Unlimited Fafnir:Volume 7 Chapter 4
Chapter 4 - "Black" Vritra
Turning the clock back slightly earlier—At Mitsuki's currently uninhabited house in Nanato City.
The second-floor bedroom was occupied by a heavy atmosphere.
The crossdressing girl, Jeanne Hortensia, remained unconscious, lying on the bed. While pressing on her right hand, whose dragon mark was changing color, Kili was on the bed, examining Jeanne's sleeping face.
Sitting on the bed's edge, Vritra stared out the window.
Having moved futons from the adjacent room to lay out on the floor, Tia, Lisa and Firill were watching Vritra and Kili.
There was no electricity in this house and the flashlights they had brought were switched off, hence the room was dark. However, due to the moonlight and starlight streaming in from the window, they could still discern one another's facial expressions.
"...Mononobe-kun and the others will be okay, right? Maybe they've already started fighting the Kraken."
Firill wondered in worry.
"No need to worry. By now, Mononobe Yuu and Iris-san have replicated dragon powers in addition to Mitsuki-san. The situation is more favorable compared to the Kraken battle two years ago."
"If it's Yuu and the others... They'll surely win."
Tia rubbed her eyes drowsily while agreeing with Lisa.
But after listening to them, Vritra suddenly spoke up.
"'Twould be a grave mistake if ye regard the enemy as the Kraken."
Firill and the girls looked at Vritra in surprise. Originally observing Jeanne, Kili also looked back with an incredulous expression.
"Born from the mate, offspring betwixt a dragon and a D. To me who standeth as the mother of Ds, 'tis tantamount to my grandchild."
Vritra spoke calmly while Lisa watched her warily.
"...What are you implying?"
"This is the birth of a hybrid dragon inheriting mine and the Kraken's authorities, the second generation I have long anticipated."
After replying Vritra got off the bed and approached the window.
"Hybrid dragon? Second generation? What do you know about the Kraken's child?"
Firill asked with a frown.
"—Everything. The genes allowing you Ds to wield mine authority... Everything is engraved upon them. Everything is preordained. After encountering Yggdrasil's obstruction, I continued using Hekatonkheir to spread genes. These efforts have finally bore fruit."
Vritra's shoulders shook as she laughed happily.
"Mother, you seem to have gotten talkative suddenly. What are you planning?"
Kili asked with nervousness in her voice. Vritra opened the window without saying a word. Instantly, the night's chilly breeze blew into the room, causing the girls' hair to flutter in the wind.
"Although I don't know Mother's plan entirely, I can guess the gist, so allow me to say this: Don't do anything unnecessary. So long as Tia, capable of controlling Yggdrasil, and he are present... Mother's plan is not needed."
Staring into the black pupils of her mother, Vritra, Kili asserted.
"He...? Dost thou truly believe that irregular is Neun?"
"Not just me but Yggdrasil also wanted to obtain him—obtain Yuu—hence he must be..."
"Even if thy speculation proveth to be correct, I will still achieve mine objective personally."
Vritra interrupted Kili in a fierce tone of voice. Unable to understand the conversation, left on the side, Lisa and the girls stood up, sensing the unusual atmosphere.
"Don't do anything rash! Tia will stop you if you're plotting something!"
With lightning erupting from her horns, Tia glared at Vritra.
"Yggdrasil's core huh... Indeed, in front of thee, control of my dark matter would be wrested away, however... 'Tis a separate matter for things that are already created."
The room suddenly dimmed. Something was blocking the starlight.
"If 'tis necessary to fight ye, I only need to engage using a physical vessel whose transmutation is complete. Just like the time when using Hekatonkheir to challenge Yggdrasil."
Strong wind blew in from the window, causing the frame to shake nonstop. Small items inside the room also began to fly.
With long black hair fluttering in the wind, Vritra smiled proudly.
"A human body is truly inconvenient, requiring rest no matter what."
After hearing what Vritra said, Tia's expression instantly froze.
"Hast thou not realized? Though only for a brief moment, thou dozed off just now. Hence, seizing that opening, I created a stand-in capable of fighting without relying on dark matter."
A giant dragon's head appeared outside the window. Its body was covered in a black exterior resembling armor. The opened jaws were lined with rows of sharp teeth.
Blowing into the room in place of the night breeze was the dragon's warm breath.
While everyone was shocked by the scene, Vritra jumped out of the window into the dragon's mouth.
"Tia will protect Kili!"
Tia spread her arms and stood in front of Kili, trying to defend her.
"I shan't show any mercy if you wish to fight!"
Lisa and Firill summoned their fictional armaments and stood on guard at Tia's left and right.
Seeing Tia and the others defending her, Kili looked quite surprised.
Standing in the dragon's mouth, Vritra looked at them and laughed as though she found things ludicrous.
"Ye seem to be mistaken. I have no intention of taking my daughter away. Now that the second generation is born, 'tis not necessary for me to obsess over one mate."
"...What do you mean?"
