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Youjo Senki, Volumen 3, Capitulo 2, Parte 3


MAY 26, UNIFIED YEAR 1925, AT SEA: IMPERIAL SUBMARINE CONNING STATION

The interior of a submarine is, albeit by necessity, terribly cramped. For that reason, most inexperienced passengers end up grumbling about how they keep bonking this or that part of their body against something.

That’s what normally happens.

“Excuse me, Captain Treizel, you called?”

The one who passed nimbly through the hatch without even ducking was the aerial mage battalion commander Major Tanya von Degurechaff.

She was the only one the crew wouldn’t get to tease about bumping down the passages in confusion, at least not for a while.

Why? Because she had an exceptional body, in a way. Even sailors of the shortest stature would need to stoop to move around inside the sub, but her height clearly presented no issue.

…And even if someone wanted to go out of their way to comment on it, anyone with a lick of sense would think twice upon seeing the many service ribbons she wore as proof of her brilliant achievements.

“How’s the ride, Major?”

“It’s been quite tranquil, sir, thank you. And the food is so delicious that I can’t hold back tears of gratitude.”

As they exchanged leisurely greetings, Major von Degurechaff saluted in the naval style with a precisely bent elbow.

The captain suddenly wondered if he should be impressed or repulsed, but he responded with an army-style return salute.

It was his boat, but he could still show a passenger respect.

In fact, he wanted to show respect to her after all, the little lady getting a lift was an old hand, casually sporting service ribbons for every sort of medal given to those serving in the field, not the least of which was the Silver Wings Assault Badge.

“I thought mages were treated as magic army members and given high-calorie diets?”

“I don’t mean to be contrary, Captain Treizel, but most of what we’re given is blocks of nutritional supplements. Even things like canned fruit and white sausage are rare…”

And she handled the flattery between combat unit commanders in different fields with aplomb. Even just the commanding officers having a cordial relationship could make it easier to avoid quarrels in a small community, so the exchange was compelled by necessity.

Still, he was happy to hear Degurechaff grumble about how great the food was on the submarine.

Having a chef who could make use of the tiny onboard kitchen and limited utensils, but who also did their best to be creative, was something for a submarine crew to be proud of, even more than other naval units.

“It’s a perk you only get on a sub, where it’s very hard to find anything else to enjoy.”

“Even so, isn’t it awfully elaborate?”

“You can tell? Ah, maybe your young tongue is more sensitive to the difference. All right, I’ll let you in on it… We actually poached an outstanding cook from Fleet Command! Still, more than anything, I’m glad the taste is to your liking. There really isn’t much else to look forward to. It may be cramped in here, but I hope you’ll enjoy mealtimes.”

Long patrols, endless routine. Yes, to a submarine crew, patrol duty essentially meant each day would be no different from the last. Until an enemy ship was spotted, they could only earnestly endure the idle hours. And the result of that, the captain grumbled in his head, is that when the torpedoes we were recently issued were discovered to have defects, the submarine captains took their anger out on the Technology Department instead of enemy ships.

Hence, for some time, Treizel and the other submarine captains had been getting particularly good treatment when it came to food in an attempt to mollify them. The outstanding cook was one instance.

“When the state is so understanding, it usually means there’s something else going on.”

“I’m not sure that suspicion is warranted. Come now, Major!”

The two of them grinned. Commanders knew that if high command happened to show some consideration, it meant they had their reasons.

“Oh, please extend my thanks to the sub that pulled that feint for us off the coast of Norden.”

“Hmm? You were up in those waters?”

“Yes, the submarine provided a splendid distraction. I was touched by the Technology Department’s minute thoughtfulness in issuing ‘diversionary blast torpedoes.’”

“Ha-ha-ha! We were so thankful to the developers that we invited them to a party on board in appreciation of their work.”

“What a beautiful friendship. I’m envious.” Though Degurechaff was joking around more than usual, her tone contained some slight resignation.

The captain replied with the smile of someone in on a secret and added one other thing. “Yes, it’s just as you say. Oh dear, oh dear, I almost forgot.”

“Sir?”

“We received a message just a bit ago… Operation Lock Pick is under way.”

“Excuse me while I take a look.”

The smirky vibe of their conversation up to that point was gone. Degurechaff took the telegram and ran her eyes intently over it, nodded once, reread it, and then smiled in satisfaction.

“Wonderful. Now the revolving door will work.”

It must have been subconscious, but with her eyes alight like those of a predator cornering its prey, she looked insane.

