"Here's your new quarters, the base, barracks, and HQ of the 1121st."
He looked at the large clock tower and the castle-like architecture which made up its walls. The clear distinct crenellations truly made this compound feel impregnable. One would have questioned if it had been here before the war, for its design was ancient to the point where such walls would not stand a bombardment by either artillery or tank, yet such flaws did not stop the illusion that it was built to withstand the wrath of God himself in all of its magnificent beauty. The name 'Clock Tower Fortress' seemed appropriate indeed.
He walked towards the bridge which separated the fortress from the rest of the city. He dared only take one step before coming to a halt, looking down towards the bottom at what looked to be a drop which one would not recover from. He instinctively looked back towards his destination, the other side, and grabbed the rails of the bridge as if it were about to come apart. He did not fear much, but heights were something which bothered him when bullets and shells could not.
Come on, it's just a little bridge. Just look at the grand artwork as your make yourself across.
That is indeed what he did, small steps of cowardice eventually become steps of normality.
"Don't stay up too late!" his partner shouted to him from behind. He responded back with an equal sense of sport, shouting in return with an "Okay, mom". His acquaintance turned and went into the bowels of the city. He made it across and took one last look around, admiring the walls, before making his way inside. He passed the outer wall before coming to the doors which assumingly led indoors. There was a lady slumped in a chair, sleeping rather heavily and quite peacefully. The letter of his transfer said that there would be a guard to let him in at the late hour which he arrived in; he believed it was her.
It was with a sense of amusement and curiosity that he approached her, wondering if she would wake up from hearing his footsteps. When she did not, he decided he would have to wake her up if he wanted to sleep indoors. He gently poked her, steadily applying pressure with his incremental pokes until she did arise from her slumber.
It took her a moment to come to terms with her surroundings, wiping her eyes and looking at him with eyes which were hardly opened. He explained to her that he was transferred here, and she acknowledged sluggishly with a nod. Although he doubted her ability to maintain consciousness, she stood up and held the door open for him.
"Come with me"
The indoors were quite luxurious for what he had been accustomed to. He slightly expected a dungeon-like environment with walls made of concrete or stone, but instead they were furnished and decorated with a homely style. She led him down a short corridor, stopping at a small bedroom. She pointed and told him that he would be staying in there. He entered with her shutting the door behind him, it not being too long before hearing her go into her own room. He quickly took his clothes off, throwing them along with his gear into a corner, and got into bed to sleep as much as he could.
-The Next Morning-
He woke up early, earlier than he would prefer. He turned over to the other side of the bed, intending to sleep for another hour or two, but the sounds of breakfast and the thought of staying amongst the company of those who he currently had not even seen insisted that he sacrifice one form of comfort for another. It was with a sigh that he put on his trousers, undershirt, and coat, one buttoned button of the coat being the only thing which prevented his appearance from existing below the lowest levels of formality. He wiped his eyes and put on his glasses, slowly opening the door and hoping that it wouldn't creak. He was always anxious and unnerved when meeting new people.
All the party members which gathered around the table looked towards the source of the noise.
Might as well stop dallying in this limbo of anxiety...
He shyly came out from his room and shut the door behind him. He put his arms behind his back in a polite manner, an action which he only did when he was making a determined effort to be polite or when he was anxious, but usually those two motivations were intertwined with one another.
"I was transferred here, sorry for interrupting..." he tried to explain. The six members at the table responded with various reactions. One's eyes widened with excitement, the other cast a look of suspicion. One individual, recognized as the one who let him in last night, looked at him in a half-dead gaze before turning attention back to the food. The other three looked at him with hospitality.
"Ah, a newcomer!" a blond-haired lady said, clasping her hands together. "Come, grab a chair and sit." The transfer obliged and took acquiring a seat from a nearby table, placing it at an awkward corner of the table which was not built to serve seven persons. A plate was passed to him and he quickly began working on it with a hunger that did not discriminate against any type of food.
The woman who invited him over took to introducing herself and the others after she had finished her meal. "I'm Filicia Heidemann, captain of the 1021st platoon". He bowed and saluted before being quickly waved off. "We don't salute or have rank here, except when orders are given". She then pointed to the black-haired girl who had looked at him with a condemning eye. "This is Kureha Suminoya, our charming gunner."
"Corporal Kureha Suminoya!" she firmly clarified.
She pointed to the grey-haired girl who had let him in and stated that her name was one Noel Kannagi with the rank of sergeant. "Thank you for letting me in at such an hour" he told her. She acknowledged and once again turned back towards her food hoping that it would prove to be a better source of stimulation in order to keep her awake. Filicia's finger next landed on a brown-haired corporal named Kanata Sorami. She waved at him with enthusiasm. "I used to be new here not too long ago!"
