Chapter 43: The Seventh Army
“Hey Aki, Sladar. How are the new recruits coming along?” Harbin asked as she arrived in a wide-open field.
A few hundred Analysts were there. Some of them were training, either physically or magically; the group of Analysts that fall under Harbin and Balestra. The other half was experimenting with various magic circles and contraptions; the group of Analysts that fall under Yuupiecca’s battalion—engineers of the Seventh Army. There were a few more Analysts that fell under Klauna herself, but they weren’t at the field. Rather they were somewhere else. Where? Nobody except Klauna knows.
Harbin was currently making her rounds. She was given the sacred task of informing everyone in the Seventh Army about their upcoming mission. A task that she proudly accepted without a hint of hesitation. She was also to make sure that everyone was in tip-top shape and that the new recruits successfully integrated into the army. They didn’t have much time, so a soft integration will have to suffice.
“Oh! Hey, Senior Harbin.” Aki responded casually while Sladar just waved at her.
“For the last time, stop calling me senior. You are older than me, you know that. It weirds me out,” Harbin replied with a casual tone as well.
“Always uptight as ever huh, Harbin,” Aki said before moving his body around to see the new recruits training in the fields. “The new guys seem to be doing alright for themselves. Though I say new, it’s not like we are that much older in the army.” Aki let out a small laugh.
Harbin looked closely at the new recruits. Her first impression of them was that they were weak. She wasn’t expecting top-end soldiers of course, but they were far from ideal. It will take some time for them to be combat-capable as the veterans of the Seventh Army. Of course, she wasn’t just referring to the latest recruits. She was referring to the ones she recruited in Prashyufa as well. They were better now that they gained some combat experience, but compared to the original one hundred and fifty Analysts in the army, they were still quite lacking.
“...think you all will be ready by the next battle?”
“We’ll try. Not everyone can be as strong as Lord General Klauna or Senior Balestra. Heck, I’ll even settle to be just as good as Senior Yuupiecca or even Poi,” Sladar replied.
“Yeah… I wonder one day if I can be just as strong as Lord Klauna… I’ll probably be satisfied if I can be as strong as Cera or Captain Kazakiel,” Harbin said, clutching her grimoire as she thought about the other officers of the army. “I wish I could be stronger.”
Aki scratched the back of his head when he heard what Harbin said. “Stronger..? You know you are pretty strong yourself Harbin. You can beat all of us right now if we ganged up on you.”
“Yeah… no joke,” Sladar followed up.
“Mmmm… I don’t think I’m that strong,” Harbin replied, flexing her right arm.
“I don’t know. Someone who can actively go against the Lord General is strong in my book. Oh right, what happened at the summit by the way? We could hear her scream all the way from here,” Aki asked.
“Nothing much. Those idiots called out Lord Klauna and she just silenced them,”
“... silence them? All those Familia members?”
“Yeah. You should have seen their faces. They act so high and mighty but when it comes down to it, all they do is just shiver away and hide between their tails,” Harbin let out a small mocking laugh while also hiding that she shivered as well.
“Damn… I know she’s scary, but I didn’t know she’s that scary to scare off the Familias,” Aki commented.
“Is the Familias really that much of a deal?” Harbin asked.
“Of course! They are the nobles of the kingdom. The people with honour and power! Some of them are so strong; they have private armies of their own just to do their own bidding!” Sladar explained.
“Heeeehhh,” Harbin thought of the moment at the summit, at their faces and their reaction.
‘They don’t look too strong. Just a bunch of thugs,’ Harbin thought to herself.
Harbin just gave a shrug. She then gave a salute to Aki and Sladar. “Ah well. I’m here to tell you all about the plan by the way.”
The two salute back as Harbin tells them about the next assault.
“Hey, Cera!” Harbin cheerfully greeted Cera as she jogged her way towards her.
Cera was currently checking out the new Warrior recruits that are to be put under her. Hearing Harbin’s voice, she let out a soft smile before saluting her. “Hey, Harbin.”
