8 Sophia Von Runstadt“s Pride
"Captain, bring me that unused knife and the strongest drink you can find."
"I told you... I'm not a soldier anymore..."
"What are you waiting for?!"
At Sophia's command, Lud brought her the knife and a drink.
"Do you want a cloth to bite on? Or maybe I should do it?"
Sophia had been shot in the leg.
The bullet from one of the small caliber pistols was still inside her.
A slight groan escaped from Sophia's lips as she used the alcohol to sterilize the knife and dug the bullet out.
Milly turned her head away as Sophia stabbed herself with the knife.
Pulling the bullet from her leg and disinfecting the wound, Sophia ripped off the hem of her dress and used it as a makeshift bandage.
"Um... Miss Soldier Lady... Are you... really okay?"
"... You managed to stay safe, huh?
Sophia tried to remain calm and composed at Milly's timid questioning.
"Um... I... I..."
Milly gripped her tattered dress, on the verge of tears.
"You managed to get reinforcements up here, Good job."
Sophia smiled gently and tenderly stroked Milly's cheek.
"The Commander's smiling..."
Standing nearby, Lud started at Sophia in surprise.
"What's that supposed to mean, Captain!? I can smile when necessary, you know!"
"No, I just... you know... was thinking to myself: 'Wow, the Commander's smile can look like this too?' That's all..."
Lud remembered when she would give a jovial smile to encourage her comrades, or to coerce an enemy, but he thought Sophia didn't have it in her to make such a warm and gentle smile.
"You're the last person I want to hear that from!"
Lud didn't have a right to talk about anyone else's smile when his smile sent shivers down the spine of those who saw it.
"I get it... So you're their lapdog, is that it?" A voice rose from among the restrained child soldiers.
The voice belonged to the boy, whose will moments before had been broken by Sven's threats.
He gave them a cold cynical glare.
"You... You're Pelfish, right... And you're buddying up to these Wiltians? Traitor!"
The boy spat venom at Milly, staring her down in rage.
"Tell me something... Why did you all do this?"
Lud asked the child soldiers.
Although he had been in a similar situation, he hadn't been burdened by nationalistic beliefs like this boy.
The children clearly held an intense animosity toward Wiltia.
"It's obvious, isn't it?... You bastards started a war with Pelfe, and now we're like this..."
Although the boy had been trembling and near tears just moments before, he salvaged the willpower to respond defiantly to Lud.
"Dad and Mom both died... Our hose is gone, the whole town burned down..."
Pelfe didn't actually start a war with Wiltia.
However, in the previous Great European War, a fierce battle unfolded on Pelfe's eastern border between the southward advancing August Federation and the Wiltian military.
The devastation caused by the battle between the two great powers was inflicted upon Pelfe.
"Everything gone, I dug through the trash everyday... I got kicked like a stray dog, had rocks thrown at me for fun..."
The Wiltian government didn't completely ignore the orphans of war.
However, since some Wiltians turned their country's orphans into soldiers, child welfare still wasn't in evidence throughout the country.
"I was picked up by the vagrant hunters and thrown into the poorhouse. But the only thing waiting for me was rock-hard bread and weak, salt-water soup two meals a day, And being worked like slave from morning until night!"
Wiltia's war orphan relief was less for the orphans themselves than to prevent the street urchins from threatening the public order.
"You might be right; we might have been used like tools! But, in that case, what about you Wiltians! You treated us like dogs!"
To these children, Wiltia was the source of their intense and unfair suffering as casualties of war.
Without Wiltia to hate, they would be backed into a corner with no strength to survive.
"What did we do? What did we ever do wrong?"
Tears spilled down the boy's cheeks.
Tears of sadness—no, Lud thought, tears of frustration at everything that happened to him.
Faced with the boy's pain, Lud just stood there, clenching his fists.
He remembered back in the galley, when he had been insulted by Olfen.
A Wiltian, even Lud had felt angered by Olfen's irrational contempt for the people of Pelfe.
Once one is stained by anger, it wasn't easy to wipe it away.
"At the end of the day, I bet these Wiltians just treat you like a pet, right? These bastards don't even think of us as human!"
The boy's gaze once again fell on Milly.
Clenching her fists and gritting her teeth, Milly shook as she remembered the events that had occurred a few hours earlier.
Sophia had taken Milly to the choir's preparation room.
However, because Sophia had announced her identity as she knocked, the special forces soldiers inside started shooting through the door.
