City Series:Volume1 Chapter 7
Chapter 7: The Legend Rises
At 2:51 PM, Oscar watched the sky from the Bladlikburg’s bridge.
Mayer stood behind him to provide a report on the incident.
However, Oscar did not turn around. He continued facing forward as he responded.
“I never thought this would happen.”
He heard Mayer move behind him.
“It was a mistake to remain armed at all times.”
He nodded at his aide’s comment and asked a question.
“How is he?”
“First aid is complete and he is being taken to the infirmary.”
“How is his injury?”
That was what he wanted to know.
“Oh,” said Mayer before answering. “My apologies. The bullet penetrated his right forearm. The state of the bone is unknown, but I would guess it is broken. The shot was at close range and he has not trained his body.”
“It seems his life is not in danger, so you can rest easy on that count.”
“Rest easy, hm?”
He smiled bitterly.
“I suppose so.”
Ever since hearing the report, he had been worried about his enemy’s well-being.
…Why is that?
They both had something they had to do, even if those two things were polar opposites.
He had to determine once and for all which one of them was right.
Normally, it would be Oscar since he was thinking of his nation and its people.
But what if one looked at it from the viewpoint of personal dreams?
What if acting on those dreams could change the world, change what was normal, and even change people?
…Which one of us is right?
He suddenly realized something.
…I am hoping that the dp-XXX comes here.
He had planned to hide that ship until the time came and he still hoped to do so if possible.
But the coming confrontation would determine the future course of the world.
He wanted to say “win”, but he swallowed the word.
He did not know why.
It was possible he too hoped that the dp-XXX would make it to space.
However, he could not allow that. As a father and as a soldier, he had a family to protect and men under his command. He had to eliminate anything that would harm them.
He bit his lip.
At that moment, he heard a roar.
Countless sounds much like bursting gunpowder reached his ears.
They came from outside, so he slightly lowered his gaze as he looked out the window.
The Bladlikburg Zwei floating in front of him was being struck by a series of Kugel. The Kugel had come from far below and more were coming.
The enemy had suddenly attacked with their full strength.
The repeating sounds of impact reverberated in his gut.
“Enemy ship detected! A single unidentified ship is attacking!”
The navigator’s voice filled the bridge just as the Zwei’s giant form burst into flames.
…Here it is!
There was no need to confirm who this was, so he gave a shout.
“It is the dp-XXX! All hands, prepare for battle! Scramble all fighters with the highest danger level equipment! This is all-out war!”
It was 2:54 PM.
The Bladlikburg’s infirmary was a tidy white room. Other than the beds by the window, it only had shelves of medical equipment and a treatment table.
In that room, Walter and Paul faced the medical officer.
The medical officer gave a quick nod while examining Walter’s arm as the young man lay on the table.
“The bullet passed through quite cleanly. You were lucky. As long as you don’t move it, it should stop bleeding soon.”
“Isn’t that great, Walter?”
“What about the bone?” asked Walter.
“It was hit quite nicely. It’s broken and it should take two months for a full recovery.”
“Now that’s a problem. I won’t be able to do anything scholarly.”
“How is that any different from normal?”
“Um, you there? Please don’t provoke the patient.”
“Don’t worry. My big heart is immune to damage.”
“Doesn’t that just mean you’re callous?”
“How rude. The only real callouses on my body are on my feet.”
“That’s not what I meant!” shouted Paul.
Suddenly, they heard a rumbling from outside.
It was the low yet sharp sound of destruction.
Walter looked around pointlessly.
At the same time, the battle preparation alarm filled the Bladlikburg.
The earsplitting noise filled the infirmary and a panicked voice made a ship-wide broadcast.
“Enemy ship approaching! Enemy ship approaching! We are now engaged in combat! Prepare the Soldat unit for launch and all gunners to your stations!”
Another rumbling reached them.
And this time it continued again and again.
The noise shook the walls and their bodies.
This was the sound of bullets hitting the metal armor.
The medical officer stood up and the Bladlikburg Eins lurched from another hit.
Walter looked to Paul and Paul reflexively jumped onto the bed and pressed against the stationary window.
“How is it, professor!?”
“Wait! What do you two think you’re-…”
“Shut up, doc!” shouted Paul.
His voice was loud enough to drown out the rumbling outside and the alarm filling the ship. And his voice contained a hint of joy.
“Dammit… Is the little lady here? I can’t see!”
The Eins shook again and medicine bottles on the shelves loudly clinked together.
Paul pressed his face against the window in his attempt to peer out.
“Well, professor? Is it the Kaiserburg?”
“I still can’t see very well.”
“C’mon, find it already.”
“Oh, shut u-…ahhh!!”
Walter received a definitive answer to his question.
“There it is!”
Paul’s voice was filled with delight.
Walter held his injured arm, stood up, and stared intently at the wall he could not see through.
Based on Paul’s posture, the Kaiserburg had to be flying alongside the Eins.
Walter began to approach the window to check on it, but then Paul said something odd.
“Hm? The Kaiserburg’s turning its nose this-… Whoa!”
He frantically moved away from the window.
A moment later, the window and the entire wall vanished.
With a great roar, a Kugel fired by the Kaiserburg tore the wall away.
Light burst and noise exploded.
The difference in air pressure blew everything outside. Pillars and panels made of iron and steel were torn away and tossed into the empty sky. The noise was enough to hurt their ears.
The beds were spat outside like paper and the white sheets spread out in the sky before being blown away. The paper and books on the desk danced across the floor and into the sky.
The room’s warm air came in contact with the cold wind of the high altitude and produced an icy mist.
A violent gust of wind danced through the room that was now directly connected to the sky.
In an instant, the infirmary was reduced to ruins.
