City Series:Volume1 Chapter 2
Chapter 2: The Legend Takes Off
Berlin was a city of machines and stone. Anyone walking through its streets was bound to see something inorganic.
However, even Berlin had areas of green. In southeast Berlin, a one kilometer forest stood out like a sore thumb in the middle of the modern city.
The forest was primarily made up of conifer trees. It was December, so the forest of tall cedars was cold.
The midday sun washed over that forest which hid a large pond.
The forest was dark and somewhat misty, but sunlight filled a straight line through it. That line was a stone-paved road. It was a walking path, but not a single dried leaf sat on it. It was a private road.
Two people rode horses down that road and four white breaths floated in the air.
The person on the front horse was a tall girl who wore a skirt in the saddle. The person on the horse behind hers was an elderly man in a thick coat.
A delicate and tense atmosphere surrounded the two of them.
The man’s square face was pointed straight forward.
He looked at the girl’s back where her short-cut blonde hair reached the collar of her thin coat.
He spoke hesitantly toward that back.
“Hey, Else. How has university been going lately? Are your studies going well?”
She did not reply, but he continued regardless.
“When I was your age, the war was drawing close, so there was quite a commotion everywhere. Back then, you couldn’t study even if you wanted to. And that is why-…”
“That’s why you started making weapons and got rich, right?”
The back in front of him finally spoke.
The man briefly frowned at being interrupted, but…
“But, Else, I now have plenty of leeway in life, so I can think about my daughter and her future.”
“In other words, you want to shove me into the university and have me study until I cry.”
“Face people when you speak to them!”
“I am not in a good mood. I have a terrible look in my eyes, so are you sure you want me looking at you?”
Her tone was devoid of all emotion.
The man subconsciously pulled on the reins to slow his horse a step.
Once he noticed, he frantically spoke up.
“B-but, Else, you are already twenty and you still haven’t found someone to marry.”
“There you go again treating women like baby-making machines.”
Else gave an exaggerated shrug while still holding the reins.
“I just hate restrictions like that.”
“Else, a girl should not say she hates things.”
“I loathe them.”
“That is not any better!”
“Shut up. You always talk about studying and marriage. You didn’t have this house and all its land to begin with. You may have made a lot of money selling weapons, but why do I have to do those things for something like this?”
“It is for your own good!”
“Now that I don’t understand. I mean, I do like this forest and the pond over there, but I could always go to a normal park and-…”
She stopped her horse and he followed suit.
“What is it, Else?”
She did not turn around. Instead, she looked up a little.
He did the same and noticed a single trail of smoke rising from the forest.
The white smoke stood out in the clear winter sky.
“That’s a fire,” he muttered to himself.
Suddenly, Else’s horse began to run straight toward the smoke.
“Ah! Wait! Else!”
He looked around, unsure whether to head back to the mansion to get word out about the fire or to pursue Else.
As a father, he chose the latter.
He was delayed, but he had his horse run after her. He could see her in the distance ahead and he noticed her pull a rod-like object from below her coat.
Seeing that left him speechless.
What initially looked like a rod was a black submachine gun. It was the newest model of the MP18, a masterwork used by both police and vigilantes.
“She swiped one from the storeroom again!”
His daughter was too far up ahead to hear his groaning words.
Else sped up her horse while resting the five kilogram submachine gun on her shoulder with slight difficulty.
The man pursued and the eight hooves raced across the stone-pavement.
When surrounded by the blue sky, a beautiful pond, and a black cedar forest at midday, preparing a pleasant lunch was the only option.
The pleasant aroma hanging in the air only increased that desire. That aroma was of cooking oil.
A young man wearing a lab coat over work clothes sat on the sunny edge of the pond. He currently wore a green apron over the rest of his outfit.
It was Walter.
He sat in front of a fire made by gathering dry wood and a nice sound and smell came from the frying pan in his hand.
He had gathered some nearby stones as a stove, but it was not all that effective. The heat of the fire could not be reaching the frying pan very well, but the smell suggested he was actually cooking proper food.
“That should do it.”
He looked over his shoulder.
“Professor, food’s ready.”
A giant mass of metal floated behind him. It was the dp-XXX or Kaiserburg. The collection of solid machinery and metal pipes was hovering about a meter off the ground.
The man referred to as “professor” was on top of it.
Only the back of his work outfit could be seen from Walter’s position because the man was clinging to the top of the Kaiserburg as if crawling.
The man still did not reply.
The professor was lost in his work. He had removed one of the Kaiserburg’s outer panels and was fiddling around within the machine while almost climbing inside.
Walter nodded, stuck his empty hand in his lab coat’s pocket, pulled out a small black communicator, and switched it on.
“Kaiserburg, shake back and forth a little.”
With a slight noise, the ship in front of him shook its head. And quickly.
This panicked the professor clinging to it.
“Whoooaaa! Walter! D-d-d-don’t move this thing!”
“Want to eat something?”
“I-I-I-I’m working right now!”
“Is that so? Then maybe I should have it shake even harder.”
“F-fine, just stop this thing!”
“Are you sure? I feel like having a little more fun.”
