Hellping

[86 V2] Chapter 4 – Unter dem Doppeladler

The meeting room of the 177th Armored Battalion base was as spacious as a mini amphitheatre, and the faint light from the holographic screen dimmed the expressions of the commanders gathered there.

There was the jamming of the Eintagstliege from the Contested Area to the “Legion” dominated areas, and even for the Federation, it was impossible to observe these areas. However, the Federation soldiers were not incompetent in their efforts to scout the enemy. Even the incomplete data gathered had some intel worth understanding.

That would include the changes in the quantity of messages; which would indicate the sound patterns, numbers, and movements of the drones. Such were the reports from the scouting team that had entered and exited the dangerous Contested Area.

“–Given the aforementioned analysis, the Integrated Analytics has determined there is a high possibility of the “Legion” launching a massive offensive in the following days.”

Hearing the report, the Major General leading the 177th Armored Battalion sighed as he remained seated on the leather chair furthest inside the meeting room.

“We guessed it. They’re finally coming.”

The enemy had tried to break through the various frontlines, and clearly, an imminent strike was about to begin.

Suddenly, a slender figure stood up in the silent veil of darkness.

It was a young female officer. She had blond hair that was very sharp, purple eyes, and red lips that were elegantly glossed over.

The soldiers and officers of the Federation army had fallen one after another, and the field commanders had changed over and over again. The Lieutenant Colonel insignia on her collar was a rarity at her age. She had an armband on her left arm, indicating that she was from the research team, and a pilot emblem on her chest.

“What is it? Colonel Wenzel?”

“Major General. Our army will be preparing to counter the mass scale attacks from the enemy, and the various squads of the 177th will have to be regrouped. I hope this time, you will return me my troops.”

Some not-so-kind whispers immediately echoed in the large meeting room.

And in response to the stinging malice, the pretty lady showed a smile. The Major General let out a little sigh.

“The “Reginleif” is still in its experimental phase, and it is unknown if it can be used for solo combat. It might be more appropriate to mix them along with the “Vanargands” like before.”

“If I may say something, Major General. Of the 177th, or even 8th army, Nordlicht has taken down the most units. This should justify solo operations, I presume?”

“Conversely, the loss rate has been exponential…half the field dress were destroyed during the first battle. It is not a unit worth trusting.”

“Please consider that a selection phase. The loss rate beyond that has been low.”

A voice came from a corner of the room.

“Sure can boast with the experienced Eighty-Sixers there…a death merchant desperate to recover, sending those pitiful kids back onto the battlefield.”

Upon hearing those words that seemed furious rather than condescending, the pretty lady’s face froze.

Her eyes flickered, before she swallowed whatever feelings she had, and spoke up again,

“–My XM2 “Reginleif” mobility surpasses the “Legion”, and with appropriate tactics, the combat capabilities are no inferior…given the onslaught of the “Legion” far surpassing us in numbers, our current tactics won’t be enough. I do believe we need to think out of the box, and beat the numerically superior enemy with the few elites.”

The pretty lady then smiled politely.

The pretty purple eyes were staring right at the Major General.

And the Major General looked back, narrowing his eyes.

He knew what this younger lady, who was his peer in military college, was thinking,

What? Hurry up and agree to it already! This spider girl.

“For the sake of the peace of the Federation citizens, I do suggest looking into proper usage of the “Reginleifs” and the Nordlicht forces, Major General.”

The “Legion” had made its way up to the second defense line, and on the previous night, it was beaten back by the Federation.

“Leaving that aside, can’t we have a change of how we’re used here…sortie when we receive request for aid, and get locked back in the hangar or warehouse once we’re done. Do they think we’re dogs or something?”

“Request for aid’s always at the last minute. The base there doesn’t have the time to actually take us in, I think.”

In a corner of the 13th FOB acting as the temporary dormitory, Raiden was sitting on a simple bed on the canvas floor by the “Juggernauts”, grumbling away, while Shinn, sitting on another bed next to him, flaty retorted.

The mornings in an army was often early. Outside the hangar, the mechanics of the base had begun work already, and the thousands of soldiers had started to buzz. These two, unaffiliated to this base, had nothing to do.

Nordlicht’s base was at the Divisional Headquarters to the back, and they, as the members of the mobile defense team, were on the frontlines with no base, and thus were in this abnormal situation.

Specifically, the base calling for aid would provide supplies and lodging as a FOB, until they received another distress call again. The ones calling for aid however were not platoons, but units instead, and even though they were in the same battalion, they would end up living at various different bases. They had been living this life ever since they were assigned to this squad.

Luckily, the various FOB would also accept soldiers from the other platoons, and would provide the bare minimal lodging and meals.

There were private rooms installed in this case, even in uninhabited areas, and the females, including Frederica, were assigned individual rooms.

“Basically, the “Reginleifs” are just prototype units for testing, and the higher-ups probably never thought of tweaking it. They probably don’t have the time.”

“Lots of us were killed off…they’re probably coming, just as you predicted.”

Raiden looked aside at Shinn, who merely shrugged.

His ability, granted by his brother and never disappeared even after the latter was buried away,

It was no longer a matter of ‘they’ll come soon’.

“To be precise, they might come at any given moment…it has been like this for a while.”

The morning buzz of the buzz was overpowered by the groans of the ghosts, sounding a little distant to Shinn’s ears.

 

“–Two of our men died, Fabio and Beata of the second squad. They could have avoided death, but some of the soldiers were surrounded by Grauwolfs, and they said that there were people they knew there, so they went to save them.”

Creaking sounds echoed with footsteps as they walked down the corridors of the barracks.

Nordlicht squadron, which had no base on the frontlines, naturally had no office for the squad leader and the vice leader either. Thus, the reporting that was to be done in the office was done calmly, with Bernault tailing behind Shinn instead.

“Now we got less than 20 men in our forces. We did ask for resupplies, but the main army has lost quite the number too, so they probably won’t send any over to us. Just a bunch of Wargus mercenaries deployed by the research branch…and our leader’s a weirdo unpopular with both the military and the research branch.”

The leader of the 1028th Experimental squad, Lieutenant Colonel Grethe Wenzel.

Shinn had only met her on the day he joined, and never communicated with her directly.

“Well, since she built the “Juggernaut”, I don’t think she’ll be popular.”

“That’s the pilot crusher who had ten pilots hospitalized during the testing phase. That leader’s the princess of her family’s military business. We won’t have to worry about a change of spare parts and backup units, but a death merchant selling weapons doesn’t sound good, ya.”

In response to Bernault’s chatter, Shinn flatly responded,

“I’m already used to lack of backup or supplies. If they send over the spare parts, that’s good enough for me.”