The window-side wall and the beds were gone, so it was nothing but a treatment table and the edge of a cliff.
The medical officer shouted over the harsh wind.
“Wh-what the hell was that!?”
“A Kugel obviously.”
The Kaiserburg probably had no idea Walter and Paul were in here. It had simply opened a horizontal hole for them to escape through.
Paul had jumped from the bed to the treatment table at the last second and he sighed.
“That little girl is crazy.”
Even as he spoke, the floor below the table crumbled.
With a sound like rocks hitting each other, the floor scattered fragments and broke apart. The table tilted and then fell.
Still looking like he did not know what was happening or what was going to happen, Paul sat on the table and fell. Only his shrill scream remained.
Their parting only took an instant.
Some white sheets remained in the air and fluttered lightly as if saying goodbye, but they were quickly carried away by the wind.
Walter stood speechless on the cliff’s edge.
The medical officer stood behind him.
After a short silence, the medical officer gave a shout. He had likely been unable to bear the silence.
“It’s the sky. You’ve seen it before, haven’t you?”
“That’s not what I was asking!”
“Hm. From an objective point of view, the ship was hit, the wall was destroyed, and someone fell out. But the person who fell is a bit of a unique kind of person, so I doubt that’s enough to kill him. Don’t worry about it.”
Even as he answered the medical officer’s shouted question, Walter looked down at his injured arm.
The forearm was bent a bit about halfway down. It was broken and a fingertip-sized hole continued to the other side. The bleeding must have resumed because a blood stain appeared on his lab coat.
It had to hurt quite a bit, but the young man did not even frown.
He peered down from the edge of the cliff.
“I can’t even see the professor anymore.”
“Wh-what are you muttering about!? We need to get out of here! It’s dangerous!”
Walter nodded at the medical officer’s words.
“I see. I have to agree with you there.”
He sighed as he stood on the very, very edge.
“C’mon, professor. Rushing ahead is only going to hurt you.”
“What are you talking about!? This is an enemy attack! Hurry up and evacuate inside!”
Walter turned toward the desperate voice with a small smile.
“You’re right. I should leave here and go somewhere safer.”
With that, he jumped out into the windy sky.
At 3:08 PM, the Bladlikburg Eins’s bridge was in a state of complete disarray.
“Levels 1, 2, and 4 were completely destroyed on the starboard side! Level 3 was damaged on the rear starboard side! Levels 5 and 6 were partially damaged on the mid starboard side! Our fighters can no longer connect to the starboard side!!”
“The Eins’s Eisen Soldat #1-4 will be unable land for the aforementioned reason. Have them land at Berlin Airport or Tempelhof Airport instead. Send out course instructions to ensure they do not collide with passenger planes.”
“We are scattering fragments of the armor. All fighters in flight should avoid travelling below or behind the Eins.”
“Our center of gravity is shifting to port! Everyone who is free, move starboard! Starboard!”
“Lock down the starboard water storage tanks and ensure all water that will flow from the outer hull will do so. Focus on the ship’s center of gravity.”
Amid the busy exchange of words and documents, Oscar sat in his command chair by the window and felt nearly worked to death by his instructions to the different ships.
He suddenly looked out the window.
Quite a bit of water and oil had spilled from above and stained the window. The water froze white on the glass and crystallized.
…They really got us here.
The components of the outer hull rained down from them.
He was suddenly worried about the city of Berlin below. Even a single screw would become a deadly weapon when falling from this height.
He looked down. The bridge’s window continued down to the floor, so his raised command seat gave him an excellent view of the area below them.
He saw the clouds, but Berlin was visible through the gaps.
After that thought, he looked back up.
He could see the blue sky through the slightly dirtied window.
Something even bluer fell outside the window.
He recognized the shape and color from somewhere. It was a round shape with some flesh-color stuck to it.
It was a person.
And given the color of the clothing…
He reflexively stood from his chair.
Suddenly, something else fell and he saw it clearly this time.
The man wore a lab coat.
The young man fell straight down and their gazes almost seemed to audibly meet through the glass.
If anything could be called a coincidence, this was it. Neither of them had meant for it to happen, so it was a truly unexpected instant.
The strength in the young man’s eyes filled Oscar’s head with pain.
He ran from his chair, down the stairs, and to the window. He did not even hear the surrounding commotion. All he heard was the distant rumbling.
And that rumbling was approaching from above.
He knew what was coming after those two had fallen.
That was exactly what descended before his eyes.
Its shadow raced through the bridge for just an instant. The collection of metal organs appeared outside the window and shot downwards.
It was fast.
In a heartbeat, the glass shook so hard it threatened to break. This was a shockwave. The air beyond the window had been torn apart by the passing battleship and thin clouds formed as it cooled.
The commotion inside the bridge was drowned out by the roar.
Oscar felt the sound in his head, gut, and limbs, but he could not tear his eyes away from the window.
The metal ship dropped toward the hazy city of Berlin. The ship remained horizontal, so it was a somewhat odd descent. A lab coat and blue work outfit were visible beyond it.
The three falling objects grew smaller and smaller.
However, the battleship was catching up.
Oscar silently stared down at them.
The sword-like ship reached the lab coat.
A moment later, it reached the blue work outfit.
The dp-XXX then fluttered like a leaf. It stopped falling and slipped forward.
It looked small at such a distance, but it glowed a brilliant gold as it reflected the sunlight.
“So they did it.”
Those words that not even he understood brought Oscar back to his senses. The commotion around him once more reached him.
He suddenly realized he was clenching both fists so tightly it hurt.
“The battle begins here!”
At 3:12 PM, the Kaiserburg glided approximately four hundred meters above Berlin.
The cockpit door was open.
“Welcome back,” said Else as she stood from the pilot’s seat.
