Youjo Senki, Volumen 5, Capitulo 5

Chapter V, Out of Time


Of all the medical facilities in the Federation, the navy base ones were the most advanced, since they kept in touch with the West Side. At least, you could call them proper hospitals. They were staffed with a full complement of trained medical professionals.

And it went without saying that they paid attention to not only numbers but quality, too. As far as medicines, they were far and away the most well-stocked thanks to the drugs carried over from the West Side.

At least, unlike the exceedingly gruesome intensity of the frontline treatment environment, this place was incomparably blessed. It was a real hospital with pristine sheets, the sharp smell of disinfecting alcohol, and a properly cleaned linoleum floor.

The medical officers on the forward-most line, who were reported to be running low on medicine, had given up even dreaming about facilities like these.

But no matter how well-equipped the facilities were…

“Hey, hey, help me out! Please, I need a cardiac stimulant! Hurry!”

“Cut it out…Thomas! Jackson is already asleep!”

“Colonel Drake! You can’t be serious! Please don’t talk crazy! Jackson! Hey, Jackson! Stay with us! You’re going home, aren’t you?!”

Wartime hospitals were…hospitals.

Seeing one of his subordinate officers shouting, unable to accept the death of a lifeless young mage…he was already used to this.

What a rotten thing to get used to, lamented Lieutenant Colonel Drake internally; some part of his parched heart wanted a stiff drink as he stepped into the room.

“Hey! Examine him again!” Thomas lashed out at the Federation medic.


Drake understood Thomas’s feelings to a painful degree.

Mage units were proud to have bonds as close as a family’s. No, their relationships were thicker than blood. How many officers could remain calm when losing a friend who accompanied them through thick and thin, who broke bread with them?

“Don’t die here!”

And on top of that, he recalled that Second Lieutenant Jackson was First Lieutenant Thomas’s junior by a year. They were friends since the academy he had to put it in past tense. It was a terrible shame to Drake as well.

“Lieutenant Thomas!”

“Colonel, there must be there must be some mistake!”

That said, this could go on only so long.

“You have lots of other fellow soldiers who need treatment. Keep it down, Lieutenant Thomas!”


He wouldn’t call it a tantrum.

He could understand losing composure to the point of rejecting reason.

…It’s pretty hard to get used to…this.

If he hadn’t been forced to witness so many of his subordinates’ deaths that he’d become almost immune, how wonderful that would have been.

It was a horrible job and a horrible position to be in. But casualties were inevitable in war. As long as they were inevitable, officers needed to accept them as such and do what needed to be done.

“Cool it!”

He popped Thomas one and took advantage of his shock to drag him out of the room as if he was kicking out a nuisance. Luckily, it should probably be said? Some of the idiot’s friends who were worried about him picked him up.

Alcohol and time were the only things he could prescribe to fix that issue. Tonight, there was nothing to do but drink like fish. I’ll give them time to share memories of the deceased and have a good manly cry.

Drake winced a bit when he realized how much he had been drinking since the start of the war. He was always drinking in the worst way, never to enjoy it; he might as well have been drinking rubbing alcohol. At this rate, he felt like he was going to forget how to savor a good drink.

But. He returned his consciousness to reality and bowed. “I’m sorry my officer got in your way. Please examine the other injured.”

“No, it was…”

“No matter how we paint it, it’s true that he caused trouble. Please allow me to apologize.”

Drake had told his mages in no uncertain terms that they were to treat the Federation medical officers and staff with respect.

Their allies were pouring finite medical resources into them.

Bowing your head and thanking the personnel who worked so hard for you and then turning around and heaping abuse on them was wrong. Which was why Drake didn’t hesitate. He bowed deeply to the young medic Thomas had been bothering.

That was his job as the responsible party.

“Please don’t trouble yourself. Surely it’s only natural to have feelings about the loss of your subordinate.” From off to one side came a gentle soprano voice.

Considering it was a hospital, military or no, there were still enough female personnel that it wasn’t rare. Not to mention that men and women had been serving together in mage units and rear divisions for quite a while now.

The woman who had spoken was perhaps in her early twenties? With a somewhat tender look at him, she walked over. But in the uniform of a line officer…? Drake hadn’t seen her before. When he checked her rank, things felt even stranger.

Despite having drilled the ranks of the Federation forces into his brain, he didn’t recognize this armband.

Strangest of all, the moment the medic saw her coming over, he gave a parting salute and rushed off to work.

Drake knew from experience what that meant.

It was like rats escaping a ship. When trouble arrived, nimble marine mages scattered in the same way.

“Excuse me, you are?”

“I’m Liliya Ivanova Tanechka, one of the humble gofers others might call a political officer. I’m a low-ranking political commissar as well as a first lieutenant in the Federation Army. Please call me Liliya.”

A mild demeanor and polite way of speaking.

But what she was saying was very important. I never thought the day would come that we’d have anything to do with political officers or commissars or whatever.

“Humble is one I’ll have to look up in my Federation language dictionary later. I’m Lieutenant Colonel Drake of the Commonwealth’s First Expeditionary Marine Mage Force.”

“It’s a pleasure to meet you, Colonel Drake.”

She didn’t seem at all like a mere first lieutenant, but whatever. He had orders from the fellows at home to treat political commissars not as military but as civil servants.

While he didn’t have direct experience, he’d heard more than enough rumors.

The one about them being a pain in the arse was proven by the medic who’d skittered away like a rabbit earlier. I’d really like to avoid trouble…

“Now then, I must perform my unpleasant duty.”


“Oh, I suppose it’s a misleading way to put it.”

Drake braced himself, but the woman straightened up and then bowed.

“As a party member, I extend our sympathy and condolences for your sacrifice and contribution. As an individual, I’m very sorry for your loss.”

“I appreciate you saying that. With your sentiments and condolences, I feel I’ll be able to show my face to his family…despite being a good-for-nothing commander. Thank you.”

Then he slowly told her.

They weren’t the only ones to face that horrifying imperial mage unit, the Devil of the Rhine and her gang. The Federation Army had sacrificed many as well.

“It’s late in coming, but please accept the gratitude and respect of one Commonwealth officer for your country’s sacrifice and for fighting alongside us.”

“It’s an honor. Certainly, that’s the best farewell gift for my fallen comrades.”

Her words contained more sincerity and integrity than mere lip service.

That’s what made him hesitate.

“…This probably isn’t the sort of thing an outsider should say, but…”

“Please, anything. The Commissariat for Internal Affairs said to hear out any opinions our allies have.”

Perhaps he was careless because he was given permission?

Although the home country had told him to be careful…Drake let his request slip.

“Then one thing. I hope you won’t blame your officers too much.”

“You mean you’re putting in a good word for our comrade the colonel?”

“I don’t mean to interfere in domestic affairs, but…”

“I’m eager to hear what you have to say.”

“Colonel Mikel and the others from your nation did their very best in the fight.”

Colonel Mikel and his men had faced the Devil of the Rhine with them. Drake found himself arguing how bravely they had fought.

Frankly, he was afraid he was crossing some line in Federation culture by saying that. He was so worried he had made trouble for the men already detained that his face tensed up before he could stop it.

“The party has a philosophy of rewards and punishment. But this is war. Sadly, even doing your best doesn’t guarantee success.” She smiled at him. “Please put your mind at ease. I don’t know if it will do anything, but I’ll write a note saying our comrades’ best efforts were thought of highly by an external party.”

“To be perfectly frank, I would really appreciate that…but are you sure it’s all right?”

“All right?”

“Officer Liliya, I don’t presume to know your position in your country, but is it all right at this juncture to leave a written record that you approve of an outsider’s opinion?”

“Hee-hee-hee. Seems like your concern for me has taken a strange turn.”

She laughed peacefully in her gentle soprano.

She didn’t seem worried about herself one bit.

“I’ll be fine,” she declared with no hesitation. “Just because you did your job well doesn’t necessarily mean results will follow. Unfortunately, that goes for my country, too.”

In the bright blue eyes looking at him, unwavering, was her firm will.

“But using that as an excuse to punish someone isn’t how Communism works. You could say that defending against that is our job.”


“Oh, have you been reading imperial propaganda?” She winced and asked him not to believe it. “Unfortunately, I must say, I know much is said about the Federation and our mother party. But the truth is what you see here.” She pointed at herself and then pointed at Drake with a smile. “We’re humans, too. Do you think you could see us as your neighbors as we are, without discrimination?”

“I misjudged you. I do feel as though I’ve met a friendly neighbor.”

He bobbed his head and was about to reach out when he finally remembered where he was. If I kiss her hand, I’ll probably get walloped.

He hadn’t been this impressed since meeting blue bloods back home. But this was the Federation. Honestly, it was hard for him to imagine that any old families remained…

Which was why he proceeded to ask her a question he felt he was in the presence of someone quite unexpected. “By the way, do you mind? Perhaps it’s rude to say, but you seem awfully young, Officer Liliya.”

“Do I look inexperienced? I did just graduate from the academy…”

“Ah, how tactless. I shouldn’t have brought up the topic of age with a woman. How awful of me. I’m terribly ashamed.”

As he apologized, he winced inwardly that he was missing his opportunity to learn about her background.

If she was from an old family, then whether it was the Federation’s Red Army Academy or the political academy, they probably would have refused her entry based on her status.

It wasn’t as if there were no red nobles, but the name Liliya Ivanova Tanechka didn’t ring a bell. He had never even heard of the Tanechka family.

“Apparently, a man can grow coarse in the company of rowdy marine mages without even realizing. I must be crazy, asking a woman her age.” He bowed again, repeating how incredibly embarrassed he was, and looked to see how she was reacting… A wry smile.

Not irritation or confusion? Sheesh, no more probing that will only end in disgrace. Just as he was thinking how to pull as much information out of her as possible, he noticed a first lieutenant approaching.

It was Lieutenant Mary Sue.

Though she counted as Commonwealth personnel, she was actually in an Entente Alliance voluntary unit sent over from the Unified States.

They had been literally obliterated. A company of them had been attached to the RMS Queen of Anjou on a direct support mission, and the result of their second encounter with the Devil of the Rhine left the majority of them incapacitated. There were only four left.

The ones who barely survived, like Mary Sue, were just enough to form a platoon. It was utterly tragic.

“Excuse me, Colonel. About the burial…”

“Sorry, I’m a bit busy right now. Let’s talk later, Lieutenant Sue.”

Though he had allowed her to debate him on this topic a few times…he didn’t want to get into it in front of a third party.

Drake sent Political Officer Liliya an apologetic glance.

“Umm, I don’t mind. Go ahead.”

“Are you sure it’s all right?”

How annoying, he couldn’t help but think. It would have been fine if Lieutenant Sue had just taken a hint and withdrawn, but…

“I’m not so heartless that I don’t have respect for the sacrifices of people with the same aim as me. Hello, may I have your name?”

Once she bowed and set a polite introduction in motion, Drake couldn’t find an excuse to stop them.

“I’m First Lieutenant Mary Sue. I’m part of a voluntary mage battalion from the Unified States.”

“Well! So you’re not working in the rear, huh?”

The commissar expressed her surprise at meeting another woman serving on the front lines. Unable to come up with a reason to shoo her away, Drake was falling behind.

He couldn’t even find a chance to interrupt their conversation.

“Oh, I’m sorry. I’m Liliya Ivanova Tanechka. If you like, why don’t we be friends?”

Though she held out her hand warmly, she was passionately engaged in her work. Yes, part of the political commissars’ job is negotiating between Commonwealth units and the Federation.

“But work comes first, right? Uh, let me know if I can ever be of any help.”

Faced with that smile that seemed to say, Feel free to talk to me anytime! Drake couldn’t very well pull the plug.

“Er, is that all right, Colonel Drake?”

“Sure, that’s fine.”

How much more at ease would he have felt if he could have rejected her suggestion right then? Of course, if Sue was going to hesitantly confirm with him, she could have thought about their position from the start. As Drake looked on, feeling ashamed about being unable to stop two people of delicate positions from interacting at this delicate juncture…the conversation was picking up, if nothing else.

It was too late to regret not being more forceful and driving her off from the get-go.

“So…about the location for the burial…”

As he thought, Lieutenant Sue brought up the location where they would bury their dead. To tell the truth, it was a topic Drake was rather fed up with.

“I’ve already consulted with the Federation to get space here. It should have already been allotted. Was there something wrong with it?”

“…You want to bury them here?”

This again? Drake thought as he nodded. “That’s right.”

“If it was temporary…I would understand. But Colonel Drake, to bury our dead in a foreign country would be”

“Lieutenant, I don’t really want to say this, but it’s regulation. As a rule, we bury our war dead in the land where they died. You should know that’s standard practice for the Commonwealth, right? We can’t be causing trouble for other countries during a war.”

She had noticed the difference in values a long time ago.

Commonwealth soldiers were buried where they so bravely fell. And the official regulation stipulated that if possible, a memorial should be built on the land where they died.

Nothing more than that was permitted.

“If necessary, we can send personal articles to the rear. But generally speaking, our heroes sleep in the land where they fall.”

“With all due respect, what about their fatherland? What about letting them go home to rest?”

In response, it should be said?

Lieutenant Sue was desperate in her persistence on this point. And it was something she had in common with the other former Entente Alliance soldiers: They had a deep-seated desire to be buried in their hometowns.

If that was how they viewed life and death in the Entente Alliance, Drake wanted to respect that as much as possible, but thinking what a headache this was, he had to point out something. “You guys need to remember that you’re enlisted in the Commonwealth Army. This isn’t the sort of thing I want to say, but…I can’t have you forgetting whose forces you belong to.”

“But…our eternal resting place has to be our home.”

“I get it, but you’re being too sentimental.”

The Federation was preparing a memorial. And the regulations stipulated burial where the soldiers died. If, under those circumstances, they refused the Federation’s memorial and said they were taking their dead home, it could spark a political dispute.

Why would the Commonwealth, who usually buried its dead abroad, take their corpses home? Who knew what the international aftermath of such a thing would be?

Considering the delicate nature of the cooperation between the Commonwealth and the Federation…there was a lot of pressure on Drake, as a commander.

There was no way he could accept her plea.

Every time he received one of these insistent petitions, he could only turn it down.


“Sorry, there’s nothing I can say.”


Just as an unpleasant silence was about to fall…

“Excuse me, Colonel Drake. May I say something?”

A gentle soprano voice dispelled the awkwardness.

“Sure, Officer Liliya, if you have an opinion, then by all means.”

“Isn’t it only natural to have feelings about your fatherland, about your hometown?”

“Of course.”

“Then I should think it’s only human to wish for home as your final resting place.”

Drake was about to say that she was right, and his eyes widened.

“If you like, I can arrange for a cenotaph as a temporary resting place. And then once the Entente Alliance is freed, they could go home.”

“…That would be much appreciated.”

If the Federation was offering…

That certainly justified it.

