City Series:Volume6c Chapter1
Chapter 1: The Requiem Activates
05/25/1942 13:04 – 21:10
Ow ow ow ow.
Hazel Mirildorf (AIF Soldier)
A newcomer to the AIF. Was implanted with the High Organ eye Messiah. A Werecat living in LA. Our protagonist.
Dog Berger (Mercenary)
M. Schrier’s underclassman and a Knight Striker. Primarily helps people escape and wields the High Organ sword Gelegenheit.
Corelle Sevan (AIF Air Force Transport Division)
Boss of the AIF Air Force Transport Division. A fortuneteller who uses the 47 Telling Cards.
Pale Horse (AIF Combat Division Leader)
Hard Wolf general who made a name for himself in the previous war. Has a connection to Heiliger.
M. Schrier (AIF General Commander)
The young leader. Was deeply involved in the Berlin Conflict and took command of the AIF after leaving Germany. Former subordinate of Oscar’s and upperclassman of Berger’s in their college days. Was also Hazel’s tutor.
Lehrer (AIF Spy)
A female spy in the German village of Borderson.
Oscar Mirildorf (Civilian)
M. Schrier’s commander who currently lives in LA. Former German Air Force Major General. Hazel’s father.
The sky was clear. The blue expanse spread wide without a cloud to be found.
The sun was bright. Its direct light created countless dark shadows on the red cracked ground to decorate the flat and parched wasteland. The colors blue, red, and black covered everything as far as the eye could see.
Those colors were joined by the wind and some sound.
The wind was audibly torn through as an aircraft flew by.
Below that windy sound were two colors not found anywhere else: gray and white.
The gray belonged to three large runways lined up on the red wasteland and the blast-resistant buildings of a largescale base.
The white belonged to the white paint coloring the walls of the wooden barracks lined up alongside the base.
The aircraft was a fighter belonging to the base. It flew through low over the runway, performed a single roll, and soared back up into the sky. The shimmering heat of its jets slammed into the runway which had words written in more white paint: USIF Arizona Area 001.
This was the Arizona headquarters of the USIF, the US branch of the AIF.
The rumbling of the aircraft faded and the wind blew across the runways. The wind and the barking of a guard dog were the only sounds left. The large dog kept barking in the space between the barracks and the mess hall.
The cries of a dog with newfound prey reverberated through the heated air. The racket was best heard inside the mess hall since its windows were open.
The large wooden building was made to hold 2000 and it looked like a bungalow but bigger. It was bright enough outside that the lights inside were left off.
Rectangular tables for 8 were lined up in rows and countless cheap folding chairs were scattered haphazardly about.
The place was about 1/3 occupied by people in gray uniforms.
A lot of them were Heidengeists. The ones with wings or with nonhuman skeletal structures had the appropriate modifications made to their uniforms. Many of the human soldiers eating alongside them had prosthetics or carried large weapons. There was also a scattering of women. And they all wore smiles.
That may have been why they were chatting pleasantly and moving casually around.
There were two colors that did not match the gray worn by the majority.
The first was the green US Army Air Corps flight jacket worn by a middle-aged woman.
The other was the black everything worn by a black-haired young man.
The woman was lining up small cards on the large table and the young man held an ice pack to his right cheek across the table from her.
The young man pushed his sunglasses up his nose with his other hand and asked the woman a question.
“Hey, Corelle, what do you make of this? …Ow.”
He grimaced as he pressed the ice pack against his cheek, brushed up his long bangs, and fell silent.
The woman called Corelle placed a card on the table with her thick fingers.
She did not look up at the young man as she pulled out a new card.
“M. Schrier summoned you here for a job, but you showed up to find your orders waiting for you but not the man himself. And then you happen across Oscar Mirildorf who just so happened to be here.”
“Yeah, it was pretty exciting to learn the Oscar was finally paying the AIF a visit, but then…”
Corelle continued for him.
“He thanked you for helping his daughter escape Germany, but he also punched you? And hard enough to knock out one of your back teeth at that. But it’s pretty sad you let that knock you out, Berger.”
“Hey, he caught me by surprise.”
Corelle snorted with laughter, but she also decided to move on.
“Well, enough about that. What’s your new job?”
“You already know. I’m being placed on your special forces team as an expendable. They’re using me as cannon fodder.”
He removed the ice pack from his face, opened it with one hand, pulled out an ice cube, and popped it in his mouth.
“Ahhorhing ho hy hold huhherhasshan…”
“I can’t understand a word you’re saying, idiot.”
A few seconds passed.
“According to my old upperclassman’s orders, I’m using your RB-21 transport ship to sneak into Germany on the 30th. First, I travel to the Borderson village and then I help Pale escape after some important meeting with the staff there.”
“After that, you travel to Cologne, which the RAF really wants to bomb, and fire a range sensor onto the Gard-class. That’s the entrance to the German mainland and full of military factories, so this mission is crucial if the Allies are going to bomb it. The Gard-class has prevented any of the UK’s bombers from reaching Cologne.”
