We Shall Answer!
Author's note: Girls und Panzer and its characters don't belong to me. They are the property of Actas. Special thanks to Theralion, F-14 Tomcat Lover and HereticalShinigami for beta-reading this fic.
2 days before the Ooarai-Selection battle
Darjeeling was enjoying a cup of her favorite tea in her luxurious office. Behind her, the fading light of a setting sun entered through the massive window. As she polished off her tea and placed her empty cup on her desk, a light knock rang on her door. Clearing her throat, she ordered the person to enter.
The St-Gloriana commander recognized her two friends and fellow crewmembers, Assam and Orange Pekoe as they opened the door. Entering the office, they were dressed in their school uniforms.
"Miss Darjeeling," they both greeted before Assam started talking.
"We've received word that Ooarai has a chance of salvation," said the blonde gunner, "An anonymous tip from someone that is very well informed and everything seems to be authentic."
"Is that so?" asked Darjeeling.
After the 63rd National Championship, she had been shocked to hear that Ooarai had entered not merely to have a shot at victory but to save their beloved school carrier from closing. Their unexpected successes had apparently given them hope yet it was dashed after the victory exhibition match.
Ooarai's opponents were outraged to hear of the minister's decision to close Ooarai Girls Academy anyway, and considered that decision a betrayal. Many seethed at this decision yet were powerless to stop it.
"I'm afraid that it doesn't look good for them, Miss Darjeeling," reported Orange Pekoe, "They have to fight another match against the University Selection Team."
The St-Gloriana commander let out a small gasp of shock. The team was lavishly equipped with top of the line tanks crewed by the best Sensha-do practitioners of Japan that had prevailed against the Corporate team. It was also a well known fact that they were led by a child prodigy, Alice Shimada, daughter of the head of the prestigious Shimada family, Chiyo Shimada, famous in Sensha-do for their Shimada-style
"Do we have any more information on the battle to come?" she asked with a hint of worry in her elegant voice.
"We've managed to secure some intel about the situation," answered Assam with a small smile. She produced her laptop and began showing pictures of the tanks that Ooarai had to face. Darjeeling recognized the tanks. Pershings, Chaffees and a Centurion.
"It is as I have feared then," sighed Darjeeling. Even Miho's tactical genius and her crews' determination had their limits.
However, the elegant blonde recomposed herself.
"Actually, there is," replied Orange Pekoe with a small smile, "We've found a way to join Ooarai in their battle against the University team."
"After looking, we could temporarily transfer to their school for the time of the match and bring our tanks along as personal belongings. Legally speaking, it is entirely possible," explained Assam as she showed various documents on her laptop, "All we would have to do is fill out these forms and we would be able to join them."
Darjeeling nodded in approval. She knew there was a problem though.
"Even if we joined them with all of our tanks, there is still a significant quality difference between our units and the University team," added Assam, "It will also look suspicious that so many of our tanks would join them."
Orange Pekoe looked deep in thought for a moment.
"Perhaps we can ask the other schools to help?"
Her commander looked at her with a proud smile.
"That is an excellent idea my dear," Darjeeling answered, "Let us get to work then."
Kuromorimine, an hour later
In her sparse and highly functional office, Maho Nishizumi read the email that her mother had sent her detailing the situation with her sister's school. Her desk had only one trinket that made it hers: a small childhood photo of happier times with Miho and her. Looking at the little souvenir, the heiress slid into her thoughts.
She had been proud of her sibling and her school's success in the championship. Miho had finally found her way of Sensha-do in a school that she could call home. Yet fate had seem to be against the youngest Nishizumi. The ministry had decided to maintain its decision. Miho had to reluctantly come home to sign her papers to transfer schools and feared even entering her home and facing their mother, prompting Maho to forge the signature and "borrow" their mother's seal.
It saddened Maho to no end. She had fought all her matches with sheer determination, ingenuity and skill so that Miho was free of their family's harsh traditions. Fate, however, had constantly been in the way. From her sister's arrival at Kuromorimine to her departure after the defeat against Pravda, it seemed that no matter what Maho did, it wasn't enough. Even Miho's victory during the tournament finals wasn't enough.
