Panzerpolis Berlin 3 1942
Left: Welcome to the turning point battlefield – the river of sorrow.
Bottom: By Kawakami Minoru
Graham’s bottom text:
The Knight is a protector.
Rose’s bottom text:
The Requiem is never shaken.
Rhein: The river that brings sorrow.
A long river splitting western Germany from south to north.
A river that must be mentioned when speaking of Germany.
Its path through the mountains has led to many a shipwreck, so it is famous for the legend of the Lorelei whose song can capsize boats.
Upper left box:
Explanation: Eingeweide Aerial Warship – Requiem
Words contain infinite possibilities
Upper right bullets:
- Full length: approx. 1200 yards
- Full height: approx. 240 yards
- Full width: approx. 300 yards
- Center front is the command ship, rear is the Babel Kanone control ship
- Left and right, from front to back, are aircraft carrier, Grösse Panzer landing ship, and warship.
- Displacement: approx. 710 thousand tons (ordinary aerial warships are approx. 60 thousand tons)
Upper left scale:
- Carries a Babel Kanone
The Unreif Germane includes six sections recited as poetry or songs:
- 3rd Section of Daily Life
- 9th Section of the Ruling King
- 12th Section of the Soaring Dragon
- 1st Section of the Moonlight
- 6th Section of the Ending God
- Final Section of the Wheel
There are multiple variations of each, but the following will be treated as the originals in this book.
- 3rd Section of Daily Life
In the deep darkness of the Black Forest
Born from the abyss
The wheel emerges
- It whips up the wind and speaks with the dragon
- It reads the wind and weeps
- It carries power in its hand and hesitates
- 9th Section of the Ruling King
The one-armed youth holds the Messiah
The moonlit pair returns to the earth
The dragons gather and dance tonight
Every last thing returns home
- 12th Section of the Soaring Dragon
The wind blows
The night blows
The dragon awakes
The people move
The dragon roars
- The wind arrives from the north / A path arrives from the north
- The knight descends as a knight / The dragon soars high as a dragon
- All is a path to the north star / All is a story of an insurmountable wall
- 1st Section of the Moonlight
Follow the path to a familiar face
- While walking side by side
Your hand and voice might reach them
- But the moon sees it not
The gatherers begin their party
- A wall separates the pair
- As they follow the same path with the same words
- 6th Section of the Ending God
The party begins and the village dances / The dragon roars and the knights gather
The bride weeps uncrowned / Her words go unsaid and he never arrives
Thus she is alone / She weeps and sleeps in this land
- Final Section of the Wheel
Urge him on and wait / If you wish for something new
- All hesitation will come to an end up ahead
Complete the circle or break it / If you desire something new
- Throw out all hesitation and look back
The wind is with you, he is with you / Seek out something new
- All hesitation exists to tear through that wall
Published May 30, 1942 by AIF PR Division 666th Combat Editorial Unit
Bottom left of image:
Sponsored By Dageki Bunko, Shougeki Bunko, Raigeki Bunko
Right text: The AIF is recruiting! You too can soar through the blue sky! In fact, you’d better!
Today, tomorrow, the day after that, and the day after (well, you get the picture), the AIF, your favorite champions of justice, are recruiting any rough and wild fighters we can get.
- Got any superpowers you don’t know what to do with?
- Got more attack power than you can handle?
- Got an unbearable urge to hit something?
- Got a love of trapping others in your master plan?
Then we highly recommend you sign up.
Two positions are available:
Generals are put in harm’s way, but they can boss everyone else around.
Grunts live an exciting life of full-body tights, bizarre dances, and so much more, but they must obey their superior officer.
Benefits include: various forms of insurance, retirement plan, dependent subsidies. Dorms available. Recreation facilities (ping pong table) available.
If interested, visit the following location.
Above map: AIF Base #1
Below map: Approximately 76 hours by foot from the Arizona airport. Located on prime real estate with abundant wildlife and a breathtaking view.
The World 1939 – 1942
- The German Army invades Europe.
- The AIF begins analysis of the Vaterland Eingeweide ley line acceleration reactors.
- March 15: At the AIF’s request, the world’s Sofort Lesers gather in the US for the Arizona Conference. There, the most skilled form the History Live Research Team and begin to research future developments.
- The AIF works with UK Special Forces to assist the withdrawal of the UK and French armies.
- May 12: The German Army begins invading the Soviet Union with Operation Barbarossa.
- May 26: The German Army drives the UK and French armies to Dunkirk on the English Channel, but the UK is allowed to escape. That prevents the planned peace talks with the UK and France using the many expected POWs, so the war continues.
- June 10: Italy joins the war. June 22: France surrenders.
- The primary members of the History Live Research Team die mysterious deaths. Investigation of the cause begins.
- The UK acquires documents about the Geheimnis Agency’s secret Babel Cannon, begin developing a Pseudo Babel Cannon.
- September 5: Construction of Germania is completed as an underground fortress city, leaving the old Berlin on the surface.
- November 13: The Geheimnis Agency completes the Requiem, a Gard-class warship equipped with a Babel Cannon. It is temporarily placed under command of the German Air Force. While placed within Germania’s #2 Air Defense Shipyard, the Requiem is also charged with defending the North Sea region.
- The German Air Force receives damaged in air combat above the UK and continues to struggle to achieve air superiority.
- U-boats continue attacking merchant ships to cut off the Atlantic Line that forms the Allies’ primary supply line. This leads the US to join the war.
- The war spreads beyond Europe, dragging the Pacific Rim into the fight and beginning support of the war on a global scale.
- The AIF joins the military as an independent paratroop squad under the US Army Air Corps. They join with the Allies’ European division and begin doing scout, recon, and special operations work for missions.
- Mental Live illnesses such as Nightmare Syndrome grow rampant on a global scale. Doctors around the world conclude that anxiety about the war is destabilizing Lives around the world.
- The UK begins air raids in German territory, but the results are minimal.
- December 8: Germany asks Japan to join the war to keep the US busy and Japan complies. Japan joins the war.
- January 20: At the Wannsee Conference, Germany decides to purge the world of all nonhumans and Jews.
- April 6: The History Live Research Team concludes they cannot read the history Lives past August 1943, suggesting the anxiety will rule the world that month, causing the world itself to end.
Panzerpolis Berlin 3 1942
For some reason, I am once more seeing the nightmares that plagued me back when I was arrested in ’37.
This is different from the “anxiety” nightmares the doctors talk about in the newspapers.
I dream of saying goodbye to someone I care deeply about.
In ’37, I thought that person might be my father.
But…but it seems I was wrong.
This is someone else that I care so much about.
Almost like they’re another me. No, it’s like there are several other people out there and the nightmares are telling me about them.
“No matter how much he tried to reject the joys of this life, he knew the joy of creation.”
-Paul Bekker, on the Beethoven revival
Prologue: The Requiem Prepares
04/28/1942 01:13 – 05:24
A great power has been set in motion.
With a reason to fight.
To achieve something.
Air Force Structure
By 1942 during World War Two, most country’s air forces were divided into two broad categories: aircraft and aerial ships.
Aircraft were maneuverable, cheap, and could be dispatched over a wider area, so they were primarily used on battlefields requiring rapid arrival or group deployment or on individual recon missions or light transportation missions. They lacked any decisive firepower and they suffered on the durability front due to their small size and detailed design. Their engines were easily burnt out and destroyed when using overdrive.
On other hand, aerial ships had thick armor, excellent stability, and powerful attacks, so they were primarily used for patrolling a set airspace, long-term defense, defending aircraft squadrons, and invasions of enemy airspace. An air corps’ central company would be mostly composed of destroyer-class aerial warships tasked with surviving to the end on the battle. Because aerial ships could remain airborne for so much longer than aircraft, many operations only sent in aerial ships when attacking an enemy force, leading to a troubling increase in lost aerial ships.
That problem was resolved through the mid-war development of aerial aircraft carriers and aircraft radiators, so toward the end of the war, aerial ships were used as airborne fortresses with aircraft in formation around them.
The pale clouds spread out like a flat ocean below and the moon was visible dead ahead.
The sky was a dark blue and nothing obstructed it above the clouds bathed in the moonlight.
Several giant shapes were moving south above that sea of clouds.
Each of them was a ship approximately 100 yards long and a river of bombers and spy planes followed along a few miles away.
This was one of the Allies’ Experimental Aerial Divisions, commonly known as the Moonlight Resistant Aerial Division.
The UK had begun experimenting with these ships in 1941 and they now used them nightly to bomb German-controlled regions or the German mainland.
They could only do light damage with only around 100 ships and aircraft, but the repeated bombings worked to lower enemy morale.
The flagship flying in the lead of the Moonlight Resistant Aerial Division was a light aerial cruiser with the markings of the Royal Air Force on the side. The lights on the bridge sent signals to the four other ships and the many bombers following it.
“Any sign of hostiles?”
That question sounded in an unusually quiet bridge.
The 8-yard room was lit only by the moonlight and the instruments. It was enclosed by blast-resistant windows on three sides and the liaison officer, helmsman, communications officer, and the other dozen or so members of the bridge crew had turned from their instruments to view the captain’s chair in the back.
The skinny, gray-haired commander in that chair wore a flight suit instead of an RAF uniform. The same was true of the entire bridge crew looking his way.
The commander lightly rapped the side table next to his seat.
“It’s downright creepy. We entered their homeland and sent down our escort craft, but they still haven’t responded. An aerial division of 5 ships and a bombing unit has passed above their Dutch air defense line and is approaching Cologne in the German mainland.”
The elderly first officer seated next to him nodded and replied.
“For about a year, not one of the moonlight resistant ships or spy planes we sent to Cologne on recon or bombing missions has returned. That is why our entire division was sent in to forcibly reconnoiter while prepared to tear apart the very terrain with our bombs if need be.”
The first officer hesitated a moment before looking around.
When his gaze reached them, everyone on the bridge quickly looked back to their instruments.
“Do not let your guard down, everyone,” said the commander. “We have no idea what we will encounter out here.”
They all nodded and the usual bustle of activity returned to the bridge.
The first officer paused to listen to the high altitude wind and then spoke quietly.
“Have you heard the stories of the Lorelei, a type of Siren that causes shipwrecks, Captain?”
“I thought that was a bunch of bunk. Didn’t some poets just rewrite the legend of the witch Lore Lay?”
“The aerial division that went missing a month ago apparently sent back a final communique that only said ‘the dragon’s song’. The dragon and the lion are symbols of the Geheimnis Agency, that top secret organization that we have yet to find solid evidence of.” The first officer faced forward. “But according to information from the IAF who everyone’s been talking about lately, the Geheimnis Agency has constructed a giant aerial warship equipped with a Babel Cannon in the Cologne region. It’s meant to be a solid defense positioned at the entrance to their homeland.”
“I saw the photo they sent. And I snorted in laughter, assuming the generals were pulling my leg. I mean, an aerial ship more than half a mile long is absurd. Same with a ship carrying a giant cannon on its back. Do you really think something like that can fly? Just turning – no, just ascending would tear the ship apart with its own inertial weight.”
“Besides, a ship that big could never shoot down aircraft as fast as our spy planes. All they have are grounded tanks, outdated fighters they’ve rushed upgrades for, and those Heavy Barrels that are entirely useless in modern warfare.”
“Yes, I know. You want to know why no one has returned from the Cologne region, right?”
“I do. Cologne is the western entrance to Germany, so I know they will have fortified their defensive line there, but still.”
“We are here to solve that very mystery. Because we boast the best speeds of all the experimental divisions.”
The commander leaned back in his seat and looked out head.
The bridge was beginning to heat up as the previous silence faded away. Everyone was working hard to command the engine room and to coordinate with the other ships and the bombing unit. People were moving and speaking across the dark bridge.
But past them and out the window, the sea of clouds was entirely still.
Just as the commander stared at the clouds flowing by below, an operator spoke up.
“Report! Reading detected down below at a point 20 miles from Cologne!”
The commander turned toward the operator, eyebrows raised.
“How many ships!?”
“No, um…these appear to be smaller crafts…moving fast. There are three…no, four! Moving very fast!”
“They must be hostile!” barked the commander. “We wouldn’t encounter friendlies here!”
The operator operated the radar and the projector on the floor projected the radar display on the gray ceiling. The circular display covered a 3 yard radius on the ceiling and a single dot of light was approaching from the front of the display. They were both flying toward each other, so it was rapidly closing on the center of the display.
“They must be small indeed,” said the first officer. “Their readings are almost entirely overlapped. Are they a new kind of patrol craft?”
“Too fast for that. Formations of four is standard practice for them, but what do they hope to accomplish with just four fighter craft?”
A few seconds passed and the commander made a decision.
“We should assume a threat. All ships, form a single column. Use the radar to track their distance. At a range of 5 miles, ships 1, 2, and 3 will fire secondary cannons and pseudo dragon cannons once they have a lock. At a range of 2 miles, ships 1, 2, and 3 will launch exterior homing rounds. If they break through that, all ships may fire at will until the hostiles have withdrawn or been shot down. Hurry.”
He sent the transmission.
The dot on the radar display approached.
After the span of a heartbeat, a quiet alarm began to sound from the controls in front of the operator. The weapons officer took over the radio and ordered the gunners to fire.
The secondary cannons and pseudo dragon cannons installed on the bottom of the ship opened fire.
The cannons roared.
The lines of fire tore shallowly through the clouds as they traveled diagonally down.
After precisely 3 seconds, they used the radar to monitor the enemy’s movements and fired a second volley.
The third volley was fired after a manual adjustment to the enemy’s predicted location after the first and second volleys.
Once, twice, and thrice, beams of light stretched out, blew away the clouds, and then swung a bit to expand the attack range.
Similar whiplike bands of light flew from the port and starboard of the next two ships behind theirs.
Light shined on the radar display on the bridge ceiling. Their radar could also detect ether readings, so the paths of the pseudo dragon cannons were displayed as pale flashes. The long bands of destructive light vanished after only a few seconds.
“The hostile reading…has been eliminated.”
The operator’s report was supported by the lack of light on the ceiling display.
Sighs of relief were breathed across the bridge.
But that relief was short lived.
The commander first sensed a noise.
The bridge protected by thick, high-altitude glass groaned like it had been hit by a great mass of metal.
An impact caused the entire bridge – no, the entire 30-thousand-ton-displacement flagship – to shake vertically.
The entire bridge crew managed to maintain their posts throughout the shaking, but their expressions had changed.
They were worried. And the change in the view outside the window did not help matters.
To the right and the left, the clouds had been split all the way to the horizon, almost like that crashing noise had caused it. This formed two valleys kicking up white waves.
Something had passed right by the flagship at dizzying speed.
The mist formed by the torn clouds blocked the view ahead of the still-shaking bridge.
“What was that?” The commander clenched his teeth when he found the answer. “That was supersonic acceleration! We have hostiles nearby. They were waiting for us to fire so they could fly in, hiding behind our pseudo dragon cannons! The hostiles are not after our bomber unit!”
“Tell all ships to stay close together and keep up an exterior barrage!” shouted the first officer. “Hurry!”
But it was too late. Low metallic sounds reached them through the bridge’s rear wall.
Something was firing repeatedly, their shots tearing apart the high-altitude wind loudly enough to be heard inside the bridge.
“Is that the hostiles?”
The commander looked back to see something in the night sky visible outside of the bridge’s port side window.
He saw a blue Heavy Barrel. The six wings on its back meant its Over Emblem was fully activated, allowing it to match the high-speed ship’s velocity. It used both arms to hold and fire an autocannon longer than it was tall.
The moonlight glinted off the empty cartridges scattering through the sky. It was likely firing 88mm steel bullets. Those high-speed bullets packed a punch and could even destroy armor panels on impact.
The recoil caused the Barrel to shake violently, but it used its wings to fly a helix pattern that allowed the force to safely escape.
Once done firing, the blue Heavy Barrel gave the weapon a swing.
The barrel detached and fell toward the clouds.
It pulled a new barrel from the hips of its combat dress while dull sounds rumbled from behind the bridge. It was the heavy noise of something pushing at the air. The tremor sounded like a crashing waterfall and it would not stop.
The commander knew what this was. The ship behind them was sinking after taking all that gunfire. As it tilted, its air resistance increased and the pushing of the air grew louder. The deep rumble was gradually growing more distant behind them.
The flagship and the rest began to return fire. They fired homing rounds and pseudo dragon cannons at the blue Heavy Barrel.
But something stopped them.
While the blue Heavy Barrel leisurely attached the new autocannon barrel, a red Heavy Barrel with a massive shield cut in between using Over Emblem wings.
The homing rounds and pseudo dragon cannon blasts crashed into the red one’s shield.
“Did we shoot it down?”
They had not.
The shield glowed bright red with heat, but it remained intact. White smoke erupted from the bottom of the shield and it regained its original metallic coloration.
Should they fire a second volley or not?
While the commander hesitated, a light appeared outside the starboard window. It was a dark red light flickering with heat.
He turned toward it.
The second ship that had been positioned diagonally back and to starboard had overtaken them while spewing flames for some reason.
The top of the high-altitude destroyer was now perfectly flat, like it had been shaved down with a woodworking plane. Black smoke and flames erupted from the torn and smashed areas as it overtook the flagship.
The commander saw a large white figure standing atop its deck.
It was a giant male Heavy Barrel with six wings.
It carried no projectile weapons and instead carried a single sword. Unlike the red and blue ones flying to port, this one had not even activated its Over Emblem.
The wordless scream inside the bridge was questioning the events playing out before their eyes.
It wanted to know if this was actually real.
The answer was right there. The flagship and the other ships fired from their starboard sides, as if attempting to further destroy the sinking second ship. The repeated roaring of artillery fire was directed at the white Heavy Barrel standing atop the second ship.
It could never avoid the incoming barrage. No Heavy Barrel could fly without an Over Emblem, nor could it defend an attack like this without a shield. And yet…
<The Emperor follows the path of the conqueror.>
The white Heavy Barrel suddenly slid across the deck. It broke through the explosive flames and twirled its body to slip between the incoming bullets. Its legs remained motionless as it soared through the air.
It moved slowly but spun quickly to avoid the entire barrage. And…
It produced a single note.
The commander saw its sword emit bright light.
That was followed by the deep sound of splitting air. The white slash had sliced the second ship in two. As the ship sank into the clouds, the white Heavy Barrel flapped its wings to fly up into the sky.
“What?” the commander muttered as he watched. “Is this what they meant by the lions gathering below the dragon?” he asked his first officer.
He was answered in a different way. He heard some Words. Just like the ones uttered by the white Heavy Barrel, these Words rang in his head whether he wanted them to or not.
And these used a girl’s voice.
<The Requiem rings out on the bells.>
It was a calm voice of suppressed emotion.
The commander shouted on reflex, fastening his seatbelt as he did.
“Evasive action! Ships 4 and 5, bomber unit, ascend! Ascend until you reach maximum moonlight resistance altitude!”
The ship shook as it tried to take an ascending course.
But light suddenly filled the bridge. This was not a flare or a dragon cannon. It was a blinding ocean of light that erased all shadows, like light had exploded right in front of them. It was a powerful attack.
Before the commander could question it, something slammed into the bottom of the ship.
Those on the bridge who had not fastened their seatbelts were launched from their seats, crashing into the walls, floor, or ceiling. The screams of shattering glass and of people shook the air, but the powerful inertial shaking did not stop.
The ultra-massive ship’s rear lifted up and it very nearly flipped forward. The light vanished and the forward-tilted bridge shook as its structural components cried out in protest. All the lights had gone out and the instruments ceased functioning.
“Do they really have a Babel Cannon!?”
The ship slid forward as it attempted to reorient itself.
The captain saw something there as his vision straightened out.
The flat expanse of cloud was entirely gone.
The sky had cleared up, but the ship was shaking and the wind was pounding hard on the bridge’s windows.
The light from a few moments ago had blasted away the clouds.
The commander turned to the side to ask his first officer what the light had been.
But the man was missing. The first officer had been thrown from his seat and onto the floor in the middle of the bridge. His neck was bent at an unnatural angle.
Only the few who had fastened their seatbelts remained at their posts. The dozen or so others were sprawled out on the floor, by the windows, or on the control panels. Some were groaning in pain and a faint iron scent filled the bridge.
One young man, the navigator, turned back, so the commander looked him in the eye.
“What about the others? What happened to the other ships?”
The commander stood up before receiving a response. The higher viewpoint let him assess how well his bridge was operating. The controls and all other electronics weren’t running. Only the analog gauges still had their needles moving.
“6mph? We’re only being swept along by the wind.”
He walked across the bridge and undid the seatbelts of the other survivors.
Once he had released the 5th and final one, the navigator gave his response.
“The others are…gone. There is no sign of Ships 4 and 5 or the bombers.”
“I see.” The commander nodded and stood up after undoing the communication officer’s seatbelt. “Are you still alive? You were sent to us by the AIF, weren’t you?”
“Then I have one final job for you. Return to HQ and tell them the following: My division arrived in the enemy mainland and confirmed the presence of an enemy force in our assigned recon region. Ships 2 and 3 were lost in an attack by three Heavy Barrels. And…” he sighed. “Ships 4 and 5 and our entire bomber unit were lost to a Babel Cannon. …This confirms the existence of an enemy Babel Cannon equipped ship and we can never enter the German mainland from the west without first eliminating it.”
The survivors gulped, but he continued nonetheless.
“Hurry. If the rear deck is still intact, you can launch an escape boat.”
A single set of footsteps started awkward and hesitant, but it gradually picked up speed and left the bridge.
The commander remained motionless, eyes shut, until the footsteps had faded away entirely.
“Okay,” he said, facing forward once more.
Four things floated about a mile away in the now-cloudless sky.
They were Heavy Barrels. Three were the white, red, and blue ones from before. The fourth was a new one. It was colored silver and had six wings spread on its back.
“I’ve heard of that one. The Geheimnis Agency’s supreme commander is supposed to Write Bring into a gaudy silver Heavy Barrel despite having no emotions.”
“Report: the escape boat has left the rear deck.”
“I see,” said the commander in relief. But then the Heavy Barrels ascended to fly above the ship and pursue the escape boat behind them. The commander snorted with laughter.
“You’re that terrified of being found out? Chief Engineer, manually restart the engines! Move us forward. If that escape boat can’t get away, this was all for nothing. Draw the enemy’s attention!”
His voice passed through the communicator to reach the engine room.
Before long, the ship restarted just as the four Heavy Barrels were passing by overhead, leaving behind white trails.
The ship shook and moved forward.
The commander held the wheel himself and faced forward.
“All hands, don your life jackets and keep your eyes peeled. We will soon see the true identity of our enemy.”
No one responded, but none of them were about to disobey.
The ship picked up speed. The inertia erasure emblems were not functioning, so the weight of acceleration bore down on them all. They could really feel the ship’s speed.
“Report: the four Barrels…are not stopping!”
The Heavy Barrels ignored the warship as it accelerated toward their mainland.
“Are they that terrified of a report getting out? Or…”
Did they have something else ready to intercept this ship? Were the Barrels not needed for that?
They heard the same girl’s voice as before.
But it was different this time. Instead of just speaking the Words, the voice had a rhythm to it.
<The Requiem march traverses the sky.>
<The Requiem song traverses the woods.>
<The Requiem tune traverses time.>
There were specks of light on the horizon. City lights.
Light raced by above the city. Flashes of lightning. They illuminated a massive shape.
The shape began to approach.
“Is that a ship!?”
No. From moment to moment, the enormous shape accelerated further and altered its form. The thing approaching so rapidly was not a ship made of metal.
It was a great beast with a long body glowing a bluish white.
It was a dragon.
The girl’s voice continued.
<We travel together.>
<We sing together.>
The great dragon charged toward them as if sliding through the air.
It was big. Not even the aerial cruiser’s size was comparable. The bluish-white glowing dragon’s face already filled the bridge’s front window, so they could see its eyes and its fangs.
<I walk the path of shared silence.>
<You walk the path of separated silence.>
“A ship that size can use an Armed Emblem!?” shouted the captain as he listened to the song.
That was the last thing he ever said.
The faint purple tint to the eastern sky told of the approaching dawn.
A dragon-like shape floated above the vast expanse of clouds.
The great shape was painted pitch black and it was formed from eight smaller shapes. Each one of those smaller shapes was a massive aerial ship measuring 300 yards long and 50 yards wide.
From front to back, there were three ships, two ships, and three ships lined up. They were all linked together by layer after layer of thick metal frames.
A long tube was almost sloppily attached atop the ships, running back to front.
That was a Babel Kanone.
Its barrel had a diameter of at least 10 yards and a length of more than half a mile.
The eight ships supporting it in the sky were a lot like a crouching dragon.
The eight ships combined to form the Gard-class Babel Kanone equipped Requiem.
The #1 front central ship had been destroyed by the AIF in ’39 and another year had been necessary to reconstruct it, but it had not received a scratch ever since it parted ways with the earth.
A girl stood on the deck of the #2 front aircraft carrier.
She was a pale girl with long, soft hair blowing in the wind. She wore a decorated dress, but there was something odd about her.
She was faintly transparent.
That unstably transparent girl stared up into the western sky.
There was nothing visible there, but she had a somewhat sulky look on her face. After a while, her face lit up with pure joy.
“Bigger brother! And Alfred too!”
Four points of light were visible far to the west. At that distance, it would take 20 minutes to arrive even by aircraft.
But she smiled and released an Erklärung.
<The Requiem march welcomes you home.>
At the same time, the Requiem began to move.
The girl spread her arms on the deck and turned left toward the west.
The Requiem followed her action with a turn that was much too fast for such a massive structure.
The ship groaned from the inertia and the Babel Kanone strained. The sturdiness of the metal materials was nearly irrelevant when it came to the relationship between great weight and powerful inertia.
Too much inertia would cause it to break apart.
The straining and groaning of metal reverberated through the sky. But…
<The Requiem song will not be disturbed.>
The girl murmured those words and twisted her body ticklishly.
The #7 and #8 ships’ frames began to transform as they strained at the back of the port and starboard sides. The metal transformation emblems activated as ether flowed into them. The frames that supported the ships tightened to distribute the inertial force.
Wind blew from the rear and side engines, accelerating the turn.
To negate the remaining inertia, frames across the Requiem were bound together or spread apart and the exterior armor for the Babel Kanone bent enough to lift up somewhat. The inertial negation emblems across the ship glowed as they entered overdrive.
The girl slowly, slowly swung her arms around. The entire process took only 12 minutes.
The girl smiled and looked to her hands.
“I’m getting the hang of it now.”
“You really are,” said a woman’s voice behind her.
The girl smiled and did not bother looking back.
“You think so too, Lillie? I’m just so talented, aren’t I?”
“Yes, I cannot imagine a more suitable home for Graham and the others.”
The voice walked up alongside the girl. It belonged to a woman of later middle age with her frayed black hair tied back. She wore the blue coat of the Geheimnis Agency Navy Division over a blue dress, but she still had to hold her shoulders against the chilly wind.
The woman, Lillie, let out a white puff of laughter as she looked up into the western sky.
The four Grösse Panzers had approached enough to make out the shape of their limbs.
“Germany should be safe with you and Graham protecting us from here.”
“Yes. And since you feel so safe, how about you attend that wedding in the Borderson village I mentioned before? They sent you and Alfred invitations, didn’t they? They haven’t held a wedding in three years and it is only an hour by car from Cologne, so why not leave things here to us?”
“I haven’t been to Borderson since my sister died.”
“Ever since the village lost their leader, they have been hoping for a visit from a Neue Kavalier with a connection to Borderson. With Borderson gone, so many of the northwest’s Neue Kavalier have left our Geheimnis Agency.”
“Which is why Graham and you are protecting Cologne to show the local Neue Kavaliers the importance of the Agency, yes?”
“Correct you are. Maybe we could have gotten a prophecy if Frobel was still alive.”
Rose’s words cast a shadow over Lillie’s face.
“Do those prophecies come true, though? What about the one given to you and Graham?”
“You mean Lowenzahn’s prophecy, don’t you? The ones not from the Unreif Germane that she gave to individuals.”
Rose seemed to be contemplating her own words as she looked straight up.
Lillie moved behind her and wrapped her arms around the short girl’s shoulders.
Lillie’s arms passed right through Rose’s body and she felt nothing.
But Lillie still spoke.
“Why must our commander – Lady Frobel…no, all of the Naylors – force that sort of destiny onto all of you?”
“They have not forced it onto us. I made a promise with Frobel more than 20 years ago and Lowenzahn asked a few years back, so I responded. This is what my bigger brother and I wanted. It’s the same for you, isn’t it? This is the destiny we must fulfill, without letting Der Held, Kaiser, or the others know.”
Rose placed her hands on Lillie’s right hand as the woman pretended to hold her shoulders. Her hands sank into Lillie’s hand, but she shut her eyes.
“My body is gone and I have become the circuitry at the core of this ship. This ship is me now, so I can appear anywhere on it. The real me is no more.”
“But that also means I can stay with the rest of you. I can spend more time with my bigger brother, my big brother, and Alfred.”
“But isn’t that the Requiem our commander prophesied?”
“I will not lament. My bigger brother and I are working on the issue. We don’t know what exactly will happen to us, so we think maybe we can find a solution.” Rose opened her eyes. “We think anyone can turn the Nibelung in a positive direction.”
She saw the four Grösse Panzers arrive overhead.
They whipped up a wind that swept across the deck.
Rose removed her hands from Lillie’s hand and raised them to greet the men.
“Hey, Lillie, what do you think of my bigger brother?”
“When the head of the Telmetz family died, wasn’t he the one who rescued you, left your sister in Borderson, and paid for your schooling? Are you the same person you were back then?”
Lillie looked up and Rose continued.
“I hope you are. Unlike for the rest of you, the events of 20 years ago feel so recent to me. It’s all so vivid and I barely have to work to remember it. But…”
“I think that’s just how these things work. How I feel about Alfred, how you feel, and my brothers’ quarrels must be such trivial matters to the world as a whole, but…but I’m sure someone will remember it all just like I do.”
Rose looked away from Lillie to watch the Grösse Panzers begin to descend.
Lillie hummed a song.
The party begins and the village dances / The dragon roars and the knights gather
The bride weeps uncrowned / Her words go unsaid and he never arrives
Thus she is alone / She weeps and sleeps in this land
“The Unreif Germane’s 6th Section of the Ending God. That is the current prophecy,” said Rose. “Lowenzahn said it refers to the capture of the Messiah. She also said the time had finally come for the prophet to remain in this land.”
Rose stretched her hand high overhead.
The Kaiser had landed nearly within arm’s reach and it nodded toward her.
She responded with a smile.
Chapter 1: The Requiem Activates
05/25/1942 13:04 – 21:10
Ow ow ow ow.
Hazel Mirildorf (AIF Soldier)
A newcomer to the AIF. Was implanted with the High Organ eye Messiah. A Werecat living in LA. Our protagonist.
Dog Berger (Mercenary)
M. Schrier’s underclassman and a Knight Striker. Primarily helps people escape and wields the High Organ sword Gelegenheit.
Corelle Sevan (AIF Air Force Transport Division)
Boss of the AIF Air Force Transport Division. A fortuneteller who uses the 47 Telling Cards.
Pale Horse (AIF Combat Division Leader)
Hard Wolf general who made a name for himself in the previous war. Has a connection to Heiliger.
M. Schrier (AIF General Commander)
The young leader. Was deeply involved in the Berlin Conflict and took command of the AIF after leaving Germany. Former subordinate of Oscar’s and upperclassman of Berger’s in their college days. Was also Hazel’s tutor.
Lehrer (AIF Spy)
A female spy in the German village of Borderson.
Oscar Mirildorf (Civilian)
M. Schrier’s commander who currently lives in LA. Former German Air Force Major General. Hazel’s father.
The sky was clear. The blue expanse spread wide without a cloud to be found.
The sun was bright. Its direct light created countless dark shadows on the red cracked ground to decorate the flat and parched wasteland. The colors blue, red, and black covered everything as far as the eye could see.
Those colors were joined by the wind and some sound.
The wind was audibly torn through as an aircraft flew by.
Below that windy sound were two colors not found anywhere else: gray and white.
The gray belonged to three large runways lined up on the red wasteland and the blast-resistant buildings of a largescale base.
The white belonged to the white paint coloring the walls of the wooden barracks lined up alongside the base.
The aircraft was a fighter belonging to the base. It flew through low over the runway, performed a single roll, and soared back up into the sky. The shimmering heat of its jets slammed into the runway which had words written in more white paint: USIF Arizona Area 001.
This was the Arizona headquarters of the USIF, the US branch of the AIF.
The rumbling of the aircraft faded and the wind blew across the runways. The wind and the barking of a guard dog were the only sounds left. The large dog kept barking in the space between the barracks and the mess hall.
The cries of a dog with newfound prey reverberated through the heated air. The racket was best heard inside the mess hall since its windows were open.
The large wooden building was made to hold 2000 and it looked like a bungalow but bigger. It was bright enough outside that the lights inside were left off.
Rectangular tables for 8 were lined up in rows and countless cheap folding chairs were scattered haphazardly about.
The place was about 1/3 occupied by people in gray uniforms.
A lot of them were Heidengeists. The ones with wings or with nonhuman skeletal structures had the appropriate modifications made to their uniforms. Many of the human soldiers eating alongside them had prosthetics or carried large weapons. There was also a scattering of women. And they all wore smiles.
That may have been why they were chatting pleasantly and moving casually around.
There were two colors that did not match the gray worn by the majority.
The first was the green US Army Air Corps flight jacket worn by a middle-aged woman.
The other was the black everything worn by a black-haired young man.
The woman was lining up small cards on the large table and the young man held an ice pack to his right cheek across the table from her.
The young man pushed his sunglasses up his nose with his other hand and asked the woman a question.
“Hey, Corelle, what do you make of this? …Ow.”
He grimaced as he pressed the ice pack against his cheek, brushed up his long bangs, and fell silent.
The woman called Corelle placed a card on the table with her thick fingers.
She did not look up at the young man as she pulled out a new card.
“M. Schrier summoned you here for a job, but you showed up to find your orders waiting for you but not the man himself. And then you happen across Oscar Mirildorf who just so happened to be here.”
“Yeah, it was pretty exciting to learn the Oscar was finally paying the AIF a visit, but then…”
Corelle continued for him.
“He thanked you for helping his daughter escape Germany, but he also punched you? And hard enough to knock out one of your back teeth at that. But it’s pretty sad you let that knock you out, Berger.”
“Hey, he caught me by surprise.”
Corelle snorted with laughter, but she also decided to move on.
“Well, enough about that. What’s your new job?”
“You already know. I’m being placed on your special forces team as an expendable. They’re using me as cannon fodder.”
He removed the ice pack from his face, opened it with one hand, pulled out an ice cube, and popped it in his mouth.
“Ahhorhing ho hy hold huhherhasshan…”
“I can’t understand a word you’re saying, idiot.”
A few seconds passed.
“According to my old upperclassman’s orders, I’m using your RB-21 transport ship to sneak into Germany on the 30th. First, I travel to the Borderson village and then I help Pale escape after some important meeting with the staff there.”
“After that, you travel to Cologne, which the RAF really wants to bomb, and fire a range sensor onto the Gard-class. That’s the entrance to the German mainland and full of military factories, so this mission is crucial if the Allies are going to bomb it. The Gard-class has prevented any of the UK’s bombers from reaching Cologne.”
“It was a report from one of your people that confirmed the Gard-class’s existence…but now they’ve started showing it off, even making it an official part of the German Air Force.”
Corelle listened to Berger as she finished laying out all the cards and crossed her arms.
“When I sent Coolers to the Moonlight Resistant Aerial Division, I never imagined he would be the lone survivor. I have nothing but thanks for the captain and the rest who died.”
“I hear he abandoned his escape boat and jumped into the ocean before the Kaiser and the others could catch up.”
“One of the UK’s water dragons picked him up and he’s with one of their ground units now. Because the infantry can at least die alone.”
Berger chewed on another piece of ice before replying.
“Well, this would be the time to sink that Gard-class. Take it out here and the Allies have a way in.”
“Are you sure?”
“Take a look at the world, Corelle. The Allies are trying to see how they can get at the German mainland. That means they’re looking at attacking Germany and winning this war once and for all. The German mainland, the Gard-class, and the Cologne factories – strike those three and everyone will know Germany is within reach and this war is winnable.”