Firill frowned and asked. Vritra simply shrugged.
"Meaning that to me, rather than the targeted D, priority goeth to the existence capable of exterminating the second generation."
Displaying a smile on the corners of her lips, Vritra issued her declaration. The dragon's giant jaws immediately clamped shut.
Swallowing Vritra's girl form, the black dragon flapped its gigantic wings.
Ignoring Tia's command, the dragon stand-in flew into the starry sky.
Kili leaned forward from behind Tia and fired a red heat beam at the distant black dragon.
However, the black dragon swerved and dodged the beam, rising in altitude and speed.
"Where does Vritra intend to go!?"
"The existence capable of exterminating the second generation... That might be referring to Mitsuki who can use antimatter."
Firill answered Lisa's question. Listening to their conversation, Kili nodded in agreement.
"That has to be it. She chose her direction without hesitation... She must have placed some kind of marker on Yuu and the others. We must give chase now, Tia! Her dark matter must be sealed away, or else Yuu and the others will be at a severe disadvantage!"
Tia nodded frantically in response to Kili, but just as the two of them were about to jump out the window, Lisa called them back.
"Please wait! If Vritra is heading to Mitsuki-san at the NIFL base, Kili-san will be in danger if she goes. I will stay behind with her as her bodyguard. Tia-san and Firill-san, you chase Vritra together!"
"...Let's go, Tia."
Firill extended her hand with a serious expression.
Tia held Firill's hand. Summoning their fictional armaments, they jumped out the window to chase the black dragon.
After watching Vritra and the girls leave, Kili turned her gaze to Lisa beside her.
"To think I would be under your protection—What an unbelievable feeling. Aren't you afraid to be alone with me after I almost killed you last time?"
"...I am certainly not afraid. Moreover, I do not consider myself weaker than you are."
Lisa turned her face away and answered in displeasure.
"Oh dear, that really doesn't sound like words that should be coming from someone who was completely helpless against me."
"I simply did not have the mental preparation and skills to fight humans at the time. Now—I am different. After losing to you, I came to understand... In order to protect those I wish to protect, there are times when I must fight things other than dragons."
After saying this, Lisa looked out the window.
"Oh... So even if NIFL's special forces attack, you'll help me get rid of them?"
"Indeed. No matter what kind of entity comes, I will protect you. You can rest assured on this fact."
Kili felt disappointed that her sarcastic question was answered by Lisa so confidently.
Sighing deeply, Kili shifted her gaze away uncomfortably.
'—Because of that, her target is most likely Mitsuki-san.'
After meeting up with Shinomiya-sensei, Iris and the others, we listened to Lisa's report while walking along the corridor inside the base.
With every explosion, the building would shake, causing small fragments of construction materials to fall from the ceiling. Iris and Ren would cower every time whereas Ariella and Shinomiya-sensei gazed at the ceiling with grave expressions. Displayed on a portable terminal's screen, Lisa was also watching us in worry.
"Then the monster currently attacking this base is truly 'Black' Vritra..."
'Indeed. If Tia-san and Firill-san caught up, they should be engaged in combat currently. Judging from the fact that Vritra went straight for your location, she probably has Mitsuki-san's position completely in her grasp.'
Listening to Lisa, I observed Mitsuki's body. Vritra had probably placed some kind of marking on Mitsuki somehow, but it was impossible to tell what it was.
Shinomiya-sensei also seemed like she had concluded it was too difficult to remove Mitsuki's marking. With a serious demeanor, she issued orders.
"Regarding your hiding of Vritra, I will pursue the matter later. Since our position is known to the enemy, it's better to go outside first. It is impossible to handle Vritra's attacks indoors. Mononobe Mitsuki—Are you able to construct your fictional armament?"
Shinomiya-sensei asked Mitsuki in a serious tone of voice.
"—I shall try."
Mitsuki nodded and generated dark matter on her palm. The black dark matter reacted to Mitsuki's will and changed in shape.
"It is done..."
Mitsuki exhaled in relief, showing the bow-shaped fictional armament to Shinomiya-sensei.
The fictional armament that had collapsed when confronting Kraken Zwei was currently very stable. Learning that Mitsuki had not suffered mental trauma that would prevent her from fighting again, I breathed a sigh of relief.
"Excellent. Mononobe Mitsuki will focus on self-defense after leaving the building. Ariella Lu, you will serve as her bodyguard. Mononobe Yuu, Iris Freyja and Ren Miyazawa, the three of you will support Tia Lightning and Firill Crest who are possibly engaged in combat with Vritra right now."
After confirming Mitsuki's condition, Shinomiya-sensei issued battle orders eloquently.
After we nodded, Shinomiya-sensei stopped walking where the corridor turned a corner.
"I will tell NIFL not to get in your way. Since Kraken Zwei has destroyed all the drones, their remaining combat forces will only be a hindrance. If anything comes up later, contact me on the communicator." As Shinomiya-sensei made her way to the NIFL command center, we parted ways with her, put on our communicators and exited the base.
