[KR] The Little Prince in the Ossuary

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The Little Prince in the Ossuary
(납골당의 어린 왕자)



Author: Tunguska (퉁구스카)

Translator: TeeKay

Editor: Nisaea

Description:

In a world plagued by Morgellons, a deadly disease that turns humans into non-human creatures, people have chosen to abandon their humanity in order to fight against the bloodthirsty corpses. In the end, there will be no humans left on Earth.

But that harsh world is, in fact, a world fabricated merely for entertainment. A world for humans to live in exists neither inside nor outside.

This is the story of a boy who, while living a miserable life, stares at the stars as he desperately tries to keep his sanity.


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  • Chapter 1. The Little Prince in The Ossuary (1)

     

    # Initialize, Registration Number B612

     

    In a dark place, within a black and weightless space, a boy was curled up, floating as if he were in space. It was a scene that could only possibly be seen inside a virtual reality. There, one could see the sunset a thousand four hundred and forty times within twenty-four hours. It was a fictitious world that responded to the will of an individual. No other person could exist there.

    Just at the boy’s arms reach, something was shining in the darkness. It was a square-shaped screen. The screen was showing the people whom the boy had to perform as—Toni Morrison, Sadako Ogata, Lyndon B. Johnson, Martin Luther King Jr., John F. Kennedy, Winston Churchill, Adolf Hitler…

    The boy had watched that screen for so long until everything was engraved in his head. With a heavy snowfall weighing on his heart, he could now easily imitate their words, their accents, and their gestures.

    To be an actor, one had to study acting. Thinking of the days he’d spent trying to become adept in acting only made him feel dull and gloomy, but it was an effort that was needed in order to get the star. Only by getting ahold of the star would the rose not wither.

    The rose may have thorns, but it was still beautiful. He didn’t want to see the end of a thing of beauty, even if holding it in his hands would cause him to bleed.

    ‘The outside world always tries to turn me into someone that I’m not. I just want to be myself, at least here,’ the boy thought.

    But he had no choice, so once again, the boy decided to tame himself. If he could sometimes make a compromise with his conscience, so that he could find some joy in it, perhaps it wouldn’t be that bad.

    ‘Everything’s ready. It’s time to set off on a boring journey on my 27th attempt at this game.’

    And the moment the boy thought so, the virtual world of 「Days After Apocalypse」 unfolded in front of him, accompanied by a monologue from an artificial intelligence mimicking the boy’s own voice.

     

    # Journal, Page 2, Camp Roberts

     

    The origin of the apocalypse was China. A disease that turns human beings into some kind of non-human creatures emerged and engulfed the entirety of East Asia in just half a month. They gave this plague the name of「Morgellons」, and I heard it’s currently spreading all across Europe.

    I used to be Korean—the reason I say ‘used to’ is that there’s no longer a country I can go back to. I personally think that I was a lucky case because I was studying in America as an exchange student when the epidemic broke out. If not, I would’ve either become one of those walking corpses or been eaten alive by them.

    The people who’d lost their countries were taken to refugee camps. I was no exception either. Due to the martial law, I could no longer stay with my host family, therefore, I was taken to Camp Roberts. I heard that it used to be the army base of the National Guard, and was now designated as the first refugee camp. It’s located about halfway between Los Angeles and San Francisco.

    The number of refugees has been increasing day by day. It’s been five months since I first came here and the refugee camp is starting to look more like a city than a camp now. They plan to move the rest of the people to Fort Hunter Liggett, another army base located about 50 kilometers northwest from here, once the population reaches the limit. Apparently, the second camp is surrounded by mountains, so people are saying it might be safer there.

    The number of incidents reported has increased due to the increasing number of people in the camp. Some of the refugees have formed factions and began to rob supplies and rations from other refugees. I heard some of them even murder those who resist.

    The names of these factions are very frightening. The names of「Heishehui」, the Chinese faction, and 「Sumiyoshi-kai」, the Japanese faction, were the names of crime syndicates that used to exist in their respective countries. Some say that the key figures in these factions are actually people from those syndicates.

    But surprisingly, the U.S. Army hasn’t taken any measures yet. I mean, it’s not that I can’t understand why. There’s only a single battalion managing a whole camp full of refugees. Wouldn’t they need a middleman or something?

