The War Chronicles of a Little Demon

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The War Chronicles of a Little Demon

Postby Sunshine Temple » Thu Dec 30, 2021 5:17 pm

Okay, this is something that came to me last night. It hasn't been proofed and is just the prologue (first chapter is almost done)

Also this concept is one that will.... well those of you familiar with House BlackSky in the Return will have an idea where this is going, but no knowledge of that work is requires for this story.

In short: Tanya defeats Being X but what then? What another cosmic entity sees how Being X violated the rules with mortal free will and offers to re-balance the scales.

Prologue: Victory
Chapter 1: Hail Imperatrix

Happy new year!
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Re: The War Chronicles of a Little Demon

Postby Sunshine Temple » Thu Dec 30, 2021 5:17 pm

The War Chronicles of a Little Demon

Set in the Return Verse
A Saga of Tanya the Evil fic thingy.
By Sunshine Temple

Naturally, I own neither Sailor Moon nor Ranma nor the Dresden Files. So here's the disclaimer:

Saga of Tanya the Evil its characters and settings belong Carlo Zen, Shinobu Shinotsuki, and NUT Co., Ltd.

Previous chapters and other works can be found at my fanfiction website.
The Lost Library of Florestica

Temporary Backup Site.
Interim Fanfiction and Fanart

Other website Temple of Ranma's Senshi Seifuku
Temple of Ranma's Sailor Senshi Seifuku • Index page

C&C as always is wanted.

Prologue: Victory

No matter what happened, no mater the burdens, no matter the indignities, I would forever treasure the look on Being X's face when I jabbed my sword bayonet into his guts and pulled the trigger.

It took everything. I promised the men of the 203rd that we would win no matter the cost. With a, self declared, omnipotent creature like Being X pulling the strings there was no way the Empire could win the war while he still lived.

In the end, the cost was less than I expected. Visha and Weiss would be able to get the survivors back... well back home. I gave Major Weiss specific instructions to blame me for taking the 203rd battalion and the rest of Salamander without orders. Though with the way the war was going defecting might be better, if I were an optimist I would think the Empire could still turn it around. And maybe they could, but they would have to try without me.

And without Being X interfering. We picked up the trail up north, not far from where I won the Silver Wings Assault Badge. From there our pursuit went south west.

To the Rhine. It was no longer an active combat zone, but it still bore the scars. I hated that place. I hated the nickname I had earned there.

So of course, that was where Being X made its stand with its puppets.

Letting out a ragged breath, I fell to my knees. My rifle and its long bayonet clattered to the concrete but I didn't care. I put a hand to my chest.

There was no blood.

My eyes widened and I scooped up my rifle and stood up. My computation orb flared and I was ready to take to the air.

This wasn't the mud and broken terrain of the Rhine sector.

This was a train station. It was the train station.

I had died here. The first time. A man who could not react to being fired with any degree of rationality and proportionality had pushed me before the tracks.

And that was when Being X first interfered with my life. He had not taken well to me debating him on the points of worship and the desperation required for it. And in a pique of rage Being X decided to force me to his way of thinking.

The station was empty. There was no people to act as his mouthpieces and certainly no train on the tracks.

I looked down the tracks, they went off into the distance. But once they were past the station they were the only thing. Everything beyond the platform itself was a white void. Looking behind me I could see the stairs that went down to street level but they ended into the same void. To one side was a black glass door that I did not remember, but it had been years since I was here.

I tensed and a bit of worry fell into me.

I had beaten Being X. I had put all the power of my computation jewel, the sword bayonet I had purloined from a Unified States depot in Albion, the research I had taken from Doctor Schugel. It was a gamble, a glorious risk.

But a calculated one.

"Be not afraid," a calm voice said as a man approached. He wore familiar blue jumpsuit and was pulling off a while hard hat. His hair was a pale blond and his features were old. The lettering on his had and suit marked him as working for a garbage collection service from my childhood.

My first one.

"Who are you?" I kept my rifle pointed down, but ready to level it. I realized that I was no longer in my torn bloody flight suit but instead in my uniform, and that my computation jewel was no longer a molten chunk of slag.

He gave a warm smile and pulled off a pair of gloves and put them into the upturned helmet. "I must thank you."


"Few are willing to adhere to their principles in the face of overwhelming power. Being X, as you called it, tried everything to defeat you. Not just you but had treated billions of souls as playthings." The man's voice hardened. "That was an utter affront. Rectifying and rebalancing has been an immense task, and I apologize for keeping you waiting for so long."

I paused; I had just woken up in the train station, right?

"How do you know that name?" My fingers clenched and I saw that the blade on the end of my rifle had regained its silver sheen.

The old man smiled. "How do you think?"

"What are you some other being? I knock off Being X and you step in and claim that no you're the real god?"

A stern, hideously absolute, expression crossed his face. "No. I could never claim that. No, I am a simple servant. I clean around the edges and restore the balance. I ensure mortals have a choice. That they can freely associate and make choices. The idea of a being extorting a soul with 'pray or die' offends my very core."

I gave a skeptical snort. That was more my style of cosmology, but I had not spent years fighting Being X to be taken in by some new being. "Right, where was your help when I had to spend a new life as a girl?"

The old man quirked and eyebrow and looked meaningfully at the blade.

"Lovely, well thanks for the help. Are you going to make with the psychopomp thing and tell me what my afterlife options are?"

He laughed. "I suppose that's one way to look at it."

"But who are you?"

"Ah," he bowed to me. "My name is Uriel."


Ingrained lessons in protocol from a lifetime ago had me return the bow. I will admit, claiming to be an archangel was less egotistical than claiming to be god. "You will have to pardon my caution, Mr. Uriel." As a show of good faith I did shoulder my rifle.


"If you'll forgive me for asking, why didn't you intervene against Being X? If he is so anathema to your values. While I appreciate your stated position of valuing choice I do wonder as to your actual actions."

"I am limited in my remit."

I tilted my head. "By your superior?"

The old man gave a wry smile. "You could call it that. It is more accurate to say it is a fundament of my nature."

I let that slide for the moment. On the one hand saying "that's not one of my duties" is a classic excuse of shirkers. On the other hand to have any organization or groups had to have some adherence to orders. I also tabled my own actions in taking my battalion out to kill a god.

"In what ways did your remit allow you to act?"

Uriel nodded. "In balance."

I motioned for him to go forward.

"Ah, if one party were to violate the rules regarding interfering with mortal souls, then I was authorized to act in an equal manner. Thus resorting balance while giving the opportunity to exercise choice. Free will is the greatest gift of mortal souls."

I gave a half smile. "Mr. Uriel, you need not flatter me." Though if Uriel were correct that would mean my initial supposition that Being X was not god but instead was some sort of demon was correct. Though Being X had also complained that administering the reincarnation of 7 billion souls was beyond its capacity. Which was worrying on several levels.

Uriel shook his head.

"If I get it right, Being X interfered here." I gestured to the train station. "And caused me to reincarnate into a new world and this body." I gestured to my petite feminine form. "He also interfered with Doctor Schugel which gave me..."

