Unlimited Fafnir:Volume 5 Chapter 4
Chapter 4 - The Awakened Red Code
The fact that Iris and the others encountered that thing could only be described as bad luck.
It was a wriggling "piece of vine" that had jumped out of Brynhildr Class' window and fallen on the ground.
Avoiding detection, moving from shadow to shadow, that thing ran into the girls in the school's connecting passage by chance.
"W-What is this!?"
Iris cried out in surprise.
The four girls, shocked by the sight of the strange object, were Iris, Firill, Ariella and Ren who were touring the school festival together.
Normally speaking, this would a situation to scream and flee, but they were battle-hardened members of the Dragon Subjugation Squad.
"Everyone be careful! I'm not sure but this thing is unusual."
Although news of that thing was not yet disseminated, Firill still urged everyone to stay on guard.
Instead of retreating, the girls stepped up to fight.
Iris generated her fictional armament of a staff and faced off against that thing.
Firill also summoned a book-shaped fictional armament. Ariella and Ren followed suit.
But just as they prepared for combat, holding their fictional armaments, things changed.
The staff-shaped fictional armament in Iris' hand began to twist in form.
It was almost like melting.
This phenomenon caused a chain reaction among them. Their fictional armaments turned back into black spheres of dark matter and were pulled to that thing.
Then having left their hands, the dark matter stuck to the that thing and changed in form again.
The surface of the dark matter turned mottled green and wriggled in a scary and sinister manner.
Within the blink of an eye, the expanding dark matter turned into green vines as though exploding, become a part of that thing.
Witnessing the unbelievable phenomenon, Firill cried out in surprise.
The vines transmuted from dark matter entangled with one another, increasing in length and girth, then attacked the girls.
"Everyone hurry and escape!"
The first to recover from the shock was Ariella who urged everyone to retreat.
Hence, the girls turned around to run.
But this decision came a bit too late.
The tentacle-like vines ensnared the bodies of the girls.
—Code Fünf secured.
Having captured them, that thing twisted its body in apparent satisfaction.
But at this moment, a man and a woman heard their screams.
"W-What is this..."
A well-dressed man and woman who looked like a married couple were shocked to see that thing capture the girls.
—Recognized as human ruling class, on grounds of self-defense, decision: capture preferable to eliminate.
Then as though crawling on the ground, that thing reached out with its vines to swiftly entangle their legs—
"Gray dragon... 'Gray' Vampire?"
Hearing the name said by Principal Charlotte, I was stunned and repeated the words.
"Principal, you claim to be a dragon? Or a vampire, so a blood-drinking demon, in other words?"
Listening to the principal together with me, Lisa also showed surprise on her face and asked the principal.
"Who knows? To be honest, I have no idea either. I neither have those monsters' gigantic size nor destructive power. However, my predecessor was the original vampire. This is indisputably correct."
After replying that, the principal added "However, vampire legends are stories that have gone through a lot of embellishments, so I'm not too happy to be compared with them."
"T-The original vampire...? Then the so-called gray dragon is...?"
Unable to figure it out, I looked in doubt at the principal.
"In other words, my predecessor is the one known as the original vampire. He believed he might be similar to the other dragons in nature—That's what it means."
The principal answered while staring into the distance.
"Even if you say that... I still can't understand it at all. Please explain in a comprehensible way."
I had a feeling that some crucial part had been glossed over, so I made my inquiry in this manner. With a smile surfacing on the corners of her lips, she said:
"—A man showed up several centuries ago. Born with the power to control mankind and a strong sense of purpose to protect the world, that man was my predecessor."
Like recounting the past, the principal continued:
"To prevent mankind from destroying the world, he used that power to start managing them. In the modern era, the only reason why humans did not go along the path of self-destruction despite obtaining powerful weapons—It is all thanks to him."
The principal added "he stopped nuclear war and saved the world" in a joking manner then turned her gaze towards me.
"I told you once before that someone had proposed a hypothesis on dragons, right? That was him. This is what he thought when a dragon appeared at the same time as him—That monster is the same. Like him, heaven had conferred it with a powerful authority to accomplish some kind of mission."
After saying that, the principal shrugged.
"Precisely because of that, he named himself the gray dragon. What an undeserved calamity for me, the one who inherited that title."
The gray dragon—"Gray" Vampire.
Could the "Gray" that Major Loki mentioned be referring to the principal?
"Since you're using the word 'inherit,' then he is now..."
"Yes, he is no longer in this world. He shoved all the troublesome stuff onto me, and died. Honestly, I don't love and cherish this world like him, but to prevent his efforts from going to waste, that's why I'm serving as Midgard's principal."
The principal sighed helplessly.
"So working as the principal is the same as saving the world?"
"Currently in human society, the biggest spark of conflict is the existence of Ds. For world stability, the location Midgard is essential, which is why I am protecting this place. Not to guard against the attack of dragons, but to prevent persecution from humans."
Seeing the principal reply in a sardonic tone, I breathed a sigh of relief.
"I was so shocked to hear you're a dragon... But now, I think I can conclude you're standing on our side, right?"