“It was a report from one of your people that confirmed the Gard-class’s existence…but now they’ve started showing it off, even making it an official part of the German Air Force.”
Corelle listened to Berger as she finished laying out all the cards and crossed her arms.
“When I sent Coolers to the Moonlight Resistant Aerial Division, I never imagined he would be the lone survivor. I have nothing but thanks for the captain and the rest who died.”
“I hear he abandoned his escape boat and jumped into the ocean before the Kaiser and the others could catch up.”
“One of the UK’s water dragons picked him up and he’s with one of their ground units now. Because the infantry can at least die alone.”
Berger chewed on another piece of ice before replying.
“Well, this would be the time to sink that Gard-class. Take it out here and the Allies have a way in.”
“Are you sure?”
“Take a look at the world, Corelle. The Allies are trying to see how they can get at the German mainland. That means they’re looking at attacking Germany and winning this war once and for all. The German mainland, the Gard-class, and the Cologne factories – strike those three and everyone will know Germany is within reach and this war is winnable.”
“But that’s not all. Just like the US military doesn’t like the AIF for hitching a ride with them, the Geheimnis Agency still isn’t well liked by the civilians and some of the older nobles. When the head of Borderson was lost, most of the Strikers in the Borderson territory left the Agency. Cologne is part of that territory, so I bet the Gard-class is there to help regain their trust. Take out that ship and the Geheimnis Agency crumbles.” Berger frowned and paused before continuing. “Which is why the UK is readying a thousand bombers to bomb Cologne in what they call Operation Millennium.”
Corelle flipped over the card closest to her.
It was a tower. The image depicted a tower being struck by a lightning bolt from heaven. She sighed.
“Babel, #7 of the Harmony Cards. The collapse of control. …In this context, it must mean the Babel Cannon.”
“Yeah, the UK has built a Babel Gun they plan to fire from the North Sea to shoot down the Gard-class long distance. That’ll probably be history’s largest bombardment. That pair of uninspired missions is gonna be something to see.” He smiled bitterly. “The spies in Cologne have already gotten data on the ship, but they still need real-time range finding. The spies can provide the surface range, but this thing’s in the air. That’s where I come in. I’ll be using the new and improved Schwarz Löwe. I’ve already done some training in it, so I should manage.”
“You need to do more than ‘manage’. And don’t forget about Pale.”
“He’s in Borderson, right? I just meet him there and take him with me. From there, you drop the Schwarz Löwe from the sky, I fire the range sensor onto the Gard-class, and you pick me and Pale up. Simple.” He suddenly leaned back in his seat to look up at the ceiling. “But there are a number of problems. First, where has my old upperclassman gotten off to? I’ve barely seen him for the past three years. Where is he? There’s so much I want to ask him.”
“You sure it isn’t just that he doesn’t like you? I see him plenty. …He’s still got that rich kid’s faulty idea of how the world works though. ‘I’ve just got to write and sell ten books and we can buy another transport ship?’ Ridiculous.”
“I want to ask him about what I saw three years ago. …I told you about that, didn’t I? The Sylphide being carried out of that dig site. What was up with that?”
“I asked him and he said you must have dreamed it, so I doubt he would tell you if you did ask. Besides, we’re about to leave for Germany, so why not look into it there?”
“I did everything I could to look into it for the past three years. And with nothing to show for it. It’s like the damn thing vanished into thin air.”
Corelle thought about that for a moment and nodded.
A dog barked in the distance once more.
“Oh, shut up,” grumbled Berger while looking to Corelle’s hand.
She had moved the hand to her chin and her mouth was shut and silent.
“What kinda fortune are you checking?” he asked, leaning curiously forward. “Whether I’ll deliver my baby safely?”
“Shut it. You heard about the History Live Research Team’s report, didn’t you?” She was whispering now. “All the best Fast Readers around the world can’t read the History Lives past August of ’43. And at the same time, that Nightmare Syndrome has started up.”
Berger straightened up in his seat, took a quick glance around, and shrugged.
“That happened in the past too, but it does seem a lot more common now.” He pulled over a newspaper from the corner of the table and opened to the social page. “See, here’s another one. There was a mass suicide in Norfolk, England, two weeks ago and they’re blaming it on the syndrome.”
“The UK is terrified from the German air raids, after all. Anxiety covers the country and the Lives respond. All the anxiety Lives are accelerating this war and making it darker.”
“Can you not read past ’43 either?”
Corelle flipped over the card furthest from her.
It was entirely black, with no image.
“Nuclear, #3 of the Unspoken Word Cards. A perfect nothingness. The History Live Research Team says this war will allow anxiety to rule the world, causing the collapse of the Lives forming the very nucleus of our world.”
“Bullshit. You expect me to believe some crazy talk about the entire world being destroyed?”
“But this world’s Concept Lives do not go past this point and we have no idea what that means. Maybe they’re too weak for us to read and maybe something is preventing us from seeing them, but maybe…maybe the world really was destroyed in ’43 during the era preceding even the Obstacle Era.”
“Would that mean the Messiah is the one to travel past that point and create a new world?” muttered Berger. Then he looked up. “The war started in Germany is causing this anxiety…and the Messiah also comes from Germany.”