When she turned around, she just about cried out.
Paul was supporting Walter who was covered in blood.
“A-are you okay?”
“Let’s just say I’m almost okay.”
He spoke in a jocular tone, but he did not actually say he was okay. It must have been a serious injury.
“What happened? Was it my bombardment?”
“Don’t worry. His wound just reopened from the difference in air pressure and the pressure of the wind as he fell. It wasn’t your fault.”
“Either way, this was our only choice. …More importantly, Else, thanks.”
“I didn’t do all that much… And this isn’t the time! We need to treat your wound!”
“This is the battlefield,” said the young man as he wiped splattered blood from his cheek.
She sighed, approached him, and checked his right arm.
It was still bleeding, but it looked like it would stop before long. She was more worried by how limply the arm was hanging at his side.
“Walter, don’t tell me…”
“Yeah, it’s broken. The bullet got me pretty good.”
Else had a thought while looking up at him.
…Does he not feel any pain?
She mentally shook her head to reject that thought.
It had to hurt. He was just not letting anyone else know about it.
She had a hunch. Someone pursuing his dream could not show any weakness. Even if he wanted help, he would not let anyone reach out to him.
With that in mind, she said one thing.
“I’ll tie off the wound real quick.”
He looked troubled by that.
“But the enemy fighters should be approaching already.”
She slapped the face that said that.
It made a surprisingly satisfying sound.
Paul gave a joking whistle while supporting Walter.
She looked straight up at Walter.
“This ship is filled with delicate machinery, so I don’t want to get blood all over it.”
She gave a blatant lie and reached for the right sleeve of his lab coat and work outfit.
Once she touched them, she realized the inside of the work outfit’s sleeve had become a wet rag.
Ignoring how much she was dirtying her hand, she started by rolling the lab coat up to his upper arm.
“Mister, get to the pilot’s seat. Enemy fighters might be coming.”
Paul sounded oddly happy about that and he patted Walter’s shoulder before moving to the pilot’s seat. Walter smiled bitterly at the touch on the shoulder.
Else thought for just a moment and rolled up the work outfit sleeve as well. His arm was exposed and she could see the red oil-like blood covering it.
She saw the wound, rolled the sleeve up further, and stopped at the elbow.
“Is that too tight?”
“You’re trying to stop the blood, so it’s perfect.”
She pulled out a handkerchief and wiped the blood from his arm.
“I wish I had a splint. …Should I make a sling?”
“I can rest the arm on the armrest, so don’t bother.”
It still had to hurt quite a bit and Else carefully tied the handkerchief around the wound.
“That should do it.”
She stepped away from him and finally looked at his face.
He scratched his head with his other hand.
“I’d only ever been slapped by a woman once and I was kind of proud of that fact.”
“Who was the first? If you say your mother, you’re about to get a third.”
He thought for a moment before answering.
“Try not to make it hurt too much, okay?”
She slapped his opposite cheek before he had even finished speaking. This one sounded nice too.
“Enough nonsense. Just get to your post. Honestly.”
She looked at his face and saw blood on the handprint from her slap.
She realized her hand was covered in blood. It was drying and her fingerprints stood out.
“Do you have anything to wipe the blood up with?”
“I always wipe my hands on the bottom of my lab coat.”
“Please don’t say that so seriously.”
She had no choice but to grab the bag she had left in Walter’s seat. She pulled a towel out and belatedly realized she could have used it on Walter’s arm.
“Stick your face this way.”
“…Are you going to slap me again?”
“What has you so scared? Now stick your face over here or I really will.”
He crouched down and leaned forward as she had asked.
She spoke as if to a pet and wiped the blood from his cheek.
“There. That should do it.”
“Am I back to my handsome self?”
“…I’m never asking you anything again.”
He frowned, passed by her, and sat in the gunner seat.
He used his left hand to place his right arm on the armrest, opened his right hand, and grabbed the sphere for the field emitter.
Then he turned back toward her.
“This seat is shaped a little different from before.”
“I increased its range of transformation so I could sit in it. I also modified the voice recognition system a bit.”
She pulled the communicator from her pocket and handed it to him.
He extended his left hand and took it.
“How much can we use it now?”
“It should be a bit smarter than before.”
He faced forward and gave a single command.
The Kaiserburg did not respond.
“This thing isn’t smarter at all, Else.”
“Are you sure it doesn’t try to match the intelligence of its user?”
“Hm, you may be right. So when I use it, it’ll only accept a complicated, intellectual, and highly refined command.”
“Are you sure you didn’t take a bullet to the head too?”
“How rude. I’ve always been like this.”
“Hey, you two. This is no time for saying stupid things.”
“I was not saying stupid things.”
“Neither was I.”
“Shut up!” shouted Paul as he slammed a fist down on his armrest. “Try to be a little quieter. The enemy’s here and they’re trying to charge in at us all at once.”
Sure enough, several contrails raced across the sky toward them. Else frantically sat in the seat with the navigation equipment.
The enemy fighters appeared as dots of light on the radar.
“Wow… There’s a whole army of them!”
“Don’t say there’s an army! Give us some numbers! Can you not count above three!?”
“That’s right, Else. Instead of calling this an army, call it a spectacular catch.”
“Shut up, both of you. None of them stand a chance, so what does it matter? We only have to worry about that black one, right?”
Was that fighter coming? Was Mayer coming?
…If he is, we can have our battle.
With that thought, she fastened her seatbelt.
The battle was truly beginning.
At 3:21 PM, the number of destroyed fighters had reached the double digits and Oscar gave new orders.
“Once the Eins’s center of gravity has recovered, send out the Flammen Ritter. Until then, have all fighters cruise above Berlin, pursue the Kaiserburg, and keep the pressure on it. But do not actually attack. Once the Flammen Ritter has launched, all fighters are to return to their ships.”
