City Series:Volume5b Chapter14
Chapter 14: Mirror
06/07/1944 – 06/22/1944
Are there any clothes
Like the ones
Lady Beretta is wearing?
June 7, 1944
Heinz Berge’s Journal
Yesterday, Rot Löwe was damaged by an impact. I confirmed it was still functional and escaped the ocean without canceling the Schreiben. After destroying three Mittel Panzers that had reached land, the cooling system malfunctioned and I had to withdraw.
Yesterday at 16:32, I joined my platoon at Hill Region B-53. There I learned of HQ’s orders for the entire army to withdraw from Normandy.
Today at 13:30, I completed the simple repairs of Rot Löwe and I have resumed movement.
At 20:00, I joined three withdrawing infantry platoons at a point three miles south of Falaise. We took a break there. They were from the 40th Infantry Division. They did not know what became of the 352nd Infantry Division.
At 21:45, I resumed checking my memories at camp. I recalled what I could of when the Attesor Project existed. I still do not know what I saw at Bourgogne back then or why I joined the Panzer Ritter Project, but I can now recall fragmentary images of that time using the memories released during yesterday’s battle.
I can see a mountainous region full of cedar trees and I can remember a mountain pass with rock walls on either side.
The words Bourgogne and Morvan Mountains come to mind along with those things.
That is the name of the area written of in that Ober Geheimnis Compilation. Since I can remember the scenery to go along with those names, I must have visited there.
I am currently working toward being the strongest and I can guess that it was something that occurred in Bourgogne that led me to do that. I can guess I gained something there, I went to my family’s funeral in Berlin, and I joined the Panzer Ritter Project to become the strongest.
My memories are returning and I can tell I am searching out the Attesor Project to confirm I am the strongest, but none of this inspires any emotion within me. I will now go to sleep.
June 21, 1944
A lot happened today unexpectedly. I was playing with the Fantasmé Renard children in the yard during the morning when Lady Beretta arrived. She started by opening a bag in front of me. She pulled out a document with lots of As and Bs on it.
“No problem with my grades. That means we can go on a trip tomorrow so let’s go. I’m taking you with me.”
This was news to me. She had apparently made a secret pact – an agreement – with the master. Yes. This was a surprise but I will be joining her on a trip to Bourgogne in southern France to visit the home of someone she knows.
<“A lot has happened. Rosetta. There is a lot I need to tell you on the way. And I will teach you even more once we’re there. So for today…”
“For today? Do you have some other dangerous news for me?”
“No I don’t. Um. For today let’s go buy you some clothes.”>
I apparently needed clothes to go on a trip. This was my first time going out to buy clothes. I could order underwear and such to be delivered. Same for the usual clothes and apron I wore. I used the same tailor the mansion had always used.
But I went into town to buy clothes today. I picked them out myself and I bought them myself.
We used Lady Beretta’s bicyclette to ride into town. I removed my apron and we rode it together. We rode down a street with the Arc de Triomphe visible in the distance and we arrived at Saint-Lazare Station. The station was being run by the Germans so we stopped the bicyclette in front of the station and Lady Beretta refueled herself.
Then we began shopping. I entered a shop known as a boutique for the first time ever. It was a surprise. It was nothing like my bedroom closet. There were clothes in all sorts of styles and colors.
The shop was about half the size of the mansion and it was almost entirely filled with clothing.
The elderly woman in the store – her name was Mannequin – apparently knew Lady Beretta and she came out with a long and narrow white wooden box.
The box contained the red dress Lady Beretta had borrowed from Sir Phillip. She said it had been somewhat damaged so she said had left it here for mending and washing.
We discussed a lot of things while choosing my clothes. I ended up choosing clothes the same design and color as the ones I already had.
Unlike me Lady Beretta chose her clothes on her own. She chose clothes in different designs and colors than the ones she already had.
I had never before seen myself wearing anything but my normal clothes and pajamas. But worrying over what to choose was pointless. I tried on a lot of different things. I looked into the mirror in the boutique’s changing room and I saw a version of me I had never seen.
I did not understand.
Why did clothes change the person wearing them?
I tried on a standalone skirt unlike my usual apron skirt. The chest area felt lacking. The whiteness of my blouse looked terribly conspicuous in the reflection.
I tried on a tight skirt that showed off the lines of my hips. It was harder to move my legs and I was much more aware of my body. It was strange how my reflection looked somehow taller than normal.
I tried on a blouse without puffy shoulders. It felt lacking and chilly but it was easier to move around in. I thought it looked like men’s clothing.
I tried on a lot of other things too. I became many other versions of myself. The old woman tied my hair back or chose an appropriate coat depending on the clothing I chose. That helped time pass in the blink of an eye.
While I continued choosing clothing I made a request I thought was asking too much.
“Are there any clothes like the ones Lady Beretta is wearing?”
Lady Beretta looked a little surprised. But the old woman took a look at Lady Beretta’s outfit and quickly prepared something for me. She even chose a similar hat.
