When I was fourteen, a man in a cloak, from a faraway land, came to my home.

He called himself a gardener, and said he had come to meet me. He did not give his name.

The man asked about tests of strength, and my father had always said that men could resolve their strength through arm wrestling.

We dueled. The man was strong, but eventually, I won. The man in the cloak seemed pleased, and wished me luck on my journey, and that a friend of his lived where I was going.

The next day was my fifteenth birthday, and I set off on a journey with scythe in hand to the far-off land of Iorys. There, I met the girl I love, and my life changed forever.

When I was fourteen, a man in a cloak, who said nothing of his origins, came to my home.

He said that we had met once before, and that he had come to meet me again. I did not remember him, and he did not give his name.

The man suggested a test of strength—to measure whatever he sought, he pulled me into an arm wrestle.

We dueled. It wasn't hard—though I was a born and bred young lady of an upper-crust family, I was strong enough to defeat him handily. The man in the cloak was inscrutable, and said we would not meet again.

The next day was my fifteenth birthday, and soon after was my first day of high school. There, I met the girl I love, and my life changed forever.

I wondered sometimes about the man in the cloak, and what he wanted. But I didn't know what it could possibly be.

I didn't know... anything.


---------------------

Part 2: The Dragon-Elimination Strike Team, Murakumo Unit 13



Mm... mmgh...

Mio!



I woke up to the sight of harsh fluorescent lighting above me, and the stiff but warm bedsheets of a hospital bed beneath me. The massive monster that had attacked me was gone... and I was alive.



My muscles were stiff from laying asleep, but I slowly managed to get out of bed. My mind was hazy.



Still... I could tell some things. This was an infirmary of some sort, so presumably I'd been admitted for injuries. And... I wasn't alone.






Have I...?

Forlorn Girl: You've been in here as long as I've been in here... were you having a nightmare over there?

No... no, I wasn't. Well... maybe.

It was hard to ignore the man behind me and carry on a conversation.

Suffering Guy: It hurts... inside, it hurts! Aaaaagh!

Can I—

Injured Soldier: Just leave him... nothing you can do.



Forlorn Girl: Maybe it would've been better if you'd stayed asleep.



As I stepped out of the infirmary into the hall, I heard a siren blare, not unlike the air raid sirens I'd heard in movies or documentaries. A squad of SDF soldiers charged out, and through a heavy iron gate at the front of the building. Briefly, I saw outside through it. The sky... was red.

Inomiko?!



Mr. Gatou...

You take month-long naps often?

I've been asleep for a month?!

Thirty days and some-odd hours, if you wanna get specific.

What on Earth—

Wait, who's been taking care of my clothes?

Huh?

I mean, I'm wearing about the same clothes, and... they've even been repaired. Was—

Do I look like the kind of man whose business it is to know who changes a coma patient's underwear?

Okay, I'll just... let that unsettling thought simmer...

...You should get back into the infirmary. We should talk.



Are you sure we should be talking in here? Doesn't—

In the month you've been asleep, the world has changed a lot.



...I... What about—

Renji Urasaka and Kyoshiro Tamura are dead. Out of everyone from that exam, you're the only one who lived.

I...I—

It's not just them, either. These dragons aren't just in Japan. They're worldwide. Millions and millions of people are dead out there. The survivors have had to hole up in shelters like these.

That—that can't be. That can't be possible! That...

Pfffft!

He looked down and slapped his knee.

The looks you get on your face. I know it's a lot to take in at once, but it's the truth. We're all hiding out here until we run out of food.



So... take your time.

...And... you, sir?

Well, I say the "bearer of bad news", but... this kinda enemy excites me. Think I've never felt more alive.



By the way... you passed.

And just like that, he was gone, leaving me alone with my thoughts.



But I'd seen the logos. This was a Murakumo shelter. And... I had to find someone to talk to. I couldn't sit still.



Cowering Man: That woman, Natsume, seems like their leader, so I should go in their meeting room and say hi, right?

Where's that meeting room?

Cowering Man: Just down the hall, can't miss it...



MP Hatano: Seeing him so undignified in a crisis is going to turn public opinion against us!

