City Series:Volume1 Chapter 4
Chapter 4: The Legend Races
It felt like her head had been knocked off.
They had been flying without feeling any inertia, but all of a sudden, a blow came from above. The great tremor passed from her head and out through her feet.
The blow was so strong that she thought the ship had broken in two.
As soon as she cried out, Else felt an impact toss her upwards. At the same time, a deep roar hit her in the gut and the cockpit filled with scarlet flames.
…I’m going to die!
She squeezed her eyes shut, but heard an oddly cheerful voice.
“We did it, professor! It advanced to the next form! The second engine is up and running!”
Oscar used binoculars to watch from the Bladlikburg Eins’s bridge.
Once it collided with the dp-XXX, the Eisen Soldat turned into a ball of flames and produced an explosive blast of smoke. The dp-XXX was swallowed up by those flames and smoke.
Shouts of surprise and admiration filled the bridge, but Oscar alone had a different feeling.
His barking voice quieted the bridge.
“We may have gone too far.”
He moved the binoculars to look around and saw the four remaining Soldat approaching the mass of smoke floating in the sky. They were firing Kugel as they approached to make sure the enemy truly had been sunk.
…Were they really sunk?
At that very moment, pure white Kugel shot from the smoke. These were no normal Kugel. They were Eisen Kugel with the ability to freeze.
…It can’t be!
Before he could say anything, the white Kugel assaulted the four flying fighter craft. The Soldat drew their Schwert, but the white trajectories slipped below and behind them as if mocking them.
These were clearly auto-homing Kugel.
Also, the dp-XXX had not possessed this functionality just a moment before. It had been built for close-quarters combat and had not possessed the spare power needed for long-range weapons like Kugel. After all, only one of its three engines had been running.
However, it had definitely fired these Kugel and they had caught up to the four Soldat from behind and pierced straight through them. Instead of exploding, the fighter craft shattered like glass. The Eisen Kugel had flash-frozen and then destroyed them.
At the same time, the smoke was blown away and a ship was revealed.
Oscar shouted out loud as soon as he saw it.
“So that is what it means for the ship to grow!”
He now understood Walter’s confidence in the incomplete ship’s ability to reach space. He also understood the word he had found on the scraps of a document remaining in the Wagner Laboratory.
“The ship itself grows and transforms to rid itself of its deficiencies!”
The dp-XXX had literally evolved.
Its basic form had not changed, so the sword-like shape remained.
However, the arch-like wings on the back of the ship had stretched back like a skirt and spire-like horns extended forward from the wings. Also, a few areas on the outer paneling bulged out. The ship had a somewhat feminine beauty to it.
The Schwert sticking out from the ship were gone, so its focus had likely shifted from close-quarters to long-range.
In ancient times, fish had gained the legs needed to leave the ocean. In the same way, the dp-XXX had gained further power to combat larger numbers of enemies.
“This is absurd!”
Oscar shouted and clenched his teeth.
Else opened her eyes and found she was alive.
Nothing had changed inside the cockpit. Paul was looking her way and Walter was staring at a scrap of paper in his hand. She could see the sky through the window beyond them.
As she thought that, Walter stuck the paper in his lab coat pocket and muttered to himself.
“It looks like I’ll be able to get there soon. I mean it.”
Then he turned around.
“Are you okay, Else?”
She realized the paper he had stuck in his breast pocket was a photograph, but she was not crass enough to ask whose photo it was. Also, she had a more important question.
“We’re fine? But I saw fire…”
“Yeah, the fighter craft on top of us exploded, so you probably saw the flames from that.”
This had to be a sturdy ship if that was not enough to sink it.
“Were you scared? Sorry about that.”
“I-I was not scared.”
As she put on a strong front, she heard a slight metallic creaking. She floated up slightly, returned to normal, and heard the ship shaking somewhere.
“Wh-what is that? Is this thing broken after all?”
“No. The metal parts are growing for the transformation as it evolves.”
