9. The Brave Desert Lion with the Goddess

Stuck in her apartment on a rainy day, Najica finds herself thinking back to her previous missions, and contemplating the nature of Humaritts. Their very lives seem to be defined by the orders given by their masters, but Najica just cannot accept that they do not have the capacity to think for themselves. Although, given that Lila doesn’t even know to come inside when it gets raining, if they can learn to think for themselves, then it is no easy thing to teach them.

Whatever the case, Najica and Lila are soon given the details of their next mission. The Gilda Empire is ruled by Queen Metis Gilnande, a ruler who cares far more about her own comfort than the poverty and deprivation that her people are suffering as a result of the country’s civil war. Naturally, many resistance groups have sprung up to fight against the queen, including one led by her own daughter, Athena, nicknamed the Lion of Gilda. Athena’s deputy, Elith, happens to be a Humaritt, and it will be up to Najica and Lila to infiltrate the resistance base and retrieve her.

Arriving in Gilda, Najica and Lila almost immediately run into trouble when they get stuck in a traffic jam caused by the Queen’s insistence that the streets be cleared for her when she wants to go out. Nonetheless, the duo soon gets moving again, and by nightfall they have made it to the resistance base. After knocking out two guards and stealing their uniforms, Najica and Lila split up and begin surreptitiously searching the base.

Meanwhile, Athena and Elith are busy briefing the other resistance members on their latest mission- a planned raid on one of the Queen’s armouries, code-named Operation Fang of Freedom. The specifics of the raid are to be discussed at the next meeting, and until then, the resistance members are free to rest and prepare.

Unfortunately, despite Lila’s attempts to knock out all of the guards she meets, one of them manages to revive sufficiently quickly to call security. Nonetheless, Lila is able to make it to Elith’s room, where the Humaritt is bathing in her cultivation fluid. As a Humaritt, Lila is unable to lie about her purpose when she is confronted by Elith, and immediately answers truthfully when Elith questions her about her purpose.

Najica has managed to make it to the resistance members’ common room, but despite her attempts to blend in, she is immediately recognised as a spy when she salutes to Athena. Whilst the resistance members take her to the interrogation room, Lila continues to be questioned by Elith, who is surprised at how ‘immature’ the other Humaritt is. Elith explains that Humaritts grow and mature, becoming closer to their masters until they are able to intuit their orders. Continuing, Elith tells Lila that she thinks very highly of Athena’s pure heart and devotion to her cause, completely calm despite the fact that Lila is still armed and pointing her gun in Elith’s direction. As Elith speaks, however, Lila becomes confused as she tries to understand what it means to ‘think’ for oneself. Elith uses Lila’s distraction to her advantage, first tossing a shower curtain at the other Humaritt and then moving around behind her whilst Lila attempts to free herself. In short order, Elith manages to get close enough to inject Lila with a paralysing agent, before carrying her outside and tossing her in a nearby ditch.

Meanwhile, Najica is faring little better in the interrogation room, where Athena is torturing her with an electrical rod. Their session is soon interrupted, however when word arrives that an entire regiment of the Queen’s army is approaching- a force that far outnumbers the resistance fighters. Departing to face this new enemy, Athena and her women leave Najica behind.

Meeting her master in the briefing room, Elith is ready to stand up for her cause and fight to the end, but Athena knows it is hopeless; at best, she and her women can surrender, and at worst, they will be slaughtered- by an army commanded by her own mother. Athena has already decided that the best course will be to give in, but Elith cannot believe her ears. Humaritts cannot be anything but completely sincere, and it is inconceivable to Elith that Athena’s former speeches about faith, pride and fighting for the cause were just for morale, and not something that she believed from the bottom of heart. Unable to accept that Athena’s private thoughts are not the same as her public opinions, Elith concludes that the woman in front of her cannot be her master- and promptly shoots her.

Bursting in, the other resistance leaders are shocked and horrified to see their leader lying dead against the wall, but Elith quickly take charge. Donning Athena’s hat, she proclaims herself the new “Lion of Gilda” and orders them to prepare for a battle with the Queen’s army. The other women seem about to protest, but given the circumstances, the most senior of them ushers the rest to silence.

Having managed to slip out of her shackles and escape the interrogation room, Najica manages to make it to the briefing room via a secret passageway. As the other women withdraw, Najica confronts Elith, telling the Humaritt that it is all over. Infuriated by her words, Elith launches a ferocious attack. Barely slowed by Najica’s plastic bullets, she easily manages to overpower the CRI agent. Grabbing her in a stranglehold, Elith prepares to plunge a knife into Najica, only to be stopped when a tank comes crashing through the wall- driven by none other than Lila! Not only did the Humaritt revive in time to help her partner, but she even manages to think for herself- and Najica couldn’t be more proud of her.

With a steadying hand from Najica, Lila points her gun at Elith. Still not ready to give up, Elith calls for her women, but as Lila informs her, everyone has already run away. Elith cannot believe that the resistance members would abandon the “Lion of Gilda”, but as Najica tries to remind her, the real Lion of Gilda is already dead- by Elith’s own hand. Deaf to Najica’s word, Elith jumps into the tank and heads out to face the Queen’s army in a tragically futile lone charge.

Some time later, the battle is complete, and with Elith’s body turned over to Gento, Najica and Lila are able to return home. As it turns out, these events prove to be a turning point for Gilda, where the Queen and her regime have finally been overthrown. But as Najica sits alone in her study, something else occupies her mind- what exactly is that Humaritts think and feel in their minds and hearts? Little does Najica realise, that in Lila’s case, those inner feelings are a deep love for Najica herself…

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