City Series:Volume6a Chapter2
Chapter 2: The Wind Activates
I apparently need to escape
I want to know why
But no one will give me an answer
I don’t like that one bit
Ether and Lives
The elemental theory proposed by the ancient scientist Thales created many misunderstandings in later years and it was believed until the Middle Ages that all things were formed from the four elements.
But in the 12th century, the elemental breakdown discovered through alchemy suggested the Mono-Elemental Theory that said all things were created by a single variable element. A race to discover that single element began and, based on a 15th century phlogiston experiment gone wrong, it was theorized that an element existed that allowed space to transform in response to a set musical rhythm.
The form that an area of space took was determined by a double helix array that could take hundreds of billions of forms and changing the array would change that space to something else. This could be used to create light, darkness, fire, water, and even gravity.
Since this was discovered through the changes produced by sound and thus you were “telling” the space what to be, the singular element became known as “A Tell”. The pronunciation shifted over time and it is now spelled “ether”.
Ether is the element that undergoes the change and Lives (or Tons in German) are the double helix array that determines what form it takes.
In a small, dimly-lit room, the divine spell glow panel attached to the concrete wall provided a faint bluish-white light reminiscent of fireflies. That light revealed everything in the room as shadows.
It had walls, a door, a bed, a bookcase, some luggage, and many wooden boxes scattered across the floor.
A single person sat on the bed.
The black-haired young man in a black shirt and pants was Berger.
He still looked sleepy as he reached for the alarm clock sitting on the bed. He turned its display toward the wall’s glow panel to see where the hour and minute hands were.
“11:22. I guess I really do have to head back out into the Berlin night to find Hazel Mirildorf, huh?”
He yawned and worked his neck until it popped. He then nodded and stood up while scratching his head. He opened a largish wooden box on the floor nearby to reveal multiple changes of clothes contained inside. They included cold weather and mountain climbing gear, so they were not exactly everyday items.
He easily pulled out what he wanted in the dark and then changed.
First, he put on a kind of bulletproof armor called ASRA (Anti-Shock Reactive Armor). Over that, he wore a thick black shirt with latches on the shoulders and elsewhere. For pants, he wore mountain climbing ones with deep pockets.
For a coat, he pulled out a researcher’s lab coat.
Except that lab coat had a unique trait: it was black.
The collar’s insignia of the Berlin university’s department for emblem research, the basic structure, the heat-resistance, and everything else were the same as a lab coat, so the color alone was different. Its dyed color was even darker than the shadows formed by the glow panel.
“I guess this will be the last time I use this underground room. They’ll probably sniff it out,” he muttered while shutting the box.
He took a breath and reached for an oblong wooden box next to the bed…but changed his mind.
He sat back on the bed and looked up at the ceiling. The ceiling was a plain concrete square with a single bare lightbulb installed.
He suddenly looked behind him.
There was a lump in the bed’s blanket because there was still something below it.
“I guess I should feed that cat. I was the one that brought it with me, after all.”
He pulled back the blanket, expecting to find the cat curled up there.
But for some reason, he instead found a naked girl sleeping there.
Berger stared at the girl’s face.
She had long, soft-looking blonde hair, her eyes were closed, and her face was fully relaxed.
She was asleep.
He had pulled the blanket down far enough to see her white-skinned shoulders which shined bright in the bluish-white light.
He frowned, sighed, and casually placed the blanket over her again.
“I must be hallucinating. When I pull this blanket up again, it’ll just be that cat.”
He counted aloud to three and pulled back the blanket, but he still saw that girl who had rolled over in her sleep to turn her back toward him.
He could see her face in profile, her plentiful hair, and her entirely bare back.
Even the glow panel must have been too bright for her because she held a hand over her forehead as she rolled over, causing her body to emerge from the blanket, revealing more of her bare skin.
He stared at her in the faint light for a bit, but finally breathed a sigh of relief.
“Oh, with a chest like that, she’s clearly still just a kid. There goes any temptation toward wrongdoing, I guess.”
He quipped to himself and started to place the blanket over her again, but she grabbed his hand.
The relief on his face quickly turned to tension.
But her eyes were still closed and she was still asleep. Her grip was weak as well.
His eyes turned toward her sleeping face where he saw something different from before. There was tension in her brow and her lips moved weakly in order to say something.
