Unlimited Fafnir:Volume 3 Epilogue
"Really—Another of the great gods has been slain... How unfortunate. Thank you for your report."
Inside a certain room of a hotel in league with a dragon worshiping cult, the Sons of Muspell, Kili listened to the report from a spy who had infiltrated NIFL. The air of solemnity exuded from her voice and expression was quite befitting of the "shrine maiden" who was the cult's leader.
But the instant she hung up the phone, that aura of holiness was instantly swept away.
Leaning herself tightly against the sofa, Kili smiled as though feeling happiness from the bottom of her heart.
"That's amazing—as expected of the man who caught my eye."
Kili kept swaying her legs, unable to contain her joy.
"Although I'm curious about where Code Fünf went, compared to that, mother's intentions are the first priority right now. With this, the initial plan has failed, which is great, so what is her plan here on, I wonder—"
Kili sounded like she was enjoying the misfortune of others. However, she suddenly showed a painful look on her face.
She looked at the back of her right hand where her dragon mark was located. Normally, it was a faintly visible pattern but now, it was emitting black light.
Just as Kili frowned in puzzlement, dark matter flowed out of the blackened dragon mark in the form of bubbles. Then the surging flow of dark matter covered Kili's right hand within the blink of an eye.
"What the heck does she want—Gah!?"
The intense pain attacking her right hand was making Kili lean backwards, crying out in pain. Although she waved her hand, trying to shake off the dark matter, dark matter kept flowing out, impossible to fling away.
"This feeling... Biogenic, transmutation...?"
Pressing on her right hand, Kili gritted her teeth and endured the pain.
Several minutes later, the flow of dark matter from the dragon mark stopped suddenly.
Utterly exhausted, Kili collapsed on the floor.
"—Huff, huff, huff... Ahhh, I get it now..."
While panting, Kili's mouth twisted into a grin.
"...You intend to dispose of me after use, mother."
Kili remarked sarcastically then slowly got up and examined the dragon mark on her right hand.
"Although there are almost no options left... Isn't remodeling your daughter going a bit too far?"
Kili's dragon mark was glowing with faint yellow light.
"But I don't hate you, because thanks to your remodeling, I finally seem to be—free."
Pressing on her dragon mark that had changed in color, Kili smiled.
"But at this rate, the game will end soon. What should I do...?"
Kili held her hand next to her mouth and started thinking. At that moment, she saw the newspaper on the living room table and narrowed her eyes.
"Death of Albert Crest, present monarch of the Principality of Erlia—I remember this is a country that devoted the most effort towards protecting the human rights of Ds, because a D had been born in their royal family..."
Kili murmured to herself then a mysterious light shone in her eyes.
"Fufu—Perfect, I shall make use of this country. Now that it's decided, I'd better get moving quickly."
Kili deftly started making travel preparations and said with delight:
"Looks like we will meet again soon. I'm so looking forward to it—Yuu."
The transport ship sailed back to Midgard. The moon and the stars were shining in the sky, decorating the sea with glittering brightness under the darkness of night.
I went onto the deck and leaned against the railing, staring out into the horizon where the sky met the sea.
"Oh, Yuu—You're here."
Tia jogged over to me with two glasses in her hand. Judging from the color, they probably contained orange juice.
"Are you looking for me?"
Hearing me ask that, Tia pouted a little angrily.
"Because Yuu disappeared from the party so suddenly. Tia wanted to have a toast with Yuu."
"But didn't we already toast in the beginning?"
"Tia wants to toast more times! Toasting is like sharing joyful feelings, it's very happy!"
Tia insisted in a strong tone of voice.
Currently, there was a victory party in the ship. Midgard staff were taking part and the dining hall serving as the venue was packed full of people.
Although it was a merry event, perhaps because everyone was female apart from me, I kept getting hassled by drunken older women, which was why I escaped outside for now.
"—Got it. I'll take a break then head back. You return to the dining hall first."
"No, if Yuu is staying here, Tia will stay together too!"
