Today’s dawn was in retrospect, a chilling one. This normally windless wilderness began to show signs of stirring.
In front of the gathered troops was the commanding officer Breman. He stood there at attention with his back straight as an arrow.
His attitude wasn’t that much different from before but his expression told otherwise.
It had a never before seen sense of gravity.
From this moment on, each word, each sentence, all of them were to be taken seriously.
Breman: I’m Breman, the commanding officer of this expeditionary force and also your comrade.
Breman: I’m only eighteen this year. There might even be warriors among you who have lived twice as long as me.
Breman: While I had been chosen for this post since a long time ago, I had only recently taken up this heavy burden.
Breman: I’m sure that everyone here is already aware of the fact that this post had undergone a change of hands. That can only mean two things.
Breman: Either the passing down of an honorable legacy or the fresh start to a disgraceful past.
Breman: Given my age, taking charge of the expeditionary forces is definitely not result of some honor being passed down to me…in fact, probably half of you are already aware of what happened.
Breman: Under the watchful eyes of my bloodline wish ability, the words you are about to hear are all true.
Lee Sole’shot: ……
The soldiers stood stock still as they continued listening.
Breman: 10 years ago, because of the recklessness of the previous commanding officer, our expeditionary forces suffered unnecessary losses.
Breman: A section of scouts had been completely wiped and the commanding officer then, under these unknown circumstances, made the erroneous decision of dispatching even more elites in order to investigate the scene.
Breman: The result was, a lot of people ended up receiving an incurable wound. Even with that much sacrifices, we weren’t able to retrieve the relics of those who died.
Breman: What’s even worse was that even with the expedition being halted, the citizenry still lost faith in us. Some even attacked the army in order to get revenge for the dead.
Breman: Because of this, the commanding officer was sentenced to death. He was to be confined until the next commanding officer took up his post at which point the incumbent will behead him.
Breman: …from the moment I took control of the expedition, these pair of hands had never enjoyed a shred of glory. Instead, it had only been stained with the blood of disgrace.
Breman: The blood that originated from the same bloodlines as me…
Breman: Our expedition has always been in contact with nature, living with nature, understanding nature, delving into nature, extorting from nature and defending against her vengeance.
Breman: On the road of progress, sacrifices are unavoidable but meaningless and foolish deaths are a disgrace.
Breman: This isn’t just a stain on the commanding officer but on the entire expedition as well…
Breman: —I would like to ask everyone present, if today…a chance to wash away our dishonor was put right in front of us, should we shy away from it in fear?
Scouting Regiment Veteran: Wash away our dishonor.
Scouting Regiment Veteran: Wash away our dishonor—–
Scouting Regiment Veteran: Wash away our dishonor———-!!!
Outside of the few newcomers and replenishments, almost all of the soldiers roared in unison.
Their thunderous roars rolled across the campsite and into the wilderness. This was a declaration of war. A war against the unknown.
Amidst the chanting, Breman’s personal guard took out a gigantic noticeboard. Nailed onto it was a map so large, everyone could see it clearly.
Breman: Everyone here was handpicked by me and my adjutant to participate in this operation to wash away our dishonor.
Breman: In the following operation, I will work hand in hand with each of you as we fight for this crucial victory.
Breman pointed at the map behind him. It was marked with the various campsites of the expedition along with their connecting routes. This was obviously a map of our surroundings.
At the top right corner of the map was a region shaded in purple. Its borders roughly formed the shape of a giant finger.
Breman: This purple region is know as “Starfall”. This region was marked out by the advance party using the lives of their scouting hounds and birds.
Breman: This is the site of our dishonor.
Breman: According to the report ten years ago, any living organism who entered this region ended up losing all their wish points and abilities.
Breman: These people, upon making a wish, discovered that their wish stars began crashing down till there was finally nothing left. This is why this region is known as Starfall.
Di Qi Ju: !?!?
Breman: The moment they discovered this and tried to escape. They would be killed by the “environment” via a variety of methods.
Breman: To us faithful followers of Westrealm, this could be said to be a veritable hell.
Breman: Unfortunately, the Divine Hall clearly stated their stance regarding this. Because this wasn’t a part of the basic activities of humanity, monitoring this region would be interfering in the affairs of another government and so they will not help us.
Breman: Even though we are alone in facing this threat, this doesn’t mean that we can’t conquer Starfall.
Breman: No…we aren’t just going to conquer this region, we have to wash away our disgrace, we have to exact justice for all those innocent lives lost.
Breman: I won’t ask you to risk yourselves needlessly but we must delve into this region, using any safe means possible to gather information on it.
Breman: The dangers we currently know of, can all be found on the ground.
Breman: After coming into contact with the ground for a certain period of time, one would rapidly lose their wish points and abilities.