I took those behind the dressing room curtain and put them on. Then I looked in the mirror. I do not know how to describe the emotion I felt then. I lack the vocabulary.
That could not be Lady Beretta in the mirror. It was only a Belle de Marionnette wearing similar clothing. Clothing could turn you into a different version of yourself. But it could not turn you into a different person.
But. Why did I think being different was a good thing? And why did I still want the same hat as Lady Beretta?
I removed that outfit without opening the dressing room’s curtain. I could tell I would never wear them again so I neatly folded them up on the hangars and handed them back. I was led to a small room next to the dressing room.
It was a white-walled room with a single gray partition. There was a pure white robe in the center of the room. A mannequin was wearing it. The old woman and Lady Beretta smiled.
“Fancy clothing has been banned during the occupation of Paris. But the couturiers have still been giving shape to their thoughts. This dress is of course contraband. No one can buy it.”
They had me wear it. Putting on a dress was difficult.
While doing so I realized that my legs were becoming human due to the Coppelia Effect.
The cushioning at the base of my thighs remained as something like a dark birthmark.
“I can introduce you to a good healer to get that healed up once the war is over. It would be a shame to leave it.”
I smiled when the old woman said that. The similar marks on my shoulders had already disappeared. The ones on my thighs would likely be gone in less than a month. So I simply told her not to worry about it.
I think it took around 20 minutes to get the dress on. Then it was Lady Beretta’s turn to wear a dress. Putting it on her was harder than with me. The corset was too tight for some reason.
Yes. Her stomach…no. I will not Signe that.
After more time passed we were dressed in contrasting red and white dresses.
The old woman had a camera so she took a photograph of Lady Beretta and me. The photograph would apparently be delivered to the mansion. I expect it will arrive after our trip. Surely.
After that I removed the dress and chose the clothing I wanted.
We loaded the boxes on the front of the bicyclette. We stopped by another shop to buy me a travel bag – one I could wear on my back. Once our preparations were complete we pushed the bicyclette back to the mansion.
A lot happened on the way back as well. But I doubt I have time to write about that.
I need to prepare for tomorrow. And I need to make sure I do not stay up too late.
I am looking forward to tomorrow. This excitement is not a part of my job.
Beretta’s Journal: Today’s Entry #1
I’m writing this in my room today.
This was a fairly forceful day. After all, I surprised Rosetta with an invitation to visit Bourgogne with me. I’m like a step away from kidnapping her here.
But the old man gave the okay when he saw my grades and Rosetta seemed happy buying clothes for her first trip. She might be too excited to sleep right now.
But when we visited that café during the day, I realized just how much the city’s atmosphere had changed during the exam period. Before, the city had been colored by the red of brick, the white of quartz, and the dark blue of the asphalt, but now the most prominent colors were the dark green and black of the German uniforms.
The café’s menu had less tea and more beer. The city was being locked down as the Germans prepared for battle. The library was closed and you had to be patted down before entering the city hall. It was all pretty awful. That environment had affected my diet and given me a bit of a belly, so I had to buy some new clothes. I still can’t believe it.
A lot of other things happened today too. It was all normal enough as I saw Rosetta back home and discussed the trip with the old man, but I screwed up when I decided to help her with the cleaning she started all of a sudden.
I lost the too-big ring that Phillip had bought me.
I realized that during the evening while taking a break in the second-story study. It was just as she told me about the mansion’s torture room. I was pretty sure I had lost it while wiping things down with a cloth. It was a pretty big shock.
What was I supposed to tell Phillip next time I saw him? I wanted to ask Mallette for some advice, but she said she was heading back to visit her parents. If history continued as normal, she would be Formatted without anything happening to her. And Phillip would die before that.
I hadn’t met him since the school festival.
Not that it mattered. Once the Format happened, I and the things I had arrived with would be booted out into the world of 1999. Only the knowledge and memories I had gained would remain. Holding onto the ring would accomplish nothing.
Unless I liberated this world, that is.
If the Format could be done away with, this world would reconnect to 1944. I wouldn’t be able to return to 1999, but I would keep everything I had here.
But I couldn’t do that. I had a family and returning this to the proper 1944 would rewrite the entire 55-year period between this world and the present time.
It was that fear that kept the world from trying to liberate France. We had instead created the transfer student system to back up France. Because the world had advanced 55 years beyond France.
Besides, there were three conditions necessary to liberate France and accomplishing them would not be easy.
1: Stop the detonation of the Wort Bombe.
2: Spread a spirit of liberation through the majority of France’s people.
3: Prove that fully closing oneself off is not possible.
The most difficult of those was the third one:
- Prove that fully closing oneself off is not possible.
I was told the way to do that would be to create a paradox by sending in something that had already been Formatted to show that it had not in fact been Formatted.
But no one had found a way to break through the city’s immune system. According to the scientists:
“We just have to send in something that has not been Formatted and convert it into something that was Formatted.”
But that was just an unproven theory.
And writing about this is pointless. What matters is tomorrow.