Ahh, so that’s why. That’s why this young girl was given an alias White Silver.

“Cut off the rear and encircle them for a perfect annihilation. This will be the ideal mobile encirclement battle one that ends in obliteration. What truly, truly wonderful news. With this, the fate of the Rhine front is decided.” She exhaled. “This is just great.”

It was the sigh of a beast that had its prey right where it wanted it. But if she didn’t have that mentality, there was no way she would have been given an elite aerial mage battalion at such a young age.

“Yes, I’m a bit jealous. The General Staff told us to keep patrolling, but they ordered you to go immediately to participate in the decisive battle in the Low Lands.”

“Huh?”

“We’re currently heading east, quite a ways off the patrol line. We’ll surface before dawn fully prepared for you to take off.”

Chosen specifically by the General Staff to return, sent on a special operation ahead of Operation Lock Pick it seemed she and her unit were “exceptional” in all sorts of ways.

“Thank you, Captain. Allow me to wish you everlasting luck in battle.”

“We’ve all been very honored to assist you. I wish you luck as well.”

Thus, as an imperial soldier, Treizel was proud that his boat had been able to lend a hand to such a unit. Everyone did the job they were meant to do.

As such, Degurechaff was a fellow soldier he could be proud of, which was why he extended his hand in utmost seriousness to wish her well.

Even if her hand was as small as his daughter’s, this was a handshake with a fellow soldier.

Upon leaving Captain Treizel, Tanya is relating the good news to her subordinates, who are clustered in the space the crew managed to find for them next to the forward torpedo tubes.

“Attention, Company! Our battalion commander has instructions for us!”

“Thanks, Lieutenant. All right, gentlemen. You can listen as you are. We’re mooching a lift on this sub, so we should be more worried about causing trouble for the crew… Anyhow, I just heard from Captain Treizel that Operation Lock Pick is under way!”

Her subordinates are hearing this for the first time, and from the tone of her voice, they gather it’s something quite important, so they brace themselves to learn what it could mean.

Their eyes ask, What’s Operation Lock Pick?

“It’s one of the main offensives planned for the Rhine front. And, gentlemen, it’s going well. According to the report, the leading group blasted through the enemy trench line. The main forces of the Republican Army are completely cut off in the Low Lands.”

Cheers go up.

To veterans of the Rhine, a major operation, along with the expected changes in the state of the war it would entail, mean the victory they’ve been dreaming of.

So many imperial soldiers sank into the muck to put them on a road to victory, and breaking the trench lines and tying down the enemy is what will take them there.

“Troops, it’s a complete encirclement. The main enemy forces are like a rat in a trap.”

“Complete encirclement” sounds to everyone like their long-cherished wish for victory. After all, a surrounded, isolated army can no longer be called an army.

Unable to hide their excitement, her men whisper among themselves. They’re so bubbly that normally Tanya would be confused Are these really the select elites of the 203rd Aerial Mage Battalion?

But today, she will generously affirm their behavior.

Victory. It’s such a spellbinding fruit.

“This ship will participate in a mission to blockade the coast. We, on the other hand, will sortie before dawn tomorrow. We’ll participate in the annihilation battle in the Low Lands and then return to base. The field trip lasts until we make it home. My brothers-in-arms, I won’t forgive you if you race off to Valhalla without joining the victory banquet!”

That’s why, though she’s giving them a warning, her tone is spirited. In order to taste the sweet nectar of victory, it’s important to tighten the helmet straps even after a win.

“All right, gentlemen, before we go to war, let’s fill our stomachs. Captain Treizel and the crew have kindly furnished us with what little provisions they can. Drink as you like up until the twelve-hours preflight regulation cutoff. That is all!”

Then she clinks glasses in hasty cheers with her nearest men. She celebrates imperial victory with canned food and instant coffee, and once the troops pull in some off-duty sailors and start drinking, she rises. “It’s probably hard for you guys to let loose with me around,” she says to Lieutenant Weiss, then withdraws.

In this way, Tanya escapes the drinking party as a considerate superior officer and retires to the only captain’s quarters on board, which Captain Treizel was extraordinarily kind enough to yield to her. Now she can think at her leisure.

The topic is the upcoming war situation and how she should comport herself.

The initial phase of Operation Lock Pick is a total success. As a result, the scales are tilted heavily in the Empire’s direction. Under these circumstances, the Republic is almost certain to drop out of the fight. What’s more, as long as we don’t get Dunkirked,5 we should be able to end the war.

