Chapter 41 – Stranded

The group of vehicles zoomed through the forest, the crowd of Inzektors that were behind them was blown into smithereens by the explosion that the outpost had caused. At this moment everyone breathed a sigh of relief. It was a short battle lasting around a quarter of an hour before the base fell.

The engineers were tired from overworking, the combatants were sweating profusely from the short exchange with the Ravagers. Fortunately, other than some injuries they all managed to stay alive. After leaving the vicinity did they begin to calm their nerves, many started to sleep, some cried, and the remaining stayed awake and aware as they weren’t in the clear yet.

At the rate they were going it was going to take them about 6 hours before they arrive at the other outpost where Bendan and Gizmo were. Luon was situated in the rear car with Arisa and Belle while Tyron was at the front with Shizuka as he handled the navigation for the group.

The atmosphere was dull as everyone was too tired to talk and were relaxing their bodies for the future battles that were bound to occur.

Arisa was focused on steering while Luon sat beside her starring blanky outside. Belle, on the other hand, was sleeping in the back.

Arisa who was driving peeked at the rear-view mirror and saw the sleeping Belle, then she skimmed over Luon and saw that he was still awake. She then asked, “Aren’t you tired? Why don’t you sleep a bit, you’re going to need it.”

Luon who heard her words continued to stare blankly outside as he replied, “You’re tired as well right? I’m just staying awake in case you fall asleep while steering the car. We aren’t using wheels for this vehicle, so it must be difficult to drive when you’re constantly exhausting your mind to control your magic.”

The vehicles Shizuka developed hovered a few meters off the ground. In the material storage rubber was non-existent and normal automobiles would have trouble traversing the forest.

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The solution she thought up was to use wind magic to travel. However, while there were some benefits, there were also flaws. In exchange for the ability to travel over oddly shaped surfaces, the speed was significantly reduced.

The speed they were going it was a little faster than how fast the Inzektor armies traveled when they moved towards the outpost. Another flaw was the complexity of the driving operation needed someone with excellent magic control. The driver needed to adjust the output according to the terrain making them very preoccupied with the handling of the vehicle.

The last and vital flaw was fuel, originally the tanks of mana were stored in the spot where the engine was supposed to be. Therefore it could operate independently for a limited amount of time before it required the people to channel mana inside of it. Of course, the passengers can channel the energy while they drove.

What was interesting though was that anyone can drive from any position as long as they dove their minds inside the vehicle. Although it was much easier to operate in the front because one could at least see where they were going.

“Oh, is that so? Suit yourself then,” said Arisa as she continued to focus on driving.

The awkward silence returned once more. Luon didn’t know what to say at this point, should he talk about the future plans for when they arrive at the outpost? Or maybe he should make up something to say like asking how was the weather. He thought for a second and imagined himself asking the question in which she would have replied, “Are you an idiot? What kind of weather is it when it’s raining Inzektors over here.”

Luon had no idea what to talk about. Fortunately, while he was stumped Arisa reignited the conversation again by saying, “Thanks by the way.”

“What for?” Luon replied. He was stumped as he couldn’t recall himself doing anything significant to be thanked for.

“When we started the battle… when you took command of the situation while I froze up. I was afraid whether my actions may kill someone close to me.” Arisa solemnly replied.

“The moment you hesitated was the action that may have killed someone. The situation could have been much worse if you don’t take the initiative to take action,” lectured Luon with a severe tone.

Arisa nodded from the commander battles she had experienced so far almost 90% of them were victories due to having the edge over the opponent in three critical categories: tactics, power, and will. No matter how smart and powerful one was in the face of reality a human will is ever-changing, humans weren’t emotionless machines, and it wasn’t a simple war game anymore. The fates of her companions were in her hand caused her some minor distress as she thought, ‘So this is how my sister felt when she fought on the forefront. Here I was being a foolish and ignorant child.’

After being lectured, there were another few minutes of silence until a transmission came from Shizuka.

“Hello Luon, Arisa, are you still awake? We got a problem, several kilometers ahead we detected several large and active groups of life forms using the scanner I reintegrated in the car. They’re more than likely Inzektors so can you two think of a battle plan? Tyron will send you the map data right now. We may need to change our route,” said Shizuka as she cut the transmission.

“Inzektors in front of us? Just great and I wonder what got them riled up. They don’t tend to follow each other orders unless something is controlling them, and if so then why is it now? It’s almost like they’re looking for something,” muttered Luon as he sat up and pulled a holographic map from his BMPU.

Arisa who was focused on driving took a short glimpse of the map before continuing to drive as she said, “Who knows what’s happening in Inzektors mind, it’s not like they speak the universal language. More importantly look at the map data, unless we take a huge detour we’re going to encounter Inzektors on the route, and if we do take the detour, then the outpost would be attacked before we arrive.”

Luon grimaced at the tactical map data as Arisa was on point. Looking at the outline of the map unless they breakthrough the Inzektor encirclement they wouldn’t be able to reach the outpost on time before the attack. What strategy could they pull? There was no other option as Luon sighed.

Luon started a call session with Shizuka who led the pack and said, “There’s not that much choice other than to breakthrough the route. What’s the likelihood of success? Are these vehicles armed or have anything that might help us?”

“Our chances to breakthrough would be around 74%, as for casualties let’s just hope we don’t have any… as for weapons and other features that the cars have there’s none. There was no time to equip anything, and at best all we have is our original range weapons. As for something that might increase our chance of success without damage… there was the mind sync technique.”

“Mind sync technique?” questioned Luon.

