Unlimited Fafnir:Volume 4 Chapter 4
Chapter 4 - Noah of Soul Destruction
Firill and I, the two of us, were walking in town before dawn.
Although the air was very chilly, it was not a problem as we were fully prepared for the cold. Firill was dressed in a very warm looking coat with a hat made of insulating materials. Prioritizing mobility, I was wearing a thick jacket with a scarf.
Our destination was a plaza that overlooked the entire waterfall—The location of the final showdown against Hraesvelgr.
We were walking to the waterfall from the palace on foot.
"...Will they attack?"
Firill exhaled white breath, lowering her voice to ask me.
"If they know about the dragon mark changing color... They'll definitely come. Because they also want to settle things before Hraesvelgr's arrival."
I inserted my hands into my pockets and answered while looking up at the cloudy sky. Judging from the cloud cover in the sky, it looked like it might snow soon.
"If nothing happens... This would just be an ordinary date, right?"
"If that's the case, it'd still be nice."
"...Yeah, I guess."
Firill chuckled lightly and nodded in agreement.
"If it's a date... Let's hold hands."
Firill drew out her hand from her coat pocket and said that to me.
"Eh? N-No, umm..."
I frantically looked around.
Since Kili herself was also NIFL's target, we left Kili in the palace, but the others were watching us from afar. I asked them to protect Firill from a distance in case a battle broke out and not to worry about covering me.
Iris was among them of course, hence I could not help but worry about her gaze.
Seeing emotions of uneasiness wavering in Firill's eyes, I had no choice but to give up resisting. I exhaled.
"It's not that I refuse, but... Your hand will get cold."
"Then let's do this."
Firill reached into my pocket and entwined her fingers with mine.
"...Now this is very warm."
Blushing slightly, she smiled.
Feeling very embarrassed, I looked away.
The mountain range in the east was began to whiten while starlight was gradually fading.
"This is my first date with a boy."
"That's because you're a princess."
"Yes... Since you invited me, a princess, out on a date, Mononobe-kun... Do you have the resolve to become a prince?"
Firill cocked her head and smiled mischievously while she asked me.
Speaking of which, I recalled her saying something similar last time. On that occasion, she had said: "Do not fall for me unless you have the resolve to be a prince."
Firill gripped my hand harder in my pocket and leaned herself over. her soft bosom made contact with my arm.
Not knowing which part of what she said was serious, I felt rather troubled.
"Perhaps this might be the last chance. Even if it's just for now, if you'll be my prince... I'll be very glad."
Firill rested her head against my shoulder and spoke in a trembling voice.
Hearing her say that, I noticed she was simply feeling afraid.
"It's not the last. I will absolutely find a solution, so don't go talking like a defeatist."
I gripped her hand in return and declared forcefully.
"Yeah... You're right, I'm sorry. After hearing your encouragement, Mononobe-kun, I feel like things will really be fine, but..."
Firill made a gloomy expression and gazed at me quietly.
"Right now, Mononobe-kun, you're making the same expression as Grandfather."
"The expression of deciding to protect. It's also an expression that makes others believe they're being protected. However, it's also very one-sided in feeling. That's the kind of expression it is."
Firill's gaze did not leave my face while she spoke.
Realizing my thoughts had been read, I looked away, silent.
"For my sake, Mononobe-kun, are you planning to do something?"
"—Nothing much, I'm just doing what I can."
"Really? I guess I've failed to convey my message to you, just like with Grandfather."
Firill spoke sorrowfully. White breath dispersed in the wind.
I responded with silence again, because I had no idea what to say.
"It's okay, I understand. Right now, I'll let you protect me one-sidedly, but if I survive today as a human... I will take revenge."
I was surprised by this unexpected statement. I looked back at Firill, only to see her determined gaze staring straight at me.
"I will take one-sided revenge on you... Prepare yourself."
Firill smiled in a domineering manner.
Although cold sweat slid down my cheek, I decided it was a good thing that she was still able to consider the future.
Even though for me, it was going to be a day of hardship.
I suddenly felt goosebumps form on my neck.
Like being pricked by a pin, I sensed sharp and subtle killing intent.
