The Flute Player in the Snow
or Sanya and Eila's cantata
Sanya's beautiful song for Sanya, by Sanya, to Sanya! I want to perform it with her!
Eila Ilmatar Juutilainen, a girl who has never before even touched an instrument, is suddenly struck by this idea one afternoon. It all started when she found a number of instrument cases in the corner of the warehouse she at present stands in. This warehouse is part of the temporary Suomus Air Force base built on a frozen lake she resides in at the moment.
Eila mutters as she looks at the dusty pile of black cases.
“Ah, those are instruments, ma'am. They're stored here for the military band and the soldiers and non-commissioned officers that play instruments as a hobby.”
A passing mechanic stops and informs her with an quick smile.
“They aren't exactly top quality, but they're all still playable.”
“...This is it.”
Eila's eyes glitters.
(I'll teach myself how to play in secret so that I can play when Sanya sings. I'm sure Sanya will be surprised.)
Eila gives an absentminded smile with her whole face as she imagines herself playing an instrument with the lovely Flying Officer Sanya V. Litvyak fully immersed in singing beside her.
The mechanic timidly interrupts her daydream.
“N-nothing. ...Can I borrow this?”
“Please do. I'm sure the instruments would prefer being used over just lying here collecting dust.”
The mechanic, who knows that the instruments have been stored here for quite some time without anyone even touching them, quickly gives his consent.
“Well in that case...”
Eila starts opening the cases to see what's inside.
“Hmm... Which one should I pick...?”
Trombone, viola, oboe, bassoon, double bass... There is also a banjo, a hammered dulcimer, a zither, a dobro guitar, a harmonica and even a shamisen and a mukkuri, but Eila only knows the name a very few number of instruments.
“Hey, which ones do you think are easy to learn?”
Eila turns to the mechanic.
“I... I don't know, ma'am.”
The mechanic has never had any experience with playing anything himself so he tilts his head and adds:
“I believe there are a few practice books for the violin and the flute in the witches' recreation room though.”
Eila decides to start off with trying out the violin, so she picks up the case and hugs it tightly. And while imagining herself in an evening dress matching Sanya's, elegantly moving her body with the rhythm as she plays the violin, she leaves...
“I have to make sure she doesn't realize what I'm doing until I've improved...”
Eila decides to do her secret training playing the violin when Sanya, a night witch, will be asleep. In other words: In the early morning, in the hangar. The hangar is filled with other witches and mechanics when Eila appears in an unusually graceful manner, sets up her practice book on a music stand, picks the violin up from its case and settles it underneath her jaw. No one knows of Eila's sense of music, but she is a friend of Sanya, who is known for being a great singer. People around her look at her, obviously expecting something similar from Eila.
“Here we go!”
Just as she puts the bow varnished with turpentine to the strings and strokes...
The bow snaps out of Eila's hand and flies diagonally across the room with great speed.
A soldier who is painting while standing on a ladder is hit by the flying bow square in the stomach.
The tin with paint in his hand quickly falls to the floor. Unfortunately, a fat stray cat someone has taken in happens to pass the spot that very moment.
The now spray-painted cat is frightened and starts running, only to put his claws in the behind of a cute witch that just happens to be nearby.
Migyaaah! Scratch Scratch Scratch
The witch unintentionally throws the wrench she had in her hand since she was doing maintenance on her striker unit right up in the air.
The wrench flies away and lands right on the back of the head of a mechanic who is performing engine tests on a striker unit attached to a take off-stand.
The mechanic loses balance, falls backwards and accidentally pulls the lever on the control panel.
Just as the hooks supporting the striker unit let go, the engine ignites.
The unmanned striker unit starts moving around, knocking down boxes with equipment, other striker units, oil barrels and just about anything in the vicinity...
Bang! Creak creak!
A pillar of fire that can be seen from 10km away shoots through the roof of the hangar and creates a large crack in the 1m thick ice on the frozen lake.
“Violins... Are scary.”
Eila feels chills running down her spine.
“Must be the most dangerous thing in the musical world.”
The most dangerous thing around here is you, Pilot Officer! That is what everyone present at the time thinks, but no one dares speak their mind.