MP Ariake: I share the prime minister's concerns, but... it is a bit premature for us to cede full control to Murakumo...

MP Hatano: Young lady, as a citizen of Japan—

Excuse me, sirs.



Is this the meeting room?

Old Softy: Oh, next room.

Thank you.

Of course, I hardly had to ask. After all—



Chisa.

she happened to be walking out of the room just in time.

Natsume!



You fit right in. I remember Homura once spent about two weeks straight sleeping off a manic episode back when she was in college.

I—H-Homura—Mom—

Mio! You know about what's going on, right?! My family—Mio! Is Mio safe?! Is she here, is she okay?!

So Gatou's filled you in on the situation, then? Take a breath, Chisa. I can assure you that Mio Akaneno is perfectly safe.

S-she is?!

Why, she's been flitting about the shelter like a bee, helping out everywhere. She insisted, I hear, to be the one to ensure your personal hygiene while you were unconscious.

Oh thank god.

Last I heard... ahem.

"Mio was doing that manga thing she does, and she got all het up about writing something cool for Chisa to draw when she woke up, and it was 7 in the morning when I walked in there and she was still tap-tap-tappin' away. So! As her mom, I powerslammed her into bed and knocked her out with Genius Technique #32."



Y-your impression is amazing.

I try. Do you know which one #32 is? I don't believe I've heard that one yet.

I have no idea.

But I digress. If Gatou's talked to you, you know what's happening. The world is under a more dire attack than it's ever faced.



Wiping out monsters is Murakumo's mission—and the reason you've been given your S-Class talent is to eradicate the enemies of humanity.

I... really? I didn't do anything that impressive.

I disagree. You came back alive from the battle at City Hall—why, by your own hand, you killed two dragons already. Had your squadmates survived, I would extend this honor to them as well, but you have what it takes to join us. You passed with flying colors.

No, I... That's ridiculous, ma'am.

Oh?

I was installed as that unit's leader. If I had 'S-Class talent', I wouldn't be the only survivor. They would've come home too—we could've beaten that dragon and survived, all three of us!

...Hm. I see.



So I suppose I can't exactly stop you from declining, and spending your last days huddled underground waiting for death in the arms of your lover.

Eh?

If you don't believe you have what it takes, then I can't stop you. You aren't a member of Murakumo yet. I have no authority over you. You are, after all, just an ordinary person.

I...



No. I can't do that, ma'am. If you think I can fight, then I need to fight. I need to avenge the other cadets, and...

I love Japan, ma'am. I love Earth.

If I can do anything, I have to. Please—let me join you.

You really are just like Homura described you.

What?

A chronic do-gooder. You don't meet many of those in my line of work.



Then, henceforth, you, Chisa Inomiko, are admitted as Captain of Murakumo's Unit 13.





Follow me back, if you will.

We headed back into the meeting room.

Kirino—she's agreed. Please continue.

Oh!






Comrades? With all due respect, sir, um...

Oh! Of course. Where are my manners. Now that we're working together more closely...



Geh?!

I administer the science division here at Murakumo, on behalf of Ms. Hikasa, so I might have some jobs for you la—are you okay?

Uh











Do you need some candy?

What?

I mean, it always cheers me up when I crack into a fresh bar of chocolate. They say it has properties that improve mood—I've got a spare here, do you want it?

Oh! No. No thank you. Sir. Mr. Ayafumi. Kirino.

Your loss.

Sorry, it's just... um. Hm.

Well, you know—not that 'Raven' is a bad name, it's a name people have, it's—it's a fine name, that people are named. Not that it's your name, it's your nickname, not your, your name-name. Which also happens. To people.



It's okay to share a nickname with someone, you know.

I haven't managed to train the response out after eight years or so.

Oh, it's from your chuunibyou phase?

Uh, yes, actually.

Oh, happy birthday, by the way.

You're right! Happy birthday.

What? My birthday's in a wee—

Oh, right.



In only a month?

Against such an overwhelming foe, the combined intelligence, courage, and martial prowess of all of humanity proved virtually useless. In the blink of an eye, Japan—no, the whole world, was marked as the territory of the Dragons.