In a flash, Sophia had saved Milly.
She had taken a bullet herself that normally she would have dodged, to protect Milly.
"Whaaat? I thought the Witian military had come on board but I was wrong?"
It was Sutherland, in charge of the soldiers disguised as band members, who said this, unknown to either Milly or Sophia.
Sophia ran, trying to ensure Milly's safety.
Sophia carried Milly in her arms, with blood spurting from her legs.
"What was that about?! Weren't those your friends!?"
Seeing that Sutherland and the rest of the group were dressed in clerical garb and monk habits, Sophia concluded that they were special forces soldiers.
However, she couldn't believe that Milly could be their accomplice.
"I'm sorry... I... I'm not with the choir... I just wanted to come on this boat... and..."
"You lied to me?"
"I'm sorry... I'm sorry..."
Milly desperately repeated her apology.
She had deceived Sophia, and had taken advantage of Sophia's goodwill and kindness.
And ultimately, her deception had caused injury to Sophia.
"You were just a stowaway?... I'm a fool for nothing realizing that, I guess."
Sophia angrily spat out the words, but she didn't abandon Milly.
"Alright brats, after them! If we're found out now, we're in trouble! Seize them!"
At Sutherland's orders, the child soldiers readied their pistols and chased after Sophia and Milly.
Sophia ran even faster, but as soon as she turned the corner, she came to a dead end.
Clicking her tongue in frustration, she looked around and noticed an air vent.
"There's no way I'm gonna be able to get in there... You'll have to escape by yourself."
"You don't... have any obligation..."
Before Milly could continue, Sophia interrupted.
"I'm a soldier of Wiltia. As long as I'm a soldier, I have a duty to protect the citizens of our country. Even if I trade my life for theirs."
"But, I'm not from Wiltia... I'm Pelfish!"
Milly's shouting sounded more like pleading.
She was imploring Sophia not to do anything more for her sake.
"Pelfe was annexed by Wiltia... got it? Pelfe's territory became Wiltia's territory. The citizens of Pelfe became citizens of Wiltia, so you're a Wiltian, too. As a Wiltian soldier, you're a citizen I will protect!"
Sophia didn't know how the rest of Wiltia thought.
This was Sophia's resolution, her principles, and her beliefs.
"Hurry up and run! If you regret lying to me, then tell someone, anyone you trust, what's going on. The enemy is probably a special forces unit from another country. This ship is in danger."
Saying this, Sophia forcefully shoved Milly into the vent.
Sophia was then captured, but her status as the daughter of a noble family and a renowned soldier prevented her from being killed.
If the Wiltian military discovered that the Defairedead had been captured, and attacked the craft with fighter jets, Sophia could be used as a shield by the terrorists.
But, that didn't happen until later.
At that moment, true to her word, Sophia traded her life to protect Milly.
"Don't lump me together with you..."
Trembling, Milly spoke quietly.
"Look at me... My mom and dad are gone... If there hadn't been a war, it wouldn't be like this... I hate Wiltia, I hate Wiltian people, and I hate Wiltian soldiers..."
Milly's voice was very soft.
Yet, Lud, Sophia, and the child soldiers listened closely to her words, spoken as if she was coughing up blood.
"But... I don't know. I don't really know the names of many Wiltians..."
Even though she was supposed to detest them, inside her, somewhere along the line, Wiltia had become vague, and now that she knew the names and faces of a few of their people, it was impossible for her to hate them as before.
"Do you even know... What type of Wiltian do you hate? What faces do they have?"
None of the children answered.
They had also forced the irrationality of their own circumstances onto the giant nation known as Wiltia.
"All I know is that Lud and Sophia risked their lives to save me... They thought of me as a person, and protected me!"
It's understandable to hate the country that took your family and destroyed your home.
But, Milly now asked herself if that made it right to blame a person just of being a citizen of that country, and to hate them for it.
"I'm... different... from you all!"
Her emotions boiled over and tears streamed down her face.
The child soldiers couldn't respond to Milly's vehement words.
"That's enough, it's okay..."
Sophia tenderly hugged the sobbing Milly from behind.
Then, she whispered an apology.
Sophia wasn't apologizing because she was from Wiltia, or because Milly was from Pelfe. She apologized as an adult to a child, because Milly was forced to say these things.
"Hmph... crying over these Wiltians..."
Even then, the young boy spat out spiteful words, but there was little power left in his voice.
