[86 V3] Chapter 9 – Veni, Veni, Emmanuel

The true form of the blue color was butterfly wings.

The countless butterflies opened their blue metallic wings, causing the entire horizon to be dyed blue. They were the Edelfalter, similar to the Einstagfliege and the Atomaria units, ”Legion” units installed with solar panels.

The mechanical butterflies scattered like frozen blue fragments, piling up, and fluttered their azure wings amidst the blue faint darkness that came late in the day.

They flew aside in fear as the white spider invaded its territory. The countless heavy barrels stood on the ground as graves, monuments to the scars of the battles it fought, the radiance of the glass lights fluttering wildly like petals. Behind them,

A single “Legion” unit stood tall on the 8 railways running down multiple lines, possessing a massive body like the mythical Dragon, bearing a cannon at least 30m long.

That was truly befitting the name of the railway gun, the largest cannon in history used at the end of the Great War. The pitch black armor module resembled dragon scales, the rails forming what appeared to be a lance aimed towards the heavens. The equivalent of the head contained optical sensors as blue as ghost flames, and the 6 CIWS, the six barrelled 40mm Vulcan Cannons continued to spill rising hot air amidst the high heat.

The largest of the mass produced units, the “Dinosauria”, paled in comparison to it, for it was at least 11m in height, exceeding 40m in length as it stood beneath the dawning sky. The four wings formed out of weaved silver threads appeared to be coolants , the faint lights of the stars spreading throughout the skies.

The ”Morpho”.

Its sensors and Vulcan cannons were primed at the “Undertaker” leaping out from the hill. The enemy radar might have lost him in the hills, but he was unwilling to take risks as he approached cautiously, moving in a crisp manner. However,

How naïve.

There was a second jump, once it landed, the braked immediately. The actuator was designed to be lightweight and sturdy for high mobility combat, and thus it screeched. The enemy had anticipated the “Undertaker” to move, and had aim before it, but was at a loss in the face of this unexpected motion.

The optical sensors were focused fully towards the enemy.

Once he sensed that their stares met, Shinn squeezed the trigger of the 88mm cannon, having aimed beforehand.

What’s with those movements──!

The enemy unit leapt before the blue lights of its subunits Edelfalter, with the agility of a wild hunting beast; such movements left Kiriya flabbergasted.

The enemy unit crouched down, and leapt diagonally forward, before turning directions in midair, landed, and braked. As a member of the strongest warrior family of the Empire, Kiriya once had a personal field dress, but even it wondered if there was a pilot inside upon seeing such ridiculous movements. The aim of the 88mm cannon was as precise as it could be, primed back at it.

The abnormally shaped field dress appeared like a pure white nightmare flashing by, like a white skeleton seeking its lost head as it crawled about. Etched upon the bottom of the canopy was the personal mark of a a headless skeleton raising a shovel.

Ahh.

The brimming thoughts were clear and concise, with some mad delight. For some reason, there was some relief.

So it’s you.

So you’re the only one able to make it to me.

Now that’s more like it.

It sensed that the enemy had squeezed the trigger.

It was an overly sharp, cold killing intent that was as natural as breathing, and Kiriya could identify it distinctively, even though the opposing armors were 3000 meters away from each other.

Nothing else would be as interesting.

“…Too shallow?”

Shinn muttered as he saw the black smoke rising from the armor module, the railgun still standing. The shot could not pierce the interior, and there was too much flames from the explosion.

It was an explosive reactive armor (ERA). It reacted to the explosion of a HEAT Warhead, and used the shockwaves of the explosion to create a storm of metal fragments that protected against armor piercing. It was considered a unique kind of armor.

It was a staple of the “Legion”. A thin layer of armor capable of defending against grenade shrapnel was pretty decent for the usual specifications of the heavy cannon, but it appeared this unit had deliberately ignored this point. The reinforced sturdy armor ensured that it would not be easily destroyed.

A HEAT Warhead was ineffective. Looking at it, even an APFSDS fired at a logically effective range would be unable to penetrate.

But even so,

He was fighting in the same aluminium alloy walking coffin as he did fighting the “Löwe” and ”Dinosaurias”.

The stare and killing intent was directed towards him. The massive frame was overly heavy, and it could not get off the rails. It maintained the direction it was facing, and the six cannons were spinning about like independent objects.

They were going to fire. Without a second thought, Shinn instinctively got the unit to turn left. Muzzle flash followed, and the ground to the right of the “Undertaker” was bombarded by machine gun fire. Shinn spotted this in the corner of his eyes, and had his unit to retreat from the second wave of shots, before hopping off to evade the pursuing third round of fire.

The Vulcan cannons could unleash a thick hail of fire through its six rapid fire cannons and the exceptional firing rate, but expended too much ammunition as a result, and overheats easily. In other words, it could not fire rapidly for a long time. The six guns crossed fired, and the “Undertaker” advanced between the hail of enemy fire with dizzying fast movements of little jumps and sudden brakes.

The deep bellows of the cannons riveted the belly, and the supersonic bullets zipped through the air shrilly, but neither of them could rattle the increasingly cold bloody eyes. The stoic, robotic red eyes were only showing the optical screens and the dim lights of the holographic windows.

The surviving Eighty-Sixers had spent countless years fighting on the Eighty-Sixth Area of the Republic, under extremely dire conditions, and it resulted in their personalities finetuned for combat, the only difference being a matter of subconsciousness. In battle, the youths humanity were eroded away, and ironically, they became similar to the “Legion”, fearless fighting machines that knew no fear and fatigue.

Such an effect was exceptionally obvious with Shinn, who was proficient in close combat and clashed with most enemies on the frontlines.

He darted through the hail of bullets, his mind focused to the maximum, and he lost all elements of an ordinary human. All the unwanted thoughts and emotions, conflicted thoughts, regrets, laments, anguish, were frozen by him, banished to the bottom of his consciousness.

The frozen heart was calm, thinking that it was a lot more relaxed.

In combat, he did not need to think of anything

He could forget everything.

It was the most relieving thing for him.

He felt he could relate with the Knight he never met, which was standing in his path. He could understand where the madness of the soul who lusted after conflicts and murder came from.

Yes, for it got its release…by becoming like that.

A firing path appeared between the gunfire.

The left rear cannon ceased to fire for the time being in a bid to cool its part down. The system followed Shinn’s sights, automatically locked on, and once the reticule turned red, he squeezed the trigger. The “Morpho” itself might be fortified with reinforced armor, but the cannons were not.

The Vulcan cannon was hit directly by the HEAT Warhead, blown to smithereens. The dark red industrial fire and the sparks cut through the dawning sky. A bunch of Edelfalter units scattered in a panic, and the ”Undertaker” cut through the dancing blue clouds and the flames it caused, racing through.

Relative distance, 2000.

It was within the range of the 88mm, the main tank cannon designed mainly for precise aim.

Such a close distance was no different from a fight against the “Löwe” and the ”Dinosauria”. At such distances, it would be impossible to think of evading a tank cannon with an initial velocity of 1600m per second, or a railgun with an initial velocity of 8000m per second. A Vulcan cannon could not spread its fire at such a close range. No matter how fast it was, the “Morpho” did not possess the monstrous mobility of the “Löwe”, and as that large cannon and firing mechanism was stupidly big, it ended up being a bigger target.

Shinn kept evading the hail of fire as he approached from the left. There were 3 Vulcan cannons on each side, and as long as it approached up close, the massive frame of the Railgun would become an obstruction, blocking the three guns on the other side.

Half the cannons were sealed off, and the only way to maintain such fire density would be to keep firing. One cannon went silent, probably having depleted its ammunition. Another cannon was giving off black smoke, exploding and breaking apart, probably due to overheating and lack of cooldown.

Relative distance, 1000.

While that person was tainted with the blood of the witch, he might truly be worth being the heir of the Nouzens, the last of them.

Faced with the Vulcan cannons that were literally firing at a hundred rounds per second, the white field dress was somehow able to dart through the invisible gaps, and advance rapidly, leaving Kiriya amazed.

The enemy was deftly moving down the fine line of death that was thinner than a shaving blade, moving forth calmly. Also, the enemy possessed cunning intellect that sealed off and wear down its own weapons, and terrifying decisiveness that allowed it not to falter in the face of everything.