Tomorrow night, we would arrive in the Bourgogne village of Herlde and meet Rose Francisca, but how would that go? I was not her daughter, Beretta McWild. That Beretta was in San Francisco back in ’99. Besides, my hair color was different. Could I really fool her?
It would probably be best to give her the letter, warn her about the dragon attack on August 3, and get out of there. Herlde was supposed to have an inn, so we could get a room there to investigate the Attesor Project.
And Rosetta was sure to ask me all sorts of things about the outside world and myself during the trip. She had trusted me this whole time while I kept the most important things from her. I didn’t care if she ended up laughing, I wanted to tell her everything: the things I doubt she’ll believe and how much she’s saved me.
Wow, this doesn’t sound like me at all. I must be really worried like I was in March.
I’m headed to a new place where I’ll prepare for the end here. I might find something and I hope I do. Because what I find will probably help me figure out what I’ve been thinking about ever since the Heavy Barrel battle at the school festival.
Can I protect people?
Knight Strikers are supposed to protect people and I Write Bring into Heavy Barrels because I want to protect the people I care for. But that requires strength. My strength is a little above a normal person’s, but I still can’t defeat anyone with a lot of strength and I end up having someone else protect me.
Then what does it mean to be strong? Jack McWild had started the Attesor Project in his pursuit of that question. Would I find some of the answer if I went to Morvan and viewed the same scenery they had?
I never expected to be thinking about all this while in France.
I’m worried. There’s too much I can’t tell anyone about. Not just the things I was worried about, but the very fact that I had come from the outside world. And that everyone would be Formatted.
On August 1, the Paris Resistance would start a fight for liberation and Phillip would die. Will I make it back to Paris before then? Paris is sure to be even more locked down by then, so I might not even be able to get in.
I have some regrets. Why didn’t I tell everyone about so many different things? Yes, I’m saying goodbye to a lot of people right now. In just a month and a half, the situation will change and everyone will leave Paris. I said goodbye to Mallette at the bistro last night and I guess I said goodbye to Phillip on that night of the school festival. I still have that dress he lent me. I thought he would come to get it, but he hasn’t. He’s probably busy.
When was the last time we were all together? At the festival? No, Rosetta wasn’t there. Then it had to be that party on March 26. That was the night when I beat him up and argued with him.
Why can’t I do anything right? With myself or with others? There’s so much more I wish I’d told them, asked them about, thanked them for, and apologized for. I wish I could have spent more time with them, but it just didn’t work out. My pride and vanity get in the way and I end up alone.
Maybe France is the same. In its insistence that it’s all alone, it has shut out the rest of the world for 55 years.
<I look down and see a piece of paper fallen on the floor.
It is a letter left by Mallette.>
Letter Left by Mallette: To Beretta, My Beloved Neighbor
You’re taking your time getting back today, but I’m going to miss my train back home if I don’t leave soon. Sorry I’m leaving without saying goodbye, but I have a vacation waiting.
A lot happened this year, but I look forward to seeing you again next year. I just hope the war is over by then. If anything happens, come on over to my parent’s house to visit. It’s on the outskirts of Paris, so about an hour by train. Here, I’ll sketch you a map.
P.S. Since you refuse to do anything about it, I took matters into my own hands. Mr. Phillip should be on his way to visit you. I hope you’re thankful.
Beretta’s Journal: Today’s Entry #2
I feel like tearing up and throwing away that last entry, so here’s a second entry for today. Things are still underway and I should really write about them for more reasons than one.
There is a good chance that my life is about to veer off track thanks to that mischievous woman. I’m definitely paying her a visit to complain on the way back from Bourgogne. Nothing can stop me.
But this is bad. I need to stay calm. And I’m supposed to be leaving on a train tomorrow morning.
Phillip is here.
I had packed up almost all of my clothes and other things and I had just taken a shower before bed, but then that idiot showed up. And who knows what Mallette had told him.
<“Sorry about the wait.”>
Yeah, when I was freshly showered and dressed like this, it probably did look like I’d been waiting. That woman had definitely set up one hell of a situation here. This was like something out of a porn novel.
And that idiot went full idiot and went to take a shower without even asking. Why won’t he listen?
<I can hear humming from the shower room down the hall. Awful whistling.>
What is he, an old man? Anyway, I could explain the situation once he returned.
This was not at all what I wanted. Couldn’t I at least have some more time to prepare myself mentally and physically beforehand? And I was just indulging in some sentimental musings all alone in the Paris night.
Hmm. But I think I will Sign one thing: I’m a little happy about this turn of events.
<I heard footsteps coming down the hall.>
Oh, he just left the shower room.
Heinz Berge’s Journal
Today at 07:00, while I was searching for enemies 10 miles north of Vendôme, I met up with a messenger.
At 08:23, I received special orders from general HQ. My platoon is being reassigned as the 1st Special Grösse Panzer Platoon in charge of guarding the Paris region and I was commanded to begin serious investigation of the Attesor Project. The reassignment will go into effect on July 1.
