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/qst/ - Quests


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The Archduke of Strossvald was in a sorry state of late. He was never a man who stood as tall as before once he had grown old, but the death of his heir, his last son, weighed heavily upon him. Minister of Defense Keidel Von Stropfe came to see the ruler of Strossvald’s united duchies for matters of national strategy, but when he bent in recognition of whom he served, he couldn’t help but see that the man sat with the same weight in his chair as had grown on his eyes, his cheeks. A discomforting air- and one he could not stop seeing as he gave the Archduke his analysis of the present situation.

“My lord,” the Minister said heavily, though the news he had brought was not dire nor unexpected in any way, he leaned upon his cane as though to try and bear some of the weight of what the Archduke seemed to have pressing down upon him, “The development in the new state of Almize is preceding apace of what the Intelligence Office has planned, but Von Forsgildr is stating that he cannot provide the requested amount of troops with present relations being what they are with Netilland. With the current trend both in Plisseau as well as what is happening between Netilland and their enemies, I doubt Von Forsgildr will be able to provide the commitment required of him any time soon. Another territorial lord must be made to commit to supplement the planned deployments, including that of the Army of Strossvald, else my analysts predict that Almizea will not weather the coming conflict over its sovereignty…”

“Hmm.” The Archduke frowned slightly, but was paying this little thought, “Select who you wish. Or have a volunteer step forward. It matters not.”

Von Stropfe swallowed hard and rocked on his cane. “My lord, such is the decision expected of you. A decision of importance. To make this a matter of competition between lords invites delay that the Intelligence Office claims to not be acceptable-“

“What? Is it not part of the Office’s master plan?” the Archduke scoffed and leaned upon an arm, “The new tensions were sparked by some fool agent of theirs, yet they claim that was completely part of their calculations. Willen could trip over his own shoelaces and he would claim it was all his flawless scheme. If you wish my decision, then that is it.”
>>
Von Stropfe would return to that point. It was not something to be taken so lightly, but the Archduke would be more amenable, he thought, after dealing with an obligation that was absolutely his to mind. “The Silver Lances have begun fighting the Netillian army proper, as predicted, and have sustained heavy casualties. My lord must make the decision to deploy reinforcements to them, and perhaps, some have said, perhaps it would be in our interests to deploy further forces…though I have counseled against that. To divide our attention between Almize and Netilland is sure to strain our ability to watch and be able to respond to other concerns and dangers.”

“Then do not. As I said, make your arrangements.”

The Minister grit his teeth and straightened his back. “My lord,” he said after clearing his throat, “I understand that the times are difficult, but you cannot blur your vision with pleasures whilst letting your duties aside for others. Your recent dalliances comforting yourself with young noblewomen is of particular concern, especially those daughters of territorial lords. The rumors speak of associating well beyond even what-”

“Are you my mother, Minister?” the Archduke demanded accusatorily, “To chide me upon how I tend to my wounds? If I were to do naught I would be incapable of even this. Mind your place.”

“You are the Archduke, my lord. An example to your people. This recent recklessness…think of your reputation, at the least, if not the ambitions of those who plot against you. The succession as it is, too.”

“You are dismissed from my presence, Keidel,” the Archduke said tiredly, “Fare thee well.”

“My lord.

“You are my Minister of War, Keidel, not my counsel upon choice of mistress. If you have naught more to say upon the subject of your appointment, then do not bother me with aught else. You are dismissed.”

Keidel Von Stropfe pursed his lips, bent curtly but politely, and turned to walk out without another word.

-----

The new free state of Ellowie was in a wary state. Once it had forced out the invaders from its (admittedly small) borders, it was only growing in strength, but not enough to meet the demands of what would be ideal to fight with. The ranks of the Army of Liberation swelled with volunteers and deserting conscripts of the Netillian Army alike, but the lack of equipment and supplies shackled the means to exploit this rising strength.
>>
These were reasons to be wary, but the denizens of the free state were optimistic. To be else was to admit a war of potential annihilation. The pilots of the Ellowian Air Force had captured the skies again, however, and the Netillians had been oddly paralyzed upon fronts where they might have had an advantage. Any dread was in the potential, not the present, and so the people toasted the revolt. Despite its lack of resources, the cause was universally supported, and the revolt’s own administration was single minded, under the tight control of King Wladysaw XI.

Yet the personal affairs within the palace were not similarly joyous, the King could not help but observe even as his advisors fed him hopeful morsels of news amongst the less pleasant facts that the populace could safely ignore, or be convinced to forget.

Kamilia’s behavior had become stranger still, and…erratic. She was on edge constantly, speaking to herself. Yes, Wladysaw knew that the present times were stressful, but something was wrong. Something that puzzled the doctor that checked on her. Kamilia was not very old, yet she seemed to be having grey hairs growing in quite recently- that presumption turned out false. They were not grey, but blonde. Utterly inexplicable. The physician had confessed that he hadn’t a clue what the exact cause for all this could be, but did say that she was exhibiting symptoms of Opium withdrawals.

Well, Wladysaw knew about his cousin’s habits. Yet for Kamilia to make a cold stop on her drug habits was another puzzling development. Kamilia was a hedonist through and through- transforming into a recluse and spurning all her usual comforts, it was as if a completely different person had replaced her mind and kept her body. This person being insane, though, as Kamilia was frantic in disposition these days but also curiously unaware of the most basic things, such as who she was, what her history was, or where she even was.

That sudden onset of madness was no pleasant thing to have occupying Wladysaw’s mind. It shared space with the present war and all its niggling little crises. The need to draw up more troops, the stalemates, the places where territory was being chewed away for lack of necessary resources to engage with, and the dire tidings of the Eastern Resistance Army- the Twaryians were smoking out the last of their harassments as they lost their energy and supplies, and what manpower they had. Soon enough, the Twaryians would be in a position where they might try and grab more land, and if they did that, his revolt would be in no place to oppose them. As it stood, the initial burst of energy and initiative had gained most of what the so-called King’s Rebellion now possessed. UGZs had risen up hopefully and were still fighting, but it was not so practical, Wladysaw’s generals apologized, to actually get to them and relieve them as quickly as he’d liked.
>>
Even the murmurings of spies told unsettling rumors- that the Twaryians were not interested in gaining more unstable, difficult to control Ellowian territory. That their movers and shakers in the military were instead eyeing Vynmark, which was presently isolated, whilst the Ellowian situation was garnering the attention of both Netilland’s neighbors and further off powers. The Caelussians were wary of drawing attention too far west, most certainly, but there was plenty of popular opining in Twaryi that the flux caused by both the attack on two fronts and the abduction of key figures of Netilland’s administration ought to be exploited- time to take more of Ellowie whilst Netilland could not object to them merely walking in and laying a claim, not even having to fire a shot, the more ambitious folk stated as though it were guaranteed.

So many sources of stress, but there was a suitable salve for it all. Once but his head maidservant (and partner in many, many years of mutually felt sexual tension), Mabel was still struggling to define her new level of close and personal relationship. She had told Wladysaw that perhaps he “should be more careful” that he not “tempt a scandal with a mistress.”

He had replied to her that his intent was to make his queen with child.

This had sent Mabel into flustered consternation, and she struggled to reason out a compromise. A difficulty, as her sense of reasoning was compromised at the time- her sharp thinking was muddled because of the present activity being of a nature that spoiled the focus rather easily. Afterwards (where her warning against being more “careful” was entirely disregarded) she agreed to a status of “concubine.” Inaccurate, but it would have to do.

Mabel protested that the demand to keep her within arm’s reach was impeding with her work. Always a dutiful one. Such was why she was perfect, why Wladysaw simply couldn’t let her go, even if he knew that there was plenty for her to do. Yet he couldn’t let her go, not now. He didn’t need another worry to ponder in nights that would suddenly be lonesome.

She was happy. Yet Wladysaw still saw sadness in her eyes. A terrible guilt.

-----
>>
You are Lieutenant Richter Von Tracht, officer in the Archduchy’s Silver Lances Armored Division Reserve Battalion, fourth company, second platoon. It was only recently you could properly claim such again after being estranged from your unit, but after a special assignment given to you by your company commander Lieutenant Colonel Georgen Von Silbertau, you had finally been able to return to your unit proper.

Though, you had had to bid farewell to what was left of the Mittelsosalian Republic troops that had accompanied you, fought alongside you from the defense of the town of Ganzenacht (a name you only recently found out, what an odd and appropriate name for your experience), escorted you, and aided you on your mission to destroy an enigmatic device behind enemy lines.

The Revolutionary’s men held a small ceremony for their fallen, including the Revolutionary himself. Yet, the surviving second in command had approached you afterwards and claimed that he was now The Revolutionary- the cause would continue, he claimed, as it would in the hearts of all of humanity. Grand and bold, you had nodded and thanked the men for their aid. They as well as the others would be noted to the Minister of the People, when you were able to send for her. When you had returned to your unit, she had still been missing.

Narr was also missing in action, his tank knocked out and the status of him and his crew unknown. He had seemed a harsh and self-interested sort, but he had trusted your command. You had been hoping to facilitate the reward he had been hopeful for, but Wolfgang had said to not be too optimistic. People in Sosaldt, he had said, tended to not have long lives.

The auxiliary scout leader hadn’t lingered long either. Von Silbertau had had commands for them, and you relinquished the Republic troops to him upon request, after hearing what his intentions were. Backline security- a respite.

A rest well needed for the surviving tanker and crew. Framboise’s eyes were dry, but hollow, as you returned her books to her. She didn’t summon up the energy for more than a small farewell, as she stared blankly into the horizon both before and after you left her.
>>
Upon returning to your platoon, there wasn’t much fanfare. A remark from Captain Vehrlors saying that he appreciated you not making him lose money- the response to being asked if there had actually been a bet being ”kind of.” None of the platoon seemed upset about Van Halm’s absence, and you wondered to yourself if your absence had the same sort of quiet about it. Enough to ask about it when you reported to the Captain about what you’d been doing these past days.

“You can smell when somebody’s got a deathwish, lieutenant,” Vehrlors had said, “That scent’s pretty common around the unit. They can’t be talked out of it, you just have to accept when the inevitable happens.”

“Do I…smell that way?” you asked.

“I don’t need to tell you that, do I? Congratulations on getting in Von Silbertau’s good books. Have a thought for the rest of us when the commendation comes around, will you?” A sarcastic quip followed by a slap to the arm.

That had been a few nights past or so. It was now the afternoon of February 10th, 1933- a reminder given to you when you had asked Captain Vehrlors what day it was, realizing you weren’t actually sure. It was later in the month than you thought it was, but the days had blurred enough that you didn’t doubt the answer. All you had in response was a solemn nod, before going back to the dugout where your tank was waiting in reserve. Only half the platoon was up front- the Netillians hadn’t been coming in the force they used to, before you arrived here, but you weren’t sitting back to rest. As soon as the enemy made an attack, the reserve was to rush up and help, but that hadn’t happened these past few days. Harassment artillery was common, and stole away moments of sleep when you thought you could get them, but damage from it was minimal. Netillian guns and vehicles test you only a little, before going back. The elder Von Rotehof thought they were trying to lull you into a false sense of security, to wear you down. After all, the enemy had reserves of men and materiel, they’d wear you down eventually. Hurling themselves against the Silver Lances was arrogance often displayed, that actually benefited your side. Refusing to commit to a fight was in their favor. The younger Von Rotehof thought the enemy was fearful, but he was alone in such an opinion.

The platoon had been lucky. Casualties were common throughout the company, the battalion, but all that had happened to your platoon had been that elder Von Rotehof’s tank had had its main gun vertical traverse damaged by an enemy shot, rendering it incapable of elevation and thus nearly unable to aim properly. The shot that caused the damage had wounded the gunner, as well, and a replacement hadn’t arrived yet. It rendered elder Van Rotehof’s tank useless in the offense, but the situation on the line demanded his tank nevertheless. It was an imposing enough presence, in your opinion.
>>
The days had been all the same since you returned to your unit, but something…was changing. Your platoon had told you that Netillian air raids had been common and to watch out for them, but since you got back, there had only been one attempt at a strafing run by fighters- one noticed early and warned against, though that did not make it less frightening. After that, the Ellowian planes had returned…and stayed. No more aerial attacks came during the day, though bold night bombings continued.

You could have been fooled on that point. The bombs didn’t drop as close as the artillery did, but when the ground shook they may as well have gone off right next to you. The panzergrenadier squad assigned to your section of the line laughed when you had hid, claiming that “anybody” could have been able to tell that the attacks would go off the mark.

However, today had been different. No artillery or air attacks had come your way at all- no fighters or bombers had passed overhead last night. The usual suspects hadn’t come by to pay your line a visit, sending their jeers in the form of rifle pot shots or mortar rounds or rushed shots of cannon before disappearing. The air…was eerily still.

The expectation was an assault, finally. Yet it did not come. No preparatory bombardment, no scouts. Nothing.

All of a sudden, one day, contact was reported from behind, but it was a swell of Republic troops, looking tired, but eager. They brought news that the pocket to the south of the Northern Lords’ troops had been broken up, and collapsed. A windfall, finally. Did that mean Signy wasn’t missing anymore? You hadn’t actually stolen a moment with one of the chocolate-uniformed troopers, but had gotten the information from Vehrlors in a briefing after he had met with their local commander.

They were still around- waiting. Their arrival had caused a flurry of planning, and you had the feeling you and yours wouldn’t be idle for long…
>Go and ask about anything? (Of who?)
>Ask the Captain if you can scout ahead- you didn’t want to be sitting on your hands around here.
>Other?
>>
Pastebin for past threads- https://pastebin.com/UagT0hnh
Twitter for announcements and shitposts is @scheissfunker
Rest assured anything that I will not solely post trashy softcore smut on it.
>>
>>4748959
>>Other?
Remain as we were. Going out to scout in a tank isnt really covert. If the lines have stabilized like this the republicans or the panzergrenadiers can start patrols.
>>
>>4748992
Supporting
>>
>>4748959
>>Go and ask about anything? (Of who?)
Talk a bit with the brothers Von Rotehof. I assume they stick together so we can talk to them both, but if not, talking with either one will do.
Ask how they both got assigned to the same unit in the Silver Lances, it isn't exactly a proper military unit so maybe they got to pick? Has there been any use of the Bertholite shells, we have been holding off on using those but it would be good to know if the cat is already out of the bag. Does this facial scar/burn look cool or scary or ugly. Masks may be taboo here but it still might be better to cover up in a more civilian setting, avoid having women faint at the sight of us and all that.

>>4748965
Was the tasteful depiction of Anya a reference to the bygone fad of drawing tomboys shirtless in swimming trunks, or was that purely coincidence?
>>
>>4748959
This >>4749002, otherwise just chill. Seems like we'll be going on the offensive again anyway.
>>
>>4748965
You won't fool us. Everyone knows that you wanted a smut quest from the very beginning, but decided to add a non-porn-tier plot to it first and went a bit overboard.

>>4748959
>Ask around about Signy's status.
>>
>>4748992
>>4749002
Im fine with talking to the brothers as well.
>>
>>4748992
>>4749000
>>4749114
Sit in place. Wait right there.

>>4749002
>>4749075
>>4749114
Talk with Von Rotehof and Von Rotehof. Ask about your ugly face.

>>4749106
Where is eyebrows?

Writing.

>>4749002
>Was the tasteless depiction of Anya a reference to the bygone fad of drawing tomboys shirtless in swimming trunks, or was that purely coincidence?
That was the idea, yes. A creature that lives deep in the heart of Quebec whispered the suggestion in my ear and I acquiesced.

>>4749106
>You won't fool us.
I am being bullied.
>>
The rowdy Republican soldiers seemed plenty interested in small talk, but there was only one thing you were interested in at that moment concerning them- that they’d know the status of their highest commander. Or at least, that was how you presumed the Republic’s military was arranged. Otherwise would have been strange coming out of what much of Mittelsosalia had been.

Yet you were disappointed.

“Huh?” A chubby faced fellow with badly shaved fuzz all around his cheeks and chin blinked at your query, and his comrades also stared, “Where’s the Minister of the People? Hell if I know, somewhere, right?” He turned his head to one with a tattoo of tally marks on his cheek, “You hear anything about that?”

“Nah.” Tally man pointed off south, “Anybody know, it’d be the captain or somebody like him, ‘guess. I just know that the Northerners fell t’ pieces over the last few days and each time we hit ‘em, they got a little weaker, until they folded up like paper into a ball. Those green jackets would’ve been bad news, but they’ve been pulling back too. Good for us, but we’ve had it easy. Who’s up north, half-face?”

“Green jackets, as you called them,” you said, and the lot of them frowned. They weren’t very keen on going up against the Netillians obviously. “They haven’t been active, however. Your captain, though, where can I see him?”

“He’ll be comin’ up. You in charge around here?” You replied in the negative. “Well, then he’ll probably talk with your boss.”

“I see. Thank you.” You weren’t any closer to finding out what happened to Signy, if she was still missing, or if this victory would also reveal that she was safe and sound, but it was a start towards somebody who might be able to say one way or the other. Far be it from you to start rumors in the ranks of the Republic- from the tone of the common soldiery they didn’t think their leader was missing, after all.

A quick stop back with Captain Vehrlors, and a request to send for you when he was spoken with- if the troops were coming up here, they’d talk to Vehrlors, since apparently their captain hadn’t deigned to talk with Silbertau on the way up for whatever reason. Despite the difference in the size of command Vehrlors was still rank equivalent to the officer coming up, after all. In the meantime, you thought to acquaint yourself with the other two officers in the platoon…since the day had been so calm thus far, and more and more you were looking like you might even be relieved, if not preparing to sally forth with the enemy’s inaction.
>>
The brothers Von Rotehof were both presently at the front line, for what it was. You ambled up a communication trench, towards where their tanks were positioned on a shallow reverse slope, ready to roll forward to engage the enemy should they appear. Elder Von Rotehof, as he was called, was outside of his tank and cleaning his sidearm; an ambitious task in this dusty environment. A brass gorget with an emblem of crashing waves and a mermaid with a sword adorned his throat, the primary way you could tell him and his sibling apart. Stevan Von Rotehof, otherwise known as Little Von Rotehof, preferred to wear a set of chains from various parts of his uniform that rattled and clinked when he walked. Hausen had taken to called Stevan “Jingles.” Jorgen called him, you had learned eventually through cutting out his northern accent, “Faggot.” Neither of those names would be something you’d want to call the man when he appeared.

“Von Tracht,” Elder Von Rotehof said without looking up from his work, “What’s going on back there? A lot of noise all of a sudden.”

“The pocket to the south has been destroyed. Republic troops have moved up behind us, and a contingent just moved up here.”

“They bring any hot food with them?”

“Unfortunately no.”

“Damn.” Elder Von Rotehof spoke without any interruption for his cleaning as he put gun’s insides back into its casing, “Thought I could be hopeful there.”

It was a joke, of course. The first people to come up to the lines wouldn’t be the kitchen trains unless something had gone seriously wrong, but you sympathized with the sentiment, as petty as it was compared to falling artillery shells and sharpshooters. The coffee lately had been cold, which was somehow even worse than hot coffee, with the only accompaniment to bread being cold chunks of salted lard packed into identical cans to the bread. Rumor held that the Panzergrenadier squad had a can of pickled fruits but they’d denied such. A candy piece that had been knocked to the bottom of the tank days past had turned out to be a blessing, if a dirty one.

“I actually came out to talk with you,” you said to the Elder Von Rotehof. He raised an eyebrow at you as he paused for a moment, then clicked his pistol back together with a firm movement.

“Alright.”

“Well, first of all,” you sidled up next to him against his m/32, “I haven’t heard your first name. I can’t just keep calling you Elder or Big Von Rotehof, after all.”

“Don’t see why not.”

“Is your name a secret?” You asked, puzzled.

“Nah. It’s Lucian. Nothing wrong with it, but I like the other ones better.”

So be it. “And what about Stevan? I thought to talk to him too. To both of you.”
>>
“He’s on the job,” Elder Von Rotehof pointed to the other tank with a casual glance upwards. “Won’t be caught slacking, as usual.” That was something you’d become faintly aware of. Stevan Von Rotehof was very much a stickler in the field when it came to when it was and wasn’t time for him to be doing something, and was as stubborn in keeping his place on the line as he was as staying off it if it wasn’t specifically his time. “Go ahead.”

“Mmhm. I wanted to ask, it’s rather unusual for siblings to be in the same platoon, isn’t it?”

“Yeah. He didn’t start out in this platoon. He transferred over after the scuffle with Valsten. I requested it. Had to keep an eye on him. He was doing his best to get into trouble last year,” Elder Von Rotehof snorted, “Not that he’d put it that way. You got into trouble last year yourself, didn’t you?”

“I did, but, I’m not sure if I see him “getting into trouble,” with how he acts…”

“You can overdo doing what you’re told,” Von Rotehof offered as explanation, “Should count himself lucky that even though he tried his best to get into a mess he never actually got into one. He never liked there being a gap between us.”

“How much of a gap is there?” You asked, “You don’t seem too much older than him.”

“Three years. I’m also married, and he’s not. Wife’s expecting our first in a few months. I think it’d be easier for him to catch up there, but I won’t fault him for getting as far as he has.”

“Oh. Congratulations.” You felt it necessary to say that, if he was going to bring that up. He had rattled it off as though it was just news…was it just his cool disposition or had he spent too long away from home?

“Thank you. I hear that you’re engaged? To what family, again?”

“Von Blum. Maddalyn Von Blum. Van Halm was familiar with them.” Perhaps more than you had expected, you recalled with a frown.

“Ah, highest of highborn,” Von Rotehof shook his head slowly, “Don’t envy you. Those families always get up into nonsense way over the heads of you or me.” You couldn’t disagree, but… “Good luck with that. What does she think of the face you have now, is that why you had a mask or whatever?”

“She,” you hesitated- Maddalyn was blind, mostly, and she couldn’t tell what your face looked like before anyways without touching it. “She’s understanding. I don’t much like showing it though. What do you think? I’d rather cover it up, if it’s all the same. I’ve had enough of women shrieking at my face.” That hadn’t happened much at all, but you’d had enough of it all the same.

“You want it the nice way or the honest way?”

“The latter.”
>>
“It looks awful," Von Rotehof said plainly, firmly. "I’d say cover it up, but maybe other people don’t think so. I’ve seen worse, though. Saw a guy once who got most of his jaw blown off. No mask is making that look good. I’d sure as hell rather be hit with gas than get my jaw show off.”

The thought made you shiver. You’d rather not have either happen, but the Netillians had at least not bothered trying to gas you yet. Neither had your own forces against theirs- betholite shells had gone unused. The assumption by both sides, you’d heard speculated, was that both sides were equipped with gas countermeasures anyways and knew it well by this point, so it was a waste when the same munitions could be employed against, say, Republic troops, who lacked for gas countermeasures.

“It’s your thing too, isn’t it?” Von Rotehof suggested, fingering his gorget, “A lot of people’ve got their thing. You have a mask with a story?”

“Something like that. King Wladysaw XI had it made for me.”

“King who?”

“Of Ellowie,” you said, “The Netillians brought the Ellowian royal family back, but now, they’ve revolted, I believe.”

“You’re more mixed up than I thought, aren’t you?” Elder Von Rotehof said with more disinterested pity than curiosity.

“I suppose,” you admitted, “What’s the story behind that piece, then?” You asked, looking towards the gorget.

“It’s got plenty of story,” Elder Von Rotehof said, loosening it from a clasp behind his neck and holding it out for you, “I don’t know much of it, but I like to pretend a few different things. Maybe one of them’s even true.”

You took the brass piece in your wounded hand and looked closely. It was intricately detailed- with writing embossed at the top and bottom in a language you couldn’t read but might have been Vitelian. The design was quite a work of art, and flecks of paint indicated where it had been further embellished upon. “So what is it?”

“I found it while we were fighting Revolutionaries with Paelli. It’s an award from the Princes- “Valor against Dire Threats to Order.” The Princedoms have all sorts of awards like that. It’s not mine, though. I picked it off a Revolutionary Vitelian’s body.”
>>
“Seems like something he picked off somebody himself, then,” you handed the gorget back.

“That’s what I thought too. Who knows what clown he stripped it from, going around doing how they did thinking they were old style knights when there’s machine guns all over all covered with sparkling jewelry. Maybe it’s bad luck,” he laughed softly as he put the item back around his throat, “But I like the idea of telling fate to come and get me. We’ll see if somebody strong enough to take this from me keeps it going. I like to think about how far it might go.”

Intriguing. Admittedly, the mystery of the thing was more appealing than what it was materially. “So what is one of the stories you have about it?”

“…Usually nobody asks. I’ve an idea. We’ll make one together. You tell me who the guy who was awarded this was like, what he did, how he bit it. I’ll complete the story telling you about the guy I took this off of. Sound interesting?”

It seemed the decision was already made for you. Even though you knew next to nothing about Paelli, besides what your crew said of serving with them, indicating that they were a far-west influenced people rooted in tradition, aristocracy, and flamboyance- a wealthy, cultural sort, even if the Iceforth Gale blocked off the routes that enriched them in the past. Maybe that was interesting to Von Rotehof, though?

>Who was the mysterious person who this gorget was originally rewarded to? What was their story?
>>
>>4749417
>>Who was the mysterious person who this gorget was originally rewarded to? What was their story?
Some old noble who got that from putting down a rebellion;maybe the last time the Utopianists got uppity before this? Died defending his estate during the opening parts of the war and the Revs probably looted it along with whatever else he had.
>>
>>4749417
Beloved by his fellows and eager to please his commanders, the man was always the sort to step up for the dangerous missions and opt to be the last one out during a retreat. When asked why he was so ready to fight and potentially die, however, he never gave the same answer twice.
"I fight for the glory of my motherland."
"I fight for the beauty and tragedy of combat."
"I fight for the ghost of my father and the health of my mother."
"I fight for my wonderful wife and daughter waiting for me at home."
Instead of giving a straight answer, he would spin strange and elaborate tales. Stories to boost the morale of those who listened, and perhaps to even fool himself for a time.
One night, however, after a particularly grand showing of bravery and skill, the young warrior was enjoying perhaps one too many drinks with his fellows. They laughed and drank and made merry as if they were at a festival instead of a warzone. A great time was had by all.
Eventually, one of the younger soldiers asked the man why he was so brave, why he fought, and expecting another fictitious story the whole company gathered around.
But when he spoke, what came out wasn't another story, boast, or long-winded diatribe.
What came out, after 10 years of noble service, was the truth.
"I fight to live, and live to die."
There was an awful silence, and then a few scoffs from those still eager to continue the party despite the thoroughly ruined mood. But despite the almost desperate revelry of that night, the words of the noble warrior echoed in the heads of all who heard what would be his final explanation.
For it was the very next outing, that the noble warrior died, never again to tell another lie or spin another tale.
>>
>>4749417
It wast the righ-hand man and clsoest confidant of one of the Princes, a man famed for his combat prowess. But despite being normally quite boastful, he never once said what he was awarded this thing for, and even punched a few people who were too persistent with their questions.
One day, a letter with a duel challenge was found stuck to his door with a dagger. That evening, he left his home, and the following morning his body was found, sans the gorget.
>>
>>4749417
>>4749458
A man who lives to fight, maybe the last battle he fought in turned out to be the last one of the conflict?
>>
>>4749449
The old noble

>>4749458
>>4749819
The big talker.

>>4749593
A champ.

Writing.
>>
It took some thought. You didn’t know much about Paelli besides where it was, but with a name like the Confederation of Princedoms you could guess what it was like, mostly. One person was built- then another, and…should you combine them? Maybe a couple?

“Really putting thought into this, aren’t you.” Von Rotehof said to your brow-buckling.

“Shouldn’t I?” You retorted, “Give me another minute.” You hoped that the Netillians wouldn’t pick now to resume their activities from before. “…Alright. I have it. Here’s how it started.”

Once, in the Confederate Princedoms of Paelli, there was a noble landowner, a confidant of one of the mighty Princes, famed for his skill in martial matters and battle. He had no small amount of pride for his position and his skill, but the one thing he had that marked him the most as a man of respect was an award he wore around his neck- one he refused to say how he had received. Some speculated that he had put down a local rebellion in his state, of the peasantry, and that he found it distasteful. None ever found out. Any who asked too persistently were met with violent dissuasion. Eventually, one of the curious folk grew frustrated, and decided to see if this noble, having grown older, was the real thing. A dagger in his door, a challenge to duel.

Of course, the proud noble could not turn down even an anonymous request. So he left that evening with an odd spring to his step he hadn’t had in a long time. The next he was seen, he was dead- and the recognition of his deeds was gone from his body.

The inheritor, the usurper, whatever one might wish to call him, had that recognition he thirsted for, that he felt another held undeserved, yet he suffered the curse of the forbearer- he could tell nobody how he had earned his decoration.

Then the war began.

Lusting to justify his theft of glory, the man volunteered for the most dangerous missions, held out in the most desperate of struggles, refused to retreat until he was the last away. Whenever he was asked about the gorget that designated glory, he had a different story each time. Some true perhaps, others false. He changed it every time, as did he change his motivation, depending upon whom he spoke to.

Some liked a nationalist bent, others the familial obligation. Sometimes for bloodlust itself, as the war drew all sorts. Those who lived in the present, for good or evil. In the mud and blood, after all, one could never quite tell if the man next to them was a philanthropist or a rapist the last day.

Ten years after he had claimed his glory, however, the man was asked by a young soldier why he fought, and he had gone deeper in his cups than usual that night.
His answer, that he had finally found after so much time, was thus.

“I fight to live, and live to die.”
>>
He left as the voices of all about were stolen save for skeptical muttering. The next battle he fought was his final one, and the last of the war, where the legacy passed to another man.

“Hah. If only that was the last battle. That’s a pretty poem,” Von Rotehof the Elder said, though not mockingly. “Want me to correct some things or do you like your story the way it is?”

“I don’t mind,” you said, hopeful for the chance to learn new things. Your ignorance of parts of the world was ever painful even if not many noticed. Each piece of information was like a coin found again.

“Alright. For one thing, Paellans don’t duel, they’re too dandy for that. They’re not the same stock as Strossvalders. There’s no rules against it because they just don’t do it. They just like to show off more than each other.”

“Maybe the man wasn’t a native then?”

“Maybe so.” Von Rotehof allowed, “The other thing, you might have guessed. Paelli didn’t back out of the Vitelian War because they won. That war’s still going on. They turned tail and went back because Kallec came down and started kicking their home armies to pieces. This thing wasn’t on a Kallean, it was on a Vitelian. In fact, the last big set of messes the Paellans fought against the Revolutionaries, the Battles of Lapizlazulli- we weren’t there, of course- they got their asses handed to them by the Utopianists three times in a row. Not a good note to go out on. The Revolutionaries were down then, too. Kalleans ripped them apart like they were a bunch of naked virgin girls.”

“I…see.” Von Rotehof seemed to scoff the most at the idea that anybody from Paelli could be what was called a respected warrior, but he didn’t say so directly. “What about your part, then?”
>>
“I’m not going to say it as wordy as yours. Thought you’d only say a few sentences at most. I appreciate it, but I’m not going to change my story now.” He had finished reassembling his pistol, unrecognizable to you but some sort of foreign automatic. “The Revolutionary who picked this up was a worm. He saw pretty things and took them, whether they were things or people. Couldn’t help himself, couldn’t say why he did it besides that he could and he thought he deserved something for being on the right side. One time, he followed his greedy snout into a house that hadn’t been pillaged, and while he was sifting around in the dark, the moonlight glinted off his pretty necklace. Somebody staying in the house saw. And…” He stretched the pistol out towards the distance as though aiming at an invisible man, and dry fired the pistol. “Got a gift for his trouble.”

“…That was how you got it?” You asked.

“Maybe.” Von Rotehof winked. “Who knows what they did. You have to accept that at some point, I think. When it comes to fighting battles, there’s a good chance the world won’t know or care what you did, even in your own time, but some people don’t like hearing that. Like Little Von Rotehof.”

“That sounds pessimistic.”

“Maybe. But I don’t have much to deal with, and I like it like that.” Elder Von Rotehof slipped a magazine into his pistol, chambered a round, then holstered it. Safety off? “You though. You’ve got some fame, getting married to a high house noblewoman. You like your grandiose stories?”

>Yeah. So? You were from a family of grandiose stories. Why cross what you were at this point?
>The ambition you had wasn’t as reckless as Von Rotehof was implying. Everything out of the ordinary that had happened to you wasn’t even your fault for falling into, your betrothal included. Fate just had funny plans for you.
>You wouldn’t mind settling down some, to be honest. You didn’t need more fame than you had now and you didn’t care what your fiancée’s title was.
>Other?
>>
>>4750723
>The ambition you had wasn’t as reckless as Von Rotehof was implying. Everything out of the ordinary that had happened to you wasn’t even your fault for falling into, your betrothal included. Fate just had funny plans for you.
>>
Why does Richter not simply put foundation over the scar? You know back at home not on the battlefield where they'll laugh at him.

>>4750723
>You wouldn’t mind settling down some, to be honest. You didn’t need more fame than you had now and you didn’t care what your fiancée’s title was.
Richter's already gone way beyond what his parents wanted or planned for him.
>>
>>4750723
>The ambition you had wasn’t as reckless as Von Rotehof was implying. Everything out of the ordinary that had happened to you wasn’t even your fault for falling into, your betrothal included. Fate just had funny plans for you.
>>
>>4750723
>The ambition you had wasn’t as reckless as Von Rotehof was implying. Everything out of the ordinary that had happened to you wasn’t even your fault for falling into, your betrothal included. Fate just had funny plans for you
Judge's Plan, Judge's Plan.
He hold back, sometimes he won't, yuh.
He feel good, sometimes he don't, ayy, don't.

But also
>You wouldn’t mind settling down some, to be honest. You didn’t need more fame than you had now and you didn’t care what your fiancée’s title was.
Richter's done it.
He's fought the good fight, he's put his mark on history, and history's put its mark on him. All the ancestors are proud. Hell is smiling down on him. Richter's even a sorta folk hero in some places.
That's the checklist done.
No need to stick around longer than he needed, especially without an heir to leave behind to carry on the self-destructive flame of Von Tract ambition.
>>
>>4750723
>>The ambition you had wasn’t as reckless as Von Rotehof was implying. Everything out of the ordinary that had happened to you wasn’t even your fault for falling into, your betrothal included. Fate just had funny plans for you.
>>
>>4750723
>>You wouldn’t mind settling down some, to be honest. You didn’t need more fame than you had now and you didn’t care what your fiancée’s title was.
Looking forward to that peaceful home life that is totally going to happen when this is all over.
>>
>>4750723
>The ambition you had wasn’t as reckless as Von Rotehof was implying. Everything out of the ordinary that had happened to you wasn’t even your fault for falling into, your betrothal included. Fate just had funny plans for you.
>>
>>4750723
>>The ambition you had wasn’t as reckless as Von Rotehof was implying. Everything out of the ordinary that had happened to you wasn’t even your fault for falling into, your betrothal included. Fate just had funny plans for you.
>>
>>4750723
>Yeah. So? You were from a family of grandiose stories. Why cross what you were at this point?
>>
>>4750723
>You wouldn’t mind settling down some, to be honest. You didn’t need more fame than you had now and you didn’t care what your fiancée’s title was.
>>
>>4750723
>The ambition you had wasn’t as reckless as Von Rotehof was implying. Everything out of the ordinary that had happened to you wasn’t even your fault for falling into, your betrothal included. Fate just had funny plans for you.
But
>Other?
The Silver Lances, while a high point, won't be the end of it. Maybe not a Sosaldt Warlord or Champion of Chivalry but fate has it's hands on Richter and it ain't lettin' go.
>>
>>4750728
>>4750736
>>4750754
>>4750789
>>4750849
>>4751102
>>4751338
Ambition? You're not trying to find dangerous holes to fall into, you've just managed to survive them. Well enough.

>>4750733
>>4750754
>>4750815
>>4751303
But I've certainly done plenty as things stand, haven't I?

>>4751171
I'm me, so what?

Writing.

>>4750733
>Why does Richter not simply put foundation over the scar? You know back at home not on the battlefield where they'll laugh at him.
Of course at the present moment makeup is in rather shot supply, but the other thing would be...well, one has to assume somebody like Richter doesn't have much knowledge of cosmetics at all. To him makeup is just something women put on just because they do. His own fiancee does refer to him as acting like a rube, after all.
>>
“Grandiose?” You repeated with a curve of your eyebrow, “I’m not that reckless. Everything out of the ordinary that’s happened to me hasn’t been something I sought out, not even my betrothal. The whims of fate just have odd ideas for me.”

“Not even your betrothal?” Elder Von Rotehof picked up on, “You ever been with a girl before your fiancée?”

“…No.”

“As long as you’re both happy, then,” Von Rotehof shrugged. “But if fate’s got odd ideas for you then I think you’re heading for a real mess if you don’t try and act against it. Unless that’s something you don’t mind?”

Well. No. You’d rather things calm down for a bit, but you couldn’t quite put it that way after what you said, could you? A frown crossed your face before you answered. “I’m not at my limit, I don’t see this as the end, mind you, but…I wouldn’t mind if this was the highest I’ve come, as long as I still get to settle down at the end of it.”

“Fine with fate, but you’d prefer the calmer side?” Von Rotehof stretched his arms over his head, “I feel that, Lieutenant. I truly do. Leaf on the water. Floating down the cool river with the sun on your chest.”

A look around. “This is a funny idea of a cool river, isn’t it?”

Von Rotehof smiled. “Don’t think about it too hard. It’s not worth it if you overthink things, might end up like the Captain where you get funny ideas about what’s at the end of the water, and how you can change it.” He looked past you, “Somebody’s coming for you, looks like. Either Vehrlors wants you, or somebody wants to find out if your masked man has any ripe sisters.”

It was indeed one of Vehrlors’s crewmen- and you went to him after a short thanks to Von Rotehof for talking, but the news you expected wasn’t something you could put off finding out about.

“So uh,” the driver whispered to you as he led you along, “You’ve got a mosshead driver, yeah?”



-----
>>
Captain Vehrlors was in an animated discussion with a Republic infantry officer when you arrived. The Republic Officer was grizzled enough, but he must have taken his new allegiance seriously with the lack of pre-Republic nostalgia on his person. The only divergence from the brown and black Republic uniform was that he had captured a steel helmet from some place at some time and protected his head with it, casting a dark shadow over his face that itself was shadowed by scruff that needed a razor taken to it, unless it was actually iron filings all over his jaw and not beard.

“I don’t care what your orders are,” Vehrlors said to the other officer, “I don’t do what you say. Lieutenant Colonel Von Silbertau will pass it down when it’s time to go.”
“The time is now, damn it,” the Republic officer snapped, “We just sliced through the south like a hot knife through butter. The momentum’s on our side. Our orders are to hit as hard and fast as we can while they’re off balance. If we just sit here and wait for your own commander to send his own orders to do the same thing, they’ll regain their balance!”

“You just got here, and we’ve been on this line for days. Don’t try and tell me what the situation is.” Vehrlors said in a warning tone.

“Excuse me,” you interrupted, “Your orders?” You asked the Mittelsosalian captain, “From who, the Minister of the People? Cyclops?”

“Huh? Sure, at some level.” The officer was caught off guard before he found defiance again, “Who the hell are you?”

“Lieutenant Richter Von Tracht, once known as the Kommandant,” you retorted, having no patience for establishing who the big dog was more subtly, “Where is Cyclops? Does anybody know?”

This person must not have been part of the original army of the Republic since they didn’t immediately submit, but he’d clearly heard of your reputation still. “Don’t know. The orders were given before the pocket fell through.”

“Damn you,” you snapped at the officer, “Can anybody give me an actual answer? Don’t you care if your leader is missing in action?”

“Lieutenant!” Vehrlors barked at you, “Control yourself.”

You bristled only slightly less. Shortage of sleep didn’t improve one’s temper, and you wanted to get mad at something for this.

“Yeah, we haven’t heard anything,” the Republic officer said defensively, “But nobody’s heard shit for a while. You know how the long range radios have been. What’s wrong with you, though? What, you don’t have any faith in her?”

“Mmrgh.” You growled at that implication, but…
>>
“Enough,” Vehrlors cut both of you off, “Captain Waeden, I won’t stop you if you want to take your men forward, but the enemy in this area has mechanized and armored assets even though their artillery has been quiet. I’d advise you wait for my commander to pass down orders unless you want to take your chances with tanks. Otherwise, you can sit here, dig in, and wait. We’ve been told to expect to hold position for some time longer. The main effort’s on the highway, and that’s not here.”

“Hrmph.” The Republic Officer crossed his arms and glowered, but had no response. “I’ll wait an hour at most, your boss better get back to mine by then at least.”

