City Series:Volume6c Chapter6
Chapter 6: The Requiem Leaps
5/31/1942 00:49 – 01:26
What to do?
German Night Air Defense Procedures
Top left: Type 1
Bottom left: Air Defense Radar + Night Fighters
Top middle: Type 2
Bottom middle: Searchlights + Night Fighters
Top right: Type 3
Bottom right: Searchlights + AA Guns
During the war, Germany had three types of night air defense installations set up across the North Sea side of Europe.
Type 1 used a radar installation known as a Himmelbett. The radar would capture the enemy craft and radar guidance would send interceptors to attack.
Type 2 was a line of searchlights known as the Kammhuber Line that covered northern Europe. The interceptors would use the searchlights to attack.
Type 3 was only for important cities and facilities in Germany itself. Searchlights would illuminate the sky and antiaircraft guns would intercept the enemy craft. The three types were designed to prevent friendly fire between antiaircraft guns and fighter craft.
The key to air defense was how to fight at night like it was day, but the German military was behind the times on researching and mass-producing moonlight resistant equipment and they placed too much emphasis on bombers over fighters, which delayed their development of night fighters. This would lead to heavy losses later on.
The first attack, arriving before the aerial bombing, was the light of a Babel Kanone flying in from the north.
The bombing fleet managed to survive that and sent destruction raining down on the city of Cologne.
In response, searchlights illuminated the night sky and antiaircraft guns began firing.
Cologne, which stretched north to south with the Rhine to its east, was primarily a riverside industrial city. The bombing was meant to cover everything from north to south, which meant obliterating the entire city.
An exchange of attacks from the sky above and the ground below began a test of endurance.
Deep booms and roars shook the air, the bombs whistled down, antiaircraft gunfire burst from the ground, and the third alarm blared.
Searchlight beams sliced apart the night and crimson flames blossomed on the ground.
The crimson covered the city, factories, and homes of Cologne from north to south.
Gradually, a heated wind whipped up and blew into the sky.
There were no more clouds in the sky.
Even the smoke was swept away by the air currents thinning out the clouds.
Aircraft could be seen slowly flying beyond those vanishing clouds. Dozens of four-engine bombers traveled south, led by a few aerial warships.
The heat and wind drove the people of Cologne from north to south.
The people seemed to follow the current of the Rhine while they screamed and shouted instructions.
The shelters were meaningless at this point. The only way to escape the north-to-south bombing line was to move east or west, but east was cut off by the Rhine.
West was their only option, but Cologne was divided by several broad waterways flowing in from the Rhine. The bridges were quickly clogged with evacuees and congestion packed the center of the city where the city hall was located.
The din of the bombing approached from the north.
Firebombs cascaded down toward the two tall spires of Cologne Cathedral in central Cologne.
<The Requiem is played by people.>
The downpour of incendiary bombs stopped.
The people rushing to evacuate were puzzled by the slight silence that surrounded them.
Their questions were answered by the wind that blew down from the sky.
They all saw the giant umbrella floating in Cologne’s sky.
The umbrella floating about a mile above the surface was more than half a mile long and was painted a pitch black. It was the massive aerial warship that had remained a mystery for them all. The warship had launched a powerful beam of light to the north before the bombing began, but it had supposedly remained motionless since.
The ship’s mere presence shook the atmosphere and it launched fighters from its port and starboard sides.
The top of the ship lit up at the same time.
The beams of Drache Kanone swept through the sky like several swinging threads.
Eight aerial warships’ worth of antiair fire tore into the sky and shot down the enemy.
And all the people on the surface saw a girl standing at the end of the largest cannon sticking out from the front of the giant ship.
She was joined by wind, heat, and light.
A downpour of bombs fell atop the Requiem’s deck around her, bursting and burning. But they did not even scratch the black-scorched armor.
“I’m so glad you brought me enough noise and heat to soak into the very core of my body.”
She faced forward.
More and more black shapes pushed in from the sky like a series of waves.
The ground was burning red and the northern searchlights were no longer piercing the sky. The initial divine spell bombs had taken out most of the interception equipment.
Rose smiled amid the raining destruction.
The final lights flew forward from the bottom of the ship’s port and starboard sides. Those were the fighters kept inside this aircraft carrier. The last one on the left tilted to the left to avoid the incendiary bombs and then waggled its wings side to side.
That was its way of saying goodbye.
“We are fighting on the front line, not just providing antiair fire,” said Rose, spreading her arms wide.
<The Requiem dislikes the rain.>
The bombs above the Requiem itself and in the sky around it began to shatter like they had hit an invisible ground.
In exchange, the Requiem came to a stop.
“I could protect a wider range if the ship’s inertial spells could be spread out along a plane.”
“Can you take this much of a beating, Rose?”
An enormous figure dropped down onto the cannon behind Rose.
