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Youjo Senki, Volumen 3, Capitulo 3


Chapter III, Operation Ark


JUNE 20, UNIFIED YEAR 1925, IMPERIAL ARMY GENERAL STAFF OFFICE

As usual, Major Generals von Zettour and von Rudersdorf were washing down lumps of off-tasting glop that most would hesitate to describe as food with awful ersatz coffee in the dining room of the General Staff Office.

The cuisine did absolutely nothing to whet their appetites, but even more upsetting was plating such awful fare on beautiful dishes.

The expensive tableware was on par with what you might find at a court dinner, but as the pair carved into the lumps of what could maybe be called food (but maybe not), they were long past the point of frowning at it. The key was to pay no attention to what you were eating.

As they did their best to look at each other instead of their plates, the theme of today’s discussion was uncommonly abstract.

After the good news of the suppression of the Republic, the next debate was laying the groundwork for negotiating with the Kingdom of Ildoa.

“So? Do you think it would be best to arrange the surrender terms via the Kingdom of Ildoa?”

“Strictly speaking, General von Rudersdorf, the army’s duty is to protect the Empire. Diplomatic strategy is out of our jurisdiction.”

“Oh, well, that’s true.”

Rudersdorf felt they should perhaps put together peace terms, and Zettour advised him that doing so would be overstepping their authority.

Still endeavoring to keep their eyes off their respective meals, the pair were discussing policy not as the ones in charge but as a third party a rare occurrence.

“That’s the job of the Foreign Office, so we should respect their work. And we should probably focus on our own responsibilities.”

“In other words, the administrative tasks surrounding the cease-fire, right?”

Which was why when Zettour reminded him of their job, Rudersdorf was quick to respond. Though it was only an administrative matter, managing the cease-fire would be a bit of a challenge. It was true that the one grumbling to that effect would have a pile of work to do as the one in charge of Operations.

Rudersdorf sighed. He still had to keep a tight hold on the reins and limit confusion to the extent possible.

“Out where they’re actually shooting at each other, the mentality could spell trouble, you know. With emotions running high, we run the risk of a mix-up. Why don’t we at least get an idea of what tack we’re taking?”

“For now, let’s draw up a cease-fire plan for the front lines. The standardized procedure for a local cease-fire should be applicable, but let’s check just to be sure. Then we just have to show it to Legal.”

Cadets learned the basics of forcing enemies to surrender and enacting cease-fires in the academy, but that was only a cursory look at elementary principles. When it came to officers in the Imperial Army who had experience dealing with the fallout of a major military clash between nations, there were only a few legal specialists, if that.

“Yes, if you want a status report, Lieutenant Colonel von Lergen just returned from observing in the field. Let’s have him fill us in.”

It was obvious that the knowledge the staff officer brought back from the front would come with extremely valuable suggestions, especially when the officer in question was a capable man whose reports could be trusted.

“That would be great… We have to finish this right. That was quite a show of confidence we put on for Supreme High Command. I have no intention of failing and ending up a laughingstock.”

“Go ahead. Everyone’s buzzing about how skillfully you’re handling things. You really saved me by getting supply lines into the capital. I’m grateful.”

The main thread of the pair’s conversation had shifted from diplomatic matters outside their jurisdiction to the practical matters they needed to handle. As capable businessmen, Zettour and Rudersdorf knew there were a mountain of pending issues regarding logistics and the front lines.

“That’s what friends are for. Well, you can thank me with coffee beans.”

“…As soon as this is over, I’ll get you all the imported coffee you can drink, you greedy rascal.”

Thus, even while joking, the only thing on their minds was smoothly accomplishing everything necessary to ending the war.

“You’re just as greedy. I’ll have you recall that the Imperial Army was set up to function along interior lines. Please understand how much strife you caused us by doing whatever you saw fit.”

“I do. Anyhow, shall we mop this up?”

“Indeed. Call Colonel von Lergen.”

They were brave, loyal soldiers. Not only that, but it was fair to call them outstanding. They, however, defined themselves as staff officers who had to be constantly engaged in military business. Soldiers were the ones whose duty was to focus on the fighting.






THE SAME DAY, IMPERIAL ARMY SUPREME HIGH COMMAND’S FOREIGN INTELLIGENCE ADVISORY BOARD

The conference room was full of frowning men, each one’s suit as drab as the next. Normally, the atmosphere was tense, so solemn that the room’s occupants would refrain from smoking, but now it was abuzz with the first good news in a while.

The major counterattack operation had been a success. The army had notified them that the troops had marched into the Republican capital and that a cease-fire was near. Both of those things meant victory for the Empire.

Their dream of the war’s end and the return of peace was right before their eyes.

“How is the foreign minister thinking of handling the end of the war?”

So even the no-nonsense bureaucrats were bubbling with enthusiasm, already thinking about postwar tasks.

The end of the conflict entailed a lot of work after the fact.

Just a little while ago, they were fretting over the enormous expenses, terrified at the crisis surrounding the loss of the Low Lands industrial region, but now they exchanged insuppressible grins and discussed the end of the war.

“Mainly, we plan to demand that each of the warring countries establish peaceful borders and pay reparations. We also plan to demand that the Republic surrender some of their colonial holdings and abandon some others.”

