City Series:Volume6c Chapter5
Chapter 5: The Requiem Races
5/30/1942 18:32 – 22:20
Do crossroads connect your current path to a new one?
If so, a crossroads is not the same as a fork in the road.
I’m not sure how to put it.
Does anyone know what I’m trying to say?
A Babel Cannon is a system that accelerates words to use them either as bullets or as a beam.
The basic structure includes a giant cannon reminiscent of the biblical Tower of Babel and a launching mechanism that accelerates the powerful word particles, so there is little theoretical difference between them and ordinary cannons.
They are divided into two general categories based on the type of projectile: either a bullet made by hardening the word particles or a beam that releases the word particles. The former has a simpler structure but can only be fired instantaneously. The latter is more complex and much bigger, but can be fired over an extended period of time. During the Great War, the former was referred to as Babel Guns and the latter as Babel Cannons.
They are tremendously destructive. Everything within range of the target space undergoes word collapse, causing it to literally rupture. They are the ultimate weapon of the current age. For example, a resonance Babel Cannon nearly destroyed England’s heaven in ’33.
Only Germany’s Geheimnis Agency and the British military have developed Babel Cannon technology, so while England works more closely with the rest of the Allies, they have sealed away all of their R&D documents until the year 2000 to avoid any other country stealing the technology.
At 5:32 PM, while the 3rd Aerial Fleet off the coast of Norway was engaging the German troops, the Big Signal, a British aerial warship equipped with a Babel Gun, finally completed the 11-hour process of connecting and turning the barrel, so it began to ascend.
The ship’s large silhouette was visible on the North Sea’s moonlit clouds where the German aerial ships could not reach it. The shell loading zone at the rear of the barrel was temporarily sitting open.
While its escort ships arranged themselves in a concentrated defensive formation, the 10-yard container sector at the rear of the Big Signal began to move. Three of the walls opened up, leaving only the front wall that connected to the bullet accelerator.
The opened walls revealed a soft weblike steel frame and cords with airtight coverings. The cords were tangled and twisted around the frame, making the place look like a jungle.
An enormous musical instrument sat in in the center of the frame.
It was a harp.
But this harp extended sharply forward and the keel-like piece supporting the strings was nearly 6 yards long.
Sounding boards meant to help spread its sound stuck out from the spine of the harp like a stegosaurus’s back plates and two giant amplification shells resembling spiral shells were installed on the harp’s rear.
The harp was known as an ultraheavy harp.
It was played by a girl. She had a slender body and long brown hair, but the right half of her body had been removed and she was linked to the connectors on the harp and amplification shells.
Her arms and legs were ceramic and the joints were covered, but her face, throat, and stomach were the same as a human’s. She was a Sein Frau designed to play this harp and sing.
Her name was stitched into her clothing: Bendaughter-East.
She was one of the three sisters who performed the music when London’s big clock reached the top of the hour.
The ultraheavy harp’s name was written on it: BBH-02 Sunshine.
The Sein Frau was not moving. Her head was lowered in sleep.
The left arm designed to play the large harp was long enough to reach the floor.
The special prosthetic right arm sticking out from the other side of the harp was also motionless.
Time slowly passed, the moon slowly moved, and the moonlight finally reached her face.
The chilly wind of the high altitude gently washed through her hair and stroked her cheek.
The first thing to move was the cords crawling around the frame like a jungle. A few of the cords went taut, shook, and then emitted steam in the cold air.
Next to the two large shells on the rear of the harp, the autonomous clasps rotated and released their brakes.
The special prosthetic arm on the starboard side rotated each finger six times and began to clench and unclench.
Then the Sunshine’s exterior panels lifted up just a bit and a powerful breath blew from within.
The frame shook, the cords swayed, and the wind whipped at Bendaughter’s clothing and hair.
As the ultraheavy harp awoke itself with an autocleaning cycle that resembled a yawn, something else began to move as well.
Bendaughter’s eyelids slowly opened.
Her lowered head faced forward and then up into the sky.
Her expression remained blank. She was only designed to play the harp and sing, so she had no thoughts beyond that.
But she still opened her eyes wide while viewing the light of the moon hanging high in the sky.
She opened her mouth and the pressure gathered in her lungs pushed her voice from deep within her throat and gut.
It was a single loud tone.
New movements gradually joined in. The idling Babel Gun fully activated. It had reached its completed form atop the Big Signal and the shafts installed inside and outside it began a rapid phase transition. This was meant to eliminate any vibration in the gun’s core.
The miniature transition-style word accelerator at the base of the cannon began to operate. The cylindrical accelerator was large enough to stick out from the edge of the ship and a transition space was bound to each end of the cylinder to provide the same effect as a large circular accelerator in as little space as possible. That device took up more power than any other part of the ship.
The emblem panels producing the transition space were installed complexly along the outside of the cylinder as well to fight the internal pressure.
Everything had activated now.
And it was all tied together by a voice.
The single tone continued. It had not stopped for a moment.
Bendaughter’s body was linked to the ultraheavy harp, but her intake and output of nutrients and an external supply of oxygen were handled by pipes connected to her linking surface. So as long as the vibration of her voice did not numb her brainstem, she could sing indefinitely without needing to take a breath.
But that stopped without warning.
After viewing the moonlight for only a few seconds, Bendaughter lowered her gaze to face forward again.
She kept her eyes there as she moved her left hand around behind her head.