I'm guessing if we're locked down here, it's difficult to obtain intelligence from other nations.

The process hasn't been the easiest. For the time being, we've had to focus entirely on our own nation.



From there, bit by bit, we'll hunt in Dragon territory and reclaim it for humanity. Even if it takes us decades.

I see. An advance camp would be useful—did you have anywhere in mind?



Our plan is to clear the Dragons living there out and reclaim it as a base for humanity. We've already cleared 70% of the building, but we're being stymied by an Imperial Dragon nesting at the top of the building.

...Mm.

You know which one I mean.

I do.

We've been giving the designation, theoretically, to the strongest dragons we can find in any given area. It's a massive beast, but you know that already.



It's too great a risk to throw you against an Imperial Dragon with no preparation, so we're tasking you with supporting Gatou's advance team to get up to speed. Then, with the logistics provided by yourselves and the remaining SDF, Gatou's team will engage the Imperial.



I'll do my best, ma'am, but... I was the only cadet that survived the exam. Am I the only member of Unit 13?

In trying times like these, we don't have much of a choice as to who we recruit.

We haven't had time to actively examine most of them, but a few civilians we've found during the evacuation have displayed possible S-Class talent and a willingness to fight. Unit 13 currently numbers... fiiiive members, last I counted. Do you mind if we do introductions later, though?

No, sir, that's fine.



I'll be right behind you.






I'll do my best, ma'am.

I would expect no less. I hope to see good things from you, Captain Inomiko.

Captain?

Did I not say so?

You did, but... I joined Murakumo roughly ten minutes ago.

Would you have agreed to join had you come back conscious from the attack on City Hall?

Probably, yes.

Then we'll say you've been Murakumo for a month.

If you say so, ma'am.



Secretary Makabe: Additionally, the previous commander was killed in action. His replacement is... learning.



Prime Minister Inazuka: All I care about is that you succeed. Please... I'm counting on you!

I won't let you down, Minister.

In retrospect, it's amazing how fast Kirino came in behind me, given that he had to make a side trip into another room. He wasn't alone when he showed up.



We'll get to your checkup in a moment, but first I'd like you to meet someone. Go on, introduce yourselves.





Oh! Hello. I'm Chisa Inomiko... Unit 13, I suppose. It's nice to meet you both!

Navigator 3.6 rolled his eyes at me.

These kids comprise Murakumo Unit 2, Intel and Support. They serve as eyes and ears for the front line. You may find them a bit peculiar, but give them a chance. You'll be impressed.

Well, the headpieces are a bit odd, but—





Um

Did I do something wrong

Please excuse him. Sometimes, he can be a bit... blunt. Chisa, I'll be navigating for your unit during Operation Salvage City Hall. So... I'll talk to you again when you're there.

Oh, alright. It's good to work with you.

I extended my hand for a handshake, and she stared down at it.

...Um?

Oh, I... wasn't expecting that. My apologies.

I got my handshake, and she left.







It's not the strangest thing I've ever seen. It's safer in the navigation room than in the front lines, so if they'd have to be anywhere, that's where I'd prefer they'd be.

By the way, why did you delay introductions?

It's been a long day. I wanna get what I can done and take a nap.

Ahhhhh.

So, let's begin the checkup.



We'll be starting you on light work to help get you back in fighting trim. You're good with a sword, but am I mistaken in thinking you've fallen a bit out of practice?

I'm not as good as I used to be, no.

Well, you'll get there with experience.



Hi, gang. It's me. I'm here to explain about SP now. See? Told you I would. Never doubt me.

The SP we collect after battle can be used in the Custom menu to unlock and upgrade new skills. The previous game in the series gave you a flat number of SP on a level up, but in this game it's an extra currency you obtain after battles. Which is good, because we're gonna need a whole lot of SP before the game's over.



Really? In me?

You did come recommended from Dr. Akaneno. The woman might be, um, eccentric, but Ms. Hikasa trusts her judgment.

Also, you're alive.

A fair point.

Well, time for your shots.

What?!



Okay, roll up your sleeve!

Um. Okay! I will!! Um! Give me a moment!

Oh, don't sweat it. Our injections don't hurt.