At 3:23 PM, the Flammen Ritter was still attached to the eighth connector on the Eins’s port side.
Mayer stared into the sky from the cockpit.
“Can’t they hurry up?”
The sun would set before long and the moon’s effects would come into play. If he did not settle this before the moon came out, the Kaiserburg would almost certainly fly into space.
“I can’t believe this.”
When the Eisen Soldat had been launched, he had still been on the bridge with Oscar, so the damage to the Eins had delayed him.
…I was careless.
The commotion below seemed to have settled for the time being.
Oscar had decided only this fighter could fight on even footing.
It would come down to a one-on-one fight.
…He has high expectations of me.
That made him happy and he smiled bitterly when he realized how childish that was.
He was enjoying this entire situation. That meant he had hoped for something like this. At the very least, he had not been forced into it and he had not been reluctantly dragged into it.
He had wanted it himself.
…There’s something I need to do.
He closed his eyes.
He had no goal. He could not truly say how much he could do. However, he was glad he could not say that.
If he won here, he would aim even higher. If he lost, he would overcome that regret and still aim higher. He was prepared to keep doing that until the day he died.
…How far can I go?
He opened his eyes and saw the blue sky beyond the canopy.
He suddenly reached out a hand and grabbed at the empty space with his glove-covered fingers.
…I want to advance farther than anyone someday.
As soon as he thought that, he received a transmission from the Bladlikburg.
“Second Lieutenant Mayer, the Eins will have finished its preparations in about a minute.”
“Understood. I’m ready when you are.”
“Commander Oscar has a message. Do you want to hear it?”
The other man hesitated for just a moment, cleared his throat, and continued.
“Believe in yourself.”
“That is all. Please wait just a little longer.”
Mayer was so busy thinking about his commander that he completely forgot to respond.
…He saw right through me.
At 3:35 PM, Else saw a single unique dot appear on the radar. It approached much faster than the previous ones.
Something resembling joy overpowered any fear of the unknown.
“Here it is! That black fighter craft is approaching from the east-northeast on our right!”
“Else, could you call it something other than ‘that black fighter craft’? That’s a pretty long name.”
“That’s right. And mention the direction first.”
“Shut up. Try to imagine what it’s like from my perspective.”
“And you try to imagine what it’s like from ours.”
“Hey, you two,” cut in Walter. “I see it. That’s it, isn’t it?”
Else looked up and did indeed see a single contrail approaching from the right at tremendous speed.
The enemy fighter showed up on the radar and the other dots began to move.
“Huh? The small fries are running away.”
“The sun’s about to set, so they must want to avoid losing control. Also…”
“Those Soldat can’t keep up with this battle.”
Walter’s voice was filled with blatant joy and Paul sighed next to him.
“We’ve got no choice. Let’s fly down into the city. We still don’t know how that weapon works.”
“If you mean the Lanze, I have it.”
She had kept the bullet in her pocket in case it could be some help. It was something like a good luck charm.
Walter glanced her way.
“Let me see it later.”
Even as she spoke, her vision grew lower and building roofs grew up from below.
The Kaiserburg had dived to fly through Berlin at extreme low altitude.
The scenery rushed backwards at blinding speed.
“W-wait! We’re gonna hit that! Wah!”
A large white and rectangular building grew in front of her. She recognized it from somewhere, but she did not have time to dig through her memories.
The white wall filled her vision.
An instant later, the Kaiserburg turned left at a right angle. It appeared to slide sideways as it flew just above the cars on the road.
It was fast.
…We avoided it?
They had to have been moving three or four hundred kilometers an hour, so that had taken incredible piloting skill.
Lines of apartments, stores, and other buildings flew by from left to right too quickly to see anything but their color. There was no time to watch them pass.
“Don’t worry. We avoided the Zeughaus back there. Right, professor?”
“Sorry, but I’m gonna hit this one.”
Immediately afterwards, an impact reached them from the left and the view out the window briefly grew white. Something like dust filled the air outside. It was smoke. They had crashed into some kind of building.
Else’s seatbelt dug painfully into her shoulder and she squeezed the armrests with all her might. A dull vibration ran from her butt and up her back. It refused to go away, so it had to have been a large building.
Instead of a rumbling, the ship was surrounded by repeating sounds of splitting stone. What were obviously pieces of stone pillars flew by and almost struck the window.
“Wah, wah, wah, wah! You’ve gone too far now!”
“It’s not my fault – whoa, that was close! This was an accident!”
“Hmm. This is a lot of fun.”
After one final tremor, they broke through a giant wall.
The Kaiserburg continued moving and pierced straight through the entire structure.
The view outside the window quickly cleared and the city streets were visible once more. Their speed had only dropped a little and the people in the building probably had no idea what had hit it.
“Don’t get carried away!”
Else looked at the electric display showing the ship’s damage. Its overall surface temperature had risen because the external paneling’s emblems had activated to neutralize the impacts.
…This thing’s sturdy.
But her admiration was immediately followed by a realization.
The building they had avoided had been the Zeughaus and they had moved left before hitting this building. That meant…
“Wait! We just hit the University of Berlin, didn’t we!?”
“Yeah, it really pains me to damage my alma mater.”
“You didn’t just damage it! You downright destroyed it! And I’m still enrolled there!”
“Shut up. It’s a national school, so it was built with my taxes. I can destroy it a bit if I want.”
“What do you mean your taxes!? You just destroyed a hundred times more than you paid!”
“Yeah, he’s got a long way to go. I would’ve destroyed 1500 times what I paid.”
“You be quiet!”
She looked down and found the dot for the fighter was almost right in front of them, but all the city apartments around kept them from seeing it out their window.