I instantly switched my consciousness to awaken the monster of my subconscious, deep in my heart, as a substitute. I awakened the "Fafnir" sleeping inside me.
The line of killing intent was not directed towards me but to Firill.
Anti-materiel armor—Damascus 09P.
I used a small piece of armor plating to deflect the bullet sniping Firill between her eyes.
Seeing sparks scatter before her eyes, Firill was surprised.
"Don't worry, I'll end this soon."
To reassure Firill, I smiled at her gently.
Firill nodded, her cheeks reddening slightly.
Then I stepped forward and turned my gaze towards where the bullet came from.
He emerged from around a corner ahead.
The man wearing silver armor under a coat—Hreidmar. A hard luster could be seen under the hood. He was approaching us. As expected, Major Loki must have gotten news of Firill's dragon mark changing in color.
Yesterday, he had overwhelmed me, but for some reason, right now... I did not think I would lose.
There was no longer any hesitation in my heart. Killing him, changing myself, none of that mattered anymore.
Surely, it was because I was going to lose something very important next.
I feared forgetting, fearing to the point of not knowing what to do To think that I still had this much emotions of fear left in my heart.
Compared to this fear, compared to the fear of loss, mere change was nothing to be afraid of.
My consciousness was sharper and clearer than ever.
Behind me, Firill's breathing, the air currents around her, the sharp gazes directed in this direction from various places, the faint sounds of the waterfall far away, the flapping of birds' wings across the sky—
Including the sixth sense, all of my senses were expanding, filling my entire body with a sense of omnipotence as though I ruled the world.
"As long as I'm here, I won't allow you to touch a single hair of Firill's. If you come over, I will use killing methods to stop you."
I declared quietly while Hreidmar responded to me with killing intent.
As though replaying what happened yesterday, he threw a knife from within his coat without any preparatory motion.
But in my current state, I could easily predict his movements. The "Fafnir" surpassing him was controlling my body.
While twisting my body, I used my left hand to grab the hilt of the incoming knife.
Then using my empty right hand, I created a gun for taking down armored troops, firing a vibration bullet at him.
However, he predicted the bullet's trajectory, dodged the bullet and closed in on me.
I saw him pull out a black gun from inside his coat.
But before he could pull the trigger, I threw the knife at the muzzle.
As the gunshot rang out, an earsplitting metallic sound was heard all around
After clashing with the bullet, the knife spun up into the air.
Then came the next shot—the sound of Hreidmar's gunshot and mine overlapped.
Against his bullet, I used a vibration bullet this time. In my current state, taking his bullet trajectory into account was a piece of cake.
Then two impacts were heard. The first came from the vibration bullet deflecting his bullet. The second came from the vibration bullet, continuing straight to strike his gun.
The gun in Hreidmar's hand was sent flying. Transmitted to his body, the vibrations made him lose balance in his posture.
Without missing the opening, I fired the rest of Enlil's bullets at his body from point blank range.
The monotonous gunshots rang repeatedly.
Striking him, the vibration bullets ripped his coat and caused him to tilt backwards greatly.
An ordinary person would have fainted from the first hit. But despite having been hit by many bullets, he remained standing.
This was not something achievable through willpower or determination alone. Most likely, he had used highly refined martial arts to send most of the impacts to the ground.
But he could not be unharmed after all. For an instant, his movements halted.
That was enough. His life was in my hands now. The killing "Fafnir" did not let go of that opening. Opening its jaws, it buried its fangs into him.
I tossed Enlil away and used transmutation to create an anti-materiel rifle that was meant for sniping.
I bid him farewell in my thoughts.
I knew neither his true name, his appearance, nor his voice. But in my heart, I deeply carved the appearance of this man who was so strong that I used to watch him intently, the first human to be killed by me.
I pressed this large gun against Hreidmar's left chest and pulled the trigger without hesitation.
The heavy gunshot rumbled. The armor on his left chest was blown away as though exploding, but—
White smoke, resembling steam, shot out from inside the armored outfit with frightening force.