"I wouldn't save you unless I was standing on your side, right? Anyway, are you satisfied with this explanation? If you're satisfied, I'm going ask you to obey my orders next and clean up the mess you've brought in, okay?"
Arms crossed before her chest, the principal glared at me and spoke.
"...Yeah, I'll make up for my own mistakes. But can I ask a final question?"
"What is it?"
"Principal, what was your predecessor's relationship to you?"
After hearing my question, the principal smiled wryly and answered quietly:
"Midgard has been invaded by something suspected to be Yggdrasil. We are already tracking its whereabouts through security camera footage and sent mobilizable personnel to search. Furthermore, there are currently no students whose dragon mark changed color."
After that, we moved over to the command center at the clock tower. The principal concisely informed the people gathered.
Inside the command center were the principal, myself, Lisa, Mitsuki, Tia, as well as the ladies in charge of operating the surveillance system.
Video feeds from various places in Midgard were shown on a large screen.
"Excuse me—Was that really Yggdrasil?"
Having only learned about the situation just now, Mitsuki raised her hand and asked the principal.
After the incident, Mitsuki and Tia had finished preparing lunch and showed up at the classroom. Without being told anything, they were taken to the command center.
Iris, Firill, Ariella and Ren were not at the command center because they had left the classroom to tour the school festival. Since their portable terminals should have received notice already, they were probably going to gather here immediately... But I still felt worried because that "mobile vine" was lurking on campus. Right now, there was nowhere safe in Midgard.
Taking on everyone's worried gaze, the principal replied to Mitsuki:
"I cannot say for sure, but judging from its plant-like appearance, chances are very high. Hence, let's tentatively call the target Yggdrasil."
"If it is Yggdrasil, then from where exactly did it come from... Could it have invaded by mixing among the visitors?"
Mitsuki asked with a frown. The principal threw a glance at me then replied:
"I will send people to investigate the invasion route, which is currently unknown, but the first priority for the time being is the elimination of Yggdrasil. Judging from the fact that it is an extremely small vine, it is unlikely to be the main body, but merely a part of it—think of it as a terminal—but we cannot leave it to roam free outside."
It looked like the principal did not intend to disclose my situation.
Sitting next to me, Lisa quietly reassured me:
"Thank goodness, but it is true that you colluded with Yggdrasil and ultimately exposed the students and international visitors to danger. If anyone were to find out, Midgard and the Ds would lose all credibility. Still, there is no other option for her apart from this."
"...Also, if the whole story had to revealed, the principal's position and ability must also be publicized. However, even though no one is condemning me, I will still take responsibility for sure."
Despite agreeing with what Lisa said, I still clenched my right fist firmly.
My left arm was unable, still with no sensation after getting bitten by the principal. I did not know what kind of ability this so-called dominance was or what effect it would have on my body.
However, it was probably necessary to deprive my left arm of its freedom completely.
Thinking back, when Major Loki had subdued me yesterday, my left arm had apparently moved on its own. It was possible that my left arm had been invaded more by Yggdrasil compared to other parts of my body.
"Don't hold yourself completely responsible. I am equally guilty of not reporting despite being in the know."
Lisa placed her hand on my right hand to console me.
"But if anything happens because of this—"
Thanks to the principal, I was able to avoid killing Lisa by my own hand, but there was no telling what further harm might happen in the future.
"Charlotte-sama, I must report to you!"
Mika-san entered the command center frantically and called to the principal.
"—So you have returned. How goest the evacuation of visitors?"
"Evacuation is virtually complete, but two visitors are missing. There were also four students who did not respond..."
"Who are they?"
"The visitors are Mr. and Mrs. Highwalker while the four students are Firill Crest, Ren Miyazawa, Ariella Lu and Iris Freyja of Brynhildr Class."
Hearing this report, we gasped.
Iris and the others... No way—
"Father and Mother are missing? Even Firill-san and the rest...?"
Lisa went pale and murmured.
"Did something happen to Firill and the others?"
Tia asked in worry. Mitsuki's expression turned serious.
"They might have come into contact with Yggdrasil..."
My earlier fears had turned into reality. I instantly stood up.
"I will find them!"
Unable to sit around, doing nothing, I yelled.
"Hold on, wait until there's more information—"
Just as the principal called stop me, one of the communications staff in the command center reported in an acute voice.
"Report received from Commander Shinomiya who has mobilized in search of Yggdrasil. Ariella Lu has been secured. They say they have urgent matters to report. Patching through immediately."
Immediately, the large screen in the command center switched to show Shinomiya-sensei and Ariella.
"Ariella-san! Are you alright!?"
Seeing Ariella's uniform in tatters, Mitsuki asked anxiously.
'I'm alright... But I'm sorry, Ren and the others were captured... I couldn't save them. That thing stole our dark matter then grew big... So don't use fictional armaments to fight—'
Evidently reaching the limit of her physical endurance, Ariella's head fell, losing consciousness.
