Youjo Senki, Volumen 4, Capitulo 4

Chapter IV, Reorganization


Colonel von Lergen was proud of his work as a General Staff officer. As a soldier, as an officer, and most of all as a human being, he had no doubt that faithfully carrying out his assignments was his duty. Perhaps that was the problem.

With a gloomy face, he mentally sighed for the umpteenth time he had lost count that day. This must be how it feels to want to escape to alcohol and cigarettes if it was allowed. It seemed he wasn’t the only one who felt that way.

The details were truly absurd.

The military was being restrained by political request. Though he knew it was a farce, he found himself in the position of having to force several high-ranking officers to become clowns.

People have a tendency to misuse these inquiries, thought Lergen, heaving a sigh as he took the seat prepared for him. He glanced around the room and noticed that the faces to his left and right were all nearly twitching. From their expressions, it was obvious that everyone was reluctant to be there.

Both high-ranking officers of the General Staff and staffers in charge of day-to-day business were in attendance. There may have been a lull on the eastern front, but that didn’t mean their time was infinite. Lergen understood their irritation at having to squander it on such a foolish endeavor.

That must have been why. The wooden mallet signaling the beginning of the meeting sounded almost like a call to get it over with.

“Everyone’s here? Good, let’s begin.”

It was Lieutenant General von Zettour himself calling the meeting to order, after all. Maybe that’s how he meant it.

“All right, Major von Degurechaff. This court of inquiry will hereby investigate your recent behavior in order to clear up Supreme Command’s questions.”

And Lergen couldn’t blame him. Everything about this inquiry was irregular. The one who carried out the attack on the Federation capital, what would normally be considered a successful operation, was being reprimanded, albeit in a roundabout way.

The army’s logic said her actions were forgivable. Which was why originally, the entire General Staff vehemently opposed this meeting. The reason it got pushed through was probably that the civil officials who spent all their time in the rear didn’t understand what war was.

Since Zettour was presiding, the verdict was sure to be innocent. The difficult-to-bridge gap among the General Staff, the government, and the politicians was clear, both from the fact that the nonurgent matter was viewed as problematic, regardless, and that a need for an inquiry was felt at all, if only to have a story ready.

Well, it makes sense. Lergen accepted the situation with a sigh.

The sole cause of this issue was that Major von Degurechaff’s actions could be seen as overkill.

From a military perspective, attacking the enemy capital was logical. Any staff officer could nod in approval of the incredibly significant contribution she had made. But when he heard that some of her conduct would invite controversy from a political perspective, Lergen could understand that reasoning as well.

If the aim was to pulverize the enemy’s honor, then attacking symbols of their country was difficult to avoid. The politicians probably thought it would just provoke the Federation… They were missing the point, but neither could he deny what they were saying.

“In this inquiry, Major von Degurechaff, the allegations against you are that you used excessive military force in an urban area and took military actions at your own discretion. Do you admit the truth of these things?”

The criticisms of going too far and doing so independently, as Zettour had just read in a skillful monotone, were based on reason.

Most of the officers present, however, would promptly dismiss that reasoning as distorted. Lergen himself was confident that the strict orders regarding Degurechaff’s innocence from his direct superior, Lieutenant General von Rudersdorf, would be carried out.

The attack on Moskva was necessary. That was Lergen’s firm belief.

“General. I am both shocked at the two allegations you’ve presented to me and adamant that they are not true I swear it.”

“That’s fine. Then, Major von Degurechaff, let’s clear up the allegation of acting on your own discretion first.”

Everyone believed that although the operation conducted by the 203rd Aerial Mage Battalion as a threat and a distraction ended up being a long-range raid that was more threatening and distracting than anticipated, it did not deviate in a significant way from what you would call harassment attacks.

Even if she did act on her own, all the General Staff officers would say it was within the scope of her orders. Why? Because she had reached the goals of those orders. This was what you called thinking on your toes, not disobedience.

Which must have been why Zettour nodded as if he understood.

“Prosecutor, get going.” Unlike the calm, familiar voice he’d been using up until now, his tone abruptly switched to harsh and forceful.

Well, he didn’t need to hide it. The moment he addressed the army’s judicial officer in such a stern tone, his true feelings were clear. After all, he himself had been involved in establishing the 203rd Aerial Mage Battalion. Even in this inquiry, if the General Staff hadn’t forced him to take it on the pretext that he was the one responsible for her, he never would have been given the presiding role.

“Oh, Prosecutor, before I forget, I have a warning. No observers are allowed to leave their seats during the proceedings. If Major von Degurechaff’s honor is in question, then as an Imperial Army officer, I prefer that all officers are present to witness the discussion. I’m sure you know this, but,” he continued, and what he said next was, from the view of the army judicial officers, quite difficult, “personally, if need be or anyone would like to, I’m fine with making the logs public. All right. You may begin.”

His method was extraordinarily thorough. Before the judicial officer, representing the will of Supreme Command, could even open his mouth, Zettour got in a terribly fierce opening jab.

It proved how against the inquiry Zettour and all the General Staff officers were, but at the same time, regardless of their opposition, the meeting was still being held.

By clearing Degurechaff’s name, they would protect everyone else’s from being disparaged as well. Even if they had ultimately overcome the General Staff and Eastern Army Group’s resistance for that purpose, they still felt the Supreme Command was being too cutthroat in its treatment of Degurechaff.

“Then I’ll start with the matter of her independent actions…”

And then, looking at the list of charges the judicial officer presented one by one, Lergen had to sigh. I knew it.

The tension in the meeting room was the officers’ anger. It was easy to guess the target of the inquiry felt the same way, though she maintained a sober, sincere exterior.

“…This is giving me a headache.”

To Lergen, it was self-evident that the conclusion reached today would not reproach Degurechaff. How many people were there who could withstand the gazes of Zettour as he presided and the others, and strip her of her honor and qualifications as an officer?

The head of the inquiry committee was nominally the head of the General Staff. Zettour, as the one leading the inquiry in practical terms, was a critical member of the General Staff.

It had to be obvious that everyone felt the inquiry was a farce. Zettour, probably in the spirit of protest, began eyeing his nearby cigarette case while the judicial officer was talking and ended up borrowing a light from someone next to him.

The majority of the officers thought the inquiry was absurd. While they sneered at every word the judicial officer said, they nodded at everything the defense said. There were even some who went so far as to applaud.

When Zettour dutifully banged the mallet for order, the comedy was unavoidable.

That was why why Lergen had to grumble.

“…Couldn’t we have avoided this? This whole inquiry?”

He was caught in the throes of shameful regret.

There had been multiple hints of the danger. There was a severe disparity in awareness between the army and the rear. He had been convinced he was being careful.