At least, it didn’t cross the line set by the home country. Well, no, Habergram will probably throw a fit.

But he was already prepared for that, since they failed to protect the RMS Queen of Anjou.

Perhaps being the one responsible was a tough gig, but…he had no reason to feel ashamed for humbling himself to benefit his subordinates.

“Okay, is that it? I should probably be going. Officer Liliya, please let me know if my troops give you too much trouble.”

As Drake saluted and took his leave, his head was already filling up with procedures and requirements. If temporary interment could be arranged, then all he needed was authorization from home.

I can probably get it through if I push as not Commonwealth military but as a voluntary army from the Unified States. No, I will get this through.

Seeing Colonel Drake fairly stomp off like that, I felt like I had made a mistake. I kept bringing up the same thing over and over again.

I nearly gave up when I saw how he was suppressing his irritation at my request.

…I don’t think I said anything wrong.

But I do understand that my request made trouble for him.

Then I remembered what happened and hurried to thank the person who threw me a lifeline.

“Um, Officer Liliya?”

“Can I call you Mary?”

“Of course.”

She’s Colonel Drake’s counterpart on the Federation side and a political officer.

“Thanks. Please call me Liliya, too. You don’t need to use the title. If possible, I’d like us to be friends.” Then she added, “Oh, and I’ve heard about you about the people resisting even though the Entente Alliance was occupied by the Empire. It’s an honor to meet you.”

She seemed so kind, I had to go and ask, “You don’t have a grudge against us?”

“A grudge…? Why would I?”

Liliya looked perplexed. Really, I shouldn’t have asked. But my mouth did it all on its own. “We’re the ones who started the whole war. The ones who caused the problem. Or oh yeah I heard people call our fatherland ‘the bankrupt relative.’”

I borderline self-deprecatingly murmured the truth.

Everyone fighting the Empire whispered it. We could have avoided this meaningless war if only the Entente Alliance hadn’t been so careless.

Sadly I sighed a little in my head I’m already used to being talked about behind my back.

“…Well, I can’t deny that it was the Entente Alliance’s cross-border operation that set things in motion. History will probably speak of it as the event that triggered this huge war.”

Which was why when Liliya nodded her understanding, I braced myself like usual. I was sure she’d criticize us, reproach us, say it was our fault.

“You gave them an excuse, there’s no doubt about that. But that’s all.”

“…That’s all?”

I didn’t understand, because I couldn’t believe that was true. But when she smiled and said yes, I was so in awe, I couldn’t even look straight at her.

“Enemies approaching the border get driven back. So, well…when it comes to your Entente Alliance Army…”

“Yes, I know. We crossed the border, so it was our fault. It’s okay.”

Liliya nodded slightly and replied, “But what the Empire did after that went beyond merely protecting its border. It should have been a small border conflict, but the Empire began a major mobilization. Don’t you find that strange?”

“Wait, but from the military’s perspective, isn’t mobilization a natural response? I mean, look at the scale of this war. I can understand why they would call for a general mobilization.”

“Yes, perhaps it was if the Empire was envisioning a war on this scale from the very beginning.”


I didn’t even have time to ask what she meant before she gave me an explanation.

“Don’t take this the wrong way, but if the Empire just wanted to deal a blow to the Entente Alliance this might sound strange, but…there was no reason to mobilize their entire army.”

When I gasped, Liliya gave me a little nod. What she said next completely shocked me.

“And on top of that, they carried out this large-scale mobilization and advanced north. But then what happened when the Republic hit the western industrial district on the Empire’s flank? As the whole world knows, the Empire reacted with surprising flexibility to stop them despite the fact that the main imperial forces were all deployed up north.”


“An army can’t free itself from its initial plan.”

She made the statement quietly but with so much conviction. It was something that every soldier knew.

You couldn’t move an army on a whim. Even with advance prep and careful arrangements, the army was a prisoner of uncertainty.

So then why was the Empire able to hold the western front despite the unforeseen attack?

“If they hadn’t been prepared for it, there would have been no way… When I heard this in Moskva, it made sense to me. The Empire was using the Entente Alliance from the start.”

I never thought of that. But now that she mentioned it…I was able to accept it as a new viewpoint.

Still, there was something that made me think, But… If what Liliya was saying was true… I gulped and asked, hardly thinking, “You mean our government was tricked?”

“I don’t know. But from what I heard, there’s a possibility that intentional provocation was involved.”

“So the Empire made them believe it wouldn’t respond to a cross-border operation?”

“It’s all just a guess.”

Yes, it’s all just a guess. At that point, I tried to keep a cool head. There was no way to know what the Entente Alliance government had been thinking at the time.

It was all speculation.

It was just a hypothesis with no proof, mixed with the hope that it was true. But could it be that my father and all my friends had to die for that?

“Yeah, you might be right, Liliya. Or you might be wrong. But it’s important to look at things from different perspectives.”

“Yes, it’s good to have lots of points of view.”

“Thanks. Regardless of whether I believe it or not…you’re the first person who hasn’t treated me like a troublemaker.”

What was even more important was that…I hadn’t been rejected. Of course, everyone welcomed us warmly. But the tone of their comments put us on edge: Do they think of us as a nuisance?

It was something I hadn’t felt at Grandma’s house…this malice.

As the war escalated and the number of casualties increased, I had started to feel it in the Commonwealth.

If I said I didn’t expect to sense the same thing in the Federation, I’d be lying.

“You didn’t do anything wrong, so if any of my Federation comrades says something… No, if anyone says something, let me know. That’s part of what I’m here for.”

“Thanks. I think you’re the first person I can talk to.”

“What? Mary, what about Colonel Drake? He seems like a good guy. I’m sure he would at least listen to you.”

“Yes, but…he’s a Commonwealth soldier to the core. I mean, he is considerate. But I think he’d be lying if he said that he doesn’t think this a mess the Entente Alliance made.”

I imagine both of us felt it that wall between us due to our disparate loyalties.

Colonel Drake was fighting for his fatherland, and I was fighting for mine. When two people are fighting for different fatherlands, there is bound to be some disconnect. It’s sad but true.

“…I guess I never did this before.”

“Never did what?”

“I don’t think I ever talked about this sort of thing to someone from a different country.”

Until I met Liliya, I could only share my worries with the other members of the voluntary army… And now, most of my fellow soldiers had fallen.

It’s the duty of those who remain to free the fatherland my father and those men and women believed in. But… I wiped away the tears that were about to fall and smiled. “Ah, I guess I’m relieved to find that this kind of conversation isn’t impossible.”

“I wish you great fortune in life, Mary. There will be hard times, but there will be good things, too. Life is long.”

“It’s weird, huh? But yeah, I guess that’s one way to put it.”

“That it is, my friend.”

She beamed a rosy smile at me.

It was a wonderful smile.

“Oh, I like that that phrase.”

Her smile was so bright, I could hardly look at her I felt so overwhelmed.

“Then, once again, it was nice to meet you, Mary.”

I took the hand she offered.

It was warm and kind.

That’s why I could smile, too.

“Yeah, same here. Thanks, Liliya. My friend.”

Nice to meet you, my friend.


The mood of the commander of the Salamander Kampfgruppe in the east, Lieutenant Colonel Tanya von Degurechaff, is plummeting like the pressure in a hurricane.

Partly because she’s still on a research and investigation mission to test Kampfgruppe operations they’ve been assigned to a part of the front line far removed from the main fighting area.

While the main forces gather in the southeast and prepare for a major operation, the Salamanders have been told to get some experience surviving the winter in the northeast, which is considerate. You could say that a flank patrol mission that can double as training is a thoughtful arrangement.

But if you can be thoughtful about that, then… The hand she’s been dealt has Tanya mournful to the last and at her wit’s end.

“…Wars shouldn’t be dragged out. We’re going to use up all our precious veterans. Do they really think this ragtag crew is going to be able to hold the front?”

The units she’s received are even greener than expected.

“The majority are new recruits, not career soldiers. It’s too much for the scarce veterans we do have to handle… Agh, what a headache.”

Having said that much, she realizes she’s talking rather irresponsibly, but she can’t lie about how she feels. She really is despairing at the cards in her hand.

Lieutenant Colonel Uger from the Service Corps was telling the truth when he said the core personnel would be veterans. He did indeed get us veterans.

If you have a reliable former classmate from the war college on your side, things get a lot easier.

Still, even Uger is…just a single staff officer. He’s not in a position to orchestrate everything. It was good that he secured us some veterans… It’s just too bad he couldn’t have seen to the quality of the new recruits as well.

Tanya overestimated the amount of training they would have, and she can’t regret it enough.

Though they’re training in parallel with position prep mainly the village in which they’re garrisoned for winter it’s impossible to expect good results.

They don’t just need proper battlefield conduct drilled into them they don’t even have a solid grasp of the most basic education a soldier needs on the front line.

It’s like tossing a new sales team member onto the front lines when they don’t even know about the company’s products yet. Setting aside the fact that you’re trying to fill employee openings, it’s bound to cause confusion.

Furthermore, the newbies aren’t even the only problem. The officers we’ve been allotted are also far from ideal.

We requisitioned part of a building that must have been a Federation Communist Party facility for HQ. When I had my reliable officers war against the new officers, albeit on a map, the results were dreadful.

No, some of them deserve praise. It’s just that there are a lot more inepts.

Even if I evaluated with the most indirect phrasing and was as optimistic and hopeful as I could be, they still aren’t skilled enough for me to be able to trust them as officers.

And those are my subordinates.

Sitting with Major Weiss commenting on the newbies’ performances in the HQ common room, it ends up about 10 percent praise and 90 percent criticism.

“Captain Ahrens was the best of the lot. As the commander of an armored unit, he knows his stuff. His naïveté when it came to using artillery and mage units is acceptable because it’s not his area of expertise.”

“Yes, he’ll be no problem. I heard it was Colonel von Lergen who got him for us… If only they were all that good.”

Luckily, I suppose? Captain Elmer Ahrens, recommended by an acquaintance, is a decent officer. Once he’s trained, he’ll be plenty good.

But he’s the best one.

Having to feel relieved that at least one of them is even usable is a horrifying state of affairs.

“That Captain Rolf Meybert in the artillery should just be shot.”


“I know; we don’t need to go over it again. Still…I can’t believe I have an inept worker manning the artillery. Who knows how much ammo he’ll use up? This is the east, you know!”

The Imperial Army’s artillery doctrine has specialized in and been optimized for trench warfare. Armies always carry their past battles with them. Apparently, in order to optimize for a new battlefield, you have to pay the terrifying lesson fee of experience.

Having your head filled with the assumptions of old battlefields during training with the theorists…might still fly in the west. But… Tanya vents in a thoroughly fed-up voice. “Throw away the experience you got on the Rhine front! The supply lines we’re premised on are too different.”

“Yes, Colonel… Our supplies are vulnerable, aren’t they…?”

“It’s worse than that, Major Weiss. I’m sure you’re painfully aware, too. I can’t have anyone wasting shells. Our supply could be cut off tomorrow for all we know!”

The eastern front’s supply runs through the mud. Horses are the primary means of transportation. Trucks can just barely be used to supplement, but the road isn’t paved.

The conditions are just too different from the western lines, where we were abundantly supplied with shells via light rail. Supplies are not a given here. To put it in extremes, we can’t even trust that the communication lines will stay up.

“Major Weiss, do you remember the nonsense Meybert said the third time you severed their supply lines during the map exercise?”

“You mean, ‘The ammo stockpile we started with was unrealistically small, which is hampering the artillery’s performance’?”

Weiss wrung the words out in disgust. He and Captain Meybert had been repeating the same scenario for educational purposes.

And yet. Tanya spits. “That idiot Meybert just doesn’t learn. No, he just says, ‘That’s weird.’ Thanks to which he’s going to be a bad influence on the other numbskulls.”

“Captain Lienhart Thon and Lieutenant Klaus Tospan will be fine. Those two are infantry, so they can handle any trouble on their own.”

Was he trying to distract us? Or trying to find some point in their defense?

Tanya can understand that he’s attempting a roundabout topic change. Even so, she’s of the opinion that there are some problems to point out. “Thon and Tospan are both blockheads. They think they can handle things, but they’re newbies who might as well not even know how to change a diaper.”

Weiss, silently wincing, probably doesn’t have any response to that. But he is starting to look worried.

Ah, I do somewhat regret that. Tanya realizes then that she was getting too emotional.

“I wanted to ask about the replacement company sent for the aerial mage battalion.” Tanya steers the conversation back toward administrative matters and asks Weiss’s opinion.

“It’s a full twelve mages led by First Lieutenant Theobald Wüstemann, all new.”

“That’s what I heard. So give me your frank opinion of both the commander and the unit.”

“They’re on the better side of both ability and quality.”

Oh? His remark surprises Tanya. The replacements Weiss received from the home country had been abysmally lacking in mobility skills. “So better than expected? Fill me in.”

“Yes, I think Personnel must have been somewhat selective when choosing them for us. They’re doing just fine in terms of eagerness and book learning.”

Tanya urges him to continue, and he sighs.

“On the other hand, as mages, they have a critical dearth of experience.”

“So that’s what’s wrong with them.”

The truth we can only lament…

Regardless of how high quality they are, these newbies haven’t been given any time to gain experience. Inevitably, then, they don’t have enough.

“Exactly, ma’am. It’s not just the commander; all the replacements have this problem… I think we should put them in a company together.”

You can’t get a unit to cooperate well if the members’ levels of training are all over the place. I’ll have to be aware of their very different capabilities and try to find an appropriate use for them.

“That’s probably all we can do.” Tanya sighs her lament. “So the 203rd Aerial Mage Battalion temporarily becomes a battalion plus a reserve company…”

“It’s unfortunate, but let’s have Lieutenant Grantz put the newbies through the mill as planned.”

“Can we make something of them? I get that they lack experience, but the last I saw, it seemed like they couldn’t even perform basic maneuvers.”

No matter how good a teacher Grantz is…

The experience problem will still require time.

…One day is twenty-four hours.

And for reasons of physical strength as well as other military duties, it’s impossible to train for twenty-four hours straight.

The worst part is that these mages we’ve been allocated might as well have failed the flying course. They wouldn’t have made it through the skill-training curriculum Tanya knows. These newbies are so lacking in competence that if this was before the war started, she would have sent them back to redo basic.

Which is why she has to repeat her question.

“Major Weiss, I’m not doubting your opinion. Still, don’t you think inferior ability is different from a lack of experience?”

“You make a good point, but this time it’s really not an individual-level issue. I checked with Lieutenant Wüstemann, and…if anyone, it’s the instructors in rear forcing them through absurdly accelerated training who are at fault. I was surprised. These guys have less than a hundred hours in the air. We’re talking two digits.”

Tanya nearly yelps a reflexive What? Two digits of flying time…?

“You’re saying they’re so green they haven’t even logged a hundred hours yet?”