“You won’t do it in my face. Get out of here.” Vehrlors dismissed the officer with a wave of his hand, and to your surprise, the Republic captain actually left, scowling. Vehrlors set his gaze upon you, no more friendly. “You alright there, Lieutenant?”

“What do you mean?” you asked, with an itch in the back of your throat.

“You’re rather badly wounded. I won’t keep you on the line if you don’t think you’re up for it. We’ve held out fine. Maybe you’ll find out something on the way back?”

“Sir,” you slackened at the shoulders, “I don’t know what you mean.” You did, though. He implied that he’d be letting you go on your way, to eventually get back to the rear lines, but…

“Either you’ve got your head together or I’m sending you back myself,” Vehrlors said, “I don’t need somebody who’s got their mistress on the mind, no matter how good a tanker they are otherwise. Got it?”

>You got it. The Republic Officer was right, you just had to have faith in Signy. And you had to stay here with your platoon either way.
>Weren’t you right to be concerned? This was a terrible circumstance for all involved! If the leader of the Republic had been killed, it was possible all the things you’d fought for thus far would fall apart!
>Maybe you ought to go back and heal some, yes- but you didn’t want to leave your platoon lacking. You’d leave your crew and the m/32B here, and head back. Maybe you did need it.
>Other?
>>
>>4751795
>You got it. The Republic Officer was right, you just had to have faith in Signy. And you had to stay here with your platoon either way.
>>
>>4751795
>You got it. The Republic Officer was right, you just had to have faith in Signy. And you had to stay here with your platoon either way.
Finding out her fate won't change anything. If we can't take our tank and go save her from whatever, may as well stay put.
>>
>>4751795
>You got it. The Republic Officer was right, you just had to have faith in Signy. And you had to stay here with your platoon either way.
Obligatory 'she's not my mistress'
>>
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>>4751795
>You got it. The Republic Officer was right, you just had to have faith in Signy. And you had to stay here with your platoon either way.
I see elsewhere that artistic tanq has made a come back. If you're up for taking requests I'd personally like to see a quick doodle of the moment in thread #68 when the artillery struck as Richter was passing around the tube of chocolate buttons, a la pic related.
>>
>>4751795
>>Other?
The last time we fought with the republicans someone made a sacrifice so we could win the larger battle. That time though we were in a position to bail them out of it and we did. It's different now, we can't just go out alone, looking for a Signy that might be dead, fine, or encircled by enemies. It isn't our place now to make the plan, just follow it, but what if the plan was for this republican force to be the rescue that we were back then?
>>
>>4751795
>Maybe you ought to go back and heal some, yes- but you didn’t want to leave your platoon lacking. You’d leave your crew and the m/32B here, and head back. Maybe you did need it.
>>
>>4751800
>>4751806
>>4751807
>>4751977
One way or another, you're here.

>>4751990
This may as well be the plan for all we know.

>>4752303
Head back by yourself.
This would have been a time skip of course but one could assume that.

Writing.

>>4751977
>If you're up for taking requests
I'll see what I can do but I'll warn that my rate of drawing is extremely variable for both time taken and actual quality of result.
>>
He was right, you admitted to yourself with a grit of your teeth, you had other things to focus on- and there wasn’t anything you could do about this anyways. As was the Republic Officer- at this point, the best thing you could do was believe in Signy, at least a little, if only to keep the matter from distracting you. Besides, what if this was part of a plan that you simply weren’t privy to? What if you were just hurrying into worries right as the problem would be resolved? You’d seen this sort of thing play out before in the past, to a degree. Perhaps the infantry that had just swept up and crushed the enemy to the south had been the relief for the risk taken that had resulted in the Minister of the People’s disappearance? They had said the enemy had folded in on themselves and weakened. Perhaps something more was at play here.

“I got it,” you said, shaking your head, “I’m fine, I’ll stay here.” A pause. “She’s not my mistress, either.”

“Good to keep you here,” Vehrlors said, ignoring your retort about his implication, “Go ahead and get back in reserve. The Lieutenant Colonel will be making a decision soon, same with Battalion, the whole Division. Just do what you were doing before, but we shouldn’t be going on the attack any time soon. Not in this situation.”

“Yes, sir,” you saluted lazily, coughed, then tried again for a much better salute.

“Don’t break your arm there, Lieutenant,” the Captain said with a returned salute, “Van Halm doesn’t need your company, I’ll bet.”

-----

The commanders of the military forces of the Allied Republics had reason to be pleased, as they met in the captured fortress that had once overlooked the Northway Road, one of a string that had had to be overcome before pressing further north along the ideal route of offense. There was the notable lack of a particular head of state, but there was reason to believe she would come back up again- and frankly, most there were relieved to not have the upstart young woman around for a little bit, out of place as she was in general, not just at a command table.

If recent rumor were true, though, she had an important part in causing the collapse of the pocket that had created this opportunity, though.
>>
Ever since the positive identification and destruction of the first radio-nullification device, targeted air raids had whittled down their numbers, gradually, to the point that the Netillians had grown more cautious in their deployment. One had yet to be captured, so their exact functions and capabilities were impossible to determine, but the Ellowian Air Force commanders had reported that their “capabilities” were not being interfered with to the degree they formerly were, after a series of strike missions against scouted instances of the RN-Devices. The long and short of it was that the thread had, while not eliminated, been reduced. The Netillian interference in the skies had been all too brief, and in the time they had blocked the most potent support available to the alliance of Republics, they had failed to capitalize on the advantage they had had.

That wasn’t to say the battle was won, far from it. The lines had almost shattered, and it was a wonder that the pocket created of Northern Lords’ forces had remained at all- it had been completely breached, yet the enemy had failed to move out of it before counterattacks against the extended Netillians had forced them back. Even so, scout flights had indicated that the Netillians were bringing up more troops and withdrawing their spent ones, and were readying for another offensive. The lines were in a much more durable state, but all the signs indicated that this next offensive would be much fiercer, and lack the stumbling the first attempt had had, and even that had broken open the lines through superiority of materiel and organization in places, particularly against the Republic troops, though less so against the Ellowian ground forces.

Thus, it was decided that the Netillians couldn’t be allowed to organize this next offensive- a decisive battle had to be won against them, not their Sosaldtian thralls. So the next battles were planned in haste- ones both on the home front, and on new fronts alike, to place pressure upon the Netillians from weaker points not anticipated even by the commanders of the allied forces.

This was a subject of debate, however. The commanders of the Mittelsosalia forces argued that to take forces off the line here was to threaten the integrity of the operations in Sosaldt, and the ones most crucial to forcing a quick end to the war by directly invading Netilland and following the Northway Road all the way to the enemy capital city of Berkesseburg. The representative from the King’s Revolt, of course, advocated reinforcements being transferred through the Spout into Ellowie to help the war there, but he received little support, especially from the expatriate Ellowian commanders who smelled a conspiracy to usurp their Republic.
>>
Yet also, a “prisoner” had been flown down that day, a Netillian “captured” in the territory of occupied Ellowie. He spoke furtively with unusual guests that had come from the Archduchy- and those guests spoke furtively with the commanders of the Silver Lances. Some agreements made- other things being refused, as an impossibility. Ultimately, the suspect figures could not get what they wanted- and so arranged their plans on their own.

The next few days were set to be quite interesting indeed, no matter how the plans were finalized.

-----

The word had come back from Von Silbertau, and all in your platoon were made aware- you were to hold the lines as they were, as Vehrlors had expected would be the decision.
This was not a popular decision with the Republic troops, however, and you saw them moving all around instead of digging in further.

“Let them,” Captain Vehrlors had said over the platoon net when both you and the younger Von Rotehof observed this, “We can’t tell them what to do. They can’t push us around and we can’t either. They’ll have to learn the hard way if they don’t feel like taking my good advice.”

Scout parties attempted to go out, before being set upon by the sharpshooters that had been harassing you these past few days. Not that you saw this directly, but you could tell what was happening just by the sounds, and by the stretcher bearers solemnly walking back soon after. Yet, younger Von Rotehof was reporting, an advancement in the lines was in progress. It appeared the Republic infantry commander was set on leaving you behind, no matter what might be ahead. No matter if he’d been warned of potential enemy strength- of being lured into a fight he couldn’t win. You’d seen the breadth of the Republic infantry’s equipment now- they lacked for many things that would have been standard for your own people. Gas masks, anti-tank guns, they even lacked for anti-tank rifles, and even the squad of Panzergrenadier assigned to your platoon had a beaten, well used one in their trenches. They used it to return fire to the skirmishers sometimes- it scared them away, if nothing else.

The fighting about a kilometer ahead escalated, and the Republic infantry company had left your position entirely to fight up ahead in their brewing battle…much to the younger Von Rotehof’s chagrin.
>>
“Captain!” He protested over the radio, “We can’t sit here any longer, can we? I request permission to go up and help those Republic troops in whatever they’re fighting, I feel useless back here!”

“…You won’t go up alone,” Vehrlors replied, “If you can get somebody else to go with you, then I’ll allow it.”

“Nope.” Elder Von Rotehof said right after, “If they get themselves into trouble that’s their own foolishness. We go up there, we suffer for their mistakes. Keep it together, brother.”
Vehrlors’s vote had been implicitly cast- you were the last one who might say anything, and the moment of silence was full of the younger Von Rotehof’s anticipation of your response- you were his last hope to charge forward.

>Hell, why not? You could handle whatever trouble there might be. It’d be no problem at all. Volunteer to go with the younger Von Rotehof.
>If nobody else was volunteering, there was good reason for you to not do so. Bad luck, little Von Rotehof, but this was how it was.
>Other?
>>
>>4752865
>If nobody else was volunteering, there was good reason for you to not do so. Bad luck, little Von Rotehof, but this was how it was.

Take it from personal experience, you'll get plenty of action without needing to actively seek it.
>>
>>4752865
>>Hell, why not? You could handle whatever trouble there might be. It’d be no problem at all. Volunteer to go with the younger Von Rotehof.
Just, don't go over any hills where there are big booms coming from behind them.
>>
>>4752865
>If nobody else was volunteering, there was good reason for you to not do so. Bad luck, little Von Rotehof, but this was how it was.
>>
>>4752865
>>If nobody else was volunteering, there was good reason for you to not do so. Bad luck, little Von Rotehof, but this was how it was.
Theres glory to be won yet. Conserve our strength for the breakthrough instead of wasting it in the grinder.
>>
>>4752865
>>Hell, why not? You could handle whatever trouble there might be. It’d be no problem at all. Volunteer to go with the younger Von Rotehof.
Just simple infantry support, we'll pull out if things get hairy.
>>
>>4752865
>why not? You could handle whatever trouble there might be. It’d be no problem at all. Volunteer to go with the younger Von Rotehof.
>>
>>4752865
>If nobody else was volunteering, there was good reason for you to not do so. Bad luck, little Von Rotehof, but this was how it was.
So we'll get no support, no reinforcements and be overextended even if we win. I think we've danced to this tune before.
>>
>>4752865
>Hell, why not? You could handle whatever trouble there might be. It’d be no problem at all. Volunteer to go with the younger Von Rotehof.
If the infantry just dies, we\ll lose them for nothing.
>>
Rolled 2 (1d2)

Alright then.

>>4752878
>>4753235
>>4753241
>>4753599
Bad luck for you, bad luck for them. They were told not to and did it anyways, and you've better to spend yourself on.

>>4753056
>>4753347
>>4753581
>>4753700
Why not? Are you incapable? You've sat on your ass long enough, you're a doer.

Time to flip that coin. 1 for the first, 2 for the latter.
>>
It was a harder decision than you thought it’d be. Logically, you had your orders, the Republic troops had known the consequences, and you were under no obligation to go out when your superiors had other plans in mind. Von Rotehof the Younger wanted the action- his brother had told you repeatedly how he sought glory. There’d be plenty of action to come, plenty of fighting to do. There wasn’t any need to seek it out in a war, you knew- even if one tried to avoid it, it just had a tendency to come for you anyways.

Yet. It was something so small, wasn’t it? Infantry support. Simple and easy. If something bad did happen, all this backup that had come up would be wasted. You were the Kommandant, weren’t you? Was this famous semi-legendary being you’d inspired somebody who’d sit on their hands even when prompted by another?

Some fire in your belly again? No, Little Von Rotehof was the one with the fire. You had the sense- and he might need that sense, too, even if he wouldn’t have struck off by himself if told not to. There simply was no reasonable answer against the basic question of why not? So long as you didn’t go about this without any head whatsoever, this would just be an errand.

As much as an errand in an active war zone could be. It wasn’t something small to most, you thought suddenly- that sense of arrogance had been crafted by just how much more you’d found yourself in. Such as the events only a few days past.

“Four One,” you spoke up, “This is Four Five. I’ll volunteer to go with Four Three.”

An exasperated sigh from Vehrlors that he made sure to transmit. He’d extended the offer as a possibility to placate Stevan, but he hadn’t expected you to actually take it. It was a complicated sigh, like he didn’t like the result but knew it might have come, considering your history. “Affirmative. Four Five, accompany Four Three to the operations ahead. The very moment I command you to return to our lines, I expect you to do it. Understood?”

“Understood, Four One!” Little Von Rotehof was excited- he was jumping for a chance, much like you remember doing often not so long ago. Repeatedly. Mistakes? “Hurry up, Four Five, there’s no time to lose!”

The sound of an engine stirring up into gear. He’d already had the tank’s engine started. “Yes, yes.” You took the headset off from your ears and stood up out of the cupola. “Hausen! Jorgen! Mal!” You shouted out of the tank to the three crew outside the tank (Schafer was snoozing in his seat), “Mount up and start the engine! We’re moving!”

“Moving?” Hausen repeated as he stood up, a flurry of custom playing cards scattering with him, and he snatched his hands about to try and catch them before they fluttered every which way.
>>
“Thaell for?” Jorgen demanded, not happy to have whatever card game they were playing be interrupted. You didn’t know the game, but the cards were Hausen’s- custom pieces each with a different tinted photo of a comely western-looking woman upon it (in varying dress or undress). “An attahk?”

“No, we’re moving up to support the infantry that went forward with another of our tanks,” you hurriedly explained, “Come on, he’s already on his way.”

The cards were packed up before you were done talking, and your crew piled into the tank despite their grumblings at surprise assignments. Jorgen shoved Schafer roughly and the gunner, swearing with being awoken so, demanded to know what happened. Jorgen told him grumpily while you set yourself back on the radio.

“Don’t go too far, Four Three,” you said warily as the engine cranked and sputtered to be put to life again. “My tank’s engine’s still cold.”

“Then catch up when you can. What’s there to fear? I’m a Silver Lance, as are you.”

Even though his time in the recent war with Valsten had apparently seen no battles from what you’d been told, you had to assume he had some veterancy in some conflict. You’d have to question which later- else this confidence would be foolhardy even for yourself.

“Hurry up, Mal,” you said over the intercom, “Little Von Rotehof’s off like he’s chasing a skirt.”

“Arrededd skaert?” Jorgen asked with some humor dissolving his grouchiness from having his game interrupted.

“As long as that doesn’t happen to be in a surprise we can’t handle,” you grumbled.

After a minute, the engine finally sputtered to life, unhappy as everybody else seemed to be at being summoned to action again with no notice, but the machine that you rode in at least couldn’t express itself in foul language or jokes at your expense. As far as you knew. “Catch up to Four Three, driver!” You said over the intercom as you settled against the edge of the commander’s cupola, head and shoulders turned out. Just a moment to let them rest against it, you’d be in your familiar hunched over position soon enough, with your arms and legs aching right down to fingers that weren’t even on your hands anymore.

Von Rotehof’s tank hadn’t taken off at full sprint, but he was still a good hundred meters ahead. The area ahead was rather open for a ways, so he would have been easy to spot even if you had waited two more minutes. The intermittent grass, depressions and rises, the scraggly bushes that called themselves trees, were all there, and would matter more once you were off the elevation of the hill, but for the most part the terrain in front was quite even, which had been part of why enemy attacks on your position had encountered frustration.
>>
While you could still look from above, you surveyed the skirmish- not seeing much of the enemy, but plenty of concentrations of Republic troops. There was plenty of shooting, but from the slow forward progress the Republic soldiers made, the Netillians were giving up ground rather than committing to a pitched fight.

In the distance, though, a pair of familiar armored hulks. Beasts that looked as though trucks had bred bastards with bunkers. The armored personnel carriers the Netillians favored for their most modern Mechanized units- but they were idle. Such vehicles had learned to keep from exposing themselves near the Silver Lances, you’d heard, but these weren’t even making an attempt to support from afar. Did they see no need to, or were they waiting for a fight to come to them? Whilst their armament was ineffective against tanks, the small turret with a machine gun and a thing that looked like a mortar tube stuck where a gun would be was certainly of use against infantry. You’d have to keep an eye on them if they moved up, but right now, they were in cover, passive, and far away.

No, now that you looked at them, they had begun moving away. Meanwhile, the sounds of gunfire had thinned, moving on- the Republic troops you passed were in the process of moving forward, changing their positions, lugging forth heavy machine guns that looked as old as you were.

“They’re running like rats, Four Five,” Von Rotehof declared to you. “There’s no stiffness”

“Running away rather too easily,” you replied, “Don’t you think?”

“Oh, of course it’s a trap,” Von Rotehof said haughtily, “But we can spring it before they’re ready. They can’t keep being flaccid like this if we spear them in twain. Come on now, to the very front with both of us!”

You looked around a moment. The ground was open- far from ideal to defend on. Ideal tank country, truly. There was cover, but not many blind spots at all. The further you went forward, though, the smaller your allies behind were getting. There wasn’t even a fight had by you yet- your vehicle hadn’t fired its weapons once since arriving on the scene.

>Somehow you didn’t think purposely springing a trap was something you were interested in doing. Firmly declare you would be supporting the infantry, from well within their lines.
>He was right, after a fashion, was he not? After days of you remaining dug in the last thing the Netillians might expect was for you to just barrel forward into them.
>If Von Rotehof wanted to play the champion, let him. Say you’ll cover him from the rear if he wants to be at the tip of the spear.
>Other?
>>
>>4754198
>>He was right, after a fashion, was he not? After days of you remaining dug in the last thing the Netillians might expect was for you to just barrel forward into them.

At least we know we should be able to survive most hits, to a degree thanks to our special armor; so we should be able to get him out since he is determined to get in over his head.
>>
>>4754198
>Somehow you didn’t think purposely springing a trap was something you were interested in doing. Firmly declare you would be supporting the infantry, from well within their lines.
Who wants to bet there'll be mines and camoed AT guns?
>>
>>4754198
>Somehow you didn’t think purposely springing a trap was something you were interested in doing. Firmly declare you would be supporting the infantry, from well within their lines.
It's times like this where I wish I remembered the details of those tank theory books Richter had.
>>
>>4754198
>Somehow you didn’t think purposely springing a trap was something you were interested in doing. Firmly declare you would be supporting the infantry, from well within their lines.
Remind him they've had *days* to be ready for an attack.
Also the Nets would much rather draw us away and fight than anywhere near where the rest of our tanks are.
>>
>>4754198
>>Somehow you didn’t think purposely springing a trap was something you were interested in doing. Firmly declare you would be supporting the infantry, from well within their lines.
He's probably right but if there's a trap it's the Republic infantry's job to spring it. This is their attack after all.
>>
>>4754198
>Somehow you didn’t think purposely springing a trap was something you were interested in doing. Firmly declare you would be supporting the infantry, from well within their lines.
>>
>>4754198
>>Somehow you didn’t think purposely springing a trap was something you were interested in doing. Firmly declare you would be supporting the infantry, from well within their lines.
>>
>>4754237
Yeah let's get up there, though I'm far more survivable than you.

>>4754275
>>4754322
>>4754366
>>4754384
>>4754477
>>4754595
You know, just because you don't have fingers doesn't mean you're all for poking mousetraps.

Writing.
>>
“I don’t think I’ll be doing that, Four Three,” you replied, “I don’t need to remind that the Netillians have had days to prepare for an attack. I will remain with the infantry, supporting them from well within their lines. We are the support, not the tip of the spear. Even if you’re right, it is the infantry’s work to disarm any traps, not ours.”

Little Von Rotehof’s resolve faltered when you didn’t back him up on his initiative. “Ah, um. Yes. Four Five. I suppose you have a point. We cannot steal all the prizes, can we?”

Especially not the much desired prizes of anti-tank guns lying in ambush and anti-tank mines. “Right. This is their offensive, after all.” You ducked back into the cupola instead of waiting for somebody to fire a round over your head, and looked for conflict. “…Gunner, look to the ten degrees, one of the friendly machine gunners is suppressing that position. Load high explosive and put a round in there.”

“Aye Lieutenant.”

So the fighting proceeded, with the Netillian refusal to give battle making you and Von Rotehof’s work quite simple. Not easy, however- the Netillians refused to make good targets of themselves, and more often than not your attacks did no harm to the enemy as they took notice of your arrival quickly and took care to avoid the fields of fire you dominated. They couldn’t do such completely with the terrain as open as it was, but even an experienced gunner like Schafer had to continually reacquire targets elsewhere as the enemy refused to be pinned for more than moments.

“They picked the good guys for this,” Schafer observed aloud as another enemy slipped away, “These guys are different. Look different too.”

“How so?” You asked, “Driver, forward, take us up next to that friendly machine gun position. We’ll steal their vantage point.”

“The helmets are different shape, and the uniforms. They’ve got camouflage,” Schafer listed off, “They’re tough too. Bet they have armor.”

“That doesn’t help much against rifle fire, does it?” You faintly recalled.

“No, but it keeps the fragmentation from our explosive shots from doing the damage they could over a distance.”

“The bow gun can’t depress at this angle,” Hausen said as the tank stopped, “Can you take us forward?”

You acquiesced to that, and thought about taking a look at the enemy yourself with your binoculars, before thinking better of it. If these men were indeed cut from better stock, exposing yourself to tempt their marksmanship seemed a bad idea. There was no Maddalyn here to reverse the effects of a rifle shot to the chest. There would surely be casualties or prisoners that were safer to look at, after all.
>>
Rolled 58 (1d100)

Except, you noticed through the slow progression northwards, there…wasn’t. Not in frequency for you to notice well at least. The Mittelsosalians meanwhile were getting well bled for their progress.

“We aren’t harming the enemy much for this open ground,” you said to your crew. No good defensive position was being taken with this- it was merely northward progress, and not even on the great highway to the east.

“They don’t have much use for it either,” Hausen said, “Northman, you wouldn’t want to fight on this if you were them, would you?”

“Nah. I’daeve laeft, naet faetet laek thaere.”

So from Jorgen’s point of view, the Netillians should have just left this ground as quickly as they could instead of fighting this delaying action? It was true that they had to occupy this ground to launch their harassing attacks upon you, and that some of the guns they’d been shelling you with would have needed to have come up somewhat further to get in range of your position, but by now they had been fighting for too long to not have a firm idea of what they were up against- and to decide to just flee, perhaps under cover of artillery. It’d be a decent reason to use it if they had reservations against using it for harassment, after all.

That the enemy was letting you think about this was making you uneasy. Uneasiness soon turning to alarm...

>Enemy Roll Under 50, degrees of success apply.
>>
A horrific shrieking noise screamed past your tank’s turret and smashed apart an unfortunate brush tree behind you, followed by the boom of a large sounding gun indeed.

“Four Five!” Von Rotehof’s voice crackled, “Are you alright?”

“Yes,” you said, “Where did that come from? Did you see?” You popped out and scanned the horizon against your better judgment- and nothing sprang out. Was it one of those heavy anti-aircraft guns? You thought you would have picked one of those out rather easily.

“I saw the dust cloud from the shot,” Von Rotehof said, “From bearing three five five, between those two wrecks, there.”

You looked over in that direction, to where a pair of rusted hulks of tanks older than this war seemed to slope down into an unseen hole, and saw…nothing. If there was a heavy anti-aircraft gun, it couldn’t have moved away that quickly. Also- that position was over a kilometer away. A far shot indeed, yet it came so close…

Moreover, Von Rotehof was ahead of you, in a more exposed position. Yet you had been the target?

>An opponent that wanted to take you on? Let them come. You’ll take it as a challenge. Go forward to engage them from your effective range- the infantry will be able to screen you well enough.
>Sit in place and try to spot them when the unknown assailant comes up to shoot next. Despite the range, maybe they were thin skinned enough for a long shot to still neutralize them?
>Advise a retreat and get out of there. This was not an enemy you had come to fight against.
>Other?
>>
>>4754992
>Advise a retreat and get out of there. This was not an enemy you had come to fight against.
>>
>>4754992
>>Advise a retreat and get out of there. This was not an enemy you had come to fight against.
>>
>>4754992
>Advise a retreat and get out of there. This was not an enemy you had come to fight against.
No matter what, MOVE. And tell him to evade as well, there's got to be better cover.
>>
>>4754992
>Advise a retreat and get out of there. This was not an enemy you had come to fight against.
>>
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>>4754992
>Advise a retreat and get out of there. This was not an enemy you had come to fight against.
>>
>>4754992
>>Advise a retreat and get out of there. This was not an enemy you had come to fight against.
Yeah this might be slight meta knowledge but I'm not fucking with something that had a 50% chance to hit from a kilometer away.
>>
>>4754992
>An opponent that wanted to take you on? Let them come. You’ll take it as a challenge. Go forward to engage them from your effective range- the infantry will be able to screen you well enough.
>>
>>4755258
Come at me, unknown brethren.

>>4755020
>>4755053
>>4755066
>>4755076
>>4755111
>>4755242
It's time to leave.

Writing.
>>
“Driver, reverse!” You said sharply, making an immediate decision, “Take us back ten meters, there’s a depression there.” As the tank moved, you switched to the platoon net. “Four Three,” you said steadily over the radio, “We should retreat. If there’s something bold enough to attack us, and powerful enough to be confident in doing so from this far off, we’re in trouble.”

“What of the infantry?”

“I have a feeling they’ll be coerced soon enough,” you said, “But I’ll try to do something about it. We need to evade it in the meantime.” You pushed yourself upwards out of the cupola to see if there was further ground you could withdraw into, terrain to put between yourself and this unknown menace.

“Four Five, Four Three, this is Four One Actual,” Vehrlors suddenly spoke, “Give me a status report, I don’t like what I’m hearing. In fact, I’m ordering a retreat right now. Do it, Four Three.”

“Why am I being singled out?” Von Rotehof complained, but he didn’t refuse.

“The Netillians aren’t giving much resistance but they’re refusing to hold fast and fight. Just now, we’ve come under attack by…something with a very big gun, that’s either hiding itself very well or moves quickly.”

“Don’t bother reversing, throw your tanks around now and get out at full speed. First platoon reported that same sort of contact the other day, and that thing’s been up and down the front. Get back here now.”

“Affirmative, but, what about-“ Von Rotehof tried to cling to the field, but Vehrlors cut him off.

“I’ll make some calls. That infantry company isn’t your responsibility. Get back now.”

“Yes sir,” you said.

“Yes, Four One,” Von Rotehof said too, deflating.
>>
“Driver, turn us one hundred eighty degrees and take us out of here as quickly as you can,” you ordered over the intercom next, trusting Vehrlors’s judgment. If this foe was recognizable enough for him to specifically say not to bother reversing, that must have meant somebody tried it, and didn’t do well for it. After the tank heaved about and began to go southwards again, you watched some of the Republic infantrymen, confused at your departure. If you could linger you would, but, that would help nobody right now.

…Though, you thought as you looked northwards again, this enemy would be back again, wouldn’t they? You hadn’t even seen them. It was wise to send your tank back, but was the same true for yourself?

>Were you going to be the one defying orders now? This wasn’t some dragon for you to slay. Return to the platoon.
>Send your tank back with your crew and dismount here, and watch. You had to at least get a glimpse of what you might be up again, even if it could be dangerous to be stuck out here in the infantry fighting.
>Ask Vehrlors if you can send the tanks to the rear, but if you and Von Rotehof can continue to observe the fighting. You’d need to fight whatever that thing was at some point.
>Other?
>>
>>4755808
>Were you going to be the one defying orders now? This wasn’t some dragon for you to slay. Return to the platoon.

Tempting as it is to discover what exactly the Nets havw, post-maiming Richter is screwed in an infantry fight even with the Fear gone.
>>
>>4755808
>Ask Vehrlors if you can send the tanks to the rear, but if you and Von Rotehof can continue to observe the fighting. You’d need to fight whatever that thing was at some point.
I'm really interested in what it was. I thought it might be a not!Panzerfaust, but from a kilometer away...
>>
>>4755808
>>Were you going to be the one defying orders now? This wasn’t some dragon for you to slay. Return to the platoon.
>>
>>4755808
>Ask Vehrlors if you can send the tanks to the rear, but if you and Von Rotehof can continue to observe the fighting. You’d need to fight whatever that thing was at some point.
From a 'safe' vantage point of course, knowing what it was might even save some tanks down the road when we have to deal with whatever it is. Time displaced and ritually summoned Panzerkampfwagen VIII Maus. Fucking wizards, man.
>>
>>4755808
>Ask Vehrlors if you can send the tanks to the rear, but if you and Von Rotehof can continue to observe the fighting. You’d need to fight whatever that thing was at some point.
>>
>>4755808
>>Were you going to be the one defying orders now? This wasn’t some dragon for you to slay. Return to the platoon.
>>
>>4755808
>Were you going to be the one defying orders now? This wasn’t some dragon for you to slay. Return to the platoon.
>>
>>4755808
>Ask Vehrlors if you can send the tanks to the rear, but if you and Von Rotehof can continue to observe the fighting. You’d need to fight whatever that thing was at some point.
Someone finally figured out that you can gut a tank to stick a longer gun in instead of just a wider gun. You've met sturmgeschutze before, now say hello to jagdpanzers.
>>
>>4756273
A jagdpanzer shouldn't be able to hide this quickly.
>>
>>4756343
Must be a low profile wheeled tank destroyer.
>>
>>4756343
>>4756347

NKE-2(36 RP): Extremely rare and prized capture. An open topped, turreted tank destroyer with frontal armor thick enough to resist most guns of 4cm and below, though extremely light on all other angles to keep it fast, its most significant trait is its long barreled, extremely powerful 7.5cm gun designed to skewer both the T-15 and potentially better protected tanks than even that. Crew of 5.

My bet is on one of these guys.
>>
>>4755808
>>Were you going to be the one defying orders now? This wasn’t some dragon for you to slay. Return to the platoon.
>>
>>4755808
>Were you going to be the one defying orders now? This wasn’t some dragon for you to slay. Return to the platoon.
Don't tell me the Netillians got one of their siege-breaking 1923 pattern landships out of mothballs or judge forbid the Northern Lords cashed out and hired the real Red Tide.
>>
>>4755816
>>4755853
>>4756201
>>4756243
>>4756416
>>4756463
Stop finding excuses to try and get yourself killed, you haven't even been at war for a week yet. Almost.

>>4755830
>>4755889
>>4756014
>>4756273
After so long in the desolate wasteland of no tanks, can you be blamed for wanting to see one?

Writing.
>>
Much as curiosity tempted you to remain behind on foot just to see if you could spot this new enemy, Vehrlors’s orders were clear, and you weren’t going to start defying him now. You couldn’t go chasing after every metaphorical dragon you heard of, and neither could Little Von Rotehof. Back to the platoon with the both of you.

“Let’s go, Four Three,” you urged your partner for this brief outing, for your own sake too, “I have a few ideas about what it might be and none of them are good.”

Was it, perhaps, one of the old landships? A new anti-tank vehicle not known? One built with the other, with a gun with longer range than seen? Or, possibly, was it something you had seen before? That one Ellowian vehicle, made to counter newer Twaryian armor. You’d never been shot at by any of them all the same, so any were valid guesses…

As you moved away, none of the Republic infantry followed, though quizzical glances continued. From there on, their operational integrity was their responsibility. You’d done more than ordered anyways, though when you thought about it, you had done surprisingly little. Would that have changed if the Netillians bothered to put up a solid defense instead of giving way in response to force? You’d find out at some point. They couldn’t put up that act for long, especially when you got close to Netilland’s borders.

If, a voice of doubt reminded, ”If” you get close to their borders.

There was a point there, you had to admit to yourself.

When you returned to your lines, the battle in front still going on with the sounds of machine gun fire and munitions caster explosions blending with rifle fire, Little Von Rotehof promptly got out of his tank and started pacing, mumbling and cursing, kicking dust and pebbles as his crew maneuvered the tank into the fighting hole it came out of. What a curious cause of frustration, you thought as you stared at the man from atop your tank. As you’d said to his elder brother, you hadn’t particularly sought out all that had happened to you, but even when Stevan Von Rotehof sought out danger, he was being yanked back to safety. A funny irony. Even being around you hadn’t been enough.

Yet you weren’t sure whether that was a mercy or not still.

The Mittelsosalian attack stubbornly continued for another couple of hours- from back on the hill, you could see that the infantry company that had come up behind you hadn’t been the only one to come forward. To the west and east you could spy the uniforms of the Republic here and there through binoculars, but it was impossible to tell how they were doing.

Only that, in the span of mere hours, you had gone from quite outnumbered, to having the numerical odds very strongly on your side. Locally, at least.
>>
“Look at them all over,” Little Von Rotehof had decided to look around too near you, and called over to you. “Yet we’re stuck back here. What’s with command?”

The Battalion, the Company, or Vehrlors?” “Maybe they can see something we can’t from here.”

“Whatever’s keeping them must be something big enough we can see from here…” Younger Von Rotehof grumbled.

A crackling from around your neck, and you shifted your headset up.

“Four-Five,” Vehrlors’s voice came up, “Do you copy?”

“I copy.”

“Come and see me. I have news I think you want to hear.”

-----

A goodly way south of the front lines, a meeting had been arranged for this seemingly unimportant group of visitors to the Republic- this band of vagabonds who, while curious (and some, quite intimidating) looking, had no apparent importance save for their leader, who was not the tallest nor strongest, but possessed of a remarkable attractiveness that made the Republic Soldiers securing the meeting second guess their own appearance. His cherubic visage would have been completed by a soft smile, but the way he trudged forward towards the command convoy with another of his own, whom had arrived with the supreme commander of the forces of the Republic of Mittelsosalia, he looked more a devil than anything.

“Where is she!?” the mysterious, beautiful man bellowed like a beast that he did not look like in any way but in the ugly mood on his face. A man that came forward, one of his own confidants, he grabbed by his collar and punched so hard in the face that the man was knocked into the dust. “Isek! What manner of pit did you crawl out of, to face me now?”

“My…Sir, Loch,” the man sputtered and wiped the blood from his cut lip from his mouth, “Calm yourself. Lady Vang is plenty alive-“

The beautiful man’s hand snatched out and dragged his man back up to his feet by his jacket- Isek gave no resistance with his body, and any objection he began was silenced by a second punch.

“I want no excuses!” Loch shouted in his face, “Do you know what you allowed to happen!?”

“Loch!” Another of the statuesque man’s escorts held back his arm before it could strike again, “Calm yourself!”

“This wretched fool-“

“Loch!” a female, commanding voice called, and the named man slackened his rage, let Isek pull away gently and brush himself off. As Loch snapped his head to look to the voice, he saw a pair of Republic officers side by side a young woman, a head shorter than her guards, wearing a white great coat and eyepatch, her hand clutched to her side inside the coat, the sleeve it abandoned flapping in the wind. She was rummaging in a pocket, and pulled out a cigarette that was promptly set in her lip.
>>
“Miss Vang!” Loch’s voice carried relief as he walked up, trying to affect a gentle smile and not doing very well at recovering it, “I was afraid that you were in great danger. It is good to see you…I had heard of some-”

“Of course I was in danger,” Signy interrupted as she motioned to one of her men, who produced a lighter. She tilted her head down and allowed the officer to light her cigarette, “This wouldn’t have worked if I wasn’t. It’d be disrespectful to my troops and to fate itself to not put myself at risk. Though…” She took a deep breath from the cigarette and held it in, before blowing it softly out again. “Phoo…though, I’m not that reckless. Not anymore. This white coat is showy. Nobody would be caught in this battle wearing it but me. If anybody knew where I was, they’d see it, and know I was there."

She continued"So, when I went missing, who could say which was me? No, there could only be one Cyclops. One Minister of the People…” She bit down on the cigarette, held it between her teeth as she stretched out her free hand and shook out her fingers, “They made themselves weaker chasing a half dozen opportunities. That made them weak enough to crush. They were greedy, and hasty. I guess I’m thankful they consider me so valuable. If they didn’t think catching me was worth it, they wouldn’t have thought it’d be the easiest, best way out of where they found themselves. They thought they were going down the quickest and easiest way, while still getting to win big…like I wanted them to think. Instead of just running, or at least staying in place, they did the worst thing, just fort the chance to get me. At some point they must have known it was a trick, but they were too far in. They had to keep going…and they did get close.”

She took her hand away from her side, where a bloody bandage remained stuck just a few finger widths from the edge of her torso. The path of the rifle bullet must have shattered a rib, and from the sweat on the Minister’s brow and the shortness of her breath, she was in no small amount of pain because of it.

“It’s not much,” she said slowly to Loch, “One of my impersonators was captured…and taken away. Another was shot through the eye.” A nod to her flanking officers. “Let us alone for a moment.” They respectfully stepped away, as did Loch’s entourage.

Loch knelt down and set his hand against the Minister’s side, breathless. Even the gentle brush of his fingers caused Signy to recoil.

“Your man that you just beat up,” she pointed to Isek, “He treated me well after I was hit. I thought you’d commend him, not…whatever that was.”
>>
“Your life is too important to throw away on a gamble such as that, you fool of a woman,” Loch said quietly as he put his fingers under Signy’s shirt, where it had been split by a blade to access the wound and tried to lift it up to see better, but her hand fell on his wrist and pushed it slowly away. “Your father would not approve,” he continued.

The Minister of the People slouched over, took her cigarette out of her mouth, and blew a long breath of smoke into the man’s face. “How dare you,” she murmured, “I thought you a better man than to say something like that.”

“How dare I?” Loch demanded with a sharp breath, and he stood up- the Minister of the People now had to look up rather than down at him. “You demand that my men and I save for the most minimal escort stay away from you, and you do something such as this? You’ve nerve uncommon even for your blood.”

The young woman said nothing, and the wind whistled between the two figures as they regarded one another in silence.

“Is this the respect I’ve earned, Loch?” Signy demanded, “When am I going to stop being some toy that you cannot let go? I’ve grown used to men wounding my body by now, but I’m still not used to men wounding my heart.”

Loch had nothing to say to that, but he clenched his fists tightly.

“That movement of the Griffon company,” Signy breathed in smoke again, “Them throwing themselves off the line of battle and back towards the pocket. Was that your intervention? Tell me the truth.”

“It was.” The beautiful man’s frown looked wrong on his face- the perfection of his curls was frayed by loose hairs, and dust in his shining golden locks. Still, the Minister of the People, even now, had to look away from him every so often to avoid being enchanted.

“You had no faith in me.”

“Do you have any idea how much you are worth to the world?” Loch challenged back.

“I’ve heard this before, and I don’t want to see you if all you want to do is be frustrating,” Signy said with exhaustion weighing down her voice and her eyelids like so many stones atop them, “You’ve had your chance. I’ve told you what I wanted. Yet you’re the only one who gets to demand, are you?” She set her gaze back upon Loch’s eyes, “You don’t deserve it, but I’ll give you one last chance. Do something outrageous. Right here and now.”

Loch merely stared sadly at her in that way Signy couldn’t stand.

“Your men can stay,” the Minister of the People breathed, “They’re good people, well meaning and considerate. You, though? Next time I see you, I’ll have you locked up until I find out who comes to beg for you back. Go home, Loch.”

The beautiful man turned on his heel and made a click of his tongue, and a sigh. “If only you could understand…”

Signy only watched him and glowered at his back held straight as he stepped resolutely away and back to his collection of people.

-----
>>
“…So the Minister of the People has been found again…” You breathed with a sigh of relief as Vehrlors told you the news.

“She a friend of yours?”

You shifted from a foot to the other, wary of the comment made earlier about her being a mistress.

Vehrlors noticed a certain guarded posture, and spoke before you could. “I made friends with a Paellan officer, back when we were as far west as you can go before you hit the storms, the Destruction Manifest, all that. He was a funny sort, the kind of person you get when you live too close to the Maelstroms for too long, maybe your whole life. Their heads are different, the way they see, hear, feel things. Some people around there call them cursed, and enough believe it that they’re segregated into their own units. I liked his sense of humor. His view of the world.”

“What sort of view was that?”