"Um, can I say something?"
In an attempt to change the atmosphere, Sven raised her hand.
"What should we do about the bombs?"
Lud agreed, having completely forgotten about the bombs.
"What bombs?! Explain yourself, Captain!"
"Hmm, well you see..."
Her face flushed with anger, Sophia questioned Lud as she grabbed him by his collar, and explained.
"Whaaaat, why didn't you say anything sooner?! There are still more bombs?!"
"If we knew it, we wouldn't be in such trouble, you know. We just happened to find the one and—"
"Don't talk back to me!"
Sophia's fist grazed Lud's cheek as he dodged her attack.
"The control room..."
The young boy grumbled, half to himself.
"Dreadnought and Sutherland are there... They said they were bringing the bombs there."
"You're... telling us this?"
"Don't misunderstand... Those two are super strong... They'll kill the likes of you. You all should just go off and die."
Lud had been surprised at the unexpected supply of information, but the young boy held onto his animosity to the last.
"This brat still has quite the mouth, doesn't he?"
Sven threatened the boy by loudly cracking her knuckles but Lud kept her in check.
Inside, the boy's willpower had transformed into complete desperation.
Up until then, a number of factors had backed him into this corner.
Now, Lud thought, the boy was cornering himself.
"Forget it. It's fine."
If this signaled even the slightest change in the boy, then that was enough for Lud.
Lud and the others turned their attention toward planning a counterattack to disarm the bombs on the ship, and recapture the control room.
Their opponents' greatest advantage was that the Defairedead was still flying through the air.
"Those bombs... considering their size and scale... It would be a catastrophe if even one went off."
The Defairedead didn't rely on hydrogen in place of helium, so even in a fire, it wouldn't explode or go up in a flames.
However they didn't know if the body of the ship could survive an explosion set off inside.
If they succeed in taking back the control room, they could make an emergency landing, and evacuate the ship.
"Alright then... The major and I will head to the control room, and—"
"That won't work, Captain."
"That won't work, Master."
Lud started to propose that the professional soldier and the former professional soldier tackle the control room together, but immediately Sven and Sophia both voiced their disapproval.
"Captain... When you were about to be shot by all those kids just now, what did you say?"
Lud hadn't used the captured boy as a human shield, nor did he make him a hostage, but instead let the boy go so that Lud would be the one to be shot.
"There seems to be ten armed soldiers packed into that control room... I'm sorry for saying this, but it's too dangerous for you, Master."
Sven didn't want to criticize Lud's gentleness, but she couldn't stop herself from speaking up.
"You stay here and protect the hostages and Milly... You're best-suited for that."
The party hall was an important foothold they had won.
In war, defending the base of operations was a fine duty, as a successful defense meant that the offense could go on the attack.
Lud understood the logic, but in that moment, he left like he was hiding in the only safe place available.
"Please don't worry about us."
To Lud, even Sven's kind words hurt.
"Alright then, shall we get going?"
"Yes! Wait... Why're you here, anyway?!"
Exiting the party hall, Sophia snapped at Sven, who looked in high spirits and ready to head off to battle.
"Amateurs shouldn't stick their necks out in dangerous situations!"
Sophia had serious apprehensions about taking a civilian like Sven, but Sven wasn't an amateur. She wasn't even human.
"I'm not your subordinate. I don't have any obligation to listen to your orders."
Sven replied with an unconcerned look on her face, and Sophia grew visibly red in anger.
"Hey, tell me, girl... Who the hell are you?!"
"I'm someone who cherishes my beloved master, to whom I've offered both my heart and body. Is there any problem with that?"
Sven replied easily to Sophia's rage as if her answer was obvious, and as if she had no idea why the question has been asked.
She wasn't trying to provoke Sophia.
Sven protected Lud Langart, and helped him achieve his dreams.
That was her desire, her mission, and the meaning of her existence.
"O-Oh? Hmph, I'm sure that is just one-sided."
"Mrr! I-it's true that Master can be modest and reserved, and that he very rarely shows his emotions, but I'm convinced that we understand each other's thoughts and feelings!"
Sven recalled how Lud had been slightly standoffish to her recently, and anxiety mixed with her words.
"Oh, well, well, well, seems like I'm right, doesn't it? You say all this, but he might just think of you as an irritating stalker."
The moment Sophia picked up on Sven's anxiety; she teased her like a schoolyard bully.
"What was that?!"
