Before being named San Martilia, 55 years before now, this region was called "Tsunebino."
In Amatsukami, it means, "the forever cloudless plains." As its name suggests, it was a clear, beautiful plain, and until the Levahmians passed the central ocean and invaded, it had only been inhabited by some poor fishing villages.
Overcoming the central ocean, the Holy Levahm Empire reigned over the western continent, and the Imperial Amatsukami, the eastern continent. The culture, art, and schooling of both great powers became mixed here, on San Martilia -a Levahmian autonomous region on Amatsukami territory like a floating island -and had become a blend very much unlike that Intercontinental trading capital, Rio de Este.
"That's why this city, with its mix of Amatsuvian and Levahmians, is a very unnatural sight to those of each country, is what Captain Domingo meant."
Seated in the carriage and wearing a plain, dark red dress, the tutor replies. Despite the constant danger of biting her tongue because of the rough surface of the road, the tutor raised the bridge of her glasses with her index finger, and unleashed cold, pointed words to the girl facing her.
Fana del Moral let the words slide past without breaking her emotionless fa?ade. Looking away from the tutor, she gazed out the carriage window, at Rio de Este's sunset. Below the indigo-blue July sky, the solemn, stone-built city lined either side of the large road, and was lighted in brass by the falling sunlight.
For Fana, who'd been born and raised here, it was a normal sight. But a certain Levahmian regarded Rio de Este as a "Toy City." As if it weren't real, but rather a model. The towering white stone wall reflected the evening sun, and bounced back a golden hue. Every passing building was quite magnificent, but you could also feel a sort of coldness, as they also brushed aside every passer-by.
A steeple so tall that if you were to look up, your hat would fall off, a trust bank covered with white cosmetic mortar, an austere victory memorial supported at the front by a row of columns, a town hall made of smooth, simple brick, and to its side a general public theater adorned with beautiful ornaments. Many magnificent pieces of architecture jostled for space on either side of the carriage.
And in front of these: a wandering salesman and his mobile soba store, a drunk hunched over, a wild dog, a cat, a crow corpse, Amatsuvian staring at the carriage in envy, an orphan covered in rags, a middle-aged prostitute. All these inhabitants of the shadows reminded observers that this used to be Amatsuvian territory.
Before the war, Levahmians wearing proper clothing used to strut around this road, but now, when the sun begins to set, poor Amatsuvian stream out of who-knows-where and start grouping up. Likely if a middle-class Levahmian walked these streets, they would immediately be attacked and stripped. You could still see flashes of the beauty that once was, but the air as a whole felt heavy, sickly, and stale. People sat by the road, or lay on their sides, and you could spot some Levahmians among them. They're people who lost their jobs because the funds that used to come into the city were cut.
The root cause of the stagnation was this unfavorable war.
Just half-a-year earlier, this city was like a dagger to the throat of Amatsukami, but now it's just stuck in the middle of enemy territory, and with no place to escape it'd simply become an island on its own.
The Amatsukami Air Division had cut through the Levahmian camp's communications lines, and was constantly fighting over airspace with the Levahmian Eastern Air, including that of San Martilia. If the Eastern Air Division were to fall, then the Levahmians of this city would become like mice in a bag, with no place to run.
Fana glanced upward. She saw the dusk sky, framed by the silhouettes of buildings.
Two transportation ships cruised away at low altitude. The ash-silver bodies reflected the sunset. They were probably headed for the border. Would the soldiers inside be able to return home?
Right now, the Amatsukami Fourth Ground Division was in occupation of the border and its surrounding areas. The moment the San Martilia airspace was taken from Levahmian hands, with one word from the Amatsukami emperor, roughly 120,000 ground troops would come storming in, in tandem with the air fleet. That would be the curtain call for the 55 years of San Martilia history. The gloom and the tenacious negativity inflicted on the Amatsuvian by the Levahmians for the better half of the century, would simply shift to those with no place to run. She didn't want to imagine the sort of hell that would befall this place.
"Are you listening, my Lady?"
At those words, Fana's gloomy profile snapped to attention, then turned to the tutor.
No emotion could be seen on Fana's face. She looked neither unapologetic nor defiant. It was like speaking to a wall.