She quickly looked back.
She saw a silver Grösse Panzer with six wings on its back.
That one could handle aerial combat without an Ober Emblem. That was the Silber Löwe, which had been used along with the Schwarz Löwe as the foundation for developing the Kaiser.
Rose clenched her fists and raised her eyebrows.
“I thought you evacuated with the other Grösse Panzers back on the ground!?”
“Only the prophet girl can command me.”
Rose’s head drooped and an incendiary bomb pierced through her body. The large warhead burst open from the impact and scattered its six fuel bombs while inside her body.
“Oh, how indecent.”
Rose quickly took a few steps back. A moment later, a pillar of fire shot skyward from the spot she had vacated.
Brother and sister exchanged a glance with the crimson flames between them.
That lasted a few seconds.
Rose finally turned her back on her brother, crossed her arms, and faced forward.
The fires were starting to spread below. She asked a question over the continuing roar.
“Bigger brother? I hear the Messiah has appeared in Germany again, just like Lowenzahn prophesied. And I heard before taking off that Jeanne has joined Lowenzahn and deployed some special forces.” She took a breath. “The prophesies are coming true again, just like Lowenzahn said they would. But…what are we supposed to do if what she said to us comes true?”
The intense explosive downpour was at odds with the girl’s silence.
First, a manly voice called her name with enough force to drown out that din.
“The Geheimnis Agency does not belong to us. But do you know how all the others feel about this?”
She thought about that and then her face lit up.
She looked back to see Silber Löwe had drawn the sword from its hip and pointed it her way.
She needlessly ducked as the white blade came to a stop about a yard over her head.
Then an explosion thundered overhead and the blade rattled.
The wreckage of a bomb fell past the blade.
Rose looked up at it all with her head ducked down a little.
“Thank you, bigger brother.”
“Heiliger asked me to look after you.”
“Big brother does always treat me like a child… I received a transmission from Lillie in the north. She says the moonlight proofing for big brother’s ship is complete, so he was ordered out to fight. He’s apparently headed here as fast as he can with Sir Alfred in the lead.”
“You sure are popular.”
Rose sighed, watching the sword slowly pull away from overhead.
“They’re all such fools. After all, this bombing looks like it will last another four hours.”
“Can you last that long?”
“The areas with thinner armor are a concern. And I bet the cannons will be destroyed. But I doubt I will be sunk. My Babel Kanone will be reloaded in three hours, so I just have to hold on until then. I only have one other concern.”
Rose looked down to the right.
The city there was full of houses, apartments, schools, and parks.
“Did I make the wrong choice, bigger brother? As part of a Neue Kavalier family, should I have focused on defeating the enemy to protect our country over protecting the people?”
“A Kavalier’s decisions are always based in chivalry. No matter what they might be.”
“So anything I decide as a Neue Kavalier is a Kavalier’s decision? That’s silly,” she laughed. “You’ve used a lot more obvious sophistry since you got the Psyche Outer device installed.”
She looked up to view the sky instead of her brother.
“I will protect this city with my life. The Kavaliers of this Borderson land are watching from among the people down there. To determine what kind of Kavaliers we are.”
A shot from behind blew away and scattered the falling incendiary bombs.
She closed her eyes in a smile under the protection of Silber Löwe.
More explosions were reaching the deck behind her now.
And a beam of light pierced the Gard-class from the sky above.
That was a Drache Kanone from one of the warships accompanying the bombers.
Heat enveloped the deck and white smoke rose from it. The sensations coming from the ship gave Rose a more serious expression without opening her eyes. But…
“That is not enough to burn me,” she stated, undaunted. She raised her arms like a conductor. “Let us show those future Kavaliers what it is we are trying to do here, bigger brother.”
She slowly lowered her arms before twirling around.
<The Requiem’s master dislikes the chilly night.>
And she raised them again. The Requiem’s firepower was unleashed toward the ceiling above in time with the movements of her skinny arms.
The visible attacks were the Drache Kanone, the Pseudo-Drach Kanone, the scattershot Drache Kanone on the rear deck, and the heavy Drache Kanone.
The invisible attacks were the antiair guns and machineguns fired without tracer rounds.
They filled the night with so much noise that all sound seemed to vanish.
The sky burst open and flames scattered.
Below it all, the girl standing on the end of the long cannon slowly opened her eyes.
Their battle had left the long Borderson mountain road and continued on toward burning and smoking Cologne.
The BMW motorcycle raced along with Pale in the sidecar and Hazel on the back.
The way ahead opened up as they arrived on major road. Hazel looked back.
“We’ve lost them! Is this where we’re supposed to meet Corelle?”
“Not yet. We need to reach the T-intersection up ahead. Once there, Corelle’s RB-21 is supposed to drop Schwarz Löwe’s container and then land further on to pick up you and Pale.”