Sven raised her voice, as though she couldn't let this remark slide.
"My relationship with Master is of one of body and soul, you know!"
Sven wasn't lying.
After all, as a Hunter Unit, she had held Lud inside her, and had memories of them fighting together as one.
"Well, Lud and I have greeted the dawn together in the same bed."
At Sophia's words, the bedrock in Sven's heart began to shake.
"That's the type of relationship we have, Now that you know that... Show a little humility!"
Sophia grinned complacently.
It was the smile of one who had the high ground over her opponent, and laughed down at her.
Sven lost her sense of balance, as if the joints in her feet had gone numb.
T-That can't... Could that be why... Major Rundstadt is trying so hard to make Lud return to the military?!
If she had heard this a few months ago, Sven thought she might have descended into madness.
However, she was different now.
She was an adndroid awake to her love, so much so that even her creator, Daian, would be shocked.
"And so what?!"
With a slam, she stepped forward, objecting to what Sophia had said, as if about to fight her herself.
"Master is a man, too! And an adult! It's only natural he's had one, two, even three old women in his life. It would be stranger if he hadn't!"
"Y-You're calling me an old woman!?"
"Yes, that's right. I don't fuss over a gentleman's past! What's important is now! An outdated model like you shouldn't be acting all high and mighty!"
Rather than being the number two model, Sophia was the so-called old number one model.
Sven was the one always at Lud's side. The past wasn't important; the future was what was precious to her.
"You've said it now, bastard!"
"What are you going to do about it, Miss Outdated?!"
Bashing their foreheads together, the two bitterly stared each other down.Sven met the much feared, dragon slaying glare at Sophia's head on, and returned fire with her own scowl.
"I'm going to strangle you!"
"If you think you can, I welcome you to try, but..."
At the same time the two looked in front of them. The sign overhead pointed ahead to the control room.
"After this is all over!"
Then, again at the same time, the two began to run.
The entire length of the Defairedead was close to 500 meters.
However this included the upper floatation system, so the gondola-like portion of the ship—where the guest quarters and control room were located—was just above two hundred meters in length, or about the same length as the Wiltian navy's battleship.
In addition, because of the airship's intricate and complicated construction, the actual distance was close to double in length.
Racing down the long corridor, Sven and Sophia made for the control room.
"Get outta my way!"
"You're in the way, step aside!"
As they ran, they overpowered the soldiers along the way, one after another.
"What?! What's going on?!"
The soldiers had expected some resistance from the passengers, but lost their composure at the attack by the two opponents whose skills went far beyond what they had expected.
And neither of them carried a weapon.
Sven didn't have one to begin with, and Sophia's was back in her room.
In contrast, the soldiers had real weapons—guns. They should have had overwhelming superiority—but it didn't play out that way.
Their superiority gave them an advantage, which made them overconfident. That overconfidence became pride, and then carelessness.
For a Humanoid Hunter Unit and a commanding officer of Wiltia's military with a specialty in many martial arts, not having a gun wasn't even a handicap.
"Well? I've already beaten three of them!"
Sophia gloated, as she sent a soldier flying and knocked him unconscious.
"This is my fourth already, what of it?"
Unconcerned, Sven hurled a soldier, foam spilling from his mouth.
Sven laughed at the vexed Sophia, but she was also slightly surprised.
Hmm... Major Rundstadt is doing unexpectedly well...
Sven wasn't competing with her for how many soldiers they could take down.
With Sophia's watching, Sven limited her power to an almost-superhuman level, but still within the boundaries of human abilities.
If she unleashed all her power, she'd be able to turn their opponents into corpses in the blink of an eye.
If she'd been left behind, I could this up in a flash.
Sophia had been shot in her leg, and with only basic emergency first aid treatment, the fact that she could perform this well was worthy of admiration.
Sven wondered if perhaps Sophia was android like herself.
"Having a sister like this, what a dreadful thought."
Sven muttered quietly to herself as they moved forward.
"Hey, did you say something rude just now?"
"No, not at all—"
Just as Sven turned the corner, she sensed it immediately.
Falling back in an instant, Sven stopped Sophia.
A barrage of bullet rained down exactly where Sven had just been standing.
"This is going to be troublesome..."
Sven ground her teeth.
The corridor continued on straight to the control room beyond the corner.
There was no cover, and on their way to the room.
In front of the control room door were three soldiers, rifles at the ready.
There was no way for them to dodge the bullets and reach the door, without being picked off easily.