She must have given an unpleasant look at the number of unreasonable terms Walter used because he smiled a little.
“To put it simply, all of the ship’s components have healing spell emblems carved into them. Not only does that allow it to repair itself, but it lets it modify itself.”
“When activated too nearby each other, the Kaiserburg’s emblem engines resonate with each other and stop working, but that’s just because the engines aren’t used to each other.”
“You mean the ship’s self-modification ability will adapt the engines to each other?”
“Yeah, you’ve got the picture. Your heart beats without you telling it to, right? In the same way, the Kaiserburg realizes its own deficiencies as it fights and is injured, so it tries to unify all of its components toward a single goal.”
She had no words.
The ship was completely ridiculous. It was a collection of metal parts, and yet it almost seemed alive.
Previous technology was all about strengthening the armor or putting in a more powerful engine. In other words, the people determined the machine’s traits and created it that way.
But the Kaiserburg was different. The ship strengthened itself. Paul and Walter had simply helped by loading it with the parts it would eventually use. And the Kaiserburg was living up to their expectations.
“It seems that collision showed the Kaiserburg the need to combat a greater number of opponents. You could say this is like a fistfighting child growing into a young man who wields an actual weapon.”
“Two of the emblem engines are running. Just one more.”
“It will evolve further?”
“Yep. According to our predictions, the next evolution will take it to space.”
Walter then faced forward.
Else gently crossed her arms and brought a hand to her chest. Her pulse was racing.
She did not know.
She felt a new kind of excitement or joy that was not quite the same as during a festival or after scoring well on a test. She felt a powerful urge to tell someone about this incomparable excitement.
She may have been approaching her answer, little by little.
…But I’m not there yet, am I?
She bit her lip and nodded.
The ship angled up just a little and gave her a view into the sky.
There, she saw a number of aerial aircraft carriers with many small shapes flying from them.
“Don’t they know they’re no match for us? They’re persistent, I’ll give them that.”
“Some people will never understand until they’ve been beaten. Let’s get this over with.”
The Kaiserburg shot forward as if responding to Paul’s words.
Its acceleration was more stable than before.
Oscar confirmed a certain fact.
…We can’t win using normal methods.
Most likely, the dp-XXX’s attack power was on the level of a battleship and its mobility was greater than that of a fighter craft. On top of that, it had no restrictions to its movements.
The absurd actions captured by his binoculars were proof enough of that.
A formation of eight Soldat descended to surround the enemy.
The dp-XXX suddenly split into two. This was an illusion technique created by a weapon known as a Phantom. One of the ships accelerated upwards while the other accelerated downwards.
The eight fighter craft hesitated.
If one of them was being used as a decoy, the one escaping down below would be the real one.
In an instant, the formation passed by the rising dp-XXX.
That settled it.
The descending dp-XXX vanished.
The rising one rolled onto its back and light gathered in its four field emitters.
Oscar recognized that light. It was the light of a battleship weapon.
“It can even use Kunst!?”
Four bullets of light shot from the dp-XXX and to the formation below.
The four afterimages of light quickly drew a shape in the sky. The shape was known as a Circle Emblem and it was created by lining up normal emblems in a circle.
As soon as the emblem took form, great darkness filled a space one hundred meters across. But this was no mere darkness. The scenery around it seemed to bend.
It was a mass of high gravity.
Oscar had never actually seen this phenomenon before. He had only ever read of it in legends. God was said to have used that technique when transforming the earth as he liked.
“The Finster gravity spell.”
The eight Soldat were unable to avoid the darkness and crashed into it.
Eight red flowers bloomed on the top of the darkness.
Eight metallic rumbles followed.
The giant mass of gravity vanished as if satisfied with the destruction of the enemy. The reflected shards of the Soldat floated in empty air a bit before falling.
…The Soldat are no match for it.
Just as Oscar frowned at the battlefield below, a new direction filled that battlefield.
The dp-XXX was ascending right toward him.
He shuddered as he briefly thought he sensed the intent to kill.
