something like that was revealed, it would surely turn into an inspiring story.
Everyone would probably spread the rumor like this—Miyako must have entrusted her power to her best friend, Mitsuki, to allow herself to be killed after turning into a Kraken.
I could not tolerate my actions to be beautified like that and forgiven.
I wanted to be condemned. I wanted to suffer.
However, everyone at Midgard was very kind. Smiling, they encouraged me, supported me, forgave me.
Only one person was willing to be angry at me.
The only person to denounce my crime was the girl named Lisa Highwalker.
'—I never expected you to call me on your own, 2nd Lieutenant Mononobe. I don't suppose you wish to return to my team, right?'
The man shown on the screen in the bridge narrowed his slender eyes and spoke. He was Loki Jotunheim, my commanding officer back in NIFL, the man who tried to cultivate me into the strongest "killer."
"Impossible. I'm very contented with life in Midgard."
'Oh, then what business do you have with me? I am a very busy man.'
Major Loki hurried me to speak with his gaze.
"You promised me a reward once, right? As for when that happened, I don't quite remember."
I spoke suggestively. Major Loki's eyebrow moved slightly.
It was back when the Leviathan incident had ended, Major Loki had promised me one favor as a reward for setting things smoothly.
Of course, I was lying when I said I could not remember, but our conversation had happened unbeknownst to Midgard. Hence, with Shinomiya-sensei and others present at the bridge, I could not bring up that conversation.
'...Speaking of which, I definitely did promise you. Then what? Have you finally decided what you want?'
After I heard Major Loki's question, I nodded affirmatively.
"Yes—Please give me Mistilteinn."
Upon hearing my request, Major Loki's lips curled with delight.
'Oh... You are referring to the weapon developed by NIFL for taking down Basilisk?'
"That's right, although I don't think it's a mass produced weapon, there should be a prototype. If it's still usable, can you give it to me?"
'Mistilteinn is supposed to be ineffective against Basilisk. Why do you want something like that?'
Major Loki stared at me from the screen and asked me.
"I don't think there's anything wrong with Mistilteinn's design concept. If you hand that weapon over for us to use, I might be able to find a solution."
'You seem to have a plan. But if you're thinking of using that weapon, why not negotiate directly with those in charge of the Mistilteinn operation?'
"It would turn into a situation of Midgard requesting for NIFL's aid, which might result in undue interference, hence I am asking you this as a personal favor, Major Loki."
I met Major Loki's gaze and answered.
'Haha—How cautious. But considering precedents, it's understandable that you may have concerns of that sort. In other words, all you want is for me to act as an intermediary and arrange for NIFL to voluntarily offer Mistilteinn to your side, right?'
"Yes, is it feasible?"
'Having said that I would prepare any reward no matter what, I will try my best. However, I don't guarantee success.'
"That's good enough. Thank you very much."
I bowed and thanked him.
I did not know for sure whether Mistilteinn had a prototype to begin with, hence I did not raise my hopes too much. It was just that obtaining it would be relatively more advantageous.
'You're really working hard, 2nd Lieutenant Mononobe. Do you have things that wish to protect that much?'
I responded with silence to this sarcastic question. Because for some reason, I felt that answering this question would be extremely dangerous.
'—Whatever, if things go smoothly, NIFL should have a response today. If they don't make a move, you should give up. Goodbye.'
Major Loki smiled at the end and the call disconnected.
Listening to our conversation from the side, Shinomiya-sensei gazed suspiciously at me.
"Mononobe Yuu, what exactly are you..."
"Sorry for doing things my own way, Shinomiya-sensei, can I trouble you to gather everyone? I'll explain then."
I apologized to Shinomiya-sensei and asked her.
Although it was unknown whether Mistilteinn would be given to us, I had things to tell everyone.
Basilisk could very well have an opening to exploit.
This was the only solution I had discovered during our failed operation.
"I believe that NIFL's plan of attack was the most effective against Basilisk."
In front of everyone gathered in the conference room, that was my opening line.
"What Mistilteinn lacked was a mithril shield enough to last through 'Catastrophe.' Conversely, as long as we reinforce it on this point, Mistilteinn will become a weapon capable of defeating Basilisk."
After I spoke in a strong tone of voice, Lisa immediately interjected.
"Hold it right there, Mononobe Yuu. Although that may be true in theory, Basilisk is capable of weathering even mithril instantly once it opens its third eye. Didn't NIFL give up precisely because they concluded that no amount of mithril would be enough?"
Lisa was right. If simply increasing the amount of mithril would be enough, NIFL should have mass produced Mistilteinn and deployed the bombs consecutively. NIFL did not do that because the amount of mithril required was beyond what could be achieved in practice.
"That's right. Assuming Basilisk could fire its third eye's beam repeatedly, then it would easily eliminate a mithril shield no matter how thick it was. But I believe that Basilisk has a limit."
"...What do you mean by that?"
"Including the NIFL operation, Basilisk has fired beams from its third eye thrice so far. Before this meeting, I asked someone to check and in all cases, the beam lasted approximately five seconds. Also, on the two occasions during our operation, it would clearly be advantageous for Basilisk to fire consecutive beams but it did not do so."