He lowered his head to read her lips.
He sighed and, a few seconds later, smiled.
He removed her hand from his but then squeezed her hand back.
Her expression softened and she turned her face away from the glow panel.
He used his other hand to pull the blanket back up to her neck, but as he did, he noticed a series of black letters and numbers written on her right shoulder.
“A brand? HGB-000402.”
That was one of the indelible management numbers people were given in a concentration camp for Heidengeists.
He clicked his tongue once and said nothing more. It took a few seconds for her breathing to calm. He slowly brought her hand below the blanket and let go. Then he silently stood from the bed.
He tiptoed through the darkness to reach the bookcase by the wall.
The book he pulled out was titled ’36 Southern Berlin Citizenship Records.
“Oscar Mirildorf. My old upperclassman’s superior officer who retired after the ’35 Armored Hammer of God Incident in Berlin. This says he ran a private school out of his home on the city outskirts afterwards.”
He flipped through the pages.
He flipped through a lot of them and then flipped back. The hard paper made intermittent flipping sounds as he did so.
After a while, he stopped.
“The Mirildorf family. The wife’s name is Diana Mirildorf, a Werecat from London, city of monsters and gods. I guess that means it’s pronounced Dye-ana and not Dee-ana.”
He returned the book to the shelf and smiled bitterly. Then he pulled another book from the shelf.
This one was the Unreif Germane.
“Where’s the passage Marsch quoted?”
He recited it to himself as he flipped through the pages and then stopped.
The top of the page contained an illustration of a woman leading a dragon and a one-armed man with a sword walking through the Black Forest. The bottom of the page was titled 9th Section of the Ruling King.
“This is the section about the Heidengeist Messiah and the youth with a divine name descending to this land when it was still nameless and only included the Black Forest. The Messiah was unsure if she should use her power to save this land, but he convinced her to descend to the earth with him.”
He shut the book and returned it to the shelf. He walked over and sat back down on the bed.
Just once, he glanced at the girl sleeping below the blanket behind him, but he faced forward again, crossed his arms, shut his eyes, and sighed.
“Let’ see,” he said. “There’s so much to think about, but the most pressing problem is her. …Seems safe to assume that girl is Hazel Mirildorf. She escaped as a cat, but once I brought her here and she fell asleep, her tension faded and she came out of her Flektieren transformation.”
He heard the blanket rustling behind him.
He turned silently around to see her sitting up.
Her long and plentiful blonde hair fell across her body as she sat sleepily in the bed. The bed creaked beneath her and the blanket fell from her shoulders to gather around her hips, but she did not seem to notice any of it. She only stared blankly at her surroundings.
Her left eye was a brown feline one and her right one was a blue human one.
She must have injured the one eye because it was a prosthetic.
She let out a faint sigh as wakefulness slowly gathered on her face.
She turned her head to view Berger with her differently-colored eyes drooping sleepily.
Their eyes met and he spoke with a sincere smile.
“Don’t worry. I’m not interested in kids.”
That inspired her to looked down at herself.
She was naked.
She immediately threw a slap his way.
The moonlit streets of Berlin were horribly chilly because the city was mostly made of stone and metal.
That solid city could not soften the winter wind’s blast. If anything, it chilled it further.
The moon hung in the cloudless sky which kept heat from gathering.
The wind blew across every last part of the city, transforming the streets into icy currents much like a midwinter river.
The people avoided the cold by staying indoors and never heading out, so light shined from the homes along the major roads. Most of it was the thin beams of light escaping through gaps in the shutters.
A mottled pattern of artificial light shined on one dark street.
A vehicle drove along the road as if to plow through that light.
It was a black military vehicle. Its lights were off and it was driving a bit above the speed limit. That speed left its plastic tires barely able to dig into the stone-paved road.
It was fast.
It had reinforcement panels installed in places and they audibly sliced through the wind.
Even the roar of the engine was left behind by its speed and the passenger-side window on the right was open.
A black uniformed left arm and a head stuck out from that window. They belonged to Schweitzer.
He had twisted his body around to stick out his hand and grab and extend the communication antenna on the side of the vehicle’s pillar. Then he rolled up the window.
The cold wind was blowing mercilessly inside the vehicle.