If that enemy had been back at the Empire, and served its master along with it back then, its forefathers lands might have continued to prosper.

If it could be captured and absorbed.

Kiriya leered at the tactical instincts of a “Legion” seeping into its thought processes, and beat it back. Capturing the enemy alive was a lot more taxing than simply shooting it down, more so when the enemy was this strong.

The relative distance was 1012 meters. The enemy was approaching. Truly, it was the right decision. The 88mm cannon was smaller than the common 120mm tannon cannon, and at such a distance, it could not penetrate Kiriya’s sturdy armor.

But in any case, the reckless manner it was closing the distance.

Was truly haphazardly suicidal.

One might even say that it was barbaric, no?

Fido was hidden in the hills, and Frederica awaited within its container, watching the two battle with her ability.

Back when she was at the last bastion of the Empire, she had ‘seen’ her Knights fight many times.

Besides Kiriya, there were other Nouzens.

She had seen several members hailing from the proclaimed strongest family of warriors, fighting impressively in their personal suits, but Shinn was particularly impressive compared to them.

He had the attributes of his bloodline, along with the innate talent, forged through the battles of deaths for over five years, such that he might have the best ability of his generation, or even the history of his family.

But nobody knew if he himself had hoped for this to happen.

If he had fought Kiriya while the latter was born, it was likely Shinn would win despite the difference of four years between them.

But Kiriya was no long human.

It became a tactical weapon possessing a powerful main cannon of 400km rang and 800mm caliber, with a stronger armor than the “Juggernaut”, and Vulcan cannons mounted upon it.

Fighting it up close with the close ranged specialized “Undertaker” was already a bad decision to begin with.

Whenever the “Undertaker” tried to approach, it would be forced to retreat and jump back, yet it continued to dart through the trails of fire, continuing to advance. The moment there was a mistake in decision making or the unit controls, the game’s over. Just watching it left Frederica’s heart wincing.

“…Pii,”

The container was shaking from time to time. It was due to a restless Fido teetering on the spot. The loyal scavenger had witnessed its master face off against the steel dragon, fearlessly and recklessly charging alone, and might have thought of heading into the battlefield, exposing itself to enemy fire, luring the Railgun, and creating an opening.

But it did not do so as Frederica was inside.

Just in case, make sure she gets back to the Federation no matter what. That was what its only owner had ordered.

“…Sorry”

“Pii.”

Fido was acting like a good tempered hunting dog, and Frederica indignantly smiled. She felt that she had to witnessed the battle, and again concentrated with her ‘eyes’.

Then, she noticed.

The Nouzen knights used to pilot personal field dresses, instead of the ”Vanargand”, and had requested for calibration according to their demands.

The “Reginleif” possessed light armor and high mobility, and of all the field dresses developed by the Empire and the Federation, it was an anomaly unbefitting of the times. Throughout the Federation and Empire history, the emphasis had always been on heavy field dresses possessing heavy armor and high firepower.

The field dresses Kiriya and the others used were no different.

The heavy complex armor was saddled with the heavy 120mm tank cannon, along with an extremely heavy frame and an actuator to support them. Kiriya once piloted such a field dress, but was able to get it to gallop using a high output power pack and the abilities he crafted, trampling upon the frontline enemies. That was the manner Kiriya fought back then

Such thoughts appeared within her mind. Her memories beckoned, recalling what Shinn’s comrade said on the day of his unfortunate demise.

── You heard of the legendary moment when Shinn got a zero?

── During the mock battle of combat training, he got the “Vanargand” to jump.

It might seem like an impressive maneuver, but back then, Frederica was not surprised in the slightest.

For she knew.

She knew of a person who could do the same thing—

She leaned forth without thinking, not staring at the scene that was happening in her realistic eyes, but rather, Kiriya’s silhouette which her ability caught sight of.

The heavy armor prevented the piercing from the 88mm cannon, and there was the massive 800mm  caliber cannon. The large and heavy body of the dragon was supporting everything. There was a need for train tracks, eight of them, to get it to move, 4 times the number of tracks for an ordinary train to support that heavy, massive frame.

But even so,

How was it possible for Kiriya not to perform the same stunt──…!?

“──! Shinei, this is bad!”

Truly, the weakness of a long ranged weapon was an attack up close.

It was not as easy as it sounded…but in many cases, what a long ranged weapon would give up was the lack of flexibility in close ranged combat.

But ironically, Kiriya was assigned to a long ranged cannon, a weapon completely different from its characteristic.

Would Kiriya, not one to fight like this to begin with, let the enemy capitalize on its weakness so easily?

“Do not approach carelessly!… Kiri used to be a close ranged pilot like you!”

 

The massive dragon leapt.

The countless iron pile-like legs of the arthropod kicked hard at the metals, and most of the massive body left the ground like a venomous snake lifting its head up high. At its apex, it spun its body around, and the avalanche of steel collapsed onto the train tracks facing the opposite direction.

The train tracks weighed hundreds of kilograms, but were snapped apart by the sharp toes, smashed in by the massive weight, and broke immediately, flying into the air.

The enemy actually changed its movement methods. Some explosives modules on the armor broke off and fell. The main cannon should not be appearing on the frontlines, and should not moving that way, which clearly resulted in internal damages. However, by sacrificing these.

The three anti-air guns in prime condition were pointed at Shinn.

“──What,”

Amidst this feeling of extended time, Shinn sensed that the enemy had primed its guns on the “Undertaker”. He was caught in the line of fire, and had nowhere to escape no matter which direction he went.

The 800mm cannon that remained still started to spin, primed to deal the finishing blow. The base of the cannon was giving off a purple light, showing that it was done charging. Deep within the darkness of sharp clashing swords within the cannon, a familiar vengeful voice was sneering shrilly—

“──Shinn! Back down!”

Right at that moment, the “Morpho” cannon took a direct hit on the side.

The fuse was activated, and exploded. The cannon of this massive monster was forced to stumble due to this unexpected attack. Another wave of sweeping shots from a machine gun struck at it again. The “Werewolf” had used the wire anchor and its remaining left legs to climb the hill, and was firing full auto.

The “Morpho” directed its attention towards there.

──You’re in the way.

The “Morpho” bared its indignance completely, and as it took the brunt of the attacks, it turned its massive main cannon while giving off a loud rumble.

At that moment, the railgun let out a deafening roar ripping through the air, loud enough to shake the atmosphere.

The “Werewolf” took a direct hit, and was blown apart along with the hill it was standing upon.

Shin did not know if Raiden managed to escape in time.

He seized upon the opening when the reticule of the main cannon and the consciousness was distracted, and escaped the Vulcan fire. However, the three guns were simply a tad slower, and pursued his escape. The 18 barrels continued to blare away arcs of electricity, and the “Undertaker” was forced to retreat in the face of the sweep firepower, hoping away. The Fire Control System (FCS) auto aim functions would ensure that the anti-air guns of the “Morpho” would automatically track its enemy that was within range, and not lose sight.

The relative distance was once again a thousand. The three guns should have been neutralized, yet they remained unscathed, along with the main cannon.

Now this,

He unwittingly gave a sneer.

Might be checkmate.

The notion appeared for a moment in his mind, but conversely, his dormant eyes and his awakened fighting instincts were hastily seeking a breakthrough. The Vulcan guns had been silent for a long while, trying to cool down, only to begin spinning again before his eyes.

The clash of thin ice seemed such a long moment despite the short moment. Both of them got ready to clash, like a quickdraw of swords or guns.

 

 

Suddenly,

There was another person synchronized.

The Federation RAID device, was developed based on the implants and the earcuff data chip used by Shinn and the other Spearhead Squadron members.

The registered contacts in that device was completely erased when they were dismissed from the Republic army, but data that was simply erase could be restored just as easily.

The playful researchers had reinstated the original settings into the Eighty-Sixers’ RAID device. There was no way anyone else could connect to them, let alone discover it. It was all a joke, a homage to the Republic that developed it.

But the settings were the settings.

Once the conditions were set, it would work as normal.

For example, the contacts registered in those settings.

If all the possible contacts connected to him had their Para-RAIDs activated.

