City Series:Volume1 Chapter 6
Chapter 6: The Legend Soars
It was 5:25 AM and the Kaiserburg filled a large factory. The large machine tools such as cranes and winches had only been used to remove the Lanze skewering one of the engines, so they were now pushed up against the wall.
Thirty hours had already passed since the repairs had begun.
The wound to the engine was deep, but it was on the way to a full recovery with the help of the ship’s own self-repair ability and the Breuer Company’s technicians.
The Kaiserburg itself simply hovered as if none of that mattered.
An old man stood next to it. He was Steinmetz.
He looked up at the ship and heard the voices of the younger technicians repairing it on the inside. The ship was sealed, but the factory was so quiet he could still just barely hear them.
He could tell they were excitedly discussing something. It seemed to be an argument over the mysteries and problems with the ship.
A ship that could fly to space would have to be endlessly fascinating.
He had a sudden thought.
He loved airplanes and flying through the sky. His interest in that would never wane. That was why he remained in this abandoned factory.
He had spent forty years with airplanes now.
In that time, he had come to realize that this was exactly where he belonged.
And there was something he needed to do now. The girl who had come to play here when she was young had grown up and was asking for his help.
She had a single goal: flying this ship to space.
“A lot of people would think it’s impossible.”
But they could not let that discourage them.
If this test succeeded, it would undoubtedly usher in a new age.
Steinmetz stood at the source of that.
Some people would race ahead to make this crazy idea a reality, but others had to support them. They both needed each other and all either of them could do was what they needed to do.
Repairing the Kaiserburg was his only way of assisting their journey to space, but that was something only he could do.
Strength filled his gaze and his silently wandering eyes looked up at the ship.
Suddenly, a face poked out from below it and short blonde hair dangled down. It belonged to Else who was working on the lower wiring.
She looked to him, briefly pulled her head back in, and lowered her legs down.
With her boots, work outfit, work gloves, and short hair, she did not at all look like the daughter of a wealthy family. In fact, she had oil stains all over her clothes and face.
“I’ve replaced the lower wiring and non-emblem panels. How much longer on the exterior?”
“If that’s all you’re doing, you should finish in another five or six hours.”
“Geh. …I’ve still got that much to do?”
“This ship is not like any we’ve worked on before. And the exterior is far from uniform, so it requires a lot of parts. …But I’ll help from here on. Together, we can cut the time in half.”
“You’ve been working since last night. Aren’t you tired?”
She shook her head.
“Not at all. I’m not sure how to put it, though.”
She lightly turned back toward the Kaiserburg.
“Maybe this is what it feels like for a carpenter to build his own house.”
“His own house?”
Steinmetz frowned. The Kaiserburg was an aircraft or an aerial ship. It essentially had no living areas.
Even so, the young woman in a work outfit spread her arms as if to embrace the ship.
“Don’t you think making your own place in the world is great?”
She turned around and showed him her bright smile.
The old man was taken aback by the term “place in the world”.
For him, that term referred to airplanes.
…I get it now.
Oblivious to his thoughts, Else changed the subject.
“Oh, right. What did you find out about the Lanze after removing it?”
That lance of light had stabbed into the Kaiserburg. The odd weapon was a bullet made of ether yet it retained its form without naturally scattering into its surroundings.
Steinmetz pulled a small piece of metal from his work outfit’s breast pocket.
It was shaped exactly like the bullet portion of an 8mm round.
“This is the true identity of that lance.”
“Eh? That is?”
“Normally, large weapons like fighter craft will have a field emitter installed which fires the bullets. The bullets are made entirely out of ether, so they will dissolve into the raw ether floating in the air and eventually disappear.”
“But this one had a core?”
“Yes. As far as I can tell, the surface is covered in tiny emblems. You could probably fire this thing from that machinegun you carry around. The bullet is entirely supported from within using the emblems carved into it, so it’s just as powerful as a Schwert. …No, given its speed, it would be even more powerful.”
“Let me see it.”
He handed it to her and she stared at the bean-sized bullet.
“I see. It’s made from a spirit stone.”
“Yes. It works just like this ship’s engines. Any impact to the flat bottom end will trigger the emblems to gather ether in a lance shape. It’s a lot like a miniature version of…what was it called again? Oh, right. A Panzer Emblem.”