“But she still isn’t here,” added Pale and Hazel nodded.
…Did something happen to her? I hope she’s just running late.
The motorcycle continued driving despite her worries. There was a school to their right. They accelerated alongside its fence.
That was when she noticed Berger’s back tremble in surprise.
An armored truck was rushing toward them from the other end of the T-intersection up ahead. It was on a collision course and wasn’t slowing down.
“They’re still after us!? Hang on!!”
Berger shouted that warning immediately before turning the motorcycle right as sharply as he could.
The next thing Hazel knew, the school’s gate was right in front of them. It was metal and painted black.
They accelerated. And…
<Destiny opens closed doors.>
The gate was instantly sliced through and the motorcycle broke through the scrap metal.
Hot winds blew around the schoolyard.
No one was around at night and the turbulence from the bombing formed a whirlwind in this more open space.
Berger drove them through there to create an opening back to the road.
He shifted the 750cc BMW down a gear and tried to kick off the sandy ground, but that was when a color reached Hazel’s eyes. But this red was not from the Lives of the heat hanging in the air.
Gunfire flew their way. Past Pale in the sidecar on the right, gunfire meant to confirm the bullet speed shot from behind a tree at the edge of the schoolyard. The bullet holes traveled across the schoolyard’s sandy ground like the footprints of someone running toward them.
These were not submachinegun rounds. This was a machinegun.
Hazel immediately swung her sword.
As a Greenhorner, she did call to the Lives. She only focused her mind on a shout while using a card.
…I have trained in the Ups used by Tuners and Busters…
But that had never gone well for her. Whether she tried Tuning or Busting, the Lives were never transformed or destroyed the way she wanted.
The Lives would waver and that was it.
She raised her voice in her sword’s inherent tone to sync the sword’s Lives with her voice pattern. That made the sword shake her own Lives and activate.
The five cards attached to the sword burst, starting from the bottom one. Five empty cartridges were also ejected.
Air pressure similar to wind was launched from the sword’s tip.
The sand to the right of the motorcycle was blown away and a large arc was gouged into the ground. That gouge followed the motorcycle’s movement. A protection field was formed from the sword tip.
Sparks flew from the surface of that field and Hazel held the sword tight to bear with it. Directly above the gouged ground, a bullet hit the invisible wall just past the tip of the sword, bursting into embers.
She kept the sword steady.
Then Berger pulled a submachinegun from between the sidecar and motorcycle and opened fire.
He fired the bullets by eye and they tore apart Hazel’s protection field from within.
“Hey! Why would you break that! I could have kept it up for another 20 seconds!”
“The enemy’s bullets are going to last longer than that!”
She saw sparks fly from behind the tree at the corner of the schoolyard and someone was sent sprawling to the ground.
“Ooh, you hit them! Now that’s a miracle!” shouted Pale.
A few silhouettes jumped down from the roof of the two-story concrete school building.
There were four in all. They wore Geheimnis Agency Army Division uniforms, but those uniforms had no sleeves or legs to cover up their prosthetic arms and legs.
Instead of jumping down for a free fall, they kicked off the school’s wall to increase their falling speed and change direction.
They landed in the windy schoolyard with positions that surrounded the motorcycle and they hit the ground running to maintain those positions.
Their Lives looked somewhat faded to Hazel’s eyes. That was a unique trait of prosthetic-using Steel Masters like them.
A moment later, Pale stood up from the sidecar and slapped Hazel’s shoulder.
She looked back in surprise.
“Wh-what was that for?”
“Go on, girl. You get to Corelle first!”
Pale also slapped Berger’s shoulder.
“Pretend to circle toward the back entrance and then make a braking turn to the left. I’ll toss the girl outside then.”
“Wh-why me?” asked Hazel in a cracking voice.
“Because they’re after Pale and you, Hazel Mirildorf,” answered Berger. “I’m sure of it.”
“But their Messiah has got to be more valuable to them than me.”
“That’s right. You’re the last one we can let them get their hands on here, Hazel.”
But Berger brushed Pale’s hand off his shoulder.
Pale frowned and looked at Berger.
Berger squeezed the throttle to accelerate and responded without turning toward Hazel in the wind.
“But this girl is going to fight alongside us, Pale.”
Pale tried to say “don’t be ridiculous” but was cut off by Berger’s smiling voice.
“She’ll make an excellent shield. Since they can’t shoot her.”
Hazel elbowed him in the back. She knew he wasn’t serious, but…
…Why is he like this?
She tossed a card behind her and struck it with her sword.
That set up a thin barrier that blew away an approaching enemy.
Pale sighed in frustration and blocked some incoming bullets with his metal right hand.
18 shots’ worth of sparks flew. Just as the enemy’s rapid-fire barrage ended, Pale threw a backhand blow with his right hand.