Holding Ariella's body, Shinomiya-sensei continued:
'Just as she had said, the target seems to be capable of exerting interference on dark matter. I have already issued orders not to manifest fictional armaments recklessly even if the target is discovered... But I have not received acknowledge from everyone yet. If someone tries to fight it, the target might become even more powerful.'
After Shinomiya-sensei finished a low rumbling could be felt underfoot.
"What's that? Did something happen!?"
The principal raised her voice and asked the communications staff.
"Explosion in the dense woodland on the northwest region of Midgard! Showing video!"
On multiple screens, several switched simultaneously to show rising smoke and dust in the woodland area.
Amidst the smoke and dust, a strangely shaped shadow was shaking.
When the wind blew and dissipated the dust cloud, a giant squirming tree came into view. That thing was waving its arms of branches and leaves, moving its thick trunk's legs, it started to "walk."
"Target is heading towards the Academy!"
"Looks it doesn't intend to run."
Hearing the communications staff's report, the principal turned to face me.
"Perhaps it... intends to retrieve you."
Lisa commented quietly.
Knowing the full story, the principal and Lisa seemed to have concluded I was Yggdrasil's target.
Their hunch was likely to be correct. In that case, I should probably hide.
"Principal, I have a suggestion."
I made eye contact with the principal and spoke in a strong tone of voice.
"What? Since people have been captured, we can't take action lightly."
The principal narrowed her eyes and replied.
"That's why I'll go rescue the hostages. If Yggdrasil has the ability to interfere with dark matter, the Dragon Subjugation Squad cannot approach it, but I am used to fighting without using fictional armaments."
"...One person going alone is too reckless. Something that large cannot be challenged with close quarters combat."
The principal looked at Yggdrasil shown on the screen while she talked. By comparing it to the surrounding trees, it seemed to be ten to fifteen meters in height. Although smaller than the dragons we had fought previously, the size difference between a flesh-and-blood human was still too great.
"Nii-san, the principal is right. Since fictional armaments cannot be used to fight, defensive weapons can be used to stall it while we rescue everyone—"
"It probably won't work."
However, Lisa interrupted Mitsuki.
"I heard that Yggdrasil has the power of electrical interference, so defensive weapons probably won't work. Even the systems here, it is unknown how long they will hold."
As soon as Lisa finished, noise appeared on several screens which then turned dark.
"—Several security cameras seem to have stopped functioning. Please tell me the distance between the interrupted cameras and Yggdrasil! That is very likely to be Yggdrasil's range of interference."
Lisa issued orders. The communications staff replied "Y-Yes!" and hastily operated their panels.
"Roughly fifty meters!"
"Quite a narrow range compared to previous data on Yggdrasil... Perhaps it is not at full power yet. Also, it is possible... that its range of electrical interference is the same range as its ability to interfere with dark matter."
After listening to the communications staff's report, Lisa concluded with her arms crossed.
"What do you mean by that?"
Mitsuki frowned and asked Lisa.
"Human thought essentially consists of electrical currents in the brain. Since dark matter changes in response to human thoughts, if you reproduce thoughts and intentions in the form of electrical currents, perhaps it might be possible to hack dark matter."
"In other words... The powers to interfere with machines and dark matter might stem from the same ability."
After hearing Lisa's idea, Mitsuki brought her hand to the side of her mouth.
"I will be able to cover Mononobe Yuu if I can come within fifty meters of the target. Hence, I will go with him."
"Huh—Lisa, you're not going to stop me?"
I was surprised by her decision because I thought she would object to me approaching Yggdrasil since she knew the whole story.
Seeing my reaction, Lisa showed a wry smile.
"...I won't stop you. Because even if I tried, you'll still go, right?"
Rather than resignation, I could sense very warm feelings from her voice and expression, giving me a mysterious sense of reassurance.
"Yeah, I"m going of course. You know me so well."
Hence, I could answer in composure without feeling anxious.
"That goes without saying. Although it is only for today, do know that I am your girlfriend."
Lisa smiled proudly and puffed out her magnificent chest.
"Tia will go too! Because Tia is Yuu's future wife!"
Tia raised her hand energetically then ran towards us.
"Good grief—even if you go, coordination with the rest of the Dragon Subjugation Squad will not be possible if it is only the few of you. I will head over to take command at the scene!"
Saying that, Mitsuki got up from her seat. But just as we were about to exit the room, the principal looked at us sharply.
"Principal, please, let us go."
My left arm was currently under her control. Worried that she might use that power to stop me by force, I bowed my head and pleaded with her.
"Will you succeed?"
However, the principal simply asked a brief question.
"I'll succeed, definitely."
"—Really? Very well, I will believe you, because we can't become friends without trust."
Smiling, the principal saw us off.
Prior to this, I felt worried about my immobile left arm, but now that I knew the principal was supporting us, the immobile left arm gave me a sense of reassurance instead.
With a low rumbling in the ground and the blunt noise of trees breaking—
On the other side of a tall fence, a giant tree monster be seen parting the vast forest, heading in our direction.
Yggdrasil's restless branches and leaves could be seen clearly even from the spacious sports ground where we were.