He and Bermark in the driver’s seat were the only ones inside.
But neither of them batted an eye at the icy wind. Schweitzer simply used a hand to fix the scarf that identified him as a member of the Geheimnis Luftwaffe.
Once the window was fully shut, Bermark spoke with an expressionless face.
“The guard we sent to keep an eye on him reported some noise and a shout from within the underground room.”
“A shout? From Berger? That man does do the weirdest things.”
“No, it was a girl. And more of a scream than a shout.”
Schweitzer said nothing, but after a pause, Bermark made a powerful brushing motion with his gloved right hand.
“If he has harmed the poor girl in any way, he is even more despicable than I had thought. …From what I heard, Hazel Mirildorf would have made an excellent Neue Kavalier were she not a Heidengeist. When the inspection team performed the surprise Heidengeist test at her school, she stood up to an MP who attempted to get violent with a friend of hers, if you recall.”
“Yes, she stood up for her friend and took a rifle stock to the face, blinding her in the right eye. That very injury is what gave her a fever in the Heidenheim, leading her to be implanted with the prosthetic eye at the general hospital. …This may have been a lot easier on her if none of that had happened.”
“Indeed. But it does show she has the personality to be the Messiah.”
“The question is whether or not we can secure her and fulfill the prophecy. Her personality is irrelevant.”
“But…” Bermark let out a deep groan and then sighed. “I apologize. A man of my age should have better control of his emotions.”
“No worries. It was exhilarating.”
Schweitzer remained expressionless as he grabbed the communicator mic attached to the front of the seat. He set the frequency and spoke a few words to confirm his subordinates were on their way to the rendezvous point.
Once done, he set down the mic and rubbed his chin with his biological left hand.
“But…it seems running away runs in the Mirildorf family.”
“Are you referring to the Armored Hammer of God Incident from two years ago?”
“Yes, the failed struggle to catch the Kaizerburg, which led to the Sylphide’s development. Oscar Mirildorf commanded a full division of the air force he was given by Lieutenant General Heiliger, yet he ultimately cleared the way for the enemy to escape.”
“Many people have criticized that hesitation as unthinkable for a soldier.”
“The daughter of the soldier who fled from the enemy is now attempting to escape from the country. Do you know how that must have felt for the daughter? Flight, death, and loss always weigh heavier on those left behind than on the person themselves.” Tension gathered in Schweitzer’s brow. “Due to an error in the previous war, the Geheimnis Agency was forced to let our emperor flee the country. You have not forgotten that sense of defeat and the disgrace of losing our master, have you?”
“No. And I understand why His Excellency said Germany is now a country ruled by the people rather than an emperor.”
“That girl is in the same position as us, so how does she feel?”
“Ironic that she would be the one perhaps destined to be the Messiah.”
That comment further hardened Schweitzer’s expression.
“Is she, though? The power of the Messiah implant she was given is fascinating, but do you really think the prophecy will play out once we secure her? Will dragons gather and will everything return home? If she does not carry that destiny with her, then she cannot become the true Messiah who will eventually save Germany.”
“All we can do is see it through to the end…until the prophecy has been fulfilled. If it turns out she cannot do so, then we must continue our search for one worthy of the title.”
“What was Marsch thinking when he named the implant that? He must have heard the prophecy three months ago…so what in the world was he thinking?”
Schweitzer honestly had no idea. They had held this discussion countless times already, so Bermark provided the correct answer as an aide.
“Let us stop focusing on the prophecy. All will become clear once we secure her and, as you said earlier, it is the Messiah implant that matters for the Geheimnis Agency.”
The conversation paused for a brief moment because they were both unsure what to say next.
As if to break that awkward silence, light shined in from behind the vehicle.
“There they are,” said Bermark with relief in his voice and Schweitzer looked out through the back window.
The light came from the headlights of multiple armored military vehicles.
“I told them not to use their lights in the city.”
“We have fewer than a dozen fellow Geheimnis Agency members with us, so the rest are rank and file soldiers with some brief night mission training. Do not expect too much from them.”
“Fair point.” Schweitzer reached for the doorknob. “You take 20 of them with you, Bermark. Pursue those two in order to secure the Messiah.”
“I am counting on you to cut off their escape.”