“The way he put it…well, his New Nauk was awful, but, their way of saying it,” Vehrlors reminisced while mimicking being edged up against a cliff and leaning over, “We’re people who never bother looking down the cliffs. I figure it meant that he thought everybody in the world was on the edge of…something. We didn’t understand each other so well in some ways, but in others, I felt exactly what he felt, if you know what I’m talking about.” Vehrlors ceased his miming and he hooked his thumbs in his belt. “Then, the Kalleans came around hard as hell. His unit was wiped out, like a wave washed over it. And I couldn’t do a damn thing about it.”

“…”

“So, she a friend of yours?”

“Yes.”

“She got a name?”

You raised an eyebrow at Vehrlors. “I would think you’d know..?”

“Humor me.”

“Signy. Signy Vang.”

“Signy, huh,” Vehrlors tried the name on his tongue, “I knew the Vang part, but that’s a bit cutesy a name for a dictator, isn’t it? She doesn’t have the face for it either. So what sort of friends are you? If you feel I’m making an even trade.”

>She kidnapped you, multiple times, and tried to solicit you for an affair. Trouble. You’ve forgiven her, mostly.
>Cyclops, the Minister of the People, Signy Vang, all part of your history, your legacy. Your stories were part of one another. You wouldn’t be where you are now without her.
>It’s not who she is to you that matters so much. It’s who she is to others. You see somebody who’s a beacon of inspiration to this place of rejected life and broken dreams, and you want her to succeed. To make the world better.
>Other?
>>
>>4757444
>It’s not who she is to you that matters so much. It’s who she is to others. You see somebody who’s a beacon of inspiration to this place of rejected life and broken dreams, and you want her to succeed. To make the world better.
Nice digits and the last one actually made my smile a little so I'll vote for it.
>>
>>4757444
>It’s not who she is to you that matters so much. It’s who she is to others. You see somebody who’s a beacon of inspiration to this place of rejected life and broken dreams, and you want her to succeed. To make the world better.
>>
>>4757444
>It’s not who she is to you that matters so much. It’s who she is to others. You see somebody who’s a beacon of inspiration to this place of rejected life and broken dreams, and you want her to succeed. To make the world better.
>>
>>4757444
>>It’s not who she is to you that matters so much. It’s who she is to others. You see somebody who’s a beacon of inspiration to this place of rejected life and broken dreams, and you want her to succeed. To make the world better.
>>
>>4757444
>>Cyclops, the Minister of the People, Signy Vang, all part of your history, your legacy. Your stories were part of one another. You wouldn’t be where you are now without her.
She got to be leader of a new nation and we got to be in the Silver Lances, everybody wins here in Sosaldt.
>>
>>4757444
>Cyclops, the Minister of the People, Signy Vang, all part of your history, your legacy. Your stories were part of one another. You wouldn’t be where you are now without her.
>>
>>4757444
>It’s not who she is to you that matters so much. It’s who she is to others. You see somebody who’s a beacon of inspiration to this place of rejected life and broken dreams, and you want her to succeed. To make the world better.
I don't agree with any part of the first option and she's grown into a much stronger, different person from the second option. What she's striving for in the third is something to praise and that's the way it should be.
>>
>>4757444
>It’s not who she is to you that matters so much. It’s who she is to others. You see somebody who’s a beacon of inspiration to this place of rejected life and broken dreams, and you want her to succeed. To make the world better.
>>
>>4757467
>>4757483
>>4757491
>>4757502
>>4757789
>>4757848
They grow so fast don't they.

>>4757525
>>4757623
Who are you without each other?

Writing.
>>
“The sort of friends isn’t what matters,” you told Vehrlors, “Not that much, at least. It’s not what’s between us, it’s also what Signy Vang is to other people, to the world. This place was a wasteland of lives rejected, broken dreams, and it’s going to become so much more now. I want her to succeed at that, at making the world better.”

Vehrlors gave you a funny look as he took in what you said. “Talking like that,” he said with a stifled laugh in his tone, “You really are fucking her, aren’t you?”

“I’m not-“ you said in a hot reflex, but you let it go. “You understand what I’m talking about though, don’t you?” Not just yanking on my chain?

“Big talk like that’s easy to make fun of, I’m just giving my share of what I’ve taken, because I do understand. Even if you’re really laying it on thick buttering this woman up. Plenty of warlords have nice speeches that don’t turn into reality, though. You been around many of the sort?”

“No,” you admitted, “But I do think that she truly believes it.”

“Not enough to sway you from your convictions to the noblesse oblige, though?”

“It is better for this place,” you said, “It isn’t as though it’s a coup over the Archduke and his lords. Here, it’s only a gift to the lost people of these lands. A Republican shepherd is better than having wolves in every shadow.”

“Would it still be that way if the shepherd was a despot?”

“I don’t believe she’ll become an upstart despot,” you said. A non-answer, but for authority to be gained from naked power with not a whit of regard towards tradition and precedent of ancestral and societal duty…that would fly in the face of Republicanism and Aristocracy both, would it not?

“If that’s what you think,” Vehrlors said with a little skeptical tilt of his lip, “Not as though there have been many despots who are young women barely out of the gymnasium. Do you know how old she is?” A pause. “How old are you?”

“She is twenty.” You said, and thought about the latter question. Vehrlors liked to play around, so why be direct? “How old do I look?”

“Too young and too old.”

…You didn’t even know how to take that, and you screwed up your face trying to wonder in a moment what that was supposed to mean. “I’m sorry?” You finally gave up.

“Like somebody jammed five years into you in a few months,” Vehrlors tried to be gentler with that tone, “Be thankful you don’t have any grey hairs yet, that’s all. This shit ages you no matter how good you are. I’m thirty years old and I swear when my beard grows in it’s like salt and pepper.”
>>
A sound from the west, followed by sounds from the east. The sharp booms of heavy guns- if the wind told you right, from the south. You looked around, forgetting the subject, though Vehrlors didn’t seem surprised. “Are we supposed to be doing something soon? Those are our guns, aren’t they?”

“Yeah. They’re not for us, though. We’re sitting right here for now.”

You tried to look upwards and place yourself where, even now, a pair of fighter planes were sweeping over, to look down at what was happening now. On either side of you, offensives, yet here, you stayed. What would the theorist Debon say about this? That you ought to shift deployment to put every bit of your strength against where the enemy was weak, you recalled- armor was of no use idle according to him. Yet you’d long reached the parts of his writing where his suggestion against an equally mobile opponent was to limit their mobility whilst not allowing them to impede one’s own- was that your role here?

“Do you know what we’re doing here, or what we will be doing?” You asked as your imagined view settled to the ground again.

Vehrlors cast an amused look north. “Is Little Von Rotehof wanting to go adventuring again? I haven’t been told yet, but,” He pointed to the northwest, looked at his compass, and adjusted his finger slightly to a pair of hills in the distance. “Over in that direction, there’s an old fort that I’m sure we’ll want to take. Even if we’re holding back, this position is lacking for good strong points in case the Netillians’ second go is harder than the last. Nothing the pioneers can make with the time we’ve got will do. We need a fortress either the earth or the man made in no hurry. There’s no shortage of old Imperial forts and things built over top of them, and recon says the one over that way is old but solid. Not good enough for anything made to break concrete, but good enough to sit in and feel safe.”

“So that’s what’s next…” you took your binoculars from around your neck and tried your best to look closer.

“It’ll be a little bit before.”

“What makes you say that?” you asked, looking out of your lens at Vehrlors. Command hadn’t said anything for certain yet, according to him.

“We’ll know,” Vehrlors said, “Because we’ll have to break out the candy box.”

-----
>>
Another hour passed- it was now well into the afternoon, and the Republic Infantry had been pushed back once again, to your positions. A counterattack from mechanized infantry had hit them hard, and they now licked their wounds behind the safety of your forward positions, the enemy keeping well away from you as an Ellowian air strike from a few ground-attack planes prevented the Netillians from hounding your allies all the way back. Captain Vehrlors and the Republic Infantry captain were having an absolute row concerning that failed push, but you kept well away, thankful that your position as subordinate, for once, kept you away from that sort of inter-unit politic.

If nothing else, the Mittelsosalians had gained a respect for the enemy up here that they lacked before, with a lesson that could have been much bloodier. They were now apprised and wary of both the Netillian special weapons and their mechanical assets. Though your own tank was superior to much of the Netillian armored armory (with notable exceptions), the other tanks in your unit besides Vehrlors’s tank were armed with 3.7 centimeter cannons, and they all were less armored than your own tank even without considering the mystical addition to your m/32B. They respected the plainer tanks of the northern forces far more than you did, the materiel if not their enemies themselves.

You and Little Von Rotehof lingered behind the lines, idle, and with the Netillians failing to hurl artillery at you, oddly bored after a short time.

“How did you get that piece of equipment anyways?” Younger Von Rotehof asked you as he played a card game with Malachi, Jorgen, and a crewman. For some reason, the masked man fascinated him- he’d asked to play “Cercle Vingt-Un” with you, but you didn’t know the rules, so he played with your crew and one of his own instead. It was a four player game using a normal deck of cards- Von Rotehof used his own. Jorgen’s preference of Hausen’s cards was “too vulgar.” “I heard some of your report to the Captain of what you’ve been through. Seems like the Netillians would really hate you.”

“I appreciate it much,” you said, remembering your time without the m/32- the X series tanks had little appreciable armor. “It belongs to the Von Blum family. Or Maddalyn Von Blum, my fiancée. So I suppose it’s somewhat of…a dowry?”

“Marrying into a special Territory-developed tank, huh,” Von Rotehof said with the musing of a man calculating, “I ought to try that.”

Well, Mathilda Von Blum was unmarried, but you couldn’t inflict that on a man. Even if you’d only ever seen her but once. At least, you thought with a dark cloud suddenly descending upon your idle thoughts, you hoped you’d only seen her once…
>>
“It’d be the first time something good’s come out of a marriage, Chains,” Von Rotehof’s ally in the game, his radio operator, said as though he dispensed advice from a mountaintop. “I say though, drop the marriage idea, get a lot of ladies sweet on you. Then you can have all the tanks you want, yeah?”

“That sounds like more trouble than marriage, Warn,” Von Rotehof said with a cadence that sounded well practiced, repeated frequently.

“Think of the results, though.” The crewman named Warn was the dealer, and after he dealt out a pair of cards to everybody, one of his own pair turned down, he waited.
Malachi’s speech was no obstacle here. He made a motion like scratching his index and middle finger on the crate being used as a table with a vague grunt, and a card was sent his way.

“Hit-Steal,” Von Rotehof declared as soon as the card went face up, prodding the crate with an up and down motion with the same two fingers used to scratch, and reaching to take the card.

“Haeldahp,” Jorgen coughed, “Snaetch.”

“What?” Von Rotehof snapped his head over and saw Jorgen’s two cards, “Ah, damn it.”

The aim of the game was to reach the number twenty one with the value of one’s cards- or, if this couldn’t be done, to have as high a number as possible without going over twenty one.
“Twaenty-one, thraene baenes,” Jorgen listed off with a satisfied growl, “Faertaeme payoot.”

Von Rotehof sighed and pushed a small pile of notched bullet casings forward. These games in the Silver Lances were apparently high-stakes; the pot, it was agreed upon by organizers going all the way up into the battalion staff, was required to be one’s monthly pay, divided into twenty for each token. It was easy to lose one’s entire pay in such a game, but anything less was looked down upon when it came to gambling for money in the unit.

The terms Jorgen had listed off were multipliers. The payout for victory was the equal to one’s bet, naturally, but one got an equal portion more for each additional victory mark, which included winning with twenty one, winning with the “Throne” card’s adjacent superior value, the Throne being a special bonus card placed before dealing (For example, if the Throne card was a Nine, the cards that qualified for bonuses were Tens). There was also winning with cards in the Royal Theme suit, which occurred when a Jack, King, or Queen was the Throne card. Whatever suit the card was, received bonus points if they were won with.

Such bonuses were added up upon a win, for example, a win with twenty-one with a Throne bonus card and also a Royal Theme Suit bonus for two cards would result in a payout of four time’s ones bet. Such escalation was exciting- and why very often tank commanders especially of noble means were expected to guarantee their crews’ bets.
>>
That was not something you had done, because Jorgen and Malachi hadn’t asked, and not said anything when you were educated on that practice by the Younger Von Rotehof.

The next round was less exciting- the position of Dealer moved on to Von Rotehof, and there were no “hit-steals” or “snatches” this time. Good for him, as that pit the table against him and potentially resulted in more gains from victory, rather than the hit-steals that merely pitted one player against the other and iced the dealer out of playing against the table. Respectively, such was when a player hit instead of staying with their initial dealing (getting another card from the deck by the dealer), and if the card they received did not make their hand twenty one, but it did make another player’s hand twenty one, that other player could “hit-steal” and win directly against that player. Meanwhile, if the same applied to yet another player, they could “snatch” and steal the victory from under the nose of the initial thief.

Important to note, however, was that the dealer could not hit-steal, but they could snatch. This being because the dealer had to reveal their hidden card upon declaration of hit-steal. The dealer could start the game Dealer Open, winning with which gave the dealer an extra point in victory, but you hadn’t seen any Dealer declare Dealer Open yet.

“Your crew is going to steal my inheritance at this rate, Von Tracht,” Von Rotehof grumbled, even though he had done well last round. As the cards were collected and the deck shuffled by Jorgen, he continued the subject before. “I heard from my crew talking to yours that you used to be part of a training mission over with the people we’re fighting now. Is that so?”

“It is,” you said, “I’d imagine the mission’s well over now. Even though the Silver Lances aren’t officially military action on the part of the Archduchy, I doubt the Netillians appreciate it, even if there’s no war between them and the Archduchy…”

“I don’t think I’ve ever met a Netillian, or known much about them,” Von Rotehof said as he stayed on a solid hand- a nineteen. “What’s your measure of them?”

“I remember you thinking they were yellow. Did something change?”

“I say a lot of things,” Von Rotehof muttered. “You can play, if you want. Your northman’s up more than I’d like.”

>What is your measure of the Netillians and Netilland?
Also-
>Play a round of Cercle Vingt-Un?
>>
>>4759287
>Netillians
Are a people like any other from what we've known.
Many of them would probably rather not be here at all, but they're in too deep thanks to their leadership accumulating generations of cyclical violence, and the propaganda they're fed on a regular basis driving them to believe a continued escalation of this violence is the only way to go at this point.
They will fight and fight hard because that's all they've ever known and because they believe they're in the right to do so, so they aren't an enemy to take lightly under any circumstances even if they are one to be pitied as we put them down.
It's hard not to get a little hot under the collar when thinking about the UGZs and the mistreatment of the Ellioians, but at the end of the day, the best thing to do is to beat the mad dogs down until they lose the strength to keep fighting everyone around them.

>Play a round of Cercle Vingt-Un?
We need to save our wages for the wedding!
...
Yes, I know the Von Blums will probably pay for everything! It's the principle of the thing damn it!
>>
>>4759287
>>What is your measure of the Netillians and Netilland?
Netilland itself has transformed into something awful. It has allowed some truly detestable creatures to grow in its shadow. We have met many Netillians of good character however, and its likely even more good people are trapped under Netillands boot. Hopefully this conflict can weaken the current Netilland enough that the more moderate Netillians can wrestle back power and stop the conflict before it reaches a point of no return.
>Play a round of Cercle Vingt-Un?
No, we need to save up our luck for the coming fights. No point in winning the rest of Von Rotehof's paycheck if we don't get to spend it.
>>
>>4759287
Seconding >>4759363
>>
>>4759287
>What is your measure of the Netillians and Netilland?

In terms of quality, decent to pretty damn good depending on the unit (like Zohl's Guards or Magnus's boys). Good enough to hold their own against the Twaryians (which are definitely not slouches) though that's with them tied down with the ERA.

As for people? Well we've met people who are only there because their parents are in a labour camp. We've met a monster of a commissar, a camp commandant trying to dissent in his own way, and people who joined just because up to now it seemed like the Military Council was achieving things the Old Republic never did. So really just like any other society.

The Military Council must die though, and those who'd give people like Zohl the keys to power.
>>
>>4759454
Also
>Play a round of Cercle Vingt-Un?
Supporting >>4759363 's answer
>>
>>4759363
+1
>>
>>4759338
>>4759363
>>4759414
>>4759651
>>4759454
Worthy of respect. Deserving of condemnation.
Also you're not taking my money.

Writing.
>>
“No thank you,” you declined the offer for a game, “I’d like to save my luck for the fighting.”

“You don’t spend your luck gambling, Half Face,” Warn said up to you, “It’s how you read it. It’s like licking your finger and holdin’ it to the wind. It’s not stuff you’ve got saved up in a bag, it’s a force of nature.”

Interesting a theory as that was, you still weren’t going to bet entire monthly paychecks on this particular table, no matter how rich your spouse was.

“When it comes to the Netillians and Netilland, though,” you thought back to when those men in forest green were your comrades and not your enemies, “The people are like any other ones I’ve known, of all stripes. I’ve met a monstrous creature of a Kommissar who used his power to fuel his sick fascinations. There was an administrator of a UGZ who all but dissented against his superiors to try and make the lives of his charges better,”

“A UGZ?” Von Rotehof asked, “What’s that?”

“An Ubergangszentrum,” you recited easily, “Transition centers. They’re places where sections of the native Ellowian population are kept and contained until they’re ready to be put somewhere else. There was a program ongoing where they would settle Ellowian lands with Netillian colonists while sending the conquered population back to Netilland. It was presented as a sort of cultural fusion, they called it, but the UGZs are usually very poor, and don’t have enough resources to care for the people housed in them.”

“This was only for Ellowians?” You saw a look in Von Rotehof’s face- he was building an image of oppressors.

“No, actually,” you said, “There’s UGZs back in Netilland, but they’re different. For political dissidents and that sort of people. There were plenty of people in the Netillian Army solely because their families were in work camps. Penal troops apparently had their family and friends under suspicion or imprisonment too. I can’t imagine most of them want to be here at all, but they have no choice.”

“Hmm…” Von Rotehof settled back into the ground, thinking. “Oh, uh, hit me.” He got a big card and busted. “Damn.” Losing on a bust was far from the most money one could lose, though. The only money lost was the bet.
>>
“There’s truly detestable people,” you said coldly, “Doing awful things with the power they have now, but so many more are just trapped under their government. Plenty of them think that the best choice was to join the Military Council…their ruling government, because they’ve done things their old Republic never was able to do, like finally defeat their longtime enemy. Because of that mindset of winning, though…they’re a nation of fighters, of belligerency, and they’ve been that way for generations. Maybe the Military Council, for all its evils, was something inevitable with them, and now that it’s in place, there’s Netillians who think that it’s the only way to go for them. They’ll fight hard and they won’t doubt their ability or reasons for doing so. The only way to help the moral and moderate ones is to defeat them all, to weaken the structure until the good ones can take back the reigns.”

“They don’t sound like people to take lightly,” Von Rotehof said, “Like mad dogs.”

“I’m not sure if I’d describe them like that,” you frowned and cocked your head, “But they are skilled and well equipped. They’re at minimum decent fighters, good enough to hold their own against the Twaryians.”

“I’ve never heard anything about the Twaryians besides their kooky beliefs and that they’re Caelussians,” Von Rotehof said.

“They’re not to be taken lightly either,” talking about Twaryians would have to come another time. “Either way, they’re hard fighters, but they have to be beaten. The Military Council must die, before they cast their people down a road there’s no returning from.”

“Now that’s more like it!” Von Rotehof’s shoulders straightened and he stood to his feet, the little chains on his jacket jingling. “The Military Council must fall!” He paused, muttered the same thing under his breath a few times, and frowned deeply. “That doesn’t sound very good though, does it. It doesn’t have poetry.”

“You’re in the wrong place for poetry, Little Rotehof,” Vehrlors came tromping down from the skirmish line, and looked over the table. “Ah, I see. You’re trying to wax poetic to try and sway lady Fortune.”

“Lady Fortune’s a skank, Cap,” Warn said, “Nobody wants attention from a lady like that.”

“Aye,” Jorgen agreed, “Flaertyhaarlaet.”

“Nobody wants to marry Fortune,” Vehrlors shook his head, “…Except me, but you ought not to.”

“Is the front so quiet you can come back here to play cards, Captain?” Little Von Rotehof looked north again, as though hearing a call.

“Hell no. There’s something happening soon that we’re going to need to get ready for.”

“Oh?” He had the attention of everybody- the game had been temporarily forgotten.
>>
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“Big Von Rotehof’s coming around in a minute,” Vehrlors said, “Finish up your game, boys. I need to brief the officers on what’s happening tonight and tomorrow.”

Jorgen came out of the game a fair bit richer and smug for it, but everybody else had come out for the lesser, if your count of the marked casings was correct. Nobody had hit their limit, so the games would resume, but for now, the business of war took precedence. The line would be heating up again in no time, after a brief respite had occurred.

“Right now,” Vehrlors pointed to the map he laid out on the crate while all the platoon officers crouched around it, “To the west and east the first and second battalions of the Lancers Regiment are advancing north, along with support, and all the Panzergrenadier they can get. The ones that’ve stuck with us are set to pack up and leave tonight to join up with their units again. We’re holding back, for the most part. Command wants us to move up and secure a more solid line of defense, where we can sit still and occupy the enemy to the front while the rest of the division moves up on their flanks. They really liked how the last operation went, and we’re seeing how well it works against the Netillians.”

“These guys aren’t like the Sosaldtians, though,” Big Von Rotehof said darkly.

“We’ll see. We don’t have to do what the other units are doing anyways.” Vehrlors pointed to the map where you were, “Tonight, the Flammpanzer platoon are going to come to our position, and in the morning, there’s going to be an attack on the fort on the hill to the north. That’ll be our new strong point that’ll even us out with the lines to the east. The Republic Infantry are going to attack there with ours and first platoon’s support. Our job,” He moved his finger north, “Is to secure their flank to their east. We’ll have the support of Republic Infantry ourselves, but we aren’t to move up further than necessary. The main effort is in taking that old fort. Once we’re up far enough to cover the flank, Republic engineers will start digging everything in, including some guns the unit’s captured, and once they’re done, we can leave it to the chocolate soldiers. They’re getting reinforced tonight for this.”

Did one of the guns captured include the one you’d brought back, you wondered. The Republic had a critical lack of anti-tank assets, so the possibility you’d helped with that even a little gave you some warmth.
>>
“We can’t bring up Big Von Rotehof’s tank for this,” Vehrlors said, “I’m taking the chance to send it back to see if it can’t get repaired by the Maintenance Company. That means we’re going in with three tanks. Same designations as before. Von Tracht, you’ll be second in command.”

“But-“ Little Von Rotehof objected but shut his mouth immediately after a single syllable- he wasn’t about to debate it. Less a matter of disrespect, and more of ambition, you’d presume.

“Big Von Rotehof is still second in command of the unit, but he won’t be along for the operation,” Vehrlors nodded to the other auburn haired man, “Our own artillery’s busy with the east and west, so any support’s going to be the Republic troops. I’ll get a liaison for talking with them so we don’t have to work alone if we don’t have to. The timing for the start of our attack will be right after an air strike by ground attack planes arranged for next morning. After it’s done, we’re in action. Understood?”

“That vehicle with the big gun from earlier will be around, won’t it,” you put forward, “That might be trouble.”

“It might be, it might not be. I think it’d have more important places to be. What’d keep it here?” Vehrlors must have encountered worse to be so relaxed about that thing. Maybe he’d change his tune if he’d been shot at with it. “Scouts aren’t reporting much in the way of armor along where we’re supposed to go. There’s no reason this should be anything but simple, but don’t let your guard down.” Vehrlors stood up again, “We’ll go over this again next morning before we head out. Try to take a nap or something before this. Dismissed.”

>Do anything in particular before the operation starts next morning?
Also, after this excursion, I plan to have a perspective shift, so if you want anything in particular, you can throw that in as a pseudo-vote. Don't know whether or not to have it be long enough to be from a playable character perspective, we'll see.
>>
>>4760873
>Go to the medics and check up on our burns.
I'd like to know how our homie Rondo is doing.
>>
>>4760873
>Do anything in particular before the operation starts next morning?
I don't mind skipping forward.
As for perspective shifts, seeing what's going on in Almize since the last aside there would be cool, though honestly I've liked all the shifts so far.
>>
>>4760873
What can we do other then rest. I doubt theres any sort of field modifications we can do overnight that we wouldnt already have done. Possibly another mg pintle mounted to the rear of the turret if any brave republican wanted a ride.
Speaking of, they'll be our only infantry for this assault. Hopefully their fruitless attack hasnt deterred them from further operations.

>perspective shift
Netillian commander trying to blunt the offensive :^)
Im always down for more wizard perspectives or any of the other mystical stuff. Not opposed to the Almize stuff either.
>>
>>4760873
>Do anything in particular before the operation starts next morning?
Check on our wounds, write a letter to home and Maddy, try to turn in early to get some rest.

>Perspective shift
I'd honestly rather not have to play through it, but either way I'd like to see what Rondo is up to.
>>
>>4760873
>Do anything in particular before the operation starts next morning?
Does Richter still have that tin with the hungry darkness living inside it or did Maddy take it at some point?
We should probably check on it privately (i.e.: quickly bury it in a hole in the dust) just in case it soaked up anything it shouldn't have after we voted to use that Hellfire.
>perspective shift
What are Honnrieg and Bat Company up to while this brewing "international incident" goes on?
>>
>>4761193
>Spoiler
Oh man that's a good one. Been wondering what those crazy fuckers have been up to.
>>
>>4760873
>Do anything in particular before the operation starts next morning?
Get our bandages redressed and rest well.
>Perspective shift
>>4761193 has a good one, Almize is also nice as well
>>
Alright then.

>>4760910
>>4761034
>>4761681
Get checked out. Incorrigible, you can't stand to be too far from a heavy chested woman for too long, can you.

>>4761193
Check your chocolate can. Yes, you still have it. It's pretty portable and innocuous.

>>4760941
See if anything can be done to your tank. You're not engineers by any means, but maybe something can be done?
Additional armor is not generally a good idea for the m/32. The m/32B is already overloaded weightwise because of it.

>>4760910
>>4761034
Vonnie Ronnie

>>4760912
>>4760941
>>4761681
Almize News

>>4761193
>>4761370
>>4761681
Bat Company Blues

Alright then, writing. Though the asides will be after the op, because time will have to pass, of course.
>>
As you went back to your tank, you thought about what you could do with the rest of the day- and night. Could you improve your tank in some way? Unlikely in only a day, but it couldn’t possibly take too long to make some convenient adjustment with some creativity and a welding torch, could it? If you were going to be working with infantry, perhaps a pintle-mount for a machine gun on the back of the turret? Not like you’d be able to fire such a thing well.

A look over your tank, and within it- you saw a beaten old chocolate tin in the personal items cabinet, and blinked as you remembered what was in it. The Hungry Darkness, the little, ineffectual Presence creature ostensibly useful for detecting whether a spiritual threat or (well, such as) a Soulbinder was around. As far as you knew, it wasn’t an intelligent creature nor was it a feeling one, so forgetting it like this probably didn’t mean anything, but you did feel bad for it, just in case you managed to find a way to starve one. Could a blotch of blackness starve? You’d have to find out.

…In addition, you weren’t sure if firing the Hellfire shell might have done something to it. Could you be too careful?

The caution was unnecessary, you learned as you opened it out of sight of any nearby and saw the thing. It looked like a night localized entirely within the chocolate tin, with blank, white pearlescent spheres swirling about, fading and brightening. It looked rather like a stray cat being found in an alley, as much as something with as few features as it could seem like that.

Was it supposed to try and branch out or reach up or anything like that, you tried to recall as you stuck a finger in to prod it, to try and pull it out, but something so immaterial did not struggle to resist. It was quite happy staying in the can, thank you very much. Closing the tin again, you looked around suspiciously. Was the Hungry Darkness (you forgot if you named it- one of your crew did, but nobody had liked the name, you recalled) merely being modest, or was something around to spook it?

A wind blew from the north, and drew your eyes to the cold touch. A thought of the other former can-occupant, now in that direction- you still had the ration can you used to keep Emma in, but it had been empty for a long time now. Maddalyn had said that possession was a safe end point, relatively. The alternative, “best” solution would have been to “dispel” Emma, so yes, this was better, and the person she was possessing, the Duchess Von Katski, had been a twisted person. Yet…you hoped you hadn’t ruined anything, still. Maddalyn had also said that possession that took place for too long combined the souls in some way, didn’t she? How exactly would that occur? Had you simply killed Emma again in a more roundabout way?
>>
You needed to write a letter to Maddalyn. Not to ask her what was happening, but to take your mind off exactly that. Who knew when she’d receive it, but you had to nevertheless. You’d talk about what you’d done- that you’d been wounded again, but that you had trustworthy allies, comrades.

Should you say that you fired off the Hellfire shell? You’d decide that later, as the thought of your burns provoked them into making their presence known quite loudly. They’d gotten better, but they still were uncomfortable, and it wouldn’t hurt to have them checked on. If you weren’t supposed to be called up specifically until tomorrow morning anyways, perhaps you could get a short reprieve back to the Medical Company? Yes, you’d ask Vehrlors about that, and then maybe you could write something once you were there.

The answer was for Vehrlors to call the Company commander- a few short words, an assurance of who was asking- yes, yes, of course. He ceased his communication and gave you permission to head over to the Company Headquarters with a couple of your crewmen, so long as they were sent right back. The Medical Company’s ambulances and transports would be picking up some wounded Panzergrenadier who had been deemed unable to move along to support their fellows where they were redeploying, but weren’t hurt enough to need to be moved immediately. You’d catch a ride with them back to the headquarters, still at the town of Ganzenacht.

A short salute and thanks, and you were soon on your way. Much as you’d like to have had a staff car deployed, you could understand that you couldn’t demand such accommodations, considering the situation and your relative unimportance here.

When you went out with Jorgen and Malachi, you were feeling strong and confident in your ability to carry yourself, but the burns were felt more and more still as you went on- Jorgen offered to carry you, but you couldn’t accept that offer. Even though you were staggering and limping by the time you arrived at the Company Headquarters, and you’d quite obviously caused a delay as the Medical Company convoy idled about in a line behind the headquarters entrenchments. A thanks and a farewell to your crew- good thing you were plenty far enough behind your lines to not have had to worry about Netillians sniping at you the whole way.

A short snooze as you were all driven back. None of the panzergrenadier in the back of the truck were in a talking mood, except one with bandages around his eyes that asked occasionally where you were, though he had an acquaintance who kept him informed when requested. The blinded man seemed like he shouldn’t have been delayed, but what could you know of his situation?
>>
“Hello,” you said to a Medical Company staff officer at the worn hut you’d been directed to once you were all offloaded, after having waited for the others to be attended to, of course. “I’m just here to see if I can have these burns I’ve had attended to can be looked at. Maybe have the bandages changed…”

“Do you have your wound form from before?”

“Er.”

“Is it serious?”

“I just want to make sure nothing’s going gangrenous.”

“Your name then, please, on this form,” the staff officer requested adroitly. “...Von Tracht. I see.” He gave you a tag, “Go to the building with this number. You should be attended to by Republic medical personnel.”

You couldn’t really complain, and nodded, though you were rather certain you had been to the same number before. Indeed you had, as you recognized the building. Would you get the same…staff?
This particular building had convalescing troops in it- people about as badly hurt as you, expected to return to the front after a short recovery, and there were many Republic Troops here as well. Most weren’t even in beds- a clear shortage of cots, but it wasn’t a problem here. Perhaps the shortage here meant there wasn’t one elsewhere.

“Nurse!” a grizzled bonesaw called as you walked in, “We’ve got another one! Get him squared away!” He gave you a squint, “Damn, are you fucked.”

“I’m not here for my face,” you said, now missing your mask you left back in the tank, “I just need bandages on my arms and legs changed. I was burned badly there, see…”

“I’m here!” the nurse arrived, and you were…relieved, to see a familiar face. “Ah!” Alina covered her mouth as she spotted you again, and looked away, “Oh, I’m sorry, yes, I’ll handle this one.” She took you by the arm and hurried you…down the hall, to another row of cots, and she sat you down on the middle of one, all in such a hurry you didn’t think of what to say.

Though somebody else did- another person sitting at the head of the ratty, beaten cot with a threadbare sheet to claim for a blanket, not that the occupant was actually resting under it rather than atop it. Another familiar face- directly related to the one who had brought you here, assuredly on purpose. You hadn’t expected to be attending this particular family’s meetup.

“Huh. Didn’t expect to see you so soon.” The nasally voice, tired, and level.
>>
“Me neither,” you said to the blonde, scar faced woman who was staring blankly at you, caught off guard and searching for what to say. She seemed like she had something to ask about, but had been caught completely off guard.

“Thank you very much,” Alina sighed, and took a seat on the last third of the cot, holding your hand, “For sending her back here. She had a leg wound that nobody had properly looked at.”

Anya said nothing, and had bent forward, staring at the floor with her hands knitted below her chin, resting her arms on her thighs.

“She wasn’t ready to bite my head off either. I’ll assume you’re responsible for that.” Alina smiled at you in a weary way; she was doing her best to put on a pleasant face, but the dark circles around her eyes told something her chipper tone didn’t. “Your timing’s lucky. We’re going to be setting her loose next morning. Something’s happening that they need couriers for.” Alina blinked, and looked at Anya, staring at the floor. “…Aren’t you going to say anything, Anya? Not even a hello? Just your surly oh I didn’t expect you, is it?”

“Shut up.” Anya said, with a deep frown on her face. “I didn’t…look, this is a lot of shit all at once, got it?”

“Anya-“ Alina tried to urge, but got a bad response.

“Fuckin’...Would you piss off?” Anya snapped, her eyes wide at her sister, but she saw you looking at her as well, and she snapped her gaze back to the floor, gritting her teeth.

She wouldn’t say it, wouldn’t ask it, but you knew what your retinue was so nervous about. What she was in absolutely no mood to delay on, hesitant to hear about in front of even her kin.

Thankfully, you didn’t have to be the bearer of the news she anticipated…

>?
>>
>>4763534
>?
"Magnus should be fine."
>>
>>4763534
>>4763554
Mags is ok, and we didn't find any more burning tanks to crawl into.
>>
>>4763534
Didn't see him directly, but I managed to keep our promise, I'm pretty sure.
>>
>>4763534
And here I'd almost say she isn't happy to see us.
Magnus wasn't hurt, the worst he could do was cheekily throw a smoke grenade at us since we wrecked his tank. He's gonna be relatively safe and sound now.

I'm sure Yumil can help Mag feel better back home. He just needs to grab his turret and crank it back together against the hull. A little polish on the shaft and he'll be as good as new.
>>
>>4763554
>>4763603
>>4763663
>>4763609
Your promise is kept- he's fine, and (not vain at all) you totally won, absolutely.

Writing.
>>
“Magnus…” you referred to him by his first name, and almost said should be, but that wasn’t in keeping your promise, was it? “He wasn’t hurt. I don’t think I saw him directly, but he’s okay. He didn’t manage to hurt me, and all I did was disable his tank’s cannon. The most he could do was throw a smoke grenade on my tank. He’ll be off the line, and safe. Relatively.”

Anya continued to stare at the floor, slowly exhaled, then crossed her arms across her lap and buried her face in them. She said nothing, but you were sure she was relieved, in some way.

“Is this person the one you were talking about?” Alina asked the side of her sister’s head, “He’s on the side of the people you’re fighting against?” She asked that of you. “She said hardly anything about him, but she came around here so stressed.”

“It’s pure circumstance,” you said, “Anya and I became acquainted with the man while we were in Ellowie. Then, we fought on the same side. He came to our rescue at times. Anya encountered him while she was doing her courier work, and…” you weighed on whether to tell, but this was Anya’s sister. Didn’t she deserve to know? “I found her after that, she was resting at one of our bases after having made it back. She told me about how she had encountered him, and asked me to…try not to harm him if I encountered him.”

Alina stared at you, furrowing her brow. “You would harm each other after all of that?”

“No, no,” you said quickly, “But we’re both tankers. We wouldn’t know we were fighting each other. Or at least, he wouldn’t know it was me. He wouldn’t even have cause to know I’m here, or what tank I was in. I had to evade a few of his shots, even.” You only evaded one. Anya didn’t need to know you had taken a square hit that might have very well killed you if your tank was not specially armored. “We encountered others in his unit there, too, but we managed to fend them off without killing any of them, I’m sure, or any of my allies being killed. It was very close.”

Anya remained still, but straightened back up, rubbing her eyes, and she gave her head a rough shake before sniffing loudly. “Yeah. Lucky. If he threw a smoke grenade on your tank, he was close enough to do something worse. I’ll have t’…thank him.”

“What about…Richter? Richter, here.” Alina interjected, “Shouldn’t you thank him?”

“I already did,” Anya said flatly, “When he said he’d do what…he ended up doing. I thanked him then.”

“Well, do it again,” Alina said, as though she were advising a child and not her older sister.
>>
“Why?” Anya asked, looking across you to Alina, “He said he’d do it. I trusted him to. That’s all there needs to be. I just didn’ know if,” she frowned again, and she fell backwards onto the bed, slipping her hands behind her head, “If I was askin’ too much. If, even if he got back, I made him…lose somethin’. Just because I asked.”

“…” You should have had something to say to that, but that, even though you were inferior to what you were before, she still trusted you so, it…touched you.

“Well. Still.” Alina crossed her arms in a scolding gesture, “You can do more.”

“Like what?” Anya turned her head and gave her sister an irritated glance.

“A kiss on the cheek, maybe?”

“The fuck? No.” Anya whipped her gaze back towards the ceiling, her frown etching deeper, “Making this weird the way you do.”

“It’s not weird, Anya, it’s completely normal. You insist on meaning where there’s none.”

“Piss off.”

Alina sighed a rough, aggravated groan and rolled her eyes. “Fine, fine. Watch. Richter? Thank you for helping my sister. It means a lot, to both of us.” She pushed your face to the side and planted a short peck on your cheek. Convenient that it was the clean one, and not the mutilated one. “You see, Anya? It’s nothing. You’re so immature. Now do it.”

Anya had closed her eyes and bared her teeth. “Nah, you pucker up again. So you can kiss my ass.”

>Really, it wasn’t necessary. Tell Alina to leave her sister alone with this. It *was* weird, if it was the two of you. You really didn’t want Anya’s nasty spit on you anyways.
>Alina was right. It was weirder to have some sort of issue with it than it was not to. You had qualified for it, hadn’t you?
>Tell Alina that a Retinue was not meant to engage in such activities with their superior officer. It would be unseemly for one even if it was innocent for most.
>Other?
Also
>Write anything special to Maddalyn?
>Tell Maddalyn through your planned correspondence that you fired off a Hellfire?
>>
>>4763861
>Really, it wasn’t necessary. Tell Alina to leave her sister alone with this. It *was* weird, if it was the two of you. You really didn’t want Anya’s nasty spit on you anyways.
Richter's engaged anyway.

>Write anything special to Maddalyn?
Just an update that we're still alive and all.

>Tell Maddalyn through your planned correspondence that you fired off a Hellfire?
Should probably do since we don't know if there's any other after effects.

Hey tanq do letters from the front get examined for censorship purposes or does the privilege of being nobility bypass that?
>>
>>4763867
>Hey tanq do letters from the front get examined for censorship purposes or does the privilege of being nobility bypass that?
The privilege of being nobility does apply, but it's not your nobility, it's Maddalyn's nobility. nothing sent to anybody adjacent to a territorial lord is going to have things screened out.
>>
>>4763861
>Tell Alina that a Retinue was not meant to engage in such activities with their superior officer. It would be unseemly for one even if it was innocent for most.
>>
>>4763861
>>Tell Alina that a Retinue was not meant to engage in such activities with their superior officer. It would be unseemly for one even if it was innocent for most.
We just got done explaining how we aren't fucking Signy, let's try to not start any new rumors.
>Write anything special to Maddalyn?
Dear Maddy,
I apologize about the quality of handwriting in this letter, my hands have been partially burned from assisting in the rescue of an overturned tank. The tank you have provided me has kept me safe on multiple occasions, along with my crew and comrades. Insert appropriate amount of reference, insinuations, promises of butt molestations here.
P.S. Shot a hellfire shell at some normal people, hope that doesn't get me or you into any magical trouble.
>>
>>4763861
>Tell Alina that a Retinue was not meant to engage in such activities with their superior officer. It would be unseemly for one even if it was innocent for most.
>>
>>4763867
>>4764066
Tell Maddalyn about your continued status of being biologically alive. Justify your crappy left handed burned handwriting, thank for tank, and then spend the rest of the letter threatening her rear end.
Also you blasted people into shadows, that's no big deal. Perhaps write that more discretely.

>>4763867
Yes, it is weird. Get that spit away from you. You've had her bodily fluids on you before anyways.Mixing your blood together that one time was probably worse than anything you could have possibly done, really.