“According to Lieutenant Wüstemann and the other newbies, if you hit a hundred hours, you’re sent straight to the front lines.”

“That’s an awful excuse, but I understand… We have no choice here. Let’s just be grateful we got replacements. I heard that since this huge war broke out, the army has drafted every able-bodied person, but I didn’t know we were wasting them with such shabby training.”

In a total war, the types of new soldiers a commander will get can be broadly divided into three categories.

The first is simply people who have recently reached conscription age. To make it sound nice, it’s a human resource that renews every year. They’re a mix of wheat and chaff.

The second is draft-exempt people who volunteer.

Tanya has a hard time understanding this, but some people, despite being exempt from the draft, volunteer for frontline service. By the way, many of these people are essentially the wheat you want. The only catch is that it’s hard to get your hands on them.

When committing to a doctrine of total war, the state squeezes out every available iota of its human resources. The majority of those still exempt, then, are a tiny number of experts in science and technology or medicine, and so on. When they volunteer, the research institutes in the rear throw them into the mix without complaint.

Still, I heard that even if some researchers and doctors volunteer for frontline duty, the General Staff rejects their request directly. How I envy them. I genuinely want to trade places with them, but since it’s impossible, I’ll leave it at that.

So the final group consists of the people who are caught by the expansion of the draft. It must mean that the army needs the people who used to be exempted for age, health, or fitness reasons.

From those three sources come replacement troops who have gone through accelerated training. We have no choice but to be happy if they are eager and intelligent; this is the reality of the Empire’s human resources situation.

…Isn’t it just horrific?

“Under the circumstances, it’s great to have an armored unit in good condition. Luckily, there’s nothing wrong with their gear or discipline. The commander, Captain Ahrens, and his troops are a good unit. I can’t thank Colonel von Lergen enough for sending them to us.”

“That’s true, but…” Tanya winces. “Major Weiss, the problem is the infantry and artillery, who make up most of the Kampfgruppe’s head count.”

“…It’s unclear whether they’ll hold up in mobile warfare, huh?”

“Given a Kampfgruppe’s duties, mobile defense will be hard to avoid. But…” She stands with a sigh and walks over to the window.

Outside, an infantry unit is building a trench.

“Now isn’t the time to worry about mobile warfare. Apparently, the commanders have had the latest elastic defense theories beaten into their brains… Those guys at the infantry academy are idiots.”

Remembering when she had the two commanders draw up the blueprint, Tanya sighs. They must have learned it at school. They proposed a defensive line plan in keeping with the meticulous defense theory the Empire is so proud of and elastic defense theory.

“Colonel, with all due respect…there’s nothing actually wrong with elastic defense theory.”

“No, that’s true, Major Weiss. As long as you have the right soldiers, the right gear, and the right supply system, I can’t deny that it’s ideal.”

Elastic defense is the tactic the Imperial Army devised during its experience in the trenches on the Rhine front. Though you drive the enemy off from the front line, the assumption is that you’ll move as well.

In terms of pure logic, it’s utterly correct.

For a limited number of soldiers to defend a wide area, moving around is the one option.

After all, if you hole up in one main defensive position, you’ll get surrounded. In order to avoid that, you don’t make the main defensive position where you engage in defensive combat. Instead, you construct spider holes and simple firing positions up ahead of the lines for warning and keeping enemies at bay. You can repulse them as soon as you discover them.

It’s a clear theory, all fine and well.

If it has any issue, though, it’s that since you’re moving around, there’s no way to construct a firm line.

“But it’s uncertain whether this Kampfgruppe can even handle mobile warfare! You’re telling a regiment-equivalent force of one aerial mage battalion, two infantry battalions, an artillery battalion, and an armored company…to defend an area that would take a division to cover?”

“Maybe they were half-joking?”

“Joking? When Thon and Tospan proposed constructing an advance line, their faces were dead serious.”

Just remembering it drains her energy. She even asked them if they intended to take a division and defend the whole area.

But they only stared at her, puzzled.

“They just don’t get it.”

“They still think elastic defense is the right way to go about things?”

“They must. So we have to go check the line later. Their work might not be up to snuff.”

Tanya has judged that their options right now are limited. Frankly, all they can do is convert their village into a stronghold.

She’s accepted that they’ll probably be surrounded, so they need to tighten defense in every direction.

Thus, being surrounded is now a given. She’s not interested in the argument that they shouldn’t get surrounded. There must be a limit to how much a small number of troops can cover.

No matter how sharp our watch is, there will have to be a hole somewhere that allows a sneak attack. If we can’t accept the version of the future where we suddenly get surrounded, we’ll be wiped out in the end.

“You know…even I think the idea of going under siege is ridiculous. It’s extremely irritating that we have no other option. But it’s because of that that we need to make sure our defenses are constructed securely.”

“Yes, Colonel.”

“And on that point, I’m concerned that the infantry commanders are being too lax. I would feel better if you would make sure they’re doing a proper job, Major Weiss…”

“Understood, Colonel. May I borrow Lieutenant Serebryakov?”

“That’s fine. Do a thorough inspection.”

“Yes, ma’am.”

Tanya bobs her head and says she’s counting on him.

“That numbskull Thon still seems to be attached to elastic defense.”

“…What can we expect? I can’t deny that positional defense is vulnerable to envelopment and artillery barrages. It’s probably difficult for Captain Thon to escape the main current of existing ideas.”

Weiss’s expression is a bit tense. He continues that he feels like he can sympathize in some ways. It’s not a bad thing to look for the good points in your troops.

“But,” Tanya snaps, “if you like advocating so much, maybe you should change careers and become a lawyer.” She continues, “Listen, if we were in a situation where we could use elastic defense, he would be right. The problem is that he doesn’t acknowledge that our reality is not the right environment for it. What can we do with subpar artillery and a pile of newbie infantry who can’t handle mobile warfare besides positional defense? Ultimately,” she adds bitterly, “we need to keep the troops where they can hear their commander’s voice.”

It’s like managing part-timers at a shop.

If we had a shift leader we could trust, things might be different. By giving them some authority and having them use their discretion, the boss’s that is, the commander’s load would be lightened considerably.

But what if a very busy shop is allocated only inexperienced part-timers who can’t be trusted to make their own calls? Then, just like a commander leading the charge, the shop owner would have to be at the register all day.

“If he doesn’t even understand that much, he’s incompetent, and on top of that, he’s stubborn! I want to have him shot! It’s really too bad that there’s no rule allowing us to send inepts to the firing squad.”

“Excuse me, may I say something? If you want to make such scathing judgments, maybe you should have tried to become an inspector.”

“That’s a great idea, Major Weiss. When we retire from active service, let’s aim for legal circles together. Although I bet I’ll end up meeting you in court.”

It’s actually not a bad idea. Tanya smiles from the bottom of her heart.

For a retired soldier, that’d be a pretty respectable job. At least, it would be safe and stable.

“Ha-ha-ha, that’s terrifying. Well, before you get mad at me, I’d better get moving. I’ll arrange the inspection and everything…”

“Good. Make it rigorous.”

Weiss salutes and leaves the room, and as she sees him off, Tanya thinks over their situation again with a dissatisfied smile. It would be impossible to say they’ve been dealt good cards.

But they’ve already started the game. She’s not allowed to quit just because she got a bad hand. She can only try as hard as she can.

So let’s think about what’s possible with the cards she has.

“Sheesh, this just isn’t worth it. Should I apply to the General Staff for overtime pay? Mm, I guess I have to check the rules first to see if that allowance even applies to officers and commanders of combat units.”


Training, constructing the position, and more training.

What brings color to the Salamander Kampfgruppe’s days of being stationed far from the main eastern front, in the northeast, are endless training and exercises. Undertaken with the aim of increasing cohesiveness and making sure everyone acquires basic skills, they ring out in the form of shouted officer and noncom orders.

At least no one participating in the exercises is slacking off. That they’re all taking their training very seriously is…a silver lining. But even watching them do that, Tanya is terribly impatient.

The new recruits have plenty of drive but not those all-important skills to match. Not being able to rely on her subordinates for even the most natural things is eating away at her nerves.

The snail-paced improvements are already making Major Weiss and Tanya’s plan to have the newbies retrained before winter really sets in seem hopeless.

Late at night in the building requisitioned as Kampfgruppe HQ, Tanya looks over the weather team’s data and sighs, desperate for more time.

“…It’ll be full-on winter in just a few weeks? All the prep we still need to do is going to severely limit the amount of time and resources we can put into training.”

And on top of that, they’re short on equipment for exercises. At home, they could have used an exercise range or other facilities. But where they are now is the front line, albeit removed from the main conflict area. It’s great for getting the soldiers used to the atmosphere of a battlefield, but in terms of facilities, the disadvantage is inescapable.

Of course, they say one real battle is better than a hundred training sessions, but…I can say this from experience: The amount of blood shed on the battlefield is inversely proportional to the amount of sweat shed in training.

“Educate these guys with no foundation and have them ready for mobile battles by January? I think I could be more optimistic about teaching penguins to form ranks and march.”

You can decrease losses even by just making sure the troops know how to dig trenches and use spider holes. It’s also important to teach them how to distinguish friend from foe in a melee fight and when not to throw a hand grenade.

Panicked newbies often turn not only themselves but the soldiers next to them into casualties. It might benefit us more to put penguins on the patrol line than recruits who scatter in fear.

“…When I heard some countries give penguins honorary ranks, I thought that was in awfully bad taste, but perhaps it was an abstract protest that penguins or bears would be more useful than panicking rookies.”

I had thought they were merely mascots, but it’s important to gain a correct understanding of things. Well, that’s a discovery, thinks Tanya as she drains her hot coffee and slowly stands up.

When she glances at her watch, she sees it’s awfully close to the time she had planned. Soon she’ll receive Major Weiss’s scheduled report from his watch on the patrol line.

If there aren’t any issues, I can probably turn in for the night. It might not be a bad idea to get a cup of water to wash my face before I go to bed.

Despite it being the front lines, as long as there are mages around, there is never any shortage of hot water, which I’m grateful for. Obviously, I can’t unconditionally soak in a bath all day, but if I want hot water to wipe down with, all I have to do is heat it up with a formula.

“My eyes are so tired. It can’t hurt to put a towel over them and rest for a while.”

Even in the middle of a trench battle, mages benefit from a little bit of flexibility. Which makes me really feel how inestimably far a civilized lifestyle goes toward maintaining one’s humanity.

Regular, civilized habits.

When you’re experiencing the irregular series of abnormal phenomena that is war, keeping your own lifestyle disciplined is indispensable for achieving a daily rhythm.

Humanity is a stronghold of the mind secured by the routine of daily life.

“Oops, this is no good. I’m going to be late for Weiss’s check-in.”

I gotta hurry, she thinks, and just as she’s striding toward the door…

There’s a sudden knock on it. No, more like some kind of harried pounding.

Ohhh, good-bye.

Good-bye, my tranquil, wholesome, orderly evening.

Hello, shitty irregularity. Tanya braces herself.

“Come in!”

“Excuse me, Colonel. We’ve received an urgent report!”

It was her adjutant, First Lieutenant Serebryakov, who popped in looking tense. Something awful must have happened, exactly as Tanya had expected.

This is a fine hassle.

I don’t know who the hell it is, but they’ve got an awful lot of nerve if they’re disrupting my wholesome, civilized habits. I’m going to reeducate them with the order of justice and civilization.

“It’s from Major Weiss on the patrol line.”

Tanya urges her to read it, and in response to her glance, Visha nods and continues her report.

“It’s the enemy! We’ve spotted the enemy.”


“They appear to be coming from the enemy’s sphere of influence. It looks like two brigades of Federation infantry. They’re rapidly approaching Forward Patrol Line One.”

It makes her want to click her tongue Tch.

She was expecting this sort of attack.

As in, We can’t avoid being outnumbered.

She knew early on that should the enemy attack, the power disparity between them would grow. Unlike the Imperial Army, which has to spread its forces along the sizable defensive lines, the Federation Army is free to concentrate its forces on a single point. It was less of a guess and more like a sure thing.

Still, though, two brigades? If they’re coming out for a scuffle, that’s practically the definition of excessive.

If they had been hanging around during the day, repelling them with an aerial attack would have been possible, but…at night, the accuracy of anti-surface attacks is awful. A melee on the ground, and in the dark at that, pretty much cancels out the aerial mage battalion’s strengths.

“These damned Communists. They want to start a fight over this backcountry? They’re too strong. Have the forward patrol guards retreat. At this rate, they’ll be swallowed up by the wave of enemy infantry.”

“Major Weiss has already ordered the retreat on his own discretion.”

Great. Tanya nods at Serebryakov’s report. Weiss took the risk of making his own call and made the right one.

Later, we may be reprimanded for this decision, but when there’s no time to lose, what you need is decisiveness. A subordinate who can resolutely make the appropriate call on their own is invaluable.

“That’s good. I approve. Please tell him I said it was a great decision.”

“Yes, ma’am. I will.”

“While you’re at it, make sure we’re ready for them to arrive. Let the commanders at every rank know to make sure their recruits don’t accidentally shoot the patrol units.”

“Understood. I’ll do that right away.”

“Oh, and Lieutenant Serebryakov, call all the officers. I intend to keep it short, but I want to drum our situation into their heads.”

“Understood. I’ll begin preparing for the arrival of the patrol units immediately. Orders will be given to prevent accidental friendly fire. At the same time, I’ll summon the commanding officers from each branch of the Kampfgruppe.” Lieutenant Serebryakov repeats back the orders with aligned heels and a salute. The moment Tanya nods that there are no misunderstandings, she dashes off.

Because she understands her job very well, Lieutenant Serebryakov is a trustworthy adjutant when it comes to her communication duties, too.

She’ll be sure to take care of things.

“Well, I guess we’re going to be busy. These guests have no manners. We’ve got to beat proper visit-paying procedure into them.”

I’ve got to pay them back for obstructing my sound sleep.

And so Tanya rushes to Kampfgruppe HQ, ready to fight.

While she was gone, the work to update enemy movements on the map had continued without a hitch. Tanya smiles upon seeing that the data from Major Weiss and the others out on recon is properly reflected.

Though it’s nighttime, Major Weiss, who even has experience with reconnaissance on the Rhine front’s no-man’s-land, makes reasonable decisions on the whole.

Even if tonight’s duty officer is the relatively inexperienced First Lieutenant Wüstemann, we’re still lucky it’s not First Lieutenant Grantz I still have some concerns about him. This is really a silver-lining situation.

That said, Grantz is trustworthy if you give him clear instructions.

And he did educate the newbies up to the bare standards an officer should meet. Even the least experienced officers are first lieutenants. We should be able to expect more from them than second lieutenants fresh out of the academy.

So, having summoned the officers, Tanya is sure that things are going smoothly. Frankly, she doesn’t think there is any reason something would go wrong.

