City Series:Volume6a Chapter1
Chapter 1: The Wind Hesitates
Those who let them get away and those who chase after them are the same.
Why is it
Only those who run away are seen as different?
A large city in northern Germany. Cold and cloudy weather continues year-round, but it has a stable climate thanks to the ocean currents.
It was established in the 12th century, but it did not develop into a major city until the 17th century.
In 1871, Germany was unified under Bismarck’s Prussia and Berlin was made Germany’s capital, but since it had little history of forging and no distinctive traits, Bismarck crowned Wilhelm I in 1871, declared Germany to be the Second Reich (with the First Reich being from the time of Charlemagne), and planned to modernize the city of Berlin.
But before that transformation could be completed, German suffered defeat in World War One which was fought concurrently with England’s God-Demon War. Wilhelm II was subsequently forced into exile by a revolution.
And a portion of the World War One reparations determined by the Treaty of Versailles forced Germany to demilitarize, so Berlin lost its way.
Berlin’s mornings were chilly.
A German cathedral at the center of the city rang its bell to indicate 9 o’clock, but the sun was still low in the sky and fog still hung over much of the city.
Kantstrasse got a fair amount of sun as it cut through the center of the city from east to west, but it was still plenty cold. A fire truck’s siren sounded somewhere in the distance and the few people walking along the street had their collars pulled tight and held their shoulders to stay warm. The lights were on in the shops lining the street, but none of them kept their door open.
However, there was one unusual place.
An old two-story building stood on a corner lot that might as well have been the very end of the road and the diagonally hanging sign out front read “Used Books”. A motorcycle was parked out front and someone sat on the stone steps up to the frosted glass door.
The young man was dressed all in black. His large coat and even his hair were black.
The only other colors were the white of his skin, the blue of his eyes past his sunglasses, the red of the woman’s pendant hanging at his chest, and the white of the breaths leaving his mouth as he spoke.
“I can’t believe I lost my key. Did I drop it in the Grösse Panzer I abandoned on the way here?”
He sounded less troubled than you might expect. If anything, he sounded relaxed.
“And the landlord never gets up until past noon. I swear I’m the second most unlucky person in the world.”
Another siren began to sound in the distance.
He looked around curiously, clearly wondering what had happened.
His unspoken question did earn him response, though.
It just came in the form of a cat’s meow.
The sweet voice’s owner walked over from his right along the used bookstore’s outer wall.
It was a kitten with yellowish fur.
It walked across the withered grass below the eaves, hopped up the stone steps one at a time, and came to a stop next to him.
The cat sat down and raised its head to look up at the silent young man who carried such a dark atmosphere with him.
When his eyes met those of the cat’s, he noticed its right eye was brown and feline, but its left eye was blue and had a round pupil.
“Heterochromia? Do you come with pedigree document?”
The cat responded by yawning, stretching, and shutting its eyes. It lay down and lazily curled up in a relieved sort of way. It must have been happy to find a spot in the sun.
The man sighed at this unexpected visitor.
“I don’t have any food for you. But if you want to make yourself useful, you could open this front door for me.”
Just as he made that ridiculous request, he heard the quiet screech of brakes in front of the used bookstore.
A black post office bicycle had stopped on the wide sidewalk. After a pause, he heard some footsteps and a young postal worker in ordinary clothes and a postal hat arrived in front of him.
He bowed and then pulled two envelopes from his bag.
“Um, are you Dog Berger? I, um, have two deliveries for you.”
“You sound awfully hesitant to tell me this. Which can only mean trouble in my experience.”
His comment was accompanied by a bitter smile and the postal worker smiled a little in response.
“One of the two is two months late due to a delivery error. The thing is, Mr. Berger, it is addressed to this building but not to you.”
“I’m the only one who lives here, though. But whatever. Just let me see it.”
“I do apologize for the delay. But even that’s better than a Verlsten Brief from the Central Post Office’s archive, right?”
“Yeah, it definitely beats one of those unopened letters from a thousand years ago.”
The young man in black, Dog Berger, accepted the proffered letters without getting up.
When he flipped the envelopes over to check the senders, his eyes narrowed. After a pause, he nodded.
“This is for some friends of mine. I’ll make sure they get it.”
The postal worker sighed with visible relief, said goodbye, and started to turn around, but…
“Why are you sitting there?”
“It’s the latest health fad. You see, I want to be the second healthiest person in the world.”