“Oh? Taking the tough line, ’ey? Er, pardon me…”

The unexpectedly moderate answer given by the foreign minister sparked a somewhat surprised murmur in the room. To those who had suspected aggressive demands from a hard-liner stance, the conditions seemed very realistic.

“Hmm? From the way the young bureaucrats were talking, I thought they would come up with harsher demands,” someone whispered.

And it was plenty loud enough to reach the foreign minister’s ears.

“No, I understand how you feel. But we know what would happen if we wrote the peace treaty after drinking a swimming pool’s worth of sweet victory.”

“Which is to say…?”

“I’m embarrassed to admit the younger officials did just that. So we waited till their hangovers subsided and made them rewrite it.”

Wincing a bit awkwardly, he presented the private meeting with an honest account of the behind-the-scenes workings and added that he realized other ministries were laughing at their somewhat extreme antics.

“In the current plan, with the vast concessions and large reparation bill, we’re essentially treating them as a client state. It’s not realistic in any sense of the word. Of course, I threw it back at them to have it redone!” He chuckled wryly as he related the inside story. “Ah, excuse me. That was a tangent. Please strike it from the record.”

“That’s fine. Secretary, as he says.” The clerks dutifully gave their verdict with the benevolence of those free of the anxieties of youthful error.

“A question. Umm, how will surrender be handled?”

“Well, the army will take care of that. At least, it wouldn’t be good to put restrictions on the military leadership before the war is over. What’s important is for us to do a proper job on our respective tasks, don’t you think?”

The conclusion they reached was to do what they could to respond to the military’s requests. Then they diligently moved on to the next topic of discussion.

“Now then, our next order of business is the trade agreement with the Federation…”






THE SAME DAY, THE 203RD AERIAL MAGE COMPANY’S GARRISON

“What? The Republican Navy is withdrawing?”

Major Tanya von Degurechaff’s first response to the news was delivered in an even voice.

So Visha didn’t notice her superior was working incredibly hard to maintain that monotone. After all, it was the afternoon after they had invaded the Republican defensive lines and finished their anti-surface support mission, and as far as Visha could tell, the message from high command seemed like good news.

“Yes, Major. It’s a general message to all troops from home. Vice Minister Major General de Lugo has ordered the Republican Navy to stop fighting and move. Now the end of the war is only a matter of time.”

Notice of a cease-fire and word that the Republican Army was abandoning their position and retreating surely that had to mean the Empire’s dream of victory was coming true.

“Lieutenant Serebryakov, did they actually say ‘the end of the war’? Not ‘cease-fire’ or ‘surrender’?”

“Major?”

So for a moment, Visha wasn’t sure what her superior was finding issue with.

“Are those the exact words they used? ‘The end of the war’?”

“My apologies. I didn’t see those words written there.”

Come to think of it, the major is such a stickler for accuracy. I really messed up. Adding my own optimistic view to a report for her is a no-no. As Visha was regretting her goof, Major von Degurechaff calmly asked another question.

“One thing. You said this is under Major General de Lugo’s orders? Where are they withdrawing to?”

“Ah! Please excuse the omission. Apparently, they’re gathering at the Brest Naval Base.”

The message definitely included the detail that they were withdrawing to Brest on Major General de Lugo’s orders. Oh, brother, I can’t be so irresponsible just because we’re about to win, reflected Visha solemnly, impressed by her superior’s attention to detail. You’d think I’d know how she likes her reports after being with her ever since the Rhine Battle. The whole base is in a celebratory mood, so I guess I’ve gotten a bit lax, too. She finished her introspection with a vow to take after her superior’s prudence.

“Brest Naval Base? De Lugo…? Sorry, can you get me a map?”

Thinking how amazingly attentive the major was always ready to add more to her stores of knowledge Visha pulled out a map and spread it across the table in a way that the major could see it well.

Her face as she stared silently at the map was so earnest that carelessness seemed like a foreign concept to her.

So just as Visha was about to ask if she should be bringing coffee if it would take a little while, Major von Degurechaff pounded her fist on the table and stood up, trembling all over.

“…Shit! These gigantic numbskulls! Why didn’t they realize?!”

“M-Major?”

“Lieutenant! Prepare to sortie on the double! We’re taking all the V-1s! Get them on the runway now! And get me Lieutenant Weiss!”

The fierceness on her face and the shrillness of her voice left no room to question the order. Visha knew better than probably anyone else how foolish it would be to oppose Major von Degurechaff when she was like this.

So she barely saluted and confirmed the order before running off. Just as she was told, she alerted Lieutenant Weiss that he was being urgently summoned, and then she went straight to the V-1 hangars to get them ready to deploy.




“Excuse me.”

“Good, thanks for coming, Vice Commander. We don’t have much time. I’ll get straight down to business.” Tanya speaks the moment Lieutenant Weiss salutes and enters the room where she is poring over a navigation chart in agony and distress. “The enemy fleet is concentrating in Brest. The brass thinks this is the Republic withdrawing as part of the cease-fire, but I say that though they may be withdrawing, what they’re doing is escaping in secret.”

To be blunt, what they are pulling is unmistakably a Dunkirk.

“They mean to extract what military organizations they still have and continue fighting. If we don’t beat them here, the war won’t end.”

“Major, with all due respect, the cease-fire will be declared tonight. Attacking now would be…”

“Lieutenant, a cease-fire is not the same as the end of the war. It’s something else entirely. And as of this moment, we’re still at war.”