It wa neither coincidence, nor just bad luck.
The ship was designed so that the control room, the most important position on the ship, had limited means of approach, and could be defended by a just a few people.
It was ironic that this safety feature was now taken advantage of by the enemy.
"We can't do anything about this, can we?"
Sophia snarled in frustration.
If they had a stun or smoke grenade, they could obstruct their enemy's line of sight temporarily and rush at them, but unfortunately they had nothing with them.
They couldn't scatter baking soda in the air vents as before, either.
"I guess we need to search for something to use as a shield..."
"We don't have time for that!"
The armed group inside the ship knew the guests would fight back.
Sven and Sophia couldn't waste time, when every second could influence every passenger's chance of survival.
Someone could die, and that someone might be Lud.
"Major Rundstadt... I beg you, Please close your eyes and cover your ears, just for five seconds.
"Huh? What sort of nonsense..."
On the battlefield, even the slightest carelessness, the sightest inattention, would endanger a soldier's life.
Telling someone to do that was the same as asking them to commit suicide.
Faced with Sven's desperation. Sophia had to go along with her plan.
Not knowing where Sven came from and having just met her, Sophia didn't find Sven either charming or friendly.
Somehow... I feel like I've met this girl before.
The girl in front of Sophia was somehow similar to Lud, a subordinate who dove into and survived life and death situations. Because of this, she listened to Sven's words.
"Thank you very much."
The instant Sophia closed her eyes, Sven removed two levels of her power limiters.
She was now able to move faster than the naked eye could see, and she disappeared from view.
It was a straight, twenty-meter hallway.
No matter how fast a human body moved, event at top speed, that person would be showered with bullets.
However, Sven wasn't human.
"W-What is it?!"
The special forces soldiers had been trained and they had skills need to kill a human opponent.
But, they didn't know how to kill something that wasn't human.
They did not have the techniques to deal with an enemy who moved faster than the human eye could see, and who used the walls, ceiling and floor as footholds, as if she was drawing a geometric diagram as she advanced on their position.
When Sophia opened her eyes, it was over.
In less than four seconds, the soldiers were defeated
"My apologies for the trouble, Major."
Sven had her back to Sophia, as if she didn't want to be scrutinized.
Sophia thought it was suspicious.
She wondered if Sven held something inside her that was even bigger and more important than their current situation.
And whatever it was, it was probably having a strong influence on Lud.
While Sophia was hesitating to denounce her, Sven opened the door to the control room and rushed inside.
Flustered, Sophia followed her, and the scene inside put a temporary pause on her suspicions about Sven.
"They're... dead? Everyone?!"
There were then staff members in the control room.
The pilot, the navigator, the radio operator—all of them had a role on the ship.
Every one of them was dead.
"That's not all, the navigation instruments have been destroyed."
Sven instantly informed the enraged Sophia of her survey of the control room.
It was likely the terrorists had set up an autopilot device and locked in the destination, so it would be impossible to cancel the Defairedead's flight path.
It was an elaborate job.
"With this, we can't change the course or Land!"
"There is a way."
Sven responded in a calm voice, in contrast to Sophia's indignation.
"What are you going to do? There's some way? Or rather indignation.
"What are you going to do? There's some way? Or rather... why would you know about that way?"
"Who the hell are you?"
Sophia asked Sven the same question again, using the same words.
However, her meaning had changed.
She understood now Sven wasn't just an ordinary girl.
Sophia now suspected there was something that was not human inside her.
"I'm someone who cherishes my beloved master, to whom I've offered both my heart and my body."
At Sophia's question, Sven's gave the same response she gave before.
However, the nuance had also changed.
Sven couldn't say anything about it to Sophia, but her love for Lud Langart was genuine.
That was all Sven could explain with confidence to Sophia at that moment.
Sophia stared at Sven.
Sven couldn't return her gaze.
For a few moments, they stood in silence.
Then, a third presence broke the silence.
"Major Rundstadt, above you!"
Sven sensed the attack before it came.
Sophia immediately started to roll out of the way to dodge the attack from before.
"You're... from before..."
"What's this, you're that woman."
It was Sutherland, who had taken over from Dreadnought in the control room, and brutally murdered all of the people.
"Tch, I told them we should have killed you. Honestly, now you've become a thorn in our sides thanks to commander's unfortunate mercy."
The man looked like a gentle saint, yet his face was twisted in contempt.
