Not long ago, Nushi-sama had cut this hair.
Well strictly speaking, giving the finishing touches may be more precise to say.
Each time the scissors controlled by Nushi-sama made a light noise; the strands of hair gently fell by my feet.
It was such a strange feeling.
A haircut hasn’t been done for years.
Muku’s history was engraved in the layers of this hair. The fun times, the painful times, a lot of things are in this hair.
Of course, just cutting this hair doesn’t mean throwing it all away……until a while ago, this wasn’t something considered even joking about. But there was reliance on this hair, obsession over this hair, an overt fear of losing this hair.
So that is why it was decided to let none other than Nushi-sama to cut this hair.
It’s no big deal. Certainly it was felt that nothing will be lost even after cutting this hair.
No matter what, this family would welcome Muku.
There are friends who laughed and mourned together.
By having them, Muku surely has a fresh start.
The power was gained to walk forward without clinging onto this hair.
With the haircut over, Muku stood in front of the mirror.
Nushi-sama praised Muku as the best beauty in the world.
Mufu, clearly flattery, but it doesn’t feel bad to accept.
But then, at that time, Muku suddenly thought.
For only a moment, a feeling was embraced that should have been blown away.
──The new appearance that Nushi-sama praised, yearning for Ane-sama to catch a glance of it as well.
Walls are not always necessary to stop a person’s feet.
Chains are not always necessarily required to tie up a person’s body.
──In fact, this girl, by just being there, stitched their feet to a halt and restrained their bodies in place.
Just like the distant thunder.
A loud howl caused the surrounding air to tremble.
Then as if to match that rhythm, her hair──faintly colored hair that had long since lost its hue, swayed ever so slightly.
This was as if she was denoting her own existence. Comparatively, she was like a dead tree. The dry faded branches softly rustled and quivered, lightly stirring the remaining leaves.
Peeking into those eyes, there wasn’t anything resembling vitality that could be felt. What reflected in those glassy eyes wasn’t joy, pleasure, hostility, or killing intent, but only an empty hue.
The ten swords surrounding her back exerted a strange pressure, but given the circumstances they were far from being ornamental. Rather, this pitiful beast looked in pain from forcibly trying to stand up from rugged constraints.
A Spirit that shouldn’t exist in a world where Spirits are extinct.
A temporary name attached to her without a name.
From everywhere, voices full of confusion were heard.
But that wasn’t unreasonable.
After all, she suddenly appeared in a briefing room located within <Fraxinus>, an airship located 15,000 meters above the ground.
The aerial warship, the robust mechanical castle guarded by a solid exterior and invisible camouflage. The champion of the sky sat on the throne of supremacy. It was an absolute space beyond reach and impossible to be invaded by anyone.
But this girl easily walked into this sanctuary.
Piercing the exterior would mean breaking through the Voluntary Territory stretched outward. But in a method far from common sense, she passed through a hole opened in the void.
In the briefing room with Shidou, the former Spirit girls, and the <Fraxinus> AI Maria, there were 12 figures in total. Until now, they had assembled a meeting to discuss about this Spirit, <Beast>.
Their expressions uniformly stiffened as all gazes poured onto <Beast>.
Certainly, right before their eyes, a predator with absolute power had emerged. Instinctual horror, it wasn’t unreasonable for the body to be rendered feeble when stared down like this.
“Yo, my bad. For you to have to come and pick me up like this.”
In this joking manner, Shidou spoke as he stepped forward.
Someone raised a voice of concern for Shidou’s actions, but it was immediately held back by another high-pitched voice.
From a glance, it became recognizable that it came from a girl wearing a deep crimson military uniform and had her hair tied in twintails with black and white ribbons.
──Itsuka Kotori. She was Shidou’s little sister and the captain of this <Fraxinus>. Her expression showed a clear level of trust towards Shidou.
He expressed her gratitude to his little sister for understanding his intentions. Slowly reducing the distance, he looked straight into <Beast>’s empty eyes.
It would be a lie to say <Beast> wasn’t terrifying. Anyway, the person in front of his eyes could decapitate his head in the blink of an eye. Moreover, Shidou currently lacks the divine protection of the Spirits. Even if that wasn’t her intention, there was a good chance his life will be playfully plundered.
But Shidou didn’t stop.
He 100% knew that her power was horrifying. But Shidou above all else──he wanted to talk to her.
Who is she?
What is her goal?
While having so much power──why was she screaming so sorrowfully?
He wanted to know why.
And if there was something he could do, he wanted to reach out.
Regardless if he has the power of the Spirits or not.
It was just──he wanted to save her.
“But even so, please understand. Having your current swords out would be──”
As if to block out Shidou’s words, <Beast> let out a roar.”
Faint──it was a voice so small that it was possible to miss it.
But it was unmistakable proof in this girl’s breathing that her ego was still there.
“……Who are you? ……Why am……I here?”
It felt more like a self-question than one directed towards Shidou. Confusion, as if she was hesitating over the meaning behind her own actions. As this girl was clad in a sword-like atmosphere, such a faint feeling of that could be felt.
“I mean, chasing after your lingering scent……? Why……? I’m……you are……what……I’m──I am……”
“……! Did you really come to see me?”
At the very next moment.
<Beast> raised her roar to a scream, swinging her right hand at Shidou.
Five blades were floating around her hand as if accompanying each finger. Such was the beast’s claw. Unable to react this this sudden attack in time, Shidou could only accept this slash──
However, at that moment, Shidou was pulled by the hem of his clothes and fell backwards.
Almost at the same time, the five streaks of the slash tore through the void, deeply cutting into the walls of the briefing room.
The sound of an explosion roared. The inner walls of the ship, which was packed with various precise instruments, were all destroyed. Flames and smoke blew out. That shockwave received caused the entire ship to start shaking.
In response to this tremor, the girls all lost their balance and fell on their backsides.
But at the same time, the movements stopped by <Beast>’s sudden presence began to stir again. Everyone kept ducking down while keeping their distance from <Beast>.
After that pause, with sweat oozing from his back, Shidou turned to the girl who had pulled on his clothes.
“Y-You saved me, Mukuro.”
“Mun……to close for comfort.”
The petite girl with her hair tied in a bun said while breathing out a sigh of relief.
Hoshimiya Mukuro. She was also among one of the former Spirit girls. If she hadn’t predicted <Beast>’s movements earlier, Shidou’s entire upper body would have been shredded into pieces.
However, this was no time to be eager in surviving. Smoke rose from the inner walls of the ship damaged by <Beast>’s blow. A loud emergency alarm was echoing from the speakers. And most importantly, <Beast> was still onboard. This was undoubtedly a crisis situation.
And in the midst of all of this, a clear voice echoed.
“──Explosion confirmed inside the ship. Firefighting procedures commenced at once. The crew should evacuate immediately.”
With that said, under the master’s voice, a hand was exaggeratingly raised. In line with that, robotic arms extended all over the room and started spraying fire extinguisher on the burning walls.
It was as if she was manipulating the ship’s equipment at will. But that was no surprise. Her name was Maria. <Fraxinus>’s AI, who was using a human interface body.
“Maria, what is the damage situation!?”