He must not understand. Weiss’s leisurely reticence to take her attack order is unbelievably frustrating.

We can’t get Dunkirked. We can’t let them escape. We can’t waste this victory. If we don’t eliminate him de Lugo now, the war won’t end. No we won’t be able to end it.

And if that happens, the path forward leads to a morass, and the only way out of that is ruin.

She can’t let that future come to pass. Not after being worked like a horse in a total war. She can’t let her organization, the Imperial Army, go out like that in this nightmare scenario. My employer going bankrupt is the worst possible outcome, so it must be avoided at all costs. Therefore, Tanya is determined.

“But…”

“Lieutenant, the record will show that you raised an objection. Now you must act. There is only action.”

They may scream, but we will act. I’ll ruin my military career if it will prevent us from getting Dunkirked.

If we act now, that fate is still preventable. Tanya is sure she can get authorization for recon-in-force. The general notice of the coming cease-fire is a sizable obstacle, but since her unit reports directly to the General Staff, they should have the power.

In the worst case, a single mage platoon would be enough to get the job done. She could drag them out under the pretext of officer reconnaissance. Once they were off the ground, no one would be able to bother them. The radio silence inside the V-1s flying at top speed would be the perfect excuse. We should at least kill de Lugo along with his capital ship rather than kicking ourselves for letting them get away.

“Excuse me, Major!”

“Is the unit ready?”

“Yes, but base command is calling you.”




Even with it happening before their eyes, any sensible imperial soldier would find it hard to believe.

Or hard to watch, perhaps.

“Please let us go! I’ll do anything! Just let me  Let my unit go!”

The agonized scream was almost like a curse.

“Authorize us, even just my unit, to sortie! Please!”

The hands clutching his lapels were at once powerful and tiny.

The warped expression and pleading tone of voice were a petition to avert destruction. No, her voice was more like the wail of one desperate for salvation.

And the one acting that way, with no regard for appearances, was the capable Imperial Army officer said to have maintained unparalleled composure during the Rhine Battle.

“The events of this hour this one brief moment will determine whether the Empire gains the world or loses everything!

“Please,” she said. “Please let us go.”

Major Tanya von Degurechaff had abandoned rules, norms, and regulations, and that was her plea.

Yes, the one declared a model soldier by everyone, the officer von Lergen admitted to fearing on an instinctual level. She had unhesitatingly cast all that away under the gaze of everyone nearby and grabbed the lapels of a superior officer. She was practically threatening him with her shouts.

Which was why everyone present was so confused that they simply stood there, unsure what to do.

Even her subordinates, though they stood perfectly still in utterly silent rows, were wearing expressions that said they were shaken and perplexed by their superior’s incomprehensible clamoring.

She was a veteran field commander, a proficient officer who got through any impossible challenge unfazed, a fearless mage who could penetrate a fleet’s air defenses, a night fight professional who crawled around under the veil of darkness as if she owned the battlefield.

Of all the people in the world, she was probably the one most unfamiliar with the emotion of fear, and yet here she was shouting with a face that was unmistakably pale.

Her subordinates had no choice but to stand there at a loss.

“Just just five hundred kilometers! That’s all we have to advance! The key to the war, to the future of this world, is so close!”

Her right hand gestured to the map hung on the board. She was pointing at a strategic Republican Army position where a group of suspicious transport ships had assembled according to a report they had just received: Brest Naval Base.

Brest Naval Base, one of the Republican Navy’s principal bases, was one of the places the Republic was expected to concentrate their fleet prior to the cease-fire.

Which was why everyone in the Imperial Army interpreted the Republican fleet gathering there as preparation for a cease-fire to end the war. Of course, legally, the war wasn’t over yet.

Still, everyone was compelled to say, surely it’s impossible for the Republic to continue fighting now that they’ve lost their capital. The end of the war is only a matter of time.

Then came this request no, more like an entreaty for authorization to attack the Republican fleet.

That base was tightly defended under normal circumstances, but with the additional fleet’s cannons, it had to be a veritable porcupine. Anyone who wanted to go charging in there had to have something wrong with their head. Any reasonable commander would hesitate.

And yet. And yet here she was practically beside herself, insisting on an attack plan that could spoil the negotiations to end the war.

“Now! We must act now! Please, please! Give me the forces to suppress the Republican Army at Brest. Please let me, let my unit go!”

“Major! Major von Degurechaff! Please calm down, Major!”

“Colonel, please! Please send some troops! If we let them get away, they’ll become the root of all the Empire’s problems!”

It was hard to imagine how all that fury came from such a tiny body as she pulled the base commander down to her level by his lapels.

“Major, I beg your pardon!”

The military police officers who couldn’t bear to watch any longer tried to come between the two, but furious, Degurechaff continued to shout, keeping all attempts to quell her at bay.

“Colonel! Please, please let me talk to the General Staff Office!”

A wounded lion would probably be less of a handful.

The MPs had training and boasted a fair amount of strength, but with the caveat surely, they would agree that their opponents were normal humans.

If any mission would give someone second thoughts, it was fighting a mage. Every soldier had a visceral sense of how troublesome confronting a mage could be. The only ones who could pick a fight with a mage wearing a computation orb was another mage similarly equipped.

And their opponent in this case was…a recipient of the Silver Wings Assault Badge with Oak Leaves a living recipient, at that.