“How many times have I said that it’s just the Republic’s weird way of doing things. Please don’t say that it’s fine with that ridiculous standard of you Eighty-Sixers, will ya?”

Upon hearing that Shinn was an Eighty-Sixer, Bernault immediately understood.

Initially, Nordlicht was a battalion, with an actual captain leading them.

However, to put it mildly, the captain was not capable, and during the first battle, many of the members died under his poor command, including himself. Shinn, who was just the platoon subcommander, took over, and they had assumed they would be done for. How could a brat out of the special cadet school bear the responsibility of a commander?

But he was wrong, utterly wrong.

However,

“…Isn’t it better off for you to stay with the regular armored corps? Why come here to suffer with us?”

“I feel more at ease here. There’s too much regimentation in the tactics and command chain in the regular army. It’s very inconvenient.”

There were no specified tactics for when he was fighting as a ‘drone’ of the Republic, and no Handler who actually gave commands (except for the last one). Thus, the personal judgement and responsibilities came naturally to him, and surely he would not be happy to look up to his superiors’ orders, and abide by the rules of the army.

Bernault snorted.

“A teenage brat going ‘very inconvenient’?…Well, for us folks here, if we aren’t commanded to waste our lives for nothing, that’s good enough. Doesn’t matter even if the commander’s an unsentimental brat who always charges first and is a steel-faced death god who’ll make us crazy if we synchronize carelessly.”

While Bernault was blunt in his words, Shinn never listened, and just nonchalantly lifted his head to look out of the window.

His eyes were fixated upon an open-top truck that was driving down the dirt road, whiffing up dust.

There were heaps of black cadaver bags piled atop the truck, appearing like harvests of beans and yam. It was probably the KIA who were killed in combat the previous day.

Eugene too was probably taken back. So Shinn thought.

He was thinking of the peer who said he wanted to fight for his family.

–Then, you.

Shinn knew what Eugene did not ask him…but back then, how would he have answered.

“Lieutenant…Lieutenant, you listening?”

Regaining his senses, Shinn found Bernault’s bewildered face looking at him.

“Ahh…sorry.”

“Well, we know you brats need to sleep at night, and fighting at night over the past few days has been sorta tiring…but that might be a little too much, don’t ya think?”

Bernault looked forward, kept quiet, and stopped in his tracks.

Shinn looked over at where he was looking, and understood what he was getting at.

Frederica, lacking sleep over the past few days, was wearing a set of pajamas as she appeared with messy bed hair and sleepy eyes. She was dragging a teddy bear along with one hand, approaching them barefoot.

Federation military regulations would have deemed her appearance shoddy. The Wargus Bernault, deemed as a mercenary, had lax military standards, and Shinn, who was deemed as a drone, did not have any knowledge of military regulations. So neither of them bothered with that.

However, the top three buttons of her blouse unbuttoned as it was draped loosely upon her, and the tender bare right shoulder to the top of her chest was exposed. Even if she was a ten year old who had nothing to be seen, it was unsightly.

“Frederica, change your clothes if you’re going out. If not, go back and sleep a little more.”

“Uuu, Kiri, comb my hair.”

Shinn let out a sigh.

“Frederica.”

The blood red eyes blinked, and looked up in surprise,

“Shinei…sorry, mistaken here…”

She flatly responded, but intended to continue forward while appearing thus, so Shinn grabbed her by the collar.

Angel, who just happened to pop by, was tasked with her.

“Sorry Angel. I’ll leave her to you.”

“What is it? …Goodness, Frederica! Why are you like this? Come here, hurry! Seo, get Frederica’s uniform!”

“Eh, we got that here!? Well whatever.”

And Seo, who just happened to be passing by too, was assigned to Frederica’s room.

After watching them leave, Bernault spoke up,

“Now where was I…ahh yeah. Those ‘goods’ are here again. HQ just contacted us.”

“Goods? …Ahh…”

Realizing what was going on, he sighed.

They had received asylum in the Federation for half a year…all this while, the ‘kind citizens’ had been giving them items and support.

They were no longer children, but they were given dolls and drawing books, and there was excessive concern and sympathy in their letters. Ernst had never revealed anything about the Eighty-Sixers, to ensure that they could live stable lives as residents. Perhaps it was due to this that the Federation’s image of ‘pitiful young children who were oppressed by the savage Republic’ would never fade away.

Shinn never cared about how others treated them, and never cared about others showing them kindness and pity. He was frustrated however from them displaying such emotions towards him. It did not feel good after all.

“Discard them, like usual…how many times must I say that checking them all is a waste of time. Don’t ask me again.”

“That’s what the HQ seemed to have thought. Checking the boxes and receiving cheap sympathy is probably what you guys probably don’t want. But I’ll just report this to you, or else I’ll be accused of shirking responsibility.”

Shinn looked over to the hulking Master Sergeant who was at least double his age.

“Just a formality, lieutenant. An army’s still an organization of humans. Humans are irrational, inefficient animals, so there will be irrational, inefficient procedures.”

Well, it was the same for the Republic too.

Shinn recalled his days of doing his battle reports properly, submitting his patrol reports regularly, and the silver bell voice that he was really annoyed by initially…upon recalling all that, the instance of memory was puffed aside by Bernault’s gruff voice.

“Anyway–this is the end of report, commander. Please sign here.”

Shinn immediately sighed.

 

“…I say.”

During breakfast, Seo pretended to be in a bad mood,

“I was nice enough to bring a change of clothes, and then you wouldn’t even open the door, and called me a rapist. Isn’t this too much, don’t you think? And you also smacked the doll at me. Throwing is one thing, but smacking? Did I do something to deserve this?”

It all happened on the previous night, after Angel had told him to bring the washed uniform over.

It was a trivial matter, but it was quite the calamity for Seo, who had proceeded to snip at Frederica regarding this. Angel, who had witnessed everything, stifled a laugh as she chuckled, while Raiden and Krena were stunned, and Shinn remained nonchalant as usual.

Though they were all under Nordlicht, the five of them had not been gathered together like this in a long while, for they were assigned to different squads. They were in charge of mobile defences, and often ventured everywhere.

The defense of the Western battlefront was frantic, to the point where they had to send in weird prototypes and experimental squads that were just introduced into actual combat without the results to show for it.

Frederica lowered her reddened face.

“Frederica too, you could have worn your blouse properly, but you took it off immediately.”

“I never saw anyone that sleepy. Couldn’t you have slept a little more if you’re that tired?”

“!! Ehh Shut up! Shaddap!”

Seo’s casual concern was brushed aside like nothing.

“Besides, the fault is yours for trying to enter without knocking, while a fine lady is changing! Am I right, Krena?”