The tutor closed her eyes, then pushed her glasses up again. Thirty years of hammering etiquette into noble ladies as her livelihood. With just one slender female arm, she'd straightened out so many failures, so many girls with energy and no heads, enough that she'd even been invited to the emperor's dinner parties.
Foolish children you wanted to strangle. Strong-willed, independent children, children who had problems with concentration and mental strength. Their numbers were so large she’d even contemplated writing a book on the difficulties of teaching them proper etiquette, but to this day she’d continued the job because of the satisfaction she’d feel with every success.
But Fana del Moral, the girl sitting in front of her, was the biggest problem and worst nightmare over her 30 years of tutoring.
She was 18. Born into the renowned House del Moral. The only daughter of Diego del Moral, the governor of San Martilia.
And… the future empress of Levahm.
The girl destined to marry the emperor.
She was already the fiancée of the current imperial prince, Carlo Levahm, and it was arranged that she would cross over to the western continent in six months' time for the formal marriage.
Emperor Figaro Levahm, loving the grandiose, wanted to make this wedding more gaudy than any in the past, and had started hiring slews of performers, artists, and architects to prepare for the wedding. If the handsome imperial prince and the lovely noble lady were to be married in a beautiful, dazzling wedding, the country would be sure to overflow with blessing. The ceremony must be so incredible that the darkening feelings from the war would be blown away. That's why the tutor's job was so important.
But it was difficult dealing with Fana. Extremely difficult. Her interior and exterior were unreal. Especially her looks.
Abnormal beauty makes onlookers feel inferior.
The tutor struggled with this. These thirty years, she'd tutored enough students to go through all of her fingers three times over, but Fana was the first time she'd felt in danger of being worn down by a student.
It was possibly too strange to say it, but Fana del Moral was too beautiful.
A certain poet was said to have described Fana's looks as "comparable to the losing one's way in the absolute light," and that probably wasn't an exaggeration. Actually, you could even tilt your head to the side, wondering if that description was even enough.
This Fana, sitting across from the tutor, was like a work of art, created by God with all of God's creative and imaginative strength.
As someone made more like the nose crud of God, the tutor couldn't help but fall in love with the sight of absolute beauty. She was on such a different dimension that there was no space for anything like envy, and she simply would find herself with jaws agape, soul sucked away by God's true strength.
Her silver hair, long enough to reach her waist if let down, was raised and ornamented with a coral hairpin, and below the hair was an even brighter silver-white eye.
The eyes, shaded by long, silver eyelashes, glowed with such light that it seemed like stars had moved into them, and it would feel like magnificent forms were taking turns reflecting in them.
If you weren't careful, you'd be sucked into Fana's eyes. That's how deep they were. A fragile, fleeting beauty that was like the thin film of ice covering a lake at the onset of spring, like it would crack with a sound if you were to touch it.
And pure, healthy, milk-colored skin. Thin, rose-colored lips. Her seductive, voluptuous body, so flawless in a bath, was now covered in a grape-wine colored dress, snugly and modestly. But no matter how much clothing tried to hide physical attractiveness, it would seem like fiery sparks came forth from her silhouette. Any onlookers would be overcome with a supernatural feeling, of wanting to touch her, yet feeling unworthy, as if she were otherworldly, and had come from some mysterious shore.
When Fana walked through the street, passerby would run into gas lamps, or fall off the road, or get run over by carriages. When Fana climbed stairs, young, middle-aged, and old would come tumbling from higher steps, having slipped off. And this wasn't limited to men. Women, too, would misplace a foot, then come tumbling down with bedazzled looks. It was so dangerous that as of late, it'd become customary to surround Fana with a wall of people whenever she had the need to climb stairs. Most people hearing this would shrug it off as a joke, but it was no lie that people were known for falling from the top of stairs upon seeing Fana.
And the things Fana wore were also magnificent.
Fifty years ago House del Moral blazed a path from the capital Esmeralda to Rio de Este, then founded a trading capital off the power of a grand airship, raking in enough capital to turn it into essentially a small country. It shouldn't be a surprise that the Lady of House del Moral would be adorned with expensive ornaments, but it was still abnormal how much money Duke Diego had spent adorning his beloved daughter.