That arm was 2 yards long and it produced a mechanical whirring as it moved.
Fingers with built-in picks arrived at the base of the frame between the two shells.
There was a large square hole at the top of the frame and she pulled a book and a small bag from there.
Her left arm returned. First, she placed the book on her lap and skillfully opened the bag with just the one hand.
She pulled out what looked like a single thumb-sized red gem. It was a piece of hard candy.
She casually tossed it in her mouth, placed the bag at her feet, and picked up the book. Her expressionless gaze viewed the title.
“Unreif Germane – Six Sections in Song.”
She used the one hand to flip through the pages. Sheet music was written there, but she read through it at a rate of less than a second per 10 pages.
“Understood. If anything becomes unclear, I can check again.”
She set the book aside.
Sunshine’s exterior panels opened a bit and it inhaled this time.
The shell loading zone’s outer walls surrounded her as if in response.
She spoke aloud while the giant soundproof box closed around her.
“Additional Order: New #78. Categories: Song, German, Special. Objective: Perform the high pressure song for approximately nine hours to create a Babel Gun bullet.”
She said it all without taking a breath.
With that final word, two final sounds escaped the closing loading zone.
The strum of a harp’s strings and the singing of a voice carried far through the sky before vanishing inside the soundproof box.
Night had fallen.
The stars were spread across the sky. The lack of lights in the German mountains meant the surface was pitch black.
The small lights of a city were visible in the distance. That would be Cologne.
The mountainlike silhouette next to Cologne had to be the Requiem. A few dark silhouettes walked through the mountains and forest where that was visible.
The men in black uniforms made no noise as they moved and walked. They only disturbed the air a bit.
A few such people were gathered in one spot.
A camouflage tent had been set up in the darkness as a command center.
A single mountain-equipped Klein Panzer stood in a small clearing. An outdoor Phlogiston Tank sat next to it with cords extending toward the tent and the machines within.
There was a single bright color inside the command center.
It took the form of a woman. She had some shallow wrinkles on her face but still maintained a sharp atmosphere. She currently stood in the center of the command center tent. She wore the field uniform of the Geheimnis Agency Army Division and the bottom of the pants were noticeably muddy even in the dark.
She stared forward with her arms crossed. Her sharp gaze fell on the man seated in front of her. He wore a worn-out three-piece suit and sat on the ground with his arms around a 1-foot tin can resting atop a mountain frame. He was Intelligence Division Chief Witzmann and he rubbed his bald head while laughing in the darkness.
“I know you’re busy, Jeanne, so I do apologize for the intrusion. Ha ha ha.”
“This is no laughing matter. Imagine my men’s surprise when they saw one of the Fünf Leithammel walking up without contacting us first. Not to mention when you let yourself be captured so easily.”
“Walking? I did take a car all the way to the foot of the mountain.”
Jeanne tilted her head at that.
“Your choices always baffle me. Why would you choose such an inefficient way to do your duty as Intelligence Division Chief?” She pulled over a nearby chair and sat with her legs crossed. “Why are you here, Intelligence Division Chief Witzmann? I can’t imagine one of the Fünf Leithammel would visit anyone as insignificant as us without a good reason.”
“You sure are strict.”
“I just don’t like things that make no sense. Like you. I know the Intelligence Division handles supply transportation too, but why would one of the Fünf Leithammel arrive here alone and on foot? Is this some kind of game to you?”
“Of course not. I came alone because I wanted to speak with you without anyone else nearby.”
Witzmann pushed his frame and can aside.
Jeanne looked at them and then spoke to the person walking close by.
“Hey, check on this Ton bullet immediately. We will soon meet with our commander at the foot of the mountain and track down the Messiah at Cologne. …Will this be your first time meeting our commander!? You aren’t going to believe who she is, let me tell you!”
Witzmann smiled when he heard that.
“So our commander has directly ordered the Messiah’s capture, has she? I thought you were only here to capture Pale Horse.”
“I’m as surprised as you. She named herself on an open radio channel. But thanks to that, we have the personnel we need and we can catch up to the Messiah and Pale Horse on the Cologne side of the mountains. Even ‘Schütze Puppe’ Bermark will be joining us.”
“Hm. But if we do capture the Messiah, then all of Lowenzahn Naylor’s authority as our commander will be given to the Messiah as our leader. Assuming we do get the Messiah girl, of course.”
“That is our job. …I am most pleased our commander is relying on us for this.”
“Hm.” Witzmann nodded. “I see. Now, Jeanne. I have a suggestion.”
He smiled a little and suddenly stood up.
He took two steps, arriving directly in front of seated Jeanne.
“How about a game? I am currently analyzing something with the reputation of the entire intelligence division riding on it.”
He pulled a foot-long piece of metal of from within his coat.
It was a flat panel with a slight curve to it. He held it out toward Jeanne.
“I extracted my favorite plate from the historical ones placed below Munich in Germany’s past.”
“Why would you do that? Karlsruhe is in charge of that place.”
“That does not matter,” insisted Witzmann. “Twenty-odd years ago, Frobel Naylor, the head of the Naylor family at the time, created this plate and attempted to place it below Munich. It was engraved with a way to save the world, or something along those lines. She had prophesied that that place would be opened up once a crisis befell Germany.”
“So to ensure no one would see it, no one would make a fuss about it, and no one would lose it before it was needed, she hid it among the records of the past that will all one day show their true value. But.”