He did not answer Corelle’s unspoken question. He instead tilted his head.
“But that doesn’t make sense. If Germany did start this war just to produce the Messiah, the Concept Lives would go past ’43, showing the history of a world saved by the Messiah.”
“Think too hard and you’ll overheat your brain. Leave the thinking to the thinkers.”
“Oh, shut up,” he said, getting up.
“Where are you going?”
“To gather my luggage. Weird leaving the same day I was given a room, but whatever.”
“Most people at least take a nap first. You probably passed out because you’re so tired after flying in from Europe. …Also, are you sure you don’t want to go see Hazel?”
“We’re not anywhere near LA. That’s not a day trip.”
Berger grinned and walked toward the mess hall’s exit with ice pack in hand.
Just then, someone appeared in the exit.
The young man in a blue uniform was a postman.
He looked around the mess hall holding a printed map of the base.
“Excuse me, is this where I can find Dog Berger?”
In Germany’s Black Forest, evening had passed and night was settling in.
The forest was growing even blacker.
A few lights could be found in the very bottom of a valley, which should have been the darkest part of the forest.
The Geheimnis Agency HQ’s fortress base was located there. The well-maintained runway lights and hangars provided enough light to function but not enough to be noticeable from a distance.
The most light could be found at the mess hall on the eastern end of the base.
The large, white mess hall was filled with round tables for four that were currently full of Geheimnis Agents. Two people at a table by the window stood out from the rest.
One was an enormous man in tightly-fitting uniform of the Geheimnis Luftwaffe, the Agency’s air force division. His right arm was a massive metal prosthetic.
The person seated across from him was a tall and pencil-thin elderly man. He stroked a hand through his fastidiously combed gray hair and sighed.
“May I take care of your plates, Master Schweitzer?”
The elderly man began stacking up the plates on the table without waiting for a response.
Schweitzer did not even look up.
His gaze was on the piece of paper he held.
It was a letter.
The envelope sat on the table in front of him. It was a plain waterproof manila envelope. The sender was listed as…
“Was she from the Alfheim region?”
“Ilfheim may be a corrupted version of that, yes. Her father was from a line of Werecats with a long history in Germany.”
Schweitzer looked up from the letter, saw the stacked plates, and frowned.
“I was still eating that.”
“I assumed you had not liked the fried shrimp. Were you saving your favorite for last?”
“Don’t ask that of a man in his late twenties, Bermark.”
“As you wish.”
Bermark set down the neatly-stacked plates and looked to Schweitzer, who realized Bermark’s gaze was on the letter he held.
“It’s from Borderson. Not the original village that was destroyed 21 years ago – the hidden village located near there. You know, the Village of Pardons.”
“That is the one place in Germany where Heidengeists are still allowed to live. Because the Hounds allowed it, as a way of atoning for their killings.”
“And that spirit has continued strong even after the fall of Borderson.”
“According to the intelligence division, all combat is banned there.”
“Yes, it is. Because it is a place of atonement, much like the ancient Greek temples. Attack there and you would earn the ire of every Heidengeist the world over.”
“The military is none too happy about it, though, what with their Wannsee Conference and all. That may be why they insist the place is crawling with Allied spies.”
“You know an awful lot about this,” noted Schweitzer.
Bermark smiled a bit, sighed, and cleared his throat.
“We have a report saying ‘Hardest Wolf’ Pale Horse, commander of the AIF, is in that village. Some mission apparently requires him to contact the local AIF spy leader who is stationed in that Village of Pardons. He has always been an easygoing general”
Bermark searched his pocket for a few seconds, produced paper and pencil, and removed his right glove.
He revealed a right hand made of porcelain, wires, and a protective plastic cover.
“I believe this was the photo air force intelligence took.”
As soon as he held the pencil in that right hand, he drew out a picture with the great speed of a machine. No, he was accurately reproducing the photograph he had seen. He even reproduced the shading, the focus, and the time and date the photo was taken.
It took him no more than a minute to complete.
A photo was now drawn on the paper. It was so complete it looked like you would be able to peel it from the paper with your nails.
Bermark held it out and Schweitzer accepted it and viewed it like nothing out of the ordinary had occurred.
The right side showed the roof of a small wooden church.
The angle was somewhat shallow, not from directly above, so the two people standing in front of the church could be seen in full. One was a large man with two prosthetic arms and the other was a young woman.
“Is that Pale Horse on the left?”
“And the woman on the right is the local AIF spy leader. It may be a sarcastic reference to her role as leader, but her Titel is Lehrer. An army division company led by Lady Jeanne is currently deployed around the village in order to gather intelligence and capture Pale Horse when he attempts to escape.”
Schweitzer nodded and noted that, even in the black-and-white photo, he could tell Pale’s short hair was gray and Lehrer’s long hair was blonde. Her hair appeared to fall nearly to the back of her knees.
“She is said to be a Buster…but she is also said to be blind.”
She wore glasses in the photo and she appeared to be facing Pale in conversation.