I looked down at my quad core computation orb. The cursed thing gave me great powers, but I had to pray to Being X to enable it to work to its fullest. And that came at the cost of a lack of... mental clarity.

"You arranged for me to get that big bayonet. It was no Unified States project to take out Mary Sue when she inevitably went rabid."

Regret crossed his face. "Hers was a troubled soul, consumed by revenge and grief."

"Yes, yes add her to the list of lives ruined by Being X."

The archangel, if that was what he was, gave me a cross look.

I held up a hand apologetically. "I'm not being flippant. As another plaything of that bastard I can sympathize, and I do hope you can do something for her."

Uriel sighed

"You know you could have given me a bit more help, my men took well... the casualties could have been worse. Sure putting a sword bayonet into Being X was the most satisfying thing but-" I swept my arms around the train station. "Clearly, I didn't make it out either.

Uriel gave me a look that was sympathetic but also somewhat disturbed "The point of the Sword is to give the wielder a chance against the darkness. It does not make victory inevitable, only possible."

"Worked out great for you then. Being X is gone, you can fix all the people he wronged."

"As much as I can."

I waved a hand. "Yes, yes, we do not want an Archangel getting too creative. That probably leads to negative externalities." I knew enough theology that Satan was once the brightest among the angelic host.

Uriel seemed to acquiesce to that.

"Now, if we presume I trust all that you are saying, what will you do with me? What would you consider to be a balancing act?" A bit of hope fluttered in me. Maybe I could go back to early twenty-first century Japan. Maybe I could go back to being a male.

Many of the organizational and decision making skills I had learned as an Aerial Mage for the Empire could be applied to the corporate world. After surviving the Rhine, building up and leading a rapid response battalion, and developing combined arms tactics should make dominating the corporate world trivial.

"What do you think I would do?"

I tapped my chin in thought. Sincere or not, Uriel was at least more pleasant than Being X to converse in. "Let us presume your remit is to provide balance when another violates the rules, and that Being X's interfering with my first death was a violation, then you would be free to a proportional reaction."

He gave an encouraging nod.

"However, you also state that you value free will and mortal choice. This implies that if there were multiple options available then I would be given the opportunity to pick one."

"Sound reasoning." Uriel agreed.

"What are my options, then?"

There was a heavy chugging noise as a train came down the tracks. I had not see it appear and for a moment I tensed. A fear that Uriel would push me in front of it. Instead, the train stopped at the platform.

The doors opened. It was empty.

"Take the train and you'll ride it out to the end of the line."

"End of the line?"

"What comes after. Judgment."

I frowned. From his tone there was not any more I could get out of that option. I might not have been the best of people. I had done things to survive in the War, and done more to ensure my men did as well. The more of them that lived the more bodies I had between me and the enemy. And being a better commander made my surprise feel more favorably towards me.

Also preserving my troop's lives was a nice counterpoint to the idea that I was some bloodthirsty warmonger who cared not a whit to casualties.

"It is an option," I agreed. In its defense, destroying Being X had to be worth something. Though that hardly seemed like balancing the scales given what Being X did to me.

"Next is working for me," gestured to the black glass door in the wall behind us. The glass turned translucent and I saw an office full of whiter uniformed men and women working about. A few had feathery wings.

"Like some sort of guardian angel squad?"

Uriel gave a slight smile. "Not quite. But you have proven your capabilities and I can always use those with your talents."

"How long of a hitch?" I asked.

"Until you're ready for one of the other options."

I tapped my chin. Interesting. Depending on the workload doing jobs for an archangel could have its upsides. Though it sounded like it would instead be delaying the real choice.

Still, Door Number 2 had advantages. Maybe, I could lean more about the system. My work could improve my odds of getting the good result out of Door Number 1. Though this option still didn't have Uriel balancing the first violation Being X did to me.

And that was a heck of a marker to leave off the table.

"It has its advantages. And Door Number 3?"

Uriel pointed to the stairs. "Take those and you'll be reborn. You will get the chance that Being X denied you."

I managed to keep the smile off my face. "That does seem to be the most equitable of options. Can I have a moment to think?"

"Please take all the time. It's the least I could do, given the time it took for me to get to you."

I nodded but frowned. That was the second time he had alluded to a long wait on my part. I will admit that the first option terrified me. Even if I presumed that Uriel was being utterly sincere the idea of Judgment was... daunting.

Worse, if this was some scheme then getting onto that train would be the worst mistake of my life, well afterlife.

Door Number 2 was the safe bet. Yes it would kick the can down the road, but it gave me time to learn more working for Uriel and whatever his project was. Still, I was not sure I wanted to be a heavenly agent.

I'll admit the Third Option tempted me. If Uriel was sincere then it was exactly what I wanted. A chance to restart without Being X's interference. While I had gotten used to being female, being a petite and young female still grated.

The chance to rectify that.... was tempting. Also it would spit in the eye of Being X. It said I would have no second reincarnation. But I had defeated Being X, why not get another chance?

I would miss Visha and my men, but none of the options included them. And it would have bee wrong for me to demand such a thing. She was... err they were still alive.

"Do you have any other questions?"

"Did I get Being X? Really?"

Uriel gave that little shake of his head. "Yes. You did. Any questions about your options?"

"X is gone then? Good, I'd hate to have to deal with him in my new life." I bowed to Uriel. "Thank you. It's nice to see that not all inscrutable beings are prideful and unreasonable."

Looking a mix of baffled and amused. He returned the bow.

"I wish you well on your cleanup efforts." And with a wry smile I unshouldered my rifle and sword bayonet and handed it over. I held it out.

His amusement growing he took the weapon. The silver on the blade glowed brighter.

"I'm sure you'll need this more than me," I said and turned heel and without looking back marched down the stairs.

End Prologue.

As I've said those of you familiar with the Return verse, especially some of the supplemental material on my DA page have an idea where this is going.

That said, no knowledge of the Return is required to enjoy this story.
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Re: The War Chronicles of a Little Demon

Postby Sunshine Temple » Thu Dec 30, 2021 5:18 pm

Chapter 1 Hail Imperatrix

I woke up to crying.

A young nun in a black habit with purple hair held out a spoon. Her words were soothing though I did not understand them. which meant I was not in the Empire or Japan

One word stuck out: Tauria

I sighed. I should have expected reincarnation would go this way.

Then I looked closer at the nun. A pair of curled horns came out of her forehead. When she smiled reassuringly I could see that her canines were long and pointed.

No more than a babe cradled in the nun's arms, I looked down and saw a pale purple spade-tipped tail flicking out and a set of wings folded up on her shoulders.

Hushing reassuringly, the Nun got me to eat the broth from the large spoon. I looked back and saw my reflection on a mirror.

Seeing my own set of tiny horns and little wings, I was too busy cursing Uriel to notice I felt comfortable in the demon nun's arms and had resumed feeding.


As a result of an ill-thought deal with an Archangel, I found myself in yet another world in a nunnery that took care of war orphans.