"Well, whatever... Hey, lady. This time the kind knight isn't here. I'm gonna kill you for good, got it?"
As he spoke, he slowly licked his lips.
"But before that, I'm gonna enjoy all the pleasures a woman like you has to offer."
Sophia's deep repugnance for Sutherland showed clearly on her face.
She called to Sven behind her as she glared at Sutherland.
"I don't know exactly who you are. But right now, I trust you. Do whatever you want. Get this ship on the ground!"
Saying this, Sophia twisted her body, and used the centrifugal and gravitational force to send a kick flying at Sutherland.
The vicious assault felt like being stabbed with a spear thrown by a heavily-armored knight, and Sutherland crashed through the door and was blown outside the control room and into the corridor.
"This scum... is mine!"
Sophia shouted to Sven, a rage burning in her fearsome eyes that was hot enough to rival the flames of hell.
Sophia left the control room to finish her attack on Sutherland.
Left behind, Sven approached the still-intact display board for the Rezanium reactor.
The terrorists had probably thought it was just a gauge and wouldn't pose a threat left as is.
But, they were just humans.
For a Humanoid Hunter Unit—for Sven—it was the key to changing the course of the battle.
"If I can use its power again..."
In an earlier incident, Sven had ordered an autonomous tank to commit suicide.
She still don't understand how she had been able to do that.
She knew that her mechanical specifications didn't have that capability.
But there was one thing she had understood instinctively, if not with logic.
Machines were not supposed to possess instincts, but she was able to control other machines by using the Rezanium reactor within her, which housed her soul, hear and ability to live.
The reactor composed of a rare mineral that still held many mysteries, and was said to come from the crystalized hearts of the ancient dragons.
I can't believe I have to depend on something so obscure.
On the battlefield, gambling on an uncertaintly was the height of stupidity.
However the Rezanite inside the Rezanium reactor was said to hold a will of its own.
Her loved for Lud Langart—that alone was something that she would never lose, even pitted against everything the world had to offer.
"In that case, show it to me! Show me the power inside me!"
Sven shouted to herself.
The gauge display was connected to the Rezaniumcraft through an output-measuring device.
By turning that device against the ship, Sven tried to control the floatation system itself.
"Listen to what I say! The supreme ruler of the Skies, the pride of the Principality of WIltia, is being toyed with by vagrants from who knows where! Aren't you embarrassed!?"
The mechanical girl called directly to the machine itself, but the mechanical Defairedead didn't answer.
This machine was on a completely different scale compared to an autonomous tank, which could hold only three people.
The Defairedead carried one thousand passengers, and could race one thousand kilometers across the sky.
It seemed that persuading such a machine to cooperate was going to take Sven awhile.
"What's the matter, come now, come now, come now! What's wrong, woman of Wiltia!?"
Outside the control room, Sutherland and Sophia were locked in a fierce battle.
"You bastard, are you even a human?!"
Sophia had sent Sutherland flying with that kick, but even after blows that would knock out a raging bull, the man in front of her was not defeated.
Even more bizarre was his unbelievable strength as he attacked Sophia from above while clutching the slats in the ceiling like a monkey.
"Don't be so rude!"
Sutherland slashed at Sophia's chest with the long claws on his hand.
Sutherland's attack tore away not just her dress, but her underwear, exposing Sophia's breasts.
"Hahahahaha! Now you're looking good, aren't you? I'll tear it all off one piece at a time! My own personal strip show!"
The laughing man was lost in ecstasy, and as he cackled, Sophia saw that his arms weren't made of human flesh.
"You're, a machine..."
He had a deformed figure, as if the steel arms of a wind-up doll had been attached to his shoulders.
"That's right... We're called mechanical soldiers, I lost both arms in the war, so they replaced them with these. They aren't too bad, but unfortunately I can't feel the skin of a woman anymore. That sucks."
"I see... So Greyten's doing experiments like this too, then."
For the first time, Sutherland's face darkened.
"What makes you think we're from Greyten?"
The Greyten Empire had fought against Wiltia in the Great War, and had been the leader of the allied forces against Wiltia.
"Hmph, you can conceal your appearance but you can't hide your accent. Just how many Greyten soldiers do you think I've faced on the battlefield? More than you could count."
Indeed, by wrapping themselves in clerical robes, and acting as honest men of the cloth, there were many who had been fooled by them. However, Sutherland, now that his lust had been laid bare, was the same beast as the other Greyten soldiers, once Sophia, a woman, had arived on the battlefield.