"I'm not exactly new the army, but enthusiasm is always appreciated in my book" he said with a grin.
"This is Second-Lieutenant Rio Kazumiya" she said, pointing to a purple-haired women who looked to be of rough equal age to the captain. She acknowledged him with serious politeness. "Lastly," she said, pointing to the remaining member of the party, "is Aisha Ardora". "Guten Morgen" she said.
"B-bist du Römisch?" he asked with hesitation, a strong since of fear overpowering him. The confirmation of his fears fully realized when she confirmed that question. His body started shaking as he turned back to his food with a mere nod of acknowledgement. "Verstanden..." he said meekly.
"You speak Roman?" Kanata asked with surprise.
"Yeah, it started off as a personal interest and it found use when I joined the army. I'm not fluent by any means, but I've heard that I can be understood, so that's good I reckon". Filicia spoke up once more. "By the way, we haven't had the pleasure of knowing your name yet." He looked at her with affirmation. "Well," he said, "My name is Addler Huber" he spoke. "I was promoted to be a colonel right on the field when we were last in battle, the CO took a hit and was sent home...they haven't given any word on this 'promotion' so I still consider myself a first-lieutenant".
"Colonel? That's a pretty big task." Rio joined in. "I'm with you there. Command of an entire company is hard enough. Filing reports, keeping the boys in line and in good spirits...and now I'm in charge of an entire regiment, 1000 men ideally. God help me"
"That's not how a colonel is supposed to sound" Kureha chimed in, "you should be proud, ready to step it up a notch!"
"I can only imagine the bothersome task of having to deal with the job of getting on quartermasters to stop dallying and to get supplies in when they need to be in" he said to her, "and judging from what I've heard about this post, the quartermasters are don't do well for a five-member platoon. I'd feel more like an orderly than an officer."
"You can only wait and see, can't you?" Rio added with a wise man's touch.
With breakfast over, Kanata insisted to Addler that she show him around the town. Dying to do something interested, not the mention the fact that he took a liking to her personality, he accepted without much of a hassle. As he predicted, she was happy to spend some time with someone new. "Have you been done many times?" he asked her. "Not many times," she answered, "but each trip is just as fun as the last"
It didn't take long for them to get into town. "Place looks like it's part of some old villa" he said to her. Although he didn't show much interest on the outside, on the inside he was quite interested; he'd never seen any place like this in his whole life. The streets seemed to wind along the town, intersecting with one another in a rustic fashion, they seemed to weave in peculiar fashions in a manner which he was not accustomed to. That and the abundance of houses and buildings made it seem as though this was a maze to navigate.
"This town seems damn hard to navigate..." he spoke.
"I got lost a few times myself during my first few months!" she said with a blush. "But I somehow learned the streets and the layout."
"And what would that layout be?"
"There really isn't one, you just kinda have to memorize it, think of it like a puzzle game"
"Wonderful to know." He added with a sigh. "So, aside from being a maze, what's in the town? What kinds of shops, markets? Anything worth noting? Although in terms of navigation it's a dark bowel of confusion, the town is indeed rather beautiful, and a beautiful town surely has to have some beautiful attractions."
She immediately responded with stating that there was many things to keep one busy. A large market, a church and orphanage run by a caring nun, a small shop selling all kinds of glassworks, not to mention various outer shops which helped keep this city, to the surprise of Addler, very self-sufficient. Self-sufficiency was something which he could admire in any day in age, especially the current times where live had turned more harsh and difficult with 95% of the world being a barren wasteland.
"Oh!" she exclaimed, "There's a new railroad connecting the town to the main railroad, or there's gonna be a new one. It's gonna connect this one to the railroad which I came on in. It's gonna make things a whole lot easier to get supplies in and out, and we can travel more! But as for now, we really only have our own little town to keep ourselves occupied, but that's enough for me!"
"I do admire your appreciation for the small things" he said with a smile. Truth be told he admired much more than simply her appreciation for small things, but also for her optimism and her outgoing nature to name another few. Was she a tad naïve and innocent? Perhaps, but he admired such innocence.
As they continued to walk to the lower part of town, he probed her on her journeys here, mainly because it was the only thing he could think of to talk about. "So how did you get here? There wasn't a railroad, right?"
"I got here by motorcycle" she said. "A courier took me, his name's Claus. I thought I'd fall out and break something, he was going so fast."
"What route did he take you by?"
"She pointed in front of them. "There's a mountain pass route down at the edge of town, I can show you if you want." Not really knowing what else to do, he agreed.
