Hellping

[86 V2] Chapter 5 – Cries Take Aim

Through electric signals, the robotic words were transmitted to the skies above the battlefield.

 

“–No face to Big Network no. 1.”

 

“Begin the Purge now.”

“All “Legion” units within the Network are to be thawed “

“Repeat. Begin the Purge now”

“Target, East battlefield. Geade Federation.”

“Northern battlefield. United Kingdom of Roa Graecia”

“Southern battlefield. Wald Alliance”

“Western battlefield. Republic of San Magnolia.”

 

“Notify all “Legion” units under the network.”

“Begin extermination.”

At the same moment.

Western forces of the Geade Federation, Nordlicht squadron of the 177th Battalion. One officer got up immediately.

Raiden had a dream of falling down a cliff.

“–Get up.”

He heard these words while the back of his head hit the floor. Raiden rubbed his neck that was tilted as he slept, and got up from the hard bed of the barracks.

The lights in the cramped room were not switched on, and a silhouette was visible in the faint moonlight. Shinn was holding the pillow he had pulled from under Raiden’s head, and was standing before him.

“Hey…you’re saying one thing and doing the opposite…”

“This isn’t the time for that.”

A terse reply.

He sounded anxious.

It was the middle of the night, and he was dressed in the Federation’s steel-colored Panzerjacke.

At that moment, Raiden lost all desire to sleep.

“…They’re here?”

“Yeah.”

Raiden looked outside the window. At the distant skies to the west, silver clouds of Eintagsfliege cluttered the sky, burying the darkness of the night beyond it.

“How many of them?”

“Too lazy to count. Feels like all the Seven Seals have been opened.”

“I have no idea what you’re referencing here.”

Hearing this rare joke from Shinn, Raiden knew things were getting really tricky.

The red eyes narrowed towards the distant battlefield, giving a cold glint.

“…It’s about time to assume the worst right now. Some of the forces we thought were headed to the other three countries are headed back here. Looks like this Western battlefront is the most important one to the “Legion”.”

“Quite an honor for us.”

Raiden sarcastically retorted, and then got up in an instant.

The sharp blue light of the crescent moon shone upon Shinn’s sidelong face, and seeing that, Raiden frowned.

“…Say.”

“–For today’s battle, it’s best to keep the Para-RAID synchronization to the minimum.”

One had to wonder if the stone-faced death god had no intention to hide his feelings, or he could not do so. The blood red eyes were looking back at Raiden, grimacing.

HIs white face looked exceptionally pale, even under the moonlight. The red eyes were a little contorted from the pain.

“Unless necessary, try not to get too close to me…I thought I got used to this, but tonight’s really tough.”

The screams of the dead had numbed the heart of the death god, who remained unfazed by the howls of the older brother he worked so hard to seek. That death god was blatantly showing weakness.

“–Understood.”

“I’ll leave the launch preparations to you. Wake the others up.”

“What about you?”

Shinn merely turned his eyes around, and patted the handgun by his side. It was not a small handgun the Federation had issued its pilots for suicide purposes, but a Republic automatic handgun that was bigger.

“This isn’t the time to keep mum.– I’m waking the entire army up.”

It was common in the military for things to be abrupt and unreasonable, but the Processors, woken up from their sleep, were utterly annoyed.

It was not an official order, and was one made based on the squad leader’s discretion. Even if he had the skills of a real death god, there were no sirens, and there was no enemy shown on the area radar. Everyone else was utterly furious.

“Shit, if they tell us this is a training, I’m going to misfire at that death god…”

“What next time? This time already. Stray bullets. Stray bullets.”

There was the hoarse yells of the mechanic crew, who received the order for the “Juggernaut” to launch.. There was the mechanical sounds of the gantry crane, along with the noise of the heavy machinery moving the ammunition and the energy packs. Hearing the Processors stifle their complaints behind these noises, Bernault, who was passing by, snorted.

“Ya guys can’t even retaliate man. Who were the ones who went to taunt the leader and got their asses kicked?”

Back then, they did not know Shinn was an Eighty Sixer. Seeing his noble-like appearance, they despised him, thinking he was a noble prince. There were quite a few who got beaten up badly..

“But sergeant.”

“And ya haven’t been under his charge, so ya can’t feel it yet. Tell you what, that squad leader can figure out where those scraps are going better than the radar.”

The siren blared.

The growls and noises froze, for an ominous sound occupied the hangar hall.

It was the signal heralding the assault of the “Legion.”

The Processors were flabbergasted as they exchanged looks, and Bernault just shrugged,

“…What’d I tell ya?”

 

At a corner of the First Defense line, the armored infantries were huddled in the entrenched bunker Tochka, as they gulped nervously as they awaited the enemy.

Ruins and forests were commonly seen on the Western battlefront, but unfortunately, neither could be seen here. The bunker had been reinforced heavily to withstand the barrage of the “Legion”, and were positioned in such a way where cover fire could be provided. The entrenchments were meandering, with each corner a right angle to minimize the destructive blasts of the grenades. The plains before them were also littered with anti-tank mines, along with the 88m anti-tank cannons behind.