>>4764055
>>4764066
>>4764069
Explain it in an official way- you wouldn't kiss your driver on the cheek, would you?

Writing. Going to assume anybody not explicitly mentioning the letter is neutral on it.
>>
>>4764665
>you wouldn't kiss your driver on the cheek, would you?
W-well, maybe if he didn't cover them up all the time...
>>
>>4763861
>She pushed your face to the side and planted a short peck on your cheek.
Isn't this rape? She didn't acquire our consent first.
>>
“Alina,” you put yourself verbally between the bickering sisters, “That sort of behavior is inappropriate between a retinue and their charge. It might be innocent for most, but it’d be unseemly in this case.”

Alina had a doubtful look on her face, and when you looked to Anya for support she was squinting at you like your excuse had been something that was about as clever as a river stone. Well. Yes. Your behavior with her wasn’t exactly flawless, but Alina didn’t need to know that.

“All that I’m seeing is that you’re both overthinking it,” Alina said with a small shrug of her hands, “If you don’t want it, though…mm. I don’t think this retinue thing could be that serious.”

“It is quite official, a retinue is meant to be one who is trusted and capable, professional…” You spoke easily of what it was supposed to be. In truth…well, as far as your family went, the female scions of Von Tracht who sought the battlefield through retinue service did not adhere to such ideals. At least perishing in the line of duty had a way of cleansing their reputations. The only female relative you recalled who was a direct descendant (the only ones who were not martially inclined were those who married in and were thus not of Von Tracht blood) that didn’t have at least one or two rumors of dalliances was Jana Von Tracht, who had apparently begun her time when she was younger than the required service age anyways.

“Anyways,” Alina stood up, “There’s nothing in your rules or whatever they are saying that you can’t have your wounds treated, is there? Come on, Anya, you can help me change his bandages.”

“Don’t try and fob off work on me,” Anya said, refusing to sit up, “Fairy boy already does that enough.”

“Who?”

“The guy you’re sitting right next to.”

“Fairy boy?” Alina repeated, then looked at you, and frowned, “That’s…not a name I’d have gone with…” She looked uncomfortably away from your scorched face. “Maybe before…you know.”

“Still that way under all that.”

Alina took away the bandages covering you from your fingers to your elbows, and a few beyond that. It didn’t look as bad as they did, but it didn’t look pretty, either. “It looks alright, but…Have you been moving a lot?” She gingerly picked up your arm and looked closely, “It should have healed more than this.”

“I’ve been busy,” you said, without elaborating. “I fight from in a tank, it isn’t as though I’m running about doing cartwheels.”

“Anya used to fight in a tank too, you know,” Alina said, “Before she was with you. Did she ever tell you about that?”

“With the Iron Hogs, yes,” you said, “She didn’t say much about when she was with Todesfelsen.”
>>
“’Cause it was boring,” Anya said, “Not a lot happened worth talkin’ about. Busywork. Bandits run off quick from tanks, and shagherds aren’t much problem either. Mostly was the latter.”

“A shagherd?” you asked, “Are those animals?”

“They’re boney, wooly bull things,” Anya said, “They get into big balls of fucking every so often and they’ve got shitty tempers all the time when they’re like that. The fuck balls get big enough, they start drawing in the strays, and then they go around fuckin’ eating everything and attacking whatever they see. Good merc work in mowing them down. A single automatic cannon shell puts them down if you hit ‘em right in the center.”

You’d never heard them called “shagherds,” but you got enough to figure out what she was talking about. Anya’s description of a Great Wooly Gurteltier’s mating season behavior was crude, though accurate. Though you didn’t know they ranged this far north. As large surly creatures that were often as big as bears, using a tank to deal with them was probably not unreasonable if they were angry. Nasty looking ugly animals more congealed than grown, and not particularly dangerous save for when they were herding and aggressive, they’d never been anything you had aspired to hunt.

“Anya says she’s seen them come out of caves by the dozen,” Alina said as she washed your burns gently, “I wonder why they leave? There isn’t much up here for them, with how angry they get.”

Cave pioneering wasn’t an appealing job. It attracted a strange sort, though there was suspected to be much to discover.

“They’re just cunts, Alina,” Anya said, “They come up and get shot and ground into sausage, and if you don’t do that they start screwing and fuck everything up.”

“Is it good sausage?” you asked as you rolled up yours pants to let Alina get at your feet and legs.

“Not really, but it’s better than if it’s whole. Batter fried with sauce, then it’s fine.”

“I thought you’d have told me about that,” you said, “Did you say, and I forgot?”

“Nah,” Anya said, half closing her eyes at the ceiling, “Just hasn’t come up.”

“Good thing they only herd in the summer,” you said as Alina looked down your other leg, “We don’t need them along with the Netillians, right?”

That gave Anya pause for thought, and she opened her eyes again- a revelation had struck her. “…Y’know, I wonder what’d happen if you hit one of those pieces of shit with a munitions caster…”

Alina called over the superior doctor for one concerning instance, but it turned out to be nothing. Well, “nothing,” though a poultice was still put on the offending discoloration after it was cut shallowly with a knife. All your bandages were replaced, and though nothing really changed, you felt better for it.
>>
“Will you be staying and resting?” Alina asked. “You certainly need your laundry done. Anya came in smelling like a trash sack…”

“No,” you said, pulling your boots back on, “I have to get back to my people as soon as possible. I just want to write a letter to my fiancée and pass it off here before going back.” You stood up and put your cap on, “Thank you for your help, though.”

“I see, I see,” Alina didn’t sound glad that you were off so quickly- though considering your last interaction, it seemed more for the sake of her sister than for you. “Good luck out there.”

“Bye, Anya,” you said down to the reclining retinue, her sleek midsection doing its best to draw the eye. A bizarre temptation to scratch her belly like she was a cat; she was stretched out like one. “I’ll see you around. Stay safe.”

“Yeah,” Anya said, arms still behind her head, “You too.”

That was all there had to be.

-----

Writing to Maddalyn turned out to be harder than you thought it’d be. Not only did you have to write with your left hand, something you had yet to get used to, but the burns and the thick bandaging made your handwriting utterly farcical. The letters turned loose and childlike, and you could only hope that your fiancée wouldn’t mind so long as it was at least legible, which for some words you’d written, was tragically questionable.

Your initial writing concerned yourself. Yes, you’d been fighting. Yes, you had been hurt saving a comrade from a burning tank, but you were getting better. A reassurance that the tank your wife had given you had been instrumental in keeping you whole and hale- though you had had to “use a special thing,” one time. A safety measure- a glance by anybody peeking in would assume you meant some vice or drug, rather than what you hoped Maddalyn would understand- your use of the Hellfire shell. It felt important that she should know. After all, she’d know best if there might be other effects, that were worth being concerned about. Besides the shadows, and wakened voices. Hopefully, those were the worst of it all.
>>
The thanks for the m/32B were not exaggerated, and didn’t need to be. It was her family and her work that had kept you and your crew safe, on multiple occasions now. She could be proud of that, even if it was only partially her responsible for the tank being in your possession. The Judge knew that she needed more to be happy with herself about.

Including her butt. Her round, pert and tight butt. What shame was there to wax on about it? You allowed yourself to get carried away in writing- how you remembered fondly every time you had groped it, most of all during that one night, where you had both retired to a hotel room and pleasured one another long into the night, falling asleep in one another’s arms, reeking of passion. Her breath hot on your neck, her budding breasts pressed into you, the tips of your fingers trailing across the soft skin of her naked bottom. Her beautiful blue eye, her deep orange hair, frayed and frizzy from your actions.

Yet you hadn’t done everything, hadn’t gone all the way. She hadn’t wanted to. Yet…you thought of something else, as your mind fixated on her pale rear and soft thighs. Damn yourself for getting burned on your hands, there was plenty of privacy around here if you looked for it. That bum, though…There was something else, wasn’t there? That you could still…no, she surely wouldn’t accept that. Would she? However…

You looked down at your writings and stared at what idiocy you’d managed to write just there while distracted. In stupid looking loopy scribbles, ”I love your bottom so, that I wish to make love to it, to bury myself so deep I’d lose myself.” Yes, very poetic, Richter, you thought as you wondered whether you could cross it out or if you ought to re write the whole damned thing. Maybe next time you could just write I’m gonna stick my dick into your bum right before tripping over your own bootlaces and cracking your head open on the corner of a crate.

>This would be the most embarrassing last letter to send to your loved one possible. Rewrite it and chop out the parts where you wrote like you had a hand on your crankshaft.
>It was fine. This was honest, true, if crude. Was there anybody more appropriate to be this perverse with than your spouse, anyways?
>Other?
Also-
>You’re at a logistics and resupply and repair base. Is there anything you want to pick up or try to have delivered to your tank for field modification? Measure your expectations- you only have an evening to do it in, and you don’t want to put too much weight on your tank.

>>4764707
>Isn't this rape?
That depends on how you'd define what Hilda did.
>>
>>4765302
I demand a belly up catgirl Anya pic.

>>4765307
>This would be the most embarrassing last letter to send to your loved one possible. Rewrite it and chop out the parts where you wrote like you had a hand on your crankshaft.
>>
>>4765307
>>It was fine. This was honest, true, if crude. Was there anybody more appropriate to be this perverse with than your spouse, anyways?

>>You’re at a logistics and resupply and repair base. Is there anything you want to pick up or try to have delivered to your tank for field modification? Measure your expectations- you only have an evening to do it in, and you don’t want to put too much weight on your tank.
Smoke/FOG grenades (or whatever equivalent to a fast obscurant grenade exists) and flaregun rounds if we haven't restocked on them.
>>
>>4765307
>>Other?
It's fine, just slip in a little alternative fact that someone must have jabbed us with some morphine while we weren't looking and it must have come into effect when writing the second part of the letter. Sorry about that, its safe to ignore that part, it totally didn't come out as intended... unless?.
>You’re at a logistics and resupply and repair base. Is there anything you want to pick up or try to have delivered to your tank for field modification? Measure your expectations- you only have an evening to do it in, and you don’t want to put too much weight on your tank.
Other than smoke grenades for throwing, maybe look into a jury rigged mount for a machine gun on the turret, or we could see about getting the Von Bum emblem stuck back on the tank somewhere.
>>
>>4765362
While ive been wanting the Emblem stuck back on for some time now, it seems they've deployed some actual dedicated heavy AT to this AO, and we're already somewhat infamous.

Also during the time skip did our turret ring get looked at/improved?
>>
>>4765367
That's true, I've played enough Ace Combat games to know everyone really gets fixated on a main characters distinguishing feature. Probably best to keep it inside the tank for now.
>>
>>4765367
>Also during the time skip did our turret ring get looked at/improved?
It's been about as well repaired as you can get in the field. To get things as good as new it's going to have to go back to Strossvald and be rebuilt, frankly.
>>
>>4765307
>Other
"Once I see you, I'll take a look under your armored skirt while you check my barrel and turret."
>>
>>4765307
>>This would be the most embarrassing last letter to send to your loved one possible. Rewrite it and chop out the parts where you wrote like you had a hand on your crankshaft.

>You’re at a logistics and resupply and repair base. Is there anything you want to pick up or try to have delivered to your tank for field modification? Measure your expectations- you only have an evening to do it in, and you don’t want to put too much weight on your tank.
More flares, maybe coloured smoke for signalling if that's available.
>>
>>4765307
>>This would be the most embarrassing last letter to send to your loved one possible. Rewrite it and chop out the parts where you wrote like you had a hand on your crankshaft.
>>
>>4765307
>This would be the most embarrassing last letter to send to your loved one possible. Rewrite it and chop out the parts where you wrote like you had a hand on your crankshaft.
>>
>>4765330
>>4765753
>>4765843
>>4765902
Abort, you don't need to be anal about this.

>>4765353
Don't be so anal retentive.

>>4765362
Anull the proposition.

>>4765439
An all in approach.

>>4765353
>>4765362
>>4765753
Smoke, flares, see if you can bum a machine gun off somebody.

Writing.

>>4765330
>I demand a belly up catgirl Anya pic.
We'll see.
>>
>>4765916
>catgirl Anya
A~nyaa

I know the dumb meme we're seeing next thread.
>>
>>4765916
What kind of MGs does Strossvald use for the light/medium/heavy role?
>>
>>4765992
Uncertain of which dumb meme is being referred to.

>>4766137
>What kind of MGs does Strossvald use for the light/medium/heavy role?
It's been mentioned here and there, but the standard light machine gun for Strossvald's infantry is the Von Muse (Siegfried) Machine Gun, designed by, of course, the Von Muse company, owned by an eccentric nobleman firearms craftsman and his sons who, besides military contracts, design and sell contraptions specially ordered by discerning clientele. It's a fast firing, accurate and effective machine gun that uses a side loaded thirty round magazine or seventy five round drum- when it isn't feeling temperamental, which it often does if it's not kept quite clean, and it has a complexity to its mechanisms that makes it problematic to service in the field. Not to mention that it's a relatively costly weapon, but such hasn't been much of an issue during its service.

The line between medium and heavy machine gun doesn't exist for Strossvald- the "heavy machine gun" still uses the standard rifle caliber (as is normal on the continent). The standard company support machine gun is the Von Muse Machine Gun as well- rather, the Von Muse (Erich), named for the Archdukes whom they were "made for." Archduke Erich being the Archduke before the current one, of course, and this gun being the Von Muse patriarch's original claim to fame. It's a sturdy but quite heavy water cooled machine gun, though its rate of fire is rather slower than the VMS even though it has been improved over its thirty years of service. Like its descendant, it's not a cheap weapon. It has the unflattering nicknames of "hunchback" or "moonfish" because of its appearance without its cooling jacket.
>>
>>4766799
So Strossvald doesn't have a belt-fed air cooled machine gun? What's our m/32s coaxial using for example?
>>
>>4766886
>So Strossvald doesn't have a belt-fed air cooled machine gun?
They're in use, but they aren't standard for the line infantry. Troops with more money put into them might get the newest stuff on the lot, but most of Strossvald's army just doesn't see the necessity despite the benefits. It's not like most of the materiel on the market's a colossal improvement besides the, you know, lack of need to carry around a ton of water.

>What's our m/32s coaxial using for example?
As the m/32 is a Naukland designed tank, its coaxial gun is part and parcel of the licensing process. Thusly it uses an air cooled belt fed (though such belts are contained in drum containers themselves) machine gun of Naukland make.
Could one just buy these guns separately and then and use them as medium machine guns with some adjustments to fit onto proper tripod mounts? Well, yes, but that would be a breach of licensing agreements and very naughty, so surely nobody has done that.
>>
Sorry for the delay people, update'll be out soon.
>>
With a swift, snatching claw, you crumpled the paper up in a fist and tossed it on the floor. What if this was the last letter you sent home, you thought, were you going to make the last words you said to your fiancée a lewd threat to violate her behind? No, Richter, rewrite it, try harder on the handwriting, and exempt those parts where you clearly had half a hand on your crankshaft. A cold shower would do you well, especially with the layers of dust and grime on you. Just because you were (mostly) filthy didn’t mean your thoughts had to be.

That was a good idea, actually. You’d try and do that. This was the headquarters area- there were facilities for it by now, with the front line moving up. The Silver Lances would eventually move out and be replaced by more and more Republic personnel, but even Sosaldtians took showers.

It wasn’t a proper washing. With your bandages and your manipulation impaired as it was, you were really only letting water run over your head, but it was something, at least. Back to the writing.
Everything copied over, in nicer writing, and you wrapped it up with a cordial bow instead of whatever the last thing could be called. Earnest but unwelcome? Anyways. You assured Maddalyn you’d be fine- that you were protected not only by your superior armor, your expert crew, but also by your comrades in your platoon and company. There was naught to fear from any enemy you faced.

Haughty words in the face of the truth, but though the Silver Lances had taken many casualties these past days, you did have superior materiel to them, even if you were far, far, far from being among their most capable commanders, let alone fighters.

The letter was passed along. Given the penchant for the Silver Lances to stray far from the Archduchy, they commissioned very capable courier services for the sake of the men. Unlike in Elllowie under the Intelligence Office, you could expect responses, as well. None would have come by now, of course. You had learned that the first you could expect mail would be in…around three days from now. Was it wise to already look forward to it?
>>
Your allowed time for messing about back here was growing thin, you thought as you saw the sun well on its way down towards the horizon. There was just one thing left you wanted to take care of here- first, to the Maintenance Company. You had an idea to put something on your tank to help out the infantry- rather, for the infantry to use to help you out, and thusly them. You’d seen pintle mounts for machine guns stuck on the panzergrenadiers’ armored trucks sometimes, and even on vehicles not expected to see combat. Field modifications were supposed to be approved by a company commander, but in practice, few seemed to care so long as it didn’t destroy the company’s equipment. A pintle mount was a lightweight allowance, and it was simple enough to get one from Maintenance- rather, the heavy bag of kit parts for it, and a blow torch for spackling on solder. You could put the Von Blum emblem back on your turret with that, too, but you reconsidered actually doing that- making yourself more recognizable didn’t seem smart with the anti-tank vehicle presently in your sector.

While the pintle kit was easy, when you asked after the thing meant to go on the pintle kit, your answer was in two parts. Ask Logistics, and also don’t bother because they wouldn’t give anything to a lieutenant. The implication was clear. You’d probably need to acquire the weapon to use, in the field, or through a favor. In the present state of things, nobody wanted to give up the firepower of a machine gun.

Not that other ordinance wasn’t available. When you did go around to logistics, there was no objection to your requests for things you had been missing- smoke grenades, and replacements for your flare pistol. Smoke grenades were encouraged for use by tank commanders, but oftentimes they didn’t use them in favor of fast movement and, if vision blocking was needed, it was preferred to be delivered en masse with artillery. Be that as it may, you still took a bandolier of smoke candles. They were slow to deploy, but they were what was available. You’d rather have had something that deployed quickly, like the shells on the old X-80, but that wasn’t what was being handed out to people in your place on the ladder.
>Flares refilled
>x4 Smoke Candles obtained

The instructions on the white painted, green topped steel canisters were very clear in not breathing the smoke for an extended period of time. Was it poison gas? Not explicitly, but there was a “possibility” of “long term side effects.” Not that you needed to be kept from igniting one and breathing deeply.

Back to your platoon, then. You caught another ride, this one a resupply convoy to your company. Lovely timing- but it was an awful lot for what you were expecting to do. Perhaps it’d all just be overpreparation. There wasn’t any reason to read too much into it when the Reserve Battalion wouldn’t even have the difficult task coming up.

-----
>>
The prey was out there, ignorant, unassuming. Their repute was a challenge, but the beast? Mixed accounts. One exciting, the other completely plain. This was a gallery only rivalled by the potential to the east. Judge Above, would that have been an incredible time, but it was not the hunt in these times. The Archduchy’s finest would have to do, for now. They’d certainly made a mess of the metal that Kampt had brought south. The Kommissar’s power play hadn’t gotten the quick and simple smashing victory that everybody had wanted, but that would have been dull, anyways. Dull like killing the great beast had been, distracted on two sides as it had been. Those who decided when to wage war never understood the point of it all.

The decorations of others jangled in the wind, against the breast. Non uniform, but like the broad brimmed black pioneer’s hat and the identically hued longcoat with its grey furred collar and hood, splayed to the shoulders, anything besides the green uniform was something earned as a sort of recognition. Once, that recognition had been a goal. Now, the apparel was merely a marker. Come and get it, if you dare.
The best you can hope for is to be a trophy worthy of a place of honor.

-----

Morning came, or rather, the appointed time for “morning” came, though it was still dark. Cold coffee was passed around the platoon- the Pervitin cases were distributed, but Vehrlors said to save them for when it was absolutely necessary.

“It’ll ruin you,” he said to you in particular as he held up a flat metal case with sterile printing on its face, “It feels good, but the moment you start wanting it, I’ve seen men go mad, do things they’d never do. Only for life or death.”

Even still, you looked between the case and the tin cup of cold coffee in your other hand, held roughly with two remaining fingers, and still had to think about it. Never had you imbibed something you so utterly despised with such frequency- it defied logic that coffee remained so awful, that you never got used to it.
>>
Last night hadn’t been a restful one. You’d skimped on your Blackflower for the night, to try and extend it even though it wasn’t short quite yet, and you’d been thrown tumbling into a void. A void where the demiphantom’s voice took on a familiar tone. You could swear it sounded like Narr…but that was impossible, and idiotic. Your subconscious was collaborating with a spirit beast to disrupt your sleep for some unknowable reason. Combined with the meager breakfast of canned bread, same as it ever was, and a slab of cold, salty pork fat, you weren’t in a pleasant mood, but you were at least awake by the time the sun began to rise. The ground attack strikes would come with the sun’s ascent over the hills- then, the attack. In the meantime, the work to set up the pintle was finished- the corner of the turret wasn’t a fantastic place, but it was what was available for a theoretical gunner standing on the hull. The apparatus, once its baseplate was in place, could be folded down, and adjusted for a variety of guns- you just had to find something to put in it now.

Ellowian troops came around- forward observers for the ground attackers scheduled to come. You hadn’t actually seen one of their infantrymen around, or at least, you didn’t remember seeing any. Even the ones you encountered on your way back from Sosaldt to Ellowie that one time had been in incomplete uniform, especially the surgeon. These men had fog-grey uniforms, round steel helmets, leather boots- all beaten and faded, looking very much the part of the dress of men who had been run out of their country months ago, but had clung to their bearers still.

“Huh,” one of the Ellowians looked at you by your tank, the engine sputtering and warming, “Hey, you, with the fucked up face.”

You had to get that mask back on. “Me?” you said back, taking a few steps.

The trooper looked at you incredulously. “Yeah. Anyways, that jacket. Where’d you get it?”

Ah yes, your Ellowian tanker jacket. It had taken a decent beating itself by now. “I bought it,” you said, “It was being sold in a clothing store. It was looted from a storehouse, I suppose. The jacket I liked more I gave to my Retinue.” Who’d had it stolen from her afterwards.

The man stared at your jacket with a wistful look. “Was sort of hoping I’d found another of ours, is all, but the cap’s wrong.”

A shrug from your shoulders. “Sorry. You won’t ask what sort of store would be selling Ellowian military surplus?”

“That is strange, but, no. Don’t got the time for every detail. Besides, you Archduchy lot are covered in all sorts of things that don’t make much sense without a long story.” The man waved, “Maybe another time.”

Another time would be unlikely at best. He was right, it was a long story. He left and caught up with his people who had walked on, and you hauled yourself back up onto your tank.
>>
A far off droning of plane engines from the south- those observers had best hurry. It seemed the pilots were impatient today. Or…no, they increased in volume, and soon were over you. They didn’t look like Ellowian attack planes. Fighters? One was a gaudy shade of crimson red, the other with its wings painted golden yellow, like they had snatched their coloration straight out of the Emrean Liberation’s flying corps.

They stayed high, and moved on. A fighter sweep to make sure the way was clear, perhaps.

“Four Three, Four Five, radio check,” Vehrlors crackled over the line.

“Four Five, copy.”

“Four Three, I hear you, Four Five.”

“The infantry’s moving out now, but we’re only heading forward once the planes withdraw. Anything with wheels or treads past our line’s designated a target, so keep nice and still. I’ll say again when we’re ready.”

You’d finalized the planning beforehand. Whilst the purpose of your participation in the coming offensive was to keep enemy vehicles off the flanks of the hill fort assault, you did have to push the lines up there in the first place- and support the infantry on the way up. To that end, it was decided…


>You’d split yourselves over the line to spread your support out. It’d let you act more independently, help more allies, and after all, what was going to be around that needed the platoon’s whole firepower?
>The Platoon would stick together. Concentrated firepower able to handle whatever you might handle. The radio might be good now, but who could say if the Netillians might bring in another black sphere device thing?
>Have two of you in one place, whilst the other goes to another place in the line. Von Rotehof the Younger would be the second of whatever pair, with the weakest gun- but it’d mean you could spread out some but also be able to deal with enemy armor well enough.
>Other?
>>
>>4768015
>>The Platoon would stick together. Concentrated firepower able to handle whatever you might handle. The radio might be good now, but who could say if the Netillians might bring in another black sphere device thing?
>>
>>4768015
>The Platoon would stick together. Concentrated firepower able to handle whatever you might handle. The radio might be good now, but who could say if the Netillians might bring in another black sphere device thing?
>>
>>4768015
>The Platoon would stick together. Concentrated firepower able to handle whatever you might handle.

If it isn't a tank, then it's meant for artillery, mortars or airstrikes to take care of.
>>
>>4768015
>The Platoon would stick together. Concentrated firepower able to handle whatever you might handle. The radio might be good now, but who could say if the Netillians might bring in another black sphere device thing?

Boot, don't spatter.
>>
>>4768015
>>Have two of you in one place, whilst the other goes to another place in the line. Von Rotehof the Younger would be the second of whatever pair, with the weakest gun- but it’d mean you could spread out some but also be able to deal with enemy armor well enough.
Vehrlors with Von Rotehof, us alone. We are the better equipped to go alone, and if there is something we can't handle we get help.
>>
>>4768015
>>Have two of you in one place, whilst the other goes to another place in the line. Von Rotehof the Younger would be the second of whatever pair, with the weakest gun- but it’d mean you could spread out some but also be able to deal with enemy armor well enough.
>>
>>4768015
>You’d split yourselves over the line to spread your support out. It’d let you act more independently, help more allies, and after all, what was going to be around that needed the platoon’s whole firepower?
>>
>>4768015
>The Platoon would stick together. Concentrated firepower able to handle whatever you might handle. The radio might be good now, but who could say if the Netillians might bring in another black sphere device thing?
>>
>>4768015
>The Platoon would stick together. Concentrated firepower able to handle whatever you might handle. The radio might be good now, but who could say if the Netillians might bring in another black sphere device thing?
>>
>>4768015
>>The Platoon would stick together. Concentrated firepower able to handle whatever you might handle. The radio might be good now, but who could say if the Netillians might bring in another black sphere device thing?
Hopefully Richter remembers his signal flag reading skills
>>
>>4768081
>>4768105
>>4768127
>>4768138
>>4768547
>>4768763
>>4768898
All together now.

>>4768144
>>4768268
Go it alone, again. You can handle it, right?

>>4768467
The skinny line.

Writing.
>>
>>4769079
Did Big von Rotehof's tank get fully fixed?
>>
>>4769255
No, hence why it is not present in planning.
>>
The entire platoon holding together throughout the operation wasn’t what the infantry wanted, but you knew better. Keeping yourselves in the same place would let you concentrate firepower, and even if other parts of the line lacked for tank support, your mobile ball of armor would be able to quickly handle whatever it encountered, and if it ran into something it couldn’t roll over, better to deal with that with a platoon of tanks rather than just one.

Everything arranged beforehand, you all sat waiting atop your hill, in the forward fighting positions, though the Mittelsosalian troops had long gone forward of them. The Ellowian ground attack planes were blocky, graceless things, and when they swooped down on their targets below they moved more like charging drunks than anything, but you had to imagine they were doing well for themselves. The Ellowian Air Force did not have an unearned reputation.

Through some favor, after the first two trios of planes had come through with their strikes, a second set took their places, though this group was of a different type of plane- more ground attackers, from the bulbous shapes under their wings and fuselages. Vehrlors didn’t announce anything over the radio- the order must have been to go after the strikes, however long they persisted.

A development, however. Whilst the Ellowian planes were swooping down and dropping bombs and strafing their targets with cannon and machine guns, from the north, other planes came-surely Netillian ones, as they weren’t the odd colored planes from before. Straits would have been dire for the Ellowian support, only that they were reinforced with perfect timing from the south by the arrival of further fighters. Rather too perfect timing. As the ground attackers fled, messily dropping whatever ordinance they had left on seemingly no target just to lighten their load, the fighters above squared off, looping wide over the field of battle.

“That’ll do,” Vehrlors said over the radio, “Let’s head out. Four Five, on my left, Four Three, my right. Echelon Left formation, we’ll adjust for terrain. Take us forward, Four Three- straight north.”

Off you went- though besides the sounds of infantry combat, there was little readily apparent of what you’d be attacking. As before, you’d just move forward until something was unwise enough to be caught in your sights.
>>
Though the Mittelsosalians had been reinforced, now that the planes buzzing overhead were not raining hell upon the enemy, their progress became much like it had been the other day. Though wherever your tanks were, the enemy began to melt, directed by the expert hand of your platoon officer.

“Four Five! Pin that position to the three-five-zero with your machine guns. Four Three, advance to the right flank and flush them out!” The target was a tiny hill that gave a commanding view of the terrain for a good half a kilometer in all directions, with a copse of scraggly trees to its north, and a sweep of tall grass all along the south that covered your infantry accompaniment’s approach as they huddled behind your vehicles.

Your position at the left of the echelon formation meant that the block in your turret keeping it from traversing to the front-right was hardly a hindrance. Your crew needed little direction as you gave them targets, relayed orders, and watched the situation unfold. Von Rotehof went around the side of a tough, dug in machine gun position as your guns shot over it to keep everything inside. A burst of dust and rubble as he drove up around and planted a pair of high explosive shells into the position.

“Got ‘em, Four-One!” Little Von Rotehof reported.

Vehrlors popped out of his cupola and shouted something down to the Mittelsosalian troops behind your tanks, and they scrambled forward and occupied the position in no time at all. Wherever you were, the progress was quick.

Everywhere else was slow, though, and it was readily apparent even to the headstrong Von Rotehof.

“Our right’s looking like there’s not much brown, Four One,” Von Rotehof said as your formation was rearranged into an arrow instead of an echelon.

“We’re causing an imbalance in the lines. We’ll stay here a little bit to make sure our boys don’t get shoved off the place we just pushed them on.”

An implication you wouldn’t be staying very long. Given what you were doing, you wouldn’t be surprised if the Netillians had already painted a target on your lot, so it did sound smart to not make your presence something well known for over long.

Yet, you hardly noticed it at first, but the Mittelsosalians close to you were being…peeled away.
>>
You kept low in the cupola, but you saw one Republic soldier in the cover nearby, utilizing the trenches dug by the Netillians that had been blown out of the position, get shot through the chest and splay out on his back, and before his partner could react, a bullet went through him as well, and he slumped to his knees, then forward. You swallowed hard witnessing this, but shook it off, only to blink and see that you were the only friendly entity around. Any brown uniform around you seemed to belong to an incapacitated or wounded body, and the sharpshooters would do their damage before you responded in kind. Enemy casualties were reported, but the replacements to the troops around you had stopped with astonishing speed.

The effects became apparent quickly, as you scanned behind and saw…

“Four One!” You said over the radio, “They’re behind us!”

“Already? Shit, the officer was right here and he said…” a pause, “For fuck’s sake, he’s gone. Better have a bullet in him instead of fleeing. Rgh…I’m calling for reinforcements.” Vehrlors wanted to keep this position, and it was a strong point, but if you were isolated…maybe you ought to suggest something? He didn’t sound certain of what to do.

>You couldn’t stay here, and all of you knew it. Maybe you could all break back south?
>There wasn’t anything to do but to try and hold the position. Reinforcements would come- and you could hold out against an enemy that didn’t have tank support.
>The position was too valuable to just give up, but you wouldn’t get help without weakening the enemy. Volunteer to go help the southern front link up with the hill.
>Other?
>>
>>4769555
>The position was too valuable to just give up, but you wouldn’t get help without weakening the enemy. Volunteer to go help the southern front link up with the hill.
>>
>>4769555
>The position was too valuable to just give up, but you wouldn’t get help without weakening the enemy. Volunteer to go help the southern front link up with the hill.

A stopped tank is a dead tank, if the enemy can't anticipate what the hell we're doing all the better. Plus we can tell the soiled brown pants infantry to hurry up.
>>
>>4769555
>The position was too valuable to just give up, but you wouldn’t get help without weakening the enemy. Volunteer to go help the southern front link up with the hill.
>>
>>4769555
>The position was too valuable to just give up, but you wouldn’t get help without weakening the enemy. Volunteer to go help the southern front link up with the hill.
>>
>>4769586
>>4769593
>>4769594
>>4769602
Volunteer yourself to go and link your position up again. How noble of you.

Writing.
>>
This position was too valuable to just give up. The imbalance in the lines would collapse if you abandoned it, and the advance would be stalled- who knew, perhaps even enough to impact the operations to the west. That wouldn’t do- this needed a swift solution, but Vehrlors hesitated on which to go for.

So you volunteered yourself, your tank, your crew. “Four One,” you said over the platoon radio, “Reinforcements won’t arrive if we don’t weaken the enemy. Let me go south and help affect a breakthrough. The Republic troops need to get up here.”

“Do it,” Vehrlors shot back immediately, “Right now. Four Three, turn about and cover Four Five’s movement. I’ll handle the front arc.”

“On it. Quit dawdling, Four Five!”

You didn’t respond to that, as you only caught it right as you were switching to the tank intercom. “Mal, turn us completely around and take us south, on the double. We need to get back to the Mittelsosalian lines and help them up to this hill. Schafer, Hausen, shoot at anything that moves. We’re isolated and the only friends we have here right now are in tanks.”

Affirmations came back in, and your driver did as expected- make it utterly impossible for any of your weapons to be trained on any targets, or allow you to keep steady in your seat. Thrown back and forth, you barely recognized anything that was happening, let alone what targets to direct fire towards. Good thing Little Von Rotehof was quick on the draw- the blasts of high explosive shells landing ahead and near were, for once, appreciated.”

“Ahpead,” Malachi chirped over the intercom.

“Yes, I see them,” you said as you steadied yourself in the commander’s seat and looked forward through the cupola’s forward viewport. “Pull us up by them.” A loud crack from behind- somebody with an anti-tank rifle was upset with your passage. An ear-splitting clank came from beside as it ricocheted off the edge of the top and the rear hull and whistled into the sky. Whoever was holding an anti-tank rifle when the tank was turned around would get the first bullet.

A temptation to go over the top of the cupola was quelled soundly by rifle cracks over top of it, in quick succession. Automatics- the Netillians here practically had ever edge over the Republic troops, combined with munitions casters, and potentially armored personnel carriers elsewhere…
>>
You pushed your way past your crew and opened the turret door to face the Republic troops from inside the tank- they were in cover, huddled, though not cowed as a machine gunner and his crew continued to return fire. There couldn’t have been that many Netillians, not as many as there were Republic troops, you quickly noticed as you looked up and down.

“Who’s in charge here!?” You demanded irritably. It wasn’t hard to sound furious, with everything going on and what was before. An invigorating feeling to empty your lungs into. “We need reinforcements at that north hill, right now! Get your commander the hell over here!”

A message passed down the line, and some thin looking man ambled over in stumbling spurts of unsatisfactory speed- you noticed a leg wound, but felt no pity in the moment.
“Who the hell are you?” He demanded in a thin voice, made raspy by having to shout. “What’s going on?”

“I am Lieutenant Richter Von Tracht, and former Kommandant of the Republic of Vang,” you leaned fully into your history- it had a decent chance of swaying opinions, you’d found. “Republic troops and my platoon are surrounded on that hill north of us, and you’re going to move up and push those Netillian bastards back!”

The Republic officer balked when you mentioned your (former) title, but wasn’t keen on cooperation still. He proceeded into a whine. “We’ll be slaughtered if we just charge in! Can’t you just hold on a little longer? We’re keeping them occupied for now. My platoon’s already had to be combined with what’s left of the people we were sent up to replace!”

>If they were going to hide in their holes, then you had to lead by example. Show them how a Silver Lance fought- even if you’d surely be throwing yourself into trouble…
>If this officer didn’t want to accept responsibility, then you sure as hell would. Time for you to get out of your tank- again. Your crew could take care of themselves in supporting.
>Move somewhere else- find troops that weren’t hesitant. This lot wouldn’t be of help even if they wanted to attack.
>Other?
>>
>>4770365
>If they were going to hide in their holes, then you had to lead by example. Show them how a Silver Lance fought- even if you’d surely be throwing yourself into trouble…
>>
>>4770365
>If they were going to hide in their holes, then you had to lead by example. Show them how a Silver Lance fought- even if you’d surely be throwing yourself into trouble…
>>
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So what do these AT rifles look like? The shitty Boys, the trashy Soviet ones, the Polish/German WWII ones, the T-Gewehr or the Finnish sci fi gun?
>>
>>4770365
>>Move somewhere else- find troops that weren’t hesitant. This lot wouldn’t be of help even if they wanted to attack.
These guys sound like they have their hands full, let's find some fresher troops to lead into the attack.
>>
>>4770426
They aren't massive like the one in that pic, and are reasonably man portable (as much as an anti tank rifle can be) but Richter has seen the standard Netillian Anti-tank rifles before. With a top loaded magazine and a 13mm round (the same caliber as Strossvald's anti tank rifles) it'd be most similar to a Boys, though.
>>
>>4770365
>If they were going to hide in their holes, then you had to lead by example. Show them how a Silver Lance fought- even if you’d surely be throwing yourself into trouble…
They're the closest, and from the sounds there might not BE any other troops nearby that'd be more willing.
>>
>>4770365
>If they were going to hide in their holes, then you had to lead by example. Show them how a Silver Lance fought- even if you’d surely be throwing yourself into trouble
>>
>>4770365
>If this officer didn’t want to accept responsibility, then you sure as hell would. Time for you to get out of your tank- again. Your crew could take care of themselves in supporting.
>>
>>4770365
>If they were going to hide in their holes, then you had to lead by example. Show them how a Silver Lance fought- even if you’d surely be throwing yourself into trouble…

Is there a map for this battle?
>>
>>4770382
>>4770418
>>4770476
>>4770482
>>4770522
Back up to the front with you- good luck.

>>4770436
Seek greener pastures in this red dust.

>>4770498
Get out of your tank, it smells in there.

Writing.

>>4770522
>Is there a map for this battle?
There will be, with next post.
>>
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Fine, then. If they wouldn’t motivate themselves, it’d be up to you. Poor candidate that you were for such a thing, but you had the m/32B and your capable crew. That at least was enough to claim the boast you gave.

“Then watch, from your holes, how a Silver Lance fights!” You announced as best you could, before retreating back into the turret and getting into your seat. “Driver, take us forward. The infantry needs some inspiration.”

“We’ll have a stupid death ‘f we don’ go with support…” Stein grumbled, “They at least do us the favor of spotting any targets?”

“They did not.” You raised your head into the vision blocks and scanned about- you saw disconcertingly little. Tall grass was before you in all directions save the rear, and though not far off there were impressive fires brewing, caused by bombs, such erasure of cover was not taking place here. Most of Sosaldt wasn’t so densely covered by grass as this region- and thinking about it, the dusty dryness of the place did have quite the potential for flammability.

The Netillian infantry here was good- they kept down, and now that the tank was turned around, they weren’t making themselves obvious.

From your break down here and the sounds you heard while shouting at the Republic troops, you had a vague idea of where the enemy was, but not an exact one. Especially if they had decided to keep a low profile. The cover was absolutely everywhere, and you could only imagine you stood out like a sore thumb not only to the enemy here, but to others not even close. The Republic Infantry, for their lack of motivation, hadn’t been driven out of their positions or all slaughtered, so the enemy couldn’t have had that strong a position here.

You merely had to do something decisive. Something that was so much easier to say than to do.

>Start loading shells and firing them places. It’d have an effect or demand a response quickly enough, no? (Say where and what shells)
>Become a tempting target. Roll out, right along, and see what happens.
>A flare pistol was a dangerous thing in this terrain, wasn’t it…
>Other?
This map is not to a particular scale, but it is very local- you can assume to be able to shoot over the whole of the map with the main gun, and about halfway with the rifle caliber small arms.
>>
>>4772023
Richter just had to say something like that...
>Other?
Head 3 hexes East , turret towards the north and then:
>A flare pistol was a dangerous thing in this terrain, wasn’t it…
Just behind the closest suspected concentration of enemies.
They are likely very, very close to us, I don't recommend we get closer without a clear line of sight. We hide in the bush as best we can while we try and flush them towards the Brownpants with a growing fire.
>>
>>4772137
Supporting this, load canister for when the Nets are forced to move and mow them down
>>
>>4772137
This sounds like a plan!
>>
>>4772137
+1
Some tracer rounds from our machine guns should help as well
>>
>>4772137
>>4772285
>>4772317
>>4772339
Move east, and start a fire. Load canister.
Updating!
>>
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“Driver, three-quarters right, take us straight east, seventy meters! Gunner, orient the turret north, load canister!” The tank’s human mechanisms responded immediately and efficiently to your orders, and you let everything move beneath you as you stayed as observant as you could up above. The cupola hatch was still open- being able to turn out was a necessity from a training you didn’t remember, but the accurate fire of the Netillians this close up kept you low, kept your vision limited to the vision blocks.