He had done his utmost to exchange opinions on the war situation with those in the rear and keep abreast of both the army’s position and circumstances on the home front. Those might have been abnormal activities for a staff officer in Operations, but he strongly believed that a unified rear was necessary in order to take military action smoothly. And when the attacking Federation Army was annihilated in an unconventional maneuver battle, he had proudly drunk to the clearly functioning coordination between the front lines and the home front.

And then this. How did we get here? Why did they even need this defense’s fierce rebuttal and the overwhelmed judicial officer? He could only find it extremely regrettable that they couldn’t have avoided this inquiry. All it’s doing is exacerbating the discord.

After all, just watching, he knew what the outcome would be. Degurechaff answered each insulting question matter-of-factly, suppressing her emotions. The moderator was neutral in name only and persistently hurled sarcasm at the prosecutor. The defense didn’t even try to hide their determination to oppose this unjust attack on an officer’s honor.

Regarding her solo actions, the General Staff officers proclaimed for the record that they had no problem. And about the excessiveness of the attack, the defense ended up laying tenaciously into the prosecution using the precedent of strikes on military facilities as well as quotes from army memos.

The following even made it into the record: “She avoided civilian facilities. We should officially praise her hard work in limiting the attack only to party or military facilities.”

When the badly sweating prosecutor leaned over his desk and his counterarguments trailed off, Zettour finally brought the farce to an end.

“Well, it seems like we’ve run out of things to debate.” After making a formal remark that everyone had presented their arguments in detail, he turned to the main topic at hand. “This inquiry reaches the following conclusion. Major Tanya von Degurechaff, we regard the allegations against you as refuted.”

Zettour gave the verdict in a tone that said, The charade is over, and the officers nodded as if that was only natural… Was the reason every last one of them was wearing the Field Service Badges given for combat experience pinned to their uniforms to tacitly express the fury of the front lines?

“Major Tanya von Degurechaff, your name has been cleared. I hereby bring this inquiry to a close. May you continue to fight in the fiercest battles and devote yourself to our cause. That is all.”

For now, the matter had come to a close.

But as he left the meeting room to attend to his next tasks, Lergen was feeling horribly weighed down. All he could think was how wrong he had been.

He never thought Supreme Command, especially Foreign Intelligence and the cabinet, would not only express anger about the attack on Moskva and Major von Degurechaff’s other military actions but also have such a disconnect with the army that they would demand an inquiry.

…When he received the first report, he’d screamed that he couldn’t believe it. Once he’d calmed down, he finally started to understand the nature of the problem. He understood that Degurechaff was apt to carry out unyielding plans in order to get results. Sometimes he worried about it. But not like that.

He may have had reason to be anxious, but it was her means he had no thought of reproaching her for her ends. Actually, apart from his qualms about her character, she was outstanding. You could even call her a model Imperial Army officer.

“…Did I just get used to her way of thinking somewhere along the line? Does that mean…she’s right?”

If we can hit Moskva, we can pull at least some of the Federation troops out of the eastern border fight.

“In a way, she was trying to re-create what happened on the Rhine front… And all you can say is that she did a great job. Thanks to her attack, many of the aerial forces on the eastern front were pulled back. It’s a magnificent feat, and there’s nothing problematic about it.”

…Of course, he had to add that this was a soldier’s perspective.

By coming from a distance and raiding important facilities and bases in their country, they forced the enemy to strengthen their defenses in the rear, which resulted in their being able to send only limited resources to the forward-most lines. That’s a harassment attack.

From the Imperial Army’s point of view, by demonstrating that they could attack Moskva at any time, they pinned Federation troops to the vicinity of the capital.

He never in a million years thought that authorizing Degurechaff’s attack plan would cause so much trouble, so he couldn’t help but be puzzled by the internal arguments.

Then once he recovered from his confusion and understood, he felt hopeless. Probably the Empire’s rear was controlled by prewar logic. They weren’t changing their minds according to the reports that came in the newspapers or over the radio, they were simply making calls using prewar logic!

What spectacular cross-purposes they were at in this debate.

War is something soldiers fight through with the support of the home front. But of late, war had become the army’s jurisdiction, and the rear was indifferent to the army’s situation.

To put it nicely, perhaps they trust the army… To be less generous, they simply don’t understand.

“Either way, something must be done or we’ll be in trouble…” He continued, “No, first comes the matter of Major von Degurechaff.”

Lergen casually switched gears and refocused on the task before him.

At present, the court of inquiry had looked into Degurechaff’s past and showed there were no problems. As a result, various papers were handed out to members of the court, and they were notified that Degurechaff’s acquittal would be noted in the public record.

With that, it would be official that she had never done anything problematic. The army had denied the rear and the authority of Supreme High Command. If the home front and the front lines had to clash, Lergen regretted that he couldn’t have had it happen in a more subdued way.

But at the same time, he had to be “considerate” and think of where to send Degurechaff and her battalion next. They wanted to ask her opinion, so since he and she were acquaintances, the job fell to him. Well, it’s a good opportunity. At the very least, it was definitely a chance to understand her and get a handle on her intentions.

It was when he stepped into the room at the General Staff Office where he’d had her wait for him that he finally realized he should have brought Major Uger with him. Maybe even someone who’s irritated from an unwanted inquiry would relax somewhat if a classmate from war college was there.

But he was already running late.

Degurechaff stood and gave him a precise textbook salute. He winced as he returned her salute.

“I guess it’s been a while. Sorry for the wait, Major.”

She was much calmer than he expected as she replied that she didn’t mind.

“Great, then let’s talk about where you’ll be stationed. Any requests?”

Her reply, however, was so shocking, he nearly fell over backward.

“You’d like to do something besides frontline duty… Is that correct?”

“Yes, sir,” she responded matter-of-factly with no hesitation or scheming in her eyes. The war is hot and Major von Degurechaff…doesn’t want to serve on the front lines? If she were a new recruit or a replacement, he could reprove her for being scared, but if a tough-as-nails commander who charged the Republican Army’s headquarters on the Rhine front was avoiding the front, that was a different story.

Thus, confirming her intention was simply administrative procedure his opening move, if you would.

“All right. Then, Major, I have a question I’d like you to answer.”

“Yes, sir.”

“Feel free to consider this a personal conversation. Major von Degurechaff, why would a soldier as outstanding as yourself want to avoid the forward-most line?”

He wanted to know just one thing: the reason. His own interest also lay there. No, you could say it lay only there.

So, though he wasn’t sure how to go about it, he had to ask.

It was a perfectly natural question to have: Why would she, feared as Rusted Silver, choose service in the rear?

“To put it exceedingly briefly, frontline duty is annoying. I’m requesting rear service for entirely personal reasons. Also, I meant to say so sooner, but I have a suggestion about who my successor should be the new commander of the 203rd Aerial Mage Battalion, I mean. I would like to recommend my second-in-command, Captain Weiss.”

The news went around the General Staff Office in a flash. Major Tanya von Degurechaff, commander of the 203rd Aerial Mage Battalion, earnestly desired to work in the rear! The reason? The inquiry over her achievements in battle used up the last of her patience.