In other words, de facto victory is right in front of us. Supremacy in battle yes, victory. So Tanya understands that the end of the war, peace, and promotion that wonderful future hangs on the outcome of these operations.

That truth gives her renewed hope. After all, humans are capable of working awfully hard when presented with a purpose. Right purpose, right method, fair compensation. It’s actually quite a lovely labor cycle; I’m inspired.

And there’s next to no worry of being Dunkirked.

After all, submarines, among other units, will be blockading the seaboard. And perhaps most importantly, the Imperial Army thoroughly demolished the proper Low Lands sea access point when they withdrew. On top of that, the underwater mines originally deployed to protect the port facilities are thick.

Escaping by sea this way is impossible. So the Republican Army is literally a rat in a trap.

Ahh, splendid!

That satisfaction uproots her nagging hunch that they were in for a sorrowful defeat and tosses it out the window. It’s more than enough to compensate for her pent-up anxiety and exhaustion. And with the strings of tension loosened, Tanya, who also has a cozy bed for the first time in long while, gives herself readily over to sleep and is able to get a good rest.

In this way, while her partied-out subordinates struggle to wedge their long bodies into the cramped crew beds in the torpedo tube room, Tanya enjoys her peaceful nap.

Then, having relished every last wink of her unbelievably comfortable sleep, she stretches her back in anticipation of a great morning, inquires as to the boat’s whereabouts from the duty officer on the bridge, and nods in satisfaction.

“Ahh, Major, you’re awake?”

“Oh, morning, Lieutenant Weiss. Were there any idiots trying to pull pranks on Lieutenant Serebryakov while she slept?”

“Rest easy, ma’am. The boat hasn’t sunk, so I think perhaps not.”

“Ha-ha-ha!”

Chatting with Lieutenant Weiss and the duty officer, who apparently had been discussing the weather, Tanya is even able to experience the joy of a quiet morning aboard the submarine for a moment.

“She’s on a perpetual battlefield like you, Major. If any numbskulls had attacked her while she was sleeping, I’m sure the hull would have been breached.”

“I’ll agree to disagree. We can’t start the morning off with a pointless debate. What’s our situation?”

The ability to have trivial conversations can’t be underestimated. Especially in extreme circumstances, soldiers who can’t crack a smile will be useless before long. On that point, Tanya is impressed by the sense that life goes on even in the belly of this submarine, proof of humanity’s greatness, but she remembers their important duties and obligations and cuts the frivolous conversation short.

“I woke everyone up. They must be sober by now. I’m sure they’re in better shape than during our endurance training.”

“Very good. If anyone collapses due to a hangover, we’ll have to throw them into the sea to ice their head.”

As she is getting the unit’s status from Lieutenant Weiss and thanking him for saving her time, a naval officer addresses her.

“Excuse me, Major von Degurechaff. I have a message from Captain Treizel. We’re almost at the appointed coordinates.”

“Thanks. I hate to make you run back and forth, but I’d appreciate it if you’d tell him I’ll have my unit up on deck right away. Also, do you think I could get a weather report and a sea chart?”

It’s time to wish a fond farewell to comfortably cruising the ocean, great food, and bottomless coffee. But what is there to be upset about? If we just finish this war, we can reclaim daily life in a flash.

We’re going to end the war. In that case, there’s another benefit to one final push. Meaningful work means happiness.

So Tanya merrily lines up her subordinates on the narrow deck of the submarine. Though a company’s worth of personnel is a tight fit, it feels positively spacious compared to the sub’s interior. Surely it’s human nature to feel relieved.

Upon giving the orders to perform a quick equipment check, Tanya notices Captain Treizel, who must have come out of his way to see them off, in the bridge lookout position.

“You’re off, then?” he says, descending with a hand extended.

The two commanders shake hands as the etiquette goes, and Tanya expresses her gratitude.

“Yes. Thanks for everything, Captain Treizel.”

“Thank you. It was an honor to assist such brave soldiers as yourselves. It’s cliché to say, but I hope you stay safe out there.”

“Thank you! On behalf of my unit, I hope that you and your men will be victorious.”

With that, they salute each other. Tanya nods at her troops, and they take off.

“Wave your caps! Caps!”

Hearing Captain Treizel’s order at their backs and receiving a modest yet heartfelt send-off from the crew, the company is on their way.

Their destination is the good old Low Lands. The flight goes extremely smoothly, and they arrive at the designated airspace. Then Tanya calls Rhine Control as she is accustomed to doing.

“This is Fairy 01 to Rhine Control. I say again, this is Fairy 01 to Rhine Control. Please respond.”