Which is why when all the officers are woken up for the emergency summons and gathered, Tanya finds it strange to notice a familiar face is missing. It’s only natural that Weiss isn’t there, since he’s out engaged in a reconnaissance mission.

The one glued to the enemy army sending them info about their movements doesn’t need to be at the briefing.

But Tanya furrows her brow and asks Captain Thon’s subordinate, “Lieutenant Tospan, where’s Captain Thon?”

“He’s working at infantry command. He said it’s something necessary for keeping the units in line.”

Certainly, since he’s the commander of a mostly newbie-filled infantry, I can understand why Captain Thon might not be able to come.

But really, if someone was going to be left behind, it should have been Tospan.

It makes sense to be anxious about all the new recruits. But if he’s underestimating the risk of all the commanders not being on the same page, he’s not qualified to be a line commander.

“I’m pretty sure I told him to come immediately. Tell him to get over here as soon as he’s done.”


What a total headache, Tanya laments, but she realizes she can’t really blame Tospan for it and switches gears. “All right, Lieutenant Serebryakov, you can begin the briefing.”

“Yes, ma’am! Then I’ll go ahead and explain our situation.”

She’s good at explaining things efficiently.

In this, my adjutant, Serebryakov, has a great understanding of my intentions. She gives such a capable explanation with the map including how much power we can expect from the enemy, the route they are advancing along, and everything else we know about them so far that I could even see recommending her for the staff officer track.

Sadly, she hasn’t graduated the regular course at the academy.

I feel like they should lower the hurdle so graduating from the academy isn’t a prerequisite. When I get a chance, I should talk to General von Zettour about it.

That said, although it’s a contradiction, I would also feel like a fool for letting such a talented adjutant go.

Ah yes, a manager encounters this fundamental conflict of interest when trying to both look at the big picture of human capital optimization from above and be considerate with human resources on the ground.

It’s nice to have excellent personnel on the track that will allow them to become even more excellent. But it’s tricky, since they can’t build up the requisite experience when they’re taken out to study.

Oh, Tanya realizes. I also have to consider whether the Imperial Army can afford to be leisurely training up frontline officers at the war college.

“The enemies we’re seeing don’t appear to be the same Federation Army that we’re fighting on the main lines. They’re probably someone new. The ciphers we’ve intercepted aren’t the same code we usually see, either.”

“I have a question. Does that mean we could end up clashing with units from the existing enemy plus these new forces?”

“Yes, Captain Meybert. You are correct.”

“…Will we have enough shells?”

Weiss and I have been pointing this out to Captain Meybert forever, and here he is bringing it up as if he just remembered it.

Even this guy tends to be viewed as a veteran compared to the other officers we’ve received. In other words, the front lines really can’t let go of officers who would make good staff officers.

It’s a never-ending dilemma.

We’re desperate for outstanding high-level staffers, but we need the lower-level officers that is, the source to be cultivated into such positions on the front lines with top priority. Which side to put weight on is an unsolvable conundrum.

That said. Tanya switches gears.

“That is all. The enemy vanguard will arrive in about two hours. Let’s get moving.”

The moment my adjutant finishes the explanation, all the officers heave a huge sigh. They’d been dragged out of their sleep rotation and the first thing their groggy eyes see is the news that two brigades are headed their way to attack.

That’s one way to wake up.

And while Tanya’s still watching, they begin to say whatever is on their minds.

“This makes me really glad we built that patrol line. But wow, two brigades?”

“Right. That’s overwhelming compared to what we’ve got, Lieutenant Tospan.”

They all grumble about how the coffee their orderlies brought them tastes like mud.

Tanya nods at Tospan’s comments but pushes her lips out in amusement when he mentions the power gap. She’s beginning to accept that they will always be overwhelmed by the matériel power of the Federation Army.

No, she just knows that she has to accept it.

“Shit, again?”

“It’s the same as always with these Federation guys, but they send such a huge number of troops to such a small fight! Is the rumor that their soldiers grow on trees true?!”

Lieutenant Grantz and Captain Ahrens, who have experience with the eastern front, should both be all right. They may be griping, but bold smiles are on their faces.

It’s hard to use aerial attacks in a night skirmish…but we have a fair amount of people who have fought at night before. The fact that there are experienced officers in both the mages and armored units with experience puts Tanya slightly more at ease.

“But these guys aren’t impossible. We should be happy we don’t have to get into a fistfight with two brigades!”

“You said it, Captain Ahrens. Well, they may not be sitting ducks, but if we haven’t confirmed any enemy aerial mages, we’ll take them out one way or another!”

“Whoa, there, Lieutenant Grantz. Let’s see what the brave armored unit can do. An armored unit conducting a large-scale counterattack a massacre is a sight to behold. We’ll perform defensive support and then nail the counterattack.”

Tanya is relieved to see that Captain Ahrens seems to understand his job very well. Fortunately, the leader of the armored unit knows what his mission is; she would expect nothing less from someone with experience in the east.

Armored unit commanders frequently hate defense support because it invites attrition. It’s practically their instinct. They’re always hoping to concentrate and wait as reserves until the decisive point of the counterattack.

But Ahrens doesn’t seem to actively despise defense support. Well, I appreciate the offer, thinks Tanya.

At this point, it seems like there are only infantry approaching their lines.

“Message from Major Weiss. He’d like to take a battalion and conduct a delaying attack on the enemy infantry.”

“…I’ll allow it. Tell him to slow them down and thin them out. But also that limiting our losses is top priority. Make sure to tell him I can’t have him running the mage battalion into the ground for no reason.”

“I’ll be sure to tell him, ma’am.”

And her vice commander Weiss is another soldier who knows how to bully the enemy. In war, you’ve got to hit your enemy in their weak points first.

Anti-surface attacks by mage units are usually markedly less effective at night, but…veterans know what they’re doing. The enemy infantry may not have many weak points, but Weiss will be able to hit them from the sky. His skills and achievements are worth believing in.

I don’t think foot soldiers under attack by this dead-serious soldier will be able to break through our position’s perimeter.

As long as our infantry holds out, I’m convinced we won’t need the armored unit. It’s important to save the shells for the moment we really need them.

Just as she is about to settle on her proposal, planning to get it through Meybert’s head that they need to save shells, Tanya realizes something.

“By the way, Lieutenant Tospan, what is Captain Thon doing?”

It’s been a long time since the meeting started. Even an idiot would know that he should have shown up by now.

“Ma’am, he’s, uh…advising the troops.”

That’s what he said last time.

But… Tanya points out the window at the muddle of foot soldiers and says, “And yet they’re still so sluggish. What is that? They look lost, like they don’t even know what they’re supposed to be doing.”

They aren’t moving like infantry who need to get to their positions and prepare for an enemy attack.

Perhaps they haven’t been given proper directions? As far as she can tell from the window, some have been assembled and are just standing there holding their gear.

The sight must have been a shock even for Lieutenant Serebryakov and the others who walk over to the window with flashlights.

The partially built defensive lines, the limited manpower. And the newbies with hopelessly little experience.

If this is the state they’re in, I can understand why infantry commander Captain Thon didn’t show up at the commander’s meeting, but…something is weird.

There should have at least been some word. And even before that… Tanya can’t hide her irritation and turns a sharp glare on Tospan.

If this is how they turn out when Thon is in command, he should be discharged.

“You laid the phone lines, right, Lieutenant Tospan? Call up Captain Thon’s command. I want a report on their status.”

“About that…”

“Lieutenant Tospan, that wasn’t a request. It was an order. Call up Captain Thon’s command. I’m pretty sure I had you set up the phone lines, yes?”

“A-actually, Colonel…”

“What is it? I’m running out of patience!” Tanya urges him with her eyes to continue and then doubts her ears when she hears what he has to say.

“…Captain Thon is out scouting.”

“Huh?” The question is out of her mouth before she realizes; the news is so unexpected. The infantry commander is out during an enemy attack, of all times scouting?

Away from his unit?!

“Now?! Why did he leave his post?!”

“It was an independent decision. He said officers should be up on the front lines patrolling like Major Weiss…”

If we were going to do elastic defense, sure, that’s another measure we could take. Getting a handle on the enemy’s situation and then driving them back with mobile warfare would be one option.

“But,” Tanya must add, “with their force so much larger than ours, we can’t be entertaining plans like that. Does he not realize that?!”

“H-he went on officer reconnaissance to confirm how much larger! There’s nothing wrong with corroborating Major Weiss’s report with observations from different sources! Won’t acquiring relevant intel allow us to deal with them more effectively?”

“That’s enough shut up!” Tanya spits, at the mercy of her seething emotions. “Tospan, you numbskull, do you really believe what Captain Thon said was the best course of action? It’s incredibly inept!” This nonsense is more than enough to warrant her rage.

If she can’t send a few bullets into whatever numbskull passed this guy in the officer aptitude eval, she won’t be able to stand it.

No, acknowledging his command authority was a mistake. I should have attached a blocking unit so any inept workers could have been executed immediately. But it’s too late for regrets now.

In that case… Tanya makes up her mind. Now is the time to pour all her energy into damage control.

“Lieutenant Grantz!”

“Yes, ma’am!”

Luckily, Grantz, who has relatively extensive defensive line experience, happens to be free.

It’s not as if she envisioned this day would come, but she drummed him full of trench-war and defensive-combat experience on the Rhine front.

He won’t crack from a few shells and an infantry attack by night.

“I’m lending you Wüstemann’s company. Take Lieutenant Tospan with you. Then take over that bottomless idiot Thon’s command! You can do the infantry fight like we did on the Rhine! Defend, don’t fall back, repel them!”

“Yes, ma’am!”

Grantz, who responds with a prompt salute, has the minimum knowledge a soldier needs. Orders, acknowledgment, and resolute action with no complaints.

Meanwhile… Tanya turns back to Lieutenant Tospan with a warped expression.

“…Is Captain Thon going to be suspended?!”

“Of course he is!”

“Please wait! Captain Thon is a good commander! Even if you’re a lieutenant colonel, do you have the right to do that…?”

This numbskull is spouting nonsense during the precious and very busy time we’re prepping for combat. How come he doesn’t understand the glaring fact that this benefits the enemy?

“Lieutenant Tospan! I did not give Captain Thon permission to leave his post! Why is an officer leaving his post before construction on the perimeter is even finished?! That one huge problem itself warrants him being stripped of his command!”

“He was only acting on his own discretion! Captain Thon has that authority!”

This idiot.

“I ordered him to defend this position! Actions that don’t align with the intention of the one giving the orders don’t count as acting on your discretion! That’s just defying orders! And I’m here at the same position as him in the first place!”

“Don’t you think he must have judged that there wasn’t a moment to spare to ask you? It’s essentially the same thing as when Major Weiss had the forward patrol line retreat.”

“Lieutenant Tospan, are you serious?!”

“If I wasn’t, I wouldn’t say this sort of thing to you, Colonel!”

This bastard.

“You’re telling me to treat withdrawing the forward patrol line as the enemy approaches like nonchalantly strolling away from your position?! You expect those situations to stress me out equally?! If you can convince a court-martial of that, then let’s hear you try!”

“What? Now you’re just being unreasonable!”

I’ve about had it with this piece of shit. As Tanya’s hand reaches unconsciously for her pistol, she threatens him, unable to suppress the murderous intent in her voice. “I don’t want any more crap from you while you’re commanding in combat. I don’t have time for this. If you insist on continuing…”

She didn’t even have to say, You had better prepare yourself for what comes next.

Tospan turns white as a sheet, and there’s even fear in his eyes as he looks at her. Well, the moment the numbskull goes silent, she announces it as a done deal. “Consider Captain Thon missing in action! We can’t acknowledge the command of an officer who is MIA! When he gets back, tell him to present himself at the Kampfgruppe command!”

Who’s going to go there while we’re in combat? Even if he does, I won’t let him bother us until the fight is over. I’ll just say I was busy and had technical difficulties.

On top of that, Tanya realizes she needs to explain and give them the full rundown.

Setting aside Captain Ahrens, it seems like a good idea to not give the rest of the newbies any excuses.

“It seems like there are still some dummies out there who don’t get it. I guess I have no choice but to explain.”


“Officers, here’s what’s going on. Listen, it’s a simple matter. We’re going to be surrounded, but the enemy is only capable of surrounding us by spreading themselves very thin.”

The advantage of a defensive perimeter is that it doesn’t have to stand up to all the enemy forces head-on. And the most wonderful part about it is that officers and noncommissioned officers can keep tabs on their subordinates in close coordination.

When keeping newbies disciplined, it’s important to have the person leading them right nearby. And during a night battle, that importance jumps.

I can’t imagine the Federation Army is much more blessed on this point than the Imperial Army. Ultimately, it’s only two brigades of infantry. If it’s a night attack with no artillery or aerial support, we can take care of it.

She declares it out of not arrogance or exaggeration but experience on the Rhine.

“So the enemy’s first attack can’t last very long. We’ll watch for them to start running out of breath and then send in the armored unit.”

We may be treating the symptoms, but our plan is perfect.

It’s the standard method of defense that has been established in the east. If you hole up at one point, you can only defend that point, but if you can’t build a series of defense lines, all you can do is protect yourself.

“We’ll break down their attack by launching into the holes where they can’t take much more. It’s simple. The important thing with these defensive lines is for us to not crumble first. Keep a tight hold on the reins so the newbies defend their positions.”

We have to accept that we’re being surrounded.

Then all we have to do to complete our positional defense is make it through the enemy’s first attack and succeed in countering.

“Therefore, Captain Ahrens, your unit is the only one that is all reserves. We don’t even need defense support. Until further orders, stay inside the line and save your punch for later.”

Stop them, hold out, drive them back.

We’re merely repeating the classic siege battle pattern used across all places and time periods. Tactics are regressing to an awfully primitive level in the east.

It’s a terrible shame to Tanya that they can’t put the creativity of civilization and intelligence on display. But she doesn’t have leeway to be picky on this muddy battlefield. There’s no need to fight with stones like in World War IV. We should be happy we get to do battle with firearms.

“Any questions?”

“Excuse me, Colonel. For the counterattack, wouldn’t Major Weiss’s 203rd Aerial Mage Battalion have more impact?”

“And by that you mean?”

Lieutenant Tospan follows his disgrace with a suggestion. He must be awfully sure about it. Captain Ahrens confidently gives his own opinion without hesitating.

“Please give the armored unit defense support orders as well. Our unit is here to work with the infantry. Please let us help defend.”

“No. The armored unit is best saved for a decisive juncture.”

Tanya’s logic for flatly refusing is the idea of concentrated armored forces.

Essentially, it won’t do to split up their impact. The classic theory for employing armored forces is that they should be saved for a single decisive strike.

“Hold on. The theory of concentrated armored forces assumes that the defensive lines are in good condition. Without the armored unit, won’t the lines suffer too many casualties?”

That’s certainly an ironic twist.

