City Series:Volume6b Chapter2
Chapter 2: The Wheel Begins
I met someone I hadn’t seen in a while
But instead of redoing things
We are slowly starting something new
Even if I’m not entirely happy about it
Geheimnis Agency HQ
The Geheimnis Agency was formed from the guardian knights of various regions around Germany and its HQ is located on the east side of the Black Forest.
The white-walled fortress is made from three enormous buildings. A test site built and abandoned by a past politician was used as the foundation and the buildings themselves are a collection of Ober Geheimnis. This leads to the occasional appearance of never-before-seen passageways and rooms inside and the method of controlling that is currently only known to the upper levels of the Agency.
The HQ was originally built for use by their army division and was thus built around a Grösse Panzer hangar, but the air force division was also given focus starting in the 30s and a large runway was constructed.
The Neylor family’s Sofort Leser, who commands the Agency, and Graham Karlsruhe, the second in command, are always present at the HQ, so it acts as a home base for the entire Agency as well as a command post.
Only descendants of a knight’s bloodline are allowed inside and the influential citizens who live nearby keep silent about its presence because they know what the Agency’s role is.
During late summer in Berlin, evening began early – at around 4 PM.
The city was located at a high latitude, so night always came early, even during summer. The amount of people on the streets gradually reduced as time passed.
They left those public areas and returned home as if pursued by the shadows of evening.
This was most evident at the Tiergarten park in the center of the city.
Dark shadows fell over the woods and the entire park was dyed in dark colors. The streetlights came on to hold back that encroaching darkness, lighting up different parts of the park, but they only managed to illuminate the area directly below them.
The park became a place of pure darkness carrying a light summer heat.
The cars on the streets and the hustle and bustle of people heading home could be heard in the distance.
It was time to begin preparing dinner.
Looking up past the wall of darkness formed by the woods gave a view of steam and smoke rising from all over the city to decorate the reddish-black color of the evening sky.
A single person walked through the shadows of the park below those colors.
He was a young man of a medium height and build. Everything he wore was black, his long black hair was roughly parted to the sides, and he wore black sunglasses. A black-dyed lab coat fluttered as he walked and the clothes below that were black as well. He also wore a black glove on his left hand.
The only other colors were the red gem in the pendant worn around his neck and the blue of his eyes.
He was walking quickly, but he suddenly came to a stop and viewed his surroundings. He had been stopping below the streetlights and he turning to view the number plate attached to the streetlight’s pole.
“If this is 15, then A-17 would be…two more down.”
He kept walking. It was a large park, so it took several minutes to cover the distance between two more streetlights.
The darkness grew deeper as he walked, so the streetlights were more or less the only light sources anymore.
He looked up while walking. The sky visible above the cedar trees was still faintly red even at night. That was thanks to the lights shining up at the sky from the ground.
He took a breath, quickened his pace, and looked across the sky with an exaggerated movement.
He could tell Berlin’s sky was lit up red from four directions. The city’s sky was much less busy now that they were so close to war and it was glowing faintly red.
The trees opened up just enough for him to see more of the northern sky. Humboldt University’s buildings in northern Berlin could be seen against the night sky there, but something else was visible past them.
A single cylindrical structure towered up above that wave of buildings. The stratovolcano-shaped building had a faint slope to it and resembled a thermal power turbine.
It had to be about 120 yards tall. Its white walls were lit up from below to show off its grandeur to the sky. It also looked like a chess piece protecting Berlin.
“A Vaterland ley line acceleration reactor. One piece of the Panzerpolis Project.”
Why did Marsch have to design this? he wondered while coming to a sudden stop.
He glanced toward the streetlight he was beneath to read the plate there.
“A-17. This is the place. What an odd place for my old upperclassman to send me. He had to know Berlin is the second to last place in the world I want to be.”
He took a breath, slowly reached his right hand into his pocket, and pulled out a letter.
“Just when I was really getting settled into my work in the Soviet Union, he calls me back here with a new mission. And why is Berlin the rendezvous point when it’s already being modified into a multilevel city? The AIF shouldn’t be working their hired soldiers so hard when they’re supposed to have their own forces fully gathered by now.”
He opened the letter to check the time, a map of Tiergarten, and the text A-17.
He nodded, closed the letter, and put it back in his pocket. Just then…
“Um, are you Mr. Dog Berger?”