At least the conditions were better than in the first orphanage I had grown up in. Part of that was that the Household Fleet and Imperial Legions made sure to keep facilities like this well supplied.

Another part was the generous patronage of the noble families, particularly Duchess SilverFlight.

During lessons, I learned that we subjects of House BlackSky. One of the Great Houses on the Continent of Diyu. The Orphanage was in the far eastern part of the House, outside the city of Bovitar.

The Nuns tried to keep us happy, but we were those whose parents had died fighting for Imperatrix BlackSky and who had no extended family to take us in.

I spent most of my first years thinking this was merely the girl's dormitory of the orphanage until I realized the truth.

I was shocked at how young we were when Sister Clementia took us all around and read us about the birds and the bees. Yes, the lessons were done by a cartoony young woman called Silva but it did explain why there were only female demons around.

That was another thing to get used to. Though, I'll admit I did like it when Sister Clementia took the time to bush my hair and preen my wings.

A few of the other girls teased me and Sibyl. We were the only two orphans who had feathered wings. The rest, and the sisters, had membranous bat-like wings,

The more I learned about the jingoism and aggression of House BlackSky and the fear or neighbors had of us the more disquieted I got.

At least House BlackSky only had land borders with two rival powers. Though the longest border was with House Elena which was also the one great demonic House larger than ours. Though in local concerns we were relatively close to the grassy steppes that defined our border with House Luxon.

I had worried about being a powerless orphan.

It was something I had experience with.

I was also worried about being a powerful orphan.

I also had experience with that.

To my relief, it turned out that everyone seems to have some magical talent, which made sense. I had been born into a people who were, for lack of a better term, demonic. We had wings, tails, horns, fangs. Some of us had more demonic features and different talents. A few things were universal like having retractable claws and an affinity for pyromancy.

I also sympathized with the sisters. Raising children was hard enough. The trouble magnified greatly when dealing with children who, figuratively, always have matches or knives.

Still, if everyone had magic, than any talents I had would make me less of a standout. Reading between the lines of the popular stories we were read and the plays we would sometimes go into town to see, the BlackSkyvian military had an insatiable appetite for manpower.

I was pondering my moves. Joining the Household Fleet or Imperial Legions seemed low on my list of future options. If I had magical talent then something in the civilian world could suit me. Presuming there was no conscription to worry about.

I would still do my patriotic duty, there were plenty of artificer guilds making things for the war effort.

Every month or so, potential parents would come and visit. I had gotten used to seeing pairs and even larger groups of young women talking with the Sisters and watching us play.

Such relationships were becoming more accepted in Japan before my first life ended. And they were quite on the quiet end in the Empire in my second life. Here they were the norm, and apparently a biological necessity.

It was not something I paid much attention to. Beyond my age, I had already gone through life as a young woman and I failed to see how being a young demon girl would be all that different from a young human girl.

That would turn out to be a mistake on my part.

After the prospective parents left, they would make comments and talk with some of the girls and then our orphanage would get a bit less populated.

I was not sure if I wanted to be adopted or not. It was a way to get some higher social status and maybe get a room to myself. But I was not too attached to that.

I did spent a lot of time with Sister Clementia brushing my hair and reassuring me after the prospective parents had left.

Not that I wanted to be adopted but that the other girls who were not as cute as I was. My blonde hair was far prettier, and my horns were not ungainly or tiny.

I suppose it could have been my wings but then Sibyl got adopted and she had hooves in addition to grey feathers on her wings.

The regular visits of Duchess SilverFlight were a bright spot. I suspected she had ulterior motives, but I had my own reasons for getting in good with a member of the noble families.

Her hair was dark almost cobalt blue and ran between her wings. And she normally wore a backless gown with frills and ruffles. Except when she was giving flying lessons.

I'll confess to impatience. Being part of a species where everyone could fly, except for the very young meant I could indulge without fear of conscription. Well, once my wings grew strong enough.

Duchess SilverFlight always brought little puzzles that ether required dexterity to solve, either by using your hands in the right spot or by the right magical push. One puzzle was a set of wind chimes in a glass jar and we had to try to get them to chime without touching the jar. She was also generous with teething rings and chewing sticks and other treats.

Something the Sisters were a bit stingy with for the younger girls.

I was able to blame the Duchess for our uniforms. It was nice to have warm and clean clothes. The Nuns at my previous orphanage tried their best, but having a Duchess take a personal interest did make a difference. Though the green beret and tan and green plaid uniform was not exactly the most flattering.

Still, wearing pleated skirts with ribbons holding up the sleeves and little ties was a bit humiliating. I swallowed my pride and tried to be the most apt and eager pupil whenever the Duchess visited.

Based on my past experiences, begin adopted into her family was a long shot, but getting some patronage from her as I grew up was more likely. Beyond bellicosity, House BlackSky had some other similarities to my old Empire.

In both, there a strong meritocratic sentiment balanced with an imperial family and a noble class. Though many of the nobles were bestowed titles for achievement as much for blood.

It was a heady combination, and one I was prepared to leverage.


By the time I was five years old, I had started to get used to my new life. I was able to focus on concrete plans. Of all the new units and bits of timekeeping the thirteen month year was the strangest, but I got that past that.

It helped that Sister Clementia never looked at me like I was strange or off kilter. She was always there for me.

I may have felt a bit guilty for pursing the Duchess' good graces, but Clementia wanted me to find a happy family. I had learned that our horns were not decorative. They were a sort of antennae and part of a sense organ that allowed us to feel the emotions of others.

I was happy that I had become practiced in managing such emotions and their feedback whenever Sister Clementia brushed my hair.

"This is very... interesting needlework," Duchess SilverFlight said. "Your attention to detail is impressive."

"Thank you, your Grace," I said, trying my most courtly tone. Silvan Latin was a complicated language. It had some similarities to the Ildoa I never learned more than a smattering of, and while I knew a bit of Latin I was never conversant in it.

The Duchess smiled and sipped her tea. "Though, I find your engraving to be exquisite." She ran a hand over the three thumb-thick crystals I had etched patterns onto. When hung they would gently attract air spirits, or kami, and thus they would never stop chiming.

It was a simple enough trinket but if it impressed the Duchess then that was a good mark.

"Have you enticed a Zephyr of your own?" the Duchess asked. I could feel that she was projecting hope and interest.

I had learned to not trust my horns too much. I could mask my own emotions to the level that even Sister Clementia seemed to be fooled most of the time.

And if I could do that as a mere child, then it was obvious adults could as well. And it would be laughable if a demonic noble was not in utter control of herself.

"I have not. That might be a bit beyond me."

The Duchess smiled and placed her hand near mine, but was sure to leave a slight gap. Physical contact was complicated for us. The empathic link was even stronger. Even having your hair brushed could do it. "I'm sure you'll get it. You are a very determined young girl."

I smiled and nodded. I would prefer to focus my attention on less martial skills. It took a bit to swallow my pride and ask for dance lessons or things like needlepoint. Enchanting and communing with spirits had their martial applications.

