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2 yrs ago
Current Why am I bothering to update the status anyway? No one's gonna care
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2 yrs ago
"Remember to look at the stars not down at your feet." Inspired me ever since. Rest in peace Professor Hawking
2 yrs ago
I don't know why, but the boredom is killing me slowly
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Bio

Welcome to my crappy profile front end. I hope you will enjoy your stay here.

To be honest, I haven't had much experience in RP, since I just started recently. But to reassure you, I am a writer, and my fic has received a bit of attention now, and so you don't have to worry about grammars and spellings, just rules of roleplaying.

I have written many types of stories and I am confident to say I can fit in into any categories when I switch to RPing, but my favorite genre is probably fantasy and science fiction. Currently so, I am taking part in a few of the RP, and is still looking for more. Hopefully we can find a common interest among them.

Thank you for reading (it's quite short really, but I don't have anything else to say)

Most Recent Posts








"Those who seek death will live"


Every second passed since the dual explosion in the infirmary was every second filled with adrenaline as Michael rushed down the tunnel in the other direction from Reyna. He was committed now. There would be no secrecy from now on. He would be more than willing to empty a cartridge or bash an Imperial’s head in. As long as it pushed him closer to the goal he had in mind.

Rushing past the checkpoints where he memorized earlier, Michael knew it was one of the few signs he was on the right track. The other ones? The sound of screaming Imperials. Oh, they were pissed. For sure. When only two Federation soldiers just blasted hundreds of hours of work and endangered the very lifeline of Amone’s Imperial forces, they wanted a piece of them. For Michael, two of these men were running in his direction, on their way to investigate the explosion. He could hear their footsteps etching closer and closer. There were no hiding spots good enough. The corner he turned from was the direction they were probably heading down toward. Choices were scarce. He had to kill them.

Michael quickly had his carbine on his left shoulder, his legs creeping backward, reaching the tunnel T-section he just turned from. Just as he edged half his body behind the corner, sights of the two Imperials were in his vision. It wasn’t even a clear vision to be exact. Their only indication of location was their footsteps and the dim parts of their body, visibly disjointed but still moving objects. And here, every moving object is an Imperial.

Praying on those loose evidence alone, a deafening bang momentarily sliced through Michael’s eardrums. His comically short silhouette on normal days flashed by the shot as an eerie vision, his eyes deadly white by the luminescence.

The bullet lodged into one of the Imperial’s neck. His death came agonizing as he would squirm on the floor for minutes. And unbeknownst to the other soldier, he would die even faster. Michael quickly followed up with another shot, but unfortunately missed. The Imperial retaliated but was way too late as the snapper knew better than to poke his head in the open.

Between his friend and Michael, the choice was obvious. The Imperial surged forward, bayonet ready. He turned the corner and tried to swing for Michael’s direction. But unfortunately for him, Michael was a lot shorter than he imagined. The swing missed its intended target, and his error was paid with his life, as he felt a knife plunged in his stomach, and shortly after in his neck. After the second soldier fell to the ground, Michael instinctively ran back to his corner, but after a few seconds later he realized that there were no more enemies. For now. The first Imperial he shot was still alive, but Michael knew his life is now by the minutes. Perhaps Michael pitied his agony or worried over he’d draw too much attention with his last few moments. Whatever the answer was, the injured soldier was put down with another shot to the head.

His obstacles gone, Michael went deeper in. Moments later, he found himself at the end of the branch. The target room. Explosives were quickly laid out, and fuses sparked. The explosion of the successful destruction emboldened the Edinburghian. He was one step closer to a job done, and one helping hand given to the soldiers on the surface. Time to move to the next target.

But as always, someone was always there to stand in his way.

Either combatant was completely unaware of the other’s approach. The light in the sector had been snuffed out by the explosion. The only thing keeping him navigated was the creeping light rays barely and sporadically creeping into the narrow parallel space. This soldier was having his skills more stoved up his hand, as his movement was much more silent. His hands clutched tightly on the rifle, his iron sight lined exactly where his eyes were locked on. His strides slow and short. He could hear Michael’s approach getting fainter and fainter as the sapper slowly faded into the darkness, knowing the danger of ambushes when he walks into unknown territory like this.

But when Michael’s carbine hit the light, a bullet tore through the air. A gasp escaped his lips as the bullet slammed into his shovel. An inch further left, and he’d be dead. Michael returned fire twice with his carbine. But apparently, his enemy was still alive, and he was thoroughly behind a crate as cover. So Michael ran back, found a small cover in the form of a small corner and hid there. For a relative minute, silence once again took over. Both soldiers knew the other was there, but the fear of an ambush kept them from approaching each other, hoping that the other man would make the mistake of charging into the other one.

But none made the call. The Imperial too experienced to be reckless. Michael too fretful for an attack. To him, the Empire wasn’t easy prey. They were experienced, knew their expertise, and they were on their chosen ground. But the longer he waits, the tighter the noose around his neck. More soldiers may already be at his very corner. There were no options; he had to attack.

As faithful and religiously devoted Michael was, sometimes the leap of faith was a stupid idea. It drove the idea of blindness. Of rashness and irrationality. But at the same time, he knew just as well the values of actually taking the step and the random nature of life, sometimes disgustingly so. But he wasn’t going to simply embrace a blind charge. No. If he was going to be brash, he would be calculatedly brash.

“Huh?”

All of a sudden, the Imperial soldier heard a stomp on the ground. Then, from the very corner of his eyes, something landed right beside him. A small rectangular metallic container full of explosives. Oh shit, oh shit, oh shit!

Not even waiting for his rationale to kick in, the Imperial soldier immediately vacated his cover. He didn’t need to see it. Nobody throws something except for it being grenades. A second or two late and he’d be in pieces. He retreated as further down as possible waiting for the explosion.

...which never came.

What came instead was that five-foot-tall Fed that he was hunting down. And he was already on his face, closing the distance surprisingly quickly for a man of his height, his shovel firmly on his two hands, ready to strike.

It turned out the explosive was not lit. It was just a ruse to make the Imperial vacate his lofty and secure cover. The whole plan hung right on the instinctive reaction of a soldier, and it had worked. He was tricked.

Michael could dimly see the man trying to regain his posture through the creeping light, but he went through. He couldn’t doubt himself here. He charged his shovel he took the other day fully entrusted to take over his normally more powerful carbine. Right before the Imperial could shoot, the sharp edge of the shovel slammed into the gun, cracking where it landed. Then a hit to his stomach, also from the sharp edge. And then finally, a chest hit. It was fatal.

“Mother...”

That voice...

The soldier collapsed. If he wasn’t dead right away, he would be soon. The only solace for the latter case was that he would not be conscious enough to feel the pain. His only last word struck a recall. It sounded...familiar.

“Heinz?”

It was fresh in his mind. After reeling back from the adrenaline of the fight, Michael finally found the time, albeit very short, to identify the normally faceless enemy. It was the man he conversed with back in the inn. The man who Michael could find the respect he needed to have a civil discussion about politics and war without devolving into a shouting match. The man whose example could possibly be a powerful tool that could avoid so many unnecessary conflicts. And ironically, in one of those unnecessary conflicts, he had just been cut down brutally by the person he personally also respected.

Letting the light where they both stood shone on his face, it was just confirming his suspicion. It really was him. His stiff motionless face replaced the once stoic demeanor of Michael’s first impression. The tag Michael found inside his uniform was the final nail in his coffin: Corporal Heinz Noel, 45th Jaeger Unit. Along with a letter placed within the same pocket. To his mother, never delivered, soon replaced with a death certificate.

His eyes drenched.

But time was of the essence. It denied him the human moment of grief. So he quietly put the things into his own pocket, retrieved the explosives and headed for the demolition sites. He left in no more than two minutes.

His branch was done. He somehow managed to accomplish the difficult task. Funnily enough, there weren’t that many Imperials to move against him. Of course, he had to dodge or kill quite a number of them to get back to where he came from, but it didn’t diminish the fact that the attack on the infirmary was correct. Nevertheless, due to the time taken in the gunfight with Heinz adding onto the cat and mouse chase, Michael had lost more time than he anticipated.

Unbeknownst to him, that was an improbable string of chances rivaling the existence of life in the universe itself.

On his way out, he saw a set of backpack almost exactly like the one he was wearing. Upon closer inspection, he found a couple of tools lay right nearby, tied to pieces of cloths, soaked in crimson red. It took a few more seconds for his memory to kick in that this was that intersection where Reyna and he had agreed upon, and that she would take the task of destroying the room nearby.

“Reyna?”

Alarms kicked in the instant he pieced things together. That possibility crossed his mind, to which he desperately tried throwing it out. It couldn’t be that quickly.

“Reyna!”

She was there by the corner close by, sitting against the wall. Her signs of life weren’t visible. Oh no. Please. Please. Don’t let this be. Don’t let there be another one. She’s not meant for this. Please.

