"Okay, I'm going to put the ointment on your wound, Tetsu. It's gonna be hurt a bit, so be ready."

"R-right, I'm read-gaaaaaaaaah!"

'Hurt a bit'? My ass! It felt like being burned repeatedly on the exact same spot for a million times. I knew that the nurse didn't mean it, but it still hurt like hell. Seeing that I was screaming in pain, the nurse looked at me apologetically before she carefully applied the special ointment on my wounded thigh. I was wearing my own boxer at the moment, and it was embarrassing to have a woman seeing me in my own underwear.

"The healing process will begin at any moment now," the nurse told me helpfully as she put the bottle of special ointment on a nearby table. "I guess you're confused, right? It's okay. You'll learn about us eventually," the nurse gave me a kind smile, which made me blush. The nurse was wearing a white nurse uniform and she also tied her black hair into a bun. There was also a beauty mark under the left side of her lips. "You're lucky to have Maia and Anna saving you."

"Y-yeah, I guess so…" I said before I winced. Apparently, the healing process had begun. My damaged flesh on my wound began to knit itself. It was quite a painful process, but slowly, my wound shrunk before it vanished, leaving only a faint mark on my thigh. "But I'm surprised that Maia is also a pilot."

"The correct term is 'handler', Tetsu," the nurse corrected me. "But yes, Maia is also a SEI handler and a skillful one as well. Her SEI is called Yellow Hawk, a sniper unit. It's quite sluggish and slow in term of mobility, but when it comes to marksmanship and defense, Yellow Hawk is a monster. And I guess you already know about Anna's SEI, right?" she looked into my eyes, seemingly trying to study my reaction.

"Violet Blood…" I nodded. "She said that it's a rare SEI that granted its pi- I mean, handler the ability to self-generate," I remembered when she healed herself after she was injured in a battle against a YAMA. And then, I remembered the time when both of us kissed. The reason for the kiss was to give her my own lifeforce, or cellular energy to heal her wounds. I knew I couldn't help it, but it's still embarrassing. "So, since you're also working with DEUS, do you also have an SEI?" I asked. Then I realized that I didn't know her name yet.

The nurse seemed to notice my uneasiness before she gave me a kind smile. "You can call me Liz. Well, I have the right DNA to use a SEI and I have permission to use a standard unit, but I don't have my own custom SEI unit at the moment," then, she sighed softly. "Maia and Anna are special, by the way. That's why they have their own custom units."

"I see…" I thought that it was not a suitable subject to discuss here, so I decided to change the topic. "So, Liz… DEUS is fighting against YAMA, right? What are those things exactly? Where did they come from? What do they want from us?"

"We're not really sure at the moment," Liz answered. "Everything about YAMA is a mystery. Nobody knows where they came from and what their intentions to come and invade humanity. But there is something that we are certain of," she said. "Only those with the technology of SEIs can stand against these invaders. It is said that the technology of SEIs came from The Savior, the champion of humanity and the greatest hero of all time. The technology itself was said to be passed from God into his hands as a guidance to protect humanity from total annihilation. With this technology, he, along with his companions, created SEIs and used them to fight against YAMA. They succeeded and managed to drive YAMA away. Peace and order were restored," then, Liz looked down. "But now, they have returned, and it's up to us, DEUS, the ones who carry the will of The Savior and the people before us to protect humanity and fight against the invading YAMA."

It was pretty intense, and after hearing that from the nurse, I could feel something inside me that wanted to be unleashed. It was a desire to fight alongside these people and protect humanity from being destroyed by these YAMA bastards.

"And Tetsu, you'll see someone important after this," Liz informed as she smiled. "It's going to be the most important day for both you and DEUS," she said. Before she could continue, the door was opened and two people barged into the infirmary. They were Annabelle and Maia. "You two shouldn't enter without knocking, you know?" Liz scolded those two girls.

"S-sorry, but we're worried about Tetsu," Annabelle was the first one to speak as she looked at me. "T-Tetsu, how are you?" she asked before she noticed that I was wearing my boxer. Noticing that, she blushed as she averted her gaze.

"Stop being so shameless and put on your pants, dummy!" then, Maia yelled to me as she picked my pants from a nearby table and tossed the pants towards me. "Geez, you're so hopeless, Tetsu…" she sighed. Then, she looked at Liz. "Is he alright? Can he walk?"

