Chapter VI, Operation Door Knocker
A military facility under the jurisdiction of the General Staff on the outskirts of the imperial capital… In this quiet, peaceful corner of the world, Lieutenant Colonel Tanya von Degurechaff is engaged in the desk work she had always dreamed of as rear personnel.
She’s working on the combat skill research report from the aerial battle in the west they’d been fighting just the other day. The law of this world is for everyone to do what they are suited to, and it’s Tanya’s fervent wish to perform analysis in the rear.
To make that dream come true, she’ll probably have to rely on her results for all sorts of organizations and keep the focus on them.
I’ll get those results and obtain my place in the rear. As the first step, I’m achieving some things in the Strategic Research Office. Bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, she’s spending yet another day sorting out paperwork in the office that has been temporarily assigned to her.
From Tanya’s perspective, the Empire is currently surrounded on all sides.
Apparently, to our beloved imperial subjects and the great intellects of Supreme Command, it looks like we’re taking one step forward for every step back…but I think the prescriptions on their glasses are off. Tanya strongly recommends swapping out those eyeballs as well, if they can’t look directly at reality.
It’s true that the Imperial Army is maintaining the lines in high spirits.
But does no one have the good sense to point out that being able to hold the lines is a whole different dimension from being able to win the war?
With a sigh, she picks up the mug she’d abandoned, and as she drinks the cold coffee, she makes a bitter face the coffee’s all gone downhill, too.
Currently, she’s at a General Staff recuperative facility. For better or worse, the General Staff hangs on to its aristocratic tastes, so they don’t stock ersatz coffee.
But the imports must have slowed to a trickle. With the Commonwealth Navy and the remnants of the Republican Navy controlling the sea, there probably isn’t much that can be done…but if all we can get are these old, flavorless beans, it says a lot about the caffeine situation in the Empire.
The quality of the coffee we’ve been able to get has decreased year over year since the fighting began. Surely this is the most eloquent barometer of the state of the war. And in reality, year over year our enemies are only getting stronger.
For instance, the increased presence of the Unified States in the west is something we can’t ignore. As for evidence that the difficulty of getting good coffee beans is their fault, take the regular army forces calling themselves a voluntary army that is basically made up of the Unified States vanguard.
Tanya was out there with fists flying like she meant to smash them with her coffee grudge, but finding them more powerful than expected, she was forced to acknowledge a brewing crisis.
But setting aside the General Staff’s thoughts, Supreme Command doesn’t understand the gravity of the situation. She prepared an official report with all the details and particulars and sent it in marked “urgent,” but the response has been awfully muted.
It seems they’re underestimating things, and their ignorance makes Tanya want to cradle her head in despair.
Being dense can be useful depending on the situation. But in the Empire’s current one, it’s not so great. If we continue to put up with this as it is, we’ll be boiled frogs in no time.
“Sheesh,” Tanya has to grumble.
Turning my attention to my personal situation, I’d like to be happy that Tanya’s been promoted, but irritatingly enough, it’s difficult to wholeheartedly enjoy.
No, a win is a win. There’s no doubt about that. Unit Usage and Operational Maneuvers in the Current War (which she wrote based on the mobile battles in the south, the initial maneuvers in response to the situation in the east, and the surveys and other research she did in the air battle in the west) was accepted without a hitch, and both that and her promotion to magic lieutenant colonel were filled with the joy of hard work paying off.
Although it’s unofficial, she’s also received word from Lieutenant General von Zettour, along with his praise, that he looks forward to her participation in the newly established joint project between the Service Corps and Operations, the General Staff Strategic Research Office.
So all Tanya can do is hope that they can win or at least avoid a fatal defeat.
Defeated nations don’t have much use for high-ranking soldiers and military careers, aside from in mercenary corporations. Tanya’s been spending her precious time polishing her military record. In order to not waste this human capital investment, she hopes the Imperial Army will hang in there.
Much of that hope is placed in the next leader of the 203rd Aerial Mage Battalion. So far there haven’t been any instructions about a successor…but probably it will end up being Captain Weiss, like she suggested previously. The only potential issue is his rank.
He’s been advancing at a pretty quick clip, too. According to the Imperial Army system, he’d have to be promoted to major to take command of the battalion…but apparently, they need a little time.
In Tanya’s case, General von Zettour used a loophole in the system to promote her to major, ostensibly for forming the battalion. I suppose they can’t use the same trick too many times.
They’re not very flexible. Tanya sighs at her desk. She’d like to complain There are too many people trying to hold you back but she suppresses the thought.
That said, staying commander of the battalion a bit longer, at least in name, and letting Weiss collect more experience will help me avoid any griping about his promotion pace from the desk-work group in the rear, too.
Tanya stays on top of the necessary groundwork even though it’s a pain.
Still, it’s not a bad gig.
Having achieved a measure of success in the western aerial battle and so on, the members of the 203rd Aerial Mage Battalion are resting in General Staff lodgings in the capital per standard rotation.
Since they’re lucky enough to report directly to the General Staff, her subordinates are living it up in a recuperation facility that normally only staff officers get to use.
As for Tanya herself, until the General Staff finishes refereeing her paper, Unit Usage and Operational Maneuvers in the Current War, she’s just filing the documents that come in from the Strategic Research Office, desk work that anyone could do, apart from needing security clearance.
Of course, you can’t discount the element of trust. Glancing down at the papers spread across her desk, she sees they are all classified documents stamped “top secret, to be handled with caution.”
She’s glad she has access to these secrets.
Since she can deepen her knowledge of the Imperial Army’s condition and foreign affairs by analyzing all the intelligence collected by the General Staff on each front, it’s a pretty interesting job, and Tanya enjoys it. Best of all, unlike frontline duty, she gets to be done at quitting time each day.
Free from night interception patrol missions and going out to meet invaders at all hours, she relishes tranquil, safe sleep each night. To Tanya, keeping regular hours is the first step toward the return of normalcy.
And a proper lifestyle rhythm makes her office work fruitful.
For example, most recently, she’d been working on a booklet aimed at specialists titled The Origins of Federation External Action.
To outsiders, it may be surprising, but those tainted by Communism and its party’s ideology are in fact bigger believers in power politics than their ideology, and this pamphlet takes a critical look at that. I didn’t have very high hopes for it, since given the subject matter, I figured only experts or people in diplomacy would look at it, if that, but apparently, it’s had a great reception from all sorts of people, including within the Imperial Army.
Tanya is relieved that it seems her work is being properly acknowledged. She may be confident in her desk work and analysis abilities, but it’s great to be able to rack up accomplishments.
Yes, I intend to do desk work for the rest of my life. The law of this world really is for everyone to do what they are suited to. Every organization should prioritize talent management.
After returning from the western battle lines, this is really almost like a vacation…but Tanya looks steadily through the documents as part of her voluntary service although she’s thinking all along that if failure is unavoidable, she can save up her assets in preparation for a worst-case scenario and consider defection.
But it should probably be said, the lines are apparently managing to hang in there. Luckily, according to reports from the front.
Analysis of the attrition ratio bears out that they’re in a very good situation overwhelmingly superior, even.
Said ratio is being maintained at seven to one.
And, I may add, this statistic is being measured according to rigorous standards, nothing like those of the absurdly inflated, sloppy Formosa Air Battle reports.
General Staff officers are going there in person, and before worrying about our own attrition, they’re estimating enemy losses by speaking with prisoners and counting actual corpses.
Even if soldiers grow on trees in the Federation, this rate of attrition has to be a heavy blow.
So Tanya trusts that if the current situation continues, victory isn’t unachievable, and they won’t lose.
If there’s anything to worry about, it’s the Unified States, the world’s biggest weapons stockpile, attacking from behind.
Fortunately or unfortunately, imperial industry has a good relationship with Unified States industry despite being rivals in certain cutting-edge fields. It would be great if their industrial sector opposed the war, but in a military-industrial complex, industry doesn’t have as much influence on politics as the world at large tends to think.
On top of that, while the idea that the munitions industry makes bank during a war is a partial misunderstanding… The truth of it needs to be confronted. Specifically, the problem is that even if the corporation as a whole is running a huge deficit, individual employees and their clients in the military will make bank.
Just the thought that they need to anticipate such people trying to incite participation in the war is enough to make Tanya gloomy.
The Empire has the fight against the Federation in the east as well as the confrontation in the west with the Commonwealth, which it hasn’t managed to soundly solve yet. The Unified States boasts industrial productivity worthy of being called an arsenal; it joining on the enemy side when the Empire already has two fronts open would entail despair and only despair.
The Empire’s foreign policy task is to peacefully soothe the States before its industry shifts into a wartime posture even if the diplomatic effort takes a lot of kowtowing. I’d like to suggest that we do whatever it takes to appease public opinion there and buy time till it all breaks down.
After all, the Unified States is naturally a democracy. Democratic countries go to war only when they’re really angry. In other words, if we make the Unified States mad, that’s it. Conversely, as long as we don’t anger voters, we can avoid a war.
She intends to make an argument regarding the Empire’s strategic diplomacy with that as her main point in her next paper, but as she’s taking her notes, she’s interrupted by an unexpected visitor.
“Colonel von Degurechaff, may I?”
“Sure, come on in, Captain Weiss.”
Captain Weiss has essentially been put in command of the combat unit as of a few days ago.
Officially, the vice commander is still her subordinate after she foisted the unit and its issues off on him, but she’s given him much of the discretion.
He used to be the second-in-command.
The hand-off has been going so smoothly that Tanya can’t imagine what he’s come to ask her so urgently while they’re on leave in the rear on a personnel rotation.
She’s already told him to take charge as if he was in command.
Tanya openly explained to the General Staff that she was going to leave command up to her subordinate during their recuperation and reorganization period as part of his education. They approved it, so in a way, it was an official trial period.
Tanya hasn’t spared any pains to get him recognized early on as her successor, so really… What is he here to see me about?
“Sorry to bother you, Colonel. I came with a request.”
“For me? I’ll certainly cooperate in whatever way I can. Or are you here to tell me not to poach any of your men? Lieutenant Serebryakov is my adjutant, but I don’t plan on pulling anyone else out of the battalion.”
Not to brag, but the 203rd Aerial Mage Battalion is an elite unit. Tanya built it that way.
With their combat experience, they’re seasoned vets with nothing to be ashamed of as direct reports to the General Staff. Surely, they’ll continue to fight with all their elite bravery.
And as far as Tanya knows, the internal conflicts or antagonism that tend to be the biggest problems in units such as this one are virtually nonexistent.
In a nutshell, it’s a very cozy battalion.
“Colonel von Degurechaff, I’m very grateful for all your kindness. But although my request is related to that, it’s something quite different.”
“So then, what is it? It can’t be that you want the instructor unit to teach, can it? I guarantee you’re skilled enough.”