“Something went wrong at some point. Marsch Gant from the Development Division noticed this and carved the solution off of the surface. It feels like a riddle now. …It wasn’t easy getting Elrich away from this. Go under Munich now and you will find a mere copy of this.”
Witzmann’s eyes dropped to the plate and Jeanne’s eyes followed.
“I will leave this with you, Army Division Deputy Head Jeanne Schmitt. You take your duty seriously. No matter what you see or learn, you will not doubt the things you have come to trust in. So I know you will continue to trust in our commander. Even as you hide this.”
“You think too highly of me,” she said with a bitter smile.
Witzmann smiled back.
“Which is why I suggested a game, Jeanne. I have compiled the text and the property classification chart I was able to gather from that plate. All that remains is checking the past records to continue the examination. However.”
“Do you think that will be dangerous?”
“I honestly do not know. …But I do know the previous head of the Naylor family attempted to hide it until the time came. I do not know if she was mistaken to leave it where she did. So if you think the time has come to give that to someone you think should have it, then will you please give it to them? But I may finish my analysis before that time comes.”
“So the game is about me coming across such an opportunity versus your analysis abilities?”
“No, it is my destiny versus yours. The question is whether we are talking about a destiny of ruin or of happiness.”
Jeanne’s shoulders lowered a bit when she heard that. She picked up the plate, and…
“I will look after this. I swear to you not even the air will touch it until either you complete your task or destiny favors me.”
“You really do take your duty seriously. I hope we can get along.”
They shook hands. After two or three shakes, they let go and Witzmann turned around. He walked outside the tent.
Jeanne put the plate in her coat and called out to him.
“Where are you going? I could have someone drive you down the mountain.”
Witzmann didn’t even stop as he replied.
“No, I happened across a nice tree on the way up. A large tree next to the road leading away from the Borderson region below. From there, I hope to steal an in-person look at the Messiah girl as she escapes.”
“Is that what you were looking for while you wandered through the mountains earlier!?”
He answered her with laughter. The good-natured laughter melted away into the night.
Hazel didn’t see a cloud in the sky.
There was a forest in the distance, but right in front of her were…
A large crowd of people.
Not just dozens or hundreds, but thousands or tens of thousands.
There were men and woman. No children, but some were elderly and others still young.
They were all keeping quiet while looking her way. Their gazes were directed somewhat upwards.
…They’re below me.
And they were surrounding her.
She stood on a wooden stage overlooking them. Their silence coiled over their heads as expanding dark-red
Lives that looked ready to explode at any moment.
She looked down at them without fear.
But when she noticed the movement of her gaze was not her own, she realized this was a dream.
She took half a step back while viewing the dream brought to her by all her senses. An oppressive atmosphere hung over the dream.
When she looked closer, she noticed something new.
All the people spread out before her were wearing old-fashioned clothing or armor.
This was not the mass-produced clothing or armored uniforms designed for the soldiers who fought in modern battles. They were mostly equipped with swords and spears, but none of them looked mass-produced either.
When she looked between the distant forests’ trees, she saw a few old-fashioned Barrels.
…What is this gathering for?
Wondering that, her vision tilted down again. A wooden altar-like platform was built below the stage.
Four men stood there.
The armor, clothing, and cloaks they wore were nothing like the rest of the crowd. It was much higher quality.
One of the four, the one on the far right, was not wearing armor and was only lightly equipped, but he held a thick scroll under his left arm.
Just as Hazel wondered who those four were, her vision moved again.
She looked to the horizon and then side to side. She looked to all the people below.
Her dream self raised her right hand. It held a sword Device.
She recognized the sword. It resembled the one wielded by the Heavy Barrel named Kaiser she had fought two years ago.
When her dream self held that sword aloft, she was answered by an explosion of voices.
The waves of people spread out before her released their voices and their coiling dark red Lives into the sky above.
Thousands or tens of thousands of voices joined together to form an indistinct roar that reminded her of a crashing waterfall.
The wind was afraid, the forest surprised, and the earth trembled, but it did not stop.
Her dream sense felt the vibration. She saw the thundering Lives and rejoiced.
But her current self sensed something strange from her position a step removed.
Her vision was looking down at the people thrusting up their weapons and shouting.
…Why am I looking down at them?
She was definitely looking down at all those people. And…
She suddenly looked up into the sky. The clear blue sky.
A dragon flew there.
When she saw the 30-yard azure dragon, she knew for certain this was a dream.
The craft that had once broken apart in the sky above the North Sea was hovering in the sky now.
It rocked in the wind, seemingly enjoying the waves created by that wind.
Hazel felt dizzy and, by the time she took another breath, her vision had lowered and slowly turned to look behind her.
Someone else stood on the stage too.
Her vision looked back and found a color she hadn’t seen yet here.
This was not the blue of the sky, the green of the forest, the brown of the dirt, or the silver of the armor.
It was the black of shadows.
The young man standing there had only one arm.
She recognized him.
She denied it. She rejected it. She refused to accept it.
This was a nightmare, but the nightmare continued. Her recurring nightmares always ended with a certain image.
She would dream of saying goodbye to someone.
He would disappear into the shadows of the night and she could not follow after him.
The dream of loss had repeated itself so often she started to feel like it was one of her memories. And now it was happening again.
She shouted. And not just on the inside. She shouted out loud like a child.
