Strike Witches:Volume1 Chapter2
Suomus was a small country in Northern Europe with a population of 4 million.
In terms of territory, it was a bit smaller than the Fuso Empire.
This huge territory, with its relatively small population, was mostly made up of forests containing pines and other conifers. It was also particularly famous for its many lakes. Those lakes would freeze over during the winter season, and would be used as temporary landing fields. That was the reason why Kauhava Air Force Base, which had invited volunteer troops from several countries, had been built beside several beautiful lakes.
After five long months at sea, the Awamaru had docked at the military harbor in Brest, Gallia. Tomoko and Haruka had then boarded a transport plane, and had arrived at Kauhava Air Force Base at last.
As soon as they stepped off of the Karlsländer transport plane, they were shivering from the biting cold.
Haruka hugged herself tightly, as she shuffled her feet. The two of them were draped in heavy military issue coats, but the coats did little to help.
It was November 10, well into autumn. However, Kauhava Air Force Base was already completely enveloped in a wintry façade, a world of snow as far as the eye could see.
Tomoko sighed, a frosty cloud forming, as she looked over the place which would be her battlefield.
“A country of snow, huh...”
“Shou-i, it’s cold, but the snow is pretty, isn’t it?”
Haruka, her cheeks as red as apples, murmured happily, even as she shivered. Tomoko scooped up a bit of the snow near her feet, and studied it.
“I wonder if the magic engine of the Ki-27 can handle this.”
“Wow... I was really impressed by the southern seas when I first saw them after joining the Navy, but this country is just as amazing... I’m happy I came.”
Haruka looked at Tomoko, a wide smile on her face. She was hoping that the person she idolized would be sharing her thoughts, but...
“Who knows if the engine will work at the stated performance in this extreme cold.”
Haruka sighed softly. It seemed as if Tomoko did not feel anything at all, even with such a beautiful snowy landscape in front of her.
A snowmobile painted in white camouflage colors pushed its way through the snow to where the two were standing. The door opened, and an intelligent looking woman wearing glasses stepped out of the vehicle.
She turned to face Tomoko, and saluted.
“Welcome to Kauhava Air Force Base. I am Flight Lieutenant Häkkinen, part of the command staff at the base.”
As soon as Haruka heard ‘Flight Lieutenant’, she immediately stood to attention and saluted.
“Fu-Fu-Fu-Fuso Imperial Navy, Flight Sergeant Sakomizu Haruka!”
Next, Tomoko saluted as well, with feigned politeness. Although Häkkinen had a higher rank, there was a touch of arrogance in Tomoko’s actions.
“Fuso Imperial Army, Pilot Officer Anabuki Tomoko.”
F/L Häkkinen’s eyebrow raised slightly at the name.
“We welcome the arrival of an ace like yourself.”
Tomoko expressed her gratitude, a touch of hostility etched into her words.
The snowmobile rumbled off, and brought Tomoko on a shaky journey to the briefing room.
It was a dilapidated building, what looked like a former warehouse. Inside were two kerosene stoves, and a number of chairs surrounding them.
There was a large blackboard at the front, and desks which looked like ones that might be found at school. On the blackboard, a message was written in both Suomish and Britannian, which said ‘Suomus Independent Volunteer Air Squadron Command Center’. Tomoko, having received officer training, and Haruka, being a Navy pilot, were both able to read those words easily. It seemed as if the language that would be used would be Britannian.
“Our squadron commander is late, isn’t she.”
Haruka mumbled to herself in her seat. Her raccoon-dog familiar was sitting near by. Next to her, Tomoko was looking bored with her elbows on the desk, a frown set on her face.
The squadron commander of the squadron in the Suomus Air Force that Tomoko and Haruka were assigned to was supposed to be coming any second.
“Don’t you wonder what kind of person our commander is going to be? I hope she isn’t scary.”
However, Tomoko did not reply. She seemed to be somewhat irritated.
Three more young girls were sitting together with them. All of them were Westerners.
Each of them had a different kind of familiar with them, and they were all waiting for the squadron commander in their own way.
Haruka had placed herself as close to the firewood stove as possible. To her right, a young blonde girl was reading a book silently. She was dressed in a Karlsländer Air Force uniform, and a badger was sitting in her lap. Probably her familiar.
She was slightly younger than Haruka. What could she be reading?
Haruka craned her neck around to try and read as well, her interest piqued. However, she gave up when saw that it was written in Karlslaendisch.