Kotori raised her voice while lowering her body to avoid inhaling the smoke. Then, Maria returned to kneeling down like everyone else. Of course, her body had no issue with breathing in smoke, but she seemed committed to following through with this.
“Minor──it’s hard to say, there is no issues with navigation. Just──”
“I hope she can keep quiet.”
As Maria said that in a light tone, an explosion resounded again from the top of the smoke covered room.
A roar pierced through everyone’s ears in the briefing room. It seemed <Beast> was swinging her claws in a devastating manner, trying to blow away both the black smoke from the fumes and the white smoke released by the fire extinguisher.
From behind the dense smoke, the screeching sound of metal being destroyed was intermitted with the sound of explosions. Each time, <Fraxinus>’s huge hull greatly shook.
“Kiyaaaaaaaah!? Are we going to crash!? Do something Mariamon!? Isn’t this your body!?”
A woman with glasses was crouching on the floor, screaming with tears in her eyes. ──Honjou Nia, she was also one of the former Spirits.
Seeing that pitiful mess, Maria lowered her gaze on Nia without any mercy.
“You’re too noisy, Nia. Please try to act your age a little.”
“That’s what you’re going to say?!”
In response to Nia’s scream, <Beast> swung her claw again. A slash passed just above Nia’s head. Nia’s face turned blue as she silenced her mouth with both of her hands.
But things hadn’t improved in the slightest. <Beast> still roared intermittently while continuing to destroy the ship. In this manner, even a ship with a hull supported by the voluntary territory would inevitably crash.
Shidou grimaced at the idea that flew into his mind. <Fraxinus> crashing, that would mean the death of all members on the ship.
Not to mention the crew, the former Spirit girls who had lost their Reiryoku would be no exception. If <Beast> wasn’t moved away from this place as soon as possible, certain death was awaiting them all.
And that wasn’t the only problem. She had a sword that could open a ‘hole’ in space. It would be pointless to throw <Beast> out of the ship if she could easily return.
At that moment, <Beast>’s several attacks had destroyed part of the floor of the briefing room. From the huge hole that opened, outside──underneath the night sky was visible in front of his eyes.
<Fraxinus> is an aerial ship coated with the voluntary territory. Thanks to that they haven’t been thrown out by the pressure difference. But if this destruction continued, it was only a matter of time before Shidou and the others would be thrown out of the ship. He had to do it as soon as possible──
And so, Shidou took in a deep breath.
The reason was simple. An idea had come to his mind.
After hesitating for a moment, Shidou called out to the girl at the nearest proximity to him while continuing to look at <Beast>.
And, Shidou gently dismissed the hand attached as if to protect him.
“Mun……? What’s wrong, Nushi-sama?”
As the sound of the alarm continued to roar, Mukuro felt a little uneasy. While keeping his posture low, Shidou continued on while channeling all of his effort into his feet.
“──Take care……of the rest!”
As Mukuro was left in the panic, Shidou kicked off against the floor of the briefing room.
And then, by tackling <Beast>’s body, he jumped into the hole on the floor along with <Beast>.
If <Beast> had been seriously prepared, it would have been impossible to stagger her with a tackle. But perhaps because of her field of vision being inhibited by the smoke, she bent her body backwards as if accepting Shidou’s embrace.
“Sorry, but I can’t let you destroy this ship any further──for a little bit, I’ll accompany you through a stroll in the sky……!”
While listening to <Beast>’s roar, Shidou──fell into the night sky.
He felt a voice calling out from above, but the sound was drowned out by the terrible wind pressure and he couldn’t hear the very end of those words.
As his consciousness began to waver, he placed all of his strength into his hands in order to release <Beast>.
──This was Shidou’s simple and clear idea, a method to keep <Beast> away from the ship.
However, Shidou wasn’t planning on dying. That’s why before diving into the sky, Shidou had left those words.
That’s right. ──Take care of the rest.
“……Imōtogo! Maria! Nushi-sama has descended downward with <Beast>!”
Mukuro, while managing to contain the screams from leaking out from her throat, quickly communicated the situation to Kotori and Maria.
Her head was still in dismay. The impact of Shidou disappearing right in front of her weighed heavily on Mukuro’s heart.
But there wasn’t a second that could be spared. The roar, alarm, and dense smoke had hindered everyone else. Only Mukuro, who was right beside Shidou, could accurately grasp the current situation. It was her mission, as the person who Shidou had entrusted those words, to communicate the situation to everyone as soon as possible.
“What was that!?”
“──Understood. Voluntary territory expansion. Moving to protect target.”
The voices of Kotori and Maria echoed in response to Mukuro’s words.
Then, after a beat, Maria spoke again in quiet voice.
“……Capture was broken by <Beast>’s resistance, but temporary protection of Shidou via the voluntary territory has been successful. Effect duration is for around 360 seconds. It will be able to withstand the impact from the fall. But──I can’t guarantee anything after that.”
“No, it’s fine. Good job, Maria. ──And thank you Mukuro. If you weren’t here, that may have been delayed.”
“No……not much was done.”
Rather than humility, Mukuro’s true feelings were marked by regret. While gritting her teeth, she powerlessly frowned.
That’s right. Mukuro could only do that much.
Had the power of the Spirits been at hand, she would have been able to directly help Shidou. ──No, before even that, she wouldn’t have let Shidou take such dangerous measures.
With that thought in mind, a question was raised in her head.
The mysterious Spirit <Beast> that shouldn’t exist. She came inside <Fraxinus> by opening a ‘hole’ in space.
Yes, despite its shape, it was the same power as the key Angel <Michael> that Mukuro had once held.
Does that Spirit have anything to do with Mukuro? Had something related to Mukuro pushed Shidou into a corner. When considering that, Mukuro felt her breathing grow progressively shallower.
For the second time, Mukuro felt her breathing clog up.
As if to block Mukuro’s thoughts, a new alarm resounded.
Kotori’s throat trembled as she raised her face.
Then Maria replied while raising her brows.
“……Bad news. With <Beast> rampaging in the air, the location of their predicted fall is significantly off from Tenguu City. In this case, <Beast> will crash into a non-evacuated area.”
Kotori’s eyes widened upon hearing what Maria had said. But then she immediately shook her head to regroup her thoughts and give out instructions.
“──Eject out every <Yggdrafolium>. Before the protection wears off, cover Shidou with another voluntary territory! After that, form a barrier around Shidou and <Beast>! That’ll buy us some time until the evacuations of the civilians are over!”
“Understood──is what I want to say, but that’s impossible.”
“What do you mean?”
Kotori raised her eyebrows at Maria’s unexpected reply.
Then, she held out her hand to project an image there. ──A simplified silhouette of <Fraxinus>, there were red marks everywhere.
“Sensors and controls were severely damaged by <Beast>’s attack. Remote control of <Yggdrafolium> would prove too difficult now.”
At the same moment Kotori chocked, Mukuro involuntarily gave a sullen look.
That’s right. The inability to use the <Yggdrafolium> indicated that in less than six minutes from now, there would be no barriers to protect Shidou from the raging <Beast>.