Hearing me say that, Mitsuki brought her hand to the side of her mouth and murmurmed:
"—Indeed, that did bother me. Is there some kind of reason why Basilisk must conserve its usage of the third eye...?"
"Normally speaking, it's due to risk, right? If there's no risk, then it would use it as much as possible without needing to hide it."
"Risk... Nii-san, you seem to have some kind of hypothesis."
Staring at my face, Mitsuki urged me to explain.
"I guess. There is a limit to the amount of dark matter we can generate each time. In the same vein, the total amount of red light that Basilisk can shoot out—or perhaps the amount of time stolen—might have a limit too."
"...It is possible. Come to think of it, this could explain why Basilisk cannot fire in succession. Perhaps the beam duration is fixed because its strength cannot be adjusted..."
"Right, the third eye probably cannot make fine adjustments. After releasing the total amount, there will be a five-second shortage of energy. I'm guessing that's the kind of trump card it is."
After listening to the explanation so far, Iris asked me:
"Then after the third eye attacks, Basilisk is in a vulnerable state? Then it can be defeated easily?"
"—Things would be a breeze if that were so, but what I just said only applies to the third eye alone. It's best to assume that Basilisk can still use its regular pair of eyes to attack normally. In fact, Basilisk managed to intercept your rain of mithril shards, didn't it?"
"Oh right... Then what do we do?"
Iris cocked her head and asked.
"That's exactly why we need Mistilteinn. That weapon was designed to withstand normal exposure to 'Catastrophe.' By adding more mithril to its shield, to allow it to survive the five seconds of exposure to the third eye's beam, it should be possible to strike Basilisk in theory."
I explained the possibility I had pictured in my mind.
"...I essentially understood what you are trying to convey, Nii-san. In other words, the insufficient mithril will be supplied through Ds' transmutations, right?"
Mitsuki asked me as though confirming.
"You got it. I believe this is the most practical plan."
"It still is not comprehensive enough to call practical. Also, it does not take in account the abnormal sensing abilities displayed by Basilisk this time. However, I believe your plan is certainly worth discussing."
Saying that, Mitsuki turned her gaze to Shinomiya-sensei.
"—I agree. Although the situation would change more or less depending on whether NIFL hands Mistilteinn over, we will devise a new battle plan based on this direction."
Hearing Shinomiya-sensei say that, Mitsuki nodded in agreement then announced to everyone:
"Then we shall adjourn for the time being. Please rest properly until you are notified of the operation, everyone."
Despite saying that, Mitsuki did not seem like she was planning to rest. Immediately, she was going to start discussing with Shinomiya-sensei.
However, she looked more cheerful than just now. Compared to helpless despair, things probably felt a lot easier when there was room to work hard despite difficulties.
—I really hope she won't force herself too much.
Looking at the side of Mitsuki's face, I worried for her. But it was several hours later when I finally came to understand that Mitsuki's unease was far worse than I imagined.
The elderly man with a scar on his forehead—Major-General Dylan on the screen—smiled gently at Tia.
'This is Uncle's gift to you, so please accept it.'
That evening—Mistelteinn's handover went surprisingly smoothly.
Apparently, Major-General Dylan had gone great lengths with outstanding initiative, even providing as a bonus gift a transport aircraft capable of taking Mistilteinn high into the sky.
"Thank you, Uncle!"
Tia smiled radiantly and thanked him. Hearing Tia's response, Major-General Dylan grinned, unable to close his mouth. But after noticing my gaze from the side, he coughed.
'Ahem—There are no more backup Mistilteinns, this is the last one. I hope you will use it well. If NIFL's weapon could contribute towards Basilisk's defeat, it would redeem our honor a little.'
Major-General Dylan resumed a serious expression then disconnected after he finished talking.
Although I had no idea what exactly Major Loki had done, I got the sense that Major-General Dylan had handed Mistilteinn to us without any strings attached despite knowing clearly that my side wanted the weapon.
It was probably thanks to Tia.
"You helped a lot, Tia."
"Eh? But Tia didn't do anything?"
Tia widened her eyes in surprise but as soon as I stroked her head, she instantly closed her eyes partially in pleasure.
Thus, we were off to what could be considered a smooth start. However, problems started in the strategy meeting afterwards.
"Are you serious in what you said just now?"
Lisa's angry voice resounded inside the conference room. Standing in front of the screen showing all sorts of data, Mitsuki took on Lisa's gaze without evading at all.
"Yes, of course I am serious. I have decided—to descend together with Mistilteinn."
This was equally unbelievable for me. Everyone else was staring blankly at Mitsuki.
"Why are you doing this? It is far too reckless!"
Lisa slammed the table and suddenly stood up.
"If you do not understand, I shall explain again. According to calculations, it is possible to reinforce the mithril to withstand the third eye's beam. However, the warhead will become too large, rendering the original descent control system ineffective. Hence, someone needs to descend together with Mistilteinn to apply trajectory corrections."