“What are you reading?” She tried to ask, but received no answer. The girl had all of her attention on the book, the bright blue eyes behind her glasses never straying from the pages. Haruka’s curiosity increased, and as soon as she tried to repeat her question louder, the badger in the girl’s lap glared at her. Its eyes were telling her not to disturb its master.
Next to the girl with glasses, another girl with splendid golden hair was sitting. She had golden hair just like the young Karlsländer girl, but this girl’s hair reached nearly down to her waist. She was holding a bottle with some black liquid in it. She had been happily taking large gulps from that bottle for a while.
Though she was still a young girl, she had a rather voluminous body. She was wearing a sharp Liberian Navy dress uniform, but her chest looked particularly snug. On her head, there was an animal that Haruka had never seen before. It was covered in brown fur, except for its face which was white. Its tail was striped in black and brown fur.
With astonishment written over her face, Haruka look at what was most likely the Liberian girl’s familiar. As the girl noticed Haruka’s gaze, she beamed a brilliant smile like a Hollywood star. She leaned forward as Haruka returned her smile hesitantly.
“Hey y’all, where’re you from?”
She spoke in Britannian but with a strange accent.
“The Fuso Empire,” Haruka answered. The girl looked puzzled, still smiling widely.
"From where? Where is it?"
“The Far East, I guess you would say?”
“Oh! Next to Florida, right?”
The girl laughed out a ‘Sorry!’, and offered the bottle she was holding to Haruka.
“Want to drink some cola?”
“Eh, no thanks,” Haruka said, as she turned down the Liberian’s offer.
Next to her was a girl with silver hair, wearing a black motorcycle jacket. A dog with a long body and short fur was sprawled by her feet. Haruka wondered if that strange looking dog was the girl’s familiar. The girl was pretty, but she looked troubled by something, her forehead covered in wrinkles. The girl left an impression that she was hard to get close to. She had been smoking cigarettes non-stop. The girl turned to face Haruka as she noticed her incessant staring.
Haruka dipped her head in greeting, but the girl went back to staring into the distance soon. Her attitude seemed to being saying that she had no interest in Haruka whatsoever.
“There are all sorts of people here, right?”
Haruka turned to face Tomoko again, but she had her gaze fixed to the front, while she grumbled to herself, deep in her own thoughts.
“Is something wrong?”
Tomoko chewed on her lip at the question. Haruka started in surprise at her behavior. She had never expected Tomoko, who was even known as Tomoe-Gozen of the Fuso Sea, to act in such a childish manner.
A blush crept up on Haruka’s cheeks, when suddenly Tomoko swung around to face her.
“Eh? No, um, nothing! Yes!”
She shook her head from side to side. She couldn’t tell the person she idolized that her chest was throbbing because of her. To have her chest throbbing because of another woman... Haruka silently told herself off for being weird. It was a matter that she most definitely wanted to avoid.
“Oh,” Tomoko replied, and she promptly fell back into her own thoughts, her muttering starting up once again. Haruka looked up at Tomoko, a bit worried.
In any case, it was late. When would she get here? F/L Häkkinen had told them all just five minutes ago to wait for a little bit, while she brought the squadron commander over, but more than twenty minutes had already passed. It would have been an unbelievable situation in the Fuso Imperial Navy, where everything had to be done five minutes before.
Even though they had been made to wait in such a manner, nobody seemed to have noticed. Haruka thought to herself that she must have come to a place with some amazing people indeed.
I wonder if something happened? As Haruka began to worry... Bam! The door suddenly banged open.
A pretty young girl with golden hair so light it was nearly white came in, balancing a stack of paper. Somehow she had managed to open the door while carrying that bundle.
She overbalanced, and tripped splendidly, the stack of paper she had been holding flying all over the briefing room.
“Hiaaaaaah!” She shouted miserably.
F/L Häkkinen entered the room right after the girl.
“What are you doing?”
She asked, as she stared down at the light haired girl on the floor.
“Both of my hands were full... I thought I’d open the door a bit more, but I lost my balance, and...”
She stood up uneasily, and started to hurriedly pick up the scattered sheets of paper.
“Just leave the documents for now, please introduce yourself first.” The girl nodded in response to F/L Häkkinen.
She shuffled about on her feet for a bit, before suddenly standing bolt upright. She then scribbled something on the palm of her hand, and brought it to her mouth quickly. The girl seemed to be extremely nervous.
