Taken from here: https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/166P_3B4bxFCZkSJ2mDSua04ku0zmJwnwiUcpaSicR3c/edit#slide=id.ge72acb3b01_0_17 translated by qann30 and I edited the text. (I did ask for permission, yes)
Morning comes early in the army.
It was the top floor of the Rüstkammer Base Headquarters, and one could see the dim lights of dawn shining through the long, ornate windows lining the corridors, home of the 86th Mobile Strike Package. At this hour, when most of the civilians in the city would still be in bed, Second Lieutenant Isabella Perschmann was dressed in the steel-colored uniform of the Giadian Federal Army. She, deputy to the Mobile Strike Package’s tactical commander, knocked on the door of her superior’s office. Had has pale red hair tied up in a tight bun and green eyes. She was tall and slender for a woman, and wore silver-rimmed glasses.
Her superior officer, Colonel Vladilena Milizé, was the tactical commander of the Mobile Strike Package assigned to this base. She was the female elite in charge of the 86th Mobile Strike Package, the elite unit comprising of 8,000 state-of-the-art multi-legged Feldreß, the Reginleif, and their Processors, leading the offensives against the “Legion”. She was the cornerstone of the Mobile Strike Package, known as the “Bloodstained Queen” for her decisive and outstanding command.
I can’t let her behave in a way that would undermine her dignity, such as letting her subordinates see her face when she wakes up from sleep. Waking up her superior was not within her job scope as deputy, but this was the reason she would drop by every day.
It was because the Processors, who were mostly in their late teens, loved to cause mischief, and not because of her mysterious sense of duty and possessiveness that drove her to protect the defenceless appearance of the beautiful young girl commander’s unguarded appearance. Absolutely not.
Second Lieutenant Perschmann knocked sharply, but there was no answer, and she tilted her head. It was already past her wake-up time. Normally, Lena would be awake by now.
She put her hand on the knob, and it just opened. The door was unlocked.
Did she go to sleep without locking? If so, that’s too defenceless of her. She needs to be more aware of her appearance…Perschmann was exasperated beyond words, and opened the door.
Lena was nowhere in sight in the operations commander’s office beyond the door, and she looked around to make sure that was the case before heading to her bedroom that was connected.. Even though it was a military base, it was also the private room of an adolescent girl. After knocking loudly enough to wake her up if she was asleep, Perschmann opened the door .
As it turned out, Lena was awake.
However, she had her head tucked under the bed for some mysterious reason, and only her slender buttocks, wrapped in the skirt of her navy blue military uniform, pointed at the door in a strange position.
Perschmann was speechless.
“…What’s going on, Colonel Milizé?”
“Second Lieutenant Perschmann….! O-ouch!”
A short scream came from under the bed. It seemed that she had raised her head when she responded.
Silence occurred for a while due to the pain, and the Commander crawled out from under the bed.
She had long, lustrous silvery-white hair that were like satin, and large eyes of the same color. She was a beautiful, eye-catchingly graceful girl with translucent white skin.
Normally, she had a gentle smile on her face, and would switch to a sharp and serious look during a mission, but at this point, she was on the verge of tears.
“Second Lieutenant Perschmann, TP is… TP is missing!”
TP was the name of the black cat raised by Lena. Its official name was Thermopylae.
It’s not uncommon in the military to have cats and dogs in the barracks, but the Rüstkammer Base was the home of the Armored Forces. Aside from the Feldreß, there was lots of heavy equipment and ammunition, and other heavy machinery such as cranes for moving such heavy loads, and the area was surrounded by forest, so it was somewhat dangerous to let them run free. Therefore, by principle, TP was not allowed to leave the barracks, and had to return to Lena’s room at night.
“I’m sure we slept together last night, but before I knew it, he was gone….”
What should I do…? The Bloodstained Queen wandered around with a helpless look in her eyes.
Due to the aforementioned, the military base was a dangerous place for a cat to roam. After all, the Mobile Strike Package was a large unit comparable to a a brigade. Even in the several mess halls, there were many large pots that could boil up a whole person, not just a cat.
Looking down, Perschmann nodded.
“Understood. I’ll go and look for TP. Please wait here, Colonel Milizé.”
Snap, the slightly moist silvery-white eyes blinked,
“But…Second Lieutenant, you also have work to do.”
“Your job is more important, Colonel. I’ll ask someone else to take over for me. Please do not wander around the base looking for TP by yourself, Colonel.”
“Please leave it to me.”
Perschman spoke firmly, and the Colonel shrivelled like a schoolgirl being scolded by her teacher.
Goodness me. Perschmann let out a long sigh. It was fine that Lena realized her mistake, but it would be troublesome if she did not recognize her position. She was a Colonel, the operations commander,. Even though she loved the cute cat, she has to leave the trivial matter of searching for it to her subordinate.
The determination to not let a bunch of mischievous teenagers see Lena’s teary face stimulated her desire to protect and conquer, etc.
TP was Lena’s pet cat by registration, but unfortunately, Lena was not the one closest to TP.
So, the first person Perschmann went to visit was two levels down, on the floor where the Processors’ rooms were located.
Captain Shinei Nouzen. Operational Commander of the Mobile Strike Package, Squadron Commander of the 1st Armored Division, and also captain of the Headquarters affiliated Squadron, the Spearhead Squadron. In short, he was the one who stood above all Processors of the Mobile Strike Package.
Befitting of his title, his Feldreß piloting skills and combat capabilities were top notch not only in the Mobile Strike Package, but also the entire Federacy Western Army, and could boast the number of “Legion” kills to boot. He was the same age as Lena, and though he just had recently turned 18 years old, he had five years of military experience before he joined the Federacy Army, where he acquired the moniker “Headless Reaper of the Eastern Front”. He was a monster of the Mobile Strike Package, who had participated in and survived several deathmatches that extended over a hundred kilometers in distance.