I’m using the logic that the commander of an armored unit would use, and Captain Ahrens uses the kind of logic that someone who is the commander of not-armored forces like Tanya would use…

“The lessons we’ve learned in the east urge us to use armored units as supporting defense. Surely you know that, Colonel.”

As Ahrens asserts, in the east, defending lines without armored forces carries too high a price. The lines frequently collapse before the counterattack. That’s how fragile lines of infantry are without reinforcement.

“That’s a good point, but our circumstances are different this time.”

“Circumstances, ma’am?”

“Captain Ahrens, we’re a Kampfgruppe. I’d like you to keep that in mind. Listen,” Tanya continues. “We have artillery, infantry, and mages building our defensive lines. This is the golden combo that protected our lines on the Rhine.”

In some ways, the Salamander Kampfgruppe has advantages over other units. Its mages with experience on the Rhine have been through intense trench defense battles. And they’ve built a defense perimeter, albeit a simple one, around the village where they’re garrisoned.

“So barring something completely unexpected, our lines will not break. We probably don’t need to worry.” She glances at the subordinates she trained, and they seem to have understood.

It’s a bit too slick, but Lieutenant Grantz offers a witty rejoinder. “You can count on us, Colonel. We have the shovels for which we were so famous on the Rhine front. Leave the welcome of our Federation guests up to us. We’ll be sure to show them the finest hospitality.” He thumps his chest as he proclaims his willingness with a confident expression. Compared to many of the guys here, he’s young, but he has more military and combat experience than his age would indicate.

Even Grantz is now a seasoned veteran.

“As you can see, he’s a bit of a brownnoser, but even Lieutenant Grantz is an elite soldier who earned the Iron Cross on the Rhine. You can trust him with the lines, Captain Ahrens. Oh,” Tanya adds. “I should also point out that the 203rd Aerial Mage Battalion is borderline low on members. Lieutenants Wüstemann and Grantz are supporting the infantry. If I give the rest to Major Weiss, that’s only two companies.”

“…We’re also just an armored company.”

“Have you forgotten how numbers work in other branches? A mage company is twelve people. That’s twenty-four in total. There’s no way that many could hold a forward position for very long.”

Even if they can keep dealing damage, an aerial mage battalion has very different qualities from an infantry unit. To reach for something similar, they’re probably closer to the air force. Even if fighter planes and attack helicopters can blow away enemy ground forces, they can’t take over that location.

That’s a job for infantry supported by the armored forces. On battlefields of any time or place, the right number of infantry with armored support are critical for that last task.

“You mean, in order to counterattack, you need enough people to hold the position?”

“That is correct. A mage battalion packs a punch, but armored forces are the appropriate troops to counterattack and fortify our foothold. Luckily, it doesn’t seem like the enemy has armored units. So in this positional battle, we’ll fight infantry with infantry and mages with artillery. Well…” To put them at ease, she adds, “Of course, if it looks like we’re getting overwhelmed, I’ll send in the reserves early. But I want to keep the armored company as the ace up our sleeve. Questions?”

“No, Colonel, none. I understand our mission. I’m sorry to have taken up your time.”

“It’s fine. I always welcome a pertinent question.”

On the contrary, I should encourage the officers to ask questions. What’s important is having the moderate attitude of an expert. You should always ask if you don’t know something.

Of course, that means meeting the minimal requirements to be an expert.

Naturally, Tanya has no intention of valuing inept workers who barely understand the area of their supposed expertise.

Time is finite.

“Any other questions? All right. Very well, gentlemen, time to get to work. All units to your positions on the double. Get going on your defensive battle orders.”

Along with Captain Ahrens’s fearless salute and Lieutenant Grantz’s usual salute, Lieutenants Wüstemann and Tospan rush to salute as well.

And then when Lieutenant Serebryakov gives her textbook-perfect salute as usual, Tanya responds with a salute of her own.

Now then, time for work.

No, this is a culture war to enlighten our uninvited nighttime guests as to what proper manners entail, whether via shells and bullets or bayonets and shovels.

And is that the artillery getting things started?

Tanya, the personification of atheism, is so tempted to believe the truth that artillery is God that it’s difficult to deny.

“Colonel, incoming from Major Weiss. He says observed fire should be possible now.”

Lieutenant Serebryakov is in touch with Major Weiss via the wireless, and this message is truly good news that should be praised as such.

Wonderful, she nearly murmurs.

Tanya is about to smile in spite of herself when she controls her facial muscles and picks up the direct line to Captain Meybert and asks him pointedly, “…We got a message from Major Weiss that they can spot for the artillery. There’s no mistake?”

“No mistake, ma’am. His patrol team took the long-range wireless set and observation instruments with them when they left.”

This guy is crazy about his specialty, so he’ll be fine.

How wonderful.

No, even better is Major Weiss himself. What a guy.

That was such a smart thing to do. This is what makes old hands like Weiss so dependable in a crisis. That said… Tanya doesn’t forget to draw the line at hoping for too much and overestimating their ability. Though Weiss and the troops are veterans.

“We can’t expect the impact observation to be very accurate in the dark!”

Whether anti-surface attacks or observations, the veil of night obstructs your view. The golden duo of artillery and spotters is no exception.

“Please let us do it. These aren’t the same conditions, but we were trained for night artillery battles on the Rhine.” Captain Meybert is full of confidence.

It’s not the sort of claim an officer who talks big out of ignorance would make. At the very least, the unyielding craftsman temperament he has when it comes to his work can be trusted as reliable skill in this case.

So Tanya makes up her mind to let them do it.

“Okay, fire once you get the request from Major Weiss.”

The artillery is the true ruler of the battlefield. Or perhaps it’s the only god a real one you should believe in. Either way, Tanya adds another prayer. “But one thing, Captain Meybert: Make sure you stick to your ammunition allotment. Unfortunately, we need to be frugal with our shells.”

“So we can’t just go all out?”

Even Tanya thinks how great it would be if they could. It felt so invigorating on the Rhine front when the artillery opened up on penetrating infantry units!

If it were possible, I would definitely want to do it. But, exceedingly unfortunate as it is, the Imperial Army’s shell situation won’t allow it.

A person can’t give what they haven’t got.

“It’s dark. It wouldn’t be worth it to go all out.”

“So we can’t? But we…?” he asks feebly, but the answer doesn’t change.

“Sorry, but I want to prioritize the Kampfgruppe’s ability to continue fighting. If given the choice between a Kampfgruppe whose artillery can do its job and a Kampfgruppe whose artillery has run out of ammo, I’m compelled to choose the former.”


And Captain Meybert proves through his actions that he’s an artilleryman who can do his job with care.

Almost as soon as she hangs up, the first shot is fired for observation.

The report roars in the night.

How pleasant even a single bang can be!

The moment the shell hits the ground, Major Weiss and his unit must be sending detailed observation data to the Fire Direction Center.

This is gonna be great, thinks Tanya, and the moment she is waiting for arrives almost immediately.

Readied gun points all roaring at once create the best music for a battlefield. Ahhh, she nearly sighs in awe of the splendid thunder!

How reassuring this is.

“…The artillery is doing a good job.”

“Captain Meybert is an outstanding soldier.”

“Lieutenant Serebryakov, he’s just obsessed with his field. If I loosen the reins, he’ll fire every last shell. And then he’s the type who’ll say, I did a good job, so give me more ammo please with a straight face.”

“Oh, ha-ha-ha-ha.”

That said… Tanya does acknowledge that he’s doing a good job.

The shots sound at extremely regular intervals. It must be due to a tremendously high level of discipline. No signs of bad maintenance or breakdowns, either.

“…I may have underestimated him. He may be obsessed with his field, but within that field, he knows what he’s doing, without a doubt.”

In any case… Tanya gives her spirited approval to the artillery’s vigorous barrage.

Major Weiss is spotting, and there are no enemy mages in the air to obstruct him. The fact that she doesn’t even detect any speaks to the imperial air supremacy.

Of course, the Federation Army has launched this night attack probably because they realize they’re at a disadvantage in the sky. Theoretically, it was smart to attack at night when the fighter planes can’t do anything.

The only problem is… Tanya grins, laughing at the Federation’s mistake.

The 203rd Aerial Mage Battalion is capable of all-weather combat…to a limited extent. Technically, I should add that it’s everyone besides First Lieutenant Wüstemann and his company.

The only aerial mage unit capable of long-distance flights at night, my baby the 203rd Aerial Mage Battalion…probably isn’t who the Federation side was expecting.

“Sorry to interrupt your fun, Colonel. It seems like the Federation Army’s advance unit is approaching. They must have been attracted by the sound of the guns.”

“I see, so Lieutenant Grantz and the infantry are engaged with the vanguard?”

Yeah. Tanya goes so far as to extend her empathy to the poor Federation soldiers.

Usually it’s extremely difficult to get a handle on the enemy’s location during night combat. But we, the Salamander Kampfgruppe, are doing something to expose our position: the artillery fire. The Federation advance unit must be grinning right now, thinking to themselves that we’ve revealed our main camp’s position by firing blind.

But that’s a fantasy. It’s fleeting, futile, wishful thinking.

Those poor soldiers compelled to jump into our defensive lines, which have long been prepared for the welcome party I pity them so much I don’t quite know what to do.

“Would you like me to confirm?”

“I don’t want to bother officers in combat any more than necessary. I’ll leave it up to him. I don’t think Lieutenant Grantz is such a numbskull that he can’t command some defense.”

“Understood  Hmm? Colonel, it’s Lieutenant Grantz himself on the phone.”

Serebryakov holds out the receiver, and Tanya takes it. “What?” She can’t believe it, but then her subordinate’s voice reaches her ear.

Rather than giving a report of some disaster, he sounds confused. “Colonel von Degurechaff, this is Lieutenant Grantz.”

“Is something wrong?”

“It’s a bit strange. The enemy infantry’s attacks are sporadic. It seems like their aim is to keep us pinned down on this line as a distraction.”

“So you’re saying two brigades aren’t putting much pressure on you?”

The artillery may be doing a good job, but defensive combat is still intense. Yes. Tanya’s belief on that point is firm.

After all, it’s only the defensive position of a single Kampfgruppe. The only way to stop two brigades with a regiment’s worth of troops is to make good use of your position and put up an out-and-out resistance. Hence having Grantz and Wüstemann commanding the infantry.

…So if they aren’t feeling the pressure?

“To be honest, ma’am, the enemy attacks are too scattered. The infantry attacks hardly seem coordinated at all.”

“Thanks for your thoughts. I’ll take them into consideration. Report in immediately if anything changes.”


After setting down the receiver, Tanya heads for the long-range wireless machine. She calls Weiss, who is currently in flight.

Out of the slight fear for what if, she asks, “…Major Weiss, any more enemies coming?”

“Not that I know of.”

“Lieutenant Grantz is reporting that the enemy infantry’s attacks are sporadic. If it’s a feint, we should see more coming or a mage unit. I just want you to check.”

“Right away.”

The wireless disconnects with a bzzt, and Tanya resumes thinking. It’s actually fairly difficult to understand why the attacks would be sporadic.

And because she can’t read the enemy’s intention, it seems even stranger.

“Sporadic attacks… Could it be search and attack? No, our location should be somewhat clear from the artillery barrage…”

Then what if the enemy advance unit was purely recon-in-force?

“…Are they trying to find a weak unit along the defensive line?”

Hmm, Tanya thinks again. Just like in a trench battle, a reckless charge would result in a marked increase in casualties. Poking the line a bit first to see how it reacts isn’t a bad approach if you can allow for a certain amount of tactical losses as necessary costs.

Basically, that would make it an ultimate form of search and attack where they send in a sacrificial unit… Given how rich the Federation is in human resources, it could employ such a method. But I can’t be sure.

“Lieutenant Serebryakov, do me a favor and get me some coffee. Brew it a bit strong. I want to clear my head.”

“Understood, ma’am. Right away.”

With a thank-you, Tanya reabsorbs herself in her thoughts.

The periodic sound of gunfire is proof that the artillerists are following her directions and limiting their use of ammunition. But Tanya suddenly senses something is off.

Even the shots that should be continuing around the edges of the perimeter seem to have grown sparse. Does that mean they’ve shifted to hand-to-hand combat?

No. Tanya immediately rejects that possibility. Though the enemy charged, there hasn’t been any report of the lines being broken. And besides, there aren’t any of the shouts you would expect from a close-quarters fight.

“…I guess waiting is hard.”

“Ahhh, sorry to keep you waiting, Colonel.”

The one who responds to her quiet utterance is Serebryakov, who has returned.

I didn’t mean to imply she was bringing the coffee too slowly…

A wonderfully fragrant cup of coffee is handed to her with a smile.

Though the aroma is somewhat weaker than it was in the beginning, the coffee again from Lieutenant Colonel Uger is not half-bad.

After all, it’s proper coffee. She gets to drink proper coffee on the front lines. She can’t thank him enough, to the point where she finds herself thinking, I should probably send something sweet to the rear again…

“Oh, good coffee requires a bit of a wait. Thanks.”

“You’re welcome. Please enjoy.”

“Sheesh, this must be proof that the fight is going in our favor. I mean, the commander and her adjutant are chatting over coffee.”

She ventures to speak in a relaxed tone, bursting with confidence and loud enough for the others to hear. It’s important for the commander to appear composed in a crisis.

Of course, the fact that she would also like to be allowed to enjoy her coffee is another big part of it. She brings the little cup to her mouth and then gives a small nod, Yes.

As requested, it’s black as the devil, hot as hell, and pure as an angel. No, I don’t know whether angels are pure or not, and seeing as Being X exists, maybe they’re extinct.

Regardless, as the image would imply, this coffee is remarkably free of impurities. To rid your thoughts of noise, you have to have this clear a sense of your work.

Now then, I need to consider the different pieces of this situation.

First, the information from Grantz’s report.

They aren’t feeling much pressure from the enemy?

The possibility that Grantz is a numbskull and misunderstanding something, while slight, does exist. But he is a veteran. He’s a mage who’s been through plenty of nasty fights and survived. I don’t think he would get confused about the force of the enemy. Then the other possibility is that he’s become numb to fear and simply can’t sense the pressure?

“No, he’s not so valiant as that.”

I wouldn’t go so far as to call him sensitive, but Grantz, like Tanya, is essentially a good person who doesn’t approve of war. He’s the sort of guy who I’d be able to work well with as government officials or in some other job if the world weren’t what it is.

Then I suppose that makes his observation correct?

Which means… Is the enemy attacking with something less than two brigades? But the one out observing who made that report is Weiss. Would he miscount the number of enemies?

No, that definitely can’t be it.

“Nnngh. This really is weird. I can only imagine our premise is wrong.”

One of these pieces must be off.

Tanya suppresses her agony so her subordinates don’t notice.

Maybe the enemy is gathering to take advantage of a weak point in our defensive line? Or are they going to tweak and launch an all-out attack once they get an idea of what our lines are like?

Just as she’s about to groan, I don’t know…

The infantry phone rings.