And the controller answers as usual. “Fairy 01, this is Rhine Control, call sign Hotel 09. You’re loud and clear. Go ahead.”

“Hotel 09, this is Fairy 01. You’re also clear. I can hear fine.”

“Hotel 09, roger. You guys have done a bang-up job. There’s a whole army of people who want to treat you I guarantee you’ll be drinking for free for the rest of your lives.”

“Fairy 01, roger. The only problem is that I’m with Team Coffee.”

The fact that they can joke around like this means that Rhine Control must be feeling pretty relaxed; that’s a good sign.

Admiring this improvement in the situation makes Tanya sigh with a slight smile. Usually they would be controlling interceptions, giving instructions until their voices turn hoarse as they handle all kinds of issues; the state of the war must be truly favorable if they have the mental freedom to conduct such a sociable, human conversation.

“Oh, that’s no good. The officer planning your welcome back function is with Team Tea. I’ll try talking to him later.”

“Fairy 01, roger. Thanks. So? What’s our mission?”

“The short version is it’s search and intercept, but only to the extent that you’re authorized to attack if you happen to see anybody on your way back. Everyone is waiting for you heroes to return. Get here safe!”

Truthfully, Tanya nearly bursts out laughing at how considerate the controller is being. To think the day would come when these guys who are always asking us to do the impossible would be this nice! What kind of miracle is this? I guess favorable prospects really boost people’s humanity.

“Understood. But the troops on the ground are working hard. We can’t be the only ones taking it easy. I think we’ll go ahead and take some of the load off for them.”

“That’s great. Conditions in the airspace consist of clear skies and little to no wind. Good visibility. Watch out for fire from the surface.”

As a human, I find the wherewithal to help one another truly beautiful. As Tanya, too, with her altruistic mentality, a natural desire to do something charitable wells up within me.

“Fairy 01, roger. Any data on enemy mage units?”

“The details are as previously stated. We do, however, also have an unconfirmed report of fighting with a Commonwealth unit. It may be erroneous, but if it’s true, their doctrine may differ from the Republic’s, so be careful.” The controller adds a warning. For that moment only, his voice was serious.

So Tanya asks right back, “The John Bulls are intervening?”

“Hotel 09 to Fairy 01. Sorry, but as a mere controller, I couldn’t quite say.”

Well, yeah, that makes sense, she mentally grumbles, simultaneously turning her attention to confirming the rules of engagement, which is higher priority. “Fairy 01, roger. Are we authorized to attack them?” Are we supposed to intercept or withdraw? You can’t wage modern war very easily without knowing that much.

“There is currently no third country with legal authorization to enter the battle’s airspace. You can eliminate any nonfriendly mages as enemies.”

“Fairy 01, roger. Good to hear.”

All her worries were for nothing. If it’s the enemy, shoot them down. If it’s not the enemy, support them. To an aerial mage that rule is very simple and therefore easy to follow.

And so, Tanya leads the select company from the 203rd Aerial Mage Battalion into the designated airspace over the Low Lands.

Unfolding below them is a massive encirclement battle the likes of which strategists have been dreaming of ever since Cannae.6 It’s a double encirclement on an unprecedented scale unlikely to ever be seen again, swallowing up not just a corps of the Republican Army but all its main forces.

When the Imperial Army has trapped this many troops, brilliantly surrounding them, it made an indelible mark on history.

After she thinks this, she recalls her life so far in the military with a start, and tears come to her eyes.

Come to think of it, we soldiers, steeped in war, have a tendency to lose sight of common sense. Yes, I want to cherish the reason and wisdom of a citizen versed in the norms of the modern age. If peace would just return, then all this will be replaced.

Imperial soldiers like me who had no choice but to volunteer are all combatants, but I should have remembered that we’re citizens, first and foremost. Especially in this modern era, we must cultivate civil norms.

So it’s just a little longer. Just a little more patience.

In just one more attack, we’ll turn the Republican Army into fertilizer that was once human and be able to end this war.

I will not let any Dunkirking happen. It’s my duty, for peace and my own future.

“This is a general message for the entire army. Execute Attack Plan 177. I say again, execute Attack Plan 177. All units, follow the prescribed procedures and initiate combat.”

“Fairy 01, the signal’s good. Roger executing 177. We’ll begin as of this moment! May the Empire be victorious!”

Having received the order waiting in the airspace from HQ to launch the operation, Tanya assents in a voice hoarse with determination. This is the usual Rhine front. The battle is being fought as usual. And crisscrossing around us are the various “fires” born of humanity’s wisdom.