How does that berserker look? So she had wondered before she met him.
“…TP? Well, no, he’s not here.”
In reality, he was just like this, a quiet and tranquil boy, which is a bit of a surprise considering his moniker and previous reputation.
It seemed that he had just taken a shower before breakfast and after finishing his daily work load. He came out with a large towel draped over his tank top, wiping his dripping jet-black hair, and he also had Pyrope eyes that were colored as blood of the aristocracy of the old empire.
The Processor in the next room appeared to have worked hard too, and one could hear the sound of water from the shared bathroom between the two adjoining rooms.
“I see…Is there any chance that you’d know where it is, Captain?”
“As expected, a cat is….I mean, it’s not like I can tell where humans are, either.”
He responded nonchalantly to Perschmann’s joke, without smiling at all. It was unnecessary for Shin, a Captain, to use honorifics with Lena’s Second Lieutenant, but in his case, it is probably a sign of his desire to keep a certain distance from others, rather than respect for an older woman. His blood-red eyes were serene and tranquil in a way that belies his age…but there were moments when he would show a horrifying emptiness, a cold callousness as befitting of his nickname, the Repeat.
The majority of the Mobile Strike Package’s Processors, including Shin, were Eighty-Sixers. Declared as humanoid pigs by their now-destroyed homeland, they were young soldiers who knew nothing but to fight, forced to live and die on deadly battlefields as weapons rather than people, and to die while not being deemed KIA.
They could not possibly be normal. Perschmann would always sense unbearable cold emptiness lingering around them whenever they talked. They could converse, and looked no different from others, but the emptiness could be felt all the more given the dissonance in values.
However, he seemed to have lost a lot of his composure lately.
He also had a surprisingly soft expression while talking to Lena, his immediate superior, which Perschmann was very uncomfortable with. As an officer, she believed that he should not change his attitude depending on who he was talking to, and it was not because she was possessive of Lena.
She glanced at the small, almost aisle-width room behind Shin.
Aside from a small bookshelf and a few books crammed into it, the room was empty and inorganic, with very few personal items. On a closer look though, one could see that the books on the bookshelf and the desk were a complete mess. As if to blend in with the clutter, there were proposals scattered on the desk.
They weren’t official military documents, of course, since the Federacy Army mainly uses electronic documents. Written on notes that were used as bookmarks was his neat handwriting.
“Captain. You should be clearing ‘that’ up…what would you do if it was Colonel Milizé who came and saw them, and not me?”
Shin followed her gaze and looked at the proposals, but Perschmann could see that he was just brushing her off, and had no intention of following up.
Shin appeared to be similar to Perschmann’s little brothers at home who were in their rebellious phases. They would find it a bother to be nagged at, and would give a perfunctory response, but didn’t matter how many times they were told. They wouldn’t improve.
She looked at him indifferently, and Shin seemed to know what she was thinking, for the edges of his mouth lifted slightly.
“Second Lieutenant, was your nickname when you were still in school Class Rep or something like that?”
“Too bad. It’s Miss Minchin. Not that I wanted it though.”
While Shin bade her farewell with a wry smile, Perschmann turned to leave, seething.
Maybe TP couldn’t stand the hunger and went to the cafeteria to beg for food before Lena woke up, but that didn’t seem to be the case.
Perschmann looked around, but found no cat, and In the corner of the first mess hall, the largest on the base, she put one hand on her waist and exhaled. She even asked the first lieutenant who was the head cook in the kitchen, but the latter didn’t see TP either. The army mess hall wouldn’t allow a cat or anything enter the kitchen, a place where hygiene was a top priority.
“…Second Lieutenant Perschmann? It’s unusual for you to come to breakfast at this time. It’s still too early for that though.”
She turned around to see First Lieutenant Raiden Shuga. He was a tall, fearless man with short, iron-colored hair. The second-in-command of the Spearhead squadron, and an Eighty-Sixer, he was an soldier who turned eighteen this year.
“First Lieutenant Shuga. …No, I’m actually looking for a cat.”
“Cat? …Ah, TP. Well, he’s been wandering everywhere ever since we adopted him.”
The decade-long “Legion” resulted in the shortage of soldiers and officers; such young soldiers like him were forced to take up the frontlines. The Federacy Army would serve them extra meals since they were still growing. In short, they would be served more food than an adult soldier. As a result, Raiden naturally devoured a breakfast that was a bit too much for Perschmann, a woman aged twenty five.
He nudged a paper cup of coffee with one hand towards her.
“You look restless, sit down and have a drink. I haven’t sipped it yet.”
She pulled out the empty chair in front of him and sat down.
She disliked black coffee, even if it was a substitute. While she continued to dump sugar into the coffee, Raiden gave a wry smile.
“Well…I guess women really like sweet things, huh?”
“That’s prejudiced, First Lieutenant. I’m sure there are men who like sweets, too.”
“Oh, you mean like Rito and the Prince? …I guess it’s not a waste of time for Frederica to make that.”
“What do you mean?”
“Frederica said she’s going to bake cookies tomorrow. I’m supposed to help her with that after breakfast.”
Frederica was the mascot of the Mobile Strike Package…a human sacrifice of girl assigned as a hostage to keep the fighters on the front lines.
In any case, Perschmann couldn’t help but ask back.
What did Raiden just say?
Before her was a tall, fearless boy soldier, with short, iron-colored hair and a body that was becoming that of an adult’s.
Astonished, Perschmann asked again.
Hmph. Raiden snorted and turned away.