    There’s been a rumor floating around the camp about factions bribing the U.S. army commander with sexual favors. It must be true. Yesterday, I saw a man, one of the members of the 「Korean Patriotic Community」, dragging a woman into an obscure alley. She was crying for help. One of the American soldiers tried to stop the man when he witnessed the scene, but after the soldier talked to the man for a minute, the soldier just backed away with his brows creased.

    One more thing about the treatment of refugees. According to CNN reports, approximately 60 percent of the world’s population must’ve been turned since the 「Morgellons Outbreak」. Experts say that we must be wary since morality can be quickly replaced by depravity in the face of the crisis that’s humanity’s extinction. I think the best place to witness that change is, sadly, Camp Roberts.

     

    # Journal, Page 5, Camp Roberts

     

    The majority of the refugees here are from countries in Asia and Oceania, and most of them are from China and Korea, countries that have bitter feelings towards the Japanese. And as expected, conflict arose between those nationalities. Lots of Japanese are ending up dead or wishing they could be. The largest Japanese faction, 「Sumiyoshi-kai」, is desperately fighting, but to no avail.

    The U.S. military is still turning a blind eye. I noticed that quite a few soldiers creased their brows when they heard the news, but none of them stood up to do anything. I think they might’ve gotten orders from above.

    The only thing the U.S. military did was to set up barbed-wire fences. The whole camp has been split into several different sections now, and they’ve put about 200 people of the same nationality in each section.

    Though this kind of conflict has risen every once in a while, I’ve been able to stay relatively safe, helping the military as an interpreter. To my surprise, not many Korean refugees are able to speak English. It’s because most of the Koreans here are either those who became stranded in the U.S. while on a trip or those who urgently escaped Korea at the beginning of the Morgellons outbreak. It seems like the latter case is by far the most common.

    Those who are fairly fluent in English, like me, are offered positions as middlemen. Those who’ve already taken the job say that they get a lot of benefits from it. What they like the most about it is that they get treated like actual human beings. The soldiers here don’t take refugees as humans. To them, they are more like livestock. But I can understand, it’s hard to maintain one’s humanity in such a hopeless situation.

     

    「AI Advice (Lvl 4 Insight): You can either accept or reject the U.S. military’s offer of a role as a middleman. If you accept, you will gain the U.S. military’s favor, and there will be an upward revision to your reputation within the community. If you refuse, there will not be any foreseeable benefit, but there may be advantages or disadvantages which you cannot yet infer with your current abilities. If you want more detailed advice, you will need to upgrade the level of Insight.」

     

    「Player’s Choice: Accept the offer.」

     

    I can’t believe they offered me, someone underage, to be a middleman. At first, I told them that I might be too young for the job, but the U.S. military officer let out a laugh and said that age didn’t matter, giving me a full story about how the U.S. always gave preference to English speakers.

    In the 1980s, the United States sought to support nationalist forces to oust the Soviet Union from Afghanistan. The problem was that the CIA had no Arabic speakers at the time, so they didn’t know whom to provide support to. However, they found an Afghan national leader who could speak English, so, despite knowing his nasty character, they chose to provide the money to that leader, who later created the Taliban and screwed over the U.S.

    After finishing the story, the military officer then forced me to take the job, saying I didn’t get a choice.

    The area I’ve been assigned to is the solar power plant located across Route 101, opposite to the base. Here, the panels need to be wiped regularly, and some new panels and transformers have to be installed whenever the camp gets more people. My job is to manage the Koreans who are sent to work here. One of my duties is to distribute rations. There’ve been a few adults several times older than me who’ve tried to please me. I get chills just by imagining what they might’ve been thinking behind those smiling faces.

    Some factions have contacted me, telling me to join them. Reasonably thinking, it might be safer for me to join one of the factions because, as time goes by, more and more English speakers will appear, and I’m not sure I will be able to keep my job when that happens.

     

    「AI Advice (Lvl 4 Insight): You may decide which faction to join. Based on the faction you join, you will be able to receive various benefits. However, be aware that joining a particular faction can also make you a target of another faction.」

     

    「Player’s Choice: Do not join any of the factions.」

     

    But I didn’t want to belong to any of them. On one occasion, the 「Korean Patriotic Community」 offered me a Japanese whore in exchange for joining their faction. To be honest, it was a disgusting offer. They seemed to have thought I was gauging them from their reaction when I refused the offer. The recruiter started shooting off his dirty mouth, suspecting that I was considering taking another faction’s offer and babbling about how I should think about the future of the Korean faction and so on. I was even asked if I liked men.

