Prologue – Rebirth
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The Fiend Knight's Second Chance

Prologue

-000-

Peace… I had forgotten about peace.

How long has it been, since I had last known peace? It was hard for me to remember. As a knight of the Kingdom of Einfault, to make war was always my duty… and yet my battles never ended.

The Kingdom was drowning in endless conflict. In these battles, I distinguished myself, becoming the dread of all those who stand in my way. My reputation lead me to become scorned by my foes, and they began calling me names.

One that I particularly liked, was "Fiend Knight".

What little moments of reprieve there were, I always spent preparing for the next battle that was surely to come. It was a sad state of affairs, one that had been a trend since the last great war.

Ah, now I remember. The last time I knew peace was during the last days of my father's life. He had died protecting the Kingdom from foreign invasion, and because of that I began to resent the Kingdom. My own father gave his life defending a nation which abandoned him. He stood his ground against an unending horde of invaders, holding against all hope that reinforcements would soon arrive.

It would not.

My father, Erich Redborn, was the last knight standing in the battle of Yashin Bridge. He fought for six hours without end before his Magi-Armor was destroyed, and him along with it.

Reinforcements promised by House Ramiel would never arrive, as the heir to the Ramiel family withdrew from the battle. The Royal Army wouldn't arrive until days later, but by that point it was too late. The enemy was too entrenched around the bridge, and the Kingdom's forces had to hold their counter attack until the following spring. Because of their incompetence, my father was never coming back, and I was left with a burning hatred for the Kingdom that had abandoned him.

I was not alone in this sentiment. Many other knights, nobles, and lords grew dissatisfied with House Grunnder's leadership of the nation. When the opportunity came to us, we revolted. Through the mud and blood of civil war, we would eventually claim victory… but, it was ultimately for nought. The Confederacy, the enemy my father died fighting, returned. They plotted and waited while we fought amongst ourselves. When we were at our weakest point, they attacked.

Now, in a cruel and ironic twist… I, Morgan Redborn, would face the same fate as my father.

I panted hard, my muscles -though well trained for the rigors of battle- ached badly as I was near the limit of my strength. Sweat flowed like a waterfall from my short cut, jet black hair, down past my crimson colored eyes as I pushed myself to survive just a minute more. The Magi-Armor I piloted was battered and in a shabby state… not surprising since I had seen near constant battle for the past few months.

My Magi-Armor squadron was the only one left. Our final stand was in the courtyard of the Royal Palace, which itself sat on top of a hill at the center of the Royal Capital. Not exactly the best kind of fight for a unit meant for lightning fast mobile attacks… but we didn't get the benefit of choosing our battlefield anymore. From our original twelve members, we had been reduced to only myself and my best friend Theo. Georg and Udinn died first, when we still held the Royal Capital's walls. Ari, Tomas, and Ygor would die next, holding back the enemy while the rest of the squadron retreated to the inner city. Hector and Nils, those thrice damned traitors, deserted the squadron the previous night. Next to go were Inara, Jonah, and Ben. They were with me in the final stand, but they too fell in short order.

I thrust out with the giant glaive I held on my Magi-Armor's right hand. The magic fortified blade penetrated an enemy Magi-Armor's cockpit, killing the knight piloting the machine. I raised the giant revolver on my left hand and fired a single shot at another incoming enemy. The 70mm shell punched through the attacking Magi-Armor's shoulder armor, before detonating and disabling the giant machine. With that side covered, I pulled my glaive out. No longer being supported by my weapon, the giant humanoid machine fell to its knees, before toppling to the side and crashing into a part of the Royal Palace.

Normally, I would have some concern over collateral damage, but I could hardly spare the strength to care. I had stopped worrying about winning the battle, and resolved myself to take as many of these foul bastards with me as I could. Victory was no longer possible. What remains of the Kingdom's army were already crushed. There was nothing left to spare against the enemy.

"Theo! How are you holding up?" I called out to the only other surviving member of my squadron. My voice was strained, my breathing coming in staggered patterns.

[Could be better, buddy.] He answered. His voice too was strained, and his breathing was labored. It seems that he was also at the limit of his abilities.

Our short moment of reprieve was interrupted when our foes came at us once more. We returned to fighting as they attacked us with overwhelming numbers. Theo and I fought at least three Magi-Armors at a time, and whenever we defeated one, another would take its place. It was a never ending battle. At this rate, my glaive would dull from overuse before the enemy ran out of bodies to throw at us.

I battled on, as hard as I could, but with each passing minute my strength began to dry. Was this how my father felt in his final moments? I certainly hope not. My father was infinitely kinder and more honorable than I. He deserved far more than he actually got.

On the other hand, the fate I faced… It seems like one that was fair. Looking back at my actions ever since my father died, I have come to regret many of them… far too many. Some of them were simple mistakes I made while blinded by anger. Others were horrific crimes that I must give penance for.

I decapitated an enemy Magi-Armor's head, before finishing it off with a giant revolver shot to its chest. The shell penetrated the enemy's chestplate, which meant certain death for the armor's pilot. How many have I killed in my final stand? I had lost count after the first dozen. No matter the number, it would never be enough to win. I had come to terms with that.

The battle would continue for a while longer, before my strength would finally fail me. I attempted to stab another Magi-Armor, but the enemy knight side stepped my attack, before cleaving my machine's right arm off with his longsword. I shot at him with my revolver, blasting his Form's right leg off… but a second enemy appeared in my blind spot. He struck my machine's head with a mace. Staggered, I took a step back, and he swung at my machine's torso next. I fell on my back, but I managed to land a shot on his chest with my giant revolver as I did. A third unit now approached, and I tried to fire at him too… but my revolver had run out of ammo. He stabbed his spear into my Magi-Armor's left shoulder, before pinning my unit down on the ground.

[Morgan!] I heard Theo yell out. He tried to run over and help me… but this left him dangerously open. An enemy Magi-Armor attacked him from behind with an axe, cutting through the spine of Theo's armor, causing it to crumple down. Theo tried to crawl my way, his Magi-Armor's hand reaching out to mine… but a second strike from the enemy's axe went deep into his armor's back. The cut must have penetrated the cockpit unit as Theo's armor went limp.

I wrenched my eyes away from the scene. My best and oldest friend had died right in front of me. Every loss my squadron took was a deep wound in my soul, but none hurt more than seeing my childhood friend lose his life right in front of me. At that moment, my fighting spirit vanished.

