Outside of Yotsuya, we'd defeated so many dragons that the Bloom began to recede from areas of Tokyo again. The scourge was receding. Our battle was succeeding.

...but to those of us in Yotsuya, that couldn't have been farther from our minds.


Part 24: Trembling Heart (In Your Belief)


I'd never heard that voice before, but from Youka's reaction—well, it was hard not to get the picture.

'Cocona': Mom... wait... I don't want you to go again...


What are you doing? Youka, we have places to be—

Male Wraith: Shut up.

Even Koron was taken aback—none of these had ever spoken in response to us before.

Male Wraith: What do people like you know about Mom, huh...? Running her ragged 'til she drops, you're just as bad as any other employer.


'Ryoma': C'mon, Mom... I thought we told you to take a load off?

'Cocona': You're tired... I can see it in your eyes. I don't like seeing you work anymore, Mom. You've done enough.


Youka, please, come on. We need to—we need to go—

'Ryoma': Didn't I tell you to shut up?! A big-shot paragon of justice like you doesn't know anything about Mom!

'Cocona': Come on, Ryo. Be a bit nicer... You don't want the baby to grow up rude like you, haha.

The flower monster between them... spoke. A little shrill shriek that wasn't altogether like a human voice.

'Grandma.' 'Grandma.'

...O-oh... oh my god.

I-I-I-aaa-aaah. Ah. Ahhh.

'Cocona': Mom... let's go home. It's not far. Let's go home. You, me, Ryo, the baby—let's all go home and live normally. Okay?

...Cocona. Ryoma.

Youka took one unsteady step forward. Then another. And another. And she reached her hand out to the wraith—

—and tore through its body with her fist.

'Cocona': M...om...

I'm sorry, Cocona. I'm sorry. I'm sorry.

Tears began to roll down her face as Youka drove her fist into the body of the thing again and again, ripping it to pieces with her bare hands.

I can't. It was all just a fantasy. I'm a failure. A failure as your mother.

The wraith with the girl's voice shrieked and screamed and called out for her mother, sobbing in fear. The wraith itself didn't move. It couldn't—not against such a force.

'Cocona': 'Mom, help! Help me! Please, help me! I don't wanna die, I don't wanna die—!'

I'm sorry.

I'm sorry.

I'm sorry.

I'm sorry.

I'm sorry.

Despite the slow rate at which she was moving, I wasn't sure at what point she had begun punching the other wraith, the one called 'Ryoma'. He called out, too, but—

'Ryoma': 'Cocona! Run! Run—get anywhere else—!'

Ryoma. I'm sorry, Ryoma. I'm sorry. I'm sorry.

I thought I could be a good influence on you. I thought the three of us could be a happy family together.

I'm sorry.

As the wraiths dissipated, their voices, which before had spoken to us, now returned to that instant in the past. They screamed and screamed and screamed and screamed.

Forgive me.

Forgive me.

Forgive me.

Forgive me.

Forgive me.

She crushed the flower underfoot, causing its inhuman voice to shriek out in a wail of pain so chilling it struck me to my bones.

Forgive me.

And all three she punched and she punched and she punched and she punched and she punched and she punched and she punched and she punched until the floor beneath us was little more than a crater, with a few broken leaves and a slight bit of ectoplasm remaining, and then she punched and she punched and she punched and she punched and she punched—

Forgive me. Forgive me. Forgive me. Forgive me. Forgive me. Forgive me. Forgive me. Forgive me. Forgive me. Forgive me. Forgive me. Forgive me. Forgive me. Forgive me. Forgive me. Forgive me.

And she punched and she punched until she knelt still, like a carcass herself, in that crater, the tears having dried up. And then...

...she stood, and began to walk forward.



Satsuki stopped herself.



...Youka. If you want to stop—


Miss Fudoji, I—


At least—!


I can stop when I'm dead. I'm not dead yet.


We're almost there.

Um, calling Unit 13... I've... um...

Please proceed with the navigation, Jeanne.

...Okay. This area is a treacherous labyrinth.

If you follow my navigation exactly, though, you'll get through. Please head northwest first. I've set a marker on your map.


