As the number of contacts between SAINT and humans increases, VESPER officers agree that alone and stripped of most of her combat capabilities, Mahoro is in danger. To counteract this threat, her combat support mech unit, V1046-R9 Slash Zero, is authorized to join her in the human world. In the meanwhile, the Hiryu town Summer Festival is fast approaching. Each year, the leading citizens of the town select one girl to be featured in the hours-long Dance of the Dead, a grueling performance that pushes one to the limits of her abilities and endurance. This year, Mahoro is the one chosen. In the few days remaining before the Festival, then, she is occupied almost entirely with pracicing the dance. The question of what to wear for the event, which calls for traditional clothing, is answered when Suguru pulls his his mother’s yukata and Cmdr. Misato’s kimono out of storage. After extensive practice, Mahoro performs magnificently, dancing nonstop for three hours and eleven minutes. According to one of the residents, hers is the best dance in at least a decade. Following the conclusion of it, her and Saori, herself chosen to perform several years earlier, engage in some not-so-friendly “competition” at the various festival booths, with Suguru as the prize – which leads, in short order, to both of them being banned. As the festival comes to a close with a fireworks display, Suguru remarks that this is the first time since the death of his parents that he has been able to actually enjoy himself. In due time, as him and Mahoro rejoin the rest of Suguru’s classmates to watch the fireworks, he asks Mahoro to come to the festival next year, as well. Knowing what he still does not, though, she pauses. Her answer, “it’d be nice to come again,” – nothing more, and nothing less.