Before Bermark was even done speaking, Schweitzer had opened the door and jumped out.
That giant form in a black coat accelerated by kicking once off the stone pavement rushing by like a river. He built up speed to run alongside Bermark’s vehicle.
And he reached for the half-open door.
“We are counting on you to help fulfill the prophecy and protect this country.”
With those parting words, he shut the door.
The vehicle sped up and he could no longer keep up on foot.
He slowed his pace a bit and looked back at the approaching lights.
The subordinates he had called here were driving several black armored vehicles.
They covered both sides of the road and slowly approached while whipping up the wind.
He stopped his feet and jumped backwards.
He used his heavy prosthetic arm as a pivot point midleap to perform a nimble flip. The city spun around in his vision and the moon came into view.
He landed upright on the hood of one of the approaching armored vehicles. The weight of his large body and prosthetic arm caused the vehicle to sink down a bit with a metallic creaking.
He was facing forward, where the vehicle’s headlights were shining.
It continued to drive straight ahead, as if it knew exactly what he wanted it to do.
The wind grew stronger.
He fixed his black military coat’s collar and crossed his arms.
He looked up into the night sky to see the full moon directly overhead.
“A perfect night for a Heidengeist.”
He took a breath.
“And for the Sylphide as well.”
A light was on in Berger’s hideout.
A single candle stood atop a large wooden box in the center of the room.
Brot, sauerkraut, wursts, and other food were piled high on a few different plates around the candle. The steam rising from it all showed it had been cooked through.
Two figures sat at that makeshift table.
The unmoving shadow cast long on the wall was Berger’s.
The rapidly-moving shadow belonged to Hazel Mirildorf.
She was wearing a shirt and shorts borrowed from Berger, her long hair was tied back in a ponytail using a bandanna, and she was entirely focused on eating. Her differently-colored eyes moved rapidly between the different foods on the table and her hands soon followed, but the fork and spoon slicing through the steam did not clink against the plates. The food vanished into her mouth with only the bare minimum of noise.
Her gaze wandered hesitantly for a moment, and then…
“Could I have some water?”
Berger silently poured the pitcher’s water into a glass and handed her that, but she snatched the pitcher from his hand and drank down its contents.
She gulped it down silently, but it still vanished from the pitcher almost instantly.
She removed the pitcher from her mouth, wrapped her hands around it, and took a breath.
Then she faced forward.
The man in black was there sipping at the glass of water he was left with.
“So. You done eating yet?”
“I am. …Um, thank you for the food. I was really hungry and they haven’t been giving me anything with real flavor recently.”
The ponytail behind her head swayed as she spoke. It felt a little heavy to her, so she shook it a few more times and then retied the bandanna.
Berger said nothing at all as he stacked up the plates, picked them up, and chucked them back over his shoulder. They shattered on the wall and only the candle remained on the wooden box they were using as a table.
Hazel glanced behind him.
“Um, did you have to break those plates? That seems wasteful.”
“I’m abandoning this place tonight anyway.”
“I see,” she said while looking around again. It was a cold and dreary space with only a bed, a bookcase, and a disorderly collection of wooden boxes. It felt cluttered to her.
…I really want to tidy things up in here.
She left that part unsaid as she spoke to him.
“You are ‘Wild Hund’ Dog Berger, right? My teacher told me you do intelligence work and help people escape the country despite being a Panzer Kavalier. He also said you’re the best in the world.”
“M. Schrier. He says he was your upperclassman in university and he served under my dad in the military, but he quit along with my dad and now he tutors me. And then…and then there was a gunfight at the hospital early this morning and some of his people told me to go to you. And then…and then…”
“You Flektierened on the way but nevertheless managed to reach my used bookstore?”
She nodded, recomposed her expression, and looked straight at the man.
“Do you work as my teacher’s assistant?”
“I guess you could say that. While he causes trouble outside Germany, I deal with the problems inside the country. We’ve been doing that for more than 2 years now.”
“And the MPs still haven’t caught you? You really are the best in the world.”
“I was nearly caught today, so think again. I’m only the second best in the world.”
Hazel saw some strength vanish from the blue eyes behind his sunglasses.
She wondered why, but the change vanished as quickly as it had appeared. Strength returned to his gaze as he looked back at her. He rested his elbow on the box to lean toward her.