But today is just a little different. If you listen closely, you can hear the signs.

“Gale 01, the signal’s good. We’re prepped for phase two and standing by to sortie.”

“Schwarz 01, normal signal here. Expect magic jamming. Roger executing 177. We’re taking our prescribed actions now.”

The wireless is perfectly clear. Although the typical noise of any battlefield interferes, each unit’s reports come in as clear as during an exercise, proof that the enemy is lacking either the headquarters facilities or electricity to attempt jamming. Most importantly, the organized intercepting party that should be in the air to meet them is basically coming after the fact.

And to top it off, the Imperial Army has an enormous advantage in firepower, able to freely fire all types of shells, not the least of which is the 255 mm. The Republican Army doesn’t even have enough 78 mm shells for infantry use. So much iron was invested in the firefight that the maps will need to be redrawn, and now it has turned into a one-sided massacre carried out by the Imperial Army.

And the Republican Army’s response is…lacking in cohesion, you could say. The troops are in utter confusion, and with no unity, it’s hard to even call what they’re doing a military action. One unit is striking out with their small force to try to break the encirclement. Elsewhere, another unit has started digging a trench to prepare a defense, and yet another unit is looking to the sea for an escape route and advancing on the port facilities. They’ve thought of every possible solution, and since the structure of their army has disintegrated, they’re trying them all at once.

The chaos of the decapitated Republican Army is hard to watch it’s just so pitiful. Meanwhile, the actions of the structurally sound Imperial Army can be praised as a triumph of organization.

First, the imperial troops have already cut off the Republican Army’s supply lines to the main forces and have them under control, for the most part. No matter how much they brought with them, these units have been on the Rhine lines for some time now, so they surely need more.

Estimating from what a foot soldier can carry, it has to be three days’ worth max. And shells for the heavy artillery must all come from the rear. Not only are these guys currently lacking hot food, but they’re running out of shells as well.

Second, in order to prevent the localized inferiority unique to complete encirclement scenarios, they have a screen of aerial mages on a search and intercept mission.

“…Well, things are going pretty smoothly.”

My initial order was to prepare mages for resistance as we cut through their supply lines. There was also a nonzero chance that the Republican Army forces would come together and try to break through the encirclement.

But the General Staff’s worries were misplaced. Just as the Imperial Army was ready for a counterattack, the Republican Army units were all following their individual commanders, doing different things.

And that’s how they lost the slim chance they had.

Now is the time for Tanya to knock the weakened Republicans senseless and snag a promotion.

Her troops may have been partying on the submarine the night before, but they’re vets who performed to their full ability even over forty-eight straight hours of recon in enemy territory. It doesn’t seem necessary to micromanage them.

“Fairy to CP. There’s no interception. I say again, there’s no interception. We’re headed for the designated sector.”

The enemy is practically done for if this is all the resistance they can muster. Normally, there’d be a hail of anti–air fire flying at us, but now they’re only shooting a handful of shells. Even though visibility is good, the rate of fire is so sad it can’t even be called “sporadic.” Apparently, they’re really that low on ammunition.

It was so simple. I can’t believe how easy it was to enter this airspace.

It’s an awfully meager welcome. I almost want to ask if this is the same Republican Army we were fighting not so long ago.

There should be mages or fighter planes to intercept us, but there’s nothing. Thanks to that, our anti-surface strikes are as successful as they are during exercises. It’s a simple attack mission, just pummeling stationary targets with interference formulas from the sky.

It’s an easier mission than attending evening work functions.

…Well, back then I was a rank-and-file member, not a commander, so I guess in that sense it was less pressure.

Anyhow, I’m not interested in lowering my effectiveness by clinging to the past, but since we do need to learn from it, looking back can be meaningful.

“Viper 01 to CP. There’s just a little bit of anti–air fire. Damage is negligible. No obstacle to movement.”

“CP to all units. Multiple mana signals detected in Sector Forty-Two. Watch out for long-range observation sniping formulas.”

As you might expect, war is easier if you use your head. Sometimes it’s not only my unit that is blessed with luck but the entire Imperial Army is in a superior position.

Communication lines to the Viper Battalion in the airspace next door are clear. Astoundingly, CP actually has a grasp of the broader district and is doing a brilliant job of finding enemies and analyzing data like they’re supposed to. Thanks to that, if we’re in trouble we can actually get help from our neighbors, and the artillery is providing appropriate supporting fire.