House del Moral, having essentially formulated in just two generations, was a newcomer to the Levahm imperial court. This meant that compared to the stars of the court, they lacked history and lineage. Diego wanted to solidify House del Moral's standing in the court, and so wanted to wed Fana to a deeply rooted and powerful family. Thus Diego spent enough money that "Fana's jewelry would be able to buy an entire fleet," and the gold, silver, and gems numbered so many that she would never wear the same thing on consecutive days. Plus, esteemed designers were entrusted with fitting her every day, so that it was never in poor taste, but in fact specifically calculated to bring out the most of her beauty.
On top of these things, in order to prevent other would-be suitors from taking place at her side, it was determined that any dress of hers that had been seen by others was never to be worn again. And truthfully, no matter how much of a dramatic impact one may have had, the tutor could not remember ever having seen it again. The Fana-exclusive dressing room on the third floor of the del Moral household was home to at least 2,000 dresses, rivaling three months' worth of salary for a middle-class citizen, and that number was sure to keep rising.
Fana’s physique and personal appearance were so overwhelming that, skipping the deeply rooted and powerful families, she'd shot through the heart of the imperial prince, Carlo Levahm. It was a wedding pushed strongly by the prince himself. Duke Diego's wishes had come to fruition. Once tied to the imperial family, the status of House del Moral was promised. Moreover, as a link between the imperial family and the common-folk, many enterprises and investors came forward, wanting to use the opportunity to spread their businesses. This money was in turn invested into Fana, and her beauty kept soaring to new heights. All that was left was the smooth completion of the wedding ceremony, and Fana needed to be imbued with proper etiquette for that.
It was time for a veteran of dealing with foolish noble daughters, ladies who were not comfortable dealing with social norms. The tutor of 30 years' experience.
But Fana's looks made the tutor of a thousand seas and mountains shrink.
When the clear eyes peered straight into her, the words coming out of her mouth would lose their momentum, then start to shrivel back into her throat.
Wouldn't words from this imperfect self, directly toward such a flawless being, possibly dirty her beyond return? If God had made Fana del Moral to show off his artistic talents, then the tutor would have been made to prove he had a sense of humor. Such self-deprecating thoughts would subconsciously rise, and make her want to wrap herself up and run away.
But being mesmerized by Fana with mouth half-open would not be her job.
She had to warn Fana about her speech and conduct at today's garden party.
The tutor closed her eyes and took a deep breath, waited for her pulse to settle, then opened her eyes.
"As Captain Domingo said, it is proper to treat San Martilia’s Amatsuvian as one would treat domestic animals. There is no need to embrace them as people. That is also the will of the Emperor. If you cannot accept the words of your soon-to-be father-in-law, you will struggle to live in the imperial court."
The silver eyes, like the frozen surface of a lake, remained motionless, stabbing through the tutor. Just being looked at was enough to make the brain come close to being paralyzed. However, she mustn't back down, the tutor told herself, as she continued her words.
"Amatsuvian are pitiful at heart. If you show them kindness, they'll simply use it as a means of abusing you. And it is the mistress who will find her values questioned. Do you understand?"
Fana's emotionless words came back, like the tutor had thrown a rubber ball at a wall.
She didn't understand. In fact, the tutor's words were simply going in one ear and out the other. It was as if Fana's consciousness was covered by skin, and words thrown from outside were simply caught by the skin, and softly bounced back, never to reach the soul.
A curious girl.
Normally she was so boundless that it was impossible to grasp what she may be thinking, then sometimes she would open her mouth and say unexpected things.
It was the same, at the garden party.
"As with Levahmians, Amatsuvian have a variety of people, too. They have proud people, they have vile people, sympathetic people, evil people, and people who are both good and bad. Is it the doing of cultured people to simply round them up as vile and leave it at that?"
The captain had been speaking in disdain of the Amatsuvian, and Fana, who'd been silent up to that point, suddenly burst out with that line. The cheerful mood of the party suddenly turned ice cold, and an insufferable silence followed. The captain, struggling with how to deal with the future empress, stared at her tutor with eyes begging for help. She, in turn, wanted to use the fruit knife nearby to commit suicide.
Until the carriage went through the House del Moral gate, the tutor continued lecturing about Levahmian Imperial Court etiquette. Fana's replies were either "apologies" or "understood."