“Not the actual healthiest?”
“Me? The best in something? I don’t have that kind of confidence in myself.”
“I see. Well, take care.”
The postal worker looked puzzled, but he got back on his bicycle and rode off.
After confirming the sidewalk up ahead was deserted once more, Berger looked down at the two envelopes in his hands. He frowned in a displeased way as he opened one of them.
“My old upperclassman, huh?”
He smiled bitterly before holding the letter overhead and quietly reading it aloud.
“ ‘Hazel Mirildorf, age 15, female, broken out of Berlin’s general hospital, transport her to the Swiss border via Singen at 12/25 04:30. M. Schrier.’ …Hm, sounds easy enough.”
Then he opened the letter that had its delivery delayed.
“Dammit, Marsch. Her and the director’s house is gone, you know? …But this is from two months ago, huh?”
His movements stopped along with the crinkling of the unfolding paper.
With that sound gone, he was met with almost complete silence.
Only the distant sirens ruled this place as the air seemed to rapidly freeze.
The cat curled up on the step looked up at him.
At the same time, he held up the letter to the sunlight.
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
After reading those words, he smiled a little.
“The 9th Section of the Ruling King from the Unreif Germane, huh? The Heidengeist Messiah, the dragon she commands, and someone with a divine name descend to the earth together. What in the world are you thinking, Marsch?”
He soon heard a new sound.
It was a vehicle, and a large one at that. It shook loudly from all the weight loaded onboard and its brakes sounded for an awfully long time before it came to a stop.
He looked up to see 6 men in green military uniforms leave the back of the military truck parked on the road. He blatantly frowned at this.
“Hey, hey, hey, hey. What’s the meaning of this, huh?”
They surrounded him while he protested.
The six soldiers were middle-aged and muscular and the man in the center spoke with a deep voice.
“We are from the army’s immigration department. You are Dog Berger, correct?”
“Sorry, but you’ve got the wrong guy. I’m just your standard mystery Asian from the far-off land of Japan, so-”
“You are under arrest as a possessor of inferior Tons – in other words, for being a nonhuman Heidengeist.”
“Hey, don’t just ignore my masterful bullshitting!”
“Silence. Again, you are under arrest.”
“Do I really have to say it? Okay, fine. Do you honestly think you can do that? What proof do you have I’m a Heidengeist, anyway?”
Despite the tense situation, Berger’s tone was extremely calm and he remained seated on the steps.
The soldiers suddenly crouched down in preparation to fight.
The surrounding air grew even tenser and the man in the center continued.
“You failed to participate in the Berlin-wide blood test performed this April, but this October in Munich-”
“Yeah, I had to get some blood drawn at the hospital. It’s a long story.”
“You tested positive as a Heidengeist and any Heidengeist in the country is our business.”
“So you’re gonna throw me in one of those Heidenheim concentration camps, brand me with a number, and place a seal on me, right? Then I would be made into a Phlogiston Platte since those are more efficient than direct Phlogiston, of course. And all to build up the foundation of your holy German Reich.” He laughed bitterly. “German land used to be surrounded by the Black Forest and protected by gods and Heidengeist, but ever since Bismarck established the Second Reich, it’s been nothing but human supremacy.”
“Silence. Do not speak ill of our nation, ‘Wild Hund’ Dog Berger.”
Berger whistled at the mention of his Urban Name – or Titel as they were known in Germany.
“Your reactions here had me suspicious, but that Titel clinches it. You know more about me than you’re letting on.”
“You have made yourself something of an infamous figure. The plan was to arrest you under the peace preservation laws to be established when the Greater Germanic Reich is declared next April, but it seems the law has caught up to you today instead.”
“Hey, hey, hey. Let’s not count our chickens before they hatch on the whole ‘me being arrested today’ thing.”
With that, Berger stood up. It was a slow movement, but no one could stop him. He simply stood up and took a step forward.
He looked the soldier in the eye and lightly poked at his chest.
“Y’know, if my finger was a knife, you’d be dead right now. Dead and gone. Are you sure you’re serious about arresting me? And are you sure the methods that worked on other Heidengeists will work on me?”
All of a sudden, a giant form appeared from behind the used bookstore as if it had simply grown up from the ground on the right.
Everyone turned that way.
A giant man in a black combat coat stood more than 7 feet tall and was equipped with an enormous prosthetic right arm.