“...It might just have been a temporary facility, but the hangar is now half destroyed. About half of our supply of striker units fell through the crack in the ice and now reside on the bottom of the lake. What in the world caused all this?”
An hour later.
This is what the Commanding Officer, rubbing her forehead irritably, asks Eila after having witnessed the disastrous scene in the hangar. At her feet lay the now half green cat staring angrily at Eila and hissing quietly.
Eila scratches her cheek nervously.
Fortunately, Sanya has not heard of what has happened despite the ruckus. This is because it had happened during a time when she was fast asleep, and also because the other witches and the mechanics more or less had figured out by themselves that Eila had started to learn how to play an instrument for Sanya's sake. That is why no one thought of it as a good idea to inform Sanya of what had really happened.
“...Anyway. At least I understand that what happened was not sabotage. Please be more careful in the future...”
The Commanding Officer gives a heavy sigh of resignation.
“Yes, ma'am! I'll be more careful in the future!”
Eila gives a quick salute, picks the stray cat up by the neck and leaves the Commanding Officer's office.
“What happened yesterday sure was an unfortunate accident...!”
Eila is not one who learns after just one or two failures. As usual, Sanya has taken the wrong bed after finishing her night patrol duty and slipped into Eila's bed after having thrown her clothes off all over the floor. Eila folds the clothes neatly and is now sitting by the thick, round, almost occult-like table in the room quietly laying out some cards.
“I'm sure I can avoid accidents like that if I just do some fortune-telling in beforehand.”
She tries to tell her fortune today by looking at her tarot cards, which according to herself gives the right predictions with a 100% success ratio.
“Trying to practice in the hangar was a mistake. I mean, the acoustics in there are just bad.”
She mutters to herself not to wake Sanya up while turning the cards.
The card lying before her depicts a man hanging upside down.
“The hanged man” is a card that symbolizes passivity and stagnation.
“Perhaps I better wait and practice tomorrow instead... ...No!”
Eila shakes off her hesitation and is firmly determined.
“I have to do it for Sanya's sake!”
Instead of going to the hangar, that for various reason doesn't serve well as a place to practice anymore, Eila instead opts to go the food storeroom. Only the soldiers in charge of cooking come here once in a while, so it is the perfect spot for practicing in secret.
The instrument she has brought with her is a grand harp. The only reason she has chosen it is because it looked very elegant.
“...How do play this again?”
Eila looks down at the practice book lying on the floor while balancing the harp, that is even bigger than herself, on her right shoulder and puts her foot on the pedal. However, the harp weighs around 35kg. For someone who is not used to it, this is surprisingly heavy. And just as expected...
Eila loses her balance and starts leaning to the left. And then, the large harp falls over her.
Her neck gets caught in between the strings in the middle of the harp.
She desperately tries to free herself by twisting and turning with her cute little hips and butt, but nothing seems to work. Her hair has gotten stuck in the strings.
Her face turns red, and then blue. Her arteries are under pressure, and blood cannot reach her brain properly. Her vision starts to fade, and she starts seeing a bunch of sauna elves dancing line dance.
She raises her arms in the air, pleading for help, but the reason she chose this place for practicing is because people rarely come here. Help will not arrive that easily.
She sits down on the floor, puts her right foot on the harp's column, her left foot on the strings and heaves upwards with all her might.
A battle of life and death never before witnessed in the war against the Neuroi takes place.
Every cell in Eila's brain screams for oxygen.
She grinds her teeth.
But the strings' grip is relentless.
Her neck is still strangled.
Just as she is about to suffocate.
Eila manages to tear off the hair that is stuck and get her neck out of the strings' clutches.
She fully savors the feeling of filling her lungs with air once more. She breathes heavily and exclaims:
“I... I don't think this harp and I... get along very well.”
That is the conclusion Eila draws just after having walked on a thin line between life and death.
And then evening comes...
Sanya, who has just woken up, sees Eila walking through the corridor with her shoulders slumped and chases after her.
Eila puts up a clumsy smile and asks:
“You've been going away to somewhere alone lately. Are you hiding something from me?”
“I-I wouldn't try to hide anything from you, Sanya!”
Eila averts her eyes.
Sanya looks at her intently.
(I want to tell her the truth! But I have to wait until I've practiced enough to be able to play along with Sanya's singing, or it'll be too embarrassing to say anything!)