“The military’s been working hard to make something like this.”
She smiled bitterly and looked Steinmetz in the eye.
“The soldiers have a tough time too.”
“After a discussion, I promised to meet one of them up in the sky.”
She toyed with the Lanze bullet in her fingers.
“Can I borrow this?”
“Hm? I don’t mind, but don’t use it for anything you shouldn’t.”
“Sure. I was just thinking I could use it for something fun.”
“I’m pretty sure that falls under the category of things you shouldn’t use it for.”
It was 6:30 AM and the morning began early in Germany.
Even after rising above the clouds, the sun had yet to come out.
The Flammen Ritter rose in a straight line as purple filled the sky.
He was testing the fighter’s ascension ability.
The roar of the engine filled the fighter. It was still weak, but the moon was out. The Flammen Ritter had been given some moonlight resistance, but it was not perfect. The fighter shook.
Mayer faced the moon from the cockpit.
His body was pressed into the back of the chair. He had trouble breathing, but not enough to pass out.
His thoughts were clear and a single idea filled his mind.
How could he fight Walter and the others?
“Why am I hesitating?”
When he had said he wanted to fight the night before last, Else had asked him a question.
“You’re just afraid of losing, aren’t you!? But you also know how skilled you are, so you aren’t prepared to go all out and crush your opponent!”
That was definitely true.
“You think someone like that can fight us? I have something that is mine alone, but what do you have!?”
She had taken a breath.
“You’ve done nothing but borrow from others, so you have no right to stop us!”
Her harsh words had shocked him.
They had also reminded him of what Oscar had told him.
…What matters most is determining what exactly it is you should be.
Her words had told him exactly what that had meant.
He was not Walter. Nor was he Paul or Oscar. In that case, who should he be?
That answer would give him the meaning for his fight.
…But how should I fight?
This was not like the tests and training he had completed in the past. This was a competition that would have a clear result. If he lost, he would lose everything.
Why did he hope for a fight he had no confidence he could win?
He accelerated his fighter craft. To continue rising, he had to continue accelerating.
The needle slowly moved across the gauge. He was already higher than during the previous test.
The sky was growing bluer and deeper.
He accelerated further.
The sky outside the window was nearly indigo already, he saw the stars in the distance, and the altitude needle had reached the red danger zone.
The Flammen Ritter shook, but he ignored the disconcerting tremor.
He accelerated. His speed had dropped quite a bit because the earth’s gravity had ensnared him.
The altitude needle had reached the far side of the gauge.
…Should I give up here?
He saw the moon in the heavens far above the sky. The ship’s ability to rise would be about at its limit.
Its acceleration was weakening.
“Is this really enough?”
His question to himself was immediately followed by an incoming transmission.
“Mayer, you have ascended quite a bit. You have set an excellent record.”
It was Oscar.
Mayer asked a question on reflex.
“Commander Oscar, how should I fight the dp-XXX?”
He blatantly revealed his worries.
After a short silence, the other man replied.
“Mayer, do you have no intention of testing your own ability?”
He almost felt like this was his first time to hear that word.
…Why do I want to fight?
I don’t care if I lose. I want to fight so I can test what I can do when I go all out!
He was certain to learn that if he fought Walter’s group. He would directly take on the person he respected and had set as his own goal.
Through that battle, he could confirm just how far he could go.
Strength filled his gut.
He forced a large burst of acceleration from the Flammen Ritter.
“Mayer! Do not force yourself!”
His tone was strong as he responded.
His fingertips operated the field emitters. With a slight sound, glowing ether wrapped around the fighter craft.
The fighter stopped shaking and only solidified flames were visible though the cockpit windows.
“Activating Panzer Emblem – Flammen Lanze! I’m ascending even more!”
With a lurch of impact, the Flammen Ritter rose intensely into the sky.
Mayer smiled as he endured the inertia of the acceleration.
At 8:38 AM, the sun had risen to a certain extent. The sky was clear and filled with just enough of a chill to tense the skin. A cold fog covered the Grunewald Forest.
A single car was parked in the forest’s airfield and a man stood next to it. It was Gaston.