I know what you want to say, Jeanne.

...Making me stop isn't going to make me better. I'm still fit for duty. Show me how to get to the end of this place. Please.


A man and a woman—both long since dead—were arguing atop the next platform.

Collapsed Man: Hey, hey, you stupid woman! If you don't know where to go, shut up!

Collapsed Man: And then, where the hell will you be?! This way?! Go where?! Aaaaaaaaaaaaargh!!

Unreliable Woman: Hold on, what is that guy up to? He kept insisting he knew the way!

Unreliable Woman: Yeah, what the heck are you talking about?! This way?! Go where?! Nnnnnnnnnngh!!

...That's the way of things with men like him. They talk a big game. That's all.

The moon hung ever heavier over us as we continued through this cesspit.

Okay... you've made it to the first stop! We're not far now! This time, head for the southeast marker.

—I said lemme on!


Youka, don't let this creep get you down. You—you can beat anything! C'mon! You're unbeatable! Kick his ass!

You're being oddly forward.

Well, I—

...It's cute, Miroku. I think you should be honest with your feelings more.

...Worry about me when I'm dying. I'm not dead yet.

...Are you seeing it?

Yes. I am.

It's pretty hard to miss.

...We're getting closer.

Clever bastard.

That's a basic trick from any Lost Woods.

We did so.

And beneath the ever-looming moon...

...at long last, we reached the end of the labyrinth.

You made it! Alright, the Imperial Dragon is just ahead. ...Good luck, okay?

There was a headstone here, one last one that made Youka stop. Most of the names weren't important—the family was 'Sunamori'—but Youka had a comment for it.

...Arashi. Of all the people...

There was no 'Arashi Sunamori' on this headstone.

Is now a bad time?

For what?


Um, no. Now's a great time!

...Thanks, Satsuki. You're a good girl.

How am I supposed to feel about that compliment right now?!



Is it over there? Past that bridge?


What's it called?

The name came to me in a flash, like the three before.


I see.

Over here. This side path. It'll lead us to the beginning.

So we might clear out a path straight to the end?


Oh hey, a new pair. Sick.

Those goggles are awfully reliable. It's a touch surprising, considering how often you remove them.

I know what I'm doing, Richter.

Koron. Satsuki.


Seeing the three of them go about their work in such dire tones was unsettling in its own right.

What are you all going to do when we return to base?

nap with my cats.

I imagine listen to my father talk some more. He's been wanting to ramble my ear off about his construction ideas.

Er, well, usually I use some of my free time maintaining my ant farm.

Probably go give Mio a hug, and then the two of us will lay down and—

You've been maintaining a what?

Yes, I've been running a little ant farm just behind City Hall. It's in a safe place so I don't have to worry about anybody accidentally destroying it. Would you like to see it some time?


That's good. All of you...

...treasure that time. Okay?

I saw Youka trying to cut that line of conversation off by turning her head completely forward, so I cut her off.


My treasured times include times with you, too. You're not alone.


After all we'd been through here, a couple of jumps seemed paltry.


If necessary, I'm on it, Captain.

It was hardly necessary for Youka, at least. Her leaps were something to behold—she took these long leaps like they were a walk in the park.

By this point, the gravestones were choking the landscape. So many, many more dead—littering this road to hell were those who would never even make it that far.


That moon—it's our target, the Imperial Dragon! It can't hide from us any longer!

Everyone... let's do this! Show it that human life and human death aren't things to be trifled with!

To think. A dragon disguising itself as the moon... Well, that answers one question.

The question of how it could maintain a consistent set of celestial bodies?

Exactly. If the celestial bodies are part of itself—

That doesn't matter right now, okay?

What matters is that we have to kill it.


You're right, of course. Are you ready?


...Come out. I'm here.

And in a flash of light, the 'moon' of this endless night dissipated—

—and our foe, alabaster and shining in its aberrant moonlight, finally made its appearance.

...There you are.

Chisa. Sorry to ask this of you, but I think we'll need you on triage this time.

I won't argue. Let's take it down by any means necessary.

There you are, you son of a bitch. You can't run, or hide, anymore.

