The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel III
This summary contains spoilers for The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel III
Chapter 2 - Conflict in Crossbell
May had arrived and spring was in full force in the town of Leeves. Between their clubs and schoolwork, the students found themselves busier than ever.
One evening, Rean and his colleague, Randolph, ended up having dinner together at the local pub.
There, they talked about Randolph's history in the SSS, and the man Rean had faced in Crossbell the year before.
While there had always been a bit of a wall between the two, they finally had a chance to break it down after a night of drinks together.
The next day, the faculty had another briefing.
This time around, however, it included a most unexpected guest.
Cedric Reise Arnor, Crown Prince of the Empire and a first year student at Thors' main campus.
He had come on behalf of the Imperial family to inform them about their next set of field exercises.
They were to travel to a recently annexed territory on the Empire's easternmost edge--the Crossbell province.
While there, they would assist with security for an inspection team that would be visiting the provincial capital of Crossbell City.
After the meeting concluded, Cedric requested Rean meet him on the roof.
There, he thanked Rean for rescuing him at the Infernal Castle and expressed regret for his own powerlessness, saying he wished he'd been stronger back then.
To Rean's surprise, Cedric then asked him to transfer to the main campus, telling him it would be a far more suitable place for the Ashen Chevalier than the 'pale reflection' that was the branch campus.
He then dismissively suggested that Kurt, who had been listening in with Juna and Altina, could transfer as well, even going so far as to tell Kurt he could have him reinstated as his guard.
After hearing such disdain in Cedric's voice, Rean and Kurt were shocked to see how much he had changed. Rean refused Cedric's offer, but the prince promised to return.
And the very next day, he made good on that promise.
In the middle of the branch campus' Panzer Soldat training, Cedric and two other students from the main campus suddenly arrived with Soldats of their own for a bit of 'friendly' competition.
They issued a challenge to Class VII for a mock battle. Kurt and Juna boarded their mechs, with Ash from Class VIII joining them.
After a difficult fight, the branch campus team emerged victorious, yet Cedric had achieved what he set out to do--demonstrate how much stronger he had gotten since the Infernal Castle.
As he turned and left the branch campus, Principal Aurelia and Musse of Class IX spoke in hushed tones about the prince's future.
A few days later, and the branch campus was preparing to depart for their second set of field exercises.
For Juna, it would be a trip back to her hometown, wearing a uniform from the empire that annexed it.
For Rean, it would be a return to a country whose independence he helped take away.
They boarded the train and departed Leeves, filled with apprehension over what lay ahead for each of them.
The following morning, they arrived at their field exercise camp on the outskirts of Crossbell City.
As in Sutherland, Class VII's first task was to report their arrival to the person overseeing the region.
Thus, they headed for Orchis Tower to meet with Crossbell's first governor general, Rufus Albarea.
It was from him they recieved their assignments.
Similarly to before, they recieved a Crucial Investigation Report among their list of requests. It detailed information regarding the appearance of cryptids in the region.
Juna was eager to get started, thrilled to be helping her hometown out in place of the SSS.
As Rean and his students arrived back on the ground floor of the tower, they ran into someone unexpected.
Machias Regnitz, from the old Class VII, greeted them. He explained he was there on business for his job at the Government Accountability Inspectorate.
After leaving Orchis Tower, the students finished their patrols of the city and met up with Tio Plato, the new chief of the Epstein Foundation's Crossbell branch.
She requested the branch campus accompany her through the tunnels beneath the city known as the Geofront. A control terminal had malfunctioned there and she needed to repair it.
Together, they made their way below the city to the Geofront's F Sector.
After fighting their way through the tunnels and arriving at the terminal, Tio began to get to work.
Before she could, however, the air began to tremble and a Magic Knight suddenly appeared before them.
Rean and the others fought desperately to protect the terminal, eventually emerging victorious.
But before they could determine why an Erebonian creation like a Magic Knight had appeared in Crossbell...
...another manifested right before their eyes.
Exhausted from their battle, the five of them could barely move, much less fight. Just when all hope was lost, an arrow of light cut through the air.
Above them stood a blonde haired woman with an orbal bow. She was Alisa Reinford, another member of the original Class VII.
At her side stood her family's maid, Sharon Kreuger.
The two struck the Magic Knight hard, obliterating it with ease.
In celebration, Alisa embraced Rean, the long-awaited reunion bringing tears to her eyes.
After repairs to the terminal had been completed, the group returned to the field exercise camp.
They decided to begin their cryptid investigation next and headed to the shores of Lake Elm, with Sharon coming along to help.
There, they found a patch of scarlet Pleroma Grass, glowing faintly.
The group surmised it must be related to the blue Pleroma Grass that had appeared alongside the cryptids two years ago.
As they were pondering the grass's sudden reappearance, they felt a shift in the air and a giant cryptid manifested behind them and attacked.
Thanks to Sharon's invaluable assistance in battle, however, they were able to defeat it.
Making sure the area was clear of any other threats, they gathered a sample of the Pleroma Grass and headed back to camp.