But he gathered strength in his gut again.
…We cannot afford to lose!
“Have Zwei and Fünf’s guns target the dp-XXX. All remaining Soldat are to descend to Berlin’s Tempelhof Airport! We will settle this with shellfire!”
“If you see an opportunity, send out Mayer’s new model! Prepare it for takeoff!”
Strength filled his eyes as he barked orders.
The dp-XXX was still slowly rising.
Two ships of the Bladlikburg fleet moved forward and they continually fired red hot Bogen.
The Kaiserburg had been waiting until it was closer to fire its Finster Kunst, but it did so now as a barrier. The emblem was instantly drawn in the sky and became a giant sphere of gravity.
The Bogen could be heard bursting on the other side of the gravity sphere.
Aboard the Kaiserburg, Walter scratched his head in the gunner’s seat.
“Ahh, ahh. What a shame. It takes time, skill, and motivation to fire a Kunst.”
“I don’t think motivation has anything to do with it.”
“So what are we going to do? Run away?”
“If we run here, they’ll just pursue us again. I’d like to settle it here.”
Walter sounded confident, but Else did not see how they could fight any more than this. They were currently only avoiding or hiding from the enemy attack.
Once they left the shelter of the gravity sphere, they would be hit by concentrated fire and the gravity sphere would eventually vanish on its own.
She heard several loud noises beyond the gravity sphere. They reverberated in her gut and sounded like splitting stone. A few shots seemed to have missed their mark and fallen to Berlin.
“Hmm. This is a problem. I don’t want the military to destroy Berlin like this.”
“Oh? You can be surprisingly reasonable sometimes, Walter.”
“Of course I can. If it was me, I’d find a more artistic way to destroy the city.”
“Do you have any idea what you’re saying?”
“C’mon, Else. Is there anything more beautiful than wanting it all to yourself?”
He may not have been all that wrong.
Else found herself looking up toward the heavens, but…
“Hey, Walter. The Kunst is about to disappear.”
“That isn’t good. Should I fire another one?”
“That wouldn’t change our situation in the long run and the third engine isn’t showing any sign of running.”
That meant they would not reach the next evolution doing this.
After a short silence, Paul spoke.
“Walter, let’s try out the Panzer Emblem. We have a perfect target in front of us.”
“That would be best, given the situation.”
“Eh? What are you two doing?”
“Quiet, young lady. And stay seated.”
After Paul’s comment, the Kaiserburg moved back a little.
“Once the Kunst vanishes, we’re going to activate the Panzer Emblem, break through one of the big ones, correct our lowered power output, and then escape.”
“C’mon, let’s go all out.”
Walter sat back in his seat, quickly moved some of the controls in front of the seat, and then hit the control panel. Else heard something fit into place.
He began hitting and stroking the four metal spheres on his armrests with a set rhythm.
Similarly, Paul moved the control stick.
“dp-XXX Kaiserburg Form Two – Eiskalt Königin. Activating Panzer Emblem,” muttered Walter. “Professor, I’m going to sync the power release and ether release in five seconds.”
The sound of the Bogen striking the barrier shook the ship.
“Understood. Panzer Emblem Form Two – Eiskalt Engel. Activation preparations…complete.”
Paul’s words coincided with the Finster Kunst barrier vanishing.
The blue sky opened up before their eyes.
But that sky was obstructed by the next Bogen flying in from the Bladlikburg. They were fast.
As she watched the flaming shells approach, Else heard Walter take a breath.
“Here we go!”
She felt a sudden lurch.
She could not even comprehend the instant that they began to fly.
An impact seemed to throw her backwards and the acceleration was great enough to sweep her short hair backwards. This was likely the first inertia she had felt from the Kaiserburg’s movements.
They were racing along.
The sky outside the cockpit window seemed to be blowing backwards.
Light reflected from her eyes that she somehow managed to keep open. That light was entering through the window because the entire ship was glowing.
…Is that ether?
The emblems carved into the ship’s outer paneling were gathering ether from the air and forming a powerful field.