    Maybe I’m just a fool who knows nothing about the ways of the world, but I just didn’t want to throw away my humanity.

     

    # Journal, Page 11, Camp Roberts

     

    We just got a report of an outbreak in San Francisco.

    Due to the nature of the camp, being isolated from the outside world, the news is always a few days late. Judging by how fast the plague spread in Asia, the San Francisco Bay Area (the region spanning cities such as Oakland, Berkeley, San Jose, etc.) might’ve turned into pandemonium by now, no matter how prepared they were.

    As if to prove my thoughts true, several transport vehicles with refugees flooded into the camp the next dawn. There were people of several different races, but they were mostly white and black. They seemed to be survivors that managed to escape San Francisco.

    Tension showed on the face of the soldiers. It was an obvious reaction as there might’ve been an infected one among the survivors.

    A vaccine for Morgellons hasn’t been discovered yet. Once infected, there’s no way to stop it from turning a human into a monster. The refugees clamored to separate the survivors from themselves. But as if they were scared to get kicked out, the survivors decided to give up the place they were originally assigned to, and instead, settled in a temporary tent camp located at the western part of the base, beyond the water tower.

    Shortly after evening, when the rationing ended, I heard that some of the refugees were plotting to escape the camp.

     

    「AI Advice (Lvl 4 Insight): You can choose to leave the base along with the refugees, report it to the officers, or stay silent and do nothing. If you leave the base, the tutorial will be immediately terminated. If you report it to the officers, you will gain the U.S. military’s favor, but there will be a downward revision to your relationship with some of the refugees. If you stay silent, there will be a slight downward revision to your willpower.」

     

    「Player’s Choice: Do nothing.」

     

    For a second, I thought about running away with them. To escape from the camp out to the safer central area. But if I did that, I’d then have to worry about surviving out in the wild. Or even before that, I could be shot to death if I were to be found.

    Another choice I had was to report it to the officers, but I didn’t feel like doing that either. Because if I did, people would know. In a situation like that, I had to avoid doing things that would provoke others’ hatred, or else, I wouldn’t be able to sleep at night. So I just decided to stay silent. I felt a bit guilty for shutting my eyes to it.

     

    「Willpower has been adjusted downward / Unable to identify the specific figure.」

     

    The sound of gunshots cracked across the night sky of Camp Roberts. I tried to shut my ears and force myself to sleep, but I couldn’t fall back asleep.

    When I came out at dawn, I found part of the fence splattered with blood. Pieces of torn flesh and tattered clothes were hanging on the fence. Traces of death were laid on the other side of the fence across the barren land. There were some vultures already feasting on them.

    I lost my appetite. I had to skip breakfast.

     

    # Journal, Page 16, Camp Roberts

     

    The infection has spread even further across America.

    An unknown number of the infected were reported to have slipped through the San Francisco Bay blockade, and four days later, another piece of news regarding the fall of Sacramento reached our ears. Despite the mass deployment of federal and state defense forces, it wasn’t enough to stop the mutated civilians.

    According to the report, about 70 percent of the city’s population have turned into walking corpses. If converted to numbers, it was over 300,000 people. Although the mutated people don’t possess the intelligence of humans, their physical ability easily surpasses that of human beings.

    The waves of walking corpses have already swept through several refugee camps in the suburbs. The U.S. military dropped several atomic bombs on the east side of the city after conducting as many rescue operations as possible. It was merely a stopgap measure.

    China, the first country that collapsed due to the Morgellons outbreak, was a nuclear nation. When the plague spread out of control even after deploying military forces, China, without the slightest hesitation, used a large number of nuclear weapons in the infected area. People criticized the Chinese government for abandoning their people, but they didn’t seem to care about the criticisms. The infected people are not humans anymore, or that’s what they said, but I’m sure there were people who hadn’t yet evacuated from the bombed area.

    Immediately after using nuclear weapons, the number of infected dropped considerably. The government once again deployed their military forces and things appeared to be under control. But after a while, the infection once again spread across China, this time much more rapidly.