Her medals, enough to warrant calling her a human weapon, were not merely decorations. Even in the rear, they called her by the alias “White Silver” in recognition of her achievements, while other voices called her “Rusted Silver” out of fear.

If she were an enemy, they wouldn’t want to get anywhere near her. Even as allies, they didn’t want to get in her way.

But the imperial soldiers recalled their duty and obstructed her.

Though slick with cold sweat and trembling in fear, they were faithful to their duty through and through.




“Major von Degurechaff! Please, Major!”

She may have been a little girl, but she was still a mage. Having steeled their resolve, they all leaped at her at once. And it was when her protective film repulsed them that they finally realized how uncommonly earnest she was as she shouted.

“Colonel, I beg you. Please, please reconsider this. For the future of the Empire, we must act now!”

“…Ngh. Major von Degurechaff, you need to calm down!”

But even the commander of the base was an imperial soldier. If he could be coerced by a commander stationed under him, he wasn’t fit to be in charge.

“The fall of Brest is only a matter of time. We don’t need to pointlessly wear down our forces! Major! I can’t let you ruin the cease-fire!”

“The cease-fire hasn’t been declared yet! We can still save our army if we act now!”

“Major von Degurechaff! That fleet has already been defeated. It no longer constitutes a threat to our army!”

With a glance at the hesitating MPs, the staffers raised their voices to forestall her. They didn’t think they could convince her with muscle, but they figured if she was a soldier, she could be persuaded with words.

So they tried it.

“Ahh, please, you have to understand. Time is the issue. There’s no time! Colonel!”

But although Major von Degurechaff was said to be so sensible words weren’t even necessary, today she stubbornly held her ground. Not only that, she insisted, openly impatient, that they should attack with all they had.

It was almost as if…

Yes, without a doubt, she was pleading as if she were afraid of something.

How absurd. Rusted Silver? Afraid?

That can’t be, thought several of the bystanders.

They just didn’t understand yet.

“They mean to escape in secret, to abandon their fatherland like rats!”

…And what about it?

The question popped into the staffers’ heads instinctively, and they weren’t wrong. True, armies did eat a lot even during peacetime. Since there would be a starving stomach for every man, the outcome was clear. A tragic fate awaited an army cut off from its supply lines.

Above all, the collapse of an army with no base was only a matter of time.

If one considered this, then the troops gathered at Brest Naval Base were surely units for rebuilding the defensive lines. Most of the soldiers followed that analysis and concluded that perhaps they should be on the lookout for a counter-landing operation instead. Aha, it would be problematic if they did the same as us and threatened our supply lines by landing in the rear.

“But won’t they just self-destruct? Isn’t that all that would happen?”

What is she afraid of? Slaughtering a single isolated army isn’t so hard to do!

But it wasn’t as if everyone was perfectly at ease.

After all, the young girl practically losing hold of her sanity before their eyes was universally acknowledged for her excellent brain.

People knew her as a genius from the war college or even the General Staff’s darling or an underrated strategist.

“Self-destruct? No, they won’t! They’re  No, he’s trying to facilitate an escape for some of his forces! We cannot let that happen!”

The shrill roar of her voice echoed surprisingly loudly over the base’s runway. Yet, still no one could understand what made her keep screaming like that, though she was running out of breath. Anyone who saw her knew she was calling for something, but they couldn’t figure out what it was.

Why is she being so insistent? How did she reach that conclusion?

“That theory has nothing to back it up! It makes the most sense to consider the units as replacement defenders or counterattackers.”

“If we let them escape, the Empire’s victory will be jeopardized! We’ll eventually collapse!”

A few people tried to think. But cruel though it may have been, it was too late.

The Empire’s victory will be jeopardized. The Empire will eventually collapse.

The response to those shouts was quite different from what the shouter expected.

“All right, hold her down! Major, that’s enough!”

As if everyone’s patience had run out, the order was given to get her under control. The MPs and her unit reluctantly set about tearing her off the commander, but Degurechaff’s resistance was unusually fierce. Even though it was five men against a little girl, it took all their strength to pull her away.

“Colonel, please! Please!”

It was a scream that lingered in the ears.

“Can it, Major!”

“We must destroy them at Brest Naval Base! This enemy is a threat to the Empire! We have to annihilate it here and now! Please, you’ve got to understand I have to do my duty as a soldier! This isn’t what I want, but I know we must destroy Brest Naval Base!”

“Major, it’s not happening!”

He still brushed off her prayerlike wail.

“…Would you please allow me to go?”

“Give it up!”

“Major!”

“Please don’t try to stop me. Commander, I should already have the authority to do this.”

The base commander’s logic was crystal clear. Her action would endanger the cease-fire. But Major von Degurechaff’s refutation was also clear: I don’t give a damn.

“By the authority invested in me by the General Staff, I’m going ahead with a recon-in-force mission.”

Then, unbelievably, she turned her back to the general shouting himself hoarse trying to get her under control and raced with determination back to her unit.

The MPs braced themselves, thinking they should stop her, but the look in her eyes froze them solid. In later days, they would talk among themselves about those eyes: “If we got in her way, she would have ‘eliminated’ us…”

With a glance at the officers gathered for an emergency meeting at command, Tanya thinks to herself.

Major General de Lugo… That’s a sinister name. You could even call it an extremely sinister name. It’s the kind of name you’d expect to conduct nuclear weapons tests or quit NATO.