"That is not what I am asking! I am asking why do you need to take on this task alone, Mitsuki-san!"
"Since the plan is formulated using a unfounded hypothesis, it is possible that our predictions are wrong. In the event of failure, certain death presumably awaits. Hence, I cannot push such a dangerous job onto others."
Lisa gnashed her teeth and approached Mitsuki angrily and rapidly.
Smack—A crisp sound was heard. Lisa had slapped Mitsuki in the face.
"Why are you always like this... I will not approve of this!"
"...It does not matter if you do not approve, because I am the Dragon Subjugation Squad's captain."
Despite the red mark on her cheek from the slap, Mitsuki still glared at Lisa squarely.
"...If someone has to go, I'll do it."
"What—N-No way! This is something I must do!"
"...Wrong, considering the event of failure, I'm more suitable than you, Mitsuki. You are both the student council president and the Dragon Subjugation Squad captain, but I'm just an ordinary student."
Firill shook her head and refuted Mitsuki's claim.
"If that's the case, letting me do it is fine too, right?"
Ariella stood up slowly and smiled mischievously at Mitsuki.
Ren stood up as well as though saying it was the same for her.
"Oh, me too!"
Looking at her classmates, even Iris frantically got up.
"Iris-san, you cannot even fly. You have no way of controlling Mistilteinn at all, do you!?"
Mitsuki frantically pointed it out but Iris refuted her while showing a serious expression:
"That's definitely true, but I can't let anyone go alone! No matter who ends up going, I have to go along! And maybe I might be able to help in some way!"
—As expected of Iris.
She completely ignored the necessary requirement. However, what Iris said was correct in a certain sense.
"Although I won't be able to control Mistilteinn either, I volunteer myself to be part of the descent team. Precisely because it's a plan based on a hypothesis, that's why we have to anticipate all kinds of situations and think of countermeasures. Iris and I will definitely come in handy, you know?"
I stood up from my seat and said to Mitsuki.
Mitsuki was speechless. In the previous operation, it was thanks to Iris and my abilities that we were able to keep out of harm's way, hence she could not find any words to refute us.
"You do say some decent things on occasion, Mononobe Yuu."
Seeing all members of Brynhildr Class standing up, Lisa showed a smile on the corners of her lips.
"Mitsuki-san, I have made my decision."
"By decision... What have you decided? Lisa-san, you do not have the authority to decide on the plan, you know?"
Seeing Mitsuki's wary gaze, Lisa smiled wryly and replied:
"No, what I have decided is the method for you to settle your crime from two years ago."
"What—Why are you bringing that up now..."
Probably unprepared to hear this, Mitsuki reacted very awkwardly to the unexpected words.
"Naturally, because it is related to the current situation. What I demand of you, Mitsuki-san—"
Pointing her finger at Mitsuki, Lisa told her in an acute tone of voice:
"Including me, I want you to make full use of all manpower that had just volunteered for the operation, and come up with a perfect plan that could handle all unexpected situations! Furthermore, everyone must survive! So long as you accomplish this, I will forgive you, Mitsuki-san!"
"How on earth... The risk is too great with everyone together—"
"I will not force you. If you cannot think of a new plan, then have someone apart from yourself descend with Mistilteinn. Do you agree, Shinomiya-sensei?"
Shinomiya-sensei had her arms crossed before her chest, a troubled expression on her face. But after hearing Lisa's question, she nodded gravely.
"...Since there are other volunteers, as the commander, I have no choice but to make such a decision. The captain has other responsibilities. However, if there is no better plan, I cannot allow multiple people to be part of the descent."
Shinomiya-sensei's answer was very logical. Mitsuki looked like she had no counterarguments. She bit her lip and lowered her head.
"Understood? Mitsuki-san? If you don't want a classmate to head towards death alone—If you truly wish to protect your family to the very end, rack your brain as hard as you can. Find a path that will allow everyone to return alive..."
Lisa's demand was very harsh. Compared to shouldering all her comrades' lives, it would probably be easier to face Basilisk alone.
Lisa had said that she would come up with a very difficult condition. To Mitsuki, there was probably no harsher demand than this.
However, Mitsuki was cornered.
She clenched her fist and replied in a trembling voice:
"...I will try. Give me some time."
After saying that, Mitsuki rapidly left the conference room. As though praying, Lisa silently watched the frail-looking silhouette of her back—
Our transport ship retreated back to behind Midgard's first defensive line. Here, we met up with NIFL's large transport vessel that was carrying Mistilteinn.
There was nothing for me to do until Mitsuki called for another meeting, so I spent time in my cabin, restless and uneasy.
—Will Mitsuki be fine?
Lying on the bed, I worried about my younger sister. I had already lost count of how many times I wanted to check up on her, but I managed to suppress the urge every time.
I would only get in her way if I went. There was nothing I could help out with.
Just as I was persuading myself, I heard a knock at my door.
"...Who is it?"
I frowned and went to the door. Opening it, I found Mitsuki standing there with a haggard face.