A young male voice spoke to him from behind.
He turned around while slowly sticking his hand in his pocket.
All the colors were faded and hard to make out in the darkness behind him, but he could see a young man wearing a blue uniform. He was a postal worker, so Berger asked about that.
“Yes, that is correct. My last delivery for the day happens to be…something rather unusual.”
The postman stepped into the light of the streetlight. The bag worn over one shoulder was already open, but there were no more letters inside.
However, he reached into the seemingly empty bag and opened the false bottom installed within. That was where he would store any valuables.
“Much of this world has yet to be developed, so it is our duty as postal workers to delivery anything to anyone. Yes, no matter the person, the location, or the era.”
With that, he held out a small paper envelope.
It was old.
The paper had grown brown and the wax seal had crumbled away, leaving only a round white mark where it had been. The edges of the envelope were a little torn and some oil paper and dried parchment could be glimpsed within.
“A Verlsten Brief?” asked Berger while accepting it with his black-gloved left hand.
“Yes, every post office in the world has some of these undelivered documents from the past and this one comes from the German Post Office’s storage. This one is addressed to Dog Berger in Berlin’s Tiergarten A-17 at 5PM on July 27, 1939.” The postman smiled a bit. “So I’m right on time.”
“Indeed you are. …But why is this addressed to me? I sure hope it doesn’t have a razor blade inside.”
“I can’t deny the possibility. Based on where it was stored, this one is from around a thousand years ago, but our storage and management were not perfected until the 12th Century. To avoid the mistakes made in the Obstacle Era, we make sure to hire technicians from the Postal City that developed the Verlsten Brief system in the first place.” The postman closed his bag. “But a Verlsten Brief carries the thoughts that someone in the past wanted to convey to someone in the future. Since they are being delivered to Germany as we prepare for war and modify this city, I can only imagine-”
“Hold on.” Berger held up the old letter. “Since they are being delivered? There’s more than just this one?”
“I can’t give you the details, but the German Post Office is currently in a state of chaos. According to the 1939 Verlsten Brief Management Register that was unsealed this year, we have been instructed to deliver more this year than the past hundred years combined.”
“Does that mean someone in the past had a lot to tell us here in the present?”
“Yes, to you, to others, and outside the country as well.” The postal worker tapped his closed bag. “I will be going then.” He saluted and turned around. “I notice you aren’t sitting down this time.”
He laughed and then vanished into the darkness.
He did not turn around as Berger watched him go with a bitter smile. Berger finally waved his hand goodbye.
He viewed the letter held in that hand. The black ink on the back of the envelope had grown blurry.
“D – O…B – E – R…R.”
He read the letters he could actually make out and then sighed. He could not read anything written after the name.
“Is this really addressed to me? This world never ceases to surprise me.”
After a moment of hesitation, he opened the envelope.
He pulled out the parchment. It was held between oil paper for protection and it had grown dry and stiff, but the writing had not blurred.
It was written in clear handwriting.
His facial expression changed as he read it. The composure vanished from his face.
His mouth seemed to move automatically to read it aloud.
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
“That’s from the Unreif Germane – the 3rd Section of Daily Life where the Messiah is born into this world.”
He stared at the parchment.
But that was all it said and it did not tell him anything more.
He scratched his head, clicked his tongue, and stuffed the parchment back in the envelope.
He heard a quiet footstep from the dark woods to his right.
Just as he looked that way, he heard the underbrush parting and saw a small form run out into the light.
It was a kitten. A golden-furred kitten wearing a black choker around its neck. After entering the light, it tripped, fell, rolled two or three times, and finally stopped after hitting his foot.
It shook its head and got up.
He crouched down to see what this was about and his eyes met those of the kitten.
The kitten had a curious trait.
While its left eye was an ordinary brown cat’s eye, its right eye was a blue human eye.
Before his surprise at that observation could show on his face, the cat gained an obvious look of relief and mewed once.
Then white steam rose up from the cat and exploded in midair.
After the explosion, a girl appeared in front of Berger.
The leftover movement of the air caused her shoulder-length blonde hair to flutter.
She had a friendly face with eyes identical to the cat’s. The left one was a brown cat’s eye and the right one was a blue human one.
She was not wearing any clothing. Unless you counted the choker around her neck, that is.
The wind whipped around her and her eyes focused in on Berger.