Luckily, as the siren had started ringing early, the armored corps from the nearby barracks had hurried over with haste. The mighty machines brought some solace to the soldiers who feared darkness and death.

“–Leader.”

A soldier dressed in armored exoskeleton pointed forward. Beyond the distance, an inorganic, heinous, and surrealistic metallic silhouette appeared in the darker night.

The next instant, the entire horizon stretching across their sights was filled with the color of metal.

“Wha…!?”

It was like an oncoming tsunami. A countless number of shadows crossing the ridge, the shattered waves becoming torrents of madness, repainting the plains under the night into the color of metal as they raced through it. Like the looming water, like the cackling flames, and like the sounds of bones rubbing together, the rumbling lurched forth as a tide, as the endless wave of enemies loomed from the other end.

It was a sight impossible to imagine.

The shadows covered everything that could be seen. The ominous darkness approached silently and quickly, devouring everything in its path.

They, everything, was,

“The “Legion”…”

Dicit ei legio nomen mihi–est quia multi sumus.

A thunderclap boomed.

The cannons ripped through the air, landing like a hammer from the heavens.

Only a few might have realized that it was the initial bombardments from the Scorpion. It was no wonder, since this scene before them was overly surreal. It was a scene out of a religious text, like the Last Judgment depicted in Revelations of the old Bible.

The first shot landed far behind the Federation’s defense bases.

And this time, the second shot landed right before them, far closer than last time.

It was not a misfire. Artillery troops were meant to bombard enemies hidden in the horizon, dozens of kilometres away. The initial shots were simply test shots to zero down the error, so surely, the next time—

“Fire for Impact incoming!!!!!!”

A boom.

The grenades were fired in unison, and the silver covering was instantaneously dyed black, before they accurately landed in the trenches, and exploded.

The 155mm grenades exploded, resulting in some intense blasts, and the pellets that came flying at high speeds a tad bit later ripped apart the trenches and the armored infantries hidden inside.

Following that was another blast, a bombardment, another, and another. Each grenade would deal fatal damage to half the people within the blast radius of forty five meters, and hundreds of such grenades were fired, landing in unison. The rain-like bombardment continued to overpower the howls and shrieks.

The armored infantries were pinning down the defense bases. And at this moment, the steel-colored torrent had closed in on them.

A startling number of Dinosaurias were lined up in a massive Panzerkeil formation, the cannons aimed forward as they stormed on.

The intense bombardment of the Scorpions continued, but the “Legion” knew no fear as they continued their advance while being pelted by friendly fire, relying on the sturdy armor, and the hundreds of tonnes of machines easily trampled upon the obstacles like toys.

Seeing the Ameise leading the pack, the armored infantries were intimidated.

The tremendous impacts blew up the front of the “Legion”, and destroyed the mine buried underneath. The blasts from the cannons and mines uprooted the dirt, and the Ameise darted into the combat area.

The few anti-tank mines that were not blown up were triggered, and several of the enemies were blown apart.

The Dinosauria continued to advance, even trampling upon the remains of their friendlies. The Ameise, which had lower worth in combat, were sent forth to pave the way for the Dinosauria that were more valuable. It was a self-destructive sacrificial strategy befitting of the battle machines, which humans could never replicate.

The massive steel beasts remained unscathed as they passed the field of mines, and reached the trenches of the armored infantries that had somehow survived.

“Shit!! Hold your ground!! Don’t fall back even if you die!!!!!”

 

The soldiers and mechanics were not the only ones who sprung into action after hearing the siren. The commanding generals and the colonels too changed hurriedly, and darted to their positions.

The radar had long collapsed due to the jamming, and the notification of a “Legion” assault was reported from an unmanned scout far beyond range. The Federation leaders had no interest in wondering why the scout unit was so far. Command then dispatched more scouts to the destroyed scout, and from the numbers and formations, they deduced the scale and composition.

All of them paled at the shocking truth.

“Impossible…the entire Western frontline is under heavy assault…!?”

Grethe was in the command room of the 1028th Experimental squad, muttering as she saw the expected distribution map of the “Legion”.

The first defense line to the West was completely dyed red. It was where the 177th battalion, the 8th army overseeing it was positioned. The red beacons indicating the enemy units reached so far back, and the friendly units assigned to the line, the blue units, were overwhelmingly fewer.

They had expected this massive assault, and had prepared for it. Such a vast scale and numbers were beyond their initial expectations however. The garrisons assigned to the first defense line were insufficient to deal with them.

The mobile defense squads on standby at the back should be preparing to sortie, but could the frontlines hold on until they arrive? This was a big flaw of the mobile defense, that they were too cumbersome, and specialized machinery were needed.

If the frontlines were breached, it would be too late for the back to deploy on the go. Surely the Western frontlines would be breached…!

You could hear the communications between the division headquarters and the main from the headset meant for the commanders. The United Kingdom of Roa Graecia too was under heavy assault. All forces were fighting back furiously, but it remained a question as to whether they could hang on.

Will humanity finally reach its demise on this day?

She then heard a message from the hangar.