She shouted his name. Instead of telling herself to wake up from the dream, she shouted the leaving person’s name in order to reject the dream.
Hazel shot upright. She opened her eyes and faced forward.
She was in a small room.
“Where am I?”
This still didn’t feel real. Her senses still felt the wind and heard all those people’s voices.
When she wrapped her arms around herself, she naturally pressed her right hand against her left shoulder and recalled who she was.
Her hand held the Wheel of Destiny card that had been in her left breast pocket.
She recalled what had led up to that dream.
Sweat rapidly soaked her entire body.
She was sitting on a bed. She had gotten drunk and fallen asleep.
The flowers in the vase on the side table looked awfully red and she found she was fully awake now.
She quickly checked her watch and found it was 8 PM. It was dark outside the window.
“We need to leave here with General Pale at 10 and get to Cologne.”
She recalled something else too.
…When am I going to invite Berger to join the AIF?
She didn’t know what she should do there. But…
“I should at least talk with him.”
Just as she managed to calm her breathing, the door burst open.
She looked over to find Berger standing in the doorway. He looked down at her with no readable expression on his face.
“We’re leaving in an hour.”
With that brief report, he gave a flip of his black coat, walked past her, and sat at the foot of the bed. The bed shook a bit. He had his back to her and did not look back.
She sat with her legs folded underneath her, placed her hands on her knees, and stared at his back.
No response. But she waited a bit.
After a breath or two and still nothing, she decided he wasn’t just being slow to respond. This time, she spoke more firmly.
“What? Keep it quick.”
She could not see any tone color at all coming from him. But…
This is fine, she insisted to herself.
He wouldn’t let her see his emotions, so she felt like she was walking blindly through the darkness as she opened her mouth. Instead of asking him directly, she took a different tack.
“Why won’t you join the AIF?”
“Were you asked to get me to join?”
He immediately saw through her.
“Um, well, uh.”
“They keep trying to do this. My answer is no. Remember that.”
When he was that blunt about it, she felt more miffed than disappointed.
“Why did you join? Why are you fighting a war, Hazel Mirildorf?”
That was more or less the same thing the woman in the green suit had asked her in her dream.
She had found something like an answer while playing the organ at the church today, but she still couldn’t put it to words.
Just like in ’37 and just like in her nightmare, she was unsure what to say.
She was not entirely sure. She was not confident in her answer. He must have realized that because he said more without turning around.
“Sounds like you have a vague understanding, but it still hasn’t coalesced into something solid. That’s the same as not having an answer. I’m the same, Hazel. I have no idea what I want after the fighting is done. I find the means to be a lot more fun than the ends. That’s just who I am. But…”
“Three years ago, I said you belong on the other side of the wall. So why did you join the fight without even understanding why?”
He stood up.
And he slowly stood up on the foot of the bed to look down at her. With emotionless eyes.
“A girl who joined the AIF just because can’t convince me of anything. …You’re worthless if you don’t have a solid reason to work with the AIF. Without a reason, what happened 5 years ago, 3 years ago, and now are all meaningless. Including getting the Sylphide killed.”
The way he phrased that last part made her get up on her knees and throw a slap toward him. But…
“How dumb are you? Did you really think you could hit me?”
His right hand caught her wrist before she could reach his cheek.
His hard fingers dug into her skin.
She could not resist his grip at all, so her brow wrinkled in pain.
“Hazel. I can’t hear you, Hazel Mirildorf. The reason you began to fight and the reason you continue to fight must be there inside you. But I have that much inside me too.”
He pulled her wrist toward him.
His face moved toward her. The blue eyes behind his sunglasses were simply there with no emotion or strength in them.
The only thing she saw in those eyes was her own reflected face.
There was anger on that face.
That realization surprised her, but his voice ignored all that.
“But is that all you have? You, the one who said she didn’t want to run away? Do you see what I mean, Hazel Mirildorf?”
He let go while pushing her wrist down. She lost her balance and landed back on her butt. He bent over to peer into her face.
“Face reality, Hazel. At 11 tonight, Project Millennium will bomb Cologne to the ground. Germany’s promised millennium of peace will be destroyed, people will die, and a city will be wiped off the map. Can you tell me what needs to be done after that kind of destruction? Well, can you?” He took a breath. “If you can’t, then stay there on the other side of the wall, Hazel. You can’t fight in the war from there, but you can find your answer. So once this mission is over…”
“Please stop,” she said, trying to keep him from finishing his sentence.
But he did finish it.
“Quit the AIF and stay far away from me.”
Hazel regretted the words as soon as they were out of her mouth.
But it was too late. She had rejected it all with two simple words.
“You’re lying,” she said again. More strongly this time. “You’re lying!”
“No, I’m not. I’m speaking from my heart.”
“You are not. I don’t believe you,” she snapped back on reflex, shoulders tense with anger. “You’re angry. That’s why you keep saying these awful things.” Tears filled her eyes. “You’re lying! You were so nice to me before…”
“Because it was my job to be, Hazel.”
He immediately shut that line of reasoning down, so she shook her head.
“Please join the AIF, Berger.”
“You’re being illogical. Weren’t you listening? I just said I won’t join and that you should leave.”
“But you’re lying. You never open up to anyone and you always ask the questions without answering any. So I know you must be lying this time too. Everything you say is the opposite of the truth!” she said. “Three years ago, you said there was a wall between us and we would never see each other again, remember? But we did see each other again. So how can I believe you when you said there was a wall between us?”
