Hellping

A personal mark was meaningless to the Eighty-Sixes, who had no graves or names to leave behind.

Shin too felt that it was just a decoration.

They might have known it was a hollow label for them, which only they would recognize, and nobody else would.

He was before a church with a collapsed spire, on an abandoned street that was dyed completely white after the snow the previous day. He stood before the wreckage of a defeated “Juggernaut”, and looked down at the personal mark on the crushed armor.

It was not the “Juggernaut” of the same squadron. It was completely worn and tattered under the piled snow, the sunlight, and the elements. The cheap bakelite seats in the cockpit contained a skeletal corpse under a faded combat uniform.

The head above the cervical spines was gone, and so was the silver glint of the dog tag. Shin knew it was an Eighty Six. Even if that was not the case, he knew this corpse belonged to an Eighty-Six.

Who was this person?

 

“…………”

 

The personal mark that was almost worn out was a headless skeleton carrying a longsword.

It appeared to be dead, yet unable to disappear, and was like a ghost wandering the battlefield, seeking its own head..

It seemed to be spiting him, and a notion seemed to awaken in his strangely sober head.

Shin did not know why he had such such a mark on his own unit. Perhaps that [olot too felt the same irony, or truth be told, he really wondered if he would show this much concern..

It seemed that at the very end, that person called him over.

――Shin.

The voice lingering deep in his ears caused him to narrow his eyes, and he hopped off the broken leg he had used as a scaffold.

There was nothing left, but he should bury the person…no, he wanted to bury this person, into dirt, even if he could not make a grave.

And then.

He instinctively reached his hand out, and touched the personal mark that was heavily worn out..

He would carry along every single person whom he had fought alongside with and died before him. That was the promise he made with Alice and the comrades of his first squad. He would remember them all, and bring them along.

He was not one of them, but Shin felt the need to bring him  along..

The “Juggernaut” armor was of thin aluminium alloy. An aircraft of similar material could be cut through with a military knife, so he wondered if he could do the same. Shin picked up a blade that was used as a bayonet for an assault rifle―.

 

“Pii”

“…You?”

 

It appeared to be looking for him..

The old “Scavenger”―Fido appeared, so Shin kept his blade and stood up. They got lost in the battle the previous day, but Fido finally found him.

It sauntered over, and Shin looked over at the trail of snow―where his own “Juggernaut” was parked, saying.

 

“Sorry. My “Juggernaut” ran out of energy. I need to recharge. Reload too.”

“Pii.”

 

The battle ended the previous day, but this was still the contested area, and he wanted to ensure that he was able to battle..

 

“Once we’re done―”

 

Shin continued to command, and then seemed to notice something, for he blinked away..

The “Scavenger” was a reclamation unit that would reclaim the wreckage of the “Juggernaut” and the “Legion” after a battle, and it had a burner and cutter installed in case there were wreckage it could not ferry completely..

Other “Scavengers” would simply disassemble the wreckage and toss them into the furnace, but this strangely intelligent old unit might be able to do what he wanted.

 

“Fido, can you cut this? I want to bring this one back.”

 

He pointed at the personal mark before him.

His promise with Alice and the others was to engrave the names of the dead on their units’ fragments. In fact, he could not easily pick up such things on the battlefield, and had such ordinary metal or wooden scraps. So, if Fido could cut off the armor instead.

As expected, Fido’s optical sensor immediately blinked.

 

“Pii!”

“Please do.”

“Pii.”

 

The front half shook up and down, probably wanting to nod.

There was no “Legion” around them, and the corpse of white bones would not attract beasts. It was the winter, and the herbivores were weak as they could not seek food. For carnivores, it was the best time for them to hunt, but they would not be interested in completely parched bones, bereft of flesh..

The first order was to resupply his unit.

Shin walked on the snow to lead Fido to the hidden “Juggernaut”, and the loyal “Scavenger” followed.

 

Fido easily extracted the personal mark, but the burial of the corpse took an unexpected amount of time. The ground was frozen, and it was arduous digging at it with a combat knife.

Fido seemed to have had enough (probably), and with its assistance, the shabby burial was completed.

The snow stopped over the previous day, and the skies were clear, but the air was freezing. Shin leaned on the container Fido set up to shield against the wind, and drank the boiled water made of snow as he rested, waited for the short winter sun to set, before he got up.

 

“Pii”

“Yeah. Time to go.”

 

Fido’s round optical sensor saw that Shin had walked far enough, and stood up. He had dug a grave to bury the white bones, and managed to complete his task, even though he was completely worn out.

 

“We should hurry back before it gets dark…we’ll bring back a scrap of the squadron leader’s unit, and the others, if they’re still around.”

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