And what that would spell would be──
Mukuro wrapped her trimmed hair around her fingertips, tightly squeezing it to suppress the imagination of the worst case scenario coming into her chest.
A few months before <Beast> appeared in Tenguu City.
While sitting in the backseat of a slightly swaying car, Shidou heard this occasional mumbling.
The murmurs came from the girl sitting next to him, Hoshimiya Mukuro. She had an innocent childish face with a short stature. However, the safety belt fastening her body wasn’t able to hold down her chest, looking like a stream flowing down between two mountain peaks. …….To be honest, it was a troublesome sight of refuge for Shidou’s eyes.
However, there were more important things to worry about than that. For a while now, Mukuro was breathing in a restless manner, fidgeting with the braided end of her hair.
Long──hair that was too long. Perhaps if it wasn’t wrapped around her neck right now, its length was likely enough to reach the ground.
Mukuro twisted the tip of the braid, letting it go as if throwing the weight of a chain sickle. Seeing such movements, Shidou bitterly smiled while speaking.
“Are you okay, Mukuro?”
Hearing Shidou’s words, Mukuro widened her eyes in astonishment.
“Why ask that?”
“No, you’ve been playing with your hair for a while now. So I was wondering if you were feeling restless.”
Listening to Shidou, Mukuro looked down at her own fingers.
“Nushi-sama is observing Muku closely. But worry not. It’s fined.”
Despite Shidou slanting his head, Mukuro didn’t realize the slip up in her own words. Looking back again, she started to play with her hair once more.
Well, it’s always difficult to admit not being okay. Shidou smiled as he turned forward.
And so, how much time passed after that?
“Hm? What is it?”
Turning to there after being called out by Mukuro, Mukuro was pushing her hair under her nose.
Suddenly, he couldn’t help but have a laughing fit.
Sitting from the driver’s seat, <Ratatoskr> engineer Shiizaki was watching them through the rearview mirror. The car meandered lightly.
“Ah, take it easy Mukuro. You don’t have to be so nervous.”
“Mun? Isn’t Muku taking it easy?”
That was an easily seen through lie. ……No, perhaps Mukuro was unaware, but obviously she wasn’t her usual self. Her eyes were wandering restlessly, her feet couldn’t stop shaking, and occasionally gags like this were interposed.
……Although, this may be justifiable.
After all, this car right now──was heading to the city where Mukuro once lived.
Mukuro placed her hand on her knees to hold down her shaking feet.
She didn’t have much awareness, but judging from Shidou’s response, Mukuro was currently being a little restless. It wasn’t her intention to worry him. Mukuro took in a deep breath to calm down her heart.
However, when she thought about where they were heading, the palpitations grew faster and faster against her own will.
──According to <Ratatoskr>’s information, this town is said to be where Mukuro’s parents and older sister still dwelled.
Parents and a sister that were not related through a blood connection.
A foster family who accepted the orphan Mukuro.
The irreplaceable people that taught Mukuro about love.
And also──the former location that Mukuro had broken with her own hands.
Now Mukuro was about to step back into a place filled with memories and regrets.
“……Mukuro. Where we are going, if you don’t feel well, we can──”
Shidou said with a worried look. However, Mukuro slowly shook her head.
“It’s okay now. Right now there is Nushi-sama.”
Yes, Mukuro is no longer alone. There is Shidou who said he would become her family. There are friends who shared the same background as former Spirits. That was why Mukuro decided to face her past today.
──When she was young, Mukuro, who didn’t have any relatives, was welcomed into the Hoshimiya household as an adopted child.
Her gentle parents and her beloved sister. Surrounding by a wonderful family, she lived a life full of happiness.
When did it break down……when her sister brought a friend that Mukuro didn’t know about.
Nothing special had occurred. It was just that. But for Mukuro at that time, the friend’s presence felt like an invader who had taken away her beloved sister from her.
That was when. That was why <Phantom> appeared before Mukuro and turned her into a Spirit.
Mukuro, who had gained the power of the key Angel <Michael>, operated as she desired. She innocently remodeled the world around her so that her parents and older sister would only love her.
But the use of such unreasonable power was immediately discovered by her parents and sister.
Their response to Mukuro, who now exerted a power that transcended human logic, was──fear and rejection.
Thinking about it now, it was easy to understand. A girl who they had considered to be their sister and daughter had suddenly transformed into something that wasn’t human. Their fear was no surprise.
However, the Mukuro of that time couldn’t bear it.
For Mukuro then, her family was everything and being rejected by that family──meant no less than the collapse of her entire world.
Mukuro closed her parents and sister’s memories with <Michael> and fled to space where no one could reach her.
She chose to use <Michael> on herself, locking her heart and wandering forever.
Choosing to not want, feel, or think of anything.
However, all she became was a silent individual orbiting around the planet like an asteroid.
An egotistical and selfish Spirit, that was the woman named Hoshimiya Mukuro.
But──a few years later. That Mukuro was discovered, a helping hand forcibly appear to meddle in her affairs.
That was Itsuka Shidou, a part of the current Mukuro’s new family.
“…So──it’s fine already. ……To see through whatever happens.”
Mukuro whispered while pressing the tips of her hair over her eyes. Shidou heavily coughed. The car meandered again.
“Sorry, sorry. It was a joke.”
Mukuro laughed a little while speaking, then tightening her fist while looking out the window.
The scenery from the olden days flew in from left to right. It was a suburban residential area Houses here were built more slowly than urban areas.
“──Can you stop around here?”
As the car approached a hill, Mukuro shouted. Shiizaki, who was sitting on the driver’s seat, slowly applied the brakes while quickly replying.
“Is here okay?”
While saying that, she took off her seat belt and got out of the car. Shidou followed suit, also leaving the car to line up next to Mukuro.
“……Hm? Which one is Mukuro’s house?”
While asking that, Shidou curiously looked around. There should be one. But there was no house at the place where Mukuro asked to stop.
Mukuro briefly replied while point to a house that was 100 meters away.
Just that movement was marked with a sense of tension. ──A nostalgic home, a well-kept garden founded with aged walls. The dark blue roof had skylights which one could use to go outside.
Ah, yes. She could still remember it clearly. With her older sister, the two of them would climb out to the roof and look at the stars.
Remembering that, the finger pointing to the house began to slightly shake. Her breathing became disturbed. The hair wrapped around her shoulder was trembling.
Then, noticing this, Shidou silently placed her hand on Mukuro’s shoulder. The warm feeling restored her calmness.
“……Sorry, Nushi-sama. My intentions were supposed to come resolved.”
“My goodness. I am same as well.”
While saying that, Shidou let out a small laugh. Speaking of which, just like Mukuro, Shidou was also an orphan, one who was adopted into the Itsuka family. ──Well, in Shidou’s case, the situation was a little more complicated.
Mukuro’s shoulders jolted, turning her gaze from looking at Shidou to back to the house.
──Suddenly, the doors of the house opened, and from there, three figures emerged.
One of them was a 50ish year old man. The other was gentle woman that looked almost as old as the man.
And the last one──was a tall woman in her mid-20s with plain facial features.
A small voice leaked out from her throat.
No doubt, there was no mistake.
