Part 77: Unfading Ones

We laid Koron down to rest, then got to business.

At present, the ambient toxicity on this floor has been contained to acceptable levels.

And the Dragons?

According to the Navs' calculations, Fomalhaut has gathered a horde of Dragons over the Diet Building. Part of their force is—

Rumblings roared through the walls even this deep into the building.

—assaulting the main entryway, with the aim of renewing their attack.

I mean...

She was trying not to look over at Koron.

She was in a particularly vulnerable state to this sort of attack. It struck while we were sleeping, so her body wasn't able to defend itself in the same way it could when she was awake. Still, all it did was accelerate the process, and the situation up there is much worse than it was then.

So just going outside's suicide?

The only person we could send out who would be unaffected would be Chisa. And even that might be a stretch.

It's not that I'd be unaffected, but I might lose my mind if I spent too long in it by myself.

Right. And that wouldn't be great either.

The moment the refugee shelter is breached and the Black Bloom begins to encrouch, the Diet Building is lost.

But how the hell are we gonna buy time if we can't even go outside?

Yes, just so. We're going to flood the lower floors of the Diet Building with the miasma. Once it's contained down there, we can proceed to repelling the current assault.

But that would be an obvious target for attack.

Yeah. We couldn't risk that, or some kind of malfunction, so... it would have to be manually closed by the team above.

...Yes. There's simply no other way.

The words hung heavy in the air.


Stop. I don't want to hear it.

You understand that there's a True Dragon up there, yes?

Yeah, and four of us beat one of those!

Alone. You beat Niara by himself. Not only have you not yet reached the level of defeating Fomalhaut in a straight fight—which you just saw—his entire flock is up there as well. No matter how strong you are, you can't get that strong, that fast. You would die, and I won't abide that.


Damn it!

Youka punched a wall.

...So we just have to hang back and let people sacrifice themselves?


...We have limited time if we're going to act quickly enough to repel the Dragons.

That's all at present. Dismissed for now.

Yes. You taught it to me, Emille. I wouldn't forget.

You mustn't. That is the only way out of this despair.

Mmhm. I know.

...You're still here?

I just—I—

Are you sure there's not some other way? That there's no way we can help?

Yes, I am. There's no other way out from here that doesn't result in untenable amounts of losses.


You are not expendable, Chisa. Mio, hurry up and dissuade her of this ridiculous notion.

It's not like that's easy for me either, you know. You want me to just get her to be okay with the fact that we have to ask people to line up to die? I'm not okay with that.


We don't have a choice in the matter. I'm sorry, but... she's right. I can't think of anything, not against odds this large.

I'm so... sick of this.

Then ensure that this is the last time it needs to happen.

None of us were even able to speak a word for a bit after that. But we only had twenty minutes, so we had to keep walking.

Asumu: We had to move every single person in the Res Wards via teleportation... it was quite the bother.

Himuro: When I was hauling people belowground, I way overdid it. It's gonna be a while before I'm able to teleport again.

Col. Kamachi: It's some comfort that we in the SDF had the gear we needed to defend the barracks...

Pvt. Saneda: I've been trying to use the comm lines to see how things are topside, but... all I'm getting is static.

The SDF office was the first place I was able to speak again.

Col. Kamachi: Uh, boss, you're... not even gonna let us decide for ourselves?

If I don't come back, Kamachi, then you'll be taking over as commander. I'm counting on you.

Sgt. Makita: Tch! Are you nuts?! You're just going to abandon your troops—?!

Huh. That's awfully serious for you. What is it, Sasuga?


Wh-what are you saying?! I told you, I'm going!!

Sgt. Makita: Hey, Rin, calm down!

Listen, Sasuga, I know it might seem tempting—

Pvt. Sasuga: Aww, what, you think I'm trying to chase Aoi through the pearly gates or something? C'mon, I really thought about this. I'm not just saying it.


P-Private Sasuga...

Pvt. Sasuga: Aww, c'mon, don't give me those sad eyes. Despite it all, I think we've had some alright times together. I mean, being a private's already more than I deserve, so... puff out your chests and send me off in style, guys!

Absolutely not! I won't allow it!

