Part 78: The Sacred Ground Far Away

I'd thought maybe I was over what had happened to me. Or... at least that it would stop coming back to hurt me. But as I slept that night, I felt it. In that stagnant air, I felt an awful, creeping cold coming over me in my sleep. Whispers haunting my dreams, whispers and flashing, ephemeral lights that I thought I'd left behind. Rapid-fire visions of being locked in the darkness, no sound but the freezing cold rushing water beneath me, no sensation but what I felt under my feet and that horrible, horrible hunger.

The ground beneath my feet lost its texture, becoming ashen, barren, and wrapping me up in a yet deeper darkness choked by a sickly red fog. Why? What was it? My dream-addled mind couldn't understand. No, it just knew the isolation, being shut in. Nobody was coming to find me. Nobody would ever come for me. I would eternally be a beast. My clawed hands pounded against a door too small for me, a door locked to contain me. The dimensions of the room shifted in this whirling vortex, but I was always trapped in a room too small for me. I wanted out. I wanted to see what was on the other side of the door, but I couldn't. "Please! Let me out! I want to be human! I don't want to be a beast anymore! Let me out! Let me out! Let me OUT—!"

Chisa? Chisa!



My body was still covered in sweat, and while it was getting easier to breathe, I still felt that heavy pressure on my chest.

I-I was. Th...thank you.

I guess it's not surprising... Everyone is feeling down, I could hardly sleep either, but... this probably isn't good for you, is it?

Don't worry too much about me, but I appreciate it.

Okay. This is all such a mess.

For lack of beds, Youka, Sumie, and Richter had taken the floor.

Ugh. Shit.

You good to walk, hon?

I've felt worse.

Not the worst sleep I've ever had.

Yeesh, that's saying something.

As you can see, the dev team has been temporarily placed in here. Keima hasn't got anything on offer, but...

Satsuki, Satsuki! I know what'll cheer you up~! It's armor! Wowie!

Thanks, Reimi, but that doesn't—

okay it actually does cheer me up a little bit

Accumulating goods is therapeutic for you even at times like this, hm?

Hey, what else are we gonna do while we're locked in here, sit and play bridge and turn into old crones like the boss?

What was that?

Nothing, nothing.

Never played bridge in my life. Got better things to do.

Reimi's got the next tier of armor on sale, how kind of her. Waji also doesn't have anything new.

The Prime Minister's holed up in the SDF Barracks.

The mood was dour. Murakumo, SECT11, SKY, the SDF... every one of us had just lost someone important. For Neko and Izumi, they were rudderless, without their leader.

B-but, that's—!

Great. Are more politicians giving us their great ideas?

I don't much like the sound of that.

Unit 13...

MP Ariake: Let me explain the situation.

MP Ariake: There's insufficient oxygen, and everyone living here will suffocate if nothing is done.

Prime Minister Inuzuka: We have three days of oxygen left. If nothing is done, all the evacuees will die.

Sec. Makabe: I told you we ought to increase the emergency oxygen supply...

MP Ariake: Prime Minister! Really, this is not the time or place.

Prime Minister Inuzuka: Er... sorry. Continue.

MP Ariake: We'll recruit members of the general public to leave and clean out what Bloom they can. This will also reduce the strain on resources.


Are you serious?!

You can't expect members of the general public to do something like that without equipment!

See, that's what I said! And for that matter, there are still Dragons out there!

Five people died to give us the chance to save the rest and you want to mock their sacrifice like that?!

Prime Minister Inuzuka: But what other choice do we have?!


Oh. I'll go on. Please, connect us.

...It's a shame to lose a woman of her caliber, even if death may not yet end her. And to lose Shouji as well... he was truly a superlative soldier.

In a better situation, we might have bit back at Griffith for his sudden change of character, but nobody was feeling that jovial.

We will soon lose control of this position. More than likely... this is the end for this world.

Please, don't give up! I can't believe it's spread so far...

We'll talk later. ...if we both pull through.