"Well whatever, it doesn't make any difference. You're gonna die with everyone else... You're right, we're Greyten special forces."
"What do you plan by sinking the Defairedead?"
"This thing's the symbol of your country's prestige, isn't it? It'd shake your country's pride to the core if it was sunk wouldn't it?"
The Defairedead used its navigational superiority during the war not just for transport missions, but also to fly to the Greyten Empire, isolated by the sea, and bomb its capital of Lordlant.
For the impenetrable island nation—who one hundred years earlier had even fought off the Lion Empire, who had controlled over eighty percent of the European continent—Witia's attack on their capital devastated morale, and was one of the causes of Wiltia's victory.
"There's one thing I don't understand. Why use children? You have other means, don't you?"
They had incited the Pelfe children, and made child soldiers out of them.
Sophia couldn't understand why they would recruit children for a mission that was dangerous even for a professional.
"That's something your friends can tell you in the afterlife!"
Saying this, Sutherland dropped to the ground, and sliding on the floor, he aimed at Sophia's legs with his claws.
Tearing her skirt, her thighs were exposed.
Worse, his claws scraped the wound she had just treated.
The wound opened, and Sophia's face contorted in pain.
Sophia would have dodged the attack, but she was focusing her breats, and had been surpised by sudden move.
"My, my. It looks like your wound's gotten worse, hasn't it? Either way, you're got a shapely pair of legs, I almost feel bad killing you, bwahahahaha!"
Sutherland was gleeful at being able to shame a strong women like Sophia.
"Tch... Damn you..."
Sophia ground her teeth in frustration, which only increased her opponent pleasure.
Blood was once again flowing from her thigh.
She couldn't move and it would be very difficult to dodge the next attack.
"Man, cleaning up after that commander and looking after those kids has been a pain-in-the-ass mission, but it looks like some fun has come my way in the end."
With a vulgar grin, Sutherland approached Sophia.
"Don't worry, Miss Wiltia, My arms might be machines, but down there is still the real deal, so I'll make sure you have a great time."
The brutal man with weaponized arms gloated over his success.
"Are you the one who stirred up those children and brought them here?"
Sophia's voice was weak from the loss of blood and she sounded resigned to her predicament.
"Yeah, after we lost the war, I picked them and instructed them. I said that all their sufferings, everything bad that happened was because of the people of Wiltia. Good lord, did they take it all in easily. Children can be quick learners, can't they."
All the child soldiers had suffering unfairly thrust upon them as a result of the fighting between nations.
Sophia was certain the children had questioned it themselves—Why do I have to go through this? What did I do wrong? Maybe I should never have been born.
Crawling around in the dirt, living on mud and trash had been their existence until Sutherland gave them pride and dignity.
"None of you have done anything wrong. The ambitions of the evil country of Wiltia snatched away your happiness, It's Wiltia who has done something wrong."
Sutherland's face returned to that of a gentle and mild mannered priest.
A warm persuasive voice, offering kind words.
"When I said that, some of 'em started tearing up. What idiots. They're idiots, don't you think? Not just bad luck but bad brains to go with it!"
Sutherland laughed, his cruel expression returning.
Sophia imagined how the children had clung to Sutherland's sweet words that gave their stray dog-existence a target to loathe.
Words that encouraged them to believe that their suffering was the fault of another.
"You bastard... They messed with your head too, didn't they?!"
Sophia didn't want to believe it. She didn't want to believe that humans could be so filthy and mean.
"Unfortunately, this brain's all my own."
Sutherland raised both claws above his head, without her sarcasm getting through him.
"Time to strip you naked! I'll pull your hair out and tear your face to shreds! The fun will start by tearing the tendons in your arms and legs! I can't wait!"
Sophia couldn't resist Sutherland's attack—
Without hesitating, Sophia held out her arms that had been covering her breasts, and just dodging Sutherland's claws. pinned down his arm, and stepped closer to him.
Ignoring the intense pain in her leg, she stomped it down with enough force to break the floor, and slammed her elbow into Sutherland's chest, just above his heart.
"Gahk!!Taken aback by the unexpected attack and the intense pain, Sutherland vomited stomach acid, and writhed in agony on the floor.
"W-what the... what the hell did you do?! Ulnhg!"
"The best technique to make scum like you suffer."
The hand-to-hand combat techniques of "bijutsu", invented in a culture very different from the European continent.