Weiss is early in his career yet an old hand with the rare experience in the Imperial Army of having fought on every front. And although he’s been under Tanya, his experience running the unit is the real deal.
He bows with a thank-you, but as far as she can tell from his expression, he was trying to bring up something difficult and couldn’t find the words.
“Captain Weiss, this is you and me. If it’s something within my authority, I’ll spare no assistance. If it’s hard to say, I’m not going to force you, but…I hope you can tell me what’s on your mind.”
So Tanya, as a good boss, takes it upon herself to face up to her subordinate’s worries with sincerity.
Tanya is generous enough to help if she can.
When the trust is there, that is.
As a boss, there are some subordinates who are worth any amount of your time and some who aren’t worth even one second. The former are those promising talents like Weiss, who think for themselves but still ask for advice. The latter are the idiots who make calls on their own without even reading what’s in the handbook.
“You’re too kind.”
“You’re an outstanding vice commander. So what is it?”
Therefore, Tanya von Degurechaff, who takes a liking to her subordinates based solely on their functionality, can be affectionate with them. Of course, it’s kindness in the sense that she’s not fool enough to shoot down her capable subordinates’ fantastic ideas.
But it’s true that she’s kinder than you would expect. Knowing that, Weiss finally makes up his mind to speak.
“Please have the 203rd be a part of your Kampfgruppe. All of us in the battalion wish to continue serving under you.”
His eyes Please, Colonel as he looks at her are earnest. She can tell he’s not joking, but…she still finds herself asking for clarification.
“Kampfgruppe? Sorry, Captain, I know nothing about that. What’s this Kampfgruppe you want to join?”
What can he possibly be talking about? Tanya cocks her head because she has no idea. She’s supposed to be assigned to the Strategic Research Office in the rear. She’s honored that they’re volunteering to fight under her…
But Tanya has no intention of going to the front lines, and she doesn’t see leading a Kampfgruppe anywhere on her horizon. Even if they volunteer, all she can do is say, Sorry, but I don’t understand.
Frankly, Tanya’s path shouldn’t cross with the 203rd Aerial Mage Battalion’s.
“Actually, Captain, I’d like to ask you: Is this Kampfgruppe the one I proposed in my report? The General Staff is still reading that paper. And it was just one of many suggestions. Are you sure you’re not misunderstanding something?”
“Don’t worry, Colonel. I won’t leak it.”
Tanya’s stance is to thoroughly deny it, but Weiss is apparently convinced she’s being strict about maintaining confidentiality. By the time he is nodding and saying, “I’m a soldier, too, you know, Colonel. I don’t mean to be impertinent, but I can imagine the sort of position you’re in,” Tanya is at a loss for words.
Weiss’s head is bobbing as if to say, You’re so strict about your duties, Colonel, so I’m not surprised you would keep this under wraps, while Tanya is simply bewildered that he’s interpreting it as a matter of confidentiality.
Where could this bizarre story have come from…? It happens just as she is about to ask him.
God plays a prank on her right then.
One of the security guards dispatched by the General Staff to the recuperation facility calls for her with a knock. “What is it?” Tanya prompts him to enter and the young soldier briskly alerts her that she’s being called.
“Colonel, General von Zettour is on the phone.”
“What? I’m coming. Sorry, Captain, I’ll be back in a bit.”
Tanya’s “one ring” instinct kicks in, and she leaps out of the office. She practically runs down the hall to the communications room and picks up the receiver.
Since there isn’t much chance of their being tapped, the General Staff employs telephones for communications between facilities.
Well, it’s not as if every desk has one. Still, the receiver is one familiar to a corporate warrior. Tanya apologizes for keeping the general waiting, and Zettour laughs that there’s no need to.
“All right, Colonel, I’ll get straight to the point. Your report’s been approved. The General Staff Strategic Research Office will probably implement your suggestions wholesale.”
Tanya replies that it’s a great honor, and at that moment, she feels wonderful indeed. A boss who gets it, having her work properly valued it’s almost too much.
“Therefore, Colonel von Degurechaff, both the Service Corps and the Operations Division feel that you should be the one to do the research you’ve proposed.”
That’s exactly what I want. Oh, the joy of working full-time on investigative research! Tanya envisions a fist pump in her mind, but externally she exhibits only a prudent nod. The groundwork I laid paid off.
“This is only an unofficial notice, but…the General Staff has approved of you working full-time on investigative research.”
“Thank you, General von Zettour. I intend to give this job everything I have.”
“Great. I have high hopes of the proposals you outlined in Unit Usage and Operational Maneuvers in the Current War. If you can verify them with even more rigorous investigations, I’ll spare nothing in reflecting those accomplishments across the entire army. Work hard, Colonel von Degurechaff.”
“Of course, sir,” she responds energetically, which is precisely why the next words out of his mouth freeze her solid.
“For the location, I’m thinking the eastern lines. Knowing you, I’m sure you’d prefer the familiar southern continent, but…this time I’ll be the one to apologize to General von Romel. The east is strained and could use a Kampfgruppe that can perform. I want to send you back to the eastern front.”
For a brief moment, Tanya begins to sorely regret even picking up the receiver.
There’s some kind of misunderstanding. There is a fatal discrepancy between my wishes and the General Staff’s plan. I sensed it before, but I thought I told Zettour multiple times that I wanted to work on investigative research in the rear.
Instead, I’ll be doing combat verification on the front lines?! Those are orders I wish I could have gone my whole life without hearing. No transfer to any branch office could be as shocking as this.
I survived that pain-in-the-ass inquiry and two months of fieldwork in the west. And my heart’s desire for rear service was supposed to be finally fulfilled for a while this month. But then I get reassigned after just two weeks?!
Do you mean to tell me the General Staff doesn’t know why Personnel prohibits abrupt changes in orders?!
A rage she mustn’t put into words wells up inside her. Even Tanya has a hard time controlling it.
But she manages to keep herself from shouting into the phone. She may be gripping the receiver abnormally tight, but her ostensible attitude is the perfect self-control of a soldier who accepts transfer orders despite not wanting them.
“…If it’s an order, I naturally have no objections. Who do I report to?”
Even if they don’t want to go, if that’s what they’re told to do, soldiers have no right to refuse.
She’s not allowed to say, I can investigate from the rear, or, Don’t treat me as a handyman!
But Tanya isn’t taking the crisis facing her seriously enough.
Her thoughts turned to molasses at the point she was told she would be sent back to the east.
She misses the significance of Zettour uttering the horrible phrase “a Kampfgruppe that can perform.”
Once told to go, soldiers by nature don’t have the right to refuse. They talk about the “silent navy”; well, Tanya must obey the regulations of the silent army.
And Zettour keeps talking on the other end of the phone as if she’ll be happy to hear it. Lately she hasn’t been able to tell what’s on the general’s mind, so she can’t quite figure it out.
“You should be glad. We’re letting you form a new Kampfgruppe.”
Glad?…is Tanya’s true feeling on the matter.
I didn’t want to go to the front lines in the first place.
To Lieutenant Colonel Tanya von Degurechaff, there is no reason she should voluntarily throw herself onto the forward-most line. My earnest wish is to never set one foot outside the civilized and comparatively safe rear.
No, I’m not averse to joining the fight against Communism that’s simply the duty of every good citizen. But. I do have to wonder if I need to proactively take risks… For one rare moment, Tanya indulges in escapism.
Because, I should probably say… Crushing Commies feels good, but I’d like someone else to take the risks.
And even if I’ve relied on others, I feel like I’ve contributed to the nation in a way that is beyond reproach.
But Tanya is a soldier and a member of an organization, so she swallows her discontent even though it would take an entire day to vent all her protests. That won’t help her get the orders withdrawn. Tanya is wise enough to find something constructive in this.
For the moment, couldn’t “forming” a “new Kampfgruppe” be an excuse to buy time? Remembering what happened when she formed her battalion, Tanya manages to be optimistic.
“Yes. We’re going to let you implement the Kampfgruppe doctrine you proposed in your report in the field. Show us results. As long as you make appropriate use of the unit, I’ll respect your discretion as much as possible.”
Ohhh. That’s when Tanya understood the cause of the discrepancy.
Zettour let her play around in the west for two months not because he was going to reassign her to the rear…but to have her lay the groundwork for performing investigative research in combat.
And then Tanya proposed that the Empire should form Kampfgruppen in her paper, Unit Usage and Operational Maneuvers in the Current War. It was full of lessons about how effectively forces could be used based on Germany’s World War II precedent for integrated operation.
Well, that must have made Lieutenant Generals von Zettour and von Rudersdorf happy. What an excellent pair. They must have found the proposal so wonderful, they got it into their heads to run an experiment in live combat.
If this was going to happen, maybe I should have turned the report in later.
Whoever said it’s no use crying over spilled milk sure knew what they were talking about. Tanya sincerely regrets her relative inattention lately and difficulty reading Zettour’s intentions.
…Next time I want to do better.
“We’re making your old crew, the 203rd Aerial Mage Battalion, the key unit. This goes without saying, then, but we’re not taking them away from you, so no need to worry about that. We’re giving you a measure of discretion in personnel choices for the infantry battalion and artillery company, as well. I’ll send over candidates later, along with your official orders.”
Well, I understand what Captain Weiss was talking about now, Tanya thinks with a look of comprehension on her face as she acknowledges what Zettour is saying.
If I have to be stationed on the front lines, then being able to use my group of competent veterans is welcome news. If the higher-ups are being considerate in that way, well, it means I’m receiving consideration. I suppose I should be grateful. For now, though, I need to figure out how sensible they are.
“If you don’t mind my asking, what’s the formation period? How many months do I have?”
“Sorry, Colonel. I’d like to explain, but per regulations, I can’t over the phone.”
“I’ll be straight with you. I must inform you I can’t get you any time. And I can’t accept any arguments, objections, or complaints. I hope you understand.”
Tanya replies that there’s nothing she can do if it’s confidential but then freezes upon hearing what Zettour says next.
Yes, the sound reaching her ears petrifies her, if just for a moment.
She can’t understand. She doesn’t want to understand. So naturally, the urge to try never rises.
“Huh? I beg your pardon, General von Zettour, but what did you just say?”
“I said, ‘Five days.’ I’m really leaning on your skill here. Form the unit in the capital within five days and be in the eastern military district within five more. When we get the Kampfgruppe on the front will depend on the conditions on the lines, but we’re planning on somewhere about three weeks from now at the latest, around July sixteenth.”
She thought for a moment she had misheard, but when she asked him to repeat himself, the answer didn’t change.
Behold, the rare sight of Rusted Silver in shock.
Well, whether someone would be happy to see that or not is a delicate issue that depends on their humanity.
…It’s probably not very fun for anyone to interpret the psyche of a monster in shock.
In any case, the difficulty of the task has shaken Tanya violently.
Five days… Only five days?!