Everyone looked a little older, but this was definitely──
They were the parents and sister that had once welcomed Mukuro.
Was today a day off? They were all dressed up in plain clothes and chatting in a casual manner.
Surely, they must have planned on going shopping.
It was a happy family no matter where one looked.
Looking at that.
Mukuro fell to her knees with a little sob.
“……! Mukuro! Are you okay!?”
Seeing Mukuro’s response, Shidou bent down to his knees while worried.
But she couldn’t stop. It wouldn’t stop. Tears overflowed from her eyes, dripping and leaking onto the ground. Her cheeks were flushed, her nose was clogged, the sound of a groan oozed out from the back of her throat.
But this wasn’t something that could be described as lamentation. It didn’t come from sadness or regret.
Yes, it was satisfaction that filled Mukuro’s lungs right now──
──It was relief.
Ah, with her parents and sister right in front of her, Mukuro finally realized.
She was──scared. It was terrifying as it was inevitable.
A few years ago, her former family had their memories of Mukuro ‘sealed’ using the power of her Angel.
The mistake she made. Perhaps it had brought misfortune to her beloved family, she was afraid of that all this time.
It was a concern so great that, even if asking Kotori about the status of the current Hoshimiya household, it wouldn’t be completely wiped away.
However, the current Hoshimiya family in front of her eyes, even if older, was the same happy one from Mukuro’s memories.
“Really…….thank god ……”
From Mukuro’s words and expression, it was easy to guess her true feelings. Shidou gently stroked her back. Mukuro grabbed them hem of Shidou’s sleeves and tightly squeezed it.
“……Hey, Mukuro-chan, Shidou-kun! You need to hurry! Isn’t your family heading out!? And you came all this way to meet them!”
Then, Shiizaki called out in a hurry from behind Mukuro and Shidou.
Indeed, just as she had said, Mukuro’s parents and sister were entering into a car. ──Incidentally, the one driving was her older sister. Ah, did she obtain her driver’s license? Mukuro remembered a strange feeling.
Mukuro took in a deep breath, wiping away her tears with the back of her hand as she slowly stood up.
“They are living happily. ……Just knowing that is enough.”
She continued to stare off at her family in the distance.
“──If this harmony is caused by forgetting Muku, so then why should here be any intrusion.”
With Mio’s death, the powers of all of the Spirits had disappeared. <Michael>, the key angel possessed by Mukuro, was no exception.
However, according to Kotori, just because an Angel has disappeared doesn’t mean that something transformed by an Angel’s power will revert back immediately. Like the masses manipulated by Miku’s voice, Mukuro’s family is likely to have still forgotten Mukuro.
But it has also been shown in a few occasions that a key can be used to unlock it. In that case──being confronted by Mukuro might cause the ‘closed’ memory to be unlock at that very moment.
“That’s……are you sure that’s what you want?”
“──That is fine.”
Mukuro said so while waving to the family car that was departing.
Then, while waiting for that figure to disappear, she made a big gesture to take in deep breath.
There was a feeling of that energy diffusing throughout her entire body. Mukuro raised her face up to the sky, untying the braid on her shoulders and taking steps as if dancing around.
──Beautiful golden hair fluttered against the wind and shined brilliantly by the sun.
The most important thing for Mukuro was how her older sister praised her for having beautiful hair.
Mukuro caught sight of it at the edge of her eyes, loosening her cheeks while turning to look back at Shidou.
“Say, Nushi-sama. Anything resembling scissors is fine. Do you have anything to cut with?”
As Shidou widened his eyes, he thought for a bit before opening the car door to bring out a small box cuter knife from the dashboard.
“This is all that we have on hand…….”
“That’s more than adequate.”
Mukuro gave a small nod as she received it. The blade made a swish sound while extending out──
She tied her appropriately long hair and cut it in a single breath.
Shidou and Shiizaki both let out a startled cry.
Mukuro laughed a little as if finding their expression strangely funny.
“Was that surprising? Wasn’t Nushi-sama informed? Muku will cut her hair.”
“Well……that’s right, but. ……Is that okay? That was such a bold decision.”
“It is fine.”
Mukuro, with a bright expression, watched the road where her family had departed.
“When asking Nushi-sama to cut my hair, Muku was surely still lost somewhere in my heart. ……But looking at Ane-sama today, the decision has finally settled in.”
She had the determination to become a new Mukuro and to never appear before her family again.
If that decision didn’t show her determination, then nothing else she knew could.
Although Shidou looked hesitant for a few moments, he soon said those words after loosening his cheeks.
Shidou’s words were gentle. Perhaps there was a point for Mukuro choosing to not meet her family. But regardless he had to respect Mukuro’s decision.
They were extremely brief words. But glad of his concern, Mukuro turned to smile at Shidou.
“Hmm……but it still won’t work with my skills. ──Will you fix it for me upon returning home?”
As Mukuro said that, Shidou took a brief pause before replying──
“Ah, leave it to me. I’ll make you the most beautiful girl in the world.”
Suddenly smiling, he replied back.
──Palpitations became more and more intense. Sweat dripped from behind her forehead, the feeling of her throat being stuck. Her fingertips were numb as it grew difficult to keep standing up.
Shidou was. Mukuro’s family was in danger. Just thinking about it, Mukuro couldn’t stand still.
Mukuro was half-unconsciously kicking the floor of the briefing room.
Kotori’s voice was coming from behind. But Mukuro continued towards the entrance of the briefing room without any concern.
However, just before Mukuro could leave the room, a girl walked in front of her as if already having predicted Mukuro’s behavior ahead of time.
“Where are you going, Mukuro-san?”
The girl spoke in an unnaturally calm voice for this predicament. Glossy black hair and porcelain skin, from that cool gaze a bewitching nature not suiting her stare was oozing out.
Tokisaki Kurumi, she was one of the former Spirit girls and once called the worst Spirit.
“……That should be known. To the bridge, there will be a transfer device there. When reaching that point, send Muku down to the ground.”
Hearing what Mukuro had said, a voice of dismay was heard coming from behind. However, Kurumi narrowed her eyes without showing any surprise.
“I understand your feelings, but what can you do now? If you go without any preparation, you’ll likely be killed when <Beast> falls down.”
“……That need be of concern. If Muku can buy time for Nushi-sama by drawing attention, if there is the chance of stopping <Beast> from harming Nushi-sama is ever so slightly increased, then this life is worth using……”
While stroking her chin with her fingertips, she slanted her head in a playful manner. Mukuro was slightly irritated by Kurumi’s attitude and tried to push her legs away from Kurumi.
“Don’t stop me, Kurumi. Muku will──”
“I’m not stopping you. I just can’t afford to lose your precious strength aimlessly. Right──Origami-san?”
Hearing those unexpected words from Kurumi, Mukuro widened her eyes.
Then another girl walked in to respond. With hair reaching her shoulders, her expression remained emotionless. ──Former AST member and Shidou’s classmate, Tobiichi Origami.
Origami kept her cool expression, but there was a certain determination lit in her eyes as she stared at Mukuro.
“──If you are so determined then there is only one method.”
Mukuro replied back while faintly raising her brows.