The sun had already set. The carriage continued on the long path to the mansion.
Perhaps due to the evening darkness, the del Moral mansion looked like it was spreading wings, far out in the distance. A flickering gas stove lit the white walls and stained everything with a bluish-white tone, making it stand out from the darkness.
No matter how much the carriage went forward, the mansion didn't seem to be getting any closer. That was how vast the garden was, and how big the building was.
In recent years, neat exteriors had become favored in Levahm. Unnecessary decorations were brushed away, and the size of the building was used to demonstrate grandeur. Forced to take part in such a ritual, the carriage ran quite a distance in the garden before finally being embraced by the ]-shaped building.
Fana and the tutor stepped off the carriage with a helping hand from the coachman.
The pure white palace towered over them.
The method of creating this wall was taken from the Amatsukami. Instead of mixing sand into lime, their method called for mixing in a special white paper, which would then result in a much purer white than normal. When the building was first made, Duke Diego was exhilarated by the pure white exterior, but upon learning that an Amatsukami construction method was used, became extremely displeased. Those nearby went through great lengths to explain to him that Levahmian methods were used for everything else, and thus he was soothed. But the displeasure on his face was so great that everyone feared he would order the whole building scrapped on the spot.
The tutor led the way into the foyer.
The exterior was simple, but the interior was decorated with the fullest of fervor. That's the Levahmian way.
The foyer was like a night sky, filled with stars.
Looking up, there was a high, circular ceiling painted indigo blue, supported by fulcrums from the side walls. Engravings of angels and stars made of gold were scattered everywhere, and several candle-stands placed on the ground lit everything, making it feel as though the room had no gravity.
They continued down the hallway, greeted silently by excessively clothed butlers standing shoulder-to-shoulder.
The side walls were lined with famous paintings, candle-stands of pure gold, and on the high ceiling, mother-of-pearl woodwork. Be it an architectural necessity or something else, complex linear components blended in as fulcrums to the ceiling.
It was a never-ending flood of luxury. A complete blend of paintings, architecture and sculpture. Should a visitor they step through the wild tints, their senses become paralyzed, and passing through the corridor subconsciously carves into them an awe of the del Moral house.
Walking straight forward, toward the library, the tutor spoke behind Fana.
"I would like to have you read until dinner. Please study Pedro Jimenez' books on economy. You have one hour. I shall question you about the contents after dinner. Understood?"
"Afterward, we shall continue with the piano lesson you failed the other day. After you pass, we'll complete the remainder of the poetry homework. Then you shall bathe, and sleep is scheduled for 11 tonight."
"As obedient as ever."
Fana's response had no color whatsoever. Usually girls of this age were angry or rebellious against such a restrictive schedule, complaining or begging for pity, but it's almost as if such lower-level emotions had been peeled away from Fana. In a way it made her easier to deal with, but at the same time it was unnerving.
She does everything she is told far too indifferently. She was more like an automaton. Maybe it was because she grew up with an unnaturally high amount of scrutiny, resulting in a higher tolerance of restrictions?
The same way deep-sea fish live with the water pressure as their normality, perhaps restrictions and suppression was simply the water she was used to. Her looks were so beautiful it'd suck away your soul, but the shape of her soul might be as grotesquely deformed as deep-sea fish.
In many ways, she was far from a typical student. The tutor inwardly sighed, then opened the door to the library.
With all of her daily lessons completed without interruption, Fana changed into her silk sleeping gown and lay sideways on her bed.
The maids gathered up the clothes Fana had taken off and left the room.
The vast and cold marble floor. The walls of impeccably polished stone. The furnishings lining the walls gave off a scant luster in the darkness. Moonlight, cut out by the decorative rafters, shone through the large, arched window, and along with the slight vibrating sound emitted by the electric fan mounted in the ceiling, stirred the tepid air.
The bed’s canopy surrounded it with such a thin, light silk that it felt like blowing just a bit would send everything floating.
This was the only time that Fana could be alone.
Without closing her eyes, with her sheets up to her breast, she stared up at the craftsmanship of the canopy.
Paintings of pegasi flying through stars, layered on top of flocks of angels. It might be the work of a famous artist, but it was quite excessive for something to see as you sleep.