"The operation will start soon. Since dark matter interference is highly probable, the Dragon Subjugation Squad must not approach Yggdrasil. Consequently, Nii-san, who is able to fight without using fictional armaments, will get close to the target. Meanwhile, we will provide support to Nii-san while maintaining sufficient distance, using the sports ground's approximate length of 100 meters as a standard of comparison."
Leading the girls of the Dragon Subjugation Squad, Mitsuki repeated the decided plan.
"Lisa-san and Tia-san will provide precise cover fire in front of us while staying on guard to make sure their dark matter is not under interference."
"Tia will do her best!"
Lisa and Tia replied vigorously in response to Mitsuki's orders.
"Nii-san, wait until Yggdrasil steps into the wide-open sports ground before taking action."
I focused my mind while nodding to answer.
"Top priority is to rescue the captives first. To avoid harming them, we will not attack easily and focus on supporting and defending Nii-san. When you need attack support, please fire paintballs at the target and we will aim for the painted positions. Lisa-san, the most adept at long-distance marksmanship, will carry out sniping."
"Okay, I'm marking targets with this, right?"
I indicated to the paintball gun in my right hand.
This was my only equipment.
It would be very difficult to destroy Yggdrasil's vines and roots using bullets. An anti-materiel rifle might work but that type of gun would be heavy and bulky, unsuitable for firing on the move.
Hence, it would be more efficient to leave all the attacking to Lisa.
"Right, but before attacking, please confirm the hostages' location."
"Got it, then it's almost time."
After flattening the trees in a dense forest while using its thick roots as legs and trampling the high fence surrounding the sports ground, Yggdrasil showed up.
Due to search teams using fictional armaments to fight before receiving news from Ariella, Yggdrasil had already grown to roughly the height of a three-story school building.
Carrying on a paintball gun, I yelled to the group:
"I'll charge head on, so please cover me."
"Understood, we will open a path for you."
At Mitsuki's orders, everyone raised their fictional armaments.
Lisa had deduced Yggdrasil's interference range to be roughly 50 meters. Since Mitsuki and the others were keeping a distance of 100 meters away from Yggdrasil, there were currently no signs of their dark matter getting hacked.
"Good luck, Yuu!"
"Our classmates and my parents... I am counting on you."
"—Leave it to me."
I nodded in response to Tia and Lisa then stepped fiercely to run.
"Deploy barrier of air pressure! Secure Nii-san's route of advance!"
Strong wind blew from behind accompanied by Mitsuki's voice.
Riding on that gust of favorable wind, I accelerated all at once.
—Neun, Code Sechs discovered. Initiate retrieval.
I heard Yggdrasil's voice faintly in my mind. But perhaps thanks to the principal, that voice sounded very distant. My body also showed no signs of being controlled.
Then with a strange cracking sound, Yggdrasil's trunk portion gradually split apart. Thick vines sprouted from there and advanced towards me like tentacles.
However, I continued to run without slowing down or changing direction.
I had faith in everyone's assistance and dashed straight for Yggdrasil.
The extending vines, trying to capture me, were deflected by the wall of air created by Mitsuki's group.
Closing in. Within the blink of an eye, Yggdrasil's figure had grown large in my field of view.
—Where were Iris and the others?
While running, I looked for the captives. Since it was impossible to confirm using cameras from afar, the only choice was to get near and find them.
At a few dozen meters away from Yggdrasil, I located Iris and the others, caught in the branches.
The branches, spreading like wings, were covered in flourishing green leaves. Due to these leaves blocking the view, it was impossible to discover the hostages from a distance.
Ensnared by branches, Iris noticed me and called my name.
Near Iris, the captured Firill and Ren also looked towards me.
Mr. and Mrs. Highwalker could be seen slightly farther away. All of them were conscious and looked unharmed.
Yggdrasil was probably planning something so it did not kill them. Dead people had no value as hostages. I knew clearly that Yggdrasil possessed that level of intellect.
It was dangerous precisely because of that.
Through superb martial arts, Ariella was able to escape from Yggdrasil without relying on dark matter... But she was injured to the point of losing consciousness. If deemed necessary, Yggdrasil would surely go as far as to harm the hostages.
—Demand, surrender. Consider presence of hostages.
I heard Yggdrasil's voice in my head.
But I ignored it and ran on the ground.
I did not know if pretending not to hear would work. Although I hoped that my thoughts would be read since I was under the principal's control, but there was no way to confirm that.
But no matter what, I must not respond to its negotiations.
If it knew that hostages were effective against me, it might very well kill one person to establish a strong position, then force me to negotiate terms and conditions.
However, if it knew that negotiating with me was impossible, then Yggdrasil might decide to restrain Mitsuki's group by not using up the hostages lightly—At least, that was what I hoped.
—Neun, no response. Will secure by force.
Seeing me not stopping, Yggdrasil extended towards me a foot of roots used for supporting itself. Judging from what it had said, Yggdrasil seemed to have decided I was not listening to its voice.
The vine tentacles screamed before the impregnable barrier of wind.