[And so this is how the Fiend Knight of the Kingdom ends.] The enemy taunted me using his machine's speakers. [You may be a fiend, and you fight like a wild beast… but you deserve a dignified end.]

So this was it. I braced myself for what was to come. I knew there was no escape.

[Any last words, sir knight?]

I couldn't even say a word in response. I was exhausted. Not just physically, but mentally as well. The fighting had well and truly drained me, in every conceivable aspect. There was nothing more I could do but accept my fate.

[So that's how it's going to be?] the enemy huffed. [Suit yourself.]

The enemy Magi-Armor pulled out his spear, and prepared to stab the cockpit unit.

My final thoughts were with my father. I couldn't help but think how ashamed he would be of me. I sided with the faction that ultimately destroyed the Kingdom he gave his life for. If I knew my son did so, I would certainly have been disgusted.

I closed my eyes and awaited the oblivion that was coming for me.

In my final moments, my thoughts were with all those I had let down.

My friends… my father… If only, I could somehow go back, and set things right.

-000-

When I reopened my eyes, there he was. My father. His red eyes -almost identical to my own- bore deeply into my soul. His black hair was kept short, so that it would never block his eyes. His body was well built, and was obviously kept in tip top shape. He was everything I dreamed to be.

"Morgan." He spoke, his voice firm and yet also soothing. How I had missed his voice. I felt tears well up in my eyes, but I did my damndest to hold it back. It would be unseemly for me to cry in front of him.

"What is wrong?" He asked. His voice washed over me like a stream of soothing, cold water. When one saw him right now, you would be mistaken to believe he was a man of peace. My father stood before me not as the stalwart warrior that the other knights and warriors knew him to be, but as a caring father who loved his son.

I could no longer hold myself back.

I hugged my father, and buried myself in his embrace. Appearances be damned, my life was over. I couldn't care less about what I looked like anymore. I let my emotions out, crying and apologizing profusely to my father. I did so repeatedly, mumbling out my apologies as the world around me faded into the black.

I suppose this was how it was going to end.

All things considered, this wasn't such a bad way to go.

-000-

The sound of nature and the bustling of men penetrated my ears. I awoke to the sound of footsteps approaching me.

"Morgan, you damned slouch! it's time to wake up." A familiar voice spoke to me.

"Sir Glenn?" I half asked, half slurred, not yet fully awake.

The image that awoke was of Glenn Bardford. He was a member of my father's squadron, and the father of Theo Bardford, who would become a member of my squadron.

I was confused for a moment, but the image spoke again.

"I know yesterday was exhausting for you, but it's a new day today. Time to go up and at 'em!"

"New… day?"

A new day?

What?

-000-

I concluded in my mind. I was truly dead. I had died on the battlefield, and God had cast me into the deepest depths of damnation where I belonged. I was forced to relieve my days, watching slowly as the world around me crumbled, as the ones I loved would inevitably die.

Truly, this was hell.

At least… that was what I told myself. After all, this entire scenario was impossible. Dying as a man, and regaining consciousness as your younger self was preposterous. An impossibility. It could never happen. This must be hell.

A week had passed since I awoke as my younger self. My father's squadron was attached to the House Ramiel's army, led by the heir, Godfrey dal Ramiel. As such, we lived in the war camp… at least, on the outer sections of it, as the inner camp was reserved for upper nobles. Lower nobles, such as knights and Manor-Lords had far less privileges than their upper noble counterparts. Despite this, we were given the lion's share of the work. It's no wonder we rebelled when given the opportunity.

Right now though, I can hardly muster the strength to care about it. Within the decade, most everyone in this camp would be dead, and the kingdom would be destroyed.

Of course, my anemic and dispassionate behavior had caught father and Sir Glenn's attention. Normally, I was an eager and excitable boy, but my current attitude was like the complete opposite. It was normal for them to be concerned… and this did nothing to ease my conscience. Every moment they spent fussing over me, is a moment not spent preparing for what's to come.

Having realized this, I made efforts to help around the war camp. I couldn't live with myself if I didn't try to help my father somehow. Though I may be a boy, my experience and memories of campaigning from my previous life had carried over. I began throwing myself into work and into training, which must have perplexed father and Sir Glenn even more.

It came to a point where my father took me aside in our tent and started asking me about my condition in private. It was nothing harsh, though he had concern in his eyes.

"Morgan, are you okay?" Father asked. "Is something wrong? Your behavior these past few weeks have been… confusing."

I bit my lip. I'm not sure how I could explain it to him… if I could ever explain it to him.

How was I supposed to explain to my father that I had died and was reborn as my younger self? How was I supposed to explain that I would tear down the kingdom he would die protecting? He would think me insane! His love for me as his son could only tolerate so much. So after thinking it through, I decided to give a vague explanation… a half truth in a sense.

"I'm sorry father…" I said, still thinking up the words for my explanation. "I've realized… I've realized how much struggle you're going through… having to fight the war and all… and how much of a burden I've been. I just… want to help."

Damn it. That did not sound convincing at all.

Surprisingly enough, his concerned look softened.

I don't know how my clumsy words managed to convince him. Perhaps he attributed my fumbled explanation to my youth and emotional state? Boys my age tend to not be wordsmiths. Add to that, it also seems that my distress at being reborn might have been misconstrued as me being struck by some sort of epiphany.

Regardless of what it might be, father pulled me into a hug, and I couldn't help but return the embrace.

"I'm sorry, Morgan." Father tried to comfort me. "I know things have been tough ever since your mother died… but please hold on a little longer. Once this war is over, we can find somewhere peaceful to retire to, and we can live together as a proper family."

My heart ached hearing those words. Father didn't know what was coming. He didn't know what would happen to him.

-000-

The next few weeks filled me with unbearable dread. The battle of Yashin Bridge was just around the corner. The moment my father would be taken from me inched ever closer day by day. Theo, who had decided to help around in the camp with me, had taken notice of my emotional state, despite me going out of my way to keep it hidden.

"Morgan, you're staring off again!" Theo told me.

Despite being Sir Glenn's son, he was quite different… at least on the outside. His skin was much darker compared to the older Bardford's more regional look. His hair, despite being blonde like his father's, was curly as opposed to his father's short and straight top. This was, of course, because Sir Glenn had married a foreign merchant from a desert nation in the far south. Theo's outward appearance took after his mother more than it did his father, but there was no question on whose footsteps he would be following.

"Hello?" Theo asked again. "Earth to Morgan! You there buddy?"

We were currently helping move some empty cannon shells around the camp's arming station. I was pulling the cart filled with the empty shells from the front, while Theo pushed from the back.