“That’s prejudiced, Second Lieutenant.”
“Hmmm. I wouldn’t let TP into the office, as I’m sure you know….”
Second Lieutenant Anju Emma tilted her head as her sky-blue eyes gazed at some holographic documents that were in full screen. She has long, silvery hair with a bluish moon that flows easily.
She and Perschmann were in the office that was shared by the Processors and rowdy every day. As soldiers on the front lines, they had to finish their paperwork before and after their missions. Filling the office were the sounds of many keyboards being typed at, hushed discussions, and the electronic sound of messages flying around. The loudest of all remained the idle chatter however.
After all, they were all lively boys and girls in their mid to late teens. There was no way that they could gather in one place and be quiet, and behaved as rowdily as the classrooms of her school days Perschmann felt as though she had witnessed five younger siblings at her old home, the eldest of them four years younger than her.
They were in the backlines, and while Perschmann did not appear in the frontlines, she was in a war zone, and she still missed her family.
As one of the platoon leaders of the Spearhead Squadron, Anju was a bit busy with her own paperwork and the reports of her subordinates. She kept looking at the electronic documents on the holoscreens while talking to Perschmann.
With the tips of her neatly polished fingernails, she pressed the enter key.
One of the electronic documents disappeared from her holoscreen, and appeared at a platoon member seated a short distance away. His little shriek reached Perschmann.
“Yu-kun, don’t just write randomly because you don’t have time. Revise it properly and send it again.”
Anju smiled sweetly like a large white flower at the platoon member whose shoulders slumped dejectedly.
“We need to finish this by tomorrow, and we have to join in the preparations, so let’s get it finished as soon as possible, okay?”
“I mean, since we’re going to start with preparations, I don’t need to revise it further, right…”
Anju’s smile deepened.
There was an invisible intimidation lingering in the air, resulting in the platoon members and everyone else including Perschmann involuntarily backed away.
“Did you not say so yesterday that you will finish it today? I see that you are still playing around, Yu-kun.”
“…Y-yes. I’m sorry!”
“Eh, I thought Lena didn’t let him out of her room at night. He won’t leave the barracks in the day either.”
Second Lieutenant Kurena Kukumila said, dressed in her steel-colored combat training uniform devoid of camouflage, and a flashy bright red flight jacket.
Slung over her shoulder was a hunting rifle instead of an assault rifle. There were several other Eighty-Sixers around her dressed in a similarly flashy manner. It seemed they were going hunting in the surrounding forest for the purpose of… Mountain Marching Training. The flashy clothes were probably to prevent them from getting into danger, since they wouldn’t be easily recognized if the camouflage worked too well, and this was to prevent misfire.
There was consideration to build Rüstkammer Base next to a large city to ensure that the Eighty-Sixers could return to society, but a large area of land was required for Feldreß exercises, so it was surrounded by a deep, inaccessible forest.
The base was built on the site of the former citadel. People living in the city across the river were also restricted from entering this forest, so the whole area is a paradise for deer, boar and other beasts.
“Yes. But there is always a chance that you might find him in the forest.”
She might have been surprised that Perschmann was putting in so much effort to look for a mere cat, of a mere cat, but she nodded more seriously than the latter expected.
“Yup, got it. I’ll definitely catch him if I find him.”
Perschmann looked over at Kurena, bemused by her sincerity, but the latter’s golden eyes weren’t looking at her.
She was staring at someone who appeared to be suffering somewhere.
“Daiya was the one who found him. That’s why we entrusted the little one to Lena. I’m not going to abandon him.”
Perschmann didn’t know that name…since there’s no mention of this name elsewhere in this base, perhaps it was of one who no longer existed on this world.
When Perschmann realized this, she was momentarily speechless.
Kurena…and the Eighty Sixers surely probably lost far more of their fellow Eighty-Sixers to the deadly battlefield they were trapped in.
“I’ll leave it to you. I’ll look for him myself, too.”
“Yeah. …Thanks for that.”
“…..Second Lieutenant Rikka. You mean to tell me that this is a field building exercise…?”
“I got permission, so why not? It doesn’t matter.”
An exercise would require permission from his superior officer, Shin, for the later was the overall-in-charge, so it was only natural that he would pass it. Nevertheless, she didn’t know what kind o absurd logic the two of them used to insist that this was a training exercise.
Behind Second Lieutenant Theoto Rikka, who responded, there was the sound of a light hammering, and a few boys fastened a circular board onto another board that was made into a stand.
Theo himself was preparing paint beside them. Painting was his hobby, and he drew his friends’ personal marks. His uniform, and even his pants were covered in paint as he worked. He had a babyface coupled with blond hair and green eyes, unbefitting of his rugged personality.
“Is that darts for entertainment?
“Uh, no, it’s bingo.”
Perschmann pondered for a moment.
“It’s obviously a dartboard, right?”
“Yeah, so we write numbers on the disk, and then we throw darts at them in order to make bingo…”
This was the unknown bit. It felt as though they came up with the rules on the fly.
And given the mood, they would surely change the rules of the game midway through.
“By the way, where’s the bingo cards? Are they handmade too?”
It seemed he had forgotten about it. Perschmann nodded.
“’ll have someone buy it for you in the next town, immediately.”
“I’m sorry. ….I completely forgot.”
Theo scratched his cheek with his hand that was holding a brush dipped in bright yellow paint. The paint did not touch his hair or face, but it caused new stains on the shoulder of his uniform.
“By the way, it’s about TP, right?”
“I’m sorry, but I haven’t seen him today. Cats don’t like loud noises, and I don’t think they’d come to such a noisy place.”
“…Well, I guess you’re right.”