“Ah, oh that's right! There's something I have to do! I just remembered!”
Eila, now completely red in the face, quickly retreats from Sanya's inquiring eyes.
Sanya is left gazing at Eila's back as she disappears, looking a bit lonely.
Eila's next challenge turns out to be the clarinet. And just as the time before, she starts out with asking her tarot cards for guidance.
The card is The High Priestess, a card symbolizing wisdom and learning. The card can also sometimes be a sign of lack of patience, but let us just ignore that.
She slips into the food storeroom and takes the clarinet out from its case. Since the harp was too heavy, she chose to take a light-looking instrument this time. She puts the mouthpiece to her mouth and blows, but...
There is no sound.
(Perhaps I should blow harder?)
She takes a deep breath, fills her cheeks with air and blows as hard as she can, when...
The tip of the clarinet hits the armrest of the chair. The impacts spreads through the clarinet to Eila's lips.
She throws her head backwards in surprise and pain, making the folding chair she sits on fall backwards. She falls backwards with it, hitting the back of her head hard on the floor.
She twists around on the floor, and when trying to get up, her hand grips a rusty old shelf. The screws attaching the shelf to the wall suddenly fly out due to the imbalanced weight and the groceries on the shelf falls one after the other on Eila's head.
Cling clang, pwoosh!
A sack of flour and cooking oil.
Worcestershire sauce, ketchup, powdered cheese, coffee, strawberry jam, marmalade, powdered gelatin.
Bottles are broken, lids are flying off, the contents are soon covering all of Eila's body and in the blink of an eye, a sticky and mysterious new creature is born.
White, black, red, yellow, brown.
Just as the colorful new Eila stands up...
The door opens by a soldier in charge of cooking who is there to pick up the ingredients for the menu that is going to be served this evening.
“A-aaaah! A g-g-ghost!!”
Seeing Eila, the soldier screams and runs away.
“At least call me a fairy or something!”
Monster Pilot Officer Eila complains while raising an arm in the air in annoyance. An arm that some sticky kind of fluid is slowly dripping down on the floor from.
And from this day forward... It is perhaps unnecessary to mention that a ghost story called “The monster in the food storeroom” started spreading and became very popular among the soldiers in Suomus.
The next day
Sanya tilts her head questioningly when she sees Eila entering the mess hall. She has a big bump on her head, and her lower lip has swollen up considerably.
“I-It's nothing, really!”
Before Sanya even has the chance to ask, Eila stops her by holding her open hands in front of her face in a gesture of denial.
“O-oh yeah! Let me go get a cup of coffee for you!”
Eila turns her back on Sanya and runs off to the hot-water supply room
And so, the next day.
Eila decides to delay her practice until the evening, aiming for the time when Sanya will be out on her night patrol.
“Today is a prefect day to practice, huh?”
Eila nods happily as she picks her tarot cards back up after having looked at today's fortune.
The card she had picked today was The Star. It is a symbol of hope, satisfaction and a brilliant future. It can also be a sign of the worst possible difficulty to come, but we should really just ignore that for the time being.
“This time! This time...! I'm finally going to learn how to play an instrument in a way fitting for Sanya's song.... With this trumpet!” exclaims Eila while unpacking a huge tuba from its case.
And so, midnight comes.
As usual, Sanya is out on night patrol. It had stopped snowing in the evening, and the moon and the stars are glittering beautifully in the sky. A calm wind sweeps through the air; it is a pleasant night.
La, lalala~, lalala~ lulalala~la~
The same song as always naturally leaves Sanya's lips. The magical Lichtenstein antenna above Sanya's head that looks like crown of light suddenly shines brightly for a second.
“...1 o'clock. Neuroi?”
Sanya concentrates on the area from where her magic antenna has picked up a signal. It is in the area towards the North Star and Orion's belt. The figure that is glowing dimly in the moonlight is clearly not something a human has built. It is similar to the type that assaulted London and was stopped by Shirley some time ago, except it is an almost twice as big large model, and it has one more pair of wings.
“...This is Sanya. Neuroi spotted 115km northwest of the base, currently flying towards the east.”
She reports to the control tower in the base. During the time before the Commanding Officers answers, Sanya tries flying closer to the Neuroi.