“I’d say you’ve grown, but your chest sure hasn’t, Hazel Mirildorf.”
Berger’s comment brought Hazel back to her senses. She looked down at herself.
She was not wearing anything.
She cried out and quickly used her hands to cover the important bits and the brand left on her at the Heidenheim 2 years before.
“U-um, um, uh!”
“I thought you were living the good life over in America, Hazel. I did get a few letters from you, but nothing about this.”
His eyes moved as he spoke. They moved toward Hazel as she panicked on her feet.
She could feel her face growing red.
…I need clothes or something!
“U-um! Clothes, I need clothes!”
“Say it in English.”
“Eh? Um, uh…”
She looked to his face and noticed he was staring at her.
…What is he looking at?
She could not bring herself to actually ask that and she held her left shoulder more strongly with her hand while considering crouching down. She finally spoke to break the awkward silence.
“U-um, B-Berger? D-do you have anything to w-w-w-wear!?”
“Calm down, Hazel. People are born in the nude. Nudists have the right idea, really. Yeah, I’d love to hire a maid and live the nudist life.”
“I-I need…um, uh, I’ll c-cry!!”
“Quiet down. Did you learn nothing at all over the past two years? Listen.” He scratched his head. “I’ve always thought the modern world is in too much of a hurry. It’s always hurry up and do this, hurry up and do that, hurry up and pay your bills. Especially in France. In what world is a single article of clothing as expensive as a house? Right? Oh, and your new home of America is the same.” He sighed and gave an exaggerated shrug. “Now, I get that America has spent the past 10 years facing the same global terror as the rest of us and I get that they’ve started on a new beginning with their new cabinet, but it’s pretty sad they can’t even teach a Heidengeist girl to speak their language after two years living there. If my old upperclassman really wants to play tutor while commanding the AIF…”
After listening to all that, Hazel realized he was looking at her face.
And he smiled a little.
“You know what, Hazel?”
“How about you stop listening and actually ask for some clothes? You look pretty ridiculous right now.”
She immediately slapped him.
If the German evening drove people back to their homes, then the night that followed was the busiest time in those homes.
That remained true in the Black Forest located in the southwest of the country. A home of sorts was located in that land of trees and valleys where no city could be built. The Geheimnis Agency HQ was home to the Germania Dragoons.
It was located at a long, narrow strip of land with valley slopes rising on either side. A 2-mile runway stretched out ahead of three 5-story buildings with several black Grösse Panzers deployed for security.
The many pillars even larger than the Grösse Panzers made the place look like it was a natural construction of massive stones, as if to insist the facility was part of the forest.
It was a fortress.
The fortress was currently lit up as people gathered there for the night.
That many people naturally led to a lot of noise.
The peace and quiet of the Black Forest was broken by shattering glass.
A Grösse Panzer patrolling midway down the runway turned back toward the sound.
A first-floor window on the right side of the central building – the officer barracks – had broken. A single young Geheimnis Officer lay collapsed below the window.
The Grösse Panzer viewed that and then shook its head in an exasperated way.
A small light flashed at the far end of the runway.
The Grösse Panzer patrolling there was signaling to ask what happened. The first Grösse Panzer twisted its head to aim its left shoulder that way and then flashed the glow panel installed on its secondary cockpit.
Just the usual.
The usual is happening again.
A second person was defenestrated as well.
The Grösse Panzer lowered its shoulder and looked that way again. People were gathered around the inside of the first-floor window. They wanted to see what had happened to those people.
They were mostly young and a few of them were holding plates of food.
The commotion was coming from the mess hall.
The Geheimnis Agency HQ’s mess hall was located on Building 2 Floor 1.
Most Geheimnis Agents were the former nobility known as Neue Kavalier, so the mess hall that served them quality food was a large place with nice furniture. All of the tables were round and meant for only four people.
But all of those tables had been shoved over toward the walls and the people were also backed toward the walls, forming a large circle.
The large clock on the wall rang seven times.
As it did, everyone’s eyes slowly moved up and down. Their rising and falling gazes were directed toward a girl. The skinny girl was dressed like a male waiter plus an apron.
She worked as a waitress in the mess hall.
Her face showed she was approaching adulthood, her brown hair was worn in a long braid that swayed down at the back of her knees, and that swaying came from the movement of her body as she set a tempo.
That tempo displayed the elation and spirit of combat.