“I did knock. And who’s the fine lady here?”

“And in any case, why did you strip without getting your change of clothes.”

“Basically, it’s your fault for running down the corridor half-naked and in a daze, Frederica.”

“Wh-who ran down the corridor half-naked? Raiden, from whom did you hear that from!? You were not around at that moment!”

Of course.

Everyone present turned towards Shinn, who ignored them.

Frederica lowered her head,

“…Never did I expect you to be so mischievous…”

“You forced yourself to come along, couldn’t take care of your body well, and couldn’t even speak well, so I just told them to send you back to the base.”

Frederica immediately pouted her mouth unhappily as she looked up to glare at him. Without looking at her, Shinn continued calmly,

“A Mascot doesn’t have to follow the rules of a soldier, and has no obligation to sortie. I’m not saying that you’re useless, just that we can’t guarantee your safety. Better to send you to the backline, so we can be more assured.”

“But that cannot do…to witness everything, is why I have come.”

Raiden chuckled.

“Then starting tomorrow, you can’t come out running half-naked.”

“Stop mentioning that already. Have you not have enough!?”

Again, Frederica hollered with her face flushed.

It was too pitiful to keep teasing her, so the five decided to stop.

“So. Guess we’re going to start packing up today.” Said Krena.

The battles would end, but the work at the frontlines never did. They were to repair or rebuild heavily damaged defense installations, reclaim the damaged remains of both sides, and also reclaim the corpses of friendlies.

The 177th Armored Battalion managed to fend off the attacks, but it took heavy losses, and was short-handed everywhere.

“Either that, or we’re to patrol the Contested Area…the armored division seemed to have lost quite a number during the battle yesterday.”

“The Main Army won’t send in patrols for no real reason. It’s troublesome to obey orders even though we know it’s useless.”

“What about you, Angel?”

“I suppose so…”

Frederica closed the schedule book with the cute anime illustration on it, and let out a sigh unbefitting of a child.

“It does seem that all of you are used to being deployed here and there.”

Ignoring the surprised looked from everyone, she flatly continued.

The Mascot’s role was simply to ‘exist in the squad’, but Frederica was already assigned to the experimental squad while Shinn and the others were already in cadet school, and she was thus in charge of contacting the research branch and the commander.

“Grethe is calling for us. We are going home, the headquarters of us.”

 

The HQ of the 177th Battalion was an old Empire airbase, with many hangars, and repair rooms, along with large runways that were simply used for ferrying transports. At one corner of the barracks, next to a hangar, was the 1028th Experimental headquarters borrowed control room.

“–First of all, good work for providing aid every day.”

In the briefing room with glass walls, from where the hangar downstairs could be seen, the commander of the 1028th experimental squad, Lieutenant Colonel Grethe Wenzel greeted everyone with her lips coated red.

Gathered were the research branch, the managers of the technical crew, and the Processors who oversaw the squad leaders, basically the five Eighty-Sixers including Shinn. Seeing the five squad leaders bring the average age down greatly, Grethe grimaced.

“Compared to a month ago, there has been a lot of changes to the combat personnel…but it does seem the “Reginleifs” suit you Eighty-Sixers and the mercenaries.”

She peeked at the hangar beyond the soundproof glass, towards the ‘workpieces’ that were no more than twenty given full inspection and maintenance, having returned to roost after a long while.

The Federation had finally introduced a high mobility field dress, the “Reginleif”, the first in its history.

It was designed with mobility being the focal concept, that the ‘enemy could not take aim due to its high mobility’, and was a result of her ideals and beliefs.

The 120mm tank cannon of the Löwe remained powerful, and even the “Vanargand” could only withstand a hit only with its front armor; anywhere else, and it would be taken down. In that case, maybe they should just ditch the armor and evade with mobility, which might increase the survival rates of the pilots.

A month ago, training was done, and they were ready to sortie. Back then, there were fifty “Reginleif” units in the battalion, and it was quite the impressive sight in the hangar.

At this point, the massive hangar was mostly empty, with debris of the units containing ammo cache with the 88mm cannon camped under the shutters, showing a forlorn sight.

There were less than half of the existing units left, and the young squad leaders were in their later teens.

But a conclusion could not be made as of yet…probably.

“Before a notification, I would like to inform you of something good. The United Kingdom of Roa Graecia and the Wald Alliance still remain. Our patrols have captured their wireless signals.”

Since before the start of the war against the “Legion”, the United Kingdom of Roa Graecia was the last imperial country of the continent, to the north of the Republic and the Federation (formerly the Empire), and the Wald Alliance was a militant neutral country to the South.

Neither sides could contact each other due to the jamming, unable to ascertain if they were still alive. Given the detectable range however, it appeared that they could.

“It seemed that they too managed to establish some defences and maintain survival. The United Kingdom is slowly moving south, and we probably can provide them with personnel and goods transfer. A joint operation too might be on the cards…but we have no detection of signals from the other countries, including the Republic of San Magnolia to the West…”

Grethe said, and glanced to the side, only to see Seo with his face lazily resting on his hand, and Krena sprawled on the table, causing her to grimace.

They showed no worry of their country, and did not laugh at this matter even though they were oppressed. They really did not care. The wounds sure are deep, so she thought.

Shinn and Raiden were a little more serious, but it appeared that they were worried about something else, or somebody else. Angel would give them looks from time to time as she probably felt the same.

The chief mechanic, with some white in his red hair, spoke up,

“Alright LC, the messages aren’t exactly good, right?”

Hearing his half-joking tone, Grethe nodded,

“Unfortunately, no…our expectation is that the “Legion” will launch a full-scale assault in the coming days.”

The head honcho of the research branch, the only civilian in the room, gasped.

At the same moment, the lax attitude from the squad leaders vanished. An inappropriate comparison would be the bored watchdogs napping in their kennels, lifting their heads only after hearing the whistle.

“Supposedly, the Western forces will be increasing its fighting strength, and regrouping all current forces. Our 1028th Experimental Squad will also be sorted as a formal armored division, to the 15th FOB. Our squad will be under the 141st Regiment, and I shall take direct command…it won’t be like before where you are assigned in squads and deployed everywhere, you will be deploying as a full platoon to fight the others. Our “Reginleif” and Nordlicht squadron shall show what we are made of…any questions?”

“–How big is the scale of the assault.”

Shinn asked with his usual nonchalance, either because he had expected a realignment, or had no interest in it. Grethe smiled,

“Currently, it is predicted that we can handle it with the forces we have, and reinforcements are merely a precaution…speaking of which, you have submitted a report regarding this, Second Lieutenant Nouzen.”

Raiden glanced aside at Shinn.

