Year 3200, the world was plunged into chaos. Many nations crumbled, all foundations of civilization perished, the wonders of mankind were pushed into inexistence, and humanity was slowly pushed into extinction.

YAMA, as we called them, rained upon the Earth, filling the skies with their songs of impending doom. No technology or weapon that could withstand their ruthless onslaught. Their presence invoked the fear towards death itself, and nobody could stand against this ruthless invader from the sky.

Until one day, a savior emerged, clad in metallic, silvery armor. Carrying a banner of hope upon humanity, this savior called upon the mankind to stand against this invader, and in this savior's hands, a revelation was carried. It was a gift from the savior itself, a key for humanity's salvation.

And humanity managed to fight the invaders, driving them out of this Earth with this newfound revelation. With this, they created a new weapon that surpassed the human's technology itself. And in the end, YAMA was successfully driven away, and mankind's hope was restored.

But then, the savior vanished from the face of Earth, leaving only a vague hint of its return. The savior claimed to be the spirit of metal itself, had prophesized that once YAMA appeared again, the world would see the savior once again in its hour of need.

~Bernadotte's Memoirs

Hagane Tensei: Metal Heart

Chapter 01: Violet Blood

3245, Metal City, it was one of the largest city ever built since the near-annihilation of humanity by the hands of YAMA several decades ago. True to its namesake, almost all structures of this city were made of metal. Roads, buildings, homes and many others were made of metal, but people still could see trees here and there, for environmental purposes.

And Metal City was also known for the manufacturing of one of greatest achievements of humanity, SEI. It was some kind of exoskeletal armor made of steel, which allowed its users to do such superhuman feats. It was made and introduced during the humanity's hour of need when the foreign invader from the sky, YAMA came as a threat for humanity's existence. The one who brought the technology, only known as 'The Savior' was the one who stopped YAMA's advance from conquering the world and destroying the humanity from the face of Earth.

"Tetsu, what the hell are you waiting for? We're leaving!"

I stopped my internal monologue as someone yelled at me. I blinked for a while and saw a brunette girl with pigtails. She's Maia Harvest, my childhood friend and classmate. She's a bit ill-tempered and very hard to deal with, but once she became your friend, you'd know that she's one of your dearest friends you ever had. Ah, by the way, my name is Kazuma Tetsu, the second-year student of Hagane High School, one of the most renowned educational institutions in Metal City.

"Yeah, there's no need to yell like that, Maia…" I sighed, placing my finger on my temple. I was standing in front of an interactive commercial board, which displayed the latest design of SEIs. Since I was a child, I seemed to grow a fondness towards these exoskeletal armors, because my parents were designers of SEIs, and my grandmother was one of those who participated in the war against YAMA, and also The Savior's staunch ally. My grandmother herself was one of SEI's legendary users and was considered as a legendary figure, revered as a warrior and The Savior's companion.

Maia sighed. As my childhood friend, she knew about my fondness towards SEIs. Tapping my shoulder, she said to me, "Well, you can admire these things later. Didn't you already promise to me about today?" she tilted her head cutely. Sometimes, I had to wonder how much Maia had grown. "Karaoke, remember…?"

I smiled towards her. I considered her as one of my cherished ones, and I would never let her down. "Of course," I nodded. "Let's go, then."

Both Maia and I were walking down the streets, looking at the stuff around us. Most of the things around us were made of metal, which was kind of fit with this city's metallic theme.

"So, Tetsu, about today…" then, Maia spoke to me. "What do you think about that new girl in our class?"

"New girl…?" I frowned, trying to remember our time at class sometimes ago. "Oh, that one," I recalled about that. Earlier this morning, our class seemed to have a new student. "Hmm… what's her name again?"

Maia made a face. "Hmph, don't tell me you're not paying attention in class today!" she scolded me. "She's Annabelle Von Heinkel, the daughter of the world's greatest SEI's developer!"