Fana slid out of bed, slipped her toes into a pair of fluffy slippers, and walked to the window. Pressing her forehead into the glass, she looked up at the night sky. The bluish-white moonlight poured over Fana's body, coursing through her un-bound silver hair.
The bamboo thicket outside of the mansion was bending to the night breeze. A full moon hovered over it. Beyond the bamboo thicket was an ocean.
I want to swim, she thought.
Today, on the way to the garden party, she saw the ocean from the window of the carriage. She could see the smiles of the people that had been in the ocean. Everyone looked like they were enjoying themselves.
That was the only memorable thing from today. And she would probably forget, by tomorrow. And as she watches, things that had nothing to do with her would continue occurring.
When did she first begin looking at the world like she was watching an opera?
She couldn't remember. But in the 17 years she'd been living, at some point, she realized there was no relation between the reality she saw in front of her, and her own will.
When she was little, she went to a zoo, with her mother and her two big brothers. There were many rare animals, and Fana especially liked a child elephant. Thinking it'd be nice if she'd be able to play with that child elephant more, she looked up at her mother, and said, "I want to work at a zoo when I grow up." Her mother gave her a stern look, and her two big brothers simply laughed and made fun of Fana.
She couldn't work at a zoo.
At some point, that reality had settled into her heart.
Fana del Moral was born into this world as a trophy for men.
It was decided the moment she was born. Regardless of her will, that was what would happen. The premise, that she was simply a gift, had rooted itself into her, had become her.
Her parents had probably gone through extreme lengths and many tutors to prepare her for this, to make her understand that it was simply the natural thing. Normal people would cause trouble about this, but by the time she'd began formulating thoughts, she'd accepted her status as a gift as the norm.
"I'm a thing," Fana whispered, as she stared at the bluish-white moon.
She didn't feel anything. Not an ounce of pain. Next, she whispered it with her soul.
I'm a thing.
Because she's a thing, she doesn't need to be bound by human emotions. She wasn't the least bit upset.
When she'd come to realize it, the world was already on the other side of a clear glass. Even if she reached out with her hand, the thick, tough glass impeded her way, so that she couldn't grab anything. Eventually she simply stopped reaching out. That's how her current self was made.
But, sometimes, she'd have a strong emotion.
Right, like during today's garden party, when she'd heard that bearded, moderately aged man, Captain Domingo, she was felt anger for the first time in a long while. She'd instinctively reached out to the other side of glass. Of course, the result was an awkward silence and the tutor's lecturing, but she had no regrets.
Why did she defend the Amatsuvian then?
When she thought about it, she thought of an Amatsuvian from deep down in her memories. She had a pockmarked face and was very skinny, a kind-hearted, middle-aged woman who didn't have much going for her in terms of looks. She was a maid for a young Fana, who'd been kind to her.
It was when she was able to sleep in her own room by herself for the first time.
When she lay down on her bed and turned off the lights, the furnishings in the vast room and the designs on the ceilings made the young Fana start crying immediately. But no matter how much she cried, no one would come, so Fana slid out of bed, tossed aside her sheets, escaped from her room and started roaming the halls.
Really, she wanted to go to her mother's room, but she knew she would be scolded severely. If she went to her brothers' rooms they would tell on her and she would be scolded in the morning. Her father's room was far too scary to go to. After all, her strict father was the scariest.
The mansion was so vast, but there was nowhere to go.
Fana simply wandered around the corridor, crying, until she was found by the Amatsuvian maid.
"Oh dear, mistress, you shouldn't be going outside of your room. Master will be angry again," The maid said, with her accented Levahm tongue.
“I'm scared,” said Fana, and then that middle-aged maid who cared not about her looks silently picked her up and hugged her.
"You must be lonely. You're this small after all. You're still the age to want to latch onto someone, right?" The maid said this as she walked down the hall, and then she started crying. Fana was happy that someone would cry for her, and sobbed, with her arms around the maid's neck.
She was carried back to her bed.
She would be in trouble if she were caught, she lackadaisically said, but nevertheless the maid sat down next to the bed and told Fana a certain story, until she slept.
It was a story that was built on the three-thousand year history of Amatsukami.
Fana had never heard a fascinating story like that one the maid told.