Yggdrasil used brute force to tear through the wall of air, thus causing turbulence in the air flow. Mitsuki and the others' wind guarding me dissipated.
However, I had already reached roughly ten meters away from Yggdrasil. The assistance from Mitsuki's group was enough.
Next, what I needed to break through was offense, not defense.
Aiming at Yggdrasil's root that was approaching me, I shot a paintball.
As soon as the red paint stuck to the tree root, a flash of blinding light shot at the marked spot.
It was Lisa's cover fire.
Perfect in both aim and speed, Lisa was impressive as ever. A smile surfaced on my lips.
Passing though the opening exposed by the destroyed root, I continued to advance.
Using that attack just now, I had already gotten a grasp on Lisa's reaction speed.
Next, all I needed to do to open a path was to calculate the time delay for cover fire to arrive!
A wave of roots attacked.
I shot paintballs while charging head on.
No need to dodge. Before the roots touched me, they were going to be erased by Lisa's cover fire.
The yellow light would sometimes brush past me.
Any slight deviation in aim and I would undoubtedly die instantly if I were hit. But I did not feel any fear. Since it was Lisa, I could entrust my back to her without worry.
I picked targets while Lisa shot.
It was as though we were fighting as one person.
Concentration caused my thoughts to accelerate, slowing down the perception of time.
As though guided by Lisa's light, I kept moving forward nonstop.
Perhaps because the enemy was a dragon, the homicidal "Fafnir" did not wake up.
But even so, I still brought out all my power as "Mononobe Yuu," while staring at the enemy.
The base portion where countless tentacles were sprouting was pierced by a blinding flash of light. I jumped on a root using that opening.
I had arrived directly at the bottom of Yggdrasil.
But Iris and the other captives were in the branches high above. Their bodies were entangled by multiple branches, which meant they could not be freed except by destroying the base portion of the branches.
"Lisa, I'm counting on you!!"
I yelled while aiming at the base of the branches, firing two paintballs.
The red paint immediately adhered to Yggdrasil.
The branches ensnaring Iris and the girls were some distance away from those imprisoning Mr. and Mrs. Highwalker, so I had to mark two positions.
I heard Lisa's answer faintly.
Immediately, two consecutive flashes of dazzling light pierced the marked positions. The shots were again precise as ever.
Severed at the base, the branches imprisoning the captives immediately tilted.
Iris and the other fell down together with the branches, screaming.
"Leave it to Tia!"
However, I definitely heard Tia's voice far away.
Putting my faith in her, I entrusted the fates of Iris and the others to her.
I felt a gust of strong wind blow from behind me, gently catching Iris and the others just before they struck the ground. Tia had made a cushion of air.
I jumped straight down from Yggdrasil's root and rushed over to their side.
"Mononobe, I still can't move..."
Iris was still entangled in branches, squirming while calling to me for help. Perhaps due to the tattering all over her uniform, the sight of her entangled in vines looked especially salacious.
"Mononobe-kun... I'm tied up too tightly..."
Firill and Ren were groaning in pain, their clothing disheveled.
But I had no time to be taken aback by their appearances.
"I'll save you now. Don't move."
Dispelling the surging wave of irrelevant thoughts, I forcibly pulled apart the vines and branches entangling their bodies.
This allowed the girls to regain their freedom somewhat. Freeing themselves of twigs and vines, they stood up.
During this time, Yggdrasil was still extending countless vines towards us but Tia and the others managed to delay them.
Still, several thick roots were gradually approaching. We were running out of time.
After rescuing Mr. and Mrs. Highwalker after much effort, I shouted at Iris and the girls.
"Take them and leave quickly! Once you get back to Lisa and the others, your dark matter won't get interfered!"
"G-Got it! But Mononobe, what on earth is this?"
Despite nodding, Iris still pointed to the gigantic writhing tree monster and asked. She probably did not know the situation because they were caught before getting the announcement.
"—It's Yggdrasil. You're right, Iris, that thing is an enemy. It's all my fault that things became like this."
To avoid getting overheard, I whispered to her.
After hearing what I said, Iris instantly froze her expression.
At this moment, the barrier of wind was finally broken.
I raised my voice and yelled at everyone:
"Hurry and run! I'll hold the rear!"
Carrying his wife, who was too frightened to move, on his back, Mr. Highwalker rushed out with Firill and Ren guarding them.
However, for some reason, Iris did not move from her position at all.
"Iris, you run too! This thing needs to be destroyed in one go from a distance—"
"No, Mononobe. If this is Yggdrasil, then something needs to be done before defeating it."
Iris interrupted me, looked up at Yggdrasil and yelled:
"Yggdrasil, return Mononobe's memories to him!"
But the vines and roots ignored her yelling and approached us.
I heard Yggdrasil's voice faintly. It seemed to have heard Iris but had no intention of agreeing.
I pushed Iris away with my body, escaping from that spot in the nick of time.
"Please, as long as it's something in my power, I'm willing to do anything! I'll agree to any condition! So please return Mononobe's memories to him!"
However, Iris refused to retreat and yelled at it again.
The answer it gave was silent violence.