The massive prosthetic fist hit the soldier in his hips just as he threw away his empty submachinegun and tried to draw his sword. His face twisted in surprise more than pain and his hip broke with a metallic sound, sending him collapsing to the ground.
Only two remained.
Berger sank down in the motorcycle and applied the brakes.
Their surroundings ground to a halt and the pursuing soldiers staggered as they tried to stop too.
Berger fired all his submachinegun’s remaining bullets into the soldier trying to straighten back up to the right.
The enemy reacted so quickly Hazel gasped. He made a rotating defense, guarding with his prosthetic arm. He deflected the bullets and moved on ahead.
But Berger hopped down from the motorcycle even faster than that.
“Pale, you take the one on the left!!”
Pale hopped out of the sidecar and Hazel scrambled down from the back. She crouched low and followed after Berger but shifted a bit to the side.
Now that she was out of the motorcycle, she found herself surrounded by heat and wind. She could see Cologne Cathedral in the distance.
A large dark shape hovered in the sky and a deep noise descended from it, but she couldn’t focus on that right now.
Berger approached the enemy ahead of her. He ducked low to avoid the enemy’s right prosthetic arm and grabbed that arm from below with both his own arms.
Berger tugged on the soldier’s arm, pulling him to the right, and spinning him toward Hazel to place the soldier on his own back. He jerked his hips up and pulled forward with the arm passing over his shoulder.
He threw the soldier so the man flipped around in an arc and slammed headfirst into the ground.
The full weight of the soldier’s mechanical body bore down on his neck, resulting in a dull sound.
He bounced and then rolled a few times before coming to a stop.
He did not move, but Hazel could see his pale Lives pulsing. He was not dead.
Relieved by that, she realized Berger was looking at her. The movement of his eyes told her what he wanted to say.
…He wants me to leave this open area and hide behind the school’s wall.
Crossing the fence behind the school would get her to the road they needed to reach.
A scream from the left was accompanied by the loud cry of breaking metal.
What was that? wondered Hazel as someone flew by overhead.
They slammed into a tree growing in front of the school. The following dull sound was that of a human body falling to the ground.
Pale’s attack had defeated the last soldier.
“You fight rough,” said Hazel as the battle ended for now.
She sighed and kept low to follow after Berger. She couldn’t relax until she was behind a tree with her back against the school’s wall.
<The Fatherland’s roads are never ending.>
She sensed a powerful presence from the abandoned motorcycle behind her.
Hazel immediately got down when she sensed the chill down her spine.
Shortly after she felt the dry sand across her entire body like when napping as a cat, the killer intent piercing her spine was joined by three gunshots.
…I was shot!?
In that brief moment, her gasping thought was joined by a voice.
<Destiny is with the Messiah.>
She heard three clapping sounds.
She frantically looked up and then stood up.
A dark shadow hung before her.
It was the bottom of a black coat.
That coat flapped in the heated crimson wind, revealing the man who wore it.
Dog Berger had raised Gelegenheit’s hilt in front of his face to catch the bullets.
She looked down and past him to see a woman standing in front of the abandoned motorcycle.
“Jeanne Schmitt,” said Berger, lowering Gelegenheit. “That was pathetic. Why are you firing on the Messiah you wanted so badly?”
His question was answered by a deep voice from the sky.
“I don’t expect you to understand!!”
Berger suddenly picked Hazel up and swung her around.
He took a leap of several meters to avoid the metal fist that dropped directly in front of him.
Hazel had seen that same fist in the Village of Pardons during the day. It belonged to the Der Held arm.
It dropped from the sky and tore into the ground where Berger had been standing a moment before.
A large man in civilian clothing stood up from there.
By then, Hazel had already been released from Berger’s arm.
<Destiny strikes the hero.>
Black light raced out before her eyes, flying straight toward Schweitzer.
<The Hero resists destiny.>
<Destiny slices through the hero.>
<The Hero untangles the threads of destiny.>
Der Held’s ether field and Gelegenheit’s dark blade repeatedly clashed before Hazel’s eyes. Countless sounds of shattering glass echoed off of the school building.
The black light vanished from Gelegenheit and Berger swapped Phlogiston tanks. Hazel noticed hesitation in the Lives she could see in his back. They were directed at her.
…He wants to say something.
She realized what it was he wanted to say.
This was so much like the scene from her nightmares. It was a schoolyard below a crimson-dyed night sky.
She was always alone in her nightmares, so she knew what Berger would ask of her now.
…Will he ask me to go on ahead?
“Hazel,” he said. “Can you hear me, Hazel Mirildorf!?”
He immediately answered her reply with another shout.
“Give me a hand!!”
She didn’t know what he meant at first. After a pause, she heard a gunshot from Jeanne on their left and saw Pale knock the bullet from the air with his prosthetic arm.
