Unlimited Fafnir:Volume 7 Chapter 3

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Chapter 3 - Newborn Predator[edit]

Part 1[edit]

Three years ago on that day, I was sitting by the river in a bad mood after an argument with Mitsuki over something trivial.

Grumbling while muttering to myself, I vented my emotions of annoyance while trying hard to calm myself.

My efforts bore fruit. By the time the evening breeze turned cool, my mind was already calm.

"—Please, stop following me."

Just as I was getting up, intending to return home, I heard a girl's voice.

Then a kitten purred and went "meow~", wanting to be doted upon.

I looked up at the river embankment, only to see a young girl walking on the road along the riverside, troubled by a kitten that insisted on following her.

"I only fed you once on a whim just now. There won't be a second time even if you follow me. I can't keep you either."

The girl looked the same age as me. She was talking seriously to the kitten, trying to convince it. She had a well-proportioned face and long black hair. Dressed in a chic and black one-piece dress... She was neither a girl I had met before nor a student at the same school as me.

"You'd better leave this town instead of begging food from me if you want to live. Otherwise—"

The girl continued to persuade the kitten seriously, but she stopped talking as soon as she noticed my gaze.

"...Anyway, don't follow me anymore."

The girl ended her speech halfway and quickly left the kitten. However, the kitten did not learn its lesson and ran after the girl on its short little legs.

I could not help but feel curious, following the girl and the kitten with my gaze. They seemed to be crossing the nearby bridge up ahead. Blocked by the bridge fencing, the kitten was out of sight.

At this moment, a large dump truck sped past along the riverside road. The cloud of black exhaust drifted over, making me cough a few times.

With heavy engine noise, the dump truck turned towards the bridge.

"Ah—"

After that, a small shadow jumped onto the fencing.

It was the kitten from just now.

It was unclear whether it had been frightened by the giant vehicle or it was trying to escape the truck's black emissions—From the riverside, I could not tell.

Having ascended to an unsteady footing, the kitten was apparently blown by the wind caused by the truck's passing. It lost balance and fell into the river.

The instant I saw that happen, I reflexively ran out. But when I ran, I witnessed an even more shocking scene.

As though chasing after the kitten, the girl from just now jumped from the bridge.

"What...!?"

I gasped, only to see a pillar of water rise with a splash. Although the river's surface was wide and the current was gentle, the water was very shallow. Jumping from the bridge and not getting injured was unlikely.

I took off my shoes and entered the river in search of the girl who had sunk into the water.

Immediately, some distance away, the girl stood up with a splash. Despite getting all drenched, she did not look injured. She was holding the kitten against her bosom too.

"Hey, are you okay!?"

I pushed through the water to head over to her. The girl cocked her head in puzzlement.

"...What are you doing?"

"What am I doing...? Well, I saw you fall into the river, so I came to rescue you."

"Really? So you're one of those nice guys."

The girl remarked with disinterest. Then she handed the kitten to me.

"Huh?"

"I'm leaving this cat in your care."

Declaring unilaterally, the girl walked to the shore.

"Hey... How can you decide on your own—"

I frantically called out but the girl simply looked back and said in a calm tone of voice:

"Take the cat and leave this town, because Hekatonkheir is coming tomorrow."

"Huh...? But the news this morning said that according to the current route, this town is safe—"

I asked in confusion but the girl shook her head.

"Human predictions are unreliable. All it takes is a change in a dragon's whims and this town will be destroyed."

"What...? Why do you know something like that?"

"Because—I am a dragon too."

The girl smiled, instantly causing a chill to run along my back and my legs to stiffen and shake nonstop.

While I was unable to move, the girl walked along the riverside and departed. On the other hand, I was standing in daze in the middle of the river, carrying the wet kitten, curled up in my arms—

Part 2[edit]

On my back, I felt a weight and feminine softness.

—Three years ago, the girl I met at the river must have been Kili.

Carrying the unconscious Kili while walking, I thought to myself.

Meeting her at Midgard was after my second deal with Yggdrasil. By then, I had already lost all memories related to Kili, which was why I failed to recognize her. Although Kili had used biogenic transmutation in the past to alter her appearance, judging from what happened three years ago, her current face should be her "real appearance." The others were merely disguises, I suppose.

"Mononobe-kun, can you walk a bit slower?"

While I was lost in thought, Ariella, who was carrying John on her back, called out to me.

"Oh, sorry."

I hastily slowed down. Ariella was the most physically fit among the girls but hurrying along while carrying a person on her back was tough work after all.

"Nii-san, there is no need to be so hasty because not many people pass by at this hour."

Mitsuki looked at the surroundings and said to me.

We intended to move Kili and John to Mitsuki's house. Since no one was currently living in Mitsuki's house, it was possible to hide Kili and John and prevent them from getting discovered.

Kili was deemed a disaster by NIFL. Furthermore, John had deserted Sleipnir for some unknown reason and was working with Kili. These two would get arrested immediately if they were taken to a public institution, which was why we could not call for an ambulance. But since both of them showed no visible injuries, it was probably fine.

Our top priority was questioning them, including the matter of the dragon mark changing color.

Since Kili's blood-covered appearance was too conspicuous, I used transmutation to create a simple coat for her to wear.

To conceal Kili and John, Iris and the rest of the girls walked around me and Ariella.

"......"

Vritra did not say a single word after seeing Kili, staying silent the whole time. With her head slightly lowered, she seemed to be contemplating something.

Just as Mitsuki pointed out, no one suspected us. In this manner, we reached home successfully.

Since the car was absent at my house, that meant Father had not returned from work yet. The faint aroma in the air probably came from Mother cooking dinner. Right now, no one was probably going to discover us carrying Kili and John into Mitsuki's house.

"Me~ow."

But the instant we opened the gate, I was startled by a cat's sound. I looked back to see the black cat Ohagi on the boundary wall, wagging its tail.

"Oh right... Back then, you were... So Ohagi, you're the kitten Kili saved."

Hearing me say that, Ohagi meowed as though answering yes.

Three years ago, at Kili's request, I had taken the kitten home. The next day, just as Kili predicted, Hekatonkheir approached the town. Without giving me much time to look after the kitten, even before I had a chance to give it a name, I was taken away.

Ohagi jumped down from the wall and approached my feet. It seemed quite interested in Kili whom I was carrying on my back. Perhaps it still remembered Kili who had saved it.

"Nii-san, what is going on?"

After hearing my mutterings, Mitsuki demanded an explanation.

"Three years ago, I came across Kili jumping into the river to rescue a kitten. Kili entrusted the kitten to me and asked me to run away, warning me Hekatonkheir was coming."

I briefly explained my encounter with Kili to everyone.

"The day before that incident, Kili-san..."