“It’s a technique that allows you to have multiple drivers to enhance the performance. It isn’t easy to learn as both drivers have to be in sync with their thoughts and not contradict the other. If driver A says to go left, but driver B wants to go right… then there will be some disorder. In exchange, the car will go slightly faster and can dodge ranged attacks easier. After all two heads are better than one, imagine adding another processor to a computer, it’s like that.” Shizuka said as she began providing Luon the details of the technique.

After learning about the technique, Luon found it very profound and asked, “So how many of us can learn the technique in this short period of time?”

Shizuka who heard his words snappily said, “Who do you think we are? Our servants are the cream of the crop, all of them can learn it in an hour. The troublesome part was that minds can have some disagreement causing the performance to drop and since more minds are used to focus on driving there would be one less attacker.”

“Even if there’s one less attacker the benefit of having the car performance is much needed to increase our chances of breaking through to the base. As for the problem with the mind sync why not have one of the pairs be servitude to the other?” suggested Luon.

“Are you implying that one person should follow the other person’s choice unconditionally and merely use the other mind to help process the thoughts… Brilliant! According to that theory as long as there was a more dominant role the mind sync technique could allow even more connections, this would greatly increase the performance. It’s like people blindly following the beliefs of a dictator or when a man takes the aggressive role in their relationship with another mal- I mean his partner.” Shizuka excitedly proclaimed, for a second Luon body felt cold from her last few words for some reason but felt like it was just his imagination.

According to the calculations, there was an hour difference before they make contact with the Inzektors at the breakthrough zone and if everything goes well, there would be only a short two minutes clash with them.

Shizuka contacted all the teams and taught them the technique. What was fortunate was that all the girls were smart mastering the procedure in less than half an hour, and even better when Shizuka taught them how to become the dominant and submissive roles they easily comprehended the concept with some examples that she provided. According to Tyron, it was better not knowing what kind of examples they were, the only things he heard over the intercom for the last while we’re screams of women going ‘kyaa.’ Generally, as a man, he would joyfully listen, if it wasn’t a topic that made him cringe that is.

After everyone learned the technique, they tested it for a short five minutes. As a result, the speed the group traveled was 50% faster and agiler than before. With multiple people driving the magic control improved which in hand increased the speed they can handle.

As they drove onward, they soon encountered the Inzektors, and the plan was set into motion. With the improved speed, the regular crawlers weren’t able to touch them, and the simple range attacks some of them had were easily dodged with some neat tricks the girls had. One of the groups terrifically did a barrel roll when they dodged.

However, not everything went according to plan as a giant beam blasted through the party. Fortunately, their dodging skills had significantly improved otherwise many of them would have died.

Arisa who had just dodged the beam than said, “That’s… A Kalastor right? They are difficult to raise but are troublesome in siege defenses. There’s probably only one of them and if it attacks the outpost after we arrive our defense system might be destroyed in one go.”

“What are you suggesting?” said Belle who’s now awake and shooting the Inzektors.

“She’s implying we need to kill it despite it being situated in the middle of a group of them. There is no way to take it out unless we drive up close to it and hack at it. I believe the Inzektors right beside it can cast magical and physical defenses to keep it guarded,” Luon analyzed as he brought Shizuka into the conversation.

“We do need to kill it otherwise the second outpost would fall quicker than the first one despite it being our last line of defense. However, we don’t have the firepower to handle it right now unless one of us sacrifices themselves to get in close to kill it, it’s a suicide mission,” said Shizuka.

‘No one would be willing to take the task, but if they don’t, we all may possibly die after arriving at the outpost. Sacrificing one to save many people? How that statement is so hypocritically true,’ thought Luon.

Shizuka continued as her next words interrupted his thoughts, “And the only person who has the greatest chance in succeeding in this tasks is… Arisa. You still have some energy on your NG-Arms, Luon could have done it too but unfortunately, his is out of juice and Belle is not strong enough to destroy it.”

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Arisa who heard her words sentencing her death sighed and said, “Alright. Can you send my father the message that I’m about to pass on to you? Also… Luon, Belle, I need you two to jump in another car…”

Belle who heard Arisa words screamed, “You can’t go! You’re going to die! How can you still smile like this!”

Arisa face grew stern as she yelled, “I have to go or else we all would die! Stop being foolish and get into another car! They still need you to defend the fort, and I can only trust you with the task. So please, just go.”

Belle grew tearily as she can only nod. Seeing her reluctant acceptance, they moved beside another black sedan allowing Belle to get off. Once Belle was off Arisa turned to Luon and said, “Come on you too, get out while you still can.”

“While I still can eh? Well that’s unfortunate because I still plan to stay with you,” said Luon as he manipulated the car to move away from the other.

Arisa was distracted, and their minds were still in sync, so Luon’s manipulations smoothly moved the car away as it turned towards the direction of the Kalastor.

Arisa sighed and said, “You might die you know.”

“A nobody like me can die with a beauty like you, who wouldn’t be satisfied,” Luon replied.

“They might need you in the defense at the base,” said Arisa.

“I’m out of range weapons, and my NG-Arms is useless. All I can do is hack and slash, and I can barely put up with a Ravager,” replied Luon.

“And besides…” said Luon.

At this point, Arisa turned to look at Luon who was looking at her while they drove as he said, “It’s not like we’re guaranteed to die, you get in there quickly kill the thing while I your prince on a black sedan drive you away? Sounds simple right?”

“Your plan has a nearly zero percent chance of succeeding, you know that right?” smiled Arisa as she couldn’t believe the frivolous talk was coming from Luon’s mouth.

“Well, at least it isn’t zero right?” Luon said boldly.

The lone car drove into the horde of Inzektors, two people smilingly stranded in a sea of madness.

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