“────Calling all “Juggernauts” on the wall!”

Shinn did not recognize the voice back then. The RAID device was developed through a different technology, and the voice that should be clear was intermittent with noise, thus,

“Coordinates 120, distance 8000. Firing anti-armor mortars! –Fire!!”

Following that, the “Morpho” was bombarded all over, exploding wildly.

They were not destructive blasts caused by 155mms or 203mm cannons, capable of ripping through inferior armor through shockwaves. They were small flames of explosion, little calibers. However, there was an exceptional amount of shots, one more akin to a downpower than a cluster of fire, and the number of cannons mobilized remained impossible to count. It was likely they were continued bombardments from tank cannons, as the blasts flew at near ground altitude, at a speed far beyond the responsive vision of the naked eye.

The heavy beast was unable to move as it had wrecked its railway tracks, and was pelted upon by the heavy fire.

The anti-light armor mortars could not possibly break through the sturdy armor of the “Morpho”. However, the tremors and shockwaves triggered flames along with the shrapnel hitting the ERA, causing the massive dragon to remain still in a daze.

“Keep firing. Retreat at your own discretion if you are being counterattacked!──To the unknown unit there!”

The unilateral call sounded extremely ambiguous, but for some reason, Shinn knew that it was calling for the “Undertaker”.

“You are trying to approach the enemy now, right? We will stop its movements. Attack when it stops!”

The bombardments continued, causing shockwaves and explosives. The ERA erupted into flames.

The tremendous flashes and impacts continued to overwhelm the “Morpho”, temporary numbing the nanomachine CPU, jamming the potent anti-air and anti-ground radars.

The short-range ballistic missiles seized this moment as it arrived in the sky above the “Morpho”.

The fuses on the outer shells were activated, and exploded, the self-forging fragments rained down upon the “Morpho” as a rain of spears, hammering and penetrating through the armor, the remaining Vulcan cannons, the engines, and the countless joints.

For the first time, the massive beast had its legs broken. The long and massive steel frame appeared to be in agony as it first tilted back, before falling over. The massive weight fell directly to the ground, the shock absorbers in its joints unable to withstand the blow as it landed with a loud, booming thud.

“Cease firing for now! ──Advance now!”

Shinn did not need to be told so.

He raced forward at the fastest speed possible.

Within a matter of at least ten seconds, he closed the distance between them, and sharply leapt forth, evading the Railgun’s line of fire as it turned around, and finally got into the close ranged distance he specialized in.

Suddenly, he felt a jolt running down his back.

He instinctively pulled the stick, and got the field dress to halt. He did not foresee the enemy’s movements; instead, the action was due to him realizing the the enemy.

But even he was unable to execute any more maneuvers at that moment. As he looked up, on the main screen,

He saw a patch of fractured silver rip through the air.

──Don’t underestimate me!

Kiriya was blazing all over, perforated by the hail of scorching fire, but it did not stop fighting. It shook its body, shaking off the ERA fragments and the mortar shrapnel that had fallen into the gaps of its armor, before inputting the execute command. I can still fight. At the very least, I’m going to murder everyone even if I’m going to die with them!

──Why?

A strangely calm voice echoed in its mind.

It’s its own voice.

The voice from four years ago. Back then, it had a body that could have continued to grow.

Its voice had cracked a long time back, but did not sound fully matured, and showed no change as it maintained the same voice it did four years ago.

Why go this far? Why continue to fight this much? Why slaughter everyone?

Why are you not sparing the one kin of the same bloodline, whose name and face you know not of?

Kiriya had lost the mouth to curl lips with, and the throat to raise a voice, but it smiled.

Kiriya had no face to show that smile, but even it did not know if it was crying or smiling.

Why else? This is all it had left.

It could only fight on.

This battlefield was the only thing it was left with, the battlefield it devoted itself to, and razed down.

What could be called a soul at the bottom of its heart was burned away, leaving behind a hollow, and the endless flames of war.

Kiriya’s optical sensor spotted the approaching enemy, and aimed it towards the cockpit. Any ordinary person would have shrivelled back and evade the lines of fire, but the compatriot continued to approach with no regards for its own life.

You,

Kiriya unwittingly muttered while overwhelmed by its thoughts, and noted something unexpected.

You’re like me. You have nothing.

So rather than end up like me.

The true form of the fractures was countless wires.

The four wings loosened wildly, forming rapids of silver that swung forth at lightning speed. The wires were merely hair strands compared to the massive dragon, but each of them was as thick as a child’s arm. The severed wires slapped upon the ground like whips, or were etched deeply into the ground.

One such wire grazed the front the “Undertaker” braked from, and the uplifted dirt was stuck firmly onto the right pile driver.

At that moment.

“…!”

A purple flash fizzed by, followed by shockwaves.

All the optical sensors, the gauges, and the holographic windows were disabled. The “Undertaker” was knocked aside by the purple electricity that struck the ground, but barely managed to stay upright despite nearly tumbling over.

The main screen quickly regained functionality, followed by the gauges. However, the holographic windows remained faulty. The gauges managed to recover from the random values it showed, and most of them were blinking red alert lights.

The stench of burned parts entered what should be a completely encased cockpit. Shinn looked up at the “Morpho”, and saw that it was growing countless wires from its body, headed in all directions, its main body hidden within.

The wires were for close ranged combat…it appeared the “Legion” had enacted all countermeasures possible to prevent the loss of the “Morpho”.

The countless wires were refined for anti-tank combat, the destructiveness concentrated on a miniscule point, with the plan being to puncture surgical holes on the thick enemy armor, and the tank cannons truly could not take them all down at once. These wires appeared to be stabbed aimlessly into the ground, but in fact, the metal fences gave no room for the “Juggernaut” to wiggle into, and obviously, a bullrush into the wires would end up with it ensnared, let alone a failure to snap any of them.

“Confirmly that the Capacitor is still functioning…conductive wires. This is truly a problem.”

The voice from the other end of the communicator was tense. Perhaps such an outcome was not anticipated.

“Do avoid touching the wires. The enemy’s energy resources are capable of maintaining the massive frame and the Railgun running. It is unlikely that your armaments and actuators can withstand the energy…your armaments are for close quarters, and it is not a hazard you can remove.”

Then what am I supposed to do?

Shinn did not say it, and the owner of the voice did not hear it, but she seemed to have nodded.

“Yes. So, for that.”

It seemed that the owner of the voice had narrowed her eyes coldly on the other end of the communicator.

It was a tone filled with a sharp blade-like, proud desire to fight.

“Our side shall handle it somehow.”

And once again, missiles flew in at that moment.

Several wires bent like a whip, slapping out at the side of the cannon closing it. The wires clamped down on the missiles from the side, and easily diced them up.

The missiles falling upon the enemy were not filled with potent solid explosives or rocket fuel, but large amounts of thick, viscous fluids that were mud-like.

Such fluids rained in from the air, and landed right upon the “Morpho” thanks to gravity. The fluids did not flow down, and instead stuck on the surface, turning the black armor and silver steel into a filthy mud color.

And then.

“──Five seconds. Two, one…ignite”

The timed fuse was activated.

The napalm splashed upon the “Morpho” was ignited, which was then engulfed in flames.

────────────────────────────!?

A voiceless scream shook the air, along with the tremendous fire scorching its body.

The incendiary cannon strike was unexpectedly a payback of the attack the “Legion” had unleashed.

The railways were destroyed, the “Morpho” lost its legs, and could not move aside as it twitched about. The remaining joints left the tracks and stomped onto the ground, but the ground beneath it could not withstand its weight exceeding a thousand tonnes, causing it to sink into the ground and topple over.

Humans can be burned to death at a mere several hundred degrees, but unlike them, the “Legion” was made of metals, and would not be burned to death even in a hellfire of one thousand three hundred degrees. The excessively thick armor ensured that the heat could not penetrate into the core of the unit, and no pilot would suffer asphyxia.

Despite that, humans still had an instinctive fear of fire, and that fear terrified the massive steel dragon.

The napalm flames clung onto the “Morpho”, and the purple electricity running through the wires began to vanish. The high temperatures might have caused the circuits to break automatically, or that the metals at high temperature became less conducive as a result. The wires might have lost the inductive electricity, and ended up being normal, heavy wires.