And then to be sent into combat three weeks from now what are they smoking? But “at the latest” must mean that getting sent into frontline service almost immediately upon arrival is also a possibility. In that case, we could literally be in combat in ten days. That’s practically no time.
To round them up, ship them out, and get them into battle in a few short days is a virtually impossible standard. No matter how you look at them, these orders are completely and utterly unreasonable. Anyone getting them would doubt their ears.
They would have to.
She is sure that any officer in the Imperial Army would react the way she is.
“General, if this is what you’re ordering, I’ll do everything I can, but…”
There’s no way we’ll make it on time. This isn’t just difficult; it’s impossible.
You could say that her implicit request that the orders be withdrawn is a peaceful protest.
Let’s set aside the question of whether or not she is really being told to build a Kampfgruppe for combat on the forward-most line. What Tanya wants to ask is exceedingly simple: How am I even supposed to form this new type of unit?
“Colonel, I realize I’m asking the impossible, but you yourself wrote that ‘Kampfgruppen are formed in an ad hoc way, and it would be desirable to do some investigative research into their swift formation.’ I want to know how fast the General Staff can put together units during wartime. Of course, since I know it’s unreasonable, I’ll treat this as an experiment and go a bit easy on you. Just do whatever it takes to get it done.”
Unfortunately, however, Zettour’s response over the phone to the counterargument Tanya was clinging to is a military order that brooks no misunderstanding.
In the organizational structure of the army, once an order is given, it invokes absolute authority.
After all, the military is the most strictly hierarchical organization in the world. It’s great that you don’t have to listen to your subordinate’s complaints, but when an order comes down from the top, there’s no room for your opinions, either.
It’s easy to be the one giving the orders, but as the one having to swallow my sarcasm and protests, I want to cry. The restriction of freedom makes me want to scream, This is why military states are so Argh!
The only good thing you can say is that it’s better than the Commies. That said. Tanya is already bracing herself. She has to carry out her duty under the given conditions. If that’s the case, then instead of crying, let’s get to work with positivity.
If you have to do something you don’t want to do, it’s much more constructive to get it over with.
“Your establishment ceremony will be six days from now. It’s a completely new unit. Congratulations this will be the first Kampfgruppe reporting directly to the General Staff.”
Zettour continues, saying the new unit, with the 203rd Aerial Mage Battalion as its core, will be borrowing units from other areas. In other words, the General Staff will select appropriate units, which makes Tanya feel a bit more at ease.
Tanya indicates her understanding, and Zettour says he nearly forgot something and informs her in an administrative tone.
“The code name is Salamander. So you’ll be commanding the Salamander Kampfgruppe. Officially, it’s called the ‘experimental Kampfgruppe under the General Staff,’ but that’s boring, so we decided on a code name.”
“That’s certainly a dramatic name. And associated with the element of fire. It sounds strong.”
Tanya replies that she is pleased with the brave-sounding name, but what she’s thinking about is the combination of that name plus the short amount of time.
…Is this some irony of history? For some reason, the words People’s Fighter Plane come to mind.
And the bad feeling she has turns out to be right on.
“Exactly. I trust you, but we really do need some results. Your troops are the only veterans. Everyone else is newbies with a little bit thicker skin. Make it happen.”
She doesn’t even have time to Yes, sir. Having apparently said everything he wanted to say, Zettour just hangs up.
For a few moments, Tanya stands there holding the receiver, wishing she could despair, but instead employs her iron spirit to confirm what she needs to do.
If there’s no time, she needs to start now which means she doesn’t have a moment to spare. She hurries back to her office where her former subordinate is waiting and decides to put on a devilish smile.
“…Good news, Captain Weiss. Permission has been granted. I’ll be taking you with me to hell for a while.”
“I shall humbly accompany you, Kampfgruppe Commander!” Weiss salutes with an exhilarated smile. He’s a damn fine subordinate one of that rare breed who have a wealth of experience and can be trusted. Unfortunately, he’s also a war nut who proactively volunteers to go to the battlefield for frontline service.
If such a promising talent as this loves combat so much, it has to be something fundamental about the Empire’s systems and culture.
Ahhh. It’s sad, but reality is cruel.
There may be a devil in this world, but there is no benevolent god.
NOVEMBER 28, UNIFIED YEAR 1980, NEW YAWK
Hello, everyone. Or perhaps, good evening?
This is WTN Special Correspondent Andrew.
Today is Black Friday, and I’m coming to you from New Yawk, where the Christmas sales battle is in full swing. It’s almost Christmas and just look at these crowds!
I’ll be buying a whole mess of presents for my wife and kids, too. Honestly, I’d like to forget about my WTN duties and go shopping.
But sadly, I don’t think my boss would approve of that. Instead, I’m here combining work and leisure. Naturally, our theme is the usual puzzle solving. No, just because it’s Christmas doesn’t mean we’re doing anything differently.
Never fear. That said, have you ever wanted a funny little story to tell your kids? If you have, then the WTN Special Report Team recommends “The Salamander.”
If your child isn’t frightened by the usual Christmas threats of an elf’s pranks on bad little kids, this should do the trick!
After all, this rumor is so sensational, even formidable soldiers fear it. I heard it from the fearless PMC personnel who escorted us in the Middle East as their number one fear!
That’s how terrifying the legend of the Salamander is.
From what I heard, the Salamander is adorable and very clever. If you show it affection, it’ll even get attached to you. Like a German shepherd, it can become a trustworthy member of the family.
Sometimes it begs or plays tricks, but apparently, everyone ends up overlooking those things. Of course, Mrs. Legen grew angry and screamed that it went too far, but…
Well, in the end, everyone doted on the Salamander. Because when it’s even more reliable than a German shepherd, how could you not?
At some point, though, the Salamander’s requests and pranks grew to be too much. But what do you think happened when no one was sympathetic to dependable Mrs. Legen, who had continued to angrily scold it the whole time?
No one was able to stop the Salamander! Of course, the Salamander loved and cherished everyone.
But sadly, there was no one to teach it right from wrong.
So the Salamander never realized that everyone disliked it. Soon it had exhausted everyone’s patience.
But allow me to say, “Even so…”
Unfortunately, upon a closer look, the Salamander seemed very strong. It was like a German shepherd, after all.
Everyone started to wonder, What should we do?
The tale ends differently depending on who tells it.
But after hearing this story, parents can say this to their kids:
“Tom, aren’t you being a bit of a Salamander?”
Incidentally, I asked the former soldier who told me this story, and he said the Salamander is actually children. Even soldiers have families. And I’ve heard that some of them who left their kids behind on the home front ended up spoiling them.
Yes, it must just be the perennial problem of parents around the world, these various worries about their children.
And so the moral of today’s story is “Don’t spoil your kids too much.” Promise me you won’t.
Now then, where did this legend come from?
You may be surprised to hear the answer is the battlefield.
It’s a story that spread among soldiers during the Great War. But what is it about?
The truth seems to be, as just mentioned briefly, that soldiers on the front were thinking of their families at home. In other words, since they couldn’t see their children, they ended up sending them too many presents and spoiling them.
So when the war ended and they went home, they were shocked to find their children transformed into total brats. And thus, we have anecdotes about the scolding of Salamander kids on the first Christmas after coming home.
Well, today we took a look at a timely story left to us from the war. I hope you can enjoy it when we take a bit of a different approach now and then.
Have a good day.
JUNE 27, UNIFIED YEAR 1926, GENERAL STAFF OFFICE MAIN BUILDING
Having swiftly relocated from the General Staff’s recuperation facility to an office she was given in the main building in the capital, Tanya grapples with a sheaf of papers that spells out how not her way the situation is going.
She’s been fearing Lieutenant General von Zettour’s frightening remark about “newbies with a little bit thicker skin” but has been able to instinctively escape the terror temporarily by resolutely getting through all the procedures to set up the unit.
But now the moment when she must face that fear has arrived.
When First Lieutenant Grantz, whom she had sent running all over the General Staff office as a gofer, requests permission to enter, she is already prepared. When he quietly puts the envelope he has just received from the nearby Service Corps onto her desk, she realizes the foretold documents have arrived.
When Tanya opens the carefully sealed envelope, all her resolve is for naught, and her face stiffens.
For a moment, her white porcelainlike fingers tremble, and she stares at the list as if it’s her sworn enemy.
What Grantz delivered was the list of units the General Staff had on hand and the personnel they could offer Tanya, which she had requested out of anxiety.
Considering how scared she was of Zettour’s remark about thick-skinned newbies, she had braced herself for an awful allotment of troops. Well, she thought she had braced herself.
But when she actually takes a look, her readiness scatters to the wind.
“Of all the things…they could have given us…we get a newly formed second reserve infantry battalion with no combat experience and a company of replacement artillery?” she murmurs in a shaking voice. Am I misreading it? She stares down at the document, but the letters she sees don’t change.
She’s just barely able to control herself because Grantz is still standing by, but if she had her way, she would have ripped the list to shreds and hurled it into the wastepaper basket.
“W-we compromised on an armored unit…we compromised…but this is the newbie infantry battalion they give me?”
As far as she was told, the plan was to give the Salamander Kampfgruppe, with the 203rd Aerial Mage Battalion as its key unit, a unit of infantry that could handle field engineer missions plus a company of supporting artillery. And despite being newly formed, they would be allotted an armored company.
Apparently, she has no choice in the matter. But it’s pretty awful to be getting a newly formed pile of amateurs. As someone about to be flung into the east, notorious as a fierce fighting ground, she would like to protest. Even Grantz and the others she’d taken care of on the Rhine were trained before getting thrown in.
But these guys nowadays are drilled so quickly, “forced culturing” still seems too mild a metaphor.
“…This is not a joke.”
She has an opinion or two, but having been told the war is bearing down on them, she has no choice but to accept things as they are. That’s why she at least wanted decent infantry, but…from the document, it seems like that’s out of the question.
Still, everything has limits, including how much one can tolerate.
The list in her hands is so awful that Tanya’s graceful features warp as if she’s been suddenly struck with a headache.
“This isn’t funny! Infantry and artillery we can’t even use for war?! I’m not even sure we could use them as shields! Have the General Staff officers mistaken me for some kind of recycling factory?!”
Grantz stands stiffly at attention next to her as she explodes, and his face twitches.
Well, it’s no wonder. That’s just how bad things are.
It’s unclear whether this new unit will be of any use. On top of that, its core firepower, the replacement artillery, has ridiculously outdated guns. They probably scraped the bottom of the barrel for these guys.
Well, it’s better than a completely new unit, but I’m still anxious about their gear and ability. Having thought that far, she can’t find any point in thinking further.
She judges that anything more would just be griping. Ah, I thought bankers were the ones who had to do legwork, she mutters to herself as she stands up. But since she has no choice, she sets off to tough out the legwork of consulting with the General Staff about personnel.