“Flying Officer Litvyak, can you hear me?”
It does not take long before Sanya hears the Commanding Officer's voice in the intercom.
“We cannot pick up any signs of the Neuroi on our radar. Its target is most likely the industrial area along the coast. We're sending out an interception squad right away.”
The Neuroi must be flying on low altitude where it cannot be picked up by the radar, approaching by weaving it's way through the gorges.
“Do you think you can keep it occupied for a little while?” the Commanding Officer adds.
If the Neuroi keeps this speed, the interception squad will only be able to intercept it once it has already reached the airspace above the industrial area. Heavy loses are to be expected.
Sanya switches the safety off on her Fliegerhammer rocket launcher, and puts it in its place on her shoulder. However.
The Neuroi is faster. A beam just barely passes Sanya by; she can feel the heat against her cheek. A second and third wave of beams quickly follow. Sanya calmly evades.
(It's alright. It's just mechanically responding to my approach.)
She catches the Neuroi in her aim again, and quickly fires three rounds consecutively, meaning to bring it down in one go.
The three rockets fly through the evening sky, leaving vapor trails behind them.
The Neuroi evades all rockets and speeds up.
“A high speed type?”
Sanya frowns and sets after the Neuroi.
“You're too slow! Hurry up and get ready for take off!”
The Commanding Officer yells at the witches as she jumps up in a take off-unit.
The witches jump to their feet and continue their preparations. Only around half of them can actually fly in the current situation. This is because about half of the available striker units are lying on the bottom of the lake. All thanks to Eila. But Eila herself is nowhere to be seen.
“Commander! Eila is...”
One of the witches runs up the Commanding Officer, breathing heavily, and reports:
“We cannot find the Pilot Officer!”
“Eila Ilmatar Juutilainen!”
The Commanding Officer slams her fist on the take off-unit.
“Forget her! We're taking off!”
The witches all simultaneously leave the ground and soar up in the night sky.
“Flying Officer Litvyak! What's the current situation!?”
“The Neuroi is heading straight ahead towards the south-east and is gaining speed. It is estimated to arrive to the industrial area in...”
Just as Sanya is reporting the situation, the fast flying Neuroi suddenly changes its course to the north.
There are no possible target facilities in that direction.
(What's its aim...?)
Sanya refuses to let the Neuroi shake her off, and maximizes the output in her magical engines.
“...wait, Sa-... rendezvous... this... trap...”
But the transmission from the Commanding Officer is getting jammed, and Sanya cannot hear her.
As Sanya is fully concentrated on not letting the Neuroi get away, she only realizes how long away from the Commanding Officer she has come once she reaches the sea and sees drifting ice below her. The Neuroi suddenly makes a sharp turn and tries to circulate around to attack from behind.
(I was tricked. It wants to shoot me down here...)
Sanya is convinced. The situation doesn't really disturb her that much, because a similar thing happened her once before back in Britannia. Just like that time, the Neuroi's aim had been her from the very start.
(My time... to get chased...)
The tremendous G force almost snatches her Flieger Hammer out of her hand as she performs evasive maneuvers, but the Neuroi still manages to get on her tail perfectly.
It fires a beam. Sanya immediately shifts her body to evade. The beam of heat slightly touches the right wing on one of her striker units, making her lose her balance from the impact. Sanya's Mig60 starts spinning as she falls.
(! …Not... yet!)
Just in time before she hits the pitch black sea, she manages to correct her posture and starts ascending again as she scratches the surface of the sea. Meanwhile, her foe is heading south again, back over land. Sanya soon sees the mountains with their tops covered in white clouds.
(This won't do...)
She bites her lip.
She wants to go after the Neuroi again, but it is obvious who has the better maneuverability. Also, the magical engine on Sanya's right striker is not doing well after the earlier blow. There is no way she can win.
The Neuroi's beam just barely misses her shoulder.
Sanya finally closes her eyes tightly in a desperate attempt to shield herself from the attacks.
(It alright! I'm sure you can do it, Sanya!)
The voice she hasn't heard in a long time belongs to Miyafuji Yoshika.
(What in the world are you doing, Sanya! Open up your eyes this instant!)
The next voice belong to Perrine.
(Ah, Ehm... Let's try our best! Yes! I will too!)