Instantly, wind carrying heat and a burnt smell blew from above.
I looked up to see a series of dark-red explosions in the air. The noise heard earlier was probably caused by those explosions.
A survey of the surroundings showed that the airstrip and the forest were already on fire, but the buildings in the base seemed undamaged.
A fireball descending from the sky was blocked by some kind of invisible barrier, exploding in the air.
"...Onii-chan, look over there."
Ren tugged my clothing and pointed at the sky. There was a girl hovering in midair.
Ariella squinted and remarked.
"What about Tia-chan and Vritra-chan?"
"Probably on the other side of the barrier."
Iris looked around and asked. I answered.
The stars shining brightly in the night sky were occasionally blocked by what seemed to be some kind of massive shadow. Then there was a small red dot of light, flying as though in pursuit of the shadow. That red light probably came from Tia's fictional armament.
"Anyway, let's tell Firill and Tia we are here as reinforcements. I'll join in with barrier construction. Ren, generate illumination."
Ren followed Ariella's instructions and raised her hammer-shaped fictional armament to the sky.
A gigantic block of dark matter manifested in the air above, giving off dazzling brightness like a sun, illuminating Firill's figure in the sky clearly.
The black dragon flying in the sky also came into view.
Although smaller than the dragon that had appeared over Nanato City this morning, I could sense outstanding mobility from this more refined body. The sharp curves all over its body were strongly aggressive.
This was most likely Vritra's new stand-in.
According to Lisa, Vritra's girl form was apparently swallowed by the black dragon. Abandoning the stand-in used to communicate with Tia, Vritra had chosen a form created for combat.
—So mutual understanding was impossible after all?
Feeling frustrated and a little sad, I clenched my fist tightly.
Vritra's black dragon form circled at high speed in the air, spewing flames towards us. A silhouette, looking like Tia, was chasing after Vritra, but could not keep up with her movements.
"Deploy wind barrier."
Seeing the situation, Ariella raised her gauntlet-shaped fictional armament. My skin could feel wind rising towards the sky, probably reinforcing the barrier protecting the base.
Noticing us, Firill descended.
"—Firill-san, we have already heard what transpired from Lisa-san. That shadow flying in the sky is Vritra, right?" Standing in front of our group, Mitsuki confirmed with the landing Firill.
"Yes, although Tia is chasing her, preventing her from using dark matter... She can fly and discharge flames. Wounds are also healed rapidly... It's insane."
Firill answered in a bitter tone of voice.
"In other words, those flames are produced through biological structure rather than transmutation..."
Mitsuki gasped and looked up at the fireballs exploding against the barrier of air above.
"It's almost like... a classic dragon that appears in fairy tales. Taking a living organism's combat power to the limit, so this form is the result."
Ariella looked up at the illuminated sky and commented.
"However, if dark matter can't be used, then it's just a living organism."
While everyone was shocked, Ren pointed out calmly. After hearing what she said, my mind calmed down too.
"That's right... In fact, Vritra's flames are blocked by the air barrier completely. It's not that scary an opponent if we fight calmly."
"Indeed, it'll be over as soon as we can land a powerful attack."
Ariella agreed with me but Firill still showed a stiff expression.
"...Will it be that easy?"
"Is something bothering you?"
Firill replied hesitantly to Mitsuki's question:
"Perhaps it is my imagination... But Vritra's body seems to be growing larger gradually. Her flying speed also seems to be increasing... I don't think we can lower our guard."
"...Vritra should be aware of the disadvantage of not being able to use dark matter. Added to the fact that she created this body for the sake of eliminating Mitsuki—She might be hiding some kind of trump card."
After listening to Firill's worries, I brought my hand to the side of my mouth and said.
"Even so, our only choice is to fight. I will take charge of defense. Firill and Ren, go support Tia."
After speaking in a strong tone of voice, Ariella handed a communicator to Firill.
"Unable to fly, Mononobe-kun and Iris will attack from the ground. But it would be problematic when attacking unless we stay in contact using communicators, because we need to avoid the line of fire or release the barrier."
"I got it."
After we all nodded, Ariella, Firill and Ren flew into the sky.
"Mitsuki, you should focus on protecting yourself."
After reminding Mitsuki worriedly, Firill flew towards Vritra.
Left on the ground were Iris, Mitsuki and me, the three of us.
"...Is it too late to talk to her?"
Iris asked quietly.
"This wouldn't have happened if she seriously wanted to talk to us."
I recalled my chagrin from just now and answered.
Iris concurred with sadness on her face.
"You don't want to fight Vritra?"
"No, because we went out together... Eating ice cream, I thought we could understand each other..."
Seeing the battle intensify in the sky after Firill and the others joined in, Iris spoke ruefully.
"—If Kraken Zwei hadn't shown up, perhaps that could've happened."
After exhaling a heavy breath, I said.
Although I felt the same way as Iris, the current situation no longer allowed for peaceful resolutions.