Despite feeling surprised, Mitsuki still turned her key and opened the door at the entryway. We entered the house and Ohagi followed along. Thus, we made our way to the master bedroom on the second floor used by Lisa, Firill and Tia.

After we laid Kili and John on the large two-person bed for them to sleep, Mitsuki went to tell Mother we had returned.

"...Kili-san's dragon mark definitely started changing in color."

While waiting for Mitsuki, Lisa stared at Kili's right hand and commented.

"But why on earth? Isn't Vritra the only dragon remaining?"

Firill glanced sideways at Vritra.

"—I am not the one who selected her. Moreover, without needing a mate, I am able to produce offspring inheriting mine authority."

Vritra spoke, staring at the dragon mark whose edges had turned purple. Offspring inheriting her authority—That most likely meant us, the Ds.

"Then what exactly chose Kili?"

"Mm..."

Ariella cocked her head in puzzlement and Ren concurred.

"Mononobe..."

Iris tugged my clothing. Lisa also looked at me. Her eyes seemed to be trying to convey a message.

They both knew of another dragon. Namely, Midgard's principal, Charlotte B. Lord—the "Gray" Vampire.

Nevertheless, I shook my head because I really could not imagine her selecting Kili.

Calling herself the guardian of humanity, she had devoted all her efforts towards protecting Ds. I did not think she would do something like this. Furthermore, this color was—

"A dragon mark's change in color will depend on the targeting dragon. Tia's was red, Firill's was yellow. If it's purple... Isn't that the Kraken?"

Tia spoke hesitantly. This thought must have occurred to everyone present, but...

"The purple dragon, 'Purple' Kraken, was exterminated two years ago, so that is impossible."

Lisa rejected Tia's suggestion on everyone's behalf while displaying a slightly mournful demeanor.

Two years ago, during the Kraken battle, her classmate, a girl named Shinomiya Miyako, had been selected and turned into a dragon.

Although Mitsuki had defeated the two dragons, it left immense trauma in everyone's hearts.

"That's true... Then it's unrelated to the Kraken."

Tia sighed and conceded but at this time, someone spoke from the bed.

"—No, Tia's conclusion is correct."

I took a closer look to see Kili opening her eyes slightly, looking in our direction.

"Kili!? You woke up!"

I approached the bed, looking at Kili's face.

"...Yes, because I heard talking."

Kili smiled and nodded. Originally waiting next to a wall in the room, Ohagi instantly came near and jumped lightly onto the bed.

"Me~ow."

Ohagi rubbed its forehead against Kili's cheek. Seeing this, Kili partially closed her eyes in nostalgia.

"It grew up."

Hearing me say that, Kili widened her eyes in surprise.

"Really? So you remembered what happened three years ago."

"Yeah."

"Why now...? You clearly had no idea when we met in Midgard."

Kili glared at me, somewhat displeased. When transferring into Midgard as Tachibana Honoka, she had used her current appearance—Perhaps she had the intent of wanting me to remember her.

"To be honest, Yggdrasil was eating away at my memories. I only remembered after Tia cancelled it for me."

Kili sighed in realization after listening to my explanation.

"So something like that had happened—Yuu... What is this cat's name...?"

"It's Ohagi."

"...Sounds like quite a delicious name."

Kili smiled wryly and petted Ohagi on the head. Seeing Ohagi purring in pleasure, Kili shifted her gaze to John who was lying beside her.

"How is he?"

"Oh right, he's fine, only unconscious. Although we didn't conduct a full-body diagnosis."

Ariella, the one who carried John here, was the one who answered. I felt that she was trying to say something between the lines, but Kili seemed to understand and exhaled in relief.

"Is that so...? I'm glad to hear that. I need him to survive and return the favor after forcing me to do something so risky."

"Kili, what the heck happened? You just said Tia's conclusion is correct..."

I asked her cautiously. The smile vanished from Kili's face.

"Earlier, I was tracking John's... whereabouts. The trail started at the barricaded Asgard lab, left behind by something's movements, so I followed the clues. Finally, there—I discovered it."

"It?"

"A monster wrapped in silver threads. The threads are most likely made of mithril. Furthermore, the monster has the ability to release antimatter. I barely managed to rescue John from its clutches then escaped here."

Everyone gasped after listening to Kili.

"Mithril and antimatter? That is practically... the 'Purple' Kraken, isn't it!?"

Lisa cried out in surprise.

"Yes, so I believe Tia is correct. Perhaps that's—!?"

Kili nodded in agreement. Just as she was about to say something, she frowned and brought her right hand before her face.

"What is this...?"

Kili gasped and examined her dragon mark that was changing in color. It looked like she only noticed the change now.

"—To think that this situation hath arisen now, when all mine original plans were foiled."

Originally standing behind our group, Vritra walked up to the front at this time.

"...Who are you?"

"Recognize me not? Daughter of mine?"

Seeing Kili frown, Vritra smiled sardonically at her.

"No way—Mother?"

Kili looked shocked while staring at the young girl who greatly resembled her.

"Indeed. I created this stand-in to hold a discussion with Yggdrasil... But if what thou sayst is true, mayhap I did something redundant."

Vritra spoke while looking at Kili's dragon mark. She smiled. She looked delighted from the bottom of her heart—A grin of glee. A chill rushed along my spine.

"Mother...?"

Even Kili was unable to fathom what Vritra was thinking and groaned with a stiff expression. At this moment, frantic footsteps arrived outside the room.

"Bad news, everyone!"

Mitsuki opened the door and rushed in, crying out with her face gone pale.

"What's the matter? Mitsuki-chan?"

Iris asked the panting Mitsuki.

"I received a call from Shinomiya-sensei just now..."

Holding her portable terminal in her right hand, Mitsuki swept her gaze across us in the room.

Then she took a deep breath to calm herself and continued:

"—Sensei says that the Kraken's juvenile form is currently heading to this town."

Part 3[edit]

'Asgard apparently preserved the Kraken's corpse underground at the research lab we were at.'

On the screen of the portable terminal Mitsuki was holding on her palm, Shinomiya-sensei explained the situation to us with a bitter expression.

Gathered around Mitsuki, we exclaimed in surprise, but what came next shocked us even more.

'One part of the corpse exhibited lingering signs of biological activity. Researchers hypothesized that it could be the Kraken's offspring.'

"The Kraken's offspring... Wouldn't that be Miyako's—"

Mitsuki's voice trembled. Shinomiya-sensei nodded gravely.

'Due to becoming a mate, having offspring would not be unexpected—That is probably what they think.'

"A child born from a union with a dragon..."

Iris murmured with undisguised disgust. The other girls seemed to feel a chill, hugging themselves as a result.

'What exhibited signs of biological activity, a part of a tentacle, was kept under extremely low temperature. While it was kept under those conditions, there were evidently no changes of note.'

Kept under extremely low temperature...?