“Oh God thank you.”

She still lives. Her breathe still felt. Her pulse still pumped. But she needs to get out of here.

It wasn’t even the least of the danger

Reyna was completely out of her body right now. Her eyes barely opened and her weak muscle resistance barely counted against Michael. Still, with all the extra equipment he was carrying, the weight was excess. Emptying all the strength he had remained, and even further beyond, Michael dragged Reyna from the wall she rested on. One arm below her waist and one arm behind her knee, the sapper lifted Reyna like he lifted Lucia the other day. Step by step, he found the unusual strength he thought he didn’t have, gradually speeding up to a jog as he carried the Vinlander back to where his comrades ought to be waiting. Then...

BOOM!!!!


A mist rolled right into him, engulfing them both. A powerful shockwave shoved him into the wall, his left elbow crashed into the hard rock, sending a needle cut shot of pain straight all the way up. His head spun like he was being spaghettified. Life felt like a fleeting dream now. A touch of a finger and it could lift off the ground. Forever.

The light was visible from the corner of his eyes. He needed to move. His collapse right here at the brink of safety was there, but his steps were firm. Each stomp carried an unseen, unheard, hidden willpower of a man fighting for something other than survival. He didn’t care he may die. Not anymore. Thoughts of his mother’s pain did not cross his mind. Thoughts of his departure did not cross his mind. He was willing to die. He was willing to give away his life at this one moment. For Reyna. For someone who may or may not worth more than him.

“You’ll be safe.”

He whispered. Another step forward.
Acion Nakamiji


For the entirety of the week was largely uneventful for Acion. Interesting if put in his shoes. His first date occurred, and it went just as wonderfully as it could ever have been. Classes came and passed, trainings every evening after school was a grind that he’d likely have the opportunity to thank his resilience later. But calm was usually the case before a storm. Or in this case a pretty busy day.

And it started quite unexpectedly.

“Mr Nakamiji, is it alright if we can have a moment with you?”

He was quite early for class. In fact he may have been the first to arrive on site, but a footstep away from the class room door, a gentleman in a neat black suit appeared down the hall and approached the young hero, addressing him directly. Strange. He didn’t think of himself as someone who would get attentions of a complete stranger. And he knew his name directly. It wouldn’t just be a fan or something. He probably had an agenda or something.

“Yeah, how can I help you sir?”

“Ah, I was glad to be able to finally meet you. I was told you’d be here.”

Ok...

“Anyway you’re probably confused. In that case I’ll make myself known. I am Yueyang. You may recall me from recent incidents you have with the school a few weeks ago.”

Latest incident? Well he had quite a lot of it. If it wasn’t the countless times things that churned up in the dorm or in classes, there were still a bit of something Acion had done outside classes. The fight with those shadowy individuals, the incident with the kid that almost ended up with his arrest...

Wait.

“Oh, you’re the kid’s father, aren’t you.”

The man nodded, visibly smiling that his son’s saviour recognized him.

“Oh my god, I’m so sorry for what happened!”

Immediately Acion bowed in apology. That kid, if he recalled correctly, almost died due to his negligence and brashness that day. It was a huge dent in his ego and conscience even today. He still thought of the kid from time to time, and yet today unexpectedly, his father turned up right in front of his class. He hoped he wasn’t there to blame him or anything.

To which he didn’t.

“It’s okay. It’s okay.” The man placed his hand on the young hero’s shoulder. “I sometimes wished things could’ve turned out a little better, but I think it’s not worth it. You showing up when and where he needed it was already a respectable thing.”

It still felt bad for him, but his words of encouragement was an uplifting moment. The job could be very unappreciative at times, but there are people out there that knows to give at least a thank you to the selfless work of the heroes.

“Thank you...” Acion nodded. “I hope your son’s alright.”

“Ah he’s all good now. Quite proud of what happened in spite of it.” He chuckled. Quite ironic to be frank. “But anyway that’s not all the reason why I’m here.”

“Sir?”

“Don’t worry I already informed the principal. Come, let’s have a quick word.”

“So I wonder if you’ve heard of the Irian Corporation?”

“...I guess so. Yeah, in fact. I’ve heard of that somewhere on the news. Isn’t that the company that sponsored for some of the city’s infrastructure, including our school?”

They didn’t solely donate this school, but they were in essence a part of why Komei existed.

“That’s the one.” Yueyang gave a thumbs-up as he gestured Acion to a seat in one of the school’s offices. “We also helped with the airport construction too, and our city’s stadium as well.”

That’s a lot of commitment given to the city itself. But what exactly do they want with a single student like Acion.

“Well I’ll cut to the chase here. Have you ever heard of the job bird chaser?”

Huh? A what?

“Bird...chaser?” Acion was a bit confused.

“Yeah I figure.” He laughed a little, seemingly understandably instead of mockery. “It is a recent thing we have established since there were issues of airborne creatures flying into airport’s airspace and endangering flight safety. So we’re trying to keep them out of the area. That’s basically the job in a nutshell.”

Ohh...

“That’s uhhh...” The winged man was very much bewildered. In no way before did he know this actually existed as an occupation. “So you want to offer me that?”

“You are the few youngsters I know whose natural habitat seems to be up in the air instead of on the ground, so I think you’d fit.”

“But it seems like a full-time job to me. I don’t think I’ll have the time for it”

“Parts of the team are volunteers and part-timer. It’s fine.”

...Volunteering. If that was the case, then it would be a pretty good deal to him. Although it didn’t sound like something that a pro hero would do. A hero catching birds. Sounds a bit off. In fact he was willing to bet that some high-ego individuals had already refused this offer. But hey, it’s still a contributing job, and those who did it earnestly earned Acion’s respect already.

But now that he thought about it...

It would probably make a rather weird impression of him. A training hero shooing birds. It sounded like something coming out of a satirical comedy. Hell if the guys at his dorm found out, it would be a source of never-ending jokes targeted at him. Especially those weasels Roy and Jett. Although to be fair his Storm Bird hero name he made up on the spot probably wasn’t helping.

Well..........whatever.

“You don’t have to make the decision now, Mr Nakamiji. I know you have class right now, so I shouldn’t waste anymore of your time.” Yueyang gave Acion a small business card, essentially telling him to give the call when he made up his mind. Yeah that’s probably for the best at the moment.

A weird offer, he’d say. But not necessarily bad. But nevertheless, the hero didn’t have time for consideration right now. The talk might not have taken that long of a time, it came to the misfortune that today also happened to be exercise day. And once Acion returned to class, everyone had already left, with the only note on the board for the late students of where they were heading toward, and what they needed to do.

“Ah, damn it.”

There were so many to do, yet so little time!
Acion flew, literally, across the hallway to reach the changing room, where he had his costumes changed just as instructed. He had the chance to grab some hero gear, but if Acion had to be frank, in the heat of the moment, he couldn’t think of anything in particular to bring. He had always been playing the reconnaissance and harasser, and his bare quirk was already sufficient to perform top-notch.

Once finished, the winged man took off again. The school supervisor probably would want to know his location for his flight, but he was horribly late, even with a valid reason. His flight took him across the school yard and headed toward Training Ground Alpha. Approaching the group of students that Acion recognized as his classmates, he turned his body around and met the ground with a couple of strides before slowing down right in front of the prefects

“My sincere apology for my lateness.” He handed the note to the supervising teacher, explaining what happened, before receiving a brief recall of the rules. Then he quickly rejoined his class.

“I’m sorry for being late today. Some stuffs came up.” Knowing that the exercise was close to starting, he probably realized that the team had already finished planning and such. His input would probably waste more time than needed.

“Just tell me what to do.”



Things gradually grew silent. The casual conversations soon became echoes, as the calm began to settle in. A calm of discomfort before the great storm. The ambience of metallic shackles rocked his guts, as with each stride he felt himself getting closer and closer to a thin treadmill above a huge mass grave. It would soon prove to be their greatest challenge of all. But the danger wasn’t just reserved for that.

The brief silence had been slewn, the molecules blasted into the ears of the tunnel squad of pummeling artilleries. This was no ambience of war. The continuous and relentless bangs echoed deafeningly and closely that everyone knew its meanings. That hundreds or even thousands of lives would be lost in a couple of hours. That the tide of this battle would change in the near future. The battle for Amone had begun.

The tunnel squad was still making their way through the empty streets of Amone towards the tunnel, away from the front line - from the enemy’s front line. And that meant detection right now could blew the entire operation before it even started. And worse, envelopment would be entirely possible, if not likely. They must maintain discretion.

And that fact was quickly came to a head when shouts echoed from down the street where they were heading. Shouts that resembled languages that most of the tunnel squad had little knowledge of. The Imperial language.

”Oh no...hide!”

They were just briefly crossing the path that the tunnel squad was moving, but Michael knew that if some, even just one of them, with good enough eyesight, looked down the street, they would be able to spot an enemy behind the line, and the squad would die. So he quickly edged himself into the doorstep of a building, hoping to use the small bit of wall that was there to keep himself away from their line of sight.