At 09:10, I met with my men. I informed them we would be going to Paris for the reassignment and that we would be visiting Morvan in Bourgogne beforehand to investigate the Attesor Project. We worked out our marching schedule.
At 22:00, we all got some rest and I searched my newly released memories. During the Attesor Project era, I had indeed fought in various locations as a Panzer Kavalier. And after an injury in one battle, I had returned to Germany until the end of the war.
I still do not know what happened in that battle, but I have some fragmentary textual data in the back of my mind: Bourgogne, the Morvan Mountains. I can guess that battle was part of the reason I have become what I am now.
At 23:01, I reread the materials related to the Attesor Project and my military records from the previous war that HQ had given me. I used the records and my memories to follow my course through the previous war. I am certain I will understand everything if I go to Bourgogne.
But I am bothered by my memories of the photograph and bookmark I have stored in my luggage. What connection do that woman, girl, and flower have to my past? I do not know.
I will now go to sleep.
June 22, 1944
Letter Left by Mallette: To Beretta, My Beloved Neighbor
Sounds like you had quite the time last night. My night was full of surprises too. I thought I was headed home, but when I checked my ticket, it was for the train leaving at 6 AM on the 22nd, not 9 PM on the 21st, so I ended up going back to my room. Quite the misunderstanding, huh?
And thanks to that, I got to enjoy what I could hear through these thin walls last night. There were a lot of tear-jerking lines that really resonated with my world-weary heart. Nothing quite like a pair of young lovebirds.
But I will not Signe any of that, so don’t worry. You need to carry the important things in your own heart. I’m glad things are going well. I really do have to get to the station now and I would hate to wake you two, so this letter will have to do. Make sure you cook breakfast for your future husband.
I’m praying for your happiness.
The Prophetess’s Letter: To Monsieur Guilliaum, the Former Royal Guard Chevalier
Hello again. This year is approaching its end. I imagine this will be the last letter I send you, Monsieur Guilliaum.
So I will use this chance to tell you everything you must know.
The girl in France with the same name as my daughter is not technically my daughter. She is my great-granddaughter – that is, a descendant of mine from the outside world.
I met an adventurer 25 Rondeaus ago who gave me detailed information on Paris before the Primitif and on the outside world afterwards.
That adventurer’s name was M. Schrier. He had also visited Herlde in ’39 to research the Attesor Project.
In ’39, he was only 27, but when I met him again, he was an old gentleman in his 50s. I used my abilities as a Correcteur to view his memories and confirm it was really him before listening to what he had to say. He had met my daughter in the outside world and received a lot of information from her. I also heard he had met Jack before the previous war. Oh, yes. And my daughter was apparently friends with you at the time of the First Primitif. However, all information on you was apparently erased from the modern records because it was thought best to hide that you were a Resistance leader.
He also told me that my daughter was putting together a method of liberating France.
A number of conditions were necessary, but one was considered the most difficult:
- Prove that fully closing oneself off is not possible.
When I asked how you could prove it was not possible, M. Schrier told me this:
“The First Erased were removed from France by the Primitif, but what if an identical person appeared in France and history repeated itself as it had the first time around?”
France’s repeated history has been fixed in place by its immune system, but that would allow you to intervene in the pre-Primitif events.
Then something would exist here that France had supposedly eliminated. Hence, shutting oneself off was not possible.
Do you understand what this means?
My daughter has sent someone to France who will act as her double.
She was supposedly eliminated, but this double is meant to fool France.
If France is trying to fully close itself off, then we must declare that it cannot do that. And that declaration must be made with a voice loud enough to reach every part of France.
But doing this is guaranteed to sacrifice my daughter’s life.
The First Erased do not exist in our version of France. They left France between August of ’43 and August of ’44, so they escaped the Primitif.
If France is resurrected to the outside world’s ’44, no one will notice anything is amiss. But the First Erased will likely notice that all evidence of their time in France is missing. After all, France has been repeating this year without them as a part of it.
But there is one exception: Beretta.
If France is liberated, there will be a Beretta in France that France accepts to be the original Beretta, but my actual daughter will be outside of France.
I have heard of someone stuck in the past waiting long enough to meet their younger self, but there is only one option when the exact same person exists twice in the same timeline.
When they both appear, the one with less ability to prove their existence will disappear.
Two identical words are not needed.
I do not know why my daughter is trying to sacrifice herself, but that is what she wants and I wish to assist her.
My daughter once discovered where I was but lacked the courage to come meet me. But this other Beretta will come.
We need to play the part to help her take on the role of my real daughter. Do you see now why I have been sending you letters under a pseudonym and suggesting that you tell them nothing? I knew they would come to visit me, so I could not have Rosetta seeing my name on the envelopes. I must be no more than a mother who knows nothing and cannot prophesy.
My daughter once abandoned so much and fled.
Is that why she is working to liberate France even though it means erasing herself?
I will continue to wonder about that as I wait for the other Beretta, greet her, and tell her nothing. She must liberate France of her own free will. That is the only she can be the “real” Beretta.