"Although Vritra's objective is still unknown, there's no doubt she intends to create Ds as mates for dragons. And right now, a mate for the Kraken's child has appeared. As a result, I guess Vritra no longer feels it's necessary to reconcile with Yggdrasil."
My answer was intended for Iris, but Mitsuki looked down sadly next to us.
"In other words, had I used antimatter to eliminate Kraken Zwei... This would not have happened."
"What? No, it's not your fault, Mitsuki. Besides, Vritra is ultimately the cause and beginning of everything. Also, Kraken Zwei awakened because of Yggdrasil's electrical interference, causing the cooling systems to stop functioning—"
"Even so, I am still responsible. At the very least, by my own hand, Vritra must be..."
Mitsuki raised her fictional armament of a bow with heavy thoughts on her face.
"Hold on, Mitsuki, you should protect yourself just as Firill said. Leave the attacking to us."
I stopped Mitsuki and shifted my gaze to the sky.
In the sky, white from Ren's flare, everyone was counterattacking Vritra.
Explosions and flashes of light kept happening. Vritra stopped attacking us and flew faster, probably to focus on evasion.
"So fast... And such irregular movements, impossible to predict. It looks like she prioritized mobility because she could not use dark matter."
No matter what level of armor or regeneration ability, we all possessed enough offensive power to take out Vritra in one hit. Since defense was impossible, allocating power to evasion was a perfectly logical solution.
"I cannot aim at such a fast target. If Firill-san and the others do not halt Vritra's movements for me, attacking would be difficult."
Mitsuki apparently still intended to attack, but after seeing Vritra's excessively fast movements, she lowered the bow.
"But... What is Vritra-chan doing? Just dodging won't win..."
Iris still seemed hesitant to fight Vritra, asking with a worried expression.
I was asking the same question in my mind. Even though defenses could be compensated by mobility, undeniably, she was decidedly lacking in attack power. However, I noticed a certain change while tracking Vritra's figure flying in the air.
"...What Firill observed just now was not her imagination. Vritra's body is definitely changing."
Rather than increasing in size, it was more like the outline—the shape itself—was gradually changing.
And accompanying that change, her flying speed was gradually increasing. I had a bad premonition when I saw Firill and the others being left behind, unable to catch up.
Because I realized another advantage to prioritizing mobility.
Evading the girls' pursuit, Vritra breathed fire at the flare floating in the sky. Unlike earlier fireballs, the firepower approached Kili's heat beams. A powerful strike.
The flare was eliminated by the fire, returning the night sky to darkness.
Due to the surroundings suddenly dimming, we lost sight of Vritra's gigantic black body for an instant.
"Nii-san, Vritra is there!"
Mitsuki found Vritra faster than me and pointed at the sky.
Vritra was rising rapidly as though aiming for the top of the heavens.
There were three small dots of light from fictional armaments—Tia, Firill and Ren were chasing Vritra, but Vritra pulled ahead in an instant.
"So Vritra... never gave up on using dark matter."
"Huh? What's going on? Mononobe?"
Listening to my mutters, Iris cocked her head in puzzlement.
"Yggdrasil's interference against dark matter is limited in range. Even if Tia is using its power, there will still be a limit. Vritra is probably using high mobility to escape from Tia's interference range."
"B-But there's no way to attack after escaping that far way."
"There are many ways, such as—"
Judging from the fact that Vritra had flown upwards, an image flashed in my mind.
But in the next instant, that image turned into reality.
The stars in the night sky—disappeared.
It was a gigantic rock blotting the sky, obscuring many light sources.
The scene felt almost like the moon was crashing down.
Iris said blankly.
"Attacking by bringing down a gigantic mass... As expected from 'Black' Vritra, her black matter generating capacity is on a completely different level from ours."
With a stiff expression, Mitsuki looked up at the enormous mass covering the sky.
"...I'm going to use Catastrophe to erase it! Everyone hurry back!"
Using the communicator, Iris called to her classmates in the sky.
'—Understood! All of us have retreated from directly above! You're free to fire any time!'
Ariella's voice could be heard over the communicator. Iris immediately summoned the red staff of light and raised it to the sky.
"O Catastrophe! Actualize!"
The red beam shot straight up the sky.
The pillar of time-stealing light expanded radially, engulfing the entire giant meteor.
Compared to what she had used against Kraken Zwei, her output had increased further.
Enveloped in red light, the meteor's surface gradually turned into dust and broke off, but the meteor was too massive, or perhaps made of a durable material, the rate of weathering was quite slow.
"Mononobe! There isn't enough time at this rate!"
Iris called out urgently. At this moment, Tia and the girls returned.
"Yuu! Vritra is using the meteor as a shield to approach us!"
Tia landed and spoke while panting. Electricity was sparking around her red horns. Most likely, Tia was currently expanding the range of electrical interference.
"—After reducing the meteor's mass using Iris-san's Catastrophe, I will destroy it using antimatter. Nii-san, please construct an anti-dragon armament to aim and fire at Vritra."