Many heroes and beautiful women showed up, hated each other, fought each other, and loved each other.
There were many wars, armies that moved at a dizzying pace, and there were many fighting styles; proud people, unfair people, good people, bad people, people that were neither. They all struggled in their lives, some finding happiness, some being exterminated.
Fana swallowed hard and listened to the story.
She was angered by the selfish actions of the unfair, while moved by the noble actions of the proud. When she asked about things she didn't understand, the maid would break things down for her. The maid was much kinder and warmed than her mother, who was obsessed over social glory. The maid gave her the love her mother would not. Fana ended up longing for bedtime.
Right, because she'd heard such stories, she couldn't stand the Captain's attitude. Amatsuvian are varied, too, and it's not right to just bundle them up as evil, the maid had taught her.
But the stories stopped without reaching the conclusion.
Because one night, she vanished from the mansion.
Wanting to know what happens next in the story, and lonely because a beloved vanished without a word, Fana started crying herself to sleep every night again.
Some day later, she heard the truth from a big brother. Her father had found out that the Amatsuvian maid had been telling bedtime stories to Fana every night, and she was fired on the spot.
She was sad. Very sad.
For the first time, she'd realized that the maid she didn't even know the name of had, every night, risked her job to tell her stories. She was like one of the proud people in the stories, striving to comfort Fana at the cost of herself. And so Fana cried.
She didn't remember when those tears dried away. And as the tears dried, she also stopped feeling strongly about anything. She remembered crying a lot, so she must have cried a lifetime's worth of tears, and washed away all of her feelings, too.
Gradually, she began looking at everything from a distance, without caring about what she was told, and just accepting everything. She was no longer hit on the back of her hand with a whip anymore, so she probably looked like the Fana del Moral her father desired.
Now, she could even look at herself from a distance.
One year ago, when she'd gone to the Sierra Cadis archipelago for a vacation at the behest of her father, the imperial prince Carlo, who'd been resting there, confessed his love for her. They had met just once at the imperial court's dinner party, but apparently Carlo had become incapable of thinking of anyone other than Fana. The Emperor had no qualms about accepting the Lady of House del Moral into the imperial family. Fana's father of course, the members of the senate people with prominent power or comparable stature, as well as everyone related to the imperial court; all had come to agreement on the arrangement, and thus they brought Fana, who knew nothing, to the imperial prince. Because of the once-in-a-lifetime nature of the event, the imperial prince desired a dramatic scene, and so she was brought out to the romantic southern sea paradise to have love confessed to her. Passionate actions are the specialty of the Levahm people, and it was the Levahm imperial family that strongly encouraged such things.
Fana couldn't refuse.
Even at such a critical point in her life, it felt like the imperial prince was passionately confessing to someone unrelated to her. When she replied the way she was taught by someone, she remembers seeing joy spread across his face.
“Crickets have begun chirping in the imperial city Esmeralda, I want to see you soon. I can't wait for the wedding in a half-year…” was the message Carlo had left her by telegraph yesterday.
Ever since their engagement, Carlo would constantly use the military radio telegraph to send her letters. Fana had never read a letter from him from start to finish. They were forceful, too sweet, and would tire her out in the middle. But even though she wasn't asking for them, the telegrapher would write a response for Fana, then ask for her confirmation. For the most part, they were embarassingly written to please the imperial prince. But she didn't feel like writing them herself. So Fana would always silently nod in confirmation, and the telegrapher would send the sweet, melty letter 12,000 km away to the home country. If the Amatsukami intelligence were to ever break the telegraph code, Carlo and Fana would forever be the laughingstock of their country.
Along with the resignation that had become her flesh and bones, Fana gazed at the hazy moon outside of her window. San Martilia was trying to enter summer.
It was a silent night. The sound of insects you could barely hear every now and then deepened the silence.
Actually— a strange sound was mixed into the sound of insects.
Her intuition immediately told her so.
She pressed her face against the glass.
Fana's eyes were good. She couldn't see it yet, but something was hidden amongst the full moon sky. She could tell that much.
She tried focusing more. She could see a black dot, and it was heading toward her.
…A fighter plane?
Something reflecting the moonlight was approaching at an unnatural speed from a low altitude.