"Oh, my bad." I sheepishly answered.

"Keep your head together, man. You might trip and get yourself hurt!" Theo scolded me. "What's with you anyways? You've been acting really weird lately."

"Have I?"

"Yeah!" My friend replied. "You haven't noticed?"

Of course I did! I knew damn well how odd I've been acting these past few weeks! The problem was that I didn't know how to act like a kid anymore! I might have been a boy on the outside, but on the inside I was an old and jaded man.

"No… not really?" I tried to feign ignorance.

Theo looked at me as though I had grown an extra head… and I couldn't exactly blame him for doing so.

Damn it! If only I wasn't so angry and so filled with hate in my previous life! Maybe I'd remember how to act like a kid!

"I mean… I heard that the fighting at Yashin Bridge is going to be really tough!" I said, trying to explain my reasoning to Theo… somehow. I'm sure he'd think I was insane if I told him the truth, so I had to reframe the story to something that makes sense to him.

"Re… really?" Theo asked.

"Yeah!" I said, continuing with my explanation. "Yashin Bridge is like… super important! I overheard some knights talking, and they said that a big enemy army is going to come through. So I just thought since we're going to be knights one day, that I should try and help out."

That explanation wasn't exactly the truth. I didn't overhear that an enemy army would come. I knew it would. The battle of Yashin Bridge had been forever burned in the memory of my previous life… and that memory carried over to my second life.

However, I didn't lie that a large enemy army would be coming through the area. That's what mattered.

Thankfully, this explanation got through to Theo.

"Man, you're always thinking ahead like that." My friend said, almost wistfully… but he quickly steeled himself afterwards. "I can't let myself fall behind!"

"Ri… right!" I stammered out my agreement.

"We're going to work hard, and we're going to be great knights!" Theo declared.

Theo and I always had a bit of friendly rivalry. After years of constant battle and hardship in my previous life, it felt good to see him like this again. This happiness stirred something inside me. The thought of Theo's fate… no, not just his… but also everyone else I cared about… suffering the fate that was coming for them, was simply something I'm not sure I could live with… not while I could do something about it.

The realization hit me like a cannonball.

That's right. That was my final wish, wasn't it? To go back and make things right for them.

I felt a fire ignite within my soul. An unwavering resolve I hadn't felt for a long time.

I wasn't in hell. I was brought back here to make good on my wish. I thanked God for granting me a second chance. I knew what was coming, that meant I could do something about it. Even though I was merely the son of a knight, I could still take measures to push the country towards a better path. I may not be able to prevent the coming disasters, but I could stop it from becoming worse.

For the first time in what I thought was an eternity, I let my lips curl into a smile.

"Yeah!" I answered Theo, matching his enthusiasm. "We're going to be the greatest knights the kingdom has ever seen!"

And the first step to reaching that goal… was saving my father's life.

-000-

It was very early in the morning, and I was overseeing the Magi-Technician team working on my father's armor when it happened.

"The enemy is approaching the bridge!" A crier yelled out.

The crier ran across the camp, alerting everyone to the situation at hand.

"The enemy is approaching the bridge!" He repeated, yelling out again and again as he ran across the camp.

It was time.

I nodded at the head Magi-Technician, before stepping off from the maintenance platform. He directed his workers to reassemble father's armor as quickly as they could.

Over the past few days I did everything I could to give father the edge he needed. His Magi-Armor, a Jager model, had been fine tuned to the point that it could outperform other armors of the same make. In my previous life, I had learned how to make the most out of the Magi-Armor's performance without having to modify its parts. It's amazing what standard issue equipment could do if given the proper care and attention it needed. In my previous life, I had provided meticulous care and attention to my personal Landser unit, as well as the weapons I used in battle. My glaive was always sharpened, and I had the Magi-Technicians renew the runes which enchanted the weapon as frequently as I reasonably could. The giant revolver I used was always well oiled, and I personally checked the trigger mechanism before going out on a sortie. The results speak for themselves. My squadron, which I had ordered to follow in my example, was the last one standing in our defense of the capital.

As I left the war camp's armor station, I saw my father rushing towards it. He was still putting on his piloting suit, and hadn't fully tightened the control plates. I headed over to him and offered to do it for him. Not wearing the control plates properly could mean the pilot's movements wouldn't translate properly into commands. An improperly attached leg control plate could cause one's armor to trip mid step… and in the battlefield, a mistake like that could cost one his life.

"Morgan, are the technicians finished?" He asked me.

"They're still reattaching the outer armor." I answered, still buckling the control plate on his left arm. "They'll be done in a few minutes."

"Good." He said. "I have a feeling this will be a tough one."

I felt my gut drop for a moment, and my movements seized up for a split second. I quickly went back to work though. Needlessly worrying about it now would do nothing to help.

However, father must have sensed my concern, as his next words were an attempt to reassure me.

"Though I'm sure I'll make it through with no problem. You've put a lot of work into keeping my machine in fighting shape. I'm thankful to have a son as thoughtful as you" He said with a smile.

Inside, I swelled with elation… but my mood was tempered when I remembered what was to come. I returned the smile and nodded in return.

I recalled the memories from my previous life as I kept working on the control plates. Father would sortie three times in this battle. First, he would come back unscathed. A few hours later he would sortie out again and come back heavily injured. The third time, he would defy the camp medic's orders and go out on his final sortie. His injuries would hold him back, and ultimately it would be his end.

It's not the first sortie I'm worried about. It's the second. I'm confident that he'll make it through the first fight without a hitch, just like in my previous life… so it'll all hang on his second sortie. If he could avoid any major injuries in the second fight, his chances of survival would skyrocket.

It frustrated me to no end that I've done all I could do. Short of stealing a suit of Magi-Armor and rushing off to the front myself, there really isn't anything else in my power that I could do.

I finished up with father's pilot armor, having properly secured all the control plates on him. I looked at him for a bit… Then on a whim I went at him with a hug.

"Stay safe, father." I told him.

"I will." He answered, returning the gesture.

When we parted ways, we both steeled ourselves for what was to come.

It was all in my father's hands now. All I could do was wait.

-000-

A little over half a dozen hours had passed since the fighting started.

Father had already returned from his first sortie, and I oversaw the maintenance crew's work on it as he rested. Despite my protests, father insisted he sortie again within the hour.

As such, we compromised. The magi-technicians would quickly work on the machine's inner frame also touch up on the outer armor plates. The technicians pushed themselves hard to get it done within the hour, but they did it. Even I was surprised at their swiftness.