For a moment, everyone could understand Makes sense but to those who worked with her, it was no joke. At the head of that pack was General von Zettour.

When he received the report from Lergen and flew into the colonel’s office looking for her, the first words out of his mouth were firm. “…Let’s say what we mean. What…is this?”

In his hand was the memo Lergen had dashed off just a few moments ago regarding Degurechaff’s assignment preference.

When she looked at him unfazed, he hurled the report, where it said her inclination was toward rear service, to the floor.

His demeanor changed so fast, any normal officer would have gone deathly pale. As if expressing Zettour’s anger, the bundle of papers broke apart as it slammed into the floor, and the sheets scattered in a fluttering mess. This was probably the first exhibition of such rage Lergen had seen since joining the army.

Could the sergeants attached to training platoons even manifest such striking fury? Frankly, he didn’t know it was possible for someone to get so mad.


Anyone who noticed what happened next was amazed… Degurechaff was staring at him, dumbfounded. Not calmly, not furious at being denied, but dumbfounded.

That…that combat doll. That human in a monster’s clothing. She looks shocked.

“Answer me, Major. What possible reason do you have to abandon your duty?”

“General, I don’t understand the intent of your question.”

The question’s intent was clear. Even if the rear was interfering, this behavior was far beyond the code of the permissible. What purpose could she have for betraying the expectations of the army and the General Staff, then launching such a bullish verbal attack on top of it all?

“And I’ll ask this, too: You not only want to avoid combat duty in the east but in the west and at home as well?”

“Yes, General. I intend to continue to give my all in the course of duty. Please allow me to say that I’m surprised you would doubt me enough to say I would abandon it.”

“Sorry, so that’s what you meant when you said you couldn’t understand?”

“Yes, sir, that’s right. I don’t understand.”

You have no explanation of why you would request something that is practically equivalent to abandoning your duty? Even Lergen could understand the tacit intent of Zettour’s question.

And yet…

And yet.

She doesn’t get it?

Degurechaff’s answer was so unexpected that for a moment, everyone froze in spite of themselves. What is she saying? The being before his eyes suddenly seemed like an incomprehensible monster. What just came out of her mouth?

“…What? You don’t understand? It’s just what I asked, Major. Why would an elite like you, with an alias, volunteer for rear service?”


Yes, that was exactly it.

Major Tanya von Degurechaff’s career as a mage was practically equivalent to her life. In that way, she had spent half her existence with the army and most of that in the gambling den of the forward-most lines.

And now she’s trying to evade combat service?

What Zettour was doing was less like asking what caused her mind to change and more like grilling her, and he wouldn’t stop. Maybe that was why…Degurechaff, seeming resigned at last, mumbled her true feelings.

“General, the orders I received were to attack the Federation capital. All I did was follow the General Staff’s orders. I followed the orders and got an inquiry opened on me, so it seems to me like people doubt my very capacity to obey.”

“Are you being serious?”

“Of course, General.”

Her reply on that point was childlike, in the sense that she was so assured of her own correctness, but from a soldier’s perspective, it was an incredibly suspicious thing to say.

Just looking at her, she seemed like a kid who had run her first errand, chest puffed proudly out. It was almost as if she was saying, I went and bought the potatoes you asked for!

…The vibe felt very odd in this context.

“So you’re saying you made this remark because you followed the General Staff’s orders, but the result was a court of inquiry?”

If Lergen looked closely, he could see Zettour’s temples pulsing. Mm, you don’t even have to look. He winced. No one would want to stand before the general like he was now. His rage was rolling off his entire body.

“Yes, General. I carried out the distraction mission to support the main lines in the east. But I feel like if any officer has doubts about even one of my military actions, then maybe I lack the aptitude to serve in operations.”

“…Do you not realize what you’re saying? Or are you playing with fire in full comprehension of what you’re doing?”

This must be what it feels like to watch someone play with matches near a powder magazine. To nervously wonder when it will explode. Less like butterflies in the chest, more like a stabbing pain in the gut.

Lergen could only feel sorry for himself that he happened to be witness to this confrontation. If he was lucky, he would drink whiskey stronger than wine and forget it.

…If forgetting it would even be possible.

“No, General. I’m a soldier, and as such, I believe only in following the code of conduct.”

The major answered as if she didn’t know what she was being asked, as if she hadn’t understood what the question was getting at. And she didn’t look guilty at all. Her face was a mask of confusion at getting the third degree from her superior officer.

“Major, is there anything else you’d like to say in response to that question?” the general replied.

He had poured so much anger into his expression that it seemed like no individual would ever be able to top such a display of the emotion.

If Lergen had had a choice, he wouldn’t have been within a hundred meters of this scene.

Is that really what’s on my mind right now?

…Lergen sensed that in some corner of his brain he was having escapist thoughts, but he couldn’t make them stop.

“General, I’ve been saying this for a while now, but I don’t have anything else to add.”

“…Major, I value your eye for strategy.”

With a marvelous show of self-restraint, Zettour just barely managed to keep from exploding with a rage that would have melted an iron will. Historians should praise him in posterity for that moment.

“I’m honored, General.” And surely historians would also make note of Degurechaff’s even reply.

Let’s be honest. Lergen had never felt successful verbal communication to be such a wonder until this moment. What Degurechaff meant with that remark was outside the realm of his comprehension.

You’re acting like a child trying to get her way, he nearly complained, but then it hit him.

…A child trying to get her way?

He didn’t think it could be possible, but when he glanced over at the major, her cheeks were puffed out in frustration. She calmly faced Zettour, but the difference in their height meant she was looking up at him.

It was easy to forget, but Major von Degurechaff was…little.

And she didn’t have much life experience, so if the military made up the majority of it, and then this inquiry questioned her suitability for her role… Could she be going through a rebellious phase?

You’ve got to be kidding me. Lergen suddenly felt very confused.

“Tell me, in detail, what you believe was the military significance of the raid on Moskva.”

“Yes, sir. It was the optimal way to support the troops on the main lines in the east. I also take pride in it as a step toward exhausting the Federation.”

It was easy to guess how Degurechaff felt as she confronted Zettour with that restrained response and magnificently expressionless face.

Actually, her declaration of pride was probably genuine. But that was precisely why Lergen suddenly wanted a painkiller.

You’re proud of it but simultaneously pouting because you’re being criticized for it?

That. If the monster leading an aerial mage battalion is a soldier with this mentality, that’s awfully ironic. She has the Silver Wings with Oak. Her achievements virtually require her to be described as a hero.

But her alias White Silver is perhaps too far from the truth. Rather than the elegant White Silver, she’s a terrible foe corroded by splattered blood and worthy of the name Rusted Silver.

That notwithstanding, inside she’s a child whining that she doesn’t want to go to the front lines because someone got mad at her?