“What can we do in this city!?”
“The city actually works in our favor.”
“That’s right. From what we’ve seen, that fighter is meant for close-range combat or mid-range when it uses that weird lance. All these obstacles will keep it from making quick attacks and flying off.”
“In its current form, the Kaiserburg can fire four homing or guided shots at once. The obstacles don’t matter to us.
Walter turned back with a smile.
“Although I’m sure he’s thinking pretty much the same thing.”
The enemy fighter was nearly right in front of them.
It was 3:38 PM.
A minute and a half had passed since the encounter had begun and the Flammen Ritter was on its enemy’s tail. It pursued its opponent while flying through the streets with precise movements one would never expect of an aircraft.
The Kaiserburg tried to lose it by taking a southern right turn from the six-lane Unter den Linden and onto the four-lane Friedrichstraße.
The Flammen Ritter tilted vertically and fired its vertical ascension rocket against its own inertia. The fighter’s rear rockets remained on full blast the entire time. The intersection took a shallow angle, but it made the turn.
The Flammen Ritter also flew down Friedrichstraße.
A train station flashed by to the right, but it vanished behind too quickly to read the name.
Continuing straight would bring them to Möhringstraße, but a straight path was dangerous for someone on the run.
The black fighter fired two red and burning Kugel. They were straight shots.
The Kaiserburg neutralized them with guided shots of its own.
One pair exploded and the other burst into flames as their remains scattered like flowers.
The Flammen Ritter used that moment to fire a Lanze. The bluish-white spear of light tore through the explosive flames of the Kugel and flew straight for its target.
This lance was faster and more powerful than an arrow.
However, the large aerial ship avoided it. As if to say no simple projectile could defeat it, it elegantly slipped to the side, hopped up in the air, and slide-flipped over the building to its left. It was a calm action and it felt like the ship had eyes on the back.
The black fighter pulled up without bothering to watch the Lanze stab into the ground further down the road. It used every last one of its rockets to twist through the air and shift leftward.
It flew over the buildings.
The German Cathedral was visible up ahead. Beyond that were the temple-like Schauspielhaus and the French Cathedral. The Gendarmenmarkt in front of the three buildings was full of Weihnachts stands and gathered people.
The people in the square looked up at the Flammen Ritter in the sky that would soon grow red. They must have seen the ongoing dogfight because some of them were attempting to flee the square.
The Kaiserburg was not in that square.
Instead, the large warship was beyond the German Cathedral’s dome.
The Flammen Ritter almost seemed to glide as it traveled above the square.
As soon as the black fighter approached the German Cathedral’s dome, something happened. The Kaiserburg suddenly melted into the air and vanished.
This was the Phantom illusion technique.
The Flammen Ritter quickly altered its course. As if forcing itself to dance, it twisted its forward momentum and redirected itself backwards.
Having turned around, it saw its enemy.
The Kaiserburg was tilted and clinging to the wall of the building in front of the cathedral square.
The Flammen Ritter eliminated its momentum, started forward, and tried to charge at the ship, but the Kaiserburg fired four bullets of light. They surrounded the fighter before it could pick up speed and drew a Circle Emblem in the space around it.
This was the Finster Kunst.
Given the distance and the Flammen Ritter’s speed, this attack was impossible to avoid.
At 3:40 PM, Mayer built up his resolve in the Flammen Ritter’s cockpit.
At this rate, the gravity barrier would hit him and there was only one way to break through.
It would put a heavy burden on him, but he had no choice.
He resisted the urge to vomit. His previous piloting had been reckless enough, so his shoulders ached as they threatened to dislocate and his blood was gathered in his back.
But if he did not force himself even further, he could not continue on.
“I don’t mind!”
His shout did not actually leave his mouth.
His fingers simply moved across the cockpit’s field emitter controllers.
At the same time, the Circle Emblem surrounding him vanished and became a mass of gravity.
Meanwhile, the three in the vertically-oriented Kaiserburg looked up at the scene.
“Did we get him!?” shouted Paul.
He saw a legendary spell activating before his eyes. The black Finster Kunst swallowed up all light. At full power, it covered a radius of about one hundred meters.
They had aimed a bit high so it would not reach the people in the square, but the enemy fighter craft had still been completely enveloped by the vortex of destruction.
It sounded like a giant had punched the earth.
The German Cathedral’s dome was instantly blown away and torn apart.
But it only lasted an instant.
The spherical black barrier burst from within.
The shattering of gravity sounded surprisingly like shattering glass.
A spear of flames flew from within. The Flammen Lanze had almost entirely solidified and its strong directionality had broken through the wall of gravity.
The three in the Kaiserburg knew what that giant spear was.
“A Panzer Emblem!”
Paul frantically had the ship ascend, but his disbelief slowed his reaction time.
In an instant, they felt an impact much like being kicked from behind. The spear had caught the ship somewhere. As the ship ascended, its tail end rose up as if to move forward and the entire ship rotated in three dimensions.
The western sunset was visible out the window where the city had been. After a few clouds rotated into view, the city returned from above. They saw the spear of flames instantly burn away the building the Kaiserburg had been hiding behind.
“Else! Where were we hit!?”
“Um…w-w-w-w-w-wait! Hold us steady!”
“Shut up. I’m trying.”
The ship twisted around as if tossing or turning in its sleep and it began to fly upside down. The scenery outside appeared upside down to them.
Else held her skirt down and checked the electric display in front of her.
“The two upper field emitters and the rear skirt have changed color!”
“Crap. So the weapons and directional wings were damaged. What color are they?”
“They’re both yellow.”
“Keh. They’ll be back to normal in fifteen minutes.”
“Professor, is the Kaiserburg still not growing?”