Liz just smiled. "Oh, of course he's alright, my dear. You can always trust in our medicines, right?" she winked. Then, she looked at me who was putting on my pants. "So, you're free to go, Tetsu. But there's someone you should meet first."

I nodded. I still didn't know what's going on here, and meeting someone to explain things to me would help. "Someone…?" I looked at Annabelle. "Who…?"

Annabelle managed to look at me again as I put on my pants. "You'll meet the head of DEUS in order to understand what's going on here. You're going to meet Aleister Von Heinkel," she paused. "You're going to meet my father."


Hagane Tensei: Metal Heart

Chapter 03: Rose and Metal

Three of us walked down the corridors. I knew that due to our advanced technology, everything around us looked awesome, but the facilities in DEUS's headquarter were simply… unbelievable. Screens were seen everywhere, many new things to see and so on. I also saw several workers and all of them wore their uniforms. I couldn't help but to feel a bit nervous as I followed Maia and Annabelle. We would see Annabelle's father, one of the world's greatest SEI developers, Aleister Von Heinkel.

As we walked, I glanced at Maia. Her expressions were unreadable, which was kind of surprising. Usually, I could easily know what she was thinking due to her being my childhood friend. I never thought that she had hidden many things from me. Then, she noticed that I was looking at her, and I immediately averted my gaze. Explanation could wait anytime, I thought to myself.

Then, I looked at Annabelle. Like Maia, I also couldn't figure out what she was thinking at the moment. Her expression looked solemn and I noticed the change when Liz mentioned about her father. I didn't want to make any false assumption about Annabelle's relationship with her father, so I stopped thinking anything about that. Several minutes later, we arrived in front of a large door. Annabelle stepped forward, looking at me as she tried to smile.

"We're here," Annabelle said. "You're going to see my father, Tetsu. Please be ready…"

I nodded before I gulped. I had a bad feeling about this. Annabelle opened the door and three of us entered the room. Inside the room looked different compared to outside. The floor was made of white marble and the wall looked flawlessly white. The room looked empty, except several seats and a table in the middle of the room. Sitting on one of the seats was a tall, long-haired man clad in white labcoat over his black suit. He seemed to be enjoying his cup of tea before he noticed us.

"Ah…" the man spoke before he set down his tea on a table. He stood up as he looked at us, especially at me. He was tall and yet so slender and graceful. Call me crazy, but for a man, he looked beautiful. "Kazuma Tetsu, I presume…?" he spoke in soft, polite tone as he addressed me. He walked towards me, extending his gloved hand at me. "It's very nice to meet you at last. I am Aleister Von Heinkel, the chairman of DEUS…" he smiled. His smile looked surprisingly familiar. When he smiled, he looked like his own daughter, Annabelle. When I looked at both of them carefully, they had this same mysterious aura around them. Simply put, his daughter was his own exact copy, except that he's a male and his hair was white.

"Y-yeah, nice to meet you too, Mr. Heinkel," I said, taking his hand. He just chuckled upon hearing my reply.

"There's no need to be so formal, my dear boy…" he said. Despite his seemingly youthful look, he sounded like a very mature man. "Just call me Aleister," then, he observed me, studying my face before a satisfied smile appeared on his face. "Like I thought, you certainly have your grandmother's eyes…"

"Y-you know my grandmother…?" I looked at him, surprised. Once again, Aleister chuckled upon seeing my reaction. How could he know my grandmother? Was he that old?

"Certainly…" Aleister nodded. "Your grandmother, Kazuma Yukito… she's a war hero and one of The Savior's closest allies and companions. It was said that she stood alongside The Savior during the time of the war against YAMA. She was likened to a wild rose in the middle of a battlefield. Truly graceful and beautiful, and yet… deadly and dangerous…" he sighed. "I admired her, and now, her grandson is in front of me…" he looked into my eyes. "I can feel it, my boy. You are indeed the Wild Rose's grandchild."

"Uh…" I felt a bit uneasy as Aleister gushed about my grandmother, who was the war hero who helped The Savior to fight against YAMA. "Wild Rose, you say…?" I was curious about that. "Was that a SEI?" I asked.

"Yes indeed…" Aleister nodded. "It was among the first generation of SEIs, Wild Rose. It possessed a terrifying power that can decimate an army of enemies. And your grandmother was the one who held the power," then, he looked down. "Sadly, Wild Rose disappeared along with your grandmother. Nobody knew about its whereabouts. It's a pity, indeed. I wished I could study such magnificent weapon…"

"Father, I think we need to explain to Tetsu about what's going on…" Annabelle helpfully told her father. Aleister turned around and looked at his daughter before he smiled.