On the way back, Sharon revealed more about her past to Rean.
Nearly 10 years ago, she had been dispatched to Roer on a mission for Ouroboros. She failed and it had cost someone their life.
That person was none other than Franz Reinford, Alisa's father.
After they made it back to camp, they were given their next objective: investigate the connection between the Pleroma Grass, the Magic Knights, and the cryptids.
Their meeting ended with the sound of an airship flying overhead. The Pantagruel had arrived in Crossbell, bearing the members of the inspection team.
As the massive airship reached Orchis Tower, its passengers disembarked. Governor Regnitz, Chairman Irina, Elise Schwarzer, Princess Alfin, and Prince Olivert's arrival was televised to the whole province.
After watching the event on the Derfflinger's monitors, Class VII set out to resume their Special Ops missions.
They began by searching for more scarlet Pleroma Grass off the main highway.
As they were searching, they suddenly heard a young boy's voice call out to them in a mocking tone. As he did, a gigantic plant cryptid appeared, cornering them.
Rean immediately knew it was a threat he needed Valimar's help for and moved to summon his Divine Knight.
Anticipating this, the mysterious boy erected a barrier, severing Rean's connection to Valimar and preventing him from being summoned.
With no options left to him, Rean unleashed his power, allowing the group to just barely triumph over the massive creature.
As he had feared, though, Rean lost control of his power again. He fell to his knees, clutching at his chest.
Intruiged by this turn of events, the boy attempted to summon another cryptid, but to his surprise, vines of golden ivy wrapped around the barrier he had created, shattering it
The group turned to look upward at a nearby cliff. Their savior this time was Emma, yet another member of the original Class VII.
Her black cat familiar, Celine, hurried to Rean's side and quickly used her magic to help stabilize his power.
Disappointed that his fun was now over, the boy let out a sinister laugh and teleported away.
Their investigation complete for the moment, they headed back to the city with Emma.
On the way, she explained she had further studied magic under her grandmother after graduation and that she was now searching for her sister, Vita.
As Rean and the others enjoyed a lively conversation about the old Class VII, something in the distance caught their eye.
Four Dragunov-class railway cannons, manufactured by the Reinford Group, were being transported along the train tracks.
Watching with worried expressions, the group determined the massive weapons of war were headed for the eastern border.
Upon arriving in the city, they dropped Emma off and bid her farewell for the time being. Shortly thereafter, they received a call from Towa.
The branch campus had recieved another request from the governor general. They were to assist with security for a party at Orchis Tower that evening.
The staff and students of the branch campus met up and made their way to the tower as instructed.
There, Rufus had arranged rooms for Rean, New Class VII, and Tita Russell of Class IX to meet with the guests of honor.
After speaking with Governor Regnitz, Irina Reinford, Prince Olivert, Princess Alfin, and Elise, they began to return to the waiting area.
However, on the way, Rufus stopped Rean and asked if he could speak with him privately.
They spoke about Rean's birth father, Osborne, and Rufus told the story of how he met the chancellor and became the primary member of the Ironbloods.
Discovering that his adoptive father, Baron Schwarzer, had a hand in the events left Rean with mixed feelings.
Later, the dinner party began winding down and the branch campus stood by until the inspection team was ready to leave.
Overhearing Alfin and Elise talking with Musse, Rean learned that she had transferred to the branch campus from St. Astraia under unusual circumstances.
Heading back to where the rest of the students were waiting, Rean was shocked when he sensed a familiar presence. Moments after, a deep rumbling shook the tower.
The security room's terminal showed footage of the roof, where the Pantagruel's landing craft had been engulfed in flames. Two of Ouroboros' Enforcers stood beside it.
Seeing this, Rean rushed to the roof. New Class VII, along with Ash and Musse, chased after him, ignoring their instructors' orders to wait.
Along the way, Rean met up with Sharon, and the two quickly made their way up the tower together.
Awaiting them at the top was McBurn and with him, the mysterious boy Rean had encountered earlier--Campanella.
Juna and the other students arrived not long after, having fought their way through the swarms of archaisms that had invaded the tower.
McBurn taunted Rean, hoping to provoke him into unleashing his power. Meanwhile, Campanella battled the students, barraging them with powerful Arts.
Driven into a corner, it seemed like Rean had no other choice. Just as he was prepared to call on his power, a voice called out and a trio of teleportation circles appeared.
Emma, Machias, and Alisa arrived in the nick of time to help. Machias and Alisa went to assist the others, while Emma used her magic to dispel the flames.
The prospect of more opponents only made McBurn more excited. He was prepared for another fight, until Prince Olivert, the governor general, and the rest of the branch campus arrived.
Some questioning by the prince prompted the Enforcers to reveal they were in the area to find Vita, who had left Ouroboros after a disagreement with the other Anguis.
The conversation then moved to Ouroboros' experiments. In response, Campanella gave a signal and a shadow appeared overhead.
It was the Aion Type-β II. It spread its wings wide in an ominous silhouette and crushed the landing craft in a show of power.