“But that’s not all. Just like the US military doesn’t like the AIF for hitching a ride with them, the Geheimnis Agency still isn’t well liked by the civilians and some of the older nobles. When the head of Borderson was lost, most of the Strikers in the Borderson territory left the Agency. Cologne is part of that territory, so I bet the Gard-class is there to help regain their trust. Take out that ship and the Geheimnis Agency crumbles.” Berger frowned and paused before continuing. “Which is why the UK is readying a thousand bombers to bomb Cologne in what they call Operation Millennium.”
Corelle flipped over the card closest to her.
It was a tower. The image depicted a tower being struck by a lightning bolt from heaven. She sighed.
“Babel, #7 of the Harmony Cards. The collapse of control. …In this context, it must mean the Babel Cannon.”
“Yeah, the UK has built a Babel Gun they plan to fire from the North Sea to shoot down the Gard-class long distance. That’ll probably be history’s largest bombardment. That pair of uninspired missions is gonna be something to see.” He smiled bitterly. “The spies in Cologne have already gotten data on the ship, but they still need real-time range finding. The spies can provide the surface range, but this thing’s in the air. That’s where I come in. I’ll be using the new and improved Schwarz Löwe. I’ve already done some training in it, so I should manage.”
“You need to do more than ‘manage’. And don’t forget about Pale.”
“He’s in Borderson, right? I just meet him there and take him with me. From there, you drop the Schwarz Löwe from the sky, I fire the range sensor onto the Gard-class, and you pick me and Pale up. Simple.” He suddenly leaned back in his seat to look up at the ceiling. “But there are a number of problems. First, where has my old upperclassman gotten off to? I’ve barely seen him for the past three years. Where is he? There’s so much I want to ask him.”
“You sure it isn’t just that he doesn’t like you? I see him plenty. …He’s still got that rich kid’s faulty idea of how the world works though. ‘I’ve just got to write and sell ten books and we can buy another transport ship?’ Ridiculous.”
“I want to ask him about what I saw three years ago. …I told you about that, didn’t I? The Sylphide being carried out of that dig site. What was up with that?”
“I asked him and he said you must have dreamed it, so I doubt he would tell you if you did ask. Besides, we’re about to leave for Germany, so why not look into it there?”
“I did everything I could to look into it for the past three years. And with nothing to show for it. It’s like the damn thing vanished into thin air.”
Corelle thought about that for a moment and nodded.
A dog barked in the distance once more.
“Oh, shut up,” grumbled Berger while looking to Corelle’s hand.
She had moved the hand to her chin and her mouth was shut and silent.
“What kinda fortune are you checking?” he asked, leaning curiously forward. “Whether I’ll deliver my baby safely?”
“Shut it. You heard about the History Live Research Team’s report, didn’t you?” She was whispering now. “All the best Fast Readers around the world can’t read the History Lives past August of ’43. And at the same time, that Nightmare Syndrome has started up.”
Berger straightened up in his seat, took a quick glance around, and shrugged.
“That happened in the past too, but it does seem a lot more common now.” He pulled over a newspaper from the corner of the table and opened to the social page. “See, here’s another one. There was a mass suicide in Norfolk, England, two weeks ago and they’re blaming it on the syndrome.”
“The UK is terrified from the German air raids, after all. Anxiety covers the country and the Lives respond. All the anxiety Lives are accelerating this war and making it darker.”
“Can you not read past ’43 either?”
Corelle flipped over the card furthest from her.
It was entirely black, with no image.
“Nuclear, #3 of the Unspoken Word Cards. A perfect nothingness. The History Live Research Team says this war will allow anxiety to rule the world, causing the collapse of the Lives forming the very nucleus of our world.”
“Bullshit. You expect me to believe some crazy talk about the entire world being destroyed?”
“But this world’s Concept Lives do not go past this point and we have no idea what that means. Maybe they’re too weak for us to read and maybe something is preventing us from seeing them, but maybe…maybe the world really was destroyed in ’43 during the era preceding even the Obstacle Era.”
“Would that mean the Messiah is the one to travel past that point and create a new world?” muttered Berger. Then he looked up. “The war started in Germany is causing this anxiety…and the Messiah also comes from Germany.”
He did not answer Corelle’s unspoken question. He instead tilted his head.
“But that doesn’t make sense. If Germany did start this war just to produce the Messiah, the Concept Lives would go past ’43, showing the history of a world saved by the Messiah.”
“Think too hard and you’ll overheat your brain. Leave the thinking to the thinkers.”
“Oh, shut up,” he said, getting up.
“Where are you going?”
“To gather my luggage. Weird leaving the same day I was given a room, but whatever.”
“Most people at least take a nap first. You probably passed out because you’re so tired after flying in from Europe. …Also, are you sure you don’t want to go see Hazel?”
“We’re not anywhere near LA. That’s not a day trip.”
Berger grinned and walked toward the mess hall’s exit with ice pack in hand.
Just then, someone appeared in the exit.
The young man in a blue uniform was a postman.
He looked around the mess hall holding a printed map of the base.
“Excuse me, is this where I can find Dog Berger?”
In Germany’s Black Forest, evening had passed and night was settling in.
The forest was growing even blacker.
A few lights could be found in the very bottom of a valley, which should have been the darkest part of the forest.
The Geheimnis Agency HQ’s fortress base was located there. The well-maintained runway lights and hangars provided enough light to function but not enough to be noticeable from a distance.
The most light could be found at the mess hall on the eastern end of the base.
The large, white mess hall was filled with round tables for four that were currently full of Geheimnis Agents. Two people at a table by the window stood out from the rest.
One was an enormous man in tightly-fitting uniform of the Geheimnis Luftwaffe, the Agency’s air force division. His right arm was a massive metal prosthetic.
The person seated across from him was a tall and pencil-thin elderly man. He stroked a hand through his fastidiously combed gray hair and sighed.
“May I take care of your plates, Master Schweitzer?”
The elderly man began stacking up the plates on the table without waiting for a response.
Schweitzer did not even look up.
His gaze was on the piece of paper he held.
It was a letter.
The envelope sat on the table in front of him. It was a plain waterproof manila envelope. The sender was listed as…
“Was she from the Alfheim region?”
“Ilfheim may be a corrupted version of that, yes. Her father was from a line of Werecats with a long history in Germany.”
Schweitzer looked up from the letter, saw the stacked plates, and frowned.
“I was still eating that.”
“I assumed you had not liked the fried shrimp. Were you saving your favorite for last?”
“Don’t ask that of a man in his late twenties, Bermark.”
“As you wish.”
Bermark set down the neatly-stacked plates and looked to Schweitzer, who realized Bermark’s gaze was on the letter he held.
“It’s from Borderson. Not the original village that was destroyed 21 years ago – the hidden village located near there. You know, the Village of Pardons.”
“That is the one place in Germany where Heidengeists are still allowed to live. Because the Hounds allowed it, as a way of atoning for their killings.”
“And that spirit has continued strong even after the fall of Borderson.”
“According to the intelligence division, all combat is banned there.”
“Yes, it is. Because it is a place of atonement, much like the ancient Greek temples. Attack there and you would earn the ire of every Heidengeist the world over.”
“The military is none too happy about it, though, what with their Wannsee Conference and all. That may be why they insist the place is crawling with Allied spies.”
“You know an awful lot about this,” noted Schweitzer.
Bermark smiled a bit, sighed, and cleared his throat.
“We have a report saying ‘Hardest Wolf’ Pale Horse, commander of the AIF, is in that village. Some mission apparently requires him to contact the local AIF spy leader who is stationed in that Village of Pardons. He has always been an easygoing general”
Bermark searched his pocket for a few seconds, produced paper and pencil, and removed his right glove.
He revealed a right hand made of porcelain, wires, and a protective plastic cover.
“I believe this was the photo air force intelligence took.”
As soon as he held the pencil in that right hand, he drew out a picture with the great speed of a machine. No, he was accurately reproducing the photograph he had seen. He even reproduced the shading, the focus, and the time and date the photo was taken.
It took him no more than a minute to complete.
A photo was now drawn on the paper. It was so complete it looked like you would be able to peel it from the paper with your nails.
Bermark held it out and Schweitzer accepted it and viewed it like nothing out of the ordinary had occurred.
The right side showed the roof of a small wooden church.
The angle was somewhat shallow, not from directly above, so the two people standing in front of the church could be seen in full. One was a large man with two prosthetic arms and the other was a young woman.
“Is that Pale Horse on the left?”
“And the woman on the right is the local AIF spy leader. It may be a sarcastic reference to her role as leader, but her Titel is Lehrer. An army division company led by Lady Jeanne is currently deployed around the village in order to gather intelligence and capture Pale Horse when he attempts to escape.”
Schweitzer nodded and noted that, even in the black-and-white photo, he could tell Pale’s short hair was gray and Lehrer’s long hair was blonde. Her hair appeared to fall nearly to the back of her knees.
“She is said to be a Buster…but she is also said to be blind.”
She wore glasses in the photo and she appeared to be facing Pale in conversation.
Schweitzer plainly stated his thoughts.
“Those who work with Tons can read people’s wills. That would be useful in intelligence work.”
“Just like with the Fräulein, women have become a part of war in this age,” noted Bermark, his eyes shut.
Schweitzer chuckled at his lieutenant’s comment.
“The Messiah is a woman too. What do you have to say about that?”
“I believe you should ask that again once the prophecy has been fulfilled.”
Bermark went on to recite the latest prophecy.
The party begins and the village dances / The dragon roars and the knights gather
The bride weeps uncrowned / Her words go unsaid and he never arrives
Thus she is alone / She weeps and sleeps in this land
“The Fräulein finally managed to prophecy this verse a month and two weeks ago. The time has come to capture the Messiah girl and the development division has already completed a few of their Ton bullets extracted directly from Germany’s Tons.”
“A lot of progress all at once, isn’t it? Quite a coincidence that it was just the other day the development division announced their development of an unmanned Sylphide-style aerial warship and research into new Eingeweide devices.”
“I believe the new craft is known as Erlkönig. And following the Sylphide’s example, the new Eingeweide devices will all be aircrafts or Grösse Panzers with a Schreiben system. The development division’s researchers are holed up trying to decode Sir Marsch’s research notes and the Ober Geheimnis diagrams found bellow Munich.”
“A system much like the Sylphide’s, hm? A prosthetic arm or a weapon required a body part to create, but if they base it on a Schreiben system that takes in the entire person, they might indeed be able to create something new.”
“It all goes back to the Sylphide, doesn’t it? …It makes me curious about what happened three years ago. Namely, how those involved claim it was the Sylphide they excavated from the Alfheim Meteorite Pit. And Lowenzahn said the Kaiserburg’s development was sped up by two years when P. Wagner discovered that beneath his lab. But…”
“Why was the Sylphide found in a place sealed up a thousand years ago? Is it Ober Geheimnis? So many mysteries. Besides, will the Messiah girl even return to this land?”
His question was answered by an unexpected source: a female voice from behind him.
“She will. Have faith, okay?”
He turned just his head to see a waitress standing there.
Her long brown hair was tied back and she directed a powerful gaze his way.
She crouched down to place her hands on his broad right shoulder and gave him a cold look.
“Or do you not trust my prophecies, Captain Schweitzer?”
He responded to her whispered admonition with an exasperated whisper of his own.
“I do hope they will prove accurate, Lowenzahn.”
“Really? Glad to hear it.”
“Do you understand why I am whispering?”
Schweitzer turned toward her and looked her in the eye.
“Remember what I told you? If the Messiah girl agrees to be our leader, then I will step forward and openly act as our commander.”
She narrowed her eyes with the ends of her eyebrows somewhat lowered.
She looked away from Schweitzer to look across the mess hall.
“Working like this is fun, but it does feel wrong at times.”
“You do kick the snot out of someone about once a month. Does life without that sound too boring for you?”
“Don’t be mean. …But taking it too far wouldn’t be fair to my stepdad. Working here instead of marrying after college is bad enough on its own. But…”
“As commander, I could leave his family and live openly as a Naylor.”
The two men said nothing to that.
After a beat, she breathed a sigh of relief.
And she lowered her gaze to the letter Schweitzer held.
“A letter from…an acquaintance who lives in the Borderson Village of Pardons. It is a wedding invitation.”
“Sounds like a cause for celebration to me, so why the long face?”
“Even if this acquaintance shouldn’t know who I am?”
“She lost her memories. Eryngium Ilfheim lost all her memories of herself, of me, of Alfred, of Marsch, of her own father, and even of Berger. And they can never return, no matter what. It was the permanent sort of memory loss.”
“Maybe some kind person told her about you.”
“Then why did the letter arrive at our HQ, which should require passing through the Post Office. Yet our address through the Post Office is top secret, so she and the general public shouldn’t know it.”
“Hey, don’t take it out on me.” Lowenzahn was still smiling as she took a closer look at the letter. “That’s a woman’s handwriting. Since it reached you, there must be some woman out there who knows about this place. Since it’s at the Borderson village, maybe she asked some ancient Heidengeist about the place.”
“I see the wedding is midday on the 30th, so…five days from now? Let’s go together.”
Schweitzer paused before responding.
“What? Why would I go with you?”
“Bermark hasn’t told you? Pale Horse is in that village, so I’m going to oversee the capture operation. If he’s driven to Cologne and captured there, I’ll meet with him.”
“That is too dangerous.”
“Jeanne while have him safely inside a prisoner transport vehicle. There is a lot I want to ask ASAP. …And if Pale is captured, we’ll have to hand him over to the military after he’s been transported.”
“We really need to work things out with the military…”
“But I don’t want to use the ‘have Heiliger pull some strings’ card too often. Since I’ll be working openly before long, I want to do everything I can on my own.”
Bermark nodded in response.
“You have grown up so much.”
“Yeah, yeah.” She sighed. “Even the great Pale Horse should give in if we shoot him with a Ton bullet. He’ll have no choice but to be captured. …I’ll admit it’s a little violent, but I want to hear for myself what happened with the Messiah girl and the Babel Cannon the UK was constructing.”
“Let me go in your place.”
“No. We’re going together. Rose, Graham, and Lieutenant Maldrick are working so hard with the Gard-class in Cologne, so I want to pay them a visit. You’re the driver and I’m the VIP. Got it?”
“Are you saying this has already been arranged?”
“I’ve spoken with my stepdad, Air Force Division Chief Müller. He praised your idea to use the second Gard-class being constructed to provide air defense for Germania.”
“He wanted to reward you with three days of field work instead of more dreary deskwork,” added Bermark.
Schweitzer looked back down at the photograph Bermark had drawn out earlier.
“Bermark, you drew this for me because you knew I would be visiting that village, didn’t you?”
“I did. You simply never asked the reason.”
Bermark held the stack of plates toward Lowenzahn and she took them.
“Oh, you didn’t finish your fried shrimps. You shouldn’t be a picky eater.”
“He apparently saves his favorite for last and I rudely cleared the plate away before he was done,” explained Bermark.
“Oh, I see,” said Lowenzahn, staring down at Schweitzer. He frowned, but that didn’t slow her down. “Is that why you don’t want to go on this trip with me? You’d prefer to save the best for last?”
“What is that supposed to mean?”
“Well, if you go with me…” She held the plates in her left hand and pressed a finger of her right hand to her lips. “We’ll effectively be taking the honeymoon before the wedding.”
This time, she did not at all whisper. Everyone in the mess hall froze and all eyes gathered on them. The sounds of cooking ceased and the only sound was the water running in a kitchen sink.
“Oh, whoops,” said Lowenzahn lowering her head.
Schweitzer frowned further and made one simple statement in the silence.
“She is only joking.”
Everyone immediately exploded
Berger stood in a dimly-lit hallway with a letter in hand.
The hallway was long and lined on the left with doors to living quarters. The window at one end of the hallway was fully open, giving a view of the blue sky. This was the second floor. He used the light from the window to open and read the letter the postman had delivered him.
“On May 30 at 8 AM, the two will be wed as part of the village’s summer festival.”
He recognized the woman’s name, but he did not recognize the man’s name.
He spoke both aloud and scratched his head. He threw out the ice pack to tear up the letter with both hands. He tore it in two, in four, in eight, and further shredded it before throwing it away.
He snorted, but then grimaced and held his cheek.
“God, I’m pathetic.”
He looked to the living quarters in front of him: Room 217.
He turned the knob and entered.
Light filled his vision.
It was a small room full of bright light thanks to the open window.
The large window was fully open and the curtain was fluttering in the wind. A black leather bag sat next to the door. It was his. It appeared to have a thin layer of dust.
“Leaving the window open was not enough ventilation. I guess that’s Arizona for you.”
He removed his heavy vest, draped it over his arm, and loosened his shirt’s buttons.
Wondering about the bed, he looked to the old single bed in the right corner, which got less sun. The mattress must have been green at some point, but it had faded to nearly white. The sheets had become a disordered ball of cloth on the bed, presumably due to the wind.
“Yeah, it’s not like they have a maid to make the bed.”
With a legitimate sigh, he reached for the sheets and lifted them.
There was nothing there. There shouldn’t have been, but he still nodded in satisfaction.
“She was hiding in there that one time.”
Then he ran over to the door, opened it, and checked the hallway. It was empty.
He shut the door again.
“And she didn’t come tumbling in when I did that.”
He finally breathed a sigh of relief, raised his arms, and stretched.
The wind blew into his room, carrying the barking of a dog outside. He also heard the sound of something scratching at wood.
He took a look outside just in time to see something fly across the windowsill and into the room.
The small golden fluffball tried to run across the room as fast as its four legs would take it.
It was a cat.
Specifically, a cat with a brown feline right eye and a blue human left eye.
Berger gasped and called the cat’s name.
The cat responded by looking back in the middle of her feline sprint of repeatedly scrunching up and stretching out. She turned a head wearing a choker like a collar and looked Berger in the eye.
For a cat, she had a very human combination of surprise and relief on her face.
But cat anatomy was not made to look to the side while running, so she lost her balance and took a tumble.
Her tail was caught in it and she rolled like a ball…right toward the door.
Berger wordlessly ran over and opened the door, so Cat Hazel tumbled right on out into the hallway.
Then he shut the door, locked it, and leaned his back against it.
He sighed when he heard a female voice from beyond the door.
“O-open the door! Please open the door! C-clothes! I need clothes!”
What the voice said and the voice itself made him hang his head in an “I hate being right” kind of way.
“Is that you again, Hazel Mirildorf?”
Hazel’s expression changed when she heard that voice through the door. Her face lit up.
She had grown out her hair over the past three years and it hung down over her body, but she still pounded on the door.
“Y-yes, it’s me! It’s Hazel Mirildorf! So please open the door!”
She shouted and looked down the hallway to make sure it was deserted.
Then she looked down at herself.
She was naked.
…I need to get inside that room.
Someone could show up at any moment. And if they saw her out in the hallway like this, she would look very…
She took a deep breath to calm her racing heart, placed a hand on the doorknob, and waited for him to do as she asked. However…
“What are you doing here?”
“W-we can discuss that later!”
“Unfortunately, I have to leave on a mission soon, so whether or not you’re a spy is my second biggest question in the world. So explain yourself. In 25 words or less. Stammering counts double.”
“B-but that’s not fair. D-don’t be so mean!”
“That’s 10 down. You’d better hurry or I’ll blow you up.”
“Yeah, most people like to wear them. I know I do.”
…Why are you so mean!?
She kept that question to herself while thinking back to 3 years ago. Something similar had happened, but what had he asked for then?
…Say it in English.
“U-um, please give me some clothes,” she said in English this time.
She heard three quiet claps through the door followed by an awfully calm response.
“I’m fresh out.”
“B-but! Can’t you lend me some of what you’re wearing now!? Like three years ago.”
“Nah, I’d rather not have my clothes smell like cat. You trying to mark me as yours, cat girl?”
“Y-you are awful!”
The wind blew through the hallway. The chilly dry air passed below her arms and between her legs, reminding her of her lack of clothing.
And that was not all. She heard some chatting male voices coming from the stairs at the end of the hallway.
“O-oh, no. S-someone’s coming!”
“Yeah, it’s a public hallway. People will do that.”
“B-but I’m naked! You aren’t supposed to do that in a public hallway!”
“Have them rate you. I doubt you’ll do all that well. Maybe a 40-point average?”
“J-just let me inside already! Hurry! I need to get in there!”
“You do know how it sounds to beg to visit a guy in his room while you’re naked, right?”
She prepared to say something more, but the chatting voices and footsteps on the stairs grew even louder.
She tried pressing her back against the door, but the door was already flush with the wall. She could not hide that way. As small as her chest was, it still stuck out. There was no point in trying.
“U-um, I-I-I n-need s-s-s-s-somewhere to h-h-hide.”
“I don’t think there is anywhere.”
“No, it doesn’t look like- y-you are mean!!”
The chatting men sounded so much louder now. She could even tell they were complaining that the mess hall didn’t offer anything with fresh blood in it. Their footsteps sounded clearly from this floor’s landing.
Hazel gave up. Her legs went limp, her hips dropped into a crouch, and she wrapped her arms around herself to hide her chest and the brand on her left shoulder.
She thought she was going to cry, but then the door opened behind her.
She lost her balance and tumbled back into the room.
She fell back onto her hips and lay sprawled out between the boards. She briefly felt dizzy.
She could see the wooden ceiling and Berger looking down at her. Other than her longer hair that she now wore tied back, she had not changed much over the past three years. She initially felt relieved, but then she came back to her senses.
Berger commented on the exact thing on her mind.
“Just letting it all hang out, huh?”
She was lying on her back with her limbs somewhat sprawled out. “Ah,” she gasped while scrambling to a sitting position. She closed her knees and wrapped her arms around herself. She pressed her back against the side of the bed and only then looked up at Berger again.
“Y-you saw, didn’t you!?”
“You rolled right into my field of view, so I couldn’t help but see everything. Top and bottom.”
She could not believe how pathetic that sounded.
…And I told myself I would be more careful about this kind of thing…
Her teary vision saw him pull over a chair, sit down, and brush a hand through his hair.
“I’m not interested in 40-point nudity. Now, answer my question, Hazel. Why did you make a surprise appearance through my window?”
“Um, well…there was a dog down there. One they let run free.”
“Okay, I’ve heard enough. I’ve deduced the whole story using the second-best powers of insight in the world.”
His eyes turned toward the left hand she was using to hide her chest. It had a red bite mark on it.
“Would you prefer I called you an idiot or a moron?”
She tensed her shoulders and hung her head.
“I’d prefer you didn’t call me either one.”
“Stupid imbecile it is. And just out of curiosity, where are your spare clothes?”
“Oh, m-my luggage is still outside. Could you go get it for me?”
“Go get it yourself.”
She looked up.
“Then give me some clothes to do that! Y-you’re mean! This is no way to treat your assistant.”
She tilted her head, so he lowered his voice and asked a question.
“Who exactly are you saying is my assistant?”
…What is he talking about?
She pointed at herself and he very obviously frowned.
“Are you suggesting you have ever assisted me before?”
“Then enlighten me. And make it the best example in the world.”
With a high-level request like that, Hazel had to think for a bit. She found her answer in five seconds.
“Lots of times.”
“Sorry. I’m feeling a little dizzy…”
“You probably need more iron. How about I cook you something later on?”
“No, thanks. Also…are you saying you have orders!?”
His raised voice made her shrink down and point out the window.
“My orders from my teacher are o-outside with my luggage.”
“Then go get your luggage.”
“H-how many times do I have to remind you I need clothes first!?”
“Don’t get so worked up you wave your arms at me. You’re not covering up.”
She quickly covered up with her arms again and pressed her knees more tightly together.
Just then, the door opened a little and Corelle’s head poked in.
“Hey, Berger. About today’s-” was as far as she got.
She looked first to Berger and then to Hazel. Then her eyes moved back and forth a few times.
Unsure what else to do, Hazel bowed her head.
“Um, it’s good to see you again.”
Corelle nodded a few times and responded with a perfectly straight face.
“Catching up after three years apart? Have fun.”
She shut the door. “Goddammit,” muttered Berger before reaching for the door.
Corelle’s heavy running footsteps and yelling voice came from the hallway.
Hearing that, Berger groaned and crouched in front of the door.
“You don’t have to tell the whole world…”
“This is what you get for teasing me so much,” said Hazel.
Berger turned a cold glare her way.
“You do realize this is about you too, right?”
“I’ll be fine. Everyone takes the girl’s side in these things.”
She softened her expression and sighed with an arm around her knees and a hand brushing through her hair.
…I really have grown up more since last time.
She relaxed her shoulders, looked to Berger, and…
“There’s an 8-year age gap between us, so everyone will know you’re the in the wrong here.”
A city’s night was spread out below.
With a wartime blackout in effect, the city stretching from north to south had barely any lights in it.
The city was Cologne.
The few lights that were on faintly outlined the streets and main roads.
Several billows of smoke rose into the sky as if to obscure the city below. The smoke came from the city’s factories.
The smoke, light, and darkness were all visible directly below an airborne observation deck that allowed a view far, far into the distance.
That observation deck was located on the bottom of the Requiem’s first central ship as it floated high above Cologne. The 30-yard hall’s lower surface was made of thick blast-resistant glass, so the people standing atop it felt like they were floating in midair.
This late at night, there were only two people there.
They were both tall men.
One was a bald old man with a fully prosthetic body wearing a Geheimnis Agency dress uniform. He looked down into the glass and spoke.
“You say preventing an invasion from the north and west will show this land’s Neue Kavaliers what to do.”
His tone made it hard to tell if that was a statement or a question, but it earned a response from the tall man with two prosthetic arms standing next to him. The hem of his German Air Force uniform and his gray hair swayed somewhat and he sighed.
“Are you saying this warship, you, and Maldrick were sent to defend Cologne in order to bring back those who followed Borderson? The Borderson faction insisted on working as an independent unit as Hounds even when they were with the Geheimnis Agency, so they had a fair number of foreign connections.” He continued from there. “Nothing has changed. Twenty years ago, when you received Lowenheit Naylor’s will and began work on establishing the Geheimnis Agency, I repeatedly argued against the idea.”
“Yes, I remember you saying the age of Kavaliers leading the nation was a thing of the past.”
“You do not play fair, brother. You are only protecting this country. …Even Lowenheit and Frobel chose to protect this country instead of creating a new one after that great war ended. But…”
“Do not accuse me of being unfair. Explain how you yourself are fair, Heiliger.”
Heiliger lowered his gaze at that.
He replied while viewing the lights on the surface.
“That is not something I can do. If it worked like that…would you have taken that Psyche Outer device twenty years ago? Isn’t that when everything came to a stop for Graham Karlsruhe?”
The older brother, Graham, said nothing and cleared his throat.
“Lowenheit, Frobel, and Bertecht feared where our country was headed,” said the younger brother. “But they did so as leaders of the people. There was some discord between us, but I thought we had arrived at a conclusion after our loss in the previous war.”
“That the age of Kavaliers was over? That Bertecht’s death and Lowenheit’s will meant the end of our country’s millennium of rule by Kavaliers?”
“It’s a shame, brother. Words spoken by a man with no emotions cannot move anyone to emotion.” He sighed. “I miss when you were as emotional as the second son of Maldrick.”
“Alfred Maldrick vastly underestimates you.” The older brother took a step forward, still looking down. “I know you put together this aerial fleet for local air defense because you had information the Allies were targeting the Gard-class. I hear you even visited the Geheimnis Agency HQ to ask for opinions on the matter.”
“We held a theoretical battle to determine what route the Allies would use to invade.”
“And I hear you won against Müller and the others. First as the Allies and then as us. Even though Müller is known as the Kommandeur, the top-level combat commander.”
“Sadly, my Neue Kavalier blood demands victory.”
“Will that blood allow you to make good use of Alfred Maldrick?”
Heiliger looked up at that question and Graham said more to him.
“At 22:00 on the 29th, your aerial fleet will be dismissed and all but your core fleet will be sent west. Also, the Geheimnis Agency Army Division’s 1st Independent Mobile Grösse Panzer Platoon will be removed from my unit and joined with your core fleet to create an aerial fleet for defense of the North Sea. That will place Alfred Maldrick under your command.”
Heiliger’s eyes widened slightly and he saw Graham’s unmoving back before him.
He frowned and asked a question.
“Brother, I am not part of your agency. I am not even a Kavalier – I am a mere soldier. That cannot change. …Look at this ship. It technically belongs to the air force, but everything inside is controlled by your agency and none of the ordinary German soldiers are allowed inside. …The military and your agency are always at odds like that.”
“But you are allowed here because you are a Karlsruhe. Use that to command him. Prove that the military can work with the Kavaliers and you are sure to grab the attention of the Borderson Kavaliers who left the Agency in ’33. …The necessary paperwork has already been delivered to your aide.”
Heiliger smiled at that. And he shook his head.
“You really do only think about this country…and about the Kavaliers, don’t you?”
“The Millennium is drawing to a close and the world’s destiny is fading fast. Only we can work to fix this problem so intertwined with our country’s history, Heiliger.”
“I know all the world’s Sofort Lesers cannot read destiny past ’43, I know anxiety is running rampant around the world, and…”
“I know Frobel and Lowenheit’s daughter…has prophesied the Messiah’s capture.”
Then he heard a quiet sound in the large observation deck. It was a solid sound like metal gears turning.
It happened once, twice, thrice.
At the same time, he heard something from the ceiling, so he looked up.
The large ceiling had split open. The ceiling panels split in four and folded up like paper to fold up the entire ceiling.
Without the ceiling, they had a view of another space, but they were not directly exposed to it. There was a thick layer of glass beyond the ceiling.
Opening the ceiling panels revealed a glass ceiling above that.
“What is the point of the ceiling panels?” muttered Heiliger, looking up.
He saw only darkness there.
The different depths of darkness were due to the tubes laid out throughout that space.
And in the deepest part was a small red light. It almost looked like a star in the sky.
“Is that you, Rose?” asked Graham without even looking up.
He was answered by a girl’s voice coming from the center of the observation deck.
“It is, bigger brother.”
Rose stood behind Heiliger, in the center of the glass floor.
He turned around and looked alternately between the faintly transparent girl and the red light in the depths of the darkness above.
“Once every three days, my true self requires maintenance and ventilation,” said Rose, looking up.
Heiliger followed her gaze.
Something like white steam was spraying out into the darkness there.
It also looked like smoke, but it turned to bubbles, spread out, and ascended.
“Is that a liquid beyond the glass?”
“The coolant must be fully replaced. That red collection of concentrated circuits is less than an inch long, but it is my true body now. Using my nerves stretched out across the Requiem produces a lot of heat.” Rose kept the smile in her voice. “I can tell. This Eingeweide used a Schreiben device, which gave me that as a new body, but I can sense how it feels far better than I can sense anything from this projection here.”
“When submerged in coolant, it feels a little like when I was sleeping below Munich. But once every three days I get to do this…which feels kind of like taking a bath, I guess. And when we do this-”
Without even turning her way, Graham cleared his throat to finish her sentence for her.
“You selfishly ask to see the outside world.”
The amount of bubbles overhead suddenly grew, but as they rose through that space, they eventually popped and vanished.
A liquid with a different pressure was pumped in and the space solidified somewhat.
The distant red light wavered a bit. Rose smiled.
“I can’t thank the workers up there enough. Today is my third time to do it midair, but the supply transport corridor large enough for a Grösse Panzer is really busy.”
“You can see what’s happening up there?”
“This me here isn’t the real me. It’s only an image created by solidifying the Tons of the air.”
She pointed up at the red light.
“That is my core…my naked self. Only you two get to see me like this, brothers. I haven’t even let Sir Alfred see.”
“So my sister is growing up. …Well, he does appear to be an excellent man.”
“But he always treats me like a child when I’m older than him.”
“But you learned a lot more about him recently, didn’t you?”
“Yes. I learned what happened in the past…and that I am a lot like a certain woman.” Rose smiled a little. “That woman’s wedding is in 5 days, but Sir Alfred says he will not be attending. That Captain Schweitzer is apparently taking Lowenzahn with him.”
“I see,” said Heiliger, trying to pat Rose’s shoulder with his metal arm.
He could not.
His hand vanished inside her shoulder and stopped.
“You were always such a good girl. You would always stop me and my brother’s arguments with a smile. …I am sure Lieutenant Maldrick will realize the same thing eventually.”
“Yes, I think so too. I just know he will remember me forever.”
Heiliger’s eyebrows moved when she said that.
He opened his lips to ask something, but…
Rose’s smile grew and she looked up at her brother.
“Big brother, you get along with bigger brother, okay? Try to understand him. …Maybe this isn’t the nicest way of putting it, but unlike him and me, you are so ignorant and so soft.”
“Yes, you could have put that nicer.”
“But it’s true. I’m sure you will understand one day and then you will know exactly what I mean…but you are soft and that is a good thing. And you are ignorant, which is also a good thing.”
Meanwhile, another metallic sound came from the ceiling.
It was closing. Sealing back up.
Heiliger removed his gaze from the girl to look up. He saw the red light in the darkness past the closing ceiling.
For a brief moment, he thought the light grew brighter.
At the same time, the image of his sister vanished.
The ceiling had fully closed.
He sighed toward the floor and looked to his brother’s back.
“Take care of Rose.” He lowered his gaze a little. “Because she too has chosen you over me.”
That was all Heiliger said before turning away from his brother.
He walked to the large door leading from the observation deck.
He left alone.
Chapter 2: The Requiem Begins
05/30/1942 00:57 – 03:01
Some things you can see
Some things you cannot
But I think
What really matters
Is why you can see those things
Geheimnis Agency Personnel
Lowenzahn Naylor (Geheimnis Agency Commander)
Cheerful girl who also works as a mess hall waitress. Mother is Frobel. Father is Lowenheit.
Graham Karlsruhe (Geheimnis Agency Lieutenant Commander)
Commander-in-chief. Afflicted with Words Warn, has a fully prosthetic body, and had a Psyche Outer device installed.
Rose Karlsruhe (Captain of Eingeweide Gard-class Aerial Warship Requiem)
Graham and Heiliger’s younger sister. Also a Words Warn patient.
Hellard Schweitzer (Geheimnis Agency Air Force Division Captain)
Wielder of Eingeweide arm Der Held. Went to high school with Berger. Father is Bertecht.
Bermark Vier (Geheimnis Agency Air Force Division)
Automaton and wielder of Eingweide handgun Freischütz. Schweitzer’s lieutenant.
Alfred Maldrick (Geheimnis Agency Army Division Lieutenant)
Pilot of Eingeweide Grösse Panzer Kaiser and wielder of Werkzeug Rein König. Went to high school with Berger.
Heiliger Karlsruhe (German Air Force Lieutenant General)
Graham’s younger brother. Joined the army as an intermediary between the knights and the ordinary people.
Jeanne Schmitt (Geheimnis Agency Army Division Deputy Chief)
Middle-aged woman with a short temper. Wife of Army Division Chief Karl Schmitt.
Bermark Nein (Geheimnis Agency Army Division)
Alfred’s subordinate, joined with two Grösse Panzers.
Konrad Elrich (Geheimnis Agency Development Division Chief)
An old scientist with a passion for research. Superior of Marsch Gant who developed Eingeweide devices.
Galue Witzmann (Geheimnis Agency Intelligence Division Chief)
A kind-looking old gentleman. But will do anything to acquire intelligence.
Hazel found herself kneeling in a dark clearing.
It was nighttime, but the sky was a dark red. The wind was blowing.
The ground below her was made of sand. This was a schoolyard giving a view of the crimson sky.
…This is that bad dream I keep having recently.
The word dream helped her “wake up” in the dream.
But she did not actually wake up from the dream.
…It’s the same dream I had when I came down with a fever in the Heidenheim they brought me to after arresting me in the middle of class 5 years ago.
The dream had returned now that she was 20. When she had asked the college doctor about it, they had said it was probably just the Nightmare Syndrome going around recently.
…But this nightmare has plagued me for a while. It isn’t some new condition.
Nightmare Syndrome caused other people to be overwhelmed by indescribable anxiety as they slept, but Hazel’s nightmares had clear images, sounds, and other senses. And the events in the dream changed each time.