Father sortied again the moment the technicians finished mounting the armor plates on the inner frame. As he activated the machine and stepped away from the workshop, I ran beside his armor. I followed as best as I could at its side as the 14 meter tall giant took simple strides to leave the camp. I quickly climbed up the camp's palisade walls as father regrouped with his squadron on the empty field just past the camp exit, and then took off running towards the battlefield.

I sighed heavily. Now it was back to waiting, with the heavy air of dread looming over me.

As I waited, I watched from the walls as men cycled back and forth from the fighting. Magi-Armors would sortie out, fight for several hours, then return for resupply and repairs. Some would come with minor damages, some would come with entire chunks of their machine missing… but at least they had the benefit of making it back. The ones that could continue fighting would quickly restock ammo for their firearms, or pick up a new melee weapon. Of course, since firearms technology now were not as advanced as the future when I fought, the knights and lords would rely less on their guns and more on their melee weapons.

As I continued taking note of the Magi-Armors cycling to and from the frontline, one particular squadron caught my attention.

It was the Ramiel heir. It would seem that he had finally deigned the battle worthy of a sortie, and along with him came his personal guards. Their machines were custom made, so their performance was superior to the mass produced Jager model. The heir's machine was leading the way. Its armor plates were colored in various shades of dark blue and had a light green trim on it. These were the colors of the Ramiel banner. The heir's machine also had a massive, brilliant yellow colored shoulder cape fluttering as it caught the wind. The custom made Magi-Armor wielded a short barreled bolt action carbine, with a sword sheathed on its waist hardpoint. Both the carbine and the sword had intricate and fancy engravings on them. If I didn't know any better, I'd have scoffed at those weapons as extravagant display pieces. To the uninitiated, fancy engravings like that didn't give you any tactical benefits whatsoever.

It's an understandable opinion, but a horribly misinformed one.

Engravings may have started out merely as a way for the rich and powerful to stand out, but it soon evolved further than that. By inlaying magic crystal dust into the engraved sections of the equipment, it was discovered that one could significantly enhance its capabilities. Then, experimentation with different forms and techniques of magical engravings could alter the enhancements provided. To top it all off, unlike weapons enchanted regularly, the user needn't be skilled in magical arts to fully utilize them. Magical engravings quickly spun off as its own industry, since many warriors sought out the amazing benefits provided by it.

The magical engravings on the Ramiel heir's squadron were both intricate and powerful, as expected from a powerful noble house such as theirs. Since personal guards rode in machines identical in appearance and loadout to the heir's, each machine must be capable of amazing things. I could only dream of getting my hands on a machine like that. To think that they would have 12 identical machines with such powerful enhancements. Everything was identical to the minute details, with the only differentiating bit of kit was that the heir's machine sported a flamboyant golden shoulder cape hanging off its side.

I shook my head and scoffed at the thought of that giant cape. I understood the desire to decorate one's armor all too well, but I always put practicality in mind when customizing my machines. At most, I mounted horns on my machine's helmet, and spikes on its shoulder pauldrons. Capes were just much too impractical. Chances are it'd get torn to pieces during battle and would have to be replaced. Being an independent knight, I could hardly afford to pay to constantly replace an expansive cape like that.

Those damned upper nobles and their behavior. Was it any wonder the lower houses rebelled in my previous life? I thought about correcting their attitude, but then I realized that they would never listen to me. I was much too low in the nobility pecking order to be taken seriously. Thinking about it further, I feared that it would be inevitable that the discontent lower houses would lash out. A wave of despair washed over me for a moment as I thought about the implications of it. Rebellion meant that the ones I cared about -many of them being knights like myself- would inevitably have to fight and risk their lives. However, I calmed myself down somewhat when I thought about it a bit more. I knew what was coming. If there was ever anyone qualified to help guide my friends through these trying times… it would be me.

I grit my teeth. If that was the path I would have to take, then I was more than willing to do it.

-000-

Four hours passed after father's second sortie. The sky was starting to turn orange as the sun began to set. Out in the distance, I saw father's squadron return… but something was wrong.

Less then half of them returned, with various degrees of damage on each different machine. My father's own Magi-Armor was limping and had a large gouge on its chestplate. The entirety of it's left arm was rather mangleed, with the external armor plating having been damaged severely. Sir Glenn's battered machine was half carrying my father's own as they returned to camp.

I rushed down from the palisade walls and ran on a dead sprint towards the armor workshop.

"Father's squadron is returning!" I called out to the technicians. "Some of them are damaged, please prepare!"

The technicians had been working on and off on Magi-Armors throughout the day. There was no doubt that they were tired. Despite this, they agreed and spared some technicians to work on father's machine. Their dedication to keeping this army in tip-top condition was commendable. Whenever it is I get the chance and the ability, I will have to reward their hard work.

The squadron would arrive just as the technicians finished preparations. Father's machine got down on one knee, and the cockpit hatch opened with a hiss. Father stumbled out of the Magi-Armor, very nearly falling off the machine. He was visibly injured and had burns all over his left side.

I grimaced. These injuries were lighter than what father sustained in my previous life… but they still looked bad.

Things were not looking well.

The medics didn't need to be ordered to get to work. They quickly rushed to father's side and took him on a stretcher.

I made a move to follow them, but I stopped and turned towards the technicians before doing so.

"How long will it take to repair father's machine?" I asked them.

"Just by eyeballing the damage… might be a couple of hours at the fastest." One of the technicians answered. "Your old man's pretty beat up though. I don't think he's going out anytime soon."

Yes, one would think that. But father was too damned stubborn. He forced himself to fight in my previous life despite his injuries… and it got him killed.

I grit my teeth. I've done everything I could… and I've made some difference… but it didn't seem enough to change the flow of time. Was my father destined to die here? Was it simply fate?

No. That can't be.

I was brought back here. I was given a second chance to set things right. There must be something I could do.

I looked towards father's machine. The technicians had just hooked up the armor plates covering its body and face. The internal frame of the machine's head looked vaguely like a skull, and the angle in which the head was held made it seem like the empty eyesockets bore directly into my soul.

A pit started forming inside my gut, and color slowly drained from my face. The possibility of fate being set in stone was increasingly becoming reality.

No! I was able to change minor things previously. If I could change enough minor things surrounding it, certainly even the most major events would have to play differently!

-000-

It had been a couple of hours since the camp medics finished treating father. We didn't have any high level mages with us in the camp, so doctors had to step in and patch up father's injuries before the low level mages could accelerate the healing.