Quickly, Reyna dashed behind a gray slab of concrete and laid prone behind it after hearing Michael’s words and reacting nearly at the same time as him. It wasn’t the best cover for the scenario, but it was the closest and any more sudden moves were risky. Staying quiet, but having eyesight on Michael and a free hand, Michael. Spotting the empty houses, Reyna made a small wave toward Michael then pointed to some empty houses they could use that she saw to have less of a chance to be detected. And all the while she was doing this, Reyna’s heart was pounding.

His breath was disappearing, but his pulse was racing. Please, don’t let anyone look his way. Every sound of boot clapping on the stone hard concrete was another pound to his mind. He only had his companions to look at, a certain number of faces, just as terrified as he was, edging into whatever covers they could find. And then, he saw Reyna on the opposite side of the street behind a slab of concrete flashing him a wave. Then she pointed at the house on his side of the street.

At first, Michael didn’t get it. What was she pointing at? He was curious as to what was the message, but he knew what she pointed at was not in his line of sight. He needed to peek out to see. But peeking out right now, when Imperials were marching down the streets like that, the fear of detection forced him to push his back against the door again, waiting for the sign of boots to die down.

Eventually, the sound did die down, a bit. And Michael finally found the courage to peek out a little, bit by bit. And he saw what Reyna meant. An empty house. Or rather multiple empty Gallian houses, made with Gallian architecture and design. And most importantly for the squad right now, it is interconnected. Or it seems so from the outside. Of course! That means they could use that to move down to their objectives more silently.

Taking full advantage of the downtime, Michael crept out of his hiding spot and moved to the house. The door was closed, but desolation had worn down the place. Michael resolved it with a single kick, bursting the door open, and went in. There, his rifle swirled around the room, checking for any Imperials, to which there were none. Unlike the last excursion, the Imperials probably were rallying for the Federation assault, so none were loitering around here.

With the safety assured, Michael peeked out of the house, looking at both Reyna, Senja, Anneli and the rest of the escort squadron, flashing them the signal to come. A quick glance down the street saw no Imperials crossing by, for now. And he flashed harder. This was their golden chance!

Reyna had held her breath while the Imperial patrol sauntered by, glad that Michael got the message she was trying to give to them. Wasting no time, Reyna got up from her belly and went inside the house while they still had time, making sure everyone else knew what they were doing. After getting in, she nodded to Michael as they continued forward.

Going through the houses and sometimes out of them, Reyna spotted an anomaly: three Imperial soldiers. One of them appeared to be one of the sappers on the Imperial side, but the other two seemed to be basic riflemen. What made this an anomaly to Reyna was the fact that the sapper was making a small barricade facing outward from a makeshift alleyway with two entrances into it, the other guarded by one of the riflemen. Even more interesting was the fact that she spotted a few Imperials going into that entrance with large backpacks and crates.

“Hey, think that’s it?” Reyna quietly said as she pointed out the activity she saw carefully. She had to assume one thing: if she saw them, there is a chance the Imperials could see them at any moment and so caution was necessary.

After Reyna was the rest of the squad. Each soldier through was a sigh of relief, but also another prayer that the remaining ones would not be dealt a poor hand. They were close, and to fail here would arguably be even worse than failing from the get go. And once the last man was through, and the door quietly crept its way shut, Michael finally threw down all his immediate burdens for now, and thanked whatever or whoever kept them from being spotted.

After that, the journey through the interconnected house was largely uneventful, yet the tension still hung around in their chest. They had to avoid those windows, moved silently, creeping their way through the old wooden floors, hoping these planks would not let out an alarming screech with each footstep. And then there was the occasional crossings between houses. It was much less terrifying as the first time, as all the houses they were traversing were all on the same side. Still, the heavy feeling of being constantly watched still tormented them all.

The uneventful trip was finally broken when Reyna peered out of the windows and spotted something. Hearing the call, Michael crouched down near the window next to him, using his small size to his hiding advantage. And what he saw and what she said goes too well.

”It looks like it.”

He couldn’t see the tunnel entrance from this spot but the moving crates and guards seemed too suspicious of a location. But he had to be sure, it could be their barracks. So Michael briefly told the squad to stay and he personally went to the upper floor, where a higher window was present. Again, he minimally peered his eyes over the window and there it was. Eureka! The entrance of the tunnel, barely covered by the view of the house on the other side of the street. But his delight of finding his target comes with concern. How could he pass those guys anyway? Sure, the rest of the squad could overwhelm them easily, but that may trigger those close by and those inside the tunnel. And that would blow the whole discretion part of the operation.

”Hmm” Michael pondered for a moment, before leaving his position and ran downstairs to Reyna and the rest of the squad. ”That’s the place, but we need to get rid of those guards. Any ideas?”

”Hmm.” Reyna started to go into thought. The situation was not ideal for them to get into the tunnels. If they made too much noise or hassle, there’d be a response by the Imperials. On the other hand, this would also mean the other entrances were just as likely to be guarded, maybe even by more than just three. This would be their best chance to complete their objective.

The sudden boom of artillery in the distance, however, gave her an idea as much as it felt like background or worse to her. Maybe….just maybe….

“If there’s an explosion close enough, we could all shoot at the same time?”

”That’s...” Echoed in his ears among the sound of thundering death an opportunity. ”A great idea.”

There are three guards. They need at least three shooters. Each for one life taken.

”Anyone here shoot well?”

Michael glanced at the escort soldiers all hidden beneath visible windows. The question rang out among the ranks, as these youngsters began to look among themselves. You? No you? I’m not that good. Those were the unspoken message beneath their shaky eyes. None of them seemed to be willing to take up the command earlier, so there were considerable reasons behind the assumption that they weren’t very experienced in this.

Except for one.

”Thank you Senja.” He said, waving her over to the observation window. ”Pick your targets guys.”

The fact that no one in the escort squad was confident in their ability to shoot, or even willing to kill at this time, told Reyna all she needed to know: she was going to have to pick and choose one of the Imperials to shoot. This time, it wasn’t going to be the heat of the moment. It’d be colder, more calculating. Unlike any other act she has done. Still, it must be done for the good of the mission and she was confident in her ability to shoot despite not being the most accurate soldier.

Three guards…..one was near the side entrance, if one could call it that, and the other two were on a patrol near the “main” entrance.

“ I- I’ll take one on the right.” Reyna silently said, her hands trembling only slightly as she nodded to the “main” entrance. The guy was sitting on a crate, with his rifle by his side. It was the sapper, who seemed eager to take a long break from his job. It should be an easy shot for her.

After Senja’s reply, Michael had no options but the last one; the one that was not particularly difficult, but he wasn’t an easy kill. He was casually making strolls around in a circle, seemingly bored, in spite of the huge fight going on right now. Perhaps that’s why. Everybody he knew was fighting for the so-called ‘glory’ while he was stuck dangling his guns around his shoulders, with no enemy in sight. But if his movement was significant enough during the execution, they’d be screwed. So Michael had to be extra careful with his shot.

With almost an unspoken command, Michael immediately got into his firing position, a few windows apart from Reyna and Senja.

”Fire when the next artillery goes off. Don’t wait for anyone.”

And then was the process of waiting. Minutes of silence dragged in his mind. The signal of death was just around the corner, but no one knew when they would bell.
The three guards were especially ignorant. They weren’t aware of how the situation on the frontline were raging, thinking that they were safe, with the trust that their Imperial comrades would secure the fatherland a heroic victory. They weren’t aware that three sights were on them, and that they were on the doorstep of hell.

And inevitably, the artilleries raged.

BANG!

Michael’s gun rang out first, but not far ahead of the two. The guard was fortunately still at the time, and he took a bullet on his chest. His collapse came as quickly as the bullet. If the shot didn’t kill him, he’d have no hope of reporting the tales.

Reyna’s shot fell in either second or third. She was not sure, but her hands shook when she pulled the trigger. As a result, the barrel moved slightly to the left, just enough for her to miss her intended target, which was the chest. However, the Imperial moved his head in the same direction and it just so happened that the missed shot went straight through the side of the man’s head, blowing open a ugly hole.

Her luck was so high in this circumstance that it took Reyna off-guard. She froze, not believing her luck at the moment before looking to see if anyone saw or heard the shots very quietly and still in disbelief.

Senja also finished her shots seemingly without issues either. And then the few seconds of results...no alarms, no Imperials...good.

”Your training did us a big service.” Michael turned to Reyna with a thumbs-up. He didn’t see exactly how the shots line up, but the headshot was pretty neat, if you did not count the terrible mess it left behind.

”Nice shot too Senja. You know your stuff well indeed.” He also had no compliments left unspoken for the Nordic huntress. ”Alright, let’s go.”

The entrance was soon brought under Federation control as soon as the tunnel team moved out of the building. After making sure no Imperial was in the vicinity, Michael quickly addressed the rest of the squad.