The massive dragon writhed and roared, tugging the wires out from the ground, flailing them about. The transparent red of the flames was etched into the indigo backdrop of dawn, as it flailed wildly and irregularly.

At the same time, Shinn pulled the lever, and advanced forth.

The “Undertaker” was apparently jolted by electricity. On the other side of the fire, the azure optical sensors of the “Morpho” were aimed at him. They were locked on, and all the wires swung up the sky in unison.

The tip of the claws reared back at the top of the arch, remaining still as it looked up at the sky for a moment, before slamming down.

The wires had just chopped the missile shells like butter. Shinn could sense the face of a certain person on the other end of a communicator paling.

“Is it still moving!?…Not good. Please get away from there!”

No.

The bloody eyes clearly saw the angle and timing of every wire swinging down in this tempest of slashes. As he gave his utmost concentration, each move felt like an eternity. He could see every move clearly, which path he should take to the ” Morpho”, how he should sever which wires.

The wires remained engulfed in flames, and did not have much inductive electricity left. In that case,

They were merely bullets that were slightly faster.

He jumped low and sharp. The first slash landed right before the silver field dress.

They clashed. Shinn raced his frequency blade just a moment earlier, and sliced the wire coming in. At the same time, he hoped to the side of the second strike that missed and landed into the ground, cutting it off. The third and fourth strikes came in diagonally from left and right, between intervals, and Shinn took them on in the opposite direction, slicing off the rain of claws and spears that fell like the rain, before racing off.

Another batch of wires tried to slam down from high around, but the small caliber mortars flew in an arc from afar, fizzing beside them, and upon flying by, the timed fuses were activated, causing them to explode. A few shockwaves occurred beneath the slashes, forming invisible shields that deflected the wires, and the “Undertaker” darted beneath them.

Faced with the sweeping horizontal slash from the wires, Shinn used the heavy cannon that was stabbed into the ground like a grave as footing, and leaped up high. The “Morpho” might have deemed it a foolish act as it had nowhere to escape in midair, and raised what might appear to be the final strike from overhead.

Ahh.

I really can’t deal with this kind of people. He recalled a conversation he had with Frederica.

He really could not handle such headstrong people.

It felt as though he was forced to look at something he was missing, something within him that was twisted, and he hated it.

He fired the wire anchor. The anchor sank into the the burnt armor, and he immediately reeled the wire, falling at speed comparable to a plunge, not a freefall. The highly raised slash grazed the fixed joint right blade, and lopped it off the blade itself completely. Using that as the one sacrifice, Shinn landed on the back of the massive dragon.

“Frederica.──where is your Knight?”

Shinn asked a question that needed not be asked. Frederica’s wish, her will, was for her Knight to be slayed. While he was the one to squeeze the trigger, it was Frederica’s responsibility to make the decision.

He could sense a little shiver from Frederica on the other end of the Para-RAID.

“……Kiri is”

 

At that moment, an illusion appeared before Frederica.

She was back in the Adlerhorst, the old residence of the Royal Family she was not particularly fond of. The large, majestic twin winged shaped side rooms surrounded the courtyard. Kiriya was dressed in the black and red uniform of the Empire, scowling as he told off a certain person standing before him.

That person of mixed blood was of similar height to Kiriya, with bloody red eyes, a few years younger. He showed no interest in Kiriya’s lecture, and the latter’s words fell on deaf ears. Kiriya in response got louder. A bespectacled youth, the older brother of the mixed blood, then came forth to coax them down.

It was a scene that did not occur in reality.

Frederica’s ability allowed for her to witness only the past and present that had occurred. This should be an illusion borne out of her wishes.

But if this war did not occur.

It was said that the eldest son of the main Nouzen family married a Pyrope princess, and was ostracized by the families for intermarrying, escaping to the Republic as a result. Without such forsaken traditions.

If the Empire could have been a little friendlier to its people, to the other countries, to their comrades.

Such a wish might have occurred.

She was the one person left of the one family capable of doing this.

The young Empress pursed her pink lips.

At the very least, she could start from this point.

“There is Kiriya,”

 

After a moment of hesitation.

Frederica did not escape the responsibility of killing off a confidant when requested, despite it being a ghost.

“Behind the main cannon──between the first set of wings.”

Shinn looked around at the vast back of the “Legion” unit he had scaled, and spotted a maintenance hatch poking out slightly at where Frederica had pointed.

He severed the wires harassing him from the wings, and raced through the blazing napalm fire.

The ”Morpho” let out a deafening roar. Like a centipede sprayed with acid, it kicked off with the remaining legs it had, shaking the body hard. The heavy mass weighing over a thousand tonnes shook, and the lighter “Juggernaut” nearly got thrown off.

“Damn…!”

He spread the four legs wide, and activated the pile drivers. The piles that were fired sank into the “Morpho” armor, and Shinn was jolted by the tremendous whiplash, such that even he, already used to high mobility combat, gritted his teeth. In return for that price, he fastened the “Undertaker” down, and secured a firing line.

At the same time, the “Morpho” turned its body around, its cannon raised and pointed upsides like the Beast challenging the Heavens.

The largest surge of overloading electricity flowed through the Railgun. Ruptures echoed the air as electricity ran down the barrel.

Shinn understood the intentions, and widened his eyes.

That guy’s,

Trying to take me with him…!?

At that moment, he did not sense fear nor emptiness in his mind. All he felt was relief for some reason.

This,

Should be the end, right?

Bang! An extremely light sound caused the battle to end for a moment.

 

The sound was a handgun shot. It was far from effective distance, and truth be told, it was hard to tell if it was hit. It was the final weapon to defend against the “Legion”, one powerless against its armor, and only used for blowing a person’s brains out.

The “Legion” instincts was to massacre all enemy presences, and the cracked optical sensors glared over. The “Juggernaut” had identified it as an unknown target, and its system automatically zoomed in.

It was Frederica, standing on the grasslands with blue butterflies dancing, her hands raising the handgun.

Her lips were moving.

 

“Kiri”

 

“At that moment, the steel dragon clearly saw its master, the Queen.”

“Princess”

It was a deep, relieved voice.

And before it, Frederica lowered her raised handgun.

Then, she pointed the hard handgun towards her temple.

What now? Are you not going to stop me, Knight of I?

I shall die.

She stood at a position where she would surely be caught in the self-destruction, all just to stop him──….

“Princess!”

The killing intent of the ”Morpho” immediately dissipated away, along with the electricity filling the cannon vanished,

And at that moment, Shinn squeezed the trigger.

From a corner of his eyes, he saw Fido reach over and nimbly grab Frederica with the crane arms. It turned and ran away at the fastest speed possible, not taking the time to put her into the container.

The shot was fired, and it landed. The APFSDS possessed a tremendous amount of kinetic energy as it punctured through the armor and the inner constructs, landing right on the CPU, causing the burning effects of a depleted uranium bullet core.

The “Morpho” was burning on the inside.

“─────────────────────────────────────!!”

The flowing nanomachines of the brain were burned as the “Morpho” screamed away. The deafening scream got Shinn to wince.

The steel beast was giving off dark red flames. The flowing nanomachines were torn apart by the flames, turning into silver ash as they fluttered.

That sight reminded Shinn of his brother melting away before his outstretched hand.
He could not convey the last words he really wanted to say.

Neither the hand nor the words could reach his brother.

Frederica’s Knight, encased within the “Morpho”, was wailing away.

It called out for the one it truly yearned, with the last word it said in life, with the hatred against everything else.

Princess.

Princess.

Princess.

I finally reunited with you again──…!

“…That’s enough,”

Shinn muttered despite knowing the words would not reach it.

The outstretched hand could not reached his brother that was burned to crisps.

The calling voice could not reached his brother that had departed from him.

The Dead belonged to the past.

There was nothing refutable about that. The Living, pushed towards the future and dragged along with the flow, could not interact with it.

Thus,

“It’s pointless for you to stay behind, and you have nowhere to do. Just disappear already.”

Suddenly, black eyes were turned towards him.

Those words were filled with some sadness.

Aren’t you?

The same here?