Now that she was partially awake in the dream, the images moved around her, the sounds reached her ears, and her skin sensitively picked up everything it could.
She had fallen to her knees after being shot and a large group surrounded her.
The stinging pain in her right chest quickly changed to such intense agony that she thought her entire body was breaking apart.
The distant sounds of sword fighting told her someone was still fighting out there, but she could not look to see who. She was in too much pain.
A woman stepped forward from the group of black-uniformed soldiers surrounding her.
Hazel did not recognize her.
She wore a green men’s suit and her long brown hair was worn in a braid.
Only now did Hazel realize how weirdly calm she was for having just been shot.
Her senses were sharp.
She could smell the sandy ground and the grassy scent carried by the wind. She could feel the wind and her hair blowing in it.
…I have no memory of this.
The dream was showing her this image.
The background resembled her former school and the smell of the dirt and wind reminded her so much of her school days in Germany.
This was only a dream. It was not real.
She kept telling herself that to wake herself up while she tried to bear with the pain coursing through her body.
It didn’t work.
The woman stood motionless before her. She did not even reach out a hand to help Hazel up.
But she did speak in too quiet a voice for anyone but Hazel to hear.
“Now, it is time to say goodbye to your free destiny. We have started down the path that leads to my death.”
Hazel’s mind was shocked into focus by the phrase “say goodbye”.
And the woman said more.
“You are just like us, Messiah. You fight only for the present.”
Those words reflexively sent Hazel’s thoughts in the usual direction.
…Only for the present?
She had the will and a reason to fight.
…I don’t want to run away, so I choose to fight.
“You cannot see where this fight leads either, can you? Or what it is you want to do once it is all over. …But that is fine. For you are only a tool for us. You are the Messiah who keeps the Nibelung turning.”
Her mind rejected that statement. But it was a reflexive thing with nothing to back it up.
…There are things I want to do!
She woke up as soon as she shouted her response.
Hazel sat in a small room with a long sword wrapped in cloth next to her.
The room’s white plastic walls and floor were 6 yards across.
There were no windows.
The only openings were the door made of the same material as the wall and an air duct.
The only decorations (if you could even call them that) were the clock built into the wall, the mirror, and the training pole sticking up from the floor by the wall.
This was a large ship’s martial arts training room. She was inside the flagship of the 5th Moonlight Resistance Squadron which was towing Corelle’s RB-21 two-hull transport ship to the Netherlands.
There was no sound in here, only the rocking of the ship.
She was seated by the wall with a notebook and pencil.
No one else was allowed in the training room when someone was using it, which made it perfect for doing some thinking, but…
“I shouldn’t be falling asleep in here.”
She smiled bitterly and then thought back on her dream.
“After that…they usually take me away. They force me to say goodbye to whoever is fighting in the distance and take me away.”
…I’ve had the same dream since I was taken away from school back then.
She took a breath. She shook her head to shake the dream from her mind and change her focus.
She pulled a letter from her pocket. It was her orders from the AIF. M. Schrier had given this to her directly, so the military stamp, “no inspection needed” mark, and his name on the envelope were only a formality.
The letter inside was just her plain orders with no greeting or anything like that.
She had two orders.
The first was to act as Berger’s assistant while they helped Pale escape from the Borderson village and then support Berger as he used Schwarz Löwe to fire a range sensor onto the Gard-class warship in Cologne.
The AIF included a lot of Brits, so they were allowed to play a supporting role in the RAF’s Millennium bombing operation.
She had read and reread the order countless times and completed her mock training.
But she had another order as well.
“Convince Berger…to join the AIF.”
She read M. Schrier’s handwriting aloud and then stuffed the letter into her pocket.
She had no idea if she could do that.
Berger was on this ship, but she never seemed to see him. He may have been avoiding her. Corelle had said she didn’t know where he was and the other men in his cabin had teased her when she showed up asking after him.
She had so much she wanted to ask him and talk to him about. She didn’t even know if he had read the letters she had sent him once per season. Even here, all she knew about him were the rumors she heard.
“It’s been three years.”
She had decided to join the AIF shortly after returning to America after the destruction of the Gard-class’s #1 ship three years ago. She had completed the AIF entrance exams while going to school, so…
“It normally takes 6 months, but it took me two years. But I should be fine.”
She tried to cheer herself up and gripped the pencil tight, but then the floor tilted beneath her. The ship was rocking in the high altitude winds. The moonlight-resistant ships were flying near the stratosphere, so the winds and atmospheric barriers were thick and heavy even for this light cruiser-class flagship.
The shaking was intermittent but it never truly went away. This time, the ship tilted to Hazel’s right.
It was making a gentle turn.
Seeing the sword start to slide across the floor, she grabbed it and held it to her chest, the hilt resting on her right shoulder.
…I wonder where we are now. Shouldn’t be too long until we’re on standby.
They had left America in Corelle’s RB-21 transport ship, crossed the Atlantic, and arrived in England the night before last.
She had been excited to see what that textual world was like, but other than feeling the atmosphere soaking into her body, it had just seemed dark and gloomy.
She sighed, opened her notebook, rested her head on the sword to her right, and readied her pencil.
She drew the UK on the left side of the notebook.
She accidentally drew an unspeakable silhouette and hurriedly corrected it.
Then she checked the clock on the wall to find it was 1:02 AM. They had to be on standby at 2 AM, so she had to prepare to board the RB-21.
…I never imagined my first AIF job in Europe would be something so major.
She laughed bitterly when she saw the UK in her notebook.
“I wish we could have stayed longer, so I could see the sights.”
They had only been in the UK for 6 hours, including travel time. They had arrived at Bristol to the southwest and then flown to the Glasgow base far to the north. On the way they had been guarded by a rotation of escort craft from whatever RAF group was in charge of that particular region: first the 10th, then the 12th, and lastly the 13th. The 13th’s 3rd combat squadron had joined with the Moonlight Resistant Aerial Division’s 5th combat squadron at Glasgow Air Base, where they had resupplied and exchanged information.
“Then we went east.”
She drew a line from the left of the notebook, signifying the RB-21’s route. They had entered the UK from the left and traveled north through the UK. The line stopped in the northern UK. She sketched out Europe at the bottom of the page and sighed.
Then she resumed drawing the line. It took a 90-degreee turn to the right from northern UK.
“From Glasgow, we first traveled to Newcastle on the east coast.”
At the RAF’s Newcastle Headquarters Base, they had joined with the Big Signal, a two-hull aerial ship equipped with a Babel Gun which had been waiting at the base’s aerial shipyard.
“Then we flew west into the North Seat, but at a slower rate to match the sluggish Big Signal.”
She was now drawing two lines.
The first cut straight across the North Sea and stopped off the coast of Norway. She labeled that line “Big Signal – 3rd Squadron”.
She drew their own line below that one. She labeled it “5th Squadron” and it followed the Big Signal line for a bit, but ultimately entered northwest Germany through the Netherlands.
“We parted with the Big Signal earlier, so we’ve picked up speed on our way to Germany.”
Shortly after leaving the UK, she had been given all the details in the ship’s strategy meeting being shared with across the squadron.
Simply put, they would use Project Millennium as a diversion while…
“They fire the Babel Gun from the North Sea to sink the Gard-class waiting above Cologne.”
She added national borders and major city names to her map of Europe.
She had studied in the education department at college, so she thought back to the kids’ atlases they used.
First, she added Cologne in western Germany.
Then she drew a large circle in England and labeled it “Cologne Bombing Force - 1000 Ships”.
The words felt like a direct representation of the RAF’s pride.
“The RAF will be creating a multiday diversion from the west while we enter from the northwest today, the morning of the 30th.” She took a breath. “Once Berger and I are dropped off by the RB-21, we help General Pale leave Borderson, attach the range sensor to the Gard-class in Cologne late at night, and escape. Then the RAF makes their move at 11 PM.”
Her pencil drew a line across the North Sea, taking the 1000 ships to Cologne. But that was not all.
“For Project Millennium, the 1000 ships are sent in and the Gard-class will move out to intercept them.”
She added to the Big Signal line up near Norway, sending it into Germany and then added a “Babel Gun” line continuing on to Cologne. She added 3:00 next to that.
She recalled what the mission commander had said.
“One who was once pursued by Germany will create a path to Germany and eliminate a part of it.”
She thought she might understand what that meant, but then again, maybe not.
She tilted her head as she closed the notebook with the pencil held inside it and set it down on the floor.
She understood the situation and she knew what she had to do.
But then a phrase from her dream came back to her.
“I keep repeating this…but what is it I want to do?”
She grabbed the sword she was holding to her chest and let the cloth fall away.
The sword’s blade came into view, revealing it had been blunted. Piping reminiscent of blood vessels ran from the hilt and through the blade, indicating this was a Device designed for beginners.
This was a portable longsword-style Device distributed by the US Army’s Buster forces and its S-41G designation was carved into the blade. Its design had the Phlogiston cartridge built into the hilt.
Hazel stared at the cold blade. The blunted blade.
She had blunted it herself. With a Live-related combat style, you did not always need a sharp blade when using a Device. And when the Device did have a sharp blade…
“It increases the attack power in your Messages.”
She stood up and gripped the S-41G’s hilt with armbands around her hands.
She planted her feet at shoulder width, one a bit in front of the other, and raised the S-41G high.
She swung it without hesitation. The blade sliced through the air, making a nice whooshing sound. The room’s stagnant air was set in motion and the blue Lives of wind appeared in her vision.
She stopped the blade at her feet and then remembered the mirror on the wall.
She took a step over to view herself in the mirror.
She wore a somewhat brownish red uniform. It was the dress uniform for a female AIF soldier. She also had a combat uniform, but…
…I’ve almost never worn it.
She swung her sword again.
Swinging her center of gravity threatened to overbalance her, which she counteracted by lowering her knees and hips to the front. That action also gave the blade a greater forward reach.
She pulled the stopped blade back once more.
The wind Lives followed the movement. She turned the blade on its side to stir up the azure Lives surrounding it. The wind wrapped around the blade and shook.
At this point, a Tuner would recite an Up to call out to the Lives contacting the Device and transform them into something else. A Buster would instead destroy those Lives and trigger a chain reaction within the Lives in the surrounding space.
She pointed the Device upwards with a scooping motion. The wind Lives gently fell away from the vertically-oriented blade. They shattered upon touching her hands.
She could feel the wind on her hand.
“I’m only a Greenhorner – not even a Buster or a Tuner yet – but I can see Lives like a pro.”
She swung the sword again.
She pulled it back again and brought a hand on her hip. She pulled a card from the holder on her belt.
This kind of card would emit light. It would create a glowing orb the size of a thumb for about three minutes, so unless it was being used as a signal in enemy territory, it needed to be placed inside your mess kit or your pocket to regulate its light.
She held the sword with that card still in her hand.
Then she swung it while sweeping her body forward.
She stopped the tip of the blade just before it hit the floor.
She pulled it back quickly but not in a rush.
M. Schrier had taught her how to practice like this. Doing this 500 times in a row was part of the physical exam for joining the AIF, so he had taught her three years ago.
She had failed that exam a few times, but she had eventually gotten the hang of it.
…My body is a lot more fit now too.
“I just wish it didn’t make my chest look even flatter.”
She took a breath and checked the clock. It was 1:31. She had to leave at 3.
She made another swing.
She upped the speed a little. That helped her transition smoothly from one swing to another.
Sometimes it was easier to move faster. That was a lesson this training had taught her. She had started off too scared to swing it very quickly, so she had had a lot of trouble.
The movements were a lot more stable when fast and it reduced the amount of energy required on her part to keep it up.
It required more strength to move it slowly.
If your arm was tensed with excess strength, it would slow the sword. the trick was to start by moving the hilt with a light, rolling movement of the wrists and then push straight forward once the blade was near vertical.
When pulling it back, you pulled your entire body back. You wanted to slash with your full body, not with the blade.
Anyone hoping to use Lives needed to become one with their Device.
…I can already read an Octave of nearly 1.2 million, though.
“And they say you only need to see Lives with an Octave of above 160 thousand to become a Buster or a Tuner.”
But she could not manage it.
She could see the Lives. She could read them. But whenever she tried to alter them either through transformation or destruction, she would hesitate and fail.
Thus, she remained a Greenhorner. That was not entirely a bad thing.
She removed her right hand from the sword and touched her right eye. That eye was the Messiah prosthetic. She could access a High Organ device using its Aerial Word.
In the mirror, it looked like she had her hand on her eye to wipe away tears.
She lightly shook her head. There was so much she didn’t know, but she could sum up everything – her eye included – with just one phrase.
“Five years ago, I decided I didn’t want to run away. Three years ago, I decided I wanted to do something.”
She hesitated before continuing.
“But what kind of power should I choose once I’m on the battlefield for real?”
Would she be a Tuner or a Buster? She knew why she found it so hard to choose.
“Once I obtain that great power, I will still have it after I no longer need it.”
…And I don’t know what I want to do after the war is over.
She recalled something from 5 years ago.
Before she was arrested, her class had been discussing their future plans. And when her friend had immediately written down her dream…
…I thought she was too naïve, but I also thought I wanted to be a teacher.
She looked to the floor, where the notebook sat. The map she had drawn in there was related to a war between nations.
…A war causing so much anxiety it’s causing mass suicides and nightmares.
She placed her hand back on the hilt and faced forward. She saw herself standing there with the sword in the middle position.
She raised it overhead and her reflection did the same.
She swung it. It strayed a bit to the left.
She pulled back and swung again. A little to the right this time.
“That isn’t it.”
…Which is it?
“A Buster destroys and a Tuner regenerates to assist that destruction.”
The information in that notebook was all about destruction. That was a Buster’s power and its nature gave the war its current form.
…To fight is to destroy.
Regenerative Tuners could join in as medics, but they primarily acted as frontline support.
…They restore the destruction done to people. And they assist in the destruction.
“Is there no opposite to destruction?”
No one was around to answer her question, so she simply swung the sword straight down.
She managed it. So she did it again. And again. And again. She set up a rapid repetition before her body could forget how to do it and she settled into that groove.
When she pulled back, she threw the card in her hand.
She immediately struck the card with the S-41G.
With a metallic sound, the white blade sliced through the card. Or so it looked. The card underwent an instantaneous transformation.
It became an orb of light. The orb floated for a bit while growing brighter, but then gravity pulled it down.
She struck it again from above, causing it to shatter and split.
Her eyes did not follow the spray of light. Instead, she focused on the coldly shining back of the blade so she could stop it just before it reached the ground.
It stopped and she let out a deep breath.
Just as that breath fell to the floor, the split orb of light reached the floor and bounced.
The light rotated for just a moment and then suddenly became paper once more.
She stood up and wiped the sweat from her brow. She paused for a moment, unsure whether to pick up the left or right piece of paper first, but then realized she was overthinking this and shut her eyes.
Just then, a great tremor ran through the ship and an alarm sounded.
This was the second alarm, indicating an emergency.
She gasped and readied her sword. Her sword practice had trained her sense of balance, so even as the floor shook below her, she spread her legs to shoulder width and loosened her knees.
One of her feet ended up stepping on the notebook and the notebook slipped.
The back of her head slammed into the floor.
When the patrol plane sent out an emergency assistance request, the closest aerial squadron was Heiliger’s squadron on its way to the North Sea.
The aerial squadron had flown north from Cologne and was currently above the mountains near Belgium. The patrol plane had lost the enemy reading, so they searched for the enemy and found a small aerial squadron.
Most of the air force was unavailable after being sent to the Cologne region, so Heiliger’s task was to track the enemy until an interception fleet could arrive from Cologne.
His light cruiser and four accompanying ships flew through the night winds.
The light cruiser took the lead and Heiliger held binoculars on the bridge which had windows in all four directions.
The enemy picked up by the radar was still not visible with the naked eye.
“The enemy force has split up!” shouted the navigator. “What appears to be the main division is changing course. They intend to escape into Belgium.”
Heiliger did not even nod.
“Tell our forces in Belgium to handle this. We will pursue the ship that has entered our country. Adjust course and accelerate. Maintain full speed and pursue. Capture them before the interception fleet arrives.”
“That will delay our original mission of supporting the northern coast.”
“I am aware of that. But the ship guarding that squadron has broken away and entered the country on its own. Which of those do you think is truly important to the enemy?”
“But, Lieutenant General,” whispered his young first officer. “Are you sure this is a good idea? Our arrival in the north will be delayed.”
“We are the only ones who can pursue them here. We received a request for assistance and we are answering it. …The air force staff officers would not be pleased if we continued north and joined the forces there.”
“I am sure you heard a great many rumors about me when you were assigned to my unit,” said Heiliger with a hint of a smile.
“Yes…and I thought they were true at first. But you always turn out to be correct in the end. I don’t know the details, but I think the higher ups should give you more credit. If they gave you sufficient forces, you could-”
“You are still young, so I doubt you know anything about my past. If you did, you would understand why I am treated this way and you would understand what happened the other day.”
“You mean with the Gard-class four days ago? I only received the report to be taken north.”
“What did you think of that ship? That massive warship that does not belong to any fleet and only I am allowed inside. …You have vaguely come to understand that you and the people of Cologne are protected by something much larger than our military, haven’t you?” He smiled bitterly. “Yet saying so out loud would mean denying the current form of Germany.”
Just then, someone gave a shout.
The navigator raised his right hand while looking outside with semi-stationary binoculars. He quickly formed some numbers with his fingers.
“Distance: approximately 5 miles. Low altitude. A single transport ship has flown into a mountain valley and…it is slowing down.”
Heiliger stepped forward with binoculars in one hand and asked a question of the gun commander.
“Can we fire on them?”
“Hitting a single moving ship at this distance would be difficult.”
“Then fire. Let them know we are here. If a transport ship is flying at low velocity and altitude, it is preparing to drop something off. Fire a Pseudo-Drach Kanone along their course and match our altitude to theirs.”
“A light cruiser shouldn’t be flying at low altitude in the mountains at night. Especially not at high velocity.”
“We are the air force’s outcasts. Besides, we were even more foolhardy during the previous war. Are you going to let the enemy’s plan succeed through our excess caution?”
The gun commander smiled as he responded.
“The short end of the stick again, huh?”
“What makes you say that?”
“Our orders were to pursue, not to attack. We are only supposed to drive them out so they can be intercepted by someone else. That means no credit goes to us. Not that that’s new.”
“If it isn’t new, then just do it like we always do. You can, can’t you?”
Heiliger was not actually asking.
After a moment, firm responses came from all across the bridge.
Every single one was a simple “yes, sir”.
He nodded in satisfaction.
Then the light of a Pseudo-Drach Kanone pierced the dark night out ahead of them.
Hazel had moved from the flagship to the RB-21 after the second alarm sounded. She was now rubbing her aching head while working inside the container carried by the RB-21 after it left the squadron.
The cold and endlessly shaking container was a block of shielded armor panels 5 yards high, 7 yards wide, and more than 20 yards long.
She was facing the enormous knee joint of a black male Heavy Barrel. It belonged to the Schwarz Löwe. She was performing maintenance on it.
“I haven’t seen him in forever and he puts me right to work.”
There were two things inside the container. The first was Schwarz Löwe and the second was a boxy metal frame sitting on drop-off guardrails. The four corners of the frame had parachutes attached and the bottom had a buffering structure welded on, but what mattered was on the inside. It contained a 750cc BMW motorcycle with sidecar the AIF had stolen from the German military. It also contained Hazel and Berger’s luggage.
This part of the mission would be complete once that was dropped off on a mountain road and they jumped down with it.
“Or that was the plan anyway.”
Once she finished her work, Hazel sighed and placed the wrench on a wall hanger. She pulled a handkerchief from her pocket and wiped off her sweat.
She felt unusually hot, so she looked down and found she was still in her dress uniform.
The sleeves of the jacket and shirt were stained with oil.
But she decided not to worry about it.
She wiped the sweat from her neck and loosened the jacket’s collar to help her cool herself down.
She felt better doing something than just sitting around waiting to be dropped off.
…I can forget about that nightmare and stop worrying.
“Okay, I’m finally ready to go.” Berger emerged from Schwarz Löwe’s back, wiping some oil from his cheek. “You’ll see what I mean if you lie down on the floor, but whoever’s pursuing us is having a lot of fun doing it. They started firing below the ship when they realized we were going to drop something off.”
“Can we fire back?”
“We are, but it’s not much help. The kind of bullets a transport ship’s equipped with can’t even scratch a warship’s armor.”
“Th-then does that mean we can’t be dropped off?”
Berger smiled a little and turned toward the internal phone on the wall.
“These people know how to have some fun for German soldiers, so we’re gonna play along.” He picked up the phone. “Hazel, get inside the sidecar and curl up.”
“Is there nothing else I can do?”
“Just one thing: obey every instruction you receive from me, the second cleverest guy in the world. Do it immediately and without delay.”
She nodded and walked toward the drop-off frame. The ship was shaking so much she couldn’t even hear her own footsteps.
…It’s like my legs are tingling.
The enemy shots were hitting nearby.
She realized now just how leisurely a pace she had taken in completing the maintenance earlier.
Corelle’s voice arrived over a shipwide announcement.
“Attention container personnel. We have no choice but to leave this airspace and-”
“Hold on, Corelle! Their mission is only to pursue us. I don’t know why that is, but how long do you think until he interception unit arrives?”
“We’re already picking them up on radar. They will be too close for us to escape in 2 minutes 30 seconds.”
“Which means those ships behind us will leave after 2 minutes and 30 seconds. That settles it,” declared Berger. “Make an accelerated ascent with the container door open. Once the enemy is lured in by that, we’ll launch the frame with all we’ve got.”
“And how will that help?”
“We’ll soar right over their heads.”
Hearing that, Hazel came to a stop partway through climbing over one of the frame’s poles.
“Why do you look so worried? We can get down to the surface. You should look happier.”
“I was kind of hoping not to die yet.”
“Then you’re in luck because you get to live for another 2 minutes at least. So you aren’t dying yet. Anyway, once we’re launched, we can land behind them. And aerial ships can’t make a 180 right away. It’s like a game.”
“A game?” she asked.
“They win if they can keep us from dropping until they pass the baton to that other force. We win if we can drop to the surface. Get it know, Hazel Mirildorf?” Then he spoke into the phone. “Corelle, this is in your hands now. Climb high enough for us to launch far enough. As a mercenary, I don’t want this mission to end in failure. …And we can still pull it off. This is destiny.”
He hung up.
Hazel noticed something when she saw him approaching the frame.
There was no concern of fear in his face or Lives. That meant this would be fine.
So a look of relief came to her own face.
He placed his hand on the frame and tilted his head.
“You’re smiling. Did the tension finally drive you insane? Guess it was bound to do that eventually.”
“No!” she shouted back, but he was no longer looking her way. His expression made it clear they didn’t have much time.
He silently reached a hand inside the frame, removed the bandolier attached between the sidecar and motorcycle, and pulled out a light machinegun. It was a German heavy weapon known as an MG 34.
“What are you doing with that?”
He attached the weapon’s barrel with practiced hand while he replied.
“Once the container door opens, the enemy ship’ll be right there. I can’t guarantee anything, but this might come in handy.” He sat down on the frame and attached a drum magazine to the MG 34. “Also, we can’t forget our personal parachutes.”
There were two white cloth packages similar to pillows hanging on wall latches.
He walked over to them while Hazel fastened her seatbelt. And…
“Is there really nothing I can do?”
“Hm…oh, I know. You see those three buttons on the wall? You can operate them.”
“They say ‘virtual and physical ay door controls’ and ‘drop-off lift control’.”
“Yeah, and I can’t operate them with my legs stuck below the machinegun. Can you reach?”
She reached her hand to the side. The seatbelt dug painfully into her shoulders, but her fingers reached the buttons outside the frame.
Then the container shook like it had been struck.
Her question was answered by Corelle, not Berger who was over at the wall removing the parachutes.
“We’ve started our ascent, so it’s time to do this! Berger, if you’re not all talk, you’d better be ready!”
“Oh, shut up.” Berger fought the shaking and had a definite smile in his voice. “Now, Hazel, do it in this order: the top green button is the safety. It activates the virtual door. Press that and then the red button below it to open the physical door. Then press the bottom green button to launch us.”
She pressed the buttons in the exact order he had asked. And, with his back still turned, Berger said one more thing.
“So do that once I say ‘go’, okay?”
She heard the wind roaring.
She looked back. The container door was open and the sheet of light known as the virtual door had appeared past it. The virtual door prevented any pressure difference, so there was no powerful blast of wind.
But when she looked ahead again, she found Berger looking back in obvious surprise.
“Hey! Hazel! What did you do!?”
“U-um, exactly what you told me to?”
“Why would you do it right away?”
“You told me to obey all of your instructions ‘immediately and without delay’!”
The roar from behind her was so loud it nearly drowned out her voice and light shined into the container. The pursuing ship was shining a searchlight on the ascending RB-21.
Berger removed the two parachutes from the wall and ran over to her.
“Hazel! Get out of there!”
She frantically worked at her seatbelt.
But then she smelled explosives.
The next thing she knew, Berger was vanishing into the distance ahead of her.
A painful pressure pushed forward at her as she was accelerated backwards. The view around her changed, as did the temperature and so much more.
She had left the cramped container and entered the wide open sky. She had been launched into the empty night along with the frame.
The domed room was filled with the color white.
This was the collection of knowledge below Munich’s central hospital where Rose used to sleep.
The room had a diameter of 20 yards and the floor had several bedlike holes in it. The only light source was at the very center of the ceiling and that light illuminated the intricate patterns carved into the walls that almost looked like woven art.
Various measuring equipment and sensors sat on movable stepladders and cargo carts by the walls and simple drawing boards sat on the floor. It all looked like an art exhibit at first.
The clock sitting on one stepladder said it was 2:37. And that was AM, not PM.
Only one person was seen among the machinery and drawings of the patterns.
He was a balding old man with a lab coat hanging over his skinny frame.
The surrounding silence and the early morning hour meant nothing to him as he peered through the lens of a measuring device on a stepladder and viewed a magnified version of one wall pattern in particular.
“How very strange.”
He had the devices placed on different steps based on their function, so he did not have to look to reach his hand for the side of the one he wanted. He felt across the many switches on its side and pressed the one with a rounded end.
The device produced the distinctive click of a camera.
“What did you learn here, Marsch Gant? When you developed the Sylphide, you were the first one the Karlsruhe family allowed in here. And after you died and Lady Rose awakened, this forbidden door was opened to the rest of us. But by then, you had finished telling your riddles.”
He pulled a white glove from his lab coat’s pocket and put it on.
He hesitantly reached out one finger of that hand.
He touched a part of the wall pattern. A white plate a foot long and an inch wide had been embedded in the wall there.
The color looked a lot newer than the plates with the other patterns engraved into them.
“My readings suggest this plate was installed approximately 25 years ago. It must be the most recent one. …It was placed here by Frobel Naylor. That much I know. And I know our commander knows nothing of it.”
There was something odd about the plate he had just touched.
The other plates reflected the light from the ceiling with their intricate patterns, but this one was flat.
“Unlike the other patterns, this one must have originally said something in Old German.”
But there was nothing there now. It had been scraped off.
He stopped tracing his finger across the plate and held his white-gloved hand in front of his face.
He suddenly opened his mouth, bit the glove’s fingertip, and pulled it from his hand.
He spat out the glove and reached his bare hand out toward the scars where something had been scraped off.
“I’m being silly.”
But he stopped just before touching it. With a smile on his otherwise serious face.
He looked those scars.
“What used to be here? The Sofort Leser involved in the creation of the Geheimnis Agency left a message for the future, but why was it erased? Why has it been hidden from us? What was it? What was here?”
He looked down at the measuring equipment.
The screen in the center of the device displayed a grayscale image of the marks on the plate.
He started messing with the switches next to the screen.
A change came over the grayscale image.
“It was only sloppily erased,” he said as he stopped operating the device.
The grayscale image had undergone one primary change: a few words were now visible alongside the straight lines scraped horizontally across it.
“I can make out the words ‘war’, ‘Nibelung’, ‘1943’, ‘sin’, and lastly…” He took a breath. “ ‘Take care of-’ ”
He looked down again.
The smile from before was gone, but his lips did mouth something. And then he moved.
He swung his right hand back behind him.
He was answered by a male voice at the room’s entrance behind him.
“Not the welcome I’m used to as one of the Fünf Leithammel, ‘Dachs’ Elrich.”
“The young Intelligence Division Chief?”
Some brightness entered Development Division Chief Elrich’s voice as he turned around. An old man stood in the darkness of the corridor leading to the room.
He wore a gray three piece suit and rubbed his bald head.
“After visiting some newspaper offices around the country, I flew here. I didn’t find you at the base and was told you had taken up wall polishing as a new hobby.”
“Show some respect to a man two years your elder, Witzmann. Also…” He smiled bitterly. “I will not ask who told you about the ‘sleep’. You always seem to know everything going on around the country. It’s quite a mystery. How do you do it?”
“The trick is to never sleep, Elrich. Simple, right?” Witzmann’s slit-like narrow eyes bent in amusement and he pulled a thick envelope from his pocket. “I came all the way out here because there is something I hoped to discuss with you in private, Elrich.” He kept his voice casual. “It is related to the Messiah.”
Once the high-speed transport ship took an ascending trajectory, Heiliger saw something unbelievable.
The enemy suddenly opened the container positioned between the ship’s two hulls.
They were about 300 yards away with a height difference of about 50 yards, so they were very close.
“What are they doing now!?”
The helmsman hurriedly turned the wheel to take evasive action.
The ship more tilted than turned, but it was too late. They could not escape.
Just as they expected some kind of attack, something else flew out.
No one on the bridge understood what they had just seen.
A motorcycle surrounded by a boxy frame had flown out. That much would have been a standard cargo drop off. They had done the same on German Air Force jobs a few times.
Except its parachutes failed to open. And…
They all saw the long blonde hair dancing within the frame.
But that wasn’t all.
After throwing out the framed blonde, the transport ship quickly reaccelerated while its container closed back up, but another figure slipped out through the closing door at the last second.
The figure was notably dark even in the shadows of the night. A black coat flapped like wings as the person flew out into the empty air.
It was a man.
“He’s got a machinegun!” shouted the navigator after seeing what the man held in his right hand.
At the same time, the young man in black raised his left arm. Like a magic trick, a white cloth spread out from his opened left hand and it spread further out behind him as he fell.
A massive white flower blossomed in the darkness.
It was a parachute. He was tugged backwards for just a moment as his falling speed was canceled out.
Then he let go.
He landed on the starboard deck of the aerial cruiser.
The falling frame full of blonde hair similarly landed on the port deck. The momentum of the launch and the ship’s rightward turn caused the frame to bounce and spin leftward across the deck, approaching the edge fast.
In that moment, Heiliger saw the girl in the frame illuminated by a searchlight.
She was screaming but not shutting her eyes.
Her right eye was brown and the left was blue.
“The Messiah is here!?” gasped Heiliger.
Hazel felt her vision blur from the landing and bouncing, but she still saw Berger.
Inside the frame, she was strapped to the sidecar by the seatbelt, causing her vision to spin rapidly leftward. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Berger land on the deck and run her way.
She barely had time to look to her surroundings. The world continued to spin around her and she felt the wind before he came into view again.
The frame hopped port across the deck.
She saw pieces of the buffering structure scattering from below the frame. She was lucky it had survived the initial 50 yard drop at all.
The frame flew low in the air and gently began to drop again. Berger observed its arc and…
“Is it going to hit the edge of the deck or fly right off!?”
“I-I can’t tell!!”
Berger smiled when he heard her response from the flying frame.
He suddenly looked toward the bridge and lowered his head.
Hazel tried to look that way too, but everything was still spinning around her. On the second rotation, she saw a gun emplacement next to the bridge turning toward Berger and beginning a horizontal stream of fire.
Berger ducked low and slid feet-first along the deck.
He slipped below the flying bullets and aimed his MG 34…toward her.
Her confusion was soon answered by the wind produced by the flying ship. Her frame was headed toward the edge of the deck, so at this rate, she and the frame would collide with it at considerable speed.
She heard the gunfire from behind her as her vision spun rightward. Once the spin brought Berger in front of her again, she saw him giving up on that and throwing the MG 34 away.
“Handle the rest yourself!” he shouted.
Whatever the case, she had to agree. She undid her seatbelt even as the centrifugal force flung her around.
She was nearly thrown from her seat as she grabbed the S-41G Device stored between the sidecar and motorcycle.
She spun around until she could again see ahead of the flying frame. The wall that formed the edge of the deck was right there. The MG 34 had broken it down some, but not enough.
The flying frame began another rotation.
It would crash once it faced forward again, so that was when she would make her move.
So she took action. She shut her eyes, gritted her teeth, and pulled some destruction cards from her hip holder while the centrifugal force and night wind whipped at her hair.
Her fingers refused to do what she told them, so she only managed to keep three of the cards in her grasp. The ten or so others scattered throughout the sidecar. She felt them on her legs as she pasted the three she had on the S-41G.
She pressed her knees against the inside of the sidecar to hold herself in place. She angled her body diagonally and raised the sword overhead.
She would use the momentum of the frame’s rotation to send the diagonal strike into the wall.
She opened her eyes to see the wall full of bullet holes directly in front of her.
And she heard a voice behind her.
She shouted to resonate with the Device.
She used a single “ah” sound.
The sword changed the three cards on its blade into triple explosions of light. Three empty cartridges were ejected from the sword and it accelerated.
She slammed it into the wall.
With a destructive sound, the light destroyed the wall in a radiating pattern.
The airborne rubble struck the frame and crumbled.
The frame’s course was unchanged, so it flew right past the edge of the deck.
It fell off the ship altogether.
Hazel grabbed the frame, leaned out from the sidecar, and looked up at the aerial warship.
It was so big. Even bigger than the two-hull warship she had once seen from the Sylphide.
…And so many ships like that are flying around for the war.
Once her gently rotating view turned skyward once more, the aerial warship was far above her.
She also saw a dark figure flying down toward her.
She held the frame’s parachute release cable and waited for him.
She just knew she was going to go limp and pass out the instant she handed that cable to him.
After leaving the hospital, Elrich and Witzmann got in Witzmann’s car.
It was a soundproof and bulletproof Benz with a partition between the front and back seats.
Witzmann sat in the backwards-facing seat in the front of the back and used the phone to tell the driver to leave.
The car shook a bit and he turned on the indoor light.
“Care for a drink?
“No, it would only remind me how tired I am.”
“I see,” said Witzmann, pulling a few black-and-white photos from an envelope and handing them to Elrich.
“Is this the Messiah girl?” Elrich asked as soon as he saw them. There were three in all.
The first showed a girl with long blonde hair righting a toppled bicycle.
The second showed her practice swinging a Werkzeug on an urban building’s rooftop.
The third showed her showing off an AIF uniform to her parents in their yard.
Witzmann nodded and smiled a little.
“We captured some pretty cute shots of her, don’t you think? She is here in Germany. I intercepted a radio transmission from Air Force Lieutenant General Heiliger earlier.”
“He does like those methods, doesn’t he? Whenever he wants to give us military information, he intentionally uses the radio.” Elrich sighed and leaned forward. “Where is she headed?”
“Borderson. There’s no doubting it. An AIF leader is there.”
“You mean Pale Horse? If not for him, we wouldn’t have lost the knowledge contained in the Naylor fortress. Do you remember that?”
“Unfortunately, I was off observing the revolution in Russia at the time.” Witzmann smiled and loosely crossed his arms. “I have already informed every unit that the time has come to fulfill our commander’s prophecy. …Elrich, it is time to make use of the Ton bullets your development division has created.”
“I see.” Elrich viewed the photos, leaned back in his seat, and crossed his skinny legs. “What did you really want to discuss?”
Witzmann nodded and pulled a document from the envelope.
“Do you remember the 2nd Heidengeist Purge in ’37? You know, the return of the purge caused by the Berlin Conflict in ’35. …It was carried out by the military and we were not involved that time, so it was sorely lacking in courtesy and important people’s families were not spared.”
There was a hint of a smile in Witzmann’s voice. His kind face loosened up somewhat.