“Ah.. I’ll keep an eye out for you. If you find him, just broadcast to us or something. Since you’re going to look for him elsewhere, it’d be troublesome if you go around telling people you found him.”
“I told you it was different, Crone. You’re the only one who’s off by a semitone, so do something about it.”
The entertainment room at the Rüstkammer Base was overflowing with data media such as anime, movies, and comics that were popular back home.
The Eighty-Sixers hardly had any form of good entertainment during the formative years, so the high-ranking officials of the Western Army and the legal guardians of the young soldiers would regularly send them some. There were paperback books on the bookshelf, steadily increasing their territory, and they were entertainment novels among Shin’s personal belongings that he has finished reading…was a public place just one for him to dump his belongings?
For some reason, there was a piano placed in a corner of the entertainment room, where Lieutenant Colonel Viktor Idinarohk, the prince of the United Kingdom and a visiting officer of the Mobile Strike Package, was seated at today.
There are about 20 Eighty Sixers surrounding him and the piano, practicing a song. His Royal Highness, the sinister Prince of Roa Gracia, also known as The Serpent of Shackles and Decay, was somewhat fed up and complaining to one of them.
Perschmann spoke up while walking to him.
“Your Royal Highness. So you play the piano.”
“I see you’ve finally come to understand that it’s fine to treat me so, Perschmann. I have to admit, you were a pain in the ass in the beginning.”
The Prince said nonchalantly to a mere Second Lieutenant.
As he said, she had become accustomed to him, and she gave him a blank stare. His highness’s purple eyes and beautiful face were twisted in a sneer.
“Well, I’m royalty, after all. Don’t you think it’s expected that one should be able to play a musical instrument as a matter of taste?”
“I’ve been told that His Highness is not very good at chess, which is supposedly a favorite hobby.”
“…Don’t you think it’s a Prince’s hobbies are trivial, Perschmann?”
“There’s a contradiction in what you say.”
In short, it seemed that he chose to play few tunes in the spur of the moment.
Deciding that the conversation was over, the surrounding boys and girls of the Eighty Six opened their mouths.
“Your Highness, erm, about what you just said earlier. You said it sounded different, but I can’t tell.”
“Me neither. I don’t think it would bother anyone.”
“To be frank, Your Highness is just being petulant.”
“What? …..Lerche, how about you?”
The question was answered by a girl in the corner of the entertainment room, his knight and royal guard who had nicely tied blond hair and green eyes.
She looked somewhat apologetic.
“You are correct about the different pitches, Your Highness…but if you ask if I mind, that is a different matter…”
Vika immediately clicked his tongue.
“Then it’s fine…let’s continue.”
His whiny voice caused the surrounding Eighty Sixers to burst into laughter…on one side was Vika, Prince of the Northern United Kingdom of Roa Gracia, and on the other, the Eighty Sixers who were not deemed as humans by their homeland. Perschmann was worried if both parties could coexist, but it seemed her fears were for naught. The term ‘Your Highness’ appeared to be a nickname or something, and they had established themselves as mere comrades-in-arms and friends of the same age.
“By the way, Perschmann, why are you here? You’re not going to practice singing now, are you?”
“Eh. Actually, I’m looking for the cat that belongs to Colonel Milizé.”
Trembling, Lerche took a step back.
“Oh no! Your Highness. What have you done?”
“…Lerche. As far as I’m concerned, I wouldn’t bother with a live cat.”
Vika looks back at his servant with half-lidded eyes.
Lerche, who looks like a human girl to Perschmann’s eyes, was actually not a human being. She was a mechanical doll (Sirin) created by Vika using the brains of the war dead as the central processing system.
It appeared that even for him, killing a living being is still forbidden.
In front of Perschmann, who was about to heave a sigh of relief, Vika added.
Henchforth, Perschmann swore to herself that she would not leave TP alone with Vika.
“It’ll be ready in ten minutes.”
Like a witch in a candy house, Frederica stared into the oven with a strange expression on her face and remained still.
Her long, lustrous black hair was tied up in twin tails, just for today. Her face, though young, was as exquisite and adorable as a doll’s.
When Perschmann came to the kitchen, she said 12 minutes to go, and exactly one minute ago, she said 11 minutes to go. She looked like a pigeon on a cuckoo clock, or rather, like a one-minute clock, since a cuckoo clock wouldn’t tell the time every minute. She looked busy.
Raiden spoke as he washed bowls and molds in the sink a short distance away.
“Frederica, the oven won’t explode even if you don’t look hard at it.”
“Do thou not know? Penrose once turned chocolate purple when she was just melting and hardening it.”
“Is such a miracle possible? That usually doesn’t happen as you think it does.”
“In hindsight, such a failure is a wonderful memory too.”
Perschmann nodded, remembering her own mistakes at home such as the over-mixed sponge cake that didn’t rise and became cream. It’s a funny story at this moment, but back then, it was pretty depressing.
“Oh, I see….”
Snorting, Frederica was wearing an apron with a cute bear applique, and her twintails were tied with a brand new ribbon. The former was bought for her by Anju, and the latter by Kurena. In addition, it was Second Lieutenant Reki Michihi who did her hair today. For some reason, Frederica’s favorite large stuffed bear, was placed on a chair in the corner of the cooking room, as if to watch over her. It was said Shin bought this for her before.
The Eighty-Sixers pampered this girl, the mascot of the Mobile Strike Package. to varying degrees. It was as if they wanted her to experience what they couldn’t or wouldn’t do for themselves in the past.
Big, blood-red eyes, like jewels, looked up at Perschmann.
“Thou are looking for TP, no?”
“I’m sorry, I haven’t seen him. I’d like to find him, but I don’t think I can.”