His shoulders shook once and he sighed.
He began to walk with his face pointed straight forward.
His gaze was on the giant factory. Its large door was open and the nose of a ship could be seen within.
“She really is doing this, isn’t she?”
He approached, and saw a man crouched below the ship with some kind of diagram in one hand. Gaston recognized the man. He was the old man in charge of the factory.
“Steinmetz!” he called out and quickened his pace.
The other man seemed to notice Gaston’s voice because he set the diagram on the floor, paused, and raised a hand.
He tapped his back as he stood up and Gaston asked him a question.
“How is Else doing?”
“She’s checking the course in the office.”
He was relieved that his daughter was still so nearby even if she was planning to leave him. She wanted to eventually fly into the sky and travel as far from this earth as she could.
“She’s a good girl.”
“I think you mean rebellious.”
“No, it isn’t often you find someone who looks so at home in a work outfit.”
“Is that supposed to be a compliment? I raised her to be the daughter of a respectable family.”
“Are hard workers not respectable?”
“I just want the Breuer family to be respectable.”
The old man smiled bitterly at that.
“She’s quite something. She did almost all of the external wiring and exterior on her own. She went two nights without sleep to do it.”
“She did that much?”
The old man scratched his head and nodded.
“Well, she messed some of it up, but I fixed it for her.”
“Sorry for the trouble.”
“Don’t be. Getting this ship to fly is an important job.”
He looked up into Gaston’s eyes from below.
“Do you think it’s important, too?”
Gaston hesitated but responded clearly.
“I do.” He lowered his gaze a little. “This ship might end up filling the world with trouble. It could even start a war and that could destroy the world.”
He took a breath and looked back up at the ship in front of him.
“If the world would be destroyed by something like that, is there any point in letting it continue to exist? I feel like whatever place survives this will be a suitable place for Else and the people who can keep up with them.”
That really sounds like something a weapons maker would say, he thought.
“This may be a harsh thing to say…but the age we live in is definitely going to change.”
“Ha ha ha. That isn’t something that just changes. We have to change it ourselves.”
“Oh? Well said.”
“I got that one from your daughter.”
“Else said that?”
“A nice saying, isn’t it?”
“She was just trying to sound mature.”
He just about smiled as he said that, but he restrained himself.
“She’s an interesting girl,” said the old man. “She cut her hair because of that incident, right?”
“Yes, she blew up the fireworks during the school festival last year.”
“I hear that was a sight to see.”
“Never before in the history of the University of Berlin has a student blown up the statue of the university president. I had to go apologize.”
“Sounds a lot like you used to be,” commented Steinmetz. “The way both corners of her mouth rise when she smiles looks exactly like your smile. When I saw her smile like that earlier, it reminded me of something.”
“What was that?”
“Back in the day, you used to look that happy when you smiled too.”
That line shocked Gaston.
He had wanted Else to smile.
“Back in the day?”
His voice may have been trembling as he asked that question.
“It was fifteen years ago. Didn’t you have a habit of visiting this factory to watch the planes fly? And you brought your young daughter with you.”
It all came back to him.
…He might be…right.
Else had smiled so innocently back then and he may have as well.
“How about it? Can you look up into sky again? No, can you look up to a place even higher than the sky?”
“Personally, I’m having a blast doing this.”
…Having a blast, huh?
“You’re right,” he said. “Maybe I should do what I can.”
At 10:07 AM, the Bladlikburg was silent, but it was not peaceful. It was simply unable to move after losing track of the dp-XXX the night before last.
The bridge was filled with the sounds of normal work and communications conversations, but no actions stood out.
Surrounded by that unnerving stillness, Oscar frowned in front of the phone on the wall.
“Are you saying not even the truth serum was any use?”
It took a several seconds to receive an answer and he sighed as he listened to it.
“Do not let it get to you. They are scholars who are used to long nights. Their level of focus is on a different level from ours. Show them our true strength that does not rely on such things.”
The person on the other end must have expressed their understanding because he asked a businesslike question.
“You understand, don’t you?”
He took a breath.
“Do not force yourself too much.”
After a quick word of confirmation, he set down the receiver.
“What is it?” asked someone behind him.