Everyone’s eyes were glued to her movements.
Her sweaty face was somewhat pale but stared straight forward.
A young man stood there. The young Geheimnis Agent had removed his jacket to reveal a muscular body with no excess fat. He remained motionless as he brushed a hand through his short black hair and returned her gaze.
“You might make our food, but that doesn’t mean you can get away with just anything, Lowenzahn.”
“You don’t have to worry about that. It’s the cooks who make it. I only carry it out. For my tuition.”
The girl named Lowenzahn smiled. The powerful smile looked out of place on her pale face.
“Now, how about you apologize for that rather colorful commentary on my body when you don’t even have any first-hand experience with it? Or do Neue Kavaliers make a habit of demeaning women these days?” She took a breath. “Your two friends seem to have learned their lesson, but what about you?”
“Not a chance.”
“Then bring it on. I have plenty more food to bring out, so if I spend too much time with you…” She smiled bitterly. “It’ll get cold.”
After that quip, she gestured him toward her and he complied.
They were approximately 6 yards apart. That space was filled with the sound of a single footstep. The man did not hold back.
Lowenzahn swung her body to jump backwards. That dodged his attack but kept her within striking distance, so her white apron fluttered in front of her as she moved about 2 yards back.
She landed with just the toes of her left foot on the carpet.
Then her opponent took his second step.
In that moment, she twisted her toes forcefully to the left and similarly rotated her hips to create a spiraling movement from her toes to her hips.
That doubled her speed, moving her body like a whip and swinging her right leg around.
A strike as sharp as a blade struck her opponent’s jaw just as he moved forward with his second step.
The direct hit made a sound of something breaking instead of just an impact.
The man’s body floated up and to the left for a brief moment.
But it did not end there. she leaned her body over while spinning to the left. It took her less than a second to lay her body face down with just her left leg supporting her to form a large T with her body.
She slightly pulled in her swinging right leg and unleashed a straight kick behind her.
As she did, a voice rang through the air.
<The Fatherland has not forsaken me.>
It was an Erklärung.
An Erklärung textually rewrote reality to fulfill the will behind it.
As a result, Lowenzahn’s kick missed. The Erklärung had come from the man, not from her. His body was now just to the left of her kick.
He let out a roar while bleeding from the mouth.
“This land is being used to test out the Panzerpolis Project’s Ton alterations, remember?”
“You’ll activate Vaterland to win a fight against a girl? Sounds pretty sad to me!”
He ignored her protests.
She clicked her tongue, straightened up, and lowered her kicking leg just as the man rushed in.
He was moving much faster than before and his tackle caught her slender hips.
She was lifted from the floor. Once she was slammed against the floor and pinned down, her defeat was guaranteed.
A mixture of anticipation and disappointment ran through the Neue Kavaliers and cooks watching the fight.
Smiling at their voices, Lowenzahn took a breath. Once strength returned to her gaze, she reached for her back and untied her apron.
She removed herself from it like she was peeling a fruit and letting the fruit flesh burst from within.
One beat later, the man held only the apron in his arms.
She raised a hand in front of his face to flip up the end of the apron.
As soon as the white cloth covered his face, she slammed her right knee into his jaw at close range.
The impact rang loud and the man was knocked back, where he collapsed.
Lowenzahn lowered her leg, took a few steps away, and let her shoulders droop. Her face was pale and she was out of breath. The swaying of her body was gone now.
But her opponent did not let it end there.
<The Fatherland will not lose.>
Supported by his Erklärung-modified Ton, he stood back up. His knees were shaking, but there was strength in his eyes and expression.
“You sure are persist- oh.”
A sudden shadow fell over her face just as she was preparing herself.
Her voice caught in her throat, she stopped breathing, and she sat down on the spot. She wrapped her left hand around herself and held the left side of her chest with her right hand.
Just as the blood fully drained from her face, she collapsed forward.
She somehow got those words out and lifted her face just enough to see her opponent standing in front of her.
He no longer said a word.
She frantically tried and failed to get up and she saw his right foot moving in fast. That sharp kick from below was aimed for her gut – an attack one should never make against a woman.
A crash of impact rang through the mess hall, but not of a boot against flesh.
It was a loud sound of breaking bone.
Some metal had stopped the kick and broken the foot. A massive prosthetic arm made of steel was pressed down against the floor.