“Lieutenant Colonel.”

“Second Lieutenant Nouzen. What is the situation? When can you sortie?”

“Anytime. Nordlicht is ready to launch at any moment.”

Grethe was momentarily stunned, and she looked back at the holographic screen with the ‘sound only’ words. The other command staff in the room were also stunned speechless.

Shinn in turn answered calmly,

“We had not received any orders. I’ll receive the reprimanding later.”

Reproach aside, Independent action would result in punishment, but he seemed confident that he would not be punished in any way as he responded calmly,, or perhaps he did not care about being punished.

Grethe curled her red lips up into a smile. She had lipstick on her at all times, so that her subordinates would not realize when she paled.

It seemed that there was no need for that.

“No matter what those shitty old men say later, I’ll cover up for you guys, Lieutenant…the other squads will sortie once they’re done preparing. Hold the line until then.”

“Roger.”

 

Since its inception, the old Geade Empire had always been a military superpower, and many cities were designed specifically as bases to deal with incoming enemies at the start of the war.

All the streets were narrow, and would never be linked directly to the center of the city. The rivers flowing through the city also divided the city into two. The walls of the ancient cobbled streets made of stone remained flawed, and the brick houses were densely packed.

But even so, the assumptions they had when building them was that they would be battling humans.

“Retreat! Now! The armors are here!”

A squad of armored infantry hastily darted through the complex bending stone pavements.

The rearguard soldier turned around, and behind him, the sound of bones rubbing against each other was approaching. At that instant, the cannon of 120mm blasted through everything, ignoring the buildings between.

The stone walls were utterly helpless in the face of the tank cannons capable of shooting through six hundred milliliters of compressed steel. The cannon made a near direct hit upon the rearguard soldier, blowing him to smithereens, and the rubble blown away from the aftermath ripped apart the soldiers that were unable to escape, along with the armor upon them.

“Captain!!”

“Don’t go back! He’s a goner!”

The walls collapsed, and a smoke cannon appeared from there. The massive metallic coloured Löwe leisurely turned around the corner. The shattered bricks had piled up on the road, but were nothing to its multiple legs.

There was no time to escape. The armored soldiers stopped in their tracks, glaring back at the enemy that was about to kill them. The tank cannon aimed its turrets towards them–

A sharp, heavy sound of metal racing across the hard stone ground was followed by the stone tiles being trampled upon as it jumped, and the wind that blew along with it.

A pure white silhouette flew above the armored infantries.

It landed upon the wall to the left of the street, leaped off it with a triangle jump, and then bounced back up again. The Löwe tried to aim at it, raising its cannon up like a horse’s rein, but instead the cannon was the one that got hit.

The armor was pierced, and it exploded from within. The ammunition within the Löwe blew up, and the armor module too quickly fell off, before the flames started gushing out.

The heat wave and the light scattered everywhere, but it did not affect the soldiers behind the white silhouette’s armor.

It was a pure white armor. The four-legged figure resembled a white skeletal corpse without a head. Under the canopy was a personal mark of a headless skeleton wielding a shovel.

“The “Regin…leif”…”

The “Reginleif” red sensor turned towards them.

“Are there any other remaining friendlies?”

Before the assistant squad leader knew it, there were more white units standing on the roofs to the left and right of the street.

One could hear the clattering footsteps and engine sounds of them through the house, and clearly it was not the “Legion” with their highly effective sound reducers. They were a lot lighter than the “Vanargand”, and appeared to be of a similar make to the “Reginleif” before them.

Sensing the red optical sensor being directed towards him, the assistant leader realized that the question was posed towards him, and spoke up.

The tactics would differ if there were any friendlies still alive in the combat zone, but since they were defeated so haplessly, he should at least inform that to the comrades who came to assist.

“None at all, we’re the last! The other squads…were wiped out by those scrap metals.”

“That so?”

There was no mourning tone in that flat answer, only an aloof voice.

It was rumoured that the ‘death god’ had a headless skeleton for a personal mark.

And that would probably be that Eighty Sixer.

“Please fall back and regroup. We’ll hold the line here.”

 

“–Now then, shall we get to work?”

The XM2 “Reginleif”, also known as the “Juggernaut”, was recently deployed into battle, and had the highest mobility amongst the history of the Federation’s units. The unit had a main cannon, combat arms, and various parts to maximize its unique traits, and could fulfill multiple purposes.

The ‘Snow Witch’ that Angel piloted abandoned the usual 88mm smoothbore cannon, and replaced it with missile pods that could overwhelm others with firepower.

Before the battle began, she had heard of the distribution of “Legion” from Shinn. Time passed, and the positioning had changed greatly; however, she could imagine where they would move.

She predicted where the enemy would be, and figured out the position from where she could deal maximum damage to them.

It was the weapon Angel had honed after four years of fighting and surviving against the “Legion”.

She entered the coordinates into the support computer, and squeezed the trigger. All the missiles that were loaded fired off, with the tails of smoke following after them as they glided through the air in complex trajectories, evading enemy intercepting fire as they zoned in on the target.