He turned toward it and found Mayer holding a pile of documents.
“Did those two do something again?”
He sounded a little amused as he asked.
“They are a troublesome bunch,” replied Oscar.
“They probably see you as the troublesome one.”
“Do not be ridiculous.”
“Yes, sir. I should not have said that.”
“…But I have no choice but to do this.”
Mayer did not seem to have heard the other man’s muttered words, but Oscar did not mind.
“More importantly, how are you doing?”
“Oh. Yes, sir. I have now tested the Flammen Ritter’s weapons under all circumstances: low altitude, normal altitude, high altitude, extremely high altitude, with and without an angle of elevation, in the early morning moon, and in the wind resistance of movement. I have the report on the results here.”
“It wasn’t all that much. The results are as follows: the error in field emitter targeting during sudden turns is only 0.2 degrees and the prototype Panzer Emblem activated properly. It is much more stable than the previous fighter craft.”
“Can you defeat the dp-XXX?”
The young officer thought for a moment with the report in hand.
“As the dp-XXX is now…”
He hesitated, looked up, and spoke.
“I most likely can.”
“As it is now?”
“Yes, sir. In other words, I can defeat the dp-XXX as it was when we captured it.”
“What do you mean by that?”
“Based on the battle records, its current form is only made for long-range combat. Its greatest advantage in long-range combat is its warship-level firepower and its mobility that exceeds that of a fighter craft.”
“But I believe the Flammen Ritter’s acceleration is equal to or even greater than the dp-XXX’s. If I attack that ship that has no close-range ability…”
“You can use that acceleration to fly right up to it?”
“Correct. It takes a short time for its Kunst to activate, so it cannot use it for a one-on-one battle. And I can use my Schwert to cut through the Kugel it fires. All I have to do is charge right in.”
“That is easier said than done.”
“Yes, but that is the only way to win. I would not have stood a chance against its close-range combat form from before it evolved, but there is an opening now.”
“What do you think?”
Oscar looked into Mayer’s eyes as the young man asked.
There was strength in those eyes that had not been present before.
And so he nodded.
“I will leave this to you.”
There was a somewhat cheerful tone to his voice.
It was 12:51 PM.
The factory’s office was surprisingly large. Six simple but large desks were lined up to form a rectangle and two old but large stoves were installed by the wall. The factory was cold during the winter.
Else brushed a hand through her hair in front of the mirror near the office entrance.
She had just gone to the trouble of washing her hair with the water heater in the break room and she was wiping the sweat from her body with a towel.
She had needed to do that before changing in the office.
Her work uniform was folded on top of one of the break room chairs. The lack of curtains on the window had bothered her when she had removed it, but the stoves had fogged up the window.
“And I doubt anyone’s stupid enough to peep.”
She sounded almost disappointed as she put on the stockings balled up in her hand and looked to the desk behind her. She had brought a change of clothes along with the submachine gun and other daily necessities.
She unfolded the clothes and put on a blouse with puffy shoulders. Her damp hair caught on the hard collar.
“Maybe I should get it cut again,” she muttered while looking back in the mirror. “Why isn’t there a mirror big enough to see my entire body?”
…Well, I guess there wouldn’t be one in a factory.
With that thought, she reached for the rest of the clothes on the table.
They were all a sandy yellow color because that was the color worn by an explorer she had seen in an old magazine.
She grabbed the skirt first. The waist was long. It used two belts to keep it tight around the area from just below her chest to the bottom of her abdomen.
She spread it out and suddenly remembered something.
She recalled what Gaston often said to her when complaining.
“ ‘You childish girl.’ ”
…That may be true.
She was about to board a ship and pick a fight with the military. Having a skirt fluttering around as she did so would be careless. There were better and more functional outfits to wear into battle that would let her move more easily.
“I am a woman. Why should I dress like I’m not?”
That was right.
She had not chosen this outfit because she was not taking this seriously or because she was joking around.
She had chosen it and brought it with her because it was the outfit she thought fit her the best.
There was nothing to worry about and no reason to be nervous.
Soon, she had to soar up into the sky and fight.
The night before last, she had made a promise to the young man who had said he wanted to fight even as he hesitated.