I never thought I’d have to do this sort of thing in the army, she laments internally as she, accompanied by stiff-faced Grantz, makes a raid on the General Staff Equipment Section.
She grabs a group leader–class major who happens to be there and, while reproaching him for his easygoing work style, protests with a calm demeanor even as her resolve is unyielding.
To wit: “Unless we get the equipment we need to perform the General Staff’s investigative research, we won’t be able to meet their expectations.”
Of course, not even Tanya wants to pick fights with staff in the rear. So though she protests, she keeps strict control of herself and doesn’t deviate from proper etiquette.
…At least, not until the group leader says something he shouldn’t have.
“You can say what you like, Colonel, but it’s not as if we don’t understand the hardship of the front. We always take great pains with our work, so I wish you would appreciate that. We do the best we can to issue equipment according to the quality of the troops.”
The moment the major spouts that nonsense, relaxing on a sofa, drinking real coffee, Grantz who is standing next to Tanya when she breathes an “Oh?” unconsciously takes a step back. Later, he would whisper to the others that she had lost her temper.
“…What a terrific joke I’ve just heard.”
It’s a bureaucrat’s reply, and not from an exhausted bureaucrat but an officer from the rear brimming with energy.
Tanya has a smile plastered on her face as a formality, but her tolerance has reached its boiling point. Casting off any semblance of politesse, her face goes expressionless, and she takes a step closer as she opens her mouth in a murderous rage.
“A battalion with no veterans?! If you’re saying that’s the best you can do, it would make more sense to replace you with a cat!”
Most of the personnel on the list are either reserves or brand-new recruits. The veterans who should be the key members pretty much all fall on the lowest level of the army’s evaluation scale. There are some NCOs who might be worth their salt, but they’ve only just recovered from their Rhine wounds.
Considering their decline in physical strength and how long they’ve been out of it, she’s pretty much at wits’ end. Honestly, at this rate, puppets to use as decoys would have been better.
“And the 15 cm guns may be 15 cm, but the old model? Not the new ones? That means their all-important range will be glaringly inferior. Maybe my battalion and the Equipment Section should have a live-ammo exercise?” Tanya continues, radiating waves of murder at the increasingly pale-faced Equipment Section major. “If we had a shoot-out, I think you’d get your shit together pretty quick!”
She can’t believe they were so superficial as to look only at the 15 cm and none of the other specs. If this idiot is going to say that was their best work, then to Tanya, they’re incorrigible slackers.
It’s insane to request someone to build up their firepower with old guns that have a short range. Tanya has too much experience suffering suppressive artillery fire on the Rhine, so a wave of bitterness is rising inside her at having a limit on how well they can compete when it comes to their own artillery.
Which is why, when they try to force this on her…
“Listen, Major. It’s a bit hard to take that from the numbskull hanging my unit and me out to dry with inferior equipment when he’s lounging like that!”
These guys from the rear who have never experienced a trench battle can’t possibly understand the fear of being outranged.
“M-my apologies, Colonel, but we’re doing our best to”
“This is your best?! This isn’t a joke. The Imperial Army General Staff doesn’t need a mouth; it needs combat experience. The armored unit is a bit better. But IV Ds? On top of not packing much punch, those have weak armor!”
She openly bombards him with her anger. Did he think I wouldn’t understand anything about armored unit equipment?
I can’t believe he gave us the IV D tank it’s an old model already being used for training and security in the rear! Maybe if we were an instructor unit or a security squad, but for a unit that will be worked like horses out front on the pretext of investigative research, this is intolerable.
Tanya is getting posted to the forward-most line, not occupied territory. Maybe partisans won’t bring out anti-tank guns and heavy artillery, but on the main lines, the enemy’s big guns, air forces, and mages come out saying, What can your armored troops do against us?
“…Don’t you have extra Gs like the ones they’re using on the southern continent?”
If we don’t at least get the current G model, we won’t be able to do shit on the front lines. And luckily for Tanya, she received a personal letter from Corps Commander von Romel the other day.
What she heard from him was anger at the interruption of supplies and fear that the situation would only grow worse. And according to him, though the wear and tear on the tanks is minimal, they’re in desperate need of fuel and ammunition.
But, he wrote, the Equipment Section won’t change the ratio of tanks to other supplies. She had replied that bureaucratically it didn’t make sense, but here we are. It’s absolutely true.
“Please don’t be unreasonable, Colonel! There aren’t any extra supplies anywhere!”
The reply she receives is simple: There is no surplus. But Tanya knows that General von Romel refused two companies’ worth of model Gs and said he wanted fuel.
“The Fifth Light Division on the southern continent owes me. I want their allotment of Gs. Send them the equivalent amount of fuel on their ship instead.”
Tanya would be happy to get the equipment she needs. Romel would be happy to get the fuel he urgently needs. This is a proposal based on utilitarian logic that will make everyone happy.
Think about it. No one loses in this exchange. Only a Commie would refuse a deal like this. I can’t understand an irrational refusal at all.
If humans slack off in their pursuit of happiness, then that’s it for them.
“Do you mean that?! That’s absurd! How many rules are you trying to make us break?”
Rule breaking? Tanya scoffs, thinking, I’m sure you can manage to break any rule you want. Contrary to what you might expect, if you look for the holes, rules are full of ways to justify your aims.
“Wait, maybe they’re called the 211th Armored Division now. In any case, you should be able to give us the tanks on your discretion. I’ll explain to General von Romel personally.”
“If you can, then please do.”
Who will be responsible for this? That is the look on the major’s face as those words slip out of his mouth. What a careless idiot. Tanya smirks, seizing on his commitment.
“Oh? Then it’s decided.”
I can’t believe he couldn’t even manage an equivocal reply!
With a splendid grin, Tanya produces from her breast pocket a letter she has only just received from Romel.
“Excuse me, Colonel, but what’s this?”
“It’s a personal letter, but that’s fine. I’ll let you read it, so give me what you’re supposed to.”
Tanya thrusts the letter from the dear army corps commander she just said she would explain things to under the dazed numbskull’s nose.
When she’d received it the other day, she never dreamed she would use it like this. The connections you have can be handy in the most unexpected ways. Tanya reflects on how human society is ultimately about those connections, thankful for the one she has with General von Romel.
And since the major doesn’t seem to grasp the situation, Tanya is kind enough to read the letter to him.
“I’ll tell you what General von Romel said. ‘If they won’t make it here anyhow, I’d rather you use them.’ By the way, I propose allotting him some ammunition and fuel.”
Then she hits the stiffened major with her trump card.
“Deputy Director of the Service Corps General von Zettour has approved this idea, but…if you have a reason to reject it, I’d like to hear it.”
Being a little pushy is fine.
That’s what happens when you do what it takes.
Tanya brandishes the draft to which Lieutenant General von Zettour gave tacit approval, and she can see from the Equipment Section group leader’s frozen expression that he’s beginning to understand.
“Okay, let me confirm with you, Major. I’d really appreciate it if you’d understand and respect my request…”
It’s a request for a loan of firepower from the commander of a Kampfgruppe who reports directly to General Staff with support of the Service Corps boss, already agreed to by the army corps commander.
“O-of course, on behalf of the Equipment Section, I can say that we’d like to cooperate as much as possible, but, Colonel.”
Is something wrong? Tanya asks with her gaze. In response, the Equipment Section group leader is disappointingly silent. Since he doesn’t have a counterargument, Tanya senses she can push him around as long as she watches to make sure he’s obeying.
Swindling a company of model Gs out of a manager in the bureaucratic Equipment Section shouldn’t be a problem. At least, she cleared that hurdle.
But then she has a thought.
I’m never going to get along with this guy. In that case, maybe it makes sense to treat this as a zero-sum game and get as much as I can out of him.
“While I’m here…”
There is only action. After all, asking doesn’t cost anything.
“I’d like to request your assistance regarding the loot we seized from the Republic in the big push in the West. There were tanks, weren’t there?”
“Huh? Oh, er, well, yes.”
“So we should have armored vehicles in reserve, right? I’d like those, too. Since they’re just stolen goods, anyhow, it’s not like the army will use them officially, so it should be possible.”
“Y-you’ll have to excuse me, Colonel von Degurechaff, but you already have infantry and an armored unit. I can’t give you additional armored vehicles…”
Unfortunately for the major insisting that he can’t break the rules, Tanya is versed in all their details. This guy’s declaring it can’t be done with the bravado of one who just cut off a demon’s head. I feel bad for him.
“I’d like you to fix the self-propelled guns. Regulations state that weapons can be repaired on the spot with the commander’s authorization. The armored vehicles aren’t for the infantry but to improve the outdated guns we have. So could you please promptly provide the fuel and vehicles?”
Yes, demanding to replace the old guns with new ones is impossible, but efforts to improve them are within the authority of the commander. Fixing guns to the armored vehicles seized from the Republic to make self-propelled guns surely counts as improvement.
These vehicles are being stored because there is no use for them, anyhow, so unless the General Staff has some logical reason to reject her proposal, it should be approved. In that case, they’ll run on fuel, so she’ll need an additional allotment of supplies, too.
This much may be a gamble, but the Esti oil fields are in the east, so Tanya expects she’ll be able to borrow some from the Eastern Army Group. In a defensive battle, she’ll be able to feed her vehicles as much freshly pumped oil as she wants.
On that point, unlike the guys on the southern continent, she won’t have to worry about fuel. Yeah, the more I think about it, the more sense it makes.
“P-please, don’t be ridiculous, Colonel!”
“Fine, I won’t ask you to make the improvements. We’ll do them ourselves. So please get the armored vehicles out of the warehouse for us.”
Perhaps it is a bit much to ask the Equipment Section to perform the “repairs,” she realizes. If she was told that their job was management and not refurbishment, well, that may be true. She sees the logic of the argument, so she backs down.
I guess I’ll have to bug the Technical Arsenal to do a rush job for us, Tanya decides. Luckily for her, she has tons of acquaintances she can’t unmake back there. She could tap Schugel even. He may have that awful habit of praising God, but his skills are legitimate.
And if she insists to her connections in the instructor unit that it’s a self-propelled-gun experiment, she can expect them to cover the costs of the improvements, too. So she extends a hand and urges the major to give up the goods.
“But that’s crazy.”
“No, I insist on taking them.”
“With all due respect, Colonel, it’s just…”
But for some reason, this guy doesn’t seem to get it.
Even though Tanya is speaking humbly to him, he’s gotten stubborn and keeps repeating, “I can’t; I can’t.”
So Tanya gives a slight nod and gets to the point.
“Major, let’s be blunt. Is it ja or nein?”
JUNE 28, UNIFIED YEAR 1926, GENERAL STAFF OFFICE, SERVICE CORPS DEPUTY DIRECTOR’S OFFICE
It was common to find subordinates coming in with a petition immediately after orders were issued. Any officer working in the General Staff undoubtedly had experienced a subordinate come crying to them that they didn’t have enough troops.