"Nii-san—May I talk to you for a while?"
I nodded and invited Mitsuki into my cabin.
Sitting on the inner bed, Mitsuki sighed deeply.
"Hoo... This is really not going well."
"It's really hard to come up with a new plan, right?"
I sat down on the outer bed, facing Mitsuki, and asked her hesitantly.
"No, the new plan is already drafted. It is just that even so, I still petitioned everyone one by one, hoping they could withdraw from volunteering."
"The plan is already drafted huh? As expected of you, Mitsuki. But by this point, no one will withdraw, right?"
I recognized Mitsuki's excellence again and replied to her.
"Right... I already visited Firill-san and the others in their cabins, but no one agreed."
"—So you came to me last? Just to get it out of the way, I've no intention of backing out of this operation, okay?"
I guessed Mitsuki's intention in visiting me and clarified beforehand. On the other hand, Mitsuki glared resentfully at me.
"I was hoping that you of all people would listen to my request at least, Nii-san..."
"Don't ask for the impossible. If you're going to descend alone, Mitsuki, I'll have to stop you no matter what—Or make a huge fuss and insist I go along with you."
Hearing me assert that, Mitsuki exhaled helplessly.
"You are so willful, Nii-san."
"You're in no position to criticize me on that."
I retorted sarcastically.
"No helping it, I understand—I will protect you, Nii-san."
Mitsuki stood up from the bed then approached with an expression of resolve on her face, hugging me from the front.
Feeling Mitsuki's body warmth and the beating of her heart, I grew flustered.
"I absolutely will not allow you to die, Nii-san."
However, upon hearing Mitsuki's quiet whispering in my ear, the blood rushing to my brain calmed down. Mitsuki had probably vowed the same for the others.
However—This alone was not enough.
I wrapped my arms around Mitsuki's back and actively gave her a tight hug.
"I think you probably know... By everyone surviving, that includes you too, Mitsuki, so I will protect you."
"W-Wrong! I will be the one to protect you, Nii-san!"
"No, I will protect you."
We argued like that but of course, there was no end to it.
"...Good grief, do whatever you wish, Nii-san. This is uncomfortable... Could you release me?"
Having decided it was pointless to argue any further, she pushed against my chest. Perhaps because it was hard to breathe, her face was especially red.
"Sorry, I used too much force."
I apologized and released her. With her face red, Mitsuki shook her head slightly then turned her back to me.
"Yes, it hurt a little. A man... is stronger after all."
Mitsuki looked back with a wry smile. For some reason, her words and the facial expression were making my heart rate accelerate.
Or perhaps it was because her using the word "man" strayed a bit from a brother-sister relationship.
"...I will take more care next time."
"Next time? You plan on hugging me again?"
"No, that's not what I meant—"
I hastily tried to explain but Mitsuki interrupted me and laughed.
"Fufu, I understand. It was just a joke. So, Nii-san, let us get moving. I will summon the others next."
Saying that, Mitsuki extended her hand to me. Her gaze showed cheerfulness as though all her troubles had been swept away.
This was probably resilience arising from the resolve to protect everyone, something one could not acquire from solitarily clinging to martyr-like feelings.
That was the earnest gaze of someone whose goal was to return alive—
The next day at 7am, we were in the sky at an altitude of 15000 m.
From this height, one could tell that the Earth was round. This was a realm overlooking the clouds.
We were standing on a silver-colored gigantic weapon. Mistilteinn—made using mithril, the large bomb developed to take down Basilisk.
In our surroundings were other girls from the Dragon Subjugation Squad who had converged as the support team. They flying here and there, busy with their work.
Using the transmutation of air to control wind they kept Mistilteinn hovering in the air while working to thicken the mithril armor at the bottom.
We initially asked NIFL's transport aircraft to pull Mistilteinn up to this height, but after transferring the task to the Ds, they retreated, because Mistilteinn's weight was no longer within the aircraft's load bearing limit.
To conserve their energy as part of the descent team, the members of Brynhildr Class were on standby on top of Mistilteinn, waiting for preparations to complete.
Normally speaking, this was an altitude where it was difficult to breathe and the temperature was below zero degrees Celsius, but the surrounding wind was very warm and had sufficient oxygen, so there were no problems with cold or breathing.
Tia had also joined in the ranks of creating wind, because she wanted to contribute her part, coming along in a partially forced manner.
However, she could not descend together with us because the risk of dragonification increased if she went near Basilisk. Even if we ended up defeating Basilisk, our operation would be a failure if we lost Tia.
Hence, after the preparatory work ended, Tia would need to leave with the other members of the Dragon Subjugation Squad.
I looked up at Tia who kept transmuting air with her wing-shaped fictional armament which was glowing red.
Our surroundings was almost wind-less. This was evidence that Tia and the others were definitely controlling the wind.
"—Now for final confirmations before the operation."
Mitsuki spoke after sweeping her gaze at each one of us in turn. Pushing her goggles up to her forehead, she was wearing a small communicator. Her attire exuded a sense of solemnity as befitted the captain of the Dragon Subjugation Squad.