She looked to Berger wielding Gelegenheit in front of her, smiled, and nodded.
<Destiny paves the Messiah’s path.>
<The Hero seeks the Messiah.>
The two Erklärungs crashed together and negated each other.
So Hazel sucked in a breath and shouted her own Erklärung.
<The Messiah does not want the Hero’s assistance.>
Her Messiah eye rapidly filled with the color red and emitted heat.
But Hazel still faced forward.
The man named Schweitzer gasped.
His prosthetic arm’s fist dropped to the ground like it was out of fuel.
Her Messiah allowed her to access High Organ devices to pressurize and depressurize their power or even outright control them.
…Unfortunately, the Allies’ High Organ devices are in the experimental phase, so I haven’t been able to practice this.
It felt similar to the assistance she had provided Berger three years ago.
She did the same thing here.
“Gah,” growled Schweitzer as he reactivated his arm. He lifted his fist and directed it toward Berger. But by then, Berger was already swinging Gelegenheit’s blade down toward him.
In that instant, a new Erklärung rang out.
<The Freeshooter seeks his master.>
She looked back to see familiar man standing in front of the school building.
Berger shouted his name.
“ ‘Schütze Puppe’ Bermark Vier!?”
The distraction delayed Berger’s actions, so Schweitzer managed to move away and Bermark’s gunshots flew in. Four of them.
“I do apologize, but these were my orders.”
Hazel held her sword at the ready and prepared to dodge the incoming bullets.
She was too slow for that and she knew it. She pulled a card from the holder at her hip and tossed it into the air where she struck it with her sword.
It activated and a field of power expanded in less than an instant, whipping up the wind.
But the murderous Tons forming the bullets dodged around that field like they had a mind of their own.
Puzzled, Hazel let go of her sword. Her feline instincts told her to leap backwards, but she wasn’t going to make it. Her legs tangled together, she lost her balance, and she started to trip.
She nearly called out for help, but stopped herself. Berger was fighting and Pale was battling Jeanne.
But she did not panic. She couldn’t prevent herself from falling, but…
<The Messiah rejects the shooter’s power.>
The bullets lost their glow, becoming ordinary bullets.
The four shots grazed her left shoulder and hit the ground behind her.
Thank goodness, she thought while falling back onto her butt.
There was pain, but something else needed her immediate attention.
She collected her sword while seated on the ground and reflected her right eye in its blade. She viewed its red color.
“Let’s end this.”
<The Messiah trusts only in destiny.>
She shouted her Aerial Words.
Schweitzer’s Der Held stopped and the fist dropped to the ground.
Bermark’s Freischütz dropped its magazine to the ground.
Jeanne was removed from the Vaterland’s protection and her movement speed dropped.
Only Berger’s Gelegenheit still functioned.
It only lasted a moment, but that was all they needed. Hazel stood up with feline grace and began running.
“Berger! General Pale! Hurr-”
She never finished the word.
<…does not recognize the Messiah’s power.>
Agonizing pain ran through her Messiah eye like someone had jammed a claw into it.
The white Grösse Panzer named Kaiser was fighting at an altitude of 20 thousand feet.
The area below it was flooded with enemies. They were like the water flowing through a river. The Kaiser didn’t even need to aim to hit one.
The Kaiser instructed the blue and red Panzers to move out ahead while it ascended with Panzer Kleid rippling. Looking down, it could see the river of destruction was primarily made of giant bombers.
The wide Lancaster Mk2s were 23 yards long and 36 yards wide and they used 6-bomber formations arranged at different altitudes to avoid gathering together in a flat plane that would make them easier to shoot down all at once.
They flew with four spirit engine jets, but they flew slowly since the output of the engines was reduced to keep them under control in the moonlight.
The smaller crafts flying protectively above and below the bombers were escort fighters.
Those were England’s famous Spitfires. 24 of them were gathered in every break between the bomber formations.
But that wasn’t all. Aerial cruisers also flew through the gaps between bomber formations.
The Spitfires protected the bomber formation either following or leading them and the aerial warships acted as a barrier for any enemy crafts attempting to move from one bomber formation to another.
The arrangement took all of their attack ranges into account.
Three ships were visible in the distance. An aerial cruiser with a destroyer on either side of it.
The white Grösse Panzer approached that aerial cruiser instead of the bomber formations.
The aerial warship launched Pseudo-Drach Kanone beams.
But the Kaiser dodged that light as easily as racing through an empty field.
It raised its six wings, slammed them down, and sometimes spread them to change course while always moving ever forward. The light grazed its sides, elbows, and wingtips, but it never allowed a single direct hit.
Carried by the dragon emblems on its shoulders, it raced through the night sky with a roar of wind.
Finally, that several-mile midair dash came to an end.
The white Grösse Panzer had reached the three large ships.
The Kaiser had arrived at its primary target.