But they were safer than showing great skill in fire, explosives, or evocation magic.

If being talented in more feminine arts and arcane would get me the patronage of a Duchess then so be it.

"I see you're wearing the new dress."

I plastered on a smile and twisted a bit. It was more of a romper and was even frillier than our uniform. "It's great Duchess SilverFlight!"

She sipped her tea. "You look like a little princess."

I nodded and managed to get my tail to swish. It was galling to play pretty princess but there was a method to my madness.

Yes, like the old Empire, House BlackSky is a meritocracy in promotions. And obviously, BlackSkyvians would put women in command positions. What alternative was there? About one fifth of our house were non demon subjects. They could not all be our commanders.

Still, I felt comfortable from past experience that going in a more feminine arena could keep me from the eyes of military recruiters. Surely they would look askance at the idea of a princess officer.

Still, I did have some regrets for this course of action. I had yet to see one in person, but House BlackSky had their own version of Aerial Mages. Though instead of a simple harness, skis, or a mount, they used a full plate bodysuit.

It gave even more performance and offensive power. Ritual Plate was a primary means of offensive firepower in the Household Fleet and a major branch of air support in the Legions.

That versatility made the suits highly in demand. There was a variety of specializations for a variety of roles. Thus the House needed thousands of recruits to keep the Fleet and Legions staffed.

If I showed too much talent, or worse interest, in that area my plans would crumble.


On the other hand.... the Fleet and Legions need even more Ritualista maintainers and support staff for each Ritual Plate Pilot. So, if I had to be pulled into the military world, then being a maintainer, and then a developer on the production line and an efficiency expert would be a far more likely path to give me a comfortable career.

Especially as the Duchess had influence in guilds and even owned some artificer lines. She had great pull in areas. I would prefer to work as a civilian, but I was not one to shirk from duty if it came to that.

"Tauria DiamondDust?"

I looked up and mortified bowed my horns in submission towards her. Ignoring the Duchess was a major breach of protocol. "Please forgive your Grace, do you need my Apology."

The Duchess blinked then laughed. "Oh, there is no need for that."

"I insist," I said recalling one of the protocol lessons we had been given. though it was more of an analysis of an opera we had seen the previous day. I will give House BlackSky this, their theater was less stodgy than the bloated productions of the Empire.

"There is no need," the Duchess assured. "But if you will give me an indulgence."

"Anything!" I gushed.

"The Feast of DarkStar is coming up next month."

"May we remember her loss," I automatically said. It was part of being ruled by an ancient demonic empress. The things that were important to her were important to us.

Thus her granddaughter who was betrayed and murdered during an invasion, from what I had learned so far we had been the ones invading, that happened a millennia ago, was still honored.

In fairness, the subsequent battles after DarkStar's death and us turning on the traitors of House Vephar expanded our House's holdings to the entirety of the Vanis subcontinent, and laid the foundation for House BlackSky's primacy.

In a realpolitik sense, I could understand our Imperatrix making a point to celebrate the time she wiped out a rival nation for daring to betray the Imperial Family. It also made me acutely aware of the kind of nation-state that angel had sent me to live in.

And while the House was admirably pluralistic when it came to faiths there was something of a civic religion. Nothing so much as a mandatory doctrine, more a collection of almost secular holidays, rituals, festival, and events. House BlackSky did pride itself on the superiority of their values and culture. One of them was readily glomming onto anything that could strengthen the House.

"Have you thought about anything you would like for the feast?"

I shook my head. "I was merely going to pray for loving homes for the rest of my sisters here and failing that have the Sisters of the Order continue to take care of us, with your generous Patronage of course."

The Duchess's silver lips turned. "My, you are a cynical little one."

I flushed. "That's not um.... what I really wanted sounded too frivolous..." I grasped at straws to backfill and keep her favor.

"Oh, what did you want then?"

I choked and blurted out the most girly thing I could think of.

And that was how I got a pink puffy gown and matching tiara for my fifth Feast of DarkStar.


I was a happy girl when I outgrew that damn gown. Though given my slow growth rate, I was worried I would have about the same diminutive size I did previously.

Better it had been over eight years and I had not seen either Being X or Uriel.

The former hopefully meant that bastard was good and dead, the latter hopefully meant that Archangel was done meddling with my life. Though to my concern Being X renewed meddling in my life me after I turned nine and was forced to test that horrible quad core computation jewel prototype, but I would take what I could get.

I was still miffed at the trick Uriel had pulled

` But it had been my fault for assuming that someone dedicated to balance and the minimal interference in mortal lives would try to put me into a 21st century Japan as a guy, and not into another belligerent imperial nation as a slight blonde girl with magical powers.

I tried to make sure my abilities did not stand out. Or at least not in a destructive way. While other orphans needed to be given lessons on how to control their abilities to generate fireballs and spent time in a gravel pit down the hill from the nunnery burning rocks, I was trying to attract little air kami.

While the other girls had the occasional accident had to be cleaned up with buckets of water and timely intervention with the Sisters, I got a precise control and then stopped trying to show off.

Sister Clementia did help me as I had a fair skill with lobbing magical napalm or lances of fire. But that struck me as the kind of thing that would get Legionary recruiters after me and I was trying to show the Duchess how good I would be under her wings.

Raiding the nunnery's library got me started, but then I begged Sister Clementia to pick up books down in Bovitar when she went to get supplies so often that she brought me into the city to get me a library card.

Years before any of the other orphans in my age group.

This had an unintended bonus that library cards served as a de facto national ID in House BlackSky. Which made a sort of sense while the Empire was big on paperwork, the Unified States like its counterpart in my first life was settling onto using a motor vehicle lessens as a de facto ID.

Also the Japan I left was just starting to give out personal identification numbers to supplement their own somewhat at-hoc identification system.

All and all, that meant I could do more than borrow books with the little card in its leather folder. If I wanted to get on a train, or a flight, to the capital about 800 miles to the west I could. Sure, it would take me using most of the money I had been scrimping and saving, and sweet-talking the ticket taker and conductor, but if I had to I could escape to the City of Trees.

I did not think it would come to that.

For one, I was more than willing to put in the effort and was able to read well above the level people expected of me. Rounding out that image of a young, eager prodigy were finding books to do more lessons in attracting and caring for Zephyr and doing enchantments of basic items.

Again, I avoided the more aggressive and openly destructive arts. This engendered less supervision, the books were easier to get from the librarians, and fit in more with the image I was presenting. That of the studious autodidact.

The problem came with the other lessons. I was used to swallowing my pride and learning skills to impress a boss. I had even dressed up for a propaganda tour of cheerful speeches and film-reels after I won the Silver Wings Assault Badge.

While signing in a choir for the sisters was... troubling, I took comfort that there were plenty of secular songs, and those to the other faiths common in this part of the Empire. Though many of the ancestor worship ones were....odd given we ere a race of demons. And the more animist ones reminded me a bit of Shinto.