But this time even Lieutenant General von Zettour couldn’t understand his visitor’s request.
More accurately, perhaps you could say that though he understood the request itself, it was practically the most brazen one he had ever received, one that defied comprehension.
“‘…I want a replacement mage company’?” he murmured, stunned.
As long as his eyes weren’t malfunctioning, no matter how he read it, the form was a request for a whole new mage company. There was no room for misunderstanding there. There were no errors in the composition, and the document was formatted perfectly.
Slowly placing it on his desk, Zettour, who lately sensed his fatigue building up, raised his head. Before his eyes, standing at attention, were Lieutenant Colonel von Degurechaff and a woman wearing the first lieutenant insignia. Colonel von Degurechaff brought the other one with her, so she must be…uh, yes, her adjutant Lieutenant Serebryakov.
“Is this a joke, Colonel von Degurechaff?”
Without even thinking, he replied that he couldn’t grasp her intentions. After all, the Salamander Kampfgruppe was being formed with the 203rd Aerial Mage Battalion as its key unit.
“I beg your pardon, General von Zettour, but it is no joke. I’ve concluded that in order to successfully operate in an integrated way, a company of mages is absolutely critical.”
“Colonel, you already have an augmented battalion. To put it another way, don’t you already own a weapon of unparalleled strength? Take as many companies as you want out of that.”
With that augmented battalion alone, the Kampfgruppe had the strength of a regiment’s or brigade’s worth of mages. Despite it being a newly formed unit, they were giving her a battalion of infantry and a company each of armored and artillery units. Yet she wanted more?
She was essentially asking for an independent, augmented mixed brigade’s worth of muscle. Honestly, talk about overpowered. It wasn’t the kind of force he could entrust to a lieutenant colonel.
“As you so wisely point out, that is correct. But if possible, we need a shield, even if it’s a weak one.”
But she didn’t even seem to react to his bothered tone. As far as he could tell, she seemed genuinely convinced that the company was necessary.
He couldn’t believe the gall it must take to request that a company of mages be squeezed out from somewhere at this stage in the war.
“Don’t be ridiculous.”
“You said I could.”
Certainly, he said he would be somewhat forgiving, but this? No, if she really needed it, he would consider it, but she already had the 203rd Aerial Mage Battalion an augmented battalion. He’d had a hard enough time quieting the voices requesting companies for operations that were desperate for mages.
“Most of the usable mage units are on the front lines.”
The reason the augmented battalion was kept at full head count and the reason they’d been able to enjoy a rest in the capital was that despite going too far and being a handful, their achievements were simply that significant. That was also why they were so in demand on the front lines.
“This goes without saying, but I need you to understand that despite the rapid increase in mage units, commanders on the front lines are still complaining they don’t have enough personnel.”
“Is it really that serious?”
“Circumstances have changed since the 203rd Aerial Mage Battalion was formed. We’re hopelessly low on mages. The eastern and western fronts are practically competing for them. Anyone with an aptitude is already assigned to a front, and the rest haven’t completed their education yet.”
Frankly, the mages they’d been able to cultivate were only a drop in the bucket of what they needed. The mage battalion of the Salamander Kampfgruppe was already augmented with an extra company, so giving them another was… How much more of an impossible thing could you ask for?
The army has already absorbed most everyone with any magic ability. Zettour grumbled in his head about the first place with a glance at Degurechaff.
Even if she was an extreme example, the army had been aggressively working to take in anyone with aptitude to expand their magic forces. The Empire simply didn’t have a surplus of mages.
Perhaps other countries had the option to conscript groups of talent that were yet untapped, but the Empire had already done that, so it was suffering a shortage of personnel. Well, maybe there were some undiscovered talents in the next generation, but it would take time for them to grow up.
Degurechaff, before him with her poker face, was certainly an exception.
Somehow, he didn’t think there could be that many damaged kids in the Empire like this young teen back from the battlefield. And actually, regardless of how he felt about it as a soldier, personally, the idea of interacting with them was terrifying.
“But, General, I need them.”
“Explain why in a bit more detail.”
“General, it’s the relationship between the hammer and the anvil. I can’t swing the hammer of the 203rd Aerial Mage Battalion if the anvil is weak. Plus, the battalion has been trained for and is used to operating as four companies together. Please think about it.”
Aha. Zettour understood what Degurechaff was trying to say.
She wanted to strengthen her hammer, the 203rd Aerial Mage Battalion. It could still be termed a selfish request, but the battalion probably was trained to work together in four companies, exactly as she said.
“I understand, but hold on… It’s not that I don’t have any ideas. It’s just…”
There were some mages who weren’t called up because the army wasn’t sure if they were usable. They had also turned up the heat to raise a few out of season. If they scrounged those together, they could form a company.
Even if it was impossible to get their hands on those, there were other mage candidates who hadn’t made the cut. They could probably manage to get a company out of those. If that was all, then pulling from that group wouldn’t be impossible.
“Sorry, but these are less like soldiers and more like chicks. I’m telling you, they’re barely out of the shell. I could give them to you, but wouldn’t they just be in your way?”
“This time I won’t ask for anything fancy. As long as they’re mages, I’ll take them.”
…But apparently, she would use whatever she could. She was both an advocate for and manifestation of that philosophy. Before she had lived even ten years, she had leaped into the army and was spending her life on the battlefield.
Perhaps no one had the luxury of the right to be sane in this crazy world. Normalcy was an extravagance they would have to enjoy after the war.
“…If mages who are just barely capable of providing direct support to infantry are all right, I can gather a few together.”
“That’s fine. By all means.”
They were new recruits who hadn’t even completed their mage training, never mind become capable of fighting in maneuver battles. They might be able to support infantry, but the current war situation was worse than cutthroat. They could probably be used only in limited defensive battles.
They would be such a crude unit that the acceptable attrition rate would have to be raised.
“But they really are green. They haven’t even completed their training. The instructors said they were useless. Really, we were planning on using them as infantry, but if that doesn’t bother you, you can have them.”
Normally, the training period was six months, but they had gone through only half that. They were infantry who, unable to keep up with the intense training, didn’t quite make it to mage level. Of course, the instructors had crammed what knowledge they could into them, but they’d only scratched the surface of formulas and mage-specific training.
The evaluation was that they might be good for catching bullets.
“Do they have firing squad experience?”
“Then that’s fine. I have no problems as long as they can kill the enemy. I’ll reeducate them in the field as we go.”
But Degurechaff was unfazed and inquired about their experience with killing people.
It was proof that she really was the singular anomaly known as Degurechaff.
She saw people as products, and she was asking if they had been tested that was the nuance. Could such a completely utilitarian view of people even be taught?
Certainly, the army is an organization that pays attention to individual functions. Substitutability and cost consciousness are two factors hounding everyone. But can you really judge a human being by those criteria alone?
“…All right. I’ll make the arrangements right away. So? If there’s anything else, you can tell me now…”
“Thank you, but I think I need to confirm the condition of the infantry unit the Salamander Kampfgruppe is getting before that. I’m grateful for your kindness.”
And he got a polite word of gratitude. A salute that exhibited the model attitude an officer should have.
That innocent face and her straight back made her look something like a surreal doll.
Doesn’t anyone think this is strange?
When an officer learns their superior is back from an inspection in a violent rage, all they can do is pray the storm doesn’t hit them.
That day, the officers of the Empire’s most experienced and much decorated unit, the 203rd Aerial Mage Battalion, received terrifying word from First Lieutenant Serebryakov that the one superior they feared was in a mood like a hurricane.
What fool played with fire on top of a powder magazine? It was with this lament that the officers of the battalion, in an effort to avoid setting off even the slightest spark, soberly went about finishing a thorough, perfectly synchronized inspection of their gear.
Having prepared for the worst, they could rest easy knowing there were no flaws the murderous Lieutenant Colonel von Degurechaff could reprimand them for when she came crashing into their temporary garrison; they mentally applauded Serebryakov for slickly sending word ahead.
Colonel von Degurechaff usually saluted mechanically with an expressionless face, so if she was overtly displaying her emotions, something serious was going on.
Those with good intuition escaped to training. As if unable to fathom being anywhere nearby, First Lieutenant Grantz and his company came up with the idea of a long-range, low-altitude, decentralized raid exercise.
It was a strenuous flight that involved concealing themselves and suppressing their mana signals to the greatest extent possible; normally even members of the 203rd Aerial Mage Battalion would balk at such difficult training, but that day it was hugely popular.
The ones who could flee were blessed indeed.
But the ones who couldn’t, the duty personnel and Captain Weiss, had no choice but to enter the tiger’s den despite the foreboding mood.
Stealing a glance at their superior, Weiss wholeheartedly bemoaned their situation. Ahhh.
“They’re useless! I either want to retrain them immediately or shoot them all dead!”
The colonel must have been fantasizing about executions. Perhaps unconsciously, she actually said aloud that she wanted to shoot someone, and her hand reached for the pistol at her hip.
If she were a little girl reaching for her purse, it would have made for a pretty picture, but when her petite hand was unconsciously reaching for a firearm, all the scene inspired was fear.
“What in the world happened, ma’am?”
He didn’t want to ask, but if he didn’t, things were liable to get worse. He knew it was a land mine, but he cautiously spoke up thinking that he would recommend Grantz, the sole defector, as the Kampfgruppe commander’s adjutant.
“Disobedience and insubordination! Unbelievable!”
“…Huh? Someone disobeyed you, Colonel?”
But her furious response blew every other thought out of his head.
Disobedience and…insubordination? Degurechaff was such a stickler for regulations that it was hard for Weiss to believe. But judging from her face, beet red with rage, something must have happened.
Given that the colonel didn’t hesitate to equate insubordination with execution by firing squad, Weiss was genuinely surprised that there was anyone in the Imperial Army stupid enough to disobey her.
Honestly, it was a huge pain in the neck to get caught up in the cross fire, but he wanted to call those imbeciles over. Really, he wondered how they were even alive.
I don’t get it. Explain what’s going on. He looked to Serebryakov, who had accompanied Degurechaff, in confusion.
“The infantry commanders say they have their own way of doing things.”
Serebryakov answered, her face tense. Degurechaff urged her to go on, so she reluctantly continued.
She tentatively began to explain what happened in a matter-of-fact tone.
How the new infantry battalion commanders underestimated the colonel.
How they respectfully ignored the colonel’s orders, citing their confidence as pros.
How they wanted the right to act on their own discretion.
“I couldn’t believe it. It’s not like the rules suddenly change when we’re at war! How could they become officers without understanding that much? All the officers in the rear must be insane,” Degurechaff snapped.
I want to shoot them. Her entire body was a manifestation of that thought. From the way Serebryakov flinched and cowered next to her, Weiss was able to imagine the scene quite naturally. It must have nearly given Serebryakov a heart attack.
“Who did such a thing?”