Once the estimated coordinates were released, the proximity fuse of the missile shell exploded, and the cluster munitions within scattered. The cluster pelted upon the “Legion” from above, and the latter scattered in a hurry.

Her voice was gentle, and she showed a smile.

However, nobody knew that the gentle smile that she showed in the cockpit was so cruel.

 

“They’re out. Gonna step on them like ants with a wrecked hive.”

The goggle shaped headmount display for precision targeting showed the “Legion” units darting around the blind spots behind the building and rubble. The enemies had scattered, wary of the cluster bombs from the missile.

Krena was in her “Gunslinger” unit, hidden at an old church bell as she aimed at an enemy.

The ‘Gunslinger’, specializing in sniping, was equipped with an 88mm cannon that had an elongated barrel, designed to stabilize the bullet trajectory and the initial velocity. The unit’s fire and stance control too were swapped to sniping mode, and combined with Krena’s skill to shoot down fast moving “Legion” units, it resulted in an accuracy that highly impressed the research branch.

The wind speed, temperature, and various other data appeared on the headmount display, along with the cross reticule.

Upon hearing the voices of the dead coming through the Para-RAID, she narrowed her eyes.

She had no need to fear the moans of the dead, or the screams of the dying. As long as they were not her comrades that were turned into ‘black sheep’, she would not lament for them like Shinn did.

For Krena, the “Legion” was an enemy threatening the safety of her precious comrades, and especially Shinn, who was fighting on the frontlines.

The enemy.

Should be vanquished.

She subconsciously held her breath, her golden eyes becoming frigid.

She squeezed the trigger naturally, without thinking. Far away, the Löwe that had its armor shot through collapsed.

“Commanding unit down. Switching positions. Cover me.”

 

“Copy that Krena. Leave the scraps to me!”

Raiden’s ‘Werewolf’ was equipped with heavy machine guns designed for combat, and the main cannon, along with the mount arm, was swapped out with an autocannon. This set of weapons allowed him to suppress and stop the enemy from darting through the hail of bullets, and provide cover fire for the advancing friendlies.

Since he had been partnered up with Shinn, who specialized in close ranged combat, for at least three years, it was inevitable that he chose such tactics and weapons to provide cover fire for the latter.

Raiden was also in charge of covering the other members, always checking on their status. It was the perfect role for him, who was adept at taking care of others, though he would rather die than admit so.

Two heavy machine guns, an autocannon, all of which could be aimed at different enemies. The Ameise and Grauwolf were pelted by the dense machine gun fire, falling one after another, and the shots from the autocannon stalled the other two Löwe squads. Two “Juggernauts” raced by the ‘Werewolf’. ‘Undertaker’ went by one Löwe, severing it, while ‘Laughing Fox’ hopped onto a tall position, and shot down another one with a cannon.

The ‘Undertaker’ continued to charge towards the end of the street, while ‘Laughing Fox’ shot the wire anchor, and then headed towards the neighboring block.

Krena followed suit, providing cover for Shinn. Angel retreated to the back, reloading her missiles.

Raiden immediately assessed the battlefield, felt he had to support ‘Laughing Fox’, and turned the ‘Werewolf’ over.

The ‘Laughing Fox’, Seo’s “Juggernaut” had standard equipment and armaments, the 88m smoothbore cannon, heavy machine guns for its combat arms, along with four pile drivers and two wire anchors.

However, his style of combat was not standard by any means.

“Alrighty, there.”

He evaded the blast from a Löwe, hopped onto an abandoned car, and jumped up. A wire anchor was shot into the air, etching itself into the wall as he continued to jump. The Grauwolfs quickly gave chase, and he shot another wire anchor at the wall on the opposite building, releasing the previous anchor, and the recoiling steel wire formed an arch in the air.

He got right above a Löwe, and squeezed the trigger.

The weakest part of the armor, the top, was shot through, and the enemy unit blew up.

He moved in all directions, using the wire anchors.

The Republic had abandoned its cities, which became battlefields, and that, coupled with the weak firepower of the 57mm cannons, gave birth to this combat ability. The biggest notable flaw of the Löwe and Dinosauria was the thin armor at the top. Thus, Seo had it as his own style of combat, and it was the best answer for him, who had outstanding spatial awareness compared to the others.

For he had no combat sense that would allow him to survive, unlike Shinn, who was able to fight melee combat.

The lock-on alert signal rang.

A Grauwolf had scaled to the roof before him, and fired a missile. Seo glanced at it, fired another wire anchor that entered the wall of another building located several blocks away, and used that to pull him towards it. With the explosion behind him, he turned around, and pelted a hail of machine gun fire to silence the enemy.

At that moment, Seo saw the neighboring block, and his jaw dropped.

At the vanguard of Nordlicht was the white silhouette of the ‘Undertaker’, deep within enemy territory, evading assaults from all corners and destroying the enemy units one by one.

One might say that, instead of the death god liking him, he was the death god himself.

“Seriously…how in the world hasn’t Shinn died after all the crazy stuff he does?”

 

While the frontline combatants were struggling, the backend personnel too fought their own war.