    Experts claim that it’s highly likely that the material contaminated with the Morgellons pathogen was blown into the sky by the updraft of the nuclear explosions and then sprayed back down to the ground by the prevailing wind along with the nuclear fallout. The use of nuclear weapons only led China down the path of destruction.

    And as far as I know, the climate of the West Coast is heavily influenced by the westerly-winds. If they drop a bomb in Sacramento, matter contaminated with plague pathogens will spread to the central part of the U.S. I don’t know whether they realize this or not, but the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has only ordered the residents of California, Nevada, and Arizona to evacuate their land.

    All hell broke loose in our refugee camp. People began to run riot because of the evacuation order. And when some of the radical riots knocked down the fences, the U.S. military began to open fire on the crowds. Come to think of it, I bet even the soldiers were dying to escape. Overwhelmed by anxiety, fatigue, and depression, the soldiers must’ve lost their reason when everything happened. Due to this event, more than 700 people were killed in just a few minutes. It was a horrible tragedy.

    Only later did I find out that there was also a case of mutation reported in San Miguel when the riot occurred. Both the southern and northern routes are swarming with the infected, which is why the federal government has given up on evacuating the refugees. The U.S. military stationed in the camp is also stranded in Camp Roberts. Some ill-tempered soldiers started to beat up refugees. They must be thinking that the reason they were left to die here was all because of the refugees.



  • edited November 2019

    https://patchworknovels.wordpress.com/2019/11/27/the-little-prince-in-the-ossuary-chapter-2/

    Chapter 2. The Little Prince in The Ossuary (2)


    # Journal, page 21, Camp Roberts


    Food’s running out. The last time the government sent relief supplies via helicopter was a week ago. There are too many places in need of help, but the number of aircrafts available is limited. The use of ground vehicles was discontinued long ago because of the risk of losing the supplies. It seems like the military here is still in touch with the U.S. government, but it’s clear that the government is losing control over the California area. Hygiene products have long since run out of stock. People are becoming even more vicious.

    The camp is already greeting late autumn, but we’re still not prepared for winter. Not to mention food and water, we still have to look for ways to keep ourselves warm until the end of the upcoming winter.

    The commanding officer summoned the representatives of the refugees and gathered their opinions. Apparently, the consensus was to organize a procurement team made up of volunteers. A former police officer, one of the survivors from San Francisco, was put in charge of the procurement team’s management.

    The volunteers will be given priority for ration stamps, so if the camp were to suffer a shortage of food, those who didn’t volunteer will more likely starve to death. Still, many refuse to go out and have opted to stay inside the camp. They probably think it’s better to die from starvation in a safe place rather than to be eaten alive outside. There’s also the possibility that a food shortage won’t occur, therefore, the U.S. military hasn’t urged the people to participate in the mission. Dispatching unwilling people who refuse to listen to orders would pose an even greater danger to the mission.


    「Player's Choice: Join the procurement team.」


    But I’m different. If I were to become exhausted due to insufficient nutrition, I could die not from starvation, but other reasons. If that’s the case, I want to at least struggle till the very end before I die.

    When I went to the recruitment center to volunteer for the procurement team, Lieutenant Robert Capstone, one of the officers that happened to be there, dragged me out of the building. He was one of the soft-liners among the U.S. officers. Noting that I was the only one among the middlemen who didn't belong to any faction, he asked me if I was being left out because of my age. He also told me to reconsider my decision for he would spare me some of the ration stamps.


    「AI Advice (Lvl 4 Insight): You can either accept or decline Robert Capstone’s offer. If you accept, there will be an upward revision to the stability of the community and your leadership within the community. You may also gain favors from the soft-line officers. If you decline, there will be an upward revision to your will power, charm, and leadership.」


    「Player's Choice: Volunteer for the procurement mission anyway.」


    I thanked him for his kindness and refused his offer. I told him that I didn't want to wait helplessly within the camp’s enclosure and that I’d rather make myself useful to the people in the camp.

    Hearing my words, Lieutenant Capstone gave me a wistful glance and stepped aside in silence. He then patted me on my shoulder as I walked past him.

    Good people do exist even in times of crisis. I’m glad there’s still a person like him in this world.


