Operation story: 12-19

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Airship Corridor

After operation

Ines breaks into the airship alone, and abducts Paprika. Encircled by Manfred, she leaps off the airship, and sounds out a warning to the dukes.
<Background 1>
Ines Hmph. I'm starting to regret this.
Sneaking in here... was not a good idea.
The higher the place, the more complete and larger the shadows are.
But this place is a little too high up...
[Ines turned out to have taken Paprika with her.]
Paprika ...Can you let me go?
Ines No can do, girlie.
Don't you get any funny ideas either.
This ship is way too big. I'd really appreciate a cute girl helping me keep an eye out for any soldiers popping up.
Paprika ...
Do you also call yourself a Victorian Sarkaz?
Ines No, I'm a Kazdel Sarkaz.
Paprika Wait, but... if you're a Kazdel Sarkaz...? Then why are you...?
Aren't you working for General Manfred and the Military Commission?
Ines I work only for myself.
Where's this ship headed?
Paprika ......
Ines I don't like seeing kids suffer.
Paprika I... I don't know...
I really don't!
Ines What exactly is your job here?
Paprika Um... being a Sarkaz mercenary?
Ines Heh. A Sarkaz mercenary who hasn't killed before.
You can't even silently draw your weapon while being captured.
[Ines stays Paprika's hand down.]
Ines What's Manfred even planning to do here? Open a kindergarten?
Paprika General Manfred says he wants me to learn what war is.
Ines Well, how's that going?
Paprika I think it's just people killing another group of people.
Ines Congratulations, we share the same view.
This ship sure flies high.
Paprika The General says it's because it's a revenant.
Ines Ugh. A revenant. So that's why.
That's why Ascalon was in so much pain. Good thing they're conspicuous.
This ship is still ascending.
Judging by our heading... it's not flying towards the battlefield. This ship is returning to Londinium.
You flew out of Londinium, fired a shot at the Duke's warship, and then stopped for a few days in Norport Borough.
And now that the dukes are on their way with their fleets, you're retreating?
Seems like I need to change my impression of Manfred. Not only is he passionate about pedagogy, but he likes to take the ship out for little drives too?
Paprika I...
Ines Alright, you don't know anything at all.
What's your name?
Paprika Paprika.
Ines So you're the Paprika mentioned in the report I read. You freed the workers from Munitions Factory No. 11, and then you were caught by Manfred.
Paprika ...
For a Sarkaz mercenary, is that... not honorable?
Ines For a Sarkaz mercenary, honor is the worst kind of shame.
Paprika Okay.
You've been to Kazdel before, right? What is it like?
My old captain told me that it's our homeland.
Ines Where did you grow up?
Paprika Columbia.
Ines No wonder.
Every Sarkaz that hasn't been to Kazdel thinks it's probably an adorable, sweet little place.
That's just your own wishful thinking.
Think of the filthiest, most disgusting, any derogatory adjective you can muster, and multiply that by a hundred–now that's Kazdel.
Paprika Sounds like most people wouldn't like it.
Then why... why do so many Sarkaz call it home?
Ines Because they need a home.
They think, as long as they have a home, everything will fall neatly into place, all discrimination and persecution against them will cease and they'll once again be able to puff out their chests in pride.
Hmph. It's silly.
Paprika Or maybe you think that... because you're not a Sarkaz?
Ines ......
You like to ask questions, little girl, but that's not a good habit in wartime.
Paprika I... I was only making a guess! Please don't get angry!
...I'm just real curious.
Nobody here wants to talk to me, and General Manfred is always busy.
They're all so excited and always talk about doing great things... but why don't I feel it?
All I've seen is familiar faces dying one by one, getting replaced by fresh faces, but when those become familiar...
The same thing just happens again and again.
I feel like I shouldn't be here at all.
Ines ......
Does it actually matter if someone is really a Sarkaz or not?
If everyone thinks you're a Sarkaz, then you might as well grind down your horns and pretend to be one.
Because you can only survive as a Sarkaz.
And when it comes to surviving, your feelings don't matter at all.
Paprika And that's why you joined this war with the Sarkaz?
Ines Seems like you should stay with Manfred a while longer. He hasn't taught you the most important things you need to know about war.
Paprika General Manfred lent me a book, A History of Sarkaz War.
Ines ......
I know the author. His name is Hoederer, and he's an idiot.