Mitsuki raised her fictional armament with a tense expression.
"Are you able to shoot, Mitsuki?"
Firill asked in worry. Mitsuki nodded with an expression befitting the captain of the Dragon Subjugation Squad.
"Do not worry, because the enemy is a dragon this time."
In other words, she was hinting that she regarded Kraken Zwei as human, but no one would go out of their way to pursue this matter at the moment.
"Then Firill and I will get ready to deploy a barrier any time. Ren, lend dark matter to Mononobe-kun."
Ren nodded in response to Ariella and held my left hand firmly.
"I can't... continue anymore."
Iris spoke painfully. The red staff's outline began to fade and the brightness weakened.
Even that Basilisk that possessed the same ability had a limit in how long it could fire Catastrophe at full power. Similarly, Iris had her own limit.
"Ren, we're up."
I gripped Ren's hand in return and started to construct an anti-dragon armament.
"Marduk—main cannon, Babel!"
Given Vritra's mobility, it would be very hard to hit using the projectile-based Megiddo. Babel's ability to generate a wide-area supergravitational discontinuity had a higher chance of capturing her.
Through transmutation, the gigantic weapon with the barrel split into two was constructed. During this time, Iris' Catastrophe finally vanished.
"I'm counting on everyone... for the rest."
Iris collapsed, sitting on the ground while breathing heavily.
Weathered by the red light, the meteor was reduced to less than half its original volume.
"Leave it to me—Terminating Arrow, Last Quark!"
Mitsuki immediately fired an arrow of antimatter.
An explosion then turned the sky white.
A brief moment after the gigantic noise of the explosion, a strong gust of wind blew.
Holding Ren's hand tightly, I narrowed my eyes and kept my gaze on the sky.
Breaking through the meteor's explosion, a giant outline descended at high speed.
It was Vritra—However, her form had undergone even greater changes. From the gaps in the black exterior, blue-white light was leaking out. Propelled by blue flames, the body had a long tail extended from the back.
I locked onto the target and ordered the pre-civilization weapon to attack, determined to make a guaranteed kill.
Gwon—An eerie noise of spatial distortion could be heard.
The black torrent rushing out of the anti-dragon armament spread far and wide, about to devour Vritra.
What looked black was a supergravitational discontinuity, even capable of sucking in light, impossible to escape once captured, leaving only the fate of getting crushed.
Ariella cried out in surprise.
Using flames discharged from the body, Vritra forcefully changed directions and evaded the supergravitational zone.
I operated the turret to follow Vritra's movements but could not lock onto her while she was flying irregularly at high speed.
During this time, the light leaking from Vritra's body continued to brighten.
Firill's question prompted Mitsuki to continue hoarsely:
"Since Vritra was spewing flames earlier, there must be some kind of energy source inside the body. Perhaps Vritra has caused that energy to go out of control, intending to turn herself into a bomb..."
Firill showed shock on her face.
—If Mitsuki's deductions were correct, then we must not approach Vritra no matter what.
The turret began to shake nonstop.
Although I was using a supergravitational zone to attack Vritra, the turret finally reached its limit and exploded.
Installed inside the barrel, the lenses shattered.
The output weakened and the turret stopped moving. Vritra instantly descended straight upon us.
—Just as Mitsuki said, Vritra intended to self-destruct!?
To Vritra, this body was probably the same as Hekatonkheir, something disposable.
I recalled the image of Yggdrasil's disappearance from the Germany-Denmark border region. The gigantic crater in the ground was created by self-destructing Hekatonkheir and getting Yggdrasil caught in the blast.
Even with Ariella and the girls, it was probably impossible to defend completely against an explosion of that scale.
—What to do?
I looked around at everyone while pondering.
Iris' Catastrophe might be able to weather the explosion itself, but she had currently exhausted her power, unable to move even if she wanted to. Then in this situation, the way to save everyone was to—
"Ren, lend me all of your dark matter!"
I abandoned Babel and summoned my own fictional armament.
"Mm, got it."
Despite showing anxiety on her face, Ren still nodded.
The fictional armament in the form of an ornamental gun—Siegfried. Using Ren's dark matter, I enlarged it.
I aimed the muzzle at the sky.
Vritra descended rapidly, her body glowing a dangerous blue. The internal energy source was most likely approaching critical.
Iris screamed as Vritra's body expanded together with the light.
"Don't worry, I won't let anyone die no matter what!"
Having received Ren's dark matter, my fictional armament reached its limit. I turned all of the dark matter into a single bullet and shot it.
For the sake of protecting everyone—For the sake of not losing precious people!
The dark matter bullet transmuted into antigravitational matter, glowing white.
Whether Vritra or the explosion, everything was pushed towards the sky!
Vritra exploded together with the blue-white light expanding within her body. It was a torrent of overwhelming energy, enough to color the sky and the ground completely white.
However, instead of reaching the ground, the explosion was pushed back to the sky.
I had created a powerful repulsive field that even distorted light. Hence, the explosion's white light seemed to be covered by a pitch-black and invisible domain.