Sgt. Makita: Rin! You of all people should understand... we shouldn't question Sasuga's valor.

Damn it!

How many times do I have to watch this? How many people do I have to watch die?

Sgt. Makita: I know. I'm... gonna regret this for the rest of my life.

Col. Kamachi: There's nothing I can do. Can't comfort the commander, can't talk sense into Sasuga... Nothing I can do. I'm... useless. Totally useless.

Just outside there, SECT11 were gathered.

Sho... what do we do?


Aww, c'mon. Don't give me that look. I'm not heading out there to die, I'm going so I can hunt Dragons.

Then I'm coming with you!

Don't be a blockhead. You can't just tag along with me forever. You're never gonna get any stronger if you do that.

I... there's no way I can ever be stronger than you, Sho. No matter what...

Hey, don't let yourself off the hook like that! You're the second-in-command of SECT11! You've got no time to feel sorry for yourself.

...F-fine, don't, don't flip out at me! Fine! Leave SECT11 to me and have all the fun you want!

While I'm away, Izumi is in charge.

Will: Shouji, what the hell?! If you're going, I'm going—

I'm still talking! Questions afterward. Right now, shut up.

Will: ...yes, sir.

This is your last mission, okay?

Protect Tokyo. By doing so, you protect your country. Whatever happens, SECT11, stand tall. You are US soldiers, brave and proud! Only God knows who the real heroes are. Let go of your fear and move on—and as always, enjoy the battlefield.

Not much of a parental figure, are you.

Yeah. I must've screwed up pretty bad if she's this dependent on me.


Hey, y'know... this is kinda our fault to begin with. I mean, we might've had more time if we—I. If I hadn't given you guys such a runaround. So, y'know... I really am sorry.

So what? You wanna go out looking cool so we remember you a bit better?

Heh. Maybe. I'm not used to being hated this bad, so this is about the only way I know how to clean up my own mess.

You're such a jerk, you know that?

Yeah, I've been figuring that one out.

Fred: Breaking up the last defense of the Diet on some kamikaze attack? Not much of a plan.

Will: Tony...

Tony: The second we lose this piece of ground, the countdown to annihilation starts.

Tony: Hey, you guys. I may be going off to die, but I got no regrets about the way I lived my life. Just one thing I'm worried about...

You want me to give it to you straight?

Tony: Totally.

She's gonna be crying, but I don't know if it'll be for you specifically.

Tony: Ouch, harsh. I guess I did ask for it, though.

Fred: Just like you to go off dying for some chick.

Tony: Hey, it's not just for her, you know!

I can't help but wonder. If the two of you had had some time to get to know each other, would you and Private Sasuga be the best of friends?

Tony: Sasuga? Which one's that?

He'll be coming with you, so you might have time for a chat.

Tony: Ah, nice.

Fred: ...Not like I can stop you, anyway. We can live and die however we want.

Ino: If Daigo's not here, what are we?

Guchi: Don't cry, Ino! I'll step up and take Daigo's place! ...Uh, that's cool with you, yeah, Daigo?

Guchi: Huh? Uh, no, well, I was just... thinking out loud, about... possibilities...

Shut up. It ain't worth thinking about. All that matters is closing that bulkhead.

Ino: But...

...Don't waste your breath. Daigo's made his mind up. Ain't gonna change.


I'm just doing the job Takehaya left for me. Risk my life to protect SKY. That's my role. Fudoji... take care of SKY and Neko for me.


It had been a long time since I saw Youka shiver. She only tended to shiver when she was trying to hold back tears.

What the hell... am I supposed to say to that?

Takehaya told me to protect you!

Oh. Did he? ...Sorry.

All of you goddamn kids throwing away your lives like it's nothing! Why?! Why the hell are you so calm about this?! Why—?!

...fine. Fine. Fine. I know I can't change your mind.


...This is really goodbye, huh.

Big guy...

Thank you. One more time, I... thank you for saving me from the rooftop last February. If it wasn't for you, I would've died.

Huh? Oh, yeah. That. No big deal. You paid me back. ...A lot.


You all... you—you always just try and act cool, and...

Ino: C'mon, you guys gotta stop Daigo! I mean, SKY without Daigo's like... a sky without a sun, or something!