Again, she looked at the oven like a soldier in the trenches on the front lines, tensely watching the enemy army that was about to invade.
“I have to fulfill the responsibility of baking cookies. I can’t bake enough for everyone, but some will have the Squadron Logo on them. I hope they shall be pleased.”
Perschmann’s eyes relaxed slightly.
“Yes, I’m sure.”
Frederica suddenly shrieked, and Perschmann slightly as she checked the inside of the oven.
Nothing strange appeared to be going on.
“Raiden, Raiden, I just heard a strange noise! Isn’t that a sign of something strange?”
Raiden said, unfazed. He was clearly familiar with the situation.
“Frederica, it wasn’t the oven, it was just singing birds outside.”
With a pair of scissors, she cut the colored paper into long, thin strips and glued them together to make a long, continuous loop.
“I know you don’t want Lena to walk all over the Base today. That said, thank you for your time, Second Lieutenant. Unfortunately, he hasn’t come this way either.”
The technical officer, Major Henrietta Penrose, also known as Annette, said as she silently made the decoration from a chain of colored papers. She had short silvery-white hair and eyes, and she was an Alba like Lena, and wore the same navy blue uniform of the Republic of San Magnolia. She was a researcher girl who was dispatched to the Federation with Lena.
The paper chain ornaments that look like something a child would make look out of place in the inorganic office block of the research team and the spotless white coat she wore. The color combination seemed somewhat weird to Perschmann….no, very bizarre even.
It was best to maintain a balance of the colors, but bluntly put, it was a boring color scheme. Second Lieutenant Dustin Jaeger, another processor dispatched from the Republic, continued on from he. He too had silver hair and eyes, and the same navy blue military uniform. A tall, well-proportioned figure, he had an honest face.
“Let me help you, Second Lieutenant Perschmann. I’m sure it’s hard for one woman to navigate this large base.”
“Nothing to worry about. Anyway…”
Perschmann quietly turned to Annette, trying to look as casual as possible.
“Second Lieutenant, please continue to help the Major.”
“Yes, you’re not planning to abandon me, are you, Second Lieutenant Jaeger? I know I look like I’m cool with it, but I’m actually crying right now. I feel so sad.”
The entire research team, including Annette, was in charge of the decorations, but she was the only one who hadn’t finished her quota yet. The other researchers had finished their work and were putting thin paper chains and roses that look good with their white coats and steel-colored uniforms into the cardboard boxes they brought in. The chief developer of the “Reginleif”, who seemed to have already gotten carried away with excitement, was tossing the paper butterflies into the air.
Perschmann thought for a moment that the developer could have helped out.
She was not a bad person, though she’s a bit of a dunce, so she’d probably chip in later after realizing so.
“Aahー …..right. Sorry about that. I won’t abandon you. Let’s do our best, Major.”
“Don’t tell me you are surprisingly clumsy at this, Major?”
“What do you mean, surprising? I have always been clumsy by nature. Half the time I make sweets, they end up as a big mistake.”
She said in a sulky tone.
In that way, she was still an eighteen-year-old girl.
“…Since I skipped a few levels at school, I didn’t have any friends my own age except for Lena. I’ve never really made anything like this at school or at home.”
Annette unrolled the rustling paper chain that was too long for her hands. One part was not fastened properly, and the chain came off in the middle. She glued it back together.
“So I’m having a lot of fun making this. I think I’m going to cry a little. Tomorrow, too…but I’m sure everyone is getting ready right now.”
“—Is it over, kids!? That’s the extent of your fucking guts after surviving the 86th district! One more set, ready!”
It was a common sight to see a mature instructor shouting at young soldiers during physical training, but it was bizarre to see in the army to see the training of the Mobile Strike Package, in which Master Sergeant Brent Bernholdt, a non-commissioned officer, was scolding scolds the Processors who were officers.
Bizarre as it might be, neither the Eighty-Sixers, who have been treated as weapons for a long time, nor Bernholdt, who was treated as a mercenary, minded about the loose military discipline.
Bernholdt and his subordinates, the Old Combat Territorial Army, were a fighting group that has been defending the borders and fighting foreign wars since the days when the Federation was an empire, and they were a frightening existence to Perschmann. These war-crazed Beastmen live on the frontiers of the Empire. Bernholdt’s gray-silver hair and slightly pale golden eyes resembled an old wolf.
Still, finding TP was the top priority right now. Just because she was scared, it didn’t mean she couldn’t ask.
“Look, you say it’s entertainment, but no belly dance. Do you want to get killed from all sides?”
“But isn’t the rifle drill too simple?”
“It’s not that simple. We’re born with the rifle, and it’s a chance for us to show this tradition to a bunch of Eighty-Sixers brats who are only a generation old.”
“Say that after you beat Captain Nouzen in combat. We’re warriors, why should we be proud of our traditions instead of our fighting skills?”
“So, let’s not compromise on our bellies.”
“I told you, no belly dancing. There’s a couple of young ladies in the house. Get it, you knuckleheads”
For some reason, these were adults discussing such unimportant things with extremely serious faces.
Even so, she would tend to talk to them at a little more distance than she would talk to others.
“Master Sergeant Bernholdt.”
“Oh, hey there, Second Lieutenant.”
The veteran Master Sergeant glanced at her, and the other former war veterans paused their conversation and backed away slightly…at a distance, they continued to debate the pros and cons of doing a belly dance.
“Is something the matter? You don’t particularly need this kind of training, do you?”
If she told him so, he might burst out laughing.
So she thought, and decided to ask.
“I’m looking for a cat. Colonel Milizé has a black one.”
“Ah~, so it’s the little guy who’s so attached to Captain Nouzen…no, we haven’t seen him. Right guys?”