Like me, you have nothing left…

No, just now.

Just then, you intended to die together with me, right?

Before he realized it, that thing was right before his eyes.

Shinn felt a chill.

It was the same face.

Shinn might have thought he was seeing his own face as he did not recognize the appearance of this youth he was unacquainted with. Maybe they did resemble each other so much, Frederica ended up mistaking them for each other.

Or perhaps that was not Frederica’s Knight. That was…

The face had black eyes, which were different from Shinn’s, and they sneered coldly.

It was a color of darkness, one of the New Moon in Winter.

The same color as his brother’s eyes on a certain night.

Yes.

You have nothing.

Nothing to protect.

No place to return with.

You have no wishes, no objectives, nobody you can call for before you die.

You have no reason to continue living.

The outstretched hand grabbed at his throat.

It was not his brother’s hand. It was not that of Frederica’s Knight either.

The hand was rough, used to wielding guns and armored weapons.

It was his.

The palm was choking at his neck, the fingernails scratching beneath the scarf.

It was the scar his brother left on him.

This scar that was left…was the one proof that his brother truly existed.

The black eyes sneered.

Didn’t you struggle to live so that you can slay this?

Isn’t it because of that, that you managed to somehow survive?

So you finally succeeded, right? That means,

You’re unwanted.

You’re not needed on this world.

And now you don’t have any reason to keep you alive, right?

So that’s the case,

 

Why—are you still alive?

A snicker followed.

So you think that by slaying this, it’s all over, right?

You think you can end it all here, right?

But,

You’re still alone.

 

You’re still left behind.

 

“…!”

What he recalled.

Was the back of his departing brother, dressed in the camouflage uniform.

The “Juggernauts” that were blown up next to him

The faces of his helpless comrades as he shot them to relieve them from their miserable fates.

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Why?

Why is it that everyone,

Just leaves me behind,

And die before me?

The “Legion” had implemented multiple countermeasures to prevent secrets from being revealed if captured, like a paranoid-level of encryption, or a blowoff panel.

The “Morpho” in particular was their trump card after all.

A specialized sensor had detected that the CPU took fatal damage.

An independent control network activated the self-destruct sequence.

The objective was not necessarily to destroy the enemy along with it, but the high potency of the explosives could thoroughly destroy a unit weighing a thousand tonnes along with the 30m unique alloy barrel.

The destructiveness of the explosion scorched the butterflies on standby by the side, and burnt the back of Fido, which crouched over while protecting Frederica, sending the “Undertaker” atop it flying like wooden scraps.

It appeared he had passed out for merely a short moment.

He opened his eyes, and upon his cracked, contorted optical sensors, he saw the azure sky as it dawned.

The more he looked up, the more difficulty breathing, and he pulled down the lever to open the canopy. He knew there was no one outside, and even if there were, he did not mind.

The frame might have been twisted, and the canopy seemed jammed for a moment before it opened. The real sky remained uncorrected by the computer, showing a heavy azure ready to weigh down on everything. It was a dazzling blue, apparently going to fall and crush everything.

He heaved a sigh, leaned his head on the headrest, and closed his eyes.

For some reason, he felt—languid.

All this while, he had determined that any advance was a form of pride, that the Eighty-Sixers should fight till the very end, until they were worn out and killed in battle.

That was what he intended.

But truly, after slaying his brother, he was merely wandering around for a place to die on the battlefield called the first area, where he had thought he would die on.

He had hoped that the mechanical ghost of his brother, which had departed before him…could kill him off given that he was no different from a ghost.

If you haven’t been around.

That was what his brother had said in the past. Later on, a few others said the same.

But even so, as he had the objective of putting his brother’s soul to rest, he was able to live on. He had to bury his brother, and could still allow himself to live on.

Once he lost that objective, Shinn had no reason to keep on living.

──You still have a long, long life to live.

Those were the last words Shinn did hear from his brother. Those were the kind words of farewell that should be impossible to hear, yet granted to him beyond death.

Surely Shinn’s brother gave its blessings, regretting that they had to go their separate ways.

But for Shinn, it was a curse.

He had a future to live for, a very long time.

But he never hoped for such a thing.

In fact, he was anxiously hoping to die in a mutual kill with his brother on the First Area.

But,

Brother.

Why did you leave me behind strong>again?

Why, again, didn’t you bring me along?

If you did,

I wouldn’t have such feelings….

“…”!

He eked out a voice resembling either a beast’s growl, or a whimper. The shut eyelids started to heat up, and he covered it with one hand, but nothing flowed out.

The Death God.

Shinn never hated this moniker of his.

He had promised his dead comrades, whom he had fought alongside with, that he would treasure the memories with them, bring them to the very end, and never regretted it.

However,

Why was it that every single person,

Left him behind, alone.

And selfishly left before him?

Please do not leave me behind! He could hear a certain person’s crying voice.

If he was able to say so, would there be anyone willing to stay by his side?

He could see the carcass of the massive dragon burning away slightly before him, scorched completely black.

It was the final resting bed of the unfamiliar Knight who was the same as him, yet different from him.

It was the fate of the ghost without blood ties, no hometown, and no residence other than the battlefield. It was the fate of a ghost that had become a “Legion” unit, and yet still harbored thoughts for a certain person.

If he became a “Legion” unit, he had have no name he would call out for.

No name at all.

This left him extremely empty within.

He heard hasty footsteps approach him, and though he was too tired to raise his eyelids, he glanced over.

Frederica stepped in through the gap between the blue glass, her hand on the edge of the cockpit as she looked up at him.

“Truly you are acting like a dead person ready to be buried.”

With those words, Shinn merely snorted back coldly.

The cramped cockpit was a coffin for the dead, and the lapis glass were the burial flowers.

“…I guess.”

“What do you mean, I guess…callous as you are about your life.”

Her eyes were red, and she could not hide the tears flowing down her white face. The stern frown she tried to maintain looked so deflated.

That uppity attitude of hers remained for only a short while, before her shoulders dropped with a sigh.

“──Sorry. The gun you entrusted me with…”

Shinn looked at the little hands handing the gun over. The gun might have been hit by shrapnel, and there was a large crack from the extractor breech hole to the front of the frame. It appeared to be deep into the chamber, and was damage that rendered it useless.

“….Yeah,”

It was the handgun he kept with him to end his dead comrades, one he was reluctant to give up even after arriving at the Federation.

But surprisingly, he had no feelings over it.

He took the gun with one hand, and tossed it outside. The fusion of metal and enhanced resin flew out, in between the gaps of the blue butterflies, and let out a light thud.

Frederica was taken aback, and looked at where it flew.

“…! Why discard,”

“The insides and the barrel are cracked. It’s not a Federation model, can’t fix it.”

It used to be a Republic model, but the manufacturer was of the Alliance. It was possible to find parts, but Shinn was not that keen on keeping it.

Frederica looked over at Shinn dumbfoundedly, and then towards the fallen gun.

“Why…did you not use that handgun all the time to end your comrades? That is the proof of the bonds between you and your comrades. Even if it is broken, you should not be throwing it away…!?”

The hollow words left Shinn chuckling. Bonds?

“Whatever…in the end, I’m just using those guys as an excuse to return to the battlefield.”

He said he would bring them along…but he was just wandering around, looking for a place to die.

Surely they did not want to be dragged along on this stupid journey.

“That!”

Frederica tersely noted, her face contorted.

“That is not what you should say…you bore everything for them, not for such reasons…”

“…”

“What do you hope to abandon now? The promise with your deceased comrades, the pain you feel flowing in your soul…what do you think it is?”

She was bawling.

In the light of dawn, he could see clear tears flow down the cheeks.

“Cold is your heart, and the the feelings with your comrades are burning, hurting you. If you find it an ordeal too much to bear, everyone will share it with you, so can you try relying on those around you a little…those around you left you behind, leaving nobody for you to rely on, but that should be a matter of the past…”

Upon hearing Frederica mention something he never spoke of, he narrowed his eyes.

It was a result of her ability, so much so that she would involuntarily witness it. In a certain sense, it was unavoidable, especially since Shinn could not control his own ability as well. However, he was displeased that she was talking as though she knew everything.

“…You’re peeping again?”