“All of them! All the officers of the 332nd Infantry Battalion!”
When Weiss gave the room a quick scan, it was obvious that the duty personnel were scared stiff.
…He had heard rumors that there weren’t any good officers left in the rear. But were they really so stupid as to mistake a lion for a cat?
What the hell.
He found himself ever so slightly understanding why the colonel said she wanted to have the firing squad take care of the failures.
“Using those guys is out of the question, so I’m going to get replacements.”
“How will you do that?” Weiss was incredibly careful about how he asked, which was why her answer petrified him.
“That’s obvious! Go and bring back the Guard Division’s new Fallschirmjäger battalion!”
…What? Guard Division? Fallschirmjäger?
What is she even talking about?
“The Second Guard Division is on leave for reorg for a while, right?”
“Uh, yes, Colonel, that’s right,” Weiss had to reply.
“Wonderful.” Degurechaff smiled. “On the Rhine front, the Second Guard Division was too stupid to do anything but hide behind us. Makes me wonder how they can actually guard anything.”
“Uh, yes, Colonel, quite right.” Weiss found himself nodding, as he knew the relationship between the Guard Divisions and the court.
“We’re going to make meaningful use of that force. We’ll trade. Even these idiots should be able to pretend to do ornamental defensive missions.”
“Uh, yes, Colonel, it’s just as you say,” said Weiss with an emphatic nod. In his head, he prayed for her to stop unconsciously reaching for the computation orb around her neck.
“…So you’re going to ask the General Staff?”
Please, please don’t explode.
He was practically clinging to God as he nervously broached the question. He would have felt more optimistic leaping into a forest of swords and hails of bullets.
After all, in that scenario he wouldn’t be up against Colonel von Degurechaff.
Then a miracle occurred. At least, the members of the 203rd Aerial Assault Mage Battalion headquarters who were present that day thought so.
“No need to worry. The commander of the battalion in the Second Guard Division already approved it.”
Until just a moment ago, the colonel’s expression would have made even hell’s prison guards run for the hills, but now she was the picture of cheer. A sublime smile like an angel’s bloomed across her face.
“How in the world did you convince him?”
“Oh, it was easy. They’re war maniacs. They were so thirsty, it was a home run.”
…Correction: She’s a seductive devil, no question.
Or at the very least, she was terrifying. She was a great mage. She was a great commander.
Dear God, please allow me to thank you for not making the colonel our enemy.
“Plus, the one in charge of formation, Colonel von Lergen, knows what’s what. I don’t think there will be a problem.”
Weiss mentally decided that he would go to church this Sunday.
With no idea what he’s thinking, Tanya smiles happily at how smoothly things are going.
After all, she finally has an idea how things will go. Ah. It pays to push people for a yes or no answer, she reflects. Everyone said yes.
Apparently, there is a point to bowing your head and saying please. Now she’ll have a better chance of surviving the perilous front lines.
…I’m just going to do my best for a brighter future. If I manage to survive, I should be able to at least escape to the west.
JULY 1, UNIFIED YEAR 1926, GENERAL STAFF OFFICE, LARGE CONFERENCE ROOM
It was an awfully strange scene. We had been gathered for the ceremony to establish the new Kampfgruppe. The venue, perhaps as a sign of the General Staff’s sponsorship, was a room in the General Staff Office.
The higher-ups seemed plenty excited about it. High-ranking officers were sprinkled among the attendees.
That was fine. It simply meant we had guests to witness the establishment of the unit. The Guard Division had been on many assignments dealing with formal events, so we had experience.
“…Welcome, battalion members. I’ll be counting on you.”
But what is that? The commander had to get up on a specially ordered dais to survey the room or even see over the first row of attendees.
That absurd, expressionless, doll-like creature was giving orders to people who appeared to be bloodthirsty mages just back from a war zone.
She smiled at them, and they watched her every move so as not to miss a thing; something seemed very wrong.
The way they shouted, so focused, made us realize how much they trusted her they would follow her to the depths of hell.
Even we Fallschirmjäger of the Second Guard Division who qualify as “elite” had to hand it to them. And yet there they were…
Yes, these soldiers who distinguished themselves in that hell on the Rhine…
…were paying their wholehearted respects to this little kid.
“My wonderful battalion, brothers who have gone with me to paint the town red. Let us celebrate the new friends joining our ranks.”
This figure smiling like a seasoned officer was beyond the realm of our comprehension.
“New troops, welcome to the forward-most line.”
Her smile was savage like a drill sergeant’s.
Could it really… Could it really be possible for a child to wear such a smile?
“Welcome to my our battlefield. We invite you wholeheartedly.”
Her hands were soft and would have looked more natural holding a doll, but instead, this odd, human-shaped creature spread her arms as she delivered a welcoming address.
None of the high-ranking officers present could raise an objection to this thing. The veteran mages all obeyed this inhuman being in the form of a person.
Not that we should wonder why our war-freak battalion commander would go along with this.
We should have come prepared. We should have known that war nut had fallen under her spell!
“There are only two things I expect from you.”
It was almost like we had heard this before somewhere.
“Don’t get in my battalion’s way. Keep up. That is all.”
And then the colonel smiled. Or at least, we supposed that must be what she thought a smile was.
Whoever said “A smile is by nature a hostile action” was right.
Smiling is, without a doubt, the act of baring your fangs. It’s an unmistakable threat.
JULY 2, UNIFIED YEAR 1926, GENERAL STAFF OFFICE, SERVICE CORPS DEPUTY DIRECTOR’S OFFICE
Lieutenant General von Zettour was looking over the reports from the front lines while having a late meal in his office. Tense, hurried footsteps interrupted him in his duties.
When he looked up and saw his subordinate standing there, he was confused for a moment.
It was the promising talent Colonel von Lergen. The Service Corps and Operations in the General Staff had fought over him, and Zettour himself thought highly of the man.
When he flew furiously into his office, Zettour furrowed his brow slightly and asked, “What is it?”
“General von Zettour! Are you really putting Colonel von Degurechaff in charge of a Kampfgruppe?!”
The question was cleared up the moment Lergen opened his mouth. For better or worse, he was one of the army’s sensible officers. To put it another way, he was someone who was apprehensive of Degurechaff’s more over-the-top actions… During the inquiry, he had defended Degurechaff’s conduct, but ultimately he thought she would inevitably ruin them; therefore, he didn’t trust her.
And his fears were well-founded. As was known both in and outside the General Staff, even Zettour, who valued her so highly, originally had the same worries as Lergen.
But to him, such concerns were already meaningless. In order to win, he was prepared to swallow any pill, no matter how bitter.
This was war. They couldn’t be picky about their methods. Zettour had decided that even if the side effects were agonizing, they could regret it as much as they wanted after winning the war.
“What I’d like to know,” said Zettour, “is where you heard about this, Colonel von Lergen. How did you gain access to this info from Operations? It should be confidential even within the Service Corps.”
“General, forgive me for saying so, but Colonel von Degurechaff has already gone too far. I’ve just received a report that she’s co-opted a battalion from the Second Guard Division garrisoned in the capital with the excuse that it’s necessary for her investigative research for the General Staff!” Spittle flew from his mouth, he was so furious.
Apparently, he had caught wind of the Kampfgruppe’s formation via an incident that affected his own department.
Well, I guess he’s as outstanding as always, thought Zettour with a sigh.
“But that must be Colonel von Degurechaff’s way of ‘appropriately’ handling things.”
In the army, “appropriate” use essentially meant exploiting everything available.
Though he had said “a measure” of discretion, this did happen directly after he told her they would give it to her. He realized they were lucky she hadn’t co-opted weapons.
It amounted to borderline interference in supreme command, but this was Degurechaff. Surely, she had some sort of justification prepared. In which case, there wasn’t any problem. He didn’t feel like complaining.
“Either way, the Second Guard Division is, along with the First, charged with defending the capital. Considering their connections with the court, they would never be deployed in combat, but they have high-quality equipment. Maybe we should be impressed with her taking advantage of what’s on hand.”
“…True, the Second Guard Division isn’t doing much of anything at the moment, but she’s clearly overstepping her authority.”
“That’s enough. You probably shouldn’t say any more, Colonel.”
He didn’t feel like hearing anything else, and he made that loud and clear.
“Colonel von Degurechaff is an expert field officer. The Guard Divisions soldiers are elite…unlike the key members connected to the court. Don’t you think that’s an optimal combination?”
“But” Lergen tried to protest, but Zettour sighed at him.
“We can’t afford to let them twiddle their thumbs.”
The requests from the front lines conveyed how grave the situation had gotten. Degurechaff had offered a plan to ameliorate it. And it was to flexibly employ a Kampfgruppe made up of multiple military branches in the Imperial Army’s preferred efficient method.
That said, while Degurechaff’s report was brilliant, it was undeniable that at this rate, it would remain armchair theory. How much doctrine can you really claim if it’s untested?
“In order to actually verify its practicality in combat and mitigate the difficulties on the front lines, it’s hard to avoid employing the unit in a test, and the only way to do it is to put the one who came up with the idea in charge.”
You understand that, right? Zettour asked with his eyes, and Lergen was left speechless. It was true; it was common understanding that there were virtually no magic officers who were also such outstanding commanders.
No, you could say they simply didn’t exist.
And Degurechaff was essentially the only one who could use the General Staff’s firefighting team, the 203rd Aerial Mage Battalion, to its full potential. If the battalion built up by that great commander was going to be the core of the new Kampfgruppe, then ultimately, its commander would have to be Degurechaff.
“Since that’s the case, I’ve decided that now is the time to deploy it on the front lines. Colonel von Lergen, I don’t think a staff officer of your caliber would require any more explanation than that, but what do you say?”
“I humbly thank you for your kindness and the quite undeserved praise. But if that’s how you feel, then please forgive me for offering you my opinion: You should at least station Colonel von Degurechaff and her Kampfgruppe on the southern continent!”
“We can’t hold out down there anymore. General von Romel has been fighting for almost a year, but we can’t get dragged into a matériel war.”
The Southern Continent Expeditionary Army Corps had been dispatched as a way to gently shake up the status quo of the fight.
Zettour made the choice to send them unwillingly; it was for political purposes. They were managing to achieve continual tactical victories…but as expected, the reports that came in said they were struggling against the enemy’s matériel strength.
The Commonwealth was propping up the Republicans substantially, and the insincere neutral stance of the Empire’s dear ally, the Kingdom of Ildoa, was incredibly fishy.
And on top of that, due to the frequent raids on the transport fleet by the Commonwealth Navy and marine mages, the supply situation of the thinly spread expeditionary forces had gone from beyond pitiable to nearly disastrous.
General von Romel was an expert in maneuver warfare, but with a fundamental force imbalance, there was little hope that he would be able to counteract strategic inferiority with tactical victories.