Everyone nods their heads in agreement, and Bernholdt turned around.
“Well, he is an animal, so I’m sure he can manage on his own. But I guess the Colonel is very worried.”
The veteran Master Sergeant, who had spent more time in combat than Perschmann had lived, nodded so. Contrary to her expectations, he didn’t laugh, and was serious.
“Roger that, Second Lieutenant. I don’t think he’ ll come this far, but I’ll keep an eye out for him.”
The next place she checked at was the one place where cats were definitely prohibited.
In other words, the Armored Weapons Hangar.
In the first hangar, the largest in the base, the Federation’s most advanced Feldreß, the mainstay of the 86th Mobile Strike Package, were lined up with legs folded in a row.
The XM2 Reginleif, multi-legged armored weapons for three-dimensional high-mobility combat.
The agile quadrupedal legs resembled knotted feet. The main cannon and a pair of fighting arms were mounted on its back. Anti-armor pile drivers were attached to each of the four legs. The pure white armor was the color of a polished skeleton, as cool and fierce as the war maiden it derived its name from.
With no mission to fulfill, the pure white fighting machines hid their ferocity within their armor and slumbered quietly in the dim darkness of the hangar.
…No, that would be incorrect. One corner of the hangar was too loud to be described that way.
“Yeah, I’m not going in here, no matter how much I want to. I haven’t actually seen it.”
Said Second Lieutenant Rito Oriya, who was overseeing the noisy commotion. He was 15 years old, young for a Processor, and his face was still full of innocence. Agate-colored hair and large eyes.
Second Lieutenant Reki Michihi, who was also in charge, continued. With her brownish-black hair and ivory-colored skin, she was an Orienta girl with roots in the Eastern part of the continent, a rarity in the multi-ethnic Federation.
“It’s the cat that Captain Nouzen and the others raised in the 1st area, isn’t it? I think even a cat knows that it’s dangerous to get too close to the Juggernaut.”
The Eighty-Sixers, including Michihi, called the Reginleif “Juggernaut”. It was the name of the Feldreß that they used to pilot while trapped on the battlefield by their homeland. It was the name of a Pagan God who ran over and killed believers who gathered for salvation.
“Yes, but I can’t find him anywhere …I thought maybe he was here.”
“Maybe he got lost? I mean, cats move around all the time.”
That was why she had been looking around asking for where TP was. Everyone else had said they would take note, but she had yet to hear from them.
As Perschmann stood there, expressionless but troubled, she was suddenly interrupted by Second Lieutenant Yuuto Crow, who had remained silent until now. He was a boy with pale blond hair and eyes as crimson as fire, but he was as silent and emotionless as one would expect a “Reginleif” to be if he were to speak.
“By the way, Second Lieutenant Perschmann, now that you’re here, what does this look like?”
Yuuto pointed to the back of the hangar that Perschmann had been avoiding to look at.
In a large corner of the hangar, where simple tests were carried out, more than ten “Reginleifs” were rhythmically swaying from side to side, with heavy machine guns on their fighting arms and fuselages weighing more than ten tons, dancing strangely while clanking away.
She did not want to look at the dance, for she might lose it if she looked there.
Perschmann responded as she thought about it.
“Is it an imitation of a spider’s or a scorpion’s courtship dance?”
The pair of fighting arms resembled scissors, and the 88mm cannon on the back resembled swishing tail, and the four-legged “Reginleif” had a spider or scorpion-like appearance, so that naturally came to mind.
Once she mentioned so, Rito and Michihi slumped their shoulders in disappointment.
Yuuto’s face was expressionless as usual, but one could somehow sense his disappointment.
“Courtship dance, huh…?”
“It doesn’t look like cheerleading…”
It really didn’t.
Also, if it was cheerleading, why was a Waltz being played?
And then, Yuuto gave a hand signal to the Processors in the “Reginleif”, causing the group to stop. The maintenance crew rushed over and attached light sticks to the ends of the fighting arms, and the Reginleifs swung the light sticks violently from side to side and diagonally upward to the opening theme of “Magical Girl something”, which Frederica had recently become addicted.
“…Some witchcraft ritual?”
The three of them huddled together and began to whisper “What should we do?” “How should we change it from now on?” “I’m sorry, but I’m not familiar with this are”…why did it sound so troubled.
…In the first place. It is impossible to make a “Reginleif”, a non-humanoid, perform a human dance.
Sighing, Perschmann said.
“…Well, this is interesting, isn’t it?”
The young soldiers looked back at her. Perschmann nodded her head without smiling.
“I think you’ll get a laugh out of it.”
Once she entered the processor’s locker room adjacent to the hangar, the door to the shower room at the back of the room flung open.
“Hey, Second Lieutenant Perschmann! I hear you’re looking for TP? Just so you know, he’s not here!”
“At least cover your breasts, Second Lieutenant Iida!”
Perschmann blushed and shouted. She would like praise her own reflexes for slamming the hangar immediately after walking in from the hangar.
Despite being told so, Second Lieutenant Shiden Iida shut the frosted glass door without covering her breasts, and contrary to her manner of speech, she was a woman. An Eighty-Sixer girl, she has curly red hair and heterochromia eyes of dark indigo and silvery white.
She had body proportions far beyond girls her age, a larger bust than the slender Perschmann, and was not ashamed in the slightest to flaunt her breasts. Perschmann thus had a headache, and pressed her temples.
Living in a war zone and Concentration camps since childhood had caused lots of negative effects on the Eighty-Sixers, and this was one example.. For them who had lived for so long in an environment no separation of bathrooms between men and women, and where they lived without privacy, they lacked any sense of shame.