Harbin saluted back before going into a casual stance. “How are the new recruits? Doing well?”
“No problems here. I know most of them. They are Lord Lionel’s old friends that had quit the army for a slow life. They are no strangers to battle. Integration should be no problem. Though I do wish they would stop looking at me like a helpless child. I am no longer the young girl they used to know after all,” Cera let out a sigh, slight blush in her cheeks.
“Really? I think they look really proud to see what you have become, Cera,” Harbin replied.
“You think so?”
“Of course! Look at their eyes. They look at you like you are their own daughter. Mama always used to look at me with those kinds of eyes,” Harbin said with a bright and innocent smile.
The slight blush in Cera’s cheeks turned into a bigger blush. “I-I see…”
“How are you doing by the way? Feeling any different than a few months ago? I did a little bit of research about the awakening thingy. It seems that there is a really strict condition to achieve it. Like severe mental trauma or extreme near-death experience. That it’s a one-time thing and that you become permanently stronger as a result. I’m quite jealous; it’s like a cheating power boost…” Harbin said with a sour expression.
“I do feel more powerful, and I can think faster but not to the point where I am invincible, Harbin. I think if you did a little bit more training you’ll probably beat me when you become my age,” Cera said to Harbin.
“Ehhh… I don’t think I can ever reach your level, Cera. You are pretty strong and cute to boot too. I admire you, you know that?” Harbin let out another smile.
“Cu-cute..?” Cera looked away from Harbin. “I don’t think cute is the right word to describe me...”
“Eh? Why not? Lord Klauna is like the strong cool beauty type, you are more of the cute endearing hardworking type!”
“I don’t know how - umm! Ah! You are here for some reason, right? What is it about?” Cera asked, shifting the topic.
“Oh right! Lord Klauna sent me to tell you about the next plan.” Harbin yelped out in surprise as she explained to Cera about the details of the next plan.
Having done explaining the plan to Cera, Harbin moved on along in the encampment. Her next destination was the medical tent run by Medica. The Succours were the last and the biggest of the new recruits. Apparently, most of them were gathered at the tent to pay their respects to Lina— who they all owed a debt of sorts to.
On the way there, Harbin spotted a bunch of guys in officer's clothing. It was Kazakiel, Blackmask, the Watchtower Warrior and one guy that didn’t look like he belonged in the Seventh Army. She could only see his back, so she couldn’t recognize him. He was wearing a slightly blacker uniform than the others, signifying that he was from either the First, Second or Third army.
“Hey, guys!” Harbin was curious about what they were talking about, so she decided to call out to them. After all, she needed to tell them about the next plan as well— might as well do it here with all of them in the area.
“Hmm? Oh hey, Harbin," the Watchtower Warrior greeted her with a smile. He may seem angry and strict at first but once one gets to know him, one will find out that he was quite the cheerful man. Harbin was kinda ashamed that she didn’t know his name. But he never seemed to mind being called ‘you’ or 'Watchtower Warrior'.
Blackmask and Kazakiel only nodded at her presence. Blackmask was another person that Harbin didn’t know the name to. Much like the watchtower Warrior, he may look scary at first, but once one gets to know him, one will find out that he’s actually a pretty kind and patient person. Harbin can see why Klauna liked them very much. They were both really honest and hardworking men.
Kazakiel, on the other hand, was someone that Harbin actually looks up to. It wasn’t to the point of respect she has for Klauna, but it’s up there. A cool and efficient man that is reasonable to deal with and has a good head on his shoulders. He was also a person of extensive knowledge, something that Harbin really liked. He views everyone as equal and has the respect of his men. Quite literally a perfect man. At least in Harbin’s eyes.
“Hmm? Oh hey, Officer Harbin,” The last guy in the group turned around and gave Harbin her greeting.
“Ge-general Aberanis!” Harbin has her hands over her mouth as she sees the identity of the fourth person. “Wh-what are you doing here?”
“What? Am I not allowed here? To meet with friends?”