    # Procurement Mission, Camp Roberts.


    The game worked as follows: The background story was provided to the player through visual footage, like videos and journals, but it differed based on presets such as nationality, gender, age, occupation, characteristics, and starting point, which the player had to enter beforehand.

    Interestingly, the game would always provide players with different background stories even if players chose the same presets, and that’s the reason why the boy was spending his time listening to the journal, which had been provided to him in the form of a monologue, even when this was already his 27th attempt at the game. 

    Except for a few cases, journals contained a lot of information regarding the setting of the game, so the boy had to take in as many details as possible. It should’ve been a boring task for someone who had already gone through this process 26 times, but thanks to the fact that the setting of the game became more and more sophisticated after each attempt, he found it rather interesting. In addition, the game projected the contents of the journal in front of the boy's eyes, as if he were watching the situation unfolding through the character’s eyes, only, he wasn’t the one in control.

    But now that the journal had concluded, control was given back to him. The boy looked around. Underneath the dawning sky, rows of tents pitched with old muddy pieces of fabric were aligned along the fences.

    Not far away, the boy heard a dull thud as he followed the hologram in charge of guiding him to his mission, a sound that he wouldn’t have recognized if this had been his first attempt at the game. It was the sound of something sharp being stabbed into human flesh. And sure enough, as he the boy walked towards the direction the sound had come from, he found a woman holding a knife in her hands and a middle-aged man crouching on the ground while clutching his stomach.

    With a clinking noise, the bloody knife dropped from the woman’s hand onto the ground. The woman then looked around and found the boy staring at her. Startled by his sudden appearance, the woman stood frozen to her spot for a while, but soon, she walked up to the middle-aged man, took out some crumpled ration stamps from his pockets and ran away in a hurry.

    The only thing the boy did in the face of this sudden event was to look at the scene with a frown. He knew that those who committed this kind of crime were usually underlings in a faction. If he were to follow her now, he might have to deal with the whole faction.

    In this virtual world of 「Days After Apocalypse」, the greatest threat was, in fact, none other than the live humans. Humans do anything to survive. Even those of good faith would commit murder if forced to. This game was made impossible to proceed without killing others.

    A system message, 「You have 77 unread viewer’s messages. Check the message log to read the messages.」 was displayed at the corner of the boy’s view. Actually, the notification had been flickering for quite a while now.

    The boy opened the message log with reluctance. A translucent window containing several messages divided into three different tabs—general messages, system messages, and viewer’s messages, popped up in the air. When he tapped on the viewer’s message tab, messages of various colors filled the boy’s view.

    「PrincessCattitude♡: Oppa, why aren't you chasing her?」

    「MURD3R: Go follow and kill her! Thinking is for pussies, just do it! You MURD3R, therefore you are! A man's gotta kill and fuck! Who’s the real man? You're the real man! How real? Goddamn real! Just don’t touch her lower half cuz you’re gonna need that to fuck her」

    「Legend12: Dude u r fucking crazy lmaooooo do u even realize how young this kid is?」

    「cashmere: I don’t think the age restriction applies to people with afterlife insurance」

    「VanDakhom: I see a moralfag」

    「golden_spoon: Fucking morons」

    The boy felt like he got struck on the back of his head. Of all attempts, this was his first time turning on the streaming service. He quickly closed the message window, but opened it again after a while and carefully inserted a message.

    It didn’t take him long to enter the message thanks to the 「Teletype」 module, which turned the user's thoughts into sentences in just a second and automatically translated them if there was a language barrier.

    「Han Gyeoul: As I said earlier, I won’t allow backseating. And please, watch your language.」

    He then quickly closed the window.

    The boy saw an explosive increase in the number of incoming messages, but he didn’t dare to read them.

    For some reason, the boy felt disgusted. The stone, which he had forgotten about, started rolling around, hurting his heart. The boy hurried his gait in an effort to disregard the pain.

    Several missions were displayed inside the boy’s field of view. This would be an important decision since things would change drastically depending on the choice he made here. However, the boy headed straight to a place that he had in mind.

    There was a long line of military vehicles waiting at the destination. They were quite different from those he had seen in his lifetime. It was obvious since the game was set in the early 21st century, a bygone era.