It rapidly braked and then jerked to the left.
It flew to the destroyer’s port side, where its port cannons could take aim.
Just as the portside armor opened up and the cannons emerged, the Kaiser stabbed its sword into the destroyer’s belly using a backhand grip.
With a loud crash, the sword sank in to the hilt.
The following noise sounded like the roar of great quantities of water.
The Kaiser spread its six wings and poured on all the acceleration it could muster.
The slice had begun.
The acceleration sliced the destroyer’s belly open with the sword.
The scream of tearing metal was in tune with the Kaiser’s acceleration.
It sliced through to the bow in mere moments.
“Ah,” rang a voice with the sword still piercing the destroyer.
It started with a sound.
A burning sound rang out into the night sky.
With a tone of surprise, all of the ship’s windows shattered, its metal bulkheads ruptured, and white-hot light erupted from within.
The damage did not end there.
The force pushing out from the horizontal fissure split it apart vertically.
The destroyer was more than 150 yards long, yet it was bisected from its split belly.
It was like a colossal creature had scratched the fissure with a massive claw, splitting it all the way open.
The ship split apart, its bottom half separating as a flat rectangle.
Only the top half above the waterline remained floating in the sky.
But that wasn’t going to last.
The top half was kept afloat by its float emblems, but the metal continued to cry out in protest as it spewed the contents of its belly into the air below.
That included ammo containers, fuel tanks, and the giant engines for its rear thrusters. Those engines were 40 yards long and 7 yards in diameter, so without the lower frame to support them, their own thrust tilted them downwards and accelerated them in that direction.
The ship could not survive its own momentum and bent down the center.
The destroyer bent like it had been punched from above.
The thrust of the giant engines joined that and the ammo and fuel were ignited by the power of the moonlight.
The explosion blossomed out from within.
All of the armor was blown away and the destroyer was enveloped in flames.
The frame remained, so a flaming hulk shaped like a destroyer started descending from the sky.
The giant bonfire fell, leaving behind only the fiery petals of its explosions and the white Grösse Panzer.
The Kaiser did not even watch the defeated ship fall.
It kicked off the air and took flight with the casualness of someone on a simple evening stroll.
It dodged the barrage of bullets and Drache Kanone beams to arrive in a blind spot of the aerial cruiser flying in the center.
That is, directly above the bridge.
It spun around in the air, readied its sword, and dropped down.
It could see the top of the bridge and it landed there with the force of a crash.
By then, the sword had already stabbed its full length into the bridge’s roof.
A roar of destruction left the Kaiser’s mouth.
…What were those words just now!?
Hazel stopped running when pain threatened to shred the nerves deep in her head.
Her knees went weak like a strong thread had snapped.
“What’s wrong?” asked Berger, but his voice was muffled like she was hearing it underwater.
She fell to her knees, the shaking of the impact seeming to rattle her head directly.
The next thing she knew, she had collapsed to the ground, her right cheek pressed against the sandy schoolyard ground.
She could see her right eye reflected in the blade of the S-41G she had dropped in front of her.
…The Messiah has deactivated.
Her right eye had lost its red coloration, returning to its usual blue.
Its power had been forcibly removed without warning. Just like she would do to others.
She saw Bermark collect his magazine and slide it back into his gun and she could hear Berger and Schweitzer’s battle continuing behind her. She heard the firing of Jeanne’s gun and the roar of Pale’s prosthetics from the direction her feet were pointing.
“This is so much like my nightmares.”
Hazel sat up, still feeling woozy.
She found a scene just like her dreams.
A woman in a green men’s suit appeared from behind Bermark.
She stopped about 3 yards away from Hazel had collapsed and crossed her arms. She didn’t seem concerned about the surrounding sounds of combat or about Bermark standing nearby.
She simply looked indifferently down at Hazel.
After one, two, and three breaths, she breathed a sigh of resignation and spoke.
“I never introduced myself in the Village of Pardons, did I?”
Hazel tried to say something, but the words wouldn’t come. Her head was still ringing.
The woman didn’t seem to care.
“I am Lowenzahn Naylor, commander of the Geheimnis Agency.”
Lowenzahn smiled a little at Hazel’s surprise.
She nodded as if to be reassuring and then looked behind Hazel.
Two men were fighting there, but…
<The New World cannot be touched by destiny.>
She spoke some Aerial Words. Or an Erklärung as the Germans called them.
Hazel frantically twisted around to look back.
Schweitzer’s metal fist swung true and caught Berger in the gut.
The light vanished from Berger’s Gelegenheit.
The blade disappeared, causing Gelegenheit’s attack to miss and Berger to take the solid blow.
The impact rang loud in Hazel’s ears.
Berger was launched toward her.
The man in a black coat ended up lying face down a few paces away from her.