“–Get all the ammunition and energy packs! Load them on the trucks so that it can go!”

“Sergeant, backup unit is ready!”

“If the frontline needs them, send them out now! –Listen up! Don’t let Fido get in here to take them! That guy’s there to support our leader! It’s our job to deliver the pizza to them!”

In the face of the mighty “Legion”, the combatants had no war to fight if the ammunition and machine functions were depleted. The best form of support they could provide was to give them ample, prompt support. The backend personnel knew this, and thus they did their best.

Amidst the noise, it would be clearer to understand the situation through the Para-RAID. So Frederica thought as she listened to the RAID device inside her own room, doing her best to contain her urge to escape the barracks.

She really wanted to help, even if it was just a little. However, she knew it was just for self-gratification, and kept reminding herself to remain rational.

The personalized heavy machines were running at full throttle in the hangar, ferrying the heavy ammunition and energy packs.

In the command room was Grethe and the other control staff, spewing terms Frederica did not understand.

She was just a weak child, incapable of doing anything in this kind of situation.

At this point, she knew that her acting as commander in the heavy transport craft was simply about Shinn, Raiden and the others playing around with her.

All she could do was to open her ‘eyes’, and seek her Knight on the battlefield.

Shinn, fighting on the frontlines against the “Legion”, probably was not in the mood to find Kiriya. If she knew of Kiriya’s position and actions, she could at least give him a warning.

She spotted the Knight appearing in her ‘eyes’, standing there, and froze.

She hurriedly fumbled with the RAID device, and switched the contact target. Her face was clearly stunned, her voice gasping as she called out that name.

“Shinei.”

There was no answer.

The Para-RAID however was connected.

The voices of the dead were usually heard when synchronized with Shinn, and again they echoed deep within her ears. At that distant battlefield, his voice remained so calm as he gave instructions.

From time to time, he would contact the other Eighty-Sixers, and also instruct the Processors of Nordlicht, and barked off at the soldiers of the other squads through the wireless external speakers, all while combating the astonishing numbers of enemies.

“Shinei…Kiri is not here.”

There was no answer.

She repeated her call. For some reason, she did not want to assume he did not hear her.

“Kiri is not on this battlefield.”

There was still no answer.

The blood immediately rose to her head.

It was not out of anger…but due to a fear that she could not comprehend fully.

“Do you not hear me, Shinei!? Kiri right now is…!”

At that moment, her eyes switched over to the person she kept calling with conviction.

It was a four-legged spider racing through the rubble of the city, in the middle of the night.

The white machine was no longer covered in complete white. Ash, dirt, and the silver nanomachine blood of the severed “Legion” limbs had dyed it silver and ash, covering it in spots.

A flashback to a previous scene occurred.

The red field dress that had trampled on the blood of the soldiers, and the person standing next to it, smiling brightly.

He was smiling, his black eyes frigid and unfazed.

Princess.

So he said, but his eyes were not looking at her.

The red eyes inside the white armor were showing the same glint.

It was swinging the blades that had long stopped vibrating, slashing the enemy with brute force, ignoring the fact that the blades were partially shattered before turning to another. Shrapnel from a proximity fuse that exploded up close flew into the cockpit, shattering a sub screen, but he remained unfazed. His consciousness was focused on the enemy unit before him, his red eyes sharp and cold.

Frederica’s legs weakened, and she fell back.

She finally realized why she had always associated him with Kiriya.

They were not similar. They were the same. She had assumed they were so alike, because both of them were exactly the same.

Fools. She could hear herself utter this silently.

Shinei, you fool. Have you not understood?

Enough. Stop.

“You cannot continue to fight on like this…!”


Beyond the clouds of silver was the crescent moon in the sky, high up to the west, lighting a dim silver upon the ruins.

The heavy multi-legged units suddenly came to a halt. Having confirmed the surrounding voices of the “Legion”, Shinn gasped, and turned around. The skies above the battlefield was completely sealed by the Eintagsfliege, and the “Juggernaut” radar was already muffled, and since the IFF could not be used, Shinn had switched it off.

“–Hey, hold your fire, Nordlicht! Friendlies!”

Appearing before him was the 67th armored forces of the 177th battalion, the crest of the squadron on the “Vanargand”. The red sensor followed Shinn’s eyes, and slipped over there, seeing the fifty tonnes of heavy machinery approaching with light steps.

The legs were not damaged due to the combat stress…it appeared that the armored division had woken up due to the siren, and finally sortied after all the preparations were done.

“A personal mark with a headless skeleton. You’re the squad leader?”

“Squad leader of Nordlicht. Second Lieutenant Shinei Nouzen…what’s the situation?”

The driver of the “Vanargand” smiled.

“Squad leader of the 67th, Captain Samuel Roots. It appears the first wave of the attacking “Legion” has been fended off, and the same goes from the other areas. Thanks to your squad’s emergency deployment, we held the line. Good work.”

Shinn just wanted to ask about their side, for he already knew the “Legion” vanguard had started to retreat, but even if he did say so, the captain would not have believed. Thus, he did not say a single word. All he wanted was to rest his body that was a little weary after the battle.