Which I suppose was not too shocking, given I spent most of my days giving offerings and enticements to kami.

However, the ballet was more humiliating, almost as much as the dresses. Still, I took a bit of pride when I ended up having some of the other girls agreeing to go into the city to take lessons too. As they were loath to be shown up by me in such things.

The worst part was that while I eventually outgrew "that gown", the Duchess had gotten me other finery. At least they were more complimentary. Pink was not a good color for me. And they were not so frippery.

It also was a cost savings; every dress the Duchess got me was one less the Sisters had to buy, saving them money to spend on the other girls.

They also represented a tangible investment the Duchess was putting into me. It would be impolite and imprudent to not wear them, especially to the formal occasions, such as the opera nights or showing off us orphans to guild masters at the various artificer halls in the city.

This was the exact business environment I had been dreaming of returning to. If I had to wear a little green dress with bows on my tail and my wings perfectly turned out, then so be it.

This was also when I met a few of the humans and other subjects of this new empire. They were polite enough and it was heartening to see that our Imperatrix valued their input and contribution to society and the war effort.

Despite the propaganda spread by our enemies, the last empire I lived in also valued the contributions of our various client states and groups. It made economic sense. An angry and potentially rebellious faction was a net drain on a polity, while a contented one with a path of advancement and degree of self determination was a productive one.

Regardless of the species, I tried to be the most charming and played up the bright orphan willing to do her part for House BlackSky and was full of skills that would be useful.

And if part of that meant I had to swallow my pride and act interested in art and culture and feminine things to ensure the patronage of a noble patron of the arts, so be it.

It was nice that the Duchess clearly favored me.

Alas she was a very busy woman.

And Sister Clementia was always there for me. Most of her wards had been adopted which gave her plenty of time to deal with me. And we were fortunate that... to be honest not too many new war orphans had been produced.

Or at least ones that had no choice other than to go to us.

Flying was an area where I let my competitiveness show. I was less worried as about four-fifths of the House subjects could fly. And skill of flying unaided seemed to be something that was more useful for sport than war. Another reason why marksmanship lessons were something I was shying away from.

It was nice that my wings had grown strong enough and while it was different than being an Aerial Mage being able to take to the air was a treat. I was also able to try to adapt my skills and what I had learned.

One side effect was that whenever I flew the air kami were interested and would nip around in the vortices of my wingtips. It was worse if I had been caring for Zephyr right before taking a flight.

No one mocked me for it, but I could tell by the looks from the other orphans that they were judging me. Still the Sisters watched us like hawks during flight lessons. And made it clear that there were consequences for unsupervised flying.

Thus one has to add ladders, climbing equipment, and wings to the things you can't take away from baby demons. It was amazing that the Sisters managed to deal with us and not go crazy.

Holding Sister Clementa's hand, I followed her down the hallway toward the back portico of the orphanage. The building was a three story stone construct which the Sisters tried to make homey. To one side was the dormitory for the Sisters and to the other side was the temple.

The broad porches on both sides of the orphanage had roofs to protect them which meant that in all but the most inclement weather we could get some time outside. Which was good for the other girls as they tended to get a bit stir crazy.

I knew Sister Clementa was worried for me before she spoke. I rarely saw her out of her habit but her figure reminded me a bit of Visha. Though as a demoness of course. Not that I could judge. Though I had all the more reason to curse that whole "Devil of the Rhine" nickname,

"Duchess SilverFlight is a very busy women," her tone was cautious and delicate. "She has many interests in this whole province. And we are not the only orphanage she is a patron of."

Nodding, I tried to mask off my concerns. I was less worried about the Duchess rejecting me than I was being left with having to go into the Imperial Legions. The Household Fleet was also a big risk. The vast majority of fliers went to them. In the Fleet I might not be slogging in the mud, but I would be more likely to be in a major deployment.

"And," the Sister squeezed my hand as her tail flicked. "At these other orphanages there are other special girls she watches for."

I put on a reassuring smile and tried to make her feel more comforted. "I am realistic, Sister. I do not expect to be adopted and besides no one could replace you."

It was then that we exited the back doors and stepped onto the portico. Wind whipped around as we crossed the threshold and my wings ruffled and spread a bit. That was a moment of reassurance.

And then my heart sank.

I thought the Duchess' surprise for me would be another dress. I was prepared to gush over them and talk about how pretty the lace or ribbon or whatever frippery was. I felt that coming off as too much of a tomboy can be risky.

At the worst the Duchess would insist I get my her hair styled though having my wings preened and the feathers cleaned did feel nice.

I did not expect the Duchess to be wearing flight armor.

For the most part she wore gowns. They were reasonably sensible ones, formal events excepted. And she did dress in a more practical bodysuit when she gave us the occasional flight lesson.

During those lessons her long cobalt hair was plaited and tied up.

She bore the same hairstyle today. She also seemed to wear a type of bodysuit. At least there were hints of it under the fitted segments of articulated metal armor that she wore.

Gold filigree and glittering runes were engraved on most of the armored sections. particularly around the greaves, gauntlets, and contoured breastplate and the bits of armor that protected where her wings met her back.

Even on the ground, I could feel the Zephyr surrounding the Duchess eager to take flight. For a moment I was considering a similar action. I knew how futile that would be. The Duchess was in Ritual Plate, I was not. Even if we had the same flight skill, she would be much faster than me.

That there were no evocation pods or other weapons flasks attached was very reassuring. As was the open stance and emotions she was giving off. I knew a noble like the Duchess would be skilled at hiding her real mental state, but it was reassuring that she was not openly hostile.

Even idled, power radiated off of her. I knew a single Ritual Plate represented an investment in industrial and arcane might, given the precision required in the components. The man-hours of artificer work alone...

Showing the wisdom of our Imperatrix and military leaders interchangeability, standardization and mass production was used as much as possible. Which was reasonable both for how each Ritual Plate needed to be custom fitted to a specific Pilot.

Also that given Ritual Plate was the House's main form of aerial combat power, both offensive and defensive, there were tens of thousands of the things. It was a major commitment for even a demonic empire of our size.

Despite all that, it was like someone walking up to me wearing an attach helicopter or a fighter plane with emphatic purpose. As an Aerial Mage in another life I could see how intimidating this could be.

A servant in a purple and gold uniform stood by the Duchess' side carrying a metal helmet with a full face mask.

Sister Clementine gave my hand another squeeze and stepped aside. "Do your best, Tauria, but don't hurt yourself."

"Duchess SilverFlight, how may I serve?" I asked bowing my horns.

Silver lips smiled as purple eyes studied me. "You brought your Zephyr? Good. Eager. I like that."

Oh. I guess they had come to me when we stepped outside. I simply nodded.

"I know you've been looking forward to this day for a long time. Now, don't feel any pressure or worry about today's results. Most don't even try synchronizing for their first time until they're twice your age. And there's no shame in not syncing until you're Cadet age either. We'll always be able to try again in the spring."

"Yes, your grace," I automatically replied. I could not feel any of the other girls around. But there were a bunch of people in the Duchess' livery working around something strapped to a metal chair.