"Annabelle… Von Heinkel…?" I remembered that. She was a girl with long violet hair, wasn't too tall, but wasn't too short either. She had a pair of eyes that matched the color of her hair. She was kind of mysterious, but she had a nice voice and nice body too (but there's no way I could say that out loud). She had this aura of dignity and elegance which attract people towards her, and at the same time, repel people away from her. A nice paradox, if you ask me.

"What do you think?" Maia asked.

"Umm… she's pretty," I answered as I averted my eyes. And then, I remembered that after her introduction in our class, our teacher asked her to take a seat at a desk beside mine. And she also gave me a sweet smile.

"Hello, my name is Annabelle Von Heinkel. Nice to meet you…"

"Umm… my name is Kazuma Tetsu, nice to meet you too, Miss Heinkel…"

"Annabelle's fine. There's no need to be so formal to me…"

"Y-yes, nice to meet you, Annabelle…"

"Kazuma, why are you smiling? Are you thinking dirty thoughts?" Maia looked at me suspiciously. I immediately stopped recalling my conversation with Annabelle as I tried my best to cover my blush.

"It's nothing! Nothing at all…!" I said. Maia seemed to grow suspicious as she drew her face nearer towards mine, which felt rather awkward. "It's nothing! I'm serious!"

"But why are you blushing?" Maia asked.

"Don't ask! Just walk!" I said as I grabbed her hand, dragging her along.

"Hwah…!" she yelped as I did that. "H-hey, don't do that!"

Well, other than that, there's nothing remarkable. Futuristic vehicles could be seen here and there, advertising boards were displaying the latest fashion designs, cleaning robots were moving around, doing their jobs, and so on. Yeah, nothing remarkable, I guess. But, then, I heard a strange noise.

"Maia…" I said to Maia. "You hear that…?"

"Hear…? Hear what…?" Maia asked me questioningly. Before I could properly answer her question, suddenly there was an explosion in the sky. "Kyaa…!" she cried, moving down and cowering in fear. And I instinctively used my body to cover Maia in case something bad happened.

And the crowd around us also noticed the explosion. I looked up and saw two strange things in the sky. One of them was a black, metallic object which seemed barely humanoid while the other one was a violet object, or rather a SEI.

I gasped. While I was familiar with SEIs, it's my first time seeing a SEI being piloted in front of my eyes. Both the unidentified black object and the SEI pilot were having a dogfight in the sky, and almost all the passers-by were looking at them. The unidentified black object was firing a barrage of missiles towards the SEI pilot, and the pilot skillfully dodged the attacks before the pilot shot all the missiles, preventing them from causing any damage on the city.

As I watched the battle, I could feel something stirring inside me. I couldn't describe the feeling, but it felt like something was about to be pulled out from my chest. The unidentified object and the SEI pilot were shooting each other, and both parties were skillfully dodging each other's attacks.

I didn't know what to think about this situation, but I was rooting for the pilot. After making a crazy maneuver in the air, the pilot pulled out something from its back. It looked like a glowing blue blade. It seemed that the SEI armored unit was equipped with a beam sword, which was made of plasma, which could be used to cut metal itself.

The battle between both parties became intense, and I had a sudden urge to watch the battle closer. The unidentified black object also pulled out the same thing, albeit a red one. Both of them were clashing their plasma swords against each other, essentially having a sword's duel.

And then, the unidentified black object managed to hit the SEI pilot on its side, which caused the pilot to lose control and began to fall. My eyes widened before I rushed towards where the pilot plummeted. I ignored Maia's yell as I ran.

After running for more than twenty minutes, I arrived at the backstreets. I was confident that I saw the pilot falling into this place. I stepped into the back alley and saw blood on the pavement. And not far from the spot of blood, I saw someone sitting against a wall, panting and wheezing. And that someone seemed familiar.

"Huh…?" I immediately rushed towards that someone. Apparently, the SEI pilot was a girl with long violet hair. And she already removed her helmet. Blood could be seen running out from the wound on her torso, and from the look of it, the wound seemed serious. "Annabelle…?" I gasped. "Annabelle, are you alright?"