Ether was the element that made up all things and the arrangement of the emblem was using ether to create a certain form. What could be seen as fire, ice, lightning, or weight wrapped around the ship, materialized, and turned the ship into a giant bullet.
This was a Panzer Emblem.
The Bogen flying their way collided with the glowing ether armor and were destroyed in an instant. They did not even produce any noise.
They accelerated further and she heard Paul speak.
“We’ve reached Form 2’s estimated maximum propulsion of 9.3 times gravitational acceleration! We’re going to hit!”
Else saw a large mass of metal.
Before she could recognize it as a Bladlikburg, they collided with it.
At that moment, Else was not watching the radar in front of her. If she had, she would have seen a single dot of light rapidly approaching the Kaiserburg.
Just as the Kaiserburg prepared to activate its Panzer Emblem, Mayer sat in his cockpit with his eyes closed.
The top and bottom of his fighter craft were attached vertically to the side of Bladlikburg Eins, so his position was similar to lying on his back with his legs curled up and his hands on the control stick.
He had been piloting this new model ever since the prototype phase, so he was used to it and thought it was an excellent craft.
It was most likely the only fighter craft that could take on the dp-XXX.
He had closed his eyes to contain his excitement.
The men he knew had finally created the ideal ship they had dreamed of and were now fighting him and the military.
He felt some small regret.
He had attended college during the preparatory phase of entering the military, but the research and development of the dp-XXX had advanced so slowly that he had thought it would never end. He had even helped design the cockpit and wiring.
However, he had not been there for its completion.
He almost felt abandoned.
Why had they not called him there to join them?
…Was it because I’m in the military?
Strength filled the inner ends of his eyebrows.
…I would have declined even if they did call me there.
He had a family, comrades, and a trustworthy commander. He could not abandon all that. It would be a shame to abandon them for a goal as ridiculous as going to space.
…They would never invite someone with that kind of restriction.
At the same time, a voice reached him over the communicator.
“Second Lieutenant Mayer! The dp-XXX is approaching and the Flammen Ritter will be launched in twelve seconds! Please get ready!”
He answered and opened his eyes.
He saw the deep blue sky.
Oscar saw the newly evolved Panzer Emblem.
It was an angel. It had grown giant white wings and they were the wings of a bird of prey. It resembled a white statue and it left a trail of light as it collided with the Bladlikburg Fünf aircraft carrier.
The Fünf’s great hull was instantly dyed white. It had frozen.
A moment later, the winged angel broke through the Fünf.
The sound was quiet at first. It only resembled a stone breaking through glass. But a moment later, it grew to a great roar much like a waterfall being deflected.
The giant aerial aircraft carrier crumbled.
While wrapped in the angelic Panzer Emblem, the Kaiserburg had collided with and torn a hole through its center. The supposedly metal aircraft carrier crumbled like sand and fell apart around that hole.
It had been struck by a mass of cold so great that even the metal froze over.
Small fragments scattered through the sky.
Behind it all, the Kaiserburg floated motionlessly.
…What a monster!
“Mayer! This is your chance! Go!”
The speaker behind him produced Mayer’s voice.
Not even a moment after the voice had vanished from the air, a shadow shot down next to the Kaiserburg. It moved too quickly to be seen.
It was fast, but a white cloud clearly showed its path after the fact.
After a short delay, the Bladlikburg Eins shook violently. The shockwave from the shadow breaking the sound barrier had struck it.
Oscar watched the shadow even as the ship shook.
“Did it hit!?”
The hope in his shouted question was fulfilled.
A glowing spear stabbed into the Kaiserburg as it floated in midair.
“Ow, ow, ow, ow, ow.”
The sudden impact had thrown Else from her seat. She held her head after hitting it on the floor and asked a question.
“What was that? Did that Panzer Emblem thing fail?”
She saw Walter had also been thrown from his chair and he now dangled from the armrest by his legs. Paul seemed to be stuck between the pilot’s seat and the window because she could see his feet busily kicking at the air.