The Rio de Este airspace is always guarded by the del Moral Aerial Knights. No barbarian was going to make it through… or so said Fana's father, Duke Diego, as he straightened his back in pride. Those words were about to torn apart in front of her eyes.
The people in the mansion seemed to have noticed the unfamiliar propeller sounds. The workers cleaning the garden had quickly scrambled to hide in tall grass.
One jet-black airplane, darker than the darkness.
No one knew why it was there. It was clearly not a del Moral Aerial Knight. Its wings were bent, and it had no propeller, a bit like a snake.
Three of them formed one flock in a triangular formation, and right under them was another four, a flock in a rhombus formation. A total of seven.
The next instant, four planes dropped teardrop-shaped things from their bodies.
The four planes then fired the propellers on their tails at full power, showed their underbellies to Fana, glued to her window, then flew over the mansion with a thunderous roar.
The four teardrops, gliding diagonally through the air, went for the eastern wing of the mansion.
Duke Diego's room.
"Father!" Fana screamed, and the four bombs exploded simultaneously at the eastern wing.
The explosion was followed by a crimson flame and a black wall that ripped apart the mansion, and rose into the air.
The tremors reached even Fana, who was on the third floor of the western wing, so much that her knees buckled. She could hear the foundation creaking.
The eastern wing had instantly become hell's furnace. The construction had been flung from the place of impact, laying the thick wooden beams bare, and the blaze flickered as it shimmered red in the night sky. The people in the garden were screaming.
The del Moral house embraced visitors whom entered from the main entrance, with its wings spread. But one of those wings had been cruelly torn off.
"Lady, please escape, it's an attack, an attack!"
The evergreen oak door was violently slammed open, and along with smoke, one butler ran into the room, with no pretense of the usual calm.
"But father, father…!"
He embraced the scattered Fana.
"Please, excuse me."
With Fana embraced, the butler threw himself sideways.
A moment later, a dreadful propeller sound battered against the glass window.
The following three planes had followed the bombers and started gunning the mansion. Along with the thundering sounds of their firing, thousands of machine gun bullets mercilessly rained down on Fana's room.
The polished stone walls were ground away. Heads of granite sculptures were blown apart. The bullet-riddled bed spat out feathers. Big holes punctured the antique books filling the shelves, and the whole room was filled with swirling powder and broken materials.
The shattered walls, broken lights, smashed furnishings and sculptures danced, glittering, in front of Fana.
It was gunfire meant to cause a fire. The machine gun bullets included incendiaries and explosives, and the curtain covering the bed's canopy quickly began burning. The workers shouting about fires in lower floors could be heard.
"We must escape, quickly."
His white hair stained with the color of blood, the butler, covered with cuts, said this as he helped Fana up. Fana was on the verge of losing herself. Whilst her mind tried to keep up with what was going on, the butler carried her on his back.
The butler ran through the blazing mansion. Candlestands had fallen from the walls and spread the flames. The big candlestand that was hanging from the ceiling of the hall had also had its chain snapped, and was now shattered on the ground. The burning tallow candles further spread the fires, making the carpet burn.
The workers all ran around trying to stop the flames, and screams and shouts could be heard from every direction. A black smog covered everything, and ashen white powder was fluttering down from the cracked ceiling.
What is this? Fana's numb brain asked. Reality was always forcefully coming in from beyond, regardless of Fana's will. All Fana could do is to accept it.
Beyond the glass.
And as always, Fana decided to cut away her own will from reality. Still being carried by the butler, she escaped inside, deep inside the walls of the glass castle… like an extreme coward.
Fana, who'd looked grim up to that point, turned to the emotionless face of a doll. That her father had been targeted, that her room had been riddled with gunshots, that the mansion was about to collapse, all of it was unrelated to Fana, now.
As if watching an opera, Fana gazed at her crumbling home.
The blood oozing out of the butler's head, the debris obscuring their vision, the soot and smoke, the stabbing, burning smell, all of it was on the other side of the glass. Even if she were to burn to death like this, she was confident she could coolly watch herself die. She didn't think that was sad.
And so, Fana distanced herself from everything. Even the sound died out. Maybe it was because she'd spent so much time building up that thick piece of glass, but Fana even forgot about finding a safe place, and became an inorganic substance, just observing and breathing.
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