As they had already achieved their initial objective of creating a distraction, the idea of committing more troops at this point could be met only with confusion.
“But we can shore up the matériel disparity. Wouldn’t that be the place for Degurechaff to shine, as you believe she will? Couldn’t she take on the Commonwealth marine mages?”
“For a time, I’m sure she could, but it would only be a drop in the bucket.”
The fundamental quantities of matériel being committed were too different. All Zettour could do was make a face like he’d been sucking lemons and lament the shamefulness of the Imperial Army.
“Multiple reports are saying that matériel is being supplied directly to the Commonwealth Army and the remnants of the Republican Army er, the Free Republic, was it? from an unconfirmed source.”
It was exactly as they had feared.
He wanted to cry, Is Degurechaff a devil?! Just as her report had predicted, massive amounts of Unified States–made military goods were flowing into the southern continent via the Commonwealth as camouflage.
And apparently, they were coming from the Unified States directly.
What’s worse, they were purposely doing the deals with private enterprises and transporting things on ships of neutral nationality. Even if the Empire wanted to sink them, the ships were from a third country. Or that one.
Sinking or inspection could invite the Unified States into the war. At least, that’s what Degurechaff’s paper from so long ago claimed.
Her assertion that the executives of the Unified States were hoping the Imperial Army would do just that actually had a high probability of being true.
“…Colonel von Lergen. We know due to a curious leak that a certain country is sending matériel directly to the southern continent.”
“The leak was made on purpose.”
Basically, someone from either the Commonwealth or the Unified States with a perverted interest in provoking an imperial attack on Unified States ships was kind enough to tip them off.
The only way to avoid a conflict would be to bomb the port of discharge.
But on the southern continent, even that would be difficult. It would have to be a raid from high altitude. Given the slim chances of hitting their target, the only way to do it would be to carpet-bomb the area.
The imperial air fleet was already fully engaged on the western and eastern fronts.
Under the circumstances, concentrating the necessary amount of bombers on the southern continent was impossible.
And they were likewise strapped for mages. It would be too hard to pull a whole unit off the main lines.
Thus, currently, they had no move to make.
“There’s a leak regarding that country’s assistance. Apparently, the amount of supplies flowing in is undeniably huge. Vexingly, we have no way to stop it.”
“The Unified States is sending supplies to the southern continent directly? We know they have troops working with the Commonwealth forces, but…direct support to a combat zone is… Wasn’t Congress’s policy to be a neutral third party?”
“The president seems to have taken a different stance.”
Apparently, the good ladies and gentlemen of the Unified States considered their country to be neutral. And it was an utter pain in the ass, but they even wanted to continue normal trade relations with the Empire.
If that was all… Zettour winced.
If that was all, they would surely be desirable trading partners. But the president of the Unified States seemed to be of a different mind than the voters.
“…What will you do?”
“Our Empire may be great, but we have our hands full with the Federation and the Commonwealth. I want to avoid starting anything else.”
Ultimately, if they had no way to mitigate harm, getting involved would be too costly. He could only think that the Unified States’ pro-war faction was openly provoking them. There was no need for the Empire to go biting that poisonous apple of their own accord.
“Of course, it’s aggravating to helplessly watch our enemy enjoying those benefits.”
Which was why they had to win in the east. If that could be achieved, nothing was off-limits. All that mattered was whether it would benefit the Empire or not. Everything had to be considered accordingly.
“That’s how it is, Colonel. To win, we need to get results in the east. So I’m going to have Degurechaff wreak havoc on the eastern lines.”
Midway through the Great War, a serious conflict arose within the Imperial Army General Staff regarding overall war policy. General von Zettour, who had led their efforts on the Rhine front overall, and his followers made up the western faction.
They advocated a bloodletting strategy, draining the enemy over time until it died.
On the other hand, the eastern faction, made up primarily of people involved in the eastern army, prioritized the eastern front. They advocated a decisive strategy to end the war quickly with encirclement and annihilation.
The western faction strongly condemned the idea of a decisive battle as too risky. Zettour, especially, who was an adherent of Attritional Containment Doctrine, wanted to avoid large-scale offensives. Trench warfare had taught them the merit of decentralized advances and encirclement tactics, but he was extremely skeptical of going on an offensive while their enemy held the advantage.
Meanwhile, the eastern faction proposed their strategy on the premise that the Federation would have numerical superiority. Under that assumption, the western faction’s proposed plan had to be deemed unrealistic.
What they set their sights on next was an attract and annihilate strategy employing their mobility along interior lines.
It was an application of a method proposed by Zettour, who had encircled and annihilated the bloodied and weakened Republican Army at the end of the first battle on the Rhine. The eastern faction focused on the mobile aspects and saw the tantalizing prospect of an encirclement.
While the Attritional Containment Doctrine endlessly piled up corpses, the Decisive Battle Doctrine would limit losses by ending everything in one victory. The eastern faction used that logic to rebel against the passivity of the mainstream General Staff faction. It ended up that they would test their theory in an operation on the eastern front against the Federation Army that had broken through imperial lines after the initial sneak attack.
They succeeded in surrounding an invading force of 400,000 Federation soldiers with a mere 150,000 in Trouncenberg. Compared to the imperial losses of 10,500, the Federation lost 150,000 (90,000 of which were taken prisoner).
Though tables hadn’t completely overturned their numerical inferiority, and they let some remnants of their enemy escape, the battle was considered solid precedent for the eastern faction’s theory.
On the heels of that success, the eastern faction began planning how to increase their gains and bring the war to an early close. At that time, a movement that supported any prospect of an early end to the war appeared in opposition to the cabinet and the imperial family’s fears of heavy casualties.
As the mainstream group in the General Staff, the western faction tried to argue against them, but the eastern faction stressed their success in the Battle of Trouncenberg.
More than anything, the eastern faction’s achievements were so much more persuasive than the western faction’s victory on the Rhine front, which had come at the cost of a mountain of imperial corpses.
Thus, the General Staff proposed and carried out a single plan. It was called “Operation Lakeside.” The idea was to push up the front lines via a major offensive. It was emphatically criticized from several quarters for being high-risk, high-return, but in the end, they bulldozed the opposition and pushed it through.
It was ordered as Order No. 41. Thus, the Imperial Army’s great offensive in the east became known as Operation No. 41, or colloquially as Operation Lakeside.
The Imperial Army General Staff’s Order No. 41 was top secret; it was delivered by officers themselves.
Defensive combat in the Federation was nearing its end. We had already destroyed the Federation’s reserves at Trouncenberg. The situation was fluid, but the Federation’s surplus forces were drying up, and it had practically lost the advantage it had seized in the initial sneak attack.
Amid these circumstances, the Imperial Army was tasked with seizing the initiative as soon as weather and ground conditions improved. The objective was to thoroughly annihilate the remaining forces the Federation Army had been holding on to and, to the extent possible, incapacitate their critical field army.
In order to accomplish that, it first sent its main forces into the main operation in the east. Then, in order to defend their expanded lines, a mobile corps was formed. The general plan was to mop up the enemies on the front and take the road and supply base along the former forward-most line.
The top priority, however, was to take out the remaining enemy forces.
And at the very bottom, there was a comment that said:
“Troops, our counterattack is soon at hand.”
JULY 8, UNIFIED YEAR 1926, FEDERATION CAPITAL MOSKVA, LARGE SUBTERRANEAN MEETING ROOM
Everyone present was clearly depressed.
All they needed to do was propose a single constructive idea, but they were useless failures worried only about what Comrade General Secretary Josef thought.
How utterly pathetic, lamented Mr. Loria, who was working diligently for the people, the nation, and the party on that day as well.
He had a dream. He would spare no effort in making it come true. His efforts were so great, he could boast that he was the hardest-working technocrat in all the Federation.
And it was because of that ambition that he felt young. Or rather, it was precisely because he had a dream that life was worth living. What’s the difference between a lazy oaf who doesn’t know what they desire and someone in the lageri?18
With that on his mind, Loria got down to work for the time being.
“To sum up the report, Comrade General Secretary, the Imperial Army is concentrating a large force in the region of the eastern border. It seems that, as you thought, they will launch a counteroffensive soon.”
The report was so long it wasn’t worth listening to. In the Commissariat for Internal Affairs, if a field report wasn’t kept to three lines, he would send the author to the lageri for the crime of inefficiency.
Come to think of it, the Federation was too inefficient. Bureaucracy was already spreading, and regrettably, not a single system functioned in a simple way. He could understand very well why Comrade General Secretary was irritated.
“Thanks. Now then, comrades, that’s our situation. What do you think?”
The question implicitly requested a plan for a solution.
Really, it was dangerous to answer Comrade General Secretary Josef’s questions. If you gave an opinion and it went well, you could be given credit and authority. But if you were too successful, you could be purged as someone threatening his position. Even if that didn’t happen, there was still the danger of getting involved in and then ruined by internal party struggles.
If you failed, on the other hand, you’d be forced to suffer the consequences right then and there. With that in mind, it was obvious why everyone stared at Comrade General Secretary Josef with earnest resolve, yet no one opened their mouths.
Like this, the inepts might as well have had their necks on the chopping block.
He furiously clenched his pen and was seized by the urge to stab it right through the document. This was pointless. There was no time to lose, and things were far from ideal. Eventually I’ll send you all to the lageri, he decided. But first, he made up his mind about what to do.
“Comrade General Secretary, we have succeeded in drawing the enemy in. Now I think we should make it so they can’t pull out.”
“And you would do that how?”
“Let’s bait a hook and have them bite it. What if we ceded the region near the border?”
The Federation’s territory was vast. But the development of its infrastructure was conveniently lagging behind. For the country, it was a problem, but by the same token, it also created poor conditions for an advancing army.
If the Federation could draw the Empire into an attritional battle, the advantage would be theirs. It was simple; even a child could understand by looking at the map. The Federation’s vast territory, with which it could defend in depth, was a good ally.
Imagine ten people so strong it would take ten to beat each one. If those ten people could take on a hundred, it might be hard to beat them even with only a hundred people. But with a hundred against one, they could surely win.
If the enemy spread out, they could win with numbers. It was only a matter of course. There is no enemy who can’t be crushed and killed with numbers, no matter how strong they are.
All they needed to do was draw in the thinned-out enemy forces and batter them. Or perhaps create a place where they could lure them into a futile attrition battle. For example, a city whose capture would have significant political effects, a place they wouldn’t be able to give up once they took it.
A city, in addition to having no resources, would be effective for drawing them into an urban battle of attrition. The most apt place near the front lines was Josefgrad. It would be typical for them to order the Federation Army to guard that city with their lives.
And if the Imperial Army captured the city, they would probably never let it go. Especially if our propaganda kept saying that we would take it back.
And regardless of what would happen if the Federation challenged the Empire’s mobile army to a field battle, in a battle of attrition, the Federation’s numerical advantage would take effect.