"Ah, of course, my dear Annabelle…! How careless of me to forget such crucial thing…!" Aleister looked back at me apologetically. "So, explanation…" he gestured to the seats. "Before that, please take a seat. We can't do a proper exposition if we don't sit."

Hesitantly, I took a seat. Both Annabelle and Maia also did the same. As we sat, a few maids came to serve us our drinks. After sipping his tea, Aleister set down his cup of tea before he brushed his white hair aside as he looked at me.

"Let's get started…" Aleister began. "But, before we begin, I'd like to ask you one simple question, Tetsu. What happened to you recently?" he asked.

"Umm… saw your daughter fighting a YAMA, and then I was attacked by a couple of YAMA and was injured, got my rear being saved by Maia," I shrugged. "I think that's it…"

"I see…" Aleister mused. "Perhaps it is a coincidence, since it is a part of YAMA's nature to attack anything that resembles humanity. But, once you got yourself involved, I think it is prudent for us to explain everything to you…" he said. "First, do you know what happened to your parents?" he asked.

I didn't know what to say. Hearing that question pained my chest. "I… I don't know. T-they just… disappeared…"

"Yes, disappeared…" Aleister nodded. "But, would you believe me that their disappearance had something to do with YAMA?"

Throb!

I couldn't describe the feeling, but I felt like my heart might burst out of my chest. It was painful. Apparently, Maia and Annabelle also noticed it as they saw my face.

"What happened to them?" I asked as I tried to resist this overwhelming anger.

"Nobody knows…" Aleister seemed genuinely worried about me as well. "But there is certainly a connection between the disappearance of your parents and the reemergence of YAMA into our world. We still don't know exactly the connection is, which is rather regrettable…" he looked at me with gentle gaze. "I'm sorry for that, my dear boy. Your parents were good friends of mine. I admired their enthusiasm and hardworking attitudes. Their disappearance is the thing that I regret the most…"

"What should I do now?" I asked.

"That brings us to the second matter…" Aleister said. "Before their disappearance, your father, Kazuma Kaido gave me this…" he took out something from his labcoat and handed it to me. Much to my surprise, it was a pendant, a SEI unit's activation key. It was silver in color. "Your father created it before he disappeared along with your mother. And as you can see, the pendant is locked," he told me. I focused on the pendant, seeing that it had no signal like Maia's and Annabelle's. The pendant was inactive. "And he told me to give it to you when the time comes. And I guess that it's time for you to get it…"

"My father… created this?" I studied the pendant. It was made of some kind of unknown metal, but it wasn't as heavy as I thought. This pendant, and by extension, the SEI armor was made specifically for me, and I couldn't help but to feel a bit sad. "What's its name? What's the name of this SEI?"

"About that…" Aleister closed his eyes. "Your father told me that it's called 'Metal Heart'. He had spent so many years working on this unit, and he wanted to pass it to you, his son."

"Can I activate this?" I asked.

"If we can figure out a way to unlock the pendant, then yes," Aleister answered. "And because you're Wild Rose's grandson, you certainly have a right DNA to use a SEI. But, because you have zero experience as a handler, we would like to train you."

"You will… train me?" I frowned. "Are you sure? I mean… I'm going to become a member of DEUS?"

"Sort of…" Aleister shrugged. "We will teach you the basics on how to handle a SEI unit. You need to know how to control the armor and you will also get combat trainings. For that, my daughter Annabelle and your friend Maia will be the ones who teach you how to fight."

"T-that's…" I looked at both girls.

"That's acceptable," Annabelle nodded.

Maia sighed. "I guess there's no way I can help it. I'm going to beat you into shape, Tetsu…"

Well, wasn't that reassuring?

"So, my dear boy…" Aleister addressed me. "Any question so far?" he asked.

"Umm… it's about YAMA," I said. "Why did they return forty years after the last time they appeared?"

"We're wondering about the answer for that question as well, my dear boy. Nobody knows the real reason of their reappearance. But you need to remember the terror that they may bring. YAMA is some kind of abomination that hates the living. They will bring devastation and total annihilation in their wake, and it's up to us, DEUS to stop their murderous rampage. Without us, humanity is doomed to face total extinction."