These are such basic things. But when the basics actually get done, it makes war so much easier. Or maybe it’s the reverse? Maybe whether or not you can get the basics done determines whether you win or lose.

“Fairy 01 to the artillery it’s urgent. Target: Sector Forty-Two. Requesting anti-mage suppressive fire.”

A ton of work must go into making these basic things happen, which is why the willing response to Tanya’s request makes her smile.

Usually, supporting fire is provided only reluctantly, or denied completely with a bunch of excuses, but today the artillery is already installed since we lured the enemy over here. Plus, because of the way the sectors are divided, we’re operating under ideal circumstances where you can get support the moment you request it. How reassuring it is to have the big guns.

“Artillery, roger. Firing now, please observe impacts.”

“Frontline Control to all batteries, impact confirmed. Looks to be effective. No calibration necessary. I say again, no calibration necessary.”

Seriously, I’m in love with this level of mastery.

“Fire for effect. I say again, fire for effect.”

The observed area is doused in saturation fire at a large caliber that mages have a hard time defending against.

If the positions were heavily defended or they had a fortress, they might have been able to withstand it, but the burden was too big for the individually constructed defenses to bear.

A saturation bombardment of shells from 120 to 255 mm. And it’s disciplined fire by artillery with observers.

“Sector Forty-Two confirmed silent!”

If you hit them when they can’t move, even mages will succumb to shells. And that’s why even though I don’t want to, I fight up in the sky. Compared to the surface, there’s much less chance of getting shot.

But today, I don’t even have to lament such a passive choice because every last thing is going smoothly, and we can advance in safety.

Thus, Tanya’s cheeks relax ever further into her smile. Man, efficiency is wonderful. If we can unilaterally problem solve like this, war starts to feel like a passable extension of diplomacy.

Granted, I fully agree that war is a waste of resources, so it goes without saying that we should get it over with quickly.

Sheesh, if the Republic would just surrender already, they could get out of this without squandering the nation’s human resources. What point is there in slowly depleting your workforce?

It would be a real waste if they wiped themselves out without even considering economic rationality. Should I assume that our opponent can calculate their economic gains and losses and counsel them to surrender? Resisting an enemy you can’t possibly beat to the point of annihilation is above and beyond a soldier’s duty.

The state is basically telling these cornered troops to die. Shouldn’t there be some limit to the suppression of human rights? I’m sure states have their logic, but there’s no reason individuals should have to sacrifice themselves to it.

At this point, the state is expecting way more of individuals with rights than it should be able to. A soldier’s duty is to fight. I have no objections to serving for national defense. But it shouldn’t be anyone’s duty to get obliterated.

“All first echelons, begin your operations!”

But this isn’t the sort of situation where you can calmly think things through.

The friendly wireless signal in my ear tells me the operation has entered its next phase.

Apparently, we don’t have much time to just fly around up here.

We don’t panic, but we do up the pace on our anti-surface attacks. All we’re doing is busting up defensive firing positions with explosion formulas, but that will probably be more than enough to frustrate the last holdout of organized resistance.

Looking down, I see the muddled Republican Army and the advancing Imperial Army maintaining discipline. It’s already such a trampling that imperial rangers are getting into strike formations.

Usually, charges into defensive positions come with heavy casualties. But when your side is superior, it’s a different story. The sole cause for concern would be machine guns, but we mages already smashed them; it’s truly a one-sided game now.

Maybe the reason the Republican Army isn’t surrendering is that the Republicans want to fight about terms, but do they understand the situation they’re in? It doesn’t seem very rational to trade a bit damage to the Empire for annihilation.

So then are they that fanatically anti-Empire? Or are they simply war crazy beyond all hope for recovery?

Or maybe they’re poor little lambs who have no idea what’s going on?

If the latter, they can still be reasoned with, but if the former, that’s the worst. I’m sure we have no interest in getting anywhere near maniacs like that.

“Airspace warning! Confirmed sighting of multiple fighters scrambling!”

“Not detecting any mana signals. All units, be alert for ambushes!”

…So apparently, they aren’t going to completely fail to respond.

Well, they can send fighters up now, but it’s still too late. But odds are good that I’m safer in counter–air battle than fighting those potentially dangerous lunatics.

I have the battalion cease anti-surface attacks. We get into combat box formation and contact control while ascending to combat altitude. Sounds like there are twenty fighter planes coming our way.

The imperial aerial flotilla will be up momentarily to intercept, but we’re supposed to keep the enemy busy in the meantime. That’s fine. I’m sure it’ll be nothing more than a play fight. After all, mages and fighter planes generally don’t handle each other very well.