Yggdrasil's vines and roots attacked but before they could touch us, dazzling light annihilated them.
Now that the hostages were freed, there was no need for me to do any spotting. Lisa seemed to be providing cover fire for us. I tossed away the unneeded paintball gun and took Iris' hand instead.
"Iris, it's useless! It's impossible to communicate with Yggdrasil."
I yelled and pulled Iris by the hand.
Back when my hand was strangling Lisa, I had begged it many times to stop but Yggdrasil did not listen at all. By this point, I did not think it was possible to negotiate terms.
"Yeah, I know, then I'll change my wording."
Despite getting dragged away by me, Iris still glared at Yggdrasil.
"If you won't return Mononobe's memories, I'll destroy you. By any means necessary, I will definitely destroy you."
Iris' words conveyed pure anger and true killing intent.
This was not a request but a threat.
However, this was far too reckless.
Perhaps enraged to the point of forgetting herself, she raised her right arm, preparing to generate dark matter.
"No! Don't summon your fictional armament!"
I hastily stopped her.
As though suddenly regaining her senses, Iris stopped constructing her fictional armament.
However, Iris was not the only one to stop.
The vines and roots extending towards us also stopped momentarily.
It was not in reaction to my voice. Yggdrasil had paused slightly earlier than when I called out.
It was the instant when Iris raised her hand.
No matter what Iris said or how she resisted, logically speaking, Yggdrasil with its ability to interfere with dark matter should not have any reason to fear her, but it stopped as though frightened.
Although Yggdrasil's reaction was baffling, we could not miss out on this chance.
I led Iris towards Lisa and the others. This time, Iris ran with me without resisting.
I heard strange noises from behind.
Yggdrasil was probably taking action again.
Nevertheless, I simply ran forward without looking back, because Lisa was up ahead.
Flashes of light from the fictional armament of a spear, Gungnir, flew over Iris and my head, presumably to eliminate the vines and roots extending towards us.
Thus, we successfully reached Lisa and the others without getting caught by Yggdrasil.
Having arrived a step earlier, Firill and Ren had already raised their fictional armaments. Mr. and Mrs. Highwalker were quietly observing the situation from behind the Dragon Subjugation Squad.
"Please accept my gratitude. It is entirely thanks to you that my parents and our classmates could be rescued successfully."
Lisa thanked me while aiming the spear tip of her fictional armament towards Yggdrasil.
"No, Lisa, it's all thanks to your precision cover fire. Then what's left is just destroying Yggdrasil in one go."
I held Iris' hand and turned to face Yggdrasil.
But when I saw the giant tree's figure with its writhing roots, I instantly felt a chill along my spine.
Somehow, it felt like... it was exuding a different aura from before.
—Threat recognized, self-preservation prioritized.
I heard Yggdrasil's voice in my mind.
It remained a robotic and monotonous voice... However, I could somehow feel a kind of intense emotion from it.
"Nii-san, hurry and borrow dark matter from Iris-san to construct an anti-dragon armament!"
But after hearing Mitsuki's instructions, I cast away all unnecessary thoughts.
Yggdrasil's change was admittedly concerning, but defeating it was top priority right now.
"Got it. But firing from here will cause massive damage to Midgard too, right?"
"Nothing to worry about. We will use the same tactics as in the battle against Hekatonkheir and use wind to blow Yggdrasil into the air. Please destroy Yggdrasil while it is airborne, Nii-san."
Roughly three months ago, Hekatonkheir had suddenly showed up at Midgard and that was the method we had used to destroy it.
Yggdrasil was currently much smaller than Hekatonkheir. Launching it into the air should not be difficult.
"Understood. Iris, we're up."
I called to Iris who was glaring at Yggdrasil.
"...Yeah. If possible, there's so much I still wanna find out about your memories, Mononobe—But it looks like we've got no choice but to defeat it."
Despite showing a gloomy look, Iris whispered and nodded reluctantly.
I borrowed dark matter from Iris and gradually constructed a giant turret.
"Special artillery, Megiddo!"
What appeared was a pre-civilization weapon that modern technology could not replicate—Or more precisely, part of it.
The barrel, extending ten-odd meters from its base, had wires and pipes exposed all over the place.
"We will transmute air on a large scale next, everyone, to blow Yggdrasil into the sky! Counting down! Five!"
Seeing my anti-dragon armament's construction completed, Mitsuki gave orders to the Dragon Subjugation Squad.
Apart from Iris and me, everyone had their fictional armament raised while staring at Yggdrasil on the sports ground's edge.
"Four, three, two, one—Attack!"
At Mitsuki's orders, the group performed transmutation, converting dark matter into air.
Raging wind blew, sweeping up dust from the sports ground, devouring Yggdrasil's giant body.
On the other side of the dust, Yggdrasil's shaking figure rose into the air.
Blown higher and higher, Yggdrasil broke through the cloud of dust and appeared under the sun.
"Now is the moment, Nii-san!"
Controlling the anti-dragon armament linked to my mind, I aimed at Yggdrasil in the air.