“Anyway, I’d like to leave ASAP. The Geheimnis Agency is on the move and that’s never good news. They’re the ones trying to change Germany’s military might by bringing back and modifying Ober Geheimnis. If you don’t know, Ober Geheimnis is stuff inherited from the previous world that was ultimately erased from history due to the threat it posed. Anyway, that’s who’s after you.”
“The Geheimnis Agency?”
“There are two military forces in Germany: the ordinary one which includes the SS and the Geheimnis Agency.” Berger continued with a sigh. “They’re a highly classified organization made up of only a few hundred and they’re actually the descendants of a group of German dragon knights known as the Germania Dragoons. They have the authority to intervene in civil and military affairs, so they’re essentially Germany’s final army that acts as a hidden trump card.”
“Two years ago, your dad, Oscar Mirildorf, fought against a certain aerial warship above Berlin and ultimately lost, right? That warship was full of Ober Geheimnis, but the Geheimnis Agency now possesses even greater power. You saw that old guy in the black coat with the prosthetic arm, right?”
“Um…old? Aren’t you two the same age?”
“It’s all about appearances, so I can call him old if I want to.”
“You two were discussing a lot of stuff I didn’t understand, but what’s so special about that arm?”
“It’s a weapon created with Eingeweide Ausbildung. Basically, it converts your willpower into real power much like a Grösse Panzer.”
She was not sure what that meant, so she tilted her head and he smiled a little.
“With a Grösse Panzer, the Schreibener uses a device known as a Studio to break down their Tons and send them into the Grösse Panzer’s Ton conduits to move the mechanical body with their willpower. A person combines with the bipedal machine known as a Panzer and the strength of their willpower allows them to run, swing a sword, and activate the Ober Emblem. But what if the device that combines the person with the machine could be applied to a smaller weapon?”
He wrinkled his brow as he explained and he opened a wooden box next to him to pull out a coat. He stood up and took a step, which was enough to reach her side.
He held out the coat and she expressionlessly accepted it while still seated.
“Wear this,” he said from above. “We need to get going. You can wear those sandals over there.”
She was unsure what to do, but she finally looked up at him with the ends of her eyebrows lowered.
“Um…Dog? What would you do if I said I don’t want to leave Germany?”
“I would ask you why that is, Fräulein.”
He did not hesitate to answer and crouched down to put himself at her eye level.
“So why is that?” he asked.
“That’s what I want to know. Why? Why do I have to run away?”
“Because you will be killed if you remain in this country. No Heidengeist can survive here. You’ll be made into a Phlogiston Platte and used as fuel. Like it or not – and I imagine not – that’s the current national policy.”
Hearing that, she looked away from him and down at her bare feet.
She crossed her toes as she tried to find the words, and…
“When I was arrested at school, they apparently raided my home as well, but I heard my dad took my mom and fled.”
“That would mean you no longer have a home here in Germany.”
“B-but this isn’t how it’s supposed to be.” She raised her head to look him straight in the eye. “My friends, my school, the city, the seasons, and everything else are going to continue on like they always have, aren’t they? They’re just throwing me out. Only me.”
Berger’s expression went blank when she asked that.
He said nothing and she felt a hint of panic as she scratched at her hair and tried to choose her words.
“Something here isn’t right, but is there no way to fix it?”
“Then what do you want to do?”
Those words did not carry any irritation or anything like that.
His tone said he simply wanted to hear her answer.
She gave him a puzzled look and saw his blue eyes staring back at her from beyond his sunglasses with no smile or anger in them.
“Um,” she began hesitantly while seemingly speaking to those eyes. “I had a lot of time to think in the hospital bed.”
“And I don’t want to run away. That’s the one thing I never want to do.”
Sensing the powerful hope behind her quiet voice, Berger stood up, lowered his shoulders with a sigh, and turned away from her.
“Eryngium said the same thing.”
He did not answer her quiet question.
He turned around with his eyes cast downward, he took a single step, and he crouched down to pick up the sandals.
He walked back over to Hazel, sat down, took her feet in his hands, and put the sandals on her.
They were surrounded by silence, but he finally spoke to break that.
“No. No, Hazel. That is the one answer I refuse to accept.”