“All right. I understand how you feel.”

“I’m honored.”

Lergen had no idea what to say anymore, but before his eyes, Zettour seemed to have understood something and abruptly changed the subject.

Unable to grasp the context, Lergen had no choice but to observe in silence.

“Now then, about your request for rear service…I’d like to first confirm a few things about your intentions.”

In reply to Degurechaff’s “Yes, sir,” Zettour nodded like a friendly old man.

“I’d like to ask if you think an early peace is possible.”

“It’s out of the question. I believe it’s pointless to even consider.”

“Huh?” It slipped out before Lergen realized.

“And why do you think that?”

“First, this premise: There is no logical reason for the Federation to have started this war with us, as far as we know. Yes?”

“Go on.”

Lergen was left by the wayside at a loss, unable to read where the conversation was going, while Degurechaff and Zettour continued the discussion between themselves with their own understanding.

But even Lergen could grasp what Degurechaff had pointed out about the Federation he had a hard time understanding why it had opened hostilities, too. If the Federation wanted to hit the Empire, it should have come out swinging earlier. There was no explanation for why, if it had the will to fight, it had stood by until the Empire defeated the Republic.

It should be noted that both powers took pains to refrain from accidental clashes at the border. That was why, when the first report came in, all the staff officers at the General Staff Office, including Lergen, had shouted, Why?! in confusion.

“There is no logical reason, General. At least, not that we know of.”

“Not that we know of?”

“Yes, General. Regardless of how our research has progressed, there must be some reason we don’t know.”

Actually, as far as Lergen knew, research hadn’t been progressing. Understandably, dealing with the invasion was being prioritized over figuring out the reason for it. And in the General Staff, a full investigation had been put off because they were short on manpower. Under the urgent circumstances of an enemy closing in, they were forced to choose pouring all their might into repelling them rather than leisurely analyzing their motives.

“Therefore, we shouldn’t negotiate using the existing paradigm. Until we grasp the paradigm, it’s unclear if it’s even possible to negotiate with that country.”

“Some think if we get through the first attack, we’ll find a way…”

“…With all due respect, a cease-fire would mean death to the Federation. Why? Because in a state with a political system like the Federation’s, the government won’t accept that failure.”

Lergen furrowed his brow at the direction of a conversation he thought was going to be a rabbit trail… At this rate, it was more like a strategy meeting and on an extremely realistic level.

Degurechaff led them to an obvious answer. With this lack of clarity, it was impossible to negotiate. And more importantly, if they didn’t know the root reason, it was impossible to investigate.

And Zettour nodded with a “Right,” as if he understood everything.

“Therefore, negotiating an early cease-fire is a total fantasy. I would guess that even small-scale negotiations on the front lines will be extremely difficult.”

“Your point about the difficulty makes sense. But don’t you think it’s your Moskva strike that rendered negotiations impossible due to their loss of face?”

Virtually all their work had been obliterated by that attack.

Strictly speaking, the move had been a military necessity. You could say that for the defense of the east, it was an indispensable action. But was the price perhaps too high?

Now that its honor had been kicked, trampled, and minced, the Federation couldn’t back down. And with the Empire’s fighting spirit running so high, the army wouldn’t be able to quit the war so easily. The public was eager for victory and further results.

Wasn’t the trigger for all that Degurechaff’s action? Surely, at least part of the responsibility lay with her.

“No, General.”

Zettour’s question, regardless of the logic of it, was one that Lergen had been somewhat curious about as well, on an emotional level.

Should it be described as some sort of warning from his instincts, which knew the extent of Degurechaff’s abnormality? Her response is going to be garbage. Strangely, Lergen was able to foresee that much.

“Hmm… Then tell me, Major, what do you think?”

For a moment, he couldn’t help but feel like Zettour’s question was like a hand reaching for Pandora’s box. It was an emotion virtually unknown to him. He wanted to ask so badly, and yet his emotions shrieked not to. He thought that he’d been ready to fight for his nation ever since joining the army.

“General, the Federation sees the world in a different way than we do. It’s a nation with a tendency to be exclusionary and paranoid.”


“So the values governing its conduct probably emphasize survival. It’s scared of the Empire. Or scared of being attacked. If you hypothesize that it took the initiative to attack for that reason, the choice begins to make sense.”

But what’s this? Degurechaff’s giving a calm reply before his eyes?

Lergen did his best to organize the disordered thoughts in his muddled mind. She is Major Tanya von Degurechaff. She’s a magic officer and has also completed her education as a General Staff officer.

And she’s a child.

…Something was very strange. Yet, there she was, as if it was the most natural thing in the world. Is this the final form of the nation’s ideal soldier?

The angle of her analysis was clear. At least, her reputation within the General Staff as something of an expert on the Federation’s unique outlook was already established.

Or perhaps “as a strategist” was more accurate? She had overwhelmed the General Staff with her new concept of total war and its accompanying logistical concerns. Her strategy to bleed out enemy nations via attrition, sacrificing both honor and humanity, was horrifically effective.

Watching the annihilation of the Republican field army and the subsequent collapse of the Republican military that went along with the bloodletting had rendered him speechless. Her success with decapitation tactics and her performance on the Rhine front proved that she was not only a skilled strategist but an outstanding field officer as well.

“To go further emotions. General, the main cause of their actions is fear. Military actions are no exception.”

This officer who could read the battlefield like no other… This talent bowling over the geniuses of the army with her keen eye for strategy…

Even if she’s within reach of the truth, what do we do then?

“What are you trying to say?”

“General, the existence of the Empire is cause for a fear the Federation can no longer tolerate. If that is the case, the Federation will only lay down its swords when we are destroyed.”

Zettour smiled wryly. I see. Fear? He was silent for a moment, apparently choosing his words carefully, and then asked a question. “I understand for the most part, but I have a question.”

“What might that be, sir?”

“It’s simple. Major, why didn’t the Federation stab us in the back while we were fighting the Republic? If the Empire is the object of their fear, what were they waiting for?”

Lergen nodded, wondering the same thing. But Degurechaff smiled as if to say, That’s a very good question, but…

“You’re quite right; however, that’s a rational decision in the military realm. General, what if the Federation was frightened of the immensely powerful Empire’s intention of going so far as to destroy the Republic?”

…The significance of that is, in other words…

When Lergen’s thoughts hit on a terrible possibility he couldn’t deny, he finally had to interject. “General von Zettour, please forgive an interruption.”

When his superior answered that he didn’t mind, Lergen took advantage of his chance to ask a question.

“You mean to say that the Federation was so scared to fight us that they stood by while we destroyed the Republic and then couldn’t bear the idea of facing a giant Empire on their own?! What kind of absurd logic is that?!”

“Colonel von Lergen, this is all just a hypothesis. But as I see it, this was inevitable. They’re desperate to survive. I would guess that they’re determined to fight until either the Federation or the Empire falls.”