Below his short-cropped blond hair, his lips were clamped shut in a horizontal line until they moved to speak in a deep voice.
“I apologize, but can this arrest wait? I must speak with this man. Immediately.”
The six soldiers took a step back, overwhelmed either by his voice or his imposing height. The man in the center shrank down considerably as he asked a question.
“Who are- wait, that uniform. It can’t be.”
Berger provided the answer.
“ ‘Schallmauer Zerstörer’ Hellard Schweitzer of the Geheimnis Luftwaffe? It’s been two years since I last saw you. You worked your way up to Second Lieutenant yet?”
The response to that contained a hint of pride.
“I am a First Lieutenant.”
“Well, I can see why they say you’ll be one of the next members of the Five Great Peaks or Fünf Leithammel or whatever they’re calling it. But anyway…”
Berger pressed his back against the glass and slowly sat down.
“Can you open this door for me?”
The used bookstore’s second floor acted as a cramped living room and a bedroom
Two men sat in that room with stacks of books everywhere.
Berger kept the cat on his lap as he sat by the window on a long sofa with bedding lazily draped over it.
Schweitzer sat on a different sofa across a small table and with his back to the door.
The only sound was the faint footsteps of the MPs in the hallway past that flimsy door.
Berger shrugged and spoke up as if to drown out that noise.
“Why the sudden visit, Schweitzer? If it’s about Eryngium, I’ll remind you we agreed to never speak of that again. None of us have gone anywhere near the hidden Borderson village up north. Not me, not you, not Alfred, and not Marsch. Or am I wrong?”
“This is not about that.” Schweitzer, the man from the Geheimnis Agency, shook his head and looked straight at the young man in black. “She is our shared secret…and I assume you know my situation as well as I know yours, Berger. We continue to work toward the protection of Germany, just as you continue to work toward undermining Germany.”
“The Geheimnis Agency is well aware you used a Grösse Panzer to destroy a dam in Denmark the week before last in order to escape capture.”
“I didn’t destroy it. It just happened to break in close proximity to me. Besides, I sent a written apology. I swear I did.”
“Unfortunately for you, that apology is precisely what led the Danish police to place you at the top of their wanted list. You really don’t change, do you?”
Schweitzer sighed and Berger sighed as well.
“So what are you saying? That you’ll stop doing what you’re doing if I let myself be arrested?”
“I cannot do that. Because of our promise.”
Schweitzer reached his left hand to his left ear and touched the earring set with a red jewel.
He watched as Berger similarly toyed with the pendant hanging at his chest.
“Yeah, I guess there’s no talking you out of it. …So. What question do you have for me?”
“You should have received a certain job from ‘Verräter’ M. Schrier. One of your primary jobs.”
“And if I say I received no such thing?”
Berger gave him a curious look, but Schweitzer was having none of it.
“I do not have time for your nonsense, Dog Berger. The AIF led by M. Schrier helped a girl escape Berlin’s general hospital last night.”
“Is that what all those sirens are about? So does this mean you’re after Hazel Mirildorf?”
“Has she still not arrived?”
“To be honest, I wasn’t told what she looks like, so I wouldn’t know even if she had. If she’s a square-faced blonde with a prosthetic arm, then she’s right here talking to me.”
Schweitzer realized Berger was looking at his prosthetic arm.
Berger resumed speaking with a scornful smile on his lips.
“You’ve tried to make it look normal enough, but that thing’s an Eingeweide, isn’t it? Did Marsch make it?”
“His ability has brought German technology 20 years ahead of the rest of the world.”
“It takes a special kind of person to go along with that. I mean, an Eingeweide’s Erklärung power is cool and all, but the part about being made from one of the user’s body parts is gonna turn a lot of people off. …You shoved your right arm into the reactor for yours, right? What’s it called?”
“Yeah, that’s a Marsch name all right. So did he really name them all after Eryngium’s records? If so, there must be 11 in all between the ones I’ve heard rumor of and my own.”
“Stop making assumptions. …And stop changing the subject from that girl.” Schweitzer frowned because this young man had always been good at avoiding topics of conversation he did not like. “Our information is far from perfect since this happened so suddenly. Not to mention there was a fire at the hospital and all the records there were destroyed. What information we have was gotten by questioning an AIF member we managed to capture in a hurry. …Hm?”
He noticed something odd in Berger’s lap.
The kitten with the pretty fur got up and yawned. It hopped down from his lap and glanced over at the window behind him. It viewed the blue sky visible through there.