”We’ll be off now. We’ll be seeing you in around an hour or so, hopefully in tact. If we don’t come out...you may leave us. Good luck.”

Michael saluted the squad with two fingers before going over his equipment for the last time. Shovels, explosives, magazines, bayonet,...all present. He was ready to go.

“Stay safe, everyone.” Reyna spoke to the escort squad after Michael did, giving them a nod as she followed Michael.

Their time of running away from the inevitable had run out. Here and now they will have to come face to face with the darkness that threatened to consume their frail mortality. There was no going around them; only courage, skills and luck can carry them through the day.

It wasn’t the danger of tunnel fighting that hurt the most. It was the threat of it. They had predicted that the tunnel would be dark, but theorizing couldn’t predict the hazy, cold and claustrophobic darkness that enclosed them. Lightings were barely enough to attract moths, not to mention some parts of the lights were also broken, deemed not significant enough for replacement, making whatever part of the tunnel that came after that completely in the mist.

Michael’s pace slowed and converged as he moved through the tunnel, his mind reciting the direction he had spent hours memorizing the days before. There were times his memories fail him, and he prayed it wouldn’t be this time. And on the while, his eyes peered into the blackness before him. With each step, his arms held back the desire to flinch his bayoneted gun, afraid of the entity that might be behind the veil of darkness. His heart raced, but his mind calmed his breathe. His teeth were clashing, but his mouth kept shut, grinding two jaws into each other. Occasionally, his hand would open the pocket-watch Anna had given him, adjusting his strides with time ticking, the very few sounds in this madness-inducing silence.

Reyna didn’t know how much she truly hated caves and tunnels until she entered them. She was not claustrophobic, but there was just something eerie about these tunnels in particular. The danger was obvious as she gripped her rifle, not having a bayonet on it so she wouldn’t stab her comrade accidently, but the danger was not what scared her. It was, as was the case with Michael, the potential danger. The potential of these tunnels not being well-supported and not need their intervention to collapse. She hoped that they did for now.

And before he even realized it, his memory ran out. And as he looked up the familiar landmark clicked another part in his mind. If it hadn’t checked out with it already, the wooden sign saying ‘Infirmary’ hung on the side of the tunnel pointing deep further in was the obvious sign that they had arrived at their destination.

”We’re here.” Michael placed his hand on Reyna’s shoulder as a signal. He quickly took out his pocket watch to check the time. ”We still have a few minutes. Let’s get our explosives ready.”

He swung both his rifle and his backpack down before opening the surprise gift the Imperials hadn’t known they were on the receiving end. These were no shocktrooper’s grenades. These were demolition explosives. It could destroy an entire room if not multiple. And this could highly backfire if not calculated. They must be reserved.

’Let’s see…’

Two on each side was probably more than enough.

”I’d say use one, if you have no objections.”

“No objections here. Let’s get this done.” This was all Reyna needed to say as she got to setting the explosives carefully with Michael.

Once they’re done, the backpack was on their back again. It would be haphazardly closed though. He’d need it for later.

The clock’s hand was slowly reaching the designated point. Their preparation was complete.

The only item outside the backpack was the pocket-watch firmly on his hand, and the lighter on the other. Michael waited intensely as each strike of the clock sync with his racing breathe.

”Wait…....Now!”

The spark was lit. The rope burned. It was set. There was no going back now. In 40 seconds, this part of the tunnel would be buried in the dirt.

Michael quickly grabbed the rifle on the ground and made a run for it, finding cover in one of the corners. The remaining time: counting.

BOOM!


One explosion.

BOOM!


Two. Not far apart.

Anna and her squadmate made it as well.

The dirt falling from the ceiling sent adrenaline racing in his veins, but it died as soon as nothing followed. His calculation was perfect, or at least good enough to work perfectly.

But this was no mere grand finale. This was just the opening. Now the Imperials would be alarmed, and they would be racing over to see what was going on soon enough.

”Good luck Reyna!” He knew this was the time. No time for fancy encouragement. Just the same salute he gave the squad before he raced off towards his intended targets.

“You too, Michael!” Reyna returned the salute before making haste to her target area.




”Oh nevermind, she’s here.”

Save a lot of convenience for the sappers.

Despite the looks of it, the Vinland girl wasn’t the last of the squad to arrive. She was the last among the attacking sappers to arrive, but they weren’t yet up the headcount just yet.

”I think there are still a couple of escort troops that still aren’t here yet, but all the sappers are here.” Michael turned a bit, giving clear view of the two other sapper of company D. ”Yes, we only have this many...”

“Don’t be a defeatist.” The boy beside Anna suddenly spoke, seemingly dissatisfied by Michael’s unenthusiasm. “There must be a reason they only assign so few of us. It mu-.”

“Owen.” His sister sternly cut him off. Just like what she had feared. ”We just have to do with what we have.”

They have had the entire night to dwell on it. It had grown boring already.

”Anyway.” The Richelieu siblings, led by the older one, stepped forward to greet the Vindander. ”I’m Anna. And this is Owen. We’re your partner in this tunnel mission. How are you today?”

”I’m Reyna. And I’m tired.” Reyna offered a sheepish smile as she started to finally wake up. “I’ll manage, don’t worry. What about you three?” Reyna looked at the three other sappers with a small amount of interest. Slowly, Reyna kept nibbling on the cracker, halfway through with it. The very act helped with her nerves and kept her from thinking about other more stressful topics.

“Oh we’re ready for this! Right sis?” The younger boy was just waiting for this moment. The power of youth. He wanted to prove. It was usually combined with bad knowledge, leading to undesirable consequences, but thankfully his words were pretty benign. On the contrary, it was an up to the spirits of the other three, who seemed to be dead tired to be awake before the sun.

”I’m doing good, thank you Reyna. I’m honored to be cooperating.“ His sister couldn’t help but nod in his stead.

”I’m doing good too, a little sore but good. Thanks.” Michael followed.

Reyna’s smile grew a little wider as she blurted out to Michael “Did Lucia cuddle you a little too hard last night?” Once the words left Reyna’s mouth, she realized what she just said and mentally slapped herself. Why did she say that? It must be because she was tired, but she hoped she didn’t make Michael mad or anything.

”Pfft”

Oh, she didn’t know. The dwarf of the nobleman has a mistress? But she wasn’t too surprised. But still.

Michael found the surge of embarrassment rushing up his face, as soon as he heard his friend from company struggling to stymie a laugh. That last time she jumped on Michael’s back and then swung around him made his popularity too well-known. Or the fact that she stayed with him the entire time in Amone. That was probably the reason Middleton knew. A little depressing too, that because of it, she was forcibly dragged away from the squad.

Just as Anna was stopping her laugh, Michael stopped, or tried to, prevent his face from turning into a tomato. He cleared his throat twice. His attempts clearly highlighted otherwise.

”Whatever suits your likings, I guess.” He admitted it. Sort of...with a passive aggressive remark down the line. ”If you want my version of the story: I was down the street hit by the shell to rescue some survivors of that shell.”

So that is what really happened to Michael. Although embarrassed herself that she blurted out something so adorable she couldn’t help but giggle a little at Michael’s response. That’s something that she could tell Lucia later, how easily embarrassed he is anyway. Aside from that, the grim thought of the shell was not something Reyna wanted to think of, and so she decided to believe her own version a little more, if only in imagination.

“Sorry...but I’m glad you’re ok.” She quickly apologized to Michael. Reyna’s face was slightly tinted red, the laughter from Anna not helping not to mention the cute image she had in her mind. They now probably thought she went around telling secrets now, which was untrue. In fact, Reyna didn’t think many knew much about her due solely to the fact she normally kept herself in places where fewer people were around and she certainly didn’t make it her mission to speak to everyone, even though she did speak to others every so often.

She’s glad that he’s ok. That’s sort of eerie when he was the rescuer instead of the one being rescued. The one who saw hundreds of people being ‘not ok’ in that street. But for the sake of good will, he didn’t voice his victimizing complaint. Just a nod to accept her apology.

”I think I’ll be handling it just fine though.”

Let his spirit carry this battered body forward. If he did not collapse after this whole debacle, it’d be a miracle.
“Big sis, looks like our guys are calling us.” Owen tugged on Anna’s shirt

”Oh?” She looked over in the distance. A soldier waving at her and making hand gesture telling her to get going ”Looks like my squad is ready to go. I guess we’ll make our departure.”

She extended her hands both to the sappers of the 15th Atlantic Rifle.

”Good luck to you both.” Then to Michael specifically. ”Remember our scheduled time?”

”Yeah, but unfortunately I lost my watch in one of the Amone fight.” Michael replied, to which Anna considered for a few seconds.

”Then use this.” She pulled from her shirt pocket her own watch. ”I’ll share with my little brother. Return it to me once you’re done, ok?”