“You’re too naïve. You think you can trust me when we’ve only met a few times?”
He smiled bitterly.
He grabbed her collar with his prosthetic hand.
She tensed her shoulders a bit and looked up at him as he moved his face even closer.
“Then let’s play a game, Hazel. You claim you can trust me, but you were afraid of me once, weren’t you?”
“You Altered when I kissed you above the North Sea. It depends on the specific Werecat, but they generally Alter when their pulse races and they sense danger. That means you didn’t trust me in that moment.”
He silenced her with his lips.
It was less a kiss than an alcohol-smelling touch reaching her lips and tongue.
The next thing she knew, he had pushed her back on the bed.
He propped himself up on his hands placed below her arms and looked down at her.
“I don’t know what kind of work the AIF gives its female members, but female spies sometimes use their bodies to gain intel and trust. That’s how this game works.”
He removed his sunglasses and tossed them aside.
“If you Alter, you’ll be safe. But that means you don’t trust me and can’t satisfy me, so I won’t join the AIF and you’ve failed your mission for the AIF. So give up.”
He took a breath and stuck his pendant in his shirt’s breast pocket.
Then he reached for the stomach of Hazel’s clothing.
As a Werecat, lying on her back with her stomach exposed inspired an instinctual fear.
His fingers ran along her clothing until they reached the waistband. He grabbed the knot there.
“But if you can accept me like this, I’ll be satisfied and it means you trust me. …Then I’ll join the AIF.”
With that, he undid the waistband.
Schweitzer and Lowenzahn stood in a small room.
In fact, it was a one-room house.
There was a fireplace on the north wall and windows on the east and west walls.
The smell of wood hung strongly in the air, which helped it feel warm.
But there was one thing the room lacked.
“There’s no bed even though we’re supposed to be staying the night. Is this some form of harassment?”
“Apparently an elderly Schattenbild lived here. A living shadow probably wasn’t in the habit of sleeping.”
“Hmm. Well, it wasn’t like we were actually planning to stay the night.”
Lowenzahn approached the western window.
She chose a position that wouldn’t cast her shadow on the closed curtain, placed her fingers on the edge of the thick curtain, and pulled it back just enough to see out.
It was dark outside.
The forest village didn’t provide much visibility, but she could see the bonfire that was being kept burning in the center square for today’s special event. She also saw light in a small window near that.
“The Messiah still hasn’t made her move. The pursuit team should be in position by now, but at this rate…”
Lowenzahn did not receive a response.
Curious, she looked to the window visible through the cracked curtain. She could just barely make out the scene behind her reflected in the glass.
Schweitzer sat in a chair by the eastern window with his head resting in his hand. He seemed to be lost in thought.
“Then how about responding from time to time?”
Lowenzahn turned around and sighed. She moved away from the window.
She stopped just a few steps away from him. He was tall even when seated. The shoulder of his Der Held prosthetic arm came up to her chest.
So she rested her elbow on its flat shoulder armor.
“If you could redo your life, would you?”
“It isn’t possible. Not unless you altered the space-time Tons at the very center of the world.” And after a pause, “Redo it, huh?”
That seemed to remind him of something.
“Back in high school, we had this one science assignment. It was a simple orbital calculation. It gave you the answer and you were supposed to derive the formula and then provide a proof for it. …But we found it to be such a difficult problem at the time. We were spinning the globe around and checking through our physics text, desperate for the solution.”
“But the results of our calculations were all different. We had the formula partially derived, but we didn’t know what we needed to complete it. We only had a week before the assignment was due, so we spent six days struggling with it.”
“But we just could not find the solution. We had all given up on the final morning before it was due, but then one of us arrived with the solution. And with it copied into all of our notebooks.”
“Do you know how that person found the answer?”
“No, but I’d love to find out.”
“They threw out the partial formula we had worked together to make and redid it all from the beginning.”
“Was that person Eryngium?”
Lowenzahn’s guess made Schweitzer freeze.
A few moments of silence followed.
But he finally smiled.
“I worried you, didn’t I?” He nodded. “The person who brought us the answer was Dog Berger. He’s always been an expert at throwing out old things. Eryngium, Marsch, Alfred, and I were all thankful.”
“But during our celebration that night, Eryngium said she could have created a new formula using the one we had all made together.”
“But didn’t that Berger person throw out the old one because she couldn’t do that?”
“It’s hard to say. Maybe she could have. …But when she learned how he had done it, she smiled and said something to him.” He sighed. “She told him to always do things his way.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?” Lowenzahn draped her arms around his head from behind. “Is simply redoing things wrong? Or is throwing out the old things wrong?”
“I don’t know either. But it is what she said. And I will respect that even if she no longer remembers any of it. Besides…all of these questions were not redone – they were inherited.”
“Five years ago, a girl appeared before me saying she didn’t want to run away. She still hasn’t found an answer to her question…but I have some hope that she will be able to find it.”
“We are about to capture that girl. …I saw her earlier. She was an ignorant fräulein who worries so much about others and thinks no one will really hurt her.”
“The Messiah who accepts everyone and the young man with a divine name who rejects everyone.”
“I think both of those options are wrong. You can’t accept everything or get rid of everything. You need to redo things partway through.”
“Can you feel this?” asked Lowenzahn, pressing her chest against his back. “My chest feels funny, doesn’t it?”