“Fool. You have been thinking about the Dead…you pretended to have given up on them, but you continued to bear them, and I saw as a result. You never abandoned any single one of them, and never forgot them…and you say you give up on them, you big fool.”

Grrr, Frederica clenched her fists, and with the back of her hand, she crudely wiped her tears away, turning back to look at Fido, which was slightly afar, on standby.

“Fido, retrieve the handgun this fool just discarded. I too shall help to find it, make sure you find it.”

“Fido, don’t mind. We don’t have the time for this.”

Faced with such conflicting orders at the same time, Fido’s optical sensors appeared to be rolling its eyes. “…Pii.” It looked towards Frederica for some reason, awaiting further instructions. Before she could continue, Shinn grabbed her by the scruff like a kitten, and tossed her into the cockpit.

“! What in the world,”

“Of course we’re going back. The unit’s all damaged, and I can’t handle any new enemies.”

Though the enemy was far away from here, Shinn sensed that the “Legion” had begun to move due to the anomaly it detected.

The four pile drivers were completely wrecked, one high frequency blade was snapped and blown far away, and the drive systems were overloaded for long periods, indicating alerts. It really was in no state to fight.

He was fine with dying here, like this, but he had to get Frederica back. He had to affirm, but the main forces of the Federation should be making progress. He could try to avoid combat and try to regroup with the main forces…but then, what?

What else could he do? A tad later, he realized it was a dumb question.

It was meaningless of him to ask this dumb question. The war against the “Legion” had not ended, and surely they would engage again. As long as the war did not end, he would have to fight…and one day, he would die in defeat, just like that.

Why fight?…for what reason does he fight?

He was never able to answer this question.

He had been subconsciously avoiding this question.

If he had answered that he wanted to die, what would be the expression of Eugene, who raised that question?

If he wanted to die…he should be the one who died back then, and not Eugene.

The incessant thoughts were interrupted when Frederica suddenly embraced him.

“…What now?”

“What, you ask? Fool…once we regroup with friendlies, you are to request for a break and rest for a moment. Lest you will soon…”

The morning air in the North outdoors cooled the bodies, and the warmth unique to children got Shinn really hot, and very annoyed.

But for some reason, he did not want to push Frederica aside, as he looked up at the sky while she hugged him.

It was a bitter azure sky.

It’ll be great if the sky falls, so he thought.

The sun rose.

The blue butterflies were shooed by the morning sun cutting in, flapping their metallic wings.

The lapis air instantly became a tempest. His vision was filled with glittering sparkles, which were seemingly attracted by the skies as they flew away.

Butterflies.

No matter the civilization, areas, eras.

They were said to symbolize the dead souls that had returned.

He unwittingly reached his hand out, and naturally, grabbed nothing.

He looked up at the blue lights that quickly blended into the skies…a sigh later, he input instructions into the system to close the cockpit.

The canopy was sealed, and the beacon lights were lit. Unlike the Republic’s units, the cockpit had an air lock to withstand biological and chemical weapons.

The system that was in suspense mode was rebooted. The holographic windows showed various information, finally working normally, and the dimmed optical screens lit up too.

The screens flickered a few times, and suddenly, there was a flash of red.

Long red petals fluttered in the wind. They were the Licorice that were trampled upon by the blue butterflies, lifting their long and thin petals and their long stamina exhibiting the crimson crowns in a radial manner.

It was a colony. During this season of bloom, there were no leaves, and the blooming Licorice formed a distinct crimson sea of flowers.

So the wind blew, and the flowers swayed like mute demons. The red petals trampled under the metal limbs fluttered in the air, dancing fleetingly. Amidst this endless radiance of crimson,

Before he knew it, there was a girl with silvery white hair and eyes, dressed in deep blue army uniform, gasping lightly.

She witnessed the pure white light slashing apart the night before the dawn on the screen, located in the control room of the Grand Mur’s intercepting cannons.

 

The bottom end of her legs was buried in the crimson carpet of Licorice, and she stopped moving towards the field dress of unknown affiliation.

The concept of the design was likely to be different from the Republic’s field dresses. The nimble four legs resembled that of an Arthropod’s, and the streamlined armor resembled polished white bones. Its armaments included an 88mm cannon with a gun mount arm, and a high frequency blade that was snapped and flung far away. It possessed the functional beauty of a high performance weapon, primed to maximize its killing abilities, and a cold, vicious beauty or a prized gun or sword, ready to execute in actual combat.

But for some reason, Lena found it to resemble the “Juggernaut”. It was akin to the ominous vibes of a white skeleton, wandering the battlefield, seeking its lost head.

She did not know if it was friend or foe, or if it was a new “Legion” model.

However,

At the very least, it was the enemy of the long distance cannon type, which had crushed the Grand Mur with its railgun.

That was why she took the initiative to call for covering fire. While the other party did not respond, it did work together to take the same enemy down. Later, she saw that it was caught in the self-destruction blast of the long distance cannon, and came running over. The pilot, if there was a person inside, might be heard. Even if it wasn’t, she should at least say thanks to it for saving them.

A path had been cleared across the landmine field before the Grand Mur, but one would wonder if they did clear out 80% of them, which was the military safety regulation. The “Juggernaut” escorting her, the “Cyclops” hurried over, and carried her to this point.

The “Cyclops” processor, Captain Shiden Iida watched the unknown unit with the optical sensors of her “Juggernaut”, saying,

“If anything happens, you better run, Your Highness. Coming to the battlefield without any protection will just hinder us.”

“No need to worry. It seems nothing will happen”

They approached it, and the unit of unknown affiliation stood up. It appeared neither the pilot nor the unit were damaged to the point of immobility.

Their eyes caught sight of the personal mark etched upon the side armor, the headless skeleton with its shovel raised.

Ahh…, Shiden blurted out in shock, a rare response from her

“No way…!? No, how’s that possible…”

“Captain Iida?”

“You haven’t noticed…ah, I see. You haven’t seen it before…”

“…?”

Shiden then kept quiet.

And the unit of unknown affiliation turned its red optical sensors towards them.

 

“What, you ask? Fool…once we regroup with friendlies, you are to request for a break and rest for a moment. Lest you will soon…”

The morning air in the North outdoors cooled the bodies, and the warmth unique to children got Shinn really hot, and very annoyed.

But for some reason, he did not want to push Frederica aside, as he looked up at the sky while she hugged him.

It was a bitter azure sky.

It’ll be great if the sky falls, so he thought.

The sun rose.

The blue butterflies were shooed by the morning sun cutting in, flapping their metallic wings.

The lapis air instantly became a tempest. His vision was filled with glittering sparkles, which were seemingly attracted by the skies as they flew away.

Butterflies.

No matter the civilization, areas, eras.

They were said to symbolize the dead souls that had returned.

He unwittingly reached his hand out, and naturally, grabbed nothing.

He looked up at the blue lights that quickly blended into the skies…a sigh later, he input instructions into the system to close the cockpit.

The canopy was sealed, and the beacon lights were lit. Unlike the Republic’s units, the cockpit had an air lock to withstand biological and chemical weapons.
The silver haired girl stood in the sea of red flowers.

The hem of the dark blue army uniform was scorched and torn, accompanied with a large assault rifle strapped over her thing shoulder. The eyes were of the same color as her silvery hair, which were covered in soot.

There used to be a monthly air resupply, and an occasional redeployment of bases. Each time, he saw the colors he did not want to witness, but finally got used to.

The Republic of San Magnolia’s,

The people who drove them Eighty-Sixers onto the battlefield, deployed them to various intense battle areas as the latter had lived for far too long, and ordered them to ultimately die.

The silver hair fluttered in the wind, and the silvery white face reminded Shinn of a young girl whose face remained vague to him. That face was reminiscent of a boy of the same age as him, dressed in steel colored uniform, and he gasped.

If only you had died instead.

He hurriedly averted his eyes, and saw the black armored “Juggernaut” standing there, the aluminium coffin he used on the battlefield called the Eighty Sixth Area, and gasped again. The horizon behind it remained vague, albeit a silhouette of a cold grey concrete structure…that was probably the Grand Mur.

He sneered.

He thought he was moving forward, but ultimately, he was simply wandering around at the same spot.