Yet with this ultimate battle against the University team, there was an opportunity to help her younger sister out and Maho was ready to make the most of it.
An anonymous phone call earlier that day had given her the necessary information to join the battle as well as a cryptic email saying that more help was on the way. The veteran commander had her suspicions that it was her proud mother who got involved and had pulled a few strings. In Maho's mind, Shiho's pride could not stomach the idea of the Nishizumi name being associated to defeat against the Shimada's and took the necessary steps to ensure victory.
There was however a hitch. Sending too many of Kuromorimine's team members would had been too suspicious. The ship was also too far to make a quick stop in the port closest to the match. At best, four tanks would, in her mind, be the most she could send without getting too many questions asked.
Lady Luck had blessed Maho however as notification appeared on her screen and pulled her out of her musings. A new email arrived from St-Gloriana's signed by Darjeeling. She smiled as she read it. An opportunity appeared in her eyes and like any good tank commander, it had to be exploited.
She stood up from her desk and made her way out of her office. As she did so, Maho grabbed her panzer jacket and cap from a coat stand next to the door. She then walked through the hallways of Kuromorimine towards the Sensha-do clubroom. She could hear the voices of her teammates chatting through the door. Opening the door, she saw the familiar faces in the room. Many were reading books about tank warfare and tactics while others were doing mock battles on maps.
Upon seeing their captain, the girls rose to attention to salute her.
"I have an important announcement to make," said Maho with her usual serious tone. Everyone's eyes was on her.
"As you may have heard, Ooarai's Girl Academy is being closed despite promises of keeping the school if they won the tournament. The latest development is that they must win against the University Selection Team in order to save their school. The odds, however, are skewered with their opponent fielding a full 30 tanks against Ooarai's eight in an annihilation match."
They remained stoic though disgust showed in some of their eyes. The Nishizumi heiress continued however.
"I know that the Shimada heiress is also taking part in the battle against my younger sister. As such, I have decided to temporarily transfer to Ooarai to personally answer this challenge to our family's reputation. I am bringing along four tank crews of our team."
She saw that her faithful tank crew nodded in support, thus indicating their participation. No more was needed. A proud boast came from Erika after she took a quick glance at her crew who bore determined faces.
"Commander Nishizumi, my Tiger II crew and I will follow you into this battle as well! We will prove the superiority of the Nishizumi style against the weak and cowardly Shimada style!" arrogantly boasted the blonde, "Ooarai will not close so that Kuromorimine may defeat these upstarts in the next tournament!"
"Thank you Erika. I knew I could count on you," she replied.
"I wish to join you and Vice-Commander Itsumi with my crew," declared another person with determination in her voice. It was Koume Akaboshi. "I still owe your sister a debt for what happened in my first year. I intend to start repaying with this."
In their corner, the Jagdpanther crew looked at each other for a moment with determination and nodded.
"So will we," called out Ritakio as she raised her hand along with her crew, "If Ooarai closes, how can we get even with that accursed Hetzer!?"
"Very well then, I have the necessary papers for our temporary transfer. We'll need to fill them out before we're heading. We'll bring my Tiger I and Erika's Tiger II. As for the last two tanks, two Panthers, with their better mobility, will support us. They'll be listed as personal belongings so we won't hit any legal troubles." Glancing at Ritakio, Maho spoke again. "It won't be too different from the Jagdpanther you usually crew."
'Not to mention that if you break track again, you'll be able to fix it quickly,' mused the commander.
She then looked over at her vice-captain. "Erika, have the maintenance crews ready our zeppelin and have it on standby for take-off."
"Shouldn't we just head out immediately commander?"
"There is a small chance that Ooarai will back out of the match, though I have faith in my sister's determination."
Erika looked uncertain for a moment. Was it really worth it to waste her time preparing for an match that might be cancelled? She then remembered seeing Miho the first time after the defeat against Pravda. The Ooarai captain barely had the courage to speak to her or Maho. Yet once the matches started, Ooarai won battle after battle against all odds. The Kuromorimine vice-captain had initially dismissed the victories as luck. The more she studied those matches however, the more Erika noticed that there was truly skill in her predecessor's plans. Thus, she started getting a begrudging respect for Miho Nishizumi after the finals. As well as a desire for a rematch. The proud blonde sought to prove and better herself. Beating such an tenacious and skilled adversary was paramount for her ego and for that, Ooarai had to remain open and its team active.