The turret began to creak while shaking intensely. My thoughts could not transmit successfully. The aim deviated.
Was this Yggdrasil's electronic interference!?
Clearly there should be enough distance between us and Yggdrasil, I was shocked.
But my eyes, widened from surprise, had already captured the answer.
Up in the air, Yggdrasil had extended towards here—Small branches.
By extending its branches, it had expanded its range of interference!?
Most likely, it had extended its branches while the dust cloud was blocking our view.
Thinking I must shoot before control was completely wrested away, I fired Megiddo.
The shell of blue radiance shot into the air while the barrel melted, unable to withstand the high temperature of firing.
I prayed in my hart.
However, due to being fired before aiming was complete, the shell flew past Yggdrasil's branches, simply scattering clouds high in the sky.
As though pushed by the blast, Yggdrasil descended upon us.
Although Mitsuki issued orders anxiously, her raised fictional armament of a bow, Brionac, twisted in shape and transformed back into a ball of dark matter.
This phenomenon spread to the others in a chain reaction.
Lisa's fictional armament also lost its shape and flew towards Yggdrasil. Dark matter from Firill, Ren and the Dragon Subjugation Squad also flew away from their hands.
While electronically interfering with my anti-dragon armament, Yggdrasil had also hacked the girls' dark matter.
By this stage, we no longer had away means to resist.
"All units retreat! We must pull back from Yggdrasil to create some distance!"
Mitsuki commanded and everyone instantly escaped.
"Iris, we're running away!"
I gripped her hand firmly then broke into a run.
Despite nodding and running, Iris still looked at the sky with an expression of intense anger.
The dark matter stolen from Mitsuki and the other girls gradually gathered on the tips of Yggdrasil's extended branches.
Despite running, I still looked up at the sky to watch out for Yggdrasil's movements.
Hearing the voice in my head, I shuddered.
I now understood the emotion I sensed from Yggdrasil.
It was killing intent.
"Mononobe! Something's coming!"
Iris suddenly yelled urgently. She had been keeping her eyes on Yggdrasil the whole time.
Then Yggdrasil's killing intent materialized through dark matter.
The hacked dark matter twisted in shape, turning into countless tiny branches, scattering on the ground.
"Everyone hurry and avoid them!"
Although it was too late for me to escape, I still cried out.
I was neither able to dodge completely nor protect everyone.
Someone was definitely going to get hurt or die, that was the type of attack launched.
But just as the branches extended with frightening speed, they suddenly changed trajectories before they could pierce anyone.
The destination of all the branches was next to me.
They were pointed at the girl who was running, holding hands with me.
Was this killing intent directed towards Iris alone!?
Using my right foot as the pivot, I spun my body, switching positions with Iris in a rotation.
That was all I could manage in an instant.
I felt a scorching sensation in my abdomen together with a foreign object, followed by intense pain that rocked my mind. I released Iris' hand.
One of the branches aimed at Iris had pierced my body.
The other branches stopped before touching me.
Iris went pale and steadied my body with her hands.
I heard Mitsuki and Tia's voices from the distance.
—Neun injured. Emergency. Review response—
I heard Yggdrasil's voice in my mind. The branch in my abdomen was pulled out with massive bleeding. Most likely, Yggdrasil did not intend to harm me in the first place.
The extended branches returned to the falling Yggdrasil, writhing as though in a conundrum.
I pressed my right hand against my wound but the intense pain and blood loss was making me dizzy. I could not help but fall on my knees.
"Mononobe... You're bleeding, so much bleeding..."
Tears spilled out of Iris' eyes while she made a twisted expression, not knowing what to do.
I endured the pain and said to her:
"Iris—Run! Yggdrasil wants to kill you!"
Yggdrasil was falling towards the ground. Its looming figure was becoming larger and larger in my field of view.
It was was apparently unsettled as a result of harming me. But the attack just now was clearly meant to kill Iris.
If it attacked Iris again, I would be unable to protect her.
However, Iris might not have heard me. Her eyes, blazing with rage, glared at Yggdrasil above.
I felt a shudder along my spine.
Even the sensation of Yggdrasil's killing intent could not compare to this.
I was stunned by this pure fury, too intense.
"I absolutely won't forgive you!!"
Iris raised her hand, instantly summoning a staff.
It was her fictional armament—Caduceus.
"Don't... The dark matter will get hacked by Yggdrasil—"
I tried to stop her in a hoarse voice but mid-sentence, I noticed a strange change.
Her fictional armament was supposed to be silver-white.
But now, it was a vivid hue of red.
This dazzling red glow was like the setting sun's.
Not a minor discoloration caused by transmutation on the surface, the staff itself was giving off red radiance.
I recognized that color—That light.
—Code Fünf, manifested. Threat level, updated. Target recognized as successor to Basilisk.
After I heard Yggdrasil's cold and emotionless voice in my head, the countless retracted branches aimed at Iris and descended again.
It was clearly a lethal attack conducted with clear intent to kill.
Too many to dodge, too fast to evade, no matter how one struggled in futility.