Finding my view obscured by the smoke, I let go of Ishtar and pulled away from Hreidmar. Perhaps I shot through a smoke grenade hidden on his body.
I definitely felt from my hand that I had shot him just now, but I still kept my distance from him, staying on guard against a counterattack until the smoke cleared.
In this quiet town at dawn, cold wind blew, revealing Hreidmar's figure.
He was lying on the ground, completely motionless.
Perhaps due to the explosion just now, the front of the armor had cracked wide open from inside.
Feeling something was not right, I approached him cautiously, then—I saw that the armored outfit was empty.
Witnessing that scene, I muttered. I did not sense anyone leaving in the smoke just now and judging from the crack in the armor, coming out from there was a bit difficult.
Nevertheless—I could not think of any other possibility apart from that. It was not like the armor could have been empty from the start.
Given it was Hreidmar, it would not be too surprising for him to retreat without me noticing. Since he had definitely suffered a severe injury, I should be able to conclude that he was routed.
Although this was in hindsight, I breathed a slight sigh of relief that I could take care of things without killing anyone.
The only issue left was—
"Sleipnir! I know you guys are here!"
I yelled at the members of Sleipnir, watching me from various places with their presences concealed.
If I believed what John had said, they were in charge of surveillance and clean up, which was why they had not taken action so far. But I had no idea what orders they were given in the event that Hreidmar was defeated.
"Just as you can see, I defeated Hreidmar! You'd better take care of this thing and retreat!"
I indicated at Hreidmar's armored outfit with my arm then continued:
"If your target is also Firill, then I won't show any mercy. Bring it on if you feel like dying."
Saying that, I walked over to Firill.
"Mononobe-kun, thank you for protecting me, umm... You're very cool."
Staring at me in a slight trance, Firill thanked me.
"It's too early for thanks. The real battle is only beginning now."
Saying that, I started walking with Firill towards our destination, the waterfall.
Even if Sleipnir continued to observe without attacking, I still intended to eliminate their combat ability. In order to focus wholly on the battle against Hraesvelgr, I must get rid of all uncertain factors here.
I advanced without lowering my guard.
After walking for a while, I looked back. Hreidmar's armored outfit was gone and Sleipnir's presence had vanished.
It looked like they had retreated.
Then that left only one thing to do.
Namely, to put everything of mine on the line—to defeat "Yellow" Hraesvelgr, that was all.
The sun appeared from the eastern mountain range. The clouds in the sky turned from dark gray to the color of dawn. The rising sun's bright rays lengthened the shadows under our feet, adding rich colors to the large amount of river water flowing from the lake.
From the center of the plaza, some distance away, I watched the Great Waterfall of Erlia, rumbling today as before.
By my side were Firill, Mitsuki and Iris.
Lisa, Ariella, Ren and Tia were stationed on the edges of the plaza as though surrounding us.
Since the surrounding roads had been sealed off, there were no other people in sight.
"It will be soon."
Checking Firill's dragon mark whose color change was about to complete, Mitsuki murmured nervously. Since we were farther away from the waterfall than last time, it was possible to hear one another at normal speaking volume.
Time was drawing near—the moment to end "my current self" was about to arrive. Repeatedly replaying memories in my mind that I did not want to lose, I nodded at Mitsuki.
My memories with Mitsuki, things that had happened after coming to Midgard—If possible, I did not want to forget any of this.
"Don't worry, Mononobe."
Immediately, Iris made a look as though she understood everything and smiled at me.
Seeing her smile, I felt my shoulders relax a little. Indeed—No matter what I lost, Iris will surely remember it for me.
Seeing us gazing into each other's eyes, Mitsuki coughed lightly.
"Ahem, then let us confirm the plan now. After Hraesvelgr enters visual range, Nii-san will attack with the 'trump card' before it approaches. If Hraesvelgr cannot be defeated completely, everyone will join into attack—Is this sequence correct?"
"Then one more thing. If this plan fails, then what?"
Mitsuki asked me, as well as Firill who was sitting on a bench in the plaza.
I was speechless for a moment. Unlike last time with Iris, Mitsuki had not pleaded with me, "it would be better to kill her rather than let her become a dragon." In the event that the worst-case scenario arrived, what did Firill hope to do—I still did not know.