Not to mention that taking part in the defeat of a Nishizumi rival was an opportunity that shouldn't be wasted.
"Very well commander!"
"Thank you Erika."
Koume cleared her throat at this moment.
"Excuse me Commander but may I make a suggestion as well?"
"Perhaps we could arrive wearing Ooarai's uniforms as a sign of our support?"
Maho briefly stopped to think about this while Erika was glaring daggers at Koume. The vice-commander was highly attached to her beloved uniform.
"I believe it would be good for their morale, as well as avoiding any hassles with the rules," explained Koume.
"Thank you for your suggestion, Akaboshi-san" replied Maho, "We'll compromise however and will arrive for the opening handshake in Ooarai's uniforms before changing into our own Sensha-do jackets."
Dismissing her loyal subordinates, Maho turned on her heel, a look of steely determination on her face.
'Don't worry Miho... help is on the way. You will be free!'
Saunders University High School
Relaxing in her school's Sensha-do lounge room, Kay was enjoying her favorite meal of fried chicken steak while mulling over the past days' events. It had been extremely eventful days. From hearing Oorai's closure despite their victory to planning and enacting Operation I Shall Return after receiving a desperate plea from Anzu Kadotani and the Oorai student council begging for anyone to help them save their beloved tanks from MEXT. Luckily for them, Alisa had been on the wireless at that moment and got the message to Kay in time. The pair, along with Naomi, had organized the whole evacuation of Ooarai's tanks with the help of the rest of Saunders' airlift teams.
It had been a resounding success and the tanks had been saved unlike the school ship.
Kay was grateful for the turn of events. The boisterous faux-American had felt guilty that she didn't catch Alisa and her wiretapping device before the tournament match. At the time, she ashamed that she almost won because of a cheating teammate and did what she could to make up for it at the time. It turned out to be an exhilarating match for her and most importantly, Miho hadn't held the wiretapping against her and her team at the time though Kay wondered if her friend would have had the same reaction if she had been defeated.
And Ooarai shut down far earlier.
Her musings were interrupted by Alisa and Naomi appearing in the room at the same time. Both wore hopeful expressions on their faces. Alisa carrying a small stack of papers.
"Hey Kay, we just got news from Ooarai," said Naomi with a grin, "It seems that they still have a chance to save their school."
The Saunders captain's face lit up in happiness as she placed down her fork on the table.
"That's amazing news!" However, Kay noticed her teammates' face getting more somber. "There's a catch isn't there?"
"Yeah, get this... They have to to fight and win against the University Selection Team," answered Naomi in disgust, "30 late war tanks against Ooarai's 8."
"Can we do anything about this?" asked Kay worriedly, "Perhaps we could let them borrow 30 of our Shermans?" She paused and shook her head at the impossibility of her idea before talking again. Not to mention the fact that the Saunders carrier was far from the match and wouldn't make it in time.
"How do we know this?"
"St-Glo' sent us a message a few moments ago," explained Alisa, "Surprisingly we also got one from Kuromorimine's captain as well. It seems that they have a plan set up called Operation Tea Party."
Kay smiled upon hearing this unexpected development. Maybe there was more to Maho Nishizumi than her usual dismissive, aloof personality.
"I like the sound of this already. What's the plan then?"
Alisa read to her the messages from the two other schools detailing the plan. As she finished, Kay's grin grew bigger.
"Well then, what are we waiting for?" she asked enthusiastically. "This sounds like it'll be a great tea party! Let's get three tanks ready to go then. I'll lead the way." She then looked over at her top Firefly commander. "Naomi, you're coming with me. I hope your marksmanship is up."
"Yes Ma'am!" replied the tomboy a smile, "I still have to beat Hana Isuzu in a gunnery contest." She chuckled as she remembered the impressive feat that the florist had pulled off in the first round. "Pulling that shot off against Alisa with a short 75mm in the first round... I have to top that in a match against her."
Alisa looked nervous for a moment than spoke up.
"I'd like to come as well," she proposed quietly. Kay turned towards a frown on her face.