“So there’s no way to peacefully come to terms?”

A huge war. A huge war that will only get bigger.

The question of why the major before his eyes had an innocent smile on her face crossed his mind.

How can she smile? How can she smile at me so calmly?

“No, Colonel.”

It was almost as if she was saying, I’m glad you see things my way.

He wanted to believe it wasn’t true, but at the same time, the thought that it was welled up from somewhere within him.

A huge, horrific war. Will we create another hell like the Rhine?

“Achieving peace at all seems impossible. Either we collapse or they do one or the other.”

“A war of annihilation?”

“Isn’t that what total war is in the first place?” she answered without pause, much less uncertainty.

In her assured, total conviction was that manner particular to people who are stating something self-evident. If she can reply that confidently, then…I misread her.

She has to be either a hopelessly shortsighted idiot or a lunatic fit for this insane reality.

Having thought as much, Lergen grew truly afraid.

Reality is mad. Which means in this crazy reality, she…

She, crazy Major von Degurechaff, might be the rational one.

In other words, she understands the twisted logic in this deranged world?

Perhaps Zettour is able to control his anger because he has considered that. Having reached that conclusion, Lergen braced himself and regained the resolve to consider her a rational person.

He abandoned his preconceptions and simply tried to understand.

Of course, he was only one person, so he didn’t really think he could fully comprehend it.

Even so. His ability to understand this world where every piece of the paradigm was different can be said to be a successful manifestation of his intellectual flexibility as a high-ranking imperial soldier.

Ohhh, ohhh, oh God. How could you let this happen?

“Major von Degurechaff, you say you wish to serve in the rear knowing that we’re currently in a crisis. I’ll ask you directly: What do you want to do?”

“Military might has to be used properly. I want to make sure that when we need ways to contribute to such proper usage, we have them.”

“…I’ll give you two months.”


“I’ll station you on the western front on my authority. You won’t be completely in the rear, but on the western lines, you’ll be able to work on combat skill research and apply your energies to investigating the lessons we’ve learned in action. After two months, write up whatever’s on your mind and turn it in to the Strategic Research Office. We’ll decide your assignment based on that.”

Ah, damn, thought Lergen as he read his superior’s intentions. Even if her eye for strategy is deranged, it’s solid. So he wants to know that for sure? He must mean to see how this lunatic analyzes this insane world and decide what to do with her based on that.


At a meeting in a bunker far below Moskva, the distinguished members of the true core of the party gathered. But, perhaps it should be said, despite the power and authority these nomenklatura possessed, all but one of them were white as a sheet in the face, just sitting in terror.

A major incident in their one-party regime had dragged the honor of their great dictator and the party members through the mud. Moskva getting attacked directly would most certainly…not blow over like a mere storm.

And what’s more, their westwardly attacking army’s Main Attack Group was met with an imperial counterattack, took heavy losses, and was falling apart. With the Federation Army at the Imperial Army’s mercy in that way, a moderate political solution was virtually hopeless.

Everyone still remembered. They remembered how many of their colleagues and predecessors were forced to “confess” to “counterrevolutionary crimes” and fell victim to the Great Purge several years ago.

When the incident was this big, someone was definitely going to be made a scapegoat, whether they had erred or not.

There were more than a couple from the top of the Federation Army and national defense matters who had bid their families good-bye before coming.

For those in attendance, who were feeling a mix of grim determination and resignation, the presence of the furious Comrade General Secretary Josef was rightly enough to bring back their nightmares. But what was even more terrifying was the presence of the grinning purge enforcer, Loria.

Just the sight of that bloodthirsty duo made it easy to jump to the conclusion that they were going to die this day, so the atmosphere was frigid.

“Comrade General Secretary, permission to speak, please.”

“Yes, what is it?”

“An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. We must show the scoundrels who caused this situation the fury of the people.”

Just as someone bemoaned their fate with a groan…

When everyone was prepared for the traitors and culprits to be reprimanded, Loria said something no one expected.

“So what we need is solidarity of the people.”

“…Comrade Loria, did you just say ‘solidarity’?”

“Yes, Comrade General Secretary. Our motherland is in crisis. As such, we must unite. We are one nation, one party, and we must fight for one victory.”

Everyone was sure he would say that there had to be a purge, or punishment, or executions, or disposal. When they were all scared stiff that they would be blamed…

Comrade Loria continued with a proposal no one had anticipated. His remarks surprised even General Secretary Josef.

“We’re in pursuit of an idea. Perhaps, then, we should give our dishonored former comrades, who should be pursuing it with us, a chance to atone. We must overcome our petty differences and face this crisis for the sake of our motherland, our mother party, and the party’s triumph.”

As Loria of the Commissariat for Internal Affairs continued, everyone was astonished.

“An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. Therefore, I recommend that in order to reach that goal, we use the mages currently interned for their offenses against the previous regime. We should also reinstate the imprisoned officers and give them back their commands.”

For a moment, the remarks boggled even the general secretary’s mind. It was neither a purge nor a judgment on those responsible but an actually constructive proposal. From Loria, of all people!

The man whose fellow political commissar secretly thought him a brute that Loria made a constructive proposal. Several people reacted with a hint surprise despite being in public because it was just so out of the blue.

If if they weren’t in the presence of Comrade General Secretary Josef, who would declare even averting one’s eyes a treasonous sentiment, everyone would have turned to the person next to them with a look that said, Has he lost his mind? That’s how strange and shocking this was.

“…Comrade Loria, do you mean that? They’re counterrevolutionaries!”

The response from the party member who just barely managed to hide his mental distress was an ideological one. At least, he didn’t want anyone to think he was clamming up because he was plotting something. And thankfully, for the other attendees, his remarks provided a jumpstart for their own brains.

“Think about it, though. We’ll just have the counterrevolutionaries kill one another. Of course, the people’s resources are ours to use, but we can reduce our bullet consumption this way.”

But Comrade Loria’s answer was articulate. It was a clear idea presented without a moment’s hesitation.

They honestly couldn’t sense any reluctance at all. Could it be that that was also Comrade General Secretary’s will? Are you even allowed to give your own opinion like that in this dictatorship?

He was so confident that everyone was seized by these thoughts.

“But you never know when they’ll betray us!”

“Isn’t that what the political officers are there to supervise? I think our comrades the political officers are dauntlessly, aggressively standing up to those sorts of reactionary plots.”

Are these…

Are these the words of a man who, until just the other day, had his political officers make accusations? Who sent most of the mages to concentration camps in Sildberia or had them shot? It was as if he was saying, Why are you asking something so obvious? It was unfathomable.

“…No, I’m against it. It’s too dangerous.”

As one of the attendees mumbled…this would be turning back the clock. It was too great a risk for the Federation and the Communist Party.

What is the right way to approach this?

At that point, they all were stuck picking a side. But they couldn’t pick the wrong one.