Yes, there's no way I could be mistaken. This SEI pilot was my new classmate, Annabelle Von Heinkel. She was the one who fought against the unidentified black entity in the sky a while ago, but she was defeated and wounded. She was gasping and wheezing. She seemed to be overwhelmed by her injury.

"T-Tetsu…?" Annabelle said between her ragged breaths. "Y-you… saw…?" she asked weakly before her eyes widened. "Tetsu, look out!" she yelled before she got up, tackling me to the floor. A slashing sound could be heard and I could hear her screaming in pain as someone attacked her from behind.

"Annabelle…!" I shouted. A nasty gash could be seen on her back, and even her SEI armored unit couldn't withstand the slash. And there was it, the unidentified object. Its design looked eerily similar to a SEI unit, without a pilot. It was holding a plasma sword, which was humming wickedly.

"T-Tetsu, run…" Annabelle said weakly as she tried to move. But her injuries seemed too severe. There's no way she could do anything with such heavy damage. But much to my surprise, she managed to stand up, looking at the unidentified object defiantly. Her hand was clutching the handle of her plasma sword tightly. I also could see sparks in some parts of her SEI. "I… I will handle this…" she said before she coughed up blood. "Run… and don't look back…"

I looked at Annabelle in disbelief. There's no way I could leave an injured girl in a place like this, especially when there's an unknown yet dangerous thing that wanted to kill her. But, before I could say anything, suddenly Annabelle's SEI let out some kind of red steam before she rushed towards the unidentified object with her plasma sword in her hand. She let out a battle cry as she swung the sword onto the unidentified object.

As both plasma blades collided against each other, a discomforting noise could be heard. And before I could realize it, both Annabelle and her opponent were exchanging blows in such high speed. It should be noted that the girl was injured. Despite her injuries, she managed to fend off most of the unidentified object's attacks. As a SEI's user, she seemed to be quite a proficient fighter.

"Exceed Mode, activate," Annabelle said before something clicked within her SEI unit. The armored unit stopped letting out the red steam before the violet surface of her SEI glowed. After that, something hummed in the air and it felt like everything around her was pushed away by some unseen force. I could do nothing but to watch as I saw for the first time a SEI's pilot in action. "Energy supply: 430 percent! Overdrive!" her plasma sword let out such a blinding glow, and the unidentified object seemed to be overwhelmed by the searing heat from the glow.

And then, everything blurred, but in just a few seconds. When everything recovered, only Annabelle and her SEI armor remained. The unidentified object was reduced to nothing but a charred metallic remain. Annabelle deactivated her plasma sword before her armor fell off from her body, revealing her shapely body wrapped under some kind of tight, leotard-like bodysuit. Her suit seemed to be blood-stained due to her injuries. After all parts of her armor fell off, she staggered back and began to fall.

"A-Annabelle…!" before her body could touch the ground, I managed to catch her. Holding her shoulders tightly, I looked at her face, and she seemed pale. Perhaps it's due to blood loss. "A-are you alright?" that was a stupid question, I thought to myself. Of course she wasn't alright. There were two large gashes on her body, and if they weren't treated soon, she might die due to infection or blood loss. The girl was panting heavily, her eyes dull and unfocused. She seemed to be barely hanging on her life.

"W-why didn't you run…?" Annabelle asked between her gasps. "Y-you might die… Tetsu…"

"Stop talking, Annabelle! We need to treat those wounds quickly!" I shouted as I placed my hand on her wounded side. My forearm briefly brushed against her breast, but there's no time to be embarrassed. Someone might die, and it wasn't a perfect time for some comedic moment. "Damn, I need to stop the bleeding!"

"T-there's no need for that…" Annabelle told me reassuringly. "M-my SEI unit can help my cells to regenerate…" then, she paused before she looked into my eyes. For a moment, her eyes seemed to study mine. It was quite embarrassing, but I didn't look away. "Tetsu… will you do something for me?" she asked.

"W-what is it?" I asked.

"Kiss me…" she requested. I froze for a second. For a moment, I thought that she might be joking or giving me a cruel prank. But seeing that she was in pain, it was hard to think that she might be joking. "T-this is the only way for me to survive. P-please…" she begged.