“Ordinarily, a blood test is required to label someone a Heidengeist. Proof of being a pure-blooded German comes from detecting a portion of the German Ton that you yourself discovered at the time, Elrich.” He sighed. “Hazel Mirildorf’s mother is a Heidengeist. …Inject her with the German Ton ether your department has extracted from the Vaterlands and she can never again leave Germany.”
“A Ton cage, huh? Because someone who possesses that German Ton too strongly will have all the Tons of their body break down if they try to travel somewhere without that Ton. They will physically ‘tear apart’. And that Ton cannot be removed from their body except with a Ton exchange from a high-level Stimmer or by creating a competing Ton with a serum extract.”
“Which wouldn’t be possible. If we rewrite her Tons…then the Messiah is ours.” Witzmann then handed Elrich the document he held. “Now for my main point. When Hazel Mirildorf was captured in ’37, she never had a Heidengeist test done. However…”
“She did receive a blood test before the Messiah implant surgery?”
“These are the records of that test. …We want to make sure the Live bullet is effective, after all.”
“And the result?”
Elrich’s eyes searched for the answer on the document until they stopped on a certain point.
He gasped and started to stay something but stopped.
In lieu of answering, Witzmann opened the box next to his seat and pulled out a bottle of liquid.
“Has all this talking made you thirsty too?”
He opened the bottle and poured its contents into a wineglass. It was distilled water.
Elrich asked a question while the other man audibly gulped down the water.
“What does this mean? She is a Heidengeist, so how…”
“How can she also have traces of the German Ton? That is exactly what I hope to find out. Along with this.”
He finished drinking the water and tossed the glass in a bucket next to his seat.
Then he pulled a new document from the same envelope and handed it to Elrich.
It was the same type of document as before, but for a different person. Elrich frowned.
“Dog Berger? The man who accompanies the Messiah girl?”
“He has divine blood. Probably only half, but that still makes him a Heidengeist. But for some reason, he too has traces of the German Ton. Even though he was supposedly born in England. And…”
“In another mystery, he has lost his divine power. He has the Tons of his divine lineage inside him, yet he lacks the Ton for that power. Without checking his Tons, he would be indistinguishable from an ordinary human.”
“A fascinating mystery. The blood was taken in Munich back in ’37, I see. For a species test.”
“Do you think he wanted to see if he was no longer a god?” Witzmann held out a hand to ask for a handshake. “Elrich, how about we try to get along? These documents were actually ordered sealed by our commander and commander-in-chief, but I decided to lend them to you anyway. Because I don’t know why those two had them sealed. There must be more to this. Something important. My sixth sense as an intelligence officer says so.”
“Agreed.” Elrich straightened up and tightly gripped the proffered hand. Witzmann smiled bitterly.
“Don’t you find it cruel of them to hide such a cute girl from us? I was surprised to find the Messiah destined to lead us would be so unreliable.”
“I imagined the Messiah as someone void of doubts who lived to save the world and coldly manipulated us like mere tools. You remember that photo of her righting a bicycle?”
“Yes, what was that about?”
“Exactly what it looks like. She was riding her bike when she looked over to greet a neighborhood woman and crashed into a street sign.”
Elrich lowered his head to view the laughing old man two years his junior.
Witzmann ended the handshake and spread his arms so they nearly touched the ceiling.
“Isn’t it amusing!? The Messiah who will save Germany – no, who will save the entire world from the destruction coming in ’43 – is just a girl who can’t even ride a bike without crashing! And she’s our enemy! I must know.” He took a breath. “I must know how a girl like that will lead us! I want to see it happen! If the higher ups insist on hiding her, then we must act on our own. Elrich, I need your research!”
Chapter 3: The Requiem Runs
05/30/1942 10:11 – 11:43
So many things are trying to renew themselves
But I can’t find anything new in myself
I’m never meant to wake up
A grassy region of northwestern Germany that has connected Germany to Western Europe since ancient times. A comfortable place to live thanks to its gentle mountains, the Black Forest to the south, and the Rhine running through its center. Once belonged to the Borderson family who governed northwestern Germany and the Bordersons often provided assistance to Western Europe as Europe’s primary Buster family and as Hounds.
But the Borderson bloodline died off in ’33, so the Borderson knights, who had lived as free Kavaliers within Germany, lost their leader and lived separate lives as they individually saw fit. The knights who, in a way, had most fought against Heidengeists were left unsupervised in this land. At the same time, this land contains several villages known as “Villages of Pardons” where the Heidengeists who historically submitted to Borderson are allowed to live.
The sky was blue.
Looking down showed trees covered in the green of early summer.
Further away, the trees grew thick enough to call a thicket. Further than that, there were enough to call a forest. A green mountain rose beyond that.
This was one of the forests in the northwestern German region of Borderson.
A mountain road ran through the forest. It was an unpaved dirt road with wheel ruts and some undergrowth.
A single car drove along that road – a green Volkswagen Beetle convertible. It had originally been a military vehicle, so it had a plain, undecorated exterior.
Schweitzer sat in the Beetle’s driver’s seat, wearing a white shirt and navy slacks. Lowenzahn sat next to him, viewing a map and wearing a green men’s suit.
Schweitzer barely moved as the car shook. He kept his eyes directed forward as he asked her a question.
“Lowenzahn, which way at the fork up ahead?”
“Left. I think right would take us to the cliff above a waterfall. We’d fall right into the basin below.”
They turned left at the fork, feeling like they were slipping below the branches sticking out from the trees. A straight-line ascent came into view. Small grassy hills rose on either side and the road continued straight through the center.
The car bounced a bit as it continued on straight. Schweitzer shifted down a gear to prepare of the climb.
The roar of the engine grew louder and the car made its climb in between the grassy hills.
“What a view.”
Far in either direction, the wind blew waves through the grass in the shade of the hills and those waves continued on down past the bottom of the slope like vast, grassy carpets. The sound of splashing water sounded a bit like radio static as it faintly reached them from beyond the hill on the right.
“The waterfall must be close by.”
“Indeed,” agreed Schweitzer before turning to face the left hill.
Warm music reminiscent of a blowing bellows played from beyond that hill.
“That’s an organ. That sound really takes me back. …They’re playing the Unreif Germane.” She slowly looked around, letting the gentle music wash over her. “Six sections of the Unreif Germane are recited as poems: the 3rd Section of Daily Life, the 9th Section of the Ruling King, the 12th Section of the Soaring Dragon, the 1st Section of the Moonlight, the 6th Section of the Ending God, and the Final Section of the Wheel. This combines them all into a single song.”
“Your prophecies have included the 3rd Section of Daily Life, the 9th Section of the Ruling King, and now the 6th Section of the Ending God, correct?”
“Yes. The one that starts with ‘the party begins’ is the latest prophecy.”
Lowenzahn opened her mouth and recited the 6 sections of the Unreif Germane in order.
In the deep darkness of the Black Forest
Born from the abyss
The wheel emerges
- It whips up the wind and speaks with the dragon
- It reads the wind and weeps
- It carries power in its hand and hesitates
The one-armed youth holds the Messiah
The moonlit pair returns to the earth
The dragons gather and dance tonight
Every last thing returns home
- The wind blows, the night blows, the dragon awakes, the people move, the dragon roars
- The wind arrives from the north / A path arrives from the north
- The knight descends as a knight / The dragon soars high as a dragon
- All is a path to the north star / All is a story of an insurmountable wall
Follow the path to a familiar face
- While walking side by side
Your hand and voice might reach them
- But the moon sees it not
The gatherers begin their party
- A wall separates the pair
- As they follow the same path with the same words
The party begins and the village dances / The dragon roars and the knights gather
The bride weeps uncrowned / Her words go unsaid and he never arrives
Thus she is alone / She weeps and sleeps in this land
Urge him on and wait / If you wish for something new / All hesitation will come to an end up ahead
Complete the circle or break it / If you desire something new / Throw out all hesitation and look back
The wind is with you, he is with you / Seek out something new / All hesitation exists to tear through that wall
She held the door under her arm to fight the shaking as the car made its climb.
“The party begins and the village dances, huh? Captain, what did you think of the information Bermark sent us over the radio earlier? That the messiah has arrived in Germany with the one armed young man and as a member of the AIF this time.”
“This will be her first real battle. The rumors say it took her two years to pass their entrance exam.”
Lowenzahn nodded, brushed up her bangs, and spoke with the morning breeze on her face.
“Interesting, isn’t it? Remember what I told you three years ago? Our world is moving two years ahead of schedule.”
“But those two years have been mostly canceled out by the Messiah spending two years on an entrance exam?”
Schweitzer shifted down another gear.
The slope was getting steeper, but if they cleared this patch, they would reach the top of the hill. He stepped on the gas to accelerate.
Lowenzahn spoke in an emotionless tone while viewing only the sky out ahead.
“Someone sent P. Wagner a Verlsten Brief directing him to where the Sylphide slept underground and that sped up our world by two years. The Berlin Conflict was meant to happen in ’37 and the Sylphide Incident in August of ’39. The Sylphide Incident was meant to rouse suspicions of a Polish spy leaking information related to the Sylphide and that would have led to the invasion of Poland.”
“But it instead happened in ’37 when the military was not ready for an invasion and that opportunity was lost. In our version of the war, the invasion began in ’39 when classified documents were stolen from a German craft that crashed in Poland.”
“Yes, so hostilities still began in ’39 as before. That means events surrounding the Messiah were two years ahead of schedule, but the world as a whole remained unchanged. And by now in ’42, almost all of it has worked itself out on a global scale.”
“Has that made correcting the prophecies easier?”
“It has. And like you said, the Messiah has been so slow it has mostly canceled out the two years. Things are much easier to understand than they were back in ’37. The prophecies will not fail anymore.”
“May I ask one thing?”
Lowenzahn gave him a puzzled looked, so he asked his question.
“How was the Messiah meant to develop? Our Hazel Mirildorf was caught in the Sylphide Incident at the age of 15, but that was meant to have happened when she was 17.”
“Yes, and she was meant to quit school and join the AIF once the war broke out in ’37.”
“She joined the AIF immediately after the Sylphide Incident?”
“Yes,” stated Lowenzahn. “The original Messiah completed the entrance exam in the standard half a year and took part in the sabotage of the Gard-class’s #1 ship in late ’40. She had her first battle at 18. And she was captured in ’42.”
“So the original Messiah and our Messiah both began the entrance exam in ’37 at the age of 17…but the original one completed it in half a year and ours took two years?”
Lowenzahn faced forward.
“17,” muttered Schweitzer while gripping the steering wheel in both hands. “That’s about how old I was when I made my promise with Eryngium, Berger, and the others.”
“I think I had a lot going on at that age too. When I was all alone in that small house Graham gave me.”
The car shook, but Schweitzer said nothing and only pushed on the steering wheel.
But Lowenzahn continued regardless.
“But the defining incident for our Hazel Mirildorf was two years before that, when she was 15. I think she found herself caught in the Sylphide Incident before she was old enough to develop any real wisdom or have a good sense of herself. And even if she did want to join the AIF immediately afterwards, it didn’t exist in that form at that point.”
“So she had to wait the two years from 15 to 17. She must have thought about a lot in that time.”
“You were there at the Sylphide Incident, so you should know. Did she manage to accomplish anything there?”
“No,” said Schweitzer. “And all Berger and I managed was force her to abandon the Sylphide. Yet she still apologized to it.”
“She has such a soft heart, doesn’t she? But does the Messiah need one of those?”
Schweitzer turned toward her.
When she noticed his gaze, she looked up and frantically pointed forward.
The wheel ruts were straying to the right up ahead.
The car shook and he turned the wheel to keep it under control.
“What do you mean?” he asked.
“Because the Sylphide Incident happened two years early, the Messiah was forced to abandon it before she had developed more mature wisdom…which unintentionally turned her into a soft soul who can’t bring herself to abandon anyone.”
“But if the Sylphide Incident had happened when she was 17, she would have been mature enough to abandon that which was unnecessary, so she would have entered the AIF…and ultimately come to lead us as an elite?”
“But even our Messiah is having her first battle, even if it’s two years delayed. That is why I prophesied her capture now in ’42.”
Just then, their view opened up. They had reached the top of the hill.
Beyond the green hill was an even deeper green wheat field.
The top of the hill was flat and the rippling green field was visible as far as the eye could see starting with the slope down the hill. The road continued straight on down and arrived at a forest after half a mile.
“Past that forest is a Borderson ‘Village of Pardons’.”
They could hear the music – the organ playing the Unreif Germane.
Lowenzahn murmured while listening to the warm, gentle melody.
“The latest prophecy is the verse about the Messiah girl ending up alone. And she will remain in this land. Do you know what that means? The Messiah girl was originally supposed to arrive with Dog Berger as a skilled AIF member, but he sends her to Cologne ahead of him.”
She frowned and started to say more.
She heard the roar of an engine.
It came from behind them, so Lowenzahn turned her head to look. Schweitzer did the same.
Shortly thereafter, the color black fluttered as it came up alongside them on the right.
It was a green motorcycle with a sidecar. It was driven by…
Only after Schweitzer’s shout did Berger turn toward them.
He viewed Schweitzer’s face through his sunglasses and immediately accelerated.
“Yikes, there’s some weirdo out here!”
The motorcycle used its acceleration to pull out ahead of the car.
Schweitzer pursued it without thinking and Lowenzahn grabbed his hand.
“After them, after them! The Messiah was onboard! Argh, why don’t I have any Ton bullets with me!?”
Long blonde hair fluttered back behind the sidecar. That formed a stark contrast with the black of the coat fluttering behind the motorcycle itself, but it also seemed to blend into the surrounding greenery.
Schweitzer started to shift gears but stopped.
“Why aren’t you hurrying after him?” asked Lowenzahn when she noticed. “He called you a weirdo.”
“Conflict is forbidden in Borderson’s Village of Pardons. You know why Alfred declined to accompany us, don’t you?”
“Yes… He said he wasn’t sure he could control himself in a village full of Heidengeists. I thought that was just an excuse to avoid attending that Eryngium woman’s wedding, but was he serious?”
Schweitzer nodded. And he viewed the black and gold up ahead.
“We might should prepare ourselves for what is to come.” Without even looking, he removed the mic from the radio next to the wheel and handed it to Lowenzahn. “It is true the prophecy might be fulfilled today. If so, we will require more than just Lady Jeanne down there as well as some Ton bullets. Requesting that will mean-”
“You’re asking me to go public with my position? You want me to use my name to put together a Messiah capture team and position them around Borderson?”
Lowenzahn smiled and lifted her hips from her seat.
With the mic in hand, she stood up and placed her elbow on the windshield.
Her long braid danced in the wind behind her and she narrowed her eyes while switching on the mic.
Just then, there was movement in the BMW sidecar leading them by a distance of about 15 yards.
It was Hazel. She had her back to them, but she suddenly raised both arms.
“Hm!? But we’re in Borderson!”
Schweitzer immediately responded by stopping the car. He used Der Held to grab the hip of Lowenzahn’s suit and lowered her safely into her seat.
“Hey, that’s my butt!”
“We have bigger problems!”
His rebuke led her to notice the situation, so she ducked her head down.
But as she watched, Hazel kept her arms raised while Berger pushed her head down and lowered her arms.
It looked like the two of them were arguing about something as they drove away.
In the parked car’s passenger seat, Lowenzahn finally stretched her arms up to mimic Hazel.
“Was she yawning?”
Her question led Schweitzer to collapse limply onto the steering wheel. He breathed a sigh of relief and exasperation toward the car’s floor.
“Was our Messiah sleeping on this bumpy mountain road?”
“Probably so.” Lowenzahn pulled the reclining lever to tilt her seat all the way back and muttered calmly up into the blue sky. “Two years can make a lot of difference.”
The village was surrounded by an old stone wall in the forest.
The village had been created by clearing the forest alongside the road. There were areas of open field running alongside the road, houses had been built there, and areas of forest separated those houses. The entire village could not be viewed at once.
Hazel rubbed her sleepy eyes and took a look around.
The greenery spread out around her in shadowy colors. She saw the road, some modest wooden homes, and enough cleared land for some fields and gardens. Then there was the forest. Each house was a good distance apart. In some cases, it took 10 seconds by motorcycle before the next one came into view.
The road was covered in wheel ruts, making for a bumpy ride. It felt like being kicked from below, so Hazel removed the blanket draped over her and placed it below her butt.
She looked to the wooden house moving by on their right.
“Should we really enter the village without permission?”
“It’s fine. Everyone will be at the central square. For the wedding.”
“What wedding?” she looked up to see surprise on his face.
“Oh, that’s right,” he said, forcing a monotone voice. He smiled bitterly and continued like he had just remembered. “I’m the only one who knows about that thanks to that weird letter. You’re just my assistant who for some reason fell out of the ship, for some reason passed out, and for some reason didn’t wake up until now.”
“P-please stop bullying me like that.”
She heard a single peal of a bell in the distance.
Recalling what Berger had said, she realized what was happening in this village.
She put on a smile to smooth things over.
“We showed up on a joyous day, didn’t we?”
“Yeah, it’s pretty joyous all right. The bride and groom are both pretty great people.”
“Hm, so you know them. I hope it turns out to be a good celebration. We heard an organ playing before, right? So is there a church or school here too?”
“I’m sure there is. But I’m impressed you heard it. I didn’t notice it over the motorcycle.”
Hazel kept smiling as she nodded.
“I’m just used to hearing it is all. I’m studying in the education department, so we have to learn how to teach music class. I’m actually pretty good at playing the organ.”
That had also helped with her training in using Lives.
“But,” she began. “No one told me you were familiar with this village.”
“Because I’m not. I barely know anything about the place.”
Her smile vanished. She had sensed a faint chill in his voice.
But he continued before she could wonder what it was.
“All I know are the way here and…I guess I’d seen the entrance before too.”
Hazel looked up at him in something of a rush.
“Th-that’s all you know about the village?”
“Yeah, that’s right, Hazel Mirildorf.”
“Then why did you act like you knew the bridge and groom?”
…He said they were pretty great people.
She could not see his Lives.
…Is he suppressing his emotions?
He almost looked angry.
There were some things it was wrong to ask about, so she chose her words carefully.
“Did you really want to come here today?”
“That’s a silly question, Hazel. I was ordered here.”
He suddenly applied the brakes, so the motorcycle slid along the dirt a bit and the sidecar was pushed a little forward before stopping.
On that forest road, she could only hear the chirping of birds and the rustling of leaves.
…Why did he stop?
She looked around and then up at him.
He took a breath, let go of the handlebars, and reached back toward the luggage rack behind him.
“Do you want to get off here and walk the rest of the way yourself, Hazel Mirildorf?”
“P-please stop being so mean.”
“Then why are you asking these weird questions?”
She was unsure how to respond.
“B-because you seem angry this time. You won’t tell me what it’s about, you won’t look me in the eye, and you’ve just been sulking this whole time. You’re angry.”
“Yeah, I’m angry all right.”
“Figure it out, Hazel. …What did I tell you when we went our separate ways three years ago? You were supposed to live a happy carefree life in America. Why the hell did you decide to join the AIF while going to college?”
“Because your Messiah power came back? Which means you can fight? Don’t be naïve, Hazel. Do you know what it means when it takes you two years to complete your training? Or when you’re still a Greenhorner when you can see Lives with an octave of nearly a million? It means you’re not cut out for this, Hazel Mirildorf.”
She fell silent, but she did not take her eyes off of him.
He looked her way and tried to say something.
But the words never came.
That was when she realized she had tears in her eyes.
She quickly wiped them away with her handkerchief. Then the sidecar shook and another tear fell.
The BMW was moving forward.
“That idiot is catching up.”
Only then did she notice the quiet roar of an engine coming from behind.
The motorcycle sped up, causing more shaking and another fallen tear.
The wind blew, its azure Lives tickling her cheek and flowing behind her.
He said nothing. Neither did she.
The forest on either side of the road came to an end far up ahead. The central square was visible past that, as were a few people.
Realizing that was their destination, Hazel put the handkerchief back in her pocket.
She recalled her mission.
…Escape from here with General Pale and arrive in Cologne by 11 PM. There, we fire the tracker onto the Gard-class, rendezvous with Corelle, and escape Germany.
She was Berger’s assistant, but she had another mission she could not get his help on.
…I have to convince him to join the AIF.
While she wondered how she could do that, she heard organ music. It was playing the Unreif Germane with a somewhat quicker and upbeat tempo.
She sang this verse to herself.
This verse’s lyrics came from the 6th Section of the Ending God, which made her smile bitterly.
…That section is about a pretty nasty rejection.
The music continued on.
As if inviting in any outside guests.
The light of late morning fell on Cologne.
The industrial city was lined with factories. Their smokestacks were constantly spewing smoke that could not be fully eliminated with filters.
The newer part of the city stretching north and south from the city center was almost entirely made up of factories and concentrated housing. That military city had been built along the western bank of the Rhine.
Across from Cologne, on the eastern side of the Rhine, were four white towers and a mountain of black metal.
The white towers had to be 150 yards tall and they formed the corners of a square.
Their slopes gave them a volcanic shape and the shimmering heat blowing from their peaks proved they were currently running.
They were Vaterland ley line acceleration reactors.
The vast mountain next to them was colored a pitch black that contrasted with the Vaterlands.
It was more than 300 yards tall, 200 yards wide, and more than half a mile long.
That was the Requiem, an Eingeweide aerial warship equipped with a Babel Kanone.
Its impressive and massive form was contained in a large dock built on the land originally set aside for an airport. It was facing north, which placed Cologne on its left and a mountain range on its right. It received a Phlogiston supply from the four Vaterlands.
The large aerial warship was stopped and unmoving, yet it still altered the atmospheric currents around it. All of its windows used polarized glass, so no one could see inside.
Some uniformed soldiers would occasionally move around on the deck of the aerial aircraft carriers forming the front of its port and starboard sides and some crafts would take off and land, but other than that, there was no sign of life.
Now, however, there were three people standing on the port flight deck overlooking the city.
Rose wore a white dress, Graham wore a black coat, and Lillie stood behind Rose with the wind whipping at the hem of her azure dress.
They looked down at the city of Cologne.
Smoke rose from the factories, cars drove along the roads, and people were everywhere.
The white things they could see all over the city were laundry. Because today’s weather…
“It’s sunny,” said Rose, viewing the city. “The Messiah has arrived just as prophesied, bigger brother. Bermark Vier sounded ecstatic, but that seems strange to me. Shouldn’t the Messiah girl inspire awe in people?”
“We have no way of knowing how the Messiah will lead the Geheimnis Agency.”
Graham’s response caused a slight change in Lillie’s expression. She frowned and lowered her head.
“The Tons of the North Sea’s currents are telling me of an unknown presence in the North Sea. I think it must be an Allied warship.”
“That is none of our concern as long as they remain outside of Germany’s seas. …Our duty is to protect this country. None of the Neue Kavalier are among the fools invading other lands.”
“Is that why you sent Sir Alfred to protect the north?” asked Rose, turning around as Lillie watched. She turned her back on the city below and spread her skinny arms. “When the Allies attack this city, they will come from the north. There have been a lot of people giving me lewd looks from the west for the past few days, but none of them are taking it seriously. If something is waiting in the North Sea like Lillie suggests, then I bet their bomber unit will attack from the north along with whatever’s out there.”
“How very wise, Rose.”
“Big brother said so, so I know it must be true. I doubt there are many people other than him with as thorough a grasp of this country’s military might – including the Kavaliers and civilian fighters – and can so rationally analyze the Allies’ actions.” Rose crossed her arms and held her own body. “Isn’t that why you left Sir Alfred with him, bigger brother? Because this place is in danger?”
Her piercing gaze turned to the side – toward Lillie.
“Lillie, you will be returning to defend the North Sea soon too, won’t you? The Allies will be here soon – either tonight or tomorrow – so we need to be ready.”
Lillie could not find the words, looked away from Rose, and finally looked to Graham.
Her expression was the same as before, but she let her hair blow in the wind as she asked a question.
“I am not sure what you are asking, Lillie Telmetz. Why what?”
“Why rush this?”
Graham gave a simple answer to that.
He ignored it.
With his Psyche Outer device, he could not provide answers based on emotion.
So Lillie’s gaze dropped and she sucked in a deep breath. It came out heavy.
Rose stepped up next to her and placed her hand on Lillie’s.
“Don’t worry. We too hope this will work out for the best.”
“Besides, while the Allies are after Cologne too, in a way they’re after me. Because they’re lewd. I don’t know what methods they will use, but – but my bigger brother will join the fight in his Silber Löwe and I have a lot of escape boats installed on me. So…I think it will be fine.”
Lillie hung her head further.
She tried to get her lips moving.
She could not get the words out. Her lip movements fell apart midway. Instead…
<The Emperor leaves his castle.>
An Erklärung rang out.
A hatch used to raise aircraft onto the deck opened and a giant white Grösse Panzer emerged.
A tall figure stood at its feet.
His long brown hair was tied back and his skinny but fit body was contained in a Geheimnis Agency army uniform. He was a sharp-eyed young man, but he nodded a bit when he spotted Lillie and the others.
“Sorry. I got delayed getting a tour of the ship from this guy.”
Graham coughed deeply before turning toward the voice.
Rose followed her brother’s gaze and smiled.
“I saw that, Sir Alfred. The ship’s interior is designed to allow Grösse Panzers to walk through it, but that still surprised everyone. None of them have been in the depths of the ship since the materials were carried in and assembled during construction.”
Alfred gave a quick bow and then quickly raised his head.
His hair whipped in the wind, he placed a hand on Rein König at his hip, and he turned just his head to the right. Lillie and the others looked that way too.
A hatch opened on the Requiem’s starboard flight deck and a large elevator raised two Grösse Panzers from below.
One was blue and held a rifle in its right hand. The other was red and held a shield in its left hand.
They were Bermark Nein’s Neue Blau and Neue Zinnober.
Once the elevator had finished its rise, the crew riding it hurried out onto the deck. Alfred and Bermark Nein belonged to an independent mobile unit. The Kaiser used autonomous flight to take off and Bermark Nein needed to fully activate the Ober Emblem that barely anyone could use anymore.
But things worked somewhat differently when taking off from a ship.
After the soldiers visually confirmed the deck’s landing equipment was not active, they circled in front of the two Panzers along with signalers carrying red and blue signal lights.
The thrust produced by a Grösse Panzer’s Ober Emblem wings was far greater than with aircraft. They created an instantaneous explosion of air, so anyone behind them on the deck could be blown away.
The wind blew through and the blue and red Panzers prepared for takeoff.
Lillie had fully raised her head again.
“Oh?” said Rose.
She turned back from starboard to view the city. Lillie did the same.
At some point, currents of color had appeared across the Rhine in the city.
The people in their homes, factories, schools, hospitals, and shopping districts came to a stop, took a break from their work, and emerged onto the streets to look up this way.
Lillie knew what they were looking at: the Kaiser to port and the Neue Blau and Neue Zinnober to starboard.
“They must be surprised to see not just Grösse Panzers but one bearing the Maldrick emblem.” Rose took a breath. “The government and military both know that if we make our presence known, it will drag this supposedly civilian-run country back to what it was before the previous war.”
“But there are military reports from all over Germany about a mystery unit or fighter saving them in a tight spot or a seemingly unstoppable aerial enemy fleet suddenly vanishing. The Allies are calling it the Foo Team or Foo Fighters.”
Lillie’s response led Rose to turn toward the two Grösse Panzers on the starboard side and then to Alfred and the Kaiser further away.
“But it is about time we showed them what we can do.”
Just then, a gust of wind blew in.
The clouds were somewhat stretched and swept away. The wind came from the west and pushed the clouds to the east.
<The Emperor travels the path of conquest.>
The Kaiser began to walk.
Instead of walking out ahead of it, Alfred walked alongside it, borrowing its majesty.
“Alfred Maldrick and two more from Geheimnis Agency Army Division 1st Division 1st Independent Mobile Grösse Panzer Unit reporting in. We are leaving to defend the northern coast.”
On Graham’s response, the Panzer and man stopped, straightened, and bowed.
“I will do my duty as a Neue Kavalier.”
He raised his head and Rose spoke to him.
“This is goodbye then, Sir Alfred.”
“Yes, for a while anyway.”
He gave her a small, innocent smile and Rose smiled back.
Lillie alone bit her lower lip.
But Alfred looked to Rose and then into the sky.
“Such a beautiful sky.”
“Sir Alfred, if you have time before traveling to the North Sea, why not visit the Village of Pardons to express your congratulations? On a beautiful day like this, I am sure they will be throwing a wonderful party for their wedding.”
Alfred responded with some surprise but then smiled bitterly.
“The bride is an old friend of mine, Lady Rose. However…” His smile grew even more bitter. “I have no right to attend her wedding. That is why I sent Schweitzer in my stead.”
“You don’t want to see the groom? Shouldn’t you at least see who she is marrying?”
“According to the letter, the two of them are already living together and the wedding is more something they tacked onto a festival being held in the village.”
“I see,” said Rose and his bitter smile vanished. He also looked up into the sky.
“So I know the man must be a good person.”
“How can you be so sure?”
“She is scarred.” Alfred placed his left hand on Rein König at his hip and his right at the base of his neck. “She has a permanent scar from here on her neck, down the center of her chest, and to her left side. …And she has no memory of her time living in Berlin – not of her family and not of her friends. But someone out there is still willing to share his life with her.” The ring on his left hand caught the sunlight and glinted red. “I think that is a good thing.”
When he looked her in the eye and smiled a little, Rose’s expression changed somewhat. Her slight smile changed to a full smile colored by relief.
“You truly are an adorable person,” she told Alfred.
Chapter 4: The Requiem Accelerates
05/30/1942 12:05 – 12:58
Crossroads can be found anywhere
I notice one
Come to a stop
Wonder what to do
And can’t find an answer
The racial oppression fueled by Germany’s obsession with pure blood was first directed at the nonhumans known as Heidengeists.
The first wave of Heidengeist oppression came in ’35 when the German Citizenship Law and the German Citizen Safety and Security Law stripped Heidengeists of their citizenship. This was forced upon ordinary people shortly after the Berlin Conflict.
The second wave of Heidengeist oppression came in ’37 when well-known and prominent Heidengeists were driven out of the government and military to prepare for the coming war. This reached its peak by the end of ’38.
The third wave came on January 20 of ’42 when the Wannsee Conference determined a Heidengeist presence would not be allowed inside or outside of Germany and other races would be expelled from the country.
In the initial stages, the oppression was limited to expulsion from the country and confiscation of assets, but in the later stages, they were processed into Phlogiston Plattes. The details of this process are not fully known even in the present day.
Hazel thought she was decent at the organ.
…If only the AIF entrance exam and training included music.
She had that thought while playing the antique organ in front of her.
The notes reverberated through a small church that could only hold around 40 people. The place was old, but the roof was sturdy and it had pews and a pulpit. But since this was a Heidengeist village, there was no cross or icons.
When she saw a chalkboard in one corner of the deserted church, she realized the place was used for Sunday school.
And she played. In addition to the Unreif Germane, she played older nursery rhymes like the Harvest Hymn or Moonlit Forest. She had no sheet music set up on the organ. She did not play by reading music.
…I can play it from memory after hearing it a few times.
She played a song she had learned just a bit ago after hearing it played by a woman with the Titel of Lehrer.
…She seems strict, but I also feel like I’ve met her before.
She looked about five years older than Hazel.
Her most notable traits where the eyes kept shut behind tinted glasses and the soft-looking blonde hair falling to the back of her knees. The shut eyes gave her a somewhat expressionless look and Hazel guessed that was what made her look so familiar and strict.
…I shouldn’t judge people by their appearance.
She nodded and got a note wrong.
She briefly panicked, but then remembered she was alone in the church. To refocus her mind, she stepped on the foot pedal a few times to send air into the organ and began playing at a higher volume.
She did not remember how many songs she had played in a row.
She simply shut her eyes and played.
She mimicked Lehrer.
Of course, Lehrer had not only kept her eyes shut while playing. They had been shut when Hazel and Berger met her in the central square, when she had taken them to Pale, when she had shown them to a vacant house near the square they could stay in, and when she had brought Hazel here when Hazel asked if there was anything she could do to help.
She could walk, talk, and point at things without opening her eyes because she was a Buster. Her job was to read and destroy Lives.
Hazel could read Lives as well. Up to an octave of nearly a million.
But she could not do it so constantly.
To her, that felt like the barrier between being a Greenhorner and being a full-fledged Tuner or Buster.
“I can’t see them like that.”
She got another note wrong as she said that, but it no longer bothered her.
Instead, she was bothered by what she had been told in that nightmare.
“A Messiah who only fights for the present.”
That would mean…
“They can’t see past this war.”
…What will I do once the war is over?
She had been asked the same thing five years ago. She had been asked to describe her future plans in class.
…What do I want to do in the future?
She finished one song and the music came to a stop.
A dove sitting on a ceiling beam and shaking in the music suddenly flew down into the church, scattering white feathers inside the somewhat shadowy building.
Hazel slowly removed her hands from the keys.
She placed her right hand over her left shoulder. The brand she was given at the Heidenheim was still there. It would never go away unless she tore away the skin itself.
“I hadn’t considered it.”
She silently removed her tensing hand and held her left hand to her chest instead.
She had a card in the breast pocket there.
She pulled it out to reveal the Wheel of Destiny card.
…I know how it began and I know why we’re involved, but…
“What do I want out of this?”
“What kind of power do I need for that?”
…I need to know what I want to do after the war to know what kind of power I want.
Seeking the result before the method felt contradictory, so she could not speak that part aloud.
She didn’t know the answer.
After a beat, she shook her head.
She resumed playing to distract herself.
She played the Unreif Germane.
That song told the tale of the Messiah who had appeared to unify Germany.
That woman had appeared in this world, led a dragon and some Strikers, and unified an ununified Germany.
…How did that fight go?
The music sped up. And sped up some more.
Her fingers moved across the keys, the music followed, and it all grew denser. And denser.
She pressed down her foot to send air into the organ.
She stepped down for a louder sound.
And she played. She pressed down on the organ’s keys to play. A festival was underway outside. Everyone was dancing and laughing. They were enjoying themselves. This space was cut off from the war. This place should not have existed.
But there was still a war being waged inside her.
She pressed hard on the keys.
She made no mistakes. Just like when practice swinging her sword, she was more accurate when pouring more force into the movements.
She played with accurate movements, seeking each new key in turn and pressing it.
She continued onward with perfect accuracy and void of mistakes – hoping to reach the answer in the final note.
And just as she prepared to play the very end, an image burst into her vision.
The large church door sat open to allow the music to reach everyone outside.
A chalkboard on legs stood next to the entrance, presumably for Sunday school.
A pair of small children, perhaps a brother and a sister, stood in front of the chalkboard.
The older brother was writing on and drawing a waterfall and river on the chalkboard while saying something to the younger sister.
He spread his arms and mimicked holding some kind of stick.
He was teaching her.
He was telling his sister about how he went fishing at a nearby river, or maybe that he planned to.
This was a small school.
The scene linked directly to the question filling Hazel’s mind.
What did she want to do after the war?
She realized her hands had stopped on the keys.
She had stopped playing while watching the siblings enthusiastically discussing something in front of the chalkboard.
But she felt no desire to start playing again. Her mind was focused on her vision more than her hands.
The brother was using the chalkboard and his gestures to teach his sister something. He had turned this into a small school.
“Is that my answer?”
She smiled bitterly when she noticed she said that out loud. And she continued in her thoughts.
…This has been bothering me since I was arrested in ’37, hasn’t it?
When her class had been asked about their futures, her friend had confidently opened up about her dream, but Hazel had been unable to come out and say she wanted to be a teacher before the soldiers had burst into the classroom and taken her away as part of the Heidengeist purge.
…I couldn’t find an answer back then. Just like in my nightmare.
She was attending her college’s education department now, but a war was on. Dreams did not come true during war.
Then she gasped in realization.
“Is my answer really something as personal and selfish as wanting to be a teacher once the war is over?”
It was an attractive thought, but she shook it out of her head.
She sighed and told herself she needed to seek out something that would help everyone during this war. When her shoulders relaxed, her hands lowered on the keys, playing a silly-sounding chord.
The siblings turned toward her in surprise.
Just then, something blocked the sunlight shining in through the church’s entrance. Two figures stood there.
One was 2.5 yards tall and had two prosthetic arms.
The other was slender, but still had feminine curves.