Displeasing Comrade General Secretary Josef could mean the end of their lives. At the very least, they wouldn’t be able to avoid ruin. How should we think? No, we need to figure out what Comrade Loria was thinking in the first place. What is he no, the general secretary thinking?

“Too dangerous? You just said it’s too dangerous, but can you prevent the next strike?”


“Do you mean to say that our comrades in charge of defense have enough fighting power already? Then whom should I hold responsible for not preventing this strike?”

But sullen Loria’s remark obliterated any extra time they would have had to think.

…If they refused, they would be charged with defending Moskva with their current forces. But if that were possible, then the incident that already happened would probably be due to negligence. In that case, saying they could do it and then not being able to would be deemed irresponsible. The best that would be waiting for them was a concentration camp.

“Comrade General Secretary Josef, what do you think? I’d like to ask our comrades their opinion…”

“Go ahead, Comrade… This is to defeat the Empire. You should use any means necessary.”

At that point, the political commissars in attendance had braced themselves. You could say they had no other choice.

All they could do was agree to the plan to free the rebels they had put in camps, the rabble they had denounced as enemies of the state, in order to have them fight an external threat. If they didn’t, someone among them would probably no, almost definitely be purged as the dissident who compromised the army.

…Or it could be that someone was already the target.

“It’s unanimous.”

On that day…

The Federation’s politburo unanimously decided to release the magic officers and soldiers they had previously deemed enemies of the state and incorporate them into the military.

They even twisted the principles behind their actions, their “politics,” in order to resist the Empire. Well, principles and rules bend to priorities.

In the Federation, that made things very simple and clear. Be purged or obey. In the Federation, those were the only two options.

No, actually, you were pretty lucky if you had an option.

After all, in the case of most of the Federation’s citizens, it was decided for them.


In a certain factory in a certain country…

In a factory of the nation worthy of being called the highest temple of capitalism, John was applying his energies to a shopping trip what fun! Naturally, he wasn’t paying for anything out of his own pocket.

His friend Philadel was covering it. Well, the bill would go to the state, so he couldn’t spend too much. That said, necessary purchases were necessary purchases.

For example, the newest “tractor.” It weighed 41.9 tons, but five hundred horsepower wasn’t bad. Though he was also considering some faster models, the Commonwealth was most often engaged in defensive battles, so it sought durability over speed.

“Mr. Johnson, I’m afraid that would be unfair.”

But even in the Unified States, just because he said he wanted to buy something didn’t mean they had the inventory to sell. Production on the new model had only just begun. Plus, since it was so new, it contained a pile of industrial secrets.

It was only natural for John’s contact to be unwilling to negotiate.

“Oh? Is it so thoughtless of me to say I want to buy your company’s ‘newest tractor’?”

“Yes, and it is the newest! Exporting when we haven’t even filled domestic demand yet would be a bit…”

This wasn’t a case of selling off stock the States Army didn’t need the army’s needs weren’t even met yet. Under the circumstances, selling off “tractors” to a “neutral” nation would be difficult.

“I’m not saying give them to us for free. I’ll pay properly. Philadel is buying. There’s no more reliable payment than that, is there?”

“Could you at least choose an older model? We have plenty of those in stock.”

Of course, the salesman didn’t know when to give up. John had deep pockets. You don’t even have to be a capitalist to want to sell if someone has needs.

He proposed buying slightly older tractors as a business move.

Luckily, they had more than ample inventory. Productivity was even good, so they could manufacture more. If they could get production lines moving, that in itself was good news at least for the seller.

“Alas, I’ve heard they can’t be used in deserts or hot, humid climates and worst of all, that they’re weak.”

But in John’s catalog, that model was on the “do not buy” list. According to the experts, not only were they soft, but they couldn’t deliver a punch, either.

In the end, some of them even denounced such a “tractor” as not a “tractor” at all. Certainly, they were mechanically sound, but being only four hundred horsepower was another mark against them.

“…That’s too bad for us, too.”

Well, let’s try something else. John was a gentleman who could change gears.

If need be, he could consider settling for the old “medium tractors” rather than the worst-case “heavy tractors.”

But he also wanted to pursue another topic of discussion in parallel. For example, there was a pressing need for “precision pocket watches,” which could cost more than a flagship tank or aircraft, so they could proceed with that first.

“Hmm, what to do? You don’t handle ‘precision pocket watches,’ do you?”

“No, the Skunk Association does those.”

Then the man’s counterpart, an engineer from the Skunk Association, came out with a smile, and John was able to have a pleasant consultation with him. It was so much easier to do business when the seller was friendly and well versed in technology.

This is good customer service. John applauded the Skunk Association in his head. He already intended to give them a good review in the report he would write back to the home country.

“I’ll be direct: How many ‘6F water-resistant precision pocket watches’ do you have?”

The men on the boats wanted the 6F if at all possible. Well, it was very popular.

It wouldn’t rust in the salty ocean breezes, and on top of that, its movements were very reliable the men who sailed were desperate to get their hands on it.

It was at the top of the “buy this” list.

“The 6F? It only just got on the production line. Honestly, it’s going to be a while before we’re able to sell any.”

But sadly, they apparently didn’t have enough units for their own country yet. Geez, no this, no that. When will I be able to buy something we can actually use? John sulked.

Happily, the Skunk Association man was a more zealous salesman.

“But how about the ‘4U general-purpose precision pocket watch’?”

That one wasn’t very popular.

Of course, it wasn’t optimized for oceans and bad weather, and its performance was only so-so. At the same time, for an emergency import that could work in most situations, maybe the 4U wasn’t so bad.

“Oh? You have inventory?”

“Yes, five hundred. If need be, I can deliver them as early as tomorrow.”

Fortunately, the Skunk Association had a large number of these “precision pocket watches” on hand due to their relative unpopularity.

When one door shuts, another opens. John decided to buy immediately. The ready payment made the Skunk Association man want to throw in a bonus.

“Wonderful. Any other notable items?”

“If you don’t mind a model that didn’t get selected in the competition, I have a few of the trial run ‘G58 precision pocket watches.’ The performance isn’t any different from the winning design.”

He brought out something equivalent to the new model as the bonus. John had no problems with spending money.

And the Skunk Association guys were technicians. If they made something, it was in their nature to want to test it out. In that sense, the agent’s idea to try to sell the units was lucky for both parties.

“Interesting. What’s the difference?”

“We prioritized stability, and on top of poor peripheral compatibility, the manufacturing costs were too high.”

They created it as a potential new model. The results weren’t bad. But due to the costs and the peripheral issues, upon verification, the Skunk Association’s prototype wasn’t adopted.

While the official selection lacked stability, it boasted extraordinary peripheral compatibility, so the Skunk Association was feeling miffed. That played into it: Basically, they wanted to get back at everyone and show off what their product could do.

