It was half a year after he was conscripted when Raiden encountered that Death God, when he was assigned to the latter’s squadron.
The last of his friends, who were conscripted at the same time, died in another squad just the day before he was reassigned.
Before conscription, he had remained hidden in Area Eighty Five.
Hiding him was an old Alba lady who had once managed a private boarding school.
She hid all the Eighty Sixer children she could, whether they were her students or just children living nearby, and had them hidden in the dormitories.
After five years, someone spilled the beans. The government sent soldiers to escort these children to the Concentration Camps. The old lady did her best to obstruct them, pleading with the conscience and justice of humanity, only to be answered with mocking and humiliation.
The soldiers had them board a truck used to transport livestock and drove off as though nothing had happened. The old lady gave chase, lashing out until the very end.
She had never uttered a single bad word. Whenever Raiden and the others cussed, without fail, she would become utterly, flusteredly furious.
But it was this old woman whose face was in tears, contorted in rage as she yelled,
“Go to hell, you scumbags!!!”
That harsh yell, along with the sight of her sprawled on the road, wailing away, remained fresh in Raiden’s mind.
The one they called the "Death God" was his squad leader, of the same age. Given Raiden’s prior experience, it was strange to see him extremely lax.
He never organized patrols and would search around the dumps alone even though there might be <Legion> lurking around, and even though the radar did not capture any signal, he would order them to sortie. He was able to give commands with stunning precision every time, but that languid demeanour of his seemed so suicidal to Raiden.
Raiden had had enough of it.
While his friends who were conscripted had all died out, they did fight until the very end. The old lady risked being beaten to death as she did her best to protect Raiden and the kids.
But this guy before him did not seem to care about anything, whether it was Raiden’s life or the others'.
Half a month after he joined, his patience had reached its limit. On that day, the leader never ordered a patrol, as usual, and he started an argument that quickly escalated into a scuffle.
Given their difference in physique, he was able to hold back his punch, but he sent the tall and scrawny Shinn flying. He stared down the latter who was on the dusty floor, and hollered, "Stop fooling around!" However, the latter merely looked back up with those crimson red eyes, unfazed.
"…It’s my fault for not explaining, I guess."
Shinn spat out blood as he stood up. His movements remained nimble, and it seemed he was not grievously hurt.
"But given my prior experience, nobody believes me until they actually hear it. I just don’t want to waste my time."
"Huh? What are you saying?"
"I'll explain when that happens… also."
Before he finished his words, Shinn slammed a fist in Raiden's face.
The scrawny body was nimble in movement, and delivered a stunning amount of force. The movement of his body and the delivery of force was without any unnecessary movement, and Raiden was sent sprawling to the ground, his mind shaking.
"This doesn’t mean I’m willing to get hit. I won’t hold back; you want to fight, I’ll take you on."
The brat had such unabashed arrogance. Raiden darted forth with all his might.
In conclusion, Raiden lost. He was beaten so badly that he was unable to fight back. Shinn had an extra year’s worth of combat experience, was more proficient in enacting violence, and knew how to use it.
Though peeved, Raiden had to admit Shinn had some ability, and had a slight change in impression. "You think you’re some manga protagonist or something? Don't you feel ashamed?" Seo retorted when he heard of this incident, but for Raiden, Seo never understood what he was getting at. Shinn, the other party involved, was holding in his laughter, but Raiden did not care about what that idiot was thinking.
The day after the scuffle, "You'd better explain this," he told Shinn while enduring the pain in his mouth.
And in the following battle, he heard the bone-chilling screams of the ghosts.
At that moment, Raiden understood why there was no need to patrol… why Shinn had a poise that was far beyond his years.
Once the lights were out, the barracks of Spearhead Squadron went silent. Raiden laid the bunk in his room, his eyes still open as he suddenly heard some footsteps.
He glanced at the room next to his, the door slightly ajar. In the dim room, Shinn was standing before the window that was whitened by the moonlight.
"Who were you talking to?"
He seemed to have heard Shinn talking in the showers downstairs and in the changing room by the side.
"Yep." Shinn merely glanced towards him, nodding. The bright red eyes were encased in ice, giving a poise unbefitting his age, a callousness that would never falter.
"It's the Major. She synchronized with me. Had a few words."
"..Ah, she actually contacted you. That Princess really has some guts."
Raiden was a little impressed. Of the Handlers before her, every single one who heard those voices never contacted them again.
His eyes were staring at bare neck, the red scar looping around it.
He heard Shinn mention how the terrifying scar, akin to a beheading, came about. He knew Shinn could hear the voices of the dead, because of that scar.
The night remained quiet. For Raiden, at least.
However, Shinn… a compatriot of his, had obtained the supernatural ability to hear the voices of the ghosts that would never vanish. How much anguish and lament could he hear?
There was no one who could remain perfectly sane after hearing these voices all the time. The unflinching, poised Death God was probably a result of repressed emotions in his heart, along with his tormented mind.
This Death God stared at Raiden, his bloody red eyes seemingly able to freeze everything within sight.
Raiden knew that Shinn’s heart was fixed upon the other end of the long battlefield, having spotted the head he was looking for.
"Gotta sleep. We’ll leave the talk for tomorrow."
The door was barely closed as footsteps returned to the next room, and the pipe bed rattled. Shinn stood before the window that was shrouded in moonlight, unflinching as he stared at the distant battlefield.
He pricked his ears, and could hear the calls of countless ghosts, as plentiful as the countless stars, filling the darkness of the night. They included groans, yells, laments, screams, and monotonous murmurs that could not be heard. However, he was focused on a voice that came through everything else, from the distant place he could not spot.
It was eight years ago when he heard that person say this with the same voice.
Back then, that was the sentence he heard.
Every night, whenever he heard this voice, he could remember, never to forget.
A shadow that leapt at him.
The force and pressure choking his neck, trying to crush everything.
Glaring at him were the black eyes behind the lens, filled with utter malice.
Sin. This is your name. How fitting.
It's all your fault. Everything is all your fault.
The same voice was calling for him from afar. Five years ago, after he had died at an abandoned dump somewhere along the eastern battlefront, this voice had been calling for him ever since then.
Shinn reached his hand out, touching the frosty glass window, and muttered despite knowing the other party could not hear him,
"I'm going over to you — brother."