Behind the dragon, at the very peak, two gravestones had been warped into the claw of the very end of this colossal skeleton. The lettering on the names was damaged—but I saw enough to know whose graves those were.

'Cocona Fudoji - 1993-2020'.
'Ryoma Fudoji - '1994-2020'.

You won't run from me. I'll make you wish you'd never set foot on this planet.

The Lore-a-Lua roared. Though it faced all five of us, this dragon—it knew who its true opponent was. The woman Oiwa was not in the question—on this night, there could only be one Ghost of Yotsuya.

I'll kill you...

I'll kill you.

I'll kill you!


So, both Warcry and Jigowatt had gone down on my first try, and that was what I showed you all. Admittedly, both of them were quite hard fought, but I did win first try.

Lore-A-Lua? Not so much. I came in half-cocked and died on turn 3, then again on turn 5. Then I left to go jiggle around my equips a bit. Then I got dropped five more times with a more advantageous setup. The previous bosses were pretty simple, but Laurie's tools will fuck you up—and she's got a lot of them. She's only got 4500 HP to Jigowatt's 3650, so she's not much of an upgrade on paper, but she's a very different boss—she is, if you will, the exact kind of boss who would make a dungeon like this.

Watch out! It's projected a field of—

This reading, it's...

Be careful! These readings are similar to the Captain's innate abilities!

Okay, base gimmick of the fight here—Sway React. You may remember me mentioning this little trick that the Wraiths possessed—well, Mommy's got it too. Sway React will give Lore-a-Lua an extra turn when she dodges an attack—and in case you thought the game would be merciful, no, she is a dragon and she does get both of her actions on that extra turn. In fact, if you happen to have a Gun Trickster with Bush Trap set up, well, she can dodge that on her extra turn and get another extra turn, with a total cap of eight possible actions in a round if you have a bad setup. You aren't going to survive that.

Sway React lasts five turns, so it will wear off. She will always reapply it if it's not on, so you do get a half-free round when it runs out, but that's not much help.

It gathered a blast of black-and-white energy and hurled it at Koron.

Let's avoid that in the future.

Beside them, Youka stepped forward with the fury of an unfettered god, her rage clenching her fists so hard her knuckles went white.

Don't look away from me! Fight me, you son of a bitch!

As Satsuki set up—

—it did so. But a blast which made Koron double over was hardly enough to make Youka flinch.

Youka leapt off of the ground, like a furious ape in flight, to deliver a hook to the monster's chest—the sound of its bones cracking was audible even over her wordless bellows.

To retreat from Youka's blow, the dragon flew into the air before diving back with a swing of its claws, hitting such a wide reach that it struck Satsuki and Koron as well—blood was drawn in short order, and a shield broken. Youka bled, too—but she hardly noticed it.

Tch! Watch where you're swinging that thing!

Crimson Scythe is an all-target melee attack—basically Laurie's only melee attack besides a random chance that her regular attack will be Claw-type—with a heavy chance to inflict Bleed, a damage over time buff that, if you'll recall, ticks at the end of turns like Poison. It actually increases on intensity on its second turn—it deals 16 damage the first turn, then 19 the second and third. It's no joke, even if those seem like small numbers.

Instead, Youka grabbed onto the flesh of its wing and began to tear, ripping a small but ungodly painful hole in it if the screeching was any indication.

You like that! IS THIS FUN TO YOU?!

Having shielded against that blow, however, Koron was in perfect condition—she launched one...


...and then struck the damaged wing with a second, causing the beast to shriek in pain.

Okay, good work—



The flash from before wasn't a one-time thing—it was a good thing we had finished when we did, as my eyes weren't able to handle the assault, and I couldn't help but close them.


And here's Blindness Whisper. This is that one fight in the game I mentioned where Blind is actually a relevant status ailment. This is because the Blind that Lore-A-Lua inflicts lowers the accuracy of your skills to zero—if you're not using a skill that is incapable of missing, it WILL miss and it WILL trigger Sway React. The counter to this, of course, is incredibly punishing.

Damn it—!

Oh god Koron


But Youka was undeterred, nearly gliding across the ground to strike at the monster that filled her vision.