He stood up without looking at her and stared up at the ceiling.
“I will get you out of this country.”
“Why? Um, did I say something wrong?”
He suddenly spread out his right hand in response.
“You…” He grasped at the empty air. “You think the same way as someone who vanished from my life. That’s all the reason I need.”
Instead of answering, he sank down. The look visible on his face when his coat fluttered around was enough for Hazel to fall silent, sit straight in her chair, and place her hands on her lap.
He held out his left hand to tell her to stay put and then he grabbed an oblong box by the bed with his other hand.
It was about 3 inches tall and wide, but nearly a yard long.
He silently lifted it up and held it below his arm.
At the same time, a single solid sound like stone being struck came from the ceiling.
He smiled and nodded at the sound, stuck his right hand in his pocket, and pulled out a small device.
Hazel recognized it.
She barely had the word out before he pressed the red button on the device.
A moment later, his hideout exploded.
Berger tackled Hazel out of the way of an explosion that was really more just a shockwave and noise and she crashed into the wall next to the bed.
A portion of the wall opened like a narrow door to swallow her up just before the underground room truly exploded and collapsed. The noise seemed to push her on through the darkness and she reached out her hands in a panic. They found a cold mossy wall on either side of her.
Then she began running as if pushed on by the blast behind her.
An oddly warm wind caught up to her and she had trouble breathing from the dust and smoke.
She shut her eyes and kept running forward and up until she crashed into a solid board.
The impact made an impressive noise and she felt excruciating pain, but she also felt the wind and heard a powdery sound similar to crumbling stone.
She rubbed her aching forehead and opened her eyes to see light. The darkness ahead of her was cut away by an opening as wide as the passageway and nearly as tall as her. There was a slight space and then a wall beyond that.
This led outside.
She stepped out to find a small stream of water running along the wall at her feet.
“This leads into the side of a ditch. Watch out or you’ll hit your head.”
“A little late for that warning. And you should have told me in advance if there was a secret exit.”
She had her say when she heard Berger’s voice behind her, but she squared her shoulders and did not turn around to face him.
She stepped out into the ditch. It was also used as a waterway, so it was a yard across and about two yards tall. The water level was low, so it did not even make it up past the bottom of her sandals.
She looked up to see the night sky between the two sides of the ditch.
She sighed and looked back down.
…This has not been my day.
“He even saw me naked…”
“Hey, don’t just bring that up out of the blue. It’s not like being seen harmed you in any way, so don’t cry.”
“I-I’m not crying.”
“Good, good. If you can snap back at me, then you’re doing just fine. Now, take a closer look at the sky.”
Berger stepped out of the hole behind her and she looked up again.
She could see the narrow strip of the night sky restricted by the sides of the ditch.
When she did take a closer look, she noticed the sky was tinged faintly blue. The moon was out and it was nearly full.
She bristled when she realized that.
“The moonlight is said to be the source of a Heidengeist’s power. Gods and demons are equal in its shine.”
His voice rang horribly cold in the air and she reflexively felt a chill.
She held her shoulders and looked his way to see him standing in the moonlight with that long box under his arm. The moonlight cast some bluish shadows across his face, but there was nothing there to make her feel chilled.
…What a strange person.
He pointed up with a carefree expression that did not seem aware of her thoughts.
“This isn’t a great place for a chat, so let’s head out to the road. We have much to discuss, and…”
With the box under one arm, he placed the other hand on the road above and pulled himself up. Hazel was left speechless by the nimble action, but then she came back to her senses.
She rolled up her large wide sleeves and placed both hands on the unseen road above the side of the ditch.
“Um, you could lend me a hand, you know?”
She lifted herself up much like doing a pull-up and sat down on the ground.
The chilly winter wind could reach her now that she was in a wide open space. She recognized where she was. This was where Bergstrasse ran in front of a cemetery in southern Berlin. She could see fire and smoke beyond the row of homes here.
…Is that from the explosion?
Her thoughts were cut off by a deep voice she did not recognize.
“You seem to enjoy creating unnecessary excitement, Dog Berger.”
She looked up in honest surprise and saw Berger’s back in front of her.
Beyond him, she saw a group of people illuminated from behind by the fire.
Hazel quickly turned her head to check their surroundings.