Schweitzer plainly stated his thoughts.
“Those who work with Tons can read people’s wills. That would be useful in intelligence work.”
“Just like with the Fräulein, women have become a part of war in this age,” noted Bermark, his eyes shut.
Schweitzer chuckled at his lieutenant’s comment.
“The Messiah is a woman too. What do you have to say about that?”
“I believe you should ask that again once the prophecy has been fulfilled.”
Bermark went on to recite the latest prophecy.
The party begins and the village dances / The dragon roars and the knights gather
The bride weeps uncrowned / Her words go unsaid and he never arrives
Thus she is alone / She weeps and sleeps in this land
“The Fräulein finally managed to prophecy this verse a month and two weeks ago. The time has come to capture the Messiah girl and the development division has already completed a few of their Ton bullets extracted directly from Germany’s Tons.”
“A lot of progress all at once, isn’t it? Quite a coincidence that it was just the other day the development division announced their development of an unmanned Sylphide-style aerial warship and research into new Eingeweide devices.”
“I believe the new craft is known as Erlkönig. And following the Sylphide’s example, the new Eingeweide devices will all be aircrafts or Grösse Panzers with a Schreiben system. The development division’s researchers are holed up trying to decode Sir Marsch’s research notes and the Ober Geheimnis diagrams found bellow Munich.”
“A system much like the Sylphide’s, hm? A prosthetic arm or a weapon required a body part to create, but if they base it on a Schreiben system that takes in the entire person, they might indeed be able to create something new.”
“It all goes back to the Sylphide, doesn’t it? …It makes me curious about what happened three years ago. Namely, how those involved claim it was the Sylphide they excavated from the Alfheim Meteorite Pit. And Lowenzahn said the Kaiserburg’s development was sped up by two years when P. Wagner discovered that beneath his lab. But…”
“Why was the Sylphide found in a place sealed up a thousand years ago? Is it Ober Geheimnis? So many mysteries. Besides, will the Messiah girl even return to this land?”
His question was answered by an unexpected source: a female voice from behind him.
“She will. Have faith, okay?”
He turned just his head to see a waitress standing there.
Her long brown hair was tied back and she directed a powerful gaze his way.
She crouched down to place her hands on his broad right shoulder and gave him a cold look.
“Or do you not trust my prophecies, Captain Schweitzer?”
He responded to her whispered admonition with an exasperated whisper of his own.
“I do hope they will prove accurate, Lowenzahn.”
“Really? Glad to hear it.”
“Do you understand why I am whispering?”
Schweitzer turned toward her and looked her in the eye.
“Remember what I told you? If the Messiah girl agrees to be our leader, then I will step forward and openly act as our commander.”
She narrowed her eyes with the ends of her eyebrows somewhat lowered.
She looked away from Schweitzer to look across the mess hall.
“Working like this is fun, but it does feel wrong at times.”
“You do kick the snot out of someone about once a month. Does life without that sound too boring for you?”
“Don’t be mean. …But taking it too far wouldn’t be fair to my stepdad. Working here instead of marrying after college is bad enough on its own. But…”
“As commander, I could leave his family and live openly as a Naylor.”
The two men said nothing to that.
After a beat, she breathed a sigh of relief.
And she lowered her gaze to the letter Schweitzer held.
“A letter from…an acquaintance who lives in the Borderson Village of Pardons. It is a wedding invitation.”
“Sounds like a cause for celebration to me, so why the long face?”
“Even if this acquaintance shouldn’t know who I am?”
“She lost her memories. Eryngium Ilfheim lost all her memories of herself, of me, of Alfred, of Marsch, of her own father, and even of Berger. And they can never return, no matter what. It was the permanent sort of memory loss.”
“Maybe some kind person told her about you.”
“Then why did the letter arrive at our HQ, which should require passing through the Post Office. Yet our address through the Post Office is top secret, so she and the general public shouldn’t know it.”
“Hey, don’t take it out on me.” Lowenzahn was still smiling as she took a closer look at the letter. “That’s a woman’s handwriting. Since it reached you, there must be some woman out there who knows about this place. Since it’s at the Borderson village, maybe she asked some ancient Heidengeist about the place.”
“I see the wedding is midday on the 30th, so…five days from now? Let’s go together.”
Schweitzer paused before responding.
“What? Why would I go with you?”
“Bermark hasn’t told you? Pale Horse is in that village, so I’m going to oversee the capture operation. If he’s driven to Cologne and captured there, I’ll meet with him.”
“That is too dangerous.”
“Jeanne while have him safely inside a prisoner transport vehicle. There is a lot I want to ask ASAP. …And if Pale is captured, we’ll have to hand him over to the military after he’s been transported.”
“We really need to work things out with the military…”
“But I don’t want to use the ‘have Heiliger pull some strings’ card too often. Since I’ll be working openly before long, I want to do everything I can on my own.”
Bermark nodded in response.
“You have grown up so much.”
“Yeah, yeah.” She sighed. “Even the great Pale Horse should give in if we shoot him with a Ton bullet. He’ll have no choice but to be captured. …I’ll admit it’s a little violent, but I want to hear for myself what happened with the Messiah girl and the Babel Cannon the UK was constructing.”