The Netillians had the advantage of cover, but you intended to deny them that. The grass was clearly flammable, and you might not have been as knowledgeable about weapons as you once were, but even the idiot you were knew that flares worked through quite hot burning fire. If you waned to, you could set a fire at will wherever there was grass. From the looks of the bomb fires, it would spread decently quickly, too. You just needed to be in position to properly help funnel the enemy into the Republic positions…

Suddenly though, as you grew close to where you intended to solidify your own position, you heard a CHOOMPF from the north, and a shape like a hurled stone flew out and burst apart just near your tank in a cloud of dense off-white smoke, followed by another CHOOMPF much, much closer, to the front of the tank, and the smoke began to spread up and over the tank. Smoke...no, tear gas. You needed to get your masks on, but there couldn't be time for that.

“Enemies front!” Hausen reported as the tank bounced and scraped to a sudden slowing. You looked through the vision blocks, and indeed, close enough to see them, there were Netillian troops of a sort you’d never seen. Glimpses revealed gas masks, round helms shaped like smooth tortoiseshells, combat armor harnesses, splotches of color like camouflage. Much closer than you wanted them to be.

Shit. You couldn’t carry on with your plan with them there. Not unless you wanted to be shot. The turret already turned with Schafer’s reflex to Hausen’s warning, but you needed to do something as well rather than gawk like a startled grouse hoping its hunter didn’t see it.

>Get the hatch closed. The Netillians couldn’t hurt you if the tank was locked up.
>Start throwing grenades. Don’t stop.
>Order Malachi to move backwards. Get the hull gun sweeping the right way.
>Other?
>>
>>4772411
>Start throwing grenades. Don’t stop.
then
>Order Malachi to move backwards. Get the hull gun sweeping the right way.
>>
>>4772411
>Get the hatch closed. The Netillians couldn’t hurt you if the tank was locked up.
While not true, it definitely mitigates the risk of a skillful grenade taking us out. Also it might help by letting less gas inside the tank.
>>
>>4772411
>Start throwing grenades. Don’t stop.
>Order Malachi to move backwards. Get the hull gun sweeping the right way.
>>
>>4772411
>Start throwing grenades. Don’t stop.
>Order Malachi to move backwards. Get the hull gun sweeping the right way.
>>
>>4772411
>Start throwing grenades. Don’t stop.
>Order Malachi to move backwards. Get the hull gun sweeping the right way.
I guess better we spotted them then have enemies flank us and the Browns. Who knows maybe we can get a fire going here!
>>
>>4772422
>>4772427
>>4772435
>>4772437
Back away screeching like a chimp.

>>4772425
Lock it up like girls are trying to get in.

Updating.
>>
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“Mal! Swint the tank north and reverse, get the bow gun firing, Hausen!” You scrambled down to the tank floor and nudged your loader and gunner’s legs as you hauled up the bandolier of fragmentation grenades specifically for this situation. The chances of you chucking grenades out of the hatch while the tank moved actually doing damage was slim, but it would keep the enemy far away, and that was what mattered.

Back up in the command chair, and you pulled the cap off the bottom of the grenade, being careful not to drop it like an idiot, gripping it perhaps too tight, before limply tossing it out of the tank- likely not landing very far away at all. No time to think about it- you were already reading the next grenade as the tank swung round, and the intercom chatter filled with corrections and admonishments from Hausen.

“Quit jerking the tank around you moss-fuckhead!”

Schafer fired the tank cannon at something you weren’t aware of, and after you tossed out the second, then third grenades, you suddenly felt like your nose was running something awful.
The fourth grenade went out, and the tank settled finally as the bow gun spat- you didn’t see any targets. Was the vision block dirty now?

…No, you realized as you blinked, and felt your eyes stinging more and more fiercely. Your fury in throwing things about, and your position closest to the outside of the tank, meant that some lachrymator gas had found its way onto you. Realizing that only made it worse, as the slight burning in your mouth and the back of your throat kicked up, and you coughed, spat and dribbled unwillingly down your collar.

“Don’t think y’needed t’ throw all our grenades, Lieutenant,” Schafer said critically.

“H…Had,” you tried to justify yourself, and ended up coughing a wad of spit instead and near choking on it as your eyes leaked rivers.

“Kommandaerr?” Jorgen put his hand on your shoulder, “Yaelreght?”

Your answer was a choked splutter, followed by a furious wiping of your eyes, though that didn’t help much at all. “I need,” you wheezed, “I’ll be fine. I need to shoot my flare pistol north and set a fire.” It was the most reliable thing for it, since the flare burned for an extended period of time. Could the burning tracer compound on some of the machine gun bullets do it? Maybe. Maybe if this didn’t work you could try it, but this felt better.

“Yaent gaennhaet maech,” Jorgen pointed out, obviously, as he took his hand off you to open the cannon breach- you heard the clank of a shell being loaded.

>Well, you had to try anyways, right? It was a giant pile of grass in a general direction, even you could hit it with your eyes closed, come on. Though you'd need to lean out.
>Concede- have one of your crew fire it instead. Though a good shot might mean having to expose oneself.
>This wasn’t a good position for it anyways. Move somewhere where there aren’t Netillians crawling up your ass. (Where?)
>Other?
>>
>>4772473
>Concede- have one of your crew fire it instead. Though a good shot might mean having to expose oneself.
I miss when Richter was a crack shot.
It really sucks his marksmanship was return when the fear went away.
>>
>>4772473
>Concede- have one of your crew fire it instead. Though a good shot might mean having to expose oneself.
>>
>>4772473
>Concede- have one of your crew fire it instead. Though a good shot might mean having to expose oneself.
>>
>>4772473
>Concede- have one of your crew fire it instead. Though a good shot might mean having to expose oneself.
Time it with the next shell from Schafer to minimise anyone thinking of making a shot
>>
>>4772473
>>Concede- have one of your crew fire it instead. Though a good shot might mean having to expose oneself.
>>
>>4772484
>>4772486
>>4772501
>>4772504
>>4772506
Let somebody else have a shot.
Perhaps not get shot.
Updating.
>>
Rolled 98 (1d100)

“Alright,” you said with an undignified sneeze, “Jorgen,” you passed your flare pistol half blindly to your loader and moved aside, “Hit that…that pile of grass just by those trees up there, where shooting was coming from. Get a good fire going. Be careful. Schafer, try and shoot at the same time Jorgen goes over the top to fire…” The hull gun was still pounding away, but all the cover you could get was necessary.

“Daennarry, Kommaenderrr,” Jorgen half laughed, inappropriately as ever.

“I’ve got a decent idea of where they are,” Schafer said, still looking down the gun scope, “On three. Got it, northman? One, two…three!”

The tank rocked back with the blast of the cannon, and Jorgen scrambled out the top…

>Enemy rolling, DC roll under 25 due to disruptions.
>>
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Shots cracked at Jorgen, but from the scoffing laugh he made, none came close as he stretched his arm out and shot the flare out. He ducked back down, passed the flare pistol to you. “Saeef paepperheads’re faerpref, eh?”

No comment from you, as you were too focused on trying to will the tear gas out of your eyes and mouth.

“Saetbaeck,” Jorgen said as he shoved your chest, and he upended the cold contents of a canteen over your face.

“Plbthth,” you choked, but realized the wisdom and tried to wash things out. It didn’t work very well, but you felt better at least, despite your stinging, squinting eyes. “How did it go?”

“Laetraetahp,” Jorgen reassured you.

“Alright, alright,” you rubbed your eyes more, “Damn. Shit.”

There was no quiet or respite, though. To the west, you heard a sudden resumption of gunfire, quick rifle fire as well as familiar machine gun fire being traded. Sounded like the Netillians had decided the Republic men had enough of a break. They didn’t have gas masks- they were lucky the munitions casters seemed to favor you. As soon as your eyes, nose, and mouth stopped emptying themselves down your chin, you’d need to slip your own mask on.
For now though, what to do next…as the Netillians had given you a reprieve after the furious output of ordinance in the past couple minutes.

>Go back and help the Republic Infantry directly. Maybe they’d be more tempted to follow you if they owed you.
>Try and set more fires. One was fine, but why not more? (Where?)
>Hunt down the team that had attacked you- stick here and make sure they’re gone before you do anything else.
>Other?
>>
>>4772568
>Hunt down the team that had attacked you- stick here and make sure they’re gone before you do anything else.

It's not like they're gonna stop their flank on the Browns if we leave here.
>>
>>4772568
>Hunt down the team that had attacked you- stick here and make sure they’re gone before you do anything else.

Those stormtroopers look like bad news
>>
>>4772568
RL tear gas effect is only made worse by water, or so I heard.

>Go back and help the Republic Infantry directly. Maybe they’d be more tempted to follow you if they owed you.
>>
>>4772568
>Hunt down the team that had attacked you- stick here and make sure they’re gone before you do anything else.
>>
>>4772568
>>Go back and help the Republic Infantry directly.
At this point it sounds like we should be more concerned with making sure the Republic infantry don't get overrun by stormtroopers rather than trying to goad them into an attack. We should also radio Vehrlors and let him know the situation is turning bad here and we might not be bringing him those reinforcements any time soon.
>>
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>>4772568
>Go back and help the Republic Infantry directly. Maybe they’d be more tempted to follow you if they owed you.
>>4772683
If only we had some milk
>>
>>4772568
>>Hunt down the team that had attacked you- stick here and make sure they’re gone before you do anything else.
Lets try to roll them up on this flank. There is only one of us and who is to say if they don't just fall back when we arrive and another group starts attacking from the side we left?
>>
I'll get back to updating at hopefully a decent pace after raids tonight. We're starting late but that shouldn't push things to end later.

>>4772584
>>4772604
>>4773306
>>4773860
Finish the fight to the right.

>>4772683
>>4773445
>>4773690
Go back to your reinforcements, for what they are.

Also let the Captain know there's a definite delay.

Writing.

>>4773690
That seems to be an odd time to be thinking about nonspecific milk, doesn't it.
>>
>>4774335
As expected my poor sleep schedule got the better of me.
Actually update soon now though.
>>
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“Gunners, scan for targets,” you said, “We’re staying here and finishing off that bunch that ambushed us. We can’t have them lurking on the flanks.” Especially not if the Republic Infantry were being attacked from the front now. Who was here to save who are this point? “I’m going to update the platoon on this. It doesn’t look like we won’t be able to get our reinforcements as quickly as I thought.” As your crew worked, you hit the switch to go from the intercom to the radio itself. “Four One, this is Four Five.”

Silence. Though the radio light glowed when it was receiving- you just had to wait. It didn’t take long.

“Four One, this is Four Five, over,” you tried again.

“I hope you’ve got good news for me Four Five.”

If only. “The infantry here won’t move forward. The enemy behind your position is blocking them, though there don’t seem to be that many.”

“Hurry it up. They’re willing to use gas, and they’re in good cover. Soon they’ll either get close or we’ll retreat from here, and our chance for an upset will be gone.”

“I’ll do my best. Four Five Out.” You switched back to the intercom and looked through the cupola’s vision blocks again. Without an anti-tank gun or a tank of their own, the enemy infantry’s ability to directly harm you was limited unless they were practically crawling over you, but this was a skilled bunch, avoiding their vulnerability by refusing to be even seen.

“There, out of the trees,” you said before you even thought about what you had snatched a glimpse of. For all your loss of skills and knowledge, apparently your sharp senses refused to be taken off, even with the blurriness and lightheadedness, the green tone and movement leaped out to you. “Moving right to left.” Not the same people, but they were a visible target. The turret turned to compromise, when the CHOOMPF of munitions casters blasted out in unison, one from your right, one to your left. You weren’t the target this time, though- it appeared that the entrenched Republic Infantry were. Were the Netillians trying to repeat what they’d done on the hill to the north?

Time to do something, though. You’d waited here, and now something was happening- you were in place to counter several things.

>Fire on the exposed infantry crossing north. They were an easy target- an uncommon gift currently.
>Fire upon the area where the eastern Munitions Caster had fired from. It’d be a guess, but they were dangerous.
>Move to disrupt what must have been a preparation to attack to the right. The Republic Infantry might not have had masks, but you and your crew did. Tear gas would be no…further impediment.
>Other?

You do have a hull gun as well as the turret, and could theoretically fire in two directions, but to change angles and also fire you'll suffer some penalty to hit.
>>
>>4775655
>Move to disrupt what must have been a preparation to attack to the right. The Republic Infantry might not have had masks, but you and your crew did. Tear gas would be no…further impediment.
>>
>>4775655
>Fire on the exposed infantry crossing north. They were an easy target- an uncommon gift currently.
>>
>>4775655
>>Move to disrupt what must have been a preparation to attack to the right. The Republic Infantry might not have had masks, but you and your crew did. Tear gas would be no…further impediment.
If they are grouping up for an attack, all the better to scatter them all at once.
>>
>>4775655
>>Move to disrupt what must have been a preparation to attack to the right. The Republic Infantry might not have had masks, but you and your crew did. Tear gas would be no…further impediment.
>>
>>4775694
>>4775899
>>4775927
Go for the smokehouse.

>>4775695
Take on the easy target.

Alright then, writing.
>>
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“Driver, take us east and north, through the smoke!” You said into the intercom. That smoke was preparation- obscuration to mask what could only be an attack. A movement you’d firmly disrupt- once everybody has their masks on, no sort of gas was an impediment. “Masks on, everybody! Prepare for them to be right in our faces!” Malachi would have to strip off everything to put his own mask on- you wondered briefly if he minded that still, but it wasn’t like anybody would be focused on getting a look at his face right now anyways.

Over and then forward you went into the dense white smoke. Temporarily blind- but then, so would anybody else be in this smoke. Only the deaf wouldn’t hear you coming- but you counted on audacity being your checkmating move here. The gun had canister in it, the machine guns were cooling- when you came out of the smoke, if anybody was in front of you, they wouldn’t have long to regret their choices.

The wisps of smoke began to clear- you went from seeing naught but fog to shapes. Human shapes, ahead.

You couldn’t see their faces, but you could only imagine they were astonished when your tank stopped just in front of them, with only a moment lasting for a breath before the weapons began to fire.
>>
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For them it was quick, at least. No armor they could wear would defend them from your weapons, especially at this range. With only four of them, the canister shot did most of the work, whilst the bow gun finished off the other. The coaxial machine gunning them spitefully after was brutal, but you didn’t question your gunner’s decision. He was dispassionate during it, even faced. He did it, then it was done.

You looked to the side, though there was little to see ahead other than dust despite the carnage. Another band of Netillians, who were visible at the edge of the brush from them making noise, firing on the entrenchments the Republic Infantry behind were occupying. They would have time to realize you were there for them.
Meanwhile, you saw an entire squad of Mittelsosalian infantry cut down by expert fire from further down the line. The infantry near them quavered- and you could hardly blame them.

>Shoot away the other attackers you could see. They wouldn’t be as easy, likely- but they were obvious.
>Move down he line and help the other infantry. This small weakness could shatter the line no matter how well you did.
>Exploit the chance you had to start more fires. It would do more work against these expert hiders than any amount of gunfire. (Where?)
>Other?
>>
>>4776344
>>Move down he line and help the other infantry. This small weakness could shatter the line no matter how well you did.
We need to get these troopers moving. If we can repel that attack maybe we can rally those troops for a counterattack.
>>
>>4776346
>>4776417
Hopefully my inability to reply to the post with the actual vote on it isn't an omen for the future.
>>
>>4776346
>Move down the line and help the other infantry. This small weakness could shatter the line no matter how well you did.

Tally ho! Hopefully the smoke will protect our tanks ass.
>>
>>4776346
>>Move down he line and help the other infantry. This small weakness could shatter the line no matter how well you did.
>>
>>4776417
>>4776520
>>4776539
Go on down the line- help the guys who need help.
Writing.
>>
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“Take us back, Mal,” you said, “Swing us back around behind our guys’ trenches, we have to move west and help out our infantry.”

The tank began to move as soon as your orders were over, though they weren’t necessarily agreed upon by your crew.

“Had a good few of ‘em dead where they stand,” Schafer said, “They’re slipping away now.”

“One of the squads got picked apart on the left flank,” you explained, “I think they’re in more trouble down there than the guys in the trenches here.”

Rolling up the flank could have given such a result, but who could have said if you’d the time to both move to the other squad’s support and also destroy the enemy? Given that these men were to be the means of linking the line again and holding the hill, you needed as many of them as possible intact and ready to fight.

When the tank swung into position and halted, ready to give supporting fire, the enemy’s shooting had ceased near entirely. They must have anticipated you and fled- good for them that they respected your power, but you’re really rather have been able to counterattack and destroy them. Your allies had avoided major casualties, but so had the Netillians here…

The radio light glowed, and you switched to the platoon net. “This is Four Five.”

“Four Five,” Vehrlors said seriously, “They’re going to be all over us soon. What’s the status of getting those troops up to the front line? We can’t hold here for much longer. They’ve crept into spot we can’t cover, and they’re getting bolder with anti-tank rifle fire. It’s now or never.”

You looked around at the troops- they were still complacent and passive looking, though further south, reinforcements had appeared. They’d take some time to march up, though. The fires were spreading, and there wasn’t a good way of knowing how much of the enemy was left to deal with. Would it be better to advise Vehrlors to abandon the excellent position?

>It probably wasn’t happening- not with these troops, not against this enemy. Tell Vehrlors to retreat while he still can.
>Tell your platoon to try and hold just a bit longer- you’ll take this bunch and get up to them, you can do it.
>Say that the infantry probably won’t be able to break through- but you’ll head back to them and help hold down the hill. You’d already tried so hard to hold it, after all.
>Other?
>>
>>4776796
>Tell your platoon to try and hold just a bit longer- you’ll take this bunch and get up to them, you can do it.
Get as many as we can on our tank, there should be enough remaining to hold until the reinforcements come.
>>
>>4776796
>>It probably wasn’t happening- not with these troops, not against this enemy. Tell Vehrlors to retreat while he still can.
>>
>>4776808
*Remaining here that is, so the Netillians don't exploit any sudden gaps opening up
>>
>>4776796
>Tell your platoon to try and hold just a bit longer- you’ll take this bunch and get up to them, you can do it.
>Say that the infantry probably won’t be able to break through- but you’ll head back to them and help hold down the hill. You’d already tried so hard to hold it, after all.

Tell him we're coming back regardless of who comes with and will try to escort the infantry to them. If we lead the charge straight up from the rocks the infantry can slip in between us guarding the west and the fire/smoke obscuring the east.
>>
>>4776796
>It probably wasn’t happening- not with these troops, not against this enemy. Tell Vehrlors to retreat while he still can.
Our supporting infantry was shot from around us, and these guys will be as well.
>>
>>4776796
>It probably wasn’t happening- not with these troops, not against this enemy. Tell Vehrlors to retreat while he still can.
We'll go back to cover the withdrawal
>>
>>4776796
>>4776847
This. If an Republic officer is still alive to yell at, inform him we are leaving, and he can stay here and take his chances, or throw in with the tank that the Nets slink away from at every opportunity.
>>
>>4776796
These are good >>4776847 >>4776919
>>
>>4776796
>>It probably wasn’t happening- not with these troops, not against this enemy. Tell Vehrlors to retreat while he still can.
It'll be safer to launch a coordinated counterattack with fresh troops later than make a desperate last stand now.
>>
Rolled 2 (1d2)

>>4776808
>>4776847
>>4776919
>>4777187
Tell them to hold out- and try and get over with what you can.
Though tank riding is probably not very safe...

>>4776810
>>4776848
>>4776850
>>4777756
Roll back for this- you'll take the place later.

Rolling then, 1 for stay in, 2 for telling them to pull out.
Writing next however.
>>
Another look to the troops, another look north- you could go back, yes, perhaps you could make it back quickly and directly, carrying a squad upon your tank. That would be some help. However, the last infantry to hold the position with you had all been shot away- wouldn’t the same thing happen to this lot? They certainly wouldn’t be breaking through with less men, not until the reinforcements from behind arrived- perhaps to still be obstructed by the superior Netillian troops anyways. You so wanted to tell Vehrlors to stay there- to be triumphant in your mission that you’d volunteered for, but if it came down to risking your platoon, and not just your own head and crew…

You grit your teeth. “Four One to Four Five, from what I can see, it’s unlikely these troops will break through and reinforce you. I think you should retreat.”

“Damn.” Vehrlors cursed sharply, “Copy that, Four Five. Four Three, start going, I’ll follow you down. Four Five, do your best to cover our path. We’ll be heading to your lines.”

“Affirmative, Four One.”

They didn’t turn out to particularly need your help- where one tank had run through before, two did so with ease, though you did hear the anti-tank rifleman still shooting- you tried your best to direct your gunner to fire where that bastard was, but you couldn’t have said whether or not you managed to hit him or any of his fellows. On the back of the tanks too, were some bloodied brown uniforms- despite the danger, Vehrlors had seen fit to try and get out with whatever he could, it seemed.

Once the platoon had made it back, the Netillians more or less stopped attacking you and drew back- with three tanks supporting the Republic Infantry, there was nothing more they could have thought to do. It couldn’t be long for a counterattack, you thought, only…

PFEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!

Suddenly, Von Rotehof’s tank began to spew steam and make an absolutely ghastly shrieking sound- partly through a pair of holes you noticed in the rear and side of his tank.

“Judge Above!” Von Rotehof called out needlessly over the radio, “What the hell!?”

“Turn off your engine, Four Three,” Vehrlors said, “You’re overheating.”

“Overheating? In winter?” Von Rotehof demanded incredulously.

“The rear flank of your tank’s been pierced by anti-tank rifle fire,” you said, “Maybe it damaged your engine’s…cooling?” You did faintly recall that the m/32 has problems with its cooling at times. It didn’t seem far fetched that damage to its internals could aggravate that.

“Shit. Maybe we can just let it cool off, then we can start our attack again.”

“We’re not planning anything yet,” Vehrlors told Von Rotehof, “Off net, now. While we have time for it.”
>>
The meeting conducted outside the tanks was extremely brief. Vehrlors informed Von Rotehof that, in order for the m/32 to operate for just five minutes in the state he guessed it was in, it’d have to be allowed to go entirely cold again, which could take quite some time. In short, Von Rotehof was not going to be participating in a counterattack any time soon, or maneuvering, for that matter.

“We’ll stay here and try and support the push back up, but,” Vehrlors lit up a cigarette and sighed deeply, shaking his head, “I’m looking at these troops here, and the Netillians we’ve been up against here. They’re tougher, meaner, better trained, better equipped…they haven’t even been bringing around their battle buses here. Probably because of us. I don’t think there’s going to be much progress now.”

“There’s still time,” you tried to say in encouragement.

“We’ll be pretty late at this rate. First platoon and the flammpanzers with them are ahead of schedule. I called Company and told them we won’t be able to cover their flank, but they’re going ahead anyways. We’ll just have to see if we can catch up while they’re doing their assault.”

“What about me?” Von Rotehof complained, “If I can’t move the stupid tank…”

“We’ll be able to support the infantry from here, even you. If we end up needing to fall back again, we’ll do so to you. The enemy here’s too weak to try and force us back beyond that, I’m sure.” Vehrlors took in a deep breath of his smoke, “This part of the line’s still the most likely to press up. Our presence here means that the Netillians won’t bring in any of their heavy support that’s blocked up the infantry further east. That, and pushing up east won’t help much. We need the west lines to catch up.”
>>
Maybe you’d have decided to stay aggressive, but the look on Vehrlors’s face told you that he hadn’t given up his position because he thought he could win this particular gamble, and the more he looked around, the less he seemed to think of such chances, even if he’d thought them decent while trying to hold onto the hill.

So operations continued…but the Netillians had adapted well to your presence, and the Republic Infantry had grown wary and fearful of them. The hill evaded capture until the sun had begun to set- and, you heard, so did the fort. First platoon and the flammpanzers had encountered armored resistance, and though First platoon had managed to deal with them, some unknown assailant had knocked out two of their tanks, as well as two of the flammpanzers.

At first, you and Vehrlors were to move to reinforce the captured fort, but when night fell, the orders were rescinded- First platoon had been forced to retreat, as had the flammpanzers, when a counterattack by the Netillian elite had forced the Republic Infantry out of the fortress again.

So you remained where you had been since the middle of the day, as a wrecker from the maintenance company took away Little Von Rotehof’s tank to receive maintenance in the rear lines. You could only hope that elsewhere on the lines, things were going better. After all, if the elite mechanized guards were here, they couldn’t be hampering the main effort, could they? A miniscule consolation.

-----
>>
February 12, 1933

Von Neubaum’s travels had taken him to the northernmost of the city states that formed the Almizean Pact- a city rather smaller than Almize, but still quite significant, called Hagescen. Walled like any Plisseau city, but tight within them despite their age- and even still, it did not have the stagnancy of a city that did not grow. An odd atmosphere.

Yet this city state, according to the information gathered by Priscilla (Von Neubaum’s bastard confidant, intelligence expert, and mistress), was one of the greatest concerns of the most powerful influences of all of Plisseau. It was certainly the Almizean Pact’s most aggressive members. The way they made their declarations implied they were ten times as powerful as they appeared- and they seemed to, inexplicably, believe their own bluster.
Plisseau folk were an unusually proud folk for what their smattering of chaos was, but they weren’t nonsensically so. At least, not their upper classes. Families and “democratic” despots (such as whom ruled over Hagescan) didn’t stay in power by being so bold as Hagescen was being. An age without Shadows! Almizea is the Future! So on and so forth. If there was one thing Von Neubaum learned in his time in the country, it was that Plisseau’s powers that be did not take kindly to separatist talk, especially with the history of Strossvald biting pieces from them.

The Intelligence Office’s funds allowed Von Neubaum and his tools some manner of luxury- the landing in Hagescan was cushioned by dropping straight into a well appointed hotel, of a style that was utterly unsuitable for long term stays for anybody but the wealthiest (or those sponsored by them), but a mere two days were tolerable for the funds Von Neubaum had wrung from the IO’s tightwads. Was it a necessary expense? Far from it, but the man preferred to work in comfort, rather than scrounging in the dust of shit holes.

It also impressed his company, of course, whom he was spoiling rotten for good reason.

“Ooooh,” Priscilla gawked at a grand sunroom covered with tinted glass, fountains at either side of a long pool flanked with multicolored sand, “Look at that. It’s like a sunset on the beach, but indoors.”

“So it is.” It was a lovely thing, but Von Neubaum was not a man who was easily reduced by admiration. He was curious of how a place ostensibly not nearly as wealthy as Almize had such a palace, though. Beauteous construction was common with the lack of wars of the sort that would destroy such cities as this, but this was a mere corner of an entire building of ostentation.
>>
“You know, Erwin,” Priscilla clung close on Von Neubaum’s arm, despite one hand being encumbered with a hefty attaché case, “I’ve gotten an atom suit just for something like this. They’re the biggest new trend from Emre. Swimming suits that are barely there, so the sun can kiss every bit of you. Have you heard of them?”

Von Neubaum was little interested in a suit that was “barely there” on somebody he’d seen naked plenty. Priscilla was an attractive young woman though. Maybe it was a different experience, hard to imagine when she was in a white button up blouse and a matching buttoned long skirt. “I have. I don’t think I’ve seen it before.”

“Well then. Maybe after the appointments I’ve arranged for you, you can find out, hm? Though we’ll have a little time before you have to go…” Her hand drifted from around the arm to between the legs.

Once they were in their room and had unpacked their things, despite the provocations, Von Neubaum stayed on business in the long term.

“Tell me again,” he said as he paced the room, “Of the underground. The literal one.”

“You don’t recall? It’s all that I talked about on the drive here!” Priscilla pouted, “I was hoping we could…do something other than review geography.”

“You can multitask, can’t you?” Von Neubaum said as he sat next to Priscilla and kissed her neck, fondled her breasts. “I need to be certain of the situation.”

“O-oh, of course,” She breathed in, “I didn’t think you thought rambling was, uh, sexy…”

It wasn’t. It was efficient, and kept her mouth from uttering painful attempts at dirty talk.

The recounting was mostly things Von Neubaum had heard vaguely of before- albeit said whilst he did his best to disrupt the speaker. Plisseau’s city states had no small amount of great wealth, and it was by no means a little amount spread over a large territory. The holdfasts of the confederated city states that did their best to keep the territory bound together, the primary opposition of the Almizean Pact secession, were far richer than their possessions would indicate they could be. Yes, they had mineral resources, farm estates, profitable trade networks and crafts, but it wouldn’t add up.

The truth of it was a well kept secret in Plisseau- vast underground cave networks, deep and broad, built up even in times past and supported with construction to prevent them from collapsing. Tunnels and their ecosystems were hardly uncommon on the continent, but Plisseau’s were of a degree that, outside of the city states, none even knew what the extent and productivity of the caves were, but it was theorized to be astounding. At least, for a glorified series of subterranean pits.
>>
There were even supposedly mole-people, who were people with a physical defect of sun-sensitivity who had moved underground to avoid the sun, and were well adapted to their new home- though the fantasies of pulp authors were denied, as these subterranean adapted peoples were outwardly little different from those who lived above, besides being incredibly pale, and having a relatively high rate of albinism.

Von Neubaum unbuttoned Priscilla’s blouse and ran his fingers over her pale, speckled skin. “You’re quite pale yourself.” Too dirty a shade of blonde to call an albino, yet. “Perhaps you are secretly a subterranean? I’ll have to perform a thorough physical examination.”

“I am not a moleperson!” Priscilla’s retort was haughty, but she shuffled her blouse off of her shoulders, “But you can check as deeply as you want…”

The lordling was impatient- not that he was particularly attracted to Priscilla, but he was still a man, and he had to get both of their urges out at some point in the day. The bastard girl was soon on the bed naked, prone, and being ferociously rutted.

“Do you think,” Von Neubaum said coolly, with only a slight tilt to his voice from the exertions against Priscilla’s body under him, her breathing thin and exhausted from climax just a moment before, “That mole people can breed with surface people?”

“Ah…uh…hah…” Priscilla sharply inhaled with each movement back and forth, in rhythm with the bedframe creaking, “Huh..? Ah!”

“Mmh,” Von Neubaum felt his loins brewing up, anticipating, “Let’s see…urgh.”

He kept his mate of today pinned under his body long after they finished, before letting himself roll to the side to keep Priscilla tucked into the nook his body made for her.

“Today wasn’t safe, you know,” Priscilla purred, as she twisted and held Von Neubaum’s chin in her fingers, looking into his eyes with a flirtatious tilt to her lips, “I love that sort of daring…are you tired of Felicia now?”
“I have been for some time,” Von Neubaum allowed. Let this woman believe she was special. It kept her loyal.

“But she’s getting pretty big around the belly. You gonna get rid of her? Like you got rid of Vivi?” That wasn’t a serious accusation- her eyes and mouth kept their playful smirk.

“Vivian was assigned a mission. She failed and died for it. You can expect the same, if you fail.” She wasn’t a bad girl, though. Von Neubaum would have rather had her still- but that Reich brute had shot her dead.

“Ooh, scary,” Priscilla laughed, “So you’re gonna get rid of me, are you? I am a harder secret to keep than the whore or the country girl. Guess you’ll have no choice if you just knocked me up, won’t you?”
>>
Let her believe that, Von Neubaum said as he stroked her body and kissed her on the lips with feigned, well-practiced passion. She could assume she had him in a vulnerable place, but this game had already been rigged. She willingly accepted food and drink- that he had tampered with using anticonception solution he had procured up here. Priscilla Stropfe would not be bearing children any time she was around him- and, considering the potential side effects of the drug he had selected that made it very much unpopular as a contraceptive, there was a roughly eleven percent chance that Priscilla would never be able to bear any children, a chance that only grew the more often the drug was administered over time. That hardly mattered, though. Her womb was of no importance- he had already selected a genetic ideal, and kept her at home.

“Now then,” Von Neubaum left her on the bed, “Your report. On the desk?”

“Come onnnn,” Priscilla whined as she lay on the bed, “Can’t that wait?”

“No.”

“Then get it and read it over here, at least. I want to cuddle…”

“Maybe if I find out you’ve been working hard enough for a reward.” He took the pages out from their large yellow envelope, and began to read down the list of contents.

Report on City State of Hagescen. Report on Hagescen’s Militia and Commissioned Armed Companies. Report on Hagescen Harbor.

Harbor? Plisseau was far from the sea, and Hagescen was nowhere near any rivers…

“Knew that would get your eye,” Priscilla cooed from behind, “Neat, isn’t it? A harbor for a canal, but not one anybody sees from up here, oh no…”

Von Neubaum made no comment. No wonder Hagescen so unnerved the rest of Plisseau- and why it felt it could swing its weight around so recklessly. They had access to the underground, and not in a small way. Their joining of the Almizean Pact might have been the most utterly unacceptable thing to the other city states.

He’d certainly have to bring it up with his appointments. How interesting, he thought, as he dressed himself. Would the Intelligence Office have trusted him to be making these decisions, influencing these people who could so influence whether or not a war of large scale would break out? Did they know of this? If they didn’t…well, that wasn’t Von Neubaum’s problem, was it? There was no such thing as fair rules where opportunity was concerned.

>You, Teobaldt Von Walen, were up to what little you could be elsewhere in Almize.
>With only one arm and no memories, you, Von Metzeler, maintain your struggle at a new home.
>Enough about northern matters, I’ve had enough of that. Show me Bat Company.
>Something else, for whatever reason?

Since Panzer Commanders are ostensibly backup MCs, I wouldn't hesitate to let you at Von Neubaum if you really wanted him, but you'd not have much choice but to play an extremely callous character, which I don't think is what is generally wanted.
>>
>>4778677
>>You, Teobaldt Von Walen, were up to what little you could be elsewhere in Almize.
Kinda want to see if von Walen has managed to get any character development since we last left him.
Also yeah, fuck playing as von Neubaum.
>>
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>>4778677
>>With only one arm and no memories, you, Von Metzeler, maintain your struggle at a new home.
Klaudia is cute and reminds me of Bernadetta and I want to see more of her.
>>
>>4778677
>>You, Teobaldt Von Walen, were up to what little you could be elsewhere in Almize.

While playing a different perspective is fine, Von Neubaum is just too slimy for a MC.
>>
>>4778677
>You, Teobaldt Von Walen, were up to what little you could be elsewhere in Almize.
>>
>>4778677
>You, Teobaldt Von Walen, were up to what little you could be elsewhere in Almize.

On a side note I like how our platoon has gone from over strength down to a single combat-effective pair in like a week or two. Maybe we can get the pioneers/Maintenance to fix a hedgerow cutter fitted to our tanks so we can cut through all the tall grass.
>>
>>4778677
Gah, Von Neubaum is fucking disgusting.
Are you writing him as some parody of an isekai protag?

>With only one arm and no memories, you, Von Metzeler, maintain your struggle at a new home.
>>
>>4778677
>>Enough about northern matters, I’ve had enough of that. Show me Bat Company.
>>
>>4778677
>With only one arm and no memories, you, Von Metzeler, maintain your struggle at a new home.
>>
>>4778688
>>4778737
>>4778833
>>4778877
Shortie.

>>4778735
>>4778987
>>4779190
Stumpy.

>>4779057
beht

Writing. We'll do Von Metzeler after this, it'll only be a couple things. A brief aside, after all, not a the-rest-of-the-thread-is-elsewhere.

>>4778987
>Are you writing him as some parody of an isekai protag?
No, I wouldn't say he's a parody. I prefer not to overly present my personal vivisection of characters, I prefer to let people get their own take without deferring to the "official" explanation, but Von Neubaum is somebody who's callous and ruthless who's managed to get to a place far beyond where he'd have been normally- he wasn't always like this, but for a certain sort of person when the horizons expand they don't become more moral or benevolent in response.
>>
>>4779948
Not always like this, or more like only now he's in a position to act on his darkest vices in full?
>>
>>4779999
Nice quads.
Who can say for sure without asking him? After all, before this, he merely seemed bored and disinterested, at least from Richter's point of view.
>>
>>4779999
It's said that people don't change, they just reveal more of who they really are.
Also checked.
>>
>>4780091
Now that I think about it, Richter probably doesn't look too great depending on what angle you view him from. The drug and alcohol habits, the kidnappings, the sexual harassment or commoners and nobility. I'm not saying they are actually similar at all, Von Neubaum is horrible, but lets hope a secret writer isn't making another sequel about the Kommandant in Ellowie.
>>
This sucked.

Almize, their “independence” pact, the posturing and skirmishing between militia and mercenaries still going on, you just wanted to go home and appreciate what you had again, because here, you had nothing. The respect of a bunch of lower class militia who didn’t know any better, your tank was a burned hulk out in the middle of a field, mocking you. At least you had managed to get your crew’s remains sent home. Some small obligation you’d managed to fulfill, not that it was something anybody respected. The other officers’ crews gave you dark looks, and even Von Igel, doing nothing but pushing paper for the IO and content to sit inside doing nothing but reading all day, had as little to say as ever, remarking that you were “a fool.” Yeah. Well.

Maybe you were. Nobody expected the fourth son of any family to amount to anything, especially not from a middle of the road nobility like Von Walen. Your own people certainly hadn’t when you had little choice but to join the military. You’d have more happily studied in antiques and archaeology, but somebody had to join the military in order to keep up appearances, and your brothers had reserved their paths in life before you had come along. The Judge had dropped his trousers and decided to take a big fat shit on Teobaldt’s head right when he was born.

That was you- Teobaldt Nobody Wants You Around Von Walen. You just wanted to go home and admire your collection of things of fascination you had managed to scrape together. The best among those, a modest wine rack of last-century vintages, including unopened bottles from across the southern sea, a porcelain tea set from the far west, beautiful near-translucent with gold and enamel that was brought over by one of the noble warlords of Dhegyar that conquered the west of Vinstraga centuries ago, and the family blade of Von Tracht, that a past generation of theirs had auctioned off for some reason. It wasn’t very fitting of a family sword, only modestly decorated, and you remembered the man he bought it from assuming it was just some plain light cavalry sabre, but youe had seen it for what it was- an artifact from the Archduchy’s earliest aspirations of independence from the Reich.

That you had run into a Von Tracht later had been very awkward. Everything you had heard about them indicated that they had been well on their way to dying out, and the courts hadn’t been aware that an heir proper even existed. The popular rumor around the Academy had been that Richter Von Tracht was a bastard, a shameful product of an affair between the last of the Von Trachts and some disgraced maid at best, and the child of a rape at worst.
>>
Was it proper to keep that piece of history from its rightful owner? Maybe, but you were admittedly a stubborn man. Maybe that was why you held so tightly onto the one thing you could say you “had” up here in Almize. Your prisoner from your ill-fated battle that the local press had been so bold as to call a “stunning victory,” even if it outraged Von Neubaum (but he could go fuck his own pretty face) and set the Intelligence Office agent you reported to who called himself “Bishop” into a fit of giggles. Why did he even call himself…anyways, your prisoner.

Bernadine Von Tirozchen, some daughter of the ruling nobility of the city state of Tirolisch, an irrelevant child of a significant power in Plisseauan politics. She’d come down in command of a small mercenary detachment meant to show off power to Almize, perhaps thinking to make something of herself- you had lead an attack that had scattered and routed them, and captured her in the chaos of that night battle. She was livid about her situation, and had been an all around pain in your ass. Right when you’d captured her, she’d tried to…you didn’t know, seduce you into releasing her? She was decent looking, with night-black hair and bright blue eyes, but not even close to eye catching, and her tactic had been to say something along the lines of “I’ll let you do me then you let me go,” like she’d do just about anything to slip away and preferred not to think about the specifics.

She’d repeated that “offer” every time you’d visited her in the room you had prepared for her, and every time you’d denied it, just as annoyed as the first time. She had refused to change her clothes or take any baths, despite being provided with access to both (it had been challenge enough to negotiate that she wouldn’t be spied upon while using the toilet), so that at a certain point, you were being solicited by an absolutely filthy, smelly, raggedy and angry young woman that might have been appealing to a drug addicted beggar and absolutely nobody else.

“You do realize,” you had said then, your tolerance at its end, “That I could just “accept” your offer then refuse to follow through with my end of the “deal?” Especially if I’m such disreputable scum as you keep saying I am? Stupid bitch.”
>>
Bernadine had given you an absolutely vile look, then looked down with sudden grit-teethed seething embarrassment, and that had been the last you’d heard of any “deal.” She had nothing else to try and negotiate with besides empty threats. That, and her own accumulation of filth, but that had been stolen from her when you lost tolerance for that as well, came in with a half dozen militia members and had two burly men hold her down while female aids stripped her to her underclothes (a slip and shorts, nothing even untowards) before dropping her unceremoniously into a barrel of soapy water. Much like the time you’d helped to wash the family Fancy Cat, she screamed like she was being tortured the whole while and was even more furious than normal afterwards.