"Firill-san and I will be in charge of controlling Mistilteinn's descent. Trajectory adjustment will be very difficult once Catastrophe's attack connects. Using the data sent from surveillance devices, we must maintain our position above Basilisk at all times."
Mitsuki turned her gaze to Firill, who was wearing the same kind of goggles as her. The same equipment as what Lisa had used to snipe Basilisk, this allowed them to capture the position of a target outside of visual contact.
"...Yes, no problem. Precise control is my specialty."
Firill nodded firmly and forcefully in response, clenching her fist before her voluptuous bosom.
"If the operation goes smoothly, I predict Basilisk will take evasive action. We will control Mistilteinn's descent until the moment before it strikes, withdrawing five seconds before impact. But with this timing, escaping the explosion would be impossible, hence, Ariella-san, plase deploy multiple physical barriers."
"Leave it to me. I am everyone's shield."
Ariella thumped her chest and accepted the task.
"Lisa-san and Ren-san, please cooperate with Firill-san and I to devote our full effort to creating a barrier of air. With this, we should be able to defend from the explosion. Also, I leave the handling of unexpected developments to you two."
Mitsuki looked at Lisa and Ren seriously then continued:
"By that, I am referring to the case of the third eye's beam exceeding five seconds. If it persists beyond five seconds, follow Plan A. If a second shot is fired, please counter with Plan B."
This was the most important task with everyone's fate on the line. Any error in judgment and all would be lost.
Ren nodded affirmatively.
"—Understood. I shall accomplish my task flawlessly. Mitsuki-san, I hope that your plan will meet my expectations."
Lisa stared into Mitsuki's eyes and answered with a challenging tone.
"Very well, please believe in me."
Mitsuki was not intimidated by Lisa and answered with firm resolve. Seeing her expression, a smile surface on the corners of Lisa's lips.
"Finally, there is Nii-san and Iris-san. Your responsibilities will change greatly depending on the situation. Have you memorized all the patterns with certainty?"
"Y-Yes! Sure thing, probably!"
Iris answered hoarsely while Mitsuki showed worry on her face.
"The moment you say 'probably,' it is no longer a sure thing..."
Seeing Iris panicking, I helped her out.
"It's okay. Iris' and my jobs are to team up. I will definitely guide my partner."
Iris looked at me with eyes of gratitude.
"...Well then, Nii-san, please look after Iris-san, your partner."
I could somehow sense some displeasure in Mitsuki's answer.
Then Mitsuki received a report through her communicator. I could hear faint voices from it.
'Team A reporting. All tasks complete.'
'Team B finished as well.'
"—Thank you for your hard work. Please move on to the next process."
Mitsuki issued orders then looked at our faces and said:
"Mistilteinn's fortification is completed. The operation will begin soon."
We all nodded in acknowledgement with tense faces. Then Tia came over to us. She had probably asked members of the team who had finished with mithril reinforcement to take her spot.
Tia landed on Mistleteinn and looked up at us with a worried face.
"Then it's time for us to get going."
I touched Tia's head and said.
"Yuu... You guys will surely come back, right?"
"Yeah, I promise you, we'll definitely come back alive. All of us."
After I answered, Lisa immediately added one more sentence.
"Naturally, we will also defeat Basilisk, so just wait without worrying."
"...Yeah, Tia knows. Tia will cheer for you all! Tia will cheer very very hard! So—Do your best!"
With moistened eyes, Tia shouted loudly.
I instantly felt a flame of motivation burning in my heart. If it was now, I felt that I was able to do anything.
Basilisk had set its eyes on this gentle girl, wanting to obtain her, but I absolutely refused to hand her over.
This was different from the sense of omnipotence when Fafnir awakened. Feeling the strong power driving myself, I said to Tia:
"Leave it to us. We'll help you reject Basilisk."
Mitsuki and Firill took over Mistilteinn's control, then the Dragon Subjugation Squad members not involved in the descent operation departed from this airspace. Tia was among them, waving at us while gradually receding in the distance.
Then the descent operation began. Falling towards the Basilisk 15000 meters below.
It felt like taking an elevator in a skyscraper, a sudden onslaught of a hovering sensation as though all your innards were floating up. Since we were surrounded by the air created by Mitsuki and the others, I did not feel the ringing in my ears caused by air pressure changes.
"—Currently at 14000 m. Basilisk is moving towards Midgard where Tia-san and the others are taking refuge. Correcting Mistilteinn's trajectory."
Wearing a pair of goggles, holding her fictional armament of a bow, Mitsuki reported the situation to us.
Basilisk's attack range was normally 5000 m but reached 10000 m when the third eye opened. As soon as our altitude went below 10000 m, we could get attacked any time.
"...Passed 12000 m. Basilisk stopped moving and has apparently entered a stance to counterattack Mistilteinn."
Holding her book-shaped fictional armament, Firill read out the information transmitted to her goggles in a calm voice.
Lisa and Ariella generated their fictional armaments as a precaution against changes in the situation. Ren leaned against Lisa while Iris silently held my hand. Iris' hand was sweating from nervousness and I gripped her hand tightly in response, waiting for the time to take action.