"Sarkaz War," "Victorian War," "Ducal War," "Royal Court War," only an idiot talks about stuff like that.
Who'd be arrogant enough to claim a war for themselves? I sure wouldn't, at least.
War is war, and that's all there is to it.
Paprika You don't believe this war can save us all... Then what do you believe in?
Ines I believe when you're hungry, you have to eat, when you're thirsty, you need to drink, swinging your arms around for too long will tire you out, and if I jump out of this ship I will die.
I only believe in these things that can't be given meaning.
Toying around with 'meaning' is the root of all suffering.
[Manfred shows up.]
Manfred In the same way, I believe that profits make people impulsive, fear makes them impatient, a burning fire can not be easily extinguished, and the resulting conflicts cannot be easily ended.
Ines, as a guest, you should have greeted me first.
Ines It's been a while, Manfred.
Manfred Indeed it has.
So, why don't you stay? You can admire the scenery with us.
The storm is approaching quickly.
Ines and Manfred turn to look out the window.
They see the smoke and dust rising in the distance, and several high-speed battleship fleets approaching.
This airship high up in the sky is attracting the attention of every ducal force already stationed nearby.
A sudden flash of clarity shoots through Ines upon seeing these little battleships scrambling like insects in the shadow of the airship.
Ines You want the flames.
No, the flames have already been ignited, you're just... using this ship as kindling to keep it in the air.
Caster, Wellington, Windermere, and maybe Normandy too...
The representatives of these greedy dukes are already all gathered on this plate, while their masters' fleets observe their rivals as they make their way here.
This airship is moving so slowly because you're waiting for them, you're tempting them.
The dukes would rather not let the airship hide behind Londinium's robust city walls, so they'll gather here...
And this is what you've all been waiting for.
An perfectly little... shooting gallery for The Shard.
Manfred Should I be glad that Hoederer's partner is so sharp?
A shame you put it together so late.
Men, seize her.
[Several Kazdelian Sarkaz soldiers strike Ines at Manfred's command, but she dodged them and ran away.]
Manfred So what did she tell you, Paprika?
Paprika ...
She said, war is war, and that's all there is to it.
Manfred Hmm...
Indeed, that's all.
If she could just see the big picture, just how many things surrounding war would she see?
<Background fades out and in>
This intelligence must be delivered.
Ines has to admit that the Military Commission has drawn up a brilliant plan.
She can foresee what will happen next.
The Shard's Catastrophe will severely damage the dukes' forces, and furthermore, said damage will be credited to not just the Sarkaz, but also to their respective rivals.
And once Victoria's storm-bringing prowess is drawn out into the open, any country across the lands will feel fear, and also fury.
Every seat of power will want to destroy this one, or possess it for themselves.
What if, at this time–the dukes guarding the borders slack on their duties because of their infighting?
Leithanien, Ursus, Kazimierz, and even the old Gaulish regions would never let this opportunity slip.
This is only the first flame.
Soon, an unstoppable blaze will sweep across the entire land.
Ines knows, there is still time, it's not too late.
As long as she can get the information out–
A shadow approaches at the end of the corridor. It is not her own shadow, but the owner of this vessel.
Ines, who has heard rumors from her old partner about the revenant, is for the first time in her life glad that she isn't a real Sarkaz.
Ines Yep, shadow's still there.
The sun rises, the long night having finally passed, and the mobile plate below her casts an extremely long shadow.
Ines ...Right.
I should thank myself for finding such a high place.
I'm guessing that a jump from here would probably kill me.
Heh, who would have thought that today, the Ines who always comes back from the brink of death, is finally embracing it.
Hoederer and W are gonna laugh themselves to death.
I hope they don't get to see me in such a wretched state.
[Ines slashes open the windows, and...]
Mile High Drop.png
She falls, a gale blowing through her hair, and she can hardly keep her eyes open.
But it is only at this height that she can take all the shadows of Norport into her view.
Only at this height can she manipulate these shadows that stretch as far as she can see.
She knows that she only has a few seconds to make it, quickly falling into the shadows before her.
Death is already lingering beyond the door.