It was impossible to say whether every Von Tirozchen was so irate or whether Bernadine was a specific example. The other day (finally having been convinced to wear clean clothes but insisting on keeping her unwashed and smelly uniform jacket close) she had, with surprising modesty, asked for bandages and gauze.
”Why?”, you asked, naturally. For some reason, she got angry at that question and refused to explain.

Some days you wondered if, were she not the only possession you could claim in Almize, you’d have had her thrown off the walls by now.

Nobody but you (and he who could fuck his own face because who cared what he thought) even seemed to care about her staying around. Just yesterday, Tirolisch had sent a demand for her release with no negotiation (nor offer of any ransom), and you’d only heard secondhand that Almize had responded with a perfunctory refusal without bothering to tell you, or Bernadine. You’d been afraid that Bishop and the IO might take umbrage with your hold on her, but the odd man had merely shrugged and said to ”Do what you want.”

Why he called himself Bishop was puzzling. There were no bishops in Sosalia, not since Kaiser Alexander. In the Archduchy even, religious officials were not allowed to hold office beyond the walls of of their churches, the highest one might aspire to being Consultants of Faith to territorial nobility. Either he was a nostalgic Cathedra adherent, or had some strange sense of irony.
>>
Not that the days were unending trains of unpleasantness. Felicia was paying attention to you again, and though you had plenty of suspicion that she and Von Neubaum were far more than “acquaintances,” he had gone off somewhere else, and left her behind. She was lonely, and sad, and there was a sort of comradery in such. She was beautiful, but you didn’t assume any chances, and just appreciated her presence, her talk of simpler subjects. When anywhere else you went it was ”We shall seize our future” or ”What the fuck were you even doing?” or ”Get your filthy face away from me, pig’s bastard!”, it was incredibly pleasant to sit and have coffee with somebody and just talk about the weather, and other plain and unexciting things.

Well, Von Walen, you thought to yourself as you rose from lying down on a bench and pulled your stupid “mercenary” uniform onto your shoulders, buttoning it clumsily, It’s only noon, perfect time to drag your ass up and do something for once…

>Go and see Bernadine Von Tirozchen. You hated yourself enough to talk at her. (About what? Or do something else?)
>Check with Bishop, your IO superior. Maybe he had something for you to do…
>Go find Felicia and have tea. You’d done enough damage, hadn’t you? At least somebody treated you nicely…
>Sitting on your arse for however many days, just moping. Enough of that. The militias believed in you, for whatever reason, so try and make something of that. (What sort of something?)
>Other?

>>4780192
>the sexual harassment or commoners and nobility
Not to worry, with Geroldt Von Tracht's "scandal" with Eda Von Blutenstein, as well as Heller Von Tracht's...being Heller Von Tracht, that trait wouldn't be much a surprise!
>>
>>4780318
>>Go find Felicia and have tea. You’d done enough damage, hadn’t you? At least somebody treated you nicely…
>>
>>4780318
>Check with Bishop, your IO superior. Maybe he had something for you to do…

Wonder if Richter can buy back the blade later, though I'd bet von Walen hasn't told him about it.
>>
>>4780318
>Go and see Bernadine Von Tirozchen. You hated yourself enough to talk at her. (About what? Or do something else?)
Break the news that her family isn't even willing to negotiate or pay ransom for her, see how she reacts.
>>
>>4780318
>Check with Bishop, your IO superior. Maybe he had something for you to do…
>>
>>4780318
>Sitting on your arse for however many days, just moping. Enough of that. The militias believed in you, for whatever reason, so try and make something of that. (What sort of something?)
First let's meet the militia leadership and get an idea of whose ass we can kick nearby. We never did find out if Von Igel had his own tank here, and if he isn't using it maybe we can...

Although really I just want to cause another scandal that becomes geopolitical.
>>4779999
Pure speculation, but we do know one thing that can change a person and no one ever said that Von Tracht and Von Metzeler were the only ones to undergo the procedure.
>>
>>4780318
>Check with Bishop, your IO superior. Maybe he had something for you to do…
>>
>>4780318
>>Go and see Bernadine Von Tirozchen. You hated yourself enough to talk at her. (About what? Or do something else?)
If she is one of the few things Von Walen has here, may as well try to make her worth it. Maybe if she can offer something that is actually valuable, like information or political intrigues, then the notion of letting her go can actually be seriously entertained.
>>
>>4780345
Have a coffee.

>>4780351
>>4780388
>>4780634
Somehow you don't think he's up to hear a confession.

>>4780362
>>4780650
Burn the Bernie.

>>4780629
Seek trouble. Lots of trouble.

Writing.
>>
Maybe Bernadine, rather, the hostage, was feeling more personable today. Yeah right, but you did hate yourself enough to suffer the usual. Though, perhaps she did deserve to know the news you’d received- that her family hadn’t exactly tried to get her back, that there was no ransom nor negotiation planned. You’d been the one who caught her, yes, but it was a little sad, wasn’t it? Even though you weren’t the one who had received any message nor accepted or refused. She wouldn’t be getting out of her room any time soon on her own volition- definitely not with the building being guarded.

Even still, she wasn’t doing anything besides taking up space, and reluctantly eating food and drink. She wasn’t just given bread and water. She was a woman, after all, and your family taught that they should be treated well even when they were regarded with contempt. Was she grateful for this hospitality? Of course not. Yet you felt bad for her. If she could offer anything of proper value (not individual perverse favors) then you’d be willing to let her go for such- information, political intrigue and the like.

Not yet, though. Negotiating with her had proven pointless before, like having to force the issue of bathing, or unneeded, such as the extremely brief hunger strike that lasted exactly one evening. You didn’t even know what you’d be looking for- perhaps, though, the Intelligence Office man would- the oddly named “Bishop,” though Von Neubaum had been his favored more than you since Von Neubaum’s arrival.

You did wonder somewhat, what it would be like if the whole gang was here again. You were missing three- Krause, a commoner, Von Metzeler and Von Tracht, the old platoon leader and second in command, two lieutenants, equal in rank. Von Metzeler seemed the more capable officer, but he deferred to Von Tracht for whatever reason. You didn’t know what happened to Krause and Von Metzeler, but Bishop had told you that Von Tracht had joined with the Silver Lances Armored Division. Good for him. It was rather early for him to be considered, but he’d had a charmed life, and the Silver Lances were a direct descendant from Richter Helman (such was their name before the Archduchy bestowed their title) and his mounted mercenaries that had served the rebellious Strossvald against the Grossreich. The result made some sense. Unlike everything with Von Neubaum.
>>
Maybe if everybody were here you’d have somebody different from the Bishop, who creeped you out. Maybe some powerful, confident and attractive woman- not one taller than you, though. The Judge already cursed your height to be one hundred sixty three centimeters (merely average, you would insist), he’d have to be spiteful indeed to throw women who were taller as well, while you were wishing on stars. Yet, no, you had the Bishop, a man who did not seem like a man of faith by his airs, though for what he seemed by appearances, it wasn’t as though he appeared immoral. Or perhaps, that was merely a cover for his true identity. It wouldn’t surprise you with Intelligence Office folk.

Your fancy, stupid looking mercenary uniform was shed for comfortable clothes. Nobody dressed like a mercenary went where you had to go, save to beat the stuffing out of a poor sod, and you didn’t need to project that intimidation right now.

Despite the outward wealth of the city and the tendency for the less well-off to find work laboring on the land, Almize had no shortage of destitute poor who fell between the shadowed cracks of the tightly knit buildings of the Old Romance District, a name thought up by a real comedian, as it was largely vacant and inhabited by the dregs of society and those who either supported or leeched off of them. They were far emptier than they’d once been- many of the new militia and volunteer soldiers had found a chance to fling themselves forth of this place, save for those who had been too long to think of being anywhere else, and of course, a fair amount of children.

In a broken down old Cathedra steeple that had been stripped of its once decorations and was but a skeleton made of stone and wood too rotted to salvage, no artworks or icons to be found since Alexander, the Bishop sat upon the steps to an altar, the mount for icons too sacred to pillage, and though a vast carved block of white quartzite was little worn by time, it certainly needed cleaning. If you recalled your Cathedra traditions correctly, the Altar was a place of submission, of confession. Some practices demanded recompense for misdeeds, in the form of blood once upon a time, then of special ceremonial wine, tinted to reflect the sin, measured for its severity. The Cathedra proper apparently frowned at this practice- sacrifice of possession was worth naught to a Judge who demanded that repentance be demonstrated through deeds, not wealth, but alas.
>>
The Bishop was dressed simply in a black shirt and cloak, with brown canvas trousers and ragged shoes. He played at being as poor as those who accompanied him now, whom he gave the alms he claimed to collect during the day. How many of these wretches were Intelligence Office goons rather than true wretches? Perhaps some of them lived a double life long enough to fool themselves. Half of the Intelligence Office’s reputation were things that most would believe ridiculous until it turned out to be true, after all, even if they were far from infallible. Unless…

He watched you from the instant you walked in through the formerly holy place, and when you had come halfway down the aisle, he rose and stepped slowly to where you waited, a small smile on his wide, round face, his hairline balding backwards, but the brown locks not afflicted by a hint of grey. His bow was heavy, and weighed upon his eyes such that they seemed to droop. These eyes were sunken into deep wells, dark, and shadowed with wrinkled bags, making him look like a stereotype of the sort of person not to trust alone with young ones.

“Hee hee hee heh,” he tittered, barely making a sound anywhere but around him, even though the steeple’s surrounding’s would have echoed a ghost’s whisper. “Come for a confession, have you?” He beckoned with a single finger held low, and led you to a forgotten corner of the steeple, a place completely enclosed, an antechamber with two sets of heavy doors before the one within, that locked from the inside. On all sides were thick stone- an oil lamp was already lit above. It was the one place that was completely free of dust in this place, and furnished with a few chairs and tables that were far, far newer than the rest of the place, and a narrow bottle of pale Eau De Vie in one corner that he measured out tin cups of.

“So the poor don’t get any of this?” You swirled the pale liquor about, “Not that they would appreciate this.”

“Drug of any sort is a blight upon the poor. Hee hee heh. At least the well to do, do not find themselves having lost what little they had when they wake up from indulgence.” He sipped slowly.

“A bishop wouldn’t take a confession from any poor, either,” you added haughtily, feeling the need to be a smartarse, “How much of this is ironic play to you? Confessions were meant to be strictly confidential, upon penalty of excommunication, as well. I doubt the Intelligence Office would tolerate such secrecy.”
>>
“Mmhee hee hee,” the Bishop held up a finger as he bubbled mirth through his drink, then exhaled a sweet sigh as he let the cup from his lips, “My boy, I do not require a person to speak even one word to me, to elicit a confession from them nevertheless. For all the tongue might be stilled, they speak in one thousand other ways.”

“Yeah, yeah, how very wise and mystic,” you said with caustic edge, “So what am I here for, if you’re so all knowing?”

“You are here because you are idle, without purpose, alone, and you sought me out wondering what to do.” He drank again of his cup, with a roll of his eyes from one side to the other, then set it down again. “You are not a complicated man, Teobaldt Von Walen, and not as unique as you might believe. For every fifth son there is a fourth son, after all, and the world has its fair share of crowded dynasties.”

“Mrrgh,” you growled, and grit your teeth, “Fine, yeah. I’m here because I want to know what I need to do.” You looked around warily- the Bishop chose this place because it was soundproof, but you couldn’t let your guard down still. “You do have something for me to do, don’t you? You don’t just sit on your ass here and play priest with peasants?”

“For all most know? Hee hee hee. There is something, however. A potential. Though,” the Bishop leaned forward and pointed a boney, crooked finger at your cup, one among many fingers that confessed plenty from their misshapen structure, you guessed. “You will need to tell me what you plan to do with your precious hostage. Are you hoping that she’ll fall for you? Hee hee hee heh. You must have something, else I see little point in keeping her around. The flames are already spreading, and even her return will change nothing at this point.”

You didn’t like how this man pretended to be omniscient. “Say if I am.”

The Bishop snorted. “Don’t act like you’re mentally retarded, Von Walen, you don’t need to struggle to make yourself seem less clever.” Your cheeks flushed and you looked sharply away, “Erwin II Von Neubaum is the rake of you lot. You should be thankful that such an ugly fault is not one of yours. Towards the fairer sex you’ve the charisma of a damp toadstool. Women can forgive that, but they’re hardly drawn to it.”

“Get to the goddamn point,” you crossed your arms and glowered at the wall.
>>
“Bernadine Von Tirozchen is not an only child, not the only ambitious member of her family. She has siblings willing to find glory in her rescue, even if the city states see her release as pointless. Tirolisch might think itself little able to be more inflamed, but they’ve only suffered one child abducted. Tell me, Teobaldt. What if their blood was further boiled by losing their kin to duels?”

…Uh.

“I’m not exactly a crack shot,” you said to lead off, “Or a master swordsman.”

“Neither are those of Von Tirozchen who seek to prove themselves. Most of Plisseau’s nobility blusters much while having done not nearly as much as you have. Also, you handled yourself on your own rather capably, or so I’ve heard.” The Bishop remained forward, smiling that little grin, “You will be sought out if you do not release your prize. Almize will not allow them in, but they willfind a way in, I’m certain, or wait patiently for you, the unspoken for nemesis. If you go out to them…I have heard a popular means of dueling is with armor and cannon rather than blade and pistol, but one cannot know for sure. So what are your plans, fourthson?”

>Duels against dandies? If that was what the Intelligence Office wanted…though you wondered if you had to kill them, even if they expected it.
>No, you’d be releasing your hostage. You weren’t so cruel as to whittle away her relatives while she was in your captivity.
>Other?
>>
>>4781306
>Duels against dandies? If that was what the Intelligence Office wanted…though you wondered if you had to kill them, even if they expected it.
>>
>>4781306
>Duels against dandies? If that was what the Intelligence Office wanted…though you wondered if you had to kill them, even if they expected it.
>>
>>4781306
>Duels against dandies? If that was what the Intelligence Office wanted…though you wondered if you had to kill them, even if they expected it.
Dandy Hunter Walen
>>
>>4781306
>Duels against dandies? If that was what the Intelligence Office wanted…though you wondered if you had to kill them, even if they expected it.

"So how many siblings do I need to worry about?"
>>
>>4781306
>No, you’d be releasing your hostage. You weren’t so cruel as to whittle away her relatives while she was in your captivity.
>>
>>4781306
>Duels against dandies?
Definitely, definitely in the tank. Even enemies who fight badly can get lucky pistol shots. Also we might be able to loot any disabled tanks.
>Other?
It might pay to have some useful militia nearby if the duel goes sour. Getting the dandies to come to us would make them much easier to ambush in an emergency.
>>
>>4781824
Let the thing out.

>>4781368
>>4781421
>>4781429
>>4781451
>>4781974
It's time to d-d-d-d-
d-d-d-d-die

Writing.
>>
An immediate concern. “How many siblings do I need to worry about?”

“You haven’t bothered asking?” The Bishop cocked an eyebrow, “I know you’re a man who resorts to barrel incidents rather than talking through disagreements, but you’ve truly not built much rapport, have you?”

“Just answer the question if you want me to do it.”

“Only two, of adult age. An older sister and a younger brother. You aren’t averse to dueling women, are you? Some might find slaying one in a contest of physical strength rather beastly.”

“It’s what the Intelligence Office wants, and if you think I can do it,” you ran a finger around the edge of the metal cup before you, still full, “Though who says I have to kill them?”

“That would be the result that would anger Tirolisch the most, so, the circumstances would dictate that. Even if the city state will not bend to take back a rather unimportant member, for multiple members of the family in general to go off and be killed by the same man that provoked them in the first place? They could not tolerate that, and with they themselves restricting themselves from negotiation… Hee hee hee heh.” The Bishop’s smile widened again to crease near under his eyes.

“We’ll see.” You lifted yourself from your seat, refusing to touch a drop of the drink offered. The paranoia wasn’t justified, but you didn’t like this guy for east reasons. “That’s it, then? They’ll come around here and ask to come and kill me? Maybe with a tank?”

“It is the right of the challenged to agree to the means of combat. Though you do have your service history, hee hee hee, you have no tank, do you?”

“It isn’t as though Von Neubaum or Von Igel are using theirs,” you said, “If it’s for the mission, how can they say no?”

“They still can, and so can the crews.” The Bishop’s smile did not fade, “Either way, so good of you to take this up. You can expect them in the coming few days. In the meantime, a few rumors might spread, and perhaps you might see what you can draw out of your hostage with this…forewarning. Though what the wind tells me is that, if she were anybody of particular importance or had knowledge of much of importance, Bernadine Von Tirozchen would not have come down here in the first place, hee hee hee heh.”

>Rumors? Hold on now, you were going to have to lay down some restrictions on those. (Of what sort?)
>Fine, who cared about what the IO might spread to stir up an enemy. Not like any of it would be true.
>Other?
Also
>Go and tell your hostage that you’re probably going to be dueling their siblings. Maybe she could be pressured into revealing something, anything.
>That sort of knowledge is better off kept away from Bernadine. There was no reason to torment her in your captivity that way.
>Other?
>>
>>4782461
>Rumors? Hold on now, you were going to have to lay down some restrictions on those. (Of what sort?)
Probably nothing remotely resembling von Neubaum's vices; I think von Walen would be very hung up about that.

>Go and tell your hostage that you’re probably going to be dueling their siblings. Maybe she could be pressured into revealing something, anything.
>>
>>4782461
>Rumors? Hold on now, you were going to have to lay down some restrictions on those.
No rape, no sexual slavery, no forced marriages.

>Go and tell your hostage that you’re probably going to be dueling their siblings. Maybe she could be pressured into revealing something, anything.
>>
>>4782461
>Rumors? Hold on now, you were going to have to lay down some restrictions on those. (Of what sort?)
No outright rumors of rape, if they could. They are the Intelligence office, I am sure they can make something up almost as incendiary without slandering Von Walen with rape accusations.
>>
>>4782486
>>4782494
>>4782755
I'd really rather not have any scandals cooked up about me that would frighten my guest. I'm going to meet with her, cordially, of course. No rumors otherwise.

Writing.
>>
Rumors? Oh, no, even you knew where that would go. “Hold on now,” you sat back down in a hurry, clattering the table and knocking your cup side to side, spilling some of its valuable drink, “I’m going to have to lay down some restrictions on those rumors.” Bishop’s smile changed not a bit, and you realized belatedly that no matter what you “laid down,” you could do exactly jack shit about what they chose to propagate. You’d be counting on this man’s mercy. “Please, nothing resembling sexual vices. No rape, no sexual slavery, no forced marriages. Like you said, I’m not Von Neubaum, right?”

No change in expression. “You’d tie the hands of rumormongers with that request. With a female hostage, those sorts of rumors are easy, and extremely inflammatory. Considering that the objective is to infuriate Tirolisch? Rather an impediment.”

“I don’t want that shit on my character.”

“You don’t want to inspire erotic novels like your comrade’s false persona has?”

“Fuck no,” you curled a lip.

“What do you want then, fourth son?” the Bishop’s smile may as well have been in set in stone, as well as his eyes. “Do you even know?”

“I came here for a mission, not life advice, creep,” you got right back up again and shoved in the chair this time, “I’m going to talk to my prisoner like you said. See what she has to say about it.”
“And how little to offer…hee hee hee heh….”

Bishop was left behind, then the steeple, then the Old Romance District. You didn’t much like Almize in general, but the emptiness in such an otherwise bustling city gave you a creepy feeling, like Salzbrucke had so long ago. Almize was much better than the…weird foggy mountain passes and massive crabs, and whatever else you’d managed to forget about. Dead girls floating in-
No, stop, you put a hand to your mouth and gagged, no need to look backwards. Not like you had more there than you did now anyways. A brick of gold. Not particularly worth it. Or was that even a reward? Whatever.
>>
You passed by militia guards around the house Bernadine was kept in- she was restricted to a bedroom and bathroom and checked on every so often by female guards (the brute men were kept outside- even you could figure out they made her nervous), but she hadn’t made trouble yet. Maybe because she expected her family to bail her out eventually, maybe because she really was afraid that, if she outright resisted capture, something would be done to her. She certainly didn’t cooperate with her attitude.

The door to her bedroom was closed- she couldn’t lock it, but you knocked anyways. Not like she could exploit her privacy much anyways. Nothing in the room was of the sort to give her easy access to a weapon by breaking or twisting. An ill-appreciated courtesy.

“Fuck off.” A voice through the door. It was a tired fuck off, not an alarmed one. You only needed to make that mistake once. You passed through the door and saw Bernadine hugging her knees on the plain bed, leaning against one wall and facing the other, in a corner. “What do you want,” she saidwith a surly scowl.

“I just wanted to tell you,” you led off, “That Tirolisch issued a demand for your release. Almize refused. There was no attempt at negotiation, or offer of ransom.”

A pause. She had her back turned, hiding a change of expression you could see with a slouching of shoulders nevertheless. “Of course. What did you expect? You know what you did. Did you expect to be rewarded for it? I could have told you how that’d go already. Go away, or I’ll scream that you’re raping me.”

“Oh, knock it off with that shit,” you snapped, “I’m not asking that you like me or any bullshit like that but most prisoners don’t get to ask for a different sort of fruit preserves to go with their bread and actually get it. There’s more, anyways.” No response, just that spiteful back, the grody field jacket loose over the shoulders, black hair that was in need of a good brushing. “Your siblings might be on their way. To duel for your release. An older sister and younger brother?” It hadn’t been arranged yet, but the way Bishop spoke, it was as good as done.
>>
Bernadine’s spine seemed to turn to glass as she stiffened and sat upright, letting her arms and knees fall. “…You can’t.” She twisted around and launched herself off the bed and scrambled to her feet, though she was unsteady on them, still standing as though lashed to a pole. “You can’t. My sister has a limp, and my brother, he…he doesn’t know how to fight, you can’t, you can’t!” There was a desperation there she hadn’t even shown the day she’d been captured. “Please, I’ll do…I’ll do anything, just-“

Anything, hm? “Alright,” you said, and you saw intense fear flash in her eyes, “What’s with that look? I want to know about any intrigue you know. Secrets. You’re a member of the ruling family of Tirolisch, you must know something.”

“I…” Bernadine screwed up her face in thought, “I…” Her hands crawled up to the sides of her head and she fiddled with her hair, pulled on it, “I-I don’t…What am I supposed to know? I haven’t even spoken with anybody who’s even talked to the Count’s branch in…in years, I don’t…I don’t know anything!”

“That’s not good enough.”

The lady sat back down on the bed like her knees had suddenly given way without her permission, and she kept pulling on her hair, small black strands breaking in between her fingers. “What…what do you mean that’s not good enough!?” Her breathing quickened into shallow gasps, “I don’t have anything but…but what I have here! Please! Anything! My inheritance, my…my whatever you want, but I can’t give you what I don’t have!” Tears began to stream down her cheeks, “Please! Please don’t kill my brother!

>Crocodile tears, surely. If she wasn’t going to give you any information, what good was she? Leave her be.
>Alright, alright, Judge Above, you wouldn’t kill her siblings. You just wanted to send them packing, not to murder them. Duels weren’t to the death unless somebody made it so anyways, far as you knew.
>Fine, fine. Anything. Sure. If you didn’t make some sort of deal she might do something crazy. (What sort of anything? Something of actual substance. Some joke exchange would likely be seen as mockery.)
>Other?
>>
>>4783275
>Other?
The plan was to kill the siblings sure, but that leaves a bit of danger still, especially if tanks are involved. If she can lure them, maybe with some act about having escaped capture, to come alone to a trap where they can be surrounded and captured, then faking their deaths could be easy. A car or tank blown to pieces by grenades or satchel charges afterwards won't leave many people asking to see the bodies.
>>
>>4783320
I would think just capturing them and holding them hostage as well should meet the IO's goals of inflaming Tirolisch. Then when someone gets sent to rescue them we can also capture those people. And the people who are sent to rescue them, and the people who are sent to rescue those people, and on and on until we're holding the entire city state of Tirolisch hostage. Like flies to a honey trap.
>>
>>4783339
I was thinking the idea was more to spread the story of an entire line of people being wiped out by a horrible butcher. Maybe send back a matching set of bloody items from each sibling to show how serious this all is. I hope nobody else gets sent to rescue them, I am not sure how many houses Von Walen can afford to keep prisoners in.
>>
>>4783339
This, holding all their direct heirs captive should provide the IO with pretty big leverage over the von Tirolischs.
>>
>>4783498
To specify, Bernadine and her family are not the rulers of Tirolisch. They are a branch of the family from the Count's family. Von Walen was hoping, for example, that she'd be Brigitte Von Tirozchen- somebody much more important than the person he caught.
>>
>>4783523
Ah, alright. I still say we aim for capturing them all, even if they're only a cadet branch.
>>
>>4783320
>>4783339
>>4783365
>>4783498
Going for a plan D I see. No not that, but trying to expand your collection.
If one of them wasn't a brother I'd accuse you of trying to build a harem.

Writing.
>>
Who wants to bet it won't actually be her limping sister and noncombatant brother?
>>
>>4783632
Possibly, but desu there's not a lot of good options for poor Von Walen here.
>>
>>4783632
I imagined that the message her siblings get sent will be something along the lines of "I have escaped and I need you to come to this place to get me", or "I got a guard to sneak me out on this day, come pick me up here". With a little note about how they need to come personally because her captors have talked about having spies and informants they paid off, so the only people she can trust to help her are them.

Or maybe she is really good at making up stuff on the fly and this is a bad plan. Should be interesting either way.
>>
>>4783643
In any case, we should get the names and descriptions of her siblings in case they send some mercs instead.
Or maybe there's a custom of duel by champion.
>>
Was this a ploy? You doubted it. Bernadine Von Tirozchen, frankly, didn’t seem like a very clever women for how strongheaded she was. Or had that been a play in and of itself, as she waited for a true vulnerability? Bishop had said all that dross about confessions unsaid. Maybe even then, she had extended her ridiculous “deals” because she knew you’d never act on them.

Then, maybe you were overthinking it. You had a good idea, besides. Good if she wasn’t as tricky as you thought she was, at least.

“I won’t kill your brother, your sister, or anybody,” you said. Bernadine’s sniffling abruptly ceased, and her mouth and eyebrows twisted in confusion. “Not if you help me out with them. If you do, I promise they’ll be safe and sound as can be.”

Bernadine squinted at you like you’d gone mad. “What? Is this…is this more asking for things I don’t have?”

“No. I want your help to capture them, instead of dueling them. Their goal is you, so if they were tricked into thinking you escaped, and you helped us lure them into a trap…then we can take them, and feign their deaths, perhaps. Though they and their escorts would just be safely housed.” They certainly wouldn’t be able to enter Almizean territory with a host to resist capture. That would be responded to with force before you’d even know of it happening. It would be an independent envoy, with a specific mission outline by official diplomatic status.

Official diplomacy that you had trampled upon when you first captured Bernadine, but you were not a Plisseauan.

Bernadine’s desperate and unhappy expression loosened. “That’s stupid. Big sis wouldn’t be fooled. Why would I help my own family be captured anyways? That’d be treason to my own blood. No.”
A shrug. “Suit yourself. Guess I’ll have to run a sword through them one on one.”

“No!” Berdaine gasped and launched herself up, “Please! Please! I’ll…I’ll help. I’ll try my best. But…why? What’s the point of this? If you falsify their deaths, you wouldn’t be counting on any ransom…it’s almost like you’re just…trying to…screw things up on purpose..?”

“Well, yeah,” you didn’t know what to say about that, but that was sort of true. It made you feel bad to deceive her for some reason. Maybe you’d gotten softer on her after seeing her bawling her eyes out, despite her attitude before. “I mean, it’s for some reason.”

“…This is harder than just doing what you threatened me with.” She pointed out, putting a hand on her head and wrinkling her brow. Were you that confusing?

“No it isn’t,” you said reflexively, then thought better of it. “I don’t have to explain myself. Bye.”

Smooth as gravel, Von Walen, you sulked to yourself as you left the building. At least you were doing something now. Was it a good thing? Not really. Was it good for the Archduchy? You sure as hell hoped so.
>>
Something to mull over as you went to the Bishop. There was a lot to plan in not much time, and more to find out about Bernadine’s siblings. If they weren’t who she claimed they were, you’d have a measure of what you were dealing with…and you’d need to figure out how to factor that into your plans. Also to know if they’d attend at all, instead of, say, a pack of mercenaries out for your head instead of any fair and honorable duel.

-----

February 13, 1933 – Von Schneeberg Estate

Klaudia had still not spoken with you. Her glances had become less fearful, her posture more relaxed, as she grew more used to your presence. However, you were still Von Metzeler to her, not Rondo. A fair notion to have, all things considered. You didn’t know yourself if you’d become affectionate with somebody you knew so little about, who interacted with you not at all, and whom you had ultimately been forced to choose rather than finding yourself. Von Tracht was affectionate with his fiancée, but then, he was…a different sort of man to say the least. Much more lewdly inclined. How would he have gotten closer to Klaudia? Probably by groping her behind. A man didn’t earn the moniker “Butt Grabber” behind his back without some evidence of practicing such. He shouldn’t have practiced that with his retinue, but then, his retinue was a handsy, rude and altogether unpleasant sort herself. Perhaps he merely acted in retaliation.

Retaliation would not be a good strategy here though. Answering like with like would mean just standing around silently, like a long shadow, or perhaps exiling yourself from the estate altogether.
At least the young maid who was acquainted with Klaudia Von Schneeberg had been supportive. Tina was a bubbly and excitable sort, but as you’d spent more time around the Schneeberg estate, you had noticed little things about her that said that she wasn’t an airheaded idiot of a young woman. She paid far too much attention to what you and Klaudia did for that- and asked you questions in a friendly manner, that you realized later, were rather informative about you and your feelings. No doubt she seemed genuinely sociable enough, but the density of her questions and discussions with the utter nonexistence of any dialogue with Klaudia made you wonder.

Especially when you had her deliver letters and gifts to Klaudia. There wouldn’t be any written response- instead, Tina would convey it to you in speech.

It was discouraging, just a little. You were trying so hard to do right by this woman, even if you weren’t welcomed by her father, or by her most likely, and you’d even fought a duel against your half brother to protect her, been wounded in the process. Yet you’d barely made any progress with her. Why?
>>
Today you’d come early. You had found out from Tina that, if Klaudia’s irregular sleep schedule found her retiring early, she liked to look at the misty morning sunrises. Last night, you’d followed her back to her bedroom door and wished her goodnight- when the stars had not been out long at all.

Before now, Tina would always find you before you found Klaudia, or you’d have to go to her to find her- and she didn’t, you notice, ever really leave the two of you alone.

The guards at the gate of the manor let you in without a thought- they even stood at attention and bowed- apparently your duel with Coda Von Metzeler had impressed the menservants of Von Schneeberg.

As expected, in a gazebo on a little artificial hill out back of the manor, you saw Klaudia in a white, floral dress, a yarn woven cloak over her shoulders, looking out to the sun rising.

You went up, doing your best not to seem sneaky. Once your boots creaked the wood of the gazebo floor, Klaudia turned her head back, saw you, but she wasn’t startled or afraid. She only turned her head back to the light from the horizon, a cup of tea on a saucer she held steaming in the cool breeze.

A few creaks of the floorboards more and you stood to her right at the fence that rounded the gazebo, and kept anybody from tumbling down the constructed spire of earth and stone it stood atop of, giving it quite a view. You studied her- she looked back, with a placid, level expression that betrayed naught, save for a slight tilt to her eyebrows that only showed a mild concern- or curiosity. She wasn’t very attractive by your measure. Maybe some people would find her pleasant, but to you she seemed rather homely. Not that you minded that much anyways. You hadn’t chosen her because you had been dazzled.

Well, she did have rather wide hips, but that seemed rude to linger on. Much like she did not linger on how the left sleeve of your jacket ended halfway down and hung limply, fluttering in the breeze.

>Just stand here and enjoy the sunrise. You weren’t going to convince her to talk even if you tried to anyways.
>Try and talk about something, say something. You had her by herself, after all. (About what?)
>Maybe you were just being too cautious, too aloof, in a way. Pull a Lieutenant Von Tracht. You couldn’t exactly suffer any loss from that when she wouldn’t talk to you anyways.
>Other
>>
>>4783701
>Just stand here and enjoy the sunrise. You weren’t going to convince her to talk even if you tried to anyways.
>But from time to time do something to subtly remind of your presence, like breathe a little louder or shift your weight so that the floor creaks a bit.
>>
>>4783701
>Just stand here and enjoy the sunrise. You weren’t going to convince her to talk even if you tried to anyways.
>>
>>4783701
>Just stand here and enjoy the sunrise. You weren’t going to convince her to talk even if you tried to anyways.
Have confidence! No need to fill the air with words, that hasn't worked yet and it probably won't start working now.
>>
>>4783701
>Just stand here and enjoy the sunrise. You weren’t going to convince her to talk even if you tried to anyways.
>>
>>4783733
>>4783734
>>4783737
>>4783777
Enjoy the view. Of the sunset.

Writing.
>>
What point was there in filling the air with words that hadn’t worked before and wouldn’t work now? There was none. It’d spoil the mood regardless- so you simply stood, and enjoyed the sunrise for what it was. Even if you couldn’t will yourself to be completely silent- you shifted your balance every so often, had to sigh out a deep breath, the like. Not that Klaudia seemed to mind.

The light of the sun slowly cut away the morning mist, lit the snowy hills with sparkling morning light, cast deep blue shadows in the crevices of the land. It was still not so bright, that you couldn’t look in its direction. Look somehow past it, yet also a long way away from it. Somewhere there, over to the east, there was a war being fought. Over there, the Archduchy’s Silver Lances were involved- as was your comrade Richter Von Tracht. Would he come back, you wondered. Should you be over there in that war, that involved two places you had adventured to? Could you, even, with but one arm? It was a bitter feeling to swallow…yet when you thought of battle again, the whispers in shadows unseen began to keen, to mock, and you felt yourself shaking-

You felt a gloved hand on your cheek, ever so briefly, and when you looked at Klaudia, her wide, inquisitive eyes returned your gaze, before she slowly looked back to the sunrise and let her hand steadily down. What had you looked like, to prompt that.

The mind drifted again as the sun slowly rose up, growing brighter. It was nice here- you’d spent enough time around the town and manor to see that it was peaceful, and the people had few complaints about their situations or their tenant holder. There was a paradise to be found in this idyllic place…yet nothing happened here. Everything of true importance was elsewhere.

This couldn’t be what you had aspired to, long ago, when you made the choices you sacrificed an arm for. Your memories for. Who knew what else, cast away, but…
A soft clinking. You looked over, and saw that Klaudia had set her porcelain teacup back upon its plate, and looked at you expectantly as she turned away from the fence and leaned forward a little, taking a single small step. An invitation? Well, what else could it be? You nodded, feeling some warmth deep down. Whatever this strange vow of silence was, it wasn’t a rejection. Right now, at least.

…How far would it be along when you were married?
>>
Klaudia stopped at the edge of the gazebo and looked down the hill- there was a figure there, in a dark maroon suit, long coat, and short brimmed felt hat, all the same color. A long checkered scarf, somehow familiar, was wrapped around his neck and lower face. One hand rested on a gold headed cane that glinted in the sunlight. She stared down, then looked to you.

Normally you refrained from touching her, but here, you forgot that and set a hand on Klaudia’s shoulder and moved ahead of her. A stay back said with no voice, as you put a hand on the hilt of your saber, and walked forward, down the stone path.

You got close, and saw no indication of the figure’s identity besides them being somewhat shorter than you, though just as broad.

“I know not who you are,” You saw a glimpse of a face below, and were suddenly struck with a bizarre, suspect sense of fear. “But I can guess what you are. Leave us alone.” You put a trembling hand on your blade.

Suddenly, the figure lunged forward with their cane, and you drew your saber just in time to parry it. This person was fast, as they lurched sideways and pushed your sword away, and you weaved to regain control and to restore your stance. Not a moment too soon, as the cane was thrust out at you and you pushed out with your sword and pressed it away, hesitating on following through, but the chance was premature. The figure whirled back and held out his cane to set its tip alongside the edge of your blade…before lowering his improvised weapon, putting his hand back on top of his cane.

“Not a bit of your sword work forgotten. Good. That would have been an awful disappointment. No wonder you carved up Coda like a Langenachtfest Duck. His mother was beside herself, but he got what he deserved, didn’t he?” The figure pulled down his scarf and took his hat slowly off his head, to reveal…a mirror of yourself, perhaps in thirty years, deep lines on his face and a deep gray over his head, the hair on the sides of his head in retreat like wings.

You didn’t remember who this was, but you knew regardless.

“…What are you doing here..?” You paused, and slowly sheathed your sword, “Are you here to make ugly demands as well?”

“What is the point of that? You already know what I want and why. Do you think I got where I am by trying to force the issue with a fight, against my own…actually. Is it true? Have you really forgotten your old man?”

You slackened your shoulders and turned sideways, said nothing.

“Don’t suppose you’ve forgotten why you felt how you did? You must have, for you to even be here. Do you even know how long you refused to do what you’re up to now?”

“I know that I must have had good reason to despise you and the others,” you challenged back, “I know what you are, even if I don’t know your name.”
>>
“I prefer father, or dad, but if you want to return to what you called me…Leopold Von Metzeler. Funny name, isn’t it. You remember how we have it,” You didn’t, but he didn’t wait for an answer. “When I bought our titles, before you were even born, I wanted to stick it in the craws of those who thought I wasn’t good enough. Every time they said Von, they needed a reminder of where we came from.”

“You did not come here to regale me with the family history, and I do not care,” you warned, “You will not pressure me.”

“Into what?” Leopold asked, with a frown, “Is that what you thought I came here for? You didn’t come home after going to that dust pit of Sosaldt, then you vanished to Ellowie, and now you go straight here. Rondo, I wanted to see my son.”

“Like this?” you remained on guard, “In front of my fiancée? How long have you been following me, stalking me here, without simply coming up and speaking with me if that was all you wanted?”

“You ought to know how long I’ve been here, if you’d been keeping an eye out the past couple days. I waited, watched what you were doing. To see how you acted without me. Now I’m here, and I want to talk.”

“Here, though?” you repeated, looking back and up to the gazebo where Klaudia still lingered, watched, “You know where I have been staying. You could have seen me there easily enough.”

“You and I both know,” Leopold looked up at Klaudia, “That your life doesn’t just concern you now. We’ve got plenty to talk about. Plenty concerns her.”

“We have nothing to talk about,” you said, turning your head completely to the other side, “Leave us alone.”

Leopold heaved a long sigh, and dug a cigar from his pocket after putting his felt hat back on his head. “You don’t even know why you hate me, boy, do you? Can you even tell me?”

>You’ve always tried to carry yourself with honor. To be upright. To be this man’s opposite. Or so you’d been told. To put it simply, why would you not hate a villain? The ugly face of a Strossvald crime family?
>He is a man who has tried to impose his control over you your whole life, disregarded your desires and dreams. Did he not tear away past relationships? Force you into this? There was plenty to spite.
>With your lack of memories, you couldn’t say you felt the same way you used to, not genuinely. All you knew was that he had allowed your half brother Coda, the Bastard, to come here and threaten Klaudia. That offended you more deeply than any forgotten past could.
>Other?
>>
>>4783984
>With your lack of memories, you couldn’t say you felt the same way you used to, not genuinely. All you knew was that he had allowed your half brother Coda, the Bastard, to come here and threaten Klaudia. That offended you more deeply than any forgotten past could.
>>
>>4783984
>With your lack of memories, you couldn’t say you felt the same way you used to, not genuinely. All you knew was that he had allowed your half brother Coda, the Bastard, to come here and threaten Klaudia. That offended you more deeply than any forgotten past could.
>>
>>4783984
>With your lack of memories, you couldn’t say you felt the same way you used to, not genuinely. All you knew was that he had allowed your half brother Coda, the Bastard, to come here and threaten Klaudia. That offended you more deeply than any forgotten past could.
I don't hate you, I hate felt hats.
>>
>>4783984
>He is a man who has tried to impose his control over you your whole life, disregarded your desires and dreams. Did he not tear away past relationships? Force you into this? There was plenty to spite.
>>
>>4783984
>With your lack of memories, you couldn’t say you felt the same way you used to, not genuinely. All you knew was that he had allowed your half brother Coda, the Bastard, to come here and threaten Klaudia. That offended you more deeply than any forgotten past could.
>>
>>4783984
>>With your lack of memories, you couldn’t say you felt the same way you used to, not genuinely. All you knew was that he had allowed your half brother Coda, the Bastard, to come here and threaten Klaudia. That, and the revelation that your father dresses like an ostentatious pimp, offended you more deeply than any forgotten past could.
>>
>>4783984
>With your lack of memories, you couldn’t say you felt the same way you used to, not genuinely. All you knew was that he had allowed your half brother Coda, the Bastard, to come here and threaten Klaudia. That offended you more deeply than any forgotten past could.
>>
Alright here again.