Everyone there muttered the name of the arm and its owner.
“Der Held…‘Schallmauer Zerstörer’ Hellard Schweitzer.”
Those names held great meaning, so Lowenzahn looked up. A bright expression appeared on her pale and sweaty face when she saw the large figure positioned between her and her opponent.
She called his name in a scratchy voice.
Her call was answered by a different voice than the one she had hoped for. This one was a scratchy voice produced by artificial vocal cords.
“I thought to stop by on the way to Base #8 for adjustments to my new Panzer and this is what I find? Never a dull moment in our HQ.”
A man entered through an outward-facing window. He was a long-haired man who wore his coat over his shoulders and carried a long sword at his hip. Everyone spoke his name as well.
“ ‘Kaiser Schwert’ Alfred Maldrick.”
Lowenzahn accepted Schweitzer’s outstretched left hand. She firmly grasped it while crouched down.
He somewhat forcefully pulled her up to her feet.
Once upright, she could see her opponent down on one knee and holding his broken foot past the prosthetic arm.
She breathed a sigh of relief and clutched the hem of Schweitzer’s coat.
Alfred smiled bitterly when he noticed and he glanced around the mess hall.
“Since when does the Geheimnis Agency cause so much trouble for a girl!? From what I heard on the way here, the radicals of Lady Jeanne’s army division are actually arguing they should kidnap the Messiah girl now that she’s in Berlin.”
Schweitzer nodded at the other man’s comment.
“Yes, this is not proper conduct for a Neue Kavalier.” He slowly frowned and looked around while lowering his voice. “So as soon as General Graham is out due to his illness, the Neue Kavaliers of the Geheimnis Agency begin standing idly by and watching a one-sided attack on a girl?”
Lowenzahn immediately looked up and responded to that.
“Sorry, but I actually picked this fight with them.”
The cramped wooden room was a perfect match for the concept of a “cheap inn”.
There was only one small curtained window facing south. The only furniture was a simple bed, a table, and two chairs. There was no bath or toilet, but there was a bidet and a kitchen.
The electric light hanging from the ceiling cast two shadows on the floor.
Hazel stood in the kitchen preparing some food in only a black shirt and Berger sat by the window at one of the table’s chairs.
Hazel worked swiftly to get the charcoal fire going before opening the cabinet below the sink.
“Just because it’s a hideout doesn’t mean you can stock up on nothing but wursts and pasta. That’s not a balanced diet.”
“Don’t worry. I drink beer too, so I’m the second healthiest guy in the world. More importantly…”
She knew what he was going to say next, so she placed her hands on the sink and waited for him to speak.
“What are you doing in Berlin, Hazel?”
…Exactly what I expected.
She took a breath and answered.
“My teacher gave me a letter for you.”
“Your teacher? You mean my old upperclassman? He sent you back to Germany with the Messiah implant, even if it is broken? You said on the way here we had to hurry because you were being pursued by some weird people, didn’t you? And that you had hid your things? Why would he send you here when that’s obviously what would end up happening?”
“It’s true! I know it may be hard to believe, but he really gave me permission.”
She turned toward him while holding a frying pan.
She saw him sitting sideways in the chair by the window with his elbow on the chair back and his eyes on her. His expression was not a casual one.
He sighed through his nose.
“He gave you permission, did he? What in the world is he thinking?”
“So you believe me? That was easier than I expected.”
“Look, our last little adventure together told me that you’re kind to a fault and nowhere near smart enough to use someone else’s name to sell a lie. …I am surprised a Heidengeist like you would come back here, though.”
“My prosthetic eye is listed as the other one on my passport. My teacher had business in Paris, so he had that counterfeited for me while he was there. Um, the Messiah eye on the right is my real eye and this cat one on the left is a night vision prosthetic…according to my passport.”
“So that means you’re human, huh? You can be weirdly clever when you need to be.”
His tone said that compliment was genuine.
She breathed a sigh of relief and held the frying pan to her chest while looking to his left arm.
“I’m sorry. Losing your left arm must have hurt so much.”
He held up his left hand to show her. He clenched the fist inside the black leather glove.
“Don’t worry about it. Can’t have hurt as much as jamming a knife into your eye. Speaking of which how’s your right eye? The letter you sent me before said your sight was gradually returning.”