Walter reached a hand to the floor.
The photograph she had seen before had fallen there.
Without getting up, he collected it, put it in his pocket, and looked to Else.
“Walter, what was that just now?”
“A new model of military fighter craft, I’d wager.”
“A new model?”
“Yes, most likely. But more importantly, Else.”
“You have some lovely legs on you.”
She suddenly looked down and saw her skirt had caught on her chair’s armrest, revealing her legs.
She pulled the skirt down so quickly she almost tore it and she glared at Walter.
“Where do you think you’re looking!? And now of all times!”
“I have a…personal fondness for beautiful things and good-looking women.”
She had trouble responding too strongly when he was so open about it. After all, she had confidence in her looks. Then again, she was the type that was also popular with underclassmen girls.
“This isn’t good. One of the engines was damaged.”
Paul had managed to right himself at some point and he was now looking at the control panel.
“What was that impact?”
“A new type of weapon fired by the craft that flew past us. We can’t see it from here, but something is probably stabbing into the ship. Maybe something like a projectile version of a Schwert.”
“What does that mean?”
Walter nodded at her question.
“Even if you have the power to heal wounds, you can’t do anything if the patient still has the blade sticking into them.”
“Yes, the Kaiserburg can’t fight. Not the best turn of events.”
“How are you so calm!?”
“Panicking isn’t going to fix the engine. Instead, we need to think about what comes next.”
That was when a young male voice came from the communicator.
“dp-XXX, can you hear me? Um, how are you doing, Walter? And you, professor? This is Second Lieutenant Mayer Schrier piloting the dds-033 Flammen Ritter.”
Else frowned and turned to Walter.
“The underclassmen who spoke to me when we were on the bicycle. The kid who used to spill chemicals in the lab is piloting fighter craft now. That’s kind of scary.”
“Try to take this seriously. Can you beat him? How skilled is he?”
“He could target the Kaiserburg’s engine at that speed, so he’s probably better than me.”
“What kind of person is he?”
“He’s what you call a handsome young man. You saw him before, right?”
“What kind of family is he from?”
“An old noble family. Right, professor?”
“How’s his personality?”
“Patient and fairly good-natured.”
“Then we don’t stand a chance.”
“Relax. I’ve got him beat when it comes to height.”
“And in stupidity, I see.”
“Calm down, Else. Could you stay quiet for a little while?”
She frowned and he only smiled.
“I’ll show you I have him beat in brains too.”
“You’re making this up as you go along, aren’t you?”
“Oh, c’mon. It’s called a strategy.”
As she sighed, he asked Paul a question.
“Professor, what should we do about this traitor of an underclassman?”
There was no ill will in Walter’s voice.
Paul operated some of the controls and a scratchy sound came from somewhere in the cockpit. The communicator had been switched on, so Walter called out.
“Um, Mayer? Can you hear me, you idiot? You stupid, pathetic novice.”
“Yes, I can hear you! Please stop embarrassing me over the radio!”
Those words were joined by a descending fighter craft.
It was black. It somewhat resembled an Eisen Soldat, but the giant spherical propulsion devices at the bases of the wings were firing flames straight down.
It was the Flammen Ritter which meant Flame Knight.
“A vertical take-off and landing craft, huh? It must have been tough pulling that off with rocket technology.”
Mayer laughed bitterly at Paul’s comment.
“Yes, it seemed they had trouble without the technology you have. I’m sure this looks like old technology to you, but do not take it lightly. I believe this craft outdoes the dp-XXX in both acceleration and assault power.”
“That previous attack got us pretty good, I’ll admit. So Mayer, what are you going to do with us?”
“That is up to Commander Oscar. I do not have the authority to decide.”
“Ha! You’re just a rank and file soldier!”
“I see you haven’t changed, Walter.”
At the same time, the deep sound of someone clearing their throat came from the communicator.
A tense atmosphere quickly filled the cockpit.