>>4784005
>>4784016
>>4784043
>>4784280
>>4784319
>>4784320
I take somebody rocking up and threatening to cuck me pretty seriously.

>>4784202
You never let me be my own person, even when I left.

Writing.
>>
“I don’t remember any reason why I would hate you,” you told Leopold, trying your best to keep your back straight and failing. Even with no knowledge of why, this man still put a weight on your shoulders that bent you. “The past is empty. Even if I am told what happened, I cannot recall it as something that I was a part of. I just know you sent my half brother here to threaten my fiancée, and that offends me more than anything that I have forgotten ever could.”

His fashion sense was also ostentatious and repulsive, but that comment was bitten off before it was said.

Leopold looked at you, then up to Klaudia. “Nice that you’re taking to her. You never had good taste in women, good that you’ve finally learned to go for the good ones.”

“Do not ignore my grievance if you wish to have a dialogue,” you snapped at Leopold, with an uncontrollable shake to your voice, “Why did you send the Bastard with his insults? With his intent to carry out such atrocity?”

“I told him to do anything?” Leopold put on an air of offended innocence, “He is his own man. I gave him a task, and told him to do it. How he goes about it is his own matter.”

“He is a brute, and you knew what he might do,” you challenged, “Unless you do not know your own blood.”

Leopold approached, came very close, and put a hand on your shoulder with a glint in his eyes. “My boy. I know my blood very well. That was why,” he spoke quietly, perhaps not wanting Klaudia to potentially overhear, “No matter what happened? The results would be in my favor. That’s what it’s like to be a winner. Every road leads to your victory.” He leaned back and flashed a toothy grin, “And I gave you roads where you would come out on top, no matter what, did I not? No matter what you think of me, you are my first born, my heir. Even with all your opposition, I’ve set you up for success. What did going against me get you?” He touched what was left of your left arm, “This is what you have to show for it. Was it worth it? Look what I’ve gotten you. A darling, reclusive wife. Trust me, your mother taught me an important lesson with socialites. A big inheritance, land in the best part of the country. You know what my father gave me? A debt to the Blackflower family.”

You didn’t have anything to say to that. He must have been hiding plenty that you forgot- and you never asked for any of this.
>>
“I don’t mind if you don’t thank me. But don’t make it so I wasted my time. Every one of your siblings after you has been more of a garbage sack. Make my investment work or I’ll make it work. I know how motivated you can get. Make things easier for all of us. I have enough problems with my empire, I don’t need my own son being a pain in my ass when I’m trying to set him up for life.” A second glance towards Klaudia. “Take your time if you want, but you’re on a ticking clock. Run out of time, and everything can fall through. Don’t think your shy little wife lacks for a brain or an upbringing. If she were a dependent idiot then this would be perfect, but opportunities aren’t always perfect.”

“You are being vague on purpose, for all the talk of my interests,” you accused, “Be clear. What do you mean by a ticking clock? You are just trying to hide details from me. No doubt not a new habit.”

Leopold’s closed, tight mouth smiled at its corners. “You do remember something after all. Don’t you like your detective novels? Your moral busy-bodying? Your insistence to work for the bigger fish, thinking that just because they’re at the top, they’re not black hearted? You’re no fool, Rondo. I’ll make you a bet. If you think you’ve figured it out, if you’re sure you know, then tell me, and I’ll tell you if you’re right. Otherwise, you can just stew on it. That’s fair, isn’t it?”

On one hand, you doubted that actually knowing would change matters much, but on the other, you did want to find out. Maybe, if you did have it figured out, you could change things for the better, but you also doubted that this man would simply surrender a weak point just like that. Von Metzeler was a criminal empire for good reason, and the head of that many headed serpent stood before you. This was no simpleton or weakling.

“The head of house Von Schneeberg is in very poor health,” you said to start, “But what does that matter?”

“Exactly. That’s not the problem.” Leopold puffed on his cigar, “You can’t coerce people with information everybody knows. That’s not how it works.”

>Why is there such a rush to “secure” this marriage?
>>
>>4785355
Well I don't think Klaudia is a bastard, and if he's asking just what his 'blackmail' on the Count is I don't have a fucking clue except maybe money.

Is she already pregnant? And he just needs us to do the deed as to make it look like it's Rondos?

Only thing I can think of is that another Von Schneeberg, likely a male relative, is in reality set to inherit everything in the event of the Count's death unless Klaudia is pregnant with a Von Metzeler heir which could muddy the legal waters.
>>
>>4785355
>Why is there such a rush to “secure” this marriage?
What if it's his *own* health that's the issue?
>>
>>4785355
Maybe the dying old bastard has an actual bastard that would try to claim the land so Rondo needs to make an heir that isn't a weak willed girl to secure the land from them and spare Klaudia any unpleasantness.
>>
>>4785355
>Why is there such a rush to “secure” this marriage?
Based on the evidence of Klaudia's erratic sleep schedule, and her unwillingness to even talk to Von Metzeler, I would wonder if Klaudia isn't dying herself. That, or if she is pregnant and her sleep schedule was to give her time to sneak out of her home and mess with boys. She doesn't strike me as that kind of person however, but I guess she wouldn't if she has had time to practice her act.
>>
>>4785355
Because fuck you, that's why.
>>
>>4785355
>>4785409
Actually, change my vote to >>4785410, because I already know what's going on. It's something horrid and terrible. Something that made every person here hate Von Metzeler at first, and even now they cannot trust him to even be in contact with Kaludia without someone else knowing about it or overseeing it.
>Make my investment work or I’ll make it work.
What an utter bastard.
>>
>>4785355
I don't think Klaudia is pregnant, because the Bastard threatened to make her pregnant instead of Rondo. I don't think he would say that just to make Rondo fight him, because if he crippled or killed Rondo the plan would be a bust. Could it really be that Klaudia herself is dying?

Also, >>4785410
>>
>>4785455
I'll switch to this, I'd put more faith into Klaudia dying then my possible pregnancy theory, even if I'm not sure the Bastard knew all the details about this arranged marriage.
The one point sticking out about this is Tina and her role in all of this, she might be more capable then she lets on, she's almost too eager for Klaudia to indulge, or even an agent for the Von Metzelers.
>>
Alright then.

>>4785410
>>4785420
>>4785455
>>4785460
Increasing Rondo Von Metzeler's vocabulary.
Also a heavy suspicion that the older man's health is actually a family problem.

>>4785394
Is here another bastard? Not yours. Because you can beat up bastards.

>>4785383
I'd rather you die, though.
>>
Sorry for the delay, caught up on sleep. Update soon.
>>
The hand came off the hilt of your sword. It wasn’t a steadying thing, not for when you needed to think. Why indeed? Was it related to the blackmail? Maybe, but you didn’t have enough information to say for sure what the blackmail itself even was. Best not to let that distract you, and instead focus on what could demand such a demand for a quick turnaround on raising a new generation.

Was Leopold running out of time? No, that didn’t seem likely, as you looked him up and down. He was in his early fifties or so, but he seemed plenty strong from when he had attacked you with his cane. He didn’t even lean on it very much- it was for show, or a weapon, he needed no support to walk whatsoever, not when his footwork had been what it was.

So the theories went elsewhere. Did Count Von Schneeberg have a bastard somewhere who might threaten inheritance somehow? Not that the courts would allow an argument for inheritance after the old man had passed away. Another male relative who it might pass to, or who might argue for it? Maybe you’d have to ask people around the manor about that, but you didn’t know enough for it to be a good guess.

Then, uglier guesses. Ones you didn’t want to think about, but had to, for the sake of evaluating possibilities. Was Klaudia…already pregnant? That would be ugly, simple to cover up by urging haste, but then why would the Bastard have come here? She didn’t seem the type to be profligate anyways. Klaudia didn’t even have shoes that she wore most of the time, she was either barefoot, or even now, donned slippers. She just wasn’t somebody who went outside enough to even attempt affairs. Was it…was it possible, you thought, thinking back to your father’s words- ”make my investment work or I’ll make it work.” Just imagining that possibility set your blood boiling. No, you were reading too far into that.

On that track though…if it was something to do with Klaudia, was it that…was she dying? You didn’t know much about Count Von Schneeberg’s condition besides that it involved the heart. Was congenital heart failure a trait of the family? Was there a possibility that it was more advanced in Klaudia even though her father showed more of how it might be near the end?

That seemed a strong possibility, but as you rounded out your thoughts, and looked at Leopold, so eager and expectant, you felt a flare of defiance. He was playing with you. He was treating this like some sort of game, even though this was such a huge change in your life, in Klaudia’s life. Why in the world would you have to indulge him?

“My theory,” you started, “Or rather, my conclusion, is that you are a wretch and a scoundrel. You might force your way through the gates, but you are not welcome in my presence nor in my fiancée’s. Get out of my sight and stay gone.”
>>
Leopold raised his eyebrows in surprise. “My oh my. Would it have been harder to just say Fuck you?

“I would rather not curse in the presence of Klaudia. I will find out the answers I seek on my own- your presence is unwanted and unneeded. Leave us.”

Leopold frowned at you, then turned away. “If you don’t even want the clue an incorrect guess would give you, so be it. I’m a busy man, and I’ve spent all the free time I’ve had here.” He swung his cane upward and rested it against his shoulder, tossing his cigar away and slipping his hand in his pocket. “I’ll be expecting some good news soon, son.”

You stared coldly at his back as he left, until he was gone, though by then Klaudia had come down from the gazebo and stood by you. She wore a frown, a slightly concerned expression in her brown eyes- the usual until rather recently. There was a question on her face, but she didn’t expect an answer, from how she tilted her head towards the manor. Later- it could come once you’d broken your fast. At least, that was what you presumed she wanted.

When you were both inside, in the warmth of the manor, lights dimmed everywhere but the sitting room where you and Klaudia went, Tina was near immediately attendant with a tea tray laden with porcelain vessels, a silver pot and sweet cheese and egg custard tarts with different swirl patterns to differentiate the similar yellow hues.

“You’re here early!” She said with an energy unbefitting of this morning. Was she suspect, you wondered. She did keep an awfully close eye on you.

“I was impatient,” you said, not able to think on the spot of an excuse to avoid the real reason you’d come early- to avoid this spritely young blonde maid.
As Tina set down the tray on the table by the small fireplace (more a stove than anything, but richly decorated), Klaudia cleared her throat with a small cough and beckoned Tina over, where she whispered in her ear. Tina whispered something back, and you tried to turn away from the little exchange to let them finish…whatever they were talking about. They did this often, and usually, Tina had something to say after it anyways.
>>
“Herr Von Metzeler,” Tina said to get your attention, and she had assumed a very unusually stiff stance when you turned to look at her. She was somewhat bowed as she said in a clipped tone, “Her ladyship would have you ask her questions that may be answered plainly with yes or no while you are eating here. She would also request to be escorted somewhere of your choosing, out of the manor.”

“Will we be escorted to this place of choosing?” you asked as she poured tea to brew, expecting to have this blonde maid’s ever present company.

“The lady has requested otherwise.” She set the kettle down, bowed, then moved around you, and you felt her hands alight close to your neck and squeeze your shoulders, as she whispered, “She’s taking the bait, go and get her!” A soft tickling in your ear as she blew into it softly and curled a bit of hair behind your ear around her finger before her footsteps carried her out the door. You couldn’t help but wonder if the overly flirtatious attitude was a distraction, or if she was just strange that way. It could have been either.

Klaudia frowned at that, but she watched you expectantly, nibbling at a cheese tart as she waited for the tea to brew. Yes or no questions, was it? Presumably so Klaudia didn’t have to speak. You could at least get a response directly from her then, at least, but she also wanted to go out? Without any specifics of where she wanted to go, or for how long? She was your fiancée, after all…

>Ask some questions- ones that can be answered with a yes or no. Or maybe a shrug.
Also-
>The intent was probably not to leave the town. It wasn’t a place with much happening, but there were small sights, you supposed. (Somewhere in town, or close by)
>You were out in the sticks. Take Klaudia out somewhere else in Strossvald. (Any sort of place or a particular?)
>Quite frankly, you were sick of being followed, and especially by your family’s goons. There were places that were difficult for them to follow, though… (Leave the country entirely- but to where?)
>Other?
>>
>>4786855
>Ask some questions- ones that can be answered with a yes or no. Or maybe a shrug.
First lets ask if she is willing to travel at least some distance. A lot more options open up outside of the town. Is she comfortable staying a night at a hotel if it means not having to make a drive back in the night? If no, then that limits the options to pretty much the town, which is fine. Ask if she would like to try other kinds of foods or drinks than what she has at home, something a proper cook for the nobility wouldn't know how to make? Would she prefer to go out to experience something new, or would she prefer to have something new brought to her? Has Tina been working for the Schneebergs long? Would Klaudia consider her a friend? I am beginning to suspect Tina might be a plant

Based on the answers to the length of travel question, if Klaudia is willing to travel a bit, then I would see if there was a museum nearby, or maybe a restaurant themed around luxuries brought from the corners of the world, an oriental tea shop or the like. Failing that I imagine there has to be a place to get some cheesy Emrean food or a nice hot chocolate to enjoy in the cold.
If she doesn't want to travel I say find a place that serves the tried and true tea in town. Maybe find a frozen pond to sit by with a little picnic basket of different foods to try out.
>>
>>4786855
>>4787052
This seems like a solid plan.
>>
>>4786855
Man, how did Von Metzeler not turn into a monster with this family?
>>4787052
These are good, we'll get a frame for what she's comfortable with.

I hate to say it, but even if Tina is a plant she's been instrumental in helping with Klaudia.
>>
>>4786855
Our best progress with her so far seems to have been made while standing silently watching the sunrise like the pair of autists we are, so in that vein I would suggest taking her to some quiet scenic spot within a reasonable distance of here. Maybe make a picnic of it. I don't think she's the type to like busy public places.
>>
>>4787052
Supporting
>>
>>4786855
These are all good things: >>4787052
I'd also like to ask whether her voice is alright. I'm starting to suspect it might not be just shyness.
>>
As a heads up, won't be updating until tomorrow. Just not feeling it today, maybe a small break'll get me out of doing just one a day anyways.
>>
>>4788973
While there's a lull, I have a request. Do you have a standalone image of the Von Blum emblem that you could post? Also, apologies if this is reaching back a bit, but what kinds of standard Strossvald markings would Richter's m/32B have worn alongside it (numbers, symbols, flag, etc.) at the time of Maddy's kidnapping in the Valsten campaign?
>>
File: vonblumemblem.png (95 KB, 290x290)
95 KB
95 KB PNG
Alright I'm here again.

Will of the people seems to be clear enough.

>>4791381
>Do you have a standalone image of the Von Blum emblem that you could post?
Sure. Though the coloration would not be present on most military equipment rather than being in plain monochrome, stamped, printed, embossed or engraved depending, on metal or wood or whatever.
>What kinds of standard Strossvald markings would Richter's m/32B have worn alongside it (numbers, symbols, flag, etc.) at the time of Maddy's kidnapping in the Valsten campaign?
The numbers would have been as they are in the OP, where you have the company number over the platoon and tank number. Normally, as battalions and regiments are identified based off of their territory of origin more than their numerical designation (though a secondary device would indicate somewhere which number of the territory's units they belonged to, but only sometimes), the equivalent of that sort of marker would be the device on the turret face, but that really doesn't apply with something like the Silver Lances, for example.

The flag of Strossvald doesn't appear on equipment, rather, the Archduke's Lotus is the device that is universally upon Strossvald's armed forces. This is a relatively new standardization that was largely spurred by the current Archduke's rise to the throne- only ten years before, uniforms and equipment could vary quite a bit with Territorial Lords' forces, but five years back from the present in quest standardization was more or less complete, as far as uniform and markings and standard small arms and equipment went. As one can see from the Von Blum's special variant of m/32, allowances are made for deviation when it comes to specialist troops such as tankers.
>>
Yes or no questions, was it? You could think of a few, though mostly that was concerning plans on where to go, not anything about either of you. Except one thing.

“Is your voice alright?” You asked to lead off, “It does not suffer from an affliction, does it?”

Klaudia blinked at you, and her lips tilted in a confused frown, before slowly shaking her head side to side. It was a fair guess, wasn’t it? This vow of silence seemed to be utterly bizarre if she trusted you whatsoever. Was it imposed by her father? Or was there something else? That wasn’t important, you supposed. Trying to pry into her reasons might spook her- best to leave what was being hidden lie. You’d find out eventually. It wasn’t as though she planned to never speak to you ever, even after you had had children, was it?
That innocent thought suddenly turned incredibly awkward as the details tumbled about. Moving along.

“The maid, Tina- is she your friend?”

An earnest, if slow nod. Klaudia’s eyes were wide, round. You couldn’t imagine her being deceptive, somehow. Why would she lie about something like this anyways?
“Has she been working here for long?”

Klaudia nodded, but broke a rule she had set- she held up five fingers, presumably five years, since five months wouldn’t have been long by your measure, nor five weeks. Five years, though- Tina didn’t look very old, so she’d have to have started when she was quite young. You’d have been surprised if she was a day over nineteen or so, and wouldn’t have been if she wasn’t an adult at all, with her slender build, but it wasn’t as though you had never seen that sort of woman. If she worked here for that long, the other members of the staff would be able to speak of it, certainly. Most of them seemed to have been here for quite a while after all.

Enough prying into the details of her life though. Krause had told you that you were an intimidating sort, and it was true that the top of Klaudia’s head only came up to your chest. Trying to find out everything about her didn’t feel like the right track. She wanted to go out, time to talk about going out.

“Would you tolerate being out for more than a day?” You asked next, drawing out the borders of where you could go in your head. The Von Schneeberg manor was in the middle of rural farming territory, surrounded by the tenant farming estates of the family, the closest town being Sangersruhe, which itself was calm and quiet in these winter months before the laborers came round in force to till the soil again. There were a scant few places of interest, but it was far out of the ideal to take anybody for entertainment. The landscape was pretty enough, you supposed, but if you were allowed to range out to, say, the next city at the railhead you’d arrived at before being driven out here, the options would expand by quite a bit. “Are you comfortable staying a night at a hotel, for example.”
>>
Klaudia nodded in short order. Good, you breathed a sigh of relief, that meant she would at least tolerate going to Schaumannsmarkt, the closest thing that could be called a city. It didn’t have your best ideas for what she might like, though; just a decent array of food. Klaudia liked chocolate and cheese, you remembered, and just about any city that tried to cater to the upper class had an Emrean style patisserie. However, for the full experience you’d have to go to…Strosstadt, probably. You didn’t remember other cities, and it was hard to not find something in the nation’s colossal capital, ironically made so immense through the efforts of the Reich to stabilize their conquests. If you took leave of your senses you’d have even suggested flying off to Couronne Arc-En-Ciel, the Emrean city that was the self-proclaimed heart of humanities, but flying off to Emrea was not something planned in an afternoon. Not with Delsau keeping a close watch on who entered its borders, or flew over them, or the tensions with Plisseau. Going north wasn’t in the cards for holidays as of late, unless one wanted to swing about the continent by sea, or hop from Baou to Naukland and then to Emre.

Baou, though…Mindetron, the capital of the kingdom, was well sponsored by its neighbors who didn’t despise its very existence. The Archduchy had aided its foundation as a thumbing of the nose to Netilland, and Naukland found it a receptive market and an exclave of northern culture. Mindetron was hardly comparable to Strosstadt, of course, you knew this without even having gone there, but there was also the consideration that Strosstadt, with its size, was also a dirty city, its dense industry polluting the air of all but the city’s outskirts and offending the senses. The lack of Baou’s industry made it rather clean and idyllic- as per the insistence of its king, a staunch ecologist. Or so you recalled.
You may as well test the limits anyways.

“Would you like to go out of the country entirely?”

That wasn’t answered with a nod or a shake of the head, only a squint with just the slightest bit of exasperation. You’re overthinking it, some deeper part of your mind said. Some sort of instinct towards these matters, or perhaps forgotten experience screaming from oblivion. She doesn’t want to be asked where to go, she wants to be taken somewhere. Make up your mind while she’s interested, for God’s sake.
>>
Easy enough to say, but you didn’t want to make your first impression on Klaudia as somebody who acted without her interests in mind, did you? What if she wasn’t fond of urban surroundings? That might be important to ask.

“You’re not bothered by the city, are you?”

Klaudia frowned, and looked sideways, then down, and didn’t answer. Not yes, not no? Maybe she didn’t know? Perhaps she wouldn’t be opposed to a nice, safe walk of the countryside, then…

>Safe and steady. No need to try and shock your fiancée when she was opening herself up. Keep it local. Tea in town, and a walk about.
>Take Klaudia to Schaumannsmarkt, stuff her full of food. Nobody could dislike that, could they?
>Go to Strosstadt. You knew people there, and had a decent if mostly forgotten familiarity of the place, though you certainly wouldn’t be dropping by home…
>Take a trip abroad. Nobody would be bothering the two of you if you went off to a completely different country with little warning, would they?
>Other?
>>
>>4792002
>>Safe and steady. No need to try and shock your fiancée when she was opening herself up. Keep it local. Tea in town, and a walk about.
>>
>>4792002
>Go to Strosstadt. You knew people there, and had a decent if mostly forgotten familiarity of the place, though you certainly wouldn’t be dropping by home…
Be decisive, visit a theater and see a play, go to a museum and see something old and interesting, buy ridiculously extravagant pastries to eat. If Von Metzeler knows people there, see if he can't have someone cook up something special to end the day with. A candlelit dinner or a fireworks show out in the country a bit.
>>
>>4792002
>Take Klaudia to Schaumannsmarkt, stuff her full of food. Nobody could dislike that, could they?

It'd be a good test to see if her meh feeling on cities extended to the locale or the people, or even the lack of doing it before. Plus plenty of opportunity to load up on a picnic. Surely they have some kind of library, theater or scenic view as well.
>>
>>4792002
>Go to Strosstadt. You knew people there, and had a decent if mostly forgotten familiarity of the place, though you certainly wouldn’t be dropping by home…
>>
>>4792002
>>Go to Strosstadt. You knew people there, and had a decent if mostly forgotten familiarity of the place, though you certainly wouldn’t be dropping by home…
Only because this has the best bet of more family drama
>>
>>4792002
>Go to Strosstadt. You knew people there, and had a decent if mostly forgotten familiarity of the place, though you certainly wouldn’t be dropping by home…
Going abroad might be too much at this junction.
>>
>>4792002
>>Go to Strosstadt. You knew people there, and had a decent if mostly forgotten familiarity of the place, though you certainly wouldn’t be dropping by home…
>>
>>4792002
>Take a trip abroad. Nobody would be bothering the two of you if you went off to a completely different country with little warning, would they?
>>
>>4792002
>>Take Klaudia to Schaumannsmarkt, stuff her full of food. Nobody could dislike that, could they?
>>
>>4792005
Tea for two.

>>4792657
Go off far.

>>4792042
>>4792674
The local goods.

>>4792030
>>4792100
>>4792169
>>4792227
>>4792485
The Capital. Home, somewhere among the sprawling mass.

Writing.
>>
“Alright then,” you pressed your hands together, “Strosstadt, then. There’s museums, theaters, libraries, all sorts of restaurants…too much to see in a week let alone an afternoon and a morning, but I won’t keep you away from home for more than two days.” You got the feeling it was pushing Klaudia plenty to agree to spend a night with you by herself as it stood- best to make the ordeal short, if it was indeed that. “Would you accept that?”

A nod. Not one with hesitation- she wanted to go, but she seemed only a little uncertain of the where, rather than the who. Hopefully. Klaudia’s morose expression could have meant many things. Surely it was not too much to hope for the best. You got up and extended a hand to her, for her to take and let you bring her up, but she drew herself back, looked at your hand, blinked, and looked up to you with that same uneasy frown, a hesitant tilt to her eyebrows.

Take your hand back, something that knew but did not recall said, She is not ã̘̜̓̐̒̕A̦̹͚̮̝͡ạ̴̮͋̒ḁ̜̠͍͊͂a̹͆͑̐̒ͧ̀-

The shadows whispered and you took your hand back, shook your head. It wasn’t startling, somehow- but there was the feeling in your head of reaching for a mirage and grasping at air, looking in the palm and finding nothing there, nor in front of you. The effort to shake it off was more than you could show. Klaudia could only forgive so many flaws and still be considered a reasonable woman.
“Very well,” you said, turning away and wrenching your eyes shut then open again, “Come to the front door when you’re ready. I just need to make a few calls to a friend in the capital…”

She’d need a few minutes. Everything you’d taken to these lands fit in a single suitcase back at the inn, so you had little to do but wait, and call up Frederick again.





“Hello?”

“Frederick. It is Rondo.”

“Hey there, how’s the courtship going?”

A heavy sigh from yourself.

“That bad?” Frederick asked sympathetically.

“She still will not speak with me, but she’ll nod yes or shake her head no. She doesn’t seem as afraid of me as she used to be. Klaudia has agreed to travel with me.”

“A date’s progress. Where to?”
>>
“Strosstadt.” A pause. “Why the silence? Strosstadt is a cultural center, and her hobbies and studies involve such.”

“It’s a center of soot, that’s for sure. Home of black snows, and bad air unless you go so far out it’s not Strosstadt but towns that Strosstadt ate like a mold growing over them.”

“My decision is final. Can I count upon your help?”

“Sure, but what with? Your folks kept my hands full-“

“My father came around here,” you brought up, “Do not worry about that anymore. My memory of the city could be better, I would appreciate you pointing us in the right directions. If you would like to come along…”

“Far be it from me to crowd the lady. I’d need a date myself. Can I have your sister?”

“If you want.”

Frederick snorted, and refused your acceptance. “No, I’m kidding, your sister’s horrible. No offense, but I’d sooner jump in bed with a skunk.”

“Do not worry about it.” If your half-brother and father were any indication, you had bleak hopes for the character of the rest of your family, and you said as much. “I doubt I would want to meet with anybody even distantly related to me.”

“Your father’s mistress is a nice woman, despite the rotter she shoved out.”

“Tch,” you didn’t like that an affair was so open, “I am sure that she is in a fell mood with me after I defeated her Bastard in a duel. In any case, I fully intend to avoid my family. I am doing this for Klaudia, not for them.”

Another short silence.

“Listen, about her…” Frederick said with a reluctant choke, “I don’t want to be just like your folks trying to jump down your throat in hurrying things up, but…at this rate, you need to come to some sort of understanding. Before they try and pull something else to try and hurry it up.”

“I will not be pressured by my family into doing a deed I do not want to do, upon another unwilling party,” you said with easy defiance.

“Rondo, you already did that,” Frederick said with an exasperated sigh, “It doesn’t sound like your fiancée had some dream man she was already seeing, but I’ll bet you she wasn’t ready for this, or any of the sort of pressure that’s come or is on the way. Either…get it out of the way, or make up some real good trick. Neither of you wanted this, but it’s just how it is.”

“…How do you know if this is something I do not want?” you challenged.

“I know you’re a different person now, but Judge Above, Rondo, if you had to hurry and pick, why not Yva? She even looked like Teresa.”
>>
“You and I both know exactly why,” you said back firmly. They were anomalies in life best forgotten, for the urge to discuss them was overpowering if they were not set aside. Even for the less superstitious, the questions without answers were endless, and it was best to simply not involve oneself, lest they find themselves unable to break away. “You are imagining something that was not present, regardless.”

“Why not, though?” Frederick kept on it, “Von Tracht has his weird woman, may the Judge bless her little soul, why can’t you have had yours?”

“Frederick,” you warned, “I have made my decision. No matter how arduous the path, I refuse to inflict myself upon this poor woman because of the whims of my dastard father and his criminal syndicate. I did not choose her to further Leopold Von Metzeler’s plots, I chose her to protect her. I will not recant on this.”

“Alright. Alright,” Frederick said with a snap at first but then a sigh, “Just be ready for her to get tired of it before you do. What are you going to do then?”

>It won’t happen. You’re strong enough for that. Surely. Let them send their best duelists, they’d be sent back bleeding in one fashion or another.
>She is your fiancée. So long as it was her choice, even if you disagreed.
>That’s none of his business. Sorry.
>Other?
>>
>>4793326
>She is your fiancée. So long as it was her choice, even if you disagreed.
>>
>>4793326
>>It won’t happen. You’re strong enough for that. Surely. Let them send their best duelists, they’d be sent back bleeding in one fashion or another.
Ye of little faith, maybe instead of lecturing Rondo about what he already knows, he could get to helping out with planning a night that will knock the pants off Klaudia?
>>
>>4793326
>It won’t happen. You’re strong enough for that. Surely. Let them send their best duelists, they’d be sent back bleeding in one fashion or another.
>>
>>4793326
>It won’t happen. You’re strong enough for that. Surely. Let them send their best duelists, they’d be sent back bleeding in one fashion or another.

I don't entirely agree but I also don't see Von Metzeler picking anything else.
>>
I return.

>>4793343
Obligations are obligations.

>>4793358
>>4793371
>>4793516
I refuse to be intimidated by gutter trash rakes.

Writing.
>>
“That will not happen. Let them try their worst. They will regret it.” A twinge of offense. “Do you not have faith in me, Frederick?”

“I just want you to be prepared for the worst. Rondo…you’re not invincible. I’ve thought about it more and more, and…just take care of yourself.”

“Thank you, Frederick, but I am alright. I’ll see you at South Siegrun Station, I trust.”

“Yeah. Make sure Von Schneeberg’s all prettied up for a trip, will you? Take care.”

You hung up, pondering that last bit. Maybe that was why she wasn’t ready yet…she needn’t have bothered. It wasn’t a night at the opera or anything like that. It didn’t turn out to be long, either- she had donned actual shoes and foundation had been layered over the red blemishes on her skin, near chalk white with how pale she was, and a brush had been aggressively used to tame her curls. It was good enough- it would have been struggle to make Klaudia beautiful, but at the same time, you didn’t want her to be, either, despite Frederick meaning well with what he said. The driver was ready just outside to take you to the city, and the railway station there to Strosstadt.

There was a stroke of luck- the next train to the Archduchy’s capital had been delayed for a late-notice loading of some other important passengers, with you and Klaudia managing to get aboard earlier than anticipated. You’d have to call Frederick again- perhaps this small grace would allow you to avoid being ambushed by expectant family.

The passenger car you and Klaudia sat in after your luggage had been handed off was a pleasant, but not fancy sort, with seats facing each other by each window, candle-lamps with pirouetting flames giving light, even though there was little to glorify save for well-made wood and resin sidings and the blue cloth covered double-chairs. All shape and curvature, no finery, nothing to squint at. A meal cart came through, and of course, Klaudia did not ask for anything, such would require speaking, but you bought her a dark chocolate mousse tart anyways.

You got nothing. You had no appetite. Something about looking out the window stole any sensations from your insides. With Klaudia not speaking, making no attempts at conversation, and the knowledge that she would not reply if spoken to, in words…you had thought to look out the window with her, but when you turned your gaze out to the snowy plains, the muddled talk of other passengers becoming distant and the rattle of the carriage over the rails beating in rhythm with your heart, you felt the most strange sensation.

The feeling of being alone.
>>
Say you wished to talk with Klaudia. Your memories of life before the Academy were gone. All you could share with her was your time as a soldier. Would she understand? Could she? The snow and hills brought back memories of Ellowie, even though the trees were different. It stuck out more in the memory than the Blumlands, Valsten, or the journey to and through Sosaldt. Those all felt like somebody had been writing over them and blotting out the uglier parts with ink, while the latter part of Ellowie felt…raw. Real. Was it because of the conditioning? An easy conclusion.

The status of your wounding meant you were not directly on call, if you didn’t wish it. Plenty of officers remained with the armed forces, so long as they could be do their duties, but cripples and mutilated were never an ideal. If you resigned, none would question it, though some might wonder if you squandered potential. Was that it, though? Even without vain ambition, what did you have outside of the army?

What you could claim solely for yourself somehow amounted to so little. Experiences that shouldn’t be spoken of, and others that felt impossible to tell somebody like Klaudia. It hadn’t been pleasant, to be wounded, to lose an arm, to lose comrades, to fight.

So why did it call your name so clearly?

”Do you want to go back?”

A voice small and so clear, like a little glass bell chiming into your bubble of silent introspection. You looked over at Klaudia, who blinked back at you- had she spoken? Was that her voice?

“Did you say something?” you asked.

She blinked again, and stared, before nudging her shoulder back to the window and turning her chin to look out again.

“…Out there, I saw the make of fairy tales with my own eyes. I made a mark that might be recounted in legends. I remember it, and wonder if I could have been dreaming. If it were not for what I have lost,” you moved your left arm, and you could almost feel your hand lifting, fingers moving, clenching, “I may have thought it was one all along.”

”A good dream?”

You looked- Klaudia was watching you intently, but her eyes moved away again as you looked back.

Regardless of whether she had spoken or if you were merely hearing things, you responded, perhaps continued. “No, not a good dream, but it is what I have. It is all out there, and none of it is here. I’ve lost important pieces of me. They’re no longer here, as though they never existed. I wonder, if I stay here, if I will lose what I have out there.”

When you looked back, Klaudia didn’t look away, but she was saddened, uncertain. The usual, but a feeling that it was not her typical.

>I’ll have to go back. It’s all I have.
>At least I have you. If I may be so bold.
>But maybe it isn’t the end of the world, to lose things.
>Other?
>>
>>4794317
>At least I have you. If I may be so bold.
>>
>>4794317
>But maybe it isn’t the end of the world, to lose things.
>>
>>4794317
>But maybe it isn’t the end of the world, to lose things.
>>
>>4794317
>But maybe it isn’t the end of the world, to lose things.
>>
>>4794317
>I’ll have to go back. It’s all I have.
>>
>>4794317
>>But maybe it isn’t the end of the world, to lose things. Maybe we just need to find better things to replace them with.
>>
>>4794317
>I’ll have to go back. It’s all I have.
Amend with: it's all I have right now.

Oh no, no, no, no. Not again, we just escaped this bullshit in Ellowie.
Wizard. Bullshit.
>>
>>4794317
>At least I have you. If I may be so bold.
At the risk of making her sound like some sort of consolation prize, gonna go big or go back.
>>
>>4794343
>>4794383
>>4794399
>>4794917
Oblivion is hardly the end.

>>4794334
>>4795471
This is a rather odd method of flirtation.

>>4794592
>>4794933
I am being called, pulled, and I must answer.

Writing!
>>
“Maybe though,” you said to Klaudia, unsure of how well she could understand what you were saying. You may as well have been babbling like a madman. “It is not the end of the world, to lose such things. There is plenty to replace it all with.”

Klaudia shifted away again and looked out the window. You didn’t expect words from her, but you wondered what she thought anyways. It was an affirmation of yourself, as well. You had lost your memories of your early life, your family, but did you need them? Hardly. The same could be said for everything else. It wasn’t so bad to wake up in an open field, as you remembered hearing somewhere. So long as you weren’t somehow forgetting a sacrifice…

As you watched out the window again, you could feel the pull. Hear the call. It was an unheard voice, an unseen presence, just like the shadows that whispered doubt when danger reared its head. It was demanding, but patient. Like a reminder that you were going to go- no matter how you might with to deny it.

-----

Right after arriving at the station and calling Frederick (to meet you elsewhere- no need to have him come to the trainyard. He was your friend, not a driver), you both went to drop off your things at the hotel you’d arranged. It was as normal as one could find in Strosstadt’s urban center- for nobility and the upper class, at least. Klaudia had already been coughing and sneezing right when you got off the platform, a hostel for contract workers would not do. It wasn’t an ostentatious establishment, but it did not skimp for homey comforts, as the exterior and interior were laden with false plants and sculpture, dark wood furnishings and wood plank tile and rugs.

“So. A room then?” the attendant at the counter asked brightly, a well-groomed young man whose broad smile somehow had every quality of being fake and genuine at the same time.

“Two rooms,” you said at first, but Klaudia shook her head. “…Fine, one room then. Two beds.”

The attendant cocked an eyebrow and gave you a funny look. “We don’t have any of those.” A lie, but you had no proof besides your gut feeling. “Your names, please.”

They were written down, and Klaudia pulled a promissory note from her handbag and slipped it onto the polished stone countertop. A common way for nobility to handle payments like this- send it to the family accounts, and they’d sort it out. Legally distinct from a check. A promissory note couldn’t be rejected, after all, though abusing that privilege was an easy way of sending a family into destitution once the territory or the capital administration noticed that a promissory note hadn’t been paid for long enough. Falsifying a promissory note was difficult, of course- even the Von Schneebergs had a special design for theirs, you saw, laden with all manner of countermeasures against counterfeiting.
>>
Your things were carried up, and you left for a taxi to take you to the place Frederick had found for you- the Red Myth Museum, as it was called. The red stone had been stained by pollution over the years, but the former Czeissan Governor’s Hall had been turned into a collection for things of folklore and legend from across time. A utilitarian decision- the governor who had been deposed in Strossvald’s independence war had unwillingly donated much of his massive collection to the museum when he had been captured and later executed. The man’s prodigal behavior as an administrator included spending much of his misappropriated funds on obsessions such as what now populated a museum for Strosstadt’s public.

Klaudia’s attention was drawn to one wing immediately, and she walked off without both you and Frederick.

“Well,” Frederick shrugged and punched your arm, “Guess she’s into this? I’ve got good intuition, don’t I?”

“We should follow her,” you said plainly, “I did not drop her off here so we could go get drinks.”

“Sounds like fun, though?”

“I will think about it, depending on the contents of this place,” you said with little consideration for it. Klaudia did not seem to indulge in any alcohol whatsoever, and the kind of bar Frederick liked was not the sort you’d bring any lady to at all. Those were the sorts of bars Von Tracht’s grating retinue would have been fond of. As far as you knew. Maybe Frederick wanted to refresh your memory. “So,” you said as you both walked towards where Klaudia had vanished into, “You are going to be recalled into service soon, are you not?”

“Yeah. I don’t think the Von Blums are going to be up to anything soon, though. I’ll just be bored. After all we’ve been through, maybe some boredom with no catches might be a good thing, yeah? What about you? Are you still in this?”

“I have not thought upon it,” you confessed, “I have not tendered my resignation either. I suppose I am waiting to see what will happen.”

“Unless something happens with the Reich, with our current posts? I bet nothing will happen. Not since things calmed down there. When we were first over there, it was really bad, but I heard that everything’s cooled down now. No curfew or anything. So long as I don’t go advertising my heritage. Maybe you can bring your fiancée there, what with the Imperial Gate in the way of anything marching through.”

“I would rather think of the present, for now.”

“Alright.” Frederick looked up at the name of the wing. “Fae of the Earth and the Afterlife. How nostalgic. Maybe she’d like a trip to the mountains.”

A noncommittal grunt from yourself. You could take some parts and leave others.

“She looks like she comes from the mountains.”

“How so?”

Frederick choked, and hummed, “Fascination with the culture.”
>>
“That’s not,” you paused as you passed by an exhibit and saw Klaudia poring over it. Old records- text of a lost tongue. Vaguely familiar somehow. “How old is this…” you said as you read the placard by the case, “Only two hundred years?” Specifically, it was a counterfeit attempt at making something older, but it described mythology that was relevant to the museum anyways. The falsehood of the artifact did not matter to this museum, only the contents of the writing did.

Klaudia was still given elbow room. You talked more with Frederick, with the occasional remark to Klaudia. A nod was good enough recognition.

“Am I crowding you?” Frederick asked with a chuckle, “You’re closer to me than the girl you’re marrying. You thinking of changing sides?”

“Whatever do you mean by that,” you mused, “Leave her alone, though. Look at her. I think that may be the happiest…most content, that I have seen her.”

Frederick looked over at her. Frowned. “And you’re ten paces away.” He leaned in and spoke quietly, “What are you doing, Rondo? You bled for her. The Bastard wouldn’t have given a damn if he killed you, but she’s acting like you’re a fucking leper. I’m not saying she’s got to trying to drag you into a tank so she can shove her tongue in your mouth like I hear the runt did for our Silver Lance, but if you’re going to stick up for her, the least she could do is-“

“Stop,” you held up your hand to Frederick, “Please, it is slow, but…I think she cares. She is just…odd. My family’s reputation also precedes me. She came to this city alone with me, without escort. She declined to stay in another room at the hotel. Do trust me, Frederick. We have been through worse than whatever my wretched family can come up with for me.”