The latter ignored it. Grethe noticed this, but did not realize the intent, so she let this pass.

“There are good points to note from the viewpoint of a frontline commander, and considering you were the leader of the ex-Republic’s elites, it is an interesting perspective. However, is it not a little too daring to predict the attacks of the entire Western battlefield just by surveying a battlefield occupied by a battalion?”

Shinn seemed to have expected this question, to which he simply answered,

“The area the 177th is responsible for is particularly unique, and I think there is sufficient evidence to deduce based on the situation there…I had a feeling during the battle just now that the “Legion” was retreating, and not beaten back by us.”

We did not fend off the enemy,

Were we lured in?

The smile vanished from Grethe’s face,

“The larger the battle area, the longer it will be stretched. The defense line and FOB were pushed forward and built just three months ago…personally, I don’t think the present situation is optimistic in any way at all.”

“…How sharp you are. You can be cuter if you act a little more innocent, you know.”

She teased him, but Shinn did not bat an eyelid, so she sighed.

“Right you are, Lieutenant. It appears the Command has known of this. However, even if we maintain our lines like this, it’s only a matter of time until the Federation shows weaknesses. The “Legion” won’t be waiting to be destroyed. We have to keep advancing and eradicate them completely.”

“…”

“And also, even though the “Legion” is intending to surround us and attack, you have detected too many enemies, far beyond the numbers the analytical branch has given.”

It was far more than the theoretical numbers and production values of the Weisels, and even with reinforcements, the entire Western frontlines was in a disadvantaged situation.

Grethe would have considered removing the usually stoic boy from his position if his reports had not exhibited worthwhile knowledge and intelligence despite his predicament. Simply put, it was preposterous.

Perhaps the Republic’s experiences of fighting the “Legion” in such fatal weapons and harsh conditions resulted in his overestimating the enemy as a result.

If necessary, he would take independent action while ignoring military orders and discipline (but Grethe had been able to protect him due to his accomplishments)…it appeared the trauma the Republic had inflicted on him was great.

“There is no need to worry…our Federation is different from the Republic, and will not ignore the threat before us. We will do everything we have to do thoroughly, even if it is to collect intel, or to analyze them. Most importantly, the Federation will never abandon its allies.”

There was no need to fight while stranded on the battlefield, as it was in the Republic.

They did not have to struggle for their lives, without the intel and support, and while overwhelmingly few in numbers.

“…”

The blood red eyes merely lowered, and closed; it was unknown if he had understood her.

Seeing this, Grethe showed a smile.

She had a long way to go before she could gain their trust.

“Also, I’ll like to take the opportunity to welcome new comrades into our squad. I shall introduce them, so all squad members, please wait a little.”

.
Follow me, Grethe ordered, and Shinn followed her through the corridor of the base, her heels tapping at the floor, causing a crisp sound to echo. They had just bade farewell to the familiar chief mechanic and the research chief whose words would leave others speechless whenever he did his inspections. Following them were the other Eighty-Sixers.

“So what do you think of the “Reginleif”, Lieutenants? Caught your fancy? –Compared to the old aluminium coffin you rode on.”

Grethe suddenly turned around, her face beaming,

“I was in the base where all of you were housed in. Back then, I could not speak to you directly, due to espionage and quarantine reasons…your partner was placed in my research lab. Want to have a look?”

“…No need.”

It was one of his spare units; whenever a unit he was using was on the verge of being scrapped and was unrepairable, he would change units, and thus would not spend much time using them. However, it did not mean he thought nothing of these units. As a pilot who once roamed the battlefield, he was unwilling to be reunited with the partner that should be scrapped and put to rest, for it would be akin to digging up a grave.

“…The grading report was probably submitted along with the Para-RAID.”

The main reason for the establishment of the 1028th was to test the “Juggernaut” and the Para-RAID use. There would be grading reports and the checks on the human body, to determine how humans would be affected.

“I know. Just wanted to hear your report. You did pilot a similar field dress by the Republic after all.”

Shinn let out a sigh.

“If you’re talking about the “Juggernaut”.”

Grethe frowned.

“It’s the “Reginleif”.”

““Juggernaut”.”

“I said it’s the “Reginleif”.”

““Juggernaut”.”

“…Yes yes whatever. And then?”

Grethe shook her head unhappily. Raiden was behind them, trying to stifle his laughter, ending up coughing.

Shinn ignored them, and continued,

“Basically, it’s an aluminium coffin somewhat better than the Republic’s “Juggernaut”.”

Grethe went silent for about ten seconds or so.

And then, with a hurt look, she said,

“…Really”

“Eh, you didn’t know?”

“Basically, that thing’s a pilot crusher.”

Krena and Seo muttered away, but Grethe did not really hear them due to the shock.

The “Reginleif” mobility was truly ridiculously high.

After all, the initial development concept was to match the mobility of the “Legion”, and not the personal safety of the pilot. Thus, there were many operators who were eviscerated during the testing phase. After they were introduced for actual combat, there were also many who were eaten away by the “Reginleif”.

Shinn, Raiden and the others managed to hang on because they were Eighty-Sixers. While they were growing during their early teens, they had begun piloting the Republic’s “Juggernaut” that were not designed with the pilot’s personal safety in consideration, and got used to it.

“I never…expected such a shocking thought. It’s so weak, fragile…er…I do wonder if the fools who designed such field dresses are really alright…”

It was callous of her to mention this before the ex-Processors, but it unfortunately was the truth, and Shinn did not mind.

“…Seriously, did you guys really pilot such scrap metal full dresses in the Republic!?”

“There was nothing else.”

“Ah, I see…”

Grethe muttered a few words, probably cursing the factories of the Republic,

“…It’s not a bad unit, I think. It is a little selective of its pilot, but it’s fast, and has good controls, and takes little turns. The “Vanargand” too is just a steel coffin, so this looks a lot more comfortable than that.”

The Eighty-Sixers, already used to the Republic’s “Juggernaut” that was no different from nothing, never trusted in the defensive capabilities of the armor. Compared to the slow “Vanargand” that relied on its armor, the “Reginleif”, with its enhanced mobility and ability to evade the enemy, was a lot better.

“Really…but I do get the feeling you are not praising it…”

“…But Shinn is not praising it in any way.”

Angel’s quiet retort remained ignored.

Grethe sighed, and said,

“So why did you sign up to be the Processors?”

“I heard you’re the one who chose us Eighty-Sixers as candidates, Lieutenant Colonel.”

“Just as test pilots. I never thought you would join the actual corps. Your experience and skills did help greatly…but truth be told, I am thoroughly opposed to having young soldiers like you take the field. Especially when you are Eighty-Sixers.”