“Yes, the sight has returned, but the Messiah functions have not. The doctor said those won’t return until I decide I need its power. Because my will and my body will not be aligned until then.”
She chose her words carefully and kept one thought to herself.
…That may never recover.
“But instead, I’ve been studying Tuning and Busting ever since that incident two years ago.”
“Huh? Tuning and Busting? Why?”
“I’ve been able to see Tons ever since the Sylphide Incident – or maybe ‘perceive’ is the better word. I can sometimes just ‘see’ the currents of the wind or the water.”
“Tuning and Busting, huh?”
He scratched his head in a troubled way and his mechanical left hand toyed with the woman’s pendant hanging from his neck.
“Personally, I think you should stop that. You’re still a trainee Greenhorner, aren’t you? So why not start studying Ton Medicine instead? Or you could become a vet.”
“Hazel, you do know that Tuning and Busting are mostly used as tools of killing in Europe, don’t you? And as the daughter of Oscar Mirildorf and the student of my old underclassman, you should be well aware that we’re on the verge of a war.”
“The war will begin here in Germany and spread to the rest of Europe. Every country’s Sofort Lesers have made that prophecy. There’s a lot of construction underway here in Berlin, but do you know what that’s for?”
“I’ve heard, yes. They will be creating a new multilevel Berlin called Germania based on the Vaterland ley line acceleration reactors. They plan to develop the city underground and install defense field generators to protect against aerial bombings.”
“And you know Stimmers and Busters are being used for some of that construction, don’t you? The massive Tune Emblems drawn out below cities around Germany and the more than 400 Vaterlands that suck the country’s Tons out of the ley lines will be used to give all pureblooded Germans an Erklärung power. That plus Germania are how they hope the Panzerpolis Project will allow Germany to survive the coming war.”
“And as a part of that, the Geheimnis Agency is building an improved version of the Babel Kanone that failed to fire in England and constructing a massive Gard-class aerial warship.”
“That isn’t just an aerial warship. From what I’ve heard, it’s an Eingeweide. And there’s a lot of Busters working on its construction too. Norse mythology and the Unreif Germane are rising to prominence above even the Bible right now. Yesterday, I saw a book burning in one of the villages I passed through on the way to Berlin.”
Hazel trembled more at the thought of burning the writing than the books themselves.
Berger’s eyes suddenly moved. He glanced over at her and turned his entire chair to face forward.
“Let’s get back on topic, Hazel. Hazel Mirildorf. Why are you in this city?”
She knew why he was asking this and why he was so puzzled by it, but that was why she was uncertain how to respond.
“Um.” She lowered her head for a moment, but then she raised it again while holding the frying pan lightly against her chest. “Berger…you never did respond to my letters. It was only when I actually wrote your name out for those letters that I realized it really does mean Wild Hund, doesn’t it?”
“My mother cared a little too much for her kid. She said she wanted to raise me to be as tough as a stray dog.” He was not smiling. “But don’t change the subject. My name doesn’t matter. Why you’re here does.”
“Well,” she said before trailing off again.
…There’s so, so much I could say.
“Once the war starts, I felt like I would never again be able to see this city or my friends here. And and there were things I wanted to discuss with you and ask you if I could meet you again.”
His blunt question made her hesitate again. She clutched the frying pan harder against her chest.
“A lot of people visit my home in LA. They’re all working so hard for this upcoming war. But whenever I ask my dad if there’s anything I can do, he says no.” She thought for a moment. “How can he be so sure there’s nothing I can do?”
Berger sighed at that.
“Y’know…you should really be asking my old upperclassman that. He knows a lot more than me and is just an all-around better person.”
“I-I know that!”
“Um…you didn’t have to agree with that quite so enthusiastically.”
“Eh? Huh? Um, uh…s-sorry. But I’ve been thinking. Two years ago, you told me that to run away was to survive. But then…if you don’t want to run away and you want to stay and fight, does that mean you want to die? And if so…”
“Enough pointless arguments.” He cut her off. “Right now, you need to start cooking, Hazel. I’m the second hungriest guy in the world right now. We can discuss this…well, we’ll be heading out right away tonight, so we can discuss it on the way. My motorcycle has a sidecar.”
He stood up, pushed his chair against the windowsill, and turned toward the door out into the hall.
“Where are you going while I’m cooking?”