“It probably needs just a little more. To be honest, that attack got us pretty good.”
“It’s too early to celebrate. We have to win this battle first.”
“Not a chance. The field emitters are one thing, but what can we do without the skirt?”
“We can’t fly straight, so we can’t use our full speed for the next fifteen minutes.”
“Can we escape?” asked Else.
Still upside-down, Walter turned toward her while smiling and holding his right arm in his left hand.
“We can’t. And so we’ll fight.”
He gave her an awfully good-natured smile before answering.
“We’ll do something unexpected.”
“Professor, move us behind some convenient cover. We’ll search for a place to turn this all around.”
After Paul’s response, the ship flipped right-side up.
The items that had fallen to the ceiling fell back to the floor and Else’s bag fell behind Walter.
At 3:43 PM, Mayer clicked his tongue inside the Flammen Ritter.
“Did I go too far?”
He could only see fire beyond the canopy.
The separate building that the German Cathedral used for storage was burning despite being made of stone. That was thanks to a strike from the Panzer Emblem.
He felt a twinge of regret, but he settled that by telling himself it was unlikely anyone had been inside the building. He then moved the control column.
The stone walls and roof began to crumble as they burned in the flames. The Flammen Ritter activated its vertical ascent rocket and almost seemed to plunge its head into sand. The effects of the ether were turning the stone ceiling to ash and the fighter craft flew into it.
Mayer breathed in, but he was still not feeling well. The pain in his chest likely came from a broken rib, so he simply had to put up with it.
He toyed with the field emitter’s firing button located on the back of the control column.
Two lights appeared in the flames outside the canopy. They were Schwert.
He swung up the swords and tore through the roof.
He stepped on the pedal below his foot and the fighter almost seemed to jump up.
The floating fighter blew away the burning stones and instantly entered the cold winter air.
It rotated so the building’s roof and Friedrichstraße were below and the Gendarmenmarkt was visible ahead. The now dome-less German Cathedral, the Schauspielhaus, and the French Cathedral were visible as well.
However, the many people who had been enjoying Weihnachts in the large square were nowhere to be seen.
They had all run away.
Mayer was briefly dumbfounded, but strength reentered his gaze and he looked around again.
He spotted the enemy. A ship reflected the reddening light of the sky. It was moving east toward the city hall past the green area along the Spree.
…Are they trying to run?
But he shook his head.
His opponents here were not the type to do that. They had a plan and they were moving to a new battlefield.
In that case, he had no choice but to pursue and continue fighting.
Mayer moved the Flammen Ritter forward.
His opponents were right in front of him.
At 3:45 PM, the clock tower of Berlin’s city hall was visible outside the Kaiserburg’s window.
For better or for worse, the red brick building stood out for a number of reasons. From their current viewpoint, the difference from the surrounding buildings was immediately obvious.
Else looked out at the red tower.
“That clock tower sure is tall.”
“Let’s use it.”
“Use it how?”
“To finish this.”
After Walter’s response, the communicator in front of Paul emitted the tone of an incoming transmission. At the same time, Mayer’s voice filled the cockpit.
“Walter, can you hear me?”
“Yes, I can.”
“I want to settle this soon. How does that sound?”
“Do you think you could wait until our ship heals its wounds?”
“I already waited once.”
Else nodded at that. This young man had indeed been waiting for this moment.
“I will now shoot down your ship,” said Mayer. “Okay?”
“Hmm. No, that doesn’t sound very okay.”
“Try to take this seriously,” cut in Else.
“I don’t mind,” replied Mayer. “I will not hold back and I think you know what will happen if you do.”
“Oh, we won’t hold back.”
Walter’s voice rang throughout the cockpit and Else saw his right hand grab the sphere on the armrest again. The only functioning field emitters were the two on the bottom of the ship, but with only two, he could control them without moving his hands between controls.
“Let me be honest,” he said to his opponent. “Mayer. Right now, I see you as an incredibly familiar enemy.”
“I defeat my enemies.”
Else gulped and faced forward.
Walter did not turn around in the copilot seat, but she saw his right hand tense up on the armrest.
She could not see his face, but she felt like she knew the look on it.
It somehow scared her. At the very least, she would have been completely speechless were she in Mayer’s position. That was how much intensity filled the young man.
What was his opponent thinking?
“I’m glad to hear you say that, Walter.”
“So glad it terrifies me.”
“So much I can’t stop trembling.”
“I wouldn’t have it any other way. I’m serious about this, after all.”
“So am I.”
Mayer and Walter’s exchange sent Else’s pulse racing.
…This is it.
The tension somehow resembled joy. Her heart pounded in her chest as she sensed some sign of what was to come.
They would compete and it would lead to some definite result.
What would that result be?
She did not know and she could not tell, but that unseen answer would settle everything.
In short, it came down to whether they could reach space, but it was not that simple an issue. Many other problems had been drawn into this battle.
She suddenly realized she had crossed her arms as if embracing her chest. Something threatened to escape from there.
The young man named Mayer was trying to fight. Paul and Walter were as well.
…What about me?
Her seat gave her no device for directly controlling a weapon. Even the communicator was under Walter’s control. She had no way to fight.
…Am I just going to watch?
She did not like the sound of that. After all, she was the same sort of person as them.
Before she realized it, a word had left her mouth.
The young man did not turn around. He did not seem to care that she had called his name.
She spoke as if begging him.
“I don’t want to be left out.”
“I know that,” he snapped back.
Her slight surprise left her speechless, so he ignored her and continued.
“Mayer, to make up for our damage, we’re going to have Else here fight alongside us. Is that okay?”
“Absolutely. I had already made a promise to that end.”
“Then our victory is pretty much guaranteed.”
With that announcement, Walter ended the transmission.
The battle was about to resume.
