surface of the ruins. It is not
a relic of the past, but ruins
that suddenly burst forth from
the womb of the earth.
Emitting a sound that one would think
it's crying like a baby, the edifice
screeches and surrounds itself in
smoke, as if cradled by it.
The smoke does not let up. It smolders
in the nasal cavities, and visibility
is far from satisfactory. But gradually
things become visible.
Twelve seconds later...
Heidern stares at the smoke before
him. A single shadow is at its side,
as if cuddling next to it.
Heidern continues staring at the
sight and calls to the figure that
is most likely one of his soldiers.
"Is that you, Ralf?"
The shadow begins to assume the form
"My status report, sir."
His voice is steady but a quick glance
at him makes it apparent that he's
pretty banged up inside.
"How did things go?"
"We recovered everyone. Clark and
Leona both suffered external injuries
but wounds are nothing serious."
The exchange lasts exactly twenty
"That's going to swell up like a
Ralf doesn't follow him.
"I can see it."
By following the trajectory of Heidern's
stare, Ralf finally realizes what
he's talking about. The smoke subsides.
Heidern does not alter his expression.
But a pained grimace seizes Ralf's
face. He recalls an unpleasant memory.
The cause of it appears before his
eyes once again.
Following the smoke is a huge hole.
Straight underfoot there is a huge,
gaping hole as if some giant object
had fallen from the sky and tore
a hole in the earth before coming
to a stop.
And farther down there is a "lid"
that fits the size of the hole perfectly.
A few figures are already standing
near this lid, performing some sort
"Is that it?"
Ralf points exactly at the position
where the figures are engaged in
Under the "lid" there is yet another
hole, and most of the workers are
gathered around it.
"The very ground is crumbling. The
thing that covered us from above
was that lid. That hole had the lid
on it that we opened to escape is.
"What sort of condition was it in?"
"The direct hit of the cannon shell
did quite a lot of damage to the
ground. It completely smashed it
in. I was totally focused on the
incident that was taking place right
after I came to."
A member of the survey team approaches
the two who swivel to look back.
"I have some news. We investigated
below the "lid," but we found no
survivors. The only things left behind
was the disk we obtained here."
His emotions increase the length
of Ralph's stride.
An enraged Ralf simultaneously appears
in the squad member's eyes. The disk
he holds out is knocked into the
air and it lands with a plunk.
"No way! No survivors, you say? Where
are the bodies? Have you found any?!"
Ralf's sticks his face into the squad
member's again, violently bobbing
it in and out of the latter's field
A feeling of overwhelming pressure
seizes the squad member's neck and
his vision clouds up. The only thing
that is clear while in his gradually
fading consciousness is the clear
reverberations of Heidern's voice.
As he picks up the knocked-away disk,
Heidern restrains Ralf with a glance.
"Let's hear the details. You weren't
able to find any survivors, uh, I
Ralf realizes his excessive transgression
as his superior officer puts a stop
to his folly. The squad member opens
his mouth even though he appears
on the verge of collapsing.
"I...am...sorry. I take back what I said.
We were unable to find any survivors.
But a body ws found."
As Ralf once again begins to crowd
the squad member, Heidern puts himself
between him and the hapless investigator,
then continues his questioning.
"Were they male? ...Female?"
"Any special characteristics? Did
you check it out?"
"Did you say...special characteristics?"
Hit with an unexpected question,
he goes through the fragments of
memory and information among which
remain none to answer the question.
The squad member takes out a memo
on which various fragments of information
were listed and begins his report,
regaining most of his composure.
"I'll report the information that
we have ascertained at the present
time. The sex of the corpse was male,
as I mentioned before. One area of
the body was significantly injured,
but the body was for the most part
unscathed. As far as his clothing
is concerned, he was wearing a coat
equipped with some form of armaments.
And, this...I don't know whether I
should mention it...there was something
Heidern answers the pausing squad
"Was it his face?"
"Yes, sir. Have you heard about it,
"Good job, soldier. Continue your
Heidern's words drown out the squad
member's question. No, Heidern intentionally
cuts off him off. Appearing upset,
the squad member returns to his mission
while Heidern presents Ralf with
"Does this look familiar?"
The disk in Heidern's hand still
bears the code on it that Ralf had
seen once before.
Ralf's memory is as clear as ever.
Just whose disk is this?
Ralf, however, denies his impulse
to utter the answer.
Heidern cannot help but notice that
the expression on Ralf's face clearly
gives away that reluctance.
"This must be Whip's disk, isn't
There is no reply. Heidern takes
this as an affirmation.
"I'll continue to survey the site.
I want you to analyze the contents
of this disk. Whip was also a member
of the intelligence division. Maybe
she obtained some intel before her
Heidern ventures to say what Ralf
could not bring himself to do. Heidern
holds the disk in front of Ralf's
eyes as he approaches, as if trying
to negate this possibility.
"It's an order."
As Heidern passes him the disk and
begins to leave, Ralf, in a rare
moment, stops his superior officer
with a thinly voiced appeal that
seems to squeeze out through his
mouth from deep down in his throat.
"Sir...may I ask you a favor?"
Heidern does not look back. Ralf
continues, ignoring this reaction.
"I want you to assign me to the investigation."
An instant passes. Naturally, there
is no response. Ralf reflexively
grabs Heidern's arm before he can
"I beg you."
He increases the strength of his
grip. His hand is covered with injuries.
This hand speaks volumes to what
appalling measures Ralf must have
gone to escape.
Heidern places his own over this
injured one. But Heidern's gesture
is not one of approval to Ralf's
request; no, just the opposite. Heidern
tightens his slightly more powerful
grip on Ralf's arm.
An chilling sound issues from it.
Coupled with this unexpected surprise,
a pain heretofore unknown to Ralf
runs through his limb.
Heidern looks down at Ralf who has
dropped to his knees.
And even farther above the two, the
rays of the sun suddenly begin to
look upon the two through the spaces
in the clouds.
Ralf looks at Heidern's face, but
the expression on the face above
his conveniently hidden by the sunlight
behind him; Ralf cannot confirm his
The increasing shadow of Heidern's
grows colder than ever, and Ralf
finally opens his mouth.
"I cannot very well entrust a survey
mission to a squad member who has
not satisfactorily recovered from
his injuries. Analyze the disk!"
"You don't know for sure! You don't
know she's dead!"
He knows his behavior is vain.
But for Ralf this action was the
only method before him.
As before, Ralf is unable to discern
Indifferent words are spun from the
"Yes. That's why I'm saying we should
set things straight. That disk just
may be the answer to your hopes."
Ralf is shocked at thisé—shocked at
himself for concluding that Whip
must be dead.
And Heidern had realized his fatalism
too. Heidern already begins to walk
Ralf is unable to pursue him any
Just how long was he there?
Without giving any time for thought,
Ralf remains here kneeling.
The sunlight from on high has become
more intense, making the contours
of the huge hole that spreads before
his eyes more vivid.
The hand that holds the disk.
The hole that widens its maw before
Something snaps within Ralf.
Ralf beats the ground. He hits it
hard. Again. And again.
The strength that wells up from the
anger at himself moves to his fists,
showing no signs of abating. His
fist aches, as if it is about to
be torn apart.
Along with the pain comes the realization
that this is his atonement for assuming
the worst about Whip.
But for Ralf, however, this is not
the time to rationalize his thoughts.
Unbeknownst to him, his fists covered
in blood, are no longer red but instead
encrusted in sticky mud.
In stark contrast to the serene landscape,
Ralf's screams usher forth to break