Seeing Tia had made up her mind not to go, I exhaled. I could not just leave her standing here with two glasses like this.
"In that case, let's sit down over there for a bit."
I took a glass from Tia and went over to the benches at the back of the deck.
Sitting side by side on plastic benches that were not too sturdy, we clanged our glasses together for a toast.
Grinning from ear to ear, Tia drank from her glass. I took a sip to moisten my throat. The sourness of orange juice was soothing my exhausted body.
"The stars are so pretty!"
We chatted briefly while drinking juice from our glasses.
Time passed by quietly. Finally, a serious expression surfaced on Tia's childish face.
"...Yuu, thank you. You returned safe and sound... Thank goodness."
Tia placed her empty glass on the side and wrapped her arm around my arm.
"Tia was afraid the whole time. After separating from Yuu and everyone, Tia was thinking the whole time, what to do if we never saw each other again...? So scary, Tia shivered in fright. The Yuu here—Tia is not dreaming, right?"
"Don't worry, you're not dreaming. I'm definitely here."
To reassure Tia, I tried to answer in as gentle a tone as possible.
"...Yeah, Tia can feel Yuu's warmth, Tia really does... love Yuu. Tia cannot stand being just a fiancee. Tia wants to hurry and get married... with Yuu."
Resting her head against my shoulder, Tia spoke quietly.
I grew frantic, never expecting her to bring up this topic now. And Tia was looking up at me, tilting her head to ask:
"...No? Tia really loves Yuu! Or maybe... Yuu dislikes a girl with these things...?"
Tia touched the two tiny horns on her head.
Hearing her say that, I felt a stabbing pain in my chest.
I was partially responsible for Tia ending up with this appearance.
If I had sent her to Midgard the first time we met—Tia would never have encountered Kili.
"Not at all—Tia, your horns are very cute."
Precisely because she had chosen to live as a human, Tia felt an inferiority complex regarding her horns.
I placed my hand on her head and deliberately stroked her horns.
"...Mm... I-It tickles... Aww..."
"Oh, sorry. I think you said the horns are very sensitive."
"Yeah... Tia isn't very sure, but because the horns are connected to the inside of the head, they can't be removed by surgery."
Inside of the head—In other words, it connected directly to the brain?
Kili said she had given Tia these horns using biogenic transmutation in order to turn Tia into a dragon.
I originally thought that her intention was purely to alter Tia's perceptions, to make Tia think she was no longer human... But perhaps there might be other purposes at work.
"—Tia, you're fine the way you are. No need to be concerned about the horns. It's part of your charm, Tia. I think you can be proud of them instead."
"Really!? Yuu, thank you—Tia is so happy!"
Tia wrapped her arms around my neck and hugged me.
"Yuu, Tia really loves you! Let's get married immediately!"
I answered vaguely.
"...Tia knows that because of human rules, it's not allowed without everyone's approval. But even just a wedding between the two of us is fine—Will you be Tia's husband?"
Close enough to feel each other's breaths, I met her gaze and listened to her proposal.
Seeing her sincere gaze, I resolved myself. I could no longer delay my answer by using the excuse that Tia was still a child.
"Of course, rules are part of the reason, but... I can't marry you because of something else."
Tia watched me with uneasy eyes.
"—There's someone I already like."
I told her calmly but clearly.
"But actually it's uncertain... To be honest, I'm not very confident at all, it's just that—It's absolutely true that I can't get her out of my mind... So with the way things are, I can't marry you, Tia."
Tears appeared from Tia's eyes.
"Yuu... You don't like Tia?"
"N-No, I like you, Tia. I also find you very cute. I want to help you at all times and save you when you're in danger. I guess there are even stronger feelings than that...?"
I explained to her in a stammer. I absolutely did not want to abandon Tia.
"Then... Yuu plans on marrying that person?"
"Eh? I-I don't really know about the future. Besides, we haven't reached that stage at all—"
Wavering, I answered, only to see Tia wipe her tears away on the back of her hand.