Rejecting light, sound and all energy, our death and termination was denied.
After the antigravitational matter shattered and a gigantic ripple passed through space—The stars returned to the sky.
None of the explosion's wake could be seen anymore. Neither were there any signs of Vritra.
Totally tired out, I panted heavily. Having passed all her dark matter to me, Ren also seemed utterly exhausted. Her shoulders kept heaving up and down.
After I nodded in confirmation, Ren immediately sat down on the ground.
"—We won, Mononobe-kun!"
"Mononobe-kun, good work."
Firill cheered and Ariella breathed a sigh of relief.
"Looks like complete annihilation..."
Not lowering her guard, Mitsuki looked at the sky and remarked softly.
However, Iris was looking a bit mournfully at the sky. This was probably a sad ending for her. Gloomy feelings also occupied my heart.
Just as I took a breath, intending to say something to Iris, Tia cried out shrilly.
"Yuu! It's not over yet!"
Pointing behind me, Tia had apparently noticed something.
I looked back, only to see a petite figure approaching us
With long black hair fluttering freely in the wind, the new arrival's face was very similar to Kili's.
That was... Vritra's girl form!
Wearing a black one-piece dress, she dashed straight towards Mitsuki.
Intense intent to murder was conveyed through her eyes.
Vritra had not abandoned her human stand-in.
Most likely, she had used an opening during the battle to separate from the black dragon's body.
Hearing Tia's cry, Mitsuki looked back too but did not have enough time to generate dark matter for transmutation.
A chill ran along my spine. A sense of anxiety instantly manifested, far surpassing what I would feel in a crisis of my own. Subconsciously, it moved my body.
I grabbed Mitsuki's hand and pulled her towards me.
While charging, Vritra swung her hand through the air.
Mitsuki cried out briefly.
Perhaps scratched by Vritra's fingernails, shallow lacerations appeared on Mitsuki's arm.
Seeping out from the wound was—fresh blood.
Instantly, my heart was filled with murderous intent against the enemy that had harmed Mitsuki.
Against Vritra who was in human form, Fafnir in the depths of my subconscious bared its fangs.
With unprecedented acuity, my body put that thought into action. After exchanging positions with Mitsuki, I extended my hand to stab Vritra's throat.
Vritra stopped urgently and jumped back, escaping my attack.
Pulling back some distance away, Vritra faced off against me.
Due to the increased separation, my mind could slacken somewhat. An image of Vritra eating ice cream flashed through my mind.
—I thought we could understand each other...
Iris' words rang in my ear.
Those words slammed on the brakes of my body that originally wanted to follow up the attack.
"Stop this... Vritra."
Suppressing my surging murderous intent with rationality, I spoke sharply at her.
"Asking me to stop? Thou still seekest dialogue?"
Vritra asked me with a wry smile.
"No, I'm asking you to surrender. You have no chance of winning anymore."
I motioned with my eyes to my classmates. Iris and the others recovered from their initial shock and raised their fictional armaments, ready for combat.
"Tia won't let you transmute again or create a new stand-in!"
Tia's horns erupted with electricity while she glared at Vritra.
The situation was clearly not in her favor. Having lost the black dragon stand-in, there was no reason how Vritra could defeat us. Furthermore—
"Vritra, having lost that stand-in... Can you remain safe?"
Hearing my question, Vritra's eyebrow twitched.
"Stand-ins like that black dragon just now or Hekatonkheir, you could probably make as many of them as you want. But all living creatures must have some kind of main body or core."
Vritra answered with silence, so I continued:
"Rather than to conduct a sneak attack, the reason why you left the self-destructing black dragon's body was to protect this body... To protect your current main body, right? If that's the case, stop fighting. I don't want to kill you."
Vritra's shoulders shook slightly then she laughed, unable to contain herself.
"Haha—don't want to kill me? Indeed, this stand-in is my current core, however... The connected main body existeth in a higher dimension. And the coordinates for that—Unable to perceive higher dimensions, ye cannot destroy me completely."
A different dimension... That was probably where dark matter existed.
Dark matter's form was determined according to the will of the one who generated it. It was matter of a higher dimension whose coordinates were believed to belong to an axis of the "mind."
—It was possible that Vritra was the existence with the greatest proximity to dark matter.
If that was the case, what we saw of Vritra was merely a portion projected onto this three-dimensional world. A glimpse of her full appearance was impossible.
Hence, even if Ds could bring dark matter over from the other side, they still could not head over to where dark matter was located.
Perhaps Vritra's expression of confidence stemmed from knowledge of this fact, but I still had a trump card.
"Is it impossible, even for my anti-dragon armament—capable of preventing Hekatonkheir's restoration temporarily?"
The smile vanished from Vritra's face.
"That was the weapon Yggdrasil gave me to fight Hekatonkheir—to fight you. Precisely because it could reach your main body, which exists in a higher dimension, that's why Hekatonkheir couldn't revive, right? Please tell me, even if your main body suffers that kind of attack... Will you still be fine?"