Despite what many thought, magic was not a miraculous fix all solution to everything. For example, the most basic healing spells merely accelerated the body's natural healing, as opposed to repairing the damage itself. In this sense, it's common for regular surgeons or doctors to work together with low level magic users when it comes to healing.

However, this didn't apply to high level magic users. These people who've mastered the arts of the arcane can bend reality to a degree many believe to be impossible. This was because, in layman's terms, magic was about channeling arcane energies into bending the world according to your will. To do this, one must first get a good grasp in how reality functions at a fundamental level, lest you suffer a major blowback.

It's like if one were to customize and modify their own Magi-Armor. You first have to understand what your machine can or cannot do before you decide to tinker with it. Failing that, your modifications may blow up in your face.

Of course, I understood all of this all in theory. I had to take mandatory magic classes when I went to the Academy for Nobles in my previous life.

In practice though, I absolutely couldn't handle it. My practical magic grades were barely above passing. So it was still amazing to me how well my father was recovering in front of my eyes. He was still unconscious, breathing heavily. Most of his wounds were hardly there anymore. Bar a few scars, one would be forgiven to think that my father was in tip-top shape. He was still recovering though. Since low level healing magic only accelerated the body's natural healing, it still took a bit of a toll from the patient. It would be at least a couple of days before father was back to full health.

Eventually though, my father had regained enough of his strength to wake up. His eyes slowly opened, before he turned his head and saw me waiting at his side.

"Morgan…" father said, his voice hoarse. "How bad is it?"

"It'll be fine, father." I reassured him. "The medics said you'll make a full recovery in a couple of days."

Father put on a brave face and tried to get off his bed. His movements were slow and deliberate, but there were signs that his body was still in some pain. His hands were shaking somewhat, his knees were a bit stiff, and I could see him wince a bit as he straightened his back.

"A couple of days be damned!" He barked out. "Those damned Confederate rats are coming in at full force! I have to… agh!"

Father had tried to get off bed, but then clutched his sides in pain when he tried to stand up.

"Father, please… you're still hurt! You need to rest for a couple of days more, like the doctor ordered."

I tried to help him back to his bed, but instead he held on to my collars with a white-knuckle grip and looked me dead in the eyes.

The kindness in my father's eyes that he usually had when speaking to me was completely overshadowed by a burning determination within him. If looks could kill, then my father's red eyes may well be a weapon of mass destruction. There was no way I could stop him from getting up and boarding his machine again.

"The frontline is collapsing. That prissy highborn isn't going to be able to hold on forever." My father declared. "I must go."

"Father, please…" I tried to reason with him. "If you go now you could…"

I choked up before I could finish the sentence.

I had lost him before in my previous life. The thought of losing him again was beyond excruciating for me.

Father seemed to soften at that, even if only by a little.

"I know, Morgan… I know." He reassured me. "I'm sorry for putting you through this, but if I don't go now, the Confederate rats will come for this camp too."

Stubborn as a bull he was. This must be where I got that trait from.

"Please, tell Magi-Technicians to bring over my machine here." He told me. "I can't walk that well right now, but once I've got my control plates buckled and strapped into the cockpit, I'll be able to manage."

Dammit! I'm going to have to take drastic measures, aren't I?

"I'll go and get your machine, father."

"Thank you, Morgan."

No father, you wouldn't be thanking me if you knew what I was about to do.

-000-

"Father wants me to take this to where he is." I reassured one of the Magi-Technicians as I buckled on the control plates to my body. "I can handle piloting it for a bit. It'll be fine."

He seemed skeptical about the whole thing… and frankly? He had every right to be. I may have all my experience and memories from my previous life, but to everyone else I was merely my father's squire. There were times when cocky squires would steal Magi-Armor to prove their worth, and end up messing things up completely. I did what I could to make sure he didn't get in my way while I got things ready.

With all that being said, I wasn't lying to the technician. Father did ask me to take his armor to the front of his camp. I'm also perfectly capable of operating the armor, despite being a 14 year old squire.

However, I didn't intend on letting father mount the machine either.

When I finished buckling the control plates onto the piloting suit I wore, the enchanted metal plates emitted a faint, red glow. I then mounted the control plate on my back on the corresponding slot on the machine's cockpit, which caused a pulse of red energy to flow throughout the cockpit. I could feel myself connected to the machine I was piloting, my senses expanding as the control plates and piloting suit let me take control of the Magi-Armor.

The technician watching me seemed to be slightly reassured with how deftly I managed to equip the whole piloting gear. He gave my suit one last look over, and then made sure all the instruments in the cockpit worked fine. After giving me a thumbs up, he exited the cockpit and back onto the boarding platform.

It would seem that the technicians have grown to rate me higher than they would the average squire. Given how thorough I was when overseeing their work on father's machine, and how I seemed to know the ins and outs of how Magi-Armor worked, I suppose they believed me competent enough to walk the armor towards my father's tent.

I sealed the cockpit hatch on the armor's chestplate. Light from the outside world disappeared, replaced only by the faint red glow of the cockpit's various magical instruments. I closed my eyes, focused on the machine I was within, on the magical connection between me and the Magi-Armor I piloted. Once I reopened my eyes, I no longer saw the dark cockpit compartment, but instead I saw through the eyes of the giant machine I piloted. The empty eye sockets of the armor's head glowed red, as if a magical eye had suddenly materialized inside it.

I tilted my head downwards, and the armor followed. I saw that the technician who previously assisted me was now walking away from the boarding platform.

I looked to my left, and saw the stark metal surface of the repaired arm. It was mismatched with the rest of the armor, which was painted in various shades of black and red. I flexed my own left arm lightly and saw that the machine followed my movements without issue.

That's good.

I repeated the same on my right arm, then I checked on the armor's waist and legs. When I found no issue with the armor's function, I took slow steps towards the camp armory.

I would have went on a speedier pace, but I had to remind myself that a 14 year old boy couldn't operate a Magi-Armor the same way a fully grown adult could. My younger body made shorter strides compared to when I was an adult, so I had to compensate for all sorts of things.

When I reached the camp's armory, I had started to become more confident in myself. I started taking wider steps, and moved more naturally as I had gotten used to my smaller form. Even I was surprised with how quickly I took to piloting the suit. I had thought I would have to retrain myself from scratch for years.

"I'm here to pick up weapons for my father's machine." I said.