"About to reach altitude of 10000 m, from here on, we are within Basilisk's attack range—"
Before Mitsuki finished her sentence, the situation changed.
Suddenly, the rate of falling decreased dramatically while red particles rose around Mistilteinn.
"The third eye is attacking! Keep some distance from Mistilteinn!"
While rapidly reporting the situation, Mitsuki floated up lightly. Mitsuki and Firill generated wind to make everyone hover.
Well-versed in flying skills, Lisa and the others were unfazed but Iris was in a panic due to losing balance. Unused to the sensation, I also felt a little troubled while I looked down at Mistilteinn, gradually getting farther away from us.
Since Mistilteinn was acting as a shield, the red light did not reach us.
But if it persisted for more than five seconds, that would be a different matter. As though praying, we listened to Mitsuki's counting.
"...Three, four, five—"
At almost exactly five seconds, the red phosphorescence in Mistilteinn's surroundings vanished. Since the resetting of kinetic energy was gone, Mistilteinn's falling speed began to accelerate again. Mitsuki and Firill used wind again to control Mistilteinn's movement and conduct trajectory adjustments.
"Thank goodness... Looks like it's the same as predicted."
Ariella breathed a sigh of relief.
"No—getting attacked by the third eye right off the bat cannot be considered the same as predicted. In the ideal case, I originally hoped that Basilisk would attack like last time, below 5000 m. Lisa-san, please take watch out for the third eye's second attack."
Mitsuki shook her head with a worried expression.
"Understood. It might have used the third eye to attack at the start so as to secure more time to recharge its energy for a second shot. Ren-san, Plan B on standby."
Lisa lifted Gungnir and aimed it downwards whereas Ren placed her hand on the spear. Immediately, as in the previous battle, Lisa's fictional armament grew in size.
Maintaining that state, Lisa stared at the still-intact Mistilteinn.
"If Mistilteinn is breached, we will serve as the second spear!"
Ren nodded firmly after listening to Lisa.
"—We will presently reach 5000 m. Basilisk will probably fire the normal 'Catastrophe' from its pair of eyes to attack!"
Mitsuki urged us to pay attention. Just as she predicted, Mistilteinn's speed slowed down greatly again. Adjusting our relative speed, Mitsuki and Firill kept our distance from Mistilteinn.
Although red light could be seen faintly, the color was much more dilute than earlier. Mistilteinn was enough to defend.
At this rate, Mistilteinn would probably strike Basilisk directly. Unlike Leviathan with its absolute defense, Basilisk should be possible to defeat as long as it hits.
But there was one more factor that prevented optimism. The strange sensory powers displayed by Basilisk last time. Last night when explaining the operation to us, Mitsuki had said the following regarding that—
That power might be precognition rather than sensing.
Indeed, Basilisk was using a power that interfered with time. Causing weathering in objects within its view was, in a certain sense, looking into the future.
Looking into the future—Suppose this speculation was correct, it was no wonder that traps like land mines were useless.
But even with such a cheating power, there were still openings to exploit.
The future was not fixed and could easily change due to actions taken. Basilisk itself was using action to evade danger.
And based on the previous time, it noticed Lisa and Mitsuki's attacks only after my side had taken action.
"Altitude 2000 m! Basilisk showing no signs of taking evasive action! If this was its decision after looking into the future, the third eye could very well fire its second shot! It is highly probable that Basilisk predicts that the next attack will destroy us!"
Mitsuki reported rapidly. Her words probably sounded like dialogue of despair, but this plan was actually devised by predicting and assuming this situation.
After reinforcement, Mistilteinn could withstand the third eye's weathering duration for roughly nine seconds. In other words, it would break down right at the end of the second shot. This was precisely the trap we had laid for Basilisk.
"Altitude 1000 m—! The second wave is coming! Ariella-san, deploy multiple barriers! Lisa-san, start Plan B!"
Looking down at the red light expanding all at once, Ariella and Lisa answered respectively.
"Barrier, five-fold deployment!"
Ariella brandished her gauntlet-shaped fictional armament, Aegis, producing a giant shield with as many as five layers between Mistilteinn and us.
"Transform, spear of holy silver!!"
Using Ren's power, Lisa used transmutation to turn the tip of the enlarged Gungir into mithril.
In that instant, the future seen by Basilisk very likely changed.
Although there was no concrete proof, there was circumstantial evidence that backed such speculation.
The flow of time caused by "Catastrophe" was akin to physical simulation, nothing more than a mechanical change based on the current state and conditions, turning into an appearance later in time. For example, it would not take into account factors like a bird removing a target object from the scene.
If looking into the future was based on the power of "Catastrophe," then it would not take into account the actions caused by unpredictable factors like living creatures.
In other words, only now did Basilisk realize the threat to its life.
The distance was less than 1000 m now. Even if it could look into the future, its choice of action was still limited.
"—Mistilteinn destroyed! Ariella-san's shield is also breached! Lisa-san, please endure!"