It walked over to the window, treading on the books stacked up on the floor.
“Looks like she wants out. Mind if I open the window?”
“Don’t you move, Berger. You pride yourself in being the second fastest person in the world, so I am not giving you any chance to escape.”
Schweitzer lifted his prosthetic arm and stood up. Looking irritated, he walked past Berger to approach the window.
“Have you heard anything from Marsch?” asked Berger from behind him. “He stopped contacting me two months ago for whatever reason.”
The kitten sat on the books stacked in front of the window, turned its back on the two men, and scratched at the glass.
It looked up at Schweitzer’s left hand when he touched the window and meowed in a hopeful way.
But he stopped moving and responded to Berger’s question.
“You really haven’t heard anything, have you?”
“From that, I take it you have heard something.”
Berger let out a bitter laugh, but Schweitzer silently worked at opening the window.
But Berger said more, as if to stop him again.
“Marsch entered the Geheimnis Agency straight out of university, but instead of telling me all about his research into Ober Geheimnis, Schreiben systems, and engines, he sends this horribly confused piece of text. And instead of addressing it to me, it’s addressed to her and to the director.”
“He always did like his old folklore. He especially loved talking about it while Eryngium Illheim and Joseph Illheim were with you.”
“The house we used to live in is gone now. Thanks to you and Alfred.”
Schweitzer once more stopped after touching the window’s latch.
The cat meowed when he lifted his hand away, but he ignored it.
“What did Marsch say?”
“He sent me part of the Unreif Germane’s 9th Section of the Ruling King. Y’know, the one that starts with ‘the one-armed youth’.”
“He sent you that?”
Schweitzer heard Berger stand up behind him.
He turned around, but Berger was already on his feet.
“What’s happened to Marsch, Schweitzer? He joined the Geheimnis Agency with you and started developing weapons, right? So why would he send a letter to the director and to her when they’re both gone?”
“I heard from my old upperclassman that the top level of the Geheimnis Agency has been forcefully promoting something called the Panzerpolis Project of late, pushing aside all other civil and military policy. I also hear you’re declaring a Greater Germanic Reich next April, so what is all this about?”
“I am under no obligation to answer that.”
“Even if Marsch is involved in it? I don’t know if it has anything to do with your Geheimnis Agency’s actions, but the military has been rushing things lately. They attacked Spain and a week ago they built this autopiloted ramming ship – a self-destruct weapon basically – called the V-0 that I hear reduced the target ship and everything within a 5-mile radius to ashes.”
“The newspapers are exaggerating things. It is nothing more than a cruiser-style ramming ship that is loaded with divine spell bombs and rams an aerial object on autopilot. And the radius of destruction was less than a full mile.”
“Be that as it may, what is this Panzerpolis Project that has the military freaking out so much? And why did an inventor who is surely a part of it send such a weird letter to her and to the director!?”
“I am under no obligation to answer that.”
The instant, Schweitzer stuck his hand in his pocket, Berger shoved the books off the table behind him and grabbed a metal box small enough to fit in the palm of his hand. He immediately pushed the red button on its surface.
A moment later, the used bookstore exploded.
“Why is he like this!?”
Schweitzer blew away the rubble of the used bookstore with his prosthetic arm, stood up, and ran out to the road. Berger was nowhere to be seen and his motorcycle was no longer parked on the curb.
He had gotten away.
Ignoring the sounds of the MPs crawling out of the rubble behind him and the curious eyes of the passersby, Schweitzer calmly brushed the dust off of his prosthetic arm and raised his left hand.
Less than the span of a breath later, a black military personnel transport vehicle drove up and began to stop in front of him.
Before its brakes could finish squealing, he opened the door and climbed in.
The passenger seat was positioned low and given a lot of extra space, but it was still cramped for such a large man with such a large prosthetic arm.
The vehicle immediately drove off, so it was already in second gear by the time he got the door shut.
He adjusted his position as if holding his prosthetic arm close.
“Why is this seat always so hard?”
“You complained that it had too much cushioning last time.”
He was answered by Bermark, the old soldier in the driver’s seat whose white gloved hands seemed oddly conspicuous.
“That is my personal problem, so do not let it bother you.” Schweitzer remained expressionless. “Where is Berger headed?”
“I arranged a network of hidden observers rather than directly pursue him. Convincing the Abwehr to act was not easy, though. He is currently travelling west along Kantstrasse with a cat on his shoulder.”