“Do not ask me questions with only awkward answers.”
“Oh, you are adorable. But listen. …When you saved me at that hospital so long ago, I was undergoing an Eingeweide implantation surgery.”
He tried to turn around, but she stopped him by pressing her face against his head.
“I have an Eingeweide heart called Neue Erde. It was partially because the heart disease I inherited from my mother had worsened…but it was also to implant this, which is incorporated into my skeleton too.”
“I have no left breast. It was used to create the machine and remade. It was completely redone.”
The tension drained from Schweitzer’s body.
“Does Neue Erde’s Ober Beweisen…let you prophesy?”
“You can…think of it that way if you want.”
“So you too gained power by redoing something.”
“That is one way of doing things,” she replied.
She let go of his arm and took a step back.
“And remember that some people can only do things that way.”
“I will,” he said, standing up.
He looked back and she held her arms lightly to her chest and refused to look him in the eye.
She cleared her throat and turned to the curtain covering the window she had been looking out earlier.
“That Dog Berger person seems to be having a rough time of it too.”
“Yes, he has been carrying a certain bond with him all this time as he fights.”
“A bond?” asked Lowenzahn, looking back.
Schweitzer raised his Der Held for her to see.
“His Gelegenheit was created using two things. The first was his own divine power. Gelegenheit’s Ober Beweisen removes the seal on that power.”
“And the other thing?”
“Eryngium Ilfheim’s memories. Using its Ober Beweisen will revive her memories. And as long as those remain inside Gelegenheit, he will never use his divine power.”
He looked up.
“Because that preserves the fact that he abandoned her.”
After Berger undid her waistband, he raised her hands overhead.
Hazel lowered her head but still turned her eyes up to look at him.
He was looking at her. Lit from behind by the ceiling light, his expressionless face almost looked angry.
She was entirely defenseless with her arms up over her head. Her jacket and shirt were both dresses, so…
“I can remove it all just by unbuttoning them from the top. Makes things easy.”
While she silently wondered what was about to happen, he reached out his metal left hand.
…He’s going to unbutton it?
Her feline instincts meant anything covering her vision from above inspired fear. So she lowered her head even more.
His hand reached past her head, gathered her raised wrists together, and pinned them down on the bed.
“Sorry, but I don’t trust you, Hazel Mirildorf.”
He pushed his knee up and in between her legs from over her skirt.
“You want me to stop? But isn’t this your job? And it’s how the game is played, Hazel. If you’re scared, then let your pulse and instincts take over. Then you can escape.”
That pissed her off a little. Her breathing was a little heavy due to nerves, but her pulse wasn’t all that elevated.
“I-I’m not afraid, Berg-”
He sealed her lips with his.
This wasn’t just a kiss. He placed his lips around her lower lip and gently bit it.
It parted her lips and entered her mouth.
He was licking inside her mouth. She didn’t reject it, so he ran his tongue along her teeth and then captured her tongue with it, making her gasp.
It felt like having a soft, wet finger moving around in her mouth.
After a long, sticky moment, he released her just as she had shut her eyes and was feeling a need for air.
She parted her damp lips to suck in and then release a breath.
He once more bit her lip as she opened them for air.
His tongue held hers down and she couldn’t breathe. Panic filled her mind.
But after what felt like forever, he released her again…and did the same thing again.
She twisted below him, but she could not escape.
She was breathing much heavier now, but not just from nerves. Of course she was when she needed air.
After another brief respite, he did the same thing again. But there was more this time.
…My jacket’s buttons.
He was using his free hand to unbutton them one at a time, starting from the top. She could tell from how his fingers were moving.
By the time he released her lips with one final lick, the front of her jacket was open.
Without a moment’s delay, he was undoing the buttons for her shirt’s collar.
When he revealed her throat and the choker she wore there, she quickly pulled her chin down against it.
She let out a damp, heated breath and tears spilled from the corners of her eyes.
“I won’t remove the choker,” he said. “Because I don’t want to deal with the mewing of a frightened cat. And…” He did not smile. “Hazel, you’re my pet cat right now. Why would I remove the collar that proves it?”
She shook her head to say that wasn’t true.
He reached out his hand and continued unbuttoning her shirt regardless.
The skin of her chest came into view along with her white underwear and the air touched her belly as it rose and fell from her heavy breathing.
The overhead light shined on her thighs as well.
She was too preoccupied to notice the chill of the air on her heated skin.
With nothing holding her skirt in place, she could move her legs more freely now. She raised her knees somewhat, but he did not move from between her legs.
“Shouldn’t you shut your eyes, Hazel?”
He rubbed his hand from her side to her stomach and she let out a quiet shriek, but she also shook her head.
“This isn’t happening.”
“It is. And your extreme tension is all the proof you need. Your belly is hopping up and down like a frog and beads of sweat are forming on your tense skin.”
He rubbed his fingers between her ribs and without warning…
“You’re scared, aren’t you?”
He pressed his index finger directly into her exposed navel.
He pushed his finger into the hole. She felt a mixture of ticklishness and pain, like he was directly pushing on her organs, so she bent backwards on instinct.
He used a kiss and his tongue to silence any protests and her pulse shot up.
She calmed her pulse. She suppressed it. She kept her eyes open even as tears spilled from them and she bent her body.
…He’s testing me!
He slid his hand up from her navel and undid the front hook.