    The Control AI, which responded to the user's subconscious, displayed the names of the vehicles for him. At the head and tail of the line, there were jeeps named ‘Humvee’, armed with machine guns, and right at the center of the line were a couple of military tank trucks tagged as ‘M978A2’, presumably for procuring oil. The rest were normal trucks painted with camouflage patterns.

    The traffic near the vehicles was being strictly regulated to prevent refugees from taking them. Right by the vehicles was a long line of people queueing to join the procurement mission. The boy also stood at the back of the line and patiently waited for his turn. Looking ahead of the line, the boy saw that the applicants were given bulletproof jackets, gas masks, and duffle bags after being frisked.

    When the boy’s turn came, the master sergeant grumbled with a disapproving look, "Too small! Are we really using a kid for this mission?"

    "We’re not the ones to choose, sir," the staff sergeant standing next to him replied bluntly.

    Though the boy wasn't acquainted with the master sergeant, he was somewhat familiar with the staff sergeant who, after casting a side glance, continued, "Apparently, Lieutenant RoboCop is fond of him. He said he volunteered for this mission to be of help to others."

    RoboCop was Robert Capstone’s nickname.

    "And you're buying it?"

    "He doesn’t belong to any of the refugee factions. He’s fluent in English and seems to have learned some Japanese and Chinese recently. I’d say his language skills will be useful to manage the refugees."

    Japanese and Chinese were skills that the boy had acquired by investing his experience points. Although others may hear him as if he were speaking different languages, it wasn’t actually his own competence. It was more like an ingrained translator that automatically translated the words he spoke and heard. In an apocalyptic world where social interaction was an important factor, the ability to speak different languages was one of the most important survival skills.

    "Boy, how old are you?" asked the master sergeant.

    And again, the Control AI responded to the user’s will and displayed some possible answers in front of his eyes. The answers that the AI provided differed based on one’s intelligence stat, or the level of leadership-type skills such as 「Insight」 「Detection」 and 「Deception」.

    But the boy answered frankly. There was no need to lie anyway.

    "Seventeen."

    "Seventeen? Not twelve? Damn, you Asians look so young I can hardly tell your age!"

    After another grumble, the master sergeant gestured one of his subordinates to inspect him. After confirming that the boy wasn’t hiding anything, the private handed the boy the same items that the other applicants were provided with. The master sergeant then warned the boy not to take off the gas mask during the mission unless he was ordered to. There was no evidence proving that the epidemic was airborne, but there wasn’t any that disproved it either.

    After passing by the inspection station, the boy followed the path and went into the makeshift barracks. Once he entered, a soldier guided him to a seat next to the Koreans. Some of them turned around and greeted the boy. Though he didn't want to, he returned the greetings for it would do him no good to ignore them.

    After waiting for the seats to be filled, Lieutenant Robert Capstone came up to the podium and made a gesture towards a soldier. Light shot out from an overhead projector and onto a white screen at the front. What appeared on the screen was a map. The lieutenant looked around at the refugees for a second and called some names. The boy’s name was also called.

    "If you were called, please come forward and help me deliver my words in your respective language."

    When the boy and other people nodded, he tapped his finger against the microphone to draw attention and began to give the people a briefing about the map on the screen.

    "What you are seeing here is a map of the San Miguel County. As you can see, it's not a big town. It had a population of about 3,300, but now there's no one left. Now, our first goal is to reach the only gas station in the town."

    Right where his finger was pointing was the entry to the village from Route 101, and there was a gas station right above it.

    "The convoy will stop here to fill up the tank trucks with fuel. Meanwhile, you will be split into two groups and move to other areas to procure supplies. The first group will be heading to a church located two blocks south of the gas station. Since it was used as a temporary shelter when the evacuation order was issued, there’s a good chance of finding a considerable amount of supplies left inside the building. The second group will be moving a bit further away, four blocks north from the gas station there’s a street full of restaurants and a flour factory. Since it’s located further away from the gas station, there's a higher chance of encountering monsters, but it's also the place where we can expect the most to find food, so it's worth the risk."

    The lieutenant then looked back at the people.

    "So, as you’ve all heard, there’s a greater risk of encountering monsters if you head towards the flour factory. I know you all have bravely volunteered for this mission, but I'd like to ask you one more time. If anyone wants to join the second group, please raise your hand."