Shinn looked towards Grethe, who shrugged,

“I too was a pilot. Ten years ago, when the war against the “Legion” just started. I was the same age as you are…I was a cadet for the air force, and the airspace got taken by the “Legion”.”

With the anti-air cannons of the Stachelschwein and the jamming of the Eintagsfliege prevalent, the airspace from the Contested Area to the “Legion” controlled area was completely seized. This appeared to be the case for both the Federation and the Republic.

“I was in the military with many of my friends who were cadets…and a lot of them died. We piloted the slow “Vanargand”, a few steps forward, and the “Legion” got behind us before wiping us out. I was thinking it would be great if there was a faster machine. That was why I built the “Reginleif”.”

Grethe, who had lowered her eyes in remembrance, lifted them, and smiled,

“…I do thank you for your unfiltered suggestion, Second Lieutenant, and everyone else…I will have you give a few better opinions after the next modification, so please do look forward to it, okay?”

They exited the gate of the base, stepped on the newly paved asphalt road. At the end of the road, there was the lush green grassland of the summer.

Beyond that, Shinn’s eyes remained upon the rail tracks buried amongst the grass.

He remembered the eight rail tracks of multiple lines extending into the distance.

This was the place.

“When you guys made your way through, this place was “Legion” controlled territory.”

Grethe turned around, and smiled. The red lips showed pride..

“It has been half a year. We fought our way till here.”

Ahh… a sigh from the back reached Shinn’s ears.

 

Upon the lush green grassland of summer, the white flowers bloomed. Lying in an unfamiliar coffin of glass were five, no, four “Juggernauts” from the Republic, along with a “Scavenger”.

 

“We discovered this while pushing up our lines. I know it may be unpleasant, but we did dig them up and investigate them. The names on the grave plates were found along with them…and they were placed back to their old spot after their names were recorded on this cenotaph, so don’t worry”

Grethe gently touched a stone monument built beside the said glass coffin. Having visited the Federation’s graveyard, Shinn knew it was the Federation’s version of the cenotaph.

“We don’t know what the rules are in the Republic, but in the Federation, the people will exalt the heroes who protect the country. Thus, the names of the dead will remain on this cenotaph in the national graveyard…but we did think your comrades would have rested upon the land you have finally arrived at. Thus, we left their grave plates here.”

“…”

A slight feeling of emptiness appeared in his chest.

Neither the dead, nor him had expected them to remain on this earth in such a miniature, pretty monument.

All he had hoped for was that those that knew him could remember him from time to time–

–Can you please not forget about us, Major?

That was what he had hoped for that night, while the blooming fireworks exploded in the sky.

“…Lieutenant?”

“It’s nothing.”

He shook his head. It appeared the Federation had different thoughts on this issue compared to them. Shinn had not hoped for them to understand…but the manner in which they expressed their thoughts was something worth being grateful for.

Also, they did not discard the remaining plates with the engraved names of the comrades, the proofs that they once existed, or shifted them away along with the other data.

I gave it a really long mission to do though, so he thought as he looked at the remains of Fido concealed inside the glass coffin.

We command you to continue to do so, until you rot away.

The “Legion” too had a unit that was used to oversee the remains of the units, the Tausendfüssler. One day, these remains would be taken away, or be eroded by the weather. Shinn had assumed that they would die soon after they left, and then Fido’s mission would end…or so he thought.

He heard familiar footsteps behind him, and they stopped nearby.

It was the sound of four limbs tapping away.

Looking back, he found the massive body of the “Scavenger”.

The body with distinct joints had four short, stout legs, and two mechanical arms. It had an old, ugly appearance that was rare even on the Republic’s battlefield.

Following that, the fleeting footsteps of military boots hurried over. Raiden ducked to the side, and appearing there was Frederica, who nearly collided into him.

“Hey! Even if you are rushing, you cannot just leave me behind!”

Her hands were on her knees, and she was panting away. Krena reached out, patting away at the twigs, petals and bright colored insects clinging onto Frederica’s long hair and uniform.

“Oh yeah, Frederica, where did you go?”

Frederica did not participate in the meeting, and was gone before they knew it.

“To-to the, research lab, and get this fellow, working. This, has been, a surprise, Grethe, and the, other, researchers had prepared.”

“Surprise?”

“You came from the research lab? You alright? Still alive?”

“I rode this fellow, here, and then, this thing suddenly sped up, once it saw, you and so, I abandoned was.”

“Well now, Frederica, calm down, regain your breath. You can talk after that.”

“…And then, what is this?”

Frederica regained her breath, and then straightened herself proudly.

“An excellent question it is, Raiden. So this one is,”

“–Fido?”

Shinn cut them off, basically having paid no heed to them at all. Raiden gave a miffed look,

“Hey, are you the type to call everything you think of as a pet as Fido or something?”

“Not at all…”

Frederica was elated,

“So you do recognize it after all. Yes, this is the Fido who fought alongside you.”

A moment of silence.

“”””Huuhhh!?””””

Four of them exclaimed in unison.

Shinn in turn lifted his eyes towards the large body of Fido, and betrayed a rare reaction as he widened his eyes, remaining still.

“While those graves were inspected, this fellow here also had an inspection. The interface was damaged, but luckily, the core unit remained intact, and thus was repairable to this state. Oh, its controls have also been enhanced, so you may expect it to perform during battles.”

Though I’d admit it is as ugly as usual. Probably some humor from the research lab chief who assembled the unit. So she quipped.

Since it was left along with the other graves and their personal units, one would suppose it was a companion unit that they really missed. In that case, it probably was better to maintain its old appearance.

“Maybe it thought it was ‘dead’, so I’d assume. Once it was transplanted into its new body, in no way had it moved at all. Only when…”

Frederica showed a grimace,

“Only when it heard of your name, Shinei, did it move…it sure did miss you.”

One had to wonder, just how many could sense the jealousy in her tone.

Shinn in particular never noticed, for he was not listening.

Fido approached him from the front, and stopped within reach.

“…Pii…”

The optical sensor peered up at Shinn’s face. The latter sighed.

“We commanded you to continue to do so, until you rot away. Didn’t I tell you to do so?”

“Pii…”

It then shrank back (the sensors and unit appeared to act this way). Seeing that, Shinn chuckled.

He reached out for the cold metal casing. The countless scars were no longer on the surface.

“Well…it’s good to see you again though.”

“Pii.”

This mere trash picker might be feeling emotional too. The optical sensors continued to flicker, as though tears were going to break out from the dam.

“Pii…!”

The massive body capable of lifting at least ten tonnes suddenly darted forward, perhaps trying to mimic an embrace.