The Edinburgh sapper nodded firmly in reassurance, as she placed the silver watch onto his hand. The slick streamline design was really timeless when combined with the silver glow of the metal itself. A rather classic design for the upper class who value some good simplicity, though unfortunately it was still victimized by the dirty war.

Michael turned back to Reyna. He knew it might be foreign hearing what they just exchanged. He knew that he still hadn’t communicated the plan over to Reyna yet, which was something that he shouldn’t do, but it was easy to understand. Or at least it should be. If anything, he can just lead the way until then.

”I’ll explain when we are getting there.”

Reyna was indeed unsure of what just transpired, but she recognized valuable objects when she saw them. The watch was exquisitely detailed enough for the upper echelons of society yet did its intended job. Noting this, Reyna nodded to Michael and the other two before that. She didn’t pretend to know about the relationship that Michael had to the other two sappers, but nor did she really ask.

“Ok.” Reyna replied simply to Michael. It was the best response she could think of, with Reyna just now feeling the urge to eat more food. It was a good thing she prepared a little water in advance to quench her thirst. She turned her head to a noise to the right of her, spying Senja and another soldier she was not familiar with. Even Senja she only knew barely by name, but the accent she had was very distinct, probably especially so in the Atlantic Rifles. Hearing the question Senja asked, Reyna raised her hand with a nod in reply. Then again, Reyna was always hungry it seemed. With a small smile at the thought of food, Reyna finally said “Yes. Thanks”

”Oh Senja. It’s lovely to see you again.” Michael’s attention turned from the watch to the two final guests of this sortie. And to his surprise was Senja, along with a girl that he didn’t really know. Nevertheless he didn’t spare them his greeting gestures.

”Is your injury ok now?” And his concern for the injury Senja suffered the day before due to Michael’s hasty but arguably good intentioned decision. And also for the food she gave him.

”Thank you very much Senja. I appreciate it.”

A little breakfast could really help with the upcoming tough fight

Once the little break for some breakfast had ended, the tunnel strike force departed as soon as the sun was visible on the horizon.

”Ok I’ll get on with what I have been planning to do.” Michael spoke as they were halfway along the quiet, eerie sight of devastation. Hopefully it would both give Reyna the information and avoid the distraction of contemplation. There should be none of that now. ”You still have that map I gave you before coming into Amone?”

“Yeah, I got it right here.” Reyna pulled out the map Michael gave her at the beginning and held it out to him to take and use.

”May I have that for a moment?” He took out the pencil in his shirt pocket and marked a few spots on the paper. The most important one, the medical bay, he circled, and he did so more boldly than others.

”It’s gonna be easy to remember. We’ll enter at this exact time, and then exactly by the seconds ten minutes later, we will set the charge right here, to coordinate with the other team. We’ll cut their potential reinforcement from within. ”

Then he pointed at the other spots in which he marked differently with an X.

”Then we will blow these areas up. We can go together or split up, that’s one thing I want to ask you. I kind of want to make it fast by splitting up, so we can leave faster, but you may have a better idea”

Reyna looked at what Michael drew on the map, listening to him and asking small questions to clarify information. Finally, she nodded to Michael. “I agree. I’ll be fine on my own, but we need to have longer fuses so that both of us can get out of there.” Reyna observed. “Little concerning we’re detonating near a medical bay, but I see a barracks that leads right into it and then to only one exit if we destroy the tunnels here.” Reyna pointed out the points connecting to the medbay. “It don’t lead to anywhere but their above-ground barracks so if you wanted to we can give the wounded a chance if you’re feeling moral.” Though probably not ideal to the higher ups, Reyna was more than a little moral even in this hellish war.

”Well, we can’t really collapse the other exit anyway, so I don’t have any objections to that.”

Now that he realized it, the tunnel actually has three exits, but one of them was accessible directly from their above-ground barracks, so it made no sense entering from there. And who knows, maybe that can attract soldiers to actually enter the tunnel that way instead of the two ways that the Federation task force would attack, thus delaying them significantly. Every seconds count here. But essentially, it really counted as two exits.

How about longer fuses then?

Michael leaned his head a little on his shoulders, pondering. The tunnel was indeed quite deep, and the charges must be at the correct location, or else the entire tunnel could collapse and burying everyone. He wasn’t sure how tough these tunnels were. These charges were designed for a heavy demolition, so to be safe, 40 seconds may be a little too short of a time. It would be totally fine if the tunnel was empty, an ideal situation that probably no one ever had in a fight like this.

”That can be a good idea.” Michael’s eyes look up the sky for a few seconds. ”Though the first charge is still the same fuse. We want the timing to be exact. For the subsequent one, you can use longer ones. How long though? Two minutes is sufficient, do you think?”

“Yes. That will work. Can’t be too long or there is more potential for them to disarm them.” Reyna nodded, feeling a little relieved. They won’t have to murder a bunch of people who can’t even defend themselves and still proceed with their objective. Middleton can cry later especially if it works out for the better for all she cared.

“Unless something happens, I’ll take the farthest storage room when we split up if you don’t mind?” Reyna pointed at the storage room in question. it was not considerably further than the other, but still further.

”That’s fine by me. Then that leaves me with this clustered area on the other side.” Perhaps the kitchen or the ration area or something. ”And this small path here, on the same branch.”

”In case something happens though, that you can’t attack conventionally. Just do what you must. If not then just retreat. We’re not mandatory for a total destruction.”

It’s better to do so, but it’s not really a must.

”But then what about this room here?” He pointed out. It’s the one closer to Reyna’s side, but it’s not that further into her side of the tunnel branch.

“Hm, I’ll secure that room then keep moving to the storage room. After the storage is done I’ll set another charge in there.” Reyna replied after a bit of thought. “It’ll also make a good shelter from the storage room explosion if I have to use a shorter fuse or run into some trouble.”

”Well…” It looked shallow enough to be a susceptible shelter. Not too deep, but then again heavily reliant on how it was built in the first place. If anything, he’d wait until he got into the tunnel for the proper assessment, but for now. ”Yeah I’m alright with that. We’ll see if the plan holds when in the tunnel, but or now I guess we have a plan.”

He gave her back the map she gave him, now marked with clear objectives. It was just a matter of waiting for the big moment. Was there anything inherently, or perhaps not so inherent, bad about the plan? Probably, if he thought hard enough. But going back would probably make it more complex and shatters the certainty of it. It wouldn’t help, so he let it go. He had done his best. Let the Lord decide his worth of life.

Nodding and taking back the map, Reyna took Michael’s response as a solid plan formed. Nothing to do but wait and see what happens now, and succeed. “Yeah, we will.Well, we still have a little bit of time to kill before it is time to go so what do you want to do while we wait?” It didn’t bother Reyna she was with Michael. In fact, Michael was a saint compared to…..well the likes of Diana...or Ines...or Victoria…. Those conversations with Diana and Ines, while interesting, were very embarrassing and Victoria....well Victoria was Victoria.

What could they do? Well, they’re walking, so there’s not many options to do things. But they could talk. In fact it could be an interesting talk, if not the last they’d ever have.

”Not much, but we haven’t talked much, have we?” Lucia and Jean’s constant influence may have affected that. ”You’re from Vinland, if I’m not mistaken. How’s life there? Is it as colorful as people think?”

“That is correct. I am from Vinland. Father and momma own a company and so we are really well off back home. The countryside is really beautiful and as colorful as some say it is.” Reyna did not expect such talk to occur, but it was a welcome change from the business talk they had before. And so, with the memories that came to her Reyna had a small smile as she spoke. “There’s horses, forest, rolling hills and a nice little town back home.”

”That sounds like a peaceful area to live in.” That’s a rather different perspective she said. From what he had heard and previously described by his dad on his trip abroad, it was an industrial powerhouse. Skyscrapers really scraped the sky there. A place of bustling activities throughout the entire day and night, so it was a rather unique experience from the side of nature. Perhaps a countryside person, but from what she had mentioned and described, she is from a well off family. But well-off doesn’t mean being in a metropolis.

”I’ve been living in the city for long, since my father works at a university in Tyrella, Edinburgh. I’ve actually toured the countryside of Edinburgh, but it’s no comparison to living by nature.” He couldn’t help but remember the old times, a distant smile grew. ”Say, if you don’t mind sharing, what does your parent do?”

“Dad is the CEO of Hall Industries, the company he built from the ground up. It makes industrial machinery and other things. Momma usually stays home, but is a great florist and cook.” Reyna kept smiling, rather proud of her family. “He’s gone to Edinburgh too. He made a few business trips and told me it’s nice. And that explains how you’re soundin’ like you know what you’re talkin’ about.” She couldn’t imagine Michael being really dumb now. University professors, she heard, really pushed their children to going to, well, universities. It came as no surprise to Reyna.

“The city is a little different in Vinland, but it’s nice enough I guess? I don’t know, I haven’t visited many cities.”