I recalled the coffin I had seen at Miyazawa Kenya's lab. Inside that freezer-like facility, there was a coffin kept under strict security. He had told me it was a human cadaver—

"...Onii-chan."

Ren apparently recalled the same thing. She looked at me with serious eyes.

"Shinomiya-sensei—I think I might know about that storage location."

'What?'

"Director Miyazawa led me to a room that was like a freezer, asking me to spread Ether Wind around the coffin that was kept there. He said it was a human cadaver... The manifested soul also looked like a human girl... Could that be—"

I stopped here. Immediately, Mitsuki continued in hoarse voice:

"Nii-san, are you saying that it was the soul of Miyako after she became a Kraken?"

"I believe it's possible. Now that I think back, the impression I got from her was quite similar to Shinomiya-sensei."

I spoke while recalling that soul's outline, formed from particles.

'...I will pursue that matter separately with Director Miyazawa. Let us discuss unconfirmed information later. Right now, I only wish to discuss facts.'

Shinomiya-sensei spoke in stiff tone of voice. Seeing as Shinomiya Miyako was her little sister, I would expect her to feel turmoil inside. But as Midgard's commander, she continued to explain:

'Yggdrasil was causing electrical interference over a wide area during the previous battle. Due to this, even the lab's backup power supply was cut off completely. Naturally, cooling equipment stopped functioning. Reportedly, a few hours later, the juvenile Kraken hatched.'

"Originally in a state of suspended animation under low temperature, then becoming active because of the rise in temperature huh...?"

Ariella wondered with her arms crossed.

'The chain of cause and effect is uncertain at the moment, so there could be other factors too. Regardless, the juvenile Kraken wrecked the lab after waking up and escaped to the ground surface. That happened roughly thirty-six hours ago.'

Shinomiya-sensei's tone of voice conveyed strong anxiety and sarcasm.

"...Asgard intends to cover this up."

Firill said with a sigh.

'Indeed, it would deal a severe blow to the organization's credibility if this incident came to light. Hence, Asgard ordered NIFL to act, intending to clean up while keeping all information under control.'

Lisa forced a smile after hearing Shinomiya-sensei.

"However, now that they are passing the information to us, it implies that... Their operation to handle the situation secretly has failed."

'—Indeed. The forces they deployed were completely routed. Running out of options, they sought Midgard's aid. Although it is quite late at this point, we can't ignore them either. Also, the juvenile Kraken suddenly changed directions and started heading towards your town.'

After saying this, Shinomiya-sensei gazed at us from the other side of the screen.

'There are limited reasons why a dragon would act in this manner. Among you, has anyone's dragon mark exhibited changes?'

"Well, Shinomiya-sensei, regarding this matter..."

Mitsuki raised her hand and told her about us taking in Kili, whose dragon mark had changed in color. During the process, Mitsuki threw a glance at Vritra in the corner of the room but did not report about her or John.

That was probably in consideration of the fact that Asgard or NIFL might be eavesdropping on the call. If news of Vritra spread, her discussion with Tia might get obstructed. With that, there was a possibility that Vritra, who had made a rare gesture to talk in peace, would turn into an enemy.

As for Kili, it was already decided during the Hraesvelgr battle that Midgard would protect her. Hence, even if NIFL were to found out, our stance would still remain unchanged.

'...I understand the situation now. Brynhildr Class will stay on standby over there together with Kili. A helicopter will head over to your side soon.'

Shinomiya-sensei issued orders in a grave tone of voice, biting her lip with an expression as though she was enduring something. Then she called Mitsuki's name as though forcing a voice out.

'Mononobe Mitsuki—'

"...I understand. If the enemy is the juvenile Kraken, then my antimatter projectiles will undoubtedly be able to vanquish it. I have already resolved myself. No problem."

Mitsuki clenched her fist and spoke resolutely.

'Is that so? I am counting on you.'

Shinomiya-sensei bowed her head sorrowfully in supplication then ended the call.

The room fell into silence. Everyone had their hands full, simply taking in the situation.

"Mitsuki-san... Will you really be alright?"

Lisa showed care to Mitsuki with an uneasy expression.

"Yes—The enemy is not Miyako's child but the Kraken's juvenile form. Not a human but totally just a dragon. Hence... I can do it."

Mitsuki answered as though persuading herself. Seeing Mitsuki like that, no one could say anything more on the matter.

However, I—after retrieving many memories, the current me... was able to sense Mitsuki's hesitation.

Despite looking like she had resolved herself, Mitsuki's heart was still indecisive.

"Mitsuki—"

Sensing her unease, I reached out to Mitsuki but she picked up the black cat Ohagi in her arms and walked to the bedroom's door.

"Before the helicopter arrives, we will first have dinner, everyone. The food is already ready."

After urging the girls and Vritra to go eat, Mitsuki looked at the remaining Kili.

"Kili-san, please stay here. I will bring food shortly after. If John wakes up, I would like you to help explain the situation to him."

"...Sure."

Kili answered in a slightly stiff tone of voice, then looked at Vritra warily.

Silent the whole time, Vritra left the room without saying a word. Although her silence felt somewhat bizarre to me, I still followed and departed.

Part 4[edit]

"You really have it tough, having to work even at this late hour."

"Although I'm not sure what's going on... Please be careful, all of you."

Father and Mother were worriedly seeing us off at the entryway. Night had fallen in this area with more stars shining in the sky than in Tokyo.

"Yes, Father and Mother. We will set off now."

Mitsuki nodded with a tense expression, turned around, and left. The rest of us also say goodbye and exited the house.

We had been notified just now that the helicopter had arrived in the nearby park. Leaving Kili in this town, we were setting off to take down the juvenile Kraken.

We were supposed to hide Kili in a NIFL base but considering past precedent, it was impossible to trust NIFL. Since they might attempt to execute Kili, our only choice was to shore up defenses over here instead.

"So, Tia-san, Lisa-san and Firill-san—the rest will be up to you now."

Mitsuki stopped in front of the house next door and spoke to the trio.

Tia was in charge of restraining Vritra whose objective was still unknown. Lisa and Firill were in charge of guarding and monitoring Kili.

Dividing our forces was admittedly disadvantageous, but there was no other choice considering the possibility that Kili might be attacked. That being said, Mitsuki was probably more wary of Vritra than NIFL's interference. I also felt a sense of danger that she must not be left to roam free.

Silent during dinner, Vritra currently had her head lowered while staying at our side.

"Just leave Vritra to Tia!"

Perhaps sensing my unease, Tia spoke cheerfully and accepted her mission.

Then after examining Vritra's reaction briefly, she drew near my face and said:

"...As soon as Vritra makes any sign of generating dark matter, Tia will steal it right away. Tia will definitely succeed like Yggdrasil."

Tia whispered an additional explanation.

"We will take care and not allow Kili-san to act recklessly."