My tail went straight. It was another Ritual Plate Suit. There was less adornment and enchanting and it looked a bit more rugged and... simple. More ominously: it was tiny.

I then realized the servants were Ritualista and were checking the enchantments and adjusting the size of everything.

I kept from clenching my teeth. This was why the Duchess had me do ballet lessons. It helped with the grace and footwork, and everyone knew Ritual Plate was difficult to walk around in on the ground.

I glanced to the Duchess and saw dispute the armored pointed boots she was walking as nimbly as if wearing stilettos on the ballroom floor.

And that explained all the dresses. She knew all my measurements.


I managed to look eager as she lead me out to the grass and where the Ritualista were working. The suit was open with many of the front plates removed or rotated out of the way. There were cables going from the suit to various containers providing fuel and telemetry. Dials were being read off and adjustments were made.

This was a test I could not refuse. Not if I wanted to keep in the Duchess' good graces.

It was clear to me why she had been spending so much time helping me learn and giving me things. A noblewoman wouldn't care out of a war orphan out of some kindness. Clearly, she saw the potential in me

I gave some small hope that I would fail the test. Being able to Pilot a Ritual Plate suit was a rare talent. Not the rarest talent the BlackSkyvian military coveted. Those who had the magical affinity towards teleportation or walking through walls or remote viewing were even rarer and yet more valuable.

General sorcerous and arcanist talents were also useful from things like evocation grenadiers to combat engineers.

Telekinetics were also valuable. While a kinetomancer with great precision could be very useful at taking out high value targets or one with exceptional strength could be devastating especially in urban fighting...

The most common use for those with the more common range of those talents was in making sure cargo was properly loaded, stowed, and unloaded. House BlackSky extensively used air resupply, but even transferring material from one ship to another involved the transport of a heavy object from one moving platform to another moving platform.

Having a Load Mistress with an intuitive understanding of the physics involved, formal training on how to control such cargo evolutions, and a magical ability to nudge said cargo if things went wrong was unglamorous but exceptionally useful.

I had some regrets that I did not have talents in that area.

All in all, being able to pilot Ritual Plate was a one in a hundred ability. And one in a thousand could fly one of the armored suits with great skill. Which... was why both the Fleet and Legions did their best to entice recruits with said capability

I stared into the open suit. It was mostly an unpainted metallic silver but there were some purple accents and script with broad orange highlights noting it was a trainee model.

It lacked the lethal grace of the Duchess' armor, which was somewhat reassuring, but I would be lying to myself if it was not enticing.

On a platform next to the arming chair was the matching helmet. The faceplate was simple and I could see the catches that would open to allow someone to put it on around my horns.

"It's okay to be nervous," the Duchess said. "I wasn't much older than you when I first Piloted."

That did not reassure me.

"When did you first fly into battle?" I asked before I could catch myself.

"My you are an eager one." Silver lips turned into a smile. "No, I was much older when I entered the Legions. Though I did spend three years as a Cadet Pilot before the Legion proper."

"Then why test now? Surely a suit, even a trainee one, in this size is a great expense."

"Is it?"

I paused. While a Ritual Plate suit had to be customized to a given Pilot. That was not a permanent change. It could be reconfigured to allow someone else to fly it. Modularity was also designed to allow for a suit to continue to be refitted. With this many in service in so many roles, it was vital to be able to maintain, repair, and upgrade to keep a given suit in service as long a possible.

A given Ritual Plate suit could be in service for decades. Though the suit at the end might only retain a trivial number of its original parts.

A training suit would be designed for greater simplicity and robustness. Its only concerns for battlefield capability would be ensuring a pilot starting on one could get skills that would be relevant when she transferred to a combat suit.

Thus, one could amortize the massive initial cost of a trainee suit over many years. Maintenance would be a regular operating cost but for an organization like the Fleet or the Legions the extra marginal cost of having Ritualista maintain and fit out a few trainee suits, even in such a diminutive scale would be low. As would ordering trainee suits in all sizes.

Though there was one flaw in that logic. This was the Duchess' trainee suit and these Ritualista were in her livery.

"You have your own mercenary company?" I asked. That... was not something I had considered. Was the Duchess looking to recruit me into her personal military force?

When compared to being in a state military there were pros and cons to being a mercenary.

The Duchess gave a warm chuckle. "Technically, yes. But I am in good standing with the Guild. I am also an Imperial Legion Volantes Tribune in the Rorarii."

I nodded. She was a mid-level active reserve officer. And her rank would put her in charge of a Ritual Plate Wing or a similar level of authority.

"What kind of contracts do you take on?" I asked, letting some eagerness come out. If I was to be roped into being a mercenary pilot by my patron it would do to figure out what tasks she did.

Being in the Legions might be the better option.

"Oh, nothing so glamorous," she assured.

I was skeptical.

"My family has interest in many artificer Halls and industrial and research interests than make components minor and major. Thus I retain about a squadron of Pilots for testing and evaluation of new components."

I perked up. That was exactly the kind of rear-echelon, nay civilian, job that would suit me. Especially if it was a way for me to fly without getting any risk. Potentially. I had bad experience the last time I was a test pilot. Hopefully, the House had saner researchers than Doctor Schugel. "That sounds like fascinating work."

"It is the least I could do, and is a way to allow veteran Pilots to keep flying."

My tail drooped. Of course. The Duchess finds new recruits, and then sends them to the Fleet or Legion to get trained up, and then after their term, she reaps the rewards.

I nodded thoughtfully. "Very generous, your Grace."

The duchesse waved me off. "I've been keeping you too long. Shall we get you suited up?"

My first step was not into the flight armor. One of the Ritualista, who had pink hair cut into a bob, took me back inside where I changed into one of the bodysuits.

This one was also cut in my size and by my guess was fully custom. At least it was not pink, though it was lavender with some painted on ruffles. the material was thick and stretch and thankfully was not skin tight. Though, it was far less baggy than the flight suit I wore as an Aerial Mage.

There was padded sections and a few ports and areas that had rings and locking points. Being dressed in it was uncomfortably personal and it did not help when the Ritualista assured me that since this would be a short flight I would not need to use any of the other features.

I was an Aerial Mage for the Empire. I knew about the embarrassing biological necessities that came with long duration flight. Though, again one nice thing about being an Aerial Mage was our sortie time was usually too short for that to make a difference.

Regaining my dignity, I held my tail and head high as I walked back outside. Sister Clementine gave me a hug, her wings folding over mine.

The Duchess once again came over and took me to the arming chair. The Zephyr that followed me around were buzzing with anticipation.

Ritualista fussed over me as they let me sit down into the armored flight suit. Though in this case a trainee suit was more armored against bumps and light crashes than enemy fire.

Quiet professional hands locked the plate and hatches over and went down a checklist. My feathers tingled as power grew into the suit. It jumped up when the back and wing sections were bolted into place. I controlled my breathing.