Monsieur Guilliaum, do you wish to be the real version of yourself?
If so, continue ever forward no matter what sacrifices it requires. I believe you will soon be planning an uprising of the Paris Resistance.
No matter how that ends, always be calling for the liberation of Paris.
History will attempt to correct itself before long. All of this is following the same course that led to the first Primitif, but that changes when she visits me. I want to bet everything on that.
Rosetta’s Journal: Today’s Entry #1
I am writing this on the train to Bourgogne. There were a lot of Allemande in the station and the train departed about 10 minutes behind schedule. It is currently just before 12. We were supposed to arrive at the station in Dijon at 12 but we seem to be running late.
We will switch trains at Dijon and head to the Morvan Mountains of central Bourgogne. Lady Beretta says the train track zigzags to climb the mountains.
My ticket says we will arrive in the Morvan Mountains’ Autun Station at 6 PM. From there it is a two hour journey on foot to reach the village of Herlde where Lady Beretta’s mother lives.
Now about Lady Beretta. She is acting weird today. She has been staring out the window a lot and she sometimes starts laughing or writing something on her notepad before tearing it out and throwing it away. She also crosses her arms in thought a lot. She even tripped twice before boarding the train today.
She is acting very strangely. Is she not feeling well?
But that strange behavior somehow seems a lot like her and it is kind of enjoyable. I never know how she will react when I talk to her so I am trying not to bother her too much.
She had seemed more worried than usual yesterday. That had completely changed today but that has me a little worried in a different way.
When she is acting more normal she talks about this trip more as an expedition than a trip. That is why I pulled my coat out of my bag earlier. I also retied the bag’s strap so I could carry it over my back.
We crossed the Seine while I was writing the text three lines up. This is upstream of where the Seine flows through Paris. The map shows the train keeping the Seine to its left for a while after this. The view out the window is no longer the view of the city from the yard back home. I only see the wide-open sky and grassy fields. I can see emerald mountains and low-hanging clouds in the distance.
There are none of the boxy appartements or the smoke of people cooking.
That strange view flows backwards alongside the train. Why does it look so familiar when I have never seen it before? I have no memory of it yet I feel like some part of me has not forgotten it.
I want to remember but I have not forgotten. Why is that? My memories were supplied for my basic functions. Was this image stored there along with things like how to cook?
I do not know.
Part of me wonders if it was too soon for me to leave Paris. There is still so much I do not know about Paris yet here I am in an even more unfamiliar place.
The train is climbing higher and the fields grow lower out the window. The Seine has come into view once more. I want to open the window.
I opened it. The wind is carrying in the scent of the river and the grass. I can also detect the calcium-like scent of Phlogiston. Lady Beretta is staring outside while the wind blows across her bangs – and she just laughed weirdly again. Is she okay?
I think it is about time for lunch.
Beretta’s Journal: Today’s Entry #1
I’m writing this on the train to Bourgogne. Rosetta is with me.
I felt a little too overjoyed in the morning, so I have to work to stay calm. I’m taking this trip to deal with a number of issues, not to remember what happened and laugh.
Last night, I did a lot of important things and a lot of things I shouldn’t have done.
I may have altered history in the most incredible way.
This is a change to history that only a woman can make. And it’s a change that won’t go away.
It’s undoubtedly scandalous and it’ll definitely cause some problems later. Back in ’88, a female transfer student came back bearing the child of a diligent Nazi officer, but Nazi hunters later shot her and the kid to death.
I don’t know if I’m pregnant yet, but I committed a forbidden act regardless.
Especially because the Missel family died out with Phillip Missel’s death. What if I gave birth to a descendant of his now?
That would be a serious problem. Even though I’d been taught plenty of ways to refuse and make excuses. But…
<“I want to talk about a number of things.”>
When he said that with such a serious look on his face, there was nothing I could say. We sat on the bed together and he told me how he was in the Resistance and what his plans were. I had learned in the future what would become of everything he was talking about.
But the entire time I listened to him, I stared at the right arm he was resting his cheek on.
<His arm was wrapped in bandages to hide the last traces of his broken bone.>
He had gotten that injury protecting me during the Heavy Barrel battle at the school festival.
I’m so weak-willed. I shouldn’t have let that bother me and I should have ignored what would happen to him and just kicked him out of my room. I had plenty of reason to do that.
But there was only one reason why he had been there.
For the first time in a while, I realized how little independence I had. When I thought about it, I realized that my grandma had used my curiosity to push me into going to Paris. I needed to stand up for myself more.
And if I could stand up for myself, maybe I could have asked for what I wanted instead of just letting him take the lead last night.
“You can do whatever you want as long as you’re gentle.”
That’s not asking for what I want. I bet he thought I was cute as could be when that little shriek escaped my lips after he touched my butt.
Although he was pretty cute too.
<He opened the box on the floor, pulled out the dress, and laid it on the bed.
He laid me naked on top of it and spoke.
“My grandfather apparently did it like this with my grandmother.”