She took a deep breath, and stepped in front of the blackboard.
“Welcome to Suomus. Allow me to express our gratitude to you, volunteer soldiers from countries around the world, for coming from so far away to our aid. Eh, ummm, I am Flying Officer Elma Leivonen, and starting from today, I will be fighting together with you. And, so... what do I say now?”
Embarrassed, her gaze dropped to the floor as she trailed off, and she took surreptitious glances at F/L Häkkinen, who waved her away, as if telling her to get on with her introduction.
“That is... well, I’m still wracked by uncertainties about all this, but, well, I suppose I’m the squadron commander? The squadron commander of this Independent Volunteer Air Squadron, ah, which is the name of the squadron that all of you are assigned to. I wish we could have gotten a cuter name, though. Maybe the Penguin Squadron or something. Tehe.”
“Ahaahaa! Penguins can’t fly, I know!”
F/O Elma brought her hand up to her mouth quickly, as if to say “Oh no!” She had probably not been joking, and had meant that seriously. Her shoulders slumped.
“What am I saying... on the proud day our Independent Squadron is being established too... sniff...”
Haruka watched as the poor squadron commander stood in front of them. She looked like the type who always had trouble and disappointment surrounding her. Haruka felt like the two of them were similar in a way.
F/O Elma suddenly forced herself to smile, as she tried to cheer herself up.
“And there we have it, I’ll be your, well, squadron commander, and um, err... let’s all do our very best to get along!”
She clenched two fists in front of her chest, bending forward at her waist.
Nobody clapped, or responded in any way. Tomoko and the silver-haired girl stared at F/O Elma with cold eyes. The tiny Karlsländer girl with glasses had been reading her book the entire time, and the Liberian with the huge chest was humming and doing her nails.
F/O’s forced good cheer went to pieces in seconds, and she turned to F/L Häkkinen with tears in her eyes.
“Flight Lieutenant Häkkinen, I told you I can’t do it~~ Why did they ever choose me to be the squadron commander~~?”
F/L Häkkinen lifted her glasses, and answered coldly in a firm voice.
“There are no other witches available.”
“How could that be~~”
F/O Elma mumbled miserably, and her shoulders slumped. She was shaking lightly. Haruka began to worry that she was crying, but she was not.
“Optimism, optimism. Positive thinking, positive thinking.”
She mumbled that phrase over and over like a charm, and suddenly raised her face.
“Well then, introductions! Let’s try that!”
She seemed to have a very innocent personality.
“Then, let’s start from the left!”
The silver-haired girl stood up without a word, her footsteps echoing across the room.
“Britannian Air Force, Elizabeth Beurling. My rank is Pilot Officer.”
She spoke sourly, and sat down immediately after she finished. In a troubled voice, F/O Elma tried to draw the girl out more.
“You know, we’re all going to be good friends, so we need to know more about you... Err... like the food you like. Or if you’re dating anyone, or bad habits or special skills.”
F/O Elma began listing out all sorts of questions.
“Your Striker model?”
F/L Häkkinen prompted Beurling.
“The Hurricane.” Buerling answered simply.
“An excellent Striker.” F/L Häkkinen murmured in reply.
“Umm, well then, the next person, please!”
The girl with the huge chest beamed a wide smile, and stood up.
“I’m Katharine O’Hare, from the Liberian Navy! Nice meeting y’all!”
She began waving both hands merrily.
“My special skill is this!”
As she said that, Katharine drew a revolver from its holster at her waist. Holding it near her waist, she fanned the hammer with her left hand, firing round after round.
Everyone in the room dove to the floor.
Bang! Bang! Bang! Bang! Bang! Bang!'
The loud report of the gunshots echoed out across the room.
“Oh! Don’t be frightened! Those are blanks! I use 'em for greetings!”
Katharine spun her revolver around her finger like in a Western, and put the gun back in her holster.
“There are large holes in the blackboard, however.” F/L Häkkinen answered as coolly as ever, as she fingered the bullet holes in the blackboard.
“Sorry! I must have made a mistake!”
Katharine answered in a sweet voice, and laughed happily.
“Er, errrr... Next!”
Somewhat desperately, F/O Elma pointed to the Karlsländer girl sitting in the chair in the center, who looked like the youngest person in the group.
The girl firmly closed the book she had been reading, and placed it carefully into the bag at the side of her chair. Then, she took out a worn notebook from the bag.