It would likely be settled in an instant.
At 3:47 PM, Mayer saw the Kaiserburg slide to the side.
It moved left.
He sent the Flammen Ritter in the same direction and the clock tower of Berlin’s city hall finally came into view.
The Kaiserburg moved behind it and did not come out on the other side. The dot on the radar at the front of the cockpit indicated the ship was hiding behind the clock tower.
It was luring him in.
Which side would it attack from?
It would likely fire a guided Kugel first, but they could not see him either. They would be using their radar to blindly guide it based on the distance between them.
He guessed they intended to target him once he frantically avoided the Kugel. Dodging it would mean his loss, so he had to cut it from the air.
…Can I do it?
The Flammen Ritter was less than thirty meters from the clock tower and cutting down a Kugel at that range would not be easy.
…But I have to.
He would cut down the Kugel and continue on for a close-range dogfight with the Kaiserburg. This opponent had no close-range ability, so he would win. Or at least take it down with him.
He produced Schwert on the right and left.
He regulated his breathing. It did not matter if his ribs hurt because the pain would numb his tension. The nauseous feeling from before had passed. His focus grew sharper and he entered top form for this sort of battle.
“Good,” he muttered.
At that very moment, the Kugel flew out.
But there were two: one from the right and one from the left. The left one was white and the right black, so they were an Eisen Kugel and a normal Kugel respectively. However, he did not have time or a need to check on that. They were both dangerous.
He swung up the Schwert and had a feeling it would work.
That was when something changed.
The two Kugel made sharp turns right in front of the Flammen Ritter.
Before he could finish his question, the white Kugel struck the red brick clock tower. With a quick hardening sound, the clock tower turned pure white.
The brick had been transformed into ice.
The black Kugel struck its base.
It only took a moment for the tower of ice to collapse.
It sounded like a waterfall.
The massive tower of ice scattered smoke made up of what looked like silver sand and it collapsed toward the Flammen Ritter. It was like a wall. No wall could have worked better.
But the Flammen Ritter could not move. Mayer could not move. The great noise and pressure filled him with panic and a single thought dominated his mind.
Right or left? Which direction would the Kaiserburg come from?
The enemy was trying to drive out the Flammen Ritter using the falling tower and he could not give them what they wanted.
…Which is it?
The angle of the tower’s collapse grew, but Mayer continued to think.
He had to choose one or the other. If he did not move, he would be crushed by the ice. He could destroy it with his Panzer Emblem, but he would be wide open afterwards.
…Do I have to make a gamble?
But then he realized something.
An all or nothing gamble was not a true competition. Being suicidal and being willing to risk your life were not the same thing.
He could not allow himself to think that way.
Then what do I do?
An idea came to him. This idea was almost guaranteed to take him to Walter.
He threw out all of his previous predictions. He could not use conventional thinking when fighting that ship.
He had been asking “left or right”, but the answer was obvious.
“Straight down the center!”
He shouted out and fired a Lanze. The lance of light stabbed into the center of the ice tower. He raised his fighter’s power as far as it would go and shot forward. He flew straight toward the spot the Lanze had hit.
He swung up his two Schwert. For an instant, he saw a second Kugel fly by on either side.
…I was right.
…They tried to panic me, but I was slower to respond than they expected.
…That’s why they fired again just to be sure.
The dp-XXX had not moved. He was certain of it now. They intended to shoot him head on while he avoided the ice tower and expected an attack from the left and right.
…But I didn’t fall for it!
He felt insulted and the feeling grew into a blazing anger inside him. He flew toward a white wall with a Lanze sticking into it.
He slammed his Schwert into the area weakened by the Lanze and the belly of the ice tower tore open. At the same time, he sent the Flammen Ritter flying into it.
He tore through.
Everything around him was pale blue and white.
A powerful shock ran through the fighter. The tower may have been collapsing, but it had great mass. This was much like accelerating and flying into a sand dune.
Metal across the black fighter cried out in protest, but he did not care.
He raised the fighter’s power even further and swung the Schwert. The swords of light sliced through the ice and the tips of the swords seemed to reach the other side. Trusting this was the end, he jabbed the two Schwert forward.
He felt them plunge deep into something heavy, but the tips felt light. They had reached the open air.
With a roar, he accelerated even more and the space before him opened up. He almost gasped at the expanse of open air before him.
Just as he had expected, the dp-XXX was there. It was exactly where his radar said it would be.
Even with a guided shot, the field emitter had to change direction before firing a Kugel.
The dp-XXX had only just fired Kugel to the left and right, so it had not had time to turn the field emitters forward.
This was why taking the initiative led to victory.
He charged forward with the Schwert still held straight out. He could destroy a Kugel even if one was fired.
As he drew closer, Mayer faced straight forward and knew he had won.
At the same time, he noticed something odd.
For some reason, someone stood on top of the dp-XXX.
He recognized the person. It was the young woman named Else he had met at the Breuer house. She was the one Walter had said would be fighting alongside him.
She was the one he had promised a confrontation with.
She wielded a submachine gun atop the dp-XXX.
In that spilt second, doubt filled Mayer.
A bullet fired by such a tiny machinegun could never sink the Flammen Ritter. Nevertheless, she pressed it against her shoulder and aimed his way.
…What is going on?
He then remembered what Walter had said over the radio.
“Then our victory is pretty much guaranteed.”
What had he meant?
Thoughts raced through Mayer’s head until he felt dizzy, but he made a single prediction.
“It can’t be!”
In that instant, he thought he heard a sound: a gunshot.
It was the light, fleeting, and yet lingering sound of a submachine gun firing just once.
That shot settled everything.
At 3:48 PM, Else pulled the trigger. She felt the recoil in her arm and pain in her shoulder.