Late at night. From a company that lightly violated the Labor Standard Laws, Asahi stretched without any reason while walking back from a drinking party after work.
Her back slightly creaked as her shoulders made a dull sound. Even though she’s in her mid-twenties, the backlash was still very much felt. She let out a self-depreciating laugh while turning her gaze upwards.
The sky is full of stars……while not reaching far; the light from the sparse stars did shine.
She exhaled a sigh at the comfort of that little shine. To be honest, while not unsatisfactory, it was still somewhat better than the dark nights of the cityscape.
For a long time, Asahi loved the stars.
It was embarrassing regardless of how it was said. Rather by the time she realized it, looking at the sparkles scattered in the sky, it was to teach that there are about that many unreachable desires for everyone. ──Well, perhaps her name also played a role in this.
“……It’s been a long time.”
Suddenly, such words slipped out from her lips.
There was no one to hear it. The streets at midnight were quiet and there were no other figures seen out besides Asahi.
But, the feeling grew a little deeper. ──The chance to see the stars had been significantly reduced. When she was a student, she would climb the roof of her house almost every day doing astronomical observations.
Her dream at the time was to be an astronomer. Pointing to the position of the star, drawing the constellation, she proudly declared so──
Then, she twisted her neck.
She talked about her dreams while watching the stars. Certainly, that wasn’t wrong. But she can’t remember who she told that to.
Was it her friends, mother, or sister……thinking about it, she shook her head. Surely, it must have been a sister if she had done so, but Asahi has always been an only child.
Well, old memories being fuzzy should be like this. She concluded that in her mind while shrugging.
It was at that moment. Something sparkling was reflected at the edge of her sight.
“Eh, maybe it’s a shooting star.”
Asahi turned her face in a hurry, narrowing her eyes to focus.
Then, she could clearly see that there was a trajectory of light being drawn on the dark night sky.
However──the situation was strange.
The glow of a shooting star, which would normally disappear in an instant, seemed to gradually increase in intensity.
Yes, as if gradually approaching here──
The next moment.
While thinking about the light engulfing her field of vision, a terrible shock wave struck Asahi.
──The explosion and flash overran the sensory organs.
At the same time of feeling the terrible impact reach his body, Shidou let out a low groan of anguish.
His entire body felt sluggish and in pain. His sight was wavering. Even the slightest distraction would cause his consciousness to fade.
However, Shidou managed to contain it all in with his tenacious willpower. As his molars crackled while gritted his teeth, he began standing up.
Likely, two years ago, this would have been unbearable for Shidou. However, against so many Spirits and Wizards, for Shidou, who had exerted a power beyond human knowledge, not even this condition could be regarded as the worst.
He was still conscious. He could see. His limbs could move. Fatal damage to internal organs──maybe not.
Then that was enough. What Shido was trying to do now was not a struggle. What was required from his body wasn’t the violence needed to defeat an opponent. But rather to use an expression of dearness, whispering such words while embracing in a hug.
Yes, he gave thanks in his heart that the damage done had only been this much.
There was an invisible membrane covering Shidou’s body right now. ──Voluntary Territory. A supernatural barrier generated by the Realizer manifestation device.
Mukuro must have quickly conveyed his intentions to Maria and the others.
After all, this was a free fall from an altitude of 15,000 meters. Without this barrier, it wouldn’t be strange for Shidou’s body to splatter into pieces.
But it was still here. Slowly, he breathed while raising his face.
A night cityscape that wasn’t Tenguu City was spreading outward. Apparently, their landing coordinates had shifted due to <Beast> rampaging in the air. Additionally, the impact of <Beast> and Shidou’s fall left a large crater on the ground. The paved road had collapsed; the street lights were crushed as sparks of electricity were scattered around.
And right in the middle──
“────A, a, a──”
The girl was standing still while taking in the moonlight.
<Beast>. The only Spirit in the world.
To that figure, Shidou lightly clenched his fist. ──Convinced to himself that his intuition was not mistaken.
Perhaps <Beast> had a sword that transcended space just like Mukuro’s Angel. If that was used, it didn’t make sense to try and keep her away from <Fraxinus>.
However, from the words <Beast> uttered on the ship, one possibility emerged in Shidou’s mind.
Yes, for nothing else other than Shidou’s existence.
He didn’t know why, but apparently <Beast> came to <Fraxinus> in pursuit of Shidou. So if Shidou went out of the ship together with her, he thought she wouldn’t attack <Fraxinus>.
Perhaps he thought it was yearning, if not at least for the lovingly reasoning of holding interest in him, like a sign of obsession over not letting her prey escape──even so that was fine.
Even if it wasn’t a tender emotion, it held significant meaning if Shidou was ‘special’ as prey.
Because at least for her, it showed that there was some feeling of ‘attachment’.
Swaying, shaking her body like a shimmering haze of malice, <Beast> glared at Shidou.
Shidou took a deep breath to settle down his heart, receiving that murderous gaze while directly replying back.
“Enough with saying you on and on, my name is Itsuka Shidou. ──Nice to meet you.”
<Beast> called out Shidou’s name in a hoarse voice──
“……Gu, a, a, a, a, a, a, a──”
Clutching her head as if feeling a strong headache, her groan was elevated into a scream.
“……A-Are you ok──”
Shidou tried to approach closer to the suddenly suffering <Beast>, but it didn’t seem <Beast> would accept this. Of the swords carried behind, she swung with a sword on the far left end.
At that moment, the sword’s blade shined brightly, emitting numerous rays of light that destroyed the surroundings.
Shidou kicked against the ground to leap from that spot. Despite the voluntary territory, it wouldn’t be possible to eat a direct hit from an Angel.
Then, Shidou noticed.
The sound of a violent siren echoed while falling one beat behind Shidou.
“A non-evacuated area……”
Shidou squeezed out from his throat as if groaning.
Yes, a spacequake warning was issued in Tenguu City where <Beast> had appeared. But there was no warning to take refuge in this region yet.
Fortunately, the place where they had landed wasn’t a residence. But he could see spots that represented well-lit buildings from around this crater. If <Beast> continued to rampage as it was, severe damage would occur.
Shidou frowned. His thoughts spun around while keeping watch of <Beast>. ──Like he thought, a single person alone wouldn’t amount to much here. But this changed the story completely. He couldn’t let anything be done to the civilians. It seemed they were outside the suburbs. There weren’t that many people. But right now was around midnight. It would take longer to evacuate the people than during the day. How long would it take for them to all leave? Could he suppress <Beast> until then? No, not suppress. This was a capture. The other alternative was──
<Beast>’s roar broke Shidou’s thinking. At the same time, the sword emitted again countless rays of light.
His thoughts caused a delay in his movements. The white light pierced through the night and struck Shidou’s shoulder.
Collision, the voluntary territory surrounding Shidou’s body responded by concentrating all of its strength at that single point.
Thanks to that, Shidou didn’t end up losing his arm──but it seemed that the voluntary territory couldn’t withstand that impact. The invisible barrier protecting Shidou dispersed without any sound.
It indicated there will be no ‘next time’.
