26. Birth

Outside the manor, in the old ruins, Kirika tends to the wounds Mireille received in the fight with Chloe. Kirika did the exact same back when they first met, a meeting that now seems a lifetime ago.

Whilst the Soldats Council heads to the manor to reluctantly attend the ritual on Altena’s order, Kirika and Mireille prepare for the final showdown. As they load and polish their guns, Mireille reflects on the origins of Noir, wondering just how many true Noirs existed over the ages, and how many others also used that name, never knowing the truths the two of them have come to discover.

Inside the manor, Borne has bad news for Altena- they have discovered that Chloe is dead. As Altena acknowledges the news, Mireille and Kirika begin their final approach to the manor. Each is worried about the other- once they begin, there is no going back- but neither Kirika nor Mireille wants to run away now.

As the two women run through the vineyard, they are ambushed by Soldats nuns, but it is nothing more than they expected. Firing as they go, Kirika and Mireille easily take down this first line of defence, and reach the manor. As they enter, Kirika shouts a warning- those who fear the darkness should stand aside or die.

The nuns have been charged with defending the manor, however, and they are not about to stand aside. Hiding in the darkened rooms and corners of the manor, they attempt to prevent Kirika and Mireille’s advance, only to be shot down by the superior skills of the newly reunited partners.

Having moved through the manor separately, Kirika and Mireille meet up again in one of the interior rooms, but they are not alone. Descending from the rafters, a sword-wielding Marennes attacks the two women. Mireille is knocked back, still feeling the pain from her wounds, whilst Marennes furiously swipes at Kirika. Dodging the blade, Kirika shoots back, but somehow Marennes is unaffected by the shots. Closing in, one of Marenne’s slices takes off a lock of Kirika’s hair, and only by blocking with her gun does Kirika manage to avoid a fatal stab.

As Kirika is thrown back by the force of Marenne’s blow, Mireille shoots at their opponent, but her shots have as little effect as Kirika’s. Enraged, Marennes dives towards Mireille, barely slowed by the other woman’s bullets; as she prepares to strike, however, Kirika throws a knife that she took from one of the other nuns. It catches Marennes in the back, and she plunges forward, her sword driving into the ground right next to Mireille. Looking at the fallen woman’s body, Mireille finally understands why her shots did no good- Marennes was protected by a metal breastplate.

Downstairs, Born is arguing with Altena. The situation has moved beyond their control- Chloe is dead, and the remaining two maidens have turned against them. Borne is concerned that everything they have worked for has been ruined, but Altena calmly informs her that this latest turn of event means nothing- the ritual will go ahead anyway, with Mireille taking Chloe’s place. Altena explains that, in her view, the Soldats have become no better than the sinners they once sought to distance themselves from, and that they need to be purged by the ‘pure’ hand of Noir. This has been Altena’s plan all along, and realising this, Borne draws her gun, intending to turn against her mistress. Altena is faster, however; calmly shooting Borne, she continues to await Kirika and Mireille- and with them, the fulfilment of her plans.

Having made it through the manor, Kirika and Mireille finally come face to face with Altena. Still calm, Altena welcomes them, claiming that the bond between them confirms them as the true Noir, and that there is one last trial for them to face. So saying, Altena fires her gun, forcing Mireille and Kirika to fall back whilst Altena vanishes down a stone staircase. And, just as she has planned, the two women follow.

Leading Kirika and Mireille down the staircase, Altena cannot help but recall her past. Having experienced the horrors of war as a child, Altena became convinced that darkness and sin was an inescapable part of life, and thus was set on the course that led her to attempt the recreation of Noir.

Following Altena down, Kirika and Mireille reach a marble room containing an altar set around a deep hole. Standing on the altar, Altena states that it is time for the true ritual to begin, but Kirika has heard enough- nothing could be worth all the lives that have been lost already.

In response, Altena begins taunting Kirika and Mireille, claiming that they are both fools, just as Mireille’s parents were before them. Enraged at hearing Altena defame her parents, Mireille rushes towards her and presses her gun to Altena’s throat. Smiling, Altena awaits the final shot, but instead, Mireille drops her gun and backs away. Altena just isn’t worth it.

But Altena does not want to be spared, and, determined to incite the two women, she begins shooting, grazing Mireille’s shoulder with two bullets. Turning to Kirika, Altena tells the girl that she will have to kill her if she wants save Mireille, but what is one more life compared to all those that Kirika has already taken? After all, murder has always been the sole defining purpose of Kirika’s life, hasn’t it?

But even as Altena insists that Kirika kill her and so complete the ritual that will confirm her as Noir, memories of the past, of Chloe and Odette, stay Kirika’s hand. Instead, as Altena fires once more at Mireille, she throws herself in the way, taking a bullet in the side to save her friend.

Mireille and Altena can only watch as Kirika goes down, but with great effort, the girl begins to pull herself up again. Rising, Kirika states that she is not just Noir, she is Yumura Kirika, and with that, she launches into Altena, knocking the two of them into the pit behind the altar.

Rushing over to the pit, Mireille sees that Altena is hanging onto a ledge just inside it, with Kirika holding on to her. But as Altena loses her grip and falls wordlessly into the lava below, Mireille reaches down and grabs Kirika’s hand, saving her from the same fate.

As they hold onto each other with one hand, Kirika asks for Mireille to let her go, but Mireille cannot do that. As she starts to cry, Mireille begs Kirika not to give up, and in response, the girl reaches up with her other hand. As she grabs Mireille’s arm, Mireille reaches down with her other hand, and pulls her partner up.

Outside the manor, Breffort and the Soldats Council are waiting to see either the ritual or its outcome. Their faces impassive, they watch as Mireille and Kirika emerge from the manor. Supporting the injured Kirika, Mireille walks up the men, and tells them to stand aside. As they do so, Mireille passes Breffort, who asks what the two women intend to do now. Mireille has no clear answer, but she is sure of one thing. All that matters is that they live as they see fit, searching for the light in a world of darkness.

Drawing away from the men, Kirika wonders just exactly what they will do from now on. For now, Mireille just wants to go back to Paris and enjoy a cup of tea- as long as Kirika is making it, of course. The future can wait until then.

Lying broken on the ground is the very item that inspired the pilgrimage- Laurent Bouquet’s watch. And, as a shaft of light highlights the abandoned timepiece, two gunshots are heard. But just what these gunshots mean must be left to the imagination, because this is truly the end.