Hearing my words, Vritra's expression froze.
Our gazes met. The air was thick with tension. The first to break this tense atmosphere was Vritra.
Vritra sighed deeply and lowered her head.
"Thou art... Truly contemptible. It appeareth that I ought to be more aware of my disadvantageous position and existing crisis."
"Are you willing to surrender?"
I asked cautiously but—Looking up, Vritra showed a smile.
"Yes, I shall consider it. Nevertheless, mine objective is already accomplished—Irregular."
Confronting her at a separation of several meters, I could not help but frown.
At this moment, I heard a heavy thud behind me.
Next, I heard Iris and Firill crying out in surprise.
I looked back in trepidation, only to see Mitsuki collapsed on the ground. Blood was dripping from her wound where Vritra had scratched her arm lightly just now.
"Know what this is?"
Vritra lifted her palm and asked me. There was a black liquid stuck to her fingernails.
I could not answer a single word. Looking at Mitsuki collapsed on the ground, my thoughts could not operate as normal.
"This is the blood of the black dragon ye fought. When creating that stand-in, I imbued its blood with poison."
Vritra's words shook my eardrums. I understood the situation.
Fingernails, scratches, poison... Just now—
"I designed this to counterattack ye, but due to hindrance from wind during the battle, there was no opportunity to use it. But thanks to that, none of ye noticed until the poison took total effect."
Vritra smiled while she spoke.
I realized I had failed to protect Mitsuki.
Under such circumstances, Vritra would not be using half-baked poison.
I slowly faced Vritra, only to see her nodding smugly, showing off her poison-laced hand:
"With this, the second generation's chances of survival is greatly increased. The plan will reach fruition without further action from me."
Vritra seemed to be saying something, but my brain could not process those words. My mind gave up on thinking.
My heart turned blank. Empty and hollow, my heart was hurting sharply.
Before wrath and sorrow filled the emptiness in my heart and soul, a certain being gradually took control of my heart.
"Art thou listening? Irregular? No matter, might as well take another two or three people to—"
I could not understand the prey's voice. There was even no point in understanding either.
Because what stood before my eyes was of human appearance.
Even against an imitation, so long as the opponent was human—Fafnir was the absolute predator.
I took a step forward.
At the same time, I generated dark matter in my right hand.
Vritra's expression froze slightly.
However, she did not move. I transmuted the dark matter into a metal knife.
Third step. I had already reached attack range.
Only then did Vritra finally attempt to back away but it was too late.
Everything happened so slowly.
No—Was it my consciousness that had accelerated overwhelmingly?
I swung the knife.
Vritra jumped backwards. My knife grazed her throat lightly.
Her face was distorted in pain and shock.
"The stand-in's agony... Why would it transmit to—"
Vritra uttered meaningless words while I took another step towards her.
This distance was within reach of the knife—Fafnir's fang.
Next was the lethal blow.
"Human body, trembling... This is—"
Vritra's voice was mixed with fear.
I knew where the fang ought to stab.
Fafnir's keen sense of smell had detected the vital spot that must be struck to extinguish life.
I was going to give her the same fate as Mitsuki.
Absolutely unforgivable—Absolutely unacceptable.
You, who killed Mitsuki, I absolutely won't allow you to live!
"Mayhap 'tis the scrapped eighth—"
The target continued to emit worthless noise from the depths of her mouth.
Using the knife in my hand, I made a casual thrust towards Vritra who was staring wide-eyed.
I understood instinctively rather than relying on intellect.
If I pierced this point, she was going to die.
Neither the heart nor the brain, this part was the core of the stand-in.
Despite a human guise, she was not a human existence.
However, Fafnir would treat her as a human and kill her, destroy her.
The sharp blade entered Vritra's mouth, aiming straight at the depths of her throat—
Cracks appeared in my accelerated consciousness.
It was Iris' voice.
About to pierce Vritra's spine through her mouth, the knife stopped due to Iris' cry.
Because her voice had significance.
Equal in value as Mitsuki's voice—
With the knife inserted in her mouth, Vritra was staring up at me with a shocked expression.
"Mitsuki-chan is still breathing! If Vritra-chan is the one who made the poison, she might know how to counteract the poison! So—"
Hearing what Iris was saying, I recovered normal thinking capacity.
Mitsuki was still alive—
In that case, what I should be doing now was finding a way to save Mitsuki, not vengeance.
I withdrew the knife, all covered in saliva, from Vritra's mouth. She instantly collapsed, sitting on the ground.
Vritra showed a dazed expression, staring at me with hollow eyes.
"Tia won't let you do as you please anymore!"
Immediately, Tia created vines from dark matter, wrapping them around Vritra's body.
Even with her body tightly restrained by vines, Vritra still did not react. She remained frozen in shock, her body trembling slightly.
"Now you won't be able to do transmutation even when Tia isn't watching you."