He still held Gelegenheit in his right hand, but both he and it were entirely motionless.
Hazel knew what must have happened.
Gelegenheit had been forcibly deactivated.
She scooted over toward him on her knees and lifted his upper body in her arms.
He still wasn’t moving.
She could only sense his heavy breathing and the tension filling his entire body. The powerful blow had left him in shock.
Behind her, she heard Lowenzahn speaking through some somewhat heavy breathing.
“Do you see now, Messiah? Your Beweisen isn’t exclusive to you.”
“The Eingeweides belonging to the Geheimnis Agency’s master and commander both have the same Beweisen, but they have different Ober Beweisens. That is where the hierarchy comes into play. …Not that you would know since we left you to your own devices.”
Hazel rubbed Berger’s back while listening to Lowenzahn.
She might have been able to tune him back to health if she were a Tuner, but…
She was still unsure.
She wanted to choose, but she couldn’t seem to.
A line from her nightmares seemed to strike right at that indecision.
“Now, it is time to say goodbye to your free destiny. We have started down the path that leads to my death. You are just like us, Messiah. You fight only for the present.”
Her mind leaped at those words she had heard so many times before.
Lowenzahn had more to say.
“You cannot see where this fight leads either, can you? Or what it is you want to do once it is all over. …But that is fine.” She took a breath. “For you are only a tool for us. You are the Messiah who keeps the Nibelung turning.”
Everything she said was the truth.
Hazel’s face screwed up and she felt like she would cry.
“Hey, are you just gonna let her say that, Hazel?”
She heard a quiet, trembling voice from right next to her.
It was Berger.
She looked up in surprise.
Immediately, Lowenzahn barked a command with panic in her voice.
“Bermark! Shoot him!”
“If I must.”
Before the response was even complete, Hazel heard three gunshots that were not Aerial Words.
…He’s shooting at us.
But she shut her eyes and did what she needed to do.
She placed herself on top of Berger to hide him from the bullets. However…
“Are you stupid?”
After an exasperated comment tinged with happiness, she heard some shouted Aerial Words.
<Destiny protects the Messiah.>
Gelegenheit drained a new Phlogiston Tank and rewrote reality with its own words.
At 1:11 AM, the AIF’s RB-21 high-speed transport ship detected an enemy craft at 6 miles out from Cologne while trying to enter the city from the northwest at low altitude.
Corelle detected two rapidly-approaching ships behind her.
As soon as she recognized them as the Neue Blau and Neue Zinnobar from the Geheimnis Agency Army Division, she accelerated her ship even further.
Waves of turbulence pushed in from the front and the RB-21’s nose tilted up toward the crimson sky.
Toward Cologne’s burning sky.
Hazel awoke with a start, finding someone was holding her. Someone was doing to her what she had been doing a moment before.
Someone was protecting her and she knew who.
She saw his sunglasses in front of her.
He nodded and stood up with his arms around her hips.
Her vision rose and she saw Lowenzahn standing behind him while Bermark readied Freischütz.
With a gust of wind, a large shape landed nearby: “Hardest Wolf” Pale Horse.
He took a crouching fighting stance and faced Jeanne who stood in the distance.
“Three against four, huh? I didn’t realize a confrontation of the leaders could be so much fun.”
Hazel reached around to Berger’s back while listening to Pale Horse.
Berger’s coat had three holes in the back.
The warm liquid leaking from those holes got on her fingers.
“Don’t make a fuss. They were 9mm, so they didn’t make it through the flesh. It’s nothing to worry about.”
Berger raised Gelegenheit in his left hand and surveyed his surroundings. That was enough for the three other than Lowenzahn to take a step back.
Lowenzahn held her left chest and frowned a little.
“So destiny hasn’t abandoned the Messiah?”
“Why the panic? You’re sweating, Miss Geheimnis Agency Commander.”
Berger laughed. And without warning…
Hazel looked up at him when he unexpectedly called her name.
“Hazel Mirildorf, can you hear my voice?”
“Are you still thinking about what you want after this war?”
That reminded her of what had happened when she was playing the organ in the Village of Pardons. She had stopped playing while watching that brother and sister.
…Can I trust what I felt then?
She wasn’t sure, but she could say one thing for sure.
“Y-yes, I will try to find an answer. I always will!”
“In that case.” Berger pointed Gelegenheit’s pommel toward Lowenzahn. “Listen up. That woman’s as much of a liar as I am. You’re the only one here on the other side of the wall. The Geheimnis Agency and the rest of us aren’t looking past the war. We’re not trying to find an answer – we’re trying to find a way to win. But you…”
Hazel gave him a questioning look before he continued.
“Hazel, you’ve worried over this enough. So just think on one thing now. What was it you originally wanted to do? Go back to that point and I’m sure you’ll find what the Messiah should do.”