"Even if someone attacks, we'll defeat them."

Lisa and Firill replied to Mitsuki, but as soon as Mitsuki left, they immediately waved to me.

"Mononobe Yuu... I entrust Mitsuki-san in your care."

"Mononobe-kun... You must watch Mitsuki carefully and prevent her from pushing herself too far."

Having known Mitsuki for so long, the two girls seemed to have reached the same conclusions as me that Mitsuki was currently very unstable.

"—Leave it to me. I will protect Mitsuki for sure."

I had already resolved myself to do that, so I nodded firmly.

Starting three years ago—No, even before that... Ever since Mitsuki lost her parents, left all alone, I had decided to protect her.

No matter what kind of sacrifice, even if it meant losing precious memories, I had always upheld that determination of mine.

By this point, that way of living was not going to falter.

"Yuu."

I heard someone call to me. I looked up to see Kili gazing down from the second floor window.

"Will you sincerely protect me this time?"

Kili asked me as though testing my reaction.

During the Hraesvelgr battle, I had failed to protect her. Had Kili's dragon mark been suitable for Hraesvelgr, she would have turned into a dragon at the time.

"Yeah, I definitely will."

I was not going to repeat the same failure. With this determination, I nodded and promised her.

"...I believe you."

Kili's expression showed faint joy while she waved goodbye to me.

Just as she withdrew back into the room, I looked at Vritra.

"Vritra, right now... Are you pleased?"

My question caused Vritra's shoulders to shake once.

She gradually looked up. Her facial expression—was blank. No emotions surfaced.

My back kept breaking out in cold sweat. My body was instinctively reacting warily against what could not be understood.

"I don't know your objective, but... Even if the current situation is in your favor, I don't think you're someone who could feel joy from the bottom of your heart when sacrificing your daughter—sacrificing Kili."

"...Wherefore?"

Vritra asked me expressionlessly.

"Because after spending a whole day with you, I believe we might be able to understand each other. Iris definitely hopes you could understand and respect humans."

I glanced at Iris who was listening to the conversation from the side.

"Vritra-chan..."

Iris looked at Vritra with an uneasy expression.

"..."

Vritra silently avoided her gaze.

"Nii-san, Iris-san, time to go."

Mitsuki hurried us. Before setting off, I added one final thing.

"Let's go for ice cream again after we return."

"—"

She did not answer.

However, I believed this one-sided promise would be upheld for sure. Then I turned around and departed with my back to the dragon girl.


Pushing through the crowd of onlookers who had gathered around the park, we boarded the helicopter and were taken to a NIFL staging area.

It was very noisy with many soldiers walking around. Dressed in school uniform, we looked especially conspicuous, but the soldiers did not stare at us. Not only that, they were overtly shifting their gazes away, pretending not to see us.

They most likely could tell we were Ds. I had forgotten because everyone I was in contact with recently were understanding of Ds, but this was actually people's typical reaction to Ds. It was very hard not to feel fear towards beings possessing superhuman powers.

Not bringing Kili along was the correct decision after all.

"...Onii-chan."

Ren tugged my clothing uneasily.

"It's okay, don't mind them."

"...Mm."

I held Ren's hand and smiled at her. Slightly reassured, she nodded in response.

"Mononobe... Everyone feels so nervous."

Iris could feel the tension in the air and whispered to me.

"Because they just fought the juvenile Kraken and were routed. I guess they suffered quite heavy losses."

I lowered my voice to prevent the soldiers in charge of leading us from overhearing.

"I'm not too clear on what happened two years ago, but nothing works on the Kraken unless we rely on Mitsuki's antimatter, right? It seems too reckless of them to fight using NIFL alone, or perhaps... There was some reason why they originally thought they could win?"

Listening to Iris' conversation with me, Ariella cocked her head incredulously.

"...We won't know until we hear the detailed report. However, it's also possible that this Kraken is different from the ones two years ago."

I offered my opinion and Ariella nodded "that's true too."

Mitsuki did not join our conversation. With a solemn demeanor, she walked silently. She had been like that the whole time since boarding the helicopter.

As much as I wanted to talk to Mitsuki, before I could think of an appropriate topic, we were taken to a room in a building. It was a small conference room. In front of a monitor installed straight ahead, Shinomiya-sensei was waiting for us with a serious expression.

"Good work getting here. Then I'll start the explanation of the current situation."

After we sat down on the front row, Shinomiya-sensei dispensed with pleasantries and began to explain to us.

"Asgard has named the Kraken's juvenile form 'Kraken Zwei,' which we will use henceforth. The target is currently heading to Nanato City where you were staying, moving in the mountains at a speed of four kilometers per hour."

"Four kilometers per hours is quite slow. That's about the same as our normal walking speed."

Ariella remarked in surprise.

"That stems from Kraken Zwei's size. Perhaps because it's newly born, the target is very tiny."

After saying that, Shinomiya-sensei showed a video on the monitor. A silver object could be seen in the middle of a crater gouged out of the ground. The object was an elongated oval with silver threads spreading from its base in a radial pattern.

"This is Kraken Zwei's appearance. Although the body length is less than two meters, the silver threads can attack up to dozens of meters in range. Furthermore, the main body seems impervious to all attacks, wrapped in the cocoon of silver threads."

Looking at he Kraken shown on the monitor, Mitsuki spoke up:

"The original Kraken had tentacles of mithril. Assuming this Kraken Zwei inherited that trait, I expect the threads to be extremely fine strands of mithril."

"—I hold the same opinion. Furthermore, it is already confirmed that Kraken Zwei can likewise fire antimatter like the original."

Shinomiya-sensei supported Mitsuki's view and displayed a new photo on the monitor. The photo showed part of the silver strands from the cocoon opening up, during the very moment when a blinding flash was released.

"Its defenses are partially lowered when firing antimatter... This is the same as the original too. I expect they have already attempted to seize that opening to attack?"

"They did, but reportedly failed. The target is extremely observant, capable of reacting to any attack with precision no matter what."

Shinomiya-sensei continued in a grave tone of voice after replying:

"Hence, the most effective method is to use antimatter to destroy everything outright along with the mithril shield."

"Yes."

Mitsuki nodded deeply in agreement. At this moment, Iris raised her hand.

"Umm... Won't my Catastrophe work?"

"Indeed, Catastrophe is a powerful means of attack but the weathering of mithril is extremely time consuming. Just as we used mithril to resist Basilisk's attacks, the chances of the beam getting blocked are very high."

Iris went "Oh I see..." and put her hand down after listening to Shinomiya-sensei's answer. Iris evidently wanted to use her power to ease Mitsuki's burden.

"Since methods are limited, the operation is exceedingly simple. You will approach the target while NIFL draws its attention using unmanned drones. Mononobe Mitsuki will fire antimatter projectiles while I hope the rest of you will provide support."