This was not the most risky thing I had done. Thankfully, I did not have much claustrophobia, touch each piece added in did make me feel more... disconnected.

Soon, I was fully encased in the silver and purple armor. I looked over at the helmet resting on its stand. That looked like the last part. The pins and needles sensation started to grow as the suit's crew turned off some of the governors and fed more power

The Duchess knelt before me. "Tauria, it's going to be okay, you're doing great."

I was?

"Just keep at it, that you've brought your own Zephyr makes this much simpler. We now have to get them to like the suit, instead of getting some air spirits to like you."

I lifted a gauntleted arm and gave a thumbs up. My shoulders, hips, and legs were still locked into the arming chair. Unlike the Duchess' suit, my gauntlets only had a bit of plating on the back of the palm. Instead of fully articulated armor, my gloved hands were exposed. The muffle feeling grew.

"We're about to initiate primary link," one of the Ritualista said.

There was a tingling flash that suddenly went numb. Feeling leaked back into my limbs. I lifted my arm and looked at it and then poked my other gauntlet. It was not that I could feel though the suit, but more that the suit was not an impediment.

More was the feeling, the urge the dream, of flight. Fed by the suit, anchored to it, my Zephyr were pushing. the air spirits eager to fulfill their nature. Eve with my Ritual Plate idling the amount of power fed into them had engorged the little whispers of air into something far more.

The Duchess took my hand and smiled. Then she took her helmet from the waiting servant and locked it onto place. It was the contoured almost-death mask like face that then peered at me and took up the smaller helmet and locked it into place.

My vision went dark for a moment as the helmet got into place and the hatches were adjusted to allow for my horns to peek through. The vision though the eyeholes a bit restricted at first.

But then a few runes came up denoting the interlocking and the vision expanded as my few grew out.

The bolts holding me to the arming chair retracted and I flew to my feet. I felt floatly and my wings were pressed up. I stepped forward and hand to remember my ballet lessons on how to balance in this position.

The problem was that while the zephyr wanted to put me into the air, I still had the same amount of inertia. From what little I knew was that Ritual Plate Pilots walked one of two ways. With the primary link active and the Zephyr pulling up one's wings, there was a floating gait that was prone to over-corrections and swaying motions. Without it active, there was a lot of exaggerated heavy stomping as one walked bearing the full mass of the metallic suit.

The Duchess was still holding my hand.

"Are you ready?" she said, her voice echoing from a speaker crystal in the suit's choker.

"Yes your Grace." With the helmet on my smirk was hidden. I pulled my wings out and timed my leap and the push of my Zephyr. The spirits wanted to go fast, that was their purpose.

I might have overdone it.

But I did get off the ground.

The blast of air behind me may have bowled over a couple of the Ritualista as I shot up. The sense of accelerating and freedom came to me. Here one first learned to walk, then to swim, then to fly. A lot of swimming lessons actually were basic flight lessons in how to move one's wings and built up strength.

But as much as flying as a demon girl was a joy, it had nothing on the pure speed and power of being an Aerial Mage.

The Duchess gave a whoop of delight and pulled her own wings to dart up into the sky.

For a moment I was lost in trying to show the wrong skills to my patron. Now I wanted to show off. I waited for her to meet my current altitude, then went into a dive and began accelerating.

Besides, if a Duchess had decided I was to be a Ritual Plate pilot, then it was my best option to show her the wisdom of her decision and just how good I could be.

I glanced back and saw that she had caught up. Trimming my wings I turned out of the dive and tried to give a level acceleration. I was not as fast as with my Computation Orb, but I was sure that this particular suit had some version of training wheels.

Either way, having wings and a magical of thrust was a nice combination. I tried to up my maneuvering but it was hard to shake the Duchess.

Not that I had any plans to beat her. Short of falling on her and trying to bite and claw and use my tail I had no weapons.

Granted, I had done something like that in my first battle. But I had no intention of self destructing this flight armor.

Despite the distance and despite her mask, I saw the Duchess slow down slightly, and tilt her head at me.

I got the feeling of mirth pulse towards me ad the duchess rocked toward me in a blur.

"Oh come on!" I cried as I rolled and poured on the power to gain attitude. While I had the distance I could get more sped and room to maneuver. Of course she was toying with me.

The Duchess shot past me and the wake nearly destabilized me as she stopped and in a maneuver that would make me wince n the 203rd days rapidly decelerated to match my heading.

"You truly are gifted," she transmitted her voice coming in though my helmet's internal speakers.

I took a moment to compose myself. "Thank you, your Grace," I gave as warm of a response as I could. She had me. The Duchess utterly had me.

"Let us go down and have a celebratory lunch," she happily said and then took off back to the Nunnery.

Part of me wondered how far I could go on a borrowed Ritual Plate suit, but I knew she would catch me. Also, while there was technically less sausage in my diet than in the Empire, the food was still very... Alpine. Though the meats and sausages did seem of a better quality here. But I did spend most of my previous life on military rations.

I followed her and at least had the pleasure of sticking the landing despite these cursed boots.

Taking off the helmet was a bit more challenging and I needed some help.

The duchess had removed her own helmet and did not even wait to get either if us out of the suits before having lunch where she could discuss my future.


The Prefect Volantes Centurion in her black Legionary uniform eyed us. Her face was lean and her dark eyes scanned over the crowd. For a ceremony like this she wore a ceremonial hem net with a red crest. The handful of us stood before one of the titanic hangars of Castra Bovitar.

Wings of Ritual Plate were on maneuvers above us, VTOLs of various sizes were transporting Legionaries and armored vehicles, and vast airships were being maneuvered. I was familiar enough with the later in my previous life. The Empire was fond of Zeppelins, and had even used them to transport Aerial Mages.

Which made sense, one of the main limits on an airship was lift capacity. Speed and controllability and sheer size were a few others. But when it came to firepower per pound Aerial Mages were extremely efficient.

Ritual Plate had a similar dynamic of extremely powerful, but expensive, per pound. Thus, it was natural for House BlackSky to develop the capability of supporting Ritual Plate Pilots via airship. It fit in well with our mobility doctrine.

Near the far Eastern frontier of House BlackSky, this base served as a major forward operating position for elements from First Home Fleet and had several Legions assigned here. There was even lift capacity to deploy a full Legion.

Compared to the facilities in the capital of Silvana, Castra Bovitar was a bit laking in true heavy firepower. Still a pair of Battlecruisers, two fleet carriers, and a torpedo boat tender were assigned here. Plus all their escorts and supporting forces. And with the capital only 800 miles away this base should keep House Luxon to the east from thinking twice about attacking.

And it would reassure our ally to the North the, barely a great house, House Andromache. To our South was the Gaudia Sea, making this province a bit of a finger sticking out of our empire's territory.

That we were, relatively, close to the capital and bordered with multiple bodies of water, the Gaudia Sea, Lacus Superum and, the Great Bazala Lake, which other houses also had access too, kept this from being a sleepy frontier province. Unlike other areas in our sprawling Great House. Let alone some of the offworld colonies.