At this point, Tanya braces herself for the worst possible news. Feigning nonchalance, she picks up with a hand that is nearly trembling and hears…

“This is Lieutenant Grantz. The enemy attack is petering out.”

What an unexpectedly calm voice.

“The sparseness of the shots isn’t because you’re in hand-to-hand combat?”

“No, as of right now, we haven’t allowed them to storm us.”

“You’re sure?”

It’s such good news, it’s a bit hard to believe.

“I’m in contact with all the defense points. None of them has been penetrated.”

“There’s no damage to the phone lines?”

“No, they’re fine, too. All the cables are currently functioning normally. I’m in contact with every post.”

Grantz’s voice is filled with conviction and confidence. He’s not lying or confused.

Tanya leaves him with an “Okay, got it” and puts down the receiver.

I should probably believe my troops’ observations.

“I need to get to the bottom of this…”

Then I have no choice but to play my last card.

“Lieutenant Serebryakov!”

“Yes, ma’am. Officer reconnaissance?”

This is the very definition of a ready reply.

My adjutant manages to even pick up on my intention I could give her a bonus.

“You’re not like that numbskull Captain Thon, right? I’m counting on you.”

“Yes, ma’am. I’ll get going right away.”

She’s so dependable. Tanya smiles; the trust she has in her adjutant is genuine.

Which is why while she waits for a follow-up report, she can even let her subordinates see that she’s leisurely enjoying the coffee Serebryakov prepared for her before she left.

I want to know. I want to figure out what’s going on. She doesn’t let them see these urges.

She needs to radiate a commander’s calm.

Like she has nothing to worry about.

As a commander who puts her troops at ease, she enjoys her coffee and reacts to the outcome. In other words, once you’re the commander of a Kampfgruppe, your job starts to be more like a management position.

Well, once you’re a high-ranking officer, you already have more opportunities to stay behind at the combat direction center. Personally, Tanya welcomes that with open arms.

But she does feel just a tad anxious about not seeing the enemy movements with her own eyes. The benefits to making calls on-site are greater than you might think.

What is going on? she worries. This is such a difficult proposition, but she doesn’t have enough time to think.

“Colonel, these aren’t brigades. They’re the shells of brigades.”

“What? It’s a night attack by two brigades? What do you mean, shells?”

“I confirmed how they’re operating and realized that the Federation soldiers are new recruits as well. So it seems like they’re concentrating their forces within reach of the commanders’ voices.”

“…So they’re operating in tight ranks?”

“Yes, Colonel. I think we can suppose that the artillery’s observed fire wiped out the main enemy force.”

Tanya finds herself cracking up. That’s how important and refreshing Serebryakov’s report is when she returns from her reconnaissance.

“I see, I see. That’s terrific. Thanks, Lieutenant Serebryakov. That’s some great news.”

“I’m happy to have been the bearer of good news to the colonel I love and respect.”

“I haven’t gotten news this good since Dacia. Sorry, Lieutenant, but I’d like to have you go straight into an aerial search.”

“Yes, ma’am, I’ll continue my observation mission!”

“No, that won’t be necessary. I’m changing up your mission. Major Weiss and the others I’m going to order to patrol the forward patrol line as they have been, but I want you to take control of the zone.”

The moment the words exit her mouth, Tanya realizes she’s beginning to shift them into a pursuit battle putting a controller in the air without worrying about her being shot down.

More than anything, she’s sure they’re going to trample them.

How wonderful.

“Me, ma’am?”

“At the moment, you’re the right person for the job. Controlling a pursuit battle will be good experience.”

“Yes, ma’am. I’ll do my best.”

When the wireless cuts off, Tanya puts down the receiver and calmly accepts her error. “…What a surprise. Captain Meybert accomplished the most? I admit my mistake. I’ll have to apologize to him later.”

The artillery must have done a perfect job.

Even taking Weiss’s spotting into consideration, the artillery is more capable than I thought.

This point is something to reflect on as an area to improve when commanding units outside your field as the leader of a Kampfgruppe. I should probably let the General Staff know. Interesting it’s so difficult to understand the other branches. But I can’t deny that I misread Meybert. So I should apologize.


“It can all be done at the party to celebrate our victory.”

So Tanya picks up a receiver she hasn’t grabbed even once since the combat began. It’s obvious where it leads.

It was the armored forces, no doubt waiting on the edge of their seats  Now? Now?

“Captain Ahrens!”

“Yes, ma’am. Is it our turn?”

His question is brimming with ambition. It’s undeniable that his attempt to hold back the Please let us go on the tip of his tongue is failing. He must really want to fight. In fact, he wants it too badly. And that’s what makes him the best one to send crashing into the enemy at this moment.

“Most of the enemies were blown away in Captain Meybert’s barrage. The rest are pretty much the dregs still following their original attack orders.”

“So you’re ordering us to obliterate the rest of them?”

“Exactly. Do your thing.”

The armored forces, one part of the elaborate apparatus of violence that is the Imperial Army, must be used at the perfect time.

And the time to truly unleash their driving force is right now.

“Leave it to me.”

“Lieutenant Serebryakov is up observing. Let her guide you.”

“I appreciate the support! I’ll begin the counterattack immediately. We’ll take observation support from Lieutenant Serebryakov and commence our armored charge!” Ahrens is so eager he repeats back the orders as if he can’t sit still.

“Good,” Tanya says, and not a moment later, she replaces the receiver.

Having boarded his tank, Captain Ahrens is no doubt shouting Panzer vor! about now.

He’s the epitome of restless energy, but…you can also say he’s reliable at times like this.

I’m sure the counterattack will succeed.

The Federation Army is already falling apart, so I don’t think they’ll be able to handle the impact of our tanks. And when that happens, she murmurs in her head as she brings her cup of coffee to her lips, the enemy infantry’s will to fight will pop like a balloon and scatter to the four winds.

If I send in the right amount of infantry just as the sharp thrust of the armored unit pries them open, our victory is a sure thing. And I’m certain Weiss’s group out on the patrol line they built will take care of mopping up any remaining enemies.

We already demonstrated this in Dacia and other battles in the east, but showing again how vulnerable ground troops are with no air support by using a one-sided anti-surface attack against them wouldn’t be bad.

No, it wouldn’t be bad at all, thinks Tanya just as she’s tilting her coffee cup, but then she realizes something.

“…Crap. That was stupid,” she mutters.

The suggestion that she had failed to take something into account gathers the attention of everyone at HQ.


“I should have had Lieutenant Serebryakov make me another cup of coffee before sending her out. As it is, I can’t ask for any more until the fight is over.” In response to the inquiries from worried faces, Tanya upends her empty mug to express her failure.

“Ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha! You’re about the only one who has her do odd jobs like that, Colonel!”

The personnel can’t hold back their laughter, but Tanya resolutely states her case. “Still, though. We’ve been together since the Rhine front, and the coffee she makes is the best. It’s always better to get someone talented to do the job, right?”

“If you were a stern-faced soldier, that’d be a declaration of love, Colonel!”

“Hmm…I’d be reluctant to marry for coffee. I’d still like to enjoy being a member of the free class of singles.”

Tanya currently has no plans to enter into a social contract and abandon her freedom. Besides, having to choose between being mentally homosexual or physically homosexual must be an awfully rare dilemma. This is one of those things it’s better not to overthink.

Thus, Tanya adheres to the old saying about passing over things you can’t figure out in silence and stops that train of thought.

But apparently, everyone reads her silence and wry smile as composure.

“Brilliant, Colonel. No one is nervous anymore.”

“Oh, Lieutenant Grantz, are you free now?”

Grantz has shown up, but thankfully he seems fairly relaxed.

“I’m on my way to get supplies before going out for the pursuit battle. I figured I would pop in here while I was at it and see if you had any instructions.”

“Right now, Captain Ahrens’s armored unit is counterattacking. Eventually it’ll be the infantry’s turn. Then again, maybe the artillery will finish things off before you get a chance.”

“I doubt the enemy will be foolish enough to bunch up again. But wow, Captain Meybert’s barrage was magnificent.”

“Lieutenant Serebryakov said the same thing. He really did a fine job this time; I’ll have to apologize.”

As their conversation proceeds at a steady clip, Tanya raises her estimation of Lieutenant Grantz up a notch. He demonstrated sound ability as an infantry commander today.

Grantz has thorough communication habits and is capable of making timely analyses of a situation. The results of his observations should be deemed admirable. Even a subordinate who was so useless I nearly gave up on him at one point has developed into such a fine soldier. It makes me feel like I must be a pretty talented teacher.

At the same time, on the subject of subordinates she’s given up on, Tanya suddenly realizes there haven’t been any follow-up reports.

“By the way, I remembered, since we were talking about infantry: Where the hell is Captain Thon? No matter how numbskulled he is, you’d think he’d hear the guns from this big, huge fight.”

“It certainly is strange.”

“Lieutenant Grantz, do you know something?’


Grantz looks blankly at her, but Tanya continues questioning him as if to say, Hey, c’mon now.

In a sense, who aside from Grantz would know? He was in command of the perimeter.

“I mean, no one saw him?”

“…Now that you mention it, I haven’t heard from him. But, Colonel, I haven’t heard anything about him, either.”

“Check with Lieutenant Tospan. I want to figure out where he went.”

“Understood. Shall I put together a search party if necessary?”

For a second, Tanya almost tells him to do just that, but she rethinks it. They’re still in combat. Taking even part of her precious fighting force out of the game at a time like this would be as good as marking herself utterly inept.

Dividing one’s forces would undoubtedly lead to defeat. They would probably fall into the dark bottom of a ravine like Communists taking their first step toward Communism.

“No need. And I want you here just in case. Prep for the enemy’s counter or an attack from another unit they scrape together.”

“Yes, ma’am. So I should participate in the counterattack?”

“Yes, that’s right. I’m thinking of leaving command up to Lieutenant Tospan and sending you in. For crying out loud, where is Captain Thon off screwing around?”

“I’m curious, too. He seems a bit headstrong, but I don’t really think he’s the type to abandon his duties.”

“We’ll probably learn once we’ve cleaned up the battlefield.”

Has he ended up a corpse? Or maybe a prisoner? In the worst-case scenario if he fled in the face of the enemy I’ll find him and execute him by firing squad.

In any case, I don’t need a numbskull like that in my Kampfgruppe. Lieutenant Tospan is difficult to tolerate, but Captain Thon is impossible.

“…Do you really think that’s how it’ll turn out?”

“Well, let’s quit speculating. Captain Meybert flipped our expectations on their heads, after all.”

“Understood. Then I’ll be going.”

Grantz gives a proper salute before he leaves, but even he used to be a useless youngster. As far as Tanya knows, humans can grow.

The problem is that that growth is only a possibility.

Even Weiss, Tanya remembers, committed the error of evading infantry “anti–air fire” in the war with Dacia.

I can’t deny that humans also make mistakes. Even Tanya isn’t averse to admitting she’s made her share.

Puff up my chest and say all my actions are beyond reproach?

I don’t want to be such a fool.

But that’s precisely why…

All I can prescribe for dolts who can’t admit their mistakes and correct them is a bullet. Allowing dolts like that to remain in an organization will ultimately eat away at it.

“Captain Ahrens’s unit has succeeded in breaking through and begun cleanup. He’s requesting infantry support.”

“Okay, got it.”

Meditations and contemplations end here.

I’ve got no choice.

What a scarce resource, as always: the time for careful thought! A Kampfgruppe commander is forever desperate for it and endlessly lamenting its scarcity.

“The pursuit battle is going smoothly, then? Actually, quicker than we thought?”

She glances at her watch and the map and sees that Ahrens’s unit broke through sooner than expected.

She had heard he was good. But his skill in commanding that instrument of violence that is an armored unit despite the darkness reaches truly praiseworthy excellence.

And when she catches herself thinking that he must have led from the head of the formation, she can’t hold back her wry smile.

An officer who leads the pack, executing their duties properly…

An officer charging out front isn’t always a good officer. But one who knows when they need to be out there and doesn’t let that moment slip past…

That officer is worth a fortune.

Which is why, as a higher-ranking officer, Tanya can’t lose a diligent lower-ranking officer like Captain Ahrens.

“Send a message for me. I expect great things out of you, but I want to celebrate the victory together. Whatever you do, don’t be unreasonable. Make sure he gets that.”

“Yes, ma’am.”

A signaler takes down my message and sends it to Captain Ahrens over the wireless. Ahrens really does show promise. Ordering him to do too much and losing him would be a terrible shame.

It’s interesting how in a single battle, the outcome of a person’s actions clearly indicates whether they should be killed or survive to be exploited.

“And get the infantry moving on the double. A company with Lieutenant Grantz commanding, and have Lieutenant Wüstemann’s mage unit go with them.”

“Understood. Right away, ma’am!”

We’ll flood the gap the armored unit opened with infantry. Infantry is the branch of the armed forces that is like water. Where there’s a hole, it will soak right in.


Or perhaps it would be better to say as a matter of course…

By the time the sun rises, the Salamander Kampfgruppe stands on the battleground as the victor. As if our reign will last forever.

And on top of that, the fighter planes Fleet Command dispatched to support us have been strafing the ground one after the other, improving the results of the pursuit battle even more. They may be fighting fierce air battles where entire forces are lost over the main lines, but here in the northeast, imperial air superiority is unwavering.

Faced with the imperial fleet and its all-encompassing control of the sky, the Federation is silent. They recognize the hopeless power disparity.

And so, by the time the sun is setting once more, the imperial troops have complete control of the field.

It’s a victory.

Though it was a small battle, this regiment overcame two brigades with furious effort.

And who did it? The provisional Salamander Kampfgruppe, which had only just been formed. This proves without a doubt the flexibility of Kampfgruppe formation and operation for the General Staff, too. Well, they won’t not appreciate us, regardless.

In Tanya’s mind, they won’t not appreciate us means their evaluations of us won’t decrease and we won’t be overworked.

But Tanya is confident that she’s a good, sensible person.

She understands very well that taking on such an unusual attitude when you’ve won is strange. In most cases, victory is socially recognized as a result to be celebrated.

We’ve repelled a large number of enemies while incurring few casualties.

Tanya is accommodating enough to understand that her troops would want to celebrate.

In one room of the building where the Kampfgruppe HQ is located…

Chairs and tables are arranged in what seems to have been a dining room at some point. Here, Tanya bows her head to the key players of the victory.

“Nice work, troops.”

Prefacing with a comment that the offerings are nothing special, she brings out bottles from her personal stash (which every officer should have hidden away somewhere). These are the drinks she’s been keeping to thank her men with, and she pours for them herself. Finally, she lifts her coffee cup and makes a toast.

“To our victory!”

“““To victory!”””

Now, then. Tanya sets about doing what she needs to get done before the officers get drunk. “First, Captain Meybert, I want to express my respect for your work. I misjudged you a bit. I hope you’ll accept my apology.”