Shinn, having expected this, sidestepped.

Fido, unable to stop in time, continued to roll down, and only stopped once it collided with the debris of a Löwe. Thunk…it collided, giving off a long, deep sound like a bell.

Fido immediately went silent, and Seo looked towards it, saying,

“Well, still the same as usual.”

“! C-can you show some concern for it?”

Frederica was the only one panicking,

“Fido won’t break with one or two of that.”

“But I am talking about Shinei! Good thing he dodged, but that was dangerous!”

“Well, Shinn was able to predict Fido’s movements, it seemed.”

Nobody cared nor knew if it was due to them spending time together for five years, or that he was already used to Fido’s antics.

Seeing its head turn around dejectedly despite having expected this, Shinn’s smile grew.

 

Grethe, witnessing this by the side, gave a smile.

Thank goodness,

“…You’re finally smiling, Lieutenant.”

The main base of Nordlicht was within the headquarters of the 177th Armor Battalion, and the Processors had personal rooms in the barracks of then base.

However, ever since they were assigned squads, they spent days foraying the various bases on the frontlines, and hardly returned, and it did not feel like home to them at all. Inside his cramped, shoddy personal room, Shinn was reading a philosophical book, his eyes on the words while not reading them at all. He heard a knock, and lifted his head.

There was some free time from dinner till bedtime. The barracks, far from the hangar, could not receive any sound, while the commotion at the cafeteria remained distant. This remained the same for both the Federation, and the Eighty Sixth area.

He opened the door, and found Frederica there.

“!…Can you please change your habit of walking without making any sounds…!? It is bad for my heart!”

She exclaimed.

I can’t change this habit even if you ask me to, and that’s why it’s a habit. Shinn had no intention to change for the better, and Frederica did not know that.

“And in any case, how in goodness sake are you able to walk so quietly with those boots…? I cannot hear any shaking of the floor.”

“It’s not like I had any intention to keep it hushed.”

Daiya, Kaie and Kino had also told him not to do so before too, standing behind them so discreetly made him appear as a real death god, and that it was terrifying.

Shinn pulled open the door, and shuffled to the side, inviting her in. She teetered into the room, making loud sounds. She then gently sat upon the hard bed, and looked around the simple, dead-looking room that was like a jail cell.

“How disappointing…you could have decorated this place with some photos, drawings, or a book you like. How depressing it is to view your room.”

“It’s just a place to sleep. It will be troublesome if there are more belongings.”

Truth be told, he was not reading because he liked to read. Whenever he had matters on his mind, he would be distracted. Reading was a momentary solace for him, for his ears continued to be filled with the voices of the Dead.

Back when he was in the Spearhead Squadron, he built a simple bookshelf in his room, and the reason too was that he was lazy to return to the library that was a ruin every time.

Though they were protected by the Federation for a year, Shinn’s concern and obsession with all things physical remained as little as usual.

Frederica seemed to have realized it, and she frowned,

“Fool, how is this room just for sleeping. This is your place, a place to return to. A temporal barrack it may be…but it’s no good to keep it empty.”

It would be understandable if he was still in the Eighty Sixth area, or the Spearhead squadron. She sighed. The Eighty Sixers in that country would never be able to return.

“Eugene’s room was filled with photos.”

“You cleared it?”

“They were lacking manpower, and so I helped clear his belongings…they were all photos of his little sister. Never saw any photos of his parents. Maybe she was his last kin.”

“…”

I wonder if a photo of Eugene remains with his sister, thinking that, Shinn felt some pain in his head.

There was the little girl he met in the capital’s library.

Shinn’s age was similar to hers when he lost his parents and his brother, and with the arduous battlefield, he gradually lost memories of them.

Eugene, who hoped for his little sister to have a happy life, kept thinking of her until the very end. Thinking how he would vanish from her memories…Shinn felt sadness.

“…I should not have asked his name.”

Frederica’s ability would not work on anyone she had just met. With a name, and a few words, she could see that person’s past and present with her ‘eyes’.

If she had not spoken with him that morning, she would not have known of his death that day.

“No way you are thinking that people you know end up dying later, are you? I do feel the same. In no way do we know when we will die…but it is better to have known others. For you can remember them.”

Shinn blinked.

“If there’s no need to, I’ll rather not link that to the deaths of anyone.”

Shinn himself had lost his family, and was deployed through the intense battlefields as a Processor, seeing the other squad members die one after another. For Shinn, those were his true thoughts.

He did not regret the promise he made with his comrades in his first squad.

He did not regret the decision to bring along the comrades who had fought valiantly and died on the battlefield.

He was not numb to losses in any way…but that, for the girl who had to carry the soul of her own knight, there was no obligation for her to bear any more responsibility.

Hmph, so Frederica snorted.

“Is that all you have to say?…you all-loving death god.”

“Anyway, what is it?”

Certainly she did not drop by to critique the decorations of the room.

Frederica blinked, and then seemed to have recalled. Her vision started to become unstable.

“Erm, well, in fact…”

After some hesitation, she did not lift her head, and continued muttering with a teeny-weeny voice,

“…Sorry about the morning. Erm…”

Ahh, that. That morning.

Kiri.

He had not known the name of Frederica’s knight.

“Am I similar to him?”

“Not exactly a replica, but your back does look similar. Both of you are of the same family after all. Half the bloodline is the same, actually.”

Hearing this unexpected truth, Shinn looked over at Frederica, who was grinning mischievously like a child who had succeeded at her prank.

“My Knight, Kiriya Nouzen, the same tribe Nouzen…has your father mentioned anything about your family lineage?”

“Uhh.”

His father had not mentioned anything about it. Perhaps, even if it was mentioned, Shinn had long forgotten about it.

“He so happened to be of your family lineage. Do show some concern…since the beginning of the Empire, the Nouzens were an Onyx family of martial artists. Many have inherited the bloodline of outstanding combat ability, and it always bore the responsibility to protect the King…your family had served the royal family, all of them born with abnormal abilities, and even of the old nobles, many inherited such a bloodline. The family forbade mixed-marriages to preserve such abilities…Shinei, this might be the reason why your family emigrated to the Republic.”

Even after hearing that, Shinn remained unfazed.

For he did not remember his parents having ties to the Federation, and did not remember them moving to the Republic. Not at all.–no.

s—It’s all your fault.

Whenever he tried to recall something, that scene would be the first to appear before him. Even though he knew it was not his fault, it remained the same.

–Mom’s death, my inevitable death, it’s going to be all your fault!

Frederica, engrossed in her own memories, did not realize that Shinn was frozen in place,

“Kiriya was not of direct relation to the Marquis Nouzen family, and is a little distant from your bloodline. About four years older than you…and last time I saw him, he was the same age as you are now.”