"In that case, Tia will start working hard!"
"By working hard... What are you going to work hard at?"
Feeling unease in my heart, I asked her.
"Tia will work hard to make Yuu fall in love with Tia! Compared to the person Yuu likes right now, to love Tia more, even more!"
Hearing Tia's declaration, I was stunned.
"Tia's temptation will spin Yuu in circles, making Yuu's heart flutter because of Tia!"
Saying that, Tia hugged me as hard as she could.
"T-Temptation... Do you really know what that word means? You're getting too close. Can you move a bit away?"
"No. Doing this will make men's hearts flutter. Tia learned from manga borrowed from Firill."
Tia clutched my clothing tightly, refusing to leave no matter what.
I was left without a choice, unsure what to do. It would be too pitiful if I pulled her away forcibly, she would surely cry.
However, after a while, Tia's body suddenly relaxed. I looked at her and saw that she was nodding off to sleep.
She was sleepy, apparently.
Having worried for the entire day, she must be exhausted.
Hence, I changed tactics. Stroking Tia's lovely hair, I sang a lullaby.
For some reason, the lyrics came out naturally.
Although I could no longer remember whom I was singing this kind of song to in the past.
Tia immediately began to sleep soundly. Her relaxed body was about to slide off. Hence, I hastily held her and laid her out to sleep on the bench, using my lap as a pillow.
Tia called my name from her dream.
Her sleeping face looked even more childish than her usual appearance.
I managed to handle her today, but it looked like things were only going to get tougher starting tomorrow.
Hearing Mitsuki's voice, I looked up, only to see Mitsuki poking her head out from around a corner. Seeing us, she walked over.
"I knew it, the person singing was you, Nii-san... How nostalgic."
"You know this song too, Mitsuki?"
"Of course I do. That was the lullaby my mother used to sing for us all the time."
Mitsuki answered with a wry smile. However, there was something wrong with what she said that unsettled me.
Mitsuki normally referred to our parents as father and mother without specifying...
Not noticing my bafflement, Mitsuki peered at Tia who was sleeping on my lap.
"So soundly asleep... Let me carry her back to her cabin."
Saying that, Mitsuki picked up Tia lightly in her arms.
"Well, if she needs to be carried, let me—"
"A girl's room should not be entered lightly."
Speaking as a student council president should, Mitsuki vetoed my suggestion.
In this manner, Mitsuki carried Tia and was about to leave when she looked back as though she recalled something.
"—Nii-san, I have caused you plenty of trouble this time. It is all thanks to you that I can smile and chat with Lisa-san again."
"I simply gave you a push. You're the one who took actual action."
I looked away in embarrassment.
"Even so... I am still very grateful to you. In the past, I always believed I did not deserve forgiveness and treated pain and suffering as a kind of punishment, but... in the end, that was relying on others too."
Mitsuki smiled wryly and continued.
"I still cannot forgive myself but even so, I now know the difference between that and giving things up on my own. Hence—I have decided that I will not give up on you, Nii-san."
"Huh... Give up on me?"
Not knowing what she was talking about, I repeated her words as a question.
My heart was pounding rapidly. Feeling a premonition that something irrevocable was about to happen, my body froze.
Mitsuki was about to say something that I did not know about.
"The day we became siblings, Nii-san... You promised me, right? Even after becoming siblings... You will still love me more than anyone else and that you will marry me when we grow up..."
I could not answer a single word.
I understood that a wooden stake had been stabbed into my heart, impossible to lift up again.
Now that my premonition had turned into reality, I could not go back.
—Ahhh, so this is the situation? Have I already lost this much?
Lost, I murmured in my mind.
"After all, it was a verbal promise from childhood, so I have no intention of using that to bind you, Nii-san. Even if you fall in love with someone else, Nii-san... It cannot be helped. However, my feelings will never change. I just want to tell you that."
Even in the darkness of the night, I could tell that Mitsuki's face was bright red. Unable to face me directly any longer, she turned her back to me.