I get the truly ominous feeling that he might start declaring the Free Republic or something. We really can’t let a guy like him get away.

I’m utterly disappointed that command doesn’t understand this. Sadly, I’ll have to help myself if I want to end the war. So how should we attack on our own?

If I don’t do anything, there won’t be any trouble, but that’s completely missing the point. Think of Rudel I shouldn’t be reproached for attacking an enemy country. In other words, if I’m not going to end up before a tribunal after the war, then…this is a permissible risk.

Let’s assume we’re attacking. Until just a little while ago, I argued the best I could, but I’m no longer in a position to receive official support.

Probably the only contact I have at this point is the submarine we worked with when we used the V-1s. They’ve probably established a patrol line.

But honestly, it’d be risky to attempt a pickup over the water without arranging things ahead of time. Considering the possibility that we don’t find each other, it’s probably safer not to count on it to begin with.

I don’t want to attack alone, but it seems like the only way. For better or worse, if we use the V-1s we have, we can break through to Brest unimpeded.

Then, at the very least, I can have General de Lugo take his leave from the world.

In a way, this is like a hostile takeover of a remarkable new company on the rise. We need to nail down our patents and assets and eliminate any future threat to our company it’s only logical. We’ll have a much easier time if we take him out now.

I can’t stand the idea of history mocking us for our irrational hesitation when we should have intervened.

“Attention, Battalion!

“Thanks. All right, troops. We’re going to attack Brest Naval Base.”

So Tanya states their objective in her usual manner. This enemy is no different from any other they must shoot, and since that is the case, they’ll just do the same as always. So she is shocked to see the officers’ tense expressions and understanding the effect her announcement has on them.

Sensible First Lieutenant Weiss and the other officers all look dumbfounded. Tanya realizes that what she has said sounded strange.

But the first thing she feels is confusion. Knowing her war-loving troops, she thought they might be happy, but she never imagined they would be dumbfounded. It’s a bit embarrassing.

I thought they were all about pursuing the enemy anywhere if it meant additional achievements.

As someone from human resources, I thought I understood their feelings, so it’s a bit of a shock to discover I don’t. I’m supposed to be managing these troops, so if I don’t understand their hopes and dreams, it can only mean I’m inept.

…No, let’s think about this calmly. Haste makes waste. I’ll suspend judgment for now.

“Commander?! That’s…”

“We’re going to act on our own authority. Why else have us report directly to the General Staff? Why else allow us to act independently?”

Just like insurance, it’s better not to use it, but it’s precisely for times like this that we have this wild card.

The higher-ups resent her authority because the standard chain of command is often tangled, but to Tanya, if you think of her unit as a project team, it’s easier to see how they should be used.

The reason no one but the officer they directly report to can interfere is because they’re a team doing an important project on special orders from the CEO. A team like that needs to be given a degree of autonomy. And anyone given authority to act is expected to use it appropriately. There’s nothing better than solving a problem with minimal effort.

Medicine shows us that prevention before you get sick makes life easier. And the best part is that you can save on medical costs. Avoidable waste must be eliminated.

If you can prevent multiple risks with a single inoculation, it behooves you to do so. Humans tend to overestimate immediate risks, but it’s equally foolish to forget terrible long-term risks.

Considering how well it manages costs for society, preventative medicine is truly wonderful. Momentary pain and certain types of risk can’t be completely ignored, but obsessing about those things is missing the point. This operation to have General de Lugo take his leave from the world is quite similar to preventative medicine. It’s worth doing even if it entails some risk.

We must prevent this plague that would eat away at the Empire. If we don’t prevent it, the cost to society the very society that gave Major Tanya von Degurechaff the authority to act will be irrecoverable.

That must be avoided at all costs.

“B-but I don’t really think our battalion can attack Brest Naval Base on our own. And besides, the only ones who used the V-1 before were the members of the select company. It’s not enough. Please reconsider this,” urges Lieutenant Weiss, but to Tanya, this is nonsense stemming from an attachment to preconceived notions.

Certainly, it would be logical for the Brest base to be heavily defended. Yes, I see how even an elite battalion could suffer serious casualties if they are shot at head-on by a unit lying in wait for them.

Still, to Tanya, even taking all that into consideration, it must be done. And they have a way to do it. There’s no reason not to.

“Lieutenant, we’re only going to hit them and run. It’s less of an attack than a recon-in-force mission. I’m confident our battalion can handle it and that it’s a worthwhile objective.”

So Tanya argues. If anyone can do it, we can. After all, their defenses are configured for sea and land, and in the first place, we’re only going to zoom in there on the V-1s and then get out after delivering a single blow.

In addition to those basic assumptions, she imagines Brest Naval Base’s defenses are outdated. They didn’t take aerial technology or paratrooper mages into account.

“On top of that, their defenses are an anachronism. And with no pressing reason, they probably aren’t rushing to update them. You can probably assume they’re operating with old safeguards.”

Brest Naval Base’s location makes it a good natural harbor. It originally developed into a port to shelter in a storm, and the topography allows large ships to dock. Geographically, it also has the distinction of being difficult for a land army to reach. There’s a reason the place has been used as a base since ancient times. Another important point is its distance, safe in the rear, from the Empire, a potential enemy.

But that “safe in the rear” assumption brings with it an interesting proposition. In an arms race where every moment counts, there aren’t very many resources available to outfit areas besides the front lines. So would a place considered safe like Brest be given priority? It’s a very interesting question.