This is Lynne.
(I don't think I really need to tell you this, but you are quite strong. ...Don't tell Hartmann I said so, though.)
(You might not feel confident in your own skills, but we all believe in you, Sanya.)
Next up is the kind Shirley.
(It's all about guts! Clear your mind!)
Squadron Leader Sakamoto is energetic as always.
(Come on, just relax!)
(Oh wow! A night witch! Cool!!)
(We're proud of you, Sanya.)
Hartmann, Lucchini and Wing Commander Minna.
Sanya suddenly sees an image of Eila, kindly smiling at her.
“I am... never alone.”
Sanya turns 180°, confronting the Neuroi head on with her Flieger Hammer raised.
Just around that time.
“Hehehe, I can practice in peace here.”
Eila is standing on the top of a mountain quite far from the base, wearing a thick coat for the cold and chuckling happily to herself. She has sneaked out of the base without permission and flown all the way here in her striker units to practice playing her instrument as much as she likes.
“I'm sure this instrument can produce a high and clear sound that will fit perfectly with Sanya's song!”
She sits down on her folding chair, produces the tuba out of its case and gets ready. It's quite heavy, but it's all for Sanya's sake. Thinking this, Eila fills her lungs with air, puts her mouth to the mouthpiece and blows!
(Hear my soul roar!)
And the next moment.
Never before has a musician ever created such a horrific sound as Eila managed to make with her tuba that time. Even she herself is severely agonized and almost faints from the outrageous sound that resounds in the night sky.
It seems like the fault is not that the tuba is broken or rusty or anything like that, it is simply Eila who is not doing it right.
(I... I will improve~! It's for Sanya's sake! For Sanya's sake! For Sanya's sake!!)
Bwo bwo bwo bwoo bwoo!
Eila starts getting dizzy from the lack of oxygen, but with heroic determination, she keeps on blowing.
The awful sound of the tuba stains the air in the area and even reaches the place where the Neuroi and Sanya are. The dogfight and the two fighters had reached a place close to the mountain where Eila is practicing in secret.
“The Neuroi is transmitting sound waves of destruction?”
Hearing the tuba, Sanya feels a dull pain in the back of her head, and she frowns. But just then...
Gong gong gong gong goong!
The Neuroi is leaning in the air like a capsizing boat that has just been hit by a big wave at sea.
“This sound... isn't the Neuroi's doing?”
Sanya sets her magical antenna to work, trying to figure out the source of the sound waves of destruction.
“...5 o'clock. Distance: 1500m. Altitude... On the top of the mountain!?”
Sanya turns in the direction of the source of the sound, and stares.
On the top of the snowy mountain, she sees a huge brass instrument glimmering in the moonlight. And the person playing it is someone Sanya knows very well. Pilot Officer Eila Ilmatar Juutilainen.
Sanya cannot comprehend the situation and is dumbfounded for a second. But she quickly realizes that first priority is to shoot the Neuroi down, so she turns her attention back to it.
“It's getting slower?”
The Neuroi she sees through her sight is vibrating, as it is in anguish, and is descending very slowly. The tuba's sound might give Sanya the chills, but it seems to cause fatal damage to the Neuroi with its high perceptional abilities.
Sanya pulls the trigger. The rocket creates white vapor trails in the sky and then finally hits the Neuroi's core.
“Hm? That sound...?”
Eila suddenly feels the air around her vibrating, and removes her mouth from the tuba. She understands that the vibration she just felt was not something she herself had created with the instrument in her hands. She turns her head in the direction from where the vibration seems to have come to find out what is going on. And then...
What she sees is a small witch and a Neuroi going down after having gotten its core crushed by a rocket.
Eila quickly throws the tuba away in the snow and hurries to put her striker units on.
“What is Sanya doing here!?”
The sky flashes white, and the Neuroi crystallizes into small pieces of light that scatters in the wind.
“The Neuroi has been destroyed.”
Sanya reports to the Commanding Officer.
“Good work, Flying Officer Litvyak.”
The Commanding Officer answers over the intercom.
“No, it was all thanks to Eila.”
“Pilot Officer Juutilainen?”
Sanya cuts off communications on the intercom and smiles to herself as she heads back to base over the frozen lake with the morning sun to her back.