In fact, even here in the Rüstkammer Base, the Eighty-Sixers didn’t seem to think it’s strange that men and women were mixed up on the same floor, let alone in the same building. In addition, the facilities manager desperately took away decision making from the teenagers, to avoid situations where people of different genders shared the same bathroom.
“Ah, sorry , sorry. I didn’t think you’d be that surprised.”
This time, she came out with a bath towel crudely wrapped around her.
“I wasn’t surprised, I was exasperated. And you look…”
She was about to tell Shiden not to be dressed up like that, Perschmann blinked.
She had assumed Shiden was taking a shower to wash off the sweat after the day’s training, but the latter was covered in paint everywhere. Her hair and her sun-browned face was covered in reds, blues, oranges, greens, almost like the seven colors of the rainbow.
“What’s with the paint all over you?”
“Well, you just saw it. The “Juggernaut” dance, the performance for tomorrow’s event. If we’re going to do it, I thought we’d make it flashy, so I asked the maintenance crew about it and I painted one of them for the show.”
Certainly, one would want to head to the showers immediately after that…despite this, if she was looking for something.
“Excuse me. But would that come off?”
“Well, somehow. I haven’t bathed completely.”
Suddenly, Shiden burst out laughing.
The sun had already set and it was almost dusk.
Perschmann began to get impatient, wondering why she couldn’t find the cat. The Colonel would not be able to truly enjoy herself if she could not find her beloved cat, even though everyone had prepared so well.
They were in a military base, surrounded by highly classified, elite troops. She approaching the imposing front gate that was guarded by Sentinels to prevent outsiders from entering, she heard a voice from behind the gate.
“Hey, Second Lieutenant. Have you found TP?”
She turned back, and found it was Kurena and the others. They had finished their hunt and returned before dark. They were riding on the back of a huge, bulky, square-shaped, four-legged mechanical machine that hadn’t been here before.
He’s called a “Scavenger”, an autonomous transport machine that accompanied the “Reginleif” during battle to replenish ammunition and energy packs. Because of its role, he would be switched off and stored in a hangar when not on duty. There was only one scavenger currently active, affiliated to Spearhead Squadron, called Fido.
Kurena jumped off the back of Fido, showed her ID to the Sentinel, went through the gate and ran up to Perschmann. The latter shook her head, “No,” and her shoulders slumped.
” I see. I wonder where TP has gone. Will he come back when he’s hungry. …Oh, everything’s going well over here. Tomorrow, you can count on me.”
Her golden eyes turned to see one of her companions lift up the head of a magnificent deer lying on its side. Somehow, each of them managed to carry the prey of their hunt by themselves or with several others, and walked towards Kurena.
Fido was the last to pass through the gate. Its huge body, approaching with crunching footsteps, suddenly stopped in front of Perschmann.
It was a support machine for transportation, a weapon albeit unarmed, and on the back of it was a collection of flowering branches that had apparently been cut down here and there in the forest. Apparently, he (?) had been preparing for tomorrow in his own way. Perscchmann had no idea how he did so with his rugged crane arm, but there were even early summer flowers that he apparently picked.
His round optical sensor appeared to be showing concern as he stared at her intently, and it was strangely adorable. Perschmann felt her shoulders relax a little. An automated machine he was, he wasn’t advanced enough to handle combat, even though he was just a mechanical device that should have no consciousness or emotions.
“Fido, can you talk?”
He even responded with an electronic tone. So cute. Perschmann asked him, trying to be funny. How would he know? There was no way they could communicate after all.
“Do you happen to know where TP is? It’s a black cat with white feet that belongs to Colonel Milizé and often hangs out with Captain Nouzen. I’ve been looking for him, but I can’t find him.”
Fido’s entire body tilted as if he were tilting his head. Perhaps it was thinking.
After a moment.
His finger, or rather, the crane arm, pointed at it, as if to say, “Could it be?”
Looking up at the top floor of the quarters …where the Commander’s office and private quarters were, Perschmann gasped.
On the top floor, there was Lena’s room and.
Her superior officer. The Brigade Commander’s office and private quarters are also on the top floor.
It was a blind spot. Yes, she should have looked there first.
“TP? Yeah, he’s been in my room since this morning.”
Perschmann fought to keep herself from falling to her knees as Colonel Grethe Wenzel, Commander of the Mobile Strike Package Brigade, nodded. She felt a sense of exhaustion, and then a touch of relief.
The stray black cat that she had been looking for all day, for which Lena had spent the same amount of time worrying, and for which the Eighty Sixers and everyone else had been concerned to some degree, was oblivious to everything that transpired in the day, appearing to be very interested in the catnip being shaken in front of him.
Grethe spoke after glaring at the Chief of Staff of the Western Army, who was lounging comfortably on a leather sofa in the reception set, teasing TP with a cheap plastic catnip that didn’t look right in his hand, thinking of the latter as an eyesore. She had extremely short blonde hair and her trademark neatly applied red lipstick.
“I think he got a little spooked because everyone has been scrambling to get ready since yesterday. I guess he figured he could hide in my room, since it’s at the far end of the compound.”
“I see. ….So, how on earth did he get out of Colonel Milizé’s room?”
“It seems that Colonel Milizé was up very late last night.”
The next morning, which was today, Lena opened the door lazily, probably being sleep deprived, and TP probably escaped without her noticing.
“If I had known you were looking for him, Second Lieutenant, I would have approached you. I didn’t look outside today because I was trying to finish up for tomorrow.”
I apologize, Grethe said and then looked again at the Chief of Staff at the reception set.
“Therefore, Willem. I’m quite busy with tomorrow’s preparations, so now that you’ve done your job, go home.”