He opened the front of his own shirt and ended the kiss.
“Hazel, what do you think of this situation?”
“…It isn’t real. You don’t mean it, do you? Because, um, you…”
“Oh, I mean it.”
His fingers touched her chest and his lips moved from her neck to her right shoulder and then to her chest.
The air on her chest made her bristle and her pulse quicken.
…What is he going to do to me?
That fear gradually grew inside her.
“No, you don’t.”
Her voice was scratchy and leapt in volume at what she felt next.
“Ah, d-don’t bite me!!”
“Dogs bite cats. It’s what they do. Besides, your dad punched me for no good reason, so this is just me giving him a reason after the fact.”
He touched the last piece of clothing still covering her.
He pulled it down before she could tell him to wait.
He pulled her underwear down with enough force to tear it and moved half a step forward to move past it.
She tried to close her legs but could not. She only succeeded in pressing her knees against his hips.
He lifted his own knees and pulled the underwear down from her thighs and fully away.
Her heart skipped a beat when she saw her underwear tossed aside and discarded.
“No, d-don’t look.”
“What are you talking about, Hazel? I know what it takes for a woman to join the AIF. I’m the one who told you about it 3 years ago, after all. …And since you’re here now…well, I can do the math.”
“I don’t know who your first was, but you can pass my apologies on to him.”
“P-please stop this.”
“Then run away. Before you’re defiled any further.”
…That’s not it.
Hazel twisted her body. She shut her eyes and gathered strength in her hands. Her half-removed shirt tangled around her arms as she broke free of his pinning hand.
She used her freed right hand to wipe the tears from her eyes.
“Please don’t do this based on an obvious lie.”
“What lie would that be?”
“It isn’t like you to lie like this.”
His face twisted for just a moment when she said that, but he didn’t say anything more.
She realized he had placed his hands behind her knees.
A moment later, he spread her legs and then leaned over her.
She gasped when she saw his bare chest.
She tried to shut her eyes.
She felt herself becoming a cat. The sensation was a combination of a bristling, a rejection of her surroundings, and an escape from danger. It spread from her butt, up her back, and around to the rest of her.
Berger stopped. He froze.
She realized something had left her along with all the sweat soaking her.
The oppressive fear wasn’t there.
She raised her lowered head.
Berger’s eyes were looking straight down at her.
But that wasn’t all she saw. Something else hung directly between their eyes.
She wiped away her tears to see it more clearly.
Her scratchy voice named the red gem she saw floating in the air.
It had slipped from his breast pocket when he removed his shirt.
“Dammit,” muttered Berger, his arms giving out below him.
Hazel cried out and caught him in her arms as he fell into her chest.
The bed creaked and the air moved for just a moment before stopping.
He was motionless. So was she.
But her sweat poured out in relief. She could tell her breaths were heated but calm. She felt the beating of his heart as she held him in her arms.
His heartrate was somewhat elevated. Noticing that helped her relax. And…
“This is a first…”
…I’ve never held him before.
His body was warm, his long black hair was chilly, and his heated skin felt nice.
She didn’t know how tightly to hold him, but her tearful eyes bent into a smile.
His response was quiet.
Unable to respond right away, she looked around the room. The red flowers in the vase on the side table were looking down at her. She narrowed her eyes toward them.
“Berger…should I be a bit angry with you?”
“You should laugh at me, Hazel. I’m the second worst in the world at finishing what I start.”
With that, he wrapped his arms around to her back.
When he held her, she relaxed and smiled. Only then did she realize…
…I was so incredibly tense.
“You’re so adorable,” she replied.
“Says the child.”
“Am I? Look at me.”
He looked up at her as instructed.
She pulled her head down and awkwardly kissed the puzzled look on his face.
Only now did she realize how soft his lips were.
After a few seconds, she pulled away and licked her own lips.
“See, I didn’t turn into a cat, did I?”
“…You’re an idiot.”
“That doesn’t matter. I’ve given this a lot of thought for an idiot. Including what I want to do after the war. …So everything will be all right. I will find an answer for what you said earlier. And soon.”
“Sounds awfully optimistic to me,” he said, looking exasperated.
Just then, the door opened.
The large form that entered was Pale.
He immediately froze.
“Oh,” said Hazel. “U-um! It’s not what it looks like!”
Her shirt and jacket were still on her arms, so she pulled the front shut to hide her and Berger, but there was no hiding Berger while in his arms, the clothing caught between her back and the bed, and this did nothing to cover her legs.
After some hesitation, she gave silent Pale an excuse.
“W-we were only, um, discussing our future plans.”
“Your future plans?” Pale looked deadly serious. “Family planning is important, but, well, it has been three years since you saw each other. …Good luck.”
“Why does everyone respond that way!?”
He ignored her and shut the door.
She pulled Berger’s head toward her as if for support.
“Fine then,” he said, suddenly looking up. “Hey, Hazel?”
There was some gentle relief in his voice while she pressed his face into her chest.
“You’ve actually grown some, haven’t you?”
She grabbed the vase from the side table and broke it over his head.
At 8:17 PM, somewhat behind schedule, a bombing fleet mostly made up of moonlight-resistant bombers began to take off from all of England’s airfields for Project Millennium.
There were 18 squadrons in all for a total of 1046 aircraft.
Each squadron took off at 20-minute intervals so the bombers could unload their payload of nearly 1500 tons of divine spell bombs and incendiary bombs over the course of six hours.