    The boy immediately raised his hand after interpreting the lieutenant’s words. To the rest of the people there, it appeared that the boy had spoken only to himself as he raised his hand. People, including Lieutenant Capstone, looked at the boy with newfound interest. Because he was the only one who raised his hand.

    System messages notifying him of upward revisions to favor continuously popped up for quite a few seconds. It seemed like he had earned more favor from the soldiers rather than the refugees. One of the messages even had the words ‘permanent revision’ in it.

    「You have earned the favor of Corporal Elliot. There will be an upward revision to Corporal Elliot’s favor. There will be a permanent upward revision to Corporal Elliot’s favor. Unable to identify the specific figure.」

    Relationships in real life could easily change. Even if two people became best friends, the relationship may not last forever. And just like in real life, the favor a person ingame held towards the player would also decrease over time or when hostile events occurred. However, a permanent revision was different, this figure would never decline no matter what happened.

    The last sentence of the message put a frown on the boy’s expression. The reason why the figures were unidentifiable was that he lacked the required level of Insight.

    ‘It’s probably only a little.’

    The boy didn't suppose the deficit to be a lot.

    "Anyone else?"

    Lieutenant Capstone asked one more time, but everyone was busy watching the others’ reactions. Although he had praised them for being brave, he knew that most of them were only here for the ration stamps. The lieutenant put on a sour face.

    "I have a question."

    The boy raised his hand, to which the lieutenant nodded.

    "There’s a limit to the amount of supplies an individual can carry with a bag. I think we could collect a lot more supplies if we were to use the trucks. Is there any reason why we aren’t using them?"

    The boy already knew the answer to the question. It would have been asked by another refugee if he didn’t ask, so he did it just to quicken the process.

    Lieutenant Capstone nodded at the boy and ordered a soldier to display the satellite pictures.

    "Good question. That’s actually the plan B for the mission I was about to explain, so everyone please pay attention. This is an image captured by satellite of the San Miguel County after the evacuation order was issued. Do you see these cars blocking the roads? This is the reason why we can’t use the trucks. Some people ran into each others’ cars due to the panic generated by the evacuation order. Only if we get rid of these cars, we’ll be able to deploy the trucks. If you manage to do it, notify us via radio. But be aware that the noise produced when clearing these obstacles may attract the infected people. If that happens, we’ll immediately cancel plan B and return to plan A, which involves personally carrying the supplies. The assessment will be made by the soldiers accompanying you, so please, do not act alone and follow the orders given."

    The question period continued for a few moments in which Lieutenant Capstone gave sincere answers to all of the questions. When the session was about to reach its end, one of the refugees asked the most useless question: how many ration stamps would the participants get after completing the mission. For a second after hearing the question, the lieutenant had a lost look on his face, but he soon answered.   

    "We'll provide you with three days worth of ration stamps, but you may be rewarded with more stamps based on your attitude and performance on this mission."

    As soon as the lieutenant finished answering, the sentence, ‘The rewards may vary depending on the assessment of the accompanying soldiers’ was added to the quest window.

    Though it was something he had already experienced several times before, the boy couldn’t erase the thought that it was a little unfair. If he were to get assigned to the team accompanied by a soldier with a racist character, there was a high chance that he wouldn’t be able to get a fair assessment.

    "If there are no more questions, we’ll now begin the map exercise. The mission you have volunteered to participate in is dangerous. You must fully familiarize yourself with the surroundings in order to avoid panicking in the middle of the mission, thus preventing unforeseen accidents."

    After Lieutenant Capstone finished his speech, several corporals came forward and gathered the participants to start the map exercise. Map exercise was a training that aimed to help the soldiers acquaint themselves with the geographic features of the operation area and the operation itself.

    For players, this practice was also an opportunity to acquire a mini-map. However, not all characters could acquire the same mini-map from this exercise. Characters that had invested enough in intelligence points or learned the skill 「Map Reading」 could acquire a complete mini-map, while those who didn’t would receive an inferior version that contained some errors and empty spaces here and there.

    Before starting the map exercise, people were picked by lot to go to the flour factory, because only one person, the boy, had volunteered himself. Those who were chosen had a miserable scowl on their faces.

    The map exercise didn’t take long to complete because the size of San Miguel County was so small. It was quite obvious since this mission was supposed to be the tutorial. It'd be bad if it were too difficult.



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