"This is more than enough!"
The spear's tip of mithril blocked the red light then just as Lisa declared, it endured successfully against the remaining less than a second of the giant beam of light. Then Mitsuki shouted:
"Third eye, stopped! Basilisk is taking evasive action!"
Perhaps seeing the future of itself getting skewered, Basilisk stopped attacking with "Catastrophe" and started moving.
"...It's too late to escape now."
Firill declared forcefully.
"Lisa-san, please launch the spear! We will correct its trajectory!"
Hearing Mitsuki, Lisa nodded. Transmuting the spear's shaft into mithril as well, she launched the gigantic spear.
Then chasing after the accelerated spear, we descended as well.
"Iris, it's almost our turn. You know what to do, right?"
I said to Iris beside me.
"Yeah, no problem, I know!"
Saying that, Iris generated her fictional armament of a staff.
I was also holding Siegfried in my right hand, estimating my timing. If I missed, all would be for nothing, hence failure was absolutely not an option.
"Three seconds away from target———Impact!"
Accompanied by Mitsuki's voice, the gigantic silver spear stabbed into the white ocean that had been turned into salt.
With a giant crash that shook the atmosphere, a cloud of salt dust rose. Unlike NIFL's Mistilteinn, Lisa's spear did not carry explosives and would not explode. Once evaded, it would not inflict a lethal wound, of course.
Crawling out—Basilisk could be seen emerging from the spear's shadow. Perhaps it managed to dodge in the nick of time by looking into the future.
Immediately, with a red flash, light shot out from its two eyes to deprive us of time.
But having confirmed Basilisk's survival, I had already shot my bullet. Pouring my total generating capacity into it, I warped space as much as I could.
The white glow caused a localized repulsive field, deflecting the red light's trajectory.
Still, the Antigravity bullet's effect only lasted an instant. Our situation would only worsen even if we kept trying to create shields.
Nevertheless, we no longer needed to defend anymore.
An instant was all it took. By securing enough time for Iris to capture Basilisk in her sights, my mission was already accomplished.
Basilisk was roughly 200 meters away.
Iris would never miss at this distance.
"O holy silver, explode!"
Raising Caduceus, Iris cried out.
Immediately, a silver explosion detonated in front of Basilisk.
The noise from the explosion of sharp metal shook my ears, hurting my eardrums slightly.
The point blank explosion was impossible to dodge, it was too late even if it could predict the future. The exploding mithril shrapnel struck Basilisk all over its body.
That was probably Basilisk screaming. I heard a coarse and ear-splitting noise reverberate throughout the surroundings.
"O holy silver—Explode! Explode! Explode!"
Iris kept moving her hands, attacking mercilessly.
Basilisk's eyeballs were completely destroyed during the first stage of the attack. It was no longer capable of attacking with "Catastrophe."
Basilisk curled its body up like an armadillo, trying to hold out against the explosions, but the tough mithril shrapnel easily penetrated the scales of diamond.
But just at this moment, curled into a ball, Basilisk suddenly contracted its body slightly.
Just as I had a bad feeling, the stone pillar-like diamonds on its body suddenly flew apart violently in all directions.
"—It still has this kind of secret move!?"
Seeing the sharp blocks of diamond attack like shotgun pellets, Mitsuki cried out in surprise.
"Don't worry! Leave it to me!"
The incoming diamonds were deflected by Ariella's shield. But having abandoned its heavy outer shell of diamond, Basilisk was starting to burrow into the desert of salt with nimble movements.
"I am not letting you escape—O flare, pierce!"
Iris was panting heavily from the repeated transmutations. Taking her place, Lisa unleashed a torrent of light from her fictional armament of a gigantic spear. This was a maximum-scale positron cannon produced with the help of Ren's dark matter.
I generated Siegfried again and attacked almost simultaneously with Lisa.
This was the transmutation I had used during the test for simulating combat against Basilisk, a technique using plasmafied compressed air to attack. Initially, I only succeeded occasionally, but after practicing relentlessly, I finally mastered the technique.
My Plasma Bullet pierced Basilisk's head accurately from the air, while Lisa's positron cannon blasted a large hole in the center of its body.
Basilisk shook and lost balance, then collapsed on the mountain of salt that had piled up when it was trying to burrow.
Keeping sufficient distance from Basilisk, we landed on the sea surface that had been turned to salt.
"Approach the enemy in formation! Deliver the fatal blow!"
We followed Mitsuki's orders and entered the formation decided during the strategy meeting.
Taking on the role of defense, Ariella, Firill and Lisa were stationed separately on the edges with Mitsuki and me standing in the middle. Furthermore, I had Iris by my side while Mitsuki had Ren.
This formation allowed us to guard against hostile attacks while exterminating the enemy with maximum firepower.
I extended my left hand and Iris gripped it tightly with her right hand.
Using the dark matter borrowed from Iris, I constructed a weapon from a lost civilization.
The giant cannon had interior machinery exposed all over the place. It moved according to my will and aimed for Basilisk. On this sea that had been turned into salt, I had a stable foothold.