Breman: And so…today’s operation is an aerial reconnaissance.
Breman: We have already prepared hot air balloons in the outpost ahead. They will allow you, the elites of our expedition, to get an aerial view of Starfall.
Breman: If it’s possible, descend further down to get a closer look. In fact, it would be even better if you could attain some samples or life forms from that region…
Breman: I’ll leave the judgement to you guys. I believe in your restraint but do not push yourselves too far.
Breman: —–remember, safety takes precedence over the mission.
Breman: This is the first step of Operation “Redemption”. Do not let me down.
The hundred over scouts were divided into ten groups and each of them headed to Starfall along the route marked out by the advance party.
Besides my teammates from the laborer camp, there were several other veterans assigned to our group.
According to them however, they were only here to brief us on the details, assess the risks while also protecting us. Outside of that, they won’t take part in the scouting itself.
In other words, most of the mission will be carried out by the five us, Mo Chuan, One’day High, Lee Sole’shot, Halfmoon Leak’age and I.
Why did he make such an arrangement…isn’t Breman overestimating us? By a lot?
I still hadn’t even come to terms with the cheat-like situation of having our wish points and abilities taken away.
What if I accidentally fall into Starfall? I’ll be screwed for sure.
Why didn’t I think of this possibility yesterday? Would it be inappropriate of me to make a wish in front of everyone after hearing about this?
After a round of debating, I finally decided to postpone this matter till I had a better grasp of the situation.
Bodyguard Veteran A: We’re here.
Having just finished my mulling, we arrived at the forward outpost.
It was a barebones campsite that was surrounded by a simple set of wooden stake fencing.
According to the reports, this outpost was only tens of meters away from Starfall. In fact, we could see the jungle from where we were standing.
In the middle of the outpost was a tent which looked like it could accommodate eight to seven people. It was filled with several chests of rations and supplies. In the midst of these chest was a basket weaved out of what looked like bamboo strips, and measured over a meter wide.
It was filled with several ominous looking pieces of cloth which reminded me of the chaos of month old laundry stuffed into a washing machine.
This must be the scouting balloon.
The veterans set up the surprisingly soft pile of cloth material with practised ease. Having done that, they swiftly put up the supports and framework of the basket.
Just from a glance, one could tell that this was a hot air balloon, a very crude and unsafe hot air balloon!
One’day High: The basket is exactly…a meter and half square. They were pretty precise about this…
One’day High: The balloon itself is…wait, it will just grow bigger when it’s filled up so there’s no point measuring it.
As the veterans busied themselves with setting up the balloon, One’day High was having the time of his life with a ruler marked with several unknown markings.
Come to think of the self-proclaimed title of “a calculative expert” probably included calculations in the mathematical sense as well.
Bodyguard Veteran B: Hand me that chest.
Di Qi Ju: Kay—
Opening up the chest, the veteran took out a device and fixed it to the framework atop the basket.
Bodyguard Veteran A: This device controls the balloon’s functions namely, its movements, receiving and sending signals as well as measuring the distance from the ground within a maximum altitude of 200m,
Bodyguard Veteran A: This is one of our country’s military secrets. If you managed to smuggle this to another country, you could probably make more money than you ever could in a lifetime.
Bodyguard Veteran A: So, don’t lose it and don’t break it.
Di Qi Ju: ……
One’day High: No problem, I’ve already read through the manual yesterday.
Other than One’day High, everyone looked at the device with renewed caution. At the side, the veterans warned us not to have any strange ideas.
Bodyguard Veteran B: One’day High, you’re one of the individuals singled out by the officer so I’ll leave the piloting to you.
One’day High: Mhm, there’s no one more suitable for this job than me.
Lee Sole’shot : I’m one of those individuals as well.
Di Qi Ju: There’s no need to stress about this…
Bodyguard Veteran B: This balloon can only take up to two people. The other person will be in charge of observing and recording. The others will be on the ground communicating and observing them.
Bodyguard Veteran B: Who is going up?
Di Qi Ju:…..
Looking at this crude set up, I don’t even want to get onto it…but saying this out loud would me look pathetic…
After all, I’m a soldier enlisted in the army!
Mo Chuan: I’m too heavy for that.
Halfmoon Leak’age: …I have a serious case of acrophobia (fear of heights).
Lee Sole’shot: This balloon will be full of hot air; I’m afraid that I might prick it with my arrows.
Di Qi Ju:……
Di Qi Ju: —that’s great, so all we have to do is confiscate your arrows and then you can get yourself up there!
One’day High: Stop trying to escape Little Ju, come on up here.
Di Qi Ju:……
Special thanks to Steve Granger, Ichitsuzen, and LaRue Martin!!