“The other squads have mobilized…it’s alright now. Head back for resupply, and sortie when HQ gives the orders. Leave the rest to us, the Federation.”

You Eighty-Sixers can fall back for now.

While still gasping for breath, Shinn continued on gruffly,

“If I may say something, Captain.”

He affirmed the amount of supplies that Fido next to him had brought, and displayed the status of the various “Juggernauts” on the windows…while they were not fully equipped, it was sufficient. They could all continue to battle.

“That “Legion” was just the advance forces. The upcoming second wave is the real one…we fall back now, and this area will fall.”

The driver of the “Vanargand” immediately stopped smiling.

“…What did you say?”

“We’ll leave the defence here to you. We will head on to intercept the main forces. We’ll destroy the vanguard first, and try to dull their assault somehow.”

“Wait Lieutenant! That’s–”

“Ending transmission.—all units.”

While cutting off the transmission, Shinn called through the Para-RAID, and turned the ‘Undertaker’ around, leaving the dumbfounded “Vanargand” behind.

The advance forces were to prepare the way for the following main army. The groans of the “Legion” were surging from a place that the eyes could not see.

His ears immediately picked up replies. Repressed excitement, calm, and grinning audaciously.

“You hear that? If you don’t want to die, come along.”

The main forces of the “Legion” came, and at the same time, the armored forces of the Federation reached the frontlines, building up sturdy defense lines, forming walls with thick armor, and defending stubbornly against the overwhelming attacks of the enemy. A deadlock occurred as the garrisons switched hands.

Somebody noticed that the sky had already brightened, and the naked eye could see the gun in hand.

Red light shone at the horizon.

The soldiers looked up at the skies, from the trenches, from the barricades formed out of collapsed buildings, from the cramped cockpits of the units, and from the middle of the gunfire.

The sky had turned completely red.

The bright red light of the rising sun was reflected and refracted by the Eintagsfliege covering the sky completely. The sky that was supposed to be dawn was locked under a dull, bloody red light, like an enclosed fire.

Under the red skies, the battles continued.

Under the bloody red light, the black shadows comprised of ruins, entrenches, remains of the units, and heaps of corpses started to pile up. Between them, the machine monsters and the humans remained locked in a deathmatch. Fire and blood spewed, becoming shadows that fell and remained, further reducing the world of red and black to a deeper red and black.

Such was a scene that looked as if it was right out of Hell.

 

Amidst the Hell filled with red and black, a white nightmare could be seen.

It was racing through like lightning, like a bright fantasy.

It was thoroughly covered with scars, but like its name of a war goddess, the headless skeleton was pure.

If this part had collapses, the surrounding defences would follow suit. Thus, they had focused on this position, combating without knowing toil. In the face of the surging “Legion”, they did not back down, and slaughtered the enemy with the mad battling and precise shots, like wild beasts tearing at each other.

They had ignored all requests of aid from the other squads, or calls from the back telling them to back down. In the face of the endless “Legion”, they had no time to spare aid for others, and knew that they could not fall back even if they collapsed. They, once cut off by the mines of their homeland, might have forgotten about the word ‘retreat’ altogether.

The destroyed “Legion” continued to pile up one after another, and using them as cover or turrets, they continued to battle.

But if they kept battling, they would run out of bullets and energy. The “Reginleifs” were units that sought mobility, so the ammunition they carried were far too insufficient. Even if they were to head to the back to resupply, it would still be insufficient. Thus, they could only remove usable parts from the destroyed friendlies and repair or resupply. The “Scavenger” following them too kept searching for spare parts, removing them, and piling them up near their position.

There were soldiers who lived at the border since the inception of the Empire, and were born on the Wolflands. Seeing these silhouettes, they were impressed.

Even as they fought to the death, they were smiling, for they had a few more reliable comrades.

But most of the Federation soldiers could not think as such.

The optical intel reached the command vehicles and the headquarters through the data link. All of them, the armored infantries in the trenches, the operators, the commanders, and the higher ups could only mutter in utter shock.

“The Eighty Sixers…!”

They were teenagers, comrades who came from the Republic, treated as human-looking pigs, sent to the battlefield by them.

The Federation had assumed that they were pitiful children.

For they were robbed of human rights, freedom, family, hometown, and even their names. They were sent to the battlefield before they had even fully matured, and survived the countless battles, before they were finally ordered a meaningless death. At the very least, they should enjoy happiness in the Federation. That was what everyone had thought.

But they gave up on those wishes.

They chose to return to the battlefield, to the most dangerous of all battlefields. They had no reason to fight, no need to protect their homeland, family, and ideals. In fact, they were not protecting anything. Ignoring the pleas of aid from the friendlies, they ripped bones and flesh from the remains of their fellow units, and kept on fighting. It appeared as though they were just seeking to fight a meaningless, unreasonable, endless battle.

They were not innocent, pitiful children who were oppressed, who lost everything.

They were monsters.

They were human-looking, killing machines who were borne out of the ruthlessness of the battlefield, and the malice of the public. They were the demons of the battlefield, unable to understand the compassion and aid granted to them. It was not their sin to be born and twisted as such, but their hearts, twisted to this point, was just a lost cause.