Hazel stood up.
At the same time, the siblings leaped toward the slender figure’s hips. The figure turned to catch them, allowing the sunlight in and revealing who she was.
The woman wore the dress uniform of a female AIF officer. Below her long, soft, and wavy blonde hair, she wore tinted glasses over closed eyes.
The sister called out her Titel.
She rubbed the children’s heads and then turned toward Hazel. Her expression was hard to read with her eyes shut, but Hazel could see a faint yellow tone color – enjoyment.
Lehrer spoke with a small smile on her lips. Her voice carried well.
“The bride and groom will be making their entrance soon, so come with us.”
The wedding was being held outside and it began with the couple standing on an oak platform and answering a few questions asked by the mayor.
Lehrer and Pale took Hazel into the 50-yard center square where the village’s Heidengeists had already gathered and formed a ring. Short Hazel tried to stretch upwards, but…
“I can’t see.”
Pale, who wore a casual shirt, smiled with his one eye.
“Want to sit up on my shoulders?”
She just about agreed before remembering she was wearing a skirt. She politely declined and walked around the square in search of a hole in the circle of people. She saw the backs of so many different species. She saw fur, scales, and wings. She saw nonhumanoid shapes. She even saw the living dead and ghosts.
Seeing the great diversity on display, she was reminded of her brief passage through England on the way to Germany.
…It’s true what they say about the Heidengeists moving from Europe to England.
Then she noticed a back she recognized.
It was a Geheimnis Agent.
This was the Lieutenant Schweitzer she had met five years ago.
She wondered what he was doing here, but she also picked up her pace. Once she was far enough around the circle to get a look at him in profile, she confirmed it really was him.
This reminded her of her position here, so she hurried the rest of the way around the square.
Once back at her original position, she found Pale had acquired three wooden mugs at some point.
“They were passing out celebratory drinks while you were running around. They say it’s made from the fruit they harvested this spring.”
Hazel saw him hold two mugs out toward her.
“I can’t drink two.”
“One’s for the world’s second most pretension dumbass standing over there.”
A metal finger pointed outside the square.
She looked that way and found her greatest safe zone: Dog Berger.
A single tree grew on a small hill in the grassy area north of the center square. He stood there in his black coat, looking down at the square.
Pale bowed and Hazel jogged over to Berger.
She made sure not to spill the drinks as she ran, but running on the grass felt nice through her shoes.
She entered the shade of the tree.
He did not respond.
She saw him still staring toward the square with no readable expression on his face.
She tried to figure out what to do with her hands full of mugs, but he held out a hand without looking her way. He was telling her to give him one.
She did so.
He took a sip without saying a word. He did not even blink as he stared emotionlessly at the square.
Hazel sighed, wiped sweat from her brow with a handkerchief, and sat next to him. She made sure to hold the skirt in the back of her knees as she sat on the grass.
She looked to the square as well.
From the hilltop, she realized the ring of people was less than 10 yards across and only about four people thick. The tallest figures were the animal Heidengeists, but the most colorful were the winged ones.
The only humans in the ring were…
…The Geheimnis Agent?
No, there was also a human woman standing next to Schweitzer. She had brown hair worn in one long braid.
Hazel just about dropped her mug when she saw the woman.
“She’s the one from my dreams!!”
Realizing Berger was looking at her now, she clapped a hand over her mouth.
And she panicked.
…It’s the same person and the same outfit as in my dreams?
The woman wore her long brown hair in a single braid and she wore a green men’s suit. There was no doubting it. That was definitely the woman who would kneel before her and ask that question in her dreams.
“I don’t believe it.”
She shook he head, tensed her shoulders, leaned over toward Berger, and looked away from the woman.
She looked to the large oak platform in the center of the square. The crops harvested during spring and the drinks, foods, textiles, and other products made from them were piled up on that platform.
The gaunt mayor stood in front of it all wearing casual clothing. Hazel worked to steady her breathing while guessing his pale skin meant he was a long-lived ghost.
A man and a woman stood in front of him.
The young man wore black clothing and his skin was a little dark. He was a demon, which meant he would have a hard time in churches.
The woman wore a gorgeous white dress with a hand-woven lace veil hiding her face.
Hazel sighed and her gaze wandered back over to the green suit woman.
The woman was looking back at her.
She gasped, scooting about a foot back on her butt and putting on a stiff smile.
She bowed toward the woman to try and smooth things over.
The woman noticed, narrowed her eyes, and nodded.
They had apparently managed to communicate.
Hazel heard her heart hammering in her chest and hid behind Berger.
When she looked forward again, the woman was no longer looking her way. That was a small relief.
…Is she with the Geheimnis Agency too?
Just then, Lehrer entered the ring of people, bowed toward them all, and said something.
Color flew from the surrounding ring.
People were throwing bouquets of flowers.
They cheered and shouted. They all raised their mugs and voices below the fluttering flowers.
The ring dissolved as the people mingled together and started dancing. The groom was lifted and then thrown into the air by the men and the bride was surrounded by the woman and given a large bouquet to hold.
Then the bride removed the flower-decorated veil from her head and threw it.
It flew toward…
The woman standing next to the Geheimnis Agent caught the flying white cloth.
She had scrambled up onto the man’s shoulder to pull it off.
After snatching the lace out of the air, she cheered, but she blushed when she noticed everyone watching her.
Her nimble movements had caught the other people by surprise, but they eventually burst into laughter.
The Geheimnis Agent man used his prosthetic right hand to snatch her from his shoulder and lower her to the ground. Then the village’s men raised their mugs toward the two and laughed.
Cheer filled the place.
Hazel smiled a little herself as she watched from afar and then she looked to the bride.
She had seen the woman before.
She was in Berger’s pendant. She was in that glimpse of the past shown on that photograph. The one that showed him smiling in a way he had never had for Hazel.
Now she understood why Berger and that Geheimnis Agent were here.
She gulped and recalled the name she had seen on that photograph three years ago.
…I stole a look at it, so…
Berger did not know she had seen it. So she looked at him while making sure he wouldn’t notice that she knew. She took a sip of the citrusy drink in her mug as she did so.
She noticed his stance had somewhat changed from before.
He now had his right hand inside his black coat. She wondered if he was touching the pendant, but he was not.
He was holding Gelegenheit’s hilt.
He was staring forward, probably at Eryngium, but there was no expression on his face.
His lips, however, were moving.
No voice emerged, but he had definitely said something.
Hazel could not see his Lives. He was hiding everything.
He had said something without noticing her staring. She did not know if it was words of celebration or what, but she did know he had shut his eyes somewhat.
He was no longer looking to the central square.
She quickly looked back that way as if to take over for him and saw Eryngium and the groom drinking while surrounded by all the other people.
They were smiling.
…What does this mean? That Geheimnis Agent, the woman from my nightmares, and Eryngium are all here.
She started to say something until she saw something in the sky.
She noticed three lines of white in the southern end of the clear blue sky above the forest surrounding the village.
They were contrails.
The three contrails rose from above the forest rooftops, to above the blue sky, and then to the heavens themselves. They ascended and ascended.
They suddenly came to an end high, high up in the sky.
By then, the villagers had noticed it as well. A few of them sipped at their drinks and pointed up at the white slashes dividing the blue sky overhead.
Those three white lines rose into the heavens and vanished.
They almost seemed to be joining the festivities.
Hazel tried to say as much to Berger.
He was gone.
He had vanished at some point. She tilted her head and checked behind the tree, but he wasn’t there either.
He must have gone elsewhere.
…Is he okay?
She wondered that and lifted the mug in her hands.
She lost her equilibrium and rolled over onto the ground. Her head felt weirdly heavy.
She was drunk.
Hazel stared up into the sky while collapsed behind the tree.
…I can’t stay here. I have to get to that empty house next to the square.
She wasn’t sure why, but two women with some kind of a connection to her were here.
“What is with this village?”
Her alcohol-loosened lips uttered a complaint as she slowly got back up.
Standing up too quickly made her dizzy, so she took it slow and then got moving.
Once she started down the slope, her legs started moving on their own. Carrying her down.
“Oh, no, no, no, no.”
She arrived at the square in a jog and it took her five or six steps to regain her balance.
She tried staying still.
In the square, a large number of Heidengeists were seated on a large picnic sheet and chatting pleasantly. There was laughter and singing. There were no insults or fear. Every species had at least a few different members present.
Hazel stood there all alone, but…
The balance of her inner ear started to collapse.
She moved her head and her somewhat feverish gaze searched for the vacant house she and Berger had been given.
She found it at 10 o’clock or northwest. The wooden house was a short walk across the field surrounding the central square.
She turned that way and got her unsteady legs moving again.
Just as she started walking and wobbling, she heard a voice from the seated Heidengeists.
“Hey, what are you doing there, miss!?”
It was Pale’s voice, but she did not have it in her to check where exactly he was.
With that, she walked from the square with the mug in one hand. She staggered side to side and turned her head. She still had 15 steps before reaching the vacant house. That felt like a horribly long journey.
She heard Berger’s voice.
From behind the vacant house. He seemed to be talking with someone. She could not hear what he was saying, but there was a light, cheerful tone to his voice.
Her heart skipped a beat.
…He only sounds so happy when he feels trapped.
It was the same tone of voice he had used when fighting the Kaiser three years ago or facing down the Sylphide five years ago.
She resumed walking.
Her legs were still unsteady, but she had gotten the hang of it.
She arrived at the vacant house, placed her hand on the log wall for support, and started to circle behind the house.
Then she heard a female voice join with Berger’s.
It was Lehrer’s voice.
That brought Hazel some small relief.
…Are they hiding back here to trade AIF intel?
She peeked behind the house and prepared to call Berger’s name.
But she quickly pulled her head back.
She took a few steps back along the wall and then turned the corner toward the front door.
“Um, uh, um.”
She spoke aloud what she had seen.
“They were kissing…”
Only by speaking the words did she truly understand them.
The image burned into her eyes showed Lehrer as the instigator. She had stretched up, draped her arms around Berger’s neck, and placed her lips on his.
…What is going on here?
Hazel touched her right hand, the one not holding the mug, to her lips as if that would help her understand.
She did not understand the word escaping her lips or the scene she had just witnessed.
Nor did she understand the woman from he dreams or Eryngium’s presence here.
She had nothing but questions spinning through her mind when organ music from the church reached her ears.
Music much like hers from earlier seemed to push her onward, so her legs began to move.
She practically leaned against the entranceway as she opened the door.
The wind blew into the vacant house, seeming to draw out the smell of the wood and the dim shadows.
She stepped inside to cut herself off from what she had seen outside.
It was a small house. The 5-yard room had a fireplace on the north side, a simple kitchen with no equipment on the east side, and a bed with only a mattress and sheets on the west side.
She looked to the fireplace and sighed. Berger was likely still beyond there.
Lehrer would be with him.
Hazel shook her heavy head, but that did nothing to help.
“What do I do? I don’t understand any of this.”
She set the mug down in the kitchen, walked across the room on unsteady legs, and collapsed into the bed without removing her shoes. The texture of the artificial mattress and sheets felt oddly nostalgic.
The chill of the sheets felt nice on her heated skin and she remembered another important factor.
“How am I supposed to get Berger to join the AIF like this?”
She continued the thought in her mind while she gradually relaxed.
…I don’t know anything about him.
She drifted off before the words were even complete.
Her breathing grew softer and softer, but her brow remained somewhat furrowed.
Chapter 5: The Requiem Races
5/30/1942 18:32 – 22:20
Do crossroads connect your current path to a new one?
If so, a crossroads is not the same as a fork in the road.
I’m not sure how to put it.
Does anyone know what I’m trying to say?
A Babel Cannon is a system that accelerates words to use them either as bullets or as a beam.
The basic structure includes a giant cannon reminiscent of the biblical Tower of Babel and a launching mechanism that accelerates the powerful word particles, so there is little theoretical difference between them and ordinary cannons.
They are divided into two general categories based on the type of projectile: either a bullet made by hardening the word particles or a beam that releases the word particles. The former has a simpler structure but can only be fired instantaneously. The latter is more complex and much bigger, but can be fired over an extended period of time. During the Great War, the former was referred to as Babel Guns and the latter as Babel Cannons.
They are tremendously destructive. Everything within range of the target space undergoes word collapse, causing it to literally rupture. They are the ultimate weapon of the current age. For example, a resonance Babel Cannon nearly destroyed England’s heaven in ’33.
Only Germany’s Geheimnis Agency and the British military have developed Babel Cannon technology, so while England works more closely with the rest of the Allies, they have sealed away all of their R&D documents until the year 2000 to avoid any other country stealing the technology.
At 5:32 PM, while the 3rd Aerial Fleet off the coast of Norway was engaging the German troops, the Big Signal, a British aerial warship equipped with a Babel Gun, finally completed the 11-hour process of connecting and turning the barrel, so it began to ascend.
The ship’s large silhouette was visible on the North Sea’s moonlit clouds where the German aerial ships could not reach it. The shell loading zone at the rear of the barrel was temporarily sitting open.
While its escort ships arranged themselves in a concentrated defensive formation, the 10-yard container sector at the rear of the Big Signal began to move. Three of the walls opened up, leaving only the front wall that connected to the bullet accelerator.
The opened walls revealed a soft weblike steel frame and cords with airtight coverings. The cords were tangled and twisted around the frame, making the place look like a jungle.
An enormous musical instrument sat in in the center of the frame.
It was a harp.
But this harp extended sharply forward and the keel-like piece supporting the strings was nearly 6 yards long.
Sounding boards meant to help spread its sound stuck out from the spine of the harp like a stegosaurus’s back plates and two giant amplification shells resembling spiral shells were installed on the harp’s rear.
The harp was known as an ultraheavy harp.
It was played by a girl. She had a slender body and long brown hair, but the right half of her body had been removed and she was linked to the connectors on the harp and amplification shells.
Her arms and legs were ceramic and the joints were covered, but her face, throat, and stomach were the same as a human’s. She was a Sein Frau designed to play this harp and sing.
Her name was stitched into her clothing: Bendaughter-East.
She was one of the three sisters who performed the music when London’s big clock reached the top of the hour.
The ultraheavy harp’s name was written on it: BBH-02 Sunshine.
The Sein Frau was not moving. Her head was lowered in sleep.
The left arm designed to play the large harp was long enough to reach the floor.
The special prosthetic right arm sticking out from the other side of the harp was also motionless.
Time slowly passed, the moon slowly moved, and the moonlight finally reached her face.
The chilly wind of the high altitude gently washed through her hair and stroked her cheek.
The first thing to move was the cords crawling around the frame like a jungle. A few of the cords went taut, shook, and then emitted steam in the cold air.
Next to the two large shells on the rear of the harp, the autonomous clasps rotated and released their brakes.
The special prosthetic arm on the starboard side rotated each finger six times and began to clench and unclench.
Then the Sunshine’s exterior panels lifted up just a bit and a powerful breath blew from within.
The frame shook, the cords swayed, and the wind whipped at Bendaughter’s clothing and hair.
As the ultraheavy harp awoke itself with an autocleaning cycle that resembled a yawn, something else began to move as well.
Bendaughter’s eyelids slowly opened.
Her lowered head faced forward and then up into the sky.
Her expression remained blank. She was only designed to play the harp and sing, so she had no thoughts beyond that.
But she still opened her eyes wide while viewing the light of the moon hanging high in the sky.
She opened her mouth and the pressure gathered in her lungs pushed her voice from deep within her throat and gut.
It was a single loud tone.
New movements gradually joined in. The idling Babel Gun fully activated. It had reached its completed form atop the Big Signal and the shafts installed inside and outside it began a rapid phase transition. This was meant to eliminate any vibration in the gun’s core.
The miniature transition-style word accelerator at the base of the cannon began to operate. The cylindrical accelerator was large enough to stick out from the edge of the ship and a transition space was bound to each end of the cylinder to provide the same effect as a large circular accelerator in as little space as possible. That device took up more power than any other part of the ship.
The emblem panels producing the transition space were installed complexly along the outside of the cylinder as well to fight the internal pressure.
Everything had activated now.
And it was all tied together by a voice.
The single tone continued. It had not stopped for a moment.
Bendaughter’s body was linked to the ultraheavy harp, but her intake and output of nutrients and an external supply of oxygen were handled by pipes connected to her linking surface. So as long as the vibration of her voice did not numb her brainstem, she could sing indefinitely without needing to take a breath.
But that stopped without warning.
After viewing the moonlight for only a few seconds, Bendaughter lowered her gaze to face forward again.
She kept her eyes there as she moved her left hand around behind her head.
That arm was 2 yards long and it produced a mechanical whirring as it moved.
Fingers with built-in picks arrived at the base of the frame between the two shells.
There was a large square hole at the top of the frame and she pulled a book and a small bag from there.
Her left arm returned. First, she placed the book on her lap and skillfully opened the bag with just the one hand.
She pulled out what looked like a single thumb-sized red gem. It was a piece of hard candy.
She casually tossed it in her mouth, placed the bag at her feet, and picked up the book. Her expressionless gaze viewed the title.
“Unreif Germane – Six Sections in Song.”
She used the one hand to flip through the pages. Sheet music was written there, but she read through it at a rate of less than a second per 10 pages.
“Understood. If anything becomes unclear, I can check again.”
She set the book aside.
Sunshine’s exterior panels opened a bit and it inhaled this time.
The shell loading zone’s outer walls surrounded her as if in response.
She spoke aloud while the giant soundproof box closed around her.
“Additional Order: New #78. Categories: Song, German, Special. Objective: Perform the high pressure song for approximately nine hours to create a Babel Gun bullet.”
She said it all without taking a breath.
With that final word, two final sounds escaped the closing loading zone.
The strum of a harp’s strings and the singing of a voice carried far through the sky before vanishing inside the soundproof box.
Night had fallen.
The stars were spread across the sky. The lack of lights in the German mountains meant the surface was pitch black.
The small lights of a city were visible in the distance. That would be Cologne.
The mountainlike silhouette next to Cologne had to be the Requiem. A few dark silhouettes walked through the mountains and forest where that was visible.
The men in black uniforms made no noise as they moved and walked. They only disturbed the air a bit.
A few such people were gathered in one spot.
A camouflage tent had been set up in the darkness as a command center.
A single mountain-equipped Klein Panzer stood in a small clearing. An outdoor Phlogiston Tank sat next to it with cords extending toward the tent and the machines within.
There was a single bright color inside the command center.
It took the form of a woman. She had some shallow wrinkles on her face but still maintained a sharp atmosphere. She currently stood in the center of the command center tent. She wore the field uniform of the Geheimnis Agency Army Division and the bottom of the pants were noticeably muddy even in the dark.
She stared forward with her arms crossed. Her sharp gaze fell on the man seated in front of her. He wore a worn-out three-piece suit and sat on the ground with his arms around a 1-foot tin can resting atop a mountain frame. He was Intelligence Division Chief Witzmann and he rubbed his bald head while laughing in the darkness.
“I know you’re busy, Jeanne, so I do apologize for the intrusion. Ha ha ha.”
“This is no laughing matter. Imagine my men’s surprise when they saw one of the Fünf Leithammel walking up without contacting us first. Not to mention when you let yourself be captured so easily.”
“Walking? I did take a car all the way to the foot of the mountain.”
Jeanne tilted her head at that.
“Your choices always baffle me. Why would you choose such an inefficient way to do your duty as Intelligence Division Chief?” She pulled over a nearby chair and sat with her legs crossed. “Why are you here, Intelligence Division Chief Witzmann? I can’t imagine one of the Fünf Leithammel would visit anyone as insignificant as us without a good reason.”
“You sure are strict.”
“I just don’t like things that make no sense. Like you. I know the Intelligence Division handles supply transportation too, but why would one of the Fünf Leithammel arrive here alone and on foot? Is this some kind of game to you?”
“Of course not. I came alone because I wanted to speak with you without anyone else nearby.”
Witzmann pushed his frame and can aside.
Jeanne looked at them and then spoke to the person walking close by.
“Hey, check on this Ton bullet immediately. We will soon meet with our commander at the foot of the mountain and track down the Messiah at Cologne. …Will this be your first time meeting our commander!? You aren’t going to believe who she is, let me tell you!”
Witzmann smiled when he heard that.
“So our commander has directly ordered the Messiah’s capture, has she? I thought you were only here to capture Pale Horse.”
“I’m as surprised as you. She named herself on an open radio channel. But thanks to that, we have the personnel we need and we can catch up to the Messiah and Pale Horse on the Cologne side of the mountains. Even ‘Schütze Puppe’ Bermark will be joining us.”
“Hm. But if we do capture the Messiah, then all of Lowenzahn Naylor’s authority as our commander will be given to the Messiah as our leader. Assuming we do get the Messiah girl, of course.”
“That is our job. …I am most pleased our commander is relying on us for this.”
“Hm.” Witzmann nodded. “I see. Now, Jeanne. I have a suggestion.”
He smiled a little and suddenly stood up.
He took two steps, arriving directly in front of seated Jeanne.
“How about a game? I am currently analyzing something with the reputation of the entire intelligence division riding on it.”
He pulled a foot-long piece of metal of from within his coat.
It was a flat panel with a slight curve to it. He held it out toward Jeanne.
“I extracted my favorite plate from the historical ones placed below Munich in Germany’s past.”
“Why would you do that? Karlsruhe is in charge of that place.”
“That does not matter,” insisted Witzmann. “Twenty-odd years ago, Frobel Naylor, the head of the Naylor family at the time, created this plate and attempted to place it below Munich. It was engraved with a way to save the world, or something along those lines. She had prophesied that that place would be opened up once a crisis befell Germany.”
“So to ensure no one would see it, no one would make a fuss about it, and no one would lose it before it was needed, she hid it among the records of the past that will all one day show their true value. But.”
“Something went wrong at some point. Marsch Gant from the Development Division noticed this and carved the solution off of the surface. It feels like a riddle now. …It wasn’t easy getting Elrich away from this. Go under Munich now and you will find a mere copy of this.”
Witzmann’s eyes dropped to the plate and Jeanne’s eyes followed.
“I will leave this with you, Army Division Deputy Head Jeanne Schmitt. You take your duty seriously. No matter what you see or learn, you will not doubt the things you have come to trust in. So I know you will continue to trust in our commander. Even as you hide this.”
“You think too highly of me,” she said with a bitter smile.
Witzmann smiled back.
“Which is why I suggested a game, Jeanne. I have compiled the text and the property classification chart I was able to gather from that plate. All that remains is checking the past records to continue the examination. However.”
“Do you think that will be dangerous?”
“I honestly do not know. …But I do know the previous head of the Naylor family attempted to hide it until the time came. I do not know if she was mistaken to leave it where she did. So if you think the time has come to give that to someone you think should have it, then will you please give it to them? But I may finish my analysis before that time comes.”
“So the game is about me coming across such an opportunity versus your analysis abilities?”
“No, it is my destiny versus yours. The question is whether we are talking about a destiny of ruin or of happiness.”
Jeanne’s shoulders lowered a bit when she heard that. She picked up the plate, and…
“I will look after this. I swear to you not even the air will touch it until either you complete your task or destiny favors me.”
“You really do take your duty seriously. I hope we can get along.”
They shook hands. After two or three shakes, they let go and Witzmann turned around. He walked outside the tent.
Jeanne put the plate in her coat and called out to him.
“Where are you going? I could have someone drive you down the mountain.”
Witzmann didn’t even stop as he replied.
“No, I happened across a nice tree on the way up. A large tree next to the road leading away from the Borderson region below. From there, I hope to steal an in-person look at the Messiah girl as she escapes.”
“Is that what you were looking for while you wandered through the mountains earlier!?”
He answered her with laughter. The good-natured laughter melted away into the night.
Hazel didn’t see a cloud in the sky.
There was a forest in the distance, but right in front of her were…
A large crowd of people.
Not just dozens or hundreds, but thousands or tens of thousands.
There were men and woman. No children, but some were elderly and others still young.
They were all keeping quiet while looking her way. Their gazes were directed somewhat upwards.
…They’re below me.
And they were surrounding her.
She stood on a wooden stage overlooking them. Their silence coiled over their heads as expanding dark-red
Lives that looked ready to explode at any moment.
She looked down at them without fear.
But when she noticed the movement of her gaze was not her own, she realized this was a dream.
She took half a step back while viewing the dream brought to her by all her senses. An oppressive atmosphere hung over the dream.
When she looked closer, she noticed something new.
All the people spread out before her were wearing old-fashioned clothing or armor.
This was not the mass-produced clothing or armored uniforms designed for the soldiers who fought in modern battles. They were mostly equipped with swords and spears, but none of them looked mass-produced either.
When she looked between the distant forests’ trees, she saw a few old-fashioned Barrels.
…What is this gathering for?
Wondering that, her vision tilted down again. A wooden altar-like platform was built below the stage.
Four men stood there.
The armor, clothing, and cloaks they wore were nothing like the rest of the crowd. It was much higher quality.
One of the four, the one on the far right, was not wearing armor and was only lightly equipped, but he held a thick scroll under his left arm.
Just as Hazel wondered who those four were, her vision moved again.
She looked to the horizon and then side to side. She looked to all the people below.
Her dream self raised her right hand. It held a sword Device.
She recognized the sword. It resembled the one wielded by the Heavy Barrel named Kaiser she had fought two years ago.
When her dream self held that sword aloft, she was answered by an explosion of voices.
The waves of people spread out before her released their voices and their coiling dark red Lives into the sky above.
Thousands or tens of thousands of voices joined together to form an indistinct roar that reminded her of a crashing waterfall.
The wind was afraid, the forest surprised, and the earth trembled, but it did not stop.
Her dream sense felt the vibration. She saw the thundering Lives and rejoiced.
But her current self sensed something strange from her position a step removed.
Her vision was looking down at the people thrusting up their weapons and shouting.
…Why am I looking down at them?
She was definitely looking down at all those people. And…
She suddenly looked up into the sky. The clear blue sky.
A dragon flew there.
When she saw the 30-yard azure dragon, she knew for certain this was a dream.
The craft that had once broken apart in the sky above the North Sea was hovering in the sky now.
It rocked in the wind, seemingly enjoying the waves created by that wind.
Hazel felt dizzy and, by the time she took another breath, her vision had lowered and slowly turned to look behind her.
Someone else stood on the stage too.
Her vision looked back and found a color she hadn’t seen yet here.
This was not the blue of the sky, the green of the forest, the brown of the dirt, or the silver of the armor.
It was the black of shadows.
The young man standing there had only one arm.
She recognized him.
She denied it. She rejected it. She refused to accept it.
This was a nightmare, but the nightmare continued. Her recurring nightmares always ended with a certain image.
She would dream of saying goodbye to someone.
He would disappear into the shadows of the night and she could not follow after him.
The dream of loss had repeated itself so often she started to feel like it was one of her memories. And now it was happening again.
She shouted. And not just on the inside. She shouted out loud like a child.
She shouted his name. Instead of telling herself to wake up from the dream, she shouted the leaving person’s name in order to reject the dream.
Hazel shot upright. She opened her eyes and faced forward.
She was in a small room.
“Where am I?”
This still didn’t feel real. Her senses still felt the wind and heard all those people’s voices.
When she wrapped her arms around herself, she naturally pressed her right hand against her left shoulder and recalled who she was.
Her hand held the Wheel of Destiny card that had been in her left breast pocket.
She recalled what had led up to that dream.
Sweat rapidly soaked her entire body.
She was sitting on a bed. She had gotten drunk and fallen asleep.
The flowers in the vase on the side table looked awfully red and she found she was fully awake now.
She quickly checked her watch and found it was 8 PM. It was dark outside the window.
“We need to leave here with General Pale at 10 and get to Cologne.”
She recalled something else too.
…When am I going to invite Berger to join the AIF?
She didn’t know what she should do there. But…
“I should at least talk with him.”
Just as she managed to calm her breathing, the door burst open.
She looked over to find Berger standing in the doorway. He looked down at her with no readable expression on his face.
“We’re leaving in an hour.”
With that brief report, he gave a flip of his black coat, walked past her, and sat at the foot of the bed. The bed shook a bit. He had his back to her and did not look back.
She sat with her legs folded underneath her, placed her hands on her knees, and stared at his back.
No response. But she waited a bit.
After a breath or two and still nothing, she decided he wasn’t just being slow to respond. This time, she spoke more firmly.
“What? Keep it quick.”
She could not see any tone color at all coming from him. But…
This is fine, she insisted to herself.
He wouldn’t let her see his emotions, so she felt like she was walking blindly through the darkness as she opened her mouth. Instead of asking him directly, she took a different tack.
“Why won’t you join the AIF?”
“Were you asked to get me to join?”
He immediately saw through her.
“Um, well, uh.”
“They keep trying to do this. My answer is no. Remember that.”
When he was that blunt about it, she felt more miffed than disappointed.
“Why did you join? Why are you fighting a war, Hazel Mirildorf?”
That was more or less the same thing the woman in the green suit had asked her in her dream.
She had found something like an answer while playing the organ at the church today, but she still couldn’t put it to words.
Just like in ’37 and just like in her nightmare, she was unsure what to say.
She was not entirely sure. She was not confident in her answer. He must have realized that because he said more without turning around.
“Sounds like you have a vague understanding, but it still hasn’t coalesced into something solid. That’s the same as not having an answer. I’m the same, Hazel. I have no idea what I want after the fighting is done. I find the means to be a lot more fun than the ends. That’s just who I am. But…”
“Three years ago, I said you belong on the other side of the wall. So why did you join the fight without even understanding why?”
He stood up.
And he slowly stood up on the foot of the bed to look down at her. With emotionless eyes.
“A girl who joined the AIF just because can’t convince me of anything. …You’re worthless if you don’t have a solid reason to work with the AIF. Without a reason, what happened 5 years ago, 3 years ago, and now are all meaningless. Including getting the Sylphide killed.”
The way he phrased that last part made her get up on her knees and throw a slap toward him. But…
“How dumb are you? Did you really think you could hit me?”
His right hand caught her wrist before she could reach his cheek.
His hard fingers dug into her skin.
She could not resist his grip at all, so her brow wrinkled in pain.
“Hazel. I can’t hear you, Hazel Mirildorf. The reason you began to fight and the reason you continue to fight must be there inside you. But I have that much inside me too.”
He pulled her wrist toward him.
His face moved toward her. The blue eyes behind his sunglasses were simply there with no emotion or strength in them.
The only thing she saw in those eyes was her own reflected face.
There was anger on that face.
That realization surprised her, but his voice ignored all that.
“But is that all you have? You, the one who said she didn’t want to run away? Do you see what I mean, Hazel Mirildorf?”
He let go while pushing her wrist down. She lost her balance and landed back on her butt. He bent over to peer into her face.
“Face reality, Hazel. At 11 tonight, Project Millennium will bomb Cologne to the ground. Germany’s promised millennium of peace will be destroyed, people will die, and a city will be wiped off the map. Can you tell me what needs to be done after that kind of destruction? Well, can you?” He took a breath. “If you can’t, then stay there on the other side of the wall, Hazel. You can’t fight in the war from there, but you can find your answer. So once this mission is over…”
“Please stop,” she said, trying to keep him from finishing his sentence.
But he did finish it.
“Quit the AIF and stay far away from me.”
Hazel regretted the words as soon as they were out of her mouth.
But it was too late. She had rejected it all with two simple words.
“You’re lying,” she said again. More strongly this time. “You’re lying!”
“No, I’m not. I’m speaking from my heart.”
“You are not. I don’t believe you,” she snapped back on reflex, shoulders tense with anger. “You’re angry. That’s why you keep saying these awful things.” Tears filled her eyes. “You’re lying! You were so nice to me before…”
“Because it was my job to be, Hazel.”
He immediately shut that line of reasoning down, so she shook her head.
“Please join the AIF, Berger.”
“You’re being illogical. Weren’t you listening? I just said I won’t join and that you should leave.”
“But you’re lying. You never open up to anyone and you always ask the questions without answering any. So I know you must be lying this time too. Everything you say is the opposite of the truth!” she said. “Three years ago, you said there was a wall between us and we would never see each other again, remember? But we did see each other again. So how can I believe you when you said there was a wall between us?”
“You’re too naïve. You think you can trust me when we’ve only met a few times?”
He smiled bitterly.
He grabbed her collar with his prosthetic hand.
She tensed her shoulders a bit and looked up at him as he moved his face even closer.
“Then let’s play a game, Hazel. You claim you can trust me, but you were afraid of me once, weren’t you?”
“You Altered when I kissed you above the North Sea. It depends on the specific Werecat, but they generally Alter when their pulse races and they sense danger. That means you didn’t trust me in that moment.”
He silenced her with his lips.
It was less a kiss than an alcohol-smelling touch reaching her lips and tongue.
The next thing she knew, he had pushed her back on the bed.
He propped himself up on his hands placed below her arms and looked down at her.
“I don’t know what kind of work the AIF gives its female members, but female spies sometimes use their bodies to gain intel and trust. That’s how this game works.”
He removed his sunglasses and tossed them aside.
“If you Alter, you’ll be safe. But that means you don’t trust me and can’t satisfy me, so I won’t join the AIF and you’ve failed your mission for the AIF. So give up.”
He took a breath and stuck his pendant in his shirt’s breast pocket.
Then he reached for the stomach of Hazel’s clothing.
As a Werecat, lying on her back with her stomach exposed inspired an instinctual fear.
His fingers ran along her clothing until they reached the waistband. He grabbed the knot there.
“But if you can accept me like this, I’ll be satisfied and it means you trust me. …Then I’ll join the AIF.”
With that, he undid the waistband.
Schweitzer and Lowenzahn stood in a small room.
In fact, it was a one-room house.
There was a fireplace on the north wall and windows on the east and west walls.
The smell of wood hung strongly in the air, which helped it feel warm.
But there was one thing the room lacked.
“There’s no bed even though we’re supposed to be staying the night. Is this some form of harassment?”
“Apparently an elderly Schattenbild lived here. A living shadow probably wasn’t in the habit of sleeping.”
“Hmm. Well, it wasn’t like we were actually planning to stay the night.”
Lowenzahn approached the western window.
She chose a position that wouldn’t cast her shadow on the closed curtain, placed her fingers on the edge of the thick curtain, and pulled it back just enough to see out.
It was dark outside.
The forest village didn’t provide much visibility, but she could see the bonfire that was being kept burning in the center square for today’s special event. She also saw light in a small window near that.
“The Messiah still hasn’t made her move. The pursuit team should be in position by now, but at this rate…”
Lowenzahn did not receive a response.
Curious, she looked to the window visible through the cracked curtain. She could just barely make out the scene behind her reflected in the glass.
Schweitzer sat in a chair by the eastern window with his head resting in his hand. He seemed to be lost in thought.
“Then how about responding from time to time?”
Lowenzahn turned around and sighed. She moved away from the window.
She stopped just a few steps away from him. He was tall even when seated. The shoulder of his Der Held prosthetic arm came up to her chest.
So she rested her elbow on its flat shoulder armor.
“If you could redo your life, would you?”
“It isn’t possible. Not unless you altered the space-time Tons at the very center of the world.” And after a pause, “Redo it, huh?”
That seemed to remind him of something.
“Back in high school, we had this one science assignment. It was a simple orbital calculation. It gave you the answer and you were supposed to derive the formula and then provide a proof for it. …But we found it to be such a difficult problem at the time. We were spinning the globe around and checking through our physics text, desperate for the solution.”
“But the results of our calculations were all different. We had the formula partially derived, but we didn’t know what we needed to complete it. We only had a week before the assignment was due, so we spent six days struggling with it.”
“But we just could not find the solution. We had all given up on the final morning before it was due, but then one of us arrived with the solution. And with it copied into all of our notebooks.”
“Do you know how that person found the answer?”
“No, but I’d love to find out.”
“They threw out the partial formula we had worked together to make and redid it all from the beginning.”
“Was that person Eryngium?”
Lowenzahn’s guess made Schweitzer freeze.
A few moments of silence followed.
But he finally smiled.
“I worried you, didn’t I?” He nodded. “The person who brought us the answer was Dog Berger. He’s always been an expert at throwing out old things. Eryngium, Marsch, Alfred, and I were all thankful.”
“But during our celebration that night, Eryngium said she could have created a new formula using the one we had all made together.”
