22. Journey’s End

Sitting alone in her ruined apartment, Mireille cannot help but recall how she left Kirika alone in the cemetery. Kirika had asked Mireille to shoot her, but despite wanting to fulfil the promise they made, she was unable to do it. And now, she knows that Kirika won’t be coming back.

Drawn by some unconscious instinct, Kirika has left Paris far behind, and now wanders through the rocky wilderness close to the border between France and Spain. Finally, having exhausted herself, she collapses onto the rocks.

Awakening, Kirika finds herself in an unfamiliar bed, dressed in fresh pyjamas. Her possessions have been laid out beside her, even the gun she brought with her, which has also been reloaded. As Kirika ponders this, an old couple enters the room, and introduce themselves as Tristan and Margaret. Much to Kirika’s surprise, they claim to have been expecting her, even though Kirika herself didn’t even know where she was.

Unsure of what her next move would be, Kirika takes Tristan’s advice to visit the village memorial. Donning a long red robe, Kirika walks through the village, only to discover that every villager she meets seems to recognise her and treat her with deference.

Finally reaching the monument, Kirika is in for another surprise- it is the same engraving of two women with swords that appears on Mireille’s father’s watch. Staring at the monument, Kirika is distracted when a ball rolls into her legs. Turning, she sees the young girl who has come to collect the ball- a young girl who bears a striking resemblance to Mireille. Momentarily mistaking the girl for her former partner, Kirika tells the girl that she killed her family. Oddly enough, the girl does not seem puzzled by this statement, merely replying- “Of course you did- you’re Noir.”

Returning to Tristan’s house, Kirika sees that a group of suited men have arrived. Their leaders have come to talk with Tristan and the village elder, and they seem to want to the villagers to either relay information to some higher authority they are in contact with, or let them present the information themselves. Amiably refusing their demands, Tristan suddenly draws out a gun and shoots the three leaders, whilst Margaret and the village elder take out shotguns and dispatch their bodyguards.

Going outside, Kirika sees that the other villagers have also shot the men who were waiting outside. It is clear that this is no ordinary country village, and as all the villagers turn and bow to her, Tristan finally offers an explanation. The men they shot were here to oppose the Grand Retour. This would be in opposition to the beliefs of the villagers, beliefs they hold as members of the Soldats.

Along the border between France and Spain, there exists a no-man’s land that cannot be found on any map, a place that these days is known only as ‘the manor’- Altena’s home. The village acts as the gateway to the manor, and according to Tristan, Kirika was drawn there because she is Noir. The other men who came represent a different faction of the Soldats, one that has moved away from their original purpose to espouse a more materialistic philosophy- as represented by the shadowy council who plots against Altena. Once Kirika begins the final journey to the manor, she will be beyond the reach of this faction, so their final chance to strike at her is here in the village. And it’s for certain that they plan to take advantage of that.

Indeed, even as Tristan continues to describe the village’s role in guarding the manor so that Altena can arrange the Grand Retour, the Soldats Council has already authorised its next strike. Aware that attackers will arrive soon, Tristan insists that Kirika must leave with his wife Margaret, whilst the rest of the villagers prepare the defence.

Armed with machine guns, the attackers storm the village, but despite being outgunned, none of the villagers even contemplates surrender. Heedless for their own lives, they advance on their adversaries, shooting them down even as they themselves get shot.

As they leave through the woods, Kirika turns back to see the destruction of the villagers, and cannot comprehend the reason for the senseless violence. Margaret tells her that this kind of sin is merely part of the inescapable nature of man, and that, as Noir, Kirika must understand this deep down.

As Kirika struggles to comprehend this, Margaret’s dog starts growling, and Margaret realises that they are not alone- their attackers have caught up with them. As Margaret shoots one man and prepares to take down the others, Kirika draws her own gun and tries to help the older woman. Determined to protect Kirika, Margaret goes to shield her, only to be shot down herself.

Seeing the woman fall, Kirika no longer has to struggle for understanding- a new realisation of man’s darkness has been unlocked. As Margaret collapses to the ground, the attackers are surprised to find that Kirika has gone, and they have little time to react as two of them are shot from behind. From the branches of the tree above, Kirika shoots another man before jumping down and grabbing one of the remaining attackers. As the terrified man holds down the trigger of his machine gun, Kirika spins him round so that he only hits his colleagues, before shooting down the last few men herself.

Below her, the village burns, and that fire is reflected in Kirika’s eyes as new emotions burn in her as well. Striding away, she sets off on the last part of her journey, climbing the mountains, and heading towards the manor, drawn by the black thread of fate…

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