My ears heard my own voice inside the machine's cockpit, but I also heard what the armor's audio receptors picked up. My voice was somewhat garbled, with static noise coming out of the speakers on the head. The technicians must have prioritized their repairs on other parts of the machine, and simply made sure the speakers were somewhat functioning. This was alright. I could work with this.

On the ground, one of the armory staff looked up to my unit. I saw him cup his hands around his mouth before he started shouting.

"Hey kid, what are you doing in there?" He yelled out.

Ah, so the static on my speakers was enough to obscure my identity, but not my age.

"I said, I'm here to pick up weapons for my father's machine." I said again. "He lost his weapons on the last sortie."

I stepped forward and towards the massive weapon racks in the giant armory. If father hadn't lost his weapons during his last sortie, I wouldn't have to visit the armory except to pick up some ammo… but as it stands now, I had to pick out a new loadout.

"Wait, I need you to sign some paperwork!"

"I'll sign it after I come back." I answered.

I looked through the giant weapon racks, and decided to pick weapons I was familiar with. I took a giant glaive with my right hand and then mounted it on the armor's left-rear hardpoint. I felt the clamps hold onto the glaive's shaft tightly, then moved on to my next choice.

Since giant revolvers for Magi-Armor were not yet mass produced, very little of them were around, and those that were available were reserved for the upper nobles. So, for a ranged weapon I opted to take a short barreled bolt-action carbine. The small form factor of the carbine would make it easy to store on my back. I picked one up from the weapon racks and mounted it on the left side waist hardpoint. I took some ammo clips for it as well and placed it on the opposite side.

Finally, I looked over to the heavy ordinance section. The Confederacy would outnumber the Kingdom's defenders by several orders of magnitude. I would need something that could tip the odds in my favor and scatter the enemy formations. To do that, I picked up a Lance-Faust.

Lance-Fausts were novel weapons, only being introduced recently in the war. They were shaped like cavalry lances from the days of yore, but they did not function like it. It would be more accurate to call them giant rocket launchers instead. The Lance-Fausts came in two parts: the Lance-Faust itself, which acted as the launcher unit, and the lance head, which acted as the projectile being launched.

I picked up a Lance-Faust on with my left hand and shouldered it. Afterwards, I picked up a bundle of three lance heads, packed into a container that reminded me of a bow's quiver. I mounted the container on my right-rear hardpoint. This way, I could reach for the lance heads with my right arm and reload the Lance-Fausts easily.

"Right, I'll be off now." I told the armory staff. "I'll be back and sign on that paperwork."

Now that was a lie. I had zero intentions of coming back and signing on that paperwork.

I couldn't help but crack a small smile at that bit of mischief, and let out a light chuckle.

I didn't bother listening to the staff's yelling after that. I simply turned around and began walking towards the camp's exit. As I made my way there, I passed by the tent my father and I shared. Outside it was my father, standing up with the help of some crutches, and Sir Glenn who was arguing with him.

As I walked past, my father saw me and recognized the machine, despite the scuff marks and the freshly repaired arm. He tried to wave me down, to stop me so that he could board the machine… but I ignored him.

I looked away. The sight of my father in distress was upsetting to me. I needed to keep myself focused on what was important. I had to get to the battlefield.

-000-

Godfrey dal Ramiel racked the bolt of his carbine and then took aim again. He fired off on another Confederate machine and watched it crumple down after the shell landed square in the chest.

(Dammit! Is there no end to these bastards?)

His personal unit had sortied on his orders, despite protests from some of House Ramiel's retainers. Yashin bridge was too important for someone like Godfrey to stand idly by and do nothing. He had to hold the line while his father's division marched to reinforce the bridge.

Things were turning more grim by the hour. Confederate troops showed no signs of letting up, despite the pile of destroyed machines that littered the bridge. Even so, Godfrey continued fighting. He took aim with his carbine, and then pulled the trigger, firing the last shot in his rifle's magazine. The Ramiel heir cycled the bolt, ejecting the last shell, then reached for the ammo bag on his belt… and found it empty.

(Had I lost track of my own ammo?)

He ditched the carbine without a second thought, throwing it aside and unsheathing his sword and taking a stance. A Confederate machine saw that Godfrey was down to his melee weapon, and tried to rush him with his axe. However, the Confederate knight underestimated his enemy. The Ramiel heir quickly ducked down, then made a vicious swing at the enemy attacking him. His sword glowed yellow as Godfrey channeled magical energy to further enhance his weapon's magical enchantments. Runes and engravings across the blade glowed in a brilliant golden light as the weapon's edge was covered in superheated magical energy, allowing it to cleave into the Confederate armor's torso. Despite some resistance, the sword cut through, bisecting the enemy in half, leaving behind it a trail of molten metal.

"Come now, is that the best you can do?" Godfrey taunted.

Another Confederate machine attacked, but this one had a shield. The enemy knight blocked Godfrey's sword. The enchanted metal on the shield let it block the heir's sword, and the knight moved to try and attack with his sword. Thankfully, one of Godfrey's guards intervened, cutting the enemy's arm mid swing. The detached limb and sword flew with the momentum, falling far behind Godfrey. The heir then used this opportunity to kick down the attacking knight, then cutting off his armor's legs. With the machine disabled, the Confederate knight opened the hatch to his armor and quickly fled.

[Master Godfrey!] One the heir's personal guards, one named Julius, called out to him. [This situation is becoming untenable. Perhaps it would be wise to withdraw from the field, and to leave Lord Hortler in command, as your father requests!]

"And abandon these men in their time of need?" Godfrey argued back.

[Master Godfrey, please!] Another guard, this one named Viktor, now chimed in. [If you fall in battle here, the House will fall into peril! Given that Mistress Rikke is betrothed to the Crown Prince, there will…]

"Spare me the sermon!" Godfrey barked back. "There will be no House Ramiel left standing if we fail here! Yashin Bridge leads to the Royal Capital's flanks! The enemy will have free reign to roam our heartlands if we do not succeed!"

Now one of the veteran guards, named Argo, stepped in.

[Which is why it would be wisest for us to leave Lord Hortler in charge of the bridge with a rear guard, while the bulk of our forces regroup with your father's division.] Argo calmly said.

Before Godfrey could argue further, one of the knights holding the bridge interrupted their conversation.

[Next wave incoming!] The knight yelled out.

The heir shook his head.

"The enemy will not be able to maintain this assault for much longer." He declared. "We will stand here, till the moment I buckle and can no longer fight!"

-000-

I crested the hill overlooking Yashin Bridge just as another wave of Confederate knights crashed upon the Kingdom's defenders. There were a lot of them. The enemy knights were charging down the bridge, shields raised and packed tightly together. As I watched their movements, I almost sensed a twinge of desperation in how they attacked.

