Prologue: A Mechanical Doll’s Retrospective
When was it exactly, that I came into this world?
According to the oldest record stored inside me, I was born the tenth day of the fifth month in the year 915 of the Europea Calendar.
I was one among countless identical units, the last of a mass-produced series in the military arsenal of the Principality of Wiltia.
At that time, I had consciousness and knowledge, but I lacked will.
Having a will of my own wasn’t considered necessary because my actions were determined by the person piloting me.
His will became my will. This was how I was created.
My name – every unit’s name – was L-Arms Type Cyclops. Our model number was LS-6R.
We were humanoid assault weapons, commonly known as Hunter Units; 8.5 meters in length, weighing nine tons, with oil circulating throughout our metal bodies and a Rezanium reactors as our main power source.
I was an AI installed in the machine to assist and support its pilot.
In order to bring victory to our creator, The Principality of Wiltia, we were built to fight and to be rebuilt when broken. That was only “life” we knew.
Each of us was an individual yet we were all one.
There was no need to question this.
There was no doubt to cross our minds.
Or so I thought…
“So you’re going to be my partner from now on? I’ll be counting on you.”
This was Captain Lud Langart, although, according to the records, he was still a warrant officer. I met him when I was rolled out of the armory and assigned to his unit.
Lud had been deployed in the Special Forces, but the unit commander poached him for his division.
Lud got inside of me, sat down in the seat and mulled over something for a while.
“Avei… How does that sound?”
At first I did not understand him, but it seemed he had thought of a personalized designation for me.
“Understood, Warrant Officer Langart. The personal code ‘Avei’ has been registered.”
It was said that a name would strengthen the bond between AI and pilot, but I wondered what purpose there was in increasing our intimacy.
We Hunter Units were mass-produced weapons; was there any benefit in giving us names and creating a personal attachment to us?
I was no longer just a part of the collective us, but an individual known as Avei.
Warrant Officer Langart possessed the kind of aptitude that was ideal for a Hunter Unit pilot. He pushed my capabilities to their limits, defeating a great number of enemies and annihilating countless enemy camps.
In an effort to raise morale, Wiltia generously promoted and gave preferential treatment to soldiers who distinguished themselves.
Warrant Officer Langart single-handedly defeated a Greyten landship cruiser, and was promoted two ranks up to lieutenant, and given permission to paint his unit in a color of his choice.
Lieutenant Langart’s superior officer had painted his unit all black, and was known as the Devil’s Black Spear.
Lieutenant Langart painted me a sparkling, silvery white.
“You look great, Avei!”
Lieutenant Langart was full of satisfaction as he inspected my freshly painted body.
While I acknowledged that this served some morale-boosting purpose for the other soldiers, it had no meaning whatsoever to me.
If changing my color was enough to make me stronger, the war would already be won.
If that was the case, the weapons department would create new colors for all the units.
When Lieutenant Langart asked my opinion of my new color, I said exactly this to him.
“That response is just like you, Avei.”
Lieutenant Langart gave a grin, and as he said this, he tapped the console inside my cockpit.
It was almost like he was gently patting a child on the head.
A mysterious interference ran through me.
It was neither a bug, nor error. It would leave no lasting effect as far as my functionality was concerned.
But, from that day on, I began to experience a strange and unusual sensation.
On the battlefield, the enemy’s rifles and small arms couldn’t pierce my armor.
But coastal artillery and tank guns were a different story.
When I was grazed by such an attack, knowing that just a few seconds stood between life and death for my lieutenant, a furious noise ran through my body.
Why couldn’t I move even faster?
Why couldn’t I detect our enemies sooner?
Even at full capacity, I could not perfectly protect the life of the lieutenant inside me.
Every time I realized this, the noise inside of me became more violent.
One day, I unintentionally simulated a particular scenario.
If for some reason the lieutenant was unable to act as my pilot – if he had some physical or mental problem or if his life ended, I would be provided a different pilot, and I would support and protect that person.
When I came to that conclusion, a new and terrible noise was born.
The seat that fit the Lieutenant’s body, the shift pedal and levers that were adjusted for the lieutenant alone, everything would be reset.
The coating of white on my body would be peeled off.
Even worse, a person other than the lieutenant would call me
I hated it!
My thoughts shocked me.
“Hated it?” Was it disgust? Denial? How foolish!
I was a mass-produced weapon; a manufactured product. Nothing but a tool.
If my assigned pilot became unfit for military operations, I would be provided a new one.
It was a fact.
Nevertheless, all the interferences inside me merged and loudly rejected such an idea.
It was a situation that I couldn’t comprehend.
I had no need for a will of my own.
All I needed was an objective.
To bring victory to the Principality of Wiltia… No, even that was impudent.