"T-Then, I shall excuse myself."
Carrying Tia, Mitsuki left rapidly. But to the very end, let alone say something, I could not even manage to lift a finger.
That was how great a shock my heart had suffered. My mind was total chaos.
How long did I stand there in shock? My body felt cold from the sea breeze then I started walking to my cabin on unsteady steps.
—Became siblings? In other words, we were not siblings prior to that.
To think I had forgotten something like that and even went as far as to declare myself proudly to be Mitsuki's older brother?
Good grief—I wanted to laugh at how absurd I was.
Then there was the fact that I had clearly lost what were supposed to be my most cherished emotions, yet I was not aware at all... This filled me with abject terror.
Then wasn't I like a completely different person for real?
I was in no mood to return to the party so I went straight to my cabin without passing by the dining hall.
But in front of my door, I met the person I wanted to encounter least in this situation.
"Oh, it's you, Mononobe!"
The silver-haired girl—Iris—turned her head towards me frantically.
"...Iris, why did you come here?"
Although I could guess what it was about, I was simply asking her in order to buy some time. I wanted a bit of time to stabilize my emotions.
"U-Umm... We promised, right? After the battle against Basilisk—Mononobe, you'll tell me your feelings."
Iris' answer was just as I predicted.
Yeah—Definitely. Until just now, that was what I intended to do too.
Precisely because of that, I could answer Tia's proposal without any pretense.
"Mononobe...? Are you okay? You look like you're about to cry, you know?"
I could no longer hold it back.
I did not want her to see my disgraceful look, then wanting to hold onto something, I embraced Iris.
"Kyah!? M-Mononobe... Umm, seriously, what's with you? You're acting a bit weird, you know?"
"...Sorry, my reply—Please let me say it like this."
I spoke quietly in a hoarse voice.
"S-Sure... That's fine..."
Despite feeling troubled, Iris agreed.
Hence, I inhaled and spoke with determination.
I voiced my completely genuine feelings.
"I think I definitely—love you, Iris."
It probably started on our first encounter.
Iris had appeared before me, completely nude. And the core of these feelings of mine must have taken root the instant our eyes met back then.
This was probably what people called love at first sight.
Iris asked in surprise.
If it was before I heard what Mitsuki said, all I needed to do now was nod. However, I could not do that.
I could not lie to Iris.
Precisely because I loved her, I could not deceive her.
"Yeah—But the me who loves you, Iris, might not be the real me."
I told her as though forcing my voice out. Whether to me or to Iris, this was a very cruel fact, and... to Mitsuki as well.
"What... do you mean?"
While she showed unease on her face, I whispered in her ear the secret I had never told anyone until now.
"To be honest, I... have lost quite a lot of my past memories."
It was the downside to making a deal with Yggdrasil.
The price paid to obtain knowledge of power.
To prevent Mitsuki from feeling she was to blame, I had kept my scars hidden till now.
"Eh...? M-Memories? What are you suddenly talking about?"
Iris asked uneasily. Although I understood clearly how she felt, I still had not finished my story.
No... Actually, I ought to end it here. Say that it was a joke then dismiss it somehow. That was the correct way.
Not just for Mitsuki but to protect Iris as well, I had sacrificed my memories as the price. If I did not want her to feel responsible, I should keep my secret from Iris as well.
Unable to lie to the one I love, describing it that way sounded so righteous.
This confession was merely to get Iris to dote on me, right?
Simply trying to shift this burden, impossible to bear alone, shoving it onto Iris, isn't it?
However, I could not stop. I could not suppress it no matter what.
If I kept it hidden in my heart, I would be crushed.
If I forcibly held it back, I would break down.
Irresponsibly, I was hoping, if it was Iris, perhaps she would accept me.
My own wishful thinking wanted her to support me.
Like the contents of a ruptured dam, my words kept spilling out...
"The one I truly love, is probably—"
On that day, I confessed everything to Iris.
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