“But didn’t that Berger person throw out the old one because she couldn’t do that?”
“It’s hard to say. Maybe she could have. …But when she learned how he had done it, she smiled and said something to him.” He sighed. “She told him to always do things his way.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?” Lowenzahn draped her arms around his head from behind. “Is simply redoing things wrong? Or is throwing out the old things wrong?”
“I don’t know either. But it is what she said. And I will respect that even if she no longer remembers any of it. Besides…all of these questions were not redone – they were inherited.”
“Five years ago, a girl appeared before me saying she didn’t want to run away. She still hasn’t found an answer to her question…but I have some hope that she will be able to find it.”
“We are about to capture that girl. …I saw her earlier. She was an ignorant fräulein who worries so much about others and thinks no one will really hurt her.”
“The Messiah who accepts everyone and the young man with a divine name who rejects everyone.”
“I think both of those options are wrong. You can’t accept everything or get rid of everything. You need to redo things partway through.”
“Can you feel this?” asked Lowenzahn, pressing her chest against his back. “My chest feels funny, doesn’t it?”
“Do not ask me questions with only awkward answers.”
“Oh, you are adorable. But listen. …When you saved me at that hospital so long ago, I was undergoing an Eingeweide implantation surgery.”
He tried to turn around, but she stopped him by pressing her face against his head.
“I have an Eingeweide heart called Neue Erde. It was partially because the heart disease I inherited from my mother had worsened…but it was also to implant this, which is incorporated into my skeleton too.”
“I have no left breast. It was used to create the machine and remade. It was completely redone.”
The tension drained from Schweitzer’s body.
“Does Neue Erde’s Ober Beweisen…let you prophesy?”
“You can…think of it that way if you want.”
“So you too gained power by redoing something.”
“That is one way of doing things,” she replied.
She let go of his arm and took a step back.
“And remember that some people can only do things that way.”
“I will,” he said, standing up.
He looked back and she held her arms lightly to her chest and refused to look him in the eye.
She cleared her throat and turned to the curtain covering the window she had been looking out earlier.
“That Dog Berger person seems to be having a rough time of it too.”
“Yes, he has been carrying a certain bond with him all this time as he fights.”
“A bond?” asked Lowenzahn, looking back.
Schweitzer raised his Der Held for her to see.
“His Gelegenheit was created using two things. The first was his own divine power. Gelegenheit’s Ober Beweisen removes the seal on that power.”
“And the other thing?”
“Eryngium Ilfheim’s memories. Using its Ober Beweisen will revive her memories. And as long as those remain inside Gelegenheit, he will never use his divine power.”
He looked up.
“Because that preserves the fact that he abandoned her.”
After Berger undid her waistband, he raised her hands overhead.
Hazel lowered her head but still turned her eyes up to look at him.
He was looking at her. Lit from behind by the ceiling light, his expressionless face almost looked angry.
She was entirely defenseless with her arms up over her head. Her jacket and shirt were both dresses, so…
“I can remove it all just by unbuttoning them from the top. Makes things easy.”
While she silently wondered what was about to happen, he reached out his metal left hand.
…He’s going to unbutton it?
Her feline instincts meant anything covering her vision from above inspired fear. So she lowered her head even more.
His hand reached past her head, gathered her raised wrists together, and pinned them down on the bed.
“Sorry, but I don’t trust you, Hazel Mirildorf.”
He pushed his knee up and in between her legs from over her skirt.
“You want me to stop? But isn’t this your job? And it’s how the game is played, Hazel. If you’re scared, then let your pulse and instincts take over. Then you can escape.”
That pissed her off a little. Her breathing was a little heavy due to nerves, but her pulse wasn’t all that elevated.
“I-I’m not afraid, Berg-”
He sealed her lips with his.
This wasn’t just a kiss. He placed his lips around her lower lip and gently bit it.
It parted her lips and entered her mouth.
He was licking inside her mouth. She didn’t reject it, so he ran his tongue along her teeth and then captured her tongue with it, making her gasp.
It felt like having a soft, wet finger moving around in her mouth.
After a long, sticky moment, he released her just as she had shut her eyes and was feeling a need for air.
She parted her damp lips to suck in and then release a breath.
He once more bit her lip as she opened them for air.
His tongue held hers down and she couldn’t breathe. Panic filled her mind.
But after what felt like forever, he released her again…and did the same thing again.
She twisted below him, but she could not escape.
She was breathing much heavier now, but not just from nerves. Of course she was when she needed air.
After another brief respite, he did the same thing again. But there was more this time.
…My jacket’s buttons.
He was using his free hand to unbutton them one at a time, starting from the top. She could tell from how his fingers were moving.
By the time he released her lips with one final lick, the front of her jacket was open.
Without a moment’s delay, he was undoing the buttons for her shirt’s collar.
When he revealed her throat and the choker she wore there, she quickly pulled her chin down against it.
She let out a damp, heated breath and tears spilled from the corners of her eyes.
“I won’t remove the choker,” he said. “Because I don’t want to deal with the mewing of a frightened cat. And…” He did not smile. “Hazel, you’re my pet cat right now. Why would I remove the collar that proves it?”
She shook her head to say that wasn’t true.
He reached out his hand and continued unbuttoning her shirt regardless.
The skin of her chest came into view along with her white underwear and the air touched her belly as it rose and fell from her heavy breathing.
The overhead light shined on her thighs as well.
She was too preoccupied to notice the chill of the air on her heated skin.
With nothing holding her skirt in place, she could move her legs more freely now. She raised her knees somewhat, but he did not move from between her legs.
“Shouldn’t you shut your eyes, Hazel?”
He rubbed his hand from her side to her stomach and she let out a quiet shriek, but she also shook her head.
“This isn’t happening.”
“It is. And your extreme tension is all the proof you need. Your belly is hopping up and down like a frog and beads of sweat are forming on your tense skin.”
He rubbed his fingers between her ribs and without warning…
“You’re scared, aren’t you?”
He pressed his index finger directly into her exposed navel.
He pushed his finger into the hole. She felt a mixture of ticklishness and pain, like he was directly pushing on her organs, so she bent backwards on instinct.
He used a kiss and his tongue to silence any protests and her pulse shot up.
She calmed her pulse. She suppressed it. She kept her eyes open even as tears spilled from them and she bent her body.
…He’s testing me!
He slid his hand up from her navel and undid the front hook.
He opened the front of his own shirt and ended the kiss.
“Hazel, what do you think of this situation?”
“…It isn’t real. You don’t mean it, do you? Because, um, you…”
“Oh, I mean it.”
His fingers touched her chest and his lips moved from her neck to her right shoulder and then to her chest.
The air on her chest made her bristle and her pulse quicken.
…What is he going to do to me?
That fear gradually grew inside her.
“No, you don’t.”
Her voice was scratchy and leapt in volume at what she felt next.
“Ah, d-don’t bite me!!”
“Dogs bite cats. It’s what they do. Besides, your dad punched me for no good reason, so this is just me giving him a reason after the fact.”
He touched the last piece of clothing still covering her.
He pulled it down before she could tell him to wait.
He pulled her underwear down with enough force to tear it and moved half a step forward to move past it.
She tried to close her legs but could not. She only succeeded in pressing her knees against his hips.
He lifted his own knees and pulled the underwear down from her thighs and fully away.
Her heart skipped a beat when she saw her underwear tossed aside and discarded.
“No, d-don’t look.”
“What are you talking about, Hazel? I know what it takes for a woman to join the AIF. I’m the one who told you about it 3 years ago, after all. …And since you’re here now…well, I can do the math.”
“I don’t know who your first was, but you can pass my apologies on to him.”
“P-please stop this.”
“Then run away. Before you’re defiled any further.”
…That’s not it.
Hazel twisted her body. She shut her eyes and gathered strength in her hands. Her half-removed shirt tangled around her arms as she broke free of his pinning hand.
She used her freed right hand to wipe the tears from her eyes.
“Please don’t do this based on an obvious lie.”
“What lie would that be?”
“It isn’t like you to lie like this.”
His face twisted for just a moment when she said that, but he didn’t say anything more.
She realized he had placed his hands behind her knees.
A moment later, he spread her legs and then leaned over her.
She gasped when she saw his bare chest.
She tried to shut her eyes.
She felt herself becoming a cat. The sensation was a combination of a bristling, a rejection of her surroundings, and an escape from danger. It spread from her butt, up her back, and around to the rest of her.
Berger stopped. He froze.
She realized something had left her along with all the sweat soaking her.
The oppressive fear wasn’t there.
She raised her lowered head.
Berger’s eyes were looking straight down at her.
But that wasn’t all she saw. Something else hung directly between their eyes.
She wiped away her tears to see it more clearly.
Her scratchy voice named the red gem she saw floating in the air.
It had slipped from his breast pocket when he removed his shirt.
“Dammit,” muttered Berger, his arms giving out below him.
Hazel cried out and caught him in her arms as he fell into her chest.
The bed creaked and the air moved for just a moment before stopping.
He was motionless. So was she.
But her sweat poured out in relief. She could tell her breaths were heated but calm. She felt the beating of his heart as she held him in her arms.
His heartrate was somewhat elevated. Noticing that helped her relax. And…
“This is a first…”
…I’ve never held him before.
His body was warm, his long black hair was chilly, and his heated skin felt nice.
She didn’t know how tightly to hold him, but her tearful eyes bent into a smile.
His response was quiet.
Unable to respond right away, she looked around the room. The red flowers in the vase on the side table were looking down at her. She narrowed her eyes toward them.
“Berger…should I be a bit angry with you?”
“You should laugh at me, Hazel. I’m the second worst in the world at finishing what I start.”
With that, he wrapped his arms around to her back.
When he held her, she relaxed and smiled. Only then did she realize…
…I was so incredibly tense.
“You’re so adorable,” she replied.
“Says the child.”
“Am I? Look at me.”
He looked up at her as instructed.
She pulled her head down and awkwardly kissed the puzzled look on his face.
Only now did she realize how soft his lips were.
After a few seconds, she pulled away and licked her own lips.
“See, I didn’t turn into a cat, did I?”
“…You’re an idiot.”
“That doesn’t matter. I’ve given this a lot of thought for an idiot. Including what I want to do after the war. …So everything will be all right. I will find an answer for what you said earlier. And soon.”
“Sounds awfully optimistic to me,” he said, looking exasperated.
Just then, the door opened.
The large form that entered was Pale.
He immediately froze.
“Oh,” said Hazel. “U-um! It’s not what it looks like!”
Her shirt and jacket were still on her arms, so she pulled the front shut to hide her and Berger, but there was no hiding Berger while in his arms, the clothing caught between her back and the bed, and this did nothing to cover her legs.
After some hesitation, she gave silent Pale an excuse.
“W-we were only, um, discussing our future plans.”
“Your future plans?” Pale looked deadly serious. “Family planning is important, but, well, it has been three years since you saw each other. …Good luck.”
“Why does everyone respond that way!?”
He ignored her and shut the door.
She pulled Berger’s head toward her as if for support.
“Fine then,” he said, suddenly looking up. “Hey, Hazel?”
There was some gentle relief in his voice while she pressed his face into her chest.
“You’ve actually grown some, haven’t you?”
She grabbed the vase from the side table and broke it over his head.
At 8:17 PM, somewhat behind schedule, a bombing fleet mostly made up of moonlight-resistant bombers began to take off from all of England’s airfields for Project Millennium.
There were 18 squadrons in all for a total of 1046 aircraft.
Each squadron took off at 20-minute intervals so the bombers could unload their payload of nearly 1500 tons of divine spell bombs and incendiary bombs over the course of six hours.
Previous aerial bombings had strategically destroyed industrial areas, but this largescale bombing was meant to obliterate an entire city. They would wipe the city off the map to end the German people’s conviction and will to fight.
The RAF had bet their pride on this mission meant to take revenge for the many aerial bombings England had received.
The strategic purpose of the bombing was to blast open the eastern entrance to Germany and prove that they could carry enough firepower to destroy any city and get it to Germany’s doorstep.
Word of the largest bombing in history raced through the Allied intelligence network, bringing silence to all.
It was a silence heavy with expectation and worry.
The village’s entrance was veiled in darkness.
The wind blew through the tree branches. The rustling of leaves sounded like small ocean waves and the branches rubbed together.
The cries of a distant night bird were like the low, intermittent tones of a wind instrument.
Small coins rubbed together and a ring of keys jangled.
Those two sounds came from a woman with long blonde hair gently rippling in the wind.
She was Lehrer. The eyes below her hair remained closed, but she was facing forward.
Toward the village’s gate.
The large wooden fence sat open. The chain’s latch was unlocked and the fence blew in the wind.
“Not long now until the bombers arrive.”
She put the ring of keys in her skirt pocket.
“How were they doing? Were they getting along?”
“Y-you, uh, could say that, yes.”
With a gruff voice, someone else appeared behind her. The large elderly man had silver hair.
He was Pale Horse and he scratched his head.
“Women are a mystery to me. Why would you ask that yourself?”
“Men are too simple, if you ask me.”
Lehrer turned toward Pale and smiled with her eyes closed.
He nodded once after seeing her expression.
“Are you sure about this? You didn’t tell them who you are?”
“I thought about telling Berger. We’ve known each other for so long, after all.” She brushed her hair back. “But I couldn’t do it. I only gave him some information on the AIF’s current situation and kissed him.”
“Like I said, women are a mystery.”
“He was pretty surprised by it. …Which is another way men are simple, but adorable too.”
Her laughter had no ill will in it. She continued the happy laughter while looking to the sky.
Pale pulled a B5-size envelope from his pocket and showed it to her. It was full and waterproofed.
“All the information you gave me over the past two weeks is in here.”
“The Panzerpolis Project lives up to its name, doesn’t it? It is the city that leads the world to ruin. At around this time, a captain in the Geheimnis Agency Air Force Division – a guest in this very village today – should have suggested that the second Gard-class ship being constructed across Germany should be used as an aerial fortress for Germania.”
“Without a captain, that second Gard-class cannot Eingeweide, so instead its Babel Canon will be installed in Germania as a massive ley line compression Babel Gun that will pressurize and increase the output of all the Vaterlands around the world, correct?”
“Work will begin next year and the Erklärung abilities provided by the boosted Vaterlands will invigorate the German military. Germania will no longer just be an underground fortress city; it will be a weapon of mass destruction powered by all the ley lines in the world. All the pieces needed for the Panzerpolis Project have been gathered.”
“That’s some real bad news,” sighed Pale. He slapped his head with the envelope. “Once the Vaterlands begin to affect ley lines around the world, the Allies will work quickly to put together a countermeasure…all without realizing they’re only hastening the Nibelung.”
Lehrer smiled bitterly.
“I too will be a part of that eventually. America has already put together its 8th Aerial Fleet, haven’t they? They will begin joint bombings with the UK starting next year. Once that happens…” Lehrer lowered her head and nodded. “Yes, I will leave this place. I am sure I will have little choice by then. But before then, I do have a minor errand to run tomorrow morning.”
She raised her head again.
A light flashed in the forest within the village. A headlight.
The light was narrow thanks to the light-restriction cover attached, but it made it through the trees as it followed the winding road toward the village entrance.
Hearing the vehicle’s approach, Pale tilted his head.
“Oh, damn. It’s got a sidecar, but the girl’s using that. Where am I supposed to sit?”
“That’s why I offered to lend you a car.”
“The village only has the one and I know I won’t be able to return it.”
“That’s unusually dutiful of you. Did your time in Ethiopia teach you how hard the common folk work?”
Pale didn’t answer and Lehrer smiled bitterly.
“But don’t worry,” she said. “The girl can ride on the back of the motorcycle. Girls are as light as a bouquet of flowers and their butts are well padded.”
“You like to put yourself in charge, don’t you?”
“Thanks for noticing. But I do care a lot for that girl. I had already decided to become a Buster when I was 17, but she is still having trouble deciding what she should be.”
“Why not give her a useful lesson on the subject? You are a Lehrer, aren’t you?”
“When I say goodbye, I will hug her and give her just one piece of advice: get along with him.”
Just as he asked that, the light weaving through the forest pointed directly at them.
Lehrer stood in its path.
With a smile on her lips, she reached into her breast pocket and pulled out a card.
“The Hermit, #9 of the Harmonic Cards. A safe and boring option.”
“Is that your role now? But hermits can also be all-knowing sages, can’t they?”
“Yes, which is why I will leave behind the old things I know without that girl even noticing. And I will give her a fresh start without knowing a thing of what came before. The other option…”
A gust of wind blew through.
The forest rustled.
The roar of a motorcycle joined it.
Lehrer’s final words were drowned out by the voices of nature and of a machine.
“The other option would break my heart.”
Chapter 6: The Requiem Leaps
5/31/1942 00:49 – 01:26
What to do?
German Night Air Defense Procedures
Top left: Type 1
Bottom left: Air Defense Radar + Night Fighters
Top middle: Type 2
Bottom middle: Searchlights + Night Fighters
Top right: Type 3
Bottom right: Searchlights + AA Guns
During the war, Germany had three types of night air defense installations set up across the North Sea side of Europe.
Type 1 used a radar installation known as a Himmelbett. The radar would capture the enemy craft and radar guidance would send interceptors to attack.
Type 2 was a line of searchlights known as the Kammhuber Line that covered northern Europe. The interceptors would use the searchlights to attack.
Type 3 was only for important cities and facilities in Germany itself. Searchlights would illuminate the sky and antiaircraft guns would intercept the enemy craft. The three types were designed to prevent friendly fire between antiaircraft guns and fighter craft.
The key to air defense was how to fight at night like it was day, but the German military was behind the times on researching and mass-producing moonlight resistant equipment and they placed too much emphasis on bombers over fighters, which delayed their development of night fighters. This would lead to heavy losses later on.
The first attack, arriving before the aerial bombing, was the light of a Babel Kanone flying in from the north.
The bombing fleet managed to survive that and sent destruction raining down on the city of Cologne.
In response, searchlights illuminated the night sky and antiaircraft guns began firing.
Cologne, which stretched north to south with the Rhine to its east, was primarily a riverside industrial city. The bombing was meant to cover everything from north to south, which meant obliterating the entire city.
An exchange of attacks from the sky above and the ground below began a test of endurance.
Deep booms and roars shook the air, the bombs whistled down, antiaircraft gunfire burst from the ground, and the third alarm blared.
Searchlight beams sliced apart the night and crimson flames blossomed on the ground.
The crimson covered the city, factories, and homes of Cologne from north to south.
Gradually, a heated wind whipped up and blew into the sky.
There were no more clouds in the sky.
Even the smoke was swept away by the air currents thinning out the clouds.
Aircraft could be seen slowly flying beyond those vanishing clouds. Dozens of four-engine bombers traveled south, led by a few aerial warships.
The heat and wind drove the people of Cologne from north to south.
The people seemed to follow the current of the Rhine while they screamed and shouted instructions.
The shelters were meaningless at this point. The only way to escape the north-to-south bombing line was to move east or west, but east was cut off by the Rhine.
West was their only option, but Cologne was divided by several broad waterways flowing in from the Rhine. The bridges were quickly clogged with evacuees and congestion packed the center of the city where the city hall was located.
The din of the bombing approached from the north.
Firebombs cascaded down toward the two tall spires of Cologne Cathedral in central Cologne.
<The Requiem is played by people.>
The downpour of incendiary bombs stopped.
The people rushing to evacuate were puzzled by the slight silence that surrounded them.
Their questions were answered by the wind that blew down from the sky.
They all saw the giant umbrella floating in Cologne’s sky.
The umbrella floating about a mile above the surface was more than half a mile long and was painted a pitch black. It was the massive aerial warship that had remained a mystery for them all. The warship had launched a powerful beam of light to the north before the bombing began, but it had supposedly remained motionless since.
The ship’s mere presence shook the atmosphere and it launched fighters from its port and starboard sides.
The top of the ship lit up at the same time.
The beams of Drache Kanone swept through the sky like several swinging threads.
Eight aerial warships’ worth of antiair fire tore into the sky and shot down the enemy.
And all the people on the surface saw a girl standing at the end of the largest cannon sticking out from the front of the giant ship.
She was joined by wind, heat, and light.
A downpour of bombs fell atop the Requiem’s deck around her, bursting and burning. But they did not even scratch the black-scorched armor.
“I’m so glad you brought me enough noise and heat to soak into the very core of my body.”
She faced forward.
More and more black shapes pushed in from the sky like a series of waves.
The ground was burning red and the northern searchlights were no longer piercing the sky. The initial divine spell bombs had taken out most of the interception equipment.
Rose smiled amid the raining destruction.
The final lights flew forward from the bottom of the ship’s port and starboard sides. Those were the fighters kept inside this aircraft carrier. The last one on the left tilted to the left to avoid the incendiary bombs and then waggled its wings side to side.
That was its way of saying goodbye.
“We are fighting on the front line, not just providing antiair fire,” said Rose, spreading her arms wide.
<The Requiem dislikes the rain.>
The bombs above the Requiem itself and in the sky around it began to shatter like they had hit an invisible ground.
In exchange, the Requiem came to a stop.
“I could protect a wider range if the ship’s inertial spells could be spread out along a plane.”
“Can you take this much of a beating, Rose?”
An enormous figure dropped down onto the cannon behind Rose.
She quickly looked back.
She saw a silver Grösse Panzer with six wings on its back.
That one could handle aerial combat without an Ober Emblem. That was the Silber Löwe, which had been used along with the Schwarz Löwe as the foundation for developing the Kaiser.
Rose clenched her fists and raised her eyebrows.
“I thought you evacuated with the other Grösse Panzers back on the ground!?”
“Only the prophet girl can command me.”
Rose’s head drooped and an incendiary bomb pierced through her body. The large warhead burst open from the impact and scattered its six fuel bombs while inside her body.
“Oh, how indecent.”
Rose quickly took a few steps back. A moment later, a pillar of fire shot skyward from the spot she had vacated.
Brother and sister exchanged a glance with the crimson flames between them.
That lasted a few seconds.
Rose finally turned her back on her brother, crossed her arms, and faced forward.
The fires were starting to spread below. She asked a question over the continuing roar.
“Bigger brother? I hear the Messiah has appeared in Germany again, just like Lowenzahn prophesied. And I heard before taking off that Jeanne has joined Lowenzahn and deployed some special forces.” She took a breath. “The prophesies are coming true again, just like Lowenzahn said they would. But…what are we supposed to do if what she said to us comes true?”
The intense explosive downpour was at odds with the girl’s silence.
First, a manly voice called her name with enough force to drown out that din.
“The Geheimnis Agency does not belong to us. But do you know how all the others feel about this?”
She thought about that and then her face lit up.
She looked back to see Silber Löwe had drawn the sword from its hip and pointed it her way.
She needlessly ducked as the white blade came to a stop about a yard over her head.
Then an explosion thundered overhead and the blade rattled.
The wreckage of a bomb fell past the blade.
Rose looked up at it all with her head ducked down a little.
“Thank you, bigger brother.”
“Heiliger asked me to look after you.”
“Big brother does always treat me like a child… I received a transmission from Lillie in the north. She says the moonlight proofing for big brother’s ship is complete, so he was ordered out to fight. He’s apparently headed here as fast as he can with Sir Alfred in the lead.”
“You sure are popular.”
Rose sighed, watching the sword slowly pull away from overhead.
“They’re all such fools. After all, this bombing looks like it will last another four hours.”
“Can you last that long?”
“The areas with thinner armor are a concern. And I bet the cannons will be destroyed. But I doubt I will be sunk. My Babel Kanone will be reloaded in three hours, so I just have to hold on until then. I only have one other concern.”
Rose looked down to the right.
The city there was full of houses, apartments, schools, and parks.
“Did I make the wrong choice, bigger brother? As part of a Neue Kavalier family, should I have focused on defeating the enemy to protect our country over protecting the people?”
“A Kavalier’s decisions are always based in chivalry. No matter what they might be.”
“So anything I decide as a Neue Kavalier is a Kavalier’s decision? That’s silly,” she laughed. “You’ve used a lot more obvious sophistry since you got the Psyche Outer device installed.”
She looked up to view the sky instead of her brother.
“I will protect this city with my life. The Kavaliers of this Borderson land are watching from among the people down there. To determine what kind of Kavaliers we are.”
A shot from behind blew away and scattered the falling incendiary bombs.
She closed her eyes in a smile under the protection of Silber Löwe.
More explosions were reaching the deck behind her now.
And a beam of light pierced the Gard-class from the sky above.
That was a Drache Kanone from one of the warships accompanying the bombers.
Heat enveloped the deck and white smoke rose from it. The sensations coming from the ship gave Rose a more serious expression without opening her eyes. But…
“That is not enough to burn me,” she stated, undaunted. She raised her arms like a conductor. “Let us show those future Kavaliers what it is we are trying to do here, bigger brother.”
She slowly lowered her arms before twirling around.
<The Requiem’s master dislikes the chilly night.>
And she raised them again. The Requiem’s firepower was unleashed toward the ceiling above in time with the movements of her skinny arms.
The visible attacks were the Drache Kanone, the Pseudo-Drach Kanone, the scattershot Drache Kanone on the rear deck, and the heavy Drache Kanone.
The invisible attacks were the antiair guns and machineguns fired without tracer rounds.
They filled the night with so much noise that all sound seemed to vanish.
The sky burst open and flames scattered.
Below it all, the girl standing on the end of the long cannon slowly opened her eyes.
Their battle had left the long Borderson mountain road and continued on toward burning and smoking Cologne.
The BMW motorcycle raced along with Pale in the sidecar and Hazel on the back.
The way ahead opened up as they arrived on major road. Hazel looked back.
“We’ve lost them! Is this where we’re supposed to meet Corelle?”
“Not yet. We need to reach the T-intersection up ahead. Once there, Corelle’s RB-21 is supposed to drop Schwarz Löwe’s container and then land further on to pick up you and Pale.”
“But she still isn’t here,” added Pale and Hazel nodded.
…Did something happen to her? I hope she’s just running late.
The motorcycle continued driving despite her worries. There was a school to their right. They accelerated alongside its fence.
That was when she noticed Berger’s back tremble in surprise.
An armored truck was rushing toward them from the other end of the T-intersection up ahead. It was on a collision course and wasn’t slowing down.
“They’re still after us!? Hang on!!”
Berger shouted that warning immediately before turning the motorcycle right as sharply as he could.
The next thing Hazel knew, the school’s gate was right in front of them. It was metal and painted black.
They accelerated. And…
<Destiny opens closed doors.>
The gate was instantly sliced through and the motorcycle broke through the scrap metal.
Hot winds blew around the schoolyard.
No one was around at night and the turbulence from the bombing formed a whirlwind in this more open space.
Berger drove them through there to create an opening back to the road.
He shifted the 750cc BMW down a gear and tried to kick off the sandy ground, but that was when a color reached Hazel’s eyes. But this red was not from the Lives of the heat hanging in the air.
Gunfire flew their way. Past Pale in the sidecar on the right, gunfire meant to confirm the bullet speed shot from behind a tree at the edge of the schoolyard. The bullet holes traveled across the schoolyard’s sandy ground like the footprints of someone running toward them.
These were not submachinegun rounds. This was a machinegun.
Hazel immediately swung her sword.
As a Greenhorner, she did call to the Lives. She only focused her mind on a shout while using a card.
…I have trained in the Ups used by Tuners and Busters…
But that had never gone well for her. Whether she tried Tuning or Busting, the Lives were never transformed or destroyed the way she wanted.
The Lives would waver and that was it.
She raised her voice in her sword’s inherent tone to sync the sword’s Lives with her voice pattern. That made the sword shake her own Lives and activate.
The five cards attached to the sword burst, starting from the bottom one. Five empty cartridges were also ejected.
Air pressure similar to wind was launched from the sword’s tip.
The sand to the right of the motorcycle was blown away and a large arc was gouged into the ground. That gouge followed the motorcycle’s movement. A protection field was formed from the sword tip.
Sparks flew from the surface of that field and Hazel held the sword tight to bear with it. Directly above the gouged ground, a bullet hit the invisible wall just past the tip of the sword, bursting into embers.
She kept the sword steady.
Then Berger pulled a submachinegun from between the sidecar and motorcycle and opened fire.
He fired the bullets by eye and they tore apart Hazel’s protection field from within.
“Hey! Why would you break that! I could have kept it up for another 20 seconds!”
“The enemy’s bullets are going to last longer than that!”
She saw sparks fly from behind the tree at the corner of the schoolyard and someone was sent sprawling to the ground.
“Ooh, you hit them! Now that’s a miracle!” shouted Pale.
A few silhouettes jumped down from the roof of the two-story concrete school building.
There were four in all. They wore Geheimnis Agency Army Division uniforms, but those uniforms had no sleeves or legs to cover up their prosthetic arms and legs.
Instead of jumping down for a free fall, they kicked off the school’s wall to increase their falling speed and change direction.
They landed in the windy schoolyard with positions that surrounded the motorcycle and they hit the ground running to maintain those positions.
Their Lives looked somewhat faded to Hazel’s eyes. That was a unique trait of prosthetic-using Steel Masters like them.
A moment later, Pale stood up from the sidecar and slapped Hazel’s shoulder.
She looked back in surprise.
“Wh-what was that for?”
“Go on, girl. You get to Corelle first!”
Pale also slapped Berger’s shoulder.
“Pretend to circle toward the back entrance and then make a braking turn to the left. I’ll toss the girl outside then.”
“Wh-why me?” asked Hazel in a cracking voice.
“Because they’re after Pale and you, Hazel Mirildorf,” answered Berger. “I’m sure of it.”
“But their Messiah has got to be more valuable to them than me.”
“That’s right. You’re the last one we can let them get their hands on here, Hazel.”
But Berger brushed Pale’s hand off his shoulder.
Pale frowned and looked at Berger.
Berger squeezed the throttle to accelerate and responded without turning toward Hazel in the wind.
“But this girl is going to fight alongside us, Pale.”
Pale tried to say “don’t be ridiculous” but was cut off by Berger’s smiling voice.
“She’ll make an excellent shield. Since they can’t shoot her.”
Hazel elbowed him in the back. She knew he wasn’t serious, but…
…Why is he like this?
She tossed a card behind her and struck it with her sword.
That set up a thin barrier that blew away an approaching enemy.
Pale sighed in frustration and blocked some incoming bullets with his metal right hand.
18 shots’ worth of sparks flew. Just as the enemy’s rapid-fire barrage ended, Pale threw a backhand blow with his right hand.
The massive prosthetic fist hit the soldier in his hips just as he threw away his empty submachinegun and tried to draw his sword. His face twisted in surprise more than pain and his hip broke with a metallic sound, sending him collapsing to the ground.
Only two remained.
Berger sank down in the motorcycle and applied the brakes.
Their surroundings ground to a halt and the pursuing soldiers staggered as they tried to stop too.
Berger fired all his submachinegun’s remaining bullets into the soldier trying to straighten back up to the right.
The enemy reacted so quickly Hazel gasped. He made a rotating defense, guarding with his prosthetic arm. He deflected the bullets and moved on ahead.
But Berger hopped down from the motorcycle even faster than that.
“Pale, you take the one on the left!!”
Pale hopped out of the sidecar and Hazel scrambled down from the back. She crouched low and followed after Berger but shifted a bit to the side.
Now that she was out of the motorcycle, she found herself surrounded by heat and wind. She could see Cologne Cathedral in the distance.
A large dark shape hovered in the sky and a deep noise descended from it, but she couldn’t focus on that right now.
Berger approached the enemy ahead of her. He ducked low to avoid the enemy’s right prosthetic arm and grabbed that arm from below with both his own arms.
Berger tugged on the soldier’s arm, pulling him to the right, and spinning him toward Hazel to place the soldier on his own back. He jerked his hips up and pulled forward with the arm passing over his shoulder.
He threw the soldier so the man flipped around in an arc and slammed headfirst into the ground.
The full weight of the soldier’s mechanical body bore down on his neck, resulting in a dull sound.
He bounced and then rolled a few times before coming to a stop.
He did not move, but Hazel could see his pale Lives pulsing. He was not dead.
Relieved by that, she realized Berger was looking at her. The movement of his eyes told her what he wanted to say.
…He wants me to leave this open area and hide behind the school’s wall.
Crossing the fence behind the school would get her to the road they needed to reach.
A scream from the left was accompanied by the loud cry of breaking metal.
What was that? wondered Hazel as someone flew by overhead.
They slammed into a tree growing in front of the school. The following dull sound was that of a human body falling to the ground.
Pale’s attack had defeated the last soldier.
“You fight rough,” said Hazel as the battle ended for now.
She sighed and kept low to follow after Berger. She couldn’t relax until she was behind a tree with her back against the school’s wall.
<The Fatherland’s roads are never ending.>
She sensed a powerful presence from the abandoned motorcycle behind her.
Hazel immediately got down when she sensed the chill down her spine.
Shortly after she felt the dry sand across her entire body like when napping as a cat, the killer intent piercing her spine was joined by three gunshots.
…I was shot!?
In that brief moment, her gasping thought was joined by a voice.
<Destiny is with the Messiah.>
She heard three clapping sounds.
She frantically looked up and then stood up.
A dark shadow hung before her.
It was the bottom of a black coat.
That coat flapped in the heated crimson wind, revealing the man who wore it.
Dog Berger had raised Gelegenheit’s hilt in front of his face to catch the bullets.
She looked down and past him to see a woman standing in front of the abandoned motorcycle.
“Jeanne Schmitt,” said Berger, lowering Gelegenheit. “That was pathetic. Why are you firing on the Messiah you wanted so badly?”
His question was answered by a deep voice from the sky.
“I don’t expect you to understand!!”
Berger suddenly picked Hazel up and swung her around.
He took a leap of several meters to avoid the metal fist that dropped directly in front of him.
Hazel had seen that same fist in the Village of Pardons during the day. It belonged to the Der Held arm.
It dropped from the sky and tore into the ground where Berger had been standing a moment before.
A large man in civilian clothing stood up from there.
By then, Hazel had already been released from Berger’s arm.
<Destiny strikes the hero.>
Black light raced out before her eyes, flying straight toward Schweitzer.
<The Hero resists destiny.>
<Destiny slices through the hero.>
<The Hero untangles the threads of destiny.>
Der Held’s ether field and Gelegenheit’s dark blade repeatedly clashed before Hazel’s eyes. Countless sounds of shattering glass echoed off of the school building.
The black light vanished from Gelegenheit and Berger swapped Phlogiston tanks. Hazel noticed hesitation in the Lives she could see in his back. They were directed at her.
…He wants to say something.
She realized what it was he wanted to say.
This was so much like the scene from her nightmares. It was a schoolyard below a crimson-dyed night sky.
She was always alone in her nightmares, so she knew what Berger would ask of her now.
…Will he ask me to go on ahead?
“Hazel,” he said. “Can you hear me, Hazel Mirildorf!?”
He immediately answered her reply with another shout.
“Give me a hand!!”
She didn’t know what he meant at first. After a pause, she heard a gunshot from Jeanne on their left and saw Pale knock the bullet from the air with his prosthetic arm.
She looked to Berger wielding Gelegenheit in front of her, smiled, and nodded.
<Destiny paves the Messiah’s path.>
<The Hero seeks the Messiah.>
The two Erklärungs crashed together and negated each other.
So Hazel sucked in a breath and shouted her own Erklärung.
<The Messiah does not want the Hero’s assistance.>
Her Messiah eye rapidly filled with the color red and emitted heat.
But Hazel still faced forward.
The man named Schweitzer gasped.
His prosthetic arm’s fist dropped to the ground like it was out of fuel.
Her Messiah allowed her to access High Organ devices to pressurize and depressurize their power or even outright control them.
…Unfortunately, the Allies’ High Organ devices are in the experimental phase, so I haven’t been able to practice this.
It felt similar to the assistance she had provided Berger three years ago.
She did the same thing here.
“Gah,” growled Schweitzer as he reactivated his arm. He lifted his fist and directed it toward Berger. But by then, Berger was already swinging Gelegenheit’s blade down toward him.
In that instant, a new Erklärung rang out.
<The Freeshooter seeks his master.>
She looked back to see familiar man standing in front of the school building.
Berger shouted his name.
“ ‘Schütze Puppe’ Bermark Vier!?”