Could it be that they were nearly spent?

Regardless, I couldn't dwell on those thoughts for long.

I rushed down the hill, Lance-Faust mounted on my shoulder as I searched for a suitable firing position. The top of the hill was too far away from the bridge for the Lance-Faust to hit reliably, especially with early model lance heads. If the wind ever decided to be unfavorable to me, the lance head would veer off course. At extreme distances, this could mean the difference between hitting the enemy formation, or your own defenders.

As I scrambled down the hill, I spotted a large rock which jutted out of the hillside. I climbed on top of it and set my armor down to one knee. It was a good raised position, far enough from the fighting that I could aim without fear of being attacked, close enough that the lance head would not deviate too far off its intended course, and raised enough that I could see my targets clearly.

I used the armor's left eye to aim down the Lance-Faust's sights. Considering the enemy's current momentum, it would be wiser to aim ahead of their course. The Lance-Head should land somewhere around the middle of their formation. Before I squeezed the trigger, I saw several allied armors preparing for a counter charge. If they moved in now, there was every change that they'd get caught in the blast. I had to stop them.

"Clear the blast zone!" I yelled out as loudly as I could.

-000-

[Clear the blast zone!]

Godfrey stopped in his armor in its tracks, and his personal guards followed suit. The mismatched squadron of Magi-Armors behind the heir's squadron all ran into the leading units… but this might have saved all their lives.

The sound of rockets igniting, followed by a lance head quickly zipping past defenders quickly caught Godfrey's attention. He watched as the lance head slammed right into the Confederate formation that was barrelling towards the bridge.

The lance head exploded in a massive blast, tearing apart the Magi-Armors caught within its blast radius, and maiming those close enough to be hit by shrapnel. It was a vicious and violent explosion, as expected of a weapon designed to batter down the walls of a fortified city.

The strike caused a cascade effect, as the armors in front fell, which caused the units behind to stumble and fall as well. The Ramiel heir followed the projectile's vapor trail, and saw that it led right back to a Jager unit in the back lines.

(That voice… Was the pilot just a boy? Garbled as it may be, there was no mistaking that voice.)

However, Godfrey shook his head. He could deal with it later.

"The enemy charge has faltered! Quickly, attack them before they can recover!" Godfrey ordered.

The Kingdom's defenders now executed their counter charge. With the Confederate armors all disorganized, Godfrey and his troops had free reign to tear them apart. There was hardly any resistance when the Ramiel heir ran his sword through the first enemy knight, and this continued for a few minutes before attackers finally started putting up stiff resistance.

"Fall back to the defense line, now!" Godfrey ordered.

The troops complied, and they began a fighting retreat as they moved towards the defense line. The heir was once again in the front, cutting down enemies that got too cocky, and holding off attackers that were trying to break through the defense. The fighting stiffened as another wave of Confederate armors began marching down the hill. It was starting to seem like the defenders might get overwhelmed, as their casualties started piling up… but another shot from that boy's Lance-Faust quickly thinned the enemy reinforcement's numbers.

(That boy knew exactly when to strike with his Lance-Faust.)

Once again, the defenders were able to repulse the oncoming enemy attack, and moved forward in a slow but steady push across the bridge itself. They've taken a handful of losses, but they were still in fighting shape.

"We can do this!" Godfrey cried out. "We can hold the line!"

Just as the heir bisected another Confederate armor, a third enemy wave crested the hill.

(Tch.. Just how many of these bastards are there?)

Instead of falling back, the defenders now braced at the enemy's side of the bridge. The Confederates crashed upon the defense line with all the force of a mighty stampede. More and more of the defending machines were either cut down, or were too heavily damaged to continue fighting. Magi-Armor from the backlines began plugging up the gaps that were starting to form on the front. A third Lance-Faust strike landed at the middle of the enemy formation, sending debris and shattered armor parts raining across the battlefield. The Confederate troops decided to withdraw for a moment, so that they could regroup and renew their attack.

(If they have to regroup… then maybe they're really starting to run out of steam.)

In this short moment of respite, Godfrey took a glance at the boy who had saved them once again. He had discarded his Lance-Faust, and jettisoned his lance head canister. The scuffed up Jager unit calmly hopped off the rock he was posted on and drew his glaive to join the front.

(So he's ran out of shots for his launcher…)

The heir was interrupted from his thoughts when Viktor pleaded with him once more to withdraw. Many of his personal guards had to withdraw already due to the extensive damage to their armor. Thankfully, none had died. Godfrey's father, Duke Gregor dal Ramiel, had ordered for the best fighting armor that he could possibly afford, and the results of that investment was showing. Had Godfrey used any of the mass production models, he had no doubts that he'd have fallen long before now.

"Master Godfrey, I am once again asking you to withdraw!" Viktor all but begged. "We can't hope to hold against a renewed assault! Fresh units rotating to the front have slowed down to a trickle. It is impossible to hold!"

Godfrey grit his teeth.

(I can't pull back now… not when we're this close!)

"We may be exhausted, but so is the enemy." Godfrey said. "Our armor may be battered, but so is theirs."

[Master, we were fortunate…]

"Fortunate? Yes, we were." Godfrey cut off the guard rather rudely. The Ramiel heir had been in near non-stop combat for hours at this point. He was too tired to maintain his usual noble decorum.

He pulled Viktor's machine close, then pointed at the scuffed Jager unit that had fired the Lance-Faust shots.

"This was our fortune. A squire!" Godfrey barked out.

-000-

I arrived just as the Ramiel heir started lecturing of his men about something. He started pointing at me before he continued talking.

[This was our fortune. A squire!] I heard him say.

He was tired, I could tell, but that did not subdue him in the slightest. His patience was wearing thin, but there was a fire and passion in the way he spoke that moved my very core.

Honestly though, I was surprised he stood his ground for so long. I remembered that in my previous life, he had withdrawn sometime after my father went out on his final sortie. For the longest time, I thought that he was a self-centered cowardly noble who would turn tail and run the moment things got tough… but the aura of the man that stood before me was nothing like that. This man was fierce, courageous, and it seemed clear to me that he was dead set on defending this bridge.

Was he always like this? I couldn't believe that. If he was always this stalwart, he would never have abandoned the battle in my previous life. Something must have happened to change his mind.

[This boy sortied out to defend the camp, and you expect me to withdraw?] Godfrey asked, clearly offended by the suggestion.