Previous aerial bombings had strategically destroyed industrial areas, but this largescale bombing was meant to obliterate an entire city. They would wipe the city off the map to end the German people’s conviction and will to fight.
The RAF had bet their pride on this mission meant to take revenge for the many aerial bombings England had received.
The strategic purpose of the bombing was to blast open the eastern entrance to Germany and prove that they could carry enough firepower to destroy any city and get it to Germany’s doorstep.
Word of the largest bombing in history raced through the Allied intelligence network, bringing silence to all.
It was a silence heavy with expectation and worry.
The village’s entrance was veiled in darkness.
The wind blew through the tree branches. The rustling of leaves sounded like small ocean waves and the branches rubbed together.
The cries of a distant night bird were like the low, intermittent tones of a wind instrument.
Small coins rubbed together and a ring of keys jangled.
Those two sounds came from a woman with long blonde hair gently rippling in the wind.
She was Lehrer. The eyes below her hair remained closed, but she was facing forward.
Toward the village’s gate.
The large wooden fence sat open. The chain’s latch was unlocked and the fence blew in the wind.
“Not long now until the bombers arrive.”
She put the ring of keys in her skirt pocket.
“How were they doing? Were they getting along?”
“Y-you, uh, could say that, yes.”
With a gruff voice, someone else appeared behind her. The large elderly man had silver hair.
He was Pale Horse and he scratched his head.
“Women are a mystery to me. Why would you ask that yourself?”
“Men are too simple, if you ask me.”
Lehrer turned toward Pale and smiled with her eyes closed.
He nodded once after seeing her expression.
“Are you sure about this? You didn’t tell them who you are?”
“I thought about telling Berger. We’ve known each other for so long, after all.” She brushed her hair back. “But I couldn’t do it. I only gave him some information on the AIF’s current situation and kissed him.”
“Like I said, women are a mystery.”
“He was pretty surprised by it. …Which is another way men are simple, but adorable too.”
Her laughter had no ill will in it. She continued the happy laughter while looking to the sky.
Pale pulled a B5-size envelope from his pocket and showed it to her. It was full and waterproofed.
“All the information you gave me over the past two weeks is in here.”
“The Panzerpolis Project lives up to its name, doesn’t it? It is the city that leads the world to ruin. At around this time, a captain in the Geheimnis Agency Air Force Division – a guest in this very village today – should have suggested that the second Gard-class ship being constructed across Germany should be used as an aerial fortress for Germania.”
“Without a captain, that second Gard-class cannot Eingeweide, so instead its Babel Canon will be installed in Germania as a massive ley line compression Babel Gun that will pressurize and increase the output of all the Vaterlands around the world, correct?”
“Work will begin next year and the Erklärung abilities provided by the boosted Vaterlands will invigorate the German military. Germania will no longer just be an underground fortress city; it will be a weapon of mass destruction powered by all the ley lines in the world. All the pieces needed for the Panzerpolis Project have been gathered.”
“That’s some real bad news,” sighed Pale. He slapped his head with the envelope. “Once the Vaterlands begin to affect ley lines around the world, the Allies will work quickly to put together a countermeasure…all without realizing they’re only hastening the Nibelung.”
Lehrer smiled bitterly.
“I too will be a part of that eventually. America has already put together its 8th Aerial Fleet, haven’t they? They will begin joint bombings with the UK starting next year. Once that happens…” Lehrer lowered her head and nodded. “Yes, I will leave this place. I am sure I will have little choice by then. But before then, I do have a minor errand to run tomorrow morning.”
She raised her head again.
A light flashed in the forest within the village. A headlight.
The light was narrow thanks to the light-restriction cover attached, but it made it through the trees as it followed the winding road toward the village entrance.
Hearing the vehicle’s approach, Pale tilted his head.
“Oh, damn. It’s got a sidecar, but the girl’s using that. Where am I supposed to sit?”
“That’s why I offered to lend you a car.”
“The village only has the one and I know I won’t be able to return it.”
“That’s unusually dutiful of you. Did your time in Ethiopia teach you how hard the common folk work?”
Pale didn’t answer and Lehrer smiled bitterly.
“But don’t worry,” she said. “The girl can ride on the back of the motorcycle. Girls are as light as a bouquet of flowers and their butts are well padded.”
“You like to put yourself in charge, don’t you?”
“Thanks for noticing. But I do care a lot for that girl. I had already decided to become a Buster when I was 17, but she is still having trouble deciding what she should be.”
“Why not give her a useful lesson on the subject? You are a Lehrer, aren’t you?”
“When I say goodbye, I will hug her and give her just one piece of advice: get along with him.”
Just as he asked that, the light weaving through the forest pointed directly at them.
Lehrer stood in its path.
With a smile on her lips, she reached into her breast pocket and pulled out a card.
“The Hermit, #9 of the Harmonic Cards. A safe and boring option.”
“Is that your role now? But hermits can also be all-knowing sages, can’t they?”
“Yes, which is why I will leave behind the old things I know without that girl even noticing. And I will give her a fresh start without knowing a thing of what came before. The other option…”
A gust of wind blew through.
The forest rustled.
The roar of a motorcycle joined it.
Lehrer’s final words were drowned out by the voices of nature and of a machine.
“The other option would break my heart.”
|Back to Chapter 4||Return to Main Page||Forward to Chapter 6|