“Monsters…”

There was a possibility that the Eighty Sixers might have overheard that, but nobody would reproach the person who uttered it.

The large transport craft ferrying the emergency response team landed near FOB 15, the armored units and the infantries soon hurried over.

The blue blips indicating friendlies instantly multiplied on the screen, the red and blue intertwined like a mosaic. Grethe was watching on, and suddenly, the red blips started to move.

The clusters of red and blue started to disperse. Like sand in an hourglass returning to its place, the red blips slowly returned to the west, to their controlled area.

“–The “Legion”…”

 

Shinn had long forgotten about the time.

The optical screens showing the outside was dyed completely red. He could not remember how many enemies he had defeated, and how many were left. The short pause between the assaults allowed for them to feed on rations, and any minimal rest they had was through closing their eyes. There were no tactics, just a demolition of the waves of “Legion”. It was not a battle per se, but a primitive deathmatch.

With his lone shred of rationality that was left, he could barely figure out friend from foe. If the battle lasted a little longer however, who knew what would happen.

Suddenly, Shinn noticed that it was raining, and lifted his head.

The “Juggernaut” voice sensors picked up white noise and the rain pelting upon the armor. The sounds seemed serene in the noisy battlefield.

His mind was dulled due to fatigue, and it took him a long while to understand the reason behind this sound.

The “Legion” was starting to retreat.

The voices of the dead were fading, and only the covering fire of the Scorpions and the noise of pursuit squads battling them echoed intermittently.

He opened the canopy that had been locked for what felt like a really long time, stood amidst the drizzle, and let out a long sigh.

Seeing the red light by the edge of the thin clouds, he knew it was the late evening of the Northern summer.

“–All forces.”

His voice was a little hoarse. It appeared that his throat was parched.

The voices that answered were a lot fewer than when they sortied. Some answered with gasping breaths, and some did not, probably for the lack of necessity.

And of course, there were some who could do neither.

“The “Legion” has begun a full retreat. It’s time to head back.”

 

Shinn docked the ‘Undertaker’ at the hangar, got off, and found Frederica standing before him.

Her eyes were slightly red, perhaps because she had spent the entire night up. The long hair that was usually combed properly was all messy. Perhaps she had been waiting for him here after he sortied.

Their eyes met, and her tender face contorted. She seemed relieved, and yet seemed to have been reprimanded harshly, for tears welled in her eyes, and she leapt into his clutches, feeling impatient as she embraced him tightly.

“Shinei, you fool.”

He did not know why he was scolded. He subconsciously reached his hand for the little head that surprisingly did not have a military cap, and caressed the black hair, her tender hands clutching at him harder.

“Fools, both of you, you, and Kiri.”

The forces on standby were assigned to keep guard against another possible “Legion” attack, but heaps of work for the commanders of the Western forces remained. They had to replenish the lost manpower and equipment during this battle, move the wounded and the corpses, repair the defences, analyse the battles, and determine the contributions.

First off, they should reward the scout unit manager that had detected the assault of the enemy (far) earlier than expected, pinpointed the correct area, and saved the Western front from the brink of annihilation. That was a common consensus amongst the commanders.

But the manager had doubts over this.

He claimed the instructions to scout the area was not from him.

He said there was an officer who found him, and convinced him to spot this area, and that the discovery of the advanced forces, and the instructions to the other combat areas were down to that officer.

In that case, surely the contribution belonged to that officer.

 

“–While the manager was poised when he said so, I heard that you had actually used some violent methods, Second Lieutenant Shinei Nouzen.”

The commander office inherited the positioning and decorations of the Empire. The Major General was seated behind the thick, heavy Mahogany desk. He was wearing service ribbons, and a cross medal on his neck. His hollow eyes were shrouded by his black eyebags.

“A Federation soldier’s gun is to be pointed at the enemy, and not to threaten our own. This applies regardless of you pointing a gun at anyone.”

“…The discovery of the enemy shall offset this punishment, I believe. That man could have been promoted if he had not said it.”

Hearing the calm response, the Major General narrowed his eyes. He could sense Grethe behind him rubbing her forehead.

Shinn in turn remained still before the desk, in a ‘restless’ posture. Countless independent actions, and a violation of military regulations. While out of necessity, interrogation and punishment were needed.

Given the list of offenses, he could have been detained, but given how they were simply interrogating him, it appeared that they were still accessing him.

The Major General turned his leather chair around, and glanced aside at the tablet terminal, before lifting an eye towards Shinn.

“I heard from the gendarmerie that you had some interesting answers…that you can hear the voices of the “Legion”, and determine their positions even.”

Grethe then interrupted impulsively.

“Major General. You might not believe it, but it is the truth. The squad members that used the RAID devices and had audible synchronization with Lieutenant Nouzen have confirmed this…”

“Did I ask for you to speak up, Lieutenant Colonel? I do know people with such powers exist, and the witnesses have said it. Those alone however cannot prove this situation.”