Among these techniques was one that damaged the opponent's heart and killed the opponent, known as the Dragon's Roar.
Sophia had used a variant called the Nine Hells, which caused the body's blood vessels and circulation to run wild, sending a hellish pain throughout the body.
The name, Nine Hells, came from intense pain, which sent the blood gushing from the nin holes in the human body.
"Damn you... you waited... until I'd come close..."
The pain in her leg prevented her from moving and her half-naked appearance had been bait to draw Sutherland in close.
Sophia was a proud soldier of the Principality and the young daughter of a noble family.
However, her pride wasn't so delicate that she couldn't tolerate humiliation when necessary.
It was a strong and aggressive pride that she could dismiss in order to defeat a hated enemy.
"Even if I sacrifice a leg, and expose my breats, if I can win, it's a small price to pay."
Sophia Von Rundstadt's pride was her confidence that she could not be devalued, no matter what the situation.
"Now then... Even so, I am yet to be married. You've done what you pleased, so I'll have you pay back in kind."
Sophia looked down at Sutherland crawling on the floor, her eyes so cold-hearted even the devil himself would have given him a more benevolent gaze.
"...... I'll crush it!!"
Without listening, Sophia stomped down on the exposed thing dangling from Sutherland's crotch.
A scream escaped Sutherland as he lost consciousness, foam spilling from his mouth.
Sophia thought perhaps he died from the shock, but it didn't matter to her.
In the control room, Sven focused entirely on trying to control the Rezaniumcraft, but it wasn't going well."
"Listen to me! if you continue like this! your unsightly appearance will be exposed to all of history!"
If she didn't regain control of the Defairedead quickly, it would go down.
Many guests, including Sophia, Milly, and finally Lud, would all die.
"Please... Listen to me... I beg you!"
She pleased, squeezing the words out.
But, doubt rose inside her.
What am I doing, I'm... begging? Why do I have to beg?
Instead of logic, doubts consumed her mind before she could analyze them.
The machine in front of her was hers, and was created to serve her.
Serve me... Serve me... Serve me...
She felt violent anger at the machine that didn't fulfill their duty to her.
Sven regained her breath, and with a quiet but firm voice, she whispered a single word.
The word was spoken without any doubt, as if everything was Sven's and it was natural for it to be so.
Suddenly, the Defairedead's floatation system, the Rezaniumcraft, turned the control system over to Sven, as if the entire ship was surrendering.
It was as if a colossal beast exposed its stomach and begged her to show it mercy and compassion.
Sven sensed that something inside her had interfered again, something that knew more about her than she did.
What in the world... Am I...
She was perplexed by how infinite and frightening it was, but forced herself to shake it off.
"This isn't the time for me to be thinking about that!"
Now in control of the Rezaniumcraft, Sven ordered it to quickly land.
Hovering aircraft, like airships, could not take off and land quickly like airplanes.
It landed by steadily reducing its buoyancy, and slowly dropping in altitude.
Even descending as fast as possible, it will still take thirty minutes to land.
It wouldn't be fast enough to change the course.
At this rate, they'd go straight to the former Pelfe capital of Ponapalas.
Sven believed this was still the best thing to do.
If the bomb in the control room was detonated, the Defairedead would fall directly on the capital, causing enormous causalities and damage.
"Have we at least avoided the worst case scenario? No, not yet."
For Sven the worst case scenario was Lud's death.
There was still danger of that happening.
Finding the bomb in a corner of the control room, Sven disarmed the explosive.
Fortunately, it was the same type that she had found in the storeroom.
Sven left to return to the party hall when she discovered Sophia, slumped on the floor, exhausted, her battle was over.
Seeing her right leg stained red with blood, Sven ran over to her.
"Unh... you. Did you get control of the ship?"
Sophia asked, her face looking slightly pale from the great loss of blood.
"Everything on my end went well. I even disarmed one of the bombs. And the Major?"
Slightly shifting her attention, Sutherland lay collapsed unconscious in the hallway, his eyes rolled back into his head.
"I settled things on my end... But, I might've overdone it a little. I'm going to rest here for a bit."
As if it was too difficult to keep her eyes open, Sophia leaned against the wall as though she had fallen asleep.
Sophia had used the last of her strength to treat her leg which was no longer bleeding.
"After everything's over, I'll come back for you."
Leaving Sophia, Sven ran to the party hall, and back to Lud's side.