“Just stop it! I’ll finish up, so stop it!”
“That’s a shame. …Kaiserburg, stop.”
The ship’s shaking abruptly stopped and the professor sighed while still clinging to it.
Walter placed the frying pan’s contents on a large plate sitting on the ground.
Those contents were bratwurst and pommes frites. The trick to making the pommes frites was to use the oil produced when cooking the flavored wurst.
After checking to make sure it was all done, Walter stood up.
At that exact moment, he heard a metallic sound and felt like his hand almost flew off. A shock had run through the frying pan as if someone had kicked it.
He fixed his grip on it and looked at it. There was a fingertip-sized hole in the bottom of the frying pan and he could see straight through it.
“What is it?” asked the professor.
“This is a little strange from a physics perspective, but a hole suddenly appeared in this thing.”
“That’s because you haggled down the price of an already cheap pan.”
The professor’s explanation did not explain much of anything and he wiped his dirty hands on the stomach of his work outfit. He had the plumpness common among elderly men, but he must have had a decent frame because he still looked plenty solid.
“It might be a new form of metal fatigue.”
“But even it was cheap, I’d grown accustomed to this thing.”
Walter looked up and saw the professor sigh, pull a cigarette from his pocket, and place it in his mouth.
As soon as he did, Walter heard a light bursting sound and the cigarette flew from the professor’s mouth.
Before the man could turn around with just the filter in his mouth, Walter asked a question.
“So did you haggle down the price of some already cheap cigarettes?”
That was when a sharp voice reached them.
“Hey! What do you think you’re doing at our home!?”
It was a female voice and Walter turned toward the forest it came from.
Else was unsure what to do about the object before her eyes or the man standing in front of it.
A young man wore a lab coat and apron over a work outfit and a giant mixture of metal pipes and panels sat behind him. Also, a plump elderly man in a work outfit stood on top of the machine.
…Who are they?
She could not deny that an exasperated look appeared on her lips as she aimed her submachine gun at them.
Even she thought the look in her eyes was harsh, but she felt that look gave her even more strength as she asked a question.
“What are you two doing?”
The young man in an apron tilted his head and asked a question of his own.
“And what are you doing here, lovely little lady?”
“Cut the flattery. What are you doing at our home?”
“This is your home? Do you live in the woods?”
“Do you want me to shoot you?”
“No, no. That sounds painful.”
“Then answer me. I really will shoot you next time.”
He looked down at the frying pan in his hand.
“Um… Didn’t you already shoot at us?”
“The first shot was practice, the second was a warning, and the next one will be for real.”
This much was no more than a greeting.
The young man must have caught on because he smiled and scratched at his head.
“Hmm. I feel like you’re skipping quite a few steps here. Could you explain how we ended up in this situation?”
“Y’know, you’re the ones making this so complicated. What is that machine behind you?”
“Oh, this thing? It’s a secret weapon of the military.”
He casually dropped a bombshell of a statement.
Else lowered the submachine gun without thinking and looked at the young man without using the sight.
“A secret weapon?”
“Yep. The military told us to hand it over after we built it, so we ran off.”
“The military? Then this-…?”
She looked up at the mechanical mass behind the young man and her eyes met with the man standing on top of it.
She lowered her head a bit on reflex.
…I think I’ve seen him somewhere before.
To check on that, she spoke to the young man in front of her.
“Who are you two?”
“I’m Walter, second-in-command of the Wagner Laboratory. The ship behind me is the dp-XXX Kaiserburg that was built there and the guy on top of it is the lab head, Paul Wagner.”
She recognized the laboratory name and the older man’s name.
“I’ve heard of you! You taught emblem technology at my university until two years ago!”
The professor laughed on top of the Kaiserburg.
“Oh? So you’re a student at the University of Berlin?”
Else nodded and looked back and forth between Paul and Walter.
“And I read in the newspaper that there was a commotion at the Wagner Laboratory and the lab head and second-in-command went missing.”
“Missing? Oh, man. What do I do if my relatives put in a search request?”
“That’s what you’re worried about!? What are famous people like you doing here?”
“Well, we used this new experimental weapon, but its power dropped like a rock and it malfunctioned. We decided it needed repairs and we happened to spot the perfect place to hide it down below.”
“The perfect place to hide it, huh?”
“Yeah, sorry about that. We thought it was a park.”
“Fine, whatever. …More importantly, can that machine really fly?”
“Yeah, it can even fly to space.”
She frowned at that.
“Sorry, but I seriously doubt that. You just said it malfunctioned, didn’t you?”
“No, no. It can make it. It was made to reach space.”
She sensed confidence in Walter’s fixation on the word “space”.
“When you say space, you mean outer space, right?”
“Wait. Are you serious? No one has ever successfully done that before.”
“It’ll be fine. As long as this thing grows properly, it can go anywhere.”
One word from his explanation did not fit, so she asked to make sure she had heard right.
“Yeah, isn’t that right, professor?”
Paul’s only response was a meaningful smile.
Realizing that smile was filled with confidence, Else decided they were serious. She also remembered something that had happened in the past.