No one was out on the moonlit and windy streets tonight, but around 20 men carrying firearms surrounded her and Berger in a half circle.
“Um,” she began with a troubled tone. “Does this mean we’re surrounded?”
She was shocked when no one reacted to her question.
She frantically stood up and spoke to Berger’s back in front of her.
“What is going on? Is this the Geheimnis Agency you were talking about?”
“Indeed it is,” said the previous deep voice loudly enough to be heard over the blowing winter wind.
The group ahead of them parted and a man stepped forward.
The older man had gray hair and a tall, thin figure illuminated in the moonlight.
He suddenly pulled out a handgun. The automatic weapon had several fang-like designs on the side and his gloved hand slowly aimed it toward Berger as he spoke.
“Do you know who I am, ‘Wild Hund’ Dog Berger?”
“I do, ‘Schütze Puppe’ Bermark Vier.”
The gun remained perfectly aimed at Berger’s forehead.
“Will you hand over the girl or not? Choose.”
“The girl? Don’t call her that, old man. She may be too innocent to have a Titel, but she does have a name. Have the decency to call her Hazel Mirildorf.”
Berger’s bitter smile helped Hazel start breathing again.
Hearing her name spoken brought a sense of relief. She was unsure if that came from her feline instincts, but it was still there.
“Don’t assume you can justify using people as no more than a means to an end, you outdated old man,” continued Berger.
“Those who refuse to abide by the new national policy are the outdated ones, youth.”
Bermark gathered strength in his voice and spoke in a different way next.
<The Freeshooter awakens.>
He shut his mouth and the Text was released from this gun.
But that was not all. A faint light left the barrel and shined on Berger’s forehead.
…What kind of spell is this?
Berger and Bermark said nothing to answer Hazel’s question.
That meant neither of them found this to be odd in the slightest.
“Is that the Freischütz I’ve heard so much about ever since last year? Marsch is a hell of a designer.”
“This was designed based on a gun under development by Walther, making this the latest fashion in our nation.”
<The Freeshooter sees the enemy.>
The light emitted from the barrel narrowed down to perfectly aim at Berger’s forehead.
But Berger maintained his bitter smile.
“You’re being mighty cautious with your Eingeweide’s Erklärung. Is your hand too shaky from age, old man? First, you use the Ton text that binds you and the machine in order to rewrite the surrounding space as text.” He took a breath. “And then you use the temporary Beweisen attack to focus in on the machine’s Tons so you can Erklärung the effect you want, huh?”
“Thanks for the lesson, but I already know how it works.”
Bermark used his next Erklärung to rewrite his act of taking the shot and the flight of the bullet.
<The Freeshooter shoots the enemy.>
He aimed between the eyes, the shot would land in an instant, and a single dry blast rang out.
Hazel reflexively crouched down and squeezed her eyes shut in fear.
Her vision vanished into darkness, trapping her in a world of only sound.
First, she heard the sound of wood splintering and of metal hitting metal.
Those two noises overlapped and several seconds of silence followed.
She did not hear Berger scream or flesh being torn through.
If she did not hear any of that, none of it must have happened.
That question grew into curiosity, so she opened her eyes. She saw darkness in front of her.
But the darkness before her opened eyes fluttered along with the wind brushing at her cheek.
It was the hem of Berger’s black coat.
She looked up to see him standing with his back to her.
The wind blew and something fell from sky to her cheek.
The small splinter of wood was from the box he had been carrying.
She could see him holding the splintered box overhead and his voice rang out.
“Is that all your Beweisen can do? Then I’m not too impressed with the Eingeweide handgun Freischütz?”
The wind blew even stronger, causing his coat to flutter up enough for her to see Bermark beyond him.
The old soldier with the handgun was directing a suspicious look toward the box Berger held.
“What is that?”
The tension in Bermark’s words was answered by a small sound from the box.
The wood was bursting apart and scattering.
Hazel saw Berger now holding something other than the box in his hands.
It was a long hilt.
The hilt of a sword shined a dull gold in the moonlight. The guard was decorated with something like woven hair and the hilt had somehow feminine lines.
She heard him speak in a horribly cold voice.
“Allow me to introduce you to the Eingeweide sword I was left with.”
He smiled bitterly.
“It’s called Gelegenheit.”
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