“Is getting a pretty dress dirty one of the privileges that comes with being Chevalier de Paris?”
“There’s nothing else to keep your sheets clean.”>
I couldn’t believe how dumb that was, but I let him do it because I knew he was just trying to be nice.
He never talked much and he isn’t the type to compliment people, but maybe that was what made this all so hard. I’m not sure. I hope my waist and whatnot looked okay. If only I had a perfect body like Rosetta.
But what was I thinking when he rolled me onto my stomach so he could see everything? And what was I thinking when he held me to lift up my hips and I held him back?
I’m not sure.
I may have only been thinking about making sure I didn’t scream.
<When it was over, I removed my hands from his back and saw blood on my nails. I must have dug in a little too hard.>
He may have been thinking the same thing. I bet we were both hurting each other without thinking we were doing anything wrong. But at the same time, we were begging each other to gradually close the distance that had developed between us.
I wish I had asked him why he protected me during the Heavy Barrel battle. That may have resolved some of my doubts. But it’s too late now and it wasn’t really the time for questions like that.
I feel no guilt about what I did. Is that a bad thing for someone who came here to help the world?
But when he held me close, when he placed the dirty dress back in the box, when we fell asleep together, and when I ineptly made him some breakfast, I knew what mattered most: that I would never forget this world and that it would always be important to me even after I said goodbye to them all. When I confessed I had lost the ring, he just rubbed my head without saying a word.
Maybe physical things like rings aren’t what matter.
And I realized something while writing all this.
I want to be a part of this era.
I didn’t sleep with Phillip out of pity because I know he’s going to die. I never would have let him go all the way if that was why. These things are important to me too. And there are some things you have to do because they’re important.
Rosetta’s Journal: Today’s Entry #2
It is now 4 PM. We are riding the mountain train to Autun.
A lot happened. Before lunch Lady Beretta suddenly started crying while writing. I asked what the matter was but she only lowered her head to the side table and shook her head without responding. Lunchtime was delayed by an hour.
She had stopped crying by the time we ate a late lunch. She instead seemed lost in thought while staring out the window.
We arrived at Dijon at 2:10 PM. The train to Autun left half an hour late.
The Seine had vanished from view and the distant mountain range was growing closer.
Seeing the many trees reminded me of a dream I had once had.
The land formed a slope and the trees grew as thick as a wall. I could also see the extremely blue expanse of the sky overhead.
I could see the entirety of heaven and earth at once. The blue sky. The green earth below the trees. The blowing wind.
I suddenly recalled a certain song.
That which is filled with the blue sky.
That which is covered by the red dirt.
I name thee heaven and earth.
Where the wind howls bravely.
Where the sand dances gently.
I view thee as heaven and earth.
So that no one would grieve again.
That which is endless and cannot be grasped.
That which is vast and cannot be held.
I am with thee.
I recited the lyrics and Lady Beretta looked up in surprise.
Lourd de Écrivains of every country apparently sang that song in their own tongue. She told me they showed mutual respect by singing it together when they were no longer enemy and ally. It felt like a shame if only Lourd de Écrivains could sing it.
Lady Beretta apparently intends to stay at an inn at Herlde. We will be staying there for nearly a month but she says she can afford it. She must not want to stay in her mother’s house. I wonder why.
When I want to see someone I want to see them right away. I want to be right there with them.
Is that a difference between us? Or does it mean I still have a long way to go before I am human? I do not know.
I will close my journal without finding an answer. The sun is setting. The color of the heaven and earth is changing.
I should be able to see the sunset in another half hour. I want to see it.
<The conductor is walking through the car. He says we will arrive in Autun at 6:30 PM.>
I can continue watching the forest and mountains from this train for two and a half more hours.
Letter from Sword Lady #11: To Beretta who Inherited my Name
Are you reading this, Beretta who inherited my name?
The dawn of August 1, 1998, will soon arrive for me.
That is precisely 54 years after the Resistance uprising in Paris. If you are reading this 11th letter, it must be June there. I am writing all of these letters in a single night, but you will read them over the course of a year. After I write two more, I will wake you up and have you prepare for your journey to Paris.
But June, huh? So is the Normandy Landing over?
I imagine you will have found my mother’s home by then and you will probably have done one thing you shouldn’t have. And you know what that one thing is, don’t you? Women keep a lot of secrets and most of those are things they should not have done.
Now, will you listen to an old lady’s old story about something she shouldn’t have done? You might not believe it, but I was quite popular when I was in Paris. I turned a lot of heads at school. (Trust me.)
There was someone I cared for then, but I was worried about my mission and the importance of the information I was acquiring at the time, so I was never able to be with them. There were a few misunderstandings, but I eventually fled to the US and that person was Formatted.
It’s all a nostalgic old memory now. They must still be living in Paris to this day, but they will be so much younger than my 54 years and they will not remember me.
You may not remember my husband who died of Words Warn. He was a kind soldier who looked after the spies like us when we returned to the US and he worked harder than anyone to liberate France after it closed itself up. Soon after France closed up, I told him I wanted to meet that person who was still inside France.