But what if the enemy is counting on using the fleet’s defenses and firepower? It doesn’t seem strange to expect that Brest Naval Base’s defenses aren’t much to speak of.

After all, compared to the state of defensive fire at the end of World War II, these anti–air measures are like peashooters. We’ll definitely be able to limit our amount of wear and tear as long as we don’t drag out the attack. Besides, the Republican Army isn’t very experienced.

The imperial and Republican fleets have been staring each other down on the “fleet in being” principle for ages. That is to say, both of them are holed up. Of course, individual ships have participated in battles here and there, but we can assume that on a fleet level, they don’t have much experience with fighting against air or mage forces. Well, it’s no wonder, given that most of the mage units from both sides were pitted against one another in the attrition battle on the Rhine front.

And even if the group included troops who lived through their baptism in the hell of the Rhine lines, most of them were reserves anyway. The inexperienced units won’t be able to keep pace with the elites. The difference between having even a little frontline fighting experience and none is huge.

“And I’m in contact with a friendly submarine near the base.”

I confirmed that a friendly sub was patrolling the area, even if the most we can expect from it is alerts rather than preventing the escape entirely.

Still, if we can succeed in catching a lift, we can attack more than once and make our getaway underwater. I’ll be glad to have additional choices. And as long as submarine command doesn’t interfere, it will be possible to attack simultaneously with torpedoes.

“Given all that, I’ve determined that the best course of action is to directly attack Brest Naval Base with V-1s and then board the submarine and attack once more. In other words, we’ll assault them with the V-1s like we’ve done once already. I’m confident you guys can pull it off again.”

It’s a rehash of a past operation. Since we’re acting on our own, we can’t get support to draft a new one, so there’s no helping it. To have the most surefire plan, Tanya references the easiest operation she’s been involved in.

Of course, she doesn’t want to use the V-1s, but Chief Engineer Schugel’s invention played a critical role in their previous operation. Tanya figures that destroying a ship is more than doable with the destructive power of those warheads.

Plus, using those, we won’t have any trouble with enemy interception or any allies trying to stop us. If the tanks full of fuel score a direct hit on the ship, we can expect results on par with anti-ship missiles. Even a battleship won’t get through that unscathed.

And with a whole augmented battalion going on the strike, that equates to forty-eight missiles. That should be enough to do some serious damage. Of course, we don’t have much experience operating them. Even if everything goes smoothly, we should be ready for a low rate of direct hits.

But the V-1s should be packing plenty of punch. Maybe we can estimate half would be direct hits. Twenty-four doesn’t seem unreasonable considering the target is an anchored ship.

And twenty-four missiles is more than enough to get results. And if mages attack on top of that, I have no doubt we’ll get our sworn enemy Major General de Lugo promoted to full general in no time. We’ll even give him a battleship for a gravestone.

No, “no doubt” isn’t the right way to put it. We’ll definitely execute this plan. Yes, rather than let him become a marshal, we’ll present him with a double promotion and a jumbo gravestone in the shape of a battleship.

“Major, I have a question.”

In response, her subordinates seem skeptical. She knows this, but if she can’t get them to understand completely, the plan could fail. She nods benevolently, both cautious but with no guilt on her conscience. “Go ahead. What is it?”

“Commander, where are we going to get the V-1s?”

I didn’t expect a technical question. She misses a beat but figures it’s fine and answers matter-of-factly, “The Technical Arsenal just happens to have some here. We’ll use those.”

“So we have permission?”

That’s an annoying question, but I have an answer prepared. I can handle it. I’ve prepared the minimum argument necessary to avoid getting court-martialed.

It really is the bare minimum, though. But no, making sure we have enough time to attack is more important than establishing the just cause.

Working beyond my pay grade is gut-wrenching, but considering it’s to stay alive, I have to do it.

“What are you talking about? Didn’t Chief Engineer Schugel request a combat test? We’re simply following through.”

I never imagined a request from him would come in handy. Fate sure is ironic, but if we can use the V-1s, then problem solved we’ll be able to attack Brest Naval Base.

The General Staff received a request from the Technical Arsenal asking for more combat data and a reassessment of the fine-tuned V-1s. We’re the only unit that has ever used them, so no one should mind if we’re the ones to do the follow-up test.

“It could be seen as not just assertive but overstepping your authority…”

“If we don’t make a move, historians in later generations will call us negligent. I don’t want to let them laugh at me. Really, we don’t even have time to be debating like this. If you have nothing left to say, then let’s end it here. The operation is go now!”

We can’t let him get away. If the withdrawal from Dunkirk hadn’t succeeded, would the British and the French have been able to hold Britain’s defensive lines?

No, not only that, but if the British hadn’t scraped together enough troops to defend their home country, would the inept Italian army have gotten such a beating?

Not only that, but to think for just a minute: What if? Perhaps I’m talking irresponsibly, but if Germany had been able to smash Britain, maybe they could have fought the Soviet Union without worrying about their rear. The same could go for the Empire.

…To put it in extremes, if we beat the Republican fleet here, not only will the Commonwealth have to worry about how to control the sea, but with the Republic dropped out, it will also be facing the nightmare scenario of having to confront the Empire.

If that happens, the Empire might even be able to create an environment that gives it the strategic advantage.