An officer’s apology to a subordinate is the moment they reveal that their view was wrong. It’s not an easy thing to do. But it’s better than being seen as a fool who can’t recognize their mistakes.

“No, it’s thanks to the proper observation that we got results. We owe much of our success to Major Weiss’s skill.”

“But the first shot was so close! Your unit does good work, Captain Meybert. You’re so skilled I’m not even sure you need spotters.”

“What? No, we were only able to perform so well because you were there. You flew at night, and we even asked you to spot for us! Any run-of-the-mill artillery officer would be able to get results with your support. Having eyes in the sky makes all the difference.”

Listening to Weiss and Meybert’s exchange, it’s clear they’re both professionals who know their jobs well and respect each other.

Boy. Tanya cracks a smile. I’ve got a ways to go.

For better or worse, she’s been judging people with the temperaments of craftsmen by the standards of average folks.

They need to be evaluated on their specialized skills. Obsessed with artillery? No, he’s a specialist. This is a man who knows how to use the artillery. He has a thorough knowledge of it. That is Captain Meybert. If that’s the case, then it’s Tanya the staff officer’s job to understand how to best use his skills.

Evaluating officers based on prejudices is a grave error.

From now on, I’ll have to get over my anger at people obsessed with their specialties and my past traumas related to them so I can learn to assess these craftsmen in more appropriate ways.

“Very good. Major Weiss, you should sincerely accept Captain Meybert’s compliments. You did an excellent job, too. Thank you for patrolling. And…” Tanya turns her praise on the equally talented armor commander. “You too, Captain Ahrens. About that last charge in the counterattack, it was magnificent how you maintained unit discipline despite the fact that the operation took place before daybreak. And that’s all I can say.”

“Thank you, Colonel. I don’t know if it makes me lucky or unlucky, but I seem to have gotten used to the east’s famous night raids. It feels like I’m back home, or something like it.”

“Me too. Man, I’m not sure how I feel about getting used to having my sleep disrupted, though. I wish they would at least let me sleep at night like the kid I am.”

When she mumbles how tired she is and bites back a yawn, her subordinates smile awkwardly. Well, it’s no wonder she gets laughed at.

That said, it’s a physiological demand. As long as my body wants sleep, there’s nothing I can do about it. Even Tanya must throw in the towel. Sleeps affects adults and children differently. My great need for sleep is just another facet of my personal situation.

But before she gives in to her sleepiness, Tanya remembers one more thing she must say. “Now then, I’ll be honest. Lieutenant Tospan, I’m disappointed. Regardless of any directions Captain Thon gave you, failing to report actions that go against my orders is a problem.”

“…Yes, ma’am.”

There are way too many people who misunderstand this, which is frustrating. The only people allowed to take actions not in the manual to cope with situations not in the manual are people who have mastered the manual itself.

If someone who doesn’t have a good handle on the basics just does whatever they want, we’re only going to have problems.

An officer’s permission to act on their own authority is the same. Frankly, it’s discretionary power for officers with intelligence. It is absolutely not a justification for numbskulls to act like the idiots they are.

“Given your record thus far, I’ve judged that you don’t deserve the word insubordination yet. There won’t be a next time.”

You never know what kind of ways people who don’t know the standards will deviate when they tweak the manual, whether it’s customer service or following military procedures.

Although Tanya hasn’t explicitly explained this to Tospan, she has found one use for this stupid parrot who can only faithfully repeat what Captain Thon said.

First Lieutenant Tospan’s only function is to spit back out whatever he’s told.

In other words, regardless of what an officer like Tanya orders him, his only function is to stubbornly say whatever his direct superior tells him to… There are ways to use an automaton who doesn’t inquire any further than necessary, right?

It’s just like shogi pieces. A pawn may not be a critical piece, but it has its uses.

“Lieutenant Tospan only lacks experience. After growing from this battle, I’m sure he’ll endeavor to redeem his name in future actions.”

“Major Weiss, aren’t you going a bit too easy on him? Anyhow, what I said stands. Don’t betray my expectations again.”

“Yes, ma’am. I’ll do what I can.”

“Very good. I hope you’ll learn well from this.”

If Tospan can just learn who his real boss is, that’ll be plenty. If he can do that much, I should be able to find a use for him.

The Empire is running out of human resources. We may belong to the General Staff, but that doesn’t free us from having to deal with inferior quality resources.

We have to learn how to come to terms with our situation and make what we have work for us.

“Oh, speaking of a lack of experience, Lieutenant Wüstemann. I’m expecting a lot of growth out of you and your mage company. But today I’ll be content that you put up a good fight.”

In that sense, Wüstemann and the others who were sent to replace the ten we lost are not horrible substitutes.

On the other hand, as a good pacifist, Tanya von Degurechaff is forced to grieve. War wastes so much human capital.

“But seriously, combat where the goal is attrition feels so wasteful. I want to hurry up and get this over with.”

The other officers smile and agree with their superior. It’s only natural, since war is a risk surely no one welcomes.

For some reason, the world always thinks soldiers are pro-war, but that couldn’t be further from the truth.

The fundamental truth is that soldiers detest war. And the officers serving in combat units on the forward-most line wish for peace like the most dedicated of specialists.

And a pacifist as passionate as I am must be a rarity, Tanya thinks as she reflects on herself. I’m opposed to the barbarous concept of war from the bottom of my heart.

I grip this gun and this orb solely due to my contract with the Reich.

“All right, troops, nice work. It may be difficult to relax and celebrate while the tension is still fresh, but…I want to allow each unit their celebratory toast.”

From the bottom of my heart, I can pledge my soul and proclaim my wish.

Even in our exceedingly harsh reality, where the god we should pray to is nowhere to be found and an evil called Being X or whatever runs amok…

…It’s important to have hopes and dreams.

“Okay, then once again: To victory! And to the hope that this war ends soon! Cheers!”



It’s so simple to say to “make toasts to victory.”

But…when Tanya’s eyes open in the bed in the house where she’s rooming, she grins wryly as she gets up.

Minors are prohibited from drinking and smoking. There aren’t any exceptions for that, even in the military. About all you can do is suck on some candy.

More importantly, this immature body cannot resist the sleepiness and stay up at night. Of course, this meant that Tanya went to bed at a healthy hour last night as per usual.

But there was another reason she left early. When their superior is hanging around, the troops probably feel like they can’t let their hair down. There’s no reason to keep up that tense boss-and-subordinate relationship even off duty.

Tanya was considerate enough to allow them to partake in their post-combat drinks in peace. As a result, she has woken up fairly early, but it’s a refreshing wakefulness.

That said, everyone else was probably up late drinking. Having slowly slipped out of bed so as not to wake her adjutant and orderly, Tanya reaches for the water jug herself.

No, she half reaches for it.

The moment her hand touches the ceramic…she suddenly notices an unusual chill.


Wondering if she has a cold, she puts on her cold-weather high-altitude flying coat, immediately feeling better.

Perhaps the temperature has simply dropped. Even for early morning, this cold is awfully intense. It’s cold even for fall. Almost as chilly as when I’m flying.

Am I coming down with something after all?

Should I have the kitchen in HQ prepare me something warm to drink just in case?

With that in mind, Tanya steps outside the house to go see the officers on duty. That’s when she realizes.

It’s strange. Tanya stops in her tracks, assailed by an intense feeling that something is wrong. Something has changed. Something has appeared that shouldn’t be here.

It’s…the color.

The color…the color of the world is wrong.

Everything is different from yesterday. With a sigh, she looks up at the sky, which is completely overcast and irritatingly white.

White. She freezes in spite of herself at the brutal color.

She recoils, but as her leg tries to take a step back, she forces it to stay still through her willpower. In front of her dance pale, delicate sparkles.

They’re fantastically beautiful. Perhaps if things were different, she could have written a poem about them.

But now all they are to her is a mass of fear.

She glares as if she can melt them with the heat of her gaze, but alas, she is forced to realize she cannot win.

Her clenched fist speaks for her.

If she could scream, she would.

She would abandon herself to her emotions and release the You’re kidding me stuck in her throat.

She’s been keeping a close watch on the weather forecasts.

Yes, even though the weather team guaranteed them two more weeks, she’s been requesting the meteorologic maps and going over them every day without fail.

But despite that, despite all that, it’s snowing?

It’s such a splendidly malicious present. It means the magnificent and most dreadful eastern winter is upon us. Everything will be covered in snow, which will turn to slush and eventually transform the terrain into muddy swampland.

It’s the worst season. When armies are forced to give up on the whole concept of movement and can only writhe in place.

Tanya glares up at the sky and murmurs, “But if the heavens stand in our way, then we’ll win against the heavens. We must.”

How many more nights will the Imperial Army officers be able to sleep without shivering?

It’s easy to deceive herself. This snow is unseasonably early.

She can also cling to the fair weather forecast. Tomorrow it will clear up.

But it’s meaningless.

If she can’t accept reality and face the terrible situation, all that road leads to is a dead end. She would scatter her bones on this rotten land after becoming a frozen corpse.

That’s an exceedingly unpleasant conclusion.

Anything anything but that awful fate.

“…I have to survive. I have to survive and go home. I do and my men do, too. I don’t have any surplus personnel to hand over to that fucker General Winter or whoever.”

So Tanya sets off once more for HQ. She’s in such a hurry, she begins to jog and then eventually run. She calls out to the duty officers.

I suppose this is the usual.

“How are we doing on winter prep?!”

When Tanya comes flying through the door, her question is impatient.

“As far as cold-weather gear, we have high-altitude operation uniforms for the mage battalion, but… Colonel, I’m sorry to say that we don’t have enough for the entire Kampfgruppe…”

“I…really don’t think we have enough gear for the entire Kampfgruppe.”

Despite the party last night, Major Weiss and First Lieutenant Serebryakov, who are on duty, give clear answers.

“Hmph. Lieutenant!”

“Yes, ma’am.”

“Question the prisoners. Find someone who worked in acquiring clothing. Preferably someone from near this area. I want to ask them about winter and get their opinion.”

“Are you sure?”

It makes sense for Serebryakov to be concerned and ask that question. It’s definitely a possibility that such questions could reveal to the prisoners that we’re hurrying to prepare for winter.

But Tanya is able to make her declaration with confidence. “It’s more important to get through the winter than worry about giving the prisoners information they don’t need to know.”

The difference between a field army having countermeasures for the cold or not is a fatal one.

“The air fleet owes us a favor. Let’s have them deliver some warm clothes to us from home.”

“I’ll authorize that. Major Weiss, if necessary, use funds from the Kampfgruppe treasury. You can also use General Staff classified funds.”

“…Are you sure?”

“Of course.” Tanya doubles down. “What do you think those classified funds are for? Should I have used them to buy a ticket to my class reunion?”

“Ha-ha-ha! Like to buy your dress.”

“For real. We can have a ball on this pure-white dance floor.”

It’s as good as if General Winter had invited me to a ball shells with a chance of plasma splatter as we whirl through the sky above this snow-white field.

How wonderful it would be to scream, Eat shit! and leave.

“Excuse the question, Colonel, but do you know how to dance?”

In response to Serebryakov’s tangential question, Tanya smiles. “I’m an amateur, and I can’t hide it unless I’m dressed up. So I don’t mind if I leave the dancing to the people who know what they’re doing. But no one knows how, probably,” Tanya adds in annoyance.

For better or worse, the Imperial Army is specialized for interior lines strategy with the assumption of national defense.

The winter envisioned by the army mainly deployed around the Empire is not extremely cold, with the exception of Norden.

“Anyhow, wake up the officers. I don’t care if they’re hung over from their toasts.”

“Freezing snow will be just the thing to wake them up from their dreams of victory.”

“I think it might be too effective…”

“While you’re at it, have the other officers discuss cold-weather countermeasures in their units. Tell them to maintain at least minimum field operation capability.”

And so, standing before the gathered officers, Tanya swallows her sighs and broaches the topic with her usual frankness.

“Now then, officers of the 203rd Aerial Mage Battalion. Let’s hear your views on winter battles if you have experience, that is.”

“That’s a good point… We do have a problem when it comes to winter battles.”

Tanya nods at Weiss’s remarks. Sadly, there isn’t a winter expert among even the seasoned vets present here.

“That’s true. Setting aside our old hands, even the ones from the Eastern Army Group have hardly any winter battle experience.”

“I beg your pardon, but since the Eastern Army Group had the Federation as a potential enemy for ages, you should have an idea, shouldn’t you, Major Weiss?” Apparently, Lieutenant Grantz is a smart-ass.

Well, when you’re young and inexperienced, that’s how it goes, I suppose. The horrifying thing is that the person saying this is one of the relatively experienced members of our Kampfgruppe.

Tanya and Weiss, who both sigh, must be worried about the same thing. This is the pain of the commander. Or of management jobs, you could say.

“I’m sorry to say, Lieutenant, that the winter I know is the Reich’s.”

Tanya nods that that’s correct.

“In other words, our defense plan mostly involved guarding our borders. It doesn’t take real snowfall into consideration. Even if it did, it would have depended on your location.”

“Oh, really?”

“Hey, Grantz, how much did you learn about winter camping in the academy?”

Weiss goes back and forth with Grantz to convince him. That said, Tanya smiles wryly. It’s no wonder he wouldn’t know how much Grantz knew about winter.

The accelerated course had long been the norm at the Imperial Army academy.

If it’s not something a soldier is likely to use immediately, the academy leaves off at encouraging self-study. The know-how for winter battles is surely one of the most undervalued subjects. For better or worse, the Empire was focused on protecting its own land… Expeditions were hardly worth the mental space.

“If we hadn’t spent a winter in Norden, then we wouldn’t have any experience at all.”


Grantz’s blank face reminds Tanya although he has the presence of an old hand, Grantz joined them midway.

He went through the academy after her and must have been on the wartime early graduation schedule.

“Oh, right, you were part of the group that came in on the Rhine. So you didn’t see any action in Norden, huh?”

“Nope.” Grantz shakes his head. For him, the Rhine was the location of his first training in the field. Though he’s flown over the Northern Sea, it’s undeniable that his experience is unbalanced.

“Then I guess we should have the people who were in Norden around the start of the war handle the prep work.”

“That makes sense. We should leave it to the people with experience.”

I guess this is all we can do, thinks Tanya as she decides to leave it up to Weiss. “Major Weiss, sorry, but I want you to get the cold-weather gear even if you have to use up all the confidential funding. I’ll give you Lieutenants Grantz and Wüstemann as support.”

And she can educate some subordinates at the same time two birds with one stone.

“Yes, ma’am! I’ll try ordering as if they’re for the aerial mage units.”

“However you prefer. Oh, I want all of you to check if any of your subordinates have experience with winter battles or areas known for their extreme temperatures. If anyone knows some tricks, I want to make use of them. Make sure the other units do the same.” Then she adds, “Also, Lieutenant Serebryakov, I ordered you to survey the prisoners…but I’m not sure how well that will go. Their resources and experience are fundamentally different from ours. We’ll just have to be creative and do our best with what we can.”