But now Shidou couldn’t escape from that spot. In front of <Beast> right now, Shidou couldn’t keep his distance. Running away randomly would harmfully affect the inhabitants that haven’t evacuated yet.
So, Shidou decided once again. Bracing his legs, raising up his hands, he screamed so loudly it felt like this throat would collapse.
“──I’m! I want to know more about you! Who are you!? I bear no hostility! I just want to talk to you!”
<Beast> subtly reacted to Shidou’s voice.
But──that was it.
<Beast> raised a brief voice and swung her sword.
Rays of lights ripping through the darkness stretched towards Shidou.
Shidou stiffened himself in preparation for the impact.
Of course, in such a position, a living human being couldn’t survive an attack from an Angel. But Shidou didn’t give up. He wouldn’t let go of the choice he had made.
──That was why, this wouldn’t miss Shidou.
Light fell from the sky to prevent <Beast>’s attack.
Now way, did a meteorite conveniently fell down? He raised his face and widened his eyes.
Then, there was a huge diamond-shaped leaf that gave off a radiant glow.
<Yggdrafolium>. The autonomous operating unit that <Fraxinus> was proud of. Apparently, rather than a miracle saving him, it was <Fraxinus>.
But that wasn’t all. A small silhouette descended down as Shidou was looking up at the sky.
“──Are you safe, Nushi-sama?”
“! Mukuro!? What are you doing here!?”
Shidou involuntarily shouted at the girl who suddenly appeared here.
Yes, Mukuro, a girl who should have been on <Fraxinus>, had landed on the ground.
──On her head, she was wearing something resembling a small headset.
“Mun. With the damages incurred on <Fraxinus>, it seems no longer possible to remotely operate the <Yggdrafolium>. ──Muku and the others have arrived to serve as the <Yggdrafolium>’s eyes for as much as possible.”
“What did you say……!?”
As Shidou opened his eyes in astonishment, a number of footsteps were heard coming from behind in response.
“……Well, I mean, it’s going to happen regardless of coming here.”
“Kuku, fear not for we have arrived!”
“Support. Yuzuru and the others will pave the way for Shidou.”
“That’s right! It’s unfair for Darling to have a date with the Spirit-san alone!”
While saying that, the girls wearing the same headset as Mukuro marched forward.
Natsumi, Kaguya, Yuzuru, and Miku.
And from behind, Origami, Nia, Kurumi, and Yoshino.
Indeed, nine girls arrived at the battlefield while taking along portions of the huge <Yggdrafolium>.
Shidou clenched his fist at this spectacular sight.
──This was a dangerous battlefield. They were facing a mysterious Spirit using her power tyrannically. It wasn’t a good place for them who have lost their Reiryoku.
“Run away.” “Don’t come here.” “This is too dangerous.” ──
It would be normal to utter such words. Indeed, if this was 2 years ago, he would have said that.
But right now Shidou could understand.
How prepared these girls must be to stand at this spot.
Just as Shidou didn’t want them to be hurt──maybe even more than that──the girls also valued him as well.
So, the words said to these girls had already been decided.
“──Aah. Please, everyone. Please lend me your strength.”
In response to Shidou’s words.
The girls all responded by means of their own respective thoughts and words.
Mukuro let out a groan from her throat while exaggeratingly moving both of her hands.
Then, in response, the giant metal ‘leaf’ floating in the air let out a high driving force sound as it flew behind to Mukuro.
Yes, this was the secret plan that Origami had discussing in <Fraxinus>’s briefing room.
Only the operating system and sensors were destroyed by <Beast>. Because the <Yggdrafolium> itself was still alive, the Realizer Manifestation Device performed by <Fraxinus> can be operated by hand──
And so, the operating staff for these white feather arrows to stand up was Mukuro and the other former Spirit girls.
According to Origami, even an experienced Wizard would have difficulty manipulating the Realizer Manifestation Device was usually entrusted to <Fraxinus>.
However, the Realizer Manifestation Device was originally created based on the power of the Spirits. It could be said that, Mukuro and the others, who once had Reiryoku and wielded Angels, should be familiar with manipulating this invisible power.
As a matter of fact, the operation of the <Yggdrafolium> resembled the feeling of manipulating an Angel. ──At the very least, immediately after participating, they were able to block an attack coming to Shidou from <Beast>.
<Beast> let out a low roar while glaring in turn at Mukuro and the others.
It looked as if being on alert to the new enemies that suddenly appeared in front of her──but actually she seemed to be looking at the strange sight of her attack being obstructed.
The situation was as desired. Mukuro and the others were exerting a power beyond the domain of humans. But to the bitter end, it was only feasible through denoting the route of the <Yggdrafolium>. In the first place, the strength of the <Yggdrafolium> was not comparable to a Spirit. If it came to pure force, the difference would mean immediately being blown away.
That being said, the commander Kotori already knew this. Instructions were being issued from the bridge through the headset.
“──Split up into three groups! Three people for responding to <Beast>! Three people for protecting Shidou! And also──three people for evacuating and rescuing the neighboring residents! ……<Yggdrafolium> is a lump of secret technology, but that’s a trivial matter right now! I’ll manage the flow of information from here, so please do your best!”
The girls all responded to Kotori’s command.
Each one kicked off the ground to fulfill their responsibilities.
Origami, Kaguya, and Yuzuru surrounded <Beast>.
Kurumi, Yoshino, and Miku were behind Shidou.
And Mukuro, Natsumi, and Nia left the battlefield to head to the town district being destroyed.
Each division was not given detailed instructions in advance. However, by wearing the headset given by Maria, everyone was vaguely aware of their role the moment they linked their consciousness to the <Yggdrafolium>.
The <Yggdrafolium> itself had no clear difference in performance. However, the girls that manipulated them had different areas of specialties depending on the nature of their Angels and Reiryoku they had in the past.
That wasn’t to say that Mukuro didn’t have the desire to protect Shidou. But right now each person was doing what they could and above all she knew that doing this would also help Shidou. Dashing across the ground with Nia and Natsumi, they reached a collapsed building.
“Alright, let’s go <Yggdrafolium>!”
While saying that, Nia impulsively made an exaggerated pose just like a tokusatsu hero. While staring at this sight, Natsumi half-closed her eyes as sweat dripped down from her cheeks.
“……Is there any meaning in something like that?”
“What are you saying? Roboko also said something like that. Such assumptions are a very important foundation. So that is why, go <Yggdrasearch>!”
Nia closed her eyes, gathering her concentration while shouting out the name of a mysterious technique. Then, as Nia manipulated the <Yggdrafolium>, the voluntary territory expanded while being accompanied by a high-pitched driving force noise.
“……Un! There are two people underneath that building and one person over there! Fortunately, everyone is conscious with minor injuries. I’ll leave it to you, Mukku-chin!”
After receiving Nia’s commands, Mukuro and Natsumi each headed towards the designated building.
That’s right. Nia, who had the omniscient Angel <Rasiel>, excelled in searching using the voluntary territory. Natsumi and Mukuro, who had Angels with special abilities like <Haniel> and <Michael>, excelled in exquisite manipulation of the voluntary territory.
Mukuro focused her consciousness, manipulating the <Yggdrafolium> to wrap the collapsed building in the voluntary territory.