In other words, an endless draw. The Commonwealth definitely can’t defeat the Empire’s land arm on its own. And the Imperial Navy is strong enough to keep up its staring contest with the Commonwealth’s. Then… Then! That face-off works in the Empire’s favor. We can use the manufacturing bases in the regions we control, get our forces in order heck, we could even make ships if we took the time.

If we could establish such a broad foundation no, when we do, if the Commonwealth realizes that, we could even end the war.

Then we won’t have to do these dangerous things anymore. Then a peaceful world will be right in front of us.

In order to end the war…

We have to decide things right now.

We will end the war.

I’ll grab peace with my own two hands.

Therefore, Magic Major Tanya von Degurechaff gives her troops strict orders in a decisive tone to make her reluctant subordinates get moving. As she expects, the soldiers respond crisply.

Her battalion personnel are in ranks. The engineers and mechanics are here to work on the V-1s that were brought over. The V-1s, virtually hijacked from rear depots using the shield of the Technical Arsenal’s request, are already lined up on the runway. The engineers move them to the launchers and begin final checks.

Seeing that preparations to sortie are going smoothly, Degurechaff is able to look over her troops in satisfaction. It’s great that they were able to get V-1s outfitted for the larger fuel tanks envisioned for longer flights. And to up their destructive capabilities, I had to give up on the 80s, which are specialized for anti-ship attacks, but we managed to add warheads to the 25s.

Any ship that gets hit with these going faster than sound will probably be sunk in a single attack. I doubt even a battleship’s armor could stand up to these. And above all, we’re targeting an anchored vessel. We should be able to get a great rate of bull’s-eyes.

Those prospects of a brighter future cheer Tanya up quite a bit.

Even if we don’t know which boat General de Lugo is making his capital ship, if we target them all, we’re bound to get him at least once. That forecast alone makes her want to burst out laughing, it makes her so happy.

We can expect a payout that will, in the worst case, still be plenty to have de Lugo take leave of this world. And even just whacking the residual units he’s got with him would be a pretty good result.

“…Commander, all units are here.”

“Very good. The V-1s are all prepped, right? I don’t even want to say this, but I’d hate for one of them to blow up with one of my men inside.”

“They were careful. The mechanics swear by their work and guarantee the machines are tuned up safely.”

“All right, then… What is it, Lieutenant Weiss? You look like you have something to say, so hurry up and say it.”

“Major, this seems… Isn’t this too contrary to the wishes of the home country? I have no choice but to follow your orders, but I think this is an extremely dangerous move for you, too…”

In contrast to Tanya’s expectations of high payout, the leading officers in the battalion seem to have reservations.

Oh, brother, she’d like to moan, but it’s hard when their reservations aren’t unfounded.

That said, all they need to do is get results.

Once her unenthusiastic vice commander sees the results of their attack, he’ll surely come around. Well, Weiss is the type who finds these sorts of unilateral actions unnerving. I should just be happy he can’t stop me as long as we’re operating within my discretionary powers.

“Lieutenant, I gratefully accept your warning, but I have no intention of changing my orders. Anything else?”

He’s a soldier, after all. He won’t slack off just because he’s reluctant. I can trust him completely on that point. It’s wonderful when people have so much passion for their work.

Agh, how many times have I been annoyed by temps who passively resist instructions just because they don’t feel like it, as if that’s a good reason? And then to watch them giving the company a bad name, all the while paying their salary it’s a vexing situation, to be sure.

Soldiers are different. They’re much more reliable. Well, it’s because if they slack off just because they’re not into their job, they’ll die. Of course, that’s because the work isn’t easy enough to let you slack off, but anyhow…

“No, ma’am… But are you sure you want to do this? The base commander is outraged and said he was going to have a word with the General Staff…”

“With the General Staff? As long as I’m not overstepping, he can’t do anything.”

Proper procedure. I sound like a jerk saying it outright, but fulfilling the Technical Arsenal’s request is guaranteed as a valid move given the chain of command. Learn laws, learn the regulations. Then you’ll be able to find a way to justify any course of action, I was taught in the past fond memories.

Rules are not meant to be broken they’re meant to be exploited and wriggled out of.

That the commander on the ground rejected my proposal is regrettable. But nothing about that limits what operations I can undertake.

Following the usual procedure…no matter how much authority we have to act on our own as a unit reporting directly to the General Staff, attacking Brest Naval Base probably wouldn’t be allowed.

But now, when we’re in the middle of suppressing them, it’s possible to broaden the interpretation of what discretionary powers are granted a unit serving in the war. Even if the base commander protests to the General Staff, the General Staff won’t publicly rebuke me.

Of course, getting a stern warning below the surface can’t be taken lightly, but either way, at that point, what’s done is done.

The fact that I can secure the freedom to act now, at this do-or-die moment, makes me happy.

If I succeed, I’m plenty capable of handling whatever comes next. In order to think about the future, I have to eradicate the pathogen in front of me.

“…Commander, from Group Command.”

But unhappily, in comes orders from Group Command. Inadvertently scowling at the radio operator who had the misfortune to be the messenger was a mistake on my part.

With an apology, Tanya takes the message and skims it.

It’s some simple advice about her conduct. That is, a gentle warning to Simmer down, from Group Command. Though her unit is nominally independent, that’s their request.

From the position of someone who has to comply whenever possible, it feels like interference.