“The dp-XXX can no longer fly. Isn’t that right, Walter?”
“Oh, it’s Oscar. Long time, no see.”
“Quiet. Surrender is your only option. If you try to escape in that damaged ship, we will not hesitate to target the cockpit. After all, we would like to minimize damage to the ship itself.”
“Hmm. You’re as good at provoking people as always.”
“I was simply suggesting you surrender. How was I provoking you?”
“I’m the kind of person that wants to do things I’m told I can’t.”
“Then feel free to escape. If you can in that damaged ship, that is.”
Walter exaggeratedly crossed his arms.
“Oscar, do you want me that badly?”
“It is the dp-XXX I am interested in, not you.”
“But the Kaiserburg and I are inseparable.”
“Be shot down or surrender. Those are your options. You have ten seconds to decide.”
The older man’s tone suggested he was serious.
Else saw Walter’s expression stiffen and she heard him say something more.
“If you’re interested in the Kaiserburg, does it mean you’ve accepted it can reach space?”
Oscar readily answered.
He took a breath.
“But it is still too soon. It may be able to reach space, but I cannot allow it just yet.”
“I see, I see. Your opinion has changed a good bit, hasn’t it? After all, you’re letting us live when you say that now.”
“Yes, you’re right. The dp-XXX cannot run without you two. I will admit you had guts to burn most of the documents in the laboratory.”
“You think so, too? It burned as spectacularly as you’d expect of my lab.”
“What do you mean ‘your’ lab? That laboratory was built by our nation! You were not free to destroy it as you pleased.”
“See, professor? I told you we should’ve asked for permission before destroying it.”
Walter clapped his hands with that comment, but the voice from the communicator silenced him.
“Quiet. I have no idea what you are thinking, but you cannot waste any more time. The dp-XXX will be brought aboard the Bladlikburg with the Lanze still skewering it. You will be brought from the ship and interrogated.”
“Ooh, I love clichés like that.”
“But I am not foolish enough to think that is enough to quiet you.”
“I’m honored you feel that way.”
Walter laughed, stood up, and made a declaration.
“I’ll make sure you truly regret not killing us here. We’ve decided we’re going to space no matter what might happen.”
“I am aware and I am prepared to stop you.”
“You sound confident.”
Oscar replied to Walter’s smiling comment and the name he gave was powerful enough to shake Else’s heart.
“Of course I am, Walter Talstrasse.”
The man who first went to space and never returned was named Huber Talstrasse.
She had realized why Walter was so intent on going to space.
A certain statement connected that young man to his father.
…The curiosity to see what no one has ever seen before and the ambition to go farther than anyone ever has before.
He had not sounded any more serious than usual, but he had said that was a favorite quote of his. She now knew his father had been the adventurer to put those words to practice.
Her heart skipped a beat.
She had realized what Walter was trying to do. It may not have been a pretty thing and it may have been a raw thing, but it was an important truth to her.
This young man had a father who was in the farthest place in the world and he wanted to go farther than anyone ever had.
Else looked at Walter.
She wanted to say something, but she could not form the words. She could not find the right words. Every expression she came up with sounded silly. But…
…I’m the same.
That thought appeared clear in her mind.
…I’m the same. …I am!
The words formed in her heart.
…Going farther than anyone! Going farther than anything! going anywhere!
That was her way of doing things.
And she had a means of fulfilling that dream.
She only had to aim for space.
She had the curiosity to want to go, she had gained the resolve needed to keep fighting, and she believed in the possibility of actually getting there.
Her pulse began to race and refused to slow down.
Walter turned toward her.
When he saw her expression, he briefly looked surprised, but then he gestured for Paul to cut the radio connection.
Once Paul complied, Walter took a breath and smiled at Else.
“Is something making you nervous, Else?”
There was a lot she wanted to say, but one thing in particular left her mouth.
“Hey. We aren’t going to give up here, are we?”
The two men exchanged a glance when they heard that.
And they both gave meaningful smiles.
They were clearly plotting something.
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