Look away, Chisa, look away, don't look at the needle, don't look at the needle...



Helpfully, the game informs us that we've obtained 100 SP here. Thanks, Kirino!

OW

Ow ow ow ow

Tssssssddddgggggffffhhhuh

Huh, huh, hoo, hah, okay, okay



You lied to me!

You, ahaha, you got through it!

sigh

Okay, that's over. Do you know where my squadmates are?

I can reach one of them. I'll call him over to the meeting room, so head on back when you're not... snrk, when you're not in horrible agony... bahahahahah!



Forlorn Girl: My condolences.

Suffering Guy: Can someone please give me a shot?!

As I headed back, I'll admit I was stomping a little quickly. In fact—



Wham.




Whoa! Oh, I'm so sorry!

Oh, no, please, excuse me. My bad.

Really, I should've been looking where I was going. Are you okay?

Peachy, Captain.

Huh?

Already off to a great start, I see.



You're Captain Chisa Inomiko of Unit 13, right? My name is Richter Esslinger. I've been assigned to your unit, effective immediately.

Richter here had been on a waiting list for his entry to my division for a while, but he happened to arrive on the same day the dragons attacked. Gatou grabbed him by the arm as we were running away, and... here we are!

That's quite a first day.

It's probably the worst first day I've ever had, ma'am.

Have you had many?

Yes. I can confidently say it will probably also be the worst first day I ever will have.

Okay. It's nice to meet you, Richter.

I extended my hand for a handshake, and he took it very quickly.

I'm going to miss having a gofer.

I'll be handling technical support and hacking, ma'am.

In battle against dragons?

Well, you see—he's actually very practiced in the use of the Universal Hacking Interface, or YUUHI—

My mother-in-law made YUUHI, Kirino. I'm familiar.



Right, well, he's good at it, and he can come back to my division any time he wants.

You're being oddly greedy.

He organizes my files!



If you'll follow me, Captain, I'm sure I'll be able to find our other three squadmates.

You don't need to call me Captain, by the way. You can call me Chisa.

Well.

I'll keep that in mind. Thank you.

Can you really use YUUHI in combat that effectively, though? I thought it was because of things like my Gauntlet that you could modify anything, and even that seemed rather limited.

You would really be surprised, ma'am. See, the interface has a lot of potential in it. It took a little collaboration with Mr. Ayafumi and Dr. Akaneno, but I've actually managed to figure out several combat applications.

Oh—

Some of them are admittedly still in the works, but the principle behind at-range forced access of another server can actually be used on monsters, as well! Preliminary trial tests have found some basic success in reducing the immunosuppressive reactions of monsters, knocking the enemies out, even causing them to strike their own allies unwillingly—admittedly the defense mechanisms of a living being are stronger than even the toughest defended server, but when it comes down to it—have you ever heard the theorem of Maxwell's Demon? The basic underlying mechanics of the theorem are that energy can be transferred entirely through the medium of information, and so it would make sense that fundamentally living beings, even foreign ones like these dragons, would theoretically be able to be accessed akin to a computer given a high enough level of skill and algorithmic complexity—





Wow, I think I only understood about three-fifths of those words, but that's fascinating! Could you explain it to me slower next time?

Oh thank god.

Hm?

Nothing. Anyhow—



As we walked down the hall, Richter started staring at a particularly large box.

Excuse me a moment, please.

sigh Satsuki. What have I told you about hiding in boxes?

You know I do my best thinkin' in small spaces, dude!

Is

Is there someone in there

Noooo... ignore the box and go on with your daaaaay...



And then she jumped out of the box.

Hah! I fooled you with my clever distraction! I was in the box the whole time!

Do you hide in boxes often?

When I get the chance.



Whoa!

Hey, aren't you Captain Coma? What's it like sleeping for a month?

I woke up awfully stiff.

This is—

The beautiful Satsuki, at your service!

Chisa Inomiko. It's nice to meet you, Satsuki.

Satsuki will be covering recon and surveillance. She's also quite a formidable combatant in her own right.

There are knives in those pouches. They're sharp. Don't touch them.

Oh

look at this dude talking like she's never seen a knife before

like some kinda baby

Mr. "I minored in chakram usage in college" over here

They teach that in college?!

They're... they're very popular in Europe...

yeah see, my girlfriend has a course in chakram usage, but you can't meet her. she lives in lichtenstein

I never had a girlfriend in Lichtenstein!



Bee tee dubs, Captain—

Please, call me Chisa.

—I've been reading your manga, good stuff.



Oh! That's good. I'm glad you're enjoying it. Most of the credit should go to Mio, though, I think. Um, if you don't mind me asking, how did you get recruited by Murakumo?

Oh, that? I survived a train crash.

Specifically, her train crashed into dragons, and she survived for roughly two weeks in the wild avoiding dragons until anyone found her.

T'ain't no issue. I'm used to slummin' it.



What?

You survived out there for two weeks?

T'ain't! No! Issue! The cats helped me.

Oh, I believe Ms. Fudoji will be in here. Could you go wait by the front gate, Satsuki?

On it!



Why does she do that thing with her goggles?

I don't know.



When we entered the room, Richter shuffled me through a few workers and brought me over to a woman comforting a child sitting on a bench.

Melancholy Girl: ...You got it?

Of course. You have my word.

Ms. Fudoji?

Hm? Do you need something, Richter?

Oh!



You're finally awake! Good morning! Happy belated birthday, Cap'n.

The woman gave me a silly little salute.

Oh, thank you. Sorry I've been out for so long. You're in Unit 13, right?

Youka Fudoji, reporting for duty!

And not that you asked, but I'm forty-four years old, blood type AB, and I'm a Gemini.

Good to work with you, Youka. (Um, Richter, are her clothes okay?)

(She refuses to go into combat in anything else.)

It's a sentimental thing, let's say.

We old folk, all we have left is our memories... and the battlefield...

Didn't you say you were forty-four?

Kidding! I hope we can get along, Chisa.

Oh, you can ca—

I didn't have to tell you. Okay. Cool.



Despite a lack of formal training, I've seen Miss Fudoji's skill in hand-to-hand combat myself. She is, if I may be frank, rather terrifying!

Aww, little ol' me? Are you feeling a little skittish, sweetie?

You are quite tall, ma'am, but... 'terrifying'?

When I first met her, she was atop a pile of dragon corpses with a bag of groceries, her hands covered in blood.

Uh-huh.

Wait, what?!

I reported it, and they asked me to find her again. She was living alone in her apartment complex, and even more corpses had piled up in front of her doorway.

You're going to give her the wrong impression of me if you keep that up.

Not to say she's not—we've gotten along well so far. She just scares me. Just a touch.

Well, if you're that skilled, ma'am, I hope I won't slow you down.

You'll be fine! Don't worry about it.

Oh, is that a bottle of medicine?

Oh, yes. She gave it to me.

Thank you, miss.





I see. I understand. You have my word.

Melancholy Girl: ...




A-anyhow, this is also where the R&D development works.





Not a good day for business?

We've got what we've got.

Sir, if I may?





I'll take five, thank you.

We headed back out into the hallway, and Richter began to lead me toward the front gate.



Knowing her, she should be... Oh! Miss Nagataka!

Mm?

The girl stood leaning against a box, a book open in one hand, and a doll in her other hand.

The captain's awake. We'll be moving out shortly.

The young woman over there, right?

So the endlessly dreaming survivor has finally chosen to join us. How pleasant.



Do you sleep that long often? They do say that dreams can often be a psychologically useful experience. I hope you had an excquisite stay outside of your own body.

Er, no. I don't, Miss...?

Koron Nagataka. I've been appointed as part of your squad, effective immediately. I can confidently say you won't be disappointed in my performance.

That's quite a nice cape.

Thank you, I had it custom-made.

What are you reading?

The Second Sex. 1949, Simone de Beauvoir. An old favorite of mine. Yesterday I was busying myself with the works of Luce Irigaray, but I've found myself hearkening back to the classics for a moment. Have you read Irigaray's The Forgetting of Air in Martin Heidegger, Miss Inomiko?

Er, no. I've never really been so far into philosophy as to read a philosopher's takedown of another philosopher.

Ah, but you're at least able to recognize the subject. I can respect that.

Yes, I've read a fair amount of feminist philosophy. Despite the age, I've always been fond of de la Cruz.

I can respect that. I find most people don't find themselves as interested in the exploration of the psyche and societal morality as me, and, frankly, bully for them.



I hear Koron being a nerd!

I am not being a nerd, I'm having a productive conversation, Agent Kazuki.

?

Don't look at me like that. Anyhow, Chisa, I assume Richter has filled you in on their relative roles? My physical constitution isn't the best, but I am a pyrokinetic by trade.

A pyrokinetic? You mean you're—

Psychic, yes. I'm generally capable of controlling temperature, actually, but the title stuck. I'll also be capable of healing your wounds...

when the trash in our way are done burning.

Awww, I love when she gets all dramatic!

You may cuddle me when we are finished if you wish, Miss Fudoji.

A victory for good taste!

you just like getting headpats cuz you're a baby

What?

CALLED YOU A BIG OL' TRYHARD

who thinks she is THE COOLEST when in fact she is a NERD.

Nerd.

What the fuck did you just say to me? Who's the goddamn game dev here, you child? Is it me? Do I upload Youtube videos? Do I tell people to smash that motherfucking bell? Do you achieve intellectual satisfaction through throwing your body through parkour routines, Satsuki? Do you?!

yeah

I will crush you under my heel and grind you to dust.

lol rad

Don't you fucking lowercase me!!





These two seem to be in high spirits.

Isn't friendship wonderful?

Friendsh—

Oh! Wow, they're really good friends.






I see you've met your squad. I trust they're satisfactory?

Of course, Chief.

Imagine thinking I wasn't satisfactory, tbh.

I certainly can't.

Chief, Mr. Ayafumi, I believe we're ready to depart.

Wonderful. Then here is your mission.



After defeating them by any means necessary, you will recover three units of Dz from the corpses. In transit to the combat area, avoid any Dragons until your captain is at full fighting force again.

Dz?

Material used for arms manufacturing. The R&D department will be use it to strengthen our armaments.

Alright. And Gatou's people?

Gatou and Nagare's teams are already engaging the Dragons at City Hall.



Yes, ma'am!

Pull out at once if you're in over your head. It is critical all five of you return alive.



We won't let you down, Chief.

Later, gang! See you with some dragon guts!

Please don't disembowel the dragons.

Oh? I'm sure Miss Fudoji could manage it.

She could?!

Awww, don't overestimate me. You'll wind up disappointing her.






*insanely gwonam voice* This is the map. Where do you wish to go?

(Incidentally, locations on the map often have multiple waypoints you can jump to, but for now we just have City Hall Plaza and the Shelter.)

2020TOKYO is one of the shorter, more looping parts of the OST, and yet I still place it pretty highly in my 7th Dragon 2020 OST ranking. Just a sucker for that melody, I guess, since TOKYO UE77 in 7D3 is another track I think highly of.



When we came to City Hall again, I saw why the sky had been so dark. The sun was eclipsed—a total solar eclipse hung over the building, and the air almost crackled with energy.



Junior Officer: It grows in areas claimed by the Dragons. Right now, Tokyo is pure red.

I find the color quite pleasant, but I understand my opinion is in the minority.

That said, wouldn't it look lovely to put a little flower of Bloom in the center of an otherwise-unassuming floral arrangement?

I'm sorry, but I don't get the appeal.



DUDE

I love wild.

Watchful Soldier: Not this kind of wild, kid.

Don't tell me what kinds of wild I can and can't enjoy. I can enjoy a lot.

Wild how, I wonder?










Still out here looking for Dragons to fight? Guess you're a born do-gooder, huh, Inomiko—

Why

is the building upside-down



It turned the building

upside-down.

An astute observation.

Yeah, it does that. Dunno about the other regions, but—tch, enough gab. To get where you need to go, just keep on heading downstairs. Keep it together, kids.





Are you okay, there?

This is new!

This wasn't here before.

Your powers of analysis are mind-boggling.

Next time, Koron lights some people on fire with her brain.

...People?

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