The distraction delayed Berger’s actions, so Schweitzer managed to move away and Bermark’s gunshots flew in. Four of them.
“I do apologize, but these were my orders.”
Hazel held her sword at the ready and prepared to dodge the incoming bullets.
She was too slow for that and she knew it. She pulled a card from the holder at her hip and tossed it into the air where she struck it with her sword.
It activated and a field of power expanded in less than an instant, whipping up the wind.
But the murderous Tons forming the bullets dodged around that field like they had a mind of their own.
Puzzled, Hazel let go of her sword. Her feline instincts told her to leap backwards, but she wasn’t going to make it. Her legs tangled together, she lost her balance, and she started to trip.
She nearly called out for help, but stopped herself. Berger was fighting and Pale was battling Jeanne.
But she did not panic. She couldn’t prevent herself from falling, but…
<The Messiah rejects the shooter’s power.>
The bullets lost their glow, becoming ordinary bullets.
The four shots grazed her left shoulder and hit the ground behind her.
Thank goodness, she thought while falling back onto her butt.
There was pain, but something else needed her immediate attention.
She collected her sword while seated on the ground and reflected her right eye in its blade. She viewed its red color.
“Let’s end this.”
<The Messiah trusts only in destiny.>
She shouted her Aerial Words.
Schweitzer’s Der Held stopped and the fist dropped to the ground.
Bermark’s Freischütz dropped its magazine to the ground.
Jeanne was removed from the Vaterland’s protection and her movement speed dropped.
Only Berger’s Gelegenheit still functioned.
It only lasted a moment, but that was all they needed. Hazel stood up with feline grace and began running.
“Berger! General Pale! Hurr-”
She never finished the word.
<…does not recognize the Messiah’s power.>
Agonizing pain ran through her Messiah eye like someone had jammed a claw into it.
The white Grösse Panzer named Kaiser was fighting at an altitude of 20 thousand feet.
The area below it was flooded with enemies. They were like the water flowing through a river. The Kaiser didn’t even need to aim to hit one.
The Kaiser instructed the blue and red Panzers to move out ahead while it ascended with Panzer Kleid rippling. Looking down, it could see the river of destruction was primarily made of giant bombers.
The wide Lancaster Mk2s were 23 yards long and 36 yards wide and they used 6-bomber formations arranged at different altitudes to avoid gathering together in a flat plane that would make them easier to shoot down all at once.
They flew with four spirit engine jets, but they flew slowly since the output of the engines was reduced to keep them under control in the moonlight.
The smaller crafts flying protectively above and below the bombers were escort fighters.
Those were England’s famous Spitfires. 24 of them were gathered in every break between the bomber formations.
But that wasn’t all. Aerial cruisers also flew through the gaps between bomber formations.
The Spitfires protected the bomber formation either following or leading them and the aerial warships acted as a barrier for any enemy crafts attempting to move from one bomber formation to another.
The arrangement took all of their attack ranges into account.
Three ships were visible in the distance. An aerial cruiser with a destroyer on either side of it.
The white Grösse Panzer approached that aerial cruiser instead of the bomber formations.
The aerial warship launched Pseudo-Drach Kanone beams.
But the Kaiser dodged that light as easily as racing through an empty field.
It raised its six wings, slammed them down, and sometimes spread them to change course while always moving ever forward. The light grazed its sides, elbows, and wingtips, but it never allowed a single direct hit.
Carried by the dragon emblems on its shoulders, it raced through the night sky with a roar of wind.
Finally, that several-mile midair dash came to an end.
The white Grösse Panzer had reached the three large ships.
The Kaiser had arrived at its primary target.
It rapidly braked and then jerked to the left.
It flew to the destroyer’s port side, where its port cannons could take aim.
Just as the portside armor opened up and the cannons emerged, the Kaiser stabbed its sword into the destroyer’s belly using a backhand grip.
With a loud crash, the sword sank in to the hilt.
The following noise sounded like the roar of great quantities of water.
The Kaiser spread its six wings and poured on all the acceleration it could muster.
The slice had begun.
The acceleration sliced the destroyer’s belly open with the sword.
The scream of tearing metal was in tune with the Kaiser’s acceleration.
It sliced through to the bow in mere moments.
“Ah,” rang a voice with the sword still piercing the destroyer.
It started with a sound.
A burning sound rang out into the night sky.
With a tone of surprise, all of the ship’s windows shattered, its metal bulkheads ruptured, and white-hot light erupted from within.
The damage did not end there.
The force pushing out from the horizontal fissure split it apart vertically.
The destroyer was more than 150 yards long, yet it was bisected from its split belly.
It was like a colossal creature had scratched the fissure with a massive claw, splitting it all the way open.
The ship split apart, its bottom half separating as a flat rectangle.
Only the top half above the waterline remained floating in the sky.
But that wasn’t going to last.
The top half was kept afloat by its float emblems, but the metal continued to cry out in protest as it spewed the contents of its belly into the air below.
That included ammo containers, fuel tanks, and the giant engines for its rear thrusters. Those engines were 40 yards long and 7 yards in diameter, so without the lower frame to support them, their own thrust tilted them downwards and accelerated them in that direction.
The ship could not survive its own momentum and bent down the center.
The destroyer bent like it had been punched from above.
The thrust of the giant engines joined that and the ammo and fuel were ignited by the power of the moonlight.
The explosion blossomed out from within.
All of the armor was blown away and the destroyer was enveloped in flames.
The frame remained, so a flaming hulk shaped like a destroyer started descending from the sky.
The giant bonfire fell, leaving behind only the fiery petals of its explosions and the white Grösse Panzer.
The Kaiser did not even watch the defeated ship fall.
It kicked off the air and took flight with the casualness of someone on a simple evening stroll.
It dodged the barrage of bullets and Drache Kanone beams to arrive in a blind spot of the aerial cruiser flying in the center.
That is, directly above the bridge.
It spun around in the air, readied its sword, and dropped down.
It could see the top of the bridge and it landed there with the force of a crash.
By then, the sword had already stabbed its full length into the bridge’s roof.
A roar of destruction left the Kaiser’s mouth.
…What were those words just now!?
Hazel stopped running when pain threatened to shred the nerves deep in her head.
Her knees went weak like a strong thread had snapped.
“What’s wrong?” asked Berger, but his voice was muffled like she was hearing it underwater.
She fell to her knees, the shaking of the impact seeming to rattle her head directly.
The next thing she knew, she had collapsed to the ground, her right cheek pressed against the sandy schoolyard ground.
She could see her right eye reflected in the blade of the S-41G she had dropped in front of her.
…The Messiah has deactivated.
Her right eye had lost its red coloration, returning to its usual blue.
Its power had been forcibly removed without warning. Just like she would do to others.
She saw Bermark collect his magazine and slide it back into his gun and she could hear Berger and Schweitzer’s battle continuing behind her. She heard the firing of Jeanne’s gun and the roar of Pale’s prosthetics from the direction her feet were pointing.
“This is so much like my nightmares.”
Hazel sat up, still feeling woozy.
She found a scene just like her dreams.
A woman in a green men’s suit appeared from behind Bermark.
She stopped about 3 yards away from Hazel had collapsed and crossed her arms. She didn’t seem concerned about the surrounding sounds of combat or about Bermark standing nearby.
She simply looked indifferently down at Hazel.
After one, two, and three breaths, she breathed a sigh of resignation and spoke.
“I never introduced myself in the Village of Pardons, did I?”
Hazel tried to say something, but the words wouldn’t come. Her head was still ringing.
The woman didn’t seem to care.
“I am Lowenzahn Naylor, commander of the Geheimnis Agency.”
Lowenzahn smiled a little at Hazel’s surprise.
She nodded as if to be reassuring and then looked behind Hazel.
Two men were fighting there, but…
<The New World cannot be touched by destiny.>
She spoke some Aerial Words. Or an Erklärung as the Germans called them.
Hazel frantically twisted around to look back.
Schweitzer’s metal fist swung true and caught Berger in the gut.
The light vanished from Berger’s Gelegenheit.
The blade disappeared, causing Gelegenheit’s attack to miss and Berger to take the solid blow.
The impact rang loud in Hazel’s ears.
Berger was launched toward her.
The man in a black coat ended up lying face down a few paces away from her.
He still held Gelegenheit in his right hand, but both he and it were entirely motionless.
Hazel knew what must have happened.
Gelegenheit had been forcibly deactivated.
She scooted over toward him on her knees and lifted his upper body in her arms.
He still wasn’t moving.
She could only sense his heavy breathing and the tension filling his entire body. The powerful blow had left him in shock.
Behind her, she heard Lowenzahn speaking through some somewhat heavy breathing.
“Do you see now, Messiah? Your Beweisen isn’t exclusive to you.”
“The Eingeweides belonging to the Geheimnis Agency’s master and commander both have the same Beweisen, but they have different Ober Beweisens. That is where the hierarchy comes into play. …Not that you would know since we left you to your own devices.”
Hazel rubbed Berger’s back while listening to Lowenzahn.
She might have been able to tune him back to health if she were a Tuner, but…
She was still unsure.
She wanted to choose, but she couldn’t seem to.
A line from her nightmares seemed to strike right at that indecision.
“Now, it is time to say goodbye to your free destiny. We have started down the path that leads to my death. You are just like us, Messiah. You fight only for the present.”
Her mind leaped at those words she had heard so many times before.
Lowenzahn had more to say.
“You cannot see where this fight leads either, can you? Or what it is you want to do once it is all over. …But that is fine.” She took a breath. “For you are only a tool for us. You are the Messiah who keeps the Nibelung turning.”
Everything she said was the truth.
Hazel’s face screwed up and she felt like she would cry.
“Hey, are you just gonna let her say that, Hazel?”
She heard a quiet, trembling voice from right next to her.
It was Berger.
She looked up in surprise.
Immediately, Lowenzahn barked a command with panic in her voice.
“Bermark! Shoot him!”
“If I must.”
Before the response was even complete, Hazel heard three gunshots that were not Aerial Words.
…He’s shooting at us.
But she shut her eyes and did what she needed to do.
She placed herself on top of Berger to hide him from the bullets. However…
“Are you stupid?”
After an exasperated comment tinged with happiness, she heard some shouted Aerial Words.
<Destiny protects the Messiah.>
Gelegenheit drained a new Phlogiston Tank and rewrote reality with its own words.
At 1:11 AM, the AIF’s RB-21 high-speed transport ship detected an enemy craft at 6 miles out from Cologne while trying to enter the city from the northwest at low altitude.
Corelle detected two rapidly-approaching ships behind her.
As soon as she recognized them as the Neue Blau and Neue Zinnobar from the Geheimnis Agency Army Division, she accelerated her ship even further.
Waves of turbulence pushed in from the front and the RB-21’s nose tilted up toward the crimson sky.
Toward Cologne’s burning sky.
Hazel awoke with a start, finding someone was holding her. Someone was doing to her what she had been doing a moment before.
Someone was protecting her and she knew who.
She saw his sunglasses in front of her.
He nodded and stood up with his arms around her hips.
Her vision rose and she saw Lowenzahn standing behind him while Bermark readied Freischütz.
With a gust of wind, a large shape landed nearby: “Hardest Wolf” Pale Horse.
He took a crouching fighting stance and faced Jeanne who stood in the distance.
“Three against four, huh? I didn’t realize a confrontation of the leaders could be so much fun.”
Hazel reached around to Berger’s back while listening to Pale Horse.
Berger’s coat had three holes in the back.
The warm liquid leaking from those holes got on her fingers.
“Don’t make a fuss. They were 9mm, so they didn’t make it through the flesh. It’s nothing to worry about.”
Berger raised Gelegenheit in his left hand and surveyed his surroundings. That was enough for the three other than Lowenzahn to take a step back.
Lowenzahn held her left chest and frowned a little.
“So destiny hasn’t abandoned the Messiah?”
“Why the panic? You’re sweating, Miss Geheimnis Agency Commander.”
Berger laughed. And without warning…
Hazel looked up at him when he unexpectedly called her name.
“Hazel Mirildorf, can you hear my voice?”
“Are you still thinking about what you want after this war?”
That reminded her of what had happened when she was playing the organ in the Village of Pardons. She had stopped playing while watching that brother and sister.
…Can I trust what I felt then?
She wasn’t sure, but she could say one thing for sure.
“Y-yes, I will try to find an answer. I always will!”
“In that case.” Berger pointed Gelegenheit’s pommel toward Lowenzahn. “Listen up. That woman’s as much of a liar as I am. You’re the only one here on the other side of the wall. The Geheimnis Agency and the rest of us aren’t looking past the war. We’re not trying to find an answer – we’re trying to find a way to win. But you…”
Hazel gave him a questioning look before he continued.
“Hazel, you’ve worried over this enough. So just think on one thing now. What was it you originally wanted to do? Go back to that point and I’m sure you’ll find what the Messiah should do.”
Hazel reflexively held her sword against herself and also held the card in her breast pocket.
Berger’s arm around her hips gave a squeeze and she nodded.
That small nod was enough for him to smile.
“Geheimnis Agency Commander Lowenzahn Naylor, the world’s second best liar has a question for you! Does the Geheimnis Agency think their Messiah belongs only to Germany!?”
Lowenzahn reacted to that one. Her eyebrows rose.
“At this point…”
“Shut up! I don’t want conditions and excuses! Hazel is trying to figure out how to use her power. She wants to choose a power she can use toward the things she wants to do after saving the world and use to make the world a better place. …Do you have an answer for her!?” yelled Berger. “Hazel! It’s probably about time you chose. You saw the city, didn’t you? That’s war. This is scorched earth. Can you hear the Lives of destruction, Hazel!? That is what it means to lose something and to sacrifice something, Hazel Mirildorf! But what will you do afterwards?”
…Why are you always asking me these questions?
Nothing answered her thoughts.
This was not the Aerial City – it was burning and collapsing Cologne. So her thoughts would not reach him.
But she realized that Lowenzahn had come to a stop for some reason.
Feeling uneasy, Hazel tried to say something.
But she was cut off by a straight line of roaring noise that broke through all of the sounds of bursting bombs and flying bombers.
The deafening roar tore apart the sky. Hazel recognized it, so she looked up in the direction it had come from: north. She saw what was tearing through the sky there.
It looked like a large black shadow. A metal box was dropping from overhead.
It landed in the courtyard before she managed to realize it was the RB-21’s container.
The boom of it landing hit her in the gut, whipped up the heated wind, and sent a tremor through the ground.
When the container skidded toward them, tearing up the schoolyard’s dirt, Berger shouted an insult and Lowenzahn clicked her tongue. Lowenzahn hesitated but only for a moment.
“So destiny is even more broken than the prophecies!” she shouted, leaping backwards. “It is time we withdrew.”
Not long after, Berger made a leap of his own while carrying Hazel. Pale followed suit.
The green metal container skipped through the spot they had just vacated while spinning a bit. It crushed the motorcycle and kept going. It only stopped after noisily breaking through the metal fence at the end of the schoolyard.
Berger landed with Hazel in his arm and she viewed their surroundings from the safety of his black coat. The Geheimnis Agency had left.
“They sure are good at running away for Neue Kavaliers.”
Berger’s complaint drained Hazel’s tension and she took another look around. There were no human Lives around.
…Is the nightmare over?
“What’s with you, Hazel? You look awfully relieved.”
She started to say something in response, but then he shoved her to the side, sending her rolling.
She heard the roar of wind, but this wasn’t just any wind. It was a constant thing, like a tornado.
Berger stayed low and ran toward the container.
The container’s exterior sparked and then bent in as if making a panicked response to his approach. Some great force had crashed into it from the outside.
That force continued. The exterior bent further, leaving several indentations as if from giant fists, and sparks flew.
“Is that artillery!?”
Hazel looked up to find a new enemy was approaching.
A blue Heavy Barrel and a red Heavy Barrel both had their Over Emblem fully activated. She had briefly seen these Heavy Barrels that now passed by over the schoolyard. They were flying toward where the RB-21 was making a wide turn.
This explained why the RB-21 couldn’t land.
The blue Heavy Barrel raced through the sky, targeting the container with the rifle it held at the hip.
Then it swung the rifle to send a sweep of gunfire across the schoolyard.
Hazel saw the color of destruction fly toward the schoolyard as several distinct lines.
Those were the flying bullets of a Heavy Barrel machinegun.
She held her sword at the hip.
A stray shot was flying toward her on a collision course.
A hit would kill her instantly. It wouldn’t leave anything behind. The same was probably true of Pale standing behind her.
She had to do something about it. With her own power.
Her abilities were quite high for a Greenhorner. She had five defense cards and her sword was the latest model developed by the US army.
…Where do I see this going afterwards?
She would save herself and Pale, exchange a nod with Pale, and then join Berger. There might be more to do before that.
That thought made her smile a little.
Her focus allowed her to perceive the incoming destruction in the form of a bullet.
With a shout, she thrusted her sword forward and produced a defense field.
The force of the sword thrust and the timing of the activation transformed the defense field so it had a sharp point. That point crashed straight into the 88mm shell.
With a solid noise, the destructive power shattered and the pieces radiated outwards along the umbrella-like shape of the defense field.
The shell tore into the schoolyard as tiny fragments.
That scattershot carried a residual shockwave that destroyed the school building behind her.
She quickly looked back to find a classroom’s worth of the two-story concrete building’s first and second floors had been crushed and blown away along with plenty of dust.
Instead of rejoicing in her own survival, Hazel panicked and thought back to a certain memory.
She recalled why it was she had stopped while playing the organ.
Chapter 7: The Requiem Soars
05/31/1942 01:35 – 03:54
I actually had plenty of options
I just hadn’t realized it
But once I did…
The time-reading Sein Fraus installed inside Big Ben, England’s large clocktower.
The ultimate form of the trend in the 17-19th centuries of using Sein Fraus to control machines after Sein Frau creation techniques improved.
Three sisters were initially installed in Big Ben, but several more were produced after the installation of a fourth in Image City San Francisco’s Hyper Ben in 1898. In 1904, the designs were sent to Japan and used to create the four Amakashi-class Sein Fraus.
They are all girls who sing at the top of the hour and half of their body has been split away so they can be connected to a harp Device. The ultraheavy harp they use is at least 6 yards long with a pair of 2 yard acoustic amplification shells resembling spiral shells on the rear. Thanks to that, they resemble a living creature more than a harp.
Lowenzahn heard a voice coming from the car radio while they moved from Cologne to the mountains for shelter. She listened to Jeanne’s voice with a bitter-looking Schweitzer seated next to her.
“I must apologize for failing in the mission you revealed yourself for.”
“Understood. But we did hit Dog Berger with Ton bullets, didn’t we?”
“Yes, we have confirmed three hits by Bermark Vier.”
“Then withdraw your unit immediately. We are already in the mountains.”
Jeanne acknowledged the command and ended the transmission.
The car shook in the following silence. They were descending a dark mountain road.
The mountains were visible through the windshield. Only the backs of the mountains could be seen thanks to the red lights coming from distant Cologne.
“The sky looks incredible.”
There was a river flowing through the sky.
A river of bombers lit up by only a few searchlights.
A few explosions disturbed that river’s surface and more lights rocked the ground. From there, the constant explosions were low in volume but broad in sound range. Much like an echo.
Schweitzer groaned over those overlapping noises while holding the wheel in the driver’s seat.
“This is a first.”
“For what? Us being beaten so badly?”
“No,” he said. “For your prophecy to be wrong.”
She fell silent at that.
In that silence, their speed increased and they drove around a long right curve.
The red lights were a bit more distant than before.
“It’s certainly a problem.” Lowenzahn’s shapely eyebrows drooped and her voice was nearly drowned out by the wind. “Having trouble…trusting me anymore?”
“We managed to keep Dog Berger here in Germany…so it wasn’t entirely a waste of time.”
“True. But…this may be best for the Geheimnis Agency’s future.”
“In what way?” he asked.
“The Agency must throw me out eventually,” she briefly explained. “This failure gives them an excuse.”
Hazel tilted her head while viewing the collapsed school building.
The enemy Heavy Barrels appeared to have flown away into the sky. They didn’t attack.
She heard the blowing wind and the scorching heat enveloping everything.
The belly of a giant aerial warship hovered overhead.
Berger had just finished removing the bullets and applying first aid, so he began preparing Schwarz Löwe for combat. After Write Bringing into it, he would place her on the shoulder like he had in the past, shove Pale into the copilot cockpit, and get moving.
After attaching the transmitter to the Gard-class warship, they would evacuate and meet up with Corelle.
That much was all planned out.
Only after hearing her voice did Hazel realize she was approaching the school building. Part of her was amused, but she couldn’t stop either.
There was a fallen tree in her way, so she hopped over it.
The collapsed school was now right in front of her. The smell of the trees roasted by the surrounding heat was powerful. It reminded her of when she would mop the wooden floors of her school back when she lived in Germany.
The school had a large chunk taken out, like someone had dug it out with a giant shovel.
She looked inside using the glow of the burning city and found the second-floor classroom was almost entirely destroyed. The first floor ceiling had collapsed and the second floor’s desks and concrete had poured down to fill the classroom below.
There was a window on the hallway side of the classroom too, so she could see the hallway past the rubble. The glass was broken, but the classroom must have had a very open design even when everything was intact.
All of the desks were made for two. The top opened up to reach a space to store the students’ bags.
…That’s almost identical to my old school.
She dropped her eyes to part of a broken desk lying at her feet.
The desk had been so old the wood fibers were visible.
…You couldn’t have written on any paper sitting directly on the desk.
She nodded and then noticed something else.
There was some fresh graffiti carved into the desk. It appeared to be some kind of map. There were houses and a river she guessed was the Rhine. The river’s surface was decorated with several faces drawn with circles and dots.
She heard Pale’s voice behind her, but she did not turn around.
“Sorry, but could you leave me be for a bit? I really am sorry.”
She looked overhead.
A giant black ship hovered there. They were about to help destroy it. However…
“That ship is protecting this place, isn’t it?”
She lowered her gaze again. All the carved faces on the desk were smiling.
Those faces and the carving reminded her of what she had seen during the day.
Of the brother using the blackboard to teach his sister something in the Village of Pardons.
She nodded, held her sword in her right hand, and lightly struck the metal frame at the edge of the classroom.
It made a metallic sound.
She immediately struck it again, making a louder sound.
The Device’s blade was amplifying and purifying the sound to spread it around and help it rule the space around her.
Tension shook the air and even the heat began to cool.
She focused her mind on that sensation and spoke the words that came to mind.
“U-um, I…I think…”
Sounding awkward and unsure, she struck the frame with her sword again.
The sound rang loud and the classroom rubble shook in response.
She let that sound reverberate through her while shutting her eyes.
She could still see some things with her eyes shut: the Lives. She listened to the word color with her ears and found the Lives around her were still very much alive. Even the rubble had not fully accepted its destruction.
“I think this school wants to remain a school after the war is over.”
“I think the school’s students want the same thing.”
“I think it would want that no matter how badly it was damaged or destroyed.”
She kept striking it, each note ringing loud like a piano.
With an extra loud tone, the entire building vibrated, blowing away the heat hanging in the air.
A chilly wind carrying the scent of the trees answered her music by blowing out from the school.
She heard the loud sound coming from her Device – the sound of the Lives.
Her sword continued ringing even without further strikes, so she raised it overhead.
The answer came from Schwarz Löwe’s vocal device in the distant container, so she smiled.
“I think I’ll be a Tuner.”
“To assist the destruction? Tuners are sent to the battlefield to heal the destroyers.”
“That is far better than doing the destroying. …I am choosing healing over destruction. And once this war ends…I want to be a teacher and teach people that once you lose something important, you can never get it back.”
There was a pause before he responded.
“This isn’t a decision to make lightly, kindhearted fräulein.”
“I’m not. Because…” Her smile grew. “I have already seen the other side of the wall.”
…Ever since I couldn’t write my plans for the future at school five years ago.
She finally completed her action. Tuners directly addressed the Lives of their surroundings and transformed them.
That address was known as an Up and the simplified Over Up was the most common version in Europe.
…But I could never use anything as rushed as a simplified version.
She opened her mouth to sing the more authentic Wind Up.
“780 thousand Lives dancing before me – the motherly chatting voices awaiting the return of the temporary visitors. Can you hear the voice of my Lives?”
Her voice came out smooth and flowing.
There was no hesitation in her swinging sword.
A single tone left her throat. It gradually changed pitch with a gentle rhythm. This was the sound the school was meant to carry.
The sword struck the Lives of the air and emitted a loud sound to support her own tone.
Without warning, she spun around.
She did not need to check to see what had happened.
Her eyes were on Pale standing with the burning city and the floating ship behind him.
He scratched his head
“Are you okay, miss? You’re acting weird.”
“I’m fine,” she insisted with a smile.
She hopped back over the fallen tree and walked past Pale.
She approached Schwarz Löwe’s container.
“Berger,” she called, still walking and raising her empty left hand toward the night sky.
“What is it, Hazel?”
“Let’s go. I’m not afraid of anything anymore. Not this war and not the future.”
She snapped her left hand’s fingers.
Immediately, she heard the sounds of something beating at the air.
They were the sounds of wings, of flapping, of flying.
Hundreds and even thousands of those sounds combined to sound like a crashing wave as they rose into the sky.
She knew what had happened. It was exactly what she had wanted.
“First, I turned the school into white doves.”
She looked up to see a flock of doves soaring like feathers carried by the wind.
The small white shapes spread out and flew high to dance in the empty night. The red sky and black shadows could not erase their white color.
Schwarz Löwe removed the top of the container and stood up.
“Pretty flashy, Hazel.”
She responded with a smile in her voice.
“You’re just too boring, Berger.”
At 3:42 AM, the Big Signal finally received a transmission from Germany while it was waiting above the North Sea after completing its incantation.
Now that it had an accurate location for the Babel Cannon-equipped ship, the Big Signal wrote the Reqiuem’s message information into its bullet based on the range data it received. That gave the bullet homing capabilities.
After a minor adjustment to its position, it ordered every friendly craft within firing range to temporarily ascend.
To provide the final tone needed to complete the bullet, the loading section’s barriers opened. The exterior armor opened with a mechanical hum. The first noise to leave the interior came from the escaping steam.
Bendaughter was illuminated by the moonlight.
Her empty eyes looked past the white steam and up into the sky.
The emotionless Sein Frau’s face was placid and her hair was windswept. She had sweat beading up and dripping down her forehead and chest.
There was no strength in her gaze, but her cheeks were a touch red. That was due to singing for nine hours straight.
A quiet sound of escaping air came from the pipe connecting her to Sunshine.
At the same time, she leaned back like a spring-loaded doll.
Her hair was thrown back as she arched her back as if to stare into the sky. That tension was broken by a single large tremor running through her body.
Then she bent forward, steam rising from her sweaty body.
With her body bent forward and her head lowered, bloody saliva dripped from her open lips.
But when she raised her head again, there was already strength in her gaze.
Sweat dripped down skin that had gone cool and even pale and she directed her eyes upwards.
Toward the moon.
She viewed the moon as she spoke.
At 3:47 AM, Big Signal finally launched its first shot.
Rose tensed on the central #6 ship’s bridge when she sensed something hit her on the port side.
“I can load the Babel Kanone’s next round in just a few minutes, so if I can hold on a little longer…”
Then she heard the wind through the downpour of bombs.
It came from port, where she had been hit.
A black figure was flying up from below, producing a soaring sound from its rapid ascent.
She had seen it before. But it vanished high into the sky a moment later. And…
With countless sounds of wings, her vision was filled by the color white.
It was a flock of doves.
Hundreds of flapping wings shook the air as they flew toward the night sky.
The white flock hid the black shape from view.
Rose could not hide her surprise as she tilted her head and directed her attention below.
No more antiair bullets were rising from the center of the city where Cologne Cathedral was located. The Requiem had lost a few of its own cannons as well.
But the enemy remained overhead, dropping bombs.
The Requiem’s armor, defense emblems, defense through inertial control, and the ship control and damage reduction provided by Rose’s Erklärung all worked to stop those bombs and protect the city below.
But the enemy was relentless.
She saw the colors blue and red arrive from either side to meet that enemy.
Those were Grösse Panzers. The two who served Alfred.
“Lady Rose! We are here to support you!!” shouted Neue Blau.
Rose smiled back with a troubled expression.
“What are you two doing here? Does this mean my big brother is already on his way?”
“Indeed it does. Sir Alfred is hurrying here as well!”
“I see,” she said, tapping her right foot’s toes against the bridge’s floor.
Then her voice spoke from the entirety of the Requiem.
“Big brother, can you hear me?”
After a short delay, she received a staticky response.
“You can? I’m glad. Right now…”
She looked overhead.
A light resembling a silver shooting star approached the bombers and fighters from outside the Requiem’s firing range. A silver Grösse Panzer raced, spun, and leaped through the sky while fighting something.
The opponent was colored black. That was the Panzer that had ascended earlier.
It was named Schwarz Löwe and it had fallen into enemy hands three years ago.
But while she watched the clash between the two Panzers…
“How long has it been since my big brother and bigger brother fought the same opponent?” she muttered, eyebrows raised.
The exhaustion vanished from her face and she shouted toward the blue and red Panzers.
“I will be your general. You two move further forward and meet with your master.”
“But we are Sir Alfred’s-”
She cut them off with a thin smile.
“Since when can a mere Sein Frau talk back to the eldest daughter of Karlsruhe, the bloodline of generals!?”
After a pause, the blue and red Panzers nodded.
They spread their wings and accelerated.
The bursts of wind struck Rose from either side and she assessed them with satisfaction in her voice.
The blue and red winds drew twin curves up into the sky. They flew over the river flowing through the sky.
Rose watched them leave and then sighed.
At the same time, an even louder alarm blared from within the Requiem.
“I have a feeling something more is coming. The bombers are slowly ascending.”
She raised her head and the Babel Kanone bullet loader at the rear of the Requiem expelled a cascade of white steam from its ejection port.
She narrowed her eyes at the sound.
She mouthed the name of a certain man.
“In response to the fourth alarm, all ship sectors shall be opened, command authority shall be shifted to me and me alone, and all of you shall evacuate.”
She repeated that a second time over the sound of the fourth alarm.
“This is a strict order.”
Just as she finished, one of the enemy aerial warships succumbed to its damage and fell.
The bombers ascended instead.
“Something is definitely coming,” she muttered to herself, spreading her arms.
Wind was whipped up all around the Requiem. The ship’s defense field was changing shape.
That wouldn’t do much against a direct hit from the aerial warship, but it would be an effective wide-range umbrella against the scattering wreckage and the shockwave when it exploded. She spread out that field and continued firing the cannons while looking to the sky.
Silber Löwe was still battling Scwharz Löwe. They were both moving quickly.
“Are you enjoying this, bigger brother?”
Immediately after directing her question into the sky, her Requiem-linked senses picked up something. A great power was rushing in from the distance. It was like a punching fist and it brought her pain just to view it.
She spun her body to face that way – to the north.
Her entire body radiated puzzlement and surprise and Heiliger questioned her over the radio.
“What is that, DLP-444LSX!?”
She could not get the answer out of her throat.
She knew exactly how powerful it was because she had the same power herself.
So she raised her voice.
“Flee, bigger brother!! That’s my-!!”
Hazel was tossed around all over the place atop Scwharz Löwe’s shoulder. A container created from one of the RB-21’s fixed seats had been installed there, presumably a rush job by Corelle.
She braced her legs against the inside of the container to holder herself in place and faced their opponent with her hair dancing in the wind.
Her right eye was already colored red. And she was linked to Scwharz Löwe.
The enemy she saw was colored silver. It was surrounded by the waves of bluish-white Lives carried by the wind.
The silver Heavy Barrel left the empty sky and the crimson-burning land behind to rush toward them. It emitted a powerful but wavering wind from its wings.
“The Messiah’s presence here is beyond anything I predicted.”
“I can’t say I predicted getting a chance to fight a bigshot like you while just trying to escape, General Graham Karlsruhe, second in command of the Geheimnis Agency!”
Berger spoke through Scwharz Löwe’s vocal device.
The wind was on the move.
They raced through the sky, Scwharz Löwe’s sword and Heiliger’s sword clashed before Hazel’s eyes, and sparks flew.
This time, they didn’t have the equipment necessary to remake Gelegenheit for use by a Heavy Barrel.
The battle came down to pure sword skills and a rapid series of strikes had begun.
<The Messiah travels the deserted field.>
Even when they dodged and escaped, Silber Löwe would circle back in front of them soon enough. He used only the machine’s abilities, never using an Ober Emblem, yet he fought equally with the Messiah-assisted Scwharz Löwe.
“I will take the Messiah from you, divinely-named young man.”
“She isn’t just some thing to be taken!!”
Berger attacked once and Heiliger attacked thrice in return.
<The Messiah does not fear power.>
They dodged it. She read the wind and conveyed the information to him. But the next attack was already coming.
“I will end this here and fulfill our commander’s prophecy.”
Berger did not respond.
He was too preoccupied.
Silber Löwe suddenly accelerated through the sky like it had loosed all the power it had built up.
It charged in even faster than before, never letting up on the attacks.
Berger made an attack just before the moment of impact, but it was deflected.
Silber Löwe’s shoulder crashed into them.
They heard a voice in that moment.
“Reflex speed: approximately x180. Power pressurization: x20.”
Silber Löwe emitted white steam from its entire body and then broke through the cloud of steam.
Its shoulder dug into Schwarz Löwe’s gut, breaking both their armors, and…
Schwarz Löwe was launched backwards.
The sound of breaking metal was accompanied by a powerful impact pushing up at them from below.
Hazel doubled over, feeling like her organs were being pushed up on, but then she realized the force had left her.
She shut her eyes for a moment and reopened them to see the night sky.
She saw the moon shining in the terribly calm heights.
She was flying through the sky. She had been launched from Schwarz Löwe’s container.
Only when she felt the wind blowing up at her long hair and skirt did she realize she had begun to descend. She had entered one of the simplest of actions: a fall.
A brief cry escaped her lips, but then it felt like her lungs were out of air.
She had nothing to support herself and nothing to orient herself. Her hands only clawed at empty space while her head and shoulders felt a wall of air.
The only things nearby were the Lives of the night breeze.
She was falling.
Schwarz Löwe and Silber Löwe accelerated simultaneously to pursue Hazel.
“You’ve got a hell of a violent way of acquiring your supposed Messiah!”
“Says the man who once sliced open the Sylphide.”
“No, I’m willing to give you the title of the world’s most violent man.” Berger took a breath. “It’s a race then.”
They accelerated, the black Ober Emblem competing against the silver machine’s pressurization.
Their goal was the girl falling from an altitude of approximately 6000 yards.
Schwarz Löwe used its black wings to fly ever onward and downward.
It flew faster and swifter.
The air resistance grew, so it closed its spread wings and focused on gravitational acceleration.
The tips of the wings formed vacuums as they tore through the night, splitting the air and summoning the wind.
The river of bombers lay ahead.
It charged through them without hesitation or fear.
It passed by and through in an instant, shooting down past the falling bombs.
Silber Löwe did the same.
They left sound behind in the sky above while dropping toward the burning city below.
They both accelerated.
White clouds formed along the points of their armor, drawing out lines leading far behind them.
Those were vapor trails.
The curved aerial armor attached to their Panzer Kleids began to strain. The light metal armor was designed to reduce air resistance as much as possible, but even they were protesting from the powerful wind pressure.
There she was.
At first, she was only visible as a golden color. Her hair fluttered above the crimson of Cologne.
Silber Löwe broke through the white vapor umbrella to move out ahead.
Scwharz Löwe muttered to himself while hearing the low percussion noise of the atmospheric impact.
“This fall wasn’t enough for you to Alter, Hazel?”
The black Panzer flapped its wings for more speed, breaking through its own vapor umbrella and coming up alongside the silver one.
The black one opened the area where its vocal device had been and let out a roar.
The indistinct roar continued as it moved out ahead.
Hazel was there. And a new color was visible behind her.
The many white colors was the flock of doves Hazel had Tuned into existence. They were flying behind her.
The two Panzers accelerated and reached their hands out toward the gold visible among the red of flames and white of wings.
The black one’s willpower-powered Ober Emblem and the silver one’s high-level machinery provided endless acceleration that let them form two white lines that split apart the night sky.
