Hellping

[86 Side Stories] Volume 1, Redemption Festival

A fine layer of snow fell upon the Republic’s capital, Liberté et Égalité, forming a decoration upon the shops at the revolution square. The redemption festival seemed exceptionally dazzling beneath the faint Winter sunlight.

Since ancient times, there was a fire festival of redemption during the harsh Winter right before Spring. As time passed, the solemn atmosphere of the festival too disappeared gradually, and it had become a simple activity.

The crowd was buzzing, for the festive spirit was in full spring. 12 year old Lena suddenly stopped in her tracks.

The passers-by were either families, friends, or lovers, and Lena was alone. She had no love interest, and her father had long passed away. Her mother too was unwilling to attend, for such a place was unbefitting of her status. Lena, who had been skipping grades repeatedly, had only one friend of the same age, and thus, it was inevitable that had nobody else to attend with.

I hope to become a soldier as soon as possible. Thus, Lena kept working hard for the day when she could heartily repay the man who helped her.

She did not regret it…at this moment, if she could work a little harder.

One day, she would be able to see the clear Winter skies afar, which she had last seen a long time back on those lands.

Is that person who saved me still fighting on under those skies?

She wanted to meet him again, for he said that he had to return to his brother. Would that day come?

He could continue to look up at the blue skies, all because of that conviction. Lena murmured, her lips pelted at by the freezing winds.

He was in a long abandoned, derecipit city, and there could not possibly have a shovel before him.

The white bones that had lost all blood and flesh were not so heavy, and at this point, even the wild beasts lost all interest in the corpses. It was be a painful chore to try digging graves at the frozen dirt with only a combat knife, moreso for Shinn, who was just 12 and had not gone through puberty.

It was likely the chore would have taken an entire day if not for Fido’s help. At the very least, he managed to fill up the uneven ditch with dirt before night fell, and leaned upon Fido, which was sheltering him from the cold, drinking the white soup of snow he boiled alone.

The Eighty-Sixers were not permitted to mark graves. There was no need mark them with flowers anyway, for the ruins were covered by snow. It was snowing the previous day, and the sky was a clear blue, as though it was a big life. There was no sign of the living on the ground, and the words he wanted to say to his brother, long vanquished and reduced to bones, were gone without a trace.

What he buried were the bones remaining, and not his brother’s soul.

The frozen dirt was as sturdy as metal, and the knife he used to shave for half a day was long damaged. The armor plate of his brother’s “Juggernaut” was cut off by Fido, and it was blotting the faint sunlight.

The thin aluminium alloy armor, which could not fend against heavy machine gun fire, had the personal mark of a headless horseman on it.

A soul had its head severed, but could not die.

At this point, Shinn did not know why his brother had such a personal mark on the armor.

He leaned on the container, and did not move. Fido’s optical sensors turned towards him, and the round camera flickered.

“…Pii.”

“Hm? Ahh…it’s nothing. The chief mechanic’s not going to worry about me not returning. He hates me.”

Shinn grimaced as he thought of the young mechanic chief, a former Republic soldier, assigned to his squad.

Shinn did not think of him as a bad person, but that he was worried about the teenage Processors, for he would not allow for them to die because of the “Death God”.

And the squad captain, of the same age as the chief mechanic, really took care of Shinn, the youngest in the squad, but unfortunately, he died in battle the previous night.

Everyone else in the squad,

“All the same.”

He had no one waiting for him to return. There was ‘nobody’ hoping for him to live to begin with.

Even so, I have to keep on living, even if that day keeps coming soon.

Shinn looked away from the remains of his brother, and looked up at the sky, muttering despite nobody actually listening.

The Liberté et Égalité was several hundred kilometers away from the battlefield, and there was the Grand Mur, the minefield, and radar jamming between them. There was nothing to be conveyed between them.

Thus.

In a corner of the noisy, bustling streets celebrating the festival, without anyone noticing, a certain person looked up towards the skies above the Eastern battlefield.

“…It’s cold.”

In a corner of the abandoned battlefield, the empty ruins encased in snow, a certain person looked up towards the skies with the setting sun.

“…It’s cold.”

Neither of them realized that their white breaths, their scattered words, and their sights intersected each other.

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