Shinomiya-sensei outlined the plan concisely. Indeed, there was nothing simpler than this operation.

"In more concrete terms, what does support mean we have to do?"

Ariella raised a question and Shinomiya-sensei answered in a serious tone of voice:

"Do everything you can to adapt to the changing situation. Your mithril shields should be able to defend against attacks from the silver threads made of the same material. Mononobe Yuu's antigravity is the only means to defend against antimatter attacks. Iris Freyja's Catastrophe should be able to pin down the enemy even if it is blocked. Ren Miyazawa's massive dark matter generating capacity should help in breaking out of emergencies."

Shinomiya-sensei looked at each of our faces in sequence while directing the operation.

"—Any other questions? If not, the operation will begin right away. I hope the battle can be settled while the target is on the mountain."

I looked over the members of the group. No one seemed to have any objections.

—Was it okay to leave things to Mitsuki like this?

Although this sense of unease occupied my heart, I could not reject the current plan on grounds of emotions without providing an alternative solution.

"Then let the operation begin."

"—Yes ma'am!"

In any case, I'll protect Mitsuki from the side—Making that decision, I nodded in response to Shinomiya-sensei's command.

Part 5[edit]

Following the NIFL drones, we flew through the night sky.

Lacking flying skills, Iris and I were carried by Ren and Ariella respectively. As the key personnel in the operation, Mitsuki was flying alone.

In order to be able to attack from long range, the goggles issued to us were equipped with telescope functions in addition to communications. It was the same type that Lisa had used for sniping during the Basilisk battle in the past.

Although the goggles also provided night vision, the NIFL drones would fire flares for illumination once the operation began, so there was no need for us to use such functionality.

"...So dark, down there."

While transporting me, Ren looked down at the ground.

"It's all mountains nearby, so it's definitely suitable for a battlefield."

Since both sides were going to be firing antimatter at each other, damage to the environment would be unavoidable. Hence, I could understand Shinomiya-sensei's determination to end the battle before the target reached urban areas.

"—Although the drones definitely lowered their speed, keeping up with aircraft is actually pretty tough."

In the middle of transporting Iris, Ariella commented with sweat appearing on her brow.

The outlines of the three drones flying in front could not be seen due to the darkness of the sky, but we were able to use the red lights on the drones as beacons, moving at high speed.

"Shinomiya-sensei said the target's not very far, so we'll surely get there soon. Hang in there, Ariella-chan!"

Iris encouraged the exhausted Ariella.

At this moment, Shinomiya-sensei happened to speak on the communicator.

'You are about to arrive at the combat zone. Kraken Zwei is currently engaged in battle against NIFL's ground weapons. Slow down your flying and let the drones go first. Once the flares are up and the target comes into view, Mononobe Mitsuki will attack using antimatter.'

"—Affirmative."

Just as we replied, a huge explosion happened ahead.

The starry sky instantly turned white while we heard a heavy explosion.

While we slowed down, the drones pulled ahead and flew towards the explosion's location.

Several seconds later, multiple light sources appeared in the sky, apparently flares, illuminating the surrounding scenery.

Perhaps the result of ground weaponry in combat, the land in the vicinity had turned barren with multiple large craters superimposed on one another. A large patch of the mountain forest had been gouged out.

And in the center, a small silver entity was reflecting light from the flares.

"That's—"

I operated my goggles to magnify the image.

The same silver cocoon as what we had seen in the conference room monitor—Kraken Zwei, all covered by threads of mithril.

The drones circled in the air above it and started attacking with machine guns, but of course, that level of firepower was all deflected by the mithril cocoon.

Then just as the machine gun barrage concluded, purple light flashed from a gap in the cocoon. The small projectile of light sank into a drone, then immediately caused a giant explosion far surpassing a flare's brightness. It was most likely attacking with antimatter.

Caught in the annihilating explosion, a second drone exploded next, leaving only one.

"—Commence sniping!"

Mitsuki shouted acutely then raised her fictional armament of a bow—Brionac. Once all the drones were shot down, there would be no diversions left. Mitsuki had no time to waste.

Nocking an arrow of dark matter to the bow, Mitsuki aimed at the target.

Although I could see nervousness and a stiff demeanor from the side of her face, there was the light of fierce resolve in her eyes

"It is a dragon, an enemy that must be defeated."

Mitsuki persuaded herself while drawing the bow.

The final remaining drone suddenly stopped unnaturally in the air. Upon closer examination, I could see shining silver threads entangling the fuselage.

—Could the threads of mithril extend that far?

According to Shinomiya-sensei, the range was dozens of meters but from what I could see, it looked like almost a hundred meters.

Perhaps deciding defense was no longer essential after restraining the drone, the cocoon swiftly unraveled.

Purple light could be seen from the gradually expanding gaps.

I had seen reference photographs of the Kraken during lectures at Midgard. A monster with a giant purple eyeball and countless tentacles—That was what the Kraken looked like.

Hence, I always thought the "inside" protected by the silver cocoon would be something similar.

However—

"Eh...?"

Mitsuki exclaimed in surprise.

Iris, the others and I all gasped in surprise.

Emerging from the cocoon was a young girl. The exceptionally long silver hair writhed as though it had a will of its own. Only then did I realize that the silver threads constituting the cocoon was actually her hair.

Although naked, she had part of her hair wrapped around her body. Younger than Tia in appearance. Her left eye was covered her long bangs.

The exposed right eye was glowing purple. The instant that light intensified, a beam shot at the drone. With a flash of light tearing through the sky, afterimages were left on the retinas of observers.

Then with a massive explosion and noise, struck by the glowing projectile, the drone was devoured by the light of annihilation.

Then the girl looked in our direction with her eye that had released light of destruction.

"...We're discovered!?"

The instant our gazes met, I felt a chill rush along my spine. Instantly creating my fictional armament of a gun, I prepared to fire antigravity bullets any time.

"Mitsuki! We'll get taken out unless you attack soon!"

Ariella called out anxiously.

However, Mitsuki did not move, frozen in her pose with the fictional armament of a bow raised. Kraken Zwei seemed to be examining us in return without attacking immediately.

But time was probably in short supply for hesitation.

"Wrong..."

Mitsuki murmured to herself in a trembling voice.

"Mitsuki-chan—The Kraken is looking at us!"

Iris alerted of danger in an urgent voice, but Mitsuki kept shaking her head while trembling.

"Wrong... It is wrong."

"What is 'wrong'—"

"That is not the Kraken!"

Mitsuki interrupted Iris and yelled.

"Hmm... I get what you're trying to say, but if you don't make a move—"

Ariella hurried Mitsuki in a stiff tone of voice.

"I know! But... But no matter how I look..."

Accompanied by tears appearing in the corners of her eyes, Mitsuki's voice trembled.

"That is... She is—Miyako's child!!"