I looked at Firill. Exhaling lightly, she answered.
"...I don't want to die."
"Firill-san, are you fine with turning into a dragon?"
Mitsuki asked in a cautious tone.
"Frankly speaking, I do feel that becoming a dragon is slightly better than dying. However—Mitsuki, and Lisa too, you probably won't allow it, right?"
Mitsuki replied with silence and a pained expression.
"Hence, rather than making you suffer that kind of pain from killing me, I'd rather end my own life. Although I don't want to die... I'd hate for things to end up like with Miyako, forcing you and the others to suffer all this time."
Shinomiya Miyako was Mitsuki's best friend who had caught the Kraken's eye and got turned into a dragon. Due to guilt from killing Miyako personally, Mitsuki had suffered deeply the whole time. Defeating all dragons was one of her ways of atonement.
Probably because she had watched Mitsuki suffer since a long time ago, Firill took out a combat knife from her coat's inside pocket.
I was surprised to see the knife Firill was holding. After I used Hreidmar's knife to block a bullet, I had no idea where it had flown off.
"I picked it up just now."
Firill smiled wryly and ran her fingertips along the back of the blade.
I reflexively reached out, trying to take the knife from her hand, but—seeing the light of resolve in her eyes, I stopped.
"I absolutely won't let you use that thing."
I clenched my fist and slowly lowered my hand. As though squeezing my voice out, I told her.
Firill gripped the knife's hilt tightly and nodded.
At this moment, she showed a painful expression.
"Firill-chan, what's wrong?"
Iris frantically asked her. Firill groaned while pressing her hand on her shoulder's dragon mark.
Mitsuki frantically pulled her collar to check the dragon mark on her shoulder, only to see the mark glow with yellow radiance completely beyond what it was earlier.
"The dragon mark has changed in color completely. Nii-san, Hraesvelgr is coming."
Mitsuki reported to me then raised her hand to signal to everyone in the corners of the plaza.
Hence, Lisa and the others summoned their fictional armaments and looked at the sky.
"Iris, I'm counting on you."
I looked up at the cloudy sky and extended my hand towards Iris.
Although it was unknown what kind of data I could obtain from Yggdrasil, assuming similar specs as the anti-dragon weapons I had used before, materializing it would definitely require borrowing dark matter from someone else.
Since Firill must act appropriately at the critical moment, I had asked Iris to be in charge of supplying me with dark matter.
However, Iris stared at my hand then shook her head to refuse.
"Mononobe, I feel that it's better for Mitsuki-chan to do it this time."
"Mitsuki-chan, even while transferring dark matter, you can still give orders to everyone, right? So please, could you take my place?"
Without waiting for my answer, Iris said to Mitsuki.
"Why so suddenly—"
"Please, if it's with you, Mitsuki-chan, it'll definitely succeed!"
Seeing Iris so serious, Mitsuki reluctantly nodded.
"If you say so... Fine. Then please go to Firill-san's side and accompany her, Iris-san."
Mitsuki held my left hand lightly with her right.
Since I had grown taller, Mitsuki's hand felt smaller compared to when we were young.
Just by holding hands, many memories awakened in a chain reaction. This was proof of the times Mitsuki and I had spent together.
Even if some memories had already been forgotten, we shared many many memories, connecting us together as family.
She was always playing the role of the warmth closest to me, the voice most familiar to my ears.
With just that, I felt I could face any trial, no matter what, but—
Iris had yielded the spot by my side to Mitsuki. Feeling curious about her true thoughts, I looked at Iris.
Meeting my gaze, Iris showed a melancholic smile and nodded slightly at me.
"Do your best, Mononobe. As long as you hold hands, you won't lose it, right?"
Iris probably asked Mitsuki to switch so that I would forget the least about Mitsuki.
Feeling her thoughts and wishes, I shifted my gaze back into the sky.
Even without holding hands, I could still strongly feel the bond between Iris and me. I absolutely won't forget the sensation lingering on my lips.
"Right now, Nii-san... You feel exactly the same as three years ago."