"If you want to come, I'm making sure personally that you're not bringing that wire tapping balloon of yours. We can't have them catching onto that and disqualifying Ooarai over it," Kay sternly said in her quiet voice reserved for when she chastised people on her team, "Besides, I wanted to ask you to come for what you did against them."
Pravda Girls High School
Nonna was gracefully making her down one of the Sensha-do clubhouse's hallways towards Katyusha's room. As she did so, she ran into Klara who had emerged from a study room.
"Greeting Comrade Nonna," greeted the blonde girl in Russian, "What is going on? Is it already to wake Comrade-Commander Katyusha for our meal?"
""Nyet, we have received word from Darjeeling and St-Gloriana about Ooarai Girls Academy." answered the tall Pravda vice-commander as they walked together towards Katyusha's room. Other students could be seen exiting classrooms and walking down the hallways
"Is that so? Good news or bad news?"
"Both," replied Nonna as she opened the door to Katyusha's office. Inside the well furnished room, it was easy to see why Pravda was one of the most well off schools. Russian styled tapestries covered over vibrant red walls while magnificent wooden furniture was installed in the main office of Pravda's Sensha-do room. What stood however was a snowmobile with a small bed in it. From it, light snoring was heard as Pravda's commander slept.
Pravda's top gunner made her way towards Katyusha and gently nudged her. As the childlike commander woke up, she looked rather bleary.
"Nonna, is it supper time for Katyusha and her teammates?" she asked groggily as she stifled a yawn.
"I'm afraid not Katyusha-sama." Before she could explain, she was interrupted by her irate superior.
"Nonna! Then why did you wake me from my nap! I need it to grow tall!" growled the rather adorably grumpy commander.
"We have word from Ooarai."
"This had better good! If only I could get her hands on that filthy bureaucrat that lied to Mihosha, I would sent him to the deepest gulags of Siberia!"
Nonna smiled at the prospect. Even if it just meant throwing the man into a detention block for a few weeks. Such an affront couldn't go unpunished.
As for Katyusha, it was a matter of honor towards one's opponent. Mihosha had given her one of her most challenging matches as well as having garnered her begrudging respect from her actions in the 62nd tournament and her leadership of Ooarai's team of less than stellar tanks that let to victory against Kuromorimine, Pravda's oldest rivals.
"Ooarai is to face the University Selection Team in a match." explained the Pravda vice-commander.
"Ah well then Katyusha must come and watch her favorite Mihosha crush her adversaries once again!"
"It is not as simple. You see Katyusha-sama, it's a 30 versus 8 annihilation match that they must win."
The diminutive commander's face contorted in rage and disgust. She began to walk imperiously around the room. The sound of her angry steps resounded through the room.
"How dare they cheat like that?!" she shrieked, "Getting a cheap victory like that." Before a red-faced Katyusha could continue her tirade, Nonna cleared her throat before speaking again.
"It appears however that Darjeeling has come up with a plan to help Miho. She requests Katyusha-sama to lead a few tanks that will be transferred from Pravda to Ooarai. We will also be joined by the other schools as well. We only need to wait for her invitation to a tea party in the north."
Katyusha's back straightened out as she digested the information. She stopped her pacing and spun around to face Nonna.
"Transfer students then. Very well! Nonna, ready Katyusha's T-34 as well her beloved KV-tan. You will accompany me with the IS-2," she ordered with a vicious smile, "We make the University team clear the snow on our carrier and send that cheating bureaucrat to our gulag!"
An amused Nonna smiled at this.
"I don't think you can make them do that." she replied innocently, "They aren't students from our school."
"Katyusha does as she pleases!"
An image of Katyusha struggling to get the milk out of the fridge sprang into the taller girl's mind. But before Nonna could say anything, another voice joined in at that moment though it spoke in Russian.
"Excuse me but I wish to accompany you and Comrade Nonna as well." asked Klara, "It would be an honor to fight along Miss Katyusha in such a noble cause."
'As well as getting a few more pictures of Katyusha-sama for my journal.'
The Pravda commander glared at her before turning to her dark haired sniper.
"Klara, I told you no Russian! Nonna!"
The latter nodded and translated the Russian transfer student's request. It mellowed out Katyusha's fiery temper.