The next morning, in the Commanding Officers office.
The Commanding Officer, standing in front of her office desk, looks first at Eila, then at Sanya.
“Are you saying Pilot Officer Eila Ilmatar Juutilainen in fact did not sneak out of the base without permission, but left on Flying Officer Litvyak's orders, to support her on her night patrol duty?”
Eila tries to confess the truth about what happened, but...
Sanya gives Eila a look, asking her to be quiet, and nods.
“And would you be prepared to give the same testimony in a military court?”
“The tuba Pilot Officer Juutilainen had borrowed from here was found on a mountain top in the vicinity of the base. How do you explain that?”
“It was on my orders... ma'am.”
Giving Eila a quick glance, Sanya nods again.
“I see... Well, in that case I guess there is no need for any punishments. I was thinking about giving the Pilot Officer here 2 months of toilet cleaning duty, but...”
The Commanding Officer narrows her eyes.
“...I- I'm saved~!”
Eila suddenly exclaims without thinking, feeling relieved.
There is nothing soldiers fear more than cleaning toilets in intense cold. After all, it is below freezing. Things freeze and get stuck to... other things.
“Pilot Officer Juutilainen, you should be thankful for having such a good friend.”
The Commanding Officer nods towards the door.
“You have permission to leave.”
“Good friend... Yes, ma'am!”
Eila salutes with a smile and leaves the room together with Sanya.
Just as she hears the door to the Commanding Officer's office close, Sanya turns to Eila and gives her an inquiring look.
“Eh! R-right... About that...” Eila mumbles.
Eila is very weak to those slightly sad-looking emerald eyes that were pleadingly looking up at her at the moment.
Eila sighs and tells her everything.
A few minutes later.
“...I don't think a tuba would fit very well.” Sanya says quietly as Eila has finished telling her what she has been up to.
Eila had not thought about it that much, and slumps her shoulders in disappointment.
“Really~? I see~..”
“...But... I'm sure you don't have to practice to sing with me.”
Sanya smiles, and takes Eila's hand.
“Sing... with you?”
Eila is so surprised by the words she stops walking.
“S-sanya! No! I can't do that!”
Eila protests by sitting down, shaking her head furiously, her face all red.
“I'm bad at singing! My voice is terrible!”
“That's not true... I love your voice...”
Sanya softly squeezes Eila's hand a little tighter.
Eila looks up at Sanya, her eyes moist with tears.
In the Empire of Fuso, Yokosuka, just after New Years.
Former Sergeant Miyafuji Yoshika, returning home after visiting neighbors for New Year greetings, meets a postman just outside her house. The postman gives her a small package addressed to her.
“It's from Sanya!”
Seeing who it is from, Yoshika suddenly shines up and starts unwrapping the package right away.
Inside the package is a gramophone record and a letter. Yoshika tilts her head slightly and reads the letter.
Dear Yoshika, it's been a long time.
A few days ago, Eila and I sang together on the radio. Wing Commander Minna, Flying Officer Hartmann, Flight Lieutenant Barkhorn in Karlsland and Perrine and Lynne in Gallia were able to hear it, but I don't think the broadcast reached all the way to Fuso and Africa, so I asked the people at the radio station to make a record of it. I have sent another copy to Shirley and Lucchini in Africa. Please listen to it. Sanya V. Litvyak Ps. Eila is in good health too.
“M-m-mom! Where's the record player!?”
Yoshika hurries into the house and asks her mother to find her old record player, which she then places on a low table. She sits down in front of the table, puts the black SP record on the machine, and places the needle on top of it. A faint noise is heard. And eventually, a nostalgic melody is streaming out of the machine.
La, lalala~, lalala~, lulalala~la~
“...It's that song!”
It is the song from that time when Yoshika, Eila and Sanya were in charge of night patrol and had taken a bath outside after sweating together in the sauna. It is the song Sanya had been humming on with her back to the moonlight. The song her father had made for her on a rainy day. Sanya's perfectly clear voice, and Eila's slightly embarrassed voice. The two voices overlap perfectly, almost like they are spinning the gentle song together like thread of silk.
“Sanya is really great, but... Eila's singing is lovely too...”
Yoshika sits there as if spellbound, listening to the two dear voices flowing out of the record player...