Normally, even Tanya would step down at this point. That’s how forceful the stance is. But under the current circumstances, she simply can’t.

“Tell them I understand and respect their request,” she instructs, wording her brief response carefully. As long as they can’t deny that she’s understanding and respecting the request, it’s hard to imagine they’ll contact her again. I’m not lying per se. She scrutinizes her words again, making sure they’re not problematic.

Yes, all I have to do is understand and respect the request and then act anyway.

Luckily, perhaps it should be said, by the time someone clever at Group Command realizes what we’re up to, the V-1s will have struck Brest. There’ll be nothing they can do to stop us, then.

But Tanya realizes her predictions were a bit optimistic. I’m not a fan of the fact that the efforts to hold her back are so serious. It means some department has its eye on her.

It will only take a little longer, but there’s no telling what will happen during that short time.

“Seems like they’re going to bother us. Let’s push up the launch schedule.”

So Major Tanya von Degurechaff makes an executive decision to hurry.

Considering the risks, she resolves to move up the launch schedule. It took no time for her to decide that it was more important to prioritize going faster than humanly possible over securing perfect conditions.

Normally, the itinerary would be decided upon checking the weather forecast and analyzing enemy movements, but all that has been omitted. They’ll get a rough outline of the situation over the wireless, and that’s it. She’s decided on the shortest attack route. That will use the least fuel, which should give them the secondary effect of a bigger bang when the V-1s hit the enemy ships.

Either way, she’s going with speed over polish.

Luckily, the engineers really are engineers. The way they briskly perform all necessary tasks provides a glimpse of the high caliber of technological support the Empire is so proud of.

I’m genuinely thankful to have these precision machines properly serviced.

It’s only a little longer now.

No, we can go in just a few more minutes.

Should I order everyone to board?

Just as Tanya is thinking to act, she sees a soldier from the communications facility racing toward her. It’s the same soldier who had come with the warning from Group Command earlier. Tanya wonders if it’s some other notice, but her expression gradually stiffens.

It’s the same radio operator from before, but he’s changed color. He’s running so earnestly, and that look in his eyes says he has something to tell her…

She realizes at that point that he’s frantic to get some message to her.

“…Ahh, damn it.”

So Tanya has no choice but to grumble to the heavens.

It’s not as if she believes in intuition, but she gathers that this will be bad news. She immediately looks over the unit, but it will be a tiny bit longer before they can launch.

How fatal even an infinitesimal delay can prove in combat!

It’s only a few minutes’ difference, but it’s enough for whatever that soldier is going to say to come out of his mouth.

It’s too late to wish she could have gotten them moving a bit sooner; she regrets it from the bottom of her heart, but the giant mistake has already been made. She abruptly considers knocking the messenger unconscious, but there’s no way she could do that with so many people watching, so she discards the idea immediately.

Panicking isn’t going to improve the situation one bit. Is this what it feels like the moment before you get executed? In any case, this is the height of bad luck.

“Commander! Special orders from the General Staff!”

Ahh, I don’t want to hear them. I don’t want to hear anything. He doesn’t even have to say a word for me to know it’s lousy news.

Agh, can’t you be a little more considerate?! You could have done your job just a little slower!

…I know quite well that my emotions are wailing irrationally. Just moments ago, I was admiring him for his loyalty as a soldier. It wouldn’t really be fair to take that back right afterward.

Still.

Tanya can’t help the urge to throttle him.

“The cease-fire has been declared! This is from the General Staff with the highest priority to all units!”

“The cease-fire? They declared the cease-fire?!”

Before she can stop him, Lieutenant Weiss asks the messenger again, thanks to which all the others hear the news. Now there’s no way we can launch the attack claiming we didn’t hear.

Not only would I not accomplish much on my own, I’d be shot for breaking the cease-fire.

“Commander, please halt the sortie at once!”

There’s no misunderstanding that scream.

“It’s a cease-fire! Please halt the sortie at once!”

He’s raising his voice to tell me to stop.

Yeah, I hear you. Tanya waves in response. As long as this is your job, I should respect you for doing it. He’s an ideal soldier; all noncoms should be so faithful to their duties.

But Tanya refuses to accept this news. She’s come this far with her solo action plan, resigned to some kind of punishment because she knows that this is the last chance for the Empire to avoid defeat.

Now. If we don’t act now, we’ll have no way to make it in time. Major Tanya von Degurechaff knows this horrifying truth. If we get Dunkirked, victory will slip away to a place beyond the Empire’s reach.

So we have to do it now. If we don’t, we probably can’t save the Empire.

At the same time, she knows. If they sortie, she’ll be the one responsible for violating the cease-fire.

If she could find some way out of that, things might have been different. But now that she has been clearly instructed to halt the sortie due to a cease-fire, she’s left with no room for fuzzy arguments.

Which is why Tanya’s expression is extremely conflicted. She can see that if they don’t go now, catastrophe and ruin will eventually befall the Empire. It’s inevitable.

But to go means her personal downfall. That is equally inevitable.

In other words, for an extremely simple reason, she is unable to sortie. But not sortieing could mean the slow death of a collapse awaits. It’s painful; she can see the chance to completely obliterate that possibility right in front of her, but she has to let it go.

And so.

Erupting angrily, she crumples to the runway with no regard for who might be listening and bitterly spits in an almost despairing tone, “…Ngh. Shit, shit, shit! Abort! Abort the sortie!”

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