Grethe was a Colonel, and the Chief of Staff was a Brigadier General. It was an impertinence that could not be tolerated in the ranks, but Chief of Staff Willem shrugged his shoulders nonchalantly. The Chief of Staff had jet-black hair and eyes from the pure bloods from the Onyx, the same bloodline as the great aristocracy that remained in the Federacy. He was a peer of Grethe’s when they were students, and even now they often bantered.
“How cruel, Grethe. I thought I’d come by and check on you. But it seems that you and the Eighty-Sixers are…up to something tomorrow, huh?”
“Yes, we are. That’s why I’m busy. You can join us tomorrow, if you want. But for today, go home.”
“I am sorry, Second Lieutenant Perschmann, but thank you so much…!”
“No, it’s fine.”
Perschmann shook her head pensively at Lena, who kept her head down as she hugged TP tightly.
The black cat in Lena’s arms purred lazily, and rubbed his head against the hand of his master which had abandoned for the day…, it was an envious, heartwarming sight in times of warm.
“Anyway, Colonel. Please go to bed early today, as we have a lot of work to do tomorrow. Please don’t stay up late like you did yesterday.”
Lena blinked her silvery eyes in puzzlement.
“Tomorrow? Is there something I should know?”
“Yes, there is.”
She widened her eyes in shock.
“But there’s nothing on the schedule…”
“Yes indeed. So hurry and go to sleep.”
Without realizing it, Perschmann smiled.
“Please have a good night.”
Perschmann was in her bed, after lights out, in a small, corridor-like room reserved for officers of the Mobile Strike Package. She stared into the darkness with her green eyes without her glasses and pondered.
Lena was known as the Bloodstained Queen, and was in charge of all the Processors in the Mobile Strike Package, including Shin. However, she was still only 18 years old, and in a peaceful age, she would still be a mere child. The Eighty-Sixers, acting as her sword that stood proudly on the battlefield, were all still teenagers.
Before the war started, when Perschmann was just their age or a little younger, teenage officers like Lena and Shin had never existed.
Everything changed a decade ago.
The “Legion”. A vast army of automated machines that devoured up the entire continent in war, with the supreme order to annihilate any sphere of influence that opposed them.
Her father, a soldier, died in battle against them. Her mother was left with five younger children, the eldest of them being four years year than her, and she decided to earn money for the family.
It was not that there was no pension for the bereaved, but it was still difficult for the family of six if she didn’t leave home. Furthermore, her younger siblings still had schooling.
The best place to get a job was in the army. It was not a rarity.
The “Legion” War was intense since the start. There were people who lost their breadwinners and enlisted for their families, many who were her friends in school. Many had family members who could not return, or lost their families…and some could not return.
Lena and the others surely did not have the choice that Perschmann had.
As time went on, they had no choice but to fight to survive in the tight war situation or in the deadly battlefield where they were abandoned and trapped by their own homeland.
At least for Lena and the Eighty Sixers, the other young soldiers in the army, if it were possible for them to have a simple, joyous day.
And tomorrow, for example…
With this thought, Perschmann fell asleep.
Unknown to Lena, all the personnel of the Mobile Strike Package had planned and prepared a party to celebrate the end of their deployment to the United Kingdom.
It was a surprise for the Queen, who had fulfilled her great duty, albeit at a minimal cost.
There was no alcohol, as the majority of the Processors, the Eighty-Sixers, were still too young to be legally allowed to drink alcohol in the Federation, but there was still food and sweets prepared by the base cooks, flowers, decorations, music, and a festive atmosphere. There was no cafeteria to accommodate everyone, so the party was held in the largest hangar on the base and the plaza in front of it.
In the middle of the party, people cheered at a game that had originally been a bingo tournament that had turned into a backwards dart throwing contest, and booed loudly at the prizes, which were T-shirts made by the Rüstkammer Base’s Liquor Store (various types with the battalion commander’s squadron logo and with the battalion commander’s autograph on them). For entertainment, there was a singing performance by the volunteers of the Eighty-Sixers, a rifle drill by the old combat veterans, who were not quite as old as the real guard of honor, and a mysterious dance by a squadron of “Reginleif” painted in the seven colors of the rainbow.
The Chief of Staff, who really showed up, had brought some cream pies to throw as souvenirs, and a throwing contest began. While this was going on, a push-up contest started on the other side.
The boys, who seemed to have lots of energy and were still underdeveloped, really didn’t know the limits of their own physical strength.
With a rare smile, Perschmann walked among the Eighty-Sixers who had fallen asleep all over the venue. One by one, they fell asleep, and then everyone else fell asleep, and before one knew it, the party was over.
Bernholdt, Grethe and the adults looked around with similar wry smiles, wondering how to wake up so many people, even though they should return to their rooms since it’s almost lights out. Lerche, a non-human who didn’t need to sleep, lent her shoulder to her sleeping Lord, and was unable to move, but her green eyes shone in the dimness.
In another corner.
Perschmann’s wry smile deepened as she spotted them.
It was a corner where the ruckus was relatively mild.
Lena and Shin were sitting on containers next to the hangar wall, and appeared seemed to have fallen asleep together, leaning against each other, sleeping quietly.
They were leaning against each other, as though were cuddling. Occupying both of their knees, TP was lying on his back, oblivious to his wild instincts.
It’s an ordinary, unremarkable…yet unbelievably peaceful scene.
Perschmann blinked away, and murmured.
Like yesterday, it was just a simple, ordinary day.
And like today, it was a fun, joyous time, a moment of reprise amidst the flames of war.
She hoped that such moments would occasionally come to them, and that they could enjoy so wholehearted. She hoped that they would still remain until then. Second Lieutenant Isabella Perschmann prayed alone in the darkness, with no one to hear her.