Soon after Frederica ascended to the throne, the civil revolution broke out. She was chased out of the palace before she could even understand anything, arrived at the castle by the border, and was stationed there along with the monarchy side, with her close guards. The fortress was named Rozen Fort. It was said that in the beginning of the Empire, it defended against the barbarians, whose blood stained the walls a bloody rose. Legend also had it that it had never fallen, and that it was the last bastion of the Empire.

There were only serious looking adults in the castle walls, and Kiriya, closest in age to Frederica, was still ten years older, and the only one willing to be her playmate.

He combed her hair, plucked the fresh flowers from the garden. No matter the tantrums she threw, he remained by her side, and was never annoyed by her.

Frederica’s eyes were filled with nostalgia. Suddenly, she giggled.

“Serious to a fault he was, and extremely inflexible at that too. As Raiden would say, he’s too damn serious…Shinei, surely you will not get along with him if you met him.”

She sounded mischievous. Hmph. Shinn snorted.

He would never know the personality of the knight he never met. Given her description, perhaps that might be the case.

“Sure sounds like I’ll have trouble dealing with someone like him.”

“That certainly does come to mind. He kept telling me to look away from my books when talking to others, that there are rules everywhere to follow, whether it is in house, or military rules, and given the fact that you have ignored every admonishing, he would be utterly furious…sure feels nostalgic.”

They were linked by blood, but they knew of neither each other’s name nor appearance, let alone say goodbye to each other. Frederica showed a faint smile as she imagined these two youths interacting with each other, a scene that would never exist in reality, and she lowered her eyes.

“Once, he said that he wanted to meet…his counterpart in the Republic.”

Publicly, the master of the clan never forgave his son for eloping.

But in fact, he wanted to meet his own flesh and blood. When his grandsons were born, he sent a picture book exactly the same as the one I’m holding now. He also never threw away the letters his son sent him.

Hearing these words, Kiriya was smiling, but his hands were shaking.

During the initial phase of the revolution, as the battles took place in the capital of the Empire, Kiriya’s family, and the nobles close to them all died.

The Marquis of Nouzen was on bad terms with the monarchy faction and Kiriya’s father, so he had long given up on the administration, instead he joined the civilians. After the Federation was established, he managed to preserve his prestige and clan. Frederica only knew of this after she was in the care of Ernest. Of course, Kiriya, besieged by the revolutionaries at the border castle, knew nothing of this.

He really wanted to meet them, and tell them that he was of the same clan as them.

He wanted to tell them that he was alone, with no one to rely on…and that it was so unbearable.

“…”

Shinn could not experience the feeling.

He lost his family, he lost his memories of them, and he even lost the place he could call his hometown, yet that did not matter to him.

He kept living, without relying on anyone else, nor anything. He was an Eighty-Sixer, having lived as such for a long time. He could not comprehend the need for strength other than his own when he was trying to protect himself.

“How did he end up with the “Legion”?”

Frederica remained silent for a long while.

“…The skirmish at Rozenfort was intense. The Federation assumed that if they caught me, the “Legion” would stop.”

It was true that the prime minister and the closely associated generals had the ability to control the “Legion”, and had used the “Legion” to secure their strongholds. However, the “Legion” was simply designed to exterminate the enemy, and could not determine non-combatants, and wouldn’t leave anyone alive. It was hard for the “Legion” to execute such a complex command. During most situations, the defences had to send in human soldiers to fight, but humans fighting along machinery was a forbidden protocol, and most of the defendants ended up dying.

The youngest of the guards, Frederica’s knight Kiriya too had participated in the battle against the Federation that lasted for days.

As to be expected of an heir to the strongest warriors of the Empire, he slaughtered masses of Federation soldiers every day.

“And then one day, Kiriya changed.”

His family and friends had died in the revolution, and the hometown he grew up in was his enemy, the guards who fought alongside him died one after another. It was likely that Kiriya had lost too much.

Protecting Frederica had become the one and only mission to him, until he slowly started showing his lust for battle. She could often see him trample upon the corpses of the Federation, standing beside the bloodied field dress, and smile at Frederica.

It was a calm, bright smile.

–Princess.

“Afraid of that him…I was.”

Thus, Frederica escaped the fortress.

After escaping, she was soon captured by the Federation army.

She was truly lucky that Ernst had arrived at that battlefield to patrol. She remained alive, and the imperial mantle of red and black were hung up as proof of the death of the Queen.

Kiriya witnessed it.

Given her ability to discern the past and present of those she was familiar with, Frederica knew that Kiriya saw everything.

Soon after, the fortress was broken through. He saw the mantle at his post. The sixteen year old boy, who slaughtered countless to save his Queen, saw the Queen’s mantle hung up high, dyed red by the blood of the soldiers who were injured capturing her.

Frederica’s ability could not discern what Kiriya was thinking of at that moment.

But back then, the Tausendfüssler just happened to be wandering around. They were looking for resources that could be used again for battle.

And unlike the Republic’s “Scavenger”, the Tausendfüssler had no reservations of reclaiming the dead body

The “Legion” had already learned the ability to use a human construct as the core.

The steel monsters approached the highly prized ‘prey’…and Kiriya just stood still, not trying to escape at all.

“It was I who turned Kiriya into a monster.”

Shinn could not see what Frederica could, and naturally, could not witness her image of ‘Kiriya’ at this point. The Para-RAID of the Federation could not allow for anything beyond synchronized hearing.

But twice he had experienced how powerful that long-distance cannon was.

Even Frederica, who so dearly loved her Knight, had to call it a monster.

“You have said the “Legion” will soon attack…Kiri might come along too. When that happens…”

“Understood.”

Shinn showed a wry smile as he was reminded by the girl.

And then, the one showing a wry smile upon hearing his reply was Frederica.

“You do not understand…if it gets too dangerous, do retreat and try not to hang on.”

He looked down at her. She did not lift her head.

“I had long forgotten–no matter how we humans look forward to the future, we die in an instant.”

Just as Eugene died the previous day.

“…As you have said, I do not like to see people die, especially those I know. It is not worth sacrificing you and Raiden and the others just to save Kiri. You do have a life ahead of you. Thus, do not lose it.”

Ahead.

“—Future, huh?”

Hearing that, Frederica was stunned, and a little worried.

“Goodness. You have not thought about it at all…an inappropriate example it may be, but you can learn from Eugene. Where do you want to go during your next break? What do you want to do in the future? It is good to think about such things. You should also think about it…a little.”

“…”

–Once you retire.

At that moment, Shinn seemed to hear the silver bell-like voice he had once heard.