"Very well then, Klara can come with us to bask in Mihosha and Katyusha's glorious victory!" she declared proudly with her hands on her hips, "Ready the hovercraft, Katyusha needs to be the first to arrive as befits her greatness!"
"So you want to arrive first to look cool?" asked her tall friend with the hint of smile while Klara looked amused at the scene.
Anzio High School
Anzai Chiyomi, the Duce Anchovy of Anzio, was in her office with her two closest friends on the Italian themed school's Sensha-do team, Carpaccio and Pepperoni. She was wearing her school uniform while her cape hung on a nearby coat hook and her riding crop lay on her desk in front of her old laptop. All three of them wore serious expressions, a stark contrast to their usual boisterousness in public.
"I've summoned both of you to my office for a serious matter," explained the Duce, "You are all aware of what happened to Ooarai, am I correct?"
"Yes Duce," answered both girls. The mood had gotten somber. Anzio was another small, poor school that could have very well been in the same situation as Ooarai had it not been for its Italian benefactors and tourist attractions.
"My childhood friend, Taka-chan, is one of their tankers and is the loader on their STUG III," stated the kind blonde with a sad glint in her eyes, "We've been keeping in touch after the school was closed. I've also been sending some supplies their way. I've heard of what they'll face in two days."
"Yes, a near hopeless battle against the University Selection Team," sighed Anchovy, "8 vs 30."
"We can always show up and cheer them on," suggested Pepperoni, "It's not much Duce but they'll appreciate knowing that Anzio is with them in spirit."
"Do you want us to gather everyone and have them bring along all the things to encourage them during the finals?" added Carpaccio, "We still have everything left over from the finals."
Pepperoni's face also lightened up with an idea to encourage their one time opponent.
"We can also bring along a few food trucks to give them a good meal before and after the match."
Anchovy shook her head however, her massive twin tails flowing alongside.
"No, that won't be enough for them. They'll have a lot of spirit and momentum without Anzio encouraging them," pointed out the commander, "Their school's very existence is on the line after all and they'll be fighting for their home."
Both of her subordinates looked at her with questioning looks. What could they do?
Anchovy cleared her throat dramatically.
"I've got excellent news from Darjeeling of St-Gloriana!" she declared as she dramatically swung her laptop around towards her teammates. She explained the mad plan that the Anglophile girl had come up with as well as the situation concerning the other schools pitching in. She concluded with the invitation for a tea party in the North much to Pepperoni's confusion.
"Tea party?" asked the black-haired girl with a look of confusion, "How's that going to help Ooarai?"
"Fool," retorted Anchovy in annoyance as she slapped her forehead, " It's a code so that the ministry can't prevent us from interfering with the match!"
Pepperoni's face lit up in understanding.
"Duce's allies are geniuses! Our leader truly knows how to choose friends!"
Anchovy merely rolled her eyes in irritation at this declaration before turning towards Carpaccio.
"What's the state of the P40?" asked the Anzio captain, "Is it repaired yet?"
Carpaccio shook her head sadly at this.
"I'm afraid not Duce," she answered, "We're a bit short of time and funds to get it fixed even if we cut another meal time. The match is in two days after all. Not to mention that getting it there would involve additional costs too."
Her two teammates winced at the notion of cutting off another meal. Anchovy confidently spoke however as she hatched a plan.
"We'll take a Carro Veloce! It'll be easy to transport." she declared.
"But Duce, it's not very powerful... especially not against Pershings and Centurions." remarked a confused Carpaccio.
"With our spirit and Duce's genius combined with Miho Nishizumi's, we'll come up with a plan that can make our tankette work!" proudly boasted Pepperoni as she stood up and banged her fist on the table, "The University team won't know what hit them!"
"Not to mention that its small size and speediness are excellent assets for scouting," explained Anchovy, "A good team needs good eyes to help fight."
Carpaccio nodded in approval.
"Very well, we'll get everything ready to go save Ooarai!" declared the captain as she picked up her riding crop and waved it around as she spoke.
"I'll go ready one of our trucks," said Carpaccio, "I think the CV-33 would fit in the back without too much hassle."
'The three of us inside the tankette would be pretty cramped...' she thought.