The questioner and answerer kept their eyes on the road ahead instead of looking to each other.
A city of stone and metal flowed past them as they drove.
Eventually, Schweitzer sank deeper down into his seat.
“Very well. Berger can wait. …For now, head to the general hospital.”
“We are already on our way. I had a feeling you would ask for it.”
“Then take a right at the next intersection for a shortcut, Bermark. Never mind. We just passed it.”
“That is a one-way road. Aren’t the Fräulein and his Excellency always insisting that we do not trouble the citizenry even in an emergency?”
“Fair enough. I am not one to argue with the leaders of our Geheimnis Agency.” Schweitzer looked up in defeat and let out a weary sigh. “Last night, I was certain we had finally tracked down the Messiah implant that Marsch made, but one day later and it’s escaped. The Panzerpolis Project certainly is off to a rocky start.”
“And the foreign rats have already learned the name of the project.”
“It won’t help them. Even we have only been told the name and…what will happen. But I do know one thing more: the Panzerpolis Project is guaranteed to rescue Germany from a future crisis.”
“Although we need the Messiah to pull that off. It was two weeks ago that Hazel Mirildorf was taken from that Heidenheim, transported to the general hospital, and implanted with the Messiah. And the doctors had hidden the Messiah implant for two months prior to that. We were fortunate to catch wind of this at all.”
“Well, let’s hope that fortune lasts. But do you think this will really lead to the birth of the true Messiah?”
“According to the Fräulein, if the prophecy is fulfilled, then the Messiah will come to lead us and ultimately save Germany. So I am sure the Messiah implant created by Sir Marsch will live up to its name.”
“And what if it doesn’t? If we fail to secure her in accordance with the prophecy, Marsch’s Messiah implant will be nothing but a name and we will once more be forced to continue to search out the true Messiah. We will remain a masterless order of knights.”
“If that happens, then that is what destiny has ordained. Also…Sir Marsch’s Messiah implant is important to us for a different reason. We must acquire it.”
Bermark turned to the right at an intersection without slowing.
“Let’s change the subject.”
The view outside the glass rotated and then they could see out ahead once more.
Bermark returned the steering wheel to its neutral position, shifted up a gear, and accelerated while asking a question.
“Who exactly is Berger…or should I call him Sir Berger?”
“He deserves no honorific. As I am sure you can imagine, he is an enemy.”
“Then who is he?”
“An immigrant. His full name is Dog Berger. He was born in Aerial City – London, his mother was a human prostitute, and his father is unknown. He told me he arrived in Berlin around the end of the great war along with the various enemy forces.”
“What is his connection to you, Sir Marsch, and Sir Alfred?”
“We all went to high school together. He even went to university with Marsch, but he dropped out after three years. That was two years ago.”
“Why did he drop out?”
Schweitzer did not answer that question.
Silence fell over the vehicle as Bermark stepped on the gas even more to travel north over the bridge crossing the Spree River that split the city in two. Once on the other side, he entered the passing lane and asked a further question.
“Then has this Berger made contact with Hazel Mirildorf yet?”
“It didn’t seem like it. She is the daughter of former Major General Oscar, head of the Eisen Vogel, isn’t she?”
“Yes, the Eisen Vogel was meant to be the foundation of the 1st Aerial Fleet led by Lieutenant General Heiliger, but then Oscar Mirildorf suddenly retired last year.”
“Provide me with more details on the girl when you have some time. It is hard to keep track of my own memories and all the information I have learned in such a short time. I honestly feel like I am overlooking something.”
“For one, the girl was taken to the hospital from a Heidenheim. Only those with Heidengeist blood are sent there. …Now, former Major General Oscar was human, but what kind of blood did the girl receive from her mother?” Schweitzer took a breath. “We have been so busy pursuing the Messiah implant that we have failed to consider the person who carries it. We know the AIF helped her escape last night, but could her power as a Heidengeist have also played a role?”
“Let us pray she cannot turn invisible. I will gather further information ASAP. …Oh.”
They approached a three-road junction and turned right, to the east.
The dark cedar woods to their left were part of the Tiergarten park.
Beyond those woods was the white general hospital.
A few trails of white smoke rose above the canopy formed by the trees.
Bermark kept his eyes on the road as he said one last thing.
“How ironic that the appearance of the Messiah meant to save Germany would bring such disaster upon us.”
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