Everyone there was watching her, wondering what the notebook was for. The girl raised the notebook up to eye level slowly.
“I am Flight Sergeant Ursula Hartmann, form the Karlsländer Air Force. The motto of all Karlsländer soldiers is ‘learn everything from your textbooks’. Therefore, I always act according to the guidelines set out in the ‘Karlsländer Air Force Curriculum’ I have here.”
F/O Elma opened her mouth uncertainly into a wide 'O' as she watched the young girl.
“The Karlsländer Air Force Curriculum?”
“But we’re in Suomus...”
Ursula answered, standing stock still.
“I am a soldier of the Karlsländer Air Force. That will not change, no matter if we are at the South Pole, or at the end of the sky. Therefore, Madam Commander, I would be pleased to allow you to peruse this.”
The girl handed the notebook to F/O Elma.
F/O Elma flipped through the pages quickly, but as it was all written in Karlslaendisch, she could never hope to read it. She sighed, and placed the book on top of the desk nearby.
She looked at the printouts scattered across the floor sadly. It was the Suomus Air Force curriculum, translated into Britannian, but she suspected the girl would never read it.
“Erm, then the next person, please.”
“Y-Yes, ma’am!” Haruka stood up nervously.
“Fuso Imperial Navy, Flight Sergeant Sakomizu Haruka! My hobbies are, um, well, I’m not very good at it, but I like to make snacks. Dango... I suppose you don’t know what that is. It’s a snack from the Fuso Empire, which is made up of rice flour and shaped into round balls like this. They are a bit chewy, and very good, so I think I can make some for all of you soon. Um, and then, I also do archery.”
After having said so much... she finally noticed that F/O Elma was crying, tears streaming down her face.
“Did, did I say something wrong?”
“Of course not, I’m just so moved. There’s actually someone normal here...”
Haruka realized for the first time just how unbelievable the place she had come was.
On the other hand, Tomoko was...
Shaking in rage.
What is this place?
They’re just a bunch of worthless fools. I’ll never be able to catch up to the troops in Karlsland, not while I’m with this lot.
What can I do?
This has to change
I will change this.
These thoughts drifted across Tomoko’s mind.
First of all, she would have to train this group up, so that they could at least be of some use. I can’t have them getting in my way during a real battle, Tomoko thought to herself.
“Well then, would our last person...” As F/O Elma trailed off, Tomoko stood up briskly, her determination showing in her actions. She had to take the initiative right away.
“Fuso Imperial Army, Anabuki Tomoko. My specialty is dogfighting.”
Even though we all came here to go to war, not a single one of them mentioned any combat proficiencies. That just annoys me to no end. We’re not here to play around!
F/O Elma began clapping enthusiastically.
“Oh yes, Flight Lieutenant Anabuki here is an ace who shot down seven enemy craft over the Fuso Sea! It’s reassuring to have you here! I hope you can teach us from your experience!”
Tomoko replied to F/O Elma, who was beaming brightly.
“Then could I interpret that as you allowing me to be in charge of our training?”
F/O Elma started in surprise at Tomoko’s seriousness. She turned to look at F/L Häkkinen worriedly.
“I don’t see why not. It seems she’s the only one with real combat experience after all.”
“Then, we’ll leave it to you.”
F/O Elma beamed at Tomoko once again.
“Well then, with the introductions over, it isn’t much, but we’ve prepared a small welcoming reception for all of you.”
“Wow! When you say welcoming, I hope that means food and drink!”
Katharine jumped up happily.
“We have it all arranged! Then, if you’ll all follow me this way...” F/O Elma said as she started to guide the group, when Tomoko stepped in front of her.
“Let’s leave the welcoming reception for later.”
“Do you think this is any time to be having a banquet, when we have no idea when the Neuroi might attack?”
F/O Elma stepped back quickly with a startled squeal under Tomoko’s glare. She’s scary.
“B-But... you’ve come all this way, so...”
“We came here to go to war. We came here to fight back against the Neuroi. And I came here to show the world what I can do.”
“But...” As F/O Elma shuffled about uncertainly, Tomoko glared at her again.
“You did say that you would leave training to me, didn’t you?”
F/O Elma answered immediately, in a way that made it hard to tell just who the superior officer was.
“Then I’ll do as I see fit. Squadron, equip your Strikers and assemble at the airfield.”
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