And she gently floated the rubble to not hurt anyone underneath it.
Then, from underneath the rubble, a man crouching and covering his head appeared.
“Are you okay?”
“Eh? Y-You are……”
As Mukuro called out, the man slightly shook his shoulders before raising his face. Soon he must have noticed the rubble trapping him was now floating upward. His eyes widened in astonishment.
“A Spacequake. You should evacuate now. Can you stand alone?”
Perhaps he thought he was still dreaming? The man staggered, pinching his cheeks as he ran to the shelter.
“Mun. Then next up. ──Nia.”
“Okay. Then please go over there next!”
Mukuro turned around, receiving the new instructions from Nia and continued rescuing the civilians one after the other.
“You’ve done well hanging in there. I’ll remove the rubble now──”
How many times has this been repeated so far? She was now trying to help a woman who was sandwiched in-between two fallen walls.
Mukuro’s breathing choked.
Her concentration was interrupted for a moment, and the rubble that was floating was about to fall again. In a hurry, she maintained the voluntary territory to stop it just in the brink of time.
But that didn’t mean her disturbed mental state had gone back to normal. Her heart, which had maintained a constant rhythm, was now going off like an alarm bell. Sweat was gushing out from her entire body. Even when standing before <Beast>, the trembling wasn’t this bad.
“Hey, hey, Mukku-chin. It’s still stuck in place. Did something happen?”
Perhaps finding Mukuro’s actions to be odd, Nia could be heard speaking from behind.
However, for Mukuro right now, there was no turning back.
But that wasn’t unreasonable.
After all, in front of Mukuro’s eyes right now was──
Because it was the dear sister-in law who once loved Mukuro.
Asahi──Hoshimiya Asahi was suddenly stunned hearing a voice leak out from her throat.
In the midst of her hazy consciousness, she remembered what had happened to herself. ──Ah, that’s right. On the way back from the company, the next moment after seeing what she thought was a shooting star, a terrible shock wave struck her.
Did she really get involved in the impact of a meteorite? ……No, if it were that, then Asahi couldn’t be alive right now. Her entire body was marked with an aching pain, but conversely it showed that Asahi was still alive.
Then, Asahi noticed. The weight of the concrete wall covering her body until now was gone. She thought that a rescue squad or the JGSFD had come to help──but that wasn’t it. From a glance, the piece of concrete that was crumbling like a biscuit was floating above Asahi as if unaffected by gravity.
She couldn’t understand what this meant. Did she hit her head when the wall collapsed? Asahi frowned while rubbing her head.
Then──over there, she noticed one more thing.
A small girl was standing in front of her.
From her appearance, she looked around the age of a junior high student. Her silk-like hair, which was neatly arranged, was shining brightly in the moonlight.
Because she was so excessively beautiful, Asahi wondered for a moment if she had arrived at heaven──but looking at her expression, that idea quickly changed.
Her eyes were wide open in astonishment, her lips were trembling slightly. It was as if she had seen something unexpected.
And her gaze was fixed on Asahi. She looked at herself in a hurry. ──But there weren’t any serious injuries on her person that would traumatize her.
“U-Umm……is there something on my face……?”
As Asahi asked her while feeling confused, the girl’s shoulders trembled as she was shaking her head.
Then, while doing something like trying to cover her face, she called out to Asahi again.
“Can you……stand up? It is dangerous here……you should evacuate immediately.”
“Eh……ah, un. Could it be you’re the one that saved me……?”
“……Mun. Such is the case.”
Watching the girl hesitate in nodding, Asahi slightly strained her eyebrows.
The moment she heard this girl’s characteristic reply, a slight headache struck Asahi.
For a moment, she thought that her head could no longer keep up with the current events. ──A sudden meteor. Explosion. Collapse. And a girl who saved her with a mysterious power. A physic user? A mage? She wondered if everything seen right now was a dream or hallucination. Given that, this headache could also be explained.
But why was it?
This headache seemed to be due to something more fundamental.
Moreover, that was to say, after seeing this girl’s face, after hearing her voice, rather than interest in the paranormal events that had struck, the focus on her was overwhelming.
She didn’t even know what this meant. There was no explanation at all. Why was there such a feeling for a girl she had just met? First meeting──yes, it should be their first meeting. She wasn’t in her memories. That’s why──
At that moment, a terrible explosion sounded from somewhere, causing Asahi’s body to shake.
“Ku……Has it begun? Evacuate soon……!”
The girl shouted while staring at the direction of the explosion.
Despite not knowing what it was, it seemed like something serious was occurring nearby. Asahi ignored all of the doubts and suspicion lingering in her head and placed all of her strength in her feet.
It was a strange feeling. But the first and foremost priority was her life. As this girl said, it would be best to evacuate as soon as possible. Judging from that, Asahi stood up.
Perhaps because she got up in a hurry, Asahi lost her balance and fell down on her stomach.
Then, the girl immediately offered her hand to support her body.
Asahi felt her field of vision flicker as some sensation occurred in her brain.
The feeling of that girl’s hand, and the name the girl had called out.
For a comparison──it was the feeling of a lock in her head being opened.
The moment that was blocked became a tremendous torrent that filled her thoughts. Struck by a fierce dizziness, numbness reached her fingertips and toes. Even while being supported, standing became difficult.
Ah, yes. That’s right.
──She, I know this girl.
Why did she forget? This girl was──
That girl──Mukuro, choked on her breath.
Mukuro. Hoshimiya Mukuro. A girl who was once adopted into Asahi’s household.
A cute little sister with beautiful long hair that always followed her. Asahi, who always wanted a sister, loved Mukuro so much that it could be described as doting.
But……ah, that’s right.
When was it? ──Mukuro turned into ‘something’ that she couldn’t understand.
With a power beyond human wisdom, manipulating the human heart, turning into something unknown.
Asahi, who noticed this, feared Mukuro──and, rejected her.
The last memory was revived at that moment.
Mukuro’s face staring at her while shedding tears──
From that point on, she couldn’t remember.
At least until then, until now, Asahi had forgotten about Mukuro’s existence.
No, not only Asahi. Father, mother, the people around her.
No one remembered Mukuro; it was as if it was a fact that Asahi never had a sister.
In retrospect, Mukuro must have done something to them. As she could see, Mukuro was still exhibiting paranormal abilities. It’s been years since then and she only seemed a little bit older. Speaking of cosmetic changes, it looked like she had trimmed her hair.
The moment she realized this, the sense of fear that had disappeared into oblivion had resurrected. One day, it felt as if something unknown had taken over her sister.
Perhaps taking in what Asahi was feeling, Mukuro’s shoulders trembled as if she was frightened. She soon released her hands from Asahi.
“……Your safety is best of all. ……Hurry, and flee to a safe place.”
And then, she smiled weakly while turning her back to Asahi.
Like that, Asahi felt her heart being tightly squeezed.
Certainly, Mukuro was terrifying during that time.
But what about the girl standing in front of her right now?
While being rejected by her sister after such a long time, but still showing concern about her──
As she noticed this, Asahi stopped Mukuro from leaving.
Mukuro faintly twitched as she stopped her feet.
