20. The Sin Within the Sin

Standing at the window of her apartment, bathed in moonlight, Mireille knows that everything has changed. Distracted by memories of Kirika and Chloe chanting together in the ruins of Edlinger’s library, she becomes withdrawn and distant, not even drinking the tea that Kirika has made.

Elsewhere, Altena and Chloe pick grapes at the manor, filling baskets with the ripened bunches. Later, they enjoy a simple dinner together, before Altena tucks Chloe into bed. The time of the ritual is drawing ever closer, but before it does, there is a particular story that Chloe wants to hear one last time- the story of how the Soldats came to exist.

As she has done many times over the years, Altena retells the story for Chloe, a story that goes back a thousand years. At the end of the tenth century, the world was a dark place, filled with hatred, suffering and atrocities beyond measure. Seeing the darkness of the human souls, the survivors of this awful time swore to take revenge, and to champion the weak and persecuted. Thus it was that the seeds of the Soldats were born, and from these seeds, a powerful organisation grew, eventually coming to encompass the entire world.

The Soldats Council know this story as well, and they know of Altena’s plans to bring back Noir, even if they don’t agree with her goals. To them, Noir is unnecessary, but for the time being, they cannot move openly against Altena. However, neither can they afford not to take action; if the ritual to recreate Noir is completed, Altena will become High Priestess of the Soldats.

To the Council, money and power are all that matters, but Altena’s beliefs run in a different direction. A thousand years have passed, but atrocities are still being committed, and darkness still exists in the human heart. The two maidens known as Noir exist to bear the sins of the world; at once warriors and merciful servants of God, they are the ones who must commit necessary evils to serve a greater good. This has always been Altena’s belief, and for her, it is essential that Noir be recreated.

Back at the apartment, everything is beginning to fall into place for Mireille. All this time, the Soldats weren’t really trying to kill them, merely to put her and Kirika through the trials that are part of testing the true Noir. And then there’s another piece of the puzzle- Kirika herself, who can no longer deny her ‘special’ role in Altena’s game.

Every day brings Altena’s endgame one step closer, and accordingly, she sends out Chloe to give Kirika the final guidance she will need to reach the manor. But according to Altena, Mireille will also have a part to play, and indeed, Mireille herself cannot help but wonder exactly where she fits in to the game. If Kirika and Chloe are meant to be the true Noir, then what is her role?

Whatever Mireille’s role is to be, there is one more trial that she and Kirika must face. On hearing that Chloe will be taking Kirika back to the manor, the Soldats Council realise that they must take action before their targets move out of reach. Accordingly, they sent a squadron of masked assassins to Mireille’s apartment, with orders to take out both women.

The masked men quickly overrun and wreck the apartment, and the action soon takes to the rooftops. Kirika and Mireille’s skills are put to the test as they take down the men whilst also having to watch out for the uncertain footing- as Mireille discovers when she slips and manages to stop herself only centimetres before she would have fallen off the roof completely.

Agile as ever, Kirika manages to dodge her assailants and systematically hoot them down, even evading and shooting one man with a well-executed somersault. Mireille takes out her fair share of the men too, until one of them grabs her from behind and starts strangling her. Before he can finish the job, however, Mireille throws them both backwards. As the man tumbles to the edge of the roof, Mireille turns and shoots him. Unable to stop her own slide, however, Mireille also falls off the rooftop, and only by grabbing onto the gutter is she able to save herself and climb back up.

Panting with the exertion of pulling herself back up, Mireille lies on the roof, only to be immediately targeted by another assassin. Getting up, Mireille shoots and the man, and joins Kirika in taking down the last of their adversaries.

Just as they have so many times before, Kirika and Mireille have dispatched all those who came after them, but this time something is different. For now, there is something new in Kirika’s eyes, a darkness that wasn’t there before. But even as Mireille gazes at the changed Kirika, the two women suddenly become aware of a third presence- Chloe has arrived.

Chloe explains that it is time for her to take Kirika back to the manor- her home. Ignoring the fact that Mireille is keeping her gun trained on her, Chloe approaches Kirika, who has lowered her gun and stands as if in a trance. As Chloe asks for Kirika’s gun, Kirika raises her arm, and for a moment, a hopeful Mireille believes that she is going to shoot Chloe. However, Kirika offers no resistance as Chloe takes the weapon- and aims it right back at her.

Horrified, Mireille cannot act fast enough to do more than cry out as Chloe shoots Kirika. Falling to the ground, Kirika’s mind is suddenly filled with images- a dropped pocket watch, the fallen bodies of Mireille’s family…and young Kirika standing over them, holding a gun.

As thunder cracks and lightning flashes in the clouds above, Kirika’s body finally hits the ground whilst Mireille looks on, unaware of the secrets lurking in the mind of her partner, unaware as to whether Kirika is even alive or dead…

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