”My father had been there. If you aren’t a fan of crowded places, or fast-paced life, it probably isn’t a place for you. But it is a sight to be seen. From what I’ve heard from my father’s story, going up the high towers of these skyscrapers can be breathtaking.” He said, his fondness of the stories about his father’s first trip to Vinland was deep in his mind. ”Also the place he met my mother too, but that’s another story.”

But being a CEO’s daughter, and being the Hall Industries no less. He had heard of it a little, but that did not diminish her as being less than an average upper class.

”So is it why you’re in the sapper role here? Because I do partly owed that to my own education as well.”

“Ya. I went to a private school and have a university already arranged for me myself. My parents were really adamant about making sure I was ready when I decided to join the military and putting me in the best place possible and, well, made me go through a month with McGriffin, so sapper it was.” Reyna thought for a moment before speaking again. “I wanted to fight the Empire and choose to do what I wanted to do, so here I am.”

He may have a lot more in common with Reyna than he thought he did. Though her in the army is rather voluntary, not forced like Michael. Ahhh, if only the university had sent their confirmation of enrollment just a few days earlier! While it could be argued that he had indeed grown a lot throughout the war, it was still worse than a minimum wage job, or being homeless, or whatever. Totally not worth it.

”That’s nice. I was also about to be in university myself, but country calls.”

It’s also rather convenient that she had some special training. Honestly, he didn’t really care if she had a prior advantage. She’s gonna be his teammate, so anything helps.

”I wasn’t really into the whole war business myself, but at least I get to know you guys. It is a nice change of atmosphere to be talking like this.” He nodded. Moments like this could really be a factor in making this hellhole a bit less of it, or more so. ”Say, after this, if we make it, do you want to have a tea party later? I’ve been longing for the taste of your tea the other day back in the inn. Its reputation is well-deserved.”

A big grin showed up on Reyna’s face as she nodded “Of course! Thanks for your compliment too! It’s honestly just a more sophisticated version of what most Vinland women make for their tea. I uh...unfortunately had to work with what I had at the time so it wasn’t my best.” She loved getting praised for her tea, but Michael forgot one little detail in his words that she should correct. “Also, don’t you mean girls? From what I have seen, most of the notable people and those in the squad around are women.”

”Well…”

Diana

Senja

Anna

Reyna

Lucia

She got a point.

Though he couldn’t really discredit the other guys though. Thomas, god rest his soul. Franz. Jean. But he couldn’t deny that the ladies play a much more prominent role in shaping him, so it was still a valid point. Huh, it’s a bit funny how that happened to him. It was as if fate dealt him a hand that was probably supposed to be dealt to someone else.

”Yeah, it’s no denying that, now that I think about it.” He curled a smile of both amusement and curiosity. Unlike last time, he was now more tolerant of these things hurled at him ”I guess I should return the favor somehow.”

“You really should.” Reyna snickered. “Sometimes I think Jean starts to want us all given how much of a romantic he is.” She spoke in a very light tone and giggle, while Michael’s was quite indistinguishable. It was....very amusing behavior on his part.

”Hmm...”

He concurred.
@Proxy


Senja's advances were sudden. Michael was still concerned over Senja's safety that he didn't expect her delicate hand laying on his cheek, chin and torso. And then she leaned closer. A soft touch of the lip rested on his right cheek for a few seconds. A moment in when time slowed down. A gesture of affection worth a thousand words.

But the intimate moment between the two of them ended quickly as the gravity of the situation pounced on them. The fact that in their place, dozens, or perhaps hundreds, of people were in the ground zero of the blast. Aside from the fact that these people are dying, the infrastructure of the site was probably in ruins. And Senja was the one to realize that first.

The sapper nodded firmly as he watched the Nordic huntress speed off toward the shell site. She was a kind and beautiful soul. It would not be the last time of the day that Michael would see her. He followed her soon after

...to the utter devastation.

Contrary to the atmosphere at the camp, this was an apocalypse and anarchy in the making. Weak cries for help haunted the air. In the corner, a soldier, who were caught heavily in the blast, whom Michael could barely identify, was just sitting listlessly. His face was charred by the ashes, his mind screaming for help but his body and mouth gave in. And there he was simply ignored...as soldiers were scrambling around the collapsed buildings, trying to save whoever they could still save.

He's gone before his body could. His eyes toward the sky sent a wrench into the Cruxian's guts. Eyes to the sky for the last time in his life.

"May God be with you..."

Michael approached the dying soldier. Those painful eyes looked over, as the man uttered the words.

"...through the storm of life,"

He gently placed his hand on the man's shoulder.

"a safe haven, voice of calm reassurance, healing balm;"

A cross drawn on his chest.

"and when the storms are over..."

Michael could feel the soldier's energy slowly limping away.

"...bring you safely home."

Not before long, he was gone. A bright soul ended in just a matter of minutes. The windows of opportunity for his future and possibly his country's and the world's slipped close as Michael slowly closed his eyes for the very last time.

Knowing that he couldn't really give the rescuers anymore works than they were overloading themselves, Michael carried his body over to the makeshift lines a few blocks away. Just another statistics.

This wasn't just a few dozens or a hundred. This was near the thousands. And it could very well break the record, as many more were still trapped beneath the rubbles. This many helpers were barely enough. Michael knew he had to help. And Senja's words rang with him. He knew he had to ask for more people to come over for help.

Michael briefly returned and went a few rounds through the camps. Unfortunately, his search for helpers went futile. The impact of the shell was as psychological as it was physical. People were listless in the horror of what could be facing them ahead of their iron sights. What monstrosity were they expecting to be ripping their carcasses in the next upcoming days? And among those who managed to reel in their sanity, they were distracted by the other event that plagued the day. Jean's scouting party had returned. And along with them...

"Thomas..."

The respected soldier who fought with him, whom he just had interesting conversations with the other day, is dead. A pale, amputated corpse was what remained of a lean, macho and energetic fellow. His warm, funny, charming voice was forever silenced. His only instances of life now only observable as distant memories. And it was like that: another person Michael knew personally one moment was dead in the next.

What was he supposed to feel right now? Like those shedding tears beside his remains? Or those chanting ideological slander over there that attempted to bargain for grounds for Thomas's death. And the head of that distasteful speech was no other than Luke. And without long, the disatisfied Ines lunged insults at him, which almost turned into a fist fight if it hadn't been for the few soldiers who held him back, or the calm defusal of the situation by Isaac. While he was grateful to them being the calm rationale of his NCO, what energy left that survived that shell blast that should have been reserved for the rescue and the comforting of the victims had been wasted on fighting ideological warfare with each other out there.

He's on his own now. The life of those who still lives in the blast is on him.

Leaving the bickering and the mourning of Thomas's death behind him, Michael set off back to the site of the shell. The screams of the wounded, trapped, calling out for the faintess light in the dark sky continued to batter his conscience as soon as he arrived. And he knew that once he steps in, there would be more to come. More people he couldn't save. More people he could've saved but was forced to abandon for the majority. More people on the brink of salvation only to perish only a matter of minutes or even seconds from rescue. And the burn would leave a mark for decades to come, or maybe even until he was in the wooden box.

It was worth it anyway.

Like some of his squadmates today, Michael also found it difficult to leave his bed. But the struggle was also a physical matter. The rescue of the trapped soldiers rolled steadily into nighttime, with no end insight. Throughout the entire day of the day before, Michael's only two locations aside from the destroyed street was the kitchen, where he briefly stopped by twice to eat, and the restroom. His fears of a counterattack, of another gigantic shell of this caliber were continuously swept aside by the cries for help beneath the rubbles. He barely even counted how many he did save, or did save successfully. It was just too many, and the raging muscle pain kept his rationale away from that. The pain that carried over to today.

"Oh my lord..."

His initial twitch of his limbs were pitiful. The fear of rushing pain prevented him from making any drastic movements. But eventually, he did force himself to get his body up from his bed. Michael had done these sorts of labour before; being a sapper is pretty demanding of that. But to do it from morning till night was, to be honest, even a little much for an experienced construction workers. Now, it was taking its toll on him. And he still had a mission to do

Today is the tunnel mission.

A dangerous road laid ahead. And there were only two outcomes for him. One would be the all too familiar grim reaper. The other would be Michael completely exhausted by the long hours of physical torture. Both are just as undesirable as the other. The only difference was the period. May the lord grant him the strength to grit through all of this.

Again, he was quite early for his mission. And by that a bit too early for anything. Perhaps the tension of the life gamble had brought him up before the sun. But if anything, he didn't find much point hanging around in the rain for too long, so decided to remain within the boundary of his bunk, hoping that the crawling nervousness did not overwhelm him before it all began. A death sentence hanging by a thread; Michael'd need a distractor.

Out of the blue, the reminder of the letters flew through his mind. Oh yeah, he hadn't replied to his mother's letter just yet. Funnily enough, it wasn't the norm that he did so. He had never let her letters go unanswered for at most a day, but he attributed this to the shouting showdown he had the other day with the accursed Captain Middlefinger. Thankfully he still had some time to compose a letter.

