A huge flying cross moved within the ashen clouds. That thing changed its course and started disappearing from sight as it kept on pouring the rain of judgment.
It seems like the battle is over.
The air plane I was on kept increasing its altitude through the troposphere. There was a big hole in the plane’s side.
The wounded iron bird could no longer listen to what it's told to do. It just kept on flying to its end, as if it's the dream of all who have wings.
Sooner or later, it will fly out of the ashen sea of clouds and reach the stratosphere. My body wasn't built so strong that I could breathe at such place. But I don't have to worry about that. There's no guarantee I would be alive by the time I reached there.
I leaned against the wall as I brought my gun down.
The door of the hangar remained opened. Just like before, cold air blew in and I could see the earth very well. Land without any colors. Even the ocean in the distance was colorless.
It’s a world that’s completely dead.
Even so, this world of steel felt so precious. My vision blurred.
I saw something like this five years ago.
That day, the enemy that appeared through the clouds was more beautiful than anything. A pair of wings and a figure that somehow resembled a human. I shot that thing that looked like an angel. A bullet that was nothing more than a bean to that thing drilled into its forehead and dropped the angel.
That moment. The instant I pulled the trigger, our eyes met through the scope. There was no communication. That's all.
But since then, I kept dreaming of that thing falling down the sea of clouds, forever.
The angel that accompanied the plane woke up. One of her wings was horribly ripped.
Being a high ranking species of the A-rays, she was naturally forced to join this mission, and jumped in here after getting heavily wounded.
She only came here to rest her wings, but we were out of luck. The moment she came inside the hangar, the arrow of light hit this plane that was too close to the Cross.
The light pierced her wing and the body of the plane, and took out her consciousness and the plane's AI.
And now, several minutes later, the unconscious angel slowly woke up.
“Good Morning.” When I said that to her, she turned around and looked outside.
The thing called the Aristoteles was disappearing in the distance.
I told the angel who was spacing out our total losses and the success of the mission.
The angel joyously approached. She crawled on the floor since she couldn't stand up, but her hand slipped on something wet.
My blood was pooling on the floor and had dyed the angel's body red.
"When you… shoved me aside?"
Without answering her question, I just gazed outside. Over the limitless clouds, the airplane kept on flying upwards.
The sky that I saw for the first time was different from what I read in the books.
"The sky, it's red"
Repeating a phrase that I once heard somewhere, I couldn't keep strength in my hand anymore. The Black Gun fell to the floor.
"The Black Gun. So you really were the person who shot the Bird down."
"...I guess. That's what people say. But I used all my luck back then. Look at this mess now."
"Idiot. Because you saved me..."
"How can I help it? I wouldn't want a pretty girl like you dying in front of my eyes."
I said something really showy. It was so silly that it made me laugh.
That doesn't suit your character.
She said that too.
We just kept on laughing without looking each other's way.
It was a small, weak, and gentle voice. "You've changed. You weren't this honest with your feelings before. So it is true that you've found someone other than me."
...I wonder if there was really such thing? Although if it's the angel who said she’d rather be a fake, she must be still waiting in my room for me to return.
They say that angels cure one's mind, not one's body.
"But that's not true. People don't change because of others. I was always like this. I just acted like I didn't care, but I really was a good person. You couldn't tell, could you?"
"Yeah, really. I wanted to become a hero when I was small, too. I was immature. Probably now, too. ...that's why you should go. You can probably still fly down to the ground even with one wing. You don't need to come with me."
She stood up and looked at me sternly for some reason.
"Are you going to be okay? Alone till the end?"
"Didn't I tell you? I want to look cool. Because I wanted to be a hero. And I want to be alone at the end… because I was all alone till now."
I think my clumsy forced smile went well.
Probably the best in my life.
"Good bye, then..."
Flapping her single wing, she flew out.
She looked like a fish of an angel that swam in the red sea.
I stood up and sat in the cockpit. Not knowing what I'm doing, I tried fixing the broken AI. If I still have some luck left, my fate might change.
When I closed my eyes, I heard a voice.
"Why did you fight?"
"Because I didn't want to die, of course."
"Why didn't you want to die?"
"Because I want to live, of course."
"...then, why do you want to live?"
That's obvious. It's because------
At the farthest limit of my memory…
Only that answer was different from before.