“We’ll be waiting for you up in the sky.”
He had responded just before leaving.
“I will definitely make it to where you all are.”
She was certain they could both keep their promises.
“This will settle it.”
She nodded and put on the skirt.
She put the two belts around her waist and stepped back. The mirror only showed her upper body, but she brought her waist into view by moving away and stretching upwards. She then tightened the belts.
After retightening them two or three times, she took a breath.
She slowly reached for the pocket of the shirt sitting on the table.
“Can I do it right?”
She tilted her head as she picked up the object in the pocket.
It was pale lipstick.
At 2:37 PM, a single soldier entered the interrogation room.
Paul, Walter, and the interrogator who had already gotten to know them were inside, so there were now four people in the small room.
The soldier looked at the other three and spoke.
“What are you three doing?”
The two prisoners were collapsed on the table sleeping and the interrogator was glaring at them with his arms crossed.
The interrogator turned to the soldier.
“These two are crazy.”
“I can see that. No one normal could sleep in a situation like this.”
“Not that! How can they sleep after we injected them with truth serum? Who was it that said scholars are the most intellectual of people!? Their focus or willpower or whatever you want to call it is on the level of a giant beast!”
“Is that so?” The soldier did not seem to entirely understand, so he gave an arbitrary nod. “Then you should have used the kind of truth serum used for elephants.”
“There’s no point. Do you know what they said before going to sleep? They said you can fight truth serum by focusing your mind and strengthening your will. That’s when they started focusing on sleeping.”
After another arbitrary nod, the soldier circled behind the sleeping men.
“It doesn’t really matter, but I was ordered to send them into separate cells.”
“Yes. It seems someone will be coming to rescue them, so the commander said we need to keep them separated.”
“I see. Then…”
“Don’t worry. The commander does not think you did anything wrong here.”
“It’s fine. And you’re tired, aren’t you? You can’t interrogate them looking like that.”
“I’m not… I am not tired.”
“Saying that’s proof enough that you are. But can you help me carry them to their cells?”
The interrogator stood and gently shook his weary head.
“I’ll take the young one.”
He moved behind Walter.
“Are you sure you can manage?”
“This isn’t much.”
“But you seemed to be having a lot trouble with them.”
“They are insane. I have no idea what they’re thinking.”
“They have no problem doing things hardened criminals wouldn’t do.”
“Now you’re just trying to scare me.”
“I’m serious. Honestly….”
With that, he shook Walter’s shoulder.
“Hey, wake up.”
The young man’s eyebrows moved a bit.
The interrogator grabbed his shoulders and pulled him up.
“Are you awake yet?”
The young scholar opened his narrowed eyes a little.
“I’ve been staying up all night recently, so just five more minutes.”
He closed his eyes and about collapsed back onto the desk.
“Don’t go back to sleep!”
The interrogator frantically stuck his hands beneath Walter’s arms to support him. As he did, one hand happened to slip inside the front of the young scholar’s lab coat.
As soon as it did, Walter’s expression changed. His previously blank look grew distinct.
The interrogator’s hand had touched the photograph in his coat’s inner pocket.
“Don’t touch that!”
His elbow shot up on reflex and smashed into the other man’s jaw.
With a dull sound, the interrogator moved back from Walter and collapsed without even a chance to scream. He was clearly not getting up any time soon. He probably had no idea what had happened to him and his eyes closed from both the blow and his accumulated exhaustion.
Walter stood, looked down at the man, and sighed.
All of a sudden, he heard a gunshot.
Walter’s body lifted slightly into the air.
He had been shot.
This was similar to the events on the bridge. Back then, Oscar had placed a hand on his side arm, but things played out differently here. Oscar had realized Walter’s action was a misunderstanding, but this soldier had not.
Walter slowly fell to his knees.
And someone stood next to him.
“You son of a bitch!”
The soldier who had reflexively responded to the attack on his fellow soldier swore at Walter.
The handgun he held was trembling ever so slightly.
At the same time, a single ship rose from the forest southwest of Berlin.
The people seeing it off said nothing and simply waved at the ship that might never return.
No one could say how this incident would end or who was in the right.
|Back to Chapter 5||Return to Main Page||Forward to Chapter 7|