[86 Side Stories] Undertaker (Part 5)

The Eighty-Sixes would surely die.

 

One day, they would die on this 86th District battlefield, surrounded by the enemy units and the mines of the motherland that abandoned them, and they would end up in the clutches of the machine ghosts.

Surely.

Despite that, once they knew of their proclamation of death from the Republic in the form of a mission, all the Processors went silent.

Shin explained the mission and the strategy, and remained silent before them. This 86th District was supposedly a hangar for unmanned drones, since the Eighty-Sixes were officially not human. Within the crude looking briefing room, he stood before the battlefield map someone somehow managed to procure.

If they were unhappy, or wanted to complain, Shin would be willing to listen. Perhaps this was what he wanted.

But this disdain was not something for Shin himself to bear.

So Saiki spoke up.

Before any inevitable fear and rage would be vented upon Shin.

Before his comrades were to commit the same sin as the Republic’s white pigs, who sought respite from their fear of the “Legion”, the anger of their defeat, and the self-deprecation by deeming the Eighty-Sixes as human-shaped livestock.

“Understood――Keep up these faces, guys. It’s fine. After all,”

Saiki felt every single stare upon him, but he smiled. After all, it was logic everyone could understand.

There was no need to fear, nothing at all.

After all.

Saiki turned to one of those stares, the impressionable bright crimson eyes, and said,

“Even when we die, you’re taking us with you, right? Our death god?”

The bloody eyes seemed to falter for a moment.

And Saiki stared at those eyes unwavering, saying,

At the very least, he should smile.

No matter how little it was, Saiki hoped to relieve Shin of his burden.

“Then it’s fine. It’s not bad…as we say, because you’re around. We’re not going to die alone. Even when we die, nobody’s going to forget us…after we die, you’re going to take us along. So even when we die, that’s not a bad thing.”

Yes, death was not terrifying.

They were already prepared. Even after death, they could be redeemed.

Death was not terrifying.

But there was just one regret.

Shin was poised and stoic, yet intense. He might be showing a nonchalant look the entire time.

But he would never abandon anyone who fought alongside him. He would never abandon any indecent comrade, even though they would all die one after another. He truly was a kind boy to begin with.

Ultimately, they could only become his burden.

He chose to save others, but never was redeemed by anyone. He could not look to anyone for redemption.

That child bore such a burden.

Perhaps the best thing they could do was to fight alongside him. But they had no such power to stay alongside him until the very end.

…Sorry.

The word could not be expressed in a voice, and never reached him.

 

While waiting to sortie in the “Juggernaut” cockpit, Shin inadvertently turned his attention to the aluminium places in the box. He connected with the others on the Para-RAID, and sensed the tension from everyone else.

These were the names of the Dead, little shrapnel of the “Juggernaut” belonging to the KIA. They continued to increase in numbers, and were taken as aluminum grave markers since they could not build graves.

Shin could still vividly remember the beaming face and long black hair of this squadron leader who made this promise with him. The black hair was dripping wet, along with the color of her blood.

He remembered them all, those who hated him, those who relied on him, those who reviled him, those who got along with him.

Everyone died.

And the deaths would continue.

The Eighty-Sixes would continue to live on the battlefield called the 86th District. They were destined to die, all of them.

Despite that.

――after we die, you’re going to take us along.

As long as he could save them, even if it was so minor.

That was the only thing he could do.

He would lead them all.

To the very end he hoped to be.

He lifted his eyes. The bloody red eyes were cold and clear, the intensity completely tranquil――as though frozen.

It appeared he was about to unsheathe an ice blade.

Like an emotionless death god domineering the red battlefield.

The operation began.

The words flashed upon the activated screen encased within the faint darkness of the cockpit. The crude graphics were accompanied with blurry words. That was the activation footage of the aluminium coffin that would be his one day.

 

“System Start”

“Republic Factory M1A4 “Juggernaut” ОS Ver 8.15”

 

He stared afar, and the distant battlefield was red. It was a crimson red of endless poppies, blooming all over the battlefield..

The blood bloomed wildly upon what was once a wild battlefield of white bones.

This 86th District was a battlefield buried with countless bones. The corpses of the Eighty-Sixes would never be mourned for, and they would wander as souls of these machines. One day, Shin too would be amongst the Dead. Until then.

He would continue to race until the very end of that battlefield.

 

Bzzt, the shrill static echoed within the outdated wireless signal.

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