Mitsuki cried out hoarsely.

In the form of a young girl, Kraken Zwei had an extremely lovely face. The impression I got was very similar to Shinomiya-sensei's.

But what Mitsuki saw in the girl's face was probably the image of her best friend in the past, Shinomiya Miyako.

"...Mitsuki, let's withdraw for now."

Making the judgment call that Mitsuki was unable to fire at the girl, I suggested a retreat.

"Withdraw?"

Mitsuki was taken aback for a moment. Then relief appeared on her face.

However, she immediately came to a sudden realization, bit her lip hard and shook her head.

"No... Even so, I have no choice but to do it... I am the only one capable of defeating her..."

Despite looking like she was about to cry, Mitsuki refused to back down.

"Mitsuki-chan...?"

Iris watched her in worry.

"Sorry, everyone, I have put on an embarrassing display. However... I am fine now."

Despite the blow to her psyche, Mitsuki still barely managed to support herself with her sense of duty and obligation as the captain of the Dragon Subjugation Squad.

"Even if it is not a dragon, by my own hand, I must... Just like that time with Miyako—"

With trembling hands, Mitsuki tried to aim her arrow at the target.

However—Mitsuki suddenly lost balance and dropped in altitude.

"Huh...?"

Mitsuki was shocked. The fictional armament in her hand turned into black bubbles and started to disappear.

"Why—"

Dark matter was controlled by the mind. A so-called fictional armament was the mind's combat state.

—Sure enough, Mitsuki could not do it.

Because no matter how much she bluffed, Mitsuki was internally resisting the idea of vanquishing Kraken Zwei.

"Ren, fly over to near Mitsuki!"

I called out to Ren who was holding my left hand to support me in the air.

Mitsuki could not sustain her flying due to her fictional armament beginning to collapse.

"Mm!"

Ren instantly realized in alarm and nodded to me in response, then approached Mitsuki.

"Mitsuki, grab onto Ren!"

I shouted to Mitsuki who was about to fall to the ground.

"—!"

Mitsuki clung to Ren's neck and managed to avoid falling, but... even without physical injuries, her mind was not in a state capable of fighting.

"Sorry... Sorry..."

Mitsuki pressed her face against the front of Ren's chest and kept apologizing.

Was she sorry for failing to fulfill her duties? Or was she feeling remorse for Shinomiya Miyako? I could not tell.

"—It's okay, Mitsuki-chan."

The one who spoke to Mitsuki was Iris, hovering in the air through Ariella's assistance.

"I will fight in your stead, Mitsuki-chan."

Iris raised her free hand, which started glowing red. It was the light of Catastrophe, capable of weathering all substances within its range of influence.

"Caduceus Catastrophe!"

A staff of red light manifested in Iris' hand.

Pointing the staff's tip at Kraken Zwei, Iris recited something like an incantation:

"Come, come, fragments of time..."

Seeing the red staff glow progressively brighter, I asked Iris:

"Iris, you can bring yourself to do it?"

"Yes, because even though it looks like a girl... That's the dragon targeting Kili-chan, the enemy that must be defeated. Also—"

Iris paused, looked at Mitsuki and smiled.

"—I want to protect Mitsuki-chan. This is for her sake and yours."

I could feel from Iris' tone of voice that she truly wished for Mitsuki and my happiness. Just like her joy when my memories recovered, Iris smiled and ignored her own pain.

With eyes burning with the light of fierce resolve, Iris turned her gaze back to Kraken Zwei.

The dazzling red light at the staff's tip expanded, but at this moment, I saw several black spheres appear around Kraken Zwei.

—Don't tell me that's dark matter!?

"Catastrophe, actualize!!"

While I was holding my breath, Iris released the time-stealing light.

However, just as that brightness dazzled me, I saw them. I saw the black spheres change in shape, manifesting a silver shield in front of Kraken Zwei—

Unerringly, the red light of Iris' Catastrophe devoured the spot where the girl was standing.

Unprecedented in scale... A gigantic beam of Catastrophe was fired, possibly surpassing that of Basilisk's.

"Amazing... This might be able to destroy it together with the mithril defenses."

Ariella exclaimed, impressed.

Mithril was the most stable alloy and highly resistant against Catastrophe. Be that as it may, it could not escape the weathering caused by time.

The surrounding rocks, soil and collapsed trees were turned into fine sand. The location exposed to the red light was gradually turned into a desert. Changes that originally required thousands, tens of thousands of years were completed in an instant.

Nevertheless, a silver object rushed out from the giant beam of light that stole time persistently.

It was Kraken Zwei, the girl whose body was completely wrapped in hair of mithril.

"No! She's still alive!"

I raised Siegfried, my gun-shaped fictional armament, and yelled.

She had most likely used transmutation to create a mithril shield to buy a bit of time in order to retreat from Catastrophe's line of fire.

"...!"

Iris hastily tried to correct her aim, but before that, a purple light flashed from a gap in the girl's hair.

"Antigravity!"

In that instant, I used all the dark matter in my fictional armament, firing it as a bullet.

The bullet of dark matter transmuted into high-density antigravitational matter along the way, generating a repulsive field nearby. Immediately, Kraken Zwei's beam of light was deflected greatly, disappearing into the distant night sky.

But at the same time, the repulsive field also distorted Catastrophe's trajectory, so Iris stopped firing the beam for now. Standing at the girl's former position was a silver shield with a large hole in its center.

"Someone hurry and deploy a smokescreen—block her view! We have to retreat to the ground for now!"

"Mm!"

Ren immediately answered my call.

Accompanied by an explosion of "bang," smoke shrouded the surroundings. Hiding inside the smoke, we descended to the ground.

We landed in the forest, escaped from Kraken Zwei's view and breathed out deeply. Although the forest was totally dark at night and the humid air was sticking to our skin, it was incomparably better than getting sniped by antimatter projectiles.

"Mononobe... What do we do next?"

Iris checked on Mitsuki while asking me. Holding onto Ren, Mitsuki did not look up.

"Most likely, she—can also control dark matter. If she uses transmutation to replenish mithril, then even Iris' Catastrophe won't be able to breach her defenses."

"In that case, we have no choice but to retreat..."

Ariella murmured after listening to me.

"Wait! If we run away like this without achieving anything, NIFL might try to kill Kili-chan. Then Lisa-chan and the others together with her will be in danger. We must pin down Kraken Zwei here at least!"

Iris interrupted Ariella in a strong tone of voice and raised her red staff. Precisely because she had experienced being a target in the past, she poignantly understood the urgency of the current crisis.

"Pin her down... How do we do that?"

After hearing Ariella's question, someone spoke next to me.

"Onii-chan, I have an idea..."

"Ren?"

I saw Ren looking up at me with a serious expression.