Frederica in his clutches lifted her head, her petite body shivering, enduring the agony, it seemed. However, Shinn pretended not to notice as he pressed the speaker switch.

“──I presume you are the commander of the San Magnolia Republic army.”

It appeared to be damaged from the battle against the long distance cannon, the external speakers was severely faulty, and the voice was hard to hear

The tone sounded aloof and stoic.

“Yes. And you are…”

“This is a unit affiliated to the Western Army of the Geade Federation Western Army, 177th Mobile Division Headquarters.”

In stark contrast to the extremely polite tone, the voice remained cold and aloof.

If the affiliation was correct, then he—most likely a male despite the heavily damaged speakers—should be a soldier of Geade that was an enemy ten years ago. It appeared a political change had happened to warrant a change of title, and the “Legion” had become a mutual enemy of them, but it did not necessarily imply that the other party viewed the Republic army as one of them.

He was unwilling to give his name, probably because of some insecurity, or that the Federation army he spoke of intended to keep this confidential…however, the Eighty-Sixers would never tell the Republic citizens of their names if they were not asked, and Lena herself no longer thought of it as an act of insolence.

“To maintain the Federation’s frontlines, we have implemented the elimination of the “Morpho”──the railgun attached “Legion” unit. Thank you for your assistance in this operation.”

“No….but you alone made it through the “Legion” Controlled Area? Why is such a cruel operation implemented…”

“──”

The silent response was a little cold.

Hmph. Shiden chuckled on her side of the Para-RAID. Lena too realized something, and clicked her tongue.

A single unit, or a squadron, was forced to move through the “Legion” controlled area…it was no different from the last order of the mission given to the first squadron of the first battle areas on all frontlines, the special scouting mission which the Eighty-Sixers were all basically forced to be eliminated.

And to think she could call it cruel.

“…Thank you for your concern, but the main forces of the Western Army is approaching behind. I suppose contact will be made.”

“I see. Thank goodne…”

“Will you like to come along?”

“Eh?”

“I suppose our forces can protect a few people.”

But unlike what he said, he sounded completely indignant.

It sounded like he had realized the Republic’s predicament, knew that over the past two months, the Republic’s defense lines had been forced back, and was being worn out in terms of territory and fighting strength. Because of this, what he wanted to ask was, do you have any intention to run? However, it was without any intention to humiliate, nor was there any sarcasm. It was simply an empty voice.

Like a lost child who was weary, rooted, not knowing where to go, and had no idea where he came from.

But she was a little miffed.

That tone seemed to have implied that they had no intentions to fight.

It was ridiculous.

“No. I cannot abandon this country—not the subordinates who fought under my charge. Even if we do suffer defeat due to inability…I am going to continue fighting here.”

Lena boasted.

And the Federation officer gave a chuckle.

 

What was said was truly ridiculous, and Shinn was left gobsmacked.

Fight?

A Republic soldier, who kept hiding within the walls of her country, and watched its demise?

No, more importantly,

“For what?”

He was surprised that there were others still alive, but the fact remained that the Republic was wiped out.

The only weapons used to fight the long ranged tactical weapon were the few tactical weapons and the “Juggernauts” armed with short ranged weapons, and given the insignia of the self-proclaimed commander girl, it was likely she was at most of Captain. It was unlikely that she was a high ranking officer, just a lower ranking officer commanding the troops. The few talents and fighting strength were completely exhausted after two months.

…If the Major was still alive,

Would it be her standing at this place? Shinn had such a momentary notion, only to shake his head, thinking it was pointless.

There was neither reason nor need, or the strength, for that matter.

So even so, why fight?

For what reason?

“Are you seeking death? …in that case, you shouldn’t be fighting, you know?”

He could hear the silent mockery in his words.

But he wondering, who was he really directing those words to?

 

“In that case, you shouldn’t be fighting, you know”

The cold mockery seemed to be directed at both parties, and the voice sounded disdainful. Lena clenched her tender hands.

“! I might not have enough strength, but I too…”

Does it mean she cannot fight if she had no strength?

Does it mean she cannot live on if there is no meaning?

It was preposterous.

She glanced aside at “Cyclops”, which remained there, the overly feeble “Juggernaut” clearly inferior to the Federation unit before her.

There was a group of people who fought with these flimsy machines as their only partners, their final resting beds, and kept fighting to the very end even after knowing there was no way for them to survive.

Those words were humiliating them. There was no way she could remain silent!

“There was a group of people who said that they would never do anything as shameful as kneeling down in defeat. Until their lives end, they would never give up. They would continue to fight until the very end, giving their all. That was how they lived, and they believed I could do the same. So we—I,”

── If one day, we arrive at the end of our journey.

To repay those words, the feelings that were entrusted to her.

──We shall be on our way, Major.

Shinn.

You once said this to me. So one day, I will surely catch up to you.

“I want to keep fighting, to catch up to them, who lived their lives fully, to bring them further on…I am the defense forces commander of the old Republic, Captain Vladlena Millize. I will never run away from this way!”

At that moment.

The Federation unit turned towards Lena, seemingly shocked.

“…!? Major…!?”

The stunned word echoed from the other end of the broken speaker. For some reason, it was not the rank she had just introduced herself with.

While the Federation and the Republic shared the same language, there were some minor differences in nuances. Military matters-wise, the distinctions remained striking. The same word might not refer to the same rank.

After a moment of hesitation and silence, the Federation soldier said,

“──They’re all dead. What obligations do you have for the Dead?”

The voice appeared to be concealing its emotions unnaturally, to the point of sounding distant.

At the same time…there appeared a fair bit of reliance in that voice.

Like a lost child timidly reaching his hand out to the person calling out for him.

That might be the impression given to Lena, who for some reason, felt that she had to respond.

“He said he hoped that I would not forget them.”

Under the same skies, they were watching different flames. She made a promise that could not possibly be fulfilled, saying that one day, they would watch the fireworks together. At the same time, she was entrusted with their wishes.

For the one thing she could do was to repay them…ahh, no, not only that.

For she did not want to forget them.

Lena did not wish for the aloof him, who left so many things behind for her, to completely vanish from this world.

As long as she remembered he, he would surely be waiting before her.

“He told me of this tragic fate──that the “Legion” would start a mass scale invasion, and thus, I could live. He hoped for me to live, telling me that he hoped to meet me one day, that I could continue to fight. Because of him…I can continue to live like this.”

“…”

“So I want to respond. They may not be around, but at the very least, I hope to reach where they arrived at. I want to follow them, who once lived, and together,”

The wish for them to survive could no longer be fulfilled, but,

“I want to fight──I want to bring them to the ends of this battlefield.”

 

Faced with these words, Shinn gave a quiet sigh.

Those words were not directed at the current him.

She remained oblivious, and was merely repeating the embarrassing pretty words he said a year ago, when he had no idea what his true wishes were, and what would be the result of those wishes.

But even so,

──Because of them.

──Together, I want to fight.

Those words made him happy.

But he grimaced, for he felt that he could no longer give his name.

She gave chase after them, fighting alone, and what she should see,

Was not the sight of him kneeling on his knees in this battlefield──

“──Same to you,”

“…Eh,”

“You too are the same. You fought to the very end—wanting to live, and that’s why you’re here.”

The sun had completely risen.

The clear sunshine was shining onto her front.

“I think that’s all the more reason for you to be proud of that.”

On the cracked main window, the girl he met for the first time was smiling──.

 

The red optical sensors of the Federation unit was staring at Lena quietly.

Upon see the cold lights, Lena felt the cloud of maladies vanish.

Within the armor that was filled with the sands of battle, the fatigue, unbreakable curses, the shadows weighing down on the pilot seemed to have vanished.

“…Major”

That person appeared to be fumbling with his words, wanting to say something, and sounding really clumsy.

The external speakers remained choppy and filled with noise, and it was impossible to determine the age and gender. For some reason, the voice resembled a youth of similar age to her.

“Major, I…”

At that moment.

There was a numbness, as the presence within the armor suddenly tensed. The optical sensor turned to the side in shock, and in the distant Northern skies, silver clouds of Einstagfliege gathered.