Although mages are more flexible, they have a hard time when it comes to speed and altitude. Meanwhile, the planes excel at hit-and-run tactics but can’t do as much damage. Apparently, they’re a better deal cost-wise, though.

Still, since they get shot down more often than we do, the cost-effectiveness evens out.

“Enemy artillery is firing!”

“Hit confirmed. All trenches, report your damage.”

“Theater report. Light damage.”

“Counterbattery fire! Crush ’em in one go!”

On the ground, a so-called “battle” an unopposed attack, really is unfolding. Man, if we’re in good enough shape to obliterate an enemy position in retaliation for a single shot fired, maybe I should have stayed helping with the anti-surface attacks.

That said, avoiding risk is logical and therefore a must. Now I need to focus on getting air superiority or air supremacy, as the case may be.

…Still, at this rate, we might be able to win this war.

It was a faint hope.

But the moment the leisurely thought enters her head, it’s dispelled by a strange feeling, just a ripple but nonetheless strange, from the direction of the ocean.

“This is Rhine Control with a general notice. To the mage unit in the airspace that is not broadcasting identification! Make your affiliation clear now!”

A bit of commotion and a challenge.

“This is Rhine Control. I say again, to the mage unit in the airspace that is not broadcasting identification! To the unit passing through the maritime identification zone! Make radio contact or send identification immediately!”

Friendly warning signals echo across the theater like screams. Even over the radio I can tell from the desperate repeated challenges to the silent unknown that the controller has fallen into a kind of panic.

Bad feelings are always right.

An enemy from the sea…? That means…yeah, it must be the unpleasant relatives of the pleasant John Bulls.

“Fairy 01 to Rhine Control. I presume the unknown is an enemy. Requesting permission to turn around and intercept.”

Tanya waves Lieutenant Weiss over as she contacts HQ via long-range wireless. It’s much better to turn and attack than to be chased from behind.

“Rhine Control, roger. But an early warning unit is currently attempting to make contact. Limit your fire.”

But although she gets permission to go back, she’s handed limitations based on the rules of engagement. The whole principle of air combat is to be the first to find the enemy and the first to attack. On top of that, just a little while ago, control said it was okay to shoot. Getting slapped with limitations that flatly contradict that makes it pretty hard to fight a war.

The brass is always expecting the impossible from the troops in the field. In the end, a mage company is just one unit. Still, I’m not interested in dancing to their tune and then falling like autumn leaves.

So Tanya is about to press her case but suddenly realizes she’s kind of losing her cool.

She pauses to divert her inner irritation with a deep breath. Then she puts serious effort into making sure her discontent doesn’t come through and states her objection in an even tone.

“Fairy 01 to Rhine Control. I can’t accept that. If we can’t strike preemptively…”

But her efforts are all in vain.

“Warning! Unknown mages a battalion approaching fast!” A friendly warning comes over the wireless.

“No response to a friend or foe request!”

The radio waves are getting tense, and the exchange, muddled. When friendly troops who seem to have visual confirmation of the unit give a warning, Tanya makes up her mind and she does it quickly.

Ever since Operation Lock Pick began, only one unit has flown from the sea toward the Low Lands, and that is the 203rd Aerial Mage Battalion’s select company.

So she uses a megaphone to shout instructions to Lieutenant Weiss, who is now next to her.

“Lieutenant Weiss, we’re going back. Let everyone know!”

“We’re going back?!”

Suppressing the urge to chew him out for being so dense, she shouts, “Yes! I’ve concluded the unknown is an enemy! I want radio silence, and smother your mana signals! Let’s get the jump on them!”

“It’s too dangerous to judge them an enemy! We can’t rule out the possibility that they’re friendly marine mages from the High Seas Fleet!”

“If they were from the High Seas Fleet, they would at least give us the password! They’re the enemy! Consider them the enemy and handle them!”

He finally seems to get it and nods his assent. Before he flies off to alert the rest of the company, she adds, “Before you go silent, give a theater warning about a bogey! A new one, from the sea!”





At the same time, the commanders of the opposing units became aware of their enemy’s abilities and loudly clicked their tongues in frustration.

Lieutenant Colonel Drake, a Commonwealth commander being intercepted, was particularly vexed.

“…An enemy who doesn’t hesitate is the worst, ’ey, Jeffrey?”

As he watched the imperial mages briskly prepare to intercept, the high level of discipline suggested by their movements made him feel completely out of his depth.