While thoughts of the worst news possible was dreadful to think about, that he was indeed writing in case of his death, the words Michael wrote today echoed none of that.



"Looks like you're ready for this."

Michael turned his head around, to realize that he had finished the letter, wrapped it up and was already about to deliver it to the soldier in charge of the mail. And the voice that brought him back to Earth was his companion for today: Anna. And coming along with her was this particularly young fellow. Except for the inheritance of her bluish hair color, he emitted the aura completely different from her. The wild and predatory sky blue eyes looking at Michael without batting away, it was as if he was going to gobble him if it hadn't been for Anna before him, telepathically holding him back. He seemed honestly curious over Michael's identity, but the gaze wasn't a desire to learn new things or meet new people. It was...something. Something that only resided in the energy of specific types of youth. He was also wearing sapper gear, so apparently he was also his to be partner for this operation. Well that leaves only...

"Reyna's not here yet..."

"Oh? Your partner?"

Michael nodded. Now that he thought of it, he hadn't known Reyna that well. She was mentioned often by the romanticist NCO Jean, and he had interacted with her briefly before Amone and inside the inn, but that was it. He hadn't worked with her or anything; this is the first time. A great opportunity to get to know the girl, and perhaps why Jean likes her that much, but might not be a great time for this mission that required a high level of team coordination. Well, if she knows what she's doing, that would relieve a lot of his worries.

"Well, we still have time. I'll wait here for you."

Merja “Mer” Aaltonen & Phillip Leonhart

Evergreen Hallway || Friday Afternoon


It took Mer about a minute and a half to pack up her stuff and head towards where she saw the fedora-wearing boy disappear. Frankly, it was rather amusing that the time and place she’d first see him again was after school at some random corner rather than between classes during school in the main hallway. She wasn’t about to complain, though, just smile about the coincidences as she walked over.

Turning the corner, she expected to see some sort of confrontation happening because that’s what Alex would probably do if he saw Hakuro again, Ava or not. Instead, she found herself staring at a very familiar boy, and it took her a moment to place him. Another moment and she realized that he was looking at her, and she swallowed, then smiled and waved hesitantly.

“Hi Phillip!” she said, walking over. When he didn’t immediately respond, she jumped at filling the silence.

“It’s Mer, from the library? Nice to see you again, and I hope your day’s going well. But, by the way, did you happen to see Alex and Ava pass by? Or a boy in a fedora?”



He’d seen enough stupid people for one day.

Mikhail’s sudden disappearance did just go right above his head the moment Phillip had that thought. As he turned around the corner, he pondered to what he needed to do for the next upcoming days. Assignment 2 for ENSC? Well, he already laid the groundwork. All it takes now is a file to compile them all. Not so difficult, he could do it tomorrow or the day after.

While he circulated the thought, he turned the corner, to be suddenly greeted by someone. Someone he didn’t know? She definitely wasn’t among his social circle. But her rather joyous smile and nervous wave, and the fact that she uttered his name like she was his childhood friend, made him have second revisions. That height, and her distinguished sky blue irises. It was a recall to his misfortune the other day at the library. But hey, at least she wasn’t a part of it.

”Hello.” He waved back, though much less enthusiastic and more curious. His fame seemed to carry on a little further than he had anticipated. ”Yeah, I remember you, thanks.”

And she asked about Alex and Ava. She probably didn’t realize that he didn’t know those two. But the guy with a fedora? A sight to be witnessed at Evergreen. Though unfortunately…

”Sorry, I don’t seem to recall Alex and Ava in my list of acquaintances. I probably know the fedora kid, but I don’t know where he is as well.”



“Oh, sorry, um.”

She floundered for a second, mentally questioning herself about how she could forget something so simple. Of course Phillip didn’t know Ava, and of course she shouldn’t have expected him to remember who Alex was.

“Um, Alex, he was there at the library? I think he introduced himself before you arrived, but he’s the boy who left with me. He, um, isn’t angry all the time, though, and I hope he didn’t upset you or anything. He just got pretty… worked up that day.”

She smiled apologetically.

“And alright. Huh. This is a pretty long hallway...”

Trailing off as she leaned to one side, she looked down the empty hall, a frown on her face. Maybe if the Asian boy ran? But for Phillip to miss him, he’d have to be a pretty quiet runner, and as Phillip had said, he didn’t tend to blend in.

Still, nothing else made sense, and Mer dropped her frown. “Well, I guess I missed them,” she said, sighing. “Back to studying it is.”

She paused, glancing at what Phillip was carrying. Then, after a moment of consideration as she pressed her lips together, Mer decided she’d go out on a limb today. After all, Phillip seemed like a reasonable person, if not nice, and being near him and his accomplishments would probably encourage her to focus.

“Um, by the way, are you headed to the library? I usually go there after school, so do you want to study together?” she asked, then backpedaled. “Well, not together together, but near each other. Having people around me tends to encourage me to stay focused,” she said, smiling sheepishly.



Hmm. Strange or not. He didn’t see that guy either. Oh well, who knows where they are.

Mer then proceeded to ask Phillip on a study together. Feels kind of odd to be studying with someone he only knew for like a glance. But she was nice when she asked, so it’s a little difficult to reject. After all, he wasn’t in anything urgent, just dicking around in Evergreen recently.

”Hmm, if you insist…”

Maybe he could finish that assignment for good, then he could have the entire week for himself.

And so they departed towards the library together. On the way, Phillip’s curiosity continued to grow as he walked alongside the Finnish girl.

”Say...how do you get acquainted with that guy Mikhail? Did he pressure you for whatever he’s doing?”



Mer perked up at the yes, beaming. Fear of rejection was one of the many reasons why she didn’t ask people to study together, but it seemed that Phillip really was a nice person.

“Great,” she said, hoping she didn’t sound too delighted. It’d been so long since she made a friend she’d almost doubted if she could.

At Phillip’s question as they walked, Mer furrowed her brows. She knew that he didn’t get the best impression of Mikhail in the library, and she didn’t want to upset him, but she didn’t want to make Mikhail seem like a bad person either. As someone with a strong personality, Mikhail had made a poor first impression in the library, and Mer knew how hard it was for people to look past that. Frankly, she’d been nervous talking to Alex at first too, and she’d been correct in giving him the benefit of the doubt.

“Oh, he, um, he—he didn’t pressure me,” Mer said, stumbling over her words, then realizing that her stumbling wasn’t helping her case and stumbling even more as a result.

Taking a breath to think over her words, she tried again.

“I met Mikhail that day in the library too. He’s in my chemistry class, so I guess he thought I could help him.”

She shrugged, then looked at Phillip, frowning. “Did you decide to help him though? Trying to make an antidote—I don’t think he’d be able to manage that alone.”



He probably did…

Ayyyy. He had already emphasized it enough, but that Russian kid really needed some help. Not scheme-wise, however. That ‘plan’ of his whether you can actually call it that, was so horribly constructed that he didn’t know if the greatest mind of this era could even salvage it.

”No” Phillip replied bluntly to her question, initially unaware of the frown she wore on her face that he may have gotten it worse. But he soon realized that attitude.

”I just find it too poorly thought out. Even if I can afford to look past his victim mentality, I did not find an ounce of groundedness in whatever he’s trying to do.” He tried to sound like he had a reason instead. Well he did have reasons. It’s just that the mentioning of Mikhail and his craziness seemed to have triggered some wires on his head to respond crudely to whatever he says. ”I could list out a hundred thing he hadn’t considered, but I think you probably could figure it out.”

He probably should turn back before he got too worked up on that guy.

”Anyway, no more about that guy, if you don’t mind.” Phillip quickly switched topics.




Mer nodded slowly as she listened to Phillip. His reasoning made sense, and she couldn’t fault him for his decision, however badly she felt for Mikhail. After all, Mikhail had outlined a rather ambitious plan, and frankly Mer doubted if he even had access to anyone who could help them, much less be able to approach them and ask. Maybe it was for the best that Mikhail was getting rejected early since he’d be able to change tracks before he got too invested. Considering his strong personality, Mer figured he’d be able to bounce back. He’d been through worse and lived, and that attested to his resilience.

“Alright,” she said quickly when Phillip closed the conversation on Mikhail. They walked in silence for a few seconds after, and she racked her brain for something to say. Asking about his homework was an option, but that was liable to be a dead end if he started talking about concepts she didn’t understand. So, ideally she’d ask about something non-intrusive and easy to keep up with.

“You, um, won competitions, right? How are those? Are you thinking to enter more?” she asked.




Competitions. Well, that was his prime indeed. A truly fun times. Funnily enough at the time he didn’t really think that his achievement would have given him that much of a reputation. He thought he just won something cool, and nothing else. A silver medal, at the time he felt like a sportsman, participating in the Olympics and winning those medals for his country. Well, it is that, just less muscles and more brains.