But that wish was never granted and, as our age diverged further and further from France’s, attempting liberate it was forbidden as it would destroy our world.
When it was discovered how to send things inside of France, I learned my presence had been erased as I was not caught in the Format. That meant I no longer had any real reason to enter France.
I feel so bad for grumbling about that just a month before my husband died of Words Warn.
I wanted to meet that man as he was in ’44, but that can never be. He no longer remembers me and I have grown old.
This story is not especially sad. Thousands or tens of thousands of similar stories can be found all around the world. And not just among the French. The soldiers deployed to Normandy for Operation Overlord and the soldiers who entered France from the south for Operation Dragoon did not return either.
Our present era exists by rejecting them all instead of protecting them.
It’s hard to accept sometimes. Am I really a Knight Striker, Beretta?
This has gotten gloomy, hasn’t it? But this paper and ink are valuable, so I’m not going to rewrite it all.
Have you met my mother? Like we discussed before, she and I had not seen each other for more than 14 years at the time. If you pretend to have forgotten what she looks like and play the delinquent daughter – with a focus on asking why she abandoned my father Jack McWild and me – you should manage.
Make sure to give her my letter.
Also, Beretta, are you going to Bourgogne like you always wanted? That land gave birth to a “strongest” that should be quite familiar to you. You like to pretend to act recklessly despite how cowardly you really are, so I suggest taking a look at that area and thinking about some things.
I hope you find the beginning of your journey in the French outdoors I never visited. I hope you find what it is you can do in France. At this point, you can start acting based on what you want to do. Once you finish the task I set for you, you only have your own wishes left to guide you.
So try to take it easy.
Sign in Front of Autun Station in the Bourgogne Region
Distance to Herlde: 8 Miles. Inn and clinic available.
Beretta’s Journal: Today’s Entry #2
This really got to me. I didn’t expect to be writing such a hopeless second entry after such an emotional first entry.
I am standing in front of the burnt-down remains of Herlde’s inn. The inn was built on an elevated area of ground with a nice view, so I am writing this by the beautiful moonlight. The dreary village of Herlde is visible down below. Based on the location of the lights, I can tell the houses were all built at least 200 yards apart.
The inn apparently burnt down after some gas from underground ignited last year. Only the inn’s foundation and columns remained, so it’s kind of creepy looking.
<Rosetta is trying to enter the burnt ruins out of apparent curiosity.>
I pulled her away.
Reading the “keep out” sign more carefully, I found out gas tended to build up belowground here and the village had started using that as a boiler. It was rare to use gas as a fuel instead of Phlogiston.
But this was no time to be admiring that. It was about 8 miles from Autun to here. It was 9 at night, but I wasn’t sure if we should head back or not. I hadn’t been taught about areas as remote as this back in ’98, so this really ruins my plans. I’m a little worried, but maybe we should just go to Rose Francisca’s house.
Should I head there and greet her as coldly as a daughter might after staying away for 14 years? Well, I have Rosetta with me, so it should work out. Rosetta is…
<Rosetta is looking up at the moon.>
Come to think of it, Sein Fraus use spirit stones as components for their bodies. Until 1935 when it was discovered the moon was made of spirit stone, no one knew why spirit engines resonated so wildly with moonlight.
Spirit stones are made when ether (the substance that forms space) hardens without carrying a Live Message.
I’ve heard that so many monsters and gods have some connection to the moon because they were created from the combination of people’s imagination and ether. That is why they grow more powerful the more their form is feared or imagined and why they can manifest their own willpower as a physical force.
Humans can do the same, but our power is apparently extremely weak. But on the other hand, humans can use our own power on our own no matter the situation.
<Rosetta seems to find the moonlight strange. She is twisting around in the light breeze to see how the light hits her. She is also viewing her own shadow and checking the color of her hair.>
Does Rosetta exist in the realm of imagination as well? Humans are energized by the moonlight too, but she seems to be experiencing a bit of a high. She does not seem remotely tired from the journey.
This trait will remain even after she becomes fully human. As she evolves, the spirit stones will be absorbed into her body and their power will not be erased. They are a crucial part of ensuring her evolution does not fall apart.
<Rosetta turns back with an energized expression and asks a question.
“How about we go stay at Lady Rose Francisca’s house?”>
So she thinks that’s best too, huh?
But, Rosetta, if you respond to the moon and thus exist in the realm of imagination, it might be a truly incredible thing that you can evolve into a realistic human. You get the best of both worlds that way.
<I hear a cry similar to a howling dog in the distance. It is a wolf.>
The mountains are cold and dangerous at night. We need to get moving soon.
Entrance Placard at Herlde’s Francisca Clinic: To Visitors
The clinic is currently closed due to an emergency patient.
Letter Left by Beretta: To Lady Rose Francisca
We arrived in Herlde on business and had nowhere to stay. The night is growing late, so I apologize, but I think we will be using your shed to shelter ourselves for the night.