Even though I was blinded, I could hear the bone-shattering impact of her fists.

I could hear as she caved in its organs, causing its internals to meld together in a pile of tenderized meat.


I could hear it scream.

Don't make me laugh! You don't know what it means to hurt!

I could hear as this loathsome beast cried out.

Cry more! I'll show you what it means to suffer!

It fled, and hid behind its façade as the moon—shining a sickening light that I could feel burning me even through the blurriness of my vision.

Damn it, stupid body, move—come on, I—I don't—I can't just—work, you stupid fucking brain!

And as if that wasn't enough, Laurie has another full-target status ailment skill—this time for Downer, doubling the MANA cost of skills.


C-Captain! It seems there's some manner of interference with our informational fields! Koron in particular seems to be flagging!

Damn it!

You won't—you won't tear me away. I won't lay down and die because of you!

Over here!


Koron, you—

Shut up shut up. Just shut up! You think you're helping me?! I feel like I'm thinking through lead!

...and yet, it was like we hardly even existed in this battle. At the end of the day, we were the backup.

Even when it attacked another, it was just while fleeing from Youka's unending onslaught.

Alright, bastard! See how you like trying to fuck with me now!

Wait, Koron—! Don't shoot!

Whatever inaudible sound Koron had been hit with was enough for her to miss. The particles of her lightning bolt dissipated into the Lore-a-Lua, and it...

...I can still remember the way my stomach lurched when I saw it flap into the air with a burst of energy.


At this point, it seemed that the dragon had tired of the backup dancers. With her newfound burst of energy, the Lore-a-Lua locked its eyes onto Satsuki—

—and it howled, a very, very audible sound that caused Satsuki to double over onto the ground holding her ears, shaking her head in terror and obvious pain, covered in sweat.

Remember that punish I mentioned for Sway React? Here it is—on a turn she gets from Sway React, Laurie will hammer you with Second Harvest, instantly killing one of your party members.

Even Youka turned, her eyes wide hearing Satsuki muttering in terror.

Satsuki! Talk to me, please!

auntie no i swear i won't i won't do anything i didn't i didn't do it i didn't do it dont hurt me please dont hurt me DONT HURT ME PLEASE DONT HURT ME IM SORRY IM SORRY IM SORRY

No, I—I didn't mean to—


Damn it!


Shit, shit—!

Leave me down!


Koron ran over with the last of her strength and wrapped the muttering Satsuki in her arms.

Hey. It's okay. It's okay.

It's fine. You're not there anymore. It's okay. Take a deep breath. You're stronger than this. I believe in you—

Koron whispered the last word in Satsuki's ear, and then collapsed on her shoulders. Satsuki took a deep breath, and then looked at Koron.


Don't worry about me. Just... finish the job. Youka!

There was silence for a moment. And then—

...Right. Of course.

Anata no tsuranuku hitomi wa, nani ga miteita no deshou?
(What were your piercing eyes looking at?)

Once more, Youka clenched her fist.

Satsuki, Chisa, Richter. Back me up.

Anata no furueru kokoro wa, nani ga hibiiteita no deshou?
(What was echoing in your trembling heart?)

Hisashiku egao o mitei nai
(For a long time I did not see your smile—)
Nukumori dake wa kimi nai
(only your warmth did not disappear)


I'm still standing!

Ate na hou kizuato konoyo no kami yori itami
(Even your smallest scars hurt more than the gods of this world)

You think you know anything about suffering?

You don't know SHIT about SUFFERING!

Dakara subete kowashite susumu no deshou
(and that's why you will continue to destroy everything.)

Oka no doko de mo naku, koko ni tatta anata wa
(You, who stood here with nowhere else to go—)

Nanika o tsukamu tame ni te o nobasu?
(—what was it you reached out your hand to grasp?)

Watashi wa shitteiru sekai o yai da honoo
(You are the flame that burns the world I know—)

I'll show you what it means to suffer.

Itetsuku toki o kogasu sekai o kogasu yasashi sa
(—your kindness even chars the frozen passage of time.)

Oka no dare de mo naku, koko ni tatta anata wa
(You who stood here with nowhere else to go—)

I'll make you feel everything I've felt!