"If the ground that's turned to sand is weathered further, a hole should appear. We can drop a large amount of mithril over the hole... Bury her alive."

"Even if you suggest burying her alive... But with antimatter shots—"

"She probably won't use it because she'll get caught in the explosions when firing antimatter while buried."

After listening to Ren's answer, I knew it was the best method.

"Right, if we use mithril as a lid, even mithril strands won't be able to cut it open easily. Escaping will be a challenge. If it works out, let alone pinning her down, we might even be able to seal her away completely."

We looked at one another, nodding in agreement.

"After Iris opens up a hole in the ground, I'll borrow dark matter from Ren to cast down a large amount of mithril. Mitsuki should wait here."

After saying that, Ariella took Iris and flew up into the air again.

Just as I was about to return to the sky with Ren, Mitsuki looked up in her depression.

"Nii-san—"

Mitsuki called out hoarsely, extending her hand helplessly.

"Don't worry, Mitsuki. We'll find a way to handle the rest."

"......Yes."

Mitsuki bit her lip in chagrin, lowered her head then nodded slightly.

"Let's go, everyone."

Leaving her behind, the rest of us carried out the plan devised by Ren.

—Siegfried.

I constructed my fictional armament again to guard against enemy attacks.

The instant we increased in altitude, purple light flew at us.

It was Kraken Zwei's antimatter shot.

—It's coming!

"Antigravity!"

The expected attack was deflected to a different direction by my bullet of repulsion. Then Iris fired Catastrophe immediately.

"Catastrophe, actualize!"

Simultaneously, Kraken Zwei created a mithril shield while the red beam was shot.

But that was fine, because Iris' target was the surrounding ground.

Already turned to sand, the land turned into tiny particles and dissipated.

Land erosion—The land, literally worn away by weather, was gradually gouged away. Then with a deep and heavy sound, the ground rumbled.

Next came even more intense shaking.

Perhaps the weathering had reached deep underground. The ground collapsed over a wide area.

Together with her shield, Kraken Zwei was swallowed into the collapsing ground.

"Now is the time!"

"I know, Mononobe-kun!"

Without missing this opportunity, Ariella used dark matter borrowed from Ren to create a vast amount of mithril.

The silver rocks covered up the created hole while the deep rumbling reached the heavens. A cloud of dust shrouded the area.

"Anyway... Plan succeeded?"

Ariella breathed a sigh of relief and asked.

Even after waiting for a while, we did not see any changes in the blocks of mithril plugging the hole. Just as Ren predicted, using antimatter to escape would be very difficult.

"Yeah, although we didn't manage to defeat her, if the outcome is like this—"

Iris dispelled the red staff in her hand and wiped sweat from her brow.

"—Shinomiya-sensei, what do we do?"

Through the communicator, I called to our commander, Shinomiya-sensei.

'Everyone back to base. Leave the situation for NIFL's unmanned military hardware to survey and analyze.'

Shinomiya-sensei issued orders to us.

"—Affirmative!"

"Mm."

Ariella and Ren immediately responded and started to descend to where Mitsuki was waiting.

Enveloped in Ren's wind, I stared at the silver rocks that were sealing Kraken Zwei away.

If possible, I hoped she would stay there quietly underground and not come out.

Whether Mitsuki... Or Iris, as long as the situation permitted, I did not want them to dirty their hands.

That dragon looked far too human.

One knew just from appearance that she was half-human—in other words, a D.

I could not help but hope in my heart that it might be possible to communicate with her.

But now that she had targeted Kili, we could only be enemies.

Because from the perspective of Ds, dragons pursuing mates were natural predators that must be defeated.

Part 6[edit]

"—I am terribly sorry."

Back to the NIFL base, Mitsuki bowed her head deeply and apologized to Shinomiya-sensei.

The air was tense inside the dark operations room whose only illumination came from the monitors.

"No, you are not at fault. I didn't expect Kraken Zwei to resemble a human to such an unbelievable extent and for her face to be so similar to Miyako's... It is only natural you were unable to fire."

Shinomiya-sensei did not blame Mitsuki. She was looking at Kraken Zwei's appearance on the monitor.

Possessing hair of mithril she could control at will, she was the hybrid child between the Kraken and a D. Despite having the appearance of a young girl, she was a dragon that could even control dark matter as well.

Whether Mitsuki, as Shinomiya Miyako's best friend, or Shinomiya-sensei, her elder sister, neither of them could sever their ties so easily.

"But if only I had fired antimatter at the time... Kraken Zwei would have been taken out effortlessly—"

Her body shaking, Mitsuki bit her lip hard.

"Don't be so hard on yourself. We have already succeeded in sealing her movements with everyone's help. According to the results of NIFL's monitoring, Kraken Zwei seems to be showing no movements at the bottom of the hole. Even if she must be defeated sooner or later, we have ample time to strategize."

"That's right! Mitsuki-chan, you don't need to force yourself anymore!"

Iris clenched her fist tightly before her chest, speaking to Mitsuki in a strong tone of voice.

"Iris-san..."

"Mitsuki-chan, you should have a good rest first. Your face really looks unwell."

Just as Iris pointed out, Mitsuki's face was pallid and she looked like she was going to collapse any moment. Shinomiya-sensei agreed with Iris after looking at Mitsuki's face.

"She's right. Go rest. There is a nap room opposite from this room."

"But regarding our next move, as the captain of the Dragon Subjugation Squad, I must—"

"Mononobe Mitsuki, this is an order."

Mitsuki tried to argue but Shinomiya-sensei interrupted her with a commanding tone of voice.

"...Yes ma'am."

Reluctantly, Mitsuki could only nod affirmatively. With unsteady footsteps, she exited the operations room.

"Shinomiya-sensei..."

Unable to leave Mitsuki alone the way she was right now, I spoke up. Immediately, Shinomiya-sensei's expression showed comprehension of what I wanted to say. She nodded and motioned to the operations room's door with her eyes.

"Mononobe Yuu, you will stay at your sister's side for now."

"Thank you. Understood."

I followed her orders, only to see Ariella and the rest of the girls staring at me seriously.

"I've never seen Mitsuki like this. She might become unable to fight again if she isn't consoled properly at this time. Mononobe-kun, you must help her well."

"Onii-chan... Mitsuki is in your hands."

I nodded silently in response to Ariella and Ren.

"Mitsuki-chan definitely needs you... Mononobe, so you have to support her properly."

With slight sadness in her smile, Iris gave my back a push.

—Iris.

She probably had misgivings against fighting a dragon that had kept a human appearance, but even so, she still prioritized Mitsuki and me.

"Yeah... Don't overdo things yourself either, Iris."

After some hesitation, all I could say were such ordinary words of encouragement.

"Very well!"

Even so, Iris still smiled happily. Feeling a sharp pain in my heart, I walked out of the operations room.