"And I'll make sure we'll have some pasta on hand," muttered Pepperoni as the trio stood up and left the room to ready themselves for the battle.
Jatkosota High School
Sitting around a small camp fire on their ship, Mika, Mikko and Aki were enjoying the cool breeze of the sea as the Jatkosota commander played her kantele. They were enjoying an afternoon snack that they had prepared over the small fire.
It was a relaxing time for the girls. Mika, looked up at her friends. Her fingers were still gliding across the instrument. Soothing music could be heard as the girls relaxed after their classes.
"Have you heard?" asked the aloof girl in a dreamy voice, "Darjeeling is inviting us to a tea party with Ooarai and the other schools."
"That could be fun!" exclaimed Mikko as she took a sip from a glass of water, "I've always wanted to go to one."
Next to her, Aki was grinning as well. A chance to see other people and have fun.
"She also told us to bring a tank along." added her commander wistfully, "From what I understand, it seems that this might be one of life's essential battles."
"Huh?" mumbled Mikko, "Why would we need a tank for a tea party?"
Her commander had a mysterious smile on her face.
"Sometimes, things are not as they seem," she stated wistfully, "Ooarai's fate might depend on this little party."
Confused looks fell upon her and Mikko broke the silence in a confused tone.
"We'll wait for our invitation to a tea party." answered cryptically Mika, "I sense a great challenge ahead for us. Perhaps a reward as well."
"If you say so." replied a still confused Mikko, "I'll go ready the trawler and the BT42 then."
Chihatan High School
Kinuyo Nishi was busy working in her office filing out her team's paperwork. It was frankly a mess with forms and papers stacked everywhere in haphazard, the Chihatan commander still having trouble with computers. Instead, she still did everything with paper and pen.
Not far from her, was another desk. This one had a computer on it with another girl. She was younger and wore round glasses and was working on paperwork as well.
"Excuse me Nishi-sempai," Fukuda said nervously, "But we've got an email from St-Gloriana."
Despite being the youngest on the Chihatan Sensha-Do team, Fukuda was the most tech-savvy of them all. As such, she served the team as their secretary when it came to anything sent or done by electronic means.
"Thank you Fukuda," replied kindly her superior, "What does it say?"
"News from Ooarai, Nishi-sempai!" stammered the younger girl with excitement, "They have a final match that will decide their fate."
Nishi gasped in happiness at this. Ooarai was going to be saved after all. The commander had loved fighting alongside Miho Nishizumi and had respect for her. The closing of Ooarai was a shock to everyone in the Chihatan team that had fought along them. Some had openly expressed that they would show MEXT an honourable "death" to save their one-time teammates.
Fukuda didn't appear to share her enthusiasm as Nishi made her way to the computer and began reading the E-mail. Skirting over the first lines quickly, she could understand why.
A rigged match for Ooarai with numbers and equipment skewered over them.
It disgusted Nishi as she quickly read the rest of the message. Sensha-do was supposed to be an honorable sport practiced to learn about yourself and others... not this travesty that the MEXT official dared to call a match.
Her eyes brightened up as she read that Ooarai could be saved by her intervention. She saw that they needed 22 tanks to match the UST in numbers. Nishi asked Fukuda to show her again how to answer the email and confirmed that Chihatan would help and bring the necessary amount of tanks. Not noticing that it was from Saint-Gloriana and not Ooarai.
"Fukuda, please gather your crew," ordered Nishi as she stood up proudly and began making her war out of the office.
"The 22 brave steel lions of Chihatan shall set out to save our friends in Ooarai!" proudly declared Nishi as she stood in the office's door, "I will arrange for us to arrive at the match's place."
"Excuse me, but this means we will have to dock and load the tanks on a train?" asked Fukuda, "The message said to wait for a invitation for black tea."
"We'll be underway so that we can arrive in time and we can easily ride back." replied Nishi, "It's a swift train ride from the port to the battlezone."
"Very well Nishi-sempai!"
On the day of battle
It was upon a lush green field that Miho Nishizumi walked forward to shake the hand of her opponent, Alice Shimada. Behind the younger girl, the University Selection Team stood at attention. A complete 30 full teams waiting to man some of the most powerful tanks allowed in Sensha-Do. Behind Miho, just barely 30 crewwomen stood as they prepared to engage in what appeared to be their final battle.