The transmission... it cut out.

...I know we've had our disagreements, to say the least, but... to see the United States, ever-proud America, reduced to this state... it's giving me chills.

Hey, Chisa.


Why is the Black Bloom still here if Fomalhaut's left? What's keeping it here?

There is a Dragon above us with a similar reading to the Black Bloom, but...

It doesn't seem quite like an Imperial, for some reason.


It's not quite an Imperial yet. It's a 'nascent' Imperial, I suppose you could say.

How do you mean?

Imperial Dragons are typically born when a specific ordinary Dragon obtains enough conceptual 'mass' to take on its own identity. Essentially, the Dragon anchoring the Bloom here is close enough that devouring the human population here will cause it to become a new Imperial for Fomalhaut to use in the future.

Okay. So, we've got three days of oxygen left. We've got two options, as I see it. Option one is forming this Bloom decontamination squad and slowly clearing the floors above. Option two, beat the Dragon keeping the Bloom here to clear it.

...Well, that's the question, isn't it.

MP Ariake: Anyway, we need a decontamination team. If it were done when 'tis done, then 'twere well it were done quickly.

Please, wait, there must be another way—

Oh, for the love of—

Will: Izumi! Calm down and think about this! Sorry, but look, you're trembling all over—

I'm plenty calm! Let go of me! Sho died so I could protect this place, so I've got to carry on his will!

You think he died so you could go off and do the same thing right after? For fuck's sake, kid.

Will: She's right! Shouji died for you, Izumi! He didn't want you to throw your life away—

So come on, let's hear the details! The sooner, the better!

You idiot.

...Neko didn't say a word the entire meeting. I could only imagine how she felt, at a time like this.

What are you giving up for, Kirino?

I'm not giving up, I just can't see a solution here! If you have an alternative, tell me. Someone. Anyone! Seriously!

I mean, I don't. I... You guys are smarter than me. You got anything?

I spent most of yesterday hacking my lungs up.

I could go up there, but I don't know that I could do much by myself without facing even worse consequences.

Hmm... perhaps...

Thankfully, someone did happen to have an idea.


Marina? ...Those specimens are pretty precious. Shouldn't only scientists handle that stuff?

Emille taught me... Orichalcum is made from dragon hearts. It might not be perfectly pure, but I can make some.

You were all so nice to me... Sumie, Chisa, Mio, Richter, Youka, Koron, Kirino, Jeanne, Miroku... you're family. I care about you, so I want to help. I want to do all I can—

Actually, this might be a great idea! Kirino, Emille believed in Marina, so we should believe in her as well.


Let's believe in them. Richter, Marina, let's head to the Laboratory.

Mio, you mind coming with me to the refugee area? Everyone seems like they're in pretty glum spirits.

That is my job description!

The rest of you get some sleep. Koron and Chisa look like shit.

It's the nightmares.

In my case it's the plague.

To bed with ye!

Yup. To bed with ye. And me.

I did actually get a fair few hours of sleep this time. Knowing there was something going on helped ease my spirits some. I don't think I dreamt much in particular this time, or at least I happened to be just through with a dream when I woke up.

And then Jeanne woke me up with some of the worst news I could imagine.

Huh, wha—


Argh, god damn it!


Please, you have to hurry to the SDF Barracks and stop them!

Mio was already there, as it turned out.

Wavering Man: W-when we get there, the Bloom... D-damn... m-my hands are shaking...

Serene Senior: That's understandable. If you're hesitating, you should pull out. After all, your family is here too.

Wavering Man: Y-yeah, but for my family, I... I gotta...

Sec. Makabe: The team is departing at dawn. You've got to calm yourselves down, and stay here until you get your orders!

What are you talking about?!

This is insane! MP Ariake, you can't seriously—!

MP Ariake: If we push this back any longer, everyone else here will die as well. We leave at dawn. This will be the final announcement, so all of you, please say your goodbyes.

You're not even waiting a day?! That's hours away!