Guchi: I'm so damn weak... can't even die in Daigo's place. I'm just a freaking poser. I mean... h-he's not really gonna die, is he?

Akira: C'mon, it's not too late! Rock-paper-scissors for it, that way there's no hard feelings for it, right, people?!

And that was it. There wasn't any more arguing to be done.


So, you're the volunteers.

Repel any and all interference by the Dragons. When all bulkheads are closed, that's it. Mission complete.

The Navis will handle announcements here. Emille, we'll be relying on you to monitor the situation and direct the team as needed.

...That won't do. I have no plans to remain here.


B-but, Miss Emille! You're the President of Murakumo!

I was only ever acting president. It's about time Kirino got his position back.


Additionally, this unit is composed of miscellaneous personnel. They must be led. No one else is qualified to do so.

It was true that Emille wouldn't die forever, if she did. She would come back. But... it would take centuries, if not millennia. Far longer than any human could live. To us, it would be the same as if anyone else died.

...So... you really do trust me, then. Thank you. I hope that if we ever meet again, it's as friends.

That's better. If you continued acting quite so gormless about it, I would've felt humiliated.

Special Volunteer Task Force, at attention! Be ready to do our part!

The lights began to fade as the five of them entered the elevators. And then... they were gone.


Tony: Take it easy, kid! Deep breaths! Deep breaths, keep walking!

Here's the bulkhead. Gotta close it.

All we could do was stand there and listen.

Pvt. Sasuga: Alright. Mission... accomplished. I did it. I...


Col. Kamachi: You bastard! You stupid bastard!

Bulkheads A-1 and A-2... closure confirmed.

—?! What?! ...Oof, damn it, looks like the poison's coming back. Quicker than I thought. But I ain't stopping in a place like this. Quick, gotta... close the bulkhead. Okay... now... whoa, what the—?!


I'm not losing you too, okay?! You have a job to do, and so do I! You have to take care of SKY!

Without Daigo around, what the hell even is SKY?! Let me go! LET ME GO!

MP Ariake: We have to get through this, together. No matter how hard it is. For them.

...Bulkheads B-3, B-4, C-1. Closure confirmed.

Alright... leave this to us!

Tony: Shouji... how many of these are left?

Five more. After that, it's all up to me.

Tony: Yeah?

Tony: Sayonara, pal.

Fred: Shit! Where does he get off acting like that?!

Sho? Sho, you're okay, right? You're strong, I know you are... Sho...

Bulkheads D-1 through D-4... closure confirmed.

How many have I killed? I can't... die here.

...Izumi... you hearing this? From now on... you're the leader of SECT11. You've gotta surpass me. Become an adult with her own thoughts and feelings. I know you can do it.

...Bulkheads E-1 through E-5. Closure confirmed.

I thought to taste, but the rot, and anger, and despair here... are yet insufficient. I cannot in good sense waste an opportunity such as VFD. Only by crushing you utterly can I achieve the greatest of feasts.

Damn you...! You monsters won't... not my Unit 13... not Chisa!

Even you, woman of Hypnos, have been possessed of something sickening. The hatred which spurs you might make for a near-endless store of victuals were it not for the stench of 'other' within you. How disappointing.

The hope they've given me... I'll do anything to keep it alive. Despair was never an option—


You hear that, Fomalhaut?! I've won this fight! Unit 13 are all safe! And they'll bury you!

...What though the field be lost?

All is not lost... the unconquerable 'will', the study of vengeance, immortal hate, courage never to submit... or yield...

...My friend... to see you again, I...



Woman's Voice: That's enough!

Man's Voice: Be quiet! The Dragons are coming!

Girl's Voice: Are we all gonna die? Are we gonna die?

Someone's Voice: Aaaaah! Aaaaaah!

Fomalhaut is... exiting the vicinity of the Diet Building.

W-what do you mean, all lifesigns are gone? What happened to Sho?



I... I...


This... I just...


Thanks, everyone. We can finally... rest, for a day.

And that was how September 17th ended. An ill whirlwind blew in, and on its wings, carried away yet more lives. The survivors could only sit in the dark in that underground shelter, mourning those they'd lost, and praying that it would not become a casket.


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