McBurn and Campanella then started to make their exit, but they were stopped by Juna. She told them the SSS wouldn't allow them to get away with their plans.
With a dark grin, Campanella turned to Rufus and revealed what the governor general had been keeping from the branch campus.
Specifically, that the members of the SSS had been captured and trapped in Mishelam to prevent them from taking action.
Rather than acting overtly against the heroes of Crossbell, the Imperial government intended to make them fade into obscurity.
With that, the Enforcers took their leave as the Aion flew off into the night.
Everyone stood there, still reeling from the shocking turn of events as Juna slowly walked up to Rean. She shook him, anguishing over what his country had done to her heroes.
Finally breaking down, she cried out for the return of the free city she loved.
The next morning, Major Lechter showed up at the field exercise camp just as he had done in Sutherland.
He had with him another Imperial order for Rean.
It read, 'Uncover the goals of the society and restore order to Crossbell.'
Leaving Kurt and Altina to take care of a despondent Juna, Rean and his old classmates departed to carry out their mission.
They had two pieces of information to go on: the Aions themselves and the nature of Ouroboros' experiments.
Believeing these to be the key to finding the hiding Enforcers, the group searched for a place dense with mana that could be used to power the massive machine.
With some help from Emma, Tio, and a terminal in the Geofront, they managed to pinpont a location.
The spot they would most likely find their targets was an old ruin created by ancient alchemists--Stargazer's Tower.
Back in the Derfflinger, Juna told Kurt and Altina about what happened to her during Crossbell's annexation.
The transport she was in had been attacked by Calvardian forces and she felt completely powerless as she desperately tried to protect her siblings.
That was when they were saved by the Ashen Chevalier--Rean Schwarzer.
Her frustration over her helplessness and inability to do anything was why she had felt such hostility toward Rean the whole time.
Meanwhile, in the city, Rean and the others were joined by a traveling bard by the name of Olivier Lenheim.
In truth, it was an old disguise of Prince Olivert's he had donned once more. As a member of the Imperial family, he felt he needed to do something about the situation personally.
Together, they made their way to Stargazer's Tower and fought through its monster-infested halls to get to the rooftop.
There, they found Campanella and McBurn waiting, just as they expected.
Prepared for this encounter, Emma called upon her spells to quell McBurn's flames.
Rean attempted to call Valimar, but Campanella raised another barrier, preventing him from reaching his Divine Knight.
Just as things began to look dire, the two Enforcers were barraged by a spray of gunfire.
Juna, Kurt, and Musse had come to help them. They caught their opponents off guard, allowing Altina and Ash to flank them with another surprise attack.
A Panzer Soldat equipped with a booster flew in, shattering Campanella's barrier and allowing Rean to summon Valimar.
Juna climbed aboard the Soldat, confronting the looming Aion together with Rean.
Fending off their airborne foe, the two delivered a relentless series of strikes to it, eventually damaging its orbal energy converters and knocking it out of the sky.
The members of Class VII rejoiced, but their happiness was short-lived as McBurn called out to the three mysterious figures that had been watching.
The first was a projection of Vita, who had been observing the situation from afar.
The other two were a masked man who introduced himself as Azure Siegfried and a floating black sphere that accompanied him.
He explained he had come in lieu of the Chief of the Gnomes, but revealed little else.
Their experiment completed, McBurn proceeded to use his flames to reduce the damaged Aion to melted scrap.
As the two members of Ouroboros took their leave, Campanella announced that their plot to reclaim the Phantasmal Blaze Plan had begun.
Ordered by a voice from the black sphere, the masked man retreated, boarding a mech that looked like the Azure Knight. The members of Old Class VII looked on, stunned, as it flew away.
The final one to vanish, Vita's parting words left a lasting impression on those gathered on the rooftop.
'The story has already begun.
The fairy tale that tells of the end of Erebonia, Crossbell...the entire world.'
Shortly thereafter, the rest of the branch campus arrived and helped clear out the remaining archaisms in the tower.
The members of Old Class VII discussed the masked man, agreeing there was no way he could be the person they thought he was.
Rean turned to Juna and acknowledged her hard work. She had fought well and shown him the true pride of Crossbell.
Surprised to hear such praise, Juna didn't know what to say at first, but responded with an enthusiastic smile.
The next day saw the Derfflinger ready to depart. The various friends and allies of the branch campus gathered to bid them farewell.
Celine decided to join them on their trip back to Leeves in oder to help Rean control his power.
Machias, Alisa, and Emma vowed to do whatever they could to fulfill the promise Class VII had made to each other when they graduated.
As the students and staff talked with each other on their trip back home, the train was filled with a sense of accomplishment and hope. Gasping, Towa pointed outside.
On a nearby cliff, three allies of Crossbell's Special Support Section had come to see the branch campus off, as thanks for helping their home.
As they passed by, the young man in the middle stuck out his fist in a wordless gesture of support to Rean.
And from the train, Rean mirrored it, wishing him luck in the future as well.