Immediately, Mitsuki showed uneasiness in her gaze, looking at the side of my face while I was staring at the sky.
"—You're thinking too much. There's no need to make such a worried look. Leave it to me."
I felt guilty inside but I answered forcefully.
However, Mitsuki's expression stiffened further.
"It is identical just as I suspected. Back then also, Nii-san, after you suddenly said leave it to you... Hekatonkheir was driven away. Afterwards, Nii-san, you disappeared."
After speaking in a trembling voice, Mitsuki gripped my hand tighter.
"Nii-san... You are not going to disappear again, are you?"
"No, I want to stay by your side forever, Mitsuki. That's why—You have to hold onto me tightly."
The sun was clearly still at the mountain's edge but another part of the clouds in the sky suddenly brightened.
It was coming...!
Noticing Hraesvelgr's arrival, I closed my eyes and called to Yggdrasil in my mind.
Lend me your power, Yggdrasil! Lend me the power to defeat Hraesvelgr!
—Demand acknowledged, data transfer restarting.
As though it had been waiting for my call all along, Yggdrasil's emotionless voice replied immediately.
Some part of my consciousness connected to it and a vast volume of data flowed in.
My brain screamed. The internal pressure from the information flowing in was twisting my heart and soul.
My thoughts were in chaos. My emotions were devoured.
Memories—gradually getting distant.
The more information that flowed in, the more I lost in return.
It felt like being forced to watch a movie fast forwarded at several hundred times the speed without allowing my gaze to shift, engraving everything onto my mind.
My accumulated past was gradually collapsing, as though pushed out by the newly written information.
However, I did not know what I was losing. The instant something left me, I had already forgotten what it was.
Even the sense of loss making me want to scream loudly was being engulfed by the flood of information, to the point that even wanting to feel sad was not allowed.
The incoming data was like a tree's roots, gradually invading the deepest layer of my consciousness.
The existence in my mind that was not myself was gradually increasing in proportion.
Enduring that unpleasant feeling of a foreign object, I searched for the information I needed.
Having lost the foundation known as memories, I desperately kept my unstable personality together and dove into the sea of information.
Faced with Hraesvelgr which was immune to all sorts of physical interference, I sought a weapon capable of dealing with that dragon effectively.
Beneath my eyelids, numerous lights kept flashing.
Soul, spirit—I kept searching weapons data, among them included armaments that the modern world would view as occult concepts.
—Match found, anti-dragon weapon Marduk, auxiliary armament.
I heard Yggdrasil's voice in my mind.
Then gradually supplementing the data of the still incomplete Marduk, I looked for the potential to breakthrough the current predicament.
The instant I obtained the necessary weapon information, I raised my mental defenses to prevent more data from flowing in.
Severing Yggdrasil's circuits, I was liberated from the pressure of information.
My name is—Mononobe Yuu.
Confirming my own name, I opened my eyes and swept my gaze in a circle.
Scattered in the corners of the plaza, the girls wielding fictional armaments—Tia, Lisa, Ariella, Ren—I remembered all their names.
Behind me, holding a knife, watching the battle silently was the princess from the Principaliy of Erlia—Firill. By her side, watching me worriedly was Iris.
Then right now, the girl holding hands with me, I clearly recognized her name was Mitsuki.
I could not help but cry out.
Mitsuki looked at me, her expression seemed to be asking "What is the matter?"
Despite feeling a vague outline of what I had lost, I still shifted my gaze back to the sky.
Since I had not forgotten the reason for fighting, I should focus my attention on the opponent that needed to be taken out, not think about unnecessary things for now.
But why did I feel so unsettled? Clearly Mitsuki and I... were holding each other's hand.
That cold omen was putting me at a loss what to do. At this moment, I saw the golden light flying in. A brightly shining giant bird appeared, breaking past the clouds. The instant I saw that bird, I dispelled all unnecessary thoughts.
The yellow dragon—"Yellow" Hraesvelgr.
It was the dragon in pursuit of Firill, as well as the enemy that must be defeated.
And now, the method to defeat it was already in my mind.
I had probably obtained it in exchange for something irreplaceable.