“No no no. you are allowed to go wherever you want to go!” Harbin said, a little bit nervous to be in the presence of Aberanis. “I just… didn’t think you would be here. After your argument with Lord Klauna...” Harbin muttered softly.
“My matter is with her, not with the others,” Aberanis said.
The Watchtower Warrior saw this and let out a laugh.“Don’t worry about him, Harbin. He’s actually quite a nice guy. We go all the way back.”
“I-I see… I’m quite surprised… I didn’t know you guys are friends with such a big shot.”
“I don’t think I’ll call him a big shot. He’s basically Leida’s lapdog when you think about it” Kazakiel commented with a sneer on his face.
Aberanis crossed his arms. “Oi! Even I’ll get angry if you put it that way. I like to call myself a very sensible friend.”
“Kazakiel and Aberanis are blood brothers. We would often meet during our visits to the main cities,” Blackmask explained.
“Ohhh… So that’s how it is,” Harbin let out a sheepish smile. “EH?! You two are brothers?! You don’t even look anything alike.”
It’s true. Kazakiel was rather tall for a Cunning, while Aberanis was much shorter. They both rolled their eyes at her response. It seemed that much like Yuupiecca and Poi, these two probably had received the same reaction many times.
Managing to slip away from the death stare of the Cunning brothers, Harbin made her way to the medical tent. However, she was halted by another group of people. Four Analysts alongside a female Saboteur. It was the Yuu triplets, Balestra and Pringgar. They spotted Harbin and called out to her.
“Hey, Harbin!” Pringgar used her drill-like tail to wave at her, swinging wildly from left to right.
“Hey, Pringgar. Hey, guys” Harbin came closer to them and gave her greetings. “What are you guys up to?” She asked as this was a rather peculiar pair. Not often you would see Balestra hanging out with the non-rogues.
“Pringgar wanted to become my disciple. I am here to test her skills and see if she is truly fitting to be one.”
“Ehhh, why not join Blackmask and his group of Saboteurs then?”
“Umm… I don’t know. I’m more comfortable being around Analysts… Since my brother was one, I have to mingle with them a lot. I just can’t stand other Saboteurs and their attitude.”
“Ehh, Blackmask isn’t that bad, you should at least give it a go…”
“Nah, it’s fine, I’ve made my choice.”
“I see… well, I won’t argue with that,” Harbin then looked at the triplets that were with the two. She then gave them a deadpan look. “What are you three doing with them then?”
“Yuuko said she wanted to see a Saboteur in action; with their drilling claws and tails and stuff. I’m just tagging along,” Yuuka replied.
“Yup!” Yuuko yelled excitedly.
“I got dragged into this. I actually wanted to get back to sleep,” Yuuki replied.
“...Good luck Senior Balestra. I wish you the best of luck. Also, Pringgar, if you do manage to join, I hope you and Poi get along well. She can be quite handful at times, but she’s a good person!”
“Got it!” Pringgar replied.
Balestra let out an exasperated sigh. “I’ll be the one to decide that. Let’s go, time is precious.”
Before everyone could leave the area, Harbin stopped them and told the group about the plan for the next mission.
Finally arriving at the medical tent, Harbin snuck in, in order to find Medica so that she may inform her about the plan. The task proved to be difficult as the entire tent was filled with Succours. Beautiful men and women who were crowding a Succour; a wingless one with short hair and wearing modest yet somewhat erotic clothing. A cute hairpin in the shape of a butterfly was on the right side of her hair. The hairpin was very familiar, but Harbin could not quite remember where she had seen it before.
The Succours were all giving words of encouragement to Lina and expressed their excitement to repay their debt to her. She looked rather distressed about the matter, but her followers only crowded her further. Every single one of them knows the pain of losing a pair of wings. They wished to help her to the best of their abilities. Even more so, now that she seemed to be recovering from her trauma.