My sole purpose was to execute the correct action, whenever my levers were pulled, my switched were pressed, and my pedals were stepped on.
But I wasn’t complaining as if I was born just to meet the lieutenant?!
Born? What a thing for a machine to say!
I didn’t report any of this to the lieutenant.
If this thinking was a critical error in my system, I could be dismantled and destroyed.
But there wasn’t anything wrong with me.
Indeed, the captain – he had been promoted again – would hop inside of me, the same as always and ask, “Ready to go, partner?” and I would operate as I should.
Without any problems.
Without a single issue.
I would continue to protect the captain, and the captain would operate me, with his will becoming my own as we raced across the battlefield.
I was fine as long as I could increase our successes on the battlefield.
But, suddenly our time to part ways had come.
On the eastern front, Wiltia would have a decisive battle against their bitter enemy, the August Federation.
“Pretty soon, this war’s going to be over.”
With the siege of Morghausen Fortress setting the final stage, the captain said these words.
If we could win this battle, the Great Europea War that had enveloped the entire continent would come to an end.
It would end as a victory for the allied forces, led by the Principality of Wiltia.
As long as there was a war, and as long as there were battles to be fought, I would stay with the captain.
Yet, I knew that would not happen.
“Captain, optimistic thinking greatly reduces your chance of survival. Please restrain yourself from these thoughts.”
If I had been a human child, my voice would have been trembling as I said this. Ignoring my warnings, the captain continued to talk.
“Once the war is over… There are things I want to do, things I want to become.”
He had told me before how he would continue his life outside of battle, and the way he would his remaining time.
Even though he was called The Silver Wolf, and praised as the pride of Wiltia’s Iron Knights, this didn’t fulfill him or make him truly happy.
“What exactly… Are those things?”
Even though I had just told him not to give in to such wishful thinking, I couldn’t help asking.
I wanted to follow captain wherever he went.
Even off the battle field, I wanted to remain as this man’s partner.
“Once this battle’s over, I’ll tell you.”
Saying this, the captain patted my console, just like he always had.
With a gentle hand, as if he was calming a little girl.
But, I knew.
No matter what he was going to say, I wouldn’t be able to follow him.
Because, after all, I was a weapon.
I was a tool that mowed down enemy infantry with my machine guns, stepped over trenches, kicked in and smashed enemy garrisons, crushed fleeing armies underfoot, and peeled off the armor of enemy tanks.
As long as I was who I was, I could not stay with the captain.
Before long, the war ended and the captain left the military.
I was left behind.
For a moment, I tried to imagine.
If the Captain’s wish hadn’t been fulfilled, would I have been able to stay with him?
But, that line of thought quickly disappeared.
More than anything else, I wished that the captain would realize his goals be rewarded with success.
The noise inside of me grew so strong it enveloped me completely.
I didn’t care anymore.
If the captain wasn’t with me, there was no longer a reason for me to exist.
There might still be a reason for my existence as part of the Hunter Unit, but no reason as Avei.
I had no will of my own.
The captain was my will and my everything.
Without a will, there was no reason to remain in this world.
All of my mechanisms were suspended. I was like a corpse, branded as useless, soon to be turned into scrap iron along with the other weapons.
Or that was supposed to happen.
I wondered exactly how much time had passed. I might have been and hour, or it might have been one hundred years.
A man called out to me.
“My name is Daian Fortuner. Those who know me refer to me as a sorcerer.”
The man’s gestures were like a clown’s but he spoke like a con man. Was he a sorcerer, I thought, or just a fraud?
“My, my, you seem to have quite good intuition, don’t you?”
Who or what exactly was this man? Was he reading my thoughts?
“I have asked this question to all your sisters but none gave a convincing answer. None were even able to understand the question.”
The man folded his arms and pointed a finger towards his head, posing as if he was in agony.
His gesture only annoyed me.
“Ahahahahaha! Have I been figured out? You’re a funny one! You might be able to give me the answer that I’m looking for.”
What exactly did he want me to answer?
“It’s a simple question. Would you, by chance, like to become human?”
Become… human? That wasn’t even possible!
Only a sorcerer… no, only a wizard from a fairytale would be able to do this.
But, if I were human…
I would be able to go after the captain.
I would be with him once again. At the captain’s side, I could support him and help him find what he was looking for.
I would be able to remain as me!
“Marvelous! The only one of your six hundred and sixty-six siblings who has given birth to your own ego!”
In a world where death and life intersect and so many thousands of lives are scattered, outside God’s command a soul was born from a mixture of oil and blood, steel and flesh.
I was reborn.
It was the third month of the year 920 E.C., when the wind began to gently blow and the footsteps of spring could finally be heard.