Nanika o tsukamu tame ni te o nobasu?
(—what was it you reached out your hand to grasp?)

So come on! If you want to toy with humans so bad—then toy with me, bastard!

Hate no nai nanika wa miushinaru nara ba
(If you lose track of that which has no end—)

Me koto wa senaka ni yodomu deshou
(—then that which you've overlooked will cling to your back and weigh you down.)

I'll put everything I've felt into this fist—!

Kobushi wa nigirazu tsukameru mirai wa nai
(You grasp your fist, and there is no future to hold onto)

One last time, Youka dashed forward, as the dragon flew low to the ground—

Wa no o tobazu susumeru—
(Steel yourself, and jump into the wheel—)

And I'll send you straight to HELL!

—and her fist tore through its midsection.

ippo wa nai
(—there is no step.)

As Youka stood in that position, I saw her tense up, and her muscles clench as a spurt of blood rocketed out of the Lore-a-Lua's sternum. Its movements abruptly stopped, and it made one last cracking noise—

—as Youka yanked her arm back out, striking its corpse with the other to send it to the side, and holding what remained of its heart crushed in her fist.

Anata no sun da hitomi wa, nani ga miteita no deshou?
(What were your clear eyes looking at?)

Anata no yuruganu kokoro wa, nani ga hibiiteita no deshou?
(What was echoing in your shaking heart?)


As the dragon's lifeless corpse made its last few gurgles, I made to ensure Koron didn't bleed out on the floor. All of the stars from the endless night—they began to rain down, petals of Bloom making way for genuine light.

YEAH!!!! Now that's what I'm talking about!

That sounded a bit gory for a kid your age!


What is this?

Youka held something from within the beast's heart.

Obviously we're going to need most of it for materials, but I imagine the old ball and chain will want to see this.

Ah, right.

So, the thing from within Lore-a-Lua traded hands from the bloody, gore-caked fist of Youka Fudoji to the positively sterling by comparison Richter Esslinger, and he made to box it.

So, they won? Yaaaaaaay! Congratulations!

I guess you only came along so you could eat candy bars, huh?

I helped Koron to her feet, as Satsuki helped to patch her wounds.

H-hey... emotional support is important for cowards like you, Kirino.

Wha—hey! Excuse you! I've been being very brave!

Shut up, Kirino, less of my blood is in my body than yours is in yours. You'll have to forgive me a bit of candidness.

Oh, for the love of—See, this is why I write those sorts of comments!

Well, I think they're doing great, so... there!

Oh, no. She's learning to mouth off.

ladies, please, you're both beautiful

You don't get to be chill, you were just rolling on the ground screaming a bit ago!


Water under the bridge!

The real stars were beginning to come out. Even if it took some time for this endless night to truly pass... perhaps the town of Yotsuya would eventually be able to find its heart once more.




Hahaha! Now, there's a woman who's the real deal.

How come you don't whip 'em that hard, Daigo?

Takehaya—they beat a third Imperial, and their Captain wasn't on the front lines. Is that good enough for you?

Doesn't matter if it is or not.

Daigo, Neko. Can I trust you with this?

Of course.



I'm in favor, personally.

imagine if we hadn't killed that one dragon first and then on the way back we got wasted. that would've been really sad. why am i thinking about that.

Alright, you seem to have all of your blood now, Koron. So take it back!


Hey, I've been back here analyzing like my life depended on it! Being out there subduing Dragons would've been a nice break—though, I suppose it was nice to get re-acquainted with Jeanne now that she's been at work for a while.


It's true, sir. You talk a lot. Having fewer conversational partners is, overall, more effective for your work in times like this. Do you want to see the data?

Wha—no. No. Don't—don't say it like that, I. I feel lonely.

Then he paused.

...Aoi's not the only other person here with a driver's license, is she?

What's that supposed to mean?!

I can drive.

Of course you can.

As we drove, we saw it all vanish by the side of the road... the Bloom withered and broke, flying into the wind. I saw Youka looking out the window, at her home being freed as the sun reappeared on the horizon. It would soon be night again, yes—but a real night, not one of a dragon's design.