The two shooting stars linked the black sky to the red earth.
The wings at the very end of those lines guided their speed.
They both raised bestial cries.
They could reach Hazel. She was right there in front of them, her tears scattering into the air rushing around her.
But she reached out her hand.
She shouted something and smiled while crying.
She fell with explosive speed and directed her hand toward the bearer of destiny.
The black one roared and answered her.
The white color scattered as if clearing a path for the black Panzer.
The black one moved forward and placed its hand protectively below the golden person.
Just then, a loud voice pierced the night sky.
A girl’s voice.
“Flee, bigger brother!! That’s my-!!”
The silver Panzer reacted to that clear cry while pursuing the black one.
With a sound like an umbrella forcefully opening, Silber Löwe braked in midair.
Without warning, it flew up toward the Gard-class warship floating above.
Still falling, Schwarz Löwe changed the direction of its acceleration. Shifting a bit to the side to escape this airspace.
“Is that what I think it is!?” asked Hazel from Schwarz Löwe’s hand.
The attack had arrived.
Rose immediately changed the shape of the Requiem’s defense field she had just altered to protect against the burning enemy warship falling toward the ship. She focused on stopping the power flying her way.
<The Requiem march shall not be defiled.>
She had ordered an evacuation, so the escape boats were trying to leave from the bottom of the ship.
The city of Cologne was below it as well. One small but nearly-untouched portion of the city remained below.
So Rose did not hesitate.
She fully eliminated the defense field on the Requiem’s upper surface and directed all of its power into the umbrella that protected its bottom side.
The rest occurred over a series of moments.
First, the enemy aerial warship crashed down on the starboard aircraft carrier’s connection point.
The heavy impact caused the half-mile warship to shake and list to the side a bit.
The enemy aerial warship exploded and shattered the Requiem’s armor with a sound like a splitting bell. A few of the connecting frames broke and the tremor propagated across the rest of the Requiem.
The Kurz Babel bullet struck at the same moment.
It started just as light. Then as an impact.
It hit the Requiem’s starboard side at a diagonal angle, tearing through the #2 aircraft carrier and the #4 landing ship and piercing through to the lower central #5 ship as well.
A hole with a diameter of more than 7 yards was torn from the colossal aerial warship’s right collarbone to its gut. The power of the attack was released into the area around the hole.
The hole rapidly spread further, producing explosions.
The attack collided with the Requiem’s inertial control force and the defense field opened below it.
As powerful as the attack was, the Requiem’s solid construction and defense field kept the attack from spreading downwards. All of the force was directed upwards causing the Requiem to rupture skywards.
The atmosphere burst over a wide area and the sky glowed bright.
The sky itself split and changed color. Even with the air blasted away, a soundless tremor radiated outwards. Ten or so of the bombers and three of the aerial warships in the sky above were torn apart instantly.
The Kurz Babel had scored a direct hit.
But the Requiem remained afloat within the storm-like winds. Its upper armor had mostly been stripped away and the #1 ship that formed the bridge was crushed in like a giant club had smashed into it from the left.
The starboard aircraft carrier was gone and the #2 ship behind that was badly damaged. The central #5 ship had taken a fair amount of damage as well.
Conversely, the port aircraft carrier was only bent to the right and the #2 ship behind it was only mildly damaged.
As for the crucial cannon…
<The Requiem-singing dragon’s fangs remain unbroken.>
Its armor had been stripped away, but the barrel had miraculously retained its shape.
Rose stood at the end of that barrel, but the image of her and her white dress was faint and fading fast.
The city below was still safe. She had not fully eliminated the force of that attack, so she could see some damage from that and the winds it had caused. But…
“It fared much better than the surrounding areas.”
Most of Cologne was gone.
Everything outside what the Requiem had protected was little more than city streets with a crater torn into them by the powerful shockwave. The crater had a radius of about a mile and was about 200 yards deep. Cement, rebar, and other remnants of buildings were piled up at the bottom of the crater.
The area protected by the Requiem appeared to stand on a raised platform at the center of the crater.
Past the crater, all the buildings had collapsed in a strip of destruction extending north to south. The Rhine was outside the range of the explosions, but it was flooding its banks and the trees in the nearby mountains had lost all their leaves. The attack from the Kurz Babel had added to the damage done by the bombing. The city had been destroyed a second time.
Everything had been destroyed outside of what she had directly protected. But…
“This is the beginning of a war.”
With that, she began to dance. She twirled, swung her arms, smiled, and swept her hands forward.
A moment later, the Requiem fired its Babel Kanone for the second time that day.
She knew where the enemy was located. She only had to follow the ballistic path back to them.
Unlike the bullet-based Kurz Babel used by the Allies, the Requiem’s Babel Kanone accelerated and stretched the bullet’s power within the long barrel to form a beam instead. The beam of light stretched across approximately four miles and sent out a powerful shockwave as it was launched.
At 3:53 AM, the Big Signal floating above the North Sea and the 3rd Aerial Fleet protecting it were hit by a massive beam of light and instantly obliterated.
The Big Signal’s defense field and the various aerial warships’ armor were all vaporized.
Even the singing Sein Frau was engulfed by the light, burned away, and vaporized.
All that remained was electrified air and a white-hot mist.
Everything had been eliminated.
Chapter 8: The Requiem Rises
05/31/1942 04:18 – 04:44
An ending is a beginning
A beginning is an ending
So do they cancel each other out?
I said it myself
But I’m not really sure
The Second Gard-class Warship
The Gard-class aerial warship was constructed to be an Eingeweide ship, but construction of a second one began in ’42 as a spare and as an aerial fortress with the original’s high mobility removed.
But by mid ’42, the construction and purpose of the second ship was thoroughly rethought.
The ley line pressurization reactor planned for construction near Germania was supposed to power the city’s word weaponry, but that was deemed insufficient and the plan was changed to use the Gard-class’s Babel Kanone instead.
The pressurization conduit used to boost the Eingeweide’s power used ley lines passed through the Vaterlands built across Europe and even in parts of Africa and Japan. That required the conduit to be 800 yards tall, but the top connector was swapped out to permanently attaching the Gard-class there. That created Tristan, the fortress and ley line pressurization conduit that stood more than a mile tall and resembled a giant cross.
Darkness filled a large corridor.
The lights were out.
The metal walls were torn in places and pieces of the walls and bundles of cables were strewn across the floor.
A transport vehicle lay on its side in the center of the corridor. The vehicle’s front surface was four yards tall and wide, yet there was still plenty of space in the corroder.
The corridor was designed for giants.
Suddenly, that vehicle was shoved over to the side.
A giant made of metal appeared behind it.
The giant was the silver Grösse Panzer named Silber Löwe.
But it was no longer just silver.
Silber Löwe had lost its right arm and left side and oil soaked it like blood. Its Panzer Kleid had torn away, revealing that even its limbs were spewing smoke and trembling.
The tip of the sword in its left hand scraped along the floor, making a distorted sound.
But it was still walking. It took a step at a time, moving forward.
The walking Panzer had a white light glowing atop its left collarbone.
That was Rose.
The transparent girl sat on the silver lion’s shoulder.
She reached out and stroked the silver Panzer’s cheek with her intangible hand. Then she bowed.
“I’m sorry. If I wasn’t here, the city wouldn’t have been attacked and you wouldn’t have been hurt.”
“It is a double-edged sword. The city was attacked because of our presence, but we did manage to protect some small part of it.”
A pipe-like component about 2 feet long dangled from Silber Löwe’s side and then fell away.
He didn’t even look down at it. Instead he faced the right wall in a fighting stance.
“I will be waiting.”
Before she was even done speaking, Silber Löwe attacked the wall with the force of a tackle. The sword easily sliced through the wall, but it broke just as the full circle was complete.
The snapping sound echoed down the corridor.
Silber Löwe tossed aside the broken sword and slammed his right side into the wall with the sword’s blade still embedded in it.
The wall broke apart with a sound like tearing fibers.
The bent metal wall collapsed into the space beyond.
Silber Löwe parted the white smoke bursting from the wall and stepped through to a room far too small for a Grösse Panzer.
“This is my room.”
A flower with mechanical petals blossomed at the center of the small, 6-yard room.
This was the central room that controlled the Requiem’s will. This was the ceiling of the deep pit located directly above the observation room at the bottom of the ship.
There was a hole in the center and the domed barrier wall that had plugged the hole now sat open. The hole contained plenty of cables and cushioning, but it was all spewing white smoke at the moment.
A small red gem was suspended from the cables at the center.
“All of the coolant has been removed, so I have a really bad fever and I’m feeling chilled.”
Silber Löwe reached toward the center of the smoking flower.
He touched his sister’s body. Countless cables extended from the bottom of the red gem which was far smaller than the Panzer’s fingertips, branching out and connecting to everything else.
When Silber Löwe touched the gem, the Rose on his collarbone blurred.
When Silber Löwe pulled his hand back, Rose smiled.
“Don’t worry. Grab that cable you were touching. Yes, that red one. And slowly pull it out along with the root block. I will last a little while as long as that block remains.”
Silber Löwe did as instructed. He moved all the non-red cables out of the way with one hand’s fingers.
“Once you have it out, connect me to your copilot cockpit. There isn’t much to do after that since I have already completed all the preparations, so…” She took a breath. “I have one last selfish request. Take me outside. I want to see the sunrise.”
Once Silber Löwe pulled the 2 yard red cable from the base of the structure along with its connection block, Rose disappeared.
Shortly afterwards, the lights gently illuminating the room vanished.
“Emergency. Activating Panzer Emblem Sturm Drache based on final instructions. Opening radio on all bands. All surviving units will now be commanded by HMS-083S Silber Löwe.”
Silber Löwe stood back up and left the room.
Back out in the corridor, he removed the cover at the bottom of the copilot cockpit on his back.
The removed cover revealed a few plugs and a fuel port. Silber Löwe took the block at the end of the red cable and attached it to the leftmost plug.
He walked forward in silence.
His legs were unsteady, but he walked toward the outside.
On the way, he tore away the Panzer Kleid remaining over his chest and stabbed his left hand’s claws into his left chest’s armor.
He tore the external armor away, destroying it.
He jammed his hand into the hole in his torn left side and tore the hole open wider. More and more armor fell to the floor and bounced as he walked.
The exposed interior of his chest contained Grösse Panzer materials and a heart device. There were metal blood vessels resembling a water clock, a cooling device, and a primary engine that sent power across his body. They heated up when exposed to the outside.
Silber Löwe placed the red gem inside his chest.
“I will take you outside, my sister. I will grant you your final selfish request.”
A white light reappeared above his left collarbone. It was Rose. She had faded so much she was barely visible, but her voice echoed down the ship’s corridor.
Her voice seemed to rule over that dark and silent space.
“After that, it will be your turn, bigger brother.”
“So it would seem.”
His voice also came from the corridor’s speakers. He was already indirectly controlling the Requiem as an intermediary for Rose.
Rose stroked his cheek and smiled.
“What do you think, bigger brother?”
“Did I do the right thing? Or should I have focused on defeating the enemy over protecting Cologne? Should I have prioritized your idea of a Neue Kavalier’s spirit over protecting the lives of the people like big brother does? If I had, Cologne would only have been bombed.”
“Whatever the result, you still tried to protect Cologne.”
Rose shut her eyes.
“My surviving exterior sight devices tell me I barely managed to protect any of the city. Despite taking so much damage. It tells me a lot more was lost due to my presence.”
“Why is it so difficult to protect things even with great power?” asked Silber Löwe, still walking.
Rose thought about that one for a bit before answering.
“Well…probably because wielding power makes it difficult to leave things as they are.”
“Then what is the Messiah’s power? What is the power of the Messiah who chose something as poorly defined as destiny?” He paused. “Is it different from the power held by our older generation? Is it something new held by the younger generation?”
The silver Grösse Panzer was finished talking, but he continued to walk.
Each step destroyed him further, but he continued to move outside.
And finally, he spoke again.
“Opening radio on all bands. Silber Löwe to all of Germany.”
After a beat, the surviving communication equipment inside the Requiem activated and a burst of static came over the ship’s internal line.
But that was all. Everything was connected. Rose nodded with a smile and Silber Löwe nodded back.
And he spoke.
“I have a message for all Neue Kavaliers still living in Germany.”
Hazel watched the badly damaged Requiem from atop Scwharz Löwe’s shoulder.
The moon was fading from the sky as morning approached.
A powerful wind surrounded her.
The colossal aerial warship could no longer fight and shimmering heat rose from where it had been hit.
Scwharz Löwe passed by its port side at a distance of more than 300 yards.
“It’s so big.”
She could appreciate its size from up close now that they were flying at the same altitude.
A powerful air current had formed around it.
The atmosphere had already been forced out of the way to the point of an explosion, so the air current wasn’t going to settle down for days to come. And once the wind did die down some, it would begin to rain.
Hazel looked through the wind to see the aerial warship starting to list.
It slowly tilted to port with the city it had protected below.
“I-isn’t there something we can do, Berger?”
“Oh, I don’t think it’s over yet,” muttered Scwharz Löwe so quietly the wind nearly drowned it out.
She looked out ahead in confusion.
Then she noticed a girl standing atop the bridge of a broken aircraft carrier.
Her body was transparent like a ghost.
…Who is that?
She didn’t know, but the girl was looking her way. With a blank expression.
Feeling uncomfortable, Hazel brushed back her windswept hair and lowered her head a little.
The girl smiled at Hazel’s action.
She grabbed her skirt and calmly curtsied back.
Then she disappeared.
Hazel’s eyes darted across the top of the ship to see where the girl had disappeared to, but she soon gave up.
She no longer sensed anyone on the ship.
But there was a different change. Light began to glow from the gaps in ship’s damaged armor. It appeared especially bright to Hazel’s eyes.
It covered the entire ship.
Pale opened the copilot cockpit and stuck his upper body out to shout what it was.
“That’s an Armed Emblem!!”
“But why!?” asked Berger. “Does it want to fight!?”
“No…it must be to protect the city. To ensure it doesn’t fall on the city it shielded from the bombing and the Babel Gun.”
Hazel’s response silenced Berger. She narrowed her eyes a bit before continuing.
“Sorry, Berger, but can you keep us up here for a while longer?”
He didn’t sound displeased. The light covering the massive ship slowly and gradually grew before their eyes. It was the bluish-white of ether light.
The flow of light was supported by the girl’s voice ringing through the sky in a song covering a sound range similar to a brass instrument.
She spoke her Aerial Words.
<The Requiem march traverses the sky.>
A deep male voice spoke over hers.
“I have a message for all Neue Kavaliers still living in Germany.”
A voice spoke into the sky.
“Can you hear me? We are the old-fashioned knights who survived the previous war.”
The wind blew and a girl’s voice joined his.
<The Requiem song traverses the woods.>
“So many of us have been lost since that war.
“Our order has faded and many of us have returned to live among the people.
“We are no more than the vestiges of a bygone era.
“Let me ask again.
“Can you hear me?
“Yes, you, the new knights. The descendants of the old. The lions hidden among the people.
“Do you remember the previous war? Have you heard the stories?
“Young lions. Aged lions.
“The previous war was the last time we will ever lead the people and fight as knights.”
<The Requiem tune traverses time.>
“Do you understand what I mean? A new kind of war is upon us.
“And I shall give you our answer here.”
Jeanne and her exhausted subordinates listened to that voice after leaving destroyed Cologne and taking shelter in the mountains. She gasped and looked up at the Requiem above Cologne.
“Can you hear me?” repeated the voice on the radio. “Our country was burdened with massive debt after that war. In the war where we tried to stand above the people and create a country that allowed for that. That attempt was a failure and the ruin it wrought has led to the current war. …Are we fighting this war for the people or for ourselves?”
“Can you hear me? Yes, you, the many knights living in Borderson territory.”
The seated soldiers looked up too.
“The head of the Karlsruhe family asks that you look to Cologne’s sky if this speech has inspired anything within you. Look to this land. This is the result of the old knights failing to protect your land.”
Jeanne took a step toward the Requiem.
<We travel together.>
“Cologne was bombed because its people chose to fight and it was destroyed because we were here. The old knights were with the people, yet we could only protect a small handful. …The time has come to make a choice. Who is it you should protect and who is it that can protect them?”
Someone shouted their approval and then everyone stood up.
“I say this as an old knight who has fought for twenty long years.”
The morning sun was starting to rise into the eastern sky.
<We sing together.>
“Can you hear me? It is no longer land that we must protect. I have one request for all of the new knights out there and all of the lions slumbering in Borderson. Use your power to resist the Allied forces and their superior numbers.”
The Kaiser saw it happening with the blue and red Grösse Panzers behind it. The Requiem was turning into a dragon in the sky above broken Cologne.
The Kaiser did not at all hesitate as it flew toward Cologne now.
“It can’t be!?” it shouted.
The wall of turbulence was thick and tossed the Panzer about.
Graham’s voice could be heard over the powerful shaking.
“I have cast out my Tragisch to become a bridge between the new knights and the people and to become the gate leading the Messiah to the Neue Erde. I have two commands for you now.”
The Requiem dragon was broken and injured in a few places.
It didn’t look capable of flight, but it looked upwards all the same.
“First, I, Graham Karlsruhe, immediately pass the position of Geheimnis Agency second in command to the next in line.”
I walk the path of shared silence.>
“Sir!” shouted the Kaiser. “Lady Rose!”
It accelerated, rushed, and reached a hand out toward something it could never actually reach.
Past that hand, the dragon breathed a calm sigh.
“Heiliger Karlsruhe. Take my place and work yourself to the bone as a bridge between the people and the Neue Kavaliers.”
Rose’s warning had allowed Heiliger to avoid the earlier Kurz Babel attack, but when he heard Graham’s radio transmission playing in the bridge, he uncrossed his prosthetic arms while a word escaped his mouth.
“This command has already been sent to the military. Starting tomorrow, you and your men will officially be Neue Kavaliers.”
“Is that what that document was!?”
Heiliger was on the verge of tears as he slammed his clenched fists against the bridge’s front window.
Cracks radiated out through the glass, covering it with white, but he didn’t care.
“That’s not fair. It’s just not, brother.”
Heiliger fell to his knees, his fists still pressed against the glass.
“Why do you always force these things onto me?”
He voice was vanishingly quiet, but the voice on the radio was the opposite.
“Second, I have a request for Lowenzahn Naylor, who has already revealed herself as the Geheimnis Agency commander.”
Lowenzahn frowned as Schweitzer drove her down a winding mountain road.
The radio she had previously used to speak with Jeanne’s evacuation point was now playing Graham’s voice.
“Make sure you bring the Messiah in as our master. If that proves impossible, then open Neue Erde within yourself. …Reach for that which was already lost. Because if you lose it again, you will not have another chance.”
“I know that. I’m not an ignorant child anymore, Graham.”
Schweitzer decided to keep his mouth shut when he detected no emotion at all in her voice.
But he did turn to look at her.
He faced forward again without a word.
Lowenzahn was weeping.
The Kaiser heard the final Erklärung as the dragon took form.
<You walk the path of separated silence.>
The Kaiser raised its voice as if to reject the girl’s voice.
<The Emperor seeks the dragon.>
It opened all of its thrusters to push itself forward.
As it approached the dragon’s nose, its sight devices detected a girl standing on that nose.
It reached out its arm. The girl smiled and did the same.
They could reach each other.
Except that was an illusion. The dragon took flight with an initial acceleration the Grösse Panzer couldn’t hope to match. It used the wings on its back to instantly break the sound barrier, like it was sliding across the Tons forming the space ahead.
The Kaiser tried to pursue.
It could not catch up. Its outstretched arm found nothing as a voice rang in its ears.
“Can you hear me, Neue Kavaliers? Stand up and look to the western sky – the morning sky. There you should see the dragon we seek. The soaring dragon.”
“Inherit our will and face it just this once.”
Hazel watched the dragon’s flight from atop Schwarz Löwe’s shoulder.
The azure dragon tore a horizontal line through a sky growing blue as the sun began to rise.
It flew northwest, toward the Borderson Village of Pardons.
…That’s a mountainous area, so it can crash safely there.
She shut her eyes.
“A white Heavy Barrel was pursuing that dragon earlier.”
“It can’t catch up. And we need to hitch a ride here.”
Berger’s response made Hazel frown.
Something wasn’t right.
…I don’t sense a Live disturbance?
“Berger, are your gunshot wounds alright?”
“Hah. I can deal with those later. Right now, we need to get across the border while dangling from that ship.”
The Schwarz Löwe operated its wings to turn around.
A dark shape was visible in front of the rising sun. It was Corelle’s RB-21.
The Schwarz Löwe let it approach.
“This is the true beginning right here.”
Silber Löwe worked to reach its destination even as it shook within the rapidly flying dragon.
It planted its trembling legs firmly on the metal floor to walk.
Light shined into the corridor far ahead.
That was the exit.
“If only all three of us could have walked together,” said Silber Löwe after seeing that light.
“I know what you mean…”
Rose agreed but then raised her head.
“What do you need?”
“That almost sounded emotional. Has your Psyche Outer device broken?”
She looked to the back of Silber Löwe’s head.
The base of the cooling hairs was badly damaged.
She started to say something.
But she only smiled instead.
Silber Löwe continued walking.
It took another step as the entire ship shook.
Rose nestled herself against her brother’s face within that shaking.
“We had a lot of fun, didn’t we, bigger brother? With Sir Alfred too.”
“Don’t bother. I’m sure he was seeing someone else in me.” Her smile grew. “I couldn’t keep it together right now if I hadn’t convinced myself of that.”
“I see,” said Silber Löwe.
Rose mimicked knocking on its cheek several times.
“This kindness isn’t like you. But if you are going to do something for me…”
She breathed a false sigh. Even the sigh shook as Silber Löwe took a large step.
Rose shut her eyes.
“Will you sing that prophecy for me?”
Silber Löwe did not nod.
But it did sing.
“The party begins and the village dances.”
Rose sang the next line.
“The dragon roars and the knights gather.”
A short pause followed.
Eventually, the Panzer took another step and their voices joined together to eliminate the silence and shadows in the shaking corridor. They sang a prophecy. They sang the song of the Messiah.
“The party begins and the village dances / The dragon roars and the knights gather
“The bride weeps uncrowned / Her words go unsaid and he never arrives
“Thus she is alone / She weeps and sleeps in this land.”
After singing the last line, Silber Löwe noticed something and turned its sight devices toward its shoulder.
Rose had vanished.
Silber Löwe walked in silence.
It still had its left hand inside its left chest to hold something there.
Finally, it arrived at the exit that opened up onto the morning sky.
Just five more steps. Then it could jump out into the sky. It would arrive outside.
But instead it spoke with a smile in its voice.
“I can’t move any longer. I knew I didn’t have much time left.”
Slowly, very slowly, Silber Löwe spread its legs to shoulder width and stood firm.
The endless morning sky stretched out in front of it.
And the ground rapidly flowed by down below.
It saw the sky growing bluer by the moment and the dark forest down below.
It began to sing once more. This time a song passed down among Panzer Kavaliers.
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.
Once the song was over, the man who had once been the Geheimnis Agency’s second in command laughed.
He laughed loudly.
“The last time I laughed the three of us were still together.”
After that, Silber Löwe’s sight devices began to go dark.
That was when a roar rumbled from the sky behind the dragon. Something was catching up to the soaring dragon by flying at even greater speed.
And catch up it did.
It raced between the blue sky and dark earth before ascending in a flash.
It flew faster than the Requiem dragon and took the form of the wind itself.
Those satisfied words marked the exact moment Silber Löwe’s sight devices went fully dark.
A moment later, the Requiem finally left its Panzer Emblem form and began to fall.
Two minutes later, the giant ship crashed into the mountains linking Berlin to Borderson and exploded, creating a massive crater.
Final Chapter: The Requiem Arrives
05/31/1942 05:47 – 06:03
The destiny I believe in
Told me to go see him again
Hazel stood on the snow awash with the morning sun.
They were on the mountainous Swiss border, so the snow didn’t melt even during the summer.
But come spring, the green did grow from below the snow. Corelle’s green RB-21 had landed on a small green patch where it now sat silently.
Hazel stood in front of the ship’s side deck. Pale stood on her left and Berger sat in the snow to her right with the bottom of his black coat placed below his butt. Corelle and the soldiers were making a fuss around him.
And after a while…
…The plan was for Berger and I to leave in Schwarz Löwe and General Pale to leave in the RB-21.
“It’s no use,” said Corelle. “Hazel was right. This is a Lives issue.”
She stood up, revealing Berger to Hazel’s eyes.
His shirt was half removed, so she could see a strange dark area on his right side.
“I was getting used to it, but I think it’s changed color because I’m so close to the border.”
Pale answered him by slapping his shoulder with the envelope of important documents.
“What’s this about?”
“Most likely, I’ve been infected with a Lives disease. My guess is, if I leave Germany – or more accurately, the effective range of the Vaterlands – I’ll Ash.”
“It’s a good thing you didn’t just fly over the border in Schwarz Löwe.”
“That’s for sure,” agreed Berger before ordering Corelle to prepare him some mountain gear and a backpack.
Hazel tilted her head.
“Can I Tune heal you?”
“I doubt it. I was given the ‘native’ Lives we lack as Glossolalians. You could heal me if my Lives were damaged or distorted, but it doesn’t work when they were instead made whole, right?”
He smiled bitterly.
“Hoping for a chance to use your Tuning already? Well, engaging in a Live exchange session with me might help relieve the pain.”
“D-don’t be ridiculous.”
She realized something after her anger flared up.
…This is hard for him too.
When she hung her head, Pale reached his large hand over and rubbed her head.
“I took two test tubes of blood earlier. If we freeze it put the Lives in stasis, we can transport it overseas and get a serum made in Detroit.” He took a breath. “So don’t worry about it too much, miss.”
“That’s my line for her, you stupid general.”
She looked over to see Berger putting his shirt back on.
“Hazel took some of my blood three years ago. Compare that with what you took now and you should be able to make a serum. I’ll hide out somewhere in Germany until then.”
“Th-that blood was for-”
“The prosthetic arm isn’t done yet, is it?”
“N-no, it isn’t.”
She shrank down and shook her head, but then she heard a voice from behind her.
It was Pale.
“The AIF will do everything it can to get that serum made. You’ll owe us bigtime, so you’d better join up.”
Pale ignored Berger’s “huh?” and how Hazel stared at Berger.
“Listen, Berger. It’s about time you gave in and this seems like a good opportunity to me. You specialize in getting things and people out of Germany, so you’re in a tight spot not being able to leave the country yourself. Working yourself to the bone for the AIF if we rescue you seems like a fair trade to me. So how about it?”
Berger frowned and glared at Pale without hesitation.
But Pale whistled in response.
“Well, good luck. I’ve got some luggage to get ready.”
He shoved Hazel forward. Her feet caught on the snow and she tumbled down onto her knees with her hands on the ground in front of her.
He sure is rough, she thought, looking back and seeing him walking away.
She sighed once and slowly looked forward where Berger was seated within arm’s reach.
He was silently watching the sunrise, so she sat down next to him.
“I didn’t realize nervous sitting was a thing.”
“I’m not nervous.”
Her shoulders drooped and she looked to him and his somewhat listless expression.
“I don’t get it,” he said.
“It’s nothing but mysteries to you too?”
“Pretty much. All I know is we were trying to attack the Geheimnis Agency and Germany, but we only ended up forcing them to pull out all the stops.”
He let out a long breath with no apparent emotion on his face.
…He’s given this a lot of thought.
Then she realized something.
“I think I can answer two of the mysteries you mentioned to me.”
“Did I mention any to you?”
He turned toward her now, so she looked searchingly up at him.
“Yes. Last night, when you, um, well, pressured me, you said my dad punched you, remember?”
“Yeah, I guess I did. And what’s the other one?”
She thought about this.
…This is what he told me to do.
She bowed her head.
She raised her head to see pure confusion written on his face.
Amused, she used her finger to gather up the orange morning wind blowing near her cheek.
“You don’t know?”
“Last night, after mentioning the condition necessary to join the AIF, you said you don’t know who my first was, but I should pass your apologies on to him.”
She couldn’t look him in the eye as she continued, so she faced the rising sun and intertwined her fingers.
“Three years ago, when I told my dad and teacher I wanted to join the AIF, they were fiercely opposed to it.”
“We argued about it for weeks and they finally explained the condition you had told me, thinking that would dissuade me.”
“So I told them the truth.” She took a breath. “I told them when I was 15, you saw me naked, slept with me in a dark room, and even made sure to kiss me goodbye.” A second breath. “I told them when we destroyed the Gard-class warship, you got a good look at me naked in a deserted park at night and you did naughty things to me while I slept naked in your arms in a dark forest.” A third breath. “I told them I had also seen you naked and that…yes, Corelle could back me up on all of it.”
“Not a word of it was untrue.”
She turned to look at him again and found his jaw had dropped.
“You aren’t going to tell them about last night, are you?”
“I know exactly what I’ll tell everyone: I met you again after three years and we discussed our future together before you were very forceful with me.”
“You’re kidding, right?”
“Not at all. The AIF women are starved for stories like this.”
“I’d forgotten you’re a cat in more ways than one, Hazel Mirildorf.”
“I am.” She narrowed her eyes and smiled. “I am still just a kitten that could grow up to do or be anything. I will keep changing in body and mind. And…”
“My surroundings will change too.”
“You’re awfully full of yourself for a brand new Tuner.”
He stood up with a smile.
She did not stand up.
She held her knees between her arms and faced forward.
She viewed the German mountains.
The border was supposedly only an imaginary line on the map, but the nature of the land changed drastically when looking at the Lives. The border had real consequences.
…Both good and bad.
She pondered that.
…We’re going to change, aren’t we?
“We’re both going to change even with this wall between us.”
“It might be more than that.”
“You heard that radio transmission, didn’t you? The Geheimnis Agency isn’t just defending the German homeland anymore. They’re going to start entering Germany’s occupied territories. And using the Vaterlands to modify the ley lines.”
Hazel kept her eyes straight ahead but used her ears to listen to Berger’s voice.
“There won’t be just one wall between us,” he said. “We’ll be on the attack and they’ll be defending. We have greater numbers, but they have High Organ Live weapons. The Allies’ High Organ development hasn’t reached practical levels yet, so this is gonna be a tough fight.”
“But we opened the door at Cologne.”
“Which is why they’re preparing for a real fight. The nature of the war has changed.”
“But…but we couldn’t meet each other and talk without opening the door.”
Hazel stood up and looked to Berger. He was already looking at her.
She started to say something to break the silence, but…
“Yeah,” he said in an exasperated kind of way. “You’re not like me. Once the war is over, you’ll make a great teacher. You can do things like that.”
He slapped her shoulder and then he started walking across the snow.
“We’ve got to talk with Pale, don’t we? We’ll be saying a temporary goodbye soon. And…” He stopped and looked back. “I have to tell him I’m joining the AIF.”
She tried to ask why, but he answered before she did.
“If you’re going to double down on being an idiot, the AIF needs my brilliance to balance it out. I’ll take the #2 spot where I can watch your back. …That’s what I mean, Hazel Mirildorf. So…”
He smiled bitterly.
“So make sure you bring me that serum. I won’t get much business otherwise.”
With that, Dog Berger continued walking.
Hazel realized something while listening to the crunching of the snow below his feet and his laughter that carried well for a male voice.
…This is the first time I’ve seen him really laugh.
She could see it in his Lives as well.
This was genuine.
She smiled and began walking too.
She hurried to catch up to him and pass him.
Hoping to make him #2.
Hoping to one day move past him.
Hoping to move ahead of him.
1942 – 1943
In June of ’42, Heiliger, the new second in command of the Geheimnis Agency, spent a month shoring up his influence in the government and military and deployed selected Geheimnis Agents inside and outside the country as wartime special forces. He also managed to bring the Borderson knights under the Geheimnis Agency’s control. With the agency a mixture of the old and the new, Lowenzahn stepped to the forefront and took command. She set capturing the Messiah as their top priority while also moving their headquarters to the second Gard-class warship being constructed near Germania.
The massive warship no longer had a pilot, so on the wishes of the Geheimnis Agency’s Development Division, they began modifying its Babel Kanone into a colossal ley line pressurization reactor word weapon. However, it was also modified as a part of Tristan, a word pressurization reactor standing over a mile tall.
In June of ’43, construction of the massive fortress was complete. It functioned as the Geheimnis Agency’s new headquarters and as an extra source of pressurization to support the Vaterlands built around the world.
With that, Germania became the foundation of defense and support for the Germany military and it finally began to function as the Panzerpolis.
While the nature of the war changed several times, the Allies researched a ley line countercurrent anti-pressurization facility that could be used against Tristan. Research was based on used the Vaterland information acquired by the AIF when destroying the first Gard-class ship in ’39. Experiments began at the start of ’43.
The idea was to use a machine to oppose the support provided by a machine.
But even as machines began to rule the battlefield, the people were growing irritated with the never-ending war. Their nightmares continued and anxiety’s grip on the world was tightening.
The war was reaching a new stage on a global level.
Who could prevent this mistake: people or machines?
That answer can be seen in everything that began with the Greater Germanic Reich declaration in ’38 and ended with the failure of the Panzerpolis Project in ’43.
5/31/2001. On the morning a certain girl began to walk.
Here we are at volume 3.
Many readers have asked the same question about the previous two volumes.
“Why does Hazel have a flat chest?”
…Um, how am I supposed to answer that?
1. For entertainment purposes.
2. Just because.
3. They’d been too big before and I had a change of heart.
4. It’s not a fetish! I just like it! (flustered)
5. Write your own answer here:
This is a tricky question. Hmm.
But enough with the heavy stuff.
We’ve finally done it. With this volume, Panzerpolis Berlin has passed the midpoint. Hazel is feeling more like a protagonist (based on what?), so now it’s a race toward the finish. Going for 3+ books makes this really long for City, but I have you readers to thank for letting me do this.
Thank you so much.
The story has entered World War Two starting with ’42. The bombing of Cologne actually happened (there wasn’t a Gard-class or beam weapons, though) and reading up on that will show you a lot more happened in that war than you could ever imagine. Can you believe that they actually used more than 1000 bombers?
And this marks the first one where Berlin never actually appears (oops).
But it will appear in the next one, albeit as Germania, so wait a little longer. (Can you believe that the construction of Germania was actually planned? The real world is crazy.)
Anyway, time for the usual email chat with a friend.
“Sup. It’s morning, but you’re already working, aren’t you? Now spit out your thoughts, H-kun.”
“Dammit, man, you know I’m at the office right now, so stop being so cheerful.”
“I’m treating myself to a Dr. P*pper as a personal reward for staying up all night completing my manuscript, so hurry up and give me your thoughts on this one. If you don’t, I’ll jab you in your ‘I’ll tell you anything’ hole like we’re back in middle school.”
“What are you even talking about, you moron? And what kind of reward is a soda?”
“Well, I have to get to the office soon too. I usually treat myself to some Häagen-D*zs, but I’m not so sure about ice cream first thing in the morning.”
“And Dr. P*pper first thing in the morning is fine?”
“Shut up. Stop complaining about my diet and get to the point.”
“Okay, fine. So what was that? You couldn’t go through with it again? This one deserves the subtitle ‘Berger couldn’t rise to the occasion!’. Or maybe ‘Hazel’s trip to heaven denied!’ ”
“Stop misrepresenting what happened.”
“You know how I am. Especially in the morning.”
I guess so. Anyway, let’s stop talking about that.
This is going to be a lot, but here’s a report on my recent activities.
Last time, I said MediaWorks’s Dengeki hp novel magazine is published seasonally, but they switched it to bimonthly pretty much immediately afterwards. The City Series is currently (February 2001) being serialized in there. It alternates between Zenon City Tokyo in the February, June, and October issues and Image City SF in the April, August, and December issues. Both of those cities are visual heavy, so do check them out if you’re interested and have the time. That sums up what I’ve been up to.
My background music this time was Mozart’s Requiem. I listened to that and reread the book while wondering: “Who was looking furthest ahead?”
Now, then. Another Berlin novel is up next.
October 2000. An unpleasantly chilly morning.
Okay, now it’s my turn.
My pet cat Myako died recently, but I think of Hazel as being my Myako and hope to continue loving her for a while yet.
Bye for now.
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