A tad later, Shiden, in the “Cyclops” next to her, groaned,

“Your Highness, this is bad. We got contact with “Milan” of the Grand Mur…“Legion” is approaching!”

“Not good──To the Federation officer, please come retreat with us…”

“──No,”

Kazaa, a shrill noise interrupted them, not from Shiden, and not from the Federation officer.

Waves after waves of air-to-air missiles abandoned the sounds far behind as they raced through the dawning sky from East to North, through the silver clouds, and spreading blooming fires everywhere. A second wave seized upon this interval to fire more arcs down towards the lands beneath the Einstagfliege, where the “Legion” forces were gathered.

The silhouettes of the battle helicopters accompanied a power rotor noise as they flew in from behind. The forces of multi-purpose helicopters and transport helicopters then swooped in from low attitude.

An external speaker with some choppy noises broadcasted the battle helicopter pilot’s voice in the clear morning sky.

“Good work, Lieutenant. Leave the rest to us.”

 

The armored infantries rode upon the multi-purpose helicopters and the larger transport helicopters, and descended upon the fiery red battlefield. The powerful downburst ripped apart the red petals, forming red patches in the azure sky.

They, armed with assault rifles, hurried down the helicopters, and deployed formations everywhere. Through his cracked main screen, Shinn saw one squadron head towards Lena and the “Juggernaut”.

Lena saw the steel colored armored infantries, and for a moment, was suspicious, but once one of them removed the helmet, she looked relieved.

However, she insisted that they relinquish their assault rifles. One might say she was the same as she used to be.

Faced with the sudden change of the situation, Shinn was taken aback. After some arguments, the black “Juggernaut” finally opened its canopy unwillingly, and the RAID device was activated.

“…You alright, Shinn?”

It was a male voice, not of the Chief of Staff, nor the Division Commander that was his direct superior.

“Has the cavalry arrived yet? I hurriedly deployed the other frontlines over when the strategy changed.”

Faced with the strangely gleeful person, Shinn let out a long sigh without thinking.

To be honest, he was of great help. But even so,

“Ernst. Once we get back, can I throw something onto you?”

First off, a paint can. Uncapped, of course.

“Ehh!? What’s with that!? I’m just worried for my precious children, why am I treated like this!?”

Without saying anything, Shinn shut the Para-RAID down. Soon after, Frederica frowned away as she pressed down on her own RAID device.

“So I understand how you feel, but do respond, Shinei. That blockhead’s fake crying truly is annoying.”

Frederica handed over the RAID device that was tossed aside, and Shinn could only take it unwillingly.

“You’re still on the frontlines, Ernst?”

“Well, I’m the highest ranked commander of the Federation army after all. All the more reason I should be on the frontlines.”

“You’re acting as the President, and yet you come to the frontlines. It’s not going to be finally if you die due to a stray bullet.”

“Acting, you say….anyway, even if that does happen, the vice President can take over. Why do you think the position of Vice President exist”

The temporary President continued nonchalantly, saying words that were logically sound, but not usually said.

“According to the report of the advanced team, it appears you have made contact, but just to say…once the operation ends, the Federation army shall provide aid the old Republic of San Magnolia. The United Kingdom unmanned unit had intercepted a wireless network deep within enemy territory, and the three countries have came to this decision after negotiations. It is immoral to abandon those in need, and furthermore, if the enemy builds a second “Morpho”, and we leave it within the defensive structures inside the Republic, it might cause a severe threat to the surrounding countries.”

“…”

“The Federation will be basically saving your comrades…the Eighty-Sixers who have been fighting like you, and thus there was no disagreement. However, I suppose that place isn’t the homeland you want to return to. If you don’t want to fight for your oppressors, we can watch for the main forces to enter before sending you to the backlines…”

“No need for that.”

He shook his head.

“I’ll stay. I have no intentions of helping the Republic…but there’s a person there I don’t want to see dead.”

“…I see.”

The legal adoptive father seemed to be smiling at the other end of the Para-RAID communicator.

“Ahh, yes…you have completed the objective of this operation, so do remember to write a report, Lieutenant Nouzen. There are other children to help write the report this time, so you should be fine.”

Shinn abruptly lifted his face.

“There’re some still alive?”

“…Seriously, that’s the first thing you should be checking, you know?”

Once he heard the interrupting voice, Shinn discreetly looked up to the sky.

Raiden.

“Didn’t think that everyone in the squad, including the Colonel, survived the entire thing. And I thought you died when you were blown aside and stopped moving…well, I was a little worried about you.”

“And Krena was really bawling out loud there. Seems like the RAID device was damaged during the attack, and she couldn’t contact you at that moment, Shinn.”

“I wasn’t crying!”

“Well, this is not your fault alone, Shinn, but this is the second time you made Krena cry. Enough with the recklessness now, okay”

Following that were the yapping of his comrades. It seemed they had reunited.

It appeared neither Heaven nor Hell wanted them in. He looked over, and found a group of people dressed in Panzer Jacke waving from the multi-purpose helicopter, and beyond another three kilometres and so, a taller silhouette was approaching nonchalantly from what was a hilly region.

At least this time, it appeared that,

None of them left before him

Shinn heaved a sigh of relief, and immediately felt exhausted. The effects of the cumulative fatigue over the past few days and the concentration from the battle before had finally overwhelmed him. He closed his eyes, feeling a little dizzy. Ernst might have realized that, and said,

“Good work there, Shinn. Leave the capture of the Bridge fort to the advanced squadron, and have a rest.”

“──Understood”

“Also, Frederica. Once we return, I shall lecture your thoroughly. Prepare yourself.”

Ugh! Frederica immediately gasped.

She looked up pleadingly, which was followed with a flat response into the Para-RAID.

“I’ll send her back in a container.”

“S-Shinei!? Et tu!?”

“Ahaha, I shall leave it to you then, big brother.brother”

Ernst chuckled, and disconnected.

Frederica pouted without thinking, and turned aside.

“…I will not return even after regrouping with the main forces. Only when we return to the Federation will I head home.”

“Looks like there’s no need for a hostage.”

“Looks that way.”

Frederica snorted, and lifted her head back, turning towards him. She was seated on Shinn’s legs within the cramped cockpit, and her head was poking at his chest.

“That blockhead of a commander certainly chose to interrupt at the most inopportune moment. Is it really fine not to give your name? That person was your commander in the Republic, right?”

“…I never mentioned anything about the Major to you?”

Saying that, Shinn realized something.

“Have you forgotten my ability? The power of the bloodline inherited by I is to witness the present and the past of those I know of”

…Ah, right.

The red eyes were akin to a kitten preying upon a mouse as they glittered away. It appeared to be for the best that he did not ask her the specifics.

“The memories I see are the subconscious ones when I ‘see’ the other person. When she mentioned her name and talked of you, you were really shocked. I thought that person might have some relationship with you, so I had a ‘look’──…”

It was the worst outcome possible.

“You said, We shall be on our way, no?…it is a good thing that she made it this part. She admired you so much that she made it all the way here, and yet you are unwilling to reveal your identity. Is it fine?”

Frederica continued to grin away, and Shinn let out a little sigh.

He was miffed that she was elated about being able to tease him…but it was the first time he saw her show such an honest expression befitting her age.

“…I can’t give her my name.”

Not on the Eighty-Sixth battlefield where he wandered around, seeking a place to die, and unable to step forward one bit.

“She said she’ll catch up to us. She finally caught up, but it’s a bad thing to see us like this. After all these advances, what she should see is,”

Not the sight of him with knees on the ground, the forehead resting on the ground

“Not this battlefield.”

Good grief, so Frederica sighed..

“Well…a male you are after all.”

“?”

“So what I am implying here is that, creatures like you have an obsession of keeping your dignity during such situations.”

Frederica looked disappointed as she berated Shinn. She glanced up at him, and raised an eyebrow.

“Have you not noticed? You had answered.”

Taken aback, Shinn looked back at Frederica, whose eyes were glittering gleefully for some reason.

“That person wants to move on, and there needs to be a scenery suitable for it. The path that person shall take will be the path you took…so, where shall your final destination be?”

You have already answered that yourself…so she implied.

Shinn looked back at the similar red eyes that were smiling gently.

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