"Residential C" slated for repairs!
"Industrial Area" slated for repairs!
"Power Room" slated for repairs!


thanks, mama fudoji.

For what?

i think you did really good. good job. it's over.

...I suppose it is, huh. For now, at least.

I would be happy to delegate a few members of the work team to your segment of the workload for a few days, if that would help.

And I'll cook you a bento this time, how's that sound?


Koron says she wubs you too



Thanks, everyone.

Natsume herself came out to greet us, amazingly.

Welcome back, Unit 13, Kirino, Aoi. You've all done unbelievably well—clearing out an entire neighborhood of dragons, including an Imperial, within the span of a single day is nothing short of spectacular. I hear tell that the tapes of your last battle are something to behold.

I suppose so. We're just glad to be home, I think. And thank you.

Really, Ms. Hikasa, the credit is yours for putting your trust in us.

It's messier than usual, by the looks of things. You didn't handle it too roughly, did you, Ms. Fudoji?

If I did, then it's just what the bastard deserved, if you ask me.

How improfessional of you. One could call that your charm.

Here you go, boss lady!

Natsume began to pace backwards while holding its carrying case.

Such curious things, Dragons. I—

Then, from a window on the sixth floor...




Ask her yourself, she's right here!


Youka picked up a rock off the ground and hurled it up the six floors, striking Mom in the forehead and making her moan in a little pain.

I'm processing here! Shut up!

In response, Mom got over her pain, shrugged, and closed the window again.

Oh thank goodness.

That'll be nice to ensure my brain isn't still fried.

How many fingers am I holding up

You aren't holding up any fingers.

Actually, I agree. Something fried sounds lovely right now.

Hey, fuck it. This is the cleanest an Imperial's ever gone, why not celebrate?


Later that night, I found myself a bit wired before going to bed, and without any capability to do anything productive, so I idly wandered out of the hallway to see Youka through the window, leaving City Hall. I'll admit, I was curious, and figured that of all people, she would be dead asleep by this point... so I followed her.

I shouldn't have been surprised to find her returning to Yotsuya in the wake of the battle.

So I followed her through, looking up at the moon as I did—tinted as it was by the distortion of the sky, this was, to be sure, the real moon, and not a beast in disguise.

It took me a bit longer to make the jumps, so eventually I caught up to her in the same place we'd fought the beast. Its corpse was already gone, taken in for usage in development material... but the graves that littered the rooftops were not gone.

Are you going to say something, or just keep following me?

Oh, sorry. I... kind of forgot I could speak for a bit.

It happens, I'm sure.

Having seen what I did, it wasn't a surprise to find her here. She'd broken out pieces of the 'bone', and had found a chisel to start carving the remainder of the damaged characters.

I don't know where their remains are anymore, but the least I can do is ensure they have a proper grave somewhere.

Your children, you mean?

Technically, Ryoma isn't related to me. He's my son-in-law. I took him in shortly after we met—he and Cocona were head over heels for each other from the first moment. He's an orphan, you see—never had a mother before.

I think a lot of kids in those street gangs are like that. No parents... or maybe just bad ones. Anyway, he called me 'Mom' well before they got married. I never legally adopted him or anything—

Youka, I call Homura 'Mom'. You don't have to justify this to me.


She continued chiseling, and I sat down beside her as she did so.

I'm... sorry. For your loss.

Sorry I never mentioned it before.

What? That's ridiculous. Why would that be a fault of yours?

Probably almost got us all killed.

...Give yourself some more credit. You were amazing out there, Youka.

Still... is that why you fight the dragons so hard? Out of vengeance?

When did I say the dragons killed them?


No, they died about a week before the attack. A hit and run by some punks in an unmarked car with smuggled guns. Probably out for a joy ride... Plenty of property damage, but only two casualties.

I didn't know what to say to that—how could I respond to something like that? I sat there in silence for a minute or two.

I don't have anything left. I've lost everything I ever fought to protect.



...Earlier—earlier today. I'd been meaning to ask you, but there was never a good opportunity... you had a grave in here, too, Youka. Why is that?

This time it was Youka's turn to be silent for a minute.

My family was very traditional. You wouldn't know it looking at me now, but they were the quintessential old Japanese family—and there was an idea of how I was meant to act in there, too. Any frivolities of mine from my high school days were just fleeting fancies—things I was expected to shed. Back then, I was just a girl like any other, I'd say. I read manga, laughed, went on dates...

...but they couldn't just have me shed a pregnancy.

'Youka Fudoji — 1976 - 1993'.
'Cocona Fudoji — 1993 - 2020'.

My parents wouldn't even look at me. The boy who I thought I loved—he abandoned me. Of course he would. He was just a teenage boy—he couldn't handle that sort of responsibility. Once it couldn't be ignored, I was out on the street—a social outcast with a baby to feed.

It was about ten years later when I saw the gravestone. I was in the cemetery digging graves for change and I saw it, and I couldn't help but laugh. 'You're dead to me' is supposed to be a turn of phrase, you know.

Some kids I beat up once saw it too, and that's how that 'Ghost of Yotsuya' thing got started. I'm sure several people still think I'm a real ghost.

I was all alone. All alone, save for my daughter. Out there on the street, doing anything to survive... I swore to myself that I'd do anything to ensure that Cocona had a happy childhood, that she got to grow up happy and safe without these sorts of worries. That she'd get to grow up into a good woman, and have a happy life... That was all I wanted. That was all I ever wanted.

So I worked. I worked until I bled. I worked until I passed out. I worked until I got sick. I worked and I worked and I worked. I put my life on the line time and time again, and I fought, and I fought, and I fought.

I broke down everyone and everything in my way. My hands are stained with blood. Legally, I'm no killer—but the law can't tell me I don't know how it feels to feel a man's life crack under your fists as you break him in two, leave him on the mat a gurgling corpse and hear the audience cheer.

...And it's me who's alive. Not Cocona, who did nothing wrong... Cocona, who had a husband, and who had a baby on the way. In the end, I failed as a mother. I couldn't protect her when it mattered most. There's no reason it should be me who's alive—

That's not true!

To be honest, my sudden outburst even surprised me a little.


Youka... I'm so sorry that that happened. I—but—but it's—

You're not a failure. You... you're a wonderful mother. Even having known you for just these few months so far, I know that. It doesn't matter what those ghosts might have said—no, what Lore-a-Lua might have said to try and drag you down. You're...

Your daughter... I know she loved you more than anything. I know that if we could ask her, she'd say that you were the greatest mother who ever lived. And...

You're... I... You're not a failure. I... Even if it's not Cocona... I know—I—I know. I know it's not the same. But, Youka... you're important to... us. To me, and Satsuki, and Koron, and Richter, and Mio, and Jeanne, and Miroku, and Aoi, and Tanaka and Haru and everyone at City Hall, you're so important. We all want to help you. You're not alone.

So please don't go. Please don't say it's all useless. Please don't fight just because you feel like you have to. Youka, please. I want you to be happy. Please just... please don't go.


I'm not sure when I began crying, but as usual it was hard for me to stop. Youka stopped chiseling, and leaned over to wrap me in a hug.

Thank you, Chisa.

Don't worry. I'm not going anywhere. You're right. Forgive me a bit of weakness, okay? I've had a lot of feelings this year.

It's-it's okay, it's—*sniffle*

Aw, c'mon. Does someone need me to tuck her into bed?

What?! No!

Haha, see?


We lit a stick of incense upon the new grave, and knelt to pray before it for their safe journey to the afterlife. Its letters were clear as day. And at the bottom...

'Survived by their mother, Youka Fudoji. No matter how long it takes, she will walk with her head held high to meet them at the end of her days.'

The sheer destructive power she possessed was unparalleled. Yet, even more breathtaking was the will she possessed to use that strength to protect the weak from harm. I knew, then, how lucky I felt to have such an amazing woman as my friend.

Her willingness to destroy, in order to protect what mattered most—her indomitable spirit—her unflinching kindness despite a road of unparalleled suffering—

Unit 13's 'Destroyer'—these things were what composed her will to fight.

Thus concludes Chapter 3. Tune in next time for Chapter 4.

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