Damn it, we can't even stop this stupid plan? Shizuka, where the hell is Kirino?!

Mr. Kirino, Richter, and Ms. Marina are currently sequestered in the Laboratory.

So... I'm just supposed to sit here and hope?

We need...

We need to believe in them. We've gotta.

And again, we had nothing to do but go back and wait.

...Dawn of September 18th came. A whole day had passed since we were stuck down here.



Damn it.

MP Ariake: Are we all prepared?

Cut the sales patter and let's go. We don't have much time.

MP Ariake: Please, everyone, put on your face masks and let's go. Once the bulkhead's down, we need to move.

And then—

Please, wait! Hold on a minute!

Prime Minister Inuzuka: What are you saying, Kirino?!

Unit 13, come with me! To the Laboratory!

The telltale blue glow of the ATL Code was lighting up the Laboratory.

Have we made it in time?

Maybe. They're all here.

Then, a flash...

...and Marina turned to us with fragments of shining metal in her hand.

These are fragments of orichalcum. I didn't have much, so I could only make these.

Kirino and I analyzed the composition of the material, and with that in mind, we were able to create a vaccine to ward off the Black Bloom.


Once the body has the proper antibodies in place, it can fight it off—the problem is getting them to begin with, considering how fast the necessary direct contact kills the patient.

The Black Bloom is more virulent, but it's also more blunt, more direct.

That's amazing, you guys!

Wooo! Go, Kirino and Marina and Richter!

Thank you, Sumie.

Ahahaha. All I did was assist.

Nonsense. ...It sounds promising, but even with the vaccine, you'll have to clear out the Diet Building in just three hours. That's no simple mission.

And thankfully for every last one of us, I don't have to inject Chisa.

Oh thank god!

Still... I hope you're able to handle it, Koron.

What is that supposed to mean?

I just mean I'm concerned as to whether it—whether you'll be able to—

Oh, shut up. If I left you morons to your own devices there's no doubt you'd get killed. Let me have some faith in you scientists for once.

How flattering. The decontamination team is about to go. Let's hurry!

...If I do die. Keep her safe, SATSUKI.

(You got it!)

Don't be such a downer, babe.

We'll hold off the decontamination team until you make it back here. I promise to do whatever it takes. Please, no matter what, you must come back.

I took everything I could carry! And a bevy of my best-beloved armaments~ And we kept your favorite sword safe, Chisa!

We've all made our choice. Don't sweat it. Get back here fast if anything happens. If everything is clear, then you go.

I'll navigate for you when you get upstairs. Please, trust me.

And keep moving! Not gonna do us much good if you lollygag.

Received "Trippy Mic", "Fuma Shuriken", "Gold Fang", "Sonic Knuckle", "Pocket Army", "Venom Kukri", and "Tomoegozen"!

Yeah, we get our new tier of weapons for free. The speed buff on the Fuma Shuriken's been nerfed from its absurd 40 back when it was optional down to a quite-respectable 20, but all of these weapons are flat upgrades from everything we've had beforehand. With the money I get from selling stuff, I'm just barely able to manage getting the entire gang the new armor, too.


We're gonna do it to it for you guys.

Alright, let's wrap this up. I'm already sick of it down here.

I concur—

Wait! Wait!

Homura came panting up the corridor.

Wait, don't go yet, don't...

What do you want? We're busy.

You guys are going to save everyone, right? I can help! I swear!

No, you can't. Go away.

But... but...

You really can't. You'd die.

But I don't wanna—I don't want to just let you guys go off to die!

We won't die.

But I'm scared! I... I don't know what to do.

...If you're that scared, help Kirino keep the Prime Minister's decontamination squad in check. There are things you can do without going onto the frontlines. That's our job.


Fine. Okay. Yeah. Just... come back alive.

Bit late to be concerned about that, but they will.

Please, take back the Diet Building! I'll be praying for you with all my heart!

Good... luck, everyone!

Let's go!

Next time, we do some house cleaning.

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