And so John was blessed with the offer of something better than he expected. It was like being shown a department store clerk’s secret stash. He had no hang-ups about brands, so he didn’t hesitate to buy.

“It’s great to have stability with those specs. Hmm, can I take your entire inventory?”

“If an advance test lot of twenty is all right, I can have them for you tomorrow. If we can get operational data, I’ll sell you them at cost.”

We can definitely get him as a regular customer. With that thought, the man instantly offered a discount. Skunk Association agents were also quite skillful salesmen.

We want to know how it feels to actually use it. That’s what the agent was thinking. Not only would they not have to pay for testing, they would make back some of their manufacturing costs. With this forward-thinking idea, the Skunk Association requested data, and John saved some money.

“Oh, that would be much appreciated.”

“It’s no trouble. We’ll be looking forward to your impressions.”

I’ll give them the highest praise in my report. He smiled and took out a pen in response to the beaming Skunk Association agent proffering the contract.

Then he signed with a flourish: Johnson. It would later be said that it was a great contract, and he was thankful for such a wonderful friendship.


The cadets were told by their superior officer to take advantage of their first free time in a while and write a letter to their families or something, and one of them was Mary Sue.

It was a little bit of a break during which they each wrote the first news to whomever they most wanted to contact, with a little bit of ribbing. The instructors who normally guided them through every little detail quit nagging for this brief time.

In the part of the barracks she was allotted, where she somehow managed to secure a bit of privacy with a corner desk, Mary grumbled about how small the army-issued military-use stationery was as she wrote her neat, round letters.

Dear Mother and Grandmother,

I’m still doing well in the Commonwealth. And how are you faring? Please take care of yourselves.

Er, I guess that was pretty stiff. I get scolded a lot in the army for the way I talk. But life here is more fulfilling than I expected.

If there’s anything I worry about, it’s the food. I’ve gotten a bit more used to it, but still. It’s the army, so if nothing else, the portion sizes are big, but I miss the apple pies we used to bake, Grandma.

After she’d written as much, Mary stopped her hand with a groan and winced. Maybe I should’ve been honest, and instead of saying I miss it, I could have said I’ve been having dreams about it.

Since arriving on Commonwealth soil, Mary had been undergoing lots of military training, and she’d had some tough, painful times, but the thing that really got to her was the food.

It was only a matter of taste, and Mary knew she couldn’t be picky.

The only reason recruits were given three meals a day while so many people were suffering in the war was national defense; Mary felt bad even without her unit instructor’s lectures.

“But it just doesn’t taste good… Seriously, why won’t they let us cook for ourselves?”

In the Unified States, some of the differences from Entente Alliance cuisine made her hesitate, but her grandmother’s cooking had a gentle flavor that she liked. The neighbors had given her fruit, and she had cooked with her grandmother for her mother.

It’s no wonder that feels like so long ago, thought Mary, remembering what had been on the menu recently.

“Seriously, ever since I got here, we’ve been having practically the same thing for every meal… I don’t have to worry about my weight, but other than that…”

She knew that was probably just how it was in the army, but when breakfast, lunch, and dinner were all identical, she started to get sick of it.

Training was also tiring…but somehow it was a fulfilling sort of tiredness, so she didn’t mind it. On the other hand… Mary recalled the baked beans she would rather not have. I wanna eat something sweet. She missed dessert just a teeny, tiny bit.

And another thing: She hadn’t gotten to taste that tea she’d been looking forward to. The expeditionary volunteer force was specially issued coffee because that’s what people from the former Entente Alliance zone and the Unified States were used to drinking. It was a weird way to be considerate.

“They’re going about this wrong, or at least things aren’t quite what they think…” Maybe getting special treatment was better than being treated like a nuisance, but I’d still like to try tea and biscuits… Mary daydreamed.

After this casual day, they would be back to the never-ending drills. Lately, they had been focused on shooting in particular.

During their firing drills, the importance of sighting your target and learning to eyeball distances was pounded into them over and over.

Mary understood why the moment she held a gun.

Shooting seemed easy, but the gun was heavier than she expected. And even if she tried to follow the textbook to measure a hundred meters by sight, unless she learned whereabouts a hundred meters was, she would end up aiming at the fifty-meter or two hundred–meter target.

After a string of terrible failures, her instructor would often tease her, “You know you’re aiming at the two-hundred target, right?” Hearing rumors that the instructors were constantly moving the hundred-meter target around to get them used to different distances, Mary felt like they might not be far off.

Prompted one by one into the shooting range being used as the exam venue, the orderly sound of complete cartridges being fired had indicated they were shooting live ammo.

She had learned in the classroom that getting used to standing by was part of being a soldier, but Mary didn’t really like having all this idle time.

But she smiled wryly at least today we haven’t been told to stand by holding our heavy rifles.

If she made the mistake of restlessly looking around, the sharp-eyed instructor would spit fire at her. After two or three times, she had learned her lesson. This time, when she discreetly moved her eyes, she could tell the mood wasn’t right for chatting to her neighbor.

With the understanding that this would take some time I bet our standby posture is part of the test she looked reproachfully up at the once again overcast sky.

If it started to drizzle, shooting conditions would deteriorate…and even worse, the exercise would continue even if they got soaking wet. That was something she hadn’t anticipated when bravely making the oath of loyalty in the Unified States recruitment office.

When she’d left her grandmother’s house, which was so clean and orderly, she’d thought she would encounter all kinds of trying situations, but apparently, her imagination didn’t go far enough to be reliable.

“…Mary, it’s almost your turn.”

Her cadet friend patting her shoulder startled her. She had assumed that since it was an exam, it would drag on forever, but when she hurriedly checked the line, she saw that at some point the number of waiting cadets had started decreasing at a fair clip.

Mary switched gears in her head with a “Thanks.”

Packing away the carefree memories of her hometown, she recalled the mage handbook. She’d read it a zillion times, and ever since she’d arrived in the Commonwealth, she’d had it beaten into her during exercises, so when she checked it again in her mind, she felt just a little confident she could follow it.

While her rifle still weighed her down, she was sure she could perform the correct movements.

“Next! Cadet Mary Sue!”

She gave a brisk acknowledgment and jogged toward the exam shooting range. On her way, she glanced at the gun and target that had been prepared for her.

It was the usual range and the usual rifle. She’d heard that for some reason their own rifles would be taken into custody and they would have to use an exam rifle, but…as far as she could see, the gun was normal.

It wouldn’t do to let her eyes wander for too long, so she went straight in front of the instructor.

“Good. All right, Cadet Sue! We will now begin your shooting evaluation.”

Luckily, perhaps it can be said, she didn’t get scolded for some unfathomable thing, and the instructor turned his gaze on the booth and had her enter. She was about to move to follow his eyes when she remembered the procedure and its detailed regulations.

“Yes, sir! Requesting permission to enter the firing booth, sir!”

“Permission granted.”