Ah, that was why. My intervention seemed to have triggered something within him. Was he feeling ashamed? Was the thought that a young boy had to step up and fight so upsetting to him, that he had to grow a pair and stand his ground? I genuinely couldn't tell. I didn't know Godfrey very well in my previous life, and I didn't take part in the assault on the Ramiel estate so I never got to see his last stand. It was at this point that I realized… The image of Godfrey I had in my mind was made up entirely by myself, based entirely on my frustrations against him.

I didn't really know what kind of man Godfrey was.

[You should be ashamed to call yourselves knights! You would run and leave the battlefield, and let a child die in your stead!] He continued his tirade. [Is this what the best that the Kingdom can offer anymore? If so, then we deserve to be annihilated!]

The lecture seemed to have worked… at least from what I could tell. Even through their armor, I saw the heir's personal guards were glum after their master's admonishment.

[Come hell or high water, I am standing my ground!] Godfrey now declared. It would seem he was coming to the conclusion of his speech. [We're fighting, so that we may protect our wives, our children… and yet this child has been forced to step up due to our failures. If we turn tail now, there will be nothing left for us but shame.]

I have to admit, it was quite the rousing speech… and it ended none too soon. The enemy has returned. This wave was much larger than the previous three… but I noticed something among the enemy's ranks. Many of their armors were scuffed, damaged, or had patchwork repairs on them. Could it be, these are the last of their forces? If they have no choice but to send in these shabby units to fight, then they certainly must have no more forces in reserve.

This battle… it might just end differently.

-000-

Just as I suspected, the assault was the final one. It had been a few hours since our clash started, the sun had long set behind the mountains ahead of us, and the fighting was as intense as ever. Normally, the Confederate forces would withdraw after an hour of combat to regroup. They were always like that, even when I fought them in my previous life.

This time though, they stubbornly kept pushing. It was as if they knew we were on our last legs as well.

To call the battle desperate was a severe understatement. Both sides knew that the other was exhausted. Both sides knew that their own side was worn from battle as well. We are both running on fumes now, and it was a matter of which side could outlast the other.

I stabbed my glaive at the enemy charging at me, then violently shoved the machine to the side. As my blade was pulled out, the damaged Magi-Armor stumbled backwards from the momentum of my push, and it then fell off the side of the bridge. I had been fighting this way repeatedly for a while now, using every method possible to squeeze an advantage against the enemy.

The next Confederate knight that attacked me attempted a high downward swing with his sword. I blocked it with the shaft of my glaive, deflected it then smacked the attacking machine's head with the pommel end of my weapon and disorienting him. Using this opening, I then shoved that same blunt end right into the enemy machine's gut-plate to stagger it, then finished it off with a vicious slash across the abdomen.

I quickly used the momentum from my attack and redirected myself to face yet another oncoming enemy. This time, I made an unexpected move and closed the distance against the attacker. I used my glaive's shaft and thrust it towards the enemy's head, which he properly dodged. However, my weapon was long, and I then pulled the glaive to the side and used my polearm as leverage. I redirected the enemy knight's momentum and threw him off the bridge.

Some may interpret how I fought as lacking in honor… But honorable battles be damned! I was in it to win!

However, I accidentally let my guard down. As I threw the previous enemy, another one moved in to attack me. Since I was facing off to the side, I was exposed, and couldn't defend myself on time. The knight rammed into me with his shield, sending me down to the ground. He then quickly closed the distance and tried to finish the job. He raised his sword high, pointed it down towards me, then moved to stab my grounded machine. I tried to roll to the side, but the bastard was too fast. I evaded a critical hit to my cockpit, but the strike still hit my armor. The low level enchantments on the attacking knight's sword was enough to penetrate my armor's gut, breaching the magic crystal reactor that was powering my machine. The most important functions died out first, as my armor's limbs went limp. There was just enough energy left for me to see through the machine's eyes. The Confederate knight pulled out his sword and prepared for another strike. This time, I could not evade.

Damn it! I got too cocky!

A blue blur suddenly stepped behind the attacking knight. That blur then very quickly raised its glowing sword sword and swung down with all the force it could muster. The sword ran clean through the attacker's shoulder plate, and down to the chest where the cockpit was, no doubt killing the pilot instantly. When things had calmed down, I heard a voice chastise me for being careless.

[Go on boy, get out of here!] I heard the voice say.

It was that heir. He had intervened and saved my life.

[You've done more than enough to help! Save yourself while you can!]

I cursed at myself. I thought that with my experience from the previous life, I could easily fight as well as I did at my peak. How foolish I was to think so. I dismounted my piloting suit from the cockpit unit, then pushed the exit hatch open. Stepping outside, I saw that only the heir and a handful of defenders were remaining, but the enemy were few in numbers as well. It was also dark, very late at night by this point. I only had the moon and the stars to illuminate the landscape.

From where I stood, I seemed tiny compared to these giant fighting machines. These giant knights were truly awe inspiring machines. A childlike sense of wonder overtook me for a moment as I watched the heir cleave another Confederate knight in half. I shook my head and climbed down from my destroyed machine's chest. There was nothing else I could do now, but make it back to camp.

-000-

It was a little past midnight when I reached the war camp. Snow had started falling from the sky, as the autumn chill slowly gave way to winter. I had ditched the control plates on my piloting suit and picked up a large scrap of cloth to wear as a cloak and keep myself warm. The fabric was thick, tattered, and was dirty. Despite that, I could make out that it was some kind of gold colored cloth… probably bits and pieces of the heir's giant shoulder cape that were torn apart.

I managed to enter the war camp and then father's tent without any incident. In the dark, I must seem like just another one of the knights who were forced to abandon their machines.

I entered father's tent, and saw that he was sitting on his bed, rocking himself lightly… no doubt due to his anxiety due to my disappearance. Sir Glenn was there too, but not Theo. He must be asleep in his own tent.

When father saw me, he quickly got up on his crutches. He hobbled over to where I was, and struck me across my cheek.

That was fair. I deserved that.

He then embraced me, and then I returned the gesture. I felt something warm and wet touch my shoulder, and realized that my father was crying. I had never seen him tear up like this before… it only further made me feel guilty for what I've done to him.

"You dumb bastard!" I heard him cry out, in between sobs. "You stupid, brainless, bastard!"

Father tightened his embrace further.

"Never scare me like that, ever again!" He said.

I couldn't help but tear up too.

"I'm sorry father…" I said, my voice cracking as I cried into his shoulder as well. "I'm so sorry."

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