“Understood. I’ll go get started on the survey right away.”


When he glanced outside, it looked like fall.

Though it was late autumn, the scenery was still colorful. Not a bad season for puffing on a cigar and gently exhaling poof.

“…Wish I could take Berun’s weather over to the front lines,” Zettour murmured unconsciously.

A clear autumn sky.

Alas. He turned his gaze back to inside the room where Operations staff, having gone pale in their faces, were shouting in a panic.

The cause was a single word.


Snow was white and merciless.

On that day at the General Staff Office, the officers were so upset with the whiteness of their bread that they dunked it into their coffee.

White plains.

Oh, how fantastic, how lovely! As long as it’s not where our army has to be deployed!

Which was why Zettour and his friend beside him were forced to listen to the screams of the mid-career officers.

“Snow?! It’s snowing?!”

“Call the weather team!”

Furious, the staffers clutched briefcases; agitated, they shouted out changes to the timetables and marching plans.

The collapse of the weather estimates had a huge impact on the ground forces.

The General Staff had planned for a safety margin and anticipated winter that was earlier than anything they had set in previous years, so having an even more unusually early arrival of winter really pulled the rug out from under them.

“I thought we would have trouble avoiding a winter battle, but…Rudersdorf, we didn’t anticipate this, did we?”

“It came out of nowhere.”

Rudersdorf his friend, his accomplice, or simply the man in charge of this room sounded irritated.

That spoke to the mental state of the Imperial Army General Staff, which was in an uproar like a kicked hornet’s nest over the single word snow.

“They don’t even have the necessary equipment. Can you expedite shipments of winter supplies?”

“We’re rushing to make the arrangements. Supplies should begin getting to the frontline troops within the next few days…but only to troops within reach of the rails.”

Shoving his cigar into the ashtray, Zettour looked up at the ceiling with a tired face; he knew how important it was to prepare for winter. Which was why he had prepared for the worst and arranged for the manufacture of winter gear. He had the production lines working at full tilt. But he didn’t think he would have to deliver the items to the front lines this instant.

At this critical instant…

What they could send to the front were fuel and shells essentials for the offensive. That and the horses and fodder Zettour and everyone in the Service Corps had arranged in a frenzy of preparation.

The schedule for the domestic railroad network was already timed down to the week, defying their limited transport capabilities in order to just barely serve up enough of everything necessary for a major offensive.

Now that had to be revised to get winter gear to the front lines while also preserving the supply of essential consumables like shells and food?

Frankly, the gravity of the situation was clear as the point officers of the Railroad Department under Zettour in the Service Corps hurled every curse they could think of at the heavens and then clung to the timetable.

But the Railroad Department actually had things relatively easy.

Those in charge of Operations had, up until yesterday, been given “a few weeks,” but that time had dropped to zero with no warning.

The Operations officers’ debate grew only more hostile.

“The central observatory kept telling us it was going to be a mild autumn…”

“It’s not a mistake or a fluke?!”

The reply to that wishful thinking was undeniable proof that reality was always heartless.

“The guys at the observatory have thrown in the towel. We have to just assume the coming of winter is an established fact at this point.”

There were grumbles, sighs, and a few moments of silence during which cigarettes were plunged into ashtrays. Everyone was gnashing their teeth in frustration and obvious impatience. A suffocatingly grave stillness filled the room.

“…Shit. We’re out of time. Have the troops evacuate.”

That one comment caused the room to explode like so much lighter fluid.

“The lines are already under as much strain as they can take due to our offensive! We must reorganize now!”

“Don’t be stupid! Are you seriously saying we should pull out?”

“We need to secure depth. We could compromise with a partial offensive and a partial reorganization…”

All those speaking were staff officers, the backbone of the Empire.

These men were military specialists, thoroughly trained with intelligence optimized to carry out their duties. And the Reich’s staffers, without a doubt, had no equals. Those men in pursuit of a single clear conclusion were forced to disagree.

Of course, it went without saying that matters of operations and strategy should be debated among people with diverse viewpoints.

“This is no joke! Are you serious? Are you planning on telling the frontline troops to just play in the slush?”

“Then are you saying they should stand by shivering until the snow falls? Why don’t you think of how we can best use the short time we have left?!”

And since both the argument to attack and the argument to protect had their theoretical grounds, the debate grew ever more emotional and the tone more distressed.

“Are you saying we should gamble our vulnerable supply lines on something as unreliable as the weather?”

“It’s a reasonable calculation!”


The logistics supporting the troops deployed on the vast eastern front were shockingly fragile. It wasn’t only the Service Corps who were forced to understand that but everyone in Operations as well, even if they didn’t want to.

The sporadic raids on the supply lines…

The attrition of personnel, the burden of transporting shells and other goods it was like a hemorrhage that wouldn’t stop. Expanding the lines any farther would be a serious burden on their already overworked supply network.

That alone could be fatal…so with the added issue of unpredictable weather, the decision to stay put was utterly sound.

“If we act now, we can still advance! If we put an end to this before the transportation conditions worsen, there will be no obstacle to wintering sooner.”

But at the same time…it was still possible to advance if they acted now.

“Are you saying we should advance?! You’re saying to go forward without proper winter gear when we’re not even sure we can guarantee supply lines will stay open?! How do you expect our army to survive?!”

“If we don’t attack fully here, time won’t be on our side! Remember what happened with the Commonwealth and the Unified States! Strike while the iron is hot! What other choice do we have?”

The faction advocating action had a point. Time was not on the side of the Empire, their Reich.

Their national power was dwindling, and their working population was suffering serious losses. The last-ditch measure of having women work in the factories was now normal. There was also a serious commodity shortage. Even with a rationing system in place, the Empire was critically low on resources.

“So your plan is to run the whole army into the ground over this hopeless gamble?! If we don’t retreat, our army will disintegrate!”

“We can’t pull out now! Do you have any idea how close we are?!”

“If we act now if we act now, we can advance! How do you know we’ll be able to break through the reinforced enemy next year?! We can’t miss this chance!”

The nation was weakening, as if it were being slowly tortured. Though the Imperial Army still boasted strength, it was impossible to say the prolonged conflict wasn’t taking its toll.

So a few officers had to point out that harsh reality in particular.

“The army is already disintegrating in the east!”

“We run the risk of wearing the troops down completely! Don’t underestimate the cost of delaying our move!”

“You’re saying to destroy our troops on a suicidal charge because some cowards are prisoners of fear? That is out of the question!”

Next to the table where the debate between mainly mid-career officers was heating up, at the desk positioned in the back of the room, the two generals letting their tobacco silently smolder exhaled their smoke along with a sigh.

Even the way they silently stubbed out their cigars resembled each other. Lieutenant General von Zettour and Lieutenant General von Rudersdorf.

But one of them was scoffing, fed up with their subordinates’ shameful behavior, while the other was so disinterested he wasn’t even listening.

Well, it was the natural outcome. Both generals had braced themselves the moment they heard the word snow.

As the deputy chief of the Service Corps, General von Zettour had already given his answer. Thus, urging his subordinates to debate was simply a form of harsh brain training.

The same went for General von Rudersdorf. As the one in charge of Operations, he knew they needed to switch gears to consider realistic measures.

It was because they understood the factor of time that they both gave their conclusions immediately.

Faced with the results of then tossing their conclusions to the mid-ranking officers, knowing it would do no good, Zettour had to admit he regretted it.

“We’ve got a hundred schools of thought here.”

After much debate, their arguments had devolved into mere opinions. And what made his head hurt was that the ones involved didn’t even seem to notice.

“When do you suppose they’ll realize that even if our answer isn’t the right one, it’s a waste of time to debate?”

“Hmph, it’s because Personnel is always picking these guys who think they are clever enough to be staff officers. We’ve reached a stalemate. Evacuating the troops is our only choice. Anyone unsure about such a crucial point is a second-rate officer.”

“Isn’t that just the irritating truth.”

Sheesh. This was what it means to want to lament. They’re a select group, and yet the Imperial Army General Staff is full of these guys who think they’re so smart. Unbelievable… Both generals disapproved.

But…, it had to be added.

To be fair, both General von Zettour and General von Rudersdorf were notorious for having the highest minimal expectations in the General Staff.

The two ravens of the Imperial Army boasting the greatest intellects…

Hardly taking any notice of the average staff officers, the two had already comprehended what the arrival of winter meant and begun their grieving.

“Winter came too early. Since we couldn’t predict it, we’ll have to put up with the accusations of incompetence and cope with the situation.”

“Yes,” Zettour agreed and then asked about something that worried him. “But after reorganizing the lines, are we going to mount another offensive?”

There was only one problem.

What they needed to discuss now was what to do after winter. On that point, Zettour and Rudersdorf didn’t agree completely.

“…What other means does the Empire have? We need a way to end this war. With the front so hotly contested, the chances of settling things via leisurely negotiation are slim.”

“If necessary, we could put together a plan to wait it out.”

Zettour said that was what total war theory was for. The attritional containment theory he and his division had been proposing assumed that major losses were inevitable but was otherwise quite solid.

A powerful munitions manufacturing network and self-sufficient economic behavior had emerged in the Empire.

So Zettour was sure of it. “We still have the freedom to act. There’s no need for us to limit our own choices. We don’t have to discard the option of a long war of attrition.”

“Logically, that’s valid. So I can’t deny it, Zettour.” There was something sorrowful about General von Rudersdorf’s expression as he let his cigar smolder. “I understand, but…,” he continued. “I know you do, too. The Empire is just barely keeping itself afloat. And that’s only possible because of the discipline of our total war doctrine.”

“Allow me to correct your misunderstanding, General von Rudersdorf. There are no obstacles to maintaining the minimum. At least not at present.”

“That only holds true for military supplies, right?”

“I can’t deny that. We’ve nearly reached the limit of what we can do to prop up declining food production. We’ve seen a rapid increase in shell production, but…the poor quality makes me despair.” Zettour nodded and acknowledged the truth his counterpart raised.

The main workforce producing the Empire’s agricultural yield was missing a huge chunk of its manpower, and the other critical issue was that the army had requisitioned all the horses they normally used for plowing.

It was none other than the Service Corps that had rounded up the horses they were using to transport supplies, so Zettour was painfully aware of the heavy blow they had dealt to domestic agriculture.

To be frank, the effects were worse than he had expected. In a way, it was their own mistake that they were stuck eating turnip after turnip.

“Expecting a long war is different from hoping for a long war. We think we should leverage our strengths to attempt a breakthrough on the operational level.”

“And I’m not denying that, Rudersdorf. But you understand, too, don’t you? It’s too big of a gamble.”

“Curse my incompetence. I hate that I have to gamble for the outcome of this major event in the Empire’s history,” he muttered.

Compared to the usual vigor in his voice, he sounded so weak. If you were going to give me such a trembling reply, you should have just consulted with me from the start…

“…Hmm. Well, come and talk to me if need be. But we have to start by preparing for General Winter.”

“Agh, that pain-in-the-neck General Winter.”

The timing was completely off.

They couldn’t hope for an offensive according to the army’s plan. So for the time being, the eastern front would enter what could kindly be called a lull. To put it unkindly…they would be giving the Federation time to reorganize. It was immensely frustrating, but there wasn’t anything they could do to combat forces of nature.

Not being able to make any predictions about the operation after the winter was exasperating. And on top of that, there was no telling what kind of attrition they would suffer during the winter.

Having to formulate a strategy under such opaque circumstances was…completely unheard of. How could they plan for the future when they didn’t even know what they would have on hand?

Still… There General von Zettour revised one of his opinions. There are infinite variables. But if we can define even one of them, it’s not a bad idea to nail it down.

“At this point, I’m going to get that proposal in front of Supreme High Command no matter what it takes.”

He was talking about the “autonomy” plan he had hit upon due to a suggestion from Colonel von Degurechaff.

He’d worked Colonel von Lergen to the point of exhaustion, but after the political maneuvering using Lergen’s contacts, combined with accepting the huge risk and fortune involved, he was beginning to see results.

It was tangible Zettour could sense that there was something to it.

“The autonomy plan? I agree that it seems efficient, but”

“Climax rhetoric, Rudersdorf! Listen…” He made his point as simply as if he was explaining a universal truth. “Rather than having an enemy country next door, it’s better to have a country that is not friendly with our enemy next door.”

“That’s for sure.”

“And a neutral country would be even better.”

“Of course. That makes sense.”

“In that case,” Zettour finishes as if he’s proposing an evil scheme, “the best for the Reich would be a friendly country that has interests aligned with ours.”

“Are you planning on becoming a midwife or something? That’s terribly commendable…” His friend smiled, and Zettour smiled back.

He wasn’t looking in a mirror, but he was sure of it…

My  Our faces must look so wicked. That thought suddenly flitted across his mind. But so what?

“If necessary, I’m not opposed. I’ve even prepared a place for the blessed event to occur. I’ll probably choose the godparents. Plans for the baptism are already set. Then if the government only recognizes it, our burden should lighten a little.”

“You mean the newborn baby will work for our side like a full-grown adult?” Rudersdorf scoffed as if he found the prospect ridiculous, but Zettour handily knocked him down a peg.

“Listen, friend. Even a little girl has been useful in this war. I’m sure infants and toddlers have their uses. At the very least, they can shield us from bullets.”

“That’s the worst argument I’ve ever heard.”

“Without a doubt. It’s absolutely despicable, and I’m aware of that. That being said,” Zettour continued, “I’m a fairly evil member of this organization despite my virtuous nature, and as such, I’ll carry out my duty as I must. All I’m permitted no, all we as General Staff officers are permitted is devotion to our duties.”

They had pledged their swords to the fatherland, the Reich. On that day, the day they were commissioned, they swore to protect it from anyone who would do the country or the imperial family harm.

So if the fatherland deems it necessary…

Why don’t we, as General Staff officers, become as evil as it takes?

General von Zettour had even begun radiating an air of grim determination, so for a moment, he was taken aback by his sworn friend’s hearty laughter.


“Did I say something wrong?”

“No, in theory, you’re quite right. But you seem to have one amusing misunderstanding, so I couldn’t help myself.”

“A misunderstanding?”

“What are our dear General Staff’s staff officers famous for?”

The cheery smile on his friend’s face was also a dry one. But rarely had he heard something that made so much sense.

“Well, it’s definitely not their great personalities.”

“Let’s be frank. Shouldn’t we make ourselves known far and wide as eccentric, formidable, and cunning?”

“Ha-ha-ha-ha-ha! Yes, you’re right, of course.” Oh, we’re already here? “Every one of us looks sensible, but we must all be unreasonable. All we have to do is use brute force to do what must be done.”

The lid was open from the beginning.

So hell will beget hell by our hands?


It’s all too easy to accept this future he’s painted.