”Yeah, I did win those. If you’ve heard Physics Olympiad before. If not, then it’s just the Olympics, but for academics instead of sports.” He explained. ”I got second place, apparently a huge deal for the country. The press coverage was a little claustrophobic I would say, but at least I got a nice medal.”

But from that point on was the time he was plunged into a series of ‘press it until it deflates’ moments. Once people knew him, they continued to ask him many things out of him. Things that got transparent in the misconceptions of geniuses in a commoner’s eye. Things that now made him turn against the things he once loved.

He sighed as he was to answer her next questions. ”Well, no plans on that. That was for high-schoolers. I don’t know much about adult competitions, but in honesty...I’m kind of just looking at a more normal life after that.”

He just didn’t know the fire deep within him.



“No, but that sounds really cool,” Mer said, eyes wide as Phillip spoke. He seemed to be rather familiar with explaining the subject, and Mer picked up trace amounts of exasperation around the topic, which told her she’d do well in not asking too many surface questions about it. Save the simple questions for later when she could look them up and all that.

“That’s understandable. You’ve already done a lot,” Mer said when Phillip cited his desire for normalcy. To be honest, she couldn’t imagine how someone so smart could lead a normal life since they could do so much so easily, but she supposed she was thinking too much of it. She was looking at the situation through her own lens: the lens of someone normal, of someone who struggled with school. She couldn’t imagine pushing herself to compete in intellectual Olympics, and she probably wasn’t imagining the situation in its entirety either.

As they sat down at the library, pulling out their materials, Mer felt relieved that she could finally let the silence sit. Though she’d enjoyed talking to Phillip, trying to keep the awkwardness from settling in as they walked had taken a chunk out of her energy reserves, and she still had work to get through.

“Good luck,” she said as she picked up her pen. “Hopefully we get everything done.”


"Hey Richelieu, here's your letters."

The passing soldier tossed the stack of envelopes onto the two sibling's table, his gaze of envy wandering in his line of vision. The letters were numerous, some of which a couple were from the same person. But as blinded by romance by the young, energetic and naive the soldier was, he didn't even bother to read under the line, but rather only glances through names and the embellished envelopes, his jealously was completely off the mark.

"Thank you Daniel. Have a good day."

Those letters almost entire went under one name: Richelieu.

"Heh, looks like elder brother's enjoying the water of the channel." The young boy next to Anna sneered, both in jealously and petty wish-fulfillment. "Let's see if he'll enjoy it once he gets back to the front."

"Owen." Right then and there was Anna's sharp glare. "Stop it. He's your brother."

"...But I can't stand the fact that he's boasting about how good his vacation is." The boy, his hierarchy, quickly turned sullen, before waving the piece of paper before her big sister. "Just read the letter!"

Oh yeah. He did sound a little snobbish when he wrote this. It appeared like he was just trying to piss Owen off rather than sharing a happy moment and wishing the others all the best. He did wish for Anna's well-being though, so that's at least something else.

'Aaayyy, guys...'

Really, they ought to learn to work together more often. She knew they were brothers, so fighting among them are almost inevitable. But seriously, their jealousy with each other were intolerable from time to time, and being the only female of a male dominated family, her job as the rational voice and the calm face amidst the chaos was like in a crow's nest. Even when they were hundreds of miles apart, they still somehow found ways to duke it out at each other.

It didn't even help her the fact that her parents were almost entirely away throughout her whole life. As beautiful as the family looks from the outside - a rich and hard-working parent, five healthy and lovely young children - the reality of her whole life had been entirely hollow. Their parents weren't parents at all. They were just offspring producers, pumping out children in the fear that their genes would be extinct, after generations of some branches of their family going heirless for one sickeningly unfortunate reason or another. After that, they didn't care. Their only presence in the sibling's worlds were just to give some crucial information about education, accommodation or whatever. Their care belong to the servants instead. And they were paid. Ohh, the beauty of capitalism. Their only drive to care for the young kids were if they get a raise from their sweet sugar parents, though in this case it's not a romantic relationship. Anna's just one of those victims. Growing up without those parental love that every kid around her got, her brothers were the only ones she had. She didn't want to lose their love too, or see their love for each other dwindle. But apparently, that latter half were under serious doubt.

"...I get it. But it's not a reason to respond with a spiteful tone that intends to turn the table." She scolded. "If you keep being angry at each other, when will you be caring toward each other. You're brothers."

"But why am I supposed to be the one defusing it? He's the one who started it first!"

"I will say the same to him as well, but continuing a fight is not a sign of a man, Owen - it's to be the one to stop it."

Her calm rationale seemed to have broken through to the young soldier. But youngsters will always be youngsters, and teenagers will still be teenagers. He sullenly pouted, tossed the envelope onto the stack before heading off somewhere else - a typical sign of defiance. Oh well, it's just a phase. He'd grow out of that soon.

She was thankful that she didn't bring him over to meet with the sappers of 15th Atlantic Rifle the day before. It would've been demoralizing and a total embarrassment if he displayed his childish face to the squad. She didn't know the other sapper, but especially to Michael, who apparently is a person of upper-class too. Who knows what negativity could be circulating in his head if he saw it?

Anna simply just forgot about her idiotic younger brother, letting him have his own time while she read over the remaining letters from her two older brothers. Mostly about their break, but they also mentioned about how their platoons were also planning an assault, a pretty big one at that, so they would have to return to the front a little sooner than they expect. They were pretty excited too. A liberation perhaps. Whatever brings the Feds closer to the end of the war, she guessed.

But all of a sudden, a huge thump erupted, shaken her out of her thoughts and back to earth. 'What the hell was that?' she mused. A period of silence ensued, before the whistling danger of an incoming object siren her senses. Combat training basic, Anna immediately leaped from the table onto the dirt, covering her head and curling her torso a bit upward, leaving a bit of space between her chest and the ground.

And without long...

BOOM!


The deafening roar of combustion blasted through her ears, even when she had already covered her ears somewhat. She was expecting shrapnels to pierce her fragile mortal body, or at the least a huge shockwave to rock her senses to its limits, but thankfully enough, it was not that bad. The shell probably landed a bit further away from where she was, so she was totally fine, aside from getting a little dirty from instantly jumping onto the ground instinctively.

She was safe. But her brother...

"Owen..." Her thoughts came right to her younger brother. Was he caught in the blast? Or did he remember not to keep his chest too closely to the ground? "Owen!"

Anna immediately got up and paced around the camp ground, forgetting even her rifles and the letters, trying to look for even the slightest of her brother's look. Scenarios of what could happen began to run inside her head, as she passed through soldiers that were still listless from what just happened. That maybe that moment when he crudely tossed that envelope to her would be the last time she ever saw him alive. She ought to have gotten used to it as a soldier, but she couldn't. It was way too strong to be desensitized.

But thankfully, it wasn't that. Owen was easy to be found, as he was standing right there in the open.

"Owen, thank god." The first thing he felt when he turned around to the call was his sister's warm embrace around his shoulders. He could tell she was sickened worried, even for just that tiny harmless shell, she was already dying to look for him.

"I'm fine sis. It's ok." He couldn't help but smile, but wished that she didn't need to be this tight. "Don't worry. Those Imps don't have a chance at hurting me with just that!"

"I know you're strong, but..." She sighed. The encouraged attitude was endearing in a normal scenario, but Anna wasn't impressed. "Remember to follow what is said, alright?"

The sapper nodded enthusiastically. Whatever if that's just to reassure his lovely big sister, or he really did keep that in mind, it did its job. Anna let go of the boy, sighed in assurance and patted him on the shoulders before going back for her belongings and her gears, before someone took it away in mistake, letting the upper-class boy do whatever he wanted. She needed her own time

An hour passed, and Anna had finished her lot of letters to be sent back to her two older brothers. Having it carefully folded and sealed, she was on her way to deliver them to the mail soldier when she saw a crowd suddenly gathering over the camp barricade. A lot of talking jumbled over one another, which Anna found it difficult to decipher what they were referring to, before a clear, firm and loud noise dominated all of them.

She couldn't see him clearly, but what was uttered were so familiar to her. That's right: the same thing that drew her family in and kept them completely devoted to this...'thing'. The all too well-known "Federation rocks" and dehumanizing patriotic speech of the enemy. Making your enemies look like pig dogs may seem like harmless fun now, wait until some innocents die over a brainwashed maniac who listened too much of propaganda and given a dangerous weapon. Or even better, when you blame your own faults on those demons you create, and then they get mad and start the next Europan war. It took more than that to impress and motivate people like her.

Seeing that many people fawning over such a speech, Anna didn't know what to think of the situation. On the one hand they were motivated, but one the other she felt sad that they were so hypnotized by the blatant and overused media tactic. And looking even closer, she could see that her very own brother too had fallen into such a camp of people.

'Just forget it...'

She didn't forget what she had to do.
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