In other words, dropping back, for the Federation Army, would mean securing strategic depth.
The Imperial Army might get space, but the Federation Army would get time to reorganize.
“Comrade Loria! Say what you will, but that puts the Federation’s honor at stake!”
“Are you seriously saying we should give land to the Empire under the direction of our great commander, Comrade General Secretary?!”
But the responses came from idiots who made his head hurt. If you looked, you could see how they flaunted their allegiance. It disgusted him to be contested by those imbeciles who were capable only of blind following.
“Shut up. Comrade General Secretary, may I please continue?” I’ll put those guys first on the list of people to send to the lageri, he thought as he addressed the formal leader of the proceedings. At least Comrade Josef trusted him.
Even if he said something that displeased him, it was out of loyalty.
“…Go ahead, Loria.”
And dictators tend to be sensitive to those sorts of things. Of course, Loria knew that only from experience, but still.
Anyhow, the highest authority figure present waved a hand to have the protestors settle down and allowed Loria to continue.
“Thank you.” Loria understood. He gave an exaggerated expression of gratitude, stood, and walked over to the map on the wall.
It was a map describing their situation. What pained him was the crushing blow the Federation forces had suffered in Trouncenberg due to the major offensive those morons had insisted on.
But apparently, the Imperial Army was also full of numbskulls.
The desire to attack on impulse is a defect of soldiers in general. Loria chuckled to himself in his head.
They didn’t understand the nature of invading enemy territory.
“Cutting to the chase, if we retreat, we can force the Imperial Army into a battle of attrition. Furthermore, only by retreating can we force them into urban combat in a number of strategically important points.”
There were some factories and the transportation network in the region to consider, but the chaos of an urban battle was optimal for the Federation right now.
Combat in cities would take place on a fairly large scale.
For the Federation Army, which was qualitatively inferior to the Imperial Army, that held a rather important meaning.
“This is my personal opinion, but I don’t see any reason we should have to fight in the ring our opponents feel at home in. We want the opposite. It’s in the tight quarters of urban combat that we can use the advantage of our numbers.”
Loria would guarantee that an urban battle was the optimal place if you wanted freshly conscripted troops to fight halfway decently. Or rather, it could be said that he had no other ideas how to wage an actual war with the Empire.
He had some of his political officers on the front lines reporting both imperial and Federation losses.
The ratios were never better than one to five.
But the scale of the Federation Army was overwhelming. When it came to slugging it out in a city, organized combat and mobile battles all those disciplined actions the Imperial Army specialized in would be of only limited use.
With the pure gaze of a mathematician, Loria calculated for their victory.
“If we can get our attrition ratios even slightly more equal, the Empire will be the ones who surrender.”
If they could lower their losses even slightly, hard math would give the Federation an overwhelming advantage. They could also increase their opponents’ losses a little bit.
Loria sneered at that point.
Ah, soldiers are such obnoxious creatures. They obsess over honor and appearance, plus pride it’s too much.
“But as long as they keep winning, the importance of the land will grow on its own.”
Pyrrhus was great because he realized his victory was going to be Pyrrhic and had managed to retreat. Most generals would have been blinded by their success and expanded the lines in pursuit of further results.
Naturally, the Imperial Army would invade Federation territory to increase their gains. But to do that, it would be forced to engage in battles over cities.
“Once that happens, they won’t be able to retreat even if they want to.”
Then they would need to reinforce their units to tighten their defenses. Yes, they would be paralyzed. The mobile ones who were so skilled at encirclement tactics would be stuck allotting more and more manpower to defend a fixed position.
“Then all that’s left for us is to swoop in and retake our lost territory.”
The Federation Army would simply employ their numbers to encircle them.
And maybe it would be good to send in some spies via a third country to agitate public opinion in the Empire.
Then they really wouldn’t be able to pull out.
“Of course, so that we can resist to the last, Internal Affairs plans to dispatch blocking units behind various units fighting in the city.”
They also required some live bait to lure them in. He would take anyone who had made anti-Federation remarks, as well as ethnic nationalists and reactionaries, then grind them down to nothing against the Imperial Army. Loria spoke matter-of-factly, but internally he felt like bemoaning the silent, trembling party executives and their stupidity.
When he looked around, he saw a few horror-stricken faces among them.
You people with your fake morals only pretend to be virtuous. There couldn’t possibly be a good person here, he wanted to jeer.
“I’m confident that we’ll then be able to crush the imperials using a wall of civilians we’ll force to volunteer for the army and the riffraff from the concentration camps.”
They would preserve the soldiers who were loyal to the establishment while disposing of potentially dangerous elements at the same time.
“No, if we put it another way, all the Federation’s people will heroically resist the invaders.”
And it wouldn’t be through a purge but sacrifice for the fatherland. It wasn’t someone from the establishment who would perform the purges but the Imperial Army. There was no need for the party to get its hands dirty.
Loria was surprised by his own acumen.
When their hopes and dreams are the motivator, people exhibit unbelievable strength and abundant creativity.
“Under the leadership of Comrade General Secretary, all the Federation’s civilians will rise up as partisans. Don’t you think that would be wonderful?”
“…I see. That could be an effective proposal, yes.”
At least everyone could understand that much. No one questioned the ethical values, whether he was right or wrong.
So the idea was accepted very easily.
“All right, I’ll put you in charge of that, Comrade Loria. But you know failure is unacceptable, don’t you?”
“Of course. Please leave everything to me.”
Failure is unacceptable the warning was accompanied by a harsh gaze. A chill went up Loria’s spine, but he didn’t avert his eyes. He continued looking back, determined.
For him, this was part of fulfilling his dream.
“…Comrade General Secretary, I hate to ask for this in return, but there is one thing.”
“If there are supplies you need, I’ll approve them. What is it?”
“It’s about the criminal who bombed Moskva. I’d like to personally be the one to judge her.”
That…that fairy. I want her.
No matter what it takes I’ll do anything.
I’ve got to have her for myself.
“We must proceed very carefully yes, very carefully with that matter. I can’t promise you, Comrade Loria.”
Loria had brought up that detestable situation in front of the general secretary, of all people. That alone was stepping on the tiger’s tail. In fact, the hand holding his pen was visibly shaking from rage and humiliation.
“Comrade General Secretary. Then I’d at least like to have the little girl.”
He knew it was reckless.
But even so. There were times a man just had to act.
“…Comrade Loria, is she your type?”
“Of course! Er…that’s not exactly the right way to express it, but…”
There were things he had to do, even if it meant sacrificing everything.
There are times in life that you just have to speak up.
“She’s what you could call my ideal. I would so much so very much like to make her gasp beneath me.”
Pure determination. Loria could only plead.
Was hoping all he could do? No, he acted. Would his hopes be allowed? That was something only God knew.
But Loria had made up his mind. He had already decided. If they wanted to laugh at him as a fool, he would let them.
“…Fine. If it will dispel your anxiety, then I’ll allow it.”
“You can count on me. I’ll eradicate every obstruction and enemy to make this operation a success. Guaranteed.”
And so Loria had acquired the wings he needed to make his dream come true. As soon as the meeting ended, he jumped into his car and sped back to headquarters, which was being rebuilt, to get back to work.
“The general secretary gave me permission. Now now I just have to catch her.”
The situation was steadily evolving to make his dream a real possibility. That sense of fulfillment made him forget his age. He felt giddy.
He was convinced he had lost the purehearted anticipation of a child long ago, so he was genuinely surprised.
“The Imperial Army is walking right into my trap. If this goes well, I’m sure I’ll be able to lure that Salamander Kampfgruppe or whatever they call themselves deep into our territory.”
But at the same time, he had the caution of a mature adult. He had his unadulterated feelings, but he had also learned patience which is not to say that he wasn’t looking forward to the fun at the end…
“I guess it’s one more reason to put up the best fight we can. I wonder how the army’s morale is…”
Loria wasn’t about to spare any effort, so he called up the officers in charge to ask. To him, people could do only so much before the only thing left was waiting for fate. So he would do everything he possibly could in order to avoid regrets.
“Probably not very high. We have reports that desertions are on the rise.”
“Hmm, I guess we should send more blocking units than originally planned. Choose the members from within Internal Affairs. Send them as soon as possible.”
Naturally, he would make every move possible.
As a person chasing his dream, he would sacrifice everything he had for his ideal. His devotion was great enough that he was prepared to make an enemy of the entire world if necessary.
“And improve conditions in the concentration camps.”
But he also understood.
He knew the importance of hopes and dreams. Without them, people couldn’t live as humans.
“Instead of throwing them in there for ten years, we should treat them well for a month and then pit them against the Imperial Army. Our national resources should be used in a meaningful way.”
You don’t understand even that much? Still, Loria was tolerant of even his fretting subordinate.
He was a missionary preaching hopes and dreams. People needed happiness. Which meant that people, including himself, needed to be happy.
“In other words, even prisoners should be used efficiently. If you understand, then get it done.”
“D-do excuse me. I’ll get on that right away.”
“If necessary, punish some camp guards… If progress comes too slowly, you’ll be dealt with as well.”
Everyone needed to work hard. He knew that people valued the chance to pursue their dreams. If their dream was staying alive, they would work for it.
“Look, all you need to do is what needs to be done. Remember that.”
So, troops. Please hurry up and show me you can do this, he wished, just barely suppressing his inner conflict.
“All right. Get going.”
Hurry up and bring that fairy to me.
JULY 18, UNIFIED YEAR 1926, THE EASTERN LINES
Good day, everyone.
Do you like clean air and a beautiful night sky? Wouldn’t you like to lie down on the earth amid a soft, gentle breeze and watch clouds drifting off into forever?
The city is overly mechanized and rigid in its standardization it has no personality. Let’s take a step into the outside world. I’m sure we’ll find an abundance of the nature we’re meant to return to.
Our addiction to machines and overreliance on cars might make you think walking on the earth is a little crazy.
But please remember: Our ancestors walked. And so do we. So why not learn from our forebears and take a stroll outside?
Ah, I apologize. My introductory remarks have gone on for too long. How embarrassing.
I am the officer in command of the General Staff’s Salamander Kampfgruppe, Lieutenant Colonel Tanya von Degurechaff.
My current job is armed hiking.
All I have to do is go on and on, by motorcycle or armored vehicle, across the muddy earth.
Our actual mission is to support the flank of the Imperial Eastern Army Group’s Northern Cluster. You could say it’s the newly formed Salamander Kampfgruppe’s flank patrol mission.
Well, I heard our friends in the east beat the invading enemy’s reserves in Trouncenberg. The General Staff doesn’t imagine they’ll show up again now, so let’s relax and take it easy.
Yep, relax. I don’t want to get too involved. To be specific, this should be like a game of Ding-Dong Ditch…so we can always just run away.
(The Saga of Tanya the Evil, Volume 4: Dabit Deus His Quoque Finem, fin)