“Let me go in your place.”
“No. We’re going together. Rose, Graham, and Lieutenant Maldrick are working so hard with the Gard-class in Cologne, so I want to pay them a visit. You’re the driver and I’m the VIP. Got it?”
“Are you saying this has already been arranged?”
“I’ve spoken with my stepdad, Air Force Division Chief Müller. He praised your idea to use the second Gard-class being constructed to provide air defense for Germania.”
“He wanted to reward you with three days of field work instead of more dreary deskwork,” added Bermark.
Schweitzer looked back down at the photograph Bermark had drawn out earlier.
“Bermark, you drew this for me because you knew I would be visiting that village, didn’t you?”
“I did. You simply never asked the reason.”
Bermark held the stack of plates toward Lowenzahn and she took them.
“Oh, you didn’t finish your fried shrimps. You shouldn’t be a picky eater.”
“He apparently saves his favorite for last and I rudely cleared the plate away before he was done,” explained Bermark.
“Oh, I see,” said Lowenzahn, staring down at Schweitzer. He frowned, but that didn’t slow her down. “Is that why you don’t want to go on this trip with me? You’d prefer to save the best for last?”
“What is that supposed to mean?”
“Well, if you go with me…” She held the plates in her left hand and pressed a finger of her right hand to her lips. “We’ll effectively be taking the honeymoon before the wedding.”
This time, she did not at all whisper. Everyone in the mess hall froze and all eyes gathered on them. The sounds of cooking ceased and the only sound was the water running in a kitchen sink.
“Oh, whoops,” said Lowenzahn lowering her head.
Schweitzer frowned further and made one simple statement in the silence.
“She is only joking.”
Everyone immediately exploded
Berger stood in a dimly-lit hallway with a letter in hand.
The hallway was long and lined on the left with doors to living quarters. The window at one end of the hallway was fully open, giving a view of the blue sky. This was the second floor. He used the light from the window to open and read the letter the postman had delivered him.
“On May 30 at 8 AM, the two will be wed as part of the village’s summer festival.”
He recognized the woman’s name, but he did not recognize the man’s name.
He spoke both aloud and scratched his head. He threw out the ice pack to tear up the letter with both hands. He tore it in two, in four, in eight, and further shredded it before throwing it away.
He snorted, but then grimaced and held his cheek.
“God, I’m pathetic.”
He looked to the living quarters in front of him: Room 217.
He turned the knob and entered.
Light filled his vision.
It was a small room full of bright light thanks to the open window.
The large window was fully open and the curtain was fluttering in the wind. A black leather bag sat next to the door. It was his. It appeared to have a thin layer of dust.
“Leaving the window open was not enough ventilation. I guess that’s Arizona for you.”
He removed his heavy vest, draped it over his arm, and loosened his shirt’s buttons.
Wondering about the bed, he looked to the old single bed in the right corner, which got less sun. The mattress must have been green at some point, but it had faded to nearly white. The sheets had become a disordered ball of cloth on the bed, presumably due to the wind.
“Yeah, it’s not like they have a maid to make the bed.”
With a legitimate sigh, he reached for the sheets and lifted them.
There was nothing there. There shouldn’t have been, but he still nodded in satisfaction.
“She was hiding in there that one time.”
Then he ran over to the door, opened it, and checked the hallway. It was empty.
He shut the door again.
“And she didn’t come tumbling in when I did that.”
He finally breathed a sigh of relief, raised his arms, and stretched.
The wind blew into his room, carrying the barking of a dog outside. He also heard the sound of something scratching at wood.
He took a look outside just in time to see something fly across the windowsill and into the room.
The small golden fluffball tried to run across the room as fast as its four legs would take it.
It was a cat.
Specifically, a cat with a brown feline right eye and a blue human left eye.
Berger gasped and called the cat’s name.
The cat responded by looking back in the middle of her feline sprint of repeatedly scrunching up and stretching out. She turned a head wearing a choker like a collar and looked Berger in the eye.
For a cat, she had a very human combination of surprise and relief on her face.
But cat anatomy was not made to look to the side while running, so she lost her balance and took a tumble.
Her tail was caught in it and she rolled like a ball…right toward the door.
Berger wordlessly ran over and opened the door, so Cat Hazel tumbled right on out into the hallway.
Then he shut the door, locked it, and leaned his back against it.
He sighed when he heard a female voice from beyond the door.
“O-open the door! Please open the door! C-clothes! I need clothes!”
What the voice said and the voice itself made him hang his head in an “I hate being right” kind of way.
“Is that you again, Hazel Mirildorf?”
Hazel’s expression changed when she heard that voice through the door. Her face lit up.
She had grown out her hair over the past three years and it hung down over her body, but she still pounded on the door.
“Y-yes, it’s me! It’s Hazel Mirildorf! So please open the door!”
She shouted and looked down the hallway to make sure it was deserted.
Then she looked down at herself.
She was naked.
…I need to get inside that room.
Someone could show up at any moment. And if they saw her out in the hallway like this, she would look very…
She took a deep breath to calm her racing heart, placed a hand on the doorknob, and waited for him to do as she asked. However…
“What are you doing here?”
“W-we can discuss that later!”
“Unfortunately, I have to leave on a mission soon, so whether or not you’re a spy is my second biggest question in the world. So explain yourself. In 25 words or less. Stammering counts double.”
“B-but that’s not fair. D-don’t be so mean!”
“That’s 10 down. You’d better hurry or I’ll blow you up.”
“Yeah, most people like to wear them. I know I do.”
…Why are you so mean!?
She kept that question to herself while thinking back to 3 years ago. Something similar had happened, but what had he asked for then?
…Say it in English.
“U-um, please give me some clothes,” she said in English this time.
She heard three quiet claps through the door followed by an awfully calm response.
“I’m fresh out.”
“B-but! Can’t you lend me some of what you’re wearing now!? Like three years ago.”
“Nah, I’d rather not have my clothes smell like cat. You trying to mark me as yours, cat girl?”
“Y-you are awful!”
The wind blew through the hallway. The chilly dry air passed below her arms and between her legs, reminding her of her lack of clothing.
And that was not all. She heard some chatting male voices coming from the stairs at the end of the hallway.
“O-oh, no. S-someone’s coming!”
“Yeah, it’s a public hallway. People will do that.”
“B-but I’m naked! You aren’t supposed to do that in a public hallway!”
“Have them rate you. I doubt you’ll do all that well. Maybe a 40-point average?”
“J-just let me inside already! Hurry! I need to get in there!”
“You do know how it sounds to beg to visit a guy in his room while you’re naked, right?”
She prepared to say something more, but the chatting voices and footsteps on the stairs grew even louder.
She tried pressing her back against the door, but the door was already flush with the wall. She could not hide that way. As small as her chest was, it still stuck out. There was no point in trying.
“U-um, I-I-I n-need s-s-s-s-somewhere to h-h-hide.”
“I don’t think there is anywhere.”
“No, it doesn’t look like- y-you are mean!!”
The chatting men sounded so much louder now. She could even tell they were complaining that the mess hall didn’t offer anything with fresh blood in it. Their footsteps sounded clearly from this floor’s landing.
Hazel gave up. Her legs went limp, her hips dropped into a crouch, and she wrapped her arms around herself to hide her chest and the brand on her left shoulder.
She thought she was going to cry, but then the door opened behind her.
She lost her balance and tumbled back into the room.
She fell back onto her hips and lay sprawled out between the boards. She briefly felt dizzy.
She could see the wooden ceiling and Berger looking down at her. Other than her longer hair that she now wore tied back, she had not changed much over the past three years. She initially felt relieved, but then she came back to her senses.
Berger commented on the exact thing on her mind.
“Just letting it all hang out, huh?”
She was lying on her back with her limbs somewhat sprawled out. “Ah,” she gasped while scrambling to a sitting position. She closed her knees and wrapped her arms around herself. She pressed her back against the side of the bed and only then looked up at Berger again.
“Y-you saw, didn’t you!?”
“You rolled right into my field of view, so I couldn’t help but see everything. Top and bottom.”
She could not believe how pathetic that sounded.
…And I told myself I would be more careful about this kind of thing…
Her teary vision saw him pull over a chair, sit down, and brush a hand through his hair.
“I’m not interested in 40-point nudity. Now, answer my question, Hazel. Why did you make a surprise appearance through my window?”
“Um, well…there was a dog down there. One they let run free.”
“Okay, I’ve heard enough. I’ve deduced the whole story using the second-best powers of insight in the world.”
His eyes turned toward the left hand she was using to hide her chest. It had a red bite mark on it.
“Would you prefer I called you an idiot or a moron?”
She tensed her shoulders and hung her head.
“I’d prefer you didn’t call me either one.”
“Stupid imbecile it is. And just out of curiosity, where are your spare clothes?”
“Oh, m-my luggage is still outside. Could you go get it for me?”
“Go get it yourself.”
She looked up.
“Then give me some clothes to do that! Y-you’re mean! This is no way to treat your assistant.”
She tilted her head, so he lowered his voice and asked a question.
“Who exactly are you saying is my assistant?”
…What is he talking about?
She pointed at herself and he very obviously frowned.
“Are you suggesting you have ever assisted me before?”
“Then enlighten me. And make it the best example in the world.”
With a high-level request like that, Hazel had to think for a bit. She found her answer in five seconds.
“Lots of times.”
“Sorry. I’m feeling a little dizzy…”
“You probably need more iron. How about I cook you something later on?”
“No, thanks. Also…are you saying you have orders!?”
His raised voice made her shrink down and point out the window.
“My orders from my teacher are o-outside with my luggage.”
“Then go get your luggage.”
“H-how many times do I have to remind you I need clothes first!?”
“Don’t get so worked up you wave your arms at me. You’re not covering up.”
She quickly covered up with her arms again and pressed her knees more tightly together.
Just then, the door opened a little and Corelle’s head poked in.
“Hey, Berger. About today’s-” was as far as she got.
She looked first to Berger and then to Hazel. Then her eyes moved back and forth a few times.
Unsure what else to do, Hazel bowed her head.
“Um, it’s good to see you again.”
Corelle nodded a few times and responded with a perfectly straight face.
“Catching up after three years apart? Have fun.”
She shut the door. “Goddammit,” muttered Berger before reaching for the door.
Corelle’s heavy running footsteps and yelling voice came from the hallway.
Hearing that, Berger groaned and crouched in front of the door.
“You don’t have to tell the whole world…”
“This is what you get for teasing me so much,” said Hazel.
Berger turned a cold glare her way.
“You do realize this is about you too, right?”
“I’ll be fine. Everyone takes the girl’s side in these things.”
She softened her expression and sighed with an arm around her knees and a hand brushing through her hair.
…I really have grown up more since last time.
She relaxed her shoulders, looked to Berger, and…
“There’s an 8-year age gap between us, so everyone will know you’re the in the wrong here.”
A city’s night was spread out below.
With a wartime blackout in effect, the city stretching from north to south had barely any lights in it.
The city was Cologne.
The few lights that were on faintly outlined the streets and main roads.
Several billows of smoke rose into the sky as if to obscure the city below. The smoke came from the city’s factories.
The smoke, light, and darkness were all visible directly below an airborne observation deck that allowed a view far, far into the distance.
That observation deck was located on the bottom of the Requiem’s first central ship as it floated high above Cologne. The 30-yard hall’s lower surface was made of thick blast-resistant glass, so the people standing atop it felt like they were floating in midair.
This late at night, there were only two people there.
They were both tall men.
One was a bald old man with a fully prosthetic body wearing a Geheimnis Agency dress uniform. He looked down into the glass and spoke.
“You say preventing an invasion from the north and west will show this land’s Neue Kavaliers what to do.”
His tone made it hard to tell if that was a statement or a question, but it earned a response from the tall man with two prosthetic arms standing next to him. The hem of his German Air Force uniform and his gray hair swayed somewhat and he sighed.
“Are you saying this warship, you, and Maldrick were sent to defend Cologne in order to bring back those who followed Borderson? The Borderson faction insisted on working as an independent unit as Hounds even when they were with the Geheimnis Agency, so they had a fair number of foreign connections.” He continued from there. “Nothing has changed. Twenty years ago, when you received Lowenheit Naylor’s will and began work on establishing the Geheimnis Agency, I repeatedly argued against the idea.”
“Yes, I remember you saying the age of Kavaliers leading the nation was a thing of the past.”
“You do not play fair, brother. You are only protecting this country. …Even Lowenheit and Frobel chose to protect this country instead of creating a new one after that great war ended. But…”
“Do not accuse me of being unfair. Explain how you yourself are fair, Heiliger.”
Heiliger lowered his gaze at that.
He replied while viewing the lights on the surface.
“That is not something I can do. If it worked like that…would you have taken that Psyche Outer device twenty years ago? Isn’t that when everything came to a stop for Graham Karlsruhe?”
The older brother, Graham, said nothing and cleared his throat.
“Lowenheit, Frobel, and Bertecht feared where our country was headed,” said the younger brother. “But they did so as leaders of the people. There was some discord between us, but I thought we had arrived at a conclusion after our loss in the previous war.”
“That the age of Kavaliers was over? That Bertecht’s death and Lowenheit’s will meant the end of our country’s millennium of rule by Kavaliers?”
“It’s a shame, brother. Words spoken by a man with no emotions cannot move anyone to emotion.” He sighed. “I miss when you were as emotional as the second son of Maldrick.”
“Alfred Maldrick vastly underestimates you.” The older brother took a step forward, still looking down. “I know you put together this aerial fleet for local air defense because you had information the Allies were targeting the Gard-class. I hear you even visited the Geheimnis Agency HQ to ask for opinions on the matter.”
“We held a theoretical battle to determine what route the Allies would use to invade.”
“And I hear you won against Müller and the others. First as the Allies and then as us. Even though Müller is known as the Kommandeur, the top-level combat commander.”
“Sadly, my Neue Kavalier blood demands victory.”
“Will that blood allow you to make good use of Alfred Maldrick?”
Heiliger looked up at that question and Graham said more to him.
“At 22:00 on the 29th, your aerial fleet will be dismissed and all but your core fleet will be sent west. Also, the Geheimnis Agency Army Division’s 1st Independent Mobile Grösse Panzer Platoon will be removed from my unit and joined with your core fleet to create an aerial fleet for defense of the North Sea. That will place Alfred Maldrick under your command.”
Heiliger’s eyes widened slightly and he saw Graham’s unmoving back before him.
He frowned and asked a question.
“Brother, I am not part of your agency. I am not even a Kavalier – I am a mere soldier. That cannot change. …Look at this ship. It technically belongs to the air force, but everything inside is controlled by your agency and none of the ordinary German soldiers are allowed inside. …The military and your agency are always at odds like that.”
“But you are allowed here because you are a Karlsruhe. Use that to command him. Prove that the military can work with the Kavaliers and you are sure to grab the attention of the Borderson Kavaliers who left the Agency in ’33. …The necessary paperwork has already been delivered to your aide.”
Heiliger smiled at that. And he shook his head.
“You really do only think about this country…and about the Kavaliers, don’t you?”
“The Millennium is drawing to a close and the world’s destiny is fading fast. Only we can work to fix this problem so intertwined with our country’s history, Heiliger.”
“I know all the world’s Sofort Lesers cannot read destiny past ’43, I know anxiety is running rampant around the world, and…”
“I know Frobel and Lowenheit’s daughter…has prophesied the Messiah’s capture.”
Then he heard a quiet sound in the large observation deck. It was a solid sound like metal gears turning.
It happened once, twice, thrice.
At the same time, he heard something from the ceiling, so he looked up.
The large ceiling had split open. The ceiling panels split in four and folded up like paper to fold up the entire ceiling.
Without the ceiling, they had a view of another space, but they were not directly exposed to it. There was a thick layer of glass beyond the ceiling.
Opening the ceiling panels revealed a glass ceiling above that.
“What is the point of the ceiling panels?” muttered Heiliger, looking up.
He saw only darkness there.
The different depths of darkness were due to the tubes laid out throughout that space.
And in the deepest part was a small red light. It almost looked like a star in the sky.
“Is that you, Rose?” asked Graham without even looking up.
He was answered by a girl’s voice coming from the center of the observation deck.
“It is, bigger brother.”
Rose stood behind Heiliger, in the center of the glass floor.
He turned around and looked alternately between the faintly transparent girl and the red light in the depths of the darkness above.
“Once every three days, my true self requires maintenance and ventilation,” said Rose, looking up.
Heiliger followed her gaze.
Something like white steam was spraying out into the darkness there.
It also looked like smoke, but it turned to bubbles, spread out, and ascended.
“Is that a liquid beyond the glass?”
“The coolant must be fully replaced. That red collection of concentrated circuits is less than an inch long, but it is my true body now. Using my nerves stretched out across the Requiem produces a lot of heat.” Rose kept the smile in her voice. “I can tell. This Eingeweide used a Schreiben device, which gave me that as a new body, but I can sense how it feels far better than I can sense anything from this projection here.”
“When submerged in coolant, it feels a little like when I was sleeping below Munich. But once every three days I get to do this…which feels kind of like taking a bath, I guess. And when we do this-”
Without even turning her way, Graham cleared his throat to finish her sentence for her.
“You selfishly ask to see the outside world.”
The amount of bubbles overhead suddenly grew, but as they rose through that space, they eventually popped and vanished.
A liquid with a different pressure was pumped in and the space solidified somewhat.
The distant red light wavered a bit. Rose smiled.
“I can’t thank the workers up there enough. Today is my third time to do it midair, but the supply transport corridor large enough for a Grösse Panzer is really busy.”
“You can see what’s happening up there?”
“This me here isn’t the real me. It’s only an image created by solidifying the Tons of the air.”
She pointed up at the red light.
“That is my core…my naked self. Only you two get to see me like this, brothers. I haven’t even let Sir Alfred see.”
“So my sister is growing up. …Well, he does appear to be an excellent man.”
“But he always treats me like a child when I’m older than him.”
“But you learned a lot more about him recently, didn’t you?”
“Yes. I learned what happened in the past…and that I am a lot like a certain woman.” Rose smiled a little. “That woman’s wedding is in 5 days, but Sir Alfred says he will not be attending. That Captain Schweitzer is apparently taking Lowenzahn with him.”
“I see,” said Heiliger, trying to pat Rose’s shoulder with his metal arm.
He could not.
His hand vanished inside her shoulder and stopped.
“You were always such a good girl. You would always stop me and my brother’s arguments with a smile. …I am sure Lieutenant Maldrick will realize the same thing eventually.”
“Yes, I think so too. I just know he will remember me forever.”
Heiliger’s eyebrows moved when she said that.
He opened his lips to ask something, but…
Rose’s smile grew and she looked up at her brother.
“Big brother, you get along with bigger brother, okay? Try to understand him. …Maybe this isn’t the nicest way of putting it, but unlike him and me, you are so ignorant and so soft.”
“Yes, you could have put that nicer.”
“But it’s true. I’m sure you will understand one day and then you will know exactly what I mean…but you are soft and that is a good thing. And you are ignorant, which is also a good thing.”
Meanwhile, another metallic sound came from the ceiling.
It was closing. Sealing back up.
Heiliger removed his gaze from the girl to look up. He saw the red light in the darkness past the closing ceiling.
For a brief moment, he thought the light grew brighter.
At the same time, the image of his sister vanished.
The ceiling had fully closed.
He sighed toward the floor and looked to his brother’s back.
“Take care of Rose.” He lowered his gaze a little. “Because she too has chosen you over me.”
That was all Heiliger said before turning away from his brother.
He walked to the large door leading from the observation deck.
He left alone.
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