"Step forward, recruit number one!" the centurion bellowed. "This is your chance to get out. Will you take it?"

The mousy-looking girl shook her head no. She had pixie cut white hair. Despite her meek posture her tail was straight. She was a few years older than me. I doubted she needed special dispensation

The centurion nodded. "Then swear."

"I swear by the various gods and unbreakable oaths that I will follow my commander wherever she may lead me. I will obey orders enthusiastically and without question. I will relinquish the protection of BlackSkyvian civil law and accept the power of my commanders to put me to death without trial for disobedience or desertion," the white haired girl said clearly and without a stumble at the end.

This would not be the first time I had dealt with an Imperial military with such strict rules of obedience.

"I promise to serve under the standards for my allotted time of duty and not to leave before my commander discharges me. I will serve BlackSky faithfully, even at the cost of my live and respect the law with regard to civilians and my comrades." the mousy girl concluded, her tail curled behind her.

"Congratulations!" the centurion boomed. "You are now a soldier of House BlackSky." She went to the amber-skinned girl with a shaved head. "Next!"

"And the same goes for me!" that girl declared

The Centurion chuckled and then gave her congratulation.

After a few more recruits went through she looked down at me. Her tail swished.

I went through the whole oath with my full gusto.

I was eleven. And just after the Feast of DarkStar I had volunteered as a Legion Cadet Pilot.

Yes, I am aware that I had done the very thing I had spent my short life trying to avoid: joining an imperial military as a young girl.

I had my reasons.

It came down to two primary ones. The perils of having a Legionary flying officer Duchess as my patron and how the BlackSkyvian military calculated time served.

Duchess SilverFlight was a great teacher and valued my skills. That training suit basically became mine as I used it more and more over the few years I had it. I had honed my skills and had become a fixture of her talks and among the young potential pilots she had found.

I learned the ins and outs of controlling such a thing which gave me an advantage over those who did not have regular access to such an expensive piece of equipment.

The problem was that the Duchess saw me as an investment.

As I got older there would be a pressure to enlist.

I did not begrudge her for this. She had put a lot of time and money into an orphan and wanted to see a return on it. Especially, if said orphan demonstrated skills that the House could use.

I may deplore war as a waste of lives, resources, and economic output, but if a nation-state must have a military then it does need skillful personnel.

The Duchess had no legal recourse to punish me if I did not enlist. In theory, once I emancipated myself, I could leave the Nunnery and get a job anywhere I wanted.

I had the skills.

Unfortunately most of my contacts were... the Duchess.

She never once brought up the possibility of her using her pull to blackball me. She didn't need to.

In trying to show my soft skills to Duchess SilverFlight I ended up trapping myself. I had taken this realization with my usual stoicism.

The situation would get worse the older I got. And if a major war kicked off, the pressure would become untenable.

It was not a question of if, but of when.

Thus my choice was enlist in the Imperial Legion, Household Fleet, or an Auxilia.

The Auxilia would be a lesser commitment, but I worried that might offend the Duchess more than if I had simply skipped out on military service.

The Household Fleet had far more Ritual Plate which gave me more options in finding a calm rear-posting to serve my term. Though they also used Ritual Plate far more frequently. As again that was the Fleet's main striking force. The large Fujiwara Torpedo was powerful, and gave the Fleet a great offensive punch, but they were expendable munitions. They were also heavy and weight was everything when it came to Fleet logistics.

Were a Ritual Plate Pilot could do many sorties. Provided she survived.

In fairness, both the Legions and the Fleet did a lot of cross training for their Pilots. They even had the same equipment and models of Ritual Plate. Well, there was some specialization for those who served on submarines and other postings that got an excessive amount of sea spray.

Both salt and water had a metaphysical grounding effect on magical enchantments. Thus saltwater was a nightmare to proof systems for. That we even had a submarine fleet, small as it was, showed the ingenuity desperation could bring.

That and that one of our rivals to the southwest, House Trosier was a major naval power. And they had an impressive submarine fleet. Fortunately, our ally House Alecto disliked Trosier more than we did, and was also a Naval power, and willing to help us with technical expertise.

I have to admit, I came down to the Imperial Legions because that was where the Duchess had her commission.

I knew what service to join.

I knew my joining was inevitable.

The question was when.

And this comes to the second point. Being in the Legions, or the Fleet, is a 20 year term.

If I waited until adult hood and succumbed to pressure I would expect to have nearly two decades of risk of dangerous duties. The year or so of training and light duty would eat into that.

And that was if I did not sign up during a major war as an adult.. Someone personally trained by Duchess SilverFlight? I could see myself being thrown into combat right after the Ritualista got a suit fitted during my oath.

However, the clock on that 20 year term includes Cadet programs.

House BlackSky recognizes that training makes a vast difference for a Pilot's skills. The Cadet program is a way to attract potential pilots of special talent and train them up. This gives them a leg up over other recruits who might be wearing an RP suit for the first time. Instead of the minimum age of 16, though they seem to prefer a little bit older, for the Legions, the Cadet program allows people 2 or 3 years younger.

Thankfully House BlackSky is not so desperate that they will send children into battle. Things are not quite so dire as they were for my previous Empire.

This means that there is every benefit for me to get into the Cadet program as early as possible. If I have to be in the Legions then it is in my best interest to showcase my abilities.

And this is best done by showing off my skills at the youngest age. Further bonuses were this gives me more time to train before I end up in active service. And every year as a cadet is one less I have to be an active pilot.

Really, being a cadet at eleven is not so bad, by this time in my last life I was commanding a battalion

Further, volunteering for the Cadet program at such a low age requires the Duchess to petition for an exception. She has to put her reputation on the line to advocate to the Legions why I, in particular, deserve special dispensation.

Making her spend some political capital to show her just how gung ho I am. And how right the Duchess was for finding me and giving me this chance.

Thus I turn a situation where I could have lost her patronage into one that strengthens it.

All in all, I spend few years as a cadet, then hopefully, get into full training rotation. And, if I am lucky, it can be in relative peace, so maybe another year knocked off.

Even better, the normal route for new Pilots is to spend a term or two in Scouting Branch getting seasoned. Sure, the duty involves a lot of long, boring recon patrols, but I was well aware of how good a boring billet was. That most Scouts were deployed as half squadrons on cramped Venture class scout craft that had limited amenities was a downside, but it beat slogging in ground support operations.

And after all that I should get my first combat posting. And that is only if I don't get some sort of rear posting as a flight instructor.

If I play my cards right I can have at least quarter likely a third of my term spent in various training posting. And maybe get out when I'm barely over thirty. If I get lucky maybe I can use my connections with the Duchess to get a position testing equipment for the Legions.

I might have ended up stuck in the military again, but this time without Being X's sabotage I was not worried about complications.

I smiled as the last of the cadet recruits swore in and we all saluted the BlackSkyvian banner. "Hail Imperatrix!"

End Chapter 1

Poor, poor Tanya.

She's trying her best but in many ways she's her own worst enemy. Especially when Being X is out of the picture.
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