As the Ooarai commander walked forward, she muttered under her breath the plan she had come up with... yet she knew that the odds were stacked against her team more than ever. The matches that Ooarai's team had fought in the tournament had been hard but there was always hope. Not here... Miho could see no chance of winning but only a valiant last stand to save her school.
Ami Chouno signaled the commanders to shake hands and exchange formalities. Miho's hand grimly raised to meet with her adversary's. It was little more than writing Ooarai's last, final chapter. A familiar, commanding voice sounded through at that moment.
Miho could barely hold her shock as she turned her head and saw four familiar German tanks. Help, and more importantly, hope had arrived.
As reinforcements kept pouring in, Ooarai's tankers felt that the odds were evening out. They had a chance of saving their school.
In the stands overlooking the battlefield, a stern faced woman in black watched the events unfold. Shiho Nishizumi had kept her strong facade as she exchanged pleasantries with her old rival, Chiyo Shimada before sitting down in the bleachers.
How easy was it for her to anonymously tip off the other schools about the match and give them the legal information to allow their participation. Many alumni of the Nishizumi school owed Shiho a favour here and there.
The head of the Nishizumi style wished that she could see that sniveling bureaucrat right now. Renta Tsuji was one of the people she despised the most in her line of work. The slimy man had little respect for anything and wouldn't hesitate to resort to underhanded methods to reach his goals rather than hard work and dedication. She hadn't forgotten his snide little comment about Ooarai's luck in the tournament. Perhaps one of her contacts in the police could catch that government slug red-handed. Rumours were quite plentiful concerning him and fiscal irregularities...
As she watched the reinforcements arriving, the Nishizumi head kept her cold and intimidating facade while her opponent sat there bemused at the idea of her heiress crushing a Nishizumi daughter. Even the unexpected arrivals didn't seem to faze the Shimada family head. Under her stony and impassive face, however, Shiho's mind was filled with thoughts.
As much as she hated to admit it, Shiho had been wrong about her youngest daughter's victories. After the final match, the veteran instructor had decided to rewatch Ooarai's matches and analyze them to understand how Kuromorimine was defeated in the finals. She expected to find nothing of tactical value yet found herself surprised at what she saw.
Where Shiho had thought was luck, there was skill and where she thought was madness, there was adaptation and flexibility. Miho had, like Maho stated after the match against Pravda, proven herself to be a capable commander in terms of tactics and leadership and earned a begrudging respect from her mother.
The youngest daughter had managed to create the conditions for Ooarai's extraordinary victories in the tournament.
Shiho had no choice but to consider this unexpected development for the future of her family's school. Like the tank and armoured doctrine, the Nishizumi style needed to evolve. It was part of what was necessary to win and something that she had almost forgotten.
The matriarch knew very well that Maho was spearheading reforms in Kuromorimine's team in order to win the tournament. For Miho, however, Shiho needed her to test her once more against the older Nishizumi sibling and her school to confirm the merits of her wayward daughter. Such a victory would allow Miho back into the fold and perhaps even an integration of her own way of Sensha-Do into the family style. Thus, this match was a test for Miho and a necessity for Shiho.
Not to mention that a famous Nishizumi getting defeated twice by a well-known rival would be embarrassing for her school even if said family member didn't follow the family's established style. For the average spectator, Miho had merely pioneered a new branch of the Nishizumi style and not committed some form of heresy.
In Shiho's heart, there was also a lingering desire to reconnect with her daughter. Her maternal love was conflicting with her responsibilities as head of the family that had been thrust upon her by her own mother. Shiho had raised and her daughters under the strict principles of the Nishizumi family like she had been. There was, in her mind, no better way to forge a woman's character yet the past year's events had planted the seed of doubt in her mind.
The distance with her daughters was wearing down her yet her pride kept her from admitting it and from opening a floodgate of emotions. Once this whole matter could be settled... perhaps she could start closing the distance. If she and her daughters weren't too old...
Thus, the Sensha-do master had help set in motion the events that led to the arrival of the other schools' finest tank crews in Ooarai's most desperate hour and perhaps their greatest battle...