She saw the bullet transform into a Lanze as it flew.
That Flammen Lanze continued straight on and into the approaching black fighter craft.
The Schwert the fighter held forward shattered when the lance reached them and that impact moved the lance slightly off target.
The shot had been mercilessly aimed at the nose, but it instead struck the right shoulder of the black fighter and split it in two.
The two pieces of the enemy fighter roared as they flew below Else’s feet and below the Kaiserburg. It had been shot down.
Else slowly lowered her submachine gun.
A single shot had ended it all.
Instead of a bullet, she had used the Lanze she had carried in her pocket as a good luck charm. A round of ammunition could be divided between the cartridge and the actual bullet, so swapping it out had been easy.
Walter had said they could win in a close-range fight, Else had suggested using the Lanze, and Paul had done the prep work.
She was the only one who could have fired it.
“I did it.”
Her legs were shaking and she did not have it in her to see what had become of the enemy fighter she had shot down. She simply collapsed into a sitting position.
As the trembling in her legs spread to the rest of her body, she returned to the Kaiserburg’s cockpit.
Once she was back, the entire ship was creaking as if groaning.
It was making the final preparations for its ascent into space.
It was 3:50 PM.
“Here it comes, professor! The transformation has begun! The field emitters and stabilizing wing have recovered and all the weapons and propulsion devices have fully expanded!”
At 3:51 PM, the Kaiserburg began its transformation into its third form. It completely remade its damaged and worn-down body. It strengthened itself so it could fight at close range, so it would have more stability, and so it would never be damaged again.
The nose extended sharply forward. The rear skirt-shaped semicircular wing stretched even wider and covered the bottom as well. It now looked like a tube. The horn-shaped angular wings on either side stretched up and hid the top of the ship.
The sword-like ship had dressed itself in a feminine form and this transformation stretched it out in a straight line. Some traces of the original form remained, but it had grown to be something else entirely.
It could fly to space like this.
Even as the Kaiserburg continued to grow here and there, it faced upwards.
The Bladlikburg floated there.
It almost seemed to hesitate for a moment, but then the Kaiserburg began to soar.
At 3:52 PM, the Bladlikburg Eins’s bridge had grown perfectly silent. Everyone’s eyes were glued to the window.
A certain man stood there: Oscar. He was staring down toward Berlin.
No one said anything. They were all waiting for his instructions as their commander.
He had two options here: continue to fight or admit defeat.
…We should fight.
He knew it was hopeless, but they still had to fight. Otherwise, the military would have no reason to exist.
The dp-XXX flew up from below. It was wrapped in ether in preparation to use its Panzer Emblem. Its new form’s Panzer Emblem could undoubtedly destroy the Bladlikburg fleet in a single strike.
…What do I do?
He thought. He could not stop the dp-XXX here. Death would visit them in an instant and the world would change.
In the end, he and the military had been unable to do anything.
…Is it hopeless?
It was too soon for the arrival of the next age. He knew that for certain, but there was no longer any way to stop this flow of events.
…What can I do?
Perhaps standing in the Kaiserburg’s path and dying would be pointless, but it would have honor. At the very least, the world would later know he tried to stop the age from changing too soon.
But he knew that would not accomplish anything in reality. The world would change regardless. What good was some consolation after the fact?
…What am I supposed to do?
He slowly, slowly raised a hand. That was the sign he was about to give an order.
His eyes were turned toward the dp-XXX. The ether surrounding the ship was taking form. It was a giant god. The giant god had wings, glowed white, and wielded a great hammer.
That strike would crush them.
Oscar felt the rumbling in his gut, but it did not reach his head.
He watched that god created by human hands. He stared at this opponent who he could never understand.
…The new era probably arrived from the moment that ship was made.
That thought briefly flashed through his mind.
…Then were all our efforts here meaningless?
That thought startled him.
If that were true, what had they been doing? What had been accomplished by all the fighting, the lives lost, and the people left behind?
Why did the military exist?
Fighting to the end and dying may have been honorable, but wouldn’t dying here mean not approving of any part of this new age?
That would mean having their position rejected in the future.
With that thought, he suddenly felt at ease.
“I see,” he muttered.
He gathered strength in his raised hand and gave his order.
It was 3:53 PM.
The Flammen Ritter lay in two pieces in the middle of the Gertraudenstraße in front of the tower-less city hall. Even as the blocked traffic piled up, Mayer made no attempt to move from the cockpit.
He simply looked up into the sky. The red of sunset was growing purple and vanishing. A deep blue darkness colored the sky as the stars and moon came out.
It looked like a scene from mythology.
Four Bladlikburgs took position in the four cardinal directions to create a path down the center and a god passed through that ring.
The god flew up into the blue sky and suddenly vanished.
For a while, a single trail of smoke could be seen rising into the heavens. A white blade thrust upwards as if slicing the nearly dark sky in two.
…It’s as beautiful as a miracle.
“Well, it is Weihnachts. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised to see a miracle.”
Oscar had to be looking up into the same sky from the Bladlikburg Eins.
“You made way for them, didn’t you, commander?”
Walter’s group had maintained a confrontational attitude to the end, but Oscar had shown his understanding of them. He had shown compromise.
It was all over, it was all going to change, and it would all begin anew.
But before then, Mayer wanted to sleep. He was exhausted.
“Next time, I’ll be even more…”
He trailed off and closed his eyes.
As he did, he heard a voice from his communicator.
“Um, we are up above Berlin and transmitting on all frequencies. We are currently ascending toward space. Everyone in Germany and the neighboring countries, turn in the direction you think Berlin is in and look up in the sky. You should see a cloud rising through that sky. What you’re seeing is…”
Mayer was no longer listening. He had fallen into a peaceful sleep.
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