This was the army. They probably didn’t want anyone shooting without permission. “That’s a high mark for not getting caught,” murmured the instructor with a proud grin and nodded at her to enter the booth.

“This is the practical skill exam, so measure the distance to the target by sight. Naturally, you’ll correct your own errors.” The instructor casually piling on the pressure like, Naturally, you won’t betray our expectations, was standard practice.

Mary had fallen for it enough times in the past to let this go in one ear and out the other.

“Show me the results of your training. Okay, you may fire at will.”

Mary acknowledged energetically, and the instructor told her to begin with a bored look.

Upon stepping into the firing booth, Mary did a safety check per the regulations. No empty shell casings on the floor, no overt traps. The complete cartridges she’d been issued also appeared, as far as she could tell by looking, to be normal.

Just as Mary lifted up her rifle to find the sight and eyeball the distance to the target, she noticed something.

We’re firing one at a time because it’s an exam, but there isn’t enough time between to adjust the target.

Which means maybe they’re making the firing conditions the same for everyone. So the test is to check if we can put the results of our daily practice on display.

Huh? Then Mary felt something else was strange: I wonder who has been cleaning the gun.

At first, she thought the words correct your own errors had to do with eyeballing the distance. But now she had another idea.

What if…the gun itself has something wrong with it? Well, I doubt it would be a very big error at a hundred meters, but when they specifically tell us to correct errors…

“U-uhhh, Instructor?”

“What is it, Cadet Sue?”

Mary nearly shrank from his gaze that said, Cut the chitchat and shoot already! but resolved to speak.

“C-could I borrow tools for taking apart and cleaning the gun?”

“You want to take apart and clean the gun?”

“Yes, I’d like to make sure the rifle won’t induce any errors.”

The instructor stared at her for several seconds. It was only a short time, but to Mary, it felt like hours.

Time passed intensely, and she felt like her face might twitch from the tension.

She expected the instructor would yell at her What are you talking about?! and began to regret opening her mouth. Why did I say something so stupid?

Just as an apology was on the tip of her tongue, the instructor’s gaze, so severe as to be physically oppressive, softened, and he laughed.

“Very well…is what I’d like to say, but it’s not necessary.”

When Mary looked surprised, his smile grew awkward and he murmured, “Think about it. Look, Cadet Sue. If every cadet realized that, not only would it take time to clean the gun, but the ones waiting would get a hint that there was some time-consuming element involved.”

So. He pointed at wooden boxes on the floor next to her. Following his finger out of habit, she finally noticed that the boxes were the same size as the cases they stored their rifles in. When she’d entered the range, her attention had been on the gun and the target, so she hadn’t even noticed them.

“Don’t slack on your inspection. Well, it’s a problem all new recruits have. When your field of vision is small, you guys don’t look at what’s there you can only find the things you expect to find.

“A little lesson before the exam,” crowed the instructor as he checked the numbers stamped on the boxes.

He must have been satisfied, because he smiled and said, “Must be this one.” Flustered, Mary took the rifle he held out her own rifle.

“If you’ve been taking care of it regularly according to the textbook, you’ll be fine.”

Aim and fire as usual. You couldn’t call it a great shot, but the results weren’t too bad. Nodding in approval, the instructor said she hadn’t done too shabbily. Mary was really happy to get the grade she expected.

She mingled with the people who could move on to the next course and shared the modest happiness of having made it through the exercise. She hadn’t been sure she would be cut out for military life. She still had lots of worries. But if she worked at it, she would be able to keep going.

Even in her worst subject, shooting…she managed to pass with decent results.

“Hmm, guess I feel kind of relieved,” she had calmly remarked after the tension was over, and her pals peppered her with comments somewhere between teasing and making fun.

“Hey, Mary, if you’re relieved with those grades, then we should be terrified!”

“Ha-ha-ha. Ain’t that the truth? Mary, you look so sweet and gentle, but you’re pretty handy with a gun, huh?”

The young recruits had been given a half day off, nominally to reflect on their training so far. In their rooms, chatting up a storm, was the one time they could forget about training and goof around like kids their age.

After all, for the longest time they’d been just doing laps between the exercise grounds and the barracks. Drills, drills, and more drills. The days were so hard it felt like the only thing left in the world was training.

Freed from their harsh conditioning, the moment they relaxed they began talking to make up for lost time. But whether positive or negative, the topics discussed by friends who all coexisted in a cramped space tended to be very similar. As such, they were hungry for rumors from the outside world.

That’s when it happened.

“Hey, did you hear the news? It’s horrific. A nearby Commonwealth mage company got totally wiped out!”

The cadet who popped his head in had news about what was happening with the war nearby, so it grabbed everyone’s attention.

“They say it was the Devil of the Rhine!”

“Huh? What’s that?”

“It’s, I mean… Well, it’s one of those a battlefield legend, don’t you think? That list of achievements has to be padded!”

“But she’s a Named! It could be true!”

The cadets gathered around to hear more We can’t miss this! As everyone exchanged fragments of stories they had overheard from veterans and instructors, Mary smiled wryly and quietly sipped tea out of her mug.

“Mary? What’s wrong?”

“Mm, I dunno. I guess…she just feels like a being from another world or something I can’t keep up. I’ve got my hands full just flying and shooting.”

During flight training, she just did her best to stay in the air, and by the time she was casting a formula, she was exhausted. Even with a gun, she didn’t feel like she had so much talent.

Multiple people had told her, “Your father was an outstanding magic officer,” but no matter how many times she was told that her father, who couldn’t do a lick of housework at home, would zoom through the skies handily deploying formulas, she couldn’t help but just stare blankly.

“Ha-ha-ha, but that in itself makes you pretty great!”

“Yeah, Mary, you can fly any which way you like, can’t you?”

“You think so?” Mary replied, remembering the moment she’d flown across the sky with her fellow cadets. When they’d soared through the air, it was such an invigorating feeling, like she could go anywhere. But once she tried mock battle with the instructor, she learned just how sluggish her movements really were.

“But, hmm. I don’t want to meet anyone so horrible.”

“Hey now, that’s awfully wimpy-sounding. If you knock her down, you’ll be hailed as a hero who took out a Named! It would be more optimistic of us to all think of ways to stop her!”

Even we could do it! Someone laughed.

“You mean get decorated and brag about it?”

“You’re all taking the danger too lightly. If we’re up against an enemy Named, let’s think of a way for everyone to come out of it alive.”

“Mary, you’re such a good girl… Boys, you should take after her.”

“Damn right, we should!” someone shouted, and everyone burst out laughing in this little space. In a foreign land, volunteer soldiers from the Entente Alliance enjoyed a happy moment because they didn’t know the battlefield yet.

Even if the storm had come right up next to them…

This moment gave these guys and girls an abnormal day that was infinitely close to normal life. Here, there was nothing to stop young people from dreaming, talking big, or fantasizing as young people should.

Their baptism by combat was not yet at hand.