Borrowing Mitsuki's dark matter, I constructed the lost weapon for slaughtering that dragon.
"Marduk... Psionic multi-barreled cannon, Noah!"
Pitch-black dark matter was gradually transmuted into a pre-civilization weapon.
On a rotating turret, the double-barreled artillery took on physical form. Since it was a size smaller than the previous weapons, Noah was almost in a complete state after I constructed it.
The multi-barreled design had glowing lines carved on the surface. Moving according to my will, it aimed at Hraesvelgr.
All previous anti-dragon weapons were controlled by a mental link, but I felt an even stronger connection to this multi-barreled cannon.
The vitality inside my body was gradually sucked away by Noah.
Reading the downloaded information, I gradually understood what kind of weapon it was.
The inventors of this weapon had discovered tiny quantities of particles in the atmosphere that interacted with souls—namely, what we now called ether—then apparently found applications for it.
Noah, the Ark going through to the Far Beyond, was a weapon for amplifying and firing the gunner's thoughts. After being compressed to high density, mental waves could cause a slight amount of ether to materialize, thereby obtaining the power to interact physically—
I did not know whether the inventors created this weapon with something like Hraesvelgr as an imaginary enemy. However, since it used mental energy, there was a high chance that it could interfere with Hraesvelgr's spirit body.
Considering this weapon's characteristics, I could predict that the higher the density of ether, the more powerful the shots.
Golden particles were starting to drift down like snow.
I aimed at the source of those particles—Hraesvelgr descending in a straight line—and fired my own spirit.
The double-barreled cannon fired shells of light at the same time.
When confronted with positron blasts and antimatter projectiles, Hraesvelgr made no effort to dodge, but now, it flapped its wings hard and halted rapidly in the air.
Most likely, it instinctively detected danger.
However, Hraesvelgr's evasive action was not fast enough. Out of the two shots, one struck the edge of its wing.
Golden feathers scattered.
But Hraesvelgr regrouped in the air and switched to flying in a spiral.
Although I hit the target and had inflicted damage, it was quite far from a critical wound.
Then I just had to keep firing until I ran out of energy.
Rotating the turret to track the flying Hraesvelgr, I fired consecutively.
I understood that my fatigue would gradually accumulate with the firing of each shell of light. The shells' source was my thoughts—mental energy. The more I fired, the power known as fighting spirit or mental energy, which supported the mind, would gradually deplete.
Hraesvelgr was turning rapidly in the air above the waterfall, dodging the multi-barreled cannon.
I could not hit again, the number of attacks were not enough.
Hraesvelgr was steadily decreasing its altitude. Fluttering in the surroundings, the golden particles were gradually increasing in concentration. If it approached a bit closer, we would probably get enveloped in particles again and lose our ability to move.
In that case—
"Please, Iris, give me your dark matter too!"
Without looking back, I extended my empty right hand backwards.
Since Mitsuki's dark matter was continually converted into energy to drive the turret, I needed Iris' help to create another turret.
Iris gripped my right palm with her warm hand, filling my heart with power—Her dark matter flowed into me.
I continued to fire at Hraesvelgr while simultaneously constructing a second psionic multi-barreled cannon next to me.
This strained my mind heavily, making me dizzy.
However, using willpower, I maintained my consciousness that was about to cut off, then I stared at Hraesvelgr in the sky.
The first turret's shells were fired as though chasing Hraesvelgr while the second turret's shells were fired as though blocking the direction of its advance.
Nevertheless, Hraesvelgr twisted its body nimbly. The shells merely brushed past its wings.
I gritted my teeth and continued to fire consecutively.
I fired nonstop at the light of souls in the sky, but this was still not enough.
The shells brushed past Hraesvelgr's body many times, but were off by a sliver. None were direct hits.
The particles in the surroundings were getting more concentrated. The time limit was at hand.
At this rate, we were not going to make it.
"Firill too... Please!"
I made a final gamble. Although my brain might short circuit, there was no other choice left.
"Eh, b-but... in the critical moment, I need to take my own—"
"Forget about later! If you fight as hard you can now, perhaps there will be a way! If you want to live—lend me your strength!"