Changing the bigwigs’ diapers was not his hobby. And anyone would complain if they were hurriedly dispatched for such a mission because the politicians failed to read the Empire’s moves.

“Truly. You can think about it any way you like, but this situation is clear.”

These men were told something unusual was happening on the lines between the Empire and the Republic and were sent posthaste to ascertain what.

But unable to establish contact with a Republican controller, and seeing that the only ones patrolling the skies were imperial air force units and mages, no one could misjudge the situation. As First Lieutenant Jeffrey, Drake’s vice commander, grumbled, it was proof that the Imperial Army was overwhelming the Republicans.

“Commander Drake, should we pull out? We were instructed to avoid combat if possible…”

“We can’t.”

Hence, Drake’s instinctually rejected his vice commander’s suggestion of withdrawing. When the subordinate man asked why, he flashed an invincible smile and said, “If we let this chance go by, this encirclement will grow to become a thick wall… Right now, there’s still a nonzero chance of breaking through. It’s got to be worth doing some recon-in-force.”

Drake’s reading was that escape was still a possibility if they acted fast.

Of course, the supremely brisk movements of the imperial mage unit before his eyes astounded him, and they were forming up without even emitting any detectable signals, so he wasn’t sure if recon was possible.

“Are you seeing these guys? They seem like an awful lot of trouble.”

“I don’t deny that. But can we really just leave the situation as it is?”

Drake could understand how Jeffrey felt if it were an option, he would have wanted to pull out, too. But failing to understand how long the Republican main forces could hold out under these circumstances would prove disastrous for the Commonwealth, as well.

So Drake was determined to fight, even if it meant sacrificing his men. If we can break through, then let’s break through. If not, then let’s at least tell the others what fearsome adversaries these guys are.

“Besides, Lieutenant Jeffrey, have you forgotten what kind of person you are?”

“Ahh, right, you’ll have to excuse me, Colonel… Now that you mention it, we’re citizens.”

“Correct, Lieutenant, we’re citizens, not subjects. At least remember what kind of state you belong to. Too many long nights at the pub?”

So as Drake chatted with his troops, they prepared to resist the approaching imperial mage unit and awaited the beginning of the battle.

“Apparently, in the Republic, they call pubs ‘bars.’”

“Hmm, sounds like a pronunciation problem.”

“You think?”

And though he was joking around to keep his unit relaxed, Drake hadn’t dropped his guard.

“Warning! Bogey up above! You’re being targeted!”

Which is why he was able to respond immediately when the lookout’s warning rang out.

Trained to break as a conditional reflex, the troops just barely managed to act. They dodged the rain of formulas so narrowly that they couldn’t help but be shocked.

“Ngh, eight thousand? Is this that unit from those reports?”

There had been reports of an imperial unit who could operate at an altitude of eight thousand higher than the commonsense limit, but until actually facing it, Drake had believed it to be a battlefield legend.

After all, he knew from personal experience how harsh the environment over six thousand was. A unit flying at the absurd altitude of eight thousand was mind-blowing.

“Intercept! They aren’t that many! Shoot them all down!” Still, seeing that they were only a company, Drake put his troops’ numerical advantage to work and roared orders to stop them. “Keep your fire disciplined! Suppressive fire! Close the altitude gap as much as you can!”

He chose to meet the enemy with disciplined fire because he was confident in his unit’s numbers, their level of training, and their sharp shooting.

“Wh? They dodged?!”

Hence his initial disbelief. This might have happened against a solo enemy, but how could an entire battalion’s worth of disciplined fire miss every single target?

Drake returned to himself amid the shocked moans of his men Of all the and thundered out orders to prepare for a counterattack…but he was just a smidge late.

“Lieutenant Hawkins is hit! Shit, someone cover him!”

He hated hearing the reports of who was shot and the agonized groans coming over the radio. The only thing he could be happy about in this situation was that no one was down.

“They’re even tougher than the rumors say! Don’t take them lightly they aren’t some kind of tall tale! Ahh, geez, I can’t believe that crazy story was true goddamnit!”

It wasn’t just some phantom the Entente Alliance and Republic cowards conjured up!

All those stories about the Devil of the Rhine, about an imperial unit running amok at eight thousand what about that was just a legend? It’s not nonsense at all; they’re actually an elite, terrible enemy unit that we’ve been underestimating!

What were the intelligence analysts doing, those freeloaders?! “Ngh! We’re getting out of here! Slowing them down and collecting intel isn’t worth any further risk!”

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