Tomorrow, after we have finished our business, we will search for somewhere else to stay, so please forgive us.
Rose Francisca’s Journal
The two of them arrived just now, so I am writing this in the hidden room I fixed up in a hurry. The room contains my Correcteur supplies, my personal prophecy calendar I began making on August 6, 1943, this journal, and the Correcteur emblem necessary for the ceremony that will allow me to leave behind my memories when I die. I cannot let them see any of that if I am to play the ignorant mother.
I found they had arrived when I returned from one of my usual house calls. They are sleeping in the shed. Based on how filthy their shoes are, they must have walked the unfamiliar mountain road to reach the village.
I could immediately tell which one was Beretta. She looks a lot like I used to. My daughter has brown hair like him, but this Beretta has blonde hair like I used to. And she has a habit of holding onto things in her sleep like my daughter and I both have.
The other girl has evolved surprisingly far.
Dealing with them is not looking easy.
When I first speak with them, should I play it nonchalant or should I scold her as my delinquent daughter? Thinking about all this is reminding me of my college days. I learned medicine in Paris and acted in the school festival play. Come to think of it, I met him and Monsieur Guilliaum in the library there. I was a new intern and they were soldiers facing a coming war.
How many years ago was that? With 25 extra years of memories added on, I am actually 22 years older than Monsieur Guilliaum who was 3 years older than me at the time.
Will I perform that ceremony again this year? Will I use that Correcteur technique to die before the Primitif, stop the movement of my Formules, and pass my memories on to my next iteration? If I do that, it means I do not believe in those girls sleeping in my shed.
But I also feel like death is a form of atonement for me.
This is a serious transgression.
My daughter outside this world will be erased by that girl.
I am also worried about Monsieur Guilliaum.
I know what will happen when the Resistance has its uprising in Paris. I know it will happen on August 1 and that the Resistance will lose.
I did not tell him that because the Resistance’s defeat is necessary for the Beretta sleeping in my shed. She learns what it means to protect people during that doomed uprising, not here in Bourgogne. And through that, she will want to liberate France.
But I have not told Monsieur Guilliaum any of this.
Everything is following my prophecies. But there are people who will push back if I force those prophecies onto them. Monsieur Guilliaum is that sort of person.
I must guide things so my prophecies do not fall apart.
I know they face certain defeat, but I must not tell them so. I will pass on the prophecies that will aid the liberation of France, but I will not pass on the ones that will not. Even when I know staying silent will lead to a great many victims.
Does it make me a weak person to feel guilt over this?
The coming days are sure to be taxing. I need to think of that pain as atonement and remain cheerful.
Tonight, I will double check my prophecies and then go to sleep. Even if these prophecies are really just a collection of fragments gathered from the glimpses of the future I read from the Formules of time, the former history I learned from M. Schrier, and the memories I received from my previous iteration.
Prophecies: A Series of Fragments
July 10: An earthquake renders a portion of the mountain pass and mountain railroad impassable. It becomes impossible to leave Morvan.
July 28: The mountain railroad is repaired by the residents of Autun.
- Beretta and Rosetta depart for Paris.
July 30: Heinz Berge appears in Nevers of Western Morvan and hurries back to Paris.
- The Resistance’s Paris Branch responds by setting the date of their uprising for August 1.
July 31: After receiving word of the mountain pass’s collapse from Heinz Berge on the 30th, the German military works on repairing the mountain pass.
August 1: The Paris uprising fails. The Resistance scatters and hides inside Paris and on the outskirts.
Same Day: While participating in the uprising, Beretta witnesses Phillip Missel’s death.
- Afterwards, she remains hidden in the Balleroy Mansion.
August 2: The mountain pass to Autun is repaired. Recovery around Herlde begins.
Same Day: The German military unit working on the recovery in the Nevers Region is attacked and obliterated by a black dragon.
August 3: After devouring the German troops stationed in the mountain pass, the black dragon destroys Herlde.
August 4: An advance Allied unit and the French Resistance meet near Paris.
August 5: The Paris Branch of the German military places a blockade around Paris and focuses on defending Paris.
Same Day: While Beretta remains in the Balleroy Mansion, Rosetta finds Phillip Missel’s ring for her. After some discussion between the two of them, they decide to fight once more and seek liberation.
- “So we never let anyone’s death repeat again.”
- Beretta becomes aware she is my daughter.
August 6: A combined Resistance force led by the Allies attacks the blockade early in the morning.
Same Day: Beretta leaves the Balleroy Mansion in a Lourd de Marionnette with Rosetta in the copilot seat.
- They battle Heinz Berge on the way, but it is ended by a bullet from the handgun carried by Rosetta.
- They continue to the airport and destroy the transport plane carrying the Wort Bombe.
Same Day: The survivors of the Resistance’s Paris Branch respond to what they have seen.
- They all begin to fight with a spirit of liberation, their strong desire for liberation breaks France’s own Signe of wanting to close itself off, and France is liberated.
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