Frederick looked into your eyes, and sighed. “I’m just trying to look out for you.” He looked back to the exhibit, “So, this fake copy of an old myth, or whatever it is. Pretty important story on it for something so plain looking.”

The seller had apparently tried to pass it off as thousands of years old, but made the critical and elementary mistake of using the wrong material entirely. The governor had bought it at a heavy discount nevertheless. The story upon it was a sort of creation myth, or the like- it told the story of the Goddess of Humanity, or rather, how they became such. In the beginning, Earth and Sea were the only gods, as the stuff that made up the world. The sky evidently counted for little- a common trait in “Earth Worship,” according to the informative placard, also called “Earth Heresy”.

Earth and Sea had a child; this child was called Yjens (Earth and Sea had similar mountainfolk names, presumably, but their child had no translation), and Yjens was not a good daughter. She had been meant to mind for the living things of the world, but a particular creature had caught her eye. Mankind.
>>
She fell deeply, madly in love, and followed a man whose name she did not ever know. When nature’s course came, and the man’s life was taken by a predator, she intervened and traded her own life for that of her obsession, using her divine magics. Thus was man as a whole blessed, and the goddess of nature Yjens became the Dead Goddess of Humanity. How did a god die? How was a god affected by dying if they didn’t just go away? Such wasn’t the business of this exhibit. As far as it was concerned it was just a story, after all.

Klaudia had moved on, and you followed her onward, to more mountainfolk mythology, though this concerned spirits, faeries, and the supernatural ilk. Some items were ones you’d seen commonly sold in another form for luck or similar little things. They drew away certain sorts of spirits, attracted others, for whatever reason. Though none of the spirits were anything you remembered seeing. No mention of the things with voids for faces, wrapped up in tatters. No talk of shadows, or the ghostly figures of upper bodies that lurked from far away and, disconcertingly, were plenty find with being approached. No great glowing serpents crossing the skies, and no Soulbinders.

Were they truly so proficient at hiding from the world? Your story with such things could not possibly have been the only one around. Then again, according to the exhibits with the charms and totems, plenty more believed in things you had never seen a hint of. Most of your crew had started their time with you superstitious, and your experiences had only expanded their horizons beyond what any of you saw, in preparation for what might come next.

You overtook Klaudia in the exploration of the wing, as you wondered while wandering, whether the masking could be so perfect. As it turned out…no, it was not perfect. Here and there, were hints. Little dots that you noticed and connected. Yet without the knowledge you had, they might have seemed irrelevant to one another. There was material, but not enough to do much with. Suspicious gaps were excused with a lack of discovery in the first place, or cultural change decaying parts of folklore, or even the Grossreich’s purge of culture having obliterated who could say how much.

In the end, when you left the museum with Frederick and Klaudia, you were unsatisfied, and though you had learned things, you felt you had missed what you might have hoped to get out of it. At least your fiancée seemed to have enjoyed herself.

-----

The end of the day came, and you escorted Klaudia back to your hotel room. It was all you could ask for- though you were admittedly somewhat of an ascetic. Some might ask more for basic furnishings, a shower and bath and toilet, a radio, and a couple of windows, but they were all quite good, so what complaints could you have?
>>
Klaudia had bought a couple of books while you were out, and after Frederick let you two alone you had treated her to dinner with your own money (still not a word from her) and, you thought, treated her nicely. Would she sit down and read her new books by the window, you thought as you opened your suitcase and arranged your things.

No. She set them down on the reading desk, slipped her shoes off by the bed, and sat upon it slowly, setting her hands in her lap and looking at the floor.

“Ah,” you said, clearing your throat, “I will sleep in the armchair there. I have slept in the cold and on the ground, I will be fine.” You took off your jacket and hung it on the coat rack, and set your saber in its scabbard by the plush armchair. “There is nothing to worry about. No harm will come to you while I am here. Though…oh, do you want to change into your sleepwear? I can wait outside.”

She gave you a queer squint and twirled her finger around. Oh. She trusted you to simply turn your back. Fine then, you could do that.

The sound of cloth shifting around, and you continued to make some small, one sided conversation. “I have your protection in mind. Do not think for a moment of appeasing whatever demands my family may make of you. If they attempt to force the issue, they will answer to me. I will not allow anybody to hurt you.”

That small voice again, like on the train. ”What if, in trying to protect me, you hurt me more? Why can I not try to defend you how I can?”

You nearly snapped your head around but caught yourself with a stiffening of your neck locking your chin forward, eyes shut tight for insurance. No, she had not said that. You had no idea what she sounded like. If anything, when she had coughed and sneezed constantly, while taking in the city’s smoggy air, the pitch was high but her voice was thinner and drier, probably. This was not her- it must have been something in your imagination, surely.

”You have no answer, do you?”

No, there was just no need to ramble to yourself like a madman, especially not now.

Klaudia tapped you on the shoulder, and you turned to see that she had finished changing into a long nightgown, and taken off her stockings which lay in a messy pile at the foot of the bed. Her gaze was still a discomforted one, but she gave a lingering look before picking a book off of the desk and laying back down on the bed, burying her nose in the pages before she had even hit the sheets.

For your part, you went over and turned on the radio, and set it to the state’s official news channel for the nightly updates, before settling back into the armchair and listening. Much as you didn’t mind being adrift in a cloud as far as memory went, you couldn’t very well let the world leave you behind, still…

Not when the world still called to something beyond the ears.

-----
>>
February 14, 1933 – Von Holtenberg Border Area

“Funny to think, Cap,” an infantryman of Strossvald said to his superior, a Lieutenant to a Captain, both in faded blue uniforms, covered by grey, splotchy cloaks. Clothes and faces both well-worn by the dust of Sosaldt over the years. “Been doing this for how long, and everything might change in…hell, a year, at most?”

They were only about two dozen in number for this mission, and there were plenty of them that were new now as the others had been distributed elsewhere. The 3rd Holtenberg Light Rifles needed its talent spread out, and more talent grown in the infamous Bat Company. This border was the stomping ground of the company, where they filed their teeth and earned their repute even before they saw combat in more significant places. Yet the place where they had raided so often, fought and ranged and negotiated all over, was soon to be unrecognizable. The Republic encroached ever northwards, and their representatives had been visiting the settlements. The winds that blew over this place where the green was slowly turning red, were those of change.

“Looking that way,” the Captain said to the officer brought along as a second in command. That young man hadn’t been on what had been casually called “the road trip,” and he agonized over missing the chance. Too bad for him. “If we’re lucky we can take care of all the loose ends before everything calms down though.”

“Might not calm down,” An NCO said from behind, “This Republic might collapse. Maybe them getting into a fight with the Netillians was way over their heads, even with the Ellowian help. Who knows, maybe this’ll become another Cauldron, with bandits and Netillian rangers both.”

“Sounds fun,” the Lieutenant said, oddly bright.

“We’ll see. Maybe it will be, but if that’s how it’ll go,” the Captain fingered the bolt of his rifle, “Even more important that we make progress wrapping up. Fieg, tell Adel to get his team ready to scout out old Dustbin, we’ll stop here a moment and rest, get our bearings. Have morning tea like proper gentlemen.”

There was no tea, nor any proper gentlemen. No gentleman would have tea at six in the morning, certainly, and they wouldn’t be having it at Dustbin. “Dustbin” was not the official name of the border town they were creeping up on, but it was what everybody called it. The place knew Bat Company- and it didn’t know how to take care of itself well enough to stop falling into the influence of gangs and raiding bands.

The Captain knew a woman there, a brothel girl. She had been comforting when his wife had left. They had history. Yet no future.

“The hell are you doing walking out so light?” The Captain suddenly snapped at the young team leader heading out towards Dustbin, “Hump the tree, you pack of sissies.”
>>
“We won’t need the anti-tank rifle if we’re scouting,” the young team leader protested. “If there’s a tank with markings we don’t know we’re supposed to call the boys back near the river, aren’t we?” Near the river there was a tank appropriated from over the border and repainted proper colors, crewed by the most mechanically savvy of the company.

“Don’t care. Take it anyways, and if you see Roddy, shoot him with it. He’s already been warned.” The Captain was harsh in tone.

Adel sighed. “Yes, sir,” he said before barking orders at his team to go pick up the long and heavy weapon.

“Roddy on the list of people Von Holtenberg doesn’t want around?” the lieutenant asked the captain innocently.

“Nah. He’s just a cunt and I want him dead while we can still come over here and shoot people with no questions asked.”

“No objections here. Guess he’s not important enough even with all the love of, you know, murder. Rape. Rape then murder, murder then rape.”

“Might get a pardon if he scrambles over to the Republic while they need men and equipment. Heard they’ve been handing out lots of those. Can’t blame them, if they want to fight against the Netillians and the Northern Lords.”

Some time passed, and the men ate their field rations as fast as they could, packing their trash and keeping eyes in all directions.

“So what happens if nobody we need to check on’s here in Dustbin,” the lieutenant asked the captain, “Thinking of staying for a few hours?”

“No, we’re sticking to the briefing. Last time we stayed we had,” he raised his voice noticeably, “Eight men come back with the fucking clap. Sergeant Fieg.”

The NCO scowled at his superior officer and muttered something rude but inaudible.

“Next town then, maybe?” The Lieutenant offered.

“There’s brothels on the other side of the river, you want to get your dick wet go jump in a well.”

“Heard the girls on this side of the border were so much more wild, though.”

“They are,” the captain allowed, “That they are. Get ready for a fight, though. If we end up having to kick anybody out, you get a freebie to cash in.”

“Getting me excited for a firefight.”

“Also why we’re keeping our tank back. Its commander sees the ladies before the enemy if he’s not given a good reason to keep his eyes peeled and his ears clear.” The Captain watched the scouting party head towards the town, their cloaks flapping in the wind that threatened to tug their field caps off.

“Good that there’s friends here though. Maybe they’d be interested in Von Holtenberg’s…protection?”
>>
“Fat chance of that.” Not until they ranged further east and took out a few other people. A few others that the locals felt they might lean on instead of the Archduchy, no matter any familiarity. “We’re not that important. Like I said- loose ends. Then once the Republic is up here there won’t be anybody we’ll have to worry about taking advantage of them.”

A sudden sharp booming of a high caliber rifle, and the captain raised his binoculars to his eyes again in response.

“Yep. Looks like Roddy didn’t learn his fucking lesson. Buck up, people, some graves need filling!” He reached for a flare pistol on his waist and loaded a single shell, firing it into the sky.

A couple kilometers back, a tank idled, painted Strossvald blue, but of no make that the Archduchy would want to invest in. A copy of some tank from out west, Vitelia most likely, with its hull chopped up so much it would be unrecognizable, and a new turret grafted in the middle where none was intended to be, a light cannon stuck in it of the same time in an m/28- puny, but powerful enough for Sosaldt. Now it belonged to Bat Company, commanded by Junior Lieutenant Hreges, also known as Itchy, to his chagrin.

Yet when he saw that red flare arc up into the sky he forgot why he had that embarrassing nickname.

“Up and at ‘em, boys,” he said over the intercom, that had to be installed back in Strossvald by well-compensated mechanics, “Know what we’re having for breakfast?”

“…What, Itchy,” one of the crew said, dreading the answer.

Pussy!” the commander shouted into the intercom excitedly, “We’re eating lots and lots of pussy! Honnrieg wants us to kick ass, let’s get the hell going!”

-----
>>
February 15, 1933 – Northern Sosaldt

The line had progressed slowly forward. The fortress that had resisted capture had fallen in a couple of days- the Netillians were not so strong that they could resist the forces against them with their flanks falling. Eventually, they had been forced to retreat, and forced they were. Though your platoon ended up having little part in it all. On the third day, Big Von Rotehof had returned with his tank repaired, and then later that day, Little Von Rotehof had his m/32 fixed as well. If only Van Halm were here, with a tank that could be fixed…ah well.

For the forward progress that had been gained, the Republic Army had suffered for it. The troops with you had changed so often you couldn’t say you could recognize any, save for those who returned on stretchers and were taken to triage camps just behind your positions supporting them. The Netillians here were proficient at isolating them from your platoon- and evading your platoon once you arrived to support. There wasn’t a potential disaster in the last few days like had happened when you were isolated on the hill- the enemy was growing weaker, and they had received little in the way of reinforcements, recon and intelligence had eagerly said, but they made every meter as painful as they could for your friendly infantry.

There was supposed to be a little bit of armor around. Only a few. The initial battle for the fortress had taken care of most of the known enemy tanks in the area, with armored personnel carriers extra cautious to avoid you and your platoon in the area, but there was talk of a particular specter on the lines.

First platoon had been wiped out. The long ranged anti-tank vehicle had been suspected to be blamed, and Captain Vehrlors had told you that Lieutenant Colonel Von Silbertau, the company commander, was offering incentive to hunt down that vehicle. Yet it didn’t show itself or make itself known after first platoon was all gone. It put Vehrlors in a dark mood- apparently he had known a few people in first platoon. When he told you about the reward, he didn’t say it to tempt you. He wanted that Netillian’s head, but he kept cool about it. Cold, even. Dark in mood but he kept it all in. He had been smoking more, and you wished there was something you could say, but you were still the new guy. You didn’t know the bond yet.

Neither did Little Von Rotehof. He insisted that he was your senior, but Stevan Von Rotehof was beginning to warm to you. Despite what he said, you were both new guys. Even if your loader didn’t bother to correct himself when he called him “Faggot” to his face.

This morning, however, you had reason to be much more fond of his presence than usual.
>>
“Hey, Von Tracht,” he said to you, coming from the back lines from a normal trip to get ammunition and fuel in a cart behind his tank. His older brother and Vehrlors were at the front currently, with both of you in reserve. He held a parcel wrapped in pink paper in his hands. “You’ve got mail. From the Von Blums, priority from territorial courier services.”

Your heart almost leaped into your throat and you jolted upright, swaying on your feet. “I…I do?”

Little Von Rotehof frowned. “’Course. I wouldn’t fuck with you like that, c’mon. Some people don’t want to hear from home or whatever, but my crew says your crew says you’re really fond of the piece of ass you have back in the Archduchy.”

You decided to not hear your darling being referred to as a piece of ass, and held your hands out expectantly. The parcel was tossed into your hands, and you squirreled it away immediately to the side of your tank, hearing Von Rotehof behind you going something like Uh, yeah, you’re welcome.

The parcel was torn open, the box was cut apart, and you looked inside with all the wonder you could muster and saw…

Some sort of machine? Various mechanisms and straps…you lifted it out, and a booklet came with it. Instructions, you realized, for…

Ah, that was what the bits on the end were. This was…a mount for…

You flexed your right hand and stared where your missing digits were, then back to the apparatus. A pair of mechanical digits, series of steel springs, and a slot that seemed to be meant to be pulled on like a glove. The instructions were read again, and the apparatus pushed onto, then strapped and adjusted, to your right hand. It was awkward, it felt strange, and the provided glove was apparent in its need to conceal the frankly monstrous looking device and make your hand seem whole, and normal, but once it was all on, you flexed your right hand, clenched it…saw the artificial fingers clench with your normal ones. Not quite the same, but you tested moving your hand. It was a subtle device- the fingers extended and tensed depending on the movement of your hand. It was imperfect, from your use, but you could adjust fingers, interrupt their movement in ways the instructions said, to shift from holding a pen, to holding a gun, the trigger finger would squeeze well, with enough practice.

Your fingers were still missed. It was not such a hollow feeling now, though. When you looked at your hand, it looked normal again. Unhurt. A surge of relief, even if you were still irreversibly maimed.
>>
A letter at the bottom. Idiot, you tore at the gift first without reading the letter, signed in a dainty, refined hand, with My Knight? Idiot, stupid, but you could curse yourself later. The envelope was ripped asunder and you yanked the letter out too forcefully with your new fingers- a tear came down the side, but you held off on punching yourself to read it.

Richter, My Warmth in the Coldest Night,

I hope this letter finds you well. I have been lonely, but I know you are far from home now, and beset by enemies. I could not bear it if anything were to happen to you, but all I can do is offer my love, and what small help I can arrange for. If the Netillians dare to harm my husband to be, I would demand my father raise all of our forces and storm Gusseisenholz without delay, but I despair that I may need to ask such a thing.

You wrote to me that you had been wounded, even if not terribly, but I could not sleep at all regardless. Please, be victorious soon. I want you to return and never leave again. I would not wish to take you from your dreams, but I will not suffer the world to take you from me either. Come back to me, so I can feel your kiss on my ear and your skin on mine own again.
I have been told that it is customary for wives to send their loved ones photographs, however, I cannot think of what you would wish. There is a photographer on call, and I would send you whatever you wish…if it will help you through your time. I would ask for a picture of you, but…we know I would prefer a sketch to bring out your handsomeness how light and sight may not.

Yours truly,

Maddalyn Annelie Erdelia Von Blum


…She hadn’t used all of her names ever before, and you had a feeling as to why, but you hadn’t seen her signature before, you thought.

Wait, Richter, did you not just read that last part? A photograph. Maybe more-no, ask for just one. Yet, it could be whatever you wish. The mind boggled at the possibilities…

>A picture of your fiancée…but what sort?
>>
>>4796443
>A picture of your fiancée…but what sort?
Upper-half portrait. In a dress with a nice smile.
>>
>>4796441
>trigger finger would squeeze well
You need to pull, not squeeze. If this apparatus can do that, it's a clever mechanism indeed.

>>4796443
The kind of photo Richter probably wants is something a third-party photographer should not be allowed to see. So seconding >>4796466
>>
>>4796466
Supporting
>>
>>4796466
This. Also holy shit, an entire platoon down due to that tank destroyer?
>>
>>4796443
>>4796466
This.
I'm fucking happy beyond words we finally got a letter through.
>>
>>4796466
>>4796515
>>4796519
>>4796529
>>4796651
Keeping it safe and standard in something normal.
Somehow I didn't expect this.

Writing.

>>4796515
>The kind of photo Richter probably wants is something a third-party photographer should not be allowed to see.
Betraying a confidentiality agreement with the family of a Territorial Lord in Strossvald is generally what is referred to as a "bad idea" and usually gets one on a fast track through the legal system with a heavy bias against you, but if it's a matter of principle that's another thing, of course.

>>4796529
>an entire platoon down due to that tank destroyer?
Yes, though not all at once. Most platoons suffered some damage already before you arrived, and they lost two tanks before, and lost the others in this time skip.
>>
Despite the potentials, you took little time to decide on what you wanted. It wouldn’t be acceptable to ask for anything compromising, anything embarrassing- the photographer would see that, and frankly, you didn’t want anybody seeing your fiancée in the ways you wanted other than yourself. Besides, just seeing her face was enough. With a smile. A torso shot from the waist up.

There was an implied trade in there, however. Were there any artists around? One of the crewmen in the old platoon had had a sketching hobby, at least, but they weren’t around anymore. An eye would have to be kept out.

The letter was folded carefully again, and you put it into your jacket pocket…then thought better of it, and climbed back into the tank to put it in your effects box in the crew cabinet. It would be reasonably safe there, and not turn into a crinkled mess within hours. You had transferred Maddalyn’s scarf there already- the dust had worked its way into it, and you hadn’t had the chance to wash it in a while. Not ruined yet, you hoped, but why tempt fate?

Schafer was cleaning the cannon and the coaxial gun from inside the turret as you squeezed past him to get to the effects box. No reason not to stay in the turret, you thought, as you sat in the commander’s seat and leaned back as well as you could in the cramped turret, which even without people in it, closed in on your legs and sides. You slipped the glove off your right hand and toyed with the mechanisms of the prosthetic- clever levers and screws let you turn sections of the digits stiff so they could be moved in a variety of ways.

A thought of using them on your fiancée in a certain way was dismissed when you looked at the fingers and saw how many unappealing mechanical bits were in them, cables, sprockets, and the like. It looked somewhat fragile at second glance- you’d have to remember not to abuse this gift, because you doubted you could repair it. Its inner workings resembled clockwork, and though the maintenance company was talented, you doubted they bothered carrying the surely customized tools needed to craft this.

“Interestin’ hand gadget there,” Schafer said without looking as you clicked the parts back and forth.

“My fiancée sent it to me, it just arrived.”

“Hmm.” Schafer was more focused on work than small talk. He wasn’t a humorous sort, and you got the feeling he’d rather be talking to his dog than most people, but the shepherd hound was back with the medical company. Not that you’d seen him either time you’d been back- either he was kept away from those recuperating, or he’d been passed further down the line. You really ought to have checked, but Schafer didn’t seem concerned. He trusted the dog wouldn’t be left unattended, you had to assume.
>>
A droning sound of plane propellers above, and you popped out of the cupola to look skywards. From what you had heard, the Netillians had become much more careful with their devices that interfered with long range communications, and more clever. They attempted to use them to cut off communication from offensive spearheads, you had heard tell of, mostly as a warning for the future. That they had to spread them out meant that aerial operations had resumed with their familiar dominance, though certainly not unopposed.

However, when you watched the sky today, low clouds floating here and there and blocking out sections, you realized that this low droning was an unfamiliar sort. A few smaller familiar fighter planes ran to and fro across, but the lowest figure was a sort of plane you had never seen before. Some sort of broad two engine plane- a medium bomber, perhaps? That was the closest thing you could think of it being. It wasn’t nimble like the two engine fighters that flew over one or twice. It was especially not nimble considering that it seemed to be barely aloft, smoke trailing from an engine and the plane tilting at an angle even somebody who knew nothing about flying could tell was unhealthy. It wanted to go south, you could intuit, but for whatever reason it couldn’t. In its struggle to stay up, it veered in a wide circle, slowly but surely going down. A sudden dip- the pilot wrestled back control of the plane, but it vanished northwest, so low there was no doubt it would not land in friendly territory, and the escorting fighter planes dove after it in desperate defense.

They had a hard job ahead of them.

The radio transmission indicator light blinked, and you hurriedly plugged in your headset. “Uh, yes? I mean, Four Five, here.”

“Four Five, this is Four One Actual. Company’s sending a motorcycle courier over to pick you up. Somebody wants to talk to you.”

“Who?”

“Don’t know, they didn’t say. Only that you’re going as soon as they get there. Get ready. Out.”

No conversation at all then. You had a bad feeling about this- you didn’t think Von Silbertau was carting you over for a surprise party, and if it was somebody else who wanted you, it wasn’t another special mission. No, you knew who was calling, but you didn’t want to see their sort right now. Not that you could say no to them, not yet- not until you knew what they wanted.

When the motorcycle courier came to pick you up, sidecar empty and expectant, it wasn’t the one you had been hoping for. That would have been impossible anyways, but it would have been nice to see before whatever the hell you were being dragged into this time.

“Get in,” the courier said gruffly. He was not in a republic uniform, but a black trench coat with a huge gun showing through its side.
>>
“Yes, yes, I know,” you blew off the courier with a wave of your hand and climbed into the side car. The burns were better- they were mostly stiff and uncomfortable now, instead of painful and aching. You looked forward to them fading away for good, and not looking forward to anything that might replace them as serious wounds.

You were driven swiftly to the company headquarters, but the courier didn’t go for the center, rather for the edge, where a couple more spooks dressed like him were waiting, one with thick spectacles and a black bandanna, the other with a black beard and mustache and a dour expression.

“The Major sends her regards, Lieutenant,” the bespectacled one said with a voice that smiled.

“What do you want,” you said levelly, “Does she need somebody to buy her a drink?”

“Cute. No, there is an offer, if you would like.”

“It’s a request, not an order?” You crossed your arms.

“Indeed. You may have noticed a plane going down, earlier?” You nodded to the spook, and he went on. “Good. You see, we are interested in that plane. In particular, equipment on it. Of course, the Ellowians are already having a fit, preparing all they can to retrieve it, or destroy it, but we have prepared…ahead of time. With our own contingent. After all, Strossvald is to maintain good relations with our Ellowian friends, so we would not have the Silver Lances do the sort of work we would wish, however…certain things would be quite appreciated to be appropriated.”

“So you want to go behind enemy lines and steal our allies’ military technology, whatever it is,” you surmised, “And if I say no?”

“Then we do it anyways. We have other options, other people who might appreciate compensation. Yet you haven’t said no, yet, have you?”

“I haven’t. Though I have the feeling I might.” You questioned whether you should just cut them off there, but you could at least indulge them if you came this far. “Tell me about your “contingent.””

“A mercenary company, at least partly. A mix of well paid individuals and…ones in debt. To society. Also those who are coerced by other obligations, but plenty willing to serve and sacrifice. They know better than not to, of course. They could be better equipped, but they are just Sosaldtian mercenaries, after all…with mechanized assets, plenty of dismounted firepower, varying experience, but I’m sure somebody with your experience has some ability to handle it…”
>>
“Numbers, though,” you said, forcing your way past the “encouragement.”

“Two units of three tanks, a command vehicle. Forty infantryman and appropriated transport conversions. Two mortar carrier tankettes. All recently well renovated for working order. We prepared well for this, of course. This would normally be quite an expensive mercenary group, but we have a special deal, as I am sure you can figure out.”

The special deal being, of course, that this company was likely freshly formed. Likely not “paid” its extravagant costs either.

“Can I have details on its equipment?” you asked.

“If you accept.” The black bearded man said flatly. “There is a level of classification. If you are uninterested, then you do not need to know. If you are, then you will receive all the information you need.”

Of course. “So what can I ask for in return.”

The bespectacled man pulled down his kerchief to reveal a scarred chin and lower face, with a pointed looking smile. “Make an offer.”

“Is it too much to ask for you to leave me alone for good?” You asked, having no hope in the answer you might want.

The smile remained, cruel and mocking. “You know better.”

Of course. Again.

“Your response.” The dour black bearded man prompted you. “And your request.”

>Fine. You’ll do it. Nothing to do but gain with this mission, even if you couldn’t take your m/32B. Here’s what you want, though…(Write in)
>No thank you. You’d rather keep with your trusty platoon and on the straight and narrow rather than with a bunch of shadows with vague promises.
>Other?
>>
>>4797712
>>Fine. You’ll do it. Nothing to do but gain with this mission, even if you couldn’t take your m/32B.
>>
>>4797712
>>Fine. You’ll do it. Nothing to do but gain with this mission, even if you couldn’t take your m/32B. Here’s what you want, though…
Uhh idk. If we could consult with Maddy maybe we could ask for something that would help her family's position but I can't think of anything right now. Can we get an IOU?
>>
>>4797712
>Fine. You’ll do it. Nothing to do but gain with this mission, even if you couldn’t take your m/32B. Here’s what you want, though…(Write in)
Everything you can give me. Spare no expense; men, arms, money, booze. You want me, you pay for it all.
>>
>>4797712
>Fine. You’ll do it. Nothing to do but gain with this mission, even if you couldn’t take your m/32B. Here’s what you want, though…(Write in)
I go and bring back what's left of your plane, you neutralise the unknown anti-tank weapon that just cost us a platoon while I'm gone, and if possible, I want it intact.
>>
>>4797712
>Fine. You’ll do it.
BUT
>Other?
In the event we contact Ellowian/Republican forces are forced to shoot them?
AND
How is he so sure that the pilot/fighter escorts won't just destroy the technology to keep it out of Netillian hands?
If he has sufficient answers for those then I'd say yes.

>Here’s what you want, though…(Write in)

I leave this up to other Anons but EITHER:
All the information the IO has on the brainwashing procedure. Including but not limited to their help in Richter regaining his lost abilities. Code phrases, scope of the project, their reasons for choosing Academy graduates, anything and everything relating to it.
OR
Advancement into the next level of the IO. No more of this 'need to know' shit. Let's properly get inducted. That way we can either change the system from the inside or take it down. I haven't forgotten that Richter's dad is investigating them as well and he's gonna need help.
>>
>>4797712
>>Fine. You’ll do it. Nothing to do but gain with this mission, even if you couldn’t take your m/32B. Here’s what you want, though…(Write in)
Either a favour to be used later or help with neturalising that AT platform
>>
>>4797712
>Fine. You’ll do it. Nothing to do but gain with this mission, even if you couldn’t take your m/32B. Here’s what you want, though…(Write in)
Supporting >>4797755
>>
>>4797712
>Fine. You’ll do it. Nothing to do but gain with this mission, even if you couldn’t take your m/32B. Here’s what you want, though…(Write in)
Identifying what's been killing our comrades and destroying it.
>>
>>4797792
Additionally a MG for the pintle mount we acquired for our m/32
>>
>>4797712
>>Fine. You’ll do it. Nothing to do but gain with this mission, even if you couldn’t take your m/32B. Here’s what you want, though…(Them to do something about that anti tank fucker killing our guys, or anything sort of assistance making this whole opperation go faster.
Additionally, someone to make a sketch of us to send to our darling wife.
>>
>>4797786
>Advancement into the next level of the IO. No more of this 'need to know' shit. Let's properly get inducted. That way we can either change the system from the inside or take it down. I haven't forgotten that Richter's dad is investigating them as well and he's gonna need help.
Seconding this for my vote, wasnt sure what I wanted but yes
>>
>>4797706
>Left the dog with the medics
Rudy is disappointed in you.

>No thank you. You’d rather keep with your trusty platoon and on the straight and narrow rather than with a bunch of shadows with vague promises.
We're really easy to recognize. Do you want to have to execute the crash survivors, anons?

>>4797786
IO is probably "need to know" on every level but the highest. That's how spooks work.
>>
>>4797712
Forgot to lin kto the vote post
>>4797994
>>
>>4796515
I just found out that "squeeze" and "pull" in the context of shooting mean exactly the reverse of what I was thinking about and I've made a fool of myself.
You should squeeze the trigger, anons.
>>
>>4797712
>>Fine. You’ll do it. Nothing to do but gain with this mission, even if you couldn’t take your m/32B. Here’s what you want, though…(Write in)
Im fine with either the promotion or tracking down that AT gun, but if I have to choose then promotion
>>
>>4798214
>All these anons thinking a propotion in IO will somehow allow us to get rid of IO.
>>
>>4798216
I never thought it would rid us of the IO but its a path I'd like to explore.
>>
>>4798216
I dont think it's about getting rid of them at this point, I think it's more about gaining more clout with them so they treat us with more respect and offer us missions like this instead of kidnapping our fiance and forcing us on them.
>>
>>4797755
>>4797826
I'd like to reserve a favor.

>>4797760
Everything..?

>>4797786
>>4797929
>>4798214
Promotions?

>>4797782
>>4797792
>>4797847
>>4797863
>>4798214
Get rid of this particular problem, or at least help with it.

>>4797855
Gun.

>>4797994
Nuh.

I'll be updating tomorrow, relax this Sunday, do whatever for mother's day.
>>
“I can’t ask to keep a favor open to be redeemed in the future, can I?” You asked foremost. It was hard to think of something that was maximally beneficial in the moment. Even though you had a few ideas, they seemed rather small for what was being asked.

“Absolutely not.” The black bearded man said stonily. “If you want nothing, then refuse.”

“The smiling man frowned deeply and so suddenly it surprised you, at his colleague, who closed his eyes and tilted his chin up in a show of stubbornness. The smile returned as quickly as it left. “Not that some level of appreciation and respect would not be earned. If you are successful.”

Fine, then. You couldn’t hold on this one, and any “compensation” would not be awarded until after the mission was successful. Fair enough, for the Intelligence Office, at least.

“A couple of questions before I accept, then,” you said, testing a mechanical finger by raising it. Both raised with your movement. Good thing you had two questions. “What do I do if I encounter allied forces? The Ellowians probably won’t let us dance away with their things, and the Republic troops might not know what’s going on…”

“Your “mercenaries” will be dressed as Republic Auxiliaries. Easy to excuse. As for if Ellowian elements take issue…the preference is for you to be forceful, firm, but to show restraint. Ideally, you are away before any even arrive. If there are crew in the area, they are to be taken into custody if possible, but not allowed to interfere with operations. If they insist, then…defend yourself.”

“What if the Ellowian Air Force interferes?” you asked next, “I’ve heard their pilots are plenty skilled enough to sink a bomb into the crash site if they don’t want something taken.”

“Indeed they could. That is why you have to move quickly, but there will be a significant delaying factor,” the smiling agent said, “The Netillian air force. We are not the only ones interested in that plane, you know. Until they can organize a party to rip the plane apart and extract what they want, I imagine there will be fierce competition over the skies. An opening for you. In a way, one could say we are helping the Ellowians with this. Would they rather this crash fall into the hands of the Netillians? Perhaps you could make that a bargain with whatever Ellowians might object?”

“Not an easy task you’re giving me,” you said, clicking one of your new fingers back and forth. Oddly satisfying.

“Some might think it flattering to be trusted with,” the smiling agent said in a sweet tone.

“I’ll accept,” you said, “In return, I want to know the identity of a tank hunter that’s been around here occasionally. In possession of a heavy piece of equipment. They were responsible for wiping out my company’s first platoon of tanks. I want it neutralized, or at least, I want help with it being taken care of. I’d also prefer it intact.”
>>
The smiling man snorted and snickered whilst the bearded man stayed stoic. “Ha ha, is that really all? Come now, you can do better. Very noble, yes, but practically charity. Do stop trying to joke. What do you want?”

“I want that first and foremost.”

“Add onto it. There’s room. Spare a little selfishness.”

“Fine,” you said, thinking. If these people weren’t going to stop bothering you, then perhaps… “I also want to be higher up on your ladder. No more of being considered a useful idiot only good for smashing or grabbing things. I want some importance with your ilk.”

“Deal.” The gruff man spoke first, and right away. “Major’s little science project can be a something more. If he does this.”

That was…much faster than you thought. Perhaps expected? It wouldn’t have been an unreasonable one. What did he mean by science project? No point in asking, you wouldn’t get an answer anyways. “If that’s all, then I’d better get started with this. The clock’s already ticking, isn’t it?

“Indeed it is.” The bearded man beckoned, “Come. We have a car.”

“Another thing,” the smiling man drew a paper bag from his coat as you walked, “A preemptive bonus, to motivate you.” He held it out, “The Major’s regards. Your peculiar vices did not go unnoticed.”

“Vices?” You took the bag and opened it, reached inside. Your new mechanical fingers helped to awkwardly withdraw what looked like a candy wrapped in parchment paper with a black flower stamped on the outside. It was not difficult to figure out what these had inside them, but the feeling was like a hard candy. “Sweets?”

“Of a sort,” the smiling and much more talkative IO agent said, “They are laden with a controlled substance, of course, but in a more socially acceptable way than you usually imbibe. They’re called Kissing Candies. Party drugs. They’re difficult to slip into a drink, of course, they’re more explicitly meant for consensual use. Put it on your tongue, lock lips, share it with your partner, I’m sure I don’t need to go into the lurid details…you could just suck on it by yourself, of course.”

“These must be somewhat expensive for a bonus,” you said, though you appreciated the donation for what it was, not who gave it. You had been running perilously low on blackflower. “This must be a good two or three dozen pieces.”

“In a form that only well to do partake in as well. As I said, the Major’s regards. Hopefully, a clue of how seriously we are taking this.”
>>
These wouldn’t be cheap, no. Blackflower grew sporadically, and only in the wild. You didn’t exactly hold a bad of gold, but a similarly sized serving of, say, cocaine, would compare in black market value. Funny what details remained in your head considering what more valuable things had been lost. You idly wondered if this was something the Major got for you specially, or if this was from a personal stash or seized contraband- probably the latter, the chances of that woman doing anything especially for you were far-fetched at best. Unless they turned out to be coffee flavored.

“What are these flavored like?” You asked, suddenly paranoid.

“Nothing but sugar and blackflower,” the smiler said as you closed the distance to a beaten rustbucked of a four door heavy car, tires changed into something more suitable for the lack of roads. “Like a very sweet tea. They’re candies for adults, after all.” He reached out and opened the back door for you. “Come along, then. Let us get you into proper costume, and acquainted with your tools…”

-----

Your new identity wasn’t as the Kommandant or Richter Von Tracht, of course. It wouldn’t have fit. Maybe the Judge would notice you getting into a car as one person and exiting as another, but nobody else would have. You weren’t so important as to draw such an eye wherever you went, but you did have to be changed into a different face, even underneath the heavy woolen fringed red scarf and strange brass goggles. Another agent who had been standing by in the car attacked your face with cosmetics, obliterating the Flayer scarring, while putting on new details afterwards. They didn’t go as far as coloring your hair, but when you were shown a mirror, you were surprised by how much just some speckling of freckles and a new constructed scar over your cheek (and the obliteration of your other accumulated ones), subtle shadowing under the eyes and by the mouth making lines- it didn’t take much to make you look like a new, older person.

“We won’t be able to train that Capital accent out of you in short notice,” the agent in back said, a new one with short black hair and a cloth hood, that had seemed androgynous but when they spoke it was certainly a woman, “So that’ll still be where you’re from. You’re called Sleepwalker, and the details of it don’t matter, so say whatever you want, but your history is in making examples of people who can’t fight back. You don’t blink no matter who you’re told to kill, and you do it nasty. A menace and a dispassionate sinner, of an inhuman sort.”

“Surely you could have made me into a philanthropist romantic instead.”

“Not for these,” the agent said as she adjusted the brass goggles on you, “Don’t feel sorry if they die. Very few of them can be called decent people. Pity them if you want, but they are not considered to be worth sacrificing resources for. Their best trait now is that they can be controlled.”
>>
That was a more dire implication than you’d been told of this force you had been chosen to command. “Is Sleepwalker a real person?” you asked.

“He was.”

“Was.”

“He was discretely disposed of four weeks ago.” The agent said with no emotion, “His reputation is more useful than he was. His story changed to suit him. Nobody knew what he looked like anyways, and none of the people you’re going to be with knew his face or how he acted, what he sounded like. The command vehicle’s radio is distorted to mask that from anybody listening anyways.”

“But you must know what he looked like, to disguise me?”

“No.”

So you may as well have been fictional. Good to know.

“Give him this,” the bearded man said from the front passenger’s seat, passing back a clipboard. It was passed from the hooded lady to you.

It was a series of official looking notations, starting off with a brief list of “controls.” Subject Limits: Shellshock Class Two. Psychological Disability Class Two. Physical Disability Null SE1. Ethos Class Four.

“The hell does any of this mean?” you looked up and asked. “Ethos Class Four?”

The bearded man answered. “None of the troops lack for sanity. Anything else is immaterial, unless you find yourself capturing prisoners or stopping by civilian settlements, refugees, vagrants, the like.”

You kept going down the list. Operations Leader: Shellshock Class Unevaluated. Psychological Disability Class One TT. Physical Disability Class One. Ethos Class Three T4. T Factor Null T2. “Does this Operations Leader refer to me, or to Sleepwalker?” If it was you, then there must have been files prepared for every “candidate.” A lot of preparation for something as spontaneous as a plane going down…unless they were ready for anything that might be of interest.

“Don’t waste time with questions you ought to know the answer to. You want advancement, this is a taste of it. Those documents are not leaving this vehicle anyways.” The bearded man was rough toned and impatient with you. No deluge of questions, he implied with such speech, just read.

So you did. Before the personnel came the equipment…

>Roll two sets of 3d3 to determine equipment, then three sets of 2d3 for mechanized platoon leader vehicle modifiers and infantry subunit leadership traits.
Vehicles:
1-Light Type, Light Weaponry
2-Light Type, Medium Weaponry
3-Medium Type, Medium Weaponry
PL Modification:
1-Support Oriented Weapon
2-Extra Armor
3-Main Armament Upgun
Leadership:
1-Brutality- Advantage in close quarters, special equipment of smoke grenades. May act erratically in close quarters. Or with noncombatants.
2-Marksmen- Longer effective range and boost to hit. Equipped with marksman scopes and self-loading rifles. May engage without orders.
3-Unusual Fortune- Can nullify incoming damage with a counter roll. Successful evasion prompts uninhibited initiative there or elsewhere.
>>
Rolled 2, 2, 3 = 7 (3d3)

Satan guide my dice!

>>4801491
Jesus christ they really want this plane.
Also very good to know that we oughta avoid any kind of civilian or ally if we can afford it for the scum we're leading.

I am very, very curious about T Factor Null.
>>
Rolled 2, 3, 3 = 8 (3d3)

>>4801491
>>
Rolled 1, 2 = 3 (2d3)

>>4801491
>>
>>4801491
dice+2d3
>>
Rolled 2, 1 = 3 (2d3)

>>4801491
Sorry, trying to mask my true power level.
>>
Rolled 1, 3 = 4 (2d3)

>>4801491

Lets try that again
>>
>>4801524
First Platoon- Light, Light, Medium
>>4801532
Second Platoon- Light, Medium, Medium

All decently armed, how about that.

>>4801666
First PL- Support Weapon
Second PL- Extra Armor

>>4801704
>>4801837
1st Squad-Marksmen
2nd Squad-CQC
3rd Squad-CQC
4th Squad-Fortunate Sons

Since we're on page 9 we won't be getti