Clang, the knife fell to the ground. Firill hugged me from behind.
I could feel a voluptuous and soft sensation on my back. Her dark matter also flowed into me.
Normally speaking, I could not possibly handle dark matter from three people, but since weapon blueprints served as an unerring filter, I was able to control and transmute Firill's dark matter as well through this filter.
I had long passed the limit of my processing power. My brain screamed. My head felt like it was going to explode from inside.
However, I gritted my teeth as though trying to grind my teeth to dust, squeezing out power beyond my limit.
The third psionic multi-barreled cannon was gradually constructed. I felt blood dripping from my nose.
Even so, I still clung forcibly to my consciousness, locking on the target with my blurry eyes, firing three multi-barreled cannons at the same time.
Hraesvelgr tried to turn rapidly in a panic, but this time, it was cornered.
Two of the six shots struck directly. The giant golden bird lost balance completely.
—Now victory is decided!
"Fire, fire, fire, fire—!!"
I mustered all my strength, turning the will to vanquish that dragon into ammunition, firing consecutively with the three Noahs.
With every impact, golden particles would scatter, gradually thinning out Hraesvelgr's coating of light.
If Hraesvelgr existed and lived in this world, it must possess a living physical body. The power to manifest souls must also be used while in a living state. This was a matter-of-fact principle.
The coating of light was most likely Hraesvelgr's own spirit. Unlike humans whose spirit was contained within the body of flesh, Hraesvelgr's spirit must be large enough to envelop its physical body.
And that coating of light was gradually getting peeled off. The shells fired by me were shaving off and scattering the giant bird's spirit.
Beneath the outer coating that neutralized all kinds of attacks, what existed were yellow rather than golden feathers.
"If it's now, I think everyone's attacks might work! Mitsuki, give the signal to attack!"
I kept firing the cannons while speaking to Mitsuki.
"Y-Yes, roger that! Everyone—please attack!"
Mitsuki raised her left hand then swung it down forcefully. This was the signal to start attacking.
Stationed in a formation around the plaza, Lisa and the others fired at the sky with their fictional armaments.
Due to my attacks, Hraesvelgr was almost entirely stripped of its coating of light. Everyone's attacks were striking Hraesvelgr directly.
Hraesvelgr cried out in pain. What fluttered in the air were not particles but real feathers.
Losing a wing, Hraesvelgr crashed down towards the waterfall.
Controlling three turrets, I aimed and poured the last of my strength into them, converting it into energy for Noah.
Dazzling light erupted from the muzzles, firing shells that were several times larger than earlier.
The six spheres of light sank straight into Hraesvelgr's body.
Immediately, a gigantic explosion swallowed Hraesvelgr.
Golden particles were then scattered by the blast pressure.
I closed my eyes for an instant. When I opened them again, the giant golden bird had vanished.
Yellow feathers and shining particles were falling from the air like snow.
Even after looking around the sky, I could not see any signs of Hraesvelgr.
I could not hear the giant bird's calls or the flapping of its wings. The only noise was the sound of the waterfall.
"...We defeated it?"
Gripping my right hand tightly, Iris asked.
"Yes—It looks like we won."
Mitsuki murmured in a daze.
Scattered around the plaza, everyone cheered and ran towards us.
Seeing this, I finally felt a real sense of victory.
I was utterly exhausted. My vision kept swaying.
But for just a bit longer... At least until everyone returned, I tried hard to stay standing.
Separating from my back, Firill exclaimed in surprise.
"...What's the matter?"
I asked in my hazy consciousness.
"Grandfather seemed to be there just now..."
I looked at where her finger was pointing, but could only see golden particles that gradually faded and disappeared.
"Oh... Never mind, sorry, I guess I imagined it."
Firill smiled wryly and shook her head.
"No... It's possible that the souls absorbed by Hraesvelgr were finally freed. If you have any words to convey... How about using this chance to say them?"
I encouraged Firill and she nodded.
"Yeah, if Grandfather really is present... I must convey this to him."
She turned her gaze towards the spot where she could vaguely see her grandfather.