The Major General tapped at the terminal, and displayed a map of the battlefield on the table. Beyond the hologram map were the black eyes staring back at Shinn.

“Where are they? –Point out ten places, from closest to furthest.”

Shinn looked up. There was a dummy surveillance camera at the ceiling, the tablet in the Major General’s hand was positioned just enough to prevent him from seeing it, and an intercom was hidden in the Major General’s hair. It seemed that the Major General wanted to affirm the data captured by the radar, and match it real-time.

Principle aside, this certainly was the most direct, reliable manner to affirm the validity of something, so Shinn sighed,

“…Excuse me.”

He sought out the closest enemy position on the map, and pinpointed ten positions. He was able to accurately detect where the “Legion” were, and the distance, but he could not convert it as into common distance units. Leaving aside the fact that he was used to the Republic’s combat areas, the battalion’s map was much bigger, and he could not deduce on gut feeling.

Once he drew the seventh position, the Major General’s eyes widened, and he hushed his voice into the intercom, for that position might not have been detected.

Once Shinn was done answering, he returned back to his position. The Major General let out a long sigh.

“…One thing I want to ask you.”

After a moment of thought, the Major General asked.

“Why do you want to do this? While it certainly helped support the Western front, you should know that this is a dangerous act, right? Why risk it?”

“I determined that proper protocol will be too late to intercept the enemy…at that moment, you probably will not believe if I had said so.”

“You are not answering my question. I am asking if you had considered your own safety…had you not, as an Eighty Sixers, thought of the possibility of you being used as a canary, or a guinea pig?”

For they were the Eighty Sixers, who were deemed as human-looking pigs by their own homeland.

“Of course I did…but if we are defeated by the “Legion” because of this reservation, everything else would have been for naught.”

The Major General remained silent for a few seconds.

“I see–you will sacrifice yourself if it means you can destroy the enemy. That makes you an Eighty Sixer, huh? An ice blade you are, shattering yourself as you shatter the enemy.”

Grethe raised an eyebrow, trying to say something, but the Major General impatiently raised his hand to stop her, and said,

“I shall not look into this matter any further…if there are similar crisis to be sensed, may I expect a report from you like this instance?”

“Of course.”

“When that happens, I shall inquire you again, Lieutenant Colonel. You may contact me directly if it is an emergency. I shall inform my aide.”

 

Once they exited the commander’s office, Grethe sighed, and said,

“Please, stop making me worry so much, Second Lieutenant. Your words and tone are not appropriate when speaking to a superior.”

“My apologies.”

“Goodness…and also, please think of how you should protect yourself. Result wise, protecting yourself means protecting those around you. Do you understand, Full Lieutenant Nouzen?”

Seeing the suspicious look from Shinn, Grethe merely shrugged.

“All the Lieutenants died, so we promoted you. It’s common in the Federation army.”

She pointed at the Lieutenant Colonel insignia on her collar, the rank that she attained midway through her twenties due to the impromptu commissions on the battlefields, and showed a wry smile.

“You are already acting as squadron commander, so perfect timing…you could have an additional rank, but it was nullified because of your actions.”

“…”

“Can’t you be either happy or sad about this? Your pay will rise anyway, though you might not feel anything about it.”

The necessary expenses were paid by the military, and there was nothing else to spend on Thus, despite her telling him this, he did not feel anything.

Again, Grethe showed a wry smile.

“Seriously…this is all from me. Good work, Lieutenant.”

“… Please excuse me.”

Bidding farewell to Grethe, who returned to her office, Shinn walked down the long corridor paved with carpet, and quietly let out a sigh.

The Western army had been dented to a destructive extent, its defences left for the backup forces as they regrouped, so there was no mission. The days of interrogation left him unable to affirm the situation of his squadron, and he prepared to head to Nordlicht’s barracks at the headquarters.

Suddenly, Shinn heard quick footsteps approaching him.

He lifted his head, and found Frederica. Her sturdy boots were trampling upon the carpet, and seemed unbefitting of the base camp that was mostly relaxed.

At the same time, he sensed a stare from far away.

The black eyes encased in malice.

 

“–I’ll kill you.”

 

He felt a shiver down his spine.

Why? Why did he forget?

He encountered it twice. He knew that was the trump card of the “Legion”.

But why did he subconsciously eliminate the threat from his subconscious?

It was because, in a corner of his heart, he thought that even if the strongholds, country, and even humanity right behind the battlefield he was on were destroyed, it had nothing to do with them.

That for the Eighty Sixers, who had deemed the besieged battlefield as a hometown, faced the enemy eye to eye, and would inevitably be crushed, nothing mattered to them–

But at that moment, he realized that he never actually left the battlefield of the eighty six areas in the truest sense of the word.

 

Frederica yelled,

“Get down! Kiri is…!”

 

The sound of an ultrasonic cannon ripping through the air came almost instantaneously with the noise of a tremendous weight hitting something.

A flash appeared outside the windows.

Their line of sight was dyed complete white.

 

The noise was so great that it was practically silent as the cannon ripped the air like a thunderclap, and the shockwaves that followed suit ripped through the entire base.

2 comments

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *