City Series:Volume6c Chapter4
Chapter 4: The Requiem Accelerates
05/30/1942 12:05 – 12:58
Crossroads can be found anywhere
I notice one
Come to a stop
Wonder what to do
And can’t find an answer
The racial oppression fueled by Germany’s obsession with pure blood was first directed at the nonhumans known as Heidengeists.
The first wave of Heidengeist oppression came in ’35 when the German Citizenship Law and the German Citizen Safety and Security Law stripped Heidengeists of their citizenship. This was forced upon ordinary people shortly after the Berlin Conflict.
The second wave of Heidengeist oppression came in ’37 when well-known and prominent Heidengeists were driven out of the government and military to prepare for the coming war. This reached its peak by the end of ’38.
The third wave came on January 20 of ’42 when the Wannsee Conference determined a Heidengeist presence would not be allowed inside or outside of Germany and other races would be expelled from the country.
In the initial stages, the oppression was limited to expulsion from the country and confiscation of assets, but in the later stages, they were processed into Phlogiston Plattes. The details of this process are not fully known even in the present day.
Hazel thought she was decent at the organ.
…If only the AIF entrance exam and training included music.
She had that thought while playing the antique organ in front of her.
The notes reverberated through a small church that could only hold around 40 people. The place was old, but the roof was sturdy and it had pews and a pulpit. But since this was a Heidengeist village, there was no cross or icons.
When she saw a chalkboard in one corner of the deserted church, she realized the place was used for Sunday school.
And she played. In addition to the Unreif Germane, she played older nursery rhymes like the Harvest Hymn or Moonlit Forest. She had no sheet music set up on the organ. She did not play by reading music.
…I can play it from memory after hearing it a few times.
She played a song she had learned just a bit ago after hearing it played by a woman with the Titel of Lehrer.
…She seems strict, but I also feel like I’ve met her before.
She looked about five years older than Hazel.
Her most notable traits where the eyes kept shut behind tinted glasses and the soft-looking blonde hair falling to the back of her knees. The shut eyes gave her a somewhat expressionless look and Hazel guessed that was what made her look so familiar and strict.
…I shouldn’t judge people by their appearance.
She nodded and got a note wrong.
She briefly panicked, but then remembered she was alone in the church. To refocus her mind, she stepped on the foot pedal a few times to send air into the organ and began playing at a higher volume.
She did not remember how many songs she had played in a row.
She simply shut her eyes and played.
She mimicked Lehrer.
Of course, Lehrer had not only kept her eyes shut while playing. They had been shut when Hazel and Berger met her in the central square, when she had taken them to Pale, when she had shown them to a vacant house near the square they could stay in, and when she had brought Hazel here when Hazel asked if there was anything she could do to help.
She could walk, talk, and point at things without opening her eyes because she was a Buster. Her job was to read and destroy Lives.
Hazel could read Lives as well. Up to an octave of nearly a million.
But she could not do it so constantly.
To her, that felt like the barrier between being a Greenhorner and being a full-fledged Tuner or Buster.
“I can’t see them like that.”
She got another note wrong as she said that, but it no longer bothered her.
Instead, she was bothered by what she had been told in that nightmare.
“A Messiah who only fights for the present.”
That would mean…
“They can’t see past this war.”
…What will I do once the war is over?
She had been asked the same thing five years ago. She had been asked to describe her future plans in class.
…What do I want to do in the future?
She finished one song and the music came to a stop.
A dove sitting on a ceiling beam and shaking in the music suddenly flew down into the church, scattering white feathers inside the somewhat shadowy building.
Hazel slowly removed her hands from the keys.
She placed her right hand over her left shoulder. The brand she was given at the Heidenheim was still there. It would never go away unless she tore away the skin itself.
“I hadn’t considered it.”
She silently removed her tensing hand and held her left hand to her chest instead.
She had a card in the breast pocket there.
She pulled it out to reveal the Wheel of Destiny card.
…I know how it began and I know why we’re involved, but…
“What do I want out of this?”
“What kind of power do I need for that?”
…I need to know what I want to do after the war to know what kind of power I want.
Seeking the result before the method felt contradictory, so she could not speak that part aloud.
She didn’t know the answer.
After a beat, she shook her head.
She resumed playing to distract herself.
She played the Unreif Germane.
That song told the tale of the Messiah who had appeared to unify Germany.
That woman had appeared in this world, led a dragon and some Strikers, and unified an ununified Germany.
…How did that fight go?
The music sped up. And sped up some more.
Her fingers moved across the keys, the music followed, and it all grew denser. And denser.
She pressed down her foot to send air into the organ.
She stepped down for a louder sound.
And she played. She pressed down on the organ’s keys to play. A festival was underway outside. Everyone was dancing and laughing. They were enjoying themselves. This space was cut off from the war. This place should not have existed.
But there was still a war being waged inside her.
She pressed hard on the keys.
She made no mistakes. Just like when practice swinging her sword, she was more accurate when pouring more force into the movements.
She played with accurate movements, seeking each new key in turn and pressing it.
She continued onward with perfect accuracy and void of mistakes – hoping to reach the answer in the final note.
And just as she prepared to play the very end, an image burst into her vision.
The large church door sat open to allow the music to reach everyone outside.
A chalkboard on legs stood next to the entrance, presumably for Sunday school.
A pair of small children, perhaps a brother and a sister, stood in front of the chalkboard.
The older brother was writing on and drawing a waterfall and river on the chalkboard while saying something to the younger sister.
He spread his arms and mimicked holding some kind of stick.
He was teaching her.
He was telling his sister about how he went fishing at a nearby river, or maybe that he planned to.
This was a small school.
The scene linked directly to the question filling Hazel’s mind.
What did she want to do after the war?
She realized her hands had stopped on the keys.
She had stopped playing while watching the siblings enthusiastically discussing something in front of the chalkboard.
But she felt no desire to start playing again. Her mind was focused on her vision more than her hands.
The brother was using the chalkboard and his gestures to teach his sister something. He had turned this into a small school.
“Is that my answer?”
She smiled bitterly when she noticed she said that out loud. And she continued in her thoughts.
…This has been bothering me since I was arrested in ’37, hasn’t it?
When her class had been asked about their futures, her friend had confidently opened up about her dream, but Hazel had been unable to come out and say she wanted to be a teacher before the soldiers had burst into the classroom and taken her away as part of the Heidengeist purge.
…I couldn’t find an answer back then. Just like in my nightmare.
She was attending her college’s education department now, but a war was on. Dreams did not come true during war.
Then she gasped in realization.
“Is my answer really something as personal and selfish as wanting to be a teacher once the war is over?”
It was an attractive thought, but she shook it out of her head.
She sighed and told herself she needed to seek out something that would help everyone during this war. When her shoulders relaxed, her hands lowered on the keys, playing a silly-sounding chord.
The siblings turned toward her in surprise.
Just then, something blocked the sunlight shining in through the church’s entrance. Two figures stood there.
One was 2.5 yards tall and had two prosthetic arms.
The other was slender, but still had feminine curves.
Hazel stood up.
At the same time, the siblings leaped toward the slender figure’s hips. The figure turned to catch them, allowing the sunlight in and revealing who she was.
The woman wore the dress uniform of a female AIF officer. Below her long, soft, and wavy blonde hair, she wore tinted glasses over closed eyes.
The sister called out her Titel.
She rubbed the children’s heads and then turned toward Hazel. Her expression was hard to read with her eyes shut, but Hazel could see a faint yellow tone color – enjoyment.
Lehrer spoke with a small smile on her lips. Her voice carried well.
“The bride and groom will be making their entrance soon, so come with us.”
The wedding was being held outside and it began with the couple standing on an oak platform and answering a few questions asked by the mayor.
Lehrer and Pale took Hazel into the 50-yard center square where the village’s Heidengeists had already gathered and formed a ring. Short Hazel tried to stretch upwards, but…
“I can’t see.”
Pale, who wore a casual shirt, smiled with his one eye.
“Want to sit up on my shoulders?”
She just about agreed before remembering she was wearing a skirt. She politely declined and walked around the square in search of a hole in the circle of people. She saw the backs of so many different species. She saw fur, scales, and wings. She saw nonhumanoid shapes. She even saw the living dead and ghosts.
Seeing the great diversity on display, she was reminded of her brief passage through England on the way to Germany.
…It’s true what they say about the Heidengeists moving from Europe to England.
Then she noticed a back she recognized.
It was a Geheimnis Agent.
This was the Lieutenant Schweitzer she had met five years ago.
She wondered what he was doing here, but she also picked up her pace. Once she was far enough around the circle to get a look at him in profile, she confirmed it really was him.
This reminded her of her position here, so she hurried the rest of the way around the square.
Once back at her original position, she found Pale had acquired three wooden mugs at some point.
“They were passing out celebratory drinks while you were running around. They say it’s made from the fruit they harvested this spring.”
Hazel saw him hold two mugs out toward her.
“I can’t drink two.”
“One’s for the world’s second most pretension dumbass standing over there.”
A metal finger pointed outside the square.
She looked that way and found her greatest safe zone: Dog Berger.
A single tree grew on a small hill in the grassy area north of the center square. He stood there in his black coat, looking down at the square.
Pale bowed and Hazel jogged over to Berger.
She made sure not to spill the drinks as she ran, but running on the grass felt nice through her shoes.
She entered the shade of the tree.
He did not respond.
She saw him still staring toward the square with no readable expression on his face.
She tried to figure out what to do with her hands full of mugs, but he held out a hand without looking her way. He was telling her to give him one.
She did so.
He took a sip without saying a word. He did not even blink as he stared emotionlessly at the square.
Hazel sighed, wiped sweat from her brow with a handkerchief, and sat next to him. She made sure to hold the skirt in the back of her knees as she sat on the grass.
She looked to the square as well.
From the hilltop, she realized the ring of people was less than 10 yards across and only about four people thick. The tallest figures were the animal Heidengeists, but the most colorful were the winged ones.
The only humans in the ring were…
…The Geheimnis Agent?
No, there was also a human woman standing next to Schweitzer. She had brown hair worn in one long braid.
Hazel just about dropped her mug when she saw the woman.
“She’s the one from my dreams!!”
Realizing Berger was looking at her now, she clapped a hand over her mouth.
And she panicked.
…It’s the same person and the same outfit as in my dreams?
The woman wore her long brown hair in a single braid and she wore a green men’s suit. There was no doubting it. That was definitely the woman who would kneel before her and ask that question in her dreams.
“I don’t believe it.”
She shook he head, tensed her shoulders, leaned over toward Berger, and looked away from the woman.
She looked to the large oak platform in the center of the square. The crops harvested during spring and the drinks, foods, textiles, and other products made from them were piled up on that platform.
The gaunt mayor stood in front of it all wearing casual clothing. Hazel worked to steady her breathing while guessing his pale skin meant he was a long-lived ghost.
A man and a woman stood in front of him.
The young man wore black clothing and his skin was a little dark. He was a demon, which meant he would have a hard time in churches.
The woman wore a gorgeous white dress with a hand-woven lace veil hiding her face.
Hazel sighed and her gaze wandered back over to the green suit woman.
The woman was looking back at her.
She gasped, scooting about a foot back on her butt and putting on a stiff smile.
She bowed toward the woman to try and smooth things over.
The woman noticed, narrowed her eyes, and nodded.
They had apparently managed to communicate.
Hazel heard her heart hammering in her chest and hid behind Berger.
When she looked forward again, the woman was no longer looking her way. That was a small relief.
…Is she with the Geheimnis Agency too?
Just then, Lehrer entered the ring of people, bowed toward them all, and said something.
Color flew from the surrounding ring.
People were throwing bouquets of flowers.
They cheered and shouted. They all raised their mugs and voices below the fluttering flowers.
The ring dissolved as the people mingled together and started dancing. The groom was lifted and then thrown into the air by the men and the bride was surrounded by the woman and given a large bouquet to hold.
Then the bride removed the flower-decorated veil from her head and threw it.
It flew toward…
The woman standing next to the Geheimnis Agent caught the flying white cloth.
She had scrambled up onto the man’s shoulder to pull it off.
After snatching the lace out of the air, she cheered, but she blushed when she noticed everyone watching her.
Her nimble movements had caught the other people by surprise, but they eventually burst into laughter.
The Geheimnis Agent man used his prosthetic right hand to snatch her from his shoulder and lower her to the ground. Then the village’s men raised their mugs toward the two and laughed.
Cheer filled the place.
Hazel smiled a little herself as she watched from afar and then she looked to the bride.
She had seen the woman before.
She was in Berger’s pendant. She was in that glimpse of the past shown on that photograph. The one that showed him smiling in a way he had never had for Hazel.
Now she understood why Berger and that Geheimnis Agent were here.
She gulped and recalled the name she had seen on that photograph three years ago.
…I stole a look at it, so…
Berger did not know she had seen it. So she looked at him while making sure he wouldn’t notice that she knew. She took a sip of the citrusy drink in her mug as she did so.
She noticed his stance had somewhat changed from before.
He now had his right hand inside his black coat. She wondered if he was touching the pendant, but he was not.
He was holding Gelegenheit’s hilt.
He was staring forward, probably at Eryngium, but there was no expression on his face.
His lips, however, were moving.
No voice emerged, but he had definitely said something.
Hazel could not see his Lives. He was hiding everything.
He had said something without noticing her staring. She did not know if it was words of celebration or what, but she did know he had shut his eyes somewhat.
He was no longer looking to the central square.
She quickly looked back that way as if to take over for him and saw Eryngium and the groom drinking while surrounded by all the other people.
They were smiling.
…What does this mean? That Geheimnis Agent, the woman from my nightmares, and Eryngium are all here.
She started to say something until she saw something in the sky.
She noticed three lines of white in the southern end of the clear blue sky above the forest surrounding the village.
They were contrails.
The three contrails rose from above the forest rooftops, to above the blue sky, and then to the heavens themselves. They ascended and ascended.
They suddenly came to an end high, high up in the sky.
By then, the villagers had noticed it as well. A few of them sipped at their drinks and pointed up at the white slashes dividing the blue sky overhead.
Those three white lines rose into the heavens and vanished.
They almost seemed to be joining the festivities.
Hazel tried to say as much to Berger.
He was gone.
He had vanished at some point. She tilted her head and checked behind the tree, but he wasn’t there either.
He must have gone elsewhere.
…Is he okay?
She wondered that and lifted the mug in her hands.
She lost her equilibrium and rolled over onto the ground. Her head felt weirdly heavy.
She was drunk.
Hazel stared up into the sky while collapsed behind the tree.
…I can’t stay here. I have to get to that empty house next to the square.
She wasn’t sure why, but two women with some kind of a connection to her were here.
“What is with this village?”
Her alcohol-loosened lips uttered a complaint as she slowly got back up.
Standing up too quickly made her dizzy, so she took it slow and then got moving.
Once she started down the slope, her legs started moving on their own. Carrying her down.
“Oh, no, no, no, no.”
She arrived at the square in a jog and it took her five or six steps to regain her balance.
She tried staying still.
In the square, a large number of Heidengeists were seated on a large picnic sheet and chatting pleasantly. There was laughter and singing. There were no insults or fear. Every species had at least a few different members present.
Hazel stood there all alone, but…
The balance of her inner ear started to collapse.
She moved her head and her somewhat feverish gaze searched for the vacant house she and Berger had been given.
She found it at 10 o’clock or northwest. The wooden house was a short walk across the field surrounding the central square.
She turned that way and got her unsteady legs moving again.
Just as she started walking and wobbling, she heard a voice from the seated Heidengeists.
“Hey, what are you doing there, miss!?”
It was Pale’s voice, but she did not have it in her to check where exactly he was.
With that, she walked from the square with the mug in one hand. She staggered side to side and turned her head. She still had 15 steps before reaching the vacant house. That felt like a horribly long journey.
She heard Berger’s voice.
From behind the vacant house. He seemed to be talking with someone. She could not hear what he was saying, but there was a light, cheerful tone to his voice.
Her heart skipped a beat.
…He only sounds so happy when he feels trapped.
It was the same tone of voice he had used when fighting the Kaiser three years ago or facing down the Sylphide five years ago.
She resumed walking.
Her legs were still unsteady, but she had gotten the hang of it.
She arrived at the vacant house, placed her hand on the log wall for support, and started to circle behind the house.
Then she heard a female voice join with Berger’s.
It was Lehrer’s voice.
That brought Hazel some small relief.
…Are they hiding back here to trade AIF intel?
She peeked behind the house and prepared to call Berger’s name.
But she quickly pulled her head back.
She took a few steps back along the wall and then turned the corner toward the front door.
“Um, uh, um.”
She spoke aloud what she had seen.
“They were kissing…”
Only by speaking the words did she truly understand them.
The image burned into her eyes showed Lehrer as the instigator. She had stretched up, draped her arms around Berger’s neck, and placed her lips on his.
…What is going on here?
Hazel touched her right hand, the one not holding the mug, to her lips as if that would help her understand.
She did not understand the word escaping her lips or the scene she had just witnessed.
Nor did she understand the woman from he dreams or Eryngium’s presence here.
She had nothing but questions spinning through her mind when organ music from the church reached her ears.
Music much like hers from earlier seemed to push her onward, so her legs began to move.
She practically leaned against the entranceway as she opened the door.
The wind blew into the vacant house, seeming to draw out the smell of the wood and the dim shadows.
She stepped inside to cut herself off from what she had seen outside.
It was a small house. The 5-yard room had a fireplace on the north side, a simple kitchen with no equipment on the east side, and a bed with only a mattress and sheets on the west side.
She looked to the fireplace and sighed. Berger was likely still beyond there.
Lehrer would be with him.
Hazel shook her heavy head, but that did nothing to help.
“What do I do? I don’t understand any of this.”
She set the mug down in the kitchen, walked across the room on unsteady legs, and collapsed into the bed without removing her shoes. The texture of the artificial mattress and sheets felt oddly nostalgic.
The chill of the sheets felt nice on her heated skin and she remembered another important factor.
“How am I supposed to get Berger to join the AIF like this?”
She continued the thought in her mind while she gradually relaxed.
…I don’t know anything about him.
She drifted off before the words were even complete.
Her breathing grew softer and softer, but her brow remained somewhat furrowed.
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