I gulped when Aleister said that we might extinct without the help of DEUS and SEI. I had to wonder about that. It's already that bad when there were two or three of them, but what if they came in group? What if they came down from above with so many of them? How about hundreds of them? How about thousands? How about millions? When I thought about it, there's a chance that humanity was doomed to fail.

"But The Savior succeeded to drive them away," Aleister said, trying to reassure me. "If the people of his time managed to do that, it's not impossible for us to do the same. We will fight YAMA for the sake of humanity. We as the ones who carry The Savior's will shall steadfastly stand against the invaders. For bad or good, we shall see the end of this."


"Tetsu, what do you think about my father?" Annabelle asked after the discussion with Aleister ended. We were lounging in the room after Aleister left.

"He's… kind of nice, I guess," I answered. "But for a father, he looks young. How old is he, anyway?" crap, me and my big mouth! "Uh, you don't have to answer that if you don't want to…"

"I'm not sure myself," Annabelle admitted. "He never told me that. Sometimes, it's hard to believe that he's my father. People once told me that he's too pretty, almost girly," she sighed. Apparently, the fact that her father looked like a woman seemed to bother her. No one could blame her, though.

"W-well, he's your father, right?" I tried to sound upbeat. "And at least you still have him."

"Ah," it wasn't a smart move from me as I mentioned about her still having her father. I did no longer have my father, and she might feel guilty after this. "I-I'm sorry…" as I thought, she looked apologetic. "I-I shouldn't mention this to you. I-I hope you're not angry…"

"N-no, that's alright," I said. "It doesn't matter anymore."

Then, the door was opened before Maia entered. She looked at me, and I remembered that we still needed to talk.

"I think you should talk to her, Tetsu," Annabelle helpfully reminded me. "You don't want to upset her, right?"

Right, I would like to avoid upsetting her, because whenever she's upset, she'd always cry.

And I hated it when she cried. I wanted her to stop crying.

Mustering my courage, I walked towards her before I spoke. "Umm… Maia, a-actually, there's something I need to tell you," I said. "Let get outside…"

Maia thankfully nodded before both of us walked out of the room. Maia was wearing her school uniform as she stood in front of me. I took a deep breath before I began.

"I'm sorry for everything, Maia…" I said. "I didn't mean to hurt your feeling or anything like that. You're precious to me," I looked into her eyes. "I know you. Maybe I don't know you very well, but I still know you. Whenever you're upset, you'll always cry. I don't want you to cry. I want you to be happy. I just want you to know that I'm really sorry…" I looked down, bracing myself for her response.

"Tetsu…" I heard Maia spoke. "Actually… I'm sorry as well for everything…" she said before she hugged me. "I'm sorry for keeping this a secret…" I could feel her body trembling. "I'm sorry for being mad at you…" and then, she started crying. "I'm sorry, Tetsu, but everything I did to you was for your sake. I kept everything as secrets so I could protect you…" she pulled back her body a bit and our eyes met. Her eyes were wet with tears. "I didn't want you to get involved into this YAMA business. I didn't want you to get hurt…"

I wiped her tears as she continued. "But in the end, you're here. I couldn't stop you from keeping that pendant," she said as she rested her head on my shoulder. "You're going to become a handler and you will fight those monsters. You're going to live a painful life, and I don't want that…"

"That's alright…" I patted the back of her head tenderly. "Everything will be alright, I'm sure of that…" I smiled. "And you and Annabelle will be by my side as well. I'm sure that I'll be doing just fine…" then, I took out the pendant from my pocket. It's still locked, but I knew that someday, I would activate the Metal Heart and use it. "So, please stop crying, Maia."

"R-right…" she dried her tears before she stepped back. In just a few seconds, she managed to revert back to her normal self. "So, friends again…?" she smiled.

"Friends…" I nodded. "By the way, you're awesome, Maia! I never thought you're a handler as well!" I chose to call them 'handler' rather than 'pilot', thanks to Liz. "And the way you defeated those YAMA, it's like 'whoa!'…"

Maia proudly placed her hands on her waist. "Of course I'm awesome! Is there any doubt?"

"Can you teach me how to do it next time we have our training?"

"It depends… I dunno whether your unit is a fighter unit or a sniper unit."

"Aww…"

Well, my life had changed. Nothing would be the same again.

But to hell with that! I'd say…

"I'm looking forward for the future…"

~to be continued~