“Where are the instructions my old upperclassman left with you? And your clothes? Think about it. You got here and that’s great, but you said you were being chased by someone, right?” He walked toward her and pressed his right index finger against her chest. “I have a job to do, Hazel. They locked down the borders a few days ago, but I still have to get you outside the country. Do you get that? Do you, Hazel Mirildorf? The Swiss border is chilly even in the summer, so where are your things? You need some clothes, don’t you? I’ll go get them, so you wait here.”
“Please get back soon.”
He smiled at that.
“Don’t worry. Do you know where we are? This place is owned by an AIF member. We’ve been using the place whenever we visit Berlin lately. As long as you stay away from the curtains, this place is plenty safe for a kitten to play in, Hazel.”
She started to say something in response, but stopped and smiled bitterly instead.
She looked down at his finger against her chest and suppressed a sigh.
“Are you…are you always like this, Berger?”
“Always like what?”
“You can’t tell? So…so…”
“Unfortunately, I’m the second dumbest guy in the world. But your chest really hasn’t grown at all, has it? Have you been eating right?”
He pressed against the chest of her shirt and reached the limit of the softness very quick.
The frying pan met his face even quicker.
“Ow, ow, ow, ow.”
Berger held his cheek while descending the wooden stairs.
The first floor was a cramped front desk and the hallway was too narrow for two people to pass each other. The window in the entrance next to the front desk provided a view of a main road lit up by streetlights.
There was a black cedar forest on the other side of the road. The forest was so close to the road that there was no room for homes or shops alongside it.
The view out the window showed only the stillness of the summer night.
“Potsdamer Strasse there runs through the Grunewald forest park,” said a voice from the counter. “Will your job tonight be taking you south along that road?”
Berger looked up to see a short old man behind the counter.
“That girl looks like she’s going to be yet more trouble for you,” asked the old man. “Does she have a story?”
“You could say that, yes. I was hoping you could look after her for a bit.”
The old man gave him a puzzled look, so Berger leaned back against the wall and pointed up at the ceiling.
“I think the Geheimnis Agency is after her. I’m on my way to pick up her things hidden in a locker at Unter den Linden Station. That includes my next instructions, so I will head out on that mission once I have them. My mission is to destroy the Gard-class warship that we’ve heard is being constructed at the Geheimnis Agency’s Base #8.”
“Hold on. This is an inn, not a home for runaways.”
“But you have connections, don’t you? I’ll write her an introduction, so call her a ride you can trust and send her to the Borderson hidden village in the morning. I have to complete this mission. Rumor has it that Gard-class is an Eingeweide, so we’re in trouble if I can’t sink it before they get it up and running.”
The innkeeper frowned and then gave Berger an exasperated look.
“So what’s her name?”
“Hazel. Hazel Mirildorf. She’s Oscar Mirildorf’s daughter.”
Surprise flashed across the innkeeper’s face, but then he shut his eyes.
“So she’s the one person who ever managed to injure you on a job, huh?”
“Yes, and it’s been two years since then. She sent me a few letters through my old upperclassman, but she only ever talked about cheerful things in those letters. Never anything gloomy and never asking about me. I know none of that was what she really wanted to write.”
“Knowing you, you didn’t respond.”
“Of course not. I’m not an official AIF member – I’m just their hired Wild Hund. I’m the second least romantic guy in the world.” He sighed. “Besides, she belongs on the other side of the wall…of that wall I could never break through. I have no business being anywhere near her.”
He smiled and held up his black-gloved left hand.
“Have her leave this land as soon as possible. Europe will be engulfed in war in another month, but barely any of that will reach her new home in America. Her father seems to understand that.”
“That’s pretty cold of you. Is that what destiny has in store for the two of you?” asked the innkeeper while looking up at the ceiling.
Berger’s smile did not reach his eyes.
He stuck a hand in his pocket and tossed three small shining things onto the counter.
“I picked up these imperial coins in the Soviet Union. Give them to her and tell her to visit Paris on her way home. Tell her she won’t want to wander around the streets in the nude after that.”
“What did I do wrong to deserve this job?”
“This is just what destiny has in store for you,” spat out Berger as he opened the door.
The wind blew in. That summer wind was racing through the black cedar forest.
“Hazel can see this wind now, can she?”
His lips silently mouthed a poem.
It was a section of the Unreif Germane.
He recited it as he stepped outside into the dark forest. All alone.
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