Translator and Editor: SaltyTank
Andre quickly rounded up everyone in the base and held a meeting in the common area. Upon repeating what Hilde had told him, none of the members present could come up with a response. It was simply so mind-blowing, to the extent that it denied all of their previous knowledge and concepts.
Prommel was the one who broke the silence.
‘Producing smog… If you’re not the one saying it, I absolutely refuse to believe it.’
‘I find it unbelievable as well.’
‘So what’s their goal?’ Prommel tapped the map. ‘Placing the smog generator at where they first appeared, what are they trying to achieve?’
‘We don’t know yet, but if smog is beneficial for them, producing smog on ground level… is probably for new large-scale campaigns or activities.’
‘Or should I say, it has already started,’Geraldine chimed in.
‘Smog only became thicker recently, and they’ve only just started their irregular attacks. From how I see it, they’re probably using that place as a base to expand their territory.’
Once they had a rough idea of what the enemy was up to, things started clearing up. They compiled the newly added information recorded on the map and noticed that places that were recently attacked were within a certain radius from the Tunin ruins.
The attacked locations roughly formed a circle, with the ruins at the centre. Their base was within that circle as well.
‘Marie, could you please search through the ruins? Have a look and see how many of them are there now.’
Andre turned to look at Marie sitting in the corner. She nodded and closed her eyes.
‘Forty five, twenty are equipped.’
The numbers rose again, and Prommel sighed at the news.
‘So for the past twenty years, they were just casually harassing us…’
‘Perhaps that’s just how it is.’
Humans had nearly gone extinct, yet the enemy had not even been serious. The difference in strength and prowess was devastating; perhaps it was not long until mankind met its demise.
‘Then what do we do?’
‘There’s no other choice, of course we’ll destroy the urn thing that’s making smog.’ Andre shrugged. ‘Assuming the monsters are stronger because of the urn and they can only continue their invasion if the smog is thick enough, then we can at least weaken them. Lucky enough and we can halt their invasion.’
‘But Hilde said our current weapons can’t damage the urn, not to mention the number of monsters gathered there… It’s difficult,’ Prommel said bluntly.
‘But that urn can’t move, so there’s a way.’
‘What are you suggesting?’
Seeing Andre’s confident look, everyone was more curious than anything. He went over to the emergency battle supplies pile and picked up two flares unexpectedly.
‘Do you remember the past experiments? The flares failed to attract the monsters, and Hilde even said something about turning them into weapons.’
‘Didn’t that fail back then?’ Geraldine quickly went through her memories and remembered the experiment Andre was talking about. ‘Even if we make them into a bomb, it’ll get destroyed before we can light it up.’
‘Yeah, but it’s different this time. Our target’s an urn that can’t move.’
Everyone finally realised what he was hinting at; a glimpse of hope could be seen in the gloomy atmosphere. Geraldine grabbed the flares from Andre and started thinking of the plausibility of his plan.
‘Indeed… In terms of destructive power, your current weapons don’t even come close to this thing. If we raise the quantity and quality of gunpowder a bit more… Well, it’s surely powerful, but this alone isn’t enough, there’s still a major issue.’
‘Blood.’ Andre had thought about it already.
‘That’s right.’ Geraldine sighed. ‘We can’t put blood inside this thing, nor can we control where to scatter blood at with just this. It could even evaporate blood during the explosion. The only method would be to shower the target with enough blood and dissolve the protective layer before blowing the bomb up. Of course, it’d be great if we can blow it up from the inside.’
‘Andre, Hilde’s out this time. Just getting the bomb to the city centre is already problematic enough, if we need so much preparation on-site, perhaps…’
‘What you’ve just said is the hardest part.’ Andre nodded and answered Prommel’s question. ‘We’ll have to change our way of doing things and don’t fight them up front.’
‘The actual plan?’
Andre went closer to the map and pointed to the north-east of the Tunin ruins.
‘There’s a short cliff and a shortcut to the city centre here. Abseil down and it’ll only take three minutes to reach the urn. The whole mission can be done within five minutes.’
After all, it had been Andre’s hometown. He was more familiar with the surrounding terrain than anyone else.
‘As for the baiting part, use this route in the north-west. Go along the west and head south after getting their attention. Rich families used to live there, so the houses are especially large and managed to keep their general structure even after the fall of the city. They’re good obstacles for avoiding attacks.’
‘Sounds like it’s worth a try.’
Prommel and Geraldine exchanged glances and nodded. Marie remained emotionless, though for her, she would complete any mission Andre gave her. Confirming everyone was on board with his plan, Andre continued.
‘I’ll be the bait—’
‘Wait,’ Prommel interrupted him. ‘Why are you the bait?’
‘Because excluding Hilde, I’m the fastest runner. It’s ideal for distracting the enemy.’
‘No! It’s not ideal at all. Going with your logic, the bait doesn’t have to distract the enemy for so long if you’re the one who blows the urn up.’
‘But neither you nor Marie is suitable as bait.’
Andre reiterated his stance again as though the choice of personnel had been decided already, and that there was no room for discussion. This, however, led to Prommel’s dissatisfaction.
‘If you made this plan on the basis that you’ll be the bait, I’ll have to refuse. Among all of us, you’re the most irreplaceable. You can’t risk yourself like this.’
‘I’m not really that important at all.’
‘You’re our captain and the one who brought us together. We follow you with such dangerous plans because we’re prepared for the worse. You should look more at the big picture.’
‘That’s right, Andre. You don’t have to be bothered about how we feel about it.’
Geraldine patted Prommel’s shoulders; it was clear that the two were not going to back down. Andre had not expected them to reject his proposition and was at a loss of what to do.
‘How about this,’ Prommel said as he pointed at the map. ‘Let’s not make it difficult for you. I’ll go as bait along with Marie, that way we can share the risk among the two of us. It’s a lot safer than just having one guy.’
‘Then how about the both of us serving as bait and Marie go with the actual operation?’
The moment Andre finished his words, the one who reacted the most was Marie. She stood up and walked over to him.
‘Andre, we’re not as quick as you are, but if it’s just running away, we won’t fall so easily.’
Andre sighed. ‘Fine, I don’t see how you’re going to change your mind no matter what I say. More importantly, the new weapon to be used in the mission.’
‘Is that even a problem? I’ll look into it with Prommel right away!’
Geraldine dragged Prommel along with her as they headed for the workshop with vigor. Andre looked at the map, his heart weighted down by heavy feelings. He knew that various places were getting attacked every moment; in order to stop the monsters’ attacks from spreading further out, they must complete this mission successfully at all costs.
He turned around and patted Marie on her shoulders. As he was about to leave, he noticed Jade was looking at him, seemingly wanting to say something but was hesitating. Jade finally noticed that Andre was looking at her and eventually spoke.
‘Is, is there something I can help out with?’
She did not want to idle around and just look on as everyone else was occupied with tasks to do. Even if she could not be of any help in their mission, she still wanted to do something for them.
Andre smiled faintly.
‘Of course, none of us have the time to prepare food now. Also, Hilde’s probably bored to death by now—I’ll leave it to you.’
‘Okay, leave it to me!’
Receiving her orders, Jade turned on her heels and almost merrily jogged out of the common area.
Marie looked at her fading silhouette before saying, ‘Jade, companion?’
‘Right, she’s not a guest anymore. She’s a part of us now.’
‘Me, Hil… Jade, the third?’
‘What are you saying?’ Andre couldn’t help but lightly knock her head. ‘Don’t fantasise so much.’
Andre waved and left for the workshop without turning back. Marie who was left alone went back to her exclusive with an innocent look.