These vines were probably something like Yggdrasil's terminal. I bent down in front of Vritra who was imprisoned by vines and spoke in a deep voice:
Hearing my call, originally in a trance, Vritra showed wavering in her expression.
Vritra's eyes showed the glint of willpower again. She laughed stiffly. I suppressed my surging wrath towards her and said:
"Tell me if there is a way to counteract Mitsuki's poison."
"—Thou thinkest I will disclose it?"
Vritra asked sarcastically in return.
"If you don't speak, I will kill you. I will use anti-dragon armaments to exterminate you together with the main body residing in a higher dimension."
I threatened Vritra seriously.
But after hearing what I said, Vritra's expression simply froze for a moment then she suddenly burst out laughing.
"Haha—thou speakest of anti-dragon armaments? Thou clearly hast no need of that... Unbelievable, dost thou not know what thou was attempting just now?"
"...What do you mean?"
While I was perplexed, Vritra looked up at me in delight then said calmly:
"'Tis death I felt just now. I am the one who wisheth to ask: Art thou unaware of that power?"
"That power? Don't tell me you're referring to my Fafnir..."
Just now, I was definitely certain I could kill Vritra, but Fafnir had already sunk into the bottom of my subconscious. That certainty now felt as far away as a dream.
"Fafnir—Is that so? Since that name hath been mentioned, there must be no mistake. Appearing before thee in this form was apparently a fatal mistake."
Vritra figured things out on her own and sighed deeply.
"What do you know about Fafnir—"
"I have no obligation to tell thee. Since that scrapped authority lingereth and thou possessest it... Mayhap thou art the most troublesome enemy to me."
With clear hostility burning in her eyes, Vritra glared sharply at me.
"...Then forget it. Right now, I just want to ask how Mitsuki's poison can be counteracted."
"Patience. Thou needst not worry about her."
Turning her gaze to the collapsed Mitsuki, Vritra shrugged.
"She will simply sleep for a couple days."
I gasped at what Vritra said.
"You only put her to sleep? But why—"
I asked with my gaze—Why didn't you kill her?
"Because 'tis sufficient. There is no need to reduce the number of valuable Ds. Everything will end while she sleepeth."
Vritra smiled confident despite the vines restraining her.
Ariella suddenly sat down, holding her stomach.
"Did you get hurt somewhere, Ariella?"
"I-I didn't get hurt, but the dragon mark area suddenly started stinging—"
My heart began to pound after I heard Ariella's answer.
Immediately after Ariella, Iris and Ren also pressed their hands against parts of their bodies. Iris was holding her flank, the location of her dragon mark. Ren was in pain, pressing her hands against the vicinity of her chest. If that was the location of her dragon mark—
I approached Mitsuki with suspicions in my mind. Mitsuki's dragon mark should be on her neck, covered by her long hair.
I knelt down next to Mitsuki, who was sleeping due to Vritra's poison. Nervously, I lifted her hair. From the gaps between that sleek and soft hair, I saw—Her dragon mark was starting to turn purple.
While I was reeling back in shock, the girls nearby also lamented:
"Mononobe! My dragon mark!"
"My dragon mark changed color."
"...Onii-chan, me too."
Iris, Ariella and Ren confirmed the color change in their dragon marks, going pale in the face.
I looked back to see Vritra, imprisoned by vines, her shoulders shaking from laughter.
"Like my daughter, ye fought her, did ye not? Then this is inevitable. All goeth according to my designs. 'Tis precisely the second generation's power."
"What the heck is going on? Explain clearly!"
I questioned the excited Vritra in a sharp tone of voice.
Grinning, she replied as though gloating about her victory:
"A second-generation hybrid dragon is capable of turning all Ds into mates. All of your dragon marks will be changing in color presently, without exception—Every single one of you."
In the mountains a few dozen kilometers away from the NIFL base where Mononobe Yuu and the others were...
A vast desert had suddenly appeared in the forest. There was a great hole in the middle of the desert, with pieces of mithril blocking the opening. At the bottom of the buried hole, Kraken Zwei was immobilized.
Wrapped in a cocoon of mithril hair, there was no worry of getting crushed to death. However, buried in fine sand created from the weathering of the surroundings, digging out from the side was impossible because the grains of sand were too small, preventing the creation of a tunnel.
The mithril pieces had completely blocked off the hole even if she wanted to moving upwards to escape.
But after several attempts, Kraken Zwei realized that eliminating the mithril was the fastest way to escape. Mithril was theoretically the hardest alloy, a challenge to crush or slice. However, Kraken Zwei's hair was also made of mithril.
There was a term known as the cutting of steel.
It was a technique using a steel blade to slice through steel. In other words, depending on how a weapon was forged and used, it was possible to slice through the same material.
Naturally, a newborn monster could not possibly know of such a principle.
Yet even so, the monster sensed it instinctively.
—She could do it.
Hence, Kraken Zwei wove her hair into a blade for obtaining freedom.
A powerful impulse was driving the monster's actions.
She must go outside.
Because there were things she desired—
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