Ahhh—No good. My consciousness... already—
Then my vision dimmed and the surrounding noise gradually faded into the distance.
The last thing I heard was Firill's word of thanks that took all her strength to speak.
"Good work, Yuu."
Not far from the waterfall's observation plaza, on a rooftop, Kili Surtr Muspelheim spoke softly.
Kili had sneaked out of the palace and witnessed everything. Watching Mononobe from a distance while he lost consciousness and was looked after, she smiled.
Targeted by NIFL, although she was ordered to standby in the palace, she had no reason to obey such an order. A bit of danger was nothing if it meant she could watch him fight.
"Hey! You bitch! Hurry and untie this rope!"
An angry voice shouted from underfoot. Kili looked down with an expression of distaste. Under her was the Sleipnir sniper all tied up in rope—John Hortensia.
"Shut up and give me some peace."
Kili glared at the soldier and immediately generated dark matter next to John's mouth, transmuting a ball gag.
Unable to speak, John moaned while squirming in vain.
"Listen here, let me make this clear... I saved you, got that? Had you sniped her, then right now, you'd be dead by his hand."
Kili glanced at the sniper's rifle fallen on the ground next to the roof, then sighed deeply.
Ignoring Mononobe Yuu's warning, John still attempted to snipe Firill from this location, probably as a precaution in case Hraesvelgr could not be defeated.
Nevertheless, Yuu had easily defeated Hreidmar. Given the way he was right now, he would have sensed John's presence as soon as he entered sniping posture, then eliminated the enemy mercilessly.
It would be huge mistake to think that Yuu would present openings when fighting Hraesvelgr. Precisely because he had no slack to spare, he was not going to show any mercy and would surely blast John to death with that cannon.
"Dear me, what a scary look, however, indeed... I only saved you and that girl out of convenience. Because I have questions for you."
"—What on earth is Hreidmar?"
As soon as Kili asked that, John instantly stopped moaning. Fear surfaced on his face and he began to tremble.
"From the way you look, you apparently saw his true identity."
John's silence was equivalent to answering yes.
"Your commanding officer is the one who gives orders to it, right? What kind of person is he? What does he intend to do to my Yuu?"
John frowned and shook his head once.
He seemed to be moaning like complaining.
"—Fufu, your face looks like you're saying 'Yuu is not yours.' Are you jealous?"
John went red to his ears while his bound body kept struggling.
"Fufu, what a cute reaction. Let me give you some honest advice since I like you a bit. If you know nothing about Hreidmar, it means that your rank does not provide sufficient clearance, yet.. through that pair of eyes, too excellent for your own good, you saw."
John made a stiff expression. Kili looked at him with eyes of pity.
"Under such circumstances, what you face next is most likely an unfortunate ending. I sincerely suggest that you don't return to your commanding officer."
John looked away and remained silent.
"Oh my oh my, look at how lost you look. The way I see it, you have no place to go if NIFL is ruled out. No helping it—Then I shall kidnap you."
John widened his eyes and showed a look of surprise.
"Because it's been so lively these recent days... I'd feel a bit lonely if I went back to being alone. Since we're both people without a place to belong to, aren't we perfect travel companions?"
John shook his head with all his strength to refuse.
"You hate it that much? Even if I say that it's for Yuu's sake?"
John's gaze seemed to be asking Kili "What do you mean by that?"
"Because through this incident, I can be certain that he is being watched by multiple unidentified existences apart from your commanding officer. At this rate, something will take him away."
Kili's eyes flashed with the light of insanity.
"I would hate that. The same goes for you, right?"
"So, before our mutual enemies are eliminated, let's cooperate, shall we? If you want to kill me, save it for after that, okay?"
Smiling cheerfully, Kili took the ball gag off John.
"So, may I ask you to introduce yourself? Although other people seem to call you John, you must have a real name, right? Little lady?"
John showed extreme unease in response to the question. However, she finally answered in a quiet voice.
"A name that suits you very well, noble and courageous—And very unfortunate, I might add."
Kili chuckled and bent down to use her finger to stroke the cheek of the scowling maiden—
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