"Uh…" for a moment, I hesitated. But then, she coughed up blood again. It was terrible sight to be seen. She seemed to be battling for her whole life against the excruciating pain. And for a moment, I could see fear in her eyes. Deep inside me, there was an urge for me to comfort her. "Y-yes, I'll do it…" closing my eyes, I moved my head towards her before I pressed my lips against hers. I could taste her blood as our lips met. For the first three seconds, nothing happened. But as three seconds passed, I could feel something flowing out of me. It felt like all my nerves were burnt internally. It's quite painful, but I braced myself as I let the pain continued.

A few seconds later, Annabelle pushed me away. I coughed, feeling that I might have swallowed her blood. And then, the girls stood up. My vision was a bit blurred, but I could see that her wounds began to heal, much to my surprise. It was a slow process, but the wound on her side and her back seemed to shrink before they vanished completely. Annabelle sighed in relief as the healing process ended.

"W-what happened?" I asked bemusedly.

Annabelle smiled at me. She might have realized from my expression that I demanded an explanation. "I'm sorry for that, Tetsu. But this is my SEI's ability," she showed me a violet pendant. As an avid SEI enthusiast, I knew that the pendant was a SEI's activation key. The users could summon their SEI unit anytime, anywhere as long as they had the pendant with them. You could say that it's some kind of transformation trinket that allowed the users to don their armors. "This is my SEI, Violet Blood. It's an advanced SEI that is fused with my body. And I also can heal my injuries."

"Umm… how did you do that?" I asked.

"I took some of your lifeforce earlier, or in scientific term, your cellular energy. My Violet Blood can take it from your body," Annabelle began her explanation. "Using your cellular energy, Violet Blood accelerated my healing process. But it's still not perfect, so I may need some medical attention after this," then, she looked at me apologetically. "Umm… I'm sorry for that. I took your lifeforce without your consent. I-I hope you don't mind…" she sounded a bit guilty for taking my 'lifeforce' to fix her wounds.

"Oh, no… that's alright," well, while I didn't exactly like having something inside me to be forcefully taken out of me, if someone needed it for a life-and-death situation, I guess there's no problem at all. As long as Annabelle was alright, everything should be alright. "But I'm glad you're alright, Annabelle. And you're awesome! It's my first time seeing a real-life SEI in front of my eyes!" I exclaimed.

"Ah, r-really…?" Annabelle blushed slightly. "Umm… I'm glad you said that, Tetsu. And I'm thankful that you're here as well," she glanced behind, looking at the metallic remain of the unidentified object. "Without you, I might have died. And I needed to clean this mess as well," she sighed. "Thank you for everything, Tetsu."

"Annabelle, if you don't mind," I looked at Annabelle. Because she was wearing some kind of tight, leotard-like bodysuit that flaunted her shape, I tried to avoid staring at her too much, especially around her chest and thighs. "Would you tell me about that thing? What is that?" I asked.

"YAMA…" Annabelle replied simply. "The bane of existence that takes a shape of a machine, its mere existence is a threat upon humanity."

"YAMA…? W-wait, don't tell me that this thing is that YAMA? The very thing that almost wiped mankind from the face of Earth…?" I looked at her in disbelief. I read it from books about YAMA. They were the invaders from the sky, threatening to destroy all existence on Earth. Nobody knew the origin of these invaders, and the only thing that most people in this rebuilt world knew about YAMA was that their mere presence could stir fear within humans, and their presence was heralded by some kind of 'music'. I didn't know exactly about that last thing, but one could simply put that YAMA was indeed a dangerous existence.

"Yes, they are the very same thing that humanity managed to drive back using the technology of SEI…" Annabelle said. "And now, they have returned. All living things in this world were in grave danger, and the only way to prevent such thing is to don this armor," she said. "I am Annabelle Von Heinkel, the handler of Violet Blood SEI unit and the member of DEUS, the only hope of humanity's survival, nice to meet you, Tetsu."

~to be continued~