But even after that, Asahi didn’t know what words to say.
Certainly, Mukuro was no longer human by that time. Mukuro, who knew this, disappeared from them──and then Asahi and everyone else spent years without ever realizing that.
What occurred in Asahi’s head was a tremendous regret far greater than her fear.
Ah, this could be a long-sealed emotion within Asahi. An emotion that couldn’t be felt because of forgetting Mukuro, it was an irredeemable crime for not even recognizing that Mukuro was gone.
If she had more time, she could have been able to hear Mukuro out.
If she had more time, she might have been able to understand Mukuro.
At that time, Asahi was a prisoner of her own fear, and could only reject Mukuro. She could only let go of her cute little sister.
But even then, Mukuro came to save her.
And now she was heading somewhere. Asahi still didn’t know anything. But she was doing what needed to be done right now, Like for her, she was trying to help others. That was──something she could understand.
──Then, what should Asahi say? Which words should she say to her beloved sister that she once rejected and betrayed.
Don’t hurt her. Don’t shut her away. Don’t turn your back on her. Don’t let yourself waver.
At the end of a journey that seemed like forever, what Asahi said was──
“……Your hair……you cut it……”
It was such an irrelevant everyday conversation.
But it couldn’t be helped. It was the only thing Asahi could say amidst this confusion and turmoil.
After hearing what Asahi had said, Mukuro’s gaze faintly faltered.
It was like, she seemed somewhat scared.
“…..Sorry. There was already no intention of appearing before Ane-sama anymore. But……”
Mukuro said so in a slightly trembling voice.
Asahi silently walked and reached out to touch Mukuro’s hair.
The hair trimmed to a length that it reached the back was covered in dust and soot. She must have been sweating a lot. The touch felt rugged and not comparable to the silky feeling in her memories.
But from that dirty hair, the history she had been walking until now could be felt.
The life of a Mukuro unknown to Asahi had been engraved.
“……It’s always beautiful like since then.”
Asahi smiled while speaking, stroking her head before letting go.
“Do your best.”
“────────Mun. Thank you, Ane-sama.”
She listened to Asahi’s words.
Mukuro nodded before beginning to move her stationary feet once again.
Then Nia, who was waiting for Mukuro, asked while slightly raising her eyebrows.
“……Hey, Mukku-chin. Could that be your older sister? Perchance?”
“……That’s right. Even though sworn to never see her again in this lifetime, to have imagined accomplishing a reunion like this.”
There were no lies in her vows or resolution. Mukuro wasn’t going to appear before her in her lifetime.
But now, having been reunited by some mischief of fate, Mukuro’s heart was lit up from hearing those unexpected words.
It was a burning determination even stronger than before.
Listening to Mukuro, Nia glanced at Asahi while scratching her cheeks.
“I see. Strange things can really occur. ……But then even more so, wouldn’t it have been better to give more words of gratitude since this is a reunion after such a long absence?”
“What did you say?”
Hearing Nia’s words, Mukuro briefly replied.
“Isn’t there anything better than this?”
In response, Nia widened her eyes.
Perhaps she noticed. Warm tears were leaking out from both of Mukuro’s eyes.
“……I see. Then, you’ll need to do your best.”
Mukuro nodded, wiping off the tears and kicking off the ground for the next rescue.
“──What is the evacuation situation in the area!?”
“Currently about 85%! We have dispatched evacuation guidance personnel from <Ratatoskr>, so it should be completed soon!”
“Hurry it up, no matter how many <Yggdrafolium>, they are ordinary humans now. They won’t be able to fight for long.”
On the bridge of the aerial warship <Fraxinus>, the voices of Kotori and the crew members were going back and forth. The situation in the area, the response to <Beast>, the directives to the girls──they quickly gave instructions while closely observing the situation.
The main monitor of the bridge showed the ground level where Shidou and the girls were.
Yes, it wasn’t the usual autonomous camera sending footage to the bridge, but rather the small camera mounted to the girl’s headsets.
The girls facing <Beast> couldn’t stay in one spot for long, which inevitably caused vibrations to accompany the images received as feedback.
“Uh. I really am a little drunk right now……”
“Don’t whine. Hurry up and restore the sensors!”
Under Kotori’s command, <Fraxinus> crew member, Mikimoto Masaomi resumed his work. After Kotori confirmed that, she turned to look at behind the captain’s seat.
The reason was simple. A strange scene was unfolding there.
“Hm, fufufu, fufufu, fufufu……♪”
“You’re too noisy Kannazuki.”
“Please be a bit quieter.”
“If you can, please stop breathing.”
A tall man with his eyes down was moving his hands just like a conductor. Girls with the same face glared at him with eyes half-closed.
This man was Kannazuki Kyouhei, the deputy captain of <Fraxinus>. And these girls were all Maria’s interface bodies.
“Now, excuse me. This is the best way for me to concentrate. In the first place, wasn’t it Maria who requested me to take control of the ship?”
“I didn’t want to ask Kannazuki if I could have done it.”
“I’ve been thinking about this for a long time. But for this operation, a device for direct control through using brainwaves connected to the Realizer Manifestation Device, is this not sexual harassment?”
“Once this is done, we’ll make a formal complaint. At best now, tremble and close your eyes.”
“Geez, you’ll make me give in with those vicious words……!”
Kannazuki contorted his body while blushing. <Fraxinus>’s hull slightly shook to match those actions.
That should be it. Right now <Fraxinus>’s navigation was being controlled by the Wizard Kannazuki Kyouhei.
While it was usually an emergency tool used for battle, the damage received from <Beast> was unexpectedly large──and also, Maria needed to devote her attention to something else.
About ten Marias were lined up in the bridge. Everyone was sitting uniformly in a P.E posture with cables connected to their necks. Each body had its own calculation equipment running in parallel with each other while they were talking.
“So then──can you do the analysis?”
“Oh, who do you think I am?”
The representative Maria answered Kotori’s question. Kotori lightly shrugged her shoulders at those frivolous words.
Yes, right now Maria was in charge of analyzing <Beast>.
It wasn’t just the normal favorability levels and mental state analysis. Through the <Yggdrafolium> on the scene, she was examining the power of <Beast> itself──and also the ten swords she was wielding.
Obviously, the crew initially objected. That’s right. With Maria’s body, it was possible to operate the <Yggdrafolium> without sending the former Spirit girls to this dangerous battlefield.
But eventually Kotori accepted Maria’s proposal. There was no way she could control Mukuro and the other’s desire to help Shidou──and above all else, Kotori knew they couldn’t capture her without knowing anything about <Beast>.
<Beast>. A mysterious Spirit that shouldn’t exist. Who she is──
Kotori raised her eyebrows in alarm.
A beeping sound came from Maria’s interface body.
“──Analysis complete. ……In one word, puzzling. In two words, very confusing. Why would that be there?”
“Stop joking. So who is she?”
As Kotori asked, Maria replied while disconnected the cable from her neck.
“I don’t know her identity yet. But those ten swords she carries. That’s──”
And then, she continued on while watching <Beast> be reflected on the monitor.
“The Angels once owned by Kotori and the others.”