By the time they reached the edge of town, it was fast approaching dusk. She stopped in front of it, pointing to it and acting as if she was revealing a magnificent marvel with a "Ta-da!"
He observed it for a while but soon turned his attentions to the soldiers, the hundreds of soldiers crowded both in small huddles and big masses around the bridge which led into town. Dozens of small campfires illuminated the grounds which they occupied, cheers laughs and common conversation emitting from the large crowd of persons. Many of them were already cooking something, from what he could tell. Detained? Refugees?
"Who're they?" he asked curiously.
"Oh, they're Romans. The entire Roman army almost did battle with ours not too far from town; they're still awaiting transport. The trucks come in every week and take them to somewhere."
"R-Roman?" he asked nervously, his eyes widening.
"Yes," she confirmed, "why?"
Addler immediately turned around and insisted that they leave. "Come, it's gonna get dark soon. I don't wanna get demerits. We're basically AWOl, aren't we?"
"But we can leave for however long as long as we inform Filicia she said in a confused manner.
"Come..." he said once more, tugging on her soldier. "It's...come"
Although she didn't understand the hassle, she agreed and followed him back in the other direction, his hand loosely attached to her arm in case she started to straggle along. He did not feel comfortable in the slightest hanging around them, he felt that he might as well be humiliated in front of his friends and loved ones in some juvenile prank, for the anxiety and stress was one and the same. He walked fast, not being but a hare's hair away from jogging.
He stopped, turning back to see one soldier waving at Kanata and him. He couldn't imagine why, he had no clue who he was and had no desire at all to find out who he was. "Some of them are quite happy the war's over" she said, "Some are quite the talkative type"
Addler started shaking, suffocating her hand in his grip as if she were about to fall off a cliff. It was with a pull that he firmly messaged that their retreat would continue. He started muttering to himself, Kanata only able to make out some strange gibberish. She was quite concerned about what was going on with him, though she said nothing in the belief that he would return to normal once they left this part of town; she could inquire then if she desired to.
"Kameraaad!" came another shout from behind.
"Colonel," Addler said, giving him his sword. "I resign my commission.
"What?" he asked, wondering if the man had gone insane.
"You heard me, I resign my commission"
"Why in the name of the Gods would you do that? You're crazy! There's no need to-"
"I will not shoot these men"
The surrounding soldiers, both those from his company and those from others looked on at this most peculiar scene. A mere first lieutenant back-talking a colonel. Demerit? Court martial? What would come of it? Either way, most looked on as if it was a boxing match.
"You speak lunacy, lieutenant! How could you deny your superior officer?"
Addler was in no mood for a quarrel. He held his sheathed sword up to him to the point where the colonel backed up for the fear that it would slam into his face. He said not a word to his superior, simply staring at him with eyes which, although usually peaceful and jovial, now bore resentment and disdain.
"First lieutenant Addler Huber, you will carry out your orders. If not, I will see it you will be court martialed for insubordination. You know the penalty for such"
"Bitte!" came a cry from behind the two men and the crowd. The cry came from one of three soldiers who were backed against a wall which used to be part of a train terminal. Another cry resounded from behind. "Ich bitte sie! Wir augeben!". Despite the cries and sniffles of the three condemned, the fight raged on between the two officers.
Addler reached for his pistol before his sergeant intervened, rendering both his arms inoperable by his strong grip. "Don't do anything stupid, Addie"
"B-bitte! Schießen sie uns nicht! Kamerad! Kamerad!"
"Fine!" the lieutenant erupted, putting an end to the tension which captivated two entire regiments and seemed to put the entire war for them on hold. "I'll carry out your damn orders. Gods have mercy on you"
The colonel smiled as his subordinate waved a small detail to take aim. "You'll be promoted to colonel, lieutenant".
Kanata Sorami did all she could think to do to comfort her new friend. He had spent the past five minutes in her arms crying and mumbling incoherently after he had collapsed unto his knees. "Addle, it's gonna be ok!" she said with fear in her voice. Looking around for a solution while rubbing his head, she tried to calm him down. These efforts were mainly futile, for he failed to respond to her questions and words of encouragement besides the occasional and barely-intelligible "I'm not shooting anyone!"
By now a small crowd of Roman soldiers and passing civilians had gathered. Each crowd member conversed with one another as to the cause of the scene. Was it sickness or seizure? Was he a lunatic? Despite the strong determination of the onlookers to get to the bottom of this, they mostly lacked any motivation to help the two entities of entertainment. Kanata pleaded with someone to help carry him to the only person she knew who could help, that being the local nun at the church. Two soldiers, including the one who had flagged them down in the first place, stepped into the ring to carry him. Thus the party of four went up towards the church, Kanata close to panic as she followed close beside her ill friend.