“But why are you keeping your attempt hidden? Before – you know, when that manned rocket failed – the military helped out and everyone was talking about it.”
She saw Paul’s expression stiffen at that and he spoke before Walter could say anything.
“We would rather not rely on the military. We want to reach space on our own while putting ourselves first.”
“That sounds childish.”
“Shut up. I’ve always been like that.”
Else smiled bitterly at the elderly man’s statement. She could somehow understand that way of thinking.
…That must be nice.
That thought softened her expression.
“I see. So you’re just doing it as a hobby.”
“More or less. …Now, who are you?”
“Are you familiar with the Breuer Company that sells weapons?”
Walter tilted his head, but Paul looked up.
“I am. They were building a giant mansion in Berlin about when I quit the military.”
“That’s where you are now. I’m the president’s only daughter.”
A low voice reached them as a man on a horse burst from the forest to the side.
Else turned back to the two men.
“And that’s my father, Gaston,” she said more quietly.
“Else! Who are those people! And what is that giant machine!?”
“Shut up!” she shouted without turning around. “They’re criminals on the run from the military because they stole a secret ship!”
Gaston had clearly been planning to shout something back, but that explanation drained all color from his face. Else nodded, satisfied in the influence of her words. She could be cruel.
“W-wait! Why would people like that be-…”
“I said shut up. Obviously their ship malfunctioned and they crashed here.”
“I’m not sure that counts as ‘obviously’.”
“Don’t nitpick my wording. And either way, they aren’t bad people! Would bad people sit around leisurely cooking bratwurst?”
“I don’t think that’s the issue here.”
“Who cares if it is? We’re not opposed to the military, but we have nothing against these two either. Besides, no respectable person would sell someone out to the military.”
She knew her father was easily swayed by words like that. He seemed reluctant to let his daughter know he had to make nice to the military as a weapons dealer.
Even if his job required it, that was a weakness of his, so he fell silent when she brought it up. She felt a little bad for having done so.
She took a breath and spoke to the two behind her.
“You two, come to our place. You’ll tell us some interesting stories, won’t you?”
Mayer answered the phone instead of Oscar who had gone to the remains of the Wagner Laboratory.
As Oscar’s aide, looking after the place in his absence was a legitimate part of Mayer’s job. He had to do his best to preserve his commander’s good name.
He looked out the window as he picked up the receiver, but it had already grown dark. The glass reflected his slightly tense face.
He lowered his gaze and spoke into the receiver.
“Yes, this is Mayer Schrier speaking for Major General Oscar Mirildorf.”
“Oh, Lieutenant Mayer? This is Gaston of the Breuer Company.”
He recognized the voice. This was the president of the weapons dealer that manufactured the air force’s aircraft and sold them firearms. His was the top company in the industry, but he seemed like a fairly sociable person.
Mayer lowered his head toward the phone without thinking.
“Thank you for calling. What do you need at this hour?”
“Have you read today’s newspaper?”
“The newspaper? I skimmed through it. What about it?”
“I heard this from someone I know, but…”
Gaston’s tone dropped and Mayer realized it would be crass to ask just who that “someone” was. Some important incident had to be happening around this man.
Mayer allowed him to keep it a secret.
“Go ahead. We are known for keeping secrets.”
“I am well aware. …Anyway, from what I’ve heard, Major General Oscar’s unit is pursuing some sort of incident.”
Mayer’s silence acted as an answer and the other man seemed to pick up on what this meant.
“Well, based on the assumption that you are, I believe what you are looking for is on my land.”
“Is that so?”
“And it is accompanied by two people.”
Mayer realized what exactly was going on, so he spoke quickly.
“Understood. That has nothing to do with us, but it may be of interest to someone. I will track them down and contact them, so please invite those two people in as a guest for the next few days.”
“Understood. I will.”
“Sorry about the trouble.”
“No, not at all. …And one other thing.”
“If something happens, I would prefer if you did not tell my family that I was the one to call you. Could you keep that a secret?”
“Eh? Yes, we can…but why? If these guests turn out to be important, you would be richly rewarded.”
“No, I’d much rather not be. …And I don’t need any more riches anyway.”
Mayer detected hesitation in the man’s voice, but there was no need to look into it further.
“I see. Then if it comes to it, we will reward you in another way.”
“Thank you very much. And I hope you will continue to use our products in the future.”
The man’s tone completely changed in an instant.
…That’s a merchant for you.
With that thought, Mayer lowered his head toward the telephone again.
“Thank you very much.”
“No, thank you. …And please come quickly.”
With that, he hung up.
Mayer held his breath as he set down the receiver and he looked out the window again.
He was on the fifth and highest floor of Berlin’s air force base, so he could see the nightscape of Berlin through the glass.
The Breuer home was about eight kilometers southeast of the base.
“Is that you, Walter, teacher?”
His expression grew even tenser as he muttered that question.
He wanted to run out there right away to check, but Oscar had yet to return and he was too young to give orders of his own.
“I can’t believe this.”
His voice sounded troubled and yet somehow happy.
“Why are those two like that?”
His bitterly smiling eyes stared out into the night.
Somewhere in those scattered specks of light were the people he sought.
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