I did not see Mitsuki in the corridor. She had probably entered the nap room.

Thinking that to myself, I opened the door to the room opposite the operations room but it was totally dark inside.

"Mitsuki?"

"—Nii-san?"

I felt relieved to hear her answer. Switching on the light, I walked over to the direction of her voice. Inside an area isolated behind curtains, I found Mitsuki sitting on the bed.

"Are you about to sleep? If that's the case, I'll switch off the light—"

I asked but MItsuki slowly shook her head.

"No... I cannot sleep right now, so there is no need to switch off the light. Nii-san... Did you come over because you are worried about me?"

Mitsuki smiled wryly and asked me with self-deprecation in her tone.

"Yeah."

"I am truly sorry... for causing you trouble, Nii-san. I must not act like this. Clearly I... resolved myself already..."

Mitsuki gripped the sheets on the mattress and looked down in chagrin.

"Hesitating in that kind of situation is only natural when you're human. Even if you possess the same power as a dragon, you don't have to change your mind into a monster too."

"But..."

"So-called resolve basically means giving up on something. There's nothing wrong with that and it's essential sometimes... But there are things that must not be cast away."

I spoke quietly while placing my hand on Mitsuki's head.

"I am currently thankful—Mitsuki, that you did not shoot earlier."

"Eh?"

Mitsuki stared at me, dumbfounded.

"Had you shot antimatter at the time, Mitsuki... You'd probably be in a nervous breakdown right now, and definitely broken to an irreparable degree."

To confirm whether Mitsuki's mind was not broken, I gently caressed her head.

"Mitsuki, you don't need to fight Kraken Zwei anymore. No, I won't let you fight."

"Nii-san... But—"

"No 'buts' so quit complaining. This is what I've decided as your brother."

I ruffled Mitsuki's hair brusquely and took my hand off her head.

"...Do not suddenly go abusing a brother's authority just because your memories recovered slightly."

Mitsuki fixed her tousled hair while pouting unhappily.

"Say no more, just leave the rest to me. Even if we must fight her again, Iris, the rest of the class and I will find a way."

Mitsuki's shoulders shook when I mentioned Iris' name.

"I seem to be... shoving hardship on Iris-san all the time."

"It's not like that. Iris is taking on the task on her own will."

I corrected Mitsuki and she immediately made a wry smile.

"Indeed... The same applies to the matter of Nii-san. She decided Nii-san's feelings on her own, trying to yield Nii-san to me... Actually, she is clearly suffering greatly."

Mitsuki sighed deeply and stared at me with serious eyes.

"Please worry more about Iris-san than me, Nii-san. Because Iris-san is the one you love, Nii-san."

"...Mitsuki, you're the one who's deciding my feelings on your own."

Despite feeling aware of the wavering in the depths of my heart, I still retorted against Mitsuki.

"Looks like, Nii-san, you do not understand your own feelings. That way, you will not be able to protect Iris-san, you know?"

After saying that, Mitsuki stood up from the edge of the bed.

"...Mitsuki?"

She was glaring at me within a breath's range, making me feel troubled.

"Nii-san... Please kiss me."

"Huh?"

I was frozen in surprise. Before my eyes, Mitsuki closed her eyes and tilted her face upwards slightly.

"Nii-san, you will understand if you do it. Because right now, you already know what it feels like to kiss the one you love."

Mitsuki had witness my kiss with Iris, which was why she was saying this now...

"No way, asking me to kiss for the sake of comparing—"

"Please do not escape! I beg you, Nii-san..."

Mitsuki spoke to me in a pleading tone of voice. Hearing her words, I understood that Mitsuki had mustered all her courage. To her, this was surely something essential.

I stared at Mitsuki's face, waiting to be kissed. Her cheeks were blushing, slight tears seeped out of her tightly shut eyes, her cherry lips looked so soft with fiery breath escaping from between them. The sight was causing my heart to race.

"...As you wish."

So far, no matter when, I always responded to Mitsuki's demands. Three years ago, it was for Mitsuki's sake that I had fought Hekatonkheir.

Hence, I was going to respond to her this time too.

...Even if that kind of outcome was not what Mitsuki desired.

I drew my face near, closing the distance between me and Mitsuki. My heart was brimming with the feelings accumulated from our time as childhood friends, as family.

The moment before our lips touched, I understood. I treasured Mitsuki even more than my own life.

To confirm feelings that went beyond that, I was about to kiss Mitsuki.

I could hear the sound of my heartbeat from the depths of my body. Mitsuki's warm breath was reaching my face.

On Mitsuki's long eyelashes were glinting tears.

Closing in enough such that all I could see was her face, I closed my eyes too.

What remained was simply... closing the residual gap between us.

UnlimitedFafnir v07 219.jpg

—Purururururu.

However, a ringtone sounded from the side of the bed, dumping cold water on the heightened atmosphere.

Mitsuki and I opened our eyes in surprise.

"Eh... Kyah!?"

Seeing my face right before her eyes, Mitsuki went bright red. Leaning backwards, she fell on the bed entirely.

"Seems like an incoming call."

With embarrassed feelings, I pointed at Mitsuki's portable terminal on the bed.

"Y-Yes. Please bear with me for a moment. Oh... It is from Lisa-san."

Mitsuki answered in a stiff tone of voice then pressed the button on the terminal to pick up the call. Immediately, Lisa's face came on the screen.

'Mitsuki-san, bad news! Vritra is heading your way!'

Without any introductory explanation, Lisa spoke anxiously.

What—!?

My heart was beating intensely.

"Eh? Vritra...?"

Mitsuki showed a grave expression while she asked Lisa.

'Her target is you, Mitsuki-san! Please take precautions immediately!'

"You are saying her target is me...? Why? Even if Vritra were to act, her target ought to be Kili-san who has caught Kraken Zwei's eye—"

Mitsuki asked, perplexed.

We had already expected to some extent that Vritra might make some kind of move.

Hence that was why we had left Tia behind to monitor her. In front of Tia, Vritra could not use dark matter freely. Tia had said that she was able to steal dark matter just like Yggdrasil.

Furthermore, Kili herself was not an easy opponent.

Hence, I originally thought that Kili would be fine, but never did I expect Vritra to target Mitsuki—

'...Rather than handing a mate over, Vritra is apparently prioritizing the protection of the juvenile Kraken. Hence, that is why she is targeting you, Mitsuki-san, given your ability to generate antimatter!'

"In other words, we have no means of taking down Kraken Zwei once I am gone... That seems to be what she is thinking."

'Right, that is what I fear. Tia-san and Firill-san are currently chasing after—'

Mid-sentence, there was a massive rumbling and the building shook violently.

It was no earthquake. That was the sound of an explosion just now.

'...Looks like she has arrived.'

Right after Lisa remarked with a bitter expression, a loud siren began blaring in the NIFL base—


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