Accompanied by Iris' voice, the staff released a flash of red light.
Since it was blindingly bright, I reflexively closed my eyes. When I opened them again, the branches approaching Iris had all turned into dust.
The severed ends of the branches were hardened and showed cracks.
Indeed, this was the fast forwarding ability of the Basilisk... "Catastrophe."
Just as I had inherited Leviathan and Hraesvelgr's abilities, it was predictable that someone would inherit "Catastrophe." As for that someone being Iris, I found it surprising but definitely not unexpected.
However... It was strange.
We should be within range of Yggdrasil's interference.
Suppose Iris was transmuting dark matter to recreate Basilisk's ability, then Yggdrasil should be able to interfere with the process.
However, Iris' red staff was glowing continuously.
Was it possible that Iris was producing that red light without using dark matter?
With feelings of disbelief, I looked up at Iris.
She was simply glaring at Yggdrasil with eyes of anger.
She was angry—for my sake.
She was probably not even aware that she was using Basilisk's power.
"I absolutely won't—forgive you!!"
Iris yelled emotionally, swinging her magic staff of red.
The dazzling light turned the world into the color of sunset.
A crimson beam devoured Yggdrasil's gigantic descending body
The time-stealing light was weathering Yggdrasil gradually.
—Sustained existence, impossible, abandon terminal—
I heard Yggdrasil's voice faintly, then the voice grew more and more distant.
Even a dragon outside of common sense, as long as it was a living organism, there was no way to oppose the passage of time.
Once the end of time was reached, only death's equality awaited.
When the light vanished and my view returned to normal, nothing was left of Yggdrasil's form.
Hardened, shattered, turned into tiny fragments, the remains of the giant tree were scattered across the ground.
"Huff... Huff... Huff..."
Iris' shoulders heaved up and down while she panted, staring at the sky where Yggdrasil had vanished.
The red staff in her hand had disappeared. Exhausted, she sat down on the ground.
However, she immediately turned towards me and extended a trembling hand.
"Mononobe... Don't worry, we'll save you soon."
While I applied pressure to my wound, Iris comforted me gently and stroked my cheek.
My consciousness had gone hazy from the bleeding and the sharp pain. I called her name.
I actually had a ton of questions for her but I no longer had the strength to speak.
Hearing everyone's calling voices and the approaching footsteps, I closed my eyes.
"Mononobe Yuu! Pull yourself together!"
The last thing I heard was Lisa's especially anxious voice.
"Hey Jeane-chan, do you want to hear about something interesting?"
This was a hotel near Frankfurt Airport in Germany.
Inside one of the hotel rooms, originally watching television while lying on the bed, Kili Surtr Muspelheim spoke to Jeanne Hortensia who had just exited the bathroom.
"No need, because what you find interesting are mostly things that displease me."
Drying her wet hair with a towel, Jeanne replied.
"Really? It's about Yuu."
"What? Did something happen to the Captain!?"
Hearing Kili's remark, Jeanne changed expressions in alarm.
"Oh dear, you want to listen now? Very well, I'll tell you, actually... According to the news just now, Yggdrasil appeared at Midgard."
Kili spoke with a smile.
"What—Yggdrasil? How is the Captain!?"
"Who knows? The news report wasn't that detailed. However, Yggdrasil was apparently defeated rapidly, so things are probably fine? Seriously... You instantly become adorable whenever Yuu is mentioned."
Jeanne went red in embarrassment and covered her face with her towel.
Seeing her like that, Kili laughed in delight
"Furthermore, there's something else amusing. Jeanne-chan, look at the television, the news hasn't ended yet."
Kili urged Jeanne while using the remote to increase the television's volume.
Turning her gaze to the television, Jeanne was rendered speechless by surprise.
'A giant tree has suddenly appeared on Mount Fuji in Japan. This is accompanied by unidentified electrical interference within a ten-odd kilometer radius—'
Shown on the television screen was a giant tree whose scale could not be determined at a glance. It was even taller than Mount Fuji shown on the screen. The treetop was hidden out of sight in the clouds.
"Something like this appeared in Japan...?"
"Yes, indeed. Jeanne-chan, do you remember where Hekatonkheir, which had vanished together with Yggdrasil, first appeared?"
Kili asked with a smile.
"I remember reading it at the base—Its first confirmed location was apparently Japan..."
"Correct answer. What an interesting coincidence. In my view... That gigantic tree is probably Yggdrasil's main body."
Saying that, Kili pointed her finger at the television screen.
"How do you know that?"
"—Because I know more than you, so I understand things you have no idea about."
After dodging Jeanne's question with an vague answer, Kili narrowed her eyes.
"Jeanne-chan, our next destination is Japan."
Staring at the television, Jeanne murmured.
"Indeed, where Vritra first showed up, it is also somewhere special to me and Yuu. Also among the information on Hreidmar we found at the NIFL base, there were records that he had passed through this country. Something will surely happen to this country in the future."
Kili answered with a stiff expression then used the remote to shut off the television. Longingly, she whispered softly and continued:
"I must be present there, in order to become—an existence worthy of him."
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