It was soon after Kujo’s death, when they did not know each other, and did not feel the need to know.

–Is there any place you want to go to, or anything you want to see?

Back then, he had ignored it, rather than feeling annoyed by it. He never thought of it, and never felt the need to. The answer had never changed.

But if the same question was to be posed to him again, how would she respond?

And so, what inspired her to continue battling as a Handler while in the Republic that had long given up on fighting?–

 

The night on the battlefield came early.

War is a monster, repeatedly devouring away at massive resources and labor every day. There was no energy for lights, whether it was in the barracks, or in the Federation itself, and lights in the dark night would only result in them being turned into easy targets. Every area, aside from the headquarters having the bare minimum of lights, would enact a lights out. It was something common in both the Eighty-Six area, and the Federation’s Western battlefront.

“Shinn, do you know where Frederica is?…ah.”

It was almost lights out, and Raiden, having heard from Krena that Frederica had yet to return, went out to look. He knocked on Shinn’s door, nudged it aside, and stood there.

Aside from the bed and the desk there was no empty space to spare in the cramped coffin, prison cell-like room. In this usual barrack, Shinn was in deep thought as he leaned his back on the pillow like a cushion, and next to him, Frederica was clinging onto him, giving a rhythmic, sleeping breath.

“So she’s here. She really admires you as a big brother.”

“Just thinks of me as him.”

Shinn took a moment to answer, and probably was not used to hearing this. So how does he call his brother anyway?, Raiden, who had no siblings, was similarly unfamiliar with this term, and did not think too much about it.

“Ahh, her old knight?…but are you taking that for real? You seem concerned.”

The feelings seemed a little different as compared to his Eighty-Sixers comrades…and the last Handler.

Shinn pondered a little.

“Hmm…maybe…she’s like the old me.”

“The same?”

Seeing the red eyes stare back at him, Raiden pointed at his neck, the thing that was hidden under the uniform collar.

Frederica’s knight never did the same thing to her.

The brother who did that to you is nowhere to be found.

In any case, Raiden activated the Para-RAID, called for Krena, and asked her to take Frederica back. A little moment later, the latter dragged her feet into the room. Seriously, what are you doing!? saying that, she lifted Frederica like baggage, and went back.

After watching her leave, Raiden took out the chair under the table, and sat on it.

Shinn’s RAID device was tossed onto the desk, and probably not with him as Frederica had been sleeping on him.

“…I heard that you told the higher-ups?”

Keep mum about that. that was what Raiden reminded him when they had first arrived at the Federation, and surely Shinn did not forget.

“I told you not to already. Didn’t you say before that nobody will believe it until they actually hear it? And even if they do, nobody knows what will happen next. Anyone can understand immediately once the Para-RAIDs are connected…but you haven’t forgotten the consequences, have you, ‘Death God’?”

Back in the Republic, none of the Handlers who synchronized with Shinn and heard the voices of the dead connected with him again, except for the last one.

The other Eighty-Sixer Processors managed to hang on, for they were used to the violent deaths of their squadmates, and numb to the grudges of the ghosts. However, Shinn was reviled by many, and those that could not get along with him died one after another. They cut off the Para-RAID synchronization with him, and lost the protection of the ‘death god’ who could hear the “Legion”, overseeing the battlefield.

And there were many who hated Shinn because of this.

Upon knowing this, how would the Federation deal with Shinn’s supernatural ability to hear the “Legion”? Raiden had to make the worst assumption.

The Federation had seen the “Juggernaut” destroy the test pilots, and never stopped using it. While unsure of the theory behind the Para-RAID, it continued to use them in a manner no different from human experimentation. The Federation was a cruel entity, to that extent.

“The Federation isn’t as pure and noble as it likes to think it is. Even here, us Eighty-Sixers aren’t on equal grounds as them…maybe nothing has changed after all.”

Pity and condescendence; in terms of looking down from above, there was no difference. One-sided compassion would only mean the lack of determination to understand, and it would only be a matter of time until it would become malice shrouded in kindness, or even without the kindness.

If they were deemed as monsters.

If they were deemed as useful monsters.

“The ones ripping your brain out this time won’t be the “”Legion”. You can be a lab rat all you want, but sorry, I don’t want to end up as a hostage. Don’t do anything stupid.”

Of course, these were not his true thoughts.

Rather than do anything to Shinn, it would be easier to take the people around him as hostages.

Shinn slowly closed his eyes, and sighed.

“…Sorry.”

“It’s enough that you told them that…whether the Federation believes it or not, that’s up to them.”

This was not a bad country. They would prefer it if the country did not vanish, if possible.

However, they had no obligation to sacrifice themselves or their comrades just to protect this place. That was all.

Thus, Raiden narrowed his eyes.

Shinn was not one to make decisions so heartlessly.

“You alright?”

“–What?”

“I’m telling you not to think too much about those useless things…thinking about what old man Ernst said?”

Shinn went silent.

“I’ll say that Frederica bothers me a little more…I never thought about it. Never needed to.”

Back then, he should have two futures awaiting him; to die along with his brother, or to meet his demise during the special scouting mission.

At this point, him being here was way beyond what he had expected.

Let alone the future.

“What about you?” so Shinn asked, and Raiden shrugged.

“Well, just going with the flow, I guess. I can’t really think of what will happen after that; I can’t even imagine this war actually ending. Do something, earn a living…I don’t think it’s harder than fighting the “Legion” anyway.”

Raiden did not think about it, he was confident he did not need to think too hard about it.

To not die, one would have to work hard to live. To live, one had to be a little more honest. No matter whether it was the battlefield on the eighty-six area, or the endless future after the war, such a notion would not change drastically. In fact, this predicament was no different for the Eighty-Sixers, who had to keep fighting to live on until the very end.

However,

Seeing the red eyes look down seeming deep in thought, Raiden had a thought.

At the collar of the uniform, one could vaguely see the shocking scar of a beheading from when his brother tried to kill him.

Even after Shinn had slayed the ghost of his older brother, the scar remained, ensnaring him.

Perhaps such a person would need a little something extra to keep on living, unlike a human like him.

Something that could counterbalance the curse, or maybe erase it.

Raiden glanced aside at something tossed in a corner.

Tossed by the side of a bed was a stupid philosophical book with a note stuck between it.

If they were back in the barracks of the Spearhead Squadron, and it was their last Handler contacting them through the Para-RAID from the first area of the Republic.

What would he be thinking of at this moment?

Or perhaps, what would he be waiting for?

“…Wonder if Major’s doing well there.”

Shinn glanced back at Raiden, chose not to say anything, and shrugged.

Goodness, this guy isn’t being honest, Raiden let out a long sigh.

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