"Ren-san, I am counting on you."
Then Mitsuki borrowed Ren's dark matter to enlarge her own fictional armament.
Despite having its head and body pierced, Basilisk was still moving its limbs clumsily, struggling as though trying to burrow into the salt and escape. This vitality was extraordinary. It might very well revive if we did not seize this chance to defeat it completely.
"Mitsuki-san, this time... you must succeed in protecting everything!"
Facing forward, Lisa cried out without looking back.
Nodding firmly and vigorously, Mitsuki nocked the arrow of dark matter on Brionac.
Then we launched the final attack against the brutal dragon of red.
"Special artillery, Megiddo—Fire!!"
"Terminating Arrow—Last Quark!!"
My cannon shot out a blue projectile of light while Mitsuki fired an arrow of antimatter, both striking Basilisk's body.
The blue flash and the blinding white light of annihilation temporarily altered the colors of the world.
Basilisk's gigantic body was swallowed in the light, returning to nothingness.
Although the blast swept salt and dust in our direction, the barrier of air deployed by Lisa and the others caused the white wave to fly past as though avoiding us.
Finally, a large hole was left in the plain of salt. However, the explosion had apparently punctured the layer of salt. Seawater was gradually flowing out from inside, forming a perfectly circular puddle.
For a moment, no one spoke.
Staring at the hole filled with seawater, Mitsuki finally exhaled quietly.
Releasing her fictional armament of a bow, Mitsuki looked up at hte clear blue sky.
Lisa slowly walked over to Mitsuki and stood beside her.
"It disappeared so cleanly, leaving not a single trace behind."
Mitsuki concurred weakly.
"And everyone survived. Not a single person missing. Thus—You have fulfilled my condition."
"...Are you willing to forgive me?"
"Of course, I always keep my word."
Lisa reassured her with a pleasant expression but Mitsuki asked while staring into the distance:
"Is it that easy to let go? If you are forcing yourself—"
"I am not forcing myself at all. Goodness gracious, Mitsuki-san, you never change."
Arms akimbo, Lisa sighed in exasperation.
Mitsuki lowered her head with an expression as though she could not accept this.
"Ahhh, I cannot bear the sight of this any longer..."
Lisa scratched her head impatiently and forcibly embraced Mitsuki.
Finding her face pressed against Lisa's massive bust, Mitsuki moaned uncomfortably.
"Mitsuki-san, you have done plenty enough already. I respect someone like you from the bottom of my heart. As friends, I am proud of you. As family... I feel that you are extremely endearing."
Lisa hugged Mitsuki tightly.
As though realizing something, Mitsuki showed surprise on her face.
"—This sensation... Ahhh, I see now. That time, it was also you, Lisa-san, who..."
Mitsuki murmured in a trembling voice while letting Lisa hug her tightly.
Then despite some hesitation, Mitsuki still wrapped her arms around Lisa's back.
"Thank you... Lisa-san."
Although I had no idea what Mitsuki's murmurs meant, I could also feel that, in this very instant, the gulf between them had vanished.
—Thank goodness, you two...
"...Mononobe-kun, let's go over too."
I was watching over Mitsuki and Lisa from a slight distance, but Firill gave my back a push at this time.
"Huh? Go where—"
Firill ignored my doubts and shoved me violently towards Mitsuki and Lisa, causing me to collide into them.
"Kyah!? M-Mononobe Yuu? W-What on earth are you doing!?"
"No, it's Firill who forced—"
"...Victory is a joy to be shared with everyone."
My posture was like hugging Mitsuki and Lisa. Then Firill pounced on my back. Instantly, the sensation of a soft and bountiful bosom was pressing against my back.
"Oh, wait for me, Mononobe!"
"—Ren, let's go over too."
Even Iris, Ariella and Ren joined in, instantly packing us together like sardines.
"M-Mononobe Yuu! Y-Your face is too close!"
"Nii-san! W-Where do you think you are touching!?"
Although Lisa and Mitsuki were complaining to me, there was no gap for me to escape.
"...Basilisk is defeated, congratulaions."
Firill cheered for victory in her usual calm voice.
"Congratulations! Wonderful, we won!"
Iris answered with a voice of cheerful vitality.
Ariella raised her arms and cheered. Blushing, Ren cried out loudly in a rare moment.
—By this point, I might as well throw caution to the wind.
"Mitsuki, Lisa, it's our turn next."
Grabbing Mitsuki and Lisa's arms in my left and right respectively, I raised them to the sky.
"Great! We WONNNNNNNNNNNNNNNN!!"
Squeezing my voice out from the bottom of my abdomen, I yelled as hard as I could until my throat hurt.
Seeing me yell loudly next to them, Mitsuki and Lisa first showed wide-eyed shock on their faces then finally chuckled at the same time.
"...Lisa-san, shall we have a shout too?"
"Yes... It's not every day that we get a chance to do so."
Lisa coughed briefly then nodded in response to Mitsuki's question.
Then the two of them cheered together, allowing their voices of joy to resound across the blue sky.
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