25. The Depths of Hell’s Fire

Just as Kirika did before her, Mireille has arrived at the final approach to the manor. Checking that her gun is ready, she begins the long walk through the vineyard, to the place where the fates of the three candidates for Noir must surely collide.

As yet unaware of their impending visitor, Chloe and Kirika eagerly await as the nuns complete their preparations for the ritual that will confirm them as Noir. Before that can happen, however, there is one last requirement for them- completion of the Ceremony of Purification. This will cleanse their souls and strengthen their bond, ready for the main ritual.

Outside, the two women undress, and Chloe takes Kirika’s unresisting hand as they step into the outdoor bathing pool to purify themselves. Overcome by their closeness and the depth of the feelings that she has long harboured for Kirika, Chloe moves over to her friend and kisses her on the lips. Kirika says nothing, but her presence is enough for Chloe, who holds her close as they stand in the pool.

Climbing out of the water, the two women dress in short Greek-style togas, whilst Chloe makes sure that she still has the precious fork she took from Kirika. It seems that the bond between the two should be closer than ever, but now, another face has arrived to challenge that friendship- Mireille.

Seeing her former partner approach, Kirika reacts by pointing her gun at Mireille. Mireille raises her own weapon, but quickly has to dodge as Kirika begins firing. The two women who once made such a good team are now on opposite sides, and as the fight takes to the old ruins of the manor grounds, each woman gives it her all.

As Kirika runs through the maze of broken down walls that makes up the ruins, Mireille chases after her, firing all the way. Losing sight of her quarry, Mireille pauses behind a wall, only to hear Kirika’s footfalls as her opponent runs along the top of the wall, firing. Jumping down, Kirika quickly runs for cover, leaving Mireille to realise that her cheek has been grazed.

As Kirika hides behind a square column, Mireille keeps her trapped there by firing around the column, until she reaches the column herself. Confirming Kirika’s location by spotting her shadow, Mireille quickly gets her breath whilst resting on the other side of the column, before turning and shooting at Kirika. Kirika, however, moves at the same time, and the two women shoot at each from either side of the column. Mireille is forced to fall back, and Kirika quickly makes a run for a new vantage point.

Making her way through the old stone columns and ruined monuments, Mireille is unable to find Kirika, who is no longer on the ground, but standing on top of one of the monuments. Targeting her former partner, Kirika prepares to fire.

Sensing the danger, Mireille unexpectedly lowers her gun, and instead raises her other hand. As a bemused Kirika hesitates, Mireille suddenly tosses her father’s watch in the air, before jumping to one side, turning, and firing at Kirika. Jumping off of the monument, Kirika fires back, before landing on the ground just in front of Mireille. For moment, the two women have their guns pointed at each other, locked in a stalemate.

Just as Mireille had planned, however, the watch she threw lands on the ground, and the case springs open. As the face of the watch breaks, the familiar melody starts to play, reaching deep into Kirika’s mind, and evoking the memory of the first time she heard it- back when she killed Mireille’s parents in Corsica.

Lost in the past, Kirika is no longer a threat to Mireille, but the danger is far from over. Chloe has arrived to back up Kirika, and with one throw of her knife, she knocks the gun from Mireille’s hand. Chloe isn’t about to let Mireille interfere in the ritual she has waited for so long to complete, and with another knife throw, a new battle begins.

Caught up in her memories, Kirika once again sees the death of Mireille’s father, but this time, she remembers a little more- Odette Bouquet’s last words. Knowing that the future had many trials in store for her daughter, Odette asked Kirika to look after Mireille, and told her to remember one important thing. It may be true that love can kill, but despite what Altena believes, hatred can never save. As she finally recalls these words, the darkness in Kirika’s heart is overcome, and her true emotions break through.

Back in the present, the fight between Chloe and Mireille continues. Whilst Mireille fires at her opponent, Chloe responds by throwing knives- and of the two, Chloe is the faster. Mireille cannot avoid taking a knife in the leg, and as she goes down, Chloe follows up by kicking her in the face. Standing over Mireille, Chloe remarks on the irony of killing her in the very place where maidens once fought to the death to earn their place as part of Noir. And with that, she prepares to cast one more knife…

But even as Chloe lunges forward, the knife is shot out of her hand. As it clatters to the ground, Chloe turns, and sees that it was Kirika who fired. At first unable to comprehend Kirika’s betrayal, Chloe soon finds her confusion turning to anger, and she casts a knife at Kirika. As Kirika deflects the knife, Chloe draws another, and lunges at her former friend. Taking up the first knife, Kirika blocks a flurry of blows, as Chloe vents the rage and jealousy she felt at seeing Kirika living together with Mireille instead of her.

Finally, jumping back from Chloe, Kirika drops her knife, knowing that the other woman will not attack whilst she is unarmed. Pausing, Chloe once again looks at the fork she took from Kirika, before tossing it aside and turning away. For a brief moment, it seems as if Chloe has calmed down, but the pain and anger overcome her once more, and she lunges again, this time towards Mireille…

Chloe never makes it. Moving at top speed, Kirika interposes herself between the other two, and stops Chloe the only way she knows how- by stabbing her with the very fork Chloe just tossed aside. Collapsing forward, Chloe’s body slumps to the ground, and as it does, inside the manor, Altena extinguishes one of the flames on the three-branched candlestick she is carrying- as if she has sensed exactly what has happened.

Standing over Chloe’s body, Kirika realises that the other woman was the very embodiment of the other, darker self inside Kirika. And now that that other self is dead, Kirika realises that, for the first time, she can feel sorrow over killing people.

Laying Chloe to rest on an open-air bier, Kirika stands over the body, wondering just how events could have turned out as they did. As she cries over Chloe’s death, Mireille comes over and comforts her, before reminding her that they must finish what they have started. Through her tears, Kirika nods, and the two women leave Chloe behind, as they head towards the final confrontation.