Hazel reflexively held her sword against herself and also held the card in her breast pocket.
Berger’s arm around her hips gave a squeeze and she nodded.
That small nod was enough for him to smile.
“Geheimnis Agency Commander Lowenzahn Naylor, the world’s second best liar has a question for you! Does the Geheimnis Agency think their Messiah belongs only to Germany!?”
Lowenzahn reacted to that one. Her eyebrows rose.
“At this point…”
“Shut up! I don’t want conditions and excuses! Hazel is trying to figure out how to use her power. She wants to choose a power she can use toward the things she wants to do after saving the world and use to make the world a better place. …Do you have an answer for her!?” yelled Berger. “Hazel! It’s probably about time you chose. You saw the city, didn’t you? That’s war. This is scorched earth. Can you hear the Lives of destruction, Hazel!? That is what it means to lose something and to sacrifice something, Hazel Mirildorf! But what will you do afterwards?”
…Why are you always asking me these questions?
Nothing answered her thoughts.
This was not the Aerial City – it was burning and collapsing Cologne. So her thoughts would not reach him.
But she realized that Lowenzahn had come to a stop for some reason.
Feeling uneasy, Hazel tried to say something.
But she was cut off by a straight line of roaring noise that broke through all of the sounds of bursting bombs and flying bombers.
The deafening roar tore apart the sky. Hazel recognized it, so she looked up in the direction it had come from: north. She saw what was tearing through the sky there.
It looked like a large black shadow. A metal box was dropping from overhead.
It landed in the courtyard before she managed to realize it was the RB-21’s container.
The boom of it landing hit her in the gut, whipped up the heated wind, and sent a tremor through the ground.
When the container skidded toward them, tearing up the schoolyard’s dirt, Berger shouted an insult and Lowenzahn clicked her tongue. Lowenzahn hesitated but only for a moment.
“So destiny is even more broken than the prophecies!” she shouted, leaping backwards. “It is time we withdrew.”
Not long after, Berger made a leap of his own while carrying Hazel. Pale followed suit.
The green metal container skipped through the spot they had just vacated while spinning a bit. It crushed the motorcycle and kept going. It only stopped after noisily breaking through the metal fence at the end of the schoolyard.
Berger landed with Hazel in his arm and she viewed their surroundings from the safety of his black coat. The Geheimnis Agency had left.
“They sure are good at running away for Neue Kavaliers.”
Berger’s complaint drained Hazel’s tension and she took another look around. There were no human Lives around.
…Is the nightmare over?
“What’s with you, Hazel? You look awfully relieved.”
She started to say something in response, but then he shoved her to the side, sending her rolling.
She heard the roar of wind, but this wasn’t just any wind. It was a constant thing, like a tornado.
Berger stayed low and ran toward the container.
The container’s exterior sparked and then bent in as if making a panicked response to his approach. Some great force had crashed into it from the outside.
That force continued. The exterior bent further, leaving several indentations as if from giant fists, and sparks flew.
“Is that artillery!?”
Hazel looked up to find a new enemy was approaching.
A blue Heavy Barrel and a red Heavy Barrel both had their Over Emblem fully activated. She had briefly seen these Heavy Barrels that now passed by over the schoolyard. They were flying toward where the RB-21 was making a wide turn.
This explained why the RB-21 couldn’t land.
The blue Heavy Barrel raced through the sky, targeting the container with the rifle it held at the hip.
Then it swung the rifle to send a sweep of gunfire across the schoolyard.
Hazel saw the color of destruction fly toward the schoolyard as several distinct lines.
Those were the flying bullets of a Heavy Barrel machinegun.
She held her sword at the hip.
A stray shot was flying toward her on a collision course.
A hit would kill her instantly. It wouldn’t leave anything behind. The same was probably true of Pale standing behind her.
She had to do something about it. With her own power.
Her abilities were quite high for a Greenhorner. She had five defense cards and her sword was the latest model developed by the US army.
…Where do I see this going afterwards?
She would save herself and Pale, exchange a nod with Pale, and then join Berger. There might be more to do before that.
That thought made her smile a little.
Her focus allowed her to perceive the incoming destruction in the form of a bullet.
With a shout, she thrusted her sword forward and produced a defense field.
The force of the sword thrust and the timing of the activation transformed the defense field so it had a sharp point. That point crashed straight into the 88mm shell.
With a solid noise, the destructive power shattered and the pieces radiated outwards along the umbrella-like shape of the defense field.
The shell tore into the schoolyard as tiny fragments.
That scattershot carried a residual shockwave that destroyed the school building behind her.
She quickly looked back to find a classroom’s worth of the two-story concrete building’s first and second floors had been crushed and blown away along with plenty of dust.
Instead of rejoicing in her own survival, Hazel panicked and thought back to a certain memory.
She recalled why it was she had stopped while playing the organ.
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