Needless to say, Harbin’s opinion on the Lina was once very negative. Back before the events at Fort Kron, she would always talk down to her and the Analysts, calling them mutts and worthless dogs. Till this day, she never understood why Lina has so many Loyal followers. To Harbin, she was just an inferior Klauna in every way possible. And Klauna was already a pretty bad role model, all things considered.
Still, she can’t hate someone forever. Being close friends with Medica, she had known about Lina’s deeds and why she gained the respect she has. The events that occurred after she had lost her wings made her rather pitiful as well. Although, she seemed to mellow out recently, being much more attentive and quiet in meetings. She also no longer talked down on the others. She was genuinely trying to move forward and be a better person.
‘Perhaps… I should give her another chance…’
The event at the medical tent continued for quite a while. But eventually, it died out and the Succours left the tent in order to proceed with the integration to the Seventh Army. Lina just slumped over on a chair, tired of all the pleasantries with her followers.
“Hey, Medica,” Harbin called out to Medica who was looking at Lina with a small satisfied laugh on her face.
“Harbin! How long have you been here?”
“Hmmm… about an hour or so. You guys looked like you were having fun. So…” Harbin replied.
“Muu… You don’t have to be so shy like that!” Medica said as she made her way to Harbin to give her a small hug.
“E he he,” Harbin let out a sheepish laugh. “How are the new recruits by the way?”
“I don’t think I need to explain it. You saw it yourself. Isn’t that right, Lord Lina?” Medica yelled out to Lina.
“...Somewhat,” Lina replied, looking away from Medica.
“...How are you doing? Captain Lina?” Harbin nervously asked the Succour.
Lina didn’t answer the question, only keeping quiet. Her relationship with Harbin wasn’t that great. They barely talk if ever. But Lina definitely recognized her and her contributions to the army— especially her connection to the general of the army, Klauna.
“...I think I owe you an apology, Analyst,” Lina said after a long silence.
“Eh?” A dumbfounded look was seen on Harbin’s face.
“I’m sorry. I know now how much I mistreated all of you. I’m ashamed that it took me my wings to realise that.”
Harbin was devastated at her apologies. The Lina in front of her was very different from the Lina she knew. The old Lina would never say such words. Instead, she would call her maggot or worm or mutt, with a haughty laugh and a mocking tone.
“Who are you? What have you done to the Captain Lina that I know?!” Harbin yelled out before going in an attack stance.
Lina clicked her tongue at her response. “Gosh dammit, if it’s anything you Analysts always do is question everything. Just accept my apology and be done with it! You are here for a reason are you not? Spill it out.”
And so, Harbin told them the reason she was there: about their next mission and plans.
“... General Klauna sure is bold about her decisions. She talks about playing safe and minimizing risk, and yet she chooses the boldest places to strike,” Medica put her hand over her cheeks and let out a pensive sigh.
“Well, you know what she always says… a standard plan at this point is just a slow defeat, but a crazy one…”
“Can still net a victory if done right. Yes, I know. She’s only ever told me this three times before.”
The two friends then let out a small chuckle together.
“... Harbin was it?” Lina came in and disturbed the two.
“... Can you pass a message to Klauna? I wish to participate in the assault. In the front lines.”
“Eh?!” Medica yelled out in shock.
Lina ignored her underling and stared directly into Harbin’s eyes. “I wish to fight. I don’t want to just stay back in this tent while my followers are out there dying. Even if all I can do is stay at the ground… I know it’s probably a little bit late for me to say that, but I’ve got to live up to their expectations.”
“Captain Lina… Understood. I’ll pass the message to her directly. I’ll make sure she knows of it.”
“...thanks,” Lina blushed and looked away.
With that, Harbin managed to successfully deliver on her task to inform the Seventh Army about the upcoming mission. She was happy to see that everyone’s morale was high and the mood and atmosphere in the camp were rather cheerful. Although, she still kept her excitement levels at a check. This very well could be the last time she would speak to any of them. They were in a war after all. In a very dire situation